Melanie seemed to have read Arianne’s mind. “No, Arianne. This has got nothing to do with you. Even if you kept this a secret from me, I would have found out about this, so don’t think this happened because of you,” she pointed out. “In fact, I’m happy and grateful... You didn’t choose to be biased toward him despite his connection to you. If we really think about this… He’s your brother-in-law, isn’t he? He’s family. I’m not.”Melanie’s analysis of their complex relationship had reached a depth beyond Arianne’s cognizance, and it made her feel pretty ashamed of herself. Frankly, she had never once cared for Alejandro the way a decent sister-in-law was supposed to do, particularly since Mark did not exactly enjoy the warmest of kinship with him. Granted, with a backdrop as charged and tumultuous as that, Arianne felt as though she could never be a good sister-in-law even if she tried.Mateo was always in his restaurant these few days, but at least he was not as busy as he used to be
Mateo’s body immediately stilled. When he whipped his face upward to consider Melanie, his signature practiced grin was completely absent. “How did you… know?”Melanie breathed a quiet sigh. She was relieved; it turned out that Mateo was not pining for her, and yet, she could not help but be simultaneously worried for the path her old friend seemed poised to tread. “Your friend can tell, Teo. And unless I’m mistaken, our reunion in the supermarket wasn’t a coincidence at all, was it? You planned for it. I was never the reason that compelled you to come back; that had always been Arianne,” she said. “You knew Arianne’s my friend, so you used me to help make you closer to her. I don’t mind being used this way, Teo, but I think I should warn you—Mark Tremont’s wife isn’t someone you should set your eyes on. Ever.”He curled his lips into a flitting, pained smile. “I know, I know. I’ve never harbored any funny ideas either, if this helps. But, seriously, how did you piece it together?
Upon reaching the estate, Alejandro disembarked and went straight into the house.Melanie tailed him nonchalantly. The quieter he was, the more it boded ill, like the calm before a storm. It was simply not Alejandro’s nature to be so quiet, especially since the tirade Melanie had recounted to Jett should have lit up his fuse and caused him to erupt twice over.Hearing their footsteps, Melissa sprung out to meet them. “Daddy! Mommy!”Alejandro lifted the little girl into his arms and pecked her on the cheek. “Daddy’s a bit tired today; gotta catch some rest. You will have to play alone today, Millie.”Melanie, however, waved at the girl. “Come here. Mommy will be your playmate today.”Alejandro later vanished into the stairs without asking her anything or even showing the telltale signs of an incoming altercation.Melanie was starting to feel the dissonance of him being out-of-character. How was a man so known for his hair-triggering temper suddenly as calm as still water?While
Just look at the other kids! All of them were holding their parents’ hands as they regarded the foreign environment with childlike repulsion. Only a handful of them seemed to welcome the brave, new world sprawling before them.Mark was already showing signs of bailing out of there. “Seriously, can’t you just bring him inside, leave some words to him, and then mission accomplished, we go home? When it’s time, we come back and take him home. Simple as that,” he suggested. “It’s becoming pretty apparent now, hasn’t it? He’s not the slightest bit ill at ease! I can’t believe your anxiety eclipsed his!”Arianne rolled her eyes at him. “Don’t sugarcoat it; you’re just growing impatient! I can’t believe you’re impatient with your own son! And also, just because he isn’t anxious now doesn’t mean he won’t be missing home after a while. What happens if he starts to cry, huh? Besides, look around you, mister—none of them decided to just leave after dumping their kid here, right? Just be there f
Smore followed the rest of his class into his classroom. Arianne followed suit later to talk to the teacher, though she could not help but notice Smore incessantly gesturing to her to get out of the classroom with the same snappish impatience.For the first time, Arianne felt so unwanted… by Smore, no less!Since all the other kids’ parents had taken to watching from outside the class, Arianne—who was still feeling a little hung up—decided to observe her son from a spot where he could not see. Her purpose? Trying to see if the kid would eventually break down to tears!As many kids were wont to do on the first day of school, they were unaccustomed to leaving on their own without their parents in the vicinity. Many were so downright reluctant to step inside the classroom that one might suspect that they thought they were being thrown into a prison where dangerous, terrifying things lurked. The teachers tried hard to pacify them but to no avail.The longer Smore looked at the crying k
By the time they reached home, Smore was no longer somnolent. He carried his little backpack and started on completing his first homework: an arts-and-craft project.Arianne snuck up to him and cast a question, “What did the teacher teach you today, Son?”Smore pouted in disdain. “Nothing! All she did was busy herself pleading those babies to just stop crying already—it’s just soooo annoying! And then she wanted me to play with them, too! Urgh, as if I wanna! Those babies should go home and go back to drinking their mommy’s milk!”Arianne paused before replying, “Hey, hey, hey! Hold on a minute, young man. You grew up being breastfed too, you know? How can you look at your peers this way? It’s normal for young kids your age to be attached to their parents. Just because you’re different doesn’t mean you have the right to hate them for it, ok?”Smore shot a side-eye leer at Arianne’s bosom and declared, “I don’t believe you. There’s no way you’ve got milk in there.”First, Arianne w
The woman’s harangue left the teacher’s face completely flushed. For a moment, the poor teacher stammered as words failed her.Arianne drew a sharp breath. “Excuse me, ma’am, but what you’ve accused just now was pure slander. Look, they are kids about two- or three-years-old; they got into a bit of a scuffle, but there's still nothing a mutual cooperation between parents cannot achieve, right? You putting on this overdramatic attitude is a bit excessive, ma’am. Sure, I’ll be mad if my son was the one being hit too, but what’s done is done. The only thing left for us to do is to get together calmly and solve this together; a verbiage just isn’t helpful.”“Yes, Mrs. Tremont has got a point,” the teacher quickly piggybacked on Arianne’s rejoinder. “Especially when it really isn’t as serious as you’re making it out to be, ma’am. Just a bit of a nosebleed, honestly. If the medical check-up revealed nothing serious, then I think some medical compensation as well as a private talk with your
Arianne was starting to see red. Smore’s worldview was a little too awry for her liking. “Aristotle Tremont, what is the meaning of this? A toy can be shared with everyone; whether anyone can play with it or not shouldn’t have anything to do with how rich they are! Also, you started hitting people first, young man, and that makes you firmly in the wrong. If someone else started this, I wouldn’t have asked you to suck that up, but this isn’t the case now, is it? You hit someone first—and that makes you wrong, period!” she chided. “You know what I’m getting from you? I’m seeing a brat who’s so spared by the rod he’s turned spoilt. Just you wait; that will be rectified tonight!”Tiffany quickly moved in and yanked her friend’s shoulder. “Whoa, whoaaa! Ari, chill! Smore was only trying to help my son because they are homies; ya know that, right? Now turn that frown upside down and y’all talk about this calmly when y’all go home, okay? No smacking,” she said appealingly. “I know you’re sup