Morgan turned the sausages over on the grill and was immediately flooded with memories of family birthdays past. She could barely believe that she was now in this position, cooking the food for her own children's party, a role Kaya had only just vacated. Thankfully Morgan did not burn them as her mother was prone to!
It felt as though the time had passed too quickly and already her children were celebrating their first birthday.
She remembered the day she gave birth vividly. One did not forget the pain of childbirth easily nor the joy that soon replaced it as she held the triplets for the first time.
A scan had revealed that they were expecting two boys and one girl.
The first born, a boy who they named Oscar was followed shortly by Olivia. The third baby was somewhat more problematic.
After a relatively short labour, Oscar and Olivia had arrived without delay yet the last baby had not entered the world for almost an hour after Olivia and when it arrived it was not the boy they had been expecting. The final triplet was in fact a little girl who they named Odette.
The arrival of the babies had reaffirmed the healing process between the family, which had started on the day of Morgan's wedding and everyone had shown up to watch as they transformed into toddlers.
First up was Oscar, who looked the spitting image of his father except for his hair which was a lovely pale strawberry blond, just like Morgans.
Second was Olivia, who seemed to be a good mix of both parents but she sported her Dads bright auburn hair which cascaded down her back in a long braid.
Lastly was the little surprise. Odette, who had always done things differently from her elder siblings, grew up with only the slightest wisp of almost white blond hair.
Now that the children were toddlers the differences between them all was evident. While they all showed different elements of their parents genetically they were as different as chalk and cheese personality wise too.
Oscar and Olivia were polar opposites.
Oscar love to be outdoors, even before he could walk he would crawl to the top of stairs trying to make his own way out to the garden. In the end Declan had to install a baby gate to prevent him from falling down and injuring himself.
He was also a light sleeper. He would sulk and pout the moment he was put in his crib, hoping his puppy dog expression would work on Morgan enough for her to let him back out so he could play some more.
And God forbid they left him a second longer in his crib than need be. The moment his eyes blinked open on a morning he demanded to be let out, wailing at the top of his lungs until he was obliged.
Not that Olivia knew anything of her brothers cries. This girl could sleep through anything! Quite unlike Oscar, Olivia could be left in her crib all day and remain content.
But she hated to be outside, it was almost as though she had an allergy to the garden the way her little face would wrinkle with distaste whenever they were out there.
Yet despite the fact that Olivia was the night to Oscars day the pair of them were as close as could be, spending hours together playing and laughing.
And somehow Odette always remained a step behind them.
Not that she seemed to mind being on her own in fact it seemed that she rather liked it.
She would sit patiently wherever she was left, in her crib, on the floor or in her high chair, it didn't matter. She was always content with her own company.
The one exception to this rule was her doll, Riley, who went everywhere with Odette. She loved that doll, almost to pieces as Morgan had to stitch Riley's head back on, on more than one occasion.
The differences between Odette and her brother and sister only became more apparent when Morgan was teaching them to talk.
Odette seemed to be constantly distracted and unable to concentrate on what Morgan was telling her.
Instead of looking at the my first A B C book that Morgan had bought to put pictures and words together for them, Odette would stare right past her, as though there was something of far more interest to her in the unoccupied space behind them.
In contrast both Oscar and Olivia picked up learning from their books quickly and soon were tackling them alone. Although Olivia's pronunciation was not perfect she began to speak after a few weeks of tuition, her first words being Mama followed days later by Papa.
Spurred on by this success Morgan also taught Olivia to say her siblings names. She managed to say "Os-Kar" without too much trouble but Odette simply came out as "Odd" and no matter how many times Morgan would correct her Odette would always be called Odd by her sister, a nickname which was soon picked up by Oscar too.
Morgan was concerned enough about their youngest child to broach the subject with Declan that night.
"I'm just worried. What if she never picks it up?" She asked.
"It's always going to be the way honey." Declan soothed, "Some kids learn faster than others that's all."
