A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Seventeen: Tragedy.

Helen was awakened at ten in the morning by a delectable aroma that most certainly came from a plate of eggs and French toast. She rose as if on command, stretching her arms over her head and yawning in a pleasant mood, the second the aroma wafted into her room. She got out of her bed and just as she began putting on her emerald satin robe, Theo knocked at her door. Helen invited him in, and he did so with a jubilant smile.

“Ugh, I forgot how early you wake up.” Helen noticed that he held a piece of white cloth when he came in but didn’t think much of it after. “I remember when we were younger you hated waking up early. What changed?”

“When you’re rich you don’t have to worry about asking for alms before the sun rises and you out of all people know how much I hated doing that. Now I wake up early because I embrace my reality of being economically well off. Anyways, I remember you were an early bird once,” he paused and smiled coquettishly, “What changed?”

“I love spending extra time in my extra fine sheets,” she replied with a small laugh.

Theo shook his head and proceeded in changing the topic. He held the band of white cloth in front of him. “I have a surprise for you downstairs and I would love for you to put this on.”

Helen fixed her eyes on the white cloth. “If the surprise is that you made me breakfast, then it really isn’t a surprise because first of all I can obviously smell it and secondly you’ve made me breakfast countless of times.”

Theo walked behind her and with her permission he started tying the blindfold over her eyes. “I think you’ll like what I have for you,” he said.

He held her hands and led her out of her room and down the stairs. Theo knew exactly what he had prepared for Helen. She was utterly oblivious and wouldn’t see it coming, he was assured. The aroma of the delicious breakfast that Theo had prepared was becoming ever so present by the second but of course that aroma was only masking the real surprise. With each step another aroma was added; this new fragrance was sweet and wild. After a minute or so of walking Helen felt a lovely warmth that one would only feel in the greenhouse with its crystal domed ceiling and panels.

Theo took the blindfold off. “Open your eyes.”

Her eyes were flooded by a surge of many, many colors when she opened them. The greenhouse, which was once barren, was now filled with plants that she had only seen in pictures. The empty sills were now occupied by pots that contained roses of all colors, vibrant and elegant orchids, bromeliads, moonflowers, and other plants she would identify later with an encyclopedia; above them green vines with blooming flowers tangled from pots that hung from the glass ceiling. In the middle of the lively and warm greenhouse was set a round table with a lavish embroidered tabletop and two ornate white chairs. Atop was set two porcelain plates of breakfast, a crystal jug of orange juice and a jug of milk, and silver dining utensils by the plates.

“Happy birthday,” said Theo with a handsome smile. He went over and pulled out the chair for Helen to sit on. Once she was seated, he sat at the chair across from her.

Tears glistened in Helen’s eyes as she sat and looked around in awe. “You remembered my birthday?”

Theo smiled affectionately. “Of course, I do. Why wouldn’t I? Your birthday is the most important day of the year for me for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that I can go all out in showing you that I adore you with all my heart.”

“Oh, Theo,” she breathed out. He hadn’t exactly said that he loved her, but it was close enough. “You shouldn’t have…”

“But I did either way because you mean the world to me. Before you came back in my life, my life had no meaning besides revenge. Now that you’re here I feel happy,” Theo continued to explain.

Helen blushed. “We should really dig in or else our food is going to get cold,” she said with a light laugh that dispelled her brief surge of emotion.

Theo and Helen were filled with joy and they had good reason to be. Theo was half way done with his vendetta of retribution. Plus, things in his life were even better with Helen at his side. On top of that, Theo in a slightly surprising way told her that he loved her—he just used a much-understated word in place of the word that she wanted to hear. Why was she so picky in wanting to hear ‘I love you’? Perhaps her shared fondness with Theo for classic Hollywood influenced her in wanting to hear that infamous three lettered phrase that many actors such as Cary Grant and Gregory Peck would say to their lovely dames in the movies? Most certainly.

But with Theo’s enemies being enraged by his strike against them it was only a matter of time before Theo and Helen would be robbed from their momentary happiness.

Meanwhile at the Clearwater estate, the Edmunds were continuing being at each other’s throats. Jennifer and Booker avoided their mother and uncle at all costs just as they promised. On the other hand little Richard didn’t care that his family was falling apart—he was in his own little world which was more important to him than his family’s matters.

