PETER COMES OVER AFTER HAVING
dinner with his mom and Owen. When he rings the bell, I run to the front door and the first thing I do is ask if heâs spoken to his dad, but he brushes me off, the very picture of nonchalance. âItâs fine,â he says, taking off his shoes. âI didnât even want him to come in the first place.â
This stings, because it feels like maybe heâs blaming me, and maybe he shouldâafter all, I was the one who kept pushing him to invite his dad. I shouldâve listened to him when he said no.
Peter and I go upstairs to my room, and I hear my dad jokingly call out, âKeep the door open!â the way he always does, which makes Peter wince.
I sit down on the bed, and he sits far away from me at my desk. I go over to him and put my hand on his shoulder. âIâm sorry. This is my fault. I never should have pushed you to invite him. If youâre mad at me, I donât blame you one bit.â
âWhy would I be mad at you? Itâs not your fault he sucks.â When I donât say anything, he softens. âLook, Iâm really not sad. Iâm not anything. Youâll meet him another time, okay?â
I hesitate before saying, âIâve actually already met him before.â
He stares at me in disbelief.
I swallow. âI accidentally met him at one of your lacrosse games. He asked me not to mention itâhe didnât want you to know he was there. He just wanted to watch you play. He said he missed it.â The muscle in Peterâs jaw jumps. âI should have told you. Iâm sorry.â
âDonât be. Itâs like I said, I donât give a shit what he does.â I start to say something in return, but he interrupts before I can. âCan we just not talk about him anymore? Please?â
I nod. Itâs killing me to see the hurt in his eyes that heâs trying so hard to hide, but I feel like if I keep pressing him, itâll make things worse. I just want to make him feel better. Which is when I remember his gift. âI have something for you!â
Relief washes over his face, the tension in his shoulders loosens. âAw, you got me a graduation gift? I didnât get you anything, though.â
âThatâs okay, I didnât expect anything.â I jump up and get his scrapbook out of my hatbox. As I present the scrapbook to him, I find my heart is jumping all over the place. With excitement, and with nervousness. This will cheer him up, I know it will. âHurry up and open it!â
Slowly he does. The first page is a picture I found in a shoe box when Kitty and I were cleaning out the attic to make room for Trinaâs boxes. Itâs one of the few from our middle school days in the neighborhood. Itâs the first day of school; weâre waiting for the bus. Peterâs arms are slung around John McClaren and Trevor Pike. Genevieve and I have our arms linked; she is whispering a secret to me, probably about Peter.
I am turned toward her and not looking at the camera. Iâm wearing a heather-gray camisole of Margotâs and a jean skirt, and I remember feeling very grown-up in it, like a teenager. My hair is long and straight down my back, and it looks pretty much the same as it does now. Genevieve tried to convince me to cut it short for middle school, but I said no. We all look so young. John with his rosy cheeks, Trevor with his chubby ones, Peter with his skinny legs.
Underneath the picture I wrote,
âAww,â he says tenderly. âBaby Lara Jean and Baby Peter. Whereâd you find this?â
âIn a shoe box.â
He flicks Johnâs smiling face. âPunk.â
âJust kidding,â he says.
Thereâs our homecoming picture. Last Halloween, when I dressed up as Mulan and Peter wore a dragon costume. Thereâs a receipt from Tart and Tangy. One of his notes to me, from before.
If you make Joshâs dumb white-chocolate cranberry cookies and not my fruitcake ones, itâs over.
Pictures of us from Senior Week. Prom. Dried rose petals from my corsage. The
There are some things I didnât include, like the ticket stub from our first real date, the note he wrote me that said,
I like you in blue.
Those things are tucked away in my hatbox. Iâll never let those go.
But the really special thing Iâve included is my letter, the one I wrote to him so long ago, the one that brought us
together. I wanted to keep it, but something felt right about Peter having it. One day all of this will be proof, proof that we were here, proof that we loved each other. Itâs the guarantee that no matter what happens to us in the future, this time was ours.
When he gets to that page, Peter stops. âI thought you wanted to keep this,â he said.
âI wanted to, but then I felt like you should have it. Just promise youâll keep it forever.â
He turns the page. Itâs a picture from when we took my grandma to karaoke. I sang âYouâre So Vainâ and dedicated it to Peter. Peter got up and sang âStyleâ by Taylor Swift. Then he dueted âUnchained Melodyâ with my grandma, and after, she made us both promise to take a Korean language class at
. She and Peter took a ton of selfies together that night. She made one her home screen on her phone. Her friends at her apartment complex said he looked like a movie star. I made the mistake of telling Peter, and he crowed about it for days after.
He stays on that page for a while. When he doesnât say anything, I say, helpfully, âItâs something to remember us by.â
He snaps the book shut. âThanks,â he says, flashing me a quick smile. âThis is awesome.â
âYouâre not going to look at the rest of it?â
âI will, later.â
Peter says he should get back home so he can pack for Beach Week, and before we go back downstairs, I ask him again if heâs okay, and he assures me that he is.
