Archive | January 2016

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Thirteen

At nine o’clock on the dot Marah flipped on the lights and took a good look around.  Nothing about the space was familiar but yet she could see herself everywhere.  The bright colors, the art on the wall, the comfy furniture…it was all her.   Marah couldn’t imagine anything making her want to leave Paris, it had been her dream for so long.  But it was clear that she had made a new life for herself here.

The tinkling of the bell above the door brought Marah out of her musings.  It was too early for her mother to arrive, she had been filled in by Tony that her mom was rarely on time which didn’t surprise her much. Turning she saw a delivery man carrying a vase filled with a huge bouquet of flowers. “Delivery for Marah Santos.”

Walking over Marah accepted the flowers with a smile and placed them on what she assumed was her desk.  It did have framed photos of her and Tony after all.   Plucking the card from the envelope she read the messy script she knew so well.  “Marah, Hope you have a great day back at work.  Love Always, Tony”.  Marah touched the flowers lovingly.  Tony could have gotten her generic roses like most husbands but instead he got her an array of colorful blooms.

She picked up the cellphone she had spent weeks re-learning how to use and fired off a text. “Thanks for the flowers.  They are beautiful.”

As if he was sitting right beside his phone she got an instantaneous reply. “You’re welcome.  Hope they make your day a bit brighter.”

Marah’s fingers paused over the screen as she thought about what she wanted to say.  Nothing really sounded good to her.  She was saved by the twinkling of the bell above the door.  Her mother rushed in carrying a white bakery bag and a carrying case with two large coffees.

“I am so glad to have you back!  Between your father and Collin I was going stir crazy.”  She placed the bag on her desk beside the flowers, “I didn’t know if you had eaten so I got you a few croissants.  Nice flowers.  Are they from Tony?”

Marah’s eyes widened at the rapid fire questions coming from her mother.  “How many coffees have you had today?”

Reva just smiled as she passed over a coffee to her daughter.  “Just one thank you very much.  I am just excited.  You know how I can get.”

All too well.  Marah took a sip of the steaming brew and sighed in delight.  Liquid heaven.  “Yes the flowers are from Tony.” Marah took another sip of her coffee before she looked at her mother.  “Who is Collin?”

Reva looked like a deer in the headlights.  “Um, well, damn my big mouth!  There is no easy way to say this but to just tell you.  Collin is your brother.”

***

Danny briefly knocked on Tony’s office door before entering.  Sitting in one of the chairs in front of the large desk he grinned in delight, “I know the timing sucked but I got to say, I’ve missed seeing you here at the office.”

Tony looked up from the paperwork he was going over, “Give it a few weeks.  It will wear off.”

“Yeah probably,” Danny laughed before sobering, “So how did everything go today?  I know Michelle was a wreck when we had to put Danielle in daycare and she was our third.”

“Not going to lie, it was tough leaving her with a virtual stranger.  Though it seems like Tristan knows what she’s doing.”  Tony tapped his pen against the desk as he thought back to that morning.  How he had watched Tristan cooing to his daughter and how he wanted to snatch the baby back yelling “Mine!”.  It had been so foreign an emotion yet the impulse was so strong he had been forced to hold himself back.

His cellphone sitting on the desk glowed with the arrival of a text message.  He smiled as he read the message and fired off a quick response.

“Marah?”

Tony looked at his cousin and smiled, “I sent her flowers this morning for her first day back.”  Once again Tony lost himself in thought.  At how he had acted towards Marah since she announced she wanted to return to work.  At how he had basically called her a bad mother who didn’t care for her child, “How did you do it?”

Danny raised his eyebrow in confusion, “Do what?”

“Fight for Michelle when she fought you the entire way?”  Tony roughly pushed his hand through his hair, “It’s so damn frustrating.  The other day I basically told her she didn’t care about Lanie.”

Danny winced before leaning forward in his chair.  “Yeah that was not good.” He eyed his cousin with intent. “It is frustrating when you watch the woman you love so lost and you can’t help her no matter how hard you try.  You just want to shake them and make them see what is in front of their face.  But you deal with it because you know if the situation was reversed they would be fighting just as hard.”

“Worked out with Ray after our meeting the other day.  He basically told me I should show her why she fell in love with me in the first place.”

“Our Ray sure has some good ideas for someone who has never been in love.”

“He’s been in love before.  Remember Rachel Thomas from the neighborhood?”  When Danny nodded in affirmation Tony continued, “He told me once if he couldn’t have her than he was not going to have anyone.”

