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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Four: Beware O' the Energy Vampires

It was five pm on New Years Day. Summer was in her closet looking for shoes she could wear on her night out with Landon, and by default Henri too. Her options were many, yet few she could feasibly use. She wanted to wear ballet flats, however, it would not be easy to pull that off knowing the look went out of style. Landon would most certainly point them out and expect her to change. The evening's itinerary was to have a quiet dinner with

Fausto and Eliza to celebrate their newest business acquisition at a posh restaurant in the city. Landon expected her to be there, and for once Summer wanted to have some company to keep her from her thoughts of her condition.

It had been a few weeks since the diagnosis of early-onset degenerative disc disease by her doctor. The bone spurs, facet atrophy and herniated disc were each present in her imaging. It explained her years of symptoms that were seemingly unconnected. The pain though, the constant pain was the only symptom Summer couldn't ignore. A fist-like grip squeezed her heart with every explanation of her health, always with less hopeful news to follow the already staggering prognosis. Summer felt robbed of any comfort in aging. The outcome of it created an anger in her that made her feel as if her tolerance for all of the rubbish in her life was now too taxing. She found herself suddenly arguing back or blowing things off that previously had her very nervous. As if the moment-to-moment needs for herself were more pressing, more serious than she had given it credit for. Summer no longer wanted to suffer fools or waste her strength. There just wasn't enough of her patience to spread as thinly as it was anymore.

During the diagnostic process, Summer never once invited Landon or Mimsy to an appointment to support her. She knew they would make her feel worse. Landon would be disgusted, while Mimsy would try to one-up her condition like the truly insecure person she was. To add insult to her ill health, Summer promptly needed health insurance, which made it difficult to quit her job as planned. Of course, Willa remained an awful human being, treating every moment of Summer's follow-up care as an intolerable act needing a demerit as the remedy that she assigned herself to dole out. Willa docked Summer's pay and assigned extra lunch and early morning "training," on top of being overtly obnoxious. Summer tried to explain to Willa that it was no personal slight toward her that she was preoccupied. However, a person like Willa could never fathom that others have lives outside of her assumptions, making all attempts to reason with Willa fruitless.

Summer should have seen it coming. She had unexplained intermittent numbness, burning, and tingling on the soles of her feet whenever she worked out excessively, which turned into a full-on twitch when she laid down at night. She assumed her increasing slouching was from poor posture habits. She even chalked up her heavy-feeling legs on certain days as being out of shape despite her athletic lifestyle previously. Most alarmingly she felt like she was laying on legos when her back was hurting. She never realized it was a sign that her disc was out of alignment. There were so many little things and occasionally big ones that she swept under the rug in the worry center of her mind. There were so many other things that she had to deal with every day. Grimly, those things without warning included the reality Summer would eventually lose her ability to stand unsupported until she was entirely wheelchair-bound in the not-too-distant future. The worst of all that she feared was pity. She worried Willa or Landon would find out and treat her as if she were pathetic. It would be a cut to her pride too deep to withstand.

Landon made for a good distraction from those concerns. Summer was too busy centering her nerves in their room, readying herself as quickly as possible to Landon's standards. He clicked his tongue as he looked at his watch saying "There's a lot of traffic. I'm going to the car." As he spoke he snatched his silver cuff links off of his dresser, walking briskly to the door. He was leaving with or without Summer, Landon wasn't the type of man to ask twice. For once in their relationship Summer appreciated Landon's callous nature toward her. He'd never try to comfort her or cater to her. He was just too terrible. Summer felt like she needed that to feel normal. Landon had a way of reminding her that he could not care less about anyone but himself. Summer sighed as she slipped on a pair of kitten heels. It had been some time since she could comfortably wear stilettos, another of her side-swept symptoms that she had consigned to normal aging. She could make do as long as she shifted her weight to steady herself. Not every day was so lucky for her, but today was not so bad.

In Landon's Grecale, he blasted his music so loudly it was painful to Summer's ears. He looked angry with her or maybe at the world for no reason in particular. It was a common theme with him. Summer always wondered why Landon was so quick to anger. Landon had no part of himself that had a stillness that he could turn to when he was alone in his thoughts. Happiness for Landon required others to provide it to him since he could not conjure it for himself. Summer contemplated this on their long drive. Outside of the car the world was chilly from a lingering winter. The snow on the ground had melted and had re-frozen into a thick layer of ice. Summer hoped that she would not have to be in the weather for long between parking and going inside. She was wearing thin hosiery, with a slinky silk slip dress under a light peacoat. Landon had rushed her out of the house so hurriedly that Summer had not considered the need for her attire to protect her from the blistering chill of the season.

