by HYPERFocused


When Summer Roberts is ten, she dresses up like The Little Mermaid in the school holiday carnival. She makes everyone call her Ariel, and Marissa Cooper is the only one who doesn't laugh, and say she's got a weird enough name already.

She writes, "I wish I was a Mermaid" for her school poem, and Seth Cohen is the only one who notices how well she made it rhyme. He tells her 'I bet you'd be a pretty Mermaid, Summer." When he smiles at her, then looks away, his braces glint in the pale winter sun.

Her friends tell her he's a geek, and she should ignore him. Still, she can't help a quick grin back at him, before she runs off to play Four Square.



"Don't ever let a man try to change you, Summer," her mother told her, one April night a few days after Summer's father left. He'd kissed Summer goodbye, and made her promise to be good, until he came back for her.

"Make sure your mother doesn't sell my golf clubs," he'd said, packing his car while she watched, determined not to break down like her mother. She was twelve, she wouldn't cry anymore.

'They always want you to be somebody different," her mom went on. "First, they work to make you into their mothers, or their fantasies. And when you don't change enough - can't be what they wanted -- they try and do it physically." "I know Mom, I won't." Summer wrapped her arms around her knees. She hated when her mother got like this. It always happened after a few drinks, or when she'd taken pills. Summer knew her mom had too many doctors. She wasn't even sick, not really.

Summer could hear the tears starting; see the tiny tremors in her mother's shoulders, the way she twisted the hem of her linen blouse. Sometimes she wasn't sure which of them was the child. "Did you know, I used to be beautiful? Everyone said so. I was even homecoming queen, before your father got his perfect, steady surgeon's hands on me. And God, they were perfect. The way he used to touch me?"

"Mom!" She really, really didn't want to hear this. She had about as much interest in her parents' sex life as she had in that weird kid with the curly hair, and dorky t-shirts.

"Sorry, honey, but it's true. I remember how much he used to love me. I was his pet project, his Pygmalion. 'You're quite lovely, but I can make you perfect.' I remember he said that to me on the first day we met. I thought he was an ass. But he had this way of convincing people... and before I knew it, he'd 'fixed; my nose, and a year after that he'd given me 'the kind of breasts all men want'. Not that there was anything wrong with my figure - but I didn't know that until it was too late. So now, instead of looking like a normal, reasonably attractive forty-year-old woman, I look like the 'Roberts Special.' "

"You look fine to me, Mom." Summer didn't know what to say.

"I look like a fucking Stepford Wife, only I wasn't good enough. Asshole returned me to the factory." She downed the rest of her drink - Summer didn't know what it was, but it smelled noxious - and left Summer to her Babysitter's Club book. At least those girls' problems got solved in 150 pages.

A week later, her mother went on an impromptu vacation, but Summer knew it was to dry out. When she came back, Summer's dad had taken her back to his new apartment. It was decided all 'round that this was a better place to raise her, with the right kind of influences. His new wife was young, but a pillar of the community. And if she wasn't especially fond of her new stepdaughter, it wasn't that big a deal. Summer didn't need her anyway. She had her best friend Marissa, and her poster of Justin to talk to. Even her little pony, Sparkles, was a better listener. She would do just fine by herself.



"Luke and I are going to be together forever," Marissa said, writing "L&M TLF" with a silver edged purple pen on one of the blank pages in the Franklin Covey planner her mom got her when she started high school. She had tiny perfect handwriting, that Summer could never copy as well as she wanted.. Summer had one too, but she'd picked it out herself. Marissa's had a pale blue leather cover, and Summer's was red. "Don't you think we're the cutest couple, Summer? That's what everyone's been saying, ever since we sat next to each other on the bus to the museum field trip last year. Everyone thinks we're like, perfect for each other. This is going to be the best summer, ever."

"There's no such thing as perfect. But you and Luke are good together. He's getting kind of hot, with all the water polo and soccer playing." It was true. He'd grown out of his gawky period pretty quickly.

Summer wondered how much time she and Marissa would have together, with both their schedules so full. She had a job at the tennis courts, and the skating lessons she hadn't quite decided to quit. Marissa had her Counselor in Training job at Camp Eucandeau, step-aerobics and ballet. Not to mention the ceramics class Marissa's mother was making her take, "That'll look so good on your Harbor transcript, dear. You know schools like creative people." Summer could do as good an impression of Julie Cooper as she could of her own stepmom. The likelihood they'd spend much time together outside of regulated group functions was small.

Watching as her friend slowly changed, from the girl who'd once broken into the mess hall to steal frozen cookie dough, when they were Eucandeaux campers, to the one who only ate half her Lean Cuisine , Summer wondered it that was intentional.

"Luke likes really skinny girls, Sum. I'm starting to get fat."

"Coop, those are your breasts. They're supposed to be there. My dad gets a new Beamer every time he gives someone a new pair." It didn't matter. She could tell it would be the beginning. Marissa would end up like her mother, changing everything to suit a guy. Summer vowed that she'd never be like that. If she had to, she'd leave before he could think to leave her.

"I don't know, Sum. I just want us to be happy, the way my parents are."

"I hope you will be, Coop. But you can be happy without a guy, too." Summer ducked, laughing as Marissa threw a pillow at her, for being so ridiculous.



It's the autumn after everyone else's lives fall apart. Marissa's father is this close to prison, and her mother can't stand to be anywhere near him. Marissa herself wants nothing to do with Julie, manipulating everyone so she can share her father's dive of an apartment. The myth of the perfect Coopers is shattered.

Summer watches as Marissa twists herself inside out, a weeping willow, bending to the whims of anyone who will water her, help her pretend things are normal. Sometimes it's the new boy from Chino, the one from the broken home, who despite this, seems more solid and dependable than most of the guys from Newport. Other times it's Oliver, who's at least as troubled as she is, though his background is, on the surface, more steady.

Summer finds herself drawn in a different direction than she ever expected. Seth Cohen, the gangly kid with the skateboard and comic books, who's always been on the periphery of her life, has grown into something more. Or perhaps it's Summer who's grown, out of her box of expectations, and into something more adult.

At first she can't admit how much she likes him, but he makes her laugh, and she needs that more than she needs a 'perfect Newport guy' on her arm. She knows it's not meant to last. Pretty soon he'll get tired, bored with her looks or annoyed by her perceived lack of depth. Still, it's nice to be treated well, for as long as it happens.

It doesn't stop her from flirting with the guys she's supposed to like. The Lukes and Brents and Tylers she'll probably end up marrying unhappily, then divorcing after an unwanted kid or two - just like her mom did. There's no way a smart guy like Seth will stick around. After the newness of having a girl wears off, she knows he'll drop her.

She won't let that happen. It's fine to have fun, but that's all it is. It isn't until he embarrasses himself in front of the whole school, risks two more years of ridicule, standing up on the coffee cart and pulling her up there with him, that she finally believes Seth won't let her fall.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix