ITâS THURSDAY, CHARACTERS DAY, THE
day Iâve been looking forward to all week. Peter and I spent hours going back and forth over this. I made a strong case for Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler, but had to back down when I realized how expensive it would be to rent Colonial costumes on such short notice. I think couples costumes might be my favorite part of being in a couple. Besides the kissing, and the free rides, and Peter himself.
He wanted to go as Spider-Man and have me wear a red wig and be Mary Jane Watson, mostly because he already had the costumeâand because heâs really fit from lacrosse, and why not give the people what they want? His words, not mine.
In the end we decided to go as Tyler Durden and Marla Singer from
. It was actually my best friend Chrisâs idea. She and Kitty and I were watching it at my house, and Chris said, you and Kavinsky should go as those psychos. She said it would be good for the shock valueâfor me, anyway. At first I balked because Marla isnât Asian and I have my only-Asian-people-costumes policy, but then Peterâs mom found him a red leather jacket at an estate sale, and it just came together. As for my costume, Ms. Rothschild is loaning me clothes from her own wardrobe, because she was young in the nineties.
This morning, Ms. Rothschild comes over before work to help me get ready. Iâm sitting at the kitchen table in her black slip dress and a fake mohair jacket and a wig, which Kitty delights in messing up to get that crazy bedhead look. I keep swatting her moussed-up hands away, and she keeps saying, âBut this is the look.â
âYouâre lucky Iâm a pack rat,â Ms. Rothschild says, sipping coffee from her thermos. She reaches into her bag and tosses me a pair of high, high black platform heels. âWhen I was in my twenties, Halloween was my thing. I was the queen of dressing up. Itâs your turn to take the crown now, Lara Jean.â
âYou can still be the queen,â I tell her.
âNo, dressing up in costumes is a young personâs game. If I wore a sexy Sherlock Holmes costume now, Iâd just look desperate.â She fluffs up my wig. âItâs all right. My time has passed.â To Kitty she says, âWhat do you think? A little more gunmetal eye shadow, right?â
âLetâs not take it too far,â I say. âThis is still school.â
âThe whole point of wearing a costume is taking it too far,â Ms. Rothschild says airily. âTake lots of pictures when you get to school. Text them to me so I can show my work friends. Theyâll get a kick out of it. . . . God, speaking of work, what time is it?â
Ms. Rothschild is always running late, something that drives Daddy crazy because heâs always ten minutes early. And yet!
When Peter comes to pick me up, I run outside and open the passenger-side door and scream when I see him. His hair is blond!
âOh my God!â
I shriek, touching his hair. âDid you bleach it?â
He grins a self-satisfied kind of grin. âItâs spray. My mom found it for me. I can use it again when we do Romeo and Juliet for Halloween.â Heâs eyeing me in my getup. âI like those shoes. You look sexy.â
I can feel my cheeks warm up. âBe quiet.â
As he backs out of my driveway, he glances at me again and says, âItâs the truth, though.â
I give him a shove. âAll Iâm saying is, people better know who I am.â
âIâve got you covered,â he assures me.
And he does. When we walk down the senior hallway, Peter cues up the Pixiesâ âWhere Is My Mind?â on his phone, loud, and people actually clap for us. Not one person asks if Iâm a manga character.
* * *
After school, Peter and I are lying on the couch; his feet are hanging off the end. Heâs still in his costume, but Iâve changed into my regular clothes. âYou always have the cutest socks,â he says, lifting up my right foot. These ones are gray with white polka dots and yellow bear faces.
Proudly I say, âMy great-aunt sends them from Korea. Korea has the cutest stuff, you know.â
âCan you ask her to send me some too? Not bears, but maybe, like, tigers. Tigers are cool.â
âYour feet are too big for socks as cute as these. Your toes would pop right out. You know what, I bet I could find you
some socks that fit at . . . um, the zoo.â Peter sits up and starts tickling me. I gasp out, âI bet theâpandas or gorillas have toâkeep their feet warm somehow . . . in the winter. Maybe they have some kind of deodorized sock technology as well.â I burst into giggles. âStop . . . stop tickling me!â
âThen stop being mean about my feet!â Iâve got my hand burrowed under his arm, and I am tickling him ferociously. But by doing so, I have opened myself up to more attacks.
I yell, âOkay, okay, truce!â He stops, and I pretend to stop, but sneak a tickle under his arm, and he lets out a high-pitched un-Peter-like shriek.
