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The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 3: After I unpacked, I went straight down to the pool, where I knew the boys would be. They were lying around on the deck chairs, their dirty bare feet hanging off the edges.
As soon as Jeremiah saw me, he sprang up. “Ladies and Gentlemen-men-men,” he began dramatically, bowing like a circus ringmaster. “I do believe it is time … for our first belly flop of the summer.”
I inched away from them uneasily. Too fast a movement, and it would be all over—they’d chase me then. “No way,” I said.
Then Conrad and Steven stood up, circling me. “You can’t fight tradition,” Steven said. Conrad just grinned evilly.
“I’m too old for this,” I said desperately. I walked backward, and that’s when they grabbed me. Steven and Jeremiah each took a wrist.
“Come on, guys,” I said, trying to wriggle out of their grasp. I dragged my feet, but they pulled me along. I knew it was futile to resist, but I always tried, even though the bottoms of my feet got burned along the pavement in the process.
“Ready?” Jeremiah said, lifting me up under my armpits.
Conrad grabbed my feet, and then Steven took my right arm while Jeremiah hung on to my left. They swung me back and forth like I was a sack of flour. “I hate you guys,” I yelled over their laughter. “One,” Jeremiah began.
“Two,” Steven said.
“And three,” Conrad finished. Then they launched me into the pool, clothes and all. I hit the water with a loud smack. Underwater, I could hear them busting up.
The Belly Flop was something they’d started about a million summers ago. Probably it had been Steven. I hated it. Even though it was one of the only times I was included in their fun, I hated being the brunt of it. It made me feel utterly powerless, and it was a reminder that I was an outsider, too weak to fight them, all because I was a girl. Somebody’s little sister.
I used to cry about it and run to Susannah and my mother, but it didn’t do any good. The boys just accused me of being a tattletale. Not this time, though. This time I was going to be a good sport. If I was a good sport, maybe that would take away some of their joy.
When I came up to the surface, I smiled and said, “You guys are ten-year-olds.”
“For life,” Steven said smugly. His smudgy face made me want to splash him and soak him and his precious Hugo Boss sunglasses that he worked for three weeks to pay for.
Then I said, “I think you twisted my ankle, Conrad.” I pretended to have trouble swimming over to them.
He walked over to the edge of the pool. “I’m pretty sure you’ll live,” he said, smirking.
“At least help me out,” I demanded.
He squatted and gave me his hand, which I took.
“Thanks,” I said giddily. Then I gripped tight and pulled his arm as hard as I could. He stumbled, fell forward, and landed in the pool with a splash even bigger than mine. I think I laughed harder right then than I’ve laughed in my whole life. So did Jeremiah and Steven. I think maybe all of Cousins Beach heard us laughing.
Conrad’s head bobbed up quickly, and he swam over to me in about two strokes. I worried he might be mad, but he wasn’t, not completely. He was smiling but in a threatening kind of way. I dodged away from him. “Can’t catch me,” I said gleefully. “Too slow!”
Every time he came close, I swam -away. “Marco,” I called out, giggling. Jeremiah and Steven, who were headed back to the house, said, “Polo!”
Which made me laugh, which made me slow to swim away, and Conrad caught my foot. “Let go,” I gasped, still laughing.
Conrad shook his head. “I thought I was too slow,” he said, treading water closer to me. We were in the diving well. His white T-shirt was soaked through, and I could see the pinky gold of his skin.
There was this weird stillness between us all of a sudden. He still held on to my foot, and I was trying to stay afloat. For a second I wished Jeremiah and Steven were still there. I didn’t know why.
“Let go,” I said again.
He pulled on my foot, drawing me closer. Being this close to him was making me feel dizzy and nervous. I said it again, one last time, even though I didn’t mean it. “Conrad, let go of me.”
He did. And then he dunked me. It didn’t matter. I was already holding my breath.
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