Standing Still

a The O.C. story

by dirty diana

post-The Ties That Bind.

Summer goes to visit Ryan. In Chino. It's a long drive, and she has to beg her dad for the car keys, but she feels like someone should go. Seth might have gone. If he were here.

Seth isn't here. Seth is in New York, with his nana. When he stumbled out of the Pacific Ocean, tired and sunburnt, he barely had to time to protest that he was sorry before his parents packed him off to New York. To think about the "consequences of his actions". That's what he said when he e-mailed her. Consequences. The quotation marks were his.

Seth doesn't e-mail very often.

Summer goes to Chino. Her dad is nervous about letting her drive all that way, by herself. "She'll be fine," her step-mom calls, from the kitchen, and her dad finally relents. Summer got her license last month. She didn't have anyone to call and tell about it.

She asked Marissa, one time, if she wanted to come. Marissa acted like she hadn't even heard, her expression barely changing. Finally she just rolled over in her lounge chair, squinting down at her legs to see how her tan was looking. "Not really," she said.

Marissa is still upset. Summer gets that.

Summer goes to Chino alone.

She forgets to call ahead, usually, and so usually Ryan isn't there when she arrives.

"Working," Theresa explains, with a shrug and a resigned tilt of her head.

Ryan seems to be working a lot.

Summer lets Theresa make her tea. Green tea, with scattered and broken leaves still drifting in the bottom of the cup. It's hot out, and Summer would rather have soda, but she doesn't say so. She likes watching Theresa making tea, and she thinks that Theresa likes doing it, a gentle routine to soothe the broken nerves that she isn't hiding very well.

"Is he okay?" Summer asks, because it seems like something that Seth might do. Would do. If he were here.

Theresa nods, though that doesn't really mean anything. She puts her hand on her belly, where her clothes are starting to stretch to the sides. She jokes about needing new clothes, about getting fat.

Summer thinks that she's beautiful. She thinks she kind of understands why Ryan left.

They drink tea, and they watch television. They watch soap operas, in the middle of the afternoon. Theresa explains to Summer what's going on, when she asks, Summer pretending to understand even though the answer is usually so much longer than the question.

Theresa is tired a lot, every day, and Ryan doesn't want her to work full-time. They argue about it, in front of Summer, like she's not actually there.

"I gotta go. I'm going to be late." He's been home for forty-five minutes, eating the lunch that Theresa makes him every day.

Theresa brushes her hair off her face, and pulls at her shirt that's too tight. "You're working too much," she says.

"I'm fine," Ryan says, and kisses her lightly on the forehead as he leaves. "Bye, Summer."

"Bye," Summer says.

Theresa makes a face, as the door slams shut. "He's so stubborn," she says.

Summer nods. She thinks that makes just about everybody, around here. She pulls a manicured finger around the wet rim of her teacup, listening to the gentle squeaking sound. With her other hand, she points at the television. "Why's she mad at him?" she asks.

"They used to be together," Theresa explains, watching the couple argue on the screen. "But then he left her."


Theresa shrugs. "I don't know. He just did."

A light wind drifts in, through the open window, and brushes Summer's skin. "Maybe he didn't really love her," she says.