by HYPERFocused

In the daytime, Ephram skims the bugs and early falling leaves from the public pool. He watches Bright grow more golden every day, and gets distracted thinking about that warm tan skin against his own paleness. Water droplets follow the hills and hollows of Bright's torso, as he shakes himself off after "rescuing" another preteen girl. No one in Everwood would dare to really drown. The town can only handle one young tragedy at a time, and it is still Colin Hart's turn.

He sees Amy as she collects brightly colored plastic glasses and plates, and places them in a tub for the club's dishwashers to clean and sterilize. Rum dances with cola, and iced coffee twirls with tea, as the bent umbrellas and shriveled lemon wedges float in the mix.

It reminds Ephram of the odd interactions people have with each other in summer. New and shallow friendships, like his sister's with those other girls. Old lovers and married couples squabbling over sunscreen and ice cream.

Amy is oblivious to all of it, staring off into space like the one person she wants to see is there, just out of her sight. Sometimes she smiles for a moment, then her expression sours like she's just tasted the dregs of the lemonade. She's living fully inside her pain, and nothing else - no one else - matters, or even exists.

Ephram wants to tell Amy she's full of it, that her loss doesn't give her the right to stomp on everyone else's. She isn't hurting more, she's just sixteen, and thinks she stars in every story.

He tries to console her with his commiseration of the situation. He tells her everything well meaning people say to make you feel better is wrong. You don't get over it. Your body just finds ways to compensate for the loss, or you'd never be able to function again.

Ephram tears off the scab on his mother's memory, even though he knows the situation isn't quite the same. She will have other boyfriends, and Colin was never exclusively hers. There's nothing to be gained by informing her "Bright loved him too, and more to the point, he understood him."

He gets no understanding for his troubles, just "I wish he wasn't your father, Ephram. I shouldn't have to think of him every time I talk to you." With that, his crush on Amy is officially over. There's only one Abbott he wants to be with now.

"Yes, well, sometimes I wish you weren't Bright's sister. I shouldn't have to think of you every time I blow him," he doesn't say. He just tells her sometimes he feels the same way, but ultimately his father is a good man. Amy doesn't listen. She never does.

Ephram can't imagine having to make the decisions his father does. How when things go right, it's "God's will", and when they don't, it's "He's the one who let Colin die." To go from paragon to pariah in the span of a day is nearly unfathomable.

Bright comes over after work most days that summer. Ephram says he smells like cocoa butter and chlorine, and tastes like sugar and lemon sorbet. It's nice to get away from Amy, and her all consuming angst. He's long since stopped telling her "I loved him too," and he's never once said, "for longer than you did."

The trip up the stairs to to Ephram's room becomes as familiar as the daily climb up to the lifeguard tower. Getting to touch Ephram is as much of a rescue as his daily dives into the pool.

When he kisses Ephram, he closes his eyes, and pretends not to wish - for a moment -- it was Colin. He thinks Eprham is doing the same thing, even though they're each remembering a different guy. First or second, either would be better than Colin the dead elephant in the middle of the room. And really, he loves that Ephram understands this, and he doesn't want Ephram to be anybody else but himself.

"Colin never wanted to be different," he told Ephram once, when they talked about the do not resucitate note Colin left. Ephram knew Bright meant more than "he didn't want to be a vegetable." Bright told him how he'd admitted loving Colin - that way - while drunk off his ass after a party. He couldn't say it sober, except to himself. Colin couldn't say it at all, though he showed it in the way he touched Bright - more intimately than he ever did with Amy. Sometimes Bright felt guilty, knowing Colin was moving from Amy's room to his, and doing much more with him.

Delia pours Bright sun tea from the gallon jar she's just big enough to lift, and basks in his small smiles at her. She doesn't tell Brittany that he's kissed her on the head twice, and she didn't have to pretend to drown. She also doesn't tell her how he always goes up to Ephram's room, and when they come downstairs, they both look disheveled.

She's not sure what they're doing up there, but she figures it's ok. Ephram seems happier lately, or at least less unhappy. He's even played Cat's Cradle with her without complaining. She watches as their hands twist the strings into strange patterns, and then unwind back into smoothness.

Delia thinks everything has been tangled that year. Her father's acted like Ephram used to, and pulled away from everyone and everything. Ephram picked up the slack, acting more like a father to her at times, then the bratty older brother he used to be.

She wishes her mother were still around to clear it all up for her. She watches the psychics on TV, and tries to think of ways to call without getting caught. She always hangs up the phone before she finishes dialing. She knows her father wouldn't believe, or approve. It's up to her to find her own answers, just as soon as she figures out the questions.


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