Scars and Secret

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Espen dan Jason decided to build their life together, because Jason comforted Espen’s scars and Espen completed Jason's secret

Submitted: October 12, 2016

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Submitted: October 12, 2016

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This particular week had been one of those days where I cherished my life the most. Leaning on my taxi cab door whilst searching for a five year old pony tail little girl who was about to burst out of the school building with a wide smile on her face.

“Mommy….” Erin shrieked, running towards me.

I knelt down and reached out my hands towards her. The smell of her hair effective immediately erased those long exhausting traffic hours I had to endure as I collected dollar after dollar working as a taxi driver.

I looked expectantly at her bright brown eyes and asked. “How was school today?”

“Teacher gave us homework today.” Erin replied cheerfully.

I wondered if she would still be able to say it in the same tone of voice several years later. I gave her a warm smile.

“What’s that on your shoe, Mommy?” Erin asked, pointing at my left sneaker.

I opened the front passenger door of my taxi cab for her and replied. “A cellotape.”

“Why do you have a cellotape on your shoe?” Erin asked curiously.

Having committed to not let Erin have the slightest idea of how poor her mother condition actually was, I gave her a smug smile and replied. “It’s the new fashion.”

“Mommy, your jean is torn. Let’s buy you a new one.” Erin said, pointing at my right knee.

“Next month when I receive my paycheck, okay?” I replied. If every lie I told Erin was worth a dollar, I would have been able to buy a hundred pair of new jeans to myself by now.

“Okay.” Erin nodded understandingly, the way she did when I told her not touch the water heater because it was hot.

I started the engine and the passenger door of my taxi cab flung open, followed by a middle aged man getting in.

“I’m sorry. I’m off duty.” I lied.

The man growled in disappointment before getting himself out of my cab. I sighed heavily, wondering how long I would still be doing this, only receiving female passengers into my taxi cab which had been effectively cutting forty percent of my income and forced me to take longer shifts than necessary.

Thankfully, a woman dressed in fine blazer got into my taxy cab.

“Where to?” I asked. If this was going to be a short drive, I thought it would be okay to be a bit late taking Erin home.

The woman handed me a piece of paper.

“Do you mind if I take her home first?” I asked politely as I gestured at Erin, knowing well that the place we would be heading was one hour drive.

“No problem at all.” The woman smiled understandingly.

“James, look what I made at school?” Erin exclaimed when she finally found what she had been looking for from inside her bag.

It was not the first time I had Erin with me in my taxi cab whilst I took passengers to where they asked me to take them. Nonetheless, I still threw nervous glances towards my passenger over the rearview mirror whenever Erin called me James instead of Mommy. It had been a game in which Erin had innocently agreed to play along since I had no wish for any curious female passenger with some level of compassion to start asking about Erin’s father whereabouts the moment they knew I was actually her mother. Luckily Erin didn’t have any objection to call me James, one of the character of her all-time favorite cartoon ‘Sofia the First’.

“Good job, Sofia.” I replied in a cheerful tone of voice, calling her by the character whereas she was the main one the moment I got her convinced and agreed to play the game.

I sighed guiltily when I noticed Erin’s uniform skirt got torn at its bottom folds. I had actually seen it yesterday and the day before and still hadn’t found a proper time to fix it. I took out my phone when my taxi cab stopped in front of our house, setting a reminder to sew Erin’s uniform skirt at 9 PM tonight which was around the time I finally made it home.

“Min Yeo!” Erin cried as she got out of the cab, running towards a young Korean girl who had been waiting for her outside my small but cozy house.

It had been heartwarming, honestly, to have someone like Min Yeo who loved Erin as much as I did. The girl had been taking a good care of Erin since she was only a new born whilst I went to work. She lived just around the neighborhood, saving up for his college. However, it was also a bit disappointing to watch Erin to have forgotten about my existence the moment Min Yeo asked her how she had been doing at school whilst taking her into the house.

Nonetheless, I found myself smiling in relieve.

“How old?” The woman asked when my taxi cab made a left turn on the block.

“Five.” I replied.

“Where’s her father?”

“Dead.” I lied.

“Her mother?”

“Working.” I said truthfully.

We finally arrived at the destination seventy minutes later, which to my surprise and concern turned to be an abandoned warehouse. My heart skipped a beat when, over the rear view mirror, I saw her taking out a hand gun from her purse.

“Please, step out of the car and put your hands where I can see them.” The woman said in a cold tone of voice. She nudged the hand gun on the back of my neck when I didn’t move. “Now would be good.”

I stepped out of the car the moment I realized I had just been a victim of a taxi cab hijacking using young woman as part of its new modus operandi.

“Please just let me go. I won’t report to the police.” It was hard to keep my voice as calm as possible since the images of Erin were now starting to run wildly inside my head.

“Move.” The woman said, ignoring my taxi cab which engine was still turning on.

“The little girl is actually my daughter. I’m a mother and a single parent.” I really, really hoped this would stir the slightest conscience in whatever kind of heart this woman had.

Apparently the woman did not have that kind of heart.

I tried not to cry, which I found myself unable to. I could feel the tears flowing down on both my cheeks. It never occurred to me that Erin’s first week of school would be the day where I might not be able to see her again the moment I realized that I was dealing with human trafficking perpetrator.

Five minutes later, two units of black sedan cars pulled over just several feet away from where we were standing. Two men in suits emerged from each of the cars. One of them looked much older than the other.

“Sorry, for the inconveniences, Espen.” The older man said with a fatherly tone of voice. “Though in my opinion, pointing a handgun at your dead spot was really unnecessary.”

