Penelope Chapter 10
Author's Note: Yes, this last chappie is long. Very long. Long enough to bore you stiff. So go ahead and complain. No? Oh, okay, well, enjoy the story!
Johnny awoke at a thunder crash. Lifting his head, he saw that Penelope had awoken too, practically jumping out of her seat from the looks of it.
She turned to him, rustling a newspaper crumpled in her lap.
"How are you?" they both said at the same time.
Penelope grinned. "I know I'm doing all right. How about you?" she asked, rising and coming over to sit by him.
"I'm doing better," he stated quietly, his voice still coming in only a whisper. Johnny lifted her hands and curled his fingers over them. They were cold, his hands were hot, but somehow, the two opposites seemed to fit. Fit perfectly, he thought.
Johnny tried sitting up again and fortunately, his head complied this time and sent him only a mild throbbing that soon subsided. He then spotted the newspaper at Penelope's feet and remembered something. "Hey, you said you had news?"
Penelope snapped to attention. "Oh yes! It had to do with why it took me so long to get back here. I ran into Annie outside the pharmacy. She had been telling me about how she was swamped with work ever since the new delivery girl just upped and quit a week ago."
"Yes and you're never going believe it, but this might be why," she said, collecting the newspaper and holding it up to his face.
Johnny's eyes grew as wide as saucers. The enormous, bold headline read "VANDERMAN HEIR ELOPES WITH MYSTERY GIRL". Accompanying the words was a picture of Edward trying to evade photographers as he pushed through them with a girl on his arm. The girl was very clearly the delivery girl who worked with Annie.
Penelope read the article aloud to him and then launched into a lengthy rant about how she couldn't believe it and how it seemed impossible that a guy like Edward could finally find someone to like him but then how, of course, there's someone out there for everyone. Her voice trailed off as she said that and Johnny saw her give him a tender look. He took her hand again and squeezed it.
I love you, he mouthed. In his head, however, he was pretty sure that he wasn't the only guy who wanted to be with her. Despite being reassured of her love for him every day, he still saw the way other men looked at her sometimes and, try as he might, it never failed to make him a little jealous.
Penelope lifted his hand to her face and kept it there. She was still anxious about his ill condition but he seemed to be doing better. His skin didn't feel as heated as it did earlier.
Johnny suddenly remembered that it was the hand Edward licked so long ago. He laughed softly at this, making sure not to exert himself too much should another round of coughing take over. It had seemed disgusting then but he found it humorous now. When Penelope asked him what was so funny, he retold the story to her, ending with how Lemon had said, "Edward. Don't LICK Max."
Penelope laughed. Then her face grew thoughtful for a moment. She picked up the newspaper again and showed Johnny another page. Pictured above a Q & A part of the newspaper was Lemon's picture. Apparently, he had taken up a job as a relationship columnist.
Johnny didn't say anything. Much like how Penelope had reacted, he gawked at the pages as the news sunk in.
"Wow," he whispered, falling back on the pillows. Who would have thought?
Obviously, Lemon becoming a relationship counselor was a good thing, albeit still surprising. Johnny knew from first-hand experience his reporter friend would excel at that. Edward's news though...
Johnny remembered how the delivery girl had chased after him shouting the most obscene swear words. Maybe that was the kind of girl Edward needed. Suddenly he couldn't help but laugh out loud at this thought, and it soon became another bad bout of coughing.
"I think it's time for some more medicine," Penelope said. Johnny put up a fight this time, but it wasn't long before Penelope forced him to succumb to another swallow of the foul tasting liquid.
He was coughing and pounding his chest again when the doorbell rang. Johnny looked toward it curiously while Penelope went to answer it.
"Oh, you're here!" she said in a surprised tone.
"Yes, Miss. We're here to deliver your piano."
"Right this way," Penelope said, leading them through the apartment. She glanced out the window and saw that it had stopped raining. The air outside was bright and clean, washed thoroughly by the rain.
Piano? thought Johnny. He was not left in the dark for long. Two men came in through the door sideways, heaving a piano between them. Johnny sat up straight immediately. It was a piano he recognized. Old, wooden, and slightly yellowed keys. He stared wide-eyed as the men placed it into the apartment, took away the one already lying there and then asked Penelope for a signature before leaving.
"Happy six months anniversary," she said after the men had left.
"Penelope, this is…" his voice trailed away in shock.
