THE AIR SMELLS LIKE HONEYSUCKLES
and summer days that go on and on. It is the perfect day to get married. I donât think thereâs any place prettier than Virginia in June. Everything in bloom, everything green and sunny and hopeful. When I get married, I think I might like it to be at home too.
We woke up early, and it seemed like there would be plenty of time, but of course weâre running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Trina is flying around the upstairs in her silky ivory robe that Kristen bought her. Kristen bought pink ones for us bridesmaids, with our names embroidered in gold on the front pocket. Trinaâs says
. Iâve got to hand it to Kristen. Sheâs annoying but she has vision. She knows how to make things nice.
Trinaâs photographer friend takes a picture of all of us in our robes, Trina sitting in the middle like a very tan swan. Then itâs time to get dressed. We compromised on Kittyâs tuxedoâsheâs wearing a white short-sleeved button-down shirt, a jaunty plaid bow tie, and pants that hit at her ankle. Her hair is in Swiss Miss braids, tucked under and pinned up. She looks so pretty. She looks so . . . Kitty. I compromised by putting babyâs breath in my hair but no flower crown. I also compromised on my vision of fairy nightgowns for Margot
and me. Instead we are wearing vintage 1950s floral dresses that I found on EtsyâMargotâs is cream with yellow daisies, and mine has pink flowers and straps that tie at the shoulder. Mine must have been owned by a short person, because we didnât even have to alter it, and it hits at the knees, right where itâs supposed to, .
Trina is a beautiful bride. Her teeth and dress look very white against her tanned skin. âI donât look silly, do I?â She casts a nervous look in my direction. âToo old to wear white? I mean, I
Margot answers before I can. âYou look perfect. Just perfect.â
My older sister has a way of sounding right. Trinaâs whole body relaxes, like one big exhale. âThank you, Margot.â Her voice goes tremulous. âIâm just . . . so happy.â
âDonât cry!â Kitty screeches.
âShh,â I tell her. âDonât scream. Trina needs serenity.â Kittyâs been a nervous bundle of energy all day; itâs like her birthday and Christmas and first day of school combined.
Trina fans her armpits. âIâm sweating. I think I need more deodorant. Kitty, do I smell?â
Kitty leans in. âYouâre good.â
Weâve already taken a hundred pictures today, and weâll take hundreds more, but I know this one will be my favorite. Us three Song girls flocked in tight around Trina, Margot dabbing at Trinaâs eyes with a tissue, Kitty standing on a footstool fussing with Trinaâs hair, Trinaâs arm around me. Weâre smiling so big. Things are ending, but they are beginning, too.
As for Peter, thereâs been no word. Every time a car comes down our street, I go to the window to see if itâs him, but it never is. He isnât coming, and I donât blame him one bit. But still I hope, because I canât help but hope.
* * *
The backyard is covered in Christmas lights and white paper lanterns. Granted, thereâs no wall of roses, but it still looks lovely. All of the chairs are set up; the runner is rolled out in the middle for Trina to walk down. I greet guests as they come inâitâs a small group, under fifty people. The perfect size for a backyard wedding. Margotâs sitting with Grandma, Nana, and Trinaâs dad and sister in the first row, keeping them company while I walk around saying hello to our neighbors the Shahs, Aunt Carrie and Uncle Victor, my cousin Haven, who compliments my dress. Throughout it all, I keep my eyes trained on the driveway, waiting for a black Audi that doesnât come.
When âLullabyâ by the Dixie Chicks begins to play, Kitty, Margot, and I get into our places. Daddy walks out and stands on the groomâs side, and we all look toward the house, where Trina is making her way toward us. She is resplendent.
We cry throughout the vows, even Margot, who never cries. They go with the traditional ones, and when Reverend Choi, the pastor from Grandmaâs church, says, âYou may kiss the bride,â Daddy turns beet red, but he kisses Trina with a flourish. Everyone claps; Kitty whoops. Jamie Fox-Pickle barks.
* * *
The father-daughter dance was Trinaâs idea. She said sheâd already been there and done that and didnât feel the need to
do it again, and that it would be far more meaningful for us girls to do it instead. We practiced earlier this week, on the dance floor Daddy rented.
We planned the father-daughter dance to go Margot first, then I cut in, then Kitty cuts in. The song Daddy chose is âIsnât She Lovely,â a song Stevie Wonder wrote for his daughter when she was first born.
Kitty and I stand off to the side, clapping to the beat. I know sheâs already relishing her moment to cut in on me.
Before Daddy releases Margot, he pulls her close and whispers something in her ear, and she gets tears in her eyes. I wonât ask what he said; it is a moment just for them.
Daddy and I have practiced a few moves. The crowd-pleaser is when we dance-walk side by side and shimmy together in unison.
âIâm so proud of you,â he says. âMy middle girl.â Itâs my turn for my eyes to fill. I kiss him on the cheek and hand him off to Kitty. Daddy swings her around just as the harmonica starts up.
Iâm walking off the dance floor when I see him. Peter, in a suit, standing to the side, beside the dogwood tree. He looks so handsome I can hardly stand it. I cross the backyard, and he watches me the whole time. My heart is pounding so hard. Is he here for me? Or did he just come because he promised my dad?
When Iâm standing in front of him, I say, âYou came.â
Peter looks away. âOf course I came.â
Softly I say, âI wish I could take back the things I said the
other night. I donât even remember all of them.â
Looking down, he says, âBut you meant them, right? So itâs a good thing you said them then, because somebody had to and you were right.â
âWhich part?â I whisper.
. About me not transferring there.â He lifts his head, his eyes wounded. âBut you should have told me my mom talked to you.â
I take a shaky breath. âYou should have told me you were thinking about transferring! You shouldâve told me how you were feeling, period. You shut down after graduation; you wouldnât let me in. You kept saying everything was going to be fine.â
âBecause I was fucking scared, okay!â he bursts out. He looks around to see if anyone heard, but the music is loud, and everyone is dancing; no one is looking at us, and itâs like we are alone here in this backyard.
âWhat were you so scared about?â I whisper.
His hands tighten into fists at his sides. When he finally speaks, his voice comes out raw, like he hasnât used it in a while. âI was scared that you were going to go to
and you were gonna figure out I wasnât worth it, and you were going to leave.â
I take a step closer to him. I put my hand on his arm; he doesnât pull away from me. âBesides my family, youâre the most special person to me in the world. And I meant some of those things I said the other night, but not the part when I said I only wanted to lose my virginity to you to close a chapter on us. I wanted it to be you because I love you.â
Peter puts one arm around my waist, pulls me in, and, looking down at me, he says fiercely, âNeither of us wants to break up. So why should we? Because of some shit my mom said? Because your sister did it that way? Youâre not the same as your sister, Lara Jean. Weâre not the same as Margot and Sanderson or anybody else. Weâre you and me. And yeah, itâs gonna be hard. But Lara Jean, Iâll never feel for another girl what I feel for you.â He says it with all the certainty only a teenage boy can have, and I have never loved him more than at this very moment.
* * *
âLovinâ in My Babyâs Eyesâ is playing, and Peter takes my hand and leads me out to the lawn.
Weâve never danced to this kind of song before. Itâs the kind of song where you sway together and make a lot of eye contact and smile. It feels different, like weâre already older versions of Peter and Lara Jean.
Across the dance floor, Trina and Kitty and Margot are dancing in a circle, with Grandma in the middle. Haven is dancing with my dad. She catches my eye and mouths,
Heâs so cute.
Peter, not my dad. He is. He is so, so cute.
I will never forget tonight, not for as long as I live. One day, if Iâm lucky, Iâll tell some young girl all my stories, just like Stormy told me hers. And Iâll get to live them again.
When Iâm old and gray, I will look back on this night, and I will remember it just as it was.
Weâre still here. Itâs not the future yet.
* * *
That night, after all the guests have gone, after the chairs have been stacked back up, and the leftovers put in the fridge, I go up to my room to change out of my dress. Sitting on the bed is my yearbook. I flip to the back of the book, and there it is, Peterâs message to me.
Only, itâs not a message, itâs a contract.
Lara Jean and Peterâs Amended Contract
Peter will write a letter to Lara Jean once a week. A real handwritten letter, not an e-mail.
Lara Jean will call Peter once a day. Preferably the last call of the night, before she goes to bed.
Lara Jean will put up a picture of Peterâs choosing on her wall.
Peter will keep the scrapbook out on his desk so any interested parties will see that he is taken.
Peter and Lara Jean will always tell each other the truth, even when itâs hard.
Peter will love Lara Jean with all his heart, always.