(500) days of summer summer finn; summer/husband. 4223 words. r-ish. written for yuletide. this is not the beginning. this is only the meeting of two people, one of whom you already know, a little and the other? the other is a stranger to you. originally posted here
notes: i wanted so badly to talk about this story at my journal while i was writing it since i know many of the people on my flist like the film but of course, i couldn't. it's sort of my attempt at working the "husband" into the narrative and also, sort of showcasing the way i see summer, who gets more hate than i think she deserves. also! i was picturing armie hammer as the husband the whole time, so that should be a helpful reference point, i hope.
would you come unbury me
could you light me up like a lemon grove
i’ll save you from this dreamy life
to the hardest love you could ever know
[the weakest shade of blue, the pernice brothers]
This is not the beginning.
This is only the meeting of two people, one of whom you already know, a little and the other? the other is a stranger to you. This is not where are our story starts. It is not the kind of story that has a particular point of beginning or middle or end; only love stories are built that way and this is not a love story. (But you knew that.) This is not even a new story, it is the continuation of one that you have heard before.
And this? This is only as good a place as any to pick it up again.
The girl, Summer Finn, is sitting in a deli on a Saturday afternoon with a book on her table and an untouched sandwich at her elbow, pages turning slowly, very slowly as if she is studying for a test. She is not studying for a test. Summer has just never been a particularly fast reader. She doesn’t like to skim things; she’s the kind of person who lingers over every word that she likes and frowns over the ones she doesn’t. There’s a slow humming noise but her lips are barely moving; her fingers tap along with the music. She is listening to The Smiths. They go up and down against the vinyl table top.
“Is that Oscar Wilde?”
Summer doesn’t look up right away.
(She’s had more than a few book related come ons in her life. They tend to prop up every time she reads Austen and while they’re usually not too offensive, they are never very original, just your run of the mill thinly veiled attempts to get her into bed. She’s learned that she gets approached a lot less if she’s reading Ayn Rand. Or Woolf. Most of those were in college, anyway. She didn’t think this kind of flirtation would survive past that age and still be acceptable in a breed of males who like to call themselves adults. Clearly she puts too much faith in the human race. )
“That’s what the jacket says, I think.”
“Well, you could be reading porn under the dust jacket.”
She turns her face up. Her eyes are wide.
“Not that I’ve ever done that,” he says, quickly. Some of the coffee he has in his hand spills on to the cuff of his sleeves. He wipes at it, hurriedly. “I knew a girl who used to. My sister, actually. I think she snuck one into Bible study, too.”
It’s a good shirt, she notes. White, blue stripes and there’s a watch around his wrist too, something thick and expensive and he looks almost too put together to be spilling coffee on his shirts and trying to pick up girls in delis by bringing up Oscar Wilde and porn.
Her eyebrows pull up and then down.
“May I sit here?”
It’s a warm fall afternoon. She has nothing to do, nowhere to be and it occurs to her that she hasn’t really met anyone at all in the city since she got here; only the people from work and there small circle of friends. They are all lovely people but not all that different, she realizes from her work friends back home. She remembers telling Tom that she came to Los Angeles to find something new and exciting. She thought she’d meant it back then, too.
She says yes.
The man sits down across from her. Smiles are exchanged.
This is not the beginning.
Summer will get back to her apartment at midnight. It will be dark and she won’t switch on the lights for a few minutes and she won’t check the messages on her phone or sit down or brush her teeth.
She won’t really be able to sit at all.
Later, much later (almost a year) on the start of another new afternoon, she will tell Tom that she thought of him. She will laugh as she says it, press the tips of her fingers to her lips and say “I guess I didn’t really know how to believe in stuff like that. Love, you know?” (It is still a foreign word in her mouth, it still tastes a little funny when she says it.) “You changed that, Tom. I kept thinking; Tom was right.”
And her laugh will turn nervous and her fingers will flex against her warm palms and she will jostle his elbow to cover the embarrassment of being so romantic and it will be partly a lie; she didn’t really think of Tom, not much and perhaps that is how she knew she was in love.
But that’s getting ahead of the story. She isn’t in love with him yet.
“He” is Roger Spence.
He stands over six feet tall. Very few people would call Roger Spence an “ordinary man” though I suppose, if asked, they would be hard pressed to find a way in which he was extraordinary, too.
He was one of those people who impressed you without really making it clear how. In certain circles, this special quality that Roger possessed is called “charm”. Charm is one of those qualities that is most charming in people who do not know that they posses it. Roger was not one of those people. He was both aware and in control of his charm, which is not to say that it was of the superficial variety that can be switched on and off at will but he was not above using it to get his way and it had certainly served him well in the past.
