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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5. The Festival

After both my bath and my startling realization, I fall asleep the second my head touches the pillow. I don't spend half the night waiting for Harry like I usually do. In fact, I barely think of Harry at all. Instead, I block the thought of his annoyingly adorable smile and his excruciating power over my heart out of my head and I go to bed at peace.

 

But I guess my subconscious mind can't stop thinking about him because my dream is practically a montage of every single moment that Harry has made my heart melt. And trust me, there has been many moments.

 

The one that stands out the most – the one that hurts the most – is from ten years ago. It's the moment that I fell in love with Harry.

 

Age 6

 

“Don't go too far you two. And Harry, don't let her leave your sight!”

“Okay,” Harry and I chorused together as we ran out the front door, giving Anne a quick wave as we went.

 

Both of my brothers were sick with the flu. They had been for a few days now and the mums had forced Harry and I to stay in to entertain them. So we spent the last few days playing on our gameboy colours, performing magic tricks, playing catch with one of their tennis balls - doing anything to entertain them. But what I really wanted to be doing was running round outside and having the fun adventures we usually have at Christmas.

 

When Harry and I started following both of the mums around the house, wanting anything to do except sit around inside, they finally gave in and let us go outside.

 

Our first stop was the sweet shop that was a few blocks away. We got a bit carried away and bought four bags of the sour cherries, one tube of sour cream and onion pringles and then some small bags of harribos for my brothers.

 

We munched on some of the sour cherries as we raced to the woods. Well, Harry raced to the woods and I trailed hesitantly behind. I had never been in the woods without my two older brothers there and that thought made me slightly nervous.

 

I couldn't help thinking that without my brothers there something would go wrong. That without Matt stomping loudly through the woods to scare away the monsters they said would eat me, a monster really would eat me. Or without Will breaking off parts of my cookie to make a trail, we would get lost and would never be able to find our way back home. But I followed Harry anyway because he had a way of making me feel safe.

 

We reached the large tree house that sat deep in the woods; the only place outside that we were allowed to go when it was raining or snowing heavily.

 

Once inside, Harry and I dug into our feast. We each demolished both of our bags of cherries and shared out the pringles between us. When our bellies were sufficiently satisfied we crawled into the corner furthest away from the entrance of the tree house. Harry wrapped one of the thick quilts around us, protecting us from the cold winds.

 

I watched through the small window as the first few snowflakes of that winter started to gently fall before Harry broke the calm silence that had settled after our feast.

 

“Will you ever get married, Summer?” He turned to look at me.

 

I pondered my answer. I guess I always assumed I would get married when I was older but because of the past few months the idea of marriage had become less appealing.

 

“Maybe..” I said. “But if I do, I want to marry someone who is nice and won't leave me.”

“What do you mean? If you get married, they're not allowed to leave you... right?”

“That's what I thought but my daddy left my mummy so I think they can.” I admitted quietly.

 

I thought back to the moment when my dad left my mum. The way she didn't try to hide her tears, even in front of my brothers and I, like she usually did. The sound of my dad's rusty car driving down the road, changing life as I had known it.

 

“...I wouldn't leave you.” Harry said gently as he wiped some of my fallen tears.

“You wouldn't?”

“Course not! After we get married we will have a feast in the tree house just like we did today. And...”

“And no one will tell us what time we have to get home bye...” I continued.

“Yeah! And we will make loads of snowmen around the tree house to protect us from the monsters. But if they get knocked down, I will protect you.” He added on.

 

I sat there smiling at the thought – the thought of a future where I can do what I want. A future where I won't get left heartbroken like my mum was. A future with Harry.

 

And that was when I realised it: I had fallen in love.

 

~*~

 

“Come on Summer. We're leaving in five minutes whether your dressed or not.” My mum calls up the stairs, earning a groan from me.

 

I can't believe I forgot... If I had remembered I would have definitely set an alarm to wake up earlier.

 

Every year on Christmas Eve, our fourth day in the lodge, we all go out to the Winter festival that they hold in one of the larger parks.

 

Christmas lights are strung in every tree, hot chocolate is served in hot steamy mugs, gingerbread men line dozens of worktops... But my favourite part is the countdown - when everyone stands around the large Christmas tree in the centre of the park and sings until the clock strikes midnight and it's officially Christmas Day.

