Ana found Victoria sat on the sofa in the living room that following morning. She was still dressed in her pyjamas, her legs curled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She had her cheek resting on her kneecaps, her eyes closed and her cheeks puffy and red. Ana bypassed the kitchen, moving straight over to Victoria and sitting down on the sofa next to her.
"What is it?" Ana whispered, her hand going to the girl's back and running up and down it, the motion soothing as Victoria kept her eyes closed and her lips pursed. She shook her head on her kneecaps, unable to move as she let Ana remain next to her.
"It's over," Victoria said in a whisper, her voice hoarse and breaking. "I told him the truth. I told him that Dominic Chattel was no one. He was lying…he was lying."
"And did he not believe you?" Ana wondered, knowing full well that she was talking about Andrew. She dared to open her eyes after a moment, peering to Ana with her eyes wide and full of worry. Ana moved then, wrapping both of her arms around Victoria.
She looked like she was broken. She looked devastated. Ana knew exactly how that felt. She had felt it when she thought that her and Christian were finished. She had thought that there was no hope for them, but everything had turned out well. It had turned out how it should be. But Victoria was different. Victoria and Andrew were still so young and had so much of their life in front of them.
"He believed me," Victoria said. "He was pissed, but he believed me. He…he just doesn't know if it can work…even though he said he wanted long distance. He just…he just doesn't think it will work. We've grown apart and I know that. I know we've grown apart and it isn't like how it was. But I want it back. I want that back."
Ana's grip seemed to increase on Victoria as she held onto her firmly, her chin resting on the top of her head. It took another few moments before Ana dared to speak, her voice a soft whisper as she stroked Victoria's hair down her back.
"I know that it hurts," she informed her. "I know that and I know that it might not got easier for some time."
"But I knew," Victoria said, lifting her head up to look to Ana. "I knew deep down that it wasn't going to work, but I didn't know how to make it better. I didn't know what to do."
"You cannot force a relationship, Victoria," Ana said, stroking her cheek slowly. "And if that is what you feel you have been doing then it is not healthy for you or for him."
"I know," Victoria agreed. "I just don't know how to do this…what to do…"
"No one ever does," Ana said with a small nod. "But it will get better."
Christian looked to Ana once she had returned to the bedroom. He had thought that she was going to make some coffee, but she came back empty handed. He walked into the bedroom and out of the closet, completely dressed in a simple grey suit with a white shirt, minus a tie. As he buttoned up the cufflinks, he looked to Ana as she closed the door behind her.
"Andrew and Victoria have split up," Ana informed Christian as he pulled his sleeve down.
"I thought that they were going to try long distance?"
"They were until he phoned her late last night," Ana responded. "They haven't been working for a long time and I think they both realised that. They haven't been the same couple I knew them as. They love each other, but sometimes it isn't enough. Sometimes you can love someone but not be able to be with them."
"What should I do?" Christian asked. "Should I call him? I called him the last time they were over and he came back?"
"No," Ana said with haste. "She is an adult, Christian. She is able to make her own decisions. I know that you mean well, but she doesn't want you meddling."
"And how is she?" Christian dared to ask as Ana cocked a brow and looked at him, silently asking him if he was being serious. Nodding his head, Christian began to move towards the door. "Stupid question," he said as Ana patted his shoulder as he passed.
"Yeah," she said to him.
Christian wandered through the corridors, searching for his daughter. He found her perched by the window on the floor, still dressed in her pyjamas, her hair now in a messy ponytail on the back of her head. Looking to her for a moment, he watched his daughter with intrigue before moving towards her and sinking down to sit on the step beneath hers, his hands going to her shoulders.
"Ana told me," Christian whispered to Victoria.
"I'll be fine," Victoria said to him, trying to sound braver than she felt. "I mean, I should have known that things wouldn't work out, whether it was now or next year when he has gone. I…long distance…I don't think that it could have worked, especially because we've both been so miserable together."
"Victoria," Christian let out a soft breath. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything," Victoria promised him with a small whisper. She nodded her head for a few moments, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand before shifting slightly, sitting on the edge of the step and letting her shoulder brush against his. "I'll be fine," she repeated.
"Because you're strong," Christian informed her. "You've been so strong through all of this, Vicky."
"No I haven't," Victoria protested, looking over to her dad. "I've done nothing but cry and moan and cry some more. I'm not you, dad."
