Alex and Penelope Ch. 12byrosess©
Author's note: If you've come into this story in the middle, please consider starting at the beginning. This is a full length novel and complete. I'm posting chapters as I get the chance to edit them. At this rate, two or three a week.
Thank you again, and I hope you enjoy the adventures of Alex and Penelope
Taking Penelope on his business trip did wonders for Alex's mood, and Wednesday night they were able to stay in and play all night.
Unfortunately all great things come to an end, and he was back to life with Claire when they returned Thursday. Penelope started her classes the following week with a heavy load on Monday and Wednesdays, her lightest day Friday. She talked excitedly about her classes over dinner when Alex actually found time to have dinner; Alex listening intently, Claire bored to tears.
Thursday, Alex laid in bed with Claire and watched her gulp down her Ambien. She wasn't trying to have sex with him tonight, which he was eternally grateful for.
He growled in his throat thought a loud exhale, crossing his arms over his chest. "I need you to take Penelope tomorrow to get a gown for the auction Friday night."
It killed him that he had to make this request, wanting Claire far away from Penelope. But he also knew that things still had to appear normal, and that meant keeping the impression that Alex wanted them to bond.
"She's not really coming to that with us," Claire groaned, settling back on her pillow.
"Of course she is," Alex said after a loud pfft.
Claire couldn't fucking believe she was having to deal with this little bitch. She'd never signed up for this shit when she'd married Alex; she'd signed up for his huge dick, good sex, and all that money. That didn't include some little naïve hick from his hometown in buttfuck Egypt. Christ, she should have just fucked that guy she'd had drinks with in Fiji.
"That's really just embarrassing," Claire said, rolling over and away from him. "Taking her to a pool party was bad enough, but at least it was cheap, just like that whore, Katie Spaulding."
Alex's stomach was churning with his disgust. "You're taking her. She needs a gown for the event, and you'll be shopping for one yourself anyways. I'm not arguing with you on this, I'm telling you. Do it, Claire."
"Fine," Claire grumbled. She could feel the Ambien kicking in, thank god. She needed out of this as soon as possible. "I'll take the girl at noon."
As Claire fell asleep, Alex couldn't decide how he felt about any of it. It had to be done, and Claire's severe distaste for Penelope was something he could use against her later if he had to buy his way out in court. It also was pushing her away, he knew that. Still, he would never forgive himself for putting Penelope in that situation. He kicked himself for ever starting up with Penelope, then felt like he was going to vomit as the thought formed. He'd only meant that he should have waited until Claire was gone, but as soon as it had entered his head, he nearly choked with emotion. He couldn't stand the thought of losing what they'd done; what they'd shared.
Alex climbed out of bed and walked down the hall. He hovered outside of Penelope's bedroom.
He found he simply couldn't go in. Having sex with her while Claire was down the hall made her the other woman, and he felt sick again that he'd put her in that position from the beginning. It had been easy to forget Claire existed while on vacation with Penelope, but with Claire down the hall, it degraded how special things were between the two of them. She wasn't the other woman, she was the woman.
After five minutes of swaying on his feet, feeling as though he'd been hit by a freight train, Alex walked into the room beside her; a large room of reds and blues. He climbed into the bed that shared a wall with Penelope's and stared at the dark ceiling, feeling content that he was close to her and far away from Claire tonight.
It was good enough.
"I'll need to stop by Chanel, then Burberry," Claire was telling Ben once she'd climbed into the car with the little bitch. "It's going to get chilly at night, and I need a new jacket. Oh, and we'll be hitting up the boutiques on Main." She glanced at Penelope with a patronizing grin over imagining pushing her back out the door she'd just entered. "We need evening gowns for the art auction tomorrow night."
"You got it," Ben said, eying her through the mirror. When his head popped back down, he scowled. Claire was such a bitch to work for. He felt bad for Penelope having to put up with her; couldn't imagine what it must be like inside the house. Claire's ego was enough to fill the entire estate. It must be suffocating.
"Thank you so much for taking me," Penelope said hopefully. "I was going to go with Kathleen, but this really is so much better."
It was such a lie, but Penelope knew that this was important to do. She had to do this for Alex while he did whatever he needed to do.
