Tag Archive | Marah Lewis

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

Tony coughed and sputtered as the beer he had been drinking went down the wrong pipe.  Tristan placed a surprised hand to her chest and fluttered her eyelashes, “I’m sorry Tony, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Madre di Dios!” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “No.” He tried to catch his breath to continue, “Make that a hell no!”  Tony shook his head at the absurdity of the very idea.  Not only was Tony married but he was her employer, which just added to the “Skeeze” factor of the situation.  Here he was trying to save his marriage not tear it to shreds and set it on fire.

Tristan just shrugged innocently, “I just didn’t want to bother Jonathan while he was eating.  I am taking over babysitting duties at the pool so that the adults can eat.” She smiled sweetly, “But I understand.  It probably wasn’t appropriate and I’m sorry.”

When she indicated the pool behind her,  Tony saw the area was swarming with kids of various ages.  Which made him feel even worse, here she was trying to be nice and he was thinking she was coming on to him.  “Yeah probably not a good idea.  I’ll just go over and see if Jonathan is done and send him over.”  Without waiting for a reply he headed off towards the tables.

***

Marah didn’t know how moms did this and make it look so effortless.  She balanced Lanie on her one leg while trying, and mostly failing, to feed herself.  She had managed to drop more food on herself than her infant daughter.

“Here. Let me hold her.” Tony sad beside her and held out his arms toward the baby.  He looked past Marah at Jonathan, “Tristan needs your assistance if you are done.”

Jonathan looked across the yard at his date and smiled at the sight of her in her bikini.  Standing up he grinned at the rest of his family members, “When duty calls.”

But Marah didn’t take her eyes off of her husband who was making goofy faces at their daughter which made her squeal with laughter.  Tony looked up when he sensed she was staring, “What?  Do I have something on my face?”

Marah smiled serenely, “I was just thinking you are a really great dad.”

Tony looked down at Lanie who was currently trying to see if she could move her foot into her mouth and then back at his wife, “Thanks.  But I think she might just be a really great baby.”

Marah opened her mouth to respond when she realized the general chatter at the table had stopped.  Looking over her shoulder she saw that her entire family sat at rapt attention, watching the exchange between Tony and herself.  At least most of them had the decency to look away guiltily after having been caught gawking.  But not her mother, Reva just rested her chin in her folded hands, “Don’t mind us.”

Josh elbowed his wife gently, “Come on, let’s leave these two in peace.”  Without waiting for his wife’s objections Josh gathered Reva’s hand in his and pulled her away towards where an enthusiastic game of washers was currently underway.

Tony looked down and Lanie and back at his wife, “I saw Dr. Feel Good talk to you earlier.”

Instantly Marah’s hackles rose. “He apologized for crossing the line the other night.” Marah paused to sip her ice water, she had been avoiding alcohol like the plague since that night, “I accepted since it was partially my fault.”

Tony nodded, “Okay.”

Not exactly the response Marah had expected from her husband. He had given the guy a black eye after all, “Good?”

“Yeah” Tony nodded then plucked a stray piece of cantaloupe off Marah’s plate.  He chewed and swallowed before continuing, “He should have apologized.  You were inebriated and he wasn’t.”

Marah crossed her arms across her chest, “That is downright reasonable of you Tony Santos.”

“This separation thing has given me a lot of time to think, ” He shrugged, “When it comes to you and Lanie I am not going to lie, I will probably always lash out first at anything I see as a threat.  That’s just who I am, who I’ve always been.  But I also know you can handle things yourself.  You were the one wronged by Richard Salas and it is your decision whether to forgive him or not.”

Marah was silent as she digested what Tony was saying.  She couldn’t stop herself from reaching over and rubbing her hand along his cheekbone.  “If we are being honest here, the separation idea was stupid.  I just wanted you to see that you can tell me things and I can handle it.  That we are better together, not when you keep secrets from me.”

Tony grabbed her soft hand in his and brought it to his lips. “When a man is given the life he had always dreamed of that man does whatever he can to hold that world with everything he has.”

“Tony you think it is any different for me?  You were always my dream and I would follow you into the gates of hell to fight for us.”

Tony smiled, “You been talking to Michelle?  That moment in Danny and Michelle history has become something of a legend.”

“Maybe a little,” Marah laughed, “It’s a good line for us Santos women.”

“Perhaps,” He leaned past their daughter and placed a chaste kiss on his wife’s lips.  It wasn’t nearly enough, not after the weeks they had spent apart, but he could hardly ravish her in the Bauer’s backyard, “And while w are on the subject of full disclosure Tristan asked me to help her with her suntan lotion.  She didn’t mean anything by it but it just struck me as odd.”

Marah was barely listening, something as small as a kiss had her brain going to mush.  But she lifted an eyebrow in question, “She came on to you?”

Tony shook his head, “She said she didn’t want to bother Jonathan while he was eating.  But it didn’t seem appropriate.”

“You’re right. And thank you for telling me.” Lanie chose that moment to lose interest in her foot and started screaming as if her small world was in ruins. Marah reached out and scooped up the baby, “Someone must need a diaper change.  I’ll be right back.”

Tony reached out and snagged her hand before she walked off, “Want to watch the fireworks with me Mrs. Santos?”

For the first time in weeks Marah’s heart felt light as air.  Leaning down she laid her own chaste kiss on her husband’s lips, “It’s a date.”

***

Reva held out her hand, “Pay up guys.”

With some good-natured grumbling Josh, Shayne, and Danny opened their wallets and each handed over a twenty. Reva pocked the money with glee and smiled at the others, “Never bet against a mama boys.”

Danny laughed but had to ask, “How did you know?  I mean we all thought the semi-separation wouldn’t work but how did you know those two would finally come to their senses?”

Reva smiled, “Marah is hard headed sometimes but eventually she comes around.”

Michelle came over and rested her hand on Danny’s shoulder, “And you Santos men know how to get your way.”

***

Richard Salas leaned against a tree trunk watching the festivities slowly unwind.  As the food clean up began and the kids exited the pool in anticipation of the firework show that rumor had it was ‘unbelievable’.  But his focus was on one brunette who was trying her best to ignore he was there.  “You know I am not going away.”

Tristan whirled around to face him, “Look I dangled the bait out but Tony wasn’t biting.”  She looked around her to make sure they were alone, “I will give it a few days and try again.”

Pushing off the tree Richard stalked towards his prey, “You are going to have to do better than parading around in a bikini Tris and you know it.”

“Look, I know what I’m doing,” She pinned him with a look, “It worked on you didn’t it?”

“True.  But I didn’t have quite as much to lose.”

***

From across the yard Rafael watched as the good Doctor chatted up Tony and Marah’s nanny.  Something was off with those two.  He was going to have to keep his eye on that one.  Finishing his beer he threw it in a nearby trashcan.  After all, that is what honorary grandfathers did.

***

From their spot in the yard Tony sat with Marah between his upturned knees.  And from her lap Lanie sat pointing at the colors exploding in the sky.  For the first time in weeks he felt like he could breathe.  Tony reflexively tightened his arms around his girls.  For the first time in weeks Tony felt peace.

History had shown him that peace usually came with a price.

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

“Looks like you have a great turn out this year.”  Marah bounced Lanie on her hip as she surveyed the Bauer’s backyard.  And to say it was a good turn out was an understatement.  Once again it seemed as if the entire town showed up en masse for the annual event.

Michelle finished hanging the last of the lanterns and stood back to survey her handiwork.  With a nod of satisfaction she turned towards her friend and smiled, “Yeah I think we get bigger every year, and I love it.”  Marah and Michelle walked back towards the house, dodging screaming kids along the way.  “You know, out of all the events in Springfield this is the one I missed the most when Danny and I lived in California.  Even if every year my dad grumbles about cancelling, Rick and I know it’s all bluster.”

Marah laughed, “I was thinking the same thing.  Every year my mom would send pictures and I would get jealous.”

Michelle reached over and rubbed a finger along Lanie’s foot which caused the baby to kick and giggle, “At least we’re all together and can pass this tradition down to another generation.”  She looked up and saw Tony over Marah’s shoulder.  The man’s face was one of pure longing and Michelle’s heart went out to him.  To both of them.  “How are things between you and Tony?  Still separated but not?”

“Yes if you must know.” Marah shifted the baby to a more comfortable position, “I know everyone thinks it is ridiculous but I need Tony to see me as an equal in this marriage.  Not keeping things from me because he thinks I can’t handle it.”

Nodding in understanding Michelle put a reassuring hand on her friend’s shoulder, “I understand.  Do I ever.  But hon, This is part of being married to a Santos.  Even being married for years and I am still telling Danny that I can handle the world and all it has to dish out.  But sooner or later you have to ask yourself, are you punishing him for who he is or yourself for loving him anyways?” And with those words to ponder Michelle gestured towards the house, “Now we better get the rest of the food ready or this party may just turn to anarchy.”

***

From across the patio Tony watched Marah and Michelle talk, his beer clutched in his hand.  Marah had her back to him which gave him unrestricted access to stare at his wife and just…wish everything was back to normal.   They had reached a stalemate and neither side was willing to budge.

“Gripping that beer kind of tight there brother.” Ray joined Tony and smacked him on the back lightly.  Following his brother’s gaze he saw the reason for his brother’s coiled demeanor.  “I see.”

Tony looked at his brother out of the corner of his eye, “You see what?  Because I’d really like to know.”

“You’ll figure it out.  I watched Danny and Michelle fight and claw their way to where they are now, And I have no doubt Marah and you will do the same.”

Tony wished he felt as confident as his brother.  For the first week or so Tony had looked on the so-called ‘separation’ with amusement.  Thinking Marah would see that as long as they loved each other nothing else mattered.  But then came the realization that she had no intention of caving and no amount of flashing his abs would work.  Then came the real battle of wills.  Like Marah sashaying around the house in her babydoll nighties.  And so began the cold showers that did nothing to tame the heat that Tony felt towards his wife.  And she knew it too, the minx.  But what Tony couldn’t figure out is what it would take to mend the rift between them.

