Why I’m Broken

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Chapter 1 Planned Oblivion

The scene:

If you looked inside the drawer of Penny’s night stand you would find some interesting items.

The first would be a bracelet with the name “Slugger” engraved on it,

A leather frame containing a 3×5 picture of her parents, brother and sister that she took with her first camera.

A red velvet envelope with a snowflake embedded in Acrylic and an inhaler.

A wrist band from a hospital in Omaha with her name on it.

An old pregnancy test showing positive.

Though you would hope this story would be about the snowflake, and maybe it will be at some point. It’s really about the last two items and coming to grips with it.

Sometimes your past can become your present, sometimes you want it to. You need to pick at that scab and see if it’s healed yet. Sometimes it never does, sometimes it needs a new kind of treatment.

11:00 pm Friday May 11th

Penny stepped into her apartment, dropped her purse on the table beside the door. She spent several seconds retrieving her phone and tip money. Penny threw the tips on the kitchen island and sets here phone beside them. She gets down the peach schnapps from the top of her fridge then pours a water glass about half full.

She looks at the calendar on the side of the fridge her work schedule is marked out. She already knows she has the next two days off. Tomorrow has a small red X in the corner.

Penny heads for the small sofa, bringing both the glass of schnapps and the rest of the bottle with her. She has a seat and begins to drink. Happy oblivion she hopes as she takes her fist sip of the sickly sweet but strong schnapps.

1:15 AM Saturday May 12th

Leonard is just getting to sleep. His mind still wrapped around the halo game he had been playing with the guys until midnight. He always has a hard time sleeping after gaming. His mind won’t shut down, he was still playing the game. His phone suddenly made sounds of light sabers. He had to change ring tones again he thought. He picked up the phone, it was Penny.

He pressed the answer button but before he could speak he heard her slurred voice.

“Leonard can I come over”, she was definitely very drunk.

“Sure I’ll meet you at the door”.

He hung up the call, got up and grabbed his robe off the back of the door. As he approached the front door he heard a thud. Leonard sprinted to the door, he looked across the hall where Penny lay sprawled beside her door.

Leonard rushed over to Penny, she was awake but sobbing. He reached down and touched her face but she just looked at him and cried more. He crouched down, sliding his arms under her legs then around her back before he picked her up. He carried her into her apartment then through to her bedroom. He put her onto her bed and knelt beside it. He was trying to comfort her, stroking her hair. When she lurched to the side of her bed and threw up in his lap.

Leonard stood and striped off the robe and threw it in the corner. Now standing in a t-shirt and Darth Vader boxers he rushed to her bathroom for a towel and the waste basket. Penny vomited for the next 15 minutes mostly the dry heaves. Leonard held her hair back and her head over the waste basket each time she retched.

Penny finally settled down then rolled onto her back. Leonard got a warm wash cloth and cleaned her face. He tried to get her to take a sip of water but she was passed out now. Snoring and oblivious, he reached over and rolled her on her side. Penny was dressed in a pair blue sweats and an old Dodgers jersey that looked comfortable enough to sleep in. He covered her with her comforter then began to clean up the mess.

The towels and his robe went into a plastic garbage bag. He emptied and rinsed out the garbage can. He started to pick up the floor when he saw that she had emptied her night stand drawer on the ground. He put the drawer back in and gently placed the items back in the drawer. As he did he examined each object briefly, he was puzzled and wondered what it all meant.

He grabbed a blanket from the closet, turned down the lights to just a glow then headed off to sleep on the couch. No way was he leaving her alone tonight. At least now he thought he could sleep, but it still wouldn’t come. What had broken in Penny tonight?

Chapter 2 The friend part of boyfriend is required

3:00 AM Saturday May 12th

3:00 AM Saturday May 12th

Leonard just couldn’t make the couch work for him. He turned on the light as he sat up, yawned then stood to go check on Penny. She was still sleeping soundly on her side. In the corner of her bedroom was a small cushioned chair piled high with clean clothes.

Leonard shifted the clothes to the top of Penny’s dresser then moved the chair over next to the bed. He went back out to the kitchen putting some cold water in a large glass and threw away the empty schnapps bottle off the table. He took the glass of water and the blanket he’d been using on the couch back to the bedroom. The glass of water he set on the night stand as he sat in the chair, his eyes fell upon the night stand drawer.

He didn’t want to be nosy, but he opened the drawer anyway. Leonard picked up the hospital wrist band, it was from a hospital in Omaha with Penny’s name and a date. The date was 10 years ago tomorrow, oh wait it was after midnight, then it would be today. That would have made Penny 16 years old then.

