“There’ll be spinach salad with dinner tonight,” Daddy offers.
“Can you make my spinach portion into a green juice instead?” Kitty asks. “That’s the healthiest way to eat spinach.”
“How do you know that?” Margot asks.
The pizza slice that was halfway to my mouth freezes in midair.
“Lara Jean’s boyfriend.”
“Wait a minute . . . Lara Jean’s dating who?” On the computer screen Margot’s eyes are huge and incredulous.
“Peter Kavinsky,” Kitty chirps.
I whip my head around and give her a dirty look. With my eyes I say, Thanks for spilling the beans, Kitty. With her eyes she says, What? You should have told her yourself ages ago.
Margot looks from Kitty to me. “What in the world? How did that happen?”
Lamely I say, “It just sort of . . . happened.”
“Are you serious? Why would you ever be interested in someone like Peter Kavinsky? He’s such a . . .” Margot shakes her head in disbelief. “I mean, did you know Josh caught him cheating on a test once?”
“Peter cheats at school?” Daddy repeats, alarmed.
I quickly look at him and say, “Once, in seventh grade! Seventh grade doesn’t even count anymore it’s so long ago. And it wasn’t a test, it was a quiz.”
“I definitely don’t think he’s a good guy for you. All of those lacrosse guys are so douchey.”
“Well, Peter’s not like those other guys.” I don’t understand why Margot can’t just be happy for me. I was at least pretend happy for her when she started dating Josh. She could be pretend happy for me too. And it makes me mad, the way she’s saying all of this stuff in front of Daddy and Kitty. “If you talk to him, if you just give him a chance, you’ll see, Margot.” I don’t know why I’m bothering trying to convince her of Peter when it will be over soon anyway. But I want her to know that he is a good guy, because he is.
Margot makes a face like Yeah, okay, sure and I know she doesn’t believe me. “What about Genevieve?”
“They broke up months ago.”
Daddy looks confused and says, “Peter and Genevieve were an item?”
“Never mind, Daddy,” I say.
Margot is quiet, chewing on her salad, so I think she’s done, but then she says, “He’s not very smart, though, is he? I mean, at school?”
“Not everybody can be a National Merit Scholar! And there are different kinds of intelligence, you know. He has a high emotional IQ.” Margot’s disapproval makes me feel prickly all over. More than prickly. Mad. What right does she have to weigh in when she doesn’t even live here anymore? Kitty has more of a right than she does. “Kitty, do you like Peter?” I ask her. I know she’ll say yes.
Kitty perks up, and I can tell she is pleased to be included in the big-girl talk. “Yes.”
Surprised, Margot says, “Kitty, you’ve hung out with him too?”
“Sure. He comes over all the time. He gives us rides.”
“In his two-seater?” Margot shoots a look at me.
Kitty pipes up. “No, in his mom’s van!” With innocent eyes she says, “I want to go for a ride in his convertible. I’ve never been in a convertible.”
“So he doesn’t drive around his Audi anymore?” Margot asks me.
“Not when Kitty’s riding with us,” I say.
“Hmm” is all Margot says, and the skeptical look on her face makes me want to x her right off the screen.
AFTER SCHOOL I GET A text from josh.
You, me, and the diner like old times.
Except old times would have included Margot. Now it’s new times, I suppose. Maybe that’s not altogether a bad thing. New can be good.
OK but I’m getting my own grilled cheese because you always hog more than your fair share.
We’re sitting in our booth by the jukebox.
I wonder what Margot’s doing right now. It’s nighttime in Scotland. Maybe she’s getting ready to go out to the pub with her hallmates. Margot says pubs are really big over there; they have what they call pub crawls, where they go from pub to pub and drink and drink. Margot’s not some big drinker, I’ve never even seen her drunk. I hope she’s learned how to by now.
I hold my hand out for quarters. Another Lara Jean–and-Josh tradition. Josh always gives me quarters for the jukebox. It’s because he keeps mounds of them in his car for the tollbooth, and I never have quarters because I hate change.
I can’t decide if I want doo-wop or folksy guitar, but then at the last second I put in “Video Killed the Radio Star,” for Margot. So in a way it’s like she is here.
Josh smiles when it comes on. “I knew you’d pick that.”
“No you didn’t, because I didn’t know I was going to until I did.” I pick up my menu and study it like I haven’t seen it a million times.
Josh is still smiling. “Why bother looking at the menu when we already know what you’re going to get?”
“I could change my mind at the last second,” I say. “There’s a chance I could order a tuna melt or a turkey burger or a chef salad. I can be adventurous too, you know.”
“Sure,” Josh agrees, and I know he’s just humoring me.
The server comes over to take our order and Josh says, “I’ll have a grilled cheese and a tomato soup and a chocolate milkshake.” He looks at me expectantly. There’s a smile coming up on the corners of his lips.
“Ah . . . um . . .” I scan the menu as fast as I can, but I don’t actually want a tuna melt or a turkey burger or a chef salad. I give up. I like what I like. “A grilled cheese, please. And a black-cherry soda.” As soon as the server is gone, I say, “Don’t say a word.”
“Oh, I wasn’t going to.”
And then, because there’s a silence, we both speak at the same time. I say, “Have you talked to Margot lately?” and he says, “How are things going with Kavinsky?”
Josh’s easy smile fades and he looks away. “Yeah, we chat online sometimes. I think . . . I think she’s kind of homesick.”
I give him a funny look. “I just talked to her last night and she didn’t seem homesick at all. She seemed like the same old Margot. She was telling us about Raisin Weekend. It makes me want to go to Saint Andrews too.”
