Chapter 3.44

For a while I really wanted life to slow down. It all started with the birthdays.

First Dylan became a young adult.

Olivia would be so proud of him.  He’s working to become a CEO.  Aced his way through high school and everything.

Shortly after his birthday he and the Meri moved out and got a cute little bungalow with Dante.

Not long after Dylan moved out, Linzy and I said our goodbyes.  After helping me successfully raise three children it was time for her to move on.  We knew the day was coming but that didn’t make it any easier.  She snagged a little townhouse in the suburbs not too far from Peter (so I know I’ll see her before too long).

Harper spent most of her free time entertaining her little cousins.  They will be little architects in no time!  Our days with the twins were limited and just a short year after Dylan moved out the time came for Katie to go, too.

Graduation Day snuck up on us and suddenly Katie was graduating from college.

She ended up with a 4.0 and left Storybrook University with job offers from several laboratories in the area.

“Stand over there with Kayleigh.  I need a picture of you two.”

“Oh my God, Penny.  How many photos are you going to take today?!”

“As many as I damn well please!  It’s been a long ass road to get you here and I’m going to enjoy it.  Now go stand by your damn daughter!”

She looks so thrilled.  Doesn’t matter how she felt.  I was ecstatic that we finally made it that far.  I saw so much of Olivia in Katherine that day.  Liv would have been so proud to see how far Katie had come in just 4 years.

There was just one thing missing from Katie’s new start.  A house.  Peter moved in with me and we gave his house to Katie as a graduation gift.

After we got Katie moved in Dylan dropped by to talk about the huge gift.

“Dylan, Pete and I didn’t mean to upset you by giving your sister such a generous gift.  We realize that we can’t do the same for you but we really hope you understand.”

“That’s not why I came over, Aunt Penny.  Katie’s made some poor choices in the past.  She needed a fresh start and I think that it is really amazing that you and Pete did that for her.  I wanted you to know that you don’t owe me any gift, Penny.  You took me in and raised me after Mom and Dad were killed even though you had your own issues.  That is more than enough of a gift.  I’m the one who owes you.”

After Dylan left I realized how quiet the house was.  There were no toddlers babbling and stumbling around.  The sibling bickering was gone.  Dog barking was replaced by the rustle of leaves in the wind.  Everything was gone.

The place seemed so small when I first bought it all those years ago but now it seemed cavernous.  With just Pete, Kylie, Harper, and I the placed screamed in silence.  It was lonely.

It was time to downsize.

Chapter 3.38

Note from SweetPoyzin: Some language and adult situations.

I went downtown to meet Peter at the city square.  It was late but who cares.

We acted like little kids and built a huge snowman right there in the middle of the city.

“You know, Penny…I kinda like you.”

“Oh shut up.  Don’t ruin the moment by getting all mushy, Pete.”

I still wasn’t quite sure what our relationship was or if we even had one.  I had to admit that even if this was a fling I wasn’t going to complain.

“Do you want to come back to my place?”  The words were out of my mouth before I even thought about the repercussions.  One glimpse of me and he was going to turn tail and run.

Pete surprised me.  “Ok.  I’m a little out of practice.  It’s been…ah…a few months since…”

“You think I’ll be any better?”  I said trying to reassure him that my prowess was nothing to write home about.

“Probably not.”

This man could match my wit even with half his brain thinking correctly.  If this relationship did go anywhere I’d be in trouble.

We headed back to my place and got there in record time.

Linzy was still cleaning up despite the fact that it was now 3am.

“Have fun, ya’ll.  Don’t get knocked up!  I have enough to do around here as it is!”


Pete didn’t run that night but he didn’t call back either.  Several weeks passed without a word from Pete and I was back to the online search for Mr. Right.

It was nearly spring when we got word from Bug that she was returning from boarding school.  She would be home any day.  So while we waited for her we all enjoyed a quiet Sunday.  Well, as quiet as it can be when King Pickle is holding court.

“Peasant Penny!  Fetch me my cookies!”

