IT’S THE FIRST NIGHT WE’VE

all been together for dinner since the engagement, and Daddy’s in the kitchen making a salad. Us girls are sitting in the living room just hanging out. Kitty is doing her homework; Ms. Rothschild is sipping on a glass of white wine. It’s all very mellow—perfect timing for me to bring up wedding business. I’ve spent the last week working on a mood board for Daddy and Ms. Rothschild’s wedding:


Pride and Prejudice

the movie, a whole wall of roses for the photo-booth area,


The Virgin Suicides

, wine-bottle floral centerpieces as a nod to Charlottesville wineries.

When I present it to Ms. Rothschild on my laptop, she looks vaguely alarmed. She sets down her wine glass and looks closer at the screen. “This is beautiful, Lara Jean. Really lovely. You’ve put a lot of time into this!”

So much time, in fact, that I skipped Peter’s lacrosse game this week, plus a movie night at Pammy’s. But this is important. Of course I don’t say any of this out loud; I just smile a beatific smile. “Does this vision feel in line with what you were thinking?

“Well . . . to be honest, I think we were thinking we’d just go to the justice of the peace. Selling my house and figuring out how I’m going to fit all my junk in here is enough of a headache already.”

Daddy comes out with the wooden salad bowl in his hands. Dryly he says, “So you’re saying marrying me is a headache?”

She rolls her eyes. “You know what I’m saying, Dan! It’s not like you have the time to plan a big wedding either.” She takes a sip of wine and turns to me. “Your dad and I have both been married before, so neither of us feels like making a big fuss. I’ll probably just wear a dress I already have.”

“Of

course

we should make a big fuss. Do you know how many years it took Daddy to find someone who’d eat his cooking and watch his documentaries?” I shake my head. “Ms. Rothschild, you’re a miracle. For that we

have

to celebrate.” I call out to my dad, who’s disappeared back into the kitchen. “Did you hear that, Daddy? Ms. Rothschild wants to go to

city hall


. Please disabuse her of this notion.”

“Will you please stop calling me Ms. Rothschild? Now that I’m going to be your wicked stepmother, you should at least call me Trina. Or Tree. Whatever feels right to you.”

“How about Stepmother?” I suggest, all innocence. “That feels pretty right.”

She swats at me. “Girl! I will cut you.”

Giggling, I dart away from her. “Let’s get back to the wedding. I don’t know if this is a sensitive issue or not, but did you keep your old wedding photos? I want to see what your bridal style was.”

Ms. Rothschild pulls a terrible face. “I think I threw out everything. I might have a picture tucked in an album somewhere. Thank God I got married before social media

was a thing. Can you imagine, getting divorced and having to take down all your wedding pictures?”

“Isn’t it bad luck to talk about divorce when you’re planning your wedding?”

She laughs. “Well then, we’re already doomed.” I must look alarmed because she says, “I’m kidding! I’ll hunt around for a wedding picture to show you if you want, but honestly, I’m not real proud of it. Smoky eye was the thing back then, and I took it a little too far. Plus I did that early two thousands thing with the chocolate lip liner and the frosted lip.”

I try to keep my face neutral. “Right, okay. What about your dress?”

“One-shoulder, with a mermaid style skirt. It made my butt look amazing.”

“I see.”

“Quit judging me!”

Daddy puts his hand on Ms. Rothschild’s shoulder. “What if we did it here at the house?”

“Like in the backyard?” She considers this. “I think that could be nice. A little barbecue, just family and a few friends?”

“Daddy doesn’t have any friends,” Kitty says from across the living room, her math book in her lap.

Daddy frowns at her. “I do too have friends. I have Dr. Kang from the hospital, and there’s Marjorie, and Aunt D. But er, yes, it would be a small group on my side.”

“Plus Nana,” Kitty says, and both Daddy and Ms. Rothschild look nervous at the mention of Nana. Daddy’s mother isn’t the friendliest person.

“Don’t forget Grandma,” I throw in.

