"I could take her to see Doctor Browning."
After the drive home, all the kids ran inside. But Jennifer took Penina's hand the moment they got inside and took her to one side "Miss Crosse told me what happened at school today. Do you want to talk about it?"
Jude looked over nervously and bit his lip. Was Penina going to tell on him for making her drop her bible on purpose? Penina saw him standing there and turned to Jennifer with a small smile "There's nothing to talk about. We were just playing a game, that's all." She walked out of the room without even glancing at Jude. He dared breath out. Jennifer looked suspicious but shrugged her shoulders and went into the kitchen to decide what they'd have for dinner.
Mia went upstairs into her bedroom and dumped her 'Hello Kitty' book bag on the floor. She went to go back downstairs but then stopped short. She looked over at Hodgepodge's cage. It was empty. Mia was frozen to the spot for a moment before starting to look for him frantically. Penina appeared at the doorway "What's the matter?"
Terrified, Mia jumped up and said "Nothing." quickly, trying to stand in front of the empty hampster cage. But Penina saw that it was empty and gasped.
"Where is he?" Penina cried "Were you playing with him?" Mia shook her head frantically and Penina shut the door "You left his cage door open! Look!" They both looked at the cage and sure enough the door of the cage was wide open.
"I didn't, I promise!" Mia whimpered, frightened tears in her eyes.
"Then how did he get out?"
"I don't know, I don't know!"
"You have to think!" Penina told her "Mommy's not going to believe you. She didn't believe Eva about the necklace and she won't believe you about this." Mia was devastated and started sobbing properly. Penina tried to comfort her "It's okay, don't cry. Look at me." Penina took Mia's shoulders and she looked up at her, her knees shaking "I'll tell Mommy it was my fault. You won't get into trouble. I'll tell her that I took him out of the cage without permission, okay?"
"Thank you!" Mia cried, throwing her arms around Penina's neck.
"Don't worry. It'll be our little secret." Penina smirked, a calculating look in her eyes.
In Gerard and Jennifer's bedroom, the lights were off. They had just finished making love. They were both breathless and trembling. Jennifer cradled Gerard's face in her hands, looking into his eyes lovingly. And then something catches her eye. It's Penina by the open door, just staring at them blankly "Oh my God!" Jennifer squeaked and the couple quickly pulled the covers up over them. Jennifer switched the bedside lamp on "Penina, honey? What is it? Is everything okay?"
Penina just glared at them before returning to her own bedroom.
The next morning Jennifer went into Penina's bedroom and found her painting at an easel. She was painting a portrait of Eva. There were already portraits of nearly every other family member pinned to her walls. Jennifer sat down on Penina's bed but Penina didn't turn around or acknowledge that she was there. She shifted uncomfortably "Penina, we need to talk about what happened last night."
"Yes." Jennifer nodded, biting her lip "There are certain things grown-ups do that children aren't supposed to see. And that was one of them." Penina continued painting. She still hadn't looked at Jennifer "Penina, I need you to listen to me."
Penina paused before delibrately setting her paint brush down and turning to Jennifer. There was an awkward silence for a moment before Jennifer told her "Look, when two grown-ups love each other very much, they like to show that love to each other-"
"I know. They fuck." Penina replied.
Jennifer's mouth fell open and she just stared at Penina. Penina turned around and continued to paint as if nothing was wrong. Jennifer sat back, not knowing what to do or say.
Jennifer told Gerard of course. He didn't seem too bothered about it "She could've picked it up anywhere." He told her "She probably picked it up at school."
"This wasn't something she overheard." Jennifer replied "She knew what it meant. And the way that she said it was like she didn't even expect to get into trouble."
"We'll talk to her about it tonight." Gerard said calmly.
"You think that's enough?"
"What do you suggest?"
"I could take her to see Doctor Browning."
Gerard laughed "It was just one dirty word. We don't need to take her to a shrink."
"Maybe. It just reminded me of what Sister Abigail said." Jennifer said thoughtfully "We really don't know that much about her. Her last family could've been like 'pass the fucking potatoes' at the dinenr table for all we know." Gerard laughed again "If she's saying 'fuck' to my face then what's she doing when we're not around? We have to think about what kind of influence she's having on Jude, Eva and Mia. Particularly Mia."
"I wouldn't worry about it." Gerard replied "You're right, we don't know how she was raised, but we do know she's a good kid. If Jude, Eva and Mia want to start acting like her then that's fine with me."