“You wanna try that again?”

“Queen Penny, would you please grant the King permission to get his own cookies?”

“That’s better.  The answer is still no but nice try.”

Finally, after over a month of waiting Pete popped up on the radar again.  He sent flowers with a note of apology.  He didn’t say when he would call or visit but it was something.

“You like my brother don’t you?”

“Yes, yes I do actually.  Why?”

“I invited him over to chat today.  That’s all.”

“Oh.  Well…good for him.”

He’s cute but a little dumb.  It was 28 degrees and he comes running up in workout gear after spending the morning at the gym.  Go figure.  I mean I wasn’t going to complain because it was a nice sight but you know…

After changing Pete and I sat down in the living room.  He said we needed to “talk” and it didn’t sound good.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Penny.  But I do like you so I feel that you have the right to know so you can back out now if you want.”

“Oh…ok.”  I had no idea where this was going.

“Penny, I’m a single dad.  Kylie is the same age as Harper.  My wife, well, she died in a horrific accident.”

OMG DON’T FREAK OUT DON’T FREAK OUT DON’T FREAK OUT.  I was freaking out inside.

“She was a police officer and even though I begged her to quit the force for Kylie’s sake Amy wouldn’t.  She was doing what she was meant to do.  Well, one night she got a call on a domestic violence issue and she and her partner went to investigate.  Some asshole was beating the shit out of his wife and kids.  When Amy got there…she jumped right in the middle of it to save the kids.  Didn’t even stand a chance.  She died a few days later.”

He paused and took a deep breath.

“I’m still very much in love with Amy.  She’s been dead since Kylie was just a few months old but I can’t shake her.  I just don’t want you to get the short end of the stick because I’m hung up on my dead wife.”

I wasn’t sure what to say.  Luckily Pete knew exactly what to say.

“I’d like to try this, Penny.  I really like you.  But you needed to know I come with exceptional amounts of baggage so feel free to tell me to pound sand.”

I sighed.  “We all have baggage, Pete.  I’d like you to stay.  Let’s not put a label on this yet.  Let’s just be comfortable for now.”

We sat in silence for a bit letting the words from earlier sink into the space between us.  After a while the silence was punctured by an unfamiliar sound.

“Hiya!”

It was Bug.

Or at least it sounded like her.  I’m not sure who Le Fromage sent back but it wasn’t my Bug.

The girl who stood in front of me was all spray tan, bellybutton, and attitude.  All I could do was stare.  Again Pete knew just what to say.

“Hello.  I’m Peter.  You must be Katie.  I’ve heard quite a few stories about you.  You sound like a lovely lady.  I’ve got to run now but I look forward to getting to know you better.  Bye, Penny!”

“Erm…bye Pete,” I managed to mumble while still staring at the doppelganger that was my niece.

“Jeez, Penny.  Are you dating him?  How’d you manage such a hottie in that ‘Mom Gear’ you call clothing?”

I have no idea where my sweet, loving, kind Katherine went.  These teen years…oh boy.

Chapter 3.37

The day of the party finally arrived.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole thing but I had too much to do to care.

I spent the morning baking.  Cookies, pies, cakes, everything.

I had a helper in the kitchen for once.

“Is that whole pie for you?”

“Why wouldn’t it be, Penny?”

“Go upstairs and change into your Christmas sweater.”

“I’d rather eat the pie…”

I ran upstairs to change and get Harper ready.  Then it was time to rearrange the furniture.  Again.

I ran upstairs to grab Harper and when I came back my living room was full.

Adam and Hannah stopped by briefly but of course his daughters were both sick and they had to leave after saying their hellos.

Everyone came.  Everyone.

Dylan was not pleased about his sweater and he pouted in the corner until it was time to open gifts.

Luckily everyone got what they wanted.  I still can’t figure out who is giving me the chess tables but I’ve gotten at least three a year since I was a child.

After dinner I sat at the table and watched my family.  I had missed them more than I thought.  It’s true I ran away from them when they were hurting too but they didn’t reach out to me either.  Perhaps it was time to let bygones be bygones.

