The Christmas I Turned Pretty

'After a long and boring three-hour drive, our car is finally driving down the familiar snow-covered streets. I gaze out of the car window at all the little shops I know so well. We are finally back in Holmes Chapel. Back home.'
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Summer spends every year longing for the winter or more specifically, Christmas.
Every year she spends two and half weeks in The Lodge with her family and the Styles'.
But this year everything is different.
This year, Summer has turned pretty.
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Inspired by Jenny Han's book 'The Summer I turned Pretty'. Cover (c) Shilo

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3. The Campfire

It must be around midday when I finally emerge from my bedroom. I go downstairs to find the kitchen completely empty. I say a silent prayer as I now don't have to go through the awkwardness of avoiding Harry's gaze or avoiding conversations including Harry or avoiding Harry in general.

 

I pour myself a bowl of cereal and take it through to the lounge area, grabbing my book on the way. No matter how many times I try to focus on Suzanne Collin's words I find myself drifting back to last night's events. Did Harry really mean it when he said that the night at the lake was one of the best nights of his life? Because it has always been common knowledge that Harry isn't exactly bad at attracting the attention of every girl he passes so why would that one night with me mean something to him? And what good did it do telling me now after everything that has happened? It would have been nice if he mentioned it four years ago before he broke my heart.

 

The sound of chatting gradually gets louder and the four boys come into the room before I have the chance to run. I remain on the sofa, intently 'reading' The Hunger Games.

 

Hopefully they won't even notice me and will carry on through to the kitchen...

 

“Oh hey, Summer.” Matt says.

 

Well, there goes my hopes of not being noticed...

 

“Mmm,” I grunt because I'm so ladylike.

“Are you seriously reading the hunger games again? Is this, what, the sixth time? God, you're such a geek.” Will laughs, ruffling my hair.

“Says you, Will. Who cried at Lord of the Rings...?”

 

Will's face instantly turns a bright shade of pink as I smile at my little victory. The boys always try to embarrass me in front of Harry or any boy in general so it's amazing to finally embarrass them.

 

“I think I've read the hunger games books around twelve times so I guess I'm a bit of a geek as well.” Liam smiles at me and I return the smile.

 

Did Liam just take my side on something? Even though it was just a bit of banter. I'm so used to being on my own when it comes to debates with my brothers and I've hardly ever had anyone to back me up. Harry occasionally did when we were younger but in the more recent years he has just kept quiet and not chosen a side.

 

I slowly glance at Harry as Liam and my brothers break into a separate conversation about who their favourite hobbit is or something. His gaze is fixated on Liam and I can tell by his furrowed eyebrows that he's either confused or angry about something. His eyes flicker onto mine so I quickly break eye contact, scared that he will try to bring last night back up.

 

The look in his emerald eyes sends me crashing back into a memory from a few Christmases ago... when he looked at me in the exact same way as he is now.

 

Age 14

 

I leaped down the stairs while the growling in my stomach practically begged to be fed and sprinted into the kitchen, ready to stuff my face with the most calorie-filled food in the cupboard. But I stopped short at the entrance.

 

My eyes landed on Harry and the blonde girl, who had been hanging around far too much for my liking, stood in the doorway of the back door, kissing. My heart practically stopped as I stood there watching, as if my body was unable to function properly. My eyes focused onto the smallest things – Harry's large hands placed gently on her waist, the retching sound of their lips smacking together and then the sound of my heart beating as if it was in my ears.

 

The one thing that snapped me out of my heartbroken daze was the look that Harry gave me over the blonde girl's shoulder. His green eyes found my hazel ones and I felt my breath hitch in my throat. He didn't show signs of being angry at me but he didn't show signs of being apologetic for what he was doing, either.

 

In the split second that our eyes met, and the hours afterwards which I spent analysing what I had just seen, I couldn't work out what emotion Harry's eyes had shown me. I managed to rule out sadness, anger, sympathy and happiness. The look in his eyes was so intense and so confusing that I only shed a few tears and focused my attention on working out what that single look meant.

 

~*~

 

Still to this day, I have not been able to figure out what Harry's eyes were trying to tell me. And even after seeing that same look two years later, it is still a complete mystery to me.

