The summer i turned pret.., p.5
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Summer I Turned Pretty, p.5

           Jenny Han
Download  in MP3 audio
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

  65

  He ripped the plastic off of the Twizzler box and bit the ends off of two Twizzlers. Then he put them in the cup. He grinned broadly. He looked so proud of himself. I'd forgotten all about our Twizzler straws. We used to do it all the time.

  We sipped out of the straws at the same time, like in a 1950s Coke commercial--heads bent, foreheads almost touching. I wondered if people thought we were on a date.

  Jeremiah looked at me, and he smiled in this familiar way, and suddenly I had this crazy thought. I thought, Jeremiah Fisher wants to kiss me.

  Which, was crazy. This was Jeremiah. He'd never looked at me like that, and as for me, Conrad was the one I liked, even when he was moody and inaccessible the way he was now. It had always been Conrad. I'd never seriously considered Jeremiah, not with Conrad standing there. And of course Jeremiah had never looked at me that way before either. I was his pal. His movie-watching partner, the girl he shared a bathroom with, shared secrets with. I wasn't the girl he kissed.

  66

  chapter sixteen

  AGE 14

  I knew bringing Taylor was a mistake. I knew it. I knew it and I did it anyway. Taylor Jewel, my best friend. The boys in our grade called her Jewel, which she pretended to hate but secretly loved.

  Taylor used to say that every time I came back from the summer house, she had to win me over again. She had to make me want to be there, in my real life with school and school boys and school friends. She'd try to pair me up with the cutest friend of the guy she was obsessed with at the time. I'd go along with it, and maybe we'd go to the movies or to the Waffle House, but I'd never really be there, not completely. Those boys didn't compare to Conrad or Jeremiah, so what was the point?

  Taylor was always the pretty one, the one the boys

  67

  looked at for that extra beat. I was the funny one, the one who made the boys laugh. I thought that by bringing her I'd be proving that I was a pretty one too. See? See, I'm like her; we are the same. But we weren't, and everybody knew it. I thought that bringing Taylor would guarantee me an invitation to the boys' late-night walks on the boardwalk and their nights on the beach in sleeping bags. I thought it would open up my whole social world that summer, that I would finally, finally be in the thick of things.

  I was right about that part at least.

  Taylor had been begging me to bring her for forever. I'd resisted her, saying it'd be too crowded, but she was very persuasive. It was my own fault. I'd bragged about the boys too much. And deep down, I did want her there. She was my best friend, after all. She hated that we didn't share everything--every moment, every experience. When she joined the Spanish club, she insisted I join too, even though I didn't take Spanish. "For when we go to Cabo after graduation," she said. I wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands for graduation, that was my dream. I wanted to see a blue-footed booby. My dad said he'd take me too. I didn't tell Taylor, though. She wouldn't like it.

  My mother and I picked Taylor up at the airport. She walked off the plane in a pair of short shorts and a tank top I'd never seen before. Hugging her, I tried not to sound jealous when I said, "When'd you get that?"

  68

  "My mom took me shopping for beach stuff right before I left," she said, handing me one of her duffel bags. "Cute, right?"

  "Yeah, cute." Her bag was heavy. I wondered if she'd forgotten she was only staying a week.

  "She feels bad she and Daddy are getting a divorce so she's buying me all kinds of stuff," Taylor continued, rolling her eyes. "We even got mani-pedis together. Look!" Taylor lifted up her right hand. Her nails were painted a raspberry color, and they were long and square.

  "Are those real?"

  "Yeah! Duh. I don't wear fake, Belly." "But I thought you had to keep your nails short for violin."

  "Oh, that. Mommy finally let me quit violin. Divorce guilt," she said knowingly. "You know how it is."

  Taylor was the only girl I knew our age who still called her mother Mommy. She was the only one who could get away with it too.

  The boys came to attention right away. Right away they looked at her, checked out her smallish B-cups and her blond hair. It's a Miracle Bra, I wanted to tell them. That's half a bottle of Sun-In. Her hair isn't usually that yellow. Not that they would've cared either way.