“Harper is a doll, Penn.  Why didn’t you tell us about her?”

“I couldn’t, Mom.   Hell, even Xander doesn’t know about her.”

“Don’t you think you should tell him?”

“Of course not!  That ass is a liar and doesn’t need to be involved in Harper’s life.”

“Don’t rule it out so soon, dear.”

“Aw, come on!  You’re gonna kick your old man’s ass like that?”

“Hell yeah I am!”

I had to interrupt my dad’s ass whooping to grab the phone.

“Hello?  Oh.  Well, my family is here but I can always just pawn them off on my brother.  Ok.  Where?  I’ll be there in about an hour.”

I dropped my parents at Adam’s and left Linzy with the mess while I went out with Peter for a Christmas date.

Chapter 3.36

It was time for a proper Christmas in Storybrook County.

I went the whole nine yards.  Tree, stockings, candles, the works.  Adam and Hannah were coming over this year, too.  It was finally going to be a celebration like the ones from my childhood.

Unlike my childhood where snow dumped on us (relentlessly) for days, the snow in Storybrook County seemed to know when it was just enough.  It was lovely.

I also decided to go big or go home as far as Christmas gifts go.  With Bug coming home soon and Pickle and Harper getting bored inside I needed a plan for spring.  I took my issues to the only place in town where I knew I could get a good deal.

I hoped beyond home the consignment shop would have just what I needed to execute my plan.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any used playground furniture back there would you?”

Magic was on my side today and I ended up with an entire backyard full of goodies for under $300.

Since I still had $200 left over in my budget I decided to get myself a little something too.  I feel like I’ve been a good girl this year…


The week before Christmas Adam asked me to drop by his place.

Harper came with me because she loves her little cousins and Uncy Adam is even cooler than Mom.

“Did you want me to come over or did you just miss Harper?” I asked Adam after an hour of sitting around while he hogged my daughter.

“No, he’s got something to tell you, Penn.  He’s just avoiding the conversation.”  I had to laugh that Hannah was up to ears in whiny daughters while Adam relished all his attention on my own child much to the dismay of his oldest.

After helping his wife feed and bath his children Adam was finally ready to sit down and chat.  I could tell he was avoiding this conversation like the plague so it had to be bad.

“Ok.  So I should have asked you first but Mom called and wanted to visit over the holidays and I said yes.  The whole crew is going to show up at your place for Christmas.”

“How many is ‘the whole crew,’ Adam?”

“Well…mom, dad, Holly, Ericka, Grandma and Grandpa…maybe a few others.  But really, Penn, they’ve never met my girls or Harper and you know Dylan probably doesn’t remember them.  It could be ok.”

“Of course it’s ok!  They didn’t even know I was pregnant when I left!  That’s gonna be a good story.  I gotta get cooking!”

It had been three years since I saw my family.  I really wasn’t sure I was ready for it but I was caught up in the magic of the season.  It could be fun…

 

Chapter 3.34

I thought about Hannah’s offer for a few weeks and then headed over to take Adam up on the offer.  I was still on the fence but the kid..er man…has grounded me since he was a teen so I figured we could at least talk it through.

It also allowed Hannah and I to take a break from the Harper and Vi.  They adore each other.  They’ll be trouble in a few years!

“Take the money, Penny.  You know you want a fresh start.  There’s no strings attached.  In fact, considered it repayment for the debt of raising me.  You gave a lot and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.”

“The kids though.  I can’t trust them to another babysitter.  Last time…I don’t even want to think about it.”

“I’ve got a friend.  He’s an author and his sister is looking for a full-time nanny gig.  She’s perfect.  I’ll call him up tonight and have her get in touch with you.  Do it, Penny.  You deserve it.”

He was right.  I raised him.  I’m raising Liv’s kids.  I’ve got Harper.  We’re never going to get anywhere until I go back to school.  I really wanted a business degree.  I didn’t know what I would do with it but something said it would be worth it.

