Welcome To The Harem

Lady Lazurus by Suture
Summary: Deslea's rec: "This short pre-XF sheds light on Teena's relationships with Fox and his father in the most intriguing way. Well characterised with striking use of small details in the name of bigger things."

TITLE: Lady Lazarus
AUTHOR: Suture
EMAIL: holly_springs94706@yahoo.com
CATEGORY: Pre-XF, Mrs. Mulder POV
FEEDBACK: I live for it.
SPOILERS: None that I can think of
SUMMARY: "Fox answered my tentative questions about
his final term at Oxford, and his two weeks in France
with the impatience of a tennis pro determined to end
the rally against an inept amateur. He had done well
his final term. Paris was beautiful in the early
summer. Yes, Chanel was making a comeback. When he
looked at his watch and said he had to go, I couldn't
bring myself to ask him to stay longer."
DISCLAIMERS: I don't own these characters, etc.
DISTRIBUTION: Archive as you will and let me know if


My stay of execution comes via the telephone.

"Mom, the car got a flat right by the Gruders'," Fox
says in his customary uninflected mumble. "I thought
I'd stay with you tonight and change the tire tomorrow
morning when it's not raining so much."

I push the almost-full, yellow bottle of Valium away
from me and sit up in bed, feeling as if Fox had
caught me in the act. "I'll be right there to get
you," I say. I hope that the two pills I've taken
already won't start to work while I'm driving.
I can hear Daniel Gruder's basso profundo voice in the
background. It's a deep, resonant, lulling sound. If
Hollywood decides to remake the Ten Commandments,
Daniel Gruder should audition for the Voice of God.
"Don't worry about it, Mom," Fox tells me. "Mr.
Gruder said he'll drive me over."

"I'll unlock the door for you." My tongue, suddenly
thick, drags a little over the word "door."

"No," Fox says sharply. I start a little at the
sudden authority in his voice. "It's late. I'll ring
the doorbell, okay? I'll be there in about twenty

"All right, then," I soothe him the way I did when he
was five and cried hysterically at the sight of circus
clowns. "I'll be up waiting for you. Tell Mr.
Gruder thank you," I say before I can stop myself.

"I will, Mom." This last, delivered in the dry tone of
a twenty-six year old poking gentle fun at his
mother's inability to see him as an adult, makes me
smile. Fox doesn't joke with me very often, so when
he does, it seems like the first hints of sun after
too much gray. The momentary warmth I feel tips over
into a long-forgotten heat as I remember another wry,
amused voice from a summer long past. The smell of
cigarettes drifted up from rumpled sheets and I
laughed and laughed as a man with the knife-sharp
profile of a young Paul Newman drawled, bourbon-smooth
and serpent-sly in the dark, "Was it as good for you
as it was for me?"

Daniel Gruder rumbles something indistinguishable and
then I hear nothing but the dial tone. Even at
twenty-six, Fox still scores on the lower end of the
telephone etiquette learning curve.

I avoid looking at the blurry woman in the mirror as I
put the Valium back in my nightstand drawer, smooth
the sheets on the bed, and find my bathrobe. My ears
are ringing slightly and I stumble a little as I walk
down the stairs.

In the dining room, bowls and plates piled high with
food sit untouched, mute testimony to the awkward
domestic scene that played out a few hours ago. I find
containers for charred meatloaf, runny mashed
potatoes, an indistinct green mass of over-boiled
peas. A faulty mother's offering to the unappeasable
gods of parenthood.

Three hours before Fox arrived, on his way back from
his father's house to a brand new apartment and new
beginning in Washington, comforting smells filled my
kitchen. I mixed and peeled and boiled and each
action brought back memories of warm summer evenings
when I presided over a cozy dinner table of three.
Samantha would try to feed her vegetables to the dog
while Fox recounted the plot of the science fiction
novel he'd finished that afternoon. Talk and laughter
flowed in Bill's absence. Sinking my hands into the
warm muck of ground meat, eggs, and breadcrumbs, I
kneaded, and imagined Fox driving back to Washington
tomorrow with a pile of Tupperware containers packed
to the brim with leftovers next to him in the
passenger seat. I could be the kind of mother Mildred
Barrett next door was. Her three strapping sons,
students in Boston, came home every weekend and filled
Mildred's house with their careless, unquestioning
love and raucous male laughter. Surely, I could be
like Mildred for a few hours.

