Chapter Seven: Summer

SUMMER

 Summer presented an interesting conundrum that I’ve mentioned numerous times by now: my sister hadn’t taken a great liking to the whole book idea, and I knew deep down that since Summer had been one of my sister’s school friends I’d have to get her blessing before making contact.

At first I’d decided to contact Summer under the pretense that Rachel’s forgiveness would be easier to obtain than her blessing. Though my conscience kept reminding me that this wasn’t true, and really was an all around terrible idea.

As did my friends.

You’re going to have to talk to your sister first,” my friend Sare had told me.

Maybe not. Maybe I can circumvent her entirely and then tell her when I finish the book. Or if it gets published. Or on her death bed. Or never,” I tried.

You know she’s going to be ten times more pissed if you do all this without checking with her first,” Sare argued. “And you’ll know she’ll be in the right.”

She had a point. I knew she had a point. I just didn’t want to admit that she had a point.

There was no doubt about it, I was going to have to get Rach’s blessing first. To do that, well, I figured I was going to need all the help I could get.

I came up with a plan: I would get a box of Rachel’s favourite doughnuts. Krispy Kremes. Is there any better? I would also get the best bunch of flowers I could afford, and then, bearing gifts I would show up at her house one night and ask for her blessing.

I set aside one particular night to do this, and in the build up to it, I was getting nervous. If she didn’t like the idea, I’d have to decide whether to pass on contacting Summer, or contact her anyway and hope my sister would forgive me.

I guess the reason I was so nervous came down to two things, the first was that I really cared about my sister and didn’t want to upset her, and the second was that unlike every other girl I’d contacted thus far, if I really pissed off my sister I was going to have to live with the consequences of that for a very long time.

The day before I spoke to my sister, I’d had a friend mention karma and I came to the conclusion that considering I wasn’t entirely sure my sister was going to react well to what I was about to ask, that having good karma on my side may not be an entirely bad thing.

In case you don’t know the concept of karma this is it described in the briefest most basic way possible: if you do good things then good things will happen to you.

My plan to tip the karmic balance in my favour was simple: the same day I was going to talk to my sister I was going to drive into the city and give the first homeless guy I saw $100.

Now, people I told about this plan didn’t exactly agree with this perspective. In fact, a lot of people seemed to think the homeless guy would waste the money. That he’d blow it on drugs or alcohol or, as one person put it “fast food.”

How is the homeless guy wasting his money on “fast food”? I mean, the guy is living on the streets, it’s not like he’s going to be able to make a home cooked meal or anything like that. As for him wasting it on drugs and alcohol, plenty of my friends blew their money on alcohol and no one judges them for it.

My housemate Phil went on this epic surprised rant about I should simply give HIM the $100 since he could do some good with it. People at work varied between ‘that’s actually pretty noble.’ to ‘you realise he’s going to be dead within a matter of days, right?’ One particular person argued that giving him $100 would briefly make him happy but make the coming days when he didn’t have $100 would be more miserable so in fact I was making his life worse.

Me, being the optimist, would argue to my dying breath that it wouldn’t kill him, and even if he did use it on drugs it would at least make one day of his life a little bit less sucky. The guy is leaving on the streets, let him have his vices! I honestly could not see how giving a homeless guy a $100 would make his life worse.

Sangas thought it was a bad idea for a different reasons others did, Sangas thought it was a bad idea because he didn’t believe in any sort of karmic balance, he believed you made your own destiny.

My response, to pretty much everyone, was simple.

Look, I can’t risk not doing the one thing that will win my sister over to my side, and I have no idea what the one thing is, so I have to try everything and hope that I hit it.”

I wasn’t entirely sure I believed in karma, but if it did exist, having it on my side would certainly be handy.

So, the next day I went into the city and got $100 out of an ATM, and then went in search of a homeless person. It wasn’t that difficult to find someone.

He was squatting on his belongings outside the pancake parlour. I walked up to him and opened my wallet, pulled out two fifty dollar notes and handed them to him. He looked stunned, he was speechless for a moment, looking from me to the money, then back again.

