Kara absently tapped the rubber end of her number two pencil against the open text book in front of her, certain that somehow, the rhythmic beat helped her concentrate. She read through three sentences before her gaze wandered around the kitchen. The time on the microwave read 7:49, and she stared until the numbers changed. Ten minutes remained of her allotted study time, and she sighed, feeling anxious to move on to something else.
The apartment was quiet, save for the soft hum of her laptop, and despite her resolution to study, she couldn’t help but read over the words on the screen. Though she had yet to reply, Kara had still to close Tess’s last email. It gave her something to think about during her moments of procrastination, when thinking about love and life and relationships seemed far more interesting than solving redundant equations.
Kara glanced up at the time again: 7:51. It was close enough to eight o’clock, she decided, slamming shut the Pre-Calculus text. She still had days before the next exam. Relieved, and feeling productive, she pulled the laptop closer and the homework out of the way.
After grabbing a bottle of juice from the fridge, she sat back down and began her reply.
Having only had one relationship, I’m certainly no expert in the ways of love. I don’t remember exactly how Mike and I got together to begin with. I remember the basics, the where and when and how we met, but I can’t recall the precise moment when we went from strangers to friends to more.
All I know is that we met at an art gallery many years ago. My best friend, Lucy (my now roommate), thought it would be fun to crash an upscale benefit party, hosted by a totally overrated New York artist at a totally overrated art gallery uptown. I remember we got dressed up in our fanciest attire, and that Lucy made me rehearse a “script” she made up to get us in. We worked on the “lines” during the subway ride. I suppose this is where I reveal that my best friend is an actress. We paint a pretty clichéd picture of New York, don’t we? Struggling artist, hopeful actress...
Anyway, I thought Lucy’s idea was both hysterical and ridiculous, and I think the only reason that I even agreed to go was that I never thought we’d actually get in...
As it happened, the guy checking invitations turned out to be an old high school friend of Lucy’s and he let us through. It’s weird how things happen, isn’t it?
Needless to say, Mike was there. His family is very New York elite. They are everywhere that matters, and by extension, so is Mike.
I try to remember the moment we met often, but it’s fuzzy. I don’t remember if we were looking at art or if we were just standing near art, but I remember he smiled at me. The exact dialogue escapes me, probably because I was so nervous about being caught there. So I remember that when he smiled at me, I got really nervous. I thought, “Oh no, he can see I don’t belong here...”
But he only wanted to chat about how boring the party was and how his parents had forced him to attend. I found him easy to talk to, and I started to relax, forgetting about the party or the fact that Lucy had disappeared into the crowd and left me all alone.
I can’t say that I thought anything would come of it, though. It was only a conversation, and I figured that once we ran out of subject matter he would smile politely and excuse himself.
I could tell, just by looking at him, that he was really wealthy. Only, he didn’t come across as cocky or self-involved. I guess that’s why, in spite of myself, I gave him my number when he asked. Well, that, and I didn’t know how to refuse.
I’m tempted to say, “And then the clock struck midnight and I fled the party, leaving behind one of my cheap Payless shoes...” But, I won’t. Heh.
A few days after the party, after it had become just a fun story to tell friends, Mike called.
I came clean on the phone, about how my friend and I had crashed the party and how I was very far from being the heiress to a family fortune or anything like that. I thought the information would turn him off, but to the contrary, he seemed all the more interested.
Sometimes, I think he was just trying to rebel against his parents by dating me. Who knows? All the same, I agreed on a date. It went well... and I guess more dates just followed.
It’s strange because I feel like most of it just happened. One date followed another, until a kiss came, and then time passed, and one thing followed the other. There was never a moment when I wondered, “Am I even attracted to him?” I didn’t question it. I just let it happen.
I guess my feelings on it sound terribly unromantic, but that might only be my current feelings clouding the memory. The truth is, I think that for the most part, these things happen. And maybe because they ‘just happen’ they sometimes end up ... well, ending. I’m sure that if people started to think over every minute detail of everything they might never date at all.
Hm. That’s not to say that you will never date at all ...
I find it inspiring, actually, the idea of not settling. Of knowing what you want and waiting patiently for it. I suppose maybe I’ll aim for that next. Only, I guess the question for me is mainly: how do you know what you want?
Kara sat back to stare at her own question, surprised at having written it. She had always known that she wanted to be an artist; known it since the moment she’d picked up a pencil to write her very first ‘A’ and ended up with a drawing of the kitchen window instead.
She remembered staring at the window, at the way the light filtered through the leaves of the trees outside. She remembered thinking there was nothing more beautiful than the beams of light shining upon the paper on the table; a paper that suddenly seemed terribly empty despite the wide lines. She could think of nothing more suitable to fill it with than the power of that moment. It was a rough attempt, far from perfect or even good, but when the pencil finally lifted from the page, she felt happy; whole.
Kara stared thoughtfully at the question on the screen, pondering whether or not to erase it.
Didn’t she know what she wanted? Didn’t the usual conglomeration of adjectives – funny, smart, caring, artistic, etc – conjure up an adequate image of The One?
I want to believe that when I find the Right Person it will be obvious. That there will be a moment, something fast and barely palpable that will say, ‘This is it.’ But that’s just the romantic in me talking, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m much of a romantic at all. It’s more likely that I’ll finally give in, let my roommate set me up with some of the eight million guys she’s always trying to set me up with, and one of them will be close enough to ideal that a blind date will turn into a second date, and so on and so forth.
I guess I don’t know how to answer your question about how close to look before you know. Maybe it depends. Maybe, with some people you have to dig. Maybe with others it’s immediate. You never know until you try, right?
All the same, whatever it is that you’re looking for... I hope you find it.
Lena dropped the marker on the coffee table and stretched out her hand. She sighed with relief. “Done. Thank God. If I have to sign one more picture of myself I’ll...” She paused to think of something suitably dramatic. “...fling myself into the sea.”
Sam snorted. “I can’t believe you stopped to think and that’s what you came up with. Fling yourself into the sea?”
“Shut up. I’ve been signing my name over and over for the past three hours. Do you know what that does to a person’s brain?”
“It flings it into the sea?”
Lena shook her head, capped the marker, and tossed it at Sam.
Her assistant laughed as she batted the object away. “Nice aim. And anyway, you shouldn’t complain. I’ve been licking envelopes. My tongue is numb, and how do I know the glue isn’t poisonous?”
“Like on Seinfeld?”
“Yes! Exactly. I’m going to die a slow, painful death right here on your carpet. Death by licking.” Sam reddened slightly. “Envelopes,” she added softly. “Licking envelopes.”
Lena decided not to comment further. Any conversation involving tongues and licking could only lead one place. “So what’s next on today’s fun-filled agenda?”
“Next up is a little game I like to call ‘Replying to Phone Messages Gone Ignored For Far Too Long’.”
“I already don’t like this game.”
“Tough. This is why you pay me the big bucks.” Sam took a minute to put away the signed copies of photos, and took out a stack of notes. “First up, Lillian.”
“She called twice on Monday to remind you about Daniel Thornton’s phone call. Then she called again on Tuesday to ask how the phone call went. On Wednesday she called three times to demand why you had not answered Daniel’s call. Yesterday she called to say that you were embarrassing her, and to please have the decency to return people’s phone calls.”
“Who the hell is Daniel Thornton?”
Sam went on to the next slip. “Doctor Daniel Thornton called Monday night to say that Lillian had given him your number. He wanted to ask if you would like to join him for dinner on Thursday night.”
“Right. Well, I’ve been swamped. Did you tell them I was swamped?”
“I told Lillian you were filming and your hours were crazy. I told Daniel that you didn’t swing that way.” Sam smiled sweetly, and then dodged a pen cap. It hit the couch behind her. She laughed. “I told him the same thing. That you’d be filming late into the night and that you probably wouldn’t be able to get back to him until the weekend.”
“That’s the spirit. Next up is Diana Prince.”
Lena glanced up at the name. “She’s that director...”
“Yeah, and she’s going to be in L.A. Saturday and Sunday and begged for an hour of your time whenever possible. I checked your schedule and you’re free pretty much all day Saturday if you want to do lunch or something.”
Lena nodded. “Yeah, definitely. Set it up.”
Sam jotted something down. “So, what’s the film about? I saw you reading the script the other day. Is it good?”
Lena nodded and found herself smiling despite her reluctance to accept the role. “It’s really, really good actually.”
“How do you know there’s a but?”
“There’s always a but with you.”
Lena let out a long breath and looked over at Sam. “It’s a lesbian role.”
Sam’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“You have to take it! Please. Who will you be kissing? Oh, my God.”
“Are you quite done?”
“No! Can I read it? Is it here? Can I read it?”
“Glad to know that you see my dilemma,” Lena said dryly, taking a sip of her drink.
“Is it a lead role?”
“Wow. Wow.” She took a deep breath and attempted to look calm and collected. “So what’s the dilemma?” She suddenly looked serious. “Are you worried it’s going to out you?”
Lena sighed. “There’s that, but... it’s a lot of things.”
Sam put down her stack of messages and regarded Lena with a concerned expression. “Want to talk about it?”
Lena bit her lip. She didn’t even want to think about it, let alone talk about it. But she supposed she had to. If she was going to meet with the director she needed to have her thoughts in order. “It’s going to sound silly.”
“Well, you know... I’ve done love scenes in the past, right?”
“God, yes! That scene with you and Erik Axel in Rivera Crescent was so hot. The part where they just show that shot of you on top of – ah, I’m sorry. That’s not where I meant to go with this conversation. Yes. Love scenes. Continue.”
Lena arched an eyebrow at her assistant, but shook her head, continuing. “Well, I didn’t mind doing them because I always thought of it as part of the acting...”
“But with a girl it wouldn’t be acting?”
“No! It would... that’s... the problem.” Lena ran a hand through her hair in frustration. “I just never figured that my first kiss with a girl would be... fake.”
Sam smiled brightly. “Aww, who knew Lena Luthor was such a romantic?”
Despite herself, Lena blushed.
“Maybe we just need to get you a girl to make out with before you start filming,” Sam suggested.
“That... no.” Lena shook her head. “I don’t want to hook up with some random person.”
“Mmm, well finding your one true love in time might be more of a challenge,” she said, reaching for her PDA, “but I think you have a free hour next week between the photo shoot and the talk show interview. I’ll stylus it in.”
Lena smiled. “Funny.”
Sam smiled sympathetically. “I guess you just have to decide what’s more important to you: a role you want to play, or your reservations about playing it.”
Lena thought about it for a long moment. Finally, she sighed in a way that meant they were in for a change of subject. “How’s Jack doing? I haven’t heard from him since your dramatic exit the other day. I keep getting his voice mail.”
It was Sam’s turn to look uncomfortable. She capped and uncapped the pen in her hand several times before replying. “He was really upset. We had a horrifically awkward drive to Sarah’s and then a horribly silent drive to my place.” She bit her lip. “He’s not answering my calls. I had no idea he’d be so angry. He’s known all of this time that I dated women. I thought he didn’t care. I half expected him to ask for a threesome.”
The last part was said jokingly but Lena heard the insecurity in the words. “He’ll come around,” she said, believing it was true, yet hoping she wasn’t wrong. “He really cares about you, Sam. He wouldn’t be this upset if he didn’t. He’s just scared.”
Sam nodded. “You know what’s crazy? I was so freaked out about you and him. I mean, I really thought you were secretly in love with him and that any day now you would turn around and tell him so, and that would be it.” She bit her lip again. “I’m sure you’ve probably guessed by now that I had a crush on you before and I’m not saying that to make you uncomfortable. I mean, you’re you. You’re gorgeous, so it figures that you’d also be smart and funny and all of that other stuff that makes you both sickening and irresistible to the rest of us mere mortals.”
Lena didn’t know what to say, so she waited for Sam to continue. She was trying hard not to appear as uncomfortable as she felt.
“Anyway,” Sam continued, “I knew that if there was a chance, any chance, that you cared for Jack in that way, that he would come running to you without a second thought. You have to know he’s loved you since the moment he met you. And he’s really good at hiding it so it’s hard to say where he stands in those feelings lately, but... well... I... I think I’m in love with him.”
“Oh,” was all Lena could manage, surprised at how shocked she felt by the confession. She swallowed, feeling awkward and out-of-place in a conversation about love. “Have you told him that?”
“Are you crazy? It’s Jack. He’d freak.”
“Well, he’s already freaked in what appears to be the opposite extreme, so maybe this will bring him back to a healthy middle ground.”
Sam looked thoughtful. “Maybe I could stand outside his apartment holding up a huge sign that reads, ‘I love you, you moron.’”
Lena grinned. “Now who’s the romantic?”
“Ugh.” Sam sighed, then smiled. “Thanks for letting me ramble.”
“Any time. It’s not every day a girl confesses having had a crush on me and being in love with my best friend all in the same conversation.”
“Ah, well. You pay me to keep your life interesting.” Sam sat up and picked up the stack of messages again. “So, back to work.” She pushed Lena’s cell phone closer to the actress and then handed over a slip of paper. “Time for a game I like to call ‘Lena Calls Back People She Doesn’t Want to Talk to While I Read That Juicy Movie Script.’” Sam clapped her hands in anticipation. “Where is it?”
“I’m really starting to hate your games.” Lena paused and sighed. “It’s on my desk.”
After Sam had gone and the sound of company and conversation had faded into silence, Lena lay back on the lounge chair and stared up at the sky. Above her, the moon burned dimly, if at all, its light temporarily lost behind patches of clouds.
She had missed another sunset.
The realization upset her less than she was used to, and she closed her eyes in an attempt to visualize her grandmother. Though it had been only four years, the image Lena held in her mind was beginning to wane. The blue eyes, so similar to her own, were growing harder to picture. The voice, the laugh, the sounds were all but gone.
Lena opened her eyes and forced her thoughts to drift. She thought of her pending meeting with a director whose movie script she both loved and dreaded. Other notable scripts would come, wouldn’t they? Why take this one?
Why not take it?
It was probable that the only females Lena would kiss would be in front of a camera anyway. Who was she going to meet hidden away in her house? Who would she risk dating in the Hollywood world? Who outside of it would she even trust?
Her thoughts shifted to Kara, and Lena’s heart sped up at the recollection that she hadn’t checked her mail in days. Her filming schedule had allowed for very little, and suddenly, the thought that she had an unread email in her inbox filled her with a sense of urgency.
Upstairs, the laptop hummed to life with a touch of a key, and Lena sat at her desk waiting for her webmail to load. At the sight of the name Kara Danvers, Lena smiled, double-clicking the name as fast as modern technology allowed.
She read over Kara’s words, feeling both fascinated and guilty. At the end of the email, she paused at the words, “You never know until you try,” before continuing.
When she’d finished reading she sat back on the chair and frowned. Even if she was open to trying, whom would she try with? Sarah was very much out of the question, which only left Sam, and Lena was pretty sure that was out of the question too.
Sitting up, she hit ‘reply’ and settled her fingers on the keyboard.
Once again I apologize for the delay in my reply. This time I blame work and its crazy, demanding, inhumane hours. Things should start to settle down soon, though, so you can expect more timely emails from me. Assuming, of course, you don’t get sick of me in the meantime, which would be understandable, and even expected.
Hm. Normally, I’m not so self-deprecating. I’m sorry.
I’m not normally so overly apologetic, either. In fact, maybe I’m not me at all. Perhaps I’ve been replaced by a pod. A self-deprecating, overly-apologetic... pod.
Never mind. Let me start this email over: Dear Kara,
I am not sorry for the delay in my reply, nor do I think you may ever tire of waiting around for my emails.
Normally, I’m not so arrogant...
[We’ll just pretend I wrote a relatively normal-sounding intro to this email and have moved on to relevant topics of conversation...]
I don’t know that I’ve ever considered myself a romantic – though a friend called me just that earlier today. I’ve never believed in love at first sight or anything of the sort. These days, honestly, I’m more prone to believe that I’ll be single forever. Unlike you, I don’t expect much would ever come from a blind date.
Actually, since we’re on the subject, I have a blind date on Saturday evening. Dinner. With a doctor. My stepmother forced this upon me and well...