"But what if she has learning difficulties?" Morgan pressed unwilling to brush the issue aside.
"Don't you think you're reading too much into this?" Declan sighed, "Lets give her a chance it's only been a few weeks since you started teaching them."
"But Oscar and Olivia are already reading by themselves!" Morgan snapped, frustrated by his lack of concern. "Maybe if you were around more you would see what i was saying is true."
"One of us has to work to try and pay for all this!" Declan snapped in reply, "You think feeding and clothing triplets is easy?"
Morgan looked away knowing that she had been unfair but trying to cover up her frustration before speaking, "I'm sorry, i know you're doing your best." She conceded.
"I'm working all out trying to get some freelance stories published." Declan moaned, "Do you think i want to be away from the kids this much?"
"No, i know that you don't. I'm sorry." She repeated. Declan sighed and declared that he was tired, flicking out the light he turned over and was asleep within minutes while Morgan lay wide awake, unable to rest next to him.
She couldn't put the thoughts of Odette from her mind, she wanted nothing more than to be wrong but there was just something different about her, she could feel it.
Getting up from bed she paced the floor watching Declan as he slept. She remembered a time when she had nestled in his arms and awoken in that very same spot each morning, but those days seemed long gone. As their money worries mounted and Declan's stress increased, so it seemed did the gap between them.
The next day brought a visit from Kaya and Jackson, who were proud grandparents and had brought the triplets their own spring riders. As Jackson installed them in the garden Morgan stole a chance to talk to her Mom about her fears for her youngest child.
"Do you think i should take her to see Doctor Pruitt?" Morgan asked, after bringing Kaya up to speed.
"Sweetheart when you were the triplets age i had such problems trying to teach you to walk." She recalled, "I was certain that you would never pick it up until Jackson gave me some advice."
"And what was the advice?" Morgan asked expectantly.
"There is no magic wand to be waved, you just have to persevere." Kaya explained.
Morgan's shoulders sagged but she thanked her Mom never the less. It seemed that she was alone in her fears for Odette, maybe she was worrying unnecessarily, but wasn't that a mothers job?
"Just be sure you keep a close eye on them at all times." Kaya added, "You never know who could be out there."
"Kay!" Jackson called his warning, from his spot on the lawn.
"I'm just saying to be careful." Kaya explained.
"Don't worry Morgan." Jackson said, placing Odette on the pink horsey springer, "Nothing is going to happen to the triplets."
Morgan smiled, she knew what her Mom was referring to. She hadn't been much older than the triplets when she had been snatched by Robson but it wasn't until she herself had become a mother that she understood how truly awful that must of been for Kaya. The thought of someone taking one of her babies was beyond comprehension and she now regretted the pain she had caused her Mom by reconnecting with her Dad.
Although she had not visited Robson again she still received visiting orders from him weekly alongside letters begging her to come back and see him.
"Me play Mama!" Olivia was demanding as she watched Odette on the springer.
"OK baby." Morgan obliged slotting her into the frame of the spaceship.
As she watched her babies having the time of their lives she felt suddenly conflicted. She knew now why Kaya was so angry with Robson and why she would never forgive him, she understood it implicitly but still one thought nagged at her conscience. Hadn't Robson also had to endure the pain of being parted from his child? And was he still not feeling that very same pain because she refused to visit him again?
"Wheeeeee!" Olivia giggled next to her and Morgan clapped along in delight as the thoughts confused her mind she realised that Robson didn't even know he was a grandfather and surely that could not be right. Could it?
Morgan knew in that moment that she would visit him again, he had a right to know about the triplets. But she was not foolish enough to share this thought with anyone else. After what had happened last time she couldn't risk alienating her family again. So she kept it a secret.
As she settled into the visitors seat for a second time Morgan realised that she felt more relaxed this time around. Not that she had gotten used to the overbearing presence of the prison more that she knew what to expect of her father now. It wasn't that she hadn't wanted to visit him again, she had wanted to badly, there were still so many unanswered questions. But this was what worried her, how easily she could have forgiven him when he hadn't even asked for her forgiveness, not once.
