Chapter 1: 1.
“Moooom!” Morgan yells from across the room with an enveloped piece of mail in her hands as she closes the front door. She sees the school bus drive away from her cul-de-sac just before she turns around and haphazardly drops her backpack on the couch.
Pepper doesn’t come out of the office or laundry room or down the stairs from her room.
“I’m home!” Morgan calls again. “Got the mail on the way in. Something from Woodvale Academy came today!”
Morgan tilts her head in confusion before grabbing an oats and honey granola bar from the tiny container on the kitchen island with her free hand… the red and gold envelope still held tight in her right hand. She unwraps the granola bar as she walks down the hallway.
Before she pushes open the office door with her left hand, she tilts her head back to readjust her glasses, and takes a bite of the bar. Mom’s not there.
Morgan continues to walk down the hallway just a bit and gently nudges the laundry room door open. Not there either.
She turns back around and takes the stairwell up to the second floor of their home before walking toward her mother’s bedroom, which was adjacent to her own.
Morgan takes another bite of her snack and pushes open the already cracked door. Bingo.
Her mother with the iconic tousled bright ginger hair was laying on her stomach, asleep as she hugged onto her throw pillow. A quiet and low snore came as Pepper breathed.
“Mom,” Morgan whispers.
She doesn’t stir.
“Mom,” Morgan repeats, just a little louder.
A oh-so-tiny stir.
“Mama,” the fourteen-year-old says in urgency at what one would call an ‘inside voice’.
Pepper’s eyes flutter open then and she glances at her ambitious teenager. “Hello, my lovely daughter,” Pepper greets Morgan just before a yawn escapes. “How was school, hm? It’s the last day, that means it had to be at least a little alright.” She sits up and pats next to her with her left hand.
“It was okay,” she says. Morgan goes around the bed and sits next to her mother in criss-cross. “How was your day off?”
“Refreshing,” Pepper recalls. Pepper’s day off was reserved for laundry day, a day to catch up on sleep, and mother-daughter movie night. “It’s nice not feeling like a chicken with my head cut off for once. Everyone who said being someone’s P.A. would be an easy job needs to walk a mile in my shoes.”
Morgan snickers before taking a careful bite out of the granola bar. “They might be right, but it may just be the crappy man you’re working for that makes it hard.”
“At least he pays me well and gives me a three day weekend,” Pepper shrugs. “Plus he's amazingly generous with my PTO.”
Pepper’s eyes spot the envelope. “What’s that, eh?”
“I got a packet from Woodvale…” she says quietly, lifting it up just barely for her mother to see.
“It’s sealed,” Pepper says. “Open it!”
“But what if I didn’t get in?” Morgan squeaks.
“It’s a packet.” Pepper raises a brow. “Packets almost always mean good news in regards to a school.”
“But they do that for everything! For the anonymity of it all,” she shrugs.
Pepper rolls her eyes and reaches for it. “I’ll open it for you then.”
Morgan’s eyes widened and quickly snatched it back from her mother. She stammers, “N-No, no I can open it. It’s fine!”
Pepper holds in a chortle and hums, “Mhm. Thought so.”
“Can you hold this?” Morgan asks as she holds out the half unwrapped granola. “For just a minute.”
Pepper takes the snack without another word and sits it on her nightstand.
Morgan carefully pulls the tab on the decorative bubble mailer.
She pulls the first item closest to her out of the envelope and immediately skims the page. She mumbles incoherent statements as she goes, speeding up her reading speed with each passing sentence. “—we are pleased to offer you, Morgan H. Potts, transferable admittance to Woodvale Academy’s secondary program as an incoming freshman!” She shrieks in excitement and hugs her mother close.
“I knew you could do it,” Pepper enthuses. “I’m so proud of you!”
“Stop it,” Morgan mumbles.
“What? I am!”
“I know, but still.” Morgan shrugs with a small smile as she sits back up. She pushes back up her glasses that had fallen down the bridge of her nose due to the hug.
“Continue reading,” Pepper says. “You applied for a scholarship, remember?”
Morgan continues to skim the page. “Hm… classes will be assigned before August begins as long as tuition has been covered—“ She skims the page just a bit more. “—roommate and dormitory assignment will be posted in my Woodvale Student Portal in early August if we complete the housing form before the end of June. If not it’ll be delayed a little bit.” She sighs. “Nothing about scholarships.”
Pepper hums before asking, “May I see the envelope?”
“Sure,” Morgan says as she hands her Mom the red and gold envelope.
She pulls out the new student brochure and sets it on the bed. It said ‘Welcome to the Woodvale Academy family!’ in gold lettering.
Morgan picks the brochure up and flips through it as her mother continues to look for more pieces of information. She taps her thumb against the corner of the cardstock-like paper repeatedly as she read about the student life.
“Goona,” Pepper says calmly, attempting to get her daughter’s attention. Morgan didn’t know how many attempts had been made before she snapped out of her reading.
Morgan’s eyes widened and she looks away from the brochure.
“You have been awarded a partial scholarship of fifty percent per semester,” Pepper reads out from another paper. “Which covers room and board… along with the meal plan and various facility fees.”
“How much will we have to put forward then?”
“A little over five thousand,” Pepper recalls, there’s no sense of concern in her voice.
Morgan blinks. “T-That's a lot.”
“I've got it covered, my sweet,” Pepper shakes her head. “Don’t you worry. That’s what the overpaying doofus boss of mine is for.”
“You know he keeps giving you raises and bonuses because he thinks you’re going to turn in your two weeks notice at any point, right?”
“Oh, I know,” Pepper laughs. “It’s funny watching him squirm, though.”
Morgan laughs too.
“So… Celebratory dinner and movie for you getting into Woodvale,” Pepper says, holding her daughter’s hands in hers. “What are you thinking? We’ve got leftovers from the place we got takeout from the other night… and then I have stuff to make pasta with alfredo and can heat up some mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.”
Chapter 2: 2
Thank you for reading and supporting The Potts Girls series! I’m really proud of what I have written so far and I am very excited for you all to read it.
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Are you nervous?” Pepper asks as she drives through the Woodvale Academy front gate.
“I don’t know,” Morgan says. “Erm, yeah… I guess.”
“You’ll do amazing, Morgan,” Pepper encourages as she pulls into a visitor’s parking space in front of the administrative office. “I know so.”
“Are we supposed to go talk with the headmaster first or get stuff from the front desk?”
“Headmaster first… at least according to the email I got last week,” Pepper recalls as she puts her car in park. She twists the key out of the ignition and turns off the car.
“Did they say what room?” Morgan inquires before zoning out.
“No, but my gut says follow the crowd,” Pepper shrugs as she unbuckled her seatbelt. She grabs her purse and steps out of the car.
It’s quiet and Morgan doesn’t answer.
Morgan looks over at her Mom then, “Uh, yeah. Mhm, sorry.”
There was a line to speak with the headmaster. About four families were in front of the Potts family... and thankfully each family went through the meeting generally quick-like.
An older man with short light brown hair steps out of the headmaster’s office with a red clipboard in his hands before speaking up, “Are Morgan Potts and her mother Virginia here?”
Pepper quickly raises her hand and stands up from the unbelievably uncomfortable brown bench just outside of the headmaster’s office. “Yes sir, that’s us.”
“You’re up,” is all the man says.
Morgan follows Pepper, who follows the man inside the room.
The headmaster looked tall (at least it seemed so—he was sitting down) and had dusty blond hair and along with blue eyes and fresh stubble. He definitely seemed like he could command a room, compared to the person who brought Morgan and Pepper into his office.
“I wish you the greatest of afternoons, Ms. Virginia and Miss Morgan,” the headmaster is the first to speak as he gets up from his desk. He had a booming Australian accent.
Morgan glances at the nameplate on his desk and raises a brow. His name is Thor… Thor Odinson? Like the myth? Morgan looks around at his office room and spots (hopefully) a replica of the hammer atop the filing cabinet.
He shakes her mother’s hand then. “My name is Thor Odinson, which I am sure you probably already know from the electronic letter my assistant Phil sent off last week amongst other very important details. How was the journey? Your file says you live about forty minutes from this here establishment of learning.”
“It was fine, thank you,” Pepper nods as she lets go of his hand. “It’s nice to meet you finally. In person.”
“Hi,” Morgan mumbles. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Odinson.”
“Oh, you’re a shy one, huh?” he inquires.
“Sorry,” Morgan says.
“That shyness will rub right off, I’m sure of it,” Thor says. “I’ll give it two weeks.”
A few minutes pass of chatter before Thor speaks up again, “Morgan, why don’t you go on and sign in at the front? Come back up when you’re done, I need to discuss some things with your mother.”
“Y-Yes, sir,” Morgan nods before shooting an unsure glance at her mother.
Pepper pulls her keys out of her purse and holds them out for Morgan. “If they give you anything to hold, just sit them in my car until I can help you move in.”
morgan nods before taking the keys and walking out of the room.
She grazes her hand on the handrail as she walks down the old-timey stairwell for two floors until she gets to the first. Morgan veers away from a group of younger kids and makes it to the administration’s front desk.
“Hi, I, um… I’m Morgan Potts, Mr. Odinson sent me down to get orientation stuff or something? I-I don’t know,” Morgan stammers.
“The last four digits of your student ID please?” the woman asks.
“2… um, 1-9-0,” Morgan recalls. “Yeah. 2-1-9-0.”
The woman searches something into the computer before speaking again. “Oh, a new student, are you? Welcome. Do you think you could stand on the blue X on the floor so I may take your student ID keycard photo?”
“Yes ma’am,” Morgan nods before looking down to find the X and stands on it.
“You can smile, you know,” she says. “Looks like you lost your last friend.”
When the picture is completed, the woman presses a button on the computer. “Your ID will take a moment to print.” She then walks away for a second and goes through a hallway into another room, leaving Morgan feeling alone in a sea of unknown.
It’s about five minutes later when the woman comes back. She is holding two brown paper gift bags with the Woodvale logo on them. She sits them on the desk. “First bag has the uniforms in which you ordered. You can wear all with or without the jacket and with whatever shoes and hair accessories you see fit, but everything else must stay the same as described on the order form. You may wear casual clothing after class on Mondays through Thursdays, if you wish. You can participate in casual Fridays and weekends if you so choose, but you must obey the put in place dress code for said days… skirts, shorts, and dresses must not be shorter than fingertip length unless you wear leggings or tights underneath. If you wear ripped jeans, rips cannot be above the knee unless you are wearing leggings or tights underneath. No showing shoulders. No unclothed midriff should be seen. No obscene, political, or rude remarks and imagery on your clothing. You are in the ballet physical education track, so you must obey the class’ dress code given by your instructor on days you attend her classes. Understand?”
“Yes ma’am,” Morgan nods.
“The last two things in the bag is your Woodvale physical education duffel bag and your baton case. They are used to hold stuff like your dance shoes, twirling baton, exercise clothes, and anything else you see fit that should find a home there.”
Morgan nods again in understanding.
“The second bag contains your school issued planner, which not only contains a monthly and weekly planner but also the school rules, student code of conduct, schedules for various facilities such as the gym and dining hall, a detailed map of our campus, some important dates, and our mission statement. The next thing you’ll find is your school issued laptop which you will use to complete any assignments that require online work,” she continues to explain. “It also contains physical print outs of the map, your schedule, and other important bits of information to get you through the first few weeks that you can either put on your cork board in your dorm or slip in your backpack for easy access.”
“If you do not know already, you are in the girl’s dormitory called Ambrose Hall. You are rooming with a sophomore named Taylor Banner in room 328. She goes by her middle name, Sofia. Your dorm parent, or resident assistant, is Maria Hill and resides in room 301. You will go to her before going to anyone else if you require any assistance. If you desire to go home for the weekend or will be out anytime during the week, you must let her know of said plans. Of course, there are to be no members of the opposite sex in your dorm room. No exceptions,” the woman says. “Lights out at midnight on weeknights, by one AM on weekends. You may stay up and keep a lamp on afterwards if you desire to study or do anything else… even though you are not suggested to stay up too late, but the main lights must be off by required time if you desire to stay up later. Lastly, you will find your newly printed keycard which gets you in your dorm hall, your room, the dining hall, the gymnasium, and pretty much any building you have been granted access to enter. Do you have any other questions?”
“I can’t think of anything, no,” Morgan shakes her head.
“If you think of anything, bring it to Maria,” she says.
“Welcome to Woodvale, Miss Potts,” she says.
“Thank you,” Morgan nods before she picks up the bags and walks outside to put them in her Mom’s car.
A couple minutes pass when she knocks on the headmaster’s office door before Phil opens the door for her.
“Your Mother and I still have some things to discuss,” Thor greets Morgan upon her return. “Coulson, do you mind doing the intake interview with Miss Potts for me?”
Coulson? I thought his name was Phil.
Phil takes Morgan into the other room and she sits down across from his desk.
“From what I can tell you’re a great student, Miss Potts. You had a four-point-oh GPA at your last school… honors classes under your belt. That’s impressive. Took the PSAT 8/9 at 13 and got a perfect 1520? Your testing scores are unbelievable, 99th percentile!” he says. “Are you planning to take the PSAT 10 when you’re a sophomore?”
“Thank you,” Morgan smiles weakly. “I think so, um, yes. I need to take that in order to take the SAT and Mom wants me to take the SAT and ACT for good measure once I’m a… once I’m a junior…”
Phil writes something down—probably about testing—before speaking again. “So you are obviously a quite bright girl. What brings you here specifically though?”
Morgan raises a brow.
“What do you want to do with your life?”
“Oh,” Morgan says. “I want to go to MIT… wanted to ever since I can really remember.”
Phil raises his brow this time, “Hm, MIT. Really?”
He writes down something again before looking up at her and asking, “For what?”
“Engineering,” Morgan says. “I know that’s vague, but I don’t know what specific type of engineering I’m set on yet. I just know I like robotics and engineering. MIT’s the place to go if you want to get far with that.”
Phil nods. “Well, your A-shift second block and C-shift eighth block teacher graduated summa cum laude at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. Maybe you could bring it up to him after his class one day and talk to him about it? It’s possible he might’ve been a little cautious about his decision at first… might have some advice.”
“Maybe, yeah,” she agrees.
“You must be Sofia,” Morgan introduces herself to her roommate once she steps inside the room, to find an already all-moved-in girl on one side of the space. There were two desks separating each two sides. Morgan sets down two large bags on the empty bed on her side of the room.
“That I am,” Sofia says as she gets up from her bed and walks around the desk barricade. Pepper walks in and sets down the two bags she carried inside. “Morgan, right?”
“Mhm,” Morgan says. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“To you as well.” Sofia smiles before looking over at Pepper. “Is this your mother?”
“Yep,” Morgan confirms.
“My name’s Virginia, it is very nice to meet you,” Pepper greets. “The headmaster said you’re the daughter of one of the teachers here?”
“Yes, the name is Taylor Sofia Banner, but I go by Sofia, Sof, or Sofie, and my Dad’s the chemistry and biology teacher and also head of the high school science department. Bruce Banner.”
“Are you taking chemistry or bio this year?” Pepper asks.
“No… um, physical science I think,” Morgan says.
“Do you have your final pre-drop/add schedule yet?” Bruce asks as he walks out of the high school academics building with Tony following loosely behind. The double doors swing to a close as they leave said doors in the figurative dust. “I usually have it by now.”
Tony raises a brow before speaking, “Now that you mention it, I haven’t. Wonder what’s the—“
A voice across the quad catches him off guard. He recognizes it from somewhere but can’t place why. His vision shifts from Bruce to where he heard the noise—not that he realized it until he saw. He saw a young girl—probably a new student—with dark brown hair and bangs hugging onto her guardian. They were standing in front of the Ambrose dormitory. The girl was wearing black browline glasses that were half slid down the bridge of her nose. He couldn’t get a good look at the mother because she wasn’t facing him. But she had bright ginger hair and a tall stature… she reminded him of his ex, even from afar. Tony wasn’t sure, but he thought the younger girl had said something like ‘I love you too, Mama.’
“—hold up,” he finishes before shaking off the distraction and looking back at Bruce. “I’ll be completely lost in the morning if it’s still not there in my inbox.”
“N-Nothing. Just thought I heard something,” he shakes his head and scrunches his face up. He scratches his dark brown hair with his index finger for a moment. “What time does freshman orientation start again?”
“At five,” Bruce recalls. “It’s almost four.”
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Chapter 3: 3
everyone say thank you to one of my readers for encouraging me to post the third one today.
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
She woke up to the dim sunlight peeking through the curtains, the freshly-unsnoozed blaring of the catchy alarm from Sofia’s phone’s alarm clock system, and her roommate rustling around their room.
She grumbles and rolls over, hiding her face in the pillow with the pink and grey case.
“If you want breakfast you best be getting up and ready to roll,” Sofia calls over. “Starts at seven, lines fill up fast, and it’s only open for forty-five minutes.”
She mumbles an incoherent complaint before pulling herself up and standing up. “I don’t like mornings,” Morgan says as she takes her glasses out of the hard case and sets them on the bridge of her nose.
“You get used to it,” Sofia says.
“Oh, I know.” She says as she picks up her hairbrush. She begins to brush through a knot in her hair. “It’s just been almost four months since I’ve had to get up early for anything. I used to take the bus to school and my house was one of the first stops on the driver’s route. 5:30 pick up every single day on a big yellow bus with no seat belts.”
“Ew,” Sofia cringes. “That sucks.”
“Mhm,” Morgan hums. She glances at her schedule. “What’s your first block today?”
“World history with Mr. Rogers,” Sofia recalls. “I have the same class as you for physical science… because I took biology from my dad last year.”
“Are they sticklers for seating charts?” Morgan asks as she pulls open her closet door and takes out her school uniform. She walks into the Jack-and-Jill bathroom and leaves the door just barely cracked to change.
“Depends on the instructor,” Sofia says as she follows her and leans against the outside of the restroom. “Usually you just pick a random seat on your first day and it’s just an unspoken rule that it’s your spot… you know, until you move to another seat by yourself and the student who sat there before you throws a fit because it’s their seat. But teachers themselves will rarely move you unless you become talkative with a nearby student. Other times they have you pick a number out of a hat assigned to a desk. I’ve heard Rogers and that Anthony guy are like the former. My dad’s one of the hat guys. Why?”
Morgan adjusts her white stuffy polo underneath her black vest and fixes her skirt before pulling her maroon jacket with the school logo stitched with gold thread on the top left corner over her arms and buttoning her coat. She sighs before saying, “I was wondering if we could sit together or something… you… ya know, since I’m, uh, new and don’t know anyone?”
“I’ll save you a seat if I get there before you. You save a seat for me if you get there first. Deal?”
“Deal,” Morgan says as she slips her shoes on.
“Do you know where room 221 is?”, Morgan asks almost aimlessly as she walks into the second floor of the high school academics building. There's a long hallway staring back at her.
A kid stops in their tracks and says, “ The end of the hallway on your left. Closest door to the shorter water station.”
“Thank you!” Morgan yells as the kid runs down the filled stairwell.
She swerves between the bustling crowd and next thing she knows, she’s standing at the entryway of the 221 classroom. Morgan scans around the room that was about half full with two minutes to spare before the tardy bell would go off across all of the campus. No Sofia.
She steps around a boy and a girl who were standing by the manual pencil sharpener and walks over to the middle of the second row, where two open desks sat. She sits down on the left desk seat and sets her bookbag on the remaining free seat. She unzips her bag from the seat and pulls out her school planner and a purple mechanical pencil.
The warning bell goes off as soon as she clicks the eraser twice and barely thirty seconds later Sofia slides in her seat.
“Rogers kept us for an extra three minutes,” she says as she slides Morgan’s backpack under the desk. “How was your first class?”
“About as normal as my old school’s first days,” Morgan shrugs. “Read over the syllabus, go through the school rules in each class, maybe a movie too… I’m guessing it’ll get more hectic as the days drag on?” She pulls the black hair tie off her wrist and quickly throws her hair up in a ponytail.
“You guessed right,” Sofia snickers as she pulls her things out of her own backpack.
A moment later the late bell rings and Morgan hears the large brown door shut right after. The teacher who was dressed in a nice suit, had dark brown hair—just like Morgan—and borderline bangs that swept to the left side of his forehead, and a well trimmed goatee spoke up. “Welcome to my physical science class.” He peers around the room. “So this fine group of kids are the ones I have for my second block on Monday and Wednesday… last one on Friday? That’s wonderful. I haven’t spoken to many of you but from who I have, I’m sure you all will be a great class to educate this year.”
Murmurs go off for a second and after he just barely sits against the front edge of his desk, he quickly drops the pen in his hand on his desk—the subtle sound of the clash against the wood was just enough to quiet everyone. He continues, “Today we’ll go through introductions, take a trip through the syllabus, my own classroom rules, and continue reading that eyesore of ‘Woodvale-Academy-Legalese’... also known as the hoity toity school rules. You may ask questions at any point. Yell it out, raise your hand, I do not care.”
He stands up again and walks to the white board. He picks up a red Expo marker from the metallic edge and begins to write his name on the board with his right hand.
He lifts up the marker from the poorly-cleaned whiteboard after printing his name and turns back around to face the audience of students. Tony takes in a deep inhalation before speaking, “My name is Anthony St—C-Carbonell and I have been teaching here for about four years. I was born in Long Island, New York and completed my secondary education at Phillips Academy in a lovely little town called Andover. My alma mater is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and I have a degree in mechanical engineering from there. I worked in the engineering field in California for about six years before I had a little bit of an existential crisis and went back to school to become a certified teacher, which took about two years. Moved back over to the northeast to teach here and have been grateful for every second.”
A kid on Sofia's right raises his hand.
“Shoot,” Tony says as he walks back in front of his desk.
“Didn’t you use to have another last name?”
Tony’s eyes widened just before he cringes, “Uh, yep. Absolutely. I had sent in the request about ten months ago and got it confirmed about two months ago… not used to it just yet, my bad. Some of you may know me as Mr. Stark, but I respectfully ask to refrain from using said name from now on.”
“Because my dad and I were estranged before he kicked the bucket and I’m closer to my mother,” Tony says with no hesitation. “Should I go in any more detail?” He notices a kid two seats from that boy’s left looked confused or intrigued during his sob story. The same kid he saw yesterday in the quad. Weird.
“No sir,” the kid says before promptly shutting up.
“Anyway, moving on,” Tony continues. “Student introductions, shall we? I need to run attendance and no one sent me my final roster sheet, so… when I call your name, enlighten me on your name again, grade or age since I know not all of you are freshmen, where you’re from, how long you’ve been at Woodvale, and tell me what you want to do with your life… if you don’t know that just yet, which I don’t know how you couldn’t—this is Woodvale Academy, everyone has their futures planned down to each breath, blink, and step, but if you don’t just yet… tell me a fun fact or something.” He looks behind him over his left shoulder and picks up his clipboard. “Adams, Courtney?”
The A names go through rather quickly.
“Banner, Taylor? You’re up, kid,” Tony says.
“So, I’m Taylor Banner, but I go by Sofia... as you know… I’m a sophomore. I’m originally from here, actually… or at least I’ve been told. I was adopted. I have lived in Waterbury since I can remember, though, because my Dad had gotten a job here. I got into Woodvale in seventh grade and have loved every single minute of it,” Sofia explains. “Oh, and I think I want to go to Harvard… like my dad did. Looking into biomedical engineering, neuroscience, or something in psychology. I really just want to help people, you know?”
Tony marks with a check mark next to her name and speaks up, “That’s a wonderful plan you’ve got there, even if it’s not one hundred percent fixed yet.” He looks at the next name. “Callaghan, Aurora?”
“There an Aurora Callaghan here?”
A kid near the back raises their hand before speaking, “That’s my sister. She got moved to your B shift days. I’m August.”
“Oh,” Tony says before marking an ‘x’ by the kid’s name. “Thank you for the heads up, August. You’re next on the list too.”
August introduces himself, “Hi. Well, I’m August… you know that already. Why’d I say that? I don’t know. I am a fifteen year old sophomore and have been attending here since eighth grade. I was born in Temecula, California and moved around here when I was ten with my sister and our parents. I want to attend somewhere that offers a good astrophysics program someday.”
“I’ve heard Harvard has a good one,” Tony recalls as he looks for the next name.
The introductions drag on again. He reads the next name. Potts, Morgan. Potts? Pepper? Pepper Potts? Morgan. Wait. Morgan! Wasn’t Morgan the name we picked—no. It can’t be. They’re in Massachusetts… not here. Not possible. Right? Hell, I don’t know. Probably not. My luck.
He looks up with wide eyes before spitting out, “Potts, uh… M-Morgan? You here?”
A girl, the same one from yesterday practically jumps in her seat before speaking up, “O-oh yeah… um, that’s me. I’m a fourteen year old freshman and this is my first year here. Apparently I’m originally from Massachusetts, but my Mom and I moved down here when I was too little to remember… to somewhere about forty minutes from here in a small-ish town.”
Fourteen. Massachusetts. Only mention of a mother. Tony doesn’t realize he reacts. “Massachusetts?”
“Yeah… around Boston,” Morgan says. “I was born not very far from Boston. Stoneham, I-I think.”
“It’s a lovely place,” he says, voice taut. Wow, Even Stoneham is right. “What’s your plan, kid? You got one?”
“Um, MIT, a-actually. My mom’s friend went there and he tells me all sorts of stories… I really want to go there,” she says. “I don’t know what specifically yet, but definitely some type of engineering.”
He nods. “Well I hope Woodvale can help you get there. From what I can see next to your name, your grades are well within range. You seem like a bright kid, Miss Potts.”
Morgan pulls out her phone as soon as her last class ends and calls her Mom as she exits the front double doors. She walks across the quad and opens the door with her keycard before Pepper answers.
Pepper’s the first to speak: “Hi, honey! How’s my girl? Do you want to tell me about your first day?”
“Hey, Mama! I’m okay… my classes are good,” Morgan says as she walks upstairs and into her dormitory hallway. “My dance teacher is really cool and my science teacher thinks I can make it to MIT if I keep my grades up.”
“He's right, ya know,” Pepper enthuses. “You’re such a smart kid, practically a shoo-in.”
Morgan lets out a short-lived embarrassed laugh as she swipes her keycard on her room door and steps inside. She gently lays her backpack on the floor.
“What? It’s true,” Pepper says.
“No,” Morgan disagrees as she closes her door and lies down on her bed.
“Nonsense!” Pepper exclaims. “So tell me about everything else. Food, the people, I don’t know! God, I miss you, kiddo.”
“I miss you too, Mama. And well, breakfast was good! I had pancakes with blueberry syrup and sausage… orange juice too. It was not as good as your weekend breakfast specialty though,” Morgan recalls. “And lunch was good too. Got a veggie grinder and then salt and vinegar chips—“
“How on earth do you find salt and vinegar chips nice?” Pepper snickers.
“I like to see the world burn, Mom,” Morgan teases.
“You're just like your Dad. Taste in food, music, humor…”
Morgan goes quiet. Dad? Mom never talks about Dad? ...literally not once. Not on her own at least. He abandoned me, or at least that’s what I’ve concluded as to why she won’t talk about him… he didn’t want us. He didn’t want me. Morgan takes a deep breath in before spitting out, “My Dad? H-How so?”
“I was just thinking about him today… not sure why,” Pepper says oh-so-casually. Her tone then quickly turns sour: “I’m sorry I brought him up. It’s nothing, Goona. I’ve still got a few before the boss man inevitably gives me a new dry cleaning order… give me the reader’s digest version about everything else.”
“My dorm parent is really nice! She brought welcome packages for me and Sofia… she got me the limited edition box set of the book series I like! You know, the one with the black covers? I think I’m going to start re-reading it once I get the hang of my schedule and all! Maria got Sofia a vinyl record... Apparently she already has it so it’s hung up above her bed now. Along with the big gift she gave us a first aid kit, our favorite snacks, movies on DVD… kinda like a survival kit, you know? I put the first aid kit in my dance bag,” Morgan explains. “She also came by during my dance class for something and she so obviously has a thing for Miss Romanoff. I don’t think she realizes how obvious it is. They’re adorable!”
“Aw, well I am so glad you like your dorm parent,” Pepper enthuses. “I’ve gotta get going. If you want to chat after you get dinner, I might be able to… just shoot me a text. Love you, kiddo.”
“Love you, too,” Morgan says before hanging up.
Sofia walks in the room a moment later. It’s mutually quiet until she emerges from their bathroom in casual clothes and her uniform draped over her arm. “You want to come hang with me at the student center? Some of my other friends will be there, I can introduce you.”
After changing into jeans and a black pullover, Morgan and Sofia go to the Woodvale Student Center.
“So this is the girl Mr. Stark freaked out about during class today,” the boy, who Morgan recognized as August by the voice, greets.
“Who?” Morgan says as she sits down. “I don’t remember any Mr. Stark.”
“You know, Mr. Carbonell,” Sofia corrects. “His ex shares your last name.”
“Mhm,” the other girl in the group says. “Also I’m Aurora.”
“Nice to meet you,” Morgan greets. She looks over at Sofia, who’s sitting next to her. “Why would he be wigged out by a kid with my last name?”
“My understanding is that they were really close,” Sofia explains. “Even venturing into possible marriage territory. But something happened against his will that forced them away and he’s not exactly over her. He hasn’t dated anyone since her and it’s been like fifteen years since they last saw each other in Stoneham.”
In Stoneham? Stoneham, Massachusetts? Fifteen years? “What’s her name? Do you know?” the youngest teenager questions, there’s worry in her voice.
“Pepper,” Sofia answers.
Pepper? What kind of name is that? So not Virginia. That’s good. “Not my mom. Her name’s Virginia and I’ve never heard anyone call her ‘Pepper’ before. Also, how do you know all this?”
“My dad is friends with him,” Sofia shrugs. “I hear a lot of conversations when he comes over to our house.”
“Oh.” Morgan nods.
It’s quiet for a minute or two.
“Have you told her about the theory?” Aurora asks.
“What theory?” Morgan asks.
“About Coulson,” Aurora clarifies.
“What about Coulson?”
“That he works for some government agency,” Sofia explains through a snicker.
“Why would he work for a government agency?” she questions with a stifle.
“He’s just so different from Headmaster Odinson.” August shrugs. “Like really different. He seems far too stuffy to work at a school.”
“Ah,” Morgan nods. “Funny.”
Chapter 4: 4
i literally picked out the first quizlet link I found for physical science bc I almost failed that class in high school. So I apologize if it’s not advanced knowledge or whatever—just pretend it is if it’s not.
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Alright!” Tony exclaims once he finishes running attendance. “Let’s review for the very first exam on Monday, shall we? We have two options… a Jeopardy-style group game where you… you know, break up into groups to compete for extra credit points... or we can review old-school style and I only give away points to the five kids who know the most. Raise your hand for Jeopardy, keep it down for old-school.”
Out of the twenty kids in his class, 9 raise their hands.
Tony peers around the room before saying, “Oof… pretty split. Introverts of the class, keep in mind that the old-school game may be easier for you.”
Two hands drop back down.
“Wow, a lot of my classes are shy today. Old-school, it is!” he says and claps his hands. He sits down at his desk and wakes his monitor prior to pulling up a PowerPoint titled ‘Physical Science 2A/8C Exam 1 Review’. “I’ll read out each question aloud and you’ll have a minute to think it through… to do the math if there is any, write out the answer… I’ll keep score over here, but to be safe, you should personally keep score for your own answers as well. No cheating!” He briefly points over to the back corner of the classroom. “Go get a whiteboard, Expo marker, and either a paper towel or a tiny eraser from over there. When you come back, write your first and last name up at the top and a spot for score in either corner. The rest of the board is utilized to write out your answer and do the work. If and when you finish your answer before the buzzer sounds and are confident with what you’ve found, raise your hand so I know how everyone’s doing. There are thirty-five questions on my review, but if we finish early and do well, you may either leave early or convince me to come up with more.”
When all of the students return to their seats with their whiteboards, markers, and erasers, and have prepped for the game, he says: “Question one.” He clicks over to the first question. “One car travels 40m due east in 5.0 seconds. What is the car’s velocity?” He clicks on the timer and looks at his students. Each student is scribbling down formulas, equations, and some are even starting to write down an answer already. One girl—Morgan, he notices, is using her pencil in her non-writing hand as a fidgeting tool to focus as she writes out with her other... just like he does when he’s grading work. He notices, too, that she’s wearing an old MIT sweatshirt… like the ones he and Rhodey used to have. Morgan raises her hand a moment later, the first one to do so, with twenty-nine seconds to spare. Shortly thereafter, more hands pop up.
The clock comes to a stop quickly. He says, “Show me your answers.”
Each kid turns their boards so Tony can see them, and he walks around with a clipboard and a pen to write down tally marks.
“Very good, Miss Potts, Miss Banner, Miss Young, Mr. Callaghan, Mr. Hormel… every single person who wrote down any variant of ‘8 meters per second going east.’ That is the correct answer. If you were one of the students to write that down, make sure to count it on your board,” he congratulates, before walking back over to his desk. Tony sets down his clipboard briefly. “Next question?”
A murmur of confirmations bounce around the room as each student clears off their boards.
He clicks over to the second question. “Which term from our vocabulary is defined as an object's tendency to continue its current state of motion?” He starts the timer again.
Morgan is the first one to finish the question again and raises her hand. She reminded him of himself when he was her age.
After confirming that the answer was inertia, thirty-two more questions go on.
“Okay, last one!” Tony exclaims as he clicks over to the last slide. He glances at the clock on the wall. “I’ll even let you out early if the majority of you all get this one correct because I have a faculty meeting right after this and would like a decent seat.” He snickers. “True or false, the force of gravity between you and the Earth depends on your mass, the Earth's mass and the distance between you and the center of the Earth.” He clicks the timer.
Morgan raises her hand second this time, but only trailing behind the first kid by a second or two. Due to a seeming misspelling of some sort… with forty seconds to spare. All hands are raised with ten seconds left.
Out of twenty students, nineteen get the answer correct. Tony beams at the understanding. “I’ve got some pretty smart kids in this class. If you said true, you would be correct. Let me finish these tallies and call out who gets extra credit on Monday before I let you stampede out of my classroom.” He marks extra marks by the nineteen that got the last answer correct. “Mr. Abbot, Miss Banner, Mr. Jamison, Miss Potts, and Miss Sanchez, you will each have five extra points on Monday’s exam. Study the Quizlets and study guides over the weekend, all of you! You are dismissed, and see you Monday.”
Each student packs up their things and leaves.
When Tony finishes picking up the markers, boards, and erasers, he grabs his things from his desk and leaves. He quickly locks the door, practically runs down the stairs, and exits the main academic building. He’s about halfway toward the administrative office, when he gets distracted by the same set of voices he heard a few weeks ago. His student, Morgan, was greeting her mother in the Ambrose Hall parking lot. He still couldn’t logically place why he recognized them. There’s no possible way that’s Pepper. There’s just no way. There’s no way that kid is mine.
He snaps out of his thoughts when their car door comes to an unintentional loud close.
“You okay over there?” A security guard on campus, who Tony affectionately refers to as Happy, says as he walks often to him.
Tony looks at Happy as the two walk. “Oh, um… yeah. There's just a kid in one of my classes whose mother reminds me of an ex of mine and it freaks me out.”
“I thought I heard you say you’ve only dated one girl? Wouldn’t that be her if it was?”
Tony just nods.
“Sheesh,” Happy sympathizes. “I’m sorry.”
“Just my luck,” Tony shrugs. “It wasn’t even my fault that I left, either. Not like she knows it or would even believe me if I ever got the chance to explain the ‘effed up way my father forbade me to contact her ever again.”
“If it’s meant to be, she’ll find her way back to you in one way or another,” Happy says before veering off to another pathway.
Tony hums in agreement before finding his way to the doorway of administration.
“Stop ogling at your coworkers, Miss Romanoff,” Coulson snarks quietly after catching the Russian ballet teacher stare at Maria Hill during the opening statement for the meeting.
Natasha’s eyebrows raise and a light blush rushes to her cheeks as she covers up the cheek visible by Maria with her left hand.
“Let’s segue straight into the subject of next month’s Parents Day, shall we?” Thor continues. “Before someone inevitably interrupts and corrects me… yes, I know it is on the third of November. But the wonderful month of September is over next week.”
Tony scribbles in his meeting notes ‘parents day prep’ and looks back up.
“This year, we are asking all teachers to finish your lesson plans for the third of November by the eighteenth of October at 11:59, along with a comprehensive guide so the parents that will be attending may follow along and read up on previous lesson concepts. Parental guided notes, as you will. We want them to feel as involved as they can be, even though they are not your students, yes?”
Tony murmurs a ‘yes’ amongst his peers as he writes down a paraphrasal of his boss’ requests. He draws out a star next to the October 18th date.
“And again, I know it is early, but the parent/teacher conference window begins the Monday that we return from Thanksgiving break,” Thor says. “Please start planning to send out emails to your students’ parents regarding scheduling before too long. Preferably before the end of October, at the latest early November. Make sure the student may attend the conference at any point during the meeting as well.”
Tony scribbles down a note regarding the conferences.
“Everyone has or will have first exam grades in by the end of the month?”
“You got any homework?” Pepper asks as she drives into their driveway.
“Just studying for two exams on Monday,” Morgan says with a shrug. “Science and then history. But I’m still up for a movie tonight after dinner.”
“Would you like some help studying when you get around to it?” the eldest woman asks while she parks.
“I think I’ve got it.” Morgan unbuckles her seatbelt. “Thank you, though.”
Morgan’s knee deep into her studying at her desk when Pepper walks into the room.
“Morgan, honey,” Pepper says, trying to get her attention. Morgan’s bouncing her leg in an attempt to keep her focus.
There’s no answer as she sits on the edge of Morgan’s bed.
Morgan jumps just slightly before looking at her mother. “H-Hi, Mama. What’s up?”
“Are you going to be okay?”
Morgan tilts her head quizzically at her mother. “What do you mean?”
“In those exams on Monday,” Pepper clarifies. “If you need to be pulled out to take them, you just need to say the word. You shouldn’t have to struggle.”
Morgan grimaces. “Oh. I don’t need to.”
“I’m serious,” she says.
“Everyone there who has ADHD doesn’t need to be pulled out,” Morgan disagrees. “I’m fine.”
“Well you’re not them,” Pepper says with a frown. “You’re you, your own person. You’re Morgan. And the Morgan I know gets better test scores when she has space to focus and go through the questions at her own pace.”
“I’m fine,” Morgan repeats through grit teeth. “If I need help, I’ll get it. But I don’t yet, so I haven’t gotten any.”
“It’s not a bad thing to ask for help, kid,” Pepper reminds as she walks back toward the entryway of her daughter’s room. “It doesn’t make you weak or stupid to notice where you need assistance to better your work.”
Morgan rolls her eyes just before Pepper walks back out of the room.
*sing song* also today is a double update too
Chapter 5: 5
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What is due in the box on Friday when you come in?” Tony asks as he watches the clock in the corner of his eye. “Call it out so I know someone was paying attention.”
“Odd numbers on the worksheet?” August speaks up from the back.
“Thank you, Mr. Callaghan! Complete the odd numbers on the worksheet I handed out to you this morning and turn it into the 2A/8C box in the back first thing when you arrive, alright?” he explains, looking back at the group of students. “You all may start packing up to head on wherever your heart desires for break, but please wait for the bell.” He glances at Morgan, who’s packing up her things. “Miss Potts, once the bell rings, do you think you could hang back a sec? I need to talk to you at my desk. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble.”
Morgan looks up from her backpack and nods. “Yes sir.”
The bell rings shortly after and everyone files out of the room except her teacher and herself. She sees him walk over to his desk and flip through various stapled tests until he finds what she can only assume to be hers, while she sits in the closest student desk to his own.
“I was grading exams today while you worked on your worksheet,” Tony says as he walks over to stand in front of her. “And, I came across yours. A 72 percent? You do great during my class, your online quiz scores are great, your assignment and homework grades are great too… and evidence from your PSAT scores, your other classes here, and grades from your last school you are out of this world amazingly smart. What’s going on, kid?” He slides the test onto the table.
“It’s hard to focus when I feel like I’m not allowed to…” Morgan trails off.
“Stim?” Tony asks.
“I have ADHD,” Morgan admits. “Or at least, some sorta issue with focusing and stimming helps. It took so long to get answers because every psychiatrist I saw said I couldn’t have it because my grades were great. My old school served me for my ADHD, but it seems that Woodvale isn’t… I don’t know. I can stim in class, like during instruction but it depends on the teacher if I can during exams… I kinda got the impression that you weren’t one of the teachers that would be okay with it. I promise I’m trying.”
“I have ADHD too,” Tony sympathizes.
“Mhm,” he hums. “Didn’t truly know until I was nineteen because my father didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. Well, he thought something was wrong with me… but he believed I was intentionally acting out and making his life ‘unbearable’, not that it was technically uncontrollable.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Morgan says.
He shakes his head, “It’s alright. Anything else going on that I could maybe help you with?”
Morgan accidentally peers at his messy desk, noticing the opened bag of salt and vinegar chips next to his computer. Salt and vinegar chips. Mom said I’m just like my dad after I said I had salt and vinegar chips. ...and Sofia said that Mr. Carbonell and his ex last saw each other in Stoneham… my birthplace. Please tell me that’s a freaking coincidence. She grimaces and doesn’t realize that she rambles, “Doesn’t help that for some God-awful reason my brain can’t stop attacking me in this class alone.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Sorry… I-I don’t want to bother you with my personal life, Mr. Carbonell,” Morgan shakes her head when she realizes what she’s said. “My friends a-and my mom are… they’re, um, just weird. I-I love them… but they’re still, erm, really weird.”
“That’s okay, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” he says as he nods in understanding. “Just know I’m willing to listen if you ever do. My first year teaching here, there was a senior in one of physics classes who just randomly started to come into my classroom at least once a week during her break and just vented to me. Apparently I’m a good listener.”
Morgan nods. “Okay.”
“So about that grade of yours,” Tony switches the subject. “I get where you’re coming from and I want to help you. Do you think you’re okay with staying after class on days where we have exams? It runs right into your break and you can leave when you’re done… just tell me you’re leaving so I don’t look up from my desk and freak out because you’re not there anymore. This way you have the ability to do whatever you need to do to focus and I won’t mind and most importantly, you get to change your answers if you notice any fallacies you need to change. I’m making it easy on you today because I went ahead and marked the ones that were incorrect with pencil. When you correct those, you will still get full credit for correct answers unlike regular exam corrections. You’re a smart kid, I don’t want anything to step in the way of where you want to go… MIT, right?”
“I think I can do that,” Morgan nods. “And yes, MIT is where I want to go to college.”
“MIT will be lucky to have you,” he compliments.
She shows off a weak smile. “T-Thank you, sir.”
Tony reaches over to his desk, picks up a pencil from his supply organizer, and sets it on Morgan’s desk. “You think you could go ahead and do this exam’s corrections right now?”
She takes the pencil and all she does is nod.
About twenty minutes pass when she drops her corrected test on his desk.
“Thank you, Miss Potts,” he says. “I’ll email you before I input it into the system so you aren’t blindsided, alright? Have a good rest of your day.”
“Thank you, you too,” she says before walking out of the classroom.
Tony walks upstairs to his boss’ office and knocks on the door before entering.
“Anthony? What do you need?” Thor greets him upon his entry.
“Do you think you could grant me access to see one of my student’s files? She mentioned to me today that she had been served at her old school for ADHD but hasn’t noticed any accommodations happening here yet… I just want to see if it’s outlined in her expansive file and why it hasn’t been brought up if it is there,” Tony explains, halfway lying. He had been wanting to look in her file since the day she showed up in his class because he just wanted to make sure she wasn’t his daughter… but didn’t have a logical, school related reason to look at it until now. “Her name is Morgan Potts?”
Thor shrugs, pulling out a key from his desk. “I feel like if it was, we would be serving her accommodations. But you can find her under the G-P section in the freshmen students filing cabinet,” the man says. “Tell me if you find anything and I’m willing to discuss with you how we can bring forth accommodations for her. Bring it back here once you’re done.”
“Thank you, sir,” Tony says before taking the key and finding his way to the filing cabinet in question. He unlocks the drawer and flips through the files until he spots the manila folder that says ‘Potts, Morgan H.’
He locks it back before setting the key on his boss’ desk and walking out back to his classroom.
He sits down at his desk and flips it open.
The first thing his eyes dart to… ‘Active Legal Parent/Guardian 1: Virginia A. Potts. Active Legal Parent/Guardian 2: Not Applicable,’ written in Pepper’s handwriting. He blinks, staring at the two photos pinned on the top paper with paperclips. His ex-girlfriend and daughter.
