Lena meets Kara for the first time when she’s fifteen years old. Lena’s parents, Lex, and herself go down to their beach house in Midvale, like they do every year, except this time it’s different. Because this time there’s a new girl at the house just down the hill from the Luthors. From her bedroom window, Lena can see her running around the backyard with other girl, the one who has been there for as long as Lena can remember, blurs of blonde and brown hair shimmering in the sunlight every now and then.
It makes her wish Lex would still play with her, but he says they’re too old for that now—he’s twenty, and thinking about masters degrees and other important things she, according to him, can’t possibly understand yet. (She does understand. She wants to go to Harvard and study biomedical engineering to make a difference, but she hasn’t told anyone yet. Everyone thinks Lex is the genius, not her, and it’s easier to be invisible, anyway.)
Even though it’s summer break, everyone is busy with work. Her mother is reading scientific articles like they’re morning newspapers, and her father is doing paperwork for his company. All around the house, staff is working around the clock to keep it clean, which Lena appreciates, but it also makes everything look too white and too impersonal.
Everyone seems to know exactly what to do, except Lena. They’ve only been here a week and she has already read all the books she brought with her, one of Lex’s books on space and alien life, and even the really complicated one from her mother’s library about something medical she couldn’t quite wrap her head around. She has beaten the two only video games in the house three times at different difficulties, and explored every corner of the house.
So the only logical option now is to leave the house. She decides to ask her mother, because she’s the most likely to say yes. She does say yes.
(“Mom, can I go and play outside?”
“Whatever, Lena. Don’t forget dinner is at six.”)
Lena doesn’t waste another second. She quietly pulls open the front door, but as soon as it falls closed behind her, she starts running. Down the hill, to where the two girls are playing. As Lena gets closer, she realizes they’re holding jump ropes and there are several types of balls scattered around the grass, but then she’s too close and there’s hedges separating them from her and she can’t see anything anymore. Between the swishing sounds of the jump rope, she can hear them laughing and talking.
They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the two of them, and Lena skids to a stop. Who says these girls will want to play with her? She doesn’t even know them, even though she’s been coming here for years. Who knows what the people in the town are saying about them—the Luthors. If they even notice their presence at all, since they never really come out of the house.
Something in her stomach twitches and she feels like she might be sick. These girls are having so much fun, they probably don’t want Lena to interrupt them. They’ll probably think she’s obnoxious and not as much fun. But she also can’t go back to the house, not now that she finally got out.
Feeling conflicted, she tentatively takes a few steps closer to the hedges to look through them. The girl with brown hair is now pitching balls at the other one with impressive swings, and the blonde is catching them with ease. It seems like a silly game—especially because the taller girl seems to be around the same age as Lena—until one of the balls flies over the blonde’s head by at least two yards. At first Lena thinks it was a mistake for the ball to have been thrown that high, but then the small girl levitates off the ground and catches it with a grin.
“Throw it higher, Alex,” she says, feet landing back on the grass, the ball still clutched in her hands.
“You know we’re not supposed to,” the brunette, Alex, says. “What if someone sees you? Mom and Dad would kill us.”
“No, they won’t. And no one is going to see us. I scanned the area, there’s no one around.”
Lena frowns. Something strange is going on here… Surely that girl can’t have really flown up to catch that ball. It must’ve been an optical illusion, caused by the dry air and the sun reflecting in Lena’s eyes. But still—somewhere deep down, she knows it was real. She doesn’t know what, but something is going on with that blonde girl. Part of her wants to stick around and find out, but part of her knows it’s private. According to Alex, no one was supposed to know. Lena is part of no one.
She lingers around for a moment longer, before deciding that whatever is going on here, it’s really none of her business. She takes a few steps backwards, meaning to turn around and going back to the house, or maybe even farther down the hill, but her foot gets stuck behind something and she feels a sharp pain shooting up her leg.
“Ow,” she groans, struggling to regain her footing. It’s hopeless, and she tumbles backwards into the dirt. In a reflex, she lets out a yelp, and reaches for her ankle. She wraps her hands around it, unhooking it from the hedge roots sticking out from the ground. It doesn’t actually hurt as much anymore now that she’s on the ground, but she still presses her fingers into the skin to feel for the painful spot.
