“So how’s your mum doing?” Jessica asked whiles wiping plates in the kitchen.
“She’s fine; she’s herself,” Jason replied with a shrug. Jessica put her napkin down and turned to face him, leaning on the sink. She folded her arms.
“Have you brought us up to her again?”
“Not really; I’ve decided to leave it alone for the time being.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I have a feeling that you’re hiding something from me.”
“What? Are you serious? What could I possibly hide from you?” Jessica asked with a nervous chuckle.
“I don’t know….and I’m not going ahead to talk to my mother about us till I find out what it is.”
“Seriously Jason….. I’m not keeping anything from you.”
“Then why are you always inquiring about my mother’s mood?”
“Because it’s necessary to know when to approach her.” Jason approached her and stood right in front of her. Jessica flinched.
“Is there something I need to know?”
“Okay, let me make easier for you. Who was that ‘potential investor’ you went to meet the other day?”
“What…you were not following me, were you?”
“Oh please, why would I do that? I’m asking you that because you’ve been acting weird ever since you met this mysterious ‘potential investor.’ So, are you going to tell me or not?”
“That has nothing to do with me asking about your mother. If you are bothered about it, I won’t ask about her again. Is that okay?”
“Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on here?”
“What’s going on here is that, you’re suspecting me over nothing. I don’t want to get excited right now so I’ll go and lie down.”
“Wait.” He placed both palms on her cheeks and looked into her eyes.
“Whatever it is, I’m sure I can take it. I need you to tell me what’s making you edgy like this.”
“That…potential investor….turned out to be….your mother.” Jason let his hands drop and sighed heavily. Jessica held his hands.
“I didn’t want to tell you this because I didn’t want you to have problems with her.”
“I knew it. So she was in town on Wednesday.”
“When did she come home?”
“Friday evening just as she said. I knew it. When Betty informed us of seeing you with her at the mall, I thought she assumed it but I kind of suspected it. That’s why I called you.”
“I’m sorry for not telling you about it.”
“What did she want?”
“She….wanted me to stay away from you.”
“And why is that? You are expecting my baby.”
“Perhaps she doesn’t believe it’s your baby.”
“And why would she think that?”
“I don’t know. Please don’t confront her about it. Just let’s go and see her together and let’s see what happens, okay?” She hugged him.
“Why is mum doing all she can to stop me from being happy? What did I ever do to her?”
“It’s okay Jay; we are going to get through this…together, okay?” She said, looking into his eyes. He nodded. She gave him a quick kiss.
“We are going to be a family soon, Jason; you’ll see,” Jessica said with a confident smile, her arms around his neck. They hugged again.
Susan came out of her room.
“Rose, who was that at the door?” She called out as she descended the stairs. She stopped abruptly when her eyes fell on Jason and Jessica, looking at her, holding hands.
“Good evening mother; we need to speak with you.”
“Is that so? All right then, have a seat. I’ll to go to the kitchen to get us some drinks and I’ll be right back, okay?” They sat. Few moments later, she came back with Rose who was holding a tray. Jason took a glass but Jessica declined the offer.
“Why won’t you take the drink?” Susan asked.
“She’s expecting mother,” Jason replied.
“I see; so what is it that you two want to talk to me about?”
“Well, I believe you know very well why we are here. Jessie is expecting my child and I want to marry her as soon as possible.” Susan was about to speak but Jason continued, “I’m not here to ask for your permission, mother. I’m only here to inform you.”
“I’m sorry Jason, but that won’t happen.”
“You heard me.”
“Is that why you arrived last week Wednesday and tried to convince her to disappear? You actually attempted to pay her off, mum?”
“Yes I did and it’s not like that was my first time, isn’t that right, dear Jessie?”
“What are you talking about?” Jason asked, confused. He turned to look `at Jessica who looked shocked.
“I… I… don’t know what she’s talking about, Jason…. I swear to you…”
“Oh come on Jessie, why don’t you tell him all about how you met my son? You wouldn’t have laid a finger on my handsome Jason if it weren’t for my help…”
“Jessica….what is mum talking about?”
Tears ran down Jessica’s cheeks. She got up.
“I’ve to go now.”
“No; wait, tell me what’s going on here, Jessie.”
“Maybe I don’t deserve you after all,” Jessie said and turned to look at Susan who was sipping her drink.
“And you…. I hope you are happy that you’ve had your way.”
“Of course I am,” Susan said, gesturing a toast with her glass. Jessica ran out.
“Jessica, wait….” He followed her. Minutes later, he came back into the house.
“What was that all about, mum?”
“Why don’t you let her tell you the story?”
“No, you tell me since you were the one who brought it up. What was that about not being first time of paying her off? What did that mean, mum?”
“You are shouting, Jason. I said let her tell you. It would give you more motivation to hate me if you want.”
“Sorry to interrupt but dinner is ready,” Rose announced.
“Now if you would excuse me, I’ll dinner to eat,” Susan said and got up.
“What did I do to you, mum? Why don’t you ever want to see me happy?”
“Then maybe I’m not your mother. Has that thought ever crossed your mind?” Susan said with a sly smile and walked over to the dining table. Jason opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Tears formed in his eyes.
“You are right; maybe you’re not my mother.”
About an hour later, Stacie arrived home. She was about to climb the stairs when Susan said, “Won’t you greet your mother? And besides, why are you now coming home?”
“I’m sorry, good evening mother. I was doing my assignment and hanging out with my friends.”
“Have you eaten something?”
“Well, I grabbed some snacks but I’ll still eat my dinner.”
“Good; you’ll find it in the kitchen.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll be right back.” She went upstairs and knocked on Jason’s door. She opened the door and entered.
“I got your S.O.S. message…..Jason?” She came back downstairs.
“Mum….have you seen Jason?”
“Yeah, he’s around. Won’t you eat something?”
“I will, mum. I need to see my brother.” She left the room.
“Whatever,” Susan muttered. Jason was sitting at the poolside, holding a bottle of vodka.
“Hey there, got your message. What’s up?” She sat down beside him. She realized he was crying.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Is it mum? Jessica? Both of them? Talk to me, Jason.”
“Would you know if I was adopted?”
“What? Who suggested to you such nonsense?”
“Or maybe my mother died when I was still a baby and the one in there came in to raise me. Do you think it’s possible?”
“Why are you saying such silly things, Jason? You were definitely not adopted and your mother did not die. What’s going on here?”
“She said she’s not my mother.”
“Mum said that? Why, what happened?”
“It’s not about what happened, Stacie. It’s about what she said. Nothing I ever do should make her say such a cruel thing to me.”
“This woman is too much. I thought you said you were bringing Jessie over. What happened?”
“It so seems those two have a history.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mum mentioned that she had paid Jessica off before.”
“What, are you serious?”
“Go and ask her.”
“And what did Jessica say?”
“Nothing….she just took off and left.”
“Which means it’s true. Have you called her?”
“She’s not picking up. And Betty was right. Mum was in town on Wednesday.”
“I’m not surprised. Why is she so mean? I’ll go and confront her.”
“No don’t. There’s no need for that.” He lifted the bottle to his lips.
“Oh no, I won’t allow him to trash my only brother like that. Come on, stop that,” she said, snatching the bottle from him.
“You are better than this, Jason and you know that. Mum is trying to break you down.”
“And what mother does that?”
“Come on, let’s go inside.” She got up and held his arm.
“Get up, Jason.” She helped him up. He belched.
“Ewww….let me help you.” Jason put his arm around her neck. They entered the house.
“Have you been drinking?” Susan asked.
“No….he’s just intoxicated with taking so much fresh air,” Stacie answered sarcastically.
“Please let me take him to his room? Thank you,” Stacie said.
“All right; I’m off to bed myself so goodnight to you two.” Stacie helped Jason to his room.
“You need to wash your mouth.”
“I want to go to sleep.”
“I know, just wash your mouth first, okay? Come on.” She took him to the bathroom and made him rinse his mouth with a mouthwash. She helped him lay down and took off his shoes.
“Try and get some sleep, okay? Goodnight,” Stacie said and gave her brother a kiss on his forehead. She left his room. She opened her mother’s room door and slammed it.
“Here we go,” Susan said when she saw Stacie with a very angry look.
“It’s about time you showed some respect to this room in memory of your loving father, dear.”
“What did you say to Jason, mother?”
“What could I have said to get him drinking? Hmmm…. I don’t know.”
“Why did you tell him you’re not his mother?”
“I….didn’t say that…exactly.”
“Then what did you say, mother? What did Jason do to you that you always find means to hurt him? He is your son, mum; he should be the pride of your life. Why are acting like his enemy?”
“You are calling me an enemy because I wouldn’t approve of him getting married to Jessica?”
“About that; I remember so vividly the days when Jason was so silly in his ways; you supported in everything but the story changed when he became responsible. You are an enemy of progress, mum. And what’s this I hear about you paying Jessica off? Is that what you were trying to do with her on Wednesday at the mall?”
“You wouldn’t understand, sweetheart but it is for the best. Jessica doesn’t deserve our Jason.”
“Our Jason? Really mum, you just crushed him when you told him you are not his mother….”
“I didn’t exactly say that…”
“And this is not the first time you’ve said it, mum! Is there something you want to spill out, just do it and stop hurting us the way you do.”
“I’m sorry if that’s how it seems but I don’t want to hurt you, Stacie.”
“But you are always hurting Jason and whenever you do that, I get hurt too. Please let him marry Jessica. He’s going to have a baby with her. He’s going to be a father. Please…”
“That’s something I don’t want to discuss right now. Just go to bed, okay?”
“Just promise me you won’t say anything mean to Jason again.”
“It’s not like I plan to…”
“Just promise me, mum….” Susan only gazed at her.
“You can’t, right? Because you are going to do it again and very soon, right? I don’t understand you,” Stacie said tearfully and left the room. Susan sighed.
“What a drama,” she muttered and shook her head. She yawned and lay down.
Jessica lay on her bed, crying.
Jessica was dancing wildly on the dance floor of a night club. Susan was seated far back, watching her closely whiles sipping her drink. Jessica stepped out with her partner and a few minutes later, she came back in, counting some notes. She put them in her blouse. Susan smiled lightly at the sight. Jessica went to the bar for a drink. When she took the glass, Susan came to stand beside her.
“Hello there; are you busy?”
“Not at the moment. How may I help you?”
“I am Susan Archer,” she said with an outstretched hand. Jessica stared at the hand for a moment before taking it.
“I know; I’ve been waiting to speak to you.”
“About what? Are you a mother of a guy I’m seeing or something?”
Susan chuckled. “Not yet; but you are going to soon, if you accept my proposal.”
“What…proposal?” she asked after taking a big swallow.
“I think this is the time for you to take a drink,” Susan said coolly, pointing to her glass. Jessica gulped it down.
“I have um….should I call it an assignment which I have confidence that you can undertake it pretty well…”
“I’m not a harlot, ma’am.”
“I never said you were; don’t worry; it’s not a demeaning task. This place is very noisy. Can we meet tomorrow? This is my card. We could meet at the restaurant opposite this place at 2p.m. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure,” Jessica said, looking at the card. Susan put a note on the counter.
“That’s for your drink. Have a good night, Jessica.”
“Yeah you too, Susan.” Susan left the place. Jessica looked at the card one more time and put it in her blouse.
The following day…
Susan arrived at the arranged spot to find Jessica already there, sipping her drink quietly. She looked like a girl desperate for employment of any kind. Susan smiled at the thought. She walked over to her.
“Hello Jessica….” She turned to look at her.
“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting for long.”
“No; not at all. I just got here actually.”
“I see. How are you doing by the way?” Susan asked sincerely as she sat.
“I’m fine ma’am.”
“Call me Susan.”
“Okay,” Jessica replied shyly. Susan signaled the waiter. He came over.
“We are going to have quite a long chat. Do you mind if we talk about this over lunch?”
“Sure….as long as you’re paying,” Jessica answered with a shrug. Susan chuckled as she opened the menu book. She scanned through.
“I’ll have green salad and a glass of red wine, please,” Susan said as she handed the menu to the waiter. She looked at Jessica who looked lost. She gazed into the menu hastily and said, “Um…I’ll have…”
“Don’t mind the cost; I’ll take care of it, okay?” Susan said assuredly. Jessica looked at her and nodded thankfully. She made her order and handed the menu to him. He excused himself and left.
“So tell me about yourself.”
“I thought you said you knew me.”
“Of course I do; I just want to know whether you’d leave some things out.”
“I still don’t know who you are so I’m not really comfortable telling you about myself.”
“Fair enough. Let me start. As I told you before, I’m Mrs. Susan Archer, the wife of the entrepreneur Gordon Archer and a mother of two. I have a son and a daughter. Jason my son is a bit wayward and I want someone to help me tame him.”
“And you think I’m the right one to tame your son? In case you’ve forgotten, I’m…”
“I’m perfectly aware of what you are, Jessica and that is why I believe you’re the best candidate for this task.” Jessica looked puzzled. The waiter approached them and served them. Jessica’s eyes widened at the sight of the food.
“You must be hungry,” Susan commented as she observed her.
“I am,…Susan.” They began to eat.
“So tell me more about your son, Jason,” Jessica asked in a mouthful.
“He loves to have fun and party hard….” Jessica gestured a hands up as she continued to devour her food.
“He’s caring and sweet. I’m sure you’ll like him.” Jessica took her drink.
“And exactly am I supposed to do?” Susan leaned forward and whispered, “I need to hype him up; be his motivation to get crazier.”
Jessica’s jaw dropped. “I thought you said…”
“I know what I said. I need you to keep him busy….just be there for him.”
“So…I’m not really going to tame him, am I?”
“Yeah exactly. Are you up for it?”
“Sure; if the wage is good, why not?”
“Good and let me slip in this, my husband might not really fancy you but I need you to be firm. Never let my son go out of your grip. Do you get it?”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Good, finish up and let’s get out of here before someone recognizes me.” Jessica finished her meal hurriedly. Susan took a bundle of notes and dropped it on the table. Jessica froze when she saw the money. Her eyes slowly lifted to meet Susan’s.
“Take it and go prep yourself. You are going to be the girlfriend of Jason Archer and I need you to be ready for it. I expect you to act the role exceptionally well.”
“How long do I have to prepare?” Jessica asked anxiously.
“Not that long because he will be having a birthday party at the Sunset Hotel next week Saturday.”
“That’s long enough. I’m sure I’ll be ready by then.”
“Good; I’ll pay you whenever I feel you’re making progress that deserves recompense. Is that okay?”
“I’m sure we can talk more about that as the time goes on, right?”
“Of course; and please act like we haven’t met before when he introduces you to me, is that clear?”
“Sure of course; don’t worry about that. I’m a pretty good actress.”
“Hope you are. Are you done?”
“Yes ma’am… I’m sorry, Susan.”
“Let’s go then.” Susan paid the waiter and they exited the restaurant.
“Where are you headed? You could give me a ride home,” Jessica asked. Susan turned and gave her a stern ‘you-cannot-not-serious’-kind of look. She gazed at her from her face to her feet and back up.
“I have risked a lot to have stayed with you in the restaurant that long. Are you such a dolt to have suggested such a thing?” Susan asked scornfully.
“No; I’m sorry. I will just take a cab then.” Susan sighed as she searched her bag. She brought out a note and gave it to her.
“Here; I hope it takes care of that.”
“Yes ma’am….i mean Susan.”
“You’ll have to call me ma’am in front of Jason by the way.”
“Sure of course.” Susan turned to leave.
“But how do I get to know when the party starts? I don’t even know how he looks like.”
“Give me a call during the week and I’ll you know all the necessary details. Have a good day, Jessica,” Susan said and started walking away. She put on her dark sunglasses. Jessica looked at her admiringly as she walked to her car.
“I’m going to get there someday; I know I will,” she said to herself. Susan got into her car and drove away. Jessica attempted a wave but was ignored. She shrugged and walked away.
“I never should have agreed to this. I shouldn’t have,” Jessica said as she sobbed.