By Caroline K. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November 2006
Summary: A newly married Clark hears a story from Lois's past.
She's sleeping, curled up in a tangle of sheets and blankets. I want to kiss her when I leave — I always want to kiss her — but I don't, because even more than I want to kiss her, I want to come back and find her just exactly like *this*. Curled up on her side in my bed, her hair a dark splash against the white pillow, her nightgown riding up just enough that I can see a hint of lacy panties and the curve of one perfect hip. The sheer intimacy of seeing her so relaxed and unguarded surprises me… touches me. Seeing Lois like that is a dream come true for me.
Because it's not *my* bed anymore. It's *our* bed, our apartment, our life. And there were whole years when I didn't believe we'd ever get from there to here, to the point when I could slip out to an early-morning rescue and know that my beautiful wife would be waiting for me when I got back home, still snuggled up in our warm bed.
I clear the freeway of an early-morning accident — no fatalities, thank goodness, and only minor injuries — and wonder that the people there can't tell. Do I really look like the same old Superman to them? I must be a very good actor, because the old Superman, who always left an empty apartment behind, and the new Superman, who has Lois Lane at home sleeping in his bed, hardly feel like the same man.
But no, they treat me exactly the same, with that odd mix of awe and gratitude that I've never quite gotten used to. A few of the police officers have seen me enough now that they'll relax a little, even venture a little joke or two on occasion, but mostly it's, "Yes, sir," and "Thank you, Superman," and then I'm on my way.
And today, I'm on my way back to Lois.
I deliberately try not to hear any more calls. If I hear them, I'll have to go, of course, but I don't *want* to hear them. I'm a newlywed, after all, and can surely be forgiven for wanting to be at home in bed with my wife early on a Sunday morning.
I fly through our bedroom window and am disappointed to find her sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, surrounded by an odd assortment of things I've never seen before. I'm only a little disappointed, though. She had looked so sweet curled up there asleep, but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that while "Sweet Lois" does exist, she makes only brief, infrequent appearances in our daily lives. Fortunately, I'm equally besotted with "Headstrong Lois" and "Fiery Lois" and "Passionate Lois." Even "Furious Lois" has given me some moments I've enjoyed, especially when her anger was directed at someone besides me. Today she looks up at me with a distracted sort of smile, and I'm not sure right away which Lois I'm dealing with.
"Hi. Was it bad?"
I take a few seconds to spin out of the suit and back into my sleep shorts. "No," I tell her. "Not bad."
She doesn't ask any more about it, but I don't really expect her to. "Not bad" means no story, no upset superhero/husband, nothing she needs to pursue.
Except, "Did you bring anything back for breakfast?"
"Shame. Those croissants you brought back the other day were… *mmmm*."
"I'd been in Paris," I remind her as I sit next to her on the bed. "Today I was on the freeway three miles away. The nearest thing was the McDonalds on Henry Street."
"And if it took you more than six minutes to get to Paris, that might make a decent excuse." She smiles. It takes my breath away. Every time.
"Do you want me to go for croissants?"
"Nah," she says, as I knew she would.
"So what's all this?" I ask, opening the flap of a box that is sitting on my bed. It's filled with folders, those colored paper ones with the little metal brads inside — the kind teachers made us use for reports.
"Stuff," she answers, closing the box on top of my hand.
"Stuff," I repeat.
"Personal stuff," she says grudgingly, as if, in telling me that, she's giving far too much away. I manage to extricate my hand without destroying the box, and she closes it up carefully, hiding her 'personal stuff' away from my prying eyes.
But… "You know I can see through that if I want to, right?"
She's right, of course, and I both love it and hate it that she knows me so well. The least she could do would be to *pretend* to be a little worried, a little nervous about her nosy super-powered husband going through her things. I'm about to tell her that when she says, "It's stuff I wrote — when I was teenager, mostly. It's stupid."
I smile a little at that, remembering some of the stuff I wrote as a teenager. One day I'd write about accidentally setting fire to a bale of hay with my eyes, and the next day I would write, with equivalent drama and angst, that Lana Lang had snubbed me in the hallway after fifth period. It's a strange time for everybody, I guess.
"Why do you have it out?" I ask.
"Just going through it. I found it in the move, and… we need to do something about all this."
