(In a coffee shop, near the window seats are two men in their early twenties: Jaden Cross, the son of the multi-millionaire Edmund Cross, and his friend, Luke Smith, a manager of online influencers.)
Jaden: (sulkily) They're on their honeymoon now. All the way in Bora Bora. I tried to stop him. I really did.
Luke: Why can't you be happy for your old man? He scored a hot young chica!
Jaden: (glares) How would you like it if your step-mom was two years younger than you?
Luke: (shrugs) Eh, I wouldn't mind. She's a fine mamacita, so... (He thrusts his hips and winks) Bow chica wow wow!
Jaden: She's your step-mom, doofus. Not a sex toy.
Luke: (shakes his head) I don't get what the big deal is, man. So, what if she's a little younger? You gotta give your old man some credit for pulling her!
Jaden: Old man... (snorts) That's an understatement. He's just turned 90.
Luke: (whistles) 90? For real? I thought he was in his sixties! That's some good genes right there.
Jaden: He's practically on his deathbed.
Luke: What do you mean? He looks fine.
(Jaden looks at the window for a moment. His mournful reflection looks back at him.)
Jaden: Think about it. If you were an attractive young supermodel, why would you be interested in a dying old man? (Looks at Luke) She's clearly after his wallet. I warned him. Told him it's a sham marriage. (Clenches his fist) And you know what he said? (Air quotes) "You've never been in love before. You've never had a serious relationship. So, what the fuck do you know?"
(Jaden slams the table with his fist, making Luke jump a little in surprise.)
Luke: Whoa... That's peak.
Jaden: (Gritted teeth) He's too blind to see that she's using him. And the more I warn him, the more he pushes me away. (He sighs, running his fingers through his hair) Especially after that fight we had a few weeks ago... I told him to get her to sign a prenup. Protect his assets. Make sure that golddigger doesn't take it all away. It's a smart move, right?
(He looks at Luke, who nods in confirmation.)
Jaden: Then that golddigger pulled out the victim card. She turned on the waterworks and got my own father against me. They made me seem like the bad guy. Ever since then, Dad hasn't talked to me at all. We used to be pretty tight, but now... she's ruining our relationship.
Luke: How do Grayson and Michael feel about this?
Jaden: They didn't care at first, until I pointed out that, if they're not careful, the golddigger might take their inheritance and leave them with nothing. They're selfish. They only care about themselves. They don't give a damn about Dad at all. (Laughs humorlessly) And Dad has the nerve to tell me, "Why can't you be more like your older brothers?"
Luke: That's sad.
Jaden: Mmh. (Sighs) God, I just can't stand her.
Luke: (strokes his chin thoughtfully) If you can't get through to your old man, maybe you could break them up...
Jaden: How am I going to do that?
(31-year-old Jennifer Steele is pacing around the living-room anxiously. Just then, the door opens, grabbing her attention. Entering the room is her 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, returning from school. The girl pauses, instantly noticing her mother's concerned demeanor.)
Kelly: Hey Mom... Are you okay?
Jennifer: Sit down, sweetie. There's something we need to talk about.
Kelly: (fans her face) Can it wait? I need to take a quick shower. It's boiling hot outside.
Jennifer: (firmly) No. It's important we talk about this now.
(Kelly gives her mother a puzzled look. Then she shrugs and throws her rucksack onto the floor, as she settles down on the sofa. Jennifer is continuing to pace around the living room, visibly worried, as a thousand thoughts sprint through her mind.)
Kelly: What's going on, Mom?
Jennifer: I've been hiding something from you all these years. I've been meaning to tell you, but there was never a right time... I should've told you, but I was a coward... I don't want you to hate me. I don't want to lose you too.
Kelly: (frowns) What are you babbling on about? You're making me nervous.
Jennifer: I've waited for too long... I was convinced that I'd eventually tell you on your eighteenth birthday, but something changed. Something I never thought would happen. Time is running out... And it's only fair that you know. You will find out regardless if I told you or not, but I need you to understand my side of things...
Kelly: (sharply) Mom! Stop it! Stop moving so much - you're giving me a headache! Stop beating around the bush and tell me, straight up, what the hell is going on?
(Jennifer stops in her tracks. She walks over to her daughter and sits beside her on the sofa. She reaches out and holds Kelly's hand softly, looking into her eyes with tears rolling down her cheeks.)
Jennifer: (softly) You have a twin brother...
(There is a moment of silence. Kelly is staring at her mother's lips in shock, unable to believe the words that have escaped from there.)
Jennifer: I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I should've told you, but like I said, I was a coward. I didn't know how or when to bring it up. You finally had your life together, and you worked so for hard for it, and I didn't want to take that away from you. And-
Kelly: Is this a sick prank?
Jennifer: (taken aback) What?! No, of course not! I would never joke about such a thing.
(She places her hand on Kelly's cheek. Her daughter moves back, smacking her hand away.)
Kelly: (furiously) So, what happened to him? What did you do?
Jennifer: (looks down) I... I did what I thought was best for all of us. I was only 15 years old when I found out I was pregnant with twins. I couldn't cope with one baby - let alone two! So, I... (ashamed face) wanted to put you both up for adoption. I was hoping to find a loving couple that would accept both of you, so you won't have to be separated, but... that was quite tricky.
(Jennifer wipes away her tears, her hands shaking.)
Jennifer: (pained voice) You have to understand, Kelly, I didn't want to give either of you up... but I felt I couldn't be a mother when I was still a child myself... I wanted you both to have the best life... and I didn't think I could provide that. But... (She takes a deep breath) I quickly became fond of you. The way you wrapped your little fist around my finger, it melted my heart. The way you cried when others held you, but you stopped crying in my arms... In those moments, you seemed so happy and peaceful with me, I felt like.. I could do this. I could be a mother to you.
