Breakfast is already on the table when she makes her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Her dad sits quietly in his chair reading the morning edition of the Daily Planet, while her mom paces back and forth yelling into her cell phone. She takes a seat at the table and reaches for a piece of toast, butters it lightly, and adds a dab of strawberry jelly. Munching away she half listens to her mother's shouting match and half reads the front half of her dad's newspaper.
She gets a few sentences into an article on Intergang and how they appear to be tightening their stronghold on all the crime in the city. She rolls her eyes and thinks that some of these reporters watch one too many movies. She chuckles softly to herself when she sees that it's one of her mother's articles. Her dad, as if noticing her presence for the first time, peeks his head around the paper and smiles at her.
"Morning kiddo," he says.
"Morning," she replies. "Who's she yelling at today?"
"Some source that wants to back out of something, I think. I'm not too sure."
Chloe sighs. "Why doesn't she just let them?"
"I think you know the answer to that," he says lightly and reaches for his cup of coffee.
She shrugs and eats her toast, waiting for her mother's voice to finally die down. The big bad reporter and her guerilla fact finding tactics. Her father sips at his coffee and when he catches her looking, he holds out the cup offering. Making a face she declines. She already thinks that her family drinks far too much of the stuff.
Her mother finally hangs up the phone and throws herself into one of the chairs, stealing her husband's cup. Chloe averts her eyes from the paper, not wanting to let her mother see her have any sort of interest in it. To see that false sense of hope that they could actually have something in common besides natural hair color.
"Do your homework last night?" Her mother asks.
Chloe nods without looking at her.
"Let me see it."
"Show me your homework," she repeats.
Chloe looks imploringly at her father and he only shrugs helplessly.
"Your grades are slipping again," he says. "We've been notified."
She scowls at him. What was he doing taking mom's side? Yes she knows she could be doing a little better, but he almost always had his own way of going about discipline. They never teamed up on her. Looking back at her mother, in her Miss Business USA power suit, whose arms are crossed with patience visibly thinning, she blows.
"What is this mom? Huh? Think I'm going to fail and drop out of the American dream for you. You think I'm going to be some bum sparing for change on a street corner if I don't do one assignment?"
Her mother doesn't reply.
"Fine," Chloe shouts, rising from her chair and storming out of the room and up the stairs.
She absolutely hated it when her mother played tolatarian with her.
Chloe you have to do your schoolwork. Chloe you have to get into college. Chloe you have to have some kind of direction with your life.
Grabbing the homework from her desk she stares down at it. She hardly remembers doing it. Saying yes to her mother had been a reflex. She forgot that she had a fact to back it up. Going through her mental checklist of things done the previous night, it almost doesn't appear. Watched some TV as soon as she got home. Talked to Emma on the phone for a little bit. Checked her email. Homework must have come along sometime after dinner and before sleep.
Walking back into the kitchen she hands the paper to her mother and waits with her arms folded over her chest. Mother gives it the once over and seems to approve. Chloe can feel her father staring at her but refuses to look at him. The paper gets handed back to her.
"It's nice to see a little effort from you," mother says.
Chloe feels her fists clench in anger. She gets treated like a criminal five minutes ago and now there's pride to be had?
"I've got to get to school," she says through clenched teeth.
"Need a ride?"
She leaves the kitchen still not looking at her dad. She's barely to the stairs when she hears her mother's voice.
"See?" It says. "All she needs is a little push."
She bites her tongue to keep from screaming.
"It's like she wants me to be her at sixteen," Chloe airs frustrated. "This brainiac wunderkind with a lust for reporting or something. I mean, you should hear some of the crap I hear her telling my dad when she thinks I'm not listening."
"Like what?" Emma asks.
"Like, when she was my age," Chloe says in a mocking voice. "She was editor of the school of the newspaper. And when she was my age she was captain of the debate team. And when she my age she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. I bet you when she was my age she had a stick up her ass so big you could hang a flag from it."
Emma laughs and nods her head in sympathy. They're in study hall, which hardly ever consists of any studying, talking the period away. Chloe smiles at her appreciatively. They'd been best friends for as long as Chloe could remember. She knows she can rant and rave about her mother for hours and Emma will still listen intently like she's never heard it all before.
"I swear she'll never see that I'm not her. I mean come on, how does she not see how boring journalism is? All those little notes you have to take. No way."
Emma nods again, red curls of hair bobbing with the motion, her hand slowly reaching for Chloe's underneath the table. As soon as contact is made Chloe finds her anger slowly dissipate. This had been happening a lot recently. She's held hands with Emma a million times before and never thought much of it. But lately it's seemed different somehow. Like suddenly she's sitting a little closer to her for whatever reason. Or her eyes and lips seem to be oddly appreciative of Chloe's presence. Like the hairs stand on the back of her neck whenever they're around each other.
"And my dad took her side," she goes on, some of the fire in her voice fading. "Which almost never happens…" She trails off, concentrating on the way Emma's thumb is slowly caressing the top of her hand.
"I wish you wouldn't hate her so much," Emma says softly.
"We've been friends a long time haven't we?"
"Forever," Chloe says.
"I don't want to overstep my bounds or anything."
"Spit it out."
"Have you ever forgiven her?"
"Forgiven her for what? What are you talking about?"
Chloe pulls her hand away.
"Come on Em," she says. "That was like ten years ago."
"And if memory serves," Emma replies. "That's how long the feud with her has been raging on. Don't think I've never noticed that Chloe. I'm sure to anyone else it would have been obvious. And besides I was there remember? You even spent the night at my house a few times while your dad tried to track her down."
"Do you even know how lucky you are she came back?"
"That's not what I would call it," Chloe interjects.
"Don't you realize that practically no one else does?" Emma continues ignoring her comment. "My cousin Lisa's mother took off on her and it messed her up bad Chloe. You know Lisa right? The one with three kids, and three different dads? The one who was so attention starved she let that happened to her because any was better than none? Because her mother wasn't there to give it. Did you want that to be you Chloe? Did you want your mom to stay gone?"
Chloe opens her mouth but balks at a rebuttal. She looks down to her shoes, her face turning various shades of red, before looking back up into Emma's emerald eyes.
"How come you've never said anything like this before?" She asks.
"I, um, didn't want you to get mad at me."
Chloe reaches over to take her hand, atop the table not caring if anyone sees, once again.
"Never happen," she says softly. "But me and my mom? There's too much there. I don't think it's fixable. I don't know if I want it to be. God she just bugs the hell out of me. Its like how dare she tell me how to live my life? When she's the major player in screwing it up. She wanted to bail on me. She wanted to bail on dad. She took off for nearly a year with nothing more than a note, and comes crawling back with little other than an apology and an expectation to be forgiven."
"Have you ever told her how you felt?"
"There aren't words," she mumbles. "How are you supposed to talk to someone when you can't stand them?"
"I don't know," Emma concedes. "But there really is no harm in trying. I mean, worst case scenario, you still hate her."
"I'm not sure I can," Chloe says. "It's like, there's this fuse inside of me, and she always manages to light it."
Emma squeezes her hand.
"Try for me?"
Chloe looks down at their haphazardly entwined fingers. Feels the warmth spreading from her friend's hand straight into her stomach. Gazing back up at Emma's pale and slightly freckled face, the crimson ringlets draping down from her head, deep emerald green eyes, she doesn't know how to feel about it.
"Is there something happening here Em?" She asks.
For a moment Emma looks scared. As if she'd been blissfully unaware that Chloe has been noticing all the closeness and gestures. But Chloe smiles slightly and Emma feels herself relax.
"Yeah," she replies shakily. "Is that bad?"
"I don't know," Chloe replies. "We're going to have to talk about this."
They both look down at their hands. Neither wants to let go.
Chloe sits at her desk, for once, doing homework without protest or procrastinating. It's really not that bad when her mother isn't there breathing down her neck. The radio is on but she's not paying it much attention. Having to read about the construction of the Hoover dam is surprisingly interesting. Yawning, she finishes the chapter and stretches her arms over her head. Glancing at the phone she thinks of calling Emma, but she's not really sure what to talk about. Which is weird, because they can talk about anything and nothing all day.
Moving to her bed she sighs and lays down, thinking about what Emma said about her mother. How she should be lucky she came back at all. She shifts onto her side. She's never felt that way.
A few minutes later she hears the front door open and shut, then her mother's heavy footsteps making their way upstairs. She peeks her head into Chloe's doorway briefly before moving on.
"Mom?" Chloe calls after her.
Her mother sighs and turns back to her room.
"What is it?" Her mother asks tiredly. "It's been a long day and I don't think I have the energy for an argument."
"I don't want to argue," she replies. "I just want to talk."
Her mother regards her quizzically. Surprise isn't a feeling she normally associates with her daughter. It's not something she's used to. Stepping into the room she moves to sit on the edge of the bed.
"What do you want to talk about?" She asks.
"Do you remember when you worked at the Inquisitor, and you gave me that notebook and pen set? You know the one with the logo's on them that made it seem all official?"
"Yes," her mother begins, her quizzical look fading into remembrance. "I remember. God you used to love that thing. You carried it everywhere…"
Remembrance fades into sadness, her eyes brimming with tears.
"You said you wanted to be a reporter. You wanted to be like me…" Her voice chokes off. "Chloe what is this?" She whispers harshly. "Are you trying to make me cry?"
"I want to explain something to you," Chloe responds. "Because I know we don't get along. And I know it's mostly my fault, but I think the least I can do is tell you why."
She waits for her mother to compose herself before going on.
"The night after you left I fell asleep with that notebook. I cried right into it and wouldn't let go. It was the best thing you'd ever given me and I slept with it nearly every night after that. I used it to wish you back, to make you come home."
She sees a tear fall down her mother's cheek. She ignores it.
"But you never came back. Not when I wanted you to. Not in time."
"You were right Mom, I wanted to be a reporter. I wanted to be exactly like you. I would have done well in school. I would have gotten into a good college. I would have had a career path. I would have had direction and responsibility and everything you ever wanted for me. But you left. You left me and all I had was a stupid little notebook.
"Stop," her mother says sadly.
"I started to hate that thing. Everything I ever loved about you was in it. I started to curse the day you gave it to me. I started to curse you."
More tears now, but oh, she's just getting started.
"But then you came back. You said you were sorry. You wanted forgiveness. And dad, oh how easily he was willing to give it. But do you remember what I did mom? Do you remember what happened when you said you were sorry to me?"
Her mother doesn't reply.
"You, um, you ran away from me."
"I ran to my room," Chloe continues. "I went straight for the book and I tried to remember everything I ever loved about you. I really did. But it didn't work. It was already too late."
"Chloe you were six years old…"
"And now I'm sixteen and isn't it funny that nothing has seemed to change? That I can still feel this… This hatred toward you. I burned that notebook mom. I tossed it in the fire dad made that night when you two weren't looking and I watched it fade away until it was ash and dust and to me that's all you were from that point on."
"Are you trying to hurt me?" Her mother says, voice shaking.
"Why not? You hurt me didn't you? You took off without looking back. But when I wouldn't forgive you at first, what happened? Then what did you do?"
"I don't have to listen to anymore of this," her mother says rising from the bed.
"Oh yes you do," Chloe replies standing up as well, moving to block the door. "What happened when I kept on being a brat huh? What happened when I wouldn't forgive you?"
"I don't know what you want me to say," her mother replies. "I don't know what you want me to do."
"You gave up on me," Chloe says, talking straight through her. "Do you think I'm deaf or stupid?"
She's now crying too, does her best to ignore it and carry on.
"Do you think I didn't notice you going out there everyday fighting and clawing and scratching away for your stories? Never giving in if the story was worth it? What didn't make me worth it? What made it so easy to quit?"
"I think I'm in love mom. And it's great. It's wonderful. I'm floating on cloud nine. But do you know how hard it is to know what it really feels like? To be certain that I can actually feel that despite so much hate I have in my heart for you."
"You don't mean that…"
"I hate you," she says flatly. "I hate you for leaving me, but mostly, I hate you for coming back. I can't help but think that it would have been better if you'd just stayed away."
She turns and flees the room before her mother can respond, flying down the stairs and past the concerned figure of her father, straight out the door.
Knocking frantically on Emma's door she hopes that her parents are away on one of their many business trips. Emma opens the door, her face awash in instant worry at the sight of her out of breath friend. Without a word she grabs Chloe's hand and pulls her inside. She can only guess the problem.
"What is it?" She asks. "What's wrong?"
Chloe doesn't say anything right away, merely collapses into Emma's arms, sniffling quietly on her shoulder.
"I did it," Chloe says. "I told her how I felt."
"I'm guessing it didn't go well?"
"As well as could be expected," she sniffs moving her head up to facer her. "I'm sorry," she says rubbing at her shoulder. "I got your shirt all wet."
"It's okay," Emma replies.
"I told her I hated her."
"Oh Chloe," Emma sighs. "I know you two don't get along but you can't really…"
"I've never told you this," Chloe interrupts. "But if my mom never came back I would have moved."
"My dad got an offer to manage some plant out in Hickville or something. He would have taken it."
"But your mom came back, and your dad…"
"Turned it down."
Chloe laughs half-heartedly.
"I hated her so much for leaving. And I hated her even more for coming back. But the irony? If she never had, I would have left you. I would have left you behind and been no better."
"You wouldn't have had a choice," Emma reasons.
"I don't ever want to leave you," Chloe says softly.
Emma smiles shyly.
"Are we going to have that talk now?"
Chloe smiles in return.
"Do we really need to?"
Laura Lang is a woman of secrets. One who believes in the false pretense that they protect. Lana is only now learning just how much of this is true. She's heard the whispers most of her life. It happens in sideways stares and huddled conversations. Everyone over forty looking at her as if they know something she doesn't. The endless rumors and innuendo piling on top of one another until the truth and the lie blend into one.
It had been easier to ignore it all when she was younger, whispers flying over her head, because she didn't understand them. Her father was someone she barely knew. In and out of her life in the blink of an eye. Her mother has never gotten over this fact. He is romanticized in memory. Her mother's ten-year devotion since his death only makes the legend of him stronger. A valiant knight who rode off to die nobly and save the day. Lana knows he died in the fertilizer plant accident because a piece of roof had fallen on him when he tried to escape. Sad yes, but noble? Hardly.
Being raised by single parent wasn't nearly as bad as the paranoia his death caused. Her mother transformed into an overbearing force to be reckoned with. Lana figures her mother kept up the visage to protect herself. To be able to live beyond a tragedy she couldn't quite recover from. But it didn't help Lana have much of a life. She loved horses when she was younger. She was never allowed to ride them. She wanted to play softball, or basketball, or even tennis. She was allowed only to cheerlead.
Lana never could hate her mother for never allowing her to have a life. Only pity her for never having one of her own. Her mother was easy to anticipate. Almost downright predictable. Lana knew her every thought and every move revolved around three things. The flower shop, Lana herself, and the memory of her father. Nothing more, nothing less.
Despite frantic shouting match on her mother's end, Lana had finally talked her into getting rid of some of his things. Digging through boxes and boxes of stuff with his name on it. Tossing old things like Christmas sweaters and old sports coats into a box. Throwing away other things like old newspapers and tax forms. Surrounded by his possessions she tries to remember the man her mother can't seem to forget.
So when she finds the pictures in the attic buried amongst some of her father's things, the idea of her mother's predictability leaves along with the boxes.
When she sees the first picture at the bottom of the unmarked box she thinks nothing of it. Her mother and another man laid out on a blanket in the middle of a park she didn't recognize, bundled up and smiling at each other. She assumes it a group activity. Flipping to another one, it's her mom and the man again looking like they're laughing at something. Another one. Her mother and the man sharing a glass, what she assumes to be champagne, and staring very intently at each other. Group activity this is not. She briefly wonders just who was the third wheel taking all these pictures, but guesses that it really doesn't matter.
It takes flipping through the rest of the photos, twelve in all, to realize she recognizes the other man. She's seen him in town all her life. Remembers that her old house, the one they moved out of after dad died, was just across the way from his. Flipping the photos over she sees the date they were developed. February 14th, 1986.
Her brow creases in confusion. She was born in 1986.
She feels her stomach drop.
The way her mother glorifies Lewis Lang it's hard to see her this happy with someone else.
Clark Kent is a surprisingly unpopular kid. Topping out at 6'3 he towers over most of the student body, and for this reason alone, Lana thinks, he seems to be left alone despite the glasses and awkward stance. Despite shaggy mop of blonde hair that couldn't possibly know what a comb was. Despite the strange clothes, beat up shoes, and any other thing that made other kids not like him. She also thinks that he could be really intimidating if he had the personality to back it up.
From her table, she watches him out of the corner of her eye, sitting in a semi-circle with Pete Ross and two other kids whose names she didn't know. Looking away, so as not to arouse the suspicion of her friends, she stares down at her unappetizing plate of mac and cheese. Amy and Stacy's conversation revolves around some pop icon she doesn't really care for. So it's easier to ignore them, steal glances at Clark, and try to formulate a plan of action.
She thinks just walking up to him out of the blue and saying "hey Clark, I know we've never spoken. But I just found these fifteen-year-old pictures of your dad and my mom on a picnic somewhere sharing champagne, and in some other colorful shots, tongue. So, don't you think it's weird that, for nearly my whole life, people have been whispering behind my back and laughing at some joke I didn't get? Don't you think it's odd that these pictures could possibly be the answer to all the weirdness? That you and I could be…"
"Lana," Stacy says shaking her shoulder. "Hello, Earth to Lana."
"What?" Lana replies. "Oh. Sorry."
"Listen much?" Amy teases.
"I'm sorry what were you saying?" She asks Stacy.
"I was asking if you were down to hit the Beanery after school," Stacy replies.
"I can't, I've got to go to my mom's shop."
"Can't you get an afternoon off? She totally works you like a slave."
"Whatever," Stacy shrugs, and goes back to talking about nothing.
Lana takes another look at Clark. His father. Her mother. It's a thought she's still having a hard time wrapping her head around. She shivers involuntarily. She's always known her mother has kept things from her. But this, this was just far too much. Damn near unforgivable.
She swallows audibly. Get it together, she thinks.
Amy says something that incites laughter out of Stacy and Lana robotically follows along, Clark still in her peripheral vision. The laughing catches his attention and he looks over to the table. Amy catches his gaze.
"God that kid is such a freak," she says.
Stacy turns to look at him and he doesn't look away.
"Eww," they groan in chorus.
They turn back to their conversation once again. Lana still looks at him. He smiles at her.
She knows it is a secret smile.
She volunteers to work in the library during her free period. Extra credit is always good for a college application, she tells herself. It is one of the few things she and her mother agree on. She's getting out of this town once high school is over. She will not become a faded legend like everyone else here seems to be.
Clark is sitting at a table near the newspaper rack and once again she finds herself looking. She shakes her head as if it will make the strange feeling she gets in his presence now. It's funny, she thinks, that's she's never paid this much attention to him before. He was just that tall geeky kid everyone else tried to ignore. Herself included. Now it feels like they share something.
Mrs. Caldwell, the librarian, brings her more books to check back in and she busies herself with the task thankful for anything to distract her. The distraction is short lived when Clark makes his way to the counter, books in hand, and waits politely for her to finish.
"Sorry," she says.
"No problem," he replies.
She takes the books from him, her eyes avoiding his, and runs them through the scanner. One book in particular catches her attention.
"Nietzsche?" She asks. "I didn't think you had a dark side Clark."
"I didn't think you knew my name Lana," he replies.
"Of course I do," she laughs, nearly feeling like he kicked her in the stomach.
"I was only kidding," he replies, that secret smile appearing on his lips.
"Why do you do that too?" She asks.
For a second he looks confused. "Do what?"
"Look at me like you know something I don't. Everyone does that. It's a little irritating."
"I didn't know I was doing anything but I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable," he says sincerely.
She looks him in the eye, sees that they are blue behind the glasses. She's never noticed before. But she knows her mother's eyes are green. Her father's eyes were brown. Her hands start to shake, his book still held in her grasp. Clark notices this and moves his own to still hers.
"Are you okay?" He asks.
She feels his hand on hers and the pictures flash through her mind. Jonathan Kent and her mother happy on picnic blanket. Sharing champagne and smiling and kissing. Her own faded memory of her father floating further away with the thought that her real father might actually still be alive. The whispers. The hidden conversations. The thing everyone talks about but she never knows. Her eyes are blue. Just like his.
"Lana? Lana are you alright?"
She shakes her head slightly. Her whole life has been a lie. Her mother. Her father. It's as if it all comes from nothing but seems to make sense of everything. She was born in 1986, plenty of time for the man in those pictures to conceive a baby. She's shaking now, the books falling out of her hands and hitting the counter with a slap.
Clark's arms are around her before she hits the floor and it feels as if some cosmic weight is lifted off her shoulders. She knows it now. Knows all the talk, all the whispers. Suspicion confirmed in a small similarity between them.
Lifting her head she sees that she's sitting on the edge of a table with Clark's hands firmly on her shoulders. She hadn't even felt him move her here.
"Jeez Clark," she whispers. "What are you, man or superman?"
"Neither," he laughs. "Just abnormally big."
"Thanks for saving me from a concussion," she mumbles.
She laughs suddenly. He was nice. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard after all.
"Clark?" She asks.
"Can I show you something?"
The bomb she thinks she's dropping on him doesn't explode, but rather, disappoints with a small fizzle.
He's always known.
"People talk," he says. "And if you hear enough of it sometimes you start to listen."
"What do you mean?" She asks.
He smirks at her. "Remember that class trip we took to Metropolis? The one in third grade? You got lost in the museum and ended up in that wing all the way on the other side?"
Lana laughs a little. "Yeah, yeah I do. I saw the big display on the genealogy of horses. I must have looked at it for hours."
Clark nods. "Yeah, and the rest of the class didn't notice and kept on going. Ms. Nolan never realized you weren't there until she took a head count when we were all supposed to leave. When you were gone I thought she was going to have a heart attack. Anyway, do you remember that I'm the one who found you?"
Her eyes grow wide, the memory replaying itself in her mind. She remembers wandering throughout the cavernous museum all by herself. Feeling so small and helpless and that the walls would open up and swallow her whole. She remembers finding a bench and resting on it, hugging her sides and trying to make herself invisible, feeling so lost and alone. She remembers Clark magically appearing before her, sticking out his hand and telling her it would be okay. She was safe now.
Looking at Clark now her eyes get misty. She hasn't thought of that day in forever.
"When I brought you back to the group Ms. Nolan pulled me aside and said it was very good of me to watch out for you like that. That family is everything. And I thought that was the weirdest thing anyone had ever said to me, because you and I weren't even friends. I went home and told my dad what she said and he got so mad. He wanted to call her up and tell her off and then her started swearing and throwing things. And I knew it had to have been true somehow.
He stormed off and my mom didn't seem that upset. I mean, she knew about you. Of course he told her. But I didn't know about it just yet, and she just cleaned up the mess and went up to their room. I found him later that night passed out drunk in this loft we have in our barn. He had the other half of those pictures you showed me laying around him."
"Why didn't you ever try to tell me?" She asks.
"Because of my dad. He made me promise never to talk to you. He gave your mother his word that you would never know about him. To dad, honor is nearly everything, so I kept my end of the deal because he kept his. And besides," he shrugs. "Would you have believed me?"
The bell chimes over the door as she walks into the flower shop, the smell of a hundred different breeds wafting around her. Her mother must not have heard the door because Lana can see her rustling around in the back. Moving toward the counter she slings her backpack on top and waits for her mother to come out.
Walking through the small doorway, bouquet dripping in hand, her mother's face is blocked by flowers.
"You're late," she says, and without waiting for a response walks over to the sink on the far wall and turns on the faucet.
Lana takes the pictures from her bag and places them atop the counter.
"Where were you?" Her mother asks.
"Talking with Clark Kent," she replies.
The glass shattering makes Lana jump, the vase her mother had been working with now a thousand tiny pieces resting in the sink. She doesn't move to help.
"Oh?" Is all her mother says.
"I'm surprised we haven't been friends before," she says. "He's actually a pretty nice guy once you get to know him."
"I don't want you hanging out with that boy," her mother says harshly, her back still turned.
"Why not mom?" Lana asks. "Afraid I'll do something incestuous?"
"Lana please," says her mother, finally turning around. "What would make you say a thing like that?"
"You okay?" Lana asks. "You look a little flushed."
"Listen sweetie," she begins moving toward the counter. "I don't have anything against him. It's just that…" She stops when she notices the pictures, eyes wide and frightened. "Where did you get those?"
It's a demand more than a question.
"In a box in the attic."
"Oh, yes. Of course. Collecting your father's things. So what, uh, were you and the Kent boy talking about?"
Her mother looks as if she's just been slapped. "That's not funny Lana."
"I'm not laughing mom."
"What did he tell you?"
"Only what I asked him to tell me."
"Anything he said," mother says shakily. "It's not… I mean it isn't…"
"It isn't what? Isn't true? You mean you never separated from dad for a few months before you had me? You never, despite photographic evidence, dated Jonathan Kent? Don't lie to me anymore mom. The people of this Podunk little town have been gossiping about all of this since the day I was born."
"I did it to protect you."
"Protect me from what?" Lana exclaims. "I didn't do anything wrong here. None of this is *my* fault. From the way you never stop talking about him I would have thought you were protecting Dad. But if he was as every bit of a good person as you described him to be I like to think he would have understood. So it can't be him. And it sure isn't Jonathan Kent. He's a grown man, what would he need protection from? Not that fact that I was his, oh no. Not when Clark tells me he wanted to participate in my life. Not when you're the one who asked him not to."
"You don't understand," mother replies.
"You're right," Lana says. "I don't understand. Because the only one here I can see that needed any protecting was you. The least you can do is admit it. You wanted so badly for Lewis Lang to believe that I was his baby you begged the real father to step down."
"This is a small town," she says. "No one would have understood."
"This is a small town where everyone knew! Everyone but me! Were you ever going to tell me? Were just going to stand idly by and let me believe my father had died all those years ago? Did you ever once stop and think that I could have used one growing up? Did you ever think having Jonathan Kent around could have been a good thing for me?"
"What he and I had wasn't real," her mother sighs sadly. "It was just a fling of sorts. We didn't love each other. We never pretended to."
"Fine. You didn't love him. You loved Lewis Lang with all your bleeding heart I get that. But he wasn't my father mom. It was cruel of you to let him think that he was. To let him pretend. And it was cruel of you to let me grow up without my real father. Especially when you knew he was right there and willing."
"Martha, she wouldn't have…"
"Now you're just making excuses," Lana spits out. "Martha knew about me. She knew from the beginning. The only one that never seemed to know about me *was* me."
