"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." – Benjamin Franklin
Rumours of Victoria's return to the Grayson family fold soon circulated as summer fast approached the Hampton's and a media circus entailed, as the American public demanded confirmation of the matriarch's possible return.
"No comment!" Charlotte repetitively screamed, as she battled her way through the wall of news reporters camped outside her childhood home, all in protest of the Grayson's deathly silence. Her father had refused to publish a statement, much too proud to be forced to answer to outside forces, but his decision only seemed to provoke more backlash. An exhale of relief escaped her body as she stepped into the property lines and the reporters were locked out and she made a calmer entrance into her home.
From the den, Victoria appeared with a demure frown on her face, "Your father said security would deal with them." She hadn't dared to near the windows but she could hear the furious screams outside; it reminded her of Daniel's murder trial and how easily the public could turn on families like hers.
Charlotte furiously removed her coat, "If they're not in our property lines, they can't be prosecuted."
The claustrophobia started to squeeze like a noose around Victoria's neck, no matter how broad Grayson Manor was, and the frustration threatened any common sense she possessed. She refused to be hounded like an animal. "I'll speak to your father and have him release a statement." The reaction to her return interfered with the children's lives and Victoria knew Charlotte already held a disdain for her and her past crimes. "This madness needs to end."
"I couldn't agree more," Charlotte nodded, civil but not openly communicative toward the woman. She smoothed over her plaid skirt and peered into the den, "Where is everyone?"
"Your father is in the kitchen and I believe your mother's on her way home from Nolan's." Before Charlotte could slip away in the hopes to avoid her presence, Victoria reached for her hand and softly held her back, "Charlotte," Victoria's hand immediately loosened when Charlotte faced her with a resentful expression. "I hope you know how sorry I am for the chaos my return has introduced to your lives. My intentions were never to cause so much trouble."
"Well, that's okay then, isn't it?" She snapped, "Your intentions were honourable so you shouldn't be punished." Charlotte narrowed her eyes and motioned to the entrance, "Why do you think those people are out there, Victoria? They're there because my father somehow ruffled feathers at the SEC and you've escaped any justice for what you did to David Clarke."
"They're there because they like to stand out from the crowd, Charlotte." Her father's voice boomed in return, defensive of his mother as he watched the scene from the kitchen. "And I didn't ruffle anyone's feathers, your grandmother was cleared of any charges because her role in the cover-up was minimal and the real perpetrators are behind bars." Daniel corrected, "Now the people outside are there because they want to stir up more trouble for the one-percent but if they see that we're not to be played with and remain loyal to one another then the entire scandal will die down." Daniel could see the defiance in Charlotte's eyes; so reminiscent of his own once before. "If you don't think you can do that, ask yourself this question; is it because you're really as outraged as those people out there, or is it because your loyalty's torn between your mother and mine?" Her father asked, able to see just how little Charlotte understood of the situation.
She shook her head, her eyes lowered to the floor momentarily before they met her father's, even more defiant than before and Daniel knew she wouldn't easily drop it. "One of the rules you most drilled into me when I was growing up was the importance of honesty and justice. When I purposely snapped off the head of Sophia's Barbie doll because I was jealous, you were the one who convinced me to confess and accept the punishment. You explained to me how justice wasn't about an eye for an eye but about acceptance of the mistakes you've made. Why doesn't that apply now?"
"Your grandmother regrets what happened, you know that," Daniel protested.
"Yeah, she does now, doesn't she?" Charlotte snapped, "But like you asked me back then; does she regret what happened or does she just regret that she got caught?"
