To Efren, this seemed the rightmost time to denounce his own mother.
For the past half an hour he had the privilege of a stare down contest with a large immaculate businessman, he presumed to be the new stepbrother, the betrothed couple of his mother and Mr. Custer, who looked only two thirds of the size of his own son and a lawyer-like man, who was laying file after a file in front of him and held out a pen.
“And you agree with this?” Efren turned to a secretary, who seemed to have the most knowledge in law matters.
“… and here are the instructions for the upcoming month…” Mr. McKinley continued as if he hadn’t heard his question. “That’s why you would kindly sign this agreement and do it on your own will, Mr. Wooldridge.”
“Do you really expect me to give up my freedom just to make you happy? This – this is trafficking! I will not sign it!”
“It’s a trade. Simple as that.” Steven finally opened his mouth while he slowly reached for the glass of white wine.
“Trade for what? You let them marry if I agree to become your personal slave.”
“No!” The fresh couple tried to ease the situation, but stepbrother wasn’t so giving.
“And how would you do that, pray, tell!”
“You want your mother to be happy?” He nodded towards the section the secretary marked out. The younger man was still holding the pen out for him. “Just sign the papers.”
“Can I at least read them through first?”
“My lawyer is capable man – there is nothing in there that will cause you physical pain.”
Efren arced his eyebrows. Now he definitely wanted to read it and he decided to do just that for the irritation of his companions.
It was true. It had nothing in it that would indicate penalties if the treaty would fall through. Except his mother’s marital state which would be nulled if he decided to break any of the contract points. And there were many to choose from.
He calculated how many years he hadn’t seen his dear mother. It was after he left for high school. That would be close to seven, eleven since he left home. He knew this was too good to be true, when his mother had finally picked up the phone not to wish him happy new year, but to arrange a meeting with him. She was getting married she said, and as they happened to be in the same town, she wanted to see him. To introduce him his new stepfather.
She failed to mention that also included the whole family meeting, plus the latter’s secretary. The fact that the guy had brought Mr. McKinley should have been a warning of its own.
While he concentrating on things between the black cover, he noticed that the secretary discreetly removed the blue edged paper file from the table and held it firmly between his clutches while he continued reading. So there was an extra clause for the contract, he thought bitterly, but decided to first get to know to what he was allowed to read and if the guy hadn’t returned the file on the table by the end of his reading, he would just ask for it. Politely. For he understood fully that Mr. McKinley wasn’t doing it it for himself, but for his coldblooded boss. What was in that blue rimmed file?
“Until…” Steven’s eye twitched towards his mother.
“You gotta be kidding me! The nerve!” He slammed the file down on the table and rose. The town hall clock hit quarter before two and he had to start going anyway if he wanted to be back at work in time. So instead of giving him another chance on this, he grabbed his jacket. “If you’ll excuse me…” he nodded to his very disappointed mother and new father before heading down the main street towards his workplace.
He knew that would not be that last of this, but the proposal was just too ridiculous to give it even a second thought. Then why was he now walking and mulling it over in his head?
He could think of several reasons – for one, she raised him alone since he was fourteen. Second, he still loved her. He had moved out to make it easier for both of them, for the only proper job she could get after three years of suffering on odd jobs demanded she traveled a lot. So it seemed a good idea at that time to find a school with dormitory and move there instead. She continued to support him, but it was clear by the end of the first semester that he wouldn’t be returning and oddly, he was fine with that.
He let out a silent scream as his steps came to a halt and waited for a minute more, staring at the large statue in the middle of walker’s path of a mother holding a small boy on his arms. After all those years he still loved his mother.
Then again, what had he to lose? He’d spent six years of his life with roommates, who wouldn’t lift a finger or had no understanding of personal boundaries. How hard would it be to tolerate few years as his new stepbrother’s flatmate if that could help his mom? Maybe he could convince him to drop the contract altogether. He had nothing to fear from them?
His shoulders slumped and he sighed. His feet turned on their own and walked back to the small cafe in the middle of the street. His soon-to-become father Jed was helping mom into her light jacket while his stepbrother waited with his secretary.
Mr. McKinley noticed him first and was staring him with quite a shock as he stopped right behind his parents and half groaned. “Prenuptial agreements are supposed to be between husband and wife, not between their kids!” he scolded. “Give me the pen.”