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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Two: Living on a Prayer or Being Prey for a Living?

The weeks had passed uneventfully since Landon came back from his trip. On this day in particular, as usual, at five am, Summer's alarm blared beside her on the nightstand and as usual Landon was nowhere to be seen. Summer assumed he had fallen asleep at his office atop the leather chaise lounge. Neither enjoyed sharing a bed. Summer was relieved when they both quietly agreed to cast away the social obligation of going to sleep or waking up at the same time. Their relationship had become one of seeing each other in passing while approaching the realm of complete avoidance of one another.

Years ago, when they had met, they were both up-and-comers. In those days, Landon was poised to take over his father's business holdings. This was of course before Landon had become an undeniable lay-about drunk. Summer was recently out of college at her first "real" job working as a restaurateur's account manager. Her then-boss, Blaine had set them up after Landon had flirted with her at one of his openings. Summer found the overly forward Landon to be too impudent initially, however, with the ease of time they got along smoothly enough, mostly due to Summer's adaptation of ignoring Landon's poor behavior. Lately, though, their differences in background had a habit of putting Summer on the opposite side of whatever Landon was doing. Their routines had entirely separate trajectories, as well as their futures it seemed.

After completing her beauty regimen, Summer drove to the financial consulting firm she worked for, Brixton and Associate Investments. Her duties mostly involved being yelled at by her menopausal work center superior, Willa, along with convincing clients to continue to invest in the company despite the returns being lackluster at best. It was a solid 90-minute commute each way, but to Summer it was worth living rent-free in a nicer neighborhood with Landon at his renovated 70s ranch-style house as opposed to keeping an apartment in the city like she once had. The long drive was one of the deciding factors for leasing the luxury SUV that she did. Before that, she had a paid-off '90s Jaguar that she bought from her overly financially supported college roommate. She had been so proud to own it, but now Summer realized she didn't own anything at all. This thought gave her a sense of dread, but she couldn't place why exactly.

On her way to work almost daily, Heather would call to complain about Mimsy. Heather was Summer's younger former stepsister from Mimsy's fourth and thankfully final marriage to date. Heather was the daughter conceived between Rusty (Summer's one-time stepfather) and his former wife Cecilia, a self-proclaimed psychic, who currently lived in a retirement community near Lake Tahoe. Mimsy often described Cecilia's lodgings as a commune for people who never got past their midlife crisis. Summer never considered Heather to be a friend or a relative, but rather a person she had trauma bonded with over the years since both were Mimsy's former wards. Today Heather was fuming because Mimsy had called her the day before offering to take her winter clothing shopping, only for Mimsy to disappear at the checkout leaving Heather to pay for all the items herself.

In Heather's defense, Mimsy was always cruel to her because she looked so much like her mother. It spurned Mimsy who never felt secure in her relationship with Rusty, and rightly so, as Rusty cheated on Mimsy with his physical therapist after throwing out his back from moving furniture for Mimsy who could not be contented with where her grandfather clock was positioned in their once shared house. After their divorce, Mimsy kept Heather close because she held a flame for Rusty, forever hoping that he would come back to her, despite Rusty's gleeful escape from Mimsy's toxic clutches years prior. The man gave her everything she wanted in court, just so that the divorce would end, and he could go back to his eternal bachelorhood of watching History Channel marathons and eating reheated canned chili with each meal. This didn't stop Mimsy from inviting Heather to the places she thought Rusty would be or trying to garner any kind of relationship with Heather that would put her in Rusty's good graces once again. The effort on Mimsy's part proved fruitless each time.

As Heather rambled on to the tuned-out Summer on Mimsy's numerous unlikable traits, she let slip that Mimsy had mentioned Landon was cheating. This broke Summer's trance on the traffic ahead causing her to pipe up, "Wait, Mimsy said what?" Heather noticing the change in Summer's response, tried to quell any unrest this information caused with, "Don't worry, Mimsy is just as hateful about me and Morgana. It's because she can't get anyone to stay with her, so she lashes out at whoever she sees is happy." Summer mumbled in agreement while keeping to herself that she wouldn't classify Heather's relationship with Morgana as much more than a cliche simp and a gold-digger back and forth. Heather sadly, was the unaware benefactor in that arrangement.

