Chapter Twenty: Descent.
From his bed Theo admired Helen as she attired herself in front of the mirror across the master-bedroom. She put on a fitted white blouse and a pleated pastel blue skirt with knee high black nylons and white flats. She left her hair in a messy bun and perfumed herself with the very perfume Theo had delivered for her.
“You look beautiful,” said Theo, gazing at her with his two hands behind his head. He was still in bed with nothing on but his briefs.
“And you are half-naked.” Helen opened his closet, throwing him a shirt over her back. “Don’t you have to be at the theatre for your final rehearsal before noon?”
Theo groaned playfully. “Ugh but I just want to stay in bed and cuddle with you all day and watch horror movies.”
“That’s why weekends exist to do such things. Now c’mon.” She pulled him by his arm. He obeyed and soon the two of them walked down the stairs arm in arm, dressed and ready for whatever their day was going to bring them. They walked with such a bright aura around them that when they saw how dreadful Benjamin appeared to them, they instantly became low spirited—their radiance had been blown out by such a shadow.
“Is everything alright?” Theo instantly asked, concerned.
Benjamin breathed a lamentable sigh before he became slightly incensed as he spoke. “Yea, unfortunately. It appears Booker cannot grow a pair and leave his odious family behind him to become independent on his own. Here I am willing to move into my own place and wishing him to join me, but he cannot do so because somehow he’s still trapped with his family—a problem he can easily get himself out of if he had the courage.”
“Oh, love,” Helen shook her head. She immediately went and sat next to Benjamin, ready to comfort him.
“Are you going to tell me to give him a chance? Because if you are you will only waste your breath.” Benjamin rose from where he sat at the dining table, moving to the kitchen to wash his empty plate. “I’m done giving him chances.”
“I hope you’re not blaming me for the circumstances Booker is in?” Theo looked at his friend with a penitent gaze. Deep inside, Theo didn’t want Booker and his siblings to be utterly punished by their new cruel reality. As much as everyone hated and degraded Constance’s reputation, they also loathed her children likewise.
“No, I do not. I blame his mother and uncle for all the terrible things they’ve done. But I’m just tired of Booker and his lame excuses and that’s that.” After he wiped his hands clean, he threw in a tic-tac in his mouth. “There’s work to be done at the office. I shall see you there, I hope?”
Theo smiled pleasantly at his dear friend Benjamin. “Rest assuredly you will see me there. I also hope that you look alive and bright when I see you later on. A handsome man such as yourself shouldn’t look glum and nonetheless on a wonderful day as this one.”
Benjamin smiled back at Theo and Helen before walking out the house. Theo and Helen resumed their morning, eating a brief breakfast before stepping out on a fine sunny spring day. The garden around them smelled wonderfully as the sky above looked as blue as ever with its billowy white clouds shining magnificently under the glow of the sun. The overwhelming rosy aroma that filled the air had thrown everyone into a pleasant spring daze. Passersby on the street in front walked with slight smiles on their faces, enjoying the beautiful day like everyone else, except for one overwhelming shadow bigger than the one they faced with Benjamin. Worst of all, this shadow gazed at them with empty eyes—void of any emotion. However, under the dead gaze there was a smile—an action that only feelings of any sort can make the body do. This enigma of dead and still alive was Ana Mondragon.
Helen tensed at the sight of seeing Ana in such an appalling state. No matter how much she hated the girl, she somehow felt sorry for her even so. She titled her head to the side and neared her lips to Theo’s ear. “Something’s not right with her.”
Theo pursed his lips as he met Ana’s cold and oddly warm eyes. He opened the gate and faced her without much thought. “Good-morning Ana.” He closed the gate behind him, facing her outside the confines of his home. They were in the eyes of everyone around them.
“I’m leaving,” Ana spoke curtly, getting to the point. Behind her brief words Ana wished for Theo to tell her not to take leave to wherever she was going to. Truth is, she was completely disillusioned by a sudden episode of an extreme psychosis, one in which Theo had never seen Ana in.
“I wish you well, then.” He didn’t know what her purpose was of coming to his home to tell him such an insignificant fact since they were neither friends or lovers.
Her eyes suddenly became alit with joy. This bright flash of sentiment that suddenly radiated from her eyes threw Theo and Helen aback in surprise and concern. Never had they seen Ana in such a confused state. “Likewise, I’m also very happy for you for everything that you have accomplished. Such a man like yourself should be proud to overcome the things you’ve been through and yet prevail in the end. You’re also very lucky, Helen, to have him at your side. He’s a good man.” She turned around and walked away, disappearing into the crowd of people that were passing on the crosswalk around them.
“That was odd,” Theo remarked when he got into his car. He thought that Ana’s erratic behavior was truly troubling.
Helen put her seatbelt over her, switching the A/C on in the car while fanning herself. She was already tired of the beating sun above them, and on top of that the situation with Ana had annoyed her more than anything. “Yes, very odd indeed.”
Theo and Helen arrived at the theatre auditorium where all the actors and those participating in the play were on the stage rehearsing their parts. The directors of the production were sitting in the front row of seats. From afar they appeared as silhouettes yelling out various stage directions with sighs of frustration under the dim lighting of the theatre
Midway towards the stage they saw one lone silhouette sitting at the edge of a seating row. Somehow without even seeing the face of that lone person Theo deduced that that person was the one and only Cristina that he knew. Cristina sat with her head dolefully lowered, her legs crossed, and her hands folded on top of her knee.
