By Pam Jernigan <email@example.com>
Submitted August 2016
Summary: Lois has officially disappeared, and Clark is officially homeless… but Lyn and Joe have finally found a way to be together. They face the acid test: will any of her former colleagues see through Lyn’s disguise?
Story Size: 3,583 words (19Kb as text)
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Author’s note: This is the sixth and final part of the “My Interview” series, which are in order: “My Interview with Superman,” “My Date with Lyn,” “My Televison Debut,” “My Big Goodbye” and “Our Little Dilemma.” Originally posted on the message boards in 2010. Yeah, I’m a little slow sometimes.
It’s not easy to look interested and act polite. To dutifully fulfill the responsibilities of my old life when I desperately want to be immersed in the new one. It’s a good cause and I don’t mind fundraising for it — in theory — but right now I just want to be home. I sneak a super fast look at the clock on the rear wall of the auditorium — another hour before I can decently leave.
Unless some disaster happens, of course. But no matter how bored I am, I just can’t wish for something awful to happen. Anyway, that would only keep me away from Lyn longer. I can’t help smiling at the thought of her; I hope I don’t look too goofy. I figure I’m entitled, though. The woman I love has agreed to marry me (not that I really had any doubts about that part), and now, finally, I can see how we’re going to be able to pull this off. To be together, and have a private life.
There are still some practical problems. For one thing, money. It would help if either one of us had a paying job. I quit the Planet — not like I was doing much good work there, anyway, and it made it too easy for people to spy on me. The Drozny Report has the potential to make money, but it’s not there yet. We’re still focused on building up traffic so we can get advertisers to pay good rates. We both had some money saved up. Lyn cleared out her Lois Lane bank account when she dropped the name. I’ll do the same for the Clark Kent account, although that balance dropped quite a bit when I used most of it to buy a modest engagement ring for Lyn.
The remainder of the funds, though, will be deposited into Lyn’s new account. We need to get my new name on that account; maybe Monday we’ll have time to visit the bank. A joint account for Lyn Drozny and Joe Spencer sounds wonderful to me.
Before that, though, we need to hunt up a justice of the peace or something… I’m getting tired of sleeping on the sofa.
Still… my smile fades a bit; I wish I could offer her something fancier than a courthouse wedding. But the Lane family doesn’t know Lyn Drozny, and they do know Clark Kent, so having them there would pretty much ruin the whole “secret” part of our secret life. Neither one of us is willing to lose that.
A round of applause alerts me that the speech is finished. I join in, politely, having very little idea what the speaker had been talking about. Something about literacy, I presume, since that’s the charity being promoted. I force myself to pay attention now. With the conclusion of the speeches, it’s time to mingle. There’s a buffet and a wine bar, but they’re only incidental attractions. One of the reasons these people paid money to be here is because they wanted the opportunity to chat with me.
This part of my life still seems bizarre. To me, I’m just a farmboy from Kansas. But Superman is larger than life, and people want to say hi, shake my hand, maybe get a picture taken. It used to make me uncomfortable, but Lyn told me that this is just another way I can use my abilities to help. Less dramatic than rescues, true, but important all the same. Charities like this can do things I can’t. I can save kids from gang fights; learning to read can save them from gangs altogether. If talking to me is going to make people more likely to donate money to the cause, then let them talk.
I don’t know how many people I talk to — they all blur together. I’m talking to an older man when my hearing catches something. Something familiar. Something that’s not supposed to be here.
I glance around casually, still listening to the story about the guy’s grandson. Over there, in the corner, I catch a glimpse of bright electric blue. It’s a dress… sleeveless… the woman is facing away from me, giving me a great view of the back of her neck. Her pale skin almost glows, between the blue of the dress and the bright coppery red curls cut close to her head.
Where did she get that dress? No, wait, what I really want to know is, why is she here? She shifts position and I catch a glimpse of her face and her new fashionable glasses. Not that I needed the confirmation. I’d know her heartbeat anywhere.
I can’t decide whether to be glad to see her, or terrified that she’s here. Maybe both. There are any number of people in this room who know Lois Lane. And if any of them recognize her… everything we’ve worked for is lost.
