Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Journal of Penny Grant - August 2 - Poor Ruby

 "Penny? I'm sorry I'm late," Nick called out as he walked through the door.

I left the toddler's room and looked at Nick. "Elmer rang to say he was keeping you for a bit of extra work. He didn't want me to worry." Elmer was right about that. I would have been very worried if I hadn't known. Nick hadn't been more than a few minutes late since his return.

"Elmer did tell me that he rang and," he paused for a moment, "I was deep in the bowels of the base. There's no cell reception down there." He paused for another moment. "May I ask you a question or two, Penny?"

I nodded.

"How many relatives do you have in town? Cousins, second cousins?"

"Oh dear, that's a tough question. As for cousins, my Uncle Eric had three children; Jerod, Elmer and Roccio. Aunt Kathy had two; Malcolm and Shanna. Uncle Sammy had two; Glen and Devon. So that makes 7 cousins. But once you go deeper into the family tree, I think about 1/3 of Sunset Valley is related to our family to some degree. What brought that up?" I was curious since we hadn't really talked about family before.

"Elmer made a joke about how your family was a small army. I was wondering how true it was," Nick replied.

"It's a small exaggeration but not too far from the truth. I have 3 siblings. My dad had 3 siblings. My grandfather had 4 siblings. Since almost all of them got married and had kids, that does add up. My mom, she was the only child and her parents had no siblings so that side of the family is non-existent."

"I only have Aunt Amelia, who has never married, and Uncle Travis who has three kids. My dad and my uncle never really got along so I don't even know my cousins. And I only have two siblings." He looked at me with an odd expression. "I never really thought about how few relatives I have compared to you."

"The only cousins I really know are Jerod and Elmer. I know a few of the rest of them vaguely but not enough to hang out. The oldest of my cousins, I don't know at all. Which means it's not that different."

Nick gave me a very odd look and there was a moment when I thought he was going to argue with me. Instead, he just replied, "Anything happen with the toddlers that I should know about?"

"It's been very quiet all day. The toddlers have all been quite happy playing with their toys. In fact, Jerod was by earlier and I had time to train him a bit in martial arts. Odd that you should happen to mention cousins today."

Nick shrugged and went off to the toddlers room. I watched, thoughtful. It was very odd that Nick decided to ask about my cousins and Jerod turned up on the same day. Life is so full of weird coincidences like that though. It had been about two weeks since Jerod had given me the Axe of Pangu and he wanted to know if I was going to be using it any time soon. I told him I didn't know.


Since his return, Nick had been doing far more with the children than I'd originally asked. He didn't just start watching over the toddlers at their bedtime. From the moment he got home, he played with and taught the toddlers.

He also made sure he spent time with Buddy every day before dinner. When Buddy got home, he rushed to his desk and did his homework. Buddy knew that if he finished his homework, he could get his dad to play. If the homework wasn't done, then that would be what Nick and Buddy did together for the night. I don't know exactly what else Nick had done, but Buddy was doing well in school.  We never had phone calls about his bullying either.

Buddy, Nick and I would eat dinner at 7 each night. At about 8, Nick would put the toddlers and himself to bed in their room.  He'd stay in the bedroom with them until he had to get up, get ready and leave for work in the morning.

I hadn't adjusted to Nick being with the toddlers every night though. After two years of effectively being a single parent, I still had the habit of waking up several times in the night. I would spend a few minutes listening in case there were any signs of trouble. I never heard more than a small whimper without hearing Nick's voice as well.

Of course, sometimes I did get up and double check. There were times when I'd find Nick asleep in the rocking chair, with one of the triplets on his lap. Other times, he'd in the sleeping bag with a toddler cuddled on his chest. It was rare to find Nick in the sleeping bag without a toddler in his arms.

If I happened to check while Nick was awake, he always told me the same thing. "You can go back to bed, Penny. I have this." I had to admit, he did have it. He was taking it all in stride, not once did I notice him complaining.

