About three days later, Jessica was discharged and Jason drove her home.
“Jessie, I’m really sorry…”
“Jason, I don’t want to hear that again. For goodness’ sake, you’ve said that more than a thousand times. If you have nothing else to say, just keep quiet okay?” Jessie said.
“I’m sorry…oops…. I didn’t mean to say it again….” Jessie gave him a sideway glance.
“I thought Stacie would come with you to pick me up.”
“Yeah that was the initial plan but she later decided that I should come alone so we can talk.”
“I know I should have stood by you…”
“Goodness, Jason; you’re really beginning to irritate me.”
“Are you still angry with me? You said you….you still love me.” Jessica turned to look at him, surprised.
“Oh did I? Perhaps it’s because the anesthesia was wearing out and I thought seeing you was an imagination.”
“So…you don’t love me?”
“You are the father of my baby…..can I ever hate you?”
“Okay, it seems you’re not in a very good mood today…”
“Of course I’m not. You are trying to find a cheap way to mend up things.”
“I already said I’m sorry…”
“Sorry? You say sorry when you step on someone’s foot or you when you say something silly but not when you abandon someone you claim you love for months!”
“Okay….so what am I supposed to say in such a situation as this?”
“You just keep quiet. That’s what you do.”
They arrived at her place and Jason got out of the car. Jessie opened the car door. Jason rushed to her and offered his hand. Jessie took it and got out of the car. They entered the house. He helped her sit down. Jessie exhaled out of exhaustion.
“Is there anything you want me to do for you?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Okay….do you want to go to bed? I could help you…”
“No thank you; I can do that by myself.”
“Are you sure? You look pretty exhausted.”
“And whose fault is that, huh? Have you ever wondered how I’ve been coping all these while? Obviously I’ve been taking care of myself and this baby so don’t ask me how I do it.”
“You know what, just leave, okay? Your presence here right now isn’t giving me good vibes. The baby is all jumpy and anxious so please leave.”
“Fine; but we do need to talk, you know that, right?”
“No I don’t; why would we do that?”
“Come on Jessie, I know I wasn’t man enough to stand up for you but this baby deserves a future.”
“Are you saying the baby has no future being with me?”
“I didn’t say that…I meant….”
“I don’t care what you thought you meant, Jason! Just leave! Ah….” She shouted and groaned as she touched her tummy.
“What is it? Are you okay?”
“The baby really kicked me….It really hurt. He really needs you to get out, Jason.”
“Or maybe he means you should stop shouting at me and listen to what I have to say.”
“Well, I don’t want to, okay? So please leave. I’m begging you.”
“All right; I’ll call you…..goodnight.” He walked to the door and turned.
“What?” Jessie asked.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“Goodnight, Jason. Satisfied?” Jason gave a slight chuckle and opened the door. He left. Jessie sighed. She cried out as she touched her tummy again.
“I’m sorry…. I didn’t mean to shout at your daddy. Please stop kicking me, please…”
“Your brother seems to have kept long today,” Susan remarked as she looked at her watch. Stacie was lying on the couch, reading. She pretended not to have heard that remark. Susan glanced at her.
“Hmm?” She looked at her mum.
“Do you know where your brother could be at this time?”
“Mum, Jason is a fully-grown man. You shouldn’t be getting worked up about his whereabouts. He’s fine.”
“I know he is…. I just want to know.”
“Okay, I don’t know where he is. Satisfied?”
“Why are you too hard to please, huh? If I act concerned, you complain; when I don’t, you say I’m mean. What do you want from me, huh?” Susan asked, frustrated. Stacie rolled her eyes out of frustration for being interrupted in her reading.
“Did you say ‘act concerned’? Does that mean you really don’t care?”
“Here we go again. You love to pick on the little words I say which don’t mean exactly as it sounds and then inflate them. Of course I do care about Jason.”
“I hear you.” She went back to her reading.
Minutes later, the door opened and Jason entered.
“Good evening, everyone.”
“Good evening. You stayed out quite long. I hope there’s no problem, son.”
“No mum; everything is fine.”
“All right; have you eaten dinner?”
