But Penina wasn't wavered. She couldn't take her eyes off of her.
They started picking the flowers but then Penina noticed something that made her stop short. It was a girl on a bicycle. That girl happened to be Brenda who pretended not to see Penina and continued riding by. Penina glared at her for a long moment before getting up and following her. Mia and Eva shared a confused look before getting up and following her.
Penina found Brenda's bike parked at the neighbourhood playground. There were kids playing everywhere while Mom's stood at the edges watching them carefully. A homeless guy with a trolley filled with garbage bags was asleep by a tree. Penina marched Mia and Eva into the park.
Mia and Eva both happily ran over to the swings together but Penina walked over to Brenda who was climbing on the jungle gym with some other kids. Penina didn't attempt to climb the jungle gym, just stared at Brenda who pulled a face at her. But she wasn't put off. Penina stood by the jungle gym staring at Brenda. This was starting to creep Brenda out so she snapped "What are you staring at?"
Penina didn't respond. Eva got up and went over to her, not wanting an argument to start between Penina and Brenda. She tugged on Penina's sleeve but she stayed rooted to the spot. Finally, Brenda couldn't take it anymore. She climbed off the jungle gym and walked away. Penina watched her go. Brenda got on a swing and started swinging herself back and forth but as soon as she got some height she noticed Penina standing near her again, just staring at her. Eva went and got her own swing but Penina was fixated on Brenda "Stop staring at me." Brenda hissed "Stop it!"
But Penina wasn't wavered. She couldn't take her eyes off of her. Brenda got off the swing and ran off. Penina calmly walked after her. Mia and Eva exchanged a worried glance but got up and hurried after her in case an argument broke out or something "Go away! Stop following me you freak!" Brenda snapped "Who don't you three go home and change each others diapers?"
Brenda ran over to the cork screw slide. At the top there was a small room you had to walk across to get to the slide. Penina followed her and Mia and Eva walked behind her, still uncertain about what they were doing. Brenda paused by the slide. There were steps to get to the top in a dark enclosed area. She turned to Penina "You go first."
Penina didn't move but Mia gladly took her place and Eva went after her. Penina stared at Brenda for a moment before following them up the stairs. Brenda stayed behind, watching them. Mia and Eva went down it but Penina stood at the top, staring down Brenda at the bottom "Go!" Brenda yelled up at her.
For a moment Penina continued to stare down at her and then she turned and disappeared out of sight. Only then did Brenda go up the stairs. She reached the top and looked down but she could only see Mia and Eva. Where was Penina?
Brenda turned around and found Penina standing in front of her. She hadn't gone down the slide after all, she'd just ducked down out of sight so that Brenda would come up the slide. Brenda gasped and Penina shoved her shoulders as hard as she could manage. Brenda stumbled backwards, fell out of the slide, her limbs flailing out-of-control. She hit her leg off the slide on the way down and landed hard in the dirt, starting to cry. There was a giant gash on her forehead and her leg was clearly broken.
Her agonising screams drew alarmed looks. The Homeless Guy startled awake. One of the playground mothers ran over to help. Mia and Eva were frozen to the spot, looking up at the top of the slide, gaping at Penina who just stared down at Brenda. Her face was blank, completely expressionless.
Penina came down the slide and Brenda's Dad arrived at the park. He ran over to his daughter and listened as she talked to him speedily. Brenda pointed at Penina several times. Penina and her adopted sisters were watching them from a distance "Are you going to tell on me?" Penina asked. Mia and Eva shrugged their shoulders nervously "I didn't mean to hurt her. I just want her to stop picking on me. Don't you hate it when someone is mean to you for no reason? Wouldn't you do almost anything to make it stop?"
Mia and Eva thought about it for a moment before nodding. Penina smiled and held out her hand to Mia. Mia took it and the three of them walked home together.
That night Eva, Mia and Penina were called into the dining room. Gerard and Jennifer stood above them while they sat at the dinner table "Brenda says you pushed her." Gerard said seriously, looking Penina in the eye and folding his arms.
"That's not true!" Penina cried "We were just playing and she tripped! I swear."
Jennifer turned to Mia and Eva "Did you two see what happened?"
"Yes." Mia whispered, nibbling her lip "She tripped." Jennifer looked at Eva who nodded in agreement to see what Mia had said.
Jennifer sighed, not entirely convinced.
Jennifer stood in the green house, a large house inside the house. She was watering the plants and spraying Jessica's plant delicately with water. Then she felt something crawling across her hand. She looked at her hand and found an ant. She flicked it off but then she found another. She pulled a disgusted face and looked down to find a swarm of ants around her feet. Jennifer looked down to see what was attracting them. She looked under the table and it was clear what had attracted them. Hodgepodge was lying under the table and he'd clearly been dead for several days, covered in ants and maggots crawling through his dead body.
That night Gerard dug a hole in the garden and Mia, Jennifer, Eva and Penina attended Hodgepodge's funeral. Mia placed a shoebox saying 'Hodgepodge' on it into the hole and laid a flower on top of it. Gerard shovelled dirt into the hole. Penina and Mia shared a knowing look with each other.
Penina and Mia giggled in Jennifer's bedroom. They were playing dress up and were trying to look grown up. Jennifer's clothes were all over the bedroom. Mia was wearing a floor-length black dress that was way too big for her and Penina was wearing a large white shirt and a black skirt that was supposed to be tight but was too baggy for Penina. They were even wearing make-up. Heavy mascara and pink-painted cheeks. Jude walked by and saw Mia putting on lipstick. He walked in and snatched it away from her "Hey, you're not allowed to wear make-up. Does Mom know?"
"Give it back." Penina hissed.
"Give it back or I'll tell Daddy that you hit her and then you'll be in trouble." Penina threatened in a low voice.
"Yeah!" Mia grinned at Penina.
Jude scowled at Penina but handed over the lipstick before leaving. Mia hugged Penina "Best friends forever?" She whispered.
"Of course." Penina whispered back.