Sophie finished fastening the last of the long line of buttons on the back of Victoria’s dress. The two women stood side by side in the unfamiliar bathroom and looked in the mirror.
“I’m so very happy this day has finally come Tori. You deserve this happiness.”
Victoria wiped a tear, “Argh, I’m going to smear my makeup. Cannot have that!”
“You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually said thank you. I mean for everything. Raising me, raising Josef too for that matter. Making sure we were fed and most importantly stayed together. You gave up everything for us and I cannot tell you how grateful I am,” Sophie fought back tears.
“You were worth it. Keeping us together was worth it. I love you Sophie. In some ways you’re more than my sister. You’re nearly a daughter to me. A child of my heart.”
The women hugged tightly and then Sophie broke the moment by laughing, “Think the guys are having the same conversation?”
“No, they are probably drinking shots!” Victoria returned the younger woman’s laugh.
“Ok, it’s time. Let’s go.” Sophie put her hand on the small of her sister’s back to gently nudge her from the room.
“I cannot believe how much the circumstances have changed from the last time I was in this building!” Victoria mused as they left the small bathroom.
It was twelve years ago today that you died.
Fitting I think to mark the anniversary of your passing with a final letter to you.
Wolfgang was released from prison about six months ago, Gregor Manlon made a special appeal to the courts, recanted his testimony and the charges were dropped against Wolfgang. He won’t get back the 6 years he lost of course, but at least he is a free man again.
Wolfgang and I were married right away and he moved in with Sophie, Josef, Rickard and I into the house that Sophie and I built.
He’s such a loving and attentive husband. He’s so kind and gentle with Rickard too. Wolfgang loves being a Dad almost as much as I think he loves being a husband. I love him so much Mom. It’s corny to say, but he’s the other half of my soul.
After being released from prison, Wolfgang sat down and told me exactly what happened during the mess with the trial with Bradley’s brutal beating.
That night of the party at the Bluffs…gosh what was that nearly seven years ago now? After Bradley left, we all were joking and continuing with the party. All but Max.
Camille tried to pull Max out of his dark mood, but even though he played a long and acted as if everything were fine, Max was still seething inside. He was furious at Bradley for throwing Camille to the ground and all the things Bradley said about the Renegades and me in particular.
Camille had been planning to spend the night at our house, but due to Bradley saying that he came there to get her, she thought it better to go home. Max dropped her off at their house, saw her safely inside then left to hunt.
He told Wolfgang later, he literally felt like a hunter tracking prey.
He knew where Bradley liked to hang out and stopped at a few of the places until finally making his way to the Shrieking Llama pub where of course Bradley was along with Gregor Manlon. He sat in one of the darker corners and just watched, and planned.
After Max saw Gregor leave the pub he watched Bradley making eyes at every woman that walked. He danced, he bought them drinks he flirted and had a great time.
All while his sister was home, with bruising and cuts on her legs and palms. How dare Bradley be having fun and enjoying himself when he’d caused so much misery to so many that evening.
Max later told Wolfgang he thought he’d lost his mind for a short time. The teen couldn’t stop thinking about the blood on Camille’s palms and in his mind the injuries and the party being ruined became even greater than they were in reality.
Bradley became Max’s focus. The entire evening was ruined in his mind. Victoria and Morgan were sobbing. The kids, Josef and Lucas were terrified and bawling. Camille, his love, was a bloody mess. None of this were true of course, but in Max’s enraged state, he began to believe it was true.
Max saw his opportunity when Bradley finally stumbled out into the cool night air. Max tossed a few simoleans on his table to cover the soda he’d had. Being underage he wasn’t able to keep drinking in the pub as he’d drank up at the Bluffs during the party. Max was glad of that. Part of him wanted to be clear headed when he exacted his revenge on Bradley.
Max slipped out the side exit of the pub and jogged around the back. Bradley had stopped along side the building to empty his bladder near an alcove. As the drunk man zipped his fly Max shoved the blonde head against the brick building. Bradley’s head made a sickening thud as it hit the wall.
Max proceeded to punch Bradley in his gut, knocking the wind from him. Bradley gasped with the air being forced from his lungs. He doubled over and sank to his knees.
Max lifted his hands over his head and struck the top of Bradley’s head. As Bradley lay on the ground Max kicked him repeatedly in the ribs. All the while breathing heavy but saying nothing.
Bradley’s eyes were closed and he was nearing unconsciousness when Max straddled the man and rained punches on his face. Left, then right then left again. Max’s knuckles made contact with Bradley’s face.
The knuckles on his hands were ripped open and the blood mingled with the cuts on Bradley’s face. Forceful hands came from behind Max and dragged him from the unconscious form of Bradley Gill.
Wolfgang was there, he looked at Max with sorrow and disgust. “I know you man. I knew you weren’t letting this go. I had to take Victoria and the others home, but I knew I needed to find you and see what you were doing.”
“Wolfgang…I uhh…” Max stammered, still breathing hard with ragged breaths. Blood dripped from his knuckles to the ground and soaked into the earth.
“Get out of here man. Get home and take a fucking shower and put something on those cuts. Shit Max. I knew you were going to do something, but not this. You’ve nearly killed him!”
“Wolfgang…” Max’s voice broke as he tried again.
“Save it punk. Get home. I’ll take care of this. NOW Max!” Wolfgang seethed between clenched teeth.
Wolfgang ran around back to the pay phone and carefully dialed for emergency services using his knuckle to dial so he didn’t leave fingerprints.
So Mom, even though Bradley accused Wolfgang without having any clue who it really was that beat him into unconsciousness, Wolfgang was the one to save his life. Of course Wolfgang regrets having gone to prison, and even more regretful of the years we lost and his lost years with Rickard, but he took the wrap for Max, who was like another younger brother to him. Wolfgang told me there was no way he was going to let that teenager go to jail. It would have ruined his life.
Wolfgang also didn’t know at the time that the beating would end up in a verdict of attempted murder either. But even still, he wouldn’t do it any differently. He wasn’t going to let his ‘Renegade brother’ be imprisoned as a teen.
It’s a bit ironic actually. Bradley cost Wolfgang years of his life, but Wolfgang saved Bradley’s life. But of course Bradley can never know that.
Sophie took time off from her programming job and I’ve taken a leave from the Gallery. As soon as Rickard and Josef are done with school next week we are going to take a trip back to America and Willow Creek. The guys have never been there and Sophie and I haven’t been since we left. I think it’s time now to finally have that closure we missed out on all those years ago.
I love you Mom, I think I’m finally ready to close this chapter and move on with my family.
As always, and forever, your loving daughter…Victoria
The End – Orphans Challenge – Harkins Family
Thank you so much for reading!
Continue to Author’s notes: A behind the scenes look at the challenge.
(This was my longest chapter – at 1418 words and 61 screenshots!)