Morgan swipes her keycard on her dorm room door and steps inside. She glances over to Sofia’s side of the room which still showed no recent sign of human life in a few days. Her school sketchbook for her art class lay open like it had been before she left. It was a beautiful piece of a tower of some sort… like the one in Tangled. A girl was sketched out in an old dress walking away from the place. Her signature in the bottom left corner. She’ll be back late. Her plane doesn’t land until 10:30-something and she went to JFK, so…
She hangs her backpack up on the designated hook and scurries over to her desk. She scrambles around for the crumpled letter and finally finds it squished in the back left corner of the table about a minute later… other items of interest now scoured around the hardwood.
She forces the paper out of its hold and frantically attempts to uncrumple the sheet of flimsy printer paper. The ink has faded, but it’s still legible. Her father’s handwriting is messy… just like hers.
The first two lines are simple and all they say are, “Dear Morgan. I hope this letter finds you well and isn’t discarded out of spite… if you are anything like your mother when she was a teenager, it would be.”
Morgan takes a deep breath before continuing reading. The second paragraph went as follows, “I do not want to explain anything through a letter to you… why it appears to the unknowing eye that I left your mom. It seems wrong, distant, and overall far too weird to even think of doing. I feel like I have far more respect toward you, your mother, and myself to try to make amends through a page. But a friend of mine suggested I write a letter out, and while I am probably not taking his advice the way he thinks I am, I am still writing a letter.”
She notices that she’s rhymically tapping the back of the page with her fingers as she reads.
The last full paragraph continues: “This is me saying that I am not going to ask your mother to make you talk it out with me or ask you to hear me out… or act like some authority figure in your life other than your science teacher… if she does, that’s all her. Not me. But I am here whenever you are ready to talk to me about my absence in your life. I’m giving you the reins. I know it probably is not an easy topic to discuss and I am very sorry that I had everything to do with it. Believe me, I am. I never even thought I’d get to meet you because of who kept me from being there with you and your mom. If I could turn back the clock and stand my ground so I could be there with you and your mom, I would in a heartbeat. But if you never want to discuss it, that’s fine too. I just want you to know I’m there if you ever do.”
Morgan blinks. “Because of who kept me from being there with you and your mom...?” she repeats through a mumble.
The last line just says “From, Anthony Carbonell, high school academics room 221.”
She lets out a yawn before setting down the letter on her desk and getting up.
She quickly changes into her pajamas and turns in for the night.
Morgan wakes up alone in her dorm to the sound of her alarm going off. She grumbles as she snoozes the alarm before rolling over onto her other side to face the wall.
She barely drifts before it goes off again.
“That cursed catchy blare,” she sleepily murmurs before accidentally drifting off again while the song still plays.
Morgan wakes up again to the sound of birds chirping—not the sound of music—and the sunlight out the window appearing much brighter than before… enough to brighten her dorm.
“Shit, shit, shit!” she yelps as she gets up and looks at the time on her phone. It’s 10 AM! “Why didn’t Sofia wake me up?! Shit!”
Morgan frantically changes into her spring uniform that probably wasn’t ironed out recently and hiked her backpack on her shoulder before grabbing her keycard, shoving her feet into her doc marten flats, and shutting the door behind her.
She scrambles down the stairs and all the way to her Monday second block class. Morgan cringes when she sees the shut door and knocks on it. “I forgot about the shut door policy,” Morgan mumbles as she awaits the door to open.
Sure enough, a moment later, her Monday second block teacher opens the door and the confused look on his face quickly turns to concern. Tony greets quietly, “Morgan, are you alright?”
“Uh, y-yeah, I just overslept. I don’t know how, I-I’m sorry,” Morgan apologizes
“You must’ve really needed the rest, kid,” he says sympathetically.
“I’m really sorry,” Morgan repeats.
“Don’t be. Just go take your seat. If you can stay after class I can print you out a copy of the guided notes,” Tony says, gesturing broadly at the desks with his right hand. “Trust me, you haven’t missed much.”
“Thank you,” Morgan murmurs before scurrying to her desk. God, this is so embarrassing. She looks over and sees another empty desk, Sofia’s. Wait. Why isn’t she here? She was supposed to come back today.
She pulls out her notebook and pens before Tony continues reading out and explaining the notes on the board.
About thirty minutes passes when her stomach grumbles. She sinks in her seat and hides her face behind her pencil held arm from embarrassment.
“You didn’t get anything to eat before you got here either?” Tony inquires, breaking away from the notes.
“No, sir… I was just so focused to get here,” Morgan answers, peeking past her arm that hid her face. “I didn’t even know that the dining hall was open this late.”
Tony sighs before standing up from the tall stool next to the Smartboard. “You all go ahead and jot down the rest of the points on this slide. I’ll answer any questions regarding each point in a second.”
He walks over to his desk and kneels down behind it, where his mini fridge and snacks were stashed—she had seen him in the corner of her eye sneak food during testing a few times. He stands up with a mini can of lemon-lime soda, a bag of tiny chocolate chip mini muffins, and two lone paper towels before walking over to Morgan’s desk and setting the food items down atop of the brown paper. He quietly says to her, “I know it’s not exactly breakfast, but it’ll hopefully get you through until lunch. Just make sure to hide it if Thor or Coulson walk by or sneak in to do a surprise teaching eval.”
Morgan stares at him for a moment in genuine confusion before simply saying, “Thank you, Mr. Carbonell.”
