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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2235084-Skeletons-in-the-Attic---Chapter-Twelve
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Dark · #2235084
The boys meet Catrina's brother, and learn a dark family secret. (Theodore's POV - 1904)
Chapter Eight
Six days before Christmas
Theodore
1904



“She’s been crying since Frank left last night.”

Theodore laid the wooden hairbrush on the bed, and turned towards Francis, who was sitting on the opposite bed, brushing out Dylan’s wild, hair, causing the strands to float with electricity.

“That’s none of our concern.”

Reaching over, Theodore tugged off Millen’s pajama top and reached for his undershirt.

“Frank said he had to take an emergency, business trip to New York, and we will not ask questions.”

Francis let out a sigh, and began to button Dylan’s sweater.

“I don’t believe they’re telling the truth,” he sat a squirming Dylan on his lap. “He owns a floral shop. He’s not a lawyer. Why does he need to make an emergency trip?”

Rolling his eyes, Theodore continued to help Millen dress. Catrina was taking them out to lunch and to an expensive department store.

“It doesn’t matter where he’s going,” Theodore said through clenched teeth, as Millen proceeded to kick his feet in frustration. “We’re not his children, and we have no concern to what they’re doing. It’s obvious they’re not telling the truth.”

“Maybe we’re going back to New York after Christmas?” Millen blurted out, as Theodore laced up his brother’s boots. He cast his brother an annoyed look.

“Well,” the small boy’s eyes traveled to the floor. “I hope not, then that letter we sent Mr. Tuscano will be a lie,” he whispered.

Theodore signed in frustration.

“What makes you think that?”

Millen answered their question by shrugging his shoulders.

“Maybe Mr. Woodrow’s children don’t want us? They’re in Sherwood.”

Theodore turned to Francis, who was helping Dylan into his socks and boots.

“I think,” he answered slowly. “That if Mr. Woodrow’s children do not want us, then we will know the day after Christmas. Frank and Catrina have no connection to us. They’re only allowing us to stay in their home until the holidays are over. They have also allowed us to return when we’re eighteen, which is a long way off, even for me.”

Francis cast his brother a haughty look.

“That still doesn’t explain why Catrina has been crying. I heard her last night after Frank left for the train station. I also noticed her eyes were puffy this morning at breakfast. Something is wrong. I can feel it.”

With a sigh of annoyance, Theodore stood from the bed, and hoisted Millen to his feet.

“Like I said, that is none of our business. They’re not our parents, and also do you think our real parents would want us asking questions?”

“Fine!” Francis rolled his eyes in annoyance, and smacked the palms of his hands down on the bed with a thud. “Let’s get this shopping trip over with,”

A short time later, the boys galloped down the staircase and met Catrina in the parlor.

“Well,” she placed her hands upon her slender hips, which Theodore learned was a habit. “Don’t the four of you look lovely?”

The twins giggled at the compliment, while Theodore pressed his lips together to study the woman’s face. Despite her young age, her eyes were puffed up and pink. She had been crying! But, why? Her and Frank knew they were going back to Mr. Woodrow and his sons after Christmas. There was no way the woman had fallen in love with them? Theodore scoffed at the idea. Rich women didn’t have feelings for orphans, and they most certainly didn’t adopt them to be their own children. He knew better than that. Frank and Catrina only felt “sorry” for them because this was the first year they’d be spending without both parents.

“I have a new client,” Catrina let out a little laugh, as she paused to remove her fur coat from the stand beside the staircase. “Miss Thomas is engaged to marry Herbert Finley in February and she wants me help in decorating their new house. Isn’t’ that lovely? Her father’s servant delivered twenty-five dollars to the house this morning with a note detailing what her, and her future husband want in their parlor room. She had written, ‘I trust your vision, Mrs. Mueller!’”

Theodore could only stare and slightly shake his head, as the woman stepped into the monstrous garment that used to be several silver foxes. His brothers seemed to be excited by the ridiculous shopping trip.

