Chapter 3.68

Winter finally hit and dumped buckets upon buckets of snow on us.

Luckily it didn’t stick around for too long.  Otherwise I would have lost my freaking mind.  Three months was too long as it was.

During the winter, Tiberius’s owner decided to sell him.  I’d grown so attached that I threw down $3000 to being him home with me.  However, I had nowhere to put a horse.  I quickly put together something that resembled a stable in my backyard but there was no place for him to run.  A new house would be in order.

I also started classes at the local college.  I was taking classes for my business degree but found myself doubling up on culinary classes as well.  I was set to graduate with TWO degrees in a year.  That would be useful since I anticipate a higher house payment really, really soon.

Things were going pretty well.

I sure hope my realtor can find a house with a room for Muppet’s treasures.  I mean, look at how proud she is of that…thing.  I’m not tossing it for anything.

My realor was able to find a house that met most of my criteria.

It was cheap, had two bedrooms plus a spare for an office (or a Muppet Museum), and it had a stable out back.  It was cheap because it had a stupid layout and was entirely blue inside and some of the brickwork needed to be redone but beggars can’t be choosers.  I put the down payment on the house and my offer was accepted.

Naturally, it snowed…big time…the night before I was set to move.

Did I mention it was right next to the dog park?  That was pretty much the only way I could convince Muppet to move.  She might not be an old dog but she is set in her ways.

I started packing up my few possessions.  I chose to leave the furniture behind because…well, look at it.  I figured I could get some new stuff from the consignment shop anyway.

I was pretty sore from the packing but eager to get this show on the road.

A get on the road we did.

The stables let me board Tiberius until the snow had melted but once I was sure it was really spring I collected my new friend and brought him home to stay.  I was toying with the idea of becoming a horseman permanently but first I needed to finish school.

The inside still needed some help but Dad, Adam, Mike, and Grandpa Vic all offered to help get the place up to snuff.

Muppet was thrilled with her new digs…I didn’t even have to take her to the dog park.

Chapter 3.67

Before I knew it, it was time to head to the vet clinic to pick out my new puppy.

Before I could even get to the door though this horse kept trying to nuzzle me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like horses.  Actually, I like Tiberius.  This horse was too in my face.  I started to get a little panicked.

“SPARKS!  Leave the poor lady alone!”

“Jesus Christ!  It’s you!”  Oh, that could have gone better.

“Well, actually my name in Dr. McNamara but you can call me Finn.  I know you from somewhere…”

“I’m certain you don’t.” Please don’t remember me…

“You’re the bartender!”


“Well come on in, ma’am.  Let’s see if we can get you hooked up with a puppy.”

We headed inside and I desperately tried to think of something to say.

“Nice scrubs.  Do you always wear such goofy patterns?”  Note to self: Don’t ever speak again.

“Well, yes, I do.  I’ve found that kids tend to get a little anxious when I’m about to give their beloved puppy a vaccine and if I wear some kind of silly scrubs we have something to talk about as a distraction.”

Oh my God I am such a jerk.  “So where are those puppies?”

“Just around the corner in the back room.  I’ll let you get to know them and I’ll drop in after a few.”  Oh thank God.  The less I have to talk to him the better.

I headed into the back room and found two adorable little mutts romping around.  Before I even got all the way in the door this little guy was already investigating me.

“Well hello there, little fella!  Hey, Dr. McNamara!  What’s this guy’s name?”

“He doesn’t have one.  I just call him Puppy B.  I find if I name them, I get attached.  That’s how I ended up with the two dogs out back and the horse you met our front.  Nope, he’s yours to name if you want him.”

“When can I take him home?”

“Well he’s a bit young to leave his mother, yet.  I’d like to give him another month or so to do some growing if that works for you?  I’d say he’ll be ready to go home about the time spring rolls around.”

“That will do just fine, Doctor.  How much will I owe you?”

“One date.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’d like to take you on a date.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Well, you still get the puppy but you’ll miss out on a free meal and some riveting conversation.  Think about it.  You’ve got a month until the pup is ready.  You don’t have to decide now.”

As I walked out I saw my new puppy destroying the newspaper.  What did I just get myself into?!

