The Truth Makes You Free
It seemed like the worst was behind them. Fitz and Olivia settled into a comfortable routine as a couple. They rarely spent a day apart. The only running disagreement was about their sleeping arrangements. If it were left up to Fitz, they wouldn't spend a night apart either, but Olivia insisted on sleeping at her own house during the week.
"Fitz, we have to be respectful of GG, and we have to set a good example for Karen and Gerry," she said one night when the conversation shifted to that familiar place.
"We are respectful. Karen and Gerry know and accept that we are a couple. GG doesn't care. You are here every night and it is disruptive to our routine to take you home every night," he said plopping down on the couch.
Olivia shook her head at his pout. "Why are you staring at me like that?" he said with a scowl.
"I can't believe you are pouting! I wish you could see your face. You look like an 8 year-old having a tantrum. The argument about the disruptive nature of you taking me home every night is reaching, honey." She sat on his lap straddling his waist and placing her arms around his neck. This was her favorite position when she wanted to talk with him. "You are just as pushy as you were when we met. I could drive here for dinner on weeknights, but someone picks me up from home or sends his son to collect me because that someone thinks that trapping me at his house will force me to stay overnight. If anyone is disruptive, it's you, Fitz, disruptive in your ploys to get your way. And you do get your way more often than not. So stop your pouting!" Olivia touched her lips to his and then pushed back to get up from the sofa. His hands around her waist held her still. He quickly pulled her blouse over her head and unhooked her bra.
"I am still upset and need cheering up. Before you try to stop me, Granny went with the kids to get pizza for dinner so we have 20 minutes of privacy except for Rolfo over there, but he's sleeping," he said kissing the curve of her breast.
She unzipped his pants, "No stopping here."
Olivia and Karen worked quietly and efficiently in Olivia's classroom. It was the Thursday before Spring Break and Olivia was putting in extra hours at work grading papers and lesson planning for the weeks after Spring Break that included standardized testing and the spring extracurricular activities like field trips, Field Day, and the end of the year party. Karen's presence was a welcome one, but it was also dangerous because of its potential to reveal Olivia's relationship with Fitz.
Olivia and Fitz were uneasy about the secrecy of their relationship. They had never talked to Karen or Gerry about that aspect of if nor did they tell them to keep it a secret. Ignoring it had worked well thus far because the two worlds rarely overlapped until Karen took it upon herself to merge them. She made the announcement one Wednesday night during their dinner at Dave and Buster's.
"I have some news," Karen said when they were all gathered around the table. Everyone looked at her expectantly. "Liv, you know how you said you were going to request a high school work study student to help out in your classroom?" Karen's voice lifted with excitement.
"Yes, it's funny you should mention it. Today, I received an email that a student has been assigned to me. I didn't even open it because I was rushing out, as usual, to meet your dad, so we could drop off GG and get here on time," Olivia said as they all waited for their meals. Granny was having dinner at Lauren's because she didn't like the food at Dave and Buster's.
"Karen is your work study student!" Gerry said.
Karen hit him over the head with her menu. "Ugh! Gerry, I wanted to tell them!" Gerry covered his head and laughed as Karen slapped him with her menu.
"What?" Olivia asked. She looked at Fitz who responded with a shrug. "How did this happen?"
"You said you really needed help. I needed one more elective so... I decided to sign up for the Education class. I requested you and got it," Karen said.
"I didn't think you were interested in Education, Kare." Fitz said squeezing Olivia's hand under the table to calm her. He could sense she was anxious at this news and the possible exposure it might bring to their relationship.
"I wasn't at first, but Liv makes it look so fun. I was looking at her website and she does the coolest things. I never had that much fun in 4th grade."
"How are you going to get to Ambrose from the high school every day? Didn't I have to approve this?" Fitz asked.
"I was thinking I could walk from school. I could catch a ride with Liv to get back home. Dad, I gave you my schedule and you signed it. What's the problem? I thought you'd be happy. Liv, you don't want me to work in your classroom?"
"Of course, I'd love to have you, Karen. We are...this is just... surprising. I don't think it is a good idea for you to walk, though. South Monaco Pkwy is such a busy street," Olivia said. She could see this meant a lot to Karen.
