The phone rang during Mark's lunch hour the next day. He picked it up with a smile, though he knew the person on the other end couldn't see it. "Hello? Candance and Cohen Real Estate, Mark Cohen speaking. How can I help you?"
"Hey babe, it's me. Sorry to bother you at work." Mark sat back and rested his feet on the edge of his desk.
"It's never a bother when it's you. And anyways, I'm on lunch. What's up?"
"Well, there was a freak plumbing accident here at the office, so I'm going to have to bring the couple I'm interviewing back to the house tonight."
"The lesbian couple you were talking about the other day?"
"Yeah. I would just bring them to a café or something, but it's a several hour process, and their plane isn't getting in until four, so it will be too late."
"That's fine with me. Are the kids still at your mom's?"
"Yeah, but I was hoping maybe you could stop by somewhere and pick something up for dinner? They normally eat at the agency, but again, can't be there sooo..."
"Sure, that's fine. Just make them comfortable, and I'll bring the food. Don't worry about it babe."
"Thank you so much Mark. I'm just stressed enough about this as it is. I love you. See you later."
"Love you too." Mark hung up the phone and went back to his work. He didn't see why his wife had such a hard time dealing with same sex couples. She was so light on her feet with other couples, but when in came to this, she tightened up and shut off, so to speak. But he didn't have time to dwell on it at the moment. Lunch hour was over.
Mark walked up the steps to his house, a tray of chicken parm balanced on one hand as his other carried a briefcase and worked to open the door. He walked in, hearing his wife explaining something in the living room. With a smile, he set the tray in the oven and his brief case on the table before making his way to the living room to meet the people his wife had told him about. He looked in the doorway, where his wife was sitting in a chair facing toward him with a note pad and a pile of papers on her lap. The other women were facing away from him on the couch, so all he could see was braided black hair and curly blonde hair. He raised his hand to aware his wife of his presence.
"Hey, I don't want to interrupt, but I put dinner in the oven." He heard a shrill shriek before the girl with the blonde hair twirled around on the couch.
"Oh my god!" The other woman's head spun around in a much more normal paced manor and a 'holy shit' was muttered. Mark took a few steps back and his eyes widened.
"Shit shit shit." Megan looked from the couple on the couch to Mark and stood up, coming to his side and placing a hand on his arm.
"Mark? Something wrong?" He shook his head as the other two women stood up, the blonde one hitting the brunette on the arm.
"I told you! Cohen's not a common name!"
"That's just…" The brunette woman started to speak, but the blonde was already running around the couch, jumping up into Mark's arms and kissing his cheek. Mark shook his head as Megan's eyes widened with a questioning glare aimed at her husband.
"It's not Megan. Not any more." He lowered his arms and Maureen went back to standing position. Her smile totally disappeared as she looked at Mark.
"Your eyes… They're darker." She cocked her head to the side. "You're not even Mark any more are you?" Mark rolled his now darker blue eyes.
"And you're hair is blonder; are you no longer Maureen?" She shook her head.
"No, I'm not." She held up her hand, revealing a silver band with a diamond set into it. "I'm Maureen Johnson Jefferson! We got married and I swear to God I haven't fucked anyone else since then!" She looked too proud of herself for Mark to scold her language, and besides, the kids weren't home so why bother? Joanne finally stepped up to protest.
"Maureen, stop. This is…" Maureen rolled her eyes and winked to Mark.
"Sorry Marky, I'm taken now."
"Weren't you taken when we were dating?" Mark raised an eyebrow.
"You dated her! But I thought she was a lesbian?" But Megan's comment fell on deaf ears as Maureen waved a dismissive hand.
"Oh, don't be so touchy Pookie. I treated you well; like you don't remember." Chills ran up and down his spine as she spoke. Yes. He remembered.
"Maureen!" Maureen spun around to see the temper flaring on Joanne's face. "Just stop."
"Aw, I'm just being friendly."
"I thought you were mad at Mark?" Joanne cocked her head to the side, clearly confused about the warm greeting. Maureen paused for a moment, lost in thought before her eyes furrowed together and she looked back to Mark.
"That's right!" She used both hands to shove Mark, making him stumble back a few steps. "You fucker!"
