A Year of You – 9 – The Precarious Life of Penelope Finklestein

Penelope remembered what she had told herself before she came here: Do not expect a happy reunion. Do not expect a Little House on the Prairie scene. Those things didn’t happen in real life.

Shit, she thought. What was she even doing here? Why had she come in the first place? What did she hope to accomplish exactly? I mean, she couldn’t exactly walk into someone’s house and say: Hey, remember me? I’m the daughter you gave up for adoption.

But, in the end, it would come out exactly like that. Because what else was there to say, really?

Penelope’s breath caught in her throat when she heard the sound of footsteps. A tall woman with flowing brown hair came into the room. She was dressed in a long, flowing gown and house coat set that was made out of silk. It flowed behind her like a wave on a breeze.

She thought this woman was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Valetta had long flowing hair, dark brown tresses that fell glossily past her shoulders. Though she was an older woman, she was obviously in good shape; her body had a liquid grace to it.

Valetta regarded Penelope with a wide and pleasant brown gaze. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Valetta asked. Her voice matched her movement, like water flowing over rock. “Geeves tells me that you’re my daughter?”

When the woman was closer, Penelope saw that Valetta looked like her; or rather she looked like Valetta. She tried to calm herself, tried to forget the foster homes, the group homes, the curvy road that her life had taken. She felt in some way that her life had been quite precarious. But she wasn’t sure why.

Gathering her courage, Penelope took a deep breath. “I know you are.” She said. “You gave birth to two baby girls.” She hadn’t meant to blurt it out, but there it was in the air in front of them. “You have your daughter Hasenpfeffer.” She took a deep breath. “But you had me first.” She said.

Valetta gave her a very calculating look. “What do you base your information on?”

“On this.”

Penelope took a small photo out of her pocket and handed it to Valetta. When Valetta reached for it, her hands were shaking. Penelope wondered if the older woman knew what she would see.

The photograph was of a woman that had long flowing dark hair and dark eyes. She held in her arms a small baby. A girl. Penelope.

Valetta looked at the photograph with glassy eyes. “Where did you find this?” the woman asked.

“They gave it to me. At the orphanage.” Penelope tried to swallow, but her throat was thick. “They said that my mother had wanted me to have it, to know that I was loved.” Penelope took another deep breath. “And there was this.”

She reached into her shirt and pulled out a locket that dangled from a thin silver chain. The tears that had been threatening to fall from Valetta’s eyes fell freely now. She reached forward, her hand shaking even further. Taking the locket in her hand, she held it in her palm, the chain trailing up from the locket to Penelope’s neck.

When Valetta looked up at her, Penelope saw many years of pain in that gaze. “I was very young.” Valetta said. “I wasn’t married. It was so hard back then…” Valetta went quiet and looked down at the locket again. Opening it, she saw the pictures she knew would be there.

On the left, a picture of her as she had been. On the right, a picture of the girls father. Tortoculis Rosebude. He had been someone different then, too. Now he whiled away the hours of the day inside of his head.

Valetta wondered where the man they knew had gone. “How you must hate me?” Valetta said. “I never did want to give you up.” She looked away. “But he was so intent for a son.” A sob broke through her throat. “But I am a Finkelstein now.” She turned away from Penelope. “I took on a different mantle now.”

Penelope’s heart went out to the woman, to her mother. “It took me a long time to find you.” She took a gun out of her purse. It was a small revolver but lethal. Holding it in her hand, Penelope pointed it at Valetta. “I did come here to kill you.”

Geeves made to move forward but Valetta stopped him. “No, Geeves.” She said. “It’s okay.”

“But Miss.”

“Walter.” Valetta hissed. “It’s okay.”

Penelope looked down at the gun in her hand. “Oh? Is this making you nervous?” She gave him a wry grin. “Sorry, but its okay.” She slipped the gun back into her purse. “I’m not going to do anything.” She paused. “Well, maybe we could do something.”

When Geeves and Valetta looked at her, Penelope wondered if they had been waiting to hear someone say these words. They looked hungry, as if they had been waiting for anyone to utter them. “We could kill him.”

“Who?” The word came out in a purr.

“You know who?” Penelope smiled. “We all hate him. He got rid of me, fucked you up. And look at your other daughter, Has.” Penelope snorted. “A more fucked up child I have never seen in my entire life.”

Valetta nodded. “Yes, well, she has a very creative spirit.”

“Creative my ass, she’s a freak.” Penelope motioned with her hands, a circular gesture, linking the three of them together in the air. “We could do it.” Penelope said. “The three of us. We could take the fucker down.”

She smiled here. She had been holding this thought in her mind for so long anyway, who cared if she changed her mind at the last moment? She had come prepared to kill both of her parents. But instead had chosen to spare her mothers life. That had to count for something right?

“Besides,” She said. “He doesn’t even know I exist.”

Valetta let out a breath and Geeves smiled, letting out a soft chuckle. After a moment of quiet, a silent agreement, Valetta smiled and took Penelope’s hands in hers. “Well,” She said. “You certainly know how to have a heart-warming family moment don’t you?” She laughed and the sound was like tinkling bells.

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