"Yes, whatever," Clare said indifferently, then turned to look out the window. She may be stuck doing this, but she sure as hell didn't need to make it fun. It was time for Penelope to know her place, and that place was moving to a sorority house or a dorm on campus. Claire would do everything in her power to force her out.
Penelope sighed quietly, leaning back in the seat. She missed Alex already, and was coming to understand more and more why he'd turned to her. Claire was not a nice person at all. She'd talked about nothing but herself the first day back, and now she was giving her the cold shoulder.
It was extremely uncomfortable the entire ride, but Penelope tried very hard. She pointed out how lovely a house was that they drove by, only to receive a hmpf from Claire. When they reached the Chanel store, Penelope asked, "What are we getting here?"
"A new bag," Claire said dully, holding up her purse. "This one is six months old."
Penelope eyed the pristine purse and couldn't fathom why it was necessary to get a new one. It looked like today was the first time it had ever been used. "Oh, sure, of course," Penelope said feebly, assuming six months was just too long to have a purse in this world. She thought of her own purse, the only one she had. She'd bought it when she was sixteen with her own money from an outlet mall. Even though she had Alex's card, she didn't ever feel right about using it, even less so around Claire.
After Claire had bought two purses in Chanel, they walked down to Burberry where Claire ignored her, spending a half hour or so in the coat closet, which was an enormous room with a rotating rack, much like a dry cleaners. At the push of a button, it spun with a seemingly endless supply of trenches and jackets of all colors, lengths and styles.
Claire bought five at around a grand each. Penelope hadn't been so speechless at a register since Alex had taken her shopping a month ago.
They met Ben outside who drove them no more than three blocks to a boutique. Penelope didn't understand why they didn't just walk, but Claire's heels couldn't have been comfortable, so she shook her head and accepted it for what it was.
"Might as well decide what you like," Claire said to Penelope indifferently, then immediately turned her back and met up with a sales woman. "I'll need a room and whatever you have," she told her. "Think evening gowns in fall colors, nothing from the summer season."
"Of course," the woman said.
Penelope walked through the well-spaced racks as a man approached. "Hello, darling," he said flamboyantly. "You are absolutely divine! What can I help you with?"
Blushing, Penelope said, "I need something nice for an art auction tomorrow night," she said with a tiny grin. Her hand brushed the sheer fabric of a pink dress. "I'm not really sure what to get, but I think it's pretty fancy."
The salesman lightly touched her shoulder and shook his shoulders in glee. "Absolutely!" he cried. "Why don't I take you back to a room and bring you what I can. Size two?"
It never ceased to amaze her that these people could guess sizes like this. "Yeah," Penelope said with a chuckle, shaking her head in wonder.
The salesman led her back to a room, then promised to be right back. He returned with a tall metal rack with a half a dozen gowns and smiled widely at Penelope. "These are perfect colors for your complexion," he told her. "Guaranteed to get the attention of every man in the room, even the gay ones, I promise you that!"
Penelope laughed as he winked at her, then took the rack into the room. She tried a light blue and loved it, the sheer outer layer so fine with such flow as she moved. Another blue, this one slightly darker, and she was in heaven. She moved to a pink with rhinestones across the bodice and found that it was her favorite so far. She chose a yellow one first and slid it on, struggled with the buttons up the back and didn't know quite what to do. Maybe Claire would help her? Feeling embarrassed, she walked out of the dressing room.
The salesman was standing there and his jaw dropped. "Oh, how stunning!" he cried with a clap. "Let me get those for you!"
Penelope turned shyly and held up her hair as she felt his fingers clasping the many tiny buttons up her back. The yellow matched her hair, the satin hugged her frame. She stared at herself in the mirror, feeling like this was the dress that belonged on a woman Alex was beside.
Claire walked out of the dressing room in annoyance, unhappy with the selection the saleswoman had brought her. She saw Penelope being buttoned in front of the three mirrors and raised a brow.
The woman walked over to Claire. "What did you think?" she asked.
Claire pushed the rack at her. "None of these will do," she said, then nodded her head at Penelope. She stuck a finger out. "That one," she said, then looked at the woman. "I'll take that one. I expect it altered by morning. You can send it to Katalina down the block. She has my measurements."