I’m still surrounded by potential donors; I can’t just give them the brush-off. Hello, ma’am, good to meet you, isn’t it a lovely night, literacy is great, and if you’d like to join me in rescuing kids, write a check and give it to that lady right over there, thanks. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lyn has been slowly working her way across the room towards me. I don’t even want to know how she got in here tonight. I’m constantly aware of her, but I don’t dare listen in on her conversations. The loose crowd around me is dwindling. If she heads for the restrooms or anywhere else that’s semi-private, I might have to go join her, just long enough to ask what she thinks she’s doing.
Although I know what she’ll say. We’ve had this conversation before. If we’re going to stay near Metropolis, and if “Lyn Drozny” is going to cover any local events at all, at some point, she’ll run into her/our former colleagues. She already has, actually, and the disguise held up just fine, although Ralph Finkelstein is not the sharpest knife in the drawer at the best of times so I don’t really think that proves anything.
In theory, I agree with her. Sooner or later, we’ll need to test this. I’d just prefer if it were later. We haven’t even gotten married yet, and I was looking forward to a few quiet honeymoon weeks. After the trauma of losing my apartment, is that too much to ask?
Apparently, it is.
The crowd has faded away, leaving me facing a familiar person. I smile at him. “Perry! It’s good to see you.”
He steps up and shakes my hand. “Likewise, Clark, likewise. Good turnout tonight, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I think so.” It’s a relief to talk to someone who doesn’t see me as some sort of demigod, but also nerve-wracking since he’s the most likely person to see through Lyn. I hope she steers clear a little while longer. “I hope they make their target. So, how are things in the Mayor’s office?”
He smiles. “Could be worse. How are you?”
The question doesn’t sound entirely casual. “I’m fine.”
“Ah, good. I was worried after, you know, that bombing the other day.”
The one that burned out my old apartment, I assume. I have to tread carefully here. Officially, I’m devastated. I let my smile fade. “Yeah. Well, at least no one was hurt.”
“But you, Clark — you lost all your things. I know you said you didn’t want to be a threat to your neighbors but you shouldn’t have to be homeless. Well, the city should have done a better job looking out for you, and I intend to change some things. Give us a few weeks, and you should be able to move into a new place, with top-notch security to keep an eye on things.”
I smile, a little. The last thing I want is more watchful eyes on me. “Thanks, Perry, but I couldn’t accept.”
“Are you sure? You know, the whole thing has made me think; we’ve been taking advantage of your good nature.”
That’s unexpected. “What do you mean?”
“You do so much for Metropolis, and what do you get in return? Not only didn’t we protect your place from fire-bombing, we didn’t even protect your privacy from tabloids. I should have done something about that a long time ago, Clark.”
“It’s not necessary…” It’s hard to know how to respond to that, because he’s right, but in the end it’s worked out so much better than that. Maybe a version of the truth will do. “I have found more privacy this way. There’s no need to spend city funds.”
“Yeah, and the city council wouldn’t have gone along with it before, I’m afraid, but now…” He grins at me. “Now they’re all afraid that you’ll up and move somewhere else. So I figure we can finally get some compensation for you.”
“Perry, I wouldn’t abandon Metropolis.” Not exactly, anyway. Lyn and I have a place just across Hob’s Bay, which is technically in another state, but it’s still close. “Really, it’s better if nobody knows where I live.”
He looks at me appraisingly. Did I give something away? “I’ve heard rumors of a hideout or fortress or something, somewhere in the Arctic.”
Rumors started by Lyn. I smile. “I can neither confirm nor deny that.”
He shrugs, grinning slightly. “Understood. Can’t say as I blame you. Still, we owe you something.”
He overrides my objection. “You’re practically an employee of the city, son. You deserve some compensation for your time and services. And now that people are nervous about you leaving, I’m sure I can get them to pony up something decent.”
A woman’s voice breaks in. “Excellent idea,” she says in a charming Russian accent. “Good evening, Superman, Mr. White. I am sorry to intrude, but I’ve long thought that some sort of recompense would be only appropriate.”
I close my eyes briefly to fortify myself, and then look in her direction. For some reason I can’t explain, the brilliant blue works really well with her red hair. I admit, with the hair, the outfit, and the fashionable glasses, she doesn’t look much like she used to. Still beautiful, but in a very different way.
Perry gazes at her, raising one eyebrow. “Do I know you, Miss?”