Danny snorted, “Yeah Ray chose a life of celibacy and devotion to God because his high school girlfriend married someone else.” When Tony just looked back at him Danny waved his hand in front of his face, “Okay we are getting off topic.  So your plan is to woo your wife into loving you again?”

Tony shrugged, “I can’t hurt.  Not like anything I’ve done so far has worked.”

Danny rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well you’ve gotten her to love you again after worse.  Just one word of advice, don’t make her feel pressured.  That is what drove Michelle and I apart, the pressure she felt at remembering drove us so far apart I thought we would never be whole again.  I don’t want you to go through the same thing that we did.”

***

Finished with her morning appointments Michelle waltzed into the main entrance at Cedars and headed towards her father’s office.  She hadn’t seem him or Rick in a while and she hoped she could lure them away for a quick brunch at Company to catch up.  She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the bane of her existence holding court at the nurse’s station.  Hoping to make it past him without alerting him to her presence Michelle ducked her head down and quickened her step.  She had nearly made it when Lillian Cooper called out, “Good morning Dr. Santos.”

Busted.  It would be rude to ignore Lillian so Michelle stopped and turned toward the older woman, “Good morning Lillian.  I was hoping to meet with my father.  Is he in?”

Lillian nodded. “Just got in a few minutes ago.”

“Thanks.”  Michelle nodded at the man smirking at her, “Dr. Dick.” Okay so it was a bit petty and childish but it felt good.  Especially when she watched the smirk slide off the jerk’s face. “I mean Dr. Salas.”  Michelle mentally fist bumped as she continued towards her father’s office.  She knocked on the opened door and waited until her father looked up and smiled.

“Well hello daughter.  What brings you by today?”

Michelle entered and gave her father a hug, “Just thought I’d come and see if you could get away for a bite to eat.  I feel like I haven’t talked to you in weeks.”

Ed Bauer grabbed his coat by the door, “You know I would never turn down an invitation from my favorite daughter.”

***

“You and dad had another child?” Marah was confused.  And angry.  She didn’t know what she felt right now but she wanted to know about this mysterious brother she had.  She couldn’t believe that everyone had kept it from her.

“Well…no.” Reva hedged.  Walking over to her desk she picked up a framed photograph and brought it over for Marah to see.  “Your father formally adopted him a couple of years ago.  But no he is not Collin’s biological father.”

Marah looked at the photograph in her hand.  It was a formal proto of all of her brothers and herself.  Probably the only one of its kind to ever be taken.  And there front and center was a little blonde-haired little boy with a mischievous grin. “If dad isn’t his father who is?”

“Well…um…his father is JefferyONeill.” Reva rushed together and winced.  Waiting for the inevitable reaction.

Marah held up a hand, “Wait.  Did you say Jeffery O’Neill.  As in my ex Jeffery O’Neill.” Marah trust the photo back at her mom as if it scalded her hand. “That’s so….twisted.  Sick and twisted.”

“It happened years after you left honey.  He was there for me when I felt so alone.”

Marah stalked over to her desk and plopped down on her chair. “I just don’t know what to do with this.  It just seems so…gross.”

“I understand.” Reva looked down at the photo she still held in her hand, “But believe it or not you two took to each other like a duck to water.”

“Yeah I bet.” Marah snorted as she rubbed her temples, she could feel a migraine coming on, “Lord this was a hell of a first day back.”

I Saw Love: ATWT’s Will & Gwen

I wasn’t always an “online” viewer of soap operas.  No, for most of my early soap opera watching days I was blissfully ignorant of message boards and fan pages.  When I joined the world of online viewers I was surprised and excited about all the content available.

Before there was Twitter, Facebook, or even MySpace there were sites like GeoCities.  It was the 90’s equivalent to a WordPress a place people could build their own website and share their lives with the world.  And it was a popular forum for Soap fans to show their appreciation for their favorite serial dramas.  Then GeoCities shut down and most of the content was lost.

Few things irk my soap opera fan in me then when content disappears.  Like the show, the characters, the STORIES didn’t exist.  For example: Why did CBS have to remove the Guiding Light and As The World Turns from their website?  Were they not the longest running CBS Daytime shows?  Did they not net millions of viewers a year?  Just because the show is over doesn’t mean the fans stop being fans.  But I digress.

That was the whole reason “I Believe in the Mystery” came to be.  There was very little across the internet on this couple.  So I gave them their “happily ever after”…well technically it is still an ongoing process but they’ll get there…eventually.

