I’M THE ONE WHO GOES
to the airport to pick up Margot and Ravi, while Daddy puts finishing touches on dinner and Kitty does her homework. I put the address into the
, just in case, and I make it there without incident, thank God. Our airport is small, so I just circle around while I wait for the two of them to come out.
When I pull up to the curb, Margot and Ravi are waiting, sitting on their suitcases. I park and then jump out and run over to Margot and throw my arms around her. Her hair is freshly bobbed around her chin, she’s wearing a sweatshirt and leggings, and as I squeeze her tight, I think
Oh, how I’ve missed my sister!
I let go, and then I take a good look at Ravi, who is taller than I realized. He is tall and skinny with dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes and long lashes. He looks so unlike Josh, but so like a boy that Margot would date. He has one dimple, on his right cheek. “It’s nice to meet you in real life, Lara Jean,” he says, and right away I’m bowled over by his accent. My name sounds so much fancier all dressed up in an English accent.
I’m feeling nervous, and then I see that his T-shirt says
, and I relax. He’s a Potter person, like us. “It’s nice to meet you, too. So what house are you?”
He grabs both Margot’s and his suitcases and loads them into the trunk. “Let’s see if you can guess. Your sister got it wrong.”
“Only because you were trying to impress me for the first month I knew you,” she protests. Ravi laughs and climbs into the backseat. I think it’s a good sign of his character that he doesn’t automatically go for shotgun. Margot looks at me. “Do you want me to drive?”
I’m tempted to say yes, because I always like it better when Margot drives, but I shake my head, jingle my keys high. “I’ve got it.”
She raises her eyebrows like she’s impressed. “Good for you.”
She goes to the passenger side, and I get in the front seat. I look at Ravi in my rearview mirror. “Ravi, by the time you leave our house, I will have figured out
* * *
When we get home, Daddy and Kitty and Ms. Rothschild are waiting for us in the living room. Margot looks startled to see her there sitting on the couch with Daddy, her bare feet in his lap. I’ve grown so used to it, to her being around, that it feels to me like Ms. Rothschild is part of the family now. It hadn’t occurred to me how jarring it would be for Margot. But the truth is, Ms. Rothschild and Margot haven’t spent a lot of time together because she’s been away at school; she wasn’t around when Ms. Rothschild and Daddy first started dating and she’s only been home once since, for Christmas.
As soon as Ms. Rothschild sees Margot, she jumps up to
give her a big hug and compliments her on her hair. She hugs Ravi, too. “God, you’re a tall drink of water!” she quips, and he laughs, but Margot just has a stiff smile on her face.
Until she sees Kitty, who she wraps up in a bear hug and then, seconds later, squeals, “Oh my God, Kitty! Are you wearing a bra now?” Kitty gasps and glares at her, her cheeks a dull angry red.
Abashed, Margot mouths,
Ravi hurries to step forward and shake Daddy’s hand. “Hello, Dr. Covey, I’m Ravi. Thank you for inviting me.”
“Oh, we’re glad to have you, Ravi,” Daddy says.
Then Ravi smiles at Kitty and lifts his hand in greeting and says, a tad awkwardly, “Hi, Kitty.”
Kitty nods at him without making eye contact. “Hello.”
Margot is still staring at Kitty in disbelief. I’ve been here all along, so it’s harder for me to see how much Kitty has grown in the past year, but it’s true, she has. Not so much in the chest department—the bra is merely ornamental at this point—but in other ways.
“Ravi, can I get you something to drink?” Ms. Rothschild chirps. “We have juice, Fresca, Diet Coke, water?”
“What’s a Fresca?” Ravi asks, his brow furrowed.
Her eyes light up. “It’s a delicious grapefruity soda. Zero calories! You have to try it!” Margot watches as Ms. Rothschild goes to the kitchen and opens up the cabinet where we keep our cups. Filling a glass with ice, she calls out, “Margot, what about you? Can I get you something?”
“I’m fine,” Margot answers in a pleasant enough tone, but
I can tell she doesn’t appreciate being offered a drink in her own home by someone who doesn’t live there.
When Ms. Rothschild returns with Ravi’s Fresca, she presents it to him with a flourish. He thanks her and takes a sip. “Very refreshing,” Ravi says, and she beams.
Daddy claps his hands together. “Should we take the bags upstairs? Give you guys a chance to freshen up before dinner? We’ve got the guest room all set up.” He gives me a fond look before saying, “Lara Jean put in a new pair of slippers and a robe for you, Ravi.”
Before Ravi can reply, Margot says, “Oh, that’s so nice. But actually, I think Ravi’s just going to stay with me in my room.”
