Archive | March 2016

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Four (Part Three)

Marah wrenched her arm from Jonathan’s grasp and stepped back, “What has gotten into you?”

Not put off in the slightest by Marah’s attitude, Jonathan just moved back into her space, “Marah Do you want to tell me why Tony has been blowing up my phone for the past ten minutes?”

“Not particularly.” Marah responded while reaching out for the glass of water Richard had returned with. “And I would appreciate you being like Switzerland for the time being.” Marah chugged the water greedily then handed the empty cup to Jonathan, “Now I am going to go have a good time and I suggest the same.  Your date is looking a bit lonely.”

Jonathan watched Marah take Richard’s hand in hers and lead him back to the dance floor, her laugh clearly audible over the music.  If he didn’t know her he would think she was actually happy, but there was something there behind those expressive eyes of hers.  Something that drove her to this hold in the wall bar and had her slamming tequila.  And he could bet it had something to do with the irate phone messages he had received from Tony. “Switzerland my ass,” Jonathan pulled out his phone and hit redial.  Marah may have wanted him to stay out of it but Marah wasn’t acting like herself.  And judging by the way she was acting with that Salas character it was possible she was going to make some serious bad decisions.  Jonathan waited until Tony picked up on the other end of the phone and hoped he made the right decision.

***

At the sound of his cell phone ringing Tony whipped his car to the side of the road, “Hey Jonathan! I am looking for Marah, have you seen her?”  He listened as Jonathan answered.  And if Tony didn’t already feel like his world was collapsing around him Jonathan’s answer would have done the job.  “The Roadhouse?  You sure?”  Tony held the phone away from his ear as Jonathan barked out his answer.  “Just checking.  I will be there in five.”

Tony hung up the phone and checked that no cars were coming before pulling a U-turn.  He stepped on the gas as he headed towards the outskirts of Springfield.  And he hoped like hell Marah would hear him out before she decided to end them for good.

***

This day had been a series of highs and lows, and Marah was currently enjoying the upswing.  Richard’s arms were wrapped around her as they danced, but he was the perfect gentleman.  He didn’t let his hands stray below her waist and he looked at her eyes and not at her bust line.  Plus, he smelled good.  His cologne was a spicy musky scent that wasn’t overpowering.  And last but not least, like a balm to her injured heart he made her laugh.  “So do you miss the bright lights of New York?”

Richard tightened his arms marginally around her and smiled flirtatiously, “Oh I don’t know, Springfield has its share of fine points too.”

Marah felt her face heat and it wasn’t from the alcohol.  There was no denying that Richard Salas was a good-looking man.  And in some ways he reminded her of Tony.  The tanned skin that spoke of her Hispanic heritage, those deep brown eyes that were like melted chocolate, and that sly grin that made a woman think of tangled sheets and hot passionate nights.  But he didn’t make her heart flutter like Tony managed to do just by walking in a room.  She raised her hands to his chest and moved marginally backwards, “Richard I have had a good time tonight but I-”

Richard halted the flow of words by lowering his head and pressing his lips against hers.

Marah waited for something to happen.  A flutter or a spark would have been welcome, but she felt nothing.  She moved out of his arms and took a deep breath.  Intending to let him down gently she smiled in an attempt to soften the blow, “Richard I-”

But the words ended as a fist came from behind her and knocked Richard to the floor.  Whirling around she Tony, his face a ask of fury. “Don’t you ever touch my wife again!”

From the floor Richard smirked as he wiped the blood from his upper lip.  “Perhaps she wanted to be touched.”

Tony gritted his teeth and made an attempt to charge forward when Marah and Jonathan stepped between them. “Come on Tony. We need to go.” Looking behind Tony she saw the bouncers making their way through the crowd toward them.  Hoping to avoid a further scene she pulled on his arm, “Come on.”

Tony allowed Marah to pull him toward the exit but he kept his eyes locked with Richard’s.  And he watched the smirk turn into a full-on smile.  He enjoyed the scene he caused.  Tony wanted to charge back in there and pound on the other man’s face but he had bigger fish to fry.  Right then Marah wasn’t spewing hell fire at him but he knew that it was only a matter of time.

***

Tristan grabbed her purse and weaved her way through the gawkers.  The people who had stopped to stare at the drama that played out on the dance floor.  Reaching Jonathan’s side she leaned up to kiss his cheek, “You sure know how to show a girl a good time Randall.”

Jonathan rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Sorry about that.  But I knew something like this was going to happen.”

Tristan spared a look at the man behind Jonathan’s back.  The man who had risen from the ground and now stood at the bar.  Women always like a bad boy and Richard was currently surrounded like a regal king and his subjects.  He lifted his drink in a salute.  Mission accomplished.  Focusing back on Jonathan she smiled, “Maybe next time less aggression though.”

Jonathan leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Oh I don’t know, I like a girl with some spirit.”

Tristan smiled saucily and walked towards the door, “Maybe I will show you my spirit, guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

***

Tony and Marah rode home in silence but the tension between them was thick.  So thick Marah almost felt like the oxygen had been sucked out of the vehicle.  They had left her car behind at the Roadhouse parking lot, there was no way that Marah could drive with the amount of liquor she had consumed.  So even when they got to their home there was no escape from what was coming.  And as each minute passed the fog that had sufficiently clouded Marah’s memory began to lift.  And with it came the anger.

