Summary: Seth hasn't seen Anna in nearly ten years, but when she shows up at his wedding, her very presence causes him to reevaluate things he's done, decisions he's made—and how different his life would be if she had never left. Future fic. But hopefully not too out-there.
Notes: The idea for this came about when I was rewinding "The Goodbye Girl" after it first aired so I could watch it again. As I sat on my floor with my remote in hand, watching Seth press his face against the glass window of the terminal or whatever you want to call it in reverse, I was thinking about how different his relationship with Summer was probably going to be now that he didn't really have anyone to advise him on how to act around her. And that got me thinking, 'Well, what about the other areas of his life?'
Which proves that I think too much about fictional characters, but what's fanfic for if not for that?
And that's what this sprung from.
::shrugs:: So, yeah, that was mostly pointless, but I like hearing about how people think of stories and things, so I thought I'd add that in. Plus it boosts the word count. =)
"Anna, what am I going to do without you? Who am I going to play Jenga with? And you're so wise, Anna, all your sage wisdom, and…what am I going to do without that?
~The Goodbye Girl
Mrs. Roberts is at the bar again.
Summer is standing with her arms folded, her jaw set, and her eyes narrowed as she watches her stepmother flirt playfully with the bartender as he mixes her a tequila sunrise. Seth catches Summer's expression and follows her glare.
"Oh, come on," he says, groaning. "Hasn't she had enough?"
"Are you kidding?" Summer responds lowly. "She's got to have something to wash down that handful of Valium she's got in her purse."
"I'll go cut her off," Seth volunteers, placing a hand on the small of Summer's back in an attempt at comfort for a moment before heading towards the bar.
He sits down and smiles pleasantly at Mrs. Roberts, who, possibly due to the extreme amount of alcohol in her system, beams brightly back at him. "Cody!" she exclaims cheerfully, turning to the bartender. "Cody, this is Seth. Seth, this is Cody."
Seth realizes that she is actually introducing him to the bartender, as if she wants Seth to be as close friends with Cody as she is. Seth flashes Cody a tight, forced smile before returning to Mrs. Roberts. "Mrs. Roberts," he begins.
Mrs. Roberts, in the middle of her first sip, waves a hand impatiently. Setting down her glass, she says, "Please, Seth. I'm Isabel."
"Isabel," Seth agrees, starting to grit his teeth, "don't you think that maybe it's about time to turn in? I mean, Mr. Roberts—Neil," he quickly substitutes before Mrs. Roberts can correct him, "went to bed hours ago. And we've got quite a big day ahead of us, don't we now?"
Mrs. Roberts looks blank.
"Your stepdaughter's wedding. The reason we're here, remember?" Seth tells her.
Mrs. Roberts laughs her false, tinkly little laugh. "Of course!" she giggles. "Of course, yes, I knew that." She turns back to Cody and says conspiratorially, "Summer, my stepdaughter. She's right over there." She points absently behind her to where Summer is leaning against a column now, looking away in embarrassment when she realizes that they're all looking at her.
"Right, that's Summer," Seth tells her. "Now Summer is very excited about tomorrow. She has been spending my money for months on this thing, and it will mean a lot to her if you don't interrupt it every three minutes by throwing up into your purse, okay? So let's put the drink away"—he slides the tequila sunrise across the bar to Cody, who quickly slips it under the bar—"and go to bed. Now how does that sound?"
Mrs. Roberts frowns. "Where's Neil?" she asks, confusedly.
"Neil is upstairs," Seth says patiently, marveling to himself at his composure as he helps Mrs. Roberts to her feet. "Neil, as a matter of fact, is waiting for you in your room. He's been waiting for a long time. So we better get upstairs quick before he falls asleep."
"Right," Mrs. Roberts agrees seriously, nodding once. "Quick like bunnies."
Seth smiles in spite of himself. "Been enjoying that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy DVD box set, Isabel?"
