The Elliptical Threads Project
Caltech, Physics Chairs Office, 9:00 AM December 23rd, 2024
Leonard Hoftstader PhD, sat behind his desk looking over his wire rimmed reading glasses at the young grad student with the digital recorder and tablet sitting in front of him. He took the glasses off and set them on his desk. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, since the advanced laser eye surgery wearing glasses actually bothered him now. The 45 year old department chair was thinking about where to start.
“Why would you want to do my biography? My life hasn’t been particularly interesting in the last few years.” Leonard looked at the grad student again. She was in her early to mid-twenties with blonde straight hair, about his height, slim and lithe. It was her sparkling green eyes he supposed, and the smile. What was her name again, Samantha something,
“Miss…” He struggled, “Larson professor, Samantha Larson, but everyone calls me Sam”
Leonard smiled, “Okay Sam then, so why the interest in me. My research days ended 3 years ago. Even then my contributions to the Unified Quantum Gravity Theory were relatively minor”
He smiled at her again, not able to look away from those green eyes. Something stirred in him, an old memory, and a flame of sorts.
“I really would like to know about your time before the theory was completed. Why did you leave Caltech for almost 11 years before returning? I know you were in England and Switzerland teaching and doing experimental research. What made you come back to take the department chair and hang up your lab coat Dr. Hoftstader?”
Leonard laughed, “If one is the department chair of the Physics department at Caltech you have no time for doing research.” He had done his best imitation of Dr. Siebert. “But I was all done. I’d taken my own theories and those of others as far as I could go. I contributed to the unified theory, it was finally enough”
Sam smiled a sweet smile at Leonard, and then gnawed on her lip. Leonard’s heart may have skipped a beat. “This really isn’t a full biography, I’m writing an article for the Caltech Ezine but the LA Times has also showed interest in it. I want something more personal about you and your journey.”
Leonard sat back and started to analyze the possibilities, just as he’d always done. “Don’t over think this”, popped into his head, but it wasn’t his voice, it was HERS.
He looked back into Sam’s green eyes. “I’ll do it Sam but I’m going to have to respect some people’s privacy so I may need to leave a few things kind of vague, and voice only no video.”
Sam nodded and Leonard began to talk, Sam turned on the recorder.
“Where do you want to start?”
Sam looked at her tablet, “Why did you leave Caltech?”
Leonard looked into the young eyes, “Because of a girl of course.”
Let’s call her Penny. You see at that time I shared an apartment with the then not so famous Dr. Sheldon Cooper. We had this 4th floor apartment off Colorado Boulevard. It was really Nerd Central. There was me and Sheldon, an astrophysicist named Rajesh, we called him Raj, and an engineer who’s now a PhD named Howard Wolowitz. We were a pretty geeky bunch, we hung out a lot in the apartment playing games, watching movies, collecting and reading comic books. We were all also working on various fields of study.
One day a young lady about your age moved in across the hall from us. I have to tell you though it sounds like a cliché. It was love at first sight for me. I was smitten with Penny. She was an aspiring actress who was beautiful, funny, street smart, and outgoing. Everything I was not. We became fast friends, then later lovers. We were together the first time for almost 9 months. Then I made the perilous mistake of telling Penny I loved her. Well that was the end of us for almost 2 years, though we tried to remain friends. We started dating again in 2012. It was really working out well, we went slowly. We were so close and getting closer all the time. I could see her being my wife, starting a family together.
Then she got her big break, this is where I’m going to be a little vague. It was a new sitcom based and being produced in New York. She wasn’t the star, but the part was in the regular cast and she would work every week when they were taping. We both decided it could work, we’d Skype, she’s would fly home whenever they went on hiatus. It did work for a while, though we were both miserable without the other. Then she didn’t Skype as much, she seemed distant. I knew things were over when her friends Bernadette and Amy packed up her apartment so she could have her things shipped out. Howard, Bernadette’s husband told me that Penny was dating one of the shows co-stars.
Penny was becoming a very successful actress. Her character was beloved, she had fulfilled her dream. Penny was a star. Now you see why I kept things vague, Penny is not her stage name and I won’t say what the show was.
As you might imagine I was crushed. In fact crushed would have been an improvement. I was two steps above suicidal. I had lost the love of my life. She wouldn’t talk to me. She wrote me a long letter about how she was the wrong person for me. How she wasn’t worthy or smart enough to be my partner. A lot of pain was suffered, and as I think about it now, probably on both sides. That December about this time of year I was at rock bottom. You see Penny had loved Christmas. She was the first person to make it a real holiday for me. I told Dr. Cooper I was moving out and Caltech I was taking a Sabbatical.
Leonard looked up to see Sam staring at him, teary eyed. He could have stopped right here but she wanted to go on. He realized he was almost in tears himself. He excused himself for a bathroom break. He went in his bathroom that was attached to his office. Washed his face and went back to his chair. Sam looked like she was better so he continued.
I had contacted Oxford and arranged for a research and lecturing position there. I sold or gave away everything I had been accumulating in my life up to that point. My friends got most of it. I kept my clothes, a few books and a blue blanket with sleeves that Penny had gave me. I left for Oxford on Christmas day 2012. I had a four hour layover in New York, I thought about calling Penny, but couldn’t think of what I would say.
I spent two years at Oxford teaching and doing particle research. For those two years I had a few dalliances with the occasional grad student but nothing meaningful. The scars were pretty deep. I tried not to, but I kept track of Penny via the web. She married a musician, it didn’t work out apparently, she was divorced and back on the west coast doing a new show the next year.
In 2015 I was offered a fellowship at CERN and I moved to Geneva. I worked really long hours. I was immersed in my research and experiments until I met Liisa that year, that’s with two i’s. She was a school teacher in Geneva. I’m not sure what it was but we fell in love. It wasn’t like with Penny, less intense, comfortable I guess. She took me for who I was scars and all. We married the next year. It was a really good time in my life. I had a wonderful woman that loved me and interesting research that I was passionate about. Then she got sick, ovarian cancer. I was with her until the end, chemo therapy, radiation, experimental therapy. None of it worked, she died on June 15th 2022.
I spent several months finishing my work, rather numb I might add. Then I decided it was time to come home. Though I grew up in New Jersey, I knew Pasadena was home. I talked to then President Siebert and he offered me the department chair and I came home in May 2023. I took an apartment near the university and settled in, but it was never quite home. This fall I rented my old apartment off Colorado Boulevard. I had asked the property management company to call me if it ever went vacant. So I had come full circle, or maybe more of an ellipse. I remodeled the apartment, adding a gourmet kitchen, I’d taken classes in French cuisine when I was at CERN. I had a wine cellar built into the kitchen, but the rest I had decorated pretty much as it was when I was there before, probably a little less nerdy than before but the same layout.
I’ve basically come home my living room right now contains a Christmas tree I’ve yet to decorate. I have my old room back, and found my spot in the world. Though there are some differences. I have a place in my heart for French wine, and Scotch whiskey now.
Sam looked up from her pad, what happened to all your friends?
Well as you know Dr. Cooper had a leading role in creating the combined theory. He received his Nobel Prize and is now at Cambridge with his wonderful wife Amy. They are expecting their second child in March. Dr. Wolowitz is still at Caltech and he and his wife Bernadette have been together for 12 or 13 years now. They never had children but have two dogs and a cat. Professor Rajesh Koothrappali, Raj is back in India, single as far as I know.
Penny has been through rehab, though I never really believed she had an alcohol problem. It was how she dealt with stress. She has been doing smaller parts in movies the last few years and some voice overwork also. She never married again and had no children but that’s as far as I know. I really try hard now not to follow her to close since we both live here again.
“Thank you Dr. Hoftstader that was a wonderful story”
Leonard smiled and nodded, it was early in the afternoon now. He felt tired, exhausted in fact but he felt he needed to add one more thing.
“Sam, I can tell you one thing, though I loved my wife. She was wonderful, and caring. The love of my life was Penny. She lives in my heart every day and that pain and longing has never gone away. I fear sometimes I live too much in my past. But it was the best time in my life.”
Samantha thanked him for the interview and left. Leonard put his glasses back on and went back to the budget and research profiles on his laptop. The interview he had given went out to Caltech and then the LA Times online within hours.
Apartment 4A, 7:30PM December 23rd 2024
Leonard had been home about an hour. It had been a rough day. He set in his chair beside the couch. He never sat in the “spot”, on the couch that had been Sheldon’s, even though this couch was much nicer, dark leather and very comfortable. He would lay on it but never sat in the “spot”. He was settled down in his chair, jazz playing in the background, nursing a glass of single malt scotch. He was amused about how things he would have never thought enjoyable back then were now.
The knock on the door startled him. Bernadette and Howard were coming over tomorrow. No take out anymore, but he would cook them a wonderful duck tomorrow and pair it with a rich Cote Rotie red wine he’d been saving. He put his scotch on the coffee table and headed for the door. He opened it and almost had his first stoke.
The women looking at him had a hat and glasses on. As he stood there she removed both.
“Penny”, he muttered. She gnawed on her lip and stepped through the door and put her arms around his neck. The hug lasted, she just held on.
She finally pulled back and stared into his eyes. There they were those sparkling green eyes.
“I’ve never stopped loving you either Leonard. Now let’s get your tree decorated.”
Penny continued staring into Leonard’s brown eyes. She was actually surprised he hadn’t looked away, or even blushed. She slid her arms from around his neck, moving past him into the apartment sliding her left hand across his chest. He had shuddered a little then, was that a good sign? She looked around the apartment that in many ways had been her home as well as his.
An audible “Wow”, escaped her lips as she took it all in. The furniture was laid out in a similar way as it had been then. Though now he had his desk by the window, and where Sheldon’s desk had been was a dark walnut side board with a pewter urn on the top. Where his desk had been in the old days was an antique wardrobe of the same dark walnut. The couch was dark brown leather, longer than the old one. The chair next to it a cushioned and comfortable looking tan Swedish design with dark cherry inlays.
The coffee table was unique. A single burl of some exotic wood with carved and white inlaid formulas cut into the wood. She recognized some of them from guy’s old white boards, but these were stylized and lovely. A glass with what she assumed was Scotch was sitting on a marble coaster. She looked up at the walls. They were mostly mustard with a maroon accent wall. On the walls were old movie posters in black metal frames. There was the original Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, but also Casablanca and Dr. Zhivago. There was a large frame with some rare comic books behind the glass. The Flash, Superman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. Leonard had never really cared for Wonder Woman she mused.
She turned toward the kitchen. The cabinetry was red cherry, lighter than the rest of the furniture. The counters were crimson slightly darker than the accent wall. The Island had the glass doors beneath of a custom made wine cellar. The floor was jet black tile, with bright white specs like stars. In the corner where the old range had been was large professional stainless steel gas cooktop and oven with a matching hood. A stainless refrigerator sat where the old one had. Above the kitchen island hung a pot rack that was laden with copper cookware. The entire living room floor was a pine hardwood that fit the room to a tee. In front of the old closet was an 8ft silver fir Christmas tree without a single decoration.
She turned back to the door, Leonard had closed it and was standing there staring at her. He had a slight grin on his face and held her gaze steadily. She studied him for moment. He looked older, more worn around the edges. His hair was cut short. He had on a blue dress shirt, tan worsted wool slacks and light tan loafers that actually matched his belt. He looked thinner if that was possible and absolutely incredible to her. Another audible “Wow” escaped her lips once again. She recovered quickly, “It’s incredible Leonard, the apartment is so, so”, she searched for the right adjective, “sophisticated and lovely but very homey also.”
“Thank you”, he replied walking toward her, “It took a bit but it all came together”, he stopped next to her. They looked into each other’s eyes again for a not brief moment. What was it about his eyes, and then she had it. “Where are your glasses?”
Leonard smiled and walked toward the kitchen, speaking over his shoulder. “I had my eyes fixed in Europe, Dual-Optic laser surgery. It’ll be in the states in another year. I just need reading glasses now, can’t fix age quite as easily I’m afraid”
He walked behind the kitchen island and turned back smiling. Penny felt a shiver, it was THAT SMILE. “Can I get your something? I have a lovely Chardonnay from Burgundy I was going to open tonight? Coffee, herbal tea, no soft drinks I’m afraid.” Penny thought about the rehab remark in his interview. She had never actually been in rehab. Her publicist had thought it sounded better than therapy. She was not an alcoholic. She had never learned to deal with stress and being depressed when she was younger. Alcohol had been her way of dealing with it. Therapy had helped she rarely was ever more than a little tipsy anymore, and then very rarely.
“I would love a glass of wine.” She watched him pull a bottle from under the island and quickly pull the cork. He pulled wine glasses from the cabinet and poured each about a quarter full.
“Would you like some cheese or fruit with it, I have some nice Gruyere or Stilton and some apples and pears.” Penny was hungry. She’d left the studio in Burbank without hitting the craft services buffet. Then something else popped into her head. “Sure, but since when does Leonard Hoftstader eat diary?”
Leonard chuckled, “Since Dr. Hofstadter’s physician prescribed him a new lactose enzyme drug about 8 years ago. Did I ever tell you I love ice cream?”
Leonard had used that smile again, now it just felt familiar again but she could feel herself grinning. He was putting cheese on a tray, grabbed an apple and pear from the fruit bowl on the counter. She watched him pull a paring knife from the butcher block and slice up the fruit. She was actually very impressed by how quickly he’d done it. The fruit went on the plate and he held out the wine to her. She accepted the glass, he picked up his own and the tray and motioned to the couch. She was about to sit on the end of the couch but stopped herself.
Leonard laughed, “It’s okay Penny. Sheldon won’t be here in the foreseeable future you can have his spot.” They both laughed now and Penny sat down.
She sipped some wine and looked over the glass at him. He’d picked up the scotch glass, drained it and put his wine back on the coaster. He got up and put the whiskey tumbler on the island and came back and sat down. “Never waste single malt scotch”, he said as he picked up his wine glass in his left hand. That’s when she saw the ring on his finger, golden with little tiny runes on the outside. He noticed her looking. “My wedding ring, it’s a reproduction of the one ring. Remember the one that you punched out Sheldon for. Liisa found a place in South Africa that made them from 24 karat gold.”
He looked a little uncomfortable, but was almost instantly in control of himself again. Smiling back at her again, now she was uncomfortable. She looked away over to the Christmas tree. “So we should start decorating your tree.”
He was smiling at her again. “That may be a bit of a problem, I have no decorations or lights yet.” They both laughed. “Well so much for that thought, what should we talk about?” Penny said almost afraid of the answer.
He looked at her again and smiled holding her eyes with his. “You’ve obviously read my interview. God knows how you found it. I haven’t even managed it yet, but truthfully I haven’t even tried. Why don’t you tell me about what has happened in your life since we were together?”
Penny controlled her features, being an actor certainly helped some times. This really was the moment, put up or shut up. He was so confident now, so comfortable with himself. She found it immensely attractive and sexy. “Control”, she whispered to herself, “Control”. She looked away from him concentrating on the urn on the side board. “I’ll try Leonard, but you’ll have to let me get it all out.”
He just nodded and she began:
“When I first got to New York I was so excited, but I missed you and everyone so much. I was working really hard. Though I’d taken lots of acting classes and been in the commercial I had no clue what doing television every week was really like. It was really on the job training. I was learning my craft, my trade. This was the real thing not just how to act, but how to be directed, to show emotion, to use your expressions and body language to express how your character feels.
Here’s a word of warning Leonard, actors are the best liars in the world. They do it every day, they rehearse it, perfect it. Actors learn how to elicit the feeling from you that’s required. I didn’t know that then. I was working so hard, learning but it was very difficult. I missed you and everyone so much, that and the stress had me drinking pretty heavy. Well it finally happened. I went out with Brent, the co-star, for drinks one night after a taping. I had way too much to drink. I woke up the next morning in bed with him.
I felt so guilty for betraying you, it was like Raj all over again but this time we really did have sex. It was the last time, but I couldn’t figure out what to do. I felt so un-worthy of you and even my friends. That’s when I wrote you the letter breaking it off. I actually wrote another letter that explained what happened but I never sent that one. I felt like I didn’t deserve someone like you or anyone as good as you.”
Penny stopped at this point, she asked for a tissue. Leonard retrieved a box from his desk and gave it to her. When he set them next to her he reached over and squeezed her hand and gave her the smile.
“I continued working, trying very hard to just keep it professional. Bernadette was still my lifeline back with everyone here. I worked through most of December and wanted to come back for Christmas. But then Bernadette told me you were leaving Caltech to work in Europe. There was no use coming back.
I tried to keep track of you via Facebook and Twitter but you had stopped posting on either. I did find your class schedule at Oxford though that was something. I met Matt at a party the next fall. I had promised myself to not go out with musicians but I thought he was different. He was moody and I thought deep. Boy was I wrong. We got married on a trip to Vegas with his pals. I think he was actually fooling around on me when we were there. The best word to describe Matt was “hound”. We were together a total of about 10 weeks when I filed for divorce. I really did understand the need for a pre-nup after that. The divorce took almost a year. The sitcom was coming to an end. It never had the ratings, but my character was very popular. The producers wanted to spin my character off into a new show. I told them that I would do it only if it moved to LA. They agreed and I moved back and started what turned into a five season show.
I became Penelope Jenson, which I always thought was a lame name. I’ve been her some of the time ever since. The rest of the time I’m just Penny, even though there aren’t a lot of people that know she still exists. I went into therapy after I got back, not rehab as the tabloids said. It has really helped a lot over the years. A lifeline I could grab when things went badly. I’ve had a few relationships since then. But it’s tough being the boyfriend of a celebrity. It’s also tough trying to figure out if someone is with you or the character you play. So in the end I’ve just kept everything casual the last few years, no one permanent, if anyone at all. I have my causes, children, animals, the environment, and migrant workers.
I’ve followed your career as best I could. You were pretty low key. I tried to read your papers, but they went over my head. I saw press releases about your work at CERN. When you married in Europe I was happy for you but saddened for myself. I quit trying to keep track of you, though I still did Google you from time to time. I also tried to follow all of our old friends from a distance. I of course made new friends along the way most in the industry. I cried for you when I saw that your wife had died.
I knew about you coming back. I hoped you would get in touch with me. I also knew that you wouldn’t know how even if you tried. Generally there is a barrier between me and the public. Though the person who tweets on twitter really is me, I always hoped you would reply someday.
Then yesterday I got a tweet with a link to the Caltech article. I read it and realized you may not know where I am but I knew exactly where you were.
So that’s how I got here, I knew you had a tree that needed trimming. I didn’t know you hadn’t got any of the trimmings yet.”
She looked at Leonard face. He was stoic, lost in thought. He was staring at the urn on the side board. He turned and smiled the smile at her. “Liisa knew more about you in her last few years than I did. When she found out the torch I carried was for Penelope Jenson she followed you. She would tell me if you were doing well. What your latest movie part was and if anyone was linked to you romantically. She was rather star struck by you and a fan, even when she was so sick.”
Finally Penny saw pain on Leonard’s face, it only lasted a moment but he was clearly anguished. Perhaps he was the actor he hid it so quickly and so well.
“He took her hands in his, Penny I’ve thought of how to contact you, but your right I never could figure out how,”
He suddenly got very serious, “I haven’t let anybody into my life in a long time, and it’s not because that wouldn’t be what she would have wanted.” He gently nodded his head at the pewter urn. He finally did look down at the ground. There was a glimpse of the shy Leonard of old.
“If I was to see anyone again, it would be you. Is that why you’re here?”
She didn’t have to think much about it. That really was why she was here. “Yes”
He stared hard at her face, looking deeply in her eyes. You could almost see the wheels turning in his big brain.
“I want you to know deep in my heart it’s something I’d like to try again, but it’s complicated. I think it might be little easier to show you.” Penny had a confused look on her face. Leonard stood and held out his hand. She took it, and stood also. His hands are rougher than they used to be, more calloused.
Leonard led her down the hallway past the open door to his room, the bedside light was on. This room was almost exactly as it had been when they were together. A blue comforter was on the bed, Star Wars memorabilia on his dresser along with framed photos she couldn’t quite see. He led her to the door to Sheldon’s old room which was closed. He grasped the handle and opened it reaching in to turn on the light.
The room was pink with a lavender border around the ceiling. A beautiful white princess bed was in the corner upon its pink comforter were several stuffed animals. The carpet was lavender with Disney characters sewn into the weave. There were white shelves filled with toys and books lining one wall, a low white activity table in the middle with red legs and two very small chairs. The table had a stack of drawing paper, and a large clay jar full of crayons and paint brushes. On the wall in large white letters was the name Lisel.
Penny took it all in, after a moment she heard Leonard. He sounded happier, “Lisel is my 4 year old daughter. This will be her room when she gets here, she’s never seen it. She’s been in Europe with Liisa’s parents since the early fall. I’ll be going over to get her in January.”
Penny turned toward Leonard. She put her arms round his neck and pulled herself into a hug, his hands naturally coming up softly on her sides. “Oh Leonard”, she said in a soft sad voice.
He whispered, “Like I said it’s complicated”.
Penny and Leonard continued the hug for several more seconds. Then Leonard reached up and grasped her left hand with his right and turned toward the living room, leading her by the hand still in his. He led her over to the couch and they set down together. He looked at her, his hand still gently holding hers, their knees touching. Leonard was neither smiling or frowning, Penny face was soft, she was almost teary.
“Complicated”, Leonard softly uttered. “Lisel was born on a Thursday, Liisa started chemo therapy the next day. She was diagnosed with cancer in her fifth month of the pregnancy. Chemo would have killed the baby. There was never a doubt in her mind what the decision would be. By the time Lisel was born the cancer had spread to her pancreas, and liver. She really never had a chance, but she got to hold and care for Lisel until she was too sick from either cancer or the treatments. The final year there was nothing more to be done medically. We stayed at home until the end. I brought in a nurse to help care for both of Liisa and the baby.”
Leonard’s voice was starting to break. He sat back slightly his eyes went back to the urn, mastering his grief. “You would have liked her Penny. She would have loved to meet you.”
Penny had started to cry earlier but it was now closer to sobbing. Leonard let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her pulling her close. She buried her face into his chest and cried. He just held her, not saying a word and stared at the urn. A tear trickled from his eye but he made no move to wipe it away.
When Penny’s crying at last lessened Leonard eased how tightly he was holding her. She sat up grabbing his hand as he pulled his arm back. She reached for the tissues with other hand and dabbed her eyes. She looked into his face, “It must have been so hard Leonard.”
“It was terrible and wonderful at the same time. I had this beautiful baby girl, watching her grow, laughing, playing was so wonderful. Watching Liisa in unendurable pain, horribly sick from the chemo, then as the cancer continued to spread. She evaporated in the end before my eyes. She died in her sleep thankfully. Yes, terrible and wonderful the first two years of Lisel’s life were for me.”
He was sitting back slightly, staring at nothing a spot above the urn. Penny watched him intently. When she spoke her voice trembled, “I’m so sorry I wish I could have been there for you, as your friend.” Leonard looked at Penny and smiled a sad smile and simply said “Me too, but I’m glad you weren’t. I would want to spare you the terrible half and just let you experience Lisel.”
He lifted her hand to his lips, and kissed it then stood releasing it. Leonard walked to the kitchen and retrieved the bottle of wine from its ice bucket. He brought it to the coffee table and poured some in both glasses. He looked at Penny and smiled, “I’ll try to not do that again tonight, and it’s easy to go back there but not particularly healthy.”
Penny watched his every move now. This was a different Leonard than she had ever seen. She had seen him sad and in pain. She’d even been the one who caused it. This was a whole new level of pain. A level of tragedy that she could probably act, but could she had lived it? Someone she had loved once had. Loved once, interesting choice of words, I loved him then, at this moment I probably love him even more. I didn’t think that was possible. I was still in love with the Leonard of then until I got here. Now I realize that this Leonard, though clearly scarred but unbroken is the best parts of the old Leonard and more. But am I the best parts of both and will he feel the same way about the new Penny.
She watched Leonard walk to his phone and tap it several times. He handed it to her, “this is Lisel’, there was the most adorable little blonde girl staring back at her. She had his brown eyes, and the smile. She could feel her heart melting at the sight, she looked at the next picture in the album and it was Leonard holding her hand feeding ducks in a park. “She’s precious Leonard, I see you in her.
He smiled, “funny I always see her mother, though her mother’s eyes were green like yours, but not yours”, he finally blushed she noticed. She kept it light, “well you’ve heard of green eyed monsters haven’t you, be careful how you answer.”
He laughed, nodding at some memory. She wondered if it was of her or Liisa.
My daughter Lisel
Leonard was amazed about the person before him. She almost looked no different. Those green eyes still shined. Liisa had lovely eyes, but they weren’t Penny’s. Sam’s eyes today were close but still not these sparkling green eyes. He had to keep from shaking his head. She really was here sitting on his coach. Her hair was cut straight like when he first met her. That lighter blonde she had then too. Shorter than when they were together. She had on black tight jeans with low black heels, a bright red top with lace at the edges. Her face was exactly how he remembered it. The little flaws: the smile a little crooked, one eye ever so slightly lower than the other, the round cheeks with high cheek bones. He was always amazed how the small imperfection made someone beautiful. She gnawed on her lip, and he thought his heart really did skip a beat
He found himself wondering what Lisel would think of Penny. He decided she would like her, he hoped maybe even love her. It was more complicated than he could fathom right now. Penny was a celebrity. She went out wearing a hat and glasses to hide from the paparazzi. He suddenly realized he was over thinking things. He looked at Penny and smiled, a silent “Thank you for teaching me that”, ran through his head.
Leonard sat back next to her on the couch. She put the phone on coffee table. He reached for her hand again, intertwining his fingers with hers. “I can’t explain it to you how nice it is to have you here, it completes the place somehow.” She looked in his eyes and gave him a warm smile.
“Tell me more about Lisel, what a lovely name.”
Leonard smiled, “She’s named after Lisel Mueller the poet. She’s very sweet, loves being around the other children at the Caltech daycare. She’s smart and very creative loves to color and paint. Gives all her dolls and stuffed animals names that daddy is expected to remember.” The smile became a smirk.
“Is she smart like you Leonard?”
“Maybe, she’s starting to read all ready, knows her colors and the alphabet, in both English and German. But I hope she’s not smart like me. I hope she smart like you and Liisa.”
“How I’m smart?” Penny asked a puzzled look coming across her face.
Leonard smiled, and considered his reply. “Penny you’re a very successful actress. You have always had what I like to think of as emotional intelligence. You know how to make a person feel at ease, empathy, making people feel cared for, drawing them out. You didn’t learn it acting, it’s who you are. It’s who Lisel’s mother was. I’ve never had that. I pull into myself, everything has to fit, even emotions. I was never as bad as Sheldon, but it’s kind of the heart of being a nerd. They replace caring for people with objects, fantasies, fictions, and games. Though they desperately want to connect with someone outside themselves, you were who connected with me.”
Penny was getting teary again. Leonard put his hand under her chin and made her look at him.
“No more of that now, we’ve both cried enough”, he leaned forward kissed her forehead and she smiled. The tears didn’t quite stop, but close enough.