Marie Edmunds had grown impatient and had already set a meeting with the tenants she rented her old, previous estate to so they can leave her mansion within thirty days. She was planning on moving back to her previous home—away from her despicable children. She proposed the idea of her grandchildren moving in with her and they all accepted earnestly.

On a particular morning three weeks after the engagement party, Julian was walking down the hallway when he heard his mother’s voice behind her half-opened door. He stopped next to the wall a couple of inches away from her door and listened to the conversation that was taking place in his mother’s room.

“Amy, has the chauffeur gotten the car ready yet?” Marie Edmunds asked, dipping a cookie in her tea.

“I told him to get it ready just a few minutes ago so I’m assuming he should have everything set,” replied the help.

“It better be ready by the time I go outside,” Marie sighed and excused herself, “I apologize for that rude tone of mine. All this stress recently hasn’t really done me any favors.”

Amy stood next to the matriarch’s bed in an awkward stand. Her eyes were fixed on the ground under her feet while her hands were in her apron. She wasn’t used to having a conversation with Marie Edmunds since the only words they ever exchanged with one another were orders from and replies of ‘yes ma’am’.

Marie Edmunds drank the last of her tea before recommencing. “Even though Julian and Constance are adults, all the blame for their heinous crimes fall on me. I’ve lost many friends since the day of the engagement party because they do not want to associate with the mother who bore two snakes as children. Everyone believes that they turned out the way they did because they learned everything from me. To hell with everyone’s opinion! I’ve tried to teach my children good but it’s their decision to do the things they do as adults!”

“But if it wasn’t for Theo von Draken none of this would have happened! No one would be blaming you and everything would have continued perfectly.” Amy’s blood boiled at the very thought of Theo. She clenched her hands into fists in her apron and grinded her teeth.

“I’m not blaming Theo. If you are, then that’s your problem. Plus, we all know you have a grudge on the young man. Theo and his benefactress are victims. They did right by exposing my son and daughter for who they really are.”

At hearing this Julian scowled at his mother’s words. She supported his worst enemy and there was a heavy price for doing such a thing. He hastily departed from the hallway and the estate entirely. The chauffer had parked the car outside of the estate, but the boy was too preoccupied on his phone texting—he didn’t see or hear Julian come out. Cunning as usual, Julian took advantage of the boy’s negligence and made his way towards the driver’s door in a crouched position.

The chauffeur was resting on the hood of the car with his back facing Julian behind him. The cunning man reached towards the button that enabled the trunk of the car to open, pressing it. The trunk opened silently and after doing so, Julian crouched again and headed towards the open trunk. Once inside the trunk, he closed the door, scooting all the way to the back and lying still in a fetal position. He heard two voices from outside, so he listened in.

“Billy! Do you have that car ready?” exclaimed Amy, shouting.

Billy the chauffeur groaned, utterly annoyed. “Must you be loud for every single thing?”

“It’s the only way you’ll ever listen to me.” This time she spoke with a coquettish edge to her shrill voice.

“Are we still down for tonight?”

She grasped in handfuls his groins. “Mmmmm after showing me what you’ve got down there of course I’m down.”

At hearing this Julian rolled his eyes, grimacing in disgust. Exactly what the world needs: plebeians procreating—he thought sarcastically. He heard Marie Edmunds’ wheels come to a halt followed by the sound of Amy and Billy picking up the elderly lady and setting her in the back seat. Fuck, Julian inwardly cursed. He had gotten into the trunk without taking one small detail into consideration: Marie Edmunds’ wheelchair was always folded and placed in the trunk.

Quickly Julian found a thick blanket in which he covered himself with and remained still. After the trunk opened, Billy set the folded wheelchair next to Julian. The boy pressed the wheelchair closer to the back but couldn’t since Julian’s body was obstructing the way. Billy jutted his lower lip, shrugging the issue away before closing the trunk. The chauffeur started the car and off they went to wherever Marie Edmunds ordered him to take her.

After thirty or so minutes the car came to a halt. Julian heard the sounds of a bustling shopping center from afar and discerned that they were in the city. He waited for Marie Edmunds and her two servants to exit the car. He stayed motionless in the trunk for about fifteen minutes before finally pulling the latch inside, which opened the trunk. Julian breathed some fresh air but covered his eyes from the sun. Being in the dark for almost an hour and then suddenly stepping out into the sunlight wasn’t a bright move to say the least.

