Stacie was chatting and laughing heartily on the phone when Jason entered the room.
“I’m sorry but my brother just came in. I’ll call you when I’m done, okay? Bye,” she said and hung up. She looked up to see Jason looking at her with his hands buried in his pockets as he looked sternly at her.
“What was that about?”
“What? The phone, I was talking to…”
“I don’t care who you were talking to, Stacie and you know damn well what I’m referring to. What was that attitude you displayed downstairs for?”
“I’m not asking for an apology here, Stacie. I’m asking you a simple question. What was that for?” Stacie swallowed.
“I thought we were past your immature tantrums you throw up sometimes. I may not be your father but I demand your respect as your big brother. Is that clear?”
“Yes, brother,” she answered softly.
“Let this be the last time we talk about this, Stacie. I’ve a lot going through my mind right now and I don’t have the strength to fight you so please, don’t let it happen again.”
“It won’t…I promise.”
“Good. Go and get your dinner before it gets cold,” Jason said and walked out of the room. Stacie sighed.
Stacie was later eating her meal alone at the table whiles Susan was watching the news.
“How are studies going, dear?” Susan asked.
“Fine mum,” she replied absent-mindedly.
“When will you go on holidays?”
“Soon; like next month or so.”
“And are you preparing for the exams?”
“That’s good; if your grades impress me, you could earn a trip to Paris. You said you wanted to go there, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think I want to go anymore.” Susan turned to look at her.
“What? Why? We didn’t even celebrate your birthday.”
“I know; it’s just that I’ve other things on my mind right now.”
“What things, boyfriend issues?” Susan asked teasingly. Stacie looked up at her.
“You came in all moody; it’s either boy issues or you’re just not in your elements today. Which is it?” Stacie chuckled.
“What are you trying to do, mother?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you trying to do some mother-daughter bonding here?”
“And what’s wrong with that? Is it not the normal way of life?”
“Normal? Of course it is. But I seem to forget the last time anything normal ever happened in this house,” Stacie said as she dropped her fork and got up.
“Hey, what have I done this time? I want us to be close again. We are a family, Stacie.”
“If you want things to return to normal, undo what you did with the test results, mum.”
“What? You still think I had a hand in it? Seriously? Is that what this is about? Before Jessie came to the picture, we were a family and that won’t change. So please drop this Jessie issue and let’s move on, okay?”
“I wish I could, mum; I really wish I could take my mind off it but I can’t,” Stacie said emotionally as she ran up the stairs and went into the room.
“What is she up to?” Susan wondered to herself.
For the days that followed, Stacie passed by Jessie’s place after lectures to keep her company. She helped her prepare her dinner and wash the dishes. They grew close and actually became friends as they could chat and laugh for hours.
“So have you thought of a name for the baby?” Stacie asked as she wiped a plate dry with a napkin.
“Not really; it’s unfortunate I didn’t do it with Jason before we broke up. I still haven’t come up anything yet.”
“So what do you call it, just baby?”
“Sometimes I call it Jay Junior, other times, I call it Arch. It sounds pathetic, right?”
Stacie smiled. “Yeah a little but don’t worry, it will come. Jay Junior is cute; so is Arch.”
“Thanks Stacie. It still amazes me how we’ve bonded in such a short period of time.”
“Yeah me too; I can’t believe I disliked you that much before.”
“So you see I’m not such a despicable person.”
“Yeah and you see I’m not such a mean girl.”
“Oh you are mean, Stacie; just in appreciable amounts.” They chuckled. Stacie checked her watch.
“I’ve to be on my way now. Thanks for having me, Jessie; it’s been fun.”
“Thank you for being such a tremendous help. You are an angel.”
“Please stop it. I can feel my head swelling already. And please finish the sauce for me, will you?”
“I’ll try. Let me escort you outside.” When they got outside, they hugged.
“Take care of yourself and Arch, okay?”
“I will; and take care too and drive carefully, okay?”
“I will; bye. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah.” She got into her car and drove away.
“Stacie has been staying out late these days. What’s up?” Jason asked Susan.
“She’s fine, Jason. Her exams are coming up, remember? She needs to spend more time studying with her friends,” Susan explained.
“I know Stacie prefers to study on her own.”
“You are getting over concerned about this issue, son. Besides, Stacie is a big girl now.”
“But she’ll always be my baby sister.”
“I know that but please cut her some slack. She hates it when we breathe down her neck, you know.”
“Yeah I know,” he said as he sipped his drink.
“So, are you seeing anyone?” Jason turned to look at her.
“Did you just ask that or did I imagine it?”
“Of course I did. Why?”
“After what had happened, you really believe I’m in a rush to get involved with someone right now? I’m still healing, mum.”
“Sure; and I want to apologize for my part of bringing her into your life. It was cruel and selfish.” Jason didn’t reply but continued sipping.
“Jason, did you hear me?”