***

Ed Bauer clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention, “Welcome to the 47th annual Hunger Games!” As everyone in the yard laughed and cheered he looked down at his granddaughter Hope and asked, “Did I say that right?”  The little girl covered her mouth to stifle a giggle but nodded at her grandfather’s joke.  Turning back tot he crowd gathered Ed smiled, “No there will be no fighting to the death for food.  Who would want to fight for my son in law’s version of barbecue anyway?”

“Hey!”  Danny acted affronted but it was all in jest, everyone knew Danny couldn’t grill to save his life.  But still Michelle rubbed his arm reassuringly.

“Today my daughter and son-in-law told me some great news.  Seems there is going to be yet another addition to the Bauer-Santos household!  And fro that I will gladly choke down one of Danny’s burnt burgers.” The news set off another round of clapping and cheers from the crowd of Springfield residents.  “And I thought to myself, this is why we do this every year.  Because honestly, every year I grumble about cancelling it.  The hassle and fuss, who needs it right?  But every year my children look at me like I am crazy and begin planning anyway.  They know I’m not serious because this tradition is one that I hold dear to my heart.  It is one that I passed down to my children who I know will continue it even after I am gone.  It is one that their children will continue after them.  And that’s the way it is supposed to be.”  The last part caused Ed to pause as he got choked up with emotion.  “So enough talk from me and welcome friends, family, and fellow residents of the great city of Springfield to the annual Bauer Bar-B-Que!”

***

Richard waited until the crowd had dispersed to their various pre-speech activities before he made his approach.  He found the targets he was looking for over at the picnic tables that had been set up on the lawn.  He pasted on a smile, “Hello Michelle you are looking well.  Marah, you look as lovely as ever.”

Michelle crossed her arms and regarded him coolly, “Hello.”  She turned on her heel and marched back to the house without saying another word.

Richard chuckled, “Must be something I said.”

Marah stood and picked up Lanie who was contentedly chewing on a cookie in her hand, “Must be.  Excuse me.”

Before she could walk away Richard held out a hand to stall her.  “I never got a chance to apologize for the other night.  I stepped over the line and I am sorry.”

Marah searched his face for signs of insincerity but found nothing to indicate deception.  “Apology accepted.  I should probably apologize as well, I wasn’t in a very good place that night and I probably was sending all kinds of mixed signals.”

Richard waved her off, “The fault was mine alone.  I knew you were married and I stepped over the line anyway.  I hope we can still be friends.”

Still be Friends?  Marah didn’t think they had ever been friends to begin with.  But social niceties told her to nod and accept, “That would be fine.  Now excuse me,” She indicated the baby in her arms, “I think someone needs to be changed.”

***

From the patio Tony had watched the man approach the Santos women.  He had watched Michelle’s non-to-subtle snub and her march away.  And as it left his wife and daughter alone with the bastard it took everything in him to not go over and finish the job he had started at the Roadhouse.  But Danny had laid a restraining hand on his shoulder, “Stand down Primo.  Let Marah handle it.”

So he had stood back and let Marah hopefully set the jerk straight.

Michelle handed Danny a beer and they all watched Marah walk back toward the house, the diaper bag hanging from her arm a clear indicator at where she was going. “Who invited the asshat anyway?”

“I did.”

They all turned to face Ed who just shrugged at the looks of mutiny he got, “That is what this event is all about.  Joining together.  And Richard Salas has no family in the area.”

They all watched Ed walk over to begin the egg toss.  They were all silent until Danny looked at them and grinned while holding up his spatula proudly, “I am going to give him the burnest burger I’ve ever done.”

Tony grinned and tipped up his beer towards his cousin, “Way to have our backs man.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Thirty

As Tony let himself into his office at Infierno he couldn’t help but smile. His life was in upheaval and he was smiling.  Some may call him foolish but they didn’t see what he saw this morning.  The fire he saw in Marah’s eyes.

Yes over the past week he had stooped to new levels to get a reaction out of his wife but like she said this morning, he was playing fire with fire.  He may have agreed to her separation idea but he wasn’t going to make it easy.  And he wasn’t above using their visceral reaction to each other to get Marah to see reason.  Still smiling he sat behind his desk and starting going over last night’s reports Rafael had left on his desk.

“Hope that smile means last night’s sales were good,” Danny entered the office and sat in one of the visitor’s chairs, “Either that or you managed to mend things with Marah.”

Tony glanced up from the reports, “No she’s still insisting we need a time out.”  He flipped the paged in his hand to the last one and peered over the tallies, “But we are firmly in the black.  No worries primo.”

Danny and Tony sat in silence for a few moments before Danny couldn’t hold it in anymore, “Okay what is going on with you?”

Tony put the papers down and lifted an eyebrow in question, “What do you mean?”

Danny gestured with his hand, “Look at you.  Smiling.  I would expect this situation to bring out the morose brooding Tony, not have you smiling like the cat that got the canary.”

“I didn’t know smiling was a crime Danny.”

“Shut up smartass.” Danny laughed but continued with his point, “Your wife moves out of your bed, abet across the hall, and you sit here smiling.  If Michelle and I were in that situation I would be pulling my hair out.”

“You think I don’t?” Tony laughed bitterly, “Danny I lay awake and night thinking to myself that not 12 feet away is the one thing I’ve wanted most in my life.  And it kills me.”

“So what is with the smile?”  Danny was truly perplexed.

“Because I can hear her.  Tossing and turning at night.  And I know that this separation is just as hard on her as it is for me.”  Tony paused before continuing, “I would bend over backwards to give Marah what she wanted.  And according to her she doesn’t think I see her as an equal partner in our marriage.  I am simply showing her that I do.”  Tony snapped his fingers, “Which reminds me.  I have to call Josh and get a new pool scheduled.”

“Not sure what I said that reminded you of that, or why you need a new pool anyway?”

Tony paused in dialing and looked at his cousin, “Since there was a dead man floating in the one we had now.”

Danny shook his head before standing, “Only in Springfield.”

***

Richard went over the latest tests in the chart and shook his head, “Not good Carmen.  Your brain activity is looking good, in fact I don’t know why you are still in a comatose state.   But your EKG isn’t looking too good for you.”  He looked at the woman lying still on the bed and tsked, “Must be the result of a lifetime of disuse.”

Putting the chart back on the bed he leaned over and spoke in Carmen’s ear, “I hate to tell you like this Carmen but I overheard some nurses this morning and it looks like your precious Danny knocked up his wife again.  You never could keep them apart could you Carmen?  Just another area you failed.”  He patted his shoulder, “A bond between a mother and her son is precious isn’t it Carmen?  Such as ours will be once you open your eyes.”

Richard walked towards the window and looked out, “You see Carmen I have waited my whole life for these moments.  You know growing up I had everything I wanted.  Raised by two parents that doted on me, given the best education money could buy.  A life of privilege.  But I just never felt like I fit in.  Like there was a piece missing.” He turned back towards Carmen and smiled, “Imagine my surprise when I found my birth certificate and realized that I was adopted.”

He could still remember the day he found out, like it was yesterday.  The range of feelings he had, from disbelief and anger to the sweet relief he felt at knowing the truth.  At how the answers he had been searching for fell into place.  “Strange how one little piece of paper can answer so much.  Like why I didn’t belong.  My whole life has led me here Carmen.”  He leaned over her still form again, “Yes the bond between mother and son is precious.  Isn’t it mom?”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Sorry guys, the St. Louis Blues are in the Western Finals and it’s really playing havoc with my writing schedule.  I am going to try my best to stay on schedule this week but like I said, it’s the FINALS. 

One Week Later…

In the guest room Marah lay on the bed while she stared up at the ceiling and berated herself for possibly being the dumbest person alive.  The idea of separating made so much sense a week ago.  But then again a lot of things made more sense a week ago.  But here, in the stillness of early morning with soft light shining through the window Marah admitted to herself that she missed him.  She missed the man who lay not thirty feet away sleeping peacefully in their marriage bed.

The past week had been a mixed bag of emotional torture.  At times she could feel Tony’s irritation rolling off of him in waves.  Then there was the confusion, the hope, and of course love.  He loved her so he had agreed to this set up, as unconventional as it may be.

But even though he may have agreed he didn’t exactly make it easy for her either.  Two days after their talk on the patio she woke to find her husband in the kitchen cheerfully humming to himself as he cooked her breakfast.  And as he set the plate of pancakes in front of her he had smiled and Marah felt her lady bits quiver.  Actually quiver.  That smile was like a double shot of tequila, potent and potentially dangerous to her health.

And then the other night he had arrived home after working out at the gym all flushed and sweaty.  She knew for a fact that he always showered at the gym so his disheveled appearance was a bit jarring.  But his intentions were crystal clear as she had carried Lanie upstairs to find her husband looking wickedly sexy with nothing but a white fluffy towel wrapped around his trim waist.  Droplets of water from his shower clung to his hair and his chest.  And she had literally felt her mouth go as dry as the Sahara desert.  She had practically ran into Lanie’s room before she listened to her traitorous heart that kept questioning why she would deny herself love when it was right across the hall.

Then the other night she had to work late finishing up her designs for The Lakeview and Buzz had arrived delivering a turkey club sandwich and a message from Tony saying that he didn’t want her “wasting away”.

With a groan Marah rolled over and covered her head with the pillow.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out what Tony was doing.  He was showing her the sweetness she had seen in him from the very beginning.  The part of him that only a cherished few got to see.

If only that were the problem.  If it were she would probably be back across the hall already making love to her husband instead of lying here frustrated and annoyed.

The cry from Lanie’s room broke the silence and gave Marah an excuse to end her musings.  Opening the door she went to step into the hall when the door to her and Tony’s room opened as well.  With sleep-disheveled hair and morning stubble on his face Tony look too good this morning, especially for the mood she was in.  And certainly those flannel pants riding low on his hips didn’t help matters.  “Jesus Tony!” Marah huffed, “Don’t you own a shirt?”

Tony wanted to laugh at the look of frustration on his wife’s face but thought better of it.  Instead he innocently looked down at his attire, or lack thereof, and shrugged, “This is what I always wear to bed Marah.”

With a growl in her throat Marah crossed her arms across her chest, “You keep on flashing your, your,” She lifted one arm and gestured to his half naked form, “manliness around here thinking that I am going to swoon.”

Placing a hand innocently on his chest Tony tried to look affronted, “Why Marah, I would never be that sneaky.”

“Whatever.  You want to play Mr. Santos?  Two can play at that game.” Without another word Marah marched across the hall and went into their bedroom.  She pulled open Tony’s favorite drawer in her dresser, the one that housed her lingerie.  Loading her arms with the lace and silk nighties she returned to the guest room without giving Tony a second look.  The door slamming shut set off another round of Lanie crying and Tony continued to his original destination.

Leaning over the crib he lifted his daughter’s screaming form into his arms. “Lanie your dad sure likes to get a rise out of your mommy.”  Placing her on the changing table me made quick work of the soiled diaper.  By now he considered himself a diaper professional, changing a diaper in less than five minutes.  “And now Mommy thinks she won because she is going to strut her sexy self around in lingerie.  Sounds like a win-win to me sweetie.”

***

Reva peered across the room as her daughter bent over the drafting table.  The pencil clutched in her hand angrily as she drew out some sketches.  She shook her head.  The idea that Marah and Tony could co-exist in the same space while being “separated” was ridiculous.  Those two were about ready to combust.  Scooting her chair around the desk she rolled towards her daughter who didn’t even look up as she approached, “Marah, honey, perhaps it is time to just call a truce.  Tony loves you, you love him.  It’s more than a lot of people have can’t you just be happy?”

Marah stopped drawing and looked at her mother, “I do love Tony.  That has never been an issue.  I can’t help but love him.  It’s like a visceral response my body has to him, it just can’t help itself.”  She paused before continuing, “But he doesn’t trust me mom.  Not to be strong enough to handle the bumps that come along.  I don’t need to be sheltered mom, I just need him to trust me to be able to weather the storm together.”

“I understand honey, I do.  But as your grandmother Sarah would say ‘don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’ darling.  Tony loves you, he wants to protect you.  There are worse things in a marriage trust me.”

Marah turned the pencil she still held in her hands over and over, “I know you think this whole separation thing is stupid but I just felt like we needed it.  A time out to find out if we were strong enough.  I don’t want to be the damsel in distress in my marriage mom.  I can’t.”

Reva smiled, “I don’t think Tony sees you as anything but what you are.  Tell me, did he demand you get a new doctor?”

Confused Marah lifted in eyebrow in question, “Why would he?”

“Well your doctor put the moves on you.  Or at least he tried.”

“Tony hasn’t said anything.”

“Hmm.” Reva looked her daughter in the eye trying to convey her point, “Seems your husband trusts you a lot more than you realize.”

“Mom I am talking about more than just that kind of thing.”

Reva laughed, “I know.  And you are just as stubborn as everyone else in this family.  But trust me on this one Marah, Your father and I lost a lot of good years being stubborn.  You kids lost because of it too.  You may just want to think about that.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Tony stood so quickly the patio chair fell backwards, “Separate?  You can’t be serious!” He raked furious hands through his hair as he paced back and forth across the patio before finally coming to a stop in front of Marah, “You don’t think I’ve learned my lesson?  My God Marah I have fought for us from the moment you woke up in the hospital with years missing from our life together.  I let you hold me and our daughter at arm’s length and I did all that while trying to make you see that our life together was worth remembering.”  Tony punctuated each point with a thumb towards himself.

Surprisingly calm Marah just shook her head softly, “It’s not about teaching you a lesson Tony.  It’s about both of us.  Our relationship hasn’t been easy from day one.  There have been ups and downs, miscommunication, rash decisions, and lies.  I just think we need to take a step back and regroup.”

Tony had to admit to himself that Marah had a point, their relationship had never been easy.  But nothing worthwhile ever was, and what they had together was worth all the struggle and pain the world could dish out. “So you think that to help our relationship we should separate?”

At the sad and dejected tone in Tony’s voice Marah questioned her choice.  It wasn’t the first time, she had rethought her decision at least a million times between coming home from Michelle’s and now.  But it all came back to one single point of contention for her, that Tony didn’t trust in her love.  Not to handle the truth and not to be strong enough for the both of them. “I just think that we need to regroup and decide if this marriage is strong enough.  We have been through a lot in the past couple of years and maybe we need a time out to see if we can just…be.”

Tony righted the chair that had fallen and sank into it.  Lowering his head into his hands he tried to calm himself, and it took every ounce of his self-control to not take Marah in his hands and shake some sense into her.  But above that he wanted Marah to be happy and if this would make her see that what they had was what mattered most than he would do what he could to make her see that. “Fine.  I don’t want to do this but I will, for us.”  He raised his head and looked sad eyes towards the only woman he had ever loved, “And how do you suggest we do this?  We have an infant daughter we need to think about.”

