“Alone” [Rated PG]
Clara was taking her time getting to school. She was running out of things to day dream about while the teachers rattled on and on about things she already knew. She somehow wondered how she would make it through the day if she didn’t have her visits with Lex to look forward to. At least he didn’t treat her like a child … like her teachers did. She felt as if her life was on hold. It was frustrating to her because she knew she had better things to be doing instead of being held captive in a classroom.
Her thoughts were interrupted by something that sounded like a gunshot. Her head jerked in the direction of the sound and she began searching out the source. She saw a school bus full of elementary school children. It was on
The bus turned parallel to the stream and tipped over. The current caught it and it began floating downstream on its side. Clara splashed into the river and swam up to the bus. She pushed it to the shore and tipped it back up on its wheels. Many of the bus’s windows were missing and the emergency door was wide open. Clara counted the children inside the bus and compared it to the head count she had taken on her way to help before the bus went off the road. Four children were missing. She raced down the river bank looking for the children that had been carried away by the current. She pulled three of them from the river and returned them to the bus. She found the fourth, a little girl, tangled in a branch underneath the water. The girl wasn’t breathing. She freed the girl and resuscitated her as she ran her back to the bus. She closed the doors and propped them shut so none of the children would wander off before the bus driver regained consciousness.
Clara ran home and called the Sheriff’s office to report the accident. Martha looked at what remained of Clara’s outfit and said, “What happened to you this time?”
Clara said, “There was a bus accident. DARN IT! Why can’t accidents happen at more convenient times! Now I’m late for school. It’s my third time this month! I’ve got to go! Clara raced out of the house … then she ran back in and went upstairs. Five seconds later, she came back downstairs in different clothes and left again. Then she raced back inside. Martha felt a kiss on her cheek and heard the refrigerator door open and close but saw no one as Clara came and left.
Clara sat outside the principal’s office. This was becoming an all too familiar experience for her. She would stop to help someone then fail a test by missing class … or she would leave school without permission and return without an explanation. Then she would be lectured about punctuality and responsibility by the principal. She would always have to apologize for being tardy and promise to try to be a more responsible person in the future.
The principal came to the door and motioned for Clara to come into his office. Clara sat down and listened to him without making eye contact. He said, “Clara, what IS your problem? You seem to understand the course work and you do well on tests … if you show up to take them. But you don’t participate in class and you don’t pay attention to your teachers. I have boxes full of notebooks that teachers have confiscated from you for scribbling in them instead of focusing on the teacher’s lesson – notebooks filled with sketches, equations, schematics and hieroglyphics. I’ve gotten reports that you are even ignoring the assignments entirely and turning in work no one asked you to do. You are late to school on a regular basis. You make no attempt to get along with your classmates. I hear that you sleep with any guy in a football uniform. If that is true, you’ve got a serious problem. If it’s not true, then you are alienating enough of your classmates to make them paint a target on you and keep the nasty rumors circulating. We’ve talked again and again but the situation doesn’t ever change for the better … and, frankly, I don’t like wasting my time. You know, your Mother is one classy lady but, for some unknown reason, you couldn’t dress worse if you came to school wearing a burlap sack. How do you expect anyone to respect you if you don’t respect yourself? Personally, I can’t decide whether you have no pride at all or if you think you are better than everyone else in the human race. You act like Smallville High is the last place on Earth that you want to be. What was SO damned important that you couldn’t get to school this time? A cat up a tree? A little old lady needing help across the street? Were you off trying to end world hunger or doing something else to save the world? Enlighten me!”
Clara said, “I saw a bus go off the road and I needed to go back home and report it.”
The principal said, “Buses have radios, Clara. It’s the bus driver’s job to take care of his bus and your job to be here on time. No one appreciates you trying to do someone else’s job for them. It’s just a flimsy excuse to not be here where you belong. Say something HONEST to me for a change! Don’t pretend you’re sorry only to be late again tomorrow for little or no reason. Admit it. You just don’t want to be here, DO YOU?!”
