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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8. The Games

I spent the whole next day with Liam. He picked me up at 9am and we caught the train to Manchester. We spent most of the day shopping in the Arndale and the German markets and Harry barely crossed my mind. We ate out at Nandos and then got the 6pm train home. He kissed my cheek lightly, like he had the night before, and then I went inside and spent the rest of the night with everyone (minus Harry).

 

It was a good day. Liam was nice (as usual) and I had felt happy... So why now, at 6am the next morning, am I feeling empty inside?

 

I really had had a nice time yesterday; it's impossible not to when you're with Liam. But as I lie in my bed in the early hours of the morning I can't help but feel... I can't even explain it! It's as if something is missing but I have no idea what. And how am I meant to find what's missing when I can't even identify it?

 

I roll out of bed, getting more sleep clearly not being an option, and pull on some lazy day clothes – a pair of leggings, a woolly jumper and purple fluffy socks. I trail down the stairs and into the kitchen and am met with Harry.

 

“Hi,” I say, wanting to make some sort of peace, as I search the cupboard for some coco shreddies.

 

A few minutes pass without a reply so I look up from the cupboard and see that he's left, taking his own bowl of cereal with him.

 

“Okay then,” I say out loud in the hope that he'll hear me.

 

I finally find the cereal box at the back of the cupboard and begin devouring my breakfast. I look around the deserted kitchen and my eyes land on the numerous pieces of paper bluetacked to the fridge – some drawings done by Harry when he was in primary school, timetables for school, grocery lists and reminders. But one small, crumpled post-it-note stands out from all of them.

 

I abandon my bowl of cereal and take a closer look at the sun-aged post-it-note. There's only one word on it. No important information, just the one word in his handwriting. And I at once know it's for me. The post-it-note doesn't declare this but I just know it. I don't know how long it's been there, years maybe, because I've never paid much attention to the documents attached to the fridge but the condition it's in suggests it's been there a long time.

 

'Always.'

 

I back away from the fridge and turn my eyes away from the haunting word. He can't do this again, he can't. I won't let him.

 

I dump my bowl and spoon in the sink and retreat back to my bedroom.

 

'It's just a word, Summer. It's probably been there years so it's nothing to stress over. Maybe it's not even meant for you.' I think to myself as I start to pace around my room.

 

But it is meant for me. That one word in his scrawled handwriting was written for me by him. I just know it.

 

Age 13

 

“Summer,” My mum called up the stairs. “Something has arrived in the post for you.”

 

I raced down the stairs and into the kitchen where a creased envelope awaited me. On the front there was no address or stamp, just one word: 'Summer'. I took the envelope and studied it as I went back into my bedroom, wanting to open it privately.

 

Whoever it was from must have put it through the letterbox rather than sending it through the post so it must be from one of my friends as all my family live too far away.

 

I carefully tore the envelope open to find...nothing.

 

'It must be a prank,' I thought. 'My brothers must have done it to make me think that someone other than them had actually remembered my birthday, to only leave me disappointed'

 

At the age of thirteen I didn't have many friends. I had some but we weren't that close. In fact, we'd never even been to each other's houses. It was my own fault, though, because I spent most of my time at school as if I was somewhere else. Because, in my mind, I was.

 

I decided to look in the envelope again in case I had missed something, and I had. Wedged in one of the corners of the envelope lay a tiny, silver charm. I reached in and pulled it out to examine it further, and when I did my heart stopped in my chest.

 

Imprinted on the silver oval was one word. Always.

 

~*~

 

The post-it-note, the charm, the infinity necklace – they're all from him. They're all connected to that one moment when I was thirteen; when he promised that no matter what he'd always be there for me. Maybe all of these signs are meant to be sweet and are meant to remind me that he hasn't forgotten. But all they feel like is a twisted joke because he hasn't been there for me and he still isn't now.

 

I stop pacing, suddenly determined to not let him bother me any more. Harry can play these games all he wants but two can play, so maybe it's about time I joined in.

 

I quickly put on the infinity necklace on before going down the stairs. As I had expected, Harry is sat in the lounge with my brothers, reading some magazine.

 

“I'm just going out,” I call to my brothers and Harry.

“Where?” Will asks, not being protective just nosy.