Lena stopped typing, and for a long time her finger hovered over the backspace button. If she continued down this path, she would have to admit certain truths to the artist, and she wasn’t certain that was the best course of action. Even if Kara had no idea who Lena really was, it didn’t mean she wouldn’t one day find out. And then what? Would she release all the emails between them to the press? Would the media be able to track back the emails to Lena?
Horrific scenarios flashed through Lena’s mind, complete with tabloid headlines. What would stop Kara from blabbing?
And still, Lena didn’t delete anything. She wanted to trust the artist. She wanted to hold on to the belief that they could be friends. Friends who might exchange emails their entire lives and never meet, but friends nonetheless.
Frowning, Lena removed her fingers from the keyboard.
There was also the matter of how Kara might take Lena’s admission. What were the odds that a New York artist was homophobic? Lena had no idea.
Without much thought, she dug her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed.
There was silence and then a loud sigh. “What can I do for you?”
Lena hesitated, foreseeing the consequences of what she was about to say. “If I ask you something, do you promise not to ask me any questions in relation to what I’m about to ask you?”
“I ask. You answer. I hang up.”
“All right ...”
“Okay.” Lena took a deep breath. “What do you think are the odds that an artist in New York is homophobic?”
“That’s a question!”
“Sorry. I would like to know what you’re talking about.”
“Hey! That’s a thinly veiled question!”
“You said nothing about thinly veiled questions.”
“Never mind. I’m hanging up. Oh, and by the way, you’re being an idiot. Call Sam.”
“Bye!” Lena hung up before Jack had a chance to say anything else. She contemplated her next move, and then dialed. Sam picked up on the second ring.
“If I ask you something do you promise to just answer without asking any questions, thinly veiled or otherwise, about what I’m about to ask you?”
“Er ... does my job depend on it?”
“Hypothetically speaking, what do you think the odds are that an artist in New York is homophobic?”
“Well that would depend. Are they originally from New York?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay... well, are they religious?”
“I don’t know.”
“Mmkay. Did they vote Republican?”
“Sam, I don’t know. I don’t know her very well.” Lena flinched. “Hypothetically ... of course.”
“That’s a question.”
“Lena, this isn’t fair! You can’t just call someone up and ask a question like that without it raising some eyebrows.”
Lena sighed. “Look, just close your eyes and think about it. Your normal, run of the mill artist type... homophobic?”
There was a pause and then, “I would say no, but you can’t know for sure. It’s never a good idea to make assumptions on this matter.”
“Okay. Thanks, Sam.”
“Lena ... why are you asking this?”
Lena hadn’t ever considered telling Sam and Jack about Kara. Partly because she felt guilty about lying to a stranger, partly because she was embarrassed about having emailed the artist in the first place, and partly because she’d never expected the emails to go on for so long. Sam and Jack would naturally blow the whole thing out of proportion. How would it look to them that she, Lena Luthor, was exchanging emails with a girl, lying about her identity, while still divulging her inner most secrets? Naturally, they’d jump to the very incorrect conclusion that Lena might have more-than-friendly feelings toward the artist, and turn the entire situation into something awkward and exaggerated. Telling them the truth was out of the question. She’d never live this down.
“Lena? Still there?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m here. Look, Sam, there’s nothing really to talk about. I was just... uh. I was working on a short story and my main character is an artist in New York and I was just wondering whether or not she should be... ah, homophobic. So there. Now you know. I like to dabble in the literary arts after dark.”
“It’s my naughty little secret. Now, I must return to it before my muse runs away.”
“Ah-huh. Talk to you tomorrow, Shakespeare.”
Lena hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. She had no idea if Sam believed her or not – she doubted it, actually – but at least it had gotten her off the phone.
The email stared back at her from the computer screen and Lena placed her hands on the keyboard once again.
Actually, since we’re on the subject, I have a blind date on Saturday evening. Dinner. With a doctor. My stepmother forced this upon me and well ... he’s not really my type. I expect much awkwardness and uncomfortable silence.
Does it count as a date if you know beforehand that there is no chance in hell that anything will come of it?
Lena sat back, thinking. She’d opened the door to the possibility that Kara would ask some direct questions. Now it was just a matter of deciding, if the questions ever came, whether or not she’d lie.