On his way to his sister's house Sheldon found Caroline in front of a dinner schedule.
'Oh Sheldon: I forgot my glasses and I was just about to get them. I think you've scheduled me to eat here, at the house?'
'Your idea is correct.'
'And you don't even have to check the schedule. Do you remember… oh of course you do, with that amazing memory of yours. Missy doesn't have that, does she? Even if she's your twin. I always meant to ask, but is that because she's a woman? I mean, if she were a boy like you or if you were a girl like her, would you both have had that memory?'
'Our sex is irrelevant.'
They'd walked to the stairs and Sheldon offered Caroline his arm.
'Aren't you a gentleman. But I won't need that dear. When I'm old, I'll gladly accept it.'
With a giggle Caroline started descending. 'You and your twin complete each other, wouldn't you say so?'
Sheldon didn't know how to reply but experience had taught him that Mrs N would simply continue talking.
'You are good with things and she is with people.'
Having arrived on the landing Caroline turned to face her companion. 'Some people appeal to you and others don't so much, at first, but then when you get to know them, they nearly always turn out to be quite wonderful. Will you be eating out this evening Sheldon?'
'Yes. I'll be at my sister's.'
'I suppose with you making the schedule you only dine with certain people. Am I right?'
Sheldon nodded. His fellow guest tonight was Tom Cable, an army corporal from the UK. The man was taciturn and a capable warrior, things Sheldon valued. He wasn't too happy about the man's nickname though: "the black Alan Rickman".
Caroline, rather than saying that it was nice to meet people outside one's comfort zone, smiled at Sheldon. 'You will schedule yourself to have dinner at our house, won't you? Raj will live there too you know.'
'I know and yes, I'll come and visit you.'
During dinner Missy's stepson Michael asked whether the people from Greeneville would live in the Nielsen part, immediately followed by the question: 'Are they nice uncle Sheldon?'
Sheldon put down his fork. He had learned not to object when the boy called him uncle.
'They are expected to arrive within a fortnight and obviously the new wall will not be finished by then. Your aunt thinks that they are good people. So do Howard, naturally, Raj and Leonard.'
'You disagree?' Missy's husband John asked.
'I didn't say that. Daryl is quiet. And he's a tough man and could be a valuable addition to our community. Dale is not very fond of trains, but he knows a bit about cars. I'm not sure whether he'll survive the journey at his age: he is the weakest link and is likely to fall victim in case there -'
'Stop it brother,' Missy interrupted.
'What can you tell us about the other three?' John asked.
With a look at Missy Sheldon placed his index finger against his lips.
After dinner Tom, John and Michael went outside for a game of shot put. Sheldon sat with Missy who held her daughter. It had disappointed Sheldon somewhat that the girl seemed to be an ordinary child, but her smile and the fact that to her he was "Unc!" moved him still.
'I'm glad we'll expand the wall,' Missy said as she stopped her daughter from pulling her hair. 'It would be nice to have more houses: it will prevent people from fighting over space.'
Sheldon opened his mouth to object.
'Not space the final frontier Shelly, but living space. It is that people like Raj and the Nielsens or they might have objected to only four people occupying that house.'
'You sound like Penny. She fears that housing issues might cause trouble.'
'Tobble, tobble!' Mary-Elizabeth merrily cried out.
For the evening meal Penny had to go to house six. First she went by house two, also known as the workmen's house, to pick up Leslie. She arrived there early so she could have a chat and hold her nephew Niels.
'How do you feel?' Penny asked her sister-in-law.
Leslie shrugged. 'Like a cow.'
Randall and Leonard were busy in the kitchen. Niels, who'd been playing with one of his father's old cuddles, crawled over to his aunt and made it clear that he wanted to sit on her lap.
'Who are coming over here?' Penny asked as her nephew settled himself against her upper body.
'Sharon and Duane.'
Penny inquired after Leslie's day and Leslie said that she missed being able to work.
'You're still a fletcher love,' Randall objected.
'For two hours a day and then I'm tired. Besides, I miss the CDL and holding a bow and even making cupboards and stuff.'
'Doctor's orders love,' Randall said.
There was a knock on the door.
'I'll get it!' Livia, who was descending the stairs, called out.
Sharon was the first guest to arrive. While ushering her in, Livia asked her how she felt about her brother and sister getting married and moving away.
'I'm glad we'll still have Leo live with us. Hi everyone! Daniel sometimes thinks that Leo was placed in our house just to keep us obeying the religion rule, but that's nonsense right?'
Penny was about to reveal that Gareth had asked for Leo to stay at his place thinking it would be nice for his daughters, but Sharon chatted along. 'It would be such a hen house if Leo wasn't around. I'm sorry Daniel and Rebecca can't have a honeymoon. Not like in the old days of course, but Daniel will barely have any privacy. Like when you two got married Leslie and Randall spend some nights at the main house right?'
'And it was very much appreciated,' Leonard said.
Penny made a mental note to have Neill's small RV moved a bit away from the other houses for the wedding night. And perhaps Melody and Daniel might spend their special night on the attic? They were both slim and would fit in a single bed. No silly, Penny reminded herself: the other attic rooms will be occupied by the Stein party.
