Lex liked listening to women. Men always talked outside themselves, about work or politics or sports, a generic language they all spoke interchangeably. Women were different, sharing fragments of themselves that sometimes were gifts. Even Victoria opened up in a way that men never did. She told him little things, like how her father used to take her to the races and let her place her own bet, or how her mother always told her she was too fat even when she weighed a hundred pounds. After the betrayal went public, he knew the pieces added up to a confession.
Unfortunately, women had an unfortunate habit of leaving. When they did, pieces stayed inside him, splinters that disappeared under his skin, always there, scraping against veins, but invisible.
After Pamela died, Lex decided that conversation was overrated, and concentrated on his job, being his father's son. He was in his office, buried in abstract figures, when his secretary brought him a note from Martha Kent. It was handwritten in blue ballpoint on plain white paper, and it wasn't full of platitudes, just an invitation for coffee at the farm.
In her kitchen, Martha touched his arm, pour him more coffee, and mopped up the drops of cream with a blue paisley napkin. Her lipstick left a reddish stain on her mug, and she never mentioned Pamela. Instead, she told him about being teased as a kid for her red hair, lots of jokes about tempers and carrots, and how she'd hated it until Jonathan said, in his direct farmer's way, that it looked like a sunrise.
The next time he stopped by the farm, Lex brought Martha red lilies, and she actually blushed, ducking her head quickly so that her hair covered her face. A week later, the flowers were still in the plain glass vase on the counter, a few petals scattered underneath. He wasn't in love with her, but he dreamed about her sometimes, and when she wasn't looking, liked to watch the pull of her tshirt over her breasts.
Clark talked like his mother. Not at first, starting like every other guy, letting Lex carry most of the conversation, not seeming to listen. He even got off the couch to touch things, wandering through the room, weighing objects, while Lex explained the meaning of each one. It took about an hour before Clark settled down, before he started to watch Lex back, add comments of his own.
When Lex mentioned that his favorite food was veal, Clark said, "I like French fries," then added, "because of the color. They look like these cool building blocks my grandad made for me. I still have them in a box under my bed."
When Clark told Lex that he was superstitious about spiders and never killed them, even if they were poisonous, Lex kissed him. Just a light one, but full on the lips. Then he pulled back and said, "I'm sorry." And he was, but only because Clark was going to leave someday, and Lex had forgotten his vow of hermetic retreat.
Clark touched his mouth, went the color of his mother's lilies, and ducked his head, letting his hair cover his face. "Did you just...I mean, what just happened?"
"It was a mistake."
"I don't know," Clark said. "Your mouth felt like those flowers you gave my mom. Soft. Not like I thought it would."
It was just a little thing, that last part, but Lex, who'd spent his
life listening to women talk about details that weren't suppose to matter,
kissed Clark again.
Red Lilies. (c) Thamiris, 2002