It’s as if Margot has dropped a stink bomb in the middle of our living room. Kitty and I are looking at each other with huge
eyes; Daddy just looks stunned and at a complete loss for words. When I made up the guest room for Ravi, folded a set of towels for him on the side of the bed, and put out the robe and slippers, it never occurred to me that he’d be staying in Margot’s room. Clearly, the thought never occurred to Daddy either.
Daddy’s face is growing redder by the second. “Oh, um . . . I don’t know if . . .”
Margot purses her lips nervously as she waits for Daddy to finish his sentence. We’re all waiting, but he can’t seem to figure out what to say next. His eyes dart over to Ms. Rothschild for help, and she puts her hand on the small of his back in support.
Poor Ravi looks supremely uncomfortable. My first thought was that he was a Ravenclaw like Margot; now I’m thinking he’s a Hufflepuff like me. In a soft voice he says, “I truly don’t mind staying in the guest room. I’d hate to make things awkward.”
Daddy starts to answer him, but Margot gets there first. “No, it’s totally fine,” she assures Ravi. “Let’s go get the rest of our stuff out of the car.”
The second they leave, Kitty and I turn to each other. At the same time we say, “Oh my God.”
Kitty ponders, “Why do they need to stay in the same room together? Do they have to have sex that bad?”
“Enough, Kitty,” Daddy says, his tone sharper than I’ve heard him use with her. He turns and leaves, and I hear the sound of his office door closing. His office is where he goes when he is really mad. Ms. Rothschild gives her a stern look and follows after him.
Kitty and I look at each other again. “Yikes,” I say.
“He didn’t have to snap,” Kitty says sullenly. “I’m not the one whose boyfriend is staying in my bed.”
“He didn’t mean it.” I tuck her against me, wrapping my arms around her bony shoulders. “Gogo has a lot of nerve, huh?” She’s very impressive, my sister. I just feel sorry for Daddy. This isn’t a fight he’s used to having—or any kind of fight at all, really.
Of course I text Peter right away and tell all. He sends back a lot of wide-eyed emojis. And:
Do you think your dad would let us stay in the same room??
Which I ignore.
* * *
When Ravi goes upstairs to wash up and change, Ms. Rothschild says she has dinner out with the girls, so she’d better get going. I can tell Margot is relieved. After Ms. Rothschild leaves, Kitty takes Jamie Fox-Pickle for a walk, and Margot and I head to the kitchen to fix a salad to go with the chicken Daddy’s roasting. I’m eager to have a moment alone with her so we can talk about the whole sleeping-arrangements situation, but I don’t get a chance to ask, because as soon we step into the kitchen, Margot hisses at me, “Why didn’t you tell me Daddy and Ms. Rothschild are so serious?”
“I told you she’s over here for dinner almost every night!” I whisper back. I start rinsing a basket of cherry tomatoes so the sound of the water running will give us cover.
“She was walking around like she lives here! And since when do we have Fresca? We’ve never been a Fresca-drinking family.”
I start slicing the tomatoes in half. “She loves it, so I always make sure to buy a case when I go to the store. It’s actually very refreshing. Ravi seemed to like it.”
“That’s not the point!”
“What’s your problem with Ms. Rothschild all of a sudden? You guys got along great when you were home for Christmas—” I break off as Daddy walks into the kitchen.
“Margot, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Margot pretends to be busy counting out silverware. “Sure, what’s up, Daddy?”
Daddy glances at me, and I look back down at the tomatoes.
I am staying for moral support. “I would prefer if Ravi stayed in the guest room.”
Margot bites her lip. “Why?”
There’s an awkward silence before Daddy says, “I’m just not comfortable—”
“But Daddy, we’re in college. . . . You do realize we’ve shared a bed before, right?”
Wryly he says, “I had my suspicions, but thank you for that confirmation.”
“I’m almost twenty years old. I’ve been living away from home, thousands of miles away, for nearly two years.” Margot glances over at me and I shrink down. I should’ve left when I had the chance. “Lara Jean and I aren’t little kids anymore—”
“Hey, don’t bring me into this,” I say, as jokingly as I can.
Daddy sighs. “Margot, if you’re set on this, I’m not going to stop you. But I would just remind you that this is still my house.”
“I thought it was
house.” She knows she’s won this battle, so she keeps her voice light as meringue.
“Well, you freeloaders don’t pay the mortgage on it, I do, so that should make it my house slightly more.” With that final dad joke, he puts on oven mitts and takes the sizzling chicken out of the oven.
When we sit down to eat, Daddy stands at the head of the table and carves the chicken with the fancy new electric carving knife Ms. Rothschild got him for his birthday. “Ravi, can I offer you dark meat or white?”
Ravi clears his throat. “Um, I’m so sorry, but I actually don’t eat meat.”
Daddy gives Margot a horrified look. “Margot, you didn’t tell me Ravi was a vegetarian!”
