A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty

Richard closed the door behind him with a click.   He raked Tristan over with a critical eye, taking in her casually dressed appearance and bare feet. “My my, don’t you look right at home.”

Tristan placed the baby in the bassinet before facing the last person in the world she wanted to see at that moment.  “Since you didn’t answer the first time I’ll ask again, what do you want Richard?” She had known something like this was coming, especially after she had failed to return his calls the past couple of days.  But she never would have guessed he would have made a house call, he was typically more careful than that.

“I haven’t heard an update from you in a few weeks, thought I would check in and make sure you were still up to the task.” Richard prowled around the living room with a critical eye.  You could tell a lot about a person from the way they decorated their home, and he could see Marah in every nook and cranny.  From the brightly colored throw pillows to the art on the walls.  Sure there were touches of Tony here and there, such as the gigantic big screen TV, but for the most part this room was Marah Santos all the way.  “I’ve known you a lost time Tristan, and I have never seen you take this long securing your mark before.”

“Do you want it fast or do you want it thorough?

“Honestly?  I would be fine with you taking your time.  If I didn’t suspect you were going weak on me.”  Richard continued his prowl around the room until he was inches from Tristan.  Leaning in he got right in her face, “I know about your date with the degenerate.  Couldn’t aim a little higher on the Springfield social hierarchy?”

Tristan barely managed to control her temper.  She knew that’s what Richard wanted, a reaction.  So instead she just tilted her head and smirked, “You never said I couldn’t have my own fun.

Richard eyed her shrewdly, searching for any sign of deception.  Detecting nothing he nodded briefly, “Very well.  Have your fun while it lasts.”  Richard walked towards the front door but before he opened it he turned and faced Tristan and pinned her with a look that made his meaning clear, “But you best keep your eyes on the prize.  I don’t think I have to remind you of what you stand to lose if you don’t”

And on that parting note he opened the door and closed it behind him.  Tristan let out the breath she had been holding.  “Eyes on the prize” she mumbled to herself.  The road to her freedom was paved with bad intentions.  She squatted down next to the bassinet and looked at the baby, sleeping peacefully.  Unaware of the unique brand of evil that had just inhabited her space, “Better buckle up Lanie, things are about to get bumpy.”

***

Rafael watched the black BMW drive away from the curb.  He had lived in Springfield long enough to recognize the majority of the citizens.  And this one was unfamiliar.

Call it a gut feeling but he didn’t like it.  Not one bit.  From his pocket he drew out his cellphone and dialed familiar numbers. When all he got was Tony’s voicemail he cursed and then left his message. “Tony this is Rafael.  I think there is something going on.  Call me.”

No reason to raise the alarm until he knew what was going on.

***

Tony took another glance at his watch and sighed.  Throwing the magazine he had been staring at for the past half hour on the coffee table he stood and yelled towards the stairs, “Come on Marah, it’s your family! They aren’t going to care what you look like.”

Tony could hear Marah’s indistinct mumbling from where he stood.  She was probably calling him every foul-mouthed name under the sun.  Leaning down he smiled at Lanie who returned a gummy smile in return.  “Do you hear how your mommy talks to me?  Don’t think just because you have me wrapped around your finger that you can do the same.”

After their abbreviated lunch today he had called Reva and informed her of the news.  Well both bits of news really.  The fact that Carlos was going to be spending the majority of his miserable life breathing prison air and that he had told Marah about the incident that caused her to lose her memory.  Reva had been uncharacteristically silent on the line before she declared that they were going to celebrate as a family.  Up until now they had generally followed doctor’s orders.  They didn’t try to lead Marah’s recovery by telling her what she should remember, but Tony had never been great at following orders.   And he’s glad he did.  Telling Marah had knocked down some of the last remaining wall between them.  Now if only he could grow enough courage to tell her about Eden…

“Okay I’m ready! What do you think?” Marah twirled in a small circle and showed off her dress.

Tony had been so lost in his musings that he hadn’t heard Marah’s approach.  But now he stood, struck stupid by the sight before him.  The dark blue dress, her hair a riot of curls around her head.  She was breathtaking.  He knew Marah took his silence as a good sign because she just laughed and walked towards him.  Placing her fingertip under his jaw she closed his gaping mouth with a snap, “You will catch flies with your mouth opened like that.”

Tony shook his head of the cobwebs, “You look gorgeous.”  He put his hand in his pocket and his fingertip grazed the object he had carried with him for months now.  And watching as Marah checked on Lanie he figured this was the perfect moment.  They were finally in a good place.  The cracks in their relationship weren’t patched up completely, but they were healing.  And Marah had slowly been opening up to Lanie which was the most important step of them all.

“You know just saying it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to happen.”

Tony shook his head in confusion, “Excuse me?”

“Daddy’s little princess?” Marah stood holding Lanie in her arms.  She indicated the pink onesie Lanie wore with a tilt of her head, “She could grow up to be a hellion for all we know.”

Tony laughed, “Without a doubt!  But I always liked a girl with moxie.  And I’m sure Lanie Santos will show the world a thing or two.” He reached forward and grabbed Lanie’s foot and gave it a loving tug that made the baby laugh and kick her legs in glee, “Except for boys because she’s not dating until she’s at least thirty.”  He grabbed the diaper bag he had packed earlier and slung it over his shoulder. “As for the onesie I have to display it loud and proud.  Chances are your mom will commandeer Lanie with the excuse of diaper change and she’ll come back with one that says ‘My Grandparents Rock my Socks’ or something like it.”

Marah laughed as she strapped Lanie into her pumpkin seat, “Yeah I could see my mom doing something like that.”

“Jonathan is even worse.  He got one specially made.  Says something like ‘I heart my Uncle Jonathan’, has a matching blanket too.” Before Marah could open the door Tony placed a halting hand on her arm.  Dropping the diaper bag to the floor he pulled his hand out of his pocket and nervously cleared his throat, “Marah I know I said I was going to hold onto this until things weren’t so up in the air between us but this  just feels right.  Taking her left hand in his Tony slid the blue solitaire on her finger where it belonged.

Marah looked down at the ring and it was her turn to gape with her mouth open.  It was beautiful. “Tony it’s gorgeous.”

Tony leaned forward and kissed Marah’s lips gently, “No. You are gorgeous.”  Placing another kiss on his wife’s lips Tony lifted the baby carrier with one arm and opened the door with his other hand, “Now let’s go celebrate.”

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