Morgan’s birthday’s June 18th, 2003. She was born in Stoneham, current permanent residence is in a small town he barely recognized the name of outside of New Haven.
“She’s my… my daughter. My kid. O-Oh my God,” he stammers, briefly pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand when he feels tears brim and a headache oncoming.
Tony flips the paper over and skims it. He sees her test scores and previous grades from her old school among some other things that he has access to normally.
He flips the page. Tony reads through every interest, things she likes and dislikes, and every fun fact about his daughter that is outlined. She took dance with a small studio from the age of three to thirteen. She prefers young adult fiction compared to the classics you have to read in school. She likes collecting record vinyls. While not allergic like her mom, she hates strawberries. She hates country music unless it is old Taylor Swift or ‘nothing like that I lost my dog and my girl and now I’m going drinking crap’. Morgan likes 70s and 80s rock and pop, some modern alternative and some recent pop. She notably likes veggie grinders from a small shop in her town and bitter foods… such as salt and vinegar chips. She knows how to play piano and the violin. There’s so much on this page...
He doesn’t realize that a tear has etched its way on the folder until he flips the paper. He wipes his eyes before reading. Sure enough, there it was… Morgan Hope Potts was diagnosed with ADHD through the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria by Dr. Mary-Anne Hollis, DO at the age of eight. “She was served accommodations at her elementary and middle schools upon diagnosis,” Tony reads off. “Why isn’t she getting them now?”
“Why isn’t who getting what?” Bruce’s voice comes from the doorframe of Tony’s classroom.
“A kid in my class has diagnosed ADHD but isn’t getting the accommodations she needs,” Tony explains.
“That’s because we don’t have co-teachers,” Bruce says with a shrug. “May I come in?”
“I had a kid one year with ADHD, too,” Bruce recalls. “I had him stay after class to finish his exams in a quiet space where he didn’t feel like he couldn’t stim… I mean, I had to get Thor’s permission first, but once I did, it was okay.”
“That’s what I’m offering Morgan to do,” Tony says.
“You can always email her other academic teachers and ask them if they’re on board with it also,” the older teacher suggests. “You could get her exams from them and return the corrections to their box sometime before grades are required to be in the system.”
“She only seems to have issues in my class, though.” Tony frowns. “Good grades in every one including the exams, even mine minus the original exam grade from Monday… She participates in class, knows what she’s talking about when she’s allowed to click her pen, bounce her leg, or listen to music. But when that’s all taken away, she freezes up. I’m just trying to make it easier on her by giving her some time to fix her answers before she turns it in. Like today, when I let her correct her answers, her grade went from a 72 to a 98. She knows her stuff.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Bruce says.
“I just want my kid to succeed.”
Bruce blinks. “Your what? That’s your daughter?”
Tune in next week for a very special chapter that will change EVERYTHING.
Chapter 6: 6
“Mama!” Morgan exclaims as she runs into the dining hall common area and hugs Pepper tight.
“Hey, kiddo,” Pepper enthuses as she reciprocates the hug. “You see me every weekend, why all the fuss today?”
Morgan squeezes her mom a little tighter in their embrace before letting go. “You get to hang out with me all day and meet my new friends and see what my teachers are like and—“ She takes in a breath.
“I just miss you!” Morgan says with a small smile. “I can’t wait to come home for Thanksgiving.”
“Well, I miss you too… and me too,” the eldest woman says. “You have new friends?”
The teenager nods her head excitedly before grabbing Pepper’s right hand and practically dragging her into the bustling dining hall.
Morgan stops abruptly at a circular table near the back of the dining area. “Mama, this is August and his sister Aurora, they’re twins… August, Aurora, this is my mom and her name is Virginia. And, Mama, you know Sofia.” She points to each person.
“It’s nice to meet you, August and Aurora,” Pepper greets them as she sits down. “How are you, Sofia?”
“It’s nice to meet you,” both the twins say one after the other before briefly shooting each other a look.
“I’m fine,” Sofia says with a smile. “How are you, Ms. Potts?”
“I’m quite well, thank you,” Pepper explains. “Just a little tired from driving here so early.” She picks up her to-go cup of coffee and takes a sip.
“Very good,” the dance teacher says at the end of a run-through of a ballet number. “Bailey, make sure to keep your shoulders from hunching during any leaps or jumps. Kathryn, don’t swim out of your turns, it’ll help you keep your balance. Otherwise, a wonderful run through today. I’m fairly confident we’ll be perfect for competition season. Go get changed for your next classes in the dressing rooms while I talk with all the parents that showed up today, hm?”
The ten students scurry from their ending poses and go through a door that Pepper can only assume leads to the dressing rooms.
“Thank you for coming out here to see your child’s progress today,” Natasha says. “I’ve had such a pleasure getting to help your kids grow in their dance skills this year. They’re all very sweet and have bright futures… whether in dance or something else. Does anyone have any questions for me?”
Pepper glances around the room and no one’s speaking up or saying anything.
“Okay, well… I normally do not do this, but I will be giving out two solos for this group because of how well put together this group of kids have been. I have not made a clear decision yet on who to give them to, but you will receive an email about it if your child has been chosen,” Natasha explains. “And as always, shoot me an email if any question pops up. I don’t always answer right away, but I will get to it as soon as I possibly can. I hope you enjoy the rest of parents day.”
Morgan walks out of the dressing room a few moments later, back in her blue MIT sweatshirt, black jeans, and shoes rather than her ballet uniform.
“So who do you have next?” Pepper asks as she walks out of the physical education building.
“Mr. Carbonell,” Morgan recalls as they pass a group of kids and their parental figures. “He’s my physical science teacher. The one who’s helping me with my ADHD.”
“Ah, yes.” She nods. “From what you told me, he seems very kind.”
“He is,” the teenager agrees.
It’s a couple more minutes until the two are in his classroom, and Morgan hands Pepper the parental guide that was on her desk.
The late bell rings and the teacher has yet to show.
He practically runs in the room a minute later with a stack of papers in his hand. It’s not until he faces his class when Pepper realizes who he is. She tries to seem calm as she sits in the back, but there’s still anger rising in her heart and tears trying to brim. It’s him. Morgan’s dad. No wonder he's being so nice to her. Wait. Why is he going by his mother’s maiden name?
“I’m really sorry,” is the first thing he says. “I had to run to the teacher’s lounge to make more copies of today’s study guide because I apparently didn’t make enough the first time.” He hands the stack of papers to the front column closest to him. “Take one and pass it behind you if you don’t have it on your desk already. When it gets to the end, pass it to the row next to you and repeat.”
He looks up and the ex-couple make eye contact. His eyes widened, just barely. Before he scrunches his face and stammers a little and looks away, “W-Welcome to, uh… to p-parents day! Since today is a ‘short day’ and we have an exam next Monday, we’re going to do a slightly altered version of our group review game which will get to include the parents. These past few weeks we have been discussing the different types of energy, various machines, work-energy theorem, and many other topics, which this game should help your children remember such topics in a fun way.” He pauses for a second. “To my students, you may go ahead and break up into four groups of five and each parent please find which group your child has flocked to. Similarly in games such as ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,’ there will be a ‘phone a friend’ option today. You may reach out to any single parent of the group you are in for help if the entire group has yet to come up with or agree to a single answer each round. But only one.”
God, he recovers fast.
The next twenty-something minutes drag on like time does in a Disney line.
Pepper hesitantly looks at the analog clock at the front of the class and gets up from her seat. She taps Morgan’s shoulder. “I’m going to go heat up the car and pull it around to your dorm so you don’t have to walk all the way to the dining hall, okay? Hope your group wins, kiddo.”
Morgan looks over her left shoulder and furrows her brow before answering. “Uh… okay. You alright, Mama?”
“Just making dismissal easier for you, hon,” Pepper lies, briefly cutting her eyes over at her old flame who was glancing at her too. “I-I’m alright. Don’t worry about me.”
Pepper slinks out of the room a moment later.
But it’s not until she makes it to her car when she breaks down. Followed by the slam of the car door and the turn of the keys, she lets out a short lived piercing scream… and the gates to the flood draw open. There’s a thousand and more words floating around her head in jumbled gibberish. “He left us,” she breathes out. “He left h-her.” She takes a shaky inhale. “Why does he think he can just—o-oh my God… I-I…” She glances at the time on her dash and curses under her breath before wiping away her tears and trying to control her breathing.
She pulls the gear shift into reverse and pulls out of the space, before going into drive.
The next thing she knows, her daughter pulls open the front passenger side door.
“Mama, you alright? Your eyes are red,” Morgan asks, her voice filled with concern, once she buckled herself in the front passenger seat.
“Just a sad song on the radio, kiddo,” Pepper lies, briefly pointing to the car radio with one hand as she steers out of the parking lot with the other. “Ready to head home for the weekend?”
Chapter 7: 7
I apologize in advance for this. Have tissues ready if you’re a crier because I believe there is more angst this time.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Do you want to hang out with me and August?” Sofia asks after finding Morgan in their dorm room.
“I’d love to… but later, please? I have a conference with Mr. Carbonell and my Mom in like—” Morgan pauses, looking at the time on her watch. “—now.”
“Oh,” Sofia says with a nod. “Let me know when it’s done? We’re going to be hanging around at the quad but we might not be when you’re done.”
Morgan just nods in understanding before she grabs her keycard and walks down the hallway, Sofia following loosely behind until they part ways on the diverged cobblestone path.
A couple moments pass by when she makes it to the double doors that led to the high school academic building. She waves to the security guard before walking inside and running up the stairs.
She gets down the hallway and slows down her pace abruptly when she’s about three feet away from the classroom door and hears her mother’s voice.
“How did you think I would’ve reacted?” Pepper asks. “I’m not exactly fond of you, y’know. You left us, Tony! You left her the second you found out I was pregnant with her.”
Tony rebuts, “Pepper, you don’t know the whole story—“
“Don’t you dare call me that,” Pepper interrupts with a sputter. “You are her dad, Tony. You should’ve been here, all this time. End of discussion.“
The words that were dancing around in her mind were like giant knives to her chest. ‘You are her dad, Tony.’ ‘You left her the second you found out I was pregnant with her.’
Before Pepper can turn around and either contributor to the argument can try to intervene, Morgan’s already halfway back down the hall.
Both members of the ex-couple run to the doorframe and look out. The girl’s just now taking the stairs.
“Morgan Hope Potts, you get back here right now!” Pepper yells.
There’s no response and the teenager runs even faster down the stairs then.
“Oh my God,” Tony mumbles, his eyes wide as he watches her run away. “She hates me.”
Pepper looks at Tony and sighs, unable to say anything. But there’s sympathy in her gaze at her ex when she looks at him… and she’s unsure why. She thinks for a moment. “You said that I-I, um… I didn’t know the whole story. Tell me before I go find the kid. I’ll listen.”
Tony blinks at her before stepping back into his classroom. He stands beside his desk and takes in a sharp breath. “Howard forbade me from contacting you when he found out that you were pregnant,” he explains as he taps on the base of his desk with his index and middle fingers rhythmically. His face twists in a grimace as he thinks. “E-Every single way I tried… every time I tried... it got i-intercepted somehow. I tried when I finally got away from his chokehold a-and your number was either changed or I couldn’t remember it or something. Next thing I know, a fourteen year old girl from Stoneham, Massachusetts who shares your last name shows up to my class... w-who looks just like me and acts just like you. I promise you, I didn’t want to abandon you… or her. I loved you… I loved her before I even met her. Leaving was never my choice, Virginia.”
Pepper stares, pain behind her eyes as tears gently fall while understanding dawns. “Howard did this?”
Tony nods once.
“Is that why you, um… you changed—“
He nods again.
“Can you please talk to Morgan for me? I-I don’t… I know she probably hates me now, but I don’t… ugh,” he stammers. “Like over a dinner o-or… I don’t know—“
“That’s your story to tell, Tony. Not mine,” she says. “And she’s not going to want to talk to you for a long time… just wait it out until she’s willing to hear you out.” She looks over her right shoulder and gestures to the stairwell outside of both of their vantage points. “I need to go find her and see if she’s okay. Raincheck on the conference? Maybe over email?”
Tony nods silently.
Before Pepper walks out, Tony speaks up: “Pep? Can I ask you one thing?”
Pepper stops in her tracks and looks back at him.
“H-How did she come to the conclusion that her Dad didn’t want her? From you?” His voice cracks when he asks.
She shakes her head. “I never talked about you in a negative light… not around her. She scrambled for an answer and she came up with the same one I believed. She asked me about you once when she was about six years old and I was silent because I didn’t have an answer for her.”
It’s not long before Pepper’s pushing through the double doors of the academic building to find a security guard standing by. She walks over to him and says, “Did you see where my daughter went? Brown hair, brown eyes, glasses, bangs… she ran out of here a few minutes ago.”
“Morgan?” he asks. “Are you her mother?”
Pepper nods, noticing his name badge says ‘Harold Hogan’.
“Ambrose Hall,” he answers. “Poor girl was crying when she passed by. I tried to ask her what was wrong and see if I could help at all and she just stared at me for a second before continuing.”
“Thank you,” She says with a frown before making her way to the dorm hall in question.
It’s not long before she’s stood at the door of Morgan’s and Sofia’s room. Pepper knocks on the door three times.
There’s not an answer but the sound of muffled tears and heavy breathing.
“No,” Morgan speaks up from the other side of the door.
“Can I please talk—“
Morgan interrupts again, “No! I don’t want to talk to you. Or him. Or anyone. Just leave me alone! Go back home.”
Pepper huffs, looks around the hallway for a moment. “Either you’re going to let me in or I’ll go find your dorm parent because I don’t want to cause a scene in the middle of a boarding school dorm hallway with my own daughter.”
It’s quiet for a moment before Pepper notices that the handle is jiggling followed by the door to her daughter’s room opening.
Morgan’s face is flushed and her eyes are red, making Pepper’s heart ache. The teenager walks back to her bed while the eldest woman shuts the door.
“You lied to me,” Morgan mumbles. “My friends were right.”
“Your friends?” Pepper asks.
“On the first day of class they were telling me about this girl Mr. Carbonell used to date with the same last name as us,” she recalls. “A-And about how he wasn’t over her yet because something pushed them away and he wasn’t exactly planning on letting her go or whatever. Her name is Pepper and how h-he hasn’t dated anyone since her. I denied everything because… well, I’ve never heard anyone call you that before… then, y-you left parents day early last month and I found you in the car crying when class was dismissed and when I asked you why… you blamed it on the radio. It wasn’t the radio, was it?”
“It wasn’t the radio,” Pepper says as she shakes her head. “I’m so sorry, kid. I was trying to protect you.”
“I don’t want to go back there,” she sighs. “I-I just don’t. This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have applied. He was just helping me because he knew who I was.”
Pepper sits on the side of Morgan’s bed and reaches out her hands for her daughter. Morgan hesitantly holds them.
“Maybe he was only trying to be nice to you because he found out who you were,” she says. “But he was still helping you keep your grades up. He saw you needed help and he offered what he could… I know him enough to know that he would do that for you even if you weren’t his daughter. He’s a nice guy, Morgan. He was and always will be. I didn’t believe that for awhile, but...”
Morgan stares wide eyed. “Why are you taking his side? Are you two buddies now all of the sudden?”
“I’m not, and no…” Pepper takes a sharp breath before squeezing her daughter’s hands comfortingly. “I wish I could tell you that you could drop his class and not have to deal with him as a teacher for the rest of this year. But you can’t and have to roll with the punches. And I know you can get through it.” She takes a beat, glancing at the calendar pinned on Morgan’s wall. “Hey, next week even marks when you come home for Christmas. That’s some time away, right?”
“Do you have any important tests or things tomorrow or Thursday going on?” Pepper inquires.
She shakes her head. “Just review... maybe a movie if a teacher is feeling lazy.”
“Want to blow off school? I’ll take off two days with my PTO and we can both take a mental health break. You’ll be back by Thursday night,” the eldest of the two suggests. “It’ll be fun.”
You may all yell at me now. And yes, it’ll only get worse from here until it slowly gets better. (Alissa by DM’s are open for you to scream at me personally.)
Chapter 8: 8
I’m just gonna keep apologizing in advance until there’s fluff.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Morgan knows?” Rhodey asks into the phone as Tony sits down on his bed. “The baby from fifteen years ago that Howard was pissed about? She’s in your science class and knows?”
“Mhm,” Tony hums. “And now she hates me.”
“Does Pepper know you had no choice?”
“She does now,” he says with a sigh before laying the side of his head on the pillow. “But she won’t…”
“She won’t tell Morgan?” Rhodey asks, finishing his friend’s thought.
“Correct,” he grumbles.
“She said it was your story to tell?” Rhodey inquires.
“Mhm,” the younger hums.
“Well, she’s not wrong.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it,” Tony sighs.
“Wouldn’t it be better for you to talk to your daughter about Howard’s conniving due to his disapproval of you and her Mother anyway?”
“True,” he mumbles. “But I guarantee you that Morgan’s not going to listen.”
“Now, you don’t know that, Tones,” James disagrees. “But it wouldn’t hurt to try. Even writing everything out and setting it on her desk before she comes into class might work… may even be easier on ya. You wouldn’t have to think of everything on the spot.”
“I’ll think about it,” Tony says. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Rhodey says on the other end of the call. “I’ve got to get going. Keep me updated, alright?”
“Sure thing,” Tony agrees before ending the call.
Tony lets out a long winded sigh as he looks through his phone to make sure his alarm is set correctly. It is, and so he sets his phone on his nightstand before plugging it into the charger. He gets under his covers and rolls back on his side, pulling his throw pillow into his arms to hold. Who knows how long it’ll take to get to sleep. If he’ll actually sleep at all.
It’s almost one AM.
Morgan’s tossing and turning in her bed, her mind playing tricks on her for fun. He left us. Stop. He knew who I was, that’s why he was being so nice and helpful. Stop, please. He didn't care about you, or mom, or anything. Please stop!
She lets out a whine before turning on her stomach and burying her face into her pillow. What if you go to class on Friday and start crying? Huh? What’ll happen then? Everyone will think you’re pathetic and then everyone’s going to know how much of a mistake you were—go get Mom. Why? You need her. Just go get Mom.
Morgan reluctantly gets up from her bed and cringes at the state of her blankets when she does.
She walks out of her room and over to the cracked open door that led to her mother’s room.
“M-Mom?” Morgan walks into her mother’s bedroom.
“Mama,” she says again once she’s closer.
Pepper opens her eyes slowly before squinting at her kid in the dark. “What are you doing up?”
“I-I can’t sleep,” she admits, wiping away any stray tears she may have. “I keep trying, but I… I can’t. It’s too hard. I keep feeling so alone? I don’t know…”
“Do you want to hang with me?” Pepper asks, reaching over to pat the empty side of the bed with her left hand. “That way you definitely won’t be alone?”
Morgan wordlessly nods, a just barely audible squeak comes from her.
“C’mere,” Pepper encourages, patting the bed once more.
Morgan sheepishly walks over to the right side of the bed and buries herself under the duvet.. her eyes and nose just barely peeking out. “Mama, I-I’m scared.”
“What if I’m not going to be okay? Like, wh-what if I literally can’t go back to Dad’s class anymore because it hurts too much? I-I…” she stammers.
“If you can’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we know. But I do know that regardless of what happens when you start back on Friday and all the days that follow, you are going to be alright, my sweet,” Pepper says quietly. “Try to get some rest, okay? I know it’s hard, but I’ll be right here if you need me. Like I always am, baby girl.”
Tony looks up from his attendance clipboard with tired eyes to the sea of students. He furrows his brow when he notices an unusually empty seat and looks back at his board. It’s Morgan’s.
He looks over at Sofia and says, “Miss Banner, where’s your roommate?”
“She texted me last night saying her and her mom took an impromptu vacation. Said she’d be back for class on Friday,” Sofia answers with a shrug.
“Thanks for the heads up. Wonder why Maria didn’t tell me that. I’ll make sure to send Miss Potts the notes,” Tony says a little quiet. His heart sinks. Great. My daughter’s avoiding me. He glances at the sealed letter on the desk. “Do you think you could give that letter to her when she gets back? It was in my box this morning and a note attached said it was addressed to her from some science fair thing… ISEF related.”
Sofia looks at the letter before picking it up and setting it in her backpack. “Sure, no problem.”
“Do you know why Morgan left?” August asks out of the blue during break. “She just isn’t like that. I know she’ll be back Friday, but…”
“Aug’s got a crush on her,” Aurora teases.
“I do not!” August yelps.
“Keep telling yourself that,” the girl twin says with a roll eye.
“But really… Sof, do you know?” he asks.
Sofia shrugs. “All she sent me was this text.” She gets her phone out from her backpack pocket and pulls up the text history before showing it to the twins.
Both quickly read it.
“I hope she’s alright,” Aurora says with a frown as Sofia puts the phone away. “I saw her before she left yesterday, she seemed upset.”
August and Sofia both frown for a moment when they heard that.
“Did Mr. Carbonell seem off to you? Like after attendance?” August asks Sofia.
“Now that you mention it, yeah,” Sofia agrees with a nod.
“In times like these I wish I was in the same shift,” Aurora fake pouts.
“He normally gets like that when an anniversary is coming up or something… which is usually around mid-May, February, September, and December…” Sofia recalls. “Probably just a coincidence. It is December.”
“Probably,” the twins say.
“I’ll be telling Morgan you two wanted to gossip,” Sofia says before getting up to buy a snack from the concessions before lunch break.
“Good afternoon,” Pepper greets her teenager when she walks down the stairs. “Looks like you needed the rest.”
Morgan yawns, before mumbling an “Uh-huh.”
“I just talked with your Uncle Rhodey,” Pepper says quietly.
“He’s coming over during Christmas break,” she answers. “Oh, and guess who’s in town?”
“Who?” Morgan asks as she wipes her sleepy eyes with the back of her hand.
“Alicia,” Pepper answers.
“Aunt Ali’s coming?” Morgan questions, hope in her voice, as she walks over to the kitchen to grab some lunch.
“She’s already in town,” Pepper says from the couch. “But yes, she is.”
“When’s she coming over?”
Pepper looks at her watch, “I told her around one… and it’s almost one.”
And sure enough, the doorbell rings right after she says that.
Morgan abandons her breakfast and runs over to the door. She quickly looks through the peephole before unlocking and opening the door. “Aunt Ali!”
Alicia hugs her pseudo-niece tight. “Mo, you’ve grown since I’ve seen you last! How is that possible? What type of water are you drinking at Woodvale?”
“I haven’t seen you since June,” Morgan says as she steps away. “It’s definitely possible.”
“I know, I’m just teasing,” she says as she closes the door. “So, your Mama was telling me you had a tough day yesterday. Want me to play therapist so you can let it all out?”
Morgan shakes her head as she picks up her food. “I don’t wanna talk about it right now.”
“Well, that’s okay, too,” Alicia nods, her barely brushed out curls flowing as she does. “When’s your next dance thing?”
“Um… I think it’s sometime in June? I can’t remember,” Morgan recalls as she sits next to her Mom. She takes a bite of her quick meal.
“She might get a solo,” Pepper adds on.
“Mm-hm,” the teenager hums.
“How exciting! What style would you pick if you had the choice, hm?” Alicia asks. “I always love watching you tap.”
“Probably tap,” Morgan agrees. “But I’ve been getting into modern recently. Reminds me of puppets.”
“Well I will definitely be there,” she says. “Is it at your school?”
The teenager hums again. “I think it’s called the Danvers Performing Arts Center. But I’m not positive… I’m rarely around that part of campus.”
“I’ll make sure to write that down,” Alicia nods. “And even if I forgot, I’ll just check with your Mom. Don’t you worry, kiddo. I’ll be there to cheer you on.” She looks around the house. “How about we turn on a movie?”
“—Anthony? Earth to Anthony?” Thor questions.
“My kid hates me.”
“You have a kid?” Coulson asks.
He startles and looks up from his empty paper, realizing that he had zoned out in the middle of a meeting. “Shit,” he accidentally lets out under his breath. “I’m sorry, that was nothing. I wasn’t paying attention. These last few days have been unnecessarily cruel. Can we drop that and someone fill me in real quick?”
“We are discussing end of semester plans for lessons and midterms, Mr. Carbonell,” Coulson says. “Would you like to share yours?”
The next thing he knows, the meeting is over and he’s the only one left in the conference room aside from his boss.
“You seem really upset, Anthony,” Thor says. “Which, isn’t like you. You said these last few days have been cruel. Willing to tell me what’s going on?”
“I’m not really sure I want to tell my boss about my personal life, sir,” he says as he’s packing things up to head home.
“But if it’s affecting your ability to focus during a meeting, which is a vital part of your job, I feel like I need to know,” Thor prods. “I’m not firing you or anything, I just want to make sure you’re alright.”
He grimaces before letting out a sigh. “Do you remember when I walked in your office a few months ago and requested to see one of my students’ files because she said she was diagnosed with ADHD and I wanted to figure out a good plan of action to help her since we don’t co-teach?”
“I do remember that, yes,” Thor recalls.
“I’m about to share my sob story. Are you positive you still want to know?”
“Sure.” Thor says with a raised brow.
“When I was fourteen, I met this girl in my math class at Phillips who lived in Stoneham before moving in on campus. I called her ‘Pepper’ because of her freckles,” the younger man explains. “We became close friends and started dating each other when we were sixteen. My father, notorious for picking apart everything I did with my life, didn’t approve of us from the moment he met her. Still, I loved her.”
His boss nods in understanding.
“I got into MIT and she got into Harvard our senior year,” he continues. “Just after our first semester in college started, both of us eighteen, she found out she was pregnant… with my kid. She and I kept it to ourselves until she couldn’t anymore… which was right after we found out she was having a girl… around nineteen weeks. We mutually decided to name her Morgan. But my father found the ultrasound pictures in my stuff when I came home on break.”
“The next thing I knew, he told my Mom and Pepper’s parents. She had to drop out of business school… and every single way I contacted her… cut off and intercepted.” Tony frowns as he remembers his past. “I didn’t have a single choice and my mother couldn’t even convince him to not lash out. He kept saying how I was ruining the Stark name and throwing my future away by wanting to be involved in the raising of my daughter. He made me stay in school and got me a good job in San Francisco once I graduated. Then I cut off contact with him when my mother started the process to divorce him… which was a little over a year after I started working out west.”
Thor nods again.
“Even though it felt wrong, I felt like I had to move on… because I tried contacting Pepper when I cut off contact with my Dad, but her number and contact information was all different. It’s not like I didn’t even try. I even called her parents and I got them to answer… but they were very against letting me talk to her. I get why, they thought and probably still think I broke her heart on purpose. Shortly after that, I noticed engineering wasn’t actually my calling about two years into my job,” Tony recalls. “I got paid well and everything, but I wasn’t happy at all. I told my mom about it and she suggested I take one of those career aptitude tests… you know, like the ones we have the high school students take every year. Lo and behold, engineering was not even in my top ten. If I recall it was one of the last. But you know what was the highest result? Teaching high school. I started saving up to get my masters degree in education since I had been cut out of my father’s income. I got accepted at San Francisco State when I had enough saved to pay my rent for two whole years and quit my job so I could focus on school… I got a full ride to get my degree after I had written an essay for a scholarship. And you know that it led me here.” He gestures vaguely around the room.
“And I’m very glad it did,” Thor compliments. “You are a great asset to our team and an amazing teacher.”
“Thank you. But then the first day of this school year comes, and a girl with Pepper’s last name shows up in my class. She’s fourteen, from Stoneham, only mentions a mother in her introduction, looks like me, and is named Morgan. I try not to think anything of it, because I can’t afford to. But she does things I remember Pepper doing in high school and is about as smart as me—if not more,” Tony explains. “And when she told me she had ADHD, I felt led to look at her file… you know, to help her. But while trying to figure out a way to help her continue succeeding in my class, I found out what I had suspicions about… she’s my daughter. The one my father made me abandon.”
Thor is quiet, possibly speechless.
“Fast forward to Parents Day, and Pepper shows up. It’s very clear she’s uncomfortable and she leaves like ten minutes before my class wraps up. I’m not stupid, I know why,” he pauses. “A month passes and she shows up again for the conference… which was yesterday. Before Morgan shows up, we argue. I try to tell her that she doesn’t know the whole story and to hear me out, and she tells me that I am Morgan’s Dad… that I should’ve been there since the beginning… end of discussion. You know, as if I don’t know that. But it turns out Morgan heard the tail end of it and the next thing I know, the poor girl is running out of the building in tears because she has believed all her life that her father—me—didn’t want her. Before Pepper goes after Morgan, I tell her everything and thankfully she now understands why I disappeared. She knew me and my father hated each other. But she told me that I was going to be the one that had to tell Morgan, not her.”
“I didn’t sleep worth anything last night. I put on a Magic School Bus video on all of my classes because I didn't have the energy to teach my lesson plans,” Tony says. “Then come to find out that my daughter’s absent from all of her classes today and her roommate says Morgan and her mom took an impromptu vacation or something and won’t be back until Friday. Which obviously can’t be a coincidence. So she’s avoiding me.”
Thor’s lips purse into a thin line as he thinks for a moment. “I’m very sorry, Anthony,” he sympathizes. “Maybe when Morgan comes back on Friday she may be up to speaking with you and hearing you out. I can only imagine how much of a shock it was to Morgan to figure out that her absent father is truly her physical science teacher in the middle of an argument she wasn’t exactly supposed to walk in on.”
“Thank you,” Tony says with a weak smile. “I wish that I could just turn back time and make sure I would’ve done everything I possibly would’ve gotten to be there through it all. I can only imagine her hurt.”
“Keep me updated, okay? I know I’m your boss, but please let me know if you ever need to vent,” Thor offers as he walks over to the door. “Unless it’s absolutely outrageous, I won’t think any differently of you as an employee.”
My Twitter moots who read my fics, DMs are always open for you to personally yell at me for all chaos I’ve caused today.
Chapter nine will still arrive on Wednesday! Just finished a few chapters ahead of schedule. :)
Chapter 9: 9
TW / CW for language, mention of food and prior minimal alcohol use, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Hey, stranger,” Sofia says, looking up from her book as she laid on her bed. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”
“I was gone for barely two days,” Morgan says with a raised brow as she sits her things on her desk. “Did I miss anything?”
“Mr. Carbonell apparently got some letter about ISEF for you in his box the other day? Told me to give it to you when you got back,” Sofia recalls as she sits up. “I sat it on your desk.”
Morgan grimaces when she realizes Sofia said ‘Mr. Carbonell’ before scrounging around her desk for the letter in question. “Did he say it was ISEF?”
“He said it was related,” the elder teenager clarifies. “Might be about a qualifying fair.”
Morgan finds it just as Sofia finishes her sentence. She squints, recognizing the handwriting. It’s not notably from anyone and is only addressed to ‘Morgan Potts’. No care of, no school address… just ‘Morgan Potts’. It’s from Tony—her dad.
Morgan grumbles as she rips open the envelope tab. She skims the first paragraph before quietly crumpling it up and tossing to the back of her desk.
“What was it?”
“A flyer for a qualifying fair in New Haven,” Morgan lies. “It’s nothing.”
“Ah,” Sofia enthuses. “Are you going to enter? Science based? Engineering?”
“No,” the younger teenager says with a shrug. “I’m not joining clubs or entering anything like that until I’m a sophomore.”
“I did that too when I started. Don’t blame you,” Sofia sympathizes. “Oh, and apparently Aug’s got a crush on you.”
“He does?” Morgan laughs, before walking over to Sofia’s side of the room and sits herself on the bed.
“Aurora said that he did,” she explains. “But he quickly denied it.”
Morgan tilts her head as she thinks about her friends—especially August.
“Do you like him back or something? You seem real lost in thought there,” Sofia teases.
“I don’t really know him enough to know,” Morgan admits. “Why are you so interested in my feelings for him? Are you?”
Sofia’s the one to laugh. “Oh, no. I’m gay. Without a doubt, one hundred percent, lesbian.” She pauses. “August and Aurora don’t know and I’m really only out to my family and some of my Dad’s friends, so…”
“Oh! That’s cool. I won’t tell anyone.” Morgan beams. “I’m bi. Well, I think anyway.”
“You’re fourteen, right?”
Morgan nods. “Fifteen in June.”
“You don’t have to have it all figured out at fourteen,” Sofia encourages. “It’s common, but you don’t have to know everything now. You’ve got all the time in the world.”
“I know,” Morgan says with a smile. “Thank you.”
“I figured it out after a lotta soul searching. It was weird… I literally stood in front of my mirror back at home after I figured it out and came out to my own damn self,” Sofia says quietly.
“I did that too,” Morgan says. “But my room at home doesn’t have a mirror so it was in the bathroom. Still, same.”
“Also, apparently Aurora saw you upset on Tuesday and was asking if I knew anything…”
Morgan frowns and begins to fidget with her hands.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Sofia assures. “But I’m here if you do. Just wanted to warn you that she and Aug might bombard you with questions when they see you…”
“I found out who my dad is,” Morgan mumbles.
All she does is nod.
“Do you mind if I ask who he is? Would I know him?”
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Morgan says. “I-I found out on Tuesday, probably right before Aurora saw me. I needed to get away. I think I would’ve gone insane if I hadn’t.”
“That’s okay. And I can see why you’d want to get away,” Sofia sympathizes. “After an accidental search, I somehow found out who my biological parents were when I was twelve and I did not take it well when I found out why they abandoned me. My adoption was closed, which is why I say accidental. I couldn’t go to school for a week… I’m grateful that my Dad literally lives right across the street from here and he managed to get every last one of my absences excused.” She holds out her hand.
Morgan hesitantly grasps her friend’s hand. “I’m sorry.”
“We’re on good terms now,” Sofia says quietly. “I see them during the holidays and I call them a few times a week… Melody and Liam are nice… so is my sister. Her name’s Tessa. I’m going on a trip with them and my dad to Colorado over the spring break actually. They’re great. But it wasn’t that way for awhile. Maybe that’ll be what happens with you and your dad.”
Morgan sighs. “Maybe.”
Morgan huffs as she walks into the academic building, bracing herself for her dad’s class. Thirty minutes. In and out. You can do this.
She makes her way up the stairs and through the busy hall, before slinking into the classroom. Morgan takes a breath as she looks around. Shit. If I was a minute earlier I could have a different seat. She walks over to her desk and sits down next to Sofia. As both girls are taking out their utensils, the late bell goes off.
“Happy Friday,” Tony says, trailing behind the bell by a few seconds. “Also, a very happy birthday to Miss Sanders and welcome back from your trip, Miss Potts. I hope it was nice.”
“Thank you,” a kid in one of the middle sections says.
Morgan stays quiet, watching Tony walk around the room.
Tony switches the subject, “I’m sure every single one of you are excited for the weekend, especially those of you who spend your weekends at home. Even though I love y’all, I’m ready for a mini break myself.” He glances at Morgan before continuing. “Speaking of breaks, next week is the—“ Tony gently beats a drum roll on one of the front desks. “—dreaded finals week. Well, midterms. But still, I call ‘em finals. Give me a thumbs up, thumbs down, all-around so I can get an understanding for how everyone feels about our midterm exams.”
Morgan raises her hand and forms a thumbs up. She notices Sofia does as well.
“Looks like most of you are fairly confident,” Tony beams. “But I’m still going to do a quick review of the study guide you started on Monday so next week can be a breeze. That cool?”
Murmurs of confirmation go around the room.
The class drags on for the rest of the allotted time and Morgan’s one of the first out when the bell rings.
“What?” Morgan asks, turning around to face Sofia.
“Mr. Carbonell said he wanted to speak with you.”
Morgan rolls her eyes before turning back around. “If he wants to talk to me, he’ll catch me before I walk. Mom’s probably already at the dorm to take me home. If it’s that important he’ll shoot me an email.”
“You feeling better? You seemed upset the other day,” Aurora says when Morgan shows up with a tray of food at the dining hall for dinner.
Morgan nods. She gives a tiny lie, “Just had some… uh, family issues. Everything’s okay now.”
“Oh, okay,” Aurora nods. “I'm glad you’re alright.”
“So, how did the first day of midterms go?” Morgan asks, attempting to change the subject.
All of Morgan’s friends grumble, which makes her laugh.
”Whatever you do, do not take Rogers for history. I felt like I was reading a foreign language compared to what I learned all semester,” Sofia whines.
”Really? I had him last year and he was great,” Aurora asks.
”What happened then?” Sofia asks.
There’s a lull in conversation.
“Where’d you go?” August breaks the silence.
All friends look at him confused.
“Oh, just my house,” Morgan answers. “Though my mom’s friend who is like an aunt to me came over and stayed with us until I came back here. She likes to say she’s my therapist because I vent a lot and she knows how to keep me from committing arson.” She snickers then.
“What’s her name?” August asks.
“Alicia, but I call her Ali. I couldn’t say her name when I was little and Ali just stuck,” she explains, getting a little teary eyed. “She’s been in my life since I was a baby… she’s always been there… for me and my mom. Any time, anywhere. She’s the reason my mom has the job she does. Also therefore kinda the reason I get to come here and get to be friends with you all.”
Ali was there when he wasn’t.
Sofia looks over at Morgan. “Ali seems like a wonderful woman, Mo.”
“You’ll get to meet her in June if you come to my dance program,” Morgan says happily.
“I’m in the dance program,” Aurora reminds.
“Oh, yeah! Then you’ll probably see her,” she exclaims. “She has kinda wavy hair, it’s brown. Green eyes. Gives off ‘wine aunt’ vibes even though I’m pretty sure she hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since college.”
Her friends laugh.
“We have an aunt like that,” August enthuses. “Family gatherings are so fun because of her.”
“Hey, do you know who’s getting the freshman solo spots?” Aurora changed the subject. “Apparently Miss Romanoff is sending out spot information soon… or has. I’m hearing mixed responses from the dance crews on campus.”
It’s only gonna go up from here... I think. Angst here and there but I /think/ the bulk of the angst chapters have passed... unless I go on a rage fit and want to make y’all suffer. (Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.)
Here’s a minor update on my production of this series:
While doing a quick rereading of what I have written so far for this series, I discovered a very teensy fallacy in an underdeveloped plot point in a future chapter. Which had led me on a journey to not only add one small scene, but an entire chapter as well. With where this new chapter (and unfinished new scene) is in the chronological order, there should not be an issue with upload times. But, that’s if everything goes according to plan. Updates regarding the completion of these parts will mostly be on my Twitter. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience just in case that this change may cause a delay.
Chapter 10: 10
More stubborn, angsty teen Morgan for ya.
TW / CW for language, mention of food and prior minimal alcohol use, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“There’s my soloist!” Natasha exclaims as Morgan walks into the dance room. “How has your first couple of months back been like?”
“It's been okay,” Morgan shrugs, setting her dance bags on the floor. “I forget how easy and quick the first week goes by and how much quicker it gets harder to keep up. It’s depressing.”
“Well, hey,” Natasha says. “Good thing is, in my class all but your solo is done… even that’s almost done. So the only thing we’ll be working on from now until June is cleaning and fixing technique issues. Way easier than learning all of that.”
“True,” the teenager says, taking her MIT sweatshirt off her waist and setting it on the ground.
“Where’s your Mom?” the teacher asks.
“Oh, um… she said she was probably going to explore the town?” Morgan recalls. “She said she didn’t want to intrude.”
“Tell her that next time that she's okay to come in like she has in the past,” Natasha says with a smile before walking over to grab her phone.
“I will,” Morgan answers, loosely following the redhead.
Tony glances away from an assignment to the answer key and frowns. He picks up his pen and jots down an ‘X’ next to question eight on the sheet. He writes down a correction note next to the incorrect answer. “Question nine,” he mumbles to himself before huffing quietly.
He’s interrupted by a knock at his door. Rhodey? Bruce?
Tony gets up, abandoning his grading to see who’s at the door.
Tony unlocks the door and opens it. He swears he zoned out for a second, because there Rhodey was, standing at his doorstep.
“U-uh… hello?” Tony asks. “Rhodey, what are you doing here? I thought you didn’t get back until—“
“You’re going to want to kill me,” is all Rhodey says before he walks in.
“For what?” Tony asks, carefully shutting the door.
“I saw Morgan grow up.”
Rhodey nervously shifts his weight from one leg to the other, awaiting a response. “Tones?”
“My Morgan? The same kid that won’t even actively participate in my class anymore because she figured out I was her Dad? Who takes her corrections to her dorm during break and brings them back before lunch begins so she doesn’t have to sit in a room with me because she doesn’t want to make conversation anymore? The one who got rid of the letter you suggested I write out to her? That Morgan?” he baffles.
“That Morgan… yes,” James answers.
“And you wanted to wait to tell me that until now?” Tony asks.
“It was a slippery slope Tony,” he admits. “I love both you and Pepper. If I stepped away from either there would be tension. I knew both sides of the stories—even Morgan’s, and was there for the both of them and you when I could. I’m sorry.”
Tony’s quiet, covering his mouth with his open palm.
“If it makes you feel any better, Pepper doesn’t know I’m still friends with you,” Rhodey adds, trying to add sympathy to his tone.
Tony looks at his friend. “Why'd you suddenly feel the need to tell me?”
“I dunno,” the eldest man says. “I was driving through and the next thing I knew, I was at your house.”
“You’re the guy she was talking about on her first day when she said her mom’s friend went to MIT, weren’t you?”
“Probably,” James nods. He smiles for a second.
Tony raises a brow. “What?”
“There’s a photo I have of her somewhere when she was like nine in the MIT sweatshirt that you gave me when mine got stolen our senior year,” he recalls. “It about swallowed her whole at that point and she used it more like a blanket for a while. I don’t think Pepper ever figured out that it was originally yours. She still wears it… when I came over to Pepper’s house to celebrate Christmas, she had it on one of the days I was there. I gave it to her at Christmastime too.”
“Do you, uh, do you think I could see it?”
It takes a few minutes of scrolling before Rhodey turns his phone around to show an old photo taken on December 25th, 2012. A nine year old Morgan, dressed in santa pajama pants and Tony’s old MIT sweatshirt, posed with her other Christmas gifts—two record vinyls, one notably being Red by Taylor Swift, and a concert ticket… she’s smiling so big, happy as can be.
Tony sees his daughter smiling just before Rhodey turns the phone off and it breaks him. He doesn’t realize he’s getting teary eyed until he speaks. “I-I should’ve been there.”
“I know, Tony.”
“I hate him… I really fucking hate him,” Tony vents. “My father ruined my life, Rhodey.”
“I hate him too,” he says, calm.
“He’s the reason my daughter hates me,” Tony trails. “...the reason Pepper can’t stand me.”
“Pepper doesn’t hate you anymore,” Rhodey disagrees.
“Not according to what I’ve gathered,” Rhodey recalls. “Give her time, she’ll come around. Same with Morgan.”
“How? She won’t even let me talk to her.”
“I have a feeling she’ll eventually hear you out,” James attempts to reassure.
“Good job today, Morgan,” Natasha compliments when she catches Pepper coming into the studio in the corner of her eye. “Remember to practice getting the sounds out during your buffalo turns and get used to showing emotion. Listen to the song and create your own story in your head or stare at the mirror for an hour if you’ve gotta… it’ll bring your performance up about thirty percent.”
“Thank you, I will,” the youngest girl says happily as she pulls her sweatshirt back over her head.
Maria, who had come by midway through practice says, “I’ll make sure she practices the buffalo turns, babe.”
Morgan’s eyes widened at the pet name said to the redhead. So does Natasha.
“Are you two—“
Natasha and Maria look at each other. “Don’t tell anyone. It’s new information.”
Morgan grins. “I won’t.”
“You ready to go?” Pepper asks, breaking up the conversation.
Morgan hums before beginning to walk out.
A couple minutes pass when Pepper takes a detour just outside of the Woodvale Academy gates.
“What’re you doing?” Morgan breaks away from her thoughts. “This isn’t the way home?”
“What would you think if we moved closer to Woodvale?” Pepper inquires. “Like, not now or anything. But there’s a few jobs I could apply for in the area, so I know there will be some if and when we pursue it and then there’s houses in the budget…”
“Is there a problem at work or—“
“No?” she answers. “I want to help you have all the options. You’d get to come home and hang with me more often since I could get you to school every morning at a decent time. When you’re a junior, you get the option to stay home and just get there in the morning all the time because we're within driving distance… but I’d want you to be closer so that way you don’t have a thirty minute commute.”
“I mean, maybe… but I like our house, Mom,” Morgan mumbles. “I like our town. I don’t really, um… y’know… wanna move.”
