The sunlight chased shadows across the black carpet of the limousine as the vehicle pushed forward through mid-day traffic, and Lena watched the moving patterns with mild interest before shifting her gaze to the window. Date. That was the word Kara had used and Lena had echoed it, thinking it safe. But there was nothing safe about the way she felt around Kara, and especially about Kara, which made it all the more difficult to stop obsessing about word choice versus intent.
“The photos from today turned out great, by the way.”
Lena said nothing as the moments of silence ticked by. She didn’t know how to express that she didn’t care.
“And that photographer was pretty hot, huh?” Sam continued, simultaneously tapping away on the keys of her cell phone. “What was her name? Something exotic, I think.”
“Jane,” Lena said, and almost smiled.
“Still, she was hot.”
Lena hadn’t noticed. She vaguely recalled the lights shining down on her as she struggled to maintain a photogenic pose, listening as the woman’s voice guided her from one captured moment to the next. She mostly remembered thinking about Kara. “How did you do it?”
Sam frowned as she looked up from her Blackberry. “Do what exactly?”
“Get over me.” Lena stared intently at her friend, searching for the answer in her eyes. “You said you’d liked me before... how did you get over me?”
“You’re seriously asking me that question?” Sam sounded both startled and embarrassed. She looked away, as if debating whether or not to answer. And then, “There’s no trick to it, Lena. There’s no one way to get over someone.” She looked down at her phone again but made no move to resume typing on it. “I’m guessing that’s what you’re really asking.”
“It is,” Lena admitted, and the thought that she might have offended Sam entered her mind. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters. Your feelings matter to me. Even the ones I didn’t know about at the time.”
Sam didn’t respond right away, and the sound of surrounding traffic took the place of silence in the interim. “Lena, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but... have you ever considered that maybe you only like Kara because you think you can’t have her? That maybe you only allow yourself to feel something for her because you think it’s safe?”
Safe; there was that word again, and Lena frowned only briefly before resting her head against the window. She let the question loiter in the empty spaces of the limo as she watched the buildings pass. What was the purpose of finding reason to emotions? There was no such thing as safety where feelings were concerned. There was only the hope of love and the fear of love and both weighed down with equal force. “I can want her,” she said finally, “and still fear having her.”
“But would you still want her if you had her?”
“Yes,” Lena said easily, knowing it was true. “Not that there’s any chance of that happening.”
“You can’t possibly know that.”
“Well, I’d rather think that there isn’t,” Lena admitted. “Even if she liked me... even if I could bring myself to hope that she’d return my feelings... what’s the point? She’d always leave me in the end.”
“Well, that’s a dumb attitude.”
“We’re all with the bluntness today, aren’t we?”
Sam shifted in her seat, looking serious. “Lena, you can’t go into a relationship thinking it’s not going to last. Granted, odds are that it won’t, but that’s not to say that the journey to the breakup isn’t meaningful. Just because two people find out that they’re not made for each other after months of putting up with stuff like Mexican robots and impromptu penis rings doesn’t mean the relationship was a total waste of time.”
The words registered one-by-one in Lena’s mind, and she looked at Sam in surprise. “You and Jack broke up?”
Sam bit her bottom lip in response. Then she said, “It depends on how you feel about it. If you’re upset, then no, we’re quite happy together.”
“Sam,” Lena said, feeling impatient. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did this happen?”
“About a week ago.” Sam sounded relieved as she launched into the topic. “We got into a huge fight about... well, it doesn’t matter. We just realized it wasn’t working out. We want different things; we’re not at the same place emotionally, et cetera.”
“So, just like that? It’s over?” The thought was depressing. Lena struggled to wrap her mind around the notion that two people could one day be madly in love and the next... what?
“Well, we’re still friends,” Sam said. “I love Jack and I know he cares for me but the timing isn’t right. Honestly, it’s all a bit of a cliché.”
“Complete with Mexican robots?”
Sam let out a laugh. “He didn’t tell you about Buttercup? Wait, no, not just ‘Buttercup’ but ‘Buttercup!’ with an exclamation point at the end.”
“I think I’d remember that conversation.”
“It’s this mystery script he told no one about. And somehow, God only knows, he secured funding. And I was all excited about it until he told me it was about a killer Mexican robot named Buttercup whose battery runs on nachos.”
Lena’s mood lightened and she giggled. There was something uplifting about Jack’s insanity. “Please tell me it’s going to be a musical.”