Tony pulled in their driveway and shut the car off.  They sat silently listening to the car engine click as it cooled before Tony turned to face Marah in the passenger seat, “Do you have any idea how worried I was tonight?  You didn’t come home Marah.  You didn’t even call.”

Marah shrugged a shoulder as if she didn’t care that she had him in a panic all night, “I didn’t want to come home.  I am a big girl, deal with it.”  She opened her door and got out, slamming the door behind her.  As she marched up the walk to the front door she heard Tony get out and follow.

“Listen I stopped by your studio.  I know what you saw and I can explain.”

Marah whirled on Tony and poked a finger in his sternum, “Oh you can explain huh?  Explain how you cheated on me with Eden August not once but twice!”

Tony opened his mouth and closed it before trying again, “You remembered something?”

Marah laughed humorously as she unlocked the door, “Yeah, my first memory is of you screwing someone else.  Seems like I have lived that story before.” Marah lifted her finger to tap against her lip as if she were thinking.  Then mockingly said, “Oh that’s right, Catalina was a rebound was she not?”  She walked through the door and without a backwards glance walked up the stairs.  Over her shoulder she called back, “I am too drunk and too tired to even entertain your pathetic excuses tonight.  But if you are smart, which is debatable, you will park yourself on the couch tonight.”

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A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Four (Part Two)

Marah slowly navigated down the hallway leading from the bathrooms.  Keeping one hand on the wall for balance she was sure she almost passed for sober.  Oh who was she kidding, she was three sheets to the wind.  But this whole endeavor was mission accomplished: She was feeling no pain.

Marah gave herself a mental fist pump as she successfully navigated her way through the throngs of people currently dancing to some old country song.  She could see the table Jonathan had commandeered for them to sit and slowly made her way towards her destination.  Judging from Jonathan’s facial expressions and copious amount of hand gesturing it seemed he and Tristan were in the middle of a discussion.  And the last thing she wanted was to discuss anything.  Besides, she was sure this was intended to be a date for the two of them, Marah’s sudden appearance probably put a big damper on that.  Tomorrow Marah was certain that she would feel bad for hijacking Jonathan’s date but tonight she really couldn’t find it in her heart to care.

Besides, maybe she was doing him a favor.  Love sucked.  It sucked you in and then inevitable spit you out.  And on that maudlin note Marah decided her brain had not been sufficiently wiped and switched directions towards the bar.  She was already going to be cursing herself tomorrow so it wasn’t like one more would hurt.

When she was feet away from the bar an energetic two-stepper bumped into her which caused her to bump into the gentleman standing in front of her.  Marah watched in horror as the drink the man was holding spilled down the front of him.  “I am so sorry.” Marah held her hands over her mouth.  The shirt the man was wearing looked expensive, which put him just as out-of-place in this hole as she was.  “I was walking and someone bumped into me and I am just sorry.”

The man turned and smiled wryly, “No worries Marah.”

As if Marah needed anything else to make her feel embarrassed.  There, dressed to the nines, was Dr. Richard Salas.

***

“I don’t like it.”

Tristan turned to face her date, her date that was currently fixating on anything but her, and lifted an eyebrow in question. “Don’t like what?”  Tristan hated this entire evening.  Here she was dressed to impress and her date was focused solely on his sister.  A sister who had become the third wheel, though considering that they had been here before she showed up maybe it was she who was the third wheel.  On that awkward note Tristan took another large drink from her beer.

“This isn’t Marah.  At least not the Marah I know.  She doesn’t drink often and never like a sailor on leave.”

“Well she does have amnesia.” When Jonathan turned his angry expression towards her Tristan held out her hands in a stopping motion, “I just mean that maybe she doesn’t remember how she used to be.  Maybe she is just trying to find her way.”

Jonathan sliced his hand through the air effectively cutting off that theory, “No something is wrong.  Maybe I should call Tony and let him know that his wife is drunk off her ass.  I doubt he knows she is here.”

Tristan put a hand on his arm halting him, “Come on Jonathan.  Your sister is a grown woman who can make her own decisions.”  Putting her bottle on the table she grabbed both his hands and stood, “Now I have the night off from the hospital so you are going to show me a good time.”

Jonathan reluctantly let her pull him to his feet, “Um, I don’t dance.  And definitely not to this mediocre version of country music.”

Tristan laughed as she pulled him towards the dance floor, “It is pretty bad isn’t it?”

Wrapping his arms around her waist he pulled her close to be heard over the music, “Terrible. But the company makes up for it.”

***

After Tony dropped off Lanie at Reva and Josh’s house he found himself driving aimlessly down the streets of Springfield.  He had even driven over to Oakdale only to receive the same answer he got over the phone.  Lisa Grimaldi herself came down from her penthouse suite to tell him that Marah had left hours before he called.

An hour later and Tony was teetering between being worried and being angry.  He was like a keg of dynamite ready to explode, all he needed was a match to light the fuse.  Though all his calls to Marah’s studio went unanswered he still decided to check it out again.  Reva had given him her key “just in case” but Tony had only driven by earlier.  The lights were out so he didn’t stop.  But perhaps Marah had left something behind, something to give him a clue to her whereabouts.

