Title: "How does your garden grow?"
Rating/Classification: NAC, Lorenzo/Mary, comfort, angst.
Disclaimer: I wish they were mine. I'd treat them better.
Summary: Sometimes, the lies are all that get you through the night.
"Sleep, Mary," he whispers, brushing his knuckles against her cheek.
She should shrug away from his touch. "N-no...I..." He's not Connor. But,
then, no one is Connor, really. Not anymore.
"Shhh. It's perfectly all right," he assures, and she shouldn't believe
him but something in his eyes is dark and deep like truth. "I mean you no
She's surprised that he sings to her in Spanish. Like she's a little girl. His fingers move through her hair, catching on the curls, lulling her eyes shut and wooing her body into relaxing. She curves into his lap, the hard expanse of his thigh beneath her cheek almost as comfortable as any pillow.
She only understands a little bit of the song. Perdida ...lost ...mujer ... woman. He owes her no kindnesses, but his hands are gentle and his voice steady, soothing, even though he should never be allowed to sing in public. Maybe he's making up the off-key melody as he goes along, writing her a lullaby.
Maybe he's repeating her entire story back to her and it'll have a happier ending this time. She shouldn't still believe in happy endings, but she does.
She still believes her husband is going to come home, that he's going to
walk through that door any minute.
Which doesn't explain why she's in another man's arms. Or why she feels safe in them. Why she allows him to hold her...to carry her into dreams,
where she'll never be alone.
He watches her drift to sleep, knowing he does not have her luxury of self-delusion. Mary is not Carly who is not Sophie. But she is warm. And she is soft. And she needs him.
Her whole fragile charade depends on his cooperation.
It keeps him occupied, as so few things do these days.
He reads, voraciously, thankful for the simple pleasure derived from something he feared he would never be able to do again. Machiavelli, Voltaire, Dickens, Melville. He takes long strolls on the pier and listens to his niece chatter about becoming a star. And he comes to see Mary Bishop...to take comfort in the fact that there is someone in the world more broken than he is.
The fragmented bits of the lullaby fade on his lips. He is glad his poor mother isn't alive to hear his pathetic rendition of the song that spun her nightmares and her sadness into her sons' legacy.
But it served its purpose. It cocooned a young woman in affection, in compassion--the way he'd been, safe, as a child, wrapped in the blankets Mamma had pulled up to his chin.
But Mary is no child. He knows this. He knows exactly what she is and what she isn't.
And yet he still hopes that the scent of her hair will be like Sophie's. That the way her eyes flash will echo Carly's. That, perhaps, she'll turn to him and be herself and that it will be enough for the both of them.
Dawn breaks, sending splinters of the sun through the windows and the cracks in the door. Sounds from the kitchen wake her, and she remembers how getting used to man things in the bathroom again was one of the strangest parts of Connor coming back. Shaving foam in the sink...his stubble on the razor resting on the edge.
But the man carrying out a tray with a coffee pot on it isn't Connor. Or Nikolas as Connor. She's not that far gone. There's no mistaking Lorenzo Alcazar for either of the men she married. Not even if she squints.
"Why...why did you stay?" she asks, trying to shake the kinks out of her bones, smooth the wrinkles out of her dress.
His sleeves are rolled up, his feet bare. She hates feet. She hates that he looks comfortable in her home. She resents, even more, that she reaches for the coffee because she is so easily won over.
"You were upset...I didn't want to leave you alone." He laughs, sheepishly, setting the tray down on the table and fixing her a mug full of glorious caffeine. As if they do this every day. Maybe they do. "I told myself I would wait till Nikolas got home, trump up some pretend errand so as not to arouse his suspicion."
"But he never came." It isn't a question.
"No. No, he didn't." Lorenzo answers anyway.
"I can't lose him. Not again." Her hand shakes as she lifts her cup and she has to set it down.
A shrug. Matter of fact. "Then don't."
As if it's so easy.
She stares at him until his confident smile begins to waver. Until his bright blue eyes aren't so bright anymore. Until his hands shake, too.
"It's okay," she whispers. "My singing voice is better than yours."
Tonight, she'll re-write his story.
She'll make it happily ever after.
She owes him at least that much.
June 17, 2004.