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

Marah speared the hunk of watermelon with more force that necessary and nearly sent it skidding off the platter.  But if one more person asked her how her and Tony were doing she just might scream.  All day long she had gotten varying degrees of the same question and hours later she was done.  Done answering questions and done pretending like watching her husband laughing with his brother and cousin wasn’t killing her. a little inside.

“What did that watermelon ever do to you?” Jonathan reached over and picked up the object of her aggression and popped it in his mouth.  “Happy Fourth of July sis.” His mouth full of the sweet fruit Marah barely made out what he was saying.

Marah nudged him with her elbow, “Pig.” She grabbed some more watermelon, with less force this time, and moved down the food line.

“Oink.” Jonathan grinned, “Can’t believe you left me hanging on the egg toss.  You know that this was going to be our year. We were going to take out Shayne and Dinah in a blaze of egg toss glory.”

Rolling her eyes Marah replied, “Seems you did just fine without me.” She looked around the backyard, “Where is your girlfriend anyway?”

“She’s not my girlfriend.” Jonathan reached for the potato salad but paused, “Did Buzz make this?  Because a few years ago on Mother’s Day he gave the town food poisoning with this stuff.”

“I think you’re safe.  Michelle made it.”  Laughing she reached for some pasta salad, “I still can’t believe you are dating my nanny.”

“Why sister, I didn’t know you needed someone to watch you during the day and change your clothes when you make a mess.”

“Har har, you are so funny.”  Marah and Jonathan walked towards the picnic tables where the Lewis clan was currently converged, “So you and Tristan?”

Jonathan shrugged, “Nothing serious.  Just having a bit of fun.”  He paused thinking, “And we do, have fun together I mean.  But there is just something I can’t put my finger on, something off.”

Marah stopped and looked at her brother, “You know I could totally ‘go there’ with a statement like that.  But I won’t because I am a nice sister.”

“I appreciate your restraint.  Now let’s eat!” He nudged Shayne over, “I have to refuel after my stunning egg toss victory.”

Shayne grumbled but moved over to give his siblings space to sit, “Lucky toss brother.  Next year it’s on.”

***

Alan-Michael wasn’t giving up.  Not without a fight even if his wife redefined the word stubborn. “Would you please sit down?  I will get you a plate.”

“I am pregnant Alan-Michael, not an invalid,” Lucy placed her hands on her hips and stuck to her guns, “I am perfectly fine.  In fact, I have never felt better.  Even if I look like I swallowed a beach ball.”

Rubbing his hand along her swollen belly Alan-Michael smiled, “You look beautiful.  But you are also ready to pop any day now.  So my lovely wife, ” With a gentle hand on her shoulder he steered her towards the tables, “Sit down and let me wait on you.”

Looking up Lucy smiled, “You know, I’m glad we found our way back here.”

Alan-Michael knew she wasn’t just talking about them finding their way back to Springfield.  She also meant them finding their way back to each other.  And he knew he would be eternally grateful for that as well.  If he hadn’t groveled for her heart they wouldn’t have Michael or the baby that would be arriving any day now.  Placing a soft kiss on her lips he whispered, “Me to beauty.  Me too.”

***

Danny swung his arm to clear the smoke.  “I think it is time to hang up the spatula guys.”

Tony just grinned, “Might be wise.  One of these days you are going to make the town sick as a dog.  Not a great move for someone who next year will be wanting their votes.”

Rafael indicated the misshapen and charred-beyond-recognition burgers on the plate, “At this rate the only thing they’d vote for is to revoke your grilling privileges away.”

Ray clapped his cousin on the back, “But at least they will be talking about you for years to come.  They still talk about Matt and Vanessa’s wedding reception.”

“Thanks for the support guys,” He turned towards Tony, “How about instead of insulting my culinary brilliance while moping like some Disney Princess you go talk to your wife.”

Rafael and Ray both laughed at Tony’s furious expression and slapped Tony on the back.  Rafael whispered, “Touché.  And on that note I am going to eat some non-charcoal tasting food.”

Tony watched his family walk away and scowled.  He was sitting over here moping like a Disney Princess.  But he couldn’t see any other options.  If he mixed and mingled like usual he got the third degree about Marah and his relationship.  Springfield was a great place but in some ways it was like living in a small town.  Everyone knew your business whether you wanted them to or not.

He may have kept his distance today but like a moth to a flame Tony’s gaze always seemed to seek out Marah.  Right now she was sitting and laughing with her family.  She had a lightness in her posture that he hadn’t seen for a while.  And while he was sure most people were fooled by her acting he knew she wasn’t happy.  The light that seemed to radiate from her was not there.  He sighed and was about to follow the others when a hand touched his arm, “Excuse me Tony.”

Turning he faced Tristan wearing nothing but a bikini and a smile.  He swallowed, “Hey Tristan.  Having a good time?”

Tristan looked around at all the people in the yard, “Yeah this is a great party.  They do this every year?”

“Like clockwork.” Tony indicated the food line, “You may want to eat while you can.”

“Oh I already ate.” Tristan smiled and moved closer which had every red alert Tony had flashing.  “So I was wondering if you could do me a little favor.”

“Um, Sure.”

Tony took a sip of his beer as Tristan held up her other hand and turned away from him,.  Flashing a smile over her shoulder she asked, “Could you put some of this suntan lotion on my back?  I can’t quite reach.”

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