As he leads her to the elevator, he looks over his shoulder and tosses Summer a short smile, which she returns. Seth turns back to the elevator and pushes the 'up' button, keeping his hand on Mrs. Roberts's shoulder as they wait.
About thirty seconds pass before there is a soft little 'ding' and the elevator doors open. Seth ushers Mrs. Roberts into it and follows her in. There is a woman inside, leaning against the wall next to the numbered buttons, her head ducked down. Seth clears his throat and says, "Er, the tenth floor, please."
The woman presses the button, and pauses. She lifts her head and turns to face him, her eyes shining. "Seth?" she gasps.
It takes Seth a moment to process this information: it's Anna. Anna, who he hasn't seen in, like, ten years; Anna, quite possibly the best friend Seth has ever had, even if she was only around for about six or seven months; Anna, his first real girlfriend—wow. I mean, wow. This is really incredible.
"What—what are you doing here?" he exclaims, awkwardly leaning over Mrs. Roberts to hug Anna.
"What do you think I'm doing here?" she sort of laughs, nervously tucking some of her hair behind her ears. "Let's do some detective work, shall we? It's the weekend of your wedding, which you sent me an invitation to, and we're both in the same place for the first time in ten years." She smiles. "Any guesses yet?"
Mrs. Roberts, who has been remarkably quiet throughout this exchange, tugs on Seth's sleeve. "Where's Neil?" she asks again, and Seth turns away from Anna. The elevator doors are open, and it's clear that they're on the tenth floor. Before Seth can respond, Isabel irritably continues, "And who is that?"
"You must be Summer's stepmother," Anna says quickly, smiling pleasantly. "Hi, I'm Anna. I'm one of Seth's friends."
"Yeah, well, Isabel needs to get to her husband, so we really must be going…wait for me, Anna?" Seth asks, almost shyly. "I'd really like to talk to you. Catch up, you know? And Summer." He laughs. "Summer will be thrilled to see you, she was really disappointed when you didn't RSVP."
Anna smiles tightly. "I'll just bet she was," she says stiffly. "But sure, I'll wait."
"Awesome," Seth responds, and leads Mrs. Roberts out of elevator. Anna follows, but doesn't go further than the vending machines that stand, buzzing serenely, at the end of the long hall of doors. Around the corner that the vending machines are positioned at, there is a small glass door that leads to an extremely formal sitting room that is equipped with a mini-mart of sorts and an arcade. It's not an arcade so much as a couple of games (the new, hi-tech ones: Tekken 8, Digital Pac-Man, and some weird shooting game with little point—Seth checked them out when he and Summer had first arrived and had been strongly disappointed), but the mini-mart has liquor in a glass case behind the Formica counter, so it's always busy.
When Seth comes back from returning Mrs. Roberts to her husband, Anna is crouched on the ground in front of the Pepsi machine, frowning. "Hard decision?" Seth asks, and she looks up and smiles.
"Yeah," she replies. "I already put my money in, but I don't know if I still want anything. Nothing really sounds good."
"You could always get a regular Pepsi and spike it with vodka," Seth comments. "Then you and Mrs. Roberts can spend the wedding in the bathroom, puking it up. You could bond. Become great friends. Go on road trips."
Anna grins and pushes the little round button next to the picture of Dr. Pepper. As she retrieves her bottle from the slot at the bottom of the machine, she rises and says, "From what Summer told me about her stepmother, she doesn't seem like a very pleasant person."
"Oh, no, she is," Seth tells her. "So long as, you know, she's got a few martinis in her. She's even fun when she's drunk sometimes. There was this one time at a hospital benefit or something mundane like that where she got up on the piano and started to sing a Doris Day song, but she forgot the words halfway through. Hilarious." He laughs a little and Anna joins him. "But Summer spazzed, she got really embarrassed. She kinda stalked off to the bathroom and threw this vase of flowers on the floor. She broke the vase, you know, and started swearing really loud, and when I went in there she yelled at me and then started to cry." He realizes that he's said a little too much, and that Anna is watching him interestedly as she very slowly unscrews the white cap off the top of her soda bottle. "So that was fun," he mumbles.
