The days turned into weeks, and the restaurant continued to do well, earning a reputation for reliable food (Thanks in part to Sheldon's insistence that every dish be made exactly according to directions) and a clean and comfortable eating space. A crowd of regulars filled the tables every meal, and laughter could usually be heard coming through the doors out onto the street. Everyone agreed, Tuesday's Place was a great place to come and eat, and the employees agreed that it was a great place to work as well.
Penny's evenings were spent working the room and the kitchen, tallying up reciepts and invoices in the office and checking to make sure that inventory was good. She smiled a lot more than she used to. Her office now had one desk, with two chairs, and a few whiteboards too, as Sheldon had taken to doing his "home" work at the restaurant, where he could not only eat his favourite foods but also take on menial labour whenever he got stuck, which wasn't as often as it seemed, for he really did enjoy using the sanitiser.
They made a good team.
Sheldon had quickly realised that when Penny appeared to be having trouble with a male customer, appearing at her shoulder and telling her she was needed in the kitchen often seemed to make the issue going away. He wasn't sure why, but attributed it to his imposing height and obvious mental capabilities. He usually missed the relieved bright smile that Penny sent his way.
She in turn thought nothing of pulling him over to indtroduce him to someone she thought he might be interested in knowing, or deferring to him when a customer asked why a brand of condiment had been switched or why something had been taken off the menu. Usually after he was a few sentences in, the customer would get a glazed over look and agree that of course, if that much thought had gone into the decision, then Sheldon and Penny must be right.
This worked very well for them.
It wasn't until the restaurant was reviewed in the local paper that Penny realised how it looked. She was sitting in the office, reading the daily when she spotted it.
On the Tuesday of last week I had the opportunity to drop by a little restaurant that I have been hearing about from my friends. On the corner of Maple and Elm, in the location formerly kept by the now defunct Cheesecake Factory, sits this comfortable family restaurant owned by Mrs. Penny Cooper and run by herself and her husband Dr. Sheldon Cooper. The facilities are immaculate as is the dining room and I was assured, the kitchen- the center of which is a new multi-dish sanitiser. The food itself is good, with generous servings and witty names such as The Cooper Special, and Newton's Pie. Though the restaurant is not licensed to sell Alcohol at the present time, I give this restaurant four stars out of five for reliability, cleanliness, and the cheerful and educated staff.
Her mouth was hanging open when Bernadette came in.
"What's that?" Bernadette smiled prettily.
"We got reviewed." Penny said slowly. "We got four stars."
"That's great!" Bernadette cheered. "Wait, why aren't you smiling?"
Penny looked up at her dazed. "They think Sheldon and I are married!"
"Oh, I thought you wanted people to think that, with the way you two are always smiling at each other."
"What?" Penny blinked.
"You should watch the security footage." Bernadette smiled. "It's a great act! He does protective husband very well, that perv that used to bug you hasn't pinched your bum in weeks!" She put down a stack of receipts on the desk and turned away, looking over her shoulder at Penny again. "The front is all closed up now, good-night!"
Silently Penny waved and moved the receipts to their proper location, a bit of Sheldon's organisation had worn off on her, she knew, but she didn't think they were giving off that much of a vibe. She flipped her computer on and accessed the day's security footage, then started watching.
He did hover- a bit. And she turned to him a lot. On the video she saw all the smiles she gave him, all the ones he returned when she wasn't looking. The touches on her back when he wanted her attention without interrupting, that she had always assumed came from the end of his pen, but now saw were in fact one of his long fingers as his hand hovered at her back, not quite touching her. Their mocking glares across the room that ended in shared smirks, and how she could call him over with just a look and tilt of her head, how she automatically set a seat for him at exactly six o'clock with his drink and his plate and then sat down across from him to eat her salad.
She knew that most of their conversation was about business, but now she saw how it looked. She was watching it again when Sheldon wandered in staring down at some papers in his hand.
"Penny, are you aware that sea salt is highly recommended for cooking these days? I have been comparing boiling times and resulting taste differences and I have reached the conclusion that if we were to switch we could cut down our cooking time of pasta by 3 percent, and use one third less salt. I have compiled a list of acceptable brands and suppliers for you to look at." He said.
"Sheldon, people think we are married."
He looked up at her and blinked. "Why?"
"Because we act like we are married. I know, I was surprised too."
"But we don't fight, and we don't partake in sexual intercourse or share an address or a bathroom." He frowned.
Penny handed him the newspaper and pointed out the article.
"Mrs. Penny Cooper." He read. "Well, obviously this reviewer is not up to snuff, he didn't even check the restaurant registry or the operating licences to see what your real name is." He paused. "Though I do agree with everything else he wrote, I think Newton's Pie is far wittier that Apple Pie."
"So it doesn't bother you?" Penny raised an eyebrow.
"Not nearly as much as the money you are spending on salt when you could switch." He replied, attention back at the papers he'd brought in.
Penny had to smile. If he wasn't bothered by the mistake, she wouldn't be either. As the video footage showed, having Sheldon around as a pseudo husband was far more effective than the standard Jerk ring, and it wasn't like she had time to date. There could be worse things than being married to Sheldon, and a four star review would be good for business.
She watched as he turned to his white board and began scribbling an equation on it, his dark hair perfectly in place, his blue eyes sparkling as his mind worked at a speed she couldn't attempt on her best day, his cheeks flushed from the heat of the sanitiser he'd been operating minutes ago.
Yup, there could be worse things indeed. And who knew what the future might hold?
Out in the kitchen, a song played on the radio, a song that Penny had come to think of as a personal anthem of sorts, something that inspired her.
"Don't tell me you can't be saved
You can find a way
Whoa oh to hold on ...
Yeah you've got the world to see
You've got everything that you need ...
Who's gonna love you baby?
Who's gonna love you now?
Lazy Susan turn yourself around.."
She'd certainly turned her life around. Her eyes rested on Sheldon for a second more and then she turned to the days receipts, still smiling, wondering if she could bribe him to accompany her to her cousin's wedding later in the year...
AN: The song is Lazy Susan by Sweet Thing, the above is excerpts from it, not in order, it indirectly inspired this story, and thus the name of it, in that through changing her life, Penny learns to love herself.
A Jerk ring is a fake wedding band or engagement ring worn by someone to ward off unwelcome advances from the opposite sex.