They were hiding something. That much I could tell when Serena and Danny remained two quiet mouses munching on their food during dinner. They'd only been going to counselling for a few weeks, and I was pretty certain spending weeks at therapy wouldn't unwind years worth of unresolved issues. But today wasn't about their drama. Today was about family and the renewed bond we continued to share, thanks to Gabe. I made a silent prayer in his honor before I began to empty the plates into the garbage disposal and Michael helped me place the plates into the dishwasher.
"I really liked her. She seems like a nice girl." I mentioned, referring to Michael's nurse friend named Thea Ocasio. He had brought her to dinner earlier and she was surprisingly charming and funny. She was in the states on a temporary visa from Brazil, working as a pediatric nurse at Houston Gen until she got her residency papers and she had a very peculiar laugh that worked perfectly well with her ash brown hair and her emerald green eyes. Thea was at least a foot taller than me but I'd come close if I wore six inch heels and stood next to her.
I had no idea why I was comparing myself to her knowing Michael and I had both moved on. Freddy and I were trying to ease back into a relationship, although him being grumpy all the time didn't help. I couldn't blame him. He was still in pain despite the front he'd been putting on. Michael on the other hand seemed happy. He was smiling again. And it wasn't because of me anymore.
My heart sank a subtle inch as that realization came to me and I immediately brushed it off. I had no business ruining two good relationships. No matter how indecisive I was feeling at the moment.
"She is. It's different. I'm not used to the nice girls." Michael replied, grinning as he nudged my shoulder, forcing a chuckle out of me.
"I'm not that bad." I countered, making a face as he placed the final dish in the dishwasher and put them to wash.
"Bad enough. Especially in that dress." he flirted unabashedly, as he hopped onto my countertop, taking my hand in his as he pulled me to him. I swatted him away, throwing a dish towel at him as I downed the rest of my wine and poured myself the rest of the bottle.
"You sir, have a problem behaving." I scolded playfully, chuckling as I remembered all the trouble Michael used to get me into when we were teenagers. I didn't mind as much back then. And I guess that was why we got along so well. Danny had introduced us shortly after him and I met, and after the whole Gabe fiasco, Michael was there for me. Danny had his own thing going on with Serena, and Freddy had no idea what he wanted back then. Michael did. He always did. He saw something he wanted and he went after it. I admired that about him. Eventhough it had gotten him into some fights and eventually a couple of nights in the jailhouse. Some part of me wished that carefree girl that was crushing on him back then was still inside me somewhere. Maybe then I wouldn't be feeling as frustrated as I did now. Maybe it was my turn to find out what I wanted.
"Well, it looks like you might need a night or two of fun. The big guy not giving you what you need?" he teased, stirring the pot like he usually did. Normally, I would find it amusing. Tonight, he hit a nerve I didn't want to get into, so I decided to let it go and bury it.
"Be happy, Michael. You deserve it just as much as the rest of us do." I insisted, swirling the wine inside of the glass as the buzz began to consume me. I was exhausted and alert at the same time. I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight, that much was clear.
"Marley, I know that look. If Freddy ain't making you happy--" Michael began and I placed a finger on his lips to shut him up. I didn't want to hear the truth right now. I just wanted a nice place to lie down and forget the world in.
"Love isn't an option. It happens and then you have to sit in it. But you've never been in love, so you have no idea what this feels like." I retorted defensively as I turned towards the wine bottle to see if I had any drops left. Michael took the bottle from me and tipped my chin up to look at him. He wanted to say something. His lips were parted, his gaze glued to mine. But no words came out.
"Hey, I'm taking Serena home. Do you need anything before I go?" Danny interrupted, raising his eyebrows as his eyes went back and forth between us and I pulled away to drink the rest of my wine.
"Let me get you two some dessert before you go." I suggested, brushing passed Michael as I headed towards the fridge. I could feel his gaze on me but I couldn't look at him. I focused on getting the homemade cheesecake out of the second self without dropping it, and when I turned to place it on the counter, Michael was gone. Danny was left standing by the island, his back resting against it as he glared in disapproval.
"Can't keep stringing them both along, Marley. Trust me, it'll bite you in the ass." Danny warned and I rolled my eyes as I began to cut through the cheesecake, placing the slices into plastic containers.
"Shut up, Danny. I'm not stringing anyone along. I'm with Freddy. Michael is with Thea. That's the end of it."
"According to what I just walked into, I call bullshit. But it's none of my business."
"Until someone ends up dead." he added bluntly, taking the plastic containers as he leaned in for a hug. "Then we'll end up at another funeral. Michael is my best friend, but he ain't no match for Freddy." Danny continued his preaching and I knew he was right. I needed to figure out what I wanted. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to get into something serious with Freddy until I made a decision.
"I got some thinking to do. Now get out of here." I shooed him away and he shook his head as he exited my kitchen. I turned to wash my hands after finishing my wine and felt an arm wrap around my waist from behind, lips at my temple, then my neck, a man who loved me more than words could say whispering obscene and sensual things into my ear. Freddy always made it hard for me to do the right thing. And tonight, I felt like doing all the wrong ones.