Christian looked to her with intrigue then, his arm wrapping around her shoulders and drawing her closer to him as he continued to watch her, his hand going to her eyes and removing the tears from the corner of them. He bent down to kiss her on the top of her head, his chin resting just there as he spoke;
"Do you think that I've really been coping with all of this?" Christian wondered from her. "Vicky, I've been struggling. Elena tried to ruin me…she tried to ruin you…she almost took you from me and every night I wake up thinking about that. Every night I wake up thinking about finding your dead body in that bathtub."
Christian shook his head back and forth as he bent lower, his cheek pressing on top of her head. She closed her eyes once more as she listened to him speak.
"No one expects you to cope, Vicky," he whispered. "If you want to cry then you should cry. No one is forcing you to be strong. I want you to tell me how you feel. I want you to just be you."
"Well…me…all I want to do is try to forget everything that has happened."
"Then I'll find a way to do that."
Normality wasn't something that was usually associated with the Grey family. Victoria had returned to her studies, flinging herself back into them while Ana was busy at work and planning a wedding. Christian had also returned to work, the mess with Elena completely and utterly behind them. Christian hoped that now everything would go back to normal. He needed it to.
"I saw Chattel at a conference again today," Christian informed Ana and Victoria over dinner one evening, the three of them sat around the dining table as they feasted on homemade stuffed peppers. "You would not believe how arrogantly rude he is."
"Oh, I would," Victoria said. "You know that he keeps messaging me?"
Christian almost looked like he was ready to throttle the man at that news.
"I did not know," Christian said.
"I never respond," Victoria quickly informed her father, hoping to appease him before he let his anger get the better of him. "It is always the same texts too. Just the usual stuff."
"There is usual stuff?" Ana was the one to wonder and Victoria felt her lips quirk at hearing her. She sometimes forgot that Ana's only relationship was with her father. Then again, she found that sweet in a twisted way. Imagine being able to find the person you want to marry without the need for dating.
"Yeah," Victoria said. "Just stuff asking if we can talk. I keep deleting them as soon as they come. I have no idea why he would think I would want to talk to him."
"Do you want me to talk to him?" Christian wondered, picking up his wine glass and taking a delicate sip of the rosé he had.
Vicky cut up a bit of the pepper, popping it into her mouth before shaking her head. She drained it off with a slurp of water before glancing over to her father at the table. "No," she said. "Besides, a part of me is intrigued why he even went to the newspaper with those ridiculous stories about us being an item."
"You are not the only one who is interested in that," Ana piped up and Christian rolled his eyes. "What?" Ana wondered. "Are you not slightly intrigued as to why he did it?"
"I know exactly why he did it," Christian spoke. "He works for Mikelson and Co. We all know what they are trying to do."
Victoria's brow furrowed. "Do we?" she wondered back.
Christian chuckled and nodded his head, leaning back in his seat as he held onto his wine glass in his fingertips, his other arm folding over his waist as he looked between the two women who were staring at him with intrigue.
"You know that my company invest in bioengineering?" Christian asked from them but continued before they could answer. "Well, at the moment we are looking into using more sustainable energy solutions for our farming programme out in West Africa, however, we have recruited one of the top scientists in the field to help with us. That happens to be the very same top scientist Mikelson and Co wanted for their project."
Victoria took a moment to let her brows knit together while confusion etched itself on her face. Chewing down on her lip, it was another moment before she looked away from her father and then back to him as Ana spoke in jumbled sentences.
"So you're saying…which is horrible…but Dominic…he was…"
"He wanted to use me," Victoria was the one to finalise as she watched her father. "Dominic Chattel wanted to use me to get information on your company?"
"I would assume so," Christian said. "That is the only reason I can understand."
Ana looked down, wishing that Christian had kept silent before Victoria spoke.
"So it would be nothing to do with the fact that he might have been genuinely interested in me?" she continued with her father and she saw him begin to look worried as soon as she had spoken. It was another second before Christian placed his wine glass down and dabbed the corners of his mouth with his napkin.
"Victoria, you are a stunning young woman and-"
"-I was joking," Victoria interrupted before her dad could bury himself even further. "I know he wasn't interested. This does make me want to toy with him though."
"No," Christian demanded from her and she shrugged.
"Why not?" she wondered. "He would have ruined your company if he had a chance."
"Yes, but he did not," Christian assured his daughter. "Now, let's just forget about Chattel and enjoy the rest of this dinner that I took time to cook with Mrs Jones."
Victoria did as she had been told, but a part of her still wondered what she could do. Perhaps she was tired of being the victim all of the time. For once, she wanted to know what it felt like to play the game and be in control.