They rode in silence for a couple of minutes — neither Jason, Morrie, nor Suzu wanting or having anything to say. Morrie was glancing in Suzu’s direction when he saw a panicked expression spread across her face. Suzu grabbed her backpack, which was on the car floor in front of her, opened it, and quickly searched through its contents. Morrie whispered to her “Suzu what is it?”
“I forgot my paper.”
“Are you sure it isn’t in your backpack? You could have missed it.”
Suzu checked her backpack again. “No, I’m sure. It’s not here.”
“You better tell Jason then.”
“He’s going to be so upset,” Suzu said, a look of dread on her face.
“It’s either that or a missed assignment.”
Suzu sighed. “Jason?”
She took a deep breath. “Do you mind going back to the house? I forgot my paper.”
He paused before responding, completely thrown off by this new complication.
“Suzu, I asked you and Morrie earlier if you had everything and you said yes.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I thought I had my assignment but I got distracted helping Morrie with his things.”
Jason looked over to the car clock. It now read 7:52. He took a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as possible. “Don’t worry about it Suzu. It’s fine. Just make sure you and Morrie aren’t forgetting anything else, all right?”
“We aren’t,” Morrie replied.
“Thanks, Jason,” Suzu responded.
They stopped at a red light. Jason leaned back in his chair and ran his hands over his face. When the light turned green Jason made a U-turn at the intersection and headed back toward the house.
Once they reached the house Suzu quickly exited the car and entered the Whittaker home. She snatched her paper off the table stand and dashed outside to the car.
“Now are you two completely sure you have everything this time? Because I can’t drive back again,” Jason said as Suzu entered the car, closing the car door behind her.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Morrie replied.
“I have everything,” Suzu answered.
Jason pulled out of the driveway and got back on the road. He then glanced at the car clock. It read 7:55. Great. I’ll never make it to my appointment on time at this rate. He sighed. Jason reached for his phone and called Jillian. He was calling to confirm that she would be at Triple J Antiques on time. She was scheduled to come in at 8:00 yet knowing her propensity for being late, he knew there was a high chance she wouldn’t be. He prayed that she would so there would be at least someone there at the shop when Mr. Burton arrived. Several seconds passed and Jillian still had not picked up. “Oh come on. Pick up the phone Jillian” Jason said to himself. “Hi. This is ah…Jillian with two Ls. Leave a message” Jillian’s voicemail played back. Jason frustratingly ended the call — not even bothering to leave a message as he knew Jillian would not hear it for at least a day. Following this, the three of them rode in silence.
About five minutes had passed and Suzu was gazing out the window when she saw a speed limit sign of 25 mph. She was no expert when it came to driving but it seemed to her as though they were traveling faster than the speed posted on the sign. She sat forward in her seat and glanced at the speedometer. It read 45 mph. Suzu was about to say something when she heard her brother speak.
“Morrie If you need something else, I’m sorry. I can’t go back to the house.” Jason abruptly responded, his sense of frustration growing by the second.
“Morrie, I said—”
It was then that they heard the shrill of a police siren. Jason immediately looked in his left side-view mirror and saw a police car with its lights on, trying to get him to pull over.
“No, no, no, no,” he muttered under his breath. “This can’t be happening.” Jason pulled the car over to the side of the road, turned off the engine, and rolled down his window. The officer pulled up behind, got out of his car, and walked toward the driver’s door. Once the officer reached the window he pulled off his sunglasses. “Well, well, hello Jason. I thought I recognized this car. Though I’m still surprised to see you.”
Jason clenched his hands on the steering wheel. This was the absolute last person he wanted to talk with at the moment.
“Hello, Detective Polehaus.”
“Now I’m sure I don’t have to go over with you the importance of obeying the law. Or at least I hope I don’t. Speeding. Come on Jason.”
“Look, Detective Polehaus, I’m really sorry about that. But you see Morrie and Suzu missed their school bus and I have a very important meeting,” Jason glanced at his watch, “which is in fourteen minutes. I didn’t even realize I was speeding until I heard the siren.”
“Well if you hadn’t shut me up I could have warned you!” Morrie called out.
Jason was tempted to say something to Morrie but now was not the time. He took a deep breath and resumed speaking to Detective Polehaus “Perhaps you can let this slide this one time. I promise this won’t happen again.”
“Sorry, Jason. The law is the law. I don’t make exceptions for anyone. And you should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to weasel your way out of this situation. Now, driver’s license and registration.” Detective Polehaus held out his hand to Jason.
Jason reached for his wallet and took out his driver’s license. He then opened the glove box and retrieved his registration. He handed them to Detective Polehaus. “Thank you. You should be all ready to go in a few minutes.” Detective Polehaus walked back to his police car.
Suzu and Morrie looked at each other and with every passing second, the feeling of tension rose even higher. Eight minutes passed and all the while Jason couldn’t get the smug expression on Polehaus’s face out of his head.
Detective Polehaus made his way back to the car. “Well, can’t say whether it’s because I finally had coffee before work or if it’s just my normal sunny attitude, but the process went faster than usual.” Detective Polehaus said as he held out Jason’s license and registration along with a yellow slip of paper — a ticket.
Jason sighed and nodded, taking the documents. He could think of it all later. Right now, he needed to go. “Thank you, Detective.”
Jason looked down at the ticket, dreading to see the total amount. “Five hundred! For what?!” Jason began to scan the ticket.
