My meeting with Jack Osborne went off exactly as we had planned it…well, almost exactly. I showed up for my job shadowing experience on the day that Kindra had off. Jack met me up on the 20th floor, which was where his office was. At first it was sort of awkward, but then he showed me around the whole office. We were both more relaxed by the end of the tour. I made sure to ask a lot of questions so that he’d know how interested in knowing about him I was.
But all he wanted to talk about was the things he was doing for the company. He kept talking about mergers and stocks and other stuff that I didn’t understand or care about. Then he mentioned that he would have been promoted if Kindra hadn’t come back from Bridgeport.
He bagged on her for awhile, saying that she took his position since he’d once been promoted over her.
“That’s why our relationship didn’t work,” he said. “I got promoted and she didn’t. I guess now she’s showing me, huh?”
I didn’t like the way he was putting Kindra down, but I didn’t really know what to say to make him stop. I just changed the subject. I hadn’t really come there to talk business anyway. Business is boring. I wanted to know more about Jack. So I asked if we could hang out sometime to get to know each other and he agreed.
We started talking on the phone and chatting over IM. He invited me to his house a few times, too. We couldn’t really hang out around town or people would talk. The paparazzi would constantly hound us with questions and try to make some sort of sensational story out of what was becoming a pretty good friendship.
And I didn’t want Kindra to find out about it. I didn’t think she’d like it that I was spending so much time with Jack. It wasn’t like I was trying to make him like a real dad or anything. But still, Jack and I both agreed that it was best that Kindra didn’t know.
He said she might take it out on him at work. I personally didn’t think Kindra was like that, but Jack said it was already sort of hostile at work between the two of them. He said that Kindra was keeping him from advancing.
“If you work so hard,” I told Jack, “You’re bound to get ahead at work. Kindra’s always saying that hard work is always promoted.”
“Of course Kindra would say that,” Jack answered. “She wouldn’t know about having to fight for her job.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, I had to fight for every promotion. Kindra has had her advancements just fall into her lap.” Jack lifted a finger, “First she complained to our boss about sexual harassment or something ridiculous like that when I got promoted over her.” Jack sneered. I just looked confused.
“We were going out when I got promoted,” Jack continued. “She was upset about it, so she said I harassed her. That’s when our boss, another woman, Ms. Winslow, promoted her and sent her to Bridgeport.”
“I didn’t know about that,” I said. I had only heard that Kindra was given a position in Bridgeport. I didn’t know about anything related to harassment.
“Yeah. They didn’t want to have any bad publicity, so they gave her that promotion. I worked my ass off for my promotion and she got hers just to keep her quiet.”
“I don’t know what to think, Jack,” I said. “That doesn’t sound like my aunt.”
“Your aunt…ha. She gave you up just so that she could get ahead in the world of business, right? She didn’t want to have a kid keeping her down. She didn’t even tell me about it,” Jack snorted. “To me, that sounds exactly like a woman who’d do whatever it took to become President of the company. And look, now she’s achieved what she wanted!”
“I never thought about it that way. But Kindra said that she gave me up to my parents so that I could have the best life. Mina and Kris really wanted children and couldn’t have them.”
“That’s a pretty nice story,” Jack said in disbelief. “Convenient. Do you think she would have kept you if her sister hadn’t wanted you instead?”
I wasn’t sure.
I couldn’t help thinking of Jack’s argument about Kindra after that. Had giving me to her sister been just a convenience so that she could go on to a more successful business career? Did it make a difference that she had tried to do what was best for me or was it just a lucky coincidence?
I didn’t know, so I started ignoring her. I’d get up early or late so that I could avoid her. I’d hang out with Jack or Emma and Shelby after school so that I wouldn’t have to see her in the afternoons.
I should have known I’d eventually get busted. Even though she’s always saying that my real mom and dad were Mina and Kris, she gets kind of maternal on me all the time.
“Charlie, I need to talk to you,” she cornered me as I was crossing the living room and headed up to my bedroom to read the school book I’d been assigned. “Have a seat. I never see you anymore.”
I sat. “What’s up?” I tried for unconcerned nonchalance, but I’m not sure I was successful.
“Where have you been going everyday?” she asked.
“Oh, here and there. Hanging out with Em and Shel, going to the gym, just kicking it around town a bit,” I answered, still trying to sound calm and not at all worried.