 

“Mum, I'm seventeen! You can't be serious about making me go...” I hear a muffled voice shout.

“I'm sorry Harry but it's tradition...you're going!”

 

...Wait, Harry doesn't want to go to the festival? None of us have ever missed it before, even when my brothers were still recovering from the flu.

 

“What's wrong?” I ask innocently as I walk down the stairs.

“Harry's just being a baby about not wanting to go to the festival.” Anne says and I have to bite the inside of my cheeks to stop the laugh that wants to escape.

“No, the festival is for babies, Mum. I think I'm old enough to do what I want.” Harry snaps.

“Well, Summer is going and so are-”

“Yeah well Summer's like a little kid!” He yells before storming off to his room. “I'm not going. You can't make me.” He adds on after he has disappeared from sight.

 

I sit down at the table and avoid Anne's eyes. She knows what he has said has hurt me and I'm embarrassed by that. It shouldn't matter to me if Harry thinks I'm like a little kid or not...but it does.

 

I've always tried to act mature with Harry to show him that, even though I'm a year younger, I'm just as cool as the girls in his year. But perhaps I am childish or 'like a little kid' because Harry has always seemed a lot older than me despite there only being a year between us. And I don't think I'll ever be more to him than Will and Matt's little sister.

 

“I'm sorry, sweetheart. He doesn't mean it... he was just angry at me.” Anne says softly as I eat my breakfast with my head down.

“No, it's fine. Don't worry about it. He's right; I am like a little kid.” I smile at her, trying my best to seem not fazed by Harry's comment.

 

I quickly get dressed and apply a minimum amount of make-up before pulling on my coat and meeting everyone (minus Harry) outside. I guess the princess got what he wanted then.

 

When we arrive at the park I see the same faces I do every year and it feels like I never left - like I've never been away. I say hello to the old couple who always take it upon themselves to make hundreds of gingerbread men every year.

 

“My golly, is that you Summer?! Look at her Roger, look at her! What a pretty lil' thing you've turned out to be...” She smiles at me. “Now where’s that Harry? He's never too far behind you, is he?” She laughs and I awkwardly join in.

“I don't think he's coming this year...” I say and notice her smile shrink slightly. “But I'm sure that he would love for me to take some gingerbread men home for him!”

 

After taking a handful of gingerbread men and placing it in a bag for me, the couple say a quick goodbye as I wander further into the park.

 

From then on every person I talk to has something to say about Harry. Whether it's some of the girls I used to be sort of friends with saying how hot he has become or whether it's old neighbours reminiscing about how cute him and I were - everyone seems to want to talk about him and only him. After half an hour of it I'm pretty sick of hearing his name so I politely excuse myself from the conversation with the wacky old woman who used to live next door, and go to the secluded outskirts of the park.

 

I sit on one of the fallen logs and let out the long scream that I have been holding in ever since I got to the park. I scream until nothing more will come out, until I'm gasping for air.

 

I hear a crunch in the snow and snap my head round only to see Liam stood in the snow looking slightly worried but mainly scared. I breathe a sigh of relief because it's not him, he's not here.

 

“Sum?” Liam says gently and I cringe as I hear the nickname Harry calls me. “Are you okay?”

 

He hesitantly joins me on the log and looks at me, not expecting an answer but letting me known that he's there if I need to tell him.

 

“I just...I couldn't breathe out there.” I admit.

“It's a bit overwhelming isn't it? It's not what I was expecting but I'm really enjoying myself.”

“Where are you from, Liam?” I find myself asking him.

“I live in Wolverhampton and I guess I live here at Christmas now...What about you?”

“In live in London but my real home is here... this is where I'm from originally.”

“I thought you sounded different...” I pull a face at him, hating the fact I no longer have my Cheshire accent. “You sound nice! I like it!” He adds on with a laugh.

“...You do?” I ask seriously.

“Yeah... I do.”

 

Our laughter fades slowly away until all I can hear is the sound of crickets in the woods and Liam's gentle breathing.

 

His eyes drop to my lips and I close my eyes. His breath fans gently across my face before I can feel the soft pressure of his lips on mine. I respond almost instantly, placing my hands into his hair as his own hands find my waist. I smile into the kiss as Liam wraps his arms around me.

 

And in this one moment, everything feels perfect.

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