Wringing her hands in her lap Marah had to admit she hadn’t thought this far ahead.  All she knew is that she needed a time out to gather her thoughts. “Well, maybe you can stay at Towers for a little while-”

“Absolutely not!” Tony’s face and voice took on a furious note, “Just because you woke up today remembering you are Lanie’s mother doesn’t mean you get to push me out of her life.  I have been the one to change the diapers.  I have been the one to walk the floor with her on nights when she wouldn’t sleep and wonder what I was doing wrong.  I have been the one who did the midnight feedings without a clue as to what I was doing.  Me.  Not you.”  At Marah’s wince Tony wanted to take his words back.  he knew they were harsh but damn it, she would not deny him their daughter. “Sorry, but it’s true.”

“I know it’s true.  And that is part of the reason I think we need a time out.  We need a chance to deal with the pent-up anger we have.  At each other and everything else.”  Marah thought about it for am moment and conceded, “I can move into the extra bedroom.”

Tony laughed humorlessly, “So you want to separate into separate bedrooms?  And we are supposed to coexist yet we are technically separated.”

Marah shrugged, “It’s the best I could come up with.  You don’t want to leave Lanie and I don’t blame you.  You a great father Tony.  And I don’t want to leave the daughter I just remembered I wanted more than anything in the world.  I want to be there for her now in the way I should have been from the beginning.”  She shrugged again, “I don’t want to hurt you Tony. I just have to do this.”

“Fine.  I’ll agree to this asinine plan of yours but just remember this.” Tony stood and walked over to where Marah was sitting and leaned down.  Reaching out he cupped his wife’s face and his hands and pulled her lips towards his.  And after a searing kiss he look into her eyes, “I have fought for you and the life we could have together for most of my life.  And I would fight until my dying breath to make you see what we have is beautiful and forever.  But when you see it, well I just might make you fight for me for a change.”  Standing up he began walking towards the house but not without calling out over his shoulder, “I am your soft place to land Marah.  And you are mine.”

Marah watched Tony enter the house before lifting her fingers up and touching them to her lips.   That kiss was like electricity that shot off sparks like a live wife through her.  And there was a secret part that wanted to just say ‘the hell with it’ and just go on living as they had been before.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t the same person she had been before the accident.  But damn if Tony didn’t call out to every single molecule in her body.

Marah picked up the phone and pressed the number for the one person who knew about time outs more than a baseball umpire.  “Mom.  You busy?”

***

Reva hung up the phone and turned worried eyes to Josh, “Our daughter and Tony are separating. Well kind of.”

Josh dropped the magazine he had been reading, “What do you mean kind of?”

“Well they are living together but technically taking a time out.” Reva couldn’t help it, she smiled, “Bud that is the most ridiculous thing I have head in awhile.”

Josh shook his head, “Do you think she has any idea what she set herself up for?”

“Nope.” Reva joined Josh on the couch and snuggled into his side, “But I have a feeling it is going to be interesting to watch.”

***

Danny hung up the phone and turned to his wife in their bed, “Tony and Marah are kind of taking a time out.”

Michelle sat up in bed, clutching the sheet to her chest, “What do you mean?  I just saw her today and she said that she has always loved Tony.  Hell, we know she has always loved Tony and vice versa.”

“They are separated but still living in their home”, Danny smiled slyly to his wife and slowly pulled the sheets from her hands and kissed her deeply, “How long do you think before one of them cracks?”

Michelle wrapped her arms around Danny and sank back down on the pillows, pulling him with her, “Not long.  You Santos’ have been known to be charming when you want to be.”

Danny gave his wife a wolfish grin, “And I am about to show you just how charming I can be wife.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Seven

Tony knew fear.  Growing up it had been an emotion best left unsaid, a Santos did not show fear they made others show it instead.  He had felt it as a young man, watching Marah reach for her dreams and fearing that she would leave him behind.  He had felt it being held captive by his former friend, the fear that today could be your last and he would never be able to see those he loved ever again.  He had felt it last winter as he watched Marah’s blood seep out of her and being powerless to help her.

So yes, he knew fear.  Fear and him were old friends.

And he knew fear now as he moved towards where Marah was sitting calmly sipping a glass of tea.  But after years of watching every nuance of that woman he knew she was anything but.  He feared that this would be the biggest fight of his life.  Placing the baby monitor on the table he folded himself into the opposite chair and…waited.

They sat like that for a while.  In silence.  The only sounds around them were the leaves moving in the soft breeze and the occasional bird.  So deceptively calm considering the emotional tension that swirled around them.  Tony left like a wire pulled too tight, ready to snap.

“When I first came home from the hospital I had a panic attack just looking out the kitchen window.”  Marah paused before continuing, “And today I remembered that I found a dead body out here.  Lying right there on the pool cover.  Even now I have to force myself to sit here, to sit and think that someone died not five feet from where we are sitting.”

“I promised that we would get a new pool once the weather permitted.  It’s getting close-”

“Damn it Tony it’s not about the pool!” Marah slammed her hand against the table before turning to face him, “It’s everything.  I remember seeing Eden and you in that hotel room.  I remember seeing the fear in your eyes when I learned that you had slept together.”

Yes Tony knew fear, but he also knew when to fight.  And Marah was coming out swinging. “Years ago Marah.  I made one mistake years ago.  I haven’t touched another woman, much less thought about touching another woman since I came back home.”