"Okay, so I was wrong. So every little decision in my life has been one big mess. I admit it okay? Is that what you want to hear?"
"It's something I don't mind hearing."
"Are you done now?" Her mother asks tiredly. "Have you said your piece?"
"No, I'm not done. I'm going to talk to him mom. I'm going to get to know him and he's going to get to know me. And I really don't think you're in any position to object about this now."
"I guess I don't have a choice in this anymore do I?"
"You had it a long time ago mom," Lana says. "You made the wrong one."
"Do you notice the way some of these people are staring at us?" Clark asks glancing around the patrons of the Beanery.
"I know it's weird," Lana agrees. "You'd think they never saw us in the same room before."
"I think most of them haven't."
"Small town," Lana mutters. "So, I've sort have been wondering about this all day," she says, moving for a sip of her latte. "But how is it that we're almost the same age?"
Clark nods as if he'd been expecting the question. He pauses for effect, taking off his glasses and wiping them with his shirt. "Well my dad was taking finance courses at Metropolis University. You know, to help him run the farm better. After your mom broke it off with him, he met my mom shortly after. A month or two later she became pregnant with me. Simple."
"Sorry it isn't more entertaining than that," he says.
"I wasn't expecting to be entertained," she replies. "So it's okay."
"I was kind of surprised when you called me," he says, taking a drink of his own coffee. "I thought things would just go back to the way they were."
"You mean back to being lied to and gossiped about?" Lana says with a shiver. "No thank you."
"Okay, well I at least thought you'd need some alone time to adjust," he laughs. "You know, I don't mean this in a bad way or anything, but I didn't think it would be this easy. I mean, I sort of thought you were a stuck up brat."
"How could I possibly take that in a bad way?" She laughs in return.
"Sorry," he mumbles. "I didn't mean…"
"No," she interrupts. "It's okay. I was. I am, sometimes. But you have to know that it's not all me. I mean, when you're young and you have this mold of who your supposed to be all set out for you, you try your best to fill it." She takes another drink. "Does that make sense?"
"It does," he replies. "So I take it you're one of those 'yes I'm a cheerleader but there's more to me than my cartwheels and pom-poms?' types?"
"They have types for that?"
"Oh yes, it's very popular in the TV and the movies I'm told."
She bursts out laughing and doesn't stop until her stomach begins to hurt. This is how it should have been, she thinks. A childhood comfortable conversation mixed with bickering and tattle tailing, and every other little thing that came along with family.
"Wait until you meet our dad," Clark says. "I bet he'll be jumping through the ceiling at all of this."
Lana looks at him warmly, doesn't say a word, merely looks and feels her heart expand at how non-chalantly he can say 'our dad.' About how she underestimated how easily they could slip into the idea. Clark starts to shift uncomfortably in his seat when she doesn't stop. Starts to check his face and teeth.
"What?" He asks. "Is there something there?"
"No," she answers. "It's just that, you said 'our dad' as if you'd been saying it all your life."
"Not all of it," he jokes.
He glances past her shoulder to see Stacy and Amy enter the coffee shop. Stacy pauses at the counter, vying for the clerk's attention, while Amy makes her way toward them looking around for an open seat.
"You're friends are here," he says.
"Lana?" Amy asks approaching the table, not appearing to notice Clark is there. "I thought you had to work today."
"Took the afternoon off," Lana replies.
"Well that's great," Amy says with a smile. "Stacy is right over there. Come on, you won't believe what they caught Whitney Fordman doing in the locker room."
"No thanks," Lana says, her gaze turning back to Clark. "I'm good here."
Amy turns to face him, noticing his presence for the first time, the confusion eminent on her face. "You're kidding right?" She asks, looking back and forth between them.
Clark laughs and Lana follows and Amy's confusion deepens at the joke she isn't in on.
"Do you mind Amy?" Lana asks politely. "I'm trying to talk to my brother."