It was chaos.


But fun chaos.


It was my grandmother’s seventy-sixth birthday, and as normal she was stone drunk and watching one of those television shows with the hot doctors (she says she’s waiting for him to take off his shirt). My sisters (I have three) were gabbing amongst themselves, and my nieces and nephew were running around like wild Blast-Ended Skrewts.


“Aunt Pen, take a look,” said Harriet shoving what looked like a giant spider in my face. “His name is Henry!”


“Holy shit!” I yelled. I took a step back so I could see the thing without it touching my nose.


My niece ignored me and continued talking (like normal). “Henry doesn’t like him, so I named him Henry.”


My only nephew is a wimp - my brother-in-law is worried the kid is gay, and to tell the truth, so am I.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


“Don’t do that to Henry,” I said, shaking my head and trying not to laugh.


“Okay,” said Harriet, smiling what she thinks is a sweet and innocent smile, and what to everyone else is her horror smile. She then ran off and three minutes later I saw her holding Henry-the-spider and chasing Henry-the-boy (who was crying) around the backyard.


After Melissa’s sixteenth birthday, grandma’s birthdays are the best. At Mel’s party my sisters went to karaoke bar and none of them could sing (not to mention they totally trashed). I was fourteen and didn’t have a fake license (so I couldn’t drink), so I got to watch them make total idiots of themselves.


Grandma’s parties are almost the same, except now since I have no kids of my own I’ve been appointed (without my consent) Chief Watcher of Young Children.


Stacy came up with that name. She’s the bullshit artist of the family.


I am the youngest out of four girls; three of us were given normal names. Guess which one got stuck with Penelope? Me. I’m also the only one in the family who has brown curly hair and green eyes, everyone else is tall, and blond with blue eyes. I feel like a nerd in a field of cheerleaders or something.


My oldest sister is named Stacy (she’s the bullshit artist), next is Melissa (she’s the one that drinks too much, and thinks she can sing), then Lindsey (who is the loudest and who used to be the loosest).


Stacy is a lawyer, and her husband is a Mr. Mum (we don’t call him this to his face). She has three kids - all of them are girls - and she’s pregnant with another. Melissa is married; her husband is a football coach, and she has Henry and Henrietta. Even Lindsey is married and has two girls.


I am neither married, nor have a great job. I’m a writer for magazines, which basically means that I send in different stories to different magazines and then cross my fingers and hope that one of them picks it up. I average about five hundred quid a month, and about nine rejections. I’m working on a book, but so far no luck.


I’m also the youngest, and in addition, I have several nicknames. Some of them being Prude, Straight-Edge, The-One-That-Writes, Four-Eyes (even if I only wear glasses when I’m reading) and The-One-That’s-Not-Married-Yet.


There’s more. Believe me.


“Hey, Alien-Believer!” yelled my grandmother from the couch. “He’s going swimming!”


“You’re kidding!” I said, running over to see if the tenth doctor was going to FINALLY take his shirt off. I mean seriously it’s not that much to ask - I watch your show, thereby bringing your ratings up. All I ask is for a little something in return.


I sound so weird right now.


“I don’t believe in aliens,” I said as I leaned over the couch. “I just read about them.”


“Same thing,” said my grandmother, clearly disappointed that the doctor had saved his companion with the sonic screwdriver.


I shook my head, also disappointed. “It’s not the same thing.”


“You,” my grandmother pointed at one of her great-grandkids. “Get me a beer.”


“Heavy, right?” asked Gertie, looking up from her doll.


“Do you need to ask?” asked my grandmother, grinning at Gertie, who smiled back and ran to get her grandmother her beer.


I don’t know how Granny does it. She could make those kids do splits if she wanted them to.


“Melissa, get off the table, honey!” yelled my mother as she came in carrying a cake.


My sister Melissa, who had just been drunkenly dancing on the table (that table has been through everything), got off so my mother could place the cake on the table.


“Gran, come on,” I said tugging on my grandmother’s arm. “It’s time for cake.”


“Will there be beer?” asked my grandmother, grinning at me.


“Yes,” I shouted so I could be heard over everyone’s screaming. “There will be plenty of alcohol.”


If Melissa hasn’t drank it all, that is.


Henry was now dancing around yelling and singing something that sounded like, “You’re still a super hot female!” over and over again.


His father looked horrified. Melissa was laughing her arse off.


“Hey, Pen! Remember my friend, that lawyer guy you met?” Stacy yelled at me over the table. “He thinks you’re hot!”


I wrinkled my nose. “He’s also in his sixties, Stace!”


Stacy rolled her eyes and then had to tug Fuzzball from the cake so he would stop trying to eat it.


Fuzzball is my parent’s Saint Bernard. He’s HUGE and had just covered half the cake in slobber. Lindsey was carefully trying to cut off the slobber bits, and Henrietta was searching for something (knowing Henrietta, it’s bad).


