In the same realm but in a different complex, a brunette stood in front of her reflection, her sapphire-blue eyes watching herself expressionless when her eyes drifted towards her sister who watched her sitting down from the other side of the room.
-You have been awfully quiet, Lay. - she said, nervously playing with her fingers. - How have you been doing? -
-I must admit that I have had better days. - the youngest replied averting her sight from her sister. - Two-fourths of my children either hate me or are unreadable and one of them is missing and is probably doing something that is taking a toll on her… -
-But at least one of them fully loves you. - Erin interrupted already standing next to Layla and pulling her into a hug. - You will work something out, you always did. -
-Regardless of how much I love my children, I also don’t want them against their father Eri. - Lay sighed in the embrace. - Renly cannot even look at his father without grimacing, James is totally stoic around him and Jayden is destroying himself on the inside by pretending to be fine with all of this. -
“Since when have my children been this unhappy and why am I so unable to do something about it…
If I cannot protect my own then how am I supposed to protect anyone else Erin?”
-By not doing it alone Layla. - Erin sighed, pulling her apart from her embrace slightly. - as much as I hate to admit this Lay, you need to have a serious heart-to-heart talk with the man that fathered the children and used to be your husband. -
-I thought you would want me away from Matthew, Erin… - Layla teased her sister with a smirk. - Are you becoming bland with the years? -
Erin raised an eyebrow in annoyance and after slapping her youngest sister’s shoulder only causing the latter to laugh, she averted her sea-blue eyes from her sister’s figure and towards the door where she caught a glimpse of grey locks quickly moving away from there, her annoyance increasing slightly.
-You should also speak with father.- Erin said when Layla turned to watch to the door, confused on why her sister’s sight would suddenly drift towards it.-
As much as Layla hated to admit it, she knew she had to speak with her father who had been avoiding her since the day she briefed all the rulers in the Marrick Pavillion. A part of her wanted nothing to do with the ridiculous family disputes but deep inside, she knew that it was because she felt betrayed and her pride was bigger than her desire to fix everything up with both sides of her family, finding comfort only in her children which happened to be her priority.
Regardless she found herself watching her father’s silhouette from a tree, he sensed her gaze on him and turned around their eyes clashing for a little before he averted his gaze from her and returned it to the garden that used to be her mother’s.
-How did you know I would be here? -Darren inquired, still not meeting his daughter’s eyes who had moved silently to stand next to him.-
-It used to be her favourite place and we are close to her birthday.- Layla replied softly.-
Darren gave her a stare from the corner of his eyes before sighing and turning around to meet her and she repeated his actions knowing that it was late to run from there.
-What brings you here? -he inquired with a demanding tone that did not go unnoticed by his daughter.- Surely you are not as dumb as to not notice that I am not comfortable with your presence.-
-Family is everything.- she said, causing a little confusion to her father who crossed his arms and adopted an expecting stance.- I know I chose someone out of it and dropped everything I held dear for him…-
“But father, as much as you hate me for choosing the man I loved over you and my siblings, you cannot deny that you would have done the same…
You even adopted mother’s surname when you married her, breaking the bond you used to hold with your family in the process, so really, who are you to judge me?
My only crime was to fall in love with the heir of one of your sworn enemies.
But that’s ridiculous because it was not as if he had committed the crime for which you punished and disregarded his whole family. He was just born in that household and was a child when it happened.”
Layla stopped her speech to assess her father’s expression, and after noticing that he was willing to let her continue before doing something rash, she smiled slightly and continued.
-I am not defending him, even though we all make mistakes.- Layla clarified.- I won’t force you to change your opinion of him or myself.-
“All I want you is to accept your grandchildren who had nothing to do with this, whether you like it or not, they still share blood bonds with you.
Jayden was even raised by Damian since he was a baby, and yet, when you confirmed that he was indeed an Alburg, you started hating him and one could argue that the reason why the society is so reluctant to accept him and his sister who has done so much for this realm, is because they see your reluctance to accept them as family of yours.
Family is family right father? And Marricks treasure family bonds, it is deeply engraved in the khaeni culture”
Darren took notice of how his daughter did not include herself in that statement and it pained him to know that the cause she did not is because he forced her to choose and ended up stripping her from her surname, noble rights and heritage, and for what is worse, he also remembered how she introduces herself as of lately… No surname mentioned whatsoever, today she is simply Layla.
Knowing she was expecting something from him, he simply stood there analysing her words before acting.
Darren knew that what she had said was true and he had allowed his grief to take control over his actions years ago, but he was prepared now to make amends, so without saying anything, he simply moved his hands towards his neck where three Marrick necklaces rested on, and grabbed the one that he knew belonged to her. Without breaking eye contact, he removed her necklace from his neck and walked towards her, turning her around when he stood in front of her and gently he placed back the necklace that was rightfully hers.
-This has always been yours and it is time it returns to you.- he said when she turned around once again, her eyes watered and her left hand clenched on her Marrick sigil, thanks to that motion he noticed that she still had her married ring on.- Welcome home darling.-
Layla broke into tears and hurriedly hugged her father, crying on his shoulder and though tense and hesitant at first, Darren eventually brought her closer to him and allowed her to cry all she wanted.
-I owe an apology to your children.- he mumbled when she broke the contact and smiled dearly to him, stunning him momentarily.-
-They will understand.- she assured him with a gentle smile, grabbing his hand and kissing it as a measure of respect to her elder.- Do not worry about it.-
-I must worry, aren’t they family Lay? -he countered, tearing out a grin from his youngest daughter.- Anyways, best we get going to them before they become even busier.-
Layla agreed and together they walked to the HQ, laughing and talking throughout the way, causing complete bewilderment on their people who now were hesitant and confused on what their future actions would be.
It would take a long time until they finally accepted her and her family, and even so it was not guaranteed that they would all do, but for the moment, Layla was euphoric to be able to have her father accept her and her family into his own.
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