“You know,” Lillian Luthor began, her voice breaking through the sounds of silverware on plates and muffled conversation, “I’m beginning to think this was a horrible choice for a restaurant.” Her gray-blue eyes regarded the menu with thinly veiled disgust. “There’s simply nothing to eat.”
Lena stifled a yawn from behind her own menu and stole a glance at her watch. She had been at the Guardian set for most of the day and had wanted nothing more than a long, hot bath after work. What she got instead was a reminder from Sam not to miss her scheduled family time.
“It’s a shame,” Lillian continued, “that you had to miss Lex’s play. He made a fabulous Romeo.”
“The director said I was the best she’d ever seen,” Lex added without an ounce of modesty, smiling at Lena.
“Wow,” Lena said, peering up over the menu to glance at her half-brother. “I’m sorry I missed it.”
“Perhaps you could see about getting Lex set up with that agent of yours,” Lillian said. “I hear he’s very good.”
“He is.” Lena returned her attention to the menu, hoping the subject would drop on its own. She had seen Lex’s acting, and it was certainly not something she planned to endorse.
“I don’t want Lena’s agent,” Lex said. “I’d rather get my own.”
“Well, maybe Lena’s can suggest some people.”
“I’ll check with him,” Lena said, closing the menu. “So, where did Dad have to run to this time?”
“Paris,” Lex said with a sigh. “He was supposed to take me with him, but he got called out on some big 'emergency' during the play.”
“He’ll take you next time, honey. And you know you have school. Maybe for Christmas we can all go.” Lillian looked at Lena. “You are, of course, invited.”
“Ah, well, I guess we’ll see.” Lena would have rather walked barefoot through a sea of lava. “I’m not sure what my schedule will be.”
Lex rolled his eyes. Then he smiled. “So, what’s the story with you and Jack? I heard he dumped you for your assistant.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“It’s all over the Internet,” Lex said, as if it were common knowledge. “Someone at school said she read that you were heartbroken.”
“Yeah, well, it’s hard to get up in the mornings, but I manage.”
“He left you for your assistant?” Lillian asked. “I had no idea. That doesn’t say a lot about your ability to keep men, Lena.”
“Did he cheat on you?” Lex’s eyes lit up at the prospect.
“Ah, no. We were long over before anything happened with Sam.”
“That's not what I read. Do you mind if I tell people you're really upset about it? It'll give me something to discuss in homeroom tomorrow.”
“Your support is invaluable to me, Lex.” Lena glanced at her watch again. Had it only been half an hour since she’d arrived?
“Do you have your eyes on someone else?” It was Lillian who asked. “Because if you don’t, Mary Jo Thornton’s son is finally single.”
“Finally? Was someone counting the days?”
“Oh, he was dating the most dreadful woman,” Lillian said. “You should have heard the stories Mary Jo told me. The girl was one of those,” and here she lowered her voice, “Hispanics. Not only that, but she was their maid’s daughter! God, can you imagine?” Lillian shook her head. “Anyway, her son’s name is Daniel. I’ll have him give you a call.”
“I’d rather you didn’t. I’m not really... emotionally ready to jump into another relationship.”
Lex snorted. "I knew you were heartbroken."
“Really, Lena, don’t be so dramatic. So, Jack dumped you. Time to move on. I’ll have Daniel call you. Maybe you can take him to one of those celebrity parties you’re always attending. You’re going to need a date after all.”
Lena didn’t know what else to say to deter her stepmother. She knew once Lillian made up her mind about something there was no going back. "Fine, but please don't give him my cell phone number. Have him call Sam's."
"Aren't you afraid she's gonna steal him too?" Lex asked with a laugh.
"Speak of the devil," Lena said, as the individualized ringtone she'd designated for Sam's calls filled the air. She reached for the device as quickly as possible and answered with a cheerful, "Hello?"
"Sorry to bother you while you're having the time of your life with your family, but I just wanted to ask if it was okay if I brought a friend to dinner on Friday?"
Instead of replying, Lena said, "Wow, they need to reshoot that now? Right now? But I'm having dinner with my family..."
"Very smooth, Lena. No, but seriously, is it okay?"
"Well, I guess it’s fine. Tell them I’m on my way."
Sam laughed. "Good luck with your escape."
"Thanks, Sam. Talk to you later." Lena snapped the phone shut and regarded the two women at the table with what she hoped was a regretful expression. "Sorry, emergency at the set. I have to run."
"What, do they need you to perform open heart surgery or something?" Lex asked.
"You're funny tonight," Lena said, rising from the table.
"Don't forget about Daniel," Lillian said, as Lena leaned down to kiss her cheek.
"I won't think of anything else." Lena waved to her brother and headed straight for the exit, breathing a sigh of relief the second she stepped outside.
Some time later, Lena lay in bed, feet on pillows, staring up at the picture an artist thousands of miles away had drawn. She’d been staring at it for what felt like hours, tracing each line, each curve with her mind’s eye, wondering what it was about those black lines on that white canvas paper that made her feel at peace.
The glow from the open laptop caught Lena’s attention and she turned to look at the email on the screen. She’d rewritten her reply to the artist’s email dozens of times throughout the course of her day. During filming, during breaks, during moments of silence her thoughts had invariably returned to the email she’d yet to write. Dear Kara, she would write across the pages of her mind, and then she’d pause to contemplate the million things she could say after that.
If she were honest with herself, which she seldom was, she’d admit that what she really wanted to write was a question: Why do you feel stuck? For reasons she couldn’t explain, Lena wanted to know. In truth, she wanted to know a lot more than just that.
She sighed, looking back up at the picture. If she was smart, she’d let it go. She’d forget about the email, she’d forget about the artist. She’d already said what she’d meant to say.
She’d only meant to express her appreciation over the art piece. Anything further was crossing the line. She didn’t want to lie, but she couldn’t tell the truth. The best thing to do was to stop, not reply, move on.
And yet, she wanted to know. Why do you feel stuck? Lena wondered. Sometimes I feel stuck, she wanted to write, often, I feel scattered.
She let the sound of crashing waves fill the room as she stared at nothing in particular. After a moment, she pulled the laptop closer and clicked “reply.”
Let me first assure you that your email didn’t come across as pretentious at all. I know quite a lot of pretentious people, so you can trust me to know the difference. :)
If my email made you feel at all better, then I’m very glad that I wrote it. Especially if it made you feel better about selling something you didn’t mean to sell. Though, if you want me to send it back to you, I will. I’d hate to keep it if you miss it or if it’s something you were saving or anything like that.
Ever since I read your email there’s been something I’ve wanted to say, but have worried about crossing the line with you. I know that we don’t know each other at all, but I thought that maybe that very fact might actually make it easier. Anyway, you mentioned feeling scattered and stuck, and I just wanted to say that if you ever wanted to talk about it... well, my inbox is always open. Otherwise, you’re welcome to tell me to mind my own business. :)