“I told you; Jason isn’t ready to handle the management of your businesses, Gordon,” Susan said.
“Did you intentionally hide that document, Susie?” Gordon asked.
“Why would you think that? What would I possibly earn by doing that?”
“So that you get to control the businesses.”
“And is that such a repulsive idea, Gordon? Don’t I look capable of assisting you?”
“You’re my wife, Susan; Jason is my son and my heir. He needs to learn how to take charge.”
“And you’ve seen the mess he has created just these past months. He’d cripple the entire estate!”
“No; I have enough competent people to guide him.”
“Why are you been so stubborn, Gordon? I understand he’s your only son but don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. You know I’m right.”
“What I know is that Jason is the best person to take over my business.”
“After everything he has done? What if he had misplaced it or Jessica had destroyed it?”
“I’ll penalize him for that but for now, please let me rest, Susan. I’m tired. Get me some water.”
“Sure.” She poured some into a glass and helped him drink it. He coughed a little and lay down.
“The water seems to taste a little funny,” he commented.
“Obviously, after everything that has happened today, it would be no surprise that your taste buds are definitely malfunctioning by now,” Susan said sarcastically.
“That’s rude, Susan.”
“I’m sorry dear but this whole thing has really got me anxious. I can’t believe you can’t see things from my point of view. The risks of seeing all your efforts go down the drain…”
“That will never happen, okay? I won’t make it happen and so will Jason. I trust him.”
“Whatever.” Susan got into bed and faced away from Gordon. Gordon looked at her for a while and looked away.
Lord, guide me with what to do, he silently prayed.
The next morning, Stacie was the first to go and see her dad.
“How are you feeling this morning, dad?” Stacie asked affectionately. The sight of his caring daughter brought a smile onto Gordon’s face. She sat beside him.
“I’m fine, my dear; I’m actually better now that you’re here,” he said as she took her hand and squeezed it affectionately. Stacie smiled.
“Is there something we should be worried about, dad?” she asked.
“No, of course not. I’m fine.”
“Come on, dad; this isn’t the first time you’ve scared us like this. You’re not sick, are you?”
“No…well, not that I’m aware of.”
“How about a checkup?”
“You know how busy I am right now; I have to aid Jason in taking over the business.”
“I understand but your health should be an utmost priority. If your health fails, you wouldn’t be able to help Jason and you know it.”
“Yes sweetheart, I’ll consider it.”
“Oh no, you’re not considering it. Jason’s calling the family doctor.”
“Oh, he shouldn’t have.”
“I’m sorry to disagree with you, dad.”
Susan came out of the bathroom.
“What are you doing here, Stacie?” She asked as she stopped when she saw her.
“What does it look like I’m doing here, mum?”
“Okay I get it, but why this early morning?”
“Well, it’s my father we’re talking about here so the first thing on my mind when I woke up was to check up on him. At least, he doesn’t have to feel alone so early in the morning in bed.” Susan scowled at her. Stacie gave her an innocent shrug.
“I went to take a bath; is that a crime?”
“I didn’t say that, mum; I was just looking out for my dad.”
“Then why don’t you come and lie beside him at night too so you can check up on him every minute?” Susan bellowed, obviously getting irritated.
“It’s okay ladies; I understand what’s going on here. You two are behaving like rivals. You two have been bickering for some time now. May I know what exactly the problem is?” Gordon asked both of them.
“It seems the young lady isn’t satisfied with being your daughter. It’s obvious she wants to play the role of wife as well.”
“Come on, don’t be ridiculous. She’s just looking out for me, that’s all.”
“Well, we have to get you ready; I may have to take you to see the doctor today.”
“That wouldn’t be necessary. Jason already called the family doctor.”
“What? And who asked him to?”
“Does he need an order to call a doctor when his father is unwell? He’s old enough to know when to be responsible, mum.”
“Have you heard her, Gordon? She talks to me like I’m her mate!”
“It’s okay, you two. Stacie, go and tell Jason that I’d go with your mum to the hospital…”
“No dad; you shouldn’t go anywhere today. You need to rest. The doctor will come here and take a look at you. Besides, that’s what he’s being paid for, right?”
Stacie glanced at her mother who sighed and entered the bathroom with agitation. They both giggled.
“You really know how to get under your mother’s skin.”
“I’ll go and check up on your breakfast. Any preferences for today?”
“Sure; I’ll be right back,” Stacie said and pecked her father. She left the room. She met Jason who was coming out of his room.
“You went to check up on your sugar daddy?” Jason asked teasingly.
