I never thought I would love being a mother so much. I adored Gemma even though she was quite the handful most times. I loved the way she would look up at me like I was the most important person in the whole world to her.
Soon enough she would be a teenager and that opinion of me would change for sure but I chose to enjoy those sweet moments with her as I knew she wouldn’t remain a baby forever. And especially since my maternity leave was going to end and I would have to return to work.
I was nervous about going back to work now that I was a mother. Before I had Gemma I was fearless on the job because I had nothing to lose – now I do. The thought of not seeing her little face anymore frightened me. But I couldn’t let fear stop me from doing a good job. The crime rate was on the rise and I made it my personal duty to clean those streets up so that my daughter would be safe when walking them.
Chief Clay came to the house to visit the day before my leave was up. I was surprised by his visit since he was known to be so professional that he wouldn’t even go out for drinks with officers after work far less for visiting me at my house.
“You look great.” He said. “I mean, I don’t know a lot of women with babies but you look like you lost all your baby weight already.”
“So you’ve been looking at me huh?” I said playfully with just a hint of flirtation. I’m committed to my marriage but sometimes I couldn’t help myself from flirting. It was harmless anyway as I was no longer interested in Clay. “I’m eating healthy and working out on the treadmill. Plus breastfeeding works off some of the calories. But enough about me, I’m sure you came all the way here to see the baby right?”
“Well yes of course. Where’s the little cutie?”
I took him upstairs to my bedroom where Gemma was. I thought I might have to wake her from her nap but she was already up cooing and sucking on her fingers when we got there.
“This is my daughter. Her name is Gemma Sloane.”
“She’s really beautiful Danielle, just like her mother.”
“Thanks but she actually resembles Stephan more than me.” Was he flirting with me? I couldn’t tell if it was just a friendly compliment or it was more. I figured I was reading too much into it.
“So what’s been happening at the precinct? Any interesting cases you’re planning on dropping on my desk Monday morning?”
“Actually there’s another reason why I came here. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone.” He said.
“I knew you didn’t come here just to see my baby. What’s up?”
He took a seat on the bed next to me. “There’s been a robbery at the art gallery last night. Do you know…?”
“Why would I know anything the robbery?” I said defensively, wondering if he found out about Stephan and worse, I started to wonder if Stephan was involved.
“Not about the robbery, do you know where we can find Dewayne Marroquin? I know he’s sometimes your informant. The surveillance footage caught him outside while the robbery was taking place. It looks like he was the lookout.”
I was relieved. “Last I heard he was staying with his sister in Parched Prospect. He also hangs out at the park a lot, you should check there.”
“Alright, thanks. Are you ok?” he asked. He probably noticed my uneasiness.
“Yeah, um, any other suspects in mind for the robbery?”
“They weren’t very smart. The surveillance caught Mitch Donahue and Sara Fritz on the scene as well but we all know Dewayne’s a squealer. We want to use him to get to the other two. I’ll be on my way now. I’ll see you Monday Danielle.”
I was so relieved to find out that Stephan had nothing to do with the robbery but I felt guilty for thinking that he would. I was sure he was done with that life. He was sending out resumes to get a real job and even went on a few interviews. But in spite of all his efforts, I had doubts.
I went back to work that Monday excited to be back in the game once more.
Clay put me on the Dillinger case. A woman named Claire Dillinger, a grandmother to four, was accused of physically abusing three out of her four grandkids. The children’s teachers noticed frequent bruising on their arms and legs that couldn’t have been the result of an accidental fall like they insisted it was. The children were underweight and wore clothing too small for their bodies, even though their grandmother, who was their guardian, was a wealthy socialite who could afford to properly feed and clothe them. Social services already removed the children from the home but the precinct wanted to make an example out of that animal so they wanted to lock her up. Although there was evidence of neglect we couldn’t prove she assaulted the children without their statement. Poor kids were so terrified of her they couldn’t say a word against her. That’s where I came in.
She was a tough cookie but I knew if I applied enough force I’d get her to crumble. We were trained to not let our personal lives and opinions affect us on the job but as a mother I couldn’t accept this woman walking around free after what she did to those kids. This coward thought she could get away with it. I broke her down so well she was begging to confess.
