The Spring Girls by Anna Todd


  “No. I don’t want to know what they say.” Amy rolled her head back, and my mom tapped the tip of Amy’s nose. Amy laughed. “Don’t tell meeee.”

  “They say whatever you put your mom through comes back to you twice as bad when you have a daughter. So keep pushin’ it and I’ll get my revenge when you have an Amy Junior.”

  Mom tickle-attacked Amy’s sides, and my sister’s laughter bounced off the walls. It was a good sound, helping to diffuse all the tension of what had just happened.

  Once Amy got away from my mom, she sat next to me on the couch. Meredith turned on a movie, the original Halloween.

  Right before it began, Amy asked Mom if she was really going to tell Meg that Amy sold her out to Shia.

  Mom turned to look at Amy with a funny look, said, “I sure as hell am,” and went back to the movie.

  26

  jo

  Laurie’s room was a mindfuck. It was layered with contradictions. Like a record player from Urban Outfitters with a Halsey record spinning, to an autographed box set of old WWE wrestling tapes. He was so fascinating but so ironically normal it made him a character to me.

  I could have written forty thousand books about Laurie. Maybe someday I would.

  I kept my trip around Laurie’s world going and walked over to the desk. He kept encouraging me to snoop through his things, like it was a game.

  “Tell me if you find anything that surprises you,” he said with a pen in his mouth.

  “Oh, I will.”

  I opened a drawer, and he changed the song on the record player through his phone.

  My fingers felt something soft like fur and then something cold and metal. “What the hell?” I jerked my hand back and wiped it across my jeans.

  Laurie was on his feet, moving toward me. I wondered if his grandpa was home.

  “What?” Laurie shoved his hand in the mystery fur drawer and I closed my eyes.

  It could have been a dead hamster or a wild rat. Gross.

  When he pulled his hand back out, a black-and-red fuzzy key chain was dangling from the tip of his index finger. “It’s just a rabbit’s foot.” He swayed it closer to me and I jumped back.

  I hadn’t seen a rabbit’s-foot key chain in forever, but I remembered when Meg used to have a bunch of them from her job at the skating rink near my middle school in Texas. She had a purple one hanging from the rearview mirror of her first car, an old Buick Riviera with a tan paint job and brown wood interior. The dangling foot creeped me out.

  “Ew.”

  “It’s not ew. It’s good luck.”

  I shook my head. Meg used to say the same thing. “An animal’s foot is not good luck. Nature wouldn’t allow such a cruel thing.”

  Laurie stood next to me, rubbing the thing. “That is such a human thing, isn’t it? To claim that the severed foot of an animal is ours for good luck. How fucked-up?”

  “Yep.”

  “Is that why you don’t eat meat?”

  “No. Well, in a way, yes. I guess so. Not rabbit’s feet directly. Can you put that thing away?” I pointed, with my face bunched up in disgust. He tossed it back inside the drawer and snapped it shut. I was done sleuthing for now.

  “I think it’s cool. I mean, I don’t plan on changing my diet.” He tapped on his stomach to drill in the words. “But it’s cool that you do what you want and believe in something.”

  “I believe in a lot of somethings.”

  “Oh, I know you do.”

  We sat down on opposite ends of the couch. I was closest to a circular side table that was painted gold and had our Yoo-Hoo cartons on them. I couldn’t remember which one was mine, and it would have been super-awkward to just assume and grab one and start chugging.

  “So, do your sisters have boyfriends? I know Meg has John whatever-his-name-is, but what about Beth and Amy?”

  I leaned up and pushed against his leg. “Amy is twelve.”

  He shrugged, and his face was the definition of And . . . ? “I had my first girlfriend well before twelve. Her name was Lucia, and she had the prettiest curly hair.”

  “And why did you and Lucia break up?”

  Laurie ran his hand over his hair. It was so wavy now that it had air-dried. “Well, I thought we were exclusive, and she was dating all the boys in my class. It broke my ten-year-old heart. I’ve really never recovered.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Sure. But seriously, no, Amy doesn’t have a boyfriend. Beth doesn’t either.”

  I didn’t want to tell him that I thought Beth would never have a boyfriend. It wasn’t my truth to tell.

  “Do you?”

  His question didn’t feel as crass as those words would typically sound coming from a guy like Laurie. I don’t know why my brain kept thinking that—a guy like Laurie—because I couldn’t decipher what that meant.

  “No. Do you?”

  “Have a boyfriend? No.” He smiled at me, showing his teeth. He had what Meredith called rich-kid teeth.

  “A girlfriend,” I clarified. Shelly Hunchberg sashaying out of his house was sitting on the tip of my mind and tongue.

  “Not really.”

  I looked up at the ceiling, wondering if Laurie had ever broken a girl’s heart before. I suspected that, yes he had. Of course he had. Boys like him were made just for that. I hoped some of the girls who would fall in love with him would make it out to the other side stronger, not less whole than before him.

  “None here,” he told me.

  Hm. “None here as in Fort Cyprus or the United States of America?”

  Laurie laughed and jerked his leg, making it bump into mine. I moved away and his smile grew even more.

  “Fort Cyprus.”

  “What about Shelly? Is she one of your girlfriends?”

  More laughter from him. “No. What do you know about her, by the way?”

  “Nothing you want to hear, I’m sure. How do you guys even know each other?”

  “Her mom sent her over to bring us a packet for that fund-raiser thing they’re doing.”

  “What fund-raiser thing?”

  “I don’t really know, but I guess my grandpa told her I would go.”

  I wondered what the fund-raiser was. I bet it was some cookout-type thing. The sun had been coming out to play for the last few days and Shelly’s mom, Denise, used any reason she could find to throw a “fund-raiser” where she’d be the center of attention.

  If Meredith didn’t know about it, I didn’t want her to.

  “She seems okay,” he said. “Cute. A little bossy.”

  I didn’t think I liked the way his words pressed into the sides of my body. I suddenly didn’t want to know anything else about his opinion of Shelly. Or anyone who Laurie would find cute but a little bossy. I didn’t want to draw the faces of the girls in Laurie’s past. It struck me as odd that I had never thought of these girls or wanted to know who they were before.

  I wasn’t jealous, was I? I wasn’t sure, but it confused me.

  The tops of Laurie’s cheeks were red. “Have you had any boyfriends here?” His voice came out higher than it usually did. I didn’t look at him. “In the United States of America?” He used his Italian accent to play on the way the words sounded.

  “No. Not really.” Not at all.

  He made a noise in his throat. “How many boyfriends have you had?”

  “What? Like ever?” The answer was zero unless a weeklong internet relationship with someone I met in the re-blogs of a Tumblr thread counted? I didn’t think so.

  I’m not sure how invested Eurosnlife17 was in our short-lived rendezvous, but since he asked for nudes a week later, I figured he had a few other online lovers in whatever the internet version of a little black book is.

  “Not really,” I finally answered Laurie. I could hear the hesitation in my voice, but wasn’t sure that I cared. “I didn’t really talk to that many guys, I guess.”

  I watched the curve of his neck as he swallowed. “Hm, why not?”

  I didn’t feel li
ke I had a specific reason per se; I just simply didn’t.

  I started talking, mostly to give myself an answer. “I don’t know, I just didn’t. It’s not that I tried not to date, it just never happened. I have plenty of time,” I told him and myself.

  That was okay, too, I thought. I didn’t date like Meg and was still a virgin. I didn’t know how it felt to have a boy’s hard body under me, and I didn’t know what to do with my hands while kissing. I hadn’t learned those things yet, but I was only sixteen. Yes, I would have liked to find someone in my school fascinating enough to date, but I wasn’t given many options.

  No way in hell was I going to settle for a guy like River, who broke up with Meg through a text message a week after she had sex with him and ruined her life for almost two years. I didn’t want to be humiliated by a boy like Josh Karvac, who refused to wear any shirt that wasn’t a jersey and only dated Meg because River said she gave good blow jobs.

  Sometimes, and very, very selfishly, I thought about how lucky I was to have a sister who had so much experience so I knew better. I didn’t want to be known for giving good blow jobs, I wanted to be known for my words and my voice. The problem was that boys didn’t seem to care as much about a girl’s voice as they did about silencing it by shoving their dicks down her throat.

  “No one at your school ever tried?” Laurie asked.

  I looked at him, but focused on the reflection of the ceiling lights in the pupils of his eyes. “Define try.”

  He grinned.

  “Not really. There was zero effort.”

  “That’s hard to believe.”

  “I saw this same conversation in a movie.”

  He smiled. “I’m sure. It’s the age-old tale of the edgy, sarcastic teenage girl who has no idea how beautiful she is and has never had a boyfriend. It happens all the time.” His hand moved in a circle in front of his face, and humor creased his cheeks.

  “Don’t call me edgy,” I said, pouting.

  “Don’t wear a choker.” He laughed, and I felt his stare touch my neck.

  My hand flew up and I touched the velvet strap around my neck. “I like chokers, asshole.”

  His eyes lingered on me. “So do I.”

  I gulped and felt anxious all of the sudden, like something awful was about to happen but it was out of my power to stop it.

  I wanted the prickly touches of anxiety to go back where they came from. The few inches between us felt nonexistent, and I could smell the cigarettes and drawings on him.

  I stared at Laurie and he stared at me until he broke away and finally spoke. He was staring at the wall when he said, “I’m sure you’ll find a boyfriend in New York.”

  “I hope so.” I stared at the wall, too, and wondered why I was lying. I didn’t care about having a boyfriend in New York. I cared about having a job and maybe a cat.

  “Me, too,” Laurie said, and I thought he was lying, too.

  “Do you have any questions about the dating game?” he asked a few seconds later.

  “The dating game? Why is it a game?”

  He looked at me. “Because that’s what people do. They take everything that’s supposed to be good for them and overcomplicate it. We were put on earth to procreate and get married and keep the earth going, that’s it. That’s our purpose and everyone makes it so much more complicated.”

  I couldn’t have disagreed more with him. “I hope my only purpose to the universe isn’t to procreate and keep the earth populated. That sounds like some shitty dystopian novel. I want to have more purpose than that. Maybe I don’t want to get married and pop out babies. Maybe I want a career and I want to live alone and travel and sleep in and hop on a plane any second I want. What’s so bad about that?”

  “Nothing is bad about it.” Laurie moved a little closer to me, but I don’t think he noticed. “I just don’t agree. For sure I want to play a vital role in the universe and all that, but I also want to get married and have a family and spend my time with my wife and kids.”

  “You do?” My mouth was dry. It was weird to hear a boy Laurie’s age be so animated about having a family.

  “Yeah. I don’t want to be like my dad.” Laurie’s voice was low and he looked around the room like someone could be listening. “Or my grandpa. He has this big house, this legacy military career, but that’s it. When he dies, all he’s leaving behind is a single shitty father of a son and a whiny spoiled grandkid.”

  Laurie told his truths so openly, it was fascinating. “What do you want to leave behind?” I asked.

  “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know it’s going to be something more important than stripes on a uniform.” He felt really close to me. “What do you want to leave behind?”

  “I don’t know yet, but I want it to be epic.”

  “Epic,” he repeated, intensity in his gaze. “I can see your gravestone now, Jo Spring, daughter of Meredith, leaver of epicness.”

  “Laurie Laurence, son of an Army general, father of a thousand babies.”

  His hand wrapped around my knee and he playfully squeezed. “A thousand? That’s a little much, and my name isn’t Laurie Laurence,” he whined, and I giggled like he just slipped a love note into my locker.

  When I looked at Laurie, he was moving toward me, an inch a second, he couldn’t have been moving slower. His hair had fallen down over his forehead, and I couldn’t stop staring at the small scar cut into his bottom lip.