“That’s why you’re smart. I’m better with my people skills now, but I still start to analyze people’s motives. I try to understand what things mean and why someone is acting the way they are. Then a voice in my head tells me not to over think things, your voice”
Penny was smiling now, “You hear my voice?”
Leonard just nodded, and reached for his wine.
Penny reached for her wine also, then kicked off her low heels and pulled up her feet and calves under her. Leonard stood and moved toward the wardrobe. “It’s a little cool in here. I’ll get you a throw”
“Thanks that would be great”, Penny said watching him as he opened the wardrobes, “Where did you get the beautiful wardrobe and sideboard, were they Liisa’s?”
He was reaching inside, “No, I had some just like them in my rooms at Oxford. I looked really hard to find them when I had the apartment decorated.”
Leonard turned around and came back and spread a blue blanket around Penny’s lap, covering her to the waist. She snuggled in, it was very comfy.
He sat down next to her, “Better?” He was looking at her, smiling that smile.
“Promise not to cry?”, still smiling that smile.
Penny shook her head and smiling back. What’s he getting at? She thought.
“The blanket has sleeves if you get colder.” Leonard said chuckling.
She battled to not to cry, she felt her mouth gaping open. She looked down and felt around, finding the sleeves. She looked back at him. “You’ve kept it all this time”, now she really was going to cry. He set down and wrapped her up in a hug. “Remember no crying. Try laughing it helps it’s like anti crying. The blanket was my das andenken der Penny. That’s, “the memento of Penny”, in German, but it means more in German, more personal. Memento in English means any object that reminds you of something, souvenir is the synonym. In German it’s an emotional attachment to an item.”
Penny mastered herself quickly. She became the actor for a moment. She giggled, he was right it helped. She decided that she would jab him just a little. “Pedantic Leonard”, she gave him a serious look. His face was taken aback for moment, she’d gotten him.
Penny smiled her best smile, “Romantically pedantic”. His smile returned. Penny reached for her purse next to her. She reached in side bringing back out her snowflake, and held it up to him.
His smile faded to a look of wonder, he looked teary for only a moment. Laughed and was smiling again.
Penny felt it was time to leave. It had been so emotional it might blow up if they try too hard. They needed to learn how they had each changed and grown in 10 years. She also knew if he really insisted, she would have slept with him tonight, this minute, and this instant even. Then she realized what Leonard had said was right. Her emotional intelligence was showing itself.
She was surprised when he beat her to it.
“Well that may be enough of a stroll down memory lane for tonight. You must be getting tired, I know I am.”
“Penny do you have plans for tomorrow evening?”
Penny smiled at him “No”
“Howard and Bernadette are coming over, I’m cooking a duck. Would you like to come by and see them and have dinner?”
She was a little panicked, was that too fast? She shook it off. “I’d love to. I’ve missed Bernadette so much. Is Howard still Howard?”
Leonard smiled, “She has a pretty tight leash on him, and he’s mellowed out quite a bit. His mouth comes disconnected from his brain only about half the time now.”
Penny stood, “I guess I should be going”
He took her hands and looked into her eyes, “Dinner is at 7:00 come early so I can spend time with you if you can.”
He got up and walked over to his desk, reached into the drawer and pulled out a key chain with a pink ankh symbol attached.
She slipped on her shoes and stood, picked up her purse and moved toward the door.
He helped her on with her jacket and handed her the hat and glasses.
He held out the key ring with the pink ankh. “I need someone to have my spare key. I wouldn’t want you to have to wait in the hall if I’m late sometime.
Penny took the key. She’d seen an ankh before with a circle on top of the cross but had no Idea what it stood for. A thought struck her in the pit of her stomach.
“Did this belong to Liisa?” she asked a little panicky.
Leonard smiled and touched her cheek, “No Penny, it belonged to you. You left it with the key to 4B when you left for New York.”
She suddenly remembered, she had given him the key on this key chain with the ankh. He was going to tell her about the ankh but had been interrupted by Sheldon.
“I remember now” she said smiling at Leonard, “you were going to tell me what the symbol meant.”
He looked at her, leaned over and kissed her cheek, as he pulled back he whispered.
“It means life.”
Penny turned toward the stairway, “See you tomorrow. Oh what time do you get home?”
“I should be here by 6:00PM latest, but you have the key so come over as early as you’d like.” Leonard replied. She waved her hand, said one last time, “Bye” and started down the stairs.
Leonard shut the door, turned his back to it and leaned against it. He was thinking about what he had just done. It was scary. He may have just brought chaos into his and Lisel’s lives and into Penny’s as well. He really tried not the analyze it. I’ve got 4 weeks before I go back and get Lisel, it should be long enough to see where this goes.
He still felt anxious. He walked over to the coffee table. Picked up the wine bottle, glasses and cheese/fruit try and carried them to island in the kitchen. The wine was almost gone so he set it aside. He put the cheese away, ate some of the fruit and discarded the rest. He put the glasses into the dishwasher next, then the remaining wine into an ice cube tray and into the freezer.
Leonard grabbed his scotch tumbler and the bottle of single malt scotch off the counter and poured himself a very stiff drink. He sat back in his chair. He stared at the door for a change rather than the pewter urn. He really wanted it to open and have Penny come back in. For the first time in what felt like forever, Leonard did not grieve for his lost wife. He had worries and fear about what a relationship with Penny would mean. But he felt very right suddenly, righter than he’d felt in 12 years he thought. Leonard threw the rest of the scotch down his throat and put the glass on the marble coaster. He stood and walked to his bedroom, a slight bounce in his step.
Reconnaissance December 24th
Penny turned the key in the lock on apartment 4A, it was dark but as she walked in the lights came on. They were all recessed around the room bathing it the same softer light as last night. She was early, much earlier than she’d planned. It was 1:00PM give or take. She had gone home last night. Had got the dogs up on the bed with her and cuddled up with them but sleep took forever to come. She kept thinking about this place, and if she had a place in it. When she had awakened in the morning the thought was still there. She had held off all morning but couldn’t stand it anymore and drove over. Now that she was here she started to feel a little guilty but also at ease. She put her purse and a cloth bag she was carrying on the couch, and then took off her coat and her “disguise”, as she liked to call her hat and glasses placing them on the arm of the couch.
Penny started down the hallway and went through Leonard’s bedroom door. She set down on the bed, it was unmade he’d been sleeping on the side near the door. She reached over and ran her hand over the spot where he’d slept. Penny looked around the room. There was a chest of drawers where one had always been. Though this one was slightly bigger and of better quality. She saw the photos on top she was interested in last night. Then she looked at the opposite wall beside the door. The wall she didn’t see last night. It had a large white board that, held on with magnets, were hundreds of photos. Penny got up and went to the dresser first. There were three framed photos. The first was very clearly Leonard’s wedding photo. A twinge of jealousy went through Penny as she picked up the frame.
Liisa had been a lovely girl, probably five years younger than herself that would make her about 25 years old when she married Leonard. Her hair was golden, piled on top of her head with long spiral ringlets framing her face. She had a beautiful smile on her face, Leonard was dressed in a formal dove grey morning suit, and he was holding her hand and smiling. It wasn’t “That Smile”, just his normal smile for the camera smile. Any jealousy faded when she picked up the next picture, it was Liisa again sitting up in bed with a baby cradled in her arms. The smile was the same, but her face looked ashen and much thinner, her hairless head covered with a purple and black bandana. The third picture brought an immediate tear to her eye. It was of Leonard and Penny snuggled up on the couch, empty containers of food on the table in front of them. She had on a hot pink shirt, with red and swirling designs and jeans with no shoes. Leonard was in his hoody and coat with light brown pants. There it was that smile. She remembered when it was taken. Bernadette had taken it with her phone after they’d all had dinner that night. She could remember how that felt and it pulled at her heart. She bucked up, held back the tears and turned toward the closet.
She wasn’t ready for the white board yet, she opened the closet door. The clothes within were neatly hung. Some still had the dry cleaner tags on them. There were six jackets, all very finely made. She took one off the hanger it was a lovely hounds tooth the tag from Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row, London. She looked at another, also Savile Row. All of the jackets were from London. They were all conservative woolen jackets, they all clearly said college professor. There were two garment bags all the way to the left side, she pulled one out and before she opened it she saw the name on the bag was Caraceni, Milan. She unzipped it, inside was a beautiful charcoal suit.
Penny followed fashion, not like the passion she had for shoes, but she went to fashion shows and watched the Style channel and fashion podcasts. She didn’t follow men’s clothing much but she knew the names. All of Leonard’s jackets and suits were very expensive. The jackets alone would have cost $5000 dollars apiece. She looked at his dress shirts they were all from Milan or London. Leonard’s slacks were all wool, silk or fine cotton. She looked down at the 5 pair of dress shoes. They were all from high end leather and shoe makers in Milan. What was going on here? Then she saw and old pair of Reebok tennis shoes in the back. Those were more his old style, then two old dungaree style jackets to the far right of the closet.
Penny turned and crossed back to the dresser and opened the top drawer. This was more like it, star wars and comic themed boxers and white socks. The next drawer down was white tee shirts. The third drawer had half a dozen themed tee shirts, including superman. The last drawer though went back the other way. Very expensive dress socks were inside, perhaps a dozen pair. The drawer also contained a small men’s jewelry box. She opened it, inside were golden cuff links, a very old watch, and a diamond wedding ring. It wasn’t a huge diamond, and looked to be platinum. She thought about the wedding photo on top of the dresser.
She placed the ring back very gently and closed the box. Now Penny really was starting to feel guilty about snooping around. She slide the drawer back in and approached the white board. The photos were all of Lisel, from when she was a baby up to the age she had seen on Leonard’s phone last night. Some were just of her, a few had other children, and one or two had Leonard in them with her. Penny smiled and thought that Lisel will be a very lucky little girl. Her father was always a person who loved all the way.
Penny left Leonard’s bedroom and came back down the hall. She turned left to go to window next to his desk. A letter was lying in the middle of it, still half folded. Penny reached over and unfolded the bottom. The letter was in German, it looked like it came from a bank or lawyer in Zurich. She couldn’t make much sense of it but two lines were pretty clear.
Leonard L. Hoftstader € 2,900,000
Lisel P Hoftstader € 1,300,000
It all was starting to make since now, she wasn’t sure how but Leonard Hoftstader had made a fortune in Europe. She crossed over to the kitchen. On the island was a bottle of Pinot Noir wine, a cork screw and two glasses. Beside them was a note
Penny, if you get here first open this bottle of Pinot, I’m sure you’ll love it. Food and goodies in the fridge indulge and make yourself at home.
Well I certainly have made myself at home, I’m so nosey, Penny thought. She left the wine on the counter and hunted around until she found herbal tea. She used the hot water dispenser on the sink and made some. She went to the wardrobe and got the blue blanket. Moved to the couch and settled down to wait for Leonard.
Rich Food and Richness
Leonard took the stairs to the fourth floor. The elevator worked fine but it felt better to take those well-trod steps. He opened the door to 4A and saw Penny asleep on the couch. Her coat, hat, glasses, purse and a cloth carry bag were on the arm. Penny was snuggled up in Sheldon’s spot with the blue blanket around her and a red couch pillow under her head on the arm of the couch.
Leonard gently closed the door to the apartment. He softly said, “Tish, how long has Penny been here? Quietly please” A voice came softly from his computer, “Since 1:09 PM”. It was still loud enough that Penny stirred on the couch. Leonard sat down beside her, and pushed her hair behind her ear. Penny’s eyes fluttered open, and looked into his face. “Hey you” she said very softly. He grinned “hey to you too, I’m glad you came. You’ve been here a while, I’m glad I got here early.” Leonard took her hand kissed it gently and got up and headed to the kitchen. “It’s time to cook, want to help?”
Leonard got to the kitchen, “Tish, task lighting please, the lights in the kitchen turned on, brighter lights over the island and the cook top.” Penny set up and folded the blanket up. “Tish?” she looked at Leonard with a raised eyebrow. Leonard chuckled, “TISHH, Transparent Interactive Synthetic Human Home. It’s something Howard was working on last year. She’s built into the apartment. She takes care of the heat, lights, water temperature, all sorts of stuff. She’s aware of everything happening in the apartment. I helped him get it off the ground last year. The apartment is her first beta test. You remember beta testing?” Leonard smiled at her, a little bit of a leer in his glance. Penny blushed. “Say hello and use her name.”
Penny looked around, “Hello Tish.” Tish replied “Hello Penny, how are you today? Did you have a nice nap?” Penny looked almost dumbfounded, a little spooked. “Leonard how does she know me and that I took a nap?” Leonard smiled back, “don’t ask me, ask her? Oh and you have to say her name so she knows your talking to her”
Penny looked around her, “Tish how did you know it was me and that I was sleeping?” She was answered immediately, “Leonard identified you to me this morning from your signature last night. You were given system wide access to me at the same time. When you were on the couch I saw that your temperature dropped slightly and that you had failed to move for over 4.7 minutes and therefore you were asleep.” Penny’s mouth was hanging open.
Leonard was getting out pots, pans and ingredients for dinner. “I should have showed you last night, but I forget she’s here most of the time.” She uses infrared, heat sensors and your voice to identify people. She hears and sees pretty much everything that happens in the living room and kitchen area. She just has temperature sensors everywhere else. A little privacy from your home is a good thing.”
“She told me when I got home you’ve been here since 1:00 pm. It feels really good here doesn’t it? If I know you you’ve been snooping around, I really have nothing to hide, just ask me.”
He could see he hit home there. Penny had always been that way. She loved to snoop around finding things out about people. That wouldn’t have changed. Leonard started dressing the duck with a long thin knife and smiled at her.
Q & A Professor
Penny was nervous now, the apartment watched me. At least it couldn’t tell what she had done in Leonard’s room. Leonard was still smiling as he worked. “First question?”
Penny thought where to start, might as well go big. “Leonard, how rich are you?” He started cutting vegetables. Penny got up and started walking toward the kitchen.
“I’m not Bill Gates rich if that’s what you mean. I hold several patents in laser technology in Europe, including the laser type that corrected my vision. They have paid off extremely well. I’m actually not sure how much it is right now. I have them split between a trust for Lisel and my account. The amount varies and will decline over the years, but I could live well for quite a few years on what I’ve put away already.”
Penny smiled this time that big brain had made itself rich. She’d thought that maybe he’d inherited from Liisa or maybe his own parents had passed. She should have known he did it all on his own. She stood by the kitchen island, he had opened the wine. There was a glass poured for her. She picked it up smiling at him. “So who is your fashion consultant Dr. Hoftstader, you are looking very suave these days?” Leonard looked down at himself. He had put on a red apron beneath it was dark blue button down shirt, no tie, black slacks and shoes.
“When I went to Oxford I was informed that professors there were expected to dress well. I made a friend of the local haberdasher. He hooked me up with a buyer on Savile Row. I still have her buy for me whenever I need something new. They have my measurements and make whatever I need now, back then it was off the sales rack.”
He made several poses aping fashion models. They both proceeded to laugh. He apparently was ready to cook the duck. Picking up the tray and another bottle of wine he moved to the cook top.
“What should I do?” she asked.
“You could set the island up with plates, silverware, wine and water glasses. The stools slide in to the end, we’ll need four. Then you can kiss the cook”, he chuckled. She put down her wine glass and walked up behind him. “I think I’ll do things in reverse.” She touched his shoulder and he turned his head. If he was expecting a peck on the cheek he was in for a shock. Penny kissed him passionately and he responded. Both his hands were busy so he could not escape. The kiss was long and wet, and so easily remembered. She let him go and he stood there pan in one hand, tongs in the other. She looked at him and smiled her best seductive smile, then turned and started taking plates from the cupboard.
Leonard turned back to the duck, and muttered under his breath, “Damn cat’s still alive”.
Penny heard him, “She scratches too so be forewarned.”
Leonard smiled at Penny, caught his breath and turned back to the duck in the pan. He was rendering the fat at the moment. He was going to pour it off then let it simmer in herbs, a little Syrah and a touch of butter.
“Okay, the table is set for 4”, Penny announced, “What are we having with the ducky?”
Leonard didn’t look around, “I was going to do a risotto with mushrooms, yellow onion and sun dried tomatoes. Just need to get this done so I can dice the onion and cut up the Morels and Shitake mushrooms.”
Leonard felt her hand in the middle of his back as she reached beside him to the butcher block on the counter. She pulled several knives out until she found an offset serrated one. “I think I can handle that.” Leonard looked over his shoulder. Penny had a fresh cutting board out and was quickly dicing a yellow onion very quickly. “Very nice knife skills Penny, something you haven’t told me?” She looked over and smiled a lovely smile, “You’re not the only who’s learned how to cook. I’ll have you know I’ve been the celebrity judge on some cooking shows. Do you want the mushrooms coarse of fine?”
Leonard, let his breath out, he really wanted learn more about this Penny. “Coarse I think, but it’s up to you.” He turned back to the duck and heard her chopping away.
“All done anything else?” Leonard heard the sink, then the hand on his back again as she replaced the knife. She gave him a peck on the cheek. “I think I can handle it from here, but next time we’ll plan a meal and cook it together. Why don’t you relax and drink your wine.”
She purred in his ear, “Oh I have another project to get started on you just keep cooking.”
Leonard turned back to the duck. He heard Penny walk into the living room. “Tish”, she said, “Christmas music please, something up beat.”
Christmas music started playing. Leonard smiled, that’s my girl embrace the change. Leonard set the duck to simmer and started making the risotto. He walked over to the island and looked over. Penny was busy decorating the tree from the cloth bag she had brought. It had lights and was already half covered in crystal icicles, silver bulbs, and many crystal snowflakes. On the top was an angel in light blue with silver wings.
“That looks incredible Penny.” She looked over smiling and continued decorating. He could hear her singing to the Christmas music softly to herself.
Everything for dinner was either simmering or in the warmer. The Wolowitz’s would be there in about 30 minutes. Leonard took a sip of his wine then put it on the island and started walking toward the tree. Penny was making some final adjustments. She looked up and smiled, there were tears in her eyes. He grinned, walked over and offered a hug which she quickly stepped into. Leonard wrapped his arms around her. “I remember the last time we did this too.”
Ghost of Christmas Past
Penny sniffled a little. He knew what I was thinking about. We have more history apart than we ever had together but we’re still connected. It made her happy but at the same time sad for wasted years. She caught herself, “Oh my god, I’m over thinking now”. This caused her to laugh. Leonard gave her a squeeze, and they backed away from the tree and admired it.
“Tish, would you dim the lights in the living room.” The lights dimmed and the snowflakes sparkled with the clear lights of the tree. “It’s beautiful Penny, the first tree I’ve had in a few years. Lisel has been spending Christmas with her grandparents since she was one. Once Liisa died I had Christmas with them until I moved back here. Thank you.”
Penny had heard no sadness in his voice, he was happy right now. She felt content with his arm around her. “I think you should have Christmas morning at my house, my tree has presents under it and everything. I’d really like you to be there.” Leonard turned to look in her eyes. She gave him a sweet smile.
“That sounds great, but we need to be here tonight at 11:00PM. Lisel will be on the webcam opening her presents. It’ll be 8:00AM in Switzerland. We could go to your house after that.” Penny was thrilled, “Okay”. They turned into each other and were sharing a soft kiss when the knock on the door came. “Howard’s normal timing”, Leonard scowled, as they finished kissing and he started turning for the door. Penny cracked up laughing and followed.
Old Friends New Beginnings
Leonard opened the door, “Hi guys, I’ve got a Christmas present for you.” He stepped back revealing Penny standing by the coffee table. Bernadette, who was in front, gasped and held her hand to her mouth, “Penny” she cried, and moved quickly to give Penny a big hug. Penny hugged the petite blond, tears starting to stream down her face.
Howard walked in next to Leonard, “I guess someone else will be getting a nice little Christmas present also.” Leonard just frowned at Howard, and then smiled at Penny and Bernadette. They had stopped hugging. Both were crying then started hugging again. “Hi Penny”, Howard said brightly, Penny looked up and smiled at him and gave him a little wave as she continued to hug Bernadette.
“Let’s let the women folk get reacquainted show me this wonderful wine we’ll be drinking.” Leonard closed the door and followed Howard to the kitchen. Howard looked over to the computer, “Hi Tish”, “Hello Master,” Tish responded.
“You really do need to change that Howard, she sounds like a slave”, Leonard hissed, he saw the look on Penny’s face and shrugged. Howard just chuckled and moved to kitchen. Leonard was showing Howard the bottle of French wine as Penny and Bernadette finally sat down on the couch together. “How are you, I’ve missed you so much?” Bernadette began quickly. “I’ve really missed you too, I wished I had kept in touch but it was hard.” Penny was still a touch weepy. “I’ve followed you on twitter and the news Penny, you’ve really made it. We were so excited for you when you got your own show.” She touched Bernadette’s hand, “Thanks, I just wish I hadn’t screwed up in New York so badly. I lost Leonard and then myself for a few years there.”
Bernadette looked seriously at Penny, “I knew when you left you weren’t ready to go there on your own. I told Leonard afterward he’d been too supportive, that you needed him to tell you to stay here with him. But he wanted you to succeed so much, to realize your dream and be happy. He made as big a mistake in letting you go, as you did there.”
Penny looked shocked, Bernadette continued. “I talked to him about it after you asked us to pack up the apartment. I told him to go to New York and get you, but he said he wouldn’t destroy your dream. He was really stricken with guilt over it, that’s when he decided to go to Oxford. He just couldn’t be here without you.”
Penny sniffled, “and I couldn’t come back because he had left and I felt so guilty. We really screwed it up didn’t we?” Bernadette smiled, “Well there’s always now, Leonard’s had a hard time of it the last few years but he has Lisel and Caltech to keep him busy. He spent months getting the apartment just right. I worry about him over the holidays though, he tends to isolate himself and over indulge his fondness for wine and whiskey. You know he’s rather wealthy now? How did he contact you?”
Penny smiled at her friend, “He didn’t, I read his interview in the Times and knew he was here. Someone tweeted me the article. I can’t figure out who it was though.”
“That would have been me”, said Howard now standing beside them, wine glass in hand.
Three people’s mouths were now hanging open.
Wine and Dine me
“Howie”, Bernadette almost shrieked. “Hey, I would have told you if I’d have known it had worked. I wasn’t sure if it was really Penny that was doing that twitter account. It could have been her publicist or PR person.” Penny was staring at the engineer turned PhD, “How did you get it to me.”
Howard looked a little embarrassed, “I hacked your twitter account and added an account to the people you were following. It wasn’t too difficult to hack you password, ‘ShoeHugger’, is not really all that secure. I sent you the link, not really sure what would happen.”
Penny stood up and walked over to Howard. She did something she had rarely ever done, she hugged Howard Wolowitz. “Thank you Howard, now no creepy comments” Howard stayed silent. Penny let him go and reached over to take Leonard’s hand that was standing next to them. “Is it dinner yet sweetie?” “It is.” The two couples headed for the kitchen island.
The wine was poured and Leonard made up each plate. It was the mushroom risotto, beside it a lovely duck comfit, and steamed and seasoned asparagus. The wine was a 15 year old Cote Rotie from the upper Rhone Valley. It was a perfect pairing. Penny smiled at Leonard when she tried it. The conversation was light. The tree was commented upon and enjoyed by all. Pet stories exchanged. Dessert was a vanilla bean ice cream with a sweet German ice wine over the top with fresh raspberries.
Leonard got up to get the coffee to go with dessert. “So no kids for you guys?” asked Penny. Howard looked pained for a second. Bernadette smiled at him and reached over to hold his hand. The little blonde turned to Penny, “You knew I was never too excited about having kids. It turned out I couldn’t. We tried for a while but I just kept miscarrying. They’ve never figured out why. So we decided several years ago instead of going through the heartache of more failed attempts we would just not try. It’s really okay we’re at peace with it, we could always adopt if we wanted to.” Bernadette switched her hand to Penny’s.
Penny shed a tear, and squeezed her friends hand back.
After coffee Howard and Bernadette got up to go. Penny gave Bernadette a hug, then handed her a piece of paper. “That’s my cell phone, only my closest friends have it. Call me after Christmas and you can bring your dogs over to meet mine. Maybe we can have another girl’s night like in the old days.”
“I will Penny”, she gave Penny another hug. Penny pecked Howard on the cheek, whispering “Thanks again.” Howard smiled, almost said something, thought better of it and just nodded.
Leonard and Penny were suddenly alone again. Christmas music was still in the background. “Tish, music we can slow dance too please”, Leonard intoned.
Penny realized that she and Leonard had never danced, he and Amy had once and he’d gotten hurt. “Are you sure about this?” Leonard smiled, “Had lessons for my wedding, I’ll manage”. Penny kicked off her shoes, and stepped into Leonard’s arms and they danced for the very first time.
Christmas by Wire
They slow danced for about 4 songs, it could have been more. Penny’s head nestled on his shoulder. In the end their dancing was just a moving hug really. Tish interrupted, ‘Leonard you have a webcast session scheduled.” Leonard looked up.
“Thank you Tish.”
He separated from Penny and took her hand, moving toward the couch. “Tish big screen please”, a section of the ceiling slide back and a large flat screen folded down twenty feet from the couch. Leonard sat down and pulled Penny to the couch with him. In a few seconds the screen flickered, a gray haired man with very bushy eyebrows was on the screen. He spoke in in German, Leonard replied and the man switched to English. “Hallo Penny, I’m Horst, it’s so nice to meet you” his accent was heavy. “Lisel is ready to open her presents.”
The camera switched to a little blonde girl sitting in front of a Christmas tree. It was decorated with tinsel, bulbs, and little electric candles. She was still in pajamas with small puppies on them, a pink robe and white slippers that looked like kittens. Her hair was curly and shoulder length. Lisel looked directly into the camera smiling with a huge grin. “Hallo Papa wer ist das” she said.
“Speak English please Lisel, this is my friend Penny, Merry Christmas”
“Yes Papa, Frohe Weihnachten, I mean Merry Christmas, she is very pretty, hello Penny.” the blonde little cherub said smiling.
Penny blushed, smiling back. “Thank you, so are you Lisel, Merry Christmas”
Lisel looked intently, “Daddy will you be coming to get me soon?”
Leonard voice cracked, “In a few weeks, little one. Are you being good for your grandparents?”
“Ja papa, I’m being very good” she replied looking at camera.
“Good girl, open your presents and let’s see what Santa brought you”
Lisel started opening presents. First she emptied her stocking then started un-wrapping presents from under the tree. She showed each one to the camera. An older lady helped her and kept her focused on the task. She received several stuffed animals, small toys and dolls.
The last present was exquisitely wrapped in dark green foil paper and red bows. Lisel opened it and pulled out a beautiful lace dress, pink and white. She held it up and you could see small kittens embroidered around the hem and neckline. She then held up a pair of small white leather shoes that were very shiny with small pink bows that matched the dress. Lisel looked over the top of the dress. “It is wunderbar Papa, Thank You.”
She was all done. The older lady took the dress and shoes. Lisel looked back at the screen, “Papa, I miss you. Can I have a kitty when I get home?”