Why?” He eventually asked. I smiled.

Have you heard of the concept of karma? Do good things, good things happen to you.”

Again, he looked from the money to me, still stunned. “Have a nice day,” I told him, and walked off, leaving him just as surprised as when I arrived.

I arrived at Rach’s house that night fully armed: flowers in one hand, doughnuts in the other. Still, I was nervous on how the evening was going to turn out, because I really didn’t want create any sort of discomfort.

I knocked on the front door and was greeted moments later by my sister, stunned and curious as to why I held gifts in my hand.

I can explain,” I started. She motioned for me to come inside. “I need a favour. Actually, it’s not so much of a favour, more of your blessing,” I told her.

Rach was a little wary. Figuring I’d gone this far, I may as well tell her the whole story.

I need to contact Summer for my book and I was hoping you were okay with that,” To my surprise, this idea didn’t bother Rachel in the slightest.

Sure, go for it,” She then proceeded to tell me exactly where she’d last heard Summer was working, to my luck she was a pharmacist at a chemist just around the corner from my office.

She also informed me she wasn’t totally opposed to the idea of the book, she just thought girls wouldn’t want to be interviewed. Arguably the hit and miss rate at this stage was bordering on fifty-fifty so she may have been on to something, but she was impressed both by my perseverance and when I gave her a copy of what I’d written, she was impressed with the book too.

It turns out I had a pretty cool sister after all… just don’t tell her I said that.

My fears officially quelled I left armed with knowledge and a direction to head in, and once again with absolutely no idea how this girl was going to react whatsoever.

How did the Summer crush start? It’s kind of hard to say, purely because there was no exact moment when I started liking her. I’m not sure how long Rach had been friends with her before I fell for her.

The thing was, through out the entire crush, I lived in eternal fear my sister would discover my feelings and never let me hear the end of it.

I let fear rule my life far too much in my younger years. Not doing things because I’d know I’d suck and fearing the outcome and discomfort. Not talking to that girl because I was afraid of what other people might think. When two of my good friends ditched me because they’d been welcomed into the popular crowd at school I was too afraid to call them on their shit because they might like me less. After two bullies from another school beat me up on the way home from the shops one day I was too afraid to leave the house for anything other than school without my dog Lentil by my side.

And there was the fear of epic humiliation and mocking my sister would entail upon me should she ever learn I had a crush on of her friends. (To be fair to my sister: I stand by the statement she is pretty awesome. Among other things, she wanted to beat up the bullies who attacked me on my bike, and looked after my dog Lentil for years when I couldn’t)

Summer was in my sister’s year at school, which meant she was at least four years older than I was. She was this sweet girl who had an innocent smile and a friendly way about her, but as most teenage girls do, also had a mischievous side her parents never knew about it.

I remember once my sister – at my best guess her and Summer would have been 17 at the time, came to stay at my aunt’s house when we were house sitting it one school holidays. Summer’s parents were a little strict (I guess demonstrated by the sweet innocent girl appearance on the outside with the hidden rebellious girl on the inside) so they insisted on meeting my mother being the adult they would be staying with.

I may or may not have been overly invested in Summer coming to stay with this at the time. In fact, though only revealed here, it was one of only two times I thought my sister would figure out my crush existed, as I desperately tried to learn every morsel of information and encourage as much as I could this sequence of events without arising suspicion.

Arriving home with a funny story about meeting Summer’s parents I did my best to not seem too keen to hear the story while secretly wanting to hear everything about it. Apparently Mum, being the more open minded parent, frankly told Summer’s parents that if her and Rach bought home a six pack of beer she wasn’t going to stop them from drinking it.

Summer’s dad had apparently laughed and responded:
“I don’t think Summer could make it through a whole beer.”

Mum, knowing full well Summer had gotten drunk with my sister, many times before, hid a smile at her parents rose coloured view of their daughter.

Summer, apparently in full fear that the gig was up, and shielded from her parents view gave a panicked “Please don’t tell them!” look look while praying, to any deity that happened to be listening, not to sell her out.

