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The Ghost and the Actress

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Penny woke up the next morning and wandered out towards the bathroom and noticed her Care Bears back in place and all amazingly clean. She had never seen Funshine look better. She made up her mind to go visit the comic shop today after she went to the rehearsals her agent, Sharon, had gotten for her. The final rehearsal for a new show called ‘The Coven’ had been the oddest because the role was for a small recurring part of a witch but she’d spent more time doing fight choreography than running lines. She didn’t give it too much thought so long as she got some kind of job. After the rehearsal she drove over to the comic shop. Penny walked into the store Bernie had looked up last night. She looked around at the bewildering and colorful displays and had no idea where to go first so she shouted out for a clerk.

‘Hi, a little help here.’

Everyone in the room froze and stared in amazement. Penny smiled in confusion. She’d seen rooms freeze in comedies plenty of times but she had never seen it happen in real life.

A man in a red cardigan sweater and receding hairline to compliment a nervous face hurried his way up to Penny. “Hi, I’m Stuart, the owner of The Comic Center, are you lost?

Penny thought he seemed nice but a bit jumpy. ‘No, I came to buy some toys for a friend. Some models got broken last night and I wanted to get him some new ones.’

Stuart looked around at the store wondering what kind of models a girl that looked like a model could want. ‘She’s a girl; you’ve all seen one, get back to shopping.’ He looked at the model displays not sure what to suggest. ‘Does your friend want something from comics, movies, TV shows, or some kind of crossover?’

Penny had no idea what the Galaxy thing was but she did recognize the Star Trek thing. ‘One of them was Kirk’s Enterprise and he said some numbers and another model was some ship called Galaxy or something.’

Stuart nodded, ‘Did he, maybe, say Galactica instead of Galaxy?’

‘Yeah, that was it; he said it was a classic series model.’ Penny was relieved Stuart seemed to know what the ships were because she was sure she’d never find the right ones in all this stuff in the store.

They walked over to the TV models and discussed the various ships and Penny guessed Sheldon would want whatever was most like the first in line among the many variations. They came with a hefty price tag for toys but it was a lot less than some of the shoes she’d bought in the past and she did break his models she thought a bit resigned.

‘Do you live around here, Penny? The store does have a club discount if you are going to come back here regularly.’ That was a fib; Stuart just hoped Penny would come back regularly.

‘I just moved to Pasadena with my friend Bernadette. We moved into Los Robles Cottage a few days ago.’ Penny was thinking of getting a couple of comics since Sheldon probably only had the ones in the house.

‘You moved into Sheldon’s old place?’ Stuart was surprised at the coincidence.

‘Did you know Sheldon? Well, there are a lot of comics and models in the house so I guess he came here a lot.’ It made sense since this store was close to Caltech.

‘Yeah, he spent a lot, not always an easy customer, but a regular one. He liked things very orderly and on time.’ Stuart sighed at the quandary. Sheldon was a pain a lot of the time but he was loyal as a customer and a loyal friend.

‘I’ll say that for the order. He is a neat freak.’ Penny had argued with Sheldon enough to agree with Stuart’s assessment.

‘Did you know Sheldon, Penny?’ Stuart caught the way Penny talked about Sheldon like she knew him.

‘No, I didn’t but the cottage is filled with his stuff. It’s pretty easy to guess. They say he killed himself; that’s so sad.’ Penny remembered how Sheldon had looked at the broken models and she felt guilty again for breaking them.

‘I remember that’s what the obituaries said but that’s hard to believe. Sheldon was a lot of things, most of them weird, but he would never kill himself. I still can’t believe that.’

Penny and Stuart talked a few minutes more about Sheldon and what he used to shop for in the store. In the end, Penny found a few of Sheldon’s favorite comic book choices and added them to the models.

Stuart finished boxing up the models and bagging the comics. ‘Is there anything else?’

Penny looked around at the shop Sheldon must have come to religiously. ‘No, that’s it but I might be back.’

Stuart walked Penny to the door. ‘I hope so. It was nice to talk about Sheldon again. A lot of folks don’t, I hope you like it up there at Los Robles, Penny.’

‘Thanks, Stuart, sweetie, and thanks for the help.’

Stuart watched Penny all the way to her car still not believing a girl like that was in his store. ‘Best day ever.’

+++

Penny parked in the driveway happy to be home. She checked her phone when it rang a text message. The casting director wanted her to come back for a second speaking rehearsal for ‘The Coven’ and had an attachment with script pages for the scenes they wanted to see her do. The news gave her a lift if only so she could cover the credit card bill for the models she bought. She texted back that she was ready whenever they wanted her and send her the time and whatever she needed for the rehearsal. She got in the door and heard Bernadette cursing in the kitchen about the washing machine. Penny put the box down in the dining room and found Bernie in the kitchen almost in tears from frustration. Bernie tossed the laundry basket on the floor and seemed ready to pull her hair out.

‘Pink, every white thing I own is pink! Penny, this whole day has been a nightmare of shit and this is the icing on the cake. I know there wasn’t anything colored when I put those clothes in the machine. God, tell me I’m not going nuts!’

Penny wrapped her friend in a hug; she had a pretty good idea of the source of the problem. ‘What happened today, Bernie?’

‘What didn’t happen? I made breakfast and the coffee maker overflowed from water left in the pot I’m sure was empty. I got locked out twice when I went out to do some yard work. Three different pizza places thought I wanted delivery, and now this. Maybe this place is haunted or that little twerp Howard is trying to make us think it is somehow?’ Bernie hugged Penny hard glad to have someone to vent this day with. ‘Please, tell me you had a better day. Let there be some light, today.’

Penny pulled out a chair for Bernie at the table and got them both a soda from the refrigerator. ‘I got a second rehearsal and some sample scenes for it. I don’t want to jinx this saying more but yeah me.’

‘Congratulations, honey, that’s huge! That is something to celebrate, cheers!’ Bernadette was happy for Penny but the day was too much to let go of. ‘I wish I could celebrate more but you wouldn’t believe this place when you’re out.’

Penny growled at the likely cause. ‘Maybe, the place is troubled by something? I have a few tricks from my psychic that might do a little cleansing of the aura here.’

Bernie looked skeptically at her New Age inclined friend. ‘I don’t buy that stuff but I am ready to try anything at this point, even a priest to do an exorcism. Were you trying some cleansing last night? I heard some banging around.’

Penny smiled and gave Bernadette’s hand a squeeze. ‘Sorry, I couldn’t sleep and got watching the TV a little loud. Anyway, we can look into exorcists later but maybe something closer to home would be better. I know Sheldon’s family wants to keep this place the way he had it but I don’t think they’d mind if we moved some stuff. How about we put some of the downstairs crap in the living room and library into the cellar? It’s time we make it look like ours and let the house know who lives here.’

Bernadette and Penny jumped a bit when they heard metallic bang from the cellar. ‘No, not my work clothes!’ Bernadette ran for the cellar. Penny guessed she had struck a nerve and got the box in the living room and headed up to her room.

She barged into the study and put the box on the wing chair. ‘Sheldon Lee Cooper, show your sorry ethereal ass, right now or I’m gonna go rodeo on your entire model collection!'

The angry ghost hunter swung around at the contemptuous snort behind her. ‘Is violence your whole way of solving things, Penny?’

Penny ground her teeth and clenched her fists in outrage for her abused friend downstairs. ‘Don’t give me that anti-violence crap, Sheldon. You’ve been making Bernie miserable all day.’

Sheldon tried to look innocent but the twitching around the eyes gave him away. ‘Well, I am sure I don’t know what you are talking about.’

Penny growled at the obvious lie. ‘Look here, mister, I felt sorry for you last night, but if this is how you are going to act I will personally get rid of every stick of sci-fi crap in the whole house.’

Sheldon got a fire in his eyes at the threat. ‘I know very well you cannot do such a thing. My mommy wants the place untouched as a memorial to her genius son.’

‘Well, maybe she’d like a few mementos mailed to her, especially after she finds out about the vandals that got in here and trashed most of them!’ Penny got a hold of the Serenity model that had brought Sheldon up short the night before.

Sheldon backed off a bit. ‘You wouldn’t dare do such a thing.’ He looked nervously at Penny; he knew he couldn’t really scare her so his options were limited. ‘Please, I won’t bother Bernadette anymore,’

Penny held his eyes for a few seconds and decided to give Sheldon a break for now. ‘Good. If we have to live here together, this can’t be all about you, Sheldon. You’re dead and we’re not and we have to live here with some peace. I want to make this work for all of us but we can’t be tip toeing around you. Let’s make a deal here. I’ll keep this stuff up here,’ Penny waved around the study, ‘and Bernadette and I are going to make the downstairs more our house and put your things in the cellar.’

‘But, Penny, I want my Doctor Who memorabilia in the living room. It’s the best spot to display my collection of sonic screwdrivers.’ Sheldon cast about desperate to keep change from happening.

‘Sweetie, if this is going to work, there has to be compromise. If you want some things from downstairs they can come up here.’ She saw Sheldon’s smile and knew what he had in mind, everything. ‘But, whatever comes up, one or more things here go down, and if you can’t compromise they are going to be gone to Texas.’

Sheldon got close to Penny trying to stare her down with his height and ghostly aura. The room was bathed in an unearthly blue for a few seconds from which Sheldon had seen everyone run screaming from the house. His mojo wasn’t close to working on Penny. ‘Fine!’