Parking on the deserted street Tony jogged to the window and peered in.  Just as he suspected, all was quiet and undisturbed.  Still he took his key and unlocked the door.  Flipping on the light switch he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.  It wasn’t until he walked up to Marah’s desk that he felt the world open under his feet.  There, in colored glory, were photographs.  Photographs of Eden and him at Towers when she had drugged him and made it look like they had slept together.  Tony rubbed his hands furiously down his face.  “Tony you are a damn idiot.  Why didn’t you just tell her?”

Marah must have seen these pictures and ran for the hills.  Picking up the box the offending book came from he noticed there was no return address.  But he knew where it came from.  Danny had told him that Carlos had given a vague threat that he wasn’t done, that he would have the last laugh.  And judging by the evidence before him, it looked like Carlos had indeed won.  Tony closed the book and tucked it under his arm. He quickly moved to the exit and closed up the shop.  He had to find Marah and explain.  Explain that it wasn’t what it looked like.  Explain like he should have done months ago like everyone had told him.  He had to explain before Marah did something she would regret.

***

Marah wasn’t sure if the room was spinning due to alcohol consumption or because Richard had spun her around the dance floor like a country version of Fred Astaire.  She was going to go with the later.  She laughed as Richard dipped her dramatically.  It felt good to laugh. And she had found out that Richard was more than what he projected to the world.  Gone was the stiff doctor with a terrible bedside manner.

It could be the alcohol masking his less desirable traits but right now, in this moment, he made her laugh. “Whew!” As the song ended Marah fanned her face in an attempt to cool off.  She was sure she looked a mess, but she didn’t care.  “I think I need a drink,”  When Richard lifted an eyebrow in question she laughed again, “Of water this time.  I think I have drunk enough alcohol for two lifetimes.”

Richard tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and smiled, “Be right back.”

Marah was wrenched from watching him walk away be a strong hand on her arm.  She whirled around and saw an angry Jonathan staring at her.

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Four (Part One)

This is a long chapter that has a lot going on.  In order to make it easy for readers I have split it into three parts.

Jonathan eyed the growing amount of empties piling up in front of Marah.  Something was wrong, that much was evident.  Even before the attack Marah wasn’t much of a drinker, and definitely not a place like The Roadhouse.  Not that there was anything wrong with slumming it once in a while, at least not in Jonathan’s opinion.  But seeing Marah there slamming back tequila like a sailor on leave was a bit too much to take.  Casually Jonathan took a sip of his beer, “So you gonna tell me why you are here?”

Marah polished off her next shot with barely a wince.  She was getting better at this drinking thing by the minute, “Nope.  Not really.”

“Listen Marah, whatever it is it can’t be that bad.”

Marah narrowed her eyes at her brother.  “Aren’t you the one who wanted us to become pals again?  Then stop trying to psychoanalyze me Doctor Freud and have a drink with me.”

“Maybe I should call Tony.  Let him know-”

“Don’t you dare!” Marah slapped the phone out of Jonathan’s hand and to the ground.  “I am an adult damn it!  And I don’t need you tattleing to my husband like I am the little wife let off her leash.”

Jonathan retrieved his phone from the floor and inspected the screen for cracks.  Finding none he held up his hands in surrender. “Okay I concede.  No need to get so violent.”

Marah held up the next shot as a peace-offering. “You are not my warden you are my brother.  So just chill and drink with me like you were meant to.”

With a shrug Jonathan grabbed the glass and clinked it with hers.  “Bottoms up!”

***

Tony put down the magazine he had been pretending to read for the past half hour.  Walking to the window he was shocked to see how dark it had gotten outside.  And yet Marah still wasn’t home.

He didn’t like it.  That tight feeling in his gut that told him something was wrong.

He checked his phone again but there were not missed calls and no texts.  And every one of the ones he had sent Marah had gone unanswered.  It was unlike Marah to be gone this long and not at least let him know where she was.

After debating with himself a few more minutes he finally gave in to his gut and called Josh and Reva, surely they would know where she was.

***

Marah hadn’t felt this free in a long time.  At least that she knew off.  She was in that happy fuzzy place between being slightly buzzed and falling down drunk.  And she liked it there.  Wanted to buy a condo and stay in that place for a good long while.  Or at least until the images of Tony and Eden together weren’t permanently etched in her brain.

Marah wrinkled her forehead in confusion, “So wait, let me see if I got this straight.  You were married to Tammy.  Tammy Winslow.  Our cousin Tammy.”

Jonathan knocked back his shot with a wince, clearly he wasn’t as good as this amnesia drinking as Marah had become. “Yup.”

“Not gonna lie little brother, that’s a bit…icky.”

“The heart wants what it wants I guess.”

Ugh.  There was that damn line again.  The heart wants what it wants.  Well what does the heart know about what it wants.  Marah’s heart had wanted Tony from the moment she laid eyes on him.  Sure, she knew he would piss off her father.  But underneath all of that he had made her feel alive for the first time.  And look where it had gotten her.  She was currently getting drunk in a dive bar.  And on that depressing note Marah took another healthy drink of her beer.

Marah turned in her stool to ask Jonathan something when he suddenly stood up and walked towards the door.  Turning the other way on the stool Marah had to brace her hand against the bar to steady herself.  And she saw her brother hugging a woman whose jean skirt looked to be painted on.  Marah mentally slapped her hand at the catty thought and listened to them talk.

The woman wrapped her arms around Jonathan and kissed him briefly on the lips, “Hey!  Sorry I’m late.  I had to go home and change.”

