The Spring Girls by Anna Todd


  “Did anyone call for me?” Meg’s voice sounded like she had been chewing on sandpaper in her room.

  “Call what?” my dad said.

  I hadn’t heard Meg—or anyone—ask that question in . . . years. Wouldn’t someone have just called her cell phone?

  Meg blinked and mumbled, “Never mind.”

  “What are you girls up to today?” my dad asked between bites. Clearly neither he nor my mom were eager to get into whatever all the yelling had been about.

  When Meg remained silent, I guessed she wasn’t going to answer, so I did. “I’m doing nothing. Some school stuff, laundry. That’s it, really.” I shrugged.

  “That sounds like a blast, Beth.”

  It was a comfort that my dad still had his sarcasm. His tone wasn’t as malicious or as callous as the comment would have sounded coming from say, Amy, and it came with a smile and knowing about his high school experience. He was a lot like me.

  “Don’t you have any friends around here?” he asked.

  “You gave me so many sisters, I don’t need friends.”

  We both laughed. His laughter was a little lighter than usual, but it still sounded so good in that yellow-wallpapered kitchen.

  “Touché.”

  “Jo didn’t come back yet?” Meg asked. She hadn’t eaten much of the food in front of her. I thought about soaking the dishes before I made myself a plate, so the slimy gravy wouldn’t stick to the pan, but I was so hungry and the gravy looked so, so good.

  My dad answered, “No. She’s still next door.”

  As far as I knew, no one knew for sure that Jo was at Laurie’s, but then again, we all knew. That’s where she always was. Laurie’s, a shift at Pages, school, then back to Laurie’s.

  “None of you were going to tell me that Shia came here that night?” Meg pointed to my mom.

  My mom snapped her head up, but my sister kept going. “He told me you all knew. He showed up there, and I didn’t even know he was looking for me.”

  “Well, Meg, what difference would it have made?” Mom said, then went back to eating. She didn’t seem to notice the stain of gravy oiling up her shirt.

  Meg’s eyes bulged. She wiped her mouth with a napkin before she spoke. “He came looking for me and I didn’t even know!” It felt like her anger was going to make the house rattle. “I’ve been waiting for so long for him to do that, and you guys didn’t even tell me. He’s getting married—”

  “Would that have changed? And John Brooke?” Mom pointed out.

  Part of me wanted to step in, but another part of me didn’t know what kind of tornado I’d be walking into.

  I would never find out what Meg was going to say because Amy came rushing through the back door with puffy, wet eyes.

  “What’s wrong?” My dad asked, and I watched him struggle to get up like his legs forgot they couldn’t quite move yet. He sank back down in the chair.

  “My life! Everything sucks!” She stormed past us and twirled around when no one tried to stop her. “Fuck everything!”

  Her cussing had my mom on her feet. “Amy, watch your mouth.”

  Amy huffed at our mom’s warning and started to cry again. “Jacob Weber told Casey Miller that I tried to kiss him—and now everyone hates me!”

  She paced around the room in a fury. I didn’t know who either of those kids were, but I knew how rumors could eat at someone and ruin lives. I’d watched it happen with Meg in Texas.

  “Why did he do that?” Meg asked Amy. My two sisters’ heart-shaped faces had never looked as similar as they did in that kitchen, all puffy-eyed and pink-lipped.

  “Because he’s a dickhead!” Amy’s voice turned into a cry like a puppy’s when you step on its tail.

  Mom didn’t correct her language this time.

  “He was the one who tried to kiss me!”

  Our dad didn’t say anything; he just looked at the women in the room as they started fluttering around Amy.

  “Are you saying you didn’t want him to?” Mom asked, on her feet and sharp-eyed in seconds. It was like she’d just shed a thick, groggy layer of skin.

  “Where were you?” Meg petted Amy’s hair like she forgot that she was midfight with Jo.

  Amy leaned into her. “Ew! Of course I didn’t want him to. He’s kissed, like, every girl in my class.” Amy’s little nose turned up at the tip and always gave the illusion that she was younger than a preteen.

