Stacie knocked on Jason’s door.
“Jason,” she called out.
“I want to be alone right now, Stacie; please.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes, I need to think.”
“All right; whenever you need to talk to someone, I’m right here, okay?”
“Okay.” Stacie turned and went to knock on her mother’s door. When she raised her fisted hand, Susan opened the door. Stacie retreated a few steps”
“I knew you’d come here next. What do you want?” Susan asked as she started down the stairs.
“Undo what you’ve done, mum before things turn nasty,” Stacie said as she followed her downstairs.
“What have I done?”
“We both know you have something to do with the results turning negative.”
“Oh really? What makes you think I had something to do with Jessie’s unfortunate but inevitable fate?”
“Oh come on mother; I’ve lived long enough with you to recognize your handiworks. The results have Susan Archer smeared all over it.” Susan laughed.
“Oh my dear Stacie, what would I have done without you? You give my heart a good laugh with your silly wild insinuations.”
“You call them insinuations, mother? You already knew the outcome before you proposed that preposterous condition. You knew it would end like this, didn’t you?”
“But of course I did. I know that she’s nothing but a tramp ready to pluck the goodies of this family with the disguise with that bastard in her womb,” Susan said, sitting at the dining table.
“How far will you go to destroy this family, mum?”
“Destroy? Why will I destroy the very family I labored to create?”
“So you swear you didn’t tamper with the results.”
“I don’t like being put on the spot, Stacie. Rose, is dinner ready or not?”
“Then hurry up with it before someone kills me here with all her questions.”
“Mum, the child Jessie’s carrying could very well be your grandson.”
“And the tests prove that that bastard is surely not. What is your problem? Why are you suddenly sticking up for her?”
“Because something keeps telling me she’s being framed up here.”
“Something keeps telling you? Why, are you psychic now? Rose, what is going on in there?” Susan shouted hitting the table with her fist.
“One minute, ma’am.” Susan grunted. Stacie shook her head in disbelief and headed upstairs.
“Aren’t you going to eat dinner?” Susan called out.
“I will; just not with you!” Stacie replied and slammed the door.
“All the better; I get to enjoy my meal in peace.”
After Susan had retired to her room, Stacie went to knock on Jason’s door.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Come out and eat dinner,” Stacie said.
“I think I’ll skip it tonight.”
“No, I don’t think so; you have to eat something. Today has been a long day please, Jason.” Stacie waited but Jason didn’t reply. Several silent seconds passed before Jason opened the door. Stacie sighed in relief.
“Will you be my date for tonight’s dinner, please?” Stacie asked sweetly, offering her hand. Jason gave a slight chuckle and took her hand. Stacie smiled. She led him to the table. She served him and they both started to eat. After a while, Stacie realized Jason was playing with his fork.
“Jay, please eat something,” Stacie pleaded.
“I don’t have the appetite,” he said and dropped the fork. He got up.
“I think I’ll just go to bed,” he said. Stacie held his hand.
“No, please don’t leave me here. At least wait for me to finish mine.” He stared at her for some time and sat down. There was silence for a few moments.
“How could Jessie betray me like this?” Jason wondered, breaking the silence at last.
“What if she didn’t?” Stacie countered.
“She did, Stacie. I know you love to suspect mum and confront her but this time, I think we should leave her out of this.” Stacie put her fork down and held her brother’s hand. “If Jessie knew the baby wasn’t yours, she wouldn’t have agreed to take this test in the first place, trust me Jason.”
“What if she didn’t?” Jason asked. Stacie sat back, confused.
“What if she didn’t know the baby wasn’t mine?”
“That’s ridiculous, Jason. Every woman knows the father of her baby.”
“Not when she’s seeing two or probably more people at the same time.”
“Oh come on Jason; do you really think that lowly of her?”
“Considering her history, this is as lowly as she truly is, Stacie,” Jason said as he took his glass and gulped his drink down.
“When you first found out of her ‘incredible past’, you were still convinced that she was the one for you. What changed?”
“I thought she was carrying my child, Stacie and when I realized she wasn’t, everything changed.”
“So you don’t love her anymore?”
“Stop it, Stacie. This isn’t as easy to deal with as you think. Why are you suddenly being on her side? You never liked her. You said you were nice to her because she was carrying your unborn nephew and now she’s not. So what is this about?”