This time she had clear in her mind what she wanted to say to him it was less about his answers now and more about him realising how his actions had impacted on her.
"I'm so glad that you decided to return." Robson began, but before he could beguile her a second time Morgan butted in. Pulling the photograph of the triplets from her bag she laid it on the table in front of him.
"These are my children." She told him as his face grew with surprise.
"My grandchildren." He stated.
"No!" She corrected him, "These are MY children, and they are nothing to do with you."
Robson sat back in his chair and regarded her, his face displaying no trace of any emotions he was feeling at her statement.
"Now that i am a mother i understand fully just how sickening what you did to me was." She continued, "You snatched me and took me away from my mother all because you wanted to hurt her."
"And I was honest with you about that." He interrupted.
"Yes you were honest but you didn't seem to care." She replied.
"She kept you from me too Morgan, i felt pain also." He reminded her.
"No, it's not the same." She rebutted, "You knew the hurt you were causing and you wanted it, you wanted her to feel pain and now i understand what that must have felt like for her. If anyone took my children away i would want them to pay."
"I am paying. Being in this place." He spat the words sourly.
"You don't deserve a family." Morgan told him, "And you will never be a part of mine."
"Then why did you come here?" He asked, angry now.
"I wanted you to know the real price for what you did. It isn't these prison walls." She replied, standing to leave.
"You don't want to do this." He said, and Morgan was unsure whether this was a threat or a warning.
"I think i do." She answered.
"I have a parole board hearing soon, i was hoping you would come and speak on my behalf." He replied.
"Is that why you wrote to me all this time?" She asked in disbelief.
"It would be good for my case if you were there." He stated, "I won't lie, but i wanted us to have a real relationship. I am your father Morgan."
"I won't do it." She replied, "I hope they never let you out of here." She could feel the tears welling up now threatening to reveal her weakness and in her haste to leave she forgot to pick up the children's photograph. Robson did not.
Morgan stumbled towards the door, tears blinding her vision and she ran straight into another visitor. It was the woman who had been there the last time she came.
"Watch it!" The woman scowled as Morgan collided with her, "Hey wait a minute, you're Robson Colt's daughter ain't ya?"
"Y-yes." Morgan stuttered.
"Betcha got a bunch o' money don't ya?" She demanded.
"What? No!" Morgan replied trying to get around the obnoxious woman, it was then that she realised that she was backed into a corner and the woman was not moving.
"Sure ya do, your old man's a celebrity ain't he." She stated. "He's crazy too, beat up my Garcia just last week an' i figure we're due some compensation."
"I told you i don't have any money." She replied, "And i don't have anything to do with my father anymore."
"Sure ya don't." The woman drawled sarcastically, "You get me twenty grand an' I'll leave you an' ya family alone." She said with menace.
"I-I can't." Morgan pleaded.
"Well you better get it or you'll be sorry." The woman threatened before walking away.
When Morgan arrived home she was shaking from the woman's threat. As she entered the lounge she found Declan working on another article as usual and realised that she had to tell him where she had been and just what had happened.
"Just a minute sweetie." He said holding up a finger to quiet her, "Just one more paragraph and I'm done."
Morgan sat opposite him waiting nervously for her time to speak, the more she turned over the events in her mind the more she realised that adding to Declan's pressures was the last thing she should do. He was working so hard just to keep them afloat if she told him of the woman's demands he may just buckle under the heaviness of the load.
Snapping his laptop closed he announced, "All done! So where have you been all day?"
"I went to see Robson." Morgan admitted.
"What? Why didn't you tell me?" He demanded.
"I just didn't want a big fuss like last time." She confessed, "Besides i wanted to tell him that i want nothing more to do with him."
"And you decided all this without even talking to me first!" He cried seemingly angry.
