“I don’t know. It keeps changing. They had to order a part from, like, Indiana.”
Josh gives me a knowing look. “So you’re secretly relieved, right?”
“No! Why would I be relieved?”
“Come on. I know you. You hate driving. You’re probably glad to have the excuse not to drive.”
I start to protest, but then I stop. There’s no use. Josh knows me too well. “Well, maybe I’m a teeny-tiny bit relieved.”
“If you ever need a ride, you know you can call me.”
I nod. I do know that. I wouldn’t call him for myself, but I would for Kitty, in an emergency.
“I mean, I know you have Kavinsky now, but I’m right next door. It’s way more convenient for me to give you a ride to school than him. I mean, it’s more environmentally responsible.” I don’t say anything, and Josh scratches the back of his neck. “I want to say something to you, but I feel weird bringing it up. Which is also weird, because we’ve always been able to talk to each other.”
“We can still talk to each other,” I say. “Nothing’s changed.” That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever told him, even bigger than the lie about my so-called dead twin Marcella. Until a couple of years ago Josh thought I had a twin sister named Marcella who died of leukemia.
“Okay. I feel like . . . I feel like you’ve been avoiding me ever since . . .”
He’s going to say it. He’s actually going to say it. I look down at the ground.
“Ever since Margot broke up with me.”
My head snaps up. That’s what he thinks? That I’m avoiding him because of Margot? Did my letter really make that little of an impact? I try to keep my face still and expressionless when I say, “I haven’t been avoiding you. I’ve just been busy.”
“With Kavinsky. I know. You and I have known each other a long time. You’re one of my best friends, Lara Jean. I don’t want to lose you, too.”
It’s the “too” that’s the sticking point. The “too” is what stops me in my tracks. It sticks in my craw. Because if he hadn’t said “too,” it would be about me and him. Not about me and him and Margot.
“That letter you wrote—”
Too late. I don’t want to talk about the letter anymore. Before he can say another word, I say, “I’ll always be your friend, Joshy.” And then I smile at him, and it takes a lot of effort. It takes so much effort. But if I don’t smile, I’ll cry.
Josh nods. “Okay. Good. So . . . so can we hang out again?”
Josh reaches out and chucks my chin. “So can I give you a ride to school tomorrow?”
“Okay,” I say. Because wasn’t that kind of the whole point of this? To be able to hang out with Josh again without that letter hanging over our heads? To just be his good friend Lara Jean again?
After dinner I teach Kitty how to do laundry. She resists me at first, but I tell her that this is a job we are all sharing from now on, so she’d better just accept it.
“When the buzzer goes off, that means it’s done and you have to fold it right away or it’ll get wrinkled.”
To both of our surprise, Kitty likes doing laundry. Mostly because she can sit in front of the TV and fold and watch her shows in peace.
“Next time I’ll teach you how to iron.”
“Ironing, too? Who am I, Cinderella?”
I ignore her. “You’ll be good at ironing. You like precision and clean lines. You’ll probably be better at it than me.”
This piques her interest. “Yeah, maybe. Your stuff always looks wrinkled no matter what.”
After we finish the laundry, Kitty and I are washing up in the bathroom we share. There are two sinks; Margot had the one on the left and Kitty and I used to fight over who the sink on the right belonged to. It’s hers now.
Kitty’s brushing her teeth and I’m putting on a cucumber-aloe face mask, when Kitty says to me, “Do you think if I asked, Peter would take us to McDonald’s tomorrow on the way to school?”
I rub another dollop of green face mask onto my cheeks. “I don’t want you getting used to Peter giving us rides. You’re taking the bus from now on, okay?”
Kitty pouts. “Why!”
“Because. Besides, Peter’s not giving me a ride tomorrow, Josh is.”
“But won’t Peter be mad?”
My face is getting tight from the mask drying. Through clenched teeth I say, “Nah. He’s not the jealous type.”
“Then who’s the jealous type?”
I don’t have a good answer for that. Who is the jealous type? I’m mulling this over when Kitty giggles at me in the mirror and says, “You look like a zombie.”
I hold my hands out to her face and she ducks away. In my best zombie voice I say, “I want to eat your brains.”
Kitty runs away, screaming.
When I’m back in my room, I text Peter that I don’t need a ride to school tomorrow. I don’t tell him Josh is giving me a ride. Just in case.
TODAY’S NOTE FROM PETER SAYS, Tart and Tangy after school?
He’s drawn two boxes, a yes or a no. I check yes and drop the note in his locker.
After school ends, I meet Peter at his car, and we caravan with his lacrosse friends to Tart and Tangy. I order an original frozen yogurt with Cap’n Crunch and strawberries and kiwi and pineapple, and Peter gets key lime with crushed-up Oreos. I pull out my wallet to pay for my yogurt, but Peter stops me. He winks at me and says, “I got this.”
I whisper, “I thought you weren’t ever paying for anything.”
“My boys are here. I can’t look like a cheap-ass in front of my boys.” Then he puts his arm around me and says loudly, “For as long as you’re my girl, you don’t pay for frozen yogurt.”
I roll my eyes, but I’m not going to say no to a free frozen yogurt. No boy has ever paid for me before. I could get used to this kind of nice treatment.
I was bracing myself to see Genevieve here, but she doesn’t show. I think Peter’s wondering too, because he keeps his eyes on the door. With Genevieve, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far she’s been eerily, disturbingly quiet. She’s hardly ever in the cafeteria during lunch because she and Emily Nussbaum have been eating off campus, and when I see her in the hallways, she fake smiles at me without showing her teeth, which is somehow more menacing.
