Chapter 8: Frying Pan
Penny was frozen in place, not quite believing her own daring. Had she really said that?
On Mom's face, shock was quickly turning to rage. Her face began to redden at an alarming rate. "What do you mean, your boyfriend?" Her voice was so tightly controlled that it shook.
"Exactly what I said. That was my boyfriend calling to warn me that his parents are going to call later. They want to meet you guys." Penny's heart was pitter pattering in her chest like she imagined a frightened rabbit's would. Was she having a heart attack? She half hoped that she would, just to get out of this conversation.
Only it became less a conversation and more a shouting match almost instantly.
"I knew it! I knew the second you were out of sight you'd start spreading your legs again!" Mom shrieked, pointing a claw like finger.
"I haven't even kissed him yet!" Penny felt her face going red with embarrassed anger.
Mom scoffed, clearly in disbelief.
"Oh stop it, Mom! I had sex once, with someone I was dating and you're acting like I'm walking the streets every night!" Penny didn't know what got into her; normally by this point she would be crying and groveling. But God, it felt good to fight back.
"You're dressed like it!" Of course that would come up. It always did.
When Penny laughed, it wasn't a pleasant sound. "Are you kidding me? I'm wearing jeans and a shirt!" She gestured sharply at where the material fit her thighs snugly, and the shirt shaped nicely but not obscenely to her chest.
"They're too tight!"
"I don't need a belt to keep my pants up!"
"What's wrong with needing a belt!"
Finally Penny had enough. "Because I don't want to hide that I'm a girl!"
Mom froze, mouth half open.
"I get that we've lived in some places where looking like a boy was the best option to stay safe, and I get wanting to make sure that nobody's taking advantage of me, but this has gotta stop. This is a safe neighborhood. I turn eighteen in May. You can't protect me forever, and I don't want you to." That was a much kinder and gentler telling off than Penny planned to give. Hopefully it would reach better than angry shouting had.
It sort of did. The one thing that was worse than Mom shouting happened: she started crying. They were dignified little sobs, shaking shoulders and quiet shuddering breaths.
The phone rang again and Penny picked it up gratefully. "Monahan residence," she said.
"Hello, this is Agatha Griffin, Lucien's mother," the woman on the other end of the line introduced in a dignified voice.
Penny felt her face go white. "Oh, hello. I'm Penny Monahan. Is there something wrong?" She had to pretend she didn't know what was going on, which was just as weird as trying to cover the sounds of Mom crying.
"No, nothing is wrong, thank you. I was hoping that I could speak to your guardian for a moment." If nothing else Mrs Griffin was polite. Her formality was the slightest bit creepy, though.
"Right. Give me a moment and I'll get one of my grandparents, Mrs Griffin." Like hell was Penny going to allow her mother anywhere near this conversation; she'd wreck everything in two seconds flat.
In the doorway of the dining room, Grandma's eyes bugged out. Before Mom could even think of interrupting, she snatched the phone. "Mrs Griffin? Yes, this is Edna Monahan. How are you doing?"
The conversation was short and to the point but conducted in extremely pleasant tones. It sounded an awful lot like they were each trying to be the more accommodating and kind one. When Grandma hung up, she had to lean on the console table for a moment with a dizzy expression.
"Grandma?" Penny wasn't sure whether to be more concerned, alarmed, or grateful. As it was she just put a hand on her grandmother's arm for support.
"We're invited to dinner on Friday night. At the Versailles Ballroom." From the faintness of Grandma's voice that was important.
Even Mom knew that meant something; her eyes were wide as she stared.
"We're go shopping tomorrow, no excuses," Grandma declared with a sharp look at Mom.
Penny was worse than lost. She frowned at Mom and Grandma, hoping for an explanation.
Finally Grandpa took pity on her, standing in the doorway from the dining room. "The Versailles Ballroom is one of those fancy places where everyone gets dressed up in uncomfortable shoes to impress each other." He scowled mightily and crossed his arms over his chest.
"The Griffins are rich. Very rich. Part of high society, even." Grandma shook her head, barely able to believe she had to explain. "How did you meet this boy again?" She raised a thin eyebrow at her granddaughter.
"Detention." Penny barely noticed that she said it, too busy wondering what the hell she had gotten sucked into.
The answer came the next morning when Lucifer pulled up in his Mustang. Mom was still asleep or else she would have thrown a fit; Penny sneaked out with a wave to Grandpa and slid into the passenger seat. "So, I have a whole hell of a lot of questions," she stated as she got her seatbelt on.
"That was a terrible pun," Lucifer replied mildly as he pulled away from the curb, "Your notebook is in the glove box, by the way."
Rolling her eyes, because how had Penny missed that, she retrieved her missing item. Good thing it was her civics notebook and she hadn't had any homework for that class. As she tucked it into her backpack, she eyed Lucifer demandingly.
He sighed around the base of his cigarette. "Okay, so you remember how I said they were planning on arranging me with Amanda Sommers." The disgust in his voice was completely unmasked now, nothing short of toxic.
"Whoever she is." Penny didn't like the tight, roiling feeling in her gut at the reminder.
Lucifer took the cigarette from his mouth and put it out in the ashtray. "Our families are friends, we hate each other, not really important besides that I need a way out besides running for it before graduation. That would just be trouble. I needed a reason they couldn't go through with that, one that they'd still accept instead of finding a way to make me break it off. So I remembered your grandparents are pretty wealthy, you've got a decent last name, and we're friends. So I tried to bullshit my way out of it and accidentally brought you into it." He paused to sneak a look at her. "Sorry again."