  “Tell us what happened.” My mom slid her hand behind Amy’s back, but Amy pulled away.

  “Meg,” Amy whined.

  My sisters shared a look, and Meg told us that they were going to talk alone for a minute.

  My mom, my dad, and I all had our heads tilted a little, and I guessed that my parents were wondering when Meg and Amy had gotten so close. But I often caught them whispering and knew how often Amy crawled in bed with Meg, so I wasn’t surprised by that. My head was tilted because Meg only cared about Amy right then, not herself.

  39

  jo

  Laurie’s room was a mess. It always had some type of chaos sprinkled around—a T-shirt hanging over the side of the headboard, or a day-old decaf coffee sitting in a chipped mug on his desk. But today, it was an absolute mess. An old-food odor and a musty smell that I’d rather not think about describing dominated the space.

  “What the hell happened in here?” I asked him, kicking my way through a pile of clothes.

  He was pacing around the bedroom like a madman. His long hair was hanging down, curling at the ends the way I liked. He looked like someone out of a novel. The stereotypical New York writer, born in Boston, or somewhere big. Not quite as big as the juicy, red Big Apple, but bigger than this little bubble of a town. Laurie, with his long golden hair, dressed in an oversize sweatshirt with patches on the elbows. He looked so smart, like he would write essays about climate or gun control, but still take your virginity after driving for hours to bring you to a field of flowers you Tumblred a picture of once.

  His forehead was creased with a deep crinkle that made him look a little like Old Mr. Laurence, and like his dad from the array of pictures hanging in this big house.

  “Hey,” he said, not explaining the mess. “How’s it going?” He lifted up a stack of magazines and put them back down on the desk.

  “Shitty, actually.”

  He continued rummaging through his messy bedroom and moved toward the window, through which the sun poured, paling the walls and his skin. When I took off my cardigan and draped it over the back of his chair, he looked up at me.

  “So, Meg is pissed off because I never told her that Shia came looking for her back when she was in New Orleans with John Brooke, months ago, the day my dad was hurt.”

  Laurie was listening, I could tell, but he was still moving around the room. It was making me restless, so I kept talking.

  “It’s just that when those assholes were talking about her yesterday, she’s blaming me because she won’t say shit to Shia or Bell.” I sat down on the bed.

  Laurie sat down next to me. “And this is your fault, how?” He always took my side in everything. I liked that. He would debate me after if he didn’t agree, but his initial reaction was always to take my side.

  “Exactly. She’s always the victim. I get that she’s pissed about what happened at the festival. I’m pissed, too!” I was mad—I didn’t want my sister to be harassed by a bunch of dicks who peaked in high school, but she was acting like it was my fault when I wasn’t the character assassin here.

  I picked at the hole in the knee of my jeans. “It’s like she thinks Shia coming to the house would have changed things.”

  “It would have, I think.” Laurie paused when I gave him a look. He lifted his hands up, covered by the long sleeves of his sweatshirt. “Hear me out. He came to the house, then went to the Quarter, right?”

  I nodded.

  “If Meg likes Shia the way Shia likes her, then it was probably pretty important for her to hear what he had to say.”

&nbs
p; “But they did talk, eventually.” I shook my head at Laurie. “Besides, he’s engaged.”

  “You always see everything in black and white, Jo. Sometimes there’s some gray in there.”

  I sighed. “Engaged isn’t really a gray area. Either you’re going to marry someone soon, or not.”

  “Either you’re dating someone or you’re not.” Laurie looked directly into my eyes.

  My chest tightened and I pulled at the strings of ripped denim. “Yes . . . and no. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that.”

  “Like with us.”

  I looked away from his eyes, down to where his hands stretched his sweatshirt, down his fitted sweatpants and clean white socks, to the floor of the dirty bedroom.

  “This isn’t about us,” I said.

  “When will it be? You know my mom wants me to come back home.”

  I felt his words wrap around my throat and squeeze a little. Home wasn’t across town or across the United States. Home was across the ocean. “No. I didn’t know that.”