“She had pepper spray under the dashboard.” The woman argued. “Besides, you’re both late.”

The woman put down her hand gun now that she knew I was already outnumbered. I was wondering what would be these three people do to me when the much older man opened his mouth to speak.

“My name is Osborn. This is Ava, and this is Jason.” The old man gestured at himself, the woman, and the young man standing next to him.

I didn’t know how I should respond. He already knew my name. Nonetheless, the old man named Osborn continued.

“Over three decades ago, a pair of boy and girl twins were born by a homeless woman.” He started. “The girl was dying so that the foster parents only took the boy. Miraculously, the girl which the hospital had thought had no chance to live got better and better. In less than a month, another foster parents took her. Isaac Hawkins, the boy twin, had been one of our secret agent until he got killed in a single mission two days ago. He was born in November 15th, 1984 in Nevada Hospital at 10:15 am from a young homeless woman named Mary Foyer.”

My heart skipped a beat when Osborn mentioned my birth date, the hospital I was born, and more shockingly my biological mother.

“Are you saying that I actually have a twin brother?” I finally confirmed.

“Yes.” Osborn replied briefly.

“That’s not possible.” I shook my head in disbelief.

“Fortunately, it is.” Osborn said as he handed me a pile of documents in which I find a photo of myself in a much more muscular features. This Isaac Hawkins, the man whom Osborn had claimed to be my twin brother and whom I just found out about his existence less than a minute ago had the exact same eye and hair color as mine, although his hair was shorter. The only different was probably our height and weight difference, in which I was sure wouldn’t be visibly noticed had we had the chance to stand side by side.

“All we need is twenty four hours of your time, taking his role.” Osborn said. “You’ll get ten times annual income you’re currently having by the time you finish the job. After that, you will never have to encounter any of us in any circumstances in the future.”

I gulped nervously and handed back the file when Osborn reached out his hand.

“It certainly wouldn’t be awkward to you knowing that you’re actually dressing like a man when working as a taxi cab driver. And I think it wouldn’t be a problem if you have to trim a bit of your hair.” Osborn pushed.

“How do I know that you’re not kidnapping me?” I challenged Osborn.

Blatantly ignoring my question, Osborn took out a tablet and handed it out to me. “Real time surveillance on your daughter. To encourage you that you are doing this for the sake of her.”

From the tablet, I could clearly see Erin having lunch on our dining table with Min Yeo sitting next to her inside my house. The next moment Min Yeo stood up and walked towards the front door. From another angle of the camera, I watched a man in suits standing in front of my front door. Several packages in his arms. I wondered when Osborn had his minions installing those surveillance cameras...

Anyway, the offer was really tempting, especially when I realized all I needed to do was to pose as my own twin brother. That amount of money was more than enough to pay my mortgage and secure Erin’s education fee up until her master degree. I could have Min Yeo stayed with Erin for the night.

I was taking out my phone from my pocket jeans to call Min Yeo when Osborn spoke.

“Min Yeo already received a fake message that you had to be at a relative’s funeral in such a short notice along with a sum amount of money as a compensation for her to spend the night with Erin since you will be returning tomorrow morning.” Osborn said in a breath.

I called Min Yeo nonetheless. I needed to speak to Erin. I waited patiently since it took time for Min Yeo to put down the packages she received from the man in suit onto the sofa of our living room before walking towards the dining table to answer her ringing cellphone. Min Yeo handed the phone to Erin when I asked her to. I was a bit upset when Erin did not want to talk to me. However, I was relieved to know she was too thrilled playing with a new Barbie doll which she had unwrapped from one of the boxes, the one I had failed to give at her last fifth birthday.

Min Yeo apparently decided to talk to me after the third failed attempt to make Erin talk to me.

“I’m sorry for the loss, Miss Garner.” Min Yeo said in her Korean accent after I told her that I would call her later.

“Thank you, Min Yeo.” I replied, feeling a bit guilty.

I put back my phone into my pocket jeans right before Osborn spoke again.

“You can call your daughter anytime you wish except when you are carrying out the role whom Jason and Ava will help you transform into.” Osborn reminded.

“So, all I need to do is posing as Isaac for twenty four hours?” I concluded.

It took a while before Osbon replied my question since he had been busy with his cellphone.

“Ava will brief you about the role.” Osborn confirmed. “Right now I need to go. Good day, Espen.”

With all that Osborn turned around and left. The woman named Ava turned to Jason.

“We’ll meet at the hotel. I’ll have to return the taxi cab.” Ava said briefly to Jason before she left.

Jason was looking at me and so was I. Apparently we were studying each other. From the ring on his finger, I immediately concluded that he was married.

“Come.” Jason finally spoke.

I followed him towards a car whilst keeping a distance. I was trotting several feet behind him since he was literally three inches taller than me. I ignored the puzzled look on his face when I opened the back door of the passenger seat instead the front one. The next minute I heard the sound of car doors being locked.

I took a deep breath when I started to hyperventilate.

“You’re okay?” asked Jason worriedly, looking at me through the rearview mirror.

“Yeah.” I lied, swallowing nervously.

I convinced myself that I was doing this for Erin. Then I remembered I had the tablet on my hand. I quickly busied myself watching her, who was playing happily with Min Yeo. I felt more peaceful and sensible afterwards.

Jason then started the car engine, driving me to God knows where.

 

===

 

Apparently I had fallen asleep. As I sat up upright with the tablet still securely wrapped in my arms, the car engine had been turned off. Only then I realized Jason was already looking at me over the rearview mirror.

No. He was not looking back at me. He was staring at me. Intently.

“Where are we?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady. I so much wished I had had my pepper spray with me.