“And who are you ‘kicking it’ with in town, Charlie,” Kindra fixed me with a look of steal. She knew. I could tell. She was going to make me say it, though.
“I’ve been hanging out with Jack Osborne.”
“And when were you going to tell me?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to lie, but I couldn’t very well tell her ‘never’.
“Charlie Fields! I told you that I didn’t want you to know Jack,” Kindra said. I shook my head.
“No you didn’t,” I said. “You never said that I couldn’t get to know Jack. You just said that he’d have been a terrible father and that you hadn’t bothered to tell him about me.”
“Well, I’m telling you now. You can’t spend time with Jack Osborne.”
“Why? I don’t understand. I just want to get to know the guy,” I said.
“You don’t need to know him. You had a dad, Kris Fields. You don’t need Jack Osborne.”
I was furious. “I can get to know him if I want to. I know that Kris was my dad. It’s not fair of you to bring that up all the time! I can still want to know who my birth father was. It wasn’t fair of you not to have told him about me. He’s a great guy. He deserved to know.”
“Jack is not a great guy! You don’t know him at all!”
“I know him better than you do!”
“Charlie. Listen to me. I don’t want to tell you everything about Jack and me, but I mean it when I say that it didn’t end well. Jack was not nice to me. It was because of him that I had to move to Bridgeport.”
“I know. Jack told me about it.”
Kindra gasped. She looked like she didn’t believe me. “Jack told you…but…?”
“Yeah Jack said that you wanted to sue him or something like that so your boss sent you away to avoid bad publicity.”
“That’s not what happened,” Kindra said, then hesitated. “Well, it’s not exactly what happened. I don’t think that Jack told you everything. There are things you should know, Charlie.”
“I don’t want to know anymore!” I shouted. “I don’t care what happened back then. I know that you left me and didn’t tell Jack about me. That’s enough. And I’m going to keep seeing him and hanging out and there is nothing you can do about it!”
And then I ran up to my room. Kindra followed me and started pounding on my door and demanding that I let her in. She said she wasn’t finished talking to me. But I didn’t listen, and I didn’t open the door.
After our fight, I blatantly flaunted my relationship with Jack. I didn’t care of every paparazzi in Twinbrook was taking pictures and writing stories about us. We went to the gym together, and Jack trained me so that I could have a better physique. We went out to eat together, and Jack let me have anything on the menu I wanted.
We talked about girls and guy stuff. It was like having my dad around even though I didn’t think of Jack that way. We were just good friends.
Then one night at the Bistro, Jack asked if I wanted to go with him on a business trip to Egypt. He still thought I was interested in going into business since that’s how we had met, and I still acted like I was interested all the times he talked about it.
“I don’t think Kindra will let me,” I said after he asked. I really wanted to go, though. I thought a trip to Egypt would be a lot of fun. I still remember my trip with my mom and dad to China. That had been a blast. But back then I had been too little to do any real exploring. It would be awesome to check out some tombs and ruins in Egypt.
“Maybe it’s time to start making your own decisions, Charlie,” Jack said. “Is Kindra your boss? Aren’t you the head of your household? Doesn’t she live in your house?”
“Well, yeah,” I rubbed the back of my neck nervously, “but she’s my guardian. She’s in charge until I become an adult.”
“It’s not like you’d be going on the trip alone, Charlie. I’d be there. If Kindra doesn’t want me to take her to court and sue for custody, she better agree to this trip.”
“You want custody of me?” It was the first time Jack had brought something like that up. Mostly he just acted like a buddy or a fun uncle. He never really talked about us being father and son.
“Well…I mean, I could sue,” Jack hesitated. Then he continued, “Kindra wouldn’t be able to fight it. Just tell her that, and she’ll let you go with me.”
“Ok,” I agreed.
I decided that it might be best to approach Caleb with the idea of traveling with Jack before talking to Kindra. I hoped that he’d be more reasonable.
“You want to do what?” he asked when I told him.
“I want to go with Jack to Egypt,” I said.
“Absolutely not. You are too young to go to Egypt by yourself,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t be going alone. Jack would be with me.”
“Well, Jack is not a suitable guardian.”
I was so sick of how both Kindra and Caleb were always putting Jack down. They said he was bad, but they never really explained why. If they weren’t going to tell me, I was going to believe what I saw, and Jack had always been good to me.
