Jessica entered her house and placed her things on the couch. Her phone rang. She sighed as she answered her phone.
“I’ve been calling your phone for ages. Where the hell have you been?”
“In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve a life to live.”
“Yeah, screwing up other people’s lives, of course. There’s something I need you to do for me.”
“And if I remember correctly, I’m done working for you.”
“I’m going to pay you twice of what I paid you the last time.”
“Oh yeah, I know you must have spent your last paycheck on more slutty dresses and shoes. Are you sure you don’t need any replenishment?”
“If you care to know, I have a job now.”
“Ah! Is that so? What exactly are you doing? Servicing men at their beck and call?”
“No; it seems I’ve graduated from that level.”
“Good for you. Why, do people now book appointments online?”
“Hahaha…okay, enough of your silly sarcastic games. What do you want?”
She listened for some time.
“And why…should I do this?”
“You know why, my dear. I hate to repeat this but…”
“I get it; you’re blackmailing me again.”
“I wouldn’t call it that; I prefer using the term ‘reaffirming the conditions.”
“Whatever. But, I don’t have it and it seems to be late for anything right now.”
“I’ll go and look for it. So please be on guard for my call and don’t keep me waiting. I have much more important things to attend to.”
“Uh huh, screwing up people’s lives, I presume. Okay, goodnight,” she said and hung up.
“Hey there; you’re kind of late,” Susan said when Jason entered the house.
“Hi mum; how come you’re still up?” Jason asked with surprise as he hugged her.
“Well, wanted to make sure you were home first,” she said and sipped her drink.
“Come on mum, you know I can handle myself now.”
“I know, son; I just wanted to see you back safe. There’s nothing wrong with your mother getting concerned from time to time, is it?”
“Of course not, mum. Is Stacie back?”
“Yeah, I think she’s at the poolside.”
“Okay, I’ll go and check up on her. Goodnight, mum.”
“Goodnight, son. See you tomorrow,” she said and started up the stairs. Jason went out to find his sister staring at nothing, with her feet waddling in the water.
“Hi sis,” he said as he leaned down and kissed Stacie’s cheek.
“Hey,” she muttered as she came back to herself.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m good; you?”
“I’m fine; just a little tired,” Jason said, rubbing his palm on her back.
“Let me guess, you were with Miss you-know-who.” He chuckled.
“Guess what, she has a new job now.”
“As what, a licensed whore?”
“Hey, don’t say that. That wasn’t nice at all, Stacie.”
“I was just saying…” Jason stood up and started walking away.
“And where are you going?” He ignored her.
“Hey, you’re not angry with me, are you?” He shrugged and walked away.
“Jay!” She sighed.
Jason entered his room, undressed and stepped into the bathroom. Few moments later, Susan entered his room and began searching through his things on his desk. She was still busy at it when the door opened.
“Come on Jay…” Stacie stopped short when she saw her mother busily going through her brother’s stuff.
“Mum?” she said, puzzled.
“Stacie… I…. I was only…. What are you doing here by the way?” Susan asked as she folded her arms. Stacie also folded hers.
“Seriously, mum? Are you really asking me what I’m doing in my own brother’s room?”
“Well… I figured you were about to ask me the same thing….”
“And I believe I have every right to do so since you’re the one snooping through my brother’s stuff. What do you think you’re doing, mum?”
“I’ve misplaced an ornament and I thought…”
“And you thought you would find in your son’s room? Come on mum, are you suspecting Jason to be a petty thief?”
“No! Of course not…I just thought it must have fallen off the last time I was here.”
“The last time..?”
“Hey, nothing hinders me from coming to my son’s room.”
“Of course, except to sniff through his stuff. I hope you haven’t been doing that to my stuff too, mum.”
“Of course not; you should watch how you talk to me, young lady. The last time I checked, I was still your mother, not one of your tiny boyfriends who bring you home.”
“Keep my friends out of this, mum.” The bathroom door opened and Jason came out.
“Hey…what’s going on here?”
“Well, I misplaced an ornament I bought recently and I was wondering if I could have found it here. Maybe it fell off or something. But never mind, I don’t think it’s here. Goodnight,” she said and quickly left the room. Stacie and Jason glanced at each other.
“Now, that’s weird,” he said.
“It’s fishy, if you ask me. I found her going through your stuff.”
“She was, huh?”
