Author's Notes: This is written for Slod's "Picture = 1000 Words"
Challenge. The picture I was given is here:

Thanks to LaCasta for the superior beta reading and to Azar for
listening to me whine about how many words I had to delete to make it
fit the limit. :-)

"Best Kept Secrets"

Martha Kent had dreamed of this day all her life: they were
decorating the nursery for her soon-to-be-born baby.

Jonathan finished the chores early, and Clark stayed home from
school so the three of them could show the newest Kent how much they
loved her. Or him. Martha had declined to know the sex of the baby.
She wanted to be surprised. Boy or girl didn't matter, however. The
child would be loved all the same, Martha thought as she watched her
son and husband carry boxes of old junk from the spare room.

The next box Clark picked up was an especially old one, and the
bottom fell out unexpectedly, spilling the contents to the floor. He
knelt to retrieve the contents, looking at each photo and old receipt
as he handled them. Martha recognized them, feeling herself pale
slightly when her paused at one old envelope. "What's this?" he
asked, a frown crossing his face.

It was an unopened letter, addressed to her in Jonathan's scrawling,
messy handwriting. 'Return to sender' had been stamped across it in
red ink. Tears welled up in her eyes, uncontrollable because of
raging hormones and unearthed memories.

"You... kept them all?" She whispered to her husband.

"Every one." He reached out to wipe the tears from her cheeks.

"Kept what?" Clark's petulant voice brought them out of the
bittersweet moment. He looked at them both in confusion.

Jonathan cleared his throat awkwardly. "Son, I don't think--"

"No, Jonathan, it's okay. Clark's old enough to understand now."

"Martha..." He looked hesitant. "Are you sure?"

"I know, but I'm tired of secrets." With that, she reached out to
take the letter from her son, the feel of it in her hand flooding her
with memories.

***

She was halfway to Metropolis before she realized that going home to
her parents would be like saying her father had been right. Maybe he
had been, but Martha Clark--now Martha Kent--didn't want her father
to know that. She had her pride, after all.

Instead, she stopped at the first gas station she could find,
refueled and picked up a road map. She had a cousin in Edge City,
and that sounded like as good a place as any to build a new life.
She'd find a divorce lawyer once she got settled and found a job.
She'd think about that then, because right now, it hurt so much to
admit that Nell was right--she wasn't meant for the life Jonathan
wanted.

***

The first letter came within days of filing for a divorce, arriving
in a thick envelope that Martha opened ambivalently, hoping he'd
signed the papers already. He'd returned them, but not signed, and
torn to shreds which tumbled out when she reached for the
accompanying letter. 'I'm not giving up on us,' he'd written.

She hadn't the heart to read the rest of it.

Each week, a letter came, and she made a trip to the post office to
have them returned. Unopened, and stained with her tears.

How stubborn could he be not to see the folly in this? She wasn't
cut out for his world. He needed someone else--like Nell Potter--who
wanted to be a farmer's wife. She thought he'd realize that once she
left, but apparently, he had not. He just kept sending her letters.

Letter after agonizing letter.

And she continued to return them, because she could be just as
stubborn.

She cried the day she realized it'd been three weeks without a new
letter from Jonathan. Although she hadn't read any of them beyond
the first line of that very first one, she had come to depend on
their presence each week. She even secretly liked the idea that he
was pining for her. It had a romantic appeal to it.

They'd stopped coming, however, and she supposed she should call her
lawyer and have him draft new divorce papers. He'd sign them this
time, and she'd be free to get on with her new life.

***

Martha returned home from grocery shopping to find him sitting on
the stoop outside her apartment building. He looked out of place in
the big city with his flannel and worn jeans. His hair was tousled
and he looked like he hadn't slept in weeks. The new divorce papers
were in his hands.

She looked away, unable to meet his eyes, and walked past him into
her building. He followed her, his work boots clumping up the stone
steps.

Silently, she let him help her with the groceries. When they were
done, he spoke. "I'll sign them if you want me to." His voice
cracked with emotion he tried to hide.

"I..." she wanted to tell him to do it already, get it over with,
but nothing came out.

"Martha, I love you," he said in the wake of her silence. "I still
there's a chance for us, but I'll do it, if it makes you happy.
I'll do anything to make you happy."

Her heart broke then, shattering into a million tiny pieces the
moment she looked into his eyes. "I love you too, but I'll never be
like your mom or Nell or--"

"I don't want you to be anyone but yourself."

***

"We agreed on the drive home to keep it a secret," Martha explained
to her son. "Jonathan had already told everyone that I'd gone to
visit a sick relative, and no one thought to question it once I'd
returned." She sighed. "You came to us not long after... there
wasn't much sense in dwelling on it."

Clark nodded, still frowning. "Didn't you love Dad?"

"Of course, I did, honey. I was young, and sometimes young people
do stupid things." Very stupid things, she added internally, when
she realized the things she might have missed out on had Jonathan not
refused to give up on their relationship. She was grateful for his
stubbornness, she admitted, smiling, as she squeezed his hand
tightly.