Nine Years Later
Vera slapped the alarm clock at her bedside. She stretched her arms and yawned, slowly sitting up in bed. She blinked her eyes open and looked around. Everything was the same. Not a thing had changed since last night. The full-length mirror was in one corner of her room. The wardrobe was just against the wall near the door. The walls were the same, paste-green colour. Yes, everything was the same...but with one, major difference: The sound of the shower running.
Smiling, she slowly slid her legs out of bed. She placed each foot onto the warm, fuzzy green carpet. She stood up and smoothed out the front of her white, sleeveless nightgown held up by straps that was just a bit shorter than usual (well, it was summer, after all). Her husband would be out of the shower any minute now. Should she surprise him with a morning treat? Or use this time to get dressed? Perhaps she should get dressed; he already got last night's worth.
Vera strolled about the bedroom before stopping in front of the mirror. It had been a while since she really stopped to look in the mirror for purposes other than getting ready to go out somewhere. Today was August the eleventh. It was exactly ten years since she had been raped and impregnated. Had she changed much since then?
Vera took the time to really look at herself in the mirror. She ran one hand through her hair, now vibrant and full of colour, unlike ten years ago when it began to grow dull and lifeless. Much like...her. The rape had nearly destroyed her spirit...or at least, what had been left of it after that weekend. She honestly thought her life would never get better after that. She would just wait in bed day after day, waiting to die.
Her hands moved down to her stomach, which she softly rubbed. Finding out she was pregnant from rape had not been the happiest experience of her life. Her first child...a child of rape...she never dreamed it would happen to her...and yet it did. She had been in shock after finding out. She had hoped that if she just ignored it, she would wake up and it would all just be a dream. But the pregnancy went on...it continued until she gave birth to little Danielle, who wasn't so little anymore.
Her left hand moved to her right arm. She stroked the places where the scars were now non-existent. They had healed over the years and the only physical scar she bore right now was the scar on her left knee from a rather rough bike ride she and her husband had taken together last year. Even though the scars were no longer there, she still turned her thoughts to them from time to time. She would wince at how she had lashed out at her mother, who had been nothing but kindness ever since she had found out.
Her hands moved to her face before landing at her sides. She looked deep into her green-eyed reflection in the mirror. Many times before, she did not recognize the woman in the mirror. Now, she did recognize that woman, only she was no whore. She was...a woman of experience, who had grown and learned from her trials and tribulations.
The door to the bathroom opened. Vera turned around and saw her husband came out, wearing a bathrobe. He smiled and walked up to Vera. He said, "Morning, Vera." He gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"Morning, Harry," said Vera, returning the peck with a deep, passionate kiss. As she began to recover over the years, she started attending church again in 1942, hoping to re-discover a part of herself. It was at church she met Harry Delaney, an Irishman who had moved to England to escape the escalating religious conflict in Ireland. As time went on, Vera slowly began to trust men once more and started seeing more and more of Harry before finally becoming engaged to him and marrying him the following year. He had learned of her past on their wedding night, and agreed to wait until Vera was ready before consummation.
"So," said Vera, with a seductive grin. "Do we have enough time for a quick love making session?"
"I would," sighed Harry. "But we have to get ready for our visitor, remember?"
"Oh, right," sighed Vera, deciding this could wait another day.
Vera walked down the upstairs hall, now fully dressed. She gently pushed open the door to the nearest bedroom and walked in. She sat by the bed and smiled at the sleeping figure, lightly brushing his bangs off his forehead. She gently slipped a finger into his sleeping hand, remembering the days when her finger was too big for his hand.
It had taken Vera five years to finally be comfortable with having sex. It had just suddenly occurred to her one day that she no longer feared being alone with men, she no longer had any flashbacks to that night, she felt comfortable wearing clothes that she would've once viewed as 'provocative', and most of all, she longed to have a child she could truly call her own. And so it was that night she approached Harry and told him of her desire to have a baby. When he asked if she was sure, her response was, "I've never been more sure of anything in my whole life."
The moment was the exact opposite of everything that night had been. Harry was not rough; he was gentle, and went at the pace Vera felt most comfortable with. And the actual moment itself...oh. She had learned that night just how truly wonderful sex could be with the right man. And the result of her willing to let go was lying right here before her.