Jonathan smiled and grabbed her hand in his and walked back towards the bar, “No problem.  I was just sitting here chatting with my sister anyway.”  He brought her forward into Marah’s line of sight, “Considering you work for her I don’t think an introduction is necessary.”

Sadly in Marah’s inebriated state that line took longer than usual to register.  And when she finally was able to make herself focus she realized with a start that standing before her was none other than Tristan Daniels.  A Tristan Daniels who looked to be a mixture of surprise and embarrassment.  Marah waved lamely, “Hey.”

“Mrs. Santos I didn’t…I hope you don’t think….”

Marah finished off her drink and signaled for yet another, “I quit thinking two beers ago.”

***

Tony bounced a fussy Lanie on his shoulder as he relayed information to his worried in-laws.  “I called the place in Oakdale that she was going to consult with today but they said she left hours ago.  I called Cedars but no one resembling Marah has been brought in.  I even called Frank at the police station.  But so far no one has seen her.”  Tony listened to Reva on the other end of the phone and continued, “No, I don’t want you to have to come out this late at night.  It would be better if I brought Lanie there.  Besides, Lanie has been fussy so maybe a drive will do her good. Thanks Reva.”

Tony disconnected the phone and looked down at Lanie, her face pinched tight in the throes of another fit.  He bounced her gently in his arms, “It’s going to be okay Lanie.  Daddy is going to find mommy and bring her home.”

***

Standing in the hallway outside the bathrooms, Tristan put a hand over her ear and yelled into her phone. “Listen you may want to come to the Roadhouse.  Your plan may have just had an unexpected development.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Three

Sorry for the delay but last week I was fighting a nasty cold and so I took the week off to rest and recuperate.  So without further ado the continuation of A Soft Place to Land….

The pain inside Marah’s head was sudden and debilitating.  Marah dropped the scrapbook in her hands as if it were on fire and clutched her temples in agony.  But no matter how much she tried to stop them the memories kept coming.

Tony naked and clutching a comforter around his hips…Eden lunging on the bed with her cat that ate the canary smile…

The pain was so intense Marah sank to the floor, her head still clutched between her hands.  Then in blinding Technicolor:

“Marah I swear to you. I admit, I came to meet Eden this afternoon, but just at the bar. But how we got here, in this bed, is a mystery even I don’t know. Because I know I would never sleep with Eden.”

On the bed Eden stretched languidly, as if being caught practically in flagrante delicto was of little interest to her. She leveled herself up on her elbows, keeping the sheet tight around her chest. “Really Tony? Still lying to Marah and yourself I see.”

Tony whirled on her in fury. “Shut your mouth! I don’t know how but I know you are behind this.”

“I wasn’t the only one on that rooftop Tony. You were right there with me. Perhaps the words ‘we always knew this would happen if we let it’ will jog your memory.”

Marah breathed through the pain.  But as debilitating as her migraine was it was nothing compared to the pain in her heart.  She had spent months hoping to remember something from her life now she wished for the dark.  She laughed bitterly at the irony before pulling herself into her chair.  Pulling her purse towards her she rummaged through the contents until she pulled out the orange prescription bottle.  Opening it she shook out two pills and knocked them back, not even needing water.

Closing her eyes she rested her head against the padded back and thought about what she was going to do next.  So much had changed in the past weeks.  She had tried to build walls around herself but they were no match for Tony’s tenacity.  She had always lacked self-preservation against that man.  And Lanie.  She knew the minute she allowed herself to feel, to truly feel, that little girl would own her heart.

Opening her eyes Marah looked down at the book that had fallen to the ground, its contents open to a picture of Eden wrapped around Tony’s muscular frame and unbidden she continued to remember.

 “You two slept together? Before today?”

Tony cringed at the devastation in Marah’s tone. She had stood against everyone; him, his cousin, and even her own family to give Eden a second chance. And then they had done exactly what everyone had warned her about. “Baby it was right after we broke up. Before I left Springfield. I was hurting…”

“I was hurting too! But did I go and sleep with your friend?” She turned her wrath towards Eden. “Or could I ever really call you a friend? You were always after Tony, even then. I should have listened to everyone who warned me, they warned me Eden, but I said you deserved a second chance.”

Eden shrugged a bare shoulder. “The heart wants what it wants.”

“The heart wants what it wants” Marah echoed to the silent room.  What Marah wanted was to forget.  She gathered up her purse and with one small glance at the evidence of Tony’s betrayal she stepped over the offending book and walked towards the door.

***

Tony pulled into the driveway and put the car in park.  Sitting in the quiet cocoon on the car’s interior he rehearsed how he would tell Marah.  Explain what happened last year, how she came to lose her memory.  But all the words felt hollow.  There was no explanation for what happened.  No explanation for why he didn’t tell her sooner.  But that had always been their problem, well his problem really.  Doing what he thought was best without thinking of the consequences.

Grabbing his suit jacket off the passenger seat he suddenly realized that Marah’s vehicle wasn’t there.  He wasn’t really surprised, Marah had told him that she was going to be busy most of the day, something about a consulting appointment in Oakdale.  He made his way up the front walk and opened the door.