Jason did not respond.

“Jason?” I called him sternly.

“What… uhm… what?” Jason seemed to have found his tongue which apparently has been lost a minute ago.

“Where are we?” I asked again.

“Hotel parking lot.” Jason replied, clearing his throat.

Jason turned his eyes away from me and took a deep breath, sighing desperately.

“Come.” Jason spoke after a pause, before getting himself out of the car.

I got out of the car and followed Jason towards an entrance of a hotel.

“You can lay down in my room whilst we wait for Ava,” said Jason as he pushed the lift button.

“Can we just wait for her somewhere else? The café, maybe?” I suggested.

“Of course,” said Jason. “Let’s go to the café and wait for her.”

Jason turned around and I followed him towards the café. I took a seat diagonally from him on the four seats table, quickly busying myself with the tablet who was now showing Erin playing bubbles with Min Yeo in the back yard.

“Coffee. Black, two sugars.” I told the waiter who came a minute later.

Jason threw a surprise look at me. Like, really surprised.

“It’s how Isaac liked his coffee.” Jason said in amazement.

I grinned. Turned out Isaac and I had one thing in common.

“Tea. With milk and honey.” Jason told the waiter.

“Very well then. I’ll have it ready in a five minutes.” The waiter said before he left.

I had spent another half an hour watching Erin playing bubbles with Min Yeo when Ava finally showed up.

“You’re supposed to be here an hour ago.” Jason complained at once.

“The traffic here is terrible.” Ava replied in desperate tone of voice before turning at me. “I have no idea how you can cope being a taxi driver, Espen.”

I grinned at Ava.

“We only have less than an hour if we want to catch tonight’s flight.” Jason said sternly.

I got up from my seat and followed them. On the way to our hotel room, something seemed to be off. It took me a while before I finally figured it out. I looked up at the back of Jason’ neck, recalling what it was he had said earlier at the café.

You’re supposed to be here an hour ago.

We had waited for Ava for thirty minutes. We had waited for the waiter for five minutes. The walk from parking lot to the café took five minutes.

I shook my head in amusement when the image of Jason looking at me during my sleeping for twenty minutes over the rearview mirror came into my mind. He might have just too reluctant to wake me up. Hence, he just waited for me to finally wake up. Or, he might have just gone out of the car to have one or two cigarettes before getting back into the car just about the time I woke up.

There was nothing wrong with that.

Except the moment when I caught him staring at me over the rearview mirror, stuttering when answering my question, and sighing desperately after that.

“Here we are.” Ava exclaimed, dragging me up from my contemplation.

I followed Ava walk into her room. Jason’s was next door. Ava quickly pulled a chair and gestured me to sit down.

“I need to trim your hair.” Ava said as she drew a comb and scissors from a bag laid on the mattress.

I sat down obediently and Ava started her job. Her left hand combing my hair whilst the right one cutting it. It took a while before I decided to find out what could have possibly had caused Jason to act in such a strange way towards me.

“Did they happen to be friends? Jason and Isaac?” I started. “I caught him looking at me. It was a bit creepy, honestly.” I hoped it hadn’t sounded as if I’d just made that up.

“I was actually waiting for you to ask me that.” Ava scoffed. “I caught him too, looking at you back at the café. Yes, they were friends. Close friends.”

“How close?” I asked carefully.

“Jason is a married man.” Ava retorted.

I already concluded that of course. However Jason apparently had shown difficulties in coping with the death of his close friend who happened to be my twin brother and I didn’t like the possibilities of us comforting each other due to the loss in a way that involved physical contacts, consciously or unconsciously, in the future.

“And Jason was there when Isaac had to deal with his divorce.” Ava continued, misunderstanding the unconvincing look on my face.

“Isaac got divorced?” I repeated. A surprised tone was obvious in my voice.

“Yeah, six year ago.” Ava said.

I grinned in amazement. We already had two things in common. We got divorced in the same year and we had the same way how we liked our coffee.

“Why?” I carried on, curious.

“His wife cheated.” Ava replied.

“Then Isaac divorced her,” I concluded.

“No, his wife actually divorced him.” Ava said.

“Why?” I got puzzled.

“He just said that their marriage had never worked,” Ava replied. “So, when his wife filed a divorce, Isaac did nothing.”

“That’s it?” I asked, puzzled.

Ava didn’t respond. However, judging by the way she avoided my stare, I knew there was something more she wanted to say. Hence, I braced myself to confirm what I had suspected.

“You know I think he might be having a dysfunctional erectile.” I knew I had Ava’s full attention when she froze. “That explained the cheating and the fact that Isaac did nothing when his wife filed a divorce.” I started to worry when Ava didn’t seem to continue her job. “I didn’t mean to speak ill of your colleague.”

“No, that’s fine, I mean…” Ava seemed relief but reluctant to continue speaking. “I was actually suspecting the same thing too. I just feel bad saying so knowing he’s your brother.”

I shrugged nonchalantly. “I barely knew him.”

Both of us chuckled.

“Them being close friends, it must be difficult for Jason.” I carried on.

“Yeah.” Ava said before glancing at her wrist watch and spoke in a worried tone of voice. “Look, I don’t mean to be pushy but we’re really in a tight schedule right now.”

I nodded understandingly.

“You need to be getting used to being Ethan Sanders as early as possible.” Ava said as she handed me a pile of shirt, trousers, and black suit.

“I thought I was supposed to be Isaac, my twin brother.” I said in a puzzled tone of voice.

“Your brother was a secret agent, posing as a man named Ethan Sanders.” Ava replied.