“Alright.  I’ll do it.   It’ll take some time but I think I can make it work.”

It did take a few months but the house made its “debut.”  I didn’t change much.  Mostly just expanded but we needed the extra room.

With puppies, a toddler, and two children the living room needed some room to…well, live in.

And the kitchen had a growth spurt, too.  The dining room was tossed out in favor of a playroom and office.  It was too difficult for the poor toddler to hobble up and down the stairs to either her room or the basement to play.  Dining rooms are overrated anyway.

I planned to head off to university in the spring.  Granted, I’d be attending Storybrook County College but I’d be there for 10 hours and then there was homework.  My baby was going to grow up in the arms of a nanny.

Of course I was putting my horse in front of the cart.  I hadn’t even taken my entrance exams let alone applied to the school.

The aptitude exam was more difficult than I remembered.  Of course, it had been about 15 years since I took the last one.  Also I have relatively no business skills.  It’ll be a few more months before I know the results.  In the meantime there was still a lot to do.

One was meeting the nanny.  The doorbell rang early one fall morning.

She was quite unexpected.  When I think “nanny” I think old woman.  However, Linzy was lovely and highly qualified.

As we sat drinking coffee I interviewed her.  I already knew she would be perfect but I wanted to seem like I knew what I was doing.

“So, tell me about yourself.  Why do you want to be a nanny?”

“Hm.  Well, I love children.  I’m nurturing, neat, a natural cook.  I’m a master gardener and chef.  I have a degree in education and I used to be a teacher.”

Someone up there must love me.  If there is such thing as divine intervention this is it.

I showed Linzy to her room in the basement.  One more of the remodeling projects from the summer.  It wasn’t much but she loved it regardless.

Harper took right to Linzy as if they were old friends.

For the first time in a while I actually allowed myself to feel optimistic about the future.  Things could work out for us after all.

Chapter 3.33

I took to motherhood much easier than anticipated.  Granted, I never expected to raise Harper alone but I don’t think Xander needs to know I was pregnant when I left him either.

Someone takes after her mom in more than just good looks.

Harper is brilliant.  She took to walking nearly as soon as she hit the ground.

“MAMA!  MAMA!”

I realized that I didn’t want to miss a second of this walking, talking extravaganza.

I called Hannah to watch Harper and headed to the big-box resale store out in the boonies.

Everything is marked down to 25%.  You get what you pay for but I didn’t care.  I rushed into the store.

I grabbed the closest video recorder and paid.

Hannah was due any day now with their SECOND daughter.  We couldn’t wait to meet Azalea Kalliope (to be known as Kallie) but Hannah had a bigger surprise for me.

“My aunt just died and left Adam and I $50,000.  We want you to have it, Penny.”

“Uhh…what?”  I was dumbfounded.  “What about Violet and Kallie?  They need college funds?”

“Oh shush, P.  We both know your brother makes more than that each week in book royalties.  Take it.  Upgrade the house.  Go back to college.  Pay a real babysitter and go get laid.  Do something.  It’s your money now whether you like it or not.”

I have no idea how I ended up with such a kick ass sister-in-law.  She’ll never best my missing twin but she comes damn close some days.

Chapter 3.32

It’s that time again.

Not only was Dylan having a birthday…

Which he was totally excited for…but it was Harper’s birthday too.

It was a quiet celebration for poor Dylan since Katie was away at boarding school but we made it work.

“Is all that cake for me?”

“Do you really think you need that much cake, Pickle?”

“Is that a real question, Auntie?  Cuz the answer is yes.”

Harper had a bit more pomp for birthday and Dylan made sure she knew it was special.

Immediately upon becoming a toddler she started to beat the hell out of some creepy doll some long lost relative maile her.  Good girl.

“Penny…do I get any presents?”

“Oh…um…did you check your room?”

He was up the stairs before I even had a chance to think.

“NEW STUFF!”

I made sure he had a fully stocked toy chest and a new bed.