The rest of his class goes by without a hitch and by the end of the class, Morgan’s slow snack munching also comes to a halt.
The break bell rings and Morgan begins to pack her things up, while the remainder of her classmates dart out the door or finish packing up just like she is.
The rest of her classmates file out of the room when she drops her snack remains in the garbage.
“Seems like you had a rough morning. You alright, kid?” Tony asks from across the room.
“No because Sofia normally makes sure I don’t oversleep and she’s not here today apparently… like she said she would be back,” Morgan grumbles as she walks over. “I hate mornings but I hate being late even more. It’s so freaking embarrassing and it makes you look bad on paper.”
“I was actually going to ask you where Sofia was,” Tony notes. “Her dad’s not here today either.”
“You know you didn’t have to do all that for me,” she murmurs. “I could’ve got coffee and a pop tart from the snack shop at the student center right after class… but thank you.”
“I know I didn't have to,” he says. “But I did… because I care about your well-being. You won’t be able to do your best in school if you don’t eat.”
“You’re just saying that because I’m your daughter,” Morgan retorts, folding her arms.
“Contrary to your belief, I’d do that for any of my students… I actually have, about five times before,” Tony disagrees before he walks over to his computer and sits at his desk. “It just so happens you’re my kid, too.”
Morgan rolls her eyes.
As Tony navigates his monitor he hums for a moment. “What’s with the change in attitude all of the sudden? Last I knew you hated me. Did something happen over the break?”
“I’m trying to be civil… because Mama asked me to,” Morgan says with a shrug. “I’m not exactly ready to talk about the whole ‘you are my father’ thing… you know, like you talked about in the letter.” She pauses. “I read it last night.”
He blinks, as if almost surprised by her mentioning his letter… like how he reacted when her mother had mentioned it. The printer to the left of his desk begins to print a moment later before he gets up from his swivel chair and his dumbfounded expression leaves his face. “That’s okay,” he answers. “Believe me, I get it. But I'm ready to talk about it when you are.” He pulls out a file folder from his file organizer and sets it on his desk while the slides finish printing. He picks up the five pages of documents from the printer and staples them together before reaching over his desk to hand them to Morgan.
“I know.” She takes them from him and slides them in her science binder. “Thank you for the notes… and giving me time.”
“No problem,” he answers before looking back at his stash of snacks for a second. “You want a bag of salt and vinegar chips for the road?”
“Sure,” Morgan answers.
It takes a moment, but Tony hands her a bag of chips.
She’s about to walk out of his classroom when he says: “I used to sneak your mom snacks during class when she was late.”
Morgan looks back and lets out a genuine smile.
“Have a good rest of your day, Morgan,” he says.
“You too,” she murmurs before walking out.
When she makes it to the quad, she spots August sitting alone at one of the outdoor tables by a tree, listening to music. She walks over there as she munches on her chips and sits down across from him.
“Hi Aug,” she greets.
“Good morning, sleepy head,” he snarks as he pulls out his earbuds.
“I’m just teasing,” he snickers. “Where’s Sofia?”
“I'm not entirely sure? She hasn’t texted me or anything. That’s actually the reason I overslept…” Morgan admits. “Her alarm goes off at 6:35 and mine goes off at seven as like a ‘late’ warning since breakfast starts at seven… which is the same song and because she’s not here, the 35 one didn’t go off, and I thought it was hers because of the same song choice… and the next thing I knew, I woke up again and realized I slept through first block and half of second. I know she went on vacation and stuff, but…”
“I heard she went to Colorado over the break with her bio parents and her dad... there was a big snowstorm there apparently,” August shrugs. “Maybe her flight got cancelled and can’t fly out until the snow clears. I overheard from a few kids that Mr. Banner had a sub today, so I’d bet that’s what’s going on.”
“Mr. Carbonell mentioned something about them being out when I had to talk to him after class,” Morgan says with a frown. “I hope they’re alright. She hasn’t texted me since she sent the pictures she took at Black Canyon.”
It’s quiet for a little while August scrolls through his phone and Morgan picks at the grass by the cobblestone-like ramp that she sat next to. When Morgan pulls out a blade of grass, she briefly looks up at August… and she can’t explain it, but there’s this weirdly nostalgic feeling in her heart which comforts her more than it scared her.
She speaks up, “August, can I tell you something?”
Morgan drops the blade of grass when he looks up.
“So remember a few months ago when I was gone for a few days and blamed it on familial issues?” Morgan asks.
“I found out who my dad is,” she explains.
August blinks. “You did?”
“Mhm,” she hums. “I walked in on a conversation my Mom was having that I wasn’t supposed to hear and then my whole world just… shifted. It’s like I had to be anywhere but school so I could process what I had heard. I mean, I’m fine now, I think. But…”
“That must’ve been hard,” August says sympathetic. “Are you and him on good terms now or…?”
“I don’t know.” Morgan shrugs. “I went all my life thinking he abandoned me because he didn’t want me and now my mom’s acting as if that is not what happened but she won’t tell me what actually went down. My Dad said he’s willing to tell me whenever I’m ready to hear him out, he’ll tell me… but I feel bad that I’m not ready to know just yet, you know? Like what could possibly keep him away from me other than not wanting a baby?”
“I get you,” he says. “It’s nice that your dad isn’t making you feel pressured to have an open discussion about it. It’s good to have an option to decide when you are personally ready to discuss a topic that may be difficult to talk about… you know, like your situation with your dad or anything else.”
“I suppose.” Morgan nods.