The Spring Girls by Anna Todd


  What? “What does that mean? Who would ask?” I stood up from the bed. It usually felt like the perfect size for us, but it felt so tiny now.

  Laurie hesitated. “I just mean my friends, female friends, too. I’m not saying what you think I’m saying, but, yes, girls will ask me, Jo.”

  Of course they would. Look at him.

  This irritated me beyond belief. Was dating Laurie always going to be like this? Girls ready to pounce on him the moment he didn’t have someone?

  “I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to you to say we’re together. If you are so unsure about it, what are we doing?”

  I got defensive. “If you have so many options lined up back home, what are we doing?”

  He shook his head. “You’re being such a hypocrite. You know that, right?” His hands were in the air in front of him.

  “Yeah. I do know. And you’re a fucking player. I get it.”

  Laurie’s mouth fell open and he moved off the bed and walked toward the door. He opened it, and I expected him to kick me out, but instead he just left. I waited less than a minute before I grabbed my phone and key chain and took off. His stairs creaked when you walked on them, and I usually loved the bit of personality it gave the house, but each squeak made me want to scream as I rushed down. The air was sticky and smelled like it might rain. I thought about taking a walk, but I really wanted to go home and lie in my bed.

  When I got home, the house was quiet. The living-room light was off. but the big-screen TV was on, lighting up the room pretty well. My dad was sitting in his wheelchair next to his recliner, and Amy was lying on the couch, staring at the TV. Meg’s Prius was in the driveway when I came inside, so I knew she was here somewhere.

  “Meredith’s not back yet?” I asked whoever was going to answer me.

  “Not yet. They should be back any minute,” my dad responded. Meg came walking out of the hallway and looked around the room.

  “Oh, it’s you,” Meg sighed when she saw me in the television glow.

  I told her I needed to talk to her. Now. I wasn’t going to fight with her; that seemed like old drama. I needed to tell her about Amy sending the emails.

  “Come with me upstairs for a minute,” I said quietly.

  My dad didn’t respond, just kept his eyes on the show he was watching.

  Meg agreed, and, of course, Amy whined that she wanted to come upstairs with us. I tried to remember back when I was twelve; was I as obnoxious as she is now?

  “No,” I snapped. No way was she coming.

  Meg looked at me and I shook my head no.

  “I’ll come back and lay with you on the couch and brush your hair when I’m done talking to Jo. Deal?” Meg cooed.

  Cooed to the twelve-year-old who tried to sabotage her relationship with John Brooke through sending false emails. If only Meg knew.

  Amy agreed like the spoiled little lizard she was, and I followed Meg back upstairs.

  “This better be good,” Meg threatened me. She was wearing pajamas and a face full of makeup. Of course she was. “I just got home from an entire day at Mrs. King’s house, fuck off,” she said against my judging eyes.

  She walked into our bedroom, and I followed, closing the door.

  “I need to tell you something about someone close to us.”

  Meg looked beyond skeptical. I was so annoyed about my fight with Laurie and my family imploding. I was over it all and wanted to tell Meg to cut off the dumb-pretty-girl act.

  “Cut the drama, what are you talking about?”

  “I’m being serious. It’s about those emails from John Brooke. The ones when—”

  She cut me off with a wave of her hand through the air. “Like I don’t know what emails you’re talking about! Move on,” she snapped.

  “When Amy trashed the computer earlier, Laurie was checking it out and found an email address that Amy was logged in to . . .”

  “What?” Meg looked at the door behind me and back to me.

  I lowered my voice. “Yes. Amy was signed into the email address that sent you the emails from a fake-John email. I don’t know why she would do that. But we have to tell Mom and Dad and say something to her, like now. How fucked-up is that?”

  I expected a response, but Meg just stood there processing it all, so I paced around the room because someone had to be doing something.

  “Amy? You’re sure?” Her eyes were getting all red. I should’ve yelled for Amy to come up here and just put it all on the table.

  “Yeah. I can say something to her if you want.”

