The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 12 Read Online

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Mr. Fisher would pop in throughout the summer, an occasional weekend, and always the first week of August. He was a banker, and getting away for any real length of time was, according to him, simply impossible. And anyway, it was better without him there, when it was just us. When Mr.

Fisher came to town, which wasn’t very often, I stood up a little straighter.

Everyone did. Well, except Susannah and my mother, of course. The funny thing was, my mother had known Mr. Fisher for as long as Susannah had the three of them had gone to college together, and their school was small.

Susannah always told me to call Mr. Fisher “Adam,” but I could never do it. It just didn’t sound right. Mr. Fisher was what sounded right, so that’s what I called him, and that’s what Steven called him too. I think something about him inspired people to call him that, and not just kids, either. I think he preferred it that way.

He’d arrive at dinnertime on Friday night, and we’d wait for him. Susannah would fix his favorite drink and have it ready, ginger and Maker’s Mark. My mother teased her for waiting on him, but Susannah didn’t mind. My mother teased Mr. Fisher, too, in fact. He teased her right back. Maybe teasing isn’t the right word. It was more like bickering. They bickered a lot, but they smiled, too. It was funny: My mother and father had rarely argued, but they hadn’t smiled that much either.

I guess Mr. Fisher was good-looking, for a dad. He was better-looking than my father anyway, but he was also vainer than him. I don’t know that he was as good-looking as Susannah was beautiful, but that might’ve just been because I loved Susannah more than almost anyone, and who could ever measure up to a person like that? Sometimes it’s like people are a million times more beautiful to you in your mind. It’s like you see them through a special lens–but maybe if it’s how you see them, that’s how they really are.

It’s like the whole tree falling in the forest thing.

Mr. Fisher gave us kids a twenty anytime we went anywhere. Conrad was always in charge of it. “For ice cream,” he’d say. “Buy yourselves something sweet.” Something sweet. It was always something sweet. Conrad worshipped him. His dad was his hero. For a long time, anyway. Longer than most people. I think my dad stopped being my hero when I saw him with one of his Ph.D. students after he and my mother separated. She wasn’t even pretty.

It would be easy to blame my dad for the whole thing–the divorce, the new apartment. But if I blamed anyone, it was my mother. Why did she have to be so calm, so placid? At least my father cried. At least he was in pain. My mother said nothing, revealed nothing. Our family broke up, and she just went on. It wasn’t right.

When we got home from the beach that summer, my dad had already moved out–his first-edition Heming ways, his chess set, his Billy Joel CDs, Claude. Claude was his cat, and he belonged to my dad in a way that he didn’t to anyone else. It was only right that he took Claude. Still, I was sad. In a way, Claude being gone was almost worse than my dad, because Claude was so permanent in the way he lived in our house, the way he inhabited every single space. It was like he owned the place.

My dad took me out for lunch to Applebee’s, and he said, apologetically, “I’m sorry I took Claude. Do you miss him?” He had Russian dressing on his beard, newly grown out, for most of the lunch. It was annoying. The beard was annoying; the lunch was annoying.

“No,” I said. I couldn’t look up from my French onion soup. “He’s yours anyway.”

So my father got Claude, and my mother got Steven and me. It worked out for everyone. We saw my father most weekends. We’d stay at his new apartment that smelled like mildew, no matter how much incense he lit.

I hated incense, and so did my mother. It made me sneeze. I think it made my father feel independent and exotic to light all the incense he wanted, in his new pad, as he called it. As soon as I walked into the apartment, I said accusingly, “Have you been lighting incense in here?” Had he forgotten about my allergy already?

Guiltily, my father admitted that yes, he had lit some; incense, but he wouldn’t do it anymore. He still did, though. He did it when I wasn’t there, out the window, but I could still smell the stuff.

It was a two-bedroom apartment; he slept in the master bedroom, and I slept in the other one in a little twin bed with pink sheets. My brother slept on the pullout couch. Which, I was actually jealous of because he got to stay up watching TV. All my room had was a bed and a white dresser set that I barely even used. Only one drawer had clothes in it. The rest were empty.

There was a bookshelf too, with books my father had bought for me. My father was always buying me books. He kept hoping I’d turn out smart like him, someone who loved words, and loved to read. I did like to read, but not the way he wanted me to. Not in the way of being, like, a scholar. I liked novels, not nonfiction. And I hated those scratchy pink sheets. If he had asked me, I would have told him yellow, not pink.

He did try, though. In his own way, he tried. He bought a secondhand piano and crammed it into the dining room, just for me. So I could still practice even when I stayed over there, he said. I hardly did, though– the piano was out of tune, and I never had the heart to tell him.

It’s part of why I longed for summer. It meant I didn’t have to stay at my father’s sad little apartment. It wasn’t that I didn’t like seeing him: I did. I missed him so much. But that apartment was depressing. I wished I could see him at our house. Our real house. I wished it could be like it used to be.

And since my mother had us most of the summer, he took Steven and me on a trip when we got back. Usually, it was to Florida to see our grandmother.

We called her Granna. It was a depressing trip too–Granna spent the whole time trying to convince him to get back together with my mother, whom she adored. “Have you talked with Laurel lately?” she’d ask, even way long after the divorce.

I hated hearing her nag him about it; it wasn’t like it was in his control anyway. It was humiliating because it was my mother who had split up with him. It was she who had precipitated the divorce, had pushed the whole thing, I knew that much for sure. My father would have been perfectly content carrying on, living in our blue two-story with Claude and all his books. My dad once told me that Winston Churchill said that Russia was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. According to my dad, Churchill had been talking about my mother. This was before the divorce, and he said it half-bitterly, half-respectfully. Because even when he hated her, he admired her.

I think he would have stayed with her forever, trying to figure out the mystery. He was a puzzle solver, the kind of person who likes theorems, and theories. X always had to equal something. It couldn’t just be X.

To me, my mother wasn’t that mysterious. She was my mother. Always reasonable, always sure of herself. To me, she was about as mysterious as a glass of water. She knew what she wanted; she knew what she didn’t want.

And that was to be married to my father. I wasn’t sure if it was that she fell out of love or if it was that she just never was. In love, I mean.

When we were at Granna’s, my mother took off on one of her trips. She’d go to far-off places like Hungary or Alaska. She always went alone. She took pictures, but I never asked to look at them, and she never asked if I wanted to.

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