She was not always Andromeda Pennyworth, richest woman in the world.
She began her life as Andrea Porter, a small, frail, unremarkable girl, born into humble beginnings. Her parents were Harold and Greta Porter, a baker and a dress-maker, respectively. They lived in a broken-down brownstone on a crowded street in a smoggy city filled with the hustle and bustle of car horns honking, children shouting, stray dogs barking. Their apartment had leaking walls, creaky floors, and sagging ceilings. It was small, but to the Porters, it was home.
Harold owned a struggling bakery down the street from their little corner of the city. He was a kind man, gentle and caring. Andrea adored him. Her father’s confections were a delicacy, and she thought it a grand shame that hardly anyone ever stumbled into Harold’s heaven-scented pastry shop.
Greta worked from home, making and designing dresses by hand for the little girls that lived on the other floors of their building. Andrea had a closet full of her mother’s beautiful creations, and she wore them every day, always ever so careful never to get them dirty. She wore them with the nicest pair of shoes she owned, a scuffed pair of wingtip Mary Janes that her parents had purchased for her on her seventh birthday. The shoes had cost Harold and Greta quite a pretty penny, and Andrea treasured them, knowing how much they were worth.
Andrea’s only friends were her parents. The other girls and boys that lived in her building never seemed to want to play with her. Andrea was small, often sickly because of the unhealthy conditions in the Porters’ apartment, and not as pretty as the girls she saw walking to school every day. Her hair was stringy, not shiny, her eyes lacked a certain sparkle, her face was plain and forgettable. She was mousy and quiet. But her parents loved her so, and she worshipped them. They were a happy family, despite their struggles.
Then one day, tragedy struck.
Andrea was ten years old. She was walking to her father’s bakery from The Falstaff School for Girls, an institution her parents scraped together every penny they had to send her to. She was on her way to the bakery because her mother had told her that morning that she would meet Andrea there after school, and they could walk home together. Andrea swung her school bag as she walked, humming contentedly to herself, when a piercing sound broke through the air. It was the shrill sound of a fire engine. Panic seized Andrea’s heart as the bright red trucks zoomed past her on the street and she realized they were headed in the direction of the bakery.
She began to run, lungs bursting, little legs and feet pushing her faster than she thought she could go. When she reached her father’s little shop, she saw flames pouring from the windows, smoke clouding the air. Firemen pushed her back, even as she screamed, “This is my father’s shop! Mama, Papa! Please!”
The smoke smelled sweet, clogged with the scent of sugar and cinnamon.
Poor Andrea could not hear a word anyone said to her, only cry and sob desperately as Harold and Greta perished in the flames.
After that, much of what happened next became a blur to the poor little girl. Andrea had no living relatives, and so she became a ward of the state and was sent to live in St. Catherine’s Orphanage, a dark, dusty, dank building decorated with mold and cobwebs. Andrea’s belongings consisted of a trunk full of her mother’s dresses and designs, her wingtip shoes, and an old picture of Harold and Greta standing outside the bakery on the day Harold had opened the shop, little baby Andrea in her mother’s arms.
Andrea withdrew into herself when she arrived at St. Catherine’s. She was even quieter than she had been before. The children at the orphanage shunned her and called her names. When she returned to school after the deaths of her parents – the amount of money they’d left her was only enough to keep her educated – she heard her wealthier classmates whispering to each other. “Poor darling,” they said. They had always looked down on her with pity because she was not as well-off as the rest of them. “She was hardly worth anything before, but now? Why, now she’s worth nothing more than a penny.”
Such things as money and worth had never mattered to Andrea before, because she was happy. Andrea knew her family was poor, but they loved each other, and that was all that mattered. But when Andrea heard the utterances of her classmates, resolve hardened in her heart. She would show them. She would become worth more than a penny. She would become worth more than any of them, just to prove that she could. Without her parents to love and protect her, Andrea began to realize harsh truths about the world that she had been sheltered from before. And her life from that point forward became about survival. It became about rising up, like a phoenix from the ashes.
