The train pulled into Zone 5’s station and the giant doors shut behind them as the train stopped. Passengers were told to collect their things and exit the train quickly. Any torturing will be subject to fines. Jasper wasn’t really listing. His heart beating out of his chest was louder than the PA system.
“Is it too late to go home?” He thought to himself.
“Hey, Jasper,” Lily said, pulling at his sleeve. “You look like you saw a ghost. It’s our turn to leave.”
“I’m good. Well, good luck with whatever you’re doing here,” Jasper said, grabbing his bag and hers. “Maybe you’ll have grown next time I see you.”
“Maybe you’ll have grown next time I see you,” Lily mimicked.
“You know you’re just making the kid hard to shake, right?” Jasper smiled. “See ya.”
Lily stuck her tongue out at him and walked off the train. She stopped at the end of the stairs, looked back at him, smirked, and then ran to what Jasper figured was her mom. He only hoped his reunion would be just as heartwarming. “Wishful thinking,” He thought as he walked into the central part of the station. He found an empty bench and sat his stuff down. His phone was dying, but it didn’t take long before he heard, “JASPER!” He looked around and saw his sister walking towards him. She wore a light blue blouse with white pants and white sandals. She had a light blue flower in her long black hair. The same one he got her for her birthday. He thought he was cheap, but she said she loved it. She throws her arms around him. “How are you?” Emily asked.
“I’m good, Em. How about you?” Jasper asked, smiling.
“I’m good. Can you stop growing? Both of you are making me feel short,” Emily said, laughing.
“I don’t think that’s up to me. Where’s Ben?” Jasper asked, looking behind her.
“He’s in the car. Come on; I’ve been planning this for months—first, food. Next, drop your stuff at my place. After that–“
“Can we just focus on leaving the train station?” Jasper laughed.
They walked out of the station and to a sizeable black hummer. The windows were tinted, but Jasper could make out his brother’s head from a mile away. He could feel that Ben would rather be in a volcano than be in the same car as him. Emily saw his hesitation and urged him to sit in the back seat with her.
“I told Ben to be nice. You be nice too. Or else!” Emily said, narrowing her eyes then smiling.
“Okay, don’t hurt me,” Jasper said. “She has mom’s scariness for sure.” He opened the door and sat his bag beside him. “Hey, Ben.”
“Jasper,” Ben answered. He was sitting in the passenger seat. Ben was dressed similar to him, a Black shirt with blue jeans and his favorite watch.
“He didn’t immediately call me a piece of ****. Maybe this won’t be so bad.”
“Look who I found, Ben. I told you he’d show up. You owe me one thousand credits,” Emily said.
“You bet on me?” Jasper whispered.
“Yep, I only make bets I know I can win,” Emily said, taking out her phone. As soon as the car shut, a robotic voice came out of the speaker.
“Where to Ms. Jones?” The voice asked.
“The first stop,” Emily said.
“On it,” The car answered as it started to drive off.
“Isn’t this cool? Jason got it for me last year. I wanted to tell you, but I wanted it to be a surprise,” Emily said. “You remember Jason, right?”
“Your garbage man?” Jasper laughed.
“No, my future husband. I can’t wait till you guys meet.”
“He’s buying you cars?” Jasper asked.
“This was my Christmas present. You should see what he got me for New Year’s. I told him I just wanted to go to the beach, and he ended up renting the whole thing out for us. I didn’t even know you could rent the beach! I guess working for The King has its perks.”
“He works for the King?” Jasper asked, intrigued.
“Yeah, he’s a knight, I think. I don’t remember which one. Since they’re looking for more participants, he’s home right now. How’s Ronda?”
“She’s good. I was gonna see her when I got back. There’s something I want to tell you guys. Well, two things.”
“Well, don’t keep us in suspense! Tell meee!” Emily said.
“Not yet. While we’re eating, it’s gonna be the craziest thing you’ve heard in a while,” Jasper said. “I might even get Ben to smile.”
“Doubt it,” Ben said, slightly bitter.
The car turned into a small diner that looked straight out of the fifties. It had retro cars outside, which to Zone 5 residents means anything that’s not a smart car. When the car stopped, Emily jumped out of the car and headed inside.
“Listen, I know you’d rather throw yourself into traffic than be in the same room as me but can you at least act like you’re having fun? She’s been planning this for a while,” Jasper said.
Ben rolled his eyes and got out of the car, then headed inside the restaurant.
“Well, I tired,” Jasper said, walking inside.
The inside was something out of a movie. The waiters were dressed as greasers, and the waitresses were in dresses. Jasper didn’t know if it was sexist or not. If it’s a theme, is it wrong? Yes, the answer is yes. In the corner of the diner was a jukebox playing some Elvis song Jasper didn’t really care for. “Jasper!” Emily shouted from the table.
“I love you, sis, but can you keep it down?” Jasper thought. He walked over and joined them at the table.
“I’m starving. What are you guys getting? Don’t worry about the price. I got it,” Emily said.
“I can pay for myself, Em,” Ben said. “Don’t worry about me.”
“Too late. I already paid for it,” Emily said.
“How?” Ben asked. “I didn’t order yet.”
“Medium grilled burger with mayo and ketchup and a side of fries.” She pointed at Jasper. “Well done grilled burger with ketchup, cheese, and extra pickles. No fries.”
“****, Em. I’m kind of impressed,” Jasper said.
“You both always ordered the same things when we were kids,” Emily said, looking over the menu. After deciding on what she wanted, she set the menu down and put in their orders. “Okay, enough with the suspense. Tell us you’re news.”
“Promise you won’t laugh?” Jasper asked.
“Yes,” Emily said.
“No,” Ben said.
“Well, I was thinking about proposing to Ronda in Zone 10 in a few months.”
Both Ben and Emily burst out laughing.
“You promised!” Jasper said. “I’m serious.”
“I’m sorry! I thought you were gonna say you got a new job or something,” Emily said, trying to stop herself from laughing but failing.
“I didn’t promise a **** thing,” Ben said, pounding the table as he laughed. “Okay, okay. Hold on. How are you going to pay for that?”
“I’m joining The King of the World Competition. I already sighed up for it.”
Ben looked him dead in the eyes. Wiping his eyes and snickering. “I…want to… apologize. You were…right. You did get me to smile.”
“No way! You? I thought you thought the competition was stupid,” Emily said.
“I did, but I want to make something of myself. Ronda deserves better than a deadbeat for a boyfriend. Plus, Amber talked me into it. I’m waiting for a message. I want to give her a memory she’ll never forget,” Jasper smiled at the thought of Ronda.
“Jasper, come on, man, you don’t seriously think you could do it? Do you?” Ben asked.
“Ben!” Emily said.
“No, let him talk,” Jasper said, crossing his arms. “So, what if I do?”
“You and I both know you’re lazy as ****. You’ll get knocked out in the first round. Don’t get her and your hopes up. She deserves better.”
Jasper clenched his teeth. “Than me? Is that what you’re gonna say?”
Ben shrugged. “You said it, not me.”
“Can you both just stop it?! I just wanted to have a nice day with my family. Can we just do that?” Emily said. “I’m sorry for laughing, Jasper. I think you’ll do great. I’ll be rooting for you.” She turned to Ben. “We’ll both be cheering for you.”
“Speak for yourself,” Ben said. “I don’t cheer for ******** who let people down.”
“Oh, will you just grow the **** up?! Ever since I got in the car, you acted like I was the devil. It’s not my fault mom died! I know I ****** up, and I hate myself for it. I don’t need you to remind me that I’m a **** up. So take this little act your doing and shove it up to your ass, Benjamin!”
“Jasper, stop it!” Emily said.
“No, Em. Let him talk. We finally get the real Jasper Lee Jones. The same one who mom worried about right up to the moment she died. I was with her during her final day. Emily was on her way when she got the news. Where were you? Of doing something stupid. She should’ve been resting, but no, she was worried about you!” Ben was shouting at this point. “You want to know what she kept saying when you never showed? He’ll answer. I know he will. That’s what she said. She kept calling you, thinking you would burst through the doors like some hero! Right up till the end. So, don’t you dare think you can just turn it all around by going into that competition. You don’t deserve to win.”
“**** you,” Jasper said, tears running down his face, His voice low. His body shook with anger. “You act as if you’ve never ****** up before. Mom would want me to do better, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll show you, and once I win, I’ll rub it in your face until the day I die. I have nightmares about that day every single night. You don’t need to remind me about her death. My mind does a pretty good job at it.” Jasper grabbed his bag and stood up. “I’m sorry, Em. I just can’t do this,” Jasper said, heading out the front door before she could say anything.
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