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I Guess I Learned It From My Parents

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As long as Lori Danvers could remember, it’s always been her, her mom and aunt Lena. That was just her family. 

 

She remembers when she started school they did a project on their families, and the five year old had excitedly went home and without hesitation scribbled in shaky handwriting above her own name “Kara” and “Ant Lena”.

 

Kara and Lena upon seeing what the little girl had written had shared a look with each other, seemingly unsure what to say. 

 

Lena had been the first to act, she smiled and stroked the girls hair, asking if she needed any help spelling the other peoples names.

 

Lori had refused, her stubbornness shining through. She proudly put down the rest of her extended family's names, making a few mistakes, but what was to be expected of a kindergartner. 

 

She looked at her tree and frowned at the name that was already printed below Lena’s.

 

“Mommy, what’s that? Dad-dy?” She asked, glancing at her mother to see if she was correct.

 

Kara nodded her head, “Yeah, sweetie, that’s right. But it doesn’t matter, not all families have a daddy, or a mommy. The teacher probably should’ve picked a template with no labels.”

 

Lori looked at her mother and then reached for the black crayon laying on the table. 

 

She scribbled over the word until it was gone, just a black patch.

 

“I fixed it!”

 

Lena chuckled seeing what Lori had done, and Kara just sighed in amusement, knowing her daughter definitely got her quick thinking, problem solving from Lena.

 

Lori never really questioned why she didn’t have a daddy. Once she did, when her friend at school had asked. 

 

Her mommy’s face contorted in a small frown when she had asked, but Kara not wanting to lie to her daughter told her the (age appropriate) truth.

 

“Your daddy wasn’t ready for us. You didn’t do anything wrong, sometimes people just don’t want to be a mommy or daddy, despite how wonderful their babies are.”

 

She was satisfied with that answer, and she didn’t care all that much because she was happy with her mommy and aunt Lena.

 

*****

 

When Lori was ten, she started to notice things she didn’t before. 

 

She watched the interactions between her mom and Lena more closely, and she thought of how it was just like how her friends' parents acted, or Aunt Alex and Aunt Kelly. But they never kissed, or called each other wives or wore rings. So Lori never asked.

 

*****

 

When she was twelve, Aunt Alex had asked her mom why she didn’t go out on dates. 

 

“Why would I?” Kara asked like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

“Well you don’t want to live with Lena forever do you? The two of you don’t want to start your own families?”

 

“Lena and I like living together. I have Lori, and after Mon-el I don’t particularly want to date again. And Lena said she doesn’t care about dating either, with how busy she is at L-Corp and helping with Lori.”

 

Aunt Alex simply gave her mom a look and went back to the puzzle they were putting together.

 

Lori didn’t talk much for three days after that. 

 

Her mom had asked her if everything was alright, and she would always say yes, but go back to being quiet and excuse herself to her room.

 

On the third day of what was basically silence on her end, Lena had come to talk to her.

 

She heard her mom crying downstairs and the muffled conversation between the two before she heard footsteps that she knew belonged to Lena coming up the stairs.

 

She heard a knock on the door and quietly mumbled an affirmation to enter.

 

“Hey darling, your mom said you were upset. I know you haven’t been talking much, but would you talk to me?”

 

Seeing Aunt Lena’s concerned face and her soft, caring eyes sent Lori into sobs. What if she would someday lose this?

 

Lena rushed to her bed to hold her.

 

“Oh sweetheart, what happened?”

 

She couldn’t control her sobs long enough to get any words out, but Lena held on to her until she could regain her voice.

 

“The other day Aunt Alex and mom were talking, and Alex asked mom if we were ever going to move out. And mom said she didn’t want to, but she didn’t say anything about how you felt.”

 

Lena’s heart broke at the admission.

 

“And that’s why you’ve been upset?”

 

Lori nodded.

 

“Darling, of course I don’t want you to leave. I love you and your mother.”

 

“But don’t you want your own family?”

 

Lena smiled and wiped her tears.

 

“Inah, you and your mom are my family.”

 

“But it’s not the same. You and mom aren’t married, or dating. You don’t wear rings, or kiss, and I call you aunt Lena.”

 

Lena continued to stroke her hair

 

“That doesn’t matter. Love doesn’t need labels, honey. People only use labels for things to make themselves feel more comfortable. There’s all sorts of families, and what we are is a family. My favorite family as a matter of fact.”

 

“So you’re not going to leave and marry some other rich billionaire?” 

 

Lena laughed and hugged her to her chest.

