What Matters Most~ Chapter Thirty-Two (Part Two)

Frank Cooper took a look at his watch and cursed. “Blake is going to kill me!” He was nearly half an hour late for the opening of the new community center, once again work had gotten the better of him and he had lost track of the time. Thankfully he had thought ahead and packed his monkey suit along with him when he left the house that morning. Moving the current case file he was working on to his desk drawer he was surprised to see a large manilla envelope sitting on there with his name written in bold scroll. “What the-”

The case file forgotten he picked up the envelope and opened it. Inside was a letter and some photocopies of documents. Frank had seen a lot of things working on the Springfield PD but this was something straight out of a Hollywood. “Holy shit.” He hurried up and locked up his desk and picked up his car keys. Screw the monkey suit, there was more important things at stake.

***

When Marah exited the powder room she took one look at the crowded reception hall and knew that was the last place she wanted to be. Instead she walked down the remodelled halls and took in all the improvements made to the building. Rooms that had once been used for offices had been converted into space for both children and adults. Everything from play space to rooms for continuing education classes could be found within these walls. The Guiding Light Community Center would serve as a beacon of light for all those in Springfield who sought refuge here. Though Marah tried, that thought did little to give her comfort. These walls couldn’t solve her problems.

“What’s wrong honey? You are missing the party, all the guests are raving about what you did with the place.”

Marah turned and faced her father, who looked rather dapper in his tuxedo. “I am not really in a party mood dad. Besides, all I did was put the finishing touches on all your hard work. The place looks great.”

“The building had great bones to work with.” Clearly done with small talk he moved closer and took her into his strong arms, holding her head against his chest in a comforting hug. “It will be alright Marah.”

It had been so long since he had given her his fatherly comfort and Marah realized how much she could use it. The feeling that he could shelter her from the outside world like when she was a little girl. But she wasn’t a little girl anymore and regretfully she pulled away. “I’m fine dad. Just thinking.”

Josh nodded but continued to look at her sympathetically. “You know I was never Tony’s biggest fan when you were younger. And maybe that was part of the problem. That I never gave him a real chance. Because seeing him now, how much he obviously loves you, makes me realize that it was always there. He always loved you I was just too focused on protecting you to see it. Give him a chance honey, don’t close yourself off to love.”

“I want to! Don’t you think I want to? But every time I look at him, every time I think of him, I see those pictures and I can’t help but close myself off.”

Josh pulled Marah close one more and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “You have always been smart. I even like to pretend you get that from me. But fact is you have so much of your mother in you it is sometimes scary. But you have so many of her other traits as well. Particularly her bravery. Our family hasn’t always been easy but it’s making it through these rough patches that make the good times even more special.” At the distant sound of applause Josh gestured down the hall where the party awaited. “You want me to escort you back?”

Marah walked with her father until once again they reached the powder room. The joys of impending motherhood. “I’ll be there in a minute. Just need to make a quick stop.”

Josh nodded and smiled. “I’ll see you in there. And save me a dance beautiful. It’s been a long time since I’ve danced with my little girl.”

***

As the head of Springfield’s oldest and more revered families the board of trustees had chosen Dr. Ed Bauer to give the opening speech. Nearly the entire town stood silently as Ed spoke of growing up listening to his parents talk about a Reverend Ruthledge when they lived in Five Points. How the good Reverend had served as the proverbial ‘guiding light’ in the lives of all who knew him and how the community center was carrying out a similar mission. Ed faced the crowd of people he had known for years and recalled the words he had heard numerous times growing up. “In the words of the late Revered Ruthledge, There is a destiny that makes us brothers. No man walks alone. All that you put into the lives of others comes back into your own.”

The speech was short and sweet and topped off with words of wisdom that spoke to all in attendance and was met by thunderous applause.

Tony’s applauses was half-hearted at best. All his attention was focused across the room. At the brunette who had effective driven a wrecking ball through his life. When he moved to take a step in that direction Danny laid a restraining hand on his bicep and leaned in close and hissed, “Don’t do anything Tony. The entire town is here. Damn it, your wife is here.”

Tony could sense his cousin’s frustration but it was nothing compared to his own. Not to mention his own sense of helplessness and loss. He tugged his arm loose. “Exactly. My wife doesn’t need to see Eden right now. I am not going to do anything stupid.”

Danny saw the stubborn look of determination on Tony’s face and knew his cousin had his mind made up and muttered. “Famous last words of a fool.” But Tony was already walking towards the other side of the room and all Danny could do was watch.

***

Eden stood and watched as Tony practically mowed Vanessa Reardon down in his effort to get to her. She knew her presence would cause a stir and she wasn’t disappointed. Judging by the frowns and whispers she had received since arriving her showing up had caused the social bomb she intended. If only Marah would have seen here. Where was little miss perfect anyway? She didn’t see her, just Tony in all his fury. And didn’t that fury look good on him. Marah had never known how to truly appreciate all that barely contained rage that resided inside Tony Santos. But Eden did, and she would again. When Tony was within earshot she put on her best seductive smile, “Well if it isn’t Tony Santos. Where is the old ball and chain?”

Tony didn’t respond to her bait, he merely moved into her personal space causing her to move even further away from the crowd. Away from curious onlookers and prying eyes. “Why are you here?”

Eden tried to look affronted, even placed a hand over her heart as if his words hurt. “I’m wounded. You know how I feel about community issues.”

“Eden you ran a brothel. I’d hardly call that community service. So how about you cut the crap and get the hell out of here.”

She reached forward and trailed one long fingernail down his tuxedo jacket. “Maybe if you could give me a moment of your time. I may have reconsidered your earlier offer to leave town. If the price is right.”

Tony looked around the room. With no sign of Marah he walked towards the hallway where he knew rooms had been converted into meeting space. He didn’t have to turn around to know Eden was following eagerly.

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