(Jennifer is fidgeting with her fingers nervously and biting her lip in deep reminiscence. She heaves a heavy sigh.)
Jennifer: Your brother, on the other hand... Poor little thing wouldn't stop crying, no matter how much I tried to hold him and comfort him. He was coughing and vomiting an awful lot. His face was always so red and burning hot. It wasn't long until we found out he had pneumonia. He was in so much pain and I couldn't afford his hospital treatments.
(Jennifer bites her fingernail, as a fresh set of tears roll down her cheeks.)
Jennifer: Fortunately, a lovely couple came along. They owned a cosmetic company together and they were well off. I knew they could cure him of his sickness. They could provide a financially stable life for him - possibly a glorious life. The only problem was, they wanted a son. They've already had three daughters and they weren't interested in having any more. So...
(She looks at Kelly with pleading eyes.)
Jennifer: I understand if you're upset with me... but please... don't hate me. I thought I did the right thing, giving him the best life I could... and I was determined to become the best mother I could be for you. I never forgot about him. I carried this guilt in my heart for years. Some nights I would cry myself to sleep thinking about him. In another life, I would've kept him... I would've been stronger for both of you, but-
Kelly: Shut the hell up.
(Jennifer freezes. Shock is written across her tear-stained face. Kelly stands up, glaring furiously at her mother with her fist balled up.)
Kelly: You lied to me my entire life! You made me think I was an only child! Do you realize how much I've always wanted a brother or sister? And you kept that away from me. You- (Her eyes water) I felt like I was missing something my whole life. Now... it finally makes sense. (Angrily) I had a twin! All this wasted time! How dare you! How could you?! How could you look me in the goddamn eyes and lie to me all these years? What kind of a Mom does that?
Jennifer: Sweetie, please-
Kelly: No! Shut up! There's nothing you can say to redeem yourself. You've crossed the line-
Jennifer: I know you're upset, but-
Kelly: Upset?! I'm so emotionally distraught! Ashamed. Mad. Above all, I'm disappointed in you (exclaims) Everything I know is a lie! I don't think I can ever trust you again. (Crosses her arms) What else have you been lying about, huh? Is Dad a good person, after all? Were you lying about him too?
(Jennifer stands up and slaps her daughter. Kelly holds onto her cheek, stunned.)
Jennifer: (sternly) Don't you dare bring him into this.
(More tears escape from Kelly.)
Kelly: Does that make you feel better, huh? You can slap me a hundred times and you still can't hurt me more than you already have.
(Jennifer's features soften in sadness. She tries to step forward to reach for Kelly, but her daughter moves away from her.)
Jennifer: I'm so sorry... I really am... Please, just listen-
Kelly: Leave me alone! I don't wanna hear your bullshit excuses!
(Kelly runs up the stairs, away from her mother. Jennifer sits back down on the couch, burying her face in her hands and sobbing in distress. Then her phone buzzes with a text message. She reads it and regains her composure. Moments later, she enters her daughter's bedroom, where Kelly is seen lying on the bed, face down, crying her heart out. Jennifer approaches her gently.)
Jennifer: Look, sweetie... I know, I made a mess of things. I shouldn't have slapped you. Sorry won't simply cut it. I lied to you and there's no justification for it. I know I'm in the wrong... and it hurts me to see you hurting. Even if it takes the rest of my life to make things right, that's exactly what I'll do. Starting from now...
(She strokes her daughter's hair softly.)
Jennifer: Your brother got in contact with me. He wants to see us. You can finally meet him, if you want to... The choice is yours.
(In Saana, Yemen, two adult men in their forties, Abdul and Fareed, are engaged in conversation. A young adult woman wearing a niqab enters the room, holding a tray of food. She places the food down on the table, keeping her gaze down.)
Fareed: Thank you.
Abdul: So, do we have a deal? You promise to wait until Halima's 13th birthday before you-
Fareed: Yes, of course. You have my word.
Abdul: Eh, Fahima, bring Halima here.
(The woman exits the room and enters Halima's bedroom. The twelve-year-old girl is sitting on her bed, her legs drawn up to her chest while she's rocking back and forth. She looks up at her mother, tears in her eyes.)
Fahima: Wipe those tears away, child. You must meet the groom.
Halima: P-please! I don't want to get married!
Fahima: Don't be silly. Everyone must get married. It's part of your imaan.
Halima: Can't it wait until I'm older? I want to finish school. I want to have a job. I don't want to get married this quickly!
Fahima: Child, this is your fate. Your sisters have all gotten married. They didn't want to, but now they've settled down. You will too.
Fahima: No buts. It's rude to keep your father and your new husband waiting. Let's go say hello.
(Halima backs away, shaking her head in refusal. Just then, a loud explosion could be heard in the distance. It makes the house shake and the walls crumble. The little girl's eyes widen in fear. Her mother walks up to her and grabs her hand, dragging her out of bed.)
Fahima: (sternly) We have no choice but to do this. It's a scary world out there. Missiles flying over our heads. People being killed and dying from starvation. We're running out of supplies. We need the dowry - and you need a husband who will protect you. We're doing what's best for you. For us.
Halima: I don't want to leave you or Father! I don't want-
Fahima: Do you want to disappoint us? Do you want to anger God?
(Halima looks down, trembling all over. She shakes her head in response.)
Fahima: Then be a good girl, stop crying and do as we say.