“I do believe Jessie is carrying my unborn nephew, Jason.” Jason chuckled as he shook his head and rubbed his head with his palms in frustration. He buried his head between his elbows on the table.
“I saw the look on her face when mum said the results came in negative. She was beyond shocked.”
“And you seem to forget the fact that she is a good actress. I don’t even know why she has never considered venturing into the movie industry. She would do so well,” he said sarcastically. Stacie was about to speak when Jason continued, “Do you remember the first time I brought her home? How she and mum played their roles so perfectly of never meeting before? Now, that’s the mark of a good actress.”
“Well, then we must at least give her credit for her excellent acting skills, right?”
“I admire actresses but they are dangerous to date. You don’t know when they are being real and when they are only playing the part.”
“What if she really is carrying your child, Jason? Are you going to look the other way and years later when the truth eventually comes out which definitely will, you then go and look for them and apologize? You are going to miss out on a lot of your son’s childhood and your son might probably never ever accept you as his.”
“And what if that child isn’t mine, huh? I’d cater for him as if he were mine only for some crazy dude to appear one day and claim paternity of the child. How do you think I’ll look? Incredibly stupid, that’s what!” he said, slamming the table with his open palm. Stacie startled. Jason got up.
“I know you mean well for me, Stacie but please don’t get involved. Goodnight,” he said and gave her quick peck on the cheek. He went upstairs. Stacie exhaled deeply.
Jason’s phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and cancelled the call. He threw the phone on the bed. Jessica sighed at the sixth failure to reach him. She collapsed onto the couch.
“You said you’d never leave me, Jason. You promised me,” Jessica said to herself, tears running down her cheeks. She rubbed her palm on her tummy.
“It’s all right dear; he’ll come back. Your daddy will definitely come back.”
“Why would you still hold on to the belief that the child Jessie is carrying is Jason’s when the paternity results clearly reveal otherwise?” Betty asked.
“I don’t know; I never liked Jessie but… I know my mother too well to ignore this gnawing feeling I have.”
“So what is Jason doing about it?” George asked.
“He’s hurt and feels betrayed. And these feelings are hindering him from examining things from an objective perspective. We’d be doing this innocent child a great harm if we ignore it because of some test results.”
“If you feel so strongly about this, why don’t you help her?” George suggested. Stacie looked at him.
“How do you mean?”
“Let her know that you are there for her and that you trust her. If she’s lying, she’ll confess one day,” George explained. She glanced at Betty.
“That would mean going behind Jason to do that. He will be very angry if he finds out.”
“Then don’t make him find out, Stacie,” Betty added, rubbing Stacie’s back, soothingly. Stacie sighed heavily as she buried her face in her hands.
Jason was working when the office phone rang. He took it.
“You have a visitor, sir.”
“Who is it?”
“She says she’s Stacie, your sister.”
“Stacie? All right…let her in.” He hung up. The door opened. Jessica entered.
“Jessie? I thought…”
“Yeah, I used Stacie’s name because I know very well you’d turn me away if I told her my real name.”
“For a very good reason. What are you doing here, Jessie?”
“You haven’t been answering my calls, Jason.”
“That’s because I find nothing to talk to you about. So, why don’t you hurry up with why you are here and leave me alone?”
“This baby is yours, Jason.”
“Yeah, that’s what the test results said, right? Seriously, why are you here?”
“I need you to trust me. I wouldn’t attempt to take this test if I knew it wasn’t yours.”
“Perhaps you miscalculated. It’s common among dumb street girls like you, isn’t that right?”
“Don’t insult me, Jason.”
“If you don’t want me to, then leave because your presence vexes me.”
“You said you’d never leave me, Jason,” Jessie reminded him as her voice got choked with tears threatening to fall. He looked at her.
“And you said, no more secrets.”
“There are no more secrets, Jason. I love you.”
“You do? I thought love was felt, not bought. But apparently, yours was bought with mum’s money. You never loved me. You were just doing your job.”
“No, Jason; I’ve loved you for a long time. Your mother has nothing to do with it. I fell in love with you before you entered this office, Jason. Susan wanted me to do everything I could to make sure you don’t get established here but I ignored her because I loved you, Jason.”
“Okay, after lying to my face about that thing in your womb you claim is my baby, you are here to badmouth my mum too?”
“Come on Jason, we both know what your mother is capable of.”