"I didn't realise i needed your permission." She shot back.
"I'm your husband Morgan, we shouldn't have secrets from each other." He pouted.
"I wasn't trying to be deceptive." She explained, "It's just since the kids were born i started to realise how bad what he did to my Mom really was. You know i actually felt sorry for him before but now i realise how wrong i was and i just had to tell him."
"And how did he take it?" Declan asked, his interest piqued.
"He's getting a parole hearing." Morgan revealed.
"When?" was all Declan asked.
"Soon. He wants me to speak for him, but i told him no way."
"That must have been tough." He soothed reaching for her hand and stroking it gently.
"It was but i realised something today, he isn't sorry for any of it." She told him.
"Do you think he'll get out?" Declan asked.
"I hope not." Morgan replied.
The next day Morgan met Liz for lunch and listened intently as her friend rattled off a list of problems with her latest boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend as he now was!
"Can you believe he had a fiancee the whole time!" Liz was exclaiming, Morgan frowned and consoled her as best she could but in truth she could very well believe it. Liz's love life was reminiscent of Bridget Jones, always disastrous.
"Do you like your job Liz?" Morgan asked interrupting the girls tirade.
"Huh? Oh yeah i guess it's okay."
"And you make good money right?"
"Morgan i fetch the coffee and sometime they let me use the photocopier." Liz replied rolling her eyes, "I make minimum wage and my boss is a massive creep!" She explained,
"Oh." Morgan replied dejectedly.
"Why what's going on?" Liz questioned.
"Just money is kinda tight right now and i wondered if maybe they needed someone to work nights."
"Morgan you work all day with the babies you can't work at night too, you'll pass out!" Liz exclaimed, "Have you ever thought of babysitting?"
"Um yeah i do it everyday you just said!" Morgan laughed.
"No i mean like other peoples kids. It'd be perfect you could watch other kids and your own all at the same time and you could be making some good money to boot!" Liz cried, as though she had just come up with the winning lottery numbers.
"You know Liz that's not a bad idea." Morgan considered. OK so it wouldn't net her the money to pay off the woman who had threatened her, but it would be a start. She headed over to city hall after leaving Liz and signed all the necessary paper work to register as a child minder. The department of child welfare would pay her a home visit and assess her and if she was approved she could start right away!
Not everyone would be happy to sit in a room filled with toddlers all day but Morgan thrived in her new role. she had only been open for business a week and already had three steady clients each paying fifty simoleans per day.
Although there were down sides, such as the smell from six toddlers which could get over powering to say the least!
Morgan hadn't heard from the woman who threatened her since the day at the prison but she new that she wouldn't be too far away. If she could have some of the money ready when she did show Morgan hoped that it would be enough to keep her at bay.
At least things had gotten better between her and Declan. Since she had started her business he had seemed so much more relaxed. As though a weight had been lifted from his mind. He was thoughtful and tender just like the man she had married.
"I was thinking maybe we should go away to celebrate our anniversary." Declan whispered.
"We can't afford to go away." She smiled, "But it's a lovely thought."
"Maybe we can afford it." He replied, kissing her nose. "I just sent a review of the Llama's game to Sports Weekly and you know how much they pay for a story."
"That's wonderful." She cried kissing his lips in joy. Sports Weekly was a big deal, Declan had tried a number of times to get published with them but had no luck, yet this time he seemed so sure Morgan couldn't help but feel his positivity.
"So i was thinking maybe Twiiki Island, or perhaps Stone Bay. What do you think? It could be the honeymoon we always dreamed of." Declan offered.
"How about i send the kids to my Moms for the weekend and we buy some new furniture?" She laughed.
"Oh the joys of being a grown up!" He laughed before kissing her again.
That night Morgan fell asleep in his arms just as she had used to in the early days of their marriage. Things were going to be alright, she had it all under control. She wasn't a little girl anymore she was a wife and a mother and she would keep her family's head above water at all costs.