“But Osborn…” I trailed off when it eventually hit me. Osborn never said I would be posing as Isaac. He said I would be taking his role.

“This is supposed to hide your breast since the shirt you’re about to wear is a slim fit one.” Ava continued. “I will help you with this.”

“No!” I shrieked at once.

By the look on Ava’s face, I know she got surprised by how tense my face was.

“I’ll do it by myself.” I managed to make my voice sounded much softer. “I can do it by myself.”

“I’ll be waiting here then.” Ava said. A curious look was visibly seen on her face.

I forced a smile before going into the bathroom and took a deep breath right after closing the door. I put the clothes carefully on the closet cover before starting to unbutton my flannel shirt uniform cuffs, where scars on my wrists were visibly seen. I swallowed a lump in my throat, remembering myself standing in front of another wash bin’s mirror almost six years ago. At that time there had been a big dark lump just under my right eye and at the corner of my swollen, torn, and bleeding lips. My eyes had been red, having cried all night long in the silence at the corner of the bedroom. Blood had been oozing from my left wrist caused by a sharp object held tight in the palm of my right hand.

And right at that very moment I had felt it, the very first kick coming from the inside of my belly.

I knew I should have expected something like that to happen since I had been five months pregnant at that time. However, when I had felt it…

All of a sudden, a tidal wave of sensibility had slapped me hard on the face. Immediately, I had cleaned the cut on my wrist with the running water from the tap, had had it wrapped with a clean small towel, had burst out of the bathroom, and only stopped when a muscular hand harshly and abruptly had grabbed my worn night dress.

I had looked up at the man fearlessly, whose other hand had grabbed my neck.

For the first time.

I had thanked the circumstances in which his eyes hadn’t been able focus properly and his hand grip had been a bit loosen caused by the amount of alcohol he had been consuming for the last half an hour.

For the first time.

I had shoved his filthy hand away from my night dress.

For the first time.

And twenty minutes later I had already made myself seated in front of an woman officer at the nearest police station, explaining how I had been getting the bruises on my face. I could even see those puddle of tears emerging from the corner of her eyes when I eventually had showed her the scars on my breast and shoulder. A month later, I had got my official divorce file from the district court plus a ten years of custody for the horrible man I had married five months ago.

A knock on the bathroom door followed by Ava’s voice over the door dragged me back to reality. “Espen? Do you need help there?”

“No. I’ll be right up in five minutes.” I replied quickly.

I ran the scars on my breast with my fingers before starting covering them tightly with the long piece of cloth.

 

===

 

Jason was already in our room when I emerged from the bathroom. After having the conversation with Ava, I found it much less creepier when seeing Jason staring at me the same way he did before.

“We should get going, Jason,” Ava reminded, gently touching Jason’s upper arm when Jason didn’t make any sign to move. A minute passed before Jason finally turned around and left the room. Ava threw a pleading look at me and sighed. “Just give him some time.”

We were in the plane, first class facility flight exclusively booked for the three of us when Ava briefed me about Ethan Sanders, a man whom Isaac had been posing as for the past couple of months and who was supposed to make a fake deal tonight with whom CIA had been targeting for the past two years.

“Honestly, I was a bit worried about this part.” Ava said, throwing a satisfied look at me as she folded back some file of papers.

It only took five minutes for me to memorize the lines by heart and have them spoken fluently to be conversed during the period in which I would be making the deal with the target.

I grinned. “I guess we’re lucky that I took Russian Literature when I was in college.”

“Isaac was the only agent being fluently spoken in Russian. That’s why he got chosen for this mission.” Ava said.

There were three things then in which Isaac and I had in common: the divorce, the coffee, and foreign language proficiency.

“Isaac joined our agent seven years ago, replacing Jason’s partner who died in one of our dangerous mission.” Ava said, continuing the conversation we had left off from the hotel.

“Exactly how does your family deal with this dangerous kind of job you occupy?” I asked, putting my tablet aside.

“My father was an ex fire fighter and my mother was once a martial combat athlete. I guess they can cope well with how I’m doing right now.” Ava grinned.

I glanced at Jason, who was sitting two rows ahead from us before bracing myself to ask with a much lower volume tone of voice.

“How about Jason’s wife?” I had been curious, honestly.

“First of all, after him having his adventures with countless women, the whole task force finally congratulated him when he had settled his life with a faceless woman.” Ava said in a breath.

“Faceless woman?” I repeated, puzzled.

“No one has ever seen his wife’s face or even got her name except for Isaac.” Ava explained. “Sometime in June four years ago, both of them took a couple of days off together. When they returned, Jason already had the ring on his finger. It was almost unbearable for me to deal with Isaac’s smug smile as he boasted about how way prettier and way smarter Jason’s wife compared to me. How I wished I hadn’t told him that I had once been…” Ava trailed off.

“Jason’s ex-girlfriend.” I completed, almost immediately.

“I guess it’d be a lie if I told you that I hadn’t been part of his adventures.” Ava stated in defeat. A blush was visibly seen on her cheek.

I made a gesture of zipping my mouth using my thumb and my index finger. Both of us chuckled.

The next minute, Ava’s face changed.

“Now that I’ve said that I miss how he used to make fun of me. He’s such a great friend…” Ava trailed off with a trembling voice.

I gave Ava some of her private time as she wiped a tear on her face. Thankfully she seemed to have pulled herself together the next minute.

“Well, your brother had been such an insufferable git that we, Jason’s ex-girlfriends, had ever had the misfortune of knowing.” Ava said in a fondly tone of voice whilst smiling at me.

I returned back the smile and spoke afterwards.

“How was it like, being Jason’s girlfriend?” I teased.

