04 | quattuor

63 5 10
                                                  

My alarm clock goes off at 7:00 am, and I'm about to get up when I remember that I'm suspended. For one whole week.

I lay my head back onto the pillow, but it's no use. I'm already wide awake. Screw alarm clocks. I sigh, rubbing my eyes.

"WAVERLY? WHERE DID MY HASH CONTAINER GO?" Penny's voice yells from downstairs.

I'm doomed. The shrill scream that follows seals my fate faster than I could say 'please pass the potatoes' once.

"What if I ate it?" I answer sarcastically. After last night I don't have much patience for Penny's antics. I still blame my dad for choosing her. Why couldn't he have found someone else with less of an age difference and more care about other people's sanity?

"If you did, you're never leaving this house ever again. EVER. FOR ANYTHING," she shouts.

I roll my eyes. I pull back the covers and get out of the bed, then make my way to the dresser. Hastily pulling some clothes on, I run down the stairs to meet Penny in her kitchen.

"Is this really all because of the hash?" I ask. Because you sure seemed happy last night when I found you and dad on the couch. However much I dislike Penny, there are plenty of things I still keep to myself that cross my mind about her.

"Don't make me-"

"Mommy?" Phoebe's voice calls from the top of the stairs. Our house is very echoey and if you stand at the bottom of the steps you can hear quite well from nearly all the rooms upstairs. "I heard weird noises from downstairs last night. It sounded like someone had a stomach ache."

Penny's face turns bright red, but she quickly says, "Must have been Waverly, after she ate my food!"

I find her reaction almost amusing but she'd kill me for my fun later, so I decide to save face and wear my mask.

The phone rings, distracting Penny. She picks it up and in a perfectly angelic tone, one that should belong to a Walmart cashier, she says, "Hello, you've reached the residence of Peter Skovgaard and Penny Stom. How may I help you?" I can't tell whose voice is on the other side of the line but Penny's remains indifferent.

"Of course, James, that would be simply lovely. I'm sure Peter will be thrilled to hear that you accepted our invitation." A fake smile is plastered on her face even though I know this James character can't actually see it. It's become habit for Penny to always be wearing that smile. I roll my eyes behind her back.

"We'll see you tomorrow," she says, wrapping up the conversation. "I'm sure Waverly will be thrilled to spend time with Isla."

I freeze, my hand in the process of reaching for some ice cream. Isla? I only know one Isla...shit.

"Who was that?" I hesitantly question as Penny turns off her phone.

"James Collins, honey," she replies with a disdainful look. "He works with Peter and we invited him and his family over for dinner. I believe you know his daughter, Isla?"

I gulp. "I - I do," I stammer.

Penny smiles. "Well, then I'm sure you will enjoy yourself." With that, she turns away and struts into the kitchen.

I'm tempted to tell her about Isla - maybe she'll cancel the dinner - but I know it would just cause more torture from her in the future. In fact, if I did tell her, she would probably start inviting her family over every week.

I shake my head, loosening my nerves. No, I tell myself, I'll just have to cope.


Two hours later, the doorbell rings, and I rush down the stairs. I'm dressed in a floral-printed yellow sundress, contrasting greatly to the silk evening dress Penny is wearing. She tried to coerce me to change my mind, but I refused. It was my turn to annoy her.

I turn the knob and pull open the door, putting on my friendliest smile. The Collins family is standing on the porch. I nod my head to the man - James Collins - who is dressed very professionally, then smile at the woman - Isla's mother.

Taking a deep breath, I turn to look at Isla, and my eyes lock with hers. My smile falters. Her dark brown eyes are narrowed and she wears an evil smirk.

"Welcome," I say, breaking our eye contact.

Mr. Collins nods and extends his hand. "I'm James," he says. "You must be Waverly. I work with your father."

"Yes," I say, politely shaking his hand. "My step - my mother told me." Shit, I'm going to have to work on that.

"Oh, yes, I'm very excited to meet Mrs. Stom. She seems like a wonderful person."

I almost scoff, but I hold myself together.

"Hello!" Penny's cheery voice comes from behind me. I turn around to see her dancing down the hallway. "Oh, Waverly, dear, you haven't even let them in yet!" Running to the door, she opens it wide, ushering them in.

"I was just having a nice conversation with your daughter, here, Ms. Stom," Mr. Collins says. "She seems like a wonderful little girl."

I roll my eyes, making sure they can't see. Great. Not only are they beginning to speak like I'm not there, but he also just labeled me as a toddler. I can see where Isla gets her personality from.

Penny laughs in the most ladylike way possible. "Yes, she is very sweet, though she hasn't quite mastered her manners," she says, extending her hand. "You must be Mr. Collins."

James nods, shaking Penny's hand. Oh, poor her. She was probably expecting him to kiss her fingers. That's the greeting she usually receives. "You can call me James," he tells her politely. "This is my wife, Leigh."

Mrs. Collins smiles, probably happy to have finally been announced. "Pleased to meet you."

"Pleasure," Penny replies. "And this must be Isla."

"Ài Lán is her traditional name," Leigh informs us, smiling. "It means love orchid."

"Mother darling? Shut up," Isla says, her face steel.

For some reason, it makes me happy to see her irritated. She must not enjoy being called by her Chinese name. I should keep that in mind.

I shake my head, clearing the thought. Don't become her, I tell myself. To tease her would just cause you to become a bully. You don't want that. Don't succumb to her plans.

"How nice," Penny says, ignoring Isla's harsh retort. Then she turns to me. "Waverly, dear, why don't you take Isla upstairs and show her your room? You girls are going to have so much fun tonight."

My blood runs cold, and I glance at Isla. The look in her eyes terrifies me.

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