When December finally began the town started to prepare for the annual winter festival. However, Summer and Elizabeth were only just treading water from the piles of work that they always seemed to be buried in. When term time ended and the celebratory spirit descended on the town Summer finally seemed to have found a slightly lighter mood. The first Christmas away from home.
On the first day of the holidays the town had its own sparkling aura of Christmas that had blanketed the place in frost. Summer had done the homework she had been set. All family obligations had been dissolved. The air was cool and crisp and the town just seemed magical.
Elizabeth and Summer headed to work as a team of volunteers began to decorate the gazebo, the centre of the net of fairy lights spreading through the town. Stands were being erected on the crisp grass snapping below their feet.
Zach stopped by the Diner on the way to the market for his shift. He pulled Summer aside to ask if she was still ok to go to the festival with him. She nodded. After he left the Saturday morning rush started to come to a quiet lull. Now that she wasn’t rushed off of her feet she began to over think, feeling awkward. She could now be considered a trust fund kid; even if she and Elizabeth had those opportunities they didn’t want to give up their work. As far as they had decided, it was for emergencies only.
Reality had set in for Elizabeth and Summer, in terms of their education, their future had been laid out for them in no uncertain terms. Along with startling clarity that Matthew and Stuart had deemed Zach and Simon unsuitable. Summer had remained silent through that particular lecture, she found herself in quiet surprise when she realised that they were right, Zach wasn’t “the one”. When she accepted that everything has a shelf life, an expiry date, it didn’t have to be forever. It was both a liberating and a sad realisation.
Summer seemed to keep glossing over her pensive thoughts, when Elizabeth walked in for a quick lunch they smiled and joked. But that conversation seemed to rest just behind those smiles. Elizabeth was resentful, Simon was great, he’s a great friend, but somehow it didn’t feel like enough.
Summer’s shift seemed to drag until she was able to go home and change. When Elizabeth joined Summer on the porch they watched Zach come down the road. Elizabeth watched Summer’s face, it didn’t seem as happy as she had expected. She seemed pensive before she finally smiled.
Walking into the town square was beautiful. In the evening everything seemed that much more magical with all the twinkling lights. The cold air danced in their breath and the smell of hot food; the hot cinnamon churros, donuts, mulled wine, hot dogs just seemed so alive in the dead of winter. Even when the snow began to fall in soft gentle flurries they still felt warm, more so with thick hot chocolates.
Elizabeth decided to separate from Summer and Zach and found herself staring at the Diner. Inside she saw Simon fiddling with streams of paper. For a moment she paused before finally deciding to go and speak to him. Determined to walk through the door marked closed she was on a mission. Even if it was just for five minutes she would get him to come to the winter festival.
In the dark corner of an alley stood a man watching Elizabeth cross the road to the Diner before turning his back and walking through the crowds pushing past Summer and Zach in a determined rush, unapologetically.
Summer and Zach were unimpressed by the rude stranger and strolled over to the bonfire to warm up a little more. The soft crackling of the flames gave off a romantic glow. Gently Zach spoke as he held her in his arms, she was already feeling a bit awkward but his words made things worse. “There is something I wanted to say, Summer, I love you.” The world seemed to slow down uncomfortably around her, like all eyes were on her. She was unable to speak, thankfully the phone ringing in her pocket drew her attention. She made her excuses and ran home, not accepting his offer to take her home. She ran until it was safe to turn the alarm off of her phone to remind her about her morning shift the next day.
When Summer got in she collapsed on her bed exhausted and ready to bury her head in the sand and avoid her phone.
Elizabeth got home an hour later after having a cheerful evening hanging around with Simon. She returned smiling, deciding to check on Summer fast asleep. Summers phone rang again with Zach’s number, noticing the string of missed calls she putt the phone by Summer’s bedside. She covered Summer in a blanket before going to bed.
In the morning Summer buried herself in invented work, redoing her homework so that it was “better”. When Summer’s phone charged back up she saw the missed calls and texts from Zach. A guilty knot in her stomach made her turn from her phone to go and make a nice cup of tea.
Elizabeth trudged into the kitchen and retrieved the cup of tea Summer was offering her. “Hey how late did you get home?”
“Not too loud! Not too late.”
“Ellie are you hungover?”
“No… yes… don’t you have work to go to?”
“Fine I get the hint; I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah, yeah, Sum your phone?”
“Nah its ok you know where to find me.”
“Oh look at the time. See you tonight.”
Summer walked out the door with earphones tucked into her ears, a grumpy expression and nothing connected to her earphones. Dashing through the door of the Diner Summer pulled her coat and scarf off. Summer worked in a blur all morning. She darted around, the epitome of efficiency. So efficient Simon could see her avoiding something.
“Summer, it’s quiet, relax, have a break” Summer shook her head at him and carried on cleaning tables. After the determined steering of Simon, she sat down with Simon sat with her, he convinced her to just say what was bothering her. The words seemed to spill and tumble from her lips as she explained all about the winter festival and about what Matthew and Stuart had said about the men in their lives.
Simon sat quietly and listened for a few minutes. “Well, if Zach isn’t the right guy, if it doesn’t feel right, you need to tell him. Just sit down and tell him how you are feeling. You need to be prepared to hear what he wants; but you need to be sure of what you want, believe me, it’s not always easy to stand your ground.”