“So how’s Susan taking this whole baby issue?” Jessica asked during dinner.
“Well, I asked her about it on the way to the airport and she didn’t give me an answer. She asked that we talk about it when she gets back.”
“Which means she’s not happy about it. Tell me, what is the problem here? Is it because I’m the pregnant?”
“I don’t know; Jesse; I can’t tell. All this while, she was the one backing us up so I don’t get why she’s being all antagonistic about it.”
Jessica cleared her throat and sipped her drink. The door opened and Stacie and Betty happy with giggles, entered. Stacie stopped abruptly when she saw Jason and Jessie at the dining table.
“Hey there, I…wasn’t expecting to see both of you here,” Stacie said.
“I can see that; I also wasn’t expecting both of you here,” Jason said, gesturing with his fork.
“Anyway, Betty, meet Jessie, my sister-in-law to be and Jessie meet Betty, my friend.”
“Hi there,” Betty said with a wave of her hand.
“Hi Betty, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine, thanks for asking.”
“Please tell me there’s some leftover dinner for us,” Stacie said.
“Sure; you can join us.”
“Great! Let’s sit, Bet.” They sat.
“Rose, could you please Stacie and her friend their dinner?” Jason called out.
“Jason, could Betty stay over?” Stacie asked sweetly, batting her eyelids.
Jason glanced at her. “Are you asking for my permission?” Jason asked, surprised.
“Mum is not here; dad is not here, you’re virtually the man of the house, Jay.”
Jason chuckled. “Sure; besides it’s late. I can’t send her out even if I wanted to.”
“With Susan gone, it’s party time, huh?” Jessica asked.
“Well, it’s easier to breathe around here. Are you also staying over?”
“No, I’ll take her home,” Jason answered.
“And why is that? As you said, it’s late.”
“The fact that mum isn’t here doesn’t mean we should disrespect her, Stacie.”
“Disrespect? Come on Jason, have you forgotten she used to sleep over during your ‘crazy days’?”
“As you rightly said, those were my crazy days. Those days are over.”
“Whatever you say.” Rose came and served them.
“So how’s my nephew doing?” Stacie asked.
“He’s doing pretty well. Thanks for the concern, Stacie,” Jessica said with a smile.
“What can I do? He’s an Archer and we Archers look out for each other.”
“Oh please, you talk as if Archer is a royal name or something,” Betty snorted.
“Please, if you treat your family name as royalty, we do. Isn’t that right, Jay?”
“Of course,” Jason said proudly. They all chuckled.
“When is your mum coming back?” Betty asked.
“Did you just have to spoil the happy mood around here?” Stacie asked.
“Well, it’s better to know how long you’re going to be happy, right?”
“She told me she’d probably return next week Friday,” Stacie said.
“I see; did she tell you exactly when she would arrive?”
“Nope; it seems she’s not very sure when she’s returning back home. Besides, the longer she stays there, the better, huh?”
“Actually, that makes me nervous. Who knows, mum could be in the country, lurking around, spying on us,” Jason said as he sipped his drink.
“Really, could your mum be that creepy?” Betty asked. Jason and Stacie exchanged a knowing look. They chuckled.
“Look Betty, Susan Archer is a nice woman, okay? Don’t listen to them,” Jessica told Betty. Jason raised his glass.
“Yeah, take it from the sister-in-law to be, my mum is a very nice person,” Stacie said with a wink.
“Let’s toast to Susan Archer.” They all took their glasses.
“So, what’s up with you and George?” Jason asked. Stacie put her glass down.
“What are you talking about?”
“The guy who brought you home the other day… Are you guys seeing each other?”
“And what makes you think that? Because he brought me home that night?”
“That wasn’t the first time he had done that.”
“We are just friends.” Betty cleared her throat. Both Jason and Stacie glanced at her.
“Is there anything you want to say?” Jason asked Betty. She shook her head.
“He seems to be into you, sis.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
“No; but he seems like a nice guy.”
“He is a nice guy; I won’t deny that.”
“And what? I told you we are just friends.”
“Do you like him?””
“Can we please change the subject? It’s getting hot in here.”
