Jenny Han The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 14 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 14 of The Summer I Turned Pretty Book by Jenny Han for free.

The first time they did it, they thought we didn’t know. It was actually pretty stupid of them because it was one of those rare nights when we were all at home. We were in the living room. Conrad was listening to music with his headphones on, and Jeremiah and Steven were playing a video game. I was sitting on the La-Z-Boy reading Emma –mostly because I thought it made me look smart, not really because I enjoyed it. If I was reading for real, I would be locked in my room with Flowers in the Attic or something and not Jane Austen.

I think Steven smelled it first. He looked around, sniffed like a dog, and then said, “Do you guys smell that?”

“I told you not to eat all those baked beans, Steven,” Jeremiah said, his eyes focused on the TV screen.

I snickered. But it wasn’t gas; I smelled it too. It was pot. “It’s pot,” I said, loudly. I wanted to be the one who said it first, to prove how sophisticated and knowledgeable I was.

“No way,” said Jeremiah.

Conrad took off his headphones and said, “Belly’s right. It’s pot.”

Steven paused the game and turned to look at me. “How do you know what pot smells like, Belly?” he asked me suspiciously.

“Because, Steven, I get high all the time. I’m a burn-out. You didn’t know?” I hated it when Steven pulled the big brother routine, especially in front of Conrad and Jeremiah. It was like he was trying to make me feel small on purpose.

He ignored me. “Is that coming from upstairs?”

“It’s my mom’s,” Conrad said, putting his headphones back on again. “For her chemo.”

Jeremiah didn’t know, I could tell. He didn’t say anything, but he looked confused and even hurt, the way he scratched the back of his neck and looked off into space for a minute. Steven and I exchanged a look. It was awkward, whenever Susannah’s cancer came up, the two of us being outsiders and all.

We never knew what to say, so we didn’t say anything. We mostly pretended it wasn’t happening, the way Jeremiah did.

My mother didn’t, though. She was matter-of-fact, >calm, the way she is about everything. Susannah said my mother made her feel normal. My mother was good at that, making people feel normal. Safe. As long as she was there, nothing truly bad could happen.

When they came downstairs a little while later, they were giggling like two teenagers who had snuck into their parents’ liquor cabinet. Clearly, my mother had partaken in Susannah’s stash as well.

Steven and I exchanged another look, this time a horrified one. My mother was probably the last person on earth who would smoke pot, with the exception of our grandmother Gran, her mother.

“Did you kids eat all the Cheetos?” my mother asked, rummaging through a cabinet. “I’m starving.”

“Yes,” Steven said. He couldn’t even look at her.

“What about that bag of Fritos? Get those,” Susannah ordered, coming up behind my La-Z-Boy. She touched my hair lightly, which I loved. Susannah was much more affectionate than my mother in those kinds of ways, and she was always calling me the daughter she never had. She loved sharing me with my mother, and my mother didn’t mind. Neither did I.

“How are you liking Emma so far?” she asked me. Susannah had a way of focusing on you that made you feel like the most interesting person in the room.

I opened my mouth to lie and tell her how great I thought it was, but before I could, Conrad said very loudly, “She hasn’t turned a page in over an hour.” He was still wearing his headphones.

I glared at him, but inside I was thrilled that he had noticed. For once, he had been watching me. But of course he’d noticed–Conrad noticed everything. Conrad would notice if the neighbor’s dog had more crust in its right eye than its left, or if the pizza delivery guy was driving a different car.

It wasn’t really a compliment to be noticed by Conrad. It was a matter of fact.

“You’ll love it once it gets going,” Susannah assured me, sweeping my bangs across my forehead.

“It always takes me a while to get into a book,” I said, in a way that sounded like I was saying sorry. I didn’t want her to feel bad, seeing as how she was the one who’d recommended it to me.

Then my mother came into the room with a bag of Twizzlers and the half-eaten bag of Fritos. She tossed a Twizzler at Susannah and said, belatedly, “Catch!”

Susannah reached for it, but it fell on the floor, and she giggled as she picked it up. “Clumsy me,” she said, chewing on one end like it was straw and she was a hick. “Whatever has gotten into me?”

“Mom, everyone knows you guys were smoking pot upstairs,” Conrad said, just barely bobbing his head to the music that only he could hear.

Susannah covered her mouth with her hand. She didn’t say anything, but she looked genuinely upset.

“Whoops,” my mother said. “I guess the cat’s out of the bag, Beck. Boys, your mother’s been taking medicinal marijuana to help with the nausea from her chemo.”

Steven didn’t look away from the TV when he said, “What about you, Mom? Are you taking up because of your chemo too?”

I knew he was trying to lighten the mood, and it worked. Steven was good at that.

