A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Four: Sole Inheritor.

Serving breakfast for the Clearwater family the following morning was definitely a grueling task for Hunter. The kids quietly snickered at him, muttering words such as “klutz” and “butter-fingers.” Booker’s lips were pursed shut the entire time; he didn’t say a single word to Hunter, but that didn’t save the subject of the morning conversation from a spiteful look from the privileged university student. Mr. Clearwater glanced forebodingly at Hunter while Constance held her husband’s hand on the table.

Julian broke the awkward silence. “Put some jelly on my toast.” At his command, Hunter instantly made his way towards the malignant man and began to spread the jelly on the toast. “I’d rather you not spill the jelly,” commented the man as he looked at Hunter, hoping to see the distress in the young man’s eyes.

Hunter remained quiet but deep down inside he was fuming. How much more could he take from all of this abuse? He noticed that someone was missing as he stepped away from the table.

“Wonder what grandma is doing cooped up in her room?” asked the teenage girl.

Constance waved the matter away. “Jennifer, you know that your grandma is going through a rough patch right now. With her mind deteriorating and her life coming to a close it’s only natural for her to stay in her room.”

Hunter gulped; he was somewhat taken aback at the way this woman spoke about her mother. It was as if she took great pleasure in knowing that her mother was going to die soon. How was Constance, a being so despicable and ungrateful be blessed with a mother, whereas Hunter, who would have loved to have his mother around? At least he now knew the teenage girl’s name though. Hmm, Jennifer is an easy name to remember, he mulled as he passed the said girl.

The gangly boy spoke this time. “Can we make a game room when grandma is no longer around?”

Constance rolled her eyes. Just as she was about to scowl at the boy she instantly smiled, albeit vexed. “Honey, you already have a game room. What more could you possibly want?” Her son threw himself back on the seat, folding his arms across his chest and jutting his lower lip in a pout.

“I don’t think your grades even guarantee you a game room anyways. I should change it into another library. Your incompetence at school disappoints me, Richard.” Mr. Clearwater spoke in a booming deep voice. He didn’t speak to his children as if they were his kids. He spoke to them as if they were his business associates. The only person he regarded with some feeling was his wife.

After Booker left the table, Jennifer followed suit with Richard Jr. right after her. After Constance and Mr. Clearwater left, Julian was the only one that had remained at the table for a minute longer. He slowly rose from his seat with a piece of toast in hand. “You didn’t spread it properly,” he said cruelly as he pressed the side of the toast with jelly onto Hunter’s white uniform shirt while smiling, amused at his own malignant action. Julian walked away and Hunter was left to clean after the wicked family.

This is all too much for me. How can I work in a household where they all want to see me fail miserably? He held back his emotions and exhaled as he picked up the dishes. His nostrils flared like a bull enraged. One day these people will pay for what they’re doing to me.

The door to the dining room opened. Orlando stepped in. “Hunter, Madam Marie Edmunds would like to speak with you in her room.”

Hunter raised a brow. He had no idea who Madam Marie Edmunds was. He was barely getting to know the names of these people. “Who?”

“The matriarch of the Edmunds family. She’s in her room waiting for you,” Orlando included.

Oh, stupid me! Hunter felt like slamming his palm onto his forehead. Madam Marie Edmunds was the elderly woman, the grandma of the children and the unfortunate mother who spawned Julian and Constance. She was supposed to carry out his punishment for breaking the glass cabinet.

He still didn’t know how he broke it, however. He was nowhere near the cabinet but someone else was. It was there that he realized that everything that occurred the night before was a set up. He evaded the sabotage that Amy had planned for him only for him to fall into Constance’s trap. Constance was the one that knocked down the cabinet and made it seem like Hunter had done it. Hunter ceased his pondering and hurried upstairs to the second floor of the mansion.

The second floor wasn’t as bright as the first floor; here the dim light from the small lamps on the walls illuminated the hall. The polished wooden floor was covered by a green carpet that extended from one end of the hall to the other. The aroma of flowers that the mansion gave off was no longer present. Here in the second floor the flowery aroma was replaced by a mixture of different perfumes and colognes that the various rooms ebbed. He stood outside the door at the far end of the hall and after he exhaled, calming his nerves, knocked twice on the door.

Marie Edmunds called out, inviting the knocker into her room.