As usual Toby greeted his master with his tail wagging enthusiastically.  Tony gave the dog an affectionate scratch between the animal’s thick ears.  He placed his keys and jacket on the hall table and stopped when he saw Tristan playing with Lanie.  They were both on the living room rug, Lanie flat on her back while Tristan made goofy faces while tickling the baby.  Lanie laughed and kicked her legs enthusiastically, her little fist grabbing at Tristan’s long hair.  Hair that she brushed out of her eyes as she turned her head to greet him, “Hey Mr. Santos.”

Tony groaned, “For the fifth time, you can call me Tony.  I am not that much older than you.  Having you call me Mr. makes me feel old.”  Despite his early misgivings Tristan was a great nanny.  She was always on time and was great with Lanie.

Tristan smiled at his joke, “I think I can remember that.” Leaning forward she gathered up the baby in her arms, giving Tony another peak at the tattoo she peeking out from the waistband of her shorts.  And suddenly Tony felt like the lecherous old man he just told her he wasn’t.  He averted his gaze as Tristan got to her feet, the baby gathered close. “Lanie just got her last bottle about half an hour ago.  She wasn’t sleepy so I thought we would have a little tummy time.  She is such a good baby.”  She bounced the baby in her arms and smiled before holding out Lanie for Tony to take.

Tony reached forward and as they handed off the baby exchange Tony’s knuckle brushed against the soft mound of Tristan’s breast.  As if his hand was scalded he quickly stepped back and cleared his throat, “Well um thanks.  I am sure you have things to get to.  Some Friday night plans.”

Despite Tony’s discomfort Tristan didn’t look fazed by the inadvertent touch.  She calmly gathered her things before answering, “Oh I am sure I can think of something.”

***

Marah sat in the parking lot watching various patrons come and go.  The neon sign above the derelict building proclaimed in neon letters “The Roadhouse”.  Though most of the neon letters had long burned out.  She couldn’t believe she was here, it wasn’t anywhere close to her usual haunting places.  Which is exactly why she was there.

She had heard the stories or its heyday.  The stories of her parents, or more specially her mother, mixing it up on the dusty floors.  It was the type of place you went to when you wanted to escape or forget your troubles.  And Marah definitely wanted both.  Taking a deep breath Marah pushed the car door open and walked across the gravel parking lot.

Just as she was about to open the door, it flung open with two burly security guards “escorting” a drunk patron outside.  The man was slurring his words and trying without success to eradicate himself from the large arms pushing him forward.  Marah almost turned tail and left but instead she moved forward.

The place was packed.  The dance floor filled with people dancing to the band currently belting out an old 80s number.  Sliding up to the bar she surreptitiously checked the vacant stool next to some biker and finding it somewhat clean she perched upon it.  The bartender, a man just as beefy as the two bouncers paused in whipping down the bar and lifted an eyebrow, “You get lost princess?”

Marah bristled.  Her whole life she had been thought of as the Lewis Princess and treated with kid gloves.  But damn it, she was Reva Shayne’s daughter for Chrissake! Pasting on her most seductive smile she chose to ignore the slight and get down to her roots,”Tequila. Neat.  With a beer chaser.  Don’t care what kind as long as it’s cold.”

The bartender held up his hands in surrender and placed a shot glass before her and filled it with the clear liquid.  Marah took it and without hesitation slammed it back.

Wincing slightly she reached for the beer that had been set before her and chased the vile taste from her mouth.  She had never been much of a drinker.  Not after the disaster that had happened last time.  And at the reminder of Romeo Jones she signaled for another.

She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around.  And of course there was her brother Jonathan, his hands on his hips and a look of confusion on her face. “What are you doing here Marah?”

Marah scoffed, “I am legal you know and this is a free country.”  She gestured to the stool the biker had vacated. “Now you going to interrogate me further or are you going to join me little brother?”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Two

Tony sauntered into Infierno with a pep in his step.  He hadn’t felt this carefree in months.  Not since Marah’s accident.  Hell, even months before that tragic night.   A lot had changed between Marah and him last night, and Tony was reveling in the change.

He knocked briefly on his cousin’s open office door before entering, “Got you a coffee Primo.  Just the way you like it.”

Danny looked up quizzically at his cousin but accepted the coffee, “Thanks.”  Taking a sip he regarded his cousin’s cheery demeanor and smiled, “Guess last night was a success.  In more ways than one.”

Tony sat in one of his cousin’s cushy visitor chairs and propped his feet on the large wooden desk.  With a huge smile on his face Tony replied, “It was amazing.  Well, dinner with the Lewis family is always an interesting affair.  You remember how dinners were growing up.  Either tense silence or screaming matches?”  When Danny nodded Tony continued, “Even after years of being around the Lewis family I am still in awe how they interact.  Stories, laughter, there is just so much affection between them.”

Danny nodded in understanding, “I still get that ways sometimes too.  The Bauer’s still amaze me as well.” Taking another sip of his coffee Danny waited for Tony to continue.  When his otherwise loose-lipped cousin remained silent Danny sighed, “So I assumed by that shit eating grin of yours that you and Marah are in a good place.”

Tony tilted his head to the side, “You know I never understood that expression.  Shit eating grin.  Who would be grinning at that?”

Danny pretended to hit his head on the top of his desk, “You know what I mean.”

“Stop inflicting injury on yourself.  I don’t want Michelle to think I smack you around.”  Tony smiled as he decided to put his cousin out of his misery, “And yes.  Marah and I are in a great place.  In fact, I don’t think things have been this perfect since before Thanksgiving of last year.”