Susannah choked out a laugh, and my mother threw a Twizzler at the back of Steven’s head. “Smart-ass. I’m offering moral support to my best friend in the world. There are worse things.”

Steven picked the Twizzler up and dusted it off before popping it into his mouth. “So I guess it’s okay with you if I smoke up too?”

“When you get breast cancer,” my mother told him, exchanging a smile with Susannah, her best friend in the world.

“Or when your best friend does,” Susannah said.

Throughout all of this, Jeremiah wasn’t saying anything. He just kept looking at Susannah and then back at the TV, like he was worried she would vanish into thin air while his back was turned.

Our mothers thought we were all at the beach that afternoon. They didn’t know that Jeremiah and I had gotten bored and decided to come back to the house for a snack. As we walked up the porch steps, we heard them talking through the window screen.

Jeremiah stopped when he heard Susannah say, “Laur, I hate myself for even thinking this, but I almost think I’d rather die than lose my breast.”

Jeremiah stopped breathing as he stood there, listening. Then he sat down, and I did too.

My mother said, “I know you don’t mean that.”

I hated it when my mother said that, and I guessed Susannah did too because she said, “Don’t tell me what I mean,” and I’d never heard her voice like that before– harsh, angry.

“Okay. Okay. I won’t.”

Susannah started to cry then. And even though we couldn’t see them, I knew that my mother was rubbing Susannah’s back in wide circles, the same way she did mine when I was upset.

I wished I could do that for Jeremiah. I knew it would make him feel better, but I couldn’t. Instead, I reached over and grabbed his hand, and squeezed it tight. He didn’t look at me, but he didn’t let go either. This was the moment when we became true, real friends.

Then my mother said in her most serious, most deadpan voice, “Your boobs really are pretty goddamn amazing.”

Susannah burst out into laughter that sounded like a seal barking, and then she was laughing and crying at the same time. Everything was going to be okay. If my mother was cussing, if Susannah was laughing, it would all be fine.

I let go of Jeremiah’s hand and stood up. He did too. We walked back to the beach, neither of us saying anything. What was there to say? “Sorry, your mom has cancer”? “I hope she doesn’t lose a boob”?

When we got back to our stretch of beach, Conrad and Steven had just come out of the water with their boogie boards. We still weren’t saying anything, and Steven noticed. I guessed Conrad did too, but he didn’t say anything. It was Steven who said, “What’s with you guys?”

“Nothing,” I said, pulling my knees to my chest.

“Did you guys just have your first kiss or something?” he said, shaking water off his trunks and onto my knees.

“Shut up,” I told him. I was tempted to pants him just to change the subject. The summer before, the boys had gone through an obsession with pantsing one another in public. I had never participated, but at that moment I really wanted to.

“Aww, I knew it!” he said, jabbing me in the shoulder. I shrugged him off and told him to shut up again. He started to sing, “Summer lovin’, had me a blast, summer lovin’, happened so fast . . .”

“Steven quit being dumb,” I said, turning to shake my head and roll my eyes with Jeremiah.

But then Jeremiah stood up, brushed sand off his shorts, and started walking toward the water and away from us, away from the house.

“Jeremiah, are you on your period or something? I was just kidding, man!”

Steven called to him. Jeremiah didn’t turn around; he just kept walking down the shore. “Come on!”

“Just leave him alone,” Conrad said. The two of them never seemed particularly close, but there were times when I saw how well they understood each other, and this was one of them. Seeing Conrad protective of Jeremiah made me feel this huge surge of love for him–it felt like a wave in my chest washing over me. Which then made me feel guilty, because why should I be feeding into a crush when Susannah had cancer?

I could tell Steven felt bad, and also confused. It was unlike Jeremiah to walk away. He was always the first to laugh, to joke right back.

And because I felt like rubbing salt in the wound, I said, “You’re such an asshole, Steven.”

Steven gaped at me. “Geez, what did I do?”

I ignored him fell back onto the towel and closed my eyes. I wished I had Conrad’s earphones. I kind of wanted to forget this day ever happened.

Later, when Conrad and Steven decided to go night fishing, Jeremiah declined, even though night fishing was his favorite. He was always trying to get people to go night fishing with him. That night he said he wasn’t in the mood. So they left, and Jeremiah stayed behind, with me. We watched TV and played cards.

We spent most of the summer doing that, just us. We cemented things between us that summer. He’d wake me up early some mornings, and we would go collect shells or sand crabs, or ride our bikes to the ice cream place three miles away. When it was just us two, he didn’t joke around as much, but he was still Jeremiah.

From that summer on I felt closer to Jeremiah than I did to my own brother. Jeremiah was nicer. Maybe because he was somebody’s little sibling too, or maybe just because he was that kind of person. He was nice to everybody. He had a talent for making people feel comfortable.

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