“No but I think I’ll let it pass.” Stacie glanced at him.
“But why? You definitely can’t go to bed on a hungry stomach, Jason. There are no issues at the company, are there?”
“No mum, there are not. I just have some things on my mind. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
He started the stairs.
“Okay, I’ll let Rose prepare something light for you. Is that okay?”
“Sure mum; thanks.”
“All right.” Jason entered his room and closed the door.
“Something is wrong with him, right?” Susan asked Stacie.
“Maybe. Let me go and check up on him,” Stacie said, getting up.
“I thought you were busily reading for your pending exams.”
“I am. I’ll be right back,” Stacie said, running up the stairs.
She knocked on his door. “Hey, it’s me.”
“Come in.” She opened the door and entered. Jason was lying on the bed, his hand on his forehead and his eyes closed.
“Are you okay?” She asked as she walked towards him.
“It was stupid of me to let go of Jessie, wasn’t it?” He asked, his eyes still closed. Stacie got onto the bed and looked at him upside down.
“Yeah, kind of. But I’m sure she’ll forgive you.” Jason chuckled.
“I think I’m so far away from being forgiven.”
“Why, what happened today?”
“She was angry….no, she was furious and very irritated. She practically yelled at me all the way home. She must have been very hurt.”
“She was….but I’m sure she healed a bit when I offered my help.”
“You should have seen her today. It was a mad sight.”
“Don’t take it to heart, brother. It’s the hormones reacting; nothing more. They are just being heightened.”
“Really? Did you experience such episodes?”
“Yeah, once in a while. Don’t worry, she’ll come around.”
“Anyway, thank you for what you did for Jessie….for my sake,” Jason said sincerely as he touched her face with both hands. Stacie smiled.
“You are welcome and it’s because of me that you’re going to have it quite easy winning Jessie back. You owe me big time, brother.”
“I know…. I’m sure my whole lifetime won’t be enough to pay you back for all that you’ve done for me. I’m really, really grateful.”
“I know; now get undressed and go and have some dinner.”
“Okay.” He got up.
One early afternoon, Susan was relaxing at the poolside when Rose rushed in holding the phone.
“Ma’am, you have a phone call.”
“Okay, who is it?” Susan asked, taking it from her.
“Betty, Stacie’s friend? Is anything wrong with Stacie?”
“She asked to speak with you or Jason.”
“Okay, thank you. Hello Betty, this is Stacie’s mother. I hope there’s no problem.”
“I’m afraid there is, ma’am. I’ve been trying to get to Stacie but her number can’t be reached. And I was told she isn’t at home either.”
“No, she’s not. Why, what is the problem?”
“Well, we thought our first paper was on Monday but unfortunately, it happens to be today at 3p.m. so I was calling to let her know.”
“Today at 3p.m.? But it’s already past 1p.m.! Oh my goodness, where could she be?”
“Is Jason at home? Perhaps he would know.”
“No, he isn’t but I’d find out. Thanks for calling, Betty. I’ll find her. All the best in today’s paper, by the way.”
“Yeah, thank you.” The line went dead.
“Where could she be?” Susan asked as she stood up. She walked into the house. Jason entered.
“Hi mum,” He greeted.
“Thank God you’re here. Where’s your sister?”
“What do you mean? Isn’t she home?”
“No she isn’t; so if you know, please do tell me.”
“I’m sure she’s fine wherever she is so please don’t worry yourself,” Jason said, about to walk to the stairs.
“Well I’m sorry but I’ve all the reason in the world to get worried. You do know where she is, don’t you?” Jason sighed.
“No mum; I don’t. Why don’t you call her if you’re so concerned? Besides, it’s not even 2p.m.”
“Her phone can’t be reached and she needs to rush back to campus as soon as possible.”
“Rush back to campus? Why, what’s happening?”
“According to Betty, the exam timetable has been altered. Stacie’s first paper is this afternoon and not on Monday as she thinks so please if you do have an idea where she is, please let me know!”
“What?” Jason looked at his watch.
“It’s almost 2p.m.”
“Exactly….so do you know where she is or not?” Susan asked, her temper rising.
