When morning came, Imelda noticed a few things when she woke up.
The first thing she noticed was how Héctor seemed to be more…worn out than usual. There were bags under his eyes, and when she saw them open, they were bloodshot. It was very concerning.
"Ah, good morn—" he didn't finish his sentence, as he started coughing.
"Héctor, are you okay?" she asked.
"I'm fine," he replied, with a wave of his hand. It didn't sound very convincing, though.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Imelda questioned.
"Yes, I'm fine." Héctor then got out of bed, walking towards the door. "I'm…going to make some breakfast," he said slowly, before he opened the door and walked out of the room.
Imelda stared at the doorway for a few minutes, registering how strange her husband's behavior was. He never lied to her before, so why the sudden change now? It just didn't make any sense to her.
However, there was one thing she knew for certain: she would have to find out what was going on with him, one way or another.
Héctor tried his best to push the memories of last night to the back of his head, but he couldn't – no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop thinking about what had happened.
He'd trusted Ernesto, he thought he was his friend – and yet, it turned out that after all this time, he really was just using him. Ernesto didn't care about him – only wanted to make profit off of the songs he wrote for his daughter. They were never meant to be heard by the public in the first place.
How foolish he had been, to have accepted Ernesto's offer. If he'd just realized the truth sooner, then maybe he wouldn't be stuck in this situation now.
And the worst part of it all was that Héctor had doubted his wife when she had expressed some distrust in Ernesto. He had insisted Ernesto was a good man – when all this time, he wasn't. Imelda was right all along, and yet, he couldn't even apologize to her for not believing her at first. God, what he would give to go back in time and stop this mess from ever happening…
Héctor's thoughts were interrupted as he heard little footsteps rush down the stairs.
"Papá, Papá!" Coco cried out as she ran to her father.
"Yes, mi hija, what is it?" Héctor looked down at his daughter, just as she began to tug on his pants.
"Can you teach me how to play the guitar?" Coco asked, looking up at her father.
"Yes, of course," Héctor answered. He smiled down at his daughter. Even in harsh times, she was his light – his pride and joy. And because she was his pride and joy, he would endure anything just to make sure that she and her mother were safe.
Coco smiled and hugged her father's legs. "Te quiero, Papi."
Héctor knelt down and picked up his daughter, hugging her properly. "Yo también te quiero, mi niña."
The two turned, only to see Imelda standing by the doorway to the kitchen, with a small smile on her face. "You're both too precious," she said.
"Mamá!" Coco ran over to her mother and hugged her legs. "Papá is going to teach me how to play the guitar!"
"Is he, now?" Imelda asked, looking at her daughter, before she looked at Héctor.
He nodded. "Yes, this afternoon—"
"—ah, so good to see that everyone is awake," a familiar voice interrupted.
Both Imelda and Héctor frowned as they saw Ernesto walk in.
"What, no 'buenos días'?" Ernesto asked, pretending to look hurt by the couple's silence.
"Buenos días, Tío Ernie," Coco said, smiling at the man.
'No. Not 'tío.' He's anything but an uncle,' Héctor thought, recalling how Ernesto had threatened to hurt Coco the night before. But he could not object to his daughter calling the traitor 'uncle,' because he couldn't let his suffering be known. All he could do was remain silent about it.
"Buenos días, Coco," Ernesto said, his voice sounding saccharine sweet.
"Tío Ernie, Papá's going to teach me how to play the guitar this afternoon!" Coco exclaimed as she waved her hands in the air, excited.
Ernesto paused, before he chuckled a little. "Oh – oh no, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your padre will be very busy this afternoon."
Coco's smile faded as she looked at her dad for a moment. "Why?" she asked, turning back to Ernesto.
"He's going to be writing some songs," Ernesto explained. "Helping out a fellow musician. You understand, don't you?"
Coco looked at the ground. "I…I guess…" she murmured, sounding a little disappointed.
Héctor tried to hide a scowl by biting his lip. Anger swelled inside him. This wasn't part of the deal – not once, did Ernesto mention that he wouldn't be able to spend time with his family; his own child. Not once did he give him a specific time to write the songs, he merely just said he'd do it.
Imelda walked over to her daughter and knelt down to her level. "No te pongas triste, hija mía." She patted the little girl's shoulders. "If you'd like, we can spend time together while Papá…" she hesitated for a moment to finish the sentence. "…finishes his job."
Coco's eyes lit up, and she nodded. "Okay."
Héctor looked at his family, smiling sadly. He glanced back at Ernesto, who gave him a smug look.
The days to come after this one would be hell. He just knew it.
(End notes: I swear, this has a happy ending. I promise, it ends happily.)