"Speaking of Summer," Anna says, "where is she? I haven't seen her. Granted, I just got here, but…"
"Oh, she's downstairs at the bar," Seth responds, gratified for the change of subject. "As a matter of fact, she's actually waiting for me. Actually, it's been more than twenty minutes, so she's probably gotten frustrated with me and went up to bed."
He pushes the 'down' button by the elevator doors and they wait for it, watching the elevator's progress in numbered lights above the doors.
"What, no raucous bachelorette parties?" Anna asks, smirking. "No male policemen strippers, hundreds upon hundreds of cosmos and a phallic cake? Summer's a party girl, where's her party?"
There is a 'ding' and the elevator doors open. Seth and Anna step inside, and Seth presses the 'lobby' button on the switchboard. "Nah," he laughs, leaning against the gold railing that runs along the wood-paneled walls of the elevator. "We did those before we came here. She didn't tell me what went on in hers, I didn't tell her what went on in mine. But I sincerely hope that there was no phallic cake involved in hers, because, really, who wants to eat a penis?"
Anna giggles and takes a sip of her Dr. Pepper before screwing the cap back on and slipping it into her purple barrel handbag. "Well, I'd imagine that the heavy coating of buttercream frosting heightens the appeal a bit," she says.
"Or there's just a lot of really bitter women at bachelorette parties," Seth says, smiling.
This is strange. They have not seen each other in years, but everything—the conversation, the mood—feels as though they just saw each other yesterday. They don't really look that different—sure, Anna's hair is a little longer and a little less blonde, and Seth isn't quite as skinny and gawky as he used to be, but overall, they still look as each other remembers. Their sense of humor is still mainly the same. Anna still wears eccentric clothes and jewelry and a lot of eyeliner. Seth still has his vintage T-shirts and black Converse.
But something is still different.
There are ten years between them.
"So, we, uh, didn't get your RSVP," Seth comments after a while. "We didn't think you were coming."
"I was in London," Anna tells him, adjusting her handbag anxiously. "I only just got the invitation yesterday, because…that's when I got back."
"And you flew out here today?"
"Yeah, this morning," Anna says, and she smiles. "Are you kidding? Seth, I still consider you to be one of my best friends. And I hold myself personally responsible for this mess that is you and Summer. I couldn't miss this." Her smile fades a little, but it's still there. "It's your wedding."
Seth is about to ask her why she was in London when the elevator suddenly starts to shake jerkily. He grips the railing as the elevator comes to a shuddering stop.
"Oh, my God," he says.
Anna frowns and looks around. "I think we're stopped," she says matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, you think?" Seth gasps. "Oh, my God, oh, my God…" He slides down the wall and sits on the floor, drawing his knees up to his chest. He looks very childlike.
"Seth, it's not that bad," Anna says in an attempt to soothe. She taps her fingernails on the metal of the switchboard and adds, "This happens all the time. I've been stuck in an elevator, like, four times, and every time it started up again in less than ten minutes."
"Yeah, well, Anna, I've never been stuck in an elevator," Seth snaps, feeling very tetchy all of a sudden. "I'm claustrophobic, we tend to avoid situations like this."
Anna bites her lip and sits cross-legged on the floor in front of him, her posture impeccable as usual and her purse in her lap. "I forgot about the claustrophobia thing," she apologizes.
"Lucky you," Seth says.
"Do you have your cell phone so you could call Summer or something? She could probably get a mechanic or someone for us," Anna suggests.
Seth shakes his head. "No, Summer has my cell phone," he tells her. "She took it at—at breakfast this morning because she forgot hers in the hotel room and she and Marissa were going to go shopping."
"Oh, Marissa's here?" Anna asks, pleased. "I'd been hoping—"
"Anna, you're missing the point ever so slightly," Seth hisses. He softens his tone when he speaks again. "Don't you have a cell?"
She draws hers out of her purse and shows him: the battery's dead.