They stared at each other for a moment.
“I think I may have an idea.”
“Where is that?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go and get her.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No mum; I can go alone. Trust me, I’ll rush her to campus so she doesn’t miss the paper.”
“No, I said I’m coming with you,” Susan insisted. They went outside.
“Rose, bring me my handbag!” She ordered.
“Come on mum, I will take care of this.”
“Why don’t you want me to come along, huh? She isn’t at some miserable guy’s apartment, is she?”
“Of course not, mum; Stacie is too smart for that.”
“Well apparently, she’s stupid enough to stay inaccessible in her exam period.” Rose came outside with her bag. Susan took it from her.
“Take care of the house, okay? We’ll be right back.”
“Yes ma’am.” They got into the car and drove away. Jason tried calling Stacie’s number but still couldn’t reach her. He muttered something in frustration. He kept hitting the steering wheel in anxiety.
“Where’s she, Jason?” Susan asked.
“Please mum, don’t start an argument here. I’m driving and we need to get to Stacie safely and take her to campus.”
“I’m not trying to start any argument. I’m only asking a simple question. Where is Stacie?” Jason glanced at her for a moment and looked away.
“She isn’t at a guy’s place, mum.”
“So where is she?”
“Can I drive in peace? Thank you.” Jason tried her number again.
“No.” He put the phone down.
He pulled up in front of Jessie’s place. Susan couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Don’t tell me she’s at….” She looked at Jason’s face.
“How did you know….? Of course, you were the one who bought her this place,” Jason said and opened the door. He got out. So did Susan. Jason knocked on the door. It was Stacie who opened the door.
“You need to come with me right now.”
“Why, what’s wrong?” She saw her mum approaching. “And what is mum doing here?”
“What is it, Stacie?” Jessie asked from inside.
“You need to come with us right now.”
“And what the hell are you doing here, Stacie? I can’t believe you’ve abandoned your books to play midwife to this slut of a woman!” Susan bellowed.
“What is going on here?” Jessie asked as she came to the door. She gasped as she saw Susan, boiling with anger. She went back a step.
“That’s right; you should be scared. What the hell were you thinking, holding my daughter captive and serving you? Is she your maid, huh?”
“Calm down, mum. Stacie, we’ve all been trying to reach you. Betty called. She said your first paper isn’t on Monday. It’s today at 3p.m.”
“What?” Stacie exclaimed in shock.
“My best guess is that you haven’t prepared enough for this paper. Thanks to this woman!”
“Oh no…. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to…” Jessica started to apologize.
“Oh shut up before I hit that hole you call a mouth!” Stacie rushed inside.
“You are such a handful, you know that? When I ask you to come into our lives, I didn’t ask you to ruin my daughter’s life, you witch!” Susan shouted.
“Calm down, mother.” Stacie came back with her handbag.
“Okay, can we go now? I’m almost late,” Stacie said hastily.
“I’ll drive you,” Jason offered.
“No, I can drive by myself. You take mum home.”
“No, you are anxious. You shouldn’t be driving. Let me take you. Mum can drive home.”
“You are one lucky woman, Jessie or I would have delivered you of your baby right this minute!” She snatched the car key out of Jason’s hand stormed off.
“I’m terribly sorry, Stacie….”
“It’s okay…. I’ll call you, okay?”
“Okay….take care and all the best in your paper.”
“Yeah, thanks. Let’s go, Jason.” She threw her car key at him and he caught it. They sat in her car and drove away.
“Oh my goodness, how could this happen?” Stacie asked nervously.
“Have you learnt enough for the paper?”
“I don’t… I don’t know, Jason. I’m completely nervous.”
“Calm down, okay? Do you have your study book with you?”
“Yeah, I think I kept it in my bag.”
“Good. Now take it and go through it.”
“And you think that would help in my present state of mind?”
“At least, you won’t enter the exam center completely mind-empty.”
She brought the book out and opened it. She nibbled on her fingernails as she scanned through.
“You’ll be fine, Stacie, okay?”
“I hope so.” They arrived on campus.
“Do you know your center?”
