What Matters Most~ Chapter Twenty

Eden opened to door to her motel room and saw red. “What do you think you are doing?”

Carlos acknowledged her presence with a brief glance but continued to flip through the large scrapbook like her outrage was merely a blip on his radar. “Interesting reading you have here. I particularly like these close ups you have of our friend Tony Santos. You kind of give a new definition to the word stalker Eden August. Peeping in windows, watching tender private moments,” He shook his head ruefully, “You are a naughty girl.”

Tired of his taunts Eden marched to the bed and snatched the scrapbook from his hands. She closed the book with a note of finality, clutching it to her chest. “We may be partners for the time being but that does not give you the right to come in here and touch my belongings.”

Once again her emotional display was little more than a nuisance to him and he went on as if he didn’t hear her. “For someone who has literally been in bed with the mob you sure aren’t the brightest bulb in the drawer are you? Leaving photographic evidence of your so-called ‘interests’ is a sure-fire way to tie you to your mark.” He pointed to the book she clutched tightly as if it were her lifeline. “What is with the Who’s Who of Springfield? This town did not miss you while you were gone my dear and they really won’t want to see your face darken their doorstep again.”

“So what? Like I care what this town and their narrow minds think.”

“Oh you care. If not you wouldn’t have hidden behind a fake name for so long. You are brazen and reckless Eden, you would have walked down Main Street proclaiming you were back and let the chips fall where they may. So I’ll ask again Eden, what is with the book?”

Eden hated to share something so personal with this cretin but the situation was out of her control which she hated even more. “It’s just something I have always done. My dad was a cop who raised my brother and me after our mother died. And then he was killed and it was just my older brother Nicky and me. And then after he went to juvie it was just me. I started documenting my life because it was always in flux.”

Carlos nodded briefly as if he seemed to buy her answer, but he still didn’t look please. “That’s a nice sob story. But you need to still need to ditch the scrapbook or at least hide it better. Try being a brighter bulb okay?” He patted her on the head as he moved towards the door. “I’m going to go get us some food. Our backers are getting antsy and that means it’s time for us to move forward with some strategic planning.”

Eden waited until the door closed behind him before she began throwing things around the room in anger. God how she hated that man. He pressed every button she had and more and worst of all, she let him get to her. When she finally exhausted her energy she took the scrapbook in her hands and opened it to gaze at the incriminating photos. “I tried to get over you but I never could erase your memory. No matter what town or identity there you were in the back of my mine.” She caressed the picture lovingly before turning to the next page, the newest pictures. Ones that showed a smiling Tony and Marah exiting Company hand-in-hand. Inside she seethed with anger and jealousy to the point where she couldn’t see or hear anything else. “He should have been mine. He will be mine.” She didn’t remember picking up the black marker but when the red haze of her rage faded only Tony remained. Marah’s had been entirely darkened out.

***

Marah pushed the shopping cart down the isles, pausing to compare two brands of spaghetti sauce. The scene was so domestically normal that she almost wanted to laugh. But although shopping for groceries was normal laughing in the middle of the grocery store was not so she managed to rein it in and continued down the aisle. Purusing her list she wasn’t looking where she was going and when she turned the corner she crashed into another shopper’s cart. The whole situation wouldn’t have been so terrible if it wasn’t for who she ran into. “So sorry Olivia. Wasn’t watching where I was going.” She moved past the other woman hoping to end the encounter without exchanging verbal barbs, she was an adult and could take the high road every once in a while. But before she was halfway up the aisle Olivia was calling her name which had Marah muttering curses under her breath. So much for a fast getaway.

“I got a call from Sam the other day and I just wanted to say thank you. That meddling Doris Wolfe was causing him and Ashlee all kinds of problems. Whatever you said at least has her backing off for the moment.”

Olivia was being nice? Marah wanted to take a picture to document this for future reference but decided that would be petty. So much for the high road huh Marah? Deciding to listen to that softly chiding voice Marah smiled graciously. “Your welcome, even though I simply told Doris the truth. That Sam was a good guy and he is, one of the best men I’ve ever known. And tell him congratulations for me.”

“I’ll do that.” When Marah went to walk by her to continue her shopping Olivia put out a restraining hand. “Just wanted to say congratulations. For all of it. Tony coming back and the baby. I know it probably doesn’t mean much coming from your former evil stepmother.”

“Thank you. And you weren’t my evil stepmother.”

Olivia grimaced. “Well I certainly wasn’t pleasant.”

Marah lifted an eyebrow. Guess it was time to bury the hatchet, and not in each other’s backs either. “Well no. But I didn’t exactly make it easy for you, in fact I was downright nasty myself. So I say it’s a draw. Anyway, it’s all ancient history now.”

“Ancient history. I like that.” Olivia released her hold on Marah’s arm and continued pushing her own cart down the aisle to finish her shopping.

Marah watched her turn the corner before she continued her own trek. Life sure had some interesting twists to it that was for sure. But letting go of some of the ghosts of the past and admitting her own part in their making, made Marah feel somehow lighter. Like she had offered up some burden she hadn’t known she had been carrying. “Heavy thinking for the super market Marah.” She picked up Tony’s favorite brand of cereal and placed it in the cart.

***

After Marah paid for her groceries and they were all bagged away she made her way towards the door. It was there that she got her second surprise of the day. Making his own way towards the door was one Carlos Riviera. Gone was the impressive man in the business suit from dinner the other night. In his place stood a man who was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that had seen better days. Though it’s not like Marah could really judge, who dressed in their finest to go to the super market? She herself was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt due to the heat.

But a little voice in the back of her head kept nagging at her. What was he doing buying groceries in Springfield when he lived in Bay City? She pushed her cart faster so that she would meet him at the door. She has to reign herself back to avoid another collision but she managed to catch up with him at the automatic exit. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Carlos looked positively startled to see her there. “Mrs. Santos! Um, yeah I just had to get some necessity items.” He indicated the bag in his hand and tried to edge past her but Marah just moved closer. “All the way from Bay City?” Not exactly subtle but it would have to do. Sometimes she was more like her mother than she liked to admit. And anyone who had met Reva Lewis would say she was anything but subtle.  More like a locomotive running at top speed.

Perhaps sensing her curiosity, not to mention her tenacity, Carlos lost the startled look on his face and replaced it with the charming grin she had seen the other night. “I recently started seeing someone down this way. I am not that knowledgable about the area but I know some of Springfield from business with Infierno.”

Okay that actually made some sense. Not like Marah had any real reason to doubt him it was just a gut feeling she had. “Well good luck. But I better get home before my ice cream melts.”

Carlos ushered her ahead of him with a grin. “By all means, ladies first.”

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