“Sorry,” she says, grimacing. “I totally forgot. But Ravi loves salad!”
“I truly do,” he assures Daddy.
“I’ll take Ravi’s portion,” I offer. “I’ll take two thighs.”
Daddy saws off two thighs for me. “Ravi, tomorrow morning I’m making you a mean breakfast enchilada. No meat!”
Smiling, Margot says, “We’re going to
early tomorrow morning. Maybe the day he leaves?”
“Done,” Daddy says.
Kitty is unnaturally subdued. I’m not sure if it’s nervousness from having a boy she doesn’t know sit at her dining room table, or if it’s just because she’s getting older, and she’s less a kid in the way she interacts with new people. Though I suppose a twenty-one-year-old boy is really more of a young man.
Ravi has such nice manners—probably because he is English, and isn’t it a fact that English people have better manners than Americans? He says sorry a lot. “Sorry, can I just . . .” “Sorry?” His accent is charming, I keep saying pardon so he’ll speak again.
For my part, I try to lighten the mood with questions about England. I ask him why English people call private school public school, if his public school was anything like Hogwarts, if he’s ever met the royal family. His answers are: because they are open to the paying public; they had head
boys and head girls and prefects but no Quidditch; and he once saw Prince William at Wimbledon, but only the back of his head.
After dinner, the plan is for Ravi, Margot, Peter, and me to go to the movies. Margot invites Kitty to come along, but she demurs, citing her homework as the reason. I think she’s just nervous around Ravi.
I get ready in my room, dab a little perfume, a little lip balm, put on a sweatshirt over my cami and jeans because the theater gets cold. I’m ready fast, but Margot’s door is closed, and I can hear them talking quietly yet intensely. It’s a strange thing to see her door closed. I feel like a little spy standing outside the door, but it’s awkward, because who knows if Ravi has a shirt on, or what? It’s so adult, that closed door, those hushed voices.
Through the door I clear my throat and say, “Are you guys ready? I told Peter we’d meet him at eight.”
Margot opens the door. “Ready,” she says, and she doesn’t look happy.
Ravi steps out behind her, carrying his suitcase. “I’m just going to drop this off in the guest room, and then I’m all set,” he says.
As soon as he’s gone, I whisper to Margot, “Did something happen?”
“Ravi didn’t want to make a bad impression on Daddy by us staying in the same room. I told him it was fine, but he doesn’t feel comfortable.”
“That’s very considerate of him.” I wouldn’t say so to
Margot, but it was totally the right move. Ravi just keeps rising in my estimation.
Reluctantly she says, “He’s a very considerate guy.”
“Really handsome, too.”
A smile spreads across her face. “And there’s that.”
* * *
Peter’s already at the movie theater when we arrive, I’m sure because of Margot. He has no problem being late for me, but he would never dare be late for my big sister. Ravi buys all four of our tickets, which Peter is really impressed by. “Such a classy move,” he whispers to me as we sit down. Peter deftly maneuvers it so we’re sitting me, Peter, Ravi, Margot, so he can keep talking to him about soccer. Or football, as Ravi says. Margot gives me an amused look over their heads, and I can tell all the unpleasantness from before is forgotten.
After the movie, Peter suggests we go for frozen custards. “Have you ever had frozen custard before?” he asks Ravi.
“Never,” Ravi says.
“It’s the best, Rav,” he says. “They make it homemade.”
“Brilliant,” Ravi says.
When the boys are in line, Margot says to me, “I think Peter’s in love—with my boyfriend,” and we both giggle.
We’re still laughing when they get back to our table. Peter hands me my pralines and cream. “What’s so funny?”
I just shake my head and dip my spoon into the custard.
Margot says, “Wait, we have to cheers my sister getting into William and Mary!”
My smile feels frozen as everyone clinks their custard cups against mine. Ravi says, “Well done, Lara Jean. Didn’t Jon Stewart go there?”
Surprised, I say, “Why yes, yes he did. That’s a pretty random fact to know.”
“Ravi’s specialty is random facts,” Margot says, licking her spoon. “Don’t get him started on the mating habits of bonobos.”
“Two words,” Ravi says. Then he looks from Peter to me and whispers, “Penis fencing.”
Margot’s so lit up around Ravi. I once thought she and Josh were meant for each other, but now I’m not so sure. When they talk about politics, they’re both equally passionate, and they go back and forth, challenging each other but also conceding points. They’re like two flints sparking. If they were on a
show, I could see them as rival residents at a hospital who first grudgingly respect each other and then fall madly in love. Or two political aides at the White House, or two journalists. Ravi is studying bioengineering, which has not a lot to do with Margot’s anthropology, but they sure make a great team.