Lonely years passed at the orphanage, and Andrea began to grow hard. She grew tough. She grew fierce. She had always ignored the jibes and jeers of the other boys and girls because she had been content with her life, and thought other people’s opinions were of little consequence to her as long as she was happy. But her happiness had been burned away in the flames that had taken her parents. Now she was cold, and alone. And as she grew up, she developed a hard glint in her eyes, a savage snarl, a wild ferocity that made the other children in the orphanage begin to shy away from her in fear. She grew taller and stronger.
And one day, when she reached adolescence, she grew out of her mousiness and her plain face, and she was transformed. She had bloomed like a flower reaching for the sun, and her new beauty was sharp and dangerous. As she grew up, the children in the orphanage began to admire her as much as they feared her.
Andrea soon learned that it was quite a powerful thing, to be admired and feared at once. And so she learned to use it to her advantage. At mealtimes, she demanded extra food from the kitchen staff. At bedtime, she demanded extra blankets and a firmer pillow. On outings with the other children, Andrea could get the chaperone to buy her the pretty things she saw in the shop windows. Growing up with her father’s finely decorated pastries and her mother’s beautiful dresses had given Andrea an affinity for pretty things. She liked things that sparkled, things that shined, expensive things. She had always had lavish tastes, but she never indulged them, because her family could not afford it. And with the love she was given from her mother and father, she was never unsatisfied. But Andrea coveted the things that her rich classmates had. And now, what was stopping her from getting them? Now, Andrea would do anything to get them, because she was going to prove to the world that she was worth more than a penny.
And that was how she came to adopt the surname Pennyworth. It was a cruel joke, and a stark reminder of what she was working towards.
Andromeda came later, when Andrea turned fifteen. When boys at the orphanage began to treat Andrea with special attention, she was apathetic. She cared nothing for their affections. They had all shunned her before she was beautiful, and it meant nothing to her that they wanted her now. She was certain that she would never feel happiness again after the loss of her parents, and she cared only about survival, about twisting the world in her hands so that it worked in her favor. And so she played the game. She learned to manipulate the boys that wanted her, to pretend to care for them.
Reading was one of the only worthwhile pastimes in the orphanage, and Andrea hoarded the best stories for herself. She liked the books on Greek myth the most, and her favorite was the story of Perseus and Andromeda. The name Andromeda meant ‘ruler of men.’ Andrea liked the sound of that.
And thus, Andromeda Pennyworth was born.
After a time, Andrea began to realize that perhaps she had always truly been Andromeda on the inside. Andrea was a sheltered girl of the past, an ignorant child that had been caught up in fairytales of happiness and love. She would never be that person again. From then on, she would always be Andromeda, and she would become bigger than anyone ever thought she could be. Dear little Andrea Porter was gone. A queen had taken her place.
When she turned eighteen, Andromeda was released from the orphanage. The only money she had to her name was what Greta and Harold had left her with when they died, a paltry sum that had very quickly dwindled and now amounted to almost nothing. Andromeda knew what she must do. On the day she was released, she walked right to the dress shop she had often passed on outings with the other children. She had always loved it because of how much it reminded her of her mother. Andromeda strolled in, chin high, and demanded work. She knew some about making dresses because her mother had taught her how to sew, and she knew about fitting them because her mother had also taught her how to size. The woman who ran the shop studied Andromeda for a moment, and then nodded decisively. She had often seen Andromeda peering into the shop window, looking longingly at the dresses, and she had seen the fire in Andromeda’s eyes. Her name was Alice Fontaine, and she became Andromeda’s first real friend.
Alice was a headstrong old woman who always claimed Andromeda reminded her of herself in her youth. They got along swimmingly from the start. Alice let Andromeda move into the small living space above the shop, and Andromeda worked among the dresses and the fabrics for several years. With Alice, she began to feel a glimmer of the happiness she’d felt when she was a child.
Alice doted on Andromeda as if she were her own daughter. She was not lavishly wealthy, but she bought Andromeda trinkets from time to time, and treated her with love and kindness and genuine affection that made Andromeda’s heart warmer than she thought it would ever be again. But she did not lose the diamond-hard exterior she’d built up in the orphanage. Only around Alice would Andromeda ever let her walls down.
