Wait! Have you read ‘Catching Them Up‘
Paula and her brothers talked for hours. Paula told Leo all about their father and uncle’s plan to flood the streets with drugs, told him all about their fight, and what Pauly had said to her. As Leo sat beside her, leaning back in his seat, he shook his head and sighed.
After Ronnie’s death, Pauly turned to Leo, his second oldest, and attempted to hand off all of Ronnie’s responsibilities to Leo. At first, Leo was up for the challenge. After Ronnie’s funeral, Leo tried to step into his brother’s shoes and fill the Ronnie-shaped hole that was now in their family. But the better Leo got at his ‘job’, the more Leo felt the memory of his older brother slipping away.
On top of that, Leo started to see why his brother began taking drugs in the first place. Sure, wanting to take away the pain his bummed knee caused played a role in it; But Ronnie got high because he wanted to forget. The older LaVine got high to drown out the sounds of gunshots, and the faces of all the men whose lives he’d watched his father’s men take.
That realization scared the living shit out of Leo; he knew that if he didn’t get out of there, and quickly, he’d be next.
“I don’t know how you did it for all these years.” Leo said as he looked out the window.
Paula could see the guilt written all over her brother’s face. The way Leo felt about her was the exact way Paula had felt when she’d left Mikey with their father.
Noticing the tension in the room, Mikey changed the topic to something lighter.
For the rest of the afternoon, Dani returned, and Dani and The LaVine siblings had dinner before visiting hours ended.
For the next couple of weeks, Dani and the LaVine brothers frequented the hospital every day. Sometimes Dani would come in the morning before work, and then Leo and Mikey would come later in the day; other times it would be just Dani, or just one or both of the brothers during the day, and then all three of them just before visiting hours would end.
Then, once Paula was finally able to get out of the hospital, she went back to Dani’s.
When she came home, she was surprised to see that Mikey had all but moved into Dani’s, but Dani assured her it was no problem.
Since it was now Friday, Dani had invited Mikey and Leo over for a movie night. Dani didn’t even make it through the beginning credits before she decided to call it a night.
After kissing Paula goodnight, Dani headed off to bed and soon the LaVine siblings forgot all about the movie as they got to talking.
“I think I just fucked myself up for life.” Paula admitted.
Paula never really allowed herself to stop and think about it. Sure, in the beginning, when she’d leave during the beatdowns, she didn’t think about it. She built up walls and hid behind them. But once Pauly began making her stay, she became hardened and began lying to herself about who she was, who her father was, and what they were doing. After a while, she was desensitized to it. Soon it was just another day and another beating.
But now that it was over, now that her father was dead, those walls she’d built began to crumble. The guilt of what she’d done, what she’d witnessed, began to eat at her. Night after night, Paula would wake up drenched in sweat, screaming bloody murder, as she recalled the names and faces of her father’s victims; their victims.
Jackson and Dani both suggested therapy, but they didn’t push it, which Paula was thankful for. It was one thing to allow herself to remember the faces and names of all the victims, but to recount it? To actually sit down and talk about them? Talk about what she’d seen, what she did, what she’d been complicit in? That wasn’t something Paula could stomach just yet.
“You’re not too fucked up or a bad guy.” Leo said, lowering the bottle from his lips.
Turning his head to the right, Leo stared at a blank spot on the wall.
“For years I thought I’d never be anything. In my head, because I turned my back on dad and ‘the family business’, I’d never find success, or have anything.” Leo paused for a moment, leaning to one side, he fished his phone out of his pocket and unlocked it.
“But then I found them.” He said, handing his phone over to Paula.
On the screen was a photo of Leo standing next to a redhead with a little girl in his arms. Leo wrapped an arm around the very pregnant redhead while the little girl clung to him; all three smiling brightly at the camera.
Paula’s vision blurred as she looked up from the phone and looked at Leo.
“You have a family?” She asked, her voice breaking as she spoke.
Leo smiled a tight smile as he nodded.
Setting the phone down, Paula flung herself into her older brother’s arms, holding him tightly as she began to cry.
Reaching out, Leo pulled his brother into him as well, and the LaVine siblings simply held each other and cried.
Paula had stopped her whole life to work for her father, and in the end, it all meant nothing. All the talk of loyalty and family, all the talk of him wanting better for her; it was all bullshit.
“What have I done?” Paula asked, sobbing into her brother’s chest.
“It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know any better.” Leo said.
