Morgan stared at Declan watching his serious face as he considered what she had just told him. "Say something?" She asked, in exasperation.
"I'm thinking, that's all." he replied, "I don't want to give you bad advice."
Since their friendship had lasted for several months now and had seen the pair almost through to graduation Morgan had decided to share her deepest secret with Declan, she had told him about her fathers request.
"So you've never seen him or spoken to him in all this time?" Declan clarified.
"Not a word." She replied.
"Seems to me that maybe you should hear what he has to say then." Declan concluded.
"You really think so?" Morgan asked, screwing up her face in surprise at his reply. She had heard many Sims express their opinion on her father before and none of them had been kind, so the last thing she had expected was for anyone to look at things the way she did.
"Worst case scenario is that he turns out to be the monster that everyone says he is." Declan continued.
"Oh is that all!" She replied sarcastically.
"Or the best case scenario is that he's the father you remember." He added.
"Well what about my Mom? She won't like this at all." Morgan asked.
"You said it yourself, once you turn 18 it's your decision, not hers or anyone elses either. Look if she doesn't understand why this is so important to you then you can't change her mind, but I'll be there for you."
"You mean you'd go with me?" She asked carefully not wanting to put undue pressure on their relationship.
"Of course." He smiled, "Morgan I'd do just about anything for you."
Morgan looked at Declan from underneath her long lashes and smiled. She had suspected for a while that what they shared might be more than friendship but she had never found the courage to ask him outright, she hadn't wanted to appear a fool if he had laughed in her face at the suggestion. Yet here he was as always, listening to her and understanding her, accepting her for who she was and now admitting how he felt.
She scooted down the sofa to be next to him and looked up into his pale green eyes.
"Thank you Declan." She said simply.
He smiled and placed an arm casually around her shoulders, as he did so Morgan felt the exhilarating rush of her first love.
Noah stared openly at Shay, her perfection sometimes blew his mind. He could spend all day just looking at the contours of her beautiful face, marvelling at the fact that she was his girlfriend.
"Hello! Stop gawking at me!" Shay teased gently.
"Sorry gorgeous, i just can't help myself." He laughed rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"So is this what you spend all your time on, when you're not with me?" She asked nodding towards his work bench.
"Um, yeah." He admitted, "You can make a lot of really cool stuff with the junk other people throw away."
"Oh really? Like what?" Shay asked, the challenge implicit in her tone.
"Anything really." He mumbled.
"Can you make something to pull off the perfect prank?" She asked her eyes blazing with excitement.
"What did you have in mind?"
The plan was simple, make a small, fake explosive device designed to make a tell tale beeping sound that would freak out any Sim whom stumbled across it. When it finally detonated the device would emit a ton of smoke but cause no real damage other than making the cry babies who believed it was a genuine bomb look like idiots.
And the idiots Shay had in mind were the football team. Noah wasn't clear on the exact nature of her displeasure with the jocks but the fact that she had asked was good enough reason for him to oblige. He spent a week crafting the device and decided to plant it that Wednesday during the local rival match which pitted the Bridgeport High Llamas against the Albany Heights Wildcats.
The device had been cleverly concealed underneath the bench in the teams dugout and Noah waited for the perfect opportunity, which presented itself during half time. Two of the teams star players had chosen the exact spot above the device to take a seat and Noah seized his opportunity.
Pressing the button to commence the bombs beeping sound Noah watched as the two jocks looked around the dugout in confusion. Then one of them decided to run his hand underneath the bench and knocked the device to the floor. The pair of them looked at each other in surprise before yelling "Take cover! BOMB!" and diving away from the bench.
Noah chuckled at the two morons and flicked the switch to trigger the smoke bomb, but when he hit the button he got an entirely different reaction.
Instead of emitting a harmless cloud of fog the bomb exploded, demolishing the bench and spraying debris over the two jocks and the football pitch.
Quickly concealing the transmitter in his jacket, Noah slipped away during the commotion that had ensued as fast as possible.
"Oh my God Noah, that was awesome!" Shay cried flinging her arms around him. "I can't believe you blew up the bench, seriously this prank is gonna be the stuff of legend!"
"You think so?" Noah replied surprised by her enthusiasm for the prank gone awry.
"Are you kidding? Our grand kids are gonna be talking about this someday." She enthused.
"OUR grand kids?" Noah asked narrowing his eyes playfully.
"You know what i meant." Shay shoved him playfully before pulling him into a passionate embrace.
Noah held onto Shay as tightly as her petite frame would allow and permitted her kiss to envelop him whole. He hadn't planned to destroy the teams dugout but man the reward sure was worth it!
