Morgan flushed the toilet as she watched the dinner she had just eaten disappear down the plumbing. Her gut twisted uncomfortably. She hadn’t meant to vomit up her food tonight. It had just happened. In fact, Morgan could no longer keep any food down for longer than a few minutes anymore. Her body had become so used to heaving up whatever she put into it that she couldn’t control when she threw up anymore. Whether she wanted to or not, Morgan was throwing up every single meal she ate.

“Morgan? Are you okay, Honey?” her step-father called through the door. “You’ve been in there quite a while.”

“Uh, yeah. Fine. Just fixing my makeup,” she lied quickly. She heard his footsteps walking away and she sighed. Miraj knew something was amiss with Morgan, he just didn’t know what. Morgan felt so much guilt for worrying him. He was a good dad to her. He kissed her goodnight and helped her with her homework and asked her how her day was and hugged her whenever she came home crying because she’d been bullied at school. He didn’t treat her like she was any less important to him than William. Maybe because he knows you’re his real daughter, she thought, then shook her head. Asking questions about her father made her mother cry. Whatever happened between her mother and her real father had obviously left her hurt, and it wasn’t worth putting her mom through whatever pain she went through again.

Suddenly, her mother’s panicked voice met her ears and Morgan let herself out of the bathroom to see what she was shouting about. She found her mom pacing anxiously around the living room with the phone to her ear. “Julie calm down! I can’t understand a word you’re saying! What happened?!?” Margaret paused to let her sister speak and her face quickly went from concerned to disgusted. “Well, does he know they’re related? I mean, our family branches out in a lot of places in this town… Really? I- I don’t know what to say, Jules. I guess there’s nothing you can do about it now except try to make the situation work. I know… call me if you need me. Okay, I’m going to send security to barricade both our properties. The press is going to be all over this. Bye,” she sighed, hanging up the phone.

“What was that about?” Morgan signed to her mother. Margaret sighed and shook her head.

“Your cousin Jude. He celebrated his birthday not too long ago. He’s a teenager now, remember?” she told her daughter. Morgan nodded. She remembered going to Jude’s birthday party but felt bad because the paparazzi followed her and hounded her the entire time, completely overshadowing Jude on his birthday, though he assured her he didn’t mind. “Well, Julie just called. He uh… well, he’s become romantically attracted to Holly.”

“But… Holly Frio? Isn’t that his first cousin on his dad’s side?” Morgan signed and Margaret nodded. Morgan made a face. “That’s so gross! What’s wrong with him? Aunt Julie and Uncle Connor should just tell them they can’t see each other anymore.”

“It’s not as simple as that,” Margaret muttered. “Holly’s pregnant.”

“This family is disgusting…” Morgan groaned out loud. Margaret shrugged.

“Well, let’s just hope the baby doesn’t develop any deformities or mental problems because of this. As disgusting as the whole situation is, it isn’t that baby’s fault. It deserves to live a normal life,” she reminded Morgan, who nodded in agreement.

—–

“Morgan, hurry up! You’re going to miss your bus!” Margaret shouted in a panic, throwing her daughter’s schoolbag at her and shoving her out the door. Morgan had been slow getting ready that morning. She hadn’t been able to keep down her breakfast and she felt dizzy and light-headed. Miraj would have noticed that there was something wrong with his step-daughter right away and treated her, but Miraj had already left for work and hadn’t seen Morgan that morning. Margaret was in her own rush to get to work and didn’t notice her daughter’s apathy in her frenzy to get everyone together and out the door to where they needed to be.

Morgan stumbled down the walkway, holding her spinning head. If only she’d been able to keep down her breakfast… she just needed some food in her system to think clearly. Just get on the bus and get through the day. Then you can go home and sleep, Morgan assured herself, but Morgan never made it to the end of the walkway.

Before she knew what was happening, she was losing her balance and falling hard toward the ground. The last thing she heard before everything went back was her mother’s frantic scream and her racing footsteps towards her.

———-

Morgan woke up and saw white. White walls, white floors, white bedsheets, white furniture. She groaned and turned her head only to groan again. Her step-father was sitting next to her bedside and he did not look happy.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to be called off your shift and told that your daughter is fighting for her life in the hospital and then to find out that she has bulimia?” he told her cooly.

“I’m sorry…” she whispered. “I just didn’t want to be teased at school anymore. I wanted to be thin and pretty like the popular girls…” she admitted, beginning to cry. Miraj sighed and wiped away her tears, smoothing her obsidian hair back so it didn’t crowd her face.

“Morgan, you are pretty. You’re beautiful, but you’re hurting yourself doing this. Your mom is hysterical right now. I had to send her out of the room because she was spiking your heart rate with her panicking,” he said, motioning to the monitor beside her bed. “You scared her half to death today… and me,” he added. “You’re staying here until I know you can keep your food down, then I’m taking you home under 24 hour supervision to make sure you don’t go back to doing this to yourself. You could die if this doesn’t stop, Morgan. Do you understand how serious bulimia is?” he asked. Morgan nodded. She knew. She hadn’t meant to become bulimic. Everything had just spiraled out of control. She started to cry again and Miraj’s gaze softened.

“Stop that. What you did was stupid and yes, we’re angry, but we love you and we’re going to help you get better,” he assured her, squeezing her hand. “Get some sleep and we’ll try to work up your appetite again a little later,” he said. He stood up and gave Morgan a quick kiss on her forehead before turning to leave the room, but Morgan called him back. This could be her only chance to find out the truth without upsetting her mother. Her and Miraj were alone right now and she had to know.

“Miraj?” she asked. Miraj turned around.

“Yes?”

“Are you my dad? I mean… my real dad?” Morgan asked, a little hesitantly. Miraj blinked in surprise.

“What would make you think that?” he asked. Morgan shrugged.

“We look a lot alike. We have the same nose and the same jaw. I look more like you than Mom, which is pretty weird, don’t you think?” she asked. “You and Mom knew each other when you were teenagers, right?” Miraj sighed and nodded.

“Yeah, we did, but we never… well, we didn’t like each other very much back then,” he tried to explain. “Maybe you should talk to your mother about this instead.”

“She cries whenever I ask her about my dad,” Morgan admitted. “So I’m asking you. Are you my dad?”

“No,” Miraj admitted with a sigh. “I’m not. I wish I was lucky enough to have you as my daughter, though,” he told her with a small smile. “Look, Morgan… whether my DNA made you or not, you’re the only daughter I have and I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Morgan whispered, getting sleepy from the medicine in her system. Miraj hugged her.

“Talk to your mom about this. It’s not my place to say what happened back then. It’s her story to tell. Now get some sleep. I’ll be back with some food for you to try and keep down in a few hours.”

Morgan eventually recovered, but still struggled to keep down her food. Miraj spent many sleepless nights administering medication to his step-daughter to stop her from throwing up and watching her all night to make sure she didn’t try to force herself to throw up again. As irritating as it was sometimes to have her step-father practically shove pills down her throat and keep a watch post at the foot of her bed at night, Morgan was secretly glad that she had a father-figure who loved her enough to do that for her. He often sacrificed entire nights of sleep to treat Morgan’s illness, even though William also needed attention and he needed to be at work early in the morning.

She had finally convinced him to let her go back to school after promising she would take her pills when she needed to and wouldn’t even think about throwing up her lunch.

She was glad she did go back to school, because she found out her French class was taking a trip to France to get a better grasp of the language. Savannah was in her French class. We can go on vacation together! It’ll be so much fun! Morgan thought with excitement. She met Savannah outside by the picnic tables at lunch and brandished the permission forms in front of her.

“Isn’t this cool?” she signed to her friend. “I can’t wait to go! We’ll actually get to see the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower! We should get berets to wear to fit in,” she laughed. Savannah didn’t smile or even look excited at all. Morgan frowned. “What’s wrong?” she signed.

“Not everyone is rich and famous like you, Morgan,” Savannah signed back. “This trip costs a tonne of money. I can’t afford to go…” Morgan’s face fell. She didn’t want to go to France without her best friend. It wouldn’t be any fun. The other kids would just tease her and make her miserable the entire time.

“Well, I’m not going without you,” Morgan signed firmly. Savannah scowled.

“Oh great, Morgan! Make me feel guilty for keeping you here, why don’t you?” she snapped, picking up her tray and walking to another table. Morgan groaned. That wasn’t what she meant. Sure, she was sad she wasn’t going to France, but she wouldn’t have fun there without Savannah, anyway.

“Hey kiddo, what’s this?” Margaret asked her daughter, picking up the permission form that was lying beside Morgan’s homework.

“Oh… just a permission form to go to France on a class trip,” Morgan signed. Margaret smiled.

“That sounds like a good experience for you. When does the form need to be back?” she asked, already signing her name on the paper and looking for her chequebook to pay the large fee. A couple thousand dollars was nothing more than spare change to the Charms, after all.

“I’m not going,” Morgan admitted. “I’m not really into travelling,” she lied. Margaret raised an eyebrow and pulled up a chair beside Morgan.

“I know you better than that, Morgan. You’d never pass up this opportunity. What’s the real reason why you don’t want to go?” she asked. Morgan sighed. Why did her mom have to know her so well?

“Savannah can’t come,” Morgan admitted. “She can’t afford the trip fee and I don’t want to go alone. All the other kids in the class are stupid jerks. I don’t want them to ruin the trip for me,” Morgan signed. Margaret laughed.

“Well, the fee isn’t that much money for us and Savannah is practically part of the family, anyway,” Margaret told her daughter. “I really want you to have this experience. If I paid for Savannah to go, too, would you go?” Morgan brightened up.

“Absolutely!” she signed.

Morgan called Savannah and told her to come over right away. When Savannah got there, Morgan didn’t even bother to put down her baby brother and ran down the walkway with little William in her arms. “Savannah! You’re going to France with me!” Morgan told her friend with a big grin. Savannah blinked dumbly.

“What? No, I’m not. I told you, I can’t afford it,” Savannah began but Morgan shook her head.

“My mom really wants me to go, and I told her the only way I’d go is if you came with me so she’s paying for you to come with me! She even said you’re like a part of the family,” Morgan signed to her. “We’re going to France!” A big grin broke out on Savannah’s face.

“WE’RE GOING TO FRANCE!” she shouted as the two girls squealed with excitement and hugged each other on the front lawn.

“We’re going to France! We’re going to France!” they sang, skipping around like maniacs.

Margaret and Miraj laughed as they watched them through their bedroom window. “I love seeing her so happy,” Margaret sighed, resting her head on her husband’s shoulder. Miraj put an arm around her and pulled her closer.

“Me too,” he smiled.

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