But Andromeda knew she was not yet done in building herself. She was not done in rising up. She loved Alice, but her life with the old woman was not enough. And Alice never begrudged her that. Alice encouraged Andromeda to take charge, to take action, to take what she wanted out of life because she deserved it. And so one day, when a handsome man came into the dress shop, Andromeda seized the opportunity by the horns.
His name was Richard Larkin, and he was a wealthy oil tycoon. He was older than Andromeda by a decade, but she did not see the difference in age. She only saw a way to rise.
He came into the shop wanting a dress for his daughter for her birthday, but what he got was Andromeda.
They married after only a year, in an extravagant ceremony with three hundred guests Andromeda didn’t know and didn’t care to know. It was the first time Andromeda was ever in the papers, the first time her name was revealed to the world. It was the first time she truly realized the scope of her potential. SCANDAL! RICHARD LARKIN MARRIES DRESS SHOP GIRL, SHOCKS FAMILY. She had spent the last year wooing all of Richard’s friends, and his family’s shock quickly wore off under the convincing charade she performed for them. They loved her, adored her, admired her as Richard did. It was all empty and meaningless to Andromeda, but she was a brilliant actress. From the front row at her wedding, Alice smiled at her and winked. Andromeda smiled back. It was the only genuine smile she gave that day.
She moved into Richard’s elaborate, glamorous mansion with Richard and his daughter, a spoiled brat Andromeda despised. But the child was secretly a blessing. Andromeda did not want children with Richard, and he was in no rush to have another baby, so Andromeda put up with the girl to the best of her ability. Richard was content in the marriage, devoted to his wife, completely unaware of her motives. Andromeda pretended to be in love with him for as long as she could stand it, as long as it took to ensure that she would be secure when Richard died. He was not an old man, but accidents could happen, of course. And a year after the marriage, one did.
Richard was not a terrible man. Andromeda would admit that. She did mourn him at the funeral, a little bit. But from the moment he had first set eyes on her, Andromeda had seen through his smile. It was the same smile the boys at the orphanage had given her when they began to take notice of her beauty. It was vain. It was superficial. Richard was in love with the character Andromeda played for him, not the woman she truly was. He would never be able to see through her, never be able to catch even faint glimpses of the real Andromeda Pennyworth. And that was not a man worthy of her. She would not stay trapped in a marriage with him forever.
He was not an old man, but he had a weak heart.
Andromeda was not directly responsible for his death, though the papers would all point to her as a suspect. It was the young wife, they said, the orphaned dress shop girl. After Richard died, leaving Andromeda with half his hefty fortune, the Larkins turned on her without a second thought. They began to point fingers, shouting claims that they had known all along the marriage was a sham. Andromeda withstood their accusations and their blame with her chin held high and her eyes glistening with tears for her deceased husband. The daughter was the worst of all the naysayers, all too eager to pin her step-mother with the murder, though Richard’s death was not considered a homicide. He had died of sudden cardiac arrest. “I returned home from a day spent with my dear friend Alice, and my husband was on the floor,” Andromeda had sobbed to the police. “My poor Richard – he was the love of my life! I shall never find love or happiness again.” After the initial interrogation, the police dismissed Andromeda as a suspect. Her alibi was strong. Alice vouched for her, loyal to the core.
And if the police noticed that Richard’s heart medication had been switched, it was never stated in the report.
The daughter was shipped off to her grandparents with half of her father’s money, and Andromeda was left a widow with the other half. It was more than enough to buy Alice a lovely new home and a larger space for her dress shop so her business could expand. She and Andromeda hired more employees and new designers, and Fontaine’s became a shop that Greta Porter would have loved. In fact, Andromeda had kept some of her mother’s old designs, and they sold them in the shop.
Now that she was Richard Larkin’s grieving widow and no longer simply the orphaned dress shop girl, Andromeda Pennyworth was a name worthy of the news. She began to receive the attention of the media, photographers following her, reporters asking her questions. For six months after Richard’s death, Andromeda played the part they expected of her, and no one was the wiser.
Then, soon enough, a second opportunity to rise came knocking.