On the other side of the hedge, the two girls have gone silent. Lena’s too preoccupied with her ankle to pay attention to them, and she doesn’t hear their footsteps approaching until they’re right on the other side of the hedge. Two pairs of eyes are staring at her from between the branches, one bright and one dark.
“Uh—” Lena says. “No one?”
“Bullshit,” the same voice says, followed by another voice saying, “You’re not supposed to swear, Alex.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t.” The dark eyes disappear, and then the bright do, too. Lena can see movement behind the hedge, and less than ten seconds later, the two girls emerge from the gate a couple yards down.
Alex towers over Lena, hands on her sides, and she raises her eyebrows. “How long have you been there? Did you see anything?”
“N-no, I didn’t see anything. I just fell over,” Lena stutters, gesturing at her ankle. “I hurt my ankle.”
“Oh, Rao, I mean gosh,” the smaller girl says. She kneels down next to Lena. “Is it broken? Humans are so fragile.”
Lena blinks. She slowly lets go of her ankle, shaking her head. “No, I think I’m good. Um. I wasn’t spying on you guys or anything. I literally just walked by and made an unfortunate misstep.”
“Yeah, of course. Alex is just overreacting. She’s, uh, very territorial.” The girl reaches forward, fingertips hovering over Lena’s ankle. “Can I look?”
Lena looks at her then. Why does this girl think her opinion on the current state of Lena’s ankle is any better than her own? She looks like she must be at least two or three years younger than Lena, and Lena knows for a fact that she’s pretty smart for someone her age. But this girl has pretty eyes—they’re blue, she sees now—and for some reason, she nods.
From the corner of her eye, Lena sees Alex sighing and staring intently at them, and Lena decides that she doesn’t really like Alex. She’s too big and intimidating, and there’s something protective about the way she looks at this strange, strange girl. It reminds Lena a little bit of the way Lex used to look at her.
(He meant well, protecting her from bullies at school, but it kind of backfired and caused her friends to be too scared to hang out with her as well. She didn’t mind, at the time, because she had him and he was all she needed.)
“Does this hurt?” the girl puts a little bit of pressure on Lena’s ankle, and Lena shakes her head.
“What about this?”
“No. Uh—look, I’m fine. If you just help me up, I’ll go and leave you two alone,” Lena says, looking anywhere but Alex’s face. She grabs the girl’s extended hand and pulls herself up, surprised at how steady the girl’s footing is, and pats her pants to get rid of the dirt.
The girl frowns. “You don’t have to go. We don’t even know your name.”
“Lena,” Lena says. “Lena Luthor. I live up there for the summer.” She gestures at the house up the hill, prepares herself for those pretty blue eyes to turn cold.
But they don’t. Instead, they light up. “Really? I didn’t know anyone lived there. Anyway, this is Alex, my sister, and I’m Kara. Kara Zor—I mean, Kara Danvers.” Something does flicker in her eyes then, but when Lena blinks it’s gone, and she doesn’t want to intrude even more.
“Kara, can I talk to you for a second?” Alex makes it sound more like a demand than a question. Kara seems to notice this, too, because she doesn’t object this time.
“Wait here, we’ll be right back,” she smiles at Lena, who somehow can’t do anything but nod along stupidly.
She shakes her ankle and pats some more dirt off her pants, knowing full and well this is gonna result in a speech from at least one of the staff members and, if she’s unfortunate, her mother, and tries really hard not to pay attention to Kara and Alex’s conversation. But—
“You really shouldn’t be making friends with everyone you meet.” Alex’s voice is stern, like she’s still trying to demand things from Kara. Lena doesn’t like it. She knows what happened with her and Lex, and it might only be a matter of time before Alex turns her back on Kara, too.
“She seems nice, Alex. And humans have friends, right? If I should act more human, I should have friends.”
“I’m just saying she isn’t the type of person you should be friends with.”
“How do you know that?”
“She’s a Luthor. As in, LuthorCorp?” And then, after a moment of silence, “Her father owns the company. They’re really rich and not at all who people like us hang out with.”
Lena tries not to cringe at that, but she fails. Part of her really wants to walk away now, but Kara is defending her against her own sister, and they only just met. It would be disrespectful to just leave, for one thing, and she thinks Kara has been really nice to her so far, for another.
