- from Lyin' Eyes, by the Eagles
Lex was sitting in class when there was knock at the door. The teacher excused himself and stepped out of the door. Seconds later he returned.
"Luthor," he called. Lex looked up from the Warrior Angel comic he had tucked inside of his Victorian history book. The teacher seemed to catch his slight startle, and his eye flickered. "You have a telephone call. Follow Ms. Bynes to receive it."
Lex straightened up his things (being mindful of carefully concealing the comic book) and exited the classroom. Silently, he followed Ms. Bynes down the hall to a secretary's office. She motioned towards a phone, and several lines were blinking.
"Line 3," she said, and left the room.
Lex picked up the receiver and pushed the blinking button next to 3. "Hello?" he asked, hesitantly.
"Hello, sweetheart," the voice said.
"Mom?" Lex asked, excitedly. He couldn't believe it! "Is this Mom?" There was a weak chuckle.
"Yes dear. How are you?" she said, a little slower than usual.
"Good, good! I'm out of class in about 45 more minutes." She gasped a little.
"Right - it's still morning here." she explained. Then there was silence for several moments. Lex tried to fill it.
"I got the comics," he said, "Thank you so much."
"My pleasure," Lillian replied. She swallowed very hard. "Pamela wanted to get you another game for your Nintendo, but I thought you might like the comics better."
"I did, thanks," Lex assured her. And he did. He'd take the comics over the games any day.
"Did you get the money?" she asked. Lex always thought it was funny when his parents sent him money, since he never quite managed to run out in the first place.
"Yes, thank you." he said. "Ms. Crosby gave me the wire receipt Wednesday." Lex just was so happy to be talking to his mother; he wasn't bothered by the aimless nature of the conversation.
More silence. And Lex was at a loss for words.
"Was there anything you wanted Mom?" he finally asked.
"I just wanted to make sure you got the gifts," she said. His mother started breathing heavy and alternately swallowing hard, and throughout the conversation, her voice had sounded a register deeper than usual. She didn't sound well.
"Are you OK?" he asked. There was no answer. After a moment, he thought he might have even heard faint high-pitched inhalation of crying.
"I just wanted to hear your voice, precious," she finally said. Her voice was strained. "It's so good to hear your voice, Alexander," she said. She sounded sad.
"Yours too, Mom." he said. There was a huge lump in his throat.
"I'm tired, love. But have a good day at school, OK?"
"OK, Mom...I love you," he replied. Then he heard someone call her name. It sounded like Lionel. His mother said a few words that he couldn't quite make out, and then she hung up. Lex knew Lionel didn't like Lillian doting on Lex too much, and he would probably nag Lillian for calling him in the middle of a school day. Lex understood why his mother hung up so abruptly, but he was a little angry his father had stolen the three words he wanted to hear from her.
"Who was that, Lillian?" Lionel asked, just a little curious.
"The dry cleaner," she said, hanging up.
"Oh," Lionel said, thumbing through Time Magazine. "I thought that might be Dr. Connely." Lillian turned from him, only half-heartedly hiding her disgust at the mention of the name, gazing intently on a flower arrangement on the table.
"Why are you home?" she asked. It wasn't even ten.
"I thought we might spend the day together" Lionel replied, sitting on the sofa next to her. Lillian sighed hard and rubbed her forehead.
"And why would you think that. You know I'm exhausted Lionel. I haven't been feeling well."
"We could stay here. I have no extravagant plans." He tossed the magazine on the coffee table. "We could do absolutely nothing. Or have some conversation, a cup of tea." He leaned forward and poured them two cups from the small steel kettle of water on the table. He handed her a cup, which she waved away. He took his and began to sip. "You know, um, Dominic just got back from Belize. He says the country's absolutely stunning. Decadent beaches, astounding flora, alluring weather. In the remote areas, away from the tourists, away from the tacky resorts, you can truly get away. Off shore is even dotted with some islands." Lillian barely responded, only nodding faintly. She barely registered a change in facial expression.
"So, how is Lex?" he asked. Lillian turned. "I thought you might know."
"Why don't you?" she asked. Lionel didn't reply. He sat his cup down, and rubbed his lips.
"You know why I'm home." he said suddenly, his voice a trifle less cheery. "We've been avoiding a conversation we need to have." He placed his hand on her lap. She pulled away. "I would like an answer."
"You have your answer, Lionel," she said. Her tone was forceful, but her voice weak. "But you refuse to accept it." She rose from the couch and moved towards the French doors that lead outside. She opened them, letting in warming sunshine. Lionel followed her standing just behind her.
"I talked to Dr. Connely. I asked him to speak with you," he said.
"And thought he might say what?"
"I thought he might assure you of the quality of care you would receive."
"And in that statement you fail to realize that quality of care was never one of my concerns." She moved across the room and sat in an overstuffed loveseat several feet away, pulling an afghan over her legs that were nestled in the chair. Lionel remained standing, hands tucked in pockets, peering out of the open doors. After a moment, just turning his head, he looked at Lillian with a perplexed face. She turned away.
"Why are you so opposed, Lillian?" he asked. "Why is the idea so repugnant?"
"Lionel!" she replied, both stunned and irked by the question. "Aren't the reasons obvious. We have no business...you have no business hav..." she turned to face him. "I'm forty-one years old Lionel. I'm in ailing health." There was another reason. "You."
"Lionel your pursuits are all-consuming. When would you have time?"
"I could make time. I have an unparalleled staff. I'm hardly as physically indispensable as I was at one time." Lillian was still confounded.
"Lionel, why this sudden paternal ache?"
"Because if we don't do it now, the opportunity may escape us forever."
"Opportunity? This isn't a merger." He drew closer his eyes growing wider.
"Can't you see it Lillian? We've all done ourselves a disservice with only one child. Children are our contribution to this planet, our legacy. They are the greatest accomplishment an individual could possibly attain to." He groped for words. "My - our contribution is not complete. It cannot be fulfilled in Lex." Lillian shook her head with frustration. "Lillian this child could be a comfort to you."
"What kind of father could you be?" she blurted, breathlessly furious. "For every day you spend in Metropolis you spend five abroad, circling the globe, searching for the holy grail, the fountain of youth, the magic bullet that is always just beyond your grasp. Telling yourself that when you find it, you will settle down, bask in your glorious accumulation of prodigious glut." Lionel rushed forward, his eyes aglint with defensiveness.
"I slave and I toil for nothing but this family. I won't have you implying otherwise," he spat with a pointed finger.
"Implications are unnecessary Lionel. Look at the way you do Alexander." Her breath caught as the name crossed her lips. "You send him through an endless maze of trials, deflating him a little more everyday, making him believe that your love is conditional, something he can earn, all the while inflating your own ego."
"You coddle him, Lillian," Lionel replied derisively. "The contrast between my treatment of him and yours is stark only because you approach him with a debilitating gentility that cripples him."
"That, Lionel, is called love."
"That is called enfeeblement," he countered with a finality that made her shudder.
"There," she began after a moment, her voice laced with simmering hurt. "we're both inadequate parents, doing a miserable job. And yet, you want to do this again?" She turned towards the window. She could feel him drawing closer, looming overhead. But, when she turned to look up at him, Lionel's countenance had completely changed. His face was awash with something wholly different...somthing tender. Lillian found herself curiously galvanized by his altered expression. It was intriguing ...and a little disconcerting. She had almost forgotten she had asked a question until he finally spoke - with a plaintive earnestness.
"Because this time will be wonderful." It was almost as if someone else was standing where Lionel had been. He drew closer to the loveseat, stooping to meet her at eye level. She could smell his intoxicating cologne wafting over, and her eyes dimmed. It was as if he had acquired the pheromone from the Devil himself.
"Lionel, I am very tired," she pleaded with him in a whisper. She meant the words in so many ways. She opened her eyes and turned to him. Their faces were inches from each other, and he was gazing directly in her eyes. "Can't we talk about his later?" He stroked his finger over her brow pushing away an errant tendril from her face. He gently drug his fingers across her face, caressing her pallid jaw. He answered, speaking in a hushed tone.
"You always radiate," he said, "even when you're ill, you glow. You never lose your luminescence." He kept staring in her eyes, his voice dropping almost to a whisper. His gaze dropped to her lips. He placed the back of his fingers against her cheeks, pulling them down over her face. The gem in his ring felt cold against her face, and she leaned into his knuckles, her lips brushing against them. "I can't have enough of you. I want more." he purred, his forehead meeting hers. "Is that...so wrong?" He rose up and pressed a kiss into her ear. "Please Lillian, grant me this request."
Lillian felt a stinging burn in her eyes. She was crying. Softly. With the quickening breath of resignation. He took her head into his bosom and stroked her hair. "My Lily," he cooed. "My darling Lily." She cried until all her resistance was gone.
She woke hours later. Next to Lionel, in bed, as he slept. Her hair was slick to her head, damp with sweat against his bare chest. His left hand rested on her head, his fingers, intertwined in her locks as firmly as if he were awake. Possession.
Her womb was still dormant, her status unchanged. Yet, even then, lying there, she felt the hollow pang of concession, the demoralization of surrender. Her eyes flooded again as she drifted into slumber to soothe an exhaustion that she would never vanquish.