His name was Albert Falstaff, and he was in fact the great-grandson of Elizabeth Falstaff, who had founded The Falstaff School for Girls that Andromeda had attended as a child. He met Andromeda one morning when she was walking in the park, as she often liked to do. He wanted to comfort her, soothe her, shelter her from her grief, and Andromeda was perfectly willing to let him. She leaned on him, played into his emotions, and it wasn’t long before they were engaged. The diamond on her finger was bigger than the one Richard had given her. The Falstaffs were wealthier than the Larkins by far, and it was when Andromeda met Albert that she truly began to build her fortune.
Albert loved to travel, and he took Andromeda everywhere with him on his trips across the world. He loved to spoil her rotten, draping her in furs and dressing her in sparkling jewels, a new gem for every new foreign city they visited. Albert thought it was all his doing, but of course Andromeda was pulling the strings. And in each new place they traveled, Andromeda made it a point to establish connections and relationships that would benefit her in the long run. Through her networking and her manipulating of her new fiancé, she began to amass a collection of precious gemstones. She kept it a secret from her delightfully oblivious Albert, storing her fortune in safes and banks that she’d acquired access to when she married Richard. And the Larkins couldn’t touch the accounts, because they’d all been legally given to Andromeda in the will. It had been too easy to convince Richard to make it so.
Andromeda and Albert married in Italy, and they honeymooned in France. It was on their honeymoon that Andromeda met Paolo Beneventi.
He was an Italian romance writer whose work had brought him to the south of France at the same time as the newlywed Falstaffs. Andromeda fell in love with him instantly. She had always been of the opinion that she would never fall in love, would never be truly happy, and she had accepted that. Love would be nothing but a distraction while she was building her empire, anyway. But the moment she set eyes on handsome Paolo, the image of a Roman god, writing in a notebook under the sun in Nice, the whole world fell away. Albert wasn’t paying attention when Paolo caught his wife’s eye and smiled, beautiful and soft. Andromeda’s heart melted in her chest. And she knew she would never be able to go back.
They had a whirlwind love affair, meeting in secret all through the two weeks of Andromeda’s honeymoon. Paolo was the most experienced, attentive lover Andromeda had ever had. He treated her as if she were a goddess. And it did not take very long for Andromeda to see that Paolo understood her. He could see through her, to the real woman underneath. She was unguarded with him, at peace with him. She was happy. Truly happy. In the time they spent together, Andromeda became Paolo’s muse. He wrote sonnets about her and wooed her with his words, and by the end of Andromeda’s honeymoon, they were both hopelessly devoted to each other. They were married in heart and soul, if nothing else. Because though she loved Paolo desperately, Andromeda knew it would be a long time, if ever, before they could really be together in the way they both craved. There were yet still things she had to do, things she had to accomplish. And Paolo understood. He promised to remain faithful to her.
“I quite like it here. Much more than I expected,” Paolo told her as they lay in bed together after an afternoon of passionate lovemaking. “I have always been a nomad, traveling where my writing compels me to go. But perhaps I will make something permanent here in France. A place for you to return to, someday. A villa on the Riviera sounds quite nice, no?”
“I think it sounds like an absolute dream,” Andromeda whispered, and Paolo kissed her, lifting her into the sky.
When she left him for the first time, she felt her heart breaking inside her. There were tears in her eyes as they said goodbye, even though it was not goodbye forever. Andromeda said, “I promise, my love, that whatever happens, whatever I do, my heart will always only ever belong to you.” And she meant it, with everything she was.
“You have my soul, my angel,” Paolo promised. “I could love no one else the way I love you. I will wait for you, however long it takes.” And it was the truth.
It was when Andromeda and Albert returned to their new home in New England that Andromeda discovered she was pregnant.
She knew, with an unshakable certainty, that the child was Paolo’s. An indescribable joy filled her before anything else. She could think of no other option besides keeping it. She told no one but Alice, who helped her to devise a careful plan. Suddenly, Andromeda’s focus was entirely on protecting her and Paolo’s child. She could not wait to share the news with him. She wrote him letters under the guise of corresponding with an art dealer she’d met in France, and Albert believed her. He trusted his wife. Andromeda had him wrapped around her finger. Albert was not a very dominant man, so it was easy to bend him to her will.
Andromeda and Paolo sent letters back and forth for months, while the child grew. They decided that if it was a boy, they would name him Julian, after Paolo’s father. If it was a girl, she would be Greta Alice. Albert was overjoyed when Andromeda shared the news of her pregnancy with him, no clue whatsoever that there was even a possibility the child was not his. He began making preparations for the baby immediately. And all the while, Andromeda and Alice made their own quiet preparations.
One month before the child was to be born, Albert was killed in a terrible automobile accident. For some time, Andromeda had known that her seemingly innocuous husband liked to gamble. She couldn’t very well have him wasting his fortune when she needed it for herself, and so it was only a matter of contacting the people Albert owed money to. From there, it was very easy. After Albert’s unfortunate demise, Andromeda paid off his creditors, eager to make connections out of them. That was how she came to be owed favors by members of an underground crime syndicate.
After the funeral, Andromeda and Alice decided to take a vacation to the south of France. Andromeda told the papers she needed time to grieve in peace, time to mourn and heal, and she wanted to deliver her child in a place that had been special to her and Albert. Their honeymoon destination was perfect, as it was where the child had been conceived. The papers spun a pretty little story of a heartbroken woman now twice widowed who had grown up with a dark past and could not seem to escape her sorrow.
Soon after, on the French Riviera in a charming little villa overlooking the sea, Julian Beneventi was brought into the world. He was a beautiful little boy with his mother’s eyes and his father’s dimples, and Andromeda loved him with all her heart. She felt full to bursting with affection when Alice placed Julian in her arms for the first time. Andromeda stayed with Paolo and their child for some time, though as much as she wished, she knew she could not stay on the Riviera forever. Now that she was a prominent public figure, people would grow suspicious if she stayed away for too long. And so she only remained with her family long enough so that Julian knew his mother. Alice, kind soul that she was, offered to stay behind and help care for the boy with Paolo. She hired someone she trusted to manage the dress shop, and Andromeda promised to take care of the business while Alice was away. It was three months after Julian was born that Andromeda returned to America, her heart breaking and her eyes filled with tears at having to separate from her loved ones.
“Promise me, darling,” she told Paolo before she left him for the second time. “Promise me you will tell Julian of his mother. Tell him stories about me, so that he does not forget.” She stroked the baby’s cheek, heart bursting in her chest as he gripped her finger.
“Who could ever forget you, my love?” Paolo said, and Andromeda’s heart went aflutter.
“I will show him pictures and tell him tales,” Alice promised, and Andromeda smiled, wiping tears from her cheeks.
“I will return every summer,” she swore, kissing Julian on both cherubic cheeks. “And we will spend our days on the Riviera, as happy as can be.”
“One day soon we will be together again,” Paolo said, leaving Andromeda with a warm embrace. “We will always be here to welcome you home.” For the Riviera was Andromeda’s true home, the only place where she would ever be truly happy.
When she returned to America, Andromeda embarked on the task of searching for her third husband. The combined inheritance from Albert and Richard had left her with more than enough money to provide for Julian and Paolo, but she wanted more security for her family, and enough for Alice to comfortably retire on. And Andromeda was still not done in rising up. She could feel it deep inside. The fire had been burning in her since she became Andromeda Pennyworth during her horrid days at the orphanage, and it had not wavered. There was more for her to do with her life, and she was dedicated to the cause.
It was not hard to find herself another suitor, for she had many, all waiting for their chance to have a taste of the infamous Andromeda Pennyworth. Her next catch was Howard van Hastings, a man twice her senior who was revealed to be a far more difficult adversary than she had ever faced. Albert and Richard had been laughably easy in comparison. But Andromeda liked a challenge, and the van Hastings were among the richest families in the world. Their fortune had come from the founding of various technology companies, and they were a charitable family with a web of connections and assets that spread worldwide. Andromeda could not simply pass this opportunity by. By the time she was done with Howard, she would have half of his company and more than half of his money. But it would be a test of her endurance, for Howard was powerful. It was with Howard that Andromeda learned to guard her secrets better than she ever had before.