But that only made Paula cry even harder. Shouldn’t she have learned, shouldn’t she have seen that this life would lead her nowhere?
Leo continued to hold her as she soaked his shirt with her tears.
She felt horrible, like waking up from a coma and finding out the whole world had moved on without her.
Once Paula was finally able to stop crying, she pulled her face from her older brother’s chest, and Mikey decided to change the conversation to something lighter. For hours Leo told his brother and sister about his wife and their child, and all about the pool he and his wife have going for the sex of their unborn child. Vicky, Leo’s wife, really wanted another girl, and Leo and a couple of his buddies were rooting for a boy just to mess with her. But truthfully Leo didn’t care what the baby was, so long as they were healthy.
After looking at more pictures and talking some more, the LaVine siblings decided to call it a night. Leo headed home while Mikey headed off to the guest bedroom, and Paula made her way to Dani’s room.
Slowly opening the door, Paula entered the room and crept to the bed. As Paula slipped into bed, Dani groaned and began to stir. Paula held her breath, hoping that she hadn’t woken the detective.
Rolling over, Dani scooted closer to Paula, wrapping her arms around the other woman, and placing her head on Paula’s chest.
Paula slowly exhaled, thanking all things holy that she hadn’t woken her sleeping girlfriend.
Holding Dani close, the realization that she hadn’t wasted her entire life began to dawn on Paula. Here she was, wrapped in the arms of one of the best people she’d ever met. Sure, the beginning of their relationship was quite unconventional, but Paula was happy.
Closing her eyes, she felt a sense of calm wash over her.
Five years later…
Paula flinched as the bat made contact with the softball.
Dani and her teammates turned their eyes to the sky, tracking the ball before Dani leaped into the air, catching the ball, and officially ending the game.
The spectators leap up from their seats, spilling beer, popcorn, and various other snacks, cheering as Dani’s teammates ran out onto the field and tackled her.
Hoisting her up on their shoulders, the team paraded Dani around the field as if she were a trophy.
Meanwhile, in the stands, Clark’s girlfriend, Jessica, leaned over to Paula.
“Oh thank God! It’s over!” Jessica said as they both stood up.
Dani’s mother gave her usual, ‘woo hoo, sports ball!’ and Paula and Jessica began to laugh as they did their best to avoid getting wet by any of the beer splashing around them.
As memories of the crowd rushed out onto the field, Jessica and Paula made their way to the locker room.
“Great job Lee, we should replace Paula with you more often.” Dani laughed as she walked out of the locker room.
“Fine by me.” She said, causing the group to laugh.
After the rest of the officers were out of the locker rooms, Jackson snapped a group photo before the gang headed off to the nearby park to enjoy hot dogs and burgers.
Jackson, and a few other retired officers, manned the grill while Paula, Dani, and the rest of the gang grabbed their drinks and food. Then, as they sat down, Clark began talking about the get-together over at his house. Dani was drained from the game, and Paula was all tapped out when it came to being social.
“I think we’re gonna head home.” Dani said, looking over at her girlfriend.
Paula nodded, causing their friends and family to begin booing.
“Aw come on, you two can fuck later when you get home!” Clark complained.
Paula and Dani were notorious for skipping get-togethers in favor of fucking like rabbits at home.
“I just played a full game of softball! I need to rest and recover!” Dani said.
More boos came from the table as Paula and Dani rose to their feet.
“Ahh shut up! We’ll see you all tomorrow.” Paula said.
And with that, Dani grabbed her bag and laced her fingers in with Paula’s. After saying goodbye to Dani’s parents and Paula’s brothers, the couple began making their way to the parking lot.
“Wait we’re still gonna have sex though, right?” Paula said looking over at her girlfriend as they headed to their car.
“Oh of course we are!” Dani laughed.
After unlocking the car, Dani tossed her things into the trunk while Paula slipped behind the wheel.
As they pulled out of their parking spot, Paula honked and waved to Mikey and his boyfriend, the couple waived back as Dani pulled out of the parking lot and began making her way home.
And that’s all folks! We’ve officially reached the end of The Paula and Dani Series. I can’t tell you how proud I am to have written this series. If you’ve been here since ‘All In A Day’s Work’ then I wanna thank you so much! If this is your first time visiting The Royal Blue Network, I would like to encourage you to stay and have a look around! If you like what you see, consider following the site. You can also follow The Royal Blue Network on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
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