“You moved to Woodvale?”
“Not like that.” Morgan shakes her head. “I mean like literally moving. Not just there in the week and get to come home on the weekends and breaks.”
“I’m not looking at houses today, but there is one in this neighborhood up ahead that I want to drive by and see before we head on back… it’s been on the market for awhile. That okay?” Pepper asks as she turns into the neighborhood in question.
“Fine,” the teenager grumbles before she fidgets with the drawstring on her sweatshirt.
“Hey, Mo,” Pepper says, quietly attempting to grab her attention a couple moments later. “What do you think?”
Morgan looks up and to her left. It’s a small white house with paneled siding. There’s a garage on the left side. On the right, stairs led to a small porch and entryway. “It’s nice…” She trails off when her eyes glance to her right to see two people walking out of the house next door and goes stiff. “No. Nope! Not happening. Never in a million years.”
“Wha—Why?” Pepper asks before she sees the same. “Oh. Wait. Why is Rhodey… of course they’re still friends.”
Morgan sinks in her car seat when she notices that they see her and her mother. She shuts her eyes and murmurs: “Please don’t come over here, please don’t come over here, please don’t—“
“You checking out the neighborhood, Virginia?” Rhodey interrupts Morgan’s mumbling.
“Well, when Morgan’s a junior she doesn’t have to live in the dorms if she wants to… and I don’t want to have to make her get up way too early if she doesn’t have to,” Pepper answers. “Which isn’t for awhile but it’s always good to look around for what type of jobs and properties are available.” Her tone changes. “Didn’t realize that this was Tony’s neighborhood, otherwise I wouldn’t probably come look around right now… you know, for Morgan’s sake.”
“I understand,” Rhodey nods. “You’re not mad?”
“I probably would’ve been a year ago,” Pepper answers.
“I was just leaving,” Rhodey says. “Can’t promise that Tony won’t come up and attempt to make conversation, though… sorry, Mo.”
Morgan grumbles, still sunk in her seat with eyes shut. If he does, you can ignore him and he’ll go away.
She hears Rhodey walk away and a car door open and close. Please just drive away, Mom. He’s going to try to talk to me.
But she doesn’t, and the next thing she knows:
“The neighborhood is nice,” Tony says after Pepper asks. “But I’m finding as years pass that it’s kind of like a starter subdivision for families and they move out after like two or three years… I’ve been here since I got the job at Woodvale.”
“Thank you for the input,” Pepper thanks.
Oh? They’re friends now?! When did that happen?
“Is she taking a nap or…?”
“No, she thinks that if she ignores your presence you’ll just walk away,” Pepper answers. Morgan would bet money that her mother had rolled her eyes.
“Ouch,” Tony answers, tone somber. “Why are you even out here on the weekend… before spring break?”
“She got awarded a solo in January and has practice on Saturdays since she doesn’t have any free time in the week,” Pepper answers.
“Oh, congratulations,” he compliments.
“Thanks,” Morgan mumbles.
“She speaks!” Pepper jokes.
Morgan sits up and stares directly at her mother. “Why are you—“
“Just being civil. Is that a bad thing?”
“Yes, because you’re taking his side again,” Morgan yelps. She saw Tony furrow his brow when she said that.
“You know if you just heard him out you’d understand why I’m trying not to burn a bridge,” Pepper attempts to reason.
“What do you know?” Morgan asks.
“More than I knew a few months ago,” Pepper says. “That’s his story to tell and up to you whether you hear him out or not. Nothing to do with me.”
Morgan rolls her eyes and huffs. “What is there to hear? He—“
“Morgan Hope Potts, no ma’am,” Pepper scolds.
“You’re taking his side! Right now! I can’t believe you. You take his side and not your own daughter’s.”
“Because you’re siding with your biased opinion on the situation,” the eldest woman says. “Did you even read the letter he gave Sofia to give you when you got back in December?”
She notices Tony’s eyes widen at the question. “How did you know about—“
The one sitting on my desk somewhere? “No…? It’s on my desk in my dorm,” Morgan admits.
“I’m sorry she’s being stubborn,” Pepper says, ignoring her daughter’s answer. “Give her time. She’ll come around.”
“Thank you,” Tony nods. “Have a good rest of your day and your spring break.” He walks back toward his home and disappears inside.
Morgan rolls her eyes when Pepper begins to drive around out of the neighborhood.
“I don’t understand you. How do you honestly expect me to get along with and side with the man who left us ?” Morgan asks after a few minutes pass on the road.
“Morgan. There are things you simply do not know, and I didn’t know either until I was willing to listen to him,” Pepper answers. “You can at least be civil with him until you’re willing to hear him out.”
Pepper’s scrolling through job listings around the Woodvale area when an alert from her personal email goes off. She moves her cursor over to the tab and clicks it before finding the new email in question. It’s from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. She opens the email and reads it before quickly typing a response back.
What do you think the email conversation was about?
On another note, in regards to the minor series change: it’s done! Uploads will not be delayed due to this new chapter as I finished it the other day! I’m very excited for you to read it and it’s such a game changer for the series. :)
Chapter 11: 11
TW / CW for language, mention of food and prior minimal alcohol use, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
I told y’all the letter would come into play later. Also, what did you think about the first ‘post-parent news’ soft moment between Tony and Morgan? :’)
Chapter 12: 12
I’m very sorry for the middle half of this part. Actually, no. It had to be done.
I also wasn’t planning on releasing this but since Alissa “told the truth abt pepper having a hot girl summer while tony was dying in siberia” on Twitter, I became unhinged.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s been a few months since the moment she overslept and arrived late to her father’s class. Morgan and her friends have gotten closer… like, real close. But now, it’s the night of the spring dance and baton program. She’s gotten through the first year.
“Five minutes to curtain for the opening number. Please finish up what you are doing and get to the side stage if you are participating in the opener,” a stagehand says through the speaker in the freshman girl’s dressing room. “When the opening group goes onstage, dancers for ‘Sing’ please start lining up side stage.”
Morgan finishes her ballet bun in her hair when she hears the opener music starting up.
She’s one of the last to run out of her designated dressing room with her black tap shoes in hand.
She sits down just long enough to put them on once she gets into her lineup backstage and carefully makes sure they’re secure before standing up.
About three minutes later, the large group filled with a few sophomores, a handful of juniors, and almost every senior filtered offstage. With hands behind her back, she follows the girl in front of her to the back row of the stage before facing the front with her head down.
The music starts and it’s not until the utter of the first word when the dancing starts. Right, left, right, shuffle out right… hands out, hold up, back out, back in. Keep smiling, keep tapping. Breathe. Oh hey, I see Mom and Ali! Morgan, focus. Hands out, clap three times. Stomp it out to formation. I see August and Sofia!
She continues tapping her way through the dance with her class.
They approach the ending of the song when Morgan moves out of the tap circle, back to the final formation. Tap left, double right, tap forward… keep tapping, keep smiling. Turn and stamp.
She raises her right hand in unison while her class does the same and bows, before turning to the side and walking off.
She quickly takes off her tap shoes once she makes it backstage and runs back to her dressing room.
“Jazz is 6!” one of her classmates yells after looking at the printed ‘set list’ in the room.
As time passes, Morgan is done with tap, jazz, baton twirling, and ballet/pointe. Only two left, her solo and lyrical.
She fusses with the collar on her costume when she hears the speaker on the overheard intercom call for lineup for her solo. Morgan grabs her blue tap shoes and walks to the side.
She marks the steps once before slipping her shoes on her feet.
The sophomore baton group walks off and Morgan high-fives Aurora upon their exit to backstage.
Morgan gets the clear from tech on the other side of the stage to walk on and she does.
Morgan turns to the back and poses, waiting on the music to start.
The upbeat music begins and shortly thereafter, Morgan slowly taps her way to face the crowd.
When she makes it to the front, she makes sure her smile is there.
Tap to the back, right shuffle out, pull back in. Left shuffle out, pull back in. Tap to the right… buffalo turn. Remember arm placement.
It's not until right when the song goes on about being lightning on her feet, when she realizes that not only are her Mom, Aunt Ali, and her friends here, on the direct other side, sat Rhodey and her father. And instead of being shocked and lost for a second, she continues without missing a beat… even helping her keep the required energy level up for this dance.
I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go, and that’s what they don’t know… tap to the left, arms out in an arabesque position. Two buffalo turns to the back, small turn to the front. Step together, jump. Tap front, to the right, to the back, together. Stamp before tapping it out to the left.
Before she knows it, she’s facing what was her left side when facing the audience, in her ending pose while the song fades out.
She carefully walks off stage and slips off her taps when she gets away from the wings and runs back to the room.
Morgan walks onstage with her freshman dance group and bows with them once they all make it on stage.
“Would my two soloists from this group come forward and take an extra bow for me?” Natasha asks into the microphone off to the side.
Morgan and one of the only boys in her class step forward and take an extra bow before stepping back in line.
The rest of the bows go on for a bit.
“Thank you to everyone who came out to see the Woodvale Academy Performing Arts department’s high school team tonight at our spring recital,” Natasha says. “I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for the parents and guardians that make sure kids show up to their classes and extra practices. But I also couldn’t do this without our backstage help and the team that so graciously lets me teach here year after year. I’m very grateful and I hope you enjoyed the show.”
The curtains close and the students all stampede out of the main stage.
It’s not long before Morgan runs out to the concourse to find her Mom.
“You did so good!” Alicia exclaims from behind Morgan.
Morgan turns around to find Alicia and her Mom before being smothered in a hug by the former.
“Thank… you,” Morgan squeaks in the tight hug before Alicia lets her go. She smiles.
“How did I know you were going to pick tap for that solo?” Alicia asks. “I think that was my favorite of the night.”
“‘Cause you know me, Aunt Ali,” Morgan says with a playful eye roll.
“You were wonderful, Mo,” Pepper says, briefly fanning herself with the program. “It was hot in there, sorry.”
“Thank you, Mama,” Morgan says before hugging her mother. “I love you.”
“I love you too, kid,” Pepper says, rubbing her back lovingly, before her teenager steps away. “Where do you want to go to dinner or do you want to call it a night and just eat at home?”
“Can we eat at that spot I like in downtown?” Morgan inquires.
“Sure,” Pepper nods. “Alicia, are you coming?”
“I wish I could. But I have to be up early for a flight for a business trip,” Alicia says, jokingly whining in disgust. “I’ll be back for your birthday, though. Promise. Have fun you two!”
The mother and daughter both nod.
“So… are you ready to go?” Pepper inquires once Alicia vacates.
“I want to go see if I can find my friends,” Morgan half lies. “But then I will be.”
“Alright,” Pepper nods. “I’ll go head to the car. You can invite your friends to dinner if you want.”
She walks over to where she sees her friends—August, Aurora, and Sofia.
“Hey, I only saw you from the wings, but you did a good job, Aurora,” Morgan greets.
“Thank you!” Aurora says with a smile. “So did you.”
The two non-dancers of the group shower the others in compliments for a moment.
“My Dad’s waiting on me in his car, so…” Sofia says, gesturing to the outside.
“Text me, okay?” Morgan asks.
Sofia nods before walking toward the exit.
“I’m going to go find Mom,” Aurora says.
“Tell me when we are about to leave,” August says.
Morgan looks between the twins with wide eyes before Aurora nods and walks off.
“What was that all about?” Morgan asks.
“Do you think we could hang out over the summer?” he asks.
Morgan blinks. “I mean, sure. That’s fine. Wait. Like a date?”
“If that’s what you want to call it, yeah,” August awkwardly says, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. “I really like you.”
Morgan half-smiles. “I’ll have to check with my mom and I don’t really have a car because I’m still 14… but, sure. I’d like that.”
“If she needs to chaperone us, that’s fine,” he says, letting out a weak smile.
Morgan laughs. “I’ll text you, okay?”
“I’ve gotta get going,” Morgan says before starting to walk toward the middle exit. She tries to find the remaining group of people she knew, but didn’t see them.
But she is interrupted just as her hands push on the door by a “are you really going to leave without talking to me?”
She lets go and turns around, stepping away from the exit. It’s Uncle Rhodey.
“Oh, uh, hi. No, I thought you left already,” Morgan answers. “Thank you for coming.”
“I’d do almost anything to support you, kid,” Rhodey says happily. “You did a great job tonight, you know?”
“Thank you,” she says.
“You know your Dad showed up, too, right?”
“I saw,” Morgan answers with a slow nod. “I thought he left too. I didn’t see him when I was looking around just now.”
“He was talking to your dance teacher… at least, last I saw,” Rhodey says. “I—“
“Were you two talking about me?”
Morgan stares at Tony. “Apparently.”
“And yes, I was talking to Romanoff until her girlfriend walked over and it was clear the conversation I was having with her had come to a close,” Tony says, looking at Rhodey.
“Wait. For real?” Morgan asks. “I thought they were joking when they told me they were.”
“Have been for awhile now,” Tony answers. “Don’t tell anyone though. I don’t think they want the students to know.”
Morgan grins. “That’s awesome. They’re so cute together.”
“Aren’t they?” Tony enthuses. He looks at his daughter, who’s actually having a nice conversation with him for the first time since they found out… with zero pushbacks like eye-rolls and grumbles. “You were amazing tonight, you know? That first one of yours is probably my favorite of the night.”
“Thank you,” she says with a small awkward smile. “Sing is my favorite, too. Shake it Off comes close though… just because it’s Taylor Swift.”
“Didn’t she come out with a new album recently?”
“Reputation,” Morgan answers. “I’ve got the CD, but the vinyl is apparently really hard to come by. I also want to go see her again but tickets for one of her Philly shows in July were both sold out and too expensive when Mom and I tried to get some. I’m surprised she wanted to go with me… considering the fact that love songs haven’t really ever been her thing.” She pauses. “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, New Year’s Day, and Look What You Made Me Do are my favorites… if I told that last part to anyone they’d call me weird. Oh, and recently I’ve really liked Getaway Car.”
“I’m sorry that you couldn’t get tickets.” Tony frowns. “You saw her in 2013, right?”
Morgan hums. “Met her, too.”
“You did? How’d you manage that?”
“Got invited to go to Club Red,” she answers. Morgan pulls out her phone from her bag and scrolls through her camera roll until she finds it. She turns her phone around. “See.”
“That’s really cool,” he enthuses, looking at the photo.
Morgan puts her phone away. “I saved it recently to put up on my wall at home… Mom didn’t let me have a phone that young.”
Rhodey looks at the exit door. “I’ve got to get going. My niece has a birthday party tomorrow and my sister is going to give me an earful if I’m not there early enough to help set things up.”
“See you,” Tony says.
“You’re coming back for my birthday right?” Morgan asks.
He nods. “See ya later, kid.” He walks out, leaving Tony and Morgan.
Morgan glances outside and before she realizes it, she says: “Mom and I are going to that restaurant on the downtown strip… Starlight Grille. You can come if you want.”
Tony blinks. “What?”
Morgan nods. “Yeah. I, uh… I think I’m ready to talk about it.”
“Does your Mom know?”
“No… because one, as far as I know… she didn’t know you were here… and two, we haven’t really talked about you all that much,” Morgan says. “But she told me I could invite someone to dinner.”
The next thing Morgan realizes, she’s at Starlight Grille.
“There’s something you should know,” Morgan says shortly after the mother and daughter take a seat at the four seater table.
Pepper sets down her water on the table and raises a brow. “Oh?”
Morgan hums. “I invited Dad.”
“Is that alright? He told me he had to get a few things from his classroom before he came over here,” she explains.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” Pepper nods. “I’m just shocked, that’s all. Didn’t think you were there yet.”
“If it’s any consolation, I didn’t think I was either,” Morgan answers with a shrug. “I saw him at recital tonight and it just kinda… came out when we talked after you went to the car.”
“Ah,” Pepper mumbles. “I have to admit, I did invite him. To your recital.”
“Yeah,” Pepper says with a nod. “He emailed me the night we saw him in his neighborhood and we emailed back and forth a few times until I invited him.”
As Tony drives out of the Woodvale Academy gates, it all hits him at once. Morgan wants to know. She wants to know the real reason and all the nitty-gritty details that still made Tony’s stomach churn every single time he accidentally let himself think about it. Every single thought to this moment that changed not only his, but Pepper’s and their daughter’s lives, lingered like a loiterer in his mind.
Tony zipped up his backpack and took a deep breath. He sticks his backpack under his bed and exits his bedroom back at home. It’s just six days. Nothing bad can possibly happen. Right?
He shuts his bedroom door and finds his mother, who was glossing over the newspaper, sitting on the couch in the living room. He sits down next to her.
She looks up from the thin pages and smiles at her son. “How is college treating you?”
Tony shrugs. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
Maria nods. “Understandable.” She folds the paper and sets it on the coffee table. “How’s Pepper, hm?”
Tony smiles slightly. “She’s okay.”
“You seem unsure, Tony,” Maria prods.
Tony blinks. Could he tell her? Would she freak? Tell Dad?
And it’s almost as if she read his mind: “You know you can tell me anything. I know your Dad’s a little overbearing, but I hope I’m not.”
Tony nods, quickly taking in a deep breath and exhaling. “Mom, Pepper and I… we, well… she, um… we’re getting—“
“Maria! Where are you?! Maria!”
Tony’s eyes widened, looking in the direction of where his father’s voice was coming.
“We’re in the living room, dear,” Maria says calmly. “Whatever is the matter?”
And that’s when Tony sees it. The small pictures he forgot to keep in his dorm, in his father’s hand. “Tony, what the hell are these?”
Tony stares in shock, gaping. “You snooped through my stuff.”
“Doesn’t matter what I did,” Howard dismisses. “You got the girl pregnant?”
“The girl has a name,” Tony mumbles, standing up.
“I don’t give a shit,” Howard sneers. “You knocked your girlfriend up, huh? I bet you didn’t even think of the consequences.”
“Howard!” Maria scolds, standing next to her son. “My God, what is the matter with you?”
“I did, actually,” Tony disagrees. “Pepper and I are engaged.”
“Engaged?” Maria asks.
“Engaged?!” Howard yells. “Do you realize how that could completely mess up your future? About how you’re completely ruining the Stark name?”
“I’m ruining the Stark name? Really? By wanting to help raise my daughter? Just because it was an accident that Pepper got pregnant doesn’t mean what happens after has to be! I want to be with her. To start a family. Honestly, Dad, how the hell is turning an odd situation into good always bad in your book?”
“How far along is she?” Maria asks when Howard is taking an odd moment to think.
Tony hesitates, but answers, “17 weeks. We found out she was having a girl a couple days ago.”
Howard’s still quiet and for some reason that clears the air for enthusiastic conversation. Tony hopes that his father will just let it go.
“Do you have a name picked out yet?” Maria asks.
“We’ve discussed ‘Morgan’ briefly,” Tony answers. “‘Alayna’ is pretty, too.”
“I like Morgan,” Maria enthuses weakly.
“You can’t talk to her,” Howard says. “I won’t allow it.”
“W-What?” Tony asks.
“You don’t realize how much this will mess up your life, Tony,” Howard says. “Your little relationship with Pepper is over. End of discussion. Don’t try to contact her, you’ll get nowhere. It’s for your and her own good.”
“And this decision won’t affect my daughter’s?”
“She was a mistake, Tony. Through and through. She’ll never be a Stark and will only bring you harm.”
“I’m eighteen. I’m allowed to make my own decisions,” Tony challenges quietly.
“Not until you get yourself a good job and can hold your own. Which won’t happen if you’re stubborn, Tony.”
He snaps out of the memory when he pulls into the parking space at the restaurant. He wipes the stray tears that cascaded down his cheeks as he drove before unbuckling his seatbelt. “God, I hate him.”
The bell on the front door rings just before he sits down in the seat across from Morgan and next to Pepper.
Pepper lowers her glass and says a simple “hello.”
“You’re not mad that I showed up unannounced?” Tony inquires.
Pepper points with her free hand to her daughter for a moment. “She told me she invited you right before you came in… so, no. I wouldn’t be anyway if she hadn’t.”
The waitress walks over to the table. “One more?”
“I suppose so,” Pepper says with a nod.
“Alright,” she says with a polite smile.
“Hey Tony,” the waitress says.
“Let me get Tony’s drink order in and then when I come back I’ll put in food orders,” she says.
“I’ll just have water, thank you,” he says.
“Gotcha,” the waitress says before scurrying away.
“What was that?” Pepper asks.
“I’m a regular. Sometimes I grade stuff here after work… usually get tea or water, then a turkey and cheese sub or a cheeseburger… sometimes get cheesecake for the road. Just depends on how I’m feeling. It’s a nice little gem in this town that barely anyone knows about. You two have good taste.”
“So… let me get this straight. Your father, my grandfather… he’s who barred you from us?” Morgan asks quietly. “You would’ve been there if he hadn’t… if Howard hadn’t…”
“I promise you, I was all in until he intervened… I went to every appointment I could, your mom and I made plans together for our family… we were going to be happy. Supposed to get married on May 10 of 2003 at the courthouse in Cambridge… And then all of the sudden he snooped into my backpack when I was home during break at MIT and then everything just… went so wrong. He found the sonogram pictures from the last appointment I was ever allowed to attend. I still have two of those photos on my fridge… the two that he didn’t take from me because those were in my dorm room still. If I could go back and make everything right, stand my ground… I would,” Tony says. “I’m really, really sorry. I know that probably only complicates your anger towards the entire situation.”
Morgan’s looking down at the wooden table, rhythmically tapping on the base with her fingers. “All of that time… he… life could be so freaking different.” She sees a tear of hers collide with the wood and she squeezes her eyes shut. All Morgan can see in her head is her six year old self asking her mom about who her dad was… and Pepper being at a loss for words. It made her heart hurt. Would break be a better word? She mumbles a barely coherent, “Stop crying Morgan.”
“If it makes you feel any better, he’s rotting in hell right now,” Tony says quietly. “That fact has certainly eased my conscience a little bit.”
Morgan stifles a small laugh, glancing up at her parents. Not just her mother. Her dad, too. Who says he’s always wanted to be a part of her life. ...which is not what she’s thought all these years. All the sleepless nights when she was up wondering what on Earth she had done before even being born to make him leave. She swallows the lump in her throat before speaking. “I’m sorry that I, uh… that I shut you out. If I would’ve known… if I would’ve let you talk to me earlier… I don’t think I would have been so quick to… I don’t think that I would have at all in the first place.”
“I understand,” Tony says. “Believe me, I do.”
The waitress sets the plastic check tray on their table a moment later and walks away.
Tony picks it up before Pepper can. “I’ll take it.”
“Tony you don’t have—“
“Pepper, it’s the least I can do. Just let me pay,” he prods.
“It’s not even that much—“
“Please,” he says.
Pepper rolls her eyes. “Fine.”
“I’m going to go to the bathroom before we go back home,” Morgan says quietly before getting up and walking to the back of the restaurant.
When Morgan is about to leave the restroom to link back up with her mother, she stops, hearing her parents talking. She’s peeking from the hallway.
“—birthday party is on the seventeenth. It starts at six and goes until 9:30. At our house. You should come. It’s really only gonna be Alicia, Rhodey, maybe my parents if they can make the trek out, and then a few of her friends. You know, like Sofia, August, and Aurora… a few from her old school, maybe.”
“You sure your parents wouldn’t want to kill me the second they saw me?” Tony asks. “...and wouldn’t it be weird with her friends being there too? I doubt she’s told them who her dad is… even if she’s even said she knows who he is.”
“I called my Mom after conference day,” Pepper recalls. “So she knows. Not sure about my stepdad. And with Morgan’s friends, I’m sure you could just say you’re a caring teacher. I see stories like that all the time… about teachers showing up to their student’s birthday parties and events just because they care.”
“Would Morgan even want me to be there?” Tony asks. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to be there… I just don’t want to make it awkward or uncomfortable for her in any way.”
“I think so,” Pepper says. “Maybe not a month ago… but now? Yes, probably.”
He nods. “I’ll be there.”
“You don’t have to bring anything, just your presence would mean a lot. I think.”
“Like I said, I’ll be there. Don’t worry, Pep,” he assures. “One thing… I don’t exactly know where you live. It’s not in the alt file I got access to see when she was my student. I saw it once when I had to look in her full file to figure out ADHD accommodations, but it didn’t exactly stick in my head.”
“I’ll text you,” Pepper confirms.
“How do you have my number?”
“It’s on your email sig,” Pepper answers.
“Oh, right. It is,” he mumbles. “Thank you.”
It’s quiet for a moment, until Morgan walks out of the small hallway. She clears her throat. “I’m ready to go.”
also I danced to shake it off with extremely similar choreography at 12.
Chapter 13: 13
This is kind of a filler chapter, but it still plays into the story quite a bit. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tony opens the door to see Pepper and Morgan. “Hello.”
“Hi,” Morgan says.
“Hi Tony,” Pepper says with an awkward smile.
And he didn’t know why, but all he could think about in that moment was the day he and Pepper met.
Tony walks into his third class of the day on his first day of high school at Phillips Academy. He removes his book bag from his back and takes a seat at an empty spot.
He pulls out a pencil and sits it on his designated space. He fidgets with the pencil, not so patiently waiting for the class to begin, when someone sets their things to the left of him.
He looks up and at the person. It’s a girl. She has bright ginger hair and freckles all over her face. She sits down and takes out one of those Pop-A-Point pencils that irritated the crap out of him from her bag. Hers had strawberries printed on it.
“What are you looking at?” the girl quietly inquires.
“You really like those pencils?” Tony blurts out.
She glances at the pencil in her space. “Yeah. What about it?”
“They’re annoying. You don’t ever lose the lead?”
She shakes her head. “I used to. I don’t know, to me they’re easier than getting up to sharpen your pencil every time it gets dull… and possibly taking five minutes to do so when you could just switch it out and keep writing.”
“You like strawberries?” he asks.
“No,” she answers. “I’m allergic. But I like the smell of them… and it’s an artificial smell, so…” She laughs a little. It was cute. “And the fact that I got like fifty thousand of these for insanely cheap before I got done with eighth grade because the kid running the school shop just wanted to get rid of them so I’m all set for a while. Can’t blame them, I was ready to get out of there too. That place felt like hell.”
Tony can’t help but snicker. “You’re funny. What’s your name?”
“Virginia Potts,” she says.
“You were born in the eighties and your name is Virginia?”
Virginia stares. “Yeah? What’s the problem? I like my name.”
“It’s just old fashioned,” he says. “When I hear that name I think of someone my grandmother would be friends with. Not someone like you.”
She raises a brow. “Someone like me?”
“Young,” Tony clarifies.
“Oh,” she says with a nod. “Well, what name do you think would suit me? Since you’re such a genius with names apparently.”
Tony hums. He looks at her and smirks. “Pepper.”
“Pepper?” she asks. “Why?”
“Pepper,” he insists. “Your freckles.”
“I don’t like it,” Pepper says.
Tony pouts. “C’mon, it’s cute! It fits you!”
“No, it doesn’t,” she disagrees.
“If you say—“‘
“Pipe down class!” the teacher says, interrupting Tony.
Pepper whispers as the teacher talks. “Since you wanna be judgey with names, what’s yours?”
“Tony works much better. Anthony reminds me of someone my stepdad would make sketchy business deals with. No offense,” she says quietly before sitting back in her seat and starts paying attention to the teacher.
“What are you smiling about?” Pepper asks once the group of three is sitting down in his living room. Pepper and Morgan are sitting on his couch while he takes the seat.
He shakes his head and lies. “Nothing, sorry.”
Pepper shoots him an unconvinced look and he notices Morgan’s trying to read both of their expressions.
“So… about all of this. Morgan, what do you think?” Pepper asks.
“About co-parenting?” Morgan inquires. “Or just this… trying to be civil and be as involved in each other’s lives thing.”
“Co-parenting,” Pepper answers.
“Oh, um, well… I like the idea of it in theory,” Morgan explains with a shrug.
“In theory?” Tony asks.
“As in, like… if it were a few months down the line and I knew you better,” Morgan clarifies.
“Oh, yes. Absolutely,” Pepper says. “We wouldn’t start this venture until you were ready to start going back and forth every few days… if you ever are.”
“Then yeah, I… yeah, I think so. Obviously, I’d request to check back in with me or something when that date approaches, but I could see myself getting to that point by August or September,” Morgan answers.
“Before school starts?” Tony asks.
“Yeah.” Morgan nods. “Obviously that would be based on how much we communicate and get to know each other… if I can trust you and stuff… which I do trust you already. But you know… the, erm…” She pauses. “The father and daughter relationship is a little… broken… right now. Not that it’s your fault, um… erm… I don’t exactly want to call you—”
Tony frowns. “You can just call me ‘Tony’, Morgan,” he assures.
“So, with that being said… what do you think? Plan on the start of the new semester? Switch off every weekend when she’s on campus? Then do a two to three day thing during breaks?” Pepper asks. “And you know… once she’s a junior and can commute.”
“I mean, that works,” Tony says. “I currently only have a guest room but can remodel it to your liking if you want, Morgan. Make it your own.”
Morgan gives a weak smile. “Where would the guests stay if you had any?”
“Got a pull-out couch and a few air mattresses,” Tony shrugs. “Not exactly planning on moving.”
“Ah.” Morgan looks at her Mom. “Wait, what about you? We literally live like fifty minutes from here.”
“Trying to find a good job and housing options,” Pepper admits. “Not as easy as you’d think, unfortunately… people say PAs are always needed, but… geez. Where?”
“I hope you’re able to find accommodations pretty soon, Pep,” he says. “You know you could send me your budget and I could keep my eye out for listings around.”
“If I can’t find anything online, I’ll reach out,” Pepper assures.
“With the jobs, too. I’m friends with a lot of business owners. I could put a word in,” he offers.
“I’ll reach out,” she repeats with a weak smile. “Thank you.”
I wish I would've included the memory of how Pepper and Tony met in the parent's day chapter because I feel it would've fit better there... but, better late than never (and out of place), am I right?
I will be releasing a new chapter on Monday, May 10 in accordance with the meaningful date that was revealed the last time we saw each other here on ao3. That chapter is one of my favorites that I have ever written and I am so excited to share it with you all! With that being said, if all goes according to plan, you will still get another release on Wednesday as usual. In the drafts, I am currently up to 23 chapters and around 40k words. I am looking at a 35-40/50 chaptered series (give or take, obviously). I have high hopes to finish this by late June or early July. When I do finish writing this series, my uploads will go as follows:
I will slowly begin to release each chapter throughout my day until all are uploaded. Depending on where we are with current uploads, that may take a really long while. I am going ahead and requesting patience with me in accordance with updates. This may take more than one day to complete. I will relay this to you when I do finish writing this series.
Chapter 14: 14
in honor of the almost anniversary of Pepper and Tony in this series, I present to you: a new chapter on a Monday.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Mo,” Pepper calls from downstairs. “Sofia is here!”
Morgan smiles at the statement and gets up from her desk where she had been reading. She quickly walks down the stairs to find Sofia standing in front of the now-closed front door with a gift bag in hand.
“Hi,” Morgan says.
“Happy birthday, Morgan,” Sofia greets. “Where can I put the, um—“
“Coffee table,” Morgan answers, pointing to the living room. “And thank you!”
“Okay,” the eldest of the two says with a small smile before walking over to the living room. Sofia sets the present down on the table and turns back around to face her friend.
“I’m really glad you came,” Morgan says, quickly glancing up to the second story. She looks back at Sofia. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
“What do you—“
Morgan grabs Sofia’s hand and pulls her up the stairs and down the hall to her room.
She pushes open the cracked door and steps inside. “My room. It was supposed to be a walk-in closet until my mom remodeled it.” Morgan walks over to her desk and points to the overhead cork board with her right hand. “Over the spring break I got new pictures printed… there’s some of you… and Aug… and Aurora.”
Sofia walks over and looks at the board. “That one of you and your mom is so cute. When was that taken?” She points to the photo pinned in the middle. It’s a professional photo. Morgan was held in her mother’s arms and Pepper was kissing her cheek.
“I think I was one,” Morgan answers. “It was for my first birthday, at least. That same photo is downstairs somewhere... I think it’s on the fridge.”
“Nice.” Sofia grins. “Also, that photo of you and Taylor? Oh my God! I still can’t believe you got to meet her. What luck.”
“That was truly one of the highlights of my life.”
Sofia snickers. “Aw, I remember when we took that.” She points to the group photo of the four best friends near the corner of the board. It was taken at the student center one of the few days after Morgan found out who her dad was and her friends were (horribly) attempting to cheer her up for the reason she refused to disclose. It was the moment they finally got her to crack a genuine smile and Sofia was quick to capture its fleeting moment.
“I do too,” Morgan mumbles.
“Who’s that?” She points to the photo on the bottom right hand corner.
“Oh, um… that’s Madelyn. She and I were really close for awhile and then when she found out I had a crush on her, she kinda… stopped talking to me. It was right before I left for Woodvale so I haven’t exactly had time to take it down,” the youngest of the two says with a frown. She pulls the photo off, drops it in the trash, and reinstates the thumbtack to the board. “There.”
Sofia frowns. “Aw, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Morgan mumbles.
“Your room is really nice,” Sofia says with a beam. “I wish mine was this cozy.”
“When your room’s small, you figure out how to make things work,” Morgan says, shrugging.
Sofia turns to her left and spots Morgan’s record player sitting on her dresser and vinyl collection that was stashed in the white cubby next to it. “What records do you have?”
“Taylor’s discography up until 1989… still haven’t managed to get Rep yet,” Morgan recalls. “Then there’s one from The Beatles. Cyndi Lauper. Whitney Houston. I have a Dodie one and it’s my favorite to have going when I’m doing homework or need to relax. I also have some of The Go-Gos. There might be a Queen one, but Aunt Ali might’ve stolen it from me the last time she was here… A Owl City one here and there… The Midsummer Station and Ocean Eyes. I have a few Mary Lambert and Disney records, too. You can look through them if you want. There are a few I don’t listen to anymore, if there are any you want to take.”
“Very eclectic,” Sofia says with a beam. She carefully looks through the record covers and stops at one. “This one’s signed.”
Morgan snickers. “Yeah. When I was eleven, my dance team went to New York City for nationals. When I was there, during one of the breaks from master classes, me, my Mom, and one of my friends found a record shop. I got it there… and it came with an authenticity verification, so I know it’s not fake. I think it’s still in my desk drawer somewhere.”
“That is so cool, Morgan!” Sofia glances at her watch. “It’s six… we should probably get down there.”
As soon as the two make it back downstairs, the doorbell rings.
“I’ll get it!” Morgan yells in case her mother wants to try.
Morgan unlocks and opens the door to see her father bearing gifts. Her eyes widened when she saw him and she could see Sofia in the corner of her eye nonverbally questioning why on earth their science teacher just showed up at the door of her best friend’s house.
“Um, hi,” Morgan says quietly.
“Hi, Mr. Carbonell,” Sofia greets before any other word can be said, still shooting Morgan that look of confusion.
“You know that you don’t have to call me that out of school, Sofia,” Tony says after waving to the two girls with his free hand.
“Sorry,” Sofia mumbles.
Tony glances around the house.
“Coffee table,” Morgan says. “For gifts, cards, whatever.”
“Oh. Right. Thanks,” he says before walking over into the living room.
Sofia grabs Morgan’s hand and drags her outside of the house. “Why the hell is he here? I’d get it if it was my birthday party, because he’s friends with my dad. Like is your Mom dating him or—“
“No! Not anymore, at least. Or, not that I’m aware of...”
Sofia stares. “They what?! I’m gonna need more information here, Morgan.”
“Mr. Carbonell is my Dad. Like, biologically. The sperm donor, as my mother called him for a year straight when I was thirteen.”
“Huh—what?!” Sofia blinks. “Are you serious?”
“Oh. Oh wow. Holy shit,” Sofia mumbles.
“Please don’t tell August or Aurora about him yet.”
Sofia nods. “I won’t.”
After dinner and cake, it was time for gifts.
Morgan finishes reading the card from her grandparents and picks up the hundred dollar gift certificate for Another Chapter Bookstore. “This is really sweet, thank you both.”
She sets it down to the side when Joel, her grandfather, interrupted her: “Mo, we’ve got to head back home. Can we get hugs before we go?”
Morgan nods before standing up and walking over to her grandparents. She envelopes her grandma Elaine in a hug, right before her grandpa hugs the two of them.
“You’ve grown into such a wonderful, smart young woman, you know? Keep it up,” Jack says.
“Love you bunches, sweetheart. Can’t believe you’re fifteen,” Elaine says.
“I love you both more than you know,” Morgan murmurs. “Thank you for coming.”
The three let go and the grandparents start walking to the door. Joel turns around just enough to say, “Virginia, you’ve done a good job raising her too, you know.”
Pepper glances across the room and then to her stepdad before she lets out a nervous smile. “Thank you, Joel. Make sure to call when you get home.”
They leave a moment later, while Morgan walks back over to where she was opening presents.
Alicia takes away the packaging before setting down a colorful gift bag and an envelope in front of Morgan.
She squints when she sees the gift tags. From: Tony Carbonell. She looks up at her Dad for a moment before looking back at the bag and envelope.
“Bag first,” he says, breaking his silence.
“Ohh-kay,” Morgan mumbles. She pulls out the white and grey tissue paper until all that’s left is a sealed item inside. She raises a brow, carefully picking it up. It’s the reputation vinyl. “Holy shit.”
“Morgan,” Pepper scolds.
“Where’d you find this? I’ve been looking everywhere for it,” Morgan asks. “Literally everywhere. It’s sold out at every place I look. Even her shop… there won’t be a restock for a long time.”
“Took a trip to Philly to get something sorted out this past week and found it at a bookstore where I stopped for coffee. Last one there, too,” Tony says. “Immediately thought of you.”
Morgan can’t help but smile. “Thank you.”
She sits it back in the gift bag and sets the tissue paper back inside, before gently pushing the bag aside. She gently rips open the envelope tab and pulls out the contents. She unfolds the letter that was in a tri-fold and three tickets fall out before she can even skim the page. Still, she reads. Morgan looks up from the letter dumbfounded. “How did you—“
“The radio station I listen to sometimes, that also broadcasts in Philadelphia, was giving away tickets… to the fiftieth caller who could answer some ridiculous trivia questions correctly… next thing I know, I’m on my way to Philadelphia to pick up tickets for night one,” he answers.
“Tony,” Pepper says, shocked.
Before Morgan knows it, she’s hugging him. “Thank you.”
He hums quietly, shocked by the hug.
She steps away, spotting two of her three best friends stare wide eyed. “You really didn’t have to do any of that. Like at all.”
“I know. But I did anyway, because I care about you,” he says.
Morgan smiles weakly.
By now, the only people that are still here are Aurora, August, and Tony. It’s nearing the end of the party time.
Pepper and Tony are in the kitchen, when the twins’ parents show up in the driveway.
Morgan walks them out.
“Okay, what was that all about?” August asks.
“What was what all about?”
“One, your science teacher showed up to your birthday party. Two, he gave you the best present in the entire world to you. Three, you hugged him,” Aurora says. “What gives? Your Mom and him a thing or something?”
Morgan grimaces. “Oh God, no! They used to be? Like way back.” She shrugs, flashing an embarrassed smile.
“Huh?” August asks.
“He’s my Dad. Like, biologically.”
Aurora blinks. “She’s Pepper?”
Morgan nods. “I didn’t know until December…”
“Is that why you skipped school those two days?” Aurora asks.
“Are you two on good terms now? ‘Cause it seems like you are,” Aurora questions.
“Kinda.” Morgan nods. “We’ve had a few talks about all of it… my anger isn’t toward him anymore. And my parents want to start some co-parenting stuff in the fall once school starts back and I get to know him more. Like every other weekend I stay with him or Mom from Monday to Saturday or Sunday… it switches. If everything goes as planned, we’ll start doing the two-three day switch off full time once I’m a junior and then during breaks before then… since I won’t have to live on campus anymore. If my Mom finds a job around here… and a house, obviously. I honestly have no clue. She could technically keep her job since it’s only 30 minutes from there, but she’s pretty set on wanting to find a new one.”
“Well I hope you and your Dad continue to reconcile,” Aurora says.
“He seemed so much happier tonight compared to literally every other day I’ve ever seen him,” August adds on.
“Aug, Ror, I can’t wait all night!” the twins’ mother yells.
“Goodnight you guys,” Morgan says with a smile. “I’ll text you both later.”
“We’re still on for Wednesday?” August inquires.
The twins walk toward the car and Morgan walks back inside the house.
“I’ve got to get back to the house, too,” Tony says once Morgan walks into the kitchen. “Happy birthday, kid.”
Tony walks out the front door.
A moment later, a faint sound, followed by a quiet “damnit,” comes from outside. The sound comes again.
Pepper rushes outside to find Tony attempting and failing to get his car to start. Morgan loosely follows.
He tried again. He tried once more.
Pepper glances at Morgan and clears her throat. “You can stay with us tonight if you want. It’s late…”
Tony looks out his car window and blinks. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. You can take the couch… we’ve got extra blankets and pillows… all of that stuff. I can call a mechanic in the morning or you can just go get stuff in the morning if you’re too prideful to ask for car help,” Pepper answers.
“Thank you,” Tony mumbles. He gets out of his seat and shuts the door, making sure to lock it.
When the three are back inside, Pepper speaks up: “I’m sorry about the car trouble. I hope it’s nothing too bad.”
“I’ve had this car since I moved here… it shouldn’t be quitting on me this soon,” he says.
“Hiccups happen,” Pepper says with a frown, walking over to the couch with a stash of blankets and pillows in hand. She sits them down. “If there’s anything else you need, it’s probably in the closet or the kitchen. If not, my room’s upstairs to the right. Bathroom is oncoming when you get up there.”
“Thank you,” he says.
Morgan comes downstairs. “I’m going to bed.”
Pepper and Tony both look over at the teenager.
“Night,” Tony says.
“Goodnight,” Pepper says. “See you in the morning, birthday girl.”
Morgan’s waiting for her coffee to brew when Pepper wraps her arms around her daughter from the back.
“It’s 11:11 on June 18,” Pepper says. “You know what that means?”
“I’m officially fifteen?” Morgan snickers.
“It means it’s been fifteen years since you had me in labor for nineteen hours hooked up on Pitocin leaving me to eat nothing but ice chips for that long after being overdue for two weeks. Nothing but ice chips. For two weeks!” Pepper gleefully explains. “Also, I should note that the Pitocin did absolutely nothing to help me. I’m convinced you heard my nurse say that we’d have to resort to a c-section if progress wouldn’t be made by hour twenty and the next thing I knew… you were out.”
Morgan huffs, squirming out of her mother’s hug and pulls the coffee pot out from the maker.
“I couldn’t be mad at you for being stubborn either… the second I heard your piercing wail, it’s like the anger just washed away,” Pepper teases. “And now look at you. All old and grown, thinking you can ignore your mother? Stubborn since day one.”
“Yep!” Morgan exclaims as she pulls out a mug from the cabinet and sits it down. She pours the coffee from the pot into her mug.
“The retirement home is waiting for you, dear,” Pepper snarks.
“Hey!” Morgan yelps. She’s quiet for a moment. “Can you get me the coffee creamer?”
“No. You’re a big girl now, you can get it yourself.”
Morgan’s eyes widened. “Mama!”
Footsteps come. “Where’s it at? I’ll get it for you,” Tony’s voice comes from the archway.
“Fridge, on the door. Top shelf… not the French Vanilla one,” Morgan recalls, looking over her left shoulder at him.
“Alright,” he says.
Morgan hears the sound of the fridge open and close. The next thing she knows, the caramel macchiato creamer was set right next to her hand. She hears her parents converse quietly amongst themselves about his car and for just a moment, it hurt to know this wasn’t a normal occurrence in The Potts Girls’ house. Tony wouldn’t have stayed last night if it wasn’t for his car refusing to start. Tony won’t ever hand her the creamer after her mother teases her in the morning ever again. None of this will probably ever happen again. All because of him. All because of Howard.
“—okay? Morgan, honey, are you alright?” Pepper asks.
Shit. I’m crying again, aren’t I? Yep. There’s tears.
“I’m fine,” she dismisses, grabbing the creamer from the counter and finishes making her coffee. “Don’t worry about me.” She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand not holding onto the mug before turning around.
also yeah sorry alissa but he’s gonna be a good gift giver for awhile bc he’s trying to gain Morgan’s approval and love.
Reminder that there will be ONE more known chapter coming this week. On Wednesday, at the usual release time.
Chapter 15: 15
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s been almost two hours since the concert started. It’s been the most fun Sofia’s had in a long time, and now Taylor Swift is singing two of her and Morgan’s favorite songs. Long Live and New Year’s Day.
