The communion party had long ended, the guests were gone, and the children were at their grandmothers’. Marie was gathering gifts into a pile and cleaning the streamers and balloons from the tables as best she could. Moby sat on a folding chair, legs extended, watching her, “We paid enough for this room, it does include clean up Marie.”
“I know, but you know as well that I just like to tidy up and make sure that nothing was left behind.”
“That you do,” he answered settling back into the chair and watching her again.
“Why are you still here, I expected you to go off with Ged and the rest of the boys.” She paused, giving him a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.
“Ged's leaving, and the others... I really don't care where they end up.”
Marie stopped, letting the streamers fall from her fingertips as she stared at him, “What do you mean Ged’s leaving?”
Moby motioned for Marie to come closer. He stretched out his arms and took her hands as soon as she was near enough. “Marie, it's over. Ged wanted out. It's done. Franner and some of the other boys are making a new faction and heading to Manchester. I'm out. I'm done,” Marie stared at him, “ I promise,” he squeezed her hands as gently as he could.
“Anthony,” she stared into his eyes, as he pulled her onto his lap, “will we be alright?”
His smile widened, that last heist put more money in the bank than he has ever seen. Ged also promised a bonus after he was able to track down the couple that double-crossed him, he and he family would be more than alright. “We will, for a long time.”
Marie's hands went to the side of his face and she gently caressed just above his ears right where he liked it. She leaned in and kissed him softly, “and you're okay with being out, you won't miss it and go back?”
"I've wanted out Marie, I really have," he kissed her back, "in fact, there is a whole new business I want to try and I want you by my side."
She pushed back and looked at him through narrow eyes. ”new business? if it involves liquor or dancers Anthony, I'm out.”
“I'm out too Marie, no more clubs,” he absent-mindedly touched his forehead where the cuts from the glass coffee table were healing, “and no more “shopping” online.”
Marie swung her leg around so that she was sitting astride him on the chair, "So what's this business you were thinking of?"
"A pet shop," he replied.
"A pet shop?" she asked, wrinkling her nose. "You mean with little furry rodents, cats, and puppies?"
"No, not that kind of pet shop," he paused looking at her, "exotics."
"Like snakes? Lizards?" she brightened.
"Exactly! Pythons, iguanas -"
"For you Marie, all the bearded dragons you want." At that moment, he remembered why he married her. They shared so many more interests than just the children and family. How could he have forgotten the reasons he fell in love with her in the first place? He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her properly. At first, she was surprised but within moments her legs hooked around the back of the chair and her arms went around his neck.
"Take me" she breathed.
"We still have the room for another hour. Take me, Anthony. Take me on the floor with the streamers, the confetti, and the balloons."
"Marie, Your dress!"
"Sod the dress, take me."
They left nearly an hour later carrying gifts to the car. If one looked closely they would notice Maries's dress was buttoned wrong, confetti clung to both their clothes and part of a streamer was zipped into Moby's trousers.
Six months later.
The lease was signed and the shop was taking shape. Various enclosures lined the walls, several aisles were filled with supplies and food, and two small rooms for potential buyers to interact with the animals were at the ready. A circular counter with the register stood in the middle and in the back was a small, modern office and storeroom. Marie was with him every step of the way and today they were taking delivery on their first batch of animals, He didn't know who's more excited, her or him. Marie bounded up to him, out of breath, “They will be here any moment!”
“Shouldn’t you be resting?” he put his hands on her growing belly.
“No way, she is just as excited as I am to see the baby bearded dragons!” she laughed and went to the sidewalk to watch for the truck
In three days, it was the official grand opening “Tip the Scales” reptile shop and Anthony could not be prouder.
One year later.
Tip the Scales was doing very well, who knew Liverpool loved reptiles? Anthony looked from stocking the shelves to Marie as she rung up a young couple. Their nearly 3-month-old daughter was sleeping against her chest, secured by her sling. His older kids would be coming in soon after school to help with feeding.
He would never have thought a discussion with Ged on the docks over a year ago would lead him to this. “You’re right mate, it’s never too late.” He said softly and he went to stand by his wife.