“It was good.” Ava said briefly.

“Isn’t it awkward? Working with your ex and knowing a way prettier and way smarter woman has win his heart?” I was not satisfied with the answer, especially after how I had witnessed the way Ava lingered her hand on Jason’s upper arm back at the hotel.

To my surprise, Ava snorted.

“What?” I asked, intrigued.

“I guess he finally found a woman who didn’t mind with just a peck on the lips.” Ava said. She carried on as she saw the look on my face. “I thought it was only me, before I found out about and talked with his other ex-girlfriends.”

“Jason might’ve just lied about the woman he married.” I tried to reason with Ava. “I mean, no one had ever seen her face and it had been only Isaac…” I trailed off.

“We’d thought about that actually.” Ava said. “That’s why we had dared him to take the lie detector test.”

I didn’t ask how the test went. I would know what Ava would tell me.

“I guess that’s was how they got close shortly after Isaac’s divorce.” Ava continued before winking playfully at me. “They had one thing in common. They didn’t know how to please a typical woman.”

I chuckled when Ava emphasized the word. So, that was how close they had actually been, I thought.

“I guess I could use a short nap,” said Ava, yawning widely.

I nodded understandingly.

“You should get some sleep too,” Ava suggested.

I nodded again before adjusting my seat to a comfortable position to sleep.

 

===

 

I couldn’t sleep. I had difficulties breathing. Maybe the cloth which was supposed to hide my breast was too tight, I thought, before making my way to the lavatory at the back.  I already had my hand on the door knob when the lavatory door suddenly flung open. The next moment, Jason and I eyelocked. Instinctively I took two steps backwards. Then I realized that even the space of the lavatory corridor was too narrow to maintain my personal space let alone such distance without me starting to hyperventilate being in such proximity with a man had ever I intended to try to walk him past by.

I shut my eyes and shook my head, taking a deep breath. I had to get over this or he would be getting suspicious or worse, starting to find out.

I opened my eyes and took two reluctant steps forward before turning my body angle 90 degrees. Our chests nearly touched when Jason did the same and walked sideways past me.

Then I felt Jason slightly leaned towards me.

Then I heard a sniff.

Then I felt a light touch on the top of my head.

Then I felt a squeeze on my upper arm.

I quickly erased these thought of mine, clearly I was imagining things since I had started to hyperventilate and it had not only been because of the tight cloth hiding my breast.

No I wasn’t. From my peripheral vision, Jason’s hand was clearly on my upper arm.

Instinctively I drew all parts of my body as far from Jason’s and lifted up my head to gasp for air. Right at that moment my nose touched Jason’s chin, followed by a sudden painful on the back of my head caused by a bump against the wall of the lavatory corridor in such a limited space.

“You’re okay?” asked Jason worriedly.

I flinched when Jason’s hand, which had been on my upper arm earlier, moved and touched the back of my head where it hurt. I ignored the surprise look on Jason’s face when I quickly burst into the lavatory and slammed the door shut.

I took a deep breath. Three times, before stripping off to adjust the cloth on my breast. Just when I was putting back my black suit, my cellphone beeped. ‘Erin’s uniform skirt’ blinked on the monitor along with a sound of alarm and a time showing 9 PM. A wave of guilt came over me in an instant. Soon afterwards, I saw a puddle of tears running down my cheek over the mirror in the lavatory.

I startled when hearing a light knock on the door.

“I left my wedding ring near the water tap. I hope you don’t mind…“ I heard Jason’s voice trailed off over the door.

I took the ring and was about to open the door when I realized I would touch him when doing so. Hence, I put the ting back to where it was, having a glance at the name engraved on the inner side of the ring.

I wiped the tear on my cheek before opening the lavatory door. Jason reached out his hand.

“It’s there.” I gestured towards the water tap, making Jason to put his hand awkwardly back to its position.

“You’re okay?” Jason asked, when I stared at his feet.

I just realized that the very same uncomfortable experience was about to happen to me again. To my surprise, I saw Jason’s feet stepped back. Only after I felt comfortable did I took a step forward and returned back to my seat.

 

===

 

Ava had already awaken from her short nap when I returned back to my seat.

“It’s Black.” I exclaimed.

“What is?” Ava asked, puzzled.

I then explained how I happened to read the engravings on the inner side of Jason’s wedding ring, which he had unintendedly left near the water tap.

“Black?” Ava repeated. “Are you sure you didn’t misread it? Maybe it’s Beth?”

“It was five letters. Beth is four.” I argued.

It was actually six, if coma counted, I thought. Black,.

But then I thought the coma might just be a nick.

“Maybe it’s her last name.” Ava reasoned. “Jason’s last name is White. So, it’s Black and White.”

“What’s black and white?”

Both Ava and I turned up to look at Jason, who had been standing on the aisle.

“Nothing.” Ava replied at once.

“I’ll have to stop by the pharmacy at the airport later on.” Jason said.

“Why?” Ava asked, puzzled.

“I need to buy some Vitamin C.” Jason replied.

“Didn’t you bring the syringe?” Ava asked.

“Espen prefers it through digestion rather than injection.” Jason replied, throwing a nervous glance at me.

Ava turned to me and smiled understandingly. “That’s alright. I also prefer it through digestion rather than injection. Besides, Jason is really bad in doing this sort of thing.”

Jason turned to me.

“Come, Espen. I need to brief you about the mission.” Jason said.

If Jason wanted to brief me he could do it in front of Ava. Nonetheless, I followed him towards his seat and spoke at once the moment we were already out of Ava’s ear shot.

“I won’t ruin the mission.” I said. “I know that you already knew it.”