Her son, Peter.
Peter's eyes fluttered open. "Mummy?" he said sleepily. "What are you doing here?"
"Rest, my darling," said Vera gently. Peter was only a boy of four and he needed his rest, after all.
Peter yawned and closed his eyes.
Vera stood up and turned around to leave...only to see her daughter, Christine, standing in the doorway. Christine was only two years old and already, she had the spirit of a young pixie about her. "Mummy?" she said. "What's for breakfast?"
"Go back to bed, my sweet," said Vera, bending down to Christine's size, tucking a strand of brown hair behind her ear. "It's still a bit early yet."
"When's Danny coming?" asked Christine.
Vera smiled, remembering her letter to Hugo a few years ago asking to come to the agreement that Danielle would be dropped off at her house for two weeks every summer. She had willingly complied to it for the past three years and now would be coming a bit later this morning. "It's a few hours yet," said Vera, giving Christine a gentle kiss on the forehead. "Now go back to bed for a few more minutes."
At around eleven o'clock, Vera was sitting around the dining table conversing with her parents and sister while Peter and Christine played outside in the backyard with their father, Derek, and Derek's younger sister, Ann. "According to Hugo's letter," said Vera, "Danielle is now into football."
"Ah, I'll have plenty of stories to share with her about my good old glory days," said Mr. Claythorne proudly.
"I've seen you play, Fred," laughed Mrs. Claythorne. "If I were you, Vera, I would hide the good china!"
Vera laughed until Evelyn said softly, "Ten years. It's been ten years. How do you feel?"
"Different," said Vera honestly.
"Is that Danielle already?" asked Mrs. Claythorne as Vera stood up. "She's not supposed to be arriving for another few minutes."
"Well, maybe she came earlier this time," said Vera over her shoulder. She opened the door...and saw two people she barely recognized. There was a man with smooth, black hair combed back. On his side stood a woman with blonde hair that seemed to be a faint light brown colour, as though she had been dying it. She could've sworn she saw them somewhere, but where?
"Are you Vera Claythorne?" asked the man.
"It's Vera Delaney, now," said Vera. "Why?"
"We're here to talk to you about something," said the woman.
"Well, come on in," said Vera. She gestured for them to come indoors and they did. She closed the door behind them, wondering just what it was they wanted.
"We have some unexpected visitors," said Vera, giving the two guests a seat around the dining table. She sat down across them, feeling a bit drained all of a sudden.
"Do you recall the rape trial fiasco from nine years ago?" asked the woman.
Vera nodded slowly.
"That day has haunted us more than you know," said the man softly. "We try not to think about it, but we do. You see...we knew that man."
"That man?" whispered Vera, wringing her hands.
"Philip Lombard," said the man.
Vera felt her eyes widen. She had stopped wringing her hands, for they were now trembling.
"You knew him?" said Evelyn suspiciously.
"Yes," said the woman. "This man, sitting right here before you, is Charles Morley. He and Lombard were friends growing up. And I," she gestured to herself, "am Carolina Lombard. Philip's mother."
"You," whispered Mr. Claythorne darkly. "Get out. Both of you. Now."
"Before we leave," said Carolina, raising a hand, "we would just like to say a few words."
Mr. Claythorne's eyes met his wife's. "Fine," he said. "But make it quick."
"Actually," said Carolina, "we came here to apologize."
"For what?" asked Vera.
"For Phil's actions," said Morley, looking down at the wooden table. "He was not a bad man. I grew up with him, you see. And I can tell you from my personal experience that he was not a monster."
"Evelyn," said Mrs. Claythorne sharply.
"You expect us to believe someone who would rape some innocent girl, and then mentally torture and humiliate her is not a monster?" said Evelyn snidely.
"You didn't know him the way I did," said Morley calmly. "Phil made several mistakes before, but that was the only instance where he did something downright immoral. Other times, yes, he was ambiguously moral, but that was the one time he did something downright evil."
"And can I take your word for it?" said Evelyn coolly. "How do I know you weren't his partner in crime?"
"Evelyn," said Vera calmly, putting a hand on her shoulder, which seemed to calm her down a bit. "He wasn't there when that man...did those things." She turned to Morley. "You'll have to forgive my sister. It was a very rough time for me and she witnessed my suffering firsthand."