  “She does.” His eyes were trying to keep hold of mine, but I avoided them. “Why can’t we just talk about it? I thought we would by now. You’ll be applying to colleges soon. What then?”

  Why was he choosing this exact moment to bring this up? Wasn’t there supposed to be some tiptoeing around the subject, a couple more makeouts? Meg never explained this to me. By the time she and I were starting to grow closer, my dad came back and she stopped talking to me about things. We weren’t close anymore; it was almost like we never were.

  “Jo,” Laurie urged me. I looked up at him and he moved a little closer to me. The big room felt so small, and Laurie’s fingers were pulling at his sleeves. “If you don’t want to, fine. Just tell me. I’m not going to force you. I just want to know what you’re thinking. I never know what you’re thinking.”

  “Yes, you do.”

  “Not about me. About everything else, yes. But never about me.”

  “You talk. I don’t know what you want to say, or want me to say. You talk.” It was true, I didn’t know where to begin or end this conversation.

  “Fine.” Laurie rolled his eyes. He tucked his hair behind his ears and licked his lips. “Do you want to date me?”

  “Is that how this goes?”

  “Stop being sarcastic. I’m serious.” His voice sounded small.

  I took a second to think before I spoke. Something I knew I needed to do more often. “Sorry. I don’t know how to be serious during this. I’ve never done this before, remember?”

  He jerked his shoulders back. “Ouch.”

  I quickly raised my hands. “No, not what I meant. I wasn’t insinuating that you have. I just meant that I literally haven’t.” I paused for a second. “Like, ever.”

  “If it’s that uncomfortable for you—”

  “No, it’s not.” I moved toward him when he backed farther onto the bed. “Just talk. Say stuff and then I’ll say stuff.” I was losing my breath. “Just go first.” I bit into my lip a little too hard, and I caught Laurie’s black eyes on my mouth just before he looked away.

  “Okay.” He dragged a long sigh through his lips. “My mom’s been asking if I want to come back home. My dad got orders to stay in Korea longer, and she misses me now that my sister has friends.”

  I kept my mouth quiet while my head spun.

  “The only reason I would stay here is if you’re going to be around . . . I’m not saying that we have to agree to get married or move in or anything anytime soon, just that you’ll be around . . .”

  “I would be around.” My voice was practically a whisper.

  “What about New York?”

  “Well, yeah. I would be in New York . . .”

  Laurie’s whole upper body sighed. “Yeah, so I would be here in Louisiana, and you would be in New York City?”

  I nodded. “We would talk every day and come visit each other.” People did it all the time. Right?

  “So a long-distance relationship, then?”

  He didn’t sound particularly excited about this idea. I honestly wasn’t expecting him to want a commitment type of thing with me. I thought we would stay friends, close . . . best friends, and maybe date someday when I was out of school, and his dad was home, and my dad was better, and I had time to worry about boys and matching bras and panties.

  “I guess so. People do it all the time.” I shrugged. “We would visit on the weekends.”

  “It’s a three-hour flight, not to mention the cost of flights, and the drive is twenty hours nonstop.” He had done his research.

  “So, what do we do?” I asked.

  Laurie shook his head, and I thought about the first time I met him, and the time when I slid down the driveway and flipped him off. The time outside the community center with Meg and Reeder. Laurie seemed so mysterious then, the classic heartbreaker.

  He was so much different in my eyes now. He was my best friend. I liked him more than that—I knew I did—but it also scared me. I didn’t want to be like Meg when River fucked her over. I wanted to go into my first relationship with my eyes open.

  “Do you one hundred percent want to go New York? Vice has offices all over. One in Venice Beach, basically LA, one in Toronto . . . all over.”

  “I want to go to New York, I think.” I’d never thought about Los Angeles. Toronto, yeah, but realistically it was hard to go outside the country for school. “You could come to New York.”

  “Could I?”

  “Yeah? Right? I mean, why not? What are you doing here that you couldn’t do there?”

  He leaned back against his palms on the bed. “I don’t know, but I don’t want to live in New York. I hated staying there for longer than a few days. You haven’t been, it’s not as great as you think.”