  My brother, on the other hand, barely looked up from the TV. Taylor irritated him, always had. I wondered if he'd already warned Conrad and Jeremiah about her.

  69

  "Hi, Ste-ven," she said in a singsong voice. "Hey," he mumbled.

  Taylor looked at me and crossed her eyes. Grump , she mouthed, emphasis on the p.

  I laughed. "Taylor, this is Conrad and Jeremiah. Steven you know." I was curious about who she'd pick, who she'd think was cuter, funnier. Better.

  "Hey," she said, sizing them up, and right away I could tell Conrad was the one. And I was glad. Because I knew that Conrad would never, ever go for her.

  "Hey," they said.

  Then Conrad turned back to the TV just like I knew he would. Jeremiah treated her to one of his lopsided smiles and said, "So you're Belly's friend, huh? We thought she didn't have any friends."

  I waited for him to grin at me to show he was just joking, but he didn't even look my way. "Shut up, Jeremiah," I said, and he grinned at me then, but it was a quick cursory one, and he went right back to looking at Taylor.

  "Belly has tons of friends "Taylor informed him in her breezy way. "Do I look like someone who would hang with a loser?"

  "Yes," my brother said from the couch. His head popped up. "You do."

  Taylor glared at him. "Go back to jacking off, Steven." She turned to me and said, "Why don't you show me our room?"

  70

  "Yes, why don't you do that, Belly? Why don't you go be Tay-Tay's slave?" Steven said. Then he lay back down again.

  I ignored him. "Come on, Taylor."

  As soon as we got to my room, Taylor flung herself onto the bed by the window, my bed, the one I always slept in. "Oh my God, he is so cute."

  "Which one?" I said, even though I knew.

  "The dark one, of course. I love my men dark."

  Inwardly I rolled my eyes. Men? Taylor had only ever gone out with two boys, neither of them anything close to being men.

  "I doubt it will happen," I told her. "Conrad doesn't care about girls." I knew that wasn't true; he did care about girls. He'd cared enough about that girl Angie from last summer to go to second with her, hadn't he?

  Taylor's brown eyes gleamed. "I love a challenge. Didn't I win class president last year? And class secretary the year before that?"

  "Of course I remember. I was your campaign manager. But Conrad's different. He's ..." I hesitated, searching for just the right word to scare Taylor off. "Almost, like, disturbed."

  "What?" she shrieked.

  Quickly I backtracked. Maybe "disturbed" had been too strong a word. "I don't mean "disturbed," exactly, but he can be really intense. Serious. You should go for

  71

  Jeremiah. I think he's more your type."

  "And just what does that mean, Belly?" Taylor demanded. "That I'm not deep?"

  "Well--" She was about as deep as an inflatable kiddie pool.

  "Don't answer that." Taylor opened up her duffel bag and started pulling things out. "Jeremiah is cute, but Conrad's the one I want. I am gonna make that boy's head spin."

  "Don't say I didn't warn you." I was already looking forward to saying I told you so, whenever that moment should arrive. Hopefully sooner than later.

  She lifted up a yellow polka-dot bikini. "Itsy-bitsy enough for Conrad, do you think?"

  "That bikini wouldn't fit Bridget," I said. Her little sister Bridget was seven, and she was small for her age.

  "Exactly."

  I rolled my eyes. "Don't say I didn't warn you. And that's my bed you're sitting on."

  The two of us changed into our suits right away-- Taylor into her tiny yellow bikini and me into my black tankini with the suppo
rt bra and the really high neckline. As we changed, she looked me over and said, "Belly, your boobs have really gotten big!"

  I threw my T-shirt over my head and said, "Not really."

  But it was true, they had. Overnight, almost. I didn't

  72

  have them the summer before, that was for sure. I hated them. They slowed me down: I couldn't run fast anymore--it was too embarrassing. It was why I wore baggy T-shirts and one-pieces. I couldn't stand to hear what the boys would say about it. They would tease me for sure, and Steven would tell me to go put some clothes on, which would make me want to die.

  "What size are you now?" she asked accusingly.

  "B," I lied. It was more like a C.