  “No.” Meg shook her head. Her brown waves touched her shoulders as she moved. Her hair was styled and her eyelashes were so long. She always looked ready for a camera or something. Even now. “I don’t want to say anything to her.”

  What?

  “Yes, you do.”

  “No.” She just kept shaking her head. “No, I don’t, Jo. What good will that do? She obviously did it for a reason.”

  “Because she’s an evil little—”

  “No, Jo. Because she’s twelve and her dad got injured in Iraq, her two oldest sisters have boyfriends and are never around, her mom is drinking and barely notices when she’s around. She’s calling for attention.”

  “She’s seeking attention.”

  “Even so. Think about why she would be? And why I can’t just give her that attention and hope she never does it again? We have to think about how she’s feeling, too. She’s twelve and going through a lot. Think about how hard Dad coming home like this would have been for you at that age.”

  “Why are you so . . . so . . . I don’t know. You’re right about some of it, but why let her get away with it?”

  “It’s not really about getting away with it. She’s my baby sister,” Meg calmly explained.

  She had too much patience. I was more of a revenge kind of girl.

  “Let me handle it, Josephine.” Meg plopped down on her bed. She picked up the little book I got her for Christmas and scrolled through the pages.

  “Fine, Margaret.”

  It was quiet for a minute while I sat on my bed and Meg sat on hers. I remembered when we were little, she would talk to me sometimes and have me tell her my stories about Jack Smead. She would laugh and laugh until Meredith would come in and shhh us, threatening to take our internet away if we weren’t quiet. Those days were so simple. Before boys and sex and money.

  “I’m sorry about earlier,” Meg finally said. “I was pissed at Shia and myself and took it out on you.”

  I looked at her and she half smiled; she was so pretty. She was a little wilted tonight, like a flower that needed a kiss from the sun, but she was still so pretty. Like Amy would be when she was older.

  “I’m sorry, too. I really didn’t think it would have made a difference. I didn’t think about it, and I’m sorry.”

  She smiled. “Thank you. See, that’s not so hard?”

  “Ha, ha.” I groaned at her. “What’s going on with Shia?” I didn’t think she would want to talk about it, especially not to me, but I asked anyway. It kept my mind off Laurie.

  “I don’t know.” She touched her fingers to her lips. “He’s leaving Tuesday.”

  “This Tuesday?”

  She nodded.

  So soon. “Oh, wow.”

  “I know.” She looked away. “I’m breaking up with John Brooke. He’s going to be stationed so far away and he’s barely texted me the last few days and—”

  “And you want Shia.”

  She nodded. “I think I do?” She looked terrified.

  “So, what’s the problem?”

  “I’m so tired of the long-distance relationships.”

  Yikes. Another strike against Laurie’s and my epic saga.

  “So, go with him,” I suggested. Meg could use some time out of this town. “How long will he be gone?”

  “September.” She paused. “I couldn’t go. No way. I can’t leave you guys here.”

  So she had the same worries as
I did. “We would be fine. We’d figure it out. You should go.” The idea of Meg leaving town was abstract. It didn’t seem like something that would actually happen, but I hoped for it still. It would be thrilling. A change in the Spring house. A shake-up.

  “I couldn’t.” She chewed at her bottom lip. “Could I?”

  I nodded. “You can. Ask him.”

  “It seems so irresponsible. I’m not like you, Jo. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like life on the road.”

  I shrugged. “How do you even know that? You’ve never tried it. You say you aren’t like me, but that to me means you’re scared.”

  Her face twisted. “I don’t care if you think I’m scared, Jo. You don’t know anything about life. You think you do because you sit around and watch documentaries all day? You’ve had a pretty cushioned life.”

  I was baffled. She couldn’t be serious. “Me? So have you, Princess Meg. Sorry that I care about the world and you only care about fucking guys into marrying you to feed your crazy obsession. Good for you—go be a housewife, Meg, but don’t give me shit because I don’t want to be!”

  She stood up, and I knew she was losing her temper, and that was fine because mine was already lost. “Me? You’re the one who’s judging me, Jo! I don’t want to be alone, okay? And that’s fine. You’re so obsessed with being a know-it-all that you forget the most important part of being a strong woman!”

