“she is going to college,” karen’s voice is clipped, fast, and overall annoyed over the phone line.

ari is trying very hard to understand karen, to deal with her. molly is his daughter, karen is her mother, and he wants desperately to be in her life now that he knows she exists. karen, however, makes it hard sometimes. this was supposed to have been a simple conversation, to talk about how they were going to handle the year, to talk about what the expectations were. not to have an opening salvo lobbed at him from the get go. he pushes his glasses further up his nose, adjusting his shoulder as he exhales, “you want her to go college, yes. what does molly want?”

to him, that’s the only normal response in this conversation. he and molly are, admittedly, not very close yet. she seems gun shy around him whenever he comes around, withdrawing into herself the way she doesn’t around elena or peter. he understands it; he hadn’t been accounted for in her life before a few months ago, and everything was deeply tenuous now. she had every right to be gun shy as much as ari really, desperately wanted to be her father. to think that she would have no say in her own future didn’t feel right, despite things.

karen’s silence says something else, falling heavily down between them. ari still isn’t comfortable with her either, letting the silence stretch on as he checked plant after plant, tending to his garden (as it were) as karen took out the time to choose her words.

when it seems like it’s almost a full three minutes of silence, ari about to ask if she was still there, her words are as clipped as before, “margaret thinks she wants one thing. i know that she doesn’t actually want that. it won’t make her happy. going to college, leaving here will make her happy.” the way she says it doesn’t convince ari, only makes him frown with the way karen grinds down on her conviction. “she refuses to live up to her potential, and i know she can do better.”

i know. i know. it doesn’t feel right the way karen says it, even if she says it more and more.

he doesn’t have a lot of leverage here. karen has had a literal lifetime of being molly’s mother. “karen, i’d feel better if we sat down to talk to her,” he parries back, voice firmer than before, “if she doesn’t want to talk to a school counselor, i get it! i didn’t like talking to mine. we’re her parents--”

i am her mother,” karen pushes back, “you are her sperm donor, legally.”

he shifts the phone, now unwilling to let the argument simply flow off of his shoulders now. “legally, yes, i agree with you. but-- karen, please. there’s more than just legal bindings going on,” ari moves away from his plants, opening the door to his house, stepping inside, “we’ve talked before. molly and i have a relationship now, karen. and m-maybe, molly could talk to me, talk to you and daniel--i really believe that she’d talk to us if we asked her honestly, not if we just assumed what she wanted.” he thinks of his own memories, of his parents unsure at his choices for college, thinks about how uncertain molly must feel right now, about how she might not want what all her classmates wanted. he considers how she must feel, and keeps pushing against karen more, “wouldn’t it be better to--”

“no, i don’t,” karen raises her voice now, “you don’t understand her or this situation at all, ari. i think this conversation is over.” the line goes dead before ari can make his way properly to his office.

he stares at the phone with annoyance, with confusion. no matter how many conversations he had with karen patton, no matter how many times he tried to rationalize his way around her behavior, he didn’t think he’d ever understand her.

when he sits down at his desk, looking at the papers on the table before him, he turns over what karen said. legally.

that’s a loaded word, legally. he opens his up his phone, scrolls down, and decides instead that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.