"I didn't know you and Morgana were back together," Summer said, now trying to add distance to what Heather was going on about. Heather's attitude went from haughty condemnation of Mimsy to anger directed at Summer. "What do you mean, 'back together?' We never broke up! Just because we didn't move in with each other like you and Landon in the first couple of weeks of knowing one other, doesn't mean we aren't together. You and Landon went all in too fast and look at all the problems you have." Heather stopped herself, while the now-shocked Summer cleared her throat. Heather audibly realizing the low blow tried to backtrack, "Summer I'm sorry, look...I mean..." Heather's voice on the other end of the line stammered trying to recover from her comments. Summer wanted to ignore her altogether, so she interrupted with, "Yeah, I know. Mimsy gets under people's skin, and it puts everyone in a bad head space. I get it, but I've gotta go to get some coffee before work. Call me later." She hung up the call without waiting for Heather to respond.

Summer couldn't hold onto being offended by Heather for too long, she was about to go into the lion's den of emotionally hostile Baby Boomers and career flops for the next ten hours of maddeningly inefficient, bureaucratic misery. She took a deep breath as she keyed in the entry code to the side door of the sizable office suite, hoping to avoid her co-workers on her way to her humble office. Every time she parked her new BMW in the employee lot next to Willa's dinged-up Oldsmobile she knew it would be a bad day for her. The perpetually triggered Willa made it her mission to give Summer a hard time for the thousands of ways that Summer unintentionally made Willa feel lesser, and Willa had a lot to feel lesser about all by herself. Be it her over-done fillers, her now long-out-of-style tattooed make-up, or the way that she hit on every male that was within her notice with a level of zeal that made onlookers cringe and the men slink away in discomfort. It was apparent that Willa blamed all of her failings on Summer. Today was no different when Summer came in.

No sooner had she put her bag down at her desk than Willa popped her head into the door. She must have just come in from the parking lot herself because she had her bags with her. "Did you message the clients about the interim statement reports?" She was speaking about the company's new documentation protocol that Willa created at their last meeting. Summer was almost positive that Willa had made it up on the spot because she caught her answering an email when she went an hour over their scheduled meeting time and past their union-mandated lunch. Willa liked to hear herself talk, and often. She scheduled meetings every time she wanted to force the junior staff to listen to her prattle on about nothing in particular. A few of the junior account managers would nod their heads or respond as if they were congregants to the church of Willa who was their preacher. Most would answer their emails or work on their laptops just to keep up on things while Willa wasted their day. Still, as much as Summer tried to lick the boot of this obvious fool, Willa was not one to be receptive to her attempts at clemency. Willa loved to point out her mistakes and make an example out of her at every chance.

"I was just pulling up the template I was creating for that now," Summer answered, wondering how Willa would find fault in that statement. Willa acting exasperated retorted, "Those should be phone calls accompanied by emails that are personally generated and cc'ed to me. I want to document your performance for the next employee review period that's coming up, which you'll need to do better on considering your last one." This wasn't the first time that Willa had backhandedly reminded Summer that she was on thin ice there. Only her employment at Brixton wasn't Willa's call, it was the company's sector manager Rodney, who unfortunately was not much better than Willa with employee liaisons. In truth, he heavily relied on Willa for guidance because he was rarely in the office at all. When he was in the building, he was in the front lobby chatting with the security guard about whatever the latest major sporting event game score was. Whenever Summer would try to speak to him about the emails or calls, she had sent regarding work, he would excuse himself immediately as if the threat of accountability were a repellent from being seen.