The other day I randomly went looking for some of my favorite ATWT couples and not so surprisingly there isn’t too much out there.  So what is a good soap fan to do?  Create another site.

WillenWordpresstext

So let me introduce you to I Saw Love .  Right now it isn’t much to look at, and it probably won’t be months before I can give it the attention it deserves, but with time I hope to build it up like I did “I Believe in the Mystery”.   Of course that is why people like GLManny and I have created these sites, to document and preserve my favorite little slice of soap operas for future generations.  Hope you check it out!

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twelve

Doctor Salas removed the syringe before capping it and putting it in his lab pocket.  Moving around the bed he checked the vitals displayed on the monitor.  No changes.  But he wasn’t discouraged, he had anticipated this trial to take time.  And he had nothing but time to see this through.  He had been waiting years for this opportunity.

And he had the perfect person to experiment on.

Looking around the stark room Dr. Salas felt a perverse sense of pleasure.  He liked having Carmen Santos at his mercy, he literally held her life in his hands.  If this trial worked he would be a legend among his peers.  And if it failed?  At least the world would have one less Santos in it.

He patted Carmen on her lifeless shoulder as he walked towards the door, “Sleep tight Carmen.”

***

Michelle nervously wiped her hands on her jeans before knocking on the door.  There was no reason for her to be nervous, not really.  She had done everything she could to save Marah and Lanie that night.  She was damn proud of herself considering the cards were stacked against them.  But she wasn’t there as a doctor.  She was there as a friend.  A friend who couldn’t help having déjà vu every time she even thought about what Marah was going through.

The door opened and Marah stood there looking every bit the fashionista she always was.  Even her chic new haircut to cover the incisions on her head didn’t diminish her beauty.  “Hi Marah.”

“Hi Michelle!”  She smiled before looking at Michelle quizzically, “Did I miss an appointment?

“Not that I know of.  I came here as a friend not a doctor.”  She held up a white paper bag with Company’s logo on the front, “And seeing that it is lunchtime I brought us something to munch on.”

Marah held the door open for Michelle to enter, “Is that a Buzz Burger I smell?  I haven’t had one of those in-” Marah paused before adding, “Well I don’t actually know when.”

***

Marah held her side she had been laughing so hard.  After Michelle and her had scarfed down Buzz’s famous burgers and fries Michelle had shared some tales from the “Santos Zoo” as she called it.  From the sounds of things Michelle and Danny had three precocious children that kept them on their toes.  It was also clear that Michelle loved every minute of her chaotic life.  Her smile was megawatt as she told a story about Robbie’s continuous courting of Sarah Randall, who Marah also learned was her niece.

“That boy has done it all to woo that girl.  Last year he let the air out of her bike tires just so he could walk her home.”  Michelle smiled as she thought about her son’s ingenuity.  He had to have gotten it from his father that’s for sure. “And when he came home that afternoon he had this scared look on his face.  Guess your brother Jonathan gave him the evil eye and told him that Sarah wasn’t dating until she was at least thirty.”

“Guess Robbie didn’t like that answer.”

“No.  But he won’t give up.  I swear he plots out new ways to woo her on a daily basis.”

“Got to love his persistence”, Marah went to the fridge to grab the iced tea pitcher to fill their glasses, “Aren’t you worried about him getting so serious so young?”

Michelle waved off Marah’s concerns, “Robbie was born serious.  Once he sets his sights on something he won’t stop until he gets it.  He’s like his father that way.” She smiled coyly at Marah, “I think all the Santos men are born that way.”

Marah sat back down and sighed, “I try Michelle.  I try so hard.  I look through the photo albums, I listen to the stories, but I still can’t remember.  Even worse is that every morning Tony looks at me with hope, hope that some spark of a memory has surfaced and every day I have to watch as that hope is snuffed out.

Michelle reached across the table and held her friend’s hand in comfort, “I know the feeling.  The pressure to remember when you just can’t.  And all I can tell you is that it will happen when it’s supposed to happen.  What about Lanie?  I know you said you were having some trouble connecting.”

Marah removed her hand from Michelle’s and brushed her hair behind her ear, “Are you asking as a friend or as my doctor?”

Michelle smiled wryly, “Maybe a little of both.  As your doctor I am going to tell you that postpartum baby blues is normal for a lot of women.”

“I don’t know what it is Michelle.” Marah sighed in frustration, “I look at her and I see she is perfect.  Ten tiny fingers and toes,.  She’s perfect and I want to rush up to her and hold her.  To love her like I am supposed to love her.  But a part of me is just….afraid.  Afraid to fall for her baby charms when so much in my life is so uncertain.”

