Scott Manor, Swartz City, Jerseyburg.
It was Mrs. Scott's eightieth birthday. Friends and family gathered to join the celebration banquet in Scott Manor. Everyone greeted her and presented their gifts.
Although the Scott family was not as powerful as the Sampson family, the Granger family, and the Lyons family, it was still wealthy and well-known in Swartz City.
Carlos Lawson arrived late with a piece of artwork after everyone presented their gifts.
Everyone's eyes fell on Carlos as soon as he entered the hall. However, that's not because he was an influential or excellent man. Carlos was a matrilocal son-in-law, therefore he was put into an awkward position in the Scott family. He was an infamous good-for-nothing in Swartz City.
Over two years ago, Master Scott brought Carlos back to Scott Manor. Carolos was a thin and sickly man. Master Scott disregarded Mrs. Scott's objection and announced Carlos a matrilocal son-in-law of the Scott family. Master Scott let his granddaughter, Stephanie Scott, married to Carlos.
Stephanie's mother, Queenie Sanders, even cut ties with the Scott family but Master Scott did not change his mind.
Master Scott's actions shocked everyone. The simple wedding was held in a rush and stirred a commotion in Swartz City, causing the Scott family to be a laughing stock in the upper-class society.
Stephanie was the top beauty in Swartz City. Yet, she was criticized and humiliated for marrying a frail loser.
It was her grandfather's decision, hence she had no choice but to accept it. It was sad but women from wealthy families had no say in their own marriage.
Stephanie decided to occupy herself with work. It would not only heal her heart but also let her stand proud among the others.
She might have no say in her marriage but she excelled in her career.
Initially, Stephanie was working as an assistant general manager in a small subsidiary company under Scott Group. Over two years of hard work, Stephanie was promoted to the general manager of Scott Group. Her achievements shocked the upper class of Swartz City.
Two years ago, Master Scott passed away. On his deathbed, he made Stephanie swear that she would never leave Carlos. Stephanie pestered her grandfather about Carlos's identity but Master Scott kept it a secret. Henceforth, Carlo's identity became the biggest mystery in the Scott family.
Although Stephanie was unhappy with her marriage, she kept her promise and did not divorce Carlos. Yet, members of the Scott family pressured her to divorce her husband.
When Master Scott was alive, the Scott family despised Carlos too. However, they behaved themselves and just gossiped about Carlos behind his back. After Master Scott's passing, Mrs. Scott was horrible to Carlos for ruining her precious granddaughter's future.
Members of the Scott family verbally abused Carlos for tarnishing the reputation of the Scott family. They wanted nothing more than to beat him up and kick him out of the Scott family.
Two years ago, the wedding was held in a rush, thus most of the relatives living outside Swartz City could not attend it. Therefore, it was the first time for most of them to meet Carlos, the infamous good-for-nothing.
"So that's Carlos? He's pretty good-looking. Why was he even willing to become a matrilocal son-in-law anyway?" a man asked.
"What's the point of having good looks? He's weak and frail! He doesn't even have any talents and he's not good at doing business too. He's just living off the Scott family!'' another scoffed.
"What a pity..."
The crowd was gossiping.
For the most part, Stephanie would just pretend not to hear whatever they said about Carlos. She sighed internally.
Stephanie went up to Carlos and took his arm warmly. She put on a faint smile and she seemed to be on good terms with him.
In public, Stephanie and Carlos always behaved lovingly. She showed great respect for Carlos too.
"Did you get the gift?"
Stephanie was sorting out urgent work at the office, thus she did not have time to get a gift. Hence, she asked Carlos to handle it.
Stephanie decided to take the opportunity to introduce Carlos to the family as well. After all, Carlos was her husband and she wanted to change her family's perception of him.
Carlos waved the painting in his hand and uttered, "Don't worry."
"Carlos, is that the gift you prepared for Grandma? You didn't even wrap it. Did you buy it from a roadside stall?" Jackson Scott stared at the painting scornfully.
After realizing that Carlos ignored him, he turned to Stephanie and added, ''Stephanie, it's Grandma's eightieth birthday today. You let that loser prepare the present? How could you do that?''
Jackson was the eldest grandson in the Scott family. Everyone considered him to be the head of the Scott family and the heir to the Scott Group. Stephanie was his biggest enemy because of her achievements for the past two years.