The household had all gone to bed and I had been asleep for a little while. There was a soft tapping on my bedroom door which woke me.  "Penny? Penny?" Nick said quietly.

"Come on in," I replied around a massive yawn. Nick came into my room holding Ruby in his arms. "What is it, Nick?"

"I'm going to take Ruby to the hospital. She's been coughing a lot in the past two nights and she just started again." He was jiggling her, which was making Ruby smile.

"Surely it can wait until tomorrow?"

"Ruby can't sleep. I can't sleep because Ruby can't sleep. And it seems worse at night so it's probably a better time for a doctor to figure out what's wrong." He looked at me, the concern evident in his eyes. "I wanted to be sure you knew that Ruby and I were out so no one will be watching Daisy or Joey for a bit."

I yawned again. My brain just wasn't ready to function at whatever time this was. "Are you sure?" Just then, Ruby started to cough. It was a steady hacking cough that sounded far too intense for her little body. "I see. Oh you poor baby," I stroked Ruby's head gently. "All right, Nick. I'll be sure to check on Joey and Daisy while you're gone."

"Do you want to hear about the results when I get back or sometime tomorrow?"

"I won't be sleeping much, now that I am awake. I'll be worried about Ruby," Ruby's cough finally eased a bit and I stroked her head again. "And Nick?" I looked him in the eyes. "Thank you."

"Penny, I was a complete and utter arsewipe for suddenly disappearing. But I never ever stopped caring about my family." He sighed, "I freaked out because three little strangers at once was hard for me to cope with. After two years of getting switched between units all the time, three strangers is a piece of cake." With that, he left.

I looked at the clock, it was midnight. I had thought it later than that but I guess I had just been in a deep sleep. Bad timing but I can't blame Nick for that. Poor Ruby was the cause and it wasn't her fault either.

I went into the toddlers room to wait. The rocking chair was actually quite comfortable, something I hadn't realised. Both Joey and Daisy were quiet in their cribs. After an hour or so, I drifted off into a doze.

I woke to the sound of a car just outside the house. Sure enough, the front door soon opened. I quickly got up and moved to the main room, shutting the door so the toddlers would stay asleep. "So?"

His face was haggard, "I'd forgotten how awful waiting in the hospital was. If it's not critical, you have to just sit forever." He blinked as he realised that I'd asked a question. "The doctor thinks that Ruby might be asthmatic. There are a couple of tests they can do when she's older but he used some asthma medication on her and her breathing settled down in a few minutes."

I looked at Ruby, now sleeping in Nick's arms. "Is it dangerous?"

"The doctor thinks Ruby has a mild case and there's a chance she'll outgrow it eventually. Even if she doesn't, she'll live a pretty normal life. She'll just need to be aware of it and have an inhaler around just in case." He kissed the top of her head. "Given her reaction to the medication, I think it's the right diagnosis."

"Our poor baby."

Nick suddenly yawned. "Penny, I'm sorry but I have to put Ruby to bed and try to get a little more sleep. I'm going to be so useless tomorrow."

I nodded. It wasn't long before he was due to get up and get ready for work. "All right. Night night, Ruby," I kissed her on the forehead.

"Night, Nick," I kissed his cheek. His eyes grew wide, it was the first time I'd touched him since hitting him the day he got home. "Thank you for taking Ruby to the hospital."

He blushed, nodded shyly and then left for the toddler's room. I watched his retreat, thoughtful. Perhaps I could go back to China and resume the martial arts tournaments. Perhaps I could trust Nick.

Technical notes

Nick decided not to tell Penny that both her brothers and two of her cousins threatened him. He still feels guilty enough over abandoning his family that he won't complain about such things.

Penny's dad Phillip did have 3 siblings; Sammy, Kathy and Eric. Penny's grandfather Indiana had 4 siblings; Laura, Henry, Rick and Jack.

