No matter how much begging and pleading I did, Penny refused to come out of doll form. She had been this way ever since I told her the news. I knew she was sulking, and tried to convince myself it wasn’t the reason I was worried it was.
The only thing that reassured me that she wasn’t totally mad at me was the fact sometimes I’d find her sitting somewhere new after I woke up, or something. I hoped she’d cool down enough to talk to me. I needed to explain to her…
What? Explain what to her?
The confusion I felt couldn’t be because of… complications. She was a doll, after all. I couldn’t–and besides, there was every chance I would fail at making her real. I was determined to make her real, but it could wind up a total disaster. I wasn’t going to tell her that. I was going to keep on working for a solution.
If she was real, then what? I’d have to introduce her properly to Teri. And would it be awkward having us all live here together? I did not want to lose Penny, but I cared about Teri. What if I was forced into making a decision? Penny was my best friend, but Teri was my girlfriend.
What kind of decision would it be anyway? One one hand I had a doll-turned-imaginary-friend-possibly-turned-real, someone who had as little claim to being human as I did. On the other hand was a real girl, someone who was definitely more human than I. Both were sweet, both were kind. Both were there for me–just one had been there longer than the other. Both I liked, both I wanted around, both I cared about, undoubtedly. The question that scared me, however, was one I didn’t want to admit or even think about.
“Hey Teri, can you come over tonight? I thought we could order some pizza and have a quiet evening here… if that’s okay with you? I don’t have to work tonight so we’ll have the whole evening.”
“I’d love to!” Teri exclaimed over the phone. “I’ll be there at six?”
“Sounds great.” I hung up the phone and looked over to where Penny was sitting. I went over and picked her up, pressing my forehead against hers. “Penny… please… don’t do this to me.” I closed my eyes and took her into my room, setting her on my bed. “You know I’m your friend and always will be.” I took her little doll hands in mine and stared at her expressionless, minute face. “Just give Teri a chance. Okay?”
When Teri arrived, I felt more miserable than I looked. Why did life have to be so complicated? Why was I even questioning my feelings towards a doll?
Teri looked so innocent and so cute. I pulled her into an embrace and our lips met. I wanted our relationship to grow more. I wanted us to be us. I wanted Teri. I–cared about her. I couldn’t let Penny rule my life. I was going to ask Teri, and that was that. It wasn’t as if someone who wasn’t even real could keep me chained up.
After some pizza and a game of catch, we sat to watch the stars twinkle into existence. After a moment, I gathered my courage. “Hey Teri…”
“Yeah?” she asked, tilting her head to look at me.
I hoped she didn’t notice that my hand was beginning to tremble. I squeezed her hand to stop the shaking. “I love you,” I said, though the words sounded hollow to me. I did love her. I was sure of it. “I was thinking maybe… we could maybe… well, never mind. It’s stupid.”
“No, what is it?” she urged. “Tell me.”
I gulped and scooted a bit closer to her, feeling her warmth. It was the middle of October and quite chilly out. I scooted even closer, our arms bumping together.
“I was thinking if you wanted, and you can say no…” I raised my right hand and pushed back my bangs. “It sounds silly, really, so feel free to say no. But, um, I was wondering if you might want to move in with me sometime?”
She slid her arm behind me and I put mine around her waist. “I’d love to,” she said, tilting her chin up so she could look at the sky. “I was beginning to wonder if I needed to be the one with guts.”
“Hey!” I protested with a laugh. “I asked you to go steady in the first place.”
“After I was the one to ask you to prom!” she giggled, reaching around to tickle my stomach. “And if I recall, I had to ask you to dance. You were too busy panicking.”
“I was not panicking!” I shrieked as she continued tickling me. “I was merely basking in your beauty. Yeah. That’s it.”
“Uh-huh. Sure.” She rolled her eyes and jumped to her feet, grinning playfully at me. “Bask in this!” She put her foot against my back and nudged me just hard enough to tip me onto the ground.
After a quick game of tag, and a small make-out session, we realized it was getting kinda late. I didn’t want to say goodnight but she had to get up for work in the morning.
We held hands for quite a bit before she gave me a kiss and got into her car. I watched her drive off then went inside, looking to see if Penny was still in doll form. She was still on my bed, though in a different place. I picked her up and gave her a small, hopeful hug before heading back into the other room to paint.
During the couple of weeks before Teri moved in, we added onto the house.
Between my money and hers, we were able to furnish the kitchen. She picked out everything, though I knew the color was chosen because of me.
We were even able to get a little table and some chairs. Originally she just bought two chairs, but I asked her for a third though I never told her the reason why. I told Penny, though. I brought her over and showed her that she was welcome to sit with us anytime she wanted.
I was given nothing but a blank doll stare in return.
Since I got yet another promotion, I was able to afford to build a whole new room onto the house. A new bedroom. I had plans for another bedroom to be added–for Teri–and then my old bedroom would eventually be used for Penny.
If I could make her real.
If she decided to stay.
When Teri moved in officially, I offered her my room but she turned it down, insisting my old one was fine even though it was smaller.
I admit, it was kind of awkward at first. I didn’t really know how to act with her in the house. I was extra quiet, tried to wear more clothes, and kept the bathroom a little neater. Instead of fast food and sandwiches, we had proper meals.
It wasn’t until Teri had been there for about six days before I saw Penny in anything but doll form. I woke up one morning and as I searched my dresser for some clothes, there was a flash of light from behind me. I spun around, pressing back against the dresser.
“Pens!” I half-shouted, rushing over to her and wrapping my arms around her without a second thought. Her soft arms went around me and we just hugged for a couple minutes before I pulled back, looking into her eyes. “I’ve missed you so much!”
“I’m sorry,” she said in a monotone voice. “I thought perhaps you did not want to see me, since… she moved in.”
“Penny, I always want to see you.” I ran my fingers through my hair then began rubbing the back of my head, feeling very nervous all of a sudden. “I’m going to make you human soon, I promise. I’ve bought some of the stuff for the formula, I just need one more ingredient and I swear I’ll get it, and–“
“Cal.” She put one finger against my lips. “It’s okay. I told you before not to push yourself. I don’t think there’s really any hurry.”
“It will happen soon,” I said, leaning closer to her. “I swear it. I’ll make you human, and then…”
“And then what, Calcifer?” she asked lightly.
I jerked my head away and stomped over to the dresser, angrily yanking the drawer open. “Then you’ll be human,” I growled. “And you’ll have your life to live.”
“Calcifer…” She came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry I acted the way I did. I was worried you wouldn’t want to be around me anymore if Teri was here.”
My fingers curled tightly around a pair of jeans and I began breathing heavily. Her words sank into my brain and I hunched my shoulders over. “You don’t hate her?” I asked carefully, wondering if maybe my worries had been for nothing. Maybe… I was reading too much into it, I thought. Maybe Penny doesn’t have any feelings for me–those sorts of feelings… if a doll could.
Her head rested on my shoulder and the cloth rubbed against my skin. “I just want you to be happy,” she breathed out. “That’s all.”
Now that Penny and I were talking again, Teri noticed. At first she didn’t mention it but after a couple weeks she finally asked me why I was talking to nobody. I explained to her about Penny, who was sometimes a doll and sometimes life-sized. I tried to explain as best I could the history behind Penny and my dreams of making her real.
“Cal, doesn’t that sound a bit crazy?” she asked as soon as I finished taking.
“Er…” I certainly hadn’t expected that. “Crazy?” I repeated. “No. No! She’s real. She’s right here!” I waved my arm at where Penny was standing and Penny gave a little wave.
Teri blinked and then hid a smirk behind her hand. “Calcifer… you’re still… you’re so silly!” she giggled and then she kissed the corner of my mouth. “Still playing these games. One reason I love you so much, you’re still a kid at heart.” Her hand went against my chest and she gave me another kiss. “Well tell Penny I said hello.” She picked up her plate and headed into the kitchen, shaking her head slightly.
“Cal?” Penny asked, noticing how still I was. “Calcifer, it’s ok. She can’t see me, so–“
“No!” I snapped. “I mean, yeah. She can’t see you.” I glanced over and saw Teri watching me curiously. “I’ll show you!” I said, pointing first at Teri then at Penny. “That’s it! I will make you real, I swear I will! And… I will get it done… before my next birthday!”
My carpool honked and I gave both my girls a wave before running out of the house, thinking about what I needed to do. I had to make her real. I could NOT let this go by one more month without turning her real! I was going to do it. Even if I had to break a few rules to do it.
That night, Teri came into the bedroom to apologize how she had acted in the morning. “I guess I was just worried,” she admitted as she slid into the bed next to me. “I love you, Cal. And you know, I just want you to be happy.”
We shared my bed that night, sleeping peacefully side by side. In the morning I woke up to find myself snuggled up against her, my arm across her body. They both want me to be happy, I thought as she stirred slightly. But what do I want? A legacy, for my father? Will that even be possible with Penny? Why am I even thinking about that? What do I want?
I closed my eyes, turning my face slightly so it wasn’t pressed directly into the back of her head. Do I really love Penny, or am I mixing up best-friend-love with wife-material-love? But what about Teri? Do I really love her, or do I just care about her?
ARGH! Life was seriously screwed up sometimes. But I knew perfectly well that I was the one with the screwdriver, getting myself into this situation.