“What could she possibly be looking for?”
“Let it go, Stacie. She said she was looking for her ornament.”
“And you believe her? Come on Jason…”
“Why have you been so suspicious of mum lately, Stacie? You’re treating her like she’s an enemy.”
“It’s because her actions have been quite questionable lately- starting from her reaction after dad said he wanted you working for him.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“Nothing, Jason. I just want to be careful. Not all that glitters is gold.”
“You’re not referring to my girlfriend, are you?”
“At the moment, no but it applies to her too, Jay. I don’t trust her.”
“And you expect me to be surprised at that? You don’t trust anyone, Stacie. And let me tell you, that’s a bad habit. It could come back and haunt you.”
“Whatever. I came to apologize for what I said earlier.”
“Like you mean it.”
“Of course I mean it. It just…slipped out. I’m sorry.”
“Whatever. I need to catch some sleep. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.”
“So you’re indirectly asking me out of your room.”
“No, it’s just that…”
“It’s okay, goodnight,” she said as she left the room and closed the door behind her.
“Stacie!” He sighed.
Stacie entered her room. She startled for a moment when she saw her mother sitting in front of her dressing mirror.
“What are you doing here, mum?” she asked after she had composed herself. Susan got up and faced her.
“We need to talk, Stacie.”
“Now? Can we please do that tomorrow? It’s kind of late and I have an early lecture tomorrow.”
“It will take a few minutes, I promise.”
“Okay, what do you want to talk about?”
“I was wondering why you’ve been acting this suspicious and weird around me lately.”
Stacie shrugged innocently.
“Come on Stacie, I know you. You think I’m against Jason working with your father.”
“And am I wrong about that?”
“Of course you are. I care about Jason. He’s my son for crying out loud!”
“Then act like it, mum.” She paused and looked at her.
“We both know you weren’t looking for some missing bracelet or whatever. But whatever it is, I don’t know and honestly, I wouldn’t waste my time to find out what. So if there’s nothing else to talk about, I would like to go to bed right now.” She was walking to her bed when her mother stopped her.
“I don’t want us fighting against each other, Stacie. It wouldn’t augur well for both of us.”
“I’m not fighting you, mum. I’m just looking out for my brother.”
“He’s not…” Stacie glanced at her curiously.
“Can’t you see how paranoid you’re becoming lately? Looking out for your brother against your own mother?”
“Not against you, mum. I just don’t want him to get hurt. Jason has gone through a lot and he deserves the peace he’s enjoying right now. So I won’t allow anyone to take that away from him…even if it means…fighting you…mum.” They stared at each other.
“We are one family, Stacie; one blood,” Susan said as she approached her daughter and held her by the shoulders.
“We should stick together not being suspicious of each other. We used to be the best of friends, what happened?”
“I grew up, mum.” Susan took her hands off Stacie’s shoulders.
“I now know Jason isn’t a horrible person nor is he with bad influence on me. He’s my brother, mum.” Tears filled Susan’s eyes.
“I love both of you, Stacie. I hope you’d believe me,” she said and left the room. Stacie undressed and got into bed. She dialed a number.
“Hey, it’s me…I just want someone to talk to…”
The next morning, as they were having breakfast, Gordon asked his son, “I hope you’re ready for today, son.”
“Yes dad; I’m more than ready, dad,” Jason assured his father. Gordon patted his shoulder proudly. When Gordon glanced at his wife, Susan smiled. Gordon squeezed her hand affectionately.
“Today is going to be a great day,” he declared. “By the way, where’s Stacie? Isn’t she joining us?”
“Maybe she isn’t ready yet.” Stacie came downstairs.
“Good morning.” She went to her dad and pecked him.
“Good morning, my dear. Aren’t you going to join us for breakfast?”
“No dad; I’m running late and I’ve an early lecture. See you guys later.”
“Just wait a minute. I’m almost done. I’ll take you to campus,” Jason offered.
“No thanks; I know my way around,” Stacie replied and walked out of the house. Everyone watched her leave. Gordon and Jason exchanged a worried glance. Susan couldn’t help but chuckle as she sipped her tea.
“What’s funny?” Gordon asked her.
“Nothing; it’s just amusing to find you two surprised. You should know Stacie by now. She can go off like this for days. She’ll be fine.”
“Yes, she was like that when she was still a teen. Now, she’s a nicer person. I should be worried if she should start behaving like that again,” Jason said.