Her room was brightly lit, and her windows were open to let the fresh morning air in. The white drapes that hung at her windows flowed slightly with the breeze. The smell of the room was delectable since it smelled like freshly watered grass and autumn leaves—all of which were aromas from outside that came in through the open window. Her bed was made, and she was sitting in front of her vanity table, trying on a pearl necklace. Hunter noticed a tear falling down her cheek as she distantly looked at her reflection, lost in memory.

“It’s you!” she exclaimed with a smile when she suddenly noticed Hunter. At least someone was happy to see him, surprisingly enough. She wiped away the tear from her eye and put the pearl necklace on top of her vanity table. “If you think I’m going to punish you for last night you’re greatly mistaken. Instead I just want you to have a seat and accompany me. Loneliness is a terrible thing; especially when you live in a household full of people that simply ignore you and are looking forward for your death or plan on sending you away to a nursing home because they want to believe your mind is falling apart with age.”

Hunter already liked Madam Marie Edmunds because she was actually likeable and quite relatable, unlike the other members of her family. This was a perfect opportunity for him to open up to her and express his true feelings towards everyone else. “I think your son and daughter are out to get me to be honest.” He looked down at the jelly stain on his shirt.

“I’m assuming either Constance or Julian did that to you?” Marie Edmunds tenderly looked at the stain on his shirt. She was saddened a bit because even though she knew that her children were somewhat malicious, she would have never imagined them to abuse the employees of the estate in such a humiliating manner.

Hunter exhaled sharply. “It was Julian.” He felt like sitting down but didn’t want to touch anything in the room or sit without the permission of the matriarch. What if Madam Marie Edmunds’ attitude towards him changed simply because he touched something of hers with his plebeian hands?

Marie Edmunds shook her head angrily. “I can’t believe that he has resorted to this,” she said gesturing towards the purple stain on Hunter’s shirt. “Do you know who owns all of this?” she began to say.

Hunter jutted his lower lip and looked around as if the answer was hiding in plain sight. “Mr. Clearwater owns this estate and his diamond company, right?”

“He used to,” chuckled the matriarch. She kindly invited Hunter to sit down in a seat in front of her. “Forty years ago, Mr. Clearwater’s dad passed away and he became the sole inheritor of everything that his father owned. Once he inherited everything, Mr. Clearwater married a beautiful Spanish opera singer, and after a year of being married they had children. Soon enough tragedy struck the household one day when Mr. Clearwater’s wife took the life of another and did away with her children. She was taken away to a labor home, a sort of imprisonment for women where they work at a factory or sweatshop as they go through their sentence. Meanwhile, Mr. Clearwater had to come back to an empty household.

“If he wasn’t cursed then it was definitely bad luck, and I don’t believe in curses. He found himself bankrupt right after the tragedy with his wife occurred. He didn’t know how this occurred but the fact that he was on the verge of bankruptcy spurred him to action.

“Since I was a close friend with his father, Mr. Clearwater turned to me for aid in his moment of desperation since I’ve been like a mother figure to him since his mother passed at an early age. Everyone believed Mr. Clearwater was doing good financially while everyone thought that my family name was tarnished by a few bad investments. The rumors of my family’s financial toils were just rumors, and I was the only one that knew that they were not true. On the other hand, Julian and Constance lamented the possibility of us losing everything. I made a proposal to Mr. Clearwater: marry my daughter, Constance, who had recently become a widow with her two children, and I would buy the company and estate from him to preserve his dynasty until he’s able to buy it back. Immediately, he married my daughter and I proved everyone that I was the one with the upper hand financially.

“Under my management, Clearwater Diamonds prospered and so did this household. I’m going to die someday soon, not now, but maybe in a year or so from now. I own everything that was his and if I die Mr. Clearwater’s fortune will not revert to him under certain new laws that prohibit such a thing to happen. Unfortunately, there are no sole inheritors that can inherit the estate and Clearwater Diamonds,” Marie Edmunds paused to catch a breath and to take a drink of water.

“I need a driven and dedicated young man to inherit all of this. But I would want this young man to seek out Mr. Clearwater’s sons if they are out there. Once they are sought out, that young man who inherited the will must employ Mr. Clearwater’s son at the company and after a year’s trial the will must go to the sons if they meet the requirements. The inheritor that was given the inheritance first will keep twenty percent of it and will hold the co-executive chair at the company until death. As for my family’s portion of the will, I would want this young man to only give this will to my grandchildren. Julian and Constance cannot touch the family fortune after my death.