Daniel stood speechless for the answer and Charlotte turned on her heels in the direction of her bedroom. He turned to his mother with a sorrowful expression and exhaled, "I'm sorry…"
His mother sadly shook her head, "Don't be." She pursed her lips and watched the brunette curls fly into the bedroom moments before the door slammed shut. "She has every reason to be mad. All I've done since I came back is cause more tension… I haven't even spent much time with any of my grandchildren. In fact, Sophia's probably the only one I've held down a real conversation with." Whenever she spoke to Hannah, the child would simply ask why her aunt Charlotte didn't come back from heaven with her and Jacob seemed reluctant to even make eye contact. To strike conversation with Charlotte just seemed to become more painful with every attempt, not just because of Charlotte's resistance but the kind of memories it provoked from Victoria. "She reminds me so much of your sister sometimes; it's eerie." She forced a smile onto her face as she blocked any memories of Charlotte that threatened to suffocate her chest. "How's dinner?"
"Almost ready and not burnt," Daniel proudly answered.
Victoria looked surprised, "My son, the cook… I remember the years when you only knew how to burn toast."
Her son rolled his eyes, "Ha-ha, those were the days." Daniel peered into the oven and checked his watch, "I hope Emily makes it home before it's served. She's the one who taught me to cook, you know?"
"Really?" She checked, a smile instilled on her face at the information, but Conrad's words had only acted as another splash of petrol to the already furious flames of fire that had represented the distrust Victoria had in the woman. "Well, I'll wash up and I'll be back down in a second."
On her way to her bedroom, Victoria paused outside Charlotte's room and knocked, against her own judgement. "Come in."
She pushed open the door and found the teen stretched out on the bed with "The Catcher in the Rye" in her hands. "One of the themes of that book is teen confusion. Holden ends the book with as much confusion as he started with. His views didn't find a different perspective and the questions he had remained." Victoria stood beside the bed, "I know you must have some questions for me, so why don't you ask me what you want to know?"
An annoyed frown came from Charlotte and she discarded her book aside. "I know all I need to know about you."
Victoria raised an eyebrow, "Oh…"
Charlotte shuffled to a more superior position, "You framed David Clarke, a man who loved you and you claimed to love, because you didn't love him as much as you loved the wealth and position Conrad could offer you. You helped Conrad and one of the most dangerous organisations in the world to carry out an act of domestic terrorism on American soil. In court, you took the stand and testified for the prosecution and you ripped away the only parent my mother had left. Not only did you strip her from the only family she had known, you locked her away in an institution because you knew she was the only one who knew your sordid little secret and could expose you. Did I miss an important part?"
"Did you know David fathered your aunt?" Victoria nonchalantly added and Charlotte's eyes widened in disbelief. "I found out I had fallen pregnant on the eve of David's arrest and I attempted to save him before they could arrest him but…" She had been too late with her change of heart and David's fate had already been sealed.
"Does my dad know?" Charlotte checked.
"The truth came out around the time your parents became engaged. It broke Charlotte. It probably spiralled her abuse of prescription pills and your father's probably never had the same trust in me since then." She rubbed her forehead, "I know your mother suffered a loss because of my actions but I suffered a loss too when David was arrested. Worse still, I was the one responsible for what had happened and I lived with it for years. Perhaps, if I hadn't let it happen," Victoria settled on the very tip of the bed and bowed her head, "Then we could have lived a different life than the one we did." The family portrait of herself, David and their children settled in her mind but she desperately shook herself free. "And Charlotte's addiction wouldn't have had such a hold over her and she would be here." No doubt, David would have shown Charlotte the unconditional love Victoria had never been able to show their child and her addiction may never have developed. "Whether you believe me or not, there's no greater punishment than the realisation that your own actions may have inadvertently caused your own child's death. I know because I'm overwhelmed with the guilt."
"I don't know what to say –" Charlotte admitted, overwhelmed with even more revelation of secrets.
"Well, just know that, in answer to your question, I'm sorry for what happened. I'm not sorry that the truth came out," she confessed. "I waited every day since David's trial for the cover-up to be exposed." And the wait had been unbearable.
When her grandmother rose from the bed, Charlotte paralleled Victoria's own actions and reached out for her hand to hold her back. A half-hearted smile spread across her lips, in a silent form of acceptance, and she pulled the older woman into their first ever embrace. None of Victoria's pain – just another repercussion of her own actions – made a difference to the way Charlotte felt about the injustice but she started to wonder if anything ever would.