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Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 16: It was, without a doubt, one of the best nights of my life. Right up there with New Year’s Eve at Disney World. My parents were still married and I was nine.
We watched fireworks rocket right over Cinderel a’s palace, and Steven didn’t even complain.
When he called, I didn’t recognize his voice, partly because I wasn’t expecting it and partly because I was still half-asleep. He said, “I’m in my car on my way to your house. Can I see you?”
It was twelve-thirty in the morning. Boston was five and a half hours away. He had driven all night. He wanted to see me.
I told him to park down the street and I would meet him on the corner after my mother had gone to bed. He said he’d wait.
I turned the lights off and waited by the window, watching for the tail lights.
As soon as I saw his car, I wanted to run outside, but I had to wait. I could hear my mother rustling around in her room, and I knew she would read in bed for at least half an hour before she fell asleep. It felt like torture, knowing he was out there waiting for me, not being able to go to him. It was a crazy idea, because it was winter, and it would be freezing cold in Cousins. But when he suggested it, it felt crazy in a good way.
In the dark, I put on my scarf and hat that Granna knit me for Christmas. Then I shut my bedroom door and tiptoed down the hall way to my mother’s room, pressing my ear against the door. The light was off and I could hear her snoring softly. Steven wasn’t even home yet, which was lucky for me, because he’s a light sleeper just like our dad.
My mother was finally asleep; the house was still and silent. Our Christmas tree was still up. We kept the lights on all night because it made it still feel like Christmas, like any minute, Santa could show up with gifts. I didn’t bother leaving her a note. I would call her in the morning when she woke up and wondered where I was.
When I was outside the home, I flew down the front steps and across the icy lawn after carefully avoiding the creaking step in the center of the staircase. It crunched along the bottoms of my sneakers. I forgot to put on my coat. I remembered the scarf and hat, but no coat.
His car was on the corner, right where it was supposed to be. The car was dark, with no lights, and I opened the passenger side door like I’d done it a million times before.
I poked my head inside, but I didn’t go in, not yet. I wanted to look at him first. It was winter, and he was wearing a gray fleece. His cheeks were pink from the cold, and his tan had faded, but he still looked the same. “Hey,” I said, and then I climbed inside.
“You’re not wearing a coat,” he said.
“It’s not that cold,” I said, even though it was, even though I was shivering as I said it.
“Here,” he said, shrugging out of his fleece and handing it to me.
I put it on. It was warm, and it didn’t smell like cigarettes. It just smell ed like him. So Conrad quit smoking after al. The thought made me smile.
He started the engine.
I said, “I can’t believe you’re really here.”
He sounded almost shy when he said, “Me neither.” And then he hesitated. “Are you still coming with me?”
I couldn’t believe he even had to ask. I would go anywhere. “Yes,” I told him. It felt like nothing else existed outside of that word, that moment.
There was just us.
Everything that had happened that summer, and every summer before it, had all led up to this. To now.
Sitting next to him in the passenger seat felt like an impossible gift. It felt like the best Christmas gift of my life. Because he was smiling at me, and he wasn’t somber, or solemn, or sad, or any of the other s-words I had come to associate with Conrad. He was light, he was ebullient, he was all the best parts of himself.
“I think I’m going to be a doctor,” he told me, looking at me sideways. “Really? Wow.”
“Medicine is pretty amazing. For a while, I thought I would want to go into the research end of it, but now I think I’d rather be working with actual people.”
I hesitated, and then said, “Because of your mom?”
He nodded. “She’s getting better, you know. Medicine is making that possible.
She’s responding really well to her new treatment. Did your mom tell you?”
“Yeah, she did,” I said. Even though she had done no such thing. She probably just didn’t want to get my hopes up. She probably didn’t want to get her own hopes up. My mother was like that. She didn’t allow herself to get excited until she knew it was a sure thing. Not me. Already I felt lighter and happier. Susannah was getting better. I was with Conrad. Everything was happening the way it was supposed to.
I leaned over and squeezed his arm. “It’s the best news ever,” I said, and I meant it.
He smiled at me, and it was written al over his face: hope.
When we got to the house, it was freezing cold. We cranked the heat up and Conrad started a fire. I observed him crouch, rip up bits of paper, and make little pokes at the log. He had probably been kind to his dog, Boogie. He probably used to let Boogie to join him in bed. The thought of beds and sleep suddenly made me nervous. But I shouldn’t have been, because after he lit the fire, Conrad sat on the La-Z-Boy and not on the couch next to me. The thought suddenly occurred to me: He was nervous too. Conrad, who was never nervous. Never.
