Danny watched as Tony brought the amber liquor bottle up to his lips and took a healthy pull. He silently shook his head. In the days he had been staying with them Tony had barely eaten much less moved from that spot on the couch. Even the kids who looked to Tony as the ‘fun uncle’ knew something was off and didn’t approach him. Hopefully this plan of Josh’s worked because this was just sad. Finally having enough of watching his cousin slowly dull his pain with booze he made his presence in the living room known. “Alright Tony how long are you going to sit on that couch and mope? You are all kinds of depressing, you almost look like one of those sad dogs with those plastic cones on their heads.”
Tony barely acknowledged the jab. He just kept drinking. “I lost her again Danny. I had it all and lost it.”
Done with playing the nice guy Danny decided it was time for some tough love. “So fight for it. You can’t do that sitting on your ass and losing yourself in a bottle.” He let out a frustrated breath before continuing, “Josh called me earlier.”
That got Tony’s attention. He paused with the bottle halfway to his mouth, thought better of it, and instead sat up and faced Danny head on. “And?”
“And he said to meet him at Cedars. Maternity floor. Says Marah will be there with Reva for something or the other, not sure. Not ideal circumstances but at least it’s something.” Danny moved to get up but before he left the room he turned and faced Tony again. “And a word of advice. Clean your shit up.. You smell.”
Tony was slowly going crazy. That was the only way he could explain it had anyone asked. Though nobody did. By silent decree everyone around him seemed to give him a wide berth these days, even Ray.
It had been four days since he had last seen or spoken to Marah directly and he felt the crushing weight of those days on his soul. He had gotten the terse text messages informing him that she and the baby where fine but that did little to soothe his ache. Not even Robbie and Hope’s antics could make him smile. How could they when the kids would rarely come near him these days. He would be completely lost if not for Josh’s daily updates on Marah’s condition. Who would have thought that the man who had spent so many years hating him would become his greatest ally?
Looking in the bathroom mirror he barely recognized the man who gazed back at him. He rubbed his cheek which was liberally covered by facial hair. Marah always loved his five o’clock shadow, said it was sexy. He had gone way past five o’clock, he was flirting with a beard. counting back he realized he hadn’t shaved in over three days. Just another reason why the kids shied away from him; along with his haunted eyes, the beard made him look like some deranged mountain man.
He briefly checked his watch while getting out his shaving gear. Four o’clock. Plenty of time to at least put on appearances that he was still among the living.
“Josh I am not sure blitzing them like this is the best idea.”
Josh paused in playing the game of Go-Fish with Collin and smiled. “Those two just need a little nudge in the right direction. Our daughter is being stubborn, can’t imagine where she gets that from.” It warmed Reva’s heart to see Josh so involved in raising him even though he was Jeffery’s son. At their age they should be busy with grand kids but her little body was a miracle and since they had gotten back together Josh had stepped in as Collin’s father with no hesitation.
But if he thought she had missed the implication about Marah getting her stubbornness from her he was sadly mistaken. “I don’t know Bud, I think you’ve been known to be stubborn a time or two in your lifetime.”
“Living with you it’s not so much stubbornness it’s called preservation.” He winked at Reva before turning his attention to the cards in his hand. He rubbed his chin ruefully. “You got any twos?”
Collin giggled and shook his head. “Go Fish! You got any Six’s?”
Josh made a big deal out of handing over his cards. “You are a card shark! You are beating me again! You must be cheating.”
“Nu-uh. I am just good. Uncle Jonathan said I am a natural. Said he is going to teach me to play poker so that when I am older I can ‘sunk my old man’ whatever that means.”
Josh kept his laughter to himself since he knew Jonathan had probably mean skunk instead of sunk. But the idea had merit, only Josh intended to turn the tables. “How about I teach you to play some Texas Hold Em? Then we can sunk Jonathan?”
Collin bobbed his head enthusiastically. “Okay!”
Josh gathered the cards and shuffled them good. Jonathan wouldn’t know what his him when the Lewis boys came for Poker night.