“It’s understandable considering what you went through Marah.  You need to stop beating yourself up over it.” Michelle was thoughtful a moment before she continued, “Now I am no psychiatrist but have you wondered if your guilt over this is impeding your recovery?”

“Could be.  I don’t know.  I am going back to work next week, to try to see if I can fit back even more in my life.  Today we even hired a nanny like Dr. Salas suggested.”

Michelle humphed in indignation, “Dr. Salas is an ass.  He may be a great doctor but he’s still an ass.”

Marah laughed at the look on her friend’s face, “He’s been really helpful with being realistic about my memory recovery.”

“Like I said, he’s a brilliant doctor but he’s still and ass”, Michelle wagged her finger in Marah’s direction, “You be careful around him.  I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Eleven

Marah and Tony may have sat on the same couch, may have looked like a united front, but there might as well have been miles between them.  They barely spoke two words to each other that morning, and the tension was thick in the air.  But it seems the young lady in front of them couldn’t sense it because she smiled broadly as she described her qualifications.

“I assure you that I have several years of experience working with children, even small children such as your little Lanie.  Here are my list of references.” She pushed her resume across the coffee table towards the couple, “My student loans to nursing school only covered a portion of my tuition so I was a nanny for several different families to help subsidize expenses.”

Tony looked down at the resume before asking, “It says here you are from New York City.  What made you move so far from home if you don’t mind me asking?”

Tristan just smiled, “Not at all Mr. Santos.  Truth is I am not from the best of neighborhoods in New York.  People where I am from rarely, if ever, make it out but I worked hard and studied harder.  I was lucky to get the scholarship I did to go to nursing school but once I graduated I realized I didn’t want to go back, I wanted a fresh start.  So I put my finger on a map and here is where I landed.”

“And you have no plans to leave?” Tony smiled at the other woman, “Once again I hate asking such prying questions but even though Lanie is young I think-” He paused and looked towards Marah who had been silent throughout the whole interview, “We.  We think Lanie needs some stability about who is in her life.”

“Springfield may not be New York but it has its good points too and I have no intentions of leaving any time soon.”

Tony opened his mouth to ask another question but Marah laid a restraining hand on his arm.  “We will call your references but all of that is a formality.  When can you start?”

****

Standing at the kitchen sink Michelle nearly jumped a foot in the air when Danny’s arms came around her from behind.  But that momentary fear was replaced by a whole different feeling when her husband lowered his head to nuzzle her neck.  Danny always knew how to get to her. “I never thought doing dishes was sexy, but you may change my mind of that Mr. Santos.”

“Hmm.” Danny breathed in his wife’s scent.  Her signature floral perfume and Apples from the dishwashing soap.  But it didn’t matter what she smelled like, it was the woman underneath all of that which called to him.  And he answered, every time. “Everything you do is sexy Michelle.”  He kissed the side of her neck since he knew that was the spot that got her toes tingling.  And with a slight slap on her backside he went to go get his morning cup of coffee.  “So what are your plans for the day?”

Michelle dried off her hands with a dish towel and turned to face her husband who was sitting at the table perusing the front page of the paper, “Well the clinic is closed today so I thought I may stop by and see Marah today.  I have been trying to give her time to heal but she probably needs someone to talk to.”  Michelle paused as she thought back to her own time spent in the shadows.  Uncertain about her past and the pressure she felt to be who everyone kept telling her she was.  “Do you ever wonder?”

Danny looked up at his wife and smiled, “Wonder what?”

Moving over to the table Michelle sat by Danny and looking at his handsome face wondered ton herself how she could have ever forgotten what they had together.  But she continued, “Wonder what would have happened if I never remembered who I was.  What we had.”

Danny pursed his lips as he thought about his wife’s inquiry.  “Oh I’d probably be miserable.  Be with someone who didn’t get my heart racing just by washing the breakfast dishes.”

Michelle smiled wryly, “Of course you would be miserable without me.  No one else would put up with those ratty boxers like I do.”

Danny leaned forward and kissed his wife gently, “I would be miserable because it’s you Michelle.  Even when we didn’t make any sense to anyone else in this town we made sense to each other.”  He kissed her again before going beck to reading the paper.

Michelle smiled at her husband’s gushy remarks. “You say all the sweetest things.”  She paused again before looking at Danny, “Do you think they’ll find a way?”