“Good-morning, Cristina.” Theo stood next to her with his arms folded across his chest.
She looked up at him and stood up, taking his hands in an apologetic fashion. “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you the last time we met…at the cemetery.”
Theo didn’t want to ruin the mood and proceeded, accepting the apology. “It’s fine. I understand. You were looking rather sad that day anyways.” He raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to tell him what exactly occurred to have gotten her in that behavior in the first place.
Cristina caught the true message of his purpose for not proceeding further. She was beckoned by morality to confess to him what had transpired before she spat those unintended words of consequence at him at the cemetery.
“Who’s dead?” Theo resumed with his intended question that was raised ever since their encounter. “Is it Felix or Dante?” The answer to his question could seal the deal in his chance in being the son that survived.
Cristina broke into a quiet sob. Her sadness was so great and powerful that it weakened her. Her legs gave up and she sat back down. She wiped the tears from her eyes with a soft velvet handkerchief. “Felix is dead.”
Helen gasped but Theo didn’t budge a move. His indifference towards Felix’s fate was due in part to his amnesia. With his amnesia wearing down every day it would only be a matter of time when he would think and ponder on the subject with a change of perspective. Soon his indifference of thought would change into many different possible thoughts—all of them wonderful scenarios of what having a brother would be like. But with those thoughts the cruel reality of not having a brother would be present. No matter whether Theo was Dante or not, Felix was dead.
Theo continued to talk. “I’m sorry to hear that. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find this information?”
“Early this morning I went to Old Willow’s Orphanage, that one popular orphanage run by Catholic nuns in town. I had set a meeting with the Mother Superior and she only accepted my request to speak on the matter of my sons when I threatened her with a very interesting fact: she has been receiving money from Constance and Julian all these years. In return she was covering for them. They all shared a secret until today when I found out what the Mother Superior was keeping away in her closet of skeletons,” she shook her head and clenched her handkerchief in an angry fist, “Felix was taken to the orphanage by the cops on the night they arrested me. Two weeks later Felix turned up dead in his cradle. Knowing Constance and Julian, they definitely murdered my baby in cold blood and the Mother Superior kept this dreadful crime from the eyes of the law for many years. She has been protecting the very sin she was supposed to fight in order to protect all the innocents of this world.”
“Those two have no bounds, Cristina. You and I know that. The whole world knows that. Hell, they even killed their mother—that should speak for itself. Plus, we have all seen the effects of greed in a person. It warps and turns them into hideously immoral creatures and a nun is no excuse,” replied Theo, shaking his head in incredulity and hatred for those responsible of the crime Cristina spoke of.
“But even if I find Dante, you make me feel somewhat better in spite of this tragedy. Even though I lost a son, I also gained one with you.” She put her handkerchief away before she smiled at Theo with hopeful eyes.
Theo nodded and accepted her apology before he left Cristina and Helen together to go on stage. The scene he was to perform involved an elaborate set with a heightened portion of the stage. There he was to act the scene of his character in the story, whose life would be in peril from a great fall. The audience would feel what the story had intended for them to feel when his character would take the plunge downward, but Theo knew that on the way down there awaited a cushion for him to safely land on.
He got into costume before stepping out onto the stage. The lights that illuminated went dark for a quick second before they turned on one by one. Their moment of flicker was in synch with each step Theo made up the artificial hill with a prop of a knife stuck to the center of his chest. The operatic tenors and sopranos and the rest of the cast danced as sorrowfully as they sang around the fateful hill. Theo finally made it up to the shining hill and once doing so all the lights focused on him as the music hit the final note. The lights flashed briefly and when they struck the hill once again Theo no longer stood atop, for his character had died but the actor was alive and well on a safety cushion below.
“Perfect! Perfect!” the director exclaimed blissfully. From afar, Helen and Cristina noticed that all was not joy and bliss on stage. Cast members and some of the staff swarmed out from behind the curtain with an air of despondency and petrification. The director then exclaimed in a tone of utter disbelief and slight anger at the turn of events.
Everyone was worried except for Theo. After all he was the only one missing in the crowd. Helen and Cristina were struck by Theo’s absence. The two women took leave and followed the mass of people that crowded the backstage with their phones in hand as they dialed loved ones and the ambulance; what they were witnessing was a tragedy. Helen quickly broke through the crowd and saw what everyone saw.
The cushion that was supposed to catch Theo was flat on the ground as if it was never working that day. Helen threw herself onto the ground, landing with a cry over Theo’s dead body.
Cristina put two fingers over the pulse of his neck and nodded. “Yes, he has a pulse still but it doesn’t feel too good! I beg of you to hurry!” she was speaking to an emergency operator on her phone. When she hung up, she kneeled down next to Theo’s unconscious body. “Everything is going to be fine.” She grasped Helen’s hand and held it tightly and assuredly. Not even she was too certain of Theo’s current condition, but she had hope. Cristina had lost a son and she only prayed that she wouldn’t lose another. Even though Theo wasn’t her son, he felt like a son to her, nonetheless.