Penelope turned in the mirror to face Claire as the salesman swooned and cheered for the dress. She looked up at Claire hopefully. "What do you think?"
Claire gave her a pathetic look. "Not really you," she said with a shake of her head. "Besides, I tried that one on and it's the one I'm buying. You'll have to pick another."
Penelope's jaw popped open and she could feel the tears beginning to form in her eyes. When she caught the salesman looking at her with pity, her chin actually started to wobble and she tried to lock it in place.
"I guess that's that," she said brightly, feigning her acceptance of the situation. She lifted her hair. "Mind helping me out?"
"Of course not, sweetie," the salesman said. He watched her spin around, tried not to notice that her eyes were glossy in the mirror and her chin was wobbling. Poor thing. That woman sure as hell hadn't been brought that dress; he'd been careful to pick gowns that weren't the ones Misty was bringing to her client. He unfastened the last, patted her back. "I have no doubt the pink with the rhinestones was lovely. Why don't you give that another try and show me."
Penelope nodded and walked back in the dressing room. While sliding the yellow gown off her shoulders, she sniffled, wiped under her eyes, angry that she was letting something as stupid as a dress make her feel this way.
She put the pink gown back on and walked out. The salesman smiled hugely. "Absolute perfection!" he cried. "Much better than the yellow."
Penelope could tell that he didn't mean it, but it had been her second favorite. She could handle that. So she nodded, plastered on a grin and went back into the dressing room to change into her clothes.
It was a Saturday, and Alex had suggested to Claire that Penelope join her for tea at Helen Lodge's this afternoon. Claire, as usual, threw one of her hissy fits, but Alex insisted, knowing fully that Claire was being pushed to her limit. Still he hated himself for putting Penelope through it, but in a few weeks it wouldn't matter anymore. He could tell that Claire was near her breaking point.
Ben drove Claire and Penelope over to the Lodge estate, noticing how silent the two women were in the backseat. He knew this was only because of Claire, because Penelope always talked to him when he'd drive her to school. She was so friendly and entirely sexy without even knowing it. He'd gone from wanting to fuck her to wanting to take her out on dates, falling for her in a way he'd never really felt about a woman. Granted, she was nine years younger than him, but that wasn't all that much.
Penelope was stunned by the conversation the seven women had in Helen's sitting room. They were served tea and all sorts of pastries. The room was regal to say the least, and the food was decadent. But the words out of these women's mouths were vile and outright cruel.
They started off bad mouthing Katie Spaulding for at least twenty minutes, which Penelope didn't think was deserved. She'd met Katie at her party and thought she was nice enough. But these women snickered over how much of a slut she was, speculated that she was being gang banged like she was in her porn videos (which was news to Penelope), then talked about how they expected her to leave for an older man so he'd die off quicker for his money.
The topic of conversation moved to a woman named Juliette Percy, although more to a man named Henry Percy, who was the woman's husband. They talked about how he upgraded wives every five years, and Juliette would soon be forty, which they thought was much too old for him. She learned that he was fifty-five and was one of the richest in the neighborhood. She was once again stunned by Claire when Claire talked about how attractive he was despite his age and how any woman would be lucky to be with him, from what she'd heard of his love making skill.
Penelope had heard far too much an hour in, and turned to Helen. "Excuse me," she said meekly. "Where is your restroom?"
"Oh yes, dear," Helen said. She pointed toward the far door. "Down the hall and past three doors. It's on the right hand side."
Penelope rose and walked through the door, shutting it behind her.
She froze two feet away when she heard one of the women ask, "What the hell is up with that?"
And she knew. She knew that implied her. Her heart thumping away in her chest, she pushed her ear closer to the door.
"Alex's goddaughter," she heard Claire say with disgust. "Could you die? I'm saddled with her for the next four years while she's at the U."
"Why isn't she rushing a sorority or something?" one of the women asked.
"Probably because there's no way she'd ever get in," Claire said. "So get this. Alex became her godfather when he was only sixteen years old because her whore mother got knocked up."
"Sixteen?" a woman demanded. "Why didn't they get someone older?"
"Probably because no one wants the child of a sixteen year old slut," Claire said.
