A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Three: 95 Providence Rd.

The train ride to the suburbs was a quiet one. Hunter sat in his seat with his luggage, which consisted of a bunch of ratty clothes and a book or two. Since he was too poor to afford a suitcase, he had to provide himself with a squared cardboard box with rope tied into a knot on top like a present. He had left Ms. Rita’s home at around six in the morning. He left Patsy with the kids in the tenement and hoped that she would be in good hands with them. He felt relieved the further away he got from Old Willow and the closer he got to the suburbs. It was as if Ms. Rita’s negativity had been crushing him all these years and he just realized how wonderful it felt without her around him. He was free from her influence. Things were surely going to start looking up from now on. Hunter leaned back on the brown leather cushions of his train seat and smiled peacefully as the sun rose from behind the hills and bathed everything in golden clarity.

Hunter was jerked forward when the train suddenly came to a halt. There was a whistle outside followed by a woman on a public speaker. “All passengers from train number four please exit your train cart when the doors open. Thank you and have a great day.” After her greeting, the doors slid open and everyone rushed out of the train carts. Hunter followed suit with his box in hand. He stepped out into the station and found himself dazed by everything that was going on. People called out for taxis left and right. There were shouts coming from every direction while people walked to and fro. It was all a dizzying situation for Hunter who quickly became suffocated by the commotion.

The same robotic voice from the public speaker ebbed from so many other speakers. I have to make way for the exit before I go crazy in this station, he said within his mind. Hunter strode through the station and found the exit, but the craze of the station still stuck to him. He found himself in the same situation as everyone else: raising his arm and moving his hand, trying to call out for a taxi. Ten cabs later and finally a cab, piloted by a kind man, stopped in front of the curb. Hunter immediately opened the door and got in.

“Where to?” asked the driver.

Hunter grabbed a piece of note paper from his pocket. He read to the man, “95 Providence Road.”

The cab sped away from the station, driving on an endless road with endless fields of dark green grass on both sides of the road. In the distance behind him Hunter saw the city of Old Willow. He always thought Old Willow was a big city but from the distance he now saw that the city was much bigger than what he had imagined: it was truly the perfect megalopolis in every sense of the word. The uniform white buildings with their Tuscan tiled roofs glowed like a distant beacon with a backdrop of tall shining skyscrapers further out. From his vantage point, Hunter didn’t see the slums and that too was a relief for him.

With that glorious image embedded in his mind, Hunter began to feel home sick due to all the memories that the faraway image had brought him. Having no clue what the future would bring in a different world such as the one he was headed to would make just about anyone wish for simpler times. He was so used to the city that being in the suburbs felt like he was in an alien world.

The suburbs were just as magnificent in its own right with its infinite green plains dotted with estates and gated communities. The sky in this altitude in the hills allowed for one to see the blue sky clearer. Even the clouds looked whiter than usual without all the smog from the city, which tainted those clouds with a hazy dark hue.

After a thirty-minute drive, the cab finally stopped in front of an estate with a shining diamond crest at the top of the front door. “We’re here,” the cab driver said as he parked in front of the estate.

Hunter had forgotten one little detail in the midst of all the commotion in the station: he had no money. How am I going to pay this guy? Hunter exited the cab, hoping that the man’s deed of stopping for him at the station was in fact a true moment of voluntary kindness instead of a desire to make a profit out of one’s desperation.

Hunter hastily made his way towards the front door and rang on the doorbell of the estate only once. The door opened and a tall man with a French moustache and a faux French accent appeared. “You must be Hunter; am I correct?”

“Yes, nice to meet you,” Hunter readied his hand for a handshake from the apparent butler who eventually left Hunter standing at the entrance.

The butler walked past him and spoke to the cab driver. Hunter shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged, hiding his embarrassment from anyone who could have been watching. The butler appeared again in front of Hunter after a brief moment. Behind him, Hunter heard the cab drive off—leaving the front of the estate in tranquil silence with the chirping of birds heard in the distance and the rush of a fountain nearby.

“Hopefully you didn’t pay that man because that’s our job to pay for your transportation the first time you arrive here.” The butler gave Hunter a look of disgust when he saw that he wasn’t carrying a proper suitcase. “You’ve arrived an hour early but that’s fine. It gives you time to know your fellow co-workers and getting around to knowing the house before these people start asking for breakfast. Oh, and for your information my name is Orlando. I would give you a handshake, but I’d rather not get my hand dirty.” He waited for Hunter to enter the mansion before closing the dark blue door behind the young man.