“Sorry….my mind was wandering.”
“I said I’m sorry…”
“Forget it, mum.” The door opened. Jason put his glass down.
“Good evening,” Stacie greeted.
“You are in late today.” Stacie looked at her watch.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Stacie said, approaching the stairs.
“Where were you?”
“Really, Jason?” She looked at him.
“I want to know where you were.” Stacie inhaled deeply to restrain herself.
“Where else could I be?” She asked coolly. Jason stood.
“Is that my answer, because it certainly sounds like a question to me,” Jason said, approaching her. He stood right in front of her.
“Jason…” Susan called out in a cautious tone.
“I got this, mum,” he said, his eyes not leaving his sister’s face.
“I was with Betty….studying,” Stacie lied flatly.
“No, you were not.”
“And why not?”
“Because if it were the case, you would have said that the first time I asked you. So where were you?”
“Fine; I was with George.”
“You were with George,” Jason repeated, searching her eyes intensely.
“Yes I was. You could call him to verify if you want,” Stacie challenged, gazing back at him with like intensity.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Honestly, you are much more unbearable than dad was. It sickens me,” Stacie said in an irritated tone and went upstairs.
“I told you to let her be, Jason. She’s growing up. She needs her independence,” Susan said.
“She’s up to something. I can feel it but I don’t know exactly what it is,” Jason confessed.
“And you think drilling her like that would make her speak up? You still don’t know your sister, do you Jason?” Jason turned his head to glance at his mother.
“Actually, I do. I know her more than you two think I do. After all, she is my baby sister.”
“I think Jason is beginning to suspect something. He’s always questioning where I was.”
“I’m sure he has an idea but he wants to hear you say it.”
“That will never happen. I don’t want to be locked up here under key.”
“Come on, Jason isn’t that overprotective.”
“Huh, you so don’t know, Jessie. He’ll definitely be an overbearing father. Come to think of it, you’re better off without him, Jessie.” Jessica laughed.
“Don’t mind me; I’m just pulling your legs.”
“I know. You get some rest and take care, all right?”
“Yeah I will and say hi to Arch for me, okay?”
“Sure, I will.”
Jason was getting his fuel tank filled at a Shell station when he saw George come out of the supermarket. He got out of the car and called him. George turned and saw him. Jason waved and signaled him to approach him.
“Good day,” George greeted politely.
“Good day, George. You do remember me, right?”
“Of course I do; you are Stacie’s brother, Jason, right?”
“Right. Um…. I wanted to find out, are you dating my sister?”
“What? Oh no, we…we are just friends.”
“Just friends? Come on George, you don’t have to be scared of me.”
“I’m not, Jason but we are just friends.”
“I see so how come you two can spend hours together after lectures?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Stacie has been coming home quite for some time now and she says she has been spending time with you.”
“Are you saying she did not?”
“Well, we did hang out a few times recently but I didn’t think we parted ways that late…”
“Listen, you shouldn’t be scare to out her or anything. I just want her to be safe. You two can be together for all I care but if you have the intention to gaining the approval of our family especially our mum, you’ve got to play your cards well. Is that okay?”
“Yes Jason; I understand and thank you for the advice. I’ll be on my way now.”
“Sure, have a nice day, George.” He got into his car and drove off.
Betty and Stacie were watching a movie on a laptop when George entered the room.
“Hi George, did you get it?” Betty asked, getting up.
“Yeah I did, here,” He said, handing over a take-away bag to her. He sat.
“Are you okay? You look kind of moody,” Stacie observed.
“Why are you lying to your family about meeting me?”
“What?” both girls asked.
“I met your brother at the fuel station and queried me on why I’ve been keeping you for long hours hence you arriving home late.”
“Oh no, Jason is on to me. This is bad,” Stacie said, sighing.
“You still haven’t answered me, Stacie.”
“Aren’t you the one who said I should help Jessica without my family finding out?”
“So you had to tell them you are hanging out with me?”
“Uh huh because Jason wouldn’t believe me if I said I was with Betty.”
“I don’t think it should be such a bother, right?” Betty inquired.
“Really? Have you thought of what kind of a guy I am to keeping her out late like that?”
“And why would what my family think about you bother you this much?” Stacie asked back.
“I….” He stopped himself and sighed. “Nothing.”
“No, if there’s something you want to say, let it out. I just thought it was a safe option. I actually thought Jason or mum running into you in town was of a negligible probability but I was wrong. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’ll be on my way now.”
“Right now? But you just came in,” Betty asked, surprised.
“I know but I need to attend to some other things. I’ll be back.”
“When?” He glanced at Stacie who looked puzzled as well.
“Later,” he said and left the room. The ladies looked at each other. Stacie got up and followed him outside.
“George! Wait,” she said. George stopped and turned.
“Oh my, I’ve got no one but Stacie Archer running after me. I must have slept at a good place last night,” George said sarcastically.
