Margie's Model to Motherhood

Chapter One

"You better make it a cold one today," the exhausted, mind weary beauty announced as she slid into a barstool in front of the owner of the Wired café/bar and her new friend. Folding her arms in front of her, she let her head drop dejectedly onto the mahogany countertop, releasing a long, pent up, much needed sigh of aggravation.

"What," the older woman teased her, laughing softly to herself, "no difficult to pronounce let alone spell, remember, or make coffee concoction today? Now I know you had a bad afternoon if you're already hitting the hard stuff."

"Bad doesn't even begin to describe the last several hours I've had to live through," the blonde grumbled under her breath. With a wrinkled brow, she looked up at the bartender across from her and watched as her confidant and advice giver worked diligently to make her drink. After a moment, the tall glass filled with icy cold goodness was placed in front of her, of course on a coaster to prevent a water ring on the cherished countertop, and the drink maker, one Margaret – "Margie" – Miller was waiting patiently, hands on hips and interest piqued, for her younger friend to share the story of her terrible day. She knew it wouldn't take long for it never did, and, after one quick sip of the beverage in front of her, the 24 year old, blue eyed, lonely woman looked up and shrugged her slender shoulders dejectedly. "It's just tough," she lamented, her eyes misting over with a fine sheen of unshed tears.

"Everything worth having or doing in life is," Margie assured her. "Do you regret it though?"

"No, I don't. It was something I had to do for me, but I just wish that my life hadn't gotten to this point where moving to a town where I know no one, where I have no friends or connections, where I don't fit in was necessary."

"Marissa, that's not true," the older woman argued. "You do have friends. You have me, my husband…."

"Rob only tolerates me because you tell him he has to." With a rueful laugh, she pushed. "Admit it, if you didn't threaten him with having to sleep on the couch, alone, he'd never put up with my constant presence around your house the past two months."

"Fine, I'll admit that the two of your aren't best friends, but he doesn't mind you coming around, hon. In fact, he's conceded the point that it's nice having someone younger around to keep him hip, to make sure that he dresses in a somewhat fashionable manner, and he says that you're a good influence on the kids."

"Aw," Marissa gushed, winking at her friend, "Rob's just a big, old softy who's wrapped around your little finger, isn't he?"

"Trust me, it's not my finger he's wrapped around, and you've made a bigger impression upon my family than you think. However," the wise woman veered the topic back on track, "I don't think the reason you're upset has anything to do with me, my husband, or my kids. What's really got you so down?"

"It's nothing, really," the blonde dismissed her own frustrations. "I'm just overreacting."

"Sweetie, I don't care if you're making a big deal out of nothing or not. You are upset, and I want to know why. Was someone giving you a hard time, because, if they were, I'll…"

"No, Margie, it was nothing like that," the younger of the two women reassured. "The day just started off on the wrong foot and got worse from there. I woke up this morning, late, because I forgot to set my alarm the night before, then I couldn't find any clean bras…"

"Oh, please," the short, brunette complained, "like it even matters if you wear a bra. Honey, you're so small, those things practically disappear in the wrong light."

Scowling, Marissa growled, "shut up, Margaret! Not all of us have had three kids, so extract those claws and let me finish." After taking a deep breath and another sip of her drink, she continued. "Anyway, as I was saying, things started off bad this morning. By the time I got out of the house and was on my way to work, I discovered a message on my phone from my mother…"

"What is it you call her again," the older woman interrupted. "I remember it being a rather flattering endearment."

"The Devil Incarnate," Marissa replied easily, "and she was calling not to see how I was or to check up on me but to demand that I 'give up this foolish, independent business and return home where I belong.' Those are her words, not mine. Of course, I deleted that message, but her words had me so upset that I wasn't watching where I was going, tripped, and ended up not only breaking my favorite pair of sandals but cutting up both of my knees. See," she pointed out, lifting one leg at a time to show the owner of the café/bar, "and you know that's going to be painful when I continue working on sanding the floors."

"I'll get you a pair of Sarah's volleyball kneepads," Margie offered. "They'll help, but, knowing you, there's more, so keep venting."

"Of course there's more," the younger woman lamented. "There always is when a day starts off on the wrong foot." Shaking her head slightly, she continued. "So, I get to the school only to find out that all three of my proposals were turned down. Not only will the kids have to share textbooks, because there aren't enough to go around my overly crowded class – imagine forty two students in one homeroom – but there's also not enough money in the budget this year for a field trip, and I can't repaint the classroom."