  I felt his mouth touch mine before I was able to form a single coherent thought. I didn’t know how we got here, from laughing and teasing to kissing. Maybe that’s how it always was, I wouldn’t know. All I knew was that my mouth opened and this kiss was softer than I expected. His lips were wet and soft like Aunt Hannah’s pudding. Our teeth didn’t crush together like Meg’s first kiss. He didn’t taste like syrupy caffeine like I always thought my first kiss would. Right then, in that room, Laurie’s mouth tasted like danger and faint cigarettes.

  I suddenly understood why people craved the taste of tobacco. Laurie’s tongue was sweet and earthy, and my eyes closed on their own when he kissed stars into me. I felt his hands on my hips as the control slipped from my body. He was putting all of his strength into his hands, it seemed, as they gripped my hips. My sweater was so thick, bunched into his large hands; he grasped tighter.

  “Damn you, Jo.” He burned the words into me and pulled me onto his lap. Blood pounded in my ears, and I pushed my fingers through his thick hair.

  His kiss was just the seed. His fingers turned to branches, rooting themselves into my body. My hands became no longer my own, and I thought that this was why Meg put herself through all the pain that boys bring along. For that feeling. It was worth it, I thought, as Laurie flipped my world upside down. How quickly my mind changed from smart, thought-out conclusions to sappy syrup dripping from the trunk of a tree.

  When his hand touched my stomach, I shifted my hips to be closer to him. His eyes echoed my own right back to me. I felt another feminine milestone inside me, budding and blooming and exploding into rich petals of womanhood. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to feel like? An explosion inside my body? I didn’t think my body was strong enough to handle much more, but when the doorbell rang and interrupted us, I was thrown right back into reality and hoped that Laurie and I didn’t just ruin everything we had.

  27

  meg

  Each morning at home I waited for the sun to wake me up. I could feel its warmth through the jersey-knit curtains stained with cigarette smoke. The extra layer of tar clinging to the fabric didn’t do much to keep out the sunlight. The curtains in my room had been Meredith’s—hence the sunflower print on them. My mom had been obsessed with sunflowers her entire life. She had bowls and sundresses, key chains and a steering-wheel cover, all with big blooming sunflowers on them. It made gift shopping for her beyond easy.

  When I woke up that morning, I wasn’t tucked into the bed that I had had since I could remember; I was in a king-sized bed made out of the finest c
louds old Southern money could buy. The hotel bed was lush under my heavy body and deliciously cool against my skin. I got up in the middle of the night and turned the digital thermostat down to sixty-five and slept like a freaking baby after that. This thermostat was accurate, unlike the dated one in my parents’ house, so when it said it was sixty-five, it actually was. The Ritz in the Quarter was a sensible and luxurious mixture of modern and classic. I wondered what it would be like to wake up in such a place every morning.

  I could wake up next to John in a house that my parents weren’t in control of. I wondered what a house without so many people would be like. Meredith always said that I would be bored without the noise of my younger sisters, but apparently John is noisy enough himself. To my surprise, John Brooke wasn’t much of a cuddler, and he was loud in his sleep. I could have sworn that in the past he slept with his arms wrapped around me. I remembered when we stayed at the Red Roof right outside the post gate and I woke up sweating, with his body around mine. He didn’t snore then either, not that I could remember—and those whale noises wouldn’t be easy to forget.

  It had only been three months. Why did it feel so long?

  He’s a back sleeper and he snores. And by snores, I mean he grunts out noises that sound like grizzly-bear mating calls and coughs like he’s choking on his own breath. I hoped his snoring was temporary. Maybe he was going to need some time to adjust now that he was away from West Point’s early mornings. I was crossing my fingers and toes. Good thing those nose strips existed. We would need to grab a box of those before tonight.

  My dad snored like John—only worse, if you can imagine it. Dad’s midnight calls into the wind were one of the reasons Meredith slept in the recliner so many nights when he was home. Here I was already thinking about every night for the rest of my life. To say that John and I had an exciting, comfortable night would be like saying it made sense that Dan Humphrey was Gossip Girl.

  Our lavish room on the Club floor was pitch-black. Thick curtains kept out every ounce of sunlight from the outside world. The longer I stared at the ceiling, the more of my sight returned, but I still hated not being able to see in the room.

 
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