Sam brightened suddenly. “Oh my God, I hope so! It’s actually a far more exciting project now that I don’t have to think of it as my boyfriend’s. Anyway, he’s still being all sorts of secretive about it,” she added, as her cell phone chimed. She took at look at the screen and shook her head. “Did you take a look at those invitations I gave you? Inquiring minds want to know what parties you’ll be attending.”
“I think I’ll go by that night club that’s opening tomorrow night,” Lena said, mentally sorting through the options. “I was thinking...” She paused, realizing she hadn’t thought it through enough and perhaps shouldn’t voice it.
“You were thinking...?”
She considered saying something other than the truth but decided that was senseless. “I was thinking of asking Diana to meet me there... you know, accidentally on purpose. But I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid.”
“I think as long as you’re not caught making out with her in the bathroom, it should be fine.” Sam smiled. “So you’re going for it then?”
“I don’t know,” Lena said, because that was really the truth of it. “I feel like I should do something other than pine over Kara. And I like Diana... I just can’t figure out to what degree I like Diana, or to what degree I could like Diana.”
“You overanalyze this stuff too much. You either like her or you don’t. You either want to sleep with her or you don’t. You can think about it all you want but it’s not going to change how you feel when she’s in front of you. And the same goes for Kara; you can downplay your emotions to your heart’s content but it’s not going to make you want her any less.”
“Maybe I should fire you as my manager and hire you as my shrink.”
“You could,” Sam agreed with a smile, “but I don’t think you could afford me.”
The apartment smelled faintly of bleach and fried food; the remnants of another productive day in Alura Danvers’ life. Kara sat in the living room, thinking that her mother looked both exhausted and depressed. Guilt rose within her with such force that she swallowed. She should’ve visited sooner and called more often. She should’ve been more available. But she’d been selfish, caught up in frivolities and silly crushes, and now here was her mother, looking sullen and worn down.
“I really wish you’d dress better,” Alura said, clicking her tongue disapprovingly. “Don’t you have nicer clothes?”
Kara glanced down at her t-shirt and jeans and wondered what her mother saw instead; perhaps a leather bustier and a thong; maybe chaps. But the guilt was still there, making her want to please her mother. “Maybe we can go shopping sometime.”
Surprise shone clearly in Alura’s brown eyes. “Good,” she said, “if you want.”
“I want,” Kara said confidently, thinking that maybe it was true. Maybe she wanted to dress nicer, whatever that meant. Maybe a certain movie star would notice her then. And she pushed that thought away before it could take shape in her mind. “Where’s Jeremiah?”
It seemed like an innocent enough question, but her mother’s mood darkened. “I don’t know,” she said, in a tone that implied the end of the conversation. She reached for the remote and turned on the television. “I’m going to watch the end of my novela.”
The sudden shift caught Kara off-guard and she struggled to make sense of her mom’s reaction. What had she missed? “I’ll just pack up the chicken,” she said, standing.
“I threw them out.”
“They weren’t good.”
Kara stared at her mother, hoping for an explanation or at least a moment of clarity through osmosis; neither came. Alura turned up the volume on the television and settled into the chair.
“You should watch this,” she said, “it’s really good. There’s a young guy... very handsome. His name is Roberto. He’s in love with a girl but he doesn’t know that she’s really the spirit of his dead sister, Juanita.”
“I’m gonna go say hi to Clark,” she said, annoyed that her mother was shutting her out.
She headed down the hall, feeling less guilty. Now she remembered why she hadn’t visited in a while.
She knocked on her brother’s door. When he answered, she entered, trying to remember the last time she’d been in there. She couldn’t put a date to it, but little had changed. The twin bed remained against the left wall, sheets unmade and half-way to the floor. The walls were plastered with predictable images: Cars, Demon Hunter, BattleMechs, and the occasional half-naked woman.
Kara was nearly done with her inspection when her gaze landed on a familiar face. Hidden within the collage of wall decorations was a fold-out of Lena Luthor, clad in a black bikini; water and wet sand sprinkled across her pale skin. Kara’ first instinct was to stare, to take in Lena’s perfect form and commit it further to memory. But then she felt a jolt of anger at herself, and then at her brother. She had the sudden urge to rip the poster from the wall and sling hypocritical comments at Clark.
“Um, are you just gonna stand there all day?”
Her anger deflated at the sound of his voice. Clark was sitting at his desk, playing a video game on his computer. “What are you playing?”
“StarCraft,” he said distractedly, his fingers moving quickly over the keys. “What brings you to my lair?”
“Mom’s being weird.”
Kara leaned against the side of his desk. She watched him quietly for a minute or two. His dark hair was getting too long, bangs falling across his face as he moved to the rhythm of the game. His green eyes sparkled with the monitor’s reflection, the moving images flickering as his gaze darted from one side of the screen to the other. “What’s going on with her?” she asked, returning to the subject at hand. “She won’t tell me.”
“She thinks Jeremiah is sleeping with the lady downstairs,” he said casually, his attention on the game.
The words shocked her and she blinked. “What? Why? Is he?”
Clark snorted and then laughed. “Jeremiah is too much of a pussy to cheat on mom. But don’t worry, I looked into it to make sure. Mom don’t need that shit again.”
“Doesn’t,” she corrected.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding, distracted still by the action on the screen, but sounding passionate about the conversation matter. “I’d kick his fucking ass if he pulled the same stunt that other bastard did.”
Kara thought of their father and felt her anger for him return. “Why does mom think Jeremiah is cheating?”
“Because he’s seeing some shrink downtown,” he said. “I went through his stuff and found the receipts and the appointments. He got to go like three times a week. There was some letter from his boss, too, demanding that he see someone ‘cause of some stress-related breakdown he’d had at work. But of course he’s too fucking ashamed to admit that. So he keeps making up shit about where he is and what he’s been doing. He came home with some chicken the other day and said he’d gone to pick them up at the market and then today that lady came by asking for sugar or some crap and somehow it came out that the chicken were from her. Mom flipped the fuck out.”
“Jesus,” Kara said, wrapping her mind around the story. Wondering where she’d been through it all. “Why is Jeremiah having breakdowns?”
“Alex, probably. He’s all torn up about it; goes around acting like he lost a daughter. Mom I think is just relieved it wasn’t one of us that turned out queer.”
Panic, that’s what Kara felt at the words; fear so strong that it left her momentarily breathless. Her gaze flashed to the poster of Lena and she felt ashamed.
“How’s Alex?” Clark asked softly, so softly that Kara almost didn’t hear him.
“She seems okay,” she said carefully, unsure why her brother was asking; surprised that he had. “Why?”
He looked at her quickly and shrugged. “I miss her.” His voice was quiet, as if worried that someone else might overhear. “I don’t hate her or something. You know?”
Kara didn’t know, but she suddenly wanted to. “You reacted pretty strongly...”
“Yeah, well.” He shrugged again, uncomfortable with the topic. The game appeared forgotten. “Look, this is the sort of shit that spreads around. Suddenly everyone’s whispering about it. You know how it is, don’t pretend you don’t. Those fucking old people on the stoop with nothing better to do than sit around talking shit about other people. And before you know it, you can’t go anywhere without hearing crap like, ‘Oh, that’s Alura’s daughter, she's gay now’ and suddenly they’re wondering if you’re gay too. I don’t need that kind of shit, you know? It’s hard enough trying to keep some fucking asshole from breaking my face with a baseball bat for no other reason than he thinks I looked at his girl. He doesn't need added reasons like thinking I was looking at him instead.”
Kara sighed, wanting to hug her little brother and take him someplace safe. But nowhere was safe, so she simply hugged him.
“Let go, Kara,” he said, but didn’t sound convincing, and after a second, she felt him hug her back. “I miss you, you know. When are you bringing that new guy of yours around? I gotta see if he’s good enough for you.”
Kara pulled away, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. “It’s nothing serious.”
“No? Mom made it sound like you were in looooove.”
“She would. What about you? Any prospects?”
“I’m saving myself for Lucy, you know that.” He smiled. “How is she? I heard she’s in some Lena Luthor movie?”
Lena’s name sounded odd coming from her brother’s lips. “She is.”
“That’s so fucking cool,” he said, shaking her head. “Hey, is it true that there’s like... chicks kissing in it?”
Uncomfortable now, Kara frowned. “Where did you hear that?”
“Read it online somewhere. I was looking it up to see if Lucy was mentioned, but there wasn’t much. Just that Lena Luthor would be making out with chicks. Is it true?”
“That’s what I hear,” she said.
“Hot. She’s so hot. Do you think Lucy would introduce me?”
