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 3.30

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.

Chapter 3.27

Before too long our tiny apartment became home.

Bug and Pickle made sure there was plenty to welcome Baby Peanut when she got here.

Early one morning in spring I woke up knowing it was time to bring Peanut into the world.  Despite never having birthed a baby something told me she was ready.

I got up and prepared breakfast before Bug went off to school.  Today was going to be as normal as possible regardless of fact that I was going to push a bowling ball out of my vagina in a few short hours.

The thought of what I was going to do was slightly shocking a bit painful to think about.  Dear God…I was going to be a mother.

The kids were oblivious to my peril (probably because there wasn’t any) but I still liked having them close.  Bug ran off to school without a look back  and I was left with Pickle.

We got in some good playtime before my contractions started.

“Are you ready to help with a baby?”

“I da baby.”

Just then I was hit by more than just a tiny contraction.

“Mama Peenee hurt?” The concern in my nephew’s voice hurt almost as much as the contractions.

“No, honey.  The baby just wants out.”

“Bad baby.  No hurt Peenee.”

I called the babysitter and told her to hurry.

I sat down on the couch but knew there wasn’t time for sitting.  I needed to get dressed.  Like hours ago.

I threw on some clothes and tried to be quite so I wouldn’t scare Pickle even more.

That plan failed.  The babysitter was still en route but there wasn’t time to wait.  I yelled across the hall for the neighbor to keep an ear out because I had to go.

I drove myself in spite of being in hard labor.  That’s just how I roll.

After 15 hours of labor Harper Gray Hanks came into the world.  She didn’t have an ounce of her father in her so I saw no need to tack on his name as a reminder.

It wasn’t long after I got home when it become painfully obvious that we were going to need a bigger place…soon.

Chapter 3.25

Note from SweetPoyzin:  Bad things come in threes…sorry again.

With all the shit happening in my life something was bound to break.  It was work.  I got sloppy on the job and  a patient died during a routine surgery.  I was put on leave and that’s when I made a decision.  I called Adam to tell him.

“The kids and I are leaving.”

“WHAT!?  Why!?  Just because someone died on your watch doesn’t mean you will lose your job.”

I sighed.  “I’ve already lost my job, Adam.”

I couldn’t even look him in the eye.  My little brother had stood by my side for years but this blind faith in me was too much.

“Stephen and I were having an affair.”

“YOUR BOSS!?  God damn it, Penelope.  Why can’t you stay out of trouble?”

“DON”T FUCKING JUDGE ME, ADAM!  In the past 3 months I have lost my twin, my marriage, and my job –”

“They were my family, too.”  He said quietly.

At that moment I realized I was not the only one still hurting.  I was just the only one handling it so poorly.

“Fuck.  You’re right.  At any rate I need a fresh start.  The kids and I are moving to Storybrook county…next week.”

“Fair enough.  I’ll pack my things.”

“Adam.  Don’t be ridiculous.  You just bought a house.”

“Yeah, well it looks like I’m selling it now.  We both know you need someone to keep you out of trouble.  And I need to be the fun uncle to these two monsters.  Sugar before bedtime and all that jazz.”

“Well…college?”

“Storybrook County is even closer to University.  I’ll live there while I attend classes.  Boom.  Next excuse?”

“Alright.  Pack your things.  You only have a week.”

And with that we were off to our next big adventure.

Chapter 3.24

Note from SweetPoyzin: My apologies…again.

A few months after the funeral things were finally getting settled.  Adam was gearing up for college in a couple of weeks.  He moved out into his own place to give me space for the kids.

Xander came home one night and had big news.

“Honey!  I’m no longer working the night shift!  We can get started on that baby now!”  He was thrilled.  I had doubts.

“You got promoted?”

“Well…not so much.  I got…fired.  Penny, I haven’t been 100% honest with you.  That security job I was working?  I was actually a Master Crime Boss.  My dad found out and well, I got arrested.  Remember that trip I took a year or so ago?  Yeah…”

“Penny?”

“Get. Out. Now.” I growled.  I didn’t know I could make that noise but I growled at him.

“I don’t even care that you were a crime boss, Xander.  You lied…for 10 years!  I’ve known you for TEN YEARS!  How long?”

“I worked there for 8 years.”

