Jason was descending the stairs when Stacie arrived home.
“Hey there, how was your day?” She asked him as she approached him.
“Fine and yours?” he said as they hugged.
“It was fine.” He sniffed. Stacie drew back.
“Have you changed your perfume?”
“I know that smell…..it smells very familiar.”
“I see… Anyway, where’s mum?”
“Apparently, she’s not home. I just got back.”
“I see; where could she have gone to? She doesn’t seem to have many friends. Does she even have friends?” Jason chuckled.
“Are you surprised?”
“It just crossed my mind.” They sat down.
“Rose?” He called.
“Yes, Jason,” She answered as she came in.
“What are we having for dinner today?”
“Oh no, not rice again,” Stacie groaned.
“Exactly what I was thinking. I really want to eat something fresh. What do you think, sis?”
“How about pancakes? Jessie and I….” Stacie stopped herself.
“Sorry, I meant Betty, we…we talked of making pancakes and….”
“Stacie, you haven’t been…”
“It was a slip of tongue Jason, it’s nothing to get so worked up over. I meant to say Betty, okay? So, do you want to eat pancakes or not?”
“Yeah, pancakes are fine. Did mum tell you what she wanted for dinner?”
“No, she didn’t so I decided to go by the menu.”
“Let me call her and find out,” Stacie said as she took her phone from her bag. She called Susan.
“Yes dear, are you home already?”
“Yes mum; I was calling to find out what you’d like to have for dinner.”
“Oh really, isn’t that cute?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, mum.” Susan chuckled.
“What’s for dinner on the menu?”
“Rice; Jason and I wanted to eat something different, that’s why I’m calling just in case you want to eat rice.”
“What have you and Jason decided on?”
“Hmm…it’s been awhile. All right, I’ll have that too.”
“Okay; are you near home?”
“Yeah, I’ll be home in the next 5 minutes.”
“Okay; see you then. Bye,” Stacie said and hung up.
“Mum will have pancakes a well.”
“Okay, I’ll get to it,” Rose said and excused herself.
“Is she on her way back?”
“Yeah, five minutes away from home. Why, do you have business to discuss with her?”
“Nah, it’s not business; it’s more of a family matter.”
“Am I invited?”
“Of course; you’re family, remember?” She smiled.
“Could you get me a drink, please?” he requested.
“Sure.” Stacie got up and walked to the kitchen. She came back and handed him a glass. He sniffed again.
“What are you doing? It’s creepy,” Stacie said as she sat down and sipped.
“I’m just trying to figure out where I know this smell belongs to.”
“Well, knock yourself out.” The door opened.
“Mum’s home!” Stacie cried out as she got up to meet her.
“Hi sweetie, how was school?”
“As usual, how was your day?” She asked back as she took her handbag.
“It’s been a bit hectic but I’m fine. Thanks for asking,” She replied with an earnest smile.
“Good evening, mum,” Jason greeted as he got up.
“Good evening, son. How are you?”
“Fine and you?”
“I’m great. I’ll be in my room so call me when the pancakes are ready, okay?” Susan said about to take the stairs.
“Mum, there’s something I would like to discuss with you,” Jason said.
“What? Is it about the company?”
“Oh no; nothing about business. It’s….a family matter.” Susan and Stacie exchanged a glance.
“Okay, let’s hear it.” She sat down. Both Jason and Stacie sat as well.
“I made an inquiry today about dad’s accounts and…. I was told more than a quarter of his money has disappeared from more than one account.”
“What? And how much are we talking about here?” Stacie asked, alarmed.
“More than 300 million.” Stacie gasped.
“And?” Susan asked simply.
“And I was told that you were the one who withdrew all that money.”
Stacie looked at her mother, puzzled. “Mum?”
“Yes I did; so?”
“May I know why?”
“It belongs to me.”
“All that money belongs to you?” Jason asked.
“In case you’ve forgotten the day the will was read, I’ll help refresh your memory. I remember the lawyer saying that all other properties of my late husband that was not mentioned belong to me. Do you remember?” Susan asked. Jason and Stacie glanced at each other, dumbfounded.
“But…if you own all that money, then from which source does Stacie’s trust fund come and my inheritance as well.”
“I’m sure there are specific accounts your father set up for that purpose.”
“You are sure…..which means you don’t know for sure,” Jason pressed.
“Listen, if you have doubts about your inheritance, go and see the family lawyer and he will clarify everything for you. But what I do know is that every other thing your late father owned which was not mentioned in the will belongs to me which definitely includes his accounts so please drop this, okay?” Susan said and got up.