It must have been the grandmother’s voice that spoke, “Lisel Penelope Hoftstader, merken Sie sich Ihre Manieren”
Leonard laughed, looking over he whispered to Penny. “She said mind your manners.” Leonard looked back at the screen. “We’ll see Lisel taking care of an animal is a big responsibility”
Penny spoke, “I have a kitty Lisel, and two dogs you can come see them when you come home.”
Lisel got a huge grin, That Smile, on her face, “yes please Penny.”
Leonard had tears in his eyes, “I’ll be there to get you soon sweetie, I love you”
Lisel looked happily at the camera, “I love you too daddy, don’t cry, I’ll see you soon.
“Bye baby, Merry Christmas”, Leonard got out barely, but he smiled as big as he could.
Horst appeared and smiled. “See you soon Leonard, gut dass Sie fand ihre, nice to meet you Penny, Frohe Weihnachten, Auf Wiedersehen.”
“Goodbye Horst” Leonard said and the screen went black.
Penny put her arm around Leonard he sat staring for several seconds.
“Tish put the screen away.” Leonard said his voice cracking. The screen folded back into the ceiling.
Leonard moved his head into Penny’s neck, holding on tight.
“She’s adorable Leonard and so sweet.” Penny whispered in his ear.
He sat up. She could tell he was drawing on something within himself. He raised his head and stared at nothing for a moment.
He turned toward Penny and their lips met, a soft kiss though he held it for a long moment.
“Thanks for being here, I should have gone with her this year, but between Caltech and the apartment it would have been too difficult. Horst and Lena needed to see her and love having her there for the holidays. But I miss her.”
Penny held him a few moments longer, she was on the verge of tears but held on. She knew Leonard loved his daughter, but she had forgotten how intense he took his feelings. She would never forget again she swore to herself. It had once scared her out of telling him she loved him.
Penny thought a moment, “Lisel Penelope Hoftstader?”
Leonard looked in her eyes, “I told you Liisa was a fan, it was her idea, but I liked it.” He smiled at her. Penny smiled back she knew she would have liked Liisa. Liisa had known, she had known that this might happen. She wanted someone that her husband loved to love him and her daughter. She knew her daughter’s name would remind her soon to be widowed husband of Penny.
“What did Horst say in German to you when he said goodbye?”
Leonard gave her the smile. “Gut, dass Sie fand ihre, means glad you found her. Horst is happy for me.”
Cats and Dogs
Penny was nervous for a moment she looked around the lovely apartment almost longingly.
“Should we head for my place?” she said very softly.
Leonard started to get up, her hand found his. “Sounds great, let me grab my jacket.”
“Wear the black and grey tweed honey.” she quickly put her hand to her mouth.
Leonard gave her sideways glance and a smile, “Okay” He left Penny to gather her things and returned a few moments later in the black and grey tweed jacket. Penny looked him up and down.
“Perfect” she smiled.
“Good choice I was going to go with blue one.” He kidded her.
“So how far is your home?” Leonard asked as they both headed for the door. He grabbed his keys from the bowl next to it.
“Oh about 25 or 30 minutes is all, it’s almost to Sherman Oaks on the other side of Burbank.”
Leonard held the door for her and started to go out himself and turned back. “Tish, I’ll be back tomorrow, lights out except the Christmas Tree”. Tish responded by turning out all of the room lights, the lights on the tree still blinking. He stared at it for moment, Penny right behind him watching. “Okay Tish you can turn off the tree, goodnight.” “Goodnight Leonard”
He closed the door turning to see Penny staring at him, “I just needed one last look.” There was a goofy smile on his face. She took his hand after he locked the door and they headed down the stairs.
The drive to Penny’s home in her white electric Mercedes took less than 20 minutes. They chatted a bit about Howard and Bernadette while listening to Christmas music. Leonard commented on how much improved Penny’s driving skills had become. She slapped his arm and laughed. Then pointed out that there was no check engine light on and that Sheldon and Leonard’s mother would approve.
Her home was in a gated community. The gate apparently recognizing her car had swung open as she approached. Penny’s house was a large ranch style, a light tan with white sashes and trim. She pulled into the middle stall of an empty 3 car garage. They got out of the car to the sounds of barking and whining dogs.
“They missed me.” She smiled to Leonard, “Prepare yourself, they can be precocious.”
She opened the door to the house and two large pit bull terriers dashed into the garage. They jumped about her seeking her attention. Then they noticed Leonard and rushed over. He put out his hands and let them smell them.
Penny intoned a sharp “Settle, Sit”
Both dogs stopped, sat and looked at Penny.
“This big fellow with the brown spots on his nose and ears is Einstein. He is not the sharpest tool in the shed but very loving. The other one with the two big brown spots is named Leaky.”
He looked over at her, Leaky being Leonard’s middle name.
She smiled and laughed, “He’s very sweet and lovable but stubborn, and was hard to house train. You should be thankful I almost named him Leonard.”
Leonard started laughing now and looked at the dogs. The base color on both dogs was white. Einstein had 2 big black spots and a couple of smaller brown spots. His nose and ears had little brown spots all over. Leaky was bigger with two large brown spots one of which covered half his head. Leonard patted both dogs on the head and looked at Penny who was acting the proud parent.
“They’re really beautiful Penny. Where did you get them?”
Penny’s smile deepened, “They are both rescues from the Humane Society. It’s a cause I support. They are my constant companions. Come in an check out my crib”
They entered through a utility room with a washer and dryer into a large lovely kitchen. The dogs had sprinted ahead at a hand motion from Penny. The colors where bright and cheery, the cabinets were an alabaster white. The counter tops a lemon yellow flecked marble. The kitchen was in the shape of a large U with an island. One counter had high backed stools facing in from the great room beyond. There was a butcher block topped island built into the middle with a small prep sink. A large stainless steel gas range and ovens were built into the opposite leg of the U from the darkened room. A built in refrigerator that matched cabinets were to the right of the range. To the left were the sink and dishwasher and more cabinets at the base of the U.
“What a great kitchen Penny.” Leonard said admiring the cook top and staring into what appeared to be the great room.
Penny turned on the lights. It was a two level great room. It went from the kitchen some 40 feet. It then went down one step to another 40 foot section. At the end were large patio doors leading out. Just past halfway down on each side a hallway led off.
Penny crooked her finger at him, “come let me show you the pool”. Leonard followed her to the far end. She turned on an outside light and there was large patio beside a pool. The pool was not overly large but it had a beach style walk in section facing the patio. Under the covered portion of the patio was a round glass table with 6 wrought iron black chairs with grey cushions. Two chase lounges were beside the pool with the same color grey cushions.
Leonard was impressed, “Its lovely Penny, it looks very relaxing”
“Wait until you see it in the morning, the backyard has two palm trees and is so wonderful.”
Leonard looked at her. She had a dreamy look on her face. She hit another light switch and the large Christmas tree in the corner lit up. The entire tree was done in silver, gold and crystal snowflakes. With a large one made up of all three on the very top. Under the tree were many presents, all carefully wrapped and placed.
Leonard felt his eyes widen. She had done a wonderful job on the tree at the apartment but this tree was almost a work of art. He felt her arm slide around his left side and he put his own left hand upon her waist. “It’s astounding Penny, the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.”
She leaned her head onto his shoulder. “Thank You. I’ve had a thing for snowflakes for quite some time now. Look just below the very top”
Leonard looked closer and laughed. “No, not a bust of Newton, Sheldon would be so proud”
He turned in to kiss her, their lips just touching when a white blur went through the room, followed by two baying pit bulls in hot pursuit. “Settle, stop, sit”, Penny yelled. The dogs froze and sat. Upon one of two plush dark green couches sat a little white cat. She had a grey spot on her nose like it was dirty.
Penny moved over to the cat and picked her up. “Schrodinger quit teasing the dogs.” She held the cat in her arms like a child and showed it to Leonard. This is Schrodinger 2.0. I told you she scratches remember.” Leonard reached over and rubbed the cat’s head, she was purring loudly. Penny put her down on the nearest couch. Schrodinger looked up at her, then lay down and curled up.
Leonard took in more of the great room. It was laid out in little sections. Two soft cloth chairs with a coffee table in front, in one corner. Two couches in a shallow V shape around another large coffee table, a large flat screen TV built into the wall. On the lower level there was a love seat before a gas fireplace on the left. On the right an oak desk with a laptop and a red cup containing pens and pencils. A stack of what Leonard assumed were scripts sat on the other side. Beside the desk was a bookcase that was filled.
“You don’t see people with many books anymore.” Leonard said as he walked toward it. Penny followed closely behind him watching him. He started to look at the titles when something caught his eye. On the second shelf were physics books, most were high school texts but a few college level. Then two that were very rare indeed:
Advanced Laser and Optical Experimentation by Leonard L. Hoftstader PhD, Oxford
The Combined CERN Papers of Leonard L. Hoftstader PhD
He turned and smiled at Penny. She blushed but held his eye.
“You have a couple of real rare books here.” He taped the two books with his index finger. “I never thought these would have made it out of the UK and CERN. Hope you got them at a discount there’s not a huge demand.”
Penny was still blushing, but smiling. “You’d be amazed what they have on Amazon. “She used that quirky little smile he had always loved.
“I’m touched you would have them Penny, and amazed you could even find them. How about these other text books? He pointed to Elemental Physics and The Physical World. Did you read them?”
“I tried, I got through them but there were place I got lost. I was trying to understand the wonder you and the guys saw in everything. I think some of that came through. I look at rainbows now and think of prisms and light bending. I stare at the stars at night and realize that the light I’m seeing was created millions of years ago.”
Leonard just smiled, “Penny, I’m a much better teacher than I was years ago. If you want to know something or want me to teach you something please let me. I would love to.”
Penny advanced on Leonard and placed her arms around his neck. Her lips were on his before he could wrap his arms around her waist. She pulled back, “It’s after midnight, Merry Christmas Leonard”, “Merry Christmas Penny” he said his lips just touching hers.
The kiss was very passionate, Leonard was stirred. Then Penny pulled back and took his hand and started leading him toward the left hand hallway.
“The rest of the house can wait for tomorrow. Santa will be coming we should get to bed. She looked back and gave him a seductive grin and raised her eyebrows, then led him down the hallway. Leonard said nothing, he’d learned that lesson years ago. Einstein and Leaky both raised their heads, waiting to be called. Schrodinger rolled over and fell back asleep.
Happiness and Complications in your Stocking
Leonard awoke he didn’t have to even consider who was next to him. Penny still smelt the same. The vanilla bean body lotion told him even before he ever opened his eyes. He was on his side and she had her back to him spooning. His arm lay over her, his hand beside her hand barely touching. Penny’s head rested on the pillow his arm was under.
He didn’t want to move and disturb her, if he could hold his breath and prolong this moment he would. It wouldn’t be too much longer now the morning sunlight was filtering through the patio door. The room was bathed in the soft light before the sun streams into your room. He looked down at Penny’s blonde hair cascading across her shoulders. It was warm in her room, her right leg outside the comforter. Leonard thought of what a perfect moment this was. He lifted his head to kiss the top of her head very gently. She murmured, and turned more toward him. Then 80 pounds of Pit Bull jumped on the bed.
“Einstein, down, off the bed, down honey”, Penny said in a stern voice. Einstein was off the bed and heading back to the door. “Sorry sweetie”, she turned toward Leonard and pushed her face into his chest.
Then a soft furry critter was standing next to his head, purring. “Hi Schrodinger” Leonard reached up to stroke the cat. Penny snuggled deeper into his chest. “Sorry, they’re my support group these days”
Leonard moved the cat down between them. Schrodinger snuggled in between them and started purring loudly. Penny giggled and started stroking the cat. She finally picked up the cat and put her on the floor. She cuddled back into Leonard, her hand running down his side.
“That cat’s not the only one that can purr”, she said softly, her lips meeting his.
Leonard hands moved over her lower back to her thighs, Christmas morning was looking good.
Coffee, cookies and gifts
Leonard was feeling particularly good, they were still in bed. The sun was streaming though the patio doors of the bedroom. Penny again spooning him, her back to him, and his right hand interlaced with hers. It had been a long time since he’d lain this close to someone unless she had an ear ache. Let alone had sex three times in less than 12 hours. He suddenly felt younger and older at the same moment.
He hadn’t been with anyone else since his wife and that was before Lisel was born. He was happy it was with Penny. Their sexual chemistry was alive and well. She moved toward the edge of the bed, kissing his hand before releasing it. “I’ll make coffee then we can sit around the tree and open a few presents” she said as she tried to get up. Leonard wouldn’t let her go. “I’m not sure how you could top the present so far this morning.’ He was grinning, she kissed him quickly. “I’ll have coffee and a cookie for you. We can go back to bed later if you like”, she said with a mischievous grin. He let go of her. Leonard settled back in. “What a great Christmas so far”, he muttered.
Leonard lay there several minutes. The cat got back up into the warm spot where Penny had been curled up and started purring. Leonard stroking her side, his mind shut off for a change, in the moment.
Penny was busy getting the coffee brewing in the kitchen. She could hear Einstein and Leaky in the utility room hungrily chomping on the kibble she had just put down for their breakfast. She pulled her pink robe a little tighter around her. Leonard had been fabulous last night, not like old times, even better. Passionate and unhurried, he was no longer trying to be the king of foreplay. A grin came to her face just thinking about this morning.
The coffee was done and she went toward the pantry. She had bought some big oatmeal cookies the other day at the bakery. They should be great for a light breakfast. She grabbed the cookies and saw she had muffins from the same bakery, umm poppy seed. She changed her mind and got the muffins.
Both dogs were waiting in the kitchen. She rubbed both their heads for a moment then got a plate down. “Leonard the coffee’s ready and we have muffins”, she had raised her voice to not quite a yell. She set down at the counter and started tearing apart a muffin and popping it in her mouth.
Leonard heard Penny and had sat up. On the end of the bed Penny had laid a black silk robe for him. He hadn’t exactly thought ahead to his needs last night. It was a good thing he and Penny were about the same size, though she was much thinner than him. There’s going to be an exercise room in the house, he thought. Because Penny is very fit, very fit indeed he thought with a wicked little grin. He laughed he never could pull off being the lecher.
He pulled on the robe, the cat had moved to the spot in the bed he had just vacated. Leonard threw the comforter over the cat and headed for the door. He turned out of the hallway into the great room. It was bathed in natural light from the doors and windows facing out on the pool. He had a better sense of colors, greens, yellows, oranges and white. He suddenly realized it reminded him of her apartment. It was bigger and spread out more but it had a sense of her.
Penny was sitting on a stool on the outside of the kitchen counter eating a muffin a piece at a time watching him.
“This is such a beautiful room Penny. It looks like how I’ve always remembered you. It’s has upbeat colors and a cheerfulness. I’m trying not to say perky.”
Penny grimaced at perky, then smiled at him. “I got an interior designer when I moved in. The room was beautiful but not home. It took me a while but I’m pretty happy with it now. He had the thought that I wanted to entertain. But besides having friends over occasionally it really just needs to be the room I live in.”
Leonard nodded and joined her at the breakfast bar, stole a piece of her muffin and popped it in his mouth. “Penny how’s your family in Nebraska? I should have asked you earlier.”
“They’re doing well. Dad is getting up there but my brother finally straightened up and he’s working with dad on the place. My mother is my mother, I learned in therapy she would be called passive/aggressive. I called them when I got up and wished them a Merry Christmas. How’s your family sweetie?”
“I’d have to ask Sheldon about my mother”, Leonard smirked, “Apparently my father has remarried. He’s doing field work with the new wife in Africa. My brother and sister seem to be doing well. You know how it is.”
He left it at that, he was closer to Liisa’s parents than his own. Beverly had never even seen Lisel in person. Leonard sent her pictures each year. He kept his distance from her, can’t have a lot of love loss when there is no love involved.
Penny frowned, “I’m sorry Leonard. Your mom is just really, different”
Leonard smirked then smiled. He took the other muffin off the plate and started breaking it up. He handed Penny a piece and sipped his coffee. Reached over and put his hand on her exposed knee. She moved close and kissed his cheek.
They both finished the muffins in silence. A feeling of contentment with each other’s company could be seen on their faces.
The snowflake decorated Christmas tree was next to the love seat and fireplace on the left side of the great room. Penny led Leonard by the hand to the love seat. She went to the wall and turned on the gas fireplace.
“Now that’s more like it” Penny got on her knees beside Leonard and reached over to the presents under the tree. She grabbed one and handed it to Leonard. He looked at it and announced “To: Einstein From: Santa”. He laughed and they continued to sort the presents there were four presents for each dog, three for the cat, three for Penny and somehow two for Leonard. There were still about twenty presents under the tree.
“What about those gifts?” Penny turned and laughed, “Those are just beautifully wrapped boxes to make the tree look good.”
Leonard reached over and pulled a blue velvet box from between the gifts still under the tree. “This one too?” He handed it to her, a look of surprise on her face.
Leonard just smiled and sat back and started opening the dog’s gifts for them.
A gem and an ancient trinket
Each dog got rawhide chews, a new squeaky ball and a box of organic dog treats. Schrodinger got a catnip cigar, toy mouse and toy bird.
Leonard opened his first present, it had a piece of paper inside, the paper said, “You’re wearing it.” Leonard felt the robe, looked at Penny and smirked, “Am I that predictable?” Penny laughed, “no but I’m that adorable.”
“Well thank you for the lovely robe.” Leonard chuckled. He opened the last present then he realized that it wasn’t for him directly. Inside were a very soft pink stuffed bear and another note. “For Lisel’s bed, you’ll need to remember the name.”
He smiled at her and leaned over to share a kiss that went longer than they thought it would. Their lips parted slowly and a shudder ran through them both.
Penny opened her three gifts from her friends. She got body lotion and soaps from Sheila her hair dresser and friend for many years. Her friend Mindy a makeup artist gave her some lovely doe skin gloves. Joey, her gay manicurist had given her small blue earrings that were lovely.
Penny at last just held the blue velvet case.
As she opened it Leonard said “Something New and Something Old”
The box contained a lovely gold chain, filet thin but a quarter inch wide. On the chain was Leonard’s wedding ring. Next to it the ring she’s seen in his jewelry box.
She first lifted his wedding ring on the chain. It reminded her of the ring he’d ask her to hold all those years ago. But this was his wedding ring she hadn’t even noticed he’d removed it.
“Penny, I realize if we are going to do this I have to let go. I also realize that I’ve wanted to let go but couldn’t until now.”
Penny was close to tears, but his smile held her from them. She picked up the ring from the Jewelry box, “Liisa’s?” Leonard shook his head no, “I bought it for you when you went to New York, and I just never got to give it to you”
“That’s it, game over” said Penny, “I’m going to cry now” She’s was crying but had made herself laugh and damned if didn’t help.
Leonard embraced her and waited a few seconds and looked her in the eyes. “Merry Christmas, you can wear the ring or not. Keep it on the chain with mine if you like. Jewelry are trinkets, the feeling behind them when they are given is all that matters”
They held each other a while longer, then laid back together on the love seat and watched the fire burn and the Christmas tree glisten. Leonard had noticed that Penny was wearing the small diamond ring on her left ring finger. The ring on the chain was around her neck.
Penny turned into Leonard she kissed him softly but it built and intensified. Schrodinger jumped up and lay in across their laps. Leonard pulled back and said quietly: “Yep way alive”, the cat just purred.
Leonard stood, and swept Penny into his arms easily picking her up. “You said we could go back to bed” Leonard said walking toward the hallway. Penny just smiled. Schrodinger was pissed.
Penny cuddled further into Leonard, her face buried in his chest already. “Why can’t I get close enough”, she thought. I’m where I belong. For not the first time today she wondered why she had not been right here for the last 12 years.
It wasn’t guilt that was in her mind. Regret perhaps, but she had made pretty good decisions the last few years. She just never realized how great this would have and could have been. The comfort she felt was amazing.
She knew that everyday wouldn’t be like today. Passion went to a longer more relaxed schedule. They were in a honeymoon period right now. A more comfortable but less intense time together would come. She just couldn’t at this moment imagine being in a bed without him.
It had been that way years ago. It wasn’t sex, it was togetherness. That feeling of being with, even belonging to the other person. It had only happened in her life with Leonard.
In some ways it was scary, but at this point she knew there wasn’t anyone else who filled that spot. “I love you Leonard.” She whispered it into his chest. His hand moved and caressed her side.
He teased her, “Thank you” She didn’t take the bait, “Perfectly acceptable answer”, then she pinched his chest. He was chuckling, and then got serious. How about “I’ll love you forever and always?” He kissed the top of her head.
“Better”, Penny whispered into his chest. “What do you want to do now?”
Leonard looked at the ceiling, wondering if that was about right now, or the future. There he goes again. Time will tell. “Let’s get in that huge shower of yours. Then go out and watch Christmas movies.”
Penny moved to get up. “I get to pick the first one.”
It’s a wonderful half a life
Leonard and Penny snuggled on the couch in front of the flat screen mounted in the wall.
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”, came from the speakers. Penny reached over and hit the mute button on the remote. “We can watch it again, it’s a marathon today?” Leonard knew it was Penny’s favorite Christmas movie. They had watched that, The Santa Clause, and A Christmas Story. The light was starting to fade through the far windows.
“If you like baby, I’ll snuggle up with you, but do you mind if I read while you’re watching?”
“Oh that sounds good.” Penny grabbed the remote, it was about to start again. Leonard moved to the bookcase and slid out the book The Combined CERN Papers of Leonard L. Hoftstader PhD. He brought it back to the couch and set on the end, Penny snuggling into his right shoulder. She looked at the book, “Light reading I see.” She said with a grin.
Leonard smiled and started looking at the book, “Do you know this is the first copy I’ve ever seen. I knew CERN put it out. Caltech has a digital copy in the library but I’ve never seen the actual physical book before. I never did the editing on it, CERN took care of that, I approved the final copy without ever looking at the galleys.”
Penny kissed him on the cheek, “You had more important things to do then Leonard.” Penny knew the book, every inch of it. Even though she couldn’t really read very much of it she knew it was published late in the year Liisa had died.
Leonard smiled at her, “You’re right. Beside no amount of changes would have made it win a Pulitzer though I would have called it Leonard and the Rings of Power“. They both laughed. Penny started watching the movie, Leonard thumbing through his book.
About the time Clarence saved George from drowning, Leonard put the book on the coffee table. He held Penny a little closer, she snuggled in. But Leonard wasn’t really watching, he was thinking.
The experiment that had him thinking, Altering the Half-life of Cesium using Helium Laser Refraction. It was the play on words It’s a Wonderful Life and half-life. It was really rather silly half-life being how long it would take a radioactive material to lose half its radioactive output. It never was not radioactive it just kept taking half of the half. But it’s a wonderful half- life could be describing his future and Penny’s. He went ahead and let his mind wrap around both concepts. A smile crept onto he lips. He loved the way it looked in his head. The future had lots of issues, but if he could just take care of these two he would be half way there. He could start his and Penny’s second half life.
Penny looked up at Leonard. The movie had ended a few minutes ago and was getting ready to restart. She saw the smile on his face, intense thought behind the eyes. His brow was wrinkled, a slight squint. She had seen Leonard like this a few times, usually sitting in the apartment when he was working on some new experiment that he wanted to do. Penny thought of this as his genius face, everything else blocked out. She liked the smile though. Whatever he had figured out it was really pleasing him. Penny just put her head back on his shoulder and waited.
A Quantitative Supposition
When he finally snapped out of it, he almost jumped.
“Welcome back sweetie”, she lifted her head and kissed him. “Did you have an epiphany or were just thinking about this morning.”
Leonard’s smile was now That Smile. “I just realized that I’m half way through my life. That if I’m lucky I will live as many years as I have already lived. It put some things in perspective.”
Penny set back and looking into his face, she could see he was excited. “Like what?”
He looked past her. She doubted if he was seeing anything but his own mind right at that moment.
“Like I don’t care what happened to us 12 years ago. It was caused by and affected two people who are so different now than they were then. That their lives changed them in so many ways except in one regard, they still loved each other. Even though both had given it up there was no moving on just moving without.”
“That’s just one thing; I looked through that book tonight. It was my life’s work, but my life is only half over. So it’s really only my half-life of work. What will I do with the second half? That’s where my head went. I want you to see if you want to and can do something? Look at your schedule. I want you to come to Europe with me on the week starting Jan 25th to get Lisel and meet Horst and Lena.”
Penny just sat there a minute. Leonard had made a jump. She didn’t have to check her schedule. Anything on those dates would just have to be moved or missed.
Penny kissed him, excited now. “I’ll go, I don’t need to check. I’ll work out what ever has to be done. What prompted this?”
Leonard looked at her. “The realization that though I regret losing you in the first half of my life, I have the second half to never lose you again”
She held him close. She knew where his mind had gone. He had to mix science with his emotions to get there. She’d figured out she wasn’t going to ever lose Leonard ever again no matter what 36 hours ago. Who’s the emotional intelligence genius?
Penny reached over and picked up the book of Leonard’s papers. “Do ever regret not doing this kind of work anymore?”
“I have until a few minutes ago. You know how I could be. I would work day and night on an experiment protocol. All night sessions in the lab, I was even more driven at CERN. I would be there for days getting ready for a collider run.” I decided I had to give it up. Lisel was more important. I needed to be with her and be her father. She would never need a hugging machine.”
Leonard turned toward her.
“I have an idea how we should spend the rest of our evening. If you can leave the dogs by themselves tonight, we could go get Chinese food and head back to the apartment. Eat it out of the cartons on the coffee table. Make out in Sheldon’s spot, and spend the night there.”
“Like the old days? The dogs will be fine. They have a dog door and a run on the side of the house. My housekeeper will be here in the morning. Then my PA will be here at 11:00. They love her and she’ll have a light day without me around. Do you have anything tomorrow?”
“Nope, Christmas break until the 6th.
Penny started to get up from the couch. “Okay then, let me get a few things including something sexy for you. What should we do tomorrow?”
Penny had that sexy slightly wicked smile on her face.
Leonard felt his breath catch. “I say we stay in bed all day. Then we cook a lovely leg of lamb together for dinner. I break out the best wine I have and we’ll do some tasting. Then we’ll see if you can kick my butt at chess, unless something else comes up.”
Another suggestive look came up on Penny’s face. “Oh something will come up even after I destroy you at chess.”
Penny got up and headed for the left hallway.
Leonard laughed, “Isn’t your bedroom that way?”
She turned and gave him a wicked grin, “Yeah but my wardrobe and shoe room is on this side not enough room over there.
December 26th Apartment 4A what Tish can see on the living room camera and sensors:
The coffee table holds 4 near empty containers from Nanking Table and an empty bottle of rose from Provence and two glasses. The couch pillows are on the floor, a heat spot still registers slightly on the far right cushion.
Tish has determined no movement has occurred in 5 minutes and turns out the already dim lights. The Christmas tree is still lit per Leonard’s instructions. Leonard’s bedroom is slightly warmer than usual. Tish increases the airflow to the room to drop it 2 degrees.
The front door is locked. Optimum equilibrium in the apartment has been assured. Tish goes into a sleep mode, but is always watching.