 

“If they’re not you and your mother then I couldn’t care how much money they had. My family is right here with you two.”

 

*****

 

When she was fifteen, Lori became interested in music. She gravitated to the piano in the living room, learning a few simple chords to start before Lena saw her interest and offered to teach her.

 

Soon enough, she was better than Lena and began trying her hand at singing.

 

Kara came home one night to see her playing and Lena leaning against the wall, listening to her.

 

She walked over to her, wrapping her arms around her waist, her head coming to lay against her shoulder.

 

“Looks like you taught her too well.”

 

Lena laughed, a hand raising to stroke through her hair.

 

“Yes, well, she surely didn’t get her voice from me. That’s all you, darling.”

 

They stayed there, wrapped in each other, listening to Lori play.

 

Unbeknownst to them, their actions inspired Lori to take it a step further and write her own music.

 

*****

 

Lori began to see things now that she was getting older, things she had overlooked before.

 

The way her mom and Lena had always been was now registering as something that was more than friendship in her mind.

 

So many nights she would come home from school to see them dancing in the living room, her mom twirling Lena dramatically, dinner smoking on the stove as they were too wrapped up in each other to notice.

 

When they would notice Lori and their spell was broken Lena would always yell at Kara for getting distracted and say that was the last time this would happen. (It never was).

 

*****

 

The roses that were always on the counter, fresh every week, that she had never put much thought into before became of interest to her when she saw Lena carefully arranging them one morning when she had gotten home from pulling an all nighter at L-Corp..

 

“What are you doing up this early?” She had asked Lori, glancing up for a half a second before going back to meticulously arranging the flowers.

 

“At least I slept.”

 

Lena only smirked, not looking away from her task.

 

“Touché.”

 

Lori watched her finish up the arrangement, inspecting it before humming a note of approval.

 

“How come I have never seen you do this before?” Lori asked, eyebrows scrunched.

 

“I suppose you weren’t around when I put them out.” Lena shrugged.

 

Lori continued to push.

 

“All these years I've seen flowers here, new ones every week, but I never thought about who put them there. Has it always been you?”

 

Lena walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a piece of paper from their notepad and the pen that hung alongside it.

 

“Yes. I get them for your mom every week.” She leans down to scribble something on the paper, and Lori leans over to see what she’s writing.

 

Lena slaps the note in half, before walking over and tucking it into the flowers.

 

“Don’t read this, young lady.”

 

Lori smirks, “What’s it say?”.

 

“Inside joke.” Lena smirks back.

 

“So why do you buy mom flowers? Do you mess up that bad every week?”

 

“Very funny, and no. It’s a sort of joke between us. Early in our friendship your mother wrote an article about me, and as a thank you I sent an entire floral shop to her office. She was so flabbergasted, and I can’t help but enjoy seeing your mother flustered, so I make it a point to do it weekly. It’s also a reminder that I appreciate her.”

 

Lori smiles, “That’s really nice, aunt Lena. I hope someday I have someone like you to come home to.”

 

*****

 

One night while they’re having dinner Kara mentions how she found gray hairs this morning while getting ready for work.

 

“It was bound to happen, darling. You were frozen in space for over twenty years, that time had to catch up with you somehow.”

 

Kara’s hands fly to the top of her head where the offending hairs must be.

 

“Lena!” She scolds, “Don’t make me feel worse. I thought I’d have more time before my body started to betray me.”

 

“Kara, if it makes you feel any better you are no less beautiful than the day I first laid eyes on you. If anything, you’re more beautiful. Age adds to the quality of something, not takes. I mean, have you ever seen me drink a wine that’s not exquisitely aged?”

 

Kara blushes, and dips her head to hide her face.

 

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better. Besides, you dye your hair to hide yours.”

 

Lori snickers at the fact that Lena has gray hair that she hides, but is quickly silenced by Lena’s glare in her direction.

 

“You know what, you’re right. I’ll stop dyeing my hair, because we should embrace ourselves exactly the way we are.”

 

Kara and Lena smile at each other, but the scoff from the seat beside them breaks their moment.

 

“Yeah but you guys are still old, gray hair or not.”

 

They feign offense and raise their hands, middle fingers sticking up toward Lori, who simply laughs.

 

*****

 

She’s hanging out with Alex one night while Kara and Lena are out doing something for their anniversary. Their friendship anniversary that is.

 

Alex is sipping a beer and working on the pizza they ordered when Lori makes a remark about wondering what they are doing tonight.

 

“Probably pretending they’re both not hopelessly in love with each other.”

 

Lori chokes on her soda at Alex’s remark.

