Charlotte looked at the girls sitting in front of her. She hadn’t seen her twin in ages. Charlotte honestly felt stupid that she had let her guard down and let Adeline back into her life when they were teens. She had wasted so many years of her life. Astra sat with her legs crossed, a fake amicable smile. As if she hadn’t completely abandoned the family either for a fleeting love. If not for Millie and her father, Charlotte would have already lost her cool. “Daddy, you can’t go back there,” Astra said, reaching out to grab his hand. “It’s dangerous. We don’t know where Dad is or if he’s returning.”
“Really? Declan is Dad now?” Charlotte asked. “Since when? He betrayed our family! He betrayed dad.”
“Say what you want.” Adeline replied. “But Declan is a good man. Whether you see it or not. Father knows that as well.”
“Oh, really? Do you dad? Do you know that the guy who betrayed you and our family is really a good person deep down?”
“I still love him,” Alistair said, letting the words fly into the open. “I don’t know if he’s a good man or a bad man. I think that he made decisions that he thought were best for the family. It doesn’t matter now.”
“It does, dad! It matters because he ripped this family apart. How can you love someone who hurt me? Hurt my daughter?” Charlotte asked. “Sitting here like this, I realize that we can’t be a family. Astra and Adeline have screwed my family over in big ways that I can’t even reconcile. Their support for Declan is just the icing on the cake.”
“Charlotte, I understand your contempt but I didn’t bring you here to start a fight. I wanted to discuss with you all my decision to go back to Moonlight Falls. I abandoned my people for my own safety. I don’t know who’s in power now that Declan is gone. Has Altiere stepped back in? I have to get rid of him and Damian once and for all,” Alistair said. “There will be no debate.”
“Graciela is very upset,” Charlotte said. “As am I. We’re losing our patriarch. Is grandpa Ethan going with you too?”
“I tried to convince him not to,” Alistair said. “But Moonlight Falls is his home above all else.”
Millie let out a deep breath. “Charlotte, don’t get mad at me for saying this but we did leave a lot of unfinished business in Moonlight Falls. We ran. Dad wants to fight. I can stand by him for that.”
“I just don’t want him getting hurt,” Charlotte said. “A lot of bad things happened in Moonlight Falls.”
“A lot of good things happened too,” Adeline said. “You met your husband. I met mine. Millie met hers.”
“Ade is right. I wouldn’t have Harmony if I didn’t meet Zander. Him being unfaithful aside,” Millie said. “And Zayne…” She lifted a hand to her heart. “I don’t regret being raised there.”
“Well then why are we having this discussion if you’re not going to listen to me anyway?” Charlotte asked. “We heard you, you’re leaving. So what do you want me to do about it?”
“I want you girls to rekindle your relationship. Contrary to what you say, you girls are sisters. You are family. The Grays pride themselves on working together. Without family, you have nothing. Embrace each other and move forward. For the sake of all of your kids and for the future generations.”
Those words ruminated in Charlotte’s head. Family was important above all else. But could she really forgive Adeline and Astra for what they did? She wouldn’t penalize her niece and nephew for the actions of their mothers but she couldn’t look her twin in the eye after halting a war effort. They would all be in Moonlight Falls happily now. Not fighting to keep it all together. There had been a lot of good to come from Fortitude, but that changed nothing.
“Babe?” A hand on Charlotte’s shoulder jolted her from her thoughts. “Are you alright? The girls are asleep. The kids are out in the yard. I thought we could watch a movie or something.”
“Oh, uhm. Yeah. We can do that,” Charlotte said. She tried to force a smile.
“Okay, what’s wrong? This is about your father leaving, isn’t it? I’m against it too but he’s a grown man who can make his own decisions,” Jeffrey said, taking a seat at the table with his wife.
“It’s not that,” Charlotte said. “It’s my sisters. They’re so quick to forgive each other and to acknowledge Declan. Dad told me that family comes first and I should forgive them. But I don’t know if I can.”
“I can’t tell you what to do here, but I can tell you what I think. I think forgiveness is important. You never really appreciate your family until it’s too late. Until you wake up one morning and realize that they’re all gone. I’ve forgiven Lisa for what’s happened between us. To make peace with myself. I can’t hold onto that negativity my whole life. Forgiving her has allowed me to love you as passionately as I have.”
“She didn’t feed information to the enemy, did she? Adeline ruined everything. She got our daughter kidnapped. How can I say that I forgive her?” Charlotte cried.
“When my son Tommy got married to his wife, Lisa lost it. She got so angry because Tommy’s wife was a fairy with bright red skin. Called herself a bumble with those tiny wings.” Jeff let out a small laugh thinking about it. “Lisa didn’t accept that her grandchild would be a supernatural.”
“But I did that with you.” Charlotte frowned thinking about it. Jeff wasn’t a weal human. At times, he was stronger than her.
“The difference is that you didn’t let that hate consume you. You had an open mind and let me show you how you were wrong,” Jeff explained. “You can’t let hate consume you. Think of everyone who suffers because of it. It was like Tommy didn’t even have a mother. And Lisa, well she missed out on seeing her son fall in love.”
“I don’t want to miss out on anything else,” Charlotte mumbled. “I think that’s why dad is the way he is. He missed out on the first few years of mine and Adeline’s lives because of some sort of time skip. He missed out on a lot of things before that too. He woke up one day and just found out that time had passed. The Grays, we never have time on our side. So he wants to make the most of it, even if he’s immortal on the outside.”
