I feel a lump grow in my throat. If only it wasn’t all a lie.
“Don’t cry, Daddy,” Kitty orders, and Daddy nods and pulls her into his arms for a hug.
“Can you do me a favor, Kitty?” he says.
“Can you stay this age forever?”
Automatically Kitty replies, “I can if you give me a puppy.”
My dad roars with laughter, and Kitty laughs too.
I really admire my little sister sometimes. She knows exactly what she wants, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it. She’s shameless that way.
I’m going to talk to Daddy and help her cause. The two of us will wear him down. There’ll be a puppy under our tree Christmas morning. I’d bet money on it.
THE NEXT NIGHT PETER AND I study at Starbucks for a few hours—well, I study, and he keeps getting up and talking to people from school. On the way home he asks, “Did you sign up for the ski trip?”
“No. I’m a terrible skier.” Only cool people like Peter and his friends go on the ski trip. I could try to twist Chris’s arm into going, but she’d probably laugh in my face. She’s not going on any school trip.
“You don’t have to ski. You can snowboard. That’s what I’m doing.”
I give him a look. “Can you picture me snowboarding?”
“I’ll teach you. Come on, it’ll be fun.” Peter grabs my hand and says, “Please please please, Lara Jean? Come on, be a sport. It’ll be fun, I promise.”
He catches me by surprise with this. The ski trip isn’t until winter break. So he wants to keep this, us, up until then. For some reason I feel relieved.
“If you don’t want to snowboard,” he continues, “the lodge has a big stone fireplace and big comfy chairs. You can sit and read for hours. And they sell the best hot chocolate. I’ll buy you one.” He squeezes my hand.
My heart does a little zing, and I say, “All right, I’ll go. But the hot chocolate had better be as good as you say.”
“I’ll buy you as many as you want.”
“Then you better bring a lot of singles,” I say, and Peter snorts. “What?”
When we get to my house, I climb out and he drives away before it occurs to me I left my bag on the floor of his car, and Daddy and Kitty aren’t home. They’re at Kitty’s school for parent-teacher conferences.
I fumble around blindly under the deck, feeling around in the dark for the spare keys we keep hidden under the wheelbarrow. Then I remember that the spare keys are in the junk drawer, in the house, because I forgot to put them back the last time I got locked out. I have no keys, no phone, no way of getting into the house.
Josh! Josh has a spare key. He’s watered my dad’s plants for him a few times when we went away on vacation.
I find a rock in the driveway and I cross the lawn and stand underneath Josh’s window. I throw the rock at it and I miss. I find another one, and it pings off the glass, barely making a sound. I try again, with a bigger rock. This one hits.
Josh opens the window and leans his head out. “Hey. Did Kavinsky leave already?”
Surprised, I say, “Yeah. I left my bag in his car. Can you throw down the spare keys?”
Josh sighs, like I’m asking for something huge. “Hold on.” Then he disappears.
I stand there and wait for him to come back to the window, but he doesn’t. He comes outside the front door instead. He’s wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. It’s Margot’s favorite hoodie. When they first got together, she used to wear it all the time, like it was a letterman’s jacket or something.
I hold my hand out for the keys and Josh drops them in my hand. “Thanks, Joshy.”
I turn to leave, but he says, “Wait. I’m worried about you.”
He sighs heavily and adjusts his glasses. He only wears his glasses at night. “This thing with Kavinsky . . .”
“Not that again. Josh—”
“He’s a player. He’s not good enough for you. You’re . . . innocent. You’re not like other girls. He’s a typical guy. You can’t trust him.”
“I think I know him a lot better than you do.”
“I’m just looking out for you.” Josh clears his throat. “You’re like my little sister.”
I want to hit him for saying that. “No I’m not,” I say.
An uneasy look crosses over Josh’s face. I know what he’s thinking, because we’re both thinking it.
Then, headlights are beaming down our street. It’s Peter’s car. He’s come back. I hand Josh his set of keys and run over to my driveway. Over my shoulder I call out, “Thanks, Joshy!”
I come around the front to the driver’s side. Peter’s window is down. “You forgot your bag,” he says, glancing over toward Josh’s house.
“I know,” I say breathlessly. “Thanks for coming back.”
“Is he out there?”
“I don’t know. He was a minute ago.”
“Then just in case,” Peter says, and he leans his head out and kisses me on the lips, open-mouthed and sure.
When he pulls away, Peter’s smiling. “Night, Lara Jean.”
He drives off into the night and I’m still standing there with my fingers to my lips. Peter Kavinsky just kissed me. He kissed me, and I liked it. I’m pretty sure I liked it. I’m pretty sure I like him.
The next morning I’m at my locker, putting my books away, when I see Peter walking down the hallway. My heart thumps in my chest so loud I can hear it echo in my ears. He hasn’t seen me yet. I duck my head into my locker and start arranging my books into a pile.
From behind the locker door he says, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I say back.
“I just want to set your mind at ease, Covey. I’m not going to kiss you again, so don’t worry about it.”
So that’s that. It doesn’t matter if I like him or not, because he doesn’t like me back. It’s kind of silly to feel so disappointed about something you only just realized you wanted, isn’t it?
Don’t let him see that you’re disappointed.
I face him. “I wasn’t worrying about it.”
“Yes you were. Look at you: your face is all pinched together like a clam.” Peter laughs, and I try to unpinch my face, to look serene. “It’s not going to happen again. It was all for Sanderson’s benefit.”
“Good,” he says, and he takes my hand, and he closes my locker door, and he walks me to class like a real boyfriend, like we’re really in love.
How was I supposed to know what’s real and what’s not? It feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t know the difference.
MY DAD’S THRILLED WHEN I ask him to sign the permission slip. “Oh, Lara Jean, this is great. Did Peter convince you? You’ve been scared of skiing ever since you were ten and you did the splits and you couldn’t get back up!”
“Yeah, I remember.” My boots froze onto the skis, and I lay there in the splits for what felt like days.
Signing the paper, my dad says, “Hey, maybe we can all of us go to Wintergreen over Christmas. Peter too.”
So that’s where I get it from. My dad. He lives in a fantasy world. Handing me the slip, he says cheerfully, “You can wear Margot’s ski pants. Her gloves, too.”
I don’t tell him that I won’t need them, because I’ll be cozy in the lodge reading and sipping hot cocoa by the fire. I should bring my knitting stuff with me too.
When I talk to Margot on the phone that night, I tell her I’m going on the ski trip, and she’s surprised. “But you hate skiing.”
“I’m going to try out snowboarding.”
“Just . . . be careful,” she says.
I’m thinking she means on the slopes, but when Chris comes over the next night to borrow a dress, I learn otherwise. “You know everybody hooks up on the ski trip, right? It’s like a school-sanctioned booty call.”
“That’s where I lost my V freshman year.”
“I thought you lost it in the woods near your house.”
“Oh yeah. Whatever, the point is, I had sex on the ski trip.”
“There are chaperones,” I say worriedly. “How can people just have sex with chaperones around?”
“Chaperones go to sleep early because they’re old,” Chris says. “People just sneak out. Plus there’s a hot tub. Did you know that there’s a hot tub?”
“No . . . Peter never mentioned that.” Well, that’s that, I just won’t pack a bathing suit. It’s not like they can make you go in a hot tub if you don’t want to.
“The year I went, people were skinny-dipping.”
My eyes bug out. Skinny-dipping! “People were nude?”
“Well, the girls took their tops off. Just be prepared.” Chris chews on her fingernail. “Last year I heard Mr. Dunham got in the hot tub with students and it was weird.”
“This sounds like the Wild West,” I mutter.
“More like Girls Gone Wild.”
It’s not that I’m worried Peter will try something with me. I know he won’t, because he doesn’t see me that way. But are people going to expect it? Am I going to have to sneak into his room in the middle of the night so people think we’re doing something? I don’t want to get in trouble on a school trip, but Peter has a way of convincing me to do stuff I don’t want to do.
I grab Chris’s hands. “Will you please come? Please, please!”
She shakes her head. “You know better than that. I don’t do school trips.”
“You have before!”
“Yeah, freshman year. Not anymore.”
“But I need you!” Desperately I squeeze her hands and say, “Remember how I covered for you last year when you went to Coachella? I spent the whole weekend sneaking in and out of your house so your mom would think you were at home! Don’t forget the things I’ve done for you, Chris! I need you now!”
Unmoved, Chris plucks her hands away from mine and goes to the mirror and starts examining her skin. “Kavinsky’s not going to pressure you to have sex if you don’t want to. If you minus the fact that he dated the devil, he’s not a total dummy. He’s kind of decent, actually.”
“What do you mean by decent? Decent like he doesn’t care that much about sex?”
“Oh, God, no. He and Gen were in constant heat for each other. She’s been on the pill longer than I have. Too bad everyone in my family thinks she’s this angel.” Chris pokes at a zit on her chin. “What a fake. I should send an anonymous letter to our grandma . . . Not that I really would. I’m no rat, unlike her. Remember that time she told our grandma I was going to school drunk?” She doesn’t wait for me to answer. When Chris gets going on a Genevieve rant, she is single-minded. “My grandma wanted to use the money she saved for my college for rehab! They had a family meeting about me! I’m so glad you stole Kavinsky from her.”
“I didn’t steal him. They were already broken up!”
Chris snorts. “Sure, keep telling that to yourself. Gen’s going on the ski trip, you know. She’s class president, so she’s basically organizing it. So just beware. Don’t ever ski alone.”
I let out a gasp. “Chris, I’m begging you. Please come.” In a burst of inspiration I say, “If you come, it’ll make Genevieve really mad! She’s organizing this whole thing; it’s her trip. She won’t want you there!”
Chris purses her lips into a smile. “You know how to play me.” She juts her chin at me. “Do you think this zit is ready to pop?”
THANKSGIVING DAY, DADDY CLEANS OUT the turkey for me and then leaves to go pick up our Korean grandma, who lives an hour away in a retirement community with a lot of other Korean grandmas. Daddy’s mom, Nana, is spending Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family, which is fine by me, because I know she wouldn’t have anything nice to say about the food.
I make up a green-bean dish with orange peel and dill, in an earnest effort to be jazzy and inventive. I nominate Kitty to be my taste tester and she takes a bite of green bean and says it tastes like an orange pickle. “Why can’t we just have green-bean casserole with the fried onion rings that come in the can?” Kitty ponders. She’s cutting out different-colored feathers for her turkey place mats.
“Because I’m trying to be jazzy and inventive,” I say, dumping a can of gravy into the saucepan.
Doubtfully Kitty says, “Well, are we still having broccoli casserole? People will eat that.”
“Do you see any broccoli anywhere in this kitchen?” I ask. “No, the green in this meal is the green bean.”
“What about mashed potatoes? We’re still having mashed potatoes, right?”