“Why are you sitting all the way over there?” I asked him, and I could hear my heart pounding behind my ears. I couldn’t believe I’d been brave enough to actually say what I was thinking.
Conrad looked surprised too, and he came over and sat next to me. I moved inching toward him. His embrace would have been welcome. All the things Taylor had mentioned that I had only seen on television were things I yearned to accomplish. A few, perhaps not all.
In a low voice, Conrad said, “I don’t want you to be scared.”
I whispered, “I’m not,” even though I was. Not scared of him, but scared of everything I felt. Sometimes it was too much. What I felt for him was bigger than the world, than anything.
“Good,” he breathed, and then he was kissing me.
He kissed me long and slow and even though we’d kissed once before, I never thought it could be like this. He took his time; he ran his hand along the bottom of my hair, the way you do when you walk past hanging wind chimes.
Kissing him, being with him like that … it was cool lemonade with a long straw, sweet and measured and pleasurable in a way that felt infinite. The thought crossed my mind that I never wanted him to stop kissing me. I could do this forever, I thought.
We kissed on the couch like that for what could have been hours or minutes.
All we did that night was kiss. He was careful, the way he touched me like I was a Christmas ornament he was afraid of breaking.
Once, he whispered, “Are you okay?”
Once, I put my hand up to his chest and I could feel his heart beating as fast as mine. I snuck a peek at him, and for some reason, it delighted me to see his eyes closed. His lashes were longer than mine.
He fell asleep first. I’d heard something about how you weren’t supposed to sleep with a fire still burning, so I waited for it to die down. I watched Conrad sleep for a while. He looked like a little boy, the way his hair fell on his forehead and his eyelashes hit his cheek. I didn’t remember him ever looking that young.
When I was sure he was asleep, I leaned in, and whispered, “Conrad. There’s only you. For me, there’s only ever been you.”
My mother freaked out when I wasn’t home that morning. I missed two calls from her because I was asleep. When she called the third time, furious, I said, “Didn’t you get my note?”
Then I remembered I hadn’t left one.
She practically growled. “No, I did not see any note. Don’t you ever leave in the middle of the night without telling me again, Bel y.”
“Even if I’m just going for a midnight stroll?” I joked. Making my mother laugh was a sure thing.She would lose her temper when I cracked a joke. I started singing a Patsy Cline tune she liked. “I go for a walk after midnight, under the light of the moon—”
“Not funny. Where are you?” Her voice was tight, clipped.
I hesitated. There was nothing my mother hated worse than a liar. She’d find out anyway. She was like a psychic. “Um. Cousins?”
I heard her take a breath. “With who?”
I looked over at him. He was listening intently. I wished he wasn’t. “Conrad,” I said, lowering my voice.
Her reaction surprised me. I heard her breathe again, but this time it was a little sigh, like a sigh of relief. “You’re with Conrad?”
“How is he?” It was a strange question, what with her in the middle of being mad at me.
I smiled at him and fanned my face like I was relieved. He winked at me. “Great,” I said, relaxing.
“Good. Good,” she said, but it was like she was talking to herself. “Bel y, I want you home tonight. Are we clear?”
“Yes,” I said. I was grateful. I thought she’d demand that we leave right away.
“Tell Conrad to drive carefully.” She paused. “And Bel y?”
“Yes, Laurel?” She always smiled when I called her by her first name. “Have fun. This will be your last fun day for a long, long time.”
I groaned. “Am I grounded?” Being grounded was a novelty; my mother had never grounded me before, but I guess I had never given her a reason to.
“That is a very stupid question.”
Now that she wasn’t mad anymore, I couldn’t resist. “I thought you said there were no stupid questions?”
She hung up the phone. But I knew I had made her smile.
I closed my phone and faced Conrad. “What do we do now?”
“Whatever we want.”
“I want to go on the beach.”
So that’s what we did. We got bundled up and we ran on the beach in rain boots we found in the mud room.I was slipping in the sand because the shoes Susannah gave me were two sizes too big. Twice, I landed on my butt. The wind was so loudly roaring that I could hardly hear myself giggling the entire time. When we came back inside, I put my freezing hands on his cheeks and instead of pushing them away, he said, “Ahh, feels good.”
I laughed and said, “That’s because you’re coldhearted.”