Summer assumed she had yet to be fired because no one would work for the place. She only was relegated to Brixton after a doctor she was employed by retired under a scandal for embezzling insurance funds. Summer's only option was to leave his practice off of her resume altogether or to have the loathed conversation during an interview explaining why she was not aware of the doctor's activities due to him insisting that he handle that side of his business, something she was too naïve at the time to realize was a red flag. Back then she thought it was a cake job with a type-A boss. It haunted her every time her name was searched. No job interview progressed to hiring after saying that she had signed an NDA forbidding her from giving out too many specifics or her mention that the police found no wrongdoing on her part. Landon was her harshest critic during that time, even though he never raised any issues when she was working there either. For a job she only had for less than a year, it seemed to be all that she was known for.

"That puts you behind everyone else on your client communications. You should be updating your every contact with them in the shared drive log for evaluation purposes. If you don't have that done by the EOD, it's going to go against you in the review and you have already been written up recently." Willa said in her most condensing of tones, referring to a client who went against Summer's advice and invested in a tape-recording business, believing that tape decks were going to come back into mainstream use. Shortly after, the client's wife called the company when she realized that her husband's hunch was wrong and that they had lost money. The woman said she was going to sue, Summer for her part had the man sign a waiver releasing the fault of his request before she moved the money where he wanted. This was naturally after she forwarded her concerns to the boss who signed off on the client's ridiculous request. If Summer had her way, she would have dropped him as a client, she had asked for as much but was denied. Willa loved holding that over Summer, but to Summer it was just a reminder to keep circulating her resume around the proper channels once more.

"Be sure to do that on your lunch today since you still need to fill out your presentation for the Vicken's account." Summer could have argued with her that she had finished the Vicken's account presentation and that it was already a done deal with them as of last week, but Willa wasn't there for work, she was there to be Willa. Her entire point in every interaction was to degrade and undermine. Summer instead said something complementary to Willa and went to work on her computer because as much as she wished she could say "I don't have to take this," then get up and leave without looking back, she knew things with Landon were not in a good place. Summer had spent all of her money trying to keep up with the ever-cash-loaded Landon. Her car, clothes, salon treatments, everything was all on her dime. Landon would not let a Target-purchased dress, or Walgreens store brand hair product go by on his watch. It was the price of being Landon's arm candy. In truth, Summer had to admit to herself that she was a wealthy man's hanger-on. Landon deemed her tolerable as long as she looked the part and didn't ask for much.

Summer was well aware that she needed savings to fall back on if she couldn't find another job and was fired, which looked like the way that things were going for her. Summer worked diligently that day as she answered emails, set up all her presentations, logged the required records and filings, and even made phone calls during her lunch. Clients were annoyed to be interrupted from their day's tasks and told her in so many words. Calls were met with confusion of not knowing if a disaster had befallen their account to which Summer explained that she was just giving a personalized account update. The clients in all were not impressed and found the calls to be bizarre, in the least. After Summer finished, she concluded that accounts would likely be lost because Willa's ideas made the company look incompetent. As Summer clicked through the company share drive, she could see that none of her co-workers had updated their logs at all. Willa only heckled her, which was why she brought up the Vicken's account, she let all the other junior staff push back their account acquisition presentations by a week, however when she asked for more time Summer was told to move ahead or be written up. Summer was reprimanded so much that her superiors were unaware of what they were chiding her for or when. For Summer it was an exhausting whiplash of never knowing why she was being criticized for following all of the instructions of those she was micromanaged by.

At the end of the day, Summer went to Willa's office to see if there was anything else Willa wanted to ask of her to avoid being accused of not completing something in the morning. However, Willa's office door was locked, and the lights were off, she had probably been gone for hours since she had a habit of slipping out early. Summer walked around a little more to see if there was anyone else to check out with since she was subject to that at Brixton, but no one was there except Holsten, another junior investor like herself. He seemed busy typing up some report or another, so Summer waved to him through his office window on her way out. It had been a long day, but all of her logs were updated in the shared drive that Willa had asked for. Summer had a full 90 minutes of traffic ahead of her. Things were so bad between work and home, that Summer half expected to get back to the house to find her things on the front curb and Landon inside with another woman. These days nothing was certain for Summer; it was something she had resigned to acknowledge but not react to.


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