* * *
After Peter leaves, Margot comes up to my room and helps me pack. Iâm sitting cross-legged on the floor, arranging my suitcase, and sheâs passing me piles. Iâm still feeling worried about Peter, so Iâm glad to have her company to take my mind off things.
âI canât believe youâre already graduated,â Margot says, folding a stack of T-shirts for me. âIn my head youâre still the same age you were when I left.â Teasingly she says, âForever sweet sixteen, Lara Jean.â
âAlmost as grown-up as you now, Gogo,â I say.
âWell, youâll always be shorter than me, at least,â she says, and I throw a bikini top at her head. âPretty soon weâll be packing you up for college.â
I stuff a curling iron into the pocket of my suitcase. âMargot, when you first went to college, what did you miss most about home?â
âWell, you guys, obviously.â
âBut what else? Like, what were the unexpected things you missed?â
âI missed giving Kitty a kiss good night after sheâd had a bath and her hair was clean.â
I make a snorty sound. âA rare occasion!â
Margot takes her time, thinking about what else. âI missed a good hamburger. Hamburgers taste different in Scotland. More like . . . meat loaf. Meat loaf on a bun. Hmm, what else? I missed driving you guys around. I felt like the captain of a ship. I missed your baked goods!â
âWhich ones?â I ask.
âWhich ones did you miss the most?â
âYour lemon cake.â
âIf youâd told me, I wouldâve sent you one.â
Smiling, she says, âIâm pretty sure sending a cake overseas is exorbitantly expensive.â
âLetâs make one now,â I say, and Margot kicks her legs up happily.
* * *
So we go downstairs and thatâs what we do. Kitty is asleep; Daddy and Trina are in their bedroom with the door closed. As much as I love Trina, thatâs a strange thing to get used to as well. Daddyâs door was never closed. But I suppose he needs his time too, time where heâs not a dad. Not even for sex, but just to talk, to take a breath. But also for sex, I guess.
Margotâs measuring flour when I ask, âDid you have on music when you and Josh first did it?â
âYou made me lose count!â Margot dumps all the flour back in the canister and starts over again.
âWell, did you?â
âNo. Nosy! I swear, youâre worse than Kitty.â
I roll a lemon around on the counter to warm it up before I start squeezing. âSo it was just . . . silent?â
. There was the sound of someone mowing their lawn. And his mom had the dryer going. Their dryer is really loud. . . .â
âBut his mom wasnât home, right?â
I couldnât do that. My roommate brought someone home once and I pretended to be asleep, but honestly, I was trying not to laugh. The guy was a heavy breather. He was a moaner, too.â
We both giggle.
âI hope my roommate doesnât do that.â
âJust set up ground rules in the beginning. Like who can use the room when, that kind of thing. And just remember that you should try to be understanding, because Peter will be visiting a lot, and you donât want to use up her goodwill.â She pauses. âYou guys havenât had sex yet, right?â Quickly she adds, âYou donât have to say if you donât want to.â
âNo,â I say. âI mean, not yet.â
âAre you thinking about it?â Margot asks, trying to sound casual. âBecause of Beach Week?â
I donât answer her right away.
I hadnât been thinking about it, not Beach Week specifically, anyway. The thought of Peter and me having sex in the future, for it to be as commonplace as us going to the movies or holding handsâitâs a little strange to imagine. I just wouldnât want it to be less special, after we do it. I want it to always be a sacred thing, not something to take for granted because everybody else does it, or because weâve done it before. I suppose anything can become ordinary or commonplace if you do it enough times, but my hope is that this never is. Not for us. âI think I definitely want music,â I say, straining lemon juice into a glass measuring cup. âThat way if Iâm a heavy breather or heâs a heavy breather, we
wonât really know. And itâll be more romantic. Music makes everything more romantic, doesnât it? One second youâre walking your dog in the suburbs, and then you put on Adele, and itâs like youâre in a movie and youâve just had your heart brutally broken.â
Margot says, âIn movies they never put on a condom, so make sure youâre in real life for that part.â
Thatâs enough to shake me out of my reverie. âDaddy gave me a whole kit. He left it in the upstairs bathroom for me. Condoms, cream, dental dams.â I burst out laughing. âIsnât âdental damâ the unsexiest word you ever heard?â
âNo, I think âgonorrheaâ is!â
Abruptly I stop laughing. âPeter doesnât have gonorrhea!â Now Margotâs the one cracking up. âHe doesnât!â
âI know, Iâm just teasing. But I think you should pack your kit just in case things go in that direction.â
âGogo, Iâm not planning on having sex at Beach Week.â
âI said just in case! You never know.â She pushes her hair out of her face and in a serious tone, she says, âIâm really glad my first time was with Josh, though. It should be with someone who really knows you. Someone who loves you.â
* * *
Before I go to bed, I open up that kit and take out the condoms and pack them deep in the bottom of my suitcase. Then I pick out my prettiest bra and underwear set, pale pink edged in electric blue lace, never been worn, and I pack that too. Just in case.