Megan was gasping again. Yeah, lot of help that did. "What the hell are you doing!"
Maureen went after Mark again, slapping him hard across the face. "What the fuck were you thinking! This! This is what you were looking for when you left us! WITHOUT SAYING GOODBYE! Bastard." She pushed Mark again, so far this time that he fell into an oversized armchair.
"Maureen! Cut the shit!" He stood up defensively "Don't just come here and act like you know what the hell was going on! You know nothing!"
"How do you know what I know! You haven't spoken to me in fifteen years! I know more than you think. So much more." Mark's eyes went wide and he pulled back from Maureen a bit.
"You don't know."
Maureen's face now held a satisfied smirk. "I so totally know. Never knew you had it in you Marky."
Megan looked between the two. "Know what?" After a moment of silence, Joanne walked up behind Maureen and slipped her hand into hers.
"We need to get going Honeybear." Maureen nodded once, her eyes not leaving Mark.
"Yeah, this is a waste of time." They began walking toward to door when Mark suddenly let out a bitter laugh.
"You haven't changed Maureen. Not at all. It's all about that fact that I left and didn't inform you. You don't give a shit what it did to me, do you?"
Maureen smiled and spoke in a voice Mark had never heard from her before—mature, kind, pitiful. "I have changed Mark. It's too bad you couldn't be a part of it."
Joanne let go of Maureen's hand. "Sorry, I forgot my bag." She ran back to the living room and grabbed it, pausing to offer Megan a small smile. "I really hope this doesn't change your opinion of us." She nodded once and made her way back to Maureen, but Maureen still hadn't looked away from Mark. She shook Maureen's arm. "We need to get going, Roger's waiting." Mark's eyes went wider than he thought possible, and he suddenly found it hard to breath.
"Like you give a shit." Mark ignored Maureen's comment and looked to Joanne for answers.
"Why did Roger come?"
"We stopped through Santa Fe to visit Collins."
Mark smirked. "Collins finally went to Santa Fe?"
"No Mark, Collins was buried in Santa Fe." Mark fell into the armchair again, tears giving no warning before falling down his cheeks. "We… We wanted to call you Mark, but you didn't leave a number or address."
"Why... Why wasn't he with Angel?"
"They tore up that cemetery for housing compartments or something; everyone had to be moved. Collins wasn't doing well, so we just moved them both to Santa Fe…" Joanne was silent for a moment before adding. "With Mimi." A huge sob racked Mark's body.
"Shit." Megan sat down beside Mark, wrapping an arm around him, doing her best to comfort him.
"Who are these people Mark?"
"We were his family before he moved here! We were his everything!" Maureen grabbed Joanne's hand and pulled her out the door. "Let's go Joanne. I'm going to be sick." With Maureen and Joanne out the house, Megan kissed Mark's temple. His sobs slowly subsided while Megan held him.
"Mark, why did you never tell me about this part of your life?"
"It doesn't matter." Mark didn't answer her question, because he just wanted to forget about it. "You wouldn't understand." He stood up and grabbed the phone, throwing it into the wall before falling back to the chair. " Just leave me alone for a little while?"
Megan stood up, smart enough to know not to say anything about the phone. "Mark, just calm down."
"You don't get it. In a matter of ten minutes, two of my best friends died, two yelled at me about being a bastard, and I haven't even had to deal with the other yet. Can't wait to see how that goes." His voice was dripping in sarcasm.
"Well… Maybe you won't have to deal with the other one." Mark offered her a small smile, knowing that she was trying to be helpful, but it just wasn't working.
"You don't know Roger."
Megan was silent for a moment, but didn't say anything. Not until Mark had calmed down did she finally speak.
"What do you want me to do Mark?"
"Nothing." He sat back down, meaning exactly as he had said. There was nothing to be done about it. He knew that he would have to deal with Roger, which was the last thing he wanted to do. Ever. He wanted his past to die, metaphorically of course. He would never actually wish that on anyone. Mark folded himself up in the chair after asking just to be left along for a little while.
He didn't want to know any of this. If he could just go on thinking that everyone was okay, then they were. If he never knew when they got sick and died, he could go on thinking they were alive and well. They never had to die, and they could always be healthy.
Mark cried himself to sleep in the arm chair that night and called in sick to work the next day.