He put my hands in his coat pockets and said in a voice so soft I wondered if I heard him right, “For everyone else, maybe. But not for you.” He didn’t look at me when he said it, which is how I knew he meant it.
I didn’t know what to say, so instead, I got on my tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. It was cold and smooth against my lips.
Conrad smiled briefly and then started walking away. “Are you cold?” he asked his back to me.
“Sort of,” I said. I was blushing. “I’l build another fire,” he said.
While he worked on the fire, I found an old box of Swiss Miss hot chocolate in the pantry, next to the Twinings teas and my mother’s Chock full of ’Nuts coffee.
Susannah used to make us hot chocolate on rainy nights when there was a chill in the air. She used milk, but of course, there wasn’t any, so I used water.
As I sat on the couch and stirred my cup, watching the mini marshmallows disintegrate, I could feel my heart beating, like, a million times a minute.
When I was with him, I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.
Conrad didn’t stop moving around. He was ripping up pieces of paper, he was poking at the embers, he was squatting in front of the fireplace, shifting his weight back and forth.
“Do you want your cocoa?” I asked him. He looked back at me. “Okay, sure.”
He sat next to me on the couch and drank from the Simpsons mug. It had always been his favorite. “This tastes—”
We looked at each other and laughed. “For your information, cocoa is my specialty. And you’re welcome,” I said, taking my first sip. It did taste a little dusty.
He peered at me and tipped my face up. Then he reached out and rubbed my cheek with his thumb like he was wiping away soot. “Do I have cocoa powder on my face?” I asked, suddenly paranoid.
“No,” he said. “Just some dirt—oops, I mean, freckles.”
I laughed and slapped him on the arm, and then he grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to him. He pushed my hair out of my eyes, and I worried he could hear the way I drew my breath in when he touched me.
It was getting darker and darker outside. Conrad sighed and said, “I’d better get you back.”
I looked down at my watch. It was five o’clock. “Yeah … I guess we’d better go. ”Neither of us moved. He reached out and wound my hair around his fingers like a spool of yarn. “I love how soft your hair is,” he said.
“Thanks,” I whispered. I’d never thought of my hair as anything special. It was just hair. And it was brown, and brown wasn’t as special as blond or black or red.
But the way he looked at it … at me. Like it held some kind of fascination for him, like he would never get tired of touching it.
We kissed again, but it was different than the night before. There was nothing slow or lazy about it. The way he looked at me—urgent, wanting me, needing me … it was like a drug. It was want-want-want. But it was me who was doing the wanting most of all.
When I pulled him closer, when I put my hands underneath his shirt and up his back, he shivered for a second. “Are my hands too cold?” I asked.
“No,” he said. Then he let go of me and sat up. His face was sort of red and his hair was sticking up in the back. He said, “I don’t want to rush anything.”
I sat up too. “But I thought you already—” I didn’t know how to finish the sentence. This was so embarrassing. I’d never done this before.
Conrad turned even redder. He said, “Yeah, I mean, I have. But you haven’t.”
“Oh,” I said, looking down at my sock. Then I looked up. “How do you know I haven’t?”
Now he looked red as a beet and he stuttered, “I just thought you hadn’t—I mean, I just assumed—”
“You thought I hadn’t done anything before, right?” “Well , yeah. I mean, no.”
“You shouldn’t make assumptions like that,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He hesitated. “So—you have then?” I just looked at him.
When he opened his mouth to speak, I stopped him. I said, “I haven’t. Not even close.”
Then I leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. It felt like a privilege just to be able to do that, to kiss him whenever I wanted. “You’re real and sweet to me,” I whispered, and I felt so glad and grateful to be there, in that moment.
His eyes were dark and serious when he said, “I just—want to always know that you’re okay. It’s important to me.”
“I am okay,” I said. “I’m better than okay.”
Conrad nodded. “Good,” he said. He stood and gave me his hand to help me up. “Let’s get you home, then.” I didn’t get home that night until after midnight. We stopped and got dinner at a diner off the highway. I ordered pancakes and French fries, and he paid. When I got home, my mother was so mad. But I didn’t regret it. I never regretted it, not for one second. How do you regret one of the best nights of your entire life? You don’t. You remember every word, every look. Even when it hurts, you still remember.
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- Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 1
- Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 2
- Its Not Summer Without You PDF Chapter 3
- Its Not Summer Without You Book Chapter 4
- Its Not Summer Without You Free PDF Chapter 5
- Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 6
- Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 7
- Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 8 Free Read Online
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