The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 43 Free Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 43 of The Summer I Turned Pretty novel by Jenny Han for free.

The Summer I Turned Pretty Chapter 43:  When we were little and the house was full, full of people like my father and Mr. Fisher and other friends, Jeremiah and I would share a bed and so would Conrad and Steven. My mother would come and tuck us in. The boys would pretend they were too old for it, but I knew they liked it just as much as I did. It was that feeling of being snug as a bug in a rug, cuddly as a burrito. I’d lie in bed and listen to the music drifting up the steps from downstairs, and Jeremiah and I would whisper scary stories to each other till we fell asleep.

He always fell asleep first. I’d try to pinch him awake, but it never worked. The last time that happened might have been the last time I ever felt really, really safe in the world. Like all was right and sound.

The night of the boys’ fight, I knocked on Jeremiah’s door. “Come in,” he said.

He was lying in bed staring at the ceiling with his hands clasped behind his head. His cheeks were wet and his eyes looked wet and red. His right eye was purpley gray, and it was already swelling up. As soon as he saw me, he rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Hey,” I said. “Can I come in?” He sat up. “Yeah, okay.”

I walked over to him and sat on the edge of the bed with my back pushed up against the wall. “I’m sorry,” I began. I’d been practicing what I would say, how I would say it, so he would know how sorry I was. For everything. But then I started to cry and ruined it.

He reached over and kneaded my shoulder awkwardly. He could not look at me, which in a way was easier. “It’s not fair,” I said, and then I began to weep.

Jeremiah said, “I’ve been thinking about it all summer, how this is probably the last one. This is her favorite place, you know. I wanted it to be perfect for her, but Conrad went and ruined everything. He took off. My mom’s so worried, and that’s the last thing she needs, to be worrying about Conrad.

He’s the most selfish person I know, besides my dad.”

He’shurtingtoo,I thought, but I didn’t say it out loud because it wouldn’t help anything. So I just said, “I wish I had known. If I had been paying attention, it would have been different.”

Jeremiah shook his head. “She wishes you were unaware. None of us were to know, according to her. She wanted it to be like this, so we pretended. For her. But I wish I could have told you. It might have been easier or something.” He wiped his eyes with his T-shirt collar, and I could see him trying so hard to keep it together, to be the strong one.

I reached for him, to hug him, and he shuddered, and something seemed to break inside of him. He began to cry, really cry, but quietly. We cried together, our shoulders shaking and shuddering with the weight of all of it. We cried like that for a long time. When we stopped, he let go of me and wiped his nose.

“Scoot over,” I said.

He scooted closer to the wall, and I stretched my legs out next to him. “I’m sleeping in here, okay,” I said, but it wasn’t a question.

Jeremiah nodded and we slept like that, in our clothes on top of the comforter. Even though we were older, it felt just the same. We slept face-to- face, the way we used to.

I woke up early the next morning clinging to the side of the bed. Jeremiah was sprawled out and snoring. I covered him with my side of the comforter, so he was tucked in like with a sleeping bag. Then I left.

I headed back to my room, and I had my hand on the doorknob when I heard Conrad’s voice. “Good morning,” he said. I knew right away he’d seen me leave Jeremiah’s room.

Slowly I turned around. And there he was. Like me, he was standing there dressed from the previous night. He swayed slightly and appeared disheveled. It appeared as though he was about to pass out.

“Are you drunk?”

He shrugged like he couldn’t care less, but his shoulders were tense and rigid. Snidely he said, “Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me now? Like the way you were for Jere last night?”

I opened my mouth to defend myself, to say that nothing had happened, that all we’d done was cry ourselves to sleep. But I didn’t want to. Conrad didn’t deserve to know anything. “You’re the most selfish person I ever met,” I said slowly and deliberately. I let each word puncture the air. In my entire life, I had never wanted to hurt someone this much. “I can’t believe I ever thought I loved you.”

His face turned white. He opened and then closed his mouth. And then he did it again. I’d never seen him at a loss for words before.

I walked back to my room. It was the first time I’d ever gotten the last word with Conrad. I had done it. I had finally let him go. It felt like freedom, but freedom bought at some bloody, terrible price. It didn’t feel good. Did I even have a right to say those things to him, with him hurting the way he was? Did I have any rights to him at all? He was in pain, and so was I.

When I got back into bed, I got under the covers and cried some more, and here I was thinking I didn’t have any more tears left. Everything was wrong.

How could it be that I had spent this whole summer worrying about boys, swimming, and getting tan, while Susannah was sick? How could that be?

The thought of life without Susannah felt impossible. It was inconceivable; I couldn’t even picture it. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for Jeremiah and Conrad. She was their mother.

Later that morning I didn’t get out of bed. I slept until eleven, and then I just stayed there. I was afraid to go downstairs and face Susannah and have her see that I knew.

Around noon my mother bustled into my room without even knocking. “Rise and shine,” she said, surveying my mess. She picked up a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and folded them against her chest.

“I’m not ready to get out of bed yet,” I told her, turning over. I felt mad at her, like I had been tricked. She should have told me. She should have warned me. My whole life, I had never known my mother to lie. But she had. All those times when they’d supposedly been shopping, or at the museum, on day trips—they hadn’t been any of those places. They’d been at hospitals, with doctors. I saw that now. I just wished I had seen it before.

My mother walked over to me and sat on the edge of my bed. She scratched my back, and her fingernails felt good against my skin. “You have to get out of bed, Belly,” she said softly. “You’re still alive and so is Susannah. You have to be strong for her. She needs you.”

Her words made sense. If Susannah needed me, then that was something I could do. “I can do that,” I said, turning around to look at her. “I just don’t get how Mr. Fisher can leave her all alone like this when she needs him most.”

She looked away, out the window, and then back down at me. “This is the way Beck wants things to be. And Adam is who he is.” She cradled my cheek in her hand. “It’s not up to us to decide.”

Susannah was in the kitchen making blueberry muffins. She was leaning up against the counter, stirring batter in a big metal mixing bowl. She was wearing another one of her cotton housedresses, and I realized she’d been wearing them all summer, because they were loose. They hid how thin her

arms were, the way her collarbone jutted up against her skin.

She hadn’t seen me yet, and I was tempted to run away before she did. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

“Good morning, Susannah,” I said, and my voice sounded high and false, not like my own.

She looked up at me and smiled. “It’s past noon. I don’t think it counts as morning anymore.”

“Good afternoon, then.” I lingered by the door.

“Are you mad at me too?” she asked me lightly. Her eyes were worried, though.

“I could never be mad at you,” I told her, coming up behind her and putting my arms around her stomach. I tucked my head in the space between her neck and her shoulder. She smelled like flowers.

She said, still in her light voice, “You’ll look after him, won’t you?” “Who?”

I could feel her cheeks form into a smile. “You know who.” “Yes,” I whispered, still holding on tight.

“Good,” she said, sighing. “He needs you.” I didn’t ask who “he” was. I didn’t need to. “Susannah?”


“Promise me something.” “Anything.”

“Promise me you’ll never leave.”

“I promise,” she said without hesitation.

I let out a breath, and then I let go. “Can I help you with the muffins?” “Yes, please.”

I helped her make a streusel topping with brown sugar and butter and oats. We took the muffins out of the oven too early, because we couldn’t stand to wait, and we ate them while they were still steaming hot and gooey in the middle. I ate three. Sitting with her, watching her butter her muffin, it felt like she’d be there forever.

Somehow we got around to talking about proms and dances. Susannah loved to talk about anything girly; she said I was the only person she could talk to about those kinds of things. My mother certainly wouldn’t, and neither would Conrad and Jeremiah. Only me, her pretend-daughter.

She said, “Make sure you send me pictures of you at your first big dance.”

I hadn’t gone to any of my school’s homecomings or proms yet. No one had asked me, and I hadn’t really felt like it. The one person I wanted to go with didn’t go to my school. I told her, “I will. I’ll wear that dress you bought me last summer.”

“What dress?”

“The one from that mall, the purple one that you and Mom fought over that time. Remember, you put it in my suitcase?”

She frowned, confused. “I didn’t buy you that dress. Laurel would’ve had a fit.” Then her face cleared, and she smiled. “Your mother must have gone back and bought it for you.”

“My mother?” My mother would never. “That’s your mother. So like her.”

“But she never said …” My voice trailed off. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that it had been my mother who’d bought it for me.

“She wouldn’t. She’s not like that.” Susannah reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “You’re the luckiest girl in the world to have her for a mother. Know that.”

The sky was gray, and there was a chill in the air. It would rain soon.

It was so misty out that it took me a minute to find him. I finally did, about half a mile down. It always came back to the beach. He was sitting, his knees close to his chest. When I sat down beside him, he did not look at me. He was just staring out at the water.

His eyes were these bleak and empty abysses, like sockets. There was nothing there. The boy I thought I knew so well was gone. He looked so lost sitting there. I felt that old lurch, that gravitational pull, that desire to inhabit him—like wherever he was in this world, I would know where to find him, and I would do it. I’d find him and take him home. I would take care of him, exactly as Susannah desired.

I spoke first. “I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. I wish I had known—” “Please stop talking,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, starting to get up. I was always saying the wrong thing.

“Don’t leave,” Conrad said, and his shoulders collapsed. His face did too.

He hid it in his hands, and he was five years old again, we both were.

“I’m so pissed at her,” he said, each word coming out of him like a gust of concentrated air. He bowed his head, his shoulders broken and bent. He was finally crying.

I watched him silently. I felt like I was intruding on a private moment, one he’d never let me see if he weren’t grieving. The old Conrad liked to be in control.

The old pull, the tide drawing me back in. I kept getting caught in this current—first love, I mean. First love kept making me come back to this, to him. He still took my breath away, just being near him. I had been lying to myself the night before, thinking I was free, thinking I had let him go. It didn’t matter what he said or did, I’d never let him go.

I wondered if it was possible to take someone’s pain away with a kiss.

Because that was what I wanted to do, take all of his sadness and pour it out of him, comfort him, make the boy I knew come back. I reached out and touched the back of his neck. He jerked forward, the slightest motion, but I didn’t take my hand away. I let it rest there, stroking the back of his hair, and then I cupped the back of his head, moved it toward me, and kissed him.

Tentatively at first, and then he started kissing me back, and we were kissing each other. His lips were warm and needy. He needed me. My mind went pure blinding white, and the only thought I had was, I’m kissing Conrad Fisher, and he’s kissing me back. Susannah was dying, and I was kissing Conrad.

He was the one to break away. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice raw and scratchy.

I touched my lips with the backs of my fingers. “For what?” I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.

“It can’t happen like this.” He stopped, then started again. “I do think about you. You know that. I just can’t … Can you … Can you just be here with me?”

With a nod. I couldn’t bring myself to speak.I took his hand and squeezed it, and for the first time in a long time, it felt right.

We sat there in the sand, holding hands like it was something we’d been doing all along. It started to rain, soft at first. The first raindrops hit the sand, and the grains beaded up, rolled away.

It started to come down harder, and I wanted to get up and go back to the house, but I could tell Conrad didn’t. So I sat there with him, holding his hand and saying nothing. Everything else felt really far away; it was just us.

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