A/N* Congrats mi amigos you have made it to the end of Curve Balls. I am sure that came as a surprise to many of my readers. It came as a shock to me. When I sat down to write this chapter I had not intended for it to be the last chapter. But as usual the characters took a life of their own. After much though and pray I have decided that this is the last chapter in Curve Balls. This was the last memory I needed to overcome. But Have no fear this will not be last time you read about Clara and the gang. I am going to continue with Coley's story. Be on the lookout for Switch Hitter. (Notice a theme )
Chapter 37: Good Byes
Clara walked into the meeting hall hand in hand with Dom right at 5pm. Dom refused to let her go back to the hall without him, and if Clara was being honest, she didn't want to go without him. Her eyes were gritty and red, and her throat was raw thanks to her afternoon cry. Her mind wasn't any better. It took all of her strength to walk back into the meeting hall with her head held high.
Dom watched in amazement as Clara seemed to grow taller and stronger in the few seconds it took to walk from the car to the building. His girl was one hell of a fighter, and tonight was going to be the last fight she had with her family. As soon as this shitfest was over, Dom was whisking her back home, far, far away from her "family".
It was bullshit the way they treated her. She was not some puppy that they got to kick every time they felt bad about themselves. She was a human being. A damn awesome human being, and it was about time they noticed that. She was done being their punching bag. And if they had a problem with that they could deal with Dom, because he was damned if they ever spoke to Clara again.
Dom was pulled from his musing when a woman came up to Clara, a snarl already on her face.
"Why aren't you dressed?" the woman exclaimed shrilly.
Before Clara could respond Dom stepped in front of her, effectively cutting Clara from the woman's view. "Clara was told to be here at 5 to get ready with the wedding party. She is here to get ready. So the better question is why are you already dressed?" Dom asked quietly.
Laura gaped at the man in front of her. Tall, dark, and delicious. She unconsciously licked her lips and moved a step closer before her mind started to work again. Laura shook her head to clear it of its wicked thoughts and straightened her spine.
"If Clara would have stuck around after the rehearsal she would have been told that there was a change of plans. We got ready at the motel rooms." Laura tried to glare at Clara, but Dom blocked her view of her niece.
Dom's whole body tensed at Laura's words. That bitch! A snarl of his own graced his face and a dark gleam swiped over his eyes. Dom didn't care who she was, she was not going to be alive a moment longer.
Before he could act on the cold impulse that had taken over his body, Coco swooped in and took Clara by the hand. "Come on, sweetheart. We are all in the bathrooms. I will help you get ready. Laura, your mother is looking for you. She wants some pictures of you and Theresa."
Laura took off without a backwards glace, grateful for the first time in her life that someone had interrupted her attempt to belittle her niece. A small tremor wracked her body as she walked away. She was highly aware that she had barely gotten away with her life. For a brief moment, she was terribly envious of her niece and the man she had caught in her snare. That moment, however, was long over. Her niece's man was nothing short of a criminal. Leave it to Clara to go out with such a nasty creature. Yeah. That's what he was. A dirty, no good, criminal. With her mind clear once again, Laura went off in search of her mother.
Clara smiled at her aunt. "Thank you, Coco"
Coco shrugged. "I tried stalling them, and then I tried to get them to call you, but they wouldn't. I am so very sorry, Sis, that they are treating you this way." Coco pulled her niece into a hug and got her first good glimpse of the man standing behind Clara. Coco didn't see a criminal. She saw a man in love with her niece. "Thank you," Coco mouthed silently to Dom.
Dom nodded his head in acceptance as his body visibly relaxed. Finally, there was a family member who loved his Clara. Dom watched Clara walk off with Coco to the bathrooms and found a place out of the way to sit and wait.
And wait some more.
It was hours before Dom was able to be at Clara's side again. His patience was almost nonexistent by the time Clara was finally able to sit beside him. "When we get married, it damn well won't take 2 hours till we get to sit down." Dom growled to Clara.
Clara chocked on the sip of the drink in her hands, and merely looked owlishly at Dom. "Well, if it makes you feel better, I WAS sitting down. We were all sitting down in the other room. For some reason, we had to wait till all the guest were down eating before we were allowed back in."
Dom stole Clara's drink and chugged the rest of the watered down champagne. "That isn't happening either."
Clara didn't say a word. There were no words she could have said.
The rest of the night passed in a blur. Well, the rest of the 2 hours that they were there. Clara waited until after her Mom and new Step Dad saw the saran wrapped car before she gracefully said her goodbyes.
