“Now this is a home fit for a Charm,” Savannah grinned, looking fondly at the sprawling estate that her wife had ordered to be constructed. The home Morgan originally bought in Willow Creek had suited her, Savannah, Miraj, Johnathon and William just fine but after they had Madeline and Avery, the place became cramped, especially now that Madeline and Avery were in school. There were now three hyperactive children running around the place and they needed something bigger. Of course, to a Charm, bigger always meant grander.
“I’m glad you approve. I’m pretty impressed with how it turned out. Great Great Grandma Marylee would be proud, I think,” Morgan signed to her with a smile. She caught sight of the time on the watch on her wrist. “Oh! We should round up the kids for that movie Madeline wanted to see! She’ll be upset if she misses the first part,” she reminded Savannah.
“Mom, hurry up! We’re gonna miss it!” Madeline tugged on Morgan’s sleeve before she signed her protest to her. Morgan signed back to her daughter with a small frown.
“We’re not going to miss it, honey, we’re still early. Be patient,” she told her. Crowded places still made Morgan nervous after all these years. She opted to leave her hearing aid at home. The constant barrage of noise from public places drove her crazy and she didn’t mind reading lips for two hours on the big screen. She spent her whole life reading people’s lips, anyway. No one she knew outside her own family knew sign language.
“Why don’t you take the kids inside while I grab snacks?” Savannah suggested. “They’re getting antsy and you can get better seats if you’re one of the first people in the theatre.”
“Good idea,” Morgan signed her agreement and led Johnathon, Madeline and Avery inside the theatre. It turned out Savannah was right and the kids got their first choice of seating. There was hardly anyone in the theatre yet. From what Morgan could gather, the movie was about a faerie who loses her wings and has to go on a quest to find them again, making friends and falling in love along the way, of course. Madeline looked enthralled by the children’s film but her brother just looked bored and spent most of the movie asking Morgan and Savannah when it was going to be over. Morgan thought her little brother was just bored, too, like Avery but after the movie, they decided to take the kids out to a new bakery that had opened up next to the movie theatre for cupcakes and Johnathon remained just as sullen as he was in the theatre despite living every child’s dream of being surrounded by sugary sweets. While everyone grabbed cupcakes to eat at the table together, Johnathon took his helping and picked at it disinterestedly alone at a different table.
“Hey Johnny, you okay? Why don’t you come eat your cupcake with us?” Savannah offered. “I can get another chair and we can shuffle a bit to make room.” Johnathon just shook his head at his sister-in-law.
“No thanks, I’m okay here,” he told her. Morgan read their lips, frowning to herself. It was so strange. Ever since he was born, Johnathon had always been so cheerful and outgoing. He was the one bright light that shone through the darkness and lifted everyone’s spirits after their mom’s death. He was the one thing that kept Morgan and Savannah and Miraj going in the horrible crushing absence that Margaret had left behind like a gaping wound that refused to heal. Johnathon’s presence brought life back to Charm Manor but what if Johnathon’s light was going out? What if the years of being bullied by William were finally taking their toll on him now that he was old enough to really understand his older brother’s insults?
Despite Morgan and Savannah’s insistence that he join them, Johnathon remained insistent about staying where he was by himself until he started getting hostile with the two women about it, at which point Morgan and Savannah gave up, giving each other worried looks.
“Mommy, try a cupcake!” Avery signed to Morgan, plopping a big strawberry flavoured one on her empty plate. “They’re so good!” Morgan blinked down at the sugary sweet, hesitantly picking it up and putting it to her lips but a voice inside her head made her freeze.
Should you really be eating that? that ugly voice that Morgan hadn’t heard since she was a teenager returned, making her shudder. How many calories does it have? Like at least 1000? That’s a whole day’s worth of calories in one cupcake. No wonder you can’t lose all that baby weight if you eat like that. Look at your wife, she looks like a supermodel. You can’t tell she ever had a baby. What’s wrong with you, fatass?
Morgan swallowed a lump in her throat and put the cupcake down. “Maybe another time, Avery. I’m pretty full,” Morgan signed back to her son, forcing a smile so her children wouldn’t notice the war being fought inside their mother’s head.
“Can I have it if you don’t want it, Mommy? The strawberry cupcakes are my favourite,” Madeline asked. Morgan smiled and slid the plate towards her daughter, trying to avoid having to look at her wife. Savannah was looking at Morgan with fear-filled eyes and Morgan couldn’t face the guilt of knowing she was putting the woman she loved through this all over again.
“Sure sweetie, here you go.”
Once the kids had all eaten their fill, Savannah stood up to round everyone up. “Come on guys, we need to head home a little earlier today. We need to plan Johnny’s and William’s birthday party, remember?” she smiled warmly at Johnny, trying to lift his glum spirits. Johnny smiled faintly back but Morgan knew that kind of smile; she had spent her teenage years forcing the exact same one on her face. It was just a thin mask but maybe his birthday party in a few days would be just what Johnny needed to smile his real smile again.
“Race you to the car!” Avery shouted, dashing out the door and down the street, sticking his tongue out at his sister.
“Hey no fair! You got a head start!” Madeline shrieked after him, hot on his heels with Johnny not far behind her.
“BE CAREFUL AND DON’T CROSS THE STREET WITHOUT US!” Savannah shouted after the three of them.
In some ways, it was a relief that Johnathon was going to become a teenager in a few days and William was going to turn eighteen. Having three young children running around was exhausting and maybe William’s attitude would get better as a young adult. Morgan could hope for a miracle, anyway.