Author's Note: I just read the book Penelope and I wanted to write some Penelope/Johnny fluff told from different points of view. This story picks up where the last page of the book left off. (I suppose it also could be filler for the scene after Penelope runs into Johnny at his apartment.)
We stood there for a long time, just getting lost in each other's embrace, neither one wanting to let go. Finally, as if on cue, we pulled away from each other and then I looked up at him, smiling, and said, "What now?"
"I'm not sure," he said thoughtfully. Then he flashed me that smile I liked so much. "You know, Penelope, I didn't know what I was doing with my life until you came along."
"You know what? I don't either." I had a sudden idea. "Why don't you tell me about it? I mean, I only recently found out that your name is Johnny. Care to tell me about yourself all over again?"
He grinned sheepishly and said, "Well, to be honest, it isn't all that interesting. Not compared to your life."
"Oh, come on," I said. "I've been splattered all over newspapers and magazines for months now. Everyone knows about me. What I want is to know about you—Johnny Martin."
Johnny finally sighed and gave in. "Where should I start?"
I thought for a moment, reminiscing through our very first conversations. "Tell me about your favorites," I said excitedly. "Like how I told you about my favorite flowers and you told me about how you liked to sit in the park and think."
He paused for a moment, and I could tell that he was contemplating something. "All right," he said. Taking my hands, he led me over to the couch and we both sat down. After clearing his throat, he started.
And we sat there for what seemed like hours, passing back and forth our favorites, our thoughts, the details of our lives. I learned a surprising amount about his life, the life he lived as Johnny Martin, and I found every second of it fascinating. Not a single thing bored me.
I learned of how he had grown up with his father, a plumber, and how they always had good times together, even if they were tight on money sometimes. I learned about his first encounter with a piano and the surprise it brought him when he found that he was good at playing it. He told me about how he had gone on to study piano and began playing in a variety of jazz bands. Johnny then stopped and looked at me for a long time after that. It was like he was trying very hard to decide something. I reached for his hand. "Johnny, whatever it is…it's okay. You don't have to say anymore if you don't want to."
Johnny shook his head. "It's not that. I think that you might already know about my gambling problem."
I said nothing. It was up to him if he wanted to continue. I just squeezed his hand and waited. Luckily, he seemed to trust me enough so he did continue. He went on to tell me about how he had gotten into gambling and how it had drained him of his livelihood. At the end of this, he looked at me and whispered something. I leaned in closer to hear.
"It was because of you that I changed," he said quietly. "After I walked out of your house that one time, I finally realized something."
"What was that?" I whispered back.
He turned to fully face me. "Here was a girl who seemed to have it all—lots of money, a wealthy family, and everything provided for her, but…she wasn't even let outside. I thought that was unfair. Then I thought of all that I was allowed to enjoy: the flowers, the park, the Cloverdilly pub. All the things I took for granted. Just being able to go outside…those were things I never even thought about. And then I had another thought—here I was, gambling my life away when I could be doing something great. That was when I knew I had to change. I admired how brave you were and it made me really want to be better. You were willing to be kept inside for so long and you worked hard to lift the curse. I knew that I could never lift the curse for you, but at least I could try to stop wasting what I had. You did that for me, Penelope."
I didn't say anything. How could I? I was awestruck by this revelation. I just sat there and let his words wash over me. It felt so…thrilling, so amazing that I could change someone's life like that. Finally, I leaned over, kissed his cheek, and said, "Thank you, Johnny. I never thought I could change anyone's life like that."
For the first time ever, I saw him blush and it almost made me laugh aloud. I wanted to kiss him again, but a knock sounded at the door and interrupted me.
Johnny gave a sudden laugh and said, "I guess your friend must be wondering what happened to you."
I laughed too and we both got up to go to the door. We were surprised, however, when we opened it to find not just Annie, but someone else there, too. I recognized him as the reporter Annie had spoken to earlier, Johnny's roommate.
"Hello, Lemon," I said, smiling. He returned my smile.
"How you doing, Penelope?"
Annie interrupted then. "Geez, we'd thought you guys had eloped to Vegas for all the time you've been gone."
Johnny and I looked at each other, grinning. "Nah, we were just getting to know each other."
"All over again," I added.
"Well, hurry up and then come to the dance floor. The party's winding down and I want to see you guys dance to the last song at least."
"All right, all right," I said. "Just give us a minute." Annie opened her mouth to say something else, but Lemon just took her hand and led her back down the hall, grinning and shaking his head.
Johnny turned to me. "So, how about it? Dance with me?"
For the first time ever, I gave him an abashed look. "I…I don't dance much," I said shyly. I had never really learned to dance during my time at the Wilhern Mansion and Annie had only shown me a few dance moves. I didn't want to ruin the evening with my pathetic imitation of dancing.
"It's okay. We'll just dance to the slow songs, if you want." He must have seen my worried face for he took my hand and pressed it tightly into his. "Please?" he asked.
I couldn't refuse him so I just nodded, smiling at his patience with me.
He gave me a warm, reassuring smile and said, "All right then. Just let me lock up in here first. I don't want anyone coming into Lemon's apartment." He went back inside and that's when I noticed that I had taken up all his time with talking and now he wouldn't have much time to pack.
"Hey," I called out to him. "I'm sorry about interrupting your packing."
Johnny came out then and when he had locked the door, he turned to me and said, "Don't worry about it. You are the most welcome interruption if there ever was one."