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The Summer I Turned Pretty Book Chapter 2: The first time I ever had my heart broken was at this house.
I was twelve.
It was one of those really rare nights when the boys weren’t all together—Steven and Jeremiah went on an overnight fishing trip with some boys they’d met at the arcade. Conrad said he didn’t feel like going, and of course, I wasn’t invited, so it was just me and him.
Well, not together, but in the same house.
I was reading a romance novel in my room with my feet on the wall when Conrad walked by. He stopped and said, “Belly, what are you doing tonight?”
I folded the cover of my book over quickly. “Nothing,” I said. I tried to keep my voice even, not too excited or eager. I had left my door open on purpose, hoping he’d stop by.
“Want to go to the boardwalk with me?” he asked. He sounded casual, almost too casual.
This was the moment I had been waiting for. This was it. I was finally old enough. Some part of me knew it too, it was ready. I glanced over at him, just as casual as he’d been. “Maybe. I have been craving a caramel apple.”
“I’ll buy one for you,” he offered. “Just hurry up and put some clothes on and we’ll go. Our moms are going to the movies; they’ll drop us off on the way.”
I sat up and said, “Okay.”
As soon as Conrad left, I closed my door and ran over to my mirror. I took my hair out of its braids and brushed it. It was long that summer, almost to my waist. Then I changed out of my bathing suit and put on white shorts and my favorite gray shirt. My dad said it matched my eyes. I smeared some strawberry frosting lip gloss on my lips and tucked the tube into my pocket, for later. In case I needed to reapply.
In the car Susannah kept smiling at me in the rearview mirror. I gave her a look like Quit, please—but I wanted to smile back. Conrad wasn’t paying attention anyway. He was looking out the window the whole ride there.
“Have fun, kids,” said Susannah, winking at me as I closed my door.
Conrad bought me a caramel apple first. He bought himself a soda, but that was it—usually, he ate at least an apple or two, or a funnel cake. He seemed nervous, which made me feel less nervous.
As we walked down the boardwalk, I let my arm hang loose — in case. But he didn’t reach for it. It was one of those perfect summer nights, the kind where there’s a cool breeze and not one drop of rain. There would be rain tomorrow, but that night there were cool breezes and that was it.
I said, “Let’s sit down so I can eat my apple,” so we did. We sat on a bench that faced the beach.
I bit into my apple, carefully; I was worried I might get caramel all stuck in my teeth, and then how would he kiss me?
He sipped his Coke noisily and then glanced down at his watch. “When you finish that, let’s go to the ring toss.”
He wanted to win me a stuffed animal! I already knew which one I’d pick too—the polar bear with wire-frame glasses and a scarf. I’d had my eye on it all summer. I could already picture myself showing it off to Taylor. Oh, that? Conrad Fisher won it for me.
I wolfed down the rest of my apple in about two bites. ‘“Kay,” I said, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. “Let’s go.”
Conrad walked straight over to the ringtoss, and I had to walk super quick to keep up. As usual, he wasn’t talking much, so I talked, even more, to make up for it. “I think when we get back, my mom might finally get cable. Steven and my dad and I have been trying to convince her forever. She claims to be so against TV, but then she watches movies on A&E, like, the whole time we’re here. It’s so hypocritical,” I said, and my voice trailed off when I saw that Conrad wasn’t even listening. He was watching the girl who worked the ringtoss.
She looked about fourteen or fifteen. The first thing I noticed about her was her shorts. They were canary yellow, and they were really, really short. The exact same kind of shorts that the boys had made fun of me for wearing two days before. I felt so good about buying those shorts with Susannah, and then the boys laughed at me for it. The shorts looked a whole lot better on her.
Her legs were skinny and freckled, and so were her arms. Everything about her was skinny, even her lips. Her hair was long and wavy. It was red, but it was so light it was almost peach. I think it might have been the prettiest hair I’d ever seen. She had it pulled over to the side, and it was so long that she had to keep flicking it away as she handed people rings.
Conrad had come to the boardwalk for her. He’d brought me because he hadn’t wanted to come alone and he hadn’t wanted Steven and Jeremiah to give him a hard time. That was it. That was the whole reason. I could see it all in the way he looked at her, the way he almost seemed to hold his breath.
“Do you know her?” I asked.
He looked startled, like he’d forgotten I was there. “Her? No, not really.”
I bit my lip. “Well, do you want to?”
“Do I want to what?” Conrad was confused, which was annoying.
“Do you want to know her?” I asked impatiently. 1 guess.
I grabbed him by his shirt sleeve and walked right up to the booth. The girl smiled at us, and I smiled back, but it was just for show. I was playing a part. “How many rings?” she asked. She had braces, but on her they looked interesting, like teeth jewelry, and not like orthodontics.
“We’ll take three,” I told her. “I like your shorts.”
“Thanks,” she said.
Conrad cleared his throat. “They’re nice.”
“I thought you said they were too short when I wore the exact same pair two days ago.” I turned to the girl and said, “Conrad is so overprotective. Do you have a big brother?”
She laughed. “No.” To Conrad, she said, “You think they’re too short?”
He blushed. I’d never seen him blush before, not in the whole time I’d known him. I had a feeling it might be the last time. I made a big show of looking at my watch and said, “Con, I’m gonna go ride the Ferris wheel before we leave. Win me a prize, okay?”
Conrad nodded quickly, and I said bye to the girl and left. I walked over to the Ferris wheel as fast as I could so they wouldn’t see me cry.
Later on, I found out the girl’s name was Angie. Conrad ended up winning me the polar bear with the wire-frame glasses and scarf. He said Angie told him it was the best prize they had. He said he thought I’d like it too. I told him I’d rather have had the giraffe, but thanks anyway. I named him Junior Mint, and I left him where he belonged, at the summer house.
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