"I already told Karen I'd drive her, but she doesn't want to be in the same car as Ethan who is totally crushing on her. She thinks he is an airhead," Gerry said.
Karen rolled her eyes.
"Kare, if you don't let your brother drive you, it's not going to work." Fitz said.
"Okay! Okay! I can endure a couple of minutes beside Ethan the Cretan. How did he get an internship in technology? He is such a space cadet," Karen said.
Later that night when Fitz drove Olivia home, they discussed this further.
"Fitz, I would love to have Karen as my work study student, but it could be risky. We haven't had to involve Karen and Gerry in our deception. I don't want to have to coach her on how to act at school. Are we just going to hope she doesn't tell anyone that you are her father or that I'm at your house every night? She could make a casual statement about...I don't know...anything. The students gossip just as much as the teachers."
"Maybe it won't. It actually might help. Think about this. If we were in a relationship, would I let me daughter work in your classroom? By the way, I can't believe I didn't notice her name on the student intern list. I remember Quinn showing me the list for my signature, but I don't recall seeing her name. Baby, it will be fine."
"But I don't feel good about this. We still haven't settled who's going to leave Ambrose. Contracts will be coming out soon for next year and we haven't dealt with this."
"You're right. Let me come in and we can hash this out."
She cocked her year at him. "Fitz, it is nearly eleven, and we both need to go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning. We'll work this out later."
Time passed, but they had never worked it out. Karen came to Olivia's classroom 3 days per week as her work study student. Everyone knew that Karen was the Fitz's daughter but no one equated this to a relationship between Fitz and Olivia.
"I can't wait until Spring Break," Karen said looking up from grading papers. "I wish we didn't have to go to Portland to see Mom and then to California. We are going to lose time traveling to meet up with you and dad."
"I know, but it's only three days. You'll still have a lot of time with us at Pismo Beach. GG will spoil you and Gerry the whole time you are in Portland." Olivia said.
Mellie had moved to Portland without a word to Fitz or the children. They didn't know until she had been gone for three weeks. Mellie arranged a visit for them during Spring Break. Granny offered to accompany them. No one knew that Granny had worked with Mellie's parents to orchestrate the move. She planned to tell Fitz about Mellie's mental state when she felt it was appropriate.
"I know. I just don't understand why she moved. Gerry doesn't either. It makes no sense," Karen said. She went back to grading.
Olivia didn't respond. She figured Mellie moved away to escape being charged for what she had done to Fitz. She was happy to be rid of her. Keeping their relationship secret at school was difficult enough without his ex-wife scheming and plotting in the shadows.
Karen and Olivia worked for another thirty minutes. There was a light knock on the door. Sara Marks walked in.
"You two seem to be burning the midnight oil. Olivia, you are lucky to have a student worker this dedicated. It's almost 5," Sara said.
Olivia didn't answer. She wanted to get Sara out of her room as soon as possible. Why is she here so late? "Is there something I can do for you, Sara?"
"I am preparing for an activity my students will be doing tomorrow. I ran out of Popsicle sticks and wondered if you had any," Sara asked.
Karen answered before Olivia could. "Liv, I saw some in your cabinet." She walked over and pulled out a bag of them.
Olivia grabbed the bag and handed them all to Sara just as Karen's cell phone chirped.
Sara took the bag. "Thanks, Liv," she said, but she did not leave the classroom.
"That was Dad. He wants to know when we are coming home. What should I tell him?" Karen asked, totally unaware what she just revealed.
Olivia took a deep breath and answered, resolved that their secret was out. "As soon we clean up here. Ask him if GG needs us to pick up anything."
"Okay. I'm going to use the bathroom." Karen left the room.
"You are so busted, Liv, but I already knew about you and the Principal Grant."
"What do you want, Sara?"
"I want to be the Literacy Coach next year, and I want to be nominated to join the Emerging Principal's leadership program. I know you can't make those two things happen, but your boyfriend can. Get me what I want, and I'll keep this to myself. If not, I am going to expose you two," Sara said. She strolled around Olivia's classroom, absently looking around.
