Summer of Unhappiness

By Xanabee <dailey@planet.nl>

Rated: PG

Submitted: May 2005

Summary: Growing up in a dysfunctional family is not easy for a sensitive child. For young Lois, this fatal summer day marks the beginning of an unhappy and turbulent adolescence.

Disclaimer:

No breach of copyright is intended by using these characters from the TV series Lois & Clark: TNAOS in this work of fiction. I acknowledge that all rights belong to DC Comics and/or other owners.

Author's notes:

In Chris Carr's wonderful two-part 'Life Lessons' I found this beautiful quote in Lois's letter. It perfectly describes what I also wanted to portray in my own story: how difficult it is for a sensitive child to grow up in a dysfunctional family and how unhappy experiences help shape the way we relate to others when we reach adulthood.

Lois in 'Life Lessons 2':

<<For me, love was something to dream about, to watch in romantic dramas and read about in novels. It was an escapist fiction, not something that happened to real people. It didn't happen to my parents; their marriage certainly wasn't a happy-ever-after, it was more like a war zone. It didn't happen to them, and, to be honest, I never expected it to happen to me.>>

Thanks, Chris, for permitting me to refer to your quote. I'd also like to thank Tricia, for beta reading this so quickly, and GE Sherry, for helping me with the finishing touches.

And of course, a million thanks to the FoLC who read this on the mbs and gave such wonderful feedback. A writer can't wish for a more supportive audience!

My story isn't a happy tale. It deals with one of those defining moments in 'the war zone' of young Lois's life that managed to leave scars on her soul.

Thank you for reading — and I'd really appreciate receiving feedback.

***

"Lucy… Luce? Please open the door."

Silence greeted her and for a moment Lois stood, unsure what to do next. She tried the doorknob again, even though she knew the door was locked. As soon as the fighting had started Lucy had run up to her room, shutting the door with a loud, desperate thud.

But that was hours ago; the fighting had stopped as soon as Daddy had left. He'd stormed upstairs, followed by Mom who'd been alternately crying and shrieking at him. Lois had stayed downstairs, paralysed with fear. She'd tried not to listen to the accusations and insults her parents were hurling at each other, but one sentence had lodged itself in her confused brain: "… really over this time, Ellen, I'm not coming back, ever again!"

Though she tried to shut them out, the words kept ringing in her ears: "not coming back… not coming back… not coming back…" No, he would come back. Even though this fight had been uglier and more vicious than Lois had ever witnessed, she refused to believe that this was the end. Daddy always came back.

Lois pressed her lips together to keep them from trembling. She had to try and stay calm, for Lucy's sake. Her little sister was only eight years old and she knew just how frightened and lost she was feeling right now.

She tried the door again. "Lucy, c'mon, open the door! I've got milk and cookies, and peanut-butter sandwiches, just the way you like 'em, with lots of jelly. I thought we could eat 'em, together. I'm hungry, and I know you must be hungry too."

Lois paused, listening intently. She wasn't hungry, even though it was well past dinnertime. The remembered smell of burned meat on Mrs. Belcanto's barbecue made her stomach lurch painfully and she swallowed, hard. She wasn't going to throw up, not now, not here.

She tried the door again but it remained locked. "Okay Lucy, here's what I'll do I'll leave the tray outside your door and when I'm gone you can come out and get it, okay? I'm going downstairs to look after Mom — she's sleeping, so you don't have to be scared that she'll yell at you. I'm going now."

Lois turned and noisily started down the stairs. Her mouth twisted unhappily; the noise might lure Lucy out of her room but it wouldn't wake Mom up. She wasn't sleeping; she'd passed out on the couch in the living room after a drinking bout. Lois, feeling like a zombie herself, had covered her with a blanket, gotten rid of the empty bottles, made some sandwiches, then went up to Lucy's room.

Now, standing on the threshold of the living room, gazing at the still figure of her mother, Lois felt utterly helpless. She knew it would take hours before Ellen would wake up. And then she would be violently sick and Lois would have to clean up after her. She'd better keep a few towels handy…

Lois turned and climbed the stairs. Good the tray was gone, so Lucy must've been hungry. She decided to leave her sister alone and went into her own room. She took her sleeping bag and a stack of towels out of the closet, grabbed a pillow off her bed and went downstairs again. She dumped her stuff on the floor of the living room, then went to turn out the lights and lock up the house.