Knowing she was talking about Tony and Marah he set the paper down and turned towards her, holding her soft hands in his.  He hated when she got that look in her eye, the look that said that she was remembering when she couldn’t remember, when they were apart.  The look didn’t happen often but since Marah’s accident they had become more frequent. “I hope so, for both their sakes.  But even if they don’t find their way back to each other we did and nothing is going to tear us apart again.”

***

Tony closed the door behind Tristan and just stood there looking at it.  He was trying to get his emotions under control.  And it wasn’t working in the least.  He wanted to punch something, and right then the door was looking like a pretty good substitute for the punching bag.  Turning around he watched Marah gather the papers Tristan left behind into a neat pile.  Yeah it wasn’t working at all. “I can’t believe you did that.”

Marah looked up and lifted an eyebrow in confusion, “Do what?”

“Hire someone out of the blue like that.  To watch our daughter.”  He ran his hands through his hair in frustration, “We haven’t done a background check or anything and you just hired her.”

“Tony we needed a nanny to watch Lanie.”  Placing the papers on the side table she went back to gather the coffee cups to bring them into the kitchen. “Besides she is a registered nurse working at Cedars.  She obviously had to pass a background check to work there.”

Tony just shook his head at his wife’s faulty logic.  “I can’t believe you would trust a virtual stranger with our child.  Nurse or not.”  It was like she was desperate to escape.  Escape him and Lanie both. “I am going to check on Lanie.   At least she has one parent that gives a shit about her.”  Tony knew he was being harsh but he couldn’t stop it.  He was so damn angry.

***

Outside Tristan scrolled down her contacts until she found the one person she didn’t want to talk to.  But she had to.  She waited as the phone rang and he eventually picked up.  “I got the job.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Ten

The tires on Tony’s car squealed as he pulled into the driveway.  He hadn’t meant to be gone this long, an hour at the most, but he had needed that extra hour at the church gym.  He had needed to release the tension that seemed to weigh him down day after day.  And he had needed that talk with Ray.  But he still hadn’t expected to be gone this long.  His car had barely stopped when he threw the door open and rushed into the house, barely missing running into Josh.

“Woah Tony! Where’s the fire?”

Tony lifted an eyebrow at his father in law, “Is everything okay here?  I didn’t mean to be gone this long.”

“You know I have taken care of babies a time or two in my day Tony,’  Josh patted Tony on the shoulder as he passed to get his coat by the door, “Everything is fine.  I fed Lanie about half an hour ago and she went down for a nap with little fuss.  I don’t envy you son, that Lanie is going to be a heartbreaker one day.”

For the first time in months Tony genuinely laughed, “Don’t I know it!  She’s already got me wrapped around her little finger.  So how did the rest of your visit go?” Tony tried to keep his tone conversational but one look at Josh’s face and he knew the older man recognized Tony was information fishing.

“Marah is a strong woman.  Growing up like she did, well she had to be strong.  I was a mess after Reva was presumed dead, I just sort of checked out in the dad department.  Out of the two of us Marah handled all the curveballs thrown her way much better than I ever did.  She will find her way Tony, and she will be a great mother to her little girl.  She just needs time.”

Tony dragged a hand through his already messy hair, “Time.  Not sure how much of that I have left.”

Josh frowned as he paused in putting on his coat, “What do you mean by that?  You thinking of doing something that is going to piss me off?  Because you do know that I still have that hunting cabin and plenty of shells.”

“Danny is running for Mayor.”

With a confused look Josh made a motion for Tony to keep going, so Tony elaborated, “Danny has been nice enough to let me work from home for the past couple of months., and it was great being able to help with Marah and the baby.  But this is Danny’s turn to do something he has always wanted to do.”

“And you are going to have to pick up the slack at Infierno.”

“With everything so up in the air with Marah and me it is not the best time.  But I have to do it, and I will do it, for Danny.”  Tony looked at Josh and sighed, “I waited years to come back to Marah, for us to have our happy ending.  And you know I would walk through fire for her and our daughter.”

Josh opened the front door but stopped before making his exit.  He turned back around and gave Tony a weak smile, “I know Tony.  But sometimes a dad just needs to be reassured from time to time.  You’ll see one day.”

***

Marah waited in the kitchen.  She heard Tony’s car pull up and she heard her father and him talking, but she remained sitting at the kitchen table.  Waiting.  And running through how she planned on telling Tony she wanted to try going back to work.  To try to rediscover the Marah that had been lost.  When Tony still hadn’t come in from talking with her father Marah nervously fiddled with the silverware on the table.  Then she got up and started bringing the food to the table.

For the past month Tony had been in charge of meals.  And they had become well acquainted with every fast food place in a ten mile radius of Springfield.  Marah had hoped that making a home cooked meal would set a different tone for the night.  Going over to the oven she removed the lasagna and brought it over to the table.  And she sat back down and continued waiting.

Suddenly Tony pushed the door open and stopped in his tracks.  And stared.  After a lengthy pregnant pause he cleared his throat, “You cooked dinner.”

Marah fiddled with the napkin on her lap.  “I did.  We need to talk.”

***

Tristan Daniels shoved the manila envelope across the bar.  “This is it Richard.  One last job and I am done.  Finished.  My debt paid in full.” Richard just smirked back at her.  Smug bastard.

“You think so?  You would still be hustling tourists out of their money if it wasn’t for me.”

She hated to admit it but he was right.  People who were born in their little slice of the American poverty typically never made it out.  It was a typical circle of crime, destruction, and death.  Richard and Tristan had been two of the lucky ones to make it out and never look back.  She knew she owed her life to Richard but she wasn’t going to repay him for eternity.  “Richard I mean it.  I can’t keep doing this.”

Richard finished his drink and stood. “Fine.  You finish this job and you can go out on your own.”  Throwing some bills on the table he leaned in and spoke directly in her ear, “But you’ll be back.  And if you try to cross me I’ll show you just how much of the boy from the borough I still am.”

Left alone Tristan plucked the toothpick out of her martini and bit into the olive violently.  She wished she could prove Richard wrong, but the truth was that he was right.  Richard always had a way of bringing her back into his orbit.  Sighing at that sad reality Tristan downed her martini with flourish.  She was still enjoying the burn when she realized someone had she was no longer alone, someone had sat in the seat Richard had vacated.

“What is a pretty woman like you drinking alone?”

Turning on her stool to greet the man she was momentarily stunned, which didn’t happen often.  Good looking with a hint of bad boy charm to boot.  She stuck out her hand in greeting, “Tristan Daniels.  And I guess I was just waiting for the right person to join me.”

The man smiled and Tristan felt it all the way down to her toes.  He shook her hand gently and signaled for the bartender, “Jonathan Randall.  And I guess I got here at the right time.”

***

Tony sat and tried to process what Marah was telling him.  But the words were coming a mile a minute, like she was afraid if she stopped she wouldn’t get it all out.  He held up a hand to pause her rant. “So let me get this straight.  You want to go back to work and you talked to Dr. Salas and he thinks it might actually be good for your memory recall?”

Marah nodded enthusiastically, “Basically.  He says that by doing things I normally do it may jog some memories.”

“But what about Lanie?  She is a too young for childcare.  And I didn’t get a chance to tell you but Danny is going to need me more at Infierno.  Seems he has decided to run for Mayor.”

Seems Marah had thought of everything.  She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “Dr. Salas gave me the number to a nurse at Cedars who does some childcare on the side to pay for her student loans.  Tristan Daniels is her name.  And I already called her and she is coming over tomorrow for an interview.”

Tony threw his napkin on the table and the harsh sound of his chair scraping on the kitchen tile was deafening in the silent kitchen.  Standing he pinned Marah with a harsh look, “Seems you thought of everything.  Guess now you’ll never have to be around your daughter at all. ”

Marah silently watched him walk out of the kitchen, and made no move to follow.  To explain her actions or try to defend his accusation. But she felt it.  That all the progress they had made in the past weeks was gone.

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Nine

Sweat practically poured off of Tony’s face but he didn’t stop.  Instead he kept his eyes closed tightly and threw a punch.  Then another one.  He continued to pummel the punching bag like his life depended on it.  And maybe it did.  Lord knew his sanity did.  So even though his lungs burned with exertion he continues to take out his frustration on the helpless bag.

“Jab’s looking good little brother.  Though your uppercut is still weak.”

Ray’s sudden appearance had Tony opening his eyes, and quickly shutting them against the deluge of sweat. “If you came here to bust my chops you are need to take a rain check.  I don’t have it in me to deal with your saintly advice today.” Tony turned away from his brother and continued his assault on the punching bag.

“Now I would call you out on that bold faced lie but I am too good of a brother for that.”  Ray moved forward in order to hold the bag for Tony, “Because you could have been working out at the community center you helped build.  Or you could have worked out at the overpriced fitness center that went up on the east side of town.  But you came here.  To the Church’s basement gym.  So talk Tony, tell me what has you so frustrated you are trying to kill my punching bag.”

