“How do I look?” Jason asked Stacey.
“You look like my brother,” she replied proudly as she straightened his tie. He smiled.
“Are you ready?”
“Uh huh, are you taking me to school?”
“Won’t you be late?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. Come on, let’s go.”
They ate breakfast quickly and left. About an hour later, Gordon came down.
“Where’s everybody?” he asked his wife.
“Jason has gone to work and Stacey went with him.”
“Oh I see; I like Jason’s new attitude.” Susan snorted. Gordon glanced at her.
“What is that supposed to mean, Susan?”
“That sound; why aren’t you happy about your son?”
“Maybe it’s because he’s not…”
“Maybe he’s not what, Susan? Don’t make me angry with you.” He took his briefcase and started walking away.
“Won’t you have breakfast?”
“I’ve lost my appetite,” he said and left the house.
Jason was going through some files when his phone rang. He answered it.
“Hi Jay; I’ve expecting your call since last night.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I was caught up in something at home.”
“Was it serious? Did you have a fight with your dad?”
“Oh not at all; actually, he offered me a job.”
“He did? That’s good news. So, you’ve started?”
“Yeah, started today actually.”
“Oh congratulations, dear. And when were you planning on telling me?”
“Very soon; Jessie, we need to talk.”
“I don’t like that tone. Is something wrong?”
“No, it’s just that…because I’ve started working, we wouldn’t be able to…”
“Wait, are you breaking up with me because you’re working man now?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then what is it like?”
“Look, we can’t have such a conversation over the phone. I’ll call you and we’ll find a place to meet and talk.”
“Sure; unlike you, I’m always available. Of course, I’m not working.”
“Bye Jess,” he said and hung up. “Women,” he muttered as he continued working.
The office phone rang. He took it.
“Jason on the line…”
“Come over to my office, Jason. I need to talk to you.”
“Yes dad…I mean yes Sir.” He hung up. He got up and went to his office.
“Have a seat.” He sat.
“So, how has it been so far being in here?” Gordon asked his son.
“Very interesting. I realized life entails more than partying with friends and women.”
His father laughed.
“I like that; I should done this sooner. It would have spared us all the countless arguments we’ve had lately.”
“About that dad, I’m deeply sorry for…disrespecting you by my actions and my words. I guess I didn’t know what to do with my life and I’m grateful for giving me something to do.”
“It’s nothing son; you should know you’re my only son and the ultimate heir to my entire estate. I know it’s a lot to reckon with but I know you can do it. I just want you to realize how the world is going to change for you and why it is necessary that you change your pattern of life, your friends, your…”
“I get it dad, and I’ll start working on that immediately.”
“And Stacey, she loves you and she wants the best for you. Don’t disappoint us, son.”
“I won’t, dad.”
“Okay, you may go back to your office. If you feel baffled about anything, come straight to me and let’s sort it out.”
“Of course, dad. Excuse me,” he said and left the office. Gordon smiled as he sipped his water.
Jessica opened the door.
“Hi Jess,” Jason greeted coolly.
“Hi Jay; you look very hot in your shirt. I guess the office really suits you.”
“May I come in?”
“Sure, please.” He entered. “Have a seat.”
“Nah, I’m okay, thanks.”
“Okay.” She sat.
“So what is it you want to talk to me about?”
“Jess, you know my daddy doesn’t really approve of us…”
“Cut to the chase, Jay.”
“Fine; I think we should…break up.” He glanced at her. She was staring at him. Tears were filling her eyes.
“You always said you’d fight for our love no matter what anyone said, even your father. But now that he has given you a job and caught you in his corner, you’re leaving me?”
“It’s not that. We can still be friends.”
“Of course…it’s that your way of pacifying me?”
“No Jess, maybe with time, my daddy would change his mind about us and give us a chance. But I can’t afford to go against him now.”
“Because he gave you an office and a chance to wear a shirt with tie? Did you love me at all?”
“Of course I did, I do love you, Jess.”
“Then why, Jay?”
“I’m sorry…it’s just that the time isn’t right.”
“Okay then, I believe it’s time you left.”
“Please…just leave me alone.” Jason sighed. He didn’t expect it to end this badly. He got to his feet.