French toast on Oatmeal Day
Penny lay facing Leonard watching him sleep. She looked at his face. He was 45 years old and was just starting to really have his crow’s feet deepen. His forehead had more lines, a touch of grey in his hair at the temple. He had little laugh lines around his mouth, smiles too much. Though they could be frown lines as well. Overall, she thought, a warm and tender face sleeping peacefully.
She carefully slid out of bed, she had on a cornhusker booster t-shirt and red panties. Leonard had rather liked these panties she thought at she took off the t-shirt and quietly opened the closet. It took her a second to find the right color. Perfect, light blue, she slid into Leonard’s dress shirt. Penny left the bedroom, the door was open. She walked down the hall rolling up the sleeves on the shirt. He was bigger than she was now.
She was looking to recreate a moment. It would definitely go different this time. No Sheldon and his schedule. She reached the kitchen and started finding everything. Eggs, milk, cinnamon, maple syrup, butter were all now on the island. A nice half loaf of artisan bread she cut into thin slices. She mixed up the batter in a large bowl. Went to the cooktop and turned on the griddle. That will take a few minutes to heat up. She toasted her bread on the lowest level in the toaster, just enough so that the batter wouldn’t tear up the bread.
The griddle was ready. Penny grabbed a spatula out of the drawer. She moved the bread and the bowl of batter over to the griddle. Got down an empty plate and set it beside the bowl. She was almost ready. “Tish, can you play Shania Twain’s, Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” The music started, “louder Tish”. The volume increased. Penny started dancing with the music and making French toast.
Leonard sat up and hearing the song smiled, “Must be oatmeal day” he thought to himself. Then thinking how nice a shared memory was. “Time to make more new ones”, Leonard thought as he put on his new black robe and headed for the kitchen.
Leonard and Penny sat on the sofa. The remains of last night’s dinner were still on the coffee table. This morning’s French toast on the kitchen island. Penny was sitting close as they both finished up a cup of coffee her legs draped over Leonard’s legs. The blue dress shirt was having the desired effect. Leonard was caressing her upper thigh with his right hand, coffee in his left. He hadn’t even notice he was sitting in the spot. Well they’d pretty much made it their spot last night.
She looked over at Leonard. He had that glint in his eye, that wicked little grin he got when he wanted sex. She smiled and put her cup on the table and ran her hand inside his robe onto his bare chest. “Leonard, honey, we need to talk about something. You and I have been going at it like teenagers into our third day now. Honey we’re not using any kind of birth control. I could still take the morning after pill it’s good for up to five days after sex. But.”
Penny stopped there not sure what she wanted to say next. Leonard rubbed her thigh softly.
“Penny, we’ve got all sorts of things to figure out. We’ve made the biggest decision already. We want to be together, the three of us no matter what.”
She was getting teary eyed looking at him. Leonard just smiled and continued, “I don’t think four would be much of a problem if it happens. Why don’t we let birth control go for a bit? If that’s what you want, I’ll understand if you don’t right now also. But if you and I are meant to have a baby we shouldn’t really waste any time about it. Second half-life remember? But let’s just be casual about it, if it happens for us it happens.”
Penny almost thought he’d read her mind, even more he’d read her heart. There was always that old dream about having Leonard’s child. She kissed him and ran her hand down his chest. His hand moved up her thigh. “Perfect answer”, she thought “Perfect answer”
Leonard had got out of the shower first and Penny had shooed him out of the bathroom. They had lain together for long time after. Cuddling, kidding, talking about nothing. It was just before noon. He’d suggested they take a walk in the park then if they got hungry something in Old Town. She had seemed hesitant but agreed. Leonard went for comfort as he got dressed. A pair of soft light brown cotton pants, his Reeboks. He put on a black CERN logoed t-shirt that had white letters in German that said “Large Hadron Collider Survivor 2020”. He grabbed a brown tweed jacket and slipped his phone in the side pocket.
Penny came in fully dressed, Black jeans and blue top over a purple lacy camisole underneath. She went to her bag. “Now what shoes should I where?” Leonard laughed, “How many pairs did you bring?” She gave him a rueful look, “Only four pair, a girl has to be prepared.”
Leonard shook his head as she made her decision. She went with a pair of purple low pumps that were almost a perfect match to her camisole. He whistled a low note through his teeth, “oh now I get it.” He would go on, but as always Penny looked fabulous. He pulled her into a hug and kissed her. “Have I told you you’re beautiful lately?”
Now it was Penny’s turn to laugh. “Three times this morning, I’m sure the one time you couldn’t even see my face.” Leonard blushed, “Well that was beautiful to.” He patted her bottom as he turned for the door. “Yours ain’t to shabby either Hoftstader”, Penny said grabbing his butt as she followed him out the door.
The park was only two blocks away. They held hands or put her arm in his as they walked to it. Once they got in the park itself they strolled and talked.
“Leonard, What kind of teacher was Liisa?”
“She taught literature and writing. She wrote poetry and prose for fun. I’ll let you read them if you’d like. She had stuff going back to when she was a teenager. Everything she did in her last 10 years is on my computer. ”
“Were you happy?” He seemed to have to think about that question. “Yes we were before she got sick. Like I said you would have liked her. She was very self-assured. This was good because I would work for days on end. She never complained. She would tell me she’d missed me. We would talk and we’d catch up then things would be back to normal.
Penny got serious “Leonard with everyone else that was ever in my life I could have been like that. It’s just been me and the dogs for a while now. But with you I’m not like that, even at this very instant I can’t stand the idea of you not being here every day. Not every second but knowing I’ll be beside you when I’m sleeping and waking up next to you is really important to me right now”
Leonard pulled her into a hug, and kissed her. “It’s important to me too” He kissed her a second time and then they started walking again hand in hand. They got to the end of the park, the street was coming up. Leonard saw a woman across the street taking pictures. The camera was pointed directly at them.
Penny saw the photographer also. “Crap”, she said under her breath. Leonard looked a little startled. Penny kept hold of his hand and steered him away from the photographer. “Honey, be calm don’t look angry, or anything like that. If she gets in front of us just keep smiling. They hate to use pictures of you smiling.”
Penny took her phone out of her purse that was on her shoulder. She dialed, and was talking immediately. “Patty, I need a car to pick me and my friend up, we have a problem. Yeah that kind of sicko problem, have the car pick us up at the corner of Dayton and Fair Oaks on the Central Park side. Thanks see you soon.”
Leonard looked at her, confused. “Where are we going?” Penny looked at him and smiled, leaned over and kissed him. “Hope you got that weasel.” She thought. “Just keep smiling honey or I’ll just keep kissing you. Where going to have a town car pick us up and take us back to my place for a while. We don’t want them following us back to the apartment.”
Leonard went with it, smiled and walked beside her until the town car arrived about 10 minutes later.
They piled into the back seat. Penny gave a big sigh of relief. She looked over at Leonard and laughed. “Dr. Leonard Hoftstader you about to become tabloid news.”
Leonard sat there for a moment, and then looked out through smoked glass rear window. The lady with the camera was standing where they had gotten in the car. A phone in her had.
“Damn, I left that leg of Lamb on the counter to get to room temperature.” Leonard fumed.
Penny grabbed his hand, “It’s okay honey we’ll go to my place. Play and say hi to the dogs. You can meet Patty my PA. Then we’ll get another town car to take us back. We will be cooking together on time tonight.”
She wished that was the end of it. She needed to call her publicist when she got home also. They might have a hard time figuring out who he is right away. Then again, maybe not, if they do his interview is going to get a lot more play
The town car dropped Leonard and Penny at her home. They came in through the garage to barking at the door. Einstein and Leaky rushed toward Penny. She made both dog’s sit by holding up her index finger. “Stay”, she said, patted both on the head and walked into the kitchen.
They stayed rooted in place until they saw Leonard and jumped to greet him. Leonard rubbed and petted both dogs. He hadn’t had a dog since he went off to college. He was falling in love with these two mutts since he’d seen them. They finally calmed down and let him pass into the kitchen. He turned around and faced them and raised his index finger as Penny had done. Both dogs instantly sat. “Cool”, said Leonard. He turned around to see Penny and a taller brunette in the TV area sitting on the couch. On the table was Penny’s cell phone. The phone was on speaker and Leonard could hear it ringing as he approached.
Penny started talking. Leonard had never heard her voice be so in command. He was impressed.
“Josh we’ve got a tabloid press issue that will probably end up on the entertainment networks. We should get out in front of the pictures.”
Josh asked back, “What’s in the pictures?”
Penny replied staring at the phone. “Just kissing, walking arm in arm, holding hands, Oh and we had sex on the park bench while we were both painted orange. The pictures of us kissing and holding hands will be hot items. Maybe looking a little shocked”, she smirked at Leonard, who shrugged.
Leonard started to zone out of the call. He looked over at who he assumed was Patty. She was glaring at him. She was attractive, in her late twenties. She had long brown hair, and brown eyes. She was taller than Leonard probably by 8 or 9 centimeters he thought. Patty wore a fairly short skirt and had very shapely long legs. She was pretty, not in Penny’s league. In fact Leonard thought he’d ask Penny if Patty had some work done. Her face was too perfect. Something didn’t fit in her face.
He tuned back in to the call. Now Penny and Patty were talking to whoever Josh was. Leonard assumed it was her publicist or a press liaison.
Patty said “What should we do? What is the story we want out there when the press calls?”
Leonard just watched the two women and the cell phone. They’d been talking about it for 15 minutes. Leonard had enough.
“Wait a minute, can we just tell the truth. I’m Penny’s, or Penelope Jenson’s fiancé were going to be married soon. We’ve known each other for years.”
Penny and Patty both looked at Leonard. Penny had a mischievous smile on her face. Patty was just shocked.
“Leonard, I don’t recall a proposal.” Penny now had a wolfish grin on her face.
Leonard just smiled at her. “Let me recap for Patty’s sake. We’ve decided in the last oh say three days that:
One, we still love each other after all these years, in fact never stopped.
Two, if we happen to get pregnant it would be a good thing, and have been trying at it.
Three, that we both want to spend every night together, that could go back to the pregnant thing.
Four, you’re wearing an engagement ring, though I bought it long ago, on your left ring finger.
I think that pretty conclusively point to the fact we are engaged”
Penny got up and walked over to where Leonard was standing and took his hand. Before he could protest she got down on one knee. “Leonard Hoftstader, will you make me the happiest woman alive and marry me?”
She took his left hand and slid his wedding ring back on it. The gold chain was still in her hand.
Leonard blushed deeply, and then stuttered, “Of course, I mean yes.”
He pulled her up and hugged her, his lips whispered into her ear, “I was going to ask you in Geneva, thought we might get married in.” He never got a chance to finish.
She kissed his cheek, “I knew you’d have something planned, but don’t tell me, surprise me”
Penny looked over at Patty. “Patty, Josh I’m now officially engaged to be married to Dr. Leonard Hoftstader PhD Department Chair of the Physics Department at Caltech. Figure out the best way to spin it. No wedding plans will be announced it will be very private. Dr. Hoftstader is a very old friend who is a widower with a beautiful daughter. He is a renowned experimental physicist. You can get anything else you need off the Caltech site.”
Josh sounded shocked but had his orders, “Okay I’ll put it out, got a picture for the release?”
“No they’ll have photos soon enough. Anybody wants more information have them look at the interview I’ll forward to you from a few days ago.”
“Okay Pen, got it”
Penny hung up the phone. Leonard looked over at Patty who still looked shocked but was no longer glaring at Leonard. “Leonard this is Patty, Patty this is Leonard. Patty, get over it as you can tell were playing for keeps here.”
She put her hand out to Leonard. “Come on honey let’s go let the dogs get in the pool. Einstein, Leaky swimming”. Her voice was right back to the real Penny.
The dogs ran by to the patio doors. Penny opened the doors and the dogs rushed into the pool. Penny shouted over her shoulder. “Patty would you get us another town car to take us back to Pasadena in about hour. If you’re over the shock why don’t you join us for a drink by the pool? Leonard likes scotch, I’ll have a beer.”
Penny pulled Leonard back into a hug, kissed him. She whispered in his ear. “Mrs Penny Hoftstader”
Leonard spoke out loud, “Mr. Leonard Jenson more likely”
Penny cracked up. Patty walked out with drinks.
Penny sat at the table and started watching the dogs play in the pool. Patty set two beers on the table and a tumbler of scotch. She took a chair opposite Penny. Leonard took a seat at a right angle to both of them. Reached over and grabbed his scotch. Leonard felt like draining the glass but restrained himself to a large sip. Penny took a long drag on the beer, a microbrew of some kind, Pale Ale.
See looked at Leonard and smiled. “Honey you need to know what to expect. These people probably already know who you are. Though we will beat them to the punch on our announcement they know. They probably figured out who I was from your interview sweetie. You were vague but not that many actresses were in a New York sitcom, and then got another in LA that year. It wouldn’t have taken much to narrow that down. You said that the apartment was off Colorado Boulevard they’ve been watching for you honey.”
Leonard was a little bit shocked, but he’d never seen any of this coming. That Penny would come to the apartment. He then put it into perspective. “Screw em, if they get to close I’ll let you go Nebraska on their ass and I’ll let Howard hack them and ruin their credit.”
Penny laughed, “Oh that’s my gangsta nerd boyfriend, oops fiancé. But you’re right though we will be going Nebraska on anybody’s ass that even gets near Lisel.”
Leonard looked at Penny very seriously, “Honey if it gets really bad, we can move back to Europe. We don’t have to be here.”
Penny got the same serious look, “Yes we will, without a doubt if it were to get bad”
Then Penny brightened back up, “Chances are it won’t, we are just the flavor of the week. We may be flavor of the month after we’re married. Unless I decide to change my career track I don’t think a comedic actress pushing 40 is going to get too much attention.”
Patty still hadn’t said a word. She looked between the two of them. “Okay so you two are freaking me out some. I agree with you it should blow over within a week or two. Flair up again when you get married. But living in Europe and who’s Lisel.
Leonard started to speak but Penny held him up. “Patty, Lisel is Leonard’s young daughter, soon to be my daughter. If we aren’t happy here we’ll move to Europe because this mild mannered professor here is quite wealthy. That and Lisel’s grandparents are there.”
Leonard just nodded, “Anything I should be doing, besides smiling?”
Penny looked sideways at him. You might consider giving this Ms. Larson another interview, I’m sure she’ll be calling soon.
Penny finally looked like she was relaxed. The dogs were done swimming and lying next to Leonard’s and Penny’s feet. Penny looked at Patty. “You want to bring that new boyfriend over for the night in the guest room. Take care of the dogs?” Patty was suddenly happy, “sounds great.”
Penny stood up and offered Leonard her hand. “Come on honey I need to hit the shoe room and get a couple more pair to bring back to the apartment.”
Leonard took her hand and followed along softly shaking his head.
They didn’t see anyone at the door to the apartment building and took the stairs to the fourth floor. Leonard opened the door and showed Penny in. She walked in. Turned back and waited for Leonard to drop his keys into the bowl. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck. She looked in his eyes. “Mrs Penny Hoftstader, I started saying that to myself sometimes before you ever went to the North Pole.”
Leonard rubbed his nose against hers “I was saying it before I knew your name, the future Mrs Hoftstader.”
They kissed and moved into the living room. “Tish jazz, light upbeat”, Leonard said. Suddenly a Ray Charles song was on, “You don’t know me”. Leonard grabbed Penny and pulled her into a slow dance. They kissed when the song ended.
“Let’s get to cooking” Penny said. They headed for the kitchen and the leg of lamb wrapped but warmed to room temperature was on the counter.
The lamb was in the oven to finish. Leonard had opened four bottles of wine. They tasted each one together. They decided the 2000 Lynch-Bages would best match the lamb. Leonard had pumped out the air of the others for later. They settled on the couch with the bottle and glasses to wait for the lamb.
Penny sipped the wine it was rich and austere at the same time. She had never had a wine quite this good. Leonard was staring at the wall deep in thought. Penny didn’t disturb him. She was so content to be here and have the person she loved next to her.
Leonard stirred, looking down at her. She cuddled in closer she really wished she was pregnant at his point. Whatever the future brought she was ready. To be a mother would be a pinnacle of her life. She thought about Lisel and Liisa. Making a silent promise to a woman she’d never met. “I will love Lisel as you would have.”
Leonard kissed the top of her head. She turned upward and met his lips. “What are you thinking?” Leonard asked.
“I wish Lisel was here to see her parents. Does she remember Liisa?”
Leonard looked toward the urn. “Not really, she knows her mother is gone and she won’t be back. When she’s a little older I’ll let her read her poetry. The pieces from the last year are all about Lisel. When she’s ready they’ll be there. Liisa also wrote letters for us. Horst has Lisel’s and there is one for you as well”
Penny turned toward Leonard. “Liisa told me I would find my way back to you. She told me the heart finds a way. I’m not sure I really believed her until now. She had a way of knowing what people felt.”
Penny tried to snuggle even closer. She couldn’t wait to see the letter Liisa had wrote her
Liquid in Suspension
The lamb was scrumptious, tender and succulent. They served it with a red wine reduction, new red potatoes and steamed seasoned zucchini. Penny’s phone buzzed beside her. She looked, “Josh says the story hit E News, just the engagement announcement.”
Leonard smirked, “I guess I’m not sure how it helps. I really am rather clueless about the whole spin thing.”
Penny gave him a warm smile and touched his hand. “Oh sweetie it’s really rather simple. The tabloids and celebrity gossip blogs would have the worst possible pictures of us together, even if they had to Photoshop stuff. There would be a headline like “Penelope Jenson Seeing Mystery Man””
“Then they would speculate, lie and use whatever information they could get to make a walk in the park dirty or unseemly.”
Leonard smiled, “I see by putting our own story out there we rob them of the chance.”
Penny nodded, “Not that they still won’t do it Leonard, but at least we got our story out so the more respectable entertainment media can use it instead. We chose to use the truth. You heard Patty and Josh you could have been my brother here for a visit or something. The important part was to answer it first. I should have gone out with the hat and glasses on today.”
Leonard looked down, “I’m glad you didn’t if you can’t be yourself when you’re out with me when can you? Were you acting today when you were dealing with Josh and Patty, or do I need to watch out?”
Penny squeezed his hand, he looked up, and she smiled again. “That was business Penny. You can think of it as how I go Nebraska these days. So it’s a real part of me, though I can act it when I need to. You already know what I can be like when I’m mad. Just like the old days just wait me out Leonard I’ll come around.”
She leaned over and kissed him sweetly.
“Watch out, got it”, Leonard said grinning.
They had both ate lightly. The leftovers were put away. They did the dishes together in the sink.
Penny went over by the tree. Leonard un-stoppered one of the other bottles of wine they’d tasted and grabbed two glasses. He was heading for the couch when Penny turned and met him halfway.
“You know we’ve only made love once today. Why don’t we have the wine in your room?”
Leonard nodded and they headed down the hall. “Technically last night went past midnight so we’ve already done it twice today.”
Penny shook her head, “Pedantic Leonard Pedantic.”
Spatial Concept of Time, or lack there of
Leonard Cell phone started ringing a little after midnight. He and Penny had been asleep a short time. He had to un-wrap his arm from under her to reach the phone on his nightstand.
He answered it sleepily “Hello, oh hi. Yeah we did. It was in your Penny news folder this morning? Well no I have some ideas but not yet.”
Penny leaned up on her right hand, “Who is it?”
Leonard gave her the shut up look. “Oh yeah, she’s right here.” Leonard held out the phone to her. She looked pissed but questioning. Leonard held out the phone “It’s Amy Cooper in Cambridge.” Penny took the phone, “Amy?” Leonard heard “Bestie” come from the phone excitedly. He lay back down and pulled the pillow over his head. Penny got up and headed to the living room.
When Penny slid back in bed next him and started cuddling up Leonard looked over. It was after 1:00AM. “Did you have a nice chat?” Penny pushed her head into his chest. “Yep, you’re going to have to let her know our wedding plans. She wants to be there.” She settled in and ran her hand up his chest.
Great thought Leonard I had some general ideas about where I wanted us to get married and now I’m actually going to have to plan it. He bent his head down and kissed the top of her head. Her hair was so soft and she smelt so good. Paris, He thought, has to be Paris for this Nebraskan farm girl. First to Geneva to get Lisel, and then we’ll get married in Paris.
“I love you Penny”
Sleepily in reply, “Love you Leonard.”
The Wedding Planner
Penny woke up to a warm spot where Leonard should be. She grabbed the short pink robe she’d brought with her and went looking for him. He was intently staring and typing on his computer and hadn’t noticed her yet. She could smell the coffee and turned toward the kitchen. He must have seen.
“Good morning, sleep well?” He said to her back.
“Need coffee, talk soon.” She got a mug and filled it with coffee from the pot. She leaned down on the island and took a sip. That’s the ticket she thought. The coffee was strong and so tasty. I wonder where he buys it. Okay better now. “Morning honey, what’re you up working on so early?” He looked over his computer screen at her.
“Reservations, flower arrangements, cathedrals, Amy’s been emailing me all night apparently. I guess I better ask this question. Do you want a big formal wedding or something smaller more intimate. I’m pretty sure Don’s Wedding Shack in Vegas is out.”
Oh he used the smile, she smirked back at him. “Already did Vegas once not something I want to remember or repeat. Where did you and Liisa get married?”
“It was a small church outside Geneva. I should point out a small church in Europe seats about 300.”
Still smiling, she smiled back, “Something intimate, Leonard. Let’s see there are you, me and Lisel, Sheldon and Amy, Howard and Bernadette, Horst and Lena if they’d like to come.”
“How about your Parents?” Leonard asked.
She looked over at him, then in a deadpan voice. “I’ll invite my parents if you invite yours”
“Got it, friends only.” Leonard agreed.
“What about your friends here?” Leonard asked.
“Leonard I have some really nice friends here don’t get me wrong. You’re going to get to meet them believe me. But everybody in this business are the worst gossips in the universe. You know me I’ve always been a gossip so I know.”
“Okay well then I know where I want to take you then, it’ll still work I just thought it would be the three of us.”
“Leonard you can tell me if you like, Bernadette or Amy will probably spill it. What was your plan before I proposed yesterday?”
Leonard blushed. Penny walked over to the desk, set her coffee down. Spun his chair toward her and hopped in his lap. Her arms around his neck butt in his lap, legs over the side of the chair. She ground her butt down to make a point and kissed him quickly.
“Okay give it up Hoftstader.” Penny said and buried her face into the side of his neck.
Leonard was still blushing she knew.
“Well my intention was to ask you to marry me when we finally got to Geneva and spent some time together. I was going to get the same hotel I tried to get for Valentine’s Day the first time we were together. Then I thought you would find it romantic to get married in Paris, I know I would.”
“Leonard that is so romantic and thoughtful and you are so wonderful, perfect score!” Penny kissed him to let him know that he got a perfect score. She would have used a sports metaphor but Leonard rarely got them.
“Well I have a friend of mine from CERN that I emailed to help and she’s got a small chapel in an old chateau for us to get married in. Her uncle is the equivalent of a judge and will perform the ceremony. We actually have to go to our embassy later and they will certify it so it’s legal here.”
“She said the chapel could accommodate 20 people, so were okay. But I just need to give her 48 hours’ notice to get her uncle on board. Now we need to pick a date so everyone has a chance to travel. How about February 1st, it’s a Saturday?”
Penny kissed Leonard again, “February one sound wonderful. You get back to it. It’s the shower for me. She ran her hand across his upper thigh. “I’ll share if you like.”
Leonard was right behind her as she walked toward the shower.
Penny was dressed, her hair piled on top of her head. She had on black stretch pants and boots, a black top with a floral pattern that came down to her upper thighs. He had put on a pair of brown worsted wool slacks, a white button down shirt, black leather loafers and belt. He was thinking about which jacket. Penny was looking him over.
“Take the brown tweed honey it will set off your pants nicely.”
He put it on and she smiled approvingly.
She was putting clothes in the bag she’d brought, his clothes. She went to the closet and got two shirts and two pair of slacks and then got a belt and a pair of shoes. She folded them carefully and packed everything.
“We may need to stay at my place for a couple of days. Is that okay?” She said as she busily packed.
“Sure. What do you know that I don’t?”
She looked at him, concern on her face. “I would be surprised if the paparazzi aren’t parked on your building this morning. Let’s just assume they are. We’ll give them a photo op on the way to your car. We can stay at my place over the weekend. Like I said we are the flavor of the week.”
Leonard looked at her, he knew she knew what was best in this situation, might as well go with it.
She finished packing him up, he added his laptop and tablet to the bag and grabbed it.
They left the apartment, Leonard letting Tish know he’d be gone for a couple of days. They took the elevator down. Penny had on her hat and glasses, as well as a lovely grey scarf wrapped around her neck.
When they exited the building they were there, photographers about ten of them, snapping away. They went toward the parking lot and got to Leonard’s Toyota. They got in and he carefully backed out almost hitting one. Then they were on the street driving away.
“Wow that was a little intense.” Leonard said.
“I thought there might be more so it worked out. Did you smile the whole time?”
Leonard thought about it. “I tried but I don’t know, deer in the headlights I suppose”
Penny reached over squeezed his thigh, “It went just fine. Do you know where you’re going?
“I’ll get on the freeway, just tell me when to get off and we’ll go from there.” Leonard looked in the rearview mirror. No one following them he could see. He looked over at Penny she was taking off the hat and glasses.”
“Why the disguise if they know it’s you already”
Penny laughed, “it’s almost a game, they hate pictures where you not either looking bad or like your persona. They can take all the pictures they want but they never get a real picture of me.”
They got to the gate to the community. It swung open as he approached.
He looked over at Penny. “I have a card in my purse that lets it know I should be let in. I’ll get you one along with the garage door clicker.”
They parked in the right hand garage stall. Penny’s Mercedes was in the middle. She must have had someone bring it home.
The dogs were barking at the door. Penny got out and waited for him to get his bag. She stood in front of the door. When he got to her she wrapped her arms around his neck. Penny kissed him, both softly and passionately. She looked at him, their eyes locked together.
“I’ve never said this to a man, ever. Welcome home.” She opened the door and the two hounds were upon them.
CERN Geneva Switzerland, December 27th
Horst Grunwald PhD sat at his desk. The computer screen in front of him had the latest collider data. It was close to 6:00PM. Horst thought the data could wait until tomorrow and signed off the system. He turned and looked at the LCD picture frame on his desk. It had just changed to a picture of Liisa and Lena. Liisa had been about 22 in that picture, Lena about 44. Horst looked into his daughters green eyes. He felt a little flushed, missing her today like he does every day. Her birthday was the Sunday after next, she would have been 35.
He picked up his phone off the desk. He texted, “Auf meinem Heimweg” to Lena, then stood and slid the phone into his jacket pocket and picked up his keys off the desk. He looked around his office. The furnishings had been re-done last year. Grey carpet, black and grey cabinets, desk, small couch, and two digital white boards. It was very modern, even elegant except for the beat up brown office chair behind his desk.