'Are you going do some shuffling in house five, after the marriages?' Leonard wanted to know.
Sharon's green eyes twinkled. 'Absolutely! I'll move to Rebecca's room so I won't hear John anymore when he's got a nightmare. Although frankly those don't happen often anymore. I guess that's why Marion feels it's all right to move into another room. And there's my father and her or Denise, well, you know. My room is next to the "master".'
Sharon spoke in the same rapid way in which she could launch arrows. It didn't prevent Niels from falling asleep and Penny put him on the sofa. When Duane arrived, proud to be invited for the novelty of being a "young adult" had not yet worn off, Penny and Leslie left.
With Lana having dinner in house five and Caleb and Ramona being invited to the farm house there were only four women and a girl present in house six.
'Tastes good,' Leslie commented the dinner salad.
'I helped aunt Melody!' Leila revealed.
'Did you now? I'm impressed!' Leslie told the girl.
'I heard Lana say that she might use Ramona's room for a living room until the baby arrives,' Keisha casually said.
'That will give you some privacy in this block,' Penny replied with a wink.
Leslie sniggered and the sisters looked well pleased. Melody asked Penny how the scavenging had gone.
'We're not done yet but we harvested bamboo and we found a remote building site that had barely been plundered.'
It had been one of many useful addresses Sheldon had memorized but Penny didn't mention that.
'Did you drop by the Wise settlement?' Leslie asked.
'Only checked their message box.'
'Kid showing colour yet?'
'No mention of that.'
'If the boy's white that would make Dan the father right?' Keisha said. 'It's like a soap!'
'What if that daft girl and her child are kicked out by Margaret?' Leslie asked.
'We'll see,' Penny said. She hoped that Mrs Wise would simply kick her husband in the groin and allow Heidi and her baby to stay.
'Will they come to the fair?'
'I hope so. You were working on the temporary fence, weren't you Keisha? How did it go?'
'At first it was a bit spooky: I hadn't been out in some time. But it went smoothly really. We're a bit ahead on schedule: the digging already started.'
'Looking forward to your wedding Melody?' Leslie asked.
'Uhuh. Say maybe one day we can include the Torsvik farm too,' Melody said.
'Who knows,' Penny said.
'Then we'll have an impressive wall. We'd need a lot of guards then,' Keisha pointed out.
'I can guard,' Leila said. She took her fork and pointed it at an imaginary threat. 'Go away zombie!'
The women laughed.
'I'm sure you'll be a good at it Leila, just like your uncle Daniel,' Penny said, expecting Melody to be pleased by the compliment.
'Leila can't wait to go to school, can you sweetheart?' Melody asked her niece.
The girl nodded which made her dreadlocks bounce about.
'Speaking of school: I heard there will be some trainees here during the fair?' Keisha said.
'A midwife-in-training among them,' Leslie replied. 'Ramona asked if she could "assist" me. As if my room is a theatre huh? Well, anything for science. Let's hope she'll be here before my water breaks.'
'Water can't break,' Leila pointed out in between bites. Her aunt ruffled her hair.
'If their journey goes well, they'll arrive in about a week,' Penny said.
Addressing her belly Leslie said: 'Mummy really wants to go to the fair. Remember that!'
Looking up at the smiling women she continued: 'I hope the trainee doesn't expect me to be at my best behaviour.'
Melody started telling her guests how her sister had acted during labour, but Keisha stopped her with a meaningful glance at her daughter.
'Sometimes,' Leslie said, as she and Penny slowly made their way to house two later that evening, 'I think the world is perfectly normal. Brides getting cold feet and all.'
Penny was too focussed on Leslie's hands resting on her belly to discuss Melody's behaviour.
'What are you hoping for? Boy or girl?'
'Girl. We've got a name in mind. Randall asked me to ask you whether you like it.'
'Marie after Marie Curie?'
'Susannah,' Leslie said. Glancing at Penny's face she concluded: 'I take it you approve?'
Penny, still smiling, nodded.
'And a boy?'
'We're fighting over a boy's name.'
Penny grinned. In the old world she'd met Leslie when the latter had received zombie training. She'd felt dumb when comparing herself to Leonard's sharp tongued girl-friend, and when a month after her own arrival at the farm Leslie and Livia showed up, she'd not expected to become friends with Leslie. She'd respected her for her survival skills and for the fact that she'd protected her sister, who'd needed three days in safety before she'd started talking again. It didn't take long however before Penny had grown to like Leslie and when Randall starting courting the fierce scientist, Penny had thought he'd made the best choice in his life. It pained her that her mother wasn't there to witness it. If only she and the guys had arrived sooner: they could have warned people that the dead turn even when they're not bitten.
After escorting Leslie to house two, Penny visited the remembrance wall, dark though it was. It held names of people she'd never met, six crewmembers of the ISS among them, but two names she knew too well. Penny had accepted and grown to like Lydia and especially Missy, who was a wonderful stepmother to Michael. At times though, and this evening was such a time, the fact that people who'd lost their love fell in love again saddened her.