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?”

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