KITTYâS MIXING NAIL-POLISH COLORS ON
a paper plate while Iâm looking up âcelebrity updosâ for Trinaâs wedding hair. Iâm lying on the couch, with pillows propped up behind me, and she is on the floor, with nail-polish bottles all around her. Suddenly she asks me, âHave you ever thought about, like, what if Daddy and Trina have a baby and it looks like Daddy?â
Kitty thinks of all sorts of things that would never have occurred to me. I hadnât once thought of thatâthat they might have a baby or that this pretend baby wouldnât look like us. The baby would be all Daddy and Trina. No one would have to wonder whose child he was or calculate who belongs to who. Theyâd just assume.
âBut theyâre both so old,â I say.
âTrinaâs forty-three. You can get pregnant at forty-three. Maddieâs mom just had a baby and sheâs forty-three.â
âTrue . . .â
âWhat if itâs a boy?â
Daddy with a son. Itâs a startling thought. Heâs not exactly sporty, not in a traditional male sense. I mean, he likes to go biking and he plays doubles tennis in the spring. But Iâm sure there are things heâd want to do with a son that he doesnât do with us because no oneâs interested. Fishing, maybe? Football
he doesnât care about. Trina cares more than he does.
When my mom was pregnant with Kitty, Margot wanted another sister but I wanted a boy. The Song girls and their baby brother. It would be nice to get that baby brother after all. Especially since I wonât be at home and have to hear it crying in the middle of the night. Iâll just get to buy the baby little shearling booties and sweaters with red foxes or bunnies.
âIf they named him Tate, we could call him Tater Tot,â I muse.
Two red blotches appear on Kittyâs cheeks, and just like that, she looks as young as I always picture her in my head: a little kid. âI donât want them to have another baby. If they have a baby, Iâll be in the middle. Iâll be nothing.â
âHey!â I object. âIâm in the middle now!â
âMargotâs oldest and smartest, and youâre the prettiest.â
Iâm the prettiest?? Kitty thinks Iâm the prettiest?
I try not to look too happy, because sheâs still talking. âIâm only the youngest. If they have a baby, I wonât even be that.â
I put down my computer. âKitty, youâre a lot more than the youngest Song girl. Youâre the wild Song girl. The mean one. The spiky one.â Kittyâs pursing her lips, trying not to smile at this. I add, âAnd no matter what, Trina loves you; sheâll always love you, even if she did have a baby which I donât think she will.â I stop. âWait, did you mean it when you said I was the prettiest?â
âNo, I take it back. Iâll probably be the prettiest by the time I get to high school. You can be the nicest.â I leap off the couch and grab her by the shoulders like Iâm going to shake her, and she giggles.
âI donât want to be the nicest,â I say.
âYou are, though.â She says it not like an insult, but not exactly like a compliment. âWhat do you wish you had of mine?â
âYour nose. You have a little nubbin of a nose.â I tap it. âWhat about me?â
Kitty shrugs. âI donât know.â Then she cracks up, and I shake her by the shoulders.
Iâm still thinking about it later that evening. I hadnât thought of Daddy and Trina having a baby. But Trina doesnât have any children, just her âfur babyâ golden retriever Simone. She might want a baby of her own. And Daddyâs never said so, but is there a chance heâd want to try one more time for a son? The baby would be eighteen years younger than me. What a strange thought. And even stranger still: Iâm old enough to have a baby of my own.
What would Peter and I do if I got pregnant? I canât even picture what would happen. All I can see is the look on Daddyâs face when I tell him the news, and thatâs about as far as I get.
* * *
The next morning, on the way to school in Peterâs car, I steal a look at his profile. âI like how youâre so smooth,â I say. âLike a baby.â
âI could grow a beard if I wanted to,â he says, touching his chin. âA thick one.â
Fondly I say, âNo, you couldnât. But maybe one day, when youâre a man.â
He frowns. âI
a man. Iâm eighteen!â
I scoff, âYou donât even pack your own lunches. Do you even know how to do laundry?â
âIâm a man in all the ways that count,â he boasts, and I roll my eyes.
âWhat would you do if you were drafted to go to war?â I ask.
âUh . . . arenât college kids given a pass on that? Does the draft even still exist?â
I donât know the answers to either of these questions, so I barrel forward. âWhat would you do if I got pregnant right now?â
âLara Jean, weâre not even having sex. That would be the immaculate conception.â
âIf we were?â I press.
