Name: Mary Elizabeth Gates
Birthplace: Rockland, Massachusetts
Current Residence: Omaha, Nebraska
Status: Choir director and elementary school music teacher.
Aspirations: Performing music professionally.
Hobbies: Playing piano, singing, baking, ice-skating.
Parents: Thomas Gates and Elizabeth McKinnon
Siblings: Bethany Gates, Naomi Gates, John Gates, Peter Gates, Mark Gates, Joseph Gates
Children: Thomas “Tommy” Gates
Significant Other: Michael “Mickey” Downey
She had just turned nineteen when she set out to make her dreams come true in the Big Apple. She had driven away from her sleepy little Massachusetts town with nothing but a suitcase stretched almost to the breaking point, $100, and enough grit and resolve for a small army. She was working in a Manhattan restaurant as a hostess when she met Michael Downey for the first time. He came through the doors as if he owned the place, brushing the snow off his fur lined overcoat and striding past her podium with a distracted yet purposeful air.
“Sir!” Mary squeaked out. “Sir, do you have a reservation—”
He stopped and turned smartly on his heel, cocking his head. His arresting green eyes twinkled with mischief and humor and he grinned a grin she was sure the Devil himself had handed him. He looked like he was only maybe ten years older than her but carried himself with an air of a much older man used to giving commands.
“You must be new here. I’m Mickey Downey. I’m here to meet some business associates of mine. In the back,” he crooked an eyebrow, indicating the VIP table set back by the large fireplace.
“Oh. Sorry,” Mary said.
She felt her face flush as red as her hair. She had only had this job a few weeks and was mindful of how lucky she was to have it. It beat working as a waitress in that dingy Brooklyn diner she had started out at by a long shot and she certainly didn’t want to make the mistake of insulting an important patron. The long hours standing in her heels and the not-so-subtle leering of the owner was worth the increase in pay and the opportunity to rub elbows, however briefly, with people who could help launch her singing career.
“Don’t worry your pretty head about it… Mary,” he said reading her name tag. His eyes lingered on her front a bit longer than necessary but instead of making her feel uncomfortable it sent a warming tingle through her.
—First, I Love You (Downey #1)
Mary let her tears fall onto the paper and ached with want for him. She had never truly stopped wanting to be with him but this seemed almost physically cruel, this separation, which made no sense when they hadn’t actually been together for two decades! It had to be the intention of the thing. Intentions were powerful things. She and Michael had finally decided to be together, out in public, in the open, no regrets, no hidden agendas, only to have it taken from them as quickly as the thing had been decided. It brought back all those years spent on the run longing in furious impotence for what had been taken from her by people like Frank Bonanno and Theresa Anastasio. Mary had walked away from her birth family, walked away from the little family she and Michael had created together, and now he was asking her to walk away again.
She wiped her tears and smiled in grim resolution. The difference this time was they would work together as a family instead of at cross purposes. He had finally trusted her with all of him, or as much as he was free to give right now. She had a feeling, like she had when she had gone along with Kiki’s first plan in Chicago, that this path was written for them all long ago and though she couldn’t see the end, nor even much of the foggy path ahead, the certitude of this decision was enough to keep her moving forward. And she would not let her boys down or falter in her trust. Not this time.
She walked forward and grabbed the box from his hands. She knew it was his surprise at the action more than anything that had him letting loose.
“These are mine. You meant them for me. You might want to lie to yourself they were meant for you, but the lying to me stops today. Now,” Mary finished firmly.
She ignored the slightly outraged, stunned look on his face and marched towards the door.
“You want to know the truth, Mary?”
She turned back around at the marked anger in his voice. He had only rarely been angry with her. They had fought like cats and dogs that last year they were together but he had always fought with a detached sort of disdain and condescension, only rarely with anger.
He stood up slowly, his eyes burning, nostrils flaring.
“Well, here’s the truth, Mary, and don’t go crying because it’s not what you wanted to hear. I’m as sick of that as you are of the lies. The truth is I didn’t want to retire. Not the first time, not this last time, not ever. I moved mountains to try and be with you and Tommy and it didn’t work. Then I asked you what would work and did that, and all it’s done is put all of us at risk, and you’re still playing games. Tormenting me.”
“Yes, Goddamn it! Dates, conditions, games. Here’s some more truth, Mary. I hate being retired. I hate relying on Carlo and the fucking cops and I hate being good. I miss the rush of making money, being in charge, breaking the law. Is that enough truth for you? When will it be enough sacrifices for you? When are you going to sacrifice something for me?”
Mary thought maybe it was the trembling from her emotions but it took her several seconds to really grasp he’d said that. She continued to stand there for a full minute. How could he be so clueless?
“Sacrifice? Are you serious? I sacrificed my entire life to be your mistress. The first four years of our child’s life were spent living a lie. I sacrificed the joy of a family unit, I raised our son alone.”
“I have been alone because I couldn’t risk anyone finding out who his father really was! I sacrificed my young and pretty years on the RUN! I sacrificed finding love and having a real family, having more children. Now I’m a dumpy middle aged woman with a grown man for a son. I just sold the home I worked myself to the bone to earn to move here! I sacrificed everything!”
“And I don’t care that you hate being retired. You’ve been retired a matter of weeks in the long scheme of things. You ought to be ashamed of acting so juvenile for a man your age. But I won’t hold my breath on you feeling that shame because I’m sure you just don’t want to. The rest of us be damned.”
Michael let out a huff, still staring at her slack-jawed.
“I never asked you to like it, Michael,” she managed to finish calmly. “I just asked you to try. Just like I’m trying to understand how a man can be so kind to me and so cruel to others. I hate knowing all the pain you’ve caused others as much you hate being retired. But I’m here. Quit accusing me of running away and using it as an excuse for not telling me the truth.”
He closed his mouth, scrunched his eyebrows and sat back down on the bed. He tilted his head slightly and looked at her in an astounded, dazed sort of way.
“You’re not dumpy.”
Mary blinked. That was all he heard? She shook her head and opened the door, hitching the box under her other arm.
“And I think that’s at least thirty minutes I earned right there,” he said.
She turned around in the hallway and pursed her lips. That damned indifferent mask was back on his face again. Who exactly did he think he was fooling? The answer seemed to whisper in her ear and scattered her anger like a fall breeze on a pile of leaves. A strange sort of calm washed over her.
“I wish you could see… I’ll love you either way, Michael. I’ve always loved you. All of you.”
She didn’t bother to wipe the fresh tears, just let them fall and made her way down the hall with her letters.
—Third Time’s The Charm (Downey #3)