Morgan Lucas sat in the kitchen of Savannah House, waiting patiently for her cupcakes to finish baking in Miss Hattie’s old-fashioned oven. Morgan loved using Miss Hattie’s kitchen. It was big and airy. The white walls, the butcher block island, the back door entrance and all the copper accessories drew her in like a moth to a flame. It had all the amenities that a chef needed to be cre
ative and cook to their heart’s delight. That’s the word Mama used to describe it. Amenities.
Mama was lucky too because she worked at Savannah House. As far as Morgan was concerned, it was the loveliest house in all of Georgia. And Tybee Island was special. It had sun and sea and sand. A special smell drifted on the breeze here.
The timer went off with a slight ding. Morgan put her oven mitts on and carefully opened the stove then took out her first batch of cupcakes. She placed them on the stove and began taking out the cupcakes one by one and placing them on the cooling rack. Morgan stood back and admired the cupcakes, inhaling deeply to smell their chocolaty goodness.
Morgan had decided that when she was a grownup she would have all the amenities that a chef needed to be extraordinary. Because that’s what she wanted to be more than anything else in this world. A chef. Maybe then daddy would come back to live with them and her parents wouldn’t be separated. Perhaps then he would be proud to be her daddy. Maybe then they would be a family again. Tears welled up in Morgan’s eyes as she thought about the last time she’d seen daddy. He had been loading up his car with suitcases, all while telling her how sorry he was that he couldn’t stay.
“But why?” she’d asked, tugging on his shirt sleeve to try and make him stick around.
“It’s not for little girls to try and understand the problems of grownups. Just know that I loved your mother from the moment I first saw her. You were born of that love, Morgan.”
“You can’t just stop loving someone!” she had cried out.
He had turned to her from the driver’s seat, his face seeming as if had aged ten years in a matter of hours. “Who says I don’t love her?” His voice sounded raspy and full of pain. “Someday you’ll understand that grownups can’t exist on love alone.” With tears in his eyes he had roared away in his car, not even bothering to give her a parting glance.
Her heart had shattered as she’d watched him drive away. That had been exactly seven months ago, and she hadn’t seen him since that awful day. For the first month she’d cried herself to sleep each and every night. But then one day she had snapped out of her funk. Morgan had decided that she would put one foot in front of the other and make something of herself. She would find her true calling in the world.
Ever since then she had poured her heart and soul into creating delicious things in the kitchen. Mama liked to say that it was food for Morgan’s soul. All she knew for certain was that she felt better when she was cooking and baking. It helped to fill up the hole inside her that had been there ever since daddy left them.
She liked making things in the kitchen. It made her feel special. And one day she was going to be a famous chef and cook fancy meals for all kinds of people. Presidents. Kings. The mayor of Savannah.
“What is that delectable smell?”
Morgan looked up to see Miss Hattie walking into the kitchen, a sweet smile gracing her lips. With her snow white hair and thin frame, Miss Hattie had an elegance that Morgan admired. The pearl choker at her neck made her look classy. She wondered if one day she also would inspire such admiration. She hoped so with all of her heart.
“I’m making chocolate cupcakes with mousse on the inside. I also made a raspberry buttercream frosting,” Morgan said proudly. “The first batch is cooling right now.”
Miss Hattie patted her on the shoulder. “That sounds sinful.” She let out a chuckle. “In the best way possible, of course. I have to admit, Morgan, that I have quite a sweet tooth.” She patted her non-existent hips. “Thank goodness for my fast metabolism.”
“You’ll get the first one as soon as they cool down,” Morgan promised. “Thank you for letting me use your kitchen.”
“Of course. The event being held here has been catered, so there was no need to use the stove. You might see some of your friends racing around the grounds. A few of the ladies brought their children.” Miss Hattie scrunched up her nose. “I hope the boys know how to behave themselves.”
Morgan giggled. Miss Hattie didn’t care too much for badly behaved children. “I don’t think my friends are here today. There’s an equestrian event they were going to attend today.” Morgan tried to stuff down the feelings of sadness she felt whenever the others did things she couldn’t afford to do. Like equestrian stuff. And even though her best friends had tried to include her she had turned down the invitation. Watching the equestrian event would have felt too much like pressing her nose up against a fancy shop window. She didn’t belong in that world and she knew it.
Morgan wasn’t like any of the other girls—her five best friends. She didn’t live in a big house. Her parents didn’t have servants or go on fancy vacations. Hope didn’t either, but she had a lot more money than her family did. Mama was raising her all alone. And Hope’s grandma had a horse that she let Hope use for lessons and events.
Mama worked for Miss Hattie at Savannah House. Even though some kids said she was a maid, it wasn’t true. Like Miss Hattie always said, Mama was her assistant. And daddy had come from a rich family, but she’d once overheard her mother say that they had cast him out of the family once he married her. She didn’t know if it was because they were different colors—her mother was brown like a walnut and her daddy’s skin was the color of a pistachio shell. Morgan had never met anyone from her father’s side of the family, so she imagined that they must not like the idea of her very much. Once she had heard her aunt whisper that it was because Mama was black and Daddy was white. Morgan didn’t see why that was a problem. It was all so confusing.
It was a strange thing to not know your grandparents. On the bright side, Miss Hattie had pulled her close one day and told her that she would be her honorary grandma. That had been one of the best days of Morgan’s life. She couldn’t imagine there being a better grandma than Miss Hattie.
“I better scoot to check on the ladies. Thank the Lord for your sweet Mama. I have no idea what I’d do without that blessed woman.” Miss Hattie gifted her with a beatific smile and strolled out of the kitchen.
Morgan set up another batch of cupcakes and placed them in the oven. She tested her first batch by placing her finger on the cupcake to see whether it had sufficiently cooled down. She reached for a knife and began to place the frosting on them since they had cooled down. Oooh, they looked so pretty. A feeling of pride soared in her chest. And she imagined they tasted wonderful.
She looked around the kitchen and decided to clean up as she went along. There was a bag of trash she needed to place outside by the bins since tomorrow was garbage collection day. She grabbed the bag of trash and opened the back door, then headed outside. Morgan tilted her face up to the sun and let the warming rays wash over her. She loved spring in Savannah!
All of a sudden she heard a rustling sound behind her. She turned around, her heart sinking as she spotted her least favorite person. Oh no! Preston Sykes. He was a bully and a loudmouth. She didn’t like him. Not one little bit.
“What are you doing here?” Preston jeered. “I know your Mama wasn’t invited to this shindig.” The rest of the boys standing behind him laughed. Morgan felt her cheeks getting heated. She held her chin up high. The best thing to do was to ignore Preston. She wasn’t going to sink down to his level.
Another boy with ginger hair and glasses stepped forward. His name was Stewart and he was in the grade above her. “Her Mama is Miss Hattie’s servant. She wears an apron and bows and curtseys.” Normally he was as timid as a mouse. Being in the presence of the other boys seemed to have given him courage. And cruelty.
“She’s her assistant, not a servant.” Morgan bristled with rage. Her voice sounded quivery. It wasn’t right that they were talking about her Mama.
“Leave her alone.” The voice came out sounding like a growl. Surprised, Morgan whirled around. Luke Duvall stood in the garden with his fists raised. With his dark blond hair and hazel eyes, he appeared out of nowhere like an avenging angel.