The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 17 Read Online

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A few days after we shared Twizzlers at the movies Jeremiah announced, “I’m gonna teach Belly how to drive stick shift today.”

“Do you mean it?” I said eagerly. It was a clear day; the first all week. A perfect day for driving. It was Jeremiah’s day off, and I couldn’t believe he was willing to spend it teaching me how to drive stick. I’d been begging him since last year to teach me–Steven had tried and had given up after our third lesson.

Steven shook his head and took a swig of orange juice from the carton on the table. “Do you want to die, man? Because Belly will kill you both, not to mention your clutch. Don’t do it. I’m telling you this as your friend.”

“Shut up, Steven!” I yelled, kicking him under the table. “Just ’cause you’re a terrible teacher …” Steven had refused to get into a car with me again after I’d accidentally gotten a teeny-tiny dent in his fender when he was teaching me how to parallel park.

“I’m confident in my teaching skills,” Jeremiah said. “By the time I’m finished with her, she’ll be better than you.

Steven snorted. “Good luck. “Then he frowned. “How long are you gonna be gone? I thought we were going to the driving range.”

“You could come with us,” I offered.

Steven ignored me and said to Jeremiah, “You need to practice your swing, dude.”

I glanced at Jeremiah, who looked at me and hesitated. “I’ll be back by lunch. We can go after,” he said.

Steven rolled his eyes. “Fine.” I could tell he was annoyed and a little hurt, which made me feel both smug and sorry for him. He wasn’t used to being left out of things the way I was.

We went out to practice on the road that led down to the other side of the beach. It was quiet. There was no one else out on the road, just us. We listened to Jeremiah’s old Nevermind CD from a million years ago.

“It’s hot when a girl can drive stick,” Jeremiah explained above Kurt Cobain. “It shows she’s confident, she knows what she’s doing.”

I put the car into first gear and eased my foot off the clutch. “I thought boys liked it when girls were helpless.”

“They like that too. But I just happen to prefer smart, confident girls.” “Bull. You liked Taylor, and she’s not like that.”

He groaned and stuck his arm out the window. “Do you have to bring that up again?”

“I’m just saying. She wasn’t that smart and confident.”

“Maybe not, but she definitely knew what she was doing,” he said, before exploding into laughter.

I hit him on the arm, hard. “You’re so gross,” I said. “And you’re also a liar. I know for a fact that you guys didn’t even get to second.”

He stopped laughing. “Okay, fine. We didn’t. But she was a good kisser. She tasted like Skittles.”

Taylor loved Skittles. She was always popping them into her mouth, like vitamins, like they were good for her. I wondered how I’d stacked up against Taylor if he thought I’d been a good kisser too.

He must have seen it on my face when I took a glimpse at him because he grinned and continued, “But you, you were the best, Bells.”

I punched him on the arm, and even then he didn’t stop laughing. He just laughed harder. “Don’t take your foot off the clutch,” he said, gasping with laughter.

I was kind of surprised he even remembered. I mean, it had been memorable for me, but it had been my first kiss and it had been Jeremiah.

But the fact that he remembered, that sort of made his laughing okay.

“You were my first kiss,” I said. I felt like I could say anything to him at that moment. It felt like how it used to be with us before we grew up and things got complicated. It felt easy and friendly and normal.

He looked away, embarrassed. “Yeah, I know.”

“How did you know?” I demanded. Had I been that awful at kissing that he’d suspected? How humiliating.

“Um, Taylor told me. Afterward.”

“What! I can’t believe she did that. That Judas!” I almost stopped the car. Actually, I could believe it. But it still felt like a betrayal.

“It’s no big deal.” But his cheeks were patchy and pink. “I mean, the first time I kissed a girl was a joke. She kept telling me I was doing it wrong.”

“Who? Who was your first kiss?”

“You don’t know her. It doesn’t matter.” “Come on,” I wheedled. “Tell me.”

We stalled out then, and Jeremiah said, “Just put your foot on the clutch and put it in neutral.”

“Not until you tell me.”

“Fine. It was Christi Turnduck,” he said, ducking his head.

“You kissed Turducken?” Now I was laughing. I did so know Christi

Turnduck. She used to be a Cousins Beach regular just like us, only she lived there year round.

“She had a big crush on me,” Jeremiah said, shrugging his shoulders. . “Did you tell Con and Steven?”

“Hell, no, I didn’t tell them I kissed Turducken!” he said. “And you better not either! Pinky promise.”

I offered him my pinky, and we shook on it.

“Christi Turnduck. She did kiss nice. She taught me everything I know. I wonder what ever happened to her.”

I wondered if Turducken had been a better kisser than me too. She must have been, if she had taught Jeremiah.

We stalled out again. “This sucks. I quit.”

“There’s no quitting in driving,” Jeremiah ordered. Come on.

I sighed and started the car up again. Two hours later, I had it. Sort of. I still stalled out, but I was getting somewhere. I was driving. Jeremiah said I was a natural.

By the time we got back to the house, it was after four and Steven had left.

I guessed he’d gotten tired of waiting and had gone to the driving range by himself. My mother and Susannah were watching old movies in Susannah’s room. It was dark, and they had the curtains drawn.

I walked into the room, and Susannah said, “Belly! Come watch movies with us.”

I crawled into bed in between the two of them. Lying on the bed in the

semi-dark, it felt cozy, like we were in a cave. “Jeremiah’s been teaching me how to drive,” I told them.

“Darling boy,” Susannah said, smiling faintly. “Brave, too,” my mother said. She tweaked my nose.

I snuggled under the comforter. He was pretty great. It had been nice of him to take me out driving when no one else would. Just because I’d banged up the car a few times, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to end up being an excellent driver like everyone else. Thanks to him, I could drive stick now. I was going to be one of those confident girls, the kind who knows what she’s doing. When I got my license, I would drive up to Susannah’s house and take Jeremiah for a drive, to thank him.

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