The only decorations her parents had in their slum apartment in Brooklyn was a threadbare couch, a rickety table and chairs, a set of ugly dishes, and a few pots and pans. Their parents slept in a bed with patched sheets, while Theodore and his siblings passed out on the couch. The idea of decorating and collecting was a foreign and scary idea for them. He once overheard the twins chattering about filling their future house with model cars and airplanes. They stopped in silence when they caught Theodore glaring at them. What was the point of them dreaming about something that would never happen?

With everyone bundled up in their winter coats, scarves and hats, Catrina opened the heavy oak door and herded them outside into the snow. Out of habit, Theodore braced himself for the cold winds to chill him to the bone, but nothing happened. In New York, the four of them wore hand-me-down coats. When they rushed out to school in the morning, they were used to the chill. Here in Sherwood, covered in wool coats, cashmere scarves, thick socks, and fluffy hats, the cold didn’t stand a chance. It was best to enjoy it while they can.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Mueller!” George’s thick accent filled the air. “The car is almost ready!"

Theodore walked cautiously with his brothers to end of the driveway where a remarkable sight greeted them … George turning the crank on a strange shaped automobile!

“Look what was delivered early this morning,” Catrina squealed, to the stunned looks of Francis and the twins. “A brand-new automobile! An early Christmas present from Frank!”

Millen placed his hands on his hips, and boldly stepped forward.

“That’s a funny looking Ford?”

Theodore had to bite his lower lip, and restrain himself from rushing over and hitting his brother for his stupid remark.

Catrina glanced over at Millen, smiled, and took a hold of the smaller boy’s hand.

“Well, it’s not a Ford,” She led the boys through the ankle deep snow to the automobile.

“It’s called a, Rolls Royce-V8. Frank secretly ordered the car back in August. It just took a few months for the workers up north to build, and to ship it down on a train. When the railroad workers delivered it this morning, there was a letter in the front seat from my husband. This is all a surprise!”

Upon seeing everyone, George gave a final twist to the crank, where he was rewarded with a cough, spurt and finally a purring noise from the engine.

“Would you look at that,” he called out, and opened the back door, revealing the plush seat. “You’ll be the envy of everyone in town?”The elderly man’s eyes then traveled over to the twins. “You two want to hop in first?”

Theodore glanced over, and saw the twin’s eyes widen in shock.

“You mean we get to ride in a real car!” Dylan squealed, as he jumped in excitement.

Once again, Catrina placed her hands on her hips, which reminded Theodore of someone. But, who? He couldn’t think of anyone back in Brooklyn, who resembled the tiny, aristocratic woman. But, he knew she looked familiar.

“Of course,” Catrina laughed, and pointed to toward the three younger boys. “You three take the back seat. I will drive, while Theodore sits beside me.”

This time it was the butler’s turn to cast a surprised look.

“You’re going to drive!”His eyes seemed to rise to the top of his bald head.

“Naturally,” Catrina reached up to secure her hat, while Francis and the twins scrambled over the plush seat. “There is not enough room for you to drive us.”

Theodore caught a small grimace pass over George’s face.

“But, Ma’am,” he seemed to choose his words carefully. “It’s not fitting for a woman to drive without a male chaperone. Perhaps, one of the twins can sit in your lap.”

Stifling a snort, Theodore, opened the passenger door, threw a smile to his amused brothers, and settled down in the small seat. Once again, Catrina placed her gloved hands upon her hips.

“Says who?” She challenged.

Theodore crossed his legs in a most un-lady like way. He was enjoying this conversation. He was also relived that Catrina didn’t know about his secret. It must be quite boring to be a wealthy woman.

“Says society,” George answered. “People will talk if they see you driving down the streets without an adult male present. They might call upon your…father.”

At the mention of Catrina’s mysterious father, her face grew pale, than pink.

“Well, have them call!” She stomped her expensive crème colored boot into the snow. “I’m driving and that’s that!”