“I’ll give you a call when I get home,” he said and left the house. Jessica picked up her phone and hastily dialed a number whiles wiping the tears from her face.
“Jason just broke up with me. I guess it’s done now.”
Jason was lying on his bed, thinking. He stared into Jessica’s framed photo. He recalled the night he had met her. He was dead-drunk in a bar and she was the one who took care of him.
“I’ll always love you Jess; I’ll never leave your side.” The words he had told her before were now haunting him. He liked her a lot…but his father and sister didn’t. Only his mother was okay with it. He picked up his phone and dialed Jessica’s number. She didn’t pick up. He went to the kitchen. Stacey was there, eating an apple.
“Hi brother, how was work?”
“Great,” he said as he took a can drink from the fridge and popping it open.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine; I just talked to Jessica and…” Their mother came in.
“How’s Jessica, son?” Stacey rolled her eyes.
“Are you guys okay?”
“That’s good to know,” she said and left with whatever she came for.
“I can’t believe mother thinks she’s the right one for you.”
“Maybe she is.”
“Please Jay, you know better.”
“I broke up with her today.”
“You did?!” Stacey exclaimed.
“Shush!” He whispered. “Come to my room, I’ll tell you all about it.”
Two days later after work, Jason drove to Jessica’s place.
“I thought you had moved on when you got your new job.”
“I’m sorry; I take all that back, Jess. I guess I was overwhelmed by my father’s offer that I decided to just do as he wants. But now, I realized I made a big mistake,” Jason said as he walked towards her. Jessica folded her arms.
“You were there with me during the hardest and toughest times in my life, Jess. You saw the good in me when everyone including my family saw the fool in me. I’d be an idiot to let you go now.” He gently touched her face. Tears rolled onto her face.
“Jason, you are a wonderful guy…and you don’t deserve to be with…someone like me,” she said. Jason was puzzled.
“What are you talking about, Jess?”
“It’s….complicated. I think it’s better if we just end this.”
“No Jess, please, I’m sorry for my mistake. I need you in my life.”
“No you don’t, Jay.”
“Yes I do, Jess,” Jason insisted. “Please.” They hugged. Jessica closed her eyes as she thought, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this.’
“You mean you went back to her? What is wrong with you, Jay? Has she screwed up your head or something?” Stacey bellowed.
“Hey, I’m still your big brother,” Jason said.
“Whatever. You had the chance to walk away from trouble and you went back to it. Who does that?”
“She’s not trouble, Stacey; she loved me when I was nothing and it’s not fair to leave her now that I’ve the chance to be something.”
“The show’s starting, guys,” their dad called out from the living room. They left the kitchen and went to sit down.
“So how are you faring at the company, Jay?” their mother asked.
“Very well, mum. I’ll soon be on top of things when it comes to how everything is run there.”
“That’s good,” Susan said, smiling. She picked up her glass of juice and sipped. For a second, Jason could sense something odd behind that smile. He shrugged it off and continued watching the show.
“So, what’s up with you and your woman, son?” Gordon asked.
“Um…” He and Stacey exchanged a quick glance.
“We’re…not seeing each other anymore, dad.” Stacey gaped at him in astonishment. Jason quickly sipped his juice.
“I see…that’s good to hear.”
“Well, it seems to make everyone happy…it’s for the welfare for the family,” Susan said. Both Jason and Stacey glanced at their mother. She sipped her drink with an innocent smile. Stacey and her brother shared a last puzzled glance before turning their heads towards the TV.
Later, they walked into Stacey’s room.
“Do you mind telling me why the hell you lied to father?”
“You make it sound as if I just lied to a king,” Jason said.
“That definitely doesn’t answer my question, Jason.”
“All right…calm down. Why are you so serious?”
“If dad finds out, he won’t be very happy with you and you know what that means.”
“That I might lose my job? Come on, I can’t sacrifice my love because of a job.”
“Love indeed; come on Jay, you’re doing this because you feel bad for how things ended but not because you love her.”
“No Stacey, I do love Jessie, that’s a fact.”
“And dad is bound to find out very soon.”