"I forgot the charger in my apartment," she says softly.
"Can't you go get it?" Seth demands, not really thinking at this point.
Anna raises her eyebrows. "My apartment being in Pennsylvania, I'd say, no," she responds, seeming to be highly amused with the whole situation.
Seth starts to rock back and forth.
"I think you're being a little pathetic," Anna declares.
Seth glares at her. "I didn't accuse you of pathetic when you told me you were afraid of bunk beds."
Anna tosses her hair. "I've told you this: I believe that if you really want to sleep on a high space all the time, go live on a cliff. And besides, I tend to associate bunk beds with that TV show Oz, and that really scared me."
That makes Seth smile a little, but then he groans. "Oh, my God," he exclaims. "I'm trapped in an elevator, my wedding is in exactly twenty-nine hours, and my fiancé is probably going to, like, break the champagne glasses that are waiting in the hotel room for us in half and stab me with the stems if I ever get out of here!" He bangs his fist on the floor for emphasis.
"Seth," Anna says calmly. "We will get out of here. It's just…a matter of time."
"Yeah, time that I don't have."
…Two Hours Later…
"I've got spearmint Tic-Tacs," Anna declares, setting them down on the floor in front of her amongst the rest of the stuff that was previously in her purse: four different brands of lip gloss that are all pretty much the same color, her dead cell phone, her checkbook, an empty packet of Winterfresh gum, an eyeliner pencil, a pair of earrings ("I bought them at the airport"), and about twelve crumpled up receipts. Oh, and sixty-two cents in loose change.
They are playing 'Who's Got Better Stuff On Them', comparing Anna's purse to Seth's wallet. Speaking of Seth, he's feeling quite a bit better, now that Anna's distracting him. He's also downed about three-quarters of her soda, which apparently was of great help.
Seth frowns. "Now how can I beat green Tic-Tacs?" he muses, thumbing through the contents of his wallet. "Ah," he says, drawing out his 'Better-Than-Yours' item. "Costco Gold," he adds importantly, placing the card neatly in front of him.
"Ooh," Anna says, smiling. When they were in school, and it got really boring at lunch or something, they would play this game with their backpacks. And she would always win. Because, let's face it: girls carry better stuff because they own better stuff. "Hmm," she mumbles, rummaging through her purse again. "Ooh! A Heath wrapper." She puts the candy bar wrapper on top of the receipts.
"Ooh," Seth echoes. "Chocolate and English toffee, that is hard to beat…" He flips through the small set of pictures that he keeps in his wallet. He stops suddenly, and, having made his selection, takes the corresponding photo out of its plastic covering. He holds it between his thumb and index finger and stares at it for a moment or two before setting it on the thick green carpet between them.
Anna leans forward to get a closer look at the picture.
"Oh," is all she can say.
It's her and Seth on the yacht just before the debacle that was Thanksgiving of 2003. They're leaning against the railing, and the wind is blowing their hair so that they look vaguely windswept and…modelish. Seth has his arms looped through the rails, and Anna's hands are in front of her, holding her clutch. It's a good picture; they're both smiling, but not in a way that would suggest that they're uncomfortable. The smiles are natural smiles, smiles that used to come from being in each other's company.
"You still have this picture?"
"Well, yeah," he mumbles. "I've got a lot of pictures. When we moved in together, Summer started going through my wallet and realized that I didn't have any pictures and she went completely ballistic. She said that it looked like I didn't have any friends if there were places for pictures but no actual pictures in my wallet. So she went through the shoeboxes that had all our pictures and picked a few." Seth fingers the photograph. "That was, like, the first one she picked."
Anna looks up, surprised. "Summer picked this picture?"
"Yeah," Seth responds. "She doesn't hate you, Anna."
"I know she doesn't hate me," Anna says. "I just didn't think she liked me very much. And I didn't think she'd want me in a picture that has just you in it."
Seth is a little stung by the assessment of his girlfriend. "Why do you say that?"