"Your father's piano. Or really, the one he gave you. The one where you first learned to play. I spent months searching for it and then had it repainted and tuned once I found it. Luckily, I found this piano in time for our six months anniversary." She glanced at the clock. It was already the morning of the next day. "Well, almost in time."
Johnny felt as if he had been hit by lightning. Lemon was right. How could he ever have thought to leave her? How could he have ever thought there was a reason to leave her? He stared open-mouthed and speechless until Penelope laughed and said, "Do you think you'll be able to play? I don't want you to try if you feel you're not up to it."
Johnny tried standing up and judged that he was steady. As a matter of fact, other than losing his voice, he felt great. Having decided all this, he walked right up to Penelope, kissed her, and then took her hand before leading her over to the piano.
The scruffy musician sat down at the piano he had known so well and not seen in years. He spent a minute in silence, glancing over every detail and trailing his hands over the keys. They felt somewhat different now but he supposed that was to be expected. His fingers fluttered one last time over the piano and then, with a glance to the woman behind him, he began to play everything he could think of: jingles, show tunes, theme music, and just some improvisation. Penelope sat and watched him, the hugest smile on her face. Soon, he pulled her down next to him and beckoned her to play along. They ran through duets together, their fingers nimbly leaping and weaving beside each other.
After half an hour, Johnny took her hands into his and whispered: "I have a gift for you too. This is part of it…" He replaced his hands over the piano keys, closed his eyes, and counted rhythm in his head before beginning his song for her. Johnny knew that he had written many songs for her before, but this one had a slightly different purpose.
Penelope looked at him quizzically while he was playing at first, but then her expression changed as the song went on. It sounded like something he had drawn from the very depths of his soul that he was now pouring out into the notes of the music. She soon saw the look of concentration relax on his face and another expression took over.
Johnny left his fingers lingering on the last notes of the song, slowly letting go of the pedal and allowing the music die out peacefully. When he peeked over to see her reaction, he was surprised to see that Penelope was staring at his hands with something that resembled…tears.
"Was it so bad that I bored you to tears?" he whispered jokingly. But Penelope only hugged him. She leaned into him as he wrapped his arms around her shaking shoulders. They remained in silence for a while.
"Come on," he whispered, once her sobs had subsided. "That was my gift to you, but there's more to it."
They rose, and Johnny led her back to the couch. He signaled for her to wait a second and then, lifting the lid of the piano bench, Johnny pulled out a sheet of paper that had been kept carefully pristine and smooth. He returned to the couch and said, "This is a song I wrote you for our six months. You just heard me play the music, but these are the words. I can't sing it to you because my voice's barely functional, but…here it is." And with that, he carefully handed her the paper.
Curious, Penelope took it with great care, read it, and then said as she looked up, "Johnny, this is so beautiful and—"
Then she stopped. And she stared. And her jaw dropped.
Johnny was kneeling in front of her with a tiny box in his hands. He tapped a finger on the lid and then opened it.
"Is this…is this…?" but she couldn't bring herself to finish. Johnny just nodded, his heart in his eyes.
Penelope tackled him then, almost knocking him over. "Yes. Of course!" came her muffled answer. And for the first time in their lives, they laughed and cried at the same time.
Johnny's voice got better as the day went along. All the same, he let Penelope be the one to call up everyone they knew in order to tell them the news.
By dusk, half of the town knew about it. Annie was thrilled although the only thing she said before she had to rush back to work was, "Well, it was about time." Not so surprisingly, Lemon said the same thing. Penelope's father congratulated her and over the phone, Penelope heard her mother burst into tears. Whether they were tears of joy or despair, no one knew.
Night fell and since Johnny didn't feel well enough to go to the park, they continued their ritual of gazing at the stars in the apartment instead.
Since Penelope insisted on cleaning up by herself, she forced Johnny to sit outside on the balcony and wait for her. She decided to leave most of the decorations up for now but she gathered all the tulips into one place so they could use the table surfaces.
Taking a last whiff of the tulips, Penelope closed her eyes as jubilation flashed through her mind. Looks like you're getting your wish after all, Alice, she thought. Then she went outside to join her future husband, the engagement ring glinting like starlight on her finger.
Author's Note: Thank you to all who read and especially those who stayed with me for the whole story! You don't know how invaluable you were and how much I appreciated your encouragement. Again, I apologize for any mistakes I made but I'm so glad they were pointed out. I should probably finish my other Penelope fanfiction soon so wish me luck on that. Thanks again and see you around on the fanfiction kingdom!