Family wise, Sam and Rachel had 5 children. Indiana and Judy had 4 children. Now I was going to let Phillip stop at 3 but number 3 turned out to be the twins Veronica and Penelope. So now the family heir is cursed to forever have 4 children - which means Penny and Nick are done having babies.

Spare pics

Let's ride, cowboys.

 wrong angle for that...

 Monster under bed!

Why did you get the only child who needs to be in a crib out?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Family Chat with Nick

"Gentlemen, are we agreed?" I asked as I looked over my co-conspirators. I'd just spent the last couple of minutes sketching out my plans.

I smiled as the other three nodded. It seemed likely that my cousin Penny would want to travel soon, now that she had possession of the axe of Pangu. But her husband, Nick, could be a problem. I decided to ask Penny's older brothers, Vincent and Stephen and my little brother Elmer to meet and have a serious chat about Nicholas Grant.

"You aren't planning to kill him?" asked Stephen. "I don't mind shutting it for an hour for some frank talk but it would be bad for business if word got out that someone died here."

I shook my head, "No, not this time. This time I just want to make sure he's very afraid."

"You'll be putting the fear of God in him?" asked Vincent.

"Oh no," I told Vincent with an evil smile. "I'm going to put the fear of me into him." I looked across the table at my brother, "You think you can handle your part?"

"Yeah, Jerod. It shouldn't be hard to get him in the car. Catch him 5 minutes before the end of the day and give him something to do that will take at least 10 minutes and they'll have left. He should be willing to get a lift from me," replied Elmer. "I guess I could even make it an order. Since we'll be off duty, he doesn't really have to accept orders though."

"Are you sure you don't want to involve more family?" asked Vincent. "I'm sure that they'd be interested."

"There are four of us. I think that should be enough to control Nick, if he should put up a fight. It also should be enough to get the point across that Penny's family will not let her get hurt again without serious consequences for him." I stood up. "Tomorrow at three then?"

"I kinda hope that Abbey doesn't find out about this." Stephen said with a serious look. "I'm not sure how my wife would like me taking part in threatening her brother."

"I would think that Abbey would be all right with it, Stephen. You and Abbey did help with the triplets when Penny couldn't cope, yes?" By the accounts I'd heard, Penny collapsed and might have died if not for the family. The sudden disappearance of Nick soon after the birth of triplets just completely undid her.

"Now that I think about it, Abbey hasn't spoken to Nick since he returned. It should be all right."


The next afternoon, I was waiting in the car for Elmer and Nick to emerge from work. I'd timed my arrival for a few minutes past 3, just after most of the soldiers has left the base. I heard Elmer speaking as they approached, "I'm sorry, I must have kept you too long. I think your ride left. We can give you a lift, if you like."

I saw Nick look around. "Yes, sir. Looks like I do need a lift. It won't take long, my place isn't far from here." I nearly laughed hearing Elmer being called 'Sir'. I never see the military side of Elmer's life.

I waited until I'd heard both doors shut then locked the car. I'd already taken the precaution of setting the child lock on every door but mine. Now that Nick was in, he wasn't getting out until someone let him out.

It was only a minute later when I turned toward town instead of the road leading to Nick's home. It wasn't long before he noticed. "Wait! It's quicker to drop me off first and you've missed the turn. This is the wrong way."

"That's because we aren't taking you home yet. We are going to the pub," said Elmer.

"But I don't want to go to a pub. I want to go home. I need to go home," protested Nick.

"No one said you had a choice. We are going to the pub," I told my reluctant passenger. I heard Nick pull at the door handle when we stopped at a stop sign. "Don't bother, it's locked."

"Who do you people think you are?" Nick demanded. He looked closely at me. "You're not in the service. But you do look familiar."

I shrugged and just let him stew over the question. We were already close to our destination and he'd have his answers soon enough.

"We're here," I declared as I pulled into one of the parking spots.

Nick's door was pulled open. "Out." He was roughly pulled from the car.