"Seth, don't you kinda feel like maybe she's just inviting me to this wedding to finalize the fact that she won? That after I moved away everything was just so much better?"
"After you left, things weren't better," Seth replies edgily.
"Seth, you don't have to say that just because I'm here."
"I'm not." He pauses, unsure if he should say what he wants to. He decides to just say it. "I missed you." She seems pleased to hear this. "A—a lot."
She smiles and looks shyly down at her lap. "I missed you, too," she tells him. "I kinda missed everything, actually. I missed my parents, I missed the stores, I missed the school tuna melts, I missed… a lot of things. But it really was better for me, moving." She sighs. "Because I only missed Newport—I mean, really missed it-- for about a month. I had been missing Pittsburgh the whole time I was in California."
"I missed you for about a year," Seth responds quietly.
Anna looks up and meets his eyes. They smile at each other--a weird, secret sort of smile.
"Did you ever think about coming back?" Seth asks softly. "I mean, not just to visit?"
Anna thinks before answering. "Sometimes," she says slowly, "when the weather got cold, I'd think, 'If I were in California, I would be wearing a miniskirt and walking down the boardwalk eating ice cream right now'. And I would think about how nice it would be to be in California on that boardwalk eating an ice cream, and I would get…distant. I would sort of regress back to summer, and I would think about meeting Marissa, and dancing with Ryan, and watching you follow Summer around, and…I'd miss it." She sighs again, and Anna seems very sad. Seth doesn't know why. That summer was quite easily the best one of his life. "I'd wonder what all of you were doing, and I'd think of calling you—"
"You should've called."
"—but I'd back out." Anna pauses and picks up one of the receipts in front of her. She starts to tear it into tiny pieces. "Because I'd wonder what you were doing." She continues to methodically shred the thin paper of the receipt as she talks. "But then my friends would take me to Dingbat's and we'd have hot chocolates and peanut butter pies and they'd let me talk about you and California." She finishes with this receipt and moves onto another. "But eventually I ran out of stories."
Seth watches her hands. "You could've made some up."
"Oh." Anna brushes some hair out of her face before she continues with the receipt. "Yeah, but by the time I finished the stories, I was tired of telling them."
"Oh," Seth echoes, and he leans back against the wood-paneled wall. He sighs. "After you left, I got real close to Summer. I mean, Ryan was always busy with Marissa—they were always breaking up for some stupid reason and everything would get dramatic and annoying for about a week before they'd get back together—but Summer always listened to me. 'Course, I never had that much to talk about, but whatever I did have to say, she wanted to hear about it. And she told me everything."
Anna smiles a little and reaches for his wallet. Seth doesn't stop her as she opens it and flips through the little section of pictures. There's one of Ryan and Marissa and Summer, sitting on a bench at the pier and sipping sodas. Ryan sits at the very edge, his elbow on the wrought-iron armrest, straw in his mouth. He's looking past Marissa--whose posture is, of course, perfect: she sits straight-backed against the bench, her soda resting on her knee—at Summer, who seems to be talking as usual.
Anna removes the picture from its casing and sets it down in front of Seth. "When was this?"
Seth leans forward and slides the picture towards him a little more. "Um, the summer after senior year, I think. Yeah, that was when Marissa went through her curly-hair phase. I was behind the camera."
He grins sheepishly and pushes the picture back to her. She replaces it and takes out the next one. Seth rests his head against the wall again and closes his eyes. This act causes Anna to look down at her watch. It's a little after 11:00.
"Maybe you should try to sleep," Anna suggests halfheartedly. "You don't want to fall asleep at the altar."
He shakes his head, his eyes still closed. "Couldn't sleep if I wanted to." He looks around anxiously and mumbles under his breath, "Walls, you know."
Anna nods absently and examines the picture. It's of Summer, naturally. It looks to be a fairly recent picture, seeing as how she looks similar to the engagement picture that was sent along with Anna's wedding invitation. Her hair is set in nice little waves and she's wearing some sort of purple top and silver chandelier earrings. It's a professionally taken picture, you can tell that by the pose: she's got her chin propped up in her hand is staring into space dreamily.
