Summary: Glimpses into the important moments of Summer Robert's life, the moments that have shaped who she is. Little peeks at Seth as well. S/S.
Rating: heavy PG-13 for language and sexual innuendo.
Feedback: Greatly appreciated. I won't withhold writing for feedback, but it certainly makes it feel more worthwhile. I'd love to hear anything, a sentence you liked, a piece of the story, your general thoughts. Anything. I reread and treasure everything people say to me.
Author's Notes: The title and poetry are from the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot. Summer would have been born in August 1987.
Disclaimer: I do not own any original characters or original plots. They belong to the creators of the OC universe. My other plots and prose and unique characters are all mine, copywrited December of 2003, and not for use without my permission.
Chapter 1: Submerged
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
Friday, June 9, 1990:
You said we could go to the beach! Summer slid down against the wall opposite the bathroom door, swiping angrily at the tears rolling down her cheeks. You said! You promised!
I know I did, sweetheart, but sometimes things don't always work the way we've planned. Mommy's voice, strained and sad, drifted through the door. Please come out and let me hug you before I go.
Summer drew out the word, drumming her heels against the door. No! You promised! You promised! She hiccuped, drawing in a breath through the tears. You promised! There was silence from the other side of the door, then she heard Mommy walking away, heels clicking on the hardwood floor.
Usually Summer loved it when she could hear Mommy walking down the hallway. When she could, it meant that Mommy was dressed up, wearing fancy high heels. And when Mommy dressed up, Summer usually got to dress up too. She liked dressing up, because it meant Mommy would spend time helping her get ready, and then they would go to a party together.
That very morning Mommy had taken her to a garden party at the country club, and Summer had worn her new sun dress. Her grandmother had sent it to her from New York; it was starched and pink with white pinstripes. She also had matching white sandals. Mommy had held her hand and all the other women at the party had admired her dress and told her how much she looked like Mommy. Summer had clung shyly to Mommy as she talked to her friends. All the grown-ups had sparkling liquid in jewel-toned glasses, and someone had given Summer a glass of her own, filled with pink juice. To match her pretty dress, she was told.
But the day had been warm and the glass had been slippery with beaded water and she had dropped it, spilling juice down the front of her dress. The liquid had seeped into the fabric, spreading like a bloodstain across the front of her skirt.
Summer studied the stain now, running her fingers over the ruined cotton as she listened to the muffled rise and fall of voices down the hall. Mommy's: high pitched, desperate, furious. Daddy answering in short, clipped sentences, flat-voiced. She was only three, but Summer was used to these sounds. She could tell from Daddy's involvement in the argument that Mommy was winning. Whenever he grew silent and walked away, Mommy had lost the fight.
Now he was coming back down the hallway, pounding on the door with the flat of his hand. Summer flinched and drew her legs back, sniffling. Young lady, you get out here this instant! He hit the door again. Do you hear me? Unlock this door right now!
Bruce, for God's sake, don't scare her!
Will you please let me handle this?
You don't need to yell at her!
Oh, and what should I do? Plead like you've been doing for the last hour? Because that clearly worked so well!
Don't use that tone! Don't you dare use that tone with me!
You know exactly what tone I mean!
I can't breathe in this house without you getting offended!
I guess it's a good thing I'm leaving, then. There was a moment of chilly silence, then Mommy's voice right outside the door again. Summer, my plane leaves in an hour. I really wish you'd come out and say goodbye.
Summer stuck her thumb in her mouth and didn't answer.
When Mommy spoke again her voice sounded fragile and thin. Listen, sweetheart, I know I said I'd take you to the beach as soon as it was warm enough. But now I need to go away for a little while.
Summer pulled her thumb out. But I don't want you to go!
I don't want to go, either, sweetheart. But I'll be back soon. There's always next summer. Please come out and give me a hug before I go?
Summer stood and reached for the doorknob with both hands, ready to open it. Daddy's voice, a venomous murmur, stopped her. Be back soon? For chrissake, Amy, do you have to sugarcoat everything? Why not just tell the kid the truth, that you're a spoiled princess who can't handle being a mother and you're running back to your parents in New York?
Fuck you, Bruce, Mommy spat out the words. Fuck you.
Summer backed away from the door, startled by the cold fury in Mommy's voice. She was used to the fighting, but this was different. Mommy had never used those mean words — those words Summer knew she was never, ever supposed to say, even though Daddy said them sometimes — before.
