"How can you miss someone you've never met?
'Cause I need you now but I don't know you yet
But can you find me soon because I'm in my head?
Yeah, I need you now but I don't know you yet"
Ellie’s prom day
Kara sees Ellie walking down the stairs and for the first time in 12 years she’s struck just by how much she resembles her other mom, blonde hair but the same emerald green eyes, the same utter confidence that commands the room.
“Mom? Don’t cry, I’ll be back by 1, I promise.”
“Lil bug, I know.”
“Then why are you crying? Mom?”
“You look so beautiful, Ellie.”
“Yea, well if Karson doesn’t cry like that I think I need a new prom date.”
“Always a joker like your mother.”
Ellie couldn’t think of a comeback. The topic of her fever dream of a mother came and went, and today it crashed.
“I’m sorry, you look. You look so much just like her, she should be here for this.”
“Mom, it’s okay. I… like it when… you talk about her. I wish you’d do it more often.”
Ellie watched her mom fight an onslaught of tears, so she closed the distance between them and held her tight. On any other day, it was her mom comforting her but for today Ellie mustered the courage to be the rock just for once. Her mom was the epitome of graceful strength, she may not remember her other mom, well she does but considering she was five when her mother passed away, the sole memory she had of her was her voice. No longer does she associate the face on her bedside, but oh the voice, she would do anything to hear it once again. “I love you so much, mom,” she whispered under the blonde locks.
“Oh lil, bug. I love you, too.” Kara pulled away, put her hand on both of her daughter’s shoulders, “Now, shoo. Karson would be here any minute, and I’ll be damned if I ruin your makeup. Your mom might actually turn over her grave and haunt me.”
Ellie laughs trying to wipe the forming tears in her eyes, but Kara beats her to it. Right on cue Karson rings the doorbell, and she opens the door to the boy fixing his bow tie.
“Mrs. Luthor-Danvers, hi!” He says all too excited. Aside from Leila, Ellie’s neighborhood childhood best friend, Karson has basically been tied to the womb with Ellie. He was even present on family vacations abroad when Lena was still around. After her passing, he too grieved and made sure to see that the Luthor-Danvers household was doing alright. A good boy at that.
“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”
“ Ah, you’re too kind, Mrs. Danvers.”
“Well, last time I saw you this dolled up, you were still wearing braces and thick-rimmed glasses.”
“Point taken.” Ellie came from behind, and Kara noticed Karson’s breath hitched.
“Ellie, wow. You uhm…Well… you look…”
“Beautiful. Yea, you uhm not that you never looked beautiful. I’m just saying, you’re beautiful all the time. I mean..”
“Karson, it’s okay. Ellie gets it now.” Kara turns to see her daughter reddening.
“I better go,mom. We still have to pick up Leila. Love you!” Ellie grabs Karson by the arm and reaches over to Kara to give her a kiss on the cheek.
“Wait, let me take a photo of you two.”
“Kar, don’t you have to give me the corsage?” Elli whispers while Kara goes back inside to get her phone from the coffee table.
“Oh yea, crap. Sorry, you short-circuited my brain for a bit.”
“Yea, yea, I know, I’m the prettiest bestest friend!”
“ haha, yea.” Dejected, Karson avoided Ellie’s eyes as he gently placed her corsage. The two quickly turned their heads at the source of the flash.
“Sorry, I should have removed the flash.” Kara smiles and takes another photo of the two, one that’s more posed than candid but this time without the flash.
“You’ll be okay here, Ms. Luthor- Danvers?”
“Yea, mom, if you need us just call, okay?”
“Sweet of you two. Don’t worry about me. If anything, your aunt Alex is one pub call away.”
Ellie hugs her mom one last time, followed by Karson.
Kara watched the car disappear at the turn before she went back instead. Ellie’s okay, I’m okay. I’ll be okay, she tells herself. It’s been 12 years, well tomorrow it would be, but the penthouse still feels empty without her wife and now even emptier without Ellie. With her breath held she turns the doorknob, the room is the same as it was 12 years ago, excluding some additional photos of her and her daughter, Danvers Christmas postcards, and the canvas by the corner shelf. Kara walks toward the easel and stops before it. She grabs the hem, but she can’t bring herself to remove it. Like a bandaid, she manages too.
“Oh, God. Lee.” Kara steadies herself by holding onto the easel, but eventually drops to the floor and wraps her arms around her knees, and recalls two weeks before her wife’s passing.
5:30, the clock reads. Kara grabs the charcoal and adds the last few details on the eyes, the light shadow just beneath the eyelid. She has been sitting on the stool for almost 3 hours. She stretches her arms and stands up to crack her back. Before wrapping up for today, she takes another look at the scratch paper taped on the upper left corner of the canvas. The paper was part of Kara’s sketching journal which she carried with her for as long as she remembers. The taped sketch was a page dedicated to their visit to the park when Ellie started walking, in which the hyperactive toddler refused to leave the playground. The wives took turns helping little Ellie navigate the play area from the sandbox to the slides. The last stop, however, was the sandbox, Ellie can’t seem to get tired of it. Kara tried coaxing Ellie with the promise of a pink bubble bath only to receive the infamous Danvers pout to which Lena's belly laughed at. Defeated, the two agreed that Lena would stay with Ellie while Kara fixes the lunch on the table nearby. When Ellie showed no sign of ever wanting to leave the sand, Kara idly fished the notebook and pencil. Lena was sitting on the edge of the sandbox helping their daughter put the “excavated” dinosaurs again and again on the bucket, Kara was sketching the outline of the two bodies when she looked up from the page, she saw Lena staring at her, with the ever-so content, unimaginably happy smile that brought out her small dimples— like a moth drawn to a flame, Kara stopped, turned the next page and sketched this Lena instead. It was a sight to behold, in the mundanity of motherhood, of domesticity, her Lena was even more beautiful.
Now, she stares at the unfinished canvas in front of her, it was almost complete, though it looks done to the untrained eye, it wasn’t. Lena’s eyes were a few shades incomplete, hues that would have brought her eyes life, one that would have captured her Lena-- their Lena.
Kara was weak on all accounts and sat on the floor, staring at the canvas.
“Lee, you should have seen her tonight. God, it’s like you’re staring right back at me.” She talks to the abyss, “She’s all grown up now, becoming her own woman. She um… she and Karson,” Kara scoffs. “They’re still inseparable as always, I don’t know if he knows it yet or if she knows, but he loves her. Just last week, and for the nth time since Ellie partook in competitions, he came to Ellie’s fencing match wearing a Luthor-Danvers jersey; it was a gift from one of the family game nights. You should have seen how red she was! She really took after us when it came to relationships.” She fights another round of tears and ends her one-way talk to Lena. In the silence, she could hear the faint buzzing of her phone. Kara sees the caller I.D and is disappointed, even now every time her phone rang, a part of her begs Heaven that it’s Lena; that she’ll say she’s coming home.
“Alex.” She clears her throat, but her perceptive sister sees through her.
“I’m five minutes out.”
“Look, Kara. I know Ellie’s at prom, and I know tomorrow’s Lena’s… Look, you’re alone right now, and I’ll be there, okay?” Kara could hear her sister’s exasperated voice and is too tired to argue. “Okay.”
“But you better not come here empty-handed.” She says after a beat.
“Of course, duh. I have potstickers and two tubs of ice cream.”
“Thanks, see you in five.”
Kara forces herself to stand up and looks at the sketch, trying to remember how she looks, how she looks like the last time she saw her. But against her desire, she puts the white cloth over the canvas and represses the memory once again before she spirals. She clings to the edge of the canvas and puts her head at the top. She turns on the lights and heads over to the cupboard. She grabs two glasses and was about to close the cupboard door when she saw the bottle. Behind the other assortment of glassware at the far end, was an unopened scotch bottle. Kara reaches for the bottle and realizes it's her wife’s scotch.
“Okay, she’s finally out like a light,” Kara calls from the hallway. She finds Lena tiptoeing, removing glassware, and placing them on the counter. “Lee, what are you doing?”
Lena turns and says as a matter of factly, “ Being a good mother.” And proceeds to do whatever she was doing, until Kara wraps her arms around her wife’s waist. “You already are,” she hums on her shoulder, burying her face.
“You know if you help me, then we can be both great mothers.”
Kara, still puzzled by her wife’s antics, just started handing her the wares. After a few minutes, she noticed Lena getting tired, and so she offered her to switch places; Kara on the organizing duty, and Lena as the helper. With one final piece of glassware in place, Lena places a firm grip on her wife’s biceps.
“I think the other cupboards need some rearranging, too.”
“Hmm, is that so? Will you also be stocking more of your “valuables” there? You know, to prevent our nosey lil bug from seeing more rated content.” Though she kept quiet, Kara did see the bottles pushed towards the back wall. Lena always had a certain affinity to alcohol, she wasn’t an alcoholic, really. Kara understood that Lena being a CEO did at times take a toll on her wife; and because she trusts Lena with her own vices, she supported her guilty pleasure.
“Whatever do you mean. Now come on, and put your biceps to work with the rest of the cupboards!”
“Just the cupboards? I was thinking of a more comprehensive workout that will give you a better excuse to ogle me.”
Lena raised her brows and took a couple of seconds to realize her wife’s innuendo, but before she could speak, Kara swept her off her feet and carried her bridal style towards the bedroom.
“I could walk you know.”
“ I’m aware, baby. For now, you can, but after our workout,” Kara cranes her neck to Lena’s left ear, and whispers, “You might forget how to.”
“Kara, hey, hey, just let it out.” Kara didn’t even hear Alex enter, she was too caught up with her wife’s distant memory. “Al, it hurts so much.” she completely slumped on her sister’s shoulder, she would bury her head on Alex’s chest if she were only taller. It doesn’t matter though, without Ellie in the house, she allows herself to grieve once again. Alex was holding the take-out bags while rubbing circles on her sister’s back, so she slowly reached for the kitchen table and put the bag on top. This time of the year has always been difficult for her sister, despite her ex-wife’s passing years ago, Kara has been mourning like it was just yesterday. Every year it’s the same, Kara attempts to put on a brave front until a small object or sometimes even a phrase, would trigger her pain. From what Alex saw, today it was a bottle of Scotch that her sister has a tight grip on, she’s certain it was her sister-in laws’, the brand was the same one she shared with her countless times. This passing thought made her heart clench, too.
“Come on, sit, and let me pour you a glass.”
“You know I don’t drink.”
“yea, yea. But you know, if she was here right now she would have wanted me to drink this fine bottle, and Im certain she would give me a death glare if I let her darling drink on her own.”
“You had the bottle already, Kara.”
“Yea, I guess you’re right, you and my wife.” Kara sniffles, “she would... If she…maybe, she would be enraged enough to come home when she hears the bottle open.”
“Oh, you know she would,” the two chuckled as they take their seat in the breakfast bar.
To Alex’s surprise, Kara was the first one to break the gnawing silence. “So, I heard Ruby showcased her Danvers badassery. ” Kara chews on her potsticker and grabs another one. “Ah, yes. God, we definitely got whopping from Sam. I mean, you know what I mean.”
“Actually, I don’t.. so we?” Alex reaches for the dumpling, only to be swatted harshly. “Hey! You have your own set!” Kara protests with her mouth still full.
“Fine. Yes, so you know the story right?”
“Yea, she called me, remember?”
“Right, so after she gave that drunk asshole a broken nose, and then after I got a call from Maggie saying that you called her to bail your favorite niece out of her precinct because that a-hole had the nerve to threaten my daughter. I was actually with Sam and I thought Maggie was calling to say she couldn’t make it to our double date, so I put the phone on speaker.”
“So which part were you in trouble?” Kara stopped eating and was actually intrigued,
“Somewhere between that’s my girl and Ruby should have added broken bones.”
“Alex!” Kara pursed her lips trying to stop the smile from forming. If anyone would ask her right now, she missed Alex. After what happened, she chose to focus only on two things, work, and Ellie. She would be there for holidays and all but she was never the same child-like jolly old Kara, so much so that she used to be the literal embodiment of Santa. Now, Kara would animatedly eat, talk and smile with the growing Danvers-Arias-Luthor family, well the latter was mostly because the Luthor Matriarch had the same idea of mourning; shared love for work and Ellie.
“Well, she ’s definitely your child.”
“Yea,” Alex would have loved to talk more about her, Sam and Ruby, but she knows better than to share happy family stories. If anyone would ask her right now, she missed Kara. She misses her sunny Danvers sister, the person everybody thought would never leave her sunny disposition, as it turns out it could be. If she could, she would bring Lena back.
“You know she was always the better part of me. I don’t think I’ve told her enough. Before Ellie was born, Lena had this stack of parenting books on her side table, and every time the baby kept her up, she'd pick one up, read and annotate. I swear, Al, Like a Mother, has seen better days. She always thought I had this whole parenting thing handled but the truth was.. is, I’m only the parent she is. There’s a lifetime of love that can go around from her.”
“She deserves to be here.”
“Ellie needs her moms. I need her mom.”
With half of the food gone, they lapsed into a solemn conversation. Alex recanting her tales with her only and favorite sister-in-law and Kara laughing away the memory of her wife. As soon as Alex left, Kara, as she had done for the past 12 years, wrote to her dead wife.
I’ve been reading again, I won’t tell you what it is because maybe then you’d be interested to go here yourself and ask me. But I will tell you this, I found a way to get around this pain, ache, hurt, in which I refuse to name what this 12-year stage of grief is. I’ve read in the book that I mentioned, to not name a thing is to lose it (I’m paraphrasing, my love). So, here I am refusing to name this feeling so I can lose it. Shake it loose from where it clings in my marrow, my being, my sanity. Though I have been reminded, gently if I may add, that I must find happiness again— in someone. I cannot. I will not. Because if I start calling another by their name, by love, or by endearment, then it is as if I have foregone you, my Lena.
I will keep calling you my love, my wife, my Lena so I can keep you here with me even if it’s as brief as the syllables that leave my lips. Though I know you can no longer breathe life into my name, I only wish that wherever you may be, you have not lost me.
Always your darling,