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.”