Episode Nine – In All That Matters
How many years since I saw your face, my son? How long since I have heard your voice?
I call you son because truly you are, in everything but blood. It is I who raised you, I who offered you a home. You needed never know that I am your uncle’s wife, that your father was truly your uncle. But you learned anyways…
I shouldn’t have kept such secrets truly, should have told you long ago of your mother and father and the truth, why you were given to us. I loved you as my own, Vincent; it matters not our blood.
You were always such a quiet child, content to sit by yourself or lie outside and stare out at the stars. You always contemplated such vague mysteries and thought to yourself. I could never really understand that – your fascination with the unknown. You would help me in the kitchen, if I asked, or watch your father as he cleaned and sharpened his swords… always with wide inquisitive eyes.
Such a precocious child, you were Vincent. And stubborn as well… nearly everything had to be your way. I remember your uncle tried to take you to get your hair cut, it was always falling into your eyes, but you threw such a fit, flatly refusing to go.
‘I like it this way’, you had expressed loudly, even at only four.
We tried to reason with you, that it would only hamper your vision, but you wouldn’t listen. I remember we just gave in, it required far less effort than dragging you anywhere near the shears.
I never would have believed that you would turn to guns… that they would become your passion. I always thought you would turn to the sword, like your ancestors from your mother’s side. You certainly had the build and were graceful enough in your movements to be a brilliant swordsman.
I suppose I can’t blame you for wanting to know of your true origins. When you found out you had been adopted, by chance entirely, I can understand your anger. You must have hurt as well, deep in your heart, to know that your father had given you up, that Reika had died upon your birth. You must have felt so alone, regardless of the love that we had given you.
I hope that you did not censure your father too much for his gift to us. You were a blessing on our family, him granting this small bundle that he knew he could not care for on his own. With Reika dead, you were the last reminder of the woman he had loved. It hurt him far too much to look at you, your eyes so reminiscent of her own. Even my husband saw his sister in you; you look so much like your mother.
Nor did Grimoire know what to do with a child. He had had no brothers or sisters growing up and hadn’t been married long. He feared he wouldn’t be able to provide you the affection you needed. He was afraid he couldn’t love you as a child deserved to be loved. It was a hard decision, but he thought it best, and we never feared that you would go without.
He stopped by sometimes, your father did, when you were sleeping or such, to drop off small gifts or just see how you were doing. I think in his own way he loved you but just didn’t want to invade upon your life now that he had made his choice. Without Reika, he truly was alone. Yet, he was a strong man, your father, you would be proud to know that.
He knew, Grimoire did, that we could not have children; he knew we would take good care of you. So he made a choice, probably not the one you would have preferred, but he did make it. The day you entered our lives, Vincent, was the happiest day I can recall.
He also knew nothing of Wutaiian customs, and that your mother would have wanted you to grow up with some semblance of your heritage. Although I was but half and your uncle full-blooded, as was your mother, we tried our best. You certainly looked enough like your uncle that no one questioned anything… until racial tensions grew to heights in Wutai.
War hadn’t broken out between ShinRa and Wutai yet, but it was coming. Tensions were high and everywhere, children of mixed blood were being discriminated against. The High Lord was trying his hardest to calm the fears of his people, but alas, the reservations of the masses were not always to be so easily calmed. For fear of our lives, we decided to leave Wutai… leave our ancestral home in hopes to find a place where we would not be hated for our heritage.
We moved several times before settling in Junon, the originally small harbor town that was a base of ShinRa. Odd that we should find a home so near to the enemy… and yet, your father was not the enemy either. We were left in a conflict, caught between the lines of heritage and family. Only wanting what was best for you, we opted to remain in Junon. Perhaps it was that decision that enabled you to find the truth of your birth. Perhaps not.
I cannot fault you for wanting to leave and find your father. Grimoire, though absent in your life up until that point, was someone important to you. I understand your choice to join the Turks, taking the name of your birth father and forsaking us. The pain in our heart can never be matched, but we do realize your decision.