Tony let out a deep frustrated breath and continued to punch the bag solidly, “Take your pick Ray.  I have a newborn at home that is perfect in every way.  Ten fingers.  Ten toes.  And every single thing about her scares the shit out me.” Tony bent over with his hand on his knees breathing heavily, “It is like a constant commentary in my head.  What if I don’t feed her enough.  What if I do all the wrong things and the next thing you know she’s falling in with the wrong crowd.  She’s skipping school, doing drugs, probably getting a piercing somewhere no dad wants to even think about.  Then Marah and I are the sobbing parents on the ten o’clock news that are begging for their daughter to return unharmed.”

Ray looked down at his brother and smiled, “The very fact that you have thought out all these scenarios, no matter how outlandish, show that you will be fine Tony.  Do you thin k Danny has these same worries?”

“I know he does.” Raising to his full height Tony wiped the remaining sweat from his face then looked at his brother solemnly, “How can he not?  We all know it lives within us.  The same toxic blood that flowed through our fathers lives within us every day.  We have just learned how to cope without it taking over our lives.”

Ray just shook his head at his little brother, “I have that same blood in my veins Tony.  We are not our father.  Danny is not his parents.  We are who we decide we are.  And my niece is a true treasure.  And I know with you and Marah, and the countless other members of her family, by her side she will do great things.”

Tony sat on one of the changing benches and gulped down half of his bottle of water in seconds, “Marah and me?  We’re barely treading water.  She hasn’t regained any of her memories.  Not even a glimmer of the life we had together.  And Lanie?  She can barely look at her much less act like her mother.  What am I supposed to do Ray?  My wife doesn’t remember me and she can’t even stand t be alone with our daughter.”

“Are you asking as a priest or as your older more handsome brother?”

“Funny.” Tony finished his water and tossed the bottle in the trashcan, “Besides we always knew I was the better looking brother.”

“You wish, “Ray joined Tony on the bench and thought long and hard before answering, “The priest in me says that the Lord works in mysterious ways.  That in time, the answers will make themselves known.  The brother in me says to give you and Marah some time.  Time to heal, time to rediscover all the good you two shared.”  Ray paused and rubbed his chin thoughtfully before shooting his brother a grin, “And if that doesn’t work you and Marah have had worse odds stacked against you before and still had her fall in love with your dumb self.  Make her fall Tony, but make sure you give her a soft place to land.”

***

Danny let himself in the back door and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight before him.  Michelle was bent over taking something for dinner out of the oven and although he knew his stomach was in need of food he liked this sight better.

Hard to believe that after all these years, and three kids, that his wife still had the ability to take his breath away.  Not to mention she had some great, um, assets he enjoyed immensely.  Danny leaned against the door jamb and just watched her.

Her hands encased in oven mitts Michelle turned with the casserole to greet her husband and seeing the expression on her face she smiled saucily, “Why Mr. Santos what has that look on your face?  See something you like?”

Danny placed his briefcase beside the door and went to wife, gathering her close after she put the casserole on the kitchen island, “Well Mrs. Santos ‘like’ is just too tame a word for what I see.  I love every single inch of what I see.”  He moved his hands towards the object of his earlier fascination, “But what I was just thinking is that you look fantastic in these jeans.”

Michelle playfully slapped his chest, “You are such a sweet talker husband.  And I will show my undying appreciation later tonight, but for now grab some plates before the horde swoops in ready for their dinner.”  Michelle moved around the kitchen and gathered the silverware, “So how was work?  Did you talk to Tony?”

Danny sighed and went to grab the plates like she asked, “I did.  I could tell I threw him through a loop.  And I know he and Marah are going through a lot right now, but I held off as long as I could to tell him.”

Michelle nodded as she helped set the table alongside her husband, “You did the right thing honey.  Besides it was better that you tell him yourself instead of Tony finding out in tomorrow’s Journal.”

“At least this time I won’t have Jeffery ruining all the good that can be accomplished.”

Michelle walked up and gathered her husband in her arms, “Mayor Danny Santos has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”

Danny tightened his own arms around his wife and smiled, “It certainly does.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Eight

Josh looked at his daughter, at the fear and utter devastation on her face, and he couldn’t help himself.  Standing, he rounded the table and took her into his arms and held her tightly, and continued holding her as harsh sobs racked her body.  Placing a soft kiss on the top of her head he murmured soothingly,  “Honey you are putting too much pressure on yourself.  Both you and Tony were robbed of your daughter’s birth.  You were robbed of your memories.  And you keep expecting everyday that you will wake up and everything will be as it once was, but even your doctors say it is going to be a slow process.”

