The Spring Girls by Anna Todd

  Meredith popped back in and asked what time she got off and told her that she may have to wait an extra twenty minutes before she could get her.

  “I have to pick up Aunt Hannah from work, too,” she explained.

  “Thank you.” Jo smiled at Meredith.

  When my mom left again, Amy turned to Jo and said, “It’s not her fault that she can’t drive you. She’s hurt.”

  Jo seemed to consider what Amy was saying. She spun herself in the chair to face Meg. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault. I’m tired and finishing that piece. It’s stressful.”

  Meg couldn’t even try to hide the surprise on her face. She was always so collected, and I could tell that Jo’s honest apology shook her a little. Me, too.

  “Th-a-a-a-nks,” Meg replied, drawing out the word, sounding confused. “It’s fine. I know you have a lot going on.”

  Meg’s shock transferred right on over to me, and something occurred to me. Meg and Jo had been spending a lot more time together than they ever had before. I had been hearing their voices at night lately, chatting away while everyone was in bed. I hadn’t heard that sound since we were kids, when Meg used Jo as her cosmetic guinea pig after bedtime. Jo’s pillow was always covered in makeup the next morning.

  “And why don’t you just have Laurie take you, since he’s your boyfriend now?” Amy touched Jo’s arm, and Jo slid her hand away. “Who would have thought Jo would have such a hot boyfriend. He’s almost too hot.” Amy touched the screen of her phone and looked back up to the three of us.

  Jo’s response was flat. “Shut the hell up.”

  “Just sayin’.” Amy smiled and looked at Meg for approval. She worshipped everything about Meg.

  A few seconds passed, and Jo stood from the table. “I’m out,” she announced, and left the room. I was next. I needed to finish my History assignment on my mom’s laptop before midnight. I knew I would regret working on a World War Two assignment right before bed. It was one hundred percent going to give me nightmares, but I was behind on my schoolwork because of lazy Holiday Fever.

  When I walked into the living room, Meredith was sitting in Dad’s recliner with her eyes closed. I bent down over her to grab the laptop from the side of the chair; she opened her eyes, scaring the hell out of me.

  She started laughing when I gasped.

  “Sorry, baby,” she said with a smile.

  She always looked so young when she smiled. My mom was beautiful, but sometimes it seemed like she had aged five years in one. I was worried about her and couldn’t wait for my dad to be home.

  “I have an assignment to work on. I’ll bring it back before I go to bed,” I told her. She smiled at me, looking a little sleepy.

  “That’s fine. You can do it down here if you want. I’ll be quiet. I’m just going to watch Criminal Minds.” She lifted the lever on the recliner, and the footrest sprung to life.

  I laughed. “No way you’ll be quiet if you’re watching Criminal Minds.”

  She talked through every scene, constantly trying to guess who the killer was and shouting at the TV.

  She laughed and shrugged. “I still think the FBI should have a watch on the writers of that show. It’s some seriously twisted shit.” She said that every single time we watched the show together. I was the only one who could stand to watch it. Amy was too squeamish, Meg was too big of a chicken, and Jo was too literal. She would pick apart the plot holes and legalities of everything.

  I loved this time with my mom, when she was happy and distracted.

  “Come on, Beth, stay down hereeee,” she whined, and pressed her hands together like she was praying.

  I tried to hold a straight face as I sat down on the couch and tossed her the remote. “Only talk during the commercials. Promise?”

  She dragged her thumb and index finger along her lips like she was zipping them and pretended to toss me the key.


  In the few weeks that passed since Christmas, things had changed.

  Jo and Laurie became inseparable.

  Now that Shia was out of the country again, saving the world in his way, Meg was back to work at the King house. John Brooke would be home very soon, and it was all Meg would talk about. She was always so flustered while pretending not to be.

  Meredith kept herself busy, with Aunt Hannah coming over more than usual.

  Everyone was hunky-dory except Amy, who got suspended from school for continuing to trade food in class after the teacher told her multiple times not to.