 

“What?!”

 

Alex is unaffected, continuing to chew her food.

 

“First time having someone acknowledge it out loud? Yeah, it’s taken me twenty years but it doesn’t faze me anymore. I stopped trying to understand their relationship years ago.”

 

“So you think that they love each other? Like, they wanna hold each other’s hands and kiss? That kinda love?”

 

“Oh more than that, kiddo.”

 

Lori gags dramatically and Alex only laughs.

 

“Look, they’ve always had a unique relationship. I tried discussing it with Kara once, but she just denied it and said they were friends. I’ve always thought it was more than that for Lena, but I figured it would be cruel to bring it up to her, since your mom never acknowledged all the obvious things she’s done for her.”

 

“Like the flowers?”

 

Alex sighed and nodded.

 

“Do you think mom feels the same way?”

 

Alex put down her beer and thought for a moment.

 

“I think so, but don’t take my word for it, only your mom knows how she feels. But Kara, she’s always settled. That’s how she got stuck with your jackass father, no offense.”

 

Lori raised her hands up, “None taken. From what I’ve heard he sucked. Probably still does.”

 

“Oh he definitely still sucks. I don’t think there was ever any hope for that man child. He had your mom, and you can’t do any better than that, and he ruined it. But anyway, your mom was with him because she thought that’s the best she could get. After he left her, she said she didn’t want to ask for anything more than you.”

 

“What about aunt Lena? Hasn’t she always been there?”

 

“Yeah, she has. When Mon-el left, Lena was the one who got your mom out of her depressive state. And then when she found out she was pregnant with you, Lena immediately asked her to move in with her. Your mom was so worried about how she would take care of you alone, of course Grandma and I told her we’d help, but she refused. But Lena, she could never say no to her.”

 

“So then why aren’t they together? Now that I’m older, I can see everything. They love each other, they’re always touching each other. And I’m not sure who gets more forehead kisses from Lena between me and mom.”

 

“It’s definitely your mom, sorry kid.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right.”

 

Alex and Lori share a smirk before Alex deposits her plate onto the coffee table in front of her, leaning back against the couch as she focuses her attention on her niece.

 

“But let’s talk about something else besides those two knuckleheads before I get a headache. Your mom said you started taking an interest in music?”

 

“Yeah, mom says I’m pretty good. I actually started writing some lyrics, but I don't have anything else.”

 

“You’re writing your own music?” Alex asked, a bit surprised.

 

Lori shrugged, “Trying to, but I don’t know how I feel about it yet. The song I’m working on, it’s kind of pointless anyway, considering the conversation we just had.”

 

“Can I see it?”

 

Lori looks at her aunt, seemingly trying to decide whether she wants to share her work with her.

 

Alex gives her a dramatic pout and puppy dog eyes, clasping her hands under her chin in a begging motion.

 

Lori rolls her eyes at her antics before relenting.

 

“Don’t laugh at it, please.”

 

“I won’t, pinky promise.”

 

Lori ran upstairs to retrieve the notebook which she had written the lyrics in, and came back to the living room, flipping to find the right page. 

 

She handed Alex the book, and Alex took it, scanning the page immediately. As she read, Lori watched the soft smile on her face.

 

After a few minutes Alex looked up to acknowledge her. 

 

“Lori, this is beautiful. You should finish it and perform it for them.”

 

“No way, we just talked about how scared those two are of their feelings. Could you imagine if I ambushed them with this? Plus, am I just supposed to wait until they come home one night and say “hey guys, I know you’ve never talked about it, but let me sing a song about your undying love for each other through my eyes.” Lori gave her an unimpressed look.

 

“Okay, not that way. What about at their friendaversary dinner?”

 

Lori still gave Alex a look that was unimpressed as reached across the couch to take back her notebook.

 

“The fact that “friend” is in that sentence is enough to know it’s a bad idea.”

 

“Maybe, but do you also see how ridiculous it is that your mom came up with that idea and celebrates it every year? We’ve gotta end it, cause the word “friendiversary” makes me want to vomit.”

 

Lori put her head in her hands and groaned, “You’re right, those two are a headache.”

 

Alex only laughed and gave Lori a quick “told ya so”.

 

“Do you really think it would be a good idea to do this?” Lori bit her lip and glanced at the notebook in her lap.

 

“I think, if your moms heard your perspective of their relationship, it would make them understand that you and everyone else can see what they have. But I have one little suggestion. Where you put “aunt Lena”, I think there’s a better word that could go there.”

 

Lori rubbed the back of her neck nervously at Alex’s suggestion.

