“Did you meet him?” Gordon asked his son when he entered his room.
Jason shook his head with despair. He sat down helplessly.
“But you booked an appointment with him, right?”
“I couldn’t. He’s gone, dad.”
“What do you mean, gone?”
“He’s out of the country.”
“Okay, when is he coming back?”
“That’s too long. Did you ask for his contact number from his secretary?”
“No and she claimed she didn’t have it and she could only contact him in times of emergency.”
“Then whatever he’s dealing with at the moment must be very important,” Gordon commented.
“There’s something else, dad.”
“What is it?”
“The secretary told me mum came over to the chambers two days ago.”
“Your mother? Why, I never asked her to go on my behalf,” Gordon said, puzzled.
“That’s probably because whatever she has in mind has nothing to do with you, dad.”
“What are you saying, son?”
“I don’t know, dad. Why would she go and see the family lawyer without anyone’s knowledge? And why would the lawyer suddenly take off after their meeting?”
“Are you implying that your mum could be behind the doctor’s sudden trip?”
“Doesn’t that sound more than a mere coincidence?”
“Your mother acts more mysteriously each day. She’s unpredictable.”
“I think I’d confront her about it.”
“Please be careful not to cross any line, Jason. Be firm but don’t’ make her angry.”
“How’s Jessica doing?”
“You know, I’m still not very comfortable with you seeing that girl, Jason.”
“I know; let’s talk about that after you’ve been discharged, all right?”
“Yes son.” Gordon sighed and closed his eyes. Jason massaged his palms nervously.
Stacie was lying on the couch, watching TV when her mum came downstairs and sat down. Stacie got up and started towards the kitchen.
“Stacie dear, could you get me a glass of red wine? Thank you, sweetie,” Susan said sweetly. Stacie turned to look at her with unbelief. She shook her head and walked to the kitchen. She heard the front door open and close with a loud slam.
“Mum, we need to talk,” Jason said impatiently.
“You seem to be in a terrible mood, Jason. But please leave my front door out of it, please,” she said with a smile, and blinking excessively. Stacie entered with her glass of wine.
“Oh thanks dear,” Susan said, taking the glass and sipping a little. She placed the glass down. She crossed her fingers across her crossed legs.
“So what do you want to talk about?”
“I’ll be in my room,” Stacie said.
“No, Stacie; stay, this concerns all of us.”
“I don’t think Stacie should be here. She loves to butt in when she’s not even called,” Susan said. “You agree with me Stacie dear, don’t you?”
Stacie gave her a hard look as she sat.
“I went to see the family lawyer today…”
“For what? Did dad ask you to?” Stacie asked.
“Yes but he wasn’t there.” Susan shrugged.
“And what has that got to do with me?”
“What were you doing at his chambers two days ago, mum?”
“Excuse me;” I have to confess that I don’t like this annoying habit of treating me like an outsider. I am your mother and your father’s wife. I’ve every right to see the lawyer as and when I wish.”
“Sure, may we know why?”
“Would it bother you if I said it’s none of your business?”
“You went to see our family lawyer, mum; that makes it everyone’s business.”
“And who says whatever I discussed with him has something to do with the family?”
“Are you saying it’s personal?” Jason asked.
“As a wife and a mother, I don’t think anything you do is exclusively personal, mum,” Stacie said. Susan gave her daughter a dark look.
“It’s nothing to worry yourself about, Jason. Don’t worry, I’m not planning on stealing any of your inheritance.”
“Why would Jason think that?” Stacie asked.
“Then what other reason would he have to grill me like this?”
Both children looked at her suspiciously.
“I can’t take this any longer. If you want me out of this house, you might as well say it straight to my face and stop this psychological trauma you’re giving me,” Susan said, exasperated.
“The lawyer left the day after meeting you and he gave explicit instructions not to be contacted. Why would a lawyer so many clients demand such a thing?”
“I don’t know…why does everything got to do with me?”
“I think we should cut mum some slack here, Jay,” Stacie said. Jason looked at her in surprise.
“It might as well be a coincidence,” she explained.
“Well dad doesn’t think so.”
“You think I sent him away? You think I’ve that much money at my disposal?” Jason answered by raising his eyebrow.
“I’m tired, okay? Stacie, could you find out if dinner is ready?”
“Yes mum.” She got up to go.
“How’s your baby?”
Before Jason could answer, Stacie asked, “What baby?” She walked back to them.
Stacie looked from her mother to her brother.
“Can someone please tell me what’s going on here?”
“The baby’s fine, mum,” Jason answered coolly, putting his hands in his pocket.
“What baby are you guys talking about?”
“Jessica…is expecting my baby, Stacie.”
“What? Are you out of your mind? Dad’s going to kill you!”
“I know, it wasn’t planned.”
“Was just hoping that there would be no complications because of…you know, the fall,” Susan said and sipped her wine.
“She’s fine, mum. We thank God for that.”
“Oh gosh, how’s dad going to take it? What the hell is wrong with Jess by the way? Doesn’t she know what is called protection? Of course, that’s what you get when you hang out with such a dolt,” Stacie said, very irritated.
“Come to think of it, I’d so become a granny. Should we toast to that?” Susan said excitedly. Both Stacie and Jason gave her a mother a ‘you-must-be-kidding’ kind of look.
“All right; I’ll toast to myself. To my unborn grandchild, our little Archer,” she said and drank. Stacie shook her head.
“Let’s go and talk in my room,” Jason said, taking Stacie’s hand and walking towards the stairs.
“Don’t stay there too long. I think dinner is almost ready.”
“Yes mum.” Susan smiled to herself and sipped her wine.
The following day, they all drove to the hospital.
“You two may take the lead. I’ll check up on Jessica first,” Jason said.
“Sure; send her our regards,” Susan said.
“How’s my sweet princess doing?” Gordon said, smiling. Stacie walked to him and hugged him.
“How are you daddy?”
“I’m better now seeing that you’re fine, darling.” Stacie smiled.
“How are you feeling today, Gordon?” Susan asked.
“I’m fine by God’s grace. You?”
“I’m fine too; I miss you at home.” They shared a long quiet stare.
“He’s saying good morning to the mother of his…”
“Mum!” Stacie cut in. Susan gave her an innocent look. Stacie scowled.
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s nothing, dad. Mum was just playing around with her words. I miss you, dad.”
“Missed you more, darling.” He kissed her forehead. Jason entered.
“Hi son, I was told, you had to check up on someone before you do so with your dad.”
“Dad, it was just…”
“His soon-to-be wife, I suppose.”
“It was Jessica, dad.”
“Why did you say that, Susan? You haven’t proposed to that lady, have you, Jason?”
“Actually, there is better news. We are about to be grandparents, Gordon.”
“What?” He glanced at his son, alarmed.
“What is going on, son?”
“Dad, the thing is….Jessica is…”
“Dad, we can always discuss this later. Why not just concentrate on you getting out of here first?” Stacie suggested, trying to save the situation.
“No, hold on. What has Jessica done this time, son?”
“Well, she’s expecting my baby.”
“I’m sorry dad….we didn’t actually plan for it…”
“Outside wedlock? With a woman I don’t approve of? Is that how you wanted my approval, by getting her pregnant so I’d have no other choice but to approve of the two of you?” Gordon said, very upset.
“No, it’s not like that, dad. It wasn’t my intention to upset you.”
“I was so wrong about you…”
“Calm down, dad; it’s not as bad as it seems…”
“You are a disgrace. I should never have put you in charge…I am ashamed to call you my son…”
“I actually announced it as good news, dear. Please don’t get upset,” Susan said.
“You…you…” He gripped his chest.
“Dad….are you okay?” Stacie asked, concerned. Gordon started breathing heavily.
“Go and get the doctor,” Susan ordered. Jason rushed out.
“Darling, calm down. Please don’t get too excited. You know your heart is fragile at the moment.”
“You should have considered that before saying anything, mum,” Stacie. A doctor rushed in with Jason. Two nurses also entered.
“Please excuse us for a minute, folks.”
