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Chapter 3: Family Dinner

Jace Carson

The entire journey back home had been very unnerving, especially with Nathan and Ash constantly nagging me every second. The bribe of ice cream sundae worked well, but my victory was short-lived. Thankfully, it was a 2-hour journey, and I didn't have to keep up with their stupidity for long.

Upon reaching the airport we all departed with appreciative handshakes and respectful nods. There was a huge crowd of people waiting for their loved one's with smiles stretched across their faces and hopeful eyes trained at the entrance as we walked through. Wives, husbands, brothers and sisters all eyes searching through our crowd with a hurried urgency. The cheers and bustling in the air were so loud that it almost made me crack a smile until I realized that as always I had no one bearing a welcome sign for me. Nathan had his sister who came to get him, even Ash had a girlfriend who came every single time. And as strange as that might sound, yeah that dude has a girlfriend.

The two-hour journey had unconsciously worn me out. Deciding to get good hours of sleep was first on my 'to do list '. Catching an uber, I nearly dose off in the backseat throughout the way until my apartment comes into view. The huge 10-storey gray colored building with tinted windows, stood there tall and welcoming. Pushing through the luggage that I carried, I manage getting it to my place effortlessly through the stairway since the lift was out of order. It is almost 2000 hours now. So just as my door creaks open, I neatly place my luggage into the living room, and head straight for the bedroom.

The next day after taking a few good hours of sleep in my apartment, my day turns out to be pretty well. But the main highlight for me would be today's dinner. I fairly had an idea of what it was about, but I didn't want to sour my mood thinking over it again. I mean it's been almost two years now. There's no way that they could get that desperate. I sigh.

Printing & publishing. The Carson's have been into the business ever since I could remember. Five years ago, when my father retired from the Army, he had taken it entirely upon himself and invested almost everything that he owned to keep our business from falling down, he even sold off every single piece of property that my grandpa left for us. Surprisingly, after that the first few years went by pretty well as the business grew steadily. It wasn't anything huge but enough that he could open up a chain of branches around a few states. This went on for a couple of years or so, at least, until the Miller's came into the business. I don't remember much of what went around at that time but probably around last year, he had this crazy idea of merging in with the Miller's. I didn't have any issues with that as I never bothered to actually get interested in any of it. But it was when he told me that in order for the merger to take place, I had to marry some girl.

Without a second thought I had said 'No' and he's been onto me ever since.

On debating for a while about my clothes I finally settle on a simple white shirt with a black leather jacket on top and ripped black denim jeans. Black jacket brought out my eyes well. Looking good won't hurt, right? Just as I am ready, I head straight to my ford. It’s a silver model car with a combination of black stripes to give it a simple yet classy look. I settle in and check my look on the rear view mirror, a habit I won't be leaving any time sooner.

After 3 hours of long drive and imagining the possible conclusions of how this would end, I finally arrive at my parents house. It’s simply brown shaded with white panes around the clear windows that gives away a comfortable aura. The surroundings remind me of my childhood, the wide carpet of plush green grass adorning the beauty of the house and the classic old swing nearby, the narrow roof that helped me escape to a couple of parties, all filling my head with buzzing peaceful vibes that brings out a couple of sweet memories.

Just as I park my car and reach the concrete porch, I hear the hustling and bustling sounds from the indoors of feet rushing for the door. The very moment the door opens, I smile at the sight of my nephews.

Zac and Luke.

They are both adorable 6 year old twins with blond hair. Zac gets his gray eyes from his father while Luke is a complete replica of my cousin with forest green eyes, as soon as they get the sight of me they launch themselves towards me grinning and yelling. “How are my boys?” I ask while holding on to both of them in each of my arms and walking into the living room, but before I could even get through.

“So... late again, aren't we?”

The person none other than my father interrupts. He's quite a grumpy old man for a person in his mid sixties. With salt and pepper hair, rod-like stiff spine, tall stature that cast an over looming shadow, calculating look in his hard eyes, it's almost impossible not to get intimidated with a man of his poise. I get my emerald green eyes from him which I hate to admit, compliment my looks well.

“I was caught up in the traffic” I decide to end it with a simple answer. “Always the one to have excuses” he mutters.

