12-06-2012, 07:17 PM
"Good morning, Mrs. D." Matt Behr, the parking attendant, drawled with his characteristic Southern charm. "Good to see you back again."
"Thank you," Dimitra replied. Two other attendants pulled out her suitcase and set it on the trolley. The automatic doors slid noiselessly open for her as she entered the atrium. It amazed her to see the Luxor so perfectly restored. She clearly remembered the damage from the car bomb four months ago--shattered glass, charred plants, total chaos. But she resolved to put all that behind her. Her nephew was getting married and she would allow no bad memories to spoil the occasion.
She checked into her room and settled down for a nap. Strange that no one was in the atrium to greet her. Christopher was always there whenever she arrived in Las Vegas. Today there was no sign of him. Oh, well, he was probably busy with other things, like his show. He would turn up eventually. As she lay on the bed, she was startled by some movement beside her. The bed had been perfectly flat when she first entered, but now there was a huge lump forming under the coverlet. She pulled it away, revealing her famous son.
"Hi, Mom!" Criss smiled mischieviously.
"Oh, you...!" She reached out to embrace him, and he to her. Dimitra loved her son dearly, no question about it, but there were times when he could be so exasperating, she wanted to throttle him. Jumping off the roof of the house when he was a boy, setting the brand new carpeting on fire while she and her husband were in Greece, his menagerie of pets, his death-defying demonstrations--it was not easy being the mother of a magician, especially one as extraordinarily talented and insanly daring as her Christopher.
"How was the trip?" Criss asked, rising from the bed.
"Fine," she replied. "But I am so tired, I need a nap."
"Sure," Criss smiled understandingly. "You get some rest. Those foster kids must have really worn you out."
His mother nodded, kicking off her shoes and lying down on the king-sized bed. "They need so much, yet there is so little I can do." she sighed.
Criss sat beside her, lowering his face towards hers. "You've done more for those kids than anyone else." he said. "You knocked yourself out for them. You're the best mom any kid could wish for." He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Now, you get some rest. I don't want you falling asleep during the wedding."
Dimitra laughed a little. "Good night, darling. I love you." She gave him a final hug.
Criss hugged her back. "I love you more," he said.
Dimitra drifted off to sleep as Criss exited the room, carefully closing the door behind him. Poor Mom, she's really exhausted. All those kids! he thought. At least Aunt Stella and Aunt Popi were there to help. Costa, too. No way could she have done it alone.
Criss made his way to the MindFreak office, to meet up with his brothers. Costa had arrived a week earlier from New York to help out with the demonstration. Criss was thankful his brother had gone home to be with Mom during that difficult period of recovery from the kidnapping trauma. Thanks to him, their mother had made tremendous progress in overcoming her PSTD.
When he stepped into the office, however, he found both brothers in front of a computer monitor, looking angry at something.
"Hey, guys," he greeted them cautiously. "What's going on?"
"You heard Artie Creed lately?" JD looked up from the monitor. "He's really hitting below the belt this time!"
"Artie Creed can go to Hell!" Criss said dismissivly. "Everyone knows what a dipwad he is!"
"Yeah? Well, this time he's dissing Mom!" JD turned on the monitor.
Mom?! Criss stared at the monitor with the KLOL website on it. He didn't catch the whole broadcast, but the words "...needs to get his mommy's (thing) out of his mouth and become a man," incensed him. He had put up with Artie's ragging for years now, ignoring it, brushing it off, even laughing about how it boosted his ratings. But now Creed had crossed a line. No one, but no one, dissed his mother! For the first time, he wanted to kick Artie Creed's ass.
He planted himself into a desk chair, fuming. "When was this made?" he demanded.
"Yesterday morning," Costa answered. "It's all over the Internet. In fact, I got word from Felix that he's withdrawn advertising from the station in protest."
Criss smiled. Good old Felix Rappaport! The CEO of the Luxor Hotel and Casino had risen to his star client's defense by striking them where they lived, in the pocketbook. No where else on this Earth did money speak louder than in Las Vegas. Still, Criss felt a need for some personal payback, for his mother's sake.
He logged onto the 'Net himself on the nearest terminal. He was going to find Artie Creed and tell him just exactly what he thought of his broadcast, and he was going to do it in person. If he called the station, he'd be cut off, and any e-mail would be deleted. No, this was going to be person-to-person, one-on-one, mano-a-mano. He found the information he was looking for, printed it out, and snatched the sheet of paper from the printer.