“Jack is so a suitable guardian,” I said, pushing away from the table and taking my bowl to the sink, “and he wants me to go with him. He knows how much I want to travel.”
“Charlie, Jack is not a nice man. He did terrible things to your aunt Kindra. Do you know how much it hurts and humiliates her that you continue to hang out with him?” Caleb followed me into the kitchen from the dining room.
“Do you know how humiliating it is for me to know that Kindra didn’t tell him about me?” I demanded. “That the paparazzi keep saying that she used Jack to get ahead in business. Do you know what that’s like? The always ask me if I was their love child or something.”
“I know, Charlie, and that’s one of the reasons you shouldn’t go with Jack. Imagine what the paparazzi will say! If you want to travel so badly, Kindra and I can take you to Egypt.”
“No. I want to go with Jack. I’m tired of worrying about the paparazzi. They can say whatever they want.” I pushed past Caleb and headed up to my room. I needed to get out of the house.
“I’m going. You and Kindra can’t stop me!” I shouted as I pounded up the stairs.
“Charlie, wait!” Kindra followed me out the door running after me in her heals. I could have kept going, but I turned around and faced her instead. No matter what, I loved Kindra. I hated all of the fighting we’d been doing. If only she’d be reasonable about Jack. Why was it so bad that I wanted to be around him as much as I was around her?
“I’m going to Egypt with Jack, and there’s nothing you can say that will stop me,” I started.
“I’m your guardian, Charlie. If I say you can’t go, you can’t.”
“Fine. Forbid me to go. But Jack said that he’d sue for custody of me if you wouldn’t let me go with him!”
Kindra reeled back from me as if I’d slapped her.
“What! You’d seriously rather live with him than with us? After all these years Charlie! After everything I’ve done for you?!”
“No,” I said. I tried to stay calm. This was going badly. I just wanted her to agree to let me go. “I don’t want to live with Jack. I don’t want him to get custody, but I do want to go to Egypt with him. I want to keep hanging out with him.”
“Jack doesn’t have your best interests at heart, Charlie. He’s doing this to get back at me because I promoted someone else above him at work,” Kindra said, trying to get me to change my mind.
“You guys are always saying that Jack’s so terrible, but you never say why. Mom always told me to judge a person by their actions and Jack has been nothing but nice to me. We have fun together!”
“Charlie…I’ve tried to tell you about Jack but you wouldn’t listen,” Kindra started to explain.
“And I’m not going to listen now!” I said. “I’m going with him and if you don’t want me to move in with him, too, then you need to let me go.”
I turned and ran from Kindra, giving her no chance to reply. When I finally got home, I didn’t speak to anyone.
In the few weeks before my trip, it was tense in my house. Kindra and Caleb agreed to let me go to Egypt. They didn’t like it, but they agreed.
To break up the tension, I invited my cousins over as often as I could. Emma and Shelby were very supportive of my plans with Jack.
“What do you want me to bring back for you, Em?” I had plans to bring presents home for everyone.
“Like, how ‘bout an incense holder or something that has mummies on it,” Emma said.
“I hope I can see a mummy,” I said. “I heard that they are sometimes found at the bottom of those ancient tombs.”
“That’d be totally awesome!” she enthused.
Just before my trip Kindra’s kids, my half brother and sister (or cousins) became children. I was sorry that things had been so strained between me and their parents. I tried to get along on their birthday.
Our whole family was there. I found out that Sophia had gotten married and was now expecting a baby. Her husband was a nephew of Caleb’s named Cecil Pincher.
My uncle Eddie Tragedy came and joined uncle Caleb in entertaining everyone. He’d gotten old, but that never stopped him from rockin’ when he wasn’t cooking.
The press was there as well, but nothing terrible happened when the twins aged up. All the paparazzi did was take pictures and make notes. The next day there was just a tiny blurb in the paper about the party.
At breakfast, I promised to bring both kids back something totally cool from my trip. Kindra ignored me when I brought it up, but Dillon asked for some Egyptian music. I think he might take after uncle Caleb and become a musician.
On the morning of my trip, I was up really early. I looked around my room and mentally checked to make sure I had everything I needed. I couldn’t wait to get my first look at the Great Pyramids!