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.
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.”