“Tony should be with you right now, not me.” Reva helped manuever Marah around couples in various stages of pregnancy who were already in position on the floor. It was the first meeting for Michelle’s Lamaze class and Marah was just one of several women in attendance.
“It’s still too raw mom. Besides this is just the first meeting, probably just going over the basics.” Though Marah had prepared herself mentally for seeing all the happy couples, the reality was another thing entirely. She felt like turning tail and running for the door but stopped herself. Instead she gestured to one of the last remaining places on the floor. “How about here?”
Reva had been looking distractedly at the door. At Marah’s question she turned and nodded. “Sure honey, looks good.” After assisting Marah to a comfortable position Reva kept her vigil of door watching,.
“Waiting for someone?”
Reva turned guilty eyes to her daughter, “Just waiting for Michelle of course.” But that didn’t stop Reva from acting distracted and Marah stopped questioning it. She had enough things going through her own head to worry about what had her mom all nervous.
“Finally” Reva muttered softly then smiled at Marah, “I am just going to go get something to drink.” Then she was gone before Marah could even get a word in.
Reva had just stepped away when Marah felt someone press up alongside her. Thinking that the person must have gotten her mistaken with somebody else Marah turned to explain the error when she was hit by a familiar pair of chocolate-brown eyes. The words she meant to speak died in her throat. All she could manage was a barely audible. “Tony.”
Tony was no less effected by their proximity after so many days apart. It was like the rest of the room faded away and all he could do was simply stare into her eyes. Their moment was broken when Michelle breezed into the room and announced class was officially in session.
“Slow breathing reduces stress and heart rate. It also reduced pain perception. So not only will you and your baby get plenty of oxygen it will help ease the labor and delivery process.” Michelle walked among the couples and explained the Lamaze technique before indicating they were to get into their prefered labor position. Marah stiffened. She wasn’t sure she was ready for this, for any of this. But being held in Tony’s strong arms? She knew she wasn’t ready for that. But still she rolled to her back, her body supported by Tony’s larger one.
Michelle continued issuing directions, directing them all about proper breathing techniques. This was absolute torture. Tony’s natural manly scent coupled with his cologne was already invading her senses and Michelle wanted her to breathe in more of him? Torture.
Tony leaned forward, his chin moving her downy hair away from her ear. His lips whispered along her skin as she whispered. “Breathe baby.”
Oh he wanted her to just breathe, like his scent wasn’t calling to every one of her baser instincts? One week without him and she was barely holding on. Just breathe. Michelle’s words came back then, about how breathing reduced pain perception. How Marah wished it would kick in right now. Just. Breathe. Marah took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Tony nodded appreciatively. “You’re doing great baby.”
After class was over Tony helped Marah to her feet then held her as she got her balance. That hour had passed too quickly and Tony wasn’t ready to let Marah go. “Do you think we can talk? Maybe we could head over to Company, get a Buzz burger and just talk.” When tears immediately sprang to Marah’s eyes Tony concluded that the night was over. “Or maybe not.” The night may be over but he would never give up hope for them. He would have to be dead and buried before he would give up hope on them. He reached out and cupped her face gently, rubbing his thumb along the apple of her cheek. “Maybe not tonight but someday Marah. We’ll have our forever baby, I promise.” Tony then leaned forward and kissed her cheek before walking toward the door where Reva stood waiting with a sad smile on her face.
“I always said there was good in you Tony Santos. Don’t prove me wrong now.”
Tony smiled sadly at his mother in law. Perhaps the one person in the Lewis clan that had really understood him besides Marah. “Wouldn’t dream of it.” Turning back he took one last glance at Marah before facing Reva again. “Look after my girls.”
Revs nodded sadly. “Of course.” When Tony turned to walk away Reva laid a restraining hand on his arm. “You know Tony, you found your way back to each other before. I have no doubt you will do it again. Some things are just destined to be. You and Marah are one of those things.”
“Thanks Reva.” Tony nodded but he didn’t look particularly hopeful, particularly as he continued out of the room alone.