Sofia looks at Morgan, who’s quietly singing along to every word… as the background vocalists begin to sing the lyrics of New Year’s Day while Taylor sings the chorus of Long Live. And for the first time, there’s a swelling in her chest. But it doesn’t hurt. It’s not scary. It actually feels nice. Like it’s meant to be there, even though she’s never felt it before in her life. Like butterflies.
“I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you…”
Morgan glances at Sofia with a content smile before looking back at the blonde sitting at the piano.
A smile slips from Sofia’s lips. This is that feeling… isn’t it? Everyone describes it like butterflies. Is this what it feels like? I like her? Oh my God. Pretty girl. Cute. Cute. She’s really pretty. Really pretty. Oh my God—
And before she can process what’s going on, the lights dim and the speakers blare: “When she fell, she fell apart.”
The concert is over and Pepper is currently getting gas. Sofia and Morgan are sitting in the back of her car, concert confetti in a ziplock baggie sits in between them.
Morgan’s texting with someone, Sofia can’t tell with who.
Morgan turns her phone to sleep mode and looks at Sofia.
Both of them, at the same time, say: “I have something to tell you.”
Sofia sputters, “Y-You go… you go first.”
Morgan shakes her head. “No, you.”
“No, you can.”
Morgan nervously smiles. “Remember how a couple of months ago you told me August liked me?”
“Y-Yeah,” Sofia says.
“He kinda… asked me out on a date at the dance recital and I went with him on it… and there have been a few since,” Morgan says.
“Oh. Did it, um… did they go well?” Sofia asks. It’s all she can manage to say.
She nods. “I think so? We have another one next week… on Thursday,” Morgan explains.
“Ice cream,” Morgan answers.
“I hope you have a fun time,” Sofia says quietly. Her heart felt like it had been manhandled, and it wasn’t even Morgan’s fault. Great timing, heart. “You guys are cute together.”
“Thank you.” Morgan grins. “What is it that you wanted to tell me?”
Sofia blinks. “What?”
“You were going to tell me something.”
“I was? Um… I forgot,” Sofia lies through her teeth. She gives a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”
“Oh, okay,” Morgan says. “Let me know if you remember.”
“I will,” she lies.
The driver’s side door opens, the smell of gas wafts through the car for a brief moment, and Pepper sits in her seat. She shuts the door and buckles herself in the seat. “Ready to head to the hotel?”
Both girls nod.
Pepper glances in the rearview mirror before switching to drive on the gear shift and pulling out of the gas station. “So, what was your absolute favorite part of tonight?”
Morgan grins again. “Either the finale or Delicate. Especially the speech before it. I Did Something Bad was so good too.”
“Delicate was probably my favorite, too,” Pepper says, turning onto the road.
“New Year’s Day,” Sofia mumbles. “The Getaway Car intro was really cool, too.”
Morgan’s finishing her burger when Pepper sits down at the seat across from her. Sofia’s laying on one of the beds talking to her Dad on the phone.
“Have you thanked your Dad for seeking out those tickets yet? That you had a good time?” Pepper asks.
Morgan sets down her food and nods. “Yeah, I told him while you were getting gas.”
“Good,” Pepper says with a nod. “When am I supposed to bring you to Starlight tomorrow?”
“At three,” Morgan says.
“So we’ll have to leave here by 11:30… to account for traffic and any stops we need to make on the way back,” the redhead states.
Pepper looks over her shoulder at Sofia. “Are you okay with heading out at 11:30?”
Sofia glances at Pepper, nodding, before saying into her phone, “Yeah, Dad. That sounds really good, actually.”
Pepper looks back at her daughter. “So, what are you and Dad going to talk about tomorrow?”
“The show… school… I don’t know,” Morgan rambles. “We’ll see I guess. Sometimes we talk about August and you. He’s not very fond of August… but he likes talking about you.”
“Yeah,” she confirms. “He tells me all sorts of stories about you and him in high school. But more often they’re just about you. And before our calls end or we part ways, he tells me not forget to say hello to you… which I never forget.”
A smile appears on her mother’s face. But there’s an emotion behind it that Morgan can’t place. She’s never seen her mother smile like that before.
Bruce hugs his daughter tight. “I missed you, kid. But I’m glad you got to go. Was it as fun as it seemed in the videos you sent?”
Sofia nods when she steps away.
“What was your favorite part?” he asks as he walks into the kitchen, Sofia following loosely.
“I actually kinda wanted to talk to you about that,” Sofia says, pushing herself up on the island seat.
“But I wasn’t there?”
Sofia shakes her head. “You don’t have to be for this.”
“Oh? Alright then,” Bruce says with a raised brow. “What is it about then?”
“How do you know if you like someone? Like, really like someone?”
He blinks. “Like, love?”
“Yeah, I guess. Love,” Sofia confirms. “During this part of the show last night… when she was singing a mashup of Long Live and New Year’s Day… I looked over at Morgan… and I… well… maybe? I don’t know. And when she looked at me, it’s like my heart just burst and my brain just kept repeating phrases like ‘pretty girl’ as if I were Todd Hewitt seeing Viola from Chaos Walking for the first time! That’s never happened before. Never.”
Bruce’s eyebrows raise. “You have a crush on Morgan? My co-worker’s daughter?”
“Dad, I don’t know! That’s why I’m trying to ask for clarification here,” Sofia yelps. “If you can’t help me I’ll call Melody or Tess.”
Bruce hums quietly. “It sounds like you have a crush… you described the weird feeling people get when they like someone to a T.”
“Oh God,” Sofia whines, hiding her face in her hands.
“What’s wrong with that? You’ve got a crush, not a college rejection letter,” Bruce asks.
“I’m setting myself up for heartbreak. That’s what’s wrong.”
He blinks. “Why would you be setting yourself up for heartbreak?”
“She and August are a thing apparently,” Sofia sighs.
“Hi,” Morgan says as she sits at the two seater booth.
“Hi,” Tony greets.
“Thank you for getting me a water and ordering for me,” she said. “I’m really sorry that the traffic coming back was bad.”
“It’s alright.” He shows a weak smile. “How was the show? I know you told me a little over text, but that was kind of a short answer you gave me.” He pauses. “How did your, uh... Mom like it? I know you said she wasn’t big on the subject at the core of many of Swift’s songs…”
“Mom seemed to really like it, actually,” Morgan answers. “She told me that the Delicate part was her favorite… but I saw her shed a tear during Dancing With Our Hands Tied and she knew all the words… which threw me for a loop for a sec. I mean, like you said, she’s not a big fan of those topics in music.”
Tony frowns slightly, but recovers quickly. “I have to admit that I still haven’t exactly listened to that record,” he says with a small embarrassed laugh.
Morgan gasps. “You need to. It’s really good.”
“Okay, alright. I’ll listen to it this weekend and get back to you,” Tony assures.
“If she ever comes out with a rock album I’m making you listen to it with me.”
“Noted.” Tony snickers. “What was your favorite part?”
“Delicate or the finale… because of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Morgan recalls. “There was a fountain on stage during the finale mashup and it was so cool. Early on in the show, there was a mini stage that tilted, too. It reminded me of this prop my dance studio used for a lyrical dance my last year I was there before I moved to Woodvale. Kinda cool.”
“It sounds cool.” He’s about to say something when the waitress from a few months prior sets down two plates and takes Tony’s half full glass of water. When she leaves, he continues. “When’s your next date with that boy of yours?”
“Uh…” Morgan mumbles. “Thursday.”
“And he’s treating you right?”
Morgan nods. “Yes sir.”
“Good,” he says as he takes the refilled glass from the waitress. She walks away.
“And he’s not just some boy,” Morgan scolds. “His name is August… and he was in your class last year.”
“I know.” He picks up his sandwich and takes a bite.
Morgan and Sofia stans won't have to wait too much longer, I promise!!!!
(also side note: the number of times I had to watch that one part of the rep tour on Netflix for that one tiny scene should be unnecessary.)
Today, I bring forth a question. I am currently working on chapter 30 of this series and am looking at a 40/45-50 length for this series. As in, it will end between those numbers somehow. This means I am almost to the finish line, no matter where it ends up falling on the scale from 40 to 50 chapters. With that being said, would you all like to read two chapters a week every now and again? This will help me catch up with uploads so that way when I do finally finish writing this series, you won't have fifteen-something chapters to read. If I do decide to go through with this idea, I will be either looking at a Monday/Wednesday release (like this week) or a Wednesday/Friday release. Please let me know what you think! I haven't really used tumblr for updates in a hot minute, so I will update all of you on the decision that I will make on my twitter. Thank you so much for supporting me in this writing endeavor!
Chapter 16: 16
Woah, three chapters this week? I guess so. This is just me testing out which format I like better... Monday and Wednesday or Wednesday and Friday. From next week and onward, it'll be one of those timeframes.
Some of you will either really love this chapter or really hate it. I don't know if there is a middle ground.
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, a small mention of non-consensual/pressuring into sex, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s the two month anniversary since August and Morgan started dating and the two were on the anniversary date in downtown Waterbury.
August pulls away just slightly from the kiss they shared on a park bench. “Morgan, I think I love you.”
Morgan stares, eyes wide. She doesn’t realize she’s backed away slightly. “I—“
Morgan continues to stare. Did he just tell me he loves me?
“I said I love you…”
Morgan blinks. “Um… I.. I—” Morgan, why can’t you say it?
“A-Are you alright?” he asks.
“I-I’m really sorry, Aug… I’m not there yet,” Morgan sputters.
August stares this time. “What?”
“With e-everything with my parents… the whole concept of love terrified me for a… for a really long time,” Morgan mumbles, trying to explain. “A-And my Mom always told me not… not to say I loved someone before I was ready because i-it’s not good to do that… a-and I just… I can’t. I’m sorry. My Mom loved my Dad a-and then he dropped off. I mean, we know why now. But she didn’t know why when she told me the thing about saying ‘I love you’ a-and that really affected me, August… it doesn’t just go away now that he’s trying to have a good relationship with me and my Mom.”
“Save it. I’ve gotta go,” he says, picking up his things and walking to his car. “We’re done.”
“But I don’t have a—“
He’s already in his car and driving off.
A set of tears fall down her cheeks when she stands up and looks around at the empty park and vehicles driving by.
Next thing she knows, she’s walking by the Woodvale Gates on her left and into a neighborhood she’s been to twice before. She can barely see through her tear-stained glasses, but she still trudges along.
She’s standing in front of a door and knocks three times in a row.
She’s about to knock a fourth time, when—
She hugs him tight before he can say another word and cries into his shirt. “Dad, I-I think August just broke up with me.”
Tony stares into his neighborhood when she says that. She just called me Dad. For the first time. To my face. Tony, that’s not the point. She just told you she got dumped. He wraps his arms around her and rubs her back lovingly in an attempt to help ease any pain. “Just now? What happened?”
“I told him I didn’t want to move as fast as he was and then h-he just… said he had to go a-and then he… he, um, left me at the park,” she mumbles. “I didn’t know what else to do, so I walked here. He was supposed to take me to Mom’s after our date…”
“He just left you there?” Tony asks when Morgan steps away. He shuts his front door and locks it back.
She nods, before immediately sitting down on the couch.
Tony sits down next to her. “Define ‘moving too fast' for me. Did he try something on you? I swear to God if he tried to pressure you into sex—”
“Oh God, no! We’ve only been dating for two months… dated for two months. He told me he loved me,” she explains quietly. She wipes a tear from her cheeks. “A-And no offense, but because of everything that happened between you and… you and mom, the whole, um... concept of love has been kinda skewed for me since I learned what love is. So two months in a relationship and being expected to bear my soul like that? It’s nice in theory… but I just… I can’t. I don’t understand how he expected me to say it back that soon? M-Mama always told me not to say it before I was ready… and I just wasn’t ready… so I didn’t say it.”
“And he broke up with you because you weren’t ready to take that step?”
Morgan nods before resting the back of her head on his shoulder.
“Morgan, that’s not… you not wanting to say that this early isn’t bad,” Tony quietly assures. “It wasn’t out of line, even if he thinks it is. Your Mom and I didn’t say ‘I love you’ to each other until eight months into our relationship. And to some people, eight months feels just as early as two months does you. To some people, eight months may be too long to wait.” He glances at his upset daughter and sighs. “The person you love… who loves you, too… when and if they tell you that they love you first, it’s not going to completely terrify you. Maybe a little, but not entirely. You’re not going to hesitate to say it back or be so scared that the words won’t fall out. And the same with the person you love down the line if you say the words first. Sometimes you won’t even realize you’re ready to say it until it just comes out. It’s supposed to be relatively easy.”
Morgan stays quiet, staring at the turned off TV in front of her.
“I’m really sorry you had to go through that, kid,” he continues. “I knew I wholeheartedly loved your Mother around four months into our relationship… but I waited until I was about ninety-five percent certain she loved me too, to say that. Which was not until eight months into our relationship. It was terrifying to make that step and tell her, but she didn’t hesitate to tell me the same. Love is extremely complicated… but it shouldn’t scare you so bad if they’re the right person. You were not out of line for not saying it back before you were ready, understand me?”
Morgan hums quietly.
“Good,” he says, standing up. He turns to face Morgan, who’s still sitting. Her eyes are red, but she’s not crying anymore. “You know I’m going to have to call your Mom, right? You said you were supposed to be taken home.”
“I want to tell her on my own... and that’s not something I want to do right now,” she sighs. “Can I stay with you?”
Tony blinks. “She still deserves to know where you are. That’s a whole vital part of co-parenting. All parties have to be informed of your whereabouts, plans, anything. Plus, I still don’t have your room all set up yet.”
Morgan shakes her head. “You have a sleeper sofa.”
Tony thinks for a moment. “Hm… okay, how about this? I’ll call your Mom, tell her that he who shall not be named dropped you off at my house because something came up and he couldn’t drive one hour round trip tonight…” He pauses. “...and that since it’s getting late, I think you should stay over here tonight and see if she agrees. She probably will… and when she does, tomorrow before your Mom comes to fetch you, we can go out to town and you can get anything you want to put in your room here. Paint, bedspread, trinkets… whatever it is that you want. I already did the primer for the walls last week. Just need to pick the paint color and finish that part up.”
“Then I will be right back.” Tony grabs his phone from the kitchen counter and walks into his room, shutting the door behind him. He finds Pepper’s contact and presses it. He puts it up to his ear and waits.
“Hey, Pep. Please don’t freak, but August broke up with Morgan tonight—“
“Please don’t freak,” Tony says quietly.
“Sorry,” Pepper answers. “What happened?”
“He said he loved her and threw a fit when she said she wasn’t comfortable saying that back this early,” Tony explains. “Which, I get why she’d want to wait. Two months? Damn… that’s way too fast in my humble opinion. But because he didn’t get his way, he left her at the park and she walked to my house.”
“Oh my God! Is she okay?”
“Yeah, she’s fine… she was crying when she got here but when I was getting up to call you she seemed more calm,” Tony recalls. “She’s requested to stay over with me tonight. Is that okay?”
Pepper hums quietly. “Um, yeah… sure. I’ll come by to pick her up after I get done with work tomorrow.”
“Okay.” He glances at the door. “One more thing, she doesn’t exactly know I’m telling you about the breakup. I think she wants to tell you about it on her own terms, but it felt extremely wrong to lie to you.”
“Thank you,” Pepper says through the phone. “Thank you for taking care of her. Tell her I love her, okay?”
“Always. And I will,” Tony confirms. “See you tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, Tony,” she murmurs before the line goes dead.
Tony walks out of the room and back into his living room. “You can stay tonight. Your Mom said she loves you.”
Morgan wakes up to the sound of a coffee machine whirring and the sound of soft footsteps in her Dad’s kitchen.
The footsteps stop and his voice comes from across the room. “Hey, kid. Sleep okay?”
Morgan softly whines, turning over on her left side to look at her Dad. “How did you know I was awake?”
“You were stirring a little in your sleep a bit ago,” Tony answers. “Want coffee?”
“Mm-hmm,” Morgan grunts.
“I only have French vanilla creamer,” Tony warns. “Is that okay?”
Morgan nods, still laying down.
“Alrighty,” he says before walking back into the kitchen area. “I hope you’re up and at ‘em pretty soon… I want to head into town by 11:30. Your Mom’s coming by at seven.”
Morgan grumbles into the pillow before pushing herself up into a seated position. She stands up a moment later and puts on her glasses. She checks her phone that sat on the end table. One message from Sofia.
Morgan opens it and reads it. The message said, ‘I saw you walking in town last night when I was coming back from grocery shopping. Seemed upset. You alright?’
Morgan yawns before typing out a response back: ‘I think I am okay now. I was broken up with last night because I was not exactly ready to say I love you… I walked over to my Dad’s house and stayed with him last night since it was closer.’ She sets her phone back down and walks into the kitchen, where Tony was mixing the creamer into her coffee.
He hands her the mug.
She grins. “Tears of my students?” Morgan reads off the mug.
“Faculty/staff white elephant Christmas gift,” he snickers.
“Ah,” Morgan hums before walking over to the freezer and opens it with her free hand. She carefully drops a few ice cubes in her coffee and sips.
“So… color scheme,” Tony says once they reach the paint section of the store. “What are you thinking?”
Morgan is about to answer when she spots a light blue sample in the corner of her eye and quickly goes over to grab one. “This one.”
“Wow, that quick?” Tony asks.
Morgan nods, showing him the color sample. “I really like this.”
“Well, alright then. It’s a nice color,” he says, taking the swatch from her.
The two walk to the small line for paint mixing.
“You know I’m taking over the Academic Decathlon team this year,” Tony says.
Morgan nods. “I heard an inkling about that. Sofia has talked about it a lot.”
“You should sign up for it when school starts back up,” he suggests. “You’d be such an asset to the team.”
“Yeah. You know a lot about a lotta stuff. You’d be great at it,” he prods. “Plus, you’d make some new friends. What’s so bad about that?”
“I don’t know… I’m just scared that it won’t actually work for me,” Morgan disagrees. “Oh, and I’m way too shy for that. I’m fine with just being friends with Sofia.”
“I doubt that. You really know your stuff. Don’t let fear hold you back, Morgan,” he encourages.
The doorbell rings at 6:40 PM, and Morgan sets down the brush on the black paint pan. “I’ll get it,” she says before wiping off the small splatters of turquoise paint on Tony’s old AC/DC tee that he let her wear for this room remodeling venture. She walks out of the room and finds her way to the front door.
Morgan opens up the door to her Mother.
“Nice shirt,” Pepper snickers. “I don’t recall you ever owning an AC/DC shirt.”
Morgan points behind her. “It’s Dad's. We’re painting the room I’m supposed to stay at when I stay with him on the weekends and he didn’t want me ruining my clothes.”
“Oh, I know… I recognize it from when your Dad and I were teenagers. Don’t gotta explain,” she teases.
“You should come paint with us,” Morgan says.
Pepper shakes her head. “I’d love to, but I don’t know… it’s getting kinda late and there’s a bit of a drive back home.”
“Just help us finish the second wall? It’s almost done. Please?” Morgan prods.
“Okay,” Pepper reluctantly agrees.
Morgan walks her mother into the guest room that would soon be completely turned into her own place to stay.
“Nice job,” she says when she sees the progress.
Tony looks over with his paint roller still in his hand and smiles. “How was work? The drive?”
Morgan glances at Pepper. That same smile from the concert night. It’s on her mother’s face. “Good… and okay. Thank you for asking.” She picks up a brush. “I’m a little shocked that you didn’t go for the grey and pink theme, Mo.”
Morgan shrugs. “Wanted to switch things up. That so bad?”
“No,” Pepper says quietly. She starts painting before saying: “Tony, thank you for taking care of her last night. I really appreciate it.”
“Dad told me about the breakup,” Pepper says once the girls return home.
The breakup. Morgan grimaces, blinking. “H-He did?”
The redhead nods. She holds out her arms for her daughter. “I’m really sorry… please don’t be mad at him though… he just felt I needed to know. Are you okay?”
Morgan practically falls into her mother’s embrace. “I don’t know.”
Pepper rubs her daughter’s back. “Do you need to wallow?”
“Before I went to get you, I went to the grocery store and got ice cream and stuff… you want me to fix some up for you while you pick a movie or show? Or you can just talk to me about it.”
“Ice cream,” Morgan says.
MORGAN FINALLY CALLED TONY DAD!!!! AHHH!!! :')
Chapter 17: 17
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Morgan and her Mother are almost done fixing up her dorm room bedding when the door of the room unlocks and opens up.
A girl walks through with two suitcases rolling behind her and a backpack barely hanging on her shoulder. She’s alone.
“Hi,” Morgan says as she puts her pillows at the top of her bed.
“Hi,” the girl says.
“What’s your name?” Morgan asks, taking the blanket from her mother. “I somehow misplaced my roommate placement email. Sorry...”
“I’m Alissa,” she says. “Alissa Hartley-Medina.”
“Nice to meet you, Alissa. I’m Morgan,” the eldest of the teenagers greets. “This is my Mom… her name’s Virginia.”
Alissa lifts her arm enough to fix her backpack for a moment and waves. “Hello, Mrs. Virginia.”
“Miss,” Pepper politely corrects. “I’m not married.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Alissa quickly apologizes as she pushes her suitcases in the corner of the room. “My family’s screwed up so I should’ve known not to just automatically assume.”
“It’s alright,” Pepper assures. “It’s very nice to meet you, Alissa.”
“You too,” she says.
Pepper looks at Morgan. “You got this covered on your own?”
“Alright. Well, I’m going to go find your Dad and make final decisions on the weekend plans with him. I’ll make sure one of us informs you on who’s going to pick you up on Friday,” Pepper says. “That okay?”
“Mm-hmm,” Morgan hums.
“Good.” She hugs her daughter. “Call me every day, alright?”
“Promise,” Morgan says and steps away. “Keep me updated on the job interviews. Does your boss know you might be quitting?”
Pepper shakes her head. “Not that I know of… but it’s best that he doesn’t. He’s very generous but I don’t want to burn any bridges until I know for sure. Plus, we don’t even have a house under contract yet, so... but yes, I will keep you updated.”
“Didn’t you put in an offer on that one place?”
Pepper nods. “Still haven’t gotten an answer.”
“Love you,” Morgan says.
“Love you too, kid,” Pepper says before walking out.
The door shuts when Alissa sets down a picture frame on her desk. “I hate to pry, but did your parents get divorced? Mine are and I just…”
“Not divorced,” Morgan answers with a shake of the head. “They never got married...”
“Oh,” Alissa says with a nod. “Just seemed like that was what was going on.”
Morgan nods. “Kinda, I guess. My parents haven’t been together for a while… well, they got split up before I was born. Which would make it… almost sixteen years ago now since I’m just barely fifteen? They last talked to each other in December of 2002… you know, before present day events.” She walks closer to Alissa’s side of the room. “At no fault of their own… my grandfather on my Dad’s side is who separated them. I grew up without my father and found him—“ she gestures around the room. “—here. At Woodvale. He’s a science teacher. So we’re just now starting the co-parenting thing.”
“Wow,” she says. “That’s quite a story. I’m sure that was quite a shock for you. My parents have been separated since I was six, so I’ve dealt with the co-parenting thing for a while… I had to go to play therapy through that transition and can only imagine how much of a terror my first therapist thought I was. If you need to vent about anything, I’m all ears.”
Morgan shrugs. “Yeah, I was pretty angry at first. Sad would probably be a better word. But when I figured out my Dad actually wanted to be there for me and my Mom, all the anger shifted to the dead guy I have to refer to as my grandfather.”
“I getcha,” Alissa says. “I’m glad you’re on good terms with your Dad.”
Morgan looks around the barren empty side of the room. “Do you need any help? You came alone.”
“Sure, if you want,” Alissa says, nodding to her suitcases. “Clothes and toiletries and other stuff are in the blue one. Bedding and random stuff are in the other… my stuff for school is in my backpack. I’m going back to get the other things from the administration office once I get all this stuff handled.”
Morgan walks over and bends down to unzip the fallen over blue suitcase.
Morgan finishes helping Alissa put on the fitted sheet and looks at Alissa’s desk. She spots the picture frame in the right hand corner and smiles. It’s of Alissa and a girl. They’re at Pride and the girl is kissing Alissa on the cheek. “Who are you with there?”
“My girlfriend,” Alissa answers with a smile. “I guess that’s kinda obvious in the photo. Her name’s Lea. We grew up best friends and then just… figured out we liked each other. She came to the airport to say goodbye to me.”
“Where are you from?”
“Seattle,” Alissa answers.
“Oh wow,” Morgan says.
“As long as you’re okay with me calling her every night to talk with her, the long distance thing shouldn’t be an issue,” Alissa snickers.
Morgan nods. “So, what’s your artistic thing?”
“My artistic thing?”
“Like, everyone here has something artistic they do here… despite it being primarily a science school. What’s yours? I’m in the dance program. My best friend’s in the art program.”
“Art, too,” Alissa says. “I like that this school works like that… it’s the best of both worlds.”
“Same,” Morgan nods. “Hey, do you want to go to the student center with me? That friend of mine is usually hanging around there. You two should meet!”
Morgan and Alissa find Sofia on a couch sketching.
“Hey, Sof,” Morgan says.
Sofia looks up at Morgan and she immediately smiles. “H-Hey, what’s up?” She closes her sketchbook.
“Just showing my roommate around and getting her acquainted. She’s in the art program, too,” Morgan says, taking a seat next to Sofia… her hand accidentally grazing Sofia’s. Sofia briefly stiffens but relaxes pretty quickly.
“Hi, I’m Alissa.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Alissa,” Sofia says.
“I’m gonna go get some coffee since I really couldn’t sleep much on the plane… I’ll be back,” Alissa says before walking away.
Sofia looks at Morgan. “How have you been, Mo? With the breakup and all of that?”
Morgan shrugs. “I’ve been fine. Just nervous about how these first few weeks are gonna go. Aurora hasn’t even talked to me since after it happened so she definitely knows something. But…”
“Same,” Sofia says. “Who are you staying with this weekend? Maybe we could hang out after school on Friday or something.”
Morgan shrugs. “I haven’t heard—“ Her phone goes off. She looks at it and laughs. “Dad’s.” Morgan sets the phone down.
“With that being said, would you want to?” Sofia asks.
Morgan nods. “I’d really like that.”
Please welcome Alissa Hartley-Medina to The Potts Girls, who not only is a nod to one of my readers (hey bestie ily) and Max Medina from Gilmore Girls. Though, I do need to go ahead and say that the name is no indication of this character and Max being related. Just a creative little nod to the TV series in which this fic was inspired. :)
I have a new update schedule, please read!!
My new update schedule will be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 10:30 AM and 2 PM eastern time. This new change may halt at any moment, but I don't foresee this occurring. In case that does happen, will help me release chapters quicker, but still give me time to get ahead in case I may accidentally fall behind schedule. I do not see that happening, but I need to plan ahead just in case. At this time, I am working on chapter 36 and am looking at a 45-50 cap. The doc for it is currently sitting at 61k words and around 190 pages total. Things are starting to come full circle (in a good way) and I'm very excited for you to read the rest of it. This week is going to be filled with some pretty exciting chapters!
Chapter 18: 18
Today, I am releasing chapters 18 and 19. Friday, I will release 20. This decision was made at the drop of a hat last night, and it's mainly just so I don't have to worry about how many chapters I will have to finish releasing when I finish writing this series. But this is a sweet treat for you all, since hopefully (fingers crossed) y'all will see a plot point go through fruition sooner than if I would've dropped 19 on Friday and 20 this coming Monday.
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, a small mention of non-consensual/pressuring into sex, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So, what do you think of my Dad’s class now that you’ve gone through a whole week of his antics?” Morgan asks Alissa once she shows up for break at the student center.
Alissa snickers. “He seems really nice! Actually seemed very happy today. Very sweet… and I’m not just saying that because he gave an extension on homework. He genuinely seemed really happy today.”
“Happy?” Sofia asks.
“Probably because we are starting co-parenting this weekend,” Morgan says. “It’s a big step for us to do that.”
“Oh, yeah. Right,” Alissa says. “I’m glad that you’re going to get to spend some more time with your Dad.”
“Speaking of… Sofia, did your Dad say you could come over after school?”
Sofia nods. “I need to be back by ten, but it’s not that big of a deal.”
“Cool,” Morgan says with a smile. “What do you think—“
Aurora and August walk into the student center and quickly pass the group of three girls, all while both giving side eye.
“I know I’m new and everything, but what happened? There seems like there’s some bad blood there,” Alissa questions.
“That’s because there is,” Morgan sighs.
“Oh no. I’m so sorry,” Alissa apologizes.
“Aurora and August are siblings,” Sofia recalls. “And August had a crush on Morgan since the moment he saw her.”
Morgan purses her lips into a thin line.
“And well… we started dating,” Morgan describes. “It was going well, too. I liked him, he liked me. We treated each other well. Then in August, no pun intended… he told me he loved me… but I wasn’t ready to say it back. It would’ve been our three month anniversary on the twelfth if I would’ve been able to say it back.”
“Three months?!” Alissa yelps quietly. “That’s way too early. I don’t blame you. Me and Lea didn’t say that to each other until like five months in.”
“And yet he gets all defensive because I should be over the trauma my absent father caused me on my love life now that I know it wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t there? Like damn, even my Dad knows there’s no way to erase that.” Morgan rolls her eyes. “He acts like I’m the bad guy even though he’s the one who left me in the park alone after it so I had to walk all the way to my dad’s house at eight PM. Totally safe idea. Leave a young teenage girl alone in the middle of town at night. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had known where my Dad lived or if I wasn’t walking distance away from him.”
“That’s so messed up, I’m sorry,” Alissa sympathizes. “Are you okay now?”
“Yeah. I’m over him thankfully, but geez,” Morgan says with a shrug.
“Alissa, how long have you two been together?” Sofia inquires, changing the subject.
“Just under a year,” she says with a smile. “Our one year is on the 29th. I’m sad we can’t celebrate together in person on that day, but we’re going to FaceTime and stuff. Over fall break we’re gonna properly celebrate together, though.”
“Y’all seem really cute,” Morgan beams.
“How unbearable was having me as the new team supervisor, Sofia?” Tony asks as he sits down at the kitchen table.
“Not unbearable at all, actually,” Sofia enthuses. “I think Mr. Rogers was getting tired of running it and you’re kind of a breath of fresh air for the team. But we’ll see what happens as time moves on, I suppose.”
“That’s nice to know,” he snickers. “Morgan, are you going to stick around with us?”
Morgan shrugs. “I think so. As Sof said, we’ll see.” She sees Sofia smile when she says ‘Sof’. Morgan takes a bite of her dinner.
“You… you, uh, definitely would be an asset to the team. You should at least try a few more weeks and if you absolutely hate it… we’ve got alternates. We’ll manage without you,” Sofia says, her voice faltering a little. “Don’t see how, but we could…”
“What are you doing?” Morgan asks, glancing up from her phone to her best friend. Music played softly through Sofia’s phone that sat on Morgan’s bedside table.
“Um,” Sofia mumbles, looking up from her book. She turns it around. Multiple small sketches across the sheet of Morgan. “I-In my art class the first assignment I have to do is draw a few sketches of someone that means, um… a-a lot to me… using various shading techniques… and they can’t be a parental figure or like a teacher or singer or anything. I was just playing around because I’m not sure who to pick yet, but—“
“I mean a lot to you?”
Sofia’s eyes widened and she stiffened a little. “Uh, yeah, because you're, um, my best friend a-and everything.”
“You mean a lot to me, too.” Morgan weakly smiles. “You can draw me for your project if you want.”
Sofia relaxes and returns the smile. “Thanks.”
Morgan goes back to scrolling for a bit until she glances at Sofia, who was using her pointer finger to blend on the page. She sets her phone down and laughs a little.
Sofia drops her pencil and it rolls off of the book, looking at Morgan. “What?”
“I haven't exactly drawn since I was maybe ten aside from doodling in class, but can I draw you, too?” Morgan inquires. “See how bad I am?”
Sofia snickers and nods. “Sure.” She gets up from Morgan’s bed and picks up her backpack, before sitting back down. Sofia opens the second pouch and pulls out another sketchbook. “It’s one of the ones I use for random stuff… so, not school stuff. Find an empty page or a primarily empty one.” She sets it close to Morgan’s reach. Then, she pulls out a box of pencils and sets them down. “HB or 2B are probably the best ones. If you have questions about shading if you want to go that in depth, just ask.”
Morgan picks up the book and flips through it. She stops at the most recent filled page. It was a drawing of a person—a girl—standing on top of a mountain structure. She turns it around, catching Sofia’s attention. She asks, “Did you base this off of something? It’s quite different from the stuff I saw before in there.”
Sofia hums. “It’s based on a photo Dad took of me at Adams Falls. I worked on it when the plane got delayed because of the storm… I haven’t done a whole lot in that book for awhile.” She shrugs. “It’s my smallest one so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my backpack or suitcase or whatever.”
“It’s really pretty,” Morgan compliments.
“Thanks.” Sofia beams.
Morgan turns the book back, flips to a fresh page, and sits it in her lap. She takes out the HB pencil from the box and starts sketching out facial guidelines.
A few minutes pass when the intro of a song fades in on Sofia’s phone when Morgan glances at her for reference. She was done, but wanted to make sure there weren't any discrepancies that were too obvious. The lyrics start when Morgan wants to look back down, but it’s as if she physically can’t. Sofia blinks, cross-hatching with her pencil on the paper. She lets out a slight huff before singing quietly along.
It’s one of the most beautiful sounds Morgan’s ever heard. If not the most. A smile flickers across Morgan’s face and she feels her heart rate pick up. Just slightly, though. Not like it would when she was anxious, even though she didn’t understand why it had picked up a couple of beats.
And then her thoughts pick up. Not only is she smart, she’s got a good voice and knows how to draw… and she’s pretty. Wait. Pretty? She is kinda pretty. Kinda? What are you talking about? She’s beautiful, doofus. Her dark brown hair that you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s brown unless you see it under the sun. Freckles. The way her glasses slide down the bridge of her nose when she draws or reads because they don’t fit her head right. She’s just so—
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Sofia interrupts, looking at her.
Morgan blinks. Shit. Morgan looks down at her drawing and scrambles for an answer. “Trying to, um, to see if I got your facial features right. Yeah.”
“Let me see,” Sofia insists.
Morgan picks up the book and holds it out for her. Sofia grabs the book, only after accidentally grazing Morgan’s hand… which only panicked Morgan more. Still, Morgan lets go and tries to watch Sofia’s expressions.
“Not bad,” Sofia muses. “I like how you approached it. Are you sure you haven’t tried to brush up on your art skill recently?”
“I haven’t taken an art class since I was forced to by my school district at age ten,” Morgan nods.
There’s a knock on Morgan’s door.
“You can come in,” Morgan says.
“Sofia, your Dad’s here to take you home,” Tony says once the door opens.
“He is?” Sofia asks.
“Mhm,” Tony confirms.
When Sofia leaves, Morgan’s alone with her thoughts.
Okay, I know I like girls. But is that what it feels like? Like, really? Do I have a thing for my best friend? Again?
So... now Morgan is a pining mess for Sofia. How interesting.
Chapter 19: 19
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, Harry Potter mention (I hate JK Rowling what a terf, but the joke practically wrote itself), and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Morgan walks out of her room to find Tony sitting at the dining table working on lesson plans on his laptop. She sets her phone down on the table. “Good morning.”
Tony looks over from his work to his teenager and weakly smiles. “Good morning.” He points toward the kitchen. “I made coffee and breakfast in case you want any… though you may need to reheat them both.”
“Thank you,” Morgan says before walking over to the kitchen. She opens the freezer and gets a few ice cubes for her coffee and sets them in the mug. Afterward, she sets her food in the microwave and sets the timer. She takes her food and drink from the kitchen a moment later and sits across from him at the table.
Before she realizes it, she asks, “Dad, can I ask you something? It’s kinda… important. I mean, I guess it is? I don’t know. It’s really confusing.”
Tony nods, pushing his laptop screen down so he could look at Morgan.
“How did you know you liked my Mom?”
He blinks. “How did I know that I liked your Mom?”
Morgan nods. “Y-Yeah. Like how’d you know you wanted to date her?”
“I think it was quite subtle at first,” he answers. “As if my heart was conspiring to hint it, not explicitly communicate it with me. Looking back, it was so obvious. But I didn’t exactly realize it until it all kinda hit me like a truck.”
“Like a truck?”
Tony nods. “Yeah. Like a truck. Sudden.”
“I know what the phrase means,” Morgan says. “I just… that sudden?”
“I’d say so. At least, for me, it was,” Tony answers. “But that’s because I couldn’t tell the subtle signs. Like looking back, my heart started beating a little faster than usual around her… I was nervous to be around her all of the sudden, which I hadn’t ever been nervous around her before. When she’d tap my arm or hand to grab my attention, it almost always hurt when that’s all it was. Quickly after that, the things that I had zero interest in but she liked, became interesting. I remember trying things I had never tried before that she liked in an attempt to impress her. Sometimes I was great, sometimes I probably did the worst attempt ever.” He pauses. “The thing that really confirmed it from me was when I was listening to the music my roommate at Phillips had playing and started unintentionally associating all the cutesy love songs with her. Well, and then the next time I saw her… all those subtle things? It’s almost as if they ganged up on me at once. I don’t believe in divine intervention, but my God. It was crystal clear after that… I had a crush on my best friend.”
“I like my best friend,” Morgan answers quietly.
“Who's your best friend?” Tony inquires.
“Sofia?” he repeats.
“What other Sofia’s do I know, Dad?” Morgan deadpans.
“Right,” Tony says. “Wow. I don’t think I ever saw that coming.”
“You and me both,” Morgan agrees. “I mean… I’ve known about the bi thing since I was like twelve. But I just… I’ve already been hurt by my old best friend for the same thing. I don’t want it to happen again. I mean, it kinda happened with August too… in the end. Even though I wasn’t ready to say it yet. But it’s different when it’s your best friend.”
Morgan nods. “This girl I was close with before moving to Waterbury for Woodvale stopped talking to me when she realized I liked her. I guess that made the transition to Woodvale easier in the long run, but geez.”
“I’m sorry,” Tony says with a frown. “But as I said a couple of weeks ago… love’s supposed to be scary. But it's not supposed to be so scary that you can’t see a way to pursue it.”
“I’m glad you felt like you could tell me… about being bi,” Tony enthuses.
Morgan’s about to respond when her phone goes off. So does Tony’s.
Tony looks at his phone and beams. “Check your phone, kiddo.”
Morgan picks up her phone and sees the notification. It was from Mom. A text message. It read, ‘I just got the job offer from my top choice. So I guess that means there is nothing to worry about closing on the house too soon.’
Morgan smiles, before quickly typing a response back.
“Did I tell you that we got the house in the neighborhood we wanted?” Morgan asks after taking a bite of her ravioli.
Sofia’s smile widens a small bit. “I don’t think you did. That’s really awesome! When are you moving?”
“The closing date is on the 26th of October,” Morgan recalls. “At least that’s what I remember Mom saying. You’ve gotta come over when we’re all settled. I’ll finally have my own room at my Mom’s that isn’t reminiscent of Harry Potter’s spot under the stairs.”
“Are you excited to say goodbye to the ex-closet?” Sofia snickers. She takes a sip of her soda.
“Oh my God, yes.” She nods. “I love it and I’m probably going to miss it, but it’s going to be nice not waking up and almost tripping over the dresser every time I need to get up.” And for that ever so clear reason she figured out on Saturday, those nerves come back when Sofia makes soft eye contact with her once she set her cup down. Morgan quickly looks away and eats another ravioli bite.
“Morgan? You okay?”
Morgan blinks, glancing at Sofia. God, she’s cute… and caring. Stop that! She spits out, “Y-Yeah. I’m good. Sorry.”
“No offense, Mo, but I kinda don’t believe you,” Sofia disagrees, crossing her arms on the table.
Morgan sees Sofia’s hands and looks away again. I wonder what it would be like to hold her hand. Morgan, shut up. She doesn’t want to kiss you, let alone hold your hand.
“Yeah, no. You’re definitely not alright. Spill it.”
Morgan stares. “I, uh… um…” She looks toward the exit and then back at her crush. She takes a deep breath in and quickly exhales. “If I tell you, can we like… not be in the dining hall?”
Sofia nods slowly. “I mean, sure. But are you done with your food though?”
Morgan stares at the almost finished food and shrugs. “If I get hungry I’ll just text Dad and I’ll meet him outside of my dorm for a sec.”
The next thing she knows, she and Sofia are in Morgan’s sophomore dorm. Alissa had just left the room when they had arrived.
“Alright, what gives?” Sofia asks.
“May I kiss you? It’s for science. But only if you want to.”
“May you kiss me?” Sofia repeats with a small smile, though shock was sensed.
The statement registers in her mind and she panics. She spews, “Oh my God, I-I didn’t mean to say that! I’m so sorry, I—“
It’s when Morgan starts blushing that Sofia leans in closer to her and gives Morgan a short and sweet kiss. Morgan could only imagine what she looked like at that moment, all she knew was… her heart was pounding and Sofia’s lips tasted like coconut… and it was like sparks flew. Neither pulled away completely when the kiss came to an end.
Sofia opens her eyes, staring at her best friend’s now wide eyes. “How was that for science?” she asks quietly.
“O-Oh my God,” Morgan mumbles. “I, um… I really like you, Sof.”
“I’ve known that I’ve liked you since that Taylor concert,” Sofia murmurs. “I never would’ve thought that—“
Morgan interrupts Sofia’s thought with another kiss. Except this one is slower than the first. Sofia’s left hand cups the back of Morgan’s head, pulling her closer to herself as they kiss again.
“Oh my God!”
Morgan and Sofia abruptly separate and stare at where the voice came from.
Alissa’s standing at the entrance of the room with wide eyes and a big grin. “How new is this?”
“At least fifteen seconds ago, new,” Sofia squeaks out.
“That new? I’m sorry for accidentally intruding,” Alissa murmurs. “I forgot to grab something, I’ll be out in a sec.” She walks to her side of the room and plops something in her half-zipped backpack.
“It’s okay,” Morgan stifles a small laugh.
Alissa walks back toward the door. “You two are literally so adorable, by the way. Like, holy shit. I love it when sapphics fall in love,” she gushes before exiting the room.
I'm not even gonna say anything.
Chapter 20: 20
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Morgan finds Pepper in her room using the laptop.
Pepper looks up and abruptly stops moving her cursor. “Yes, dear?”
“Do you have any clothes I could borrow that could work? I thought I had a sweater like this one but I can’t find it,” Morgan says, showing Pepper the photo on the phone.
Pepper raises a brow. “I think so, yes. What is the big deal though? Can’t you just pick another sweater? Got a hot date?”
“I can… but I like this,” Morgan says with a frown. “And no. Definitely not.”
“Alright then,” she sighs. “Knock yourself out. I’ll be downstairs. Yell if you need anything.”
Morgan looks through Pepper’s closet when her mother walks downstairs.
Morgan runs downstairs and into the kitchen shortly after she finds a sweater that would work. “Mama, where is the hairspray?”
Pepper looks up from the cabinet she was sorting through and blinks. “You need hairspray? For why? You sure you don’t got a hot date you’re not telling me about?”
“I’m going out with a friend at five and my hair is not cooperating,” Morgan says, ignoring the ‘hot date’ comment.
“Ooh… It’s in the bottom cabinet in the bathroom. Grey bottle,” Pepper answers.
Morgan says a quick “thank you” and is about to run back upstairs when Pepper stops her.
“Where is it that you’re going again? With who?” Pepper asks.
“To see a movie with Sofia,” Morgan answers.
“It’s kinda silly but we’re seeing Christopher Robin,” she answers.
“Oh. Okay. Tell me how it is, alright?” Pepper says.
Morgan nods. “I promise.”
She walks upstairs and into the bathroom. She opens the cabinet and picks up the grey bottle of hairspray and fusses over the piece of hair in question. Morgan heard creaking on the stairs and the reason why became clear when she saw Pepper walk into the room a moment later.
Pepper looks at her quizzically. “You seem very fussy over your appearance today. First, you ask me if there are any clothes of mine you can borrow and now you’re concerned about a fly away? What’s that about? Are you really seeing Sofia?”
Morgan’s eyes widened. “Yes?”
Pepper stifles a laugh. “Yeah, okay. Whatever you say, my love.”
The doorbell rings and Morgan yelps, “I’ll get it!” She runs down the stairs, abandoning her dumbfounded Mother in the bathroom.
