This Summer

"Drop the chin a little, good, good, close your eyes and then lift them up towards me, perfect!" The photographer nodded his approval, pausing for a moment to marvel at the subject. "Okay, let's get her hair pulled back for the ballroom shots. Henry, get it off the neck, just like we talked about?" The hairstylist nodded and began to gather up fistful of pins, consulting the sketch pinned on the bulletin board.

Summer Roberts sat calmly in the midst of the hurried staff. She was posed on a curved bench, draped in an emerald green Carolina Herrera gown which she wore as easily as jeans and a t-shirt. The shot was finished, but she maintained her languid position as Henry fussed with her hair, coaxing the long dark curls off her shoulders and spinning them into an updo. Her brown eyes flicked around the country club patio before she settled back into her thoughts. At least one good thing came out of this summer, she noted. She'd thrown herself full force into the position opened up when Marissa had decided to abandon the unofficial junior sweetheart of Newport title. Summer had organized charity functions with surprising ease, handily setting fundraising records for several of Newport's philanthropic organizations while securing a place of power in the social sphere. She was back with a vengeance.

The updo complete, Summer pulled herself off the bench and walked inside to the dressing room, where an assistant slide her out of the Carolina Herrera dress and into a strapless navy Oscar de la Renta with silver starbursts stitched across it. A heavy diamond and sapphire necklace settled into her clavicle and she threaded the matching earrings into her earlobes before striding towards the ballroom.

The ballroom at the club was gorgeous. Summer had steeled herself to be the consummate professional for the shoot, not wanting to seem like an easily impressed kid, but she couldn't maintain her composure at the sight. "Wow," she breathed, and the assistant smiled at her, happy to have pleased her.

Candles surrounded room – there must have been thousands of them. Each one was place on a circular mirror, so the flames reflected light across the room. Soft chiffon draperies hid the walls, and the entire space appeared to be a luxurious cave. Summer navigated her way towards her mark, a small empty circle near the middle of the room, when the effects supervisor secured a navy harness around the skirt of the dress that blended in perfectly. Summer watched him carefully.

"Dontcha worry, there, it's safe," he said. "We gotcha hooked into three safeties, so everything'll be fine. They'll airbrush out the harness and the pulleys in post-production, and it'll look great. You're a flying angel."

Summer smiled nervously. "Thank you." She stepped into her mark and stretched her fingers and the effects man traced his way back to the edge of the room, setting up more candles to cover his path. She could barely see the staff as she was pulled upward over the candles until she was about 15 feet off the ground. The photographer's voice was hazy as she obeyed his instructions.

Hands up, lift arms, tilt forward, palms down, eyes up, hold. Hold. Hold.

"Oh," she breathed out, the word lost to everyone but herself. It was still in the room – the only sound was the soft click of the camera. Summer wasn't sure if it was real or imagined, but she could feel the heat of the candles on her palms and she looked across the room for the perfect shot, feeling for a moment that she had regained control of her life.

"Summer!"

She froze in the air. She recognized that voice – she would have known it anywhere. He ran towards her, knocking over the candles and stubbing out the flames on the floor. She wondered if he'd made marks on the floor. It's be difficult to repair, she told herself dully. Keep looking at the candles, don't look at him, it'll all be over if you look...

She looked. Seth was standing a few feet to her right, looking up at her with his big puppy dog eyes and she could feel herself softening for a moment.

"Summer?" His voice caught a little on her name. She was still suspended in the air, and she reached her arms toward him, marveling that even though the distance between them had gotten infinitely smaller, he was still beyond her grasp. The camera clicked and Summer grimaced, turning her face away.

"Are we done?" She managed to sound crisp. The wires began to lower and Seth stepped to the side of the room as the effects people bustled around. Thank god, she thought. I need to get out of here. Her feet touched the ground and she gathered up the skirt of the gown, moving towards the door thinking go, go, go.

She was aware of Seth watching her. She managed not to burst into a run and instead began walking as quickly as she could while maintaining some semblance of composure. The assistant for the shoot scurried alongside her.

"Are you okay?" the girl asked timidly.

"Fine!" Summer flashed her a big smile. "I just realized I have somewhere else to be, and I need to get changed."

"Okay." The assistant helped unbutton the dress and Summer slipped out of it, throwing on her own clothes.

"Thanks." Summer's voice had a rare note of gratefulness in it, and she shook her hair back. "You know how it is," she forced out brightly, "Busy, busy, busy!" She grabbed her bag and headed out into the parking lot. Thank goodness the club valet had a crush on her; she was inside the BMW and cruising away from the club in mere seconds.

At the red light, Summer slowed to a stop and began breathing again.

He was back.

She wasn't ready.