“Well I didn't have to give excuses if you could just stop being annoying for once” I say while putting the kids down, who as if on cue run straight to the bedroom.

“Don't you, use that tone with me Jace” he snaps, pupils dilated with the surrounding green almost turning a shade closer to black, his accusing finger pointed at me.

“It's enough both of you!” comes in the soft yet firm voice of my mom, from the kitchen, I suppose. “Jace that's not the way to speak to your father, apologize right away”

“But...” she cuts me off as she comes in wearing a black apron around her powder blue skirt, clipped hair loose around her shoulders as her unyielding gaze sets on me. “No ifs and but's with me, apologize NOW” she emphasizes the word 'now' as a sign that I'm not getting away with this without apologizing.

“OK fine, I'm sorry” I say attempting to not drag this further more than necessary. “And Josh enough with all this, let the boy catch a breath first” she glares at my father, who as usual looks unaffected as his eyes zero on me.

“Jace you get to your room, I'll call you and the boys when the dinner is set” she says with a tone of authority in her voice. And I couldn't help but feel a bit of remorse.

My room is placed up, onto the left so that I could get a full view of the garden below. Upon entering my room, I take in the sight of all the things that had been here, looking just the way I left them, possibly even neater. To the right is my shelf which consists books, audio cossets and posters, to the left is my pacman which was the only reason I got to have friends in this neighborhood when we moved in here.

Further more there stood a plain white canvas surrounded by a number of acrylic paints. I'd been painting since before I could even hold a pencil, and always being the messy one, I used to scatter them all across my room. Finally, there’s the painting from when I was twelve on the wall above my headrest. Taking a full view of my room I discover that this room isn't just four walls, it holds a huge part of me.

Me; Sneaking out from the windows for night outs.

Me; Sitting for hours in that very spot covered in water colors and paints.

Me; Living out my wonder years...

I really missed being here.

My chain of thoughts is broken by a knock on my door. “Come in” the door opens to reveal Zac and Luke, both looking up at me with uncertain faces.

“Are you okay?” Luke asks a bit hesitant.

“I am now, come in” I reply happily, trying to cheer them up.

“We heard what happened down there” they come in and sit on the edge of the bed, beside me.

“Well... eavesdropping isn't very good” I reply calmly, to ease off the tension. “We're sorry” Luke pouts innocently, I shake my head at him while I ruffle his blond hair.

“Done with the apologies?” Zac asks Luke impatiently, and then he turns towards me with a toothy grin.

“Can we play pacman now?” he suggests.

“Sure... I don't see why?” I shrug. It’s been a while anyway.

And that how we play pacman for about an hour with both of our teams getting better chances to out beat the score. It’s now Luke's turn who has been playing like crazy in the bid to set a new score. Me being a big crazy fan of pacman myself, motivate him enthusiastically throughout.

“Come on Luke you're very close” mutters Zac, biting his nails in nervousness.

“Don't disturb him” I give him the look. I didn't want Luke to lose since he's almost on the verge of out beating the score. I place my hand on Luke to relax his tense shoulders.

“Don't touch me” he sneers. “Yeah don't touch him” Zac mocks at me. I jerk my hand back, the game was getting tense. Suddenly, the temperature in the room feels like it has risen a bit as Luke's only 10 points away from breaking the record. Just when we all think we have almost won.

My mom bursts into the room, and we all divert our attention to her instead. “Dinner's ready I want you boys...”

“No ...no...n-no... NO” she couldn't finish as Luke starts yelling. As soon as I hear that, I unconsciously fear what's coming next. “Don't tell me you didn't make it” I ask hopefully but I'm met with a blotchy red face. “I lost...” is all he says while tears pouring out of his dull green eyes.

I turn to my mom, irritated “You couldn't have chosen a better time?” she looks at us in alarm “What happened?” she asks, panic filling her voice. “He lost the pacman” replies Zac almost dejectedly.

“Oh...” She sighs, as if she had expected something big and was relieved with the fact that we just lost PACMAN!

We all give her our best death glares. Noticing our suddenly hostility, she immediately apologizes with, “Ohhh!.. I'm so sorry I didn't mean to do that” she coos at Luke, who looks far away from being coaxed now.

It’s then she adds “Well I can make it up to you all” she says to Luke, we motion her to keep going “I have prepared your favorite blueberry cheesecake for the desert”.

And just then pacman becomes a distant memory and in our eyes lay only the desire to savor the cheesecake. As if in marathon, all three of us sprint towards the kitchen, skipping steps in hurry. “Wait up, don't you touch it before the meal” we hear my mother growl.

As we make it to the kitchen “Where do you think it is?” Zac scratches his head dumbly while I go straight to the only possible place. “Obviously in the fridge” I reply opening the fridge and looking at the mouth watering blueberry cheesecake topped with some purple berry sauce, exactly the way I like it.

Just then as I start removing the cake to cut a silver “Stop right there!” mom orders, freezing us midway. All three of us look at each other contemplating whether to make a run for it...

“Don't even think of it! Can you boys at least for once wait till the dinner ends?” she asks. We look at each other with smug faces and yell “NO” but the stubborn woman she is, she takes the precious cheesecake away from me. Leaving all three of us to pout.

“Hell YES!, and all three of you start arranging the food on the table” she orders yet again. Luke makes a baby face at my mom to which she immediately melts and smiles “And you'll be getting an extra piece today my baby boy” his eyes immediately light up and mom ruffles his hair lovingly at that. “That's not fair” I pout hoping to pull off the adorable puppy card that usually had all my exes swooning over me. I want the concession too!

“It is fair and start preparing before your father gets back” I curl up my lip in distaste at that.

“There's nothing like justice in this world” Zac mumbles which makes both me and mom laugh.

Dinner's served with me sitting in the middle, father on the head table and mom next to him. The twins sat to my left with wide grins on their faces as they chat away about some upcoming model of Robots P5. Judging by the smell it was the kind of delicious food I have had in months. We all say praise, with Zac occasionally opening his eyes in the middle now and then. After a minute or so the sounds of cutlery clashing fills the room as we all begin eating, my eyes roaming about the house occasionally, taking in the few changes that my mom made here and there.

“How are you doing at work?” the voice of my father brings me back from my reverie. I nod my head with “It's great” He just gives me a sideways glance, his dark eyes set hard into mine, as he takes another bite out of his steak.

“Well if everything is as good as you make it seem then I guess it's time you settle down. Don't you think?” he raises an eyebrow. “I don't think so” I answer flatly, breaking off the inkling of any idea that he has in his head. From the corner of my eye, I could see my mom stealing glances at us occasionally, the kids now staring at us too. I sighed in exasperation. “What do you want from me?”

I am sick of this shitty overpowering attitude towards me. He chuckles coldly. “He has never cared for any of this, has he? About the damned company? About his own parents?” he says turning to shoot my mom a sharp sideways glance. I'm not gonna let that affect me, I just ignore him and focus on the food instead.

“All the officers your in your rank are settled, have been married, have kids running around. What's so despicable about this marriage that you are willing to let your family down for it? You don't even know the damn girl!” he spits out, banging his fist on the table, breathing ragged as his face contorts to red in fury.

I try my best to not let my anger take the best of me as clutch my fists tight in my lap. Mom must have noticed as she finally says “Josh stop it, there are kids around the table it's better if you just try to remain calm” she says hopefully but I knew at this point none of that crap is gonna stop him. So she ushers the kids back in their room instead.

“You're right. I don't even know the damn girl. And that's exactly my point here” I try to be calm and not turn this into war zone. “I was twenty when I married your mother, and need I say, it was arranged by my father too. I hadn't even seen your mother until the wedding day. But we're living together now, aren't we?” he says surprising me with the sudden coldness in his voice. I knew that theirs was an arranged marriage but I never heard him actually say anything about this. I look at my mother to see her face pale. “Josh there's no need...”

“Stay out of this Marilyn! Your lack of interest in this business never ceases to amaze me. But I can't let your stupidity cost me a fortune. So I'm going to say this for the last time boy. You better fucking think about this again.” he says sharply, pushing the chair back as he begins walking away. And I know it was my cue to leave “Is this why you wanted me to come?” I ask my mom, her eyes trained to seat that my father left empty. Her lack of reply is all the answer that I need as I leave the table without glancing back.

When I first said my family isn't all that bad, cross it.... they're terrible.


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