Leonard placed the wrist band back into the drawer and picked up the home pregnancy test. He could see that even though it was faded it had been positive. He turned it over, the expiration date was also from almost 10 years ago. He placed the pregnancy test back in the drawer. He saw his inhaler, grabbed it and gave it a shake, it still had some Albuterol left. He put it back and picked up the snowflake in the velvet envelope. He glanced at it smiling as he carefully placed it back in the drawer, then slide the drawer back in. He sat back curling up in the chair with the blanket wrapped around his shoulders staring at Penny.

They had been dating again for a while now. They were taking it slow, spending a lot of time together. Sometimes on dates, often with some or all of their other friends. They still hadn’t slept together but had come close a couple of times. Leonard closed his eyes, opened them one more time to check on her before closing them. Sleep finally came.

8:15 AM Saturday May 12th

Penny felt like her head was going to explode. She tried to open her eyes and it just made it worse. Finally she opened them a tiny bit. The room lights were set very low, thank god for the dimmer switch. Morning light was just starting to come through her bedroom door.

She could see Leonard sleeping in the chair next to her bed. The blanket over his shoulders the rhythmic movement as he breathed, still in slumber. She rolled on her back and tried to sit up.

“Bad idea.” She hissed, her head suddenly throbbing even more, her stomach turning over. She laid her head back on the pillow. Penny lay very still staring at the ceiling. She heard Leonard move and his weight upon the side of the bed.

“Here, let me help”, he placed his left hand ever so gently behind her head lifting it just high enough to put the other pillow behind it. He had been so gentle that though her head hurt still, it had not got any worse. He held out a glass of water to her lips.

“You need to drink lots of water, you’re dehydrated. If you keep this down I’ll get some Acetaminophen into you for the headache. Want some herbal tea?”

Penny took a small sip, and then some more. “Coffee”, she croaked, surprised at how hoarse her voice was.

Leonard shook his head, “Maybe a little later, caffeine will constrict you blood vessels further and make the headache even worse. Let’s just try some herbal tea.”

He got up to head out to the kitchen, Penny smiled when she saw all he had on was his Darth Vader boxers, t-shirt and socks. She took another drink of water trying to figure out what was going on. She could remember she’d been going at the schnapps, feeling really depressed.

She remembered reaching for her phone and dialing Leonard, then it just stopped, no other memories. “Oh crap I hate that when it happens”, she again hissed. I didn’t happen very often only when she really tied one on. I wonder what I did this time, obviously we didn’t have sex or he would have been in bed. I hope I haven’t screwed something up that I don’t even remember.

Leonard returned then with two cups of tea, he handed one cup to her which she took with both hands. She took a sip as he sat on the side of the bed then took a sip of his own. It was just what her raw throat needed, hot and soothing. She stared at the wall for a moment then smiled at Leonard,

“Where’s your robe?”, Penny asked.

Leonard blushed, “It got a little soiled, along with some towels and one pillowcase. I’ll get them in the laundry later.”

Now it was Penny’s turn to blush, “I got sick huh?”

“Oh yeah”, was Leonard’s reply with a smile but also a look of concern.

He reached out handing her three pills, “Take these, it’ll help”

Penny took the pills and swallowed them with her tea.

“Leonard, I’m really sor..”, he cut her off.

“It’s okay let’s talk about last night later, I’m going to head next door and take a shower, then I’ll be back over to check on you,”

He leaned over and kissed her forehead, stood and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders as he walked out of the bedroom. Penny heard the door open and shut, she had another sip of tea. She suddenly remembered what day it was and the sadness started to creep back in. She hoped Leonard would hurry back.

Aside: You always realize you’ve taken some one for granted when it’s one day too late.  So pay attention dammit.

Chapter 3 French Toast

9:00 AM Saturday May 12th

9:00 AM Saturday May 12th

Leonard tied his shoe, he was showered and dressed. Still tired but feeling much fresher. He was perplexed, what had Penny so down. What had happened on May 12th 2002 that had her so depressed? The pregnancy test weighed heavy on his mind, what had happened?

He sat at his laptop trying to figure out what to do, though he hated to he called the one person that might have some insight into the human psyche.

“Hi mother”, he said when Beverly answered the phone.

“Hello Leonard, I guess I should ask how you are.” Her usual lack of warmth evident, he gritted his teeth and got to the point.

