The door opened and Gerard walked in sleepily in his pyjamas "What is it Sweetheart?" He asked, rubbing his eyes.
"My arm hurts." Penina sniffled.
"Okay. Let me see." Gerard whispered, switching on her bed side table lamp and pulling back her nightie sleeve. Her wrist was covered in gross blue, black and yellow bruises. Gerard's eyes widened "We need to take you to the hospital."
Gerard drove Penina to the hospital. Jennifer insisted that she wanted to go too so Eva, Mia and Jude had to go as well with coats over their pyjamas. They sat in the waiting room while a Doctor put an x-ray of Penina's arm on the wall. Jennifer noticed that Penina was still wearing her ribbons "It's a hairline fracture in her radius." He told them.
"I swear I barely touched her." Jennifer told them all.
The Doctor raised his eye-brows and said skeptically "You'll need to talk to the social worker about that. She's coming in here to ask you some questions."
"But it was just an accident." Gerard said defensively, not looking at Jennifer at all.
"It's routine." The Doctor explained "We're required by law to file a report. Child Protective Services will be in touch to schedule a follow-up visit to your home."
Jennifer was shocked. Gerard just shot her a dirty look.
They got home really late from the hospital that night, Gerard carrying Mia, who had fallen asleep, into the house while the others just walked. As they started upstairs, Jennifer touched Gerard's shoulder. He hung back while Eva, Penina and Jude made their way to their rooms. When they were gone Jennifer said "You know I would never hurt any of the kids on purpose."
"I know. It's not what you do on purpose that scares me." Gerard muttered before carrying Mia upstairs to bed.
Jennifer sighed. There was no point in her going up to bed. She went into the music room and hugged the remains of Jessica's plant to her chest. She started sobbing uncontrollably, old wounds re-opening.
The moment Gerard's head hit the pillow, he was fast asleep. Penina opened the door slowly and stepped inside timidly. She watched him sleep for a long moment before gathering courage and tiptoeing forward towards the bed. She pulled back the covers and climbed into his bed. Gerard didn't stir so Penina curled up beside him.
Jennifer pushed the plant away and got up. She climbed into the mini van and drove towards the store than parked the car in an empty car park. Her eyes were still tear-stained as she stared towards the shop she'd parked outside. The store she'd parked outside was the liquor store. She stared into the building for a long time as the rain streaked down. Finally she couldn't take it anymore and she walked up to the store.
She got two bottles of red wine and put them down on the check out. The cashier started scanning them. Already Jennifer was feeling anxious, guilty and ready to hate herself "We're having guests for dinner." Jennifer said quickly. The cashier just nodded because he really couldn't give a shit. Jennifer lowered her eyes, paid for the bottles and raced out of the store.
When she got home, she sat both bottles down at the kitchen table and took a seat. One bottle was already open and some poured into a wine glass. But Jennifer didn't drink any of it. She just sat there with her arms folded, staring at it. Nobody was there but her. She was all alone with her demons. After a long moment of wondering whether to take a drink or not, Jennifer stood up and walked over to the window. She looked out at the swimming pool outside. For a long moment she stood there, not just seeing the swimming pool but seeing something more sinsister, darker.
It was enough to move her into action. She quickly grabbed the glass and open bottle of wine and poured them into the sink. She ran the cold tap and scraped away every sign of the wine with her finger tips. She took the empty bottle in the trash and pulled out the house hold rubbish bag. She tied the bag together before running outside into the rain to where the garbage can sat at the end of the driveway waiting to be collected it. She took the top off, pulled a bag out, stuffed the bag with the empty one bottle in and hid it underneath.
Jennifer came back into the house, now soaking wet. She looked at the unopened wine bottle, deciding what to do in her head. After a long moment of thinking, she grabbed the bottle and went upstairs to her walk-in wardrobe and hid the bottle at the bottom of her shoe rack.
The next morning Jennifer drove the kids to school. Jude, Mia and Eva were all staring into space while Penina sat with a stack of paintings on her lap while prattling "I can't wait for show-and-tell. I hope Mrs Grosse likes my paintings. I did one especially for her."
Nobody responded. Jennifer was blocking her out. Penina smiled, not minding her at all.
Jennifer pulled up outside the school. Jude and Eva got out the car and Penina went to follow but her hands were awkward now that one of her arms were in a cast. She fumbled with her paintings and she managed to drop them, them all landing in the gutter and starting to blow away.
"Mommy! My paintings!" Penina cried.
Jennifer glared at her "You dropped them on purpose."
"No, I didn't! I swear!" Penina pouted.
Jennifer didn't believe it for a second but saw several kids running to grab them as they blew away in the wind. Jennifer shot Penina a dirty look, set the hand break and got out of the car to help.
The moment Jennifer's back was turned from the van, Penina ran forward and set the car to neutral and grabbed the parking handle "W-What are you doing?" Mia stuttered nervously from the back, her eyes filled with tears and alarm.
Penina smiled at her and released the break. Eva turned around and saw what Penina was doing the moment that she pulled back and shut the door. She grabbed Jude's arm and twisted him round to see what Penina was doing. He gasped and yelled "MOM!"
Frazzled, Jennifer turned to look at Jude. He pointed towards the van. Jennifer turned to look "Shit!" She yelled.
The van was starting to roll down the hill. Jennifer hurried after it but it was already going pretty fast and picking up speed. "Mia!" Jennifer screamed as she ran faster.
Drivers were swerving out of the way and Mia was trapped in her car seat, her eyes wide as she was too scared to even scream "Mia!" She heard her Mom scream again.
Finally the car crashed into a heap of snow at the bottom of the hill. Jennifer ran frantically to the van, pulled the door open and pulled Mia out into her arms. She was crying and terrified but safe "It's okay Baby..." Jennifer whispered "It's okay, you're all right... Mommy's got you..."
Up at the top of the school, Jude and Eva turned angrily to look at Penina. But she was acting like nothing had happened.