Penguins: A Love Story

Did you know that when penguins mate, they mate for life? They are the only animals to do this. And when a male penguin has chosen a mate, he searches the entire beach just to find the right pebble to give to her. Exactly like a proposal. Penguins are soul mates, loving one another until they die.

"Penguins" follows the romance of Theo and Claire; two people who never thought they could be loved, but then found each other. Theo was the quiet, shy guy who was universally liked, but no one really knew him. Claire was a bright, sunny soul who always had a smile on her face that hid her inner pain. Could they be penguins? Or will these lovebirds be wrenched apart by the very things that bind them together?

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7. Chapter 7

Claire was so nervous she felt like she wanted to throw up. 
"You look like you're about to throw up." Theo informed her, taking her hand.
She sighed, blowing her bangs out of her face.
"This is nerve-wracking, Theo!"
"You shouldn't be nervous. They'll like you, I'm sure of it."
"And how can you be so sure?"
"Because I like you." he said simply. 
Claire slumped, burying her head into his shoulder.
"Fine. Let's go in."

The couple walked into the house, hand in hand. Immediately, they were swooped on by Theo's family, mainly his three sisters and mother. Theo met Claire's eyes and nodded reassuringly. Juliet and Melissa, Theo's two eldest sisters, stepped forward and introduced themselves. And then it was Rose's turn.
"Hey there!" she said brightly, holding her hand out for Claire to shake.
"I'm Rose, Theo's bad big sister."
"It-it's great to finally meet you." Claire said hurriedly, recovering her senses.
"Theo's told me a lot about you."
"All bad, I hope?" she asked, eyes glinting.
"Um-it's fifty-fifty."
Rose laughed and turned her attention to her brother.
"She's got spunk! Teddy, I say keep her!"
"Teddy?" Claire asked curiously,
"Is that what they call you?"
"No!" Theo said, glaring at his sister.
"Yep, it is! We've always called him that." Rose said, grinning.
"And do you want to know why?"
"No, she doesn't!" Theo said, jumping up and attempting to get Claire out of the room.
"Well, when Theodore here was a baby, he had a teddy bear that he slept with every night. Its name was Mr. Fluffy." Rose started,
"This isn't happening." Theo muttered to himself. 
"And one day, he lost his teddy at the park. So, he begged Mom to take him back to search for Mr. Fluffy, even though it was pouring rain."
"Please stop."
"We eventually found him underneath the slide, no worse for the wear. You still have Mr. Fluffy, right Teddy?" Rose said, looking at Theo.
"Dinner!" their mother called, making Theo breathe a deep sigh of relief. Things couldn't possibly get more embarrassing that that, could they?

Oh yes they can! All through dinner, the females of Theo's family told every humiliating baby story about him.   Theo's father looked at him sympathetically, but he couldn't do anything. The torment would continue. Once it got the the point where they had reached "pictures of baby Teddy in the bath" Theo put his head in his hands. Claire glanced at him and reached under the table for his hand, holding tight.

As for Claire, her nerves had disappeared the moment she stepped into the house. They were all so welcoming, his gentle father, his lovely sisters. But the person Claire adored from the moment she met her was Theo's mother.

She was everything a mother should be; nurturing, kind, caring to the point that it sometimes got annoying. This was the kind of mom who'd ask you how your day went, every single day. She'd listen to the little things, and the big things too. She was just there for you, whether you wanted her to be or not. That was something Claire longed for, even if she wouldn't admit it to herself. A mother that was there.

At the end of the night, Theo's dad stepped up and ushered the other girls and his wife into the living room, leaving Theo and Claire alone. They walked to the door together and  Claire readjusted the bag of left-overs his mom had given her. 
"This was fun." Claire said happily.
Theo sighed and ran a hand through his hair,
"For you maybe!"
"Oh, come on, Theo! It wasn't that bad. And I personally think it's adorable that they remember all your baby stories." 
Theo shrugged,
"At least you found them amusing." 
Claire  moved in to kiss him goodbye, but Theo jerked backwards,
"They're probably watching." he said softly.
"And if you have learned anything about my family tonight, you know that I will never hear the end of it."
Claire giggled and offered him her hand to shake.
"Did you know that in Victorian England, a couple weren't allowed to shake hands unless they were dancing?"
"Oh, you and your historical trivia." Theo said with a smile.
"Good bye, Claire."
"Good bye- Teddy!"

Theo had a funny feeling that nickname was going to stick. 

Claire's good mood was ruined as soon as she walked through the door of her home. Her parents were in the middle of the fight to end all fights. They were on opposite sides of the kitchen, screaming abuse at each other. Looking around, Claire couldn't see Joey anywhere. She sprinted upstairs and found him curled up under his duvet, sobbing. Claire hugged him tightly, pressing a kiss into his downy hair. 
"Shh, Joey." she whispered. 
But Joey couldn't calm down. He was practically hyperventilating.
"Where- were- you?" he howled into her shirt,
"They yelled- and you weren't- there!"

And Claire got angry. She was angry at two things; her parents and herself. They should be trusted to take care of their son for one evening without killing each other. They were utterly pathetic! And Claire was also mad at herself, because she'd let herself go out that night. She should have known that they wouldn't be able to keep control, but she had so wanted to properly meet Theo's family. 

So Claire put Joey back down on his bed, and tucked him in.
"Try to sleep, baby." she said lovingly,
"I'll be right back."

Claire clopped down the stairs loudly, went to the kitchen and stood in between her two parents, pulling them apart.
"Look at yourselves!" she shouted, enraged. 
"Fighting like it's the end of the freaking world! Get a grip, get some couples therapy, get a divorce, for God's sake! But I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't deserve it and neither does Joey!"

She pushed them away from her, tears streaming openly down her face.
"What happened? You used to love each other, I remember it! Where did that go?"
They looked at her guiltily and Claire put her head in her hands,
"Just stay away from each other for the rest of the night. Or preferably, the rest of our lives."
Claire ran upstairs, flinging herself down on her bed and sobbing. She must have woken Joey, because he wandered into her room and laid down beside her. He wriggled in close and put his skinny arms around her,
"Don't cry, Claire." he said comfortingly,
"Joey's here, he'll protect you."
His love made her cry harder.

But Claire had no idea  what repercussions  her confrontation with her parents would have. Because when she woke up the next morning, a note was sitting on her nightstand. Opening it, she stared down at it, wondering if she was reading it correctly,
"Claire,
Everything you said last night was true. It only took my fifteen year old daughter to make me see sense. Forgive me. 
Mom."

Claire jumped out of bed and hurried to her parent's room. She looked around wildly, searching for her mother. There was no sign of her, no clothes in the dresser, not jewelry left on the night stand. It was like she'd never lived there. Her mother was gone. 

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