“No…I’m not leaving my daddy’s side,” Stacie said.
“Come on sis; let’s wait outside.” He took her hand and pulled her outside.
Susan placed a soft kiss on her husband’s forehead and got out of the room.
“What is wrong with you, mum?” Stacie asked angrily.
“What did I do?”
“So you couldn’t wait for him to get strong enough to come home before breaking such delicate news to him, huh? You are so eager to get him out of your way, aren’t you?”
“Come on shut up, Stacie. That wasn’t my intention.”
“Then what was, mum? You know dad doesn’t fancy Jessie much but you had to take your chance and proclaim such news, right?”
“He was going to find out anyway and I don’t think the reaction would have been any different no matter how many days he was out of hospital.”
“I see…so what’s the point, right? It would be better for him to die on a hospital bed than on your couch, right?” Susan slapped her.
“Stop speaking nonsense.” Jason got up and stood beside his sister.
“What’s going on here?”
“Mum can’t seem to stand hearing the truth said as it is,” Stacie said, her eyes never leaving her mother’s face. Tears filled her eyes.
“Let’s get out of here, Stacie.” They walked away.
Susan walked into Jessica’s room. Jessica, who was resting, opened her eyes when she heard someone come in. she turned her head.
“Hello darling, how are you feeling today?” Susan asked with a tight smile as she approached her.
“Are you here to finish what you started, Susan?” Jessica asked.
“Oh I wish I could but under the present circumstances, it’s not the most reasonable thing to do at the moment, don’t you think? Thanks for the offer though,” Susan replied in a whisper.
“What do you want, Susan?”
“Nothing; just here to check up on you and my grandchild. It’s fine, isn’t it?”
“Your grandchild? I thought you said you wouldn’t accept it as an Archer.”
“Of course and it still stands but what can I do? Hmmm…. I’ve to think about it. I seriously don’t want to treat you like an enemy Jessie, for old times’ sake…”
“Then don’t; you have nothing to worry about, Susan. I won’t get in the way of…whatever you have in mind.” Susan gave her a reassuring smile.
“Of course you won’t. I just don’t have the luxury to deal with…unwanted emergencies, Jessie. Just promise me you’ll stay away from Jason…”
“But I can’t…I’m carrying…”
“At least for the time being. If you go against this order, someone will definitely get hurt; someone…very…innocent,” Susan said emphatically, her gaze falling on Jessica’s tummy and lingering there. Jessica noticed and put her hand protectively on it, rubbing it.
“You won’t hurt my baby, Susan,” Jessica said, tears filling her eyes.
“Then don’t make me, Jessica,” Susan said. She got up.
“Have a nice day and a speedy recovery. Have to give you a reward for a job well done.”
“That,” Susan said, pointing to her tummy. “That one is going to cause an instant breakthrough that would have taken me extra months to achieve. Take care dear,” Susan said with a happy wink and left the room. Jessica was puzzled.
“What the hell is she talking about?” she asked herself.
Jason and Stacie noticed some nurses and doctors rushing into their father’s room. They stood up in anticipation. Susan walked to them.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know; suddenly, some nurses were rushing into daddy’s room,” Stacie informed her.
“Well, I hope it hasn’t gotten critical,” Susan said, folding her arms.
“I hope so too,” Stacie muttered. She impulsively ran to the door and stared through the window. She covered her mouth with her hand.
“Stacie, come back here,” Jason said, going after her. With a peek, Jason saw the doctors trying to revive their daddy’s heart. Stacie started crying. Jason pulled her away and hugged her.
“He’ll be fine, sweetie; your father is a strong man,” Susan said, brushing her daughter’s hair with her palm.
“Yeah right,” Jason said, rubbing his sister’s back. Susan began pacing. A few minutes later, the two doctors came out of the room with resigned looks. They all rushed to them. They only asked about the situation with their anxious looks.
“I’m sorry but…” Stacie screamed before the doctor could finish his statement.
“Stacie…calm down,” Jason said. Stacie swooned.
“Stacie…Stacie, can you hear me, Stacie? Oh no,” Jason said helplessly as he carried her.
