The Spring Girls by Anna Todd

“For sure. Happy New Year!” Reeder raised a glass of clear liquid, and I grabbed a flute of champagne from a passing server’s tray.

  Laurie looked at me and took a swig from a can of Coke. Gross. “Where’s the other girl? Your sister, I assume?”

  “You shouldn’t assume.”

  The corner of his mouth pulled into a smile. “Well, where is your nonsister?”

  I focused on him, looking right into his eyes. They were jet-black; it was unnerving.

  “She’s not interested in you,” I told him.

  Jo had never had a boyfriend, and no freaking way was this guy going to attempt to be anything close to it. Boys like him didn’t want to date; they only wanted one thing, and Jo wasn’t ready to give that to anyone.

  “Hmm. You’re a real peach.” He ran his long pale fingers through his blond hair.

  I turned away from him, not wanting to feed his ego or irritate him enough to want my sister even more. I knew how boys like him were wired. I searched for Jo by the table I’d left her at, but didn’t see her there, or anywhere. I knew she was capable of handling herself, more so than me even, but I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that had planted itself inside my stomach the moment we walked through the door of the party.

  I told Reeder that I would see him later and didn’t so much as look at Laurie before I walked away to find Jo. I pushed past big balloons with the numbers of the new year, grabbed another glass of champagne, and went to find my sister.



  Every inch of the Kings’ house dripped with disparity and greed. It drove me up the crown-moulded wall to walk through a house so full of excess, when on the way over here we’d passed by a group of homeless men sharing the scraps of a meal they’d dug out from the trash of the creole restaurant just off base.

  Of course I knew that the Kings couldn’t feed the entire city. Well, maybe they could, but it’s not their fault that there are people less fortunate than them—but it was hard to remember that as I walked past a table full of neatly placed lines of bottles of champagne.

  I always hated the feeling that crept over me when someone was staring at me. I had an uncanny ability to feel their eyes on me the moment they hit me. I waited a few seconds to look up, and when I lifted my eyes, I saw a tall man with brown hair staring at me. He was dressed in his Class A’s, making me wonder why he was wearing his military dress uniform to a New Year’s Eve engagement party. When he saw me staring back at him, he smiled. I didn’t like the way his face changed when he smiled. It wasn’t friendly or welcoming; it was expecting and assuming.

  Since I didn’t know what else to do but smile back, I did just that. It was a tiny, awkward thing, though he must have taken it as an invitation to approach me because he set his beer bottle down on the closest table and made his way over. I looked around for Meg but couldn’t find her, so in the brief moment the soldier flicked his eyes away from me, I dipped between two elderly women and turned around the corner.

  I took another corner and another until I passed the kitchen, full of staff, busying themselves to feed the hundreds of people crammed into the mansion. The smell of corn bread and rosemary made my stomach grumble angrily. I should have eaten more than Bugles and a cucumber sandwich all day.

  As a man carrying a tray walked through the archway, I grabbed a snack as he passed. Looking down at the food in my hand, I thanked my lucky stars that it was meatless. It looked like some sort of tomato salsa on bread. I recalled Beth making something like that before but couldn’t remember the name of it. I took a bite and my stomach grumbled again.

  I kept walking, looking behind me to be sure the man wasn’t following me. Not seeing him, but wishing to take no chances, I took another corner and walked up the empty staircase near the back door. It was so quiet back there, and I wondered for a second if I should even be in this part of the house. Meg had told me a few times that Mrs. King was weird about certain rooms of the house, but I really wanted to get away from the party, if for only a few minutes.

  I passed two closed doors and reached the end of the hallway. There was something in the corner . . . It looked like a bench, but I couldn’t see clearly because a curtain covered part of it. I walked closer to see if I could hide there for a little bit.

  I pushed the curtain aside and immediately bumped into a statue sitting atop a marble podium. My hands shot out in front of me to steady it before it crashed to the floor, and once I finally settled it, I spun around to sit on the bench.