“And he feels like he owes those people who looked up to him in Moonlight Falls.” Jeff tapped his temple. “I’m remembering things about my life that I didn’t know about when I first got here. A whole supernatural side of things. I remember working with the leader of a different Moonlight Falls very closely. If I can remember how he pulled Moonlight Falls together, I could help Alistair.”
“And leave?” Charlotte questioned. “We promised we wouldn’t go back. Our life is here.”
“It could be back there,” Jeff said with a simple shrug. “We can make the place better for everyone who lives there.”
“Do you really want to live there?” Charlotte asked with a frown. “The kids know Fortitude. They have friends they wouldn’t want to pass up.”
“I’m not saying let’s pick up and move. I’ll stay wherever you think is best for us and the kids. That’s my top priority. But I do think I could be an asset to Alistair. We were so close before. We just need Dionysus’ help again. And you, to spearhead this whole thing.”
“No. I can’t,” Charlotte replied simply. “I’m needed here with Graciela. I don’t know why, but I feel like her purpose is here. The darkness wasn’t so loud until we got here. That makes me think the source is near and if Gracie can find it, don’t you think she’ll conquer it? She needs everyone’s support for that.”
“Kids, gather round. There is something that grandpa wants to tell you all,” Charlotte called out the kids roaming about her home. They all knew that their grandfather’s visit wasn’t a simple hello and goodbye get together. He wanted to tell them something and only Graciela knew what. Charlotte watched her daughter, the one she felt most closest to. There was an undeniable connection between Graciela and her father, but nothing could come between the bond of Charlotte and her only blood daughter. Charlotte saw some of herself in the girl, scared yet fierce.
“Grandpa!” Waverly clapped his hands together in delight.
“Heya kiddo,” Alistair said. He made his way around the couch, hugging and kissing each child before collapsing onto the floor beside them. “I have some really important news to tell you and it isn’t easy to say.”
Graciela bit her lip and looked down at her jeans. Yet another person would be leaving her daughter, Charlotte thought to herself. First Leon, then Nerissa and now her grandfather whom she adored. Now what? “What is it?” Pax asked. “You can tell us anything.”
“Ok then let’s just rip off the band aid,” Alistair said softly. “I will be returning back to Moonlight Falls in a few weeks time. Your great grandpa Ethan is going to be coming with me.”
The children gasped, Graciela covered her face with her hands. “You cannot leave,” She muttered. “Please don’t leave.”
“It’s only until Moonlight Falls is safe again,” Alistair said. “I was the Keeper of Magic and I abandoned my mages. No good leader does that. The only reason Fortitude is such a safe place is because of Adele’s strong leadership. Now that Declan is out of power, I have to see what the situation is like and make a change.”
“I’m coming with you,” Camilla said with no hint of hesitation. “I need to find Dionysus.”
“For what?” Pax asked. “Your family is here with us.”
“Of course my family is here,” Camilla said as if it was obvious. “But, there are things he knows about my people and my family that I need to know about. I have to find him.”
“The plan was to take Nerissa with me,” Alistair said, glancing at Charlotte who nodded in approval.
“You said you wanted to leave, right?” Charlotte asked. “Well, we’re letting you go back to your parents.”
“No!” Nerissa cried. “My friends are here. Let him take Graciela. All she has is stupid Maric anyway. She won’t be missing anything.”
“I have Leon too!” Graciela nearly shouted. “I can’t leave here until he comes back. I promised him I’d hear what he had to say in person.”
“Yeah, that’s why he keeps leaving right? He doesn’t care about you. He only shows any interest now because he feels threatened by Maric,” Nerissa spat. “And Maric just likes you because he’s just as weird.”
“Enough!” Charlotte shouted. “This is not up for debate. Nerissa, we cannot allow you to stay in this house if you continue to act this way towards my daughter. If those girls at your school are more important than your family, then you can go and stay with them. But you’re not terrorizing my daughter more than she already is.”
Graciela shut her eyes tightly but Charlotte could see the tears forming in them. “Fine!” Nerissa shouted. “I’ll go live with them then!”
“Your parents miss you a lot,” Alistair said. “At least come with me for a few weeks to visit them.” Alistair looked to his daughter as if telling her he would handle the feisty girl.
“You can’t leave me grandpa,” Graciela said, a single tear sliding down her cheek. “I know this is what you have to do, but if you leave and Camilla leaves, and Pax leaves…”
“I didn’t say I was leaving,” Pax cut in.
“I know you!” Graciela cried. “If Camilla is leaving, you’re going with her! Mom, stop them…”
“I can’t,” Charlotte said, struggling with the idea. “I want them to stay here with us forever but our family will never have the luxury of safety, peace and calmness. If we don’t go out there and find ourselves, and make strides to change the world, no one will. If Camilla feels so strongly about this I’ll allow her and Pax to go so long as they have a discussion with me and your father first. If you wanted to go, I’d let you go too.”
“No, I’m really waiting for Leon,” Graciela said quietly. “I don’t want him to come back and not know where I am. I…” She placed a hand on her heart but shook her head. “Grandpa…have you talked to Callen about this?”
Alistair bit his lip. “No. Not yet. But, once I have your blessing I will.”
Graciela got up and hugged the man tightly. “Just promise to come back, because you have people waiting here for you. Not just us, but Callen and Braylen too. So you have to come back.”
“I will call you every week,” Alistair replied, stroking the girl’s hair. “I will be extra cautious and when it’s the summer and Leon hopefully gets a longer break, you can both come and visit. Hopefully it’ll be nice and safe down there.”
“Promise?” Graciela asked.
“I promise,” Alistair answered. “With all my heart. I’m doing what’s best for this family, and for you. You have to promise to do the same for me, okay?”
Graciela nodded. “Yes. I promise.”