MALÚ: The candidate's secret daughter
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Maria Luísa Braga de Almeida is a sixteen-year-old teenager who lives peacefully in Belo Horizonte alongside her mother, Anna Braga, her aunt Aline, and the family friend, Ícaro. Until a tragedy forces the young girl to live with her influential father's family, senatorial candidate Thiago de Almeida, whom Malú had never heard of before. In her new residence in the city of Curitiba, the young girl discovers a web of lies and intrigues surrounding her that had controlled her life up to that moment. Now Malú must unravel the secrets of her past to uncover why her father abandoned her. She must also face what the future holds for her... without her voice.
Belo Horizonte, June 25th, 1998.
"Maria Luísa," Anna says, running her hand over her belly, wearing a beige dress. She is lying on the grass with her boyfriend, Thiago, gazing at the blue sky that Anna believes is the same color as her beloved's eyes.
"What will be the name of our child?" Thiago asks, leaning over his girlfriend.
"The baby's name will be Maria Luísa," Anna replies, smiling.
"My mother will surely love the tribute," comments Thiago, also smiling. He looks at Anna's belly, gently caressing it, and murmurs, "Maria Luísa..."
"Yes," answers the blonde with flowing long hair.
"But what if it's a boy?" Thiago asks.
"It will be a girl," Anna asserts confidently.
"How can you be so sure?" questions the black-haired young man.
"I dream about her," Anna responds thoughtfully. "Every night, I dream about my beautiful girl with hair as black as the night and eyes as blue as this sky. She will resemble you in many ways."
"So, you don't actually know if it's a girl?" Thiago asks.
"No," Anna takes a deep breath while stroking her belly. "Confirmation comes at five months."
"In two months," concludes Thiago. He places his hand on Anna's belly and says, "I hope I'll be back in time to find out the gender."
"You will be," Anna affirms. "I'm sure that by then, your father will be in better health and able to meet his granddaughter."
"You should come with me," Thiago suggests, sitting up. "That way, you would already meet the whole family."
"You know I can't," Anna refuses, hugging Thiago from behind. "I'm in the middle of exams, and my job... they'll probably fire me once they find out about the pregnancy. I need to save as much money as possible."
"I've already told you that I'll support both of you," argues Thiago. "We'll get married, and you won't have to worry about anything. I have enough money for the two of us... three."
"I don't want that," Anna refuses again. "For now, I prefer things to stay as they are. At least until I meet your family."
"Don't worry," Thiago pleads. "They will love you... just like I do."
"I love you, Thiago," Anna declares. "Don't forget that."
"I won't forget," Thiago replies, kissing his girlfriend. "Promise me you'll quit your job from now on."
"But how will I pay my rent?" Anna asks, worried. "Support myself?"
"Here," says Thiago, taking a key from his keychain. "This is the key to my apartment. Stay there until I come back."
"I can't accept," Anna refuses, feeling embarrassed.
"Please, I just want you to have a peaceful pregnancy," Thiago asks. "I'll be back soon, and we'll find a better place."
"Alright," Anna reluctantly agrees, taking the key. "Just until you come back."
"I'll be back before you know it," Thiago assures, smiling.
Belo Horizonte, September 1998.
Anna walks calmly along the sidewalk, holding shopping bags. She's just two blocks away from her apartment. As she turns the last corner, she notices a beautiful black car parked there. She is sure it doesn't belong to anyone on the street, as she has become friends with everyone around. Approaching the car, she sees that the license plate is from Curitiba, Paraná. That piece of information brings a smile back to Anna's face, which had disappeared for a long time. He's back, she thinks, running towards her apartment.
Nervously, she opens the apartment door and realizes the living room is empty. However, there's a different feminine perfume in the air. Anna checks the kitchen and the bathroom, and when she enters the bedroom, she comes face to face with a woman. A woman nearly fifty years old, with beautiful black hair tied in a bun, dressed in a black suit and wearing dark glasses.
"Hello," Anna greets curiously, facing this imposing figure. "Can I help you?"
"Are you Anna Braga?" the woman asks, standing up elegantly. She takes off her glasses, revealing a beautiful pair of blue eyes.
"Yes," replies Anna. "And who are you?"
"I am Maria Luísa Assunção de Almeida," the woman answers. "Thiago's mother."
"Pleased to meet you," Anna says, extending her hand with joy, but she is rebuffed by the woman's cold gaze. "I've heard a lot of good things about you."
"Well... I can't say the same about you," retorts Maria Luísa, making Anna frown in confusion. "My son asked me to come to you and deliver a message."
"That's great," exclaims Anna, placing her hand on her belly, drawing Maria Luísa's attention. "We were worried."
"Thiago told you not to wait for him anymore," Maria Luísa reveals. "He said you should move on and forget that you two ever had something."
"What? How can that be?" Anna asks, shocked. "He can't have said that... He was happy... He was happy about our daughter!"
"Daughter?" questions Maria Luísa, showing a disdainful look. "My son, like me, doesn't believe it's his... How long have you been together? One year... Two?"
"Almost a year..." Anna responds.