“I may have to finally let them take you someday old friend” he said softly and patted the back of the chair. He looked out his window, it was snowing again. He turned and retrieved his coat, scarf and hat from the back of the door, put them on and fished his gloves out of the pockets. He walked out leaving the door open behind him.
Horst walked through the door into the living room of his and Lena’s apartment. Lena stuck her head out from around the corner where the kitchen was. She held her finger to her lips, “Lisel just got to sleep”. On the couch next to the hallway lay Lisel on her side. Her white long eared bunny clutched in her arms. Curley blond hair half covering her face. Horst put his gloves in his coat pockets, took off his coat and hat and hung them on the wall hooks beside the door.
He walked over to the couch and gently pushed the hair off Lisel’s face. She had so much of her mother’s face, but he could see the father in there also. My beautiful granddaughter he thought. He walked into the kitchen. Lena was at the table working on a lesson plan for her math students when school started again. “It’s pretty late for her nap. What did you two do today?”
Lena smiled, “We played in the snow, went to library then we came home and she played with her Christmas presents until about half an hour ago. She finally ran out of energy and I lay with her on the couch until she fell asleep. I probably should have tried to get here down earlier, but we only have a few more weeks with her. So” She shrugged and smiled again.
Horst smiled, leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. “I’m going to read the news at my desk.”
Lena returned to the papers in front of her. “Do you want a cup of tea? I’m going to make some in a moment.”
Horst was already heading down the hall, “Yes, thank you.”
Horst went into the bedroom of their three bedroom apartment he used for his office. It was a large room with three large windows that looked out upon the snow covered park across the street. His desk sat in front of the window, facing the door. It was very modern, stainless steel with a glass covered piece of mahogany carved and inlaid with physics formulas. Leonard had gotten it for him when he and Lena had moved into the apartment almost 2 years ago. Behind it between the desk and window was a twin to his chair at CERN, brown, old and well used.
The walls of the room were painted a very light grey. They were covered with pictures of people and the construction of the collider and CERN’s buildings.
He sat in the chair turned and looked out at the snow. It was lovely to watch he thought but made life difficult in most other ways. He liked the spring better. He turned to his desk and pulled out the top drawer for his tablet. Below was the letter, he’d read it hundreds of times. He put the tablet on his desk and reached for the letter, his other hand going into his pocket for his reading glasses.
He liked reading Liisa’s letters and writings. He always could hear her voice whenever he did. He opened the letter, it was typed writing by hand had been too painful near the end. He winced at the image and began to read.
It will not be much longer now. My very bones ache and are becoming frail. Leonard brings Lisel to me whenever I’m awake. I’ve finally consented to be put on a pain medication system. I fear that once that starts I will not be able to write any longer. The pain might be bearable but the effect on Leonard is unendurable. He suffers more than I in that way. We both know the inevitable is upon us. But I know it will end, he must go on.
I’ve written four letters that I’ll give you with this one. One is for Leonard after I’m gone. One is for Lisel when she wants to know more about me. The third one is special. You may never get to deliver it. It’s to a lady that Leonard was and I believe still in love with. Her name is Penelope Jenson, Leonard calls her Penny. She is a wonderful actress in the U.S. She makes mostly television and has her own show. I’ve watched all the episodes on the internet, though Leonard doesn’t know.
Papa I know Leonard loves me and my little Lisel so much. I also have always known that part of his heart always stayed with Penny. The way he smiled and his eyes would be when I asked about her and he would remember something. Wait for a while after I’m gone before you give him my letter. I believe Papa that he will find his way back to Penny. I hope he does and that she makes him happy and that my little Lisel will have a wonderful mother.
If he finds her again then make sure she gets the letter.
Papa the last letter is for you and Momma. You’ll know when to read it.
All my love
Shadows of Twilight
In the shadows of twilight the temperature plummets,
The radiant warm glow of the sun upon my up turned face no longer.
A cold night begins, it will seep into my bones and carry me forward.
So many things left undone in the sunlight, passions, wonders, questions.
All left cold as the night comes on, faster now the last light waning on the horizon.
Lofty goals forgotten, stunned silence as I fumble for the words.
Lost chances and moments that can not return.
Trying to stay in the present, to see the future bright.
But I keep slipping ever farther into the shadows of twilight.
The last prose she ever wrote, thought Horst, he could hear her saying the words.
Horst controlled his emotions and didn’t cry. He knew that if he took the next letter out of the drawer that was to Lena and himself that he wouldn’t be able to. Leonard had his letter. He reached into the drawer and pulled out the last two letters. The envelopes were typed.
Lisel Penelope Hoftstader
He put them back in the drawer. He pushed the tablet on button. There was an email from the Media director at CERN.
The subject line made him smile: “You son in law is engaged to a movie star!”
Discourse, thinking without over thinking
Penny fed the dogs while Leonard took his stuff to the bedroom. He went down the right hand hallway and dropped it off. The hallway ran parallel to the great room. There was another bathroom whose door pointed out to the hallway to great room. In front of him was another door. He walked forward and opened it to have a look. It was the guest room. It was as big as Penny’s bedroom but had no attached bath. There was a queen sized bed and matching dresser and night stands all white. The bed had a pink comforter and white sheets. The walls had publicity stills from her TV show. He moved closer and started looking at them.
Penny walked in. “Who’s snooping now” she asked smiling.
He smiled back, “Well I’ve only seen your bedroom and the great room so far.”
“and the shower”, Penny pointed out raising an eyebrow.
“It’s a lovely room, with a beautiful woman gracing its walls”
Penny looked down, “I’d rather it had pictures of ponies and unicorns on the wall”
Leonard smiled, “It will soon enough, it’s big enough for a desk and a play area as well.”
She raised her head with what Leonard knew was her best smile, the one that was in none of the pictures. “Show me the rest of the house”.
Penny led him back to the great room and across to other hallway. It was identical except for instead of a bathroom there was a small room with a dog door set in the wall. She turned right toward the pool. There was a room the same size as her bedroom. It contained nothing but clothing racks and stainless steel wire shelves. The clothing racks held hundreds of hangers, from tops to gowns. The shelves where stacked high with pants and tops. There was a doorway to the left.
“This is my wardrobe. Seriously 60% of this is from the show and any movies I’ve been in.”
She walked to the doorway on the left. Leonard followed it was a room about the same size, filled with shoes.
“I wish I could say that 60% of all these were from the show also but I’d be lying.” Leonard started chuckling as Penny blushed. Both rooms had skylights. The wardrobe had glass doors leading onto the patio by the pool just as her bedroom did. He followed her to the room on the opposite end of the hall. It was her exercise room. It had a treadmill, a small weight machine, stationary bike and a flat screen TV on the wall. Mirrors lined the wall by the door. A window looked out on the dog run.
Leonard stood close to Penny. He ran his hand down her back and squeezed her bottom. “I see you spend a lot of time here.” Penny actually giggled, and turned into him for a kiss.
“I’m glad to know you appreciate it.”
She led him back to the kitchen and showed him a pantry and half bath there.
“You’ve seen it all, what would you like to do now?”
“Let’s just relax. What would you do today?”
Penny thought it over. “I really should start going through the pile scripts on my desk. Then tweet out some things to my fans. They are going to want to know more about you. Then maybe watch TV or let the dogs swim.”
“That sounds great. I’ll grab my laptop and catch up on my reading by the fireplace. Then we can have something light for lunch.”
They both headed out in opposite directions. Penny went to her desk and grabbed the stack of scripts and moved them to the couch by the fireplace. Kicked off her shoes and cuddled up on the couch. Leonard disappeared down the hallway returning with his laptop and joined her on the couch.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” Leonard asked.
“That sounds nice, the cabinet to the right of the sink”
Leonard started for the kitchen, and heard. “Hey you,” he turned to see the cat in Penny’s lap she was stroking her head. Leonard smiled and made the tea.
They sat together on the couch her on the middle right, the scripts beside her on the right. Leonard was on the left, laptop on his lap leaning back in the couch. Penny had turned on the fireplace and Christmas tree lights. They both read in silence, Leonard occasionally reaching over and caressing her thigh, she squeezing his hand and holding it until she needed to turn a page.
They both had the same thought “comfortable”.
Penny had gone through half the scripts. Leonard was engrossed in a Particle Physics journal. Both dogs were sleeping before the fireplace. Schrodinger was sleeping on the top of the back of the couch.
“Leonard can I ask you something?”
Leonard closed his laptop and put it on the table. He turned toward Penny and took her hand. She looked pensive, a touch depressed even. “What’s wrong?”
“Leonard, am I getting old, are my looks fading?”
He looked at Penny closely. She was older, but she looked as good to him as the first time he saw her. He thought about what she wanted to hear. Then the voice was there, overthinking.
“No Penny, you look like the first day I saw you but even better. You now have a grace and wisdom on your face. You more confident and it shows. What brought this on, the scripts?”
She was starting to look like she wanted to cry. “Yes. The scripts I get now are for characters like I’ve never played before. They are more matronly or professional. The parts they want me to play are not the sexy, funny woman I’ve always liked playing.”
Leonard looked confused, “So you saying you don’t want to grow as an actor into other roles. Penny you’re very talented, you could pull any role off. Have you considered theater? Maybe you’re just nervous about moving on?”
Leonard regretted instantly what he just said, he was pushing.
“Penny forget that, I pushed you in your career once before. I was wrong then and it cost me everything. What is it you’re looking for? Is it time to pack acting in like I did experimental physics?”
Penny was crying now, shaking her head. “No Leonard, you were being supportive then as now. You wanted me to succeed. We paid a terrible price for my success. But I do have my success.”
Leonard took her hands. “Penny maybe you’re looking at these scripts wrong. When I was designing experiments I would get stuck on a small detail or procedure. It was always a mistake. I needed to look at the whole experiment, at what we were trying to find out. So instead of the part you’re going to play look for the best script. Which ones have the best story, the potential for the characters and the plot?”
She looked at Leonard like she’d had an epiphany he thought. Maybe I said the right thing. I think it’s the right way to go.
Penny moved toward him and embraced him. She kissed his face and neck. “Your right Leonard, I need to find a story I believe in. A story where the part I play is meaningful. If the project is good I can push for changes in my character. Actual production scripts change every hour sometimes, I need to think bigger. You are my genius fiancé and soon my genius husband.”
Leonard blushed. They shared a long and passionate kiss.
Penny pulled back. “Let’s get some lunch then let the dogs swim.” She rose and started for the kitchen
Leonard nodded and started to follow Penny. He smiled to himself she still thinks I’m a genius.
They made sandwiches for lunch, Egg Salad, on thick fresh sourdough from Penny’s favorite bakery. Patty showed up as they finished with a small stack of mail for Penny.
Penny had Patty take two pictures of her and Leonard. One was in front of the tree the other on the sofa with her kissing his cheek. Penny then handed Patty a to do list and she left. Leonard noticed she never smiled at him the whole time.
“I don’t think Patty likes me?”
Penny thought about it, “It’s because she fears you Leonard. You are change and Patty hates change. If I do something spontaneous, say like go find my old boyfriend, she figures any fallout will make me upset. If I’m upset she has a real bad day. So you are a force for change and she’s afraid of you.”
“I just thought she was a bitch.” Leonard quipped.
“Well then there’s that”, Penny chuckled
They let the dogs out into the pool and sat at the outside table. Penny was busy with her phone.
“Whatcha doing?” Leonard asked imitating one of her favorite phrases.
She frowned at him, “taking my lines now are you? I’m tweeting the pictures out to the world.”
“How many followers do you have?”
She smiled sweetly, “Last time I checked about 750,000”
Leonard felt his mouth open, “Wow, I was happy when I got 40 once”, being his only response.
Penny chuckled. “It pays to be popular in this business. Want to know what I wrote?”
She handed him her phone. Her twitter page app was up. The first tweet said, “My fiancé and me in front of the tree, isn’t he handsome.” Leonard pulled up the next with the picture of them on the couch. “Snuggling with my Honey”
Leonard chuckled and handed the phone back. Speaking of tweets and such I should check my email. Leonard walked into the house and returned with his laptop. He typed away for a few seconds and smiled. He moved next to Penny.
“I got and email from Horst.”
The subject line said. “I hear my son in law is engaged to a movie star”
He went on in the body of the email:
I’m happy you have found each other again. Liisa said you might. Congratulations’ from Lena and I. We thought you would like to tell Lisel yourself. Love you my boy.
Horst and Lena
There were pictures attached. Two photos of Lisel playing in the snow. She was bundled up building a snow man. It was small but very cute. A third photo was of her sleeping on the couch.
Leonard was tearing up. Penny grabbed his hand and held it very gently, her thumb caressing the back of his hand.
“I can’t wait for you to meet her Penny, she will love you.
“I know she will Leonard, I already love her because she’s yours, I may have to steal her away from you. But I guess we can share her.”
Penny leaned over and kissed his cheek. The dogs were out of the pool shaking off the water. Penny was laughing at them.
Leonard looked up, stared at the picture for several more seconds.
He wrote a quick reply to Horst.
The wedding will be in Paris February 1st. We’d like you both to come. Give my love to Lena and kiss and hold my little Lisel.
Love you all
Leonard and Penny
Penny looked over and shook her head and he hit send.
The next email was from Howard. Subject: “So when will the big day be?” with no body.
Leonard hit reply, “February 1st in Paris, you’re invited my treat. Make sure you and Bernie can make it. Amy and Sheldon will be there.”
He hit send and went to the next message. He looked at Penny. “You were right Sam Larson would like a follow up interview.
Penny had a slightly wicked smile, “I thought she might. How’s Monday afternoon for you/?”
Leonard pulled up his calendar, it was clear, nothing to really do until the 6th. “Looks Fine”
“Tell her sure, your apartment say 3:00PM, don’t let her know I’ll be there”
Penny had that wolfish smile again, “Oh I wouldn’t miss it. We’ll need to work out some signals about what to not talk about. Don’t worry honey. We need to teach you some PR skills.”
Leonard looked slightly confused. Penny went on, “Remember we need to control the message, no lying but boundaries. Lisel for example is off the table.”
“Okay”, he said happily, her face had gone from a wolfish grin to a soft sexy smile. He knew what that smile meant.
“Ever make love in a pool?” Leonard shook his head no. Penny pulled her top off over her head and looked over at Leonard. She reached over to push his chin up so he was looking at her face again. “Let’s get in the pool”, Penny said in a very sexy voice,
Leonard started standing when an email from Bernadette came in.
The subject line said, “We’ll be in Paris or Howard will be dead.”
Leonard started taking off his shirt. “Howard and Bernadette will be there”
He looked over to see a nude lovely 37 year old blonde with a beautiful bottom slowly walking into the pool. He fell over trying to take his pants off. “Oh yeah shoes first”
Panic at the forum
Leonard was lying in bed with Penny cuddled into his left side. The daylight was waning through the patio door which was still open. An afternoon wind was rustling the plants outside and drapes beside the patio door. Sex in the pool was kind of fun but ending up in bed was even better. Penny’s hair was still wet. He loved it when her hair was wet. When they did it in the shower had always been a favorite time. He reached over and ran his hand down her side stopping where her pelvis went to her flat tummy. Her left hand started down his chest. “Again”, she whispered into his chest. What the hell, if the body is willing Leonard thought as he started to kiss her.
Penny came out of the bathroom, toweling her almost dry hair. Leonard was on his side sleeping quietly. She closed the patio door and opened the bedroom door. The dogs were patiently sitting there. “Oh aren’t you good polite boys.” She said rubbing their heads. She turned back for her robe when Leonard suddenly sat up in bed. He was breathing rapidly and looked panicked. Penny took two quick steps and was on the bed with her arms around him.
“Where’s your inhaler honey?”
Leonard shook his head he’d caught his breath, though he still looked panicked.
“Bad Dream”, he mumbled. He was calming down, looking a little embarrassed now.
“What was your dream about?”
“Liisa, near the end, I haven’t had it in a long time”, He held her tighter. “Sorry if it scared you, it must be talking about it these last few days have brought it back up”
Penny wasn’t ready to let him go, she just held on. Einstein had his head on the bed whimpering. Leonard took his right hand off Penny and patted his head. “It’s okay buddy, I’m fine”
Penny made herself not cry, poor Leonard she thought, it wouldn’t help me crying. Leonard pulled back trying to smile at her. Putting on a face of normality she could see through but knew he wanted otherwise. “Hungry? What time is it?” Leonard said.
“After 5:00PM I was going to get dressed when you woke up.” She stuttered slightly. “How about Italian for dinner, there’s a nice place just down the road?”
Leonard was back to himself, “Idea buona signora bella”. She looked back at him. “Good idea beautiful lady”, he just smiled.
“Leonard Hoftstader how many languages do you speak?”
Leonard blushed, “Six if you count Klingnon and Sindarian.”
“Elvish in the Lord of the Rings, it’s in the glossary”, Leonard’s blush increased.
“Any I might have heard of besides English, German and apparently Italian?”
“vous êtes la vision de la beauté, avec de grandes jambs. There’s always French. That meant; you are a vision of loveliness, with great legs”
Penny kissed him, “I’ve been looking for the king of the nerds. Glad to see he can still fix my printer.”
Penny got up and headed to the door, Einstein and Leaky in close pursuit.
Dinner at Trattoria Amore which Penny now knew meant “Inn Love” was nice. She was a regular and they always put her in a nice secluded booth. She hadn’t even bothered with the disguise. No paparazzi where anywhere to be seen. Angelo the owner had greeted her with a hug and kiss. He even gave Leonard a rather uncomfortable hug. He’d insisted on giving them a bottle of Prosecco that Penny now knew from Leonard was Italy’s version of Champagne to celebrate their engagement. They both had shrimp linguine in an olive oil and spicy pepper sauce and split a tiramisu with cappuccino before heading home.
The dogs were fed. Leonard headed to the bedroom to get into something comfortable. Penny went to the wardrobe and undressed. She picked out some short soft pajama bottoms, light blue with little grey dolphins on them. The shirt she hadn’t worn in a long time. She’d bought it to wear for Leonard in New York years ago. It was black with a white Pi symbol then below it said “Irrational but well rounded”. She would wear it whenever she missed the guys. When she missed Leonard she would wear a hoody shirt. She had about a dozen of them.
When she got to the living room Leonard was on the couch next to the tree. He’d turned the tree lights and the fireplace on. Leonard had on black soft silk pants and a purple t-shirt with the words CERN LHC and a logo. She’d picked it for the color when she’d been packing him up.
“You look comfy?” He turned and looked her up and down.
“Ha, I love your shirt” He got up and came toward her. He leaned in and kissed her. “Very well rounded” He started walking toward the kitchen. “What would you like tonight? I’m for a touch of scotch. Penny thought about it for a moment. “Herbal Tea for me tonight please.”
Leonard returned with their drinks and joined her on the couch. Penny took a large sip of her tea, he’d used honey like she liked and lemon. She watched him take a sip of his whisky and set the tumbler on a coaster on the table and stare at the tree. “Leonard can I ask you questions, well about you?”
He looked from the tree, back to Penny and smiled. “Sure”, was his single word reply.
“When did you cease to be a nerd and become so so sophisticated? What happened?”
Leonard looked at her. She could see his mind working it out.
“I guess the short answer is I’m still a nerd. I look forward to building model rockets with my daughter. Teaching her and showing her about science. I’ve just lost a lot of the attachments that go with geek-dom. I grew up I suppose.”
He switched his view to the tree then the fireplace and stared.
“When I got ready to leave Pasadena I started selling all my collectibles. I gave a few away to the guys but most of it went to Stuart to sell. He was still selling stuff when I left for Oxford. When I got there I was alone. It had been a long time since I had been alone. I had my own suite of rooms. Dinner was in the common hall with the other non-married professors. But with no Sheldon, Howard or Raj I couldn’t continue to obsess over those characters, genres, movies.”
“At the same time I was in a place that demanded a very high standard of conduct from their professors. The other physicists were nerds just like me, but most were older and had more mature interests. Take Professor Whatney for example. He taught me about wine and took me to Bordeaux for the first time. He used the Spectrum Analyzer on wine trying to unlock the secrets of the world’s best wines. So I gravitated toward those other pursuits.”
He reached for his scotch and took a sip, and looked back at Penny.
“I’m still a nerd, this scotch came from the Isle of Islay. It was distilled from barley that was dried with peat cut from the bogs in the northern part of the Island. It was then laid down in French oak barrels for 12 years in a warehouse by the sea. That’s what give’s the salty, smoky taste that only comes from Islay. See what I mean? I just know more about different stuff now. I still love good Sci-fi, both the movies and books. I just don’t have any friends that wear their costumes to the opening night of the movie.”
Penny considered what he was saying. She saw it in him too. He was the same old Leonard he’d just grown, exchanged old passions for new ones. He’d traveled all over Europe, assimilated some of that culture. Penny had to face it. Leonard had become a refined, sophisticated wealthy gentleman and father. It was different, but she liked it.
“So no more gaming or blowing stuff up?”
“I did gaming in Europe until I went to CERN. Then I had the biggest most powerfull gun to shoot. I can’t express to you how exciting doing that work was. So it had been several years until I tried it again. It just never had the allure again. I couldn’t stay up all night playing a game. I had responsibilities.”
He stopped and was quiet. Penny knew what those responsibilities had been; a baby daughter and dying wife. She could see why gaming had been cast aside. Leonard was a good man. He had given up me so I could achieve my dream. He gave up his love of experimental physics for his daughter. It made Penny worry about what he would give up to be with her. She would need to make sure whatever it was it was worth it and she gave just as much.
Penny took Leonard’s hand and held it palm down to her cheek. There was no better time.
“Leonard you are my super hero. You’ve given up so much. You gave up us so I could succeed. You gave up your life’s work for Lisel. I don’t want you giving up anything else for me unless we talk about it. We share whatever burden our relationship puts on the other. You have to promise me”
Leonard gave her the smile, took her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I Promise.”
“That includes the apartment Leonard, maybe somewhere down the road but let’s keep it”
Leonard was still smiling. “Well it’s pretty clear that this would be the much better home for our family. Especially if it gets bigger I think we should live here. We can make the guest bedroom up for Lisel. We’ll have to deal with space if we have another. But I knew I would keep the apartment. I’ll need somewhere to go and you can find me when you go Nebraska on me”
“Not funny, you’ve been thinking about this I see?”
He looked at her, pleased with himself, “Not a lot to think about, you have the dogs and the cat and a lot more room. If we are together then we’ll need somewhere like this community for some privacy. Besides not keeping the apartment isn’t an option. I own the building.”
Penny was slightly shocked, “You never told me that.”
Leonard took another drink of scotch. “The management company wouldn’t give me a lease to remodel it like I wanted to so I bought it. It looks like it will be a good investment so far though I only have one apartment that isn’t rented. When 4B came open last month I told them not to rent it. I never could stand the thought of having another neighbor.”
“But you told Sam Larson you rented it?”
“I did, I rented it from the Swiss holding company that owns the building. I just happen to control that trust. You’re the only one that knows that not even Howard knows.”
This man really is surprising. He used to be passive, and he still is but when he wants something he’s pretty persistent now.
“That’s enough questions from me, what do you want to know/”
Leonard looked at her, he was thinking.
“Nothing right now but I have something else you should know. When it comes to Oxford, CERN, Liisa and Lisel I have no regrets. I did and am doing my best for each of them. But I do have regret. I should have never let you go to New York on your own. I should have taken a sabbatical and went with you. It was the biggest error I ever made and I want you to know I’m sorry”.
He was looking at the tree now.
Penny was tearing up. She put her arms around his neck and held him for a moment.
“Just don’t let it happen again.” She whispered to him trying to be funny, but the tears were still coming. “I’m tired let’s go to bed.” That got a better reaction. He silently got up and offered his hand and they walked toward the bedroom.
Leonard sat at his desk in the apartment, staring out the window. It was just after noon on this bright Saturday and the first time he’d spent any time away from Penny since Christmas Eve. Penny had a taping of a talk show that would air that afternoon. The taping had to be early so the east coast show would be ready by 4:00PM. Penny had to be to the studio by 9:30. The taping would run no later than 11:30AM.
Penny’s alarm had gone off at 6:00AM. The studio was about 45 minutes away if the traffic wasn’t too heavy. The show was sending a car that would be at the house at 8:30. Penny hadn’t even hit the snooze alarm. She’d rolled over and out of the bed. This had surprised Leonard he remembered Penny hating to get up. The last three days they had stayed in bed in the morning, though sleep had been just a side activity.
Penny had made coffee and got in the shower by the time Leonard got up. They had talked about the taping at dinner the night before. Leonard would go back to the apartment to get some things and do a little work and they would meet back at the house in the afternoon. Penny was wearing sweats and a t-shirt, her hair up in a bun. She had a garment bag with clothes hanging on a hook by the door when her phone buzzed. “There here” She’d said. Penny had given Leonard a quick kiss and started for the door. She pulled up and turned back and wrapped her arms around his neck and given him a long kiss on the lips. Leonard said “Better, see you this afternoon”. She had given him an odd smile and went through the door garment bag in hand.
Leonard had driven his car back to Pasadena. Some photographers were by the front door and had taken some pictures. He smiled at them the whole time. They didn’t seem too interested in him if Penny wasn’t around. He’d got to the apartment and put more clothes in his bag as well as a couple of well-chosen wines. Then sat at his computer and went to work. He recorded a video message for Lisel and the Grunewald’s then decided to start in on his mail from Caltech.
The system at Caltech was a combined messaging system, voicemail, email, videomail, and text. Leonard was shocked at his inbox. He 1277 emails, over 100 voicemails, 1 videomail. He knew what had happened right away. His personal email was very private, but his Caltech email was on the schools website and public address book. He sorted the emails by sender and saw that the amount from people he knew was 20. He added the rest to the spam filter.
He decided to just bulk delete the voicemails, anybody with anything serious would call back. Of the 20 emails 18 were congratulations on his engagement from colleagues, 2 were requests for vacation time that he marked to look at later. He opened up the videomail, it was from Leslie Winkle. Her curly brown hair, glasses and smirk had greeted him:
I see you’re back with Blondie after all these years Leonard. Thought you’d learned your lesson.
That was it. Leonard was never quite sure why Leslie cared. Since he’d been back she hadn’t showed the slightest interest in him. Maybe it was because technically he was her boss. He just chuckled. He got up and made a cup of Earl Grey tea, had Tish put on some older top 40 music and sat down at his desk and looked out the window.
He broke off that remembrance thinking, “Strange day”
He sipped his tea. He suddenly felt very alone. He realized it was because Penny wasn’t with him. She was so different now he thought, yet underneath just the same. Penny had a professional persona, but still he could tell she was really vulnerable. He decided he’d just wait and see what had happened to her all these years. He had the basic story but she had been pretty shy about details. He wasn’t going to push it, second half-life. He finished his tea, sat it down and stared back out the window.
Suddenly Tish said, “Penny’s at the door.”
