"Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price." – Sun Tzu
"…I cannot describe the ache in my heart, to not have been able to tell you about your Grandfather." Emily made her whole-hearted confession to her eldest children, "He has such a special place in my heart. A place I have never been able, a place I have never allowed myself to open to you both until now…"
Charlotte and Sophia shared a look of unadulterated confusion. They felt as if the entire world had been removed from its axis and rolled around the universe for fun. Now that their mother had finally concluded her confession, the room started to determinedly spin. Charlotte's eyes tore back to her mother, and then to her father, who avoided the scene before him. "I don't know what to say, mom." They had always known the consequences of Conrad and Victoria's actions for David but they had no idea that Amanda had suffered so much. And to think their mother was Amanda, only confused the situation.
"Tell me how you feel," her mother suggested.
"How're we supposed to feel?" Sophia snapped, "I mean, I would hate to upset you, since we know now what happens when dear little Amanda Clarke doesn't like what she hears."
"Sophia, don't talk to your mother like that," Daniel's voice finally entered the equation.
"What, you'll defend her?" His child protested, "After the lies she's told you? Daddy, she's made a fool out of you!"
"And that affects you, how?" Her father barked, and she reluctantly backed down. Daniel started to calm down and made himself walk closer to the women, who were sat in debate on the sofa's. "Show your mother some respect," he requested.
"Respect?" Sophia repeated, her voice much more quieter but still irrational. "She's let you believe she loved you, all these years, when all you were to her was another pawn to put the king in check."
Emily scooted forward, "If I didn't love your father, why would I have stayed, Sophia?"
Her child didn't answer but Charlotte's eyes welled with tears. "Mom…" she waited for the attention of her family. "If we hadn't found the box, or Sophia didn't find your records from juvi, would you have ever come clean? Or would you have kept the truth from us, for all these years, and let us live our lives as just another lie?" Her mother remained silent and Charlotte plucked the courage to pressure her for a response. "C'mon, mom. Twenty years," she reminded. "Wasn't there a moment when you came close to the truth?"
Her mother nodded, "Once, twice maybe." Emily's mind slowly unfolded back years, until she relived the moment Daniel almost discovered, for himself, the real woman he had married.
Intrusive spectrum of colours faded to white and Emily's eyes fluttered open. "Daniel…"
Her weakened croak came from cracked lips and her husband instantly appeared beside her with a plastic cup of water as she studied the four peach-tinted walls that surrounded her bedside. "Welcome back. You're in the hospital."
After a couple of needy swallows, Emily's eyes shot toward her mildly deflated stomach. A stomach she had previously proudly paraded around the Hampton's, prepared and anxious to introduce their second child to the world. A tear came to her eye as she looked to him for an explanation, "She's not –"
Daniel soon realised what Emily assumed and chuckled, "Of course not. She's perfect. But you did collapse."
"Hmm…" she had hazy memories of deep abdominal pains and rush of blood before her world blacked out.
"The doctors had to perform a caesarean-section, but you're okay. You need to keep rested, try not to overdo it, which is probably why this happened." His voice merely scolded, but showed his open concern. "They're not sure if the operation may affect your ability for a natural birth in the future but they'll discuss that with you when you're more awake." Daniel removed the blonde hair from her face and let her adjust some, before he continued. "They let me stay with you for some of the operation. Apparently, people tend to babble under the anaesthesia and you're no exception."
She became nervously alert, "What did I say?"
A secretive smile passed over Daniel's lips and he looked serious. "You spoke your heart, told me the truth, and now I'm onto you…" Daniel clutched her hand in his, as she desperately attempted to read him.
"What, Daniel? What did I say to you?" Emily couldn't prevent the panic within.
"Well, you weren't completely coherent but you told me that you weren't the woman I loved." Daniel tilted his head aside, "And you told me that my mother had always been onto you, that I should have taken heed of her advice. You may have even mentioned that you were a better person because of me." He smirked, satisfied with Emily's nervous twitch. "What else would you have said to me? I don't think you could possibly keep a secret from me."
His wife smiled weakly, "You know me too well."
Daniel looked bewildered, but decided to dismiss the weird tension. "Well, then, would you like to hold your daughter?" Her eyes filled with joy and Daniel turned behind him, where Emily hadn't noticed the hospital cot with their more than contended new-born. "She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he proudly stated.
She rolled her eyes, "You have to say that, you're her father and you said the same about Charley."
