“I’m sorry, Jason,” Jessica apologized tearfully as she narrated her story.
“How long has it been?” Jason asked.
“How do you mean?”
“How long have you been my mother’s puppet?”
“Up to about three months ago.”
“You mean you’ve been my real girlfriend just these past three months? Gosh, what kind of a world am I living in? Everything around me isn’t as it seems. What is real then?” Jason asked himself. Jessica touched his cheek and made him to look at her.
“What we have is real, Jason,” she said, touching her tummy. Jason’s gaze lingered on her tummy for a moment and he looked away, tears in his eyes.
“I’m truly sorry about whatever happened between your mother and I. The thing was, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I wasn’t spying on you, I wasn’t influencing you in anyway…”
“But you kept me on the wrong path. That’s exactly what mum wanted. She wanted to keep me distracted so I wouldn’t change to be who I am right now. That is why she can’t stand me. All mothers dream of their sons becoming responsible successful men; why is my mother different? Why does she pleasure in my waywardness?”
“I don’t understand myself but together, we can fight for your happiness, Jason. You deserve to be happy; you are a good guy, Jason. You are going to be a father. We becoming a family is going to make your happiness complete. Let’s just do this.”
He looked at her. Jessica hugged him.
Days later, Jessica went to the Archers’ house. Rose opened the door for her to enter. Stacie was in the living room, reading. Jessica stopped when she saw Stacie. Rose left them alone.
“Hey there, aren’t you supposed to be in school?” Jessica asked.
“What are you, my mother?” Stacie shot back. Jessica chuckled as she approached her. Stacie looked up from her book.
“Is it true?” Stacie asked.
“That you are my mother’s toy?” Jessica chuckled again.
“I think I would say I was. Is she around?”
“Why, are you here to get your pay?”
“You don’t have to play mean with me, Stacie. I’m not here to hurt Jason.”
“For your own sake, you better not.”
“Where is your mother?”
“She’s getting fresh air outside, I think.”
“Thank you,” Jessica said and turned to leave.
“Wait,” Stacie said, stopping Jessie in her tracks. Stacie got up and walked to her.
“We both know that I’m not your biggest fan but I was willing to be nice for the sake of Jason’s unborn son but you would be underestimating me greatly if you think you can get away with hurting my brother.”
“Shush, I’m not done. For the sake of memory, I’ll tell you this as clearly as I can, don’t you dare mess with my brother. Cause if you do, you will pay dearly with every tear drop he sheds. Are we clear?”
“I would never…”
“Jessica, are we clear?”
Jessica sighed. “Of course we are.”
“Good; so whatever business you have had with our mother, I do hope it’s over and that you are here to fight for your man unless you are the Jezebel of our generation,” Stacie said and walked past her, climbing the stairs.
“I do love your brother, Stacie,” Jessica said.
“You’ve got to prove that,” Stacie said and entered her room.
Jessica went outside to meet Susan relaxing and sipping her juice by the pool. Susan lifted her dark shades to look at her approaching.
“Interesting…I don’t remember asking you to come over, young lady,” Susan said.
“I don’t know why you’re doing this, Susan but this nonsense has got to stop. Jason is your son and he’s hurting because unfortunately for him, he has been cursed to have a mother like you who only seeks his downfall. You told me your refusal of us getting married has nothing to do with me so it does have everything to do with Jason. But guess what, Jason and I are one now because of this child and whatever you do to him, affects me as well. Whatever he did to you that you’re paying him back for, I think he has paid enough for it. Let him go, Susan.”
“I’m going to pretend that whatever you said this past minute didn’t happen because of your condition, Jessie. I believe due to your condition, your emotions are….heightened a little more than they should. How dare you barge into my house uninvited and stand before me and talk gibberish? You are so lucky you didn’t come alone,” Susan said, eyeing her tummy as she took a magazine beside and opened it.
“Oh please, as if my condition hinders you from doing anything. Go on, do your worst. I know what’s going through your mind right now. You’d wish to drown me and my child in this pool right this minute. Why don’t you go ahead?”
