The first time Cale said thank you to her after coming back from his annual vacation with his father, Violan thought she had heard wrong. She had just been in the study to pick one of Lily’s study books when she found her eldest son sitting at the desk, crutches near his seat and quill in hand. He was looking kind of sereine, writing in a book and Violan was nervous about disturbing him.
In truth, she didn’t know how to act towards Cale. As the second wife to his father, he had grown up with a different mother, a different warmth and when Violan had tried to reach out, Cale had all but slammed a metaphorical door in her face. It was only soon after he started doing his tantrums, insulting people, ignoring her and Basen.
She hadn’t known how to deal with his behavior and had backed away from him, thinking giving him space would make things tolerable between them. She knew it could be difficult for a child to acclimate themselves to another mother-figure but… Cale never did.
So when he turned to look at her and gave her a temptative smile, Violan didn’t know what to think.
“Mother?” He said, putting his quill down and shifting on his seat so he would be more comfortable with his broken leg.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you.” She said, smoothing her skirt in a way that wouldn’t betray the slight tremble of her heart. For the first time in years, his tone - and his eyes - weren’t cold when looking at her.
“No. I wasn’t doing anything important anyway. I couldn’t find any of my journals anywhere, so I was only starting a new one.”
Violan nodded, knowing Cale was, like Deruth, one to put his more private thoughts on paper to ponder on them at his own pace. She had only seen him do it thrice though, and it had never been his best moods either. Seeing him relaxed was an appreciated change of pace.
“Speaking of which, I’m glad I can talk to you privately.” He added after a short pause, startling her from her thoughts. “I want to apologize to you, for my behavior towards you since you came into our household.
“I was young. I had just lost my mother, the pain still fresh and memories of her were everywhere. I took father remarrying to you so soon after her passing like a betrayal, Father dismissing the years spent with her without a second thought.
“So I started acting up. Becoming the sort of individual my father scorn the most in hope he would leave his office to try and scold me, talk to me. He never did. And then I ended up taking it out on you by being so cold and rude when you didn’t deserve it, at all.”
“Cale…” Violan said, looking as her son - not by blood but family nonetheless - looked so contrite, so honest. It was such a drastic change from the time he would barely listen to her or completely avoid interacting with her. It was strange, sudden but… not unpleasant.
It was a shame Cale had to have been hurt for their relationship to start mending itself, she thought. But she was glad to know they would become a normal family now, with a son that had finally accepted her inside of his heart.
Violan smiled at him. “I am genuinely happy to hear you saying that. You do know I never wanted to replace the previous countess, don’t you?”
Cale looked at her with an eerie look on his face, as if he was trying to choose his words carefully. She couldn’t blame him, knowing full well how delicate the subject had been - still was? - for the young man. It had been devastating for Deruth but for his son? It must have been as if the world itself broke. How could she blame him for treating her like a stranger, for wanting her out like the replacement he saw her as? She simply couldn’t.
“I know that. Realized it after a while but I never stopped because it felt easier. An escape route I could use without guilt or shame. I hurt you and I hurt my siblings. I know it will take time to mend things properly but now, we’ll be a normal family, without problems.”
His smile was warm and bright, so genuinely positive she nearly believed he had been replaced by a double. Really, since coming back from their vacations a week ago, his behavior had been exemplary. No more shouting, no more broken objects. The atmosphere of the house had improved for the better, the maids speaking cheerfully of the changes that occured in their previously trashy young master. A few even giggling, whispering how nice it would be if Cale started courting them.
Violan had shaken her head at their delusions, understanding their thirst for a noble man’s love - the position, power and money it would give them - but still chidding them to get back to work. It was miraculous how an honest apology and better behavior could change people's opinion on someone. For the countess, it felt as if a new sun had started to shine on the mansion, making everything warmer from Cale laughing heartily.
It would take some time before his reputation outside of the Henituse estate cleared enough for him to start socialising again but she trusted in this new Cale, this young man that was looking at her with warmth in his gaze and a soft smile on his lips.
He looked so innocent, so friendly without a scorn on his face.
Violan leaned against her son, wrapping her arms around his shoulders for a short embrace, feeling tears welling up at her eyes when Cale reciprocated immediately. Gone was the boy that would push her away, she thought. She wanted to thank the gods for helping Cale and his father mend their broken relationship, for them to have started talking and put aside the years of conflict.
Pushing aside his bright red hair, Violan frowned, leaning away slightly to have a better look at his face.
“You are running a little cold, son. I will tell Beacrox to cook you something warm for dinner and have Hans bring you a robe. It wouldn’t be good having you catch something in addition to your broken leg.” She said, feeling bold enough to kiss the top of his head, hearing him laugh softly back.
Exiting the study, Violan felt the happiest she’s been in years. And if she even asked Hans to sneak Cale his favorite snack right before dinner, no one else needed to know.