Morgan opens the front door to see Sofia. She was wearing a white t-shirt and black overalls. She had new glasses too, Morgan noticed. They were round frames that were a mixture of light pink, clear, orange, and dark pink. They’re cute. No, she makes them cute.
Morgan smiles. “H-Hi.”
“Hey,” Sofia says quietly. “Are you ready to go? The movie’s at 5:25.”
“Bring her back by ten, please!” Pepper calls, which causes Morgan to turn her head to see her Mom standing at the top of the stairs with a watchful eye.
“Yes ma’am,” Sofia confirms. “Have a good evening, Miss Potts.”
“Thank you, I will,” Pepper says. “To you both as well.”
Morgan shuts the front door once she leaves and follows Sofia to the car.
The movie is over and the girls found themselves at a burger and milkshakes joint.
Morgan brings the two milkshakes they ordered from the counter to their table. She had gotten Oreo cheesecake and Sofia got s’mores.
“If we're ever back out here once Mom and I move, I’m gonna have to try the s’mores. It looks really good,” Morgan enthuses. “I always get Oreo cheesecake.”
“You can try it now if you’d like,” Sofia says with a smile. “I don’t mind. There are unopened straws on the table.” She nods toward them.
Morgan picks one up and unwraps it. The paper falls on the table and Morgan sticks the straw in Sofia’s parfait glass. She takes a sip and grins when she takes it out. “Oh my God.”
“Is it good?”
Morgan nods. “Nice choice. The graham cracker drizzle. So good.”
Sofia smiles. “Awesome.” She pauses, glancing fondly at Morgan. “You’re really cute, you know?”
Morgan blinks. “I am?”
Sofia nods this time. “Mm-hmm.”
“Y-You're cute too,” Morgan says, trying so hard not to seem embarrassed.
“Flustered you is even cuter,” Sofia teases.
Morgan accidentally lets out a quiet shriek.
Sofia smirks before sipping on her milkshake.
Morgan does the same.
It’s quiet for a moment.
Sofia stops nursing her milkshake and speaks. “I really hate to ask this, but I can’t help it… are you really over August? Because, I don’t know… I just, really like you and I don’t want things to happen on either side.”
Morgan stops drinking her shake. “He was a jerk… once you got past the personality. I’d be concerned if I was still into him. You can thank my parents for forcing me to wallow and get my anger out when I did.” She purses her lips. “Also the fact that I don’t think I would’ve asked you in a heap of panic to kiss you the other day if I had feelings for another person.”
“Right. I just…”
“I know, I get it,” Morgan says with a nod. “I really like you, Sof. A whole lot. Please don’t worry about him.”
“I like you too, Mo,” she says quietly. “I won’t.”
Sofia pulls into the driveway at 9:15 and parks.
“I had a lot of fun tonight,” Morgan enthuses.
“I did, too,” Sofia says.
“I’ll text you later,” the younger one says.
Sofia nods. “Okay.”
The two move in close and Sofia kisses first. Morgan kisses back.
The two lean back into their seats and Morgan smiles. “Drive safe. Let me know when you get home.”
“I will,” Sofia promises.
Morgan unbuckles her seatbelt and gets out. She shuts the door and walks to her house. Morgan hears Sofia pull out of the driveway.
“So, you’re kissing your best friend now?”
Morgan all but jumps when she sees Pepper sitting on the porch bench. “I—what?!“
“I heard Sofia’s car pull up,” Pepper answers. “Oh, and you’re not very good at hiding things. I knew you had a date the second you asked about the hair.”
Morgan blinks. “How did you—“
“Baby, I wasn’t born yesterday. Your father and I practically invented sneaking around to keep the parents from getting suspicious,” Pepper says when Morgan walks up the porch steps. “Also, no offense, but you don’t care a whole lot about hair or clothes… you won’t even let me paint your nails. I knew something was up.”
The two walk inside the house and Pepper shuts the door.
“You’re not in trouble or anything. I just wish you would’ve told me,” Pepper says. “What’d you do? Was this your first date? A movie doesn’t take three hours or more. You know, unless you went to see some random rerelease of Titanic.”
“It was our first date, yes. We saw Christopher Robin… of all things like I said we would… and then we got burgers and milkshakes at that spot near the theater,” Morgan recalls with a smile. “And after that, she brought me home. It’s not really official yet, but I think we’re girlfriends.”
Pepper hums quietly, her smile going blank. “That’s nice, kid.”
She blinks. “Huh?”
“What’s wrong? Your mood changed all of a sudden,” Morgan says.
Pepper grimaces. “Sorry. It’s just that… that date is really similar to the first date that your Dad and I went on. Made me think about it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Morgan says with a frown. “What was it? If you don’t mind me asking…”
“We saw some animated film. It was the only movie we were even remotely interested in seeing there… and then we had dinner at this restaurant that resembled one of those old soda shops. We got ice cream and burgers there before going back to the dorms.”
Morgan blinks this time. “That similar?”
“Seems so.” Pepper nods.
“Wow,” Morgan says, her voice going small.
“Morgan, please don’t get worked up about that. I can see it in your eyes that you want to,” Pepper carefully attempts to assure. “Your Dad and I had a strong, loving relationship. The only reason it didn’t work was because his father didn’t approve of me. You have two supportive parents and Sofia has a supportive Dad.”
Morgan nods. “Um, okay.”
She swears she hears her mother mumble, “I still miss it sometimes,” but lets it go.
“Does she treat you right? Do you?” Pepper asks.
“Good. Then that’s all that matters, okay?”
I am currently at chapter 37 of 45-50 for this series! 66k words and approximately 200 pages worth of content. That's almost a whole novel! As someone who wants to write YA fiction for a living, that's a big deal for me. We're near the (better) endgame, friends! That's really crazy to think, wow. I started this series on January 16th and as of May 21, I'm almost done with it! Updates regarding its competition will be on my Twitter (evermorestarks) before here. Thank you for supporting me in this journey!
Chapter 21: 21
TW / CW for language, mention of food, absentee parents, and probably much more. They will be added as each chapter progresses, but if I miss any upon each update, please let me know. I will add them in the notes tab ASAP. Please, please, PLEASE be careful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tony pulls into the driveway of Pepper’s and Morgan’s new place and parks. A few feet in front of him was an open moving truck. There are quite a few boxes left inside ranging from disassembled furniture or boxes marked with sharpie. The closest one he could read said ‘MORGAN’S STUFF.’
He unbuckles his seatbelt, shuts off the car, and gets out. As he’s locking the car, he hears a door in the neighborhood open up. He looks over to the house and sees Morgan rambling on the phone to someone while she walks out to the moving van. She abruptly stops talking and is grinning from ear to ear.
“No, yeah. That’s fine. Great, honestly. Would tomorrow work?” she asks.
There’s a pause.
“Okay,” Morgan says. “Awesome! Bye, Sof.” She hangs up and puts her phone in her pocket. She gets in the truck and grabs the box with her name on it.
Tony walks over to the van and greets by saying, “Hey, kiddo. Anything I can do to help?”
She shrieks. “How much of that did you hear?!”
“Only that you made plans with Sofia,” Tony says. “What’s that about, eh? Does she like you too?”
A blush creeps on her cheeks. “She does. We’ve been dating for just over a month now.”
“And you didn’t tell me until now?”
“Mom didn’t know until after Sofia and I had our first date, so…”
“Relax, I’m just teasing you,” he assures. “That’s really great, kid. I’m glad you’re happy.”
Morgan beams. “Me too.” She points haphazardly around the truck. “You can take any of those boxes with writing on them… they’re not all that heavy. We’re still waiting on one of Mom’s work friends to drop by the box cart thing for the furniture.”
“Gotcha,” he nods before picking up another cardboard box as Morgan hops down from the truck. “Where’d you and Sofia go? On your first date.”
Morgan freezes, glancing toward the front door of the house and then back at him. “Movie… then we had dinner. Burgers and milkshakes.”
Tony blinks. “I, um… that’s what your mom and I did… just ice cream rather than the shakes. Wow.”
“Mom told me about your first date,” Morgan says.
He nods. “God, I don’t understand how it’s been that long. Eighteen years?”
Morgan weakly smiles. “Time goes by fast.”
“Unfortunately,” he sighs as he stands on the driveway. “Did she tell you about how I had to get one of my friends to drive us?”
“No? But weren’t you old enough to drive yourself?” Morgan asks. “Y’all were sixteen.”
“Yes,” Tony answers. “But my Dad paid a security guard to keep an eye on your Mom and I when he got suspicious of our relationship… even before me and her started dating. We had to make it seem like it wasn’t just us going out in case he saw us.”
Morgan grimaces. “Wow.”
The father and daughter walk to the front door and go inside.
Pepper’s on the phone with the people they rented the moving van from in the middle of the living room. “My friend won’t get here until after five—“
“Where do you want me to put this?” Tony asks Morgan.
Morgan looks at the box and says, “It’s all pictures. So I guess leave it in the living room for now.”
“Okay,” he says before carefully setting down the box on the floor out of foot traffic’s way.
Tony walks downstairs after setting up Morgan’s bed to find Pepper and Morgan putting up pictures around the house from the box he had brought in however many hours prior.
“Aw, remember this one?” Morgan asks, picking up and showing her mother a four by six frame.
“Alicia’s wedding,” Pepper says quietly, taking it from her daughter.
Tony stepped a little closer to see. It was of Pepper and a young Morgan dancing. If he were to guess, Morgan was probably seven or eight there.
Pepper stands up and sits it on top of the sideboard with the other smaller photos. Pepper looks over at Tony and there’s a fond looking expression on her face. “You can come over here and look at them with us if you’d like.”
“Oh, um. Yeah, alright,” he mumbles before following Pepper to where she was originally sat.
Pepper pulls out another four by six frame and Morgan immediately goes “oh, God, please no,” when she sees it. It’s a photo of an even younger Morgan in a Minnie Mouse themed dance costume standing on the porch of their old house. She has lacey socks underneath her pink ballet slippers. She was holding a tiny bouquet of flowers.
“Why do you hate this picture?” Tony inquires. “You look really happy.”
“I was four,” Morgan says. “Extremely loud and happy. I annoyed everyone.”
She was so little. Four years old. God, this hurts. I should’ve been there.
“I’m sure you didn’t annoy everyone,” Tony says, shaking his head.
“Do we have to keep it?” Morgan whines, ignoring his comment.
“Yes,” Pepper answers. “You’re cute and it’s been on my bedside table since I got a print of it. Nothing’s changing.”
Morgan grumbles as Pepper sets it aside.
Morgan pulls out a five by seven photo of herself and her mother. Morgan’s holding a certificate that Tony can barely tell says, ‘this certifies that Morgan Hope Potts is awarded this certificate for the eighth grade graduation at JWMS on June 3rd, 2017’. Pepper stood next to her daughter with her arm wrapped around Morgan’s shoulder with a pleasant smile. Pepper was wearing a black dress. It reminded him of the dress she wore at their high school graduation.
“Do you want this in your room or do you want to keep it out here?” Pepper inquires.
“Out here is fine,” Morgan says with a nod.
They go through a few more frames until Morgan says, “Dad, do you want this one?”
Tony blinks. It’s a baby photo of Morgan that she’s showing him. She’s sitting up on a blanket in a pink and white striped onesie that has a pacifier attached with a ribbon and is hugging onto a Bedtime Bear plush from Care Bears. “How old were you in this?”
“Ten months,” Pepper recalls.
“Wow. Are you sure you want me to have it?”
Both girls nod. “We’ve got tons of duplicates of this one. If you want this one you can have it,” Pepper says.
Morgan’s stomach grumbles.
“What do you want to eat, kid?” Pepper asks.
“I thought we decided on pizza,” Morgan answers.
“We did, I was just checking,” Pepper says with a nod.
Tony watched her look out the window in an attempt to spot her car, before she looked back at him and Morgan. “My car’s blocked by the moving van and your car…”
“I can get the pizza if you want,” Tony offers.
“Would you? That would be so great,” Pepper asks.
Tony nods. “Just tell me what to get and where to find it.”
Pepper thinks for a moment before standing up. “Our orders are a little complicated. I’ll write it down for you.”
“I’m sure they cannot be that complicated that you can’t just text me,” Tony questions.
“Oh, believe me, you’ll want it written out in ink,” Morgan disagrees.
Tony raises a brow before looking over at Pepper, who was writing down stuff on a post-it note. He squints when he sees the utensil she’s scribbling with. A Pop-A-Point pencil. Like the ones she used in high school.
“Wait, Pep, you still use those?” he asks fondly.
“This one’s actually Morgan’s,” Pepper says as she continues to write. “But yeah… sometimes. I have a few in my office. Some habits just don’t die, I suppose.”
I remember when she used to leave them in my dorm after sneaking in to hang out with me. How has it been that long ago?
His thoughts are interrupted when Pepper hands him the post-it and her thumb accidentally grazes his hand when she does. He hated to admit it, but he wished it wasn’t an accident.
“Alessandro’s is right across the street from the middle school. If you can’t find it, call me and I’ll try to help the best I can. Thank you for offering to get it for us. I’ll pay you back later,” she says.
“Um, o-of course,” he confirms.
When he comes back with the pizzas, he finds an entire stash of their family photos set aside for him with a purple post-it note in front of it that says, ‘Dad’ in sharpie in Morgan’s handwriting.
He ate dinner with them before returning back home for the evening.
So... for those of you who do not follow me on Twitter, I have news! I am currently in the process of writing chapter 41... and depending on what happens in chapter 42, I will either cap it at 43 or 44. This essentially means you will be able to read the final product of this series very, very soon! If all goes as planned, I should be able to release them this weekend, but that is at the earliest. Please follow me on Twitter (evermorestarks) for up-to-date updates on my progress. I am very excited for you all to see the rest of this!!
Chapter 22: 22
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Morgan walks into her Dad’s classroom where he was jotting down the assignment for the day for his fifth class of the day on the whiteboard.
“Hey, can I hang out here for break? I forgot I had homework due in my fifth period and it’s as if everywhere I go isn’t quiet today for some reason,” Morgan greets.
Tony puts the cap back on the black expo marker and looks at her. “Sure. How bad is it, what class? Maybe I could help.”
“APUSH… and it’s just two short answer questions,” Morgan answers as she sits her things down next to the desk where she took a seat at.
“Ah,” Tony says. “Good luck. Hope you don’t mind the squeaking… I have to finish writing out stuff for my physics classes.”
Morgan shrugs. She pulls out her history homework and skims over the already read fifty-thousand-times prompt.
She’s halfway done with her second prompt when her mechanical pencil runs out of lead. Morgan picks up her pencil pouch from her open backpack and curses under her breath when she sees that there’s only two other pencils in there and they’re both out of lead, too. No lead refill cartridges as well.
Morgan looks up to see her Dad scrolling on his personal laptop and says, “I kinda just ran out of pencil lead. Do you by chance have some?”
He frowns. “Not exactly pencil lead… I actually need to go buy more cartridges. But I’ve got a stash of pencils up here. Want me to bring one of ‘em over?”
He picks up a pencil from his desk drawer and walks it over to where Morgan sat. He hands her the colorful pencil.
“Thanks,” she says before looking back at her work.
It’s 11:20 when there’s running down the hallway that abruptly stops.
“Mr. Carbonell, my homework,” the voice says.
Morgan looks up and sees Alissa standing at the doorframe of his classroom with a piece of paper in hand.
“Huh?” Tony asks, looking up from his computer.
“I forgot my homework in my dorm when I left this morning,” she states.
“Oh, um… go sit it in the right box and I won’t mark it incomplete. If it happens again, I might have to dock some points,” he says.
“Thank you so much!” Alissa exclaims as she walks to the back of the room to turn in her homework.
“Hey Alissa,” Morgan greets. “You hanging with me and Sof at lunch?”
“Probably,” she confirms as she sets her homework in the box.
When Alissa is about to walk out of the room, Tony calls out, “I hope you have a good break, Miss Hartley-Medina.”
“You too!” she says just before exiting.
There’s a knock on the door. Morgan abandons her workspace at the kitchen table and goes to inspect. Upon looking through the peephole of the front door, her Mother has returned from work with food in hand for dinner.
Morgan unlocks the door and opens it for her mother. “Hi Mom.”
“Hey, sweetheart,” she greets. “Thank you for getting the door for me.”
Morgan smiles. “Of course. How was your day?”
“My day was great, thank you for asking. What about you? How’d that quiz in biology go?” Pepper walks over and sets the bags of food on the counter in the kitchen.
“It went okay,” Morgan answers, following her Mom into their kitchen. “Well, the bio quiz did. I hope anyway. Mr. Banner grades kinda tough, though, so... But my day was good. I spent some time with Dad during break today because I needed a quiet place to finish homework for APUSH.”
“Still passing biology?” Pepper inquires.
“I’ve got an A minus,” Morgan shrugs.
“Hey, an A minus is still pretty good,” the redhead encourages. She pulls out her dinner from one of the bags and brings it over to the kitchen table. Pepper glances at Morgan’s things and Morgan swears her mother has a look of confusion clouding her face.
“Yes, but an A minus can turn into ‘B’s and ‘C’s and MIT doesn’t like ‘B’s and ‘C’s,”
“You’ll get through this year with all ‘A’s, I know you can,” Pepper enthuses.
“Yeah, okay…” Morgan quickly grabs her dinner from the bag and brings it to the table. “Sorry, I was rewriting my notes for English…” She picks her notebooks and the pencil up and is about to move them to the counter when—
“Where’d you get that?”
Morgan blinks. “Where’d I get what?”
Pepper points. “The pencil.”
“Uh… Dad gave it to me,” Morgan says with a shrug. “I ran out of lead and he gave me one so I could finish my APUSH homework. Why?”
“Can I see it?”
Morgan raises a brow. “Why?”
“Will you just let me see it?”
“Uh… fine,” Morgan agrees, handing the pencil to her Mother. She takes her notebooks to the living room and lays them on the coffee table. She turns back around and walks into the kitchen.
Pepper’s staring dumbfounded at the pencil.
“This was mine. From high school,” Pepper mumbles.
“Yeah. I wrote on every single one of mine with my name with Sharpie,” she recalls. “V Potts. The ink is almost gone, but it’s there.”
“Woah. How would he have it?” “
“I must’ve accidentally left it in his dorm or something when we were… you know, together. I never gave him my pencils on purpose, ” she says. “Wow. Can’t believe he decided to keep them all this time.”
Tony walks across the walkway to Pepper’s and Morgan’s home. He takes a deep breath before ringing the doorbell.
The door swings open a moment later, unveiling Pepper standing in front of him.
“Hi, Tony,” she says. “Morgan’s just getting her stuff ready to go. She’ll be out in a minute.”
“Hi,” he says.
“I actually kinda want to ask you something,” Pepper states. “Come in.”
She does? She wants to ask me something? About what? He walks inside and says, “Shoot.”
She pulls out a pencil from her pocket. “Explain.”
Tony blinks. “Explain what?”
“V Potts written in faint Sharpie on the end,” Pepper says. “...on the pencil you gave Morgan on Friday. In my handwriting from when I was sixteen. Did you steal them from me or something when we were kids?”
“No?” Tony asks. “I never once stole your pencils. You always left them in my dorm by accident. Not my fault.”
“And I guess that particular one made it through many, many years… accidentally made it in my moving boxes to Silicon Valley and purposefully made it back with me here...” Tony continues. “A requirement for my job is to have a plethora of pencils for kids that don’t have any and I give those to kids I know will give them back to me. But Morgan can keep that one if she wants.”
Pepper snickers. “Wow. Somewhat of an invisible string, huh?”
“Isn’t that all life is, though? All little moments that intertwine and sometimes they cross over again?”
She nods, a small smile appears on her lips.
Before Tony can realize what he’s thinking, he says, “Mo’s got a date with Sofia on Saturday night… Would you maybe like to go to dinner with me? Catch up? Like… for real?”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
Tony blinks. Shit. Did I actually do that? Oh my God. “I, uh… I guess so?”
“You guess so?” Pepper yelps.
“Sometimes I speak before I think. Did I?”
“I sure think you did…” she mumbles.
“Do you want it to be a date?” he inquires.
“I don’t know.”
“It doesn’t have to be a date… I just thought that since we’re co-parenting our child we should at least get to know each other a little better again,” he says, trying not to show the frown he was fighting back. Please say yes… please.
“I think I could do dinner on Saturday,” Pepper answers.
“I’ll, um… I’ll text you.” Tony beams.
She returns the smile. She looks up at the stairs and calls, “Hey, Goona! You almost ready to go? Your Dad’s been here for like five minutes!”
The sound of a door opening sounds. “Almost! Sorry!”
Oh-ho-ho, look what we have here. The high school sweethearts are gonna go to dinner again! On their own!
...how about also, a Tuesday chapter? Multiple chapters? If you have not followed my Twitter, you would not know that I finished the series around 3 AM last night. Which means... I can open the floodgates and release the remaining chapters. Are you ready? I sure am!
Chapter 23: 23
Due to me releasing these chapters quickly, I will just be reminding you to look at a previous chapter for TWs and CWs. If there is something big, I will make sure to add it in here regardless.
“I’ve got to go run some errands, but please have her back by eleven,” Tony says as he watches his daughter and her girlfriend start to walk down the street to Sofia’s.
“Yes sir!” Sofia calls.
He waits until he sees the girls turn the corner until he walks back into his house and shuts the front door behind him.
He lets out a heavy sigh and says to himself, “Okay. You’re meeting Pepper at that place at 8.”
The next thing he knows, he’s waiting in a booth… and if he were honest, he was a little nervous that she won’t show.
Tony checks his watch and when he looks up, he spots Pepper walking past the entry point to him. Okay good. She didn’t stand me up.
She’s wearing a grey pantsuit with a blue button up underneath the blazer and her hair was pulled up in a low bun. God, she’s beautiful.
She sympathetically smiles at him as she sits down across from him at the table. “Traffic was really bad for some reason after I got off work and then I had to go home to do a few things. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“It’s okay,” he assures. “I get it. Do you normally work on Saturdays? I thought you didn’t. Do you still get off early on Friday and are off on weekends?”
“Pretty much, yes, in terms of the Friday and weekend… but sometimes I have to come in on the weekends.” Pepper shrugs. “And my boss’ company has a big project to unveil to investors on Monday and called me to ask if I could come in since it wasn’t ready for presentation by the end of Friday… I’d get overtime pay for it. I said yes… did not realize how bad Hartford traffic was going to suck.”
“Did they get everything done today?”
Pepper sheepishly laughs. “I sure hope so because I’m not going in tomorrow. I love my daughter, but I’m glad I get a weekend to myself sometimes. Work cannot get in the way of my alone time.”
“Oh, come on. You know you miss her,” Tony teases.
“I do… you’re right,” she agrees. “Especially since five days a week she’s at Woodvale and now that we’ve added on the every other weekend thing... but it's nice to have the opportunity to watch the movies she can’t stand and blast the old music she makes fun of me for listening to while I clean without being teased for it by my own offspring.”
“What types of movies does she not like that you like?” Tony asks.
“Thirteen Going on Thirty, Pretty in Pink, Ten—”
Tony blinks. “You like romcoms?”
“Guilty pleasure,” Pepper admits.
“I thought Morgan said you weren’t a fan of romantic things? Like music and stuff,” he questions.
“Romantic comedies are different from songs written by real people that are usually about real romances. Those movies are fake… made up in a writer’s round,” Pepper answers. “I doubt that any girl in history has ever been led into a closet to play seven minutes in heaven at age thirteen and when the popular boy didn’t show up there, and she starts wishing to be thirty… and the wish comes true because of this magical dust that her pining best friend sprinkled on her ten minutes prior. While songs… unless specified otherwise, they’re usually inspired by the songwriter’s own experiences. Which, well...” She shrugs. “...my life hasn’t exactly been as lucky as a certain blonde artist that my daughter adores finding love by accident at the Met Gala.”
“Hey, you never know… the world’s getting more odd by the second,” he jokes.
She stifles a laugh. “I suppose.” She glances down at the menu before looking back at Tony. “Maybe one day that will change… my whole aversion to the sappy love songs, I mean.”
“Maybe,” he agrees. “I hope it does.”
Pepper muffles her laugh behind her cupped palm before resting her cheek on her propped up hand. “I never thought about it that way.”
Tony lets out a small smile. “I think that—”
The waiter interrupts them by setting the check down. “How would you like to pay this evening?”
“I’m good with splitting it,” Pepper answers.
“Okay,” he says. “Me too.”
“I will go ahead and make a note of that. Thank you.” The waiter scurries off then.
Tony pulls out his wallet that was only a few more falls away from falling apart and catches Pepper looking at him.
The next thing Tony knows, they are standing beside Pepper’s car.
“I had a nice time tonight… on our date,” Pepper says. “Thank you for asking me to go.”
She nods, stepping a little closer to him.
“Would you maybe… I don’t know, want to go on another one soon? See how it goes?”
Pepper smiles. “Yes. I’d like that.”
He smiles back.
They inch closer to each other and Tony’s right hand makes it to the crook of Pepper’s elbow.
She glances at his hand before staring at him wide eyed. “W-What are you—”
“Do you want to, um—”
All it took was a small, blink-and-you-miss-it nod from her before Pepper closed the distance between the two. His arms go around her waist as she wraps hers around the back of his neck and they kiss. It felt so natural, as if they hadn’t been torn apart for sixteen years… as if they were always meant to be in each other's arms and had been this whole time.
They pull away and Pepper is still staring, mouth gaping. Her mouth closes into a thin line and she steps closer again.
“Um, what are you—”
“Will you just stand still? I haven’t been able to kiss you for sixteen years,” she murmurs.
He nods wordlessly.
She cups his face with her hands and kisses him again. He feels her hands run over his facial hair. As Tony kisses back, his arms go right back to where they were a few moments earlier, right around her waist before his right hand cups the back of her head for just a short second.
They pull away again and a small smile fades on his lips. “I, um… I missed this… I missed you.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
Wait. What would Morgan think? Shit. “So… what does this mean for Morgan then?”
“She doesn’t need to know just yet, I don’t think. I’d prefer to wait a bit to make sure this actually works for us still then accidentally let her get her hopes up for nothing. I know that’s sad to think about, but we have to think about the ‘what-if’s,” Pepper says. “It’s her Mom and Dad dating, that’s a big deal. Plus, we never know… she could absolutely hate the idea of us… you know, together… But at the same time, I doubt that would be the case. I know Morgan doesn’t like change and I don’t want to risk anything.”
He nods with a small frown.
She snickers then, out of the blue.
“First, we go from hiding our relationship from your Dad and now we’re going to be sneaking around Morgan’s back? History really does repeat,” Pepper enthuses. “Hopefully this will end up better than the last time, though.”
“Hopefully,” he says.
Pepper gestures to her car with her thumb. “I’ve got to get back home.”
“Yeah, me too… Morgan’s probably back by now. I told her to be back by eleven and that I had to run a few errands so I might not be home when she gets back but I knew they weren’t going to be doing a whole lot this evening,” Tony recalls. “Bowling, of all things… and then dinner at Starlight.”
“Goodnight, Tony,” she says.
“Goodnight, Pepper,” he says.
Chapter 24: 24
“When’s Dad getting here?”
Pepper sets her mug of hot chocolate down and asks, “Why would I tell you that, hm?” She picks the mug back up and sips on the drink for a moment.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because he’s Dad and I like when I get to spend time with him?”
Pepper hums, “Mhm, sure.” She walks into the living room where Morgan was sitting on their couch. “You are completely sure that you just don’t want him here so I’ll finally let you open presents today?”
Morgan gasps. “No! How dare you accuse me of such a selfish want?”
Pepper looks at her with a tilted brow.
“I’m serious,” Morgan says.
“Uh-huh... I totally believe you,” Pepper snarks.
Morgan’s about to say something when the doorbell rings.
“Dad!” Morgan exclaims as she gets up and opens the door. She hugs him a moment later.
He laughs a little in the hug before saying, “Hey, Morgan. Merry Christmas, kiddo.”
“Merry Christmas,” Morgan says before stepping away.
“And merry Christmas to you,” he says as he looks at Pepper.
“Merry Christmas, Tony,” she greets.
Tony sets down the gifts at the Christmas tree and Morgan sits back down on the loveseat.
When Tony turns around, Pepper continues speaking: “I’ll have you know that your daughter has not stopped talking about you coming over for Christmas all morning.”
Tony raises a brow. “Is that so?”
“I have a feeling it has a little to do with her desire to finish Christmas festivities,” Pepper humors.
“No,” Morgan disagrees. “Whether either of you believe me or not, that’s up to you.”
“If that is the case, do you mind if I sit next to you, Mo?” Tony inquires.
Tony sits on the left side of the couch next to Morgan.
“How’d you know I wanted these?” Morgan asks happily as she holds up two books that were highly raved about by her throughout the year after reading them at the Woodvale library.
“Your Mom told me,” Tony answers.
Morgan raises a brow. “When?”
Tony glances at Pepper before saying, “I honestly can’t remember exactly when. Probably over text.”
“Ah,” Morgan says. “Thank you so much!”
A few more rounds of gift giving occur until there’s a lull in pleasant conversation.
Tony glances at one of the last gifts sitting under the fake tree and speaks up, “So, Mo, when is Sofia coming over to exchange gifts with you?”
“She said around two,” Morgan answers. “Her bio family is visiting but she said she’d try to sneak away.”
“Ah,” Tony hums, glancing at his watch. “That’s soon. What did you get her?”
Morgan beams at the question. “I found a HAIM record that she’s been looking for. I also got her this necklace that she was talking about a few months ago. Well, I don’t think it's the exact same one, but it's pretty close. I hope, anyway.”
“I’m really glad that you’re happy, kid,” he enthuses. “How long have you two been together? I forgot.”
“Since September 19, so, three months,” Morgan recalls. “...and six days.”
He’s about to say something in response when the doorbell rings.
Morgan gets up and opens the door. Sofia’s standing at the door with a Christmas gift bag hooked on her left arm. “Merry Christmas.”
“Happy Holidays to you as well, Sofia,” Tony is the first to say. “Tell your Dad I said ‘hello.’”
“I will,” she says.
“Happy Holidays,” Morgan says. “Your present is up in my room… I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, okay,” Sofia mumbles, letting out a short laugh as Morgan goes upstairs.
“You can come in,” Pepper says. “Happy Holidays.”
Sofia steps inside and closes the front door.
It's quiet again until Morgan comes back down with the gifts behind her back. “I couldn’t exactly figure out the best way to store them. I hope you like them.”
“I probably will love whatever you got me, Mo. Don’t you worry,” Sofia assures.
Morgan pulls the items she was hiding into view. The sealed record and the jewelry box.
Sofia immediately beams. “You got me the vinyl?”
Morgan nods. “After school a couple weeks ago I walked by that record store downtown and it was there.”
“Thank you so much,” Sofia says.
Morgan gently sets the record on the coffee table and hands Sofia the jewelry box.
Sofia raises a brow before sliding the box protector off and pulling the top open. She gapes for a moment. “You remembered. It’s so pretty, Morgan. Thank you.”
Morgan quickly helps Sofia put on the necklace.
Sofia hands Morgan the bag. “Tessa suggested it,” Sofia says as Morgan opens the bag.
Morgan snickers, pulling the object out. It was a stuffed Build-A-Bear that had a multicolored pastel shirt on it that had a heart on it. She hugs the toy and says, “I love it. This is so cute, thank you.”
“They’re adorable,” Pepper whispers to Tony as their daughter and her girlfriend chat amongst themselves.
“They are,” he quietly agrees.
“I’m going to go outside with Sof for a sec,” Morgan says a moment later just before the two girls exit. One was holding the vinyl.
Tony waits until the door shuts completely before turning to face pepper. “I got you something for Christmas too… but I was scared Morgan would get suspicious.”
“I did too,” Pepper admits, showing that shy smile that Tony adored.
He quickly grabs the one small present that was left and hands it to Pepper. It was in a gift bag.
She pulls it out and then opens the box. She glances at Tony when she does. “You got me an amethyst and pearl necklace? And it’s pretty?” she teases.
“Tony, I’m just teasing,” she assures. “It’s really beautiful.” She picks it up. “Why those gemstones, though?”
“Yours and Morgan’s birthstones,” he answers.
“That’s really sweet,” she says before quickly putting it on, earning a small smile from Tony.
“What happens if Morgan questions it?”
“I’ll just assure her I’ve worn it the entire day and this must’ve just been the first time she noticed it,” Pepper answers.
Pepper reaches into the coffee table storage compartment and pulls out a wrapped gift.
Tony unwraps it to find a black wallet that looked almost identical to his current one… except not brown and not twelve years old. He unfolds it and looks up at her. He laughs a little. “I’m assuming you found my current one’s state a little concerning?”
Pepper nods. “I know it’s not much, but…”
“Thank you,” he says. “I’ve had that one since I moved out west.”
“Merry Christmas, Tony,” she says before leaning in for a chaste kiss. Tony happily obliges and kisses her back softly. He hated sneaking around because it reminded him of their past, but that only made these small moments all the more meaningful to him.
“Merry Christmas to you as well, Pep,” he says before pulling away.
He quickly exchanges his cards and money into the new wallet and throws the old one out in the trash, before returning to where he sat before Morgan and Sofia left the room.
Morgan comes back in a moment later. “Sof’s on her way back home.”
“I’m glad she liked the gifts,” Tony enthuses.
“Me too,” she says before looking at her Mother. She raises a brow and points at the necklace. “You didn’t have that on before.”
“Yes, I did,” Pepper quickly lies.
“No, you didn’t,” Morgan says.
“I promise you I did,” Pepper assures. “I got it the other day with my holiday bonus. It’s new.”
Chapter 25: 25
Sofia’s arm was around the back of Morgan’s shoulder as the trio sat around together in the Woodvale Student Center.
Morgan snickers at a joke Alissa says and Sofia stifled hers.
“Is anyone going to that Valentine’s Dance next month?” Alissa asks.
“We were talking about it, but I haven’t exactly had the easiest time finding a dress,” Morgan answers. “Sofia’s found hers though, and it’s so pretty. Like her. I mean, I haven’t seen it yet. But she has assured me that it’s pretty.”
Sofia blinks, trying hard not to react to the compliment.
“I’d go, but Lea doesn’t have break to come visit.” Alissa shrugs.
“You could hang with us,” Sofia enthuses.
Alissa shakes her head ‘no’. “But then I would be a third wheel.”
“But you’d be a fun third wheel,” Morgan enthuses. “Plus, my Dad’s a chaperone. If you’re there with us, he won’t watch me and Sof like a hawk all night.”
Sofia snickers. “Same with mine.”
Alissa laughs. “I’ll think about—”
Sofia’s phone goes off. She picks it up and her Dad is calling. She answers the call.
“Hey, Dad. What’s up?”
“Do you by chance have the copy of the answer key for the assignment I gave out yesterday in your class?” Bruce asks.
“I might… but I’m not sure why I would. Want me to check?”
“Please,” he says. “I have seemed to misplace it. It might be at home, but I’ve got to check everywhere.”
“Alright. I’ll text you if I find it and then I’ll bring it to ya before break is over,” Sofia agrees.
“Thank you,” he says. “Love you, Sofie.”
Sofia smiles. “Love you, too.”
She hangs up.
“What was that about?” Morgan asks.
“My Dad misplaced the answer key for one of his classes’ assignments,” Sofia answers. “Thinks he might’ve accidentally given it to me or something.”
Morgan hums. “Ah. Can’t he just print a new one?”
“He can… but if he can’t find the original one he’s gonna be paranoid that someone is trying to cheat,” Sofia answers.
“Oh, yeah,” Morgan mumbles. “Right. That makes sense.”
Sofia pulls away from her girlfriend and picks up her backpack to put on the round table they were sitting at. She opens her backpack and finds her science folder. She drops that on the table and flips it open. In the right pocket, there it was. “Bingo.”
Sofia picks her phone back up and shoots him a text. “I’m gonna go drop this by my Dad. Keep an eye on my stuff?”
Sofia picks up the folder and walks away.
She’s pushing through the doors when Alissa starts walking next to her.
“I’m on the yearbook committee and I need to give something to Miss. Campbell,” Alissa says, waving a folder in her hands for a moment. “Thought I could go ahead and get it done now, instead of after class.”
“Ah,” Sofia hums. “Wait, I didn’t know you were on the yearbook committee.”
“It was the only elective they had available that filled my non-art elective requirement for this year,” Alissa explains. “I’m in charge of making sure the pages look nice and pretty.”
“What is the theme this year?’ Sofia asks as she and Alissa walk down the cobblestone path to the high school academic building.
“Um… I think it’s some movie theme? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve referred to it by name,” Alissa recalls.
They make it to the academic building a moment later.
They walk upstairs together and Sofia steps off on the second floor.
“I’ll meet you back here,” Alissa says before continuing upstairs.
Sofia walks down the hall and turns into the furthest classroom on the right, 222.
Bruce looks up from his work and lets out a sigh of relief. “Thank you so much.”
“Anytime, Dad,” Sofia says as she walks over to where he sat. “Not sure how I managed to pick it up. Definitely wasn’t on purpose, though. I’ll tell you that.” She sits it down.
“I know.” Bruce nods. He’s quiet for a moment. “Have you told Morgan yet?”
Sofia stares. “Huh?”
“That you love her?” Bruce clarifies.
“How did you know that I—”
Bruce stares at his daughter. “Sweetheart, I’ve known you since you were a month old. I know how you work and I know that you love her.”
“No,” Sofia says. “I know I love her, but I just… with what happened between her and August and everything… I don’t want to scare her. Almost four months is still really early.”
“I understand.” Bruce nods. “I hope everything goes well when you tell her, though.”
“I don’t think it’ll be soon.” Sofia shakes her head.
“And that’s okay,” he assures.
“I’ve got to get back to the student center,” Sofia says, pointing to her right.
“Okay,” he says. “I hope you have a good rest of your day.”
“You too,” Sofia says before walking out.
She shuts the door and her attention is immediately brought to Alissa who is staring through the window of Tony’s classroom door.
“What are you—”
“Morgan’s parents,” is all Alissa says before shushing her.
Sofia walks over to stand next to her and stares wide eyed, mouth gaped at the sight.
Tony and Pepper were kissing. Pepper’s right arm draped over Tony’s shoulder to his back in order to hold him close, while he cupped the back of her head with his right. The kiss briefly stops and Pepper says something to him.
He murmurs something back to her.
Then they kiss again. Again. And again. And once more.
“Does Morgan know?” Alissa asks, pulling Sofia away from the door.
Sofia looks at Alissa. “If she does, she hasn’t said anything… and we tell each other everything.”
“So then, she probably doesn’t.”
“Yeah,” Sofia agrees as they quickly walk down the stairwell. “Probably not.”
“Should we tell her?” Alissa questions. “I feel like she should know.. They’re her parents.”
“If they’re hiding it from her, there’s probably a reason,” Sofia disagrees. They walk toward the main doors. “After all… they have history. Literally the reason my girlfriend is alive. Maybe they’re just trying to see if there’s something there before they tell Morgan. That’s entirely possible. I hate keeping things from her, but...”
“Yeah, that’s true, too,” Alissa mumbles. “But from what I could see just then, there is still definitely something there.”
They continue walking toward the student center when—
“What are you two doing out here?”
Sofia and Alissa turn around to see Pepper, who was just in Tony’s classroom a few moments ago, standing in front of them.
“Uh…” Alissa glances at Sofia. “I’m on the yearbook committee and I had to get something to Miss Campbell by the end of the day. Sofia came with me. Are you going to see Morgan?”
Pepper shakes her head. “No… there was an issue with my schedule at work and I needed to talk to her Dad about changing up the co-parenting schedule. Just easier to discuss in person.”
“Ah,” Sofia says.
“I’ve got to get back to work,” Pepper says. “Have a good rest of your day, ladies.”
“You as well!” Alissa calls once Pepper has passed them.
Chapter 26: 26
“So, do you think you’ll find your dress here?”
“I pray so because I’m tired,” Morgan says before walking into the dress shop with her mother.
The mother-daughter duo gather a few dresses together after discussing options with an employee and now Morgan’s trying on one of the last dresses that she picked out.
The dress was a two piece A-Line dress. A white lace top with a floral skirt. The flowers on the skirt were light pink and thankfully not an atrocious sight to view.
“Morgan, what do you think about that one?” Pepper’s voice comes from the other side of the dressing room door.
“I actually really like it,” Morgan says.
“May I see it?”
Morgan looks at herself in the mirror before saying, “Yeah, hold on a second.” She quickly pushes her hair behind her shoulders and fixes her glasses and then turns around to open the dressing room door.
“I need to wear heels with it unless I want to get it hemmed which may be tricky considering the dance is on Saturday, but, I like it a lot,” Morgan says.
“May I see the back?”
Morgan turns around.
“I love it,” Pepper enthuses. “It looks perfect on you. I approve.” She pulls out her phone and says, “Turn back around. I’m gonna send a picture to your Dad and ask what he thinks.”
Morgan faces her Mom.
“He’s not going to like the fact that you can see my stomach,” Morgan says.
“You never know,” Pepper says before snapping the photo and typing something in her phone. “Regardless of what Dad thinks… I’ll let you get it since I know it was in the budget. How much was it exactly?”
“It’s on clearance,” Morgan recalls. “But the number is a little foggy.”
“50% off is 129.50,” the employee from before says.
Pepper nods. “That’s not too bad.”
Pepper’s phone beeps. Pepper unlocks her phone and snickers. “Wow, Mo. How’d you know?”
“He’s a Dad,” Morgan answers. “They’re all the same. What did he say?”
“‘It’s really cute on her,’” Pepper reads off. “‘But I’m not a fan of it being a two piece.’”
“Let me say something?”
Pepper hesitates, gripping onto her phone a little tighter. “How about you just tell me what you want to say?”
“Why won’t you let me send text messages to him on your phone anymore?”
“‘Cause we’re discussing things about your birthday,” Pepper says.
Morgan raises a brow, wondering if that’s a lie. “But my birthday is in June… and it’s February.”
“You’re turning sixteen. Very big deal,” she assures. “Requires planning.”
“Oh? But I don’t want a traditional sweet sixteen.”
“You’re not getting a traditional sweet sixteen, my love.” Pepper nods. “Now, what would you like me to tell him?”
“So, are you going to tell her?”
Morgan stares at her Dad as he parks his car. “Tell who what?”
“That you… love Sofia?” Tony prys.
“How did you—”
“Just because I haven’t been in your life for that long doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to tell if someone is in love with another person, kid. Your eyes practically light up every time you get to talk about her with me and the same happens when you make plans to see her. No matter how shitty your day was at school, just seeing her everyday keeps you from saying it was a bad day,” he recalls. “Oh, and on another note: I literally saw you get all jealous in the dining hall a few weeks ago when a freshman who is in one of my honors phys. science class was looking in the general direction of your girlfriend. You gave that poor girl the death stare. She literally came in my class after lunch and was like, ‘Mr. Carbonell, your daughter scares me.’”
Morgan shrinks in her seat. “You saw that?”
She blinks. “How?”
“I needed coffee during my planning period and lunch break, but my coffee maker conveniently decided to stop working that morning. I opted for crappy coffee at the dining hall since the time it would take to get from Woodvale to the nearest decent coffeehouse and back with traffic cut straight into my teaching time by fifteen minutes.”
“You needed coffee?”
“Yes,” he says blankly.
Morgan stares before sighing. “Okay, fine. I love her. I think, anyway. I don’t know?”
“Then tell her that,” he prods.
“But what if she doesn’t feel the same way?”
He frowns at the question.
Before he says anything, Morgan continues: “I wasn’t ready to say it to August and now I love Sofia… and I just—”
“Morgan,” Tony interrupts, calmly. “If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to tell her now or tomorrow or next week… whenever. But if it helps ease your anxiety at any point, from what Bruce has told me… it sounds like Sofia may love you too.”
“According to her Dad, yes,” Tony answers. “He only said he thinks she is, but…”
It’s quiet for a moment until Tony speaks again, “you can go on without me if you want.”
Morgan gets out of her Dad’s car and before she closes the door, she says: “Thank you for deciding not to go in with me.”
“Wow, I’ve only been in your life for nine months and you’re already getting embarrassed of me,” Tony says through a stifled laugh.
Morgan blinks. “Dad, no, that’s not—”
“I’m just teasing, go inside,” he says. “Sofia may already be in there.”
Morgan smiles. “Thanks Dad!” She shuts the door and walks into the venue.
She passes by a group of teachers in the lobby and walks into the banquet hall.
Sofia’s inside playing with the fake flowers at one of the circular tables. Her hair was a half up-half down look. It was curled and had a mini bun secured at the back of her head. She was wearing an iridescent purple low-back ballgown that had a V-neck. Morgan wouldn’t lie if she was asked if seeing Sofia dressed like that made her weak in the knees. Sofia is the most beautiful person that Morgan had ever laid eyes on and she was lucky to get to call Sofia her girlfriend.
Morgan sits down at the table and says, “Hey.”
Sofia looks at Morgan and immediately smiles. “Hi!”
“How many times do you think we’re going to catch our Dads spying on us?” Morgan jokes.
“Probably a hundred times,” Sofia snickers.
Throughout the night, songs such as Shut Up and Dance, Home, Best Day of My Life, Dance With Me Tonight, Rude, and others played. Now, the night was almost over and Morgan and Sofia, along with the other couples (or friends) attending Woodvale Academy’s 2019 Valentines Day Dance were taking part in the slow dance of the evening.
Morgan’s left hand was laid over Sofia’s shoulder while her right held her close. Sofia’s arms were wrapped around Morgan’s waist.
“I’ve had a really nice time tonight,” Sofia says quietly.
Morgan smiles. “Me too.”
They share a short-lived chaste kiss before continuing to slow dance.
It’s quiet after that for a moment.
“You look beautiful tonight,” Sofia breaks the silence. “I mean, you are beautiful everyday. But especially tonight.”
Sofia hums. “Mm-hmm. You’re really pretty.”
“I’m not, but you are,” Morgan disagrees.
“Okay, no. You’re pretty. Whether you believe it or not.” Sofia shakes her head.
Morgan looks into Sofia’s eyes. I really do love her, don’t I? We’ve been dating for a little while… almost five months now. You should tell her. What if she doesn’t say it back? Dad said Mr. Banner thinks Sofia loves me. God, I’m so nervous.
“I want to tell you something,” both girls say at the same time.
Morgan’s eyes widened and so did Sofia’s.
“You first,” Morgan hesitantly says.
Sofia shakes her head. “No, you.”
“Um,” Morgan mumbles. She glances down at her feet that were still dancing slowly in time with the music and her girlfriend. She swallows the lump in her throat before looking back up at Sofia. “I think, maybe… that I, uh... love you, Sof.”
Shit. She doesn’t—
“I love you too, Morgan,” she says quietly. There’s a small smile on her lips as she speaks.
She loves me back? Sofia loves me back!
“You do? I thought that you, um… by your reaction I thought that—”
“I was going to tell you the same thing,” Sofia admits softly. “That’s why I looked a little shocked.”
“Mhm,” she hums. “I love my pretty beautiful girlfriend.”
Morgan laughs under her breath. “Shut up.”
“No,” Sofia says. “You’re pretty… and beautiful… and my girlfriend… and I love you.”
The song plays the outro when the two kiss again. This one lasted a little longer than the one a few minutes earlier. It led right into another and both smiled as the second one neared its end.
Tony looks over at Morgan and Sofia, who were sitting down across the room in the only two seats left. “Do you want a balloon to take home?”
Both girls look over at him.
Tony picks up the balloon weight and when he’s almost to them, his phone rings. He uses his free hand to pull it out from his pant pocket to find Pepper calling him. He silences the call but keeps it from going to voicemail as he continues to walk. He sets the weight down. “One each. When you’re done, just give them to Rogers. He’ll handle them.”
“Okay,” Sofia says.
Tony points to his phone. “Mo, your Mom’s calling so I’m going to take that real quick. I’m done taking things down, though. I’ll pull the car around and text you when it’s time to go.”
Tony walks off toward the exit and answers the call on the last ring.
“Hey, sorry,” Tony greets. “Was still taking down balloons.”
“It’s alright,” she says. “Did you take pictures of Morgan?”
“Yes, of course I did,” he confirms.
“With Sofia, too?”
He hums. “Yeah. Posed and candid. I got this one of them during the slow dance that I don’t think either know about just yet. It’s cute.”
“Thank you,” Pepper says.
“Is that all you wanted to ask me?” Tony inquires as he pushes open the door that led to the outside.
“No,” Pepper answers. “Remember when I sent you the photo of the dress I let Morgan get for tonight?”
“In order to keep her from looking at our messages, I had to lie and say she couldn’t see our messages because you and I are planning things for her birthday… which, we are not,” she explains. “So now she might be expecting something despite the fact she has made it perfectly clear she doesn’t want a traditional sweet sixteen.”
“You don’t know how to lie,” he snickers, unlocking his car with the keyfob. “Like really. What’s the worst she would’ve found? You and I finalizing dinner plans?”
“Finalizing our plans for date night,” Pepper corrects. “I’m not ready to tell her about us and I know for a fact that you aren’t. Please just help me.”
He stops once he reaches his car and opens the door. “Alright. Of course, I will. Are you okay if I talk to you later tonight or sometime tomorrow? I’m about to pull my car around so Morgan doesn’t have to walk all the way to the back of the lot.” He gets in his car and shuts the door.
“Talk to you soon,” he says just before the line goes dead.
He sends a text to Morgan, sets his phone down, and buckles his seat belt.
Morgan gets in his car a few minutes after he pulls up to the curb.
Tony glances at her when he stops at a red light. Morgan hasn’t said a thing since she got in the car, but she’s got a cheesy grin. “Why are you all smiley, kid? What gives? I mean, I don’t mind it… I’m just curious, that’s all.”
“You were right,” is all she says.
“Sof loves me,” Morgan answers. “She loves me, Dad!”
“Told ya,” he says playfully. “I’m glad.”
Chapter 27: 27
“Alright, that’s class,” Tony says. “Get a move on, I’ve got places to be and people to see… and I know you all have homework due for me tomorrow!”
He watches the kids of his last period class stampede out of his classroom as he packs his own things up for the day.
Once he walks out of his classroom and locks the door, he shoots a quick text to Pepper: ‘Just got out. Still meeting you at where we discussed yesterday?’
He takes the stairs despite having access to the elevator and walks down the cobblestone pathway to the faculty parking lot where he had parked in the morning.
He unlocks his car a minute or two later and looks at his phone once he takes a seat in the driver’s seat.
A new text shows up on his phone. From Pepper, it read: ‘Yes. I will be on my way there shortly.’
About forty-five minutes later, he arrives at the restaurant where they chose to have an early dinner together. Just out of the way enough so that there would be a pretty low chance that anyone in kahoots with Woodvale would be there, too, and close enough for both parties to be back home at a decent time.
About ten minutes later, Pepper arrives and takes her seat.
“How was work?” Tony asks.
“Good,” Pepper answers. “How about you?”
“Going okay,” he assures. “You look wonderful today, Miss Potts.”
She lets out a half smile before saying, “Thank you. You’re not so bad yourself.”
He gapes for a second before laughing.
She jokingly blows him a kiss.
“So, about the girl’s birthday,” Tony says just after the waiter took their shared desert order.
“I keep wracking my brain, but I’m not really coming up with anything,” Pepper admits. “It can’t be what I normally put on for her, because she’s expecting more… but then we can’t go the traditional sweet sixteen route either.”
“What do you normally do?”
“What we did last year. Small friends and family party gathering… cake, dinner, gifts,” Pepper answers.
Tony thinks for a moment. “Does Morgan like Disney?”
“...yes,” Pepper answers. “Her favorite movie is The Little Mermaid and I think she has a good many of the picture vinyl records they’ve released in her collection. Some of them are unfortunately warped, but she still has them.”
“Enough that she wouldn’t think a Disney trip is childish?” Tony asks.
Pepper raises a brow. “Maybe? Why?”
“My Mom is a DVC member and made me get into it a few years ago,” Tony answers. “Which would help with cost… by a long shot. Dining, lodging, tickets...”
“Maria is a Disney fan?” Pepper snickers. “That’s so cute.”
Tony nods. “She got into all of it after she divorced my father. Her and I go almost every summer for about five days. Sometimes twice a year. Just depends on our schedules.”
“Ah,” Pepper says with a nod. “God, I miss her. Such a sweetheart. Does she know about Morgan? About us?”
“Yes, and no,” he says. “She knows about Morgan. But I haven’t had the guts to tell her that you and I are involved again. I think I’ll tell her once you and I tell Morgan. She’s really anxious to get to meet Morgan, I think… whenever that’ll be.”
“Anxious-excited or genuinely anxious?”
“She seems genuinely nervous,” Tony answers.
“Why would she be? Morgan will love her,” Pepper inquires.
“I think she’s worried that Mo’s going to be hostile toward her because she was in a relationship with Howard when… you know,” he explains.
“Oh,” Pepper says. “But she knows Maria divorced him after all of that went down. I don’t think that… that would truly affect Morgan’s opinion of her grandmother negatively.”
“That’s what I keep trying to tell her,” he says. “I was there when she threatened to divorce my Dad and he didn’t budge. She told me where she was going and then fled. I would’ve gone with her too if life were that easy. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I would’ve gone with her… yours and Morgan’s too.”
Pepper frowns. “I understand.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
She grins. “Do you have a photo of you with Mickey? If so, can I see it?”
“I do have a few, yes,” Tony admits. “And no, you may not.”
“Oh, come on,” she whines. “Please? I’m your girlfriend, I deserve to see you posing for a picture with the capitalist mouse.”
Tony rolls his eyes. “Fine.” He pulls out his phone and navigates to the folder on his phone called ‘Trips With Mom’. He pulls up a photo and turns his phone around.
She takes it from him and hums quietly.
A few moments pass and Pepper is still scrolling through the photos.
“You’ve been scrolling for a bit there, Pep,” he says quietly.
Pepper looks up wide eyed. She slides his phone across the table.
“Nothin,” she says.
“Need I remind you that you don’t know how to lie?” Tony recalls, glancing at the photo she was left on. “You like the black tank top, don’t you?”
Pepper blushes and she quickly attempts to cover her face up with her hand. “Maybe.”
“What’s wrong with that? We’re dating,” he snickers.
“I just thought I was past the whole… ‘flustered by my partner’s looks’ thing,” Pepper answers quietly. “It’s embarrassing.”
“I don’t believe that’s a phase people ever quite get over, hon. And it’s not embarrassing, it’s called attraction,” he teases. “I mean, that pantsuit you wore on our second first date, damn. Wear that more often please.”
Pepper raises a brow. “What did I wear again? I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Grey pantsuit, blue shirt under it,” Tony answers. “Your hair was in a bun.”
He nods. “Why?”
“I had no time to change after work and didn’t think I looked all that great. Glad to know you think differently,” Pepper enthuses.
“God, I love you.”
Pepper blinks. “You love me?”
“I’ve never stopped,” he admits. “People kept asking me before we got back together why I hadn’t tried dating again… and it just… it felt wrong to try. Almost as if my heart knew we’d meet again. And, whaddya know. We did.”
“Damnit, Tony. Stop being romantic, you’re about to make me cry,” Pepper murmurs, wiping a tear away with her finger. “I get it, though… I thought it was just because I was so set on protecting Morgan that I hadn’t gotten back in the dating world yet, but... I love you too. Still.”
The two were sitting on Pepper’s couch while her TV played a sitcom at a low volume. She’s scrolling around on her laptop.
“What day do you get done with post planning?” she asks.
“June 14,” he answers.
“I could take off 17 through 20,” Pepper suggests. “We’d be there on her birthday.”
Tony nods. “That could work.”
“Do you know if Sofia would want to go with us?”
“I could call Bruce and ask,” Tony says.
Tony gets off the phone with Bruce a few minutes later. “He asked her and she said she’d like to go. Bruce doesn’t mind staying back, theme parks aren’t really his thing. He’ll pay for her park ticket and airfare.”
“So then, it’ll just be you, me, Morgan, and Sofia,” Pepper mumbles, navigating through her laptop screen. She stares at him then.
“Would you want to share a bed with me? What are the chances we’ll tell Morgan by June?” Pepper inquires.
“I don’t really know… I mean, sharing a bed sounds nice. But I’m not exactly ready to break any news to her yet,” Tony admits.
“We’re already going to have to up the ante in terms of what hotel room we get since Sofia is going with us,” Pepper says. “The best thing we can do is cough up the extra money and get a two bedroom suite unless you’re willing to sacrifice not sharing a bed at all.”
“How would we go about that?”
“She goes to bed late and wakes up late,” Pepper answers. “We go to bed after we know she and Sof are asleep and then set an alarm every day for like 7:30. At 7:30, we go to our separate beds, just in case she needs us after she wakes up, so she won’t walk into us sleepily flirting with each other and cuddling.”
After a while, they decided on a hotel and bought round trip airfare for all four members attending, and now, Pepper was cuddled up next to Tony and sound asleep. As fate would have it, he would stop gently running his fingers through her hair and fall asleep pretty soon after she had fallen asleep… and they were both grateful that their alarms were on their phones.
Chapter 28: 28
“I really think you should tell her,” Pepper says through the phone. “I know that’s not exactly what we planned, but she deserves to know, Tony.”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
“I would not be telling you to tell her if I wasn’t sure,” Pepper confirms.
He grimaces. “Alright. I’ll call her and break the news to her in a sec.”
“And I’ll get back to you with her reaction,” Tony says.
“Love you,” she says.
“I love you too,” he answers.
He ends the call with Pepper and takes a deep breath before finding the contact. “Here goes nothing,” he says to himself as he presses the call button.
“Hi, Tony,” she greets. “Are you alright? You never call me this early in the day.”
“Hey, Mom,” he says. “Yeah I’m fine. Everything is good.”
“Oh, well, that’s great,” she enthuses.
“I’ve got news that I hope you’re excited about,” he states.
“That’s not ominous at all, Tony.”
“Pepper and I… we’ve been dating for almost five months now and it’s going really well,” he explains.
It's quiet for a moment.
“You’re serious?” Maria asks.
“I wouldn’t exactly joke about this type of thing, Mom,” he says, with a hint of humor.
“Oh my goodness, Tony! That is so exciting and I am very happy for you all,” she exclaims. “I probably know the answer already, but is there any talk of engagement going on between you two? Marriage? A wedding?”
Tony stifles a small laugh. “No. Not yet. At least not until Morgan knows.”
“Why does she not know?”
“We were waiting until we knew where it was heading and we’ve known since about two months in... right at this moment, I think the both of us are just scared of what she’ll think,” Tony answers.
“Why do you think that she’d react badly?”
“Poor kid’s not big on change, and I can see why,” he says. “Positive or negative. Usually, at least. She took moving completely to Waterbury pretty well, but from what I’ve seen with everything else… not so well. Well, actually… from what I understand, that until she and I started healing the father-daughter relationship, she was not keen on living closer to Waterbury. But after that, A-Okay.”
“Oh,” she says.
“We’re trying to figure out when would be the best time to tell her,” Tony explains.
“Plus, the whole engagement thing… I want Morgan’s permission to ask Pepper...” he pauses. “...due to all of that. I want her to feel somewhat in control, you know? Even then, it’ll probably be a bit before I ask Pep once Morgan knows, but when I want to… I want Mo to be a part of it, even if it’s just me asking her for permission… and it’s important to me that she knows she has a say.”
“You’re a good man, Tony,” Maria compliments. “I’m proud to call you my son. It is very thoughtful of you to think of Morgan through all of this.”
Tony smiles. “Thank you. With all of that being said, I really want you and Morgan to meet,” Tony continues. “Are you by chance free on June 8th?”
“I believe I am,” Maria answers. “If not, I can make it so that I am.”
“Morgan has her sophomore year spring dance recital on that day at five PM,” he says. “I can get you a ticket. You’d get to meet her and catch up with Pepper… maybe meet a few of Morgan’s friends. And her girlfriend, actually.”
“I would love to attend,” Maria says.
“I’ll put you on the list then,” Tony says.
“Of course,” he assures. “I’ve gotta go. Need to finish up a few things before my next period starts. I will call you later, okay?”
“That’s fine, Tony. Ti voglio bene,” she says.
“I love you, too,” Tony says into the phone before ending the call.
Morgan picks up her things from her dressing room and walks out to the lobby of the auditorium.
She finds her parents, Sofia and her Dad, Alicia, Rhodey, and a woman she couldn’t exactly recognize talking to each other. Her mother and the unknown woman were hugging. There were tears in Pepper’s eyes. The woman had blonde hair, it was greying, and had the fashion sense of a stylish grandmother. She resembled Tony, but Morgan couldn’t place why.
Morgan continues to walk over toward them. “Hi.”
The swarm of people compliment and congratulate her, and before long the only people left around after pictures are her, Pepper, Tony, and the woman.
“I hate to be this way, and I feel like a horrible person… but who are you?” Morgan asks, looking at the woman.
“My Mom,” Tony says. “Her name is Maria and I felt it was high time for you two to meet.”
Morgan blinks, looking at the woman. “Oh, wait. Wow, um... h-hi Maria. It’s nice to meet you. Well, I think. Dad seems to speak highly of you, so I’d hope so, anyway.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Morgan,” Maria greets. “I’ve only ever seen you in pictures.”
“I think I’ve seen a few of you,” Morgan mumbles.
After a hug and a few interactions later, the group of four are eating dinner together.
“Can you tell me a little about you? Your Dad has told me a little bit, but I’d like to hear it from you,” she asks once the waitress leaves with their orders.
Morgan nods. “Um, well… I collect vinyls. I like coffee. I read a lot in my free time and my favorite book is We Are Okay. Dad actually got it for me for Christmas. I really like Taylor Swift, but also like a lot of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s music of various genres. Mom got me into that. Mama likes romcoms but I hate them. I dance, um… as you know.” Morgan laughs a little.
“Your Dad showed me the pictures from that concert you went to. Looked like you had a fun time,” Maria enthuses.
“I did,” Morgan says with a smile. She looks at Tony. “Dad, you never told me what you thought of Rep.”
Tony’s eyes widened at the mention of it. “I didn’t?”
Morgan shakes her head.
“I really liked Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” he says.
“That’s my favorite, too,” Pepper says quietly.
“I also have a girlfriend. Her name is Sofia and she has her heart set on Harvard. But she’s really good at art and I could see her excelling there if Harvard doesn’t exactly shake out the way she wants it to,” Morgan explains. “We’ve been dating for eight months and I really love her. She and I are going to Disney together.”
“I met Sofia tonight,” Maria says. “She seems like a lovely, smart girl. I’m glad you’re in a good relationship with her.”
“Me too.” She beams. “I want to go to MIT. But I’m sure Dad’s probably told you all about that by now.”
“He has,” Maria says with a nod. “From what your Dad has said, you are such a smart young woman. I’m sure if you can put your mind to it, you’ll definitely make it where you want to go. MIT and forward.”
Chapter 29: 29
The two girls were spending their dinner at a restaurant about thirty minutes outside of Waterbury, after spending a good percentage of the afternoon playing indoor blacklight minigolf. In a few days, they’d be flying with Pepper and Tony to Disney together.
Sofia snickers at a joke Morgan cracks, when Morgan immediately goes stiff.
“What’s wrong? Mo, you okay?”
“Um,” Morgan mumbles. She takes a deep breath but immediately lets it go. She takes another in, and the exact same thing happens. “I, uh… m-my parents, they… they just… they’re holding hands? He just kissed my… my Mom’s cheek. I can’t hear them, but they’re definitely flirting with each other right now. No question. I can see it on my Mother’s face despite the fact I’ve never witnessed her in a flirty mood… ever.”
Sofia’s eyes widened and she quickly turned her head around to spot them. Sure enough, there were Morgan’s parents. Also on date night. She looks back at Morgan, who looked panicked.
“They’re dating,” Morgan mumbles. She takes another breath. “But they hid it from me.” Sofia sees the tears threatening to break through.
The waitress sets down the bill holder and is about to scurry off when Sofia stops her. “Do you think you could process this real quick? We’ve got a place to get to and we underestimated how long dinner was going to take. My apologies.”
“Oh, absolutely,” she says.
Sofia sets down her debit card and writes down the tip amount, before the waitress quickly takes it from her.
“Do you think they’ve seen you?” Sofia asks.
Morgan shakes her head. “T-They just, um… just went into the room next to us. Didn’t seem fazed.”
The waitress hurried back with Sofia’s credit card and Sofia quickly signed the receipt.
The girls leave the restaurant a moment later.
Once they are a few miles down the road past the restaurant, Sofia breaks the uncomfortable silence between the two. It was deafening over the quiet HAIM song playing in Sofia’s old red Santa Fe. “Do you want to talk about it? Maybe getting it all out with me first may help. You’re not going to be able to hide your newfound information from them… at least, not for very long. No offense, babe.”
Morgan looks up from her phone and lets out a small smile. “Did you just call me ‘babe?’”
Sofia eases her foot on the break and glances at her girlfriend. “I guess I did. Is that okay?”
She smiles before looking back at the road. It's quiet again. She turns left and quickly uses her left hand to turn down the volume. “My statement still stands. I’m here to listen.”
“I just… I don’t know,” Morgan says. “It’s just a lot to take in, I guess.”
“I understand.” Sofia nods. “Remember my sister Tess?”
“Well, she’s about to start her sophomore year in September, and started doing theater in her freshman year,” Sofia recalls. “There are all these little acting exercises that she tells me about. She calls me sometimes and does this one particular exercise with me, though. ‘Good, Bad, Worse,’ is what it’s called. You take a situation and come up with responses to the situation… good, bad, and the worst possible way you could respond. It’s actually helped me a lot in my normal life… because it makes you think through what’s going on a little more than if you tackled it head-on. Would you like to try it?”
“You want me to try an acting exercise?”
“Yeah,” Sofia insists. “‘Cause you and I are a lot alike and if it helped me, it’ll probably help you.”
Sofia can see Morgan roll her eyes in the corner of her eye before Morgan sighs. “Okay, fine. Give me an example first, though.”
Sofia sets a sandwich on a plate on the coffee table and sits down next to Morgan on the couch.
“I have to tell you something,” Sofia says. “And please don’t get mad at me.”
“What?” Morgan asks quietly, looking at her girlfriend.
“I’ve known about your parents since January.”
“You did?! How? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t sure if you knew and I didn’t want to overstep,” Sofia explains. “I found out by accident… with Alissa. I don’t think that they even know that we know.”
Sofia grimaces. “You sure you want to know?”
“How bad could it possibly be?” Morgan asks.
“Remember when I had to go drop off that paper for my Dad? And Alissa came with me?” she asks.
“We saw your parents making out in your Dad’s classroom on the way out,” Sofia recalls.
Another tear escapes from Morgan’s tired eyes and Sofia attempts to comfort her by enveloping the brunette in a side embrace. “I just… why did they not tell me? That’s literally all I’ve ever wanted. …my parents, together and happy. Do they not think I want that?”
“Maybe they were just unsure if there was still chemistry there,” Sofia suggests. “I know my Dad is very secretive about his significant others until he knows the relationship will last before he introduces me to them. Maybe your parents are doing something similar?”
The front door opens and Tony steps inside. “Good afternoon—“
Morgan stares at him. “You.”
“Me?” Tony asks.
“Where’s Mom?” Morgan asks.
His eyes widened. “Um… I don’t know. Why?”
“Why am I a liar?” Tony questions. “I genuinely don’t know where your Mom is.”
Morgan stares. “When were you going to tell me that you and Mom are dating? Sof says she’s known since January… and we both saw you two… tonight. At dinner.”
He mutters something under his breath then, glancing between Morgan and Sofia. “Sofia, do you mind heading back home? I appreciate you taking Morgan home, but this… it’s a family thing.”
Morgan and Sofia look at each other before Sofia reluntactly nods. “I’ll talk to you later,” Sofia says to Morgan before kissing her cheek. “Love you.”
Sofia gets up when Morgan mumbles a weak, “Love you, too,” back.
Sofia leaves the room, leaving just Morgan and her Dad left.
Morgan watches Tony type on his phone and bring it up to his ear.
“Pep, where are you?” he asks.
There’s an answer on the other end but Morgan can’t hear it.
“Can you come over to my house? Morgan found out about us and seems very upset,” he explains. There was sadness in his voice.
There’s an answer before he says, “Thank you. Love you.”
An incoherent response comes through and then Tony hangs up.
“You love her?” Morgan mumbles, looking at him.
Tony nods. “Yeah, I do.”
“Oh,” she says, fidgeting with her hands. “Does she love you?”
“She says she does,” Tony answers. “So I surely hope that’s true.”
Pepper walks into Tony's house about ten minutes later. She quickly comes to sit next to Morgan, while Tony is still standing by the television.
Before either of the adults can get a word out, Morgan starts: “Why didn’t you tell me? Like, honestly. Did you think I wasn’t going to approve? You two being together and happy is all I’ve ever wanted.”
Pepper shakes her head. “That is why we kept it from you, actually.”
Tony nods. “We wanted to make sure it would work before you knew. So you wouldn’t get your hopes up for nothing… we were actually discussing that over dinner tonight and mutually decided to sit down and discuss it with you during the trip sometime. But I guess it’s now.”
Morgan blinks. “How long have you two been together again?”
“Seven months on the twenty-fourth,” Pepper recalls.
“Oh. Oh wow,” Morgan mumbles. “Now everything’s making sense. The necklace from Christmas… Mom not wanting to let me use her phone to talk to Dad… the phone call at the dance… the constant reassurance when you told me about Disney that you wouldn’t be sharing a bed there. Why would you say that if there wasn’t something you were trying to hide from me?”
The question is rhetorical and neither parent answer.
Morgan looks at her mother. “Do you love him?”
Pepper glances at Tony before looking back at her daughter. “Yes, Morgan. I do love him.”
“Okay,” Morgan says, nodding.
“Okay?” Pepper asks.
She smiles weakly. “You two being together and happy… us maybe being a happy family someday… that’s all I’ve ever wanted. Now that I know that you love Dad…” she pauses, looking at Tony. “...and you love my Mom, and that the only reason you kept it from me was to be sure there was something worthy of news… okay. I’m really sorry for freaking out on you guys.”
Pepper goes back to her house a little while later, and now it is around 11:30.
Morgan sends off a text message that said, ‘Goodnight, Sof,’ when there’s a knock on her door.
“Yeah?” she asks, looking at the door of her room at her Dad’s house. She sets her phone down on her nightstand before burrowing herself under her blue duvet.
Tony opens the door and says, “Can I talk to you for a second, kid?”
He takes a seat at her desk and looks at her.
“What?” Morgan yawns.
“I’m sorry that we didn’t tell you sooner,” he says.
“Oh,” she mumbles. “That’s okay. I get it.”
“You deserved to know, regardless of the fact we were scared to tell you,” he continues.
“I know. But I get it.”
“Which is why—” he runs his hand through his barely gelled hair. “—when the time comes… I’m not there yet and I know your Mother isn’t there quite yet either, but when it does… I want to get your permission to propose marriage to Pepper. Your approval is very important to us… and especially me.”
Morgan snickers. “Are you just going to give me this spiel again when you actually want to ask her?”
He smiles. “Yeah, I… I guess so. Maybe add or get rid of a few things, but… yes, probably.”
“How quickly do you think you’ll be ready to ask her?” Morgan asks.
“A few months from now, I think,” Tony answers. “I want us to have been dating for at least a year before I really, thoroughly consider bringing it back up to you… and then, you know, to your Mom. We’ve actually talked about the marriage thing and she agrees with me.”
“So essentially sometime after Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah,” Tony says.
“That’s fine with me.”
He blinks. “Really?”
“Thank you,” he says.
He stands up and walks to the doorframe. “Want me to get the light for you?”
“Goodnight, Dad,” Morgan says. “And sure.”
Before he flips the light switch, he says, “Goodnight. Love you, kiddo.”
She smiles, but doesn’t say anything back before Tony turns off the light, leaves the room, and shuts the door.
Morgan turns over under her blanket and closes her eyes.
Chapter 30: 30
“Mo, Sof,” Pepper says as the car comes to a stop. “We’re here. Time to get up and at ‘em. The security lines are waiting.”
Morgan grumbles, while Sofia slowly unbuckles her seatbelt.
“If you want to catch your flight to Disney, you’re gonna have to get up,” Tony says from the front of the car.
“But I’m tired,” Morgan whines.
“We’ll get you coffee once we get inside,” he assures.
“But coffee places don’t open until our plane leaves,” Sofia says as she picks up her backpack from the floorboard.
“Then you two will sleep on the plane and we’ll get you coffee in Orlando,” Tony prys. “I told you, Mo, to take a nap yesterday and you didn’t listen.”
Morgan grumbles, but unbuckles her seatbelt anyway. She picks up her backpack and gets out of the car as she lets out a long yawn. She shuts the door and walks to the back of the car, where Sofia was pulling out the bag she would be checking.
“You look like a raccoon,” Sofia teases.
“Shut up,” Morgan mumbles as she gets her bag from the back.
Morgan sips on her coffee in the back of their rental car, while Sofia is wide awake and looking out the window. She slept on the plane… and Morgan did not.
“Are you feeling better now that you’ve got some caffeine in you?” Pepper jokes from the front side passenger seat.
“Stop makin’ fun of me,'' Morgan grumbles. “But yes.”
“But it's fun,” Sofia says, turning her head to look at Morgan.
Morgan pouts. “You’re my girlfriend, you’re not allowed to make fun of me.”
“I didn’t know that that was a part of the deal when we started dating? Am I gonna have to break up with you in order to poke fun at you now?”
“Please don’t break up with me,” Morgan says with a frown. “I like you.”
Sofia snickers. “I like you too. Not gonna break up with you.”
“Hey, look,” Tony interrupts the two. “The sign.”
Sofia quickly pulls out her phone and takes a photo of the entry archway through the windshield.
“Hey,” Sofia says after she takes the photo.
“Picture,” she says before leaning closer next to Morgan.
Morgan kisses Sofia’s cheek while Sofia takes the photo.
Morgan wakes up to the sound of the door to her hotel room opening.
“Good morning, birthday girl,” her mother’s voice comes from the door.
She grumbles, pulling the blanket over her head.
“I brought you coffee and a blueberry muffin,” she says.
“Joffrey’s,” Pepper answers. “Only coffee joint around here unless you want to wait until we actually go to the parks.”
Morgan pushes the covers off of her face and smiles at her Mom. “Thank you.” She rolls out of bed and takes the cup of coffee and muffin from her.
“You’re the only one not ready to head out,” Pepper says as Morgan sips on the cup of coffee. I’d suggest you nurse that a little and get ready to go. Your Dad is in the lobby getting you some buttons to put on your backpack if you want. We need to be at our first location at 10:20.”
“With your Dad,” the redhead informs.
Morgan’s eyes widened and she spits out, “I’ll be ready in five!”
Pepper snickers. “Alright then. You need the directions to the lobby?”
She all but runs out of the hotel room and down the paved pathway, past the two pools, and many lodging buildings, to get to the doors of the hotel lobby. She slows down when she sees Tony and Sofia standing in front of a guest relations counter talking to one of the cast members. Still, Morgan continues to walk over to them, with her half drunk coffee in hand. “Hi,” Morgan says to them.
“Oh, there’s the sleepy birthday girl,” Tony says with a beam, looking at her. “How’d you sleep?”
Morgan rolls her eyes. “I slept fine. Thank you for asking, Dad.”
“Is this Morgan?” the cast member asks.
“Yes,” Morgan answers.
“Happy birthday and first visit, Morgan!” the woman behind the counter says happily. She pushes the two buttons Morgan recalled her mother mentioning toward her. The birthday one said ‘happy birthday, Morgan!’ There was a drawn on sharpie balloon next to her name. The first visit said ‘1st visit’ and had ‘Morgan’ written in sharpie right under.
Morgan notices that Tony has on a button that says, ‘I’m celebrating Morgan’s birthday!’ on it, while Sofia has that one, along with another first visit button, with her name on it instead of Morgan’s.
The group of three walk away a moment later.
“We left not even ten minutes ago,” Tony says when they are walking past one of the pools. “You heard us both leave and immediately thought I’d embarrass you?”
“Aw,” Tony pouts. “You don’t trust me anymore.”
“That means you’re doing the dad thing correctly, Tony,” Sofia enthuses.
Tony nods. “That is true.”
After their first full day at Disney in the Magic Kingdom, the group of four were now sitting at the table for the character dinner at 1900 Park Fare and enjoying each other’s company after Cinderella’s stepsisters came around to greet them. They signed Morgan’s birthday card that she was given upon her entrance to the restaurant and talked to the girls about marrying someone for their money and not love—Drizella even asked if Sofia or Morgan knew of anyone with a castle they could marry for. Anastasia asked if Tony was both a billionaire and single, to which he had to respond with, “I decided to go against my father’s wishes and date this lovely lady on my left and then got cut out of my father’s will,” while pointing to Pepper.
The cast member walks over to their table with the check and a vanilla cupcake with a lit candle in it on a plate. She sets it in front of Morgan. “From all of us at Walt Disney World, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your sixteenth birthday with us.”
When the cast member walks away, Morgan immediately says: “Please don’t sing me Happy Birthday. Just let me blow the candle out.”
“Let me take my phone out first,” Pepper says as she pulls out her phone. She navigates on the phone for a second before saying, “Okay.”
Morgan’s about to blow out the small candle when Sofia interrupts: “You’re supposed to make a wish.”
“Right,” Morgan mumbles. She glances at her Dad, who was sitting across from her, then to her Mom, and to Sofia, before smiling to herself. “I got it.”
“Yeah?” Tony asks.
Morgan hums before blowing out the tiny flame. She pulls the candle out and sets it down on the plate.
“What did you wish for?” Sofia inquires.
“If I tell you that then the wish won’t come true,” Morgan shakes her head. “Just know that it’s a good one.”
Tonight was their last night at Disney. They spent their last day at Hollywood Studios and came back to their hotel room in time to view the fireworks from the comfort of their own space for the final time.
“The fireworks are starting!” Sofia calls from the deck of their hotel room, while Morgan is grabbing her blanket from the living area.
Morgan quickly runs out to the deck and sits next to Sofia on the lounge chair. She wraps the blanket around her and Sofia’s shoulders and the two cuddle close.
Pepper and Tony were sitting together in the chair next to the girls, murmuring to each other.
“—each of us has a dream, a heart’s desire, it calls to us… and when we are brave enough to listen and bold enough to pursue, that dream will lead us on a journey to discover who we’re meant to be. All we have to do is look inside our hearts and unlock the magic within,” the narrator says over the speaker.
Right after the Part of Your World song plays, Morgan looks at Sofia. “Hey,” she whispers.
Sofia stops looking toward the castle across the lake and looks at Morgan. “Hm?”
“I’m glad you came,” Morgan says with a beam. “I’ve had such a fun time and I can’t believe it’s over tomorrow. Went by so fast.”
“Well, your parents invited me,” Sofia enthuses. “But, yes… absolutely. I’ve had such a fun time, too. I’ll never forget your reaction when you got to meet Ariel. Literally the most adorable thing I’ve ever witnessed.”
“Okay, look. I have an emotional attachment to that character,” Morgan says, blushing. “The animated Ariel was my gay awakening when I was like eight, so… I just didn’t really figure out my label until later.”
Sofia snickers. “Was she really?”
“That’s so cute,” Sofia murmurs.
It’s quiet again as the Touch The Sky sequence begins.
The Love Is An Open Door and the You’ll Be In My Heart sequence fades into I See The Light and Tony wipes away a tear that fell somewhere throughout the transition between each sentimental song.
“You okay?” Pepper asks quietly.
“I’m just… I can’t believe this is happening,” Tony answers.
“That I get to experience this… with you… with our daughter,” he explains. “Well, and our daughter’s girlfriend. But…”
“This… going to Disney was my Mom’s coping mechanism after she divorced my father… and after I started tagging along with her on trips, it kinda became mine, too… and now, that I’m here with you two… the woman and daughter that I loved and thought I was never going to get to see again or at all because of my father… I don’t know,” he murmurs. “It just is special to me, I guess.”
“Aw,” Pepper says quietly. She hugs him a little closer. “I love you, Tony. I’m glad life brought us back together… even though it took forever.”
“I love you, too, Pep.”
“All at once, everything is different… now that I see you,” the song plays just before the Mulan part begins.
Chapter 31: 31
A knock on her door wakes her up after her alarm has already gone off twice. “Ready to rock and roll?”
Morgan fusses under her breath.
“I have to be at work at 7:20,” Tony says from the other side of the door. “It’s 6:50, need to leave like… now. Got you coffee and a granola bar sitting on the island in the kitchen.”
“Why can’t someone else come get me?”
“Sofia’s your only friend that knows how to drive… and she goes with her Dad in the mornings,” he answers. “In a few months, though, you’ll get your license. Then you can decide for yourself.”
“Fine,” Morgan mumbles as she gets out of bed.
She quickly changes into her uniform and walks out to the living room area.
“There’s my junior,” he says as he looks up from a piece of paper that he was scribbling on.
Morgan rolls her eyes. “Stop that.”
“What? I can’t be proud of my daughter, is that it?”
“You can, but it’s embarrassing,” she whines before picking up her mug and taking a sip.
“Why is it embarrassing? There’s nobody here but us,” Tony questions.
Morgan pulls the mug away from her face and sits it back on the island. “Yeah. Exactly. I’m here.”
“Okay, fine,” Tony says, fake pouting for a moment. “You have me for Monday and Wednesday third period and Friday first period AP physics this year. ”
“I do,” Morgan says. “So does Sof. Please don’t embarrass me… or her… or us.”
“No promises, kiddo,” he teases.
“Teasing,” he snickers.
It's quiet for a moment as Morgan sips on her coffee. “How are you and Mom?”
“We’re good,” he answers. He glances back at the paper and says, “When’s Sofia gonna send in her app for Harvard? Safety schools?”
“She mentioned that she’d send it all in at the end of this month,” Morgan recalls. “She told me that she asked you to write one of her letter of recs.”
“Did you make her look like the best student Harvard will ever see?” she inquires.
“I certainly did try.” He nods. “But she’s a good student all around. Her transcript’s good… ACT, SAT, and AP scores are great. Currently holds the highest GPA in her grade and is on track to be valedictorian this year. It's not very hard to write a letter of recommendation for a student like her.”
Morgan sits in one of the empty seats in the third row of seats in her Dad’s classroom and sets her backpack in the seat to her right.
Sofia walks into the room a moment later and hands Morgan the backpack before sitting down.
“Deja vu,” Sofia murmurs as she pulls out a pencil from her own backpack.
Morgan snickers. “Yeah. God, it doesn’t seem like it’s been three years since then.”
Sofia nods. “I know. I can’t believe I’m a senior.”
“I’m proud of you,” Morgan enthuses. “By the way, I asked my Dad not to say anything embarrassing but he told me he couldn’t make any promises.”
The late bell rings, Tony immediately shuts the door of his classroom, and walks to the middle of the front. “Good afternoon,” he greets. “Most of you probably know me by now, but if you don’t or somehow need a refresher… I am Mr. Anthony Carbonell. You may call me Mr. Anthony, Mr. Tony, or Mr. Carbonell. I will answer to any, as long as you are being respectful. To my daughter in the class, you may refer to me as any of the names I have listed already, or you may simply continue to call me ‘Dad.’”
Morgan glares at him before sinking in her seat slightly. She sees Sofia snickering in the corner of her eye, which only makes the embarrassment heighten.
He grins before continuing, “ I teach six classes here ranging from GenEd and Honors Physical Science, along with GenEd, Honors, and AP Physics. You all are in my one of two AP Physics classes this year. How exciting is that?”
There are a few murmurs that go off and he laughs a little. “I know, probably not very. Regardless, I am very excited to embark on this chapter of Woodvale’s legacy with every one of you all and your bright minds. Today we’ll go through introductions, take a journey through the syllabus, my own classroom rules, and continue reading that eyesore of the wonderful ‘Woodvale-Academy-Legalese’... also known as the school rules. You may ask questions at any point during my classes, unless obviously, we are in the middle of testing. You may yell it out, raise your hand, I do not care.”
He walks to the white board. He picks up a red Expo marker from the metallic edge and begins to write his name on the board with his right hand. He lifts up the marker from the poorly-cleaned whiteboard after printing his name and turns back around to face the audience of students. “Let’s start with introductions, shall we?” He smiles weakly. “As you know, my name is Mr. Carbonell. I have been teaching for about six years… I will be completing my seventh year of teaching this semester, and all of them have been completed here at Woodvale Academy.” He pauses. “I was born in Long Island, New York and completed my secondary education at Phillips Academy in a little town called Andover. My alma mater is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and I have a degree in mechanical engineering from there. I worked in the engineering field in Northern California for about six years before I had a little bit of an existential crisis and went back to school to become a certified teacher at San Fran State, which took about two years. Moved back over to the northeast to teach here about six years ago and have been grateful for every second.”
A few murmurs go off again and he continues as he glances at Morgan, “I have a sixteen year old daughter who attends here as well, that I love very much. I’m sure you all will get familiar with my daughter, Morgan, this year if you aren’t already. I am also in a great relationship with my girlfriend at this time. But that is about it for me. I’m honestly not very interesting. I’m just a guy who is very passionate about his job.” He walks over to his desk and picks up his attendance sheet. “With that being said, let's move on to student introductions. While I am aware many of you have been here for a few years and should be familiar with many of your classmates, I still want you to familiarize or re-familiarize yourself with these faces and people that you will see in my class this year. When your turn happens, enlighten me on your name, grade or age since I know not all of you are juniors or seniors, where you’re from, how long you’ve been at Woodvale, your GPA if you are comfortable, and tell me what you want to do with your life… if you don’t know that just yet, which I don’t know how you couldn’t—this is Woodvale Academy, and many of you are upperclassmen… just tell me a fun fact.” He looks around for a second. “Back row on my left, you start. Go down the line. When you get to the end, next row, go from my right to left. Row after that, left to right… and so on.”
The two rows and half of the third row goes and now it’s Sofia’s turn. “Hi, I’m Sofia Banner. Well, Taylor Banner. But I go by my middle name. I was adopted when I was little and was born here in Waterbury.” She taps on her desk with her pencil. “I am a senior and have been at Woodvale since I was in seventh grade. I currently have a 4.7 GPA on the five-point-oh scale and want to go to Harvard to study psychology.”
Morgan sees Sofia look at her. Morgan clears her throat before introducing herself. “Hi. My name is Morgan Potts. I am sixteen and am a junior. I started here when I was a freshman at fourteen. I am originally from Stoneham in Massachusetts and moved to Connecticut when I was really little. I want to go to MIT and study mechanical engineering… and yes, before anyone asks, yes, I am Mr. Carbonell’s daughter.”
Tony sends off an email to a confused student when there is a knock on his unlocked classroom door.
He looks up from his desk to see his boss. He’s probably just making the rounds and asking about our first days back teaching.
“You can come in, Mr. Odinson,” he says as he gets up from his desk. “It’s open.”
He opens the door and steps inside. “I hope you’ve had a good first day back teaching, Anthony,” he greets.
“I have,” Tony says with a small smile. “It feels good to be back.”
“Oh, I’m sure it does,” Thor enthuses. “I feel the same, even though it’s from an administration standpoint.”
Tony nods, shifting his weight from his right to his left and his weak smile drops to a frown.
“I can see that you are nervous,” he says. “But I promise I’m not the bearer of bad news. Was making my rounds this afternoon and on my way, I heard a few students in the quad gossipping about you.”
“I said I wasn’t the bearer of bad news this afternoon, did I not?” Thor inquires.
“Right. Um, sorry,” Tony apologizes. “What did you hear?”
“You’re dating again, is that right?”
Tony nods, his smile returning.
“That’s a big step for you. Congratulations,” Thor says happily.
“Thank you,” Tony says.
“I saw Morgan with her girlfriend earlier when I was meeting with Kathy in the library. She seemed much happier, too. Do those two things happen to be connected in any way? You and Pepper?”
“Nine months, actually,” Tony recalls. “We kept it secret until around seven months… just to make sure that there was something still there.”
“I understand.” He nods. “That’s really good. I’m glad things are working well for you. I don’t mean to get into your business, but do you have plans to propose anytime soon?”
“I’m going to ask Morgan for permission first, but I’m thinking sometime during the holiday season,” Tony explains happily. “I still have the ring that I was supposed to give her at our original ceremony. I want to propose with that, I think.”
“That is all very sweet. I wish you the best of luck, Anthony.”
Chapter 32: 32
Sofia refreshes her student portal for the umpteenth time and sighs.
“Sofie, they’re not going to magically drop yours early,” Bruce says sympathetically as he walks over to the kitchen table with a glass of water, where his daughter sat.
“You never know…” Sofia grumbles.
“I know it’s not what you want to hear, but they won’t,” he disagrees and sighs. “When I was your age I had to wait for a letter that came in the mail. There was no set time to see it. You don’t realize how lucky you’ve got it.”