"But not a full year, right?" the Almeida matriarch questions. "How can my son trust someone who might be using the pregnancy to take advantage of him? Someone who agreed to live in his apartment and live off him. Look, I know it must be difficult for you after investing so much in my son, but know that you won't achieve your goal. If this child is indeed his, we'll provide a dignified pension. But that's all you'll get from our family."
"I don't want your money!" Anna reacts, upset. "I want my Thiago! Please, let me talk to him. I know it was a misunderstanding."
"He doesn't want to talk to you," Maria Luísa claims. "And now I know why... You are persistent, manipulative... With your saintly face, you poison him against the family. But you can't deceive me. I've met worse than you."
"Please," Anna pleads. "I love him, I never wanted anything from him. I just want to love him and have him love me... And I want him to meet his daughter."
"Don't force a situation, dear," Maria Luísa requests. "Who guarantees me that this child is his? For all I know, you could be with the father of this child right now."
"How dare you?" questions Anna, offended. "I would never do something like that..."
"Well... How will I know you're not like that?" Maria Luísa asks. "After all, you have no family... You could be anyone who just wants to take advantage... A woman of the night."
"Stop!" Anna yells, slapping her mother-in-law. "Never dare to say such a thing about me!"
"Finally, the hollow saint shows up," comments Maria Luísa, fixing herself up. "Give me the keys to the apartment. Go back to the streets where you belong."
"Here," Anna hands the keys to Maria. "You can keep them... I just want you to remember the harm you're doing to Maria Luísa."
"Who is Maria Luísa?" asks Maria Luísa, intrigued.
"Your granddaughter. Maria Luísa," Anna replies, serious.
"Do you think giving her the same name as mine will make her accepted in the family?" the matriarch questions skeptically. "You're foolish."
"You have nothing to do with the choice of my daughter's name," Anna rebuts. "It's the name she deserves... She will be nothing like you."
"Well, Anna," Maria Luísa starts thoughtfully. "I am inclined to make an agreement."
"I don't want any agreement with you," Anna says, irritated.
"It's not for you, it's for this child who is not to blame for anything," Maria insists, bluntly.
"I don't need your charity," claims Anna.
"This child will need support," Maria argues. "So, drop the false pride and accept the proposal that Thiago made."
"Thiago would never make such a proposal," Anna alleges.
"But wasn't it a proposal that made you move here?" Maria Luísa questions.
"It was," admits Anna, bitter. "But it's because of that mistake that I won't accept any agreement... Never."
"I bet you will when things get tough," Maria Luísa comments, narrowing her eyes. "Especially now that you're out on the streets."
"I won't. I'll find a way," Anna retorts, serious. She opens the closet and takes out her few clothes, throwing them into her old suitcase.
"You don't have to leave now," Maria says, approaching. "I'll allow you to stay until the end of the week."
"No," refuses Anna, nervous. She closes the suitcase and faces Maria. "You can keep everything... I just want you to remember the harm you're doing to Maria Luísa."
"As you wish," agrees Maria Luísa, opening her purse. "But in case you get tired of your pride, take my card. When you call me, I'll tell Thiago to send the pension."
"Keep your card," Anna says, holding the suitcase with both hands.
"Young fool," comments Maria Luísa, putting the card in Anna's jacket pocket. "I know you'll call."
Anna turns around and leaves the apartment almost running. She never imagined her day would end like this. She's out on the streets, and she has nowhere to go. She sits on the sidewalk, crying, unable to believe that Thiago could be behind all of this. She places her hand on her belly, where the baby kicks strongly. "Now it's just you and me against the world."
She wipes away her tears and starts walking down the street when she meets Aline, a young woman with red punk hair who lived in the building across the street. Anna was the only one on the street who talked to her. Aline looks at the worried
blonde as she approaches.
"Aninha, are you okay?" she asks, holding Anna's arm as she stumbles. "What are you doing out here? And what's with the suitcase?"
"His mother kicked me out of the apartment, I'm on the streets," Anna replies, feeling dizzy.
"Come on, let's go to my place," Aline determines, taking the pregnant woman's suitcase. "Come live with me."
"You don't understand," Anna says, crying. "I can't pay you anything."
"Anna, don't worry," assures Aline. "One day, you'll repay this favor. What I can't do is leave you here on the street. Let's go."
"Thank you, Aline," Anna thanks, emotional. "I promise I'll repay this favor someday."
"I know," agrees Aline, walking alongside Anna.
The following week, she was called by her boss and fired. The justification was budget cuts and low sales, but she knew the real reason was the unfair uniform she wore. Aline started paying the bills for the house, but Anna didn't like the idea of her supporting all three of them. She needed to find a way out of this situation, but the only way would be to contact Thiago and demand that he at least acknowledge their daughter. However, the phone number he had left was always disconnected.
Feeling lost, she finally remembered the business card that Mrs. Almeida had left behind. It took a few weeks before she called the number on the card. She only did it because they had to move out of the apartment since they couldn't afford to keep it, and she was forced to hear the voice of the woman who had turned her world upside down.
"Maria Luísa, this is Anna," the young woman says seriously on the phone. "We need to talk."
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