By Meredith Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2004
Summary: Lois's thoughts as she gets her hair cut on the morning of her wedding. A Tank Haircut Challenge response.
Author's Note: You'll have to blame Tank for the original haircut challenge, and Wendy for putting the idea into my head. I'm inniocent! <g>
I've played fast and loose with the series continuity: Lois's major restyling took place early in S3, of course, not just before the wedding. What the heck, it makes a good (I hope) story.
Thanks to Missy and (Ban)Anna for speedy and helpful BRing! :)
Disclaimer: these are not my characters — I'm merely borrowing them for a little fun, and not for profit.
As soon as I walk into the room, all eyes are fixed on me. I'm starting to get used to the phenomenon, but it irritates me all the same. I'm used to respect — I demand it from those I work with, wring it out of them if I have to — but this fawning adulation is new and unwelcome, and the reason makes it even more so. Can't a woman get married without being fussed over by every female in sight? I feel like Bridal Barbie at a birthday party for a horde of lovesick teenagers.
The temperamental hairdressing artiste gives me a gracious smile. Normally she would never deign even to notice lowly Lois Lane, mere journalist, but she's been sucked into the Wedding Machine along with everyone else. She beckons imperiously, and a lesser minion scurries forward to escort me to a chair in front of a sink.
I steel myself to sit down and submit to being swathed in towels and protective gowns. I know some people thoroughly enjoy this stage, but I hate it. For one thing, I dislike someone doing a job for me that I can do perfectly well for myself. But more than that, it's the luxurious atmosphere. I'm used to earning every penny I spend, and the trappings of luxury give me a tense, itchy feeling, urging me to jump up and start investigating the funding behind them. But I'm learning to control those impulses. There are some things I'm just going to have to get used to.
The minion starts to lather shampoo into my hair, and I work on relaxing my tense neck muscles. The tension has been slowly building up all morning. My mother has been feeding it, flitting around and fussing over me. I know she's torn — on the one hand she really does want to make this a special day for me, but on the other she's honestly terrified that I'm making a mistake. It doesn't help that I'm marrying such a handsome, charming man, either; if Daddy had been less handsome and charming, he wouldn't have ended up in the string of affairs that destroyed her marriage. At least, that's what she says. I'm not sure what it would take to satisfy her that my marriage isn't about to go the same way… sometimes I think she'd have reacted just the same even if I'd announced I was marrying Superman.
Of course, it would be easier to ignore Mother if I weren't such a mass of nerves myself. I'm sure I'm doing the right thing, and yet… Marriage. A life sentence. I've lived entirely to suit myself for so long — am I going to be able to handle the responsibilities, the give and take, the intimacy that marriage will bring? Is it easy to go from decorative girlfriend to faithful wife and loyal supporter? Or from romantic boyfriend to ardent husband and dependable provider, for that matter? I fear not…
The washing and conditioning are over, and I can relax at last. I'm escorted to a comfortable chair in front of a mirror, with a change of towels, and offered a cup of coffee, which I decline. I don't want to be here long enough to drink it. During the short wait for Madame, I carefully avoid meeting the eyes of my mirror image; I don't want to see how pale and nervous I look.
But when Madame arrives to ask how I want my hair cut, I seem to do a convincing imitation of a woman who knows her own mind. At first she seems shocked that I want such a drastic change, but then she smiles at me knowingly. "A more feminine look, to please your husband," she says in satisfied tones.
Is that really why I'm doing this? It's true that my pageboy style is professional rather than sexy, though I can and do put it up elegantly for dates and formal occasions. What will my husband — that scary word again — think of it? He likes to run his fingers through its length when we're together, and when I have it up, his eyes linger on it that little bit longer as he compliments me on my appearance. No, I think if anything, he'd prefer it longer. He appreciates elegance.
Madame has finished checking her tools and combing my hair out. She turns away to pick up her scissors, and all at once my heart is hammering in my throat. "Just a minute, please," I say breathlessly, and she halts.
It's not too late. I can still stand up and walk, no, run for my life. I don't have to go through with this haircut. I don't even have to go through with the wedding. I can run away… and leave him to sort out the aftermath, the curious, disappointed or avidly gossiping guests, the return of the wedding presents? No. I can't do that.
But I'm not going to the altar as boring old professional Lois, either. Marriage is inevitably going to change me, and the first thing that will change is my hairstyle. And according to my own dictates, not my husband's.
I settle back into the chair. "Carry on," I say airily, summoning a sunny smile.
And the smile isn't even faked. A huge load has been lifted from my mind. I really do fear marriage, I realise with a sense of shock — and yet, why should I be shocked? Every role model I've ever had screams at me that marriage is a disaster — Mother and Daddy's endless bitter arguments and acrimonious divorce, Lucy's disastrous two-week marriage that started in Vegas and ended in the Casualty department, Perry's long nights at the Planet and Alice's even longer, lonely nights at home.
None of them can have known what they were letting themselves in for when they set out. Mother must have trusted handsome, loving Daddy to be faithful to her till death them did part. Perry and Alice couldn't have guessed that the Planet would become a silent but all-consuming third partner in their relationship. And Lucy certainly never imagined that Brad's attractive wild streak would translate into beating his wife after a couple of beers.
But there I have to choke back a laugh at the comparison. I know my gentle fiance far too well to believe him capable of physical violence towards me. And if any proof were needed, the respectful way he's honoured my decision to delay our final physical intimacy till after the wedding must surely be enough. He is a very patient man.
Still, it's not surprising that this fear has been eating away at me. I want to believe that we will be different, that our good intentions will be enough; but it's clear that it takes more than good intentions to make a marriage grow and last.
But I think I've realised something fundamental today. In marriage, as in journalism, I don't have to sit and take what life hands me. I can influence what happens by my actions, by the choices I make. And the choice I've made today is to be my own person, married or not, instead of submitting unthinkingly to my husband's preferences.
Because that's what I fear the most — that I'll lose my identity in this marriage. That I'll be so caught up in being a wife, and later perhaps a mother, that I'll have no time left over for the things that really matter to me — my work, my friends, my self.
So the decision I've made today is an important one. It's not just a haircut, it's my future. I will maintain my selfhood within this marriage. I will make time for my work and my friends, as well as caring for my husband to the best of my ability. And my husband would be the first to support my decision. I'm quite sure of that.
All this wisdom from a simple haircut? I giggle suddenly, and feel Madame flinch in surprise. I'm probably not awarding her ministrations the proper degree of gravity and humility. I want to giggle again, this time at her, but I refrain; it's not her fault I decided to restyle myself on the morning of my wedding.
She's nearly finished, anyway. I close my eyes while she gives my new fringe that artfully wispy look that hairdressers adore, and try to focus my mind on what the rest of today holds for me. But it's not an image of the white dress and veil that grows before my mind's eye, nor the ceremony in front of the arrayed guests, nor the wedding night and the pampered honeymoon.
No, what I see is the part of my life that I always valued the most: the Planet newsroom, my familiar colleagues around me, my few good friends. And above all, Clark. Clark working beside me, laughing with me, bringing me coffee; Clark challenging my views in private and defending them in public, always supportive, always challenging me to do just that little bit better than my best.
I have a lump in my throat, but there's no time to dwell on the picture — Madame is calling on me to approve her handiwork. I open my eyes slowly and look for the first time into the mirror, half excited, half dreading what I'm going to see.
The woman in the mirror doesn't look like me at all. The smooth curtain of hair is gone, replaced by soft, feathery wisps that cluster about her head and leave her long neck bare. The style accentuates her eyes, lending her an air of elfin mystery. I try a smile, and my image smiles coolly back. I turn my head, and she averts her face, glancing challengingly back at me. The lightness of my head, the absence of the heavy swing that I'm accustomed to, finally convince me: the fey, elusive creature in the mirror really is me.
Madame is hovering, holding a mirror to show me the back of my head, waiting for the verdict. I meet her eyes in the mirror and nod, a grin tugging at my mouth. The new Lois — whoever she is — has been born.
He's dead. I can hardly believe it — just like that, he's gone. I saw him with my own eyes, jumping from the parapet way up above us and plunging down, getting closer and closer. He didn't scream on the way down. I could see his expression at the last second — a kind of grim triumph. I don't think he spotted me in the crowd.
That's the last thing I saw before I turned and buried my face in Clark's beloved shoulder. Clark's somehow always there when I need him. I could still hear, though, when Lex -
They hustled me into a cab then, Clark and Perry, and brought me home. I clung to Clark all the way; I haven't let him go yet. I can't bear the thought of him leaving me alone.
I wouldn't let them fetch my mother. I don't want her fussing over me and telling me she knew how it would be. Nobody could have known how it would be… Perry fussed enough, offering me tea and coffee and hot milk until I could have screamed. Clark just sat beside me, with his arms around me, lending me his quiet strength. At last Alice arrived and removed Perry forcibly, earning my eternal gratitude. She would have ejected Clark, too, if I'd let her. I think she thought I'd prefer a woman with me, but all I want — all I need — is Clark.
When the Whites had gone, I finally broke down and cried. Cried as if my heart was breaking, as if I'd never be able to stop. Cried for my lost dreams of a happy marriage, for my shattered illusions about Lex. Cried for Lex, for the man I thought he was, and for whatever dark forces in his past turned him into the corrupt man he really was. I don't even know what he was, now; I guess we'll find out as time, and the wheels of the police investigation, roll on.
Clark just held me and whispered sweet nothings, words of love and comfort, into my ear. With him as my anchor, I could let go of my carefully controlled image in a way I've never done before. Let go of the crazy, mixed-up feelings I had about Lex and about the ghastly mistake I so nearly made. Let go of my rational self completely. I even sobbed out, at one point, that I'd killed Lex by having my hair cut this morning — and Clark brushed his lips across my hair before telling me it looked so good, it would give any sane man enough to live for. The nonsense comforted me in a way that a logical answer could never have done.
The thing is, I know my heart isn't broken. It isn't even bruised, though my pride is in tatters. The new Lois who was born this morning was wise enough to realise that Clark meant far more to her than Lex ever could, and strong enough to say "I can't" instead of "I do" at the altar.
So here I sit, cradled in the arms of my partner and best friend, who I've just realised is also my love. The tears are over — at least for now — but they've robbed me of the strength to tell Clark just how much he means to me. He probably thinks I'm asleep, and I probably will be, shortly. I imagine he'll put me to bed once he's tired of sitting here with me. I wonder if he'll take the wedding dress off…
Will I grow my hair out again? It's hard to know. The pageboy looked more serious and professional, and I'm going to need all the professionalism I can muster over the next few months. But I can't help noticing the way Clark's fingers are playing with the tendrils at the nape of my neck, doing things to my insides that none of Lex's caresses ever did. I wish I had the energy to raise my face to Clark's and kiss him… It would probably only drive him away, though. He wouldn't take advantage of me after we were sprayed by that Miranda woman; he'd feel exactly the same way about the fact that I've just lost my "beloved" fiance.
I wonder if the new Lois will be brave enough to tell Clark just how mistaken she was to think she could love Lex, and how much she regrets rejecting Clark, that day in the park? I hope so…
Copyright 2004, Meredith Knight