“What am I even doing?” he muttered to himself as he walked towards the outdoor boutique mall. He knew exactly what he was doing but now he wasn’t so sure if he could proceed with the plan.

“Mr. Edmunds, what are you doing here?” Amy approached him with Billy at her side at the entrance of the boutique center.

Julian was startled by the girl’s unexpected greeting. He thought that she was supposed to be with his mother instead of aimlessly walking around. “Aren’t you afraid that any of these boutique owners might mistake you and your boyfriend as thieves?”

Amy laughed, dodging his insult. “You look like you’re out to kill someone.”

“If you don’t get out of my way that someone might as well just be you.”

“Hey! Don’t talk to her like that! I know you are our boss and all but that’s just harassment!” exclaimed Billy, bothered by Julian’s harsh behavior. They were used to him being mean, but this time Julian was being peevishly rude.

“Since I’m your boss I order the two of you to go and have some frozen yogurt across the street.” Julian pulled out his wallet and handed the young couple a twenty-dollar bill.

Amy raised her brow as she took the bill from his hand. “You could have just said so.”

“Promise me you won’t tell anyone about me being here…ever.” Julian flashed Amy a menacing knowing look. Amy took the hint and nodded before taking Billy by the hand. Together the two of them hastily walked away from Julian.

After dealing with the two of them Julian began to search for his mother. It didn’t take him long enough since it was Wednesday afternoon and hardly anyone shops during the weekday. He quickly made his way towards his mother when he saw her from a distance heading towards the exit of the shopping center with a single shopping bag on her lap. Julian appeared behind her, wrapping his fingers around the wheelchair handles and leading her outside. Immediately, Marie Edmunds tensed since she didn’t know who it was that took hold of her wheelchair.

“Relax, it’s just me,” said Julian next to her ear. “Your favorite son.”

“What are you doing here?” Marie Edmunds began to fret in her wheelchair, beads of sweat began to precipitate on her brow.

“That doesn’t concern you, but I can sense your fear. It’s quite obvious that you’re afraid of me…or something of that nature,” he continued his walk out of the shopping center and into the street with his mother.

“I’m not afraid…I’m just…” Marie Edmunds was at a loss of words. She didn’t know what to make of her children anymore.

“You’re ashamed of me and my sister, aren’t you? You’re trying to run away from us?”

Marie Edmunds sighed lugubriously. “In a way, I am. I can’t believe that after trying to make good citizens out of you and your sister the two of you repay me with scandal and shame brought unto our family!”

Julian didn’t take her to the family car. Instead he took a detour towards the street where cars were going at least fifty miles an hour—sixty-five at most and maybe even seventy if they were being lawless. On the other side of the road was another plaza. “It doesn’t matter how much effort one can put in making good citizens out of their children. What matters is who your children really are. Ever since Constance and I were little we thought everyone was beneath us and therefore they were our toys, whom we can destroy if we want. We thought your advices and parenting were boring. We hated you ever since the minute we began to reason and saw you for the manipulative and cold woman you are! Were you expecting angels from a demoness?”

Finally, Marie Edmunds broke into a sob. She couldn’t handle hearing her son speak to her in such a manner. “Don’t talk to me like that!”

“In matter of fact dear mother you should fear your children. Too bad you couldn’t escape from us sooner.” He spoke the words so harshly that they even made his own skin crawl.

Finally, Marie Edmunds decided to turned in her chair but instead she became distracted by her son’s heartless push. Julian had grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and thrusted his mother forward with vicious force into incoming traffic. Her scream was eclipsed by the sound of a loud car honk followed by a crash. Julian had his eyes fixed on the entire scene without flinching once.

The wheelchair in which Marie Edmunds always sat now lay bent and crushed in the street while the wheels rolled away from the scene. The man, whose car struck the elderly matriarch, came out with a horrified countenance and tears running down his face. Everyone’s eyes were directed at Marie Edmunds who laid in a pool of her own blood. Her limbs were nearly torn from her frail, old body. She twitched and silently moaned in pain as she bled out. Reddened foam erupted from her mouth while her bloodshot eyes gazed upward at the blue sky one last time.

Julian caught a stray pearl from her favorite necklace under his shoe, smiling. At last, he thought with relief as he turned his back on the accident. He walked away before anyone noticed him.

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