"Eliza, Uncle Jace has a chocolate chip cookie for you if you come out, " Jace said as he tiptoed around the corner, expecting to hear at least a giggle that would alert her presence. But there was nothing but silence.
Kat chuckled behind him. "Do you think she's really going to fall for that again Jace?"
Jace stood up straight and shrugged. "Hey, who can resist chocolate chip cookies?" Then he turned back to the hallway where he knew Eliza had hid. "If you come out now, I'll let you eat two chocolate chip cookies before dinner."
"Jace!" Kat squealed. "You will not ruin my child's appetite before she's had her dinner."
Soon a giggling Eliza emerged from behind a curtain in the hallway. "Two chip cookies?" she asked with a toothy grin.
Jace looked back at Kat and winked before grabbing Eliza and throwing her gently in the air. "That's right. Two chip cookies."
Kat grunted. "You know this is not the way to play hide and seek. From now on, no more bribing my daughter Jace."
Jace chuckled as he kissed Eliza on her cheek. "Mommy is such a party pooper," he whispered in Eliza's ears as he put her down.
Eliza ran to her mom where she screamed, "Mommy you're a pooper!"
"Jace!" Kat squealed as she lifted her daughter into her arms.
Jace laughed as he headed into the kitchen. "Well you know, kids these days say the darndest things and what not," he said as he washed his hands.
Kat rolled her eyes. "You're not funny Jacen."
Jace chuckled as he began dishing out the spaghetti and meatballs he'd just prepared. What would his friends think if they saw him now? Hell, he already knew what his father would say. He was acting below his status. After all there were people in the world created to do this, so he would just be degrading himself or some bullshit like that.
As he began chopping up vegetables, he said, "I'm just the chef for tonight my dear Catherine, being a comedian was not in the description. But you can't hurt a guy for trying to multitask," he grinned as he put his hands up in mock surrender. Jace watched as Kat put her daughter in the high chair around the dinning table. He always wondered if she was too old for it but never asked. It was probably better for his energetic niece. She would probably never sit otherwise.
As Eliza began banging on the chair she said, "Uncle Jwace, can I have my cookies now?"
Kat came up behind him and shook her head. "You see what you've done."
Jace chuckled as he turned to her. "Hey, I wasn't going to find her otherwise," he shrugged.
Kat blinked, before laughing. "You're so full of it Jace."
"Just for you, little sis," he said as he blew her a kiss.
Kat froze, before mustering a smile. "Hurry up. I'm starving."
Jace finished chopping up the vegetables for the salad. As he placed the garlic rolls on the plate, he stared at his sister. She looked so much like their mother. She had their mother's trademark blue eyes, even though Kat's hair was a shade lighter and their bone structure was uncanny. Kat had inherited the high cheekbones their mother was famous for. Even though he never commented on her reaction every time he mentioned their relation, he still wondered what went through her mind whenever he said it. He knew it must have been hard for her.
He carried their plates to the table, while Kat brought Eliza her Mickey Mouse plate and Disney princess cup full of apple juice.
"Mommy, where's my chip cookies?" Eliza asked as she stared her plate which she realized although full of spaghetti and meatballs, lacked chocolate chip cookies.
Kat glared at Jace. "After dinner baby," she said.
"But uncle Jwace said before," Eliza commented before she began to frown.
He sighed mentally he shouldn't have done that. He was making things harder for Kat. "Hey, if you wait till after dinner, then I'll give you not only two cookies but also ice cream," he said, trying to remedy his mistake.
Eliza looked away for a second before grinning as she nodded. As Eliza began to pick up the spaghetti with her fingers, Kat frowned, before sighing. " I need to break her out of that habit," she said as she looked at Jace.
Jace shook his head. "She'll outgrow it," he said as he sat down. She sighed again, before twirling the spaghetti around her fork. Jace felt a tinge of guilt. This parenting stuff was harder than it looked. No wonder his mother had always left him with nannies.
"This is really good," Kat commented as she swallowed. "Where did you learn to cook?"
Jace grinned. "I experimented one day when I was bored," he said as he took a bite. It was pretty good he had to admit. It was all in the fresh herbs.
Kat chuckled. "Of course, you get bored and become some kinda master chef."
"Being an expert at everything runs in our blood," he joked but Kat froze again before looking away. This was getting ridiculous. Would he ever be able to mention their relation without her tensing up? "Kat you're my sister. You have to actually accept that sooner or later you know?"
Kat stared at him hard. "I've been trying Jace but it's been really hard to, especially since for basically my entire life, I didn't even know you existed."
Until recently, Jace hadn't known of her existence either. It was purely an accident that he found out. He was on his way to speak with his father, when as he was passing the door to his mother's room, he heard the distinct sound of sniffling. The sound stopped him immediately. Jace couldn't recall ever hearing her cry before. He peered in the room and saw his mother on the ground hunched over some pictures that had scattered across her white carpets. He noticed that an empty bottle of Scotch had rolled towards her vanity table. Jace had crept closer and glanced at the pictures. He didn't recognize the girl, yet here his mother was crying because of them. He didn't say anything as he pulled his her into a hug and listened quietly as she sobbed into his chest. All he could think was who was this girl?