Sofia rolls her eyes.
“You could check your safety schools while you wait… I know a few decisions have already dropped for them.”
“I’ll check after Harvard,” she mumbles under her breath, keeping a close eye on the time.
It's quiet until her laptop’s time strikes seven. She quickly refreshes her portal. “Status update,” she mumbles to herself. “Dad, there’s a status update.”
“Click it,” Bruce encourages.
“Do you want me to click it?” he asks.
Sofia’s eyes widened. “N-No, I’m good.”
“Then click the button, kiddo.”
Sofia grimaces before clicking the button. A loading pop-up appears.
“There’s probably a lot of anxious students trying to get on right now,” Bruce says quietly.
A moment later, the webpage loads. But before she can finish reading it, her tears give way and cloud her vision. “I didn’t get in.”
All she could really process after that was her Dad hugging her tight and attempting to comfort her.
“Is Morgan here? She told me to come over when—”
“She’s not, she’s at her Mom’s until tomorrow… but are you okay? It looks like you’ve been crying,” Tony asks with a frown.
“I, um… I didn’t get into Harvard,” Sofia says quietly.
“Oh no,” Tony says sympathetically. “What about your safety schools?”
“Almost all of them said no. Which makes no sense. I’ve got the perfect grades, 4s and 5s on all of my AP tests, a freaking 1580 on the SAT, a perfect main ACT score, and a ten on the essay out of 12, great record, good recommendations...” Sofia answers. “NYU, UGA, and Purdue deferred me. But it’s extremely hard to get accepted after being deferred. I’ve heard back from all. Boston University waitlisted me.”
Tony slips on a pair of shoes. “You don’t know that, Sofia,” Tony says as he steps outside on the porch with her and shuts the door. “I was deferred at MIT and got accepted with everyone else when regular admissions decisions came out. I was also waitlisted for SFSU for getting my master's in education… a spot opened up there. You’ll find an in somewhere… and who knows, Harvard may not be where you need to be anyway.”
“That’s what my Dad told me, but I just… that’s all I ever wanted. To go to Harvard, study psych… get my license to practice, and help kids going through what I had as an adopted child.”
Tony nods. “I’m very sorry, kid. Do you want me to drive you to Morgan? I don’t want you to drive when you’re stressed.”
Sofia nods wordlessly.
Sofia knocks on the door and Pepper opens the door a moment later. “Sofia? Are you—”
Sofia can see Morgan run down the stairs. “Is that Sofia?”
Sofia and Morgan lock eyes and Morgan finishes walking down. She picks up the pace once she gets on the ground and envelopes Sofia in a hug.
“Did you get in?” Morgan asks quietly.
Sofia mumbles out an, “nuh-uh,” before the tears break free again and begin to collect on the back of Morgan’s yellow t-shirt. She sees Pepper frown before walking outside. The door comes to a close, leaving the girls hugging in the living room.
“Oh no, baby... I am so sorry,” Morgan murmurs as she comforts her girlfriend. “What about safety—”
“I, um… I got rejected by all except for, uh... NYU, UGA, Boston, a-and Purdue,” Sofia explains when the hug ends. “I-I’m on the waitlist at Boston. But was deferred from UGA, NYU, and Purdue.”
“So there’s hope,” Morgan says. “Right?”
“K-Kinda?” Sofia says with a shrug. “The chances of getting in after being deferred are extremely slim… and I don’t know if I even want to accept my waitlist position. Last year, stats said that colleges only accepted 4 of 2000 students who secured a spot on the list… and I just… I don’t know.”
“But one of those four this year might be you if you just gave it a chance.”
“I don’t know if I can take that chance, Morgan,” Sofia mumbles.
It’s quiet for a moment. “What if you haven’t thought of all your options?” Morgan asks.
Sofia stares. “What?”
“You’re a good artist. Have you thought about art school?”
She shakes her head. “I mean, I’ve thought about it… but I haven’t really pursued it or anything. I didn’t think that I was… um, good enough to try.”
“Why haven’t you?” Morgan prys carefully. “You always talk about how cool it would be to be a storyboard artist or an illustrator… or you know, to just do art full time. Why not actually see if that’s a possibility?”
“Oh, I don’t know if that’s—”
“There’s no harm in doing some research, Sof.”
“I agree,” Tony’s voice comes from the front door, which causes Sofia to spin around to see him and Pepper standing next to each other. The couple was attached at the hip.
“Me too,” Pepper says. “Mo’s always telling me how good of an artist you are. I’ve even seen some of your pieces. You should at least look into it.”
Sofia weakly smiles. “You think I’d have a chance?”
It’s a little bit later, and Sofia has gotten permission to stay the night with Morgan. Tony decides to stay over, too, since he drove her over to The Potts Girls’ humble abode.
“Have you ever heard of Rhode Island School of Design? They have an illustration program,” Morgan says as she looks up from her laptop.
“I have,” Sofia says. “Lots of good things, too. What are the reqs?”
Morgan surfs around a bit more before saying, “GPA, 3.6. SAT, 1310. ACT, 29… at least according to PrepScholar. According to their little calculator thing, you have a 96.6% chance of getting in.”
“Yep,” Morgan says with a smile.
“What about Columbia? SCAD?”
Morgan hums. “I’ll check.”
“I’m reading up on this one school in Chicago,” Sofia says. “Thank you for doing this… helping me figure out that I may have a chance with art. It means more than you realize.”
“Of course,” she says. “I love you, Sof.”
“Love you too, Mo.”
Chapter 33: 33
Morgan scrolls on her laptop when her phone rings. She abandons her reading and looks at her phone. It was her Dad.
Morgan picks up her phone and answers the call, holding it up to her ear. “Hey, Dad.”
“Hi, kiddo. You free?” he greets.
“Possibly. Mom’s out getting groceries,” Morgan answers. “Why? What’s up?”
“I need to talk to you about something,” Tony says.
“About what? Can you be a little more specific?”
“‘Fraid not,” he answers.
“Boy, you’re an inquisitive one today,” Tony teases. “Remember when I talked to you one-on-one in June? It’s about that.”
He’s going to ask for my permission to marry Mom, isn’t he?
“Oh,” Morgan mumbles. “Yeah, I’m free. You want me to drive over?”
“You’ve only had your license for what… two weeks? Are you sure you want to come see me?” he jokes. “I can come over there.”
“Dad!” Morgan yelps. “Your house is only like two neighborhoods over.”
“I’m just teasing.”
Morgan hums. “Mhm. I’ll be over in ten.”
“Be careful, kid.”
Morgan unlocks her Dad’s door with the key he gave her and steps inside.
“Dad?” she calls before pulling out her phone and typing out a message to her Mom: ‘Went over to Dad’s. I’ll be back soon, just don’t want to get you worried.’
He walks out of his room and smiles when he sees Morgan. “Hey.”
“Hi,” Morgan says. “Is this what I think it’s about?”
“Probably,” he admits. “What do you think I want to ask you?”
“For permission to ask my Mom?” she asks. “It’s after November, so I kinda figured it was coming…”
“Then get on with it then,” Morgan says humorously. “There’s a ninety percent chance I’ll say yes.”
“More like 95,” Morgan corrects.
“No, I’m just shocked it’s that high,” he says.
“As you probably know, I, um… I really love your Mom, Morgan. Very much,” he starts. “I loved her all of those years ago and all the way up to… up to now. With my entire heart, mind, and, um… and soul.” He pauses and thinks for a moment. “Your Mom and I loved each other in secret until we got found out… and before then, we had a bad feeling that my Dad would somehow divide us… especially when we found out you were coming. He did and to this day I wish that things would’ve been different… that I could’ve run to you both and be there for you, for your Mom… through it all… I hope you know that, somewhere in your heart. She is the greatest thing that’s ever been mine and it was like a dream come true when she told me she considered our second first date a date and how she wanted to try again.”
Morgan raises a brow and holds back a small laugh. Taylor Swift lyrics.
“I’m so grateful that life has allowed me to be a part of her life again… to be a part of yours at all. It has been an absolute privilege to get to know you for who you are and understand what makes you the person I get to call my daughter,” he says. “I want you to know that the relationship between your Mom and I isn’t too good to be true. What we have is real and I hate to be morbid, but you don’t have to worry about ghosts from my past jumping out at us all since the one man who ever gave us pushback’s been dead since 2016. Our relationship is on stable ground and I have faith in us… if we were able to pick up from where we left off, I have a pretty good feeling that it’ll stand. It’ll last. I will do my absolute best to make sure of that. Your approval is very important to us… and especially to me.”
Morgan smiles weakly.
“Will you give me your blessing?” he asks.
“Yeah. You can ask her. You have my blessing.”
He blinks. “I can?”
“Can I show you the ring?”
“You have the ring already?” Morgan baffles.
“I’ve had it since 2002. It’s the one I was supposed to exchange with her at the ceremony at the courthouse,” Tony says. “I’ll find a new one for her wedding ring, but…”
“Sure,” she says.
He disappears again for a moment and returns with an old heart shaped velvet ring box. He hands it to Morgan.
Morgan opens the box to find an oval diamond ring. The band was gold and small. She looks up from the box. “She’ll love it.”
Morgan hums before closing the box and handing it back to him. “When are you thinking about asking her?”
Pepper hides her laugh with her left hand while the two walk together. It was a surprisingly decent day in winter for Connecticut in terms of weather. 43 degrees. If it were any more hot, Pepper would probably notice his sweaty hands.
The two had gone to a nice dinner and now they were walking around an old park. Since it was cold, there weren’t many people aside from him and her. He sees her watch peek through her grey winter coat.
They climb the stairs to a gazebo.
“So, what’s all this, eh?” Pepper asks as Tony lets go of her hand. “You take me to an incredibly nice dinner and refuse to let me pay any ounce of the bill and you’ve been extremely nice and sweet to me all night… which, I don’t mind, but… I can’t help but think there’s something happening tonight that you’re not telling me about.”
“Am I normally not nice and sweet to you?” Tony inquires.
“You are.” Pepper shakes her head. “Just not… to this extent.”
He laughs nervously for a moment.
“I love you, Pep,” he starts. “I’ve loved you since the moment when we were sixteen swamped with midterms at Phillips and I glanced over at you while you were reading from your history textbook... from that moment it’s you. It’s always been you. I knew that with my entire heart, soul, and mind. My Dad threw rocks at our relationship and it wrongly fell to rubble. For years, I held out hope that someway, somehow we’d find a way back to each other… that we could reconcile. And that day came… through our daughter.”
Pepper weakly smiles.
“After I made peace with Morgan, it became clear why I kept hoping for all those years… why I waited my whole life… why I had a breakdown and changed my career path. Maybe, somewhere, somehow, I knew it would lead me to you… because, hon, I realized that I still love you,” he continues. “I still loved your spirit… your soul… your humor… your wit and smarts… you. I still loved your blue eyes and ginger hair… your smile. Everything that makes you, you. I cannot imagine what my life would ever look like without you in it. I don’t even want to think about it. I want to wake up next to you every morning and kiss you goodnight every night. I want your quiet Sundays and your groggy Mondays. I want our family whole again. I’ve loved you for twenty years and I want to spend the next twenty-something and more with you by my side. I got our daughter's permission to ask these next seven words.”
Pepper’s right hand is covering her mouth in pleasant shock as he pulls out the ring box and gets down on one knee. “Virginia Annaliese Potts, will you marry me?”
With tears in her eyes, all Pepper can manage is an enthusiastic nod.
She holds out her left hand and Tony slides the wedding-turned-engagement ring on her ring finger.
He stands up and she pulls him into an embrace. They inch closer until their lips touch, and they kiss. It was short and sweet, chaste.
The two walk into Tony’s home a little later, to find Morgan and Sofia drawing together. Pepper takes off her winter coat and hooks it on the wall hanger and Tony follows suit.
Morgan quickly looks up from her workspace and stares at them. “So?”
“I said yes,” Pepper announces.
Morgan beams. “Really? That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you two!”
“Wait, you proposed today?” Sofia asks.
“I did,” Tony says with a nod.
Pepper steps away from Tony’s side and says, “Sofia, do you mind if I steal Morgan from you for a quick second?”
Sofia shakes her head.
Morgan follows Pepper into her own room.
Pepper hugs her daughter and Morgan hugs her back.
“Thank you for giving your Dad permission to ask me,” she says.
Morgan smiles. “I wouldn’t have told him he could if I wasn’t okay with it.”
“I know, but it still means a lot to me,” Pepper explains.
“I know,” she says.
“You know the ring on your finger has been with him since 2002?” Morgan inquires.
“Oh?” Pepper looks at the ring on her finger and smiles. “How’d you figure that out?”
“Dad told me yesterday,” Morgan answers. “Said it was the one he was going to give you at the original ceremony.”
“God, he’s such a hopeless romantic and I love him for it,” she mumbles.
It's quiet for a moment until Pepper speaks up again: “Morgan, my love… would you do me the honor of being in my wedding party as my maid of honor?”
Chapter 34: 34
“Yes?” Pepper asks, looking over at her.
“What about this one? It’s in your price range and it fits one of the styles you mentioned,” Morgan asks, picking up a dress from the rack at the bridal shop.
Pepper nods before looking back at the dresses she was standing in front of. She seets Morgan hand the dress to the employee in the corner of her eye.
“Virginia, what do you think about this one? Something tells me it will look simply marvelous on you, my dear,” Alicia says as she holds up an ivory colored satin sheath dress.
Pepper shrugs and says, “Not my personal favorite, just looking at it. But it’s worth a try, I guess.”
“Atta girl!” Alicia exclaims. “You gotta get out of your comfort zone sometimes.”
Pepper finishes putting on the sheath dress that Alicia suggested and grimaces at her reflection staring back at her. It’s been sixteen and a half years since she gave birth and still hadn’t shed all of that baby weight just yet.
“Do you still need any help in there or do you think you’ve got it?” the employee asks from outside of the dressing room curtains.
“I’ve got it,” Pepper says. She turns around and pulls the curtain open.
She steps out and into the room where her daughter, Mother, soon-to-be mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, and best friend sat around.
The entire group compliments her immediately upon sight, but a few stand out.
“You look wonderful, Mama,” Morgan compliments.
“You truly do look lovely, dear,” Elaine says.
Pepper weakly smiles, glancing down at the form fitting dress. “It’s not really my favorite, but I’m glad you all like it.”
“Why not?” Alicia asks.
“The lovely teenager I gave birth to sixteen years ago left behind some baby weight that’s hanging on like a clingy ex,” Pepper answers.
“Sorry,” Morgan mumbles.
“You’re alright, my love,” Pepper assures.
A few more dresses have been tried on until it’s the last dress at this shop. It’s the one Morgan had shown her before Alicia showed the first one she had tried on.
It’s a sleeveless A-Line gown. L ace designs embellish the bodice and cascade down the tulle skirt . She secures the beaded belt on her waist and looks in the mirror. She smiles this time.
“Do you want to try the veil this time?” the employee asks. “This is the one that works the best.” She picks up one off of the wall hanger and shows it to her. “If not, a simple hairpiece that compliments your wedding colors or a tiara might suit.”
“I’m going with a hairpiece I think,” Pepper shakes her head.
“Alright,” she says and sits the veil back on the rack. “You ready for your party to see it? You seem really happy with it.”
“I am, I think,” Pepper says. “There’s just something about it that I really love.”
“That’s the goal,” she enthuses before walking around to get the curtain from the other side.
The employee pulls the curtain and almost immediately afterwards, the youngest person in the room starts tearing up as the rest of the room babbles on about how much they love the dress.
“Morgan, are you alright?” Pepper asks quietly, her pleasant smile dropping for concern.
“You’re getting married… to my Dad,” she says. “A-And I know we’ve been over that… but you… i-in that dress and looking so happy… it just solidified it in my head for me… made it feel more real. You look amazing, Mom.”
“Thank you,” Pepper says. “Come here for a second, Mo.”
Morgan raises a brow.
Morgan stands up and walks toward her Mom.
Pepper reaches out her arms and wipes away her daughter’s stray tears before she gently holds Morgan’s hands. “I want you to know that I am so proud of you, kid. You’ve gone through so much change in your young life and you’re taking it like a champ. I know this is change that you want, so I know it’s easier for you to handle… but it still is a lot and I want you to know that I am so incredibly proud of you.”
Morgan smiles softly. “Thank you.”
Pepper lets go of her daughter’s hands and guides her toward the propped up mirror. “You know, you’re going to be in my shoes one day, baby girl.”
“Mhm,” Pepper hums. “And I’m going to be in yours. Isn’t that weird?”
“It is… but what if I want to wear a tux to my wedding?”
“If that makes you happy, then you can wear a tux,” Pepper says happily. “I’m just saying that while everything is surreal for you right now, it’s surreal for me too. You’re growing up on me too fast and I’m getting married. To your Dad! What kind of sorcery is this?”
Pepper kisses Morgan’s cheek before saying, “I love the dress and my daughter approves. This is the one.”
“What do you think?” Pepper asks as she waits for Morgan to come out of the dressing room.
“I actually really like it,” Morgan answers. “I like the color, too.”
Morgan walks out in a light purple floor length dress. The straps were ruffled, but not to the point where it’s an ugly sight and everything else… was wonderful. “Oh, it looks amazing on you, kid.”
“Do you want me to take her measurements and put an order in?” the employee asks.
“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Pepper says.
Once the employee takes Morgan’s measurements and leaves for a moment, Pepper questions: “Would you really want to wear a tux to your wedding?”
“If I marry a girl, I might,” Morgan says. “I’m thinking about wearing one to prom this year.”
“Yeah? What does Sofia think about that?”
“Oh, she loves it,” Morgan answers happily. “She’s the one who suggested it.”
“Remind me when we have to start prom shopping, okay? I want you to be happy,” Pepper says. “I’m so glad that you’re starting to figure yourself out, kid. It’s amazing getting to watch you grow.”
“Thank you,” Morgan says.
“Speaking of Sofia,” she continues. “When do you think she’ll hear back about art school?”
“SCAD will be any day now,” Morgan recalls. “Rhode Island and Chicago are going to be in mid-March, I think. She’s got a pretty good shot at getting into all.”
“Where’s she’s leaning?” Pepper asks.
Chapter 35: 35
“I have to admit that it’s really funny that you still want to spend time with me despite the fact you have me for third in two hours,” Tony says as he sees Morgan walk in his classroom during break period. “...and, you are staying with me until tomorrow afternoon.”
Morgan shrugs. “I like to spend time with people.”
“Which is nice,” he enthuses. Tony smiles for a moment. “Hey, Mo… I need your opinion on something. Want to help?”
Tony stands up from his desk and walks over to where Morgan stood. He pulls up a photo and shows it to her on his phone. “What do you think of this one… for your Mom?”
A pear shaped ring set. The bands were gold and the stones were moissanite. It reminded her a lot of the first ring, but at the same time… they were different enough.
“Dad, she’ll love it,” Morgan says.
“You think so?”
Morgan nods. “Absolutely.”
“Is Morgan in—” Sofia barely gets out as she appears in the door. “Yes! Hi, I need to—”
“Hey, Sof, what’s—”
“I just, um… I got an email from Rhode Island,” she says. “Telling me I need to check my portal. When I looked at the email, I saw an email came in last night for Chicago.”
“Have you checked them?” Morgan asks.
“I’m scared,” she admits.
Morgan raises a brow. “Why are you scared?”
“I thought I was going to get into Harvard and I didn’t,” Sofia says.
“Well, Harvard is really tough to get into,” Tony says. “You’ve got incredible chances of getting in every single school you applied to this go-around. You’ve already gotten into SCAD, you’re practically a shoo-in for Rhode Island and Chicago.”
Sofia blinks. “You think?”
“I know so, kid,” he assures. “What did Morgan tell me? 96 percent and 99 percent?”
“Right, I just… I’m nervous.”
“You can’t be nervous to the point of it essentially paralyzing you from finding out your fate.” Tony shakes his head. “You have to speak it into existence… to believe you have a spot. There’s virtually no chance that you won’t get in. You have to believe that.”
Sofia grimaces. “Okay.”
“Believe in yourself, Sof,” Morgan encourages as she hugs her girlfriend from behind. “You’ve got a spot, I just know so.”
Sofia practically melts in her girlfriend’s hug.
Morgan kisses Sofia’s cheek. “I’ll take your phone and check your accounts myself if you’re too scared.”
She lets out an embarrassed laugh as she ducks out of Morgan’s comforting embrace. “Would you?”
“Sure,” Morgan says. “Where’s your phone?”
“...in my backpack? Where else would it be?” Sofia pulls out her phone from the front pocket of her backpack. She hands it to Morgan.
Morgan quickly types in the passcode and navigates to Sofia’s email.
“Do you want your Dad to be here for this? I could text him?” Tony asks.
Sofia shakes her head. “He has a tutoring session with a kid. He told me to text him if I got into either school.”
“What’s your password for RISD?” Morgan asks.
“Never mind, it autofilled.” Morgan clicks the button and stares at the brief loading screen. She smiles when she reads the “Dear Taylor. Congratulations and welcome to the class of 2024!”
Sofia gapes. “I got in?”
“I think you did,” Tony says.
Morgan continues, “I am pleased to share that our Admissions Committee has chosen to offer you admission to Rhode Island School of Design as a member of the freshman class in the fall.”
She jumps for a moment in excitement. “I got in! Oh my God!”
“You did!” Morgan exclaims. “Want me to keep reading? There are a few more paragraphs.”
“No, I can read them later,” Sofia says.
“Congratulations, Sofia,” Tony says.
“My baby got into her top choice art school!”
Sofia walks into her Dad’s room after the end bell rang.
“So… you never texted me. What was the verdict?” Bruce asks. “Did you get into any of them?”
Sofia nods happily. “I didn’t want to interrupt the tutoring session… but both RISD and Chicago offered me admittance. I’m still waiting to hear back from both about financial aid.”
“That is awesome, kid! I’m proud of ya,” he says happily. “Your Mom would be, too. You have quite the grades and artistic achievement if I do say so myself, I’m sure you’ll get something. If not, I’ll do whatever it takes to get you to any of those schools. Where are you thinking? Still Rhode Island?”
“Yeah… the classes are good and the Niche grade is the highest of the three I got into… but distance is another big thing. I don’t want to be too far away from you and all.”
“What?” Sofia asks. “I’m serious.”
“No, you want RISD for the distance so you’re closer to Morgan. Not me, your dear old Dad.”
“Dad, that is simply not true.”
“Yeah, okay,” he pouts. “It's alright, you’ve got different priorities now. You’ll miss me when you’re grown and famous for your art living in a big ol’ city with Morgan.”
“Dad!” Sofia yelps. “Stop putting words in my mouth.” She hugs him around the neck. “You’ve done so much for me. You adopted me when you were only twenty-one years old and a newlywed because Melody and Liam left me on your doorstep… took me to the station and when they found out you and Mom were already trying to foster for adoption... they assigned me to you. You didn’t change when my Mom died… if anything, it pushed you to be a better parent of me. I’m so grateful for you, Dad… and I love you more than you know. You have no idea.”
“I’m really just teasing, kid,” Bruce assures as he rubs her back. “But I love you, too… and I know. I cannot wait to see you grow and succeed.”
Sofia smiles weakly. “Thank you.”
They step away.
“So, what do you think about a celebratory dinner tonight or sometime this week?” Bruce asks. “You can invite Morgan over if you would like.”
“What pieces did you put in your portfolios?” Morgan asks. “Have I seen any of them?”
“You’ve seen a few of them,” Sofia answers. “Like the finalized version of the sketch I did of me at Adams Falls… you know, that was actually painted for last year’s art show at Woodvale. The mural I did for the art room… at Woodvale. Sketches here and there. Then there’s this piece I did on a whim a couple nights after I didn’t get into Harvard. Dad doesn’t even know it exists. No one’s seen it aside from me, my art teacher, and whoever saw it at those colleges. I don’t know what he would think.”
“What is it of?”
“It’s a recreation of the last photo Dad ever took of my Mom and me,” Sofia answers. She points to the photo on her bedside table. “You know, that one.”
It was of a smiley eight-year-old Sofia, who was sitting with her mother at a brown table. Paint was everywhere on Sofia, from her face, to her hands, to her clothes, and even pink paint had managed to get in her wavy bangs that didn’t quite make it in the kid’s ponytail. She was holding a purple paintbrush. While Annabeth, her adoptive mother, sat at the end of the table. Her blonde hair was pulled into a loose ponytail. She was wearing a black tank top and you could just barely see a faded scar from one of the countless heart surgeries she had overtime peeking out from the tank. Annabeth was smiling at Sofia with her elbow propped up on the table, holding a white paintbrush with light blue paint. There was a date on the photograph, which said ‘05/02/2010’.
“Is it here?” Morgan asks quietly.
Sofia nods. “It’s in my closet.”
“May I see it?”
Sofia nods again before walking over to her closet and pulling out a black portfolio tote. She brings it over to her bed and unzips the bag. She pulls out the piece and sets it atop the case.
She hadn’t seen it in a few months. Not since she submitted her portfolio.
It was done using pastel and charcoal pencils. It looked almost identical to the original photograph, but the only part that wasn’t shaded in with pastel pencils was Annabeth. Her clothes, paintbrush, and paint were, but not her. As if to creatively communicate with the viewer that she’s gone.
“Sof… that’s heartbreakingly beautiful,” Morgan mumbles. “Your Mom loved you so much. From the little that you told me about her and the pictures I’ve seen… what a lovely tribute to her.”
“You should show your Dad,” she says.
“I don’t want him to get mad,” Sofia says.
“Why would he get mad?” Morgan asks.
“I don’t know… he doesn’t like talking about my Mom… it hurts him a lot. It hurts me, too… but differently, I guess,” Sofia explains, frowning. “But I mentioned her earlier and he didn’t seem to react… well, at least not badly. I don’t know how he’d react to me drawing something like this… of her.”
“Dinner’s—” the voice stops. “—what’s that?”
Sofia’s eyes widened when she realized her Dad’s been in the room for who knows how long. She turns around to face him, and so does Morgan. “It’s, um… a piece I drew for my art portfolio for college.”
Bruce walks closer to the piece and gasps quietly when he sees it up close. “Sofie… this is beautiful.”
“You think?” Sofia baffles. “I, um… thought you would freak.”
“No,” Bruce disagrees as he turns around and looks at her. “I wish you would’ve felt like you could’ve shown me it. Like Morgan said… heartbreaking, but a beautiful tribute to who your mother was.” He smiles weakly at her. “You might not have her DNA, but you’ve got her spirit, kid. I have no doubt.”
Chapter 36: 36
Alicia pins a piece of Morgan’s hair.
Pepper inspects a reference photo for makeup. “Winged eyeliner, yes or no?”
“That sounds okay,” Morgan answers.
“Do you know what Sofia is wearing?” Alicia inquires. Morgan sees her grab another hair pin from the vanity.
“Yeah,” Morgan says. “I’ve got a picture on my phone somewhere. It’s a black dress. Or, at least, the photo of the one she said she was thinking about getting is black.”
“That sounds nice,” Alicia enthuses. “You want a braid around the bun?”
Pepper picks up Morgan’s eyeliner, takes the cap off, and says, “Close your eyes.”
Morgan closes her eyes and Pepper applies eyeliner to her daughter’s eyelids.
A moment later, Pepper says, “Open for me.”
Morgan opens her eyes.
“Okay, that looks good,” Pepper murmurs quietly enough that it could’ve been said to herself. “What about lips?” She pulls out three different containers. “Each of these could work.”
“That middle one would look so good,” Alicia says as she pins the braid around Morgan’s bun. “By the way, your hair’s all done now.”
“Thank you, Aunt Ali.”
“No prob, kiddo,” Alicia replied. “I’ll go get your stuff. Where is it at?”
“My tux is in a garment bag in my closet. The one you can see into… the other that’s in a black bag is my bridesmaid dress,” Morgan recalls. “My shoes are… um…” She grimaces. Shit. Where are they? “Did I leave them at Dad’s? I know he was the one I was staying with when I bought them. I can’t remember if I grabbed them.”
“Do you want me to text him? I’m sure he could swing by,” Pepper asks. “You either go in heels or pray they’re here or with your Dad.”
“We’re atheists, Mom,” Morgan snarks as she puts back on her glasses.
Pepper rolls her eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“I’ll text him real quick,” she assures. “Don’t you worry.” Pepper pulls out her phone and types a message.
“I’ll look in your room, too,” Alicia says before walking upstairs.
“Thank you!” Morgan calls.
Pepper sets her phone down on the coffee table. “Lips, Mo. Pick a shade, any shade. Kinda running low on time.”
“Good deal,” Pepper enthuses before her phone beeps. She picks her phone back up. “He found your shoes. He said he’ll try to bring them over ASAP.”
“Tell him thank you,” Morgan says.
When Pepper is done applying the lipstick to Morgan’s lips, Alicia comes down with the garment bag. “I didn’t find your shoes, but I got this for you… and I must say, Morgan, you’ve got quite the taste in fashion, young lady. You’re going to look stunning tonight.”
Morgan beams. “Thank you.” She pauses. “Also, Dad’s bringing my shoes over. Thank you for looking, though.”
“Glad he found them.”
Pepper fusses over Morgan’s navy blue and black suit jacket overtop the white dress shirt and navy blue vest when the doorbell rings.
Morgan squeaks. “Is that Sof?”
“Your girlfriend won’t be here until five,” Pepper says as she lets go of the jacket and walks over to the door. “So it’s probably—” She opens the door to Tony. “—your Dad.” He’s holding a to-go cup of iced tea in one hand and the shoebox in the other and wearing dress pants and a white button up. “Hi, honey.”
“Hey, Pep.” Tony hands Pepper the shoebox and kisses her.
Morgan grimaces and mutters, “ew,” under her breath.
He looks over at Morgan once the chaste kiss ends and snickers. “She’s grossed out by us now.”
“Ooh, fun,” Pepper cheers.
“Sorry you forgot to bring ‘em here with you yesterday,” Tony said as Pepper hands Morgan the box. “I wish I would’ve remembered to remind you.”
“It’s okay,” Morgan mumbles. “Thank you for bringing them.”
He nods. “Of course. By the way, you look nice, kid. Sharp.”
She beams. “Thank you.” Morgan walks over to the kitchen table, sits down, and opens the box to find two black lace-up dress shoes. She unlaces each of them before slipping them over her socks. She re-ties her shoes while she hears her parents talking amongst themselves.
“Alright, kid, let me see your nails,” Pepper interjects as she walks over to where her daughter was sitting.
“I know Sofia did your nails awhile back and you definitely have chipped nail polish,” she says.
Morgan grumbles. “I really don’t think my girlfriend is going to care if I have chipped nail polish, Mom.”
“I think she will,” Pepper disagrees. “Let me see your hands.”
Morgan lays her hands on the table. Sure enough, the lavender nail polish Sofia had painted on Morgan’s nails a few weeks ago was chipping away little by little.
“Can someone go get me the nail polish remover from the bathroom and the dark blue polish bottle from the drawer?”
“I’ve got it,” Alicia says before walking toward the upstairs bathroom.
“What if she gets here before you’re done?”
“Are you forgetting that I live in the neighborhood that Sofia and her father also live in?” Tony chimes in as he walks over to the kitchen table. He sits down. “Both cars were still there and it’s not even—” He looks at his watch. “—4:40 yet. Didn’t you tell me yesterday that she was picking you up at five for dinner since prom starts at 6:30?”
“She only likes it when Sofia does her nails,” Pepper explains. “She hated getting her nails done before Sofia came along… and now every couple of weeks I hear ‘Sof did my nails yesterday’ or ‘Sof said she wants to paint my nails tonight.’”
“Ah.” He nods.
Pepper signs. “Go wash your hands.”
When Morgan comes back with clean hands, Alicia walks downstairs with the polish and the remover.
When Pepper finishes the topcoat, the doorbell rings.
“Keep your hands under the light until it dings,” she says. Pepper stuffs the makeup she used on Morgan into Morgan’s clutch before getting up to open the door for Sofia.
“I won’t embarrass you.”
As soon as the dryer dings, Morgan quickly grabs the clutch purse, gets up, and walks over to where her Mother and Father were talking to Sofia.
“Thank you so much! I mean, it’s just—” Sofia stops, seeing Morgan. She gapes a little. “I, um… you… babe, you look… w-wow.”
Morgan feels a blush rush to her cheeks. If Moran were to admit it, she feels the same way looking at Sofia. She mumbles out, “You look… um, really pretty, too.”
“Sofia, you good?” Alicia asks.
“I love you,” Sofia spits out. “I love you so much, oh my God.”
“I know you love me,” Morgan says, laughing a little. “I love you too.”
Sofia steps closer and holds Morgan’s hands. “Who did your nails?”
Sofia looks at Pepper and giggles. “Oh wow, how’d you get her to let you paint them?"
“I didn't,” Pepper answers. “She whined the entire time.”
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” she teases.
“Okay, pictures, please! You have dinner to get to,” Pepper changes the subject.
The pictures take only about five minutes total (even though it felt longer), and as soon as the last photo is taken, Alicia says: “You know, Morgan. You seem a lot more confident today than when you’ve worn dresses.”
She beams. “Really?”
“Mhm.” Alissa nods. She smiles weakly. “God, I’m proud of you, kid. I remember you when you were hanging onto your Mama’s hands for dear life when you were learning how to walk and you're over here figuring yourself out.”
Morgan yelps, “You said you weren’t going to embarrass me!”
“I don’t believe I did,” Alicia recalls. “Your Mom did. I, on the other hand, did not.”
They arrive at Woodvale Academy’s Light Up The Night Prom a couple of minutes after 6:30.
Once the person in the lobby of the venue punches a hole in both of the girls’ tickets, he pulls out a plethora of glowsticks. “Pick two each.”
Sofia picks pink and blue, while Morgan picks white and blue. Morgan connects her two together and puts it atop her head like a crown and so does Sofia.
He continues, “Go submit who you want to be prom royalty this evening. One rule, you cannot vote for yourself or your partner. After that, you may go in and have fun. Have a nice time tonight.”
They both vote for Alissa and Lea on the tablets before walking into the dimly lit room that had neon decorations and glowsticks everywhere.
“Oh my God!” a loud exclamation comes from the other side of the dance floor. It’s Alissa, and she’s practically barrelling toward Morgan and Sofia, while gripping onto another girl’s hand as she runs. She stops when she’s closer. “You didn’t tell me you were going to wear a tux, ah! You look so good, Morgan!”
“Thank you,” Morgan says, holding in the laugh that was trying to escape.
“Babe, I’m right here,” the girl with dyed red hair—that Morgan recognized from the photo on Alissa’s desk from when they were roommates—fake pouts. She was wearing a tux too, but it was black and white.
“I know, baby. You look good too,” Alissa assures before kissing the redhead’s cheek.
“Wait, is this Lea?” Morgan asks.
Alissa beams and nods. “She flew out to visit me.”
“‘Is this Lea,’” Lea repeats jokingly. “Of course I am. But that makes me wonder… Alissa, are there others? You kissing other girls around here, darlin’?”
Alissa gapes. “No, I only have eyes for you. You know that.”
Lea smirks. “Mhm, I know.”
“Then why’d you grill me?”
“‘Cause it’s fun,” she teases.
Morgan snickers at the two. “Y’all are cute.”
“Thank you,” Lea says. “I’ve heard a lot of things about you two. At least, I assume that if you are Morgan and Sofia.”
“All good things, I hope?” Sofia asks.
“Very,” Lea confirms. “It’s honestly really great to meet you both.”
Morgan walks back with the blue raspberry flavored punch to where Sofia, Lea, and Alissa were sat. She pulls out her seat and sits down next to Sofia. “Nobody told me my Mama was attending.”
“I mean… it makes sense,” Sofia says after she takes a sip of her own blue raspberry punch. “Teacher chaperones are encouraged to bring their significant others… and your Mom is engaged to your Dad.”
“How are they your parents but only engaged?” Lea asks.
“My grandfather found out my Mom was pregnant with my Dad’s child when my parents were 18 and ripped him away from my Mom and I before I was born... I met him at fourteen because he was my science teacher… my parents are getting married in May like they were supposed to in 2003,” Morgan answers matter-of-factly.
Lea gapes. “What kinda sitcom life were you gifted with? My God that sounds so wild. You sound so tired of it, too. Are you alright?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m great,” Morgan answers. “I’ve just explained it so many times that I like to see how blunt I can explain it each time.”
“Who are they?” she asks.
“Guy with the goatee in a black suit and the girl with the curled ginger hair in the backless blue dress,” Morgan mumbles.
“What are their names?”
“Why?” Morgan asks.
“I just wanna say hi,” Lea answers, looking over at where a group of the teachers and their plus-ones were. She looks back at her group of friends and girlfriend. “Plus, your Mom is hot and your Dad definitely agrees with me. You’ll be a big sister once you leave for college, I’m calling it.”
Morgan’s eyes widened at that comment. She whisper-yells, “Don’t say that about my parents!”
Lea shrugs. “I speak nothing but the truth, darlin’.”
“She’s still my Mom and he’s still my Dad,” Morgan grimaces.
She watches Sofia lean back in her seat before saying, “Hey, Mr. Carbonell and Miss Potts!”
Morgan glares at her girlfriend before laying her head on the table in embarrassment.
The girls step in time with the slow song playing through the speakers as Morgan lays her head on Sofia’s shoulder. She yawns.
“You’re cute when you’re sleepy,” Sofia muses.
“Shut up,” Morgan mumbles. “I’m not sleepy, Sof.”
“Yeah, okay,” she teases. “Whatever you say, Mo. But this is how you got every single night when we would walk back to the hotel when we were at Disney… and you passed out pretty much the second your head hit the pillow.”
Morgan rolls her eyes as the song plays the outro. “I love you.”
“I love you too, baby,” Sofia murmurs.
The song comes to an end and their attention is brought to Headmaster Thor who is holding a microphone, along with a sheet of paper.
“Good evening, my dear students of Woodvale Academy and their dates if you brought them,” he says with his overdramatized accent into the microphone. “We are approaching the end of our grand Light Up the Night promenade. This means one thing. Every single one of you were required to submit two names before coming out on the dance floor tonight… and now the winners have been counted. Who is ready to find out who our 2020 prom royalty is?”
A round of claps, hollers, and more go off for a moment.
He flips open the piece of paper then and says, “Our prom queens for 2020 are Miss Taylor Banner and Miss Morgan Potts!”
Almost the entire room congratulates the couple in some way as they walk up onstage with Thor and the few teachers that were onstage.
As one of the English teachers sits the cheaply made tiara on Morgan's head, she notices August sitting in the back of the room. She freezes a little, and thinks Sofia notices. Sofia quickly wraps her arm around Morgan’s waist and she relaxes in her girlfriend’s touch. “It’s okay, hon. I’m right here.”
Sofia turns left onto the bypass on the way to Pepper’s home, which was now only about three minutes away. “I had a fun time tonight, Mo,” she says over Paper Rings by Taylor Swift playing softly in her car.
Morgan doesn’t answer.
Sofia glances over at her and sees her girlfriend sound asleep. She laughs quietly at Morgan and continues to drive. “Told you that you were sleepy,” she murmurs.
She drives into the driveway and parks. Sofia gets out of the driver's seat and walks around to the front passenger seat. She makes sure to open the door as silent as humanly possible and still, Morgan lets out a quiet snore. Sofia grabs Morgan’s clutch from the night and shuts the car door back.
Sofia finds the key to Pepper’s house—it was a black key, while the key to Tony’s was turquoise—on her keychain, walks to the front door, unlocks it, and steps inside. She sets the clutch and Morgan’s keys on the console table before walking back outside.
She finds out that Morgan’s still sleeping when she opens the door again, so Sofia manages to pick her girlfriend up “bridal style” and carries her inside the house. She lays Morgan on the couch and takes the tiara off of her head.
Morgan stirrers just slightly then, but relaxes almost immediately after.
Sofia sets the crown on the coffee table before grabbing a blanket from the downstairs closet and lays it over Morgan.
She takes a napkin from the kitchen and a pen that was laid on the kitchen table to write a quick note.
She sets the note on the coffee table.
Sofia gently kisses Morgan’s forehead before walking out of the house and shutting the door behind her. She finds the house key hidden under the ceramic turtle and locks the door.
Pepper unlocks the door to her house and finds Morgan sleeping soundly on their couch. She smiles at the state of her daughter and spots a note written on a napkin that wasn’t there before.
She walks over and reads it to herself.
It said, ‘She was really sleepy near the end of the night… fell asleep shortly before I turned on the bypass. Thought about turning around and just letting her crash at my house since it’s far closer to the venue than yours… But I did not want you to worry. Love, Sofia.’ There was a drawn smiley face next to the closing.
Chapter 37: 37
TW for injuries!
He messes with his suit jacket sleeves as he glances at himself in the mirror.
“You okay?” Rhodey asks as he pops his head in the room where Tony escaped into for some air. “T-minus 5 minutes, Tones.”
Tony doesn’t answer.
“No, no, no, Tony… you cannot have cold feet,” he says.
“I do not have cold feet,” he snaps.
“Then what’s going on, man?”
“This should’ve happened seventeen years ago,” Tony mumbles. “What if something goes wrong today, Rhodey? I have this weird feeling that my father’s going to haunt the wedding or something from beyond the grave. I just can’t shake this feeling that something is going to go wrong—”
“Like a sitcom?”
“Like a sitcom?” Tony repeats.
“Yeah, like New Girl, FRIENDS, Parks and Rec, How I Met Your Mother… they all had things go up in flames,” Rhodey says. “Hell, even Gilmore Girls with the several weddings in the series that were either called off or messed with.”
“I never got into Gilmore Girls,” he admits. “I mean, Pep and I watched it until the third season, but…”
“I understand. Morgan and Pepper watch it a lot still.”
Tony grimaces. “What do bad sitcom weddings have to do with mine and Pep’s wedding?”
“Sitcoms are not real… and overdramatized,” Rhodey explains. “Your life isn’t a sitcom. Howard isn’t going to haunt you… and even if he were, he would’ve wreaked havoc via haunting way before now. Like, not allowing you and Morgan to meet at all… or rendering her unable to forgive you… Pepper not saying that she wanted to go out on a date with you again. You have nothing to worry about, Tony. Pepper loves you, you love her... and Morgan adores you. You three have been living with each other for two weeks now and it’s been going great. You’ve got nothing to worry about today… tomorrow, or any day in the future.”
“And if you’re still thinking today’s going to turn out like a sitcom… despite all the shit that the creators do to make it weird, almost all of them are still beautiful and wonderful at the end,” Rhodey finishes. “So even if, God forbid, that every little thing goes wrong… the only things that matter are if you love each other, you say the vows, and make it last. I know you and Pep will make all of that happen, Tony. That’s literally all you two have ever wanted… and I truly do mean ever.”
“I’m really proud of you, Tony,” Maria says quietly as she walks him down the aisle. “You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know, Mom,” Tony murmurs in response as they make it to the end of the aisle. “Thank you… for everything.”
“Ti voglio bene,” she reminds.
“I love you, too,” he says right before she takes her seat.
He stands on the right side and clasps his hands together behind his back, briefly glancing at the officiant before looking back at the entry points.
Tony’s groomsmen came out next. Bruce and then Pepper’s brothers and brother-in-law: Chris, Shawn, and Nick. Right after that, Rhodey, his best man, entered and took his spot to the left of Tony.
“Are you doing any better?” he whispers.
“Yeah,” Tony murmurs back.
“Good,” Rhodey says.
Pepper’s bridesmaids came out one after another once Rhodey took his spot. They were Alicia, Amanda, Chris’ wife Ellie, and Shawn’s wife Katie.
When the four women take their spots, Morgan, the maid of honor, walks out.
Tony smiles when they see each other and she scrunches up her face in an attempt to make him laugh.
He snickers a little as she continues to walk down the aisle.
She takes her spot.
The ring bearer and the flower girl walk down the aisle together and go to their spots.
The song abruptly stops and switches to an instrumental version that Tony vaguely recognizes as a certain song he recognized as Love Story. He catches Morgan in the corner of his eye recognize it too.
Tony takes in a sharp breath when he sees Pepper come into view. His tears threaten to give way almost immediately, and Rhodey pats his shoulder in an attempt to soothe the poor, nervous groom.
As the violin smoothly transitions from Love Story to another Swift classic titled You Belong With Me, in the last few seconds of the song, Pepper closes the distance between the two and gives a gentle smile at her fiancé.
“You’re crying a little, hon,” Pep murmurs, wiping his tears with her hand that wasn’t holding the bouquet, as she lets out a quiet and weak laugh.
