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.