“Back on—” Kara mutters something that’s too low to understand. “We just hung out with whoever we wanted, rich or not. Lena seems nice enough. You don’t have to be friends with her, but I want to be.”
A pause. Then, “You don’t even know her.”
“All the more reason to give her a chance.” Kara’s voice is stern in a way Lena didn’t think was possible, and even though she tries really hard not to look, she spots Kara mirroring Alex’s hand-on-the-hips pose in what looks like a failed attempt to come across as more intimidating.
Alex, however, does give up, dramatically throwing her hands in the air. “Whatever. You do you. But I’m not responsible for the outcome.”
Kara smiles up at her, and then at Lena. She’s pretty when she smiles. And sure, there are some weird things going on here, but Lena is so desperate for friendship she doesn’t care. Kara is being nice to her, and just because she’s different than anyone Lena knows, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.
Kara comes up to her, leaving Alex cautiously eyeing the both of them, and smiles. “Sorry about that. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” Lena says, trying very hard to focus on Kara and not look back at Alex. “How about we just play catch or something?”
They hang out—Lena doesn’t like the word ‘play’, it makes her feel like she’s still a child—in the Danvers’ backyard until Kara and Alex’s mother calls them for dinner. It’s 6:30 PM.
Lena has completely forgotten about the time until she realizes she promised her mother to be back at six, and suddenly she’s scrambling on her feet and yelling something about how she had fun and hopes they’ll enjoy their food, already running back up the hill to her own house.
Truth is: she can’t remember the last time she had this much fun. It’s not like they really did anything. They just laid in the grass and looked at clouds and played ball games. Most of the time Alex stayed in the background, watching their every move, while Lena and Kara laughed and talked and had fun, but didn’t really mingle.
Lena thinks it might be because Alex doesn’t like her—or trust her. Normally she would be worried about it, but Kara pretty much makes up for her sister’s cool attitude. Throughout the afternoon, Lena found herself paying less and less attention to Alex and more to Kara, which she considers a good thing.
She likes Kara. She’s easy to talk to, and she makes Lena forget about the stiff manners she’s been taught. With Kara, she’s just Lena, without the Luthor. It makes her feel lighter, like smiling isn’t just to pose for pictures.
(And because of that, Lena is quick to brush aside the fact that she literally saw Kara fly, and that sometimes Kara says odd things like she’s from another world.)
Out of breath, and undoubtedly red in the face from running uphill, Lena pushes open the front door. She steps into the hallway, once again patting het pants to shake off whatever remaining dirt is still on them, and makes her way to the dining room.
Everyone is there. Her parents, Lex, and pretty much the entire staff all look up and stare at her as she stumbles into the room. “I’m sorry for being late.”
“Lena,” her mother says, and the sharp edge to her voice makes the name sound like a gunshot in a quiet room. “Where have you been?”
Lena blinks, scrambling into her seat. “Uh, downtown?”
“Must’ve been very interesting, if you didn’t remember to check the time and be in time for dinner.” Her eyes flicker to somewhere behind Lena, and she holds up her hand palm facing forward with a shake of her head.
Lena’s father sighs in response, and Lex just looks down at his steak like none of this is happening. Lena just barely manages to glance over her shoulder to see one of their staff members walking away with what looks like a steak—her steak.
“Mom, please,” she begs, turning her attention back to her mother. Her stomach grumbles, and she presses her elbows into it in an attempt to silence it. “I’m sorry I was late, it won’t happen again, I promise.”
“You also promised to remember dinner at six, so clearly you don’t care about promises that much if you keep breaking them.” Her mother sighs exasperatedly. “I want you to go to your room and think about what you’ve done.”
Lena fights against the angry tears burning in her eyes, desperate not to show weakness in front of her mother. She slides out of her seat, the pain in her ankle playing up as her feet touch the floor, and half hops out of the dining room.
She hates it when her mother is like this. All she did was make a simple mistake, one that didn’t even really affect anything, and still she’s getting punished for it. It isn’t fair.
When she gets to her room, she feels her empty stomach weighing heavy in her body. She looks around the room for something to eat, but all she finds is an empty bag of potato chips, and some stale biscuits.
