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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2236573-Skeletons-in-the-Attic---Chapter-Sixteen
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Drama · #2236573
The Muellers throw a lavish Christmas party for the children. (Theodore's POV - 1904)
Chapter Twelve
Theodore
The Christmas Party
1904




“Do you three remember the cruel words Mr. Woodrow spoke to us at the train station before Catrina and Frank came along?” Theodore said as he placed his hands on his hips.

Perhaps he really was somehow related to the Woodrow Family? They seemed to all have inherited this dominating habit. He glanced at his brothers, and cursed that stupid dress Catrina was forcing him to wear. The ugly gown weighed heavily around his ankles, and he could feel the bandages that were binding his chest straining against the front. His new mother might have been blessed with a small chest, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to grow-up to be a petite woman like her. Unfortunately.

“Yes, Anna,” Millen lowered his gaze, and stared at the floor. Their new grandfather had yelled the horrible words to him, but the others knew it pertained to them as well.

“I’ve kept this a secret for three weeks because I believed we would be sent off to Jasper and Clinton after the holiday,” Theodore reached forward and lowered himself to Millen’s level. “It never crossed my mind that Frank and Catrina would adopt us, and I don’t want any bad blood between her, and her father. That evil man might not be our legal father, thankfully, but he is our grandfather. If Catrina found out what he said to us, they would argue, and I don’t want us to be the cause of it. Understand?”

Millen raised his gaze, and for a moment Theodore was blind-sighted by the boy’s beauty. His thick, curly eyelashes fluttered over his almond-shaped, hazelnut colored eyes. He would grow-up to be the envy of many men, as well as women. There wasn’t a doubt in Theodore’s mind that when he came of age in a few short years he would question why he and Dylan weren’t identical twins. But, that was something Theodore didn’t wish to think about at the moment.

“Catrina’s brother said that he asks for our forgiveness,” Millen whispered. “I don’t think he’s angry anymore.”

“That may be, but I can’t forgive him for what he spat at you on the train station.” Theodore reached over to kiss Millen on the side of the face. The boy responded with a giggle. “I sincerely doubt our new grandfather is being haunted by a ghost. His conscience probably caught-up with him and wouldn’t go away until he returned the money.”

This seemed to satisfy Millen. Theodore saw that his other two brothers looked relieved.

“We won’t say anything.” Francis smiled. “I would like to see the inside of grandfather’s house someday.”

Theodore started for the bedroom door, and abruptly spun around, his skirt swishing.

“Why on Earth would you want to visit that crazy, old man,” he demanded. “Jasper Woodrow went missing from that house. Grandma Heather fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Grandpa Alex also fell down the stairs, but fortunately he didn’t die, but his memory is lost - that house is cursed, not haunted.”

Francis shrugged. “We were going to live there anyway, remember?”

Theodore gave a sigh. The boy had a point.

“Fine.” He grasped hold of the doorknob and glanced into the deserted hallway. He wanted to have a talk with his brothers in their bedroom before the party started. In the distance a doorbell chimed. The guests have arrived. Immediately his stomach felt queasy, and his forehead prickled with sweat.

“Little brother,” Francis called out. Theodore turned around, and saw him gathering the twins, as they made their way to the staircase.

“What?” Theodore asked. He felt Francis’s heavy breathing on the back of his neck.

“I think you want to see the house too,” he whispered.

Theodore felt annoyed. “What makes you think so?” He responded.

They stood at the top of the stairs, and watched below as Catrina opened the front doors, and Benjamin Felix bounced into the house holding a handful of presents. A rather snooty looking older couple sailed in behind him. Jasper and Clinton reached out to take the woman’s awful green and purple velvet coat, exposing a hideous gown covered in peacock feathers! Theodore stifled a giggle at the ridiculous costume, and remembered the first day they wandered around Sherwood, their new mother said something about the Felix family being Jewish.

I thought Jewish people didn’t celebrate Christmas? Theodore thought to himself. Perhaps they converted like Catrina’s mother did when she was forced to marry Cleo Woodrow?

Theodore stuck one foot out, and was about to descend the steps in the flimsy, silk slippers, when Francis pulled him back to the topic of the Woodrow Mansion.

“I don’t know if you caught it, but you said “Grandma Heather,” and “Grandpa Alex” like they were always ours. You could have just called them by their first names.”

Theodore paused, one foot hovering over the top step. A shiver ran through his body at his idiot brother’s statement. He really did want to see that house someday, especially the locked attic, but he knew that would never happen. Grandpa Alex had the attic door securely locked. As long as that man was living at St. Paul’s it would never be broken. Something in that room was calling him, if not all of them.