“And what are you doing with 300 million, mum?” Stacie asked, still not fully recovered from the shock.
“A widow also has needs, my dear. Don’t forget to call me when the pancakes are ready. I’m starving,” Susan said as she ascended the stairs.
“I miss this,” Stacie said.
“You miss what?”
“This; the family drama. It was beginning to feel so boring around here.” Jason eyed her.
“But seriously, is mum entitled to all that money? So where is ours?”
“Exactly what I was asking her. Maybe I need to see the lawyer because I don’t understand it.”
“What could she be doing with all that money?”
Jason only stared at her in reply.
Stacie knocked on her mother’s bedroom door. She answered and she opened the door.
“Dinner is ready, mum,” she said as she stuck her head through the opened door.
“Okay, tell Rose to serve me here.”
“But why, you could join us downstairs…” She glanced at her.
“All right, I’ll tell her,” She said and closed the door. She went downstairs to meet Jason already eating.
“It seems mum is not joining us. She must have been offended.” Jason said nothing. Stacie called Rose. She came in.
“Mum wants her dinner in her room so could you please see to that?”
“Right away, Stacie; excuse me.” She left them. Stacie sat down.
“Don’t worry your head too much about this, Jason. I don’t think mum would be cruel enough to steal our inheritance. That would be…barbaric,” Stacie assured him, rubbing her hand on his arm. He looked at her quietly.
“Are you saying it is beyond mum’s capability after all she has done?”
“Well…I don’t want to think that. That would be inhuman.”
“What does she want? I left Jessie for her; what else does she want?” He said in a frustrated tone, dropping his fork.
“You don’t always have to follow mum’s every wishes or else at the end of the day, you will be left with nothing.”
“I know that; that’s what I’m trying to prevent.”
“It’s okay; we’ll figure something out. We will prevail, brother.” He forced a smile.
Later in his room, Jason was thinking as he sat on the bed when his eyes fell on Jessica’s framed photo standing on his bedside drawer. He took it and looked at it. He touched it admiringly and smiled. A thought occurred to him. He dropped it on the bed and went to Stacie’s room. Stacie was in the bathroom. He saw her phone and took it. He started scanning her call log.
Stacie startled when she opened the door and saw her brother. She was wrapped in a towel.
“Jason! Do I have to put a poster that says “Please Knock” before you realize you have to do that before barging in?” Stacie said.
“What are you doing with my phone?”
“Why, can’t I touch your phone?”
“You haven’t answered me,” Stacie replied. Jason chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s a ‘deja-vu’. Don’t you remember the same incident happening in my room not too long ago?”
“Well, I just came to tell you that I’ve remembered.” He dropped the phone on the bed.
“That smell….it’s Jessica’s smell.” Stacie’s eyes widened.
“It is? Interesting.” He walked towards her. Stacie retreated her steps till her back hit the wall.
“Have you been seeing Jessica?”
“Why would you think that? Because you smelled her perfume on me? Come on, she’s not the only one who uses it, Jason.”
“Is that so?”
“I haven’t been seeing her. Trust me.”
“I do trust you. You smell great by the way. Goodnight, sis,” He said as he pulled her cheek and left the room. Stacie exhaled deeply.
“Gosh, he found me out. He so did.”
“I think Jason suspects that I’ve been coming here,” Stacie told Jessie.
“Really? Was he angry?”
“No, he wasn’t. He wasn’t surprised, either. I’m sure he has been suspecting for a long time. He just wanted to verify.”
“How did he find you out?”
“He smelled your perfume on me.” Jessie’s eyes widened. Stacie nodded affirmatively.
“Yeah, I tried denying it but I know he knows who I’ve been hanging out with.”
“I see. So what happens now? Do you have to lay low for a while?”
“Are you kidding? This is the time you need me more than ever. I’m not leaving your side, dear.”
“Thanks. I do miss Jason, a lot actually.”
“He misses you too. He tries to hide it but I know he does and I’m sure deep inside, he’s glad I’m here for you because he can’t.” Jessica nodded.
“Do you hate him, Jason?” Stacie asked him.
“For abandoning me at this critical time? I wish I could, Stacie; but I can’t. I’m carrying his child. I know he loved me that much to abandon everything for me but this stupid test results ruined everything.”
“Don’t you think it was just a test of your love?”
“Are you implying that your brother failed the test? I know he’s going through a lot being away from me. I’m sure when this baby is born, he’ll be back.”