I’m fine mother. I called for some clinical advice. Penny is really depressed, something happened 10 years ago today. Something traumatic that is really got her down. I’m just wondering what I might do to help her”

Beverly’s voice and response was actually rather warm when she replied.

“Penny is a very simple girl Leonard, find something she really enjoys doing. Let her find a way to tell you about what’s bothering her. Don’t be her father, just let her work it through and she will open up.”

Leonard was awe struck, his mother had actually offered some meaningful advice without being condescending.

“Thanks Mother, that actually helps”

“You’re welcome I suppose, Goodbye”

She hung up, Leonard grimaced, now he would have to remind Sheldon to thank her again. Speaking of Sheldon he wondered where he was. He must have done his usual routine, shower, breakfast on the spot to watch Dr. Who. But he was nowhere in the apartment. He checked his schedule and saw that he and Amy were attending a lecture of a well-known microbiologist that day. Obviously a target for the two’s disdain. He cringed at what the Q&A session would be like.

Leonard got back on the phone.

The number he dialed picked up on the third ring.

“Hello, Wyatt, Leonard Hoftstader”

“Hello, Leonard, how are things with you and my daughter?” Wyatt asked somewhat anxious.

“Things are going pretty well sir. I was just wondering about something. Penny is pretty down right now. Can you tell me anything about what happened about this time 10 years ago?”

The silence on the phone was saying something to Leonard all on its own.

“What has Penny told you Leonard?” Penny’s father finally replied.

“Nothing really Wyatt, I just know she is really depressed and I’m trying to think of a way to help.”

Again there was a long pause. “Leonard I’ll let Penny tell you about this, it’s not my place. But if you want to cheer her up, I have one word for you, horses, she loves to ride horses.”

“Okay, thanks Wyatt, talk to you soon”

“Take care son, and take good care of her if she’ll let you”

Leonard hung up, he was still confused but a least he had something. He goggled horseback riding in Pasadena and was soon back on the phone making plans.

9:30 AM Saturday May 12th

Penny was out of the shower and dressed in a cute yellow and orange sweat pants with a matching top. The hang over was receding rapidly. She still felt down and really wanted Leonard to come back. She kept herself from calling him but just barely. She put on her makeup then brushed out her hair. She had just made herself another cup of tea when Leonard knocked on the door and stuck his head in.

“Hey you”, she said with as much perkiness as she could muster.

Leonard came in, his usual dress, brown cords, a mint green hoodie under his jacket and tennis shoes. He looked a little tired but clean shaven and fresh. He walked toward her a slight smile on his face.

“How are you felling?”

“Much better thanks to you”, she said and then tried to continue, “About last night, I…” again he shushed her.

“Hey lets last night take care of itself, did you end up with the day off, I thought you were working today?”

Penny had been caught in a lie. Leonard had asked her last week if she was doing anything today and she had told him she had to work a double. It was pretty obvious she was not going to make the lunch shift if she was still here. Quick on her feet as usual even with a hangover she kept it simply.

“They ended up not needing me, so now I have the day off”

She caught the look and smile on his face, he knew it wasn’t the truth but for some reason he was letting it slide.

“Well great”, Leonard came back with, “I have something we could do that you should really enjoy. How would you like to go horseback riding today?”

Penny did a small double take, horseback riding. Leonard was afraid of horses but he had offered. It was one of the many things she missed about Nebraska.

Penny advanced on Leonard and gave him a kiss on the lips. “Okay that sound great but are you sure? You hate horses?”

Leonard laughed, “I don’t hate them, but the one time I went riding the horse stepped on my foot. Then it proceeded to urinate splashing me with urine. Not the most pleasant way to appreciate horses”

Penny finally smiled and laughed. “What do you have in mind?”

Leonard laid out his plan. They had a 12:00 noon appointment with Sunset Stables to ride horses in the Hollywood hills. It was a long trail ride including a late lunch returning that evening under the stars and the Hollywood sign. Then they could catch Italian food at Angelo’s on the way home.

Penny smiled, what had she done to deserve this man.

“Sounds great she said, when do we leave”

“Right after we have some breakfast” he said moving toward her kitchen, “French toast?”

Penny just nodded and settled into a spot on the couch.

Chapter 4 Staying in the Moment

7:00 PM Saturday May 12th

7:00 PM Saturday May 12th

Leonard had survived horseback riding. He didn’t get stepped on, urinated on, bitten or thrown off. Though he did step in a huge pile of dung at one point, but he thought he had got it all off.

Penny had changed into jeans, Western boots and pink tank top before they had left. When she got up on the large chestnut mare she had chosen to ride she looked like one of the young guides for the stable. She looked so absolutely comfortable and happy. She took the horse into the stables large arena and trotted it to just short of a gallop. Leonard had loved to watch that, how her and the horse moved as one. Penny’s blonde ponytail dancing behind her head as she rode.

Penny helped him chose his horse with the help of the stable guide. It was an older gelding name Bruce. Bruce was very gentle, and though as uncomfortable in the saddle as Leonard was Bruce bore him. Leonard didn’t know just how uncomfortable the saddle could be until at the half way point of two and half hours when they stopped for lunch. He had heard the term saddle sore before, but living it was a different matter.

Penny even showed some, stretching and rubbing her bottom. They had a nice group picnic up in the Hollywood Hills, sandwiches, potato salad, wine and beverages. When Penny passed on the wine Leonard did also. They both had lemonade. The ride back had seemed longer, maybe it was just his butt talking to his brain. As the trail ran under the Hollywood sign the sun was starting to sink below the hills. By the time they were back at the stables it was after 6:00, a little later than planned.

Leonard moved slowly with just a hint of a limp, Penny moved normally but rubbed her butt until they got to the car. Penny found a radio station she liked as they started back to Pasadena and dinner at Angelo’s. Traffic was fairly heavy, Penny reached over taking his right hand from the steering wheel and held it in her left. She smiled sweetly at Leonard when he glanced her way.

“Thanks for the wonderful afternoon Leonard. I’ve missed riding horses so much since I’ve been out here. We need to do that again”

Leonard gave her a smirk, “I think I’ll need to let my butt rest for a while.”

Penny laughed, “It’s like sex honey, the more you do it the better you get at it”

Leonard blushed and then gave her a suggestive leer.

“I don’t seem to remember my butt every being sore, foot cramps, other parts maybe”

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Whispering in his ear, “Practice make perfect, don’t you remember”

He smiled at her with a quick glance nodding his head. She leaned back in the seat still holding his hand. But as he glanced over at her a few minutes later she seemed to be getting a faraway look in her eyes. He needed to bring her back to the moment.

“Hey, didn’t you have an audition last week? How’d that go?”

That worked it bought her back to the present, she told him about driving for two hours and then sitting there with 40 other actresses. When she did get in before she even got to read she knew it wasn’t going to go well. It was a part for a horror film, just a small part but it had lines. She was usually just too perky for those kinds of parts. Though they had liked her screaming ability.

Leonard chuckled as they got off the freeway and pulled into Angelo’s for dinner.

Angelo’s was a small, store front Italian restaurant. Leonard and Penny were shown to the table Leonard requested. It was a small intimate table for two in the front window next to the sidewalk. They could watch people as they walked by. Penny suggested a game of guessing where the people they saw were going.

The waiter came back by. Penny ordered Shrimp Scampi, Leonard linguine with olive oil and asparagus, no cheese. Leonard also order an antipasto for them to share. The waiter asked what they would like to drink. Leonard looked at penny a moment.

“Do you feel up to a light bottle of wine?”

She smiled and nodded yes. Leonard took a quick peek at the wine list then ordered a Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma. The waiter left and they went back to their game.

A woman walked by with a violin case. Penny giggled, “She’s on her way to a square dance. She’s the fiddle player”

“Nope”, replied Leonard, “The case has a tommy gun in it. She a mob hit woman on her way to rub a guy out.”

They were both still laughing when the waiter appeared with the wine and antipasto. They sipped the delightfully cold and acidic white wine, while munching on the appetizer. Their conversation started to wander to their friends. There was the wedding planning with Bernadette and Amy. Howard going to training in Texas. Sheldon’s latest incident with Kripke and Leslie Winkle. It continued through the main course and they both skipped dessert.

Leonard paid the bill and they started to drive home. Talking the whole way about their day riding. They were still talking, Leonard joking about her need to carry him up the stairs because he was saddle sore when they reached the 4th floor.

9:50 PM Saturday May 12th

Penny didn’t stop and turn around at her apartment door. She unlocked it and walked in with Leonard following her. Leonard closed the door and turned around. Penny walked up to him and put her arms around his neck, leaning into him. Leonard’s hand slid up her sides caressing the small of her back as they shared a very long and passionate kiss. She broke away and put her mouth to his ear.