She gives him a brilliant smile. “My apologies. I’ve read all about you, so I feel as if I know you, but I suppose we haven’t actually met.”
He glances at me, then back at her. Time seems to stretch as he tries to place her. His heart rate stays even. I hold my breath. “And you are?”
She extends a graceful hand for a handshake. “Lyn Drozny.”
He shakes her hand, displaying only mild surprise as he matches her face to her name. “It’s a pleasure. Ms. Drozny, you did a good job with that interview last year.”
She smiles graciously. “A very nice compliment, coming from the great Planet editor. Thank you. I had a very good teacher, early in my career. And the pleasure is mine.”
“Superman,” she turns in my direction. “It is good to see you.” She switches to Russian to add, quickly, “See, he didn’t recognize me.”
It’s a good thing I’m used to controlling myself when I’m in the suit, or I might give in to the need to kiss her. I nod, replying quietly in the same language. “Not yet, anyway. Can we get out of here before he does?”
“In a minute.” Switching back to English, she adds, “I do hope you intend to take Mr. White up on his offer.”
I’d almost forgotten it. “I don’t think I could.”
“Nonsense,” Perry says, looking approvingly at his new ally, Lyn. “We owe you.”
I fold my arms over my chest. The whole idea makes me uncomfortable, though neither of them seem to care. “I don’t do this for money.”
“Of course not,” Lyn says soothingly. “That’s obvious to all, after these last few years. And yet, you must have some expenses — even if you no longer pay rent.”
And especially if I do. I meet her eyes, realizing where she’s going with this. “Well, I suppose… but I don’t have a bank account. So I don’t think it would work.”
Perry waves a hand dismissively. “We can manage something…”
“May I make a suggestion?” Lyn asks.
“By all means, Ms. Drozny.”
“Well, if the question is getting money to Superman by check, perhaps I can help. Are you familiar with my website, Mr. White?”
Perry shakes his head. “Not really.”
“I call it the Drozny Report; I aggregate news stories and do original reporting as well. Superman is one of my regular sources.”
He nods. “Oh, yes, I’ve heard something about it. It’s an interesting idea. James Olsen was talking about putting the Daily Planet online, as well. Says the Internet is the wave of the future — but of course he made his fortune in computers, so he’s predisposed to like things like that.”
“I think he’s correct. More and more people are online every year, so we must be ready—” She stops there but I can tell it’s an effort. She takes a breath and smiles. “Forgive me, I get carried away. But to get back to the point… I’d just like to make the suggestion that checks for Superman be sent to him by way of me. I can deposit them in my business account, and then pass the cash to Superman. Or hold it for him, if he prefers,” she adds, no doubt to forestall the objection she knew I’d want to make.
I make it anyway. “I don’t need much cash — and I can’t very well store it in my mattress if I haven’t got a mattress.”
She frowns thoughtfully. “What if I set up a savings account, and give you an ATM card that you can carry, Superman?”
“That sounds like it would work,” Perry says, sounding enthusiastic. “No paper trail with your name attached, yet you’d have full access.” He pauses, briefly. “Assuming you trust Ms. Drozny, that is.”
I can’t help smiling a little at that. “With my life. And certainly with my money.” The full measure of her sneakiness is still dawning on me. A steady source of income would be very useful, since her website isn’t yet popular enough to pull in large ad revenues. She deposits the money. I can make withdrawals from anywhere in the country. Then we use the cash to buy groceries, or pay our rent with it, or whatever we need.
Perry’s eyebrows climb at that response, but he doesn’t comment. “Well, all right then. I’ll get working on the City Council Monday morning.”
Lyn hands him one of her business cards. “Feel free to call at any time, Mr. Mayor.” After one startled moment I realize she’s carrying a small clutch purse in her left hand. It must have been hidden by her side before.
It occurs to me that Perry might be thinking things are more personal between me and Lyn than we want people to know. Need to nip that in the bud. I point to her left hand. “Is that what it looks like, Ms. Drozny?”
She looks down, and displays her engagement ring with a wide smile. “My boyfriend Joe proposed to me. We’ll be getting married soon.”
I grin. “So, he finally worked up his nerve, did he?”
She grins back. “He’d been waiting for the perfect moment.”