  “Ow!” a male voice grumbled, and I jumped back up.

  Laurie was sitting on the bench with a can of Coke in one hand and my arm in his other.

  I jerked away and pulled back the curtain to escape. “Sorry! I didn’t see you here.”

  Out of all the places in this mansion, he had to be sitting in the only quiet spot I could find.

  Laurie put the soda can down on the floor in front of his feet and looked up at me. “It’s okay. I was just hiding back here.”

  Even sitting down, I was reminded of how tall he was. His mouth was open, and I looked at it briefly, just enough to feel the heat in my cheeks, then looked away.

  “I’ll go.” I turned away from him.

  He touched my elbow. “No. Stay.”

  When he said those two simple words, I felt something like déjà vu, which wasn’t possible since I had only spoken a few words to him. I thought maybe I was losing my mind, mixing dreams with reality, but I swore I had heard him say those two words to me before.

  “I just don’t know anyone and I’m not great at making conversation with strangers, so I would rather hide back here until it’s time to leave.”

  “If you don’t know anyone, who tells you when it’s time for you to leave?” I asked.

  He tilted his head and stared at me a moment. His legs were so long that they sprawled out to the rug on the floor. I hoped it wasn’t animal fur that he was pressing his black boots into.

  “Good question.” He smiled at me. “And, what about you? Who tells you when it’s time to go? Your older sister?”

  I shook my head.

  He stared at me for what felt like minutes but was actually only about ten seconds. I counted five breaths while I waited for his lips to move. His lips were so full, like mine, and I wondered if he got called mean names in school the way that I did, or if his good looks saved him from the ridicule of his peers, the way they did Meg.

  “So, what are you doing at the party if you don’t know anyone?” I asked.

  He patted the seat next to him and I sat down, keeping as much distance as possible from him. The bench was so small that it was only about two feet of space.


  “And how was that? Did you see any people you liked watching?”

  What did that even mean? I silently asked myself.

  He seemed to understand and smiled at me. “Your sister is nice to watch, that Meg Spring.” His hair was pulled back into a bun, and I thought he should be a model.

  “Oh. My sister, of course.” I laughed. “Everyone likes to watch Meg.”

  “I can imagine that to be true.”

  He leaned against the back of the cushioned bench, and I stared past him down the long hallway. This house seemed even bigger from the inside than the outside. Old family portraits were on the wall, hung in perfectly symmetrical lines.

  “It’s a little creepy, right?” He spoke quietly and quickly, and his lips moved so fast. “To have immortalized the entire family and hung them on the walls up here where guests obviously aren’t supposed to be?”

  “Yes, very.”

  “So, what about you? Who are you watching out there?”

  I shook my head. “No one.”

  It was true. I wasn’t watching anyone the way he was watching Meg. Laurie’s face was turned away from me, and he was fixing the cuffs of his dark jeans just above his boots.

  When I could no longer stand the ensuing silence, I asked, “Is it true that you’re fr
om Italy?”

  He looked at me. “Yes. My mother is Italian. A painter. I lived there when I was young, then we moved to the US, and last year I lived there for the school year, until I got sent back here.”

  His tiny accent made sense now. I pondered whether it would be rude to ask him to speak Italian for me, just so I could hear it.

  “What’s Italy like? I want to go to Europe so badly. When I work for Vice, I have this entire plan of places to go and stories to cover. I want to see so many more places than here; I’ve seen the same things over and over my entire life. The same people, the same mentality.” I got so lost in my own words and dreams for my future that I had nearly forgotten where I was or who I was talking to.

  “So, Jo Spring. You’ve got dreams, do you?”

  I decided right then that even though I would most likely never have another conversation with him, I needed to hear about Europe. “Yes. Shouldn’t we all?”

  “Are you speaking generally, or about me specifically?”

  I knew then that this was what Meg had warned me about. Boys who play games. Laurie Laurence was definitely a boy who wanted to play games. Word games were only the beginning.