“Okay, do you think he likes you?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care, okay?”
“Listen, it’s okay if you like him. The fact that, mum might not be for Jessie and I doesn’t mean it would be the same for you. I think I like him.”
“I’ll tell him you said that,” Betty said as she sipped her drink. Stacie glared at her.
Jason looked at Jessie who chuckled as she shook her head.
“Teenage drama,” Jason muttered.
“I’m not a teen, brother.”
“Then stop acting like one. Are you done, honey?”
“Yeah I am. Thanks for accommodating me, Stacie.”
“Don’t mention it. Please take care of Archer junior for me.”
“I will,” she said. Jason helped her get up.
“I will be right back.”
“Oh, you can sleep over at her place if you please. Mum isn’t here,” Stacie said with a shrug.
“I have work tomorrow. Will you wait up for me?”
“Do I have to?”
“You’re my sweet sister; of course you have to. I’ll see you,” Jason said with a wink. He pecked her and tapped her shoulder.
“Bye, girls,” Jessica said.
“Bye, Jessie.” They left the house.
“Can I watch the movie now?” Betty asked eagerly.
“Sure; it’s on my laptop…in my room.”
“Great!” Betty ran up the staircase.
“Won’t you finish your meal?”
“I’m done,” she said as she entered Stacie’s room and closed the door.
“Betty, you know Stacie’s birthday is next week, right?” George said.
“Uh huh, why?”
“I was thinking of getting something but the thing is, I don’t know what to get her. I was wondering if you could help me with that.” Betty glanced at him.
“Are you serious?”
“Why would I joke with something like that?”
“You do like Stacie, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about? We are friends and friends buy each other gifts on their birthdays, don’t they?”
“Okay, go on playing it safe. All you’ll realize it that she’s wearing someone’s ring and there’s nothing you can do about it than to ‘be her friend’.”
“Are you going to help me or not?”
“Of course; I need to get her something myself. So, where do you have in mind?”
“Hmmm…the mall…. I can see that you are ready to spend some bucks,” Betty said teasingly with a wink. She got up and took her purse.
“All right, let’s go.” They left the room.
“Jessie, an important person wants to invest in our company and wishes to meet our marketing officer. I would like you to meet with her.”
“But I’m not the marketing officer, sir.”
“I want you to meet with her. Is that a problem?”
“No sir. Where should I meet her?”
Jessica was sipping her juice whiles looking at her watch when someone came up behind her.
“Hello Jessica.” She turned and gasped. It was Susan with a big smile.
“You seem surprised to see me. I must say, you wear the pregnancy very well. May I join you?”
“I’m sorry but I’m expecting someone.”
“Some important person who wants to invest in your company? That would be me.”
“When did you get back? Do your children even know you’re here?”
“That’s my business and not your problem.” She sat.
“So, you really want to invest in my company?”
“Oh please,” Susan snorted. “Why would I do that? I don’t even know what your ‘company’ stands for.”
“Fine then, I’ll be on my way now. Thanks for wasting my time,” Jessica said, getting up. Susan held her wrist.
“Sit down, Jessie.”
“Unlike you Susan, I work to earn a living. I need to go back.”
“I said sit down, Jessica.” Jessica sat.
“What do you want, Susan?”
“I’m here to give you one final warning to back off Jason.”
“How do you expect me to do that now that I’m carrying his child?”
“Oh please….how sure are you that it is Jason’s child?”
“Excuse you? Come on Jess; let’s skip the part where we pretend we don’t know what you are, okay?”
“Stop insulting me, Susan!”
Betty and George came out of the mall with a gift bag and an ice-cream cup each. Betty saw Jessica talking to someone. She squinted to see the other person better. She gasped.
“What?” George asked.
“Oh nothing; let’s go.” They sat in the car and drove away.
“Oh am I now? We both know what you are.”
“I am a different person now, Susan.”
“Tell me that when I see you in a nun costume. Just take this money and disappear?”
“You want me to disappear with your grandson? Where can I go to? This money won’t even suffice to the time of labor. What would I do then, huh?”
“Go do what you know how to do best, Jessie! So, I get it now, you are clinging to Jason because of this thing in your womb, huh? Why do I have this strange feeling it’s not an Archer?”
“Stop it now, Susan. You are embarrassing me.”
“If you want it to stop, just take this money and disappear.”
“I’m sorry, Susan. You should be thanking me for not reporting you to the police for attempted murder.”
“You pushed me down the stairs the other day, remember? You wanted this baby gone, didn’t you? This little boy is going to grow up to be a full-fleshed Archer and is going to inherit everything your husband has ever earned.” Susan’s eyes widened.
“That’s what you wanted to hear, right? Okay, you’ve got it. I know it hurts you that I’m going to be part of your family…”
“Oh please, this has nothing to do with you, okay? You have this last chance with a strong warning. This is your best option because with the others, you’d be left with nothing. Trust me.”
“Keep your money, Susan. I’m leaving; you’ve wasted enough of my time. Welcome back, by the way,” Jessica said as she took her bag and walked away.
Susan chuckled. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she said as she put on her sunglasses.
Stacie was eating grapes when her phone rang.
“Hi Bet, what’s up?”
“You didn’t tell me your mummy’s back in town.”
“What are you talking about? My mum is still in Paris.”
“When did she say she was coming?”
“Friday; I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”
“I’m not sure but I think I saw her.”
“What, you saw my mum, where? That’s not possible.”
“I saw her in front of the mall. She was talking with Jessica, your brother’s fiancée.”
Stacie sat up. “Are you serious about this?”
“Why would I pull a prank with your mum involved?”
“Wow…. I don’t know what to say. Let me get back to you, okay? I need to tell Jason.”
“Sure; take care.” She hung up. She called the hotel she was lodging.
“Okay, thank you.” She hung up.
“This is incredible,” Stacie muttered as she dialed Jason’s number.
Jason was talking to a colleague when his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID.
“Excuse me for a minute. Hello sis, what’s up?”
“Have you heard from mum?”
“Betty just informed of seeing her at the mall.”
“What? Um….could you please excuse me? This is a bit private. I’ll call you back in when I’m done, ok?”
“Yes sir.” He waited for the guy to exit the office.
“What is going on, Stacie?”
“I don’t know, Jason. Betty just called to tell me she saw mum at the mall. Guess who she was with.”
“Who was it?”
“What? Are you sure of what you’re saying?”
“I don’t see why Betty would lie about such a thing. Besides, I called her hotel and I was told she had checked out. Why would she arrive home without informing us? She said she’d come on Friday.”
“I wonder what she has been up to. Thanks for telling me this, Stacie. I’ll get back to you.”
“Okay, take care.” She hung up. Jason speed-dialed Jessica’s number.
“Hello Jay, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine; and you?”
“I’m fine too; thanks for asking.”
“Are you at the office?”
“No but I’m on my way there. I was sent to meet some potential investor.”
“And how did it go?”
“That’s good. I was just calling to check up on you. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“Sure; I will. Will you come over tonight?”
“I’m not sure but I’ll let you know if I am, okay?”
“Okay; take care, love.”
“Yeah you too,” he said and hung up.
“Some potential investor,” he muttered to himself.
“Why would Jessie lie about meeting mum?” Stacie asked Jason, wondering.
“I’ve been trying to find an answer to it myself.”
“Maybe mum was the potential investor.”
“Oh please, mum would not invest in such a company. I know her well enough.”
“Or maybe Betty was wrong. Mum can’t be in town. She would have called us.”
“We would be fools if we didn’t think mum is capable of pulling such a stunt.”
“If she is indeed in town, where could she be residing?”
“Close enough to know what we are doing.”
“Gosh, this is creepy. So are you going to confront Jessie?”
“It would be stupid to do so if we can’t confirm that mum’s really in town. Let me call her.” He dialed her number.
“I don’t think I’d be able to come over tonight, Jessie.”
“It’s okay; I’m pretty worn out myself. I think my meeting with the potential investor exhausted me more than I expected.”
“I see; my mum would be arriving on Friday….”
“Yeah….you told me that.”
“I just wanted to remind you that when she gets home, we have to meet her and tell her our intention to get married.”