Leonard heard the key in the lock and turned in his chair. Penny came through dressed to the nines in leather pants, a hot pink top and high black heels. Tears were streaming down her face. Leonard got up quickly and met her by the couch in a hug.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
Penny sobbed for a few more seconds and halting got out. “I missed you”
Leonard just held her until she stopped crying. He tried to look her in the face, but she wouldn’t meet his eyes. He sat her on the couch and took her hands. “It’s okay Penny, I just was sitting at my desk wondering why I was sad. I realized it was because you weren’t here.” She stared into his eyes then hugged him again. She stopped after a moment and sat back. She tried to laugh but it didn’t really come out that way.
“I’m being such a basket case. The taping went fine and I got done and knew I didn’t feel right and told the driver to bring me here. When I got here I gave the jerks downstairs my best smile and breezed past them. Then as soon as I got in the elevator I started crying.”
“Maybe you should have taken the stairs.” Leonard tried to make her laugh it kind of worked.
She looked up at him and smirked, “In these heels, be serious.”
She did laugh at that point but then got serious again. “It’s I just felt really alone. I hadn’t felt that way since I was in New York. I need to tell you something Leonard.”
Leonard almost flinched at the look on her face it was like a ghost set on her beautiful features. He knew that look he had seen it in the mirror so many times the last few years.
“The guy in New York Brent the co-star I slept with. I wasn’t that drunk that night it was something else. We had gone out for drinks. I’d had a couple of drinks and he invited me to go back to his place to work on some scenes together. I knew I shouldn’t have gone, it felt wrong but he was the co-star.”
“We took a cab to his apartment and he got me another drink. The next thing I knew I woke up in his bed, groggy with a terrible hangover. I’ve gotten drunk where I couldn’t remember things the next day but not like this. Leonard, he gave me something in that drink and then he raped me. I wasn’t sure about it then it was just all guilt about cheating on you and being stupid. I got up and left. He treated me like crap after that. He told all the male actors how good I was in bed. I really should have got on a plane and came home. It’s just, I don’t know. I’d made friends with the female co-star Jeanie. She helped me a lot, teaching me my character and how to be an actor. Jeanie was my mentor and my only friend. I told her about what happened she helped me figure it out and let me know I wasn’t the first time for this guy. By the time I figured it all out you were in Oxford.”
“Before now Jeanie and my therapist are the only people I’ve ever told about this. When the series got cancelled Jeanie walked over to Brent, hugged him then kneed him in the nuts. She held him up and said something in his ear then let him fall withering on the floor. She never did tell me what she said, but Brent has never even tried to talk to me since.”
Penny had said all this very quickly wanting to get it out, without shedding a tear, but now they were falling.
“After I tried my failed attempt at marriage I swore I wouldn’t get too close to any man. They either broke my heart or I broke theirs. It all started coming back up when I kissed you goodbye this morning. That’s why I stopped, came back and gave you a real kiss. I realized I’d kissed every other man I had in my life like that. I would peck them on the lips with no feeling, just the obligation to who I was sleeping with.”
She was full on crying again, he went to hug her but she held him off and looked into his eyes.
“I won’t ever do that to you again Leonard, every kiss, even if it’s a peck on the cheek will mean I love you.”
Now she let Leonard hold her. He did and would for as long as it took. He just held her and let her cry, stroking her hair and thinking. “I should have been there to do this then, dammit.”
Penny stayed there a long time, even once she quit crying. She finally sniffed and sat back giving him a sad smile.
Not a Matter of Fault
Penny could see the pain on Leonard face. She thought she would see anger or shock. Instead she saw guilt and pain like when he talked about Liisa in the end. She took his face in both hands.
Leonard croaked, “I should have been there, it wouldn’t have happened if I’d been there.”
Penny shook her head, “It doesn’t matter now Leonard, and it wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t my fault that I went to his apartment. It wasn’t your fault for not putting your work on hold and coming to New York. Someone vile and hateful did something that neither of us is to blame for. It took me a long time to figure it all out. I had a bad marriage, isolation, putting my career ahead of any personal life. Even if you had been there after it happened I may have ruined our relationship to the point that this.” She stumbled for moment. “This, where we are right now could never have happened”
She smiled at him. Leonard’s face softened, caring and thoughtful was there now. Just what she wanted and needed. She leaned him back on the couch and snuggled into his left shoulder.
“Let’s just hold each other for a while. Watch a movie and let it pass. Okay?”
She felt him nod. Penny thought about it for a moment, “Tish please play Return of the Jedi on the big screen.” The screen started to unfold from the ceiling.
She looked up at Leonard, he was a little stoic. She just cuddled in and watched for a while. Then the scene on Jabba’s yacht was on. “You know Leonard I have that exact outfit Leia has on in my wardrobe.” She looked up at him, now she got the smile she was looking for. Penny cuddled closer into his shoulder. A few moments later she was asleep.
Scheming to Play
When the now helmetless Anakin Skywalker tells Luke he was right Penny snuggled into Leonard and opened her eyes. “What did I miss?” She pulled her head up and looked at Leonard, he was asleep. His head was leaning on the back of the couch. He still had his arm around her holding her close. The credits were rolling on Return of the Jedi. “Tish you can put the screen away.” Penny said quietly. The screen started to fold as Penny softly moved Leonard’s arm and sat up. She laid Leonard’s arm gently in his lap, touching his hand for a long moment.
Penny picked her bag up off the floor and dug around until she came up with her phone. She went over to Leonard’s desk and sat as his computer. She typed for a few minutes and seemed pleased with herself.
She made three phone calls walking down the hallway as not to disturb Leonard. He was still sleeping soundly. Penny went to the wardrobe and got out the blue blanket and covered him up, careful not to wake him. She went to the kitchen put on Leonard’s red apron and got in the refrigerator and came out with cheeses, baby carrots, celery and a cucumber and took them to island. Penny selected a large knife and sliced the cheese and vegetables on a small cutting board. Took down a plate and arranged the food on it. Penny then went hunting in the cabinets coming back with Italian crackers and flat bread. She put these into a bowl from the glass front cabinet over the sink. She made one more trip to the fridge and returned with a jar of pesto ranch dressing. She found a small dish in the cabinet and filled it with the dressing. It took two trips but she brought all the plates bowls and dressing to the coffee table.
Penny was pleased with the light spread she had put out. She walked back to the kitchen and started looking around the wine cabinets under the island. Leonard has a lot of wine down here, she thought. Then it hit her. “Tish, where would I find a good bottle of Chardonnay in the wine cellar?”
Tish answered instantly. “If the current inventory is correct in cold cabinet number one the second shelf should be Chardonnay that is ready for drinking.”
Penny looked at the wine cabinets. Each had a small number etched into its door. She opened the cabinet with the number one and pulled out the second shelf. The bottles were all chilled, each was the same. 2019 Domaine Louis Carillon et Fils Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru. Wow, Penny thought, that one is a mouthful. Leonard must like them there’s twelve bottles of it. She took a bottle out and closed the cabinet. Penny opened the bottle and got out two wine stems that she knew were for Chardonnay. She poured each glass half full and carried them to the table.
Penny took her glass, raised Leonard’s arm and snuggled back into his chest. Leonard eyes fluttered and he lifted his head. He looked at the spread on the table. “Oh, very nice, how long have I been asleep?”
Penny sat up and grinned at him, “Long enough for me to make plans for the evening and some stuff to munch on. Leave some though, Howard and Bernadette will be here at 5:30PM.” Leonard reached for his wine glass, arching his eyebrows. “I’m not sure what we’ll cook for dinner.”
Penny smiled and took a drink of her wine, “Oh my, this is good, yummy! Dinner’s coming to us. I ordered Indian food for the four of us for 6:00PM.”
Leonard took a sip of the wine, “umm, you found a bottle of the Batard. Your right this is one of my favorites. Any other plans once the Wolowitz’s get here.”
Penny gave him a huge smile. “Were going old school tonight honey, take out Indian food, Howard is bringing his older Xbox and were all playing Halo. You need to eat some of my late lunch/appetizers then go get into kakis and a t-shirt.”
Leonard shook his head. “This is an amazing idea. I should fall asleep more often”
Tish spoke, “Leonard and Penny someone is at the door.” Then there was a knock.
Penny jumped up and went to the door, “Hi Patty, thanks I’ll see you at home tomorrow.” Penny turned back into the apartment. Leonard looked at her funny. “Tish no door alerts
please”, “Yes Leonard”
He was still looking at her funny. “What, Patty brought me some clothes, I can’t play halo in leather pants?” Leonard tilted his head, “You didn’t even invite Patty in.” Penny laughed, “Leonard there are a lot of times that Patty needs to know who the queen bitch is. I bet she’s nicer to you next time you see her.”
She turned and headed down the hall to change.
Queen Penelope the Slayer
The Indian food was only 10 minutes late but there had been plenty. Howard had set up his old game system. Another bottle of the Batard was opened and poured. The serious gaming began. The first hour it was the guys against the girls. Penny as always kicked some serious ass. The next round the couples played each other. Penny again was deadly but it was much closer. Another bottle was opened and consumed. The final round was a free for all. Penny dominated but Leonard came in second, but nobody was close to Penny.
Howard and Bernadette were getting ready to leave. Penny hugged both of them. Howard looked at the computer. “Goodbye Tish”, Tish replied, “Goodbye master debater.” Howard’s mouth fell open and he turned to Leonard. Leonard had a smug smile on his face. “I couldn’t change it but I could add to it.” Everyone laughed, though Howard’s was a sarcastic. “Ha Ha Ha”.
The Wolowitz’s left promising to use the AutoDrive in their car to get home. It was 10:00PM. Leonard and Penny cleaned up the apartment. Wine bottles in the recycle bin, glasses, plates, silverware in the dishwasher. Leonard looked over at Penny. “Would you like an aperitif or herbal tea? I have hot chocolate from Spain that’s just a little spicy?”
Penny grinned. “I’d like to try the hot chocolate I bet you’re having a scotch?” Leonard smiled back. “Oh you know me so well? Actually I’m going to have some Sherry tonight an Amontillado also from Spain.”
“Pedantic Leonard pedantic.” He laughed and got out the canister of hot chocolate. He made her a double sized mug. Then got out the Sherry bottle and poured a small wine glass almost full. He offered it to Penny. She smelled it. It smelled like almonds and dried fruit. A sip brought to mind almonds, hazelnuts and plums. It was as acidic as it was sweet.
She raised an eyebrow at Leonard. “I like that. I’ll have some next time”
Penny took a sip of the cocoa. Her eyes opened wide, she put the cup down. “Oh my god that’s good, really, really good. Who did you find out about this from?”
“I can’t divulge the source of that one you might go Nebraska on me.”
Penny picked the hot chocolate up and had another sip. “I’m going Nebraska on you if you don’t tell me.”
Leonard was almost chuckling now. “Okay but you insisted. This was Priya’s favorite. She introduced it to me all those years ago.”
For a moment you could see just a flash of jealousy in Penny’s eyes and then she laughed. “I never said Priya didn’t have good taste, she did choose you.” Penny smiled sweetly at him. “I just hated her because she had you and I wanted to throw feces at her.”
Leonard chuckled again. “Throw feces at her?”
Penny blushed. “It’s what monkeys do to challenge each other. The more intelligent the monkey the more feces it throws”
Leonard thought this over for a second. “Pedantic Penny, very pedantic.”
She threatened to slug him then grabbed his arm and pulled him close for a kiss. “Guilty” She said.
Leonard ran his arm around her back and they started walking toward the couch.
“Leonard do you have the key to 4B? I’d love to see my old place.”
Leonard looked a little hesitant, “Yeah, sure it’s in the bowl by the door come on.”
Leonard opened the door to 4B and stepped back to let Penny go first. She reached in to turn on the lights but they came on before she found the switch.
Penny gasped. She had expected an empty apartment. Before her was a fully furnished apartment. The walls freshly painted. The furniture, though it wasn’t the same as hers had been was laid out the same. A small love seat sized sofa, coffee table, chair, desk, two book shelves. The colors where bright, the couch was a light blue. The chair was cloth with a green pattern. The wood of the matching coffee table, end table and book shelves a light maple. There was a small maple table with chairs where she’d had hers. Everything was in the same place as when she had lived here.
She looked at Leonard. He blushed and looked at his feet. “I thought I would rent it furnished, when I finally do decide to rent it.”
“Oh Leonard I loved living here so much. It took me years to finally find a home that ever made me feel like this. Apartments, condos, houses never felt like this did. I finally got the house I have now feeling like home. But this, this is so sweet.”
She turned and wrapped him in a hug. He was still blushing. “I wish I had done it for you but I really did it for me. I loved and missed being here with you. It just wasn’t my apartment that felt like home. It was this apartment that my heart lived in for years. I tried to make it look like it was but realized I couldn’t recapture that. So a little different furnishing but in the same places yours had been. I’ve come over here sometimes in the last few months whenever I was down. I would miss you here, but still knew you were out there somewhere close by. It gave me a center to shed my grief for a while. It was never enough until you came through my door last week.”
Penny hugged him as close as she could hold him. “It’s wonderful Leonard it makes my heart soar. It’s different but even now feels like my home. I’m so glad it brought you comfort, it brings me joy that you would do this.”
She let him go and ventured into the kitchen. It was the same layout with new appliances. Penny walked to the bedroom. The bed was made, blue and orange comforter, shaded lamps a small cushioned chair.
Penny walked back out to Leonard who was standing by the couch. She walked to the door and shut it. Grabbed his hand and pulled him toward her old bedroom.
“We’re staying here tonight.”
Losing track of the days yet? It’s Sunday Dec. 29th 2024
In the United States a new President will be sworn in soon. The college bowl games have started. Penny’s beloved Corn Huskers will be playing in the Cotton Bowl on the first.
Leonard sat on the couch in the apartment, sipping his coffee waiting for Penny to get ready. The apartment across the hall had brought back some rather amorous feelings. But about 1:00AM they had both decided to come back and sleep in Leonard’s bed.
Leonard was staring at the pewter urn that contained Liisa’s ashes. Instead of a grimace he had a slight grin on his face. He hadn’t even noticed that Penny was standing at the end of the hallway. He did notice when she sat down beside him and put her arms around him.
“What are you remembering baby?”
Leonard turned and kissed her, “I was thinking she would be happy for both of us. In many ways she was your biggest fan. Someone who both knew who you were and who you had become. I know she watched your show on the net though she tried to hide it. She had a huge heart, knowing that you would always be part of me she took you into her heart also. I feel lucky to have loved and been loved by her. I’m happy she’s going back home in January. I told Horst I’d bring her ashes to him, it’s his year. I get her back in 2026. She’s going on the mantel next to her grandparents ashes. I have her poetry and writing, pictures and memories that are better reminders and of course I have Lisel”.
He had a stoic look, but you couldn’t detect sadness. Penny though had a look of concern.
“Are you going to be all right with taking her back?”
“I was worried about it before but the ashes will be back with me in a year. Then I’ll take care of them again.”
Penny looked at the urn, “We’ll take care of them together, you me and Lisel”
“Does it bother you that you both live in my heart?”
Penny was thoughtful, “No it makes me feel more loved, we both love you Leonard. She knew it when you were with her. I know it now. I would not have you for a moment try to replace her with me. She is part of you now, a really good part I think.”
Now Leonard smiled. “What are our plans for the day?”
Penny started putting on the black flats she had put on the floor when she sat down.
“We need to go by this little grocery over in Sherman Oaks. My housekeeper gets all the staples and anything I put on the email list for her but I like to buy my own fruit and vegetables. They also have fish and meat so we can pick something fresh out. Then home. We need to get online together and pick stuff out for Lisel’s room, then talk about colors and how we should arrange it. Curtains and”
Leonard stopped her, “You really want to decorate and put her room together don’t you?”
Penny blushed slightly and gave him a wonderful smile.
Leonard smiled, “I’ll just help out then and let you lead the way. I’ve done this a few times already. Think of me as a resource.”
She hugged him again, “Thanks honey I been thinking about it and want to do this so much.”
She pulled back and now she was more serious. “We also need to do a little research and talk about how we deal with Ms. Larson tomorrow.”
Penny stood up and grabbed her garment bag and purse. “Ready to face the jerks outside?”
Leonard stood up and grabbed his bag.
“Do I get to see the Princess Leia costume later?” That raised eyebrow leer on his face.
“Only if you’re a Jedi, do you have a light saber anymore?
Leonard perked up, “I guess we’ll have to go by the comic book store on the way?”
Penny laughed and headed for the door. Leonard told Tish they were leaving and followed her out.
A slight depression
The comic book store looked remarkably as it had 12 years ago. The walls covered in comics and collectables. Tables full of comic books in boxes. The counter was even in the same place. It was a little darker, maybe a touch dingier.
Behind the counter was a mousy looking young man, acne, greasy hair, maybe 17 or 18 with curly red hair. He had on a black t-shirt and jeans. He didn’t raise his head to look at them. He was reading a graphic horror novel, from what Leonard could see it was a bloody one. Leonard looked around, Penny stood behind him. He admired her for a moment, yellow top layered over a light pink one, dark blue jeans, and the black flat shoes. The large sun glasses were still on, her hair up in a clip piled on her head.
“Is Stuart around?”
The kid didn’t look up from his reading. “Uncle Stuart someone’s here to see you.”
“Coming” a depressed sounding monotone voice came from the back room
Stuart came out of the back. He had always been thin, but now he looked positively gaunt. His hair was mostly gone. His complexion was the same sallow color. Leonard decided he was not aging well. But he brightened when he saw Leonard. He walked from behind the counter extending his hand.
“Leonard you’re back in town, It’s nice to see you”
Leonard shook his hand then stepped aside and started to say. “You remember”.
“Penny is that you?” Penny removed the glasses and stepped over and gave Stuart a hug. He stepped back and reached over and slapped his nephew’s shoulder. The kid finally looked up, “Kevin this is Leonard Hoftstader and Penelope Jenson, old friends of mine.” Stuart was beaming Kevin’s mouth was hanging open. Stuart looked at him.
“I told you I knew her, we even dated didn’t we Penny?”
Penny gave them her star smile, Leonard thought. Then she stepped toward Kevin and extended her hand. “Yes we did and your Uncle was an absolute sweetheart and it’s just Penny.” Kevin extended his shaking hand. Penny took it softly in hers for a second, not shaking it just holding it for second and releasing it. She looked Kevin in the eye, his mouth was still agape. “Close your mouth sweetie or brush your teeth more often”
Stuart was all smiles, quite a rarity for him. “What are you guys doing here?”
Penny gave Stuart a warm smile a real one, “Leonard here needs a light saber”. Leonard just nodded.
Leonard watched as Stuart went into business mode. “Jedi or Sith?” His face was very serious.
“Jedi” Leonard said.
Stuart had a little grin, “I have just the one, give me second”. He walked into the back and brought back a lit light saber with a green blade. “It’s a nice one, a limited addition this is number 107 out of 500”. Leonard shook his head, “I know it used to be mine”
Stuart smiled a little bigger. “I never could sell it so I just bought it myself.”
Leonard took the light saber. “Hello old friend, how much?”
Stuarts face went back into business mode, “$700”
Leonard’s mouth dropped open. Stuart had only given him $150 for it 12 years ago. Penny leaned over and said “Leia costume”
“Done” Leonard said.
After paying for the light saber Leonard used his phone and took a picture of Penny standing with her arm around Stuart. She then signed every picture Stuart had of her in the shop, most were publicity stills from here TV show. Stuart had been a fan.
They got in the car and headed for Penny’s grocery store.
Penny was smiling sun glasses off, holding his hand. The traffic was light.
“So how much will Stuart be able to get for your autographed stills?”
Penny laughed, “Not much unless I die tomorrow. I signed thousands of the promo shots when the show was on. All you had to do was write in and ask for one.”
She turned toward Leonard, he was ashen. Her right hand shot to her mouth, “Honey don’t ever think that. I’m sorry.”
Leonard shook his head, “It’s okay it just hit me that’s all, I’m sorry I even went there, it’s just”
Leonard never finished Penny just leaned over and put her head on his shoulder. They drove quietly for a few minutes more. Leonard reached his hand up and touched her face.
“It really is okay, Penny. I shouldn’t be touchy. Want to play some music?”
Penny gave him a very soft kiss on the cheek. Then she started looking through the cars music selection. She went with country and settled back against his shoulder. They drove the rest of the way in a comfortable silence.
Snappy Section Title here, maybe when I’ve written it
The dogs were certainly happy to see them. They took several minutes and commands from Penny before they settled down.
They had went their separate ways for a while Leonard on the couch as Penny worked on finding furniture for Lisel’s room at her desk.
Leonard had settled in on the couch by the tree with his laptop on his lap. He checked his email, there was one from Sheldon.
Subject: Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.
Leonard both Amy and I are excited to come to your wedding in Paris. I have been wanting to take the train through the Channel Tunnel and will finally have the chance. Let Penny know if she would teach Amy to sing the Soft Kitty song correctly when she has time in Paris it would be greatly appreciated.
Penny sat down beside him on the couch in a long pink and white silk robe. She had her own laptop in hand. Leonard leaned over and showed her Sheldon’s email. Penny laughed then started typing on her own laptop.
“Just what I was thinking, your Ms. Larson mostly does celebrity interviews. She does seem to be a mainstream type though no tabloid garbage. I wonder how she found out about us.”
Leonard looked stunned, “You’re saying she was using me to get to you.”
She gave Leonard a smile, “I had a feeling she had, but how did she know to interview you?”
Leonard watched her think it through. Penny’s face was a mask of concentration she had a wrinkle in her brow he had never seen. Then her face was serene, the wrinkle went away. She had her answer.
“Honey tomorrow she thinks she just going to interview you and she is. Invite her in and get her in your chair. I want you to sit on the couch and I’ll come out and sit on the couch next to you. We are going to hold hands on the couch the whole time. If I squeeze your hand you let me answer. If I rub my fingers on your palm just keep quiet and let her rephrase the question. If she asks anything about Lisel we stay silent. She’ll get the idea. If I like her and the way she treats us, I’ll give the interview she’s looking for. But she’ll have to tell me some things first.”
Penny looked intently at Leonard face, “Tomorrow during the interview I’m going to be acting the whole time. I’m going to be Penelope not Penny so don’t be surprised or put off. I don’t let the press see the real me very often. They take advantage of that, I would have to really trust this girl and right now I don’t”
Leonard shook his head yes. He was suddenly filled with enormous respect for the woman before him. She wasn’t the Nebraska farm girl struggling waitress anymore. She was a professional dealing with the vagaries of being a celebrity. He had to remember that. He found it both attractive and intimidating at the same time.
She saw it in his face. Suddenly she was Penny again, soft, alluring and caring. She reached over and put his laptop on the table. She took his hand and started leading him away from the couch.
“Come on Jedi, I have something to show you”
Pink Ponies and White Unicorns
Leonard and Penny enjoyed a quiet day at home. They shared a light breakfast of fruit and scones. Penny showed him paint colors and wall paper for Lisel’s new room. A play center and desk that included a slide. Leonard looked at it all smiling the whole time. He added a comment here and there. But for the most part just listened, watching how excited and involved she was. When she started looking for bedding he started laughing.
She looked up annoyed, “What’s so funny?”
“It’s not funny but you are adorable. You remind me of you 15 years ago. I love seeing you like this. How long have you been thinking of being a mother?”
“Since we were together, even the first time. It scared me thinking about it then. A lot of things did”. She had sadness on her face for a moment.
“I saw little Leonards and Pennys running around. It has always been there, I really never felt that way with anybody else.”
She gave Leonard a slightly sad quirky smile then went back to her laptop.
“Would you like to talk to Lisel tonight, she’s an early riser so she’ll be up about 11:00 tonight?”
Penny looked very excited, “That would be great, I want to see that little face smiling at me again”
Leonard grinned “Me to, I’ll email Horst.”
The front door opened and Patty came through. She had a stack of scripts and mail in her arms. She smiled sweetly at both of them.
“Good morning Leonard, Hi Penny.” Then she walked toward the desk by the patio.
Penny squeezed Leonard’s thigh, “What’d I tell you?”
Leonard just shook his head and smirked.
Truth or the Door
Leonard sat on the couch, in the spot. Sam Larson was sitting across from him in his chair, looking at notes on her tablet. Leonard looked up, smiled, and said “Hi honey”. Penny was dressed the same as when they had left the house. A red tight fitting top, that was long and black stretch pants. She had taken off her boots and was in her bare feet.
Sam seemed shocked for a moment. She stood and turned toward Penny who extended her hand before Leonard could introduce her. “Hi Sam, I’m Penny.” She shook Sam’s offered hand then leaned in and pecked Sam on the cheek. “Thank you for helping me find Leonard again. I thought I’d join you.” She came over to the couch and curled up on Leonard’s right side and took his hand palm to palm. She folded her legs and bare feet up on the couch.
Leonard was a little nervous now. “I’ll be acting”, came into his mind, she was acting like her sweet self. This made Leonard think of a cat playing with a mouse before they bit its head off. She hoped Penny ended up liking Sam or he’d have to clean up the blood stains.
Sam had gotten over the shock and now even looked a little smug. “Well as long as you’re here do you mind if I interview you as well Penelope?”
Now the tone of Penny’s voice changed. “It’s just Penny right now, an interview with Penelope will depend on you.”
Sam was taken aback for a moment, “What do you mean?”
Penny must have given here the wolfish grin, Leonard thought, because Sam had turned slightly pale. Leonard knew that grin, in Halo that grin meant you were about to die.
“I have some questions first Sam, then some ground rules, alright?”
Sam moved toward her recorder, Penny shook head. “What’s your question?”
Leonard felt Penny tense beside him.
“Rule One then Question One. You must be honest with us and we will be honest with you up to a point. If we can’t be honest we will just not answer and you’ll have to move on. But you can’t write that question was ever asked. Speculation is for the tabloids.”
Sam was little stunned, but nodded she agreed.
Penny leaned forward. Leonard could see a slight grin on her face. “How did you find out about Leonard?”
Sam handled it gracefully she started to answer but Penny interrupted. “Sam I already know you’re not a grad student from USC. My publicist tells me you got your masters from there already. You get only one chance here?”
Leonard looked over at Sam there was just a hint of panic or perhaps anger in her green eyes. It’s never easy to get caught in a lie. Would he have given that interview to any reporter off the street? Probably not he decided.
She finally spoke. “I’m a reporter, I researched it.” Leonard felt Penny tensing. Sam must have seen something in Penny’s body language because she quickly expanded her answer. “I did an interview with Jeanie Corbett last year. She told me you had been in love with a physicist from Caltech when you were in New York. She said he moved to the UK and you were really devastated. She couldn’t remember his name though. So I dug around and figured it out. It really wasn’t too difficult. You were the only physicist that went to Oxford in three years. I even have a copy of your sabbatical request.”
She tapped her tablet for a few seconds and handed it to Leonard.
Leonard felt Penny relax a little and lean back. “Yep, that’s my sabbatical request. But why all the detective work, you could have just asked for an interview. Penny might not have even got in contact with me.”
Penny squeezed his hand. “It’s because I don’t give in depth interviews sweetie. I never have given one. I’ll give a show 10 minutes to promote something, or just say hi to my fans. I love my fans. I’ll tweet them, make sure new pictures get out, and make personal appearances to support causes. But I want to live my life as Penny most of the time, not Penelope Jenson.”