“Expired registration…speeding in a school zone” Detective Polehaus started to list Jason’s infractions.
Jason looked at Detective Polehaus. “School zone? What School? I don’t see one around here ” Jason said as he scanned the surrounding area.
“The school’s right there down the street.” Detective Polehaus pointed towards a red brick structure in the distance. “I assume that was where you were headed.”
“Ahhhhhh….uh-huh.” Jason nodded his head.
“Goes to show you that breaking the law doesn’t pay.”
“I thought the expression was crime doesn’t pay.”
“You want to make that ticket six hundred?”
“That’s what I thought. Well, I best get going. Take care all.” Polehaus started to walk back to his car. A few more moments of quietness passed.
“We did try to tell you….”
“Yeah, you can’t blame this one on us Jason,” Morrie said in his usual smart tone of voice.
And that was the final straw.
“Arghhhh!” Jason slammed the glove box shut. The kids were startled by the noise. Jason heard a small gasp come from Suzu.
Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong and Jason had reached his breaking point. Jason turned around in his seat and shot Morrie and Suzu a glaring look that cut right through them. “I’ve had about enough of your antics for one day! I’m miles away from Triple J’s where I’m supposed to be having a meeting with one of the biggest antique collectors in the world in five minutes. And because of you two, I’m going to be late! And let’s not forget that I also just got a five-hundred-dollar ticket which I wouldn’t have gotten if you two had been on time! We’re not even at your school yet, and it’s at least a fifteen-minute drive until I get to the shop!” His hands grasped the steering wheel even harder, and they could see his knuckles turning white with the pressure. Jason sighed again as he turned the car back on and resumed driving.
“What?” Jason narrowed his eyes as he looked up to see Morrie in the rear-view mirror. “What did you say?”
“It’s a fourteen-hour time difference between Tokyo and Odyssey. Thought you might want to know that when you call.”
They reached a red light and Jason turned his head around and faced the Rydell son. Seeing that he was at a loss for words, Morrie continued. “I’ll give you the number when we get home from school. Our dad can cover the ticket and then some to make up for this. Oh, and he knows Arthur Burton. Just in case he drops the meeting and you need to reschedule.”
Jason sighed, “Morrie…”
“No, it’s fine. He’ll take care of it.”
Jason turned his eyes over to Suzu. She was looking down at her hands.
“Look, that’s not—“
“The light’s green” Morrie interrupted.
Jason looked back at the road and kept driving down the street. “That’s not what I want,” Jason continued.
“No, it is. You don’t want to worry about any of this. You want to go to your meeting and make the deal. That’s what is most important to you. But that’s fine, and you know why?” Jason glanced back up at the rear-view mirror. Morrie glared at him, feeling stronger and stronger by the second. “Because in order to make it in this life you have to look out for your best interests. It’s what our father did. That’s why we’re here with you and Mr. Whittaker instead of being in Japan with him. We were in his way — stopping him from achieving his goals. So he sent us here. And that’s what you’re doing. Don’t you think we know that? Do you think this bothers us? Do you even understand what we’re going through?”
Jason sat there, completely dumbstruck. For the first time that day, he was unsure of what to say.
“Well, you don’t. Just like everyone else” Morrie said coldly.
By now they were already at the front of Odyssey Middle School. Instead of driving in front of the school to drop off Morrie and Suzu, Jason started to pull into the visitor’s parking lot. He parked the car in an available space and turned off the engine. It was at that moment Morrie tried to get out but Jason had locked all of the car doors.
“Hey!” Morrie’s hand shook the door handle to no avail.
“Can I ask you two to stay for a minute? I need to say something.” Jason’s voice was soft and cautious.
“What about your meeting?” Morrie’s voice was biting and cruel.
“It can wait. Come on. Please?”
Morrie turned to look at his sister, who slowly nodded her head. Letting out a sharp breath, Morrie sat back against his seat.
A few moments of silence passed as Jason looked at the steering wheel, thinking of what to say. He then took a deep breath and turned around to face Morrie and Suzu who still sat motionless in their seats. They each stared down toward the floor, wanting to avoid Jason’s gaze. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Morrie and Suzu, Jason spoke.
“First of all, I want to say how truly sorry I am…for everything. I should never have acted that way regardless of the situation and I hope that you both can forgive me” Jason said with a sincere and tender look in his eyes — something which Morrie and Suzu had never seen before.
He continued speaking. “And you’re right, Morrie. I don’t know what you two are going through. All I can do is put myself in your shoes and try to understand what you’re dealing with right now. And I hope that you and your sister will be patient with me as I try to do that, even if I don’t deserve it.” Morrie looked at Jason and nodded his head after a moment. Suzu also looked at Jason and gave him a small smile.
Jason smiled back but felt the conviction building up. How could he be so selfish to put these kids in a position like this? He knew he wasn’t perfect, but it was now when they needed to see Christ’s love in those closest to them, not irritation and anger.
“You two better go. I don’t want you to be any later to class than you already are.” Jason unlocked the car doors. “And if your teachers ask why you’re late, just tell them that it was my fault and that I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. Okay?”
“Of course,” Suzu said as she and Morrie opened the doors next to their seats. They stepped out of the car.
“And guys” Jason called out just as they were about to close the car doors, “have a great day at school,” Jason said with a smile. Morrie and Suzu smiled back before closing the car doors and walking toward the front doors of the school.