Perhaps I shouldn't have counted these particular
chickens before they hatched. The acrid stench of
burnt meat wafted through the house just as Fox rang
the doorbell. Time and nostalgia, those malicious
tricksters, had let me down again.

Fox ate dutifully, chewing in that unthinking,
mechanical way I remembered from the many
indifferently prepared meals we'd eaten together
during his teenage years. Or rather, back then, we
sat at opposite ends of the too-large dining room
table while Fox ate and read a book and I nursed my
nightly aperitif of anti-depressants, silence, and
guilt. Tonight, I picked at my own plate and tried to
hold a conversation with this too carefully neutral
stranger. Fox answered my tentative questions about
his final term at Oxford, and his two weeks in France
with the impatience of a tennis pro determined to end
the rally against an inept amateur. He had done well
his final term. Paris was beautiful in the early
summer. Yes, Chanel was making a comeback. He
started at Quantico on Tuesday. When he looked at his
watch and said he had to go, I couldn't bring myself
to ask him to stay longer.

The doorbell's harsh buzz startles me. Have I really
been standing here between the kitchen and the dining
room for the past ten minutes holding an uncovered
container of peas?

My son takes me aback when I open the door. Fox is a
man now. I hadn't realized that during dinner. He
stands under the porch-light and I can see that Nature
hasn't stinted. Somehow, growing up in the atmosphere
of a house so noxious potted plants always died in a
few days, Fox managed to flourish. Not in spirit. I
know that. But, physically at least. I look at him
and see his father's lush mouth and gray-green eyes
framing my stubborn nose.

"Mom. Hi. Sorry about this," Fox continues to stand
on the porch, dripping, and waiting to be asked in.

"Don't be silly, Fox," I say before I realize how
snappish I sound. I want to cry at the way his face
goes blank as he starts to apologize again. I cut him
off. "Come in. You're soaking wet."
He stands in the foyer, still waiting patiently.
Under any other circumstances, I'd want to make a joke
about vampires, but this is my son hovering in the
foyer like a homeless ghost.

"I'll go get you something to change into," I tell
him. "I put hot water on so you can make yourself
some tea." Fox nods and walks towards the kitchen.

Nothing in Fox's old room really fits him now. After
fifteen minutes of scrounging, I find an Oxford
T-shirt Fox must have worn the last time he was here
and a pair of sweatpants Bill left behind a few years
ago after a reconciliation attempt that went nowhere.
Hopefully, Fox will think the sweatpants are his.
There are some things no son needs to know.

In the kitchen, I find Fox prowling amongst the
cabinets. "Can I have hot chocolate instead?" he
asks, holding up a can of Swiss Miss hot cocoa.

"Fox, I've probably had that hot chocolate since the
Nixon administration." I want to take my words back
the moment I say them.

Either Fox doesn't make the connection, or he chooses
to ignore it. "Scientific studies have proven that
hot chocolate has a very long shelf life," he
deadpans. I can see a hint of a smile in his eyes.

"Go change and I'll put this scientific theory to the
test," I say and his smile travels down to his mouth.
We're talking to each other the way Mildred Barrett
and her sons talk. Teasing, affectionate, and
unhampered by the weight of past history.

For a moment, I swear I can smell sunshine, brine, and
the scent little boys give off after a hard day of
playing when Fox comes back into the kitchen. He sits
down, long legs jutting out of Bill's too-short
sweatpants. I set his cup of hot chocolate in front
of him. The cowlick he's had ever since he was a
little boy pokes up, stubborn and unruly, and I smooth
it down gently, wondering at how soft his hair is. Fox
tenses for a moment before he leans, cat-like, into
my touch. He turns and hooks an awkward arm around my
waist. We stay this way for a minute, uncertain what
to do next.

