Teri and I had our second date as adults. I told her a little more about things. How I discovered the truth, how badly I reacted about everything. Teri held my hand and told me that I wasn’t a monster. It was reassuring to hear it, though difficult to let go. I knew there was no way to explain to her how exactly I felt knowing how I had been made.
When I got home, Penny was in her doll form and refused to come out that night. In the morning when she finally emerged, I asked if she was all right.
“I suppose so,” she replied. “What else can I be? I can’t get sick.” She looked down at her hands. “Cal, do you really want me to be human?”
I took hold of her arm, pulling her a little closer to me. “Of course I do, Pens,” I said, looking into her big blue eyes. “You know I care about you.”
“Best friends…” Slowly she lifted her face so it was more even with me. “I hope to be human soon, Cal.”
“You will be!” I promised. “I have a plan. Forget that stupid rainbow gem. I have a plan, I think I know how to make you real. I just need to find that old formula I was given… what, almost ten years ago?” I put on a fake grin, not feeling as cheerful as I was trying to sound. My heart felt heavy and slow. What was wrong?
“Are you going to buy a chemical station?” she asked.
“If I can afford it,” I said. “But I never found the formula before… I think it’s because I didn’t have the right chemicals. But!” I grabbed both her arms and kept that fake smile plastered on my face. “I have an idea. It will work. It has to work. And then you’ll be human!”
“I can’t wait,” she replied, her fingertips resting against her chest. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Life was going pretty good. I spent a lot of my home-time painting, which was also a way to avoid talking to Penny. Not that she wanted to talk much anymore. I knew there was something seriously wrong with her but every time I asked, she just insisted it was just her ‘daydreaming about being human’.
Working as a fan wasn’t so bad, but it didn’t pay a whole lot so after a few weeks when I got a promotion to roadie, I was super excited. I didn’t care that my life was now spent fetching things. I was bringing in more money and I was finally able to afford something I had wanted for ages.
A guitar. My very own guitar. I spent all my promotion bonus on it, plus half my paycheck. It cost a bit extra to get it in the style I wanted but I was pleased with the result. I started strumming right away, thinking about all the guitar players I saw around the theater. My fingers were unsure and thick, the notes sounding awkward. I plunked away and tried to work out notes.
I stayed awake all night, feeling too keyed up to even think about sleeping. Penny stayed up with me (not that she needed sleep), cheering me on and doing shuffling sort of dances. By the time the sun came up I was able to play a few clunky tunes.
When I wasn’t at home or at work, I was spending time with Teri. Things were going slow and sometimes painful. Our second date had ended with an agreement to a third, and after our third we settled on a fourth.
Things seemed to be going pretty well between us. I enjoyed her company and started giving her little things here and there. Some flowers, chocolate, even a heart-shaped rock I found one day. It was easier being around her than it was Penny.
Especially since after my dates, Penny would act really strange. She’d turn into doll form and stayed that way for quite a while. I sat cross-legged on the floor and stared at her, trying to figure things out. Part of me wondered if Penny was jealous. Then part of me thought she couldn’t be jealous since she was just a doll and didn’t have regular feelings. Then another part of me wondered if that was a fact. after all–she wasn’t something that had been encountered before.
Everything will be fine once she turns human, I decided, pushing myself to my feet and diving into my painting to try to forget everything. It didn’t work as well as beer, but at least it worked a little bit.
I had been back in Sunset Valley for eight months when things started getting a little more… heated up with Teri.
She felt so comfortable in my arms, her lips felt so sweet against mine. We had hugged, been holding hands and I had kissed her cheek a few times, but we hadn’t made anymore physical contact than that. Now that we were kissing once more, I wondered why we hadn’t started this up again sooner.
But when I got home, I felt so confused. Penny was, of course, in doll form which was a bit of a relief for me. I didn’t want to talk to her. I felt too jumbled up by everything so I began painting something I had wanted to for a long time.
As I worked on Penny’s portrait, I couldn’t take my mind off of Teri and my feelings for her. What were my feelings for? Did I love her? I knew I liked her, I liked her a lot. I cared about her. She was sweet, and wonderful. I enjoyed my time with her and wanted to spend more time with her. But was it love?
