If Peter were to invite me to go snowboarding with him, I think I’d go. But he doesn’t, and I’m hungry anyway, so I go to the lodge to eat lunch.
Ms. Davenport is there looking at her cell phone and eating a bowl of soup. Ms. Davenport is young, but she presents herself old. I think it’s her heavy foundation and her severe part down the middle. She isn’t married. Chris told me she saw her having an argument with some guy outside the Waffle House once, so I guess she has a boyfriend.
When she spots me sitting alone, eating a sandwich by the fireplace, she waves me over. I carry my plate to her table and sit down across from her. I’d rather eat alone and read my book, but it’s not like I have much of a choice in the matter. I ask her, “Do you have to stay here in the lodge all weekend, or can you go ski too?”
“I’m officially home base,” she says, wiping the corners of her mouth. “Coach White’s on slope duty.”
“That doesn’t seem very fair.”
“I don’t mind. I actually like sitting in the lodge. It’s peaceful. Besides, somebody has to be here for emergencies.” She takes another bite of soup. “What about you, Lara Jean? Why aren’t you out on the slopes with everybody else?”
“I’m not the best skier,” I say, feeling embarrassed.
“Oh, really? I hear Kavinsky’s a very good snowboarder. You should get him to teach you. Aren’t you two dating?”
Ms. Davenport loves being in on student drama. She calls it having her finger on the pulse, but really she’s just a gossip. If you give her an opening, she’ll burrow in for as much dirt as she can. I know she and Genevieve are close.
I have a quick flash of Genevieve and Peter on the bus with their heads close together, and the picture makes my heart squeeze. Our contract isn’t over yet. Why should I let her have him back even one second early? “Yes,” I say. “We’re together.” Then I stand up. “You know what? I think I will go check out the slopes.”
I’M BUNDLED UP IN MARGOT’S pink ski bib and the pom-pom hat and my parka and I feel like an Easter treat—a strawberry-flavored marshmallow. As I try to click into my skis, a group of girls from school walk by in cute yoga-ish ski pants. I didn’t even know those existed.
I always think I could like skiing and then I go on a ski trip and I remember, oh yeah, I hate it. All the other kids are on the black diamond slopes and I’m on green circle, aka the bunny slope. I pizza wedge down the whole way, and little kids keep zooming by me, which makes me lose my concentration because I’m terrified they’re going to run into me. They whoosh back and forth like Olympic skiers. Some of them aren’t even using poles. They’re like Kitty. She can go down black diamond slopes. She and my dad love it. Margot, too, though Margot prefers snowboarding to skiing now.
I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for Peter but I haven’t seen him yet, and it’s starting to feel a bit bleak out here all alone.
I’m considering giving the intermediate slope a try, just for kicks, when I spot Peter and all his friends carrying their snowboards. No Genevieve in sight. “Peter!” I call out, feeling very relieved.
He turns his head and I think he sees me, but he keeps walking.
He saw me. I know he saw me.
After dinner, Chris goes back to the slopes to snowboard. She says she’s addicted to the rush. I’m heading back to the room when I run into Peter again, this time in swimming trunks and a hoodie. He’s with Gabe and Darrell. They have towels around their necks. “Hey, Large,” Gabe says, flicking me with his towel. “Where you been all day?”
“I’ve been around.” I look over at Peter, but he won’t meet my eyes. “I saw you guys on the slopes.”
Darrell says, “Then why didn’t you holler at us? I wanted to show off my ollies for you.”
Teasingly I say, “Well, I called Peter’s name, but I guess he didn’t hear me.”
Peter finally looks me in the eyes. “Nope. I didn’t hear you.” His voice is cold and indifferent and so un-Peterlike, the smile fades from my face.
Gabe and Darrell exchange looks like oooh and Gabe says to Peter, “We’re gonna head out to the hot tub,” and they trot off.
Peter and I are left standing in the lobby, neither of us saying anything. I finally ask, “Are you mad at me or something?”
“Why would I be mad?”
And then it’s back to quiet again.
I say, “You know, you’re the one who talked me into coming on this trip. The least you could do is talk to me.”
“The least you could do was sit next to me on the bus!” he bursts out.
My mouth hangs open. “Are you really that mad that I didn’t sit next to you on the bus?”
Peter lets out an impatient breath of air. “Lara Jean, when you’re dating someone, there are just . . . certain things you do, okay? Like sit next to each other on a school trip. That’s pretty much expected.”
“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” I say. How can he be this mad over such a tiny thing?
“Forget it.” He turns like he’s going to leave, and I grab his sweatshirt sleeve. I don’t want to be in a fight with him; I just want it to be fun and light the way it always is with us. I want him to at least still be my friend. Especially now that we’re at the end.
I say, “Come on, don’t be mad. I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal. I swear I’ll sit next to you on the way home, okay?”
He purses his lips. “But do you get why I was pissed?”
I nod back. “Mm-hmm.”
“All right then, you should know that you missed out on mocha sugar donuts.”
My mouth falls open. “How’d you get those? I thought the shop didn’t open that early!”
“I went out and got them last night specifically for the bus ride,” Peter says. “For you and me.”
Aw. I’m touched. “Well, are there any left?”
“Nope. I ate them all.”
He looks so smug that I reach out and swat at his hoodie strings. “You creep,” I say, but I mean it affectionately.
Peter grabs my hand mid-swat and says, “Wanna hear something funny?”
“I think I started liking you.”
I go completely still. Then I pull my hand away from his, and I start to gather my hair into a ponytail, and then I remember I don’t have a hair tie. My heart is thudding in my chest and it’s hard to think all of a sudden. “Stop teasing.”