No matter how she wanted to bitch at him, Penny simply sighed. "Only reason that phone call didn't spell out disaster is because Grandma recognized your last name," she said.
Quietly Lucifer huffed a laugh. "At least it was good for something. You're not in trouble, are you?"
If she was, Penny would have been giving him an earful no matter how stupid it was. "Not technically. I mean, my mom is definitely going to yell at me later, but that's expected. What about you?" She hoped that she could live up to whatever Mrs Griffin was thinking. At least enough to not create any worse problems than they already had.
"Mom's just glad I'm not being a complete and total disappointment like I have been up until now." Lucifer would have seemed completely nonchalant if it weren't for the way his grip briefly tightened on the wheel and the corners of his lips turned downward.
Sympathy flooded Penny and she put a hand on the one he was using to control the gears. "You're not a disappointment, they're just assholes," she told him bluntly. She impressed herself with her daring; a month ago she would barely have been able to think it.
Lucifer gave her a smile that looked more like a grimace. "This plays along with what I was going to suggest for school," he said, pointedly changing the subject back.
That conversation seemed so long ago now… "Okay, so what's that, and how are we going to get away with that and fooling our families?" Penny asked pointedly.
"Originally I would say you hang out with Sebastian and his group more- the whole respect getting you farther than fear thing- but it looks like we're just going to have to deal with fear now." Lucifer turned into the school parking lot with a growl at the bright red rustbucket toddling along in front of him.
The mere concept made Penny's stomach flip with combined anxiety and excitement. Just like it did seemingly every day around those boys. "What about Sebastian? I don't want to make him feel like an awkward third wheel." Even with yesterday's incidents, he was still one of the best friends she'd ever had.
Lucifer grimaced. "I guess that's up to you guys. I'm cool with anything as long as he doesn't expect me to put up with his idiot fangirls," he answered.
They had backed off recently, but Penny remembered well enough. They had always been up in Sebastian's space with their fluttering eyelashes and flirty smiles. Little touches that looked innocent but were designed to tease. In ways completely unrelated to Sebastian, she had hated them; they were confident in their femininity and comfortable interacting in more than friendly ways.
Now she loathed them more than ever and didn't want to think about why. "They've stayed away for a while," Penny pointed out gratefully.
The car rolled to a stop at its usual spot under one of the few trees in the parking lot. As soon as it stopped, Penny missed the soothing rumble of the engine.
"Yeah, well that was when they thought you two were getting together." Lucifer pocketed his keys and reluctantly shut his cigarettes into the console.
They got out of the car and locked it before heading toward the front of the school. Already they were getting some looks and Penny shifted slightly behind Lucifer.
With a calculating look he put his arm over her shoulders. "Tell me if you get uncomfortable, but we'll need to do some acting," he said, tilting his head so that he was speaking quietly into her ear.
The feeling of cool breath against her skin made pleasant shivers go down Penny's spine. "Acting like what?" she asked his collarbone. Her hip brushed his thigh as they walked and it felt like lightning struck her in that exact spot. She was pretty sure she was going to die.
"Like a damn couple." Lucifer had to be joking.
"I know that much, but what are we talking?" Penny hissed.
Now that they were approaching people, Lucifer had to control his scoff. "Just like we were before, but with more of this," he squeezed her closer for a moment, "and if we need to make a point, maybe a kiss on the cheek or something."
It was stupid, beyond stupid even, but a tendril of fear snaked through Penny's veins. She wanted to run back home and hide under her bed.
Lucifer stopped at the ramp to the lower level, looking her in the eye seriously. "I'll never make you do anything you don't want to. Understand?" His thumb stroked comfortingly over her upper arm where it still rested.
Compulsively Penny swallowed. She could do this. She needed to do this. And it was Lucifer she was with; she could trust him. "How do I tell you if…?" She bit her lip, embarrassed that she even had to ask. Dammit, she shouldn't be this much of a wimp!
Even as anger at herself and her life and everything in it that made her like this welled up in Penny's brain, she was calmed by Lucifer humming with thought. "Pinch me." Oh. That was simple.
"Okay." She wasn't entirely sure she could do this but she'd hate herself if she didn't try. With a deep breath, she hooked her thumb onto Lucifer's back belt loop.
Just like a practice round, he leaned down and- was that a kiss to the top of her head? "Time to make our grand entrance." Lucifer smirked, a gleam of mischief in his pale eyes.
This time on the way up the stairs to the main building entrance, they didn't stop. Not for anyone who was staring, not for anyone whispering. It was a power walk if Penny had ever experienced one.
Near one of the side entrances, she saw Lyric and smiled guilelessly. If Penny felt like being kind, she would absolutely thank that girl for slapping her. Otherwise she never would have ended up with two of the best friends she could imagine.
As it was, Lyric's eyes went wide and then narrowed.
Nothing and no one could touch Penny in that moment. She had rarely been afraid of physical confrontations, and verbal ones from anyone but her mom generally only left scratches on her thick skin. That someone nobody fucked with had her back, literally, made her feel damn powerful.
She and Lucifer walked in the front doors and in their wake, rumors spread like wildfire.