  Taylor looked relieved. "Oh, well we're still the same, then, because I'm practically a B. Why don't you wear one of my bikinis? You look like you're trying out for the swim team in that one-piece." She lifted up a blue-and-white striped one with red bows on the sides.

  "I am on the swim team," I reminded her. I'd done winter swim with my neighborhood swim team. I couldn't compete in summer because I was always at Cousins. Being on the swim team made me feel connected to my summer life, like it was just a matter of time before I was at the beach again.

  "Ugh, don't remind me," Taylor said. She dangled the bikini from side to side. "This would be so cute on you, with your brown hair and your new boobs."

  I made a face and pushed the bikini away.

  Part of me did want to show off and wow them with how much I had grown, how I was a real girl now, but the other more sane part knew it would be a death wish.

  73

  Steven would throw a towel over my head, and I would feel ten years old again instead of thirteen. "But why?"

  "I like to do laps in the pool," I said. Which was true. I did.

  She shrugged. "Okay, but don't blame me when the guys don't talk to you."

  I shrugged right back at her. "I don't care if they talk to me or not, I don't think of them that way."

  "Yeah, right! You've been, like, obsessed with Conrad for as long as I've known you! You wouldn't even talk to any of the guys at school last year."

  "Taylor, that was a really long time ago. They're like brothers to me, just like Steven," I said, pulling on a pair of gym shorts. "Talk to them all you want."

  The truth was, I liked both of them in different ways and I didn't want her to know, because whichever guy she picked would feel like a leftover. And it wasn't like it would sway Taylor. She was going for Conrad either way. I wanted to tell her, Anyone but Conrad, but it wouldn't be true, not completely. I would be jealous if she picked Jeremiah, too, because he was my friend, not hers.

  It took Taylor forever to pick out a pair of sunglasses that matched her bikini (she'd brought four pairs), plus two magazines and her suntan oil. By the time we got outside, the boys were already in the pool.

  I threw my clothes off right away, ready to jump in,

  74

  but Taylor hesitated, her Polo towel tight around her shoulders. I could tell she was suddenly nervous about her itsy-bitsy bikini, and I was glad. I was getting a little bit sick of her showing off.

  The boys didn't even look over. I had been worried that with Taylor there they might not want to do all the usual stuff, that they might act differently. But there they were, dunking one another for all it was worth.

  Kicking off my flip-flops, I said, "Let's get in the pool."

  "I might lay out for a little bit first," Taylor said. She finally dropped her towel and spread it out on a lounge chair. "Don't you want to lay out too?"

  "No. It's hot and I want to swim. Besides, I'm already tan." And I was. I was turning the color of dark toffee. I looked like a whole different person in the summer, which might have been the best part of it.

  Taylor on the other hand was pasty and bright like biscuit dough. I had a feeling she'd catch up with me fast, though. She was good at that.

  I took off my glasses and set them on top of my clothes. Then I walked over to the deep end and jumped right in. The water felt like a shock to the system, in the best way possible. When I came up for air, I treaded water over to the boys. "Let's play Marco Polo," I said.

  Steven, who was busy trying to dunk Conrad, stopped and said, "Marco Polo's boring."

  "Let's play chicken," Jeremiah suggested.

  75

  "What's that?" I said.

  "It's when two teams of people climb up on each other's shoulders and you try to push the other person down," my brother explained.

  "It's fun, I swear," Jeremiah assured me. Then he called over to Taylor, "Tyler, you wanna play chicken with us? Or are you too chicken?"

  Taylor looked up from her magazine. I couldn't see her eyes because of her sunglasses, but I knew she was annoyed. "It's Tay-lor, not Tyler, Jeremy. And no, I don't want to play."

  Steven and Conrad exchanged a look. I knew what they were thinking. "Come on, Taylor, it'll be fun," I said, rolling my eyes. "Don't be a chicken."

  She made a big show of sighing, and then she put her magazine down and stood up, smoothing down her bikini in the back. "Do I have to take my sunglasses off?"

  Jeremiah grinned at her. "Not if you're on my team. You won't be falling off."

  Taylor took them off anyway, and I realized then that the teams were uneven, and someone would have to sit out. "I'll watch," I offered, even though I wanted to play.