At age fifteen, for example, Roger and his friends had tried to sneak into the Principal's office to steal the jar that supposed held the ashes of his cat and were faced with expulsion. Roger, whoever, managed to churn out the excuse that they were only trying to hold a funeral for the deceased animal. He delivered a eulogy that resulted in both tears and a “get out of jail free” card, effective immediately.
(The charm worked similarly wondrous degrees on most of the women that Roger encountered. He doesn't like to brag about those.)
He graduated top of his class at Boston University and then moved to New York for law school. The year he met Summer Finn, Roger was working his first job in Los Angeles. He had not expected to like there.
He was very surprised to find that he did.
The next time they meet, it is an accident of sorts.
She is on a date, one of her first since after Tom with a lawyer from his firm. The guy seems to think it’s a good idea to take her to an office dinner party. They have only been out a few times and this is starting to seem like some hideous ploy to con her into being his girlfriend (why doesn’t she know any normal men?) and she leaves the table to get a drink from the bar. She is standing there, twisting her heels into the carpeted floor when she sees him.
“Fancy meeting you here.”
“I didn’t know you worked for them.”
“But I mailed you a copy of my resume, as I always do with girls who won’t give me their numbers,” he says, with mock horror in his furrowed eyebrows, “Didn’t you get it?”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Summer purses her mouth, curling it to the side a little. They should really get back to the table. Her date keeps looking over at them, nervously. He waved as well.
“Why don’t I buy you one?”
She goes home with him that night.
They end up kissing in the coat closets when she goes to fetch hers and he is standing behind her and he smells like peppermint and Scotch and his whole body is warm when he touches her and they both laugh even though nothing is funny, stumbling over to the curb and hailing down a taxi. She shivers while they wait for one, wrapping her coat more tightly around her.
“Look, I should tell you - “
“Oh, no.” He slaps a hand against his forehead. “You’re not married to him, are you?”
“You’re hilarious. No. No, I’m not married.”
“So?” He cocks up an eyebrow.
“I’m not really looking for anything serious.”
“I’d never assume you were,” he promises.
He makes a joke but something about his face registers a kind of relief and that’s probably a terrible thing in a man, really, but it comforts her. They climb into the back of the taxi, a mess of limbs and mouths and there is something light and heady about the whole encounter that she doesn’t think she’s felt in a very long time.
This is only a few months after they meet.
She does not move into his apartment. Not officially, even though she spends more nights a month there than she does in her own and really, he thinks its ridiculous that she’s still paying rent there but she hangs on to it and he doesn’t push. He decides it doesn’t matter to him, not all that much. Not if she sticks around, her books left on his kitchen table, bra hanging out of a window. Summer, he’s learned is of the Holly Golightly school of womanhood in her domestic habits. She makes a certain art of carelessness and it can get irritating, sometimes, this trail of physical evidence that her path into his life seems to leave but there are enough good moments in between the bad ones (like the mornings; they are both early risers and he’s taken to having two copies of the paper delivered so that he skim over the headlines while she does the crossword at breakfast, pencil caught between sleepy lips, her feet cradled up in his lap) and enough mind-blowing sex (she has ruined three of his ties now; she always goes for the expensive ones) that he’s willing to overlook the coffee stains.
(She has stolen his spare key. But that is just another detail.)
They are supposed to have dinner together on Friday night.
He cooks. It isn’t his forte but he can get by, which is more than anyone could say about Summer (she’s been known to burn toast) and he puts in a little more effort than he usually does. There is lamb. There is even dessert.
He dozes off in one of his chair, book propped up in his lap. It’s a copy of Farewell to Arms. His sister sent it over as a gift and he didn't think it'd be the kind of thing he'd want to read - Amy sends him a lot of stuff that she doesn’t expect he’ll read. She calls it decorating the shelves. (Roger is of the Fitzgerald school. He reads Waugh, sometimes and he’s taken to picking up his Wilde again, just so she can roll her eyes every time that he does) but Summer told him that she read nothing but that book for two months in college so he thought he'd give it a try.
The door creaks open and he shifts a bit in the chair, jerking out of sleep. His shoulders feel stiff and he is rolling them back, trying to crack out the joints when he sees the click of yellow light coming in from the hallway. The bedroom door is halfway open.
He can just about see into the hall, the dark shape of her coming in and shutting the door behind her, coat sliding off the slim shoulders and going up on the rack. She takes her dress off right there, in the enterance to his apartment, undoing the back and stepping lightly out of it and the light is thin and harsh but it gathers around the soft curves of her waist, her legs and he stops breathing a little when her long arms reach around for the clasp on her bra, his eyes drooping half shut all on their own, lazily following the slow swing of her hips as she comes into the bedroom and reaches for the lamp.
His throat feels dry when he opens his mouth and the words sounds scratchy against his tongue. "Hey."
Summer turns, widens her eyes.
"Hey, yourself," she half sings.
"Come over here."
She grins. It's a little crooked. It's the kind of grin that sets off bushfires and conflagrations and then, she is standing in front of him.