“FUCK YOU.  You disgust me.”  I had no idea how badly his betrayal hurt.  I honestly didn’t care about his being a crime boss.  He lied…for 8 years.

“How can I fix this, Penny?  Tell me.  I will do anything.”  He was actually heartbroken that he hurt me.  I could feel his sincerity oozing off his body.

“Get out and sign the divorce papers I send you tomorrow.”

“Penny!  Wait, please!”  His begging was almost worse than his lies.

“OUT or I will call the cops on your ass again.”

“I’m so sorry, Peanut.  It looks like it’s just us now.”

Chapter 3.23

Note from SweetPoyzin: Sorry it’s so short.  I didn’t want to do it but it had to be done for reasons that will be explained later.

Car accident.  It was worse than I could have imagined.  We lost Mike, too.

Mom was a mess.  Someone had to plan a funeral.  So I got on the phone and made the arrangements.

“Yes, yes I’m sure I want it on the beach.  Yes, only black table clothes and chairs.  No, make sure everything else is colorful.  Yes, I’m sure she would have wanted lots and lots of color.”

After I made the plans Xander grabbed me.

“Let’s take the kids.  You know Mike and Liv would have wanted them to be raised by family.  Who better than you?”

Bug and Pickle.  Shit.  I hadn’t even thought about the kids.  I may have lost my twin but they lost everything.

“The social worker stopped by when you were on the phone.  There’s a hearing tomorrow.  If you want them she said all you have to do is show up.  We should do this, Penny.  Liv would kick your ass if you let them go into foster care.”

He was right.  I have no idea where I am going to put them but they have to come here.  Tomorrow.

The next day before the funeral I headed to the courthouse.  I wished that convincing a judge I’d be a good parent was the most difficult part of my day but it would only get worse from here.

The venue was perfect.  It was just what Liv would have wanted.

I wished that Mom’s photos were being used for a better purpose but I wanted a celebration just like we used to have for our birthdays.  We were going to celebrate her life not mourn her death.

I still lost my shit when I saw her urn though.  How was I ever going to raise her children the same way she would have.  She was so much better than me at everything.  How was I going to get through this without the person who had been through everything with me?

Katie handled it all so well.  She stood there and let others mourn for her mother but never cried.  I knew we would be dealing with that later but for now I was glad she kept herself together.

Mom and I did the eulogy.  We did our best at least.

We both looked a little crazy but I don’t think anyone was going to hold it against us.

Later Adam, Bug, Pickle, and I went to the cemetery together.

We all just cried and held each other.  It was the best we could do.

We had all lost the glue that held us together.  It was up to us to hold each other together now.

Please, please, please.  Olivia, if you can hear me…please help me raise these babies.

Chapter 3.22

Note from SweetPoyzin: Don’t hate me.

Xander and I had some things to think about after our dinner conversation.  I realized we should have had this chat earlier…like before the wedding.

Luckily I was able to convince him that maybe we should wait just a tad longer.  I told him I would consider having a baby after he got off the night shift.  I got too little sleep as it was.  I didn’t need less with him working all the time.

“So…now that we have that settled…how about the beach?”

I was planning on throughly enjoying the rest of this trip now that I didn’t have to worry about babies all the time.

However, my family had other plans.  My phone was ringing off the damn hook.  It was my mother.  Whatever she wanted could wait.  I was going to enjoy every second I had left of this trip.  I earned it!

I silenced my phone and forgot about bills, work, babies, and life.

I checked my phone after dinner and had 132 text messages and 57 voicemails.  After reading the text from Adam that said “Call Dad” I decided to respond so I could get some peace.  Dad answered on the first ring.

“CHRIST, PENNY!  Thank God you are ok!”

“Of course I am, Daddy.  I am on my honeymoon.  Forgive me for shutting the world out for a few days.”

“I know, honey.  I’m really sorry about interrupting your trip honey, but you need to come home.  Now.”

I silently rolled my eyes at him.  He’d better have a damn good reason for asking me to come home.  Xander and I waited nearly a year for this trip.

“Well.  Xander and I still have a week left in paradise.  We will be home next Friday so we will see you then.”

“Now, Penny.  Tomorrow.”

“Ugh, Daddy.  You’re being too dramatic.  What’s got your feathers ruffled?   Who died.”  I rolled my eyes again and went to hang up the phone when dad responded.

“Olivia.  Olivia’s dead.”