“Knew what?” Jason asked, throwing a confused look at me.

“That I had attempted suicide as a result of having been a victim of a marriage abuse.” I replied. “You must’ve read from my confidential files. You do this kind of things, don’t you? That’s why you were sure I had preferred digestion rather than injection. You already figured you’d see the scars on my wrist…”

“I didn’t know.” Jason cut at once. His face was visibly surprised. “All I figured was that you hated it that I touched you, or even got near you.”

Jason continued when I didn’t respond.

“I’ll be your assistant during the deal, carrying your one billion dollar worth diamonds.” Jason patted his chest, indicating where diamonds were placed securely. “Hence, you’ll have to get used to being near me.”

Jason ignored the mortifying look which I believe would be clearly visible on my face and patted at another empty seat next to him.

“I won’t touch you. I promise.” Jason added.

I took a deep breath before reluctantly taking a seat next to him.

“You’re still nervous. You’re bouncing on your toes.” Jason stated the oblivious five minutes later.

“I guess Isaac also bounced his toes when he got nervous.” I replied, though I could feel my heart beat getting steadier.

Jason smiled fondly. “I actually had never seen him nervous until he was about to…” Jason trailed off.

I turned to look at Jason.

“About to what?” I pushed, narrowing my eyes at Jason.

Jason turned to look at me. He seemed to be contemplating what he was about to say next.

“Your brother stood next to me at my wedding.” Jason said.

I scoffed and replied. “Of course he got nervous when he was about to give his best-man speech. Anyone would.”

Jason opened his mouth, but no words were spoken out.

“Will I still get paid if I fail?” I asked instead.

Jason scoffed then replied. “Osborn is not paying one to fail.”

“What would Isaac do if he were here?” I asked, after a pause. “I mean if it were him to do the mission instead of me.”

Jason looked taken aback when I shot him the question before getting back to his nonchalant mode almost immediately.

“He would be improvising.” Jason replied.

“You mean acting?” I got curious. Who knew it would help me carrying out this mission.

“I wouldn’t say it was an acting.” Jason said, smiling fondly.

I shrugged. “Okay. What did he do?”

“Apparently our target found it heartwarming knowing we were together.” Jason answered. He quickly as he saw the look on my face. “You don’t have to do it. I know you’re not comfortable doing such action that would probably require a lot of touching. It’ll be just fine, as long as you can keep calm being near me.”

When we finally got off of the plane, Osborn was already waiting for us and I had swallowed two tablets of vitamin C to keep me awake and refreshed. Jason gestured me to follow him towards a car whilst Ava followed Osborn towards another. This time I managed to sit on the passenger seat next to Jason. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the venue, a table at an open food court of a market near Sheremetyevo International Airport.

“All we need is a handshake before the team ambush the target.” Jason quickly added as he saw my face tensed. “Don’t worry. The target is a woman.”

I sighed in relieved. This was definitely something I hadn’t thought earlier.

The target looked ordinary, way too ordinary. She looked like a mother who had just returned shopping from the groceries. It was 4 PM in the afternoon, due to the time difference. She gestured us to have a seat on the chairs before the woman and I conversed, more or less like how Ava and I rehearsed at the plane earlier.

Jason took out a black velvet pouch from the inside of his suit when I nodded at him. The next moment, the woman put a purple small purse she had been carrying along with her groceries.

"You are nervous." The woman said in Russian, looking at my bouncing toes. "Why are you nervous?"

I didn’t expect such question. I glanced nervously at Jason, who was clenching his fists on his knee under the table. He must have sensed that something had gone wrong judging by how the woman was narrowing her eyes in turns towards both of us. I noticed Jason had no longer wearing his wedding ring. Of course he had taken it off because he was supposed to be unmarried.

Something crossed my mind. I looked at the woman and answered her confidently. The woman raised her eyebrows before throwing a fondly grin at Jason.

"Good luck." The woman said with a smile before standing up from her seat.

I followed her gesture. Then we shook hands. Before I knew it several men had us surrounded. The next minute one of the officer already had the woman’s hands handcuffed behind her back.

“You improvised.” Jason threw an impressive look at me, when the woman had already been cleared away.

I nodded, smiling smugly, and said. “Well, you must’ve figured out that she got suspicious when she noticed my bouncing toes.”

“Yeah, I was extremely worried about that.” Jason approved.

“Then I told her the reason I got nervous.” I continued.

“What did you tell her?” Jason asked, smiling curiously.

“I got nervous because I had planned to propose you after the deal.”

The smile on Jason’s face vanished. Then there came the staring. The next moment he seemed to have difficulties in breathing. He turned around just about the time Osborn and Ava joined us at the table, hiding a tear that I managed to notice fell down on his cheek.

“Thank you, Espen, for your valuable contribution.” Osborn said. “Sum amount of money has been transferred into your account as promised.” Osborn nodded and smiled but did not make any sign to leave, a clear sign that there was something else he would like to say. Nonetheless, he looked reluctant when handing out a wallet and a wristwatch wrapped inside a transparent plastic bag.

“These are what we could give you, which once belonged to your brother.” Osborn said. “He was a secret agent. I’m sure you understand.”

I nodded understandingly. A ring fell down when I took out the wallet to examine it.

“Isaac’s is actually divorced.” Osborn said in condolence. “I don’t know why he still kept his wedding ring.”

I examined the engravings on the inner side of the ring. With milk and honey.

My heat skipped a beat as I turned to look at Jason, who was looking back at me. I could still remember his words back when I was sitting next to him on the plane.

Your brother stood next to me at my wedding… I wouldn’t say it was an acting….

Osborn made a gesture to pat me on the shoulder but somehow drew back his hand.

“Your brother was the bravest and most generous man I’ve ever known.” Osborn said. “I know you barely know him but then… I’m sorry for your loss.”

From my peripheral vision, I noticed Jason had turned around and left.

“Thank you.” I said briefly in a low voice.

“Ava will take you home.” Osborn said, once again smiling thankfully at me.

“Can I have a word with Jason before I go home?” I asked.

“I figured someone already told you what your brother was for Jason,” said Osborn, glancing at Ava.

Osborn took out his phone when he realized Jason was no longer around. In less than five minutes, Jason showed up.

“In private, please.” I added politely, realizing Osborn and Ava were still around.

I turned to look at Jason after Osborn and Ava had gone out of sight. I thanked that it was already nightfall, hiding Jason’s tear marks on his cheeks.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” I started.

“Thanks.” Jason said in a trembling voice. “He’s a good… friend.”

“And a good civil partner.” I wanted to say husband but I thought civil partner would be much more suitable.

Jason did not respond. He was staring at his feet. I reached out my hand towards Jason’s and took it.

“I’m sure this belongs to you.” I put Isaac’s ring onto his palm, two inches from his own wedding ring. Just as I expected, Isaac’s ring was perfectly matching with his.

Jason looked at me. A puddle of tears were now visibly seen on the corner of his eyes. The next moment his shoulder slumped in defeat. I grabbed the nape of his head and gently pull it down so that his forehead rested onto my shoulder. Jason snaked his long arms around my waist, holding me in a tight embrace and buried his face on my neck.

“We were planning to retire this year.” Jason sobbed. “We would be moving to Canada to start our new life.”

Just then I realized I hadn’t flinched when he had held me like that and hyperventilated when he was still doing so. I stroked his back gently, surprised how it somehow also comforted me despite the awkwardness of the height difference between us.

“With milk and honey.” I stated the engravings I had read on the inner side of Isaac’s ring which was now held securely and tightly inside Jason’s palm.

“That’s how I’d like to spend every morning drinking my tea with him drinking his coffee.” I felt Jason murmured on my neck.

Then it hit me. The engravings on the inner side of Jason’s wedding ring. It was not a nick. It was indeed a coma.

“Black, two sugars.” I said. “That’s what is written on yours.”

Jason peeled himself off of me and smiled.

“Exactly.” Jason replied.

There was a pause before Jason spoke again.

“Can I see your daughter? My niece?” Jason looked at me expectantly.

“Of course you can.” I replied, smiling understandingly, before quickly adding. “But I don’t know if Osborn would let you. I recall him saying that we’d never meet again in the future.”

“It barely matters now that he knows I’m retiring,” Jason said before adding. “I’ll let him know I’m taking you home.”

 I just realized our hands and fingers had been entwining since the embrace. Jason pulled them off and I knew both of us felt a bit disappointed by the loss of contact.

“Thank you, Espen.” Jason gave a brief kiss my forehead before he left to find Osborn.

 

===

 

It was already 4 AM in the morning when we finally arrived at my house. The very first thing I did was to check for Erin in my bedroom, feeling relieved to find her sleeping peacefully in Min Yeo’s arms.

“I’ll just sleep on the couch.” Jason said after I closed the door soundlessly.

“No, you take the guest room. I can’t let Min Yeo see you.” I reasoned.

“How about you?” Jason asked me worriedly.

“I can sleep after taking Erin to school and sending off Min Yeo. Besides, I…” I stopped as I yawned widely. “…usually wake up at these hours.”

“Isaac yawned the way you just did.” Jason said, throwing a fondly smile at me.

I grinned. There were four now.

“It must have been difficult for you, me being around you.” I said in condolence.

“It’s fine, I mean…” Jason trailed off. He continued after a pause. “It kind of comforts me actually.”

I threw a fondly smile before gesturing him to follow me to the guest room and drew a pile of clean sheets from the cabinet. Jason was helping me making the sheets when he suddenly stood bolt upright. His eyes were fixed on something behind me. The next moment I heard Erin’s sleepy tone of voice which I had long to hear since last night.

“Mommy…”

Erin was already approaching me when I turned around. She threw her arms around my waist whilst her eyes were fixed on Jason.

“This is Uncle Jason. He will be staying here...” I trailed off. I didn’t know how long exactly Jason was going to stay.

Jason smiled nervously when Erin studied him.

“Will Uncle Jason be my Daddy?” Erin asked.

I kneeled down in front of Erin so that I was on her eye level.

“Why? Would you want him to be your Daddy?” I asked.

I ignored the surprise look on Jason’s face. Unlike me, Jason didn’t know how a five year old brain kids worked.

“Sarah told me she used to call her daddy uncle.” Erin said innocently.

I smiled understandingly.

“You know what, Mommy and Min Yeo are actually playing a game called ‘Hiding Uncle Jason’. It’s Mommy’s turn now to hide him. If she finds out, Mommy will lose. Will you help Mommy win this game?”

Erin nodded enthusiastically.

“Now, why don’t you go back to sleep? You have school in the morning, right?” I said, standing up before pushing Erin gently towards my bedroom.

“We will win, Mommy.” Erin whispered, before climbing back onto my bed, next to the still sleeping Min Yeo. I took a clean t shirt and a pair of pajama bottom from the drawer before winking at Erin and closing the door soundlessly. I returned to the guest room to put a bottle of water and the clothes on the table next to the bed.

“If you want to use the bathroom now would be good.” I said. “Min Yeo would probably wake up at this hour.”

Jason smiled thankfully at me. I turned around and left the room before making myself a strong cup of coffee and starting to clean the kitchen until it was time to wake Erin for school. I ignored the confused look on Min Yeo’s face when Erin threw mischievous smile at me from time to time.

“I’m taking a day off today, Min Yeo.” I said, after secretly slipped a message note about breakfast being ready through the bottom of the guest room’s door. “You can come back tomorrow.”

Min Yeo nodded understandingly before she left. I took Erin to school and returned home two hours later. It could have taken half an hour had it not been because of the damn traffic. As suspected, Jason was already having breakfast on the dining table when I saw him.

“You should really go to sleep now.” Jason said, throwing a worried look at me.

“Yeah, I have three hours.” I replied as I set up the alarm on my cellphone, before adding in a suggestive tone of voice. “We’ll pick her up together then have lunch.”

“Sounds a good plan.” Jason said, smiling.

The next moment I realized I was extremely exhausting. I got dozed off in less than two minutes after laying on my stomach on my bed.

 

===

 

I got awoken late. Very late. It was already 3 PM in the afternoon when I finally got able to adjust my eyes towards the clock on my cellphone.

I immediately burst out of my bedroom, feeling heavily guilty of how I had made Erin waited for me for two hours…

“Mommy!”

I stopped abruptly when Erin came running towards me, a crayon was held tight in her right hand.

“I decided to pick her up myself when you didn’t wake up.” Jason explained.

“Thank you.” I replied sincerely. “I guess my alarm didn’t work.”

“It worked. I switched it off after it had rang the third times.” Jason replied.

My neck felt hurt when I tried to move it. Apparently I had taken a wrong position to sleep.

“God, that feels so good.” I sighed in relieve, automatically closing my eyes when a hand massaged it gently.

“I know.” Jason smiled fondly at me.

I opened my eyes at once. Jason drew back his hand when I turned and stared at him.

“We already had lunch. You really need to eat.” Jason said, gesturing me to sit on the dining table.

I forced a smile when Jason handed me the take away he had bought on the way after picking Erin from school. Just then I realized how starving I had been. Erin had gone back to her coloring activities in the living room.

Then it hit me.

“You switched off my phone.” I turned to look at Jason, who was now washing the dishes. “You came into my bedroom.”

“I didn’t mean to be rude. I just couldn’t stand the horrible sound…”

“That meant I didn’t lock my room.” I cut in disbelief.

“You were too exhausted to have thought to do that.” Jason reasoned.

Right at that next moment Erin flung herself onto my lap.

“Mommy, will Uncle Jason be my Daddy?” Erin asked.

“I thought you already asked that.” I replied, throwing a confused look at Erin.

“We bumped into Mrs. Rowle when we were queueing to pay the takeaway. She acknowledged Erin and said that she happened to live next door, so I gave her a lift without a second thought.” Jason explained. “She told her that I would be her Daddy. Right after that I realized I had still been wearing your t shirt and pajama bottom whilst driving in your taxi cab.”

I clasped both my hands on my face and sighed heavily.

“Soon enough people would start asking her those questions she was too young to comprehend.” I said in a desperate tone of voice.

The next moment I felt a warm hand stroking my back gently. I knew it was Jason’s but somehow I just didn’t do anything about it.

“I didn’t correct her.” Jason said afterwards.

“You didn’t have to.” I replied. “She still wouldn’t believe you.”

“But I told her that it was your decision to let Erin call me Daddy.” Jason drew his hand before taking mine. He looked at me right in the eyes. “I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else except with Isaac until I met you and Erin. I know you know she needs a father, and you know I know that you’ll be just fine having me around.”

I looked at my hand which was wrapped in Jason’s. It felt warm and comforting.

I narrowed my eyes at Jason and spoke in a stern voice. “Just so we clear before I let you marry me. I don’t have a penis.”

“And I’m not pleasuring you with mine.” Jason replied with a smirk.

I chuckled as I let him put his head on my shoulders and I put my hand on his.

 

===

 

Canada, a month later…

“Mommy… Daddy’s home!”

I was watering the roses on the front yard garden when Erin, who had been playing with her toys on the freshly mowed green grass, suddenly shrieked. I put down the watering bucket as Erin stood up on her feet and ran towards Jason, who just got out of a black sedan car and held a big pink and fluffy teddy bear.

“You should stop spoiling her.” I gave a reprimanding tone of voice at Jason.

“I’m not spoiling her.” Jason argued.

I turned and give a smile at Mr. Wittner, our next door’s neighbor who was playing throw and catch with his ten year old’s son.

“Mr. and Mrs. White, are you in for the barbecue night?”

Both Jason and I turned when Mrs. Irlington, who happened to walk past by the neighborhood, called from the outside of our picket fences.

“Of course, Mrs. Irlington.” Jason stated, placing his hand on my waist.

The three of us then made our way into our house.

Mrs. Irlington and Mr. Wittner didn’t have to know that I still wore long sleeve flannel shirt to cover the scars on my wrist or the fact that I still flinch every time his husband and I shook hands (though Jason told me I had already made a big improvement with the distance). They didn’t have to know that Erin had a privilege to choose whom she wanted to sleep with every night in her bedroom: Jason or me. They didn’t have to know that Jason had cried on my shoulder last week, on the sixteenth of June (turned out that it had been when he and Isaac got married). They didn’t have to know that the engravings on the inner side of my wedding ring were with milk and honey instead of Jason. In brief, they didn’t have to know that I had completed Jason’s secret and that Jason had comforted my scars.

 

===

 

THE END


© Copyright 2017 kajoel. All rights reserved.

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