Dean excused himself after he helped Margo wrestle her luggage into the house. He stowed her things in the guest bedroom and went into Tara’s bedroom. The moment his head hit the jasmine-scented pillowcase, he was asleep.
Margo sat on the couch cuddled up with Chloe and sipping her favorite Merlot. A blank, empty expression filled her face as she stared out the French doors stroking Chloe’s soft gray fur. Tara gazed upon her friend not knowing what to say or do. Sometimes, it’s better just to say nothing, Tara knew the thought held truth.
Tara’s mind was rampant with disconnected thoughts, so she zeroed in on what was within her sight. She marveled at how beautiful Margo still looked in spite of her hard life with Bevan. Her friend would not have any trouble finding a love interest after everything settled down. Tara was sure of it.
Chloe had known the roller coaster of emotions her pets had chosen as a lifestyle. Some days, she blithely watched them. On days like today, she intervened. If only she could convey to them she knew the importance of a mundane, complete lack of drama. She stood up on Margo’s lap, kneading her chest over her heart and nuzzling her chin as though she were mining out the emotion. It worked.
“Tara, I’m sorry,” Margo whispered, stroking Chloe’s fur without breaking her stare.
Tara was taken completely by surprise. “Whatever reason would you have to be sorry, especially to me?” She perched tentatively on the arm of the couch.
Margo bowed her head, without blinking, shifting her gaze toward Chloe. “Tara, I have been such a horrid friend to you. How many times have I sat in this corner of the couch with Chloe?”
Unsure of where this was going, Tara ventured, “No more than the hundreds of cappuccino we have had in your kitchen.” She slid down the arm of the couch onto the cushion and hugged a throw pillow to her chest, as a shield against…what exactly?
She knew she was stretching the truth nearly to the point of breaking. It was unusual for Tara to admit she was in need of help, especially on an emotional level. Perhaps, it was backlash she feared.
Margo’s expression was particularly matter-of-fact. “Tara, every time you need someone you turn to Chloe. I should have called when Dean disappeared. I knew where he was, but I was foolish enough to carry company protocol home. Maybe Bevan would still be here if I had told you.”
Reeling from the impact of her few words, Tara asked, “What was Bevan doing?” Chloe took the cue and jumped onto the rug to sit beneath the table. It was time for her pets to perform.
Aimless walking formed into pacing while Margo’s monologue sucked the air out of Tara.
“Do you remember when Bevan left last week?” Tara nodded mutely. “He was not going overseas, although that was what I told everyone. He was here trying to get Dean out of prison. Some small town hicks-ville sheriff thought he was breaking the law. You know, the one that pays his own salary with bribe money.
“Dean had been there for nearly four months before Reaper gave in and let Bev try to get him out. During that time, you got fed that line of BS that Dean was married. His only wife has been the job. I confided in Stephen that I had a bad feeling about this whole operation. Once he explained it to me, I knew the boys were in no more danger than usual and that you would be happier in the assignment that he has for you.
“Bevan called me last night to let me know that he had to tie up a couple loose ends before he came home, but that he would be home by dawn. I drank two pots of coffee before Reaper came to the door without Bev.” A tear slid down Margo’s face. Her heart was breaking.
“Tara, I should have told you this long before now. Don’t miss out on the love of your life. Not for the job, not for money, not for anything. You need to go in there and wake Dean, even if all you do is hold him and tell him you love him. Don’t make Reaper come to you the way he came to me today.”
It hit her like a thunderbolt as her mind cleared instantly, no longer knowing confusion and doubt. “Margo, I’m such a fool!” Tears filled her eyes again as she realized how right the words echoed in her mind.
But then reality confronted her, unable to get around the fact that Dean was still married. Nothing could change that fact. She looked down at Chloe giving herself a cat bath under the table, so content and without a care in the world. How Tara wished she could change places with her feline friend and just fade away from the negativity.
Margo went to the hall closet and pulled out a pillow and blanket as though she were in her own house. When she returned to the couch, she saw the deep furrow across Tara’s brow. Hugging the pillow and blanket to her, Margo sat down beside her. “What’s wrong, Tara?”
“About a month ago, I went to Seville’s and had coffee while I watched a woman eat filet mignon.” Margo’s look was of complete vacancy. Tara sighed and continued, “Her name is Sharon Cranston. I saw her driver’s license. She showed me their marriage license. It is not a line of BS from the job.”
For the first time all day, Margo laughed. It was no giggle. She laughed until she was out of breath, and her eyes welled with tears as she rocked back and forth. Tara grew impatient waiting for Margo to explain what was so comical about any of what she had said.
Chloe rolled over on her back, and Margo reached down to scratch her belly. “Your mom is so silly, Chloe!” Tara pursed her lips into a tiny bow of a frown. Margo reached behind the couch and hauled her purse from the floor. Tara aimlessly wondered for the hundredth time why such a petite woman would carry a purse the size of a duffel bag.
Out of the maw of the bag came a blue wallet, a yellow billfold, a red coin bag and a brown, eel-skin checkbook. The checkbook, she handed to Tara. “Who am I?”
Tara looked at her skeptically. “I know who you are. You are Margo Elaine Hughes Matthews. I was your maid of honor, remember?” Tara looked in the checkbook and saw checks embossed with Margo’s initials, address, telephone number and driver’s license number.
Margo handed Tara the blue wallet. Inside Tara discovered identification and credit cards in the name of Cheryl Ann McCoy. “Who is Cheryl Ann McCoy?”
“Look at the picture.” Tara saw Margo’s face on the card. Before Tara could ask, Margo handed her the yellow billfold. She hoped its contents would be self-explanatory. The identification bore the name Sharon Louise Cranston. “You see, the job really is his only wife. I am one in a long line of actresses to play the part of Sharon Cranston. The woman you met works for Reaper in Madrid. Did you actually buy her story?”
Tara felt the perfect fool. Why was she so willing to believe Dean could have been lying to her all along? Epiphany struck as she replayed the conversation of the morning over in her mind. She had never told him that she thought he was married! No wonder his answers were so flagrantly ill-conceived.
Tara’s heart began beating faster as her mind began tracing back over all the mistrust and unnecessary outbursts with Dean during the past six months. The reality of her new situation finally became a part of her as she looked at Margo and then glanced back at the bedroom door where Dean was sleeping.
“It’s really true?” Tara searched Margo’s eyes hoping that it wasn’t a cruel joke or another company secret.
“Tara, go in there and hug your man.” Tara without answering slowly got up and dropped the throw pillow onto the couch. She leaned down and kissed Margo on the cheek with a soft, wide smile before slipping into the dark quiet bedroom. She silently prayed this was not another mistake, hesitating for a moment as she watched the moonlight stream through the window.
The light pooled on Dean’s face as Tara took in his square jaw and even features. His strong muscular frame beckoned her into his arms. She hoped this moment would never go away, frozen in time forever, as she realized this was the most wonderful moment in her life.
This segment is very different from what you read in the last installment and is a far cry from what is to come for Tara, Margo, Dean and Reaper. I hope you have enjoyed it.
If you missed a portion of the story, visit Story Time to view the other installments. Feel free to suggest a title at any time, either on a post or on Story Time. Thank you for your continued support.
©Red Dwyer 2012
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