• robinstratton23

5. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Jan 7


JUST AS MANDY was slamming her locker shut, she felt a tap on her left shoulder. She turned her head, didn’t see anyone, then turned to the right, and found herself looking up into Brent’s eyes.


“Hey,” he said.


Oh my god. “Hi.”


“How’s it going?”


“Fine.” Mandy glanced away, too surprised to confront his gaze. “How’s it going with you?”


He laughed and mocked her, “Fine.


She laughed too; his hair—to die for! “Um…where’s Ashley?”


He shrugged. “Around, I guess.”


“Oh.”


“I wanted to talk to you.”


“About what?”


“Ashley just found out that her cousin will be in town for a couple of weeks, and her mother made her promise to take him to the prom.” Brent’s voice grew wistful. “Leaves me without a date.” Then he issued a carefree grin. “So I was wondering if you’d like to go with me?”


Mandy felt like her heart would pop; at the same time she felt a tiny jab of annoyance: what made him think she didn’t already have a date? Nevertheless, she felt herself nod.


“Good. I’d rather take you anyway. Getting tired of Ashley.”


She nodded again, hating her foolish inability to speak.


“Okay, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”


“Okay.” As she watched him saunter off, she knew that he knew she was watching him, but she couldn’t think or do anything but stare. Her heart was pounding so hard it was using up all her strength, and, weak, she leaned against her locker and replayed the conversation in her mind: “Leaves me without a date…I was wondering if you’d like to go with me? Good, I’d rather take you anyway.” Then she turned and ran down the hall.




“BRENT ASKED ME to go to the prom with him!” she burst out as soon as her sisters got home.


“What? He did?” Lisbeth dropped her books on the couch and stared.


“I knew it!” Allie said. “I knew he was going to ask you!”


“This is so awesome, Mandy!”


“I know!” Mandy opened her arms and got hugs from both her sisters. “I almost died!”


“Tell us exactly what he said!


“What who said?” Jules came in at that moment.


“Brent asked Mandy to go to the prom with him!” Allie said.


Jules didn’t even bother to hide her shock. “What about Ashley? He finally broke up with her?”


“Duh, of course, or else he wouldn’t have asked Mandy,” Allie bristled. “Jules, sometimes you’re so—”


“Well,” Mandy interrupted reluctantly, “he didn’t…exactly break up with her yet. She, um…she has to go with her cousin.”


Allie’s eyes opened wide. “…Oh!”


“But Brent said he was glad and that he’d rather take me anyway.”


“I'm sure,” Lisbeth said. “Now tell us his exact words.”


As Mandy repeated the brief but very significant exchange, Jules studied the pure joy on Allie and Lisbeth’s faces, and knew her own expression was peevish.


“Quit looking at me like that,” Mandy said. “You’d like Brent if you’d just give him a chance.”


“She’s jealous,” Allie said.


“Yeah, that’s it,” Jules smirked. “I’m jealous because I want to go to the prom with Brent.”


“She’s just surprised,” Lisbeth said. “She’ll come around.”



THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY all four April girls went to the mall to shop for a prom gown. But the nice ones were too expensive, and the cheap ones were tacky. The gown Mandy fell in love with was almost a hundred dollars.


“I know Ashley’s gown will be unbelievable,” Mandy said. “If only we weren’t so poor.”


“We’re not poor. The guy Simon and I saw in Boston a couple of weeks ago sleeping on a grate wearing bags on his feet eating garbage—he was poor,” Jules said.



“MANDY WANTS IT so bad,” Jules told Simon later that day. “And it’s perfect on her. Brent would die if he saw her in it.”


“Jules, I can give Mandy the money.”


“No. That’s sweet. But Mandy would never take money from you.”


“Let me lend it to her, then.”


“She wouldn’t want to borrow from you, either.”


“Would she take money from you?”


“Maybe. But I don’t have a hundred dollars.”


“Sell me something.”


“What?”


“Sell me something.”


“Like what? My body?”


Simon laughed. “I may be rich, but I’m not that rich.”


They went into the kitchen to make hot chocolate. Jules emptied two packets of cocoa into each mug and stirred as carefully as she could, trying not to spill the powder over the edge. Not that it mattered if she made a mess—Grandfather had a cleaning woman who came in every morning. “Seriously,” she said, “what do I have that you would want to buy?”


“Let's go to my room.”


She followed him up the stairs, curious now. They sat on the bed, opposite one another, and he said, “I have to write a paper and I keep putting it off because I stink at writing. I’ll pay you to write it for me.”


“Simon! That’s unethical.”


“I’m going to be a musician. I don’t need to be able to write papers. It’s totally unrelated to my field.” He gave her a minute, then added, “If I write it, it’ll be lousy, I’ll get a failing grade, and that’ll bring my average down, and then I might not be able to go to college. And education is so important for—”


“You don’t give a rat’s ass about your grades. What’s the paper on?”


