Is this how people lose touch? I didn’t think that could happen with sisters. Maybe with other people, but never us. Before Margot left, I knew what she was thinking without having to ask; I knew everything about her. Not anymore. I don’t know what the view looks like outside her window, or if she still wakes up early every morning to have a real breakfast or if maybe now that she’s at college she likes to go out late and sleep in late. I don’t know if she prefers Scottish boys to American boys now, or if her roommate snores. All I know is she likes her classes and she’s been to visit London once. So basically I know nothing.
And so does she. There are big things I haven’t told her—how my letters got sent out. The truth about me and Peter. The truth about me and Josh.
I wonder if Margot feels it too. The distance between us. If she even notices.
Daddy makes spaghetti bolognese for dinner. Kitty has hers with a big pickle and a glass of milk, which sounds terrible, but then I take a bite, and actually pickle and spaghetti taste good together. Milk, too.
Kitty’s dumping more noodles on her plate when she says, “Lara Jean, what are you going to get Peter for Christmas?”
I glance at Margot, who is looking at me. “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Can I go with you to pick it out?”
“Sure, if I get him something.”
“You have to get him something; he’s your boyfriend.”
“I still can’t believe you’re dating Peter Kavinsky,” Margot says.
She doesn’t say it in a nice way, like it’s a good thing. “Can you just . . . not?” I say.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t like the guy.”
Well, you don’t have to like him. I do,” I say, and Margot shrugs.
Daddy stands up and claps his hands together. “We have three different kinds of ice cream for dessert! Pralines and cream, Chunky Monkey, and strawberry. All your favorites, Margot. Help me get the bowls, Kitty.” They gather up the dirty dishes and go into the kitchen.
Margot looks out the window, toward Josh’s house. “Josh wants to see me later. I hope he finally gets that we’re broken up and he doesn’t try to come over every day while I’m home. He needs to move on.”
What a mean thing to say. She’s the one who’s been calling Josh, not the other way around. “He hasn’t been pining for you, if that’s what you’re imagining,” I say. “He gets that it’s over.”
Margot stares at me in surprise. “Well, I hope that’s true.”
“I THINK WE SHOULD DO recital party this year,” Margot says from her spot on the couch.
When my mom was alive, every Christmas we’d have what she called a recital party. She’d make tons of food and invite people over one night in December, and Margot and I would wear matching dresses and play Christmas carols on the piano all night. People would drift in and out of the piano room and sing along, and Margot and I would take turns playing. I hated real piano recitals because I was the worst in my age group and Margot was the best. It was humiliating to have to play some easy “Für Elise” while the other kids had already moved on to Liszt. I always hated recital party. I used to beg and beg not to have to play.
The last Christmas, Mommy bought us matching red velvet dresses to wear, and I threw a fit and said I didn’t want to wear it, even though I did, even though I loved it. I just didn’t want to have to play the piano in it next to Margot. I screamed at her and I ran to my room and slammed the door and I wouldn’t come out. Mommy came up and tried to get me to open the door, but I wouldn’t, and she didn’t come back. People started arriving, and Margot started playing the piano, and I stayed upstairs. I sat in my room, crying and thinking about all the dips and little canapés Mommy and Daddy had made and how there would be none left for me and how Mommy probably didn’t even want me down there anyway after the way I’d behaved.
After Mommy died, we never had another recital party.
“Are you serious?” I ask her.
“Why not?” Margot shrugs. “It’ll be fun. I’ll plan it all, you won’t have to do anything.”
“You know I hate piano.”
“Then don’t play.”
Kitty’s looking from me to Margot with worried eyes. Biting her lip, she offers, “I’ll do some tae kwon do moves.”
Margot reaches out and cuddles Kitty to her and says, “That’s a great idea. I’ll play the piano and you’ll do tae kwon do, and Lara Jean will just—”
“Watch,” I finish.
“I was going to say hostess, but suit yourself.”
I don’t answer her.
Later, we’re watching TV and Kitty’s asleep, curled up on the couch like she’s a real cat. Margot wants to wake her up and make her go to her bed, but I say just let her sleep, and I put a quilt over her.
“Will you help me work on Daddy about a puppy for Christmas?” I ask.
Margot groans. “Puppies are so much work. You have to let them out to pee like a million times a day. And they shed like crazy. You’ll never be able to wear black pants again. Also who’s going to walk it, and feed it, and take care of it?”
“Kitty will. And I’ll help.”
“Kitty is so not ready for the responsibility.” Her eyes say, And neither are you.
“Kitty’s matured a lot since you’ve been gone.” And so have I. “Did you know that Kitty packs her own lunch now? And she helps with the laundry? I don’t have to nag her to do her homework, either. She just does it on her own.”
“Really? Then I’m impressed.”
Why can’t she just say, Good job, Lara Jean? That’s it. If she could just acknowledge that I’ve been doing my part to keep the family going since she’s been gone. But no.
AT SIX THIRTY IN THE morning the day of the ski trip, Daddy drops me off at school. It’s not even light out yet. It seems like every day the sun takes longer and longer to come up. Before I hop out of the car, my dad pulls a hat out of his coat pocket. It’s light pink yarn with a pom-pom on top. He fits it on my head so it covers my ears. “I found this in the hall closet. I think it was one of your mom’s. She was such a great skier.”
“I know. I remember.”
“Promise me you’ll go out on the slopes at least once.”
“I’m so glad you’re doing this. It’s good for you to try new things.”