“You fell asleep reading that,” she states. It’s almost scolding, the way she says it.
He doesn’t answer her, his palms swallow her hips. Her skin is cold and he tightens his touch, tugging her down till she is straddling him and she laughs, a little, a full whiskeyed sound that shudders against him when he kisses her, smooth freckled arms lacing their way around his neck and it’s soft, at first, almost slow and then her hands pull at the hair on the back of his neck, little tufts of gold coming apart in her fingers, moving down to place firmly against his chest and she pushes him back in the chair with a light groan. One of them makes a fist of his t shirt, pulling it up and off and the other one skates across his stomach, nails dragging a little against the skin and then her hand is under the waist band of his pants, wrapping gently around him, skimming up and down, touch light and teasing and she seems to be matching the rhythm of it to his heavy, stuttered breathing and he gasps.
“Yeah?” she asks, laughing again, kissing him and he bites her mouth a little, gently, teeth sinking into the full flesh of her lower lips.
She pushes his sweats all the way off and they are pooled around his ankles, his arms lifting her up off his lap and she curls against him, whispers “bed” against his mouth but he shakes his head, pretty sure he won’t make it that far and she lowers herself on to him, slowly, so slowly that he hisses, tongue trapped between teeth; it’s a long, tight sound-- the way paper sounds when it is left to burn. Her hips twist around him, making quick circles as they fuck and he lets out a string of lazy, heated curses, every word stumbling straight into the start of the other and it’d be funny how incoherent he is if his fingers weren’t digging deep into her sides, thumbs pressed into the cave of her hips just past the bone; firm and almost painful and he loosens his grip when he comes, a heavy release of breath against her neck.
“Worth waiting up for?” she asks.
He stiffens. She’s lying against him, knees swinging off the arm of the chair. She moves to tuck her head under his chin and he draws back a little, jaw tight.
“Where were you?”
“Patty’s. It was her birthday and she wanted to get a few drinks and - “
“Why didn’t you call if you were going to be late?”
“I guess I didn’t think of it.”
She isn’t looking at him. Her face is pressed into his skin.
It’s a bit difficult to get the words out. “I was waiting for hours. I cooked, for fuck’s sake - “
“I’m sorry, I got caught up!” she grins, reaches up to kiss him, “And I think I’ve made a pretty good start of making it up to you.”
He doesn’t say anything. They stumble over to the bed and she falls asleep right away, eyelashes tangling together with the make up. She snores a little, kicks at his shins.
He only sighs, pulls the sheet over her.
They are both quiet the next morning.
Summer drinks her coffee with the world weary frown of a hangover, eyes screwed up and half closed as if the sunlight personally offends her and he gets up halfway through breakfast, shuts the blinds. There’s a murmur of thanks that angers him for some reason and he snaps up out of his seat, one hand reaching for his brief case and the other tightening his tie and he’s almost at the door when she lifts her head and speaks to him.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.”
“I’m going to a wedding this weekend. So, I won’t see you for a few days.”
She waves a hands in the air, a loose, careless gesture.
“Just this woman I used to work with. Milly. You know. At the card company.”
“So, I’ll call you when I get back. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Not going to miss me too much, Spence?” she teases.
“Why would I do that?”
“Oh, come on.” She crosses her legs, one sliding over the other. “You’re going to pine all weekend,” she finishes, in a sing song voice.
“I think I’ll live.”
He isn’t gentle with the door.
She does not call him before she gets on the train. Her thumbs linger of the keys of her phone and she considers it, considers using a pay phone and doing something stupid and childish like hanging up after she hears his voice but there isn’t any point. He would know it was her.
She finds her seat and sits there for a minute, phone in her hand.
That’s when she sees Tom.
The apartment is empty when she comes back to it, Tuesday afternoon. She got back on Sunday night. They still haven’t spoken She supposes he is probably still at work. Every thing looks just like it was when she left it, she thinks, going into the bedroom and sort of wandering around for a few minutes. She isn’t sure what she’s looking, what she thinks she is going to find.
There’s a post-it on the mirror in his bedroom, the one she put up a few weeks ago so that she wouldn’t have to do her makeup in the bathroom.
Tom Hansen called. Twice. You might want to think about calling him back.
Summer flops back on the bed.
He comes home late that evening.
Summer is sitting at the kitchen table. Her eyes look brighter than usual and her fingers shake a little when she lifts to them off her lap to curl around her coffee mug. She’s sitting quite still, not restless like she usually it. He raises a bit of an eyebrow.
“You look tired.”
“I guess that’s one way of putting it,” she says, making a bit of a smile.
“Did you call Tom?” he asks, flatly, sitting down across from her, “He seemed quite anxious to talk to you.”
“Did you speak to him?”
“He left a few messages on the answer phone.”
He starts to get up.