And that, sadly, is the most eventful story from the trip. Summer came to stay with us for a few days one school holidays while we looked after my aunt’s house in Sydney. Nothing exciting happened. I was just happy to be around her. However briefly. (Her and Rach spent a large amount of time away from the house)

There was one other time, strongly engraved in my brain, that I had a fear that my crush would revealed. It is so inconsequential it is almost laughable, but I was fourteen years old at the time, hormones running absolutely fricking wild, and this was one moment in my teenage years I believe I exhibited the most amount of self control ever.

I was playing a game on the computer one Saturday evening while my sister had her friends over (she was always way more popular than me). They were standing behind me in the living room discussing what they did with they did with their Saturday. Summer was there, so I was trying to make it look like I was focusing on the game while I was really trying to focus on her. Then Summer mentioned she’d gone shopping and found a really good bra. A perfect bra. She was even wearing it now.

In the years to come I would question whether this was the moment that my sister and all her friends knew. That this whole thing happened to mess with me.

ESPECIALLY when one of my sister’s friends casually asked Summer
“Cool, show us.”

There was a moment of silence in the room. I knew in that moment Summer glanced at her friend’s 14 year old brother who was staring overly intently at this computer screen (largely unaware that the 14 year old was trying to stop himself from having a brain aneurysm while silently cursing the anti-reflective cover his brother had stuck over the computer monitor to stop sunlight making it hard to see), I also knew that she quickly decided that no, the 14 year old was not looking and was far too immersed in the his stupid non-reflective computer screen (and cursing who invented non reflective stuff and scanning around for something… anything… that might show some shred of reflection) She then lifted her shirt to show her friends this fantastic new bra that she had bought.

Let me repeat that: I was fourteen years and the eighteen year old girl I had a crush on for months was two metres behind me in nothing but a bra and I COULDN’T. TURN. TO. LOOK.

I believe the self control exhibited in that moment should earn me a medal of some kind.

The next day I risked making some sort of joke to my sister about this event. I believe I cracked something along the lines of
“Her friends just stripped down to their underwear in the kitchen.”

Her response?

“Pfft, get over it, it was just a sports bra.”

At 14, and zero success with the opposite sex, I was unaware of what a sports bra was. Some intense research later lead me to the strong conclusion that I still wish I could’ve bloody turned around to see it.

Summer was four years older than me. I was fourteen at the time, and knew, without a shadow of doubt, that nothing would ever happen with her.

That didn’t stop me from imagining that it could though.

Any time I read a book or a story or an article with someone with the same first name I would envision Summer in her place.

I would often imagine a story, a multitude of stories actually,  which would eventually involve a character based on Summer getting together with the story’s protagonist. She was my muse.

These stories though were certain to never ever see the light of day. I could never risk any chance of my sister finding them, so if they weren’t hidden shoved in the cover of the favourite book in my bedroom, they would be in my locker at school where my sister would never be able to get hold of them.

Knowing that nothing would ever happen with Summer was a small comfort in some ways. After my sister’s Year 12 Formal, she was on the phone excitedly telling someone how Summer and another friend of theirs, Borry, couldn’t keep their hands off each other the whole night, it didn’t faze me.

At least that ‘s what I repeatedly told myself while I took Lentil for a walk down to the local creek all the while imagining a story where this Borry fellow was just accidentally killed by a pack of vicious of vampires and only I and my trusty dog could leap to Summer’s defense.

(I’m not even sure I ever met Borry. Maybe as one of many drunken party goers at my sister’s 18th birthday party but that’s it. I envisioned as some sort of Leonardo Dicaprio figure.)

“This kinda sucks,” I muttered to my dog. To be fair I knew nothing would ever happen. I just wish reality didn’t have to be so obvious about it.

After they graduated Rach and Summer sort of fell out of touch. Nothing serious, it just happens in the course of time.

By the present this meant of course that Rach and Summer had barely spoken in years. Which meant she was bound to be a little surprised upon hearing from Rachel Smith’s little brother.