Nick struggled to free his arm when he noticed who had grabbed him. "Vincent? What's going on?"

"Inside. Now," was the terse reply. "You'll find out what's going on in the pub. Are you going to walk or do we drag you?"

Nick stalked into the pub then spun around to look at us. By this time, he was royally pissed. I heard Stephen locking the door of the pub behind us.

"What's going on? What the hell are you doing?" he demanded. "Who the hell are you? What gives you the right to bring me here?"

"I am Jerod Grant and that is my little brother Elmer. We are a very small sample of Penny's cousins around town. I believe that you know Penny's brothers?"

Nick nodded.

"I mentioned to them that I wanted to talk to you. Stephen volunteered using his pub as a meeting place. Elmer volunteered to arrange your normal car to leave without you."

"But why?"

I stepped closer and Nick took a step backward. "So I could warn you - this one time. If you should ever hurt Penny again or if she ever has cause to complain about you, you had fucking well better leave town and never come back."

"Because Penny may have forgiven you once but we haven't," said Elmer.

Vincent said, "And the family will never leave you in peace if you dare do it again."

"Penny has practically an army of cousins and second cousins in this town," I told him. "I can promise that most if not all of them will act if they are asked."

Nick hung his head. "I didn't really plan to do it in the first place. I got drunk. I wasn't thinking straight."

Vincent growled, "We don't care if you planned it or not. We care about our Penny. So will you be running off again? Will we have to pick up the pieces left of my little sister again?"

"No! I swear. Please believe me, I regretted leaving. But they wouldn't transfer me home." He looked at each of us in turn. "I know, you probably don't believe that. But why threaten me now?"

"I have reason to believe that Penny wants to travel. And if she does, I want to be fucking sure that her home and family are well cared for," I replied. "That's why now is a good time to have this little chat."

"Penny might travel? She hasn't said anything to me yet," Nick said. "Then again, she still doesn't talk to me except about the kids."

"She'd have a hard time making up her mind to go, if she thinks you might desert the family again while she's gone," said Elmer. "The fact that you deserted your family makes me sick. I'd love to find a reason to get you thrown out of the service for good."

"Easy, little bro. Four kids are a lot of mouths to feed," I said. "He needs a job to pay the bills. It's all right as long as he doesn't use the service as a way to escape again." I looked at Elmer, "We don't want to destroy the family by losing them their home." Elmer gave me a small nod.

"So none of the women in the family wanted to get involved?" asked Nick.

"Oh, you are so wrong. The couple I asked wanted to be here. But they also wanted knives and some time with your genitals," I said. "A very blood thirsty lot, the women in the Grant clan." I paused and stepped closer. "It was tempting to give you to them and see how it goes." I took a deep breath. "In fact, if you do totally fuck up again, I'll not only give you to the women, I'll make sure they have a huge array of sharp pointy things to choose from. And when they finish, I will kill you."

Nick gasped and looked at the others. "You wouldn't. Not really."

I spoke with deliberate emphasis. "Make no mistake. I would. I swear, you dare hurt my cousin again and when I catch you, you are a dead man."

"But ..." Nick paused as he looked at the others. Then he shut his mouth, there was no sympathy from any of them.

"For the moment, you are safe. Penny has chosen to take you back. I will respect her decision. I seriously don't understand it though."

"I do," replied Nick. "Our oldest, Buddy. He listens to me. He was being a bully at school and uncooperative at home. Now that I'm back, he's much better."

"So, you will be there for the family, Nicholas Grant? Penny can travel without worrying about the babies?" I asked.

"I swear to you I won't let Penny down. I won't let our kids down. If I fail, I'll bring the knives for you to use myself."

I nodded. "Then let's get you home, Nicholas Grant. Elmer rang your house to let Penny know you'd been delayed." We set off. Would Nick be true to his words? Only time would tell, but we could all encourage Penny to take her long overdue holiday.