I couldn’t believe my ears. Teri had just told me… she had accused me. On what? On nothing but some clothes and blueprints? I just stared at her, too shocked to really say anything.
Teri stared back at me, waiting. After a moment she said, “How could you?”
I closed my mouth and tried to get my wits back. “First of all, I didn’t,” I said slowly. I looked down at the clothes, remembering that night with guilt. “Second of all, I thought you said you’d do the same if you were… what was it? Pushed into a corner?”
Teri’s eyes narrowed very slightly and she grabbed the clothes, throwing them on the floor. “There is a big difference between saving someone’s life and–and experimenting with making a doll real!”
“Teri!” I gasped out, reaching for her arm but she brushed my hand away as she stormed towards the bed. I followed, trying to keep my temper which was quite difficult. “What I did was give Penny life! That’s just the same as saving someone’s life, isn’t it?”
“It’s not the same thing!” she cried out, her shoulders dropping forward as she slid her arms around her waist. I heard her stifling a sob and then she said, “There’s a big difference.”
I grabbed her arm and spun her around, forcing her to look at me. “How?” I spat out. “How the hell is it different?”
She stared up at me in fear for a split second before shifting her gaze away. “Cal, I thought you always disliked the fact you were made by science. So why did you bring someone else to life the same way?”
I was stunned. Those words were extremely hurtful–especially since they were true. It wasn’t something I had thought of before. I considered myself a monster while thinking of Penny as a doll-turned-human. Did she think of herself otherwise? She had seemed so happy until my proposal to Teri and even after that there were times I saw her beaming. Especially when she was painting, she looked so at peace.
But was I just Frankenstein’s monster… playing at being Frankenstein?
“That’s different,” I finally whispered.
“How?” she demanded, glaring at me. “It’s scientific experimentation either way, isn’t it?”
“She’s not like me,” I said, my voice low and miserable. “She’s…”
I looked away, going over to the dresser and leaning against it. “She’s better than me.” I pressed my hands against the wood and then curled my fingers, my nails scraping along the surface. “Nobody was killed because of her existence. My father was because of mine.”
“But you became a criminal for her,” she said, her voice laced with the hateful accusation. “A crime was committed to bring her to life.”
“NO!” I spun around and looked her in the eye. “No,” I repeated, a bit quieter. “That’s a lie.”
“Is it?” She pointed down at the clothes and blueprints. “What’s that then? What about that tour you took a long time ago? You hated the lab but took a tour of it for what reason? To help learn the layout better?”
I bit my lip and backed slightly away from her. “Well technically, yes, but–“
“And you wrote all over these blueprints,” she continued, her voice getting thicker and thicker with anger. “Cameras? You circled the security room!”
“Just shut up!” I snapped and her eyes narrowed. “It’s not what you think! I did not steal anything!” I bent down and scooped up the blueprints, waving them at her. “Yeah, I thought of it. I seriously thought about it. That’s why I printed these out! That’s why I cased the joint! But I never stole anything!” I flung the papers onto the ground and took a few steps, gripping at the dresser to keep my balance.
“Stop lying to me!” she begged, grabbing at my sleeve. I tugged my arm free and glowered at her, feeling sickened that she wasn’t listening to me.
“I’m not lying!” I snarled.
“You admitted it!” Her voice was rising and I was worried Penny would hear us. “You admitted that you took the tour for that reason!”
“Admitting I took the tour to help learn the inside of the lab better is not an admission of guilt!” I hissed out. “I admit that I was thinking about stealing the chemicals!”
“Why? Why would you steal them? To get back at the lab?” Her nostrils flared and she quickly covered her face, waiting for my answer as she took in several sharp breaths.
“Because something I needed was not sold in stores,” I replied, trying to calm down as well. “I thought it was the only way.”
“Oh!” Now she was angry again. “If it was the only way then how did you get it without stealing? Hm?”
I crossed my arms over my chest, gritting my teeth as I tried to speak. “Uncle Aiden helped me form a substitute. I worked on it for a long time. If you don’t believe me you can call and ask him.”
She hesitated, her arms pressing against her stomach as she started fidgeting. “Wh…” She started blushing very slightly. “Ahhh, oh. I, uh, I didn’t…”
“Anything else you want to accuse me of while you’re at it?” I could tell she was embarrassed but I was too ticked off to even think of calming down.
“Cal…” She wrapped her hands around each other and moaned slightly. “I’m… I’m sorry…”
“I’m sorry too!” I shook my head a bit and fell back against the dresser. “I can’t believe you just assumed the worst of me. I know I was pretty bad as a teen but I’ve been trying to change! I wanted to steal from the damned lab, I really wanted to–to help Penny but also to get back at what they did. But I didn’t have the courage.” I closed my eyes, listening to the thudding of my heart. “I’m a coward.”
“You’re not!” She touched my shoulder but I pulled away from her. “Cal–“
“I thought I would go to any lengths to save her but I guess I couldn’t!” I turned around, glaring at the award above my dresser. Most likely to fulfill my dreams… That felt like a kick in the stomach. Right now my dreams felt like they were crumbling around me. “I thought I’d do anything for her…”
There was silence behind me and I realized what I had said. I turned around and saw the look on her face, feeling slightly bad. “Ahh!” I said quickly. “Because she’s my best friend.”
“Best friend.” Teri slowly looked up at me. “Cal…” She brushed her hair away from her face and I saw a tear sliding down. “Why did you propose to me?” I tensed up, my eyes widening slightly. I opened my mouth to say it was because I loved her but for some reason the words wouldn’t come out. I stammered for a second then she touched her fingers to my lips. “I see.”
“I’ve loved you since I met you in school,” she said, raising her gaze to look at me. “Then when we were together…” She hesitated and turned slightly. “I questioned how you felt about me when you left town. I questioned how you felt about me when Penny because real. I never believed you about Penny till I saw her with my own eyes. And I thought you had done something illegal until you told me with your own words that you weren’t.”
“Someone told me that if you don’t trust the man you love then it’s not love.”
She slipped her engagement ring off her finger and gently placed it in my hand. I stood stock still, not quite grasping at what was going on. Teri… is breaking up with me?
I looked at her and reached up towards her face but she took my hand in hers, pushing it back down. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.
“Teri… I…” I couldn’t find any words. I felt shocked and completely confounded. I was just dumped? Because she didn’t trust me? What was going on?
She placed her lips against mine, giving me a very soft kiss before pulling back, letting go of my hand. “I’ll stay somewhere else tonight and come get my things tomorrow.”
And with that, she walked out of the bedroom. I suddenly felt as though I had been punched with an electrified fist. “Teri!” I called, taking a few steps.
She stopped, her hand on the doorknob. Without even looking back at me she said, “I think you should get the girl who’s never doubted you, Cal.” Then she shut the door, leaving me in confused silence.
Had this just really happened? Everything bobbed and weaved in my mind, nothing staying still long enough for me to focus on it. I pressed my hand against my forehead and after a moment I realized something was hurting. I pulled my hand away and saw the engagement ring. I quickly dropped it and stepped back, everything coming into a painful, sharp focus.
Oh Grim Reaper…
I fell to my knees, pushing my fingers into the carpet. Teri. She said she didn’t trust me completely but what reason was that for leaving me? I knew trust was important and yeah I was mad at her for accusing me of being a thief but I would have forgiven her after a couple hours of fuming.
I sat back against my legs, staring at the floor. I deserved this. It was probably for the best… after all, I hadn’t exactly proposed to her fully out of love. It wasn’t fair on her. This was better for her…
I pulled my legs out from under me and wrapped my arms around them, burying my face in my arms. If I went after her and begged her to reconsider, she might. I would slip the ring back on her finger and things would get better. Our wedding would go as planned. We’d forgive each other, life would be good.
But I don’t want to go after her, I realized with agonizing clarity. I could faintly hear her, shutting the door to the bathroom and then shutting the sliding doors. I can’t marry her, I thought as I heard her car door slam. I don’t completely love her. Her car started and after a moment I heard it pulling away, taking her out of my life. I love Penny.
I lifted my heard, staring through teary eyes at the door. Penny. The girl who has never doubted me. I slowly got to me feet, staggering a bit. Penny. I grabbed my door and shoved it open, staring at her bedroom door. Penny!
I ran forward, crashing into the coffee table between our doors. Some magazines fell off and my shin started hurting but I ignored it. I want Penny. I felt so dizzy, so breathless. I need her. I hesitated, then knocked. I can’t live without her. There was no answer so I went in, expecting to meet her gorgeous blue eyes.
Her room was empty. The lights were on and her bed was unmade but she was not there. I frowned and backed up, looking around the corner. She wasn’t at her easel. The bathroom door was open. I took a few more steps to look into the kitchen. She wasn’t there. Where was she? She never left the house. She hated being out of the house.
I stumbled into her room, feeling very confused. I noticed there was something laying on top of her messy blankets so I went over to see what it was.
It was a piece of paper with something written on it, the words big, blocky and unfamiliar. Penny had never written before so I figured it was from her. I picked it up, my eyes scanning the words without reading them. At the bottom was her name. Frowning, I started at the top once more. As I read, my heart pounded harder and harder.
Calcifer, the past few days have not been good and I know I have made a mistake by having how I feel out in the open. I do not know if Teri told you but I told her and I did not want anyone knowing and now that someone knows I can’t stay. I do not want to be Prince Humperdink so I am leaving. I want you to be happy. I love you Calcifer and I always have. I did not tell you when you asked me because I know you love Teri and I could not be between you and happiness with her. I just want you to be happy, so I have left so I will not be in the way. I hope you have a happy and good life with Teri. Always yours, Penny.
I dropped the note and fell forward, putting my hands against the bed to stop myself from falling over as my entire world felt as though it were shattering into a thousand pieces.
Oh Penny, what have I done?