The change in conversation had become decidedly disturbing, Kara realized. It was bad enough that her brother had Lena’s picture on his wall; the thought that he might also lust after her made Kara’s stomach turn. “I’ll ask her,” she said, and stood. “I should get going.”
“Okay, see ya.”
“I’ll call you,” she said, her guilt from earlier returning. “We should hang out sometime.”
“With Lucy?” he asked hopefully.
“What, I’m not enough for you?”
“When you can introduce me to Lena Luthor, maybe.”
Kara was tempted to say that she could; that, in fact, she was headed to Lena’s apartment soon to cook now-nonexistent food and hang out. But she only smiled and said, “Fair deal.” She forced herself not to glance at Lena’s poster before stepping back out into the hall.
“Your raw ingredients smell remarkably like Chinese food,” Lena said, as Kara walked past her into the apartment, carrying a white plastic bag in one hand. She did her best not to stare too intently as Kara passed.
“Change of plans,” Kara said, looking apologetic as she handed the bag to Lena.
“Didn’t make it to your mom’s after all?” she guessed, peeking into the bag to make sure her senses weren’t lying. Familiar white cartons stared up at her.
Kara shrugged out of her jacket as she answered, “Long story. I hope you're not bored of Chinese food.”
Lena wondered if she’d get to hear the long story or if the subject was closed to discussion. “I'll never get bored of Chinese,” she said, and began leading them toward the living room.
“Hey, that’s new,” Kara said suddenly, stopping to look at the new coffee table. “How do you manage to get new furniture from one day to the next?”
Lena placed the food on the new table; a late-night purchase inspired by insomnia and boredom. “I ordered it online and it arrived this afternoon,” she said. “But don’t worry, I called in and asked someone to sit on it for me to make sure it wasn’t lumpy.”
Kara narrowed her eyes in an attempt to look menacing, but succeeded only in looking like she was trying to read something from far away. “Joke all you want,” she said, giving up on the squinting. “This couch is godly and I bet you that your friend Spankybottoms would agree.”
Lena grinned at her from the kitchen, and then returned to the business of getting the drinks. She guessed that water would always be Kara’s beverage of choice, so she didn’t even bother asking before pouring Evian into a glass. But then she hesitated before bringing the drinks over, suddenly embarrassed by her assumption. Maybe Kara would like to drink something else. “What would you like to drink?” she asked, hoping that Kara wouldn’t notice that the drinks had been served.
“Water, please,” Kara said, busy placing the cartons of food on the table and therefore oblivious to what Lena was doing in the kitchen.
Lena felt both pleased and relieved as she carried the filled glasses toward her destination. She added ‘drinks water with meals’ to the list of things she knew about Kara.
The list was nowhere near long enough; she wanted to know more. Get a grip, she thought as she took a seat, doing everything in her power to avoid eye contact. She was certain that the words ‘I want you desperately’ were written all over her face, and Kara would take one look at her and know everything.
“I wasn’t sure what you wanted,” Kara said, opening cartons, “so I went for variety.”
“I like everything,” Lena said, distracted by the delicious smell of food as well as Kara’s proximity.
“Good, ‘cause I think I got pretty much everything,” Kara said, and laughed. “You’re not on a diet or anything, are you?”
“Not at the moment,” Lena said, picking up a carton to inspect its contents. Shrimp lo mein; her favorite.
“So you’re just naturally perfect?”
Lena risked a glance in Kara’s direction, startled by the unexpected compliment. “Well, I do have a personal trainer and sometimes work with a consultant dietitian back home,” she admitted.
“Ah, so not naturally perfect,” Kara teased.
Lena contemplated Kara’s words. She was used to women complimenting her appearance, but seldom did these comments come without an obvious hint of envy. She couldn’t figure out what Kara was thinking. Women didn’t just call her perfect without betraying a certain level of sarcasm. Any positive comment was generally followed by an unspoken and scathing afterthought and Lena had learned to read between the lines. But when it came to Kara, she drew a blank. “I’m hardly perfect,” she said, just to see what Kara would say to that.
“No,” Kara said, as if agreeing. She’d picked up a carton of food and dug in with abandon. She looked thoughtful as she chewed. “I’m sure you don’t think so. But to... to other people looking at you... you are.”
What other people, Lena wanted to know, forgetting all about the food. She had the overwhelming urge to grab Kara by the shoulders and say, “Be direct, damnit!” But she did nothing of the sort. Instead, she watched Kara eat until she realized she was staring, and then she looked away. “Do you usually eat from the container?”
“Oh, God, I’m sorry!” she said, clearly embarrassed. “It’s such a bad habit. Lucy has this thing where she likes to imitate stuff on TV, and people in movies are always eating out of the box, with chopsticks, I might add, which is totally impractical. I know, because she managed to fling pork fried rice all over our living room several times before giving up and switching to a fork. Long story short: I hate doing dishes so the concept was appealing... and now here I am; Chinese food faux pas central.”
“Try saying that ten times fast.” She glanced down at the open carton of shrimp lo mein. “Do you eat shrimp?”
“Yeah,” Kara said. “But don't worry, you can have them all.”
Lena picked up a plastic fork and shrugged. “Then I’ll join you in being totally improper.” Kara’s smile was reward enough for doing something that went completely against her dining etiquette. “So, why the change of plans?”
Kara looked confused for a moment, as if trying to recall what the plans were originally. “Oh,” she said, comprehension dawning. “My mom thinks her husband is cheating on her with the lady who gave him the chicken.”
Lena wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting as an answer, but that was hardly it. “Is he cheating?”
“According to my younger brother, who fancies himself a private investigator suddenly, Jeremiah is merely going to a psychiatrist three times a week because he’s having trouble coping with Alex’s sexuality. And it appears that he prefers dealing with a wife that thinks he’s cheating to admitting any sign of weakness, emotional or otherwise.”
“Wow,” Lena said, because nothing else came to mind as an appropriate response.
“And so my mom claims that she threw the chicken away, but knowing her temper as I do, I’d not be surprised if she’d instead flung them at the lady’s head.” She paused to contemplate the thought. “I really hope they don’t get sued over this.”
“You’re not going to tell your mom that he’s not really cheating?”
“I thought about it,” Kara said. “I thought about it all the way back here, and at the Chinese restaurant, and on the walk to your apartment, and I’m still thinking about it. I just feel like it’s none of my business, you know? I don’t want to get involved. Maybe I can send her an anonymous letter instead.” She shrugged. “I bet your family isn’t quite so dramatic.”
Lena thought of her father, whom she hadn’t spoken to in... she couldn’t remember their last conversation, actually. She couldn’t recall being around any of them long enough to witness any drama. “I can’t imagine my stepmother flinging chicken at anyone’s head, if that’s what you mean.” Though the visual amused her; Lena wasn’t sure that Lillian knew how to throw anything besides a dinner party.
“Yeah, I guess it’s a little scary that I can totally imagine my mom doing it.” Kara laughed. “I hope these chicken-tossing tendencies don’t run in the family.”
“I have trouble picturing you mad,” Lena said.
“Hmm,” Kara said, thoughtful again. “I guess I just bottle things up. I tend to avoid confrontation. I think that’s why I stayed with Mike for so long: The fear of the dreaded breakup conversation.”
The topic of breakups brought Sam and Jack to Lena’s mind. Had they avoided the breakup conversation or dived right in? The thought that they were over depressed her. Did love just vanish into thin air? Could she wake up one morning and not care about Kara at all?
Lena forced a smile in her direction. “Yeah, sorry—“
An unfamiliar sound interrupted the rest of her sentence and they both turned to look in the direction of its source.
“Sorry, that’s my phone,” Kara said. “I can just let it go to voice mail.”
“I don’t mind,” Lena said, knowing she was partly curious to know who it was, which only made her feel nosy.
Kara seemed to battle with the decision to answer or not, but she eventually made her way over to get the phone out of her bag. “Hey, I didn’t think you’d call.”
Lena focused on eating, doing her best to appear uninterested.
“No, I totally get what that’s like,” Kara was saying quietly, though Lena could still hear. “It’s fine... I had fun too...”
It was Adam, Lena could tell, and she felt a painful surge of desperation. She could, at that moment, envision herself striding across the room, pushing Kara against the wall and kissing her with everything she had, trying to squeeze one more second of hope out of this impossible situation.
“Oh, my God!” Kara yelled suddenly, and Lena looked over, instantly panicked that Kara had somehow read her mind. But Kara was smiling into the phone. “How did you manage that?”
Lena took a deep breath, trying to regain control of her emotions. She would not let jealousy drive her insane. She had to accept that Kara was with Adam. Period. Roll the credits.
“Of course I want to go,” Kara said, sounding more enthusiastic than Lena had ever heard her, “trust me, I’d cancel any other plans if I had them.”
Angrily, Lena speared a defenseless shrimp and popped it into her mouth. Of course she’d want to go. Of course she’d cancel any other plans. And Lena’s vow not to let jealousy get to her flew briskly out the window.
“See you then,” Kara said, and Lena heard the phone snap shut.
Do not do anything idiotic, Lena instructed herself, because she felt very much on the brink of throwing herself at Kara and begging for a chance. Kara approached and Lena pretended to concentrate on the food, worried that one look at the artist would unravel what was left of her self-control.
“I’m sorry about that,” Kara said, dropping her phone on the table and reclaiming her spot on the couch. “There’s a gallery opening tomorrow night and Jennifer Myers Quinn is the featured artist and Adam, somehow, managed to snag an invitation and asked me to be his plus one. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love her work; and to be in the same room with her, oh, my God.”
Kara sounded so excited that Lena couldn’t help but smile, and then, while trying to suppress thoughts of stabbing Adam with a plastic fork, she remembered something. “Jennifer Myers Quinn?” Frowning, Lena put the food down on the table and headed to the kitchen counter to look through the invitations her thoughtful publicist had sent her way.
There, toward the top of the pile, was an invitation to witness and experience the unveiling of Jennifer Myer Quinn’s “breathtaking” new collection. She’d paused at the invitation when she’d first seen it, thinking Kara might love to go, and regretting the fact that she couldn’t invite her. Showing up with Kara as her guest was out of the question. She stared at the invitation, thinking. “I’m going to that,” she said after a second, knowing, as she said it, that it was a stupid and selfish idea. She handed the invitation to Kara. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”
If possible, Kara looked even more excited. “What do you know? Small world.” She looked at the invitation and bit her lip. “I’m going to have to skip class tomorrow and buy a new dress. This looks fancy.”
“I’m sure you’ll look beautiful,” Lena said, before she could edit herself. That wasn’t at all what she’d meant to say.
Kara looked up, surprise written across her face. Then she smiled. “I’m pretty clueless when it comes to fashion, actually. I think I’ll have Maggie go with me, though. She’ll make me look amazing. I swear, she has special powers or something.”
“I’ll have to find myself one of her, then.”
“I don’t think you need any help with looking amazing.”
Had she really spoken those words? Kara wondered. Had she actually told Lena that she thought she looked amazing? And why not, she’d already called her perfect. Why not keep adding fuel to the fire of potential awkwardness? Next she’d start tossing embarrassing confessions into the air. So, I’ve been picturing you naked a lot, for example. Or, better yet: So, sometimes I fantasize about running my tongue up your perfectly toned stomach. Her heart beat erratically now and she picked up her glass of water in the hopes of swallowing down her embarrassment. When she felt confident enough to look at Lena, she found the actress staring back at her. Feeling defensive, she said, “What? Surely, that’s not the first time someone’s said that to you.”
“No, I suppose not,” Lena said.
And don’t call me Shirley, Kara added silently in her head, because lines from movies had an insidious way of floating into her brain at inopportune times. And she was almost surprised that Lena hadn’t said it, because Lena had to have seen Airplane! at least as many times as Kara had. And if she hadn’t, then surely that fact needed to be remedied as fast as humanly possible. She wondered if asking Lena to watch a movie with her sometime would sound too much like asking her out on a real date; and then decided she didn’t care. “Please tell me you’ve seen Airplane!”
Lena smiled, as if the abrupt change in topic didn’t seem at all random. “I thought maybe you’d think I was a dork if I said anything.”
“Such wasted opportunity,” Kara said, shaking her head, relieved that Lena had seen it, and disappointed that it meant she didn’t get to introduce her to it. At least they’d managed to move away from the ‘amazing’ comment. She looked around, trying to find something else to talk about. They could keep talking about movies, Kara supposed, but that seemed too generic a topic. She spotted the pages of a screenplay on the table behind the food. “Is that the script for the film?” She couldn’t remember the name of it; no matter how many times Lucy mentioned it.
“That’s the one.”
“May I? Lucy walks around with it like a protective shield. I’ve not managed to pry her hands free of it yet.”
Lena laughed, and stood up to retrieve the screenplay. “I’m sure I was like that once,” she said.
Summer’s Dance, Kara read off the front page. She hated that title. And she wasn’t sure if it was because Diana had come up with it or because she really did hate it. She flipped through the pages, scanning the words without really reading them. “Do you know all your lines already?”
“I think so.”
“So, if I read a random line, you’d know what the next one would be?”
“If it’s mine, probably. Why, are you challenging me?”
“Maybe.” Kara smiled and turned on the couch so she was facing Lena. She cleared her throat. “Your armpits taste like candy corn.”
Lena snatched the script from her hands. “It does not say that.”
Kara giggled and grabbed it back. “That was part of the test.”
“I would never be in a movie with lines like, ‘Your armpits taste like candy corn.’”
“Oh please, you starred in a film called Seabord Cyborg, which had way worse lines than that!”
“It terrifies me that you actually watched that,” Lena said, sounding amused.
“I wanted to know what a ‘seabord’ was, which is the only reason I kept watching.” But mostly, you were really hot in it, even though you were only like sixteen, which must mean I’ve turned into some sort of pervert in addition to everything else. “Which, by the way, was never actually explained.”
“It was a type of genetically-enhanced plankton designed to take over the world,” Lena said, as if it was obvious. “And then, you know, it mutated.”
“Into a cyborg.” Kara was trying not to laugh, but she was smiling.
“Yes, but there was a very good reason for that.”
“Right... because it was magical.”
“Right!” Lena grinned. “I can’t believe you paid enough attention to get that.”
It was one of your scenes, Kara thought. “The point is you can’t claim you’d never be in a movie with lines about candy corn armpits. You just can’t.”
“Okay, fine. You win.”
“Good,” Kara said, pleased with herself. What’s my reward, she wanted to ask, but there was no way to say that without sounding flirtatious and she wasn’t quite brave enough for that.
She looked down at the script, trying to find an actual line of dialogue to test Lena with. “Your things are in the bedroom,” she read, and looked up to see that Lena was looking at her strangely.
“I didn’t come for my things.”
Kara looked down to confirm that this was right. And then continued. “What’d you come for then?”
Lena said nothing, and Kara looked up, ready to tease. “Can’t remember your line?”
“I don’t really have a line there...”
Kara looked down again to see what Lena meant, and found, instead of dialogue, a couple of lines of text describing the action that should follow. She swallowed, and then looked up, conjuring a moment of bravery that might only last long enough to say, “I believe you’re supposed to kiss me, then.” She held her breath, feeling that she had, with those words, actually admitted to picturing Lena naked, to fantasizing about her body, and to everything else she’d been feeling lately. Because why else would she say it?
The look on Lena’s face was undecipherable, but then the actress smiled and said, “Actually, Samantha kisses Elizabeth, so technically, it’d be you kissing me.”
There was, Kara thought, a challenge in Lena’s tone, as if she were really saying, I know you’d never do it. So haha! And Kara felt a rush of indignation, fueled further by the smug look on Lena’s face. Oh, you think you know me so well, Ms. Luthor.
Kara picked up the script once more, reading over the text, feeling a strange sense of determination to prove that she was not freaked out by the prospect of kissing a woman, because she had a sneaking suspicion that that’s what this was about. “Just checking to see if I need to use tongue or not.” And the look of shock that passed across Lena’s face was incredibly gratifying.
She’s kidding, Lena told herself. She’s not seriously going to kiss me. But she eyed Kara nervously now. She was starting to think that maybe Kara would kiss her after all. Okay, so what if she does? It’s not like it means anything. But Lena knew that was a lie. Of course it would mean something; to her, at least. And she couldn’t figure out how they’d gone from discussing magical plankton to this.
“We’re supposed to be closer to each other,” Kara said, and Lena thought she detected a sudden hint of shyness in her voice.
When the girl of your dreams wants to kiss you... you let her, right? Lena tried not to freeze as Kara slid closer. “You take this testing of lines very seriously,” she said, trying to hide how nervous she felt.
“I live with an actress,” Kara said, as if that explained everything. “So, I ask the question, and we stare longingly into each other’s eyes, and then I kiss you?”
“It sounds so romantic when you say it that way.” Lena wondered how far Kara planned to go with this. She decided to play along, “But yes, and then I strip you naked and ravish you on the kitchen table.”
Kara looked only briefly surprised, before saying, “You don’t have a kitchen table.”
“Coffee table, then.” Was it wrong that all of this sounded incredibly appealing? Was it wrong that she was getting turned on? What am I doing?
“Coffee table it is,” Kara said. “Ready?”