“Uh huh and by the time he does, he’d realize that I’m still competent to work with her in my life.”
“And if he finds out before then?”
“He won’t unless you decide to tell him, dear sis.”
“You know I won’t…”
“Then we don’t have a problem.”
“Oh, I think we do.”
“Mother? What has she got to do with this?”
“Didn’t you sense her sarcasm when you told dad it was over between you two? I bet she knows the truth.”
“How? I never told her anything.”
“You don’t need to tell her, Jay. Mum has got her own way of finding out things for herself.”
“So what, if she does, she would tell dad?”
“Maybe not; but it still doesn’t favor you, Jay. Mum has been acting weird lately. I’d be careful around her if I were you, Jay.”
“But she likes Jess.”
“Too much for comfort, Jay. She was the only one supporting your relationship with her. Why she was so for it, no one knows.”
“It’s because she knew she makes me happy.”
“When she knew dad was so against it?”
“She’s my mother, Stacey!”
“She’s my mother too, Jason! But I just have a bad feeling about this. Don’t you remember how she reacted when I guessed dad was going to give you a job?”
“She thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
“No, she didn’t want you to handle it.”
“Stacey…what is going on in your mind? She loves me.”
“No doubt. It’s just that…I feel we should be more careful.”
“Jason…” The door opened. They both startled. Their mum’s head appeared at the door.
“Is everything okay? I heard you guys talking quite out loud.”
“Of course, mum. We were just chatting.”
“All right; goodnight you two.”
With a last glance at Stacey, their mother closed the door. They both exhaled.
“Now that’s weird.”
“Uh huh, talking about our mother like that. We’ll continue to feel like this if we continue to think about her that way, Stacey.”
“I know; I’m sorry if I’m sounding paranoid but that’s how I feel, Jason.”
“Come here.” She walked to him. He hugged her and kissed her hair.
“Everything will be fine, Stacey.”
“I hope so,” Stacey murmured.
Later, Stacey was on her bed, watching a sitcom when her mother knocked on her door.
“Stacey…can I come in?”
“Sure, mum.” She entered. Stacey was holding a teddy bear close to her bosom.
“Are you okay, dear?”
“Uh huh, why would you think otherwise?” Susan sat on her daughter’s bed.
“Well, nothing in particular. I just thought that…it has been a while since we…you know, talked.”
“Well, it may be because there’s nothing to talk about,” Stacey said. Susan nodded.
“It seems you and Jason have become very close lately,” she commented. Stacey gave her a sideways glance.
“And what’s wrong with that, mum? Jason’s my brother,” Stacey said defensively.
“Of course…I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just that I’m curious.”
“About what?” Stacey asked her suspiciously.
“About what could have made you two so close now?”
“Come on mum, we’re mature now. There’s no use of being at each other’s throats. I love being around him and if that makes you uncomfortable…”
“Hey, I’m not saying that, baby…I was just trying to start a conversation,” Susan said innocently.
“Well, I want to tell you that, that would be your problem, mum.” Susan stared at her daughter.
“Why are you being so cold?” Susan asked.
“And why are you acting so strangely lately?”
“Yes mum; ever since Jay got that job, you’ve been…I can’t seem to find the words for it but…yes, odd. Why, I’m yet to find out but it does make feel strange, mum.”
“Oh…but I’m happy that Jason is working now…”
“Of course you are and because he’s no more seeing Jessica?” Stacey watched her mother. Whatever was going through her mind, her face didn’t show anything.
“You know I’ve always been fond of Jessica but if it’s good for everyone if she goes away, so am I. I just want everyone to be happy, especially Jason.”
“I see; that’s good then. I’m sorry mum, but I feel tired. I want to go to bed…I mean if you’ve nothing else to say.”
“Of course; we’ll talk tomorrow. Have a good night, dear.”
“You too, mum.” Susan kissed her daughter’s forehead. She left her room. Susan sighed when she closed the door.
“I need to fix this,” she murmured to herself.
Two weeks later…
The family was together at the living room when Gordon told one of the house helps, “Please get us a bottle of champagne.”
“Champagne, what’s the occasion, dad?” Stacey asked.
“Let’s wait for the champagne, dear.”
