Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life
Funfetti, I'm ready, I need it every night
Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life
I keep on hoping we'll eat cake by the ocean
“Cake By the Ocean” - DNCE
1. Saag Paneer
“Look, Lena, it’s the Leaning Tower of Paneer.” In the middle of her plate, Kara has stacked up four cubes of paneer. She has the fifth cube pinched between her chopsticks and she’s slowly lowering it down to extend her tower.
“Well, that’s going to end poor-” Before Lena can finish her sentence, the tower collapses, sending the cheese cubes tumbling into the surrounding pool of saag, sending small globs splashing across Lena’s dining table.
Lena nonchalantly grabs the roll of paper towel she’s taken to keeping on her dining table for a year now, ever since she started dating Kara. With practiced ease, she tears off a piece and wipes away at the mess.
“Sorry!” Kara squeaks. She looks down at her white blouse, now splattered with flecks of green. “Ugh, that was my last shirt.” She glances at the clock on the wall and sees that it’s already past 9 PM. “I’m going to have to run home. It’s going to be so late if I come back here tonight. Maybe I should just meet you at the museum tomorrow morning?”
At the thought of Kara not spending the night, Lena works quickly for a solution. “We can throw your clothes into the wash. Or you can borrow one of my shirts.”
“Good idea, let’s do that,” Kara replies immediately. But then this occurs to her: “Oh, but we’re going to Andrea’s party tomorrow night. I need to go home and pick out something to wear anyway.” She pulls a face at the thought. “What a pain.”
Looking down at her plate, Lena drags her fork through her chana masala, pushing a chickpea around in the sauce. In a deliberate offhand manner, she remarks as casually as she can, “You know, if you kept more of your things here, you wouldn’t have to run back home so often.”
Amused, Kara chuckles at what she thinks is a joke. “Yeah, right, I’ll just move all my things in.” But Lena’s not laughing along. She looks up at Kara, expression serious but with her eyebrows slightly quirked in question. When Kara catches on, her own laughter dies out. She looks back at Lena, stupefied. “I’ll… just move all my things in?”
“Only if you want,” Lena answers, in an uncharacteristically meek and soft way. It’s a big step, and she wants Kara to feel zero pressure about it.
But Kara doesn’t even hesitate. As her smile blooms, she reaches across the table, taking Lena’s hand and interlocking their fingers together.
And she says to Lena, not for the first time and certainly not the last time, “Yes.”
2. Chocolate Eclair
They compromise a lot, in a good way. For example, Kara loves the outdoors, but for Lena, the idea of eschewing modern comforts to voluntarily sleep outdoors underneath a flimsy tarp surrounded by parasitic insects and carnivorous wild beasts is nothing short of insanity. So when they go on vacation, they split the difference. They take a trip to Banff, camping for two nights and staying in a fancy resort for three nights.
Lena thinks that she did pretty well, all things considered. She braved mosquito bites, she relieved herself in the woods while doggedly ignoring the thought ohmygod what if something crawls up there, and she hardly screamed when that black fly flew into her mouth. Plus, watching a flannel-clad Kara bust up firewood with her hatchet is a massive turn on. Nonetheless, Lena much prefers waking up in a hotel room, air conditioning on full blast, buried beneath a freshly laundered goose down comforter. Especially when it’s accompanied by this view.
She sees Kara’s naked silhouette in front of their oversized windows, curtains pulled back, looking out at the sweeping landscape. The window overlooks a valley flanked by shale gray peaks set against a clear, cloudless blue sky; at the valley center runs a vibrant turquoise-blue river nestled between lush green pines. Then there’s Kara herself, hair damp from her shower, soft, smooth curves on display.
Then Lena feels utterly at peace.
So, in this perfect moment, she could think of nothing better than to ask, “When do you want to get married?”
There’s a weird sort of strangling noise. Lena’s puzzled by it, until Kara turns around and Lena sees that she has a chocolate eclair in her mouth. Kara’s face is turning red as she sputters around her mouthful of sugary breakfast.
