Newport Beach hasn't changed at all. It's still bright and sunny, it's still warm and heavy with sea air. She misses the clean, crisp air of Pittsburgh, and then laughs at herself. Pittsburgh isn't clean or crisp. Maybe what she misses is her old brown car, or all her friends, or knowing that when she makes a phone call, it will be returned. Seth hasn't returned any of her calls, not the one from in the middle of May to tell him she was coming back, not any of the other five. Six voicemails, no response. She gets the hint.
She could have called Summer. Or Ryan. Or Marissa. Or anyone, really, that she'd met. But she'd wanted to call Seth, wanted to hear his voice. They'd said they'd stay friends -- and, at first she'd gotten a couple of emails from him, all with MP3 attachments. She wrote back, but he never wrote back. They didn't, as her parents would say, dialogue. And now he's just ignoring her, so probably Summer and Ryan and Marissa would ignore her too. Complete rejection. She's just going to relax about it, eat a lot of cheap fresh fruit, watch lots of television.
Anna's parents have HBO, and they bought her a car to drive around in, now that she has her license -- it's just a learner's permit, but no one cares about that kind of thing as long as she doesn't get pulled over. And the car is nice. It's a hybrid, with a cd player and a really good air conditioner. But she's got no place to go. She just drives around and around -- southwest on Superior, southeast on Balboa, north on Newport. Sometimes she just takes the one, past the country club and the golf course and everything.
What's she doing but killing time until she goes back to Pittsburgh? Why is she even in Newport Beach anyway? Her parents made her come, and now they're never around. It's just like when she lived in Newport. She's counting the days until she can go back to Pittsburgh, counting by songs -- she can listen to "Twilight" seven times before she hits the national park in Laguna Beach, and she can listen to all of Transatlanticism if she doesn't listen to anything else when she's making a circle; she always skips "A Lack of Color".
Anna plots out elaborate fantasies while she drives. Getting back at Seth for not calling her. Having him call her back and apologize to her voicemail, and deleting the voicemail. Even her fantasies are boring. Sometimes she thinks about what it would have been like if Summer hadn't been around and they'd gotten to really know each other, gotten to -- have sex. She still has never had sex; who would she do it with in Pittsburgh? Someone on the football team? Whatever. She should fuck a cheerleader. What a stupid plan, like a plan Summer would come up with.
Day seventeen. Anna forgets her iPod, and doesn't feel like running back into the house for it. The only cd she has is Transatlanticism, and she's not in the mood, so she turns on the radio. Some girl is screaming about being a robot. She turns it off, turns the corner, and there's Summer, walking down the street. Summer. Walking. Anna squints, and wonders if she's hallucinating. Summer is wearing really high-heeled shoes, and not teetering on them at all, so Anna knows it's real; if Anna's brain made it up, Summer would fall over. Or be walking with Seth.
Anna drives home in silence and curls up in her too-warm bedroom -- her parents refuse to turn down the a/c. They moved here, they remind her, for the warmth. Funny, she thought they moved here for the professional opportunities. Oh well. When the doorbell rings, she decides to not answer it. Then it rings again. And again. And when she sticks her head out the window, she sees Summer staring right up at her. "Open the fucking door!" yells Summer, and even though Anna wants to pretend to not hear her, she goes down to open the door anyway.
"I knew it was you." Summer runs her fingers over the back of the couch, the books on the shelves. She touches everything in the room. She looks really good, like she's taking care of her skin, and flossing, and not getting a dark orange tan like all the other women in Orange County. "No one else would drive a car like that here."
Anna can't resist pointing out, "You drive a hybrid."
Summer turns a withering glare on her. "Mine isn't purple."
Anna doesn't have an answer for that, so she shrugs. "Whatever," she says; Summer rolls her eyes.
They end up on the couch, watching telenovelas.
"No hablo espanol," says Anna.
"I'll translate for you." Summer puts her mouth close to Anna's ear and whispers all the things the actors are saying, interspersed with her own commentary --
How dare you steal my husband! What a horrible color lipstick; she's not a winter. Poor girl, can't she read a color chart? I didn't steal your husband! He came to me. He said to me, Lucia, love me, love me -- what an idiot, doesn't she know men lie? -- and then he -- ew, look at those nails!
They don't talk about Seth, and Anna doesn't ask where Summer had been going when she turned around and walked to Anna's parents' house. And Summer doesn't ask about Pittsburgh and Anna doesn't ask about Marissa and Summer doesn't ask why Anna's back in Newport and Anna doesn't ask about Ryan. There's a lot of silence between them, but there isn't another way they can be. There's enough space between them for Seth and Ryan and Marissa and -- and everything, even though their legs are pressed so tightly against each other that their sweat is mingling, and it's not gross.
On the eighteenth day, Summer comes over again; they watch more television, and sit close to each other on the couch. Anna turns up the central air, so that it's even warmer, and sets out a fan. She wears a tank top, and so does Summer. The night before, Anna laid in bed and thought about their legs pressing together. By the end of the night, it was like Seth never existed, and they'd always been friends. Today there's a Golden Girls marathon on; they sing along with the theme song every single time, their arms around each others' shoulders.
Summer's deodorant smells like magnolias. Anna is asleep in her armpit, slowly waking up to smelling magnolias. She remembers Rose and Blanche and opening a bottle of warm vodka, drinking it mixed with Crystal Light powder. She doesn't remember falling asleep, or how her face came to be in Summer's armpit, how Summer's hand -- on her --
She looks up and Summer is looking down at her, and she pushes up. Her head hurts.