“I don’t want to dirty my pool with your filthy blood, that’s why.” Susan got up.
“I’m going inside and for your own good, be sure to exit this premises within the next three minutes,” Susan said and started walking away.
“We are going to get married, Susan whether you like it or not. We don’t even need your blessings anyway because you obviously have none to offer. Just keep your bloody hands off Jason or else you’re going to have one hell of a fight,” Jessica said in a serious tone. Susan stopped and turned halfway, glancing at her and chuckling.
“We’ll see, Jessie,” she said and entered the house. Jessica sighed. She looked up and saw Stacie looking down at her. Stacie left the window. She left the house.
In the evening, Jason entered the house to find his mother busily working on her laptop. He ignored her and was about to climb the stairs when Susan said, “Good evening to you too, Jason.” Jason was to speak when Stacie said on top of the stairs, “Hey, you are home!” She descended the stairs.
“Hey, how are you?” Jason asked as he hugged her.
“I’m fine; how was your day?”
“It was okay.”
“Great; I need to speak with you,” Stacie said, holding Jason’s arm and heading towards the door.
“So what, every little conversation has to be done outside now? Am I now a stranger in this house?” Susan asked.
“Well, it’s obvious we’re not in the mood for any arguments. Why don’t you take vacation, mother? And a long one, this time? It would do all of us a lot of good,” Stacie said.
“I can see that my presence makes you both uncomfortable so if it disturbs you that much, why don’t you move out? Besides, you both own a house, right?” Susan said.
Stacie shook her head. “Let’s go, brother.” They went outside. Susan chuckled to herself.
“What is it, sis?”
“Jessica came over today.”
“She didn’t tell you…of course she wouldn’t.”
“She came to see mum?”
“Uh huh, she came to confront her. She’s facing up to her now.”
“But that could be dangerous. No one faces mother like that without consequences.”
“I know, that’s why I’m telling you. I admire her for that but she should be careful. The baby is not safe as long as it stays in the womb.”
Jason nodded, understanding what Stacie was implying.
“Let me call her.” He took his phone and dialed her number.
“Hi baby, are you done with work?” Jessica asked when she answered the call.
“Yeah I am; did you come to my place today?” Jessica sighed.
“Yeah, I had to talk to Susan, Jason.”
“No, you didn’t have to. Jessica, mum loves to be challenged and trust me, she’ll take you up to it. Besides, she has no work doing other than making others’ lives miserable. Please don’t confront her again, okay? We’re going to have her accept us, no matter how long it takes for us to do that. I don’t want you to get excited, Jessie.”
“I know but I couldn’t help that Susan is deliberately withholding the keys to your happiness, Jason.”
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll get it. How are you and the baby doing?”
“We’re fine. We miss you.”
“I know; I miss you two both too. I got to go. I’ll talk to you later, okay? Take care.”
“You too love, bye.” She hung up.
“Let’s go inside and eat dinner,” Stacie said.
“You haven’t eaten?”
“Nope; I was waiting for you.”
“Awww….aren’t you sweet?” Stacie smiled as she put her arm around her brother’s waist. They entered the house.
Susan approached them as they were eating.
“I’m going to allow you two to get married, Jason,” Susan announced. Jason turned to look at her in surprise.
“I know I haven’t been the best mother to you and I’m sorry for that. I want to make it up to you.”
“What changed your mind?”
“I want you to be happy, Jason.” Stacie cleared her throat.
“I know it may be hard to believe but it’s true. After all, you are my son and your happiness matters to me. I’ll approve of your marriage under one condition.”
“Now it sounds real to me. Mother would never agree to this without a condition,” Stacie said, biting through a piece of chicken. Susan eyed her.
“And what condition is that, mum?” Jason asked.
“Why don’t you bring her over to lunch this weekend and we’ll discuss that, huh? Have a good night, you two.”
“Good night, mother. I love you,” Stacie said.