I smile weakly. If he only knew what went down at the ski trip, he wouldn’t be so glad then. Then I spot Peter and his friends messing around outside by the charter bus. “Thanks for the ride, Daddy. See you tomorrow night.” I give him a peck on the cheek and grab my duffel bag.
“Zip up your coat,” he calls out as I shut the car door.
I zip up my coat and watch his car drive off. Across the parking lot, Peter’s talking to Genevieve. He says something that makes her laugh. Then he sees me and gestures at me to come over. Genevieve walks away, looking down at her clipboard. When I get there, he takes my duffel bag off my shoulder and puts it next to his. “I’ll put this on the bus.”
“It’s freezing,” I say, my teeth chattering.
Peter pulls me in front of him and puts his arms around me. “I’ll keep you warm.” I look up at him like so cheesy, but his attention is somewhere else. He’s watching Genevieve. He snuggles against my neck, and I squirm away from him. “What’s with you?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I say.
Ms. Davenport and Coach White are looking through kids’ bags—Ms. Davenport’s doing the girls and Coach White is doing the boys. “What are they looking for?” I ask Peter.
I whip out my phone and text Chris.
Don’t bring alcohol! They are checking!
Are you awake??
But then her mom’s SUV pulls into the parking lot and she stumbles out of the passenger seat. She looks like she just woke up.
What a relief! Peter can talk to Genevieve all he wants; I’ll be sharing a seat with Chris and eating the snacks I packed. I have strawberry gummies and the wasabi peas that Chris loves, and Pocky sticks.
Peter groans. “Chris is coming?”
I ignore him and wave at her.
Genevieve’s standing by the bus with her clipboard when she spots Chris too. She has a big frown on her face. She marches right up to Chris and says, “You didn’t sign up.”
I run over to them and hover next to Chris. In a small voice I say, “In the announcements last week they said there were still spots left.”
“Yeah, that you had to sign up for.” Genevieve shakes her head. “I’m sorry, but Chrissy can’t come if she didn’t sign up or give a deposit.”
I wince. Chris hates being called “Chrissy.” She always has. She started going by Chris as soon as we got to high school, and the only people who still call her that are Genevieve and their grandma.
Peter shows up beside me out of nowhere. “What’s going on?” he asks.
Folding her arms, Genevieve says, “Chrissy didn’t sign up for the ski trip, so I’m sorry, but she can’t come.”
I’m panicking, but all the while Chris is smirking and saying nothing.
Peter rolls his eyes and says, “Gen, just let her come. Who gives a shit if she didn’t sign up?”
Her cheeks flush with anger. “I didn’t make the rules, Peter! Should she just get to come for free? How is that fair to everybody else?”
Chris finally speaks. “Oh, I already talked to Davenport and she said it was cool.” Chris makes a kissy face at Genevieve. “Too bad, Gen.”
“Fine, whatever, I don’t care.” Genevieve turns on her heel and spins off in Ms. Davenport’s direction.
Chris watches her go, grinning. I tug on her coat sleeve. “Why didn’t you say so from the beginning?” I whisper.
“Obvi because it was more fun that way.” She slings her arm around my shoulder. “It’s going to be an interesting weekend, Covey.”
Worried, I whisper, “You didn’t bring any alcohol, did you? They’re checking bags.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m covered.”
When I give her a dubious look, she whispers back, “Shampoo bottle filled with tequila at the bottom of my bag.”
“I hope you washed it out really well! You could get sick!” I’m envisioning Chris and company trying to take shots of bubbly tequila and then having to go to the hospital to get their stomachs pumped.
Chris ruffles my hair. “Oh, Lara Jean.”
We file onto the bus and Peter slides into a seat in the middle and I shuffle forward. “Hey,” he says, surprised. “You’re not going to sit with me?”
“I’m sitting with Chris.” I try to keep walking down the aisle, but Peter grabs my arm.
“Lara Jean! Are you kidding me? You have to sit with me.” He looks around to see if anybody’s listening. “You’re my girlfriend.”
I shake him off. “We’re breaking up soon, aren’t we? We might as well make it look more realistic.”
When I slide into the seat next to her, Chris is shaking her head at me.
“What? I couldn’t just let you sit alone. You came here for me, after all.” I open up my backpack and show her the snacks. “See? I brought your favorite things. What do you want to eat first? Gummies or Pocky?”
“It’s barely even morning,” she grouses. Then: “Hand me the gummies.”
Smiling, I rip open the bag for her. “Have as much as you want.”
I stop smiling when I see Genevieve get on the bus and sit down in the seat next to Peter.
“You did that,” Chris says.
“For you!” Which isn’t true, not really. I think maybe I’m just tired of all this. This in-betweenness of being somebody’s girlfriend but not really.
Chris stretches. “I know you’re all about hos before bros, but if I were you, I’d be careful. My cousin’s a barracuda.”
I stuff a gummy into my mouth and chew. It’s hard to swallow. I watch Genevieve whisper something in Peter’s ear, and Chris falls asleep right away just like she said, her head on my shoulder.
The lodge is exactly the way Peter described—there’s a big fireplace and bearskin rugs and lots of little nooks. It’s snowing outside, tiny little whisper flakes. Chris is in good spirits—halfway through the bus ride she woke up and started flirting with Charlie Blanchard, who’s going to take her out on the black diamond slopes. We even lucked out with a double room instead of a triple, because all the other girls had signed up for triples together.
Chris went off to snowboard with Charlie. She invited me to come along, but I said no thanks. I tried to ski next to Margot when she snowboarded once, and it ended up with us coming down the slopes at different times and waiting for each other and then losing each other all day.