Before Lena could figure out a way to properly back out of... whatever this was that they’d somehow gotten into, there came the merciful sound of a knock at the door. Oh, thank God, was all she could think, as she walked over to answer it. “What are you doing here?”
“Visiting you,” Jack said, stepping forward to wrap her in a hug. “Miss me?”
Lena hugged him quickly and then stepped back to inspect him. She’d not heard from him in days and she’d half-expected to learn that he’d been depressed over the breakup, alone in his apartment, overdosing on ice cream and porn. She was relieved to see that he looked fine; better than fine, actually. “You look good.”
“Why do you sound surprised?” Jack stepped into the apartment and closed the door.
Lena hadn’t forgotten that Kara was still in the apartment, so she ignored his question and led her second guest into the living room. “Kara, I’d like to introduce you to Jack Spheer. Jack, this is Kara Danvers.”
“Wow,” Jack said, “I can totally see what Lena sees in you.”
I’m so going to kill you. Lena tried sending the message telepathically, but Jack was too busy checking Kara out to notice.
“Uh,” Kara said. “I can totally see what she sees in you... too.” She threw a questioning glance at Lena, which Lena answered with a look that she hoped said, “He’s insane, ignore him.”
“Hope I wasn’t interrupting anything,” Jack said, remembering his manners suddenly, or at least pretending to.
“Not really, Lena was just about to strip me naked and ravish me on the coffee table,” Kara said, and smiled smugly at Lena.
She didn’t just say that, Lena thought.
“Please don’t let me stop you,” Jack said, and shot Lena a look that could’ve read any number of ways, ranging from, “What did I miss?” to “Where’s the popcorn?”
Kara laughed and then said, “Lena, where’s your restroom?”
“Door behind the stairs,” Lena said. She waited until Kara had disappeared behind the closed door and then slapped Jack’s arm. “Are you crazy?” she whispered.
He rubbed his arm and laughed. “She’s funny,” he said. “Unless there’s something you haven’t told me?”
Lena glanced nervously at the bathroom door, worried it would open at any moment. “Nothing’s changed, and I need you to behave.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” He winked. “Where are you staying?”
“With Sam,” he said.
“I thought you guys broke up?”
“Oh yeah, we did. But it seemed criminal to deny ourselves the mind-blowing sex while I was in town.”
“Never mind. What are you doing tomorrow night? Are you free? I need you to be free. You need to be my date to a gallery opening.”
Jack grinned. “Oh the press is going to have fun with that. ‘Luthor and Spheer Together Again!’ They’re going to think you stole me back. And, sure, I’m free. And does the reason we’re attending this shindig have anything to do with a certain K-A-R-A?”
“She knows how to spell her name,” Lena whispered, smacking his arm again. “And yes. Is that obsessive and stalkerish?”
“Totally. What time should I pick you up?”
“Cool,” he said, then, as the door to the bathroom opened, he stated, loudly, “She thinks my penis is too big. That’s why she dumped me.”
Lena narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, I thought she said it was because of that weird fungus she found near your—“
“Kara!” Jack said, interrupting her. “Welcome back. I’m going to leave you lovely ladies to your coffee table adventures. I just wanted to tell you, Lena, that Sam hired me as your assistant until you find a suitable replacement. Isn’t that great? I’m going to be around you all the time; night and day.”
“Tell Sam she sucks.”
“Just one of her many great skills,” Jack said, grinning. “Kara, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again sometime. Lena, I’ll see you tomorrow. No need to walk me to the door. I’ll find my way. Have fun. Good night. Adios!” And then he was gone.
“So that’s Jack Spheer,” Kara said, after a moment. “He always seemed so much...”
“Saner?” Lena supplied.
Kara smiled at her. “I was going to say ‘taller.’” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “So, you’re hiring a new assistant?”
“Apparently,” she said. “Why, are you interested?”
“No, not me,” Kara said, and laughed. “But, um... I know someone that might be qualified. I mean, if you’re taking applications or whatever.”
Please don’t let it be Adam. She was afraid to ask. “Sure. Have them call Sam. You have her number?”
“Great,” Lena said, and felt suddenly awkward, remembering where they’d been before Jack had arrived. She looked around for something to say.
“Shall we clean up?” Kara suggested.
“Yes!” It came out sounding far more enthusiastic than she meant it to, but Kara only smiled at her.
And then they both proceeded to ignore the screenplay on the couch.