Disclaimer: I do not own anything.
Step One: Leave your problems behind
I was a fool, a fool in a foolish predicament.
One man in my life lived of Acid reflux because of me, a second one would willingly kill/ die (whatever suited the situation I was currently in) for me.
And I was in love with the both of them.
And that was the whole problem that overshadowed my life at the moment. It was the kind of problem that dictated my thoughts and my very actions. Said actions that currently led me straight to Spain…
All right, all right, I admit it: I'm a chicken.
Duh, I think we figured that one out a while ago.
Unfortunately in this certain predicament I couldn't even pretend to be brave and to be on top of the situation anymore. It was all way too much for me to handle and it didn't exactly help either when people from the Burg, like my mother and Lula, took different corners to shove me in the direction of their favourite lover for me.
My mother, of course, demanded a perfect marriage with me as the perfect housewife. In her opinion only Joe Morelli could make this dream come true.
Lula, however, still dreamt of being invited to the Batcave in the future by me after she gave up her fantasy of ever becoming Ranger's personal lust maid.
And I? The main character in this drama?
I did choose.
I chose to run away. And boy did I feel good about my decision.
It wasn't like I wanted to play the two men in my life. That wouldn't be fair to either one of them. The problem just was that they were harbouring romantic feelings for me, I think (I wasn't too sure if Ranger's feelings headed in romantically in love or romantically in lust), and I for them.
But how to choose? Or more importantly: Who?
I was attracted to Morelli because I had always felt drawn to him. I even lost my virginity to him and that has to count for something. Plus I needed the kind of stability of having him in my life, the feeling of home he provided and the marriage-kind-of-love he felt towards me.
On the other hand I craved Ranger for the faith and support he put in me. The raw and complete trust he had in me – I who is a clumsy moron with a terrible fear of weapons, I who stumbles across dead bodies like normal people across dog shit; and he trusted me with his life, his friendship and even his family. And that was what made me yearn for him, because he was The Man of the Mystery for everybody, but to me he opened up a bit, to me he sometimes became just a man…
"Steph, you're doing it again! Stop brooding and enjoy the fine view already!"
By the way, Mary Lou accompanied me on this little trip to Europe. She was actually the one to suggest this form of escape in the first place. It only needed some persuading on her part to get me to agree on it.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I obliged her demand and let my gaze follow her excited one. Mary Lou visibly enjoyed our first hours at the beach of Canyelles, especially the fine view as she called all those men flooding the area near the ocean.
"Mary Lou, you're a married woman. Don't you dare forget that!" I dutifully chastised, knowing that she needed someone who at least tried to watch over her. I used the word tried because I knew very well myself that with my talent to get into troubles, Mary Lou wouldn't long be the one in need of a watchdog.
She huffed annoyed and crossed her arms over her chest, her lips pursed in anger. "Well, it seems that my husband likes to forget his duties as a lawfully wedded man."
I tried really hard not to roll my eyes. Instead I scrutinised the environment once more. The view was indeed beautiful. A long and winding beach with soft sand and the cool water of the ocean. The sun shone brightly down on us, making me really lazy on my spot fifty feet away from the water. I wasn't very good at describing, but I really liked it here.
But of course, Mary Lou meant a whole different kind of view. Her attention was solely focused the many young men swaggering around and showing off their toned bodies while checking girls out.
They were a bit too immature for my liking, but Mary Lou found it was hot. I suspected that she only wanted one of those guys to adore her for a while so she could later rub it into Lenny's face that there were other men who knew how to treat a woman properly – however, I think this phrase would put it far too gentlemanly; I silently believed that these womanisers didn't even know how to satisfy a woman other than sexually.
Apart from my doubts, that about summed it up why we left Trenton and went to Spain – because Mary Lou fought with Lenny over trivial things before seeing a report about holiday resorts in southern Europe and next she convinced her best friend to come along.
"How about we play beach volleyball?" Mary Lou asked as she glanced at eight men throwing themselves into the sand in order to shove a ball back and forth. "They could definitely use some female addition to their teams."
I shook my head and shuddered a little. She began to sound more and more like Grandma Mazur…
By the way, my family had no clue either as to where we fled. Shortly before bordering the plane I had phoned my mother and had told her that I would be on vacations for a while with Mary Lou. Unnecessary to say she freaked out. However, before she could threaten to cut off my cake supply, I ended the call.
So, without any care Mary Lou and I enjoyed our time-out in Europe, having left all of our problems back home in Trenton.
"Boy, I could get really used to this," Mary Lou sighed contentedly and stretched her legs.
I couldn't agree with that.
Early in the morning when we arrived at our hotel, we brought our luggage to our rooms and decided to explore our surroundings a little.
Quickly we found the cute little supermarket down the street and bought a bag with donuts. Five minutes later we came to the beach and practically stayed there ever since we changed into our bathing suits.
Now, a few hours later, I was bored out of my mind. Mary Lou might be happy with observing muscular men sweating in the sun all day, but I wasn't interested in any other men except for Morelli and Ranger, and sunbathing for hours made me drowsy. Plus I felt too lazy to sort out my problems with the two men in my life.
I just had to do something.
"Hey, Mary Lou, let's go cool off in the water," I suggested.
"No," she distractedly declined. "Go without me. I'll come later."
Shrugging, I went to the water. Feeling some of the heat leave my body, I thanked God for creating oceans. The next minute I apologised to him for not going to church.
Twenty minutes later I returned to Mary Lou, only to find her flirting with a tall, dark-skinned man who busied himself with walking the beach up and down all day selling coconuts.
