The Spring Girls by Anna Todd

  I was naked and soapy, and he was sleeping.

  The Ritz in the Quarter was insane. I felt a world away from my parents’ house and the stained tub and the dishes that Beth washes and dries and everyone lets lie on the counter for a day before Beth puts them away.

  I wasn’t going to sit in that fancy-ass room while he snoozed in the bathtub. I needed a night out, but I didn’t want a night alone, either.

  I moved away from John, making sure he didn’t awaken. It blew my mind that the tub was big enough for me to sit on the other side and rest my chin against the lip of the tub, feet spread out, and still I wasn’t touching John’s body.

  The emails from earlier scratched against my mind as the bubbles thinned over the cooling water. I thought I left the life-sabotaging bullshit from my peers back in Texas. I dealt with two full years of shit and made it out of Fort Hood and to New Orleans only a little stained. I couldn’t think of anyone who would waste their time sending me fake emails, except maybe Bell Gardiner? That girl with her tiny waist and long black hair would totally be vindictive enough to do that. And petty enough. She hated me for no reason other than my relationship with Shia, if you could even call it that. I thought it was sad the way girls turned on each other over boys instead of allying together. Bell Gardiner was a little too old to be sending fake emails, but she still wore white eyeliner, so I couldn’t put anything past her.

  Bell Gardiner could have Shia King. From the day he left Louisiana for his first humanitarian trip, I had convinced myself that I didn’t want anything to do with his green eyes or the beautiful tawny brown of his skin. I didn’t care that he thought Bell Gardiner was better than me. John Brooke was certainly a better match for me than Shia. It shouldn’t have been a competition.

  But it was. Shia was probably fucking Bell Gardiner while I sat naked in lukewarm bathwater with a snoring boyfriend.

  A snoring boyfriend who had just graduated from West Point, at least.

  Shia was probably on top of Bell Gardiner, promising her the same shit he promised me.

  “We’re going to travel the world together, Meg.”

  “I can’t wait for our future, Meg.”

  Once he even told me that he couldn’t wait to tell his mom that we were together, and I even believed him.

  I had visions of us holding hands, walking the streets of Mexico City, eating fresh fruit from street carts. He never believed that I would leave with him, and that’s what corroded our relationship, his refusal to believe that I would leave my mom and sisters to travel the world with him.

  As I looked over at John Brooke asleep in the bathtub, I still wasn’t sure if Shia was right about me.

  Shia King was pushing himself into my mind from wherever he was, and it was messing with my head. I was lucky to be here in a huge, expensive hotel suite with John Brooke, soaking in a tub in the center of the French Quarter. Poor John, he was so tired, and I was being the worst kind of bitch by thinking about Shia.

  I moved back to John and reached between his legs. He was soft for a few seconds, but when John stirred awake, so did the rest of him. His eyes flew open and his body jerked a little before he remembered where he was, then he closed his eyes, rested his head on the lip of the massive tub, and let me play with him.

  I started slow, with my hand tight around him, moving from top to bottom, and I felt his hands on my shoulders, turning me around. His mouth found mine immediately and he moaned through our lips.

  “Touch me,” I said into his mouth.

  His hands were timid as they explored my breasts, and his fingers completely avoided my nipples, which drove me insane. I couldn’t tell if he was doing it purposefully to wind me up, but I wanted to believe he was. I didn’t know how many women John had slept with, but I definitely knew I wasn’t the first.

  His hands slid down my torso until he stopped between my legs. I was panting. He was groaning and so, so hard in my hand. I was losing myself in the rhythm of his kiss, his hand between my legs, pushing in and pulling out. Climbing onto his lap, I wrapped my arms around his neck and lowered my body onto his again.

  John’s eyes closed as he entered me and I sank down on his length. He was so thick, even though not that long, and I felt my mind drifting into the familiar state of desire.



  “Do you want a coffee?” Laurie waved for me to follow him into the kitchen. “Decaf or regular?” he asked, taking my getting up as an answer.

  He opened a drawer and pulled out a box of coffee pods. As a barista, it made me roll my eyes, but the pods were nothing compared to the decaf offer.


  He nodded.

  “Decaf isn’t even coffee.”

  He popped a Dunkin’ Donuts pod into the machine.

  I rubbed my temples in a dramatic way and walked closer to the instant-coffee machine. “Your blatant disrespect for the bean is killing me right now.”

  Laurie threw his head back and his hair was all over the place. “Hey, not all of us can be a barista extraordinaire.”

  “You don’t have to be a barista extraordinaire to not want to drink coffee-flavored water,” I teased.

  He set two mugs out on the marble counter. One had a penguin on it, and the other had the saying NAMASTE IN BED inside the outline of a sun.

  I pointed to the mug. “Nice.”

  He was the kind of boy who had quirky coffee mugs but drank decaf. He made no sense to me, but I liked the contradiction he was.

  Once our “coffees” were ready, I followed him upstairs to his bedroom. I could smell his room before we even stepped through the doorway. His familiar homey smell coated my senses and immediately relaxed me. It was weird the way that worked.

  “What cologne do you use?” I plopped down on the couch he had inside his room and put my feet up on his old oak coffee table. He’d told me it was from Spain and his mother had paid a fortune to ship it across the sea.

  “I don’t know actually.” Laurie got up and walked over to his dresser and grabbed a little glass bottle.

  Instead of asking me why I wanted to know, or giving me a weird look, he read the name of the cologne. I had never heard of it, and his accent made it sound even more exotic and expensive than I’m sure it was.

  Over his decaf coffee, he continued telling me how he felt about his dad’s sending him away to live with his grandpa, who didn’t understand the way young men work. Laurie was a lonely yet social being. He confounded me.

  “Do you miss your dad still?” Laurie asked me when he sat down. “Or are you used to this life now?”

  “I miss him still. I don’t want to ever be that used to this life that I don’t miss my dad anymore.”

  Laurie chewed on his bottom lip and asked me if I thought it made him a bad person to not miss his dad. I told him no, that if he was a bad person, he would never have asked that question in the first place. He took that in and we sat in silence while we finished our drinks in a peaceable calm.

  Hanging on Laurie’s wall were old movie posters in no apparent pattern at all, held up with red tacks. The movies on the posters ranged from the original Planet of the Apes to Almost Famous. As with the other parts of Laurie, I kept trying to find the common thread among them, something that would solidify at last what kind of person he was.

  Laurie stared at me while I looked at the posters. I could feel his eyes on me, though I wasn’t uncomfortable, which itself was a little strange.

  “You hungry?” he asked eventually.

  “I’m always hungry.”

  He stood up and reached for my hand, and I hesitated for a second before I let him take it and lead me out.

  On the way down the grand staircase, Laurie pointed to a row of family portraits on the walls. They were all in different frames of the same size. One of the frames was made of dark steel and had a picture of a row of men in uniforms. Not that everyone was dressed in Army green, though; some wore Navy white, some Air Force blue. At the end of the row s
tood a little boy, Laurie, the only one in the picture who wasn’t dressed in a military uniform. Dressed in a black T-shirt and ripped blue jeans, he couldn’t have been older than twelve. A thick mass of blond hair covered his forehead, and he wasn’t smiling.

  “A picture is worth a thousand words,” he said in a taunting voice, and I examined the rest of the pictures while we finished the walk downstairs.

  Near the bottom of the staircase were a few yearbook-style photos of more men in uniforms.

  “How often do you see your mom?”

  He shrugged. “It’s been a while now, but since I moved to the States, I usually see her once every six months. Christmas and summer break.”

  I couldn’t fathom living in a different country from my mom and dad, and living with my grandparents. Granted, I hadn’t seen my dad’s parents since my dad’s commissioning ceremony almost two years ago. They stayed at a hotel right outside our post in Texas and came to the house once during the weekend they were there. My dad said my grandpa was sick, but that Sunday morning, the six of us, my parents and my sisters and me, went to Golden Corral for breakfast, and they were there, sitting at a table only two away from us. My grandpa was shoveling down sausage links and looked pretty healthy to me.

  As for my mom’s mom, well, she and Meredith were in one of their nonspeaking tiffs, and I stopped caring a while ago when I couldn’t untangle their off-and-on moods. It never seemed worth the effort.

  I would rather live in the janitor’s closet of White Rock High than live with any of my grandparents.

  “Do you miss Italy?”

  “Italy or my mom?”


  “Yes to both.”

  He didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t ask him to. I was collecting little pieces of Laurie every time we talked, and I could be patient while I put them all together.

  When we got into the kitchen, Laurie pulled open the industrial-sized fridge and tossed a little box at me. I struggled to catch it, but when I did, it was a Yoo-Hoo.

  “Oh my God!” I held the carton up in front of me and couldn’t help the blossoming smile spreading across my face. It was like a blast from the past looking at the blue logo written over yellow. I pulled the little straw off the back, pushed it through the directed spot, and took a long gulp.

  “So good, right? Our housekeeper brought them home a few weeks ago, and I’m obsessed. It’s like chocolate milk,” he told me, like it wasn’t a staple of millennials’ upbringing.

  “You didn’t have these when you were a kid?” When he shook his head, I added, “The world is so big. You know? I swear most houses here had these bad boys at the ready.”

  Laurie’s laugh was light like raindrops. “Better late than never.” He took a drink and licked the chocolate off his lips. “The world is small, not big.”

  I looked at him and he turned away, to open the fridge again. He didn’t seem to find what he was looking for and shut the door.

  “How do you think it’s small?” I asked his back as he raided the pantry.

  “Maybe we should order something? Pizza? Chinese?”

  As yummy as pizza sounded, I hadn’t brought any cash with me and wasn’t sure my card would clear because I’d bought a new laptop case and put the rest toward my move. I wasn’t the best at budgeting, but I was sixteen. I didn’t have to be.

  “I didn’t bring any cash,” I warned him, but he was already holding the mailer with all the sales on it.

  Laurie looked up at me through his thick blond eyebrows but didn’t say anything. He pulled a cell phone from the pocket of his dark jeans and licked his lips again. They were a little too big for his face, but I was sure that made him like honey to girls his age . . . and probably my age, too. Meg always said that boys would like my plump lips, but so far, outside of a few obnoxiously gross remarks about them, the boys didn’t seem to care. They liked Meg’s boobs more, which I thought was ironic because lips could make boys feel better than boobs could.

  “Yeah sure,” he said into the phone.

  Was it possible to order pizza without being on hold first? I didn’t think so.

  “What do you like on your pizza?” Laurie asked.

  “No meat, please.”

  He ordered a large cheese pizza and bread sticks and we went back upstairs to wait. He never did explain to me how the world was small to him, but I knew he would someday.



  Amy was sitting at the kitchen table apologizing for the fifth time in five minutes. The bitter smell of burnt dough was thick and cloudy in the room. I opened the back door to try and air everything out, but the air was stagnant, intent on making Amy cough up a storm. Her blue eyes were bloodshot on the whites and she was holding her chest.

  “Amy, go upstairs until it clears up in here. This isn’t good for you to be breathing in.” I waved my hand through the white fluff in the air between us.

  It was a dramatic cooking failure on my part. I should have watched Amy set the oven and made sure she turned the dial to 325 degrees, not 500, and I definitely should have double-checked before I slid the pan of sugar cookies inside and set the timer.

  Amy kept her butt on the chair. “I’m fine. Look, it’s clearing.”

  I couldn’t believe my mom hadn’t gotten up from the couch yet. The kitchen was blocked off by a wall with an archway to enter, but she had to have been able to smell the smoke. We smelled it from upstairs in our bedroom, with the window open and one of those wax burners mom used to sell.

  I opened another window, the one just above the sink, and I looked over at the Laurence house. I knew just where the piano was positioned even though it was dark in the room. Just before I turned back to Amy, a light in the downstairs flicked on. Laurie, followed by my sister Jo, walked past the lit-up doorway of the piano room. I wondered if they were dating. It would surprise me because of Jo’s fierceness when it came to herself, but maybe she was ready to have her first boyfriend.

  Jo was the last one out of all of us to have a first kiss; even I had been kissed by two boys—who I never wanted to kiss again.

  “What’s happening?” Amy was beside me, standing on her toes to get a clear view through the window.

  “Nothing, nosy rosy.” I poked her side and she tried harder to find something interesting across the yard.

  “Are they making out yet? Having sex with each other?”

  “Hey! Shhh!” I bumped my shoulder into Amy’s. I was smiling when I corrected her. “They aren’t having sex,” I whispered. I paused. “And, what do you even know about sex?”

  Amy looked up at me. Her baby blues were perceptive and her smile reminded me just how in tune with the world she was. At twelve, I played with my older sisters’ dolls and was part of my school’s choir. At twelve, Amy had the world in her palm, and with the flick of her index finger she could see which one of her classmates was dating another, and with the tap of her fingers she could have a conversation with someone in Japan.

  “You don’t want to know.” Amy laughed confidently.

  “The internet?”

  She nodded.

  More than a few times, I had been concerned about what Amy was looking at on the internet. From videos of people fighting to those gross clips of people getting boils popped, she scrolled and scrolled through things that would have tortured me at twelve. Just last week, I was folding laundry and Amy told my mom and me about an eight-month-old baby whose own mom beat it to death. The way the words slid out of her mouth sounded like she had completely missed the horror of the whole story.

  I began to warn her to be careful, but she finished my sentence in a voice that I assumed was meant to mimic mine.

  “On the internet. You never know who’s out there. It’s not safe.” She bounced a little on the tips of her toes when she said the words.

  I touched her thin shoulder and turned her to face me. “I’m serious. With all the articles you read, you should know that sometimes people in the world are fucked-

  I used the curse word because I needed her to take me seriously. I didn’t want her to think about it as much as I did, because while realistically I knew that the chances of something happening to me were low, the statistics were still scary as hell.

  “Amy,” I prodded when she didn’t answer me.

  She jutted out her little square chin at me. “You’re paranoid, Beth.” She laughed. Sometimes she thought everything was a joke.

  Her teeth were small and her canines were sharp, and sometimes she was too much for her own well-being, but I fiercely wanted to protect her. Jo and Meg, too. Even though I wasn’t the oldest or the youngest, I still had more responsibilities than all of my sisters combined.

  “I’m trying to help you. It will become more real to you as you grow up.”

  Her expression softened and she took a deep breath. “I’m not a kid anymore, Beth.”

  She looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and on her face, and I shook my head. Before I could say anything back, our mom came walking into the kitchen with a confused look on her face. The lids of her eyes were so swollen, I could barely see the blue of them, and her hair was a blond mess, her bangs covered in sweat.

  “What’s wrong? Are you girls okay?” She moved her head slowly to examine the room, but it was almost like she thought she was whipping her head around.

  “Yeah, sorry. We burned cookies.” I waved my hand through the air.

  My mom’s face did a complete three-sixty. Her eyes even opened a little. Just a little, though.

  “Are you okay?” Amy asked, looking at Mom, then to me.

  My mom nodded and combed her fingernails through her bangs and touched the top of her hair. The front of it always stood in a little poof. Meg had been trying for years to convince her to get rid of it, but she only downsized it. A little. Just a little.

  “Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired. I’ve had a headache for two days.” Her voice was all croaky, like a frog.

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