The Summer I Turned Sixteen
By: P.L. Jones
Startled, I lose my grip on the toilet brush in my hand, and minty blue water splashes everywhere as the brush falls to land in the toilet.
Oops…the same thing happened yesterday.
The only difference was that yesterday, as I’d scrubbed the ring out of some hotel guest’s toilet it was Nicholas who startled me, scaring me so badly I’d nearly fallen in the toilet.
Of course he apologized, but not before laughing like it was the funniest thing he’d seen all summer.
I pretended to be mad about the toilet water splashing on my face (which is actually pretty gross) but as he gently washed my face with warm soapy water, planting kisses on both of my cheeks and finally on my lips… we both knew that I was anything but mad-
My cousin’s voice brings me out of my daydream and I’m immediately on my feet,
“Hang on Tricia, I’m coming.”
Tricia’s not crazy about having to always cover for me and Nicholas, so I can’t help but feel a bit guilty when she catches me daydreaming about him.
In spite of her views on our relationship, I know Tricia wouldn’t dream of telling my supervisor about me and Nicholas. It’s against policy for workers to fraternize with guests, so I’d lose my summer job and my Mom would want to know why…and it would be just terrible.
I come out of the bathroom and find Tricia standing in the doorway.
Clad in an exact replica of the blue Worchester’s Hotel uniform I’m wearing, I notice, for the first time that day, that she’s also wearing a pair of my earrings.
But the expression on her face stops me from mentioning the “borrowed” earrings.
Her dark eyes are worried and her full lips are set into a, rather grave, straight line.
Did someone tell on Nicholas and I?
Fearing the worst, I move towards her.
“What’s wrong?” I whisper.
Without a word, Tricia grabs my left hand, pulling me out of the hotel room and into the hallway.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
She’s practically marching, dragging me down the empty hallway towards another room…Nicholas’s room…
My worries vanish as I realize this is all about her prejudice against Nicholas.
Jerking my hand away from hers, I open my mouth to scold her, but Tricia has always had a way of talking over me,
“You’re not going to like this, but you need to see it for yourself.”
The stubborn streak, the one I didn’t even know I had until I met Nicholas, rises in my chest, ready to challenge my cousin as she again grabs my hand, pulling me into his hotel room.
Once she’s closed the door behind us, I move out of her grasp and let her have it,
“Hey, you have to stop this! I like Nicholas and nothing’s going to change that! Just because he’s white-“
“Natalie, read what he wrote!” She exclaims, pointing to an opened laptop that’s sitting on his bed. Lowering her voice, she goes on, “I promise I won’t say another word but you need to read his email.”
My newfound stubborn streak is weakened.
Why does she seem so…sad? It’s almost like she’s actually found something incriminating.
Insecurity, creeping into my emotions, threatens to drown my confidence.
Just two days ago, my confidence in our relationship was soaring, reaching new heights as he’d said, looking at me in a way no one else ever had, that he loved everything about me…but what if he didn’t?
What if Tricia’s been right all along?
I don’t actually know anything about guys…I’ve never even had a boyfriend…so maybe he really is just using me for some kind of summer fling.
But the way he kissed me…
“Read it.” Tricia quietly says, breaking into my thoughts.
My legs, as stiff as wooden blocks, carry me to where the laptop rests on the unmade bed.
My heart pounds against my chest as my eyes go to the email:
I can’t wait for this summer to be over. Did you get the gift I sent? Wear it for me when I come back. Love you & miss every sexy part of yo-
My heart …the pounding…I don’t feel it anymore.
I do, however, feel an unsettling iciness in my chest. It seems to stream out from the place where my heart should be, moving swiftly to run down the sides of my arms.
My eyes go back to the last sentence, reading it over and over again, trying to somehow make it different from what it seems to imply…
But I can’t make it different.
“How was work?” Mom asks, giving me a concerned look over her plate of jambalaya.