“You know I don’t like suspense, dad.”
“Suspense makes news sound better, sweetheart.” She brought the champagne with four glasses.
“Could you help me, son?”
“Sure, dad.” He uncorked it and poured it into the glasses. Everyone took a glass.
“Let’s all stand, please.” They did.
“Well, I want to personally congratulate my son, Jason in advance…for making it to the board.”
“What…board, dad?” Jason asked anxiously.
“The board of directors, silly.”
“What?” both Stacey and Susan both exclaimed. Jason was in shock.
“Are you serious, dad?”
“Of course I’m serious, son. All you need to do is to be present at the board of directors’ meeting day after tomorrow so I can introduce you to the other shareholders and that’s it. And of course, you need to tell them your vision for the future of the company.”
“I don’t know what to say, dad.”
“I know, son. I felt the same way when my dad told me the same thing years ago. Just prepare yourself for that day, son. I’m handing over the majority of my shares to you and of course, some for my sweetheart, Stacey.” Stacey giggled.
“And mum?” Jason asked.
“Oh, I’ve got other plans for her. She knows I’ll sort her out appropriately, isn’t that right, darling?” He said as he put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and gave her a peck. Susan smiled.
“Thanks dad; I won’t let you down, dad.”
“I know you won’t. So, cheers to Jason.”
“Cheers.” They clinked their glasses and drank. Stacey hugged her brother.
“I knew this day would come,” she whispered into his ear. Jason smiled.
“Thank you for being happy for me, Stacey.”
“What else can I do? You’re all I have.”
“Won’t you let me get a hug too, Stacey? He’s my son too, remember?” Gordon said jokingly. Father and son hugged.
“It’s a pleasure, son.” Jason hugged his mother.
“Congratulations, son. I know you’ll make us proud.”
Later, when they retired to bed, Susan excused herself and went to the kitchen. She dialed a number on her phone. She waited for the receiver to answer the phone. When she did, she said, “This is the main deal. Do what you have to do so this whole thing is done and over with.”
“I…don’t think I can do this, Mrs. Archer,” the person on the other end said.
“Excuse me, did I hear you say what I think I heard you say?”
“I’m sorry ma’am but it’s over. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“Well, thank God this might be the last and most important one. Just do it so you can get your balance.”
“I don’t need it; keep it. But I’m done.”
“Now listen to me, little one, you don’t want to cross me. Just do what you know how to do best and trust me, you won’t hear from me again. Do it tomorrow. Goodnight,” she said and slammed her phone shut. She walked back to the bedroom.
“I want to take you out tonight, Jess,” Jason said.
“Why, what’s the occasion?”
“Something big is going to happen to me tomorrow, baby and I want to celebrate it with you tonight.”
“Of course; so what should we do?”
“Maybe have nice dinner and…”
“Then I suggest we have it here, Jay. I prepared your favorite yesterday. Then we could have a little wine and talk. There isn’t a better way to celebrate your good luck, isn’t it?” Jessica said.
“Of course; let’s do this.” Jessica laid the table and served him. They ate together and chatted heartily. After that, they sat together in the couch and watched a movie.
“I’m so happy for you, Jay. You deserve every minute of this.”
“So, does your father know we’re still seeing each other?”
“No…not at the moment. But it will be soon, dear. Please don’t be impatient.”
“On the contrary, I’m not. I know the right time will definitely come.”
“Do you want some more wine?” Jessica asked.
“No, I’ve to drive back home. I need to get my head straight.”
“Come on, just a little more. It won’t hurt; please…”
“Okay, just a little.” She poured some more into his and hers as well. They sipped.
“I don’t know how my life would be if I hadn’t met you, Jay…” she said softly.
“I feel the same way, Jess.” She glanced at him.
“I love you, Jay.”
“I love you too.” She kissed his cheek. They stared at each other for some time. Their heads drew closer. They kissed.
In the morning, Gordon came downstairs and sat at the table for breakfast.
“Where’s Jason? Isn’t he ready yet?” he asked his wife.
“I’m not sure. Please check on him for me, will you?” Susan asked the house help attending to them.
”Yes ma’am.” She walked upstairs.