Grandma and Ms. Rothschild met at Thanksgiving, and while Daddy didn’t explicitly introduce her as his girlfriend, Grandma is shrewd and she doesn’t miss a thing. She gave Ms. Rothschild the third degree, asking if she had any kids of her own, how long she’d been divorced, if she had any student-loan debt. Ms. Rothschild held up pretty well, and when I walked Grandma out to the car to say good-bye, she said Ms. Rothschild was “not bad.” She said she dressed young for her age, but she also said that Ms. Rothschild had a lot of energy and a brightness to her.

“I’ve already done the big wedding thing,” Ms. Rothschild says. “It’ll be small on my side too. A few friends from college, Shelly from work. My sister Jeanie, my SoulCycle friends.”

“Can we be your bridesmaids?” Kitty asks, and Ms. Rothschild laughs.

“Kitty! You can’t just ask that.” But I turn to Ms. Rothschild, waiting to hear what she will say.

“Sure,” she says. “Lara Jean, would you be okay with that?”

“I would be honored,” I say.

“So you three girls, and my friend Kristen, because she’ll kill me if I don’t ask her.”

I clap my hands together. “Now that that’s settled, let’s get back to the dress. If it’s going to be a backyard wedding, I feel like your dress should reflect that.”

“As long as it has sleeves so my bat wings don’t flap around,” she says.

“Ms. Roth—I mean, Trina, you don’t have bat wings,” I say. She’s very in shape from all her Pilates and SoulCycle.

Kitty’s eyes light up. “What are bat wings? That sounds gross.”

“Come here, and I’ll show you.” Kitty obeys, and Ms. Rothschild lifts her arm and stretches it out; then at the last second she grabs Kitty and tickles her. Kitty’s dying laughing, and so is Ms. Rothschild.

Breathlessly she says, “Gross? That’ll teach you to call your wicked stepmother-to-be gross!”

Daddy looks as happy as I’ve ever seen him.

* * *

Later that night in our bathroom, Kitty’s brushing her teeth, and I’m scrubbing my face with a new exfoliant I ordered off a Korean beauty site. It’s walnut shells and blueberry. “Mason jars and gingham—but elegant,” I muse.

“Mason jars are played out,” Kitty says. “Look on Pinterest. Literally everybody does Mason jars.”

Her words do have the ring of truth. “Well, I’m definitely wearing a flower crown on my head. I don’t care if you say it’s played out.”

Flatly she says, “You can’t wear a flower crown.”

“Why not?”

She spits out toothpaste. “You’re too old. That’s for flower girls.”

“No, you aren’t envisioning it correctly. I wasn’t thinking baby’s breath. I was thinking little pink and peach roses, with a lot of greenery. Pale green greenery, you know that kind?”

She shakes her head, resolute. “We aren’t fairies in a forest. It’s too cutesy. And I know Gogo’s going to agree with me.”

I have a sinking feeling she will too. I decide to put this argument aside for now. It won’t be won today. “For dresses, I was thinking we could wear vintage. Not off-white, but tea-stained white. Sort of nightgown-style. Very ethereal—not fairy, more like celestial being.”

“I’m wearing a tuxedo.”

I nearly choke. “A what!”

“A tuxedo. With matching Converse.”

“Over my dead body!”

Kitty shrugs.

“Kitty, this wedding isn’t black tie. A tuxedo isn’t going to look right at a backyard wedding! The three of us should match, like a set! The Song girls!”

“I’ve already told Tree and Daddy, and they both love the idea of me in a tux, so get over it.” She’s got that look on her face, the obstinate look she gets when she’s really digging her heels in. Like a bull.

“At the very least you should wear a seersucker suit, then. It will be too hot for a tuxedo, and seersucker breathes.” I feel like I’ve made a concession here, so she should too, but no.

“You don’t get to decide everything, Lara Jean. It’s not your wedding.”

“I know that!”

“Well, just keep it in mind.”

I reach out to shake her, but she flounces off before I can. Over her shoulder, she calls out, “Worry about your own life!”

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