“Let me show you an empty ward where you can lay her down.”
“It should be a private one,” Susan added.
“Sure of course, Mrs. Archer.” He led them to a room and Jason gently lay his sister down.
“So, as I was saying….it’s rather unfortunate but…Mr. Archer couldn’t make it.”
“What happened, doctor?” Jason asked.
“It seemed he was in some kind of shock which triggered a heart attack.” Susan and Jason gave each other a serious glance.
“Did anyone give him any shocking news minutes ago?” the doctor asked. He noticed that mother and son were staring hard at each other.
“Is anyone going to answer me?”
“How long will the autopsy take?” Susan asked, her eyes not leaving her son’s face.
“A couple of days, maybe.”
“Good; I have to start with the burial preparations immediately. I’m sure you can bring your sister home when she wakes up. I’ll see you at home. Bye, doctor,” Susan said and walked away.
“She must be in shock,” the doctor said.
“Hmmm….then some people have weird attitudes when they are in shock. Let’s go and check up on my sister.”
“Yes, sure.” Stacie was still unconscious so the doctor went to his office. Jason sat on the edge of the bed and took his sister’s hand into his. He kissed the back of her hand and rubbed it.
“We’ll make it through this, sis; I know we will. We just have to be strong and united. That’s how we can get passed this,” Jason said, his voice choked with emotions. Tears were threatening to fall from his eyes. He brought his sister’s hand to his lips and kissed it, trying to stop the tears from falling. A tear drop fell on the back of Stacie’s hand. Her eyes opened weakly.
“Jason…” she called out softly. Jason looked at her.
“Hey there, you’re awake. You scared the hell out of me,” Jason said and hugged her.
“How…how is dad?” she asked. When Jason started sobbing, she knew the answer. She tightened her arms around her brother.
“We’re going to be okay, Jason. We’ll get through this.” Jason nodded, still sobbing. Stacie rubbed her palm across her brother’s back comfortingly. She clutched his shirt at the shoulder as tears filled her own eyes. The tears began to fall onto her cheeks. They rocked each other in each other’s arms.
When Susan arrived home, she headed straight to the bar. She took a glass and poured herself some wine. She gulped it all down. She poured herself another glass. She gulped it all down. After breathing hard for a few seconds, she poured herself a third glass and gulped it all down. She shook her head to clear her head. Rose came in.
“You are here; I heard someone enter but couldn’t hear anyone call out. Hope you are all right, ma’am.” When Susan ignored her whiles pouring herself another glass, Rose was concerned.
“Ma’am, are you all right?”
“Is dinner ready?”
“Then get yourself in the kitchen before I fire you this minute!” Rose hurried herself out of her sight. Susan staggered to the living room and threw herself onto the couch with her glass in her hand. She gulped a good amount down. She switched on the TV with the remote control. She was dozing off when she heard Jason and Stacie enter.
“Has mum been drinking?” Stacie wondered aloud when she noticed the glass in Susan’s hand and her composure.
“I’m not surprised. Come on, let’s go change,” Jason said.
“Wait, I have to talk to you two first,” Susan said.
“I want to talk to you two now.” They drew nearer. Susan forced herself to stand.
“I want you to know that I didn’t mean to cause this family any harm when I told your dad of Jessie’s pregnancy. I know you two partly blame me for what happened and I’m sorry. We’ve been at each other’s throat for far too long and I hope it all comes to an end and stick up for each other. I love your father, no matter how you see me.
I’m sorry…for what has happened and I hope we can get passed this so we can be a family again…”
“You’re finally talking about being a family when the head is gone? You knew what you were doing when you told dad about Jessica. So please stop this act of being sorry because you’re not. I’m even surprised I’m seeing you all alone. I was expecting a party of freedom from you. I can’t believe you,” Stacie said and started the stairs.
“I’m sorry, Jason.” Jason nodded and followed Stacie up the stairs. Susan collapsed onto the couch again and emptied the glass.
Later in her room, Susan broke into uncontrollable sobs as she stared at herself in the bathroom mirror.
“I’m sorry Gordon, that you had to go.”