At that moment Catrina looked-up and saw them gathered on the top of the staircase. Her face brightened, as she gestured for them to come down. Taking a deep breath, Theodore continued his descent. Perhaps, the universe had arranged itself for them to be adopted by the Mueller Family? Perhaps, what was locked in that attic had something to do with them? But, what could it possibly be? They were just a poor family from Brooklyn. Their parents immigrated from Ireland and Scotland. What did a bunch of poor immigrants from Europe have to do with a wealthy family that lived in Texas for generations?

Tossing his head, Theodore stepped onto the marble entranceway just in time to see Benjamin’s eyes enlarge and his mouth drop in disbelief. Oh, yeah. I’m really a girl. Theodore thought crossly. Deciding his fascination with the locked attic was just a silly fascination, he grudgingly stepped back as Catrina excitedly introduced them to the Felix Family. He put the discovery of the attic in the back of his mind. Hopefully, it will stay there.

**

“That’s Mr. Akers, he owns the grain mill. Mr. Hanson is chatting over by the fireplace to Mr. Hoylt. Mr. Hanson owns the bakery where we’ve been purchasing our bread.”

Theodore stood awkwardly beside his new mother as she pointed out her friends. The men swirled their glasses of brandy, and smoked cigars on one side of the room. Their wives sat in tight, little circles and gossiped on the other. Mrs. Felix and Mrs. Hicks, Benjamin and Conrad’s mothers, seemed to be the “head hens” of the group. Catrina didn’t seem to care one bit about their snotty tones, but their husbands were friends of her father, so they were invited. Theodore could feel Conrad staring intensely at him throughout the room. No matter where Catrina pulled him to, he could feel the young soda jerk’s gaze upon him. It excited, and scared him at the same time.

A smile of satisfaction crept over his lips as he remembered the astonished and what seemed to be a look of betrayal that passed over Conrad’s face when he was introduced as, “Anna.” Having a bit of fun, Theodore reached forward to shake the young man’s hand. “Sorry to crush your dreams if you wanted a new best friend. I’m kind of melancholy myself that Catrina is making me put on a dress.”

The Hicks family chuckled at Theodore’s outlandish statement. He felt Catrina’s fingers brush over the back of his shoulder.

“Anna will fit in perfectly fine with my family,” she announced. “The Woodrow women have come from a long line of bold, daring, intelligent pioneers. The women on my husband’s side are the same. I was meant to have Anna as my own.”

Theodore couldn’t help feeling a bit empowered by this statement. Swallowing the remaining sips of his cranberry juice, he laid the glass on an empty table, and wandered into the kitchen to replace the empty pan of pumpkin bread. There he spotted that horrible barber, Mr. Thompson, pouring himself a generous amount of alcohol into his cup of eggnog. Their eyes met, as Mr. Thompson leaned against the kitchen sinks, his hat cocked on the side of his head. Theodore might be wearing an expensive gown, but he could still take down an arrogant man.

“Well, well, well,” he shook his head, and moaned. “I gave a beautiful, young girl a man’s haircut! I am officially the laughingstock of Sherwood. Mr. Ball and Mr. Fairchild are giggling over it to Mr. Guise and Mr. Randolph like a bunch of schoolgirls.”

Throwing the barber a fake smile, Theodore took a dishcloth from the Hoosier cabinet, and used it to remove a cooled pan of bread from the oven. He used his backside to shut the door, which caused Mr. Thompson’s eyebrows to shoot-up.

“That’s not very lady-like of you,” he tilted his spiked drink back, and drunk it down his throat like a camel causing Theodore to burst out laughing. His real papa might be in the grave almost two years, but he knew the signs of when a man was becoming drunk. Mr. Thompson was close to it. Any displays of drunken behavior were crushed by the elderly man’s wife bursting through the door.

“Here you are!” Her voice shrill, as she yanked the cup from her husband’s hand. “Getting drunk as a skunk, I presume?” Theodore saw the fire in the woman’s eyes, as she poured the drink down the sink. “Let’s leave before you make a spectacle of yourself!”

Mr. Thompson’s face grew flush as the alcohol spread through his body. He cast Theodore a look.

“I already am,” he snorted.

Mrs. Thompson seemed to notice Theodore for the first time.