“Yes, I do so I’m not scared of her but you, I don’t even know you and that freaks me out. Unless you can prove to me…”
“Why don’t we go take another one at another hospital without anyone knowing about it?”
“And then what? We go and tell my mother that the new one is the correct results?” Jessica nodded hopefully. Jason chuckled, pecking the tip of the pen on the table.
“And what if the results came out negative again?”
“It won’t Jason, trust me, it won’t.”
“What if it does, Jessica? What happens then?”
“Then you won’t see me again.”
“No; I’m still trying to heal after that heartbreak I had when the results came in. I can’t afford to raise my hopes up to have them crushed again because that would damage me for life. So, thank you for that. I did love you but it’s over. Now, if you would please leave my office?”
“Fine; if you find out later that this child is yours which you will, don’t you ever come looking for us because you’ve lost your chance to be his father. Have a nice life, Jason,” Jessica said and left the office. Jason took the phone and dialed a number.
“Are you that dumb? Does she look like my sister? The next time you commit such a silly mistake, you will be fired, you hear me?” Jason scolded and hung up.
Stacie was filing her nails on Jason’s bed when Jason entered with a file. He threw it on the study table. He loosened his tie and took it off. He sat on the bed and removed his shoes.
“Hectic day, huh?” Stacie asked.
“Hectic doesn’t begin to describe what I went through today, sweetie…”
“And why did you take that file to daddy’s office?”
“I went to explain to mum some of the structural changes the company is going to experience and some other issues. I just wanted to keep her updated.”
“So you and mum are okay now?”
“Yeah we are; which is a good thing, right? It’s not healthy to be having problems with your very own mother, right?”
“Yeah,” Stacie replied absent-mindedly. Jason started to unbutton his shirt. Stacie stopped her filing.
“What? You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
“Of course I do; with that voice, I know exactly what you are going to say and I’m not going to allow you to.”
“Please Jason, I’m begging you, reconsider your decision to break up with…”
“Don’t, Stacie! I don’t want you to mention that name ever again. Is that clear?”
“Jason, please do this for me….” Jason approached her and held her legs, kneeling down.
“Stacie, I would buy the world for you, I would do all it takes to see you smile but please don’t ask me to go back to the one woman who betrayed me and broke my heart because I can’t do it.” Stacie held his hands.
“What if you are wrong about her? What if the child is yours?”
“What if he isn’t, Stacie?” He got up. “You want me to father some other man’s child?”
“Isn’t it better to father someone else’s child than to abandon yours? Think about it, Jason.”
“I don’t want to think about it, Stacie; because whenever I try, I get a serious migraine and heartache so please stop it.”
“What about we conduct another test at another hospital without mum finding out?”
“My heart is far too fragile to receive another heartbreaking result, Stacie. I won’t put myself through such trauma ever again.”
“But it could turn out to be your heart’s greatest joy, Jason,” Stacie insisted.
“Listen, I don’t want to talk about this anymore okay; not now, not ever.”
He walked off into the bathroom. Stacie took his phone on the bed and searched for Jessica’s number. She saved it on her phone. Jason came back out.
“And what are you doing with my phone?” She put it down.
“So what, I can’t touch your phone now?” Stacie asked back.
“You haven’t answered me.”
“What do you think I was doing with it?”
“Don’t play smart with me, Stacie.” Stacie got up.
“I’m going to my room since it’s obvious you don’t need me here.” He stopped her by holding her elbow.
“I didn’t ask you to leave.”
“You didn’t have to; it’s one thing not adhering to my plea to see Jessica but it is a totally different thing when you feel suspicious of me and act mean towards me.”
“I’m sorry; I’ve had a very long day and…”
“And you need some sleep; I get it so goodnight, brother,” Stacie said and left the room.
“Stacie!” He called out.
Jessica opened her door when she heard a knock.
“Hi, Jessica,” Stacie greeted politely.
“Stacie, I’m still surprised that you wanted to see me. Is anything wrong with Jason?”
“No; I mean yes, for him to believe that test results and break up with you, I do think there’s something wrong with him. Can I come in?”
“Sure; do come in.”
“Thank you,” she said as she entered.
“You have a cute place here, Jessie.”
“Thanks dear. Have a seat. Do you want anything?”
“No, I’m okay. And you, are you okay?”
