Saturday, 22 October 2005

Word count: 702

Chloe Sullivan was many things: best friend, only child, reporter. But there were many things she wasn't: great cook and good with onions topping the list.

"Hmmph. 'Try chewing gum', 'suck on a teaspoon'. What a load of crap. Stupid onions. Stupid French for making French Onion soup. It'd be better if I welded my eyes shut."

"I found swimming goggles worked best, personally." Lex Luthor, standing in the doorway, watching her sniffle and weep over the poor, massacred onion.

"Haven't you heard of knocking?"

"The thought did occur to me, but I was sent by your dad to pick up some papers, and he was under the impression no one would be home."

"I'm making dinner."

"It was either that or someone died on Passions." Chloe's face burned that little bit redder, and she dropped the knife and began washing her hands and face. Lex moved into her place and took over, cutting her mutilated onion pieces into neat little cubes and dicing the rest.

"I'm guessing this was meant to be a surprise?"

Chloe nodded, towelling her face off. "Yeah. I hope he doesn't stay back late tonight, I got no idea how you keep soup warm without evaporating it." Lex nodded. He looked very professional, one hand held over the knife, the cubes uniform in shape and size.

"I didn't realise you were house trained," she said, which was probably rude, but the corner of Lex's mouth quirked up, so she figured it was okay.

"Most of the prep schools I went to had an enforced labour response to trouble making. Every time you got caught doing something you weren't meant to, you spent a night cleaning toilets, or working in the garden, or the kitchens. I once spent three terms straight preparing the soup entrée."

"So you've had some on the job training then."

"If this whole businessman thing doesn't work out, I have a great future in making overpriced food and slicing truffles. The cook was devastated when I was transferred. I still get Christmas cards from him."

Chloe watched as Lex started slicing tomatoes into aesthetically pleasing portions. "Do you and your dad do anything for father's day?"

"We have a system: I don't do anything to get me into the papers, and he doesn't call me on my birthday."

"That sounds healthy."

"It yields far less psychological trauma this way."

"What about his birthday?"

"I get him opera tickets, and he's allowed to rant about it to me afterwards."

"Sounds nice."

"I figure it's a small price to pay since he apparently contributed to my existence."

"Any other holiday traditions?"

"We donate money to the arts or whatever's looking good at Easter, donate more to hospitals of children's centres around my mother's birthday, then we get our personal assistants to send each other Christmas cards."

"Mother's day?" Chloe asked teasingly, and then her throat closed over when she realised that she should have kept her mouth shut. She'd forgotten.

"We try not to be in the same country." Lex said. And the following silence wasn't really awkward, like nothing in the world had the nerve to make Lex Luthor awkward. The word didn't even want to exist in his peripheral space. But Chloe found her mouth moving to fill the conversational emptiness.

"It must be nice," she said, "Knowing why your mother isn't around." She kind of expected him to tense up or look startled or something, but he didn't. Of course he didn't: he was Lex Luthor, not some mere mortal. He kept slicing lettuce instead. "I mean, at least you know your mother loved you, or whatever. I'd rather have that than the chance of seeing her, down a street or something. You've got a lot, compare to some people."

Lex swept all the vegetable bits into the large blue bowl. "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one, Miss Sullivan. I'll make sure your father gets home soon."

And then he was gone, as quickly and silently as he came. The only signs he'd been there were the perfectly diced pieces of onion, and an empty space where a stack of folders had been.

Chloe felt like crying.