"I gave you a second chance."
Jennifer sighed and went into the kitchen. Penina had been standing at the top of the stairs. She'd heard the message and now she was scared. Scared and pissed.
That night Jennifer and Gerard were getting ready for bed and talking about Penina's trip to the dentist "He's been our dentist for ten years." Jennifer said patiently "Why would he lie to us?"
"I'm not saying he's lying, I just think he's blowing it out of proportion."
"I saw the bite marks." Jennifer hissed "We're lucky he's not suing us."
"Fine." Gerard replied "But I don't believe for a second that she did it for no reason."
"That's because she's always on her best behaviour around you."
"That's not true." Gerard said "I've had to deal with her at her worst..."
"What you think is her worst is what she's like with me all the time. She's completely different with you than she is with me."
"So you've seen her bite someone like an animal?"
"No, but she threw that fit at school."
"Yeah because the other kids were harassing her. It's the same thing here." Jennifer's eyes widened so Gerard continued "She's from a whole different culture Jennifer. She has to be taught that this behaviour isn't appriopriate but there's nothing sinister behind it. If she says she bit him because she was scared and he was hurting her, I don't see any reason not to believe her."
Jennifer glared at him "So should I believe that she said you were hitting on Joyce?"
Gerard was taken aback "Did she say that?"
"Is it true?"
"Of course not!"
"Did she invite you over?"
"She wanted me to help her move a chair." Gerard said truthfully.
"Oh come on." Jennifer scoffed.
"Alright, she was obviously coming on to me but I blew her off." Gerard sighed.
"Then why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I knew how you'd react."
"Really?" Jennifer raised her eye-brows "Are you sure it's not because you were coming on to her so obviously that even an eight-year-old could pick up on it?"
There was a long silence until Gerard said "How long are you going to keep hanging this over me? It's been ten years."
"You keep saying that but it's only been two years since you told me." Jennifer looked at him for a long moment before saying "Having another child was supposed to bring us together not tear us apart."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it but I just feel like I've earned a little trust here."
"I don't know what you expect from me. I may never completely trust you again. Not like before."
"I gave you a second chance."
Jennifer stopped short. His words were like a physical blow "That's not fair."
"So you can keep bringing up my mistakes over and over but we're not even allowed to discuss yours?"
"I was sick! You were an asshole who wanted to fuck somebody else!"
"You were a danger to our children. If I didn't want this to work, I could've left months ago and nobody would've blamed me."
"Nice. Is that what Valeria told you?" Angry tears welled in her eyes. Gerard realised he'd gone too far but didn't say anything. Jennifer went into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
Meanwhile, Penina was sat in Mia's room with Eva "The mean lady is coming tomorrow." Penina said and signed.
"I don't want you to leave." Mia pouted.
"Neither do I. We have to scare her. Then she'll leave us alone. Will you two help me?" Mia and Eva anxiously nodded their heads and Penina smiled "Come on then."
Penina lead the two girls downstairs into the garage which had been turned into Gerard's studio. The room was dark when they made it downstairs, all the girls still in their nighties. Eva shut the door behind them and Penina switched on a table lamp "Look for the key to the tree house." She said and signed to the two of them. They both nodded and started searching.
While they were searching, Penina looked through Gerard's desk. What she was looking for wasn't in there. She looked in the closet. A safe with a padlock on caught her eye. Eva opened a chest and found a ring with several keys on them. She took them out, rattling them excitedly at Penina. Penina smiled and took them. She looked back at the closet. Then at the keys. Eva and Mia eyed her curiously. Penina grabbed a chair and dragged it over to the closet. She got on the chair and pulled out the small safe. She tried a couple of keys until she found the right one and opened it with a click. There was a gun inside. Penina's face lit up and reached for it. She carefully picked it up and turns it over, looking at it. Mia and Eva shared a scared look. Penina gave them a sly look, then loaded a single bullet and spun the cylinder. She got up and pointed the gun at Mia. Right between the eyes.