“Oh!” Lena leaps out of bed, grabbing a glass of water off the nightstand and rushes to Kara’s rescue.
Kara eagerly takes the water and gulps, washing down the eclair stuck in her throat.
After a few forceful coughs, she manages, “Thank you. I- uh, I think the custard went down the wrong pipe there.”
“I’m sorry. I should’ve- I didn’t do this right at all, did I? I don’t even have a ring with me. That was impulsive. I’m sorry, this isn’t how you should be proposed to, but I can-”
“No no no,” Kara says rapidly, clasping her hands over Lena’s. “I love that you were impulsive. You’re never impulsive and when you are, it’s to ask me when I want to get married. I love that and I love you.”
Although reassured, Lena still smiles shyly. “I… I shouldn’t have done it when you have a pastry in your mouth. I can do it again. Differently. Maybe even with a ring.”
“No, don’t.” Kara drapes her arms around Lena’s shoulders and presses her bare body against her. “You know what, I think it’s absolutely appropriate that we get engaged when I have a pastry in my mouth. It’s perfect. I don’t want to redo it.” She presses a kiss to Lena’s lips. “I always kind of wanted a fall wedding.”
Then Lena returns the favor, kissing her fiancée full on the mouth. “Fall wedding it is then.”
3. Twizzlers and Ice Cream
When Alex comes home from work, she finds her little sister camped out on her couch with a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a half-eaten family size bag of Twizzlers.
Alex drops her jacket and bag on the floor. Without taking off her shoes, she makes her way to the couch where she flops down next to Kara.
“Come on, give,” she instructs.
Obediently, Kara hands over her ice cream and the story. “Lena and I had a fight. We were at dinner with Andrea. We were telling her about the wedding planning and how much work it is and she made this little joke like, ‘hey, if you need help, my cousin’s in family law, I’ll have him do your prenup and take one thing off your plate.’ I mean, she was clearly just joking around but… but, um, it got us talking and…” Kara shrugs despondently. “Turns out Lena and I aren’t on the same page about this stuff. And we- ugh, we started getting into it, but then Andrea got a call about some L-Corp deal going south, so she and Lena had to leave and I, I came here.”
Having silently worked her way through the ice cream while Kara told her story, Alex now sets the container aside and places a reassuring hand on Kara’s knee. “Oh, Kara. Hey, I know it must have felt really bad, but I'm sure Lena didn’t mean anything by it. In the environment she grew up in, probably everybody gets a prenup. She probably just asked for one because she thought it was the thing to do. It doesn’t mean she has doubts about your relationship.”
Kara turns to Alex with a befuddled expression. “Yeah, I know. She didn’t want the prenup. I did.”
Alex sits back, frowning in perplexion. “You wanted the prenup? Why? What assets are you trying to protect? Your collection of Gossip Girl DVDs?”
“Well, it’s like you said, everybody in Lena’s world gets one. It doesn’t mean anything to me to sign one because we’re never going to need it. And I just know that Lillian and Lex are going to have something to say if we don’t have one. They’re never going to let it go. I can just see it, like thirty years down the line, Lex is still going to be cracking little jokes like ‘careful, Lena, don’t make the wife mad, you don’t have a prenup.’ And it’s not just them, there’s going to be all this gossip and whispers from that circle. I couldn't care less what they say about me, but Lena…” Sighing, Kara fidgets with her fingers, examining her cuticles. “I just, I don’t want to be the cause of any negativity in her life.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to let people like Lillian and Lex influence how she lives her life,” Alex suggests.
“And I get that, I do. But it’s not just her life now, it’s ours. She already gets so much crap from them about the stupidest things, this is just going to make things so much worse. So if me signing a piece of paper gives them one less thing to moan about, then I’m happy to do it. I can help here. I just wish Lena would let me.”
Alex hums in contemplation. “It sounds to me like it’s not about the prenup itself since neither of you seem to care about it. So it seems that you and Lena aren’t in conflict. The real problem is between the two of you and her family and how you as a couple are going to address it. But you and Lena are on the same team here.”