Feeling defeated, she climbs onto her bed and presses her face down into the pillow until her lungs are burning, screaming for air. Rolling onto her back, she takes a few deep breaths. She stares at the ceiling, the anger slowly drifting out of her body with every exhale. Her fists unclench. Her eyes dry. Her stomach still grumbles.
She lies on her bed for a while, trying to fall asleep so the morning comes sooner, because morning means breakfast, and she could really use some food right now. Eventually, though, she realizes she won’t be falling asleep any time soon. She’s too hungry, and even after playing around with Kara all day, she just isn’t tired enough.
A small smile fights its way onto Lena’s lips, and she grumbles. Kara probably had a great dinner, one that involved actually eating food instead of being yelled at. Her mother—Eliza, Kara called her—seems much too nice for that.
Lena crawls out of bed. She crosses her room to sit down in the windowsill, the one from where she can see Kara’s house down the hill. It looks the same as this morning, except now Kara and Alex aren’t outside like before. Still, Lena keeps staring at the house, at the warmth she now knows radiates from it, wishing she could be down there instead.
Minutes turn into hours, and Lena grabs one of her favorite books to reread, glancing at the Danvers’ house every now and then. Nightfall comes, and everywhere along the path down the hill, windows light up one by one. Lena’s heart starts beating faster when the lights in Kara’s house turn on, for no reason at all except the knowledge that Kara’s down there, and she almost forgets about her empty stomach.
A knock on the door startles her, and after a beat of silence, Lex’s muffled voice reaches her ears. “Hey, Lena? Dad said to bring you some food.”
“Oh, did he now?” Lena bites her tongue to keep harsher words from slipping out, because he always does this. First he says nothing at all, then he tries to make it up by taking away one part of her mother’s punishment, like that’s the worst part of it all. And it’s not like Lex is much better these days. So she barely keeps herself from projecting her anger onto him. Instead she closes her book and says, “You can come in.”
Lex comes in, a sheepish look on his face. He’s holding a plate filled with mashed potatoes, some vegetables, and the steak that was taken away from Lena earlier. “Sorry mom was so hard on you earlier. You didn’t deserve that.”
“Yeah, well.” Lena shrugs, taking the plate from him. She digs into her food without another word, barely able to keep herself from gobbling it all down in one go.
Lex closes the door, and he pulls up a chair to sit next to Lena at her desk. “Where were you, though? You never stay out that long.”
And Lena wants to tell him. She wants to tell him about Kara and Alex, she wants to gush about Kara’s pretty eyes, her gentle voice, her beautiful smile. She wants to tell him about how she saw Kara fly up into the sky to grab a ball, and about how Kara sometimes speaks like she’s from another planet. But she doesn’t trust him anymore—not like she used to. He’s been too distant, lately, too focused on pleasing their mother. And who knows how much her views have started to influence his own.
So she lies. “Just down by the beach. The water was nice.”
He looks at her with a doubtful look in his eyes—he doesn’t believe her. For a moment she worries he might push her, but then he smiles that old Lex smile she loves so much, and ruffles her hair. “You’re a weird one, sometimes, Lee. But I love you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” she breathes, between bites. “I love you, too.” And she means it, despite him being withdrawn and distant lately. He’s her only friend. He’s all she has.
For the rest of the summer, she spends nearly every day with Kara. Sometimes Alex is there, sometimes she’s not. As more time passes, the less she sees of Alex, which is a development Lena doesn’t really mind.
After that first night, Lena makes sure to always be on time for dinner, and her mother mostly stays off her back. One time she jokes that she feels like Cinderella, always having to leave before the clock strikes, but it seems to go over Kara’s head, because Kara just stares at her blankly before forcing a laugh.
(On one of the more clouded days, they watch Alex’s VCR tape of Cinderella in Kara’s living room. Kara’s eyes light up at everything that happens, like she’s not quite used to the concept of movies, and afterwards she keeps singing the Fairy Godmother’s song to the point where Alex throws a pillow at her to shut her up. But Kara’s singing voice is nice, so Lena doesn’t mind.)
Spending time with the Danvers’, and especially with Kara, makes Lena’s heart feel lighter. Days seem to fly by, and for the first time in what feels like forever she finds herself dreading going back to boarding school at the end of summer. Where it used to be an escape from her mother's reigns, now it's just saying goodbye to what might be the best summer of her life.
