Author's note: This is an answer to Livia's smallville x-title challenge.
by Tara O'Shea
I've laid out the dress for the funeral on my bed, and Nell is on the phone with Mrs. Fordman downstairs. But I'm sitting on the chair at the desk, staring in the mirror instead of getting dressed. I stare, trying to see inside myself, but it's like I'm looking at a stranger. I don't know who this girl is, or what she wants. But I do know one thing: I don't want to be Emily anymore.
When we were in eight grade, the class play was "Our Town", and I remember being really excited about it, especially when I was cast as Emily. I used to sigh about George and Emily. It seemed so romantic, falling in love with the boy next door. Together forever. I always thought Whitney was my George Gibbs. The boy I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I'd help him with his Algebra, he'd buy me sodas, and we'd live happily ever after.
But now, I think what I really wanted was the Webb family. I think what I fell in love with was the mother and father, and the little mundane things like allowances, and raking the leaves in the yard. Nell does her best—and I love her for it. But I dream about having two warm bodies to curl up between in a king-size bed if I was frightened of the thunder or awakened by a nightmare. Or a father to carry me on his shoulders. That was my fantasy. I craved it. I daydreamed about being picked up from school by my parents, rather than swept off my feet by Prince Charming on a white charger.
I'm starting to wonder if that was what drew me to Whitney. He's thoughtful, and kind, and I feel safe and loved when his arms are around me. But I feel sick when I realise that what I love about him isn't Whitney. It's about his arms around me, stroking my hair. It's his parents inviting me over for family dinners and yearly barbecues. It's having a voice on the other end of the phone who listens to the ins and outs of my days. I love Whitney because he's solid and warm and alive and mine. I love having someone to hold on to. But I don't love the man who loves me. I don't dream of his kisses. I want to. But I don't.
It's not fair to him. I want to say that it's not fair to me either, but even I know that's a lie. When I saw his face when he came into the Talon—I knew. I knew that I was being petty and selfish. Both for keeping him, and not for letting him go sooner. I don't know what to do. He needs me—needs me the same way I've needed him all this time, and I want to be there for him. But the unfinished thought is always in the back of my mind—sour, bitter, and twisting.
Because it's the least I can do.
We were supposed to go to Metropolis tonight. To see the play. God, he looked so happy when he came by with the tickets, and all I could think about was how Clark never seemed to need help with his Algebra. And if he did, well... he had Chloe. Seeing them together, all I could think about was what would have happened if Nell hadn't come out onto the porch that night. If Clark had kissed me, and if I had kissed him back, and Whitney and I had broken up then. Before he'd lost his scholarship. Before his father's heart attack. Before guilt bound me to him more tightly than love ever had. I find myself daydreaming about that more and more these days. And I don't know if it's because the grass is always greener and I didn't realise how great Clark was until I saw him with someone else, or if seeing him with Chloe reminds me of what I'm supposed to have with Whitney, but don't. And that it's my fault we don't.
Clark wants me, but doesn't need me. Not the way Whitney does. But I think that I need him. I need the way he looks at me. I need to be the person he sees when he looks at me. Maybe it's because we've become friends—because he stopped being the boy next door, and became a real person since last fall in the graveyard. Maybe it's because he told me about Whitney, did the right thing even though I've seen the looks. Seen the light reflecting off the telescope in his barn from my bedroom window. Seen the man he is, and the man he could be, and part of me wants to be a part of that. The way that Chloe will be—in fact, always has been. I never realised I was jealous of her until I realised she's been jealous of me. But she was still nice to me—still my friend. Even knowing. And I hate that, too.
The sky outside is grey and flat and the trees know it's going to rain. The spring leaves are turned toward the sky like children's faces, and they rustle in the wind that rattles the windowpanes. I'm not afraid of thunder, and even if I were, there's no one left to go to. The black dress on my bed is a shadow, a hollow, another mask. I'm dreading this. It's like the last act, when the world is surreal and confusing, and it's all about missed opportunities and second chances that never come.
The last act is always in a graveyard, in the rain. And the sad thing is, that's where I've always felt the most at home—among the stone angels and bronze memorials. Day-dreaming. Playing let's pretend.
I don't want to be Emily. But I don't think I want to be me, either.