Her marriage with Howard was rocky from the start. Howard was a man who believed Andromeda must be tamed and controlled, but what he did not know was that no man could control her. Andromeda was the ruler of men, after all. She would never concede to him. The first summer, he did not allow her to travel to France. He did not know of Paolo or Julian, and Andromeda had to protect them, so she kept her resentment hidden from her new husband. But she had her revenge by sending money to Howard’s daughter, who had had a child out of wedlock and been cut out of the will. Howard forbade Andromeda all contact with her, but Andromeda struck up a friendship with his daughter and took her shopping on the weekends. Howard’s fury only fueled Andromeda. She grinned in the face of his anger and laughed at his threats.
That was only the beginning of the war between them. It went on for seven years, longer than Andromeda would have liked, but she refused to give up and give in. She would win at all costs. During that time, she only managed to visit the Riviera twice, when Howard was in France on business. The separation from her family pained her and caused her anger towards Howard to build and build, until it was a force that rivaled nature itself. It was only Andromeda’s determination and perseverance that allowed her to keep in contact with Alice, but their correspondence was always secretive and coded, so that Howard would not be suspicious if he were to discover it. It was through their secret language that Andromeda was able to stay connected to Paolo and Julian. Alice promised that they were waiting for her, and that they were patient. It was Andromeda’s only solace in the long years of her marriage to Howard.
But she never regretted her decision to attach herself to the van Hastings. Seven years was a pittance compared to the rest of her life, and it was a small price to pay for the profit she would gain from it in the end. So she bided her time, waiting and plotting.
And finally, after what felt like a lifetime, she emerged victorious.
Andromeda was lounging on the balcony of her and Howard’s multi-million dollar mansion, wrapped in pearls and a long black silk robe, sipping a glass of very expensive champagne, when the police came to deliver the news that her husband was dead.
“I seem to have rather bad luck when it comes to husbands,” she sighed as she leaned over the balcony, the police standing behind her. “Don’t you think so, boys?”
She had made it this time so that it was impossible anyone would ever suspect her in the involvement of Howard’s death, and she was left in control of several of Howard’s companies and most of his money. She had used the mob connections she’d gained during her marriage to Albert to orchestrate Howard’s death, calling in the favors she was owed, and the mob boys were very efficient about it, making it so that Andromeda was well protected in the aftermath. Andromeda decided her connections with the mob could be quite useful.
After Howard’s funeral, she began to make investments and trades. Her collection of precious gemstones had only grown larger over the years, and she loaned part of it to the Guggenheim Museum, where the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds were kept on display for the public to admire. She transferred the money she did not invest into Swiss bank accounts, and then, she decided to relocate permanently to Europe. When the press hounded her for answers, Andromeda said, “America is full of nothing but bad memories for me and ghosts of my past that haunt me. I’m in need of a fresh start. I’m going to begin again.”
And of course they believed her.
By then, she was more than halfway to becoming the richest woman in the world. She estimated she would need about two more husbands before she could retire from the game, and she had her sights set on European billionaires.
Andromeda moved as close to the French Riviera as she could. If she relocated too close to Paolo and Julian, they would not be as well protected, and that was something Andromeda could not have. Her family must be safe. In all the years since she’d first met Paolo, she had managed to keep the knowledge of him a secret to the public. Of course Julian was not a secret, but she had done a good job of keeping him away from the spotlight, and Andromeda gave the media other things to keep them occupied. But she moved close enough to their villa on the Riviera to visit often, and she spent two years recuperating from her marriage to Howard, watching Julian play and grow. She was fiercely glad that her son did not hate her, for she had always feared that Julian would think she abandoned him. But such was not the case. Julian adored his mother, and she spoiled him rotten, giving him everything he desired. The time Andromeda spent with Paolo was a dream. Alice was very happy in the Riviera, too, and she had even met a gentleman that she liked. She wanted to bring her dress business overseas, and Andromeda helped her facilitate the move, buying properties and hiring employees. As a birthday present to Andromeda that year, Alice changed the name of the business to Fontaine & Pennyworth’s, and officially made Andromeda co-owner. And Andromeda’s business empire continued to spread.
Soon enough, Andromeda met Winston Cornwallis, a member of the British royalty and a man much easier to handle than Howard had been. After what she’d been through with Howard, Andromeda decided to return to hunting easy prey, and Winston was a simple man. Queen Elizabeth herself attended their wedding. She bestowed her blessing upon the happy couple, gifting them with a resplendent manor home in the English countryside. It was at that time Andromeda discovered that she had a dormant fondness for animals, as the Queen also gave them pets as a wedding present. Andromeda quite adored the little dogs she was given, cocker spaniels with silky fur. She named one of them Greta and the other Harry, for her parents.