"Because they're both beautiful." Daniel compounded, as he lifted the new-born baby from her cot and she remained as silent as she could be but for her tiny breaths. "Here, come and meet your mommy, baby Grayson."
The very instant the dark-haired new-born left her father's arms and rested her cheek on Emily's chest, she started to cry. Despite the initial rejection, Emily found the humour in the moment and pouted, "Well, I think we're pretty clear that she's destined to be daddy's little princess." Her tease sparked a laugh from Daniel, who watched the moment with pride and anticipation. "Which would make it neutral, since Charley follows me everywhere." Emily's eyes lifted from the baby to her husband and she exhaled, "I'm sorry. Some part of you must be disappointed. I know you hoped for a boy."
Daniel shook his head vehemently, "Don't be silly. Happy and healthy are all I'll hope for our children. Besides," his left eye winked cheekily, "There's plenty of time for another unexpected arrival in the near future."
"Mmm," Emily smiled happily, "Well, before you plan ahead, our new baby here doesn't have a name yet."
Her husband squeezed her hand, "Since you made such a wonderful choice with Charley, I decided to let you take another shot." Daniel had never looked more sincere, "I know you named her after Charlotte for me, and I hope you'll let me return the favour if I can. Is there someone from your family you would want to name her after?"
Emily closed her eyes, pained. What Daniel didn't realise was his sister had already been named after her father's favourite aunt, which really already honoured the Clarke family. She let her shoulders fall, "I don't think so, Daniel."
Daniel nodded, "Okay, then. How about Sophia?"
"Is there any particular reason?" She checked, already warmed to the pretty name.
"Well, actually the name's in the family. Not the Grayson family," he confirmed, "It's from my mother's side of the family." Daniel paused with caution, to see how Emily felt, before he explained. "My mother didn't exactly share an easy bond with her mother but she adored her grandmother. Her name was Sofia Adriani. She was Italian." He smiled fondly, "Anyway, my mother shared these fabulous stories about this dear, eccentric woman and…" he chuckled, "When I was 7, I made my mother a promise that, if I ever had one, I would name my daughter Sophia."
Emily smiled affectionately at him, "And you feel you owe it to your mother to keep that promise?" A small nod and smile came in return and Emily's smile widened, "Then Sophia Grayson it is!"
"Well, she didn't." Sophia blandly retorted, to Charlotte's previous question.
"Because I love you, all of you," her mother croaked.
"Bull." Her daughter barked in return, as she leapt from the sofa. "You kept your secrets to save your own skin." Mother and daughter momentarily faced off before Sophia's mind kicked into flight-mode, and she started to run.
"Wait, Sophia –" Emily chased after Sophia, and her hand reached out for Sophia's arm.
She violently yanked herself away from her mother's touch and screamed, "Don't touch me."
Emily's eyes watered fast and furiously and she pointlessly did all she could to hold back the tears, to no avail. "I know you're furious, and I know you can't possibly understand…" she started to babble her words. "But I had reason, Sophia. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to think less of me!" In the background, Daniel snickered as he recalled the same plea his mother had made when she revealed Charlotte's paternity to him.
Sophia's eyes widened, and her mouth dropped. "Think less of you?" A pause of tension suffocated everyone in the room before a fierce blur of raven curls bounded towards Emily and Sophia's arms violently lashed out. After her experience of martial arts, Emily had the reflexes to dodge her daughter's fury, but she didn't move. "I hate you!"
"Soph, stop it," Daniel raced forward and held her back.
Fresh from the attack, Emily held her hand to her nose and braced the pain as the blood started to run. Instinctively, her eldest ran to her side and placed a steady hand on her back, "Mom, are you okay?"
After what seemed to be an eternity, Sophia wriggled free from her father's arms and composed herself. A venomous look came from her emerald eyes and she stared her mother down, "If you really believe that you can come in here and shove a poor explanation in our faces and expect us to swallow it, you'll be sorely disappointed." Despite the resistance, Emily once more stepped forward and attempted to embrace Sophia, only to be shoved backwards. "I said don't touch me." The young girl backed away slowly from the confrontation, "You came here to destroy the Grayson family, well, mission completed, Amanda, because I never want to see you again!"
Emily fought her tears, "I am your mother!"
"Mother?" Sophia screeched, "No, you're not." She shook her head, "You –You're dead to me."
One of the most powerful lessons Takeda had ever provided Emily with was from a Chinese philosopher named Confucius, in which Takeda provided her with one his most famous quotes; "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." And Emily now knew exactly what he meant. Because, years on, and Emily finally had to pay her price.