  I was nearly shaking with rage. How was she pissed at me? I wasn’t judging her . . . maybe I was, but so was she. She wasn’t the only victim here.

  “And what exactly is that? Enlighten me!” I shouted back, pushing myself off the bed.

  “The choice, Jo! It’s all about my choice as a woman. If I want to spend my time being a hands-on parent and at fund-raisers and family outings—I fucking can! I can do whatever I want! If you want to move to some big city, break up with Laurie and focus on yourself, go ahead! I’m not the one judging you! But at least I know what I want!”

  I couldn’t believe her. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! You can’t even choose between Shia and freaking John! John Brooke, who’s as boring as a snail, or Shia—who actually makes you act like a decent human being!”

  The bedroom door opened, and Amy burst into the room. I couldn’t stand to be around either of them, but when I tried to leave, Meg blocked me.

  “Me? Look in the fucking mirror, Jo! You’re a high school kid trying to tell me about life? You have Laurie right in front of you, waiting on you hand and foot, and just because you don’t label it, that makes it better than me? If you don’t commit to him, I hope he finds a nice girl in Italy who will.”

  Ouch. “Fuck you, Meg.”

  I pushed past her and ran down the stairs. Mom was pulling into the driveway when I walked past the front window, so I went out the back door. I stormed across the yard and couldn’t believe the nerve of my sister. I knew exactly what I had with Laurie, and Laurie knew me better than she ever had.

  I knew there was some truth in her words, and I wanted to prove her wrong about me. I knew what I wanted.

  Laurie and New York. I could have both, unlike Meg. I frantically knocked on the Laurences’ door, but no one answered. I knocked again, impatiently hopping from one foot to the other until I finally turned the knob to see if the door was locked. It wasn’t, so I walked in toward the stairs. I didn’t hear the TV blaring, so I assumed Old Mr. Laurence wasn’t home.

  My heart was racing. I hoped Laurie was home. I hoped he even wanted to see me.

  I should have thought about that before knocking on his bedroom door, but I wasn’t thinking about anything except seeing him. And there I was. Not in the sexiest outfit, not with freshly brushed teeth. What if he had a girl here? He wouldn’t do that. I knew he wouldn’t.

  Just before I changed my mind and turned around, Laurie opened his door, looking confused and pissed off and so beautiful. He was so soft, so tender, compared to what I thought boys were going to be like. He listened to me, helped me, taught me. He had been there for me through all this shit with my family, and he was standing in front of me, waiting for me to speak.

  “Hi,” I said, out of breath now that he was in front of me.

  “Hi.”

  I grabbed on to his shirt, pulling him to kiss me. Every part of me was bursting open, unsure if he would push me off or pull me in, and I moaned in relief when he wrapped his arms around my waist, crushing my body to his.

  “What are you—”

  “I’m sure. I’m positively sure. We can make it work. You can go anywhere, Italy . . .”

  His tongue burned my skin as it traced around my pulse. When he pulled away, I missed the taste of him so badly that it hurt. It was that quick. It was like a switch had been turned on inside my body and the pressure in my stomach, throbbing in expectation, was going to rip me in half, I was sure of it.

  “Yeah?” He licked at the most tender skin of my neck.

  “I want . . .” I didn’t know how to say it, but wanted to stay in control. “You.”

  I pushed at his shoulders, then found his mouth and kissed him, and led him to his bed. He fell back first and I climbed on top of his lean body. His T-shirt rode up past his belly button; the freckles dotted his tan skin like sprinkled seeds. His eyes were huge, blown-out black ink spots writing words that only I could read. I could feel his body reacting to me, and I thought about it. I knew this would change everything. I would always remember who I gave my virginity to. Always.

  “I love you. I think.”

  His body froze and his hands touched either side of my face, bringing my eyes to his. “You love me?”

  I nodded. “I think so.”

  He smiled and it touched his dark eyes, and his mouth touched my lips and he whispered, “I do, too.”

