ITâS THE FIRST NIGHT WEâVE
all been together for dinner since the engagement, and Daddyâs in the kitchen making a salad. Us girls are sitting in the living room just hanging out. Kitty is doing her homework; Ms. Rothschild is sipping on a glass of white wine. Itâs all very mellowâperfect timing for me to bring up wedding business. Iâve spent the last week working on a mood board for Daddy and Ms. Rothschildâs wedding:
Pride and Prejudice
the movie, a whole wall of roses for the photo-booth area,
The Virgin Suicides
, wine-bottle floral centerpieces as a nod to Charlottesville wineries.
When I present it to Ms. Rothschild on my laptop, she looks vaguely alarmed. She sets down her wine glass and looks closer at the screen. âThis is beautiful, Lara Jean. Really lovely. Youâve put a lot of time into this!â
So much time, in fact, that I skipped Peterâs lacrosse game this week, plus a movie night at Pammyâs. But this is important. Of course I donât say any of this out loud; I just smile a beatific smile. âDoes this vision feel in line with what you were thinking?
âWell . . . to be honest, I think we were thinking weâd just go to the justice of the peace. Selling my house and figuring out how Iâm going to fit all my junk in here is enough of a headache already.â
Daddy comes out with the wooden salad bowl in his hands. Dryly he says, âSo youâre saying marrying me is a headache?â
She rolls her eyes. âYou know what Iâm saying, Dan! Itâs not like you have the time to plan a big wedding either.â She takes a sip of wine and turns to me. âYour dad and I have both been married before, so neither of us feels like making a big fuss. Iâll probably just wear a dress I already have.â
we should make a big fuss. Do you know how many years it took Daddy to find someone whoâd eat his cooking and watch his documentaries?â I shake my head. âMs. Rothschild, youâre a miracle. For that we
to celebrate.â I call out to my dad, whoâs disappeared back into the kitchen. âDid you hear that, Daddy? Ms. Rothschild wants to go to
. Please disabuse her of this notion.â
âWill you please stop calling me Ms. Rothschild? Now that Iâm going to be your wicked stepmother, you should at least call me Trina. Or Tree. Whatever feels right to you.â
âHow about Stepmother?â I suggest, all innocence. âThat feels pretty right.â
She swats at me. âGirl! I will cut you.â
Giggling, I dart away from her. âLetâs get back to the wedding. I donât know if this is a sensitive issue or not, but did you keep your old wedding photos? I want to see what your bridal style was.â
Ms. Rothschild pulls a terrible face. âI think I threw out everything. I might have a picture tucked in an album somewhere. Thank God I got married before social media
was a thing. Can you imagine, getting divorced and having to take down all your wedding pictures?â
âIsnât it bad luck to talk about divorce when youâre planning your wedding?â
She laughs. âWell then, weâre already doomed.â I must look alarmed because she says, âIâm kidding! Iâll hunt around for a wedding picture to show you if you want, but honestly, Iâm not real proud of it. Smoky eye was the thing back then, and I took it a little too far. Plus I did that early two thousands thing with the chocolate lip liner and the frosted lip.â
I try to keep my face neutral. âRight, okay. What about your dress?â
âOne-shoulder, with a mermaid style skirt. It made my butt look amazing.â
âQuit judging me!â
Daddy puts his hand on Ms. Rothschildâs shoulder. âWhat if we did it here at the house?â
âLike in the backyard?â She considers this. âI think that could be nice. A little barbecue, just family and a few friends?â
âDaddy doesnât have any friends,â Kitty says from across the living room, her math book in her lap.
Daddy frowns at her. âI do too have friends. I have Dr. Kang from the hospital, and thereâs Marjorie, and Aunt D. But er, yes, it would be a small group on my side.â
âPlus Nana,â Kitty says, and both Daddy and Ms. Rothschild look nervous at the mention of Nana. Daddyâs mother isnât the friendliest person.
âDonât forget Grandma,â I throw in.