  I could play, too. It didn’t matter that I had never had a boyfriend. I had three sisters. I was the queen of games.

  Okay, so maybe Meg was the queen, but I was the princess. For sure.

  “I really need to get going,” I told him, instead of moving my piece onto the board. I knew that I could play games, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to hear about Europe and the world outside my little one, but he didn’t seem willing to share.

  “What? Why?” He stood up with me, but I hurried away, closing the curtain behind me before he could speak.

  Checkmate, Laurie, I thought as I rushed down the stairs.



  “Have you seen Jo?” I asked Reeder when I finally found him again.

  I had searched the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen, and couldn’t find my sister. I was beginning to panic, imagining Meredith’s reaction when I came home without Josephine.

  I pulled my phone out of my purse and checked again, to be sure she hadn’t called or texted me back.

  Where the hell did she go? I wondered. She better not have left me here.

  It had been close to an hour, and I was ready to go home. I hadn’t seen Mrs. King once since I got to the party. Even though I had spent nearly every day in that house lately, I felt out of place when it was full of strangers.

  Reeder told me that, no, he hadn’t seen Jo, and I made my way to the backyard of the house. I grabbed my third glass of champagne and pushed through the back door. Crowds of huddled bodies covered the expansive lawn, and so many lights were strung on the trees. It was beautiful until I heard the shrill voice of Bell Gardiner herself.

  “Meg Spring! What on earth are you doing here?”

  When I turned to her, she smiled so brightly that for a moment I was convinced that we were friends. But a tiny, barely noticeable falter in her smile reminded me that we weren’t. As much as I didn’t have a reason to not like her, she had even less of a reason to be staring at me like I was intruding on the occasion somehow. At least two hundred people were crammed into the estate, and I could guarantee that most of them didn’t have a clue who she was.

  “I was invited.” I managed a smile for her.

  No way in hell was I going to let her know she had crawled under my skin so long ago and stayed there.

  Her blue eyes sparkled under the canopy lights. Her dress was barely attached to her slim body; only one string on her left shoulder kept the green satin on her body. The entire back of the dress was cut out, showing her creamy skin underneath. She wasn’t even wearing a bra. Bitch.

  “Oh, were you?” She paused to look me up and down. “That’s great.”

  I looked at the woman next to her and assumed it was her mother. She had the same dark hair and blue eyes as Bell.

  “Congrats on your engagement,” I told her.

  She shot me a pitying look. “It must be hard for you.”

  I looked around at those surrounding us and realized everyone had fallen quiet. They were watching us like we were the series finale of Gossip Girl.

  Bell looked down at her ring, and I fumbled for words. Why would it be hard on me? John was coming back next week from West Point. I couldn’t imagine that her fiancé would have better stats than that.

  I decided to behave like a mature adult and smile instead of spit in her face. The thing I hated most in life was to look foolish in front of people, and there was Bell Gardiner trying to make me look pathetic and less than her and her stupid green dress and big emerald engagement ring.

  “I’m happy for you, really, Bell.”

  I turned to walk away and saw Shia approaching.

  Oh no, no, no, I thought to myself. My fists balled at my sides and I didn’t want to be stuck between those two. Not that night, not ever.

  “Shia, honey!” Bell waved her hand in the air, and I stopped moving my feet so my brain could try to think of something witty to say if either of them sassed me.

  Where was her fiancé anyway? If he loved her enough to buy her such a beautiful ring, why wasn’t he standing at her side at their extravagant party?

  I tried to dodge Shia’s eyes as he neared us, but I couldn’t. I hated the way he always pulled me back to him, even when I hadn’t seen him in so long. He was wearing something I never imagined I’d see him in. His black dress pants and black button-up shirt perfectly matched the black blazer he wore. Before that night I had only seen him in jeans and T-shirts.

  I tried to look away from his green eyes, but couldn’t find it in me.

  “Look who came to congratulate us.” Bell Gardiner’s words went right over my head until she reached for his hand and pulled him to her side. He kissed her hair.

  My legs went numb. I couldn’t begin to form a coherent thought as I watched her take his hand between her two.

  Her ring shone, blinding me.

  What the hell kind of joke was this?

  Bell Gardiner and Shia King?



  He regarded me coolly. “Thanks for coming, Margaret.”

  Margaret? Since when was I Margaret to him?

  A dark memory interjected that I had probably become Margaret when I left him waiting for me at the airport. That’s when I became a full-name acquaintance.

  “It’s nothing,” I said. The words were like glass shards in my throat.

  I couldn’t believe that I was living in a world where Bell Gardiner and Shia King were the happy, engaged couple that this party was for. I didn’t even know the two of them were still in touch.

  All the hours I spent with Mrs. King in this house, at the store, at her country club, and she never once mentioned anything about Shia and Bell. Or Bell and Shia. Or this party. Not once. Really, she barely mentioned Shia at all—she mostly talked about her two daughters, who she was so proud to talk about. Both of them had graduated law school, following in the footsteps of Mr. King, the most prominent, most wealthy lawyer in the entire state of Louisiana.

  “Isn’t this party great?” Bell asked.

  I knew she was talking to me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the strength to look up at her and meet her eyes, so I remembered what Meredith always told us: “Never, ever, let anyone take your strength, girls. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than whole, and if they try, show them who you are.” She had told the four of us girls that so many times that by the time I was ten I had it memorized. I think she said she read it in a book when she was pregnant with me.

  I lifted my eyes to Bell Gardiner and Shia. My smile stretched my cheeks, and I hoped my lipstick was still in place. “It’s great, really. Thank you for inviting me. I lost Jo somewhere. I’m going to go find her, but you two have a good night.”

  I didn’t give them enough time to so much as blink before I turned away, trying to con
fidently sway my hips as I disappeared into the crowd.

  My eyes were stinging when I found Jo leaning against the wall and drinking a glass of champagne.

  “You shouldn’t be drinking. Meredith will kill me,” I said.

  Jo rolled her big brown eyes at me. “It’s fine. I won’t tell her. Are you ready to go?”

  Her cheeks were red and I wanted to tell her about Shia and Bell, but I needed a minute or thirty. “Have you ever drank before?” I grabbed another glass of champagne from the table next to us, downed it, and reached for another.

  “Yes. Once. Beth and I got into Dad’s liquor stash when we were at Fort Hood.” She smiled. “We were so sick the next day.”

  A vague memory of Beth holding Jo’s long hair over the toilet popped into my mind. “I can’t believe Beth, out of all people.” I laughed a wry sound.

  “Did you ever find out who Bell Gardiner’s fiancé is? I haven’t even heard anyone talking about it. I think everyone just came for the free booze and finger sandwiches. No one likes Bell Gardiner.”

  The champagne bubbled and burned in my mouth.

  “I don’t know,” I lied. “But you’re right about no one liking Bell Gardiner.”

  So many times I had wanted to share more with Jo, to let her grow up faster than my parents wanted to let her. Meredith was good at teaching us to be strong, to be capable, but she lacked in teaching us anything about the reality of being a teenager. She told me once that she had to grow up too fast and didn’t want that for us. I understood that to a point, but Jo had probably never even kissed a boy, I thought with wonder. By her age, I had slept with three. I didn’t apologize for it then, and I definitely wouldn’t now.

  “I have to pee. Then can we go?” I sucked down the last of the liquid. I’d lost count of how many I’d had. My chest had stopped aching, but I couldn’t help but think about Shia and Bell. It made no sense to me. Their personalities couldn’t be more different. With his extensive travel, how did they maintain a relationship at all, let alone keep it strong enough to be engaged? How long had they been together? I didn’t have a clue. I had kept tabs on his life, or thought I had, but clearly I was slacking in the cyberstalking department. That, or he didn’t care enough about her to even so much as mention her online.

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