"Do you want to play?" Penina asked with a smirk.
Mia looked helplessly at Eva who gave the tiniest shake of her head. Mia shook her head at Penina, too terrified to say anything. Penina smirked. After a long tense, terrifying moment Penina lowered the gun "You're right. We'd better not." There was a pause "Not yet."
The next day, Sister Abigail, Gerard and Jennifer sat in the living room "When you first asked about adopting Penina, I expressed some misgivings. But I wasn't completely straightforward with you. You see, I love children. I've worked with them my entire life. And the thing about love is that sometimes it clouds your judgement." She paused "But the truth is that I knew there was something wrong with Penina since the moment I set eyes on her."
Jennifer sat up concerned while Gerard glared at Sister Abigail "You said you suspected some kind of abuse."
"Yes but there was something else. It was hard to say what it was at first. Just a feeling that she was a very damaged girl. Then I noticed that she always seems to be around whenever some of the other girls got in trouble. Two girls would get into a fight and there she'd be. Someone would get caught stealing. She'd be there again. After you told me about that girl at the playground I started wondering again. I called the school Penina went to when she lived with the Wallaces and asked if there had been any serious accidents while she was there. There was one incident that was still fresh in everyone's minds. A boy in her class was stabbed through the throat with a pair of scissors. All the kids who saw it said it was an accident. That he was running with the scissors and tripped. But once again, Penina was there."
Penina stood in the kitchen. She had been eavesdropping. At this point, she drifted away.
"But none of these were her fault." Gerard pointed out.
"That's what I was reluctant to think about at first. Now I think that may have been a mistake." Sister Abigail looked down at the floor "Children like Penina, who've spent their entire lives in instatutions, have never had the chance to form long lasting bonds. The longterm effects of this can be devestating. In the very worst cases, children who fail to form early attachments are unable to learn the difference between right and wrong. They can lie, cheat and steal- or worse. And they have no remorse whatsoever for their actions. They view other human beings as objects, pawns for their amusement. And they can be potientially very dangerous."
Upstairs, Penina pulled on some white gloves and went back downstairs "That just doesn't sound like Penina." Gerard said to Sister Abigail.
"A severely character-disturbed child can appear to be completely normal, even exceptional. It's like they have two faces. One they show the outside world in order to get what they want and the other, their true face, lying just beneath the surface."
Mia sat on her bed with Eva, both of them anxious and nervous. Mia was holding on to a 'Hello Kitty' bag. Penina went in the room "Let's go."
"What about the orphanage in Russia where she was raised?" Jennifer asked Sister Abigail "Wouldn't they have been able to tell?"
"I've put in a call to the director there but she could have easily slipped through the cracks."
"So the bottom line here is that you don't have any proof of this." Gerard said.
"That's true. I don't. But I believe the circumstancial evidence is enough to warrant taking the next step."
"And what's that?" Jennifer asked.
"Get Penina out of this house."
Gerard and Jennifer were stunned "You want to disrupt the adoption over this?" Gerard exploded.
"If I'm wrong then she can come back home. But you need to get her a therapist. We need to know what we're dealing with."
"She's just a kid!"
"She's also the sole-survivor in a house fire that killed her entire family. It was arson. I did some checking. Someone delibirately set the house on fire. They never caught who did it though."
"Wait a minute, you're not suggesting-"
"Pyromania is one of the warning signs of a character-disturbed child."
Jennifer thought about it "Do you think she had something to do with what happened to Meredith?"
"The thought that a child could commit such monstrous crimes flies in the face of everything I hold dear. But in my opinion, it is a possibility that you need to take very seriously."
Penina slid the door open Gerard's den with the girls behind her. They all crept inside and went over to the tool bench.
Jennifer and Gerard were stunned by what Sister Abigail had told them "We can take her to Doctor Browning. Jennifer suggested doing that a few weeks ago. But I don't want to send her away." Gerard looked at them "Not without at least some kind of proof."