"Excuse me," he said. "I'm going to pay a little visit to a certain radio personality."
Brenda Creed struggled through a particularly difficult piece. Lots of sixteenth-notes, virtually no rests in between. She focused all her attention on the score in front of her, not noticing that Artie had just entered the room.
Artie was ticked off big time. He'd just been chewed out by his boss and now there was Brenda, sawing away on that stupid violin! Like she cared at all about him! Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle! That was all she did anymore! No cooking, no cleaning, nothing!
He seized the instrument by the fret out of Brenda's hands and smashed it aganst the brick hearth, splintering it into pieces.
"Artieeeee!" Brenda shrieked at him. "You stupid idiot! What have you done?!"
Brenda collapsed to the floor, sobbing over her lost instument. "I hate you!!" she screamed through her tears. "I had that violin ever since I was a kid!"
"It's time to grow up, Brenda." Artie sneered. "And put away childish things. Look at it this way--you and I can make beautiful music together in the bedroom, like a wife should do for her husband."
Brenda ran sobbing into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Artie could still hear her loud wails from the hallway. "It's just a freaking violin, for chrissake!" Artie protested, pounding on the door. He tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. She must have wedged a chair under the knob. "Fine!" he shouted. "Be a crybaby if you want! I'm out of here!"
Artie stormed out of the house and sped off in his car. He knew where he could find a real woman to tend to his needs.
No sooner did Artie leave than Criss arrived at the Creed residence. He strode up to the front door as angrily as Artie had left it.
"Open up, Creed!" Criss hammered on the door and rang the bell at the same time. "I know you're in there!"
Brenda recovered from her rage and grief long enough to look out the window to see who was at the door. She was surprised to see Criss Angel, of all people, standing there. She pulled herself together and went to answer the door.
Criss almost lunged through the entrance in his fury, but was stopped short of the sight of a rather attractive woman in the way.
"Where's Creed?" he demanded. "I want to talk to him."
"You're the only one who does," she replied bitterly, "because I'm not speaking to him! He just left."
"Who are you, anyway?" Criss inquired.
"I'm his wife, Brenda." she admitted almost ashamedly.
Artie has a wife?! Criss was incredulous. Geez, the poor girl! He could tell she had been crying. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering.
"Would you like to come in?" Brenda opened the door wider.
Criss stepped inside, thanking her. He looked around the spacious living room. The decor was tasteful but expensive, a sort of if-you-got-it-flaunt-it kind of style. He did notice the overturned music stand, and the ruins of a violin by the hearth. "Whose is that" he asked.
"Mine," Brenda replied, choking back tears. "It was my only pleasure in life to play, and today...Artie smashed it!"
Pity welled up in Criss' heart. It was bad enough to be married to that jerk, but to destroy her greatest pleasure was downright criminal. To have one's dreams crushed was unbearable to him. He put a comforting arm around Brenda.
Brenda was startled. For the first time in the five years she had been married to Artie, she felt a tender, caring touch. Her husband had used her as a verbal punching bag, a sounding board for his latest insults. Now, here was a man who actually cared about her, cared enough to comfort her in her grief. His touch was, to use such a hackneyed phrase, magical.
Impulsively, she threw her arms around him. She wanted more and more of that magical feeling of tenderness. She was starved for affection, no matter who it was. Five years of her life was wasted on Artie and his needs. She gave up a promising career in the Symphony for that ungrateful wretch! And all she had to show for it was a violin as shattered as her dreams.
Criss did his best to console her. He wondered how this beautiful, talented woman could marry such a worthless so-and-so like Artie Creed. She deserved better. He stroked her hair, caressed her shoulders, even kissed her neck. Artie wasn't worthy of this woman.
They disengaged and sat down on the sofa. Brenda launched into her story of their meeting, their courtship, her sacrificing of her chance to play for the Seattle Symphony to marry him, and her misery following it. Criss told her of the crack Artie had made about his mother, and how she already had suffered so much in the past.
Brenda sighed. It was so like Artie to go for the jugular like that. He was always getting on Criss' case for some reason or another. She had no idea why. The man sitting before her was nothing like Artie said. He was no mama's boy, no egotisitcal showoff, no fraud. Indeed, she could sense his feelings were genuine.
"I'm sorry about that," she said. "Artie can be so...so..."
"Asinine?" Criss prompted. "You don't need to apologize, Brenda. He does."
"He won't," she sighed, "He never does. He's the kind of man who'd rather be right than sorry."
