Jasper looked really out of place when he walked into my home. The men I ever invited inside lived a similar, if not the same, lifestyle. Jasper’s body language seemed relaxed, and he didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the fact that the walls were peeling or that there was a leak in the ceiling. There was no judgment in his expressions whatsoever.
As I took Jasper’s coat from him, I noticed the curiosity in his eyes as he looked around. The couch was worn out and patched up. The rug beneath was old, yet I made sure to clean it every chance I got. Dad was usually seated in front of the TV, but he wasn’t in view, so that meant he was out again, drinking and banging one of his chicks. He didn’t care that there was a mounting debt under his name and the fact that more than half of my paycheck went into paying that debt. All that mattered to him was more money. After high school, all my friends had left town for college. When I scrolled through their social media, I realized how much I’d been missing; the type of normal life that they were having, a good job, and coming home to a nice partner. What I’d done instead was apply to a community college and stayed behind. I’d sacrificed my future. I tried to tell myself that it was alright. It was all for my mom because I just couldn’t leave her alone.
“Earth to Kiara!” Jasper snapped his fingers to bring me back to reality. He grinned. “What were you thinking?”
I shook my head. “It’s nothing.”
Mom walked into the foyer, her eyes darting between Jasper and me. She looked frail. She used to have beautiful volume on her hair like mine, but due to the years of mental torture she went through because of my father, she’d started to look tired. There were dark bags under her eyes, and her once vibrant hazel eyes had lost its color.
I realized my mom was still staring at Jasper. I cleared my throat. “Mom, this is Jasper...”
I didn’t even know his last name.
Jasper quickly raised his hand towards her for a handshake. “Jasper Lockhart, ma’am. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a friend of Kiara’s.”
My mom looked at his hand and back to his face. Any normal person who knew me well would question how I’d managed to be friends with someone like Jasper, who didn’t even live in this neighborhood. She quickly wiped her hands on her apron and accepted the friendly handshake.
“Julie Reeves. Please call me Julie. I’m Kiara’s mother.” She glanced into the kitchen. “I just baked an apple pie for dessert. Why don’t you join us, Jasper?”
“I would love to, but I really don’t want to intrude. I was just dropping Kiara off from her work.”
Mom seemed to be hell-bent on getting Jasper to join us. She waved her hand in dismissal. “The more, the merrier. Desserts are always better if they are shared. Come on now. It won’t hurt to just have one slice. It’s Kiara’s favorite.”
Jasper agreed and joined us at the table. Mom served him a generous slice of pie with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. He tore a large piece of it and pushed it into his mouth. He pointed the fork in my mom’s general direction. “I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve tried different varieties of pie, but I’ve never had such a delicious pie before. Trust me on this.”
Mom beamed at him, “Oh, thank you. I’m glad you liked it.” She quickly pushed another slice towards him.
We watched mesmerized as Jasper devoured four slices of the pies, and that made Mom really happy. She loved it when someone truly appreciated her food. And then out of nowhere, my mother decided to play the inquisition game that she enjoyed playing with any man that I ever brought home. She didn’t seem to understand the basic concept of ‘friends.’ It was truly embarrassing since I wasn’t sixteen anymore.
“Where do you live?” she inquired.
“I live in the outskirts of this town,” Jasper said. He was pretty vague about the answer.
“What’s your job like?” Mom further asked.
“I run a family business, the Lockhart Enterprise. It’s something I inherited before my father passed away and decided to grow further.”
I didn’t miss the way my mother’s eyes lit up as they met mine. I could see the message she was trying to send me through telepathy: Kiara, you hit a goldmine!
I sighed. My mother would never change.
“I’m sorry to hear that about your father,” Mom said. “It must be difficult living by yourself,” she added, her eyes flicking towards his left hand to check if he was wearing a wedding band around his finger.
“Not really. I’ve gotten used to it.” Jasper’s voice laced with nonchalance.
He hadn’t mentioned his mother.
Mom quickly sneaked a glance towards me. I tried to keep a straight face. I wanted to ask her to let it go, but curiosity was a bitch.
Mom smiled. “Your mother must make delicious pies for you too.”
I saw right through that statement. She wanted to see what he would answer.
“She used to, but not anymore.”
I wanted to ask him why. Did his mother remarry? Or perhaps she died too and he couldn’t speak about her because it made him emotional?
Before Mom could ask him any more questions, Jasper climbed to his feet, his plate clean. Glancing at the expensive watch on his wrist he said, “It’s getting late. I should head home.”
His expressions went dark, and something told me he wasn’t exactly happy with the way the conversation had been going. I passed Mom a look of warning, and she stopped the inquisition at once. An awkward silence went on for a while until Jasper thanked my mom for the pie, grabbed his coat, and made his way out of the house. I told him I’d call him. He just nodded as he slid behind the wheel, and I stood there until I watched the car disappear down the road.
As soon as I was inside the house, Mom bombarded me with another round of questions. “Where did you meet him? He seems rich. Where does he live? What kind of business does he own?”
“Mom! I don’t know anything. We met at the restaurant, okay? He was a regular customer there.”
“But why did he leave so suddenly?”
“You shouldn’t have tried to pry into his personal life. Some people don’t like to be asked private questions and he already seemed uncomfortable when you asked about his father. You should have stopped right there.”
“I’m going to bed now, Mom. Night.”