“You really believe that?”
“You are here, Stacie; if anyone told me you’d be the one watching out for me at such a time months ago, I’d call the person a big liar.” Stacie chuckled.
“If you are here, I know he’ll definitely come back.”
“So you won’t give him a hard time when he decides to come back?”
“Of course I would…. I’d definitely stretch a little bit, you know?” Jessie said with a wink. They both smiled.
“You are a wonderful person, Jessie; I don’t think I’d feel the same way if I were in your shoes. I’d take the child far from here to punish him for abandoning me so he’d never see his son again.”
“That idea came to mind, trust me. But when I remember the times I spent with your brother, I couldn’t bring myself to hurt him like that. I love him so much that I can’t help it,” Jessie confessed, tears filling her eyes.
“Wow….that’s really touching. At first, I only saw you as a gold-digger but now I can see you have a heart full of love. I admire that about you.”
“And you are one compassionate, caring, sweet girl. I now understand why Jason adores you so much.” They hugged.
Jason called barrister Anderson to the house to clarify the money issues.
“Barrister, I wasn’t expecting you to show up here,” Susan said, surprised when he walked into the house.
“I know; good day, ma’am,” He said as he shook hands with her.
“Your son has some doubts about your father’s accounts and that’s why I’m here to clarify.” Susan stole a glance at her son who stood behind the lawyer.
“And you had to leave your chambers to come here just to clarify to him?”
“No; not just him but to everyone else. Is your daughter home?” He inquired.
“No, she has already left for campus. Have a seat, please.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Archer.” He sat. So did Jason.
“Would you want anything to drink?”
“No I’m fine, thank you, madam.” She sat.
“Okay, Jason came inquiring about the source of their inheritance in terms of finance. According to records, you have drawn up to 320 million dollars, is that correct?” Susan glanced at Jason before answering. “Yes, that’s correct.”
“And why…would you do that, Mrs. Archer?” the lawyer asked cautiously.
“According to the will, you said, every other property that wasn’t mentioned in particular in the will belongs to me. Am I correct, barrister?”
“If I could quote what I read, wh at I said was, ‘All other little properties belong to Susan my beloved wife.’ Does 320 million dollars sound like ‘little property’ to you, Mrs. Archer? Sure of course, I know the late Gordon Archer was extremely wealthy but you should know the children’s inheritance draws from your late husband’s personal accounts. Wasn’t it obvious enough?” Susan stood up.
“What are you implying, barrister? Are you calling me dumb and stupid? But I’m entitled to some amount of money, right?”
“Exactly and if I recall correctly, your portion is 250 000 dollars but even with that, you need to inform me so as to give you the go-ahead to gain access to it. You don’t have the right to invade his accounts like that.”
“Excuse me? I do have a joint-account with my late husband.”
“Your total portion is 250 000 dollars, Mrs. Archer!”
“But Gordon had shares in other companies. I didn’t hear a word about them in the will! Do they belong to me too?” Susan asked, her temper flaring up.
“No they don’t; Gordon bought them in your children’s names.”
“So what? I should return the money I’ve taken?” Susan asked, breathing heavily, trying not to burst out.
“No, it seems you are in dying need of it so what I’m going to do is to get you what is left so you’d know that you’ve got your share. Is everything clear now, Mr. Archer?”
“Yes barrister,” Jason said.
“All right; I’ll be on my way. Thanks for accommodating me, Mrs. Archer. Have a good day,” He said as he got up. He offered his hand. Susan looked at his hand with a sneering look.
“Fine; if there is any other issue, don’t hesitate to call on me, okay?”
“Yes barrister. Thank you for coming. Have a great day.”
“You too, son.”
“Let me escort you to your car,” Jason said, glancing at his mother for a moment. Susan was fuming. Jason came back into the house. He stopped when he saw his mother glaring at him with cold eyes. His fisted his hands which were buried in his pockets.
“I just wanted clarification, mum. Nothing personal.”
“You ingrate….after caring for you as my own….” She muttered.
“Nothing; I want to be alone right now,” She said and stormed off. Jason stood there, puzzled. Did I hear what I think I heard or was it my mind playing games, he wondered.
Stacie went to Jessie’s place to find her very sick.
“Hey what’s up with you?” Stacie said with concern as she bent over and touched her forehead.
“Gosh, you’re burning up. Do you have fever?”
“I think so; I took some pills. I should be fine.”
“You look pale, Jessie. You need to see a doctor.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“And why not?”