Clara’s head snapped up and, for the first time, she looked the principal straight in the eye. She said, “NO, I DON’T!”
The principal looked at her for a few seconds then sat down and pulled a form from his file drawer. He totally ignored Clara and filled out the form. Then he looked up and handed it to Clara saying, “This should make you happy. You won’t need to come back here for two weeks. You’re suspended. Take that form to the front desk.”
Clara stormed out of the principal’s office. She handed the form to a woman at the front desk. As she stood there, the woman picked up the phone and dialed it. While giving Clara a nasty stare, she said, “Yes. Mrs. Kent? This is the office of the Smallville High School. It is my job to call you to let you know that your daughter Clara has been suspended ….” Clara lowered her head and walked briskly out of the office and out of the building. She didn’t know what to do or where to go. She just kept walking faster and faster. She muttered to herself, “I’m such an idiot! No good deed goes unpunished. I’ve known that since Mrs. Lang spanked me when I was seven years old and I STILL can’t mind my own damned business! Now I’m going to get a terrible report card and I’ll never, ever be able to get into a decent college! I try to help other people … WHO EVER EVEN TRIES TO HELP ME!” Clara lowered her head more and started to run. She didn’t stop until she was at LaSalle State Park. She began walking aimlessly through the woods. Eventually she came to a small clearing surrounding a deep crater filled with small, strangely mutated plants. She walked up to the edge of the crater and went to kick a stone into it. Her knees buckled and she fell onto the sharply sloping ground and rolled to the bottom. She tried to get up, but she felt sick and dizzy. She realized that a large meteor rock must have made the crater. She tried to crawl away, but collapsed from the pain.
Clara realized that no one knew where she was and that she was too deep into the woods for it to be likely that anyone would find her anytime soon. She had never imagined how she would die. She even had some reason to believe that she might be immortal. Now she cursed herself for her own stupidity. She couldn’t imagine a more stupid way for her life to end. She was scared that her body would never be found and that her parents and Lex would never know what had happened to her. Would they watch and wait for years hoping that she would return? She tried to remember the last words she said to Lex and her Mother and Father, but she couldn’t concentrate. She hoped that she hadn’t been impatient or nasty on the last moment she spent with them. She hoped that they knew how much she loved them. She always told her parents how much they meant to her … but tried to never give Lex the slightest clue how desperately she cared for him.
Clara hated dying alone, but decided that she had always been alone. No one on Earth was like her. No one could help her do what was expected of her. It would never be possible for anyone to understand how lonely she was. She thought that maybe this was a way for the universe to correct a mistake. She had never belonged on Earth. Her place was with her people. Now it was time for her to rejoin them. She hoped her soul could find the place where the other Kryptonians had gone so that she wouldn’t be as lonely in death as she had been in life. She managed to look down at her hand. It was pale green. She felt her breathing grow shallow. Her heart beat slowed. She smiled for no reason and closed her eyes. Her body went limp.
Clara opened her eyes and saw someone who looked like enough like herself to make her think that someone had swapped bodies with her again … or that Tina Greer had returned. But something wasn’t right. The other Clara’s hair was different … and the way she smiled … it seemed so familiar but from a long time ago. She turned her head and there was a man sitting there as well. He had more of a knowing smirk on his face. Clara cried out, “Father! Mother! You’re alive!”
Jor-El said, “No, we’re not.”
Clara said, “Then I’m dead?”
Jor-El answered, “Not yet.”
Clara asked, “Why are you here?
Jor-El said, “We’re always here. You are very important to us, Kayla. No matter what you think, you are never alone.”
Clara asked, “Even when I’m in the shower?”
Jor-El said, “You have nothing to be ashamed about in that regard. You are a fine specimen even by Kryptonian standards. How do you say it? A real “hottie.” Besides, if you can put on a show for that boy, Ryan, you shouldn’t mind allowing the ones who contributed some DNA to make you to admire the fruits of their labor.”