“Well your one night stand did flaunt pictures of your naked behind at your wife’s baby shower.”

Tony moved his feet from the desk and sat up straight.  “Yes I know Daniel.  Thanks for reminding me.”

Danny held out a hand in order to halt the tirade he could see forming in his cousin’s eyes, “Look, I am glad things are good for you two.  I have been there, remember?  But you have to wonder how Marah is going to react when her memories return.”

Tony’s eyebrows drew together as his cousin’s words hit home.  His cousin had told him to tell Marah about Eden.  So had Ray.  They had told him to tell Marah about the night that fateful summer that inevitably sent him running from Springfield and the incident from the previous year.  But he had resisted.  Partly due to the fact that Marah and he had enough on their plate without adding in Eden August.  And the other part because he was just plain stubborn.  “Damn it.”

“Look, I have been where you are right now.  When Michelle lost her memory I kept something big from her.  I did it to protect her but in the end she was hurt more than words could say.”  Danny stood and walked towards the door.  Placing a hand on his cousin’s shoulders as he passed, “Just think about it.  I am going to go check and see if Rafael fixed that problem with the water dispenser.”

***

It was strange how much your life could change in a matter of hours.  After spending the majority of the day consulting in Oakdale Marah was finally headed towards the office.  And as she replayed last night’s events she couldn’t say that she was altogether surprised by the change.  Even with her lack of memory Marah was drawn to Tony like a moth to a flame.  It had been that way since she was a teenager and it seemed like nothing would ever change.

And last night was like every romantic fantasy she had ever had growing up.  Full of tender touches and passionate lovemaking.  The had laid for hours afterwards talking and laughing .  It was as if that last barrier had been knocked down between them and they could finally just…be.

And when Lanie had waken up in the middle of the night to be fed and changed Marah had been the one to tend to their daughter.  And with Lanie lying between them in their large bed smiling and kicking her feet Marah had felt contentment unlike she ever felt before.  At least as far she knew.  But it was hard to imagine a better feeling than lying with the man you loved with your child smiling and healthy between you.

Sure every morning she woke up hoping that some sliver of her memory would return.  Especially this morning.  Her doctor at the hospital had told her that she may be subconsciously suppressing her memories for self-preservation.  And after learning that Catalina’s brother had tried to kill her she could see why her mind may try to protect her that way.  But she was in a good place right now, her and Tony were in a good place.  She had hoped that this morning would be the day her mind gave up the fight and let her remember.

No such luck.  It always seemed like her memories were light on the cusp of her mind but when she tried to access them the door was slammed shut.

Marah pulled up to her studio and parked.  Turning off the ignition she sighed.  Maybe she just had to accept that she wouldn’t be able to remember her life before the accident.  That didn’t mean Tony and her couldn’t make new memories right?  Entering the office she didn’t bother to turn on the light.  She had given her mother the day off considering she was going to be out of the office for the day.  She walked over to her desk to begin working on the remodel of Lakeview Towers.  And after meeting with owner Lisa Grimaldi she was certain this would be a gigantic undertaking that would increase her portfolio greatly.

There sitting on the desk was the mail she had forgotten about the other day.  The one addressed to her.  “It’s probably from Tony,” Marah smiled as she  picked up the scissors and tore open the box. On top lay a note and still smiling she read aloud, “Here’s to the memories!”

Her husband could be cryptic when he tried to be crafty.  Lying the note aside Marah reached in and pulled out the contents.  She was surprised to find a large scrapbook.  Didn’t seem like Tony’s type of gift but she could never tell with him.  She was still smiling as she opened the cover and took a look at the insides.

The smile quickly dropping from her face and she stood in shocked horror at what she was seeing.  Turning the pages there were more of them.  Pictures of her husband in bed with another woman.  It was like a train wreck.  Where you want to look away but the horrifying carnage keeps your attention.  Peering closer she took a look at the other woman.  Her smug, self-satisfied smile as she lay nestled against Marah’s husband.  And then as if the book were on fire Marah dropped it to the ground.  And she remembered.

“Eden.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-One (Part Two)

In typical Lewis fashion her ‘celebration’ dinner became more of a family roast with each member taking turns telling stories.  Stories about her.  Some that she knew well and some brand new.  But as she watched her family drink and be merry she had to admit that this was a good idea.  Getting together as a family.  They had needed it just as much as she did.

Marah rubbed her forehead where the residual migraine had taken up residence.

“You okay?”

Tony’s face was filled with concern and Marah was quick to reassure him, “Just a bit of a headache.  Probably too much wine is all.”

“Why don’t you take one of the migraine pills the doctor prescribed.  I’ll get you a water.” Tony signaled the waitress over and Marah smiled weakly.

On the other side of the table Dylan stood up, “This wouldn’t be a celebration dinner without a speech so bear with me. The first time I met Marah, hell the first time I met the majority of the Lewis family, was right before Josh and mom’s wedding.  The first one.” Everyone laughed and saluted Josh and Reva with their drinks, “For all anyone knew I was some hitchhiker that Dad picked up off the side of the road but Grandma Sarah still offered me breakfast and Josh offered me a place to stay.  But then this little girl with the cutest smile came running up to me with her doll.  See the arm had broken off and she hoped I could fix it.  Well, being the awesome Mr. Fix-It I am I reattached that arm like a pro and she looked at me with that same mega-watt smile and said ‘thank you’ and then before running off she pointed at me and asked ‘what do you say?” Dylan shook his head at the memory.  Of a little precocious little girl and her ability to charm everyone in her midst. He looked over at Marah and smiled himself, “I can still see your smile and hear that giggle you used to do.  I may not have always been around while you were growing up but I am always going to be thankful that I have you in my life.  And that I can see your smile.”

