What Matters Most~Chapter Twenty-One (Part One)

It didn’t take Tony long to realize that working from home was not for him.  First came the pacing.  Like a caged tiger he would spend hours pacing back and forth trying to think of some way to rid himself of the possible ruination of the very thing he held dear.  He knew Danny was working on things on his end which just brought more frustration.  He missed working alongside his cousin.  He missed Rafael.  He missed the camaraderie they had formulated together.  Rafael might not have been born a Santos but he might as well have been.  He had been informally adopted as one anyway.  And though Tony would never admit it aloud but he kind of liked when the older man called him ‘son’.  Must be a throwback to the days growing up without a father.

Then after the pacing came the talking to the dog.  Toby had loved having his master home during the day, at least at first.  But after a while he quickly god bored with his new daytime friend.  Tony could swear the dog rolled his eyes at him now but Marah just said he was seeing things.

Fed up with not accomplishing anything for the day Tony grabbed his gym bag and headed for the front door. “Alright Toby I am going to head over and see Ray and hit the bags.  Watch the house for me.” Another dog eye roll from man’s so-called best friend.  Tony shook his head as he closed the door. “Seeing things my ass.”

***

Tony was already in his workout gear and pounding the bag hard when Ray joined him.  “Still no answers little brother.”

Tony continued to beat the punching bag mercilessly.  “None that come to mind.” Tony paused and gathered his breath. “The happiest time in my life and I can’t even savor it.  Instead I am trying to figure out how to protect Marah from figuring out how much of a screw up I was.”

When Tony would have resumed punching his invisible demons Ray moved the bag out of his way. “Was Tony.  You screwed up in the past but you are not that guy anymore.  I just don’t see why you don’t tell Marah the truth.  It was years ago.  I am sure she would understand.”

Tony walked over to the nearby benches and sat down.  Ripping the boxing gloves off his hands he then threw them to the floor before guzzling water as if he’d been out in the sun for days.  “What am I supposed to say Ray? ‘Hey Marah after we broke up the last time I screwed your friend on a rooftop.  The friend I said was up to no good, the one everyone warned us about.  I regretted it immediately and that was why I couldn’t get back together with you that summer.  That was why I left Springfield.  That was how Romeo got me.’ I don’t see that going well.”

Ray looked at his brother sympathetically but still he persisted. “At least it would be the truth.  Lying to your wife is not a good path to go down Tony.  If the truth does come out, and the truth usually does, she will be more hurt that you didn’t tell her now when you had the chance.”

“I am not letting Eden get near my wife, my pregnant wife, until I know what she wants.”  And Tony had a sinking suspicious that what had brought her back to Springfield had everything to do with him, what had transpired between them that fateful day.  Nevermind that she knew he regretted it and she knew he was married to Marah now.  Eden always had been a mercenary little wench.  I think I’m going to hit the showers then pop on over and see if I can take my wife out for lunch.”

Hoping to lighten his brother’s heart, at least a little bit, Ray enfolded him in a hug.  “You are a good man Tony.  Like I said the other night, I always believed that you and Marah belonged together just like I believed in Danny and Michelle. ”  Ray eyed Tony’s gym shirt which had clearly seen better days. “Please tell me you brought an extra shirt with you.  Because that thing you are wearing is one washing away from becoming a rag little brother.”

“Ha ha.  It just so happens I planned ahead.”  He reached into the gym bag at his feet and felt around.  Strange.  He was sure he packed an extra shirt in there this morning before heading over.

Ray looked at the perplexed look on his brother’s face and raised an eyebrow. “Problems?”

“I can’t find my shirt.  I am sure I packed it too.”

Ray shrugged before slapping his shoulder. “No biggie.  Shower up.  By the time you finish I’ll be back with a t-shirt from the rectory.  Can’t have you taking my sister-in-law to lunch in something that make you look like a bum.”

Tony laughed and batted his eyes. “Oh Ray you are too good to me.”

“Smartass.”

***

Eden clutched Tony’s t-shirt to her chest like a memento.  Slowly she brought it up her face and inhaled his familiar scent.  A potent mixture of his spicy cologne, aftershave, and underneath it all his raw maleness.  It was risky following him here but as she clutched her trophy tighter, the reward was worth it.

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