"I think I'm dying," slurs Summer. Her eyes are half close.d
"Me too." Anna lets herself fall back to Summer's armpit. Magnolia. Sweat. Anna shivers.
She finally asks the question. "Where's Seth? What's going on?" Okay, it's two questions. But they had to be -- Anna had to ask.
Summer is halfway through an entire quart of orange juice. She holds up a perfectly manicured finger. Anna waits until Summer is done with the orange juice.
"He ran away," says Summer. "You don't know?"
"I don't know." Anna is drinking her own juice, a half-gallon plastic jug of cranberry, straight up. Summer watches her take a sip, watches her with half-closed eyes.
When she talks again, it's not about Seth. "Wanna come to a party tonight?"
Summer is dating a guy on the water polo team. Seth ran away because Ryan went back to Chino because Ryan got his ex-girlfriend pregnant. As Summer lists the events Anna missed, Anna feels really good about moving back to Pittsburgh.
"You know I'm leaving in two days," she says, when Summer stops talking for one single second.
"You know I don't care," snaps Summer, and takes another sip of whatever sickly sweet thing she's drinking now. It had been her idea to put the Crystal Light mix right into the vodka.
"Fine." Anna gets up to get another drink.
Summer is sitting on some guy's lap, making out with him, when Anna gets back with a beer and a neon pink mojito.
"This is my boyfriend," says Summer. "His name is Zach. He plays water polo."
Zach hardly looks at Anna. He's eating Summer's neck, like a zombie.
"Hi," says Anna lamely. "Uh. See you later." She turns to go, waiting for Summer to call her back, but Summer doesn't -- the guy does. Zach. The water polo player. The opposite of Seth in all ways.
After everything Summer did to Anna and Seth, now she's dating this freak?
"Hey!" says the guy. "Hey, you."
"Anna," whispers Summer.
"Hey, Anna," says Zach. She turns around and he beckons to her, and she's not so drunk that that's not offensive.
She cocks out a hip and glares down at him. "Yeah?"
"You guys should totally make out!" he says.
Anna stares at him, and then at Summer.
"Totally," he repeats. "Totally."
"Totally?" Anna rolls her eyes. Summer isn't rolling her eyes, though. Maybe Summer is thinking about when their legs were pressed together, or when they fell asleep together on the couch. Anna is thinking about the scent of magnolias.
Summer stands up and her mouth is on Anna's before Anna knows it. Someone takes the drinks out of Anna's hands. There's hollering and whistling and hooting, and Anna tunes it all out. She's kissed girls before -- parties are the same everywhere, when you know who to talk to. But she's never kissed Summer. Summer tastes like a guy, like beer and burping, and it's gross until Anna licks all the gross out. Also gross. Anna stops thinking. Then Summer's hands slip down her back and she stops everything to let her head fall back so she can gasp.
When Summer steps away, Anna's mouth feels sore, and her body feels heavy, and she doesn't want to open her eyes. When she does, finally, Summer's grinning at her, and the world kind of spins. That's not a let's-do-that-again grin -- that's a boys-want-us grin. Anna knows all about that kind of grin. She manages to return it. She's pretty sure her own grin is weak, but Summer doesn't notice, and she turns right back around to Zach. Anna should have known. Summer's a girl made for boys. Anna is too, kind of, probably. Maybe. Yeah. Might as well be.
One day until she leaves. She spends it on the beach with a novel. Her parents take her out for dinner -- Mexican.
"So how's your vacation been?" asks her father.
She stares at him. This was not a vacation. Is he kidding? If they wanted to give her a vacation, they'd've left her in Pittsburgh.
Finally she says, "I really like driving the hybrid," and her parents talk to each other about gas prices. Anna ignores them, and squishes black beans with the back of her fork and thinks about the lard in the beans making her arteries harden.
She hates Seth. She hates Zach. She hates all boys. She thinks about calling Ryan -- now that she knows where he is, she can probably get in touch with him somehow. It's too late to drive out to Chino, and what would she do anyway? Drive up and down streets yelling out his name? That doesn't seem like a good plan.
It seems like a Seth plan.
Anna hates Seth. She plots out elaborate fantasies in her head of never dating Seth when she first came to Newport -- of seducing Summer, of making them both jealous of her.
Anna can't sleep. She can feel her arteries harden. She can feel Summer's mouth on hers.
She tosses and turns and gets onto her early flight to Pittsburgh with bleary eyes. She keeps thinking Summer's will call her, leave a voicemail, show up at the airport at the last minute.
That's a Seth plan too.
Where is Seth?
Anna turns everything over and over in her head, and falls asleep before they serve beverages. When she wakes up, her iPod is playing "A Lack of Color" and the stewardess with the lazy eye brings her black coffee and cold water.
Anna steps off the airplane, and under the freon, she can smell salt from the fast food. Pittsburgh International is noisy and crowded and too warm. Anna shivers, and pulls her sweater down around her wrists, and looks for whoever came to pick her up. Her aunt or uncle, probably. There's a million people in baggage claim -- and her friends, their whole group, standing together, waving balloons. She smiles and rushes toward them, and vows to not think about Newport Beach -- or Summer, or Seth -- until it's time to go back for Christmas. Maybe not even then.