After Clara leaves, none of the people at the table could make the move to leave.
Crystal was in tears, but Gabriel didn't lift even a finger to help her. Gabriel was actually mad this time, and a few tears from Crystal wasn't changing that.
Xavier was similarly upset, despite the fact he disliked his family and harbored a certain amount of resentment towards them. He was leaning heavily on James, and it didn't look like he was moving anytime soon.
Henry sat where he had before, his face like stone. None of the people sitting around the table could tell what he was thinking or what he would end up doing. They all knew it would be no problem to just pay Clara the money she was asking for, but they also knew that isn't the way Henry works.
They sat there, not talking to each other or moving to get up from the table. Eventually, Ava ran through the room, heading up to her room to drop off the things her grandmother had bought for her.
"Daddy!" She screams as she takes the large stairs as quickly as she can. "Daddy! I got some stuff f-" Ava's childish voice fades as she goes up the stairs.
Madeline followed behind her only grandchild, smiling absently at her innocent actions. Then she turns her attention to most of the rest of her family sitting at the dining room table.
"It's not dinner time already, is it?" She asks, taking the seat Clara occupied before.
Crystal looks up at her mother, pushing her long white blonde hair from her face. "Mom." She says, looking conflicted. "Can- can I talk to you? In the other room? Alone?" Crystal finally says, taking a hair tie from her wrist and throwing her hair into a messy bun.
"Of course dear. I'll have the cooks start with dinner before we go. I guess I didn't realize how late it was getting." Madeline answers, giving her only daughter a soft smile.
As Crystal and Madeline exit the room, Ava bursts into it, giggling in the way only an innocent child can.
"Uncle Xavier! Uncle James! Come see what Grandma got me! Come on! Come on! Come on!" Ava almost screeches, pulling on both of their hands. The couple shares a secret smile before complying, letting their niece lead them up the stairs and to her room.
They both loved Ava dearly, and enjoyed how much she wanted them to be involved with her. Gabriel was fine being second string to Xavier and James, as he didn't particularly like children in the first place. He didn't want to have children at all, and the news of Crystal being pregnant really upset him. Almost more so than the news of her cheating did.
Gabriel and Henry were left alone at the table, looking at each other carefully.
"Why are you acting so cold towards my daughter?" Henry asks, studying Gabriel carefully. Gabriel swallows hard, looking at the ground instead of his father in law.
"I'm not acting differently." Gabriel says eventually, attempting to smile.
"You are acting differently and you know it. Tell me why or I will ask Crystal. You know damn well she can't lie for the life of her." Henry threatens, glaring at Gabriel.
"We've just had a fight, that's all. I don't want children, she does. I'm always faithful, she's apparently not." Gabriel's voice turns to acid as he speaks, betraying the emotion he had been trying to hide.
Henry starts to laugh, the loud sound echoing through the large room. Gabriel looks perplexed, not understanding at all why Henry was laughing like that.
"You really think Madeline and I have been faithful this whole time?" Henry asks, calming himself down. "You need to understand that we play by a different set of rules than you do Gabe. " The way Henry says Gabe like he's trying not to barf makes Gabriel shiver. He doesn't like the way the familiar nickname sounds coming from Henry.
Gabriel makes a move to say something about the unfairness of the situation, but Henry cuts him off.
"You will not ruin my daughter's reputation by divorcing her, are we clear?" Henry offers up a chilling smile, his voice void of any emotion.
Gabriel can't help but gulp as he nods, not quite understanding the situation he was placed in.
Madeline and Crystal return to the room, and Henry smiles and offers up a laugh, Gabriel still looking altogether uncomfortable.
"What did you two talk about when we were gone?" Crystal asks, taking a seat next to her husband.
"Nothing much. Just the election." Henry says, quick to send a look towards Gabriel.
"Nothing to worry about, I promise." Gabriel finishes, getting the message loud and clear.
Xavier, James, and Ava talk loudly as they come down the stars, Ava jumping down to the ground from the third step.
"See I told you I could do it Uncle James! Didn't I tell him Uncle Xavier?" Ava yells, puffing her chest out because she was proud of her accomplishment.
Before long, dinner was served. A wonderful array of fruits, vegetables, and meats were placed on the table. If you ever walk away from a Collins family meal hungry, it's your own fault.
Nobody ended up going to their houses that night. They were too caught up in making sure they all had the same details. Madeline said one thing, Henry another. Crystal swore by what Henry said, but James did the same by what Madeline had said.
Nobody was comfortable with the way Clara had just barged her way into their normally very comfortable lives. Xavier knew his father well enough to know that Clara could very well be his daughter, Crystal was too blind to think her father would ever do something bad, James didn't have enough information to know what to think of the situation, and Gabriel knew for a fact Henry had at least cheated on Madeline, though he was unsure if Clara was his daughter or not.
Crystal and Xavier retreated to their old bedrooms with their husbands, both pairs lost in their own thoughts and wondering if what they had heard could be true or not.
The next morning, everyone gathers in the dining room for breakfast like they hadn't since Crystal moved out. Adrian had decided to show up during sometime during the night, looking worse than he had in a long time.
Breakfast was silent except for forks scraping plates and Ava attempting to talk to everyone around her. Neither Henry or Madeline went into work that day. They chose to stay home and try to figure out what was going on and what would happen.
Henry and Adrian were in the middle of an intense discussion when somebody decided to knock loudly on the door.
"Madeline go get the door." Henry shouted, resuming his conversation with Adrian.
Madeline grumbled to herself, opening the door just as whoever was on the other side of it attempted to knock again.
"Hello, welcome to the Collins fa-" Madeline began, trying to be welcoming even if it was incredibly early.
"We know who you are Mrs. Collins. I'm Detective Lucas Meddia and this is my partner Frank Walters. We've come to ask you some questions about the Seven Hills murders." Lucas at the door says, cutting Madeline off mid-sentence.
The Seven Hills murders were a string of seven murders about nine years prior. The media had called them the "Seven Hills murders" because the number of the victim was cut into each of the victims, and because of each of the victims being found on the top of some nearby hills. The police had never gotten any leads, and had never gotten any substantial evidence.
"Why do you need to question my family? We had nothing to do with those horrible occurrences." Madeline says, her mouth pulling into a frown.
"Mrs. Collins if you and your family could just spare us a few minutes so we can interview you, I promise we will only be here as long as it takes to ask you all a few questions." Frank says, offering up a smile.
"Fine. But when I ask you to leave, you have to leave." Madeline replies, stepping away from the door so the two detectives could pass.
Once everyone had gathered in the living room and Ava had been seen off to school, the two detectives started asking questions.
They were normal questions that you would think of detectives asking during a murder investigation. They asked about where everyone was, what they were doing at the time, and other such questions.
"We have sat here and answered all of your questions. Please leave now." Henry eventually says, standing up and glaring at the detectives. "We have things we have to do today."
Both of the detectives stood and made their leave, telling the family that they would be back if they had any further inquiries.