"Pictures in the Mind"
"It must be here," Lionel Luthor muttered under his breath before shouting out the name of yet another servant. "Martha, do see it?" he asked of Martha Kent as she knelt over a huge storage box.
"No," the farmer's wife answered after a long pause. He couldn't see her shake her head in that pause, but Lionel was certain she had. He was slowly getting used to people forgetting that he couldn't see their slightest gestures. "I'm sorry," she told him.
He'd been having lunch on the balcony overlooking the garden, focusing on listening to the sounds around him, as his therapist had instructed, when the scent of flowers from the garden met his nostrils. His keen senses picked out the roses from among the mingled essences of several other types of flora. The roses had been her favorite. He remembered...
"Keep looking!" he barked, frustration evident in his voice. "I know I sent everything here after she died. It has to be there." He wouldn't tell anyone, but the frustration he felt was more with himself than any of the servants or Mrs. Kent, all of whom had so far failed to find what he was practically forcing them to look for. When Lillian died, he'd ordered all of her things--her personal belongings and any other mementos of her life--to be packed up and sent off to the castle for storage. He hadn't imagine he'd ever want them again.
His son's voice cut, sharply, into his thoughts. "Can someone please enlighten me as to why my entire staff seems to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack?"
"They're aiding me in locating something I need," Lionel answered stiffly. Lex was angry, he could hear it in his voice.
"In the meantime, their regular duties go unattended." The accusing tone was harsh on Lionel's ears. "And this is Mrs. Kent's lunch hour. Her husband just called to find out why she hadn't returned home like she usually does," Lex further berated his father. Their roles had somehow reversed since he'd lost his eyesight, a fact which had not escaped either of them.
"It's okay, Lex," Martha said, defense of her new boss in her voice. "I don't mind helping Lionel."
"I'm sure you don't, Mrs. Kent," Lex told her. "It's your job, after all." His son's voice always softened around the woman, as if he favored her more because she was his friend's mother. Or a friend herself. Lionel was noticing this increasingly since he started really paying attention to the way people spoke. "But the fact remains, this--whatever this is--is disrupting the household."
At this moment, there were footsteps from somewhere behind his son, and Lionel imagined Lex turning in the direction of the door. "This is the last box, Mr. Luthor," a polite-yet-flustered voice rang out. He heard the rustle of clothing and the shifting of cardboard, then a soft thud as the servant set the box on the floor near Lionel's feet.
"These are Mom's things." Lex's annoyance had faded away into confusion. "They disappeared after she died. You sent them here so you didn't have to look at them."
The accusation hurt, but only because it was true. He had, and now he was faced with the irony that he could never look at her belongings again. Not these, nor any other memento of her. Lionel found he could not answer his son as he wanted to--truthfully. Lex would never accept the truth from him anyway. "They were taking up space," he said instead.
"I'm sure they were," Lex retorted harshly.
"Lex," Martha interjected. "Your father looking for a photograph. Maybe you could help me find it for him?"
Silence followed in which Lionel was certain his son would refuse. He could almost see his son's facial expressions dissipating into that stony, calculating look he got when...
"Did he say which one he wanted?" Lex's voice was shaky, as if he was restraining himself from unleashing some great emotion.
Lionel answered for her. "Do you remember the last summer we spent here as a family, Lex? The year your mother insisted we both help her plant the rose garden?"
"Yes," Lex said. "I remember you scolding me because the thorns cut my hands and I kept getting blood on my clothes."
His son's voice had softened--only slightly--with the memory. Lionel ventured a chuckle. "Your mother got the First Aid kit from the upstairs bath and put Band-Aids on every scratch, even the most insignificant ones."
"You told her it was a waste," Lex countered, his voice softening even more, until it was almost kindly.
"She did it anyway."
"Yes, she did." An awkward silence followed, and then Lex spoke again, to Martha this time. "Mom kept a leather-bound journal. Red-- I think." As he spoke, Lionel found himself envisioning the book. Lillian had a habit of using a current photo for a bookmark, until another occasion afforded her a new one. Then the old picture was placed in between the pages near the entry for the day it commemorated. It was her way of remembering special moments.
Lionel heard shuffling as Martha rummaged through the box. "Is this it?" she asked of Lex. He must have nodded his answer, because Lionel could hear the pages turning softly, Martha Kent's skin brushing across them as she touched each gingerly. He imagined the pages were brittle by now and yellow with age.
"Here," he heard Lex say. "This is the entry."
"Let me have the picture, Lex," Lionel asked, his words coming out more commanding than they needed to be.
"What's the point?" his son responded, and the brief kindness they'd shared in the memory was washed away by their more accustomed enmity. "It's not like you can see it anyway."
But he handed it over anyway. Lionel caressed the soft paper gently, running his fingers over the surface and tracing the edges as if trying to memorize its dimensions.
Lex dismissed the servants, sending them all back to whatever they'd been doing before Lionel'd decided to monopolize their time. He also told Mrs. Kent to take the rest of the day off. She protested, but Lex insisted that they'd still pay her for the whole day, and she left. Lionel couldn't tear himself from the photograph which he couldn't see to correct or stop him.
Finally, he heard Lex's footsteps moving away from him. "Lex!" he called out. The footsteps stopped. "Would... " he started to ask, then stopped. He wouldn't beg his son, not even now. "Read the entry to me," he said instead.
He could hear his son's returning footfalls and the creak of the leather chair beside his own as Lex sat.
After a moment of silence, Lex began to speak, verbalizing his mother's written thoughts. "Today was such a day as poets speak of, when they speak of love and beauty. The sun was shining, golden, in a sea of blue. The weather was warm, perfect..."
As his son continued to speak, Lionel closed his sightless eyes, clutching the photograph to his chest, and saw the exact moment it depicted: Lillian in a pale blue sundress, her auburn hair woven into a long braid which the heat and slight breeze had made wispy. Lex was with her, sitting on her lap in the grass beside the rose bushes they'd just transplanted. Both of them happy. His eyes could never see it again, but so long as the memory remained strong, he would never lose the image of it in his mind.
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