A Cradle of Wolves

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XXII

Chapter Twenty-Two: The Price of Perfection.

Constance sat behind the desk in the study, going over spreadsheets and papers—all of which she thought were utterly confusing. She loved the millions that came with the Clearwater empire but she didn’t love the work that came attached. She closed the spreadsheet program on the computer, shut the books, and pushed the documents aside.

“Having trouble doing some actual work for once?” chuckled Julian, who was sitting on one of the couches in the study. He sat with his legs crossed as he drank from a bottle of the best wine that he found in the pantry.

“Unlike you I’m actually doing something productive,” retorted Constance. She got up and dizzily walked away from the desk to the small table by the wall where a bottle of cognac, some cups, and ice were set. There she served herself a cup and jugged it immediately. She was in the process of serving herself another cup when the door swung open. Booker stepped in, fuming. “What’s gotten into you now?” Constance asked with a tone filled with annoyance.

Booker pulled out a small pill bottle from his pocket, thrusting it in front of him. “Medication for Psychotic Depression. No one ever bothered to tell me that the wife I was forced to marry has a mental health issue? We’re talking about Psychotic Depression! Don’t you think I should have known about this!” he put a lot of emphasis on the word ‘psychotic’. It was of the utmost urgency that he received some sort of plausible answer as to why no one told him that the girl he was sharing his bed with was gravely and most dangerously ill.

Julian snatched the bottle of medication from Booker’s hand once he rose from the couch. “She never mentioned this…” he murmured to himself.

Booker shook his head. He was incredulous at how he never noticed anything wrong with Ana before. “Recently she’s been a bit off, but I’ve never imagined that it would come to this. You must have known about this, I’m sure.” he spoke to Constance.

Constance was just as confused as he was. “Lisa never mentioned this to me and by the looks of it they’ve had it under control with the medication.”

Julian shook the bottle before giving it to Constance. “Until now. Ana hasn’t taken her medication obviously since the bottle is full.” He turned to Booker with narrow eyes full of abhorrence. “How did you come across this?”

“I was getting ready in the restroom. When I opened the cupboard to get my toothbrush this bottle fell from the top. She’s had it hidden pretty good all this time.”

“You can go now,” Constance told Booker after she shoved the small bottle of pills in her dress’s pocket. She spoke with vehemence when she saw that Booker hadn’t moved an inch. “Oh, please quit acting like you actually care for her. Get out of my sight while I think of what I should do about this!”

Booker shot his mother a scornful glance before leaving. Yes, she was right. He didn’t care about what mental illness Ana had. He felt sorry for her, but things happened for a reason, he thought. With this he can get a divorce or even better, he can annul his marriage.

“You never knew about this?” she asked Julian with a skeptic gaze once Booker was gone and the two of them were alone.

“No, I didn’t.”

Constance jutted her lower lip and furrowed her brow. She was surprised at this turn of events to be quite frank. “Hmm, I thought since you knew her more than anyone here…”

“Don’t you dare come with me with that bullshit. We have known Ana since the day she was born. Lisa and her daughter have been close to us, so this revelation is just as surprising to me as it is to you!” he shook a finger at her. He almost tipped over, immensely drunk, so he sat back down with his bottle of wine.

“Lisa Mondragon better have a good explanation for this.” Constance grabbed her coat from the stand near the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Julian. He was more than half way down the bottle and planned on getting another in a bit.

“I’m going to go get some answers for this,” she put on her coat and fixed her hair. “I’ve grown tired of Lisa. This situation is the perfect excuse to finally cut her off.” She departed the estate to begin her mile trek towards the Mondragon estate.

Above the flat plain of green fields and spread out estates was a clear, blue sky with billowy white clouds dotted in the distance. Everything was so radiant on that fine Sunday day, but all that radiance was blown away by the cold shadow that was the Mondragon estate if anyone approached it. The three-story mansion was under the most deplorable state. The paint outside was beginning to chip and wither while the lawn that surrounded the estate had grown wildly. Crows flew above the estate while some were perched on the trees that lined the stone path to the front door.

Constance rang the doorbell but found that was out of order, so she resorted to knocking. After the third knock the front door opened to Lisa Mondragon inviting Constance inside with a hopeful glint in her eyes, wondering if her that her visitor had come to accept her back.

The interior of the estate was just as dreadful as the exterior. Most of the furniture that had belonged in the foyer were no longer there. The lavish Persian rugs were replaced with scattered leaves and dust from outside while the chandelier above had cobwebs wrapped all around it. The walls were plain—all the mirrors and paintings had been sold in a desperate bid. Not even a single piece of furniture graced the deplorable estate. Lisa coughed into a dirty handkerchief and sighed before she managed to smile kindly at her guest. She smiled despite the abysmal condition she was in along with her home.

“Ana didn’t tell me about this,” Constance spoke as she looked around her with wide eyes and an agape mouth.

“Because I didn’t want anyone to know. It’s only gotten worse in the past month.” Lisa coughed violently into her handkerchief. She wiped her lips with the same handkerchief after her coughing fit.

Constance discerned a few stains of blood on the handkerchief that Lisa held. “Are you talking about your health or your economic situation?”