"It will be your word against ours." Olivia watched with anger as Sara walked around proudly.
"No, No, No. I have video." She pulled her phone from her pocket, swiped through a few screens and presented Olivia with a video. Her eyes widened at the sight of her and Fitz making love in the 4th grade supply closet against the empty shelves between the extra Social Studies textbooks and the science experiment tubs. Olivia remembered that night and their make up sex from a couple of months ago. She had been angry with about something, she couldn't remember why. They'd had the talk during which she had told him she needed some space to think. Olivia didn't go to his house for dinner. She had developed a plan to avoid him: She left school right after the bell, but returned to do work after he left for the day. It worked well because he had no idea where she was. She would leave school at 6, peruse the booths at corner thrift shop, grab a bite to eat, visit Mellie, Huck, or Harrison, and return home around 9pm. On the fourth day, she was looking for something to do to pass the time until she left school. She decided to clean out the 4th grade supply closet. When the door opened and Fitz stood there with his wounded expression, not a word was spoken as they worked out their differences against those shelves.
"How did you…?" Olivia said, shaking her head. She reached for the phone, but Sara snatched it back.
"Does it matter? I've seen your moves. You can convince him to give me what I want. It's your choice. Make it happen or this little video goes viral on Youtube for the school to see. I got all 15 minutes of it. It's good too. I probably could make some money from this gem."
Olivia snatched the camera from her hand and threw it across the room against the white cinderblock wall.
"You...!" Sara ran to the wall and picked up the phone. "You shattered my screen. My phone won't turn on. I hope you don't think this was the only copy. I have a couple of them. I'll be expecting an answer after Spring Break or I'm going to broadcast this during the faculty meeting when we get back." Sara turned on her heel and walked out of the door without a second look at Karen who was entering the door."
Olivia was angry, but she didn't let it show. She knew what she was going to do. She had no choice but to resign.
"Liv, you can't let her make you resign. What about Fitz? Why don't you tell him? Maybe he could fire her before she does anything?" Abby said.
It was the Sunday after Spring Break. Olivia, Fitz, the kids, and Granny had a blissful time at Pismo Beach. His parents and sisters joined them at the same time Karen, Gerry, and GG returned from their visit with Mellie. Olivia had not breathed a word to Fitz about Sara's demands. Now she sat at home strategizing with her best friends about how to deal with Sara.
"I can't and I won't involve Fitz in this. I can handle it. Before the meeting starts, I am going to take the microphone and announce that I have a book deal and am resigning. I'll pretend like it was on the agenda. This will disarm Sara. She won't have any leverage then."
Harrison shook his head. "But what if she decides to show the video just to get back at you. I think you should tell her Fitz will give her what she wants. Demand that she give you all the copies of the video. Threaten to sue her if she reveals it. Resigning will just make her angry."
"Do you love him?" Huck asked.
Everyone looked at Huck. This was the first time he has spoken tonight.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Abby asked incredulously.
"Do you love him and want to be with him for the rest of your life? Are you ready to marry him?" Huck asked, ignoring Abby.
Olivia frowned at Huck. "That's not really relevant, Huck, but yes, Huck, I do love him. Fitz and I aren't thinking about marriage right now. There are some loose ends we have to tie up. Like his ex-wife for one. Thank God she has moved away, but she's a psycho. Karen, Gerry, and his family seem to like me, but…"
"Huck, thanks for trying to help but let's stick with the problem at hand," Abby said.
Huck rose from his chair and left the room.
"I hope we didn't offend him, but he was totally in left field with those questions," Harrison said before he and Abby continued their problem solving.
Olivia dressed in her crème pantsuit and pulled her hair into a French roll that morning before school. The problem solving session with Abby, Harrison, and Huck the night before had done nothing to change her mind. She was going to resign today. When Sara Marks called her last night, she told her to go to hell before hanging up the phone in her face. Olivia had phoned Fitz shortly thereafter to say she was on her way to his house for dinner. She had been totally surprised when he had said she couldn't come over tonight. He had explained that GG and the kids were having dinner at Lauren's, and he was going to the school to catch up on some paperwork. That had really stung Olivia. He had never declined an opportunity to see her.