The day after I’d tipped the Karmic Balance and gotten Rach’s blessing, I’d gone in search of Summer with my friend Karly in tow. I proceeded to check both chemists around the corner from my office. I figured with a girl accompanying me it would seem a little less weird, which was handy because the entire situation was weird to begin with.

I walked up to the counter and politely asked if Summer still worked there. The clerk, obviously new, responded that she wasn’t sure but she’d check.

She went and asked the pharmacist himself, who starred at her blankly then looked at to me and shook his head.

So we headed to the other chemist, which I already had my doubts about cause I’d been in there a handful of times and never noticed her. Though one could argue that after about nine years, I may not recognise her.

A helpful shop assistant informed me that Summer did in fact work there previously, but now was working at another chemist of which she did not know the name.

This put me in a slightly interesting situation, because you see like Jess before her, I had an address for Summer, but not a phone number. The only phone number I did have was for her parents house.

So I could either write Summer a letter and just hope she eventually responded, or I could leave a message at her parents house, and pray she called me back.

Calling her parents house was undoubtedly the smarter option, since at least then I’d know she had gotten the message, but it presented a conundrum in itself: if whichever parent I spoke to asked why I was calling I had a strong belief they wouldn’t exactly warm to the idea.

I called her parents house that night.

Summer’s mum is a lovely lady, well at least I thought so for the brief time in which I spoke to her. She told me that Summer had moved out, but she would happily pass on a message. Luckily it seemed the Karmic Balance was still tipped in my favour. She didn’t ask why I was calling, but simply what message I wanted to leave.

Tell her, Rachel Smith’s younger brother called,” and then I gave her my details.

I got off the phone and felt relieved. I figured the message had been cryptic enough that it would peak Summer’s interest enough to call me back. Granted, one could assume that something bad had happened to Rachel, but I hoped this wasn’t what she assumed, because I figured that would create a small amount of distress.

I will be completely honest with you now: I never expected Summer to want to take part in this book. I have nothing against the girl whatsoever, but we barely knew each other then, and then receiving a phone call from me now would be extremely weird.

Summer did call back about ten minutes later.

Hi Liam, this is Summer, you left a message at my mother’s house?”

Yeah, hi, you probably don’t remember me, and I can understand this would be a weird phone call to get,” I started.

Well yeah, it’s a little strange, I’ve barely spoken in Rachel in almost six years,”

And it’s about to get stranger.” I laughed a nervous, too loud, too long laugh. God, I’m making myself sound like a lunatic. Bad start Liam. Bad start. I stopped the stupid laugh abruptly and continued “I’m actually writing a book tracking down and interviewing every girl I’ve ever had a crush on and I’d like to interview you.”

It’s often said that you can almost classify a long pause as an answer to a question. A long pause, especially in response to a question, gives the person asking the question a fair idea of where the answer is going to come from. It is rarely positive.

Summer responded with a long pause then:

Oh,” This long pause and ‘oh’ was something I was all too familiar over the years, it coming in the form responses to girls I’d asked out on a date and also during job interviews when I answered a very, very wrong answer to a question.

Summer was silent for a moment. Another long pause. I had to speak.

Here’s what I’ll do, I’ll email what I’ve written of the book so far, and if you’re okay with it, we’ll go from there, if not, that’s okay too.”

I copied down her email address and got off the phone. I sent the email a few moments later, but I already knew what the answer was going to be.

I’m optimistic kind of guy though, and for the next week and a half I still checked my email every chance I got to see if she’d responded.

She didn’t. But like I said, I had no negative feelings towards the girl in any way shape or form. She’d seemed a little freaked, and that was fairly understandable.

To this day Summer was one of my biggest failings in this book, blaming my stupid crazy laugh for her conclusion I was a crazy person, and while my lack of action in trying to win her over did inspire me to persistently get a straight answer out of other crushes, which I did succeed with, I never tried to contact Summer again, reasoning with myself that if what I’d written so far of the book hadn’t won her over, then nothing would.

And while I should’ve tried harder, I knew it then and I know it now, Summer was out. Which meant, chronologically, it was time to contact Camille.

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