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 3.28

We settled into some semblance of routine before too long.

Pickle was up with the sun and ready for breakfast.

He and I would get some one-on-one time in after Bug headed for the school bus.

He’d get bored before too long and he’d head for greener pastures aka more fun toys.

It was about this time that Harper would start screaming for her own breakfast.

With all the commotion on the itty-bits I was worried poor Bug was feeling forgotten.  She was growing up before my eyes.

I snagged her after dance class one night.

“Hey, I have a gift for you.  Head to the living room while I change this stinky kid.”

I pulled her Mom’s trunk out of Adam’s basement earlier that day (well, Adam pulled it out of his own basement because I have TONS of time to leave the house).

“Here.  I took this while your mom and I were in college.  You should have it if you want it.”

She seemed unsure at first.

But I think she’ll be ok.

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.”

Chapter 3.21

Nearly a year after the wedding we finally got our honeymoon!

Xander and I decided to travel to Sunlit Tides.  He really tried to convince me that France was the way to go but in light of my past I felt that France and my husband should not meet.

We got a suite in an amazing resort right on the ocean.  Contrary to most newlyweds we weren’t planning on spending the whole trip in our room.  In fact, we spent only a few hours a day together each day.

Xander was totally obsessed with learning how to surf.  He tried windsurfing, regular surfing.  He practiced on the ocean and in the pool.  It was funny because it was all he talked about even though he wasn’t very good at it yet.

I, on the other hand, was eager to learn how to snorkel.  I remember the seashells mom collected when I was a kid but Starlight Shores had limited sea life.  There was a bounty of underwater critters here and they even offered lessons on how to snorkel (the hotel, not the critters).  I jumped at the chance when the concierge asked if I wanted to sign up with their trainer.

We did manage to spend some time together.  One evening Xander rented a boat and we went on our own mini sunset cruise.  We had heard rumors of secret islands but we didn’t find any.  We also didn’t see the Kraken that the front desk attendant warned us about.  Old wives’ tale to scare the tourists and drum up business I’m sure.

I also challenged Xander to a fishing showdown.  We are both master anglers but I convinced him I am the better fisherwoman.  Xander took the bait (pun intended) and learned not to question his wife when she tells you she is better at something.

Our hotel had a sushi buffet and Xander and I were not about to pass that shizz up.  We headed over and got our noms and sat down near the pool when Xander started on about “it” again.

“What if we went home with a permanent souvenir of our honeymoon?”  I looked over at him and noticed the goofy grin on his face.

“Oh.  You mean like a parrot, right?”  I asked nervously.  I hadn’t been taking my regular birth control for a couple of weeks now but I may have slipped a morning after pill in there a couple times.  This conversation couldn’t go anywhere good.

He cleared his throat.  “I was thinking more along the lines of a baby.  You know I want a family, Pens.”

I realized then that we had never discussed when or if we wanted kids.  I wasn’t sure what to say because I still wasn’t up for the whole baby thing.  I didn’t want kids now.  I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be a mother.

So I said the first thing that popped into my head…

“Could you pass the salt?”