Thank you to everybody who read or reviewed the last chapter. Also, thank you to everybody who added this story to his/her favorites or alerts. Also, thank you to those that sent PMs.
Judging by the time the story takes place this was supposed to be my winter season story but I'm horrible about getting these stories done before the actual holiday. (See April Fools' Day stories for 2011 and 2012) If I want to do a Valentine's Day story, I should probably start now. Does it still count if I wrote this story around Christmas? (Proofreading takes forever) Many gingerbread peeps were consumed during the writing of this chapter.
A/N: Just to clear up any confusion, technically, Maya is in the seventh grade but she takes some eighth-grade classes in her good areas such as math and science.
In this chapter, I'm trying to bridge the multiple back stories that we have for Topanga's parents into something sort of coherent. Again, I will be disregarding elements of canon that don't quite make sense.
Part two: The parenting styles of the Current and Former Spouses of Cory Matthews
One Week Earlier
On paper, Topanga Lawrence-Matthews has one child (She kept her last name after the divorce because she felt more like a Matthews then a Lawrence). However, when her date tonight asked her how many children she had she said three, two girls and one boy. All three were now teenagers (or would be tomorrow) and were driving her crazy with significant others and visits to the principal's office. Just last week, Josh threatened an eighth grader with castration resulting in her being called into the principal's office.
Now, legally Josh was hers. Emotionally, Josh was also hers, which was why she was the one who was called to the principal's office after the incident with the unnamed eighth-grader. When Allen and Amy died, she was there to pick up the pieces. She read him stories and held him as he cried. She was there to help him adjust from being a virtual only child to having a little sister and moving to a brand-new city.
They always understood each other. Maybe, it was because she spent so much time around him when he was little but she always felt more like another mother to Josh, then sister-in-law. Maybe that's why it was so easy for her to transition into that role after Amy died. It was definitely a lot easier for her then it was for Cory to transition from big brother to dad figure.
Then again, maybe she could identify so much with Josh because she felt like she lost her family too. Her biological family was slightly messed up. When she was little, she did have a family, even if her parents were held over hippies that sold books and made guitars. Then her sister joined the Peace Corps, her parents sold their bookstore, and went 'corporate', as Nebula would put it. They stopped caring about her. Eventually, they stopped caring about each other. Now, she hasn't spoken to either in nearly 5 years.
As she lost her real family, she gained a new one. Amy became the mom that she lost and Shawn and Eric were her big brothers that made up for her missing sister. Amy was definitely more of a mother to her than her biological mother ever was. It probably hurt her more to lose her than the fact that she was no longer on speaking terms with her actual mother. Amy was the woman who taught her how to be a mom and listened to her panicked phone calls every time Riley coughed. (Now, that she was dealing with teenagers, she really wished she could still make those calls.)
Out of respect for Amy's memory, she tried to do that for Josh. It was not easy taking care of an eight-year-old who lost both parents in a horrible car accident. It was made worse by the fact that her husband was having a major existential crisis. It took him losing his parents to realize a lot of things including the fact that she was more his best friend then his wife.
When she and Cory divorced, Josh was terrified that he was going to lose another mother figure. That was why she told Cory that Josh was staying with her. She said it was because she didn't want to split the kids up. The truth was she didn't want her son away from her.
Teenagers were hard. She knew exactly what Teenage boys were like because she had Shawn Hunter as a best friend and remembered the days of the two-week rule all too well. (Of course, it wasn't until Riley was a toddler that she figured out the real purpose of the two-week rule.)
Josh was almost 15 and a complete heartbreaker. She had no choice but to give him another version of the talk when she caught him making out with the 15-year-old Sasha Madison just a few weeks ago. That was awkward. She was extremely grateful that Cory had to do the menstruation talk with Riley because she was in Cancun for the biggest climate change meeting of the year.
Now what surprised her was she said she had two daughters, but she knows that it's true. She first met Maya when she was five years old and Shawn convinced her to volunteer with him. He said it would help her stress levels. All the children at Katie's kids were special but she knew Maya was different. She was a female version of Shawn, complete with chasing the little boys around the sandbox. She was definitely a charmer. But she was also on her own most of the time. That was definitely a Shawn thing. She also had a really screwed up family.
Topanga is not that surprise that Riley and Maya became best friends. It reminded Topanga of her and Shawn before junior high politics and competing for the same guy, without actually realizing it, messed things up. Maybe if she did realize what was happening, she would have bowed out gracefully, completely aware that she couldn't compete with Shawn and Cory's bond. It was completely impossible. But she wouldn't have Riley then, so everything worked out for the best.
She did what she could for her daughter's best friend including sleepovers and taking on the DC public school system. She also may have convinced her boss David that it would be better to just give Maya a scholarship to Friendship Academy instead of having her fight the DC public school system all the time.
When Maya's grandmother died, she wanted to take Maya in but things were a complete mess. Cory and she were fighting all the time and she was starting to lose the purpose in her job. She came to the point where she was convinced that no matter how hard she tried she couldn't change anything. Thankfully, Shawn stepped in and offered to take care of Maya even though Richard went away. She was thankful for that because she never liked the guy. He may have looked like an older version of Cory but the guy was a complete bastard.
That summer everything fell apart or maybe it came back together again (at the time she would go with the former but now she will go with the latter) she asked Shawn to leave for the summer and take Riley with him. She just knew things would come to a head and Riley did not need to see that. She also needed to know if her marriage would fall apart if Shawn wasn't there. She was right on all accounts. It took him 29 years but her husband finally came out and it only took his best friend being in another country for him to do it.
Cory offered to stay together but neither would be happy. She knew it would be better for Riley if they were two happy households, instead of one miserable one. Despite the angry phone calls from a certain English teacher, that she cannot stand, both Riley and Josh were very well-adjusted. Now years later, she knows that she made the right decision even though it was hard at the time.
As time goes on, she starts to see Maya as more than just Riley's best friend. It started when Maya told Topanga the real reason why the girls ran away to the National Zoo. Apparently, Riley overheard Topanga's conversation with Shawn but not the first part about how she did not want her eight-year-old daughter to see everything fall apart. Topanga knows from her parents own divorce that children see things completely differently than adults. She wouldn't tell Topanga what she was feeling but she did tell Maya and Maya told her.
Of course, that goes both ways because there were a lot of things that Maya never told Shawn about. For example, she blamed herself for him being so lonely when she first moved in with him. Despite Shawn trying to hide it, the then nine-year-old knew exactly why Richard disappeared or at least she thought she did and she was convinced that reason was her. Topanga never told Cory or Shawn about the nasty card with dead flowers that she received from Richard essentially telling her that now that he was out-of-the-way the days of her marriage were numbered. Again, the guy was not a nice person. It was obvious he was very jealous of Cory and Shawn's relationship.
However she wasn't like that. Because Topanga wanted her friends happy and she wanted her daughter happy therefore she agreed to play matchmaker for her ex-husband and the guy who was more like a brother to her then her actual sister. Such activities required lots of bonding time and therefore she was very close to Maya.
Although it was worth it when she saw the look on Maya's face when Shawn propose to Cory last year at her 'we passed Question Six' party. Everyone expected her to be angry that her ex-husband was getting remarried but she felt like she was gaining another co-parent in the war of the children. It was now three against three instead of one-on-one. Actually, she felt like she finally accomplished something. All her hard work at a job that she doesn't always like actually accomplished something good for once.
Of course, when she explained the entire crazy thing to the sweet guy that Angela set her up with tonight it does not go well. He really just doesn't get that she is still best friends with her ex-husband or that she's sort of serves as a mother figure to their foster daughter. He really doesn't get that she considers her ex-husband's husband practically a brother. The guy asked for the check when she said that she actually gave away her ex-husband at his wedding and was his best person.
This is why she ended up arriving back at her apartment at 8:23 PM, mentally vowing to never go out with one of Angela's blind dates again. She expects to come back to an empty apartment (unless Shawn had a deadline and was hiding in there so he could work in peace). The kids were supposed to be watching a movie at Cory and Shawn's apartment.
Instead, she walks into hear Maya dictating her paper in Riley's bedroom. The girl was so into dictating the paper that she didn't even realize that Topanga walked in to the apartment, so she just kept on dictating.
"Everyone was excited for the wedding, especially me. First there was a giant chocolate cake that I got to pick out. I also got to help with the menu and pick out my dress. As the wedding was happening at the Maryland shore, we went with beach appropriate formal." Maya then continued to give various details about the ceremony, including Eric causing a small fire during the rehearsal dinner. Let's just say that was another reason why Topanga was chosen as Cory's best person.
Topanga actually remember dress shopping. Yes, Shawn actually let his 12-year-old daughter choose the bridesmaid dresses. She also remembered taking her boss Daniel to the wedding with her. The week before, his wife of 20 years ran away with the gardener. Topanga thought it would be good for him to be at the shore. Of course, Maya had to include Daniel being at the wedding in her paper as well as, her own speculations as to why Daniel was at the wedding and they were completely off base. The guy was just a friend.
"The ceremony itself was very important to me for a lot of different reasons." Maya said finally getting away from the Daniel issue. "However, the most important of all was it symbolize that we were a real family, at least in the eyes of the state of Maryland. I was never part of a real family before." Topanga's eyes tear up a little bit and she understands completely what Maya means.
"Some may not agree with that because I don't live with my birth mom or father. Maybe they won't agree with that because I have two fathers and a Mommy Topanga (that's what Josh calls her) instead of the traditional mom and dad but this is my family." Maya pauses in her dictation most likely to correct a typo or add punctuation.
"As I said earlier, I don't know what happened to my sperm donor nor do I care. The woman who bore me never cared about me. I just had a grandmother who loved me dearly, so much that she made sure I would have a happy home after she died. She knew I would have a happy home with Shawn. I know it wasn't easy for him taking care of a little girl. I also know every time I speak to a boy he has the sudden urge to threaten him with extreme bodily harm but he's my father and that's how he shows that he loves me. That's what I love the most about him." Her voice starts to choke up so much as she is dictating that Maya needed to repeat this sentence to the computer twice. She also starts cursing at the computer before she moves on.
"I was also happy about the wedding because that meant that Cory was going to be my father too and not just because they're going to actually adopt me. Even when I just thought of him as Riley's dad he has always been nice to me. He never assumed that I was stupid just because I have trouble reading. He also never saw me as an inconvenience to his 'private time' with Shawn like other guys like Richard -who will remain nameless." Maya corrected herself before going on to more of the things she likes about Cory. He was already her favorite teacher. She also talked about how happy she was that Shawn had someone that really loved him.
"Some may argue that I miss out because I don't have a 'real mom' but I have Riley's mom. She has been there for me through learning disabilities and grandmother funerals. She was even the one who took me shopping for my first training bra." She remembered Shawn bagging her to do that for him.
"This is my family Ms. Ryan. They love me for me, no matter what you think. So I really think you should stop pinching Mr. Matthews because he is already in love with someone else and that person is my father." Unfortunately, she couldn't help but laugh and Maya heard her.
"You're still supposed to be on your date. I came over here so I could write without everybody hearing what I was going to put in the paper. Cory said it would be okay. How much of that did you hear?" Maya asked as she peaked her head out of the room.
"Things went badly and I left early. You know you're welcome here anytime, especially to do homework. Don't worry; I only heard your personal note to Ms. Ryan." Topanga lied. "You may not want to antagonize her."
"She antagonizes me on a regular basis. I decided to behave in kind and really I don't like her all over my dad's husband." Maya said with annoyance.
"I understand the thing about Cory, and she still did it even when we were married. She has issues. Are you having problems in her class?" Topanga asked with concern.
"I have a disability that makes it so I can't read or write without vast amounts of hard work and software, of course, I'm going to have trouble in an English class." Maya answered sarcastically. Topanga had a feeling that she wasn't telling her everything. Topanga has known the girl long enough to know that she has a tendency to keep painful things to herself and obviously something was going on in Ms. Ryan's class.
"You know that you can tell me anything. If Ms. Ryan is a problem, I need to know about it. Legally, she is supposed to provide reasonable accommodations for your disability." Topanga said finally.
"Ms. Ryan doesn't think anything is reasonable when it requires her to make the least bit of effort." Topanga heard Maya mumbled under breath.
"You're not going to sue the school again?" Maya asked slightly mortified.
"No, I will talk to Daniel. He's on the board." Maya smirked at that.
"Okay, why are you smiling?" Topanga asked the girl.
"Your boss likes you and I know you like him." Maya said in a singsong voice as if she was talking to Riley about the boys that they were both kind of in love with (by teenager standards).
"What are you talking about?" Topanga asked acting as if she didn't hear what Maya said about Daniel earlier.
"Daniel really likes you. How easy was it for you to get me a scholarship at Friendship Academy? He is always making excuses for lunch meeting, especially after his wife disappeared. Why else would he send the entire family to Tokyo and Oman? He lets Josh, Riley and I call him Daniel. Also unlike most of the other guys you have been dating, you don't have to explain your unique family situation." Maya explained using teenager logic.
"He is my boss." Topanga said giving her standard excuse.
"How often do you talk to him on the phone? Wasn't he sort of your date at my dad's wedding?" Maya asked raising an eyebrow.
"He's also a friend and his wife left him the week before. I was trying to cheer him up." She said as an excuse
"According to Josh, dad and Cory said they were always just friends before they added make out privileges. Daniel's daughter Chloe, who is in my eighth grade math class, says he really likes you and he's kind of depressed because her mom ran off with the gardener last summer. She says you are the only reason why he has not 'moved into a liquor bottle'."
She wasn't sure how to respond to that. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to respond to it. Although, if Maya was talking to Chloe, there may be more truth to this than Topanga wanted to acknowledge. She knew that the gardener thing was very true. Topanga was the only one in the office that knew the real reason why that particular marriage imploded and she kept it to herself.
"Why do I have a feeling you brought all this up just so I would stop asking questions about Ms. Ryan?" Topanga asked with a sigh.
"Because it's most likely true." Maya replied with a shrug.
"I don't like her that much either, but you need to still give her the respect that any teacher deserves. If you want, I can proofread your paper. I know you're worried about losing points due to voice recognition errors. Also, I would like to avoid getting called into her office again this year." The last part was mumbled under her breath.
"That's okay. Riley and I decided that we would not allow her parents to read these papers before we give them to Miss Ryan. I think Josh can tell the difference between 'sense' and 'since', even if I can't. He said he wouldn't mind looking over my paper." Maya quipped.
"So, I'm considered a parent?" She asked not sure how to take that.
"You were the one who took me to get a training bra. You're kind of the closest thing I have to a mom." She said bringing up the bra thing again.
"I've seen Josh's spelling tests and I'm not so sure about your faith in him. I won't force you to edit out anything related to the wedding, although, you probably should tone down any direct comments related to your English teacher." Topanga said tactfully.
"So you discovered our ingenious plan to make Miss Ryan stop hitting on Cory." She wanted to say something along the lines of 'Miss Ryan would have to walk in on 'fun Cory Shawn time' for her to stop but such comments would not be appropriate.
"I will only correct voice typos. I promise." Topanga said holding up a hand.
"Okay, but I'm only agreeing to this because for some reason the computer keeps misspelling Cory. I will email everything to you in the morning." She said in acquiescence.
On Saturday morning, Topanga read over the essay when Josh was at basketball practice and the girls were in Riley's room talking with Eric and his girlfriend via Skype. They were going over the plans for a very Matthew-Lawrence-Hunter Christmas or maybe Riley was thanking him for her VIP tickets for Justin Bieber's next concert that he sent her for her 13th birthday today. The actual birthday party will happen two days before Christmas when all the family where in town but tonight they were doing pizza and ice cream cake as a family.
She knew that Riley and Maya were planning something big for their first official family Christmas now that Shawn and Cory were married. She just hopes pyrotechnics are not involved. Actually, she just hopes that Eric doesn't burn the Christmas tree or apartment complex down when he arrives in eight days with said girlfriend. Her only hope is that Eric's new girlfriend can keep things from getting out of hand. The two apartments are going to be filled with family members and eggnog for almost an entire week.
As the girls talked with Eric, she started to read. If Topanga did not hear Maya dictate some of the paper she wouldn't believe it was written by the 13-year-old. It was good, very dark but Maya lived a very dark life. Everything was in there from being abandoned by her mother to her desire to belong to a real family. Topanga's eyes kept watering as she read.
She didn't have to fix too many things, surprisingly. The voice recognition software misspelled everybody's name and for some reason the software kept getting idea and ideal confused, but she was expecting much worse. She also had to keep her promise not to cut things out that made her uncomfortable and therefore she had to leave all the Daniel stuff in.
The wedding was a really big part of Maya's paper. Actually, Cory and Shawn were a major part of the paper, as well as, all the things the girls did to get those oblivious idiots to realize that they were very in love with each other. Cory would love for her to cut that out but Topanga knows that it needs to stay in there.
However, she figured that she should be nice and let Shawn know all about Maya's very inappropriate crush on Robin Love. (Yes, that is his real name.) The boy was a 10th grader. Unfortunately, she decided to tell Shawn in person and therefore used her key to go into her ex-husband's apartment instead of knocking like a sane person or sending a text message. Unfortunately she ended up seeing something that she really didn't want to see. She decided to get out of there as fast as possible. Fortunately, they were too preoccupied to notice her interrupting. She would tell Shawn all about his daughter's massive crush on a 10th grader on the way to work.
Because she walked in on Cory having 'private time' with his husband, she decided not to warn him about the impending explosion that will most likely have when Ms. Ryan saw the paper. She's a good person but she's not that gracious.
"No, my husband is not lying." Topanga almost yelled at the woman who managed to give her headache without even being in the same state. The crazy woman called her 15 minutes ago and her new assistant assumed it was best to put her phone call through, even though she was in the middle of the meeting with her boss Daniel. Okay, it was really a working lunch with an emphasis on the lunch aspect of it but really she should not have interrupted.
"Yes, he is married. Yes, he is married to another man. Yes, I really did serve as the best person at his wedding." Cory asked her because he wanted to avoid Eric burning down the beach. Jack came from Angola to be Shawn's best person. Angela served as one of the bridesmaids.
"But he left you for someone else. How could you do that?" Ms. Ryan asked her scandalized.
"I'm not explaining any of this to you." She said with an irritated sigh. "My personal life is not your concern, even if you do work with my ex-husband. I'm only clarifying this because you accused one of my children of being a liar and the other one of cheating." At that point, Topanga was on the verge of screaming.
"You only have one daughter in my class." Ms. Ryan said obviously not getting it. "Of course, she is going to lie in my class because you and your husband are obviously covering for her." Ms. Ryan said sounding slightly crazy.
At that point, Topanga was mentally going over the rules to have somebody committed in Maryland. Her boss Daniel was trying to not laugh.
"Maya did not cheat on her essay. I heard her dictate the essay. I read it myself and I can attest to the truthfulness of everything and the fact that she actually wrote it." Ms. Ryan tried to interrupt her again but Topanga felt it was best to just hang up the phone before she did something stupid.
"God, I hate that woman." Topanga said looking at Daniel as she threw her salad container in the trash.
"Chloe said something similar last year when her essay landed her in the school counselor's office." Topanga just shook her head.
"Nice to know she doesn't just do this to my children." She mumbled as she took a drink of water.
"What did the girls do this time that incurred the wrath of Ms. Ryan?" Daniel asked cautiously.
"They told the truth." Topanga said with a frustrated sigh.
"I thought that was a requirement of this assignment." Daniel said sarcastically. That's when she explained the whole situation with Ms. Ryan including the fact that she has been hitting on Cory since way before the divorce.
"So essentially your former husband's colleague has been trying to sleep with him since before the divorce and can't accept the fact that he's now married again. So therefore, she thinks everybody is lying." Daniel summarized with a snicker.
"Pretty much." Topanga said fighting the urge to put her head down on her desk.
"I will call Katrina now." He said using Principal Jones' first name. "I'm sure she can meet with you, Cory, and Shawn today." She knew this needed to go to the principal but at that point she felt she should just let Cory handle it. That was mostly because she didn't want to run the risk of punching out the woman. She has already threatened her with physical violence on more than one occasion.
"That's really not necessary." She started just as two separate messages showed up in her inbox. One was the transcript of a voicemail that Ms. Ryan left for Shawn, the other was Cory's account of what happened in the teacher's lounge.
"Actually on second thought, I think it is necessary. Check your iPad." She said forwarding her boss the messages. "I was really hoping for a peaceful Christmas season despite having my apartment taken over by teenagers and extended family." She said putting her head down on the desk.
"It's only peaceful when your children are in another country like my children will be this year. She who will not be named decided that she wants to be a mom for Christmas this year. I plan to be spending the holiday at the W Hotel consuming vast quantities of alcohol." If she didn't know him so well she would think that he was joking but that probably was his plan for Christmas 2013.
"I think I will keep the crazy kids and be thankful that Cory and I are still close enough that we don't need to do separate holidays." She said with half a smile, happy that she and Cory still have a pretty good relationship.
"We all can't be as lucky as you, hence the alcohol and staying in a hotel so I don't realize how empty the house is." Daniel said sadly.
"Or you could come over to a very Matthew-Lawrence-Hunter Christmas. There is volunteer work at Katie's Kids followed by Cory burning the turkey and Eric burning down the Christmas tree. Also, the girls do horrible things with mistletoe to get people to randomly make out. It was very interesting the Christmas after the divorce when Cory was still terrified of the fact he was sort of in love with Shawn." She explained.
"That must've been painful." Daniel said as he took a drink of his coffee.
"Actually, it was funny. Cory just kissed him on the cheek and Shawn went Crimson." She laughed at the memory.
"I wish I had your divorce." He said wistfully. "We are still fighting over the China."
"It probably helps that my husband turned out to be gay and in love with someone I actually like. Although, Shawn's freak out at my wedding probably should have been a tipoff." Topanga mumbled to herself.
"Better than the gardener?" Daniel asked.
Who the hell does that crazy woman think she is, accusing his daughters of cheating and lying? Shawn was furious when he first heard the message in his voicemail but mostly because Ms. Ryan ignored the fact that Maya was his daughter.
Maya may not be his child by blood but she was the child of his heart. She couldn't be more like him if they shared any DNA. Shawn just knew there was something special about this girl when he first met her a little over eight years ago. He just moved to the DC area and needed to preoccupy his self to keep them from thinking about why he started applying to jobs in the DC area as soon as he found out that Topanga was getting job offers in the area.
The kindergartner couldn't read but she could tell a good story. At the time, she was making her own Sesame Street story ideas. She was writing a song for Cookie Monster. As she got older and started struggling with school, he just knew there was something special about her. She was smarter than anybody ever gave her credit for.
Thanks to Cory forcing him to have a backup plan in case being a writer did not work out, he could recognize the signs of a learning disability a mile away. Shawn tried to help because she reminded him so much of himself. The fact that she was instantly drawn to Riley solidified that fact. The girl was a mix between Cory and Topanga, so it made perfect sense to him.
In addition to having similar taste in friends and struggling with school work, they both dealt with moms that ran away. They both lost their only stable parental figure at a young age. At least he was 19, almost 20, when his father died. Maya was barely 8 years old when she lost her grandmother to cancer. 'Grandmother' was their biological relationship but Mildred was her mother. She was a strong woman to survive everything she dealt with. Her husband left long ago. Her oldest son died in Iraq and her middle daughter was stationed in Afghanistan.
The youngest, Maya's mother, was the one who took a bad road. The drugs got worse after her brother died and she abandoned Maya to be raised by her mother. Shawn didn't know where she was anymore but no one did. They didn't even know where to find her when her mother died. Needless to say, she couldn't exactly take care of an eight-year-old kid, let alone one that had special needs.
Shawn was shocked when Mildred asked him to raise Maya after she died. At that point, Shawn thought the closest he would ever get to fatherhood was babysitting Riley and Josh. Angela was the only woman he ever loved but they just weren't compatible. She loved to travel the world and he wanted a home. He craved stability. It makes sense to him that she was in the Foreign Service now. But he could never take that life of packing up every couple years and leaving everything behind. To Angela, it was normal.
Of course, Angela knew him better than he knew himself and said it was not the white picket fence suburbia life he craved but rather the stability of Cory. Because Cory was already happily married at that point, he didn't think that Angela meant it the way she did, even if she knew that he was the equal opportunity type. Cory didn't even know that until Riley was a toddler.
Also, his then boyfriend Richard wasn't exactly the family type and believed the best thing about being gay was you would never have to worry about children. He didn't like Shawn's volunteer work in Anacostia and he really wasn't happy when his fellow volunteer Sharon convinced him to become a certified foster parent just in case. Thinking back on it now, he wondered if she knew about the Maya situation. By that point, Shawn was well aware that if he wanted to stay with Richard, children were not going to happen. (According to Angela, the only reason why he was with Richard was because he looked like an older version of Cory.)
Than he was asked to take care of Maya on her grandmother's death bed and things changed. It was an easy choice for him to make, especially because Riley was so happy. Actually, everybody was happy. Topanga hugged him. He wanted Maya. He wanted a family. He also wanted somebody that actually loved him and it wasn't going to be Richard. He would be happy with someone that actually liked him and not the person that they wanted to make him into. That was never going to be Richard.
Becoming a single-parent was an interesting experience. There are so many things he doesn't know about young girls. Thankfully he had Topanga and Cory. Also, Angela was in the country for Japanese training, which was a really big help. So he wasn't completely alone.
Also, because Angela was there she felt it was time for her to push the Cory issue. When he realized that the only time he was happy was when he was hanging out with his best friend he was forced to realize that he was completely in love with a married man and had no idea what to do. It became even more complicated when everybody but Cory realized that his marriage was coming undone. Of course, unlike Topanga, Shawn is not aware he was a major contributing factor and that there was the slightest possibility that Cory may return his feelings.
His normal response when things become overwhelming was to run away. This time he ran away to Angola with children in tow for his brother's wedding. The children came with him because Topanga asked him to provide a break and a safe haven. If it wasn't for the wedding he would find some other excuse. Maybe if he left everything would be okay and the way it was before when he returned.
Eventually, everything was okay, or became okay, but it wasn't the same. Cory and Topanga broke up in the most amicable way possible. They didn't even fight about wedding presents.
He was expecting to lose one of his friends in this fiasco but he didn't. Cory moved in with him with out much of a discussion and six months after that Topanga was telling him that her ex-husband was into him. They took the subway together every morning because their offices were only three blocks from each other and he didn't like the idea of her walking around alone. You'll be amazed what you talk about when stuck on Metro. They definitely got close and Topanga had a tendency to bring things up that he wouldn't talk about otherwise during these times. When you're stuck on a tiny subway car so filled with people that it resembles a can of sardines, you can not exactly run away when the object of your affections' ex-wife starts asking about your intentions.
Somehow on one of these morning commutes, she got Shawn to confess to the fact that he's had a crush on his best friend since puberty. She is not angry or at least she's not angry at him. She is angry at herself for not seeing that earlier or at least before the wedding. Of course, her reaction initially was to give him a hug and tell him everything would be okay. Then she shocked him by telling Shawn that she was okay with him pursuing Cory.
Of course, nothing happened until that summer when Topanga's job allowed her to fly her entire family out to Japan and apparently he was family. He's kind of surprised by what happened. The whole thing involved lots of alcohol, meddling children, and former significant others that know him and Cory too well. He will never forget that first kiss. It was rough and hard but gentle at the same time. The air seemed to stand still in his heart stopped for a moment. He had kissed a lot of people by that point but he never felt something that powerful before.
The whole experience was terrifying because almost a decade after she said it, Shawn absolutely understands what Angela meant back then. He wasn't looking for a home, he already had it and that home was Cory. It always had been. It took a little while before the two were completely together. Then even longer for him to pop the question and it had nothing to do with the passage of Question Six. He was just terrified of losing his home.
Although, according to what he was reading on his phone Maya understood that all too well. Also, apparently she and Riley did a lot of scheming to get the two together. Now, he understands why the two were left alone so often right after the divorce. Maya wanted to make him happy so he wouldn't get rid of her. Reading that in her biography broke his heart.
Riley's biography was very similar to Maya's except she left out declarations of love for Justin Bieber. Although, Maya did declare her undying love for Robin Love. The guy was in the 10th grade but thankfully is still 15 because he's another super genius scholarship kid. He's one of Josh's basketball friends and spent way too much time around his 13-year-old daughter for Shawn's personal taste. He knows all too well what 15-year-old boys are like.
"Seriously, why did you not warn me about how bad her crush on Robin Love is? The guy is in the 10th grade. Thankfully, he is nice but he is too old for her." He said to Topanga as she slid into the seat next to him for the 30 minute cab ride to Friendship Academy in pre-rush-hour traffic. At least, he hopes it is just 30 minutes. Despite the fact that he will be losing his job come January, his boss would not let him leave any earlier than 3:30.
He hasn't told anybody yet about losing his job. As he learned from his childhood, getting laid off at Christmas is not fun for anyone. Maya doesn't ask for much but he still wants to give her the type of life that he did not have growing up. Of course, giving her a stable home would be doing just that despite how much she had materially.
"I knew I forgot to tell you something Monday. I tried to Saturday but you and Cory were occupied." She said sheepishly.
"Saturday morning before the birthday dinner?" He asked looking slightly ashamed. He was going to tell Cory about being laid off and instead they got distracted. That's why he asked Topanga to take the kids tonight so he can try again.
"Yes. I should've knocked or just send the text message." She said blushing this time.
"Sorry." He apologized.
"Don't apologize. I still should have said something later." She told him.
"It was probably better that we didn't know. I wasn't going to tell Maya, or Riley for that matter to change their papers just because Cory is afraid to be completely out where he works." He said this because he despises when other people tell him to change his articles just to keep angry message board posts to a minimum.
"I think it's more that he wants to avoid conflict. I wasn't going to tell Cory about that anyway. However, you did need to know about the 10th grader." She said with a sigh.
"Angela says this is God's way of getting back at me for the two week rule." Seriously he hopes that none of the things he did in high school to the majority of the female population (and one guy) are done with his daughter or rather daughters. Because let's be honest, Riley was his daughter too.
"They say the coolest playas and foulest heart breakers in the world, God get's you back, he makes you have precious little girls."Topanga said in a singsong voice practically quoting song lyrics.
"You're paraphrasing Nas?" He asked, sort of surprised.
"Daniel had that song on repeat a lot, especially after the incident with his oldest daughter Mercedes in the Mercedes." Topanga explained going scarlet again. He was asked about why she was spending so much time with her boss in his car but he wanted her to forget all about Saturday. Antagonizing her would not do that. Instead, he just raised an eyebrow before asking for clarification.
"Was this the thing with the fire hydrant?" He asked vaguely remembering Maya saying something about it. She was almost friends with Daniel's eighth-grade daughter Chloe but that was mostly because the girl was in desperate need of a math tutor and they were in the same class.
"The thing with a college boy in the back of the Mercedes." Topanga clarified in that explains why she was so red.
"Did you read Riley's essay?" Topanga asked tentatively.
"Yes, she's in love with Justin Bieber and Jorge Cruz. You need to be worried about that last part. Also, do you really cry every night back then?" That was the part that worried him. He hated the thought of causing her pain.
"I will answer that question, if you explain why you neglected to tell Cory that you may be losing your job." He forgot that Riley put that in there. How she knew that he was worried about losing his job, he will never know.
"There is no longer a 'maybe' about it. I found out for sure Friday that I will not be one of the eight people staying on when we make the digital transition. I tried to tell Cory Saturday and…" He trailed off smirking.
"You got distracted." She said blushing again.
"Very distracted. I was going to try again tonight." He said sadly.
"You'll find another job. You're good at what you do." She said actually hugging him.
"Except, the publishing industry is dying. Everybody is going digital." He said as he pulled away.
"There's always teaching. You're good with children." She suggested
"No, I'm just good at hiding my fear. So what about you and the crying?" He asked again.
"Didn't we have this conversation a few years ago after the divorce?" She said avoiding his question
"No, you shocked me by giving me your permission to date your ex-husband. If we were not trapped by three football players and a woman paying way too much attention to her phone, I may have tried to get out of there." He said honestly.
"The thing with Cory wasn't the only reason why I was crying. There was a lot going on at the time. I just started a new job that was not exactly what I thought it would be, moving to another state, Alan and Amy dying, and taking care of an eight-year-old who lost both his parents tragically. My husband becoming more distant and only happy when he was around you which was just one more thing." She said sadly.
"It was just overwhelming?" He prompted.
"Pretty much. Things are better now. I'm starting to not hate my job again. The work on question six helped a lot. I now have my best friend back. I also think I can successfully parent three teenagers without resorting to hiding." She said cheerily.
"It's easier when there is three of us. Now we just need to focus on the Jorge Cruz problem." He said with a sigh.
"I thought that you would be more worried about Robin?" Topanga asked slightly confused.
"Did you know that Jorge and Robin are the same age? Jorge was held back a year, probably for sports, and Robin was skipped ahead and his birthday is two days before the cutoff. Also, Cory overheard Jorge say that he would like to have Riley do to him what you most likely walked in on Saturday. Robin has yet to say anything similar." Shawn really did not like Jorge.
They arrived at the school in time to see Jorge talking to Riley. They were both easily able to scare the guy off before Topanga went to find coffee to calm down.
"Why did you do that?" Riley asked slightly annoyed as they walked into Cory's classroom.
"Stepdad's prerogative." He said smirking. "I don't like that guy. He is interested in one thing and it's not your conversational skills." Shawn said darkly.
"You're being paranoid. I don't know why you're being so protective. Angela told me all sorts of stories about you in high school and junior high. Dose the two week rule mean anything to you?" Riley asked with anger. Why does everyone keep bringing that up?
"It took me a while to figure out why I didn't want to stay with a girl for more than two weeks. Also, I wouldn't want you to date a guy like me and I think Jorge is worse." He said not wanting to tell Riley exactly what Jorge said about her. He wants to keep her as innocent as possible but he also remembers that at least one junior high student every year ends up pregnant at the ultra-posh Academy. He doesn't want it to be either of his daughters.
"I don't know. According to Angela you were the hottest boy in the entire high school and you actually are a nice person. Also, I think you would make a much better teacher than Ms. Ryan." She said trying to flatter him.
"That's only because I am sane." He mumbled to himself.
"I'm nice now but not back then. Was the entire thing with the essay an attempt to get rid of Ms. Ryan?" He asked knowing his stepdaughter just a little too well.
"I know you're not happy about her hitting on dad all the time."
"Yes, but your dad's not interested at all. You know that too." He told her. He knew he had nothing to worry about because Cory was very gay with a Topanga only exception.
"I still don't like it. I don't like how she talks about you. I really don't like how she treats Maya." So that's what this was really about.
"How exactly does she treat Maya?" Shawn asked Riley with concern.
"She told me not to say anything." Riley said quickly.
"That tells me something's going on. How bad is it? "He asked taking a deep breath.
"Really bad." Riley said before telling him about an incident three weeks ago where his daughter spent most of lunch crying in the bathroom because her English teacher said she was stupid along with other expletives. She also told him all about her plan to get rid of Ms. Ryan.
"I knew we should have read her essay." Cory said as soon as he sees Topanga walk into Ms. Jones's office. She quickly hands him a cup of coffee that she got from the teacher's lounge. Apparently a private school like this has one of those machines that lets you make whatever you want instead of a standard Mr. Coffee.
"You are the best ex-wife ever." Cory said taking a drink.
"I try." She said sitting next to him. "I also tried to get Riley to let me read her paper after I read Maya's essay. She wasn't going to let us."
"You raised Riley to be too independent." Cory said after a moment.
"We raised Riley to be independent," all three of us. She adds the last part mentally but she knows it's true.
"I still think it's all you." Cory said taking another drink of his coffee. Topanga doesn't agree but she doesn't say anything.
"How exactly did you get Maya to let you see her paper?" Cory asked.
"She's paranoid about typos and I think that Ms. Ryan is putting her work under a microscope because of her special needs. I also promised not to change anything. Although, I did convince her to take out anything that directly antagonized Ms. Ryan. Apparently she is completely in love with Robin Love." Cory just put his head in his hands at that.
"Oh." Cory said looking into his coffee cup. "He's in the 10th grade!"
"I know. Your husband said we should be more worried about Jorge. Don't worry, Shawn terrified him when we were coming into the building. He is currently talking with Riley about everything." Of the three, Shawn was the one most likely to get the full truth from Riley. He gets to play the cool step-dad card even after he scared off Riley's crush.
"See, this is why I love my husband. It is much easier when there's three of us." Cory said smiling.
"A lot easier. Although, I have a feeling we probably would have ended up waiting for Principal Jones no matter what. If we did see this ahead of time would we had forced her to change it?" Topanga asked. "On the way here, Shawn and I both agreed that we wouldn't have changed anything. Although, we both know you always worry about what other people think about you. The entire roller coaster incident comes to mind." She said with a smirk.
"I'm not overly concerned with what people think and I've been out since that therapy session to anybody that actually matters. I just want to be seen as the best history teacher ever at Friendship Academy not as the gay teacher. No, I would not have changed either girls' paper. The assignment was to write a truthful account of your personal history. This is Riley and Maya's truth even if it's more truthful than I'm comfortable with. According to the teacher's lounge, Ms. Ryan reacts badly to one student's history every year. Personally, I was expecting to be called in no matter what Maya included. I was in the room when she dictated the stuff about her mom. It was intense. She started crying so hard that she stopped dictating three times." Topanga remember that part of the paper and agreed with her ex-husband.
"Daniel said the same thing. Last year she suggested that Chloe see the school psychologist. Personally, I think she was just more upset about realizing that you are off the market." Topanga said with another smirk.
"So, it is Daniel now?" Cory asked raising an eyebrow.
"Yes and did she tell you that she invited him for Christmas?" Shawn said coming in and kissing Cory gently on the lips. Riley was behind him rolling her eyes.
"Now, if you did this in front of Ms. Ryan I wouldn't be in trouble for telling the truth." Riley mumbled under breath.
"I have a feeling that this meeting would have happened regardless." Ms. Jones said as she walked into the room with Ms. Ryan behind her.
"I thought this was supposed to be a meeting between myself and just Riley's parents. I don't know why Mister Hunter is here. Also, I don't think Riley should be here at the moment." Ms. Ryan said as she took the only empty seat in the room.
"Because he's my husband, therefore he gets to be here." Cory said forcefully, causing Ms. Ryan to make a face.
"You know that we allow stepparents to have a very active role in the lives of their children." Ms. Jones reminded her with a look of annoyance on her face.
"They're actually married!" Ms. Ryan said shocked.
"That sort of thing is legal in Maryland and The District now." Shawn retorted.
"Also after talking to Riley I realize this meeting is more about my daughter Maya then anything else."
"She is your foster child not your real daughter." As soon as Ms. Ryan said it, she just knew Shawn was going to go off. She and Cory each grabbed a hand to keep him from physically attacking the woman.
"She is my daughter and from what I've been told, you have been nasty to her because of her disability." Shawn said in a sharp voice, just an octet below yelling. "Riley please tell everyone what you told me earlier."
"Do I have to?" Riley asked almost pleading with Shawn.
"Yes." He said simply.
"Okay, I'm not that happy with Ms. Ryan for constantly hitting on my dad, even though he's been in a committed relationship for all but about nine months during their acquaintance. However, I'm more upset about the way that she's been treating Maya in class." Riley explained.
"What has been going on?" Principal Jones asked with concern.
"You're actually going to believe anything that habitual liar has to say. It's just going to be my word against hers." She spat out.
"My mom's a lawyer and she used to take me with her to study groups when I was little. I know to always to back myself up with hard evidence. IPhones are wonderful." That's when Riley handed over Maya's phone with a video of Ms. Ryan's class. It had to be taken today because Maya was wearing the same outfit from breakfast. There was Ms. Ryan saying some pretty nasty things to Maya, as some students just laughed. She was shocked that Maya didn't break down in tears after that. According to Riley, she did in the bathroom later.
"I don't want her anywhere near my daughter." Topanga said after Riley was done speaking.
"I didn't do anything to your little girl, just the little orphan girl that shouldn't be at the school in the first place." Ms. Ryan spat out bitterly.
"I'm talking about Maya. Trust me she deserves to be here more than 99% of the students here, my other daughter included." Topanga said barely keeping her anger in check.
"I agree with you Ms. Matthews. I need a few minutes to speak to Ms. Ryan alone. Cory if you can take your family to your classroom, I will speak to you in a few minutes." Ms. Jones seemed so angry that Topanga didn't even bother to correct her about the last name. Besides, she rather be called Ms. Matthews then Ms. Lawrence because she still is a Matthews despite the divorce papers.
Riley knew she was in serious trouble by the fact that not one of her parents said a single word as they walked back to the classroom. Considering there were three people involved that was quite a feat. Shawn excused himself when they passed by Mr. Robbins's classroom to get Maya.
"If Ms. Ryan was being so bad to Maya why didn't you say anything to any of us?" Her dad asked looking directly at her.
"Maya told me not to." Her mom looked at her father for a moment as they nodded at each other.
"Didn't we have a conversation when you were younger about how there are certain secrets between friends that you shouldn't keep? Maya being verbally abused by a teacher qualified as one of those things you don't keep to yourself." Her father chastised. He is very unhappy at the moment.
"So I'm in trouble for telling the truth?" Riley asked innocently.
"You're in trouble for not telling us that there was a problem." Her mother explained. "This was something that your father, Shawn, and I should have handled, not you."
"Grounded?" She looked up to see both parents nodding yes. Yet, as they took away her Facebook, cell phone, and non-academic computer privileges she felt it was still worth it.
There are moments as a parent where one isn't exactly sure what to say or do. Actually, he was mostly worried about the fact that Maya didn't feel comfortable letting him know that she was being bullied by her English teacher (That was the only way to describe what the supposed teacher was doing to his daughter). He stood outside the science classroom as her teacher read Maya her test. He was a little rusty on eighth grade science but he is sure that she got most of the questions right.
He can't believe Maya kept this from him but then again this was something he would've done. If he was having problems with a teacher, he wouldn't say anything. He didn't trust anyone except for Cory and maybe Mister Feeney. He couldn't be that upset. Maya really was his daughter. They were too much alike for his own sanity. He was broken out of his thoughts by Ms. Jones walking up to him.
"I'm waiting for Maya to finish her science test." He said motioning to the occupied classroom.
"Mr. Robbins is really good about that sort of thing. At least, I don't have to worry about him not accommodating students' unique needs." That last part was mumbled under her breath.
"I don't want Maya to go back to Ms. Ryan's classroom next year, even if I have to pull her out of the school." Shawn threatened. Maya would be better off in the public school system then with a poisonous teacher liked Ms. Ryan. She was like the anti-Cory. Also, home schooling was an option.
"Unlike a lot of the other parents at the school, I've actually had some teaching experience and pretty sure calling that students stupid is on the list of things not to do in the classroom. There's no excuse for what she did."
"I think you're right and she will be on administrative leave for the near future." He smiled at that. "When did you teach?" She asked after a moment.
"Back in New York before I got my job at Politics daily. I may go back to it now that the paper is transitioning to digital only." He said putting the idea out there that he was thinking about getting into teaching again. It wouldn't hurt.
"Please tell me you are an English teacher and you have a license to teach in Maryland?" She almost sounded desperate.
"Yes and for DC too. I work with Katie's Kids in Anacostia and your predecessor always had a horrible time getting English substitute teachers. I have filled in in a few times for Ms. Ryan over the years." Ms. Jones just smiled at his response.
"How do you feel about doing it permanently?"
To be concluded.
I'm planning one more short chapter to finish off this arc. I'm also going to do another short story in this universe if there is a desire. This story is essentially a pilot. I'm willing to do prequels. Let me know what you want to see.