“Come off it, George. You think you’re been cynical but in fact you sound cocky,” she said as she approached him.
“I’m sorry George; I never gave it much of a thought that my family’s perceptions about you mean much to you. I could tell Jason that I haven’t been hanging out with you…”
“No, leave it alone. I’m okay, really.”
“If you’re really okay, then come back inside,” she said, holding his hand and pulling him back.
“Nah, I meant it when I said I had other things to do. I’ll be back.”
“I might not be here when you get back.”
“Then we will go and hang out. At least your brother knows that, right?” he said and pinched her cheek. She smiled.
“All right; take care then,” she said, letting of his hand.
“Yeah you too,” he said. Stacie walked back to the room.
“You’ve already started eating it? Couldn’t you wait for me?” She cried out.
Hours later in the evening, Stacie was eating alone at the dining table when Jason came to sit beside her.
“Hi,” she replied quietly.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m also good. How was school?” She nodded.
“I ran into George today,” he said, taking her hand into his and rubbing it. She looked at her hand and nodded.
“Yeah, he told me.”
“It’s not George you’ve been hanging out with lately, is it?”
“Jason…” She dropped her fork.
“Shhhh….it’s okay…. I get it. It’s your life. I’m sorry for intruding.”
“It’s not that.”
“I’m sorry for being harsh towards the other day. I was stressed out.”
“I know; I’m sorry for my part in it.” He locked his fingers with hers.
“Why are you being all romantic right now?”
“I am romantic.”
“Can I ask you out?”
“What? Hey, if you are in the mood for some loving, I’m certainly not the right candidate for you. Jessie’s all available.”
“I’m serious. I have a function I need to attend and I want you to be my date.”
“Since when were sisters qualified to become one’s dates?”
“Since your brother seriously needs the company of his sister for an important function. Besides, you can keep an eye on me.”
“Uh huh, what do you say?”
“Okay…if you need my company that much….who would I be to refuse?”
“Thank you!” He exclaimed and kissed her hand.
“It means a lot to me, thank you.”
“When is it exactly?”
“This Saturday at 6p.m.”
“Okay; if you were not this stubborn, you could have gone with you-know-who.”
“Please don’t ruin the moment. How about we watch a movie?”
“My exams are fast-approaching, Jay.”
“But that shouldn’t prevent you from spending time with your only brother, right? Come on.”
“I’m not done eating.”
“Then you would be able to chew more popcorn. Come on,” he said, pulling her up.
Hours later when Stacie retired to bed, she called Jessica.
“Hey there, I’m sorry but I don’t think I can make it on Saturday. Something came up.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Yeah, Jason needs me to escort him to a function. At first, I didn’t want to but I later thought it best to go so I can keep him off all those hungry looking wolves called ‘available single ladies” from laying their claw-like fingers on my brother and your husband-to-be. What do you think? Jessica laughed.
“I think it’s perfect. You go ahead and please fill me in with all juicy details when you get back.”
“Sure I will. Goodnight, Jessie.”
“Goodnight, dear.” She hung up and put off the bedside lamp.
“How do we look, mum?” Jason asked when he came downstairs with Stacie, her arm around his.
“You two look marvelous. You look great…like a couple, actually,” Susan complimented.
“Ewww…mum….that’s nasty,” Stacie replied.
“But you do look good, sis,” Jason said with a smile.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Okay, we will be on our way now. Wish me luck, mum,” Jason said.
“Good luck, son and to you too, sweetie. May you come back with a rich guy.”
“Hahaha…very funny, mum. Take care.”
“You too, darling.” They left.
Susan chuckled. “If only you knew…” She said to herself.
Jason and Stacie entered the house with Stacie holding her heels.
“Gosh I’m tired,” She groaned.
“What was with you tonight? You wouldn’t even let me speak to any lady. What was that about?” Jason asked.
“Isn’t that why you asked me to come along? If you ask, I think I did a pretty well done job. You should acknowledge that and not complain. Besides, you are taken.”
“You remember Jessica, that pretty woman you are so crazy about? Aha, that one. I know you still love her but you are too stubborn to admit it. Anyway, you were such a wonderful date tonight. I almost fell in love with you but I remembered after a moment that you were my brother. How unfortunate, huh?” Stacie said light-heartedly as she kissed his cheek. She winked. Jason chuckled.
“You’ll be one hell of a girlfriend.”
“I know. Goodnight, brother,” she said, walking up the stairs.
“What have you been up to, Stacie?”
“What?” She asked, turning to face him, swaying a bit.
“Easy…okay, no falls tonight. I said, what have you been up to? Who have you been hanging out with?”
“You have a terrible way of ending the day, you know that?”
“Still waiting…” Stacie sighed.
“I believe you know, Jason and as I said, you’re refusing to admit it. Goodnight,” She said and entered her room. Jason chuckled.
“I do, huh?” He asked himself.