With a huff, she snapped the key from George’s hand, climbed up into the automobile, and slammed the door.

“You boys know how to turn the crank on the engine?”

“Yes, ma’am,” they all answered.

Back in Brooklyn, before their parents passed away, the boys would spy upon the well-to-do shop owners who drove into town. They secretly watched from alleyways as the men turned the crank until the engine sputtered to life. Of course, none of them owned a fancy Rolls Royce V8!

“Good,” Catrina responded. “I hope it doesn’t rain, or snow until late tonight! Right now, the dirt streets look manageable for driving!”

With the key in the engine, she put her foot on the pedal, grasped a hold of the high steering wheel, and off they raced toward the shops. As the automobile made a sharp turn over the railroad tracks, Theodore turned his head. His brothers were laughing at the scenery swiftly passing behind them. In the far distance, he could see Frank and Catrina’s house disappearing behind the snow covered pine trees. George still stood in silence, watching them drive out of view.

**

Two hours later, the boys stood silently behind Catrina on the bottom floor of Taylor’s Department store as she opened her purse, and paid twenty-five dollars for the parlor decorations, and curtains that the shop girls were wrapping up in tissue paper.

It had been quite an eventfully experience driving into town, and pulling up to the elegant store. The looks of astonishment on the shop owner’s face, as Catrina handed him the key to her car, and told him she would be back in a couple of hours, would be imprinted in Theodore’s mind for the rest of his life.

They spent the first hour eating lunch at the elegant restaurant located on the first floor. Then they made their way to the second floor furniture section, and looked over at the many decorations, and answering, “Yes ma’am,” every time Catrina asked, “I wonder if Miss Thomas would like this for her new parlor?”

After instructions to deliver the boxes to the Thomas house, Catrina gestured the boys to the elevator.

“I have a surprise for everyone!” She giggled, once they were safely inside the machine, and the elevator girl pressed the button for the top floor.

“Frank and I will be throwing a Christmas party, and you four will be there!”

Theodore stared in annoyance at the cheerful woman. She was always clapping, giggling, crying, or placing her hands upon her hips and demanding. Working class women in Brooklyn didn’t act the way she did. In fact, Theodore rarely saw anyone over fourteen in a constant chipper mood.

Once again, he praised a God that he didn’t believe in, that he wasn’t raised to be a wealthy, woman. It seems they were all trained from a young age to act foolish, even the educated ones. He rather be a working class woman, disguised as a man, than be a wealthy, giggly, emotional woman, who couldn’t do anything without a male chaperone. At that moment, he couldn’t wait for Mr. Woodrow to claim them. In the meantime, he decided to have some fun with Catrina.

“But, aren’t we going back to Mr. Woodrow after Christmas?”

His brothers turned to him in shock. The elevator girl’s hands slightly shook, as the contraption came to a halt, and she pulled back the screen door, revealing a large room full of male mannequins. The top floor was the men’s department.

Theodore saw Catrina’s chest inhale and exhale at the mention of their real owner’s name.

“Our Christmas party will be held from six o’clock to nine that night,” she said, her voice colder than the wind outside. “The four of you will still be living with us, and will attend.”

The elevator girl noticed the chilly tone, swiftly walked around Catrina, back toward the button panel on the wall. Theodore felt Francis step on the back of his boots as the stepped into the well-light room. He knew it wasn’t an accident. They were instantly approached by a tall, well-dressed man.

“Good afternoon,” he announced with a curt nod. “Mrs. Frank Mueller, I presume?”

A noticeable bristle traveled down Catrina’s body.

“My name is, Catrina.”

The man nodded, “My apologies. My name is, Mr. Harrison. I’m the manager of the young men’s department.” He let his gaze travel over the boys.

Theodore knew what the man was thinking. He couldn’t believe four sewer rats were about to be fitted into his expensive clothing. He cocked his head at the man, and sized him up. He could beat the man up if needed. Mr. Harrison seemed to notice Theodore glares, his throat contracted, as he swallowed.