"I'm sorry about dinner," I say. "I wanted it to be
so nice and then-"

Fox shakes his head against my hip and then lets go of
me. "Don't, Mom. I know. I just--. I shouldn't act
like a little kid anymore." He looks up at me and
tries to smile again. I push his hair back from his
eyes the way I did when he was younger and needed a
haircut. Such sad eyes.

"You should go to bed," I tell him. "You're probably
exhausted by all of the driving you've done today."

He yawns as if on cue.

"I'll get you fresh sheets and a toothbrush," I say.
The ringing in my ears starts up again. For a moment,
I wonder if I'm just unused to so much domesticity in
one day.

I fight against the insistent buzzing in my ears as I
climb upstairs. It sounds like the rasping of a
thousand dry husks of grain. Fox follows me to his
room and snorts at the circa 1978 decorating scheme.
"Geez, Mom," he grumbles as he eyes a Farrah Fawcett
poster uneasily sharing space with a poster of a
tuxedoed Marlon Brandon as Don Corleone in The
Godfather. "You don't have to keep the room exactly
the way I left it."

I'm having a hard time focusing on Fox. He looks so
far away.

"-teenage tastes preserved for posterity-"

Unconsciousness, when it overtakes me, comes so fast.


It's the last day of our second week at Quonochantuag.
Bill and Charles play football on the beach as I lie
in the sun and wait, hand on stomach, for the baby to
kick again. A dog-eared copy of East of Eden rests
face-down in the sand next to the latest Life. The
real-life Cain and Abel taunting each other forty
yards away from me are so much more interesting than
anything the Bible or Steinbeck has to offer.

As they face off, Bill stands tall and sun-gilt. He's
every inch the fortunate son. Charles, on the other
hand, has the dark, intense beauty of a seductive
second son. A Richard III minus the hunchback but
possessed of the same scorching ambition and silver
tongue. My own private archetypes taunt each other
and pretend it's only a game.

Ever since Charles showed up at the summer house last
week, we've been entangled in this unconsummated
menage-a-trois. At dinner, Bill feeds me pieces of
lobster from his fork while, under the table, Charles
drags his foot against my bare shin. Bill buries his
face in my hair as Charles smokes a cigarette outside,
silhouetted against the evening sky. Charles helps me
wash the dishes and steals a clandestine kiss. We can
hear the clink of glasses and bottles as Bill mixes
nightcaps for us all. If Professor Tati were here, he
would smile knowingly at me and say, "You see Teena?
The French farces. Even today they still have life."

Charles scores a touchdown and looks over in my
direction. "Some applause from the stands would be
appreciated, Teena," he tells me. I clap and avoid
looking at Bill as he frowns. Instead, I think about
the taste of tobacco and skin.

The waves suddenly crash against the shore, loud and
demanding. I see something huddled at the foot of the
beach where sand turns into water. Bill and Charles
play on, oblivious. I stand up and walk towards the
sea. It's a little girl curled up tight as a
seashell. I brush her hair away from her face and
realize it's Samantha. Her eyes are closed. Her skin
is a sickly, pale gray. Snarls of seaweed cling to
her like worms. I don't think she's breathing. My
little girl's returned to me and she's not breathing.

I pull my little girl into my lap, open her mouth,
place my mouth over hers, and breathe. Inspire. From
the Latin. To give breath. To animate. She tastes of
the sea and death. I swallow against the bile that
surges up in my throat. Breathe, Samantha. Breathe.
You can't come back to me to die.

Footsteps continue to pound against the sand.

I look down and see myself lying in my own lap. I'm a
little girl. Eight years old. My eyes are shut,
sealed tight against the setting sun. Worms the color
of pearls crawl out of my mouth.