“How can I trust you Tony?  You have done nothing but sell me half-truths from the beginning.”

Tony leaned forward, “Everything I have done was to protect you.  To protect our family.”

Marah scoffed, “Protect yourself is more like it.  Had you told me about you and Eden I would have been upset but I would have gotten over it.  But I wouldn’t be upset about the fact that you had sex with Eden, I would have been upset that your guilt over it caused you to push me away all those years ago and it ultimately cost you years of freedom.  I would have said that what we had,” She gestured between the two of them, “Was strong enough that no incident from years ago would even be able to touch it.  But you didn’t give me the chance Tony.”

“I know.  I know I should have told you but at the time I thought I was protecting you.”

“I am not a fragile flower.  Hell, that wasn’t even my first kidnapping!  But don’t you see, this goes deeper than you not wanting to tell me about Eden.  That was just the catalyst.  Because you didn’t trust me with the truth I lost more than just my memories.  I lost giving birth to our baby.  I lost hearing her first cries and holding her in my arms.  My God for months I held her at arm’s length I was so lost.”

Tony watched helplessly as tears poured unchecked from Marah’s eyes.  He wanted nothing more than to go and hold her in his arms and whisper things were going to be all right.  But he knew that wasn’t a wise move.  She was more likely to hit him than fall into his embrace.  “I am sorry.  I know I should have told you then and I just didn’t think the fallout would be what it was.”

“I know.” Marah wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled ruefully, “I know you didn’t.  And I am sorry for disappearing last night but Tony something is broken.  Broken between us.”

Tony reached across the table and took her hand in his, “Don’t say that.  We have just hit some bumps, but we have made it through worse.”

“While you were gone I went and visited Michelle.  And she reminded me of when she had to convince Danny to let her stand by his side.”  She removed her hand from his, “And I realized that I have always loved you.  Always.  Even without my memory I felt a pull towards you and no one else.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Tony tried to smile but he was sure it was less than convincing.

“But even knowing that I love you.  That I have loved no one but you I know exactly how Michelle felt.  Pleading with her husband to just trust in their love.”  Marah sighed and turned watery eyes to her husband.  The man who had owned her heart since she was still in high school.  And she knew she was making the right choice.  The choice that would either allow them to grow or bring them crashing down, “You don’t trust in our love Tony.  You don’t trust in me.  And I think we need some time apart to figure out if what we have is strong enough.”

Tony felt like someone was choking him.  He had expected a fight, but never this. “What are you saying?”

“I think we need to separate.”

***

Tristan crept away from the open window her forgotten cell phone charger clutched in her hand.

She wasn’t even supposed to be here, today being her day off from watching Lanie.  But she had woken up in that dingy hotel to find her cell phone had died and not a charger in sight.  Retracing her steps she realized that it must have fallen out when she had rushed to pack up her bag last night.

She had knocked but there had been no answer and so she had used her key.  Hearing Tony and Marah’s voices she had gone to the kitchen to announce herself but instead was met with…this.  This development could change everything.

As their voices continued to carry through the house Tristan hurried to get out without alerting anyone to her presence.

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

At Danny’s question Tony quickly debated with himself if he should tell Danny the whole story.  The man was riding high on soon-to-be-a-dad euphoria and didn’t need to come crashing back down to the real world.  But just as quickly as he stopped himself.  Not disclosing the truth, the whole truth, is what had led to last night’s debacle.  So instead he told Danny everything.  About Marah receiving Eden’s scrapbook, about how she remembered the day Eden drugged him (even if she forgot about the drugging him part), and how she remembered learning that Tony had Eden had slept together after they broke up.   As he kept going he noticed Danny’s face pinch tight and his hands tighten on the steeling wheel.  He knew he was in for one of Danny’s “told you so” speeches, and he admittedly deserved it.   Everyone had told him he needed to tell Marah the whole story, that nothing good could come out of half-truths and he didn’t listen.

“Damn it Tony!” Danny slapped the steeling wheel with the palm of his hand, “I told you to tell Marah the truth.  You are the most stubborn ass I’ve ever met.  Do you actually enjoy torturing yourself?” He continued to himself more than anything, “This must have been what Carlos meant when I saw him in the jail.  That he wasn’t done.  And sure as hell you played right into his trap.”

Tony listened to his cousin’s tirade in silence.  It wasn’t like he had an answer anyway, not for the stupid things he had done.  Maybe he did like torturing himself, though that would take a lot of self-reflection and he didn’t have time for that at the moment.  “Danny there is something else.”

“Oh I can’t wait to hear this.” He made a gesturing motion with his hand, “Hit me.”

“Last night I read the rest of Eden’s scrapbook.  She may have had a screw or two lose but she was certainly thorough”, Tony cleared his throat, “And in it she talks about Gus Aitoro.  How he was really a Santos.”

Danny sat silently as he processed this revelation. “That’s not possible, we had a DNA test run.  The test came back negative.”

“Apparently she changed the results.” Tony shrugged his shoulder, “Stranger things have happened.”

