WORD COUNT: 1,800 for this part
DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended.
FOR: juniperlane, who always aids and abets.
NOTE: Sorry for the delay between parts. Real life just needs to back off.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Surprise, surprise. Their good friend Cyndi opens the front door of the house.
"Dr. Cooper!" Cyndi cries, and throws her arms around Sheldon. Penny watches with amusement as he practices his form of passive resistance by standing stiffly and not returning Cyndi's hug in any way, shape or form.
Cyndi unwraps herself from Sheldon and turns to Penny. "And his lovely fiancée, Peggy!"
"It's Penny," she mutters.
"Of course it is, dear." Cyndi is resplendent this morning in a pair of skintight lime green capris and a fluorescent pink Lycra tank top. Her skin is tanned the exact color of Justin Timberlake's saddle and her hair has been teased into a majestic dome of a French twist.
"Your fiancé is such a delight," Cyndi goes on. "It truly was a pleasure showing him so many houses this week."
Penny flashes Sheldon a look. So. He's been looking at houses all week with Cyndi. "I'm sure Sheldon was a ton of fun for you," she says dryly, patting him on the arm. "That's my Sheldon—more fun than a barrel of monkeys."
They all walk inside the house. The layout is basically the same bungalow layout as the house they'd toured last month—living room, dining room, kitchen. It's just a lot smaller than the other house. There are only two bedrooms, the bathroom is miniscule and there's no front porch.
"Just look at this buffet," Cyndi says in the dining room, training her cotton candy fingernails along the shiny wood. "Completely restored. And the floors were just refinished a few months ago."
"Could you give us a few minutes to wander around?" Penny asks.
"Of course, darling." Cyndi gets her phone out and starts up a rapid-fire conversation with someone named Ed.
The living room is a decent size, although painted a grim shade of burgundy. The fireplace is flanked by glassed-in bookcases. The afternoon light makes patterns on the floorboards.
"Small kitchen," Penny mutters. It's not large enough to eat in, but the fridge, dishwasher and stove are new and there's a big window with a view of the backyard. The cabinets, however, are a disaster, made of that cheap, fake wood she's seen in many a crappy apartment, and the countertops are a vintage shade of Harvest Gold.
They walk into the master bedroom. "And this is where the magic happens," says Penny, in a fake-dramatic voice.
"I don't get it," Sheldon says.
"You wouldn't. It's an MTV Cribs reference."
"I don't watch MTV."
"I'm aware, sweetie."
She scrutinizes the closet, wondering if she'd be able to cram all her clothes in there, plus Sheldon's. Is it big enough to build in a shoe rack at some point?
The second bedroom is at the back of the house. "This would be an ideal office for me," he says.
"Don't you mean a containment unit for your comic books and little dolls?"
"Action figures, Penny. Action figures."
She rolls her eyes. "It's no fun to tease you."
Out in the backyard, the air seems cleaner, fresher, than the air in her neighborhood. She can hear a lawnmower somewhere in the distance.
"If we had a yard, who'd cut the grass?" she asks.
"You're the one accustomed to farm labor, Penny."
Super. Just super.
There's a small patio in the yard, with an umbrella table and chairs. For an instant, Penny imagines drinking her coffee there in the morning, feeding the birds scraps of her toast.
Back inside the house, Cyndi explains that there's central air and a brand-new water heater, although the washer and dryer are almost ten years old. A washer and dryer would mean never having to haul her laundry up and down four flights of stairs.
It's a nice house. A cute little cottage, perfect for two. The kitchen and the bathroom could use some work, and the whole place desperately needs painting (who paints a bedroom navy blue?), but she has to admit that the house is kind of perfect for them. Damn. She hates it when Sheldon's right.
"How much?" she asks, as bluntly as Sheldon did last month.
Sheldon is the one to pipe up. "The asking price is $519,000."
My God. True, the price is almost $200,000 less than the last house, but it's still more than a half a million dollars. Half a freaking million dollars. Penny would be willing to bet her brand new car that, even with her acting success over the last year, she hasn't made half that amount in her entire working life.
"There are a number of generous tax incentives available to first-time homebuyers," Sheldon points out.
"Of course," she says, nodding her head like she has any idea what he's talking about.
"I'm sure you two kids would like to discuss this," Cyndi says.
"We sure do," says Penny. "It's a great house but Sheldon and I need to talk."
They all troop outside. "When are you two getting married?" Cyndi asks.
