The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 18 Read Online

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After Taylor got out of the shower, she started rummaging through her duffel bag and I lay on my bed and watched her. She pulled out three different sundresses–one white eyelet, one Hawaiian print, and one black linen. “Which one should I wear tonight?” she asked me. She asked the question like it was a test.

I was tired of her tests and having to prove myself all the time. I said, “We’re just eating dinner, Taylor. We’re not going anywhere special.”

She shook her head at me, and the towel on her head bounced back and forth. “We’re going to the boardwalk tonight, though, remember? We have to look cute for that. There’ll be boys there. Let me pick out your outfit, okay?”

It used to be that when Taylor picked out my clothes, I felt like the nerdy girl transformed at the prom, in a good way. Now it felt like I was her clueless mom who didn’t know how to dress right.

I hadn’t brought any dresses with me. In fact, I never had. I never even thought to. I only had two dresses at home–one my grandmother bought me for Easter and one I had to buy for eighth-grade graduation. Nothing seemed to fit me right lately. Things were either too long in the crotch or too tight in the waist. I had never thought much about dresses, but looking at hers all laid out on the bed like that, I was jealous.

“I’m not getting dressed up for the boardwalk,” I told her.

“Let me just see what you have,” she said, walking over to my closet.

“Taylor, I said no! This is what I’m wearing.” I gestured at my cutoff shorts and Cousins Beach T-shirt.

Taylor made a face, but she backed away from my closet and went back to her three sundresses. “Fine. Have it your way, grumpy. Now, which one should I wear?”

I sighed. “The black one,” I said, closing my eyes. “Now hurry up and put some clothes on.”

Dinner that night was scallops and asparagus. When my mother cooked, it was always some sort of seafood with lemon and olive oil and a vegetable.

Every time. Susannah only cooked every once in a while, so besides the first night, which was always bouillabaisse, you never knew what you were going to get. She might spend the whole afternoon puttering around the kitchen, making something I’d never had before, like Moroccan chicken with figs.

She’d pull out her spiral bound Junior League cookbook that had buttery pages and notes in the margins, the one my mother made fun of. Or she might make American cheese omelets with ketchup and toast. Us kids were

supposedly in charge of one night a week too, and that usually meant hamburgers or frozen pizza. But most nights, we ate whatever we wanted, whenever we felt like eating. I loved that about the summer house. At home, we had dinner every night at six thirty, like clockwork. Here, it was like everything just kind of relaxed, even my mother.

Taylor leaned forward and said, “Laurel, what’s the craziest thing you and Susannah did when you were our age?” Taylor talked to people like she was at a slumber party, always. Adults, boys, the cafeteria lady, everyone.

My mother and Susannah looked at each other and smiled. They knew, but they weren’t telling. My mother wiped her mouth with her napkin and said, “We snuck onto the golf course one night and planted daisies.”

I knew that wasn’t the truth, but Steven and Jeremiah laughed. Steven said in his annoying know-it-all kind of way, “You guys were boring even when you were teenagers.”

“I think it’s really sweet,” Taylor said, squirting a glob of ketchup onto her plate. Taylor ate everything with ketchup–eggs, pizza, pasta, everything.

Conrad, who I thought hadn’t even been listening, said, “You guys are lying. That wasn’t the craziest thing you ever did.”

Susannah put her hands up, like, I surrender. “Mothers get to have secrets too,” she said. “I don’t ask you boys about your secrets, now, do I?”

“Yes, you do,” said Jeremiah. He pointed his fork at her. “You ask all the time. If I had a journal, you would read it.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” she protested. My mother said, “Yes, you would.”

Susannah glared at my mother. “I would never.” Then she looked at

Conrad and Jeremiah sitting next to each other. “Fine, I might, but only Conrad’s. He’s so good at keeping everything locked inside, I never know what he’s thinking. But not you, Jeremiah. You, my baby boy, wear your heart right here.” She reached over and touched his sweatshirt sleeve.

“No, I don’t,” he protested, stabbing a scallop on his plate. “I have secrets.”

That’s when Taylor said, “Sure you do, Jeremy,” in this really sickeningly flirtatious way.

He grinned at her, which made me want to choke on my asparagus.

That’s when I said, “Taylor and I are going to go to the boardwalk tonight. Will one of you guys drop us off?”

Before my mother or Susannah could answer, Jeremiah said, “Ooh, the boardwalk. I think we should go to the boardwalk too.” Turning to Conrad and Steven, he added, “Right, guys?” Normally I would have been thrilled that any of them wanted to go somewhere I was going, but not this time. I knew it wasn’t for me.

I looked at Taylor, who was suddenly busy cutting up her scallops into tiny bite-size pieces. She knew it was for her too.

“The boardwalk sucks,” said Steven. Conrad said, “Not interested.”

“Who invited you guys anyway?” I said.

Steven rolled his eyes. “No one invites anyone to the boardwalk. You just go. It’s a free country.”

“Is it a free country?” my mother mused. “I want you to really think about that statement, Steven. What about our civil liberties? Are we really free if– “

“Laurel, please,” Susannah said, shaking her head. “Let’s not talk politics at the dinner table.”

“I don’t know of a better time for political discourse,” my mother said calmly. Then she looked at me. I mouthed, Please stop, and she sighed. It was better to stop her right away before she really got going. “Okay, fine. Fine.

No more politics. I’m going to the bookstore downtown. I’ll drop you guys off on the way.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I said. “It’ll be just Taylor and me.”

Jeremiah ignored me and turned to Steven and Conrad. “Come on, guys,”

he said. “It’ll be amazing.” Taylor had been calling everything amazing all day.

“Fine, but I’m going to the arcade,” said Steven.

“Con?” Jeremiah looked at Conrad, who shook his head.

“Come on, Con,” Taylor said, poking at him with her fork. “Come with us.”

He shook his head, and Taylor made a face. “Fine. We’ll be sure to have lots of fun without you.”

Jeremiah said, “Don’t worry about him. He’s gonna have lots of fun here, reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” Conrad ignored this, but Taylor giggled and tucked her hair behind her ears, which is when I knew that she liked Jeremiah now.

Then Susannah said, “Don’t leave without some money for ice cream.” I could tell she was happy we were all hanging out, except for Conrad, who seemed to prefer hanging out by himself this summer. Nothing made

Susannah happier than thinking up activities for us kids to do. I think that she would have made a really good camp director.

In the car we waited for my mother and the boys to come out, and I whispered, “I thought you liked Conrad.”

Taylor rolled her eyes. “Blah. He’s boring. I think I’ll like Jeremy instead.”

“His name is Jeremiah,” I said sourly. “I know that.” Then she looked at me, and her eyes widened. “Why, do you like him now?”


She let out an impatient breath of air. “Belly, you’ve got to pick one. You can’t have them both.”

“I know that,” I snapped. “And for your information, I don’t want either of them. It’s not like they look at me like that anyway. They look at me like Steven does. Like a little sister.”

Taylor tugged at my T-shirt collar. “Well, maybe if you showed a little cleave . . .”

I shrugged her hand away. “I’m not showing any ‘cleave.’ And I told you I don’t like either of them. Not anymore.”

“So you don’t care that I’m going after Jeremy?” she asked. I could tell the only reason she was asking was so she could absolve herself of any future guilt. Not that she would even feel guilty.

So I said, “If I told you I cared, would you stop?”

She thought for, like, a second. “Probably. If you really, really cared. But then I would just go after Conrad. I’m here to have fun, Belly.”

I sighed. At least she was honest. I wanted to say, I thought you were here to have fun with me. But I didn’t.

“Go after him,” I told her. “I don’t care.”

Taylor wiggled her eyebrows at me, her old trademark move. “Yay! It is so on.”

“Wait.” I grabbed her wrist. “Promise me you’ll be nice to him.”

“Of course I’ll be nice. I’m always nice.” She patted me on the shoulder. “You’re such a worrier, Belly. I told you, I just want to have fun.”

That’s when my mother and the boys came out, and for the first time there was no fight over shotgun. Jeremiah gave it over to Steven easily.

When we got to the boardwalk, Steven headed straight for the arcade and spent the whole night there. Jeremiah walked around with us, and he even rode the carousel, even though I knew he thought it was lame. He got all stretched out on the sleigh and pretended to take a nap while Taylor and I bounced up and down on horses, mine a blond palomino and hers a black stallion . (Black Beauty was still her favorite book, although she’d never admit it.) Then Taylor made him win her a stuffed Tweety Bird with the quarter toss. Jeremiah was a pro at the quarter toss. The Tweety Bird was huge, almost as tall as she was. He carried it for her.

I should never have gone along. I could have predicted the whole night, right down to how invisible I’d feel. All the time I wished I was at home, listening to Conrad play the guitar through my bedroom wall, or watching Woody Allen movies with Susannah and my mother. And I didn’t even like Woody Allen. I wondered if this was how the rest of the week was going to be. I’d forgotten that about Taylor, the way she got when she wanted

something–driven, single-minded, and determined as all get-out. She’d just arrived, and already she’d forgotten about me.

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