She makes a vague gesture with her hands. I know the apartment is cluttered with all of our things, but we haven't quite figured out what to do about it. I like my stuff, she likes hers, and there just isn't room for everything. And there's a part of me — a really stupid part, I know — that kind of likes seeing her stuff and my stuff side by side, even if it is a complete mess. I would never confess this to Lois, though. She would make fun of me for being sentimental about tripping and bumping into things, and she'd probably be right.
I glance at the bed. She not only has the box of super-secret adolescent writings, but also several other things. An old golf towel is probably the strangest item, but there's also a stuffed rabbit and a girl's jewelry box — one of those that I know without looking will play a few tinkling notes of Tchaikovsky and have a little twirling ballerina inside. My cousin had one of those, as did every little girl in Smallville, I think. My cousin kept her rock collection in hers, much to my aunt's dismay, and what few pieces of jewelry she had we lost one day when we buried it while playing pirates.
It occurs to me suddenly that I have no idea what little-girl Lois would have kept in her ballerina jewelry box.
"Can I see?" I ask, reaching for it. It rattles a little in my hand.
"I guess," she answers with a half-smile. "I haven't looked in there in years myself."
I flick the tiny brass clasp and open the lid, and sure enough, there's the plastic ballerina, her graceful pose reflected in a mirror that has slipped and gone a little crooked over time. The contents of the box are slightly disappointing for some reason — more conventional, maybe, than I'd have expected from Lois. Aside from an odd chunk of glass, which I remove and set to one side for further inquiry, there are several rings, which are obviously costume jewelry since the metal is now tinged with green. I see a couple of necklaces with knots in the chains, and when I stir my finger around a bit, I see charms that probably went with the necklaces at one time. One is the letter L, and one is a little heart shot through with a Cupid's arrow. I try to picture Lois wearing that heart necklace and fail completely.
She reads my mind and snickers a little at the sight of the charm. "First boyfriend," she says succinctly.
"He didn't know you very well, did he?"
"It wasn't exactly a meeting of souls, no. He gave me my first kiss, though. Wasn't bad."
I am unreasonably jealous of this.
"How old were you?"
"Twelve!" *Twelve!?* "What were you doing kissing boys when you were twelve?"
"I take it you were a late-bloomer?"
"I… no! I *bloomed* right when I was supposed to, thank you very much. I just…"
"Was terrified of girls," she finishes for me.
"Utterly and completely," I admit. "Still am, a little."
"I know. It's part of your charm." She pats my cheek condescendingly. "So how old were you?"
"What do you mean?" I know what she means, of course; I'm just delaying the inevitable.
"How old were you when you first caught your lip on some girl's braces?"
"She didn't wear braces, and even if she had, it wouldn't have hurt."
"That's not the point. It's the humiliation of the thing."
"Ah. Well, no braces were involved. Though my glasses did kind of get in the way."
She giggles at that, but it doesn't distract her. "So out with it, Kent. How old were you?"
"Sixteen," I admit.
She grins at me, and I can practically see the words, "Yep. Late bloomer," in a bubble over her head.
"Oh, shut up," I say, even though she hasn't actually said anything. Naturally, this only makes her laugh harder.
I decide the only way out of this is to change the subject. "So what's this?" I ask, reaching for the chunk of glass I'd set aside. It's not just glass, I realize, but some kind of fancy crystal, beautifully cut. Its prisms catch at the light from the window and I turn it this way and that, admiring the flashes of color.
"Oh," she says in a flat voice. "That."
Two words, and it's as if all the light has gone from the room.
"I don't know why I even kept that," she says, reaching for it. She grasps it carefully, avoiding the sharp edges. "It's from a bowl my mother had. It broke and… I kept this piece."
"You must have liked it," I say lamely. "To have kept it all this time."
She shakes her head. "Not really. My mother loved it though. It was a wedding gift from my Great Aunt Lenore. She was one of those old ladies who had hair like a helmet and always smelled like she had bathed in perfume — at least when I knew her. But she gave my parents this crystal bowl for a wedding present, which was stupid, because they were young and still in school and hardly had a pot to pee in, and what did they need with a fancy bowl? My father would have probably rather had a blender or a toaster, but my mother… my mother loved the bowl."
She pauses for a moment, and I know there is more to this story — some reason this chunk of glass has been in her jewelry box for twenty years, but I won't press her for it if she doesn't want to tell me, for the same reason that I won't use my x-ray vision to read her teenaged scribblings.