The case was closed and then I learned that because of my performance I would receive a promotion to Sergeant which ranked me higher than Detective Chance and made me the second most senior person in our precinct. I had a lot of colleagues tell me I wouldn’t be able to do my job if I had a kid. I proved them wrong.
I would miss Gemma during the day when I would be at work but thankfully Dad looked after her while I was at work and Stephan was job hunting. I was happy to not have to send her to day care and worry if she was being taken care of properly. Spending evenings holding her in my arms was my most favourite thing to do. One evening while I was spending time with her I started feeling nauseous. It was the strangest thing since I hadn’t eaten anything out of the ordinary. When it kept happening a few days later I figured out the reason behind it. I was pregnant again!
I was excited since I had always wanted my children to be close in age the way my brothers and I were. I thought Stephan wouldn’t be happy since he still didn’t have a job but he excited and expressed a desire for a boy this time.
“I think it will be a boy as well.” Dad said to me when I entered my second trimester.
“How do you know?”
“I’ve had two of them, trust me, this one is a boy.” Ethan entered the room and was looking at us when Dad said to him. “You better get on it, son. Danielle’s already on her second one. When am I gonna get some grandkids from you?”
Ethan just laughed and walked away. I did wonder about his love life. I knew he went on dates but he never brought anyone over to meet the family. Sometimes I wondered if he would get married at all.
Gemma’s birthday was around the corner before I knew it. Soon she’d be kid going off to school while I would have another baby to feed and cuddle. Time flew by really fast and my long shifts at work made it seem even faster.
Stephan came home late one night and the noise he made as he entered the room woke me up. I checked Gemma to see if she woke up and thankfully she hadn’t. “Be quiet you’ll wake up Gemma.” I said as I sat up on the bed.
“There’s my sexy little wife who’s carrying our baby.” He said excitedly.
“What’s happened? Why are you in such a good mood?”
“Because I have good news, I got a job as a manager at a clothing store.”
“That’s good news. Which store?”
“JF&S Clothiers. My old friend Raul owns it now and his manager recently quit so he gave me the job.”
I was curious about his ‘old friend’. Stephan told me everyone he knew before meeting me was a criminal so did that mean that this friend was also a criminal? “Is this an old friend or… an old accomplice?”
“Yeah he and I were in the same gang back in the day, so what?” He spat out with annoyance in his tone. “He’s changed now. An honest businessman just like I want to be, just like you want me to be.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea Stephan. I mean what if Raul isn’t really out of that world? What if this business is just a cover for illegal activities? I don’t want you to get involved in something that could get you into trouble.”
“You don’t trust me at all. I mean, I didn’t think it would happen overnight but at least have a little faith in me. I’m trying so hard and you can’t see that. I can’t stay at home doing nothing anymore. You think being a manager of a clothing store is what I want? No. It’s all for you and the kids, period. Raul’s business is legit. It’s a legit job that I’m doing for us!”
“Alright, alright, calm down. I know it seems like I’m not giving you any credit but it’s difficult for me to trust your judgement one hundred percent after everything that happened. Why don’t you take me to the store to check it out? I might feel more comfortable if I see the place myself.”
He sighed loudly. “Okay you can come tomorrow. I’m sorry for my attitude just now. You have every right to be weary. I promise you have nothing to worry about anymore.”
“Okay, well I think we should get to bed and get some sleep before Gemma wakes up for her next feeding.”
“I have a better idea.” He said flirtatiously before pulling me into a soft, romantic kiss.
Early the next morning Stephan took me down to JF&S Clothiers. It was only when I saw the place then I remembered Phoebe mentioning it to me. She and some of her friends loved to shop there. It was opened years ago and built quite a reputation for always having the latest in fashion from casual to formal wear.
I also couldn’t help myself from digging into Raul’s background though. If Stephan was going to work there then I needed to know all about his new boss and whether he was as clean as Stephan claimed he was. He was released from prison seven years ago and soon married his girlfriend and mother of his son. Together they were able to get a loan from the bank to start their business. They were up to date on their taxes and they received all of their merchandise from a well-known foreign distributor. It all checked out and I was so relieved.
“So are you comfortable now?” he asked.
“Yes I am. I think you’re going to do well here honey.”