Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Spring Girls

Anna Todd


  “The Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet of our time. . . .”

  —That’s Normal

  “Todd [is] the biggest literary phenom of her generation.”


  “Get out of the way, Christian Grey. It’s all about Hardin Scott.”

  —She Knows

  “I was almost at the point like with Twilight that I just stop everything and my sole focus was reading the book.”

  —Once Upon a Twilight

  “The one thing you can count on is to expect the unexpected.”

  —Vilma’s Book Blog

  “After is a can’t-miss book—but get ready to feel emotions that you weren’t sure a book could bring out of you.”


  “Drama drama drama. . . . This book will have you from the first page.”

  —A Bookish Escape

  “Be prepared to have an emotional explosion!”

  —Biblio Belles

  “I’m so grateful to Anna Todd for giving me all the Hessa feels. Thank you for the 2,587 pages of insane angst and emotional turmoil. But above all, thank you for giving us, the reader, the chance to take the journey of love with Hardin and Tessa.”

  —YA Book Addict

  Thank you for downloading this Simon & Schuster ebook.

  * * *

  Get a FREE ebook when you join our mailing list. Plus, get updates on new releases, deals, recommended reads, and more from Simon & Schuster. Click below to sign up and see terms and conditions.


  Already a subscriber? Provide your email again so we can register this ebook and send you more of what you like to read. You will continue to receive exclusive offers in your inbox.

  To all of the “little women” out there who are trying to figure out just what it means to be a woman; I’m here for you, and so are your many sisters.



  “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” Jo declared from her spot on the rug.

  She sat at the feet of her oldest sister, Meg. Jo’s long brown hair was unruly, as it always was. She was my strong girl. She was the only one of my girls who didn’t hog the bathroom. Her delicate fingers, the black polish on their nails chipped, picked at the frayed edges of the Afghan rug under her folded legs. The hand-woven black-and-red textile had once been bright and beautiful, and I remembered when my husband had sent it to our house back in Texas from his former post in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

  In my head, my husband’s company’s FRG leader’s scratchy voice reminds me to use proper military lingo: my husband’s FOB in Kandahar. The biggest forward operating base in Afghanistan, she would also necessarily add. Denise was always on my case. Come to think of it, she even had comments about the rug when I got it. She said he could have sent it to the base and paid no fee.

  None of that mattered to my girls. From the moment it arrived, they loved that rug as much as I did. When I ripped open the package from their dad, who had been living across the world for the past eight months, the girls—particularly Jo—were excited to own such a beautiful, culture-filled treasure from a place so far away. Meg loved that we now had a lavish handcrafted object in our simple home. She was my most materialistic daughter, but I always knew that if I tried to teach her right, she would use her love of shiny things to do something magical and worthwhile with her life. Amy was too young to really care about the rug, and of course Beth knew it was coming because her daddy knew that she was the only Spring Girl who could be trusted to keep the secret. Plus, on a more practical level, since Beth was basically homeschooled, Frank knew she could watch out for it. Later, he explained to me that he wanted to mail the package straight home so that we could be treated with the rug as a surprise on our doorstep, rather than as a pickup chore on the base. I’m not sure if I told Denise that, she would understand.

  Of late, our beautiful rug wasn’t as beautiful anymore. Dirty shoes and heavy bodies had worn it down, and the colors blended into a mud brown that I tried my best to clean, but the color just wouldn’t come back.

  We loved it not one bit less.

  “We’re supposed to get snow in New Orleans. That feels like Christmas to me,” Meg said, brushing her fingers through her brown hair. It was grown to her shoulders now, and she talked Jo through instructions about how to ombre her hair so it looked like she had blond ends and dark roots. It was so cold that year that the roads iced over, and it felt like every day there was a wreck clogging the only major highway in this town. The sign outside our Army post keeping track of the number of days without a road-related fatality went back down to zero nearly every day instead of weekly. The highest number of days without a death that the sign at Fort Hood ever got to was sixty-two.

  That morning didn’t feel as cold as Channel 45 said it would be. I wondered if my sister would make it to our house or if she would somehow use the weather as an excuse. She always had excuses. Her husband was deployed with mine, and their dirty laundry had been fully aired, left around in pieces, from his making jokes about her weight to a group of privates, to his sleeping with a female medic last month.

  “Did Aunt Hannah call yet?” I asked my girls.

  The only one who looked at me was Beth, who replied, “No.”

  Since moving to Fort Cyprus the summer prior, Hannah had been engaged twice, married once, and is soon to be divorced. I loved my younger sister, but I couldn’t say I was upset when she moved closer to the city a few months back. She got herself a weekend bartending gig on Bourbon Street at a little bar called Spirits, where they serve mixed drinks in light-up skulls and make a tasty po’ boy. She had a good personality for a bartender.

  “Is she coming?” Jo asked from the floor.

  I looked at Jo, into her milk-chocolate eyes. “I’m not sure. I’ll call her in a little while.”

  Amy made a small hmp in her throat, and I stared at the blank TV.