Apparently, not only is Summer pretty, she's also ridiculously photogenic.
Anna sucks at taking pictures. Really. Taking pictures is an easy thing: you sit, you smile, you wait for the flash to go off. That's it. But seriously: she sucks at it. Her eyes are always closed (or half-closed, which is worse), her mouth is always open, and everyone else in the picture always looks perfect. Which makes her stand out even more and makes everyone naturally assume that she was totally high when the picture was taken. There are only about ten pictures known to man that she actually looks okay in.
Anna, the picture still in hand, looks up to share this piece of wisdom (would you call it wisdom? More like a musing, probably) with Seth, but he's asleep.
He's got his knees drawn up to his chest, and his head is still against the wall, but one of his cheeks is all smushed because the heel of his hand is digging into it. Seth sighs exceptionally loudly, and that makes Anna smile.
She reaches for his wallet, suddenly eager to view the rest of those pictures. Maybe now he'll shut up about the walls closing in.
Seth is walking through a crowd of people in some sort of outdoor arena type place—it looks like a carnival, actually; there are booths everywhere selling fried food and the cheap stuffed animals that smell vaguely of gin—with a red balloon tied to his wrist and blue cotton candy on a stick in his other hand. He thinks he's lost. The people that he keeps pushing past don't look familiar in any way to him.
This fact is starting to upset him. Seth is starting to feel like he did when he got lost in Macy's that one time when he was six: scared, of course, but also suddenly tired and a little cold. But this time, there are no Max Azria handbags to hide behind.
Seth turns a corner, and standing behind a cotton candy booth, wearing a candy-striper outfit, is Marissa. She is holding an ice cream cone in either hand and standing on her tiptoes, scanning the crowd as if she's looking for someone.
Completely relieved to he sees someone he knows, Seth runs up to her. "Hi, Marissa," he says.
"Have you seen Anna?" Marissa asks.
"Last time I saw her, she was ice-skating," Seth responds. "Hey, can I have an ice cream?"
Marissa sighs exasperatedly. "You already have cotton candy," she says, rolling her eyes. "Besides, this one's for Anna."
"What about the other one?"
Marissa glares at him. "It's for me. The wedding's going to be very long, you know. I might get hungry."
"Oh," Seth replies. "What wedding?"
She sighs again. Marissa seems very irritable. "Yours, you moron."
"Oh," Seth says blankly. "Right. My wedding."
Ryan, dressed in a powder blue tuxedo and top hat, joins Marissa behind the booth. "Still waiting for Anna?" he asks, not even acknowledging Seth.
"Yes," Marissa tells him.
"She's always late," Ryan assures her.
"But it's her wedding," Marissa presses. "She can't just leave Seth up there all by himself. You know how he handles rejection."
"He doesn't handle rejection."
"Exactly," she says wisely.
"What about Summer?" Seth pipes up.
Both Marissa and Ryan turn their attentions to him, looking very curious.
"Don't be stupid," Marissa says bluntly. "Summer's in Constantinople."
Seth blinks. "What? Why? I don't even think that's a place anymore."
"Seth? Seth. Seth, wake up."
Someone is shaking his shoulder, and that annoys him. He doesn't like being shaken for any reason. "Stop," he mumbles.
"Well, wake up, then."
He opens his eyes and there are five more people in the elevator than he remembers: Ryan (who appears to be the one who was shaking him), his mother, his father, Marissa, and Summer (she looks kind of relieved—did she think he'd taken off on her or something?). He is suddenly embarrassed and quickly rises.
"Oh, hey, everyone. Got the, uh, the elevator open?"
"Yes," Anna replies curiously. "You didn't feel it?"
"There was an earthquake once," Summer volunteers quietly, pretending to examine her French-manicured nails, "and Seth slept through it."
Seth feels tension.
