Penelope got excited about many things. She saw a butterfly out on her walk earlier. The new Disney movie. Anything involving Stitch, or dogs, or music. Her friend made a cute typo. Cute people. She got a C on the math test. She got so excited about various random little things, and even some big things.
Christmas was not one of them.
"Pennie, what are you doing for Christmas this year?" someone would ask. One might expect her to jump up and down excitedly, and shout out her plans like they were the sole source of her joy for the amount of time she was actually focused on it. But instead, she would just force a soft smile and reply, "The same thing I do every year. Go home and have dinner with my family."
Many would ask her why she didn't like Christmas, and she would lie and say that she loved Christmas, she was just trying to hold in her excitement or she would explode. Truthfully, she hated most holidays she had to spend with her family. It always just reminded her of how awful she was compared to them. They were so perfect, so great at everything, and she was just... not like them.
"Penelope, aren't you a little underdressed for Christmas dinner?" her mother said when she came out of her room, not even looking in her direction. Did she even see what she was wearing? Sure, maybe the skater dress was a little casual, but she dressed it up!! And at least she was wearing Christmas colors!! Her family were dressed in all blacks and whites and maybe a little red accessory here and there. Maybe she should have asked Daisy for fashion advice.
"Penelope, sit up straight. You'll hurt your back slouching like that," her sister Daphne said as they sat at the table waiting for dinner. It was her usual spot - the odd chair out, throwing off the symmetry since the table was made for six people and she was the seventh. "I thought you were a surgeon, not a chiropractor," she retorted a little too loudly under her breath, and her mother looked at her sternly. "Don't talk to your sister like that!"
"Penelope, you're so stupid, god," Dean said to her under his breath, with no scolding from anyone, apart from a disappointed look from Daisy, who quickly looked away when Penelope looked up at her for help.
"Penelope, don't let them get to you," Daisy had said to her in her room before they went downstairs for dinner. "They mean well, but they just don't understand you because of how different you are." It was the kind of halfway help she was used to from Daisy, and it made her feel a little better but also a little worse because she hated how different she was from the rest of her family and Daisy still had to point that out every time.
"Penelope, how's school going?" her father asked as they were eating dinner. She couldn't help but wince and look down at her food, unable to meet anyone's gaze. "Okay, I guess," she mumbled, knowing what was coming next.
"Don't mumble. Your counselor called and said you were failing algebra II and biology, and barely passing language arts. You understand that you need those credits to graduate, yes?" She felt her father's look of disappointment from across the table.
"Yeah," she said, a little louder, but still unable to look up at him. "I have a friend helping me with math, and another friend helping me with biology..." she knew Daisy didn't want her to tell them that she was helping them, for whatever reason. She guessed they thought it was beneath her to help Penelope. She perked up a little bit and managed to look up, remembering something good she could tell her parents. "And there's a big creative writing assignment coming up, and I have a lot of id-"
"Penelope, can you pass the peas?" Dean asked, clearly interrupting her on purpose, but no one said anything. No one was even listening, probably. She handed him the peas and returned to looking down at her food, doing her best not to salt it with tears. Her family saw crying as a sign of weakness.
"Penelope, just get it together. We don't want to pay for another year of school," her mother said, and that was the end of that. That was the end of any conversation topic involving Penelope, and she didn't bother chiming in to anything they were talking about. She was too stupid to add anything decent, after all, and she would just get interrupted as usual.
"Pennie, merry Christmas," her friends told her, and she only wished she could have one merry Christmas that didn't end with her crying in her room and praying for Christmas break to end early so she could go back to Baum and be with the people who cared about her.