He groans. âYou and your questions! I donât know. How could I know what I would do?â
âWhat do you
you would do?â
Peter doesnât hesitate. âWhatever you wanted to do.â
âWouldnât you want to decide together?â Iâm testing himâfor what, I donât know.
âIâm not the one who has to carry it. Itâs your body, not mine.â
His answer pleases me, but still I keep going. âWhat if I said . . . letâs have the baby and get married?â
Again Peter doesnât hesitate. âIâd say sure. Yeah!â
Now Iâm the one frowning. âââSureâ? Just like that? The
biggest decision of your life and you just say sure?â
âYeah. Because I
I lean over to him and put my palms on his smooth cheeks. âThatâs how I know youâre still a boy. Because youâre so sure.â
He frowns back at me. âWhy are you saying it like itâs a bad thing?â
I let go. âYouâre always so sure of everything about yourself. Youâve never been not sure.â
âWell, Iâm sure of this one thing,â he says, staring straight ahead. âIâm sure Iâd never be the kind of dad my dad is, no matter how old I am.â
I go quiet, feeling guilty for teasing him and bringing up bad feelings. I want to ask if his dad is still reaching out to make amends, but the closed-up look on Peterâs face stops me. I just wish he and his dad could fix things between them before he goes to college. Because right now, Peter
still a boy, and deep down, I think all boys want to know their dads, no matter what kind of men they are.
* * *
After school, we go through the drive-thru, and Peterâs already tearing into his sandwich before weâre out of the parking lot. Between bites of fried chicken sandwich, he says, âDid you mean it when you said before that you couldnât picture marrying me?â
âI didnât say that!â
âI mean, you kind of said that. You said Iâm still a boy and you couldnât marry a boy.â
Now Iâve gone and hurt his feelings. âI didnât mean it like that. I meant I couldnât picture marrying anybody right now. Weâre both still babies. How could we
a baby?â Without thinking, I say, âAnyway, my dad gave me a whole birth-control kit for college, so we donât even have to worry about it.â
Peter nearly chokes on his sandwich. âA birth-control kit?â
âSure. Condoms and . . .â Dental dams. âPeter, do you know what a dental dam is?â
âA what? Is that what dentists use to keep your mouth open when they clean it?â
I giggle. âNo. Itâs for oral sex. And here I thought you were this big expert and
were going to be the one to teach
everything at college!â
My heart speeds up as I wait for him to make a joke about the two of us finally having sex at college, but he doesnât. He frowns and says, âI donât like the thought of your dad thinking weâre doing it when weâre not.â
âHe just wants us to be careful is all. Heâs a professional, remember?â I pat him on the knee. âEither way, Iâm not getting pregnant, so itâs fine.â
He crumples up his napkin and tosses it in the paper bag, his eyes still on the road. âYour parents met in college, didnât they?â
Iâm surprised he remembers. I donât remember telling him that. âYeah.â
âSo how old were they? Eighteen? Nineteen?â Peterâs headed somewhere with this line of questioning.
âTwenty, I think.â
His face dims but just slightly. âOkay, twenty. Iâm eighteen and youâll be eighteen next month. Twenty is just two years older. So what difference does two years make in the grand scheme of things?â He beams a smile at me. âYour parents met at twenty; we met atââ
âTwelve,â I supply.
Peter frowns, annoyed that Iâve messed up his argument. âOkay, so we met when were kids, but we didnât get together until we were seventeenââ
âI was sixteen.â
âWe didnât get together
until we were both basically seventeen. Which is basically the same thing as eighteen, which is basically the same thing as twenty.â He has the self-satisfied look of a lawyer who has just delivered a winning closing statement.
âThatâs a very long and twisty line of logic,â I say. âHave you ever thought about being a lawyer?â
âNo, but now Iâm thinking maybe?â
has a great law school,â I say, and I get a sudden pang, because college is one thing, but law school? Thatâs so far away, and who knows what will happen between now and then? By then weâll be such different people. Thinking of Peter in his twenties, I feel a sense of yearning for the man I may never get to meet. Right now, today, heâs still a boy, and I know him better than anybody, but what if it isnât always this way? Already our paths are diverging, a little more every day, the closer we get to August.