It was 3pm and Marcos and Isabella were having an argument on the front lawn.
‘Do I have to do my homework?’ Isabella whined.
‘Yes, Bella,’ Marcos replied calmly, ‘The teachers give it to you for a reason.’
‘But whyyyyyy?’ his little sister moaned, kicking at a pebble in frustration.
‘So you can practice what you learned in school today.’
Look, I have homework too,’ said Marcos persuasively, ‘Let’s sit on the ground and do it together. I’ll help you if you need it.’
Just then, Antonio came strutting from the house. He was dressed and ready to check on the family’s other businesses.
‘Uncle Tony,’ Isabella accosted him, ‘Do I have to do my homework? Marcos says I do but I’m tired! I had gym today and I still feel sick.’
Antonio was a sucker for that big-eyed pleading look, and he still felt guilty about losing her at the hospital. ‘What is the work?’ he asked gruffly.
‘Fractions,’ replied Bella rolling her eyes and huffing out her bottom lip.
‘What does a pretty girl like you need to learn fractions for?’ Tony reasoned, ‘Look at your mother. You’ll be beautiful, like her, when you grow up and you can get yourself a dumb schmuck like your father to do your numbers for you.’
Marcos was horrified, ‘Come on Bella, we’ll do it quickly and then we’ll watch BEtween TV together.’
Antonio left for work and Marcos sighed.
‘Bella, listen,’ he pleaded, ‘I just want what’s best for you. When you grow up, you don’t want to rely on anyone else. You need to be smart, and to know how to look after yourself. I know it might seem like Mum has it easy, and gets by on her looks alone, but do you think she’s really happy?’
Isabella thought about this quietly for a minute, her back turned from her brother so he couldn’t see her expression. No, her mother didn’t seem happy. Not really. Not on the inside where it mattered. She didn’t understand everything about her family but she knew that something wasn’t right. Her dad wasn’t around at night to read her a bedtime story, like Doctor Khan had done.
Suddenly a shadow loomed over them. Isabella looked up to find her mother standing there with an angry expression. Marcos would say she had ‘a face like thunder’.
‘Isabella, get in the house,’ Sophia snapped, ‘go and watch TV. I need to talk to your brother.’
Isabella grinned because she’d got her own way, but feeling a tingling sense of concern for her big brother she hovered to listen to the conversation.
‘Who are you to decide if I’m happy or not?’ she demanded angrily. She’d overheard the conversation and it had struck a nerve. She’d just finished talking with Doctor Landgraab, she’d asked him for an early appointment for her collagen injections but he’d refused and told her she needed a break to let her skin ‘recover’, whatever that meant! So she was already upset before she’d overheard her son’s hurtful words.
Marcos looked down at his book, unable to look her in the eye.
‘Do you think I’m stupid?’ she demanded.
Marcos stared intently at his book and didn’t reply.
‘Listen, I pay a lot of money to that school to educate my children,’ she snapped, ‘what are you doing all day if they have to send your work home with you? I’ll be having words with your headmaster!’
Marcos bit his lip and held his temper. Luckily their neighbour Nancy arrived and broke the tension. She’d brought a fruitcake round for Carlos to try, he loved her fruitcakes! Nancy was hoping he might take an order for his restaurant. Marcos wasn’t sure why the rich wife of a surgeon needed to make a living selling a few fruitcakes, but figured she was bored or lonely or something.
Sophia instantly dropped her angry disposition, eager to talk to the wife of her doctor, hoping Nancy could talk some sense into her husband and secure her that appointment.
Marcos gritted his teeth. He was determined to make the most of his private education and take a different path to his parents. If he couldn’t convince his sister to do the same, at least he could provide for her so she didn’t end up stuck in a situation like his mother.