"Halloween," Penny says. She's a really good liar. Acting, after all, is only an advanced form of lying. "Sheldon really wants to get married on Halloween so everyone can wear costumes. I'm planning on being The Bride from Kill Bill. You know, white dress, veil, splattered with blood."
"How interesting," Cyndi says, clearly appalled.
Once safely in the car, Sheldon asks, "Why do you persist with the falsehood that we're getting married?"
"Because it's funny?"
"I don't find it very amusing."
"You don't have a sense of humor." She starts the car.
"I have a sense of humor," he huffs.
She rolls her eyes. "Sure you do, Sheldon."
"What about the house?"
"What about it?"
"Should we buy it?"
"I need to think about it. It's a really big step. And a ton of money. Can we even afford it?"
"How much time do you need to deliberate? In the meantime, someone else could buy the house."
She sighs. "I don't know, okay? I just need to think about it. Can you give me that?"
"I can give you twenty-four hours," he says.
"Gee, twenty-four whole hours. Thanks, Sheldon!"
"You're very welcome," he says, in all seriousness.
Penny promises Sheldon she'll think about the house and shuts her door in his face. She turns off her phone. She needs to make this decision without his shifty influence. Really, she wouldn't put it past him to sneak in some kind of subliminal messages.
But instead of sitting down and thinking about the issues, she manages to do everything else instead. She paints her toenails baby blue. She reads the script for another crappy Lifetime movie her agent wants her to read for (this time she'd be the consoling older sister of a teen mom/stalking victim). She catches up on all the latest gossip on Perez Hilton. She pays her cable and electric bills. She even does her dishes. Man, does coffee get moldy fast.
Just after 6:00, Penny runs out of things to do, short of her laundry and waxing her eyebrows. She can't procrastinate any more.
She settles on the couch with a glass of wine and a pad of paper. As a kid, whenever she was having trouble making a major decision, her dad would always say, "Make a list, Pen. Pros and cons. " So that's just what she does—she makes a nice, logical list, written with a sparkly fuchsia gel pen.
Living with Sheldon
*The house will always be neat & clean
*A backyard, with actual grass & trees & stuff
*Laundry that's not coin-operated
*Won't have to call the cops on the guys upstairs when they stay up all night trying to learn how to play every Metallica song ever on their guitars
*No more driving around trying to find a parking space at 3 in the morning
*Walls that can be painted a color that's not white
*I love Sheldon & I guess it's time we take things to the next level since we've been together more than a year
*Sheldon's a neat freak & will lose his mind if I ever leave a coffee cup in the sink
*Mowing the lawn
*I can't afford a house!!! HALF A MILLION DOLLARS.
*What if I don't get any more work & have to go back to working at the Factory?
*My credit is shit
*A lot of walls to paint & have to cover up burgundy & dark blue
*No tub in the bathroom
*Didn't work out last time I lived w/a guy
*Geeks will be in my house 24-7
*Living w/comic books & action figures
*Sheldon will make a million rules OMG
*Sheldon might be crazy
*NO ESCAPE FROM SHELDON EVER
She's still working away at the list when she hears Sheldon's patented triple knock at the door.
"I'm not going to open up for you!" she calls out. She told him he had to leave her alone for the day. As usual, he didn't listen.
Ten minutes later she hears a scraping noise and notices a folded-up piece of paper on the floor near the door.
We have ordered food from Siam Palace and plan to watch the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. While I find it a slick and soulless perversion of Gene Rodenberry's original vision, it's not unwatchable and I'm aware that you find both Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to be attractive, if your Tumblr account is any judge.
I hope you will join us. I promise no pressure about the house situation.
It never fails to crack her up that Sheldon signs all notes, emails and text messages with his last name, as if she might confuse him with all the other Sheldons she knows. At least he doesn't add the "Dr." anymore. That's progress.
She's hungry, sick of weighing her pros and cons, and—yes—Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are hot. Fine. She'll go over there. If Sheldon starts something up about the house, she can always go back to her place. Or punch his lights out.
Sheldon opens the door and ushers her inside. The living room is empty and quiet.
"Where are the guys?" she asks.
A tiny smile flits across Sheldon's face. "Leonard, Howard and Raj have gone to see a special screening of the director's cut of David Lynch's Dune. I must admit that I lured you over here on false pretenses."
He points with a flourish to his whiteboard, which is covered with the kind of complicated formula that gives her a migraine just to look at. "I want to show you, with mathematical precision, why we'd be utter fools not to buy this house."
Her hands curl into fists. "You're a dead man," Penny whispers under her breath. "Dead."