“I LOST HENRY!” yelled Henrietta, looking close to tears.


“I’m right here, Henny,” said Henry, putting a comforting arm on his sister. “You didn’t lose me.”


“Not you, you sissy girl” said Henrietta shrugging the arm off. “I lost the spider.”


I saw Katie, my one-year-old niece, pick something black off the floor and stuff it into her mouth. I screamed.




Stacy’s husband came out of kitchen looking confused (I assume he heard me scream). He looked at Henry who was dancing around again, then looked at me and twirled his finger around his ear.


“Pen, do you know CPR?” asked Stacey, turning to me and panicking.


“No,” I said, also panicking. “They don’t teach CPR at Hogwarts!”


“Use a Summoning Whatsit!” yelled my mum. “Maybe that’ll get it out!”


Twenty seconds later, Katie was being held to the floor while crying hysterically, and I was trying to get my wand down her throat without making her blow her cookies.


“Hurry, Pen, before Henry dies in there!” yelled Henrietta, who was close to tears.


“Er… Accio Whatever-It-Was-That-Katie-Just-Swallowed!” I said, panic growing.


A licorice piece flew out of Katie’s throat, causing poor Katie to blow her cookies all over my sweater. Everyone gave me disgusted looks, not because my sweater was covered in whatever it was that Katie had recently eaten, but because I had caused them to panic.


“Sorry,” I murmured apologetically.


“Thanks, Four-Eyes,” said Stacy, giving me a look.


“Yeah, thanks a lot,” said Henrietta, glaring at me.


Henry (my nephew, not the spider) came up, and at first I thought he was going to say something nice, but then he opened his mouth.


“You’ve got puke on your sweater,” he pointed out.


I got up and was about to change, when I saw Lindsey squeal and spit her coffee back out. She then turned to all of us, holding her coffee cup up.


“I found Henry,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.


Forty Minutes Later (After I’ve Changed)


Henrietta had dug a hole, and apparently we were all needed to conduct a funeral.


“Good Lord,” said Henrietta, holding a shoebox that I assumed Henry was in. “Please help Henry find his way to spider heaven, and make sure the other spiders don’t give him a hard time because he died in the weirdest way possible.”


“Maybe he’ll be, like, a spider celebrity,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “You know - because he died so weirdly.”


I was elbowed in the shins by my sister. “Don’t say anything,” she hissed. “Do you want her to continue?”


“Oh,” said Henrietta, considering my statement. “Well then, in that case, Lord, please help make sure Henry finds a good agent and not one that’s going to try to take advantage of him.”


Everyone turned to glare at me, as she continued her speech.


“And please keep him safe. Amen,” finished Henrietta, about twenty minutes later.


“Amen,” we all muttered, then under our breaths we added, “Thank God.”


About Two Minutes Later


Lindsey was passing out pieces of cake (I noticed that her piece was from the non-slobber side), and I had just taken a couple of bites when Gertie’s older sister Nadine spoke up.


“Are you sure you cut off all the pieces where Fuzzball slobbered?”


“Nadine, we are eating!” said Stacy, putting her fork down and glaring at her daughter.


After that comment, however, none of us ate any cake, and Mum ended up calling for pizza.


Next Day


Dear Pen,


You’re not going to believe this BUT I’M GETTING MARRIED! You don’t know him, he was three years older than us and in Gryffindor, but he is so nice. Plus, he owns a vineyard! A vineyard, Pen!


We’re getting married in the vineyard, it’s in Italy, in the countryside, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


Anyway, I’m rambling. I want you to be there, and I want you to be my maid of honor. Send the answer with Coco, and since I’m pretty sure that you’re going to say yes, I put the ticket in the envelope.


See you soon!




P.S.: You’re going to have to take the airplane, as it’s not safe to Apparate. Same goes for our Floo Network.


I looked over at Scarlett - sorry, Coco - with my eyebrows raised (I have never mastered raising just one eyebrow). “Getting married, eh?”


Coco seemed to shrug her white wings as she drank some water out of my glass.


My best friend Taylor was a travel writer for the Prophet, and because of her travels we don’t see each other often. But we do write each other almost every day.


I feel bad for our owls.


Anyway, Taylor suddenly quit her job at the Prophet and said she was going to write a book on the vineyards of Italy. Now I know why she wanted to do so.


Taylor and I are almost complete opposites, like the fact that she has a normal name and I don’t, and the fact that she’s getting married and I’m not. But we both want to write, even if she wants to write non-fiction and I love fantasy and happy endings.


I peered through the envelope as Coco and Agatha Christie (my barn owl) twittered amongst themselves, and lazily pulled out the airplane ticket so I could check the date.


It was for tomorrow at five a.m.


It was currently eight o’clock at night.



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