When her marriage with Winston was through – he was a pilot, and his plane crashed into the sea (a biplane that Andromeda had bought him for their first anniversary, which turned out to have faulty mechanics, but of course Andromeda was not directly to blame) – she took the dogs and moved them to the Riviera villa for Julian to play with.
Andromeda and Paolo sent Julian to a prestigious Italian boarding school when he came of age. He was growing up to be a fine young man of admirable demeanor and astonishing grace, just like his father. And he wanted to be a writer, too, just like Paolo. Andromeda had never been prouder of anything in her life. While Julian was growing up, Paolo had published several romance novels that had risen to considerable fame in the Mediterranean, and Andromeda was flattered to know that she was the reason for her lover’s success. She was his muse, after all, and he dedicated all of his books to her. During quiet evenings after Winston’s passing when Andromeda returned to the Riviera for a time, Paolo would read Andromeda passages from his novels and make love to her with his words. After a day spent in bed together, Paolo would cook her delicious meals (he was a wonderful cook, and it reminded Andromeda of her father and his bakery), and they would spend the nights in each other’s arms. The more time she spent with Paolo, the more Andromeda began to yearn for the day when she could finally marry him, and they could finally be together in the way they’d always wanted.
In the meantime, Alice was married to the gentleman she’d met some time ago. His name was Guillermo, and he was perfect for Alice. Andromeda very much approved. It was a beautiful ceremony in Tuscany, and Andromeda teared up when she walked Alice down the aisle. She was so happy for her oldest and dearest friend. Alice had been the first one to show Andromeda that she could have happiness again after her parents died, and she would always be grateful for that. Without Alice, Andromeda was sure she would not be where she was today.
A few more years passed as Andromeda worked on expanding her businesses and her fortune. She spent much of her time traveling the world, leaving her mark wherever she went. The newspapers swarmed with stories of her, sightings of the renowned Andromeda Pennyworth in Tokyo, in Barcelona, in Prague, pictures of business deals she made with ambassadors and foreign prime ministers. She was seen in Milan at Fashion Week with Elie Saab, debuting new dresses for Fontaine & Pennyworth’s. She was spotted on an outing with Liliane Bettencourt, part owner of L’Oreal. She was rumored to be in talks with Mark Zuckerberg to buy Facebook. She made charity appearances and gave regular donations to organizations she favored. She starred in a commercial for Chanel. Paparazzi captured photos of her on a yacht party with Lady Gaga and Beyonce. A romance was rumored between her and Leonardo DiCaprio when they were seen attending a movie premiere together in London. She was on the cover of Vogue, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Andromeda Pennyworth was an icon. Everyone knew her name, and no one could forget her face.
And then, the year before she met her fifth husband, there was a burglary at the Guggenheim.
Andromeda was back with Paolo for a time, relaxing after a long trip to Dubai to invest in businesses there, when she received the news. There was a phone call from the museum, and when Andromeda heard the words, she gasped dramatically. She clutched Paolo’s hand and nearly fainted with shock.
“My gems! The diamonds, the rubies, the emeralds! They’ve been stolen!”
Alice and Paolo hovered over her as Andromeda struggled to stand. “Alice, fetch the smelling salts,” Paolo said, and Alice rushed into the villa. Guillermo produced a warm cloth to place on Andromeda’s head. When she recovered from her shock, she booked the soonest flight to New York she could find. Upon arrival in the city, she took a car straight to the museum and demanded to know how this could’ve happened. A witch hunt began for the burglars. Andromeda spoke at a press conference to give a statement about the robbery.
“Whoever has done this has committed a personal affront against me,” she claimed. She stood on the front steps of the museum in a leopard fur coat, beautiful and strong. She dared the robbers to come forward, because she would show them no mercy. “I have no doubts that whoever did this will face the consequences, and they will be severe. I will find the culprits even if I have to do it myself and I will bring them to justice.”