"Tell her I'm sorry," his mother had whispered as tears fell from her eyes.
Jace had looked at her, confused. "What?" he had asked gently while trying to ignore the strong scent of Whiskey on her breath.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," she had kept repeating until she eventually passed out in his arms. After Jace tucked his mother into bed, he grabbed a few of the pictures. There was one of a baby, a child and then of a teenager. They were all of the same girl. Whoever she was, his mother had been keeping tabs on her for years. The next day Jace hired a private investigator and soon after the PI returned with a folder full of information. Only then did Jace finally understand his mother's reaction.
As he stared at Kat, he realized he never told her what their mother had said. He was upset at his mother for never telling him about his sister, but he knew she would just find some way to shrug it off. His mother never liked to deal with anything that would make her life hard. "I would have come sooner, if I had known about you," he responded although he hated saying the words. They sounded almost cruel to his ears.
Kat glared at him, before she turned to Eliza. "Time for bed."
Eliza frowned. "But mommy, uncle Jwace said-"
Kat interrupted. "I don't care what uncle Jace said. It's bedtime, now."
Jace grimaced. He knew he shouldn't have said anything. He upset her and now she was taking it out on Eliza. "It's still kind of early don't you think?"
Kat turned to him as she crossed her arms. "Don't tell me what to do with my child Jace," she growled.
Jace flinched before he nodded and watched as Kat took Eliza to her room. Jace sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. The least he could do was clean up the dishes. As Kat came back to the table, Jace apologized.
"Don't Jacen. Just don't," she muttered, before she asked, "What are you even doing here?"
Jace shrugged. "You know I try to come every Sunday to see you and Liz."
Kat narrowed her eyes. "That's not what I mean. What are you doing in this town?"
Jace sighed. "I came to find you."
"Why?" she shrieked.
Jace grimaced. "Because ever since I found out about you, I had to see you for myself. I had to meet you," he tried to explain.
Kat closed her eyes and breathe deeply. When she opened them tears began to fall. Jace clenched his jaw; this isn't what he wanted. "I was fine before you came along and reminded me how just fucked up my life is," she whispered. "Before you reminded me how our dear mother just shipped me away!"
"Kat," he started, "Our mother just has trouble dealing with things," he weakly defended. He knew he couldn't say anything to fix what their mother did but maybe he could try to make her understand what their mother was like.
"She has trouble dealing with things?" Kat shrieked as she wiped the tears from her face. "I'm the one who got pregnant at nineteen and had to drop out of college. I'm the one who has to raise Elizabeth on my own because her father is a deadbeat. I'm the one who has been alone my entire life. I'm the one who is supposed to have trouble dealing with things; not my rich, pampered, bullshit of a mother!"
Jace understood his sister's anger, but it didn't mean he could handle the way she spoke about their mother. He narrowed his eyes as he said, "She was facing a lot of pressure from my father Catherine!" But he knew the only pressure their mother faced was the thought of her father leaving her penniless. Jace also knew that his father would have ruined her reputation so that she would never have a chance to ever again be a part of the social circles that constantly flocked her.
"She had no excuse to send me away!" Kat screamed. "To just pretend I didn't exist just because I would ruin her perfect, coddled life. It's not my fault she cheated on your father!"
Jace blinked, stunned. He didn't even know all the details surrounding Kat's birth. He especially didn't know who Kat's real father was and he doubted she did. The thought saddened him. After that night, his mother never spoke about it again. He was surprised that Kat seemed to be more aware about the circumstances than he realized. Then a thought struck him. Did Kat know who he really was? He never really told her, he had tried to keep the details as vague as possible. He figured it would just make matters worse if he revealed which family he came from, which family they came from. Then he recalled what she had just said before, what he had failed to notice. Kat had called their mother rich and pampered. Jace clenched his jaw. She knew.
Noting his silence, Kat continued. "What you didn't think I'd figure it out? You don't think I know exactly who you are Jacen Kraft? You're the son of that big shot multi-billionaire Charles Kraft," she said mockingly. "I don't know how anyone here hasn't figured it out yet."
Jace looked away and clenched his fist. "How did you find out?"
Kat chuckled dryly. "You know you look so much like her. It's subtle similarities but I can clearly see them."
Jace frowned, confused. Had she contacted their mother? "You saw her?"
Kat stared at her hands, before looking up again. "When I was younger, I found a picture of this really beautiful lady. I had no idea who she was but looking at it always brought me peace. Looking back, it made sense that it would be in the house that I grew up in. She had after all sent me to live with her sister. " Kat paused as she looked away.
Jace could hardly conceal his surprise. He had always thought his mother was an only child. How did he not know about his aunt? Kat was right. Their mother would just ignore her sister's existence if she thought it would hurt her status, but his PI should have put that information in the folder. Then he realized, he had only asked his PI to find his sister, not dig into her childhood; that was his mistake.
