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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Five: Low Hanging Fruits

The fear of life without the security blanket that was Landon felt like any possible disaster was ready to strike poor Summer. This dread as if there was some cataclysmic event looming around the corner that only Landon's status or wealth could shield Summer from conflicted her deeply. However, as more days passed, Summer found that dread to be replaced with displeasure directed toward herself for not leaving the man sooner than anything else.

Leaving Landon was like ripping off an old dirty bandaid that had developed a gross outline where the adhesive had been undisturbed for too long. On the first day of their separation, Summer waited for Landon to argue that she had gone back to the house to get her things after he had told her not to do so, or for Henri to call to antagonize her. There was nothing of the like that ever came to fruition though. Landon left her a few text messages saying he accepted the apology she didn't give. Those were followed by another few text messages in the days after saying that he didn't like the house without her and to come back. Eventually, after not responding for long enough, Landon got the hint and began to move on as well. Summer did reach out to Charlene to let her know she was fine, but that she and Landon were through. Charlene informed her in so many words that she was glad Summer showed some tenacity because in the timeframe Landon was attempting to get back together with her, he was still bringing the replacement, Paisley around. The information gave Summer the closure she needed to know that Landon would never change and that she had done the right thing by walking away.

The break had still exhausted Summer, who used all of her paid-off days to settle in with Mimsy, who found a way to work into every conversation that Summer had moved back in without asking permission. Summer told Mimsy that she could stay with Heather if it was such an inconvenience to have her there, but Mimsy always seemed to find an excuse for Summer to stay, at least until she gets back on her feet, as Mimsy put it. Willia eventually did make good on her promise to fire Summer, who happily collected unemployment while searching for work elsewhere. Summer had never been fired before, but she also had never indefinitely called out sick before either. In truth, the drive to work from Mimsy's house would have been roughly three hours each way a day. Summer took it as a sign to let that job fall into the wayside with her other past annoyances.

It didn't take Mimsy too long to network on her own to get Summer a job managing a dental office. Summer found the work to be useful in keeping her busy, and in keeping her health insurance coverage going too. The dentist was very senior and would retire soon. His practice was already dwindling, which caused him to let go of his old dental assistant and hygenist, who both moved on to greener pastures. This unfortunately caused Summer to have to assist the man throughout most of the day. At least he had an intern to utilize once a week. She was helpful enough for Summer to schedule all the longer appointments then so that she could catch up on her office work in the front. All in all the old doctor was a cheap bastard who Summer hoped would not keel over from a heart attack before he could be of use as a good reference.

After long enough though, in her new life, Summer felt like she was becoming a geriatric due to spending the entirety of the winter and spring in the company of the aged. This might have been why she jumped at every chance to spend time with Heather, who was wise enough to never go to Mimsy's house for a "visit." By then, Summer had traded in her expensive SUV for a much cheaper used Fiat to save on gas now that she was officially living far away from the metro area in the suburbs. Although Summer had kept her health insurance, the out-of-pocket physical therapy costs did eat into her take-home pay significantly. Summer was cautious enough to know to save for a likely-to-be-needed future surgery or two. Heather continued to have no car of her own, giving Summer the perfect excuse to step out and away from Mimsy's Red Hat Society meetings which she hosted frequently. Summer was convinced Mimsy used those nights to size up the other women's husbands for future adultery pursuits for herself, yet found no cause to tell Mimsy her assumptions.

On this night, in particular, Mimsy was inviting in Kat Tanner, a former powerlifter, and her husband, Possum a gym owner when Summer noting the upside-down pineapple display in the front bay window decided it best to slip out for the night to take a trip into the city. Summer, gave Heather a call on the long way there, explaining that Mimsy was going full swinger and needed to hide somewhere for the night. Heather laughed in morbid disgust on the other end of the speaker, before agreeing to put her up for the night. At Heather's apartment, Summer brought up the carry-out stir fry sampler she promised on the way over. At the door she found Heather to be in a somber mood.

Over dinner, Heather filled in Summer on her dilemma. "I just wasn't making the money I needed to get by." Heather began once they were seated in her tiny living room. She went on, "I want you to keep this between us, but I've been doing OnlyFans for a little while now." Summer was not overly surprised, especially considering that Heather had been paying her bills and looking more put together recently. Heather's turtle terrarium was even looking somewhat lavish come to think of it Summer mused. Heather said, "Believe it or not your icky ex's brother is one of my biggest customers. I think his name is French sounding or something." Summer finished Heather's thought for her, "Henri." Summer waited for Heather to explain where she was going with all this as Heather continued, "He offered me money, a lot of money and so far he's never stiffed me on anything," Heather said, as Summer took a mental inventory of all of Heather's recent purchases around her. She knew a pig like Henri was using Heather to get back at her. In proving her point Summer asked, "What does he want, Heather?" Summer was afraid of the answer. Heather reassured her, "I'm not even sure he knows we're related, Summer." Summer rolled her eyes at that because she was sure in her mind that was the sole reason why Henri was talking to Heather, to begin with. "Well, either way, he wants me to do something nasty, on film, but for $10,000." Summer knew Henri would, people like Landon's sort find degrading others who are desperate to be their ambrosia.