I open my mouth and freeze as I hear my phone ring… again.
That’s the twenty-fifth time.
I can’t believe I’ve had the strength to resist answering twenty-five of Nicholas Wilkes’ calls.
Of course, it’s much easier to resist now that I’m with my Mom, who, doesn’t allow cell phones at the dinner table.
“You’re popular tonight.” She arches an eyebrow and takes a bite of her food, her eyes still on me as she chews, “Natalie, you’ve been so busy this summer, with work and everything... I feel like there’s something going on and you’re not… telling me.”
She’s always said, ‘no boyfriends until you’re old enough to do something about it!’ Meaning, until I’m old enough to get married.
How can I tell her I’ve been breaking her rules?
Her hazel eyes search mine and all I can do is gulp while shaking my head,
“What does that mean? No, as in “No you’re not going to tell me”?”
“I- I mean…” I stammer.
There’s no way she’ll understand.
My Mom sets her fork on her plate and sighs,
“Natalie, if this is about a-“
The doorbell rings.
I glance in the direction of the door and feel my heart thump in my chest.
He wouldn’t come to my house…would he?
My throat is dry.
I need a sip of water, but my arms won’t move
No, he wouldn’t care enough to-
Two sharp knocks on the door.
“Hang on.” Mom leaves her chair and heads towards the door.
I watch her until she disappears around the corner.
“Can I help you?” Her voice is polite, crisp.
“Hi. Ms. Richard?”
I close my eyes, shaking my head in disbelief.
He actually came to my house.
“Yes?” Mom asks.
I can just picture her staring at the tall, sixteen year old who looks completely out of place as he stands at our front door.
“I’m one of Natalie’s um…friends… and I think I might have accidently done something to offend her. Is there any way I can try to explain…I…I’m so sorry to interrupt your dinner.”
The way he stammered when we first met.
I’d been on my lunch break, reading a book by the pool when he walked up to me, asking if I knew where the vending machines were.
The only problem was that, he could barely get the sentence out and his face, endearingly crimson with embarrassment, caught me off guard and that’s when I first started to like him.
I frown, my eyes tearing up at the memory.
I hate that I still like him.
Before I know it, Nicholas is in the dining room, walking towards the table, his eyes all over me.
A few feet behind him, I see my Mom standing guard, arms folded as she keeps her eyes on the strange boy who wants to apologize to her daughter.
“Natalie, what did I do?” His voice is low and I watch him gulp, “Whatever it was I’m sorry.”
I open my mouth and four words spill out,
“You emailed your girlfriend.”
Nicholas frowns, shaking his head,
“No…I don’t…I don’t have a girlfriend…except you.”
He leans forward, his breathing shallow, as he takes a step towards me,
“I saw the email on the laptop in your room. Tricia found it while she was cleaning.” I can’t stop myself from looking at him.
That’s what always got me about him, his honest face.
Why can’t I stop liking him?
“My room, no,” Now, he’s shaking his head, “Nat, my brother and I switched rooms last night. He has a girlfriend back home and maybe he emailed her, I don’t know, but whatever you saw in that room wasn’t from me, I swear I don’t have a girlfriend…except you, I mean if …if you still want…”
I watch him hold his breath, forgetting to breathe.
As I open my mouth to answer my Mom’s voice surprises us both,
“I don’t necessarily mind the two of you having this conversation, but just to throw this out there, Natalie, sweetheart, you’re grounded and Nicholas, dear, my daughter won’t be anyone’s girlfriend until she’s at least eighteen. But anyway…go ahead, finish up.”
Nicholas, having turned around to look at my Mother, is back to facing me.
Those blue eyes, piercing into mine, try to read my expression.
A sigh runs away with my breath and I lick my lips as I realize that, maybe it’s the summer heat, the fact that I’ve been overworked and slightly delirious for the past three months…but whatever the reason, I want to keep liking Nicholas Wilkes.