Marah sniffed as she sat back rubbing the tears from her eyes.  “What do you think I should do?  I can’t keep hurting Tony but I don’t know if I can be who he wants me to be.  At least for right now when I have more questions than answers.”

“Maybe you need to stop waiting for that magical moment when your life goes back to normal and instead live in your new normal.”  At her perplexed expression Josh continued, “Go see if Dr. Salas will clear you to go back to work.  Maybe getting out of the house, and the pressure of trying to remember surrounding you it will be easier.  Plus, like I said, maybe if you get back to what you love doing things will come flooding back.  But even if they don’t, what’s the harm in trying?”

Marah smiled at her dad, “When did you get so smart?”

Josh barked out a laugh, “I have always been smart Darlin’, but you have just enough of your mother in you to be too stubborn to see my brilliance for what it is.”  He picked up both mugs from the table and deposited them in the sink, “Now you go call your doctor and set up an appointment.  I am going to go visit with my grand baby.”

***

Tony kept waiting for Danny to get to the point.  He had been sitting here for the past twenty minutes while Danny had droned on and on about sales figures and profit margins.  Though he was thrilled that Infierno was still operating solely in the black, he already knew all that.  He got the same reports from Rafael, and it wasn’t like he was out of loop the past month he had been working from home.  And he knew Danny was well aware of that fact.  But he also knew his cousin.  He was getting ready to announce something big, he was just laying the foundation.

“Starting at the first of the year I feel we should begin phasing out the gambling portion of Infierno.”  Danny slid a report across his desk towards Tony, “I have been looking at figures and it wouldn’t hurt our bottom line.  The gambling was good at bringing in quick money when we first reopened but we earn substantially more from the restaurant and bar.  And since the Springfield Journal voted New Millennium as “Best Dance Hotspot” we have been making a killing on that front.  What do you think?”

Tony looked over the figures Danny had laid before him, “Sounds good to me.  You never have been too keen on the gambling anyway, it was just the initial money-maker.” Tony laid the report on the desk and smiled wryly. “Besides, the cost to legitimately run that particular venture costs a fortune.  No wonder we did things the old Santos way for so long.”

“Now there is the new Santos way, which thankfully doesn’t include threats of jail time every three months.  Less hazardous to our health.”

“True enough.”  Tony sat back in the cushy chair and casually placed his arms behind his head, “So you going to spit out what you really called me here for?  Not that it isn’t lovely to see your face but I have already seen most of these figures.”  Tony checked the watch on his wrist, “And I told Josh I would be back relatively soon.”

“How is Marah?  Any progress yet?”

“Well we traveled a few miles down memory lane, but as for any memories actually returning?  Nada.” Tony rubbed his hands down his face and sighed, “I am so tired Danny.  I love my daughter but I swear she never sleeps.  And as much I try, and trust me I try so hard, Marah hasn’t made any progress.”

Across the desk Danny looked uncomfortable, “Um, I have something to tell you that in light of what you are going through may not be the best timing.”

“I figured as much.” Tony sat up straight and motioned for Danny to continue, “Hit me with it.”

“Well there is no better way to say this but I have decided to run for mayor of Springfield in the upcoming election.”

***

The inside of the hospital room was white.  White walls, white blankets.  There were no cheerful balloons, not in the long-term care portion of Cedars.  Cheerfulness and balloons were reserved for patients that might actually see them.  Not ones that had been in a coma for over ten years.

But unlike the other patients in this wing there were no family photos, no sign that a family hoped their loved one would regain consciousness.  It was a bleak, solitary existence and it was completely fitting for the occupant lying in the hospital bed.

Carmen Santos.

Richard Salas peered down at the woman lying so still underneath the blankets.  The only indication that she were alive the steady rising of her chest due to the machines keeping her alive.  It was hard to see the viciousness that had resided in the woman, not the frail woman with the hair that was more salt and pepper than her sin black.  But he knew it was there, lurking inside.  He had seen it first hand.

Reaching into the pocket of his lab coat Dr. Salas brought out a syringe.  He stuck it into the IV port and pressed down on the plunger.  Capping the syringe he placed it back into his pocket.  He patted her shoulder mockingly, “Se you next week Mrs. Santos.”