Penelope felt like she was going to vomit, her stomach churning violently. She couldn't believe she was able to stand, what with her legs shaking and her heart racing.
Her mother! She felt like she was going to cry. Her mother was not a slut, she'd made a mistake. And if that mistake had been corrected, Penelope wouldn't even exist! She loved her family so much; her parents had been so good to her. She missed them immensely. How could Claire even say those things.
"But for god's sake, why is she even here then?" a woman pressed.
"Oh, Alex is actually paying for her college," Claire said. "Her family couldn't afford it, so they turned to him for his money."
"Unbelievable," a woman cried. "Amazing how people will use us for money, isn't it?"
"I don't understand why he hasn't put her up in a dorm or something," another woman said. "Or at least some sort of public housing near the U."
"Beats me," Claire said. "Some nonsense about wanting to get to know her after abandoning her through her childhood. He's sent her family checks, bought her car when she was sixteen. Enough is enough, right?"
"Absolutely." This time Penelope thought it was Helen. "She was at my party while you were in Fiji. She doesn't fit in here at all."
"Yet Alex is dragging her to every function in the world with us," Claire cried. "I did snipe a gown she was wearing though when we went shopping for the art auction."
"Ooh, you're so bad!" a woman squealed with glee.
"Get her out, that's my advice," another woman said. "Find a way, because you don't want to be stuck with that in your house for four years. It was bad enough living with my step children for a year before I got them in a boarding school."
Penelope finally stepped away. Rather, fell away, right into the opposite wall. She rushed down the hallway to the bathroom and placed her hands on the counter for support, staring at her eyes in the mirror. They'd called her mother a slut, said she didn't fit in. Alex hadn't touched her all week now. Maybe it was all over. Maybe she should just find a dorm, or better yet, go back home. She'd managed enough scholarship money to cover a year or two at the local community college a few towns over from hers.
Yes, it was time to go.
Two weeks later on a Friday, Penelope sat at the dinner table with Claire while they waited for Alex to finish up. Beverly had brought them a bottle of wine, told them she was keeping dinner warm and that Alex had said he'd be right out.
Penelope had struggled with her decision, but it had been made.
"Why on earth aren't you rushing?" Claire asked Penelope out of the blue. She studied the girl, thinking she may not be able to get into one of the better houses, but there might be one who would take her. She was pretty in a homely hick sort of way, and she'd cleaned up with Alex's money.
"I . . . I guess I never thought to," Penelope said, then sipped some wine. '
"Some of the girls here are in Gamma Sig," Claire suggested, though figured there was no chance of Penelope getting in there. Maybe if she put in a good word. She'd even pay them with a large donation if she had to. Then again, most of them still lived at home instead of the house.
Damned if she did, damned if she didn't.
Alex neared the dining area and froze as he heard Penelope say, "I'm not really all that sure I'm going to stay." His heart stopped. "You know, uhm, my classes aren't really going all that well, and this isn't really working out so much here I think. I miss my family and . . ."
"That's probably a good idea then," Claire said. "You can start next semester at home with your family."
The joy in Claire's voice didn't go unnoticed by Alex.
"Yeah," Penelope said. "I think it might be for the best."
Alex walked into the dining room with an eyebrow raised. "What might be for the best?" he asked, taking a seat at the head of the table.
"Oh, darling," Claire said, placing her hand on his. "Penelope was just saying she might move back home. Poor girl misses her family."
Alex turned to Penelope. "Is that true?" he asked, feeling heartbroken. He hadn't slept with her since the business trip, though had spent every night creeping down to her room once Claire was in her Ambien induced coma. He'd spent every night in the red and blue bedroom so he could feel close to her.
Penelope bit her lip. She did miss her family, but she missed Alex more. And Claire had succeeded in making her feel guilty that she was even here, taking his money. Claire had called her mother a whore. Just thinking about that made her chin wobble again.
"I'm not sure yet," Penelope said. "I think it might be a good idea though."
Alex didn't know how he could go on living without Penelope. She'd changed his life, his entire outlook on his life. He'd been such a miserable person up until the day she'd arrived, and even if they hadn't had sex, she'd brightened his mood just by her presence alone. He missed her touch, her body. He couldn't imagine how he could wake up another day if she left now.