Danny pondered this information further then answered with a shrug of his own, “Not much I can do about it, he went to his grave being a Spaulding and I am not going to take that away from them.  It would change anything anyway.  I am sure I have more siblings out there, my father had his own way of dealing with life with Carmen.” He sighed then pointed to Tony, “Now get out and go save your marriage.  And for God’s sake stop being an idiot!”

Tony got out of the car but before he slammed the door he stopped and turned towards his cousin, “You made your share of mistakes primo.  It’s kind of what we do.”

Danny leaned over to look Tony in the eye, “Yeah I did.  But I learned from them and you will too.  That is if you stop  your typical hard-headed BS.”

Tony grinned, “I’ll see what I can do.”

“You do that.” Danny made a shooing gesture, “Now go away and go talk to Marah.”

***

Marah took a sip of the steaming coffee Michelle handed her and nearly moaned in ecstasy.  It was like liquid heaven at that moment.  “So where is Danny and the kids.”

“The kids are having a play date with grandpa today and Danny is visiting Carmen and then going to Infierno.”

Marah nearly choked on the sip of coffee she had just taken.  She coughed noisily and then asked, “Carmen as in Carmen Santos? I thought she was in a coma.”

“She is.” Michelle took her own sip of coffee and just shrugged, “The woman was a menace but she is still his mother.  And it helps him.”

“Helps him what?  The woman tried to kill you.  Repeatedly.”

Michelle put down her mug and thought about how to answer.  Finally she just went with the truth, “Helps him come to terms with the fact that she may have been a crap mother but the good in him trumps all the negative stuff she brought into his life.”

Marah looked at her friend like she was crazy.  She didn’t know if she would be as accepting or as forgiving as Michelle.  Hell, she had heard some of the stories from Tony’s youth and nearly wished his father were alive so she could punch him in the face, “And you are okay with that?”

“It is what it is.  I accept Danny visits his mother once a month and he accepts every time Claire decides to drop in on our lives and try to play mother for a while.”  She shrugged her shoulders, “Like I said, it is what it is.” Michelle took another sip from her coffee then asked, “So you said you needed some advice.”

Marah thought back to yesterday, to receiving that package to her memory returning.  She felt like her mind was moving a mile a minute while she stood still.  “All these months I thought when my memory came back everything would return to normal.  I’d be Marah again and Tony, Lanie, and I would finally get our chance to be a family.”

Michelle nodded in understanding, “I remember when my memory came back and how desperate I wanted things to go back to how they were.  Only by the time I remembered my life with Danny he had moved on with someone else.”  Michelle reached across the table and took Marah’s hand in hers, “At least Tony is still there, he’s been fighting for you since the beginning.”

“I love Tony.  I always have and I always will.” Marah sighed deeply, “Loving Tony has never been the problem.  It’s all the stuff that comes with it.  And the lies and half-truths have me questioning just how strong that love truly is.”

“I know I’ve told you this but when I was pregnant with Robbie my dear husband stupidly tried to push me away.  For my own good he said.  And I took my pregnant ass to New York in hot pursuit and when he still tried to push me away I remember it clear as day.  Even now, when he are going through typical marriage strife I think back to that day.  I looked at him and I told him that I would follow him into hell and bring him right back out.”  Michelle squeezed her friend’s hand gently and released it to grab her rapidly cooling coffee, “Hell being married to a Santos that should be our damn motto.”

“We could have t-shirts made.”

Michelle laughed, “And jackets!”

***

Richard capped the syringe and patted Carmen on the shoulder, “Thanks again for your contribution to science Carmen.”  As usual there was no response, not that he expected one.  This drug trial would either bring Carmen into the light of day or send her into the other one.  Either way he was satisfied.  As he moved towards the door it suddenly opened to reveal a very distracted looking Danny Santos.

Danny stopped in his tracks when he saw the doctor in his mother’s room.  He gestured to the man’s face, “Nice shiner you got there doc.  Guess you pissed off the wrong husband.”

Inside Richard seethed.  The Santos family had always thought they were the toughest in town. “Or maybe your thug cousin should keep a better leash on his wife.”

Danny stepped forward menacingly, “Watch your mouth or I’ll give you a matching set.”

Richard rolled his eyes, “What can I do for you Mr. Santos?  I have patients waiting.”

“Patients who haven’t seen sunlight in over a decade?”

“Some.  I take the care of all my patients seriously.”  Richard moved towards the door, ready to make an exit and stop answering questions.  But before he could exit Danny called out his name.  Turning he faced him with a questioning look on his face, “What now Danny?”

“Stay away from my cousin and his wife.’

“Or what?  You going to make me swim with the fishes?  Give me cement shoes?”

Danny gave the other man his most wicked smirk, “Guess you’ll find out if you do.”

***

Tony let himself in the front door and gently placed the baby carrier on the floor in order to not wake Lanie.  He gingerly unstrapped the baby and lifted her against his chest before carrying her over to the bassinet.  Looking down at her sweet face all lax in sleep he smiled.

He moved through the house looking for Marah before he located her on the back patio sitting in the sun.  “We need to talk.”

Marah moved the sunglasses off her face and turned her head toward her husband, “You’re right.  We do.”