“Yeah,” Kara agrees with a tired sigh. “We’re just not on the same page right now.”
“Yeah, right now,” Alex emphasizes. “But you can get there if you keep working at it. With stuff like this, there’s never going to be a neat resolution. It’s just a series of give-and-take. Sometimes you’ll do it her way, sometimes you’ll do it your way. It’s a balancing act. So talk to your teammate. Figure out the balance.”
Kara regards her sister for a moment in quiet gratitude. “You know, you’re a lot wiser now that you’re married.”
Alex barks out a loud laugh. She reaches for the ice cream, intending on fully commandeering it this time. “Yeah, right. I’ve always been like this, it’s just taken you this long to recognize my wisdom.”
Kara’s phone buzzes and she looks down to see the grinning face of her fiancée looking up at her.
“That’s my cue.” Kara rises to her feet, grabbing her purse. “Thanks, Alex.”
“Mm-hmm,” Alex mumbles around a mouthful of ice cream.
As Kara heads towards the door, she hits the answer button.
“Hey,” she says into the phone as she starts for the door. “I’m sorry about how that went… yeah, I know you are… Okay, yeah, I’ll meet you at home. And let’s talk about it.”
4. Tea-smoked Duck Breast with Plum Glaze and Squash Purée
Moments after the reception starts, Lena finds her bride - no, wife now - by the seal pool.
“Mother doesn’t want the smoked duck as her entree anymore,” she says, a note of panic in her voice. “She wants the vegetarian option now.”
Kara, still in a dreamlike trance from their fairy tale wedding ceremony, followed by this mind-blowing reception at Central Park Zoo, where she gets to watch freakin’ seals frolic in their seal pool in the middle of her wedding party, turns to Lena, all zen-like and unbothered.
“Okay, that’s no problem, right? I’m sure the caterer made extras.”
“Yes, but now twelve of mother’s friends all want to do the same.”
“Twelve?!” Kara exclaims. “Why?”
Lena sighs. “They were at the parrot exhibit. I suppose they started feeling guilty about eating Polly’s distant cousins.”
“Oh.” Kara thinks it over, seriously pondering the parrot-duck connection. “In retrospect, maybe we shouldn’t have had meat-based options on the menu of a zoo wedding.”
“Well, who knew that my mother would suddenly develop empathy?” Lena’s pacing anxiously now. “No, this is mother punishing me. She thinks that the zoo wedding thing is gauche, so she’s trying to sabotage it to teach me a lesson.”
“Wait, zoo weddings are gauche?” This is the first Kara’s heard about this. From the moment she suggested the venue, Lena had been nothing less than enthusiastic. “Even the Central Park Zoo?”
“Any event below eight figures is gauche to mother,” Lena deadpans.
Lena tsks her tongue in agreement. “That’s mother for you.”
“So then… who cares what she thinks?” Kara shrugs. “There’s no pleasing crazy anyway, so who cares? She can just suck it up and eat the duck. Geez, let’s just shoot the darn parrot and feed that to her.” When Lena grimaces, Kara nods quickly. “Yeah, too far. I realized that like, five words in.”
“You’re right. There’s no pleasing crazy.” It warms Lena that Kara always knows just what to say and how to say it.
And now she gets to have this for the rest of her life. Affectionately, she nudges Kara with her shoulder. “Hey. Thanks for marrying me.”
“Oh, well, you know,” Kara replies breezily. “I wasn’t doing anything else today anyway.”
5. Peanut Butter Salami Sandwich with Pickles and Raw Onions
“This… is an abomination.”
Alex watches as Lena carefully layers sliced raw onions on top of a bed of pickles, salami, and peanut butter on toasted whole wheat bread.
Without slowing, Lena replies, “Oh yeah? What do you have there?”
Alex looks down at the plate before her. Crackers with mustards and sardines. And a small dish of chocolate syrup on the side.
