IT’S AN EARLY-RELEASE DAY AND

I’m hurrying down the hallway to meet Peter at his locker when Mrs. Duvall stops me. “Lara Jean! Are you coming to the mixer this evening?”

“Um . . .” I don’t remember hearing anything about a mixer.



She tsks me. “I sent you a reminder e-mail last week! It’s a little get-together for local students who were accepted to William and Mary. There’ll be a few of you from our school, but lots of other schools too. It’s a nice opportunity for you to meet some people before you get there.”

“Oh . . .” I did see that e-mail, but I forgot all about it. “I would love to go, but I can’t because I have a . . . um, family obligation.”


Which is, technically, true. Peter and I are going to an estate sale in Richmond—he has to pick up end tables for his mom’s antiques store, and I’m looking for a cake table for Daddy and Trina’s wedding.

Mrs. Duvall gives me a lingering look and says, “Well, I’m sure there’ll be another one. A lot of people would kill to be in your spot, Lara Jean, but I’m sure you already know that.”

“I do,” I assure her, and then I scuttle off to meet Peter.

The estate sale turns out to be a bust—for me, anyway.

Peter picks up the end tables, but I don’t see anything appropriate for an ethereal backyard wedding. There’s one chest of drawers that is a possibility, if I painted it, maybe, or stenciled some rosebuds on it, but it costs three hundred dollars, and I have a feeling Daddy and Trina would balk at the price. I take a picture of it just in case.

Peter and I go to a place I read about on the Internet called Croaker’s Spot, where we get fried fish and buttery cornbread dripping in sweet sauce. “Richmond’s cool,” he says, wiping sauce off his chin. “Too bad William and Mary isn’t in Richmond. It’s closer to

UVA

, too.”

“Just by thirty minutes,” I say. “Anyway I was thinking about it, and it won’t even be a full year until I’m at



UVA

.” I start counting the months off my fingers. “It’s really like nine months. And I’ll be home for winter break, and then we have spring break.”

“Exactly,” he says.

* * *

When I get home, it’s dark out, and Daddy, Trina, and Kitty are at the kitchen table finishing up dinner. Daddy starts to get up when I walk in. “Sit down, I’ll fix you a plate,” he says. With a wink he says, “Trina made her lemon chicken.”

Trina’s lemon chicken is just chicken breasts with lemon seasoning cooked in Pam, but it’s her specialty and it’s pretty good. Sliding into a seat, I say, “No thanks, I just ate a ton of food.”

“Did they serve dinner at the mixer?” Daddy asks, sitting back down. “How was it?”

“How did you know about the mixer?” I ask him, leaning down to pet Trina’s dog Simone, who followed me into the kitchen and is now sitting at my feet, hoping for a crumb.

“They sent an invitation in the mail. I put it on the fridge!”

“Oh, whoops. I didn’t go. I went to Richmond with Peter to look for a cake table for the wedding.”

Daddy frowns. “You went all the way to Richmond on a school night? For a cake table?”

Uh-oh. I quickly pull out my phone to show them. “It’s a little expensive, but we could have the drawers kind of half-open, bursting with roses. Even if we didn’t get this exact one, if you like it, I’m sure I could find something similar to it.”

Daddy leans in to look. “Drawers of roses bursting out? That sounds very expensive and not exactly ecologically responsible.”

“Well I suppose we could do daisies, but it doesn’t really have the same effect.” I cast a look over at Kitty before continuing. “I want to circle back on the bridesmaid dresses.”

“Wait a minute, I want to circle back on you skipping out on your college mixer to go to Richmond,” Daddy interjects.

“Don’t worry, Daddy, I’m sure there will be a million of them before fall,” I tell him. “Kitty, about the bridesmaid dresses—”

Without even looking up, Kitty says, “You just wear the nightgown outfit on your own.”

I choose to ignore the fact that she called it a nightgown outfit and say, “It won’t look right if it’s just me. The beauty of it is the set. All of us matching, very ethereal, like angels.

Then it becomes a look, a moment. If I wear it on my own it won’t work. It needs to be all three of us.” I don’t know how many more times I have to say the word “ethereal” to make people understand what the vibe of this wedding is.

Kitty says, “If you want to be a set, you’re welcome to wear a tux too. I would be fine with that.”

I take a deep breath to keep from screaming at her. “Well, let’s just see what Margot says about all this.”

