Disclaimer: So not mine.
Feedback: Comments and curses always greatly appreciated.
Notes: Thank you to N. for the quick read through, and to Jack for the title.
This is a response to Jae's defining moment vignette challenge
It's easy to imagine it's empty, the casket. Just a box, shiny and black and covered with lilies, that holds nothing more than silver satin. There's nothing about it to make him believe his mother is in there. But those are little boy thoughts and he's not a child anymore.
The veneer feels like glass under his fingers as it smudges with the oils from his skin. His father will disapprove, will come and wipe away the streaks. Lionel will shake his head and click his tongue because, "Really Lex, I had hoped that you were more grown up than that."
But for now he's alone, watching as the oil and dirt blend like finger paint to spell out something he's not sure he understands fully. Questions he'll never have answers to, but that Pam told him to ask anyway.
"Write it down, Alexander," she said, smoothing her hand over his scalp. "Tell her everything you never had a chance to say."
In less than an hour he had three pages in his best, practiced script; the ink blurring only occasionally near the margins. He folded them carefully, sealing them in an envelope with the wax and double L signet his mother had only used for formal announcements.
Clutching the letter tightly to his chest he snuck into her sitting room. He tucked the envelope into the wide hem of the dress Pam had laying out for the men in black suits. He let his fingers linger in the soft fabric long enough to come back smelling of lilac and comfrey.
The pages were on his bed after school, painted in red ink, his father's unrestrained loops and whirls a harsher standard than any of his teachers ever required.
Poor grammar and sentimentality are both vices to be avoided, Lex.
So now he writes it all again on black veneer, and waits for Pam to tell him that, yes, this will work too.
"Lex." He flinches before the hand comes to rest on his shoulder, but doesn't stop his fingers.
"She's not coming."
Lex knows it's the truth; Lionel would never risk being blatantly contradicted in public.
"She's left the country."
"Is she coming back?"
"No. She's not."
Lex lets his hand drop, but not his chin. He thinks maybe he shouldn't be so surprised. She was only the nanny, after all. Hired help.
"I'm sorry, son." Lionel offers him a handkerchief, the double L monogram waving gently in front of Lex's face. And he thinks maybe that's why Lionel has always called him Lex, and maybe why Pam never did.
He swipes at the casket, rubbing until he thinks the white silk will turn to gray, and doing his best to erase those silly, sentimental words.
"Your mother would be proud of you right now."
He knows Lionel is lying. His mother never frowned on emotion. But she's dead and Lionel is alive, and that small remnant of family is all that Lex has left.
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