“The tailor is here to measure everyone.”

“Wonderful,” Catrina pointed to the smaller mannequins. “Boys, go pick out an outfit to wear to the party, and follow Mr. Harrison into the dressing room. The tailor will take your measurements, so your new clothing will fit properly.”

Theodore felt sweat building up at his temples and palms of his hands. He stood back in fright, as his siblings eagerly followed Mr. Harrison to find clothing in their size.

“Well, aren’t you going with your brothers,” she laughed, removed her hat, fluffed her pristine styled Gibson Girl hairdo, and gently placed her hat back on her head.

Theodore’s eyes traveled to his brothers as he watched Mr. Woodrow point to the mannequins.

“Choose the outfit you desire,” she said. “They have the clothing in the back. Once your measurements have been taken, the tailor will immediately begin to fit the suit to your body type.”

Theodore imagined the tailor as a hunched-back, petite man who forcibly ripped off the boy’s clothing in the back. “Hah!” He would sneer, as his eyes traveled over the ripped bandages, and bruises. “Just as I expected!” His lips curled up in disgust, as he twirled one bony finger through his oily mustache. “A girl! I am Mr. Woodrow’s personal tailor, and he sent me to spy upon you!” His voice cackled. The door would slam open, and Catrina would stand there, hands upon her hips. “Well, Frank and I were going to legally adopt the four of you! We wanted four boys! Back to New York you go, sewer rat!

“How…” Theodore whispered, squeezing his eyes shut at the awful vision.

“Well,” Catrina went to sit down on a chair. Her elegant skirts swished and fluttered out in a haze. “The Christmas party is a couple of days. The tailor doesn’t have time to sew you four a new outfit, so he’s taking the ones from the back, and he’s going to stitch them to make the clothing fit perfectly.”

“He’s going to take my measurements?” Theodore stared in horror at the woman, causing her to laugh.

“Yes, darling! You’ll have to remove your clothing, and stand in the room in your socks and underwear. The tailor with measure you with a tape. It won’t take more than thirty-minutes for all four of you.”

Visions of being assaulted by the tailor filled his mind. His mind flash-backed to his mother and the night Mr. Tuscano brought her home in his arms. Her dress torn, her hair matted to her head with mud, her face swollen from crying. The way her hands were curled up like claws. Theodore and Francis huddling behind the couch.

“No, it wasn’t like that!” He hissed to himself. “Stop it! That was different.”

“Theodore, are you feeling ill?”

A soft click as Catrina’s boots hit the wooden floor told Theodore she was at her feet. He felt a soft, perfumed cloth being pressed into his hand.

“Come, let’s move over by the window.”

The cheerful laughter of his brothers followed them, as they walked across rug covered hardwood floors to the window seats.

“Oh, my,” they settled into the silk cushions. “Your face turned a slight greenish color. Perhaps, the stew we had for lunch was under-cooked?”

“My stomach doesn’t hurt,” Theodore whispered, and then mentally kicked himself for saying something foolish. Of course it hurt, but not from spoiled food.

Catrina removed a small fan from her purse, and waved it in front of her flushed face.

“Well, that’s a relief,” she sighed. “You gave me quite a fright. Let’s wait a few minutes, and then you can join your brothers.”

“I don’t want to remove my clothing,” he said, eyes cast to the ground. “I can’t.”

There was a slight pause, as Catrina placed her fan back in her purse.

“What do you mean?”

At that moment Theodore wanted nothing more than to be living with his brothers back in the orphanage. Or, even living on the streets, hunting the trashcans for food was better than allowing Catrina and her husband to treat him and his brothers like their own, wealthy children. The two of them were ten-years older than Theodore. They could be their older siblings.

“I don’t feel comfortable taking my clothes off in front of a stranger.”

Theodore lowered himself deeper into the sofa, as if it could swallow him from the woman’s astonished stares.