Sam spoke up she had been typing on her pad, “Can I use that?”
Penny looked hard at Sam, “Not if you want this interview to continue.” Penny said very softly.
“You must have been disappointed that Leonard hadn’t been in contact with me. No way to get inside?”
Sam smiled this time. “There actually was interest in the story from the Times just for his interview. If they could prove the tie in to you it would be a human interest story to say the least. So they ran it and I added it to the Caltech Ezine through a friend in the humanities department.”
Penny was silent in fact she was staring at Sam very intently. She turned her face to Leonard softly kissed him on the cheek.
“Leonard I say we give Miss Larson her interview.” She turned back to Sam. “Here are the rest of the rules. You interview us together as a couple. You get one hour, no video, voice only and no broadcast rights. Don’t ask questions about family. If we chose not to answer a question you never asked it. What do you say?”
Sam nodded, Leonard leaned forward. “You have to say yes Sam so it gets recorded.”
Sam looked around, “we’re being recorded”, and Leonard nodded. Sam looked a touch rattled then composed herself. “Yes I agree to your rules”
Leonard smiled at her, “Tish take all the audio for last 20 minutes and keep a permanent archive, tag it with Sam Larson please.”
“Yes Leonard it’s done.”
“Tish start a timer for 1 hour please and let us know when it’s up and record it with the same tag”
Leonard looked at Sam, “What’s the first question?”
Sam looked just a little spooked. “Okay who’s Tish?”
Not Pulling Teeth
Tish had just called time on the hour. Sam had stopped and looked at her tablet. “I had a few more questions, but I know the rules.”
Penny smiled at Sam. Leonard felt this one was a genuine smile. “Anything earth shattering left to ask”?
“There is one I’d like to get to, Leonard what did you think of Penny’s TV show?”
Leonard froze, “Oh I ah, ah”, Leonard remembered the rules and chose not to answer.
Penny squeezed his hand, only the second time in the whole interview and answered for him. “He’s never seen it he was at CERN when the series was on.”
Sam smiled then got up. “Well I guess that’s it, I need to go down before you two do so those scumbags don’t run me over.”
Penny laughed and offered her hand again. Sam took it. No pecks on the cheeks were exchanged. “Take care Sam”. Penny smiled and walked toward the kitchen. Leonard shook Sam’s hand also and she did give him a peck on the cheek. Sam whispered in his ear.
Leonard showed her to the door. He turned to see Penny with a small grin on her face. “What did she whisper to you?”
Leonard smiled “only that she was happy for me. How do you think we did by the way?”
Penny shook her head considering, “Let’s see we decided to not answer the question about your mother, and if we’re planning on children. We were suitably vague about our wedding intentions. The only one she got a score on was the last one. They always save one zinger for when you’re gracious enough to let them ask one more.”
Leonard shook his head, “I didn’t think you gave in depth interviews. How would you know that?”
Penny looked at him and took several breaths and her face and body relaxed. She smiled that smile that he knew few people had seen. “I still haven’t, she’s going get home and read the transcript and realize all but the last question is already out. Either on the website, Twitter and everywhere else Josh put it. Oh she’ll polish it up and it will get play on the entertainment page. She could even break her promise and talk about the questions we didn’t answer. But she probably won’t, I actually kind of liked her. She did care about the questions she asked.”
Penny put her arms around Leonard’s neck and kissed him. She kept kissing him. When she pulled back she had a twinkle in her eye. “It’s really nice to be me again. Should we head home, have dinner, make love then get up at 11:00 and see Lisel?”
He pulled her back close, “After that kiss I think a better plan is make love now, get Thai food on the way home, and play with dogs then see Lisel.
Oh Leonard you are such a rebel.
Penny, Leonard, Einstein and Leaky were gathered around the TV. Schrodinger was on Penny’s lap purring. Horst would call in just a few more minutes and they would get to see Lisel. Leonard’s cell phone beeped. “Their ready, Leonard dialed the number then synced to the video recorder and the TV in the wall. He adjusted the picture of them and hit the send key.
Horst was on the screen, he smiled, it was a warm smile, a little world weary, but warm. “Hello Penny, Hello Leonard. Penny this is my wife Lena.” Penny waved at Lena, who apparently didn’t speak English. She was younger than Horst who Leonard said was 62, she looked in her mid-fifties. Then Lisel was on the screen. “Hi Papa, hello Penny, oh look at das puppies.”
Penny held up Schrodinger. “Oh ein Miezekatzekatze”, you could hear Horst tell Lisel to speak English. “It’s a lovely kitty Penny, he’s so cute. Can we keep him Papa?”
Leonard looked at Penny than back to Lisel, “Yes Lisel, her name is Schrodinger. And this is Einstein and Leaky.” Leonard patted each dogs head. “They are our dogs as well.”
Lisel was so excited she was jumping up and down, little blond curls bouncing. “Papa how much longer before I can come home?”
Leonard was somber for a moment, “Soon little Lisel, soon. But Grandmama and Grandpapa need you their right now so they can love on you.”
Lisel suddenly hugged Lena, “Grandmama says I must take my bath now, goodbye Papa, goodbye Penny, goodbye kitty and doggies.”
She waved and Horst was on the screen. “Was geschieht, geschieht in der Stille. Goodnight Leonard and Penny. Talk to you Sunday.”
Horst had hung up.
Leonard stared at the blank screen.
“What did Horst say Leonard?”
Leonard pulled back from where he had been. “It’s from one of Liisa’s favorite poems. What happens, happens in silence. A subtle reminder that Liisa’s birthday is Sunday. ”
Penny had a tear in her eye, “It’s a lovely line can I try it?”
Penny prepared for a moment, her face very soft and the voice she used was commanding yet low almost hushed. “What happens….happens in silence:*
*The line is from The Private Life by Lisel Mueller
Leonard sat alone on the patio by the pool, the mid-morning light glistening off the water. Einstein and Leaky were sleeping below the table. He sipped his coffee wondering if he should just retire and do this every morning. He just might if Penny would to. She was doing voice overs for a movie at the studio this morning. She’d taken Patty with her. The housekeeper would be here soon, but for now he was alone. He missed Penny and Lisel, then suddenly Liisa. He just let the tears run down his face, not really crying just leaking out. He thought about a line from Liisa’s last letter to him.
“You’ve always done the right thing for people, even when it turned out wrong. Keep doing that darling, no harm will come from a true heart.”
He heard the vacuum cleaner start through the open patio door and knew his solitude had ended. Wiping his cheeks and eyes he opened his laptop that was on the table and moved it to the table edge. His email was mostly the usual. Horst would send a videomail with Lisel later. Howard and Bernadette wanted to go to the movie Friday, did they want to double? Then he saw the email from Sam Larson.
“Leonard my article will be in the Sunday addition this week. Before then do you two want to tell me about your daughter? These people seem to know about her. Want to set the record straight.”
There was a link to a website, Leonard clicked it.
The headlines were in bold, some rag called “The Donner Report”. Their logo was of someone chewing on a human arm.
“Star in Weekend Tryst with Genius, but who’s taking care of his little girl.
Leonard felt like his mouth should be hanging open but he realized he was grinding his teeth. The anger in him rising, “son of a bitch!” escaped his lips. He scanned the article. They couldn’t even spell her name correctly and said she was 6 years old. There was a picture of Penny and Leonard leaving the apartment. The story went on to say the childless actress had hooked up with an old flame making him abandon his daughter. Most of the slander was directed at “Miss Jenson” or “Penelope” as they were calling her. That the couple announced they were engaged after only being together a few days.
Leonard seethed, could no longer stay seated. He stood up and paced back and forth. The dogs were up now following him. It took him a few more minutes but at last he was calm. Would this turn out wrong? He sat down and typed a reply to Sam.
“Sam my daughter is 4 years old and her name is Lisel, please spell it correctly. She spent the holidays with her grandparents in Europe. She’ll be coming home to live with Penny and I in February. You may include that information in the article,
Leonard sent it and copied both the whole email with the links and his reply to Patty who took care of Penny’s email.
He then composed an email in German to Horst telling him to watch out for the press. He attached the link to the gossip blog and sent it.
He then called Howard.
“Howard you got any kids that are real good hackers, I mean gloom and doom type”
“Great I have a job for them, tell them it pays well. I’ll email the rest.”
He started typing an email to Howard, the subject was “Thermonuclear War”
Can’t Beat a Geek, Well at Computer Games Anyway
Leonard surfed the web for a while. There were other sites with stories about them. But most were just gossip, paparazzi pictures. Some had wild speculation about their upcoming wedding. Most quoted or used part of Sam’s original article or even linked to it. One even said he was a widower with a young daughter but nothing vile like the first site.
Leonard was satisfied; he sat back in the chair. It was quiet again and his coffee was cold.
The phone rang. It was Howard, Leonard answered on speaker phone so he could continue to type if he needed to:
“Okay Howard what did you and the kids find out?”
“Is this line secure?” Leonard smirked and shook his head. “Sure let’s say it is.”
“We found their server farm, it’s in Long beach. The name of the media company is DTR limited out of Delaware. They run a bunch of seedy blogs, porn sites, and from the look of things some pretty racy chat rooms. Six servers load balanced, online storage, near line also. Do you want to see the video feed from the server room camera?”
“Nope, can they do it?”
“Sure you want the whole thing done still?”
“Yep, how long to get ready and how long will it take?”
Howard was talking to someone else for several seconds. “They’ll be ready in about 3 hours kill and wipe the backups, change the server and battery backup firmware, and load the dragon. Then once we tell it go it will take about an hour to complete, though the last 35 minutes is to make sure the hardware is fried. The site will be toast in the first minute or two. Might take a few seconds to start we’re routing through Nigeria?”
“Thanks Howard let’s shoot for a 4:00 PM start.”
“Leonard the guys want to know how much you’re paying them.”
“How much do they want?”
“Pizza, a case of beer and five hundred should cover it. I think they would do it for just the pizza and beer really.”
Leonard laughed, “That will work with the $500 each, Howard start it at 4:00PM then.”
Howard hung up and Leonard picked up the laptop and moved inside. He sat in front of the Christmas tree and turned on the fireplace. Opened his laptop back up, 12:30PM he noticed. He opened up his media player and started watching season 1 of The Limit staring Penelope Jenson. Several minutes later laughter could be heard in the room.
Subtle Anger, Nebraska style
Penny stepped out of the sound booth. She handed her scripts to one of the AD’s. She smiled over at the director and waved. He had his headphones on so he just waved back. Penny went over toward her chair. Saying goodbye and giving a few hugs to people she knew. Patty was standing by the chair. Penny knew something bad had happened. Patty was smiling but her body language very tense. Penny walked over and Patty handed her the tablet. There was an email from Leonard, it was encrypted. Penny typed her password in. Penny looked down to see the Donner Report website. She betrayed no emotion just hissed, “Dammit”. She looked over at Patty there must be more she’s still wound up
Penny touched the tablet closing the website, Leonard’s email was visible. She read Sam’s email and Leonard’s reply then closed the email. She handed the tablet back to Patty. It was almost 3:00PM. “Nothing we can do here let’s go home.”
Penny sat in the back of the town car as they were being driven home. Something was nagging at her. She asked for the tablet back from Patty and reread the website. Why did they misspell Lisel’s name and get her age wrong. If it was someone who knew Leonard or Lisel they would know the details. She’s only four years old she goes to daycare then back home with Leonard. Who heard her name but didn’t know her age.
Penny turned slowly toward Patty. She’s still tense.
Penny got very sad. Patty had been with her for two years. “Patty we need to get some things for Lisel when we get home. What grade will she be in?”
Patty looked more relaxed, “6 year olds are usually in kindergarten or first grade.”
“Patty Lisel’s only 4 and I’m pretty sure you can’t spell her name either.” Now Patty was really tense. Penny had put on her coldest face. “Patty give me your phone and your keys now.” Patty handed her keys and phone to Penny, tears started streaming down Patty’s face.
Patty tried to speak but Penny held up her hand. “It doesn’t matter Patty, it really doesn’t. Driver pull over this woman is going to be sick.”
The car pulled to the sidewalk, a nice residential neighborhood was off to the left.
“Get out Patty.”
Patty opened the door and stepped out. Penny closed the door and told the driver to continue home. She got her phone out and dialed. “Josh I just fired Patty, I’ll need another PA at the house Thursday. Didn’t you say that Chelsea girl was sweet, let’s give her a try. Thanks Sweetie.”
Penny hung up and took several deep breaths, and started to cry angry tears.
King Leo the first
Penny came home to find Leonard watching a TV show on his laptop. She walked up behind him and kissed him on the cheek. Then she was staring at her own face on the screen. “Oh that’s season 1. Why are you watching my old show? You don’t have to for me.”
Leonard paused the show and pulled her onto the couch. “You tried reading my text book and my papers. I think I should see these, I’ve watched four episodes already and you’re very funny. But I see what you mean by being the character. She’s not you. She’s passive/aggressive, and funny but a little bit hard. You do her so well, but she doesn’t have both your soft heart and inner strength.”
Penny almost cried, right answer Leonard, she thought. She snuggled up closer to him.
“I fired Patty today she gave the information to the Donner Report.”
“Why would she do that?”
Penny shook her head, “Doesn’t really matter now being a PA is about loyalty. I knew she had issues with me seeing you. Are you okay, I should have called you but by the time I got done with my work you hadn’t called me? I just assumed you were alright or you were moving your clothes back to the apartment.”
He kissed her lightly, “Actually I’ve got to go get the rest tomorrow. Was my response to Sam okay?”
Penny smiled, “Just right you gave the essentials, we may have to give that girl a real interview when we get back from Europe and can show off the Hoftstader family.” She snuggled in even more. “I’ll have Josh deal with the Donner Report, though they’re probably judgment proof”
Leonard’s grin was huge, even slightly wicked. “There are other kinds of judgments. We won’t be seeing much of the Donner Report website for a while. There about to become server-less.” Leonard looked at his watch, “in about 10 minutes.”
Penny wasn’t following him. “What are you talking about?”
“You shouldn’t know the details. Just watch”
Leonard opened his laptop and pulled up the link to the Donner Report then just waited. When the site refreshed at 4:04PM it changed. A black screen with a cartoon Blonde Valkyrie stomping the Donner Report logo into mushy red lumps. A counter at the bottom read 46 minutes to Meltdown,
Penny laughed, “What happens in 46 minutes?”
“A server farm in Long Beach is going to have a serious power issue. Of course all the backups and current storage has been wiped so no getting anything back. But the power issue will take out the rest of the hardware.”
Penny gasped, “How did you.”
“Howard and some talented people” Leonard’s eyes were shining.
Penny put both hands on his face, turned to him and kissed him.
“You don’t disrespect the King of the Nerds girl. Or he comes down on ya”
Penny kissed him again, “Oh you are so gangsta”
Early Morning Meanderings
Penny woke up alone, she almost panicked. She’d become accustom to being curled up next to Leonard. His arm wrapped around her as she slept. An old comfort she’d never forgotten. She sat up. The clock said 2:37AM. Where was he? She got up and slid her furry slippers on. She left her robe beside the bed and walked to the great room. The Christmas tree lights were on. Leonard was on the couch. There was a bottle of scotch on the table, an empty glass next to it. Leonard was leaning back against the corner of the couch asleep.
Penny grabbed a blanket from the chest next to the couch. She sat down next to him, and then snuggled into him. Wrapping her arms around him and pulling the blanket over them both. She looked at the tree, trying to see what he saw. What she saw were Christmases spent apart, not enough spent together. Did Leonard see that too? She hoped the tree cheered him up it had seemed to.
Penny made a silent promise to herself. Leonard would never have another Christmas alone without her there. She could make that happen. She’s made a lot of things happen in her life. She knew when to be stubborn and insistent about things she wanted. She realized that keeping Leonard happy was one of those things she wanted. She snuggled closer and closed her eyes. He moved slightly and wrapped his arm around her. He muttered her name and went back to sleep. She saw clearly in that moment. Screw the career, the fame and Hollywood. She wanted with all her might to be pregnant, to be pregnant and to raise Lisel and their baby.
She reached up and touched the face of the broken hearted and weary man she loved. She could be pregnant even now. They had sex more in the last week than she’d had in the last 2 years. She realized this was what Patty had been afraid of. That she would get pregnant and decide that a family would end her career. That she wouldn’t be needed anymore. She was sure she was paid well for the information. It made her sad she had been relying on Patty for over two years. It hurt that Patty had violated her trust. It was like Patty’s plastic surgery to fix her nose and chin. It had made her too perfect for being in anything more than bit parts. Patty had been edging toward pornography before she had come to work for Penny’s production company. Penny had always thought she had saved her from that alternative. That was beyond her control now. She thought of Star Wars, Patty had gone over to the dark side.
Penny opened her eyes and stared at the tree. It made her think of home. Nebraska and her mom and dad were clearly in her mind. It hadn’t been perfect, far from it. But she had been loved. The Christmases had been wonderful, some of her best memories. She thought of the family gatherings of her aunts, uncles and cousins for Christmas Eve. She suddenly longed for her family. Then she realized it was for her and Leonard’s own family. She would build that with Leonard and Lisel and whatever little soul may be within her now or very soon.
Penny knew that she was at a point in her life and Leonard’s where it was all possible. She had been wondering this past week where to take all this. Where was it leading? The answer was clear now. She meant to be a mommy to Lisel and their child. She thought of Liisa and what her letter might say. She hoped it was a wish for her to be happy and to care for Leonard and Lisel. That was her intention, her want and passion. She was done with this current life. How did Leonard put it, a new half-life. It was clear now a new second half of her life was going to begin. She was closing her eyes when Leonard stirred. He held her tighter.
“Sorry baby I must have fell asleep. I had a bad dream?” he said very softly. She tightened her grip on him.
Penny whispered “Ready to go back to bed?”
He responded by starting to unwrap himself from her. She helped him never letting her hand leave his. She started leading him to the bedroom, leaving the tree lit.
“Next time you have a bad dream honey, just wake me I won’t mind.”
They were in the bedroom now, she helping him into bed and snuggling into his chest. His breathing got deeper, sleeping now.
She whispered softly “I will always be there now Leonard, every moment you need me.”
She closed her eyes, her head on his chest and shoulder, his arm around her when sleep finally returned.
Working through the Numbers
It was early. The morning light was just starting to filter in from patio doors. Penny felt Leonard move to get up. Sleepily Penny said, “Where you going mister?”
Leonard continued sliding out of bed, “You know me, love them and leave them Hoftstader. Even physicists have to pee, especially 45 year old ones.” He was up now. “I’ll be back,” this was done in his best terminator imitation. She smiled, it wasn’t a good one. Penny rolled onto her back and waited for him. A few moments later she heard the toilet flush and he was back. “Did you put the seat down?”
Leonard slid in beside her and lay on his side. His face was in her hair and right hand on her tummy. “What seat?” Penny elbowed him gently, an old joke from years gone by. She was staring at the ceiling. “Why don’t they ever put anything on the bedroom ceiling to look at?”
Leonard lifted his head up onto his hand looking over at her. “They did in the old palaces and townhouse in Europe. They have huge murals with angels, cherubs, or landscapes. But I kind of like the view down here better.” She turned her head and he kissed her very softly. She reached her left hand behind his head and kissed him harder. They broke their kiss and rubbed noses together. Leonard lay back down and put his face back into her hair and pulled her close.
“Honey I was thinking that after we get back from Europe with Lisel I want to make a career change.”
Leonard rubbed his hand down her tummy. “I’m pretty sure the Cheesecake Factory will give you your job back. You gave notice and everything.”
Penny elbowed him again. “I mean it Leonard I think I want to stay home and be a mom. I can take Lisel to pre-school and kindergarten, and then take care of her brother or sister when they come along.” Leonard sat up again.
“That’s a huge decision Penny. Your career has always been important to you. You could be starting into a really successful new phase in movies and TV. Are you sure about this?”
Penny continued to stare at the blank ceiling. “I have some commitments that I will have to honor. I’ve told several producers that I would do their projects if they get them to the stage of filming. But it’s pretty clear to me what I really want.”
Penny turned and cuddled into him. She sunk herself into his chest and he held her tight.
“I want this Leonard. To wake up every day with you there, wrapped in your arms. Knowing my children are just down the hall waiting for me to start their day. It’s never been clear to me as it is right now.”
Leonard ran his hand up and down her tummy and thigh, “How would you do it. Make an announcement, or what?”
“First I need to tell my agent not to except scripts or work for me. Then tell josh and the rest of my folks that I’m scaling back further. I’m already at a low ebb as compared to when the show was on. I would still need to go to the major awards shows. Oh and you’re going to need a couple of formal suits, need to call your girl in London. If you don’t mind I’ll help pick them out.”
Leonard made a low whistle, “Sure, just give me the options you like. What awards shows?”
Penny rolled on her side to face him. Leonard pulled her hips closer to him and slid his hand up and down her lower back.
“The Oscars, Golden Globes and SAG for sure. They’re kind of fun actually. Think of a big dress up ball with live entertainment and parties. Usually I leave fairly early but once in while you’ll be with some real special people and things go late. You don’t have to go with me but I’d like you to.”
Leonard pulled her closer and kissed her. Penny pulled back and gave him that funny smirk.
“I can see you’re still stuck on the get me pregnant part of the plan. Good choice”
Leonard’s hand ran lower to her butt, “Yep”
Penny rolled onto her side and melted into Leonard’s side while he remained on his back. She was breathing heavy as was he. She pulled the comforter up over them and snuggled in as close as she could.
“Penny you can’t real ever fully retire can you? They’ll always be fans, paparazzi, and the press.”
Penny thought it through for a minute. She thought about friends who had left the business.
“You can after a while. Your popularity will get to a low state once you’re not working any longer. Eventually unless you have some kind of scandal most of your life should be pretty normal. Or you can become a recluse.”
Leonard laughed, “Somehow I don’t see you as the reclusive type. Especially once the kids are old enough to go to Disney.”
Penny got a huge smile, “Won’t that be great, do you know if you’re a celebrity you get to go to the front of the lines for the rides. Have you taken Lisel yet?”
Now Leonard smiled, “I was waiting for her to turn 5. I haven’t asked but how are you financially?”
“I’ve done pretty well, I’m actually making more now than when I made the show. The show actually has a larger following in syndication. How about you how much do you really have?”
Leonard blushed, “Somewhere around 25 million Euros actually. It amazes me how much easier it was to make money once you had money. Lisel’s trust fund is about a third of that hers is invested very conservatively. It doesn’t feel like real money it’s just a number or a tool to get something you need.”
“Leonard can we move Tish here?”
“Well we’d just make another Tish here, let me talk to Howard and see if he can design it and arrange for it to be done while we’re in Europe. We’re going to have to get a dog and Schrodinger sitter anyway.”
Penny started rubbing her hand on Leonard’s chest. “I guess we should finally get up.”
Leonard turned on his side and kissed her. “Happy New Year’s Wonder Woman”
Penny had forgotten, “Go Huskers”
Geneva Switzerland, Lisel’s bedroom, 7:20 PM
Lena set next to Lisel on the floor. She was surrounded by her audience 3 dolls, a stuffed kitty, doggy and her long eared white rabbit Rascal. Lisel read from the book, she got most of the words right. She only had to ask her grandmother what some meant.
Lisel looked up at her animals, “Rascal pay attention there’s a rabbit in this story.”
Lisel finished the story. She looked up to see her Grandfather in the doorway.
Horst smiled, “What are you reading little Lisel”
Lena answered for her. “A 3rd grade reading primer I got at the used book store.”
Lena gave her husband a huge grin. Horst raised his bushy eyebrows, “Wonderful, perhaps she’s ready to read this.” He handed a child’s birthday card to Lisel.
Lisel looked over, “It’s for me” She read the card:
On your first birthday:
This white little bunny from me to you
Hold him close and keep him warm.
Love him as your papa and mama love you.
Keep this little white bunny safe from harm
and remember always mommy loved you.
Lisel looked at her grandmother, “Did mommy make Rascal grandmama?”
“No Lisel, your mama was to sick so she asked your grandaunt Camille to make him for you so she could give him to you. Camille made one for your mommy when she was a baby.” Lena was getting a little teary.
“Grandmama will I ever get a new mama?”
Horst answered her, “I think you will very soon.”
“Who will it be?”
Lena answered smiling at Lisel, “Miss Penny. She’s coming with your papa to come get you”
Lisel got very excited grabbing up Rascal. “Penny with the doggies and the kitty, that will be wonderful? When are they coming, will they bring the doggies and kitty?”
Horst replied “No the animals will have to stay at home”
Lisel was still excited, “When are they coming grandpapa? I want to meet mama Penny”
Lena put her hand on Lisel, calming her and spoke softly. “In a few weeks, now back to your reading, and then it will be bedtime. Would you like me to read a story to you tonight?”
“Can we read it together?”
Horst picked up the birthday card. He’d better send an email to Leonard and let him know the next video call might be interesting.
Mumbai, India 11:00 PM
Raj sat at his desk, his wife had just gone to bed. Oh cow how that woman could talk. It had taken him years to be able to talk to women. The he finally could and his wife Aisha would just not shut up. His mistress was just as bad, never a peaceful moment. He checked his search engine filters for any news. It had been a few days since he’d last checked. His collected entries were mostly about TV shows and movie stars he followed. The third one down made him sit up and his mouth drop open
Penelope Jenson engaged to Caltech Physicist
He clicked the article which was a brief news release
Penelope Jenson TV and screen star to marry Caltech professor Leonard Hoftstader PhD in private ceremony. No details of the wedding plans were available.
Raj started typing an email to Howard to get the details. He also forwarded the item to his sister Priya. Raj wondered if Howard was even still at Caltech, Bernadette made the big money they could have moved on. He checked the school website and found his way to the faculty page. Howard was there and now with PhD after his name.
When Raj had come back to India 10 years ago it was to try and find a wife. He had every intention of returning to California. Though Sheldon thought he was insane to take a sabbatical and come back to India to find a wife. He had done it anyway his marriage was arranged by his parents. Aisha was pretty and very tiny then, now three children later really neither. He’d taken on his mistress last year just to lighten his mood. Once Raj was married he tried to return to the United States but could not get a work visa. Then Aisha was pregnant and it was impossible to go back. He and Howard had kept in contact for a couple of years but that communication had gradually faded away.
Raj hadn’t communicated with Leonard or Penny since they split up and Leonard moved to Oxford. They had not been close for several years before he left, because of Leonard dating Priya and then Raj’s unfortunate aborted sexual encounter with a very drunk Penny. Until Raj had read the engagement notice he had no idea Leonard had come back from Europe. Raj spent his day’s now teaching astrophysics at the University of Mumbai and helping his Mother run their many and varied businesses.
He did miss his old friends though, and it was a perfect excuse to get away from both his wife and his mistress. His friends would be so surprised to see he could talk to women now. That electroshock therapy by a psychiatrist friend of his father had cured him. Well kind of cured him he was still deathly afraid of pretty women but would shudder and wet himself if he didn’t speak to them.
He sent his first email to Howard in over five years, and waited to see if he could be invited. He hoped so, there would be all the stars Penny knew there, and he could have a hamburger. Thanks be to Cow.
