Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 29 Free Read Online

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Its Not Summer Without You Chapter 29: When I finally went back downstairs, it was dark out and Jeremiah was back. He and Conrad were sitting on the couch, watching TV like the fight had never happened. I guessed it was that way with boys. Whenever Taylor and I fought, we were mad for at least a week and there was a power struggle over who got custody of which friends. “Whose side are you on?” we’d demand of Katie or Marcy. We’d say mean things that you can’t take back and then we’d cry and make up.

Somehow I doubted Conrad and Jeremiah had been crying and making up while I’d been upstairs.

I wondered if I was forgiven too, for keeping a secret from Jeremiah, for not taking a side—his side. Because it was true, we’d come here together as partners, a team, and when he’d needed me, I’d let him down. I lingered there by the stairs for a second, unsure of whether or not to go over, and then Jeremiah looked up at me and I knew I was. Forgiven, that is. He smiled, a real smile and a real Jeremiah smile was the kind that could melt ice cream. I smiled back, grateful as anything.

“I was just about to come get you,” he said. “We’re having a party.” There was a pizza box on the coffee table. “A pizza party?” I asked.

Susannah used to have pizza parties for us kids all the time. It was never just “pizza for dinner.” It was a pizza party. Except this time, with beer. And tequila.

So this was it. Our last night. It would have felt a lot more real if Steven had been there too. It would have felt complete, us four together again.

“I ran into some people in town. They’re gonna come over later and bring a keg.”

“A keg?” I repeated.

“Yeah. A keg, you know, of beer?” “Oh, right,” I said. “A keg.”

Then I sat down on the ground and opened the pizza box. There was one slice left, and it was a small one. “You guys are such pigs,” I said, stuffing it into my mouth.

“Whoops, sorry,” Jeremiah said. Then he went into the kitchen, and when he came back, he had three cups. He had one balanced in the crook of his elbow. He gave that one to me. “Cheers,” he said. He handed Conrad a cup too.

I sniffed it suspiciously. It was light brown with a lime wedge floating on top.

“Smel s strong,” I said.

“That’s because it’s tequila,” he sang. He lifted his cup in the air. “To the last night.”

“To the last night,” we repeated.

They both drank theirs in one shot. I took a teeny sip of mine, and it wasn’t too bad. I’d never had tequila before. I drank the rest quickly. “This is pretty good,” I said. “Not strong at all.”

Jeremiah burst out laughing. “That’s because yours is ninety-five percent water.”

Conrad laughed too, and I glared at them both. “That’s not fair,” I said. “I want to drink what you guys are drinking.”

“Sorry, but we don’t serve minors here,” Jeremiah said, falling next to me on the floor.

I punched him on the shoulder. “You’re a minor too, dummy. We all are.” “Yeah, but you’re really a minor,” he said. “My mom would kill me.”

It was the first time any of us had mentioned Susannah. My eyes darted over to Conrad, but his face was blank. I let out a breath. And then I had an idea, the best idea ever.I sprang up and unlocked the TV console’s doors. The DVDs and home videos were neatly labeled in Susannah’s slanted cursive handwriting, and I ran my fingers along the drawers containing them. What I was seeking for was discovered.

“What are you doing?” Jeremiah asked me.

“Just wait,” I said, my back to them. I turned on the TV and popped in the video.

On the screen, there was Conrad, age twelve. With braces and bad skin. He was lying on a beach blanket, scowling. He wouldn’t let anybody take a picture of him that summer.

Mr. Fisher was behind the camera, as always, saying, “Come on. Say ‘Happy Fourth of July,’ Connie.”

Jeremiah and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Conrad glared at us. He made a move for the remote, but Jeremiah got to it first. He held it above his head, laughing breathlessly. The two of them started wrestling around, and then they stopped.

The camera had focused in on Susannah, wearing her big beach hat and a long white shirt over her bathing suit.

“Suze, honey, how do you feel today, on our nation’s birthday?”

She rolled her eyes. “Give it a rest, Adam. Go videotape the kids.” And then from under her hat, she smiled—that slow, deep-down smile. It was the smile of a woman who really and truly loved the person holding the video camera.

Conrad stopped fighting for the remote and he watched for a moment, then he said, “Turn it off.”

Jeremiah said, “Come on, man. Let’s just watch.”

Conrad didn’t say anything but he didn’t stop watching either.

And then the camera was on me, and Jeremiah was laughing again. Conrad too. This was what I was waiting for. I knew it would get a laugh.

Me, wearing huge glasses and a rainbow-striped tankini, my round stomach popping over the bottoms like a four-year-old’s. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, running away from Steven and Jeremiah. They were chasing me with what they claimed was a jellyfish, but what I later found out was a clump of seaweed.

Jeremiah’s hair was white-blond in the sunlight, and he looked exactly the way I remembered.

“Bel s, you look like a beach ball ,” he said, gasping with laughter.

I laughed too, a little. “Watch it,” I said. “That summer was really great. All our summers here were really … great.”

Great didn’t even begin to describe them.

Silently, Conrad got up and then he came back with the tequila. He poured us each some, and this time mine wasn’t watered down.

We all took a shot together, and when I gulped mine down it burned so bad tears streamed down my face. Conrad and Jeremiah started cracking up again.

