Casablanca Series I: Alexander and His Secrets
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Alexander nearly snapped when he found out that his mother was going to marry him off to a woman who had recently entered their household. He had no clue which family she came from or what her life had been like. So his answer was a resounding "No!" On the other hand, Damira raised an eyebrow when she learned that her future spouse was quite an unpleasant character, despite being exceptionally handsome. She regretted ever accompanying Trinity, who was Alexander's mother, in her desperate escape from her own troubled life. In this arranged marriage they entered into, will love prevail, especially when their lives are shrouded in secrets? Can he protect the woman caught in the turmoil that resulted from an earlier incident involving the woman he was originally supposed to marry?
Damira's entire being woke up when she heard the clanging of pots and pans downstairs. She glanced at the wall clock—it was only five-thirty in the morning, but it seemed like the day was starting early for her. She quickly got up, even without combing her hair. She hurriedly tied her messy locks while rushing down the stairs.
"It's a good thing you woke up. I thought I had to throw those two pots to get you out of bed," said Lorna.
She was her aunt on her mother's side. She was well aware of Lorna's constant arched eyebrow at her. On her part, she was perpetually infuriated in silence, especially when this was the kind of greeting she got, whether it was morning or night.
She had been living in her aunt's house for over thirty years now. They had no intention of letting her go because she was the one providing them with money for indulgences and gambling. Besides that, they had debts she was paying off. She had no choice, as there was nowhere else for her to go.
She could at least be thankful that she managed to sleep for four to five hours, even though she was physically drained from work. After her aunt left the kitchen, she immediately started cooking and heating water, knowing that her very capable uncle would soon be awake as well.
She finished her household chores by seven in the morning. She even cooked their meal, washed the dishes, and swept the entire house before going to work. She was just grateful that her aunt was doing the laundry for the couple’s underwear, as she might not be able to handle even that if she had to do it by hand.
"I'm leaving," she said, devoid of enthusiasm, while the two watched television.
"Buy some food for dinner since you’re going to get paid today," Eddie said as he remained focused on the television.
As usual, who else would buy what they need but her? Another thing she was grateful for was that this couple had no children. Otherwise, she'd have to carry the burden of buying diapers, milk, and other essentials. If that were the case, she'd make a run for it!
It would be better for her to sleep on the streets than to let them take advantage of her kindness.
She turned to her co-worker, Amelia, who was approaching, panting.
"What is it?"
"Someone came on a motorcycle earlier. I think he's Indian, or maybe I just thought he was."
"He said it's for your uncle's debt…" The woman couldn't finish her sentence properly because she knew Damira would explode.
"Oh, my goodness!" She pressed her hand to her forehead. "Did you pay him?"
"Sorry. I just told him you weren't here yet."
The woman slowly shook her head, contemplating if she had given the right answer.
"Good. Because I wouldn't even pay their debts. It's not just two debts I'm covering for them every week, and..." She took a deep breath. "My goodness, it's embarrassing. I'm sorry, Amelia."
"Why haven't you decided to leave yet?"
"I want to leave."
"Why haven't you left then?" she asked again.
"It's because of my mom..."
"What's going on with your mom?"
She hesitated. "She told me to stay with Auntie until she's okay. I don't have anywhere else to go if I leave. I can't stay in the hospital, can I? I also don't want to see my mom on her worst days. I might not be able to handle it..."
Amelia sighed. "So, what's your plan?"
"I hope someone... someone will take me in so I can leave that house. Even if they make me a household helper, it's okay. They already treat me like one at home anyway. I hope He gives me a reason to leave."
"Be careful, though. Make sure you're sure about what you want to happen. Be careful what you wish for," the woman warned.
"I'm struggling, Amelia. I'm thirty-three. I can't even have 'me-time' because they say I have no right to do that. I just want to rest. I just want to escape from problems that aren't even mine, but I'm taking them on for my mom's sake," she confessed.
The woman fell silent, giving her a reassuring pat on the shoulder before they entered the convenience store where they both worked as cashiers.
Since her mother's cancer had worsened after she graduated from college, she had devoted herself to working to cover her medical expenses. But because they were living with her aunt, her responsibilities had been divided ever since. She hadn't even experienced a single act of kindness from them. She didn't know why. She just seemed to be unlucky in this life.
The married couple heard three loud knocks on the door. They quickly rushed downstairs because it seemed like someone was about to break into their house.
"Do you know him, Ed?" Lorna asked from behind her husband.
He simply shook his head and cautiously opened the door. His eyes widened when he saw who they were. Two men in security uniforms and another man faced them after the door was opened.
"L-Lennon..." he stammered as he struggled to open the door.
"Well, well, you miraculously recognized me, Eddie," the man said, smirking at him. "Do you have no plans to pay your debt? We haven't even added any interest, but you still can't pay for it even after a hundred days," Lennon scolded.
"I-I'm sorry. I can't work right now because I've been sick for several days. If... if you want, go visit my niece. You can go to her—"
The man burst into laughter.
"Do I look like I'm playing games with you? If you can't pay, I'll take you to my boss to explain—"
"W-Wait. Our niece, Damira... she's the one paying our debt. It's true! Even if you ask her, she'll tell you the truth. She doesn't lie. Please..." Lorna pleaded with the man, giving him Damira's workplace address.
Lennon, still holding a stern gaze, looked at the couple who seemed on the verge of wetting themselves with fear.
"If your niece doesn't tell me the truth, you know where we'll meet next, right?" he warned.
The couple just nodded as he walked away with his colleagues. As he got into the car, he quickly read the note written by the woman – Damira Pascual, and the address of the convenience store where she worked.
"Are we going there?"
"Yeah. I just need to check on something..."
Alexander arrived at the Casablanca mansion that evening with a bleeding nose, one eye closed, and a bruised jaw. His mother, Trinity, almost stood up, while Amaury, his younger brother, widened his lips.
"Sorry I am late for dinner..." he said, then moved closer to his brother.
Don Leopoldo's face showed anger, but Trinity touched his hand.
"Where did you get into a fight this time?" he asked in a cold tone.
"I-I just broke up a fight at the bar—"
"You're a bouncer now?" he sarcastically asked, chewing on the sirloin steak served tonight.
"Let's eat first, okay? We can talk about it later. We're in front of the food," Mrs. Casablanca scolded them, and everyone fell silent.
With only two children, it had come to this. Ever since a traumatic incident in Alexander's life, he hadn't spoken to him in private. He had been avoiding him. He knew
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