“We really should get back in practice”

 

Chapter 5 If you can’t cure it treat it

1:00 AM Sunday, May 13th

Leonard rolled on his back, catching his breath.  Penny snuggled into his chest and he pulled the comforter around them.  This was not practice.  They had never been together like this before.  It went beyond sex.  They had been making love there had been the “Oh Gods”, and all the sounds that went with sex but no talking.  But they had been connected more deeply than that.  He hoped she felt it, he knew he had.  He didn’t have the slightest urge to thank her like he always had.

“Ummm” Penny purred into his chest, “What time is it honey?”

Leonard looked over her to clock, “A little after one, May 12th is over it’s Sunday, May 13th”

Penny pushed back from him and looked at his face.  He had a serious look, he’d put his glasses back on at some point.

He spoke softly, “Penny the 12th of May is over.  Whatever happened on that day 10 years ago you don’t ever have to tell me? I’ll make you a promise though, for as long as we’re friends as a couple or not.  I will spend May 12th with you, starting the night before all the way to the next day for as long as you want me to.”

Penny looked stunned. The tears were starting to roll down her face.  She started to sob and he pulled her close. He held her until she stopped sniffling, his chest wet with her tears. He’d hold her there forever if she needed him to and would let him.

Finally she shifted away from him, wiped her eyes with both hands, her nose with back of her hand.  She looked into eyes and exhaled heavily.

“Leonard, if anyone had ever said what you just said I would find a way to sabotage that relationship and run from them as fast as I could.  I know that you meant every word of it and that you would stay true to it.  When you told me you loved me a long time ago I did just that.  I found a way to sabotage and screw up the best relationship I’d ever had.  You still forgave me for breaking your heart and came back to me.”

She finally smiled, not the actress smile, her real smile he’d seen and loved for so long”

“Leonard I love you, I have for a long time, even when I couldn’t say it to you.  I convinced myself with some help that if I cared for you I had to break it off.  I needed to release you from the uneducated blonde burden I was thinking I was.  It took a while to see how wrong that was.  I suffered the entire time you were with Priya.  My own behavior just kept pushing us backward.  I waited for months for you to ask me out again.  I wanted to go slow so you would be sure how I felt.”

Now it was Leonard that was tearing up, he took his glasses off and wiped his eyes.

“Penny I loved you then and even more now.  When I told you I missed you when we started dating again that’s what I missed, loving you.”

6:15 AM Sunday May 13th today.

Penny made herself get up earlier than Leonard, slipping very softly and quietly from his arms and the bed. She walked into the kitchen and got the coffee brewing. There was a bounce to her step, as she grabbed an apple out of the bowl for breakfast. She had on pink shorts and a larger red t-shirt with the periodic table on the front. It had been Leonard’s. She’d never returned it when they broke up. She would wear it to bed whenever she’d missed him in the last two years.

She was sure he would get a kick out of seeing her in it this morning and the reason she still had it. She could even return it now that they were back together. Maybe get that new superman or Star Wars shirt he had on the other day when he wasn’t looking. She needed some time this morning, she wanted to tell Leonard everything but it was too hard. So she’d decided to write him a letter instead. She sat down at her laptop and took a bite of her apple, sadness started to well up in her but she pushed it back down. Just write what happened not how you felt she told herself.

She started to type:

Why I’m Broken.  Leonard I love you and being loved by you.

She felt Leonard’s hand on her shoulder his head beside hers.  He reached over and closed the program.  She turned her head and he kissed her.

“Penny all I need to know was in the first sentence.  When you want to talk about it someday you will.  Just know I’ll be there regardless.”

Penny’s felt a tear drift down her cheek as she reached up and pulled his head back to her for another kiss.  She wasn’t fixed but mended.

As their lips parted Leonard looked down at her.  “Isn’t that my shirt?”

Penny just blushed.

Epilogue:

Leonard and Penny were married one year later.  Sheldon was the best man, by having all the groomsman wear white gloves he even walked back down the aisle with Bernadette the maid of honor.  Penny had convinced her bestie Amy that she had already been maid of honor and it was Bernadette’s turn.  She did promise to be Amy’s when the time came.

On Leonard’s calendar starting on May 11th and ending on May 13th was a recurring appointment, “Care for my Friend”, it was marked not movable.

You don’t have to always know what you friend’s problems are, just what’s required to help them.

When I originally wrote this piece I stopped it here for a bit then added more later on after some requests.  During this rewrite I decided it really should have ended right here.  It didn’t matter what the issue was.  She’ll tell him in time or not, it doesn’t really matter to Leonard he’ll be there for her either way.

 

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