 

I slowly stand up and start to make my way out of the room, wanting to be as far away as possible from Harry's gaze. I'm starting to mount the stairs when a hand wraps tightly around my wrist, spinning me around to face them.

 

“Hey,” Liam smiles as I mentally sigh in relief that it wasn't Harry. “We were thinking of going into the wood and making a camp fire... do you wanna' come?”

 

The hopeful look in Liam's eyes is enough for me to quickly agree even though the prospect of going into the wood sends a shiver down my spine.

 

I change into warmer clothes; a scarf, coat and hat and then join Liam and the boys outside. Harry walks on ahead with my brothers as Liam and I stroll casually behind.

 

Despite the coat and other winter-wear I am wearing, I still find myself shivering as the bitter wind swirls around us.

 

“Here take this,” Liam says, removing the thick hoodie he was wearing underneath his coat. “You look freezing!”

“But then you'll be cold... I'm fine really.” I say as my teeth chatter – not helping with the point I was trying to make.

“No really, it's fine.” He smiles, pushing the hoodie into my arms.

 

I pull it over the jumper I am wearing and instantly feel warmer. The soft fabric tickles the bare skin on my arm as I fold my arms tightly across my chest.

 

Liam and I join the boys around the slowly growing pile of wood as they start to light it. I catch Harry's watchful gaze across the fire; his eyes burning into mine just as much as the fire between us. His eyes slowly travel down and land on the oversized hoodie I am wearing before trailing away.

 

He can't be jealous can he? Harry has never had a reason to be jealous: he always gets everything he wants, whether that's a girl, the last piece of chicken... or my heart. Not that he wants my heart anyway.

 

Matt brings out a packet of marshmallows and we all start roasting them on the fire, just like we did when were younger. It's a tradition just like 'the dunk' is but this one is actually enjoyable on my end. We usually roast marshmallows, laugh until the early hours and watch the burning embers slowly fade away to nothing. But this year something is different... we're not laughing or reminiscing about past christmases, we're sat in silence. The only sound is our rhythmic breathing and the crackle of burning wood.

 

Maybe it's because there is a fifth person around our circle when it's normally just the four of us. Or maybe it's because ever since last night there has been a wave of awkwardness between Harry and I. Whatever it is that isn't right, it's leaving an unsettled feeling in my stomach.

 

I've never been great in tense or awkward situations. They make me feel nervous and, whenever I can, I avoid them. But when I'm stuck in one the only thing I think of to do is to run away instead of staying to talk about the elephant in the room.

 

And the elephant around this camp fire is slowly making me feel more and more claustrophobic. It's slurping up all of the oxygen and leaving me unable to breathe. I know running away won't help anything but it's what I need to do. Otherwise the elephant is going to crush me to death.

 

I rise from my seat and announce that I'm going on a walk before turning away from the three pairs of confused eyes and the one pair of knowing eyes. Harry knows why I'm leaving but I don't care. He can watch me run away because that's what I do best.

 

As soon as I am out of sight my walk turns into a run. I run between the towering trees with no destination in mind. All I know is that I have to run; I have to get away.

 

My foot bangs into a stone which is hidden in the darkness and my whole body falls forward. I don't try and get up again: there isn't any point. I'm weak and cold and tired. I rest my head on the soft snow-covered leaves and let my mind wander as the stars shine brightly over me.

 

I had been counting down to Christmas all summer but already on the second night it feels ruined. When I saw Harry again all of my heartbreak disappeared and I thought we would be able to have a Christmas like the ones from years ago. But in the past 24 hours all four years of heartbreak has come crashing back.

 

Christmas used to be magical and special... Harry made it magical and special. But now it just feels like a constant ache for both my head and my heart. It all used to be so simple. I was so in love that I didn't notice anything other than Harry's charm. I didn't see the way he looked at other girls or the way he would avoid me at the social events we went to. All I saw was the way he looked at me when no-one else was around. It never occurred to me that he was embarrassed by the lovestruck child who practically worshipped him. And that's why it hurts so much now; when I have realised that all of the years I spent hoping that one day Harry would realise that I was the one were wasted. My childhood dreams crashed around me at the age of twelve and since then nothing has been able to fill the hole in my heart that Harry still manages to have a firm grasp on.

 

I realised at twelve that my heart belongs to Harry. But I'm going to do everything in my power to change that.

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