"Is everything okay? I know we've been together the entire week, but I really want to see you. I can meet you at the school. I'll get some work done too," she'd said.
"No, you should stay home and rest. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you." Without waiting for her response, he hung up. Olivia instantly became angry with him and slammed the phone down. She realized that this must be how he felt those many times she rejected him at the start of their relationship. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
At school that Monday, time seemed to speed by. She saw Fitz once in passing on the way to the Media Center during her planning time. They made eye contact, but he didn't acknowledge her presence. Later, Karen texted to say she wouldn't be able to come to volunteer. In addition to the stress of her decision to resign in such a public way, she was starting to think something was wrong. Fitz was acting strangely and now Karen wasn't coming. She realized the integral part Fitz and his family played in her life.
After school as she walked through the cafeteria doors for the faculty meeting, her heart was very heavy. I have to make it through this without crying.
After signing in, she took a seat beside Harrison, Abby, and Huck who had already saved a seat for her. "Liv, you look like you lost your best friend. You shouldn't resign if you are feeling this bad about it," Abby said with concern in her voice.
"I'm okay. Fitz is acting…strange...distant," Olivia said in explanation. Huck cracked a smile.
"You think that is funny?" Olivia asked.
The cafeteria filled up with people. There was a low rumble of voices as the teachers and staff socialized. Olivia rose from her seat. She was nervous about commandeering the meeting. "Here goes nothing," she said to them. She walked to the front as if in slow motion. She spotted Fitz walk into the cafeteria with a group of people behind him. There was Karen, Gerry, GG and his sisters, Lauren and Sybil. What are they doing here? He pointed to the front tables for them to sit down. Olivia then saw Sara Marks hand the technology coordinator a portable drive and then she turned around to sit down. Fitz walked over to the coordinator and handed him another portable drive. Olivia walked to the podium knowing she had to make her move now. When she stepped forward to face the crowd at the podium, Fitz blocked her path. He reached the podium before she did and whispered in her ear. "Please have a seat, Ms. Pope. The meeting is about to begin."
"But I…" Olivia's words were cut off by his booming voice through the microphone.
"Good afternoon, Ambrose! Could we all take our seats, please? Thank you for being on time. I promise not to keep you long. Everyone looks rested from Spring Break. We have a lot to do before the end of school, and I plan to talk about that with each grade level during your individual planning times tomorrow. I have brought you all together for a special announcement." Fitz took the microphone from its holder. Everyone looked around in surprise and anticipation, wondering what was going to happen.
"In 5 months at Ambrose, I have observed a school that is about the business of educating our children. Teaching for each of you is a work of the heart. You all get here early and leave late. You all each give 110% to find whatever will make a difference to help your students learn. I have considered it a privilege to be part of your learning community. It has been a blessing for me because I not only found a professional home, but many friends and colleagues. One such friend is Olivia Pope."
When Olivia heard her name, held her breath. What is he doing?
Everyone was still.
"Over these past months, our friendship has blossomed into love. As you can imagine, it has been bittersweet given the professional standards clause that expressly forbids relationships between employees in direct supervisory relationships. I want to assure you that Ms. Pope and I would never compromise Ambrose. Ms. Pope is considering resigning even though she loves teaching at Ambrose."
Olivia was surprised to hear a, "No!" shouted from the audience.
"I can't let her do that so I have a solution that I'd like to share, but first a video."
The video had that campy feel of a production done on a very low budget. A child's voice narrated it. It told the story of their relationship with pictures and drawings. It was perfect for the context. When it was done, there were few dry eyes in the room.
Fitz picked up the microphone. He walked over to Olivia and knelt before her holding a small black velvet box that was opened. The diamond twinkled at her.
"Olivia Caroline Pope, I love you. Will you marry me?"
Olivia exhaled realizing she had been holding her breath. She looked around the room. Everyone looked on with the look one would give a new puppy wrapped in a bow. She looked back at Fitz. She didn't know what to do.