He was packing. He was finally leaving, leaving this city and its noise and its poker tables, but, most importantly, he was leaving her. He was leaving her to live her life before his obsession, his fixation, his goddamn mania screwed things up in unfixable ways – for both of them – but most especially her.
It had killed him, walking out of that door, her words echoing around his head 'I'll kill myself'. It was on a loop, constantly, haunting him, tormenting him with what would have become of her, of them, if he had stayed, if he had stayed and given her more hope of something that could never become. Something that he couldn't give her even if he wanted to. Oh how much he wanted to. To fulfil that dream for her. But it was not to be.
He had only seen her twice since that fateful day – both times his body and mind racked with doubt, with guilt and yet, a little bit of hope. Would she stand by those words she had uttered the day he left 'I'll kill myself' or with leaving home did she finally see that she could live her life with the nose, with the curse and hopefully, with him. The first time they met following the unveiling of her secret was in the Cloverdilly pub – a place which he still referred to in his mind as 'their spot', despite never visiting it with her. He couldn't resist approaching her – he couldn't bear not telling her how she had inspired him, how brave she was, stepping out into the world for the first time and making her mark on it. She left.
The second time he seeked her out was due to him. Edward. The name brought a burning jealousy, a hate and a sorrow that all competed with each other. 'unkissable', 'grotesque', 'puke' flew round his mind, taking the place of 'I'll kill myself', both as horrifying, as anger inducing as the other. Would she really sink to this to break the curse? Could he let her? He went to meet her at the theatre, he tried to tell her, to warn her, to tell her Edwards real nature but would she really want to know? Would she walk down the aisle anyway? He couldn't bear to know. So with the encouragement of Edward he sat back and kept his silence.
Even now, he isn't sure whether he necessarily did the wrong thing or not. He was protecting the one he loved from herself as much as her fiancé.
And so, a year after her disappearance, he is packing. Miserable in his solitude he gives a start when there is a knock at the door. He hears the party raging outside and wearily goes to answer it, to see who is disturbing his well-deserved mope. It kills him when he opens the door, seeing his Penelope but still knowing it's not her. It's never her. He's seen so many of them this Halloween and it is never her. He suddenly can't wait to leave.
Despite his reluctance, he lets the Penelope look-alike in to use his bathroom. While she is in there, he imagines it's actually her, she's actually here and that miracles do actually happen. He's so into his fantasy that he's sure it's her voice coming from the bathroom, with her typical nosey manner which he so enjoyed when they were first meeting. It finally gets too much and he asks the Penelope look-alike to remove the mask. Her confusion, her look of being wrong-footed, makes him realise how absurd he is being.
It's when the Penelope look-alike asks about his relationship with Penelope 'this someone, she meant a lot to you' that he begins to realise, begins to hope, that it was her. His Penelope. Not one of the hundreds running around the city in her image. His hope grows when she asks about what happened. His heart began to race – was he delusional and this was a look alike, merely curious, or was this Penelope, his Penelope, asking why he ran out on her?
"You shit! You lied to me! I guessed piano! And you said that..." It was her. He couldn't have stopped himself if he had tried. Hell, God himself could not have stopped him at that moment. And neither he nor God would want to try. Never before had he kissed a girl like that, never before had a girl kissed him like that either. It was passion, relief, happiness, joy and every other emotion he had felt since he had last left her, bundled all together into one giant explosive kiss. But wait, did she understand? Did she know why he had left? Why he deserted her. He had to explain
"Penelope, I'm sorry"
"I know". She didn't know. He had to make her understand. He wasn't who she thought he was. He wasn't what she wanted, what she needed. She had to listen
"No, I don't have the power to break the curse" He waited, tense, ready for the sting of rejection, of her rebuff, her denunciation when she took him by surprise,
"It's ok. Turns out I did. It's me Max" Her nose. It was normal, beautiful and fit her face perfectly. Small and demure just like herself. Dumbstruck, the only response he managed to get out was
"I know, Johnny. I'm still me"
And so they kissed. And it was everything he expected and more.