  “Yet. I will be going soon,” I told him, even though my parents still hadn’t given me a clear answer if we could take a tour of a few campuses there. My grades were good, but I wasn’t guaranteed to get into any of the colleges I wanted. Even after getting in, I still had to worry about paying for it, and my dad’s G.I. Bill money could only go to one of us. It had never been discussed which one of us, though.

  “I think the long-distance thing would be fine,” I told Laurie. “If I go to New York and hate it, we can figure it out then.”

  “So, what if I go back to Italy? I’ve got a friend in Milan I could crash with for a while. I would be closer to my mom, but still only a flight from you.”

  He really did his research. Almost too much . . .

  “So you’ve been planning this?”

  “Not planning, really.” He scratched at something on his forehead. “Just thinking about it. Haven’t you thought about it?”

  “Yeah, I mean, a little. I didn’t really think about it too much, but I kind of just thought you would stay here and I would go to New York and come home for holidays and stuff?”

  “I don’t know . . . What about boys in college? And the distance would probably eat at us. It usually does.” Laurie sounded like he was digging for reasons for this to fail.

  What I wanted to say was that statistically the person you’re dating when young isn’t who you end up with when you’re older. Out of all the married couples I knew, grown-ups included, most of them were on their second marriage. Laurie was a part of me, and I knew it would rip out chunks of me when this stopped working—it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow, but it was reality.

  “I’m not concerned about boys in college,” I said.

  He smiled at me and reached for my hands. His skin was always so warm. He lifted my palm in front of his face and spread my fingers out, pressing them gently to his mouth, and I shivered all over. It was something, the way he made me feel. The way he made the blood roar behind my ears and popcorn pop in my stomach.

  I leaned into him and he pulled me onto his lap. Each time we were alone, we crossed another line, made another move toward the dream of what we could be.

  “We are so good as neighbors, nea
rby each other,” he said inches from my face. My thighs were on either side of his lean waist; his thick sweatshirt was all droopy between us.

  God, he made my head fuzzy. It pissed me off.

  “Are you sure you want this? You won’t be able to have Shelly Hunchberg come over and talk about fund-raisers when I’m in another state.”

  “Oh, shut up.” He smiled. His warm hands were on my back. I could feel the heat of them through my thin tank top. “You will be the one falling in love with coffee boys and professors.”

  “No. I don’t have time for them.”

  “You barely have time for me,” he said, almost kissing me.

  I didn’t want to lie. “I know.”

  “You’re important to me, Jo.”

  I looked at Laurie’s face and counted the little batch of freckles just below his eye. His thick eyebrows were dark blond, relaxed, and his lips, they were carnation pink.

  “ ‘Kiss me, and you will see how important I am,’ ” I said as some cool girl who quotes poetry possessed my body.

  “I read those journals. The Sylvia Plath—”

  I kissed him to shut him up and decided maybe Laurie was right: there was so much gray.

  40

  There had been a line out the door of Pages for the last hour and a half. Hyper Hayton was excessively downing little cups of espresso to add to her own mania. Sam, this kid who I had only worked with twice, was having a hard time remembering orders. On top of that, he rang up the wrong freaking order four times in a row, which meant I had to remake four drinks in a row, and his shift wasn’t over for another hour. I still had two hours to go, which meant cleaning up his damn mess. My feet were aching and my apron was stained with big brown splotches of coffee. My jeans were dusted with ground beans and the remnants of a glob of whipped cream, and I had somehow managed to get a nasty paper cut on my elbow from changing the receipt-paper roll.

  I wasn’t ever a graceful barista, but I wasn’t usually this clumsy. I guess I can’t say shit about Sam messing up orders. It was just that I couldn’t stop thinking about this morning. The memory was so vivid, scorching hot in my head. Laurie had kissed me, like kisssssed me. Like he kissed me harder than he ever had before. If Meg and I weren’t fighting, I would have had her search the skin on my back for little moons left by his nails. I could feel them throbbing now, and my stomach flipped, right at the pit, and my mouth tingled. I missed him, I wished he would come into Pages and push me against the—

 
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