“Are you being cynical or are you just being you?” Susan asked as she ascended the stairs.
“No, I mean it, mum. You make life interesting and I’ll always love for you for that.”
“Whatever,” she said and entered her room.
“Was she serious or was she pulling my legs?” Jason asked Stacie.
“She was serious which means she’s up to something. We just need to figure that out.”
“We would never know till we find out what condition she has.”
“That’s true. Seriously, how would our lives turn out to be with our mother being the way she is?”
“Definitely boring,” Jason answered and resumed his dinner.
“What condition?” Jessica asked after Jason had informed her of what Susan told him.
“I don’t know; I guess we have to wait till Saturday.”
“But can you think of anything she would require?” Jessica asked.
“No, actually I can’t think of anything. I just hope it’s nothing ridiculous. We are going to overcome this, Jessie. I’m sure of that,” he said and hugged her.
“Do we really need her approval to get married?” Jessica asked.
“Yeah, we do. I don’t any future problems concerning my inheritance.”
“How do you mean?” Jessica asked, looking at him.
“You know my daddy probably wouldn’t have agreed to us getting married and I don’t know if there’s a clause in the will which could lead to me losing all my inheritance as a result of getting married without their consent. Knowing my mother, I don’t want to even give her that chance.”
“I understand. Okay, let’s do this. Whatever she throws at us, we’ll catch it and throw it back at her….hard.”
“Yeah, that’s right….hard.” He kissed her hair.
On Saturday, Stacie went to campus to finish up her group assignment.
“Great; so we are done, right?” Stacie asked.
“Yeah, we are done,” George replied, typing on his laptop.
“Good; I’ve to rush home for lunch,” Stacie said as she got up, taking up her handbag.
“But we could have lunch here on campus,” Betty said.
“Yeah, I could take you to some place really nice,” George suggested, looking up at her hopefully.
“I’m sorry but I really need to head home.”
“But we have to go over the work and see if it okay with everyone,” George insisted.
“I’m sure you can take care of that, George. Bye, everyone,” Stacie said and started towards her car. Betty joined her.
“Are you avoiding George?” Betty asked.
“And why will I do that? I told you I need to be at home for lunch.”
“And what’s so special about today’s lunch that you wouldn’t want to miss it?”
“Jason is bringing Jessie over for lunch today.”
“Does your mum know about that?”
“Uh huh, actually she asked Jason to bring her over.”
“Why is that?”
“That’s what I’m going to find out. I won’t miss the drama for anything,” she said as she unlocked the car door and opened it.
“I’m afraid George thinks you’re brushing him off.”
“Well I’m not; you know that.”
“But you’ve been occupied lately with your family issues that we didn’t even get to celebrate your birthday.”
“I know and I’m sorry for that but I promise to make it up to you…both, is that okay?”
“If you are not into him, just tell him.”
“He doesn’t need me to spell it out before he realizes it. I will find time and talk to him.” Stacie sat in the car.
“You better; now hurry up and go so you don’t miss the ‘lunch drama.’ And don’t forget to fill me in with the details,” Betty said with a wink as she closed the door.
“Sure I will; take care, dear.”
“You too, Stacie.” Stacie drove away. Betty glanced at George who was gazing sadly at Stacie’s car leaving. His eyes met Betty’s who gave him a comforting smile.
Jason and Jessica were sitting in the living room sipping drinks, waiting for Susan to come down from her room.
“Where’s Stacie?” Jessica asked Jason. Jason looked at his watch.
“She had to go to campus to finish up some group assignment. I called her some minutes ago and she said she was on her way back. I really hope she makes it here in time.”
“And why is that?” Jessica wondered. He looked at her.
“Because with her by my side, I know I can face my mother. With her being here, she can influence whatever is going to happen during lunch,” Jason said and gulped his drink down. Jessica gave him an understanding smile. They heard a car pull up in the driveway. Jason placed his glass down.
“It must be her,” Jason said with relief as he got up. He walked to the door. Stacie was about to open the door when it opened. She was surprised to see Jason open the door for her.