Clara said, “I didn’t know he was watching me!”
Jor-El said, “Maybe it’s time you grew out of your little phobia and started shutting the bath room door.”
Clara said, “Well considering I’m about to die, it’s a little late for you to be coming back into my life and start where you left off – telling me every move to make and when to make it.”
Jor-El said, “Do as you please. The time for me to impart discipline is long since past. We are only here to give you strength when you need it.”
Clara said, “Yeah, right! You NEVER let me decide anything. I was your little marionette. I always thought you loved me until I met Jonathan Kent. I was just a slave to you, but I am his daughter. He loves me. You never did!”
Jor-El said, “Oh, how I envy that man! It is bittersweet to be a man and have a daughter on Krypton. All you want to do is love her and make her happy … anything to hear the magical ripple of her laughter. But raising a daughter without stern discipline would lead to ruin. Kryptonian women have a fierce nature that must be tamed early or no good can come of their lives. Fathers who failed in their duties had to watch their daughters get banished to an island of warring women who fought endlessly for dominance … and for the love of causing misery to others. I had to be a man of steel … a dictator … and unquestioned authority. I had to make you obey me in all things whether my judgment was sound or not … or else you would have been lost. Now my harsh, critical voice is part of you, my darling Kayla, and will guide and protect you from your worst enemy – your own animal nature. My work was done by the time we all got on that spaceship together. I had looked forward to being the Father I always wanted to be once we arrived at our new home. Jonathan Kent got to be the Father that I was never free to be.”
Clara said, “I always wanted to someday become someone that you could love and be proud of.”
Jor-El said, “I loved you from the instant you were conceived … and still do and always will. And there are no words adequate in any language we know to convey how proud I am of you.”
Clara asked, “Will we always be together now?”
Jor-El said, “Yes, just as we always have been.”
Clara asked, “Can I touch you?”
Jor-El said, “Sadly, no. Hold Jonathan Kent and think of me.”
Clara said, “I can’t hold him. I’m as good as dead.”
Jor-El said, “I have never known you to give up so easily.”
Clara said, “I can’t do anything about it! I’m too weak to move. I’m all alone here. Like always, there’s no one around to help me when I really need it.”
Jor-El said, “Self-pity too? Alura, this IS our daughter isn’t it? I guess everyone falls into the trap of self-pity once in a while. It’s amazing that, despite the great eyesight you have on this world, how little you see and appreciate it when people help you. Maybe you’ll see things clearer when you are back home with the Kents … or when you are looking into your mate’s eyes again.”
Clara said, “I don’t have a mate! And there’s no way I’m getting out of this situation.”
Jor-El said, “Deny the bond if you like, but you have already been paired and you have little choice left to you. As to dying, you can’t leave your current plane of existence until your work is complete. Maybe I will see you again when your work is done … perhaps in a thousand years or two.”
Clara said, “Father, I told you. I’m going to die. I can’t do anything!”
Jor-El said, “You can hope. You can pray. You can have faith. You are never alone. There are many who watch over you. There are many people who don’t know you that care about you. Right now, a woman is crying and praying blessing after blessing upon you for the life of her daughter. At times you may feel that the work you do, you do unassisted. In truth, you had help. You give too little credit to the universe and your ancestors, to your Mother and myself, to the Kents and the one that was chosen to be with you. The next time you think that you are alone, I will give you a sign. Just look around and you will know that your family is behind you. Jor-El gave her a wicked smile and then laughed. He blew Clara a kiss.”
Alura said, “My Baby, be happy! Take time to love and be loved. Drink in all that life has to offer to you. I am with you always.”
Clara watched her Mother fade from sight. She turned and Jor-El was gone too. She screamed, “NO! NOT AGAIN! DON’T LEAVE ME AGAIN!”