Kat began speaking again, pulling Jace out of his thoughts. "I had never felt like I belonged there. I could never understand why my aunt resented me, after all, I had grown up to believe she was my mother. Yet, she treated me the worst of all her children, it didn't matter how well I behaved. Even when they were awful, she still punished me for whatever they did," Kat paused and clenched her jaw. "It wasn't until I was a teenager when she saw me holding on to the photo that I finally understood. That day she told me that the lady in the picture was my real mother. She told me how my mother had abandoned me, just like my mother had abandoned her," kat said harshly. "I guess when you live in the life of luxury, acknowledging your 'hick town' sibling makes you a disgrace." Kat sighed. "I can imagine that a bastard child would get you exiled," she said bitterly.
As Jace sat and listened to his sister, sympathy flooded him. What kind of life had their mother condemned her to live? "I'm sorry you had to go through that Kat. I'm sorry for what our mother did." Jace wasn't someone who apologized, but today, he had to try to make up for their mother's mistakes.
She shook her head. "I don't want your pity big brother. I'm just telling you how I found out." Kat pursed her lips. "Even after my aunt told me what my mother had done, I still held on to her picture. Isn't that pathetic?" she asked sadly. "I tried so hard to find her, but I all I had was that old photo. My aunt refused to tell me anything about her, not even her name. It was only because of chance that I saw her one day. I had gone to the store and I was just scanning the book section when I caught a glimpse of her on the cover of some magazine. She looked older than she did in the photograph I had, but her features remained the same. I couldn't believe it, there she was." Kat sighed as she looked away. "Diane Kraft was printed boldly on the cover. She had apparently done something special, other than being the wife of Charles Kraft," she said bitterly. "But I forget what it was because all I could think was that I had finally found her. I had finally found the woman who gave me away," Kat said as she looked at him. "So when I saw you, I thought it was her way of reaching out to me, to apologize and try to make amends. But I see now that you came on your own," she said sadly, "I bet she doesn't even know you're here."
Jace didn't know what to say. She was right. Their mother had no idea he searched for his sister. He wasn't even sure she actually remembered that night. He sighed, but he told the truth. "She thinks I'm at school."
Kat chuckled harshly. "At school?" she asked. "And which school does she think you're at dear brother?" she mocked.
Jace clenched his jaw. "Harvard Law School."
Kat chuckled again before shaking her head. "Of course, only the best for Jacen freaking Kraft," she said bitterly and Jace flinched. "So back to my first question, what are you doing here?"
Jace sighed. "I already told you."
"Okay, you found me but why are you still here?" she clarified.
Jace blinked. Why was he still here? He didn't really know. He could have visited his sister yet still go back to his apartment in Boston or his home in Illinois. But instead here he was. He had gotten himself an apartment, he worked as a mechanic, and he played in a band. He was living a completely different life; a complete lie. But he knew this life was becoming more of a reality than his real one.
"You're the one who encouraged me to join the band," he reminded her.
She grimaced. "I honestly didn't think you'd really do it. Just like I never really expected you to stay here."
"Well, I like it here," he said simply; another truth.
"Jace you should go home and stop messing with the lives of the people in this town, unlike you, they don't have the chance to just leave when things get hard," she said harshly.
Jace ran a hand through his hair. "Look Kat, I'm really sorry about everything but will you stop taking it out on me? I'm trying here. Our mother should have never sent you to live with her sister. But she's always been this way. It has always been easy for her to just pretend things don't exist than to do something about them. Trust me, I know more about that than you think I do. I mean I know our lives have been completely different but she hasn't exactly been there for me either," he sighed. "But I will make sure that she makes it up to you."
Kat laughed bitterly. "And just how is she supposed to 'make it up' to me?"
"She can start by knowing her daughter," he said.
"Jace, I don't want to know her. I don't want to see her. I never want to meet her!" Kat shrieked.
"Kat, she should be in some part of your life, she should know she has a granddaughter."
Kat flinched. "If you ever bring that woman around my child Jace, I swear I will never forgive you."
Jace sighed. "I wouldn't do that to you Kat. But don't you think Eliza deserves to know her grandmother?" he asked gently.
"Why? When her grandmother wants nothing to do with her or me," she said as she crossed her arms.
"That's not true. If it were, then she wouldn't have all those photographs of you," he admitted.
Kat gasped. "What? How does she have pictures of me?"
Jace shook his head. "I don't know. I just found her crying over them one night," he told her. He hesitated on continuing, but felt that Kat needed to hear it. "She told me to let you know how sorry she is." He just decided to leave out the part that she was also drunk.
Tears welled up in Kat's eyes. "Then why doesn't she just tell me herself?"
Jace sighed. Kat may have been upset about what their mother did, but Jace could see that she was still just a girl who wanted her mother around. "I can't speak for her actions Kat. But one day, I just know she will."
Kat didn't say anything. The fight had gone out of her and she wrapped her arms around herself. Jace pulled her into a hug and listened as she cried into his shirt. He couldn't help but to feel like he was back at that night, when his mother had been the one crying.