Two days later it was time for the Christmas party.

I felt a little bit sad that Muppet wouldn’t be an only dog anymore.  We had a thing going and a new puppy was going to ruffle us a little bit.  I knew she could handle it though.  It was me that I was worried about!

She kept me company while I prepped everything for the party.  I think she was hoping that I would drop something for her.  She’s too dignified to beg for food but she knows I’m good for a crumb or two.

Right before the party started I realized I didn’t have anything remotely Christmasy in my wardrobe.  I threw on a red sweater over a white tank top and decided to call it good.  I decorated the house…I mean what more could they want.

It didn’t matter anyway because everyone just wore their regular old clothes.  I was kinda bummed that Liv and Mike couldn’t make it.  The kids came down with the flu so obviously they weren’t going to get on a plane for 5 hours.

But Mom and Dad made the trek with Adam and Hannah.  Hannah was still early in her pregnancy but she was looking and feeling good.  Their daughter Hadley was an adorable little monster who kept both of her parents very busy!  I was looking forward to meeting my niece but she was staying with Hannah’s parents because nobody wants to take a 7 month old on a plane for 5 hours.

After dinner we opened gifts.  Adam and Hannah bought me a sketch pad because they knew I’d taken up drawing.  While I was messing around with it, Adam wandered around the house.

“Penny…I think we need to hold an intervention with these egg gems.  You had an egg gem issue when I lived with you and apparently it has gotten out of control.”

“That is literally my nest egg, Adam.  That collection is worth more than this house!”

“Collect away, big sis.”

Mom helped clean up after the party.  I have a feeling she remembers those big parties we had when I was a kid and nobody helped with the dishes.  I had to admit I was pretty stoked about the family moving out this way.  They are good people.

The party didn’t end until the wee hours of the morning.  We were all so busy catching up that we lost track of time.  Needless to say I slept in super late.

I was about to hop in the shower when there was a knock at the door.

“Who the hell visits people the day after Christmas?”

I threw on some clothes and went to see who it was.

“Delivery for Ms. Penelope Sutton.”

I opened the package and it was my acceptance letter and orientation packet to Eden Grove University.


I did a little happy dance while Muppet yipped and ran in circles.  I was going back to school for a business degree.  Who knows where it will lead me!?

Chapter 3.66

Being single isn’t all I thought it was going to be.

Sure, I do less laundry but life is pretty…boring.  Not that I’m thinking about getting into a relationship again.  I mean, I do have things to keep me busy these days.

My car is coming along well.  I picked up this old piece of junk when I moved here.  I got the whole thing for $200.  I’m pretty sure I can turn it into a kick ass classic by spring depending on how long the weather holds out.

I’ve also got Tiberius.  All my studying has paid off, too.  They let me jump him now.

This is still not my favorite thing to do.

But his owners let me take him to a beginner racing competition and I won $800!  We’re a good team.  Who needs a man when you have a horse?  Nevermind…that came out wrong.

I still work nights at the bar.

Since I’ve been here a couple months I’ve gotten to know the regulars.  Most of them are little old men or young ranch hands.  A couple ladies here and there.

Not much happens here.  We’ve never even had a good bar fight.  We did have a lame bar fight once but the guys weren’t quite drunk enough to really have it out so they just sat at opposite ends of the bar and insulted each other.

One night, I was talking to my favorite patron, Jenna McNamara, when we got on the topic of kids.

“You have any kids, Penny?”

How do I answer that?  “No, unfortunately not.”

“Ah, my son is just a couple months old.  Now don’t think I’m coming here to get drunk or anything.”

“How could I think that when I always give you water…or on your crazy nights…Sprite.”

“I just need a little adult interaction!  My husband is gone all day at work and when he comes home I hand the kiddo to him and head over here.  OH!  There’s my brother-in-law.  You should meet him.  FINLEY!  Get over here and buy me another Sprite!”

“A Sprite for the lady, barkeep, and I’ll have a rum and Coke, please.”

“Holy mother!  He’s your brother-in-law!?  I can’t imagine what your husband looks like if he’s the one you passed up.”

“He’s a doctor, too, in case you were wondering.  Did I mention he’s single?  Go over and play darts with him.  I’ll hold down the bar.”

Why do all my dates start with darts?  Also what is it with sisters setting me up with brothers?

It was all too familiar and raw for me so I decided to head home for the evening.

I quickly forgot about my close-encounter at the bar because I had bigger fish to fry.

Christmas was around the corner and the family was coming to visit. While they were in town mom and dad were going to go house hunting with Adam and Hannah.  Somehow my brother and his wife had managed to have one baby and a second on the way in the 10 months I’d been away.

I upended my house in hopes that the family would think I was sane.  I got calls from Liv and Hannah at least once a day “just checking in” of course.  I’m sure they were making sure I hadn’t gone off the deep end with the news I got last year.

No, I didn’t go crazy.  I just decided to fill my empty womb with egg gems.  That was a joke.  My womb is fine just the way it is.  Honestly, Muppet has filled my empty heart more than I thought any animal could.

Not only did she fill my heart but she is also filling my home.  She spends her days hunting things in the backyard.  She brought this home today and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  Obviously, I can’t just throw it out or sell it because she’d notice and it would break her heart, but what am I supposed to do with a dinosaur skeleton?!

I made Muppet some gourmet beef dog food as a reward and thought about what to do with her.  She’s brought home a Neanderthal skeleton, two stone fire hydrants, and a diamond dog.  She needs another hobby…or a friend.

I called the local vet to see if they knew of any puppies up for adoption.  Just my luck, a litter of puppies was dropped off at the clinic yesterday.  I could stop by and meet the little ones later today.

So now all I can do is wait to meet the new member of the family.

Oh and clean toilets.  I can always clean toilets.

Chapter 3.65

Muppet and I still didn’t have a solid plan for our future.

So instead of planning we decided to enjoy the last of the nice weather and head to the dog park.

Despite the fact that it was nearing late autumn, the trees still had their leaves and it was unseasonably warm.

So warm, in fact, that Muppet went for a swim while I grilled some freshly caught salmon.  While we were at the park, I heard someone talking about the local stables needing riders to keep their horses in shape.  I’ve never ridden a horse but I wasn’t about to turn down some easy money for a transient like myself.

I headed down to the stables and filled out the paperwork.  They gave me some clothes and a “beginner” horse named Tiberius.

He seemed gentle enough.

The only problem was his speed and agility.  This horse was made for competitions and he was flying around the track without me even telling him to go.  I think he was enjoying my panic because he didn’t seem all that eager to slow down or stop.  He didn’t throw me though…small victories.

I threw myself off instead.  I gracefully tried to get off the horse…like I knew what I was doing.  I promptly landed on my caboose.  I made $150 though so it was worth it.

Since the stables pay based on talent and experience I decided to up my game.

The weather finally took a turn for the worse so I headed to the library to brush up on my riding skills.  After I thought I knew a thing or two, I headed across the street to the salon.

It was time for a makeover.  I needed to look sharp and ready to take on the world.

I think I succeeded.  After my makeover I went downstairs to the tattoo parlor.

I told the woman I needed a tattoo that symbolized what I had lost but that I was ready to move on without forgetting the past and what it made me.  I spent all my hard-earned $150 on it but it was worth it.

I got home from my errands and admired my new ink in the mirror.

A broken heart with angel wings right over my own heart.  My shirt would cover it so I wouldn’t need to explain it to anyone but the person I decide to share my future with…if that ever happens again.

“What would the kids want me to do?”  I asked myself in the mirror.

“Don’t be sad, Mama.  We’re always gonna be here.  Take us on an adventure with you…”

I printed out some forms online and took the University Aptitude Test.  If the kids wanted an adventure, they were going to get it.  I was going to go back to college and get my life back together.  I decided on a business degree.  What I would do with it I didn’t know but I’d work that out later.

I was just about to head out to another random gig when my phone rang.


“Hi, Olivia.  It’s nice to hear from you.”


“Not at home…or in Starlight Shores.”

I noticed that.  I went and opened your front door only to find some random people living there!”

Muppet was concerned about me.  She could tell I was agitated though I tried not to let Liv hear that.

“I moved.  I couldn’t stay there anymore.  You should understand that.”

“How am I supposed to keep an eye on you if you leave without telling me!”

“I don’t need a babysitter, Liv.  I’m living in Eden Grove now.”

“Alright, well give me a month to settle things here and Mike will find us a house on his next business trip.”

“You can’t just move here?!”

“You bet I can!  And I’m bringing Mom, Dad, Adam, Hannah, Uncle Ollie, Aunt Lanya, Grandma, Grandpa, and anyone else I can find!”

“If you say so.  Nobody is going to pack up and move across the ocean because you tell them to…”

“It takes a village, Penny.  Whether it is raising a new child or a grown one.  We’ll be there for you.”

I hung up the phone feeling oddly relieved by the knowledge that some or all of my family would be arriving soon.  I’m sure I could pull my life together on my own but it is always nice to have help.

I told Muppet all about my family.  She was excited, too.  Soon she’d have lots of cousin dogs and tiny humans to play with.

I had to leave Miss Muppet at home though because I was going to be late for work.  I grabbed a few shifts at a bar down the street.  Come in and tend bar when I wanted for as long as I wanted.  Not great work but at least I didn’t have to interact with anyone longer than I wanted.

All I had to do was pretend to be a nice, normal young lady.  That couldn’t be that hard…

Chapter 3.64

We rejoin Penny two months after her horrific accident. She made some changes for better or worse.

Oh, hello again.  I see you found me.

I have a habit of running from my problems and this time is no different.

Well, welcome to Eden Grove, a tiny mountain town that is more rural than city and is literally an ocean away from Starlight Shores.  I sold my house and everything in it.  With the money, I bought this place.  I brought only my camera with me and I may not have told my family I was leaving.  I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

The house is a wee bit dated.  It also cost me every dollar to my name.  I’ve been broke before and I’ll do it again.

I do have this sweet little gal to keep me company.  Her name is Muppet.  The pound said she’s been with them for years because she’s not very friendly.  They were amazed when she took right too me, almost as if she was waiting for me.

She hasn’t left my side since I bought her home.  For that I am grateful because I’ve been pretty lonely since I came out of my coma.  My family can’t possibly understand.  I’m not even close to wanting to meet new people.  With Muppet I can just be me and we’re good.

Of course, at 5am she could leave my side and I wouldn’t complain too much.

Things aren’t really too bad I guess.

Money is really becoming an issue though.  I’ve been in town for two months and all I’ve eaten is bread and jam and ramen noodles.

I’ve foraged all I can from the local parks and farm co-ops but winter is fast approaching.  Spooky Day is only two days away.

I’ve donated as much plasma as I’m allowed.  I was told even a vampire wouldn’t come near me.

Also, you can only spend so much time alone in a movie theater before you gain a reputation as being the weird new girl.  Eden Grove isn’t that big.  I know people have started to notice me.

Being noticed is the last thing I want.  I need a plan.

Chapter 3.63

The conclusion of Penny’s hospital stay. She discovers exactly what happened during her accident.

After a couple weeks, Dr. Pagano deemed me fit for a family meeting to learn the details of my accident.

Adam started.  “You and Xander were in a car accident.  Penny, Xander and the baby died.”

“I had a feeling Emma was gone.  Wait…we crashed into each other?”

“What?  No, honey, you were in the same car.  You were returning from your honeymoon.”

“What are you talking about?  I’ve been married to Peter for 10 years.”

“Ok, everybody stop!”  Olivia jumped in.  “Penny, tell me what you remember from the past 10 or 15 years.”

“Liv you know what happened.  You were there.  Well, you know, except for those years you were dead.”

“Humor me, Penny.  Please.”

I told her everything I knew.  I started with the meeting with Xander and I worked my way backwards to her death.

“Penny, honey, that was you in the car accident during your honeymoon.  Everything after that…it never happened.  The past 18 years you experienced, they were just dreams you had during the the 18 months you were in a coma.”

I didn’t know what to say.  “So, you are telling me that my children are…gone?  Harper, Kylie, Simon, Christopher, and Emma are gone?”  I started sobbing uncontrollably.  Liv jumped off the couch and grabbed me.

“Honey, you can get though this.  You are the same Penny you always were.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  If Katie and Dylan died would you be the same Olivia you always were!?  You don’t get it.  You’ll never understand.  They were real to me.  They were tangible.  And they were some nasty trick of my mind.”

“I’m sorry, Penny.  This is new to me, too.  You’ve already dealt with the dead sister apparently.  I’m going to fuck this up a lot.”

“Don’t ever mention those children again.  Don’t ever tell me I will be ok.  Don’t ever tell me I will be the same.  This will never be ok and I will never be the same!”

“I’m sorry, Penny.  I am so sorry.  None of this is fair.  You’re right.  I will never know what this is like for you.  But I will be here for you regardless.  And I will say stupid shit.  I will make this worse for you at times.  But I will never leave you no matter how hard you push me away.”

“Thanks, twin.”  What else was there to say.

Dr. Pagano had a few more tests to run before I could be discharged.

“My wife Kim was pleased to hear you were awake.”

“Is she a police officer?”

“Uh…yes.  Why?

“No reason.”

“Well, Mrs. Sutton –”

“Mrs. Pagano.  Wow…I mean…nevermind.”

“Alright, well it looks like you have no lasting damage on the brain scan.  None I can see at least.  Do you want me to set you up with a therapist?”

“No, Dr. Pagano.  Just discharge me please.”

“I’d like you to stay here another couple of weeks just to make sure your brain scans continue to be clear.”

I checked myself out of Whispering Pines against medical advice.  I was once a brain surgeon and there was nothing physically wrong with me anyway.  Olivia promised Dr. Pagano she would keep a close eye on me and she would call with any issues.

I refused to let her move in with me.  She still had two young children at home even though the kids I remembered had long since grown.  Adam and Hannah offered to stay with me but since they were newlyweds in this reality I vetoed this idea too.  I wanted to be alone anyway.  I had a lot to process and my family would just be a distraction.

I found that I couldn’t sleep in my own bed.  It was the bed I shared with Xander but not the bed I shared with Peter.  So I slept in Adam’s old room.

I slept.  And I slept.  And I slept.

Finally, after three weeks of doing little more than sleeping, I got out of bed and sobbed.  I dreamed of my children.  I dreamed of the life I no longer had.  I dreamed of a fresh start.

I had to leave this all behind.  I knew what I had to do.

Chapter 3.62

Hold on to your hats, folks. Penny gets some startling news.

Note from SweetPoyzin: Deep breaths, people.

“Harper has agreed to meet you.  She says if you are really interested in getting to know her, you must come to her birthday party with a scooter.”

“A scooter?”

“I think she is testing how much you really want to be in her life.”

Harper’s birthday was in less than a week.  She’d be a teen.  Nearly impossible for me to fathom that fact.

“Alright.  I’ll do her one better and I will get her a car.  I know that your step-daughter’s birthday is coming up, too.  Talk to Peter and let him know that I will get Kylie a car too if he is alright with that.  I’ve heard from your mother–er…my source–that the two girls might as well be twins so I wouldn’t want to give one a car and not the other.”

“Who the hell are you!?”

“People change, Penny.  I missed out on 16-years of my daughter’s life.  I’m lucky that I got a second chance.  My new wife is wonderful.  A lot like you, actually.  You’d love her.  And we have a great son.  But this new life really throws in my face how much I’ve missed with Harper.  I mean…if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you make changes?

“How could anyone know that answer, Xander, unless you’ve crossed that bridge?  Come on, now we’re getting stupidly philosophical.  Let me kick your ass at pool.”

“Pregnancy looks good on you, Penny.  Do you know what it is yet?”

“A girl.  Emma Elizabeth.  I’m due in just a couple months.”

We joked around just like we did back in the day.  It was easier now that time has smoothed over some of my wounds.  It was comfortable being with him and not in the least as awkward as I thought it would be.

“Alright, I’ll see you on Saturday.  Harper will be happy to see you.”

“Goodbye, Penny.”

We left the bar and headed home.

“…coma…pronounced DOA…may never regain consciousness…fetal death…”

…I don’t own that plant…this is not my bedroom…

“…some brain activity…do not know the extent of the damage…”

…there is a sink in my bedroom…this is not my bedroom…

“…shock…adverse effect on health and recovery…suicide…depression…do not reveal details…”

…that is my sister…


“You’re awake!?  Don’t move.  I’ll get the doctor.”


Finally.  Something I recognize.


“Welcome back, Mrs. Sutton.  How’s my best patient today?”


“I’m Dr. Pagano.  I wasn’t sure I’d get to introduce myself personally since you gave us quite a scare there.  You’ve been my patient here at Whispering Pines for 18 months.”


Chapter 3.61

Penny and Peter head to the hospital for a routine doctor’s appointment. Simon has a birthday party.

It didn’t take long before I fell back into “baby” routine.

Thank goodness I saved the baby swing from when Harper was little.  I grabbed a play mat from the toy store shortly after Chris was born and it saved my butt.  Those things kept the kids occupied long enough for me to make dinner.  I was getting good at this mommy business.

Even though I did Chris’s room up in a big way, I couldn’t bear to have the little guy away from me for too long.  Maybe I was nesting with my pregnancy but I wanted him near me constantly.

He spent more time in the bassinet in our bedroom than he did in his own crib!

Before long it was time for Simon’s birthday.  While I was sad my little boy was growing up, I wasn’t lamenting it too much.  A toddler and two babies was too much work.  Two babies I could handle.  He hit his last milestone right on time and I knew he would be just fine.

I hauled the party-planning committee together because Peter and I had plans with the ultrasound technician and I didn’t want Simon to miss out on a birthday bash.  Hannah, Katie and Liv were on the ball and said they’d have something thrown together by 6pm that evening.

With that under control, Peter and I tossed the girls on the school bus and waited for Uncle Adam to come over to watch little ones.

Then we hopped in the car and headed to the doctor’s office.  We were over the moon excited to find out the sex of our baby today.

Peter was inside in a flash while I waddled behind.  Two hours later we left with a clean bill of health and good news.

“A GIRL!  I can’t believe it!”  Peter was thrilled.  He didn’t care either way but that man has a soft-spot for his daughters.

We stopped at the toy store to stock up on some goodies, not only for Emma, but also for Simon’s party.

“Hi there, Emma.  Do you want the blue doll house or the polka-dotted teddy bear?  OUCH!  Alright…teddy bear it is!”

While I carefully chose my purchases, Peter was busy buying one of everything in pink.

I wasn’t going to ride his case too hard about it.  He’d learn soon enough that all three of his daughters would drive him to bankruptcy without any help from him.

After the toy store we had one more stop to make.

Mom and Dad purchased a house right on the beach for their retirement.  They said they wanted to be close to the kids and grandkids but let’s be honest…it was a gorgeous find for a couple of old folks.

“Daddy, you’re going to have another GRANDDAUGHTER!”

My parents were elated.  Peter pulled up the ultrasound photos on his tablet and passed them around for all to see.

“Oh, honey, I’m so happy for you.  You call any time you need a break and your father and I will be over in 10 minutes.”

“Thanks, mom.  I’m really glad you and daddy moved out here.”  And I was.  I know I ran away when things got tough but they always had my back regardless.

“Alright now, Miss Emmy.  You be nice to your mama, but anytime she’s not being fair you call grandma.  I’m your mama’s mama after all and I’ll keep her in line.”

“Thanks, mom.  You’re giving her ideas already!”

“It’s never too early for grandmothering, Penny.”

We made it home in time for me to throw together a cake for the party.

Simon was putting his new skills to use by getting into anything and everything.

It wasn’t going to be too long before this whole bending over thing was going to be impossible.

Hannah dropped by with all the party trappings, gifts, and food and then managed to take care of Chris while I showered.  She puts my SuperMom powers to shame.

Finally, it was time for the big moment.  Peter grabbed Simon and the fun began!

“Go, Silly Simey!”

“Yay!  You got this little bro!”

The candles went out and then baby Simon was gone.

He was replaced by a handsome little man.

“Come here and give your mama a hug!”

We went upstairs and saw that Uncle Adam had done more than just babysit while Peter and I were away.  I am the luckiest woman alive to have the family I do.