"When I was little, the bowl was always up high, somewhere safe where Lucy and I couldn't get to it. My mother used to hold me up sometimes to look at it, but I was never allowed to touch. When we got older, she moved it lower, and when we moved into the house in Rivermont she finally put it out on a table in the living room. I was eleven then and Lucy was nine, and we hardly ever went into the living room anyway."
I watch her fingers, still turning the shard of crystal this way and that, and I want to caution her to be careful with it, but I know that will irritate her, maybe even enough to stop her talking.
"One night my parents had a fight. That was… unusual. I mean, *now* I know that things had been bad between them for a while, but they kept it all very polite on the surface, and back then, Lucy and I were pretty oblivious. You know how it is — kids don't think their parents have real lives."
No they don't.
I remember back a couple of years ago to the time my father showed up on my doorstep, claiming that my mother was having an affair. I was nearly thirty at the time, and I couldn't have been more shocked. They were my *parents*, for crying out loud; they weren't supposed to have drama and passion in their lives. I still feel that way, frankly, and would like very much to excise that whole experience from my memory.
"This was a real *fight* fight, though, if you know what I mean," Lois says, continuing her story. "There was no way you could be in the house with it and be oblivious. Lucy crawled into my bed and huddled under the covers with me. She was crying. I wanted to, but I knew it would scare Lucy even more if I did."
"Oh, honey," I whisper, my heart breaking for the little eleven-year-old Lois. She knows what I'm thinking, though, and shakes her head vigorously at me, warning me away. She is determined to tell this, it seems, and doesn't want my sympathy getting in the way.
"It seemed to go on forever. Lucy had her hands pressed to her ears to try to keep out the screaming, but I listened to every word. A lot of them were words I'd never even heard before. I had to look them up later." She pauses, and I know she's editing the story in her head, deciding which parts to tell.
"It ended when someone threw the bowl against the wall. I've never known which of them did it, but I swear, Clark, it was like the whole house shook. That thing was *heavy* — so heavy that it probably wouldn't even have broken except that my mother had just ripped out the carpet and put in ceramic tile. We heard it hit the wall and crash to the floor, and it must have broken into a zillion pieces. I found this one later under the sofa. But after the big crash… nothing. Just total silence, and that was really scarier than the screaming had been. I thought that one of them might be dead, but I was too scared to get out of bed and find out."
And with those words, my strong, beautiful wife finally breaks. Her voice hitches on a sob and her eyes well up with tears, and before I can stop it, her hand clenches convulsively on the crystal shard, which is as sharp today as it was when it went into the little ballerina box.
She gives a little gasp of surprise and pain and opens her hand, letting the chunk of crystal fall to the bed as the blood drips from her palm.
"Oh, Lois…honey!" I grab the golf towel, whose story I'm no longer so eager to hear, and quickly wrap it around her hand and rush her to the bathroom.
She sniffles quietly as I tend to her injury, and even though I think she should go to the hospital for stitches, and say so repeatedly, she insists that I just bandage it up. In the end, I give in, not wanting to upset her further, which is either considerate or cowardly — I'm not sure yet.
I fly to Paris for croissants, the kind she likes best, and I stop on the way home to rent a movie she's been wanting to see. She's in the kitchen when I get back, trying to fix coffee with one hand, which is a little bit funny since she's never been able to do it all that well with both hands. She accepts my offerings and then tells me that I'm overdoing it. And that she's *fine*. And that I should stop before I get annoying.
I can take a hint.
I kiss her and tell her I'm going to take a shower. And to get me if she needs anything. She rolls her eyes and gives me a little shove in the direction of our bedroom, and I actually go, proving what I said about the hint thing.
But once I'm in there, I see that her things are still spread out all over our bed. The stories I'm not allowed to read, the box with the twirling ballerina, even the damned piece of crystal… still there. And I don't *want* them there, don't want them to have the power to hurt her ever again. They're not mine to throw away, though, so I begin to gather them up, planning to put them in a neat pile on her dresser, which is now jammed next to mine.
But as I'm picking up her things, I'm arrested by the sight of her blood staining the white sheets. And it's then that I feel my throat tighten and tears sting my eyes, as I think of innocence lost, and a little girl hiding with her sister under the covers, determined not to cry.