“Is my husband bothering you?” She sighed and reached for a wet cloth that was laying over the edge of the sink. She began to wipe it over the man’s face. “Not his fault you were in hiding.” She tossed her head, causing her gray curls to bounce. She turned towards Theodore.

“Dear, don’t pay one bit of attention to my obnoxious husband. His bark is worse than his bite.” She reached out and took the tray from Theodore’s hands. “The men in this town are not gossiping about him, as he believes they are. Everyone is enthralled that you were able to hide it for so long. We’re proud of you, my dear. Give your mother my love.”

With that, she took the pan of pumpkin bread with one hand and reached out to grasp her husband’s arm with the other. Theodore followed them from the kitchen and watched her place the bread on a side table. She announced to Frank that her husband was feeling ill, and they would be returning home. Frank seemed to stifle a giggle of his own, as Jasper and Clinton fetched their coats from the closet. How they knew which coat belonged to what guest confused Theodore. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson then disappeared out the door and into the cold winter’s night.

“Goodness,” Frank peered out the stained glass window beside the door. “Catrina, darling, your father’s sled has arrived – pulled by a pair of matching purebred Arabian horses!”

Theodore shrank back, as he looked around for his brothers. They seemed to sense his distress, for they came towards him like a moth to a flame. Jasper and Clinton bounced over to the door.

“Ah, seems the old man received our Christmas present,” Jasper pulled open the door, and left to greet his father.

Clinton turned towards Frank and Catrina.

“We purchased him two Arabian mares before we even knew about our disgusting Christmas present. They were born and bred in Kentucky, and must have just arrived on a late train.”

“Oh, dear,” Catrina sighed. Theodore caught her looking at him and his brothers. They haven’t seen the man face-to-face since Catrina rescued them almost a month ago. “I best go greet my father. Dear do prepare our guests that he has arrived.”

Frank gave a curt nod as Catrina slipped outside with Clinton. Theodore stared at his brothers, who looked back in fright.

“Let’s go stand in the corner while Mr. Woodrow is announced to his friends.”

His brothers seemed to enjoy the plan, for they scampered into the shadows by the massive fireplace as the door opened, and everyone at the party turned to stare at the man who purchased four children to be slave labor. The tone in the room fell drastically from a cheerful arrangement of scattered conversations, to a low murmuring. Jasper took a hold of his father’s elegant fur cape, and Clinton took the man’s scarf, gloves and hat. With playful smiles on their faces, they walked off to the closet under the stairs to add their father’s belongings with the others.

The crowd slowly maneuvered their way towards Mr. Woodrow who walked into the room like a defeated prince. His posture was still ramrod straight, but his soft greetings, and lowered eyesight told Theodore that perhaps the man really regretted his terrible actions.

“But, then we wouldn’t have Frank and Catrina! We wouldn’t have a safe, luxurious place to live for the rest of our lives! Millen would have passed away from an ear infection and you would have lost your feet to frostbite! You would have gone straight to the asylum, and Francis and Dylan turned to the streets or adopted separately for slave labor.” Theodore shuddered at the voice that screamed in his head. He knew his conscience was correct.

A small set of arms circled his waist, and he felt the small weight of Millen’s head resting on his back.

“I’m scared, Theo – Anna,” the child whimpered. “What if this is a dream? I don’t wanna go back to the rats and bedbugs at the orphanage.”

It was Francis who answered - his voice cracking a bit. Theodore couldn’t tell if the boy was finally coming of age, or if he was just as terrified as they all were.

“This isn’t a dream. Can you hear everyone? Can you feel yourself standing on the ground? Frank and Catrina love us, and we’re safe.”

“Where are my children?” Catrina asked in the crowded room, as Theodore reached down to squeeze Millen’s hand.

“They’ve been hiding beside the fireplace since your father made his grand entrance,” Mr. Kidd answered as he took a knife from the side table, and cut himself a generous slice of the honey-coated pumpkin bread Mrs. Thompson laid out. “To be honest, I don’t blame them one bit.”

The room grew uncomfortably silent as everyone turned to stare. Theodore felt his face burn with embarrassment and anger, as his brothers huddled behind him. How dare they be put on the spot like that.

“Children come here,” Frank left his group of friends, and walked towards them, a warm smile on his face. “Nobody is going to hurt you. I promise.”

The guests seemed to realize the children were nervous, for they turned back around. To Theodore’s amusement he caught several successful businessmen casting Mr. Woodrow dirty looks.