You never knew I could not have children, and I was not ever going to tell you. I always loved you as my own, not because you were all I would ever have but because you were a child worthy of love. Every moment is something that I will treasure forever, and I only hope that, even in your darkest moments, you never forget us.
I remember as a child that, though you spent time alone, you had friends – our neighbors and that little girl from up the street. I can’t remember the Loire boy’s name, but I’m sure that the girl’s name was Beatrix. The three of you used to wander around the neighborhood, Loire always goading Beatrix and you into doing something that would get you into trouble.
You were quite the trio. Loire, with hair nearly as dark as yours and shining crystalline blue eyes, he always had a trick up his sleeve. He was the general happy one in the group, always able to bring Beatrix and you out of your shells, especially you, Vincent. Sometimes it took him pulling you by your arm to get you to leave this house. You looked up to him, at times, which I understand. Loire was a good couple years older than you.
Beatrix, with her beautiful amethyst eyes and brown hair, she was a pretty girl. I had never seen eyes that color before I met her. I was so used to see the brown and grey of Wutaiians. She was quiet, much like you, but more of a book worm, always taking things apart with her hands and trying to put them back together. I remember one time, you had broken one of your toys and brought it to me to fix, but I was flabbergasted. Beatrix just took the broken toy from my hands and calmly put it back together as if she had been doing it all her life. She was a brilliant child.
I never really understood what attracted the three of you together, what about Beatrix and Loire made you want to befriend them. However, the three of you shared a common interest, a love of guns. I don’t know why children had such fascination with weapons, but it was what bonded you to them.
One such occasion remains bright in my mind simply because it was one of the rare times that I caught you laughing.
I won’t say that you were unhappy or even sullen. You did smile and occasionally laugh, but true and genuine laughter was something that was uncommon, and so I cherished every moment someone managed to drag it out of you.
I happened to walk past the den where your friends and you were sitting around and talking. The Loire boy was making some weird faces as he recalled some vague adventure he had convinced Beatrix and you to accompany him on. I remember something about Old Lady Juliana down the street and some kind of prank. I wanted to frown disapprovingly, but then I caught sight of you.
Vincent, you were laughing, the kind of laughter that brings a sparkle to your eyes and a flush to your cheeks. Beatrix was adding in her own little blurbs of recognition, occasionally correcting Loire when he made a mistake. You didn’t have anything to say, but your laughter… it warmed my heart. All thoughts of chastising you faded with that sound.
You were together for much of your childhood, through school and such. Until the Loire family had to move to Gongaga, and Beatrix met a man, marrying him and moving away. I always thought that the two of you would fall in love and give me grandchildren. It always seemed you were quite taken with her, but perhaps it was just young friendship that I didn’t understand.
It wasn’t long after the both of them left that you found out the truth of your heritage. I’m still not entirely sure how that came about. Just one day, you came home yelling about why we had never told you we weren’t your real parents. You wanted to know the truth, you wanted to know who your father was. And so we told you. After that, you vowed to find him. And you did.
He encouraged you to join the Turks, and so you did, eventually becoming one of their best gunmen. I followed your career as closely as I was able, though much of what you did remained classified. Your father helped by cluing us in, though he couldn’t understand why you turned your backs on us.
And then, your father died, and we lost all connection with you. It became more and more difficult to find information on your well-being. You had become like a ghost to us, flitting in and out of rumors. I had heard that Vincent Valentine had become commander of the Turks. I felt immensely proud in that moment, always knowing that you would be successful.
Last I knew, however, was that you had disappeared. We never heard from you again. Yet, I want to believe that you are still alive out there somewhere, that you have gone on, perhaps found love on your own… maybe even have your own children.
I would like to think that some day you would forgive us for our discretion. That some day you will walk back through these doors, pull me into a hug and call me mother again. I will never have another child, Vincent; there will only be you… and not because I can’t have anymore.
I have always loved you as my own. That will never change, even if I die never again seeing your face. Your picture still hangs above the mantel, your room untouched. My only kin are my husband and you, the two most important men in my life.
You are my son, Vincent, in all that matters. Nothing could ever change a mother’s love. I believe, that in the end, we are your parents and you are my child.
My only son…