  I didn’t want to talk to my daughters about adult things. I wanted them to stay as young as possible, but to also be very aware. I told them of things happening around them. I discussed current events with them, the war going on around us. I tried to explain the dangers and blisses of being a woman, but as they grew older, it got harder and harder. I had to explain to them that sometimes things would come easier to the boys and men around them, often for no good reason. I had to teach them to defend themselves if one of those boys or men tried to harm them. Having four daughters ages twelve to nineteen was not only the hardest job I’d ever worked, but it would be the most important thing I would ever do. My legacy wasn’t going to be that I was an Army wife; it was that I’d raised four reliable, responsible, and capable little women to unleash out into the world.

  I felt a heavy sense of duty; if nothing else in my life, I wanted them to carry their strength proudly and their kindness openly.

  Meg was the princess of the family. She was our miracle baby, coming to us only after two painful and soul-wrenching failures and finally making her entrance into the world on Valentine’s Day evening. But it’s not like when it happened, Frank and I were out on some romantic date sipping ten-dollar glasses of Yellow Tail merlot. Rather, Frank was sitting behind a desk at his company building, trying hard to stay awake. Every hour he had to do a walk around the barracks behind the building. He always seemed to be assigned to charge of quarters. (CQ, as Denise would note.)

  He hated when he had to do it, and so did the girls, but the Army required it once a month. That night, I had to call the company phone four times before someone finally answered and corralled my husband. Just as my contractions became unbearable, he made it home and we ru
shed into his car. We thought she was going to be born right there in our 1990 Chevy Lumina. Staring at the fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, I counted as they swayed back and forth, back and forth, and tried to keep at bay the faint smell of the Marlboros that Frank used to smoke in the car before we found out we were expecting. Frank held my hand and told me jokes and made me laugh so hard that I was crying and trying to keep myself from peeing on the fuzzy black seat covers. We were so cool back then.

  By the time we got to the hospital, I was too far into labor to get an epidural, and so while Meg came out screaming into the small hospital room, it was all I could do not to scream myself. Still, that was just one night, just a moment. Becoming a mother changed something deep within me; I felt the scattered pieces of my life lock into place, and I knew that I had a new role.

  Jo was next, and her birth took a toll on my body. She was breech and refused to turn her stubborn little body the right way, so a C-section was scheduled by my doctor.

  Beth was easy, only thirty minutes of pushing. Her birth was calm like her, and she took to my breast easier than the rest of my girls.

  Lastly, our unplanned little Amy surprised us on a Taco Tuesday when I realized my stomach no longer liked tacos, even though the rest of me did. After Amy, I asked my doctor to ensure we didn’t have any more surprises.

  Amy was just as fiery as the spicy food I craved when she was growing inside of me, and I looked at her now, then to the rest of my girls. For a few minutes, no one spoke, and I pretended, just for a few heartbeats, that Frank was here, sitting in this old recliner he’s had since our first apartment. In my mind, he was singing along to the radio. He loved to sing and dance, even if he was awful at both.

  “I saw online that White Rock cut the music program again,” Beth said, yanking me back to reality.

  “Yikes, really?” asked Meg.

  “Yeah. It sucks for the students. It barely existed before, and now it’s practically gone, no new instruments, no field trips. Nothing.”

  Amy looked over at her older sisters, trying to keep up with their conversation.

  “Are you kidding me?” Jo spat. “I’m going right down to Mrs. Witt’s office. That’s bullshit that they—”

  “Josephine, watch that mouth,” I said, still eyeing Amy. Jo always cursed, no matter how hard she claimed to try not to. Given that she was almost seventeen, I didn’t know what to do about it.

  “Sorry, Meredith.”

  She also had begun using my adult name, for some reason.

  Across the room, the phone rang from its cradle on the charger, and Amy jumped up to answer it.

  “What does the caller ID say?” I asked.

  Amy bent down and squinted her eyes. “. . . Something bank. Fort Cyprus National Bank.”

  My chest tightened. On Christmas Eve? Really? That bank was already corrupt enough with their high interest rates and less-than-noble marketing. They were known for standing pretty women in the entries of the PXs and Walmarts to lure soldiers to open an account with a smile and the phantom promises of early direct deposits from the Army.

  “Just let it ring,” I instructed.

  Amy nodded and silenced the ringer. She watched the little red light on the port until it stopped blinking before asking, “Who’s calling from the bank?”

  I turned the television on.

  “What movie are we going to watch?” Meg interrupted. “I think . . .” Her printed nails skimmed over the rack of DVDs at her feet, and she tapped one. “How about The Ring?”

  I was grateful to Meg for changing the subject. Meg was always good at reading a room and constructing and polishing true-ish stories to distract, charm, or disarm someone.

  “I hate The Ring,” Amy whined, and looked at me imploringly.

  It wasn’t funny when Meg dressed Jo up as the girl from the movie who climbs up the well. I didn’t laugh at all. Okay, maybe a little, but I was still upset at my oldest girls for tormenting their little sister.

  “Really?” Jo’s voice had a spooky tone, like she was trying to scare her sister. Jo reached out to tickle Amy’s sides, and Amy jerked away.

  “Please, Mom, tell Meg we aren’t watching The Ring!” Amy pulled at my sweatpants.