“Remember,” Theodore hissed as their father came closer. “Do not under any circumstances mention what Mr. Woodrow threatened us with at the train station before Catrina arrived. If he speaks of it, pretend we don’t …”

“Hey.” Frank reached out for Millen’s hand, who slowly detangled himself from Theodore. “There now, you will be fine.” He picked Millen up, and the boy responded by wrapping his arms around Frank’s neck for protection.

They reluctantly made their way towards Mr. Woodrow, when the man decided to draw attention to himself.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” his voice boomed over the room, silencing everyone. “I would love your attention, I have something important to announce.”

Theodore’s stomach began to sink. What on Earth could that man want? When all eyes were on him, the elderly man gave a slight sigh. Mr. Woodrow looked nervous, but determined. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his arms, so he awkwardly crossed them behind his back. With a smile, he raised his eyes to his family and friends.

“First off, I want to thank each and every single one of you for coming to my daughter and son-in-law’s yearly Christmas Party. It is such a delight and honor for me.”

He paused at the sea of friendly and not so friendly faces. Theodore pressed against Catrina for a sense of protection, as he listened to Mr. Woodrow’s speech. His tone rose soft, but firm. His eyes rested upon the crowd. The man obviously had many decades of experience of winning people over during his various courtroom trials. Theodore had a feeling he was listening to the lawyer side of the old man convincing the jury his side of the story - the jury being his friends and family.

“I would like to tell you my story. It’s quite long, so I hope you stay with me.” He paused, smiled and continued. “A month ago, I placed an irresponsible ad in a New York paper, and remarkably I received only one reply. The Christmas season was swiftly approaching and most people of my generation should remember my brother Jasper, who went missing almost forty-years ago less than a week before Christmas Day. The holidays have always been difficult on my father and me, especially now since he was moved to the local hospital with no chance of recovering. “

Theodore squeezed Catrina’s hand, and watched Mr. Woodrow’s throat contract. Good Lord was he going to cry! The man composed himself and continued.

“As Joseph said to his brothers in the Bible when they came back to him, the same happened to me. ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ I placed an advertisement looking to adopt four boys, preferably brothers, to become endured servants for my own children, Jasper and Clinton. I’m terribly sad to say that my own family’s history is full of my male ancestors using orphaned children for servitude-”

“My Grandfather Diez Woodrow, whom I was named after, took in a twelve-year-old orphan when he first came to Texas after the state’s war of independence. The boy was being raised by his poor grandparents in San Antonio. When the boy was about eighteen, he was found drowned in the spring behind the house. To this day, we have no clue if he drowned himself to escape Diez’s cruel manner, or he was killed. My Uncle William Woodrow found the young man, and buried him in an unmarked grave at Crystal Springs Cemetery.”

“My own father continued this horrible tradition. My beautiful brother, Jasper, was born in the home that I now reside in. He was born in the morning, and that night a young Spanish servant named, Sybil, gave birth to a boy whom she named, Thomas. Sybil kept quiet about the identity of the father, and my own father didn’t seem to care. He was just thrilled that another unpaid servant had been added to his household-”

“When Jasper turned fourteen, my father gave Thomas a “promotion-of-sorts” to become Jasper’s personal servant. As the years went by, much to my father’s disgust, the two boys became friends. Being as how I was the lonely, depressed sixteen-year-old living in my then beautiful, eighteen-year-old brother’s shadow, I became cruelly jealous of him and how my father openly favored him over me-”

“One night, I spied on my brother and saw him and Thomas talking in the barn. Jasper was planning on helping Thomas and Sybil escape that night to Mexico by selling an expensive jade ring. At that moment an evil spirit entered my body and has resided until now. I was so filled with jealousy and rage, that I knew I had something on my older brother-“

“I flew into the house where my father was having drinks in the parlor with the local jailer, Mr. Charles. I fabricated the story. I informed them Thomas forcibly stole the ring from Jasper. My jealous little, sixteen-year-old self babbled lies to my father about my older brother. I gleefully watched them slam down their glasses of brandy, and run out the kitchen door to the horse stables-”

“Quite a long period of time passed. I slunk down beside the fireplace and listlessly played with some marbles I dug out of my pocket. A feeling of remorse nagged in my mind for what I did. At that moment, the front door slammed open and closed. I was confused because father and Mr. Charles exited the kitchen door-“

“I looked up and saw my father stalking into the parlor, pulling my brother by the arm. My eyes locked with Jasper and he was sobbing uncontrollably. As they passed me to the secret staircase that led to the attic bedroom, my heart almost beat out of my chest, for my father had tied Jasper’s wrists behind his back, so he wouldn’t escape.” Mr. Woodrow paused, briefly closed his eyes, and continued in a low voice. “That was the last time I saw my brother-”