“I don’t have insurance and I don’t think I’ve enough money to pay for consultancy.”
“Come on; it’s not like you’re going to be admitted or something. I’m sure we can manage it.”
“Thanks Stacie; you’ve done enough for me. I’ll be fine. You go home.”
“No, I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“Is there anything you want me to do for you?”
“No, I’m good. Just go home.”
“Promise to call me when it gets serious or for anything else?”
“I promise. Thanks for passing by.” Stacie kissed her forehead.
“Take care of yourself, okay?” Jessie nodded. Stacie left the house.
Stacie arrived home and found her brother in the pool.
“Hey brother, it seems you’re home early,” Stacie said as she sat down.
“Yeah; and it seems you’re home early as well. How’s she?”
“Betty; the one you’ve been hanging out with.”
“Oh, she’s good….she’s not feeling very well though.”
“I hope not. So what’s up with you? What happened today? I know you swim hard when you are frustrated about something,” Stacie asked.
“You know me too well, don’t you?” Stacie shrugged.
“You’re my brother.”
“Am I?” Stacie cast a sharp glance at him. “What’s that supposed to mean, Jason?”
“Exactly as you heard. I know for sure you are her daughter because I saw you when you were born but no one saw me when I was born.”
“And he’s not here to testify to it. Am I really your brother?”
“What nonsense are you talking about? Did mum say anything?”
“Has she said anything about me not being your brother or something?”
“What did she say?”
“First of all, I called the barrister to come home and clarify the whole account thing. Apparently, mum has no business withdrawing funds from dad’s accounts. She got angry with me and called me an ingrate after caring for me as her own.” He looked at his sister. She looked confused.
“What…what did she mean by that? Why would she say that?”
“That’s what I want you to find out, Stacie. Could you ask her?”
“Ask her what? Jason, you know mum; she’ll say anything to get you jumpy and insecure. Don’t listen to her. She’s very good at messing with your head sometimes. We are one blood.”
“I want to believe that, Stacie but my faith is waning.”
“And don’t let her do this to you, Jason. You’ve already broken things with Jessie and she’s still finding new ways to get under your skin.”
“So you think I should move out?”
“No, I’m not saying that. Don’t give her the pleasure.” Jason sighed and went under the water.
“Don’t you dare drown yourself, brother.” His head appeared above the water.
“Considering the present circumstances, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, would it?”
“And leave me all alone with mother? Come on, don’t be selfish.” Jason laughed and began swimming.
“When was the last time you swam, Stacie?”
“I don’t remember. Why?”
“You should join me.”
“Haha…very funny. Have you eaten dinner?”
“Nah, yet to.”
“All right; I’m going to change. By the time I get back downstairs, you should be at the dining table, okay?”
“Yes ma’am,” He said, still swimming, Stacie chuckled and walked away. She knocked on her mother’s door and entered. Susan was watching TV.
“Hello mum,” she said as she leaned forward and pecked her.
“Hi sweetie, how was school?”
“Fine and how has your day been?”
“Really? You don’t seem to be in a happy mood. Did something happen?” Susan looked at her, searching her eyes.
“You’ve spoken to your brother, haven’t you?” Stacie nodded. Susan chuckled lightly.
“Why would you say something like that, mum?” Stacie said softly, sitting down beside her. When Susan didn’t reply, Stacie continued, “This isn’t the first or the second time you’ve said something this mean and harsh to Jason.”
“Perhaps he deserves it.”
“Because of you, he had to break up with Jessie.”
“That was for his own good, wasn’t it? I wanted to help him get rid of an opportunist like her.”
“Is that why you called him an ingrate? Why would you say you cared for him as your own? Why would you?” Susan looked at her daughter. She was about to say something but changed her mind.
“Nothing; I guess I was just angry.”
“Even with the greatest provocation, no mother would say that to her son, mum. Unless…” Susan looked at her. “Unless what?”
“We both know what that is and I hope there’s nothing like that. Your constant little statements like that are making him feel insecure, mother. He’s beginning to question his identity. Don’t make him go through such a psychological trauma. If there’s something we all need to know about Jason’s birth, then let us know but stop tormenting him with words like that.”
“I’m sorry; I was wrong. I will apologize to him tomorrow.”
“That would be nice, mother. Thank you,” She said and hugged her.
“Have you eaten something?”
“Yeah but I think I’d just take tea. Go and have your dinner.”
“All right; goodnight, mother,” Stacie said and pecked her mum.
“You too, dear.” Stacie left the room.