Sheldon was a master of sulking if anyone was so far as Penny could see by the way he stood with his shoulders slumped in the balcony entrance. It had to be hard to have unwanted people move into your house even if you were a ghost. Maybe, more so, because you had to know the real world had left you behind. She wanted to hug him; he looked like a lost little boy. Little boys love toys, she thought. ‘Hey, Moonpie, I got you something, today.’

‘Penny, only my Meemaw calls me Moonpie. What did you get me?’ Sheldon came back over to Penny looking a little happier.

‘Who’s Meemaw?’ Penny was curious about Sheldon’s background.

‘She’s my grandmother in Texas. She was the only one who really understood what it was like for me growing up in Galveston. I have an IQ of 187 and I was doing college level work before I was 10. It was hell growing up in Texas and she was the only one who could really understand how I felt.’

Penny could feel for that. She used to have a close relationship like that with her dad until she started getting breasts then he didn’t know how to handle a girl. ‘I can understand being different. I was rebuilding tractors at age 12 but my dad lost interest in me when I started growing out.’ Penny cupped her breasts which made Sheldon jump like a cat.

‘Penny, I don’t need my study turned into a bordello.’ Sheldon waved at where Penny was holding her hands and looked as blushing as a ghost could get.

‘Excuse me? Is Sheldon Lee Cooper nervous around girls?’ Penny asked coquettishly. She laughed at the gulp and run to the balcony Sheldon did. She joined him out on the balcony. ‘I’m sorry Sheldon, but seriously, my dad got just about as nervous you are. I still went hunting with him, won rodeo completions, anything to get him close like we used to be but he just spent more time on my little brother no matter how useless he acted. I wish I had someone like your Meemaw. She sounds nice.’

‘I wish I had a dad like yours. At least he just got nervous with you. My dad was a red-neck who couldn’t understand anyone who didn’t like football, hunting, and bourbon. I had three strikes on me before I was born.’ Sheldon stared off down the valley remembering his days growing up in Texas with little fondness.

Penny thought about the conversation with Stuart and talking with Sheldon now, it really didn’t seem like he’d be the type to kill himself. ‘Sheldon, this might be a personal question, you being a ghost, I don’t know if it’s rude, but they say you killed yourself. Stuart at the comic shop doesn’t believe it and listening to you, I can’t say I do either.’

‘Kill myself? I was murdered!’ Sheldon glared at a passing bird flying by outside.

‘What? Didn’t the police investigate or anything?’ Penny was shocked no one guessed there was foul play.

‘Ha! Even a team of incompetents from one of the CSI shows would have put the feathers together and known it wasn’t suicide.’ Sheldon huffed in derision.

‘Feathers? What are you talking about, Sheldon?’ Penny couldn’t imagine what feathers would have to do with a murder unless Sheldon was suffocated with a feather pillow.

‘A wretched blue jay flew in here while I was working on a problem and landed on that white board!’ Sheldon pointed at the board near the balcony. ‘I panicked and ran onto the balcony but I overbalanced on the railing and fell over and broke my neck. It was murder most fowl!’

Penny looked open mouthed and struggled not to laugh but she couldn’t help it she started laughing. When Sheldon started spluttering in outrage it only made Penny laugh harder. ‘Oh god, I’m sorry Sheldon but that was not what I expected when you said murder. You know, if there were two crows you’d have had a double murder.’

Penny started laughing again and Sheldon had to laugh to at that joke. After they settled down from the laughter Sheldon wanted to know what Penny had gotten for him. They went back to the box and Penny got out the two models. Sheldon’s eyes gleamed in delight.

‘Galactica and Enterprise! And they are the deluxe editions with running lights and operating hanger bays. Oh, this is wonderful!’ Sheldon opened the boxes and started going over the models like a jeweler with the rarest gemstones. Penny couldn’t help a feeling of warmth towards the simple joy in every movement Sheldon made going over the models.

‘I got you these to go with the models, sweetie. I talked with Stuart about some of the comics you used to buy in the store and I got these for you, too.’ Penny held out the set of five books she bought. Sheldon came over and looked like he was going to cry if ghosts could cry.

‘Penny, I haven’t seen a new comic since-‘ He took the comics reverently. He had no idea what to say or do. ‘I wish I could hug you, I don’t have any words to say.’ He looked at the girl from Nebraska and he felt something he hadn’t really felt since the last time he saw his Meemaw. He put the comics down on the desk and he vanished before he could start crying.

Penny smiled and sighed hoping things would start getting better. She put the models on the shelves where the broken ones had been and put the new comics on the comic boxes so Sheldon could sort his new comics.

The next morning Penny came downstairs to find French toast, sausages, strawberries and the rest of a very superbly made breakfast in the kitchen. Bernadette came down not long after, the smell of delicious cooking having reached her upstairs from her balcony over the kitchen. They were surprised to find Bernadette’s laundry basket by the cellar door with the contents all white, clean, and folded. ‘You’re welcome, Sheldon.’ Penny whispered to the ceiling.