Near the end of summer, Lena and Kara convince Kara’s parents to let them go downtown. (As it turns out, Alex’s protective attitude is just copied from their parents, which Lena can understand because Kara is a… special girl.) ‘Downtown’ is actually literally going down the hill to the town, and Kara is a couple of feet ahead of Lena, running. Her hair is flowing behind her, and she laughs.
They go into town to go window shopping, and Kara actually gasps when they reach the toy store. It’s not big at all, but there’s wooden toys placed strategically, and some of them are even moving. There’s a little train driving around wooden track, carrying its cargo around and around, that’s Kara’s favorite. She stares at it for what feels like thirty minutes, and Lena watches her face and knows she could probably afford to buy it from her allowance. But before she can make up her mind to actually do it, something else has caught Kara’s attention: a deep blue spaceship with the S from Superman painted on the side of it hanging from the ceiling.
Her eyes flicker up, and Lena senses a shift in the air. She sees several emotions flash over Kara’s face, emotions that no thirteen-year-old should feel, that end in sadness. Kara’s shoulders hunch, and her hands ball into fists ever so slightly.
“Uh,” Lena says, in an attempt to distract Kara from whatever is making her sad. “I have some cash. Do you want to get ice cream?”
Kara blinks, snapping back into reality. She slowly turns to look at Lena, taking just a moment too long before nodding her head. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
Lena wraps her hand around Kara’s wrist, and gently tugs her towards the ice cream parlor Lex takes her to sometimes. She doesn’t know what’s going on with Kara, but they’re friends, and she has to take care of her friends. So she buys them both ice cream cones with two flavors and a lot of whipped cream on top. It seems to work. Kara relaxes as they walk down the street, eating their ice creams, and when they’ve both finished their own, she’s smiling again.
Lena makes a mental note to not bring up spaceships or Superman, because either of those upset Kara. She’s not entirely sure how Superman could upset anyone, really, because he’s doing great things like saving people’s lives, but whatever. She doesn’t want to lose Kara, so she doesn’t question it.
They walk down the main street, subconsciously following the signs pointing towards the boardwalk and the beach. When she was younger, Lex used to take Lena down to the beach all the time, and they’d build sandcastles and play in the ocean all day long. He’d tell her about all the strange creatures living in the deep blue, and about how the moon caused the tides to change. She used to think she’d be able to listen to his stories forever.
“Hey, Lena,” Kara says, staring at her with narrowed eyes. “Are you okay?”
Lena nods. “Yeah. Just thinking about my brother.”
“You have a brother?”
“His name is Lex.” Lena glances up the hill. From where they’re standing she can’t see their house, but she knows he’s there. Up in his room, doing whatever he’s been doing the entire summer. “We used to be close, but not anymore. I don’t think he wants to hang out with me anymore.”
“Well, he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on,” Kara says. She holds out her hand, waiting for Lena to grab it, and intertwines their fingers. “Come on, let’s go to the boardwalk. I’ve never been here without Alex.”
“Me either. Without Lex, I mean.”
Kara squeezes her hand firmly, and Lena briefly wonders how such a small girl can hold so much strength in her body. “That’s funny. Our siblings have similar names. You just add an A to Lex and you get Alex.”
Lena chuckles, letting herself be pulled towards the boardwalk. “If only they were such good friends as you and I.”
“Yeah, we’re best friends,” Kara grins, in such a casual way it makes Lena’s heart beat out of her chest. Then she frowns, and continues to add, “Actually, you’re also my only friend. But I don’t think anyone else could ever be as nice as you are, so even if I had a lot of friends you’d still be my best.”
“You’re my best friend, too.” Lena smiles. Her face must be flushed from the way she can feel her skin burning, but it doesn’t matter. She’s Kara’s best friend. It’s something she never knew she’d want, and everything she never wants to let go of again.
Once they’re on the boardwalk, Kara lets go of Lena’s hand in favor of climbing on the guardrail. She towers over Lena as they walk along the beach, placing each foot carefully in front of the other, her arms spread to her sides for balance. It’s stupid and reckless, and typically Kara—risking her life doing dumb, unnecessary things for fun. Yet somehow Lena isn’t that worried. She trusts Kara.
When they reach the end of the boardwalk, Kara gracefully jumps off the guardrail. She immediately kneels down in the sand to take off her shoes, an example Lena quickly follows, and less than a minute later they’re both running towards the water.
Lena drops her bag and shoes right before the wet part of the beach, and she doesn’t stop running until she’s knee-deep in the ocean. The waves crash against her thighs, splashing water onto her shorts, and she shivers involuntarily.
Kara, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to notice the cold at all. She’s shorter than Lena, so her shorts are pretty much soaked when she stands next to her, but there’s not even goosebumps on her skin.
For a long moment they stand next to each other, quiet and unmoving. And then, out of nowhere, both of them run their fingers through the water, splashing water on each other. They shriek at the same time, and Lena clenches her jaw to keep her teeth from clattering.
“You splashed me,” she growls, between laughs and shivers. “I’m literally soaked, Kara!”
“You splashed me first,” Kara laughs. Her hair is a couple of shades darker now, sticking to her forehead, and blue eyes are twinkling mischievously. Before Lena realizes what’s happening, Kara lunges at her, knocking them both over. Lena opens her mouth to scream, salt water immediately streaming into her throat. She coughs, laughs, and shrieks at the same time, struggling to push Kara away from her to get some air into her lungs.
“Kara,” she manages to get out, resurfacing. She gasps for air, fingers digging into Kara’s arms just to have something to hold onto. “S-stop, I can’t b-breathe.” It comes out in gasps and laughs, but Kara immediately pulls her out of the water, worry flashing over her face.
Lena brushes her hair out of her face, leaning her hands on her knees as she takes deep breaths—in and out, in and out. Slowly her lungs stop burning, and the salt on her lips no longer tastes like suffocation. Kara’s hand is on her back, warm and secure, and Lena unconsciously leans into her touch.
“Are you okay?” Kara asks, voice shaking. “I’m so sorry.”
Lena looks up. “Yeah. Kara, I’m good. I’m great.” She doesn’t fail to notice the confusion in Kara’s eyes, but she can’t quite put it into words. How do you explain to someone whose eyes shine brighter than the stars what it’s like to find someone you genuinely care about after feeling alone for most of your life? Sure, she had Lex, and she supposes she cares about her father, too, but it’s not the same. They’re family. She didn’t choose them. But she chose Kara. She chooses Kara over anyone else. And even though they’ve only known each other for a couple of months, she’s pretty sure she’ll keep choosing Kara forever.
A gust of wind makes her shiver. “I’mma go out of the water now.”
“Oh, yeah, it’s a bit chilly,” Kara nods, but the reaction is delayed, like she’s reminded of how cold the water is supposed to be but doesn’t feel it herself.
They walk back to where their shoes are, and Lena takes the towel she brought from her bag, wrapping it around herself. With the bright sun shining down on them, it brings quite a bit of warmth.
Kara plops down in the sand, and Lena follows her example. Kara protectively wraps her arms around Lena’s waist, resting her head on Lena’s shoulder, and Lena can barely remember what it was like to be cold.
Minutes pass. Lena puts her arm around Kara’s shoulders, covering them both with her towel, and Kara moves closer to her on instinct. And they sit. They stare at the horizon, watching the sun move along the sky, not saying anything.
It’s a new thing for Lena—physical affection. But Kara seems to be overflowing with it. She finds she doesn’t mind when it’s Kara. She doesn’t mind a whole lot of things when it’s Kara.
Eventually she sighs. “You know, summer is coming to an end soon. Which means I’m going home soon.”
Kara looks up. “To Metropolis?”
“At first, yeah. And then back to boarding school.”
“Ireland is far away from here, isn’t it?” Kara sounds sad.
“It’s in Europe,” Lena nods. “Pretty far away.”
It’s quiet for a moment. Then Kara lets go of Lena, and she looks down at her hands. “I’ve never been to school. I mean—not here. I wish you’d be there to help me through it.”
Lena gives her a soft smile. “You’ll be okay. I’m sure you’ll find new friends really quickly.”
“I don’t want to find new friends. I want you.” Kara glances up at the sky for a moment. She flexes her fingers. “Other people might think I’m weird.”