"Steph, that's Martouf," my best fried excitedly introduced him to me. He was approximately six feet tall, wore only black ducks and a killer smile that certainly was favoured by the ladies. He oddly reminded me of Ranger and his men with his calm and confident aura. Strange chills penetrated my body. He didn't act at all like a coconut seller…
His bright and open smile was the only thing that contradicted my suspicions.
"Martouf is African," Mary Lou offered, obviously seeing my thoughtful gaze.
"That's true," Martouf confirmed. „But my family emigrated to the USA when I was eight."
"Where did you live then?" I asked.
"In Boston, till I was grown-up," he said. "When I was old enough I sold my house and went to Spain."
I raised an eyebrow. He had had an own house in Boston that he sold only to vend coconuts at Spanish beaches?
Was he nuts!
Whatever he had worked as in Boston, it had to profit him enough money to buy a house. Why would he want to give that up?
Hell, I would be happy to have the money for an own house with a nice little garden…
He laughed good-naturedly as he saw my sceptical expression. I liked his laugh. It was nice and amused, not patronising or cold.
"I know, I know. Living in a small flat and trying to get tourists to buy coconuts can't compare to a luxurious life in Boston. What can I say?" He winked at Mary Lou flirtatiously. "I like it tough."
Something about his sentence irked me. If he had had so much money while being in the States, why should that change when he came to Europe?
But before I had the chance to voice my thoughts, I had to make sure my best friend stopped drooling.
"So," I started, successfully drawing both of their attentions to me. "Do you earn much by selling… coconuts?"
He lifted one shoulder carelessly. "I earn enough."
"And how long do you usually work?" Mary Lou eagerly asked. Her hidden intentions quite obvious for everyone.
"Depends," Martouf smoothly replied. "On whether or not I have something planned for the evening."
The two stared into each others eyes until I could take no more.
"Martouf, don't you have work to do?" I forcefully said before turning to Mary Lou. "And didn't you want to call your husband, Mary Lou?" Okay, it was a fib that she wanted to call Lenny, but hey, it was only for her best.
While Mary Lou glared openly at me, Martouf only seemed surprised before giving me a warm smile. "Married, huh? Should have known that such a beautiful woman already got a man." Mary Lou blushed pettily. "What about you?" he asked, turning to me again. "You got a man back home?"
I felt my cheeks grow hot. "Actually I got two," I corrected.
Martouf blinked a few times before he threw his head back and laughed loudly. When he had calmed down a bit, he gave me a charming smile that showed off all of his blinking white teeth, and said, "I like you." With that he pretended to raise his hat on his bald head, and left.
"What did you do that for?" Mary Lou hissed as soon as he was out of earshot.
I sent her a reproachful look. "Just wanted to remind you that you're a lawfully wedded woman," I threw her own words back at her.
Sulking, she crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"It's not fair to Lenny to flirt with another man while he's waiting at home for you."
She sighed heartily. "You don't know how it is. I'm in my mid-thirties, lead a respectable but boring life as the perfect housewife in the Burg and have a body that blatantly shows that I've given birth to a few kids."
Well, at least Lenny was as faithful as a swan and wouldn't cheat on her with her arch-enemy.
"You lead an interesting life full of action and the two hottest men alive are infatuated with you!"A little understatement of the disaster called my life…
"Aren't you a little young for a mid-life crisis?" I asked.
Mary Lou clicked with her tongue. "This is not a stupid mid-life crisis. This is serious! I feel like I need to reinvent myself."
In a way I could even understand her. Maybe I needed to reinvent myself too. Perhaps the new and improved Stephanie could find a solution for her Morelli-Ranger-problem… Or at least find a way to eat chocolate cake as much as she wants without having to unbutton her jeans…
Later that night I went to the bedroom, locking the door behind me as I tentatively listened to the voicemail on my cell phone.
The first message was, of course, from my mother. After her ten-minute nagging with the concluding order to come home this instant, the second message uncoiled.
An angry sounding Morelli bellowed, "Stephanie, where the hell are you! Call me." I involuntarily winced.
The third and last message however sent shivers down my spine. "Babe," Ranger breathed.
I felt a smile stretch out on my face as I went to bed, knowing that the two biggest problems in my life couldn't just break into my apartment and confront my actions.
She lay on the ground to his feet, covered in garbage, an annoyed expression on her face.
"I really hate that," she muttered darkly and accepted his hand which easily brought her to her own two feet.
He smiled his ghost of a smile as his eyes hungrily wandered over her body.
"Only you, Babe," he fondly replied, a warmth shining in his eyes that made her fidget.
Self-consciously, she brushed some food off of her tank top. "Maybe I should just quit the job and flee. Find a place where nobody has heard of the Bombshell Bounty Hunter and her many problems."
He raised an eyebrow. "You think there is a country that hasn't?" He teased.
"Very funny, buddy," she sulkily answered, sighing in resignation.
Unexpectedly, he took two steps forward and embraced her in a tight hug. "If you every faced a situation that causes you to leave the country, I'd do anything to help you solve it." He sincerely promised.
She felt her breath caught in her throat for a moment but soon found herself slinging her arms around his waist, snuggling her face happily to his chest.
"But what if you were part of the problem?" she hypothetically asked, closing her eyes as the feelings of being protected and… loved clouded her mind and heart.
"Anything," he hotly repeated, laying his head atop of hers. "Even staying away, if it is what you wanted." He elaborated before placing a loving kiss to her messy hair. Inwardly hoping with all his heart that she would never feel the need to leave him ever.
Well, I'm back, kind of. A new story. I wanted something a lot more cheerful and funny. How was it? Anyone want it to be continued?