Marah reached up and brushed the tear from her eye and catching movement out of the corner of her watery eyes she saw her mother doing the same thing.  She never heard Dylan speak like that about…anything really.  She smiled at her older brother and raised her glass of water in a toast which everyone followed suit.  She took a sip before moving to stand up, to thank everyone but was forestalled by Tony’s hand on her shoulder.

Tony stood and looked out at all the people gathered, the family that he had always longed to be a part of.  “When I met Marah I was the last thing her parents dreamed for her.”

Josh laughed, “You could say that again!”

Tony chuckled himself at the years he tried in vain to make Josh’s approval.  It had been worth it though.  To get where he was now. “But she took my breath away.  And to my eternal horror I asked her if she believe in love at first sight.” Everyone around the table, Marah included, booed Tony’s lame pick-up line.  “But it was the start of the best thing that ever happened to me.  And we had our share of ups and downs.  Okay, sometimes it seemed like more downs than ups.  But she is still the best thing that ever happened to me.  So I want to cap off this celebration dinner with a toast.” he raised his glass and everyone followed suit, “To Marah.  For showing me that it’s okay to fall, as long as you have a soft place to land.”

***

One by one her relatives left Infierno.  It had been a night of laughs and a few tears thanks to Dylan’s sweet speech.  But the tension that Marah had sensed in her family was gone.  Marah had even hugged Jonathan and made tentative plans to get together sometime in the near future.  She almost didn’t want the night to end.

Josh helped Reva put on her coat, “Your mother and I were wondering if you wanted up to keep Lanie overnight.  Give yourself some time to yourselves.”

From deep down inside Marah felt a flash of panic.  Sure she wasn’t totally in the mother-zone yet but she was lowly getting there.  And if nothing else her panic at having Lanie stay overnight somewhere else proved it.  She felt Tony’s hand at the small of her back and looked up at him, “What do you want to do?”

Tony smiled, “I think I want to take my girls home.”  He reached forward and shook Josh’s hand, “Thanks anyway.  Maybe next time.”  And Marah watched as he bundled up the baby like a seasoned professional and lifted the baby carrier in his strong arms.  “You ready to go home?”

Marah smiled herself as she hurriedly put on her own coat, “Sure am.”

***

An hour later Tony walked into the bedroom after finished feeding and changing Lanie.  He was so tired his eyes had begun to droop as he had rocked Lanie to sleep.  Tony was ready to dive into bed and get some much-needed sleep.  But the minute his feet crossed the threshold all thought of sleep flew out the window.

There, sitting on the bed, was the object of his every fantasy.  Marah sat atop the covers and gone were the plaid pajama bottoms but in their place was the skimpiest nightie he had ever seen.  He couldn’t do it.  Not with the lie that still stood between them.  His mouth was suddenly dry as a desert, “Marah I have to tell you something.”

Marah stood from the bed and laid a finger across his lips, “The only thing you need to tell me is that you want me.”

Tony reached up and moved her finger from his mouth, and using his hold on her wrist he pulled her to him, “Marah I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want you.  But I-”

Marah silenced whatever Tony was about to say with a kiss.  This kiss was not like the ones they had exchanged in the previous months.  This one was full of passion, and heat.  Full of promise.  Fisting her hands around Tony’s neck Marah boosted herself up, wrapping her legs around his waist, “For the first time in what feels like forever I feel almost whole.  I may not have my memories back but I don’t feel as if I am this fractured shell of a person.  Not right now.  And I want to be with my husband.”

Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  He tried reciting the Cubs starting line-up.  But to no avail.  Marah had always been his very own kryptonite.  But he tried one more time, “Are you sure?  Because-”

Once again Marah stole the words of protest from his lips.  And just like Pavlov and his damn dog Tony fell into the kiss like Marah was the air he needed to breathe and he began walking towards the bed with Marah clinging to him.  He deposited her on the pristine white sheets and followed her down, “Marah I love you.  No matter what happens, I hope you know that.”

Marah smiled and reaching up she grabbed Tony’s face in her hands, “I love you too.” And she pulled his face towards hers and let the heat engulf them both.

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-One (Part One)

Marah’s head was pounding.

The minute Tony and Marah arrived at Infierno they had been bombarded by the boisterous Lewis clan.  As Tony had predicted, Reva had immediately snatched Lanie up out of her carrier and was currently making the goofy faces adults did in an attempt to make babies laugh.  One diaper change later and the onesie declaring  ‘My Grandma is Better Than Your Grandma’ was currently on display on Lanie’s small body.  When Marah had seen this she had looked across the table at Tony who just raised his eyebrow in a ‘I told you so’ manner and smirked.

Cheeky bastard.

Now the entire lot of them were seated around the enormous table and the noise level had reached epic proportions. But as she looked around at the people laughing and drinking heartily she had to admit, her family was pretty remarkable.  They could be gone for years at a time, live halfway around the world, and yet they all seemed to find their way back to Springfield.

