Black Balloon

a The O.C. story

by dirty diana

Written for the contrelamontre hospital challenge in 70 minutes.

Now that school was back in session, Summer didn't spend that much time at the hospital. She had a five-hour shift every other Saturday, and that was it. So it was weird to find herself there in the middle of the week after school, on what should have been a regular Thursday.

She pushed through the wide hospital doors, into room 821. Marissa was awake, barely blinking as she watched reruns of Seinfeld on the tiny TV. She looked normal, fine, just a little bit pale.

"Hey, Coop." Summer placed the chocolates and fashion magazines that she'd brought on the bedside table. "How are you feeling?"

Marissa looked up and smiled at her dimly. "Okay, I guess."

Their thighs barely touched, as Summer sat down beside her on the bed. "Yeah?'

"Yeah." Marissa shrugged. "But my parents are fighting again. My mom is blaming this all on my dad. I think she's trying to put me in that therapy place again."

Summer breathed in, cold and sterilised hospital air that hurt her throat. "Well," she said slowly, "maybe you should go."

Marissa's eyes were huge and wide in her pretty face, shiny with tears. "You want me to leave."

"No. I don't," Summer said. "That's kind of the point."

"It was an accident. I didn't mean it."

Summer looked away from the pale hurt face, one hand on Marissa's leg, tracing the silk of her pyjamas. Summer remembered the day that they'd bought them, in Sak's Fifth Avenue, and Marissa had said that they were too expensive. Summer told her to get them anyway. Her manicured fingertips run smooth over the piped hem of the shorts, onto the inside of Marissa's bare thigh. "Sweetie, once is an accident. Twice is, twice is maybe something else." And the third time might be the charm. Summer couldn't think about that. She said, "Is it me? If it was something that I did, you would tell me, right? If you really just wanted to be with Ryan..."

Now Marissa really was about to cry, blotchy colour rising in her face. "I was right. You do want me to leave."

Summer's fingers pressed hard without meaning to, into translucent skin. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, Summer thought, the most beautiful and sometimes Summer didn't know what to do or say. Summer made all those jokes about her step-mother, but Summer's step-mother was different, you could see all the places that she was coming apart, like chips in bright nail polish. Marissa always looked whole, except for the days that she didn't, and Summer never knew what to do.

"No, I don't. I don't want you to go anywhere." Summer leaned forward, and kissed her gently, tasting salt and earth and rain.