The Spring Girls by Anna Todd

  “With what? It’s just a makeup course.” I shrugged and drank the last little bit of my water.

  Shia had stopped eating, and a server came by to clear our plates. I held on to the crostini on my plate, but Shia had them take his away. He tipped her, too, and I wondered how many people I was supposed to tip but didn’t since we arrived. The bellman? The valet? The concierge when they drop off John’s clean uniform in the morning?

  “In life. You’re not taking the course you talked about for weeks. And you’re working for my mom, of all people?” Shia dragged out the sentence like he needed me to really listen to what he was saying.

  “She pays me well. More than my other job.”

  He had a different relationship with Mrs. King than I did, and no matter how intimidating she was to me, I could only hope to be like her one day. She was everything I wanted to be.

  “And you’re doing what for her? Long term? Where is that going to get you?”

  I didn’t respond, so he kept going. He did soften his voice so it didn’t escalate the way it could have. “My mom said you’re trying to marry John. Is that true?”

  “She said that?” The burning in my throat spread up to my ears and cheeks.

  “Not literally. But she hinted. She was saying how we could throw you a big engagement party.”

  He paused, but I didn’t think he was done talking. I interrupted him anyway. “Like your engagement party?”

  He sighed and lifted the bottom of his T-shirt up to wipe his face. A line of his skin peeked out and I looked at my plate. I wanted to look at him, but didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

  “A little like mine. But more romantic, more real, I think.”

  “Mm-hmm.” I sat back against the cushioned back of my chair. I didn’t know how romantic my engagement party would be or why Shia was hinting that his wasn’t real, but I didn’t want to play this game. A different woman came by with a pitcher of water and filled my drink.

  I swished an ice cube around in my mouth, and he sat forward.

  “So that’s it? We’re just going to pretend like we have nothing to talk about?”

  “You mean your engagement?”

  He shook his head. “No. I meant you. What happened to you having to get the hell out of here?”

  “I’m still planning on leaving.”

  He licked his lips. “When?”

  “Soon. I don’t know. My dad’s gone, and Jo hasn’t even graduated yet. I can’t just leave them. I’m working and saving my money.”

  The sleeping old man from the couch was now up and moving, searching through a basket of potato-chip bags on the counter under the TV closest to us.

  “Soon, huh?” Shia asked.

  I was so annoyed that I felt like my anger was going to stain the upholstered chair under me with blotchy black streaks. “What’s your problem? Why are you starting shit with me?”

  “I’m not. I’m just wondering why you’ve changed your whole plan around, and now what? You’re looking at whatever base John’s gonna be stationed at?”

  His response reminded me of his speech right before I was supposed to meet him last fall. Winter had come since and now we were on the verge of spring.

  “Seriously, Meg. You’re nineteen. You have so much time to do your own thing before you become a—”

  “Stop.” I held my hand up. “Don’t try to lecture me. You’re engaged, Shia.”

  “Why do you keep repeating that? Does that have something to do with you, Meg? I thought I was delusional and made us all up in my head? So if that’s true, why do you keep bringing my engagement up?”

  He had me there. I didn’t want to talk about the day we blew up whatever scraps of a relationship we had and now had this awkward, barely speaking faux-ship going on that scratched at my skin. I didn’t want things to be so muddled between us. Arguing with Shia usually made me bloom with laughter and feel a little spark on the tip of my tongue, but as I sat here in the fancy Club Room in the luxurious Ritz-Carlton in the famous French Quarter in New Orleans, it felt like wading through a thick vat of maple syrup.

  “Oh, don’t hold your tongue now,” he said after we stared at each other for a minute.

  The old man walked away with three bags of salt-and-pepper chips and a bottle of Coke tucked under his arm.

  I told a little seed of truth: “I didn’t say you were delusional.”

  He laughed without a sound. “Yes, you did. You told Reeder a really, really not-true story about us. You’ve been telling yourself that same story?” he asked, but he wasn’t asking.

  “What was I supposed to say? I don’t want any drama in our group. You shouldn’t either. So I said what I needed to say to clear myself.”

  “It’s always about you, isn’t it—and who’s ‘our group’? No one talks to me while I’m gone. No one talks to John either, except me, and even that’s not often. There doesn’t have to be drama. I’m not River.”

  My pulse shot through the roof of the Club Room.

  Shia kept going. “I wouldn’t have been pissed at you for not coming with me. That’s your choice and your life. But it would have been nice if you could have just told me you weren’t coming to the airport. I would have understood if you would have just told me. Been honest with me.” He cupped his hands together and moved them slowly.

  “I thought I was being honest. I thought I could be like Jo for once and just jump on a plane and leave without a plan.”

  In a flat voice he said, “We had a plan. It was literally a planned trip with my dad’s foundation.”

  “You know what I mean.” His sarcastic semantics weren’t going to get us anywhere. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you”—I remembered just how hard I left him hanging—“until you landed.”

  “I’m not ma—”

  “Well, well, well, look who it is!” John suddenly exclaimed by our side, patting Shia on the back. His hair was wet, so he must have showered, but he couldn’t have worked out so fast.

  And just like that, they were bros and hugging and their smiles were so big and so fake, I could spot the insincerity a mile away.



  When Beth walked back into the kitchen, the color was drained from her face. On her heels were two men in Army uniform.

  Meredith dropped to her knees before they spoke.

  Beth rushed toward her.

  I felt like my socks were rooted into the ground. I couldn’t move as chaos erupted in the room.

  My mom was screaming, but the voices of the men broke through it.

  “Meredith, Meredith! It’s just an injury. I only came because Frank is my friend. I’m sorry to have frightened you!” the taller man yelled.

  My dad’s supposed friend looked like he wanted to get the hell out of Dodge. His cheeks were so red and the newspapers from the counter were all over the floor.

  “Where is he? Where’s my husband?” Meredith demanded.

  The other man took a step forward, and his boot covered a picture of a homecoming ceremony for the Scout platoon who came home last week.

  “Germany. He’s at a hospital there while he gains his strength to come home.”

  “Germany?” Beth asked.

  I told her that most injured soldiers end up in Germany before coming home to the U.S.

  Beth wrapped something around my mom’s shoulders, and I felt like we were on an episode of True Life or something. It all felt like it wasn’t really happening to us. It felt like an article on the internet. I read once that by watching too many documentaries and Facebook videos, you can become desensitized to violence in front of you in real time because your brain and memory are not able to tell the difference from watching it happen virtually.

  The room spun a little until my mom calmed down. Beth got my mom to sit in Dad’s recliner with a cup of something that smelled a little stronger than coffee.

  Beth called Aunt Hannah and our grandparents.

  Twenty minutes beforehand, I was rummaging
through old newspapers in my room upstairs. I was listening to music and searching through page after page of homecoming ceremony coverage. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing with them yet, but I knew Laurie had a plan when he gave me a list of names to search for. It suddenly seemed incredibly unimportant as my mom’s shoulders were shaking under the blanket wrapped around her.

  Aunt Hannah showed up thirty minutes later, and Amy came home from her friend’s house and wouldn’t stop asking Meredith what was wrong until she got yelled at. Beth stared at the wall, and I stared at my computer. Aunt Hannah was just sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the TV on the wall. The mess of cords hanging from the wall and wrapped around the extension cord screamed house fire, but there were just so many things to plug in.

  “Have you talked to Meg yet?” Meredith asked when Aunt Hannah brought her another drink. I didn’t even have a mental comment on her drinking, I had no right to question her in that moment. I even craved a drink and I hated the taste of alcohol.

  The only thing we knew was that my dad’s tank ran over an IED on the side of the road and caught fire. Out of four men, my dad was one of two survivors. One of the men killed had just had a baby halfway through the deployment. It didn’t seem fair, but I couldn’t speak the word fair since my dad was alive. The men who came bearing the news told my mom that she could go to Germany and stay with my dad until he healed, and she said she would have to see if she could.

  Beth and I stood in the kitchen with Aunt Hannah and went over our options if Meredith decided to go.

  “I can drive Amy to her stuff and myself to work,” I offered. “I just need to go get my license. I can go Monday.”

  Aunt Hannah peeked into the living room and came back to stand by the oven, which she turned off. It was on from when Beth and my mom were making breakfast, which seemed like another lifetime.

  “I can stay most nights, but I work five days a week,” Aunt Hannah told me. Beth nodded and wiped a chunk of brown hair from her forehead. “I can help out as much as I can.”

  “Amy’s the only one who can’t take care of herself,” I said, just as Amy came walking into the kitchen.

  “I can take care of myself just fine, Jo.” Her tone was harsh, but I didn’t blame her. We had all had a long day, and no one had heard from Meg yet. I considered calling Shia or emailing John, but I didn’t know how much of a mess that could make.

  “Anyway . . .” Beth opened the fridge and poured Amy a glass of milk. Beth grabbed a pack of Oreos and slid them across the table. For once in her life, Amy shook her head at the cookies.

  “So, Jo, you’ll need to take that test this week. How many shifts do you work this week?” Beth asked.

  I didn’t know off the top of my head, and I told my sisters and my aunt that I would tell them when I knew. I leaned my elbows against the cold counter and felt the room shifting and our lives changing with every passing breath.



  John sat down next to me with a twenty-ounce Coke in his hand and a plate of salad and little sausages smothered in sauce that looked like dark gravy.

  “What have you two been up to all day?” he asked Shia and me, swiping a forked crouton through a puddle of ranch.

  Shia looked at me a moment, like he was waiting on me to reply to John first. I wanted him to do the same.

  “I was walking around the Quarter a bit. Couldn’t sleep,” I said.

  I wound my hair around my hand and stared at my water glass. Water had collected in little pearl-like beads all over the side of it, and I ran my finger over the moisture, drawing little lines with my nail. Even the water glasses at the Ritz weren’t just plain glasses; they were more like crystal goblets carved with unique patterns.

  I quickly ran through my morning and ended with “And I got these,” lifting the bag of pralines from the floor. “They are so good. I got a few of them.” I smiled, and John chewed his food. I sat the bag back down on the floor by my feet.

  John half covered his mouth and said, “Cool, the things with the nuts? The shop is cool, though; it’s like Mexican or something?”

  Shia coughed. Or choked. I wasn’t sure.

  How John gathered that assumption, I would never know, but I thought it was pretty basic knowledge that the French Quarter wasn’t historically tied to Mexico. The Spanish yes; Mexico, no. Then again, I couldn’t tell you where Spain was on a map. I knew it was part of Europe, sure.

  “They’re creole. Do you want one?” I asked Shia without looking at him, but felt his eyes hot on my face. Shia thanked me and asked for a chocolate praline, which I knew was meant to goad me.

  “What?” he asked with a grin, knowing I couldn’t say a word in front of John.

  It felt a little too Nicholas Sparks for us to have met up at the same praline shop where we met for the first time. If I was the extreme hopeless romantic that Jo always said I was, I would have believed that running into him in Aunt Sally’s would have been some magical fate marker that meant we were destined to run off into the sunset together.

  But I wasn’t that much of a sap. Only like half as much as Jo made me out to be, at most.

  John shook his head when I handed Shia the wrapped praline, chewing his food with his mouth not quite closed. “You two are into the sweet stuff. Gross.”

  “Hmph” was the noise that came from my mouth.

  Shia looked like he wanted to say something, thought it out, his eyes looking up at the ceiling and all, but didn’t say whatever made him pause. He sat back against his chair.

  A few seconds passed and he casually asked, “So, what’s on the plan today? How’s it feel to be back into the real world?”