“Come off it, Jay. Were you able to contact the doctor?”
“Yep; he’ll be here around 11a.m.”
“That’s good enough. At least, I can see to it that he attends to dad before I leave for campus.”
“How’s he doing anyway?”
“He looks better but this all looks strange. Dad shouldn’t be giving us these petty scares.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing serious but it’s better to be sure. Let me say bye to him.” He knocked and entered.
“Good morning, dad.”
“Good morning, son. Are you ready for work?”
“Yeah; how are you doing this morning?”
“I’m better; I’m sure your sister has already informed you of that.” They both chuckled.
“I’ll be fine, son. Don’t worry about me.”
“I won’t; knowing that Stacie would be around when the doctor gets here. I know this is obviously not the right time to discuss this but I want to say I’m sorry about the whole Jessica mix-up in this missing section mess.”
“We’ll talk about that later, son. You go to work and learn as much as you can. Because, it seems I’d have to hand over management to you sooner than I perceived at first.”
“What?” Susan asked as she stepped out of the bathroom. Both men turned to look at her.
“Good morning, mum,” Jason greeted.
“Good morning…Jason. Did I hear you say…?”
“Yes mum; do you have a problem with that?” Susan’s eyes shifted to meet his.
“I was talking to your father.”
“Well, I answered your question; now I need you to answer mine. Do you have a problem of me taking over dad’s businesses?”
“You think you’re capable of doing that?”
The door opened and Stacie stepped in.
“Okay; breakfast will be ready soon. Have you brushed your teeth, dad?”
“Okay; let me help you out of bed.”
“This is too much,” Susan said with a groan as she stormed out of the room.
“What is going on? Did I miss something?”
“I’ll tell you later; I’ve got to go. Bye,” Jason pecked his sister.
“Bye, dad.” He left the room. Stacie helped her father up.
“Mum! Wait, why is there this sudden friction between us?” Jason asked his mother.
“Friction…it’s because I’ve this strong feeling that you’re not competent enough to handle the family business…yet.”
“And why would you think that?”
“You’ve committed countless careless mistakes these past months which are very hard to overlook, Jason. Don’t think I’m not happy that you’re working now but I’m just concerned about the insured stability of the family business.”
“I see…so if you believe I’m not competent enough, who is? Because Stacie’s still in school.” She only stared at him in response as she folded her arms.
“Ahhh….you, right? You think you should be put in charge. But why would you see me as competition, mum? After all, it is a family business.”
“Well, I want to protect the interests of this family.”
“Obviously…but what makes you think I’m have plans contrary to yours?”
“Your performance at work is proof enough.”
“I don’t know why you think that about me but I’ll prove you wrong, mum. I promise you, I will,” Jason said and left the house.
Later, the doctor came over and checked up on Gordon Archer.
“How’s he, doctor?” Stacie asked him when he was done.
“I need to speak with your mother, miss.”
“He’s my father, doctor. Whatever it is, I have a right to know.” Susan walked in.
“Are you done, doctor?” she asked.
“Yes Mrs. Archer; I need to speak with you.”
“Of course.” After a moment, Susan noticed Stacie still standing there with folded arms.
“Don’t you have anywhere else to be?”
Stacie reluctantly entered the bedroom and slammed the door. Susan shook her head.
“Forgive her manners, doctor. The youth of today can be unbearable sometimes.”
The doctor smiled. “Well, the thing is…”
“Why do you look so down, darling? What’s wrong?” Gordon asked his daughter.
“Mum doesn’t want me to hear what the doctor has to say; even the doctor doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“Please don’t take this personal. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“You think? Well, I’m not convinced. I’m old enough to handle situations like this, dad. I need to know what’s going on.”
“What do you need to know? How I’m faring? Well, I’m fine.” She glanced at him.
“I’m going to be fine, Stacie. I assure you.” He smiled at his daughter. She smiled back.
“I’m going to take my shower. I’ll be right back. Do you want anything?”
“Water; please.” She went for a bottle from the small fridge in the room and poured some into a glass.
“Could you smell it for me, dear? Because I sense that it tastes funny.”
“Really?” Stacie asked and smelled it.
“I don’t smell anything, dad.”
“Why don’t you taste it, then?” She sipped a little and made a face.
“Yeah, it does taste funny. Is that what you’ve been drinking?”
“I’ve realized it not long ago but your mother said it was nothing.”
“Nothing; it tastes like it has been laced with something.”
Stacie went to the bathroom and poured out everything into the sink.
“And you said mum claims it’s nothing?”
“Yes; please don’t tell her, okay? I don’t have the strength to argue right now.”
“Okay, let me get you some from the kitchen.”
“Yes dear.” Stacie went downstairs to the kitchen. Susan was seeing the doctor off. Susan came inside to find Stacie holding a bottle of water, walking up the stairs.
“Where are you going with that?” She asked.
“What, you mean the water? Dad asked for water.”
“But there’s water in the fridge in the room.”
“Nah, he said he didn’t like the taste so I decided to get him another bottle.”
“Your father’s getting paranoid, you know,” Susan said jokingly as she started the stairs.
“No, I don’t think so; it does taste funny.” Susan froze. Stacie turned to look at her.
“Is anything wrong, mother?”
“Did you…drink it?”
“Nope…I only sipped. Why is your face so white as if I told you I just drank poison?” The words hang in the air for a few moments. Stacie realized that her mother was tensed.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Stacie!” Susan snapped, as she walked past her and entered the room. Stacie was puzzled. What is going on, she asked herself. She entered the room.
“I got the water, dad.” She stole a glance at her mum as she poured some into a glass. She gave it to her dad who drank it all down.
“Thanks dear; I really love the taste of that.”
“Why don’t you taste the water in that bottle, mum?”
“What for? If you two claim it tastes bad, then we better dispose it off, right?”
“I’m going for a shower. Should I leave the bottle here, dad?”
“Yes; thank you dear.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll be right back.” She left the room.
“Darling, I’m sorry about the water. I should have changed it yesterday. I guessed I was too angry to reason,” Susan apologized.
“It’s okay, darling.”
“Thank you.” She climbed onto the bed beside him and placed her head on his chest.
Gordon put his arm around her and brushed his palms on her arm. He kissed her hair.
“It’s been quite a while since we went out. Why don’t we do that, dear?”
“Oh yeah? I thought we had outgrown that.”
“Oh come on, we can’t allow these young ones to enjoy themselves alone. We also deserve to have fun, don’t we?”
“I guess you’re right.”
Minutes later, Stacie burst into the room.
“Seriously?” Susan asked.
“I’m sorry; but I’ve to rush to campus, daddy.”
“But you said…”
“Yeah, I know but someone just called to inform me that I have a test to write in two hours’ time.”
“Is it one your sweethearts?” Susan asked teasingly. Stacie ignored her.
“I’m sorry dad; I promise to make it up to you, okay?” she said as she pecked him.
“Don’t worry; he’s in very good hands,” her mother said with a wink.
“Okay, dear. Do you want a driver to take you?”
“No dad; I’m good.”
“Are you sure? You can have my key.”
“Yeah, have it,” he said, giving it to her.
“Thank you dad; you’re the best in the world,” Stacie said excitedly as she pecked her dad again.
“Don’t I get one too?” her mum said. Stacie leaned forward and pecked her mother too.
“Goodbye, take care. If you need me to do anything, just call me, okay?”
“Yes dear, take care too.” Stacie left the room.
“She’s such a sweetheart, isn’t she?” Susan asked.
“Yes; just like her mother.” He kissed her forehead.
In the evening, Jason pulled over his car at the compound, and found his dad’s car not there. He got out and looked around. He noticed his mother’s car too not there. He entered the house.
“Grace!” He called out. She rushed to meet him.
“He went out with madam.”
“What? But….Never mind. And where’s Stacie?”
“She’s not at home; probably went to campus.”
“Really? She’s not supposed to. Anyway, you may go back to whatever you were doing. Hope dinner is ready.”
“In a few minutes.”
“Okay.” She excused herself. He picked up his phone to dial a number when he heard a car enter the compound. He went outside. It was daddy’s car. He sighed in relief. His face turned into a puzzled frown when he saw Stacie step out of the driver’s seat.
“Yeah brother; did you just get home?”
“Uh huh, I thought you said you’d stay with dad today.”
“Yeah but a colleague called to inform me that we had a test today. I couldn’t miss it.”
“And the car?”
“Dad told me to use it.”
“Wow…and do you know he isn’t at home at the moment?”
“What? Where could he have gone to?”
“I don’t know; Grace told me he went out with mother.”
“You must be kidding me.” She picked up her phone and dialed his number.
“Guess who; your girlfriend is calling,” Susan said sarcastically. Gordon smiled.
“Let me talk to her; she must be worried.”
“Nah, let me do this.” She answered the call.
“Hello darling; let me guess, you just arrived home.”
“Where are you guys?”
