We'll Always Have Summer Page 2

He reached down and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. He said something I couldn’t hear.

“What?” I yelled.

He yelled, “Don’t ever cut your hair, okay?”

“I have to! I’d look like—like a witch.”

Jeremiah tapped his ear and said, “I can’t hear you!”

“Witch!” I shook my hair around my face for empha-sis and mimed stirring a cauldron and cackling.

“I like you witchy,” he said in my ear. “How about just trims?”

I shouted, “I promise not to cut my hair short if you promise to give up your beard dream!”

He’d been talking about growing a beard ever since Thanksgiving, when some of his high school friends got a contest going to see who could grow it the longest. I’d told him no way, it reminded me too much of my dad.

“I’ll consider it,” he said, kissing me.

He tasted like beer, and I probably did too.

Then Jeremiah’s frat brother Tom—also known as Redbird for reasons unknown to me—spotted us, and he came charging at Jeremiah like a bull. He was wearing his underwear and carrying a water bottle. And they weren’t boxers, they were tighty whities. “Break it up, break it up!” he shouted.

They started messing around, and when Jeremiah got Tom in a headlock, Tom’s water bottle of beer spilled all over me and Anika’s dress.

“Sorry, sorry,” he mumbled. When Tom was really drunk, he said everything twice.

“It’s okay,” I said, wringing out the skirt and trying not to look at the lower half of his body.

I left to try and clean it off in the bathroom, but there was a long line, so I went to the kitchen. People were doing body shots on the kitchen table; Jeremiah’s frat brother Luke was licking salt out of a red-haired girl’s belly button.

“Hey, Isabel,” he said, looking up.

“Um, hey, Luke,” I said. Then I spotted some girl throwing up in the sink, and I booked it out of there.

I headed to the upstairs bathroom. At the top of the staircase, I squeezed passed a guy and a girl making out, and I accidentally stepped on the guy’s hand. “I’m so sorry,” I said, but he didn’t seem to notice either way, since he had his other hand up the girl’s shirt.

When I finally made it to the bathroom, I locked the door behind me and let out a little sigh of relief. This party was even wilder than usual. I guessed with the end of year upon us and finals over, everybody was letting loose. I was kind of glad Anika hadn’t been able to come.

It wouldn’t be her scene—not that it was mine, either.

I dabbed liquid soap onto the wet marks and hoped it wouldn’t stain. Someone tried to open the door, and I called out, “Just a sec.”

As I stood there, dabbing at the dress, I heard girls on the other side talking. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard Lacie’s voice. I heard her say, “He looks hot tonight, right?”

Another voice said, “He always looks hot.”

She was slurring as she said, “Hell yeah he does.”

The other girl said, “I’m so jealous you got to hook up with him.”

In a singsong voice, Lacie said, “Whatever happens in Cabo stays in Cabo.”

I felt dizzy all of a sudden. I leaned my back against we’ll always have summer · 15

the bathroom door to steady myself. There was no way she was talking about Jeremiah. No way.

Someone banged on the door, and I jumped.

Without thinking, I opened it. Lacie’s hand flew to her mouth when she saw me. The look on her face was like a punch in the stomach. I felt physical pain. I could hear the other girls’ sharp intakes of breath. I felt like I was sleepwalking as I moved past her and the girls and down the hallway.

I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be true. Not my Jere.

I went to his room and locked the door behind me. I sat on his bed, knees curled into my chest, going over it in my head. Whatever happens in Cabo stays in Cabo. The look on Lacie’s face, the way the other girls gasped. It played in my head like a movie, over and over. The two of them talking tonight. The way he’d shrugged when I said she was nice.

I had to know. I had to hear it from Jeremiah.

I left his room and went looking for him. As I searched, I could feel the shock turning into anger. I pushed my way through the crowd. One drunk girl slurred, “Hey!” when I stepped on her foot, but I didn’t stop to say “excuse me.”

I finally found him standing around outside drinking beer with his frat buddies. From the open door, I said, “I need to talk to you.”

“Just a sec, Bells,” he said.

“No. Now.”

16 · jenny han

The guys all started cracking up and going, “Oooh, somebody’s in trouble.” “Fisher’s so whipped.”

I waited.

Jeremiah must have seen something in my eyes, because he followed me inside, up the stairs, and into his bedroom. I shut the door behind me.

“What’s going on?” he asked me, looking all concerned.

I practically spat the words out. “Did you hook up with Lacie Barone during spring break?”

Jeremiah’s face turned white. “What?”

“Did you hook up with her?”

“Belly—”

“I knew it,” I whispered. “I knew it.”

Even though I didn’t know it, not really. I didn’t know anything.

“Hold on, just hold on.”

“Hold on?” I screamed. “Oh my God, Jere. Oh my God.”

I sank onto the floor. My legs couldn’t even hold me up.

Jeremiah kneeled down beside me and tried to help me up, but I slapped his hands away. “Don’t touch me!”

He got down on the floor next to me, his head hanging between his knees. “Belly, it was when we were on that break. When we were broken up.”

Our so-called breakup had lasted all of a week. It we’ll always have summer · 17

wasn’t even a real breakup, not for me. I always assumed we would get back together. I had cried the whole week, while he had been in Cabo kissing Lacie Barone.

“You knew we weren’t really broken up! You knew it wasn’t real!”

Miserably, he said, “How was I supposed to know that?”

“If I knew it, you should have known it!”

He swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Lacie kept following me around all week. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I swear to you, I didn’t want to hook up with her. It just happened.” His voice trailed off.

I felt so dirty inside hearing him say that. Just disgusted.

I didn’t want to think about the two of them, didn’t want to picture it. “Be quiet,” I said. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“It was a mistake.”