“Well, I wouldn’t be bothered very much if I were you,” Susan said as she shrugged. Jason wiped his mouth with a tissue and got up.
“I think I’m done.”
“Okay, I’ll see you at the office, son.”
“Yes dad,” Jason said as he took his briefcase and coat and left the house. Gordon looked at his wife reprovingly.
“What? I didn’t say anything wrong, did I?”
“You enjoy it when Jason and Stacie aren’t on good terms, don’t you?”
“How could you say that, Gordon?” Stacie asked as she placed her teacup down.
“Who wouldn’t want her children to get along?”
“Someone who doesn’t appreciate peace in her home,” Gordon replied. Susan was taken aback.
“What are you implying, Gordon? Are you saying, I’m…?”
“I have to be on my way now. See you in the evening.”
“No, wait Gordon; explain yourself.”
“Why don’t you tell me why you relish the idea that Jason and Stacie don’t get along well? They are both your children, aren’t they?” They stared at each other for some time.
“Exactly; have a nice day, Sue,” he said and left the house.
Jessica picked up the files she left on the couch the day before. She checked to see if everything was intact. She noticed another file with the inscription “Business Plan.”
“This isn’t mine,” she said to herself. She gasped as she covered her mouth when realization hit her.
“Oh no, this cannot be happening.” She took the phone and dialed Jason’s number but she only reached his voicemail. She rushed to the Archer’s home. One of the maids allowed her entrance.
“Um…please, is Jason still at home?” Before she could be answered, Susan called out, “Jessica! What a surprise to see you at my house!” Jessica glanced at her and sighed.
“You may excuse us now, dear.” The maid nodded and left them alone.
“So, what brings you here this early morning, dear?” She said sweetly.
“I think I mistakenly took something of Jason’s last night,” she said, holding the file in mid-air. Susan’s eyes grew wide as she reached forward and took it from her hand. She opened it and scanned through. She glanced at Jessica, the shock still prominent in her eyes.
“This is exactly what I was looking for,” Susan muttered.
“Nothing; thank you for bringing this. Unfortunately, Jason isn’t home at the moment but I’ll send the driver to take it to him.”
“Sure; I tried calling him but it was busy.”
“That’s to be expected, right? All right then, thanks again, Jessica and have a nice day.”
“Sure.” With one knowing glance at each other, Jessica left the house. Susan picked up the phone and dialed a number.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes dad. I mean, yes, sir.”
“Good; where’s the file I gave you?”
“Um…why, do you need it right now?”
“The people who are going to be there would have to glance through it so yeah, I kind of need it.”
“Um…dad, I think I left it at home.”
“Tell me that’s a joke, Jason! How could you be so careless?”
“I’m sorry dad, I thought I had it with me but I just realized that it wasn’t on me. I’m sorry.” Gordon sighed in despair.
“Can I…rush back home for it?” He glanced at his son, obviously fuming.
“Okay; besides, without that file, there is no meeting today.”
“Thanks dad; I’ll be right back.”
“Drive carefully; it wouldn’t do us any good if you get yourself hurt on a day like today.”
“I will, dad.” He left the office. He rushed to his car and got inside. As he was starting his engine, his phone rang. He answered it.
“Yes Jason, it’s me, your mother. Where are you now?”
“I’m on my way back home. I left an important file and I need to come get it.”
“You mean the one with “Business Plan” inscribed on it?”
“Yes, have you seen it?”
“Yes; actually it was Jessica who brought it a few minutes ago.”
“Yeah, she said she must have accidentally taken it along with her stuff. So I have it right now.”
“Okay mum; I’ll be there in a jiffy, bye.” He hung up and drove off.
“Thanks mum; I need to rush back. The meeting will take place very soon,” Jason said hastily.
“Sure, hurry along. Drive carefully though.”
“I will; love you, mum,” he said and pecked her. He rushed to the door.
“Jason,” his mother called. He stopped and looked at her.
“All the best today, son.”
“Thanks mum,” he said with a smile and left the house. Susan sighed with contentment as she sat down. She took her phone and dialed a number.
“You did an incredible job today, dear. I’ll sort you out soon, okay?”
“I don’t need it; you can keep it.”
“Come on, we both know you do. When I’m ready, I’ll call you so we can meet. Have a nice day, dearie,” she said and hung up.