Now who's the better parent? You think she needs to hear you say stuff like that? The door rattled. Look, she's clearly not coming out. Just say goodbye, okay?
Mommy sounded rushed and tearful. Summer, my cab is waiting. I love you very, very much and I didn't mean — I don't want you to be sad. Goodbye, sweetheart. The heels clicked back down the hall, followed by Daddy's louder footsteps, then silence.
Summer stared at the door, wiping at the snot beneath her nose with a chubby fist. Tears ran down the side of cheeks and dripped off her chin. Her breath coming in great gulps, she marched over to the bathtub. It took all her strength to turn on the faucet. She held a hand under the rushing water like she'd seen Mommy do, then, scrubbing at her tears with her other hand, climbed up onto the toilet seat to wait.
She often sat on the toilet seat while waiting for Mommy to get ready, watching her in the mirror. First, Mommy would put on lipstick, blotting the scarlet on a tissue and handing it to Summer to throw in the garbage. Then eye shadow; she had a hundred shades, every imaginable type of blue and green, like iridescent mermaid's scales. She'd crouch to let Summer put on her necklace, her small fingers fumbling with the tiny clasp, then open the cabinet and take out the sleek blue bottle of her favorite perfume. One spray into the air, the scent of lily-of-the-valley, and she and Summer would twirl together in the fine mist.
It was easy enough now for Summer to climb up onto the counter and open the cabinet, her fingers leaving grubby marks on the fogged up mirror. There was the perfume, with its gold top and scalloped edges. She reached for it, suddenly desperate to smell Mommy in the air, and tried to spray it like Mommy always did, but nothing came out. She started to climb back onto the toilet seat, the bottle clutched in one hand, but her searching foot missed the seat and she slipped, grabbing at the counter for balance.
The bottle crashed from her hands into the sink. She peered down at the shards of bottle, feeling just as she had that morning when she'd broken the glass of juice and ruined her dress. Guilty and scared. Mommy hadn't been mad then, but she'd be mad when she saw this. She loved that perfume. But she had loved the dress too, and Summer had been surprised that she hadn't yelled. She had just looked sad, and they had gone home soon afterwards. Summer had sat in the back seat and watched Mommy click her shiny fingernails on the steering wheel. They hadn't turned on the radio and sung along like they normally did. And when they had walked in the door to see Daddy waiting in the front hall, instead of working in his office as usual, Summer had known something was wrong.
A door slammed downstairs. Daddy was back in his office. He hadn't heard the glass break, he wasn't coming upstairs. And Mommy wasn't there to find her.
The bathtub was almost full. Summer looked down at the front of her dress. It was dirty, and ugly, and she hated it now. It would never be pretty again. She turned off the water, unbuckled her sandals, and climbed into the tub with her dress still on. It bubbled out with trapped air, floating around her in a full circle, like a ballerina's tutu. She poked at the ballooning fabric, spreading it out, fanning it through the water. Wet, the material was sheer and clingy, a second skin. She scrubbed at the stain, trying to erase the damage.
Daddy knocked on the door. He sounded hollow and stern. Your mother's gone. Time to come out.
Summer slapped her hands down into the water. It splashed over the edge, but Mommy wasn't there to yell at her. She splashed more on the floor, on purpose this time.
What are you doing in there?
Taking a bath! She stretched her feet out to the end of the tub, kicking wildly. Water flew everywhere, spattering the floor and wallpaper.
You know you're not supposed to take a bath alone. Get out right now, young lady!
Summer leaned back until her ears were underwater. She couldn't hear him anymore. His voice was warped and faraway, the words sounded like a made-up language. She giggled and pressed her hands against the sides of the tub before going under completely. Everything was silent underwater, the light a glowing blur far above the surface. The tears on her face didn't matter anymore, wet as she was. It was so peaceful there, lying on the bottom of the bathtub, her hair a dark halo around her face. Next summer, when Mommy came back to take her to the beach, she would lie under the waves like this and stare up at the sun.
She knew what drowning was; Mommy had explained it to her once when they were at a neighbor's pool. Mommy said she had to be careful, because people couldn't breathe underwater. Summer knew that was true. Already her lungs were growing tight.
Still, she wished she wished she could stay there, submerged, forever.