“Yeah I do.” She took a water bottle from the car and got out. Jason got out too.
“Hey, come here.” They hugged.
“You’ll be fine, okay?” She nodded. When they drew apart, Jason saw tears in her eyes.
“Don’t panic, okay? It will go well, all right?” He said, he held her face and looked into her eyes.
“Okay; thank you for bringing me.”
“How long is the paper?”
“About two hours…”
“Should I wait up for you?”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
“It’s not a bother, really. I could wait up for you.”
“No, you go home. I’ll meet you there. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, then let me give you the car keys….”
“No, you take it home.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Maybe I can get George to bring me home.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah; thank you.” She hugged him.
“If you need me, don’t hesitate to call, okay?” He told her.
“Sure of course. I’ll see you.” Stacie rushed into the premises. Jason sat in the car and drove away.
Jessica opened her door.
“Did you get her there before three?” She asked.
“Yes I did.” He entered.
“She must be so nervous. I feel so bad about this.”
“It isn’t your fault, Jessie. How are you doing?”
“I’m trying to calm myself down. I can’t stop thinking about Stacie.”
“She’ll be fine, Jessie. We just have to pray for her.”
“Yeah.” They hugged.
“Please don’t make her panic, Lord, please…” Jessie prayed. He kissed her hair.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry, I’ll fetch it myself.”
“I wasn’t going to do it for you anyway.” They both chuckled. Jessie sat.
“Do you want anything?”
“Just a glass of water.”
“Okay, what was Stacie doing anyway?”
“She was reading to me some stuff about post-natal care. Interesting girl, right?”
“Yes she is.” He came back and handed the glass to her.
“Thank you.” He sat.
“And I’m sorry for how I ranted at you the other night. It was harsh and completely uncalled for.”
“Don’t worry; Stacie filled me in with all the heightened hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy.”
“Yeah, aside that, I was harsh and I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay; I deserved it anyway. So, can I help you with anything?”
“Yeah, actually you can. You could massage my foot.”
“Okay…it will be my pleasure.”
“How long has this been going on, Jason?” Susan asked when he entered.
“How long has what been going on, mum?” He asked in an exasperating tone.
“You know very well what I’m talking about? How long has Stacie been playing midwife at Jessica’s place?”
“I’m sure you do know, mum. Since the results of the paternity test came out… I’m sure you can calculate how long,” Jason replied and started the stairs. Susan stopped him by the arm.
“Don’t you dare walk out on me, Jason.” Jason came back downstairs. The door opened. They both turned. It was Stacie.
“Good evening,” she greeted.
“And how did the paper go?” Susan asked.
“It went well. Thank God I read enough yesterday.” Jason went to her and hugged her.
“Okay, back to business. How long has this nonsense been going on?”
Stacie glanced at Jason in confusion.
“What are you talking about, mother?”
“Please don’t play smart with me. You know what I’m referring to. How long have you been playing midwife at Jessica’s place?”
“Oh that; I’ve only been helping her out, mum. Don’t exaggerate the situation.”
“Exaggerate? You almost missed your end-of-semester examinations because of her for crying out loud!”
“Yeah, that wasn’t funny and I assure you, it won’t happen again.”
“You won’t get worried and anxious about me like that again. I promise you that.”
“Nonsense. I don’t want you to ever see that woman again, is that clear?”
“I’m sorry mum but you can’t stop me.”
“Are you defying my authority?”
“No mum; Jessie’s carrying the next generation of this family…”
“Will you shut up? That thing in her womb will never be an Archer. Don’t let me ever hear much of a whisper that you went to see her or else…”
“Or else what, mum?”
“Or else there would be no baby to celebrate,” Susan said boldly.
“Mum!” Jason exclaimed.
“Don’t dare me, Stacie.” Susan said and climbed the stairs. Both Jason and Stacie stared at her in silence. She slammed her door. Stacie sighed. Jason hugged his sister again.
“I’m so glad the paper went well, sis.”
“Yeah me too; I guess heaven was on my side.”
“I’m sure of that too. Let me help you with your bag. Change and let’s eat something, okay?” They climbed upstairs.