“No, I’m not; this is what I pictured my life to be right now. I pictured that Jason would be by my side right now, caring for me and the baby and waiting for our baby to be born.”
“I know and I’m sorry about this. I’m sorry that Jason isn’t here right now.”
“Is that why you came, to apologize on his behalf?”
“No, no, no…. I’m here to let you know that, I believe you and that I’ll be here for you for whatever you need.”
“What? You, Stacie? You are the last person I’d ever think of believing me. You never liked me.”
“That’s true; I hated you actually because you made sure my brother remained wayward but that changed when I heard you were pregnant. I realized you actually glowed when you looked at my brother. I got convinced that you loved him.”
“But the tests say I’m not pregnant for him so why would you believe me?”
“These past months, I’ve seen a side of my mother that no child would ever believe her mother has. I know what my mother can do to get her way and that is why I strongly believe the results are not real.”
“Thank you, Stacie; it means a lot to me.”
“So, how are you coping; with work, with managing this place and taking care of yourself?”
“I’d be lying if I said it has been easy and I believe it’s going to get worse. Starting next two weeks, I’ll be on leave.”
“But that’s a good thing, right? You’ll have enough time to take care of yourself and the baby.”
“But I won’t get paid.”
“What? You get leave without pay?”
“Yeah; my job isn’t as stable as the others. I don’t know if I’ll even have a job after I give birth. If the post is still vacant, I get it; if not, well I have to find another one.”
“But that’s not fair. You are entitled to it, right?”
“According to the contract, I’m supposed to be on probation till this year ends so whatever takes me out of the job doesn’t attract any pay. So the salary I get at the end of this month might very well be my very last.”
“That’s bad; is there anything I can do to help?”
“You being here is enough for me, Stacie. I really needed that.”
“I’m glad to hear that but I want you to know that I am here for you, Stacie and I do mean it. If you need anything, please let me know.”
“Do Jason and your mum know you are here?”
“I’m an adult; I don’t need anyone’s permission to see anybody.”
“So they don’t; interesting. They will boil with rage if they find out.”
“Well, not from me then; I hope you won’t, either.”
“Of course not; thanks for believing me, Stacie,” Jessica said with a happy smile.
“You better not be lying to me, Jessie or else I’ll personally drag that baby out of your womb,” Stacie said jokingly as she got up. Jessie got up too.
“Thank you for passing by, Stacie.”
“Don’t mention it; I owe it to my nephew. I have to be on my way now. Please promise me you’d call when you need anything even if it means, washing your dishes for you.”
“Hahaha….do you even know how to do that?”
“I’ll learn if it gets necessary; promise?”
“I promise. I didn’t think you had a soft spot, Stacie,” Jessie said.
“Everyone does, Jessie; I guess mine is this unborn nephew of mine.”
“Now leave before Susan comes banging on my door with the cops with abduction charges.” They both chuckled. Jessica opened the door for Stacie.
“I’m glad to have come here, Jessie.”
“I’m glad to have had you here. Take care and watch the road, okay?”
“I will; bye.” Jessie waited for Stacie to get into her car and drive away. She entered the house and closed the door.
“Where did you say Stacie went again?” Jason asked his mother during dinner.
“She went to campus but she said she would be back later than usual.”
“And did you ask why?”
“I know better than to question Stacie. She’ll be fine.”
“Yeah.” The door opened and their heads turned to face the door. Stacie entered.
“Talk of the devil and here she appears,” Susan muttered. Jason glared at her.
“She’s not the devil.”
“It’s just an expression, Jason; don’t take it personal,” Susan said defensively.
“Good evening,” Stacie greeted, heading towards the staircase.
“Where have you been?” Jason asked. Stacie stopped and looked at him.
“Didn’t mum tell you?”
“She did but I wanted to hear it from you.”
“Why, are you my dad?” Jason dropped his fork. “Excuse me?”
“Excuse you? Well, I went out and I’m back safe and sound. So, I went doesn’t matter.”
“Is it wrong for me to be concerned about you?”
“Oh not at all; but I didn’t stay out too late to attract this concern. I’m going up to change.” She went upstairs. Jason glanced at his mum with a puzzled expression on his face. Susan gave him an ‘i-told-you-so look’ as she sipped her drink.
“You should know better than questioning Stacie about such things, son.” Jason nodded, thinking.