  John ran his hand over his smooth chin. He laughed. “It’s weird, for sure. Mostly because I get to wear normal clothes”—his fingers plucked at his polo shirt—“for the day. I don’t know. Meg planned the day, I think? Right, Meg?” John looked to me.

  Say what?

  I was under the impression that he was planning the whole weekend. In fact, I specifically remember John Brooke’s sleepy voice cooing over the phone, “Don’t worry about anything, baby. It’s my treat to you. Just walk out to the car. That’s all you need to do.”

  “Right?” he asked again, and while I was watching him gnaw on a ranch-smothered crouton, something shiny fell from his shoulders and disappeared into the stuffy air, leaving him a touch less colorful than he was in my memory.

  “I didn’t plan anything, actually,” I said slowly, and I felt so awkward and didn’t know why, exactly. “But I figure there’s plenty of stuff we can find last-minute. Even if we just walk around or whatever. There’s always something to do. We could do a ghost tour like we did with Reeder and them. Remember?” I looked at John, and Shia looked at me, and I looked at the table. “We’re staying smack in the middle of the Quarter; there’s plenty to do.”

  “Oh yeah. That’s cool with me, babe.” John lifted his hip to pull his cell phone out of his back pocket. “Whatever you want to do is cool with me.”

  I nodded at him, smiling. He smiled back, but only a little, and then he looked down at his phone in his hand. He had a brand-new iPhone and it took pictures like a professional camera. It was like a little computer in his hand. I wanted one so bad, but they were so freaking expensive, and Amy was already racking up the data bill on our plan so much that Meredith threatened to take her phone away every month. I couldn’t add an expense and listen to my three younger sisters bitch about it. Amy didn’t understand that I actually worked for most everything outside of the basics.

  “Cool,” I lamely responded. It confused me to no end why sitting at the table with Shia and John felt worse than when I was seventeen and had to get my wisdom teeth cut out.

  “Hmph.” Shia made the quiet noise from his throat, breaking up the silence for a second.

  I wondered what he was thinking about, but wasn’t about to ask him. That whole situation was pretty awkward.

  It bothered me that I looke
d like an idiot in front of not only Shia King, but to John Brooke. I must have looked like I didn’t put any thought into our time together. If I had known I was supposed to plan a romantic freaking getaway, I would have scheduled couple’s massages at the spa inside the Ritz. I would have preordered breakfast in bed with strawberries and champagne. John was twenty-one—they would have let us. I would have planned the most perfect couples retreat weekend, just like I helped Mrs. King plan for a trip to Atlanta with Mr. King. They got $400 massages at the top-rated spa in Buckhead, and Mrs. King got a sugar scrub. When I booked it, I added the complimentary hour in the couples room. I didn’t even have the chance to be that thoughtful for us because I thought John was in charge of everything.

  I had been looking forward to this weekend for so long, but now it felt messy and completely done on a whim. Where it had once all seemed so planned and organized, it now felt like no actual thought beyond booking a bed for us to sleep in had been done. John’s time mattered to me, and I wanted him to feel that. Wasn’t that the point of dating someone? To show them how good of a wife I would be? That was my point anyway. I wasn’t sure John had a point.

  If I were honest, I’d admit also that I wanted Shia to recognize my devotion to John. I wanted him to see it in his face like I saw Bell Gardiner’s emerald flashing on her dainty finger. I could have used a hit of revenge; the sticky-sweet high of having control over the situation is like nothing else. No orgasm, not a slice of devil’s food cake still warm from the oven, not even the poreless satin skin I had after using foundation primer for the first time could ever compare to the feeling of having the upper hand. With River, I never felt in control of our dynamic. From the first sloppy kiss (during a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven that I didn’t even want to play) to the first time we had sex (awkwardly in the back of his car), he was always in charge, and it felt like something was constantly floating over my head when I was with him. I didn’t know if it was the pressure of staying relevant to him and his group of friends, but something was always over my head, keeping me eager to be the wild girl, the girl who would lift her shirt at a party or blow River in one of his friends’ rooms during a rager.

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]