Clara’s eyes opened. She was leaning against a big tree twenty five feet away from the edge of the crater. She had a red blanket wrapped around her and there was a large camp fire burning in front of her. She stood up and looked around. No one was there. She dropped the blanket and carefully walked to the edge of the crater. She felt sick again but was careful not to fall. In the moonlight, she saw the impression in the vegetation where she had been laying. She also saw a pair of boot tracks leading into the crater and a deeper set of tracks leading back out towards the spot where she now stood. She backed away from the crater and used her vision powers to look all around and far into the distance. She couldn’t see anyone. Somehow, she didn’t feel like she was alone despite the evidence of her own eyes. She called out, “Hello, is anyone there?” No one answered. She looked at the fire and saw that the blanket had fallen into it, but it wasn’t burning. She smothered the fire with it. The cloth still didn’t burn or char. She shook it out and wrapped it around herself and began walking home.
Clara found Jonathan asleep on the front porch swing. She knelt down next to him and ran a hand through his blond hair. She leaned close and kissed the side of his face. She felt his arms wrap around her and she relaxed into his embrace. He whispered in her ear, “Clara, Oh, Clara. We worry about you so.”
Clara said, “I’m sorry, Daddy. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m indestructible.”
Jonathan said, “I’ll worry just the same. It’s in the job description. Clara, your Mother and I don’t care if you get straight F’s in school. We know who you are and no grading scale will ever change what we think of you. Don’t ever be afraid to come home. Do you understand me?”
Clara said, “Yes, Daddy. I do. I love you Daddy.”
Jon said, “You and your Mother are everything to me.”
Clara said, “I know … I know.”
Martha stuck her head out the front door and asked, “Clara, are you hungry?”
Clara said, “Yes, Mom.”
Martha said, “Well go upstairs and get your shower. I’ll warm you up a plate.”
Clara went upstairs and took off her clothes. She went to step into the tub and thought about what Jor-El had said. She looked around sheepishly to make sure no one was watching her and caught sight of herself in the mirror. Clara rubbed herself just over her right butt cheek to see if it would come off. It didn’t. Clara had a one inch high tattoo of a diamond that hadn’t been there before.
Clara came down to the kitchen table in her fuzzy blue cotton pajamas. She sat down at her spot at the table. Martha put a steaming plate in front of her and said, “Eat up then off to bed with you. You have a big day at school tomorrow.”
Clara said, “Mom, I heard them call you. You know I got suspended. I’m not allowed to go anywhere near the school for two weeks.”
Martha said, “That shows you don’t know everything. When I told your Dad about the phone call, his face turned bright red. He burned rubber getting out of here. He raised bloody hell with the principal and told him that you were the smartest student to ever walk the halls of Smallville High School. He told them that state regulations made it their responsibility to provide a curriculum challenging enough to allow bright student to excel and reach their potential. He told them that your boredom was their problem to deal with, not something to punish you for. Jon wouldn’t leave the principal’s office or let him attend to any other business until he had arranged for you to take a battery of aptitude tests tomorrow. Your Dad and I have had you hide too much of yourself for too long. Tomorrow is your day to shine. Don’t hold back. Well, don’t do any manual dexterity tests at super-human speed. You know what I mean. Knock their socks off. We’re tired of making you swallow their attitude towards you. You don’t deserve the way you’ve been treated. To HELL with them!”
Clara said, “Thanks Mom. You don’t know how much it means to me to know that I have you and Dad on my side – that I’m not alone.”
Martha said, “You’re never alone, Honey.” She pointed to the hallway. There was a pretty, framed poster that had hung there as long as Clara remembered. She had come to see it only as a decoration to brighten an empty wall, but now she focused her eyes and re-read the words for the first time in years. Tonight, those words had more meaning for her than they ever had before.
“Footsteps In The Sand”
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:
"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The LORD replied:
"My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Margaret Powers, 1964