“I know, just let it happen,” he mumbles back. “Love you.”
“I love you, too.” She lets her hands go back down as they turn to the officiant.
A few moments later, after the officiant introduces the wedding, he continues, “ Virginia, Anthony, the vows you two are about to make are a way to symbolize your love and promise of commitment to each other. You two have self-written vows and have requested to keep them private. You may exchange them now.”
Pepper hands Morgan her bouquet and pulls out her written vows. She hands Tony the paper.
They read: ‘Tony, when we first met, I was the newest shy kid at Phillips Academy who somehow wound up sitting next to you in math… the cocky kid who gave me the nickname I’ve learned to accept… and who made fun of my pencils. Little did I know that the first kid who talked to me for more than a minute that day would soon become the closest friend I’ve ever had… who, when your dad found out we were close, figured out a way for us to sneak around together behind his back before dating was even a thought… who was there for me when my Mom told me she was getting remarried after my Dad passed away and how you knew every deep dark secret and fear of mine and never used them against me. You were the boy who introduced me to love… how it actually felt for me… the only person I have ever loved like that. You were the college student who gave me our daughter, even if Howard hated it… the girl that brought me happiness and comfort when our worlds shifted against our wills and who taught me that people throw rocks at things that shine… and I wish I would’ve realized that sooner… because I wholeheartedly believe that applies to you and me. You’re the man that won my heart a second time a little over a year and five months ago… who taught me how to love again… who got me to love love songs again after everything I went through... we went through. You are the man I choose to spend the rest of my life with… who, in hindsight, I’ve always wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I promise to love you, today, tomorrow, and all days to come… without condition. I love you, Tony.’
Tony blinks through the tears that were falling. “I, um… I-I love you, too, Pep.” He pulls out his paper and hands the page to her.
As she reads his vows that went through a highlight reel of their relationship, those events peppered in with metaphors and other nicely crafted words, a tear falls on the page.
When she reads the end, she looks up at him and says, “Oh, Tony… this is beautiful.”
Both Tony and Pepper wipe away their own tears before the officiant continues.
“Virginia and Anthony will now exchange the rings to symbolize their commitment. The wearing of such rings is an outward, visible sign that they have committed themselves to each other,” the officiant says, handing Tony Pepper’s wedding ring. “Anthony, please take Virginia’s hand in yours and repeat these words.”
After he said the words, Tony repeated, “I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. For today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come. Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day and know that my love is always present… even when I am not.” He slides the wedding ring on her left ring finger.
Pepper smiles at him as he does. The officiant requests her to repeat the same, and she does: “I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. For today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come. Wear it as a sign of what we have promised on this day and know that my love is always present… even when I am not.” She slides the wedding band on Tony’s left ring finger.
“Virginia and Anthony, you have professed your love in private by exchanging your vows and publicly symbolized your commitment with the exchanging of the rings. There is just one more question I must get you both to answer,” the officiant starts. He looks at Pepper, “Virginia, do you take Anthony to be your husband, to live together in the agreement of marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him… in sickness and in health… and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?”
“Anthony, do you take Virginia to be your wife, to live together in the agreement of marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her... in sickness and in health… and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?” he continues.
“By the power vested in me and through the state of Connecticut, I pronounce you a married couple. You may seal your love with a kiss,” the officiant announces.
They both wipe each other’s faces clear of tears before they embrace. Tony’s left arm around her waist and his right arm was thrown into the air in celebration while Pepper’s arms were around his neck. The two kiss. The two step away, but still, hold each other’s hand.
“And now, it is my privilege to present to you, Mr. Anthony and Mrs. Virginia Potts-Carbonell,” the officiant says with a smile.
The night was amazing and everything the couple dreamed of. Rhodey, Morgan, Joel and Elaine, and Maria gave their planned speeches. Pepper and Tony had their first dance as a married couple to Better Together by Jack Johnson.
Now, Pepper, Tony, and Morgan were preparing to head home.
Sofia runs into the room where Pepper, Tony, a few of their friends, and her Dad were helping put things up at the venue after most of the guests had gone home or to their hotels. She was teary eyed, stress was apparent in her eyes. “I think Morgan’s hurt.”
“She’s what?!” Tony asks.
“What happened, is she alright?”
“Yeah, um… we were taking photos together a-and she kinda stumbled a little when she tried to look at me… t-the next thing I knew she had fallen to the ground and almost immediately started crying… asking for you guys a-and ice. I helped her get off her shoe but she was really uncomfortable while I tried a-and Alicia got her ice. Her foot looks bruised. I couldn’t see very well, but it’s possible that she hit her, um… her head. It was too fast to tell. She didn’t say anything about it though. Ali called 911 for her and told me to come get you.”
Chapter 38: 38
TW for injuries, hospital, surgery, etc!
Morgan grimaces when she sees her parents and girlfriend walk into her hospital room after her surgery to repair the fracture. She weakly laughs when she sees the get well soon bear that Sofia held. “You got me a bear?”
“Mhm.” Sofia hums. “And you got a black cast wrap.”
“So you can draw on it if you want,” Morgan answers with a small smile. “Also, the bear is cute.”
Sofia sets it down on the rolling tray table that Morgan pushed out of her way a few moments before they came up.
“How are you feeling, kid?” Tony asks. “You’ve had a rough coupla hours.”
“They put me in the children’s wing and nurses keep coming by to ask me if I want a coloring book after checking up on everything. I’m almost seventeen, not seven,” Morgan grumbles. “And I felt bad when the student nurse came by and I just said yes. So, you tell me how I feel.” She points to the open coloring book page that was laid on the rolling table. The page was of a filled in drawing of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. An open box of crayons sat atop of the page.
“Well enough to complain about everything, I see,” Pepper says as she pulls the rolling chair over to the right side of Morgan’s bed and locks it in place.
“I mean… they gave me pain meds so I can’t really feel as much as I felt last night,” she says, watching her Dad sit on the couch by the window, a few feet across from Sofia. “Probably won’t feel that good in like four hours.”
“I’m sorry, baby,” Pepper says with a frown.
“I’m sorry if I ruined your night,” Morgan mumbles.
“Oh, no. You didn’t ruin our night,” Tony is quick to retort. “Not at all.”
“Nuh-uh.” Pepper shakes her head. “If anything, it just made it more memorable. Yeah, you scared the crap out of us… but the surgery went well and you’re here alive and breathing… and you didn’t hit your head after all so you don’t have a concussion. Everything's A-Okay.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
“Can I draw on your cast now? I have Sharpies in all different colors with me at all times,” Sofia speaks up.
Morgan shrugs, glancing at her broken left ankle that was propped up with pillows.
Sofia quickly opens up her purse and pulls out her pens. She pushes over the heavy chair that sat in the corner of the room to the left side of where Morgan sat. She sits down in the chair. “What do you want?”
“Whatever you want,” Morgan answers. “You’re the artist.”
“But it’s your cast that you’re stuck with for like eight weeks,” Sofia says.
“At the latest, yeah,” Tony says. “Well, twelve at the latest… but that’s rare. The nurse we talked to when she let us up here didn’t really say much other than that your surgery was successful and you were up in your room… and awake.”
“I give you creative freedom,” Morgan says.
Sofia is almost done with her artwork on the front of Morgan’s cast when the doctor walks in Morgan’s room.
“Your friend is quite the artist,” the doctor, Dr. Dixon says.
“Thank you,” Sofia says as she puts the cap back on the silver Sharpie she had been using. “I’m going to study illustration at Rhode Island School of Design.”
“Oh wow,” she answers. “My daughter and her significant other met and are studying at CalArts. She studies animation and her S/O wants to be a choreographer.”
“That’s really cool,” Sofia enthuses. “I looked into Cal but I couldn’t be away from my Dad… or Morgan for that long, that far away.”
“I understand,” the doctor says. “So, how’s the patient doing, hm?”
“Frustrated,” Morgan answers.
“Well, that’s to be expected,” Dr. Dixon answers with a small frown. “But I’m more so looking to figure out if your pain level is alright… if you’ve got any concerns or questions…”
“I mean, I was on my school’s dance team… so I guess I’m nervous about that,” she says. “There’s not really anything else I’m keen on in the arts area of that school. But other than that… my pain’s fine… and maybe I’d like to have a timeline. I don’t know.”
“Well, your surgery went as great as we expected… which is good. Your stay here all depends on how well you can manage your pain and how well you can adjust to walking with the aid of crutches. Ten to fourteen days from now, this cast will be taken off and another will be added in its place once we get the stitches removed. So, your friend will have to redo her art again then. Four weeks after that, another X-Ray is most likely going to occur. Since your parents have shown interest in fiberglass casts, there is a chance that you may not need another after that point. Eight weeks is the most I see for your time in a cast. After that, you’ll be in an air cast for a bit and you’ll start PT for rehabilitation. You’d have to consult with your physical therapist of choice, but I don’t see why you couldn’t be cleared to dance again after completing your rehabilitation.”
“Are you sleeping?” Tony murmurs when he looks over at his daughter who was very much awake.
He chuckles quietly. “Yeah, okay… You need to get some sleep soon, kiddo,” he says. “It’s getting pretty late and you need all of the rest to be on the quickest road to recovery.”
She looks over at him. “I can’t.”
“Why can’t you?”
“I just can’t stop thinking… what if I don’t ever get back?” Morgan asks.
“You heard what the doctor said.” Tony frowns. “If you do what is asked of you throughout your recovery, you should be back on the dance floor by the time your senior year starts. Eight weeks of PT would land you getting cleared either right before school starts or the week of. You have nothing to worry about.”
“But what if I can’t dance again?” She mumbles. “My final every year in Miss Romanoff’s class is to participate in the spring show. I can’t do that anymore.”
“You think I haven’t told your dance coach about your injury yet?” Tony asks. “She wishes you to get well soon. She will give you credit for the recital if you step up for backstage help. You’ll be able to sit down and use a headset to communicate with the sound guys what track is up next, when to play it, etcetera… and you’d call out when dancers need to be on deck. She’d show you what to do during tech week.”
“And, worst case scenario…” he pauses. “...that I wish you would just leave on the backburner if or when you have to cross that bridge... you could either be exempt from completing your last year of dance due to your injury which would give you a free period, you could consider the student choreography track that is taught and run under your coach’s instruction, or you pick a completely new one. The school would honor the change due to your injury.”
She beams. “You think I could choreograph?”
“Oh, yes, definitely,” Tony answers. “I see you do it all the time at home. I even saw you do it during the wedding reception during a few songs. Choreography is just writing down what you improvise and plan to do it again. Nat thinks you could do it if you put your mind to it.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
“Don’t you have work in the morning?”
“Don’t you have school in the morning?” Tony rebuts.
Morgan snickers. “Yeah, but Sof’s bringing me my work. You’re a teacher.”
“Got a sub. I have a lotta sick days so I’m taking one,” he says. “If you aren’t discharged tomorrow, Mama will stay with you tomorrow night.”
“Ah.” She yawns then. “Dad?”
“That’s my name,” he says.
“I know I haven’t really said it to you before, but I love you. Thank you for being here with me… for caring as much as you do.”
Tony blinks. “I love you, too, kid.” He thinks for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”
“What do you think of changing your last name? To coordinate with your Mother’s and mine?”
“Potts-Carbonell? Or just Carbonell?” Morgan asks.
“Whichever one,” Tony says. “You can keep Potts if you want.”
“I like the hyphenated version,” Morgan answers.
“When we get you back home, we’ll start on that process alright?”
“Okay,” she says.
“Go to sleep,” Morgan mumbles.
“I’ll go to sleep once I know my daughter is asleep,” Tony assures.
“Okay, fine.” She turns her head to the right on the pillow and closes her eyes. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Tony says back.
Chapter 39: 39
Morgan hugs her girlfriend tight in front of Nickerson Hall at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“I love you,” Sofia says.
“I love you too,” Morgan murmurs.
“FaceTime at least twice a week?” Sofia asks.
She nods. “Yeah.”
Sofia lets go and the two step away, Morgan steadies herself with her crutches.
“And you’ll call me the second you know about dance?”
Morgan nods again. “I’ll try.”
“I’ll be there for your graduation, I promise,” Sofia assures.
“You better,” Morgan says with a snicker.
“We better get going, kiddo,” Tony calls from closer to the parking garage. “It’s getting late and you’ve got a big day tomorrow early in the morning.”
Morgan glances at her parents before looking at Sofia. She hugs her girlfriend tight again.
“Goodbye, Mo,” Sofia murmurs.
“You’re supposed to say ‘see you later,’” Morgan mumbles back.
“See you later,” Sofia repeats. She readjusts and kisses Morgan’s cheek.
They let go again and Morgan steadies herself again. “See you later, Sof,” Morgan says before she turns around and walks over to where her Mom and Dad stood.
“So, how do you feel? Your ankle, emotions… anything? I’m all ears,” Morgan’s physical therapist, John, asks as he pushes the bottom of her foot toward her. “Push against my hand for me.”
Morgan pushes her foot against his hand. “It feels better than the last time I was here… the ankle, I mean.”
“Good,” he says. He pushes back against her foot. “Can you do this again for me?”
Morgan pushes her foot against his hand again.
“Better,” he enthuses. “You’ve been cleared to walk around without the aid of crutches for a few weeks now… how is that going? I mean, you brought them.”
“I always have them with me where I’m going just in case… but, okay, I think,” Morgan recalls. “I just said goodbye to my, um… friend yesterday because she moved in at RISD for college, so I used them around there. It looked like a big campus and I just didn’t want to risk anything.”
“It’s great that you’re being careful,” John agrees. “Though it seems like you would’ve managed without your crutches yesterday based on your state today. You need to trust yourself now, at this point. Your strength is pretty much where it needs to be, you can bear weight, and you can walk unassisted now.” He pauses. “Who brought you today?”
“My Dad did because he doesn’t start pre-planning until tomorrow,” Morgan answers.
“Could you go get him for me?”
Morgan nods before carefully standing up. She reaches for her crutches.
“Trust yourself,” John says.
Morgan weakly smiles, abandoning her crutches that laid against the table, and walks to the waiting room.
Tony looks up from his phone.
Morgan nods toward the therapy room. “Dr. John said he wants to speak with you.”
He gets up and follows Morgan. “Look at you, kid. Walking around like a champ again.”
“Shut up,” Morgan mumbles.
Morgan leans against the table.
“Morgan’s done,” John says. “I mean… there’s not much else I can do for her, she’s doing great. Her range of motion is in proper form, strength is there… I mean, neither is perfect, but that comes from a combination of regular usage and the stretches I give her every week. She can walk without her crutches and obviously, therefore, means she can easily bear weight on her foot again. She can take off the air cast and start easing back into her regular activities until she gets the hang of it as far as I’m concerned. I’ll send her back some stretches that will help her maintain the progress she’s made, but other than that… I really think you don’t have to make another appointment.”
“That’s great,” Tony enthuses. He looks at Morgan. “Have you asked about—”
“What is it that you need to ask me about?” John asks.
“What about dance?” Morgan asks. “Do you think it’s okay for me to go back?”
“What type of dance do you do again?”
“Ballet, lyrical, tap, jazz… sometimes modern,” Morgan answers. “Baton twirling, too. But sometimes people don’t consider that dance.”
“I think so,” John says. “As with everything else, you need to take it easy at first and build up to your previous points of success in the sport. To prevent any reinjury, you should go out and get an ankle brace that properly fits to wear when you dance.”
“I don’t see why you couldn’t,” he confirms. “You might have to overcome mental blocks for things you used to be able to do before the fracture, but that’s to be expected.”
“I see a lot of dancers and gymnasts… a lot of them recommend this one brace I can’t remember the name of right now,” John explains. “I’ll find the name and send it to your Dad. I’m pretty sure you can find it anywhere. If not, there’s always online ordering.”
Tony sets the crutches in the back of his car as Morgan catches up to him. “Cleared for dance and everything,” Tony enthuses. “Atta girl. You want to celebrate?”
“I want ice cream,” Morgan says.
“Alrighty!” he says as he walks around to the driver’s seat. Morgan walks around to the front passenger’s side.
Once she’s in the car and buckled, she sends off a text to Sofia. It read, ‘Got cleared to dance!’
The father-daughter duo are at the ice cream place now.
“I hate to be the bringer of scary topics, but… you’re going to be applying for colleges soon. How are you feeling? I know MIT is your reach… but have you picked any safety schools?”
Morgan grimaces. “About that…”
“Uh oh. Are you having second thoughts?” Tony asks.
“Kinda?” Morgan admits. “Ugh, I don’t know.”
“You must know… at least, to some degree.”
“I kinda like the idea of, um… education, maybe?” Morgan says. “After Sofia started looking at schools, I kinda realized I didn’t want to go into engineering… and then I kinda figured out education might be a better fit. I also like the idea of writing.”
“Education, huh?” Tony grins. “That so?”
“What do you think your focus would be? What age?” he asks.
“I really like English,” she explains. “Either middle or high.”
“If that’s what you want to do, you should. I’ll support you through and through,” Tony encourages. “What schools are you considering?”
“I really like Brown… that would probably be my reach,” Morgan answers. “I really like the open curriculum thing. I could study education but dabble in writing stuff if I wanted to.” She pauses. “I got a perfect 1600 on the SAT and am currently sitting at a 4.9. I could do it. But safety schools… um, Boston, Temple… places like that.”
“You definitely could get into any of those, kid,” he says with a proud smile. “I had a kid my first year teaching that had the same stats you do when she sent in her common app and wanted to go to Brown for Literary Arts. Got into Brown easy.”
“Mhm.” He hums. “Does your Mama know you’re thinking about education now?”
Morgan shakes her head.
Chapter 40: 40
Morgan runs down the stairs of the academic building and is met with phrases that boil down to “Congratulations” in passing. She pushes open the door to find her girlfriend sitting on the bench.
Sofia gets up and hugs Morgan tight.
“Oh my God, I missed you so much,” Sofia murmurs.
“I missed you, too,” Morgan says.
“Did you hear?” she asks.
“No?” Morgan asks as she steps away and they walk along the path together like they used to do. “What about?”
“They posted the honor grads list on their Facebook and website,” Sofia says. “Guess what you are?”
“Do I have to write a speech?” Morgan whines.
“Yeah, you’re the first valedictorian in a while who holds a 4.9. I think the last one was like eight years ago?” Sofia enthuses. “Congratulations, you smartie.”
“Thank you,” Morgan mumbles as a blush creeps on her cheeks.
“It’s Ivy Day isn’t it?”
Morgan grimaces. “Yeah… I’m nervous.”
“Why? You’ve got like an 80 percent shot at Brown,” Sofia encourages. “You’ve got this.”
“Thanks,” Morgan says quietly. “My parents are taking me to dinner to get my mind off of the deferral I got in December… and probably celebrating me being valedictorian now, too. You’re welcome to come with us if you want.”
Sofia nods. “My Dad doesn’t know I came home for the break yet because he thought I was staying with a friend from school until Wednesday… I was going to surprise him. So I don’t see why I couldn’t. I’d love that.”
“So, Sofia, how is school going? What do you think of your classes?” Tony asks shortly after the server drops by the appetizers at their table.
“Right now I’m in what they call a foundational year… which just means they’re exposing me to different styles of art and various classes amongst their programs so I haven’t really done a whole lot in my major yet. But I really liked the class on Global Modernism last semester and then I’m really liking Drawing II… which I didn’t really like the first half for some reason… might’ve been the prof, though.”
“You need to show them the bus piece you did,” Morgan says.
“Really? I hated that one,” Sofia asks.
Morgan gapes. “You do?”
“Yeah, the sketch looked really sloppy and my shading wasn’t the best on the faces,” Sofia admits.
“But you drew the bracelet I gave you for your birthday on your wrist in it,” Morgan pouts.
“What was the assignment?” Pepper asks.
“To draw out a scene from your daily life,” she says. “So, like… if you have a roommate, you could draw your dorm. I have a single room and I take the bus a lot of the time because I don’t like to parallel park in the city, so I took a reference picture and drew what I saw on the bus. It can basically be anything as long as you have at least one person in the piece.”
“Very cool,” Pepper enthuses.
She laughs at something her Dad says when the server sets four different root beer floats down, along with a bowl of maraschino cherries and a few straws and spoons. They walk away back toward the kitchen.
“In honor of our daughter... and Sofia’s girlfriend being Woodvale Academy’s class of 2021 valedictorian,” Pepper says.
“And Ivy Day,” Sofia adds on.
Morgan grumbles. “Don’t remind me. I’m so scared.”
“Why? You’re a shoo-in,” Sofia asks.
“Everyone said that but then I was deferred,” Morgan says. “Totally not terrifying.” She glances at her phone that was showing a notification popup. It’s only 6:20.
“Quit looking at your phone, kid,” Tony scolds.
“But I can’t help it.”
“I know you can’t help it,” he says. “That’s why I’m getting onto you for it. Time’s not gonna go quicker when you’re looking at your phone.”
Morgan grumbles, taking her root beer float and her spoon.
It’s 6:58 PM when they get home.
“What’s in the mail?” Morgan asks as she steps inside the house.
“Bills,” Tony says. “You want to pay any of them?”
“No…” Morgan mumbles. “Was there anything from—”
“Nothing from Brown,” Tony says with a sympathetic frown. “If anything came from Brown, we would’ve shown you.”
“Your portal will update in about a minute anyway,” Pepper says. “Sixty little seconds.”
Morgan walks through a count of her solo as she waits on the time to pass, trying to distract herself. “The Ivy League really said ‘let’s make our potential students on edge the entire day.’”
Tony glances at his watch. “It’s seven.”
Morgan abruptly stops completing her jazz square and walks over to where her closed laptop sat on the kitchen table. She pushes open her laptop screen and quickly types in her password to see Woodvale Academy’s online dropbox submission screen staring back at her. She moves her cursor to the new tab icon and clicks it. She types in the first few letters to get to her portal and clicks the suggested website link that popped up.
“There’s a status update,” Morgan says.
Pepper sits in the seat to her right and Tony sits on her left.
“You’ve got this,” Tony says.
“You won’t know your fate until you open it, my love,” Pepper attempts to encourage her daughter.
Morgan puts her cursor over the button and glances between her parents.
Both of them nod.
She looks back at her screen and clicks the button. The purple loading bar shows up in the address bar and quickly disappears when a digital form of a letter appears below.
She can barely read the entire first paragraph before realization settles over her. “I got in,” she baffles. “I got in! I’m going to Brown, oh my God!”
“I told you that you’d get in,” Tony says as he gives her a side hug. “Our daughter’s gonna be a teacher!”
“I am,” Morgan squeaks.
“You need to learn that your parents know best, kid,” Tony teases.
Morgan laughs. “Sorry.”
“I’m so proud of you, Mo,” Pepper says as she joins in. “Congratulations, baby.”
A few minutes pass after then once Morgan tells Sofia she got in and Tony walks back in with a white packet and he slides it on the kitchen table toward Morgan.
Morgan blinks, looking from the packet addressed to her from Brown University to her Dad. “What is—”
“It came yesterday,” he says.
Morgan gapes. “You knew and you didn’t tell me?!”
“Wanted you to wait until everyone else found out,” Pepper says. “Teaches you patience.”
“No, it absolutely did not.”
Sofia picks up Morgan’s graduation cap and stares at it. “I know you want me to paint this.”
“Yes,” Morgan says.
“So… what do you want me to paint on it?” Sofia asks. “This is your cap, not mine.”
Morgan pulls up an album on her phone and sets it on the table. “Maybe something kinda like these? I really like the Latin one and the Little Mermaid one…”
Sofia scrolls through the photos for a moment. “What if you did the Ariel one but instead the quote in the sun is In Omnia Paratus,” Sofia suggests.
“That seems really good,” Morgan says.
“Do you want the thank you quote somewhere on there, too?”
“I’ll see if I can get it on one of the sides,” Sofia assures before setting the cap back down on the table. “Can you go get my paint and the brushes from my car? I’ll sketch something out real quick.”
“Esteemed guests, fellow faculty members, honored attendees, and students, I have the greatest honor of welcoming you to the Woodvale Academy graduating class of 2021.”
“Look at her,” Pepper murmurs to Tony sometime in the middle of Headmaster Thor’s introduction—or whoever was talking at this point. “Did she let you proofread her speech?”
“No,” Tony whispers back. “Did she let you?”
“No,” Pepper says.
“What do you think she’s—”
“It is with distinct honor for me to introduce you to our valedictorian for the class of 2021. This young lady transferred to Woodvale Academy from a small school as a freshman, where she quickly distinguished herself amongst her peers. She is kind, compassionate, hardworking, creative, competitive, and quite unparalleled in her academic achievements. She is the first student in nine years to hold this status with a 4.9 grade point average on a five point scale and will be attending Brown University in the fall to obtain a degree in Education Studies. Please welcome Miss Morgan Hope Potts-Carbonell,” Thor says before sitting back in his seat next to Coulson.
Applause across the field go off as Morgan gets up and stands behind the podium.
Tony mutters under his breath, “I swear to God, kid if you make me cry—”
“Headmaster Thor, Assistant Headmaster Coulson, faculty members, fellow students, family, and friends, may I be one of the many here today to say ‘welcome,’” Morgan starts. “I know many of us, more than others, never felt like this day would come. Some of you have been here for longer than I have… and some of you, even shorter… and regardless of how anxious we were for this day to arrive, it is here. I for one crossed many dates off my calendar and counted down the days to graduation the moment I started my senior year. But yet, this day is bittersweet now that it has arrived. It means that I have to bid adieu to my friends that have inspired me, the teachers that have been my mentors along with my fellow students’ lives these past four years, and will have to go forward into the unknown again for the first time since I was a shy and anxious fourteen-year-old kid that stepped on the Woodvale cobblestone for the very first time of many.”
Morgan looks down at her paper before continuing. “I live in two vastly different worlds. In the one, I sing about the color red and how someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city with the country-gone-pop superstar… where Todd and Viola are on the run from the Mayor of New World’s Prentisstown in hopes to find their Haven or where a sapphic learns the truth about her dead grandfather before flying away to college across the country… where Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter dropped by Luke’s Diner every day for coffee that Luke doesn’t think either girl needs in the lovely town of Stars Hollow... and where people only count in counts of eight. I go to that world when the things in my second get a little too hectic for my liking. But, even still, my second world is much greater in the scheme of things… populated with the people that have either been there my entire life or found me out of sheer dumb luck and stuck with me along the way… whether I liked it at first or not.”
Morgan looks up again for a brief moment with a smile on her face and Pepper swears she’s looking at her family for a second.
“These characters… full of love, with flesh and bone, and are completely and utterly real that I get to see on a semi regular basis… who often inspire me to do almost anything I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Morgan continues. “Joel and Elaine Bray are the people I am blessed to refer to as two of my grandparents. They are kind hearted and generous people and if it weren’t for them, I am partially unsure where I would stand. And while I have only gotten to know Maria Carbonell for a short while, I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to know you… even if it’s been short. I am proud to be your granddaughter. The same goes for Alicia Currin, who I see as an aunt, and James Rhodes, who I see as an uncle… the both of you were there for my Mom and I when no one else could. I am immeasurably grateful for all that you’ve done in my mother’s life and my own.”
Pepper sees Alicia wipe a tear from her eye and can see her parents, along with Maria smile. Rhodey’s holding back his emotions.
Morgan looks down at her paper again and then looks out. She takes a deep breath and lets it out before moving on. “From my birth to June of 2018, I thought my father didn’t want any part of my life and that somehow I did something wrong before I ever had the chance to take my first breath. Enter my first Woodvale science teacher, Mr. Anthony Carbonell, that I had in my freshman and then again in my junior year. He was a teacher that looked out for me and helped me get through the frustrations of my ADHD… who impacted many of the students graduating today, as well as myself.” She glances at her Dad. “In December of my freshman year, something became clear to me that I wasn’t ready to find out. He’s my biological father and he knew who I was. Despite my shock… my anger… my hatred that brewed because of this lie I came up with when I was little… he waited until my anger dimmed to nothing but a tiny spark of a flame. Long story short, I finally saw him as the loving Dad he always wanted to be for me after he won me over by attending my dance recital, getting me Taylor Swift pit tickets for her Reputation tour… which may I add, were about the cost of my room and board at college if you were to buy three... and comforting me after I was broken up with for the first time.”
She pauses after that, and there are a few sympathetic laughs and awes that go off.
Pepper glances at her husband and sees a tear on his cheek.
“Then as I stand here today, it’s been a little over a year since my Mom and Dad got married. As a teacher, he encouraged us all to chase our dreams and if you are anything like me, he might’ve helped you realize what you actually want to do after high school. Up until right before my senior year started, MIT was on my horizon and I was running toward it as fast as possible. Until I realized that I wanted to teach. He encouraged me to apply to Brown even though I was unsure to try, and I’m glad he had. I am incredibly grateful that life eventually gave me back my Dad,” Morgan says. “Even though it took forever. I am grateful for every single moment that I have gotten to spend with you.” She smiles weakly and wipes tears from her own eyes before looking back down at her paper.
She flips over the page. “But, the person I am most grateful for… who has inspired me the most my entire life… is my best friend. From whom I received the first half of my surname, half of the reason I have a beating heart, and who raised me to be the person I am today… Virginia Potts-Carbonell.”
“Your turn to cry, Potts,” Tony mumbles.
“Shut up,” Pepper snarks back.
“Hang in there,” he says.
“In my almost eighteen years of living, my mother never gave me an idea that I couldn’t do whatever I set my mind to. When I was eight years old and said the words, ‘I want to go to MIT,’ to her for the first time, she was immediately supportive of me and helped me do all the research. You would think that a seven percent acceptance rate would scare an eight year old, but not this Potts girl… because she raised me to be daring, confident, and to believe I could do anything I wanted,” Morgan continues. “She filled our home with love and compassion… and with movies, TV, games, and books. Through that, she ended up giving me one eclectic bunch of role models… fictional or otherwise. But I don’t think she’s ever quite realized that the biggest role model I ever had was her.” Morgan takes a deep breath before continuing. “I love you more than you know, Mom. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
Pepper blows her daughter a kiss before wiping away another tear.
“As we are about to move forward in our lives, I would like to encourage—”
“Marisol Rosalie Bergman,” the guidance counselor says into the microphone and the girl walks onstage. She takes the maroon colored diploma holder from Coulson and walks over to Thor. She shakes his hand and poses for a photo. After the photo is taken, Marisol turns her tassel and walks offstage back to her seat on the field.
Morgan hands her name card to the guidance counselor. “Morgan Hope Potts-Carbonell,” the guidance counselor reads off as Morgan walks onstage again. Coulson hands her the diploma holder and she walks over to Thor. She shakes his hand and poses for a picture. After she turns her tassel, Morgan looks in the crowd of friends and family in the bleachers as she walks down the makeshift stairs of the stage and smiles when she sees her group. Her Mom and Dad, Joel and Elaine, Maria, Alicia, Rhodey, and Sofia.
Morgan is almost back to her seat when she stops, seeing her Mother sign ‘I love you.’ She signs it back before sitting in her seat again.
About forty minutes pass from then and now Morgan is gently pushing her way through the mob of students to get to her family and her girlfriend.
She’s all but smothered in a giant group hug barely five seconds after she finds her group by who knows which members. A cacophony of phrases such as ‘I am so proud of you,’ go off.
“I need to breathe if you want me to go to Brown,” Morgan mumbles, trying hard not to laugh.
Everyone lets go and she smiles weakly. “Thank you, guys.”
Shortly after then, she takes photos with everyone and now the only people standing around with her were her parents, Sofia, and Alicia. Everyone else had already left for the celebratory late lunch location.
“So… tell me what all of this means,” Alicia says as the five walk to the parking lot. “Including your cap, which is beautiful by the way. Who did that?”
“The gold sash thing is to signify that I received the highest honor at graduation,” Morgan says. “The gold cord says that my GPA is above 3.5… then the dark purple one is because I finished the dance pathway… the lavender one is probably because I’m out as bi, but they were never that specific with that one. The medal is another way to say I have the highest honor. Then the red chord is because my Dad donated blood at the school blood drive in my honor twice.” She took off her graduation cap and handed it to Alicia to see. “Sof painted my cap.”
“It is very beautiful,” Alicia enthuses.
“Thank you.” Sofia beams.
“In Omnia Paratus?” Alicia asks.
“It’s Latin,” Morgan says. “Ready for anything.”
Congratulations, Morgan :')
Chapter 42: 42
TW // Pregnancy symptoms (nausea, vomiting, etc) and sexual innuendos
Pepper almost gags when she smells whatever Morgan had pulled out of the microwave. “What on Earth is that?”
“Um… I reheated the macaroni from last night,” Morgan says.
“Oh.” She turns her head to look at her daughter. “Really?”
Morgan looks in her bowl. “Yeah?”
Tony walks into the living room from their shared bedroom. “Why’s your Mother looking like she’s seen a ghost?”
“She forgot what mac and cheese smells like,” Morgan answers with a shrug.
“I didn’t forget what mac and cheese smells like,” she snaps back.
“Close enough,” Morgan says as she sits at the kitchen table.
Tony raises a brow.
“When things get stressful for her she gets really sensitive to smells and gets moody,” Morgan explains. “Well, not stressful. When she knows things are about to change.”
“Brown?” Tony asks.
“Yeah,” Pepper answers.
“Ah,” he says.
“When is Aunt Ali coming over to help us sort through my stuff for college?” Morgan asks. “I forgot.”
“Hon, you alright?” Alicia asks, seeing the untouched food on Pepper’s plate ten minutes after dinner had started. “You haven’t touched your food.”
“Turns out that I am not that hungry,” Pepper answers before pursing her lips in a thin line.
Alicia raises a brow before going back to her chicken.
She spots Pepper hesitantly picking up her fork and taking a bite of the food on her plate. Pepper grimaces as she swallows the bite of her food and sets the food down. It was almost as if she were waiting to see how her stomach would react to eating it—like she knew she had been having issues with nausea recently.
Alicia makes it a point to loosely watch Pepper throughout dinner and afterward, just in case. But continues to eat and pretend that she has dropped the question.
Pepper grimaces a little bit later after she had eaten a bit more. She gets up and says. “I’ll, um… be right back.”
Alicia watches Pepper walk into her bedroom and can see her shut the ensuite bathroom door. She looks over at Morgan and Tony, who were sitting on the couch sorting through stuff that Morgan had brought from her room.
She waits a few minutes before getting up and sneaking in the room and into the connected bathroom.
Pepper was sitting on the floor of the bathroom after flushing her dinner, head against the wall. She was sweating.
“You okay, hon?” Alicia asks, frowning at the sight.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Pepper says as Alicia grabs two clean black washcloths from the bathroom closet. “I haven’t been this sick since… I don’t know when. At least, with nausea. I-I can barely eat anymore.”
Alicia hums quietly as she wets the washcloths with the water from the faucet. She turns off the faucet and squeezes the extra water out of both before handing one to Pepper.
Pepper sits one on her forehead and Alicia sits down across from her friend. She reaches over and wipes off the small excess of her food with the rag.
“I’m sorry you feel so bad,” Alicia says. “Have you gotten it checked out?”
“No, because I don’t want my doctor accusing me of being pregnant,” Pepper grumbles.
“But isn’t it possible?” Alicia asks, laughing weakly. “Don’t lie to me, Virginia. I know you and Tony are having fun in the bedroom.”
Pepper opens her eyes and gapes at her friend’s comment.
“Am I wrong?”
“No,” Pepper admits with an embarrassed smile.
Alicia snickers. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“But we’ve always used protection,” Pepper mumbles.
“Protection sometimes doesn’t save you from a kid,” Alicia says sympathetically. “My sister’s twins are living proof of that… and they’re fraternal too. So, you know, it technically failed her twice.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Better,” Pepper answers.
“Good,” Alicia says. “Do you want me to get you anything? Crackers? Water?”
Pepper sighs. “Water would be nice.”
Alicia smiles as she gets up from the floor. “Alright. You need anything else?”
“Could you go out and get me a test?” Pepper asks quietly.
“Sure,” she says.
“You don’t mind?”
“Not at all.” Alicia shakes her head. “I’ve got to go get a few totes for Morgan anyway.”
“Thank you,” Pepper says.
Alicia walks into Pepper’s room with a CVS bag. “Got the goods.”
Pepper rolls her eyes.
Alicia hands Pepper the bag.
A few minutes pass and now, Pepper is staring at the four pregnancy tests that were laying on the bathroom counter.
The first result shows up and it makes Pepper blink in shock. Three blue lines.
“You’re pregnant,” Alicia mumbles.
“Wait until the other results come back,” Pepper snarks quietly as she stares at the first result.
The second one says plain as day, ‘pregnant.’
“Wait,” Pepper says, sensing Alicia’s about to say something.
The third one comes back. Two pink lines.
“You know, false positives are rare,” Alicia speaks up.
“Shush,” Pepper snaps.
Two more pink lines show up on the last one a moment later.
“I think you’re pregnant, Ginny,” Alicia says.
“Okay, yeah… maybe I am,” Pepper murmurs.
Pepper’s eyes widened as she turned around to see Tony standing in the doorway.
“We're having another kid,” Pepper says through grit teeth. She weakly smiles when she sees Tony’s shocked face turn to a smile.
He immediately pulls her into a hug and kisses her cheek. “God, I love you, Pep.”
“I love you, too,” she murmurs. “Deja vu.”
Alicia walks around the couple and says, “I’ll leave you two alone,” before leaving the bathroom.
Pepper snickers as she stands in her husband’s embrace. They pull away just enough to kiss each other on the lips. She hums quietly as the kiss ends, opening her eyes to see her husband still smiling. It’s weaker this time and he has tears in his eyes. “You’ll be a great Dad, Tony. I mean, you already are a Dad... but I think you know what I mean.”
“I do,” he says. “Thank you.”
He drops his arms back to his side. “I know you’ve been there for Morgan for eighteen years, but I would feel bad if I didn’t say it to you too… you’ll be a good Mom, Pep.”
“Aw… thank you,” Pepper says with a weak smile. “What were you doing in here when you found out?”
“Morgan needed you,” he says.
Morgan walks out of her bedroom to see her parents cuddled on the couch together. “I’m gonna head to bed. What time should I set my alarm?”
“We’ll wake you up,” Tony says.
“Oh, okay,” Morgan says. “Thank you.”
Morgan’s about to go back to her room when Pepper interrupts her. “Hey, kid. Hang back a sec. Can we talk to you?”
Morgan turns back around and walks over to the living area. “Yeah?” She sits down in the recliner adjacent to them.
Pepper glances at Tony.
“What’s up?” Morgan asks, breaking the silence. “Did I do something wrong or—”
“No, not at all,” Tony answers. He’s smiling.
“What if we told you that you were going to be a big sister?” Pepper asks.
Morgan’s eyes widened and she forced herself to blink. Her mouth gapes open. “Uh… well, I’d say that Lea’s a psychic.”
“What?” Pepper asks.
“At prom last year, Alissa’s girlfriend took one look at you two and literally told me to expect this soon,” Morgan answers quietly. “I didn’t think it would be the day before I went to college.”
Her parents stare wide eyed.
“...but then I’d say congratulations,” Morgan says. “That’s really awesome. I mean, it’s a little weird that I’ll be eighteen years older than the kid, but it’s still sweet.”
Pepper tears up for the umpteenth time today as Morgan sets down the photo of Morgan, Tony, and herself from Morgan’s graduation day on her dresser that Tony had moved over next to her bed to double as a bedside table. “I can’t believe you’re all grown up.”
Morgan laughs sympathetically, looking over at her Mom. She walks over to where her Mom sat on her bed and hugs her. “If it makes you feel any better, I can’t believe it either.”
“I’m so proud of you, Mo,” she says.
“Me too,” Tony says after he finished moving Morgan’s desk to where she and him decided was best a few moments before.
“Thank you,” Morgan says with a small smile as she wriggles out of her Mom’s hug. She walks back over to her dresser and sets down a picture frame with a photo of her and Sofia from the prom night where Morgan decided she much prefers wearing suits over dresses next to the photo from her graduation.
She looks at her half empty suitcase and grimaces.
“What can I do?” Tony asks.
“I think I forgot to bring in the bag with my sheets from the car,” Morgan answers.
“I’ll go get it for you,” he says and is about to walk out when—
“You sure? The parking garage is a bit far.”
“You need your sheets to sleep tonight, right?” he questions with a raised brow.
“Right, yeah. Sorry,” Morgan answers.
Tony leaves the room.
“So, have you met your roommate yet?” Pepper asks. “Mia’s her name, right?”
“Yeah, she came by when you and Dad went to get takeout earlier. Said that she couldn’t move in today due to a family thing but would tomorrow,” Morgan answers. “They’re sweet. But their name is Maya, not Mia.”
“Oh, sorry.” Pepper laughs, embarrassed. “What’s Maya’s major?”
“Her major is in neuroscience,” Morgan recalls. “But she said she might change it to theater arts.”
It’s ten PM when Pepper and Tony finish helping Morgan move into her dorm at Keeney Quad at Brown University.
She hugs both of her parents at the same time and is the last to let go of the three. She didn’t realize how hard this would be until it was actually time to say goodbye.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this,” she admits after hesitantly letting go.
“Oh, baby, you’re crying,” Pepper says, sympathetically.
“I am?” Morgan asks before wiping under her eyes with her hands. “Oh, yep. I guess so.” She sits on her bed and looks at her hands in her lap. “I just… I really don’t know how I’m supposed to do this. I-I can’t do this.”
“You can't do what?” Tony asks as he takes a seat next to her on the bed.
“Move away… I mean, I’m sure Maya’s nice and all… but this place is two hours away from home a-and I can’t go home every weekend like I could at Woodvale a-and I wish that Yale had an education program so I-I could go home whenever I want but they don’t… What if I don’t meet anyone or if everyone hates me or if I can’t even find my classes? You guys probably think I am the most pathetic person to ever exist—”
Tony quietly shushes her in an attempt to calm her. “No, you aren’t pathetic. C’mere, kid.”
Morgan falls into her father’s arms and rests the back of her head on his chest.
“Being homesick is a part of growing up,” Pepper adds as she carefully gets up on her daughter’s bed on the other side of her. “It’s normal… makes you human. I felt it, both when I moved to Phillips and Harvard… even when you and I finally moved to our own place.”
“Great, you haven’t even left yet and I’m already homesick,” Morgan grumbles.
“That’s okay,” Tony assures.
“I mean, it was like as soon as you guys were hugging me ‘goodbye’ the only thing I could think of was how much I still want my Mama… and Dad,” she says. “I haven’t thought that since I was maybe five!”
“That’s a natural feeling to have,” Pepper says. “I promise you.”
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this. I’m an adult, I shouldn’t be this scared to go to college,” Morgan cries. “I can’t do this!”
“Yes you can,” Tony disagrees. “It’s going to be hard, I’m not going to lie and say it’s going to be easy… because it’s not. But I know you can do it. You’re gonna take it one step at a time… and eventually, that philosophy’s gonna take you all the way to Graduation Day. That’s what got me through my MIT days, even though what I was experiencing wasn’t homesickness.”
“If you get through your first year… or even semester, and it’s just too hard right now… you can take a break and come home. Start back later. Maybe a gap year—or semester—is what you need. But right now, your Mom and I really want you to try to get through at least the first semester and see how you feel. That’s the good thing about college. It’s always there. You don’t have to finish your degree in four years. I mean, your Mom is considering applying again to finish her business degree after having to drop out nineteen years ago. Online, of course… but…”
“You are?” Morgan asks, weakly smiling.
“I’m thinking about it… probably after the baby comes and I get used to taking care of an infant again.” Pepper nods.
“That’s great, Mom!” Morgan says. “I’m really proud of you.”
“Thank you… but back to you, if you have to count down the days to breaks every semester, that’s okay, too,” Pepper adds on. “Whatever gets you through.”
“Also, about that friend comment you made… just say hello and be who you are,” Tony says. “You’ll find your people.”
Morgan is about to answer him, but she involuntarily yawns.
“Are you tired?” Pepper asks. “You need some sleep.”
She whines quietly.
“What do you think it’s gonna take you to get some sleep, hm?” Tony asks. “Are we gonna have to queue up some piano music, dim the lights, and tuck you in like you're a five-year-old?”
“Yeah?” he asks.
She looks over at him and nods.
“Okay,” Tony says, trying hard not to laugh—she could tell. “Then that’s what we’ll do.”
About fifteen minutes later, Morgan stops fighting off sleep as the piano songs play softly near her ear and she hears her dorm room door quietly close after footsteps come before.
And here we are folks... the finale of The Potts Girls. Thank you for all of the support! Until next time. :)