And watching Tony interact with her father was another extraordinary sight to see, one that she didn’t think she would ever get used to seeing.  Josh and Tony had always clashed.  Now they sat next to each other talking about the merits of the Cubs current roster and their prospects for another National League run for the world series.  She felt a smile stretch across her face.

Next to her Shayne nudged her in the side nearly making her spill her wine all over herself. “Stop making goo-goo eyes at your husband and pay attention.”

Marah placed her glass on the table, if only to keep herself safe from her brother’s next jab, and looked at Shayne, “I am not making goo-goo eyes.  What am I twelve?”

“You so were.” Shayne laughed heartily, “Though you always did look at Tony like he was the only man on the planet.”

This time it was Marah’s turn to jab her brother, which she put just enough force behind to make him wince, “I did not.”

She so did.  And she would be the first to admit it, to anyone but her brother that is.

Shayne rolled his eyes, “Whatever.  So how are you feeling these days?  That damned doctor basically had you quarantined from the rest of us so we all had to rely on updates from Tony and mom.”

A part of her didn’t understand why her doctor had sequestered her from her family but another part got it completely.  This family may be extraordinary but they were overwhelming to say the least.  “I am doing good.  Still no concrete memories but I get bits and pieces of things from time to time.”  She reached forward and grabbed her wineglass again and took a healthy sip, “What about you?  Mom filled me in that you were married.  To Dinah Marler, which I still can’t believe.”

Shayne grabbed the beer in front of him and followed suit.  Taking a healthy swallow he answered, “Dinah and I met when we were both broken.  She saved me.  Literally.  And in turn we saved each other.” He smiled broadly, “And next week our final adoption approval will be done and we can go overseas and get another addition to the Lewis clan.”

Marah just blinked at her brother’s statement.  “Wow.  Who would have thought you’d become so poetic.  I remember when the only thing you cared about was field hockey and cheeseburgers.  Remember when Cassie and Richard got married and you called the palace ‘da bomb’?  I wanted to facepalm so hard.”

The siblings just laughed, which caused Jonathan to scowl from further down the table.

***

Jonathan downed the rest of his scotch in one healthy gulp.  He hated to admit it but he was jealous.  Jealous of the easy camaraderie that flowed naturally between Marah and Shayne.  But he wasn’t surprised.  Those two had shared a lifetime together, while he had only had a couple of years.

But he was still jealous.

Their oldest brother Dylan leaned over and whispered, “Your green monster is showing dude.”

Jonathan just shrugged.  “She doesn’t remember me.  I mean we only got close the past couple of years but we were close.”  Jonathan had to shake his head at how sappy he had become.  It was just a couple of years ago he was the outsider in this family.  And even further back he would have to say he hated them.  Hated that they were all close while he was given up to live with an abusive father.  He raised his glass and signaled the waitress for a refill.

“You may want to slow down Jonathan.  I still need you over at that new job site tomorrow.” Dylan clapped Jonathan heartily on the back, “And you being hung-over is not going to impress the bosses.”  He indicated Josh and Billy with a lift of his chin.

Jonathan accepted the new drink with a smile at the waitress.  Turning back to Dylan he deliberately took a healthy drink before replying, “You sure are bossy.”

Dylan laughed, “As the oldest, and handsomest of Reva’s offspring, I declared myself the leader.”

For the first time that night Jonathan genuinely laughed. “You are delusional.  Everyone knows I am the one with all the handsome genes.”

***

Marah remained chatting with Shayne but out of the corner of her eye she watched Jonathan and Dylan talking.  She knew she had to make the approach, to extend the olive branch to her other brother.  She owed it to him after her cold reaction to him after she was released from the hospital.  Shayne nudged her when she noticed where her attention was, “You know he’s a pretty good guy.  Cocky and bit arrogant but he is still pretty good at being a Lewis.” Shayne started laughing, “The first time I met him I punched him in the mouth.  It was quite a sibling bonding moment”

Marah smiled and nodded.  She finished off her glass of wine and stood, “Guess it’s time for me to do some sibling bonding myself.”  She walked around the table to where Jonathan and Dylan were seated.  She smiled first at Dylan and leaned in to give him a hug, “Hello big brother.  How have you been?”

Dylan returned her hug heartily, “No complaints here.  How have you been?”

“Been better.  Been worse.” Marah tilted her head to the side, “At least I think I have.”

“Well if you are making amnesia jokes I would say you re on the mend.”  Dylan stood, “I am going to try to get some time in with my niece.  Though you practically have to have the jaws of life to pry her from mom’s arms.”

Left alone Marah and Jonathan were left in awkward silence.  Finally Jonathan sighed and looked up at his sister, “Look I know you don’t remember me but we were close.  Shayne hated me on sight.  Dylan couldn’t care either way.  But you were living in Paris and I don’t know, somehow you not living here made your acceptance of me more memorable.  I even came and visited you once.”

Marah sat in the seat Dylan had just vacated, “Oh really?”

“Yeah.  You were all set to show me around Paris but instead we mostly stayed in you apartment.  Drinking wine and sharing our tales of woe.  We made quite a pair.”  Jonathan chuckled at the memory. “But after that weekend we were close.”

Marah reached out and touched the back of Jonathan’s hand with her own, “I may not remember much but there’s nothing saying we can’t be close again.  So little brother, how have you been?”