“And may I ask what you’re doing at the door?” Stacie asked as she entered.
“Just wanted to make sure you were the one who just arrived. I can’t believe it but I did miss you whiles you were gone,” Jason said as he hugged her sideways and kissed her hair. Stacie chuckled and gave him a puzzled look.
“What is this about, Jay?”
“I just wanted you to be by my side as we head towards the dining table.”
“Is this because of mum?”
“Uh huh; believe it or not, I’m pretty anxious.”
“You have every right to be, Jason. Mum can be pretty unpredictable but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”
“Yeah I know, that’s why I needed you here so badly.” They smiled at each other.
“You finally arrived,” Jessica said. They both turned to look at her.
“Yeah, how are you today, Jessie?” Stacie asked.
“Hmm…it seems my sister-in-law is in a good mood today asking about my welfare,” Jessica asked testily.
“Don’t push your luck,” Stacie replied. “Where’s mum?”
“Still in her room; wondering what she’s doing?”
“Probably making up her face to scare us all when she appears here,” Stacie said sardonically. Jessica chuckled. Rose came in.
“Lunch is ready and set.”
“Thanks Rose,” Jason replied.
“Let me go up and inform mum. You two breathe and relax. Today’s isn’t the end of the world,” Stacie said and started climbing the stairs. She put her handbag on the couch of her room and closed the door. She knocked on her mother’s door.
“Yeah, come in.” Stacie entered.
“Hi mum.” Susan was sitting in front of her dressing mirror.
“Stacie, when did you get back?”
“Just now; Rose said lunch was ready.”
“I see; are the lovebirds still downstairs?”
“Yes they are.”
“Okay; let’s do this,” Susan got up. Stacie held her mother’s wrist.
“Mum, please don’t create any tension at the table today. Those two are obviously crazy about each other. Please don’t stand in the way of their happiness. Do this for your son, mother; do this for Jason, your only son,” Stacie pleaded earnestly. Susan gazed at her for a moment and smiled.
“I’ve no intentions of doing otherwise, Stacie for the sake of Jason’s happiness.”
“Thank you, mum.” She let go of her wrist.
“Let’s go downstairs, shall we?” Stacie nodded. They left the room and came downstairs together. Jason and Jessica stood.
“Wow….it seems the baby bum is quite showing now,” Susan said admiringly. Jessica rubbed her palm on her tummy with a smile.
“Okay, everyone’s here. Let’s head to the table, shall we?” They approached the dining table and sat. Susan sat at the head of the table, Jason sat at her right with Jessica beside him whiles Stacie sat at her mother’s left. Stacie said grace and they served themselves. The dinner went well as they chatted amidst eased laughter. They then moved to the living room and were served with wine.
“Please make sure to give her just a little,” Jason said teasingly, pointing to Stacie. Stacie frowned. Jason winked at her and chuckled.
“Okay, I know I called you all here for this lunch for this reason and I’m sure you’re all anxious about what I’m about to say. Before I get to that, let me say this; I care about you, Jason and that your happiness does matter to me. You are my son and the heir to your father’s empire. I’m just looking out for everyone’s interest; especially what your father would have wanted. I hope you understand me.”
“I do, mum,” Jason answered.
“Okay, let’s make a toast to the memory of your father and everything he has done as a family man,” Susan proposed. They raised their glasses.
“Cheers.” They clinked glasses. Susan sipped and put her glass down.
“Okay; I’m going to skip the part where we pretend we don’t know Jessica’s history so I hope you would understand why I’m requiring this before I can approve of your intention to get married.” Jason and Jessica exchanged a look.
“I require that Jessica takes a paternity test….”
Jessica spewed her wine; Jason choked on his and Stacie coughed. Susan looked at the three of them, surprised at their reactions.
“What, isn’t that the most realistic thing to ask for considering Jessica’s history?” Susan asked. Jason glanced at Stacie who had locked eyes with her mother.