 

“I know. I thought about it, but I’ve called her aunt Lena all my life. I remember calling her mama one time when I was little, but it made mom cry so much, and I didn’t know if it hurt her feelings, so I didn’t call her that again.”

 

Alex smiled sadly, “I don’t think it hurt her feelings, sweetheart, I think she was just happy. So do you think of Lena as your mom?”

 

“I mean yeah, all my life she’s been my other parent, my other mom. When I started school and did a family tree I put her and mom down as my parents.”

 

“Then maybe you should talk to them, see how they would feel about you calling Lena your mom. If that’s something you want as well.”

 

“I do, I feel like I’m cheating her every time I call her aunt Lena.”

 

Before Alex can respond, the lock on the door clicks and Kara and Lena come through.

 

“Hey guys, did you have a good night?” Kara asks, taking Lena’s coat.

 

“Yeah, how about you guys?”

 

“Another great year of friendship in the books.” Lena responds, a barely noticeable disappointment in her voice.

 

“Well, I’ll be going home to my “friend” now. Have fun, weirdos. Love you!” 

 

They respond in the same way, and walk over to join Lori on the couch. 

 

Kara sits beside her daughter and pulls her close to her, smooshing their faces against each other.

 

“I missed you.”

 

Lori laughs, hugging her mother back, “I missed you too, mom.”

 

“Didn’t miss your favorite aunt Lena?”

 

Lori’s smile drops a little, releasing her hold on Kara.

 

“Um, actually I wanted to talk to you about that.”

 

Lori sees panic set on Lena’s face and she instantly reaches out to grab onto her.

 

“No, that sounded bad! Uh, I meant I wanted to talk about your name.”

 

“My name?”

 

“Yeah. I don’t want to upset you, or mom, but I was thinking about how much you mean to me. All of my life, you’ve taken care of me just like mom has, and you’ve loved me just like mom has. I love that you’re my aunt Lena, but I don’t feel like that’s the right name for you. I think it’s demeaning to call you an aunt when you’re like my mom. So I guess I wanted to know how you would feel if I started calling you what I feel that you are to me, my other mom.”

 

Lena’s eyes were glassy and her lip trembled a little bit as she grabbed a hold of the girl who she had always thought of as her daughter.

 

“Oh sweetheart, of course it’s okay. I’ve always thought of you as my own daughter, ever since I saw your tiny face in your mothers arms. I love you so much.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Lori turned to look at her mom who was watching with a smile on her face, tears silently falling down her cheeks.

 

“Is that okay mom?”

 

“Honey, of course it is. Lena has always been your mom as much as I have. I’m not sure why you haven’t called her mom sooner.”

 

Lori fidgeted with her hands, “Well, I called her mama when I was little, and I remembered you started crying. I thought you were upset so I stopped.”

 

Kara frowned and hugged her daughter.

 

“No, that didn’t upset me. I was so happy when you did that, but I guess you were too little to understand the difference between happy and sad tears.”

 

“Well it doesn’t matter, because rather you call me mom or Lena my love for you has been and always will be the same, my sweet girl.” Lena said, her voice full of adoration for her daughter.

 

Lori turned to look at Lena and smiled, taking both of her moms into a group hug, which they were all too happy to comply with.

 

*****

 

Lori had finished the song a few days ago. She changed a few lyrics, and wrote the music to accompany them. 

 

Her moms anniversary was tonight, and they were still no less oblivious. 

 

She stared at the music sheet, debating rather to perform the song for them. Alex had been encouraging her to share it with them, but she was still unsure.

 

She heard the front door open downstairs and knew that the time to debate was running out. She grabbed the book and went downstairs to join her family and their friends for her parents “friendaversary dinner”.

 

The night was fun, people recounted stories about their friendship, and they had a nice meal that Eliza had come over to help with. Lori had pretty much decided to scrap her song idea, then her mom spoke up.

 

“Thank you for coming tonight everyone, it really means a lot to Lena and I. Twenty years is a long time to stay friends, and we’ve had our share of troubles but we always pull through.” Kara turned to look at Lena who was seated beside her, “Lena, I couldn’t ask for a better best friend. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Lori and I, we love you.”

 

It was the sadness that washed over her other mothers face that prompted her to change her decision. The same expression that always appeared whenever Kara called them friends, best friends, every time Kara had used that godforsaken word “friendaversary” tonight. She had said it so much that if it wasn't already not a real word, it would have started to sound fake.

 

“Yeah, mom. Thank you for everything.”