“Margot won’t care either way.”

Kitty gets up to put her plate in the sink, and when her back is turned, I raise my hands like I’m going to strangle her. “Saw that,” she says. I swear, she has eyes in the back of her head.

“Trina, what do you think?” I ask.

“Honestly, I could care less what you guys wear, but you’re going to have to run it by Margot and Kristen. They might have their own ideas.”

Delicately I say, “Just

FYI

, it’s ‘I couldn’t care less,’ not ‘I could care less.’ Because if you could, then you are technically caring.”

Trina rolls her eyes, and Kitty slides back into her chair and says, “Why are you like this, Lara Jean?”

I shove her in the side. To Trina I say, “Kristen is a grown woman, so I’m sure she’ll be fine with whatever us kids do. She’s an adult.”

Trina doesn’t look so sure. “She won’t want anything that shows her arms. She’ll try to convince you to put a matching cardigan on top.”

“Um, no.”

Trina puts her hands up. “You have to take it up with Kristen. Like I said, I could care less.” She crosses her eyes at me, and I laugh and so does Kitty.

“Wait a minute, can we talk more about this mixer you didn’t go to?” Daddy asks, his brow furrowed. “That sounded like a really nice event.”

“I’ll go to the next one,” I promise him. Of course, I don’t mean it.

There’s no point in me going to mixers and getting attached to people when I’m only going to be there nine months.

* * *

After I make myself a bowl of ice cream, I go upstairs and text Margot to see if she is awake. She is, so I immediately call her to shore up support on the dress situation, and Kitty’s right—Margot doesn’t care either way.

“I’ll do whatever you guys want to do,” she says.

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for people who maintain neutrality in times of crisis,” I say, licking my spoon.

She laughs. “I thought the hottest places in hell were reserved for women who don’t help other women.”

“Well, I suppose hell has a lot of rooms. Honestly, don’t you think Kitty will look silly in a tuxedo? It’s a backyard wedding. The feel is supposed to be ethereal!”

“I don’t think she’ll look any sillier than you’ll look in a flower crown all by yourself. Just let her wear it, and you wear your flower crown, and I’ll be neutral. Honestly, I don’t even see the point in me being a bridesmaid when Ms. Rothschild

and I barely know each other. I mean, I know she’s doing it to be nice, but it’s so not necessary. It’s all a bit much.”

Now I’m regretting stirring the waters and pushing the whole tuxedo-versus-flower-crown issue. The last thing I want is for Margot to get any ideas about dropping out of the wedding. She’s lukewarm on Trina at best. Hastily I say, “Well, we don’t have to wear flower crowns. You and I could wear plain dresses and Kitty could wear her tux, and that would look fine.”

“How was that William and Mary mixer today? Did you meet any cool people?”

“How does everybody but me know about the mixer!”

“It was on the fridge.”

“Oh. I didn’t go.”

There’s a pause. “Lara Jean, have you sent in your William and Mary deposit yet?”

“I’m about to! It’s not due until May first.”

“Are you thinking about changing your mind?”

“No! I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Things have been crazy around here, with all the wedding planning and everything.”

“It sounds like the wedding is getting really big. I thought they just wanted to do a simple thing.”

“We’re weighing our options. It’ll still be simple. I just think the day should be really special, something we’ll always remember.”

After we get off the phone, I go downstairs to put my ice cream bowl in the sink, and on the way back, I stop in the

living room, where Mommy and Daddy’s wedding portrait hangs above the fireplace. Her dress is lace, with cap sleeves and a flowy skirt. Her hair is up, in a side bun, with a few tendrils that slip out. She’s wearing diamond earrings I never saw her wear in real life. She hardly ever wore jewelry, or much makeup, either. Daddy’s in a gray suit, but no gray in his hair yet; his cheeks are apple smooth, no stubble. She looks the way I remember her, but he looks so much younger.

It hits me that we’ll have to move the picture. It would just be too awkward for Trina to have to look at it every day. She doesn’t seem bothered by it now, but after she’s living here, after they’re married, she’s bound to feel differently. I could hang it in my room, though Margot might want it too. I guess I’ll ask her when she’s back.