Standing still at the kitchen door Lois looked out into the night. Over the low, picket fence that separated their backyard from that of the Belcanto family she could see the old, weathered barbecue dimly outlined in the light of a garden lantern.

Lois glared at the offending apparatus. Oh, how she hated that piece of metal! And just this morning, she and Lucy had been so excited; they'd all been invited by Mrs. Belcanto to their first barbecue party of the summer.

School was out, summer vacation had started and this called for a celebration, Mrs. Belcanto had laughingly told Lois when she'd stopped by the other day. So, Lois and Lucy had been looking forward to this day eagerly — and even more so when Daddy had consented to join them.

Of course, now she knew why — he hadn't cared about spending a Sunday with his family; all he'd been interested in was flirting with Mrs. Belcanto. Lois had stared, open-mouthed, when she and Lucy had unexpectedly walked in on them. Her tall father had his arms wrapped tightly around the tiny Italian woman and he was kissing her — and she was kissing him back!

And then, all hell broke loose. Ellen Lane, who'd followed her daughters into the backyard, had dropped the bowl of salad she'd been carrying and flown across the grass, throwing herself upon the offending pair. Mrs. Belcanto had howled in pain when Ellen had clawed and yanked at her long, flowing black hair and refused to let go. It had taken Sam Lane quite some time to pry his furious wife's fingers loose.

Mortified, Lois had noticed several neighbors coming out of their homes, alerted by the angry sounds. That's when she and Lucy had turned and ran back into the house; her little sister had barricaded herself into her room, and Lois hadn't seen her since.

Lois cringed when she thought about the pitying look old Mrs. Gaynor from across the street shot at them when Lucy almost ran up against her on their way back into the kitchen. How could she ever face the neighbors again? What were they saying behind their backs? How was she supposed to act around Mrs. Belcanto now?

Lois liked Mrs. Belcanto used to, anyway. She was loud and sassy and had fascinated the girls next door with her bubbly, good-natured personality when she and her husband had moved in about a year ago. Her own two daughters were away at college and she'd showered affection and home-made cookies on the Lane girls. So unlike their own mother, who seldom laughed or joked and never baked.

Lois liked the way Mrs. Belcanto had pronounced her name. "Lo- ees," she'd often told the gangly, insecure thirteen-year old, "You're gonna turn heads some day, girl! You planning on being a model? You can do it, you know!" And she'd enchanted Lucy by singing 'Santa Lucia', the first time she'd come over with a batch of cookies.

Mrs. Belcanto was alone a lot; her husband came and went at odd hours, sometimes staying away for days. Her Luigi was a salesman, Angela Belcanto had explained, and Ellen Lane, in one of her rare, humorous moments had later commented that he looked like an extra in a gangster movie; hadn't she seen him in 'Godfather II'?

Not a talkative man, the swarthy and mysterious Mr. Belcanto slithered mostly unseen in and out of the house. Even today he hadn't been around to witness the catfight between his wife and Ellen Lane and Lois wondered if he was home now. Lights were burning in the Belcanto house, so Angela hadn't turned in yet.

It had been such a beautiful day; in the morning they had been greeted by a cheerful, not too hot sun and a friendly blue sky, dotted with white, chubby clouds. For a while, Lois and Lucy had lain flat on their backs on the grass, celebrating their first day of summer vacation, looking at the ever-changing shapes of the clouds.

Lucy had been the first to triumphantly spot the cute little teddy bear and Lois had pointed out the elephant with the huge ears that looked exactly like Dumbo, one of Lucy's favourite Disney characters. The sisters had giggled and enjoyed themselves until their mother had called them in, to help prepare the salad for the barbecue party…

With an unhappy sigh Lois turned away from the kitchen door. Summer vacation had totally lost its appeal and right now, Lois passionately wished she could escape to school tomorrow. This vacation, so eagerly anticipated, was now ruined for her and her sister. And Lois knew that this summer was going to be bleak and endlessly long - and forever engraved in her memory.

THE END