I hoped I looked casual enough. But not too casual. If I looked too casual then I might actually look suspicious. So I tried to look casual but not overly casual. Were people staring at me? Oh I hoped not.
I approached the doors, sweat forming on my hands. It felt like a nightmare as I prepared myself to go inside. This was the last place in the world that I wanted to go in but I had to case the joint. You can do it, I told myself. Just go in, ask the receptionist a few questions while checking out what sort of security this place has, then just walk out.
Part One of Make Penny Human, underway. It was part two that was going to be more difficult. But since one of the chemicals in the formula for Penny’s ‘potion’ wasn’t sold to the public, then stealing it was the only way.
I couldn’t think for a couple days after I went to the science lab. First off all I could think of when I was there was the fact that that was where I was made. Mixed together in a test tube and vial like some sort of freaky beverage. Second of all, I felt scared at the thought of being a thief. I had no idea how to be a thief! I doubted I’d be able to pull it off.
But it had to be done. It was the only way, to my knowledge, of getting that chemical. Except… I could be arrested. If I was ever caught.
A shiver went down my spine at that, remembering when I had been almost arrested as a teen. There was something almost thrilling at breaking the rules–I had to admit. It was a seductive thought. Fight the power, and all that.
NO! I was an adult now. I couldn’t just give in to that sort of temptation. Breaking rules was all in the past now. I played my pranks, it was time to set that aside. Not that stealing was a prank. It was seriously wrong.
The science lab closes at night, I thought, remembering everything Uncle Aiden had said about his workplace. Nobody is there except a security guard. The security there isn’t that tight. I could slip in, grab the chemical, and slip back out. I can jimmy locks. I used to all the time as a kid. All sorts of locks. I can do it. It’s not illegal, even. I’m part of the lab, I was made there! It will just be like… taking some of my own blood or something.
No, I finally realized. I can’t steal. It’s wrong. I’ll just have to think of another way to make Penny real. Maybe I could find that chemical somewhere else, legally. Or maybe I should just go looking for a rainbow gem. There was no way I could steal, even from the Evil Science Lab. I would get caught right away! How stupid of me to even think about it. Besides, there was something else–a bit more pressing–I needed to deal with.
“Penny, I have a surprise for you.” I beamed at her and took her padded hand, pulling her over to the gift I had bought with my recent promotion bonus. I had some news I wanted to talk to her about and I wasn’t sure how she’d react. I hoped that this gift would make her feel better about things.
“It’s an easel,” she said, staring at the metal form before her.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands together. “I bought it for you. For when you become real. A human. You said you wanted to learn to paint and I thought you should have your own easel!”
She turned to look at me and let out a gargled sound. “Oh Cal!” she finally got out. “Thank you! This means so much for me… I can’t believe you did this! Oh Cal!” She threw her arms around me and hugged tightly, her face pressing into my neck. I started to put my arms around her in return but then I just took hold of her shoulders and pushed her gently away.
“I’m so glad you like it,” I said a bit breathlessly. My heart felt really strange again. “I wanted to show you that I want you to stay here, that is… if you want to stay with me.”
“Cal…” She raised her hands slightly then let them fall again. “Of course I want to stay with you. You’re my… my best friend…”
“Good,” I said, my voice becoming slightly shaky. “But if you want to leave, that’s okay too. If it’s what you want. I just want you to be happy, and not feel obliged or anything. I… want you… to be happy…”
Things went silent and I began to feel extremely strange. Time slowed down and each heartbeat lasted an eternity. Then before I knew it, time returned to normal. I didn’t want to tell her. I wanted to just… run away. I wanted something to drink. I felt like was in a mess that I shouldn’t be in, and that saying it would cause a lot of problems.
“What is it, Cal?” she asked, sounding a bit concerned. “You seem upset again.”
I raised my shaky hands and clutched my chest, trying to keep calm. “The thing is…” The words were lost, floating around in space. I exhaled slowly and knew that if I couldn’t tell my best friend, then I wasn’t any sort of man. “I’m going to ask Teri to move in.”