Drumroll, please, ladies and Brian, as we present Chapter Twenty-Three,
The cell phone buzzed for a second, then played the first recorded message. “Lois, it’s Richard. I saw the news. We need to talk.” There was an abrupt click as he hung up the phone, and Lois pinched the bridge of her nose, wondering if this was what a migraine felt like.
“Lois, this is your mother. I hope you realize you’ve just traumatized your twins. They were watching TV, and they saw all of that. Kala’s in her room claiming that there’s nobody named Kala home right now, and Jason’s in tears because he says you said you and Superman were friends and now you’re being mean. Call me.”
“Hey, Lane, this is Toby. Um, where the heck did you go? I saw you walk down that alley a minute ago, but I lost you after that. I was hoping for a sound bite that won’t make you look like a total bitch. C’mon, help me out here?”
“Lois, you’d better start answering this goddamn phone when I call you! Oh, and just so you know, I know Olsen called you. Don’t bother calling him to find out if I’m not pissed anymore, if you wait for that you won’t come in ‘til February. Bring your butt back to the office before you say something else snarky on live television!”
“Toby again. You’re not at your car and nobody else has seen you. We all know you keep the phone on for the twins – why aren’t you answering? You’re starting to scare me, Lane. Call me as soon as you get this.” A hang-up call followed that one, and then Perry again.
“Now I’m mad ‘til at least June! Why the hell is that broad from the Daily Star calling here to ask where you are? And who gave her your office number? Where are you, anyway?”
“Honey, where are you? Uncle Perry called to ask if I’d heard from you. You left the car parked downtown and no one’s seen you since the fire scene. Call and let me know you’re all right.”
An annoyed sigh and a click as the caller hung up. The next two calls were hang-ups as well.
“Lane, Sawyer. Toby’s starting to freak out. Apparently you walked into an alley and disappeared? Please tell me you’re just being cussed out – and rightfully so – by your ex. If you were kidnapped out from under all our noses… You’d better be off with Big Blue.”
“Lois, where are you? Your fiancé and your boss have both called me. I’m starting to get really worried. Not to mention the twins are still upset. Please just call and say you’re okay.”
Lois put her head in her hands and sighed heavily. Just great. I managed to scare or piss off everyone I know in one twenty-minute period. Fabulous. And still the phone continued to play her messages, which became more and more shrill.
Superman took to the sky, for the solace and silence of the highest reaches, where the atmosphere was thin and the never-ending roar of humanity was easier to ignore. Superman rose higher and faster, trying to escape the pain of loss and the worse pain of knowing that she did still love him. That last kiss … so much unspoken, but so very clear. And after he’d flown away, he’d heard her voice whispering. What can I possibly do now? I love her, she loves me … but that’s not enough.
Clark flew halfway across the globe, stopping in
At least we’ve cleared the air a little bit between us. Maybe we can be civil to each other from now on… Not that it helps the fact that I’m still in love with her, and have no right to be. She is engaged to Richard. Someone I respect and admire. A man who’s spent the last three years taking care of her and her twins. No matter what happens, it isn’t fair to him.
I need some perspective on this. I need to talk to someone I can trust. I need someone who can decode the feminine mind-set.
I need Ma.
Lois stared at her cell phone as the final message played. “Lane, this is Maggie again. Your boss called me. I’m bringing your car over to the Planet garage to keep you from getting a parking ticket. I don’t know why, I ought to let them tow the damn thing. Next time you turn your cell phone off I’m gonna cram it up your nose, you hear me? I ought to write you a citation for disturbing the peace just for the amount of panic you’ve caused today.” She paused, and Lois heard some faint metallic noises followed by a pop. “Damn German cars are a bitch to break into. You better hope I can hotwire this thing or I really will let them tow it.”
Shit. Lois’ forehead smacked into her palm again. I don’t believe this! A cop is breaking into my car. A lieutenant, at that. Good God.
“This day is shot,” Lois muttered aloud. She erased all of the messages and changed her outgoing greeting to say, “This is Lois, I’m alive, I’m fine, you can stop calling. Leave a message of it’s important.” Then she went to Perry’s office and told him, “Chief, I give up. I’m going to go get my sick kids and write this one up from home, okay? I’ll come in earlier than usual and might even sit in on a meeting with you to make up for it.”
He glared for a moment, but the mention of the twins had a predictable effect. And there was the fact that Lois never asked to leave early. Ever. It had been a helluva day for her. “Fine. But if you’re late, you’re toast. Email it to me and the proofreading department by nine.”
“Yes, oh, benevolent dictator,” she snarked tiredly, and left. Perry just watched her go, shaking his head.
Richard gave up staring at his plate. The baked potato was too salty, the steak was too tough, the green beans were too bland … and none of it was the restaurant’s fault. I’ve been sleeping with Superman’s ex-girlfriend. Well, up until recently, anyway. Her insomniac hours on the computer pretty much ended our love life. Talk about an intolerable situation.
And that’s not to mention
His conscious stung him. I’m being spiteful because I’m pissed. Lois isn’t really like that. No, it’s more likely that she’s seen through the slightly nerdy exterior as well as I have. And that she saw through it a long time ago. If they were more than friends, that explains all of her recent behavior towards him – and it also explains the first stamp I glimpsed in his passport book. Got to get a better look, but it was
You know, for a while there I actually thought that Clark and Superman might be the same person. They returned to Metropolis around the same time, they were both probably involved with Lois, they’re about the same height and weight and coloring… But I’ve seen video of Superman in action, and I just spent two weeks with Clark. There’s no way – nobody’s that good an actor. Besides, if they really were the same person, I think Lois would know. And if she knew, as mad as she’s been at both of them, she’d have won the Pulitzer for exposing the secret.
It’s a ridiculous image, too. I mean, what does he do with the uniform? Tuck the cape into the back of his pants? Carry it around and change clothes while he flies? Some satellite would’ve picked that up by now. No, there’s no way Clark could be Superman, or vice versa.
In the middle of that train of thought, Richard realized that his steak had gotten cold. He decided to cut his losses, pay for the disappointing meal, and go look up the two people who were always glad to see him.
To hell with work. What’s the point of being assistant editor and the editor-in-chief’s nephew if you can’t blow off the occasional afternoon?