"Look at this antique vase. I got it delivered from abroad. Do you know how much it cost? It cost almost two million dollars!" Jackson showed off proudly. There was an array of gifts placed in front of Mrs. Scott. A huge golden vase stood out among the gifts.
"Not bad!" Carlos always followed Stephanie's instructions and spoke as little as possible.
The crowd in the hall was jeering and snickering. They were making fun of Carlos because he dared not retort Jackson.
Carlos could not care less. He knew that whatever he had been through was nothing in comparison to Stephanie's.
He had nothing to lose. He became a member of the Scott family and even got himself a beautiful wife. She was just his nominal wife and he never even held her hand.
On the other hand, Stephanie was an outstanding daughter of the Scott family. She was a goddess to many men in Swartz City. Yet, she had no choice but to marry a sick and pathetic man like Carlos. Her reputation was ruined and she was ridiculed by the public.
Therefore, Carlos always felt guilty.
Carlos ignored the contemptuous looks from others. He smiled and explained to Stephanie, "Master Blake just finished this painting, so I didn't have time to frame it."
Stephanie was delighted. Her grandmother loved artworks from famous artists. Mrs. Scott was particularly fond of Master Blake's paintings.
Fernando Blake was an important figure among Haldexiale's painters. After he resigned from his position as the president of Haldexiale Art Association, he lived in seclusion near Sisley Lake in Swartz City. The previous year, the mayor of Swartz City went to look for Master Blake at Goldie Lake. The mayor wanted an artwork from Master Blake but to no avail.
Stephanie turned to Mrs. Scott and spoke loudly, "Grandma, Carlos got Master Blake's latest work for your birthday.''
Carlos revealed the painting. Everyone spotted a tall pine tree and a crane on the canvas. It was very vivid and stunning. Master Blake's signature was written at the corner of the artwork.
Mrs. Scott was very excited. She darter forward to receive the painting and admired it with rapt attention. "Stephanie, you did a great job!"
Mrs. Scott utterly ignored Carlos and did not even spare him a glance.
The crowd was in an uproar. Master Blake's artwork was priceless and difficult to acquire. Unexpectedly, Carlos managed to get his hands on it. He was not that useless like the rumors!
Before Stephanie presented her gift, Jackson's antique vase stood out among the other presents and Mrs. Scott praised him for it. He never expected Carlos to steal his limelight. "Carlos, aren't you biting off more than you can chew? Last year, even the mayor failed to meet Master Blake. Are you trying to fool us? The painting's probably fake!"
Jackson did not believe a loser like Carlos would be able to get Master Blake's painting. Even the mayor did not manage to get it!
Jackson had a point and everyone gave Carlos scornful looks.
"How dare a loser claim that he knows Master Blake? What a joke!" someone snarled.
"That's right. I don't think he's even qualified to catch a glimpse of Master Blake!" Stephanie's cousin sneered.
"Master Blake's artwork is worth over millions of dollars. How could a poor guy like him afford it?"
The crowd burst into laughter.
Stephanie explained hurriedly, "Grandma, I trust Carlos. He won't lie about it!"
Carlos said flatly, "Grandma, you love art. I'm sure that you can recognize Master Blake's artwork. Look at this painting carefully, it's really..."
Jackson interrupted impatiently, "Carlos, stop lying. It's easy to forge an artwork. I'll swallow the vase if it's real!"
Carlos tried to explain but the smile on Mrs. Scott's face froze. She threw the painting at Carlos and waved her hand in disgust. "Don't make a fool out of yourself here. Get out!"
Everyone knew that Mrs. Scott did not believe Carlos.
She would definitely choose his precious grandson over a matrilocal son-in-law. No matter how hard Carlos tried to explain it to her, she would never believe that it was a genuine painting.
Even if it was real, Mrs. Scott would never admit it to save her grandson's reputation.
Carlos was nothing but an outsider to the Scott family. He was a good-for-nothing with a questionable character. How could anyone trust him!
Carlos would never resort to lying with a fake painting. However, he could not be bothered to explain because no one would believe him. He smiled without a care in the world and held the canvas carefully. Everyone stared at him disdainfully as he strode out of the hall.
No one cared about Carlos's feelings. Stephanie sighed. Her eyes were sad as her gaze followed his lonely silhouette.