“There’s nothing wrong with weird, Kara,” Lena says. “People can love you even if you’re a bit weird.”
Kara sighs, leaning back into Lena’s shoulder. “I guess.”
Lena presses a kiss against the side of Kara’s head, pulling her closer. “I’ll be back next year, and I’ll fight everyone for you if they’re being rude.”
“Okay,” Kara smiles. “But summer’s not over for another week. We still have time. Can we go explore the caves in the hills tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Lena nods. “And you’re right. We still have time.”
But when she gets home, at 5:50 PM, there’s suitcases in the hallway. Staff is walking around with cleaning utensils, and her father comes rushing towards her as soon as she sets foot inside the house.
“Good, you’re here. Remind me to get you a cellphone when we get back to Metropolis so we can call you if necessary.” He places his hand on Lena’s back, leading her to the dining room, where Lex is the only one sitting at the table.
“What’s going on?” Lena asks, wearily. “Why are all those suitcases in there? Is mom going somewhere?”
“We’re going home early,” her father says. “I’m needed back at the company, and your mom and I decided that it’s best if we just go back with the four of us.”
Lena’s eyes widen. “What? No! We can’t. I promised—”
“It’s not up for discussion, Lena.” Her father’s voice is stern, but he softens when he sees her shocked expression. “Look, we know you’ve been making friends here, but you always knew we had to go back to Metropolis at some point. And school starts in less than two weeks for the both of you. Now come on, let’s eat dinner, and then you can go up to pack your bags. We’re leaving later tonight, so we’ll be back in the morning.”
Lex gives her a sympathetic smile. “You can use my phone to call your friend and tell her what’s going on, if you want.”
Lena picks up her fork to stab at her potatoes. “She doesn’t have a phone, and I don’t know her landline.” She doesn’t add that she’s pretty sure Kara doesn’t know how to use a landline.
“Then send her a letter. Surely she has a house with an address. She’ll understand.” Lex taps her shoe with his own underneath the table, something he used to do all the time when they were younger and their mother went off at Lena for whatever reason. And Lena appreciates how he’s trying to cheer her up, but it’s not about that.
She knows she can contact Kara. She can write her, figure out the Danvers’ phone number and ask for Kara, but she’d thought they’d have another week together and now all of that is cut short. And for what? Business. It’s always the same thing, and Lena’s tired of it.
All through dinner, Lex tries to cheer her up. He even offers her half of his dessert, which is always his favorite part, but his efforts go to waste.
As soon as she’s allowed to leave—her mother never shows up to dinner, and Lena sort of wants to yell at her about it for being a hypocrite—she flies to her room, and climbs into her windowsill. Down the hill, Kara and Alex are in their backyard, laying in the grass. They’re cloud gazing, or doing something that looks a lot like it, and after a minute or two, Kara curls into Alex’s embrace.
Lena throws a pillow across the room. She hates this. How she’s being swept away like it’s nothing, without an opportunity to say goodbye to Kara in person. She briefly considers sneaking out of the house, but there are too many people downstairs, and she wouldn’t make it out of her bedroom window without breaking at least four bones.
When Lex comes into her bedroom to help her pack her bags an hour later, she’s on her bed, reading a book. Next to her are two suitcases, fully packed and ready to go. He smiles and gives her a hug, and she tries to push away the overwhelming thought that she should’ve hugged Kara longer when they said goodbye earlier.
She does write her letter, on the plane on her way to Ireland. But the words sound too whiny on the page, and her handwriting suddenly looks illegible, and it could never be a sufficient explanation of why she didn’t show up to explore the caves the next day.
She rewrites the letter in her notebook when she’s in her dorm room, a stranger sitting across from her on the other bed. She rewrites it during History class, when she’s supposed to be taking notes on the philosophies of Ancient Greece. She rewrites it a thousand times, and in the end there’s nothing left of the original message. Instead it becomes a catharsis, an entire journal addressed to Kara, rather than a letter.
She stops writing eventually. She figures that since it’s almost Christmas now, Kara probably hates her for not showing up, for not writing her, for not frantically looking for another way to contact her. And when it’s Christmas break, and she’s back in Metropolis for two weeks, she doesn’t try to convince Lex to drive them down to Midvale for a couple of days.