“I’m not teasing. Why do you think I kissed you that day at McClaren’s house back in seventh grade? It’s why I went along with this thing in the first place. I’ve always thought you were cute.”
My face feels hot. “In a quirky way.”
Peter grins his perfect grin. “So? I guess I must like quirky, then.”
Then he leans his head closer to mine, and I blurt out, “But aren’t you still in love with Genevieve?”
“Why are you always bringing up Gen? I’m trying to talk about us, and all you want to do is talk about her. Yeah, Gen and I have history. I’m always going to care about her.” He shrugs. “But now . . . I like you.”
People are walking in and out of the lodge; a guy from school walks by and claps Peter on the shoulder. “What up,” Peter says. When he’s gone, Peter says to me, “So what do you say?” He’s looking at me expectantly. He’s expecting me to say yes.
I want to say yes, but I don’t want to be with a boy whose heart belongs to somebody else. Just once, I want to be somebody’s first choice. “You might think you like me, but you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t still like her.”
Peter shakes his head. “What Gen and I have is completely separate from you and me,” he says.
“How can that be true when from the very first minute, this has been about Genevieve?”
“That’s not fair,” he objects. “When we started this thing, you liked Sanderson.”
“Not anymore.” I swallow hard. “But you still love Genevieve.”
Frustrated, Peter backs away from me and runs his hands through his hair. “God, what makes you such an expert on love? You’ve liked five guys in your life. One was gay, one lives in Indiana or Montana or some place, McClaren moved away before anything could actually happen, one was dating your sister. And then there’s me. Hmm, what do we all have in common? What’s the common denominator?”
I feel all the blood rush to my face. “That’s not fair.”
Peter leans in close and says, “You only like guys you don’t have a shot with, because you’re scared. What are you so scared of?”
I back away from him, right into the wall. “I’m not scared of anything.”
“The hell you’re not. You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.”
I glare at him. “You’re just mad because I didn’t die of happiness because the great Peter Kavinsky said he liked me. Your ego really is that enormous.”
His eyes flash. “Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t show up on your doorstep with flowers and profess my undying love for you, Lara Jean, but guess what, that’s not real life. You need to grow up.”
That’s it. I don’t have to listen to this. I turn on my heel and walk away. Over my shoulder I say, “Enjoy the hot tub.”
“I always do,” he calls back.
Is it true? Could he be right?
Back at the room, I change into my flannel nighty and put on thick socks. I don’t even go wash up. I just turn out the lights and crawl into bed. I can’t fall asleep, though. Every time I close my eyes, I see Peter’s face.
How dare he say I need to grow up? What does he know about anything? As if he’s so mature!
But . . . is he right about me? Do I only like the boys I can never have? I’ve always known Peter was out of my reach. I’ve always known he didn’t belong to me. But tonight he said he liked me. The thing I’ve been hoping for, he said it. So why didn’t I just tell him I liked him back when I had the chance? Because I do. I like him back. Of course I do. What girl wouldn’t fall for Peter Kavinsky, handsomest boy of all the Handsome Boys. Now that I really know him, I know he’s so much more than that.
I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to be brave. I want . . . life to start happening. I want to fall in love and I want a boy to fall in love with me back.
Before I can talk myself out of it, I put on my puffy coat, slip my keycard in my pocket, and head off to the hot tub.
THE HOT TUB IS BEHIND the main lodge, tucked in the woods on a wooden platform. On the way there, I run into kids with wet hair who are on their way back to their rooms before curfew. Curfew is at eleven, and it’s already ten forty-five. There’s not much time left. I hope Peter’s still out there. I don’t want to lose my nerve. So I quicken my pace and that’s when I spot him, alone in the hot tub, his head tipped back with his eyes closed.
“Hi,” I say, and my voice echoes into the woods.
His eyes fly open. Nervously, he looks over my shoulder. “Lara Jean! What are you doing out here?”
“I came to see you,” I say, and my breath comes out in white puffs. I start taking off my boots and socks. My hands are shaking, and not because it’s cold. I’m nervous.
“Uh . . . what are you doing?” Peter’s looking at me like I’m crazy.
“I’m getting in!” Shivering, I unzip my puffy coat and set it on the bench. Steam is rising out of the water. I dip my feet in and sit down on the ledge of the hot tub. It’s hotter than a bath, but it feels nice. Peter’s still watching me warily. My heart is racing out of control and it’s difficult to look him in the eyes. I’ve never been so scared in my life. “That thing you brought up earlier . . . you caught me off guard, so I didn’t know what to say. But . . . well, I like you too.” It comes out so fumbly and uncertain, and I wish I could start over and say it smoothly and confidently. I try again, louder. “I like you, Peter.”
Peter blinks, and he looks so young all of a sudden. “I don’t understand you girls. I think I have you figured out, and then . . . and then . . .”
“And then?” I hold my breath as I wait for him to speak. I’m so nervous; I keep swallowing, and it sounds loud to my ears. Even my breathing sounds loud, even my heartbeat.
His pupils are dilated he’s looking at me so hard. He’s staring at me like he’s never seen me before. “And then I don’t know.”
I think I stop breathing when I hear him say “I don’t know.” Did I screw things up that badly that now he doesn’t know? It can’t be over, not when I finally found my courage. I can’t let it be. My heart is pounding like a million trillion beats a minute as I scoot closer to him. I bend my head down and press my lips against his, and I feel his jolt of surprise. And then he’s kissing me back, open-mouthed, soft-lipped kissing-me-back, and at first I’m nervous, but then he puts his hand on the back of my head, and he strokes my hair in a reassuring way, and I’m not so nervous anymore. It’s a good thing I’m sitting down on this ledge, because I am weak in the knees.