Alex had been happy when Kara announced her pregnancy. But then, two weeks later, she and Kelly found out about Kelly’s pregnancy and Alex was simply beside herself with ecstasy. Alex and Kara, in sisterly pregnancy-fueled joy, rented a house in Lake Tahoe as a joint babymoon. A nice, relaxed vacation for everyone before the babies came. At least that was the idea. That was before The Cravings hit.
So now it’s one AM, and Alex and Lena find themselves in the kitchen, putting together snack plates for their pregnant wives.
“Don’t get near Kara with that,” Lena warns sharply as she nods at Alex’s plate. “She has a strict no-fish policy. The smell makes her sick.”
“Kelly is eating nothing but fish these days. How are we going to get through having meals together?”
Lena considers the problem. “We’ll just have to eat separately. We can have dessert together. Unless Kelly wants fish with that too.”
“Uhh.” Alex gestures at the chocolate syrup. “You tell me. I really don’t know what this is.” She sighs tiredly. “This is exhausting. Kelly keeps having these random cravings in the middle of the night. Do you know how hard it is to find natas at three AM? I had to drive out to Jersey City last time. And by the time I got back, she was asleep.”
“At least she craves things that are actually in existence. Kara once woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that she wanted an ‘ambrosia and butterbeer cupcake with unicorn sprinkles.’ What am I supposed to do with that?”
“I don’t know. What did you do?”
Lena shrugs. “I got up and baked her cupcakes. What else? But she had to settle for chocolate cupcakes with a caramel center and rainbow sprinkles.”
“Pregnancy is miserable,” Alex complains, delighted that she’s found a like-minded soul to commiserate with. “Couple weeks ago, we drove 90 minutes to Connecticut to see Kelly’s cousins. We stopped six times for her to pee.”
“I can’t wear any perfume anymore because they all make Kara sick.”
“Kelly tosses and turns all night. And she’s taken all the pillows in the apartment. I sleep on a folded-up towel stuffed in a pillowcase now.”
“Kara’s insanely hormonal. I never know what I’m going to get when I come home. Is she going to be sobbing over a cat food commercial? Or is she waiting to jump me and-” Lena sees the expression on Alex’s face. “-cuddle.”
“Good save,” Alex mutters appreciatively. “Thanks.”
They stand there in companionable silence, gladdened to be able to share their burdens.
Then Lena says, “But you know, it could be worse. We could be growing a literal human being inside of us who is siphoning all of our nutrients, wreaking havoc on our bodies, only to come tearing out of us in a few months.”
The pair of them reflect on the accuracy of the statement. Suddenly, their complaints seem awfully petty. At the same time, they pick up their respective trays of abominable snacks, each ready to hurry off and tend to the needs of their suffering wives.
“Yup, okay,” Alex says on her way out. “Good talk.”
6. Irish Soda Bread
Kara’s alone when she wakes up in the middle of the night, but she hears the distant din of clattering pans coming from the kitchen. She rouses herself from the bed, panting slightly at the exertion. Running a hand over her protruding belly, she feels her child deliver a sharp kick.
“Shh,” she whispers softly. “It’s all right. Let’s go find your mommy.”
She finds a small disaster in the kitchen. Pots, pans, and white powder everywhere. The smell of burnt bread in the air. Her wife stands at the center of said disaster, pajamas and cheek dusted with flour, looking frazzled as she stirs a long wooden spoon in a mixing bowl.
Quietly, Kara approaches, laying a hand on Lena’s shoulder. “What’s going on?”
As if awakening from a dream, Lena first looks at Kara in surprise and confusion. Then she looks around the room and surveys the mess she’s made; she deflates, sinking down to the kitchen floor. Awkwardly, Kara sets herself down next to her.
“I was trying to bake bread.”
“At three in the morning?” Gently, Kara nudges Lena with her shoulder. “Tell me.”
Lena rests her head against the cabinet door behind her, like she’s too sapped to even hold her head up.
“Our baby’s going to be here soon.”
“Mm, you don’t say?” Kara pats her belly, feeling another well-timed kick.
“I was… I was lying awake, wondering how I’m going to do this. I don’t know the first thing about babies or kids. And I’m not… I’m not exactly a nurturing person. I’m not known for my patience or playfulness. What am I going to do when he’s here? What can I do for him? What do I have to offer, besides my wealth which I didn’t even really earn? I only got to where I am because a fortune was handed to me.”
It’s not the first time Kara’s heard this kind of talk. It boggles her mind and hurts her heart every time. Because, to Kara, it’s an objective fact that Lena is the embodiment of human perfection, her one and only flaw being that she can’t see it for herself.
“What about your complete genetic perfection? I stand by what I said when we started this: it would be a literal crime if we didn’t use your egg to pass on those genes and I say that knowing how much it annoys you with my figurative use of literal.”
Lena shakes her head. “Genetics doesn’t make a parent. Look at my father. That’s exactly what I don’t want to be. Contribute some DNA and money and call it a day. So I… I wanted to be able to pass on something more, some tradition or history or some bond. But the only Luthor tradition we have is glaring and sniping at each other over Christmas whiskeys. That’s not the kind of heritage I’d like to pass on. There’s my mom- my birth mom. But I remember so little about her. I have vague memories of her making bread. I don’t- I don’t even remember what kind, I thought maybe soda bread. I thought if I figured it out, I could… maybe pass on something good,a nice tradition. But it just isn’t turning out right. I don’t know where I’m going wrong and there’s only about six ingredients.”
“Well…” Kara starts slowly, nodding at the ingredients laid out on the countertop. “I’m no baker, but it might help if you used baking soda to make soda bread instead of baking powder.”
Lena looks up. When she sees her mistake, now so glaringly obvious, she can’t help but break off into a loud, sharp cackle which ends ungracefully in a snort.
“Oh, god,” she chokes out when the maniacal giggles have subsided. “That’s what I get for trying to bake at three AM.”
“Hey,” Kara now says quietly. “You know, I’m scared too.”
Lena looks back at her with wet eyes, seeking more confirmation. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, of course I am. It’s scary, bringing a child into this world. But we have each other. I’ll be patient when you’ve run out of yours, and you’ll be on homework duty when my brain hurts. And if you want to figure out this soda bread thing, great. But if you don’t, then that’s fine. We can make our own traditions. Maybe you’ll teach him chess or how to extract enzymes or talk about dinosaurs all day. But we’ll figure it out together. So… next time you’re feeling anxious about the baby in the middle of the night, just wake up your pregnant wife to talk about it. I don’t want you burning down the kitchen in the middle of the night.”
Lena nods, feeling warmed by Kara’s reassurances.
“I love you,” she tells Kara.
“I love you too.”
7. Naked Banana
“I! DON’T! WANT! BANANA! NAKED!” The child is red-faced, eyes squeezed tightly shut, furious tears streaming down his cheeks as he screeches as loudly as his toddler-sized lungs would allow. Which is to say, very, very loudly.
Struggling to keep her cool, Lena tries reasoning with her son. “Sweetie, you asked for a banana. We have to peel the banana if you want to eat it. Do you want to help mommy peel it?”
Which works as well as… trying to reason with a toddler. “NO! I DON’T WANT BANANA NAKED!”
“You don’t want to eat the peel, do you?” The toddler, even through his loud sobs, shakes his head. “Well, then we’re just going to take it off so you can have some yummy banana, okay?” That only sets him off and he cries even harder. “So you don’t want the banana?”
Through devastated wails, the boy screeches, “NO NO NO I WANT A BANANA!”
“Well, then we have to take the peel off.” When the child screams, Lena sighs wearily. “You cannot possibly demand to eat a banana while demanding that it remains unpeeled. Surely you see the logical inconsistencies here.”
Kara walks into the kitchen, setting groceries down on the counter. “Are you trying to reason with a three year old?”