“Hi to you too, sweetheart. How was your test?”
“Stop it, mum. Where are you?”
“Don’t worry; we’re on our way home. We just needed a few hours away from the usual home drama. You’d agree with me that your dad in particular needed that, right?”
Stacie sighed. “How far are you?”
“Not very; we’ll be there in the next 30 minutes.”
“Okay, take care,” Stacie said and canceled the call.
“Where are they?” Jason asked.
“Mum said they needed some fresh air away from home drama. Let’s get inside.” They entered.
“I’m exhausted. Want a drink or something?” Stacie asked.
“Yeah.” Jason collapsed onto the couch. Stacie went into the kitchen.
“Do you want something, madam?” Grace asked Stacie.
“Oh, never mind; I’ve got it. Go on with what you’re doing. Is supper ready.”
“Okay…please hurry; mum and dad will be home soon.”
“Yes madam.” Stacie took a pack juice and two glasses and went to the living room. She served her brother and then herself. She sat down.
“Something strange happened this morning, Jay.”
“The water in dad’s room tasted funny.”
“Like it had been laced with something.” Jason cast a serious glance at her.
“Please don’t go all suspicious again, Stacie.”
“I’m not. Dad’s the one who noticed it and asked me to taste it.”
“Maybe it was going bad.”
“Seriously; a new bottle is put in it every day. How could…”
“Maybe it stayed too long at the supermarket. Such incidents happen, Stacie.”
“Yep but when Dad asked mum earlier, she said she saw nothing wrong with the water and when I told mum that I had tasted the water, she looked anxious.”
Jason sat up and faced her sister.
“What are you saying? Are you trying to imply…”
“I’m not trying to imply anything, Jay. I’m just telling what happened. When the same thought came to mind, mum cut me off before I could voice it out. I felt scared.”
“And what did the doctor say?”
“He wouldn’t talk to me. He only spoke to mum.”
“I don’t know; another fishy incident. This whole event doesn’t look natural. I am scared, Jason.”
“Scared of what?” Jason asked as he sipped his juice.
“Scared…of losing dad.”
“Why would you even entertain such a thought, Stacie? Dad’s not going anywhere.”
“I wish I could believe that, Jay but with each passing day, I get this feeling growing stronger that dad’s days are being counted.”
“Stop saying such nonsense, Stacie! I can see the numerous TV drama series you’ve been watching have been getting into your head. You tend to mistrust people a lot when you begin to believe what you watch on TV.”
“I’m not…” They heard a car pull up in the compound. Minutes later, Gordon Archer and his wife entered the house. Stacie got up at the sight of her dad.
“Hey dear.” Stacie rushed to him and hugged him.
“Hi mum. Heard you two went out to spend time together. Hope you two had fun. It’s been a while since you did that,” Jason said.
“Yeah…we needed it. Besides, we don’t know when we’d die, right?” Stacie startled as she let go of her dad and stared at her mother, bewildered. Jason also flinched. Both parents noticed the tension. Susan made a nervous laugh.
“Okay….what did I say wrong? Why are you two looking at me as if I’ve done something unthinkable?”
“Have you?” Stacie asked back. Susan looked at her, shocked.
“It’s okay, guys. You two take everything seriously these days. But what she said is true; no one knows when you’ll pass away. You better enjoy each day as it comes, isn’t that right?”
“I’m going to change. I hope dinner’s almost ready.”
“Why, you two didn’t eat lunch?” Stacie asked as she shot an accusing glare at her mother.
“Of course we did; but it’s time for dinner, isn’t it? I’ll be right back,” Gordon said and began climbing stairs. Susan and Stacie kept a locked gaze till they heard Gordon close the bedroom door.
“What was that for, Stacie?” Susan asked.
“I should be asking you that question, mum. Why did you say that for?”
“What was wrong with what I said? Your father even got the point.”
“Of course he would; when it’s obvious someone’s taking him away.”
“What was in dad’s water, mum?” Jason asked as he stood. Susan turned to look at him.
“Excuse me, what?”
“Stacie told me…”
“To hell with what Stacie told you! Things have started to feel odd around here ever since Stacie took on this Nancy Drew role. It’s getting irritating. He’s my husband and that’s not going to change, do you guys understand?”
With that, she stormed upstairs and entered the master bedroom. The siblings stared at each other, shaking their heads.
“You realize she didn’t answer the question, right?” Stacie asked.
“Yeah, I do. Let’s go and freshen up and get ready for dinner, okay?”
“Okay.” She took her handbag and they both climbed upstairs.