Hunter was instantly hit by an aroma which was so familiar to him. The smell of roses and other flowers struck him so hard that he stumbled backward. It wasn’t that the aroma was abundant; he only stumbled backward because the smell was hauntingly the same as the one in his dreams. What did it mean? It must be a coincidence, Hunter concluded.

The foyer of the mansion was a broad and long rectangular room with two doors at both sides near the entrance and two other doors at the far end side. In between these sets of doors were two entry ways with double white French doors that faced each other across the foyer. Two light chocolate Casa Florentina Arezzo consoles were set by each mid-entry way, facing one another as did their corresponding entry ways; on top of these twin luxurious consoles was set a silver vase filled with blooming red and white roses; next to these vases were set framed pictures of the family of the house. The console on the right side was accompanied by a glass cabinet filled with mementos of all kinds.

Near the entrance at one’s right was set a small black table with two legs with a crystal mirror hanging over it; on one’s left side was a coat hanger made of shining ebony wood and a tall Abbeville basket to set one’s parasol in. Paintings of the fields and forests that surrounded the suburbs hung on the white walls, framed elaborately by silver wooden picture frames. The Macassar ebony wood flooring shined brilliantly as if it was polished earlier that same morning. Two broad staircases made from the same wood as the foyer flooring led upstairs with polished cherry wood banisters that lined both staircases and the top floor. Hunter also noticed with curiosity that in between the staircases was an elevator door.

Instead of going upstairs or further down the foyer, Orlando led Hunter into the kitchen. The kitchen had a single rectangular countertop in the middle where the cook had set vegetables and other ingredients on top such as bacon, sausage, pancake mix, and slices of various fruits. The other countertops that made up the kitchen were made of marble like the primary one in the middle. The white wooden cabinets with their crystal handles were stuffed with provisions and foods while the stainless-steel fridge hummed silently amidst the noisy chaos that was the morning kitchen. In the corner was a small rustic round table with four seats that overlooked the green land outside. A young man and woman that sat at the corner table didn’t even notice the butler walk in with Hunter at his side.

Orlando cleared his throat, getting everyone’s attention. “I would like for you all to meet the new help around here. His name is Hunter.”

A woman with a hairnet and white and blue uniform turned around to see the new employee. She gave him a look of indifference and went back to cooking the omelet she was preparing. Evidently, she was the cook.

Hunter could have cared less what she was and what her name was because all the food that surrounded him made his mouth water and his eyes wander, distracting him from everything else. He hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday and was without a doubt starving.

“Her name is Berth and the two fellows at that table are Benjamin and Amy. Amy is the cook’s granddaughter while Benjamin is the grandson of a dearly departed that worked here,” Orlando explained with the utmost fake elegance in his voice. The tone of his voice sounded facetious since it was so forced and pretentious—It was beyond ridiculous in the most peevish manner.

Benjamin finally noticed the butler with Hunter and got up from his seat to greet them. Unlike Amy, who looked like the manifestation of negativity, Benjamin was the embodiment of positivity. Amy was pale with dark circles under her wide eyes. Her beaked nose was unflattering as well and ultimately made her look like a menacing vulture. After all, she was gazing at Hunter like one. Benjamin got in between her glare and Hunter. He took Hunter’s hand with a striking smile and shook it firmly but merrily.

Benjamin’s smile was so perfect it made Hunter feel almost self-conscious especially since Benjamin had a charming dimple on each cheek when he smiled. His blond hair was combed back to the side but was already in disarray possibly due to a task he might had done earlier. His fitted white shirt and light blue denim jeans were stained with grass marks. Benjamin’s seamless physique made Hunter feel bad for not working out. Unlike Amy, Benjamin gazed at Hunter with the most welcoming of looks.

Amy had appeared behind Benjamin only to pull him away from Hunter. However, Hunter wasn’t fazed by her attitude towards him. The reception at the kitchen wasn’t as bad as Hunter thought it would have been since he had been into much worse in the past. All his life he had dealt with scorn and this situation was no different.

“Ok, people. They’re going to come down in less than ten minutes. Amy go set the table up,” commanded Orlando after he glanced at his watch. “Benjamin, can you lead Hunter to a room so he can change into the house uniform before he does anything out there?”

Benjamin smiled pleasantly with pursed lips before hurrying off with Hunter after him. “Your first day might be all over the place but you’ll get used to it after a while,” he said placidly.

Hunter scratched the back of his head. He wondered where all this kindness was coming from. “Uh thanks. What’s up with the cook and her granddaughter? They don’t seem to like me very well.”

Benjamin stopped in front of a storage room and opened it. “They’re like that in the mornings. No big deal. By the way there are uniforms of all sizes in there,” he looked at Hunter from head to toe, “You look like you’d be a medium.”

Hunter smiled back at the courteous young man. “Thanks.” He stepped into the storage room, closing the door behind him. Finally, he had a moment to take a quick breath alone as he set down his luggage. He grabbed a medium sized uniform that was folded in a plastic bag and began to change into it. Hunter examined himself in the mirror and nodded in approval at how good the blue and white uniform looked on him. The uniform consisted of dark blue trousers with black shoes and a white long sleeve button up with a blue ribbon around the collar. He threw the clothes he was wearing in the trash where they belonged. Hunter thought they were atrocious, and the trash was where they fitted most pleasantly.

When Hunter walked out of the storage room, he was surprised to see Benjamin waiting for him with his arms folded across his chest and leaning against a wall. He hadn’t moved a spot while Hunter changed.

Benjamin approved of Hunter’s new look with the same striking smirk as before. “Not bad.”

Hunter furrowed his brow. “Thanks.” Everyone so far had treated Hunter with a form of disdain, save for Benjamin; it was a fact that made Hunter wary. There was a quick moment of awkward silence between the two boys as they walked together. Hunter swiftly walked away from the friendly boy as he found the dining room.

The dining room was just as grand as everything else in the estate. The table where Hunter had to set plates, cups, utensils, and napkins was made out of mahogany wood. A chandelier hung above the table, glistening in crystalline perfection as the rays of light shined through them, casting rainbows on the walls. Behind the dining table and on either side of the elegantly sculpted chimney were two floor-to-ceiling windows that had their thick scarlet drapes drawn aside, letting the morning light in.

After Hunter had set the last napkin on the last spot on the table, he had to go back to the kitchen to grab a container of pepper and salt to set. When he arrived at the kitchen he caught Amy malevolently switching the containers he was supposed to take. There was supposed to be one pepper container and one salt container. She exchanged the salt container in one pair for another pepper one. Hunter saw her in the act of what seemed to be sabotage. He narrowed his eyes and walked towards the trays of containers.

“Amy, I think your grandma is calling out for you from the pantry in the hallway,” Hunter said nonchalantly as if what he had just said was completely true. It was a lie to get her out of the kitchen so he could proceed with his retaliation.

Amy jumped at the sound of his voice. She knew what she was doing, and she feared that she was caught. She turned to face Hunter. “I didn’t hear her,” she said brusquely.

“Obviously, you can’t because of the loud sizzling from the omelets. Just let me handle this and go help your grandma,” Hunter retorted harshly. It was a slip of the tongue because he really didn’t mean to sound too terse. He was supposed to keep his cool.

Amy rolled her eyes before she went to go help her grandma. She muttered a few words that Hunter couldn’t hear as she left; Hunter deduced that they were probably insults, which he could care less about. Quickly he grabbed her salt container and opened it over the trash can, dumping the salt. He then grabbed a spare pepper container and emptied the contents in the spare salt container that he had just emptied. Since they weren’t transparent Amy wouldn’t know a damn thing, she wouldn’t know that she would be bringing two containers of pepper instead of one. Hunter replaced his own missing salt container with another one and returned to the dining hall.

The dining room was no longer empty. The Clearwater family were at that their spots at the table. Mr. Clearwater, a tall man with steely eyes and big shoulders, sat at the head of the table. At Mr. Clearwater’s left side sat three people: two adolescents and one man in his early twenties. One adolescent was a gangly teenager that looked bored out of his life and stoned out of his mind. The second was a teenage girl on the eve of turning eighteen in a week. She had a beautiful frame and a pleasant round face, but her eyes had a hint of deviancy to them. Finally, the man in his early twenties was only twenty and was the ultimate personification of what a perfect son should be in high society of the New Gilded Age: he wore a university uniform and his countenance ebbed with pride. He ran a hand through his coif brown hair and exhaled. He was quite handsome, and his chiseled body was outlined on the exterior of his uniform.

At Mr. Clearwater’s right side sat three adults: two of them Hunter had instantly recognized, and the other was an elderly woman. The elderly matriarch was dressed conservatively fashionable and her gray hair was pulled back in a tight bun behind her head. Looking at this woman was like looking at a vicious lioness; Hunter felt overwhelmed just by being around her. The two others Hunter had recognized from the fateful moment that was his first encounter with Ana. The woman that sat at the table was the same woman that had slapped Hunter. She was not a day older and she had the same hairstyle as the elderly woman next to her. She wore a red and black sundress and her lips were glossy scarlet. The man who accompanied her seven years ago also looked as if he hadn’t aged not one bit despite his brown hair and beard beginning to show signs of age. He only wore a black shirt and fitted jeans. Constance and Julian, I believe? If only Hunter could say that to them, but he didn’t want to cause trouble by making it known that he had already met his bosses in an unfavorable situation.

Amy came back to the dining table with her grandma at her side. Berth brought in a rolling cart with several trays covered by domed lids and jugs of orange juice, milk, and water. From what Hunter saw, Amy was still oblivious to his act of retaliation.

The Clearwater family sat silent and still as statues as Hunter and Amy served them their omelets and poured whatever drink they desired in their cups. Hunter kept glancing at Amy to see any sign of her knowing what he had done. He was relieved to see that she was still not aware. I’m starting to kind of feel bad, Hunter thought sarcastically. She was about to screw me over and I wasn’t going to let myself look bad on the first day of my job.

As Amy was about to walk away from the matriarch, the woman called out after her with a slightly raised hand. “Amy, some salt please.” Amy hurried towards the woman’s side of the table and sprinkled pepper on the omelet. “Salt please!” said the matriarch a bit louder when she saw in disgust at the pepper that fell on her omelet from what should have been a container full of salt. Amy grabbed her second container which she was sure contained the salt and sprinkled the contents of the container onto the omelet. The matriarch widened her eyes in horror as she saw pepper coming out of the container instead of salt. “Just forget it! Have your grandma make me a bowl of fruit salad since you obviously ruined my breakfast.”

Hunter walked to the matriarch and with a smile of victory replaced the ruined omelet with another. He sprinkled the salt over the new omelet, eliciting praise from her.

“You must be the new boy,” said Constance as she grasped onto Hunter’s arm when he passed by her. She looked up at him with a straight face but bore him no look of recognition. “Your name is Hunter, am I right?”

Hunter nodded. “Yes I am.”

Julian interjected, giving his sister a knowing glance before gazing at the new help. “Good-morning and welcome to the Clearwater family.”

Hunter clenched his jaw but managed to put up a smile for his bosses. “Thank you.”

Amy was no longer in the dining room, so Hunter was the only one watching over the family as they ate, providing them with whatever they needed. The dining room was abandoned thirty minutes later. They had all eaten their breakfast, leaving nothing but empty and dirty dishes behind. Hunter grabbed a cleaning tray and began to stack all the plates on top. After clearing the dining table, he left for the kitchen so Berth could take care of putting the dishes in the dish-washer.

“They hate me and they’re going to kick me out! I’d rather die than go live with my parents in the slums,” cried Amy as she sat at the kitchen table. Her face was buried in her hands. Berth sat across from her as she looked at the distressed girl understandingly.

“Aw, cheer up. You know they’re not kicking you out.” Benjamin had one hand on Amy’s shoulder. He tried to relax her, but she shook it off.

Hunter was starting to feel bad over what he had done to her as he took this scene in. What I did is justifiable, Hunter quickly reassured himself. Orlando tapped Hunter’s shoulder and handed him a dust sweeper before ordering him to go clean the grand piano in the music room.

Hunter found the music room without any difficulty since it was the room right across the foyer from where the dining room was at. Next to the foyer was a living room that was closed off by two French doors with blinds that connected the living room with the music room. The music room was extremely bright due to all the light that poured in from the single large round window that overlooked a green lawn with a pool outside. The room was painted soft yellow and had white elaborate borders. Settees and single chairs were situated in the room and a tall bookshelf was at the corner closest to the French doors. The bookshelf contained books filled with music sheets and journals.

The grand piano that was the sole purpose of the room truly lived up to its name. Hunter began to sweep the dust that had collected on the piano when he heard a conversation between two people in the living room next door.

“Booker your fiancée is coming in less than an hour for tea and you don’t look the least bit excited. The wedding announcement is just around the corner in December during our Christmas party and you don’t even act committed to her!” yelled Constance in frustration. She was apparently talking to her eldest son, the twenty-year-old.

“It’s arranged! Plus, I don’t love her anyways,” Booker responded with a cynical laugh.

“You know that her family has been going through an economic crisis since her father’s death and it has only worsened during the past few years. When she was born, it was arranged that she would be your bride. Plus, they need our help just as I needed their help many years ago,” explained Constance with a tired sigh as if she had been through this exact conversation countless of times before.

Booker scoffed. “It’s always about you, isn’t it?” He stormed out of the room through the other door.

“Constance, why are you even stressing over this? You know that Booker will never disobey us. He’s going to marry her whether he likes it or not just like everyone else would do in his situation,” Julian said soothingly. With a quick change of tone, he changed the topic, “So,” he began deviously, “You recognized Hunter, didn’t you?”

Constance let herself fall on the couch where Julian sat. “Yes, yes I recognized that marginalized bastard. I would have slapped him again if it wasn’t for everybody watching.”

“You’ve always known who he really is, haven’t you?” he inquired even though he already knew the answer.

“That is why I hate him. I knew that sooner or later the reminder of what we did many years ago would come and it came in the form of that plebeian. He came out under that bridge like a troll,” she spoke scornfully.

“Ah, sister you amuse me. We can always take him out of the equation now that he’s under our roof.” Julian had instigated a plot to possibly murder Hunter.

Hunter shuddered as he heard Julian speak. Despite the atrociousness of the conversation that Hunter was eavesdropping on, he became more curious. Julian and Constance are connected to him somehow. It all adds up with his amnesia. But there’s more, Hunter concluded because his observation was only one piece of the life-long puzzles that were his date of birth and who his biological parents are.

“I have other plans for the rascal.” Constance replied before yelling out Orlando’s name. Someone was ringing the doorbell and it was Orlando’s job to see who it was. Orlando came into the living room, inviting the guests behind him to feel right at home. “Make the new boy bring us the tea,” commanded Constance.

Hunter sped out of the music room and when Orlando found him he was already halfway across the foyer, heading back to the kitchen. “Hunter, bring the tea to the living room,” Orlando ordered as he walked past Hunter and up the stairs to notify Booker that his fiancée had come to visit. When Hunter arrived in the kitchen, he only found Berth over a steaming cooking pot while Amy was nowhere in sight. From the window in the kitchen Hunter saw Benjamin, shirtless and glistening with sweat, directing the gardeners outside in their task of trimming the rosebushes.

He prepared a silver tray with tea cups, a small pitcher that had the tea inside, and a plate of sandwiches. With that out of the way he walked to the living room only to be surprised. The surprise was unintentional of course—It was one of life’s many ways of reminding people that the world was truly a small place after all.

Julian and Constance sat on one couch while the couch that was set opposite of them on the other side of the glass coffee table was occupied by the two guests. Booker sat in the single chair at the head of these two couches. Hunter walked in and immediately his eyes were magnetized towards Booker’s fiancée. He knew this girl very well.

Hunter almost lost his grip on the tray. The girl’s mother irritably noticed Theo’s slight mishap. “Watch where you spill that!” she exclaimed. The woman was the same woman that accompanied Julian and Constance seven years ago at the bridge. Her daughter calmed her down, reasoning with her while purposely averting her gaze from Hunter.

Ana. Hunter couldn’t believe it. He was dazed not by the encounter but by the situation he found himself under. Already he had so many questions for Ana, but he couldn’t talk to her now—not in front of everyone especially her fiancé. Fiancé? I can’t believe she’s engaged and she didn’t tell me before we had sex!

Ana blushed as she sipped her tea, “It’s a bit hot in here,” she fanned herself with a nearby magazine.

Julian smiled coquettishly at Ana. “I agree as well. Perhaps Orlando should turn the air conditioning up a notch.” He got up to leave the room to go search for Orlando.

Constance and Lisa Mondragon conversed about the upcoming engagement party they had planned for their children’s marriage. Meanwhile, Booker was on his phone as was Ana herself. When the temperature dropped in the room, Ana was no longer complaining about the heat, but she was still acting up. Her hand which she held her teacup shook, and she tapped her flats on the wooden floor; she was nervous.

“How’s your first day so far?” asked Lisa while Hunter poured her more tea.

“It’s been good,” Hunter replied in a slightly shaken tone. The current condition with Ana made him extremely uneasy. If only he had the opportunity to talk to her…

“You’ve been handling yourself very well,” Constance smiled, “It’s as if you were born to become the help around here.”

Hunter blinked once and bit his lip in annoyance. He said nothing in reply to Constance’s comment that reeked of ill intent. What she had said was a clear insult! Hunter knew that he wasn’t born to serve these people. He was born to do other greater things like becoming a philanthropist.

Constance invited Lisa to see the progress in the garden. The two women left, and Booker excused himself from the living room. The only ones that remained were Hunter and Ana.

Hunter grabbed the empty cups, setting them on the tray.

Ana put the magazine down and leaned forward. “I didn’t know you were going to work here.”

Hunter stood over the tray. His expression was clouded by a dark cloud of regret. “I didn’t know that you were engaged until now. How about that for being equally astonished?”

“I don’t love him,” she whispered.

“You can cut the crap, Ana. You may not love him but you’re never going to love someone like me so let’s be real here,” Hunter shot back viciously. This was the first time that Ana had ever seen Hunter so vexed. She would never love him because the only girl who could truly love him was gone. “We fucked and you made me your lover for that hour while being engaged.”

Ana’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Why are you saying these things to me?”

“Because it’s true and I don’t want to talk to you. What I did with you I could have done with someone else that isn’t an outright liar.”

Ana curtly rose from the couch and raised her hand at Hunter, ready to strike his cheek. Hunter caught her hand and gazed at her indifferently.

“You’re just a petty slum boy that’s good for one time anyways. They always say to have sex with one slum boy every now and then because they ride like savages and that’s the case with you. But you’re not just a simple animal; you’re a filthy and rancorous animal. You’re an animal in every sense of the word, mostly negative though. So, like the animal you are I command that you let me go.”

Hunter released her and walked out of the living room. He was utterly infuriated. He gripped onto the tray with such strength that he could break it but since the tray wasn’t his and irreplaceable, Hunter controlled himself. After that moment, the day continued on as any other day. Hunter cleaned various rooms upstairs and had to wash one of the cars as well. He did all his duties with the sour image of Ana in his mind. After their confrontation, a lobotomy was something that Hunter desired just so he can forget about Ana and the fact that he was made a fool; because of his actions he had lost someone dear to him.

Night came and after the Clearwater family ate dinner Hunter was too tired to even feed himself. He went to his room that was assigned to him in the basement of the mansion, which was a dimly lit hall under the foyer that held the rooms where the help sleeps. The walls were chipped, and carpet flooring encompassed this hall instead of wood. The room that Hunter was given was identical to the others: small and squared with a single bathroom, a small bed fitted for one person only who couldn’t be taller than six feet without their feet sticking out, a small closet that was the contrary to the walk-in closets that the family of the house were granted, and a thin rectangular window.

Hunter opened his luggage box and dumped his clothes and the books he brought on the bed. He grabbed his clothes and tossed them behind him. He didn’t need those shabby clothes since he was going to be in a uniform all the time. Hunter’s stomach began to growl, suddenly feeling so hungry that his hunger replaced his drowsiness. There was a knock at his door just as he sat himself on the uncomfortable bed.

“Come in,” Hunter invited. He hoped it wasn’t Amy or Berth or Orlando or anyone for that matter. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone.

“I brought you this,” Benjamin walked in with a plate stacked with food. There was bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and a cinnamon pastry on top. Under his arm was a bottle of chocolate milk.

Hunter’s nose was overwhelmed by the warm smell of the breakfast foods. He smiled at Benjamin. “Why are you so nice to me?”

Benjamin set the plate in front of Hunter, handing him the bottle of milk and a fork and spoon. “I’m a nice guy and plus you look really…” he was trying to rake his brain for a proper word, “You give out good vibes and I like that in a person.”

Hunter noticed that Benjamin spoke in such a way that it was obvious that he wasn’t entirely speaking the truth. What was he hiding? “Breakfast for dinner, huh,” Hunter noticed with delight.

Benjamin tilted his head to one side as he sat on Hunter’s small bed. “It’s the only thing I can make without having Berth supervising me. She’s so overprotective over a kitchen that isn’t hers and she thinks I’m going to light it on fire. I’m a good and careful cook, I promise!”

“I can assent to the part that you’re a good cook,” said Hunter as he bit into the bacon. If Benjamin wasn’t in the room Hunter would have wolfed down the food. He didn’t want to act vulgar in front of someone who was as perfect as a fine diamond.

“Did anything exciting happen on your first day here?” Benjamin asked playfully.

Yes of course! I ended up working for the same people that treated me like some pest seven years ago. Julian wants to kill me, but Constance has something else planned for me. Oh! Oh! And apparently Julian and Constance know more about me than I do. Finally, the girl I had sex with and abandoned my best-friend for turned out to be engaged to Constance’s son. Hunter picked at the cinnamon pastry, shaking his head as all those thoughts came rushing in. “If you call cleaning out ten bongs in one of the rooms upstairs exciting then yes.”

Benjamin held Hunter’s gaze for a while. “Cleaning out a bong isn’t as bad as cleaning horse shit at the stables,” he laughed lightly, “If you need anything, I’m one door down the hall.” Benjamin got up from the bed to leave the room.

Hunter slept profoundly until someone began to violently shake him in his sleep until he woke up. He was startled when he saw that it was Constance who stood over his bed and had her hands on his shoulders.

“What’s wrong Mrs. Clearwater?” asked Hunter. He quickly got out of bed and put his uniform back on.

“What’s wrong is that someone forgot to clean a spillage of coffee in the foyer by the glass cabinet.” Constance was attired in a fine silk robe while her burgundy hair fell over her back. She grabbed Hunter’s arm and pulled him with her to the lighted foyer. She threw him in front of where the spillage was at and pointed at the brown spots on the floor. “There! Clean it!”

A rag and a bucket of water were already set for him. He remembered very well that the foyer was spotless before he even thought about resting for the day. He scrubbed the floor hard many times, but the spots would not come off. Finally, after the fiftieth scrub, the coffee came off. What was strange was that the rag in which he cleaned the spillage didn’t smell like coffee but a combination of coffee, syrup, and some pasty material. There was a loud crash behind Hunter as he rose from his crouched position.

“Hunter!” bellowed the woman. There was a unison opening of doors that came from upstairs followed by footsteps down the twin staircases.

The elevator in the middle of the two staircases opened and the elderly matriarch sped to where the crash was with her wheelchair.

“You broke all the Flora Danica and Buccillates! Do you know how much that’s going to cost you?” Constance continued to yell.

The entire Clearwater family surrounded the accident. Hunter looked behind him and almost fainted by the stress of it all. The glass cabinet, which held expensive collection silverware and delicate memorabilia, was shattered on the ground alongside its contents. He looked pleadingly at everyone: Julian, Mr. Clearwater, Booker, the elderly matriarch, the two youngest kids, and finally Constance. He wanted to implore to them that the cabinet falling was not his fault! He remained silent because his plead would only fall on deaf ears.

Constance had her arms folded across her chest as she shook her head in disapproval at Hunter’s job performance. “You’ll have to suffer the penalties it seems.” Julian, who stood behind the family, looked at the scene with a spiteful grin. He never imagined that Constance would get so bold as to break thousands of dollars’ worth of silverware and mementos just to make Hunter’s life miserable. He wondered where Constance’s game of torture would lead to next since this was only the beginning.

The matriarch wheeled forward in her wheelchair. “The case and everything in it were mine.” She made a gesture with her hands at Constance, signaling her to step away. “I’ll see what punishment awaits you, young man. What’s your name again?”

Hunter’s whole body felt like it was shaking from the humiliation when in reality he tensely stood still. “My name is Hunter.”

“Alright then Hunter, I want you to go get some rest and I’ll see you in my room in the morning after breakfast to carry out your punishment,” said the matriarch.

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