I could not believe it, it was so much! I was going to be married. To Calcifer. This was what I had dreamed of since as long as I could remember. To stand by him and make our vows, united forever.
I was so happy, happier than I had been when I turned real. I felt as though my entire body would burst at the seams! Not that I had seams anymore, but I figured it was an appropriate figure of speech.
I turned back to my painting but still could not take my eyes off the engagement ring on my finger. Cal had spent a large amount on it–more than I thought he should–but I had to admit it was beautiful. There was the symbol for eternity etched inside it, something he had found in his father’s scrapbook. In fact, Calcifer was thinking about designing a family crest. He wanted it to be something his father would have loved, but also meant something for us too.
I was torn from my thoughts as I saw a figure outside the doors. I felt my heart sink as I realized it was Teri. What did she want? I did not want her here, but I reluctantly went over and opened the door.
“Penny!” she said with a faint smile. “Good, I was worried you wouldn’t be here.”
“Calcifer is at work,” I said suspiciously.
“I know,” she said. “I wanted to talk to you. Can I come in?”
I frowned but stepped back, allowing her to come inside. She went over to the sofa and raised her eyebrows at the new door. I shut the door and walked over. “We added a new room,” I explained. “There is nothing inside yet.”
This was awkward. I did not like this feeling and wondered what Teri wanted with me. I could sense she felt sad about something and wondered if she was mad at me for being engaged to Calcifer now. I picked at the cuff of my shorts, not sure what to say.
“Penny…” Teri finally spoke and I did not like the tone in her voice. “I’m not sure how to say this. It’s–well, I guess the only thing I can really do is say it outright.”
“What is it?” I asked, still frowning.
“Penny, I’m pregnant,” she stated.
I stared at her, my eyes getting bigger and bigger until they started hurting. “What?” I whispered, unable to accept what she said as true.
“I’m pregnant,” she said again and looked down at her stomach. “With Cal’s baby.”
I was silent, not able to form any words. Not vocally at least. Inside my head many words were being said. I felt very afraid of this event, realizing it could mean a big change. If Teri was going to try to use this to get Calcifer back…
“Penny?” Teri asked and I jumped slightly.
“Oh,” I mumbled. “Congratulations.” I looked down at my hands, not meaning it.
“I don’t know what to do!” Teri said, her voice getting higher. “My father has kicked my out because I–I’m pregnant with Cal’s kid.” I nodded, not speaking. Teri’s father was one of the horrible people who believed Cal was a monster. “What am I going to do?”
“Calcifer will help,” I said immediately. It was painful, but true. I knew Cal would do the right thing.
“No…” I turned and stared at Teri but she was shaking her head. “No, I don’t want to burden Cal. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair on the two of you.” She looked down at my left hand and shrugged. “You’re going to be married.”
I pulled my hand against my body as if to hide the ring. “Yes,” I said. “We will be married. But you know he would take care of you and the… baby…” The word was so difficult for me to say and I felt as though I would cry.
Teri sighed and smoothed down her shirt. “I’m leaving for France this weekend. And I’m not coming back, as far as I know.”
“Calcifer will not know his child?” I asked, rather surprised by this.
“I don’t know!” Teri cried out, clutching at her hair. “I can’t stay here. I have nothing here anymore. But I don’t want to take the baby away from his or her father.” She pressed her hands against her belly and a tear came out of one eye. “But I will not stay here. Not in this house, not in this town, not in this country.”
I pressed my lips together, my eyebrows going down. “It sounds as if you have made up your mind.”
“I haven’t!” She began rocking back and forth very slightly. “I don’t know if I want to be a single mother. I don’t know if I want to be a mother at all. Cal should know his baby, but I can’t stay here.”
“What will you do?” I asked, not sure what she was getting at. “You are not getting… rid of the baby, are you?” That thought made me feel rather sick. Cal had told me what his father had gone through and did not want Teri to make Cal go through the same thing.
“No,” Teri said quickly. “Never. Not like that. But Penny, if I can’t raise the child… I was thinking maybe if I’m not cut out to be a mother, maybe you and Cal could take the baby in?”
It took me a few seconds before I realized what she meant. “Calcifer and I will raise the baby while you…?”
“I’ll be in France,” she said simply. “I’m gonna try. I–I never thought I’d be a mother at this age. I want to live, Penny, I want my own life. Getting engaged to Cal was great but when I realized he didn’t love me and all that, I… I honestly felt free.” She began twisting her hands together. “Which is what helped me make my decision to leave him. Ever since we started dating in school, I was tied to him. I thought it’s what I wanted. It is what I wanted, sort of. But if we had remained together… I don’t think it woulda worked out.”
She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ears and leaned back against the couch. “When I left that night, I saw I had the whole world at my feet. Not just Sunset Valley. I could do what I want, go where I wanted. Nobody telling me no.”
“Then I found out I was pregnant and I thought that maybe I was meant to stay here in the Valley. Be a mother. Stay at Doo Peas.” She spread her hands out and gave me an earnest look. “Except then I told my father and he was so mad at me. He kicked me out. I’m living with a friend right now and I changed my mind. I thought it was a sign. That I’m not meant to stay here. I really want to go to France. So I bought a ticket.”
She closed her hands over her belly once more and then closed her eyes. “But I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t be a good mother, or able to do it by myself. What if I want the freedom that having a baby will prevent me from? I can’t go exploring! What if I get hurt, and then the baby will have no one.”
I was beginning to see her in… what was the phrase? A new light bulb. I still did not like her but I could tell she had been thinking about this for a long time. She wanted to do the right thing for her unborn baby. “So if you cannot take care of the baby…” I said slowly.
“I want you two to have it,” she finished for me. “I don’t know if it will come to that, but I want to at least try. If I can’t… then, well, I can’t think of anyone better to take care of my child than the father.” She looked up and stared at the distant wall. “But promise me you won’t tell Cal.”
“Wh-what? Teri, you must tell him!” I exclaimed loudly.
“If I tell him, he’ll want me to stay!” she replied with anger in her voice. “But I wanted you to know in case it did ever come to leaving the baby with you two. Will you?” She turned around and grabbed my arm. “Penny, I know things have been really bad between us but I want you to promise you won’t tell Cal.”
I pulled my arm away, feeling very guilty. “I cannot lie to him, Teri. I lied to him before and it was the most bad decision I had ever made in my life!”
“You won’t be lying,” she stressed. “You just… won’t be telling him.” I looked away, putting my arms around myself. “Penny, please. I want to know the baby will have a home here if it comes to him. But I don’t want Cal to know right now. Please!”
“Okay!” I finally agreed, dropping my arms and frowning. “I will not tell him, but if he asks me I will not lie to him.”
“Thank you,” she breathed out, looking as though she might hug me. I quickly stood up and took a few steps, not wanting her to touch me. She stood as well and came closer but did not reach again. “Thank you Penny. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Teri,” I said quietly, still feeling very bad.
“And congratulations,” she said as she headed for the door. “I hope you two have a wonderful life together.”
I watched as she shut the door and then I went to my bedroom and threw myself down on the bed, hoping that Cal would somehow know what was wrong as soon as he got home. I did not want to keep such a secret from him. But I would keep my promise with Teri, as much as I disliked her.
“Are you sure?” I asked, still feeling a bit bad. “I can get more, or we could book the park or something. Or–“
“No,” Penny said, reaching over to take my hand. “I don’t mind getting married here. We cannot afford much else anyway.”
I nodded, looking down at the ground. It had been a month since I had quit work. We were living on my paintings which thankfully were fetching enough money to get by. Once Penny started selling hers, we’d be doing pretty good. Sometimes we didn’t sell any, instead keeping them to decorate our house. I had two in particular I wanted to hang over our bed. Once we got a bed.
We were just going to have a ceremony with the two of us. There would be an officiate there, of course, so it was all legal. But he would be hanging back and let us say what we had to say.
She looked so amazing when she emerged from the house, her pale purple gown flowing down her body. I reached over, stroking her cheek. “You are so beautiful,” I said with a smile.
“You look so handsome,” she replied, her eyes crinkling up as she beamed at me.
“Ready?” the officiate asked and we nodding, going over to take out places under the arch.
I felt so nervous. I hoped my palms weren’t getting sweaty though it felt as if they were. The officiate asked us to repeat after him and we did, chanting the vows and promising to be together until death do us part and the ‘I Dos’. Finally it was time for the rings.
After the officiate said a few words, Penny took my hand. “Calcifer,” she said softly as she held up the ring. “With this ring, I thee wed.” She slipped it onto my finger and then looked up at me. “I’ve always loved you. Since as long as I can remember, you were there. I hate being away from you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I will always love you.” She looked up into my eyes. Hers were shiny and I knew tears would be emerging any minute. “You are the most wonderful man in the world. You are the only one I think about, the only one I want, the only one I see…You are the only one I love, from now until the end.”
The words I had written (and rewritten, and rewritten) suddenly left my mind. As I took her ring out of my pocket and started putting it on her finger, my mind was blank. So I just started speaking ones from my heart–which were probably better.
“Pendragon,” I said and she gave a slight giggle. “With this ring, I thee wed.” I put it over her finger and met her gaze. “You were my best friend since before I could even walk. You were there when I was afraid, and when I was happy. We had so many tea parties before I even knew who you were. Then…” I felt my eyes starting to well up with tears. “You were there for me, through all those dark days. All those horrible times. When I hated myself more than I hated anything else in the universe, you were there for me–giving me the love and kindness I needed.”
“No matter how low I got, you came down with me with your hand extended to help me back up.” I sniffled slightly and saw she was crying too. “When you became real I realized just how much I loved you. And I made mistakes, but those are in the past now. I will do everything for you, and take care of you, and love you until there is nothing left.” I looked into her eyes and smiled. “I know a lot of people say they’ll give their love the world. But how can I do that, when you are my world?”
There was a moment of silence and then the officiate pronounced us man and wife. We were married.
I pulled her close as the confetti started floating down around us. “I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too,” she answered, her teary eyes lighting up and then closed as we shared our first kiss as husband and wife.