"What does he want, Heather?" Summer asked again seeking specifics. Heather responded sheepishly, "He wants me to lick a gas station toilet clean with my tongue." Summer sprang forward in the leather bean bag chair she had bought for Heather, nearly spilling her football burrito on the floor, "What?! You didn't do it, did you?" Summer demanded, Heather replied, "No, but it's a lot of money and honestly I'm thinking about it."

Summer put her head in her hands, "Look if you need the money..." Heather stopped her there, "I'm not doing that bad, but I mean I could take a real vacation with Morgana with that kind of money or have some savings of my own. Hell, I could get a decent used car with that." It was Summer's turn to interrupt, "You could use all that money up paying hospital bills from getting sick from doing it!" Heather sipped her cola from its styrofoam cup. "I'm not proud of it, but he's my best customer. Everyone else is a few twenties here and there for boob pictures. This is a substantial sum of cash that I can live on for a long time. He's not going to stiff me, because I have the negotiation back and forth from our texts to back me up in court if he did." Summer retorted, "He'll pay you. That amount of money is nothing to him. He'd pay you because it's funny that you'll do it. The money is proof in his mind that you are his lower. He wants to humiliate you, Heather."

The conversation was going nowhere fast and they decided to shelf it in favor of watching a few lifetime movies instead. Summer left to go back to Mimsy's early when she could no longer bear to hear the tail end of a call from Morgana who was pressuring Heather into fulfilling Henri's request. Morgana only made herself available to Heather when Heather had money, something Heather seemed to be oblivious to. It frustrated Summer to no end and created a divide in the otherwise friendly former step-sisters. The long drive back to Mimsy's gave Summer more than enough time to think over the situation. Her mind rolled over the possible outcomes and pitfalls of Henri's request, be it completed or ignored, and how to get Heather to want to protect her self-interests. Summer was parked in Mimsy's driveway about to drag herself in for the night when it came to her. "Yes!!!" Summer cheered to herself. She texted Heather, "I think I have an idea about the Henri thing." Then she went to sleep. Thankfully by then, Mimsy had sent away her guests or maybe they had fled the scene on their own accord. Regardless, the pineapple was thankfully, put away when Summer went in.

"There was an account I managed when I was working at the investment firm. They were the most overpriced hardware store I'd never heard of, but that's it, no one has heard of it: Planet Plumbing and More. They had a whole warehouse of unused bathroom fixtures." Summer started to tell Heather over coffee the following evening when she dropped in on her at a time when Morgana was not there.

"Not only that, I know of a digital editing company that's run by one guy named Yang. He's good. I called him today and he explained that what you have to do is get filmed walking into a dirty gas station bathroom, and then we cut to a never-used toilet from Planet Plumbing. Henri will never realize the difference and you'll be $10,000 richer from a guy who throws pennies at homeless vets to be a douche."

Heather poking a hole in Summer's plan asked, "The toilet in the gas station bathroom will be filthy and the hardware store one will be spotless. Henri will notice." Summer smiled as she expanded, "Oh uh here's where it gets creative, we are going to rub a melted candy bar on it for effect so that Yang can use an overlay to make the two look like seamless matches." Heather thought on this for a moment before she cautiously asked, "How much does Yang want?" Summer having already inquired answered, "$2,000, but that includes the NDA, which he has drawn up himself. This isn't his first rodeo." Heather frowned a little as she asked her follow-up question, "And what about the Planet Plumbing people?" Summer answered, "They want $1800 for 45 minutes of warehouse filming uninterrupted, plus the NDA they will need to sign. We'd have to do it after business hours. Oh and one more big deal. You can't tell Morgana it's fake. She's the believability factor here. Her reactions and your telling Henri of the rift it's causing in your relationship are the number one sell you must work with. A prick like Henri and Landon, who's probably in on this too, are going to want you to be miserable about it. That's the value of the act for them."

Heather swigged her kombucha before she asked her final question, "What's in it for you?" Summer without hesitation answered, "I hate Henri." Heather laughed and said, "Okay, it's on. I'll do it." They both tapped their cups together in excitement for their scheme, echoing the giddy sentiment by exclaiming, "Cheers!"


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