In which Summer wraps up some more romantic loose ends.
Summer answers the knock at the door. She feels her heart pounding. I know I invited them here. Nobody else is home. This is the perfect time. The dance is coming up, so… This is the moment I wanted. But now that it’s here, I’m terrified.
It swings open, revealing Aria. Okay, okay. And then Leo. Her heart accelerates.
“Come on in,” she says.
Neither visitor wants tea. Too bad - Summer wanted something to busy herself, to put off what she has to say. She fills the electric kettle with water and makes a big deal out of choosing tea, while Leo and Aria wait in the living room. When she finally comes out, neither one is sitting.
Summer looks down at the steeping tea in the mug in her hand. She sets it down after a few moments, draws breath, and gets right to the point.
“I’m an idiot.”
Not that point, idiot.
“Ever since we talked to the Rossums, I’ve been thinking. Trying to understand his motives made me realize I should revisit my own. I’ve been indecisive and stupid. I remember this feeling as Pneuma. And I felt… stupider than ever, as I saw Aria move past it. I know I’ve been a pain to both of you.”
Both of them immediately react, stepping forward, protesting, but Summer holds up a hand and shakes her head. “It’s… it’s true. And I’m sorry. I apologize.”
Leo offers a reassuring smile. “You should do whatever you need, Summer.”
Aria doesn’t have to speak. She has a quick, warm hug to offer instead, and her face carries all the sympathy and support that Summer needs to keep talking.
Summer draws another breath as Aria pulls back. “This… is what I need. I hope you’ll hear me out…” She looks nervously from face to face, and sees silent agreement.
“I’m … like you in some ways, Leo. I know I’m my own person, but we have some similarities. I think… and tell me if I’m wrong… that what you need most is for me to be happy.”
Her heart warms when he nods.
“Well, what I need is for you to be happy too. So–” She rubs her hands together. “So, you and Aria are happy together. I’m getting what I want. I mean, I’d like a loving, smart, amazing boyfriend --”
“Like, I’m not your first choice, I know, I know, I know I could have asked, I just wasn’t ready. I accept that. And, I wasn’t Jason’s first choice either. I mean, you could say that I’m always gonna be number two, the backup girlfriend option, and that’s really sad and I don’t wanna be that because then nobody really wants me, but y’know what, Jason knew Alycia for years and he spent, like, weeks with me, and I was still an option, so that’s kind of amazing and I’m flattered, and maybe I’m someone worth loving after all, I guess? But y’know, Jason’s been lonely, so maybe he just decided I was a–”
She knows she’s babbling. It’s too late to stop. It’s the breakup speech again, from a year ago, only this time it doesn’t hurt.
“I don’t even know. The point is, Aria did what I didn’t do. She actually asked you for a relationship. Good. That’s good. And - if I meet the right guy - I know I can do the same. But you know? It won’t define my life. I really like Blintzkrieg. I really like school. I thought I wouldn’t, but there’s so many amazing friends, and I feel loved, and welcomed, and it’s so good and so warm–”
She halts, swallows, slows down a bit. “Okay. So, anyway, I know that you always wanted us to feel like our own independent people. Well, I do, Leo. I’m my own girl. I make my own decisions. I have what I want. I’m not going to be anyone’s second choice. You gave me life. Now I’m gonna live it the way I want, which is what you want me to do.”
I’m nobody’s backup. I am me.
Leo blinks. He’s hard to read right now, but it’s clear that her words are having some kind of an effect. Aria’s face, on the other hand, is like a mirror of Summer’s. She knows this struggle. She would have accepted me as Leo’s co-girlfriend, because she knows. I wouldn’t have been competition. But that’s not what this is about.
Summer smiles. Somehow the terror is fading. She feels a warm welling of love for both of the people in front of her. She wants to cry, but in the good way. “So, Leo, this is … this is it. I’ll be one of your best friends, always, I’ll never be out of your life. I still have feelings for you, but I’m not going to pursue them. Aria is everything you’ll ever need. Thank you for being willing to indulge my selfishness.”
Summer speaks again to Leo, now emboldened. “There’s one more thing I have to know, to let go. And there’s only one way to find out.”
She takes a step forward, glances for a split second at Aria questioningly - is this okay? Aria’s nod is as brief - do what you need.
“Could I have been the one?”
She advances the rest of the way, takes Leo in her arms, pulls him close, and presses her lips to his in the most passionate kiss she’s ever attempted. It’s only the second one of her life, but it’s her choice, her decision, whatever comes next.
Her eyes are closed. She feels Leo’s body press against her. His arms slide around her waist, and hold her in place. She can feel him responding to the kiss eagerly, whether he wanted to or not.
This is what it feels like to kiss the boy you love.
The two separate and step away from each other, both evidently awkward and blushing.
“Looks like I need to step up my game,” Aria remarks with an arched eyebrow.
Summer looks up in surprise, and a little fear - did I cross a line? - but Aria leans in and hugs her tightly. “I’m proud of you, sis,” she whispers. It’s all that Summer needed to hear.
Aria pulls away, and takes Leo’s hand in hers, only a little bit possessively.
“I’ve always wanted you to be whatever you want,” Leo finally says. “As long as you’re getting what you need, what you want, I’m happy. If I see you at the dance, I’d like at least one dance with you, too. And I’ll always be your friend, no matter what.”
“Me too.” Summer can’t hold back tears any more. The two pull her into a warm, familiar hug. Everything’s going to be alright.
#Soundtrack Missi Higgins, “Where I Stood”
author: Bill G.