“I’m going to take a shower.”
“Don’t go. We should talk about this.”
“What is there to talk about?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“I haven’t actually communicated to you what I do or do not think. So I’m not sure where you got the idea that you can instinctively tell what it is that I think.”
“You think I went to Milly’s wedding and I slept with my ex.”
“I thought Tom wasn’t your ex. The same way I’m not your boyfriend. So, really, it shouldn't matter - “
“I didn’t sleep with him,” she cuts in.
He lowers himself back into the seat.
“You - didn’t.”
“No. No, I didn’t sleep with him.”
“Look, I know I’m not the most romantic person on the planet.”
Roger snorts. He leans back in his chair, rolls up the cuffs of his sleeves. “You can say that again.”
“Would you let me finish?”
He makes a motion of zipping his lips with his fingers. He folds his arms and waits.
“I know I said I didn’t - want anything serious,” she stumbles over the word a bit, “And I did mean that. I don’t like relationships or commitments or - “
“I know all of this.”
“Sorry. I just thought I should point it out. I’ve always - I have always respected that. I’m not trying to make a - “
“Because you don’t want those things, either,” she says. Her eyes seem to be searching for him.
He struggles with this one. He’s always walking this fine line with Summer - never sure what’s going to push her over the edge and out of the door.
“Because I respect your feelings,” he decides, sticking to it.
He’s not about to make some kind of - declaration when she’s just come back from a dirty weekend with an ex boyfriend. He has his dignity to think of.
She stares for a minute, blue, bright blank eyes.
“Anyway,” she continues, softly, “I guess I sort of - after seeing Tom again - “
Oh. His stomach drops a little.
“I suppose I realized that - I don’t know what I’m saying here, kid. I’m not very clever with these things, you know. I just wonder if I was maybe fighting it so hard that I didn’t notice that I was sort of, well, falling into it myself, for lack of a better expression. I don’t mean commitment. I suppose I mean love but the two things aren’t that far apart are, they?”
His voice is a little thick.
“This is probably kind of sudden. It is for me, too. I mean, of all the people, I’ve ever been with. Of all the people I’d ever have thought would be the ones to - not change my mind, I think. That’s the wrong way to put it. To make me feel something I hadn’t before.”
“Summer - “
“But there you have it, I suppose. I’m in love with you.”
“Now, that is never a good response.”
He makes a sound, something between a laugh and a groan. It is a little shaky and his voice catches in his throat, his throat that feels like a thousand lamps have just been burned inside it and are setting flame to each word that tries to escape.
“I don’t always know what to do with you, Summer.
“You don’t have to. I mean, I know that you’re not any more prone to this whole - “
“I thought you were leaving me.”
“I didn’t realize.”
“You’re not very clever with these things.”
She leans over to smack him. Their fingers catch together instead.
They can’t sleep that night, both of them and they are lying in bed, sheets pushed off the bed. She is still naked, all the light from the windows and the other rooms, catching around the sweep of her body as she leans up on her side, one hand in her hair.
“We should go on a vacation or something.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I want to go to Russia.”
“You want to go to Russia.”
She rolls onto her back. “Or Tokyo. Let’s go to Tokyo.”
“Only if you promise to speak to my boss. Persuade him to let me go.”
“Well, that sounded dirty. You’d be willing to whore me out to your boss to get a vacation?”
“Or something,” she laughs.
“The only way,” he says, carefully, “That he’d let me take time off now if I were going on a honeymoon. Or you know, something. Like a deceased relative.”
“You want to get married?”
“It’s either that or killing off a relation in Tokyo.” He pauses. “I don’t have any relatives in Tokyo, Summer.”
“That’s a shame.”
“We should get married.”
Her lips part on a small, silent “oh” and then fall back shut again.
“Spencer. If this some sort of joke - “
“No. It’s not. I’ve thought about and I think I’d like you to marry me.”
“How long have you been thinking about it?”
“Look, we’re both - we’re both idiots with this sort of thing and I - “
“You think marriage is going to solve our communication problems.”
“I think I want to be with you. I know I do. And I - “
“I love you, Summer.”
It is said somewhat urgently and patiently all at once - she realizes it isn’t something that he says out of affection. He is letting her know. It’s said like a statement. Like a fact.
She sits up.
“We’re going to Tokyo, Spence. Pack your bags.”
This is not a story of boy meets girl.
This is a story of two people who don’t believe in happy endings and we don’t know if that’s right. We don’t know how it ends.
Only how it starts. And this is how it starts.
On the plane, Summer falls asleep on his shoulder.
She is still wearing her wedding dress, a light blue summer dress, low around her knees and her hair smells like flowers when he breathes in and his own is still heavy with wine and cake and she presses closer to him, fingers leaving sticky trails across his shirt that he will probably complain about later and his knees hurt from being folded over.
The plane buzzes low across night.