"The budget issues don't surprise me, hon; this is Chino after all. The school systems here are notorious for skimping on the educational funds and dumping all their resources into the athletics, but it is rather ridiculous that they wouldn't grant you a few gallons of paint to get rid of the purple walls."

"And it's not just any purple; it's like the color love child of Barney the dinosaur and one of Liberace's sequined suits. No child can really concentrate in a room like that."

"How much did you ask for to redecorate?"

"None," Marissa exploded, waving her hands erratically to emphasize her point. "All I requested was the permission to do it. I have the supplies, the time, and the energy to do the work myself. The room's small; I could have had it primed, painted, and completely dry in two days, completely ready for the first day of school. It's like they didn't even read my proposal, like they just saw the word change and immediately gave it their rejection."

"I know you don't want to hear this," Margie cautioned, "but it could have been rejected simply because YOU asked for it. Face it, Marissa, you're the new girl in town, and it's not like you're from Riverside or even Long Beach. You're Marissa Cooper, Newport Beach's prom queen, golden child, the girl every mother wants their soon-to-be lawyer, doctor, or corporate executive to marry. You're Mom runs one of the most influential and successful investment firms on the West Coast, your sister was the runner-up last year in the Miss California pageant, and your Dad is best friends and golfing buddies with just about every important man in Southern California. People see you here in Chino, and they instantly think this is a game to you, that you're making fun of our town and our lifestyle, that this is simply a distraction for you and you'll run back to Mommy and Daddy within the first year as soon as things get really tough."

"And if anyone would take five seconds to do a little bit of research," the younger woman snapped, "they'd realize that the public image of my family is just that, an image, an illusion, a ruse. My Mom only took over my Dad's business when I was in high school, because the town's good ol' boy, Jimmy Cooper, had decided to embezzle from his own company, my sister is a complete fake right down to her surgically enhanced bust line, drug induced waist size, and illegally paid for college degree, and my Dad is a shadow of his former self, my Mom's puppet that she controls to further her own career. As for me, anyone with half a brain and dial-up could go online and read the numerous articles pertaining to my very public, very scandalous feud with my Mother. They would see that I left home when I was eighteen, put myself through college, and have supported myself for the past six years, they would see that I left Harbor before I could be fired because the school did not agree with my stance on lowering tuition, on allowing students who show outstanding academic achievement from the surrounding, poorer communities to attend the school on a scholarship, or my proof that school officials were taking bribes of various means to pass students or let them off the hook when they were in trouble. The institution is a cesspool of illegal activities disguised under a good name, money, and society influence just like the town it is a part of."

"Honey, you know that, and I know that, but no one around here does, and no one else around here cares enough to take the five minutes it would require to look you up. So, until they learn to accept you, you're going to have to tough it out, smile through it, and continue coming in here for your root beer floats when you're having a bad day. As for the eggplant walls, there are no rules about hanging things on the walls, so we'll just have to cover every square inch of that square monstrosity with thought provoking, soothing posters. Somehow, we'll bring the field trip to the kids, and I'll help you take up a collection here to pay for extra textbooks."

"Thanks, Margie, you really don't have to help me, but I do appreciate it. But it's more than that though," Marissa confessed, letting a lone tear escape her wide, sapphire eyes. "Sylvia Plath died."

Stifling a laugh, Margie replied, "I know she died, a long time ago, because she killed herself."

"No, not the poet," the younger woman argued, "my pet goldfish."

Chuckling, the petite brunette commiserated, "they tend to do that. What was it this time though, suicide via the oven?"

Ignoring the joke, Marissa explained, "but I'd had her for seven years, and she was the best goldfish anyone could ask for, slightly moody like her namesake, but still pleasant enough."

"You had a goldfish for seven years," Margie asked incredulously. "Most of the time those things die within seven hours!"

"I won her at the kickoff carnival my senior year; she was my first pet, went with me to college, and now she's dead."

Sliding out from behind the bar, a banana milkshake in her hand, the older woman took a seat beside her young friend. "That's it," she announced, "there's to be no more wallowing, at least, not in my presence. Sure, you had a bad day; shit happens, but we're here, we're both healthy, you have a new job, your freedom from your family, and a new house to tell me about, and I just so happen to need your help picking out a new pool table. So, either put a smile on that gorgeous face of yours or I'm going to pinch your cheeks until the corners of your mouth lift on their own accord due to survival instincts, and then you're going to drink your float and relax. You've only been here for two months, darlin'. It'll get better, I promise."