"You know when he'll be home?"
"I don't know," Brenda shrugged, "and personally, I don't care! He can go to Hell as far as I'm concerned."
"You thinking about leaving him?"
"I've thought about it for a long time now," she confessed. "But I have nowhere to go." She looked up at him. "You're a magician, right?"
"Well, yeah, it's in my job description," Criss replied with a smile.
"Then, make me disappear!" she pleaded. "Send me back in time when Artie proposed so I can say no, and go on to play for the Symphony, no matter what my mother said. Then, I'll be happy again. Transport me by magic to some place far away so I can reclaim my life. Take me with you! Please, Criss, take me with you!"
She clung to him in desperation. Attractive as she was to him, he still had reservatons about having an affair with another man's wife, even if it was Artie Creed's. His strict religious upbringing prohibited it. But then, he'd done a lot of things that his strict religious upbringing prohibited anyway. And she was pretty hot.
He gazed into Brenda's big sky-blue eyes. It was as if he could dive into them like pristine pools of water. Artie did not deserve this treasure of a woman, he thought. She had given up her own dreams for that dipwad. Well, we all make bad choices in life, he reflected. God knew he made a lot of them himself, too numerous to mention. Maybe he could help salvage hers.
Brenda, in turn, lost herself in Criss' eyes, those beautiful hazel eyes which, she recalled, had been nearly destroyed by that maniac who blew up the Luxor and the Magic Castle. To see them, and for them to see her, was proof that there really was a God. She wanted him like she wanted no other man in her life. To hell with Artie! She wanted Criss.
The wedding was beautiful. Dimitra watched, misty-eyed as her sons walked down the aisle in their black tuxedos with the bridesmaids, JD escorting the maid of honor, Costa and Christopher as groomsmen with the bridesmaids. Angela was a vision of lovliness in her Vera Wang gown, escorted by one of the senior teachers from the school where she taught, her father having died long ago. She could see George beaming with pride at the sight of his bride approaching. Dimitra recalled her first meeting with Angela: she had seemed so plain, so thin when she first met her nephew's intended. Now she was a princess, a very princess, walking up the nave of the church to meet her prince.
Molina could not stop blubbering throughout the service. She went through nearly an entire packet of tissues, and ruined her makeup in the bargain. As the priest gave the couple his final blessing, Molina broke down completely. It was usually the mother of the bride who was traditionally the most tearful. but Molina was entitled to a few tears as mother of the groom.
The reception was as lavish as Las Vegas could make it. The wedding cake itself nearly reached the ceiling. The dinner, five courses in all, was so sumptuous Dimitra despaired fitting into her clothes ever again. And, of course, Christopher could not resist doing a little magic on the side. It was George and Angela's wedding, but Christopher always had to be the center of attention.
It had been a fairy-tale ending to a year of tragedy. The horrors of the past were just that--past. For the first time in months, Dimitra could relax and enjoy herself. It was a pity she could not stay longer, but she had a responsibility to the foster children back at the home.
Criss watched curiously as his mother packed away a dozen pieces of boxed wedding cake. "Mom," he asked, "what're you doing?"
"I'm taking some cake home for the children at the foster home," she answered simply. "I told them if they behaved, I would bring them a treat."
Well, that made sense. Criss just hoped she'd be able to get all that cake through airport security. There were rules about transporting food on commercial airlines. It was nice of her, though, to bring those kids something special, even if it was leftover wedding cake. It just went to prove what a wonderful woman his mother was.
Artie Creed came home in the wee hours of the morning, mellowed out from his "date" with a couple of Vegas hookers. He had just enough time to grab a few hours sleep, shower, and head to the station for the morning show. He may have stirred up a few hornet's nests in his time, but he had never been late. He owed his listeners that much, at least.
The house was pitch black when he pulled up in the driveway; not even the porch light was on. He stumbled to the front door, and noticed a white rectangle taped to it. He pulled it off and saw his name on it, in what looked like Brenda's handwriting. He fumbled for his housekey and went into the house. Switching on the light, he unfolded the note and read the contents:
Dear Artie: I don't know why I am calling you "dear", because there is nothing endearing about you. I wasted five years of my life, sacrificing my hopes and dreams for you, you ungrateful a**hole! You trashed them like you trashed my violin, my only pleasure in life. When you talked me into marrying you, you said no one could love me more than you. If you call your abuse of me "love", then I don't want it. I deserve better.