“How the stage was set for World War II. I was going to ask Grandfather about it, because he was a Marine then. And it might be interesting, to hear him talk about it. But I still wouldn’t be able to write it.”


“The stage was set,” Jules said, “because of a recent economic crisis in Germany. I mean, there are a ton of reasons why the country put Hitler in charge. People were scared, people were desperate. They wanted to believe his lies, that he could make their lives better.”


“See what I mean? You could probably write it without doing any research at all.”


“Simon, I’d be glad to help you with it. You wouldn’t need to pay me.”


“I’d never ask you to do this for me and not expect to pay you. Thing is, I know a kid who writes papers for other kids. Really smart guy. And I was thinking about asking him.”


“Simon!”


“So I’d much rather give the money to you, to give to Mandy. Jules, really. It’s a perfect solution.”


“Well…”


“If you don’t do it, what’s Mandy going to wear to the prom? Just a regular dress that she’s worn fifty times and everyone has seen? And all the other girls will be wearing prom gowns, and she’ll be the only one who—”


“Okay, okay. Let me think.” Jules wrestled with her conscience for a moment longer. Lots of kids had offered her money to write their papers, and she’d always said No. But this was different. Plus, what a fascinating subject: how one evil madman was able to convince humans to kill other humans for no reason except that they were Jewish or homosexuals or leftists or gypsies. Amazing, that people could be so crazy, just as crazy as he was. “Okay, I’ll do it.”


“Excellent.” From his wallet he took out a fifty-dollar bill and handed it to her. “I can get you the other fifty tomorrow. I’ll go to the bank after school.”


“Won’t Grandfather want to know why you’re withdrawing so much money?”


“He never checks my account, he trusts me. There’s lots of money in there that he’s given me over the years for Christmas, my birthday. I get an allowance, too.”


Jules felt weird, but finally she took it, folded it, and put it in her pocket. “I won’t give it to Mandy yet, I’ll wait a couple of days, and then tell her it’s some money I’ve had for a while. Thank you, Simon! Mandy is going to be so psyched!”



SHE WAS. Her mouth dropped open when Jules handed her two $50 bills, and she said, “Where did you get that?”


“Here and there. You know me, I never buy anything. So it’s just been sitting around.”


“Jules! I can’t take that from you!”


“Shut up.”


“Are you sure?”


“Of course.”


“Oh Jules! Thank you! I’ll pay you back as soon as I can!”


“Whatever. It doesn’t matter.”


Mandy hugged her. “It does so matter, it matters to me!”



WITH A GIGGLE, Mandy swirled, showing off her gown; delicate blue with a sweetheart neckline, it had a wide waistband that accentuated Mandy’s tiny waist, and a full skirt.


“Brent is going to fall madly in love with you and you’ll start spending all your time with him and we’ll never see you,” Jules grumbled, her voice barely heard above the delighted gasps from Mom and her sisters.


“I doubt that he’d ask me out in front of Ashley,” Mandy said. “Don’t forget, she’ll be sitting at our table with her cousin.”


“Yeah. Only a guy with no class would do something like that.”


“Oh Jules.” Mandy, so grateful for the dress, couldn’t be annoyed. “Thank you so much for the loan!”



Jules shrugged; changed the subject. “What color is Brent’s tux?”

“Navy blue.”


Allie said, “How’d you save up a hundred dollars?”


“Navy blue, huh? Good.”


“But how’d you save up—”


“Jules is so generous,” Lisbeth, who’d been taken into Jules’ confidence earlier in the day, intervened smoothly. “Remember that time she bought me that orange ski cap? Remember? Because I kept getting colds?”


“It was a yucky orange,” Allie said. “It didn’t go with your coat.”


“Come on, Jules,” Mandy said, “you have to admit Brent is gorgeous.”


“He’s okay. He’s too…I don’t know, perfect or something. I like Simon’s looks better.”


“Simon’s a cute boy. But Brent is a man.”


“He’s so vain. Just the sight of him annoys me. I don’t understand what you see in him.”


“You know something, Jules?” Mandy’s voice was solemn as she studied her reflection in the mirror Allie had propped up against the couch. “I can’t explain why I like him. I’ve spent hours trying to figure it out. You’ve always been able to read people better than I could, so I assumed there was something weird about me. That I wasn’t seeing him clearly or something. And finally, I decided I don’t care. I like him and I can’t help it.”


“I don’t get it! If you know he’s a jerk—”


“I didn’t say he was a jerk. I said maybe it didn’t make sense for me to like him.”


“Well so why…”


“There’s no way to explain it. All I can say is, someday you’ll meet someone, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from falling for him. Whether it makes sense or not. Even if he drives you crazy.”


Jules shook her head. “Believe me, I will never do that.”

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