Father knows Best when Mother is not in the room
Cambridge England 6:45 PM
Amy was 7 months pregnant, it was a good thing she didn’t laugh much. Because even the slightest titter would make bladder control disappear. She was looking around for her husband Sheldon and their 2 year old son Tyler. She found them in the model train room together. They were both playing with the wooden toy train set on the floor rather than the huge model train layout all around them. Sheldon was explaining, “This one is Thomas” said Sheldon gently as he handed the engine to Tyler. Tyler promptly stuck it in his mouth and began sucking on it. “Oh my Sheldon” said quietly, “I think we should not suck on trains.” He put his hand out and Tyler spit it into his hand. Sheldon took a sanitized wipe from the container next to him and cleaned the toy. Then took another wipe and wiped his hands.
“Sheldon has Leonard told you where the weddings going to be in Paris yet? All my emails to him come back with an automated reply that says “Be Patient Amy”, I may need to call him.” Sheldon gave that koala bear smile, of his. “Leonard emailed me that no one will know where it is before we get in the cars to drive there. They are worried about the press.” Sheldon went back to playing with his son. Amy waddled out of the room, thinking this baby might be twins but knew better. Perhaps Sheldon and I can have sex if we want to have another one or we’re getting a surrogate.
Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Auburn Tigers
Burbank California 2:30 PM
Penny got the popcorn in the bowl, chips and salsas were already on the coffee table. She had on her Nebraska shirt, red hat with a large white N and grey sweats that said Nebraska up the leg. The game started at 3:00. Leonard decided to tease her. “You know Oregon is playing Michigan in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, we could have gone to a live football game. Both teams are ranked higher than Nebraska.”
“Hold your tongue Hofstadter”, she placed the popcorn on the coffee table then walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, and grabbed his butt with both hands.
“Go Huskers?” Leonard said with just a tiny bit of enthusiasm. Penny kissed him. “That’s better but with a little more pep next time”
“So who’s coming over the old husker’s crowd?”
“Nope, just you and me honey, I was invited over to a couple of Cotton Bowl parties but I think I’ll just stay home and watch it with you.” A dog’s head rubbed her knees, “Oh and my other boys” she said rubbing Leaky’s head. Einstein was eyeing the popcorn over by the table.
They sat down on the couch, cuddling up and watching as the players entered the field. Leonard knew the cuddling would only last until the actual game started. Then Penny would go into fan mode. Leonard’s phone was on the kitchen counter, he heard it buzz and beep for an email. “I’ll check that and get us a couple of beers.” He got up and headed for the kitchen.
Leonard grabbed his phone he had not one but two emails. One was from Horst and one from Howard. He started back toward the couch. Howard subject just said “Raj is coming to the wedding, I invited him.” Leonard smiled at that, there had been a time when he really liked Raj it would be good to see him again. He sat back down and opened Horst’s email and read it. A huge grin sat upon his face. Penny looked over and saw his face.
“Something good must have happened?”
“A couple of things actually, Raj is coming to the wedding.” Penny smiled at this and waited for the second piece of news”
“I got an email from Horst, I wish you could read it but it’s in German. I’ll read it to you”
“Leonard some news you may be interested in, your daughter is reading at a 3rd grade level. She asked us today if she would ever have another mother. We told that Penny was coming with you to get her. She’s very excited to meet a mama Penny. Let Penny know, Liisa would be so happy. I wanted you both to be ready the next time we do a video mail.
Penny had tears in her eyes. She grabbed Leonard around the neck and buried her face in his neck. “I promise Leonard I will be the best mother to Lisel, and I’ll make Liisa proud.”
Leonard just hugged and kissed her head. “I know you will honey, I know you will.
He lifted her head off his shoulder, “Come on its kick off or whatever, Go Huskers.”
This time he said it with pep.
Nebraska beats Auburn 27-24 on a last second field goal Penny almost wet her sweats.
Oregon crushed Michigan 47-21 and we again wonder why they are not in the national championship game.
Leonard awoke to a very wet nose pushed into his right ear. He flinched and took his right arm off Penny to push Leaky off the bed. Penny groaned, “How does that dog manage to open a closed door. I have to remember to lock it.” Einstein said hello next by jumping up on the foot of the bed. Leonard rolled onto his back and Penny rolled with him tucking into the crook of his left shoulder.
“What’s got into them this morning?” Leonard sleepily said stretching his right arm.
Penny snuggled a little closer, “Nothing really they just want the old routine back. Before I became engaged to this amazing sexy professor I would get up every morning I didn’t have work and take them for a walking jog. Then come home and work out. But lately I’m just staying in bed all morning with you.”
Leonard pulled her closer, “At least I’ve been giving you the work out part.”
Penny snorted under breath “who did most of the work last night.”
Leonard chuckled, “Your choice.”
She then rose up and kissed his cheek. She started to get out of bed. “Who wants to go for a little jog today?” The two dogs immediately howled then quieted when she raised her hand. She grabbed her yellow robe and called over her shoulder, “Coffee Leonard”
Leonard rolled on his right side, “I could get used to this routine, sure.”
Leonard sat at the counter drinking his morning coffee reading the news on his tablet. Penny had taken the dogs for their walk and the house was very quiet. He checked his mail. His banker in Geneva said the 4th quarter looked very good about a 6% gain on his trust and Lisel’s trust was up about 4% for the year. He would need to talk to him soon and set something up so Penny could access his in case, He thought about the case, he was 9 years her senior. There would and should be a time when he wouldn’t be there anymore. It would be far better than the alternative. An overwhelming sadness fell over him. Penny and Lisel would miss him and that would hurt them terribly. He knew that hurt, an emptiness for a loved one that can never really be filled. There is no healing the wound, just learning to live with it. There was no conflict in his mind. Penny was his first love and he loved her more now if that was possible. But he missed Liisa. He missed her laugh and the way she could lift his mood. He missed listening to her read her poetry to him. The way she would touch his hand to calm him down when someone frustrated him. How she could handle a difficult person with such gentleness and finesse. Penny could also. She knew how to handle people. She could be soft or hard depending on what was required. He did think it took a toll on her though.
Sometimes it took time to get back to herself, to get out of the part that needed to be played. He decided he better start going on the walk with the dogs too. Get out and get more exercise, maybe cut back the scotch a bit. If he let Penny know she would certainly be motivating him to do it. Probably just work on it myself, at least for now.
He thought of the possibility of another child. It made him smile but the same fear of leaving them was there. Yep, got to start using the exercise room he thought. Though he loathed exercising, he liked to walk and keep active but some deep fear from gym class was still there. He started doing the math in his head. Lisel would be 18 when he was 59. If they had another child in the next year or two he’d be 64 or older when that child was 18. It was coming down to spending the next 20 years working or spending time with his family. Money wasn’t a question still he was what he was a physicist and now an administrator. This was over thinking but of the right kind he decided. But he needed another perspective. He needed to talk to Penny about it. Then he heard the dogs and Penny at the door. Leonard pulled himself into the present turning to see two very happy dogs and his winded goddess coming through the door.
Assistant to a Person
Leonard helped Penny get the dogs out of their harnesses and put the leashes away. Penny caught her breath and he poured her some more coffee. She had on black tights and running shorts and a pink athletic tank top. Her pink running shoes matched the top and she had her Nebraska hat on. She sat next to Leonard at the bar still breathing a little hard. “Chelsea should be here in a few minutes, you should get in the shower.”
“Chelsea?” Leonard hadn’t heard about Chelsea.
“Sorry, she wants to be my new assistant. You’ll like her she’s young, cute and shorter than you.” She had a wicked little grin from that last remark.
“You’re not taller than me until the heels go on, besides I like taller older women.”
This prompted a slap on the arm. Leonard feigned injury and started toward the bedroom with his coffee.
After his shower he decided that blue khakis and white button down shirt looked good for meeting a potential assistant.
Leonard started up the hall, as he approached the great room he could hear Penny’s distinctive laugh. Not an acted laugh either but Penny’s high pitched giggle.
Penny and a young girl really, were sitting on the couches in the TV area. “Leonard this is Chelsea. Chelsea this is my fiancé Dr. Leonard Hoftstader PhD.”
Leonard offered his hand, she took it without rising. “Just Leonard will do, nice to meet you Chelsea.”
Chelsea had brown hair with red highlights cut short but straight framing her face. She had a pleasant face with large dark brown eyes a prominent nose and lovely smile. Leonard wasn’t sure of her ethnicity. She was dressed conservatively in a tan skirt, white shirt, and matching tan jacket. Her shoes low healed black leather.
Leonard sat next to Penny on the other couch. “Chelsea and I were just comparing notes on Nebraska. She’s from Grand Island that’s West of Omaha.”
Leonard nodded trying picture a map of Nebraska but it wouldn’t come. He just smiled.
“So Chelsea, Josh has filled you in on the basics of this job. My personal assistant is pretty much on call unless you’re on vacation. That said I try to respect weekends, holidays and any personal time you need unless I’m working. If I’m working, you’re working, got it? You’ll know when because you keep my calendar, both personal and professional.”
“Okay let’s start there, ma’am is fine but I prefer Penny when were in private or public. But you have to refer to me as Ms Jenson or Penelope to other people. They might not even know who you’re talking about if you don’t. Not a lot of people are going to call me Penny. ”
Chelsea nodded, very serious now. Leonard tried not to smile he was surprised she wasn’t taking notes. Penny was being gentle with her, just guiding her along like they were going on a trip together.
“Chelsea this is really the most important thing. You are going to get to see the inside of our lives.” She reached over and put her hand on Leonard’s leg and looked at him. Leonard nodded. “Leonard, his daughter and I will be living our lives and you will be witness to it. What you witness must be totally confidential you’re not to talk to anyone about our personal lives. That is the kind trust I have to have in my PA and that’s why Patty got fired. I’m not working today so I have a list of things I want you to do. But what I really need for you is to think about that trust. You’ve already signed the confidentiality agreement but this agreement is personal between us.”
She squeezed Leonard’s leg again. He knew it was to show that us was both of them not just Penny.
Chelsea was a little hesitant but Penny smiled at her and put her at ease. “You can get started, go ahead and use my desk by the patio. The task list is in your mail. We’ll go over my calendar later.”
Chelsea gave her a smile, “Okay boss, I’ll get started.” She got up and headed back to the far end of the great room where the desk was.”
Leonard leaned over and said quietly, “She’s very young?”
Penny smiled softly at Chelsea’s back, “18, same age I was when I got here. I hope she stays Leonard. Before you came out she told me she’s half Rosebud Sioux. That’s where she gets such beautiful skin and lovely eyes. She was 6 inches taller she could get modeling work.”
She turned and faced Leonard and his heart melted. Just the real Penny, she hadn’t been acting with the girl. The half grin she had on her face, a little crooked on the right side.
She widened her grin, “Whatchya thinking?”
“Oh just how incredibly sexy and beautiful you are today.” Leonard replied sincerely.
Penny blushed she’d yet to put any makeup on today. She started to shake her head and Leonard put his hand on her chin. He looked into those green eyes, for as long as he could. Leonard leaned forward to kiss her and whispered. “Seriously”
Paint, carpet and wallpaper
Chelsea Twobirds Lewis watched the two kiss out the corner of her eye. She grinned and looked down at her list. The first Item was to arrange for a painter to paint the spare bedroom the colors Penny had chosen. The next was ordering furniture that Penny had sent links to. Then to arrange to have some things moved from an apartment in Pasadena. She had been a Penelope Jenson fan since her show came on the air. She wouldn’t let her down.
Penny sat in Sheldon’s spot on the couch tweeting a picture of the kitchen to her followers. The tweet said that this was her fiancés lovely kitchen. Leonard was in the shower, she was cuddled up in her robe on the couch wondering if she should join him. They were going to stay at the Apartment for a couple of days while the painters, then carpet people worked on Lisel’s room at the house. Chelsea would be there with the dogs and make sure the painters didn’t go wandering about the house.
The paint smells gave both of them headaches so this was the best solution, the work would be done by Monday night and then they could go home. Penny smiled, or to our other home actually, even though it’s just 20 miles away. The apartment felt very comforting and homey. Just like the first night she’d came here to find Leonard again. She had brought enough clothes for 3 or 4 days if need be. Leonard said she’d brought enough shoes for several weeks.
Chelsea was doing well so far. Penny was encouraging her to ask questions. She reminded her that they were in this together. That a PA is not a servant but 2 more hands, 2 more eyes. If something came up she didn’t understand to ask Penny. If they both didn’t understand they’d ask Leonard. In the unlikely event Leonard didn’t understand she’d call Sheldon. This made her laugh. Friday Chelsea had given her personal assurance that she would hold everything she heard or saw while working in confidence.
Friday had been an interesting day. Leonard had decided to go on the walk with her and the dogs. I believe he was rather sore when he got back. Einstein had almost made him fall several times. She didn’t have the heart to tell him she runs with them most of the way. She was just glad he was getting some exercise. He was in good shape for his age, but that was the age where you start to slip. You had to start paying attention and doing extra to keep the pounds off and stay healthy. She knew his age and health was weighing on him the last few days. He had asked what she thought about his retiring to spend more time with her and Lisel. She told him like he had told her. Take it slow and think about it.
They had then packed up for the stay here and came back to the apartment. There were no paparazzi at the entrance for a change. Though one showed up when they went out to take a walk later. They got back in the car parked around the block and took a walk in old town just enjoying each other’s company on the warm winter’s day. They had a bite at the Korean bakery and walked back home. No one was out front when they got back, Penny was sure they’d be there tomorrow.
Their evening together was quiet yet wonderful. They made a light thin crust Greek pizza together and paired it with a lovely Viognier from Oregon. It was Penny’s turn to pick the movie and she picked a rather racy R rated thriller. Leonard had watched it in silence until he realized Penny’s was in the scene. She was actually doing a cameo for the producer, playing Penelope Jenson. She told him the story and he had been interested. They had gone to bed early, making love and sleeping in this morning. Penny was patiently waiting now for something else. She put her phone down and got up and headed to the bathroom to get in the shower with him. He loves that, she thought.
Sugar and Spice
Chelsea was petting the dogs and reading her emails. She had volunteered to spend the weekend at the house with the painters. Penny had offered to kennel the dogs over the weekend and have the contractor oversee things. Chelsea actually was enjoying all the space. Her apartment was a small one in Burbank. Just a studio a little bit bigger than the kitchen here. She couldn’t even have a cat. She had played with Schrodinger until he lost interest in his toy mouse. She knew as a Penny’s PA she would have enough soon to move into a bigger place.
Chelsea was taking acting classes when she could. She had been trying to get small parts in Community Theater before this job came up. Being an interoffice assistant at JP Productions had been rather dull most of the time. But she was on the inside, Chelsea had got to go to the studios and meet people. She had even been on the set for several tapings. Chelsea really liked Penny and Leonard. They were so happy together even when they were sarcastically joking around it was always with a smile. She got up to check on the painters and saw one taking a picture with his cell phone.
“Hey, you know the rules no pictures inside or out.”
The painter was a dark haired guy about 35, dressed all in white. He was rather good looking. He turned and smiled at her. “What, are you going to do tell on me?”
Chelsea gave her best stern look she’d been working on and held her hand out for his phone.
She tried to channel Penny, “I’ll just have to get you fired. If the lady of the house wants pictures of her home I’m sure she’ll hire a professional.”
He handed over his phone, she deleted the picture he took and made sure there were no others. “I’ll give this back to you on your way out.” She gave him what she thought was her best smile and walked into Lisel new bedroom. The walls were all pink except the one under the window which was yellow. The floor boards light lavender. The wallpaper guys would be here tomorrow to put a strip of Disney characters around the top of the wall. Supposedly they would be done before the carpet people showed up at noon. She walked out by the painter. “Nice job.”
“Thanks” he said sarcastically.
She just ignored him and smiled. Just doing my job she thought.
Snow Flakes not yet falling
Penny got up from the bed, her hair was still a little damp. Leonard had gone to the bathroom to relieve himself. She slipped into her robe and walked out then into Lisel room. She was going to move all the stuffed animals and toys to the house next week. She decided that she would need to get more to keep here so she had stuff when they stayed here.
She walked back into the hall as Leonard left the bathroom in his robe. “Hey you” she said and they shared a short kiss. “Getting hungry yet?”
Leonard just nodded and followed her to the kitchen. She poured them each a cup of coffee and stared at the apartment from the kitchen island. Penny smiled that crooked little smile. “Remember how it used to be. You guys would be doing something geeky and I’d show up for dinner. You always gave me some of your food. Sheldon never did of course, but you always shared.”
Leonard smiled that smile, “The truth is the first week after you moved in next door I always ordered more in case you came over.”
Penny looked at him surprised, “You did?”
Leonard shook his head, still smiling, remembering. “Yep, even when I was with Priya just to make sure you would have some if you came by. The guys all thought I was a horrible pig they never did figure it out. I paid your power bill a couple of times too when I knew you had no money. Then I told you that they had a bill holiday.”
Penny looked almost in tears. “You should have told me, I would have paid you back, I always paid you back.”
Leonard laughed, “Penny not counting the bills I paid you didn’t know about you still owe me $3300 dollars plus change. Beside when I paid your power bills we weren’t together.”
Penny looked shocked now, “You know I forget how tough it was then. I was working double shifts at the restaurant. I occasionally got a residual check for the hemorrhoid commercial. Thank you Leonard for taking care of me, even when I didn’t know it.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek.
Leonard blushed, and then got a grin on his face. “Will you be paying me that $3300 by check or cash?”
They both laughed and stared back out at the apartment. Penny was looking at the Christmas tree. “I guess we should take the tree down.”
“Not today, let’s leave it up the rest of the weekend. What’s the plan for the rest of the day?”
Penny put her hand on his back and rubbed. “Tonight we’re doubling with Howard and Bernadette for dinner and a movie. No idea what we’re eating or seeing they put it together and are picking us up at 6:30PM”
“Okay, let’s head down to eat somewhere neither of us has been in a real longtime. We should get there just about lunch time.”
Penny looked at him shaking her head, “No”
He just smiled that smile, “Yep, Cheesecake Factory.”
Chelsea sat on the sitting room couch playing a game on her tablet with the dogs at her feet. The painter had left after cleaning up and retrieving his phone. He’d even asked for her phone number which she refused but she got a kick out of it anyway. He wasn’t her type, really not her type. She wasn’t exactly sure what her type was but he wasn’t it.
She would be 19 in another week and had really not been to any bars. The reasons were fairly simple she wasn’t old enough, she didn’t drink, and had promised her mother to never start. That was that. She thought about her father who still wouldn’t stop drinking, or couldn’t. Nope no painters that don’t paint on canvas, no one who does construction. But a nice younger professor from Caltech would be all right. A younger version of Leonard would be just right.
Back to the current
Leonard and Penny were home at last. It was just past twelve, the movie had been a remake of the Matrix. Leonard had liked it. Penny was still confused about some parts of it. The Cheesecake Factory for lunch had been fun. A few people had looked hard at the couple wondering if they were seeing a star or not. Penny had smiled at everyone but no one had come up and talked to them or asked for an autograph. Penny had especially enjoyed seeing the bartender. She definitely thought it was the same busboy Leonard’s mother had the hot’s for years before. Leonard was to say the least skeptical. Dinner with the Wolowitz’s had been a joy at a quiet little bistro serving new American cuisine outside of old town.
Leonard walked to the kitchen and was busily looking for a bottle of wine in the wine cellar. Penny was a little confused.
“We need to do something tonight, have a seat on the couch” Leonard said.
Leonard found what he was looking for. A bottle of champagne was on the top of the island. He opened it with a loud pop but without any spilling out. He took two champagne flutes from the rack and brought both the bottle and the glasses to the coffee table. He filled both glasses and handed one to Penny.
“What are we celebrating?” she asked quietly.
Leonard had a faraway look for a moment. Then he sat down beside her and smiled that smile.
“Tonight we celebrate finding each other again, and the birth of Liisa Grunwald. She would have been 35 years old today. She wished for those who loved her to celebrate her life. Cheers.”
Penny drank her champagne it was dry yet had underlying sweetness and was wonderful.
Leonard had drained his glass and refilled it then hers.
He looked intently at the urn then back at Penny. “This toast is to us.” They touched their flutes together with a clink sound and drank a final toast.
Leonard pulled her into his shoulder and quoted a line of poetry.
HOW I WOULD PAINT DEATH:
White on White or black on black No ground, no figure.
An immense canvas, Which I will never finish.
Penny had a tear in her eye, “Liisa’s ?”
“No, Lisel Mueller, but one of Liisa’s favorites.”
Penny snuggled further into his shoulder. He didn’t shed a tear, but smiled. Contemplative of what had been and what would be.
Penny leaned back and stretched against Leonard on the couch. She felt a little lazy champagne always went right to her head. “Leonard what do think Liisa wrote me in her letter?”
Leonard looked up and then over at the urn. “It will be something personal, maybe poetry. Would like you to read her letter to me?”
Penny was very apprehensive but curious she considered for a moment how she would feel about reading it or having it read too her. “What do you think honey, should I?”
Now it was Leonard’s turn to be quiet, “I think she meant for you to read it, otherwise she would’ve written it in German.”
Leonard stood and went to his room. Penny sat up and poured another flute of champagne. Leonard came up the hall with a single sheet of well folded paper. “She typed everything near the end it caused her pain to write long hand.” He looked at the letter for a moment then handed it to Penny.
“It’s really rather short, like I said it hurt in the end to even type.”
My dearest love
I never thought I would use the phrase “As I Lay Dying”, but there it is. Papa will have this letter for you. When he thinks you are ready to move on he will give it to you. We found each other in this life. Lived and loved and brought a beautiful daughter into the world.
Now I fear I’ve broken and shattered your heart through no fault of my own but it has happened none the less. I know each day until the end it shall break even more. But no heart is beyond mending it took me to mend yours when we met.
Know then that you have made me happy, every second you held me and loved me. You have stood as the strong pillar in the storm. You were my rock even though you could not possibly have saved me and still you stayed by me stalwart and caring.
You’ve always done the right thing for people, even when it turned out wrong. Keep doing that darling, no harm will come from a true heart.
Now you must move toward a better future. If she is there seek her. Find a way. Forgive her and yourself for the past. She lives in your heart even though you will deny it for my sake. You’ve always had room for the love now and then. A tender place bound only by your own rigidity of rationality and order. Love has none of those things yet you endeavor to pursue them in it.
Our Lisel needs you to have that love that is passionate and consuming that you have described to me you had for her and her for you. Seek her out my love and be whole again if she still cares for you.
Realize my love for you is endless but none the less will end with me. You deserve it from another so do not fear it.
Please strive to be happy and achieve that happiness now for me, our baby Lisel and yourself.
Always with my love
Penny set back and took a deep breath, she was close to tears. She felt so attached to this dead woman who had loved her Leonard. She could not doubt Liisa’s courage and love for her husband and daughter. She had mended Leonard’s heart which Penny had broken. Penny felt unworthy for a moment but realized like Liisa her intention was not to break Leonard’s heart it was just the result.
“Leonard was Liisa always this insightful?”
Leonard shook his head. “No not like she was in the end. She would get in writing moods. Liisa would get quite maudlin sometimes. She would write some very dark prose then. It was her way of purging those feelings. She was usually cheerful and playful. The last year and half though she didn’t get to go out often. When she did have the strength it was only for a short time before she wanted to come home. It was really then that she started thinking about life, family and friends. How they would go on without her and how she could help. That was her genius, her muse in the end was death.”
Leonard was somber but dry eyed. He leaned forward and took the last of the champagne. Penny waited for him to settle back on the couch then settled into his side and shoulder. “You must still miss her?”
Leonard was very quiet, “No I don’t miss her. If I missed her to much how could I look at Lisel? I let that go. I do miss knowing she was there, happy, alive and waiting. There was a point in time after she died that I felt very guilty. I was glad that it was over not just because she was no longer in pain but that I didn’t have to be there to watch. She knew that thought would be there that’s why we are to celebrate her birth and life. If I could forget the last few years of it I would. ”
“When did Horst give you the letter?”
“The week before I decided to come back to Caltech, He said it had been long enough. The letter made me decide that even if I never met you again I would be happy here. It also made me know that having a mother for Lisel wasn’t optional. So I opened myself up again to meeting someone. I hadn’t until someone came to trim my tree.”
He held her closer and Penny burrowed in. She wanted to change things away from Liisa for a while anyway. She didn’t want him to go too far down. “Leonard do you miss Europe?”
“Yeah, I missed how much closer everything was. If you went into the old part of town in any city you find narrow streets, squares, rows of shops, markets. You walked a lot, took trams and trains mostly. The sense of history and age were all around you. If you look out our window and you see Pasadena City Hall, it looks old. It will be 100 years old in a few years. My rooms at Oxford were in a converted monastery that was built almost 500 years ago. It’s just had a different feeling to the place. But a winter in Switzerland will have you appreciate the sunshine here. Even the most cosmopolitan city in Europe doesn’t have the diversity you see here.”
Tish suddenly spoke up. “Leonard it’s raining outside.”
Leonard chuckling said “Just when I comment on the sunny weather here. Tish crack the windows open so we can hear.”
Penny could now hear the patter of rain on the street and ledge outside, some slight traffic sounds of cars whooshing through the rain. “Does she always tell you when it’s raining?”
Leonard nodded, “I like the sound and fresh air after the rain. She wouldn’t have if I’d been asleep she would have just cracked the windows. It’s a standing command in her system.”
He continued to hold her close and kissed the top of her head. “It’s getting late ready for bed?”
Penny yawned and nodded her head. She stood up and offered her hand he took it and stood not letting her pull him up. They were walking down the hall their arms around each other’s lower back. Penny thought this would be their first night sleeping without having sex first. Then she felt Leonard slide his hand down onto her butt and caress her. Well then again maybe not she thought with a smile. She was still waiting.
Cakes and Coffee or Cocoa if that’s your wish
Horst and Lena sat on the sofa with Lisel between them. They were sharing a tablet looking at pictures of Liisa when she was a little girl.
“Mama was funning looking when she was little”, Horst smiled, Lena too. “You mama was very lovely, but her hair was very straight and she liked it short.” Lena said this while running her hand through Lisel’s longer curly hair.
Horst stood, “It’s time for cake and coffee to celebrate, hot cocoa for you little Lisel.”
They all walked into the kitchen. Horst making hot cocoa, while Lisel and Lena set the table. Lena placed a square chocolate cake in the middle of the small table. They all set down when Horst put the drinks down. He cut the cake and put a piece on each plate including a corner piece for Lisel.
“Well now little Lisel we remember your mother our daughter. Liisa was a wonderful teacher, poet, and daughter and would have been a wonderful mother.”
Lisel watched both her grandparents smiling bravely, tears were in her grandmother’s eyes. Then they both smiled but Lisel could see they were sad. She thought she should be sad also and then she was for her grandparents. She stood up and climbed into her grandmama’s lap and hugged her.
Horst smiled at his little granddaughter, she may have Leonard’s brain but she has Liisa heart.
The end of part I of Elliptical Threads, Link to Part II