Grandma and Ms. Rothschild met at Thanksgiving, and while Daddy didnât explicitly introduce her as his girlfriend, Grandma is shrewd and she doesnât miss a thing. She gave Ms. Rothschild the third degree, asking if she had any kids of her own, how long sheâd been divorced, if she had any student-loan debt. Ms. Rothschild held up pretty well, and when I walked Grandma out to the car to say good-bye, she said Ms. Rothschild was ânot bad.â She said she dressed young for her age, but she also said that Ms. Rothschild had a lot of energy and a brightness to her.
âIâve already done the big wedding thing,â Ms. Rothschild says. âItâll be small on my side too. A few friends from college, Shelly from work. My sister Jeanie, my SoulCycle friends.â
âCan we be your bridesmaids?â Kitty asks, and Ms. Rothschild laughs.
âKitty! You canât just ask that.â But I turn to Ms. Rothschild, waiting to hear what she will say.
âSure,â she says. âLara Jean, would you be okay with that?â
âI would be honored,â I say.
âSo you three girls, and my friend Kristen, because sheâll kill me if I donât ask her.â
I clap my hands together. âNow that thatâs settled, letâs get back to the dress. If itâs going to be a backyard wedding, I feel like your dress should reflect that.â
âAs long as it has sleeves so my bat wings donât flap around,â she says.
âMs. RothâI mean, Trina, you donât have bat wings,â I say. Sheâs very in shape from all her Pilates and SoulCycle.
Kittyâs eyes light up. âWhat are bat wings? That sounds gross.â
âCome here, and Iâll show you.â Kitty obeys, and Ms. Rothschild lifts her arm and stretches it out; then at the last second she grabs Kitty and tickles her. Kittyâs dying laughing, and so is Ms. Rothschild.
Breathlessly she says, âGross? Thatâll teach you to call your wicked stepmother-to-be gross!â
Daddy looks as happy as Iâve ever seen him.
* * *
Later that night in our bathroom, Kittyâs brushing her teeth, and Iâm scrubbing my face with a new exfoliant I ordered off a Korean beauty site. Itâs walnut shells and blueberry. âMason jars and ginghamâbut elegant,â I muse.
âMason jars are played out,â Kitty says. âLook on Pinterest. Literally everybody does Mason jars.â
Her words do have the ring of truth. âWell, Iâm definitely wearing a flower crown on my head. I donât care if you say itâs played out.â
Flatly she says, âYou canât wear a flower crown.â
She spits out toothpaste. âYouâre too old. Thatâs for flower girls.â
âNo, you arenât envisioning it correctly. I wasnât thinking babyâs breath. I was thinking little pink and peach roses, with a lot of greenery. Pale green greenery, you know that kind?â
She shakes her head, resolute. âWe arenât fairies in a forest. Itâs too cutesy. And I know Gogoâs going to agree with me.â
I have a sinking feeling she will too. I decide to put this argument aside for now. It wonât be won today. âFor dresses, I was thinking we could wear vintage. Not off-white, but tea-stained white. Sort of nightgown-style. Very etherealânot fairy, more like celestial being.â
âIâm wearing a tuxedo.â
I nearly choke. âA what!â
âA tuxedo. With matching Converse.â
âOver my dead body!â
âKitty, this wedding isnât black tie. A tuxedo isnât going to look right at a backyard wedding! The three of us should match, like a set! The Song girls!â
âIâve already told Tree and Daddy, and they both love the idea of me in a tux, so get over it.â Sheâs got that look on her face, the obstinate look she gets when sheâs really digging her heels in. Like a bull.
âAt the very least you should wear a seersucker suit, then. It will be too hot for a tuxedo, and seersucker breathes.â I feel like Iâve made a concession here, so she should too, but no.
âYou donât get to decide everything, Lara Jean. Itâs not your wedding.â
âI know that!â
âWell, just keep it in mind.â
I reach out to shake her, but she flounces off before I can. Over her shoulder, she calls out, âWorry about your own life!â