"Hey there, Ryan," Margie greeted the young father who had just claimed a table in a dark corner of the café/bar. "What brings you by today, and who put that adorable grimace on your handsome face? I haven't seen you around here in a while, been busy?" When he refused to answer, she kept talking, hoping to elicit some form of a response from him. "Can I get you anything, on the house? It's been a slow afternoon, so I could bring you over something to eat or drink, and we could talk about whatever is upsetting you. It seems to be par for the course…seeing as how I spent the last hour and a half with Marissa."

"Who?"

"Oh, Marissa," the older woman pretended as if she had simply mentioned the blonde's name on a whim instead of on purpose, "she's just a friend of mine who also had a bad day. In fact, you just missed her. She would have been the pretty, young woman you passed when you were coming in. She's new in town, your age; I should introduce you to her sometime."

"I'm sure any friend of yours is a good person, Margie," Ryan replied, offering her a wan smile, "but the last thing she needs, if she's new here, is to meet me. At least save her from that headache."

"Aw, you're not that bad, kid," the petite brunette disagreed with him, playfully punching his shoulder. "Now, tell me what I can get you, hold out my chair for me when I come back, and tell me what's wrong. I'm not letting you go home in this kind of mood."

"Make it an iced tea," he requested. "You know me, always living dangerously."

"Coming right up, hon," the older woman agreed, patting him on the back before disappearing behind the bar. Two minutes later, she reappeared, an iced tea in one hand and a root beer float in another. "That friend of mine had one of these earlier," she referenced the drink in her hand, "and, while I was making yours, it sounded good to me. Besides, Marissa drinks them when she's having a bad day, and I've realized I'm having one, too."

"How so?"

"Well, it's come to my attention that I eat and drink most of my profits. Guess it's a good thing the café is really only a way for me to escape from home, to socialize. My real job has to pay not only for this place but also my real bills."

"Hard to believe you can make a living hacking, isn't it," Ryan teased her.

"It's not hacking," Margie defended. "I'm an online detective, privately employed. Besides," she countered, kicking him under the table, "we're not supposed to be talking about me; you're supposed to be unburdening your soul….or at least that chip on your shoulder."

"Really, it's not that big of a deal, and you'd think I'd be used to it by now."

"I see," the older woman sighed, leaning back in her chair and taking a large drink of her float. "Women problems."

"No, WOMAN problems," Ryan corrected her, "like always. Does it really ever change with me?"

Curious and wanting to help him, the brown haired, green eyed confidant asked, "what did Theresa do now?"

"It's more like what she didn't do." Scrubbing a work worn hand over his face, the younger man slumped into his chair and pushed the ice cubes in his tea around before explaining. "She called me today, the first phone call in over six months, interrupted me at work, and then hung up before we could even discuss what's really going on, what's really important."

"And what's that?"

"She left," he replied, his eyes void of any feeling. "It's been three years since she walked out of our home, and, to tell you the truth, I've realized it was a relief to me, but I'm not the only person she left behind all those years ago. She has responsibilities here, connections, people who matter to me and should matter to her, but she never, not even once, asked about them. I had to bring them up, and, when I did, you should have seen how quickly she hung up. There was no promises to call again soon, no word on how she's doing, no concern for anyone else but herself. Nothing."

"What did she call for then," Margie inquired. "I mean, I know there's nothing special about today, no one's birthday or anniversary. What made her call now for no reason?"

"She was looking for an old pair of shoes that she thought she might have left behind. Shoes," Ryan complained, pushing his drink aside, "of all things, shoes! She doesn't worry about the fact that she dumped me after seven years with no explanation, she never once apologized for leaving her family without so much as a letter or a phone call, and, worst of all, she never once even asked about Joaquin. What kind of woman does that?"

"A woman that doesn't deserve the good things life gives her, the kind of woman you don't belong with," the owner of the café/bar replied emphatically. "Like you said, hon, it's been three years since she's left, six months since she's called you, so don't let a few minutes of a phone conversation that really doesn't matter ruin your day. You have too many good things going for you. Now, drink up," she ordered, "and go home, so I can turn the place over to my night crew, find some take out that can easily be played off as homemade, and see my 40 going on 4 year old husband and three kids. Miss Theresa – 'I'm too good for a family or responsibilities' - Gutierrez is not going to mess with our evenings. Buck up, partner," Margie ordered, standing up from the table and ruffling her friend's hair. "Things are going to get better, I promise." Ryan never noticed the mischievous twinkle in her smiling eyes, a twinkle that would have immediately notified him that Margaret – "Margie" – Miller was up to something.

"Mommy's home," Marissa announced as she pushed through the back door which opened up into her still yet to be remodeled kitchen, her arms laden down with bags of sandpaper, stain, volleyball kneepads from Sarah, Margie's oldest daughter, tacos from the local Mexican takeout restaurant, and her mail. "Come on, E.E., Edgar, Emily, and Dr. Seuss," she called for her two long eared, light brown bunnies, one white, long haired, reclusive cat, and one flamboyant puppy, respectively. "It's dinner time!"

Twenty minutes later, the animals were fed, Marissa was fed, all four of her tacos, each one with enough hot sauce to supply a party of masochistic jalapeño crazed diners, consumed too quickly to be enjoyed, and her supplies were arranged and prepared for a night of hard, back breaking manual labor. Currently, she was working on refinishing the hardwood floors that spanned her entire new home, and there was nothing Marissa Cooper enjoyed more than remodeling.

It had all started her sophomore year of college when her Mother had made an unannounced visit to see her in college, disrupting the life she had made for herself at Arizona State University. In just one weekend, Julie managed to sleep with several frat boys, one of which Marissa had had a crush on, become fast but quickly forgotten friends with two of her sorority sisters, and drive her daughter to clean. When cleaning the entire sorority house from attic to basement had not resolved her aggression, Marissa had decided to tear up the old carpet in her bedroom and redo the floors with the help of Bob Vila and The Learning Channel, and, by the time she graduated, the entire seven bedroom, three bathroom, multiple story house had been remodeled and Marissa had a new hobby. The hobby had turned into a passion when she bought her first house after college, a small, two bedroom cottage outside of Newport, and then the hobby had turned into a business when she sold her first home for a nice, hefty profit, enough money to purchase a new home in a rundown community without taking out a loan so that she could repeat the process again.

No one understood her interest in house flipping. Her old friends in Newport, few that they were, had deemed the projects a waste of time. Why strip, paint, and shingle when you could shop, tan, and go to a spa? Her sister had complained about the mess, declaring the hobby a disaster for her manicure and hell on her hair. Jimmy, ever the man to sit back and let others take care of him, wondered why she would want to do all the work herself when it was so easily contracted out. 'Just let your Mother pay for it,' he had often told her, and, speaking of Julie, her disapproval had been the most unexpected and harshest to take. Instead of applauding her oldest daughter on a job well done and praising her ability to turn a profit, Julie had reprimanded her for taking such a financial risk, claiming real estate was not a business she was smart enough or ruthless enough to take on. That had been the final straw, and, after hearing her Mom's comments, Marissa had packed her bags, taken the job teaching at Chino Elementary School, and had moved her entire life away from her family, refusing to listen to any of their supposedly selfless advice or reprimands. Two months later, she was still the black sheep, the disrespectful, ungracious daughter, the heir gone awry, and it felt great.

With a pair of cutoff shorts and a paint splattered tank top on, hair tossed into a lumpy and crooked ponytail, her CD player droning on over and over again with a Spanish refresher audio book to help her recall the language she had barely passed freshman year of college, and her faithful dog at her side, Marissa worked on into the late evening hours, the time disappearing along with her cares as the years of paint and carpet glue were worked away by the diligent attention of her skilled and practiced hands.

"I offered you the position of Vice President, a job where you would have been able to work and learn at my side, and you turned me down for this: a rundown California bungalow, greasy take out, and manual labor? I know you're proud, Marissa, but don't you think you're taking it to the extreme here? It's time to grow up, to get rid of these childhood fantasies of independence and altruism; you live in the real world now, and, eventually, I'm not going to be here to clean up your messes any longer."

The unwanted and uninvited guest would not have had to talk to inform her daughter that she had arrived. The shoes, next season's Manolo Blahniks, the perfume, the unique scent created just for her as a Christmas gift from Calvin Klein, and the attitude, disdain laced with embarrassment, contempt, and disappointment, screamed Julie Cooper.

"Who asked you to clean up anything, Mother," the younger woman countered, standing up and smiling softly to herself as she noticed her dog sit and come to attention at her slightest movement. "And, for that matter, who said you were welcome here?"

"The door wasn't locked, which is an invitation for theft in this neighborhood if I ever saw one, and you weren't answering your phone, so I took it upon myself to drive down here and check in on you. It would have been nice if you would have returned my calls, especially after I left a message this morning."

"I've been busy," Marissa explained without even bothering to look at the older woman. Taking a large drink of water, she wiped the wet residue off the top of her lip with the back of her hand and moved to go back to work.

"Oh, I can tell," Julie patronized her, slowly walking her way around the dusty, mid-remodel dining room. "Obviously, wallowing in self pity and dirt is more important than respecting and honoring your family's wishes."

"There's no self pity involved here, Mother, and this is not about me trying to rebel or cause problems for you. I left home, because it was the right thing to do for me. You have Caitlyn to mold into your successor, your heir, and I think we all know how malleable and easy to control she is."

"And she's also a few crayons short of a full box, you know it and so do I; she's not fit to take over the business, and, despite our differences and varying opinions, I've always respected your intelligence."

"If that was true," Marissa argued, "you wouldn't try to manipulate or control me. You would realize that I would see through your deceptions and would thwart them." Tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear, she approached the auburn haired woman and stood in front of her. "It's not that I'm ungrateful for the opportunity you want to give me, because I am, but I know that I wouldn't be happy living your life. I have my own dreams and ambitions, and, yeah, I might mess up once or twice while I'm trying to reach that pot of gold at the end of my own rainbow, but they'll be my mistakes, and I'll learn the lessons they have to offer, dust off my clothes, and get back up to try again."

"That's idealistic and foolish, so change your clothes, pack a few bags, and call the pound. I'll have one of my interns take care of this….investment," Julie ordered while glancing around the house. "Just be ready in fifteen minutes. I don't think I can stay here much longer than that without contacting some disease."

"I'm not leaving."

"Like hell you're not," her mother snapped, whipping off her designer sunglasses to glare at Marissa. "I didn't drive 45 minutes to simply waste a trip arguing with you. If you're determined to pave your own way in life, fine, but you're going to do that in Newport. People might not understand your determination, but they will respect your efforts for charity."

"Mom, this isn't charity," the blonde disagreed. "I happen to like teaching, I love children, and it's nice living in a place where people consider working hard to make your own way in the world instead of mooching off of your parents commendable. Like I've tried to tell you, my decision to live and work here has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I'm doing what I want not to hurt or embarrass you, but because I think this is what's right for me." Knowing her mother and the fact that her fear for the future of her company was the red head's more pressing concern, Marissa played her trump card. "Besides, you're Julie Cooper. I'm sure if anyone can figure out a way to ensure the business's prospects without having to rely upon either Caitlyn or myself to take it over someday, you can do it. All I ask is that you leave me alone and let me live my own life."

"This isn't over yet, young lady," Julie threatened, starting to make her way towards the front door. "Someday you're going to see how wrong you are and just how right I am, perhaps when you're ready to settle down and get married yourself. You'll want a fairytale wedding or a good life for your children, and, when that happens, you'll come groveling back to me. For your sake, I just hope I'm still as understanding as I am today."

"Oh, I'm not worried," Marissa reassured her mother. "After all, you definitely bring new meaning to the words compassion, tolerance, and empathy."

"Disrespect me now, but, someday, when you're a mother yourself, you'll realize just how lucky you were."

"I highly doubt it," the younger woman yelled to the retreating businesswoman's designer suit clad figure. However, she never made clear just what exactly she doubted.

"Alright, J, light's out. It's past your bedtime."

Settling down beside the eight year old boy, Ryan couldn't help but observe his son, his son who looked so much like the Mother that didn't want to know him or be in his life. The little boy was small for his age, short but athletic, with dark, almost black hair, naturally tanned skin, and eyes that were as clear and blue as the Pacific Ocean. They were the one thing he had inherited from his father. Although he looked like Theresa, he acted like his Dad, quiet, thoughtful, and always eager to learn and please. How someone could not love him, Ryan didn't know. To him, he was perfect.

"What are you reading," he asked his son, lying down on the twin sized bed beside Joaquin. "Is that a new book?"

"Yeah," the intelligent eight year old responded, closing the paperback and handing it to his Dad. "Sarah let me borrow it." Sarah was his babysitter during the summer months when the young teenager was off from school. "She said it was one of her favorites when she was a little girl, that Margie used to read it to her before she went to bed."

"A Wrinkle in Time, I've never read this one," Ryan said softly, his voice quiet to match that of his son's. "Do you like it so far?"

"It's okay," the little boy responded. "I'll let you know what I think of it when I finish it."

"So you'll give me your critique tomorrow afternoon when I get home from work?" Laughing, his son agreed. "So, tell me about your day. What did you do?"

"Sarah let me play on her laptop this morning while she washed dishes, and I found this new trail I thought we could try out some weekend."

"Sure," the father consented easily. "It's been too long since we took the dirt bikes up to the mountains. Maybe we could go during Labor Day weekend, make it an overnight trip. I should have three days off."

"Cool."

"What else did you do?"

"Not much," the eight year old shrugged. "I helped Robbie with his chores, showed him how he could mow patterns into the lawn."

"I bet Margie and Rob will love that," Ryan laughed. "What pattern did you show him?"

"Just a basic one," his son dismissed before continuing to talk. "Sarah took us on a picnic for lunch, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming. What about you," Joaquin asked, curious. "Was it a busy day at work, was that why you were late picking me up?"

"It wasn't bad," the older of the two Atwood boys answered. "I had to watch them remove that 125 year old oak tree from the new green on the eighth hole. I wish our yard was big enough to bring it here. Trees that old and beautiful should not be torn down, no matter how attractive a redesign of a golf course is."

"So definitely a bad day," the dark haired child commiserated. "Anything else happen?"

"I got a phone call this afternoon….from her."

"Did she ask about me," the little boy's voice dropped to a whisper, and he broke eye contact with his Father. "Did she say when she's going to come and see me again?"

"Not really, buddy," Ryan answered apologetically. "She sounded busy though," he lied, "so I bet she was just running late and didn't have time to."

Sighing rather dejectedly, Joaquin slid down under the covers and turned away from his Dad. "She never does."

"Yeah, but it's her loss," the blonde declared, "and with school starting back up for you next week, you'll be just as busy if not busier than she is, so you'll be the one who won't be able to make the time." When his son didn't say anything, he pressed. "Are you excited to start the third grade?"

"Not really," the eight year old replied, tossing over to lie on his back, "but I am kind of nervous."

"Why, you'll be great. You're the smartest person I know, kid or adult."

Chuckling, the little boy rejected his Dad's comment. "You're kind of biased, don't you think?"

"Nah," Ryan waved off his son's concerns. "Besides, how many eight year olds do you know who understand the word biased? I know I sure as hell didn't when I was your age."

"I'm not nervous about my schoolwork; I'm nervous about meeting my teacher. No one knows her, not even her name. Alex told me today that her friend Billy heard from his cousin Adam that she just moved here from Hollywood, that she hates kids but had to take the job because she lost a toe in a modeling accident when she was temporarily blinded by the flashbulbs from all the photographers."

"That's quite the story," Ryan chuckled, standing up to tuck his son in. "I'm sure Adam was exaggerating when he told Billy that, and what did Margie tell you about listening to Alex's stories?"

"She said not to," Joaquin conceded with a smirk. "Alright, I get what you're saying, Dad. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens."

"And in the meantime, you can come to work with me tomorrow, you can help me plan out the new plants for the remodeled greens, and then we can have lunch anywhere you want."

"What about Sunday," the little boy asked, eager to spend time with his Father. "Can we do something fun together, because it is the last day of summer break?"

"Anything you want, J," anything at all." Switching the lamp off on the bedside table, the small room was suddenly washed in darkness, and Ryan made his way to the open doorway. "Goodnight, Joaquin. I love you."

"I love you, too, Dad."

Closing the door but leaving it cracked so he could hear his son call out in case he needed something, Ryan made his way down the hall towards his own room, a slight smile lighting up his ruggedly handsome features. Margie had been right; in the grand scheme of things, Theresa leaving them really didn't matter. He had a wonderful eight year old little boy, a good life, and a promising future. Sure, in an ideal world, Joaquin would have a Mother and a Father, but one parent had been more than he had had growing up, and Ryan would do everything in his power to make sure that his son was happy. So far, so good.