Six Years Ago
“No?” Tyler asked. “What do you mean no?”
“I mean, I don’t want to do it. I need money, but I don’t think I should do this. My mom’s been on my back already. I don’t need this.,” Jasper said, sitting across from Tyler. They decided to meet in the neighborhood park. “What would we even go for? No one has anything.”
“Come on, Jazz. We can do this. I’ll be the distraction, and you go in and get it. Anything that looks expensive. Probably nothing too expensive. Or big. Use your best judgment.”
“My best judgment’s telling me to run back home and go to sleep,” Jasper laughed.
“Ugh! When are you going to live a little? I’m broke too. We need to think of something. Don’t you want to help your mom? What about Ben and Emily?”
“They moved out a while ago. It’s just me and–” Jasper whipped his head around and saw his mother walking towards them. “My mom.”
“Jasper Lee Jones, I’ve been looking all over for you,” Julie said, crossing her arms.
“I’ve been here, mom. I’m fine,” Jasper said. “Forgot my phone.”
“Hey, Tyler,” Julie said with a smile.
“Nice to see you, Mrs. Jones. I was keeping Jasper safe. No bad influences around here,” Tyler smiled. “Should get going. Jazz, remember what we talked about. Later.”
“See you,” Jasper said, watching Tyler run for the shuttle. “I was gonna be back in a little bit. You didn’t have to come out here.”
“Maybe not, but I did. You know how dangerous it is out here,” Julie sat next to him.
“Can we just go back home?” Jasper asked, standing up.
“Don’t want to be seen with your mom, huh?” Julie asked. He could tell she was hurt.
“I just want to hang out with him. We weren’t causing any trouble. It’s embarrassing.”
“You know, when I was your age, my mom didn’t care where I was. Then one day, I saw a stranger in the park, and we went out for burgers. You know who that stranger was?
“An ax murder?” Jasper laughed.
“No, smarty. It was your father. Next thing I knew, I started sneaking out to see him every night. One night, mom caught me. She made me take her to him. It was so embarrassing. She never liked your father. That made me love him more honestly. No matter how much my mom pushed, he’d always find a way to see me,” Julie said, smiling.
“Where are you going with this?” Jasper asked.
Julie sighed and hugged him. “Just that life happens. Anything can happen at any moment. Life’s about choices, Jasper. I know you’re basically an adult now. You can make your own choices but just be careful, okay? How about this? I’ll give you your space if you promise me you’ll be careful and take your phone with you. I got you that thing for a reason.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll take my phone. Can you let me go? People are staring.” Jasper tried to wiggle out of his mother’s death grip, but she wouldn’t let go. “How are you this strong?”
“Mom strength, dear. Never forget that,” Julie said, letting him go. “Next time, you go out without telling me. Make sure I can’t see you from our house. Sneak out rule number three.” Julie laughed. Then the laugh turned into a violent cough.
“Mom?” Jasper asked. “You okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine—just something in my throat. I’ll be fine,” Julie said weakly. “Let’s go home. I made your favorite.” She coughed again.
“Mom, just sit down,” Jasper said.
“No, not here.” She took a moment and composed herself. “See? I’m good.”
“You promise?” Jasper asked, trying not to sound worried.
“You got a strong mom remember? A little cough isn’t gonna stop me. I want you to tell me more about that girl you’ve been dating. Ronda, right? She’s cute.”
“And this conversation is over,” Jasper said, grinning. “Let’s get you back inside.”
“And she’s really smart,” Julie continued.
“You should invite her over for dinner tomorrow. We could make a whole night of it.”
“Mom!” Jasper shouted. “Please stop!”
“I’ve made up my mind. Invite her over,” Julie said, wrapping her arm in his.
“Someone kill me,” Jasper thought as they went back to their house. Jasper had sat her down on the couch and brought over a plate of food.
“You don’t need to treat me like I’m an old lady, you know?”
“Of course not. You’re like what? 40?” Jasper asked. He saw the warning glace she was giving him and corrected himself. “30?”
“Good boy,” Julie said. “I would’ve accepted 20 as well. Hand me my blanket.”
Jasper grabbed her blue and grey blanket and dropped it over her. “You good?”
“Yep, I’m gonna take a quick nap. When I wake up, do you want to watch a movie?” Julie asked.
“Sure, ma. I’ll be in my room. Call me if you need me,” Jasper said, kissing her on the forehead and walking to his room. He shut the door and grabbed his phone. “Hey, Tyler. You still want to do the job? I’m in.”
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