He doesn't like tension, especially when he doesn't understand why it's there. He doesn't like when he doesn't understand anything, come to that. "Hi, Sum," he says. "Shouldn't you be in bed? It's, like…"
"Midnight," his mother supplies.
"It's like midnight," Seth repeats. "Don't you have to be up early to do your hair and stuff?"
"You didn't come up," Summer replies simply. "I didn't know where you were."
"I was stuck in an elevator," he tells her plaintively.
That merits a very small smile. "Well, if I'd've known that, I wouldn't've been so worried. I was just a little nervous at the fact that I'd sort of misplaced my groom, you know? Big problem the night before a wedding."
"You didn't misplace me, per se," Seth responds. "I kind of misplaced myself."
"Seth," his father says, and Seth turns his attention to him. "Are you okay? Do you want to maybe get out of the elevator?"
"That sounds awesome." Seth rises to his feet awkwardly, his knees a little weak after sitting down for, like, three hours. "I should probably, uh, get to sleep, you know?"
"Sure," Kirsten says. "Well, good night everyone. Sandy?"
"Yeah." Seth's father claps him once on the shoulder. "Enough excitement for one night?"
"I think so," Seth responds, smiling dimly.
"Good. Now go to sleep." He turns to Summer, who is standing off to the side a little. "Summer, keep an eye on him." He gives her a hug, and she smiles softly at him.
"I will," she says.
"Good," Sandy repeats, and he puts a hand on Kirsten's shoulder, and they depart.
It's just Seth, Summer, Marissa, Ryan, and Anna now. Ryan and Marissa are flanking Summer, and Anna is clutching her purse and looking at the floor. Seth is in the middle. And he's really uncomfortable. But also extremely glad to be out of the elevator.
"Summer, it's really nice to see you," Anna pipes up quietly.
"You, too," Summer responds politely, but she's staring at the floor.
"Right," Seth mumbles, extremely uncomfortable. "Right, well, Summer? You want to, uh, go up?"
"Sure," Summer says. She turns and starts to head in the opposite direction.
Seth waves good-bye to Anna, Marissa, and Ryan. He catches up to Summer and says, "Where are you going?"
"The stairs," she replies shortly, pushing open a white door with a picture of a stairwell on it. He follows her, a little confused.
"Summer, what's the matter?"
She pauses on the third step, gripping the railing. "I'm just tired," Summer intones dully, continuing up the stairs.
"'Just tired'?" he echoes.
"Yes, Cohen," Summer snaps. "I haven't been to sleep in twenty-six hours, so yes, I'm a little worn out."
It clicks. "Summer," Seth says slowly.
"What, Cohen?" Summer steps up onto the landing before the next set of steps, turning cleanly on the toes of her purple Chanel heels.
"Are you mad because I was with Anna for, like, three hours without your supervision?"
Summer scoffs irritably, tossing her hair. "As if. Cohen, I'm not sixteen anymore."
He bites his lip to keep from laughing. "So?"
"So, I'm not as catty and petty as I was then," she says, still not facing him. "I'm just surprised to see her here. She didn't RSVP or anything, which is totally going to mess up the seating arrangements and the dinner, and she didn't bring a date, which messes things up even more, and I think she's going to have to sit with my Stepmonster because I specifically didn't put anyone next to her because I wouldn't wish that on any of my friends or yours, so she's probably going to have to listen to stories about her and my dad's sex life, and no one wants that, and—"
Seth knows Summer has been spending too much time with him now for sure: she's rambling like he does. He takes two giant steps up to her and grips her elbow. "Summer," he says softly, "Anna doesn't mind sitting next to your stepmother, I'm sure."
"Oh, sure, she says that now," Summer replies sourly. "But wait until Isabel's offering to put crushed up tryptophan in her champagne. You know, for that added 'zing'."
"I thought we already agreed that your dad was to check your stepmother's bag before the wedding even started? You know, just in case?"
"We did, but she'll find a way!" Summer exclaims dramatically. "'Oh, Neil, just the Valium, please?' 'I promise I'll only have one drink, Neil, one little, tiny drink.' 'Summer won't mind if I do a table dance with a bottle of merlot, she told me so!'"