“Today’s going to be a great day,” Gordon said excitedly as he buttered his toast.
“Hmmm…” Susan sipped her tea.
“Good morning,” Stacey greeted as she leaned forward and pecked her dad.
“Good morning, my sunshine. How are you this morning?”
“I’m good.” She sat down.
“How come your brother is down yet?” Stacey glanced at her dad and then her mum. Color drained from her face.
“I…I slept…early last night. I don’t think…I saw him…”
The house help approached the table.
“Sorry sir, Jason’s not in his room.”
“What? You mean, he didn’t come home last night?”
Stacey swallowed. Her heart started beating faster.
“Where could he have gone?” Stacey speed-dialed Jason’s number.
“I thought he said he wasn’t seeing that girl anymore so…is he seeing someone else, Stacey?” Gordon asked, his temper rising. Stacey gestured that she was on the phone, scared to answer the question. Susan quietly bit into her toast.
Jessica answered the call.
“Hello, Stacey…I’m sorry but Jason’s here with me. He’s pretty…um…I’m bringing him over right now…” Stacey slammed the phone shut. Her heart was racing faster.
“What is it?” her father asked.
“He…he didn’t pick up,” Stacey said, tears filling her eyes. Her eyes darted to her mother who seem not to be concerned about what was going on.
“This can’t be; try again, dear. Where the hell is he? How could he be so irresponsible today of all days?” his father fumed.
“Don’t worry darling; I’m sure he’s on his way,” Susan assured him.
“Then why isn’t he answering his calls?”
“You know it’s not safe to pick up calls when driving. I’m sure he’ll call back soon.”
“But where could he have spent the night? Stacey….”
“Hmm?” She pretended she hadn’t heard him whiles sipping her tea. She placed the mug down.
“Where could he have spent the night?”
“I’m not really sure about that, dad.”
“Are you sure, Stacey? I hope you two are not hiding anything from me.”
“Of course not, dad.”
A car just pulled over in the driveway.
“See who it is.” The house help rushed to the door and opened it. Susan and Stacey both got up when they saw Jessica helping a drowsy Jason walk into the house. Stacey gaped and covered her mouth as tears rolled down her cheeks. The house help helped Jessica put him on the couch.
“I’m sorry for showing up here unannounced…but I had to bring Jason home because I know he has to go to work today.”
“How do you expect him to go to work in this condition? What did you do to him?”
“Nothing sir; we just had a little wine and…”
“A little wine indeed. So you two are still seeing each other, huh?” Jessica looked down. Gordon turned to look at Stacey. Stacey looked away. Susan was checking up on Jason. She helped him sit up. He groaned.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah…I just have a terrible headache,” he moaned.
“You may leave but I don’t want to ever see you here again nor do I want to see you anywhere near my son, is that clear?” Gordon said in a threatening tone.
“Yes…sir. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to…”
“Just get out of my sight, you wayward street girl.” With a last glance at Susan, Jessica scurried away from the house.
Gordon walked to his son. Jason was quite conscious now. He glanced at his father.
“Don’t say another word. You’re such a disappointment. I can’t believe I almost condemned my entire estate into your aimless hands. I was so wrong about you. I thought I could trust you but you proved me wrong. You’re nothing but a useless vagabond,” Gordon said with seething anger and walked away.
“Dad…” Stacey said as her voice was choked with emotion.
“And don’t think of coming to my company in that sorry state of yours,” he said and left. Stacey rushed to her brother.
“Jason, are you okay?” She asked, crying.
“I’m fine; I just need to speak to dad.”
“Oh no Jason; he’s very upset now. Give him time to cool down,” Susan said.
“But today’s the day I get to meet the board of directors. If I don’t…”
“You can always do that another day, son. Besides, you’re in no condition to meet the board of directors.”
“Let me help you to your room,” Stacey offered, helping him up.
“You’re almost late for school, dear,” Susan pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter. I can always go tomorrow,” she said as she helped him upstairs. Susan’s phone rang. She answered.
“Are you happy now? We’re done now.”
“You’ll get your balance in your account by the end of the day, bye.” She said and hung up. She smiled to herself.