  Apparently, the principal was alerted when Amy was caught with a full-sized key lime pie inside her desk. A pie. In her desk. When she’d asked me to make it for her, I didn’t bat an eye. I figured it was for some school celebration, so I made her one from scratch that was supposed to be a homemade replica of Petite Amelie’s recipe.

  So, Amy was home with me for a week and Meredith asked me to teach her while I was home. My online classes only took me around two hours a day to finish, so I had plenty of time during the next five days of her suspension. My sister was sitting across from me at the kitchen table; we had the house to ourselves that morning.

  “I want to go to Laurie’s house again,” she complained through a spoonful of her cereal.

  I dipped my spoon into the bowl and popped soggy rings of Cheerios into my mouth and, in the same mumbled manner she had spoken to me, asked, “Why?”

  “Because!” Her sigh was heavy and dramatic. She was always the emotional one, more so than Meg even. Amy always seemed to be floating above the clouds. Meg was the most grounded of us, Amy the least.

  “They have everything there. A big yard. They even have a golf cart parked in the backyard,” she whined.

  I thought of the scooters and the bikes my parents had spent months saving for and had to remind myself that Amy was only twelve. She didn’t understand that she was being a spoiled little brat. “How do you know?”

  Amy was always sneaking around. I heard Meredith telling Aunt Hannah that she should put a password on her laptop if she didn’t want Amy to go through it.

  “I just do.” Amy had a glimmer in her eye as she went on. “We should just move in over there. There’s a library for Jo, a piano for you, and Meg loves the greenhouse. I’m sure we can find something for Meredith.”

  It was true, Old Mr. Laurence had the most beautiful grand piano in his house. I had only seen it up close once, last week, when I went into the house for the first time.

  I smiled at Amy. “We might run into a problem getting Old Mr. Laurence to give up that big house to us.”

  Amy nodded, her blond curls rubbing against her shoulders. “You could convince him. One of us could even marry the old man!”

  “Ew. You wouldn’t!” I gaped at my sister, mostly teasing, but I didn’t like the way she was already talking—in only the seventh grade—about marrying an elderly man for money. Who knew where she got that—maybe Meg?

  “I would! So should you,” Amy said in a faux Southern accent. “I would do just about anything for a better life. If I was Old Mr. Laurence’s wife, I could paint all day and drink tea and be a proper Southern woman.” Raising her spoon up, Amy lifted her pinkie into the air.

  I laughed a little at the change in her voice, but I didn’t like how quickly this conversation had gone awry. I needed to talk to Meredith about Amy’s comment, but honestly, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know anything about getting married, or even talking to the opposite sex.

  Instead of giving her bad advice, I said, “If you put as much energy into math as you do planning your life as a trophy wife, you could at least have a diploma.”

  Amy smiled, and the dimples in her cheeks flashed at me. Her teeth were so straight, but just a little too small for her face, making her look younger than she was.


  “That term is never going to be a thing, Amy.”

  Eye roll. “It already is, Beth.”

  “Be happy with what you have.”

p; She shook her head. “I want more.”

  “Well, if you want more, then work for more. No one is going to hand you anything, and the sooner you realize that, the easier your life will be. Look at Dad: he does all of this for us, to make sure we have a good life.” I reached across the table and touched her hand. “I know it’s hard, but just try and be a little grateful.”

  Amy looked down at the table, and then back up at me. “I thought he did it because of his patriotic duty?”

  I laughed a little. “That too. Now, let’s go get your math booklet and let’s do some work.”

  With a sigh, Amy took one last bite of her breakfast and followed me to the coffee table in the living room, where I spent two hours teaching her how to long divide. Her school textbook was so much more advanced than I thought it would be. She was already learning to subtract fractions. I don’t think I was learning that until at least ninth grade. I helped her add and subtract negatives without using our fingers, and she giggled when I got a few of the answers wrong. I quizzed her and she got better each time.

  Sitting across from Amy, I felt like a big sister for the first time in a while. It felt like I was living inside one of those pure, family-friendly, Americana-themed television series where siblings hold hands and never want to rip each other’s heads off. Meg used to watch one of those shows, and we were all obsessed with it, but for the life of us we couldn’t remember what it was called. We remembered that a curly-haired girl talked to the moon, and that her neighbor had a crush on her, but not the title. A few months back we’d spent an afternoon searching the internet for it, but failed to find it again.

  I got along with all of my sisters, usually. Jo and Amy fought the most, and consequently they hardly spent any time together. Amy and I would hang out more since I was always at home.

  I wondered if she liked hanging out with me the same way she did Meg. I doubted it. Meg taught Amy how to straighten her curls with a flatiron and how to paint little flowers on her big-toe nail. When they were speaking, Jo taught Amy how to write short poems; they would read them out loud to each other, and I’d heard Jo telling Amy ghost stories about the French Quarter. Last Halloween—while Aunt Hannah watched Amy—me, Meg, Jo, and Meredith went on a ghost tour in the Quarter. The theme of the spooky tour was all about female murderers. It was awesome. Jo told Amy all about it when we got back and got cool points for that. Knowing Jo, she might have been trying to scare her sister, but instead it intrigued Amy.

  I tried to think of what I brought to the sister table for Amy . . . But when nothing came to mind, I distracted myself by asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  “Old Mr. Laurence’s wife.” She laughed.


  She shrugged and looked up at the ceiling. “I want to be like Meg.”

  “Meg? In what way?”

  I didn’t want to say that Meg hadn’t accomplished much in her life yet, but I had a feeling that Amy meant that she wanted to look like Meg.

  “You know”—Amy shrugged—“I want to wear lipstick and tight dresses and be popular and pretty.”

  Amy’s shirt had a little stain on the collar, and I wondered who’d taught her to care so much about being pretty. “It’s not your job to be pretty. It’s your job to make the best for yourself, but it isn’t your job to be pretty. You don’t owe anyone that.”

  “Sure, Beth.”

  And honestly I was a little surprised she’d even been listening to what I’d said.


  Later that night, Jo was late for dinner and Meredith sent me next door to collect her. Meredith had strict rules about all of us being home for dinner during the week; it was one of her things. We could go out before and after if we wanted, though I never found myself wanting to. I enjoyed peace and quiet and conversations with my mom and helping her with the daily routine that my dad left behind when he was deployed.

  Jo knew Meredith’s rule and had never broken it until that week, when she was late three days in a row. Meg was the only other one to ever break the dinner rule, but since she’d turned eighteen, Meredith let her do as she pleased, for the most part.

  Meredith could have gone to fetch Jo herself, but lately I’d gotten the feeling that with each day that passed it was a little harder for Meredith to leave the house. We all helped as much as we could. Jo had been working much more than before and started paying her own cell phone bill. Meg was the taxi driving us around, and Amy . . . well, Amy was young and didn’t help much. When I was Amy’s age, I was already helping with dishes and laundry, but Amy was a very young twelve, and sometimes it seemed like she didn’t have a clue about responsibility.

  As I slid my feet into my sandals, I reminded myself that I was helping Meredith by going to fetch Jo. I hadn’t left the house since I got Jo from the Laurence house yesterday. Sometimes I would take long walks around the neighborhood alone, just to get some air and comfort Meredith. I knew she worried about my anxiety, but I was happier being inside and didn’t mind my own company. I preferred it.

  Meredith was trying to find the bay leaf in the pot roast and Amy was setting the table as I got ready to leave the house. It usually took me a few minutes to make sure I had everything. I sometimes wished I would never have to leave the house. I even had this whole invention idea to use those tubes like the bank does and send food and supplies through fast tubes so people would never have to leave their houses.

  “Beth, are you almost ready? Dinner will be done in ten minutes.”

  “Yes, Meredith.” I walked out the back door and crossed the yard.

  I looked for any hint of life inside the bow window in the back of the Laurence house. The kitchen looked empty from where I stood. Laurie and Jo were inside somewhere, and maybe that would be it. I hoped. Old Mr. Laurence always intimidated me with his bushy eyebrows and scowling face. I had never seen a person who looked so annoyed at being alive. I wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, but Old Mr. Laurence made me look like a rainbow.

  Laurie didn’t seem to have his grandfather’s permanent scowl. I had seen him be soft with Jo last Saturday, when he stayed at our house so late that they fell asleep on the couch together. Jo’s head was leaning on Laurie’s arm, and his mouth was slightly open as he breathed in and out. His body was so long that I almost tripped over his legs when I tried to wake them up.

  Their friendship made so much sense to me. Their insurgent personalities found each other at an Army post full of people who follow commands in almost every part of their life. I thought that I would make a good soldier. Jo, not so much. She loved to question authority in every bit of her life. Sometimes this got her in trouble, like when she busted Old Mr. Laurence’s window, or when she wrote a full-page spread in her high school’s newspaper about the effects of PTSD on soldiers returning from war, and her teacher, Mr. Geckle, basically told her she had no chance of that article getting into the White Rock High paper, so she slipped it in just before printing. Luckily, she only got one day of in-school suspension as a punishment. I always hoped she wouldn’t get herself into too much trouble, but knew that slipping pages into the newspaper was child’s play compared to what she was capable of.

  When Jo was with Laurie, I felt a little less worried about her. And Josephine was the sister I worried about the most. She was the most inspired of us all, and she had passion that could burn a field of wildflowers, but I didn’t know if she would be able to put it out when need be. She needed Dad. She needed someone who could help her turn her fiery passion into productive change. Jo was always a fighter, from refusing to have her Barbie date Ken, to walking out of class when asked to dissect a frog.

  Dad was always good at bringing her back to earth. He explained to her that Barbie doesn’t have to date Ken, but they can be friends, and he wrote a note excusing her from the rest of the dissection project.

  I missed Dad, too. I missed how Meredith was when he was around. I knew as a military kid I was supposed to be used to this life, the yearlon
g deployments with only one year between. My life was supposed to just go on as normal when he was gone, but sometimes it was hard. I often found Meredith curled up in his recliner, with a wooden picture frame in her hand. Inside the five-by-seven square was a picture of my dad before he became an officer, Staff Sergeant Frank Spring, in full battle rattle. His heavy gun was in his hands, and his smile took up his whole face. He always looked younger in pictures, Meredith would say. She would tell me so many things about him when I would help get her to bed from the recliner. Some nights she would cry, and other nights she would smile and tell me a happy memory from when they were young. I knew Meredith missed being young, and that made me a little sad for her.

  When I gently rapped on the Laurences’ door, my heart was pounding. I hated to be in situations like this, when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I liked when I knew where I was and who would be at the door. I wasn’t great at handling the unexpected. I counted to ten on my fingers and looked through the big window again. The kitchen was gloomy, all old cherrywood and dark granite. A huge clock was hanging on the wall, set to 9 p.m., but when I pulled my phone from my pocket and hit the home button, it was only twenty minutes after five.

  I knocked again, this time a little harder, then glanced past the kitchen into the living room. A row of picture frames adorned the mantel. I couldn’t see the images inside them, but there were a lot. A shadow moving in the kitchen made me jump and edge away from the door. The shadow came closer and I saw a flash of white hair.

  Dammit, Jo.

  Old Mr. Laurence pulled the door open and waved me inside, then turned his back to me. He didn’t make eye contact before he turned, he didn’t say hi . . . nothing. He did lead me to the staircase and wave his hand in the air again. I nodded to thank him and walked up the stairs; when he disappeared, I ran the rest of the way up. It reminded me of when I was young and would run from the dark hallway bathroom and jump into my bed, clearing the chance of something under it grabbing me.

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