I couldn’t believe she was real. Penny was real. A real human, standing in front of me, staring at me with eyes that held something behind them. I could see depth, hints of emotion, her soul which I had cared so much for before this… now she was more than a voice within a cloth body.
I couldn’t look away from her eyes. They were an amazing shade of blue I had never seen as eyes before. She just stared back, her beautiful eyes widening ever so slightly.
“Calcifer,” she said again and suddenly her eyes went huge as she began blushing. “I feel strange!” She put her hands against her cheeks and smiled “I feel warm.”
“Penny…” Teri’s voice made me feel even dizzier. “I–I can’t believe you’re real this is… this is wild.”
“Hello Teri,” Penny said softly. “It is a pleasure to finally be able to properly meet you.” Then she looked back at me, her eyes shining in a way they never could before. My heart still felt stopped and my brain felt as though someone was hitting it with a hammer.
She’s real, I thought, shifting my body weight slightly and pressing my sweaty hands against my pants. These feelings for her… I tried my best not to look at Teri. If she looked into my eyes I knew she’d be able to figure out what I was thinking. Oh… Teri… Penny. What am I going to do?
The two of them began talking but I couldn’t figure out their words. I just kept my eyes on Penny. She was human. And I had feelings for her. How could I have feelings for her? I had feelings for Teri. What sort of creepo was I for having feelings for two women at the same time?
I sucked in air and pressed my fingernails into my palms. My heart started beating again and it sounded too loud to me. The trouble with liking Penny was, did she like me? In that way? I thought she did but how could I be sure? Besides, it wasn’t as if I was a good catch. I wasn’t human. Then again, neither was she–not completely. Maybe we were meant to be. Two people brought to life through science.
But what about Teri? She did love me. But didn’t she deserve someone better than me? And could I just… break her heart? I didn’t want to hurt her. I cared about her. I even loved her, in a way. I knew if Penny wasn’t around then Teri and I probably would live our lives together. Marriage. Kids. All that. So why should that change just because my friend was suddenly available? It wasn’t fair.
Suddenly arms went around me. “Calcifer!” Penny giggled. “I’m real! You made me real!”
I hugged her back. It was so strange hugging her and feeling someone real there instead of a cloth body. Her arms felt different around me, too. Her hands were slender, her elbows more than just knobbly little things. Her body was more slender, too, though part of her was a… bit bigger… Oh jeez, I hoped I wasn’t blushing too.
“Thank you so much!” she exclaimed, her arms tightening. “I can’t believe I’m real! I’ve thought about this all my life!” She pulled back and our eyes met once more. Her lips parted into a sweet smile. “This feels so amazing!” She put her hands against her chest, her eyes lighting up even more. “I have a heartbeat! I have lungs! I can breathe! I can smell!” She clapped her hands together and bouncing on the balls of her feet. “I’ll be able to taste!”
She looked so excited that I began grinning as well. Even Teri was grinning although now that I finally looked at her face, I could tell something was wrong. I turned back to Penny and took hold of her wrist.
“We’ll have whatever you want to eat for dinner tonight.” Suddenly I smacked my forehead, remembering what day it was. “Crap. I have to work. I can call off–“
“No!” Penny said, wrapping both her arms around my arm. “No I will be okay. Besides, I will be able to do something I have wanted to do for a long time.”
My heart fluttered and I sort of hoped that she meant kissing me. NO! WRONG! BAD CAL! DON’T THINK THAT! But then she took a few unsteady steps. She stumbled slightly, giggling the whole time.
“My feet feel so strange. My arms do too. Everything does!” She turned slowly and grinned at both of us. Then she went over to her easel and ran a finger across the metal. I quickly got her a canvas and my paints.
“I’ll buy you your own palette and brushes and paints tonight on my way home,” I said, handing mine over. “Right now you can use these.”
“Oh! Thank you, Cal.” She took one of the brushes and rolled it in her fingers, staring down at the tool. “I… I can’t do this…”
“Why not?” I asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. It felt so warm under my hand and so different. I pulled my hand away, a bit afraid of continuing contact.
Penny turned, clutching the brush in both hands. I was surprised to see her eyes watering up. “Oh Cal, what if I am horrible at this? What if it turns out ugly? I could never be as talented as you!” She pushed the brush back into my grasp and then took a step back, blushing.
She looked really upset–a lot more than I expected. I glanced at Teri who gave me a shrug. “Pens…” I turned back to her and put the brush and paints back into her hands. “It doesn’t matter what you paint. You want to paint, so paint. As long as it comes from the heart… it doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
The tears spilled out onto her cheeks and she looked surprised. “I’m crying? Why am I crying?” She wiped the tear away and stared at her fingers in shock.
I gently pushed her towards the easel. “You’re new to emotions affecting your body, I’m sure everything is just a bit overwhelming right now.” I let go and stepped away from her.
She stared at the blank canvas then began organizing everything in the same manner I did. Teri came up beside me and slid her hand in mine. I nervously clutched hers, wondering if mine felt clammy. Maybe getting out of the house was the right thing to do. I could get some fresh air and think about everything.
“Ahh!” Penny squeaked out as her brush touched the canvas. She took her hand away and stared at the spot of color. “I…” She looked at us and her face was pink again. “Is this okay?”
“It looks like a beautiful start,” Teri promised.
Penny beamed and went back to painting, quickly getting absorbed in what she was doing. I went into the bedroom to get changed and when I came out, Teri pulled me close and kissed me rather passionately.
“Have a good day at work,” she said, running her fingers through my hair. “I’ll take care of Penny. I promise.”
“Okay, I’ll bring dinner back.” I hugged Teri then went over to let Penny know I was leaving. She barely even heard me but did mumble something that was probably goodbye. I gave Teri one more smile before going outside just as my carpool pulled up. I slid into the car and closed my eyes, wondering what the hell I was going to do.
This was amazing. Truly amazing. I was really real! I always trusted Calcifer, but part of me had accepted the thought that I might never be this way.
Watching Cal for so long had always made me think I wanted to do this. Now that I could hold a paintbrush properly I was enjoying it very much. I wasn’t sure what I was painting. I was mostly just putting paint on the canvas. I realized I was mostly using green and yellow which was fine with me. I liked green and yellow. It was like me.
She had been sitting in this room with me ever since Calcifer had left. I guess she felt obligated or something. I felt strange with her in this room. A feeling I often got with her around, one that I had figured was the feeling of being uncomfortable. But I could not tell her to go sit somewhere else. I had to be nice to her. Even though I had the oddest wish to just push the palette of paint into her face.
“Yes Teri?” I asked, not even looking at her. I just continued watching the colors form on the canvas, wondering if maybe I was painting a watermelon.
“Can I ask you something personal?” she asked. I didn’t think I was very good at understanding emotions yet but she sounded like she was going to ask me something she did not want to ask. Was that even an emotion?
“You may ask me whatever you want,” I answered. I did not like talking to her but this was probably how my human life will go. Having to deal with Teri. Calcifer loved her and I did not like that but what could I possibly do?
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you are real,” she said.
Now I set my brush down and turned to look at her. “That is not a question.”
She pressed her lips together and stood up, taking a few steps towards me. “No, it’s not.” She pressed her hands together and stared at me with a strange look in her eyes. “Calcifer is your friend?”
“Yes!” I replied happily. “He is my best friend!”
“Penny,” Teri spoke again. “How do you feel about it? Are you two… more than friends?”
“I do not understand,” I said, my forehead feeling strange. I knew when Cal frowned or was upset by something his eyebrows would sort of push down and together. Were my eyebrows doing the same? It was so odd!
“Penny…” Teri tucked her hair behind her ears and sighed. “I love him.”
My new organs started feeling very strange indeed. I wasn’t sure which felt odder, my stomach or my heart. “I know,” I finally replied to her. “That is why you live with him and sleep with him.”
Teri’s face went quite white before it went red. “I do not sleep with him!” she shouted.
I tilted my head to one side as she said this, wondering why she was denying it. “Yes you do,” I said, pointing towards their bedroom door. “Every night for the past few months.”
Teri blinked then began laughing. “Oh! That. Yes. I thought you meant… ahhh! Never mind. We share a bed. That’s not the same as sleeping together.”
“Yes it is,” I said, wondering how Calcifer could love someone who was not very intelligent. “You are in the same bed and you sleep. That is sleeping together.”
“No… Penny… oh never mind!” Teri shook her head. “Oh jeez, it’s going off what I was meaning to say. Okay.” She held her hands up, her fingers pointing at me. “I love Cal. More than anything. I want to be with him. I just need to know if you feel the same.”
Love. The word made my new heart beat a lot faster. I hoped that was not something dangerous. I knew that hearts could cause a human a lot of health problems. “I want to be with him too,” I said carefully. “He is my best friend. I have lived with him since as long as I can remember. We have always been friends.”
“Friends…” She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “Penny, do you want to be more than friends with him? Do you love him? I have to know! I love Cal, I don’t want to lose him. He is everything to me. I’ve loved him since we met in high school.”
She looked as though she might cry. I wasn’t sure what I should say, so I didn’t say anything. “I want to marry him. We have our whole lives ahead of us… I mean, I’m only twenty-one. But…” She looked up and her breathing became strange. “I love him. I know he cares about you… and I will be perfectly fine with you two being friends. But if I have a rival then I need to know!”
Now my eyes felt as though I would start crying. I did not like Teri at all but I knew that if I told her how I truly felt about Calcifer then things would become bad. Calcifer loved Teri and Teri loved Calcifer. I loved Calcifer but I didn’t know if he loved me.
I did not know much about humans, but I had seen a lot of movies. This sort of thing was a problematic situation. And the person who got in the way of two people who loved each other was usually the bad guy. The villain. Was I going to be the villain? I didn’t see myself as a villain. Plus I had met Calcifer long before Teri did.
“I know this is a very personal question and I’ll understand if you don’t answer. I just want to know. I need to know. Please understand, I can’t lose him.”
I felt guilty. Bad guilt. I wanted to yell at her and say that I loved Calcifer and did not want to give him up. But I didn’t want to hurt Calcifer. I wanted him but I knew that even more than wanting him, I wanted him to be happy. And he was happy with Teri.
“We are friends,” I said, hoping I could pull off lying with this face. I knew my voice would sound truthful. I just was not sure if my face would also look truthful. “I care about him as my friend. But we are only friends. I only want him as my friend.”
Teri stared back back at me then she began smiling, nodding as she did. “Thank you, Penny.” She turned and went over to the couch, looking as if… what was that saying? A weight had been yanked off her shoulders.
I believed, though, that the weight had been dropped onto mine. I turned back to my painting and began working on the watermelon-thing again as the tears came out and down my cheeks.