The door was in front of him. It just stood there, embedded in the wall, as if it had nothing better to do. You're going insane, he told himself. He was really going insane. The door wasn't doing anything to him. He needed to stop picking on it. You need to stop acting like it's alive, he told himself fiercely. Just knock on the thing. Hesitantly his hand extended and touched the door, so softly that even he knew that no one inside could hear him. He knocked again, more confidently. The door rattled on its hinges a bit. Easy, he cautioned himself. The door opened.
Nell's surprised face peered out. Her luminescent eyes were so like Lana's that for a moment his heart felt a pang. "Clark?" she asked.
"Mrs. Lang," he said.
"Sweetie, it's always been Nell," she said fondly. "Come in! Come in."
He was ushered inside and instructed to wait for Lana. Nervously he looked around the living room. Everything was in cream with flowers, the walls glowing with various lace-edged lamps. What wood was left underneath all the floral patterns was dark red and glossy; the carpet was a wall-to-wall milk spill. The whole room screamed Nell, and somehow it didn't put him at ease. The only thing keeping him in this house was Lex's voice, echoing through his mind: Just tell her what happened. It had been weeks and his uncomfortable friendship with Lana was fading away. He was desperate. He had to do something- losing her, even a little bit, would kill him.
He looked up. There she was. Green eyes innocent and focused, perfect, glossy lips smiling at him. He opened his mouth to speak. His words caught in his throat.
"Nell told me you were down here," she said unnecessarily. She frowned curiously, obviously uncomfortable. His heart twisted to see her unease with him. "Not to throw your words back at you," she said, "but we've lived a mile apart our whole lives, and…"
"And I've never come over," he finished. "I know. I just…" He struggled to organize his thoughts. She was looking at him, confused and apprehensive, and he was choking. Say something, he demanded of himself. "You… haven't been wearing your necklace lately," he rushed with relief, realizing that he wasn't feeling sick.
"Oh, I have it," she said. "W-"
He cut her off desperately. "I wasn't sure you'd see it, on the door like that." He knew what she had been about to say, and he knew he couldn't contradict her. If he had let her say that Whitney returned the necklace, then he wouldn't have said otherwise, and what he was trying to do would have failed.
Her eyes widened. "What?"
He tried to affect innocence. "I wasn't sure you'd see the necklace. I- I know I should have just stayed at the door, but I was kind of nervous…" Like now, he thought. "I'm sorry. It was stupid. You might have never gotten it back."
There. It was out. Now he just had to deal with her reaction. "You gave me my necklace back?" She repeated, shocked.
He nodded, furrowing his brows to look slightly confused. Then he cleared his expression. "Oh…" he said. "Of course. You thought it was Whitney." His mouth twisted bitterly. He didn't have to act for that.
She shook her head, still shocked. "Yeah, I… how did you get it?" she asked, looking at him with sudden apprehension.
He had stopped acting. He looked at her uncomfortably. "When… when Whitney, um…" She understood what he was implying, so he went on. "He tied it around my neck." He kept talking right through her outrage, determined to finish the story. "He told me…" he looked straight into her eyes. "He told me it was the closest I'd ever get to you."
Lana stared at him. Then she closed the distance between them and hugged him, tight. He didn't move. She stepped back. "I am so sorry," she said. "I can't believe it." She shook her head, caught between anger and grief. She drew in a breath, and he saw that she was close to tears. "I don't know whether to kill him or dump him," she said. She smiled bitterly. "Maybe I'll try a combination of both."
"Listen," Clark said, suddenly feeling guilty. "Don't be too hard on Whitney-"
"Why not?" she asked. Her unshed tears had morphed to daggers in her eyes. "He gave my necklace to someone else without asking me and with no thought for my wishes, and then he lied to me about it! Well," she amended reluctantly, "he just didn't tell me." The sarcasm that touched her words didn't match her face, and Clark suddenly felt that coming to Lana had been a mistake. "I'm going to call him right now."
"I'd better go," he said, feeling terrible.
"No," Lana said firmly, grabbing his wrist before he could go. "I want you to be here. Stay," she instructed, letting go of him and going into the kitchen. He heard her dialing the phone. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he told himself. How could you? Now she hates Whitney and she still doesn't like you any better.
"Whitney?" Lana said in the other room. "It's me."
He shook his head and rubbed a hand across his eyes. He could leave. But in her current mood, he was almost sure she'd take it the wrong way. No, he had to fix the mess he'd started.