“Yes…yes, I know that.”
“Are you okay? You sound a bit nervous.”
“Of course; the whole thing of meeting your mother when I know she’s against us freaks me out,” she said with a nervous laugh.
“Okay…take care and goodnight. I love you.”
“I love you too, Jason; goodnight.” She hung up. She sipped her drink.
“You have this last chance with a strong warning. This is your best option because with the others, you’d be left with nothing. Trust me.”
“You are not going to get rid of me easily, Susan.”
On Friday evening, Jason and Stacie drove to the cinema to watch a movie. After that, they bought pizza and ate it in the car.
“Why didn’t you ask Jessie to join us?”
“I don’t know….ever since Betty’s call; I feel this uneasiness in her voice. I want her to come out and tell me the truth.”
“You don’t trust her?”
“I do….but mum in the picture changes everything.”
“This is the time for the two of you to stick together, Jason. Don’t let mum come between you.”
“Why are you backing us up now?”
“Because an innocent baby is involved now. The last thing I want to witness is an innocent child scarred by some big mess caused by mum.”
“I hear you; I’ll never leave Jessie, no matter what.” Stacie smiled. They drove home.
When they entered the house, they both got startled.
“Why did your hearts jump as if you’ve seen a ghost? Why, aren’t you happy to see me?” Susan asked, sitting comfortably on the couch with her legs crossed.
“Mum, when….when did you get back? Why didn’t you call so we could come and pick you up?”
“I didn’t want to disturb your agenda for the day. I thought you would be with Jessie but I can see you went a-bonding with your sister which is equally a nice thing. So tell me, where are you coming from?”
“We went to the movies.”
“Oh, that’s nice. What’s the title of the movie?”
“Mum, when did you get back?” Stacie asked, folding her arms.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you just arrive today or you’ve been around…probably for days now?”
“And where would I be sleeping if I arrived days ago?” Jason and Stacie exchanged a glance.
“Don’t tell me we are back in the era of silly suspicions. What makes you think I’ve been in the country for days now, huh?”
“Because someone saw you…”
“That’s ridiculous; saw me where?”
“At the mall?” Susan caught her breath.
“That wasn’t me,” she replied after a slight hesitation. Stacie raised an eyebrow.
“Seriously, where would I live if I did that?”
“There are hotels around.”
“When I have my own house? Come on Stacie, I’ve better things to do with my money. Besides, is this your best way of welcoming me back home? Or let me say, you two are not happy to have me back.”
“Come on mum, of course we are,” Jason said.
“Really? Then your faces express the exact opposite. I got you things from my trip. This one is for you Stacie and this one is for you, Jason.” She handed two bags to them.
“I would have loved to see you look at them but it seems the atmosphere in this house has been reset. I’d rather go to bed.”
“Please mum…. I’m sorry; I just didn’t understand why you’d come back without letting us know,” Stacie apologized.
“I called the house, Rose told me both of you were out and because I didn’t want to inconvenience any of you, I asked the driver to pick me up. You can confirm with him if you like. Goodnight, you two.”
“Goodnight, mum and thanks for the gifts.”
“We really appreciate them.” Susan went upstairs to her room and closed the door.
“I came on too strong, didn’t I?” Stacie asked.
“You did great. I noticed this sudden tension when you mentioned the mall.”
“Yeah, I noticed it too; she actually hesitated before denying it.” She sighed.
“Do you think break time is over?”
“It certainly is.” He opened his gift bag.
“Wow…” He sat. He brought the things out; a pair of cufflinks, an expensive-looking gold watch and a tie.
“They are beautiful. They must be expensive.”
“Yeah, they look it.” Stacie brought hers out; a jewelry set of earrings and a necklace, a watch and a pair of heels.
“Now I feel bad for confronting her like that,” Stacie said.
“What if it’s true, that Betty really saw them talking? What could they be talking about that both of them would deny it ever happening?” Jason asked. They both looked at their mother’s bedroom door.
“Wow…that was close. They are not even sure about it. Hope no one saw me anywhere else. Hold on Jason, I’ve a surprise for you,” Susan said with a smile as she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror.