With Sam sat on my two-seater sofa nursing his third cup of tea, I cautiously took note of his reaction, fully expecting him to launch head-first into a brotherly lecture.
“Are you sure you can handle this?” he questioned, fair in his doing so.
Light curls framed his cheeks, completely untameable.
“No, I’m not sure but I can’t continue living in the past. I love Spencer and I want to be there for him and for his daughter.”
“That’s fair,” he replied, enthusiastically nodding. “But you should probably talk to him. He deserves to know.”
“I’d rather not,” I stated, thoroughly on the defensive. “It’s not relevant.”
“It’s extremely relevant, Jessica,” he retaliated, awfully scrutinising.
I knew I was being unreasonable but in all honesty, I was looking for any excuse under the sun.
“Can we talk about something else?” I pleaded, needing a change in conversation.
Sam didn’t appear at all pleased with my demand and simply took to sipping his drink whilst simultaneously shaking his head. He always was pushy and I knew it was his way of looking out for my best interests but he didn’t understand. No one did. Only I knew what was best for me and bringing up the past was a sure way to force me into a meltdown. Right now, that wasn’t an option. Spencer and I faced a massive uphill battle and I needed to be on top form if we were to win partial custody of Leila. Sweet, innocent, Leila.
My honorary step-daughter.
“What’s on the agenda for tonight then?” he asked, respecting my wishes for a change in subject.
Games night was due to start any minute now and with any luck, dad would bring Trivial Pursuit with him. If not, our options were Guess Who? or a good ol’ fashioned deck of cards.
“Pathetic attempt, indeed,” snubbed Sam, eyeing up my rather poor collection.
“Shut up!” I retaliated, whacking him over the head with a cushion. “You’re being a little bitch because you know I’ll beat you.”
“Jessie, Guess Who? is a two player game and there are three of us. I’m being a little bitch because your games suck arse.”
A knocking at the door interrupted our conversation, putting an end to our pointless bickering. I opened up for Dad and smiled wide when seeing Trivial Pursuit tucked safely under his arm. The man never failed to follow through.
“You’re a life saver!” I claimed, gesturing for him to come in. “Drink?”
“I’ll have a coffee if one’s going,” he smiled, dumping the boardgame on my kitchen table.
Sam came sauntering through, eyes set firmly on our chosen game for this evening.
“Trivial pursuit it is then.”
“Looks like it,” I replied, concocting Dad’s beverage.
The two wasted no time in setting everything up, using the kitchen table as a structural base. Before long, we were good to go and with it, retuned my competitiveness.
“You’re going down, Samuel Turner!”
“Like shite!” he scoffed, flicking me on the shoulder.
I laughed at his immaturity and passed Dad his coffee; steaming hot, minus the milk.
“Thanks, petal. How did things go with Spencer’s lawyer.”
I quickly glanced to Sam, warning him to keep his opinion to himself.
“Things went great. We’re seeing Leila on Saturday.”
“Well, that’s brilliant news,” he smiled, glancing to Sam afterwards. “Isn’t it?”
Silence, followed by a sigh.
“Then why does Sam have a face like a slapped arse?”
“Spencer has expressed his desires to have me co-parent with him.”
“And, Sam thinks it’s a bad idea because of you know what,” I explained, seating myself down and choosing a playing piece. Yellow, of course.
Dad’s face suddenly paled.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” insisted Sam, following suit by choosing the blue piece. “I just think you need to be honest with Spencer about everything.”
“Why?” I asked, passing dad the green counter. “What good will it do?”
“He’s your boyfriend. You shouldn’t be keeping secrets.”
“Sam!” warned Dad, seemingly siding with me.
The air filled with unwanted tension, suffocating us all in the process. Sam lowered his gaze to the table, unable to maintain eye contact. As a family, we never discussed my past. As far as speaking freely went, that topic was a no-go zone. Off limits. Completely and indefinitely.
“Let’s decide who’s going first,” I suggested, passing Dad the dice.
He rolled a pathetic two, giving Sam and me something to tease him about. In an instant, the awkwardness lifted, prompting us to morph back into our usual selves. I knew Sam was displaying signs of protectiveness but sometimes, he took it too far. I’d no doubt tell Spencer of my past in time but not right now.
“Jessie, your turn,” encouraged Sam, flashing me his hard to beat five. Fuck!
I threw the dice down on the bored and cringed when a one stared back at me.
“Oh, you’re so going down!” he smirked, nudging my leg from under the table.
“You wish,” I replied, relaxing further into my chair. “You’ll need that head start.”
“Honestly, why are you two like this?” laughed Dad, slurping from his mug. “Your mum and I were never this competitive.”
“What’s the point of playing if it’s not to win?” asked Sam, looking towards Dad.
The poor man never won a game when Sam and I were around. He wasn’t a threat as far as competition went and often acted as a referee when things got slightly too heated between us siblings. Which, they usually did. We never turned violent but the occasional “Fuck you!” and “You’re an arsehole!” would come into play, forcing Dad to step in. It was all in good fun, of course.
“For fun,” countered Dad, baffling Sam and me.
“Yeah right!” I scoffed, motioning for Sam to get started. “Hurry up and roll so I can beat your arse.”
And so he did.
To our utter modification, Dad won. We were so focused on beating each other that we failed to notice his green counter stacking up.
“I’ll like to take this moment to thank my mum, my dad-”
“Oh, piss off!” sulked Sam, red faced.
Under normal circumstances, I would laugh only I, too, was feeling the need to act childishly.
“If you could see your faces right now,” he chuckled, alone in his efforts. “You’re moments away from throwing a tantrum!”
Sam climbed to his feet, uttering his need to use the bathroom, though I suspected he was off to secretly cry. With his ego bruised and his dignity long gone, he couldn’t do much else.
“That was fun,” smiled Dad, packing away the game.
“Hmm,” I huffed, grabbing his empty mug. “Top up?”
“I’m not sure. With your current mood, I’m afraid you’ll poison it.”
I stifled a laugh, hiding it behind my hand.
“Now there’s an idea.”
He joined me over by the kettle and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder, pushing past a small sigh.
“Are you okay, petal? I know you don’t like talking about it but I wouldn’t be a very good dad if I didn’t at least check in.”
“I’m okay,” I smiled, spooning coffee granules into his mug. “Sam’s just looking out for me, that’s all.”
I squared my shoulders, feigning confidence.
“Hmm. He can be pushy at times. Too pushy.”
I raised both my eyebrows and shot him a stern glance. “He gets that from his dad.”
He fired me a look as if to say, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’, following it up with a knowing smirk.
“We have good intentions.”
I stopped the kettle and poured boiling hot water into his concoction of coffee and sugar. A comfortable silence settled between us before I spoke again.
“I’ll tell Spencer soon. Just not yet. I’m not ready.”
He nodded. “I understand.”
Sam came plodding in, looking somewhat uplifted, though not entirely over his humiliation. He sat at the table, looking over at dad and me as though thinking through his words carefully.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m acting irrational.”
I hid my smile. “Is that so?”
“Hmm. It’s only fair to let dad win every so often.”
“You didn’t let me do anything. I beat you both fair a square,” insisted Dad, pointing an accusing finger towards Sam.
I smiled at his insistence to stick up for himself and rounded the back of Sam.
“It’s okay, big brother. We’ll slaughter him at our next games night.”
“Too bloody right, we will,” he chirped, matching my enthusiasm.
Dad rolled his eyes at our antics and joined us over by the table, saying nothing to fuel our fire. Instead, he settled into his chair and focused his attention on the endless pile of paperwork I had situated on my living room floor. At the very least, it looked intimidating and tedious.
“That’s a lot,” he commented.
He always did concern himself over my workload.
“It is. We’re busy at the moment.”
“With the Italy site?” imputed Sam, following dad’s gaze towards the living room.
“Hmm and the Rosalie launch next month.”
Sam suddenly turned in his seat.
“How is she, by the way?”
Dad shot us a sceptical look.
“Fine,” I replied, deepening my explanation for Dad’s benefit. “She’s having difficulties with her pregnancy.”
No more details were needed.
“Scott was in a right state the last time we spoke,” admitted Sam, sympathising with the man. “He worries about her.”
“It’s what he does best,” I acknowledged. “He’s just like his older brother.”
“Spencer worries about you, does he?” smirked Dad, sending silent approval.
“He fusses,” I informed, opening my fringe and topping Sam up with more Coke. “He likes to look after me.”
“Well, I can’t argue with that. As long as he’s taking care of you and you’re happy...”
I grinned. “Very happy”
“Have you noticed we all got new partners at the same time,” interrupted Sam, sipping from his glass.
“How do you mean?”
“I got Beth, you got Spencer and dad got Karen. All within weeks of each other.”
I couldn’t help but cringe a little. “Dad got Karen” didn’t sound right in my head and would no doubt feel wrong for a while yet. He was happy and I appreciated that. I just needed more time to adjust accordingly and wrap my head around him having a new girlfriend.
“Love is in the air!” remarked Dad, feeding Sam with ideas of fate.
“Or maybe we just got sick of each other’s company?” I laughed, flicking them both on the arm.
Both of them smirked, seemingly in agreement with me. Not that we actually believed it. I could be locked in a cell with them and still not get sick of them. Sure, they annoyed me to no end but I couldn’t be without them. We were a family and often relied on each other for certain situations. When Mum first deteriorated, we all stepped up to the mark, concerning ourselves with each other’s wellbeing. Dad provided financial stability and kept the house running, whereas Sam and I brought laughter and love to the table. We each had our roles and without them, everything would crumble to the ground. We’d come a long was since then and had somehow learned to cope independently. Dad still didn’t know how to pay a bill but he knew how to whip up a good homemade chicken curry. Sam may have not yet mastered the art of a washing machine but he had all the love in the world to share with those he deemed worthy of it. And me? Well, I was finally in a committed relationship with a man I truly adored.
We learned to change and adapt and because of that, we survived some of the toughest years of our lives. Together, we fought and together we succeeded. Earlier, dad wanted to know what made Sam and me so competitive. We were driven and committed and when we believed in a cause, we stood strong in our opinion. Us Turners were fighters and if there was one fight I was determined to win, it was the one Isy and Alister were forcing upon us. I’d do anything for my family and that included Spencer and Leila.
Anything at all.
“Whatever it is, we’re all happy,” expressed Sam, somewhat smug. “And that’s the most important thing,”
With his cup of coffee raised mid-air, Dad encouraged me to follow suit, shooting me a simultaneous wink.
I couldn’t argue.
“Cheers to that!”