The ride back to the motel was just as quiet as the ride to the Hall had been. Only this time, there was a smile on Clara's face.
That was the first night in weeks that Clara slept through the night, and the first morning that she didn't woke up with red, swollen eyes. And that morning when she smiled at Dom, she actually meant it.
Dom squeezed Clara's hand. "You don't have to do this alone, you know."
Clara squeezed back. "I know, that is why I am going to"
Dom and Clara were sitting in the car outside the cemetery where Dean was buried. Clara had never been. Dean's funeral happened while Clara was in a coma. Clara had never wanted to come, but now it was time. It was time to say good bye and finally move on. It was Clara's last stop before she and Dom flew back home. It was Clara's last stop, period. She wasn't coming back to Georgia. There was nothing left for her here. Her duty was done. Her family was in California. Her heart was in California.
Clara took a deep breath, shot Dom one last smile, and got out of the car. Dean's grave wasn't far away, and it only took her seconds to reach it. Clara sunk gently onto the ground in front of Dean's headstone, and laid the daisies in front of her.
"Hi, Dean," Clara whispered as her fingers traced Dean's name in the marble. "I am so sorry this has taken so long. I am so sorry for so many things." Tears started to roll down Clara's checks and she let them. It was time to let go. "I'm sorry for being such a brat when we were together. I'm sorry for all the mean and hateful things I did when I was angry at my Mom. Mostly, I'm sorry for not loving you the way I should have. The way a woman is supposed to love a man. You were my rock. My one thing I could count on. You were my constant, and I could never repay you for that. I can never express how much you meant to me, and how much you guided me. You were my life preserver. But you weren't mine. Not in the way it really counts"
Clara paused as she tried to breathe. Her tears were starting to choke her, and yet, she still left them. They were her atonement.
"I want to believe that we would have realized that later. That we would have parted as friends, and that you would watch me grow old. That your wife and I would be best friends. That you and I would be best friends. I want to be believe all of that so much, but I know, God I know, that it isn't true. You never would have let me go. You were too good. You saw too much. I was never going to stand on my own two feet as long as you were around."
Clara took another ragged breath.
"They told me what you did, Dean. They told me how when the men came to cut you out, you told them to take me first. You hid the fact that you were bleeding so that they would get me out first. The whole time we were in the car, you held my hand, and the last thing you said was that you loved me, and that it was time for me to move on. And, God, I hated you for so long! Hated that you left me alone. Hated that you left me all your life insurance money. I hated that in order for your family to receive what you left to them, I had to leave. I hated you so much."
One more deep breath. She was almost there.
"Then I met my family. The family you always told me I would have. And each day I was in their presence, the hate melted away, until one day it was no longer there. Then I let love in, and I finally understood why you did what you did. You knew me before I knew me, and for that I can really never repay you. If it wasn't for you, I never would have known love. Any of it's sides. You taught me friendship, and guided me to the soul mate love that you knew we didn't share."
The tears finally started coming slower.
"I have a family, Dean. A real one. I have brothers and sisters. I have friends. I have a whole racing community. I have everything I always thought I would never have. I am loved, Dean. I am loved"
Clara bent over and let the tears take her away. It was done.
Clara didn't know how long she cried. She didn't know when Dom finally joined her, and started to rub her back. All she knew was that it had been a long time since she actually let the pain out.
Finally, the tears rolled to a stop, and Clara was able to breathe again. Dom helped her off of the ground and hugged her. Clara hugged him back, something she had never really done in the past. As they broke apart, Clara kept her grip on his hand, and started to head back to the car, but Dom didn't move.
"Are you coming?" Clara asked.
Dom shook his head. "In a minute, babe. I'll meet you back at the car."
Clara nodded and smiled softly at him.
Dom knelt down and traced his own fingers over Dean's name, just as Clara had hours before. "Thank you," Dom whispered. Dom bowed his head in a quick prayer before standing up to join Clara in the car.
As the car left the graveyard, a gust of wind swirled around Dean's grave, lifting the daisies off the ground in a little dance before gently setting them back down. The couple who were standing at a gravesite near Dean's watched the phantom wind in astonishment and swore to their friends that night that they heard a male voice say "Good bye."
As many of you know Paul Walker, the actor that portrayed Brian O'Connor, passed from this life. After much deliberation I have decided to not write Brian out of the Curve Balls family. Brian is an essential part of Curve Balls and without him many parts would crumble. And if I am being honest I am not ready to let him go. Rest in peace Paul. My heart goes out to your family and loved ones.