"I understand," spoke up Carolina. "It must've been a horrible time for you, wasn't it? When you felt you were the only one going through it, that no one else understood you, that it was your fault?"
"And how could you possibly know what my sister went through?" said Evelyn coldly.
"Because," said Carolina, her eyes revealing a deep sadness, "it's what I went through when having my Philip."
There was a cold silence across the table. Everyone took a minute to let that statement sink in before Vera said, "So...history was repeating itself."
"I don't think it will with your child, dear," said Carolina gently. "I gave Philip over to an orphanage, not knowing how he would grow up. You gave your child over to someone you trust enough to do an adequate job, am I correct?"
Vera nodded. "Yes."
"That must be her, now," said Vera, standing up. She went over to open the door, and when she did, she found Hugo standing in the doorway with a nine-year-old girl with long, vivid brown hair and hopeful green eyes.
"Mummy!" squealed Danielle, throwing her arms around Vera's waist. Vera bent down to Danielle's size and gave her a tight squeeze. Her eyes met Hugo's. Danielle knew Vera was her birth mother, and that Hugo's current wife was her "step mummy". What she did not know was the identity of her true father, nor the circumstances surrounding her existence. Vera and Hugo had agreed Danielle would be told the truth when they felt she was mature enough to handle it. For now, though, she would live happy and carefree.
Vera let go of Danielle and stood up. She no longer had to bend down very low; Danielle was getting to be quite tall. "My, you're growing like a weed," Vera remarked. Then, "Why don't you and daddy come in?"
Hugo and Danielle came in after Vera. She closed the door behind them and said, "Danielle, there is someone very special I would like you to meet." She walked up to Carolina and said, "Danielle, this is Carolina. Carolina, this is Danielle."
A look of surprise flicked across Carolina's face. Then, she smiled warmly and shook Danielle's hand. "How do you do?" she said.
"Oh, perfectly fine, thanks," replied Danielle. "And you?"
A tear made its way down Carolina's cheek. "Just swell."
After the family had left in the evening, after Mrs. Claythorne made her custom tearful hello, after Mr. Claythorne had taught Danielle how to play football, and after Evelyn had told Danielle stories from her childhood, Vera sat on the back porch on Harry's mother's rocking chair, watching the red sun go down. It was not the colour of blood; no, it was the colour of something much cheerier.
Her head turned at the sound of footsteps coming outside. Out came Danielle, who looked a bit worn out. "Mummy," she said, "is it okay if I sit with you out here for a few minutes?"
"Of course," said Vera softly. "Do you like your stay here so far?"
"Oh yes!" nodded Danielle, sitting in Vera's lap. "I love it here! I wish I could stay forever!"
Vera smiled a bittersweet smile. "That makes two of us, darling," she said softly. "But it's better off this way. It really is."
"But why?" asked Danielle, looking up.
"Because," said Vera, "you have school back in Scotland. And you have your friends. And what about daddy? You wouldn't want to leave him behind, would you?"
"Of course not," sighed Danielle.
"Your daddy's been very good to you, you know," said Vera, silently adding, Much better than your real daddy would be.
"I suppose," shrugged Danielle. She yawned and lay her head on Vera's shoulder. Vera blinked, and two tears rolled down her cheeks. She planted a soft kiss on Danielle's head. She had days where she wondered what her life would be like now if she had kept Danielle, but she knew deep down that she had made the right decision.
But it was no longer an obsession of hers. Her thoughts would turn to it from time to time, but she knew that no matter what obstacles were thrown her way next in life, she would be able to face it head on, for she was no longer a victim.
She was a survivor.
Credit song: All I Need by Within Temptation
Quote: Some of us sail through our troubles/And some have to live with the scars—Elton John, The Circle of Life from the movie The Lion King
A/N: And so here I am, wrapping up a story that may not have an extraordinary amount of reviews, but still a story I am deeply satisfied and pleased with nonetheless, whether or not others are satisfied. I am not quite sure if this is a story needing a backstory or not; unlike the epilogue for "And Then There Were Two", this I think answers all questions. As for other notes...the credit song came close to being "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera, but ultimately, "All I Need" makes me think of this story's ending.