“The following morning, I tearfully confessed to my father that I lied about Thomas stealing Jasper’s ring. My father solemnly informed me Jasper had been locked in the attic for another sin. He was having second thoughts about the cruel punishment he bestowed upon him-“

“Together the two of us climbed the narrow staircase to the attic hallway. I noticed a small, decorative, table that my mother designed a few years prior, sitting beside the door as if it were guarding the room. Father reached into his pocket, and removed a set of keys. He showed me a long, thin key and said it was called, a skeleton key – it could unlock any door in the house-”

“Father unlocked the door, and we entered the eerily silent room. The curtains had been pushed aside, letting in the morning sun, and the first thing I noticed was the droplets of dried blood on the floor, and an empty bed. We rushed to the widow’s walk, unlocked the door, and went outside to see if Jasper escaped by jumping from the ledge. There was no way. An old oak tree stood directly in front of the widow’s walk. If Jasper would have jumped from any direction, he would have fallen straight through the branches and been slashed to death-”

“Father raced over to Mr. Charles’s house, and the two of them discovered another disturbing incident. The previous night, he arrested Thomas and Sybil for theft and planned on hanging them in the morning. Mr. Charles unlocked the jail cell and discovered it to be empty. How could Jasper, Thomas and Sybil all escape and disappear into the night without a trace?-”

“After my brother’s mysterious disappearance, my mother fell down the stairs and died. My father said she tripped over her long gown, but I knew better. She threw herself down the stairs because she believed herself guilty over Jasper-“

“A month after Christmas, Mr. Charles’s body was found thrown over the railroad tracks across from what today is the grain mill. He had been murdered, his throat cut and money bag stolen. My own father always believed Mr. Charles had a hand in Jasper’s disappearance, but could never find any proof-”

“To this day, I can’t seem to forgive myself for what I did to my brother, and I believe that is why I placed the ad. With Christmas coming and my sons moving back to Sherwood to live with me while attending Sherwood College, I thought they needed servants of their own to help them. I hastily wrote an ad requesting to adopt four young, male orphans for servitude and mailed it to a busy newspaper in New York. Here is the strange part – I only received one response from a man at the Brooklyn Home for Orphaned Boys saying that he had four brothers who were looking for a new place. So, I sent up my lawyers to sign the papers.-”

“At the time, I did find it quite odd. I was expecting hundreds of replies, but I didn’t care. I had what I wanted, a Christmas present for my children, but God intervened like he did for Joseph in the Bible when his brothers sold him into slavery-”

“A week ago, Jasper and Clinton, my own two beautiful sons whom I lovingly named after my dear brother, showed up unexpectedly at my office downtown. They looked disturbed and angry as I let them in. The day my darling daughter took the children away from me at the train station, Frank sent an emergency telegram to them which read something along the lines of, Help! Your father adopted four young boys to be your servants! Come home immediately! The two of them packed their bags, and ran to the train depot. A few days later when the train reached Sherwood, they stepped off and walked immediately to my office with their bags still clutched in their hands-”

“To conclude an already long story, my sons yelled at me all night long over the stupid thing I’d done. In the end, we all agreed the siblings rightfully belong to Frank and Catrina to be their own children. Jasper fetched Judge Carson, while Clinton raced over to this house to fetch my daughter and son-in-law. That night in my office, I sighed over all guardianship to Frank and Catrina. I regret with every fiber in my body the cruel way I adopted these children, but God used it for good.”

A silence filled the room as Mr. Woodrow concluded his speech.

“Oh, my,” Catrina whispered, “my father really did have a Charles Dickens moment.”

Theodore closed his eyes, as the crowd let out applause. He felt elated. This horrible man really was remorseful for his actions. He stepped back with his siblings and parents, as Mr. Woodrow chatted with his friends. They couldn’t believe it either. The powerful, cruel, Sherwood lawyer was human after all. The story! Everyone knew about Jasper’s disappearance, some of the older residences even grew up with him, but this was the first time they’d heard the entire tale.

“Perhaps, we’re seeing a Saul to Paul transformation,” Frank said from behind Theodore. He turned around. Millen had fallen asleep in the man’s arms.