I am filing for divorce and going back to Seattle to reclaim my life. If you want to contact me, you can call my lawyer. Her number is at the bottom. I do have talent, Artie. I have more talent than you will ever have.
Good-bye and go to Hell!
Artie crumpled the note and threw it on the floor. Ungrateful b***h! he thought. He strode to the mini-bar and poured himself a strong one. After all I did for her! I gave her a nice home, nice clothes, great sex, and the b***h dumps me! He downed his drink in one manly gulp. Where'd she be without me? Ah, who needs her anyway?
Deep down inside, Artie knew he did.
It was Dimitra's first day back at the home from her Vegas trip. She walked up to the front door of Mr. Webber's house, clutching the plastic bag full of boxed wedding cake for the children. She hoped they had minded the sisters and kept a reasonable degree of order.
Well, the house was still standing, she joked to herself. It was the same quip her husband used when they left the boys alone for an evening. Well, the house is still standing, I guess they went to bed! She could not help but recall the time Christopher had set the new carpet on fire while they were in Greece. It was a wonder he didn't burn the house down! She devoutly hoped there were no similar catastrophes in the home.
Buck was looking out the window when he saw Dimitra coming. "She's here!" he announced. "Mrs. S. is back!"
He ran to tell the others the good news. They all ran downstairs to greet her, remembering her promise for a treat. It was all the nuns could do to restore order. "All right! Settle down!" Sister Dorothy commanded them, clapping her hands for attention. I know your are happy to see Mrs. Sarantakos again, but there is no need to act like a bunch of wild animals."
Dimitra entered the large foyer to a tumultuous welcome. She was almost smothered by all the hugs and kisses. Not even the Loyals, Criss' fans, showed such devotion to her. Not even her own sons, for that matter.
"All right, everyone!" she gasped. "Let an old lady get her breath! Dear me! You think I'd been gone for years!"
Most of them backed off, allowing her to go over to the nuns. "How was everything?" she asked.
"Well," Sister Eleanor began hesitantly. "We had a little trouble at first, but then things started to go a bit more smoothly."
"We received a call from Islamic Social Services," Sister Dorothy informed her, "regarding one of the children."
"Ah, yes," Dimitra suddenly remembered. "I had spoken to a couple who offered to call them to help find a family for Tanvi."
"They said they'd be here tomorrow." Sister Dorothy said, though she seemed less than enthusiastic than Dimitra was.
"That is wonderful! I'll make sure Tanvi is ready for them." Dimitra smiled.
"But, Dimitra, why an Islamic organization?" Sister Dorothy inquired suspiciously.
"Because Tanvi was raised in a Muslim home, and she speaks Arabic. She belongs with her own kind."
"But, wouldn't Tanvi be better off in a more...Christian environment?" Sister Eleanor spoke up.
"Sisters," Dimitra replied patiently. "We all want what is best for these children. And I do not want to rob Tanvi of her heritage. No, Sister, Tanvi would be worse off if she was denied the right to learn the religion of her family. The Musavis were very generous to offer to help her. If leaving foster care to live with a real family means being raised Muslim, then so be it. Tanvi is very fortuante to receive this assistance. I just wish the others would be so lucky as well. Now, is there anything else I should be aware of?"
"Well, the baby is sick." Sister Dorothy told her.
"Sick!" Dimitra was alarmed. "How badly?"
"She was running a temperature, so we took her to the doctor." Sister Dorothy replied. "She had developed some sort of infection, so she is in the children's hospital."
A wave of guilt swept over Dimitra. "Now, dear," Sister Eleanor consoled her. "Don't blame yourself. No one saw this coming. It happened yesterday. We took care of it. Everything's under control. I'm sure it's minor. Children come down with all sorts of diseases. She's in our prayers."
"Thank you, Sisters," Dimitra said. "Still, I can't help but feel a bit guilty about leaving for Las Vegas and--"
"Don't," Sister Dorothy ordered her. "As Sister Eleanor said, no one saw this coming. These things happen. She's in God's hands now. We'll pray for you and these children."
They bid her good-bye and left. Dimitra sighed. Poor little Mia. She suffered so much in her very short life, and now this. She hoped it was minor, as Sister Eleanor said.
She felt a tug on her jacket. "Did you bring us a treat like you said?" Buck asked. "We were good."
Dimitra smiled. "Yes, I bought you all a treat. You shall have it after dinner. Now, everyone, let's see how well you did while I was gone."
Last edited by Veritas; 12-06-2012 at 07:29 PM.