Seth is instantly alarmed. "You think she'll do that?"
"Oh, come on, Seth!" Summer cries. "She does it all the time. Don't you remember that time she smuggled that bottle of gin into Disneyland?!"
Seth grips Summer's arms, because she seems to be getting a little hysterical. "Summer," he says. "It's going to be fine, okay? It's going to better than fine. It's going to be perfect."
"What if she OD's?" Summer asks tearfully. "I mean, what if, like, in the middle of the ceremony, she just passes out in the middle of the aisle and breaks out in convulsions?! My dad'll be all like, 'Someone call an ambulance!' and then someone does, and we have to just stand around and wait until the paramedics get there, because no one cares about you and me anymore, they all care about the dead lady in the aisle!"
"Summer," Seth says, in an attempt to calm her down. She ignores him and plows on.
"But then once the paramedics get there, she suddenly stops being dead for, like, a second, and everyone's all 'Oh! It's a miracle!' and they're like, 'Oh, we'll have to take her in. Then we can probably study her to develop a new drug for people who constantly OD!' and everyone decides to follow along to the hospital, completely forgetting about us, and the priest is all like, 'Do you want me to continue or can I go with them?' but we make him marry us first, and he gets all irritated."
"Summer," Seth tries again, but she still isn't finished.
"So then we go to the reception hall, but we're the only ones there, and we eat the whole cake by ourselves because we're so depressed, and then I gain, like, thirty pounds because I ate that whole cake and then you're like, 'You know what? You're fat now. I don't think I can love you when you're like this. In fact, I don't even think we should try. Let's get an annulment.' And then I get even more depressed and hang myself in my closet with my sheets." She is sobbing now, and the last few sentences have been virtually unintelligible. Summer's knees sort of give out, and she collapses on the cold, painted metal floor, crying hysterically. Seth slides down the wall to join her and runs his fingers through her hair as he waits for her to calm down a little.
When her sobs have reduced down to a few quiet sniffles, Seth says, "Summer, it's not going to happen like that."
"Yeah-huh," Summer insists.
"Because Isabel is going to find some way to ruin this for me," Summer says fiercely. "And, okay, it might not be exactly like that, but if it's not, it'll probably be worse."
Seth leans into her and kisses her once; a soft, reassuring little kiss. As he pulls away, he says quietly (while only about two inches away from her face), "Don't worry so much."
"I have to worry," she responds.
"No, you don't. You need to let me worry enough for both of us." He tucks some of her hair behind her right ear. "Besides, worrying causes premature aging."
She knows he's joking, and she smiles.
"I will take care of your stepmother, okay?" he promises.
Summer sighs. "Okay," she agrees.
"Okay. Let's go to bed, I'm tired."
A/N: So ends the first part. It's kind of an introduction of sorts (a really, really long one), and the second and last part will be the wedding, and the actual reevaluation that the summary speaks of. I was originally going to have this be a one-shot, but around the twelfth page I realized that if I was going to do that, I would be in college by the time I finished it. So I decided to break it up: the intro or whatever as the first part, the day of the wedding the second part.
I'm rambling. I apologize.
Disclaimer & Notes on Where I Got Stuff: "The OC" and its related entities belong to Fox and Josh Schwartz, not to me. I only own my little tapes of the episodes, which are my prized possessions until the DVD comes out. I used the phrase 'stepmonster', which I stole from the movie St. Elmo's Fire. Um…what else….oh, the picture of Seth and Anna on the boat is from the episode "The Perfect Couple". I figured out of all the Newpsie events, that would probably be the one there would be pictures from, seeing as how Marissa had a picture of her and Ryan from that episode on her mantle in "The Links". Seth being claustrophobic comes from "The Countdown"…the excessive use of the word 'like' comes from living in the valley of California, as I do (oh, no, that's a stereotype, my mistake) …and I think that's it. For this chapter. =)