When is she going to strike back against me? When will I have my Jamila Singh moment? Chris says Genevieve’s too obsessed with her college boyfriend to care about me and Peter, but I don’t believe it. I’ve seen the way she looks at him. Like he’s hers.
The boys put a few tables together and we basically take over the place. It’s just like at the lunch table, with them being loud, talking about the football game coming up on Friday. I don’t think I say two words. I don’t really have anything to add. I just eat my free frozen yogurt and enjoy the fact that I’m not at home organizing my shoe closet or watching the Golf Channel with my dad.
We’re walking to our cars when Gabe says, “Hey, Lara Jean, did you know that if you say your name really fast, it sounds like Large? Try it! Larajean.”
Dutifully I repeat, “Larajean. Larjean. Largy. Actually I think it sounds more like Largy, not Large.”
Gabe nods to himself and announces, “I’m going to start calling you Large. You’re so little it’s funny. Right? Like those big guys who go by the name Tiny?”
I shrug. “Sure.”
Gabe turns to Darrell. “She’s so little she could be our mascot.”
“Hey, I’m not that small,” I protest.
“How tall are you?” Darrell asks me.
“Five two,” I fib. It’s more like five one and a quarter.
Tossing his spoon in the trash, Gabe says, “You’re so little you could fit in my pocket!” All the guys laugh. Peter’s smiling in a bemused way. Then Gabe suddenly grabs me and throws me over his shoulder like I’m a kid and he’s my dad.
“Gabe! Put me down!” I shriek, kicking my legs and pounding on his chest.
He starts spinning around in a circle, and all the guys are cracking up. “I’m going to adopt you, Large! You’re going to be my pet. I’ll put you in my old hamster cage!”
I’m giggling so hard I can’t catch my breath and I’m starting to feel dizzy. “Put me down!”
“Put her down, man,” Peter says, but he’s laughing too.
Gabe runs toward somebody’s pickup truck and sets me down in the back. “Get me out of here!” I yell. Gabe’s already running away. All the guys start getting into their cars. “Bye, Large!” they call out. Peter jogs over to me and extends his hand so I can hop down.
“Your friends are crazy,” I say, jumping onto the pavement.
“They like you,” he says.
“Sure. They used to hate when I would bring Gen places. They don’t mind if you hang out with us.” Peter slings his arm around me. “Come on, Large. I’ll take you home.”
As we walk to his car, I let my hair fall in my face so he doesn’t see me smiling. It sure is nice being part of a group, feeling like I belong.
I VOLUNTEERED TO BAKE SIX dozen cup cakes for Kitty’s PTA bake sale. I did it because Margot’s done it for the past two years. Margot only ever did it because she didn’t want people to think Kitty’s family wasn’t involved enough in PTA. She did brownies both times, but I signed up for cupcakes because I thought they’d be a bigger hit. I bought a few different kinds of blue sprinkles and I made little toothpick flags that say BLUE MOUNTAIN ACADEMY. I thought Kitty would have fun helping me decorate.
But now I’m realizing Margot’s way was better, because with brownies, you just pour them in the pan, bake, and slice, and there you go. Cupcakes are a lot more work. You have to scoop the perfect amount six dozen times, and then you have to wait for them to cool, and then you’re frosting and sprinkling.
I’m measuring out my eighth cup of flour when the doorbell rings. “Kitty!” I scream. “Get the door!”
It rings again. “Kitty!”
From upstairs she screams back, “I’m running an important experiment!”
I run to the door and fling it open without bothering to check who it is.
Peter. He busts up laughing.
“You have flour all over your face,” he says, dusting off my cheeks with the backs of his hands.
I twist away from him and wipe my face with my apron. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re going to the game. Didn’t you read my note from yesterday?”
“Oh, shoot. I had a test and I forgot.” Peter frowns and I add, “I can’t go anyway because I have to bake seventy-two cupcakes by tomorrow.”
“On a Friday night?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“Is this for the PTA bake sale?” Peter brushes past me and starts taking off his sneakers. “You guys are a no-shoes house, right?”
“Yeah,” I say, surprised. “Is your mom making something too?”
“Rice Krispie treats.” Another way smarter choice than seventy-two cupcakes.
“Sorry you came over here for nothing. Maybe we can go to the game next Friday,” I say, expecting him to put his shoes back on.
But he doesn’t, he wanders into the kitchen and sits on a stool. Huh? “Your house looks the same as I remembered,” he says, looking around. He points at the framed picture of me and Margot taking a bath when we were babies. “Cute.”
I can feel my cheeks burn. I go and turn the photo over. “When have you ever been to my house?”
“Back in seventh grade. Remember how we’d hang out in your neighbor’s tree house? I had to pee once and you let me use your bathroom.”
“Oh, yeah,” I say.
It’s funny to see a boy other than Josh in our kitchen. I feel nervous for some reason. “How long’s it going to take?” he asks me, his hands in his pockets.
“Hours, probably.” I pick up the measuring cup again. I can’t remember what cup I was on.
Peter groans. “Why can’t we just go to the store and buy some?”
I start measuring the flour that’s in the bowl, separating it into piles. “Because, do you think any of the other moms are buying cupcakes from Food Lion? How would that make Kitty look?”
“Well, if it’s for Kitty, then Kitty should be helping.” Peter hops off the stool and comes up to me and slides his hands around my waist and tries to untie my apron strings. “Where is the kid?”
I stare at him. “What . . . are you doing?”
Peter looks at me like I’m a dummy. “I need an apron too if I’m going to help. I’m not trying to get my clothes all messed up.”