  "That's okay. I won't play," Conrad said.

  "We'll play two rounds," said Steven.

  Conrad shrugged. "That's all right." He swam over to the side of the pool.

  "I call Tay-lor," Jeremiah announced.

  76

  "No fair; she's lighter," Steven argued. Then he looked over and saw the expression on my face. "It's just that you're taller than her is all."

  I didn't want to play anymore. "Why don't I just sit out, then? I'd hate to break your back, Steven."

  Jeremiah said, "Aw, I'll take you, Belly. We'll take those guys down. I think you're probably a lot tougher than little Tay-lor."

  Taylor walked down the steps and into the pool slowly, cringing at the temperature. "I'm very tough, Jeremy," she said.

  Then Jeremiah crouched down in the water, and I scrambled to get onto his shoulders. He was slippery, so it was hard to stay on at first. Then he stood up and righted himself.

  I shifted and balanced my hands on his head. "Am I too heavy?" I asked him quietly. He was so wiry and thin, I was afraid I'd break him.

  "You weigh, like, nothing," he lied, breathing hard and gripping on to my legs.

  I wanted to kiss the top of his head right then.

  Across from us Taylor was perched on top of Steven's shoulders giggling and pulling his hair to hold herself steady. Steven looked like he was ready to pitch her off of him and across the pool.

  "Ready? "Jeremiah asked. In a low voice he said to me, "The trick is to just keep steady."

  77

  Steven nodded, and we waddled over to the middle of the pool.

  Conrad, who was treading over by the side, said, "Ready, set, go."

  Taylor and I stretched our arms out to each other, pushing and shoving. She couldn't stop giggling, and when I gave her one strong push, she said, "Oh, shit!" and they both fell backward.

  Jeremiah and I burst out laughing and high-fived each other. When they resurfaced, Steven glared at Taylor and said, "I told you to hold on tight."

  She splashed him right in the face and said, "I was!" Her eyeliner was smudged and her mascara was starting to run. She still looked pretty, though.

  Jeremiah said, "Belly?"

  I said, "Hmm?" I was starting to get pretty comfortable up there, so high.

  "Watch out." Then he lurched forward, and I was flying into the water, and so was he. I couldn't stop laughing, and I swallowed about a jugful of water, but I didn't care.

  When both of our heads popped up, I went straight for his and took him by surprise with a good dunk.

  Then Taylor sai
d, "Let's play again. I'll be with Jeremy this time. Steven, you can be Belly's partner."

  Steven still looked grumpy, and he said, "Con, take my spot."

  78

  "All right," Conrad said, but his voice said he didn't want to at all.

  When he swam over to me, I said defensively, "I'm not that heavy."

  "I never said you were." Then he stooped in front of me, and I climbed on top. His shoulders were more muscular than Jeremiah's, more weighty. "You okay up there?"

  "Yeah."

  Across from us Taylor was having trouble getting onto Jeremiah's shoulders. She kept slipping right off and laughing. They were having a lot of fun .Too much fun. I watched them jealously, and I almost forgot to be aware of the fact that Conrad was holding on to my legs, and as far as I could remember, he had never so much as accidentally grazed my knee before.

  "Let's hurry up and play," I said. My voice sounded jealous even to my own ears. I hated that.

  Conrad had less trouble moving into the center of the pool. I was kind of surprised by how easily he moved around with my extra weight around his shoulders.

  "Ready?" Conrad said to Jeremiah and Taylor, who had finally managed to stay put. "Yes!" Taylor shouted.

  In my head I said, You're going down, Jewel . "Yes," I said out loud.

  I leaned forward and used both of my hands to give

  79

  her a hard push. She swayed to the side but stayed on, and said, "Hey!"

  I smiled. "Hey," I said, and pushed her again.

  Taylor narrowed her eyes and pushed me back, hard but not hard enough.

  Then we were both pushing at each other, only this time it was so much easier because I felt steady. I pushed her once, firmly, and she tipped forward, but Jeremiah was still standing. I clapped loudly. This was pretty fun.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment