Lillian had been feeling well for several days. Though she was still weak, she didn't feel poorly. She celebrated times like these.
She even felt well enough to accompany Lionel to the Twelfth Annual Employee Picnic for the Metropolis branch of LuthorCorp. She brought along her Lafuma recliner, and a tall thermos of lemonade. She also took along a couple sandwiches for Lex. They found a shady spot under a cottonwood tree in the park, and sat there. Lex was underfoot, with his arms draped across her lap. She was glad he was home and could be with them. He was a comfort to her.
"Lillian," she heard someone call. She turned. It was Mrs. Carrington, the wife of one of Lionel's advisors. She was an older woman, but was amiable and uncorrupted by wealth and society. Lillian liked her. "What a pleasant surprise - it's nice to see you."
"You likewise, Mrs. Carrington," Lillian replied, "Isn't it a beautiful day?"
"It most certainly is." She gazed around at the azure sky and radiant foliage all around. "Oh, and Lillian, thank you for lending Lionel to us for the St. Jude's Charity Pageant. He was the perfect gentleman all night." The words stung Lillian.
"I can only imagine," she replied. Her voice had reflected her discontent, and Mrs. Carrington caught it. She just smiled awkwardly.
"Well, hasn't Lex grown? I remember when he was born." Lex looked up lazily and smiled. Just then, Lionel appeared on stage. "Let me go and find my husband." With that Mrs. Carrington flitted off.
Lionel gave a rousing speech that he was all too accustomed to giving. He was a brilliant orator, and it was one of the qualities that had attracted Lillian to him over a decade ago. He always had the cleverest turn of phrase, the most affecting intonation, and the most pointed observation. It was second nature to him.
His speech was rewarded with a hearty applause.
They never stayed long at such events. After Lionel shook a few hands and kissed some babies, they headed back home.
The afternoon passed by leisurely. Lillian caught up on some adult reading - The Firm by John Grisham. It was a nice diversion from the juvenile literature she read aloud to Lex on many a quiet evening.
Upon nightfall, she and Lionel retreated to their home theatre. He had somehow acquired a copy of Dances with Wolves, and they spent the evening, entranced by the tale of rugged individualism, triumph of the downtrodden, appreciation for the planet we share, and the virtue of vigilante justice. It was an escapist reality and glorification of the very tenants that Lionel, and even she herself, and eschewed their entire adult lives. She felt accused. She looked at Lionel after a particularly poignant scene. He didn't show any sign of inner conflict.
The concluding score (that would become legendary) played during the credits. Lionel leaned over.
"What did you think?" he asked. Lillian just nodded.
"No commentary?" Lionel was surprised. "It's rumored to be an Oscar contender."
"Deservedly so," she said. Lionel took her hand and led her out of the theater. They started towards the dining room, but Lillian suddenly stopped.
"I think I'll head to bed," she said.
"Not hungry?" Lionel asked.
"I'm more tired," she said, already moving towards the stairs. She felt Lionel's eyes watching her as she moved down the corridor.
Upon reaching her bedroom, she took off her clothes and hung them. She spotted some raw silk pajamas she had grown fond of and put them on. At some point they had probably belonged to Lionel. She caught a glimpse of herself as she passed the vanity. She didn't look wan and sickly, but she had definitely seen better days. She crept into bed and faced inward, cuddling amongst the plush comforters.
Looking back on the day, Lillian could say it was enjoyable - a reprieve from the monotony that illness imposed on her. Compulsively, her mind drifted back to years past. She would wake every morning, rush to work, save the world, or at least the little part of it that was hers, and rush back home in time to spend a tranquil evening with her husband and small child. She had been vital, fulfilled, and independent. Had it really been eight years since that reality was her own?
Within fifteen minutes Lionel entered the room.
"Is Lex eating?" she inquired behind closed eyes.
"I don't know, he's with Pamela," he replied, rather disinterested. She heard cloth hit the floor, hangers rattle in the closet and cufflinks clink against porcelain. Then Lionel sat on the edge of the bed, facing her. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Not as tired as I thought," she replied.
"Can I take that as...playful" Lionel said, drawing closer. They were eye to eye. She tapped his nose twice with her finger and turned over. Lionel moved in closer, placing his left hand on her shoulder. It was the hand he reined with. "Where's that fetching blue ensemble you used to wear?" he asked.
"I don't know, but if you'd like to borrow it, you'll have to find it yourself," she said. He chuckled and leaned in close.
"Vous tes ma petite fleur, fleurissant avec les ptales rouges. Venez moi," he purred into her ear. There were times when those words would have melted her and roused warmth in her heart.
"Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell," she replied. She felt Lionel pull away ever so slightly. He caught her meaning.
"Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed?"
"Did I but speak thy deeds. What committed!" Who was he kidding?
"Of course, Othello was incorrect in his accusations of infidelity," he replied, jockeying for position. Lillian turned to him.
Lionel didn't reply. She returned to her pillow, and killed the lights.
"Do I repulse you?" he said finally, lingering on each syllable. She could feel his weight removed from the bed and moments later heard the slow gurgle of liquor being poured. She assumed he sat in the recliner at the far side of the room. There was a protracted silence. Even with her back to him and her eyes closed she knew he was pouting.
Lionel didn't pout to soothe himself; he was far too self-affirmed to do that. He did it for the effect it had on others. Lillian, however, had long been immune to his machinations. It was the reason he loved her...and he reason he didn't.
"What do you want from me?" he asked suddenly. He almost seemed to ask the question in earnest. "A separation? A divorce? My money?"
"If you'll recall, Lionel, I am independently wealthy. I had a successful career before my illness, and possess quite a few shares in a rather lucrative stock." She heard footsteps approaching, and, despite the dark, saw him crouching a foot away from her face.
"Don't reject me, Lillian." he said. "You know I don't tolerate rejection well." She sensed the slightest hint of a threat in his voice. "What do you want?"
"I want the child I've raised, a father for that child, the privacy I need, and the respect I deserve."
"And your husband?" he asked. Lillian let the question echo.
"I want him to the extent he wants me," she said. In the darkness, their eyes met in an impasse of wills. Lionel rose, put on a robe and left the room.
Lillian slipped out of bed and over to the test tucked in her vanity. She crept over to the window. There was no denying it - there were two distinct lines. She covered her eyes with both hands before massaging her temples. Her heart jumped every time she thought of it. "Not again, not with this man," she whispered to herself.
She got back into bed. She couldn't believe how she was reacting. She thought of her beloved Lex, and held on to the thought with all her might. She would accept it. She would be happy.
And she would tell Lionel. Tomorrow.
But tonight, she would just get some rest.
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