  “What about The Skeleton Key?” Beth suggested. That was her favorite movie. Beth loved anything with Kate Hudson, and living just outside New Orleans made the movie especially terrifying.

  “Jo, what do you want to watch?” I asked.

  Jo moved over to the DVD stand, making Amy yelp when Jo’s knee landed on Amy’s toes as she passed.

  “Cabin Fever or . . .” She picked up Interview with the Vampire.

  It made me feel like a cool mom when my girls liked movies that I loved growing up. Interview with the Vampire was my favorite movie for a good twenty years. To this day, Anne Rice is the only author whose entire works I’ve read.

  Meg said in a quiet voice, “That movie reminds me of River . . .”

  Even hearing that boy’s name made my insides feel like a Ferris wheel on fire, but fortunately my girls’ penchant for drama distracted me. Amy moved to her feet and grabbed the movie straight from Jo’s hands and tossed it under the Christmas tree. Jo yelled an indignant “Hey!” and Meg blew a kiss to Amy.

  “John’s calling!” Meg yelled, and disappeared from the room before her phone even rang.

  “Cabin Fever it is,” Jo said, and took the remote from the table.

  While Jo fiddled with the DVD player, Amy ran to the bathroom and Beth disappeared into the kitchen. The house was quiet except for the beeping of the microwave, then the soft hum as it spun around whatever Beth was making. My house wasn’t usually quiet like this. When Frank was home, there was always music playing or the sound of him laughing, singing . . . something.

  The silence wasn’t going to last long, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted it to, but I was going to enjoy it while it lasted. I closed my eyes, and shortly I started to hear kernels popping and smell a decadent butter odor.

  Jo was sitting cross-legged next to the TV, staring down at her candy-cane-striped socks. To a stranger Jo may have looked sad, with her pouty lips and her downcast eyes, but I knew she was calm. She looked like she was thinking about something important, and I wished I could read her thoughts, to help take a little of the weight off her shoulders. I no longer wanted silence.

  “How’s the piece coming along?” I asked her. I didn’t get much time alone with Jo now that she had a job—a job that she seemed to love, since she spent so much time there.

  Jo shrugged. “It’s good. I think.” She ran her hands up and down her cheeks and looked at me. “I think it’s good. I think it’s really good.” A shy but blinding smile split her face, and she covered her mouth. “I’m almost done. Should I use my actual name?”

  “If you want to. You could also use my maiden name. When can I read it?” Her smile dissipated even faster than it had arrived. “Or not.” I added a smile to show I wasn’t upset. I understood why she wouldn’t want me to read her work yet. Of course it hurt my feelings a little bit, but I knew she had her reasons, and I never wanted to add any pressure on her.

  “You could send it to your dad,” I suggested.

  She thought about it for a second. “You think he has time? I don’t want to distract him.”

  Sometimes she sounded too adult for me.

  The bathroom door opened in the hallway, and Amy came walking back into the living room, her bedroom blanket in tow. My parents had given it to me at her baby shower, but it was really worn now, the colored patches that made up the little quilt a bit duller.

  Amy, with her lip-gloss obsession and blond hair, was trying to grow up too fast. She wanted to be like her older sisters more than anything, but that was the typical youngest-sibling thing. My sister was the same, always following me around and trying to be my equal. Amy was now in seventh grade, which debatably was the hardest grade to push through. I couldn’t remember much of my own seventh grade, so it co
uldn’t have been so bad for me. Ninth grade—now, that I remember.

  Jo always teased Amy, warning her sister that she should start preparing for high school now. But Amy was at that pivotal age in her life when she thought she knew everything. She was at the awkward stage in her appearance, too, where she hadn’t quite grown into her features. The bratty little girls in her class liked to make fun of her bony frame and her lack of a period. Just last week, Amy came in asking when she was allowed to shave her legs. My rule had always been that my daughters could shave when they started their period, but when I told Amy that, she had a twelve-year-old’s meltdown in the bathroom. Honestly, I didn’t even know where I got that rule, probably my own mother, and given what Amy was going through, I helped my girl shave her legs that day.

  Meg was not only the oldest, but she was also the second-in-charge of our government-owned home. Sometimes it was easy to pretend that it was our home, until something happened like getting a ticket for my grass being too long. I had looked out the window to find a man standing in my front yard, bent down and measuring my grass. When I went outside, he cowered back to his truck, but not before handing me a ticket. Apparently the housing office didn’t have anything better to do than measure people’s grass.

  I hoped that one day we would be able to buy a home of our own, maybe after Frank retired from the Army. I didn’t know what state we would settle in when he was finally done, but something like the middle of nowhere in New England sounded nice. But Frank often talked about moving to a sleepy beach town where you could wear flip-flops every day. Of course, it would depend on where our daughters ended up, too. Amy wouldn’t be out of the house for another six years, and Beth . . . well, I wasn’t sure if Beth would ever want to leave, and that was okay, too.

  Beth brought in two bowls of popcorn, and everyone got comfortable in the small room. I stayed in Frank’s chair, Amy sat next to Beth as Meg walked in and plopped down on the opposide side of the couch, and Jo stayed on the floor near the TV.