“So…did you just get me furniture?  I love it but…”

“Did you try going to the backyard and whistling for the present fairy?”

“The what?”

“The little old lady who sometimes brings presents if you whistle for her in the backyard?  You know the story…”

“There’s no presents out here, Penny.”

“Well you didn’t whistle did you?”

“This is stupid…but ok.”

“Hello?!  Old Lady Present Fairy?”

It was funny to watch him make a fool of himself.  Of course there was no present fairy but the hollering would bring his present running.

“Well looky there, Pickle.”

“Hi there, little guy…”

Merry and Pippin were the newest and tiniest members of the Hanks family.

His smile is totally worth all the frustration that awaits us.

Chapter 3.31

Note from SweetPoyzin: Nothing exciting happens in this chapter.  It is just to show off some adorableness.

With his birthday just around the corner, I thought I would spend some time with my little guy.  I reluctantly called a babysitter for Harper and left her alone for the first time.

I must say, Mr. Dylan quite enjoyed getting out of the house for a change.  I did, too.

We headed to the toystore to pick up some birthday goodies.

It also has the added bonus of having an attached park and we spent most of the day on the playground.

More specifically, we spent 5 hours riding the bee.

“All right, bud.  Time to go.”

“NO.  Don’t wanna.”

“Oh, you’ll live.”

While we were out we ran across these guys.  Dylan took to them right away.  Too bad they belong to someone.

Dylan continued to put up a stink about leaving but passed out immediately on the ride home.

I got home just in time to find Harper dirty, hungry, lonely, and sleepy.  Fuck babysitters.  I’m never leaving her again.

Chapter 3.30

It’s ours!  After I foolishly sold everything we owned in order to make the down payment.  We were left with nothing but the house.

A wonderful couple named Colt and Anna heard about our tale and graciously donated furniture, toys, and money to help us get everything we needed for our home.

This is a perfect place to raise my family.  I knew it would be.

And I have a coffee maker.  God knows with a baby and a toddler I needed that hardcore.

I’m still amazed it is ours.

I made sure the kids had everything they wanted and needed.  All new toys and furniture.

I picked out paint and wallpaper.  I went nuts.

Harper’s room is still a bit spartan but she’s 9 months old.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t really care.

I really went overboard with the kid stuff.  They’ve been through a lot and they are such troopers.  They deserve the best.

I didn’t ignore myself though.  I need some quiet, too!

I made sure I got some pampering after the kids were taken care of.

The garden is where I really went crazy.

I even bought a canning set for the shed.

This is our home now and for as long as I can tell.

I sold off all the produce from the garden as soon as Katie told me she wanted to go to boarding school.  She was accepted to Le Fromage and starts at the end of the summer.  We’ll miss her but she’s earned it.

She looks more like her Mama every day.  All my babies are growing up fairly well.  I’m surprised I didn’t break them.

**Note from SweetPoyzin** Many thanks to all those who sent in-game gifts to get Penny and crew through their period of financial distress!**

Chapter 3.29

Several months after Harper’s birth we were all chugging along as normal.  I headed over to Adam’s house for a much needed adult afternoon.  Nothing super special because my sister-in-law, Hannah was due to give birth any day now.

We had tea and chatted about my need for a bigger house and her need for a smaller belly.

“Why don’t you put in an offer on the house behind ours?  It’s right across the alley.  It would be perfect!”

“When did it go up for sale?!  Also, I have no money so that’s one reason…”

The conversation didn’t get any farther than that.  It was time to meet ADAM’S kid.  I didn’t have time to ponder the idea of my baby brother being a father.  Hannah needed a driver.

That evening Violet June Hanks happily joined our family.

The next morning I went over to check out the house.  Three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a huge backyard.  It was perfect for us.

How could I not love it?  How could I possibly afford it?

I knew what I had to do.  I took Olivia’s paintings to the consignment shop.  It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made but Liv would want her kids to grow up in a house and not a shithole apartment.

I may have tried to make money some other ways too.  I would get those kids a house by any means necessary.