  I loved him. I was in love for the first time. My life was complicated, and my future was totally up in the air, but I knew that I was in love with Laurie and there was absolutely nowhere I’d rather be than where I was, and that was what it was supposed to be, what this confusing mess of life was about.

  I reached for the bottom of my shirt and lifted it over my head. Laurie searched my face, and I nodded, reaching for his hands and putting them on my breasts.

  “I want you,” I said again.

  “You’re sure, or you think?” He smiled.

  I rolled my eyes at him playfully.

  “It’s going to hurt,” he told me. It wasn’t romantic or sugary at all. But it didn’t need to be. That wasn’t how life, or my relationship with Laurie, was.

  “I know. I’m going to bleed and probably cry.” I scrunched up my nose.

  He laughed, biting at my neck.

  “Okay, okay. I know the precautions. Let’s just kiss a while and see—”

  I kissed his lips and he rolled us over. I wasn’t afraid of what was coming. I’d always wondered if I would be. Meg’s first time was complete shit. I knew for sure mine would be better than that. Laurie told me how much he loved every part of me as he made his way down my body . . . I was breathing just fine, everything was calm, Laurie’s mouth was so sweet between my thighs, and my head was clear and I wanted every second of this.

  It did hurt, just as bad as I thought it would, but Laurie was so gentle, and we were both a little clumsy, and I loved him even more as I lay next to him and he told me about how many times he’d thought about this happening, but never actually thought it would. I loved how honest he was with me.

  Afterward, when we’d been silent and cuddled there, I said, “I don’t feel any different.”

  “Are you supposed to?” He rolled over and kissed my forehead.

  I shrugged. “Yeah. I think so.”

  “So I failed?” he teased, and kissed me when I nodded.

  My phone rang a few times, and I watched my sister’s name flash up and then finally disappear.

  “I need to go. I have to apologize to her.”

  “Did you come here, like just for that?” He looked at
my naked body wrapped around his.

  I shook my head. “Sort of?”

  Laurie made me laugh, and I almost thought about repeating what we just did, but I had to get home.

  When I walked home, each step my shoe made on the grass, I felt more and more powerful. I was blissful, not horrified.

  I was loved, not used.

  Meg opened the door just as I reached the porch. She stepped out and closed the door behind her.

  “I’m sorry,” I said at the same time she did.

  “Me, too, Jo.”

  “You were right, you know. About Laurie.” I looked in Meg’s eyes, and she took in my face and opened her mouth into a big O.

  “You!” she said loudly, then whispered, “Oh my God. You did it. Oh my God.”

  “Meg. Seriously.” I laughed, covering my mouth.

  “Jo, oh my God. Beth has a girl in there, you had sex with Laurie, and I’m leaving the country Tuesday. I just told Mom and Dad.”

  I thought about hugging Meg, but I didn’t know if I should, so I followed her inside and passed Amy sleeping on the couch. I still thought Meg should say something to her about the emails, but I would let Meg decide what to do about that.

  “Mom and Dad are in their room,” Beth said from the couch.

  She was sitting next to a pretty Japanese girl who looked familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew her from. They were watching the end of one of the Halloween movies, the third one, I thought.

  Beth had never had a friend over before, and it made me happy. I was so exhausted—my body was aching from Laurie, from work, from not enough sleep. Things were changing so much, so fast.

  My sisters and I were getting better at figuring out this thing called life, and I felt more ready to take on this big, small world with them and the rest of my sisters around the world.

  acknowledgments

  This book is so different from anything I’ve ever written, and I questioned myself nearly every page, until my favorite humans reminded me why I was writing this story. I often question myself—every second of every page. As a writer, I’m not supposed to say that, but I totally do.

  I love this story, these Spring sisters, and in these acknowledgments, I want to thank my “sisters”—a.k.a. the women around me who encourage me to be my best self and live my best life: Rebecca, Jen, Ruth, Erika, Nina, Erin—you guys are my tribe, and I love you for your friendship, kindness, encouragement, and constant support for finishing this book, and for life in general.

 
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