âYou said truce!â he accuses. We both nod and lie back down, out of breath. âDo you really think my feet smell?â
I donât. I love the way he smells after a lacrosse gameâlike sweat and grass and him. But I love to tease, to see that unsure look cross his face for just half a beat. âWell, I mean, on game days . . . ,â I say. Then Peter attacks me again, and weâre wrestling around, laughing, when Kitty walks in, balancing a tray with a cheese sandwich and a glass of orange juice.
âTake it upstairs,â she says, sitting down on the floor. âThis is a public area.â
Disentangling myself, I give her a glare. âWe arenât doing anything private,
âYour sister says my feet stink,â Peter says, pointing his foot in her direction. âSheâs lying, isnât she?â
She deflects it with a pop of her elbow. âIâm not smelling your foot.â She shudders. âYou guys are kinky.â
I yelp and throw a pillow at her.
She gasps. âYouâre lucky you didnât knock over my juice! Daddy will kill you if you mess up the rug again.â Pointedly she says, âRemember the nail-polish-remover incident?â
Peter ruffles my hair. âClumsy Lara Jean.â
I shove him away from me. âIâm not clumsy. Youâre the one who tripped over his own feet trying to get to the pizza the other night at Gabeâs.â
Kitty bursts into giggles and Peter throws a pillow at her. âYou guys need to stop ganging up on me!â he yells.
âAre you staying for dinner?â she asks when her giggles subside.
âI canât. My momâs making chicken fried steak.â
Kittyâs eyes bulge. âLucky. Lara Jean, what are we having?â
âIâm defrosting some chicken breasts as we speak,â I say. She makes a face, and I say, âIf you donât like it, maybe you could learn to cook. I wonât be around to cook your dinners anymore when Iâm at college, you know.â
âYeah, right. Youâll probably be here every night.â She turns to Peter. âCan I come to your house for dinner?â
âSure,â he says. âYou can both come.â
Kitty starts to cheer, and I shush her. âWe canât, because then Daddy will have to eat alone. Ms. Rothschild has SoulCycle tonight.â
She takes a bite of her cheese sandwich. âIâm making myself another sandwich, then. I donât want to eat old freezer-burn chicken.â
I sit up suddenly. âKitty, Iâll make something else if youâll braid my hair tomorrow morning. I want to do something
special for New York.â Iâve never been to New York before in my life. For our last family vacation, we took a vote, and I picked New York, but I was voted down in favor of Mexico. Kitty wanted to eat fish tacos and swim in the ocean, and Margot wanted to see Mayan ruins and have a chance to work on her Spanish. In the end, I was happy to be outvoted. Before Mexico, Kitty and I had never even left the country. Iâve never seen water so blue.
âIâll braid your hair only if I have time left over after I do mine,â Kitty says, which is the best I can hope for, I suppose. Sheâs just so good at doing hair.
âWho will braid my hair when Iâm at college?â I muse.
âI will,â Peter says, all confidence.
âYou donât know how,â I scoff.
âThe kid will teach me. Wonât you, kid?â
âFor a price,â Kitty says.
They negotiate back and forth before finally settling on Peter taking Kitty and her friends to the movies one Saturday afternoon. Which is how I come to be sitting cross-legged on the floor while Peter and Kitty sit on the couch above me, Kitty demonstrating a French braid and Peter recording it on his phone.
âNow you try it,â she says.
He keeps losing a piece and getting frustrated. âYou have a lot of hair, Lara Jean.â
âIf you canât get the French, Iâll teach you something more basic,â Kitty says, and there is no mistaking the contempt in her voice.
Peter hears it too. âNo, Iâm gonna get it. Just give me a second. Iâm gonna master it just like I mastered the other kind of French.â He winks at me.
Kitty and I both scream at him for that. âDonât talk like that in front of my sister!â I yell, shoving him in the chest.
âI was kidding!â
âAlso, youâre not
good at French kissing.â Even though, yeah, he is.
Peter gives me a
Who are you kidding?
look, and I shrug, because who
* * *
Later, Iâm walking Peter to his car when he stops in front of the passenger-side door and asks, âHey, how many guys have you kissed?â
âJust three. You, John Ambrose McClarenââ I say his name fast, like ripping off a Band-Aid, but Peter still has enough time to scowl. âAnd Allie Feldmanâs cousin.â
âThe kid with the lazy eye?â
âYeah. His name was Ross. I thought he was cute. It happened at a sleepover at Allieâs; I kissed him on a dare. But I wanted to.â
He gives me a speculative look. âSo me, John, and Allieâs cousin.â
âYouâre forgetting one person, Covey.â
I wave my hand. âOh, that doesnât really count.â
âAllie Feldmanâs cousin Ross who you kissed on a dare counts, but not
, who you technically cheated on me with?â Peter wags his finger at me. âNuh-uh. I donât think so.â
I shove him. âWe werenât actually together then and you know it!â
âA technicality, but okay.â He gives me a sidelong look. âYour numberâs higher than mine, you know. Iâve only ever kissed Gen, Jamila, and you.â
âWhat about the girl you met at Myrtle Beach with your cousins? Angelina?â
A funny look crosses over his face. âOh yeah. Howâd you know about that?â
âYou bragged about it to everyone!â It was the summer before seventh grade. I remember it drove Genevieve crazy, that some other girl had kissed Peter before she did. We tried to find Angelina online, but we didnât have much to go on. Just her name. âSo that makes it four girls youâve kissed, and you did a lot more with them than kiss, Peter.â
Iâm on a roll now. âYouâre the only boy Iâve ever
kissed. And you were the first. First kiss, first boyfriend, first everything! You got so many of my firsts, and I didnât get any from you.â
Sheepishly he says, âActually thatâs not entirely true.â
I narrow my eyes. âWhat do you mean?â
âThere was never any girl at the beach. I made the whole thing up.â
âThere was no Angelina with big boobs?â
âI never said she had big boobs!â
âYes you did. You told Trevor that.â
âOkay, fine! Geez. Youâre missing the whole point, by the way.â
âWhatâs the whole point, Peter?â
He clears his throat. âThat day in McClarenâs basement. You were my first kiss too.â
Abruptly I stop laughing. âI was?â
I stare at him. âWhy didnât you ever tell me?â
âI donât know. I guess I forgot. Also itâs embarrassing that I made up a girl. Donât tell anybody!â
Iâm filled with a glowy kind of wonder. So I was Peter Kavinskyâs first kiss. How perfectly wonderful!
I throw my arms around him and lift my chin expectantly, waiting for my good-night kiss. He nuzzles his face against mine, and I feel gladness for the fact that he has smooth cheeks and barely even needs to shave. I close my eyes, breathe him in, wait for my kiss. And he plants a chaste peck on my forehead. âGood night, Covey.â
My eyes fly open. âThatâs all I get?â
Smugly he says, âYou said earlier that Iâm not that good at kissing, remember?â
âI was kidding!â
He winks at me as he hops in his car. I watch him drive away. Even after a whole year of being together, it can still
feel so new. To love a boy, to have him love you back. It feels miraculous.
I donât go inside right away. Just in case he comes back. Hands on my hips, I wait a full twenty seconds before I turn toward the front steps, which is when his car comes peeling back down our street and stops right in front of our house. Peter sticks his head out the window. âAll right then,â he calls out. âLetâs practice.â
I run back to his car, I pull him toward me by his shirt, and angle my face against hisâand then I push him away and run backward, laughing, my hair whipping around my face.
âCovey!â he yells.
âThatâs what you get!â I call back gleefully. âSee you on the bus tomorrow!â
* * *
That night, when weâre in the bathroom brushing our teeth, I ask Kitty, âOn a scale of one to ten, how much will you miss me when I go to college? Be honest.â
âItâs too early for this kind of talk,â she says, rinsing her toothbrush.
âA four! You said you missed Margot a six point five!â
Kitty shakes her head at me. âLara Jean, why do you have to remember every little thing? Itâs not healthy.â
âThe least you can do is pretend youâll miss me!â I burst out. âItâs the decent thing to do.â
âMargot was going all the way across the world. Youâre
only going fifteen minutes away, so I wonât even have a chance to miss you.â
She clasps her hands to her heart. âOkay. Howâs this? Iâm going to miss you so much Iâll cry every night!â
I smile. âThatâs more like it.â
âIâll miss you so much, Iâll want to slit my wrists!â She cackles wildly.
âKatherine. Donât talk like that!â
âThen quit fishing for compliments,â she says, and she goes off to bed, while I stay behind and pack up my toiletries for the New York trip tomorrow. If I get into
, Iâll probably just keep a set of my makeup and creams and combs here at home, so I wonât have to pack every time. Margot had to be so careful about what she brought with her to Saint Andrews, because Scotland is so far away and she isnât able to make the trip back home very often. Iâll probably only pack for fall and winter and leave all my summer things at home, and then just switch them out when the seasons change.