“Not only am I looking for someone driven but also someone with a kind heart. I barely know you Hunter, but I can see that you have a very big heart and right now you’re my only candidate to inherit the Clearwater legacy. First,” she held a finger up, stopping Hunter from interjecting, “You must prove yourself during your time here that you are all the things I’m looking for. Also, from now on you’re going to be my personal assistant. You’re no longer going to be serving breakfast for those ingrates or serving them tea. I want you at my side all the time. Understood?”

Hunter’s face was alit with a sparkling grin. He loved the idea of not having to serve his enemies any longer. In matter of fact he didn’t even have to speak to them! His angel had come in the form of Marie Edmunds. Hunter nodded and continued his day in Marie Edmund’s room. They talked about literature, classic movies, stage plays, operas, and music. She was already impressed by his intellect and for the first time in quite a while she felt loved and appreciated. Hunter was the grandson Marie Edmunds wished she had. He was so kind and gracious to her. As she spoke to him, however, she felt great sorrow for him because she knew that deep down inside there was a hint of darkness within him from all those years of abuse and negligence he had suffered in the slums. She inwardly prayed that that hint of darkness within him should never get a hold of his kind heart.

Constance sat behind her husband’s desk at the study. She rummaged through the drawers in hopes of finding an important document that would explain why her husband was behaving oddly. Mr. Clearwater was aloof during their morning stroll in the garden so her first assumption was that he was hiding something from her. When she found nothing but empty drawers she sat back in frustration. Why on earth would he keep his work papers in the office at home? It’s only logical that he keeps them in his office at the company, she realized with disappointment.

Amy walked into the room with a vacuum in hand and a haggard expression. “Mrs. Clearwater, I cleaned your room just as you asked,” said the girl.

Constance didn’t even smile at the girl or thank her. “Good. I’m sure you’ve spoken to the new help, right?”

Amy frowned at the mention of Hunter. “Yes, I have. He’s obnoxious and I’m surprised that he isn’t out in the street after the disaster last night.”

Constance took notice of Amy’s lack of fondness towards Hunter. The girl’s body language and tone of voice was enough to guarantee Constance of that fact. “I would love for you to keep a close eye on his every move for me please. If you don’t mind me asking, why do you hate him? Have you met him before?”

“Thank God I haven’t known him for much longer! The first time I saw him was yesterday and it was hate at first sight.” Amy’s hatred for her new co-worker would have been non-existent if Benjamin hadn’t approached Hunter the way he did.

Constance relished in the girl’s misery. She looked at her with wide eyes that glinted with mischievousness. “You’re jealous of Hunter?”

“No, it’s not that,” she lied before telling a truth, “Hunter was the one responsible for the incident last morning. He tricked me into helping my grandma elsewhere and when I was gone, he switched the containers. Then the rest you know.”

There was a knock at the open door. Constance got up to see who it was since she couldn’t see anything behind Amy while sitting down. It was Julian, who seemed eager to speak with his sister. “Amy, you’re excused. Remember what your task is and report back to me. Don’t lose track of him.” Constance rolled her eyes behind Amy’s back as she left the room; the girl repulsed her to no end.

“Looking at her annoys me,” Julian had said quietly when Amy left the room. He sat on one of the leather couches in the study with his legs crossed and his arms spread over the pillows on both side of him. “Anyways, you will not believe what I overheard in the hall as I came here.”

“Please go on ahead,” Constance made a quick gesture with her hands, inviting Julian to speak furthermore. “But don’t disappoint me.”

“Our dearly beloved mother,” he started sarcastically before his tone darkened, “is planning on making the slum dog the sole inheritor of everything!”

Constance leaned forward on the desk, shaking her head with closed eyes. Her teeth were clenched as she exhaled through her nose once but suddenly.

“And she made him her personal assistant,” he added.

“She’s doing this because she doesn’t know what we had to go through to put that marginalized dog away! If it wasn’t for our efforts, we wouldn’t be here!” Constance had snapped completely.

Julian suddenly looked somewhat bothered by Constance’s statement. “I don’t regret what we did but we weren’t really in a financial crisis back in the day when everything occurred.”

Constance furrowed her brow and rose from the leather seat, throwing the seat back until it slightly hit the bookshelf behind her. “What do you mean?” She walked towards a table that was situated by the entrance that had a tray with a bottle of cognac, a bucket of ice, and two cups. She put in two ice cubes and poured herself a cup.