“But, darling,” Catrina pressed on. “Your brothers will be in the room with you. Nobody will harm you. Mr. Jefferson, the tailor, is well-respected in Sherwood He’s fitted Frank for several suits in the short time I’ve been married to him. The man is a professional. He’s never done anything unethical. You will be fine.”

Theodore closed his eyes, and remembered taking a hold of the small hand mirror, turning himself to the large mirror, and looking at the bruises blossoming all over his back this morning before dressing. Even with his undershirt on, he could still see his father’s neckties cutting into his flesh. He had been wearing them nonstop for months now. A glance down at the front of his shirt told him that they wouldn’t be hiding his secret for much longer.

His mother was a curvy woman. Even during their poorest months, when they ate only once a day, she never lost weight on her chest. While carrying his siblings, it seemed her front side became larger and larger every day, upsetting their father. “Just stay yourself inside while I is at work! He would boom. “Until dis damn baby is born!”

Theodore looked down at the front of his men’s camel hair coat in horror. He could see the fabric pushing out. How did he not notice before?
How did nobody notice? A small hot drop of water raced down his face. Immediately, he felt the woman’s arms encircle him.

“Please, don’t cry,” she whispered, trying to calm him down. “I didn’t realize this would upset you so much?”

Theodore couldn’t talk; he would burst out in tears.

“I have an idea,” she continued. “Why don’t I have Mr. Harrison send his messenger boy to Felix’s Department Store, and have the clerk in the men’s department pick you out something? They still have your clothing size.”

Forgetting he had a handkerchief balled up in one fist, Theodore raised the back of his other hand, and angrily wiped away the hot tears from his face.

“I’m fine,” his voice came out in a shake. With a shudder, he took the handkerchief, and began to look around for the privy.

“Bottom floor, behind the kitchen.”

Theodore turned to stare, and felt his mouth tug up in a smile. How did this woman always know?

“Go on, and wash your face,” her own spreading in a smile. She reached over to pat his leg. “I’ll tell your brothers that your lunch made you ill, and I’ll place an order for a suit at Felix’s.”

Catrina’s eyes seemed to sparkle. They had a trustworthy, empathetic aura. Perhaps he would confess his secret to her someday? But, not anytime soon.

Standing up, Theodore briskly made his way to the elevator. He caught his brother out of the corner of his eye helping the twins pick out ties. The raised eyebrow and slight smirk was all he needed to know that Francis knew why he wouldn’t be joining them in the dressing room.

**

“I think…no, I believe her parlor will be the loveliest in all Sherwood!” Catrina announced as the five of them stepped from the warm glow of the department store, to the bitter cold of the winter’s afternoon.

Ignoring the cheerfulness of their foster mother, Theodore paused to shove his hands into the silk lining pockets of his wool coat. How he would miss this! The luxurious men’s clothing he wore on a daily basis. The Christmas Party at the Muellers would be a farewell, and a funeral of sorts to the character he’d created in his head… the adopted son of, Frank and Catrina. At the Woodrow home, he would be back to wearing servant’s clothing. They weren’t as nice as the expensive clothing the Muellers purchased for the boys, but they were luxury items compared to the rags they wore at the orphanage.

Before leaving the store, a messenger boy had been sent to Felix’s Department Store with a letter for Benjamin Felix. Instructions were to find an elegant suit and tie for Theodore to wear to the party. He trusted the boy’s “vision” as Catrina put it. The suit would be his character’s funeral clothing. The Christmas Party would symbolize the death. The carriage ride to Mr. Woodrow’s house would be a funeral train.

One day, years from now, when Theodore left Mr. Woodrow’s house, and returned to the Mueller home to await his brothers, he would sit down and paint the pictures he saw in his head. It would give him something to remember when they were older, and living in a flat in Brooklyn. Theodore and his brothers were once the pampered foster children of Frank and Catrina Mueller, and in their last days, he pretended he was their adopted son.

It dawned on him that he’d being using this fantasy as a way to cope with his parent’s death, and the cruel fate God had handed him. Despite the fact that his mind insisted he was a boy, his body point blank told him, “you’re a girl and you’re going to look exactly like your mama!”

Gazing onto the horizon, he noticed the darkening sky. As if the universe echoed his thoughts, a splattering of snowflakes hit his nose. They needed to return home before the leather seats on the new automobile ruined.

Catrina reached out, gathered her herd, and turned the corner to the back alley where they spotted a rather dashing, young man turning the crank on the Rolls-Royce! He must have overheard the twins cheerful babbling about the upcoming party, because he stopped and turned.

“There’s my sister!” He closed the door on the crank, and reached out to pull the hood over the car, as the snow began its descent. With a slight bow, the young man removed his top hat, causing a flurry of curly, carrot-colored hair to cascade, the ends brushing the tops of his collar. “Father sent me. He received word about your new automobile.”

Catrina responded by placing her hands upon her hips in self-defense.

“I’m going to kill George!”

Francis and the twins gasped at the un-lady like behavior. Theodore had to laugh. This was the sort of language the poor, uneducated women in Brooklyn used, not the aristocratic, well-educated women of Texas Royalty used.

“Actually, my dear,” her brother replied, as he walked towards them. “It wasn’t George.”

Pausing in front of the twins, he glanced down at them, who responded by staring up with wide eyes.

“Good lord,” he whispered. “They’re adorable.”

Theodore’s predator instincts kicked in, and he immediately sized the young man up, taking in his medium size height, expensive clothing and shoes, freshly cut hair, well-spoken tone, no visible weapons. Naturally, he could take him easily in a fight. But, in a way, he could be him. If Theodore really had been born a boy, and Frank adopted them instead of Mr. Woodrow, he could very well be him. He would always be “street smart” as his papa called it, but he would be just as well-dressed, and well-educated as Catrina’s brother. He had a feeling the boy might not be much of a physical fighter, but had some street smarts in him.

He continued to stare at the man, why did he look so familiar? Was it the corkscrew hair? The way his laughter sounded like chimes as he talked to the twins? His ridiculously long, wool scarf that seemed to wrap forever around his neck, then ends trailing down his fur-lined coat. This town was full-to-the-brim of familiar faces, and up until three weeks ago, Theodore had never set foot outside of Brooklyn.

“My apologies,” he shook the snow from his hair, and placed his hat back upon his head. “My name is, Ah…”

“Jasper,” Catrina interrupted, staring daggers at her sibling. “He and his brother were named after our late uncle.” The words seemed to tumble out in a warning. She was hushing him.

Jasper’s eyes traveled over his sister, before bursting into peals of laughter.

“Oh, my! Yes. we were named after our mysterious uncle,” he said, glancing over at everyone, his fingers reaching out to tug on the strands of hair that escaped from his hat. A smile of satisfaction crept over Theodore’s lips. The man was obviously nervous. Catrina had scared her brother.

“My name is Jasper,” he continued, “and my twin brother’s name is, Clinton. Our uncle’s full name was, Clinton Jasper…”

Jasper trailed off as Dylan squealed, “You have a twin!”

Catrina looked furious. Her mouth pressed down like she was sucking a lime. Her cheeks flushed. The twins became engrossed in Jasper’s story, while Francis crept closer to Theodore. Something odd was happening.

“You’re correct!” Jasper smiled, revealing his dimples. “Father named us after our uncle who mysteriously disappeared one winter’s night almost forty-years-ago. Clinton Jasper had blonde hair and sapphire colored eyes.”

Millen gleefully clapped his hands. The boy always loved a good ghost story, and this was turning out to be a ghost-less, ghost story.

“What happened to him?” He asked, his eyes were like saucers.

Theodore frowned at the bizarre scene. Why was Catrina’s brother telling family secrets to a bunch of orphans he literally just ran into?

Jasper kept transferring his weight from one foot to the other, while keeping his gaze upon his older sister. Must be nothing but nervous chatter. Catrina had taken in a bunch of pitiful orphans, and he was trying to comprehend the situation.

“…father was about sixteen when his eighteen-year-old brother vanished into thin air.” Jasper continued to the starry-eyed twins. “The door to his attic bedroom was still locked. They found the window wide open, but no footprints on the freshly fallen snow. After that, the windows were painted from the inside, and boarded up, so no one could see in, or out. Our Grandpa Alex locked, and sealed up the room, and it’s been that way ever since.” He paused to stare at his audience. Francis and the twins were enthralled. Theodore even found himself wanting to know what happened. The mysterious house would make a good painting someday.

Jasper took a deep breath, and continued.

“When our father inherited the house, he had the option to re-open the attic, but never did, and we were forbid to talk about it. The secret to our uncle’s disappearance is in that room, our father knows it, and will probably take it to his grave.”

Catrina let out a long sigh at her brother’s story, returning everyone back to the present. She obviously could care less about family history.

“Well,” she said. “I thank you for saving my Christmas present from destruction.” Her eyes seemed to burn like coal, as she took the twin’s hands, and led them to the Rolls-Royce. Theodore and Francis instantly followed.

“Not a problem, sis!” Jasper shoved his own hands into his pockets. Theodore noticed how they shook slightly. He was still nervous! The ridiculous chatter! The silly story! Why was this well-educated, young man nervous about running into his sister and her orphans? Catrina and Jasper were children of a wealthy father; the mysterious man whom neither of them had ever mentioned by name.

With Francis and the twins secured in the backseat, Catrina turned to her brother.

“Frank and I will see you at the party.”

“Oh,” he teased. “Am I still invited?”

“For now,” she shot back, her tone humorless, as she gestured Theodore to climb in the driver’s seat beside her.

“I guess I best be on my good behavior.”

Theodore was enjoying the argument, but at the same time he couldn’t help but wonder about Clinton Jasper. Why was the attic room locked, and sealed tight? Hopefully, a decaying corpse wasn’t still in the room. He had a morbid fantasy of an elegantly dressed skeleton lounging on a high, old-fashioned, Civil War Era bed. Cobwebs and mouth-eaten drapes swirled through the dusty air. Clinton Jasper had shamed the family, and Catrina’s grandfather locked the poor boy up to starve to death in the dark.

The flickering of the street lamps being lit pulled Theodore from his daydream. He saw an old man, hobble down the sidewalk, holding a tiny stool in his hand. He would walk up to a street lamp, lay his stepping stool on the ground, pull a match from his pocket, and light the lamp, as the sky faded into darkness. It was almost dinner time. The automobile groaned to life, and jerked onto the dirt road.

With a sigh, Theodore leaned back in the seat. The whole story reminded him of Mr. Rochester locking his wife in the attic in the book, Jane Eyre. But, this was reality, and in real life, wealthy families didn’t lock their children in the attics to starve. Something upset Clinton Jasper so much, that he probably ran away during the night, and disappeared into a new life.

When the automobile reached Crockett Street, Theodore spotted Jasper sauntering down the opposite end towards the older homes. From what he could see, Catrina’s brother was making a bee line towards an old, grand home that seemed triple the size of the one they were living in. As the automobile turned, Theodore kept his eyes fixed on Jasper. He watched the man cautiously walk up the ornate, snow covered steps leading to the wrap-around front porch.

Theodore noticed the scattering of chimneys, which resembled hands stretching into the sky, and a widow’s walk protruding from the attic. The attic! That must be the home where Catrina’s mysterious father lived. They had passed it many times, but Catrina never pointed it out. As the old mansion grew further and further away, and Frank and Catrina’s house came into view, Theodore realized it was best to forget Jasper’s story. He would never be their adopted daughter, or better yet, their son. The character he had created the day the Muellers took him in would “die” at the Christmas Party, and would be “buried” the following day, when they went from foster children, to servitude. It was best to realize that they would never find out what happened to the mysterious uncle.

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