He guessed the boy missed his grandfather’s speech of forgiveness. Perhaps it was a good thing. He hoped the man would never talk about the horrible thing he said to his younger brother at the train station. Theodore’s mouth turned into a frown as he watched Mr. Woodrow shake hands and talk to his friends. They congratulated him on his “Christmas Miracle.” A shudder of disgust ran through Theodore. Was the man putting on an act to protect his image? He hadn’t even looked in their direction all night; he was busy chatting up with his friends. With a toss of his head, Theodore turned his attention back to Frank.

“Let me take the twins up to bed,” he held out his arms. “They’ve had a long day.”

“Well, of course, Anna.” Frank settled Millen into Theodore’s outstretched arms as Dylan let out a huge yawn,

“Me too,” he grumbled, as his eyelashes fluttered, fighting to stay awake. Theodore took a hold of his brother’s hand.

“Francis, come on,” he said. “Help me put the twins to bed.”

Francis raised an eyebrow of his own, and looked to spout off a retort, but stopped at the glare Theodore shot at him. With a sigh, he dutifully followed Theodore and the others from the parlor, into the dining room, through the kitchen, and up the back staircase where they wouldn’t be disturbed by other guests.

“Why am I coming along, little brother,” Francis said as they settled the twins on the bed.

“I can’t stand that man.” Theodore opened the chest of drawers and removed the twin’s pajamas and handed one to Francis. “His redemption speech might have fooled the town, but not me.”

Theodore removed Millen’s boots, dress socks, and pants and laid them neatly on the chair beside the bed. Francis was doing the same for Dylan at the foot of the bed. He heard his brother sigh.

“I really do think he feels guilty over what he did to Jasper all those years ago. He is correct that he betrayed his brother like Joseph was betrayed in the Bible.”

“That may be so,” Theodore tugged Millen’s pajama bottoms up and over the sleeping boy. “But, every time I close my eyes, I hear the horrible words he hissed at Millen when I tearfully told him that the boy would die if he didn’t see a doctor. Frank and Catrina saved our lives in more ways than they know.”

“Anna, let it go,” Francis pulled back the quilts and laid Dylan down on the pillows beside his twin. “That man will never apologize and he knows it. We’re safe, and he has his own son’s trust and respect back. So, why should he care?”

Tossing his own head, Theodore let out a sigh, and stomped to his connecting bedroom. He was finished with this conversation – for the time being.

**

An hour later, Theodore and Francis had taken a bath, and changed into their robes and pajamas. The Grandfather Clock in the hallway struck ten, and the party disappeared into the night. They had planned it that way. Both of them knew it was time to unveil the O’Connor Family Secret to Frank and Catrina before heading to Brooklyn in a few days.

“I hope he’s gone,” Theodore hissed as they slipped silently down the stairs

“Anna, that was ru—“Francis started.

“You two are still awake,” Catrina spotted them as she gathered up several empty glasses and loaded them onto a serving cart. “Frank and I are cleaning up the small mess that was left behind. But, we assumed the four of you were asleep. Poor Conrad wished to say ‘goodnight’ to you.”

Theodore walked over toward his new parents and helped them clear the side table. Theodore was annoyed that Conrad might be developing a crush on him.

“We tried to sleep, but remembered we need to inform you two about something,” he said. They might as well get straight to the point. There was no need to sugar coat anything. Francis looked like he’d rather go back to being a servant.

“Darling, what’s wrong,” Catrina asked, her face creased with worry. Frank took a hold of the cart and pushed it towards the dining room door, and left it there.

“Can we sit on the sofa?” Theodore asked.

The story he was about to tell his new parents was not just heart-breaking, but exhausting. He would be dragging up past memories about the horrible night oh so long ago, yet it wasn’t that many years ago. The clomping sound of Mr. Tuscano’s boots hitting the wooden stairs, as he rushed up to the O’Connor apartment, holding mama in his arms.

Their papa cursing, shouting, drinking and smashing several beer bottles. Francis silently bawled behind the threadbare couch as Theodore crawled beside him, wrapping his arms around him to comfort him. Baby Dylan is asleep in his basket, alone and forgotten in the midst of the chaos. Theodore nervously slipped from the hiding spot, took hold of the basket beside the fireplace, and pulled it back to him and Francis.

The horrible night happened almost twelve-years-ago. Their parents had forbidden the twins to learn about the incident until they were sixteen and could fend for themselves. But, Theodore and Molly O’Connor were not living anymore.

“You know you can tell us anything,” Catrina slipped on the couch beside Theodore, while Frank settled down beside Francis.

Closing his eyes, Theodore let out a sigh.

“It’s about the twins."

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