The Central Mystery
Chloe stared at the little red cross on the pregnancy test stick. "Damn, it's positive." She bit her lip then sighed.
There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Chloe, I really need to go to the bathroom," said Clark.
"One minute," she said. I can't flush it, she thought but I don't want to stuff it into my pocket either considering I just peed on it.
"Don't make me use my x-ray vision, Chloe!"
She opened the bathroom door, stick in her hand. "Clark . . ."
"I'm pregnant." She showed him the little stick with the little positive sign.
"That's gre . . . Chloe, why are you crying?"
"Because maybe I should have an abortion."
"What? Why? Is it because I'm the father?" Thoughts about the possible problems that could come from Kryptonian and human genes combining sprang to mind.
"It's not always about you, damn it!"
"Oh, come on, Clark! You're Superman and a reporter. I've got my own career. How are we going to make this work? We love what we do. We don't have time for a kid."
"Chloe, you know that I've always wanted a family even if we had to adopt. I don't know if this could ever happen again. I'm willing to do what it takes to make it work."
Chloe looked away. "I'm afraid, Clark."
"I was thinking that I might turn out like my mother."
"Suppose I look down at the baby's face and don't feel anything? Suppose . . ."
"You're not like that . . ."
She put her head on his chest.. "Yeah, after all, I already love a big baby."
"Who are you calling a big baby!"
She stepped back and smiled, but he noticed that her smile faded quickly.
"Yeah, but I promise I won't do anything without telling you."
"What's for dinner, Clark?"said Chloe as she got home from work.
"How does Indian food sound?"said Clark, pointing at the plastic bag full of take-out containers. Neither of them cooked much. The wastebasket in the kitchen full of Styrofoam testified to that fact.
"Mmmm, smells good. Tandoori Mahal or Indian Oven?"
"Neither, it's New Delphi Junction," said Clark, opening up the take-out packages. "Too bad, they didn't have Indian food back in Smallville."
"Yet another reason why we live here and not there."
The phone rang on the counter near the sink. She picked it up. "Hello? Oh, hi, Dad. I missed you, too. Oh . . . she is? No, I didn't hear about it." Her shoulders sagged and she looked down. "She's in town again, huh. How long? It doesn't really matter, does it? Things are fine. Yes, yes, he is taking good care of me. Hey, I can take care of myself just fine. I'm about to eat dinner, could I call you later. Love you, too. Bye."
"Nothing really. My dad says my mom's in town. She has an exhibition of her photos in a gallery to coincide with the printing of her new book."
"You don't have to pretend you're not upset."
"Why should I be upset? I know where I stand with her. There's no reason for her to tell me anything but . . ." She closed her eyes. "Damn, just give me a minute."
Clark sighed then began putting the food on two plates. "So . . . do you want any chutney?"
"Yeah, that would be good."
Clark, in his suit, saved an older blond woman from a mugger in the grungier part of downtown Metropolis. After knocking the felon out and handcuffing him to a nearby pole, he took a closer look at her and saw an older version of Chloe in the surprisingly unflustered woman.
"Thank you very much."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Andrea Sullivan."
"Are you Chloe Sullivan's mother?"
Her eyes flashed. "I am nobody's mother," she said, careful to emphasize each word. The woman took out her cell phone and called the police. "Hello, police. This is Andrea Sullivan. I'm on the corner of 49th and Far St. A mugger is handcuffed to the no parking sign. Yeah, it's a Superman special." After giving the police some more details, she clicked off and turned to the super hero. "Looks like they're used to you. You know you should get them to pay you a salary in some Swiss Bank account. Those slackers are taking major advantage of you."
"Could we talk?" Clark said.
She shrugged. "Not like we have much to talk about."
"If you tell me what I want to know, I'll agree to a photo shoot."
She gave him an appraising look, then smiled. "All right."
He briefly got a mental image of Chloe when told she was going to cover something huge.
"Coffee," he said as he sat down on the couch.
"Hmmm, superheroes drink coffee. I should make a note of that. How do you know Chloe?" She ground some beans in the coffee grinder before putting them in the coffee maker and switching it on.
"She's a good friend of mine."
Andrea pushed the button on her answering machine. "First message, 9:01 p.m. Friday. Hello, Andrea, it's Bryan. I'll be at the airport on Monday. Pick me up, OK." Then the machine said, "End of new messages." Andrea then turned to him and said, "What is it that you want to know?"
"Why did you leave her?"
"I left her because I knew she was in good hands. Gabe was always a good father. I knew that he would always look after her."
Clark frowned. "That's not what I meant. Why did you leave?"
"I'm not the type of person who should have had a kid. I married Gabe because he was a good man. He made me feel loved, and very special. I enjoyed being with him. I thought that was love. We married right out of college then we hiked across Europe all summer."
Clark raised an eyebrow.
"He may not look it now but there was a time in his life that he was a wild, adventurous, young man. Those were good times. Times when we thought anything was possible . . . But he wanted children and I never wanted one. I didn't want him to leave so I agreed to one. He thought that going through the pregnancy would change my mind, change me. But he was wrong."
"I knew something was wrong during the pregnancy. It wasn't just the usual mood swings or the irritation at all the inconvenience of carrying a child like going to the bathroom every hour or being unable to run or fit behind the wheel of the car. I was filled with dread. I felt like that woman in Rosemary's Baby. Isn't that terrible? Even after she was born, all I felt was irritation and depression. They called it the baby blues. It was well beyond baby blues. I was thinking violent thoughts about doing horrible things to her. I told my doctor. Luckily, the doctor gave me some pills to help me control things. But I still couldn't bond to her."
"Still, you could've gotten a doctor to help bond with her. I've heard of people who have had problems like this."
"I did try but back then doctors really didn't know anything about that, at least not the ones I went to. They kept telling me it was all in my head. I told them that I knew it was all in my head and that it needed fixing. Gabe kept telling me, `She's your daughter. She's your daughter.' I knew it in my head," the woman said, pointing to her head, "But not in my heart. One day, Gabe handed me an ultimatum: either I could stop going off on assignment and be a real mom to her or I could leave and never come back. When I left Gabe, I thought that a man like him would marry again, give Chloe a real mom. I never expected him to be single for so long. I think he felt guilty as if he had been the one who had chased me away."
Clark gave her a look.
"It's not like I encouraged the notion," she said defensively. "I told him to forget about me. I've never asked for anything from Gabe. The only things I took with me were my clothes and the money I earned from my work. I've always been prompt about my support payments."
"You sound like you still love him."
The woman looked surprised. "I didn't leave him because he was a bad guy. I'm fond of him. I just couldn't be the woman he needed. She didn't turn out so bad without me. She's quite the journalist."
"How do you know? Did you keep track?"
She shrugged. "Gabe sent me clippings from time to time. Also, she's in the Inquisitor, isn't she? I happen to read that newspaper."
"She once told me she visited you but you wanted nothing to do with her."
"Because she kept hoping I would change, but I can't. I just don't feel the way she wants me to. Of all the people in the world, you should understand me best."
"What do you mean?"
"You have a job or a calling that overrides everything else in your life, right? It's the same for me. Even while Gabe and I were married, I would go halfway around the world doing shoots or traveling to some place nobody could pronounce. During one two-year period of our marriage, I was once gone half the year each year. And as for you, there must be something about flying in the distant skies and rescuing people that gives you something nothing else can give to you. I can't imagine you doing it just because it's the right thing to do. There must be a part of you that enjoys the drama and adulation and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from each rescue. A connection with people that's on your terms. As for me, that's what I get from my work. Mine's not as important as your work but it means a great deal to me. Now that you've talked to me, can you really say that my staying would have been a good thing? Why are you so concerned about my relationship with her, anyway?"
Andrea let out a breath.
"She's afraid that she'll be the same way with the baby as you were with her."
The woman sighed. "Is she a lot like me?"
"She looks like you. She writes and has the same drive as you to find out the truth. But the Chloe I know . . . I'm sure she would be a great mom if she just believed in herself."
The woman got up and poured them both a cup of coffee.
"It's delicious," said Clark.
"It's Kona coffee from Hawaii," she said simply. "I heard she's married to some reporter named Clark Kent. What kind of man is he?"
"He cares about her very much and wants to make her happy."
"Sounds like Gabe. That's good."
"Isn't there anything you'd like to say to her?"
The woman shook her head. "I do have something to say to Clark."
"When you fall in love, you should take into consideration the other person's abilities and their limits. Praying and hoping that they can change will only lead to heartbreak. Also, I want to wish them luck."
"I'll be sure to tell him."
"You're in love with her, too, aren't you?"
His eyes widened.
"That's good, too." For the first time during their conversation, she smiled a genuinely pleasant smile. "You should probably go, it's getting late."
"And the photo shoot?"
"You don't look that enthused over the idea. I'll let you go this time but if you save me again, then you owe me a session," she said with a perfectly straight face.
So, that's where she gets her sense of humor, he thought as he let out a little snort.
"Why did you keep Sullivan as a last name?"
"Practicality, really. My maiden name is close to unpronounceable and hard as hell to spell."
He wasn't sure he believed her.
"Damn, you're late," said Chloe as she opened her eyes as he opened the bedroom door. He had already taken off the suit and taken a quick shower.
"Sorry . . . I had coffee with one of the people I rescued today."
That fully woke her up and made her sit up in bed. "Wow, must've been quite a special rescue . . ."
"Want to talk about it?"
"It was your mom."
"What happened? Is she OK?"
"Did she . . ."
"She . . ." Then he paused. "She said that Gabe did a great job in raising you."
"Yeah, she also wanted to do a photo shoot with me, but she could tell I wasn't exactly eager so she said she'd let me pass this time."
"That sounds like something she might say." Chloe laughed with tears in her eyes.
"After talking with her, I spent some time thinking about what she said. If you don't have the baby, I'm not going to leave you. I want the baby but not if it means losing you. But you've got know that even though you and your mom have a lot in common, you're not the same. I wouldn't be here if you were."
"Clark, I don't know what to say."
"How about we sleep on it?"
She sighed, the nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Now get your butt in bed and stay there."
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