At that moment he had no sense of the power which Shay had over him and no real sense that he had done wrong. But that was about to change.
Shay had been right about one thing, his prank was the stuff of legend. The entire school was talking about it and unfortunately for Noah the chatter had extended to the principal who had immediately summoned his Mom and Dad in for an emergency meeting.
"I'm afraid there is no other option Mr and Mrs Traytor. The stunt your son pulled went way beyond the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. He destroyed school property and endangered the lives of several students."
Kaya and Jackson looked at each other solemnly as Principal Byrnes told them of Noah's punishment.
The moment Noah stepped through the front door he knew that something bad had happened, from the look on each of his parents face he figured it was serious.
"Young man you are in serious trouble!" His Dad said, confirming Noah's worst fears.
"What did i do?" He asked shrugging in casually in an attempt to display innocence.
"Well for a start you got expelled from school." Kaya informed him.
"What!" Noah replied the shock written all over his face.
"Come with us." Jackson demanded, leading him into the lounge.
As he sat down at the dining table Noah was met by a gorilla of a man, dressed in a army sergeants uniform who, after giving him the once over, looked at him disapprovingly.
"So young man, i hear you have a penchant for creating explosive devices and endangering the lives of civilians." The sergeant stated.
So that was it, the whole City knew that it was Noah who had pulled off the greatest prank of all and now he was being conscripted into the army! Wait that can't be right I'm only 14! Noah thought.
"Mom, Dad, what's this all about?" He asked, feeling every one of his fourteen years as they returned his question with stern looks.
"This is Sergent Clayton." His Mom clarified, "He wants to have a little chat with you and you are to answer him honestly do you understand me?" She demanded. Noah nodded his consent and swallowed deeply, just what had he gotten himself into?
Noah spent the next hour answering all of Sergeant Clayton's questions and completing an aptitude test, but he was still to be let in the loop on exactly what was going on here. As soon as his parents returned to the room he demanded some answers. "OK I've filled in your tests and I've told the truth now you have to tell me what all this has to do with me getting expelled." He pleaded.
"That all depends on Sergeant Clayton." Jackson answered, looking to the army man for an answer.
"Noah's test scores are frankly phenomenal." Sergent Clayton replied eliciting looks of surprise from Kaya and Jackson. "His results put him in the top five percent of the general population, basically he's a genius."
"Are you sure?" Kaya asked, "His grades at school are average at best."
"It's actually fairly common for people as intelligent as your son to do badly at school. The level at which he is being taught is too easy for him so Noah doesn't make any effort because he finds the subject matter boring. But don't worry we can fix that."
"CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!" Noah yelled in frustration.
"Son, thanks to that little stunt you pulled at school you are currently black-listed from every educational establishment this side of Barnacle Bay." Sergeant Clayton advised him, "However the Fort Gnome Military academy is willing to offer you a first rate education."
"And what do i have to do in return?" Noah asked narrowing his eyes.
"See what did i tell ya? This boy's a smart one alright." The sergeant laughed, "Noah in return you will serve four years in the armed forces, once you graduate of course."
"Is this some sort of a joke!" Noah replied, "Because if you want to punish me then just ground me until I'm 18 or something but there is no way I'm joining the army!"
"This is NOT optional Noah." Kaya replied firmly, "Clearly you have been happy to use your intelligence for mischief, well now you will use it to graduate from the military academy."
"They can't force me to do this, can they?" Noah pleaded looking directly at Sergeant Clayton.
"Look at it this way Son, one day you'll get to blow stuff up for a living."
After the sergeant had left the family held a meeting to discuss Noah's future.
"So it's settled then." Kaya began, "Noah will be enrolled in the Fort Gnome academy in Riverview."
"What? You're leaving home?" Morgan asked.
"No choice sis." Noah shrugged, "I messed up pretty big."
"Yes Noah you did!" Kaya confirmed making sure he noted that her displeasure with him was far from over, "All this juvenile behaviour from you has helped me reach an important decision. Morgan I've decided that the house is to become yours once you turn 18."
Morgans hand flew to her mouth to cover her surprise at this announcement. "Are you sure?" She asked.
"Yes, my mind is made up." Kaya confirmed.
"I'm sorry Noah." Morgan said instantly feeling bad for her little brother.
"Don't worry about it." He grumbled quietly.
When the day came for Noah to leave for Riverview Shay arrived to wave him off. Noah had come to terms with having to attend the academy, in fact the Sergeants parting words to him had almost made him look forward to it. But the one snag in all of this was that he had to leave Shay behind.
Of course he would return home over school breaks and holidays but all in all he was due to be away from Bridgeport until he turned 22 and he realised that Shay would not be happy.
"I'll be back for winter break." He told her, "Will you wait for me?"
"Um, sure." Shay replied, hesitantly. Seeing the hurt in Noah's eyes at her lack lustre reply she pulled him in for a kiss.
Shay had enjoyed the fun she had shared with Noah, but there was no way she was going to sit around twiddling her thumbs for the next 8 years until he got home for good. However she wasn't ready to let him off her hook just yet, after all he would be home for holidays and she knew he could be relied upon to provide her with entertainment.
"Son, it's time to leave." Sergeant Clayton ordered, "Better say all of your goodbyes." He gestured to Noah's family waiting patiently in the background.
Noah shrugged his bag onto his shoulder and gave Morgan a hug, "Take care sis." He said, "Watch your back, it'll be you they get rid of next." He whispered, before throwing a glare towards his parents and turning to follow the Sergeant to the waiting car.
Kaya watched as her youngest child walked away angry with her. She held back her tears as she knew that eventually he would forgive her maybe even thank her for the opportunity he was receiving.
This however did little to dampen the pain and sadness she felt in that moment knowing that he probably hated her. The truth was that she had no option, there was no other school which would accept Noah at least none which they could afford.
The school had demanded that they pay to fix the damage caused by Noah's prank and the parents of the two boys who had been injured by the blast had sued. All in all Noah's stunt had cost the family most of their savings and the army academy was willing to accept Noah for virtually nothing, as long as he served his country for four years. There really had been no alternative.
Jackson put his arm around Kaya, "Don't worry about him, he's a smart boy he'll do just fine."
"But he's my baby Jackson." She sniffed.
While Kaya and Jackson were busy consoling each other no one seemed to have noticed how all of this was affecting Morgan. No one that is except for Howie. He found her in her room staring wistfully out at the Bridgeport hills.
"He's not gone forever you know?" Howie said gently.
"But he is gone." She replied.
"Do you remember that day he planted a stink bomb in the school rec room?" Morgan pictured it, smiling. "God i was so mad at him! I couldn't get the stench out of my hair for weeks."
"You were pretty mad at him." Howie recalled, nodding his agreement.
"I told him that i hated him and that i wished he'd leave home." Morgan replied, "I wish I'd never said that."
"I'm sure he knows you didn't really mean it." Howie replied patting her shoulder.
"He's an annoying little brother but he's MY annoying little brother and i don't want him to be gone," She cried, "Why does everyone leave me?"
"Hey he'll come back, just like i did." Howie soothed.
"What about my Dad? Will he ever come back?" She asked her soulful eyes searching his for the answer. "I still remember the last day i saw him, all those police officers taking him away and my Mom trying to drag me inside the house. The way he looked at me Howie i can still see it now."
"Your Dad did a terrible thing Morgan, jail is the right place for him." Howie replied.
"He never did anything terrible to me." She replied snapping at him, "He took care of me and he loved me and it's not fair that i have to be without him!" She spat.
"He killed someone in cold blood." Howie reminded her, "Besides it's not like you've been deprived of a father figure, you've had my Dad here all the time."
"Jackson is not my father." She replied through gritted teeth. "My father is rotting in jail with no clue of how i am or what I'm like now, but I'm going to change all that."
"What are you talking about Morgan?"
"I'm going to visit him, as soon as i turn 18." She declared.
"That's a huge mistake." Howie told her.
"Yeah? Well Declan doesn't think so, he understands me not like YOU!" Morgan yelled.
"Morgan I've known you for a lot longer and I'm afraid you're getting yourself into something that neither you or Declan understand fully." Howie replied, trying to calm the situation by approaching it rationally.
"Declan and I are not children." Morgan retorted, "We understand things just fine. My mind is made up Howie and if you can't support me in this then." She paused trying to think up a suitable threat before settling on, "Well just leave me alone!"
Howie looked away as though she had slapped him across the cheek. He knew she was making a mistake but clearly she had made up her mind.
It pained him to see his once carefree and happy friend so determined and fierce, it was not the Morgan he knew and loved but it seemed that she had finally left her childish ways behind.
A few weeks later and Morgan did leave her childhood behind her, for good.
As she looked down at the candlelit cake she felt none of the fears and concerns that she had on her last birthday. She knew now that there was nothing to fear from her future or from the decisions she would have to make, as long as she had Declan by her side he would guide her through any rough patches and always be there for her.
Closing her eyes she blew out the candles with one swift breath and decided to forgo her usual birthday wish. She had all she needed from life and with her mind firmly set on how she wanted to proceed she figured that wishes had nothing to offer her.
One thing she was 100% certain of was Declan, and for now that was all that mattered.