“I’m sure he’ll see the error in his rationale once he thinks it through,” Lena deadpans.
From the grocery bag, Kara fishes out a jar of peanut butter, which she takes over to the toddler.
“Baby, how about we help the banana change his clothes? Can we take off his yellow shirt and put on a brown shirt for him?”
The crying tapers as the boy looks at his mama with a mixture of confusion and suspicion. “I’m not a baby. I’m a big boy.”
“That’s right, you are,” Kara assures him. “Can the big boy help his mommies change the banana’s shirt?”
The boy nods. Then he finally allows Lena to peel the banana. Kara slathers some peanut butter on the banana. Everybody cheers for the banana in his peanut butter ‘brown shirt.’
The boy giggles in delight. “Mommy! Mama! I’m eating banana’s shirt!”
While the toddler is happily chomping away at the brown-shirted banana, Lena whispers to her wife, “Thank you.”
Kara just extends her hand, palm open and up. Lena brushes her palm against it. Teamwork wins the day. Until the next tantrum.
8. Red velvet donuts
With their youngest child now on an airplane heading to a college on the other side of the country, their house is devoid of children for the first time in twenty-odd years. It’s eerily quiet, and as Lena moves through the space, the memories come, evoking bittersweet nostalgia.
There, in the hallway, there’s a long scratch on the wall from the time when the kids had decided to hold an indoor skateboarding competition. (Kara had uncovered the scheme first, which explains why Lena came home to find her wife presiding over the competition as Head Judge.)
The living room, the site of so many countless movie nights and game nights and puzzle nights. Lena on the couch, her wife curled up in her arms, their brood bickering amongst themselves from the floor.
And the kitchen, where the whole Danvers-Luthor clan spent a good deal of time, inventing outrageous cookie recipes.
They had bought a plot of land in the suburbs and built a large house, manorly but not ostentatious, designed to be filled with children, pets, family, friends, and joy. That they all had in abundance. No one could have asked for more. But as all things must end, their children are grown and gone, leaving the family home empty and its owners at a slight loss for what follows.
Lena finds Kara in the upstairs study, gazing longingly out the window at their playground set, which has gone unused for many years now as their kids grew older. But Kara had put the whole thing together herself, every screw and every joint, so it remains there as a reminder of a time long gone.
Lena slips in quietly, although she can tell by the slight twist in her wife’s shoulders that Kara knows she’s there. Kara doesn’t turn around. So Lena approaches gingerly, encircling her arms around the blonde’s waist, front pressed up against her back, chin coming to rest on her shoulders.
Kara responds in kind, placing her hands over Lena’s, holding them against her body.
“You all right?” Lena murmurs softly.
“Y- yeah.” Kara nods slightly, still staring at the playground set. “Just… a bit… you know.”
And Lena does know. It isn’t sadness exactly. There’s nothing to be sad about. For all that she’s accomplished, Lena’s proudest achievement will always be her children. Having reared them and now released them to the world, this should be a joyous occasion. But there’s still a sense of loss, a wistfulness for the end of an era. Now a new chapter begins, and the uncertainty over the form and character of that chapter has at times left Lena unsure and apprehensive.
But then that all goes away when she looks at Kara. Then all her worries, her anxieties, her insecurities, they retreat, even if just temporarily. When she looks at Kara, she knows that everything will be okay. Because come what may, come strife, come misery, hell or high water, troubles, problems, through all of life’s endless obstacles, she has her partner at her side. Together, they’ll persevere.
“Hey, tell you what. How would you like to go out on a date with me tonight? To the city?” Lena places a small kiss on her wife’s shoulder. “I know this place in Greenpoint that makes the best red velvet donuts.”
Kara chuckles heartily and squeezes Lena’s hand in fondness. She turns then, draping her arms about Lena’s neck. When she looks upon Lena, it’s still with that same starry-eyed adoration she had when they first met all those years ago.
And she tells Lena, not for the first time and certainly not the last time, that word that Lena never gets tired of hearing from her wife time and again, “Yes.”