 

Lena smiled at her, “You’re welcome, love.”

 

Before anyone could change the subject, Lori stood up.

 

“I, uh, I have a gift for you guys, if that’s okay?”

 

“You didn’t have to do that sweetheart-“ Kara begins to protest.

 

“No, she did. She really, really did.” Alex interjects, looking done with her sister and Lena’s shenanigans.

 

Before anyone says anything else, Lori goes to the piano in the corner of the living room and opens up her notebook to the page she needs.

 

She had no chance to practice the song out loud altogether since one of her parents was always home, so she hopes she gets this right.

 

She glances up at her moms, who smile at her curiously, and then she glances at Alex who grins and gives her a thumbs up.

 

She swallows her nerves and begins to play the intro, knowing she’s about to change her parents' relationship forever.

 

I wanna come home to roses

And silly little notes on Post-its

And when my hair starts turning gray

They’ll say I'm like a fine wine, better with age

I guess I learned it from my parents

That true love starts with friendship

A kiss on the forehead, a date night

Fake an apology after a fight

 

I need someone who's patient and kind

Gets out of the car and holds the door

I wanna slow dance in the living room like

We're 18 at senior prom and grow

Old with someone who makes me feel young

I need someone who loves me like

My mother loves my mom

 

If Lori would have taken a glance at the small crowd of people watching her, she would see them all slack jawed, and Kara reaching to take Lena’s hand shyly.

 

I wanna road trip in the summers

I wanna make fun of each other

I wanna rock out to Billy Joel

And flip our kids off when they call us old

They’ll accidentally burn our dinner

And let me be the scrabble winner

And when my body changes shapes

They’ll say, "Oh my God, you look hot today"

 

She took her eyes off of the piano keys for a second to smile up at her parents, who were both teary eyed and laughed when they met her gaze.

 

I need someone who's patient and kind

Gets out of the car and holds the door

I wanna slow dance in the living room like

We're 18 at senior prom and grow

Old with someone who makes me feel young

I need someone who loves me like

My mother loves my mom

 

Lena couldn’t hold her emotions back at hearing her daughter singing a song meant for them. She couldn’t bear to look at Kara, but she felt her hand in hers squeezing it reassuringly. 

 

And if they live up to my mother

Maybe they could teach our daughter

What it takes to love a queen

She should know she's royalty

 

I need someone who's patient and kind

Gets out of the car and holds the door

I wanna slow dance in the living room like

We're 18 at senior prom and grow

Old with someone who makes me feel young

I need someone who loves me like

My mother loves my mom

I need someone who loves me like

My mother loves my mom

 

As the last notes rang in the air, Lori finally, properly looked up at her parents. Both of them were crying now, still holding onto each other’s hands tightly.

 

No one said anything so Lori took that as her sign to explain herself.

 

“The past year, I really started to notice how you two love each other. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize, but then again it’s not like you guys weren’t also ignoring it.” 

 

The crowd laughed quietly and Lori continued.

 

“You guys have the best relationship I’ve ever seen, and I’m so glad I got to be raised with you two as my example for what love is. But if you two would finally get your act together and talk about your feelings, and next year have an actual anniversary dinner, no more plastering the word “friend” onto everything you do, I think that would be cool.”

 

Kara and Lena smiled at her before finally turning to each other.

 

As soon as they met each other’s eyes they couldn’t contain the shy laugh that escaped their mouths.

 

Kara wiped the tear tracks on her cheeks, sniffling before she asked Lena the question she’s been waiting years to ask.

 

“So what do you think about trading in our friend dates for real ones?”

 

Lena looked at her and smiled before turning to look at their daughter, who smiled back at her hopefully. Turning back to Kara, she pushed some of her hair behind her ear. 

 

“I think that would be cool.” She says, mimicking what their daughter had said a few minutes before.

 

They smiled at each other before leaning in and sharing what would be the first of many kisses.

 

Their friends cheered, and they pulled apart, laughter and pure joy unable to be contained.

 

Lena pulled Kara up and walked to the piano where their daughter was still seated, who upon seeing them approach stood up to join in a group hug.

 

“We love you so much, Lori.” Kara remarked kissing the top of her head, Lena agreeing and doing the same.

 

“Can you play it again?” Lena asked.

 

Lori simply smiled and pulled both of them down to sit beside her on the bench before beginning the song once again.

 

As their daughter sang, Kara and Lena looked at each other, smiling as they listened.

 

At that moment they had no way of knowing all of the joy that was yet to come, but sitting together with their daughter was certainly their happiest moment thus far.