"Do you have a favorite child, Teena?" a voice asks.
I think it's Bill, but I can't be sure.

I'm lying in bed and I know I should get up, but I
can't. I'm so tired and I don't know what day it is.
Time passes the way it does in a badly filmed movie.
I look out the window one day and see that the
season's changed from winter to spring without any

"Mom," I hear someone say. Fox, maybe. I huddle
deeper into the blankets. I should get up and make
dinner for my son. I should ask him how his day was
and watch him do his homework. "Mom. Are you okay?"


Since Fox is so insistent, I sit up. He's standing by
the foot of the bed, dressed the way he was his
freshman year of college. Artfully torn black jeans.
A black T-shirt with the words "The Clash" scrawled
across the front in white. Two silver studs in his
right ear. Fox smiles and, for a moment, I see
Charles's slow, sinful smile spread across my son's

"You should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb your
hair," Fox says. Mascara-rimmed green eyes glitter at
me. "You should wear tiger pants. You should have an
affair. Don't you know, baby? Gee, you're rare."

He holds his hand out to me and I see a wedding ring
and a cake of soap. He closes his hand and opens it
again. Presto. Nothing in the palm of his hand.

"You are your opus, your valuable, your pure gold
baby," Fox bends down and kisses me on the forehead in
benediction and farewell.

There's a shriek and a burst of flame and I'm rising
and rising into the air.


I open my eyes to find myself sitting arms and legs
akimbo on the floor of Fox's room. Fox crouches in
front of me, worried green eyes trained on my face.
He gives my arm a helpless pat. "Mom? What happened?
Are you okay?"

I try to stand up, but Fox pushes me back down onto
the floor. In his anxiety, he's not as gentle as he
could be. "Don't try to get up yet, Mom. Just rest for
a few more minutes, okay?"

I close my eyes for another moment and then open them
again. "What happened?" I ask. My voice sounds
normal at least.

"I-I don't know," Fox tucks my hair behind my ear for
me, fingers fluttering against my cheek. "I was
saying something about how embarrassing it is to be
reminded that I used to be a Farrah Fawcett fan when
you suddenly sort of sat down like your legs just gave
out. I think you lost consciousness for a little bit.
I kept asking you what was wrong and you didn't

I shush the perverse imp that sometimes takes up
residence in my head. He's suggesting I make a joke
about missing time.

"Could you get me a glass of water, Fox?" I don't
know if I can bear to look at my son's frightened face
any longer.

Fox nods and heads off to the bathroom after he tells
me again not to move or try to get up. I hear the tap
hiss and the medicine cabinet doors clink open and
shut. I hope he remembers I keep paper cups in the
cabinet over the toilet. I'd prefer not to drink out
of my bathroom mug.

He comes back into his room carrying a Dixie cup and
wearing a studiously blank expression on his face. I
take the cup from him and sip at the tepid water. He
sits down in front of me Indian style and braces his
arms against the floor behind him. Long, slender
fingers, his father's fingers, beat out an agitated

"So what do you think happened, Mom?" Fox asks me. I
can hear anger thrumming underneath the surface of his
casual question.

I steel myself to look into his eyes and smile a
silly, false smile that will fool no one. "It's
nothing, Fox. I didn't eat very much today and I had
glass of wine after you left. The wine probably went
to my head. That's all." Fox considers me with hard,
knowing eyes. An investigator's eyes. I want to
laugh at my own absurdity. My son has a degree in
psychology from Oxford and plans to be an FBI agent.
He knows all about the evil and weaknesses that lurk
in men and women's hearts.

The silence stretches out thick and heavy. I drink
the last of my water guiltily, feeling as if our
positions have somehow been reversed and I'm the
fifteen year-old caught offering flimsy excuses to her
stern, disapproving father after he catches her
kissing the neighborhood Lothario. I try again. "And
I haven't been sleeping all that well this week. The
heat. All those things combined made me dizzy for a

Rage and fear flash over Fox's face, making him look
so much older than twenty-six. "Bullshit, Mom," he
spits the words. "You could open a pharmacy with all
of the drugs you've got in your medicine cabinet.
What did you take after I left? How much?"