* * *
The next day, Margot takes Ravi to Washington,
, and they visit a few of the museums on the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. They invited Kitty and me to go along, but I said no on behalf of both of us because I was pretty sure they would want some time alone and because I wanted to be cozy at home and work on
my scrapbook for Peter. When they get back that night, I ask Ravi what his favorite thing to do in
was, and he says the National Museum of African American History and Culture by far, which makes me regret my decision not to go, because I haven’t been there yet.
We turn on a
show on Netflix that Margot has been raving about, and it was filmed near where Ravi grew up, so he points out landmark places like his first job and his first date. We eat ice cream right out of the cartons, and I can tell that Daddy likes Ravi by the way he keeps urging him to have more. I’m sure he noticed that Ravi is staying in the guest room, and I’m sure he appreciates the gesture. I hope Ravi and Margot keep dating, because I could see him in our family forever. Or at least stay together long enough for Margot and me to take a trip to London and stay at his house!
Ravi has to leave for Texas the next afternoon, and while I’m sad to see him go, I’m also a little bit glad, because then we get to have Margot all to ourselves before she leaves again.
When we say good-bye, I point at him and say, “Hufflepuff.”
He grins. “You got it in one.” Then he points at me. “Hufflepuff?”
I grin back. “You got it in one.”
* * *
That night we’re in my bedroom watching
on my laptop when Margot brings up college—which is how I know that on some level she was waiting for Ravi to go too, so she
could talk to me about real things. Before we load the next episode, she looks over at me and says, “Can we talk about
? How are you feeling about it now?”
“I was sad, but it’s all right. I’m still going to go there.” Margot gives me a quizzical look, and I explain, “I’m going to transfer after freshman year. I talked to Mrs. Duvall, and she said if I got good grades at William and Mary, I would definitely get in as a transfer.”
Her forehead wrinkles up. “Why are you talking about transferring from William and Mary when you aren’t even there yet?” When I don’t answer right away, she says, “Is this because of Peter?”
“No! I mean, it is, in part, but not completely.” I hesitate before saying the thing I haven’t said out loud. “You know that feeling, like you’re meant to be somewhere? When I visited William and Mary, I didn’t get that feeling. Not like with
“It might be that no school gives you the exact feeling you have with
,” Margot says.
“Maybe so—which is why I’m going to transfer after a year.”
She sighs. “I just don’t want you to live a half life at William and Mary because the whole time you’re wishing you were with Peter at
. The freshman-year experience is so important. You should at least give it a fair chance, Lara Jean. You might really love it there.” She gives me a look heavy with meaning. “Remember what Mommy said about college and boyfriends?”
How could I forget?
be the girl who goes to college with a boyfriend
“I remember,” I say.
Margot takes my laptop and goes on the William and Mary website. “This campus is so pretty. Look at this weather vane! It all looks like something out of an English village.”
I perk up. “Yeah, it kind of does.” Is it as pretty as
’s campus? No, not to me, but then I don’t think anywhere is as pretty as Charlottesville.
“And look, William and Mary has a guacamole club. And a storm-watchers club. And oh my God! Something called a wizards-and-muggles club! It’s the largest Harry Potter club at any
pretty neat. Do they have a baking club?”
She checks. “No. But you could start one!”
“Maybe . . . That would be fun. . . .” Maybe I
join a club or two.
She beams at me. “See? There’s a lot to be excited about. And don’t forget the Cheese Shop.”
The Cheese Shop is a specialty food store right by campus, and they sell cheese, obviously, but also fancy jams and bread and wine and gourmet pastas. They make really great roast beef sandwiches with a house dressing—a mayonnaisey mustard that I have tried to duplicate at home, but nothing tastes as good as in the shop, on their fresh bread. Daddy loves to stop at the Cheese Shop for new mustards and a sandwich. He’d be happy to have an excuse to go there. And Kitty, she loves the Williamsburg outlet mall. They sell kettle corn there, and it’s really addictive. They pop it right in front
of you, and the popcorn is so hot, it melts the bag a little.
“Maybe I could get a job in Colonial Williamsburg,” I say, trying to get into the spirit. “I could churn butter. Wear period garb. Like, a calico dress with an apron or whatever they wore in Colonial times. I’ve heard they’re not allowed to speak to each other in modern-day language, and kids are always trying to trip them up. That could be fun. The only thing is, I’m not sure if they hire Asian people because of historical accuracy. . . .”
“Lara Jean, we live in the time of
! Phillipa Soo is half-Chinese, remember? If she can play Eliza Hamilton, you can churn butter. And if they refuse to hire you, we’ll put it on social media and make them.” Margot tilts her head and looks at me. “See! There’s so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be.” She puts her hands on my shoulders.
“I’m trying,” I say. “I really am.”
“Just give William and Mary a chance. Don’t dismiss it before you even get there. Okay?”
I nod. “Okay.”