And after a long and arduous chase that involved the city’s entire police force and even the FBI, the gem thieves were finally caught. The mastermind behind the plan to steal the stones was none other than Eleanor Larkin, Richard Larkin’s insipid daughter. She had never stopped blaming Andromeda for Richard’s death, and had been plotting against her all this time, waiting in the shadows for the right moment to strike. But she was foolish to have thought that she could ever rise above one such as Andromeda Pennyworth.
Eleanor was sent to federal prison. It was during the court proceedings that Andromeda met her fifth husband, a man named Gregory Banks. From the moment she met him, she knew he would be her key to finally retiring and living a peaceful life with Paolo, Julian, and Alice. Gregory was the final piece of the puzzle she needed. She went after him with gusto, and he was eager to accept her advances.
Andromeda soon discovered that she surprisingly enjoyed Gregory’s company. It was an unexpected turn of events that made her quite curious. Gregory was not horrible, and Andromeda knew there must have been a certain reason why, but she could not put her finger on it right away. So she hunted for answers. And then one afternoon in the middle of their courtship, Andromeda saw it clear as day: Gregory preferred the company of men to women.
He was the youngest of a very conservative family, and he required a nice wife to secure his position in the family business. All this he revealed to Andromeda without hesitation. She simply asked him, seeing no reason to be as deceitful as she had been with her previous husbands, and he seemed to appreciate her honesty. He returned the favor in kind. He stated plainly that he viewed their partnership as a business deal, and Andromeda was happy to comply, as long as she got what she wanted out of the arrangement. In private, they talked and made deals. They had a bit of fun with it, as it turned out they got along quite well. Together, they planned to scam Gregory’s family, and they shared a hearty laugh over their discussions of their ideas.
Ultimately, they decided this: they would not actually marry, but they would stage a wedding and move to Paris, where Gregory could be the CEO of an important branch of his father’s company, and Andromeda could be close to Julian and Paolo. In public, they would present a picture of a happy couple, but in the privacy of the bedroom, Gregory could have whichever saucy frenchmen he wanted, and Andromeda would be free to be with Paolo. It suited both of them, and they offered each other sufficient protection in case anything should go awry. Andromeda had held tight to her attachments with the mob, and Gregory had certain connections that would keep Andromeda safe should their ruse be discovered. They became quite the pair, and it was easy for them to fool Gregory’s family, as they were both very cunning people. Whenever they were seen in public together, they were both laughing over something the other had said. Andromeda did not love Gregory, but she did very much like him. And with the money he gave her, she finally became Andromeda Pennyworth, richest woman in the world.
They staged an elaborate wedding in Monte Carlo with the help of a fake minister they hired together, and Gregory’s trusting parents were none the wiser. Andromeda and Gregory held back their laughs at the altar as they said their “I do’s.” And they spent their honeymoon – where else but the Riviera? Andromeda spent the time secreted away with Paolo and Julian, who was home from boarding school. Gregory stayed in the villa with them for the sake of appearances, but at night, he romped around with beautiful French and Italian men. A wonderful time was had by all.
Andromeda’s journey was a long one. Her story was full of twists and turns. And in the end, she proved to everyone that she was worth more than a penny. She proved that she was worth everything. She had risen from poverty to become a world-renowned icon, and she was an inspiration to those who were lucky enough to know her.
And eventually, she got what she had always wanted. On a beautiful summer day on a beach in Saint-Tropez, Andromeda Pennyworth and Paolo Beneventi were finally married. It was a private ceremony with Alice and Guillermo, Julian, Gregory, and the dogs, Greta and Harry. A pastor from Paolo’s childhood officiated the ceremony. They shared their first dance as husband and wife under the moonlight, swaying together to the soft sounds of twinkling jazz music. Andromeda sang along with the voice of an angel. She had never been happier in her life.
And thus marks the end of Andromeda’s journey from rags to riches. Now, she continues to live happily in France with her fake husband and her real one, managing her many businesses and investments from afar. She dotes on her son Julian and remains epically in love with Paolo. Alice and Guillermo remain happy, as well, and the dogs grow plump and content under Andromeda’s care. Around the world, she continues to be a star.
She is a force to be reckoned with. She is a priceless diamond. She is a goddess.
She is the one, the only, Andromeda.