"Don't you dare speak to me that way, Fox," I say, but
my voice cracks mid-sentence.

"Was that what you were doing when I called you? Were
you just going to leave the door unlocked so I could
come home and find you?" He's leaning forward now,
hands gripping my arms hard. "How much did you take,
Mom? How much?" The words tumble out, but he doesn't
raise his voice.

"I only took two," I tell him. "Two Valium. That's
all." I sound on the verge of hysteria even to my own

Fox takes a deep breath and lets go of my arms. "Why
did you do that?" he asks in a soothing murmur. His
eyes are soft. Green shot through with gold. His
father's eyes.

For a moment, I want to tell him the truth. I want to
tell him that there are days I'm so tired I can't get
out of bed. I simply lie in my room and watch the sun
make its way across the sky. When it's dark, I shut
my eyes, but I don't go to sleep. I needed two hours
today to shower and put my clothes on. My thoughts
never leave me alone. As I look at my son, so young
and already so haunted, I know that telling him would
be the most selfish thing I could do. I've been a
selfish mother. I've wronged my son in so many ways.
But this last, I cannot do.

I try to smile again and I must do something right
because Fox relaxes slightly. He's still young enough
to want to believe in his mother when she lies. "I
just wasn't sleeping very well, Fox, and I thought
that maybe I would be able to fall asleep faster if I
took an extra dosage. It was a stupid thing to do."

He pulls me into a fierce embrace. "I was so scared,
Mom," he says into my shoulder. "I was so scared."

I stroke his hair and his back. "I know, Fox. I
know. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."


I wake up in the morning and see Fox asleep in the
armchair by my bedroom window. He helped me up last
night and hovered over me as I walked to my room,
knock-kneed and wobbly as a newborn foal. He insisted
on staying with me until I went to sleep, but I was
awake long enough to watch his head droop and his eyes
drift shut. Looking at him in the early morning-sun,
I realize anew that he really has grown into a
startlingly beautiful man. A boastful mother's pride
surges through me and I laugh.

Fox opens his eyes and for a moment he looks wild and
confused. Then he sees me and smiles. "I haven't
fallen asleep sitting up since Medieval History with
Professor Leslie." He stretches luxuriously. "How
are you feeling this morning?" he asks.

"I'm fine, Fox," I tell him. "Go get some real sleep
in your bed. I'll have breakfast ready when you wake
up." He 's still groggy enough that he shuffles off
to his room obediently.

As I get ready to go downstairs, I almost look
directly at my own reflection in the mirror.


Fox stands on the porch holding a brown paper bag full
of French toast and sausages. "Here's lunch and
dinner for today," he teases and smiles when I look
vaguely scandalized.

"Let me drive you over to the Gruders'," I say. "I'm
perfectly fine."

"Mom," he says in a mock-haughty voice. "I run farther
than that everyday."

We both stand in front of the house trying to think of
something else to say. Fox shifts from one foot to
the other and then hugs me again. "I'll call you as
soon as I get back to Washington," he says against my

"I'll be waiting," I tell him. I take his face
between my hands and kiss him on the forehead. "Don't
worry about me, Fox. Just come see me more

He blinks back tears and gives me a quick, abashed
kiss on the cheek. "I will."

I watch my son until he becomes a tiny figure in the

I should sit on a rock in Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants. I am rare.


Author's notes:
Sylvia Plath hovers over this story in ways both
explicit and unobtrusive. I basically stole wholesale
from Plath's poem "Lady Lazarus" in the Mrs. Mulder
hallucination scenes. The lines "I should sit on a
rock in Cornwall and comb my hair/ I should wear tiger
pants/ I should have an affair" and "Gee, baby you're
rare" come from the poem "Lesbos." I thought about
working in a few references to The Bell Jar, but that
seemed like overkill.