“We did what we did because we thought we were going to become poor and we took the rumor of us being financially troubled too seriously. Our mother revealed to Hunter that it was all indeed just a rumor and we were never in the brink of ruin after all. You married Mr. Clearwater not because he had money. In matter of fact, it was the other way around,” he explained. The cognac that Constance had poured looked palatable to him, so he went over and poured himself a cup too.

“All those times she told us that they were just rumors…,” Constance trailed off pensively.

Julian smiled as he set his cup down after one single gulp. “So, what we did was a bit extreme, don’t you think?”

“Extreme!” exclaimed Constance. She almost dropped her second cup by the shock that her brother had just made her a victim of. “What we did was necessary. Without our actions we would not be here right now. Everything we did was well orchestrated, and I don’t regret a single second of it!”

Julian pursed his lips, seeming slightly concerned for once in his life. “I’m just saying what if Hunter finds out about the truth?”

Constance stabbed her index finger into Julian’s chest, pushing him back. “That’s why we are going to end him. Killing him would be too easy. We must break his mind and then he’ll kill himself I’m sure. We’re not letting him have the inheritance and he’s never going to find out the truth.”

Julian grabbed his sister’s hand and traced his fingers over the back of it soothingly so she could calm down and get her mind straight. “Do you have a plan or are you going to continue shaming him endlessly because I’m all for humiliating him every day.”

“You’ll see what I have planned for him.” She took her hand back and sighed languorously at what she had envisioned for Hunter. Julian left the study with the bottle of cognac that was on the table.

Hunter let himself fall on his bed. He exhaled tiresomely, but he didn’t feel stressed. Things were really starting to look up for him just when he thought things would only get worse. He picked up his Greek mythology book and cracked it open but didn’t even finish reading the first line when suddenly he closed the book and set it back aside. This was Helen’s favorite book that I read to her. She didn’t care much for it at first but when I read to her The Trojan War, she took great pride that her name was identical to one of the characters and then she took the book from me and learned how to read. He remembered when he explained to her that actually Helen was the only reason why things went awry in the first place in the Trojan War story. His Helen would never be the reason for his life to ever go rotten, though. I’m sure she liked the name because it sounded classical, thought Hunter.

There was a knock at the door. “Who is it?”

“It’s Benjamin. I brought you some food because apparently you forgot to eat dinner, again.”

Hunter accepted the fact that Benjamin really wanted to become his friend and realized that this is how things were going to be from now on. At least he had two kind people rooting for him at the estate: Madam Marie Edmunds and Benjamin. “Come in,” invited Hunter.

Benjamin walked in with a plate of two racks of barbeque ribs and fries on the side. “I had the kitchen all to myself since Berth left to go on a date with some man she met on the internet.”

“Wow thanks.” Hunter’s famishing eyes wandered all over the plate in glorious wonder.

“I cooked it all by myself.” Benjamin obviously took great pride in his culinary talent.

Hunter picked up the first rib rack and just as he was about to bite into it, Amy rudely barged into the room.

“Well there you are!” she yelled at Benjamin.

Benjamin sighed. “What’s the problem? You don’t have to yell like that.”

“Why are you with this,” she looked at Hunter disgustingly, “this animal?”

Hunter shot a detestable look at Amy. He rose from the bed. “If you’re going to insult me then you get can get out of my room. Oh, and actually I’d rather be an animal than some miserable wretch such as yourself.”

“And he barks,” she retorted.

“Enough!” Benjamin seized the girl by her arms and pulled her out the room. “You’re going to tell my why you’ve been acting out all day.”

“I don’t want you to be with Hunter!” she cried aloud.

“So now I can’t make friends? I have to be with you all day even when we’re working? Guess what? Relationships don’t work that way.” He didn’t walk back into Hunter’s room and he didn’t continue standing in front of Amy. He simply exited the subbasement hall.

Hunter shook his head at the spectacle that Amy had caused. “You’re always out to get someone whether it’s me or your boyfriend.”

“I suggest you shut your mouth, tenement boy,” she held a defiant finger in front of her, “Plus, I wouldn’t be reveling in victory just yet.”

Hunter shut his door in her face. He then went back to eating his barbeque ribs and using up ten napkins in the process to wipe all the barbeque sauce from his face. However, he did hope that Benjamin was alright after his girlfriend scolded him in such an unrestrained manner.

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