When they had finally arrived in the city, Landon pulled up to a hotel awning. Then he parked as Summer questioned, "What are we doing here?" Landon looked at her crossly to respond, "I reserved a room for the night." He went in with no further explanation. Summer would have followed, but she didn't want to chance scurrying after him in her dainty heels on the icy pavement. Unlike Landon at least the car was warm.

Summer fiddled on her phone until Landon came back. His mood had noticeably soured from merely foul to irritate, evidenced to Summer by the way he stomped toward his vehicle. After he slammed the car door he huffed, "The bitch at the counter is making me pay for overnight parking in a nearby garage." He paused seeming to expect a supportive reaction out of Summer who was unsure of how to respond, "Oh? What should we do?" She mumbled knowing when Landon was that angry there was no correct answer to please him. "I'm damn fucking sure I'm not letting some stoner valet park my car where I have no idea what will happen to it. No, I'll park it myself where I know it'll be taken care of." Landon began revving the engine to show the bewildered hotel staff who were watching Landon's childish display of upset. Summer said nothing, not wanting Landon to turn on her too in his state of madness. Landon sped out from under the awning fishtailing down the road toward a parking garage they had passed on the way. Landon almost clipped the attendant's booth he was being so erratic. Thankfully it was automated and no innocent employee had to deal with Landon's tirad. This didn't stop Landon from punching the ticket meter a few times, he was sure to add in a kick for good measure too. He was quite the spectacle of a petulant brat grown into a weak-minded man.

The restaurant was eight blocks away. Landon had a long leather trench coat on with seal-skin lined boots. For a flash of a second Summer wondered if she could have convinced Landon to leave her in the cozy hotel room, but she knew due to Landon's meltdown in the hotel lobby the staff was debating contacting the authorities, and it would probably be best not to be seen with the man if his reservation had not already been canceled. Reluctantly, Summer followed Landon without argument against her better judgment. If he had only put his arm around her for warmth. However, Landon's fit was so wrathful that he pushed far too fast ahead of Summer, who shivered as she stumbled behind him on the trek to their destination. Landon never once offered his arm to steady her.

By the time they arrived, all of the blood had left Summer's hands and feet. Her nose and eyes were dripping fluid. Additionally, her hair was whipped out of place by the unforgiving winter wind. She felt like she was dying while her skin was bright red in appearance and like ice to the touch. At the restaurant, the maitre d' gasped upon seeing Summer enter, "My God! Are you okay?! It is eleven degrees out there!" Landon having arrived a good few minutes before Summer was nonchalantly checking his coat. He looked at his partner in the light as if she had left the house in her battered condition. Summer was too frostburned to speak. She did her best to hide her teeth chattering, as she went into the restroom to straighten herself up. She eased the shaking of her hands there by running hot water over them until the feeling came back. Then taking a page from Landon and throwing all social norms aside she sat on the countertop of the restroom to soak her frozen feet in the sink under the hot water too.

By the time Summer was ready to join the others at the table, Landon's parents were leaving. Eliza sighed in visible dismay that Summer came at all, "Oh Landon, whatever happened to that beautiful young woman you brought to our anniversary party?" Landon's eyes widened as Charlene hid a giggle and Fausto coughed into the cognac that he was setting down. "Mother" Landon whined, while Eliza kissed him on the cheek and waved goodbye to her adult children. Summer looked to Fausto, the most rational and kind to her of them all, he avoided all eye contact with her while murmuring to Eliza, confirming to Summer that Landon had indeed brought another woman to the family-only event. Summer watched as Landon's parents put on their coats at the door before they exited from where she was standing in disbelief by their table.

Summer looked back once they were gone to see Henri laughing in a snarky manner. His arm was around Charlene's shoulders. Both were smiling about Eliza's dig at Summer, who was too upset with Landon to dignify his mother's omission with an immediate reaction. Landon had his head down. He was pretending to read the drink menu, as if Summer were going to pretend none of it happened, something she defaulted on doing because Landon was typically on a list of problems she ignored. Instinctively, Summer sat down and ordered an extra hot coffee for herself, after she indiscreetly signaled the waiter to get his attention. "Guess the cat's out of the bag," Henri said to Landon. Charlene needled into the conversation "Well, I'm glad. You have an open relationship, just like Henri and me. There's nothing wrong with that." Summer wondered how a person could be so stupid whenever Charlene was speaking. The woman amazed her for all the wrong reasons.

Landon remained tight-lipped, once again relying on the poorly-mannered company he kept to do his dirty work. Summer still fazed from the chill she endured on the way there, sipped her coffee. Then after letting the heat of it settle into her core for a moment, she took a deep breath in. Next in a calm tone, looking directly at Charlene she replied, "We're not in an open relationship, Charlene. Landon is a cheater because he has nothing to do all day but live off of his daddy's money and screw whores who aren't bright enough to figure out that Fausto will never hand over his business to his sons while he's alive, and neither will Eliza." Henri enjoying the escalation of the scene hooted and slapped the table saying, "Damn Landon, she thinks she can say anything. You gonna put her straight or should I?" Charlene had already sat back in her chair fearing Summer would spill her many guarded secrets. Maybe it was a state of delirium Summer was in from nearly freezing to death speaking through her, either way, she had no restraints left stopping her from laying into Landon or the dregs he associated with. "Or what Henri? Really? Set me straight? Weren't you asking Landon to 'swing' with me not so long ago? By the way, I turned it down because you are a 'no' in every way a man should never want to be. I'd feel sorry for Charlene but she's here for Fausto's money too," Summer stated.

Henri was taken aback, indignantly protested, "Whoa, back off of my wife. You know Summer? No one here likes you and never did. Landon's a good man for even letting you hang around. I mean look at you, your own family doesn't give a shit about you." Summer was wondering how Henri would squeeze her adoption into his insult. Summer still too tired to get loud or overtly angry responded, "That's funny coming from you Henri. For all the time that I've been stuck with Landon, I've never met your mother once. It's like you hide the fact that she exists because she isn't depositing money into your bank account like Fausto. Eliza isn't your mom. Why don't you be a man and take care of your biological family for once instead of begging for scraps from your dad? You're a sorry embarrassment of a bastard." Summer finished in almost a harshed hiss and went back to sipping her hot coffee, now finally starting to feel warm.

The table was silent as Landon and Charlene waited for Henri's response. Henri almost spoke, but impulsively reached for the glass of water in front of him and threw it on the ground by Summer, shattering the cup. Charlene in her fashion poured her drink onto Summer's head. Landon shook his head having avoided the whole conflict by allowing Henri to take the wheel for him. Then following Landon's lead, they all got up and walked out leaving Summer alone. Luckily Fausto had already paid their bill before he left. Landon turning back said to Summer who was sitting at the table doing her best to absorb the heat from her coffee cup, snared, "Don't come back to my house, I'll leave your shit on the curb where it belongs. You can get it there." Summer stopped herself from correcting Landon with "Fausto's house," because it would have extended the argument.

Summer felt both relief and annoyance with Landon for ending the relationship. Despite it, she chuckled to herself that only Landon and his brother could try to play the part of a victim after he cheated on her. The other restaurant patrons stared at Summer as she called a cab and ordered another cup of coffee while she waited for its arrival. The entire time pondering the fact that Landon came from one of the wealthiest families she had ever known, yet they had the bearing of the lowest of louts in a society. "Poor Fausto," Summer thought to herself, he worked his whole life to give his children an enriched upbringing and for his efforts, his children had grown to act no better than trailer trash. Summer also had time to consider that she too was a lower form of herself when she was with Landon, just by dealing with his actions, she debased herself. She was astonished the restaurant hadn't kicked her out yet, or Henri when he was there for that matter too. God knows they deserved to be, Summer reasoned.

Once the cab arrived, Summer tried to pay her bill but the waiter who had watched the entire event told her the tab was already charged for the party. In the cab, the driver asked where she was going. Without hesitation, Summer said Landon's address. She wasn't about to let him throw her belongings in the street. Summer was in no hurry to collect her things. She knew that Landon had booked the hotel room because he was planning to go clubbing with Henri and Charlene. Even if he had to get a different hotel room to stay at, he wasn't planning on returning home that night. Summer assumed that was why Charlene hadn't brought her children with her to dinner. The security system at the house gave Summer some pause, but there was no crime in going into her home to take her belongings that she had the receipts for. She decided to risk Landon's vindictive side and let herself in holding her breath for a minute and then going to work. Summer envisioned Landon already up to his eyeballs in cocaine with Henri and would not want to speak to or call the police on her in that state. Summer also knew Landon would send the lawyers after her if she were to make a mess or take what wasn't hers from the house.

Landon left a direct voicemail message for Summer just before she was finished in the early morning hours, "Her name is Paisley. I love her." Landon almost sounded as if he were about to cry, likely because he was heavily intoxicated. The message went on, now in an accusing tone, "You turned into such a bitch over the years. I'm tired of you..." Summer didn't bother to listen to the rest of the message. It was typical of Landon to lean on his go-to method of shifting the blame onto anyone but himself. He would resort to any means except to apologize. Summer opted to put her energy into packing up her car. She was heading to Mimsy's. For better or for worse Mimsy was her most stable family member to run to in times of crisis. Summer knew Landon and herself were finished as a couple. She had simply lost too much energy dealing with him over the years and had none to lend any longer. "Maybe Paisley would have better luck with Landon," Summer thought as she slid her keys into Landon's mailbox on her way out.


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