“I’m dead,” Mari said, sitting on the couch next to Cris. She let out a huge sigh and leaned back.
“What happened?” Cris asked without taking his eyes from his phone.
“Nothing, just this huge job.” She rubbed her eyes. “I thought the Olympics meant vacation for those who didn’t go.”
Cris snorted. “If grandma hears this, you’ll get a huge lecture.”
“Shut your mouth,” she said, pushing Cris with her leg. “What are you doing here, little cousin?”
“Waiting for dad to bring me a file.”
“Oh yeah. They’re assigning a new athlete to you. What’s his name?”
“Nelson,” Cris answered. He searched the name on the internet and showed a news with a photo. “I don’t know anything about him, but this is the guy I’ll be managing.”
In what seemed like a huge effort, Mari moved closer to her cousin. When she saw the photo, she took the phone from his hands. “Wow, he’s hot!”
“Can’t deny that,” Cris said, pulling his phone back with a smile.
“Ah, ah,” Mari sighed and leaned back on her seat. “I’m so jealous. When I was a manager, I never took care of a hot guy. The most memorable one was that girl who could break me like a twig.”
“Oh yeah. I remember her.” Cris laughed and put the phone away. “Anyway, from what I heard, he’s a good guy. I deserve someone like this after that girl. And dad already warned me to not go overboard. Especially after that guy…”
“He was worried about you. We all were, but uncle… I had never seen him so furious…”
“Is that so?” Cris tried to keep his expression neutral, but it was hard to keep his smile under check.
“Hey, show me that pic again.” When her cousin pulled the phone and showed to her, Mari widened her eyes. “Is this Nelson the one from that car crash?” Cris nodded and Mari whistled. “Assigning you someone who hasn’t been in the pool for so long…”
“Yeah… No pressure at all on us,” Cris said with a weak and hollow laugh.
“That has to be grandma’s doing. I’ll bet she has expectation that you can help him.”
“You know what? It’s amazing you managed to say that with so much sincerity. For a moment I almost believed in you.”
“You know me. Always sincere.” Mari smiled.
“More like always making people uncomfortable.”
Mari opened her mouth to reply, but before she could say anything else, a voice echoed through the living room.
“But Grandma! That’s not fair!” their cousin’s voice echoed from the corridor.
“Speaking of the devil,” Cris muttered as a girl came trailing after their grandma. Mari sniggered and covered as a cough.
“My decision is final,” the old woman said in a dignified manner to the girl. The girl ran and stood before the grandma.
“Please, listen to me! It wasn’t my fault! Can’t you just—”
“I had warned you. More than once,” the woman interrupted her granddaughter with an icy voice. She stood to her full height, and on the heels, she towered the girl. “Your performance has been mediocre, at best, and you never listened to your superior’s feedback. You were late several times and even chose to ignore when your father told you not to go to that party yesterday.”
“I was just celebrating after a hard exam.”
“You missed your work for no decent reason. You’re no longer an intern at our clinics.”
“Please, grandma! How do you think it’ll look when people see I was fired from an internship at my own family’s clinic?”
“You should’ve thought about that before. You didn’t take college nor the internship seriously just because you assumed we would do something for the family.”
“Please, grandma. Can’t you give me a second chance?”
“We gave. And you wasted it. I’ll tell you this, again. The Prado Maranhão family got where it is because everyone worked hard. Even if it’s family, we won’t tolerate anyone who’s doing a mediocre job and has no intention of improving.” The woman walked away, leaving the young one crying.
Their grandma walked towards where Cris and Mari were. Without realizing, they both sat straight and waited in silence until she spoke.
“Marina, how was the preparations?”
“All done, grandma. I’ve done the makeup of the synchronized swimming teams and they went to the photo shooting moments ago.”
“Excellent. Those girls are talented, but they need more confidence. The photo shooting and the joint training with the American sub-15 team will help,” the grandma said with an approving nod. “I’m really glad Marla suggested that.”
“Yes. Ford coach said the same thing. And told me to send you a hug.”
“I’ll talk to her as soon as I can. She’s a good friend.” Grandma showed a gentle smile. Then she turned to her grandson. “And Cris?”
“Yes?” The boy gulped when he met her eyes and the smile vanished.
“You’ll be managing Nelson Cieller as of tomorrow.” It wasn’t a question. “There’re expectations that he’ll get back soon. That boy has some talent, but we don’t know how he is after the accident. His national score is terrible after almost a year out of the competitions. It’s possible he might not go to the World Aquatics Championships next year.”
“Wait, but is his contract until—”
“Yes, until the Championship. But if he doesn’t qualify, the contract will be terminated. I’d like to keep him, but he needs to show he can swim at the same level. I expect you’ll help with the seriousness of the situation and dignity of your name,” she said before leaving.
They stayed in silence until the head of the family was completely out of earshot.
“Ouch. Always harsh with the worlds, our grandma,” Mari said, shaking her head.
“I don’t know why they made me manage him…” Cris leaned back on the couch and rubbed his eyes. “He should be assigned to a real manager. Someone who can really help him… Or maybe, despite grandma’s word, the border doesn’t really have any more expectations on him… or me…”
Mari stared at her cousin for a long time before took a deep breath and standing up. “Then it’s up to him to show they’re wrong. You’ll help him and show that he’s still the prodigy boy.”
“Yeah…” Cris stared at nothing, not noticing his cousin had stood up. “But I don’t even know if he hasn’t given up yet… how many times we’ve had athletes giving up after such injury?
“Come, little cousin,” she said, slapping him on the knee. He looked up at her and then she pulled him. “Talking about it won’t help. Instead of thinking by yourself, how about meet him and see it for yourself?”
“Yeah… don’t tell your dad, but they athletes are having a party today in the boy’s dormitory. I’m pretty sure he’ll be there.”
Cris wondered for a while. “Guess you’re right. I’d like to see if he’s gonna give his all to go to the WAC.”
“Great!” Mari smiled and started leading Cris. “Then we should go shopping!”
Cris looked puzzled “Huh? Why?”
“It’s to celebrate your new start,” she said full of enthusiasm. When Cris didn’t show the same, she added, “you need to give him a good impression. Yes, that right!”
Cris looked at her with an empty expression. But then he sighed and smiled. “That must be one of the lamest excuses you’ve used to drag me to the mall. But I do need a new swimsuit.”
“What? Already? Didn’t you buy one like two months ago?”
“It already needs some patching,” Cris said, emphasizing the word.
“And how come a new swimsuit already has holes in it?” Mari narrowed her eyes, but there was an understanding smile on her lips.
“Normal wear and tear,” Cris said, shrugging his shoulders with a sly smile.
“Cousin, I’m starting to believe you’re the one with the fetish.” Mari showed an expression as if she had suddenly understood. “It’s hard to believe every guy you hook up wants to sleep with you only if you year a girl’s swimsuit.”
“After so many years in this world, I’ve learned sometimes is best to say nothing.” Cris looked at her and then they both laughed a moment later.
“Before we go, let me do your makeup.”
“Why would I need makeup to go shopping?”
“’Cause I’m still in work mode,” Mari said enthusiastically, dragging him to dressing room she used to work.
Cris sighed and let himself be dragged. They reached the room and she made him sit on the chair before the huge mirror. He leaned closer so she could put on the lipstick. “I can’t believe I let you do this ever since we were kids.”
“Oh, stop it. Like you don’t like it.”
“Getting used to it doesn’t mean that I like it,” Cris lied.
“So you’re telling me you don’t like looking cute to go meet a new boy?”
“Hurry up and finish.”
“Yes, yes,” Mari said, humming as she worked.