“Unfortunately, both.” Lisa weakly sat down at the foot of the single staircase, lowering her head shamefully. “What brings you here?”

Constance scowled at the ill woman as she threw the bottle of medication on the floor in front of her.

Lisa saw what it was that was thrown in front of her. Instantly her head shot up to gaze at Constance with a guilt-ridden expression. She rose from where she sat while anxiously fidgeting with the rosary that hung around her neck. “I was going to tell you soon…”

“You had a lot of time to tell me and you didn’t take advantage of that time. We were best friends, Lisa! I agreed to marry my son with your daughter to help you financially and this is how you repay me!” bellowed Constance. The veins in her throat protruded as she exclaimed with a vicious force. She was extremely close in striking Lisa but ultimately, she didn’t deliver her strike.

“Ha! Help me financially? It’s been how many months since Ana married Booker and I have yet to receive a single penny! You have been using me all along Constance and I’m glad Cristina and Theo have destroyed your reputation! It’s a shame that they didn’t manage to take back that fortune you’ve stolen!” Lisa broke into another fit of coughing after she exerted her strength from her exclamation.

“Don’t you dare! In matter of fact since we’re talking about truths here, I’m glad you’ve ended up like this.” Constance let out a treacherous scoff when she turned her back on Lisa. “You always strived to be the perfect wife, but you couldn’t. It wasn’t in you. Instead, you had to go open your legs for my brother and give birth to his child. Oh, did I mention that while Mr. Clearwater and your husband were on a very important business trip in Japan, you gave Julian’s daughter to Ms. Rita.” She paused and spun quickly to face Lisa with a slightly devilish smile. “I’ve forgotten whose daughter it was you gave up actually now that I think about it. That’s how much of a whore you are. Forget being the perfect wife, you’re the perfect whore! Oh, wait I remember now whose child it was that you gave up…”

Lisa shook with fury, but she didn’t have the courage to stand up against Constance. She couldn’t. In some sick twisted way Constance was her master.

“You gave up the child you had with your husband. What was the reason again? You didn’t want to take care of a child with a disability but first and foremost you didn’t want to have people pity you for carrying that child around. She was born with a genetic disorder that would later cause her spine to become brittle, correct? So, you gave her away to Ms. Rita and you kept the child you had with Julian because not only was she more beautiful, but she didn’t have a disorder that you had to give extra attention to. Not only did you fail in being the perfect wife, but you also failed in being the perfect mother either way. You know why? Because your daughter turned out to be the perfect whore just like her mother!” Constance erupted in laughter as she clasped her hands under the red evening light that streamed through the sky-light above. “It turns out that not even Ana was spared from having a disability. Luckily it was something that was easily hidden since it wasn’t physical but either way you’ve strived for perfection in every way and each time you have failed!”

Lisa had fallen to the ground on her knees as she wept and coughed violently at the same time while Constance berated her.

Constance took pleasure in seeing Lisa on the ground, utterly destroyed. “You’ve got nothing to say because what I say is the truth. It seems you’ve paid a hefty price for perfection after all. All you’ve ever cared about was your reputation and look at you now—you’re one step away from sleeping in the streets.”

“Where’s Ana? Is she with Booker at your estate?” asked Lisa between sobs.

“No. She left early this morning to god knows where. She definitely didn’t go to morning mass that’s for sure.” Constance answered her phone which had begun to ring in her pocket. “Yes, Orlando? Wait, what do you mean the gun is gone? I’ll be there right now. I’m sure someone misplaced it.” She hung up and looked at Lisa with a bemused glance. “I’ll send Julian to come check on you in a bit. I hope you get yourself fixed just in case you want to gain his mercy through seduction, which I doubt will work.” Constance walked towards the door and before stepping out she turned to look at Lisa once more. “You’re walking on thin ice and god forbid if your daughter pulls off some crazy stunt because that will be the end of our relationship.” Constance shut the door behind her, leaving Lisa alone in the foyer in her misery. Constance feared that the gun that had gone missing at her estate had fallen into the wrong hands. With a troubled mind she hurriedly made her way back to the estate, hoping that her fear would dissolve by the reappearance of the gun.

Alas, the gun would never be found in the estate because it was indeed in the wrong hands; the gun had fallen into Ana’s hands. She wandered the suburbs all day while no one recognized her as she walked. Her hair was a mess and she wore jeans and an oversized hoodie whose hood she had over her head, concealing her face in shadow from prying eyes. The gun she had taken from the study in the Clearwater estate rested in her hoodie’s pocket. After a morning of walking around, she finally made it to her destination: Theo’s house.

Ana stood outside the gate on the solitary street. She saw Helen sitting on a stone bench through all the foliage behind the gate, reading a book and totally unaware of her surroundings. Ana took her eyes away from the unwary girl, casting an admiring glance at the house atop the hill instead. He must be inside, she thought with a lifeless expression. Her heart didn’t skip a beat when she thought about Theo. She wanted him, yes, but she didn’t love him. She only wanted him just for the sake of having him. But she’s in the way, her cold gaze fell on Helen once more.

Ana reached for the gun in her pocket and held it in front of her, aiming at Helen. Under her cold expression she smiled as her fingers pulled the trigger.

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