Chapter 13 (Part 1)

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The rose does not bloom without thorns. True, but would that the thorns did not outlive the rose. - Richter"

"She's with them mother, Katrina is with them. The old hag took her!" Dominic burst through the double doorways and into the drawing room where his mother was busy knitting.

"What are you raging about?"

"Charlotte! That blasted woman took my daughter away!"

"Language Dominic!" the elderly woman scolded without once looking up from her work. It was a little cardigan. Something that she had started working on the moment she had learnt of Katrina pregnancy. These and other small knitted pieces that allowed her mind to think while  her fingers were distracted.

"You do not understand Mother. Charlotte took her!"

"No. I do not believe it. I am sure Katrina went there of her own free will..."

"No! You do not understand mother." her son cut her off. "I am telling the truth mother, that woman hates me and she took her to get back at me!"

"Dominic, Charlotte is dead!" the old woman spoke calmly even as she laid down her knitting to look at her son. "She is and has been for the last few months."

"You've... You've known this all along?" his shock was palpable and the old woman just nodded. "How comes I did not know it. I did not hear it in the news..."

"You know that family. They like to keep their things hush hush."

"But if she is dead, Katrina..."

"Katrina is on a journey of self discovery. She needs to find herself." Dominic stopped pacing. A habit that he normally assumed when he was feeling agitated and began to process everything.

"Wait, you instigated this!" the man finally said as he pointed an accusing finger at his mother.

"I merely pointed her in the right direction. It was Charlotte's dying wish that her granddaughter would get to know her roots and those of her mother, even though you have always insisted on keeping that part of her life and your life hidden."

The man sighed. He was tired, his legs suddenly feeling too weak to carry him as memories that he had struggled to wall off came crashing down.

" Mother, what was I to do?"

"She was angry, but she could have gotten over it. You let this drag on for too long. You allowed your pride to get the best of you."

"But I... I took everything from her."

"My son. You cannot continue to live with the guilt and coddling Katrina will not help that either. If Stella had been alive, she would have smacked your head for it and me too for allowing this to drag on for too long." his mother told him.

"But you don't understand mother..."

"I understand enough. You forget that I was the one to raise Katrina, while you locked yourself away and moaned. While you picked up fight after fight just because you did not know how to handle your loss and grief. I was there Dominic, even when you decided to bury yourself in your work and if it was not for Alice's more stubborn nature, I doubt that you two would even be married let alone have remained together for this long. Charlotte is gone now and you must let that chapter of your life also go with her. Otherwise, with the way things are panning out, if you do not pull yourself together and do the right thing for once, you will end up losing Katrina as well."

"I can't believe that that wi... that old woman is dead."he quickly corrected himself when his mother shot him a stern look. "If she is gone, who is with Katrina now?"

"Kenneth. Mrs Nimrod is there too so rest assured that your daughter is in safe hands. "

Dominic nodded.

Without another word he turned around and walked out of the drawing room his mind still reeling. Old Charlie was dead. That was what he had always called her in his mind. She had been a fierce woman and she had also never liked him for his arrogance. At that thought his lips curved up into a smile. The two had never gotten along and yet, Stella never seemed to mind. In fact, she and her father Harry had seemed to thrive from their rivalry as it was always a source of entertainment and drama when the four of them got together. And when tragedy struck, it was those two souls that did not deserve them that had to go. Maybe, God had been punishing them for their impertinence, Dominic thought. However he was almost sure that Charlotte had never looked at that way. To her, Dominic had taken away everyone that truly mattered to her. For how could he even begin to forget her anger and the hate that he had seen in those eyes in the days leading to Katrina's birth and Stella's subsequent exit from this world? And he had used his influence, his power to keep her from striking back. From avenging her losses by taking away the only thing that was left of her daughter. The other person that they still shared between them even after the death of Stella.

His mother had not approved of his actions, but he had never been one to listen, pushing his weight around as he bullied everyone who knew him into submission. He should have known though, his mother was a conniving woman and somehow, despite all the time that had passed she still managed to keep in touch with the family and only God knew what else she had been up to in the moments that she and Katrina purported to be on holiday.

Was it a betrayal? No. He was glad that she had rosen up to the occasion and done what his guilt and grief could not allow him to do. What had they even been arguing about? He could not remember for that had always been the case between him and Charlotte and yet, somehow they managed to come out unscathed while the people that were truly innocent paid for it with their lives.

"What now?" Alice accosted him the moment he walked into their room.

"The past. Surprising how it comes back to haunt you." he answered her.

"Don't tell me... You have skeletons that I was never aware of?"

"I doubt it. You are a resourceful woman, so I am sure that you have an idea or two as to what it is that is bugging me."

"And yet I do not know how you truly feel about your past. You never talk about her and woe unto the man or woman who dares touch her portrait that is hanging in your office right now. So Dominic, if those are not skeletons then definitely there are ghosts hunting you from your past."

"Alice..." he heaved out another sigh. "I really don't want to talk about it."

"Really?" he nodded even as he sank onto the bed and allowed himself to wallow in his misery. "I hope then you won't refuse me and the other matter that I have to talk to you about." she said as she moved towards the vanity set and retrieved an envelope from one of the drawers.

"What is that?" the man lifted up his head to look at the sheet of paper that she had pulled out skeptically. "I thought we agreed to leave office matters at work..."

"I know. Why don't you take it and read it? I am not expected to do everything for you now right?"

The man huffed but he still complied and took the paper from the proffered hand.

"Alice..." he began to complain again, but his protests died on his lips when he saw the letterhead that was printed at the top of paper. Without another word, he quickly skimmed through the document and looked up to face his wife amazed. "Really? I am going to be a father again?"

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