“Liam's,” I say nonchalantly as I pull on my coat.

“You've been seeing him a lot...” Matt points out. “Is there something you should be telling us?” He adds with a wink.

 

I let myself blush as I pull open the door, ready to brace the cold.

 

“Wait,” Harry speaks up. “Can I talk to you for a minute.”

“Okay,” I say dismissively, trying to hide the fact that my heart feels like it's about to explode.

 

He joins me outside, wearing nothing to protect him from the cold, and turns to me with anger evident on his face.

 

“What do you think you're doing?!” He snaps at me but quietly so that my brothers don't hear.

“I-I'm just going to Liam's...” I answer, confused by his anger.

 

He has no reason to be angry. I'm not hanging out with Liam to make him jealous. And the 'games' that I'm going to begin playing haven't even started yet...except I thought wearing the necklace would get his attention but- oh.

 

“Wearing that?” He spits, pointing to the silver necklace around my neck.

“It's mine, and I can wear it if I want,” I say calmly.

“Well, it's not any more.”

 

He grabs the chain and pulls it with such force that it breaks and goes away with his hand. I stand there in complete shock at both his anger and his strength.

 

Fine,” I yell, not caring about whether my brothers can hear, as I start to make my way to Liam's. “You keep it. Maybe it will remind you of what 'always' means because, trust me Harry, I'm not the one who needs reminding.”

 

I blink back my angry tears as I walk past Liam's drive, no longer in the mood for company. I don't want to go back to the house, to Harry. And I definitely don't want to answer all of my brother's questions that they'll probably bombard me with the second I step through the door. So instead I'm just going to keep walking until I'm too tired or cold to continue.

 

Maybe it was harsh of me to wear something that Harry gave me when I was going to Liam's but he has sent me so many reminders of his stupid promise so I was just wanting to send him one back. Just like the saying, 'two can play at that game.' I never knew he would take it so badly, otherwise I wouldn't have done it.

 

~*~

 

By the time I return to the lodge it's beginning to get dark outside. As I enter the house I'm met with an unusual silence.

 

'That's weird, normally Anne and my mum are home by now and making dinner.' I think as I make my way further into the house.

 

“Hello?” I call out into the emptiness. “Is anyone home?”

 

They haven't gone out without me...have they? Maybe they're out looking for me... or maybe-

 

My thoughts are interrupted as my eldest brother comes down the stairs.

 

“Oh so someone is in,” I say to my brother but he barely looks my way. “Where's everyone else?” Again he doesn't seem to notice me.

 

I follow him into the kitchen where my other brother, Matt, is sat.

 

“Hello? Why aren't any of you answering me?”

 

Silence.

 

“What's wrong? What's happened?” I say as panic starts to rise up in me.

 

Maybe something has happened to Mum or Anne. Maybe that's why they're not back.

 

Matt, Will talk to me please,” I say as my worries multiply.

“No, nothing bad has happened.” Will snaps at me.

“Then what's wrong?” I ask more gently this time.

“God, you really are oblivious aren't you Summer?” Matt sneers. “Cut all this 'I'm so innocent' crap. You're fooling no one!”

“I really don't know what you're-”

Please,” Matt scoffs. “We all know about the drama you stir up each Christmas, and usually we just ignore it, but bloody hell, it's about time you got a reality check. You can't keep doing the whole 'poor me, Harry breaks my heart' shit and then expect him, and us, to be all cool with you then hanging about with someone else. It's about time that you quit playing games and just grow up!” And with those final stabs Matt storms off to his bedroom.

“I-” I try to begin but Will interrupts me.

“Just save it, Summer.” And he leaves too, leaving me stood alone in the kitchen much like how I was this morning.

 

Playing games? Me? My own brothers blame me for all of this? I didn't ask for these games. I didn't ask for Harry to make me feel so loved and then ignore me as if nothing had happened. Don't they realise that, if I could, I'd have stopped all of the games years ago? But I can't because Harry keeps pulling me back in and, yeah, maybe I let him...but the amount of history we have and the way he makes me feel I can't...I can't just ignore it.

 

Through tear-filled eyes I look ahead at the document-covered fridge just like I had done this morning. But it's different. The post-it-note is gone.

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