Perry looks pleased, in a polite sort of way. “Congratulations! So, if you don’t mind me asking, Ms. Drozny, when’s the wedding?”
She looks at Perry and says, “We’re not doing anything fancy. In fact, we were thinking of grabbing a flight to Las Vegas tonight and just going for it.”
We were? I wasn’t, but it sounds like a fantastic idea. And she can grab me anytime she likes.
Perry chuckles. “Sounds good. Alice and I should have done the same, only we couldn’t have afforded the airfare.”
Lois smiles demurely. “Well, Joe just came into some money, so we figured, why not?”
I manage not to laugh at that. “He did? I didn’t know that. Is this a recent acquisition?”
She nods, her eyes dancing. “Quite recent, and unexpected. But very welcome, I assure you.”
“Well, congratulations again.”
“Thank you, Superman.”
“Just don’t lose it all at the casinos,” Perry advises her.
“Oh, don’t worry. Joe and I don’t gamble.”
Yeah, not with money, anyway. But I have to admit, Lyn has won big-time tonight.
I take a deep breath, and then regret it, because it almost makes me dizzy. I hope I’m not showing how frazzled my nerves are. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Mr. Mayor,” I say politely. “But I must be going.”
He nods to me, smiling in an absent way, his attention already on the crowd. “Good night.”
I turn towards Clark, standing there in his Superman suit. God, I’ll never get tired of seeing that. “Have a good evening,” I say, managing (I hope) to sound friendly but a little bit distant.
He smiles at me, and says softly, in Russian, “You are the best. See you outside?”
I nod graciously, as if he’d given me some kind of traditional farewell. “Absolutely. The sooner the better.”
Although I’d like to dash for the door, it would look odd in this evening gown. So I hold myself to a sedate pace, greeting a few people as I pass. My heart rate is starting to slow as it sinks in that I don’t have to be terrified anymore. If I can convince Perry that I’m Lyn Drozny, independent reporter lately of Bulgaria, then I’m pretty much set. None of the current crop of reporters knew Lois Lane better than he did. I try to breathe slowly, willing my stomach to relax. It helps that Perry mostly knew me before I left Metropolis; I’ve changed since then.
I have a theory that you don’t really see a person once you’ve gotten a first impression. Your eyes match up a few key points — body type, hair color, face shape — just enough to trigger recognition, and then your brain goes ahead and paints in the details from memory. It’s why you can overlook it when someone gets braces, until eventually you notice, and wonder how long that’s been going on. Especially if it’s someone you don’t interact with much. You see what you expect to see.
So, I painted a new picture of myself for Perry tonight, and as far as I can tell, he bought it. It helps that he was focused on the idea of compensation for Superman. I don’t expect I’ll see him all that often, but when I do, he’ll recognize me as Lyn. Not Lois.
I exit the building and start down the wide marble staircase towards the street. It’s getting dark, and just a bit cool on my bare arms. And then Joe is next to me, wearing casual street clothes, his arm around my shoulders. When we get to the bottom of the steps I turn and complete the hug. “I can’t believe you did that,” he says, and I laugh, the last of the tension leaving me as I hear the happy note in his voice.
“I know, I know, but I had to. Sorry to scare you, but it didn’t occur to me til about an hour ago that tonight was the perfect time to make a new first impression. You think he bought it?”
“I think so; I was monitoring his vitals.”
I beam up at him. “My very own lie detector.”
He rolls his eyes a little at the teasing, dismissing the topic. “You’re brilliant, and I love you.” He bends slightly to kiss me, and I lose myself in his arms.
I’ve never had this incredible feeling of rightness, of completion, with anyone else, and tonight the kiss is also brimming with anticipation. That’s the only reason I eventually pull back — well, that plus a distant awareness that we’re on a city sidewalk and ought to behave in public. “I love you, too,” I whisper, leaning my forehead against his as we try to get our breath back.
“So… Vegas, huh?” He’s grinning wickedly.
“Yeah. Seemed like a good idea.”
“Oh, I agree.” He kisses me again, but quickly and lightly this time. I don’t mind. We can make up for it later.
We disengage enough to start walking down the street, hand in hand, looking for the nearest dark alley. I feel happy enough to float unassisted. The last hurdle has been cleared. Now, I’m finally confident enough to go ahead and get married, and concentrate on our new life. Together. Our happy ending.