“A mistake? You call that a mistake? A mistake is when you left my shower shoes in the shower and they got all mildewy and I had to throw them out. That’s a mistake, you jerk.” I burst into tears.

He didn’t say anything. He just sat there and took it, his head hanging down.

“I don’t even know who you are anymore.” My stomach lurched. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Jeremiah got me the wastebasket by his bed and I threw up, heaving and crying. He tried to rub my back, but I jerked away from him. “Don’t touch me,” I mumbled, wiping my mouth with the back of my arm.

It didn’t make sense. None of it. This wasn’t the Jeremiah I knew. My Jeremiah would never hurt me like this. He would never so much as look at another girl. My Jeremiah was true and strong and steady. I didn’t know who this person was.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m really sorry.”

Jeremiah was crying now too. Good, I thought. Hurt like you’ve hurt me.

“I want to be totally honest with you, Belly. I don’t want any more secrets.” He really broke down then, crying hard.

I went totally still.

“We had sex.”

Before I knew it, my hand was striking his face. I slapped him as hard as I could. I wasn’t even thinking, I was just doing. My hand left a splotchy red imprint on his right cheek.

We stared at each other. I couldn’t believe I had hit him, and neither could he. The shock was just beginning to register on his face, and I probably had the same look on mine. I had never hit anyone before.

Rubbing his cheek, he said, “I’m so sorry.”

I cried harder. I had pictured them hooking up, making out, I hadn’t even considered sex. I was so stupid.

He said, “It didn’t mean anything. I swear to you, it didn’t.”

He tried to touch my arm, and I flinched. Wiping my cheeks, I said, “Maybe to you sex doesn’t mean anything.

But it means something to me, and you knew that. You’ve ruined everything. I’ll never trust you again.”

He tried to pull me toward him, but I pushed him away. Desperately, he said, “I’m telling you, the thing with Lacie didn’t mean anything.”

“It means something to me. And it obviously meant something to her.”

“I’m not in love with her!” he cried out. “I’m in love with you!”

Jeremiah crawled over to where I was. He put his arms around my knees. “Don’t leave,” he begged. “Please don’t leave.”

I tried to shake him off, but he was strong. He clung to me like I was a raft and he was at sea.

“I love you so much,” he said, his whole body shaking.

“It’s always been you, Belly.”

I wanted to keep screaming and crying and somehow find a way out of this. But I didn’t see a way. Looking down at him, I felt like I was made of stone. He had never disappointed me before. For him to do it now made it that much harder, because I hadn’t seen it coming. It was hard to believe that just a few short hours ago he’d carried me across campus on his back and I’d loved him more than ever.

“We can’t get it back,” I said, and I said it to hurt him.

“What we were, it’s gone. We lost it tonight.”

Desperately, he said, “Yes, we can. I know we can.”

I shook my head. The tears had started again, but I didn’t want to cry anymore, especially not in front of him. Or with him. I didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t want to feel anything. I wiped my face again and said, “I’m leaving.”

He rose to his feet unsteadily. “Wait!”

I pushed past him and grabbed my bag from his bed.

Then I was out the door, running down the stairs and outside. I ran all the way to the bus stop, my bag banging against my shoulder, my heels clacking against the pave-ment. I almost tripped and fell, but I made it. I caught the bus just as the last person was getting on, and we drove off. I didn’t look back to see if Jeremiah had followed me.

My roommate, Jillian, had gone home for the summer earlier that day, so at least I had the room to myself and could cry alone. Jeremiah kept calling and texting, so I turned my phone off. But before I went to bed, I turned it back on again so I could see what he wrote me.

I’m so ashamed of myself.

Please talk to me.

I love you and I always will.

I cried harder.

Chapter Five

When we broke up in April, it really did come out of nowhere. Yes, we’d had little fights here and there, but you could hardly even call them fights.

Like, there was this time Shay was having a party at her godmother’s country house. She invited a ton of people, and she said I could bring Jeremiah, too. We were gonna get dressed up and dance outside all night long. We’d all just crash there for the weekend, Shay said—it would be a blast. I was just happy to be included. I told Jeremiah about it, and he said he had an intramural soccer game but I should go anyway. I said, “Can’t you just miss it? It’s not like it’s a real game.” It was a bitchy thing to say, but I said it, and I meant it.

That was our first fight. Not a real fight, not like yelling or anything, but he was mad and so was I.

We always hung out with his friends. In a way it made sense. He already had them, and I was still forming mine.

It took time to get close to people, and with me at his frat house all the time, the girls on my hall were bonding without me.

And there were other things, too, that annoyed me.

Things I’d never known about Jeremiah, things I couldn’t have known from only seeing him in the summer at the beach house. Like how obnoxious he was when he smoked weed with his suitemates and they ate pineapple-and-ham pizza and listened to “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio and they would laugh for, like, an hour.

Also his seasonal allergies. I’d never seen him in the springtime, so I didn’t know he had them.

He called me, sneezing like crazy, all stuffed up and pitiful. “Can you come over and hang out with me?”

he asked, blowing his nose. “And can you bring more Kleenex? And orange juice?”

I bit my lip to keep from saying, You have allergies, not swine flu.

I’d gone over to his frat house the day before. He and his roommate played video games while I did my homework. Then we watched a Kung Fu movie and ordered Indian food, even though I didn’t really like to eat Indian food because it gave me an upset stomach after. Jeremiah said that when his allergies got really bad, Indian food was the only thing that would make him feel better. I ate naan and rice and felt pissed while Jeremiah scarfed down chicken tikka masala and watched his movie. He could be really oblivious sometimes, and I had to wonder if it was on purpose.

“I really want to come over, but I have a paper that’s due tomorrow,” I said, trying to sound conflicted about it. “So I probably shouldn’t. Sorry.”

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