“Later, I have a surprise for you.”

What has gotten to the old man?

Rusty was definitely curious when he was informed before lunch. Uncle Tom was not very good at giving surprises. One time, he bought Rusty a pair of pants, too expensive for his taste but still he could not wear because the waist size was too big and the leg length was a bit short that it looked like a pedal-style. Luckily, the store owner agreed to a refund.

Running errands for most part of the morning, he was unaware of what has happened during his absence. All he did was deliver packages from one end of the city to the other, the traffic getting to his nerves that uselessly ate up his travel time.

“You must be tired,” Uncle Tom massaged his shoulders as what a barber would do before ending a haircut session. “Relax! I followed your advice. We got ourselves a saleslady.”

Rusty nearly coughed out the contents of his mouth. He was just joking around earlier. Besides, they could not afford the help because their operating expenses were too thin to spread out.

“Uncle, you should not have,” he cried out. “I can more than handle the job.”

“You’re not a robot,” Uncle Tom said. “Think! You can have more free time for yourself.”

“Where will you get the money to pay her?” he asked, unsure how an applicant came over without a wanted help sign to announce a vacancy.

“That’s the best part of my surprise,” his uncle was visibly excited. “Her services would be for free.”

“Well, that’s a surprise all right!” Rusty said in a sing song but added, “No one in their right mind would work for free. You give me a salary and I am your nephew.”

“She volunteered her free time, which to me is too gracious not to accept.”

“What’s the catch, Uncle?” he raised his eyebrows. “You should have asked my opinion first.”

“It’s your idea, remember?” Uncle Tom was enjoying himself. For the first time, he would win the discussion without even trying.

Rusty blamed himself for being a smart mouth sometimes. His uncle pounced on his slip.

“Do I know this mystery woman? Someone you like to be my aunt?”

Uncle Tom kept his mouth zipped, grinning mischievously, not showing his cards up his sleeve.

While uncle and nephew were in a lively banter, Wendy came in quietly from the back door. She was instructed earlier by Rusty’s uncle not to show herself until Rusty agreed to the terms.

Behind Rusty’s back, she walked straight to his portable video player and searched for the appropriate song to signal her entrance. Uncle Tom had already seen her arrived so he distracted his nephew during her preparations.

“Who is she?” Rusty asked repeatedly. “She might be someone I know.”

She pressed play and waited.

Rusty turned around upon hearing the song. Unmistakably, it was a favorite of someone in the past he was trying to forget.

“Uncle, don’t tell me you …” he could not say her name, “hired … her?”

They looked at each other for the longest time, both with mixed emotions.

“Surprise!” Uncle Tom was late with his exclamation.

(to be continued)



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