“What’s Raisin Weekend?”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure . . . it sounds like it was a mix between drinking a lot and Latin. I guess it’s a Scottish thing.”
“Would you do that?” Josh asks. “Would you go somewhere far away?”
I sigh. “No, probably not. That’s Margot, not me. It’d be nice to visit, though. Maybe my dad will let me go during spring break.”
“I think she’d like that a lot. I guess our Paris trip isn’t happening anymore, huh?” He laughs awkwardly, and then he clears his throat. “So wait, how are things going with Kavinsky?”
Before I can answer, the server comes back with our food. Josh pushes the bowl of soup so it’s in the middle of the table. “First sip?” he asks, holding up the milkshake.
Eagerly I nod and lean across the table. Josh holds the glass and I take a long sip. “Ahhh,” I say, sitting back down.
“That was a pretty big sip,” he says. “How come you never get your own?”
“Why should I when I know you’ll share?” I break off a piece of grilled cheese and dip it into the soup.
“So you were saying?” Josh prods. When I stare at him blankly, he says, “You were about to talk about Kavinsky . . .”
I was hoping this wouldn’t come up. I’m not in the mood to tell more lies to Josh. “Things are good.” Because Josh is looking at me like he’s expecting something more, I add, “He’s really sweet.”
“He’s not what you’d think. People are so quick to judge him, but he’s different.” I’m surprised to find I’m telling the truth. Peter isn’t what you’d think. He is cocky and he can be obnoxious and he’s always late, true, but there are other good and surprising things about him too. “He’s . . . not what you think.”
Josh gives me a dubious look. Then he dunks half his sandwich into the soup and says, “You already said that.”
“That’s because it’s true.” He shrugs at this like he doesn’t believe me. So I say, “You should see the way Kitty acts around Peter. She’s crazy about him.” I don’t realize it until the words are actually out of my mouth, but I say it to hurt him.
Josh tears off a hunk of grilled cheese. “Well, I hope she doesn’t get too attached.” Even though I’ve had that exact same thought for different reasons, it still hurts to hear.
Suddenly the easy Josh-and–Lara Jean feeling is lost. Josh is withdrawn and closed off, and I’m stinging from what he said about Peter, and it feels like playacting to sit across from each other and pretend it’s the same as the old days. How could it be, when Margot isn’t here? She is the point of our little triangle.
“Hey,” Josh says suddenly. I look up. “I didn’t mean that. That was a shitty thing to say.” He ducks his head. “I guess . . . I don’t know, maybe I’m just jealous. I’m not used to sharing the Song girls.”
I go soft inside. Now that he’s said this nice thing, I am feeling warm and generous toward him again. I don’t say what I’m thinking, which is, You may not be used to sharing us, but we’re very used to sharing you. “You know Kitty still loves you best,” I say, which makes him smile.
“I mean, I did teach her how to hock a loogie,” Josh says. “You don’t forget the person who teaches you something like that.” He takes a long sip of his milkshake. “Hey, they’re doing a Lord of the Rings marathon at the Bess this weekend. Wanna go?”
“That’s like . . . nine hours!”
“Yeah, nine hours of awesome.”
“True,” I agree. “I wanna go; I just have to check with Peter first. He said something about going to a movie this weekend, and—”
Josh cuts me off before I can finish. “It’s fine. I can just go with Mike. Or maybe I’ll take Kitty. It’s about time I introduced her to the genius that is Tolkien.”
I’m quiet. Are Kitty and I interchangeable in his mind? Are Margot and I?
We’re sharing a waffle when Genevieve walks into the diner with a little kid who I guess must be her little brother. Not her actual little brother; Gen is an only child. She’s the president of the Little Sib program. It’s where a high school student is paired up with an elementary school kid and you tutor them and take them out for fun days.
I slump down in my seat, but of course Gen still sees me. She looks from me to Josh, and then she gives me a little wave. I don’t know what to do so I just wave back. Something about the way she’s smiling at me is unsettling. It’s how genuinely happy she looks.
If Genevieve is happy, that’s not good for me.
At dinner I get a text from Peter. It says, If you’re going to hang out with Sanderson, can you at least not do it in public?
Under the table I read it over and over. Could it be that Peter’s the teensiest bit jealous? Or is he really just worried about how it looks to Genevieve?
“What do you keep looking at?” Kitty wants to know.
I put my phone down, facedown. “Nothing.”
Kitty turns to Daddy and says, “I bet it was a text from Peter.”
Buttering a roll, my dad says, “I like Peter.”
“You do?” I say.
Daddy nods. “He’s a good kid. He’s really taken with you, Lara Jean.”
“Taken with me?” I repeat.
To me Kitty says, “You sound like a parrot.” To Daddy she says, “What does that mean? Taken by her?”
“It means he’s charmed by her,” Daddy explains. “He’s smitten.”
“Well, what’s smitten?”
He chuckles and stuffs the roll in Kitty’s open, perplexed mouth. “It means he likes her.”
“He definitely likes her,” Kitty agrees, her mouth full. “He . . . he looks at you a lot, Lara Jean. When you’re not paying attention. He looks at you, to see if you’re having a good time.”
“He does?” My chest feels warm and glowy, and I can feel myself start to smile.
“I’m just happy to see you so happy. I used to worry about Margot taking on so many responsibilities at home and helping out the way she did. I didn’t want her to miss out on her high school experience. But you know Margot. She’s so driven.” Daddy reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. “To see you now, going out and doing things and making new friends . . . it makes your old man very happy. Very, very happy.”