Sister Abigail sighs, frustrated. Jennifer turned to Gerard "What if the Doctor says she's dangerous?"
"Then I guess we won't have any choice." Gerard replied, biting his lip.
Jude was sat outside, moodily throwing rocks into the lake. He heard something behind him and turned around. Penina, Eva and Mia were running off into the woods, leaves crushing under their feet. He eyed them curiously.
Sister Abigail left. Gerard and Jennifer stood at the door, waving awkwardly and looking worried.
Penina, Eva and Mia ran towards the bridge where the neighbourhood crosses the river. They climbed up the bank and crouched by the bridge, all of them out of breathe. Penina looked up and down the road. No traffic. She grinned, amused.
Sister Abigail was troubled as she drove it. She needed a cigarette. So she reached into her handbag.
The only noise was the sound of the rippling river. Mia looked at Eva and Penina nervously. Eva looked just as terrified and Penina smiled at them re-assuringly "It's going to be fine. Mia, just wave your arms and make sure she stops." Mia nodded. And then Penina and Mia heard the car coming "Here she comes. Wait until she gets close."
Mia stood up and looked nervously at the approaching car "Do I have to-" She was cut off by Penina shoving her into the road, right in front of the speeding car. She screamed and Sister Abigail gasped before slamming her foot down on the break. Tires squealled, stopping the car mere feet from where Mia lay on the road. She frantically jumped out of the car and ran over to Mia.
"Dear lord! Are you okay Honey?" She bent down next to Mia.
Mia looked up at her, stunned but unhurt. She was too scared to say anything and burst into tears "Mia-?" Sister Abigail muttered in a confused voice, recognising her.
A shadow falls on Sister Abigail from behind. She turned around and looked up. It was Penina who was holding a hammer. Sister Abigail screamed and Penina slammed the hammer into her face, angry that she screamed. Mia and Eva screamed for a split second, then stopped because they were scared that Penina would hit them as well. Sister Abigail fell to the floor, blood trickling onto the pavement. As Mia and Eva stared at the body, paralyzed in fear, Penina went over to the car and stole Sister Abigail's wallet. Then she hurried back to the road.
"Help me get her off the road." Penina hissed, signing it as well.
Mia and Eva glanced at each other before getting up to help her. Mia and Eva both grabbed a leg and Penina tried grabbing her shoulders but she was big and they were little so she was heavy. Then Penina heard something. There was another car coming "Hurry up!" She urged. They hurriedly dragged the body out of the road and then shoved the body down towards the lake. Sister Abigail rolled down the bank and the girls hid out of the sight just as the car drove past.
Penina breathed out when suddenly she heard a noise from where they'd rolled Sister Abigail. She was still alive. Penina rolled her eyes. She was trying to speak but only an awful moan escaped from her lips. Penina picked up the hammer again and stormed down towards her. Sister Abigail looked up at her, moaning loader. Penina whacked the hammer against her. There was an awful crunching noise. Eva and Mia flinched while Penina hit her over and over and over again.
Once Sister Abigail stopped moving, Penina knew she was dead. She turned back to the girls. There was blood all over her. Mia and Eva were terrified as Penina walked towards them "Did you get any on you?" They both shook their heads, pale and shivering "Good. Let's go get cleaned up."
Penina started covering Sister Abigail's dead body. Mia and Eva looked at each other for a long moment and then shuffled towards her like a zombie. Penina smiled.
Penina changed into a clean dress in Jude's tree house. She stuffed Mia's 'Hello Kitty' bag into a loose floorboard because it contained her blood-stained dress, the bloody hammer and Sister Abigail's wallet. Penina turned to the two girls "If you tell on me, you'll also get into trouble."
"You tricked us." Mia whispered, wiping away her tears.
"That doesn't matter." Penina told them "They'll send you both to jail just for helping me." Both girls started to cry again. Penina sat in between them "I had to kill her. She was going to take me away. Now we can be together forever."