“Suck on the lime,” Conrad told me, so I did.

Soon I felt warm and lazy and great. I lay down on the floor with my hair fanned out and I stared up at the ceiling and watched the fan turn round and round.

When Conrad got up and went to the bathroom, Jeremiah rolled over to his side. “Hey, Bel y,” he said. “Truth or dare.”

“Don’t be dumb,” I said.

“Oh, come on. Play with me, Bel s. Please?” I rol ed my eyes and sat up. “Dare.”

His eyes had that trickster’s glint. I hadn’t seen that look in his eyes since before Susannah got sick again. “I dare you to kiss me, old-school style. I’ve learned a lot since the last time.”

I laughed. Whatever I had been expecting him to say, it hadn’t been that.

Jeremiah tilted his face up at me and I laughed again. I leaned forward, pulled his chin toward me, and kissed him on the cheek with a loud smack.

“Aw, man!” he protested. “That’s not a real kiss.” “You didn’t specify,” I said, and my face felt hot.

“Come on, Bel s,” he said. “That’s not how we kissed that other time.”

Conrad came back into the room then, wiping his hands on his jeans. He said, “What are you talking about, Jere? Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

I looked at Jeremiah, whose cheeks were flaming. “You have a girlfriend?” I heard the accusation in my voice and I hated it. It wasn’t like Jeremiah owed me anything. It wasn’t like he belonged to me. But he always let me feel like he did.

All this time together, and he never once mentioned that he had a girlfriend. I couldn’t believe it. I guessed I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets, and the thought made me sad.

“We broke up. She’s going to school at Tulane, and I’m staying around here.

We decided there’s no point in staying together.” He glared at Conrad and then glanced back at me. “And we’ve always been off and on. She’s crazy.”

I hated the idea of him with some crazy girl, some girl who he liked enough to go back to over and over. “Well, what’s her name?” I asked.

He hesitated. “Mara,” he said at last.

The alcohol in me gave me the courage to say, “Do you love her?” This time he didn’t hesitate. “No,” he said.

I picked at a pizza crust and said, “Okay, my turn. Conrad, truth or dare?”

He was lying on the couch facedown. “Never said I was playing.” “Chicken,” Jeremiah and I said together.

“Jinx,” we said at the same time.

“You guys are two-year-olds,” Conrad muttered.

Jeremiah got up and started doing his chicken dance. “Bock bock bock bock.”

“Truth or dare,” I repeated. Conrad groaned. “Truth.”

Conrad playing with us made me so happy that I was at a loss for questions. There were about a billion questions I wanted to ask him. If he had ever liked me, what had happened to us, and if any of it had been genuine, I wanted to ask him. But I was unable to ask those questions. I was aware of that despite the tequila haze I was in.

Instead, I asked, “Remember that summer you liked that girl who worked at the boardwalk? Angie?”

“No,” he said, but I knew he was lying. “What about her?” “Did you ever hook up with her?”

Conrad finally lifted his head up from the couch. “No,” he said. “I don’t believe you.”

“I tried, once. But she socked me in the head and said she wasn’t that kind of girl. I think she was a Jehovah’s Witness or something.”

Jeremiah and I busted up laughing. Jeremiah was laughing so hard, he doubled over and fell to his knees. “Oh, man,” he gasped. “That’s awesome.”

And it was. I knew it was only because he’d had about a case of beer, but Conrad loosening up, telling us things—it felt awesome. Like a miracle.

Conrad propped himself up on his elbow. “Okay. My turn.”

He was looking at me like we were the only two people in the room, and suddenly I was terrified. And elated. But then I looked over at Jeremiah, watching the two of us, and just as suddenly, I was neither.

Solemnly I said, “Nuh-uh. You can’t ask me, ’cause I just asked you. It’s the law.”

“The law?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” I said, leaning my head against the couch.

“Aren’t you at least curious about what I was going to ask?”

“Nope. Not even one iota.” Which was a lie. Of course I was curious. I was dying to know.

My knees trembled as I got up, so I reached over and added more tequila to my cup. I had dizziness. “To our final evening!”

“We already toasted to that, remember?” Jeremiah said.

I stuck my tongue out at him. “Okay, then.” The tequila made me feel brave again. This time, it let me say what I really wanted to say. What I’d been thinking all night. “Here’s to … here’s to everybody that isn’t here tonight.

To my mom, and to Steven, and to Susannah most of all . Okay?”

Conrad looked up at me. For a minute, I was afraid of what he would say. And then he lifted his cup too, and so did Jeremiah. We all swigged from our cups together, and it burned like liquid fire. I coughed a little.

When I sat back down I asked Jeremiah, “So, who’s coming to this party?” He shrugged. “Some kids from the country club pool from last summer.

They’re telling people too. Oh, and Mikey and Pete and those guys.”

I wondered who “Mikey and Pete and those guys” were. I also wondered if I should clean up before people came.

“What time are people coming over?” I asked Jeremiah. He shrugged. “Ten? Eleven?”

I jumped up. “It’s already almost nine! I have to get dressed.” Conrad said, “Aren’t you already dressed?”

I didn’t even bother to answer him. I just shot upstairs.

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