By Irene Dutch <email@example.com>
Submitted April 1999
Summary: In this charming sequel to the author's "Firestorm," we get a glimpse of Lee's early years, and begin to understand her distrust of Grandfather Clark.
In order to understand this short story, it is necessary to read my first work, 'Firestorm'. This is dedicated to all those kind FoLC's who asked for more about Lee and her early life.
All standard disclaimers apply. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I love you.
You love me.
We're a happy family.
With a great big hug,
And a kiss from me to you,
Won't you say you love me too?"
"Dad! What the heck are you two watching?" Astrid closed the front door behind her, and walked into the living room.
"Hi, sweetie. How was your day?" Dr. Klein kissed his daughter on the cheek.
"My day was just fine, but don't change the subject. What is that?"
"You should know. You used to love Barney."
"The operative words are 'used to'," she laughed. "Don't tell me those old shows are being rerun."
"Of course not. I dug out some of your old videos the other day. I thought Lee might like them."
The two adults turned in unison and surveyed the three-year-old sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the television. She was singing merrily, albeit tunelessly, along with Barney, blowing him kisses all the while. Dr. Klein and his daughter grinned at each other.
Astrid waited patiently for a few seconds while the credits rolled, and the song finished, and then she swooped down upon her daughter. Tossing her in the air, she asked, "How is my hippity-hoppity Bunny Rabbit today? How was nursery school?"
"Mommy, guess what? I'm going to be in a play!" Lee exclaimed.
"A play!" Astrid exclaimed in mock amazement. "What are you going to be? Should I guess?"
Lee nodded enthusiastically. She looked sternly at her grandfather. "Gramps, no telling."
Dr. Klein grinned as he drew a cross on his chest. "I won't tell, I promise. Cross my heart."
"Hmm, let me think. I bet it's Alice in Wonderland, and you're going to fall down the rabbit hole." Astrid said, seriously.
Lee fiercely shook her head.
"Okay, second guess. Um, I bet it's Peter Pan, and you're going to be Tinkerbell."
"No!" Lee shook her head again. She wriggled in excitement, still in her mother's arms.
"Okay, last guess. If I'm wrong, you're going to have to tell me. Hmm, I bet you're going to be in Sleeping Beauty, and you're the Princess."
"No!" Lee exclaimed triumphantly. "You lose, you couldn't guess!" she taunted. "I'm going to be a broccoli!"
"A broccoli!" Astrid exclaimed. She glanced at her father and quirked an eyebrow.
"They're studying healthy foods this month," he explained sotto voce.
"Mommy," Lee interrupted. "We can ask special people to come and see our play. Can I ask Nana and Papa? Please? And maybe, Uncle Jon too?"
"Of course you can, Bunny. We'll call them right after supper, okay?"
"Okay." Lee squirmed in her mother's arms. "Now, can I watch more Barney?"
Sure, Sweetie - if I hear the magic word."
"Pleeeaaase!" Lee wheedled.
Astrid hugged Lee quickly and put her down. "Off you go, Honey. Do you need Gramps or me to change the tape for you?"
"Nope, I'm a big girl now, Mommy. I can do it. Gramps showed me." Lee marched over to the VCR and carefully ejected one tape and inserted another.
Dr. Klein and Astrid started moving towards the kitchen.
Astrid grinned as she looked at her father. "My daughter, the broccoli! Who would have thought it?"
Dr. Klein laughed. "I watched the first rehearsal today. We're all in for a treat!"
"So, when is it being performed?"
"Three weeks from now, the afternoon of the sixteenth. I think the nursery school teachers are being overly optimistic with such a short time for rehearsals, but it's not my call." He chuckled. " Thank goodness, it's not my call."
"So, Dad, would you like to stay for supper tonight?" Astrid asked.
"Not tonight, Honey. I have some snacks - some healthy snacks - to get ready for tomorrow's session at school." Dr. Klein replied.
"Are you finding it too tiring helping at the nursery school two days a month?"
"No way," he laughed. "I have a ball with those kids. The teachers aren't quite sure what to do with me though. They're not used to having a grandfather help out. They have their fair share of grandmothers, but I'm the first grandfather who comes in to help."
"It's not as if you're not experienced. I always felt so special when I was Lee's age, and you helped in my nursery school."
Dr. Klein smiled. "I loved it when you were that age, just like I'm enjoying Lee now. Anyway," he briskly changed the subject. "I better get going if I want to stop at the store for groceries. I'll see you tomorrow, okay, Sweetie?"
"Sure, Dad. Can you let yourself out please? I'm going to start supper. Sam has been working awfully hard lately. I'd kind of like to have supper waiting for him when he gets home."
Astrid kissed her father on the cheek. He walked back into the living room.
"Lee, Sweetie, I'm going home now."
Lee threw her arms around Dr. Klein's neck.
"Bye, Gramps. Are you going to play with me again tomorrow?"
"I sure am, Sweetheart, and I'm going to help at your school again just like I did today."
"Yay! I like it when you help!"
"I know you do. I do, too." He put her down. "Off you go, watch the end of your movie, and then you can go into the kitchen and give your Mom a hand with supper."
"Okay, Gramps. I like being Mommy's helper. Maybe we can make broccoli! See you tomorrow." As per their regular routine, Lee blew him a kiss. He pretended to catch it and then blew her one back. She mimicked his catching motion and turned back to the TV.
As he put away his groceries, Dr. Klein reflected on the past few years. He had been delighted when Astrid became pregnant with Lee. He had eagerly anticipated Lee's birth, remembering her vividly from her trip to the past when she was a twenty-year-old.
It had been a shock to the system when his daughter had placed such a tiny bundle into his arms. Realistically, he had known that his twenty-year-old granddaughter that he remembered from twenty-five years before was actually going to return to his life in the form of a baby, but somehow, it had still been a surprise. It had taken him a few days to see his new granddaughter for herself, not overlaid with memories of what had been.
And when his daughter and son-in-law, without any prompting from him, had named her Lee, for Astrid's mother's maiden name, and for one of Sam's middle names, he had been thrilled. It had been, somehow, a vindication of all the pain he had gone through when his beloved Caroline had died in childbirth.
Astrid had wished to go back to work after only a few weeks off, and he had been quick to volunteer to baby-sit Lee every day. It made his retirement much more interesting.
It had been delightful to watch his tiny, perfect grandchild thrive and grow over the last few years. And she was developing so quickly intellectually also. She could already play a credible game of chess, actually beating him a couple of times. Sam and Astrid were a little worried that she might not fit in with her peers, hence the nursery school.
Their fears seemed quite groundless, however. She fit in very well at school.
He was relieved that so far, there were no signs of the hostility towards Clark that he remembered so vividly. He was always watching, hoping that he could somehow nip those angry feelings in the bud. Perhaps, he wondered, he was exaggerating those feelings in his memories. He certainly hoped so.
He sighed. All this woolgathering wasn't getting the snacks prepared for the nursery school. He got his storage containers out and got to work.
Over the next couple of weeks, Lee threw herself completely into her role as 'broccoli'. She practiced her one line over and over again. Dr. Klein reflected that she might lack confidence in her line, but he could say it in his sleep.
She was so excited. Every time she saw her Nana Lois and Papa Clark, and her Uncle Jon, she reminded them that her play was on the sixteenth. She made them all solemnly promise that they would be there.
The big day arrived. Astrid and Sam had arranged their schedules so that they both had the whole day off work. Working on his own, it was easy for her Uncle Jon to arrange his schedule so that he would be free. Lois and Clark had booked off four hours in the middle of the day - more than enough time to have lunch with their family, and then see a nursery school play. Dr Klein had enjoyed sleeping in that morning. He didn't do it very often, being so busy looking after Lee.
Lunch was fun. Of course, Lee had been completely distracted. She was so excited. She had just about driven all the adults crazy asking whether it was time to leave. Even so, the adults had enjoyed their conversation very much. Jon had been at the top of his form, keeping them all laughing. He was especially good at amusing his young niece.
It was amazing the difference between Sam and his twin. Sam was extremely conservative and serious. Jon did take his superhero responsibilities seriously, but it was the rest of his life that he treated in a frivolous fashion.
Dr. Klein had enjoyed Lois and Clark's company as always. He reflected ruefully, that it was possible he wasn't exactly the type of friend they would have chosen, but they were stuck with him now. And to be truthful, they were not exactly the type of friends he would have chosen either. They really didn't have a lot in common, and there was almost 15 years between them in age. But it had been rewarding being their friend. He hadn't chosen it, but he was very glad that it had happened. And of course, they had both been a wonderful help when Caroline had died, leaving him alone, his hands full, trying to cope with a newborn daughter.
Jimmy, too, had been a wonderful helper with Astrid. He had babysat, run errands, and otherwise made himself indispensable to Dr. Klein, and he was missed very much. For the umpteenth time, Dr. Klein wondered about Jimmy's disappearance three years before. He had the feeling that there was more involved than a simple vanishing act. But he had no way to check out his suspicions.
Finally, to Lee's relief, lunch was over, and it was time for her to dress in her special 'broccoli' costume. She looked adorable with her green top and leggings. Her face, too, was painted green. The crowning glory was a cap that one of the moms who helped at the school had made. It covered her auburn hair completely, and was topped with green, tissue paper wrapped wires, making her head look like a forest had sprouted on top of it.
Lee led her six special adults into the nursery school. She could barely contain herself, she was so excited. Astrid was about to take Lee backstage with her teachers when Dr. Klein interrupted.
"Honey, why don't you stay out here with Lois, Clark and Sam? I can take Lee to her teachers."
"Are you sure, Dad? I mean, you bring her here practically every day."
"Sure, Honey. And the teachers are used to me. It's okay, really."
Dr. Klein led Lee by the hand backstage.
"This is it, Sweetie. Let's hear that line of yours."
Lee grinned at him; her teeth flashing incongruously white in the midst of her green face. "Okay, Gramps. After the apple talks, I say 'Broccoli is green in hue. Broccoli is good for you."
"Very good, Honey." Dr. Klein couldn't help but smile. Lee's teachers were not exactly Pulitzer Prize winners but they sure tried hard. He continued, "I know you're going to do a great job, Lee. I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, Gramps. I better go with the other kids now, okay?'
"Okay, Honey. I'll be watching you."
Dr. Klein handed Lee over to her teachers and watched for a moment as she chattered excitedly with the other children. He finally left in order to rejoin the others.
The auditorium had filled up quite a bit since Dr. Klein had been backstage. He had to practically crawl over people in order to make his way to his seat.
The adults talked idly while they listened in amusement to the hustle and bustle coming from behind the curtain. The lights started to dim. Clark, Jon, and Sam's heads snapped up in perfect unison. Jon immediately got up and quickly left the room.
"Oh no, Honey. What is it?" Astrid whispered, as she placed her hand on his arm. Lois, too, was regarding Clark in concern.
Clark whispered to the group. "It sounds like a train derailment."
Astrid hissed, "Jon can handle it, can't he?"
Sam answered, "He can't handle it on his own. He's going to need some help."
Clark placed his hand on his son's arm. "I'll go. You have to stay. This is your daughter, after all."
He got up and started crawling over people, apologizing as he went. The curtains opened. The children were in their places. Dr. Klein watched Lee. Her face dropped as she watched her Papa Clark leave the auditorium.
The kids did well with the play. Miracle of miracles, no one forgot a line. But through it all, the only thing Dr. Klein was aware of was the stricken look on Lee's face.
He had a horrible feeling that he hadn't underestimated Lee's feelings at all.