* * *

Trina’s friend Kristen comes over after dinner later that week, armed with a bottle of rosé and a stack of bridal magazines. The way Trina talks about Kristen, I was picturing someone really intimidating and tall, but Kristen is my height. She has brown hair cut in a short bob, tan skin. I’m impressed by her collection of

Martha Stewart Weddings

—it goes back years and years. “Please just don’t crease the corners,” she says, which makes me frown. As if I would ever.

“I think we should discuss the bridal shower first,” she says. She’s petting Jamie Fox-Pickle; his sandy head is in her lap. I’ve never seen him take to a stranger so quickly, which I take to be a good sign.

I say, “I thought a tea party could be fun. I’d make little

sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and little bite-sized scones, and clotted cream . . .”

“I was thinking a SoulCycle party,” Kristen says. “I’d have matching neon tank tops made that say ‘Team Trina.’ We could rent out the whole class!”

I try not to look disappointed, and just nod like,

Hmm.

“Guys, both of those ideas sound so great, but I’m thinking no bridal shower,” Trina interjects. Kristen gasps and I do too. With an apologetic smile she explains, “We have too much stuff as it is. The whole point of a bridal shower is to shower the bride with everything she’ll need for her house, and I can’t think of one thing we’d need.”

“We don’t have an ice cream maker,” I say. I’ve been wanting to experiment with ice creams for a while now, but the one I want is more than four hundred dollars. “And Daddy’s always talking about a pasta machine.”

“We can buy those things for ourselves. We’re grown-ups, after all.” Kristen opens her mouth to argue, but Trina says, “Kris, I’m firm on this. No bridal shower. I’m in my forties, for Pete’s sake. I’ve been to this rodeo before.”

Stiffly Kristen says, “I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The point of a bridal shower is to make the bride feel special and loved. But fine. If it’s that important to you, we won’t do one.”

“Thank you,” Trina says. She leans over and puts her arm around Kristen, who gives her a stern look.

“But where I will not negotiate is a bachelorette. You’ve gotta have a bach. Period.”

Smiling, Trina says, “I will not fight you on that. Maybe we can do your SoulCycle idea for my bachelorette.”

“No way. We gotta go big. So, Vegas, am I right? You love Vegas. I’m gonna e-mail the girls tonight so Sarah’s husband can get us a suite at the Bellagio—”

“It’s gonna be a no on Vegas,” Trina says. “The bachelorette has to be local and

PG

so the girls can come.”

“What girls?” Kristen demands.

Trina points to me. “My girls.” She smiles at me shyly and I smile back, feeling warm inside.

“What if we did karaoke?” I suggest, and Trina claps her hands in delight.

Kristen’s mouth drops. “No offense, Lara Jean, but what the hell is going on here, Trina! You can’t have your future stepchildren at your bach. It’s just not right. We’re not gonna be able to celebrate the way you’re supposed to celebrate a bach. Like the old days—aka get naked wasted so you can live up your last moments as a single woman.”

Trina looks at me and shakes her head. “For the record, we never got ‘naked wasted.’?” To Kristen she says, “Kris, I don’t think of them as my future stepchildren. They’re just . . . the girls. But don’t worry. We’ll have fun. Margot’s in college, and Lara Jean’s practically in college. They can be exposed to a little sangria and chardonnay.”

“You do love your white wine,” I say, and Trina swats at my shoulder.

Kristen exhales loudly. “Well, what about the little one?”

“Kitty’s very mature for her age,” Trina says.

Kristen crosses her arms. “I’m putting my foot down. You can’t bring a child on a bachelorette. It isn’t right.”

“Kris!”

At this I feel like I have to speak up. “I’m going to side with Kristen on this one. We won’t be able to bring Kitty to karaoke. She’s too young. They won’t let an eleven-year-old in.”

“She’ll be so disappointed, though.”

“She’ll live,” I say.

Kristen sips on her rosé and says, “Disappointment is good for kids; it prepares them for the real world, where it’s not all about them and their feelings.”

Trina rolls her eyes. “If you’re putting your foot down on having Kitty at the bachelorette, I’m putting my foot down on penises. I mean it, Kris. No penis cake, no penis straws, no penis pasta. No penises, period.”

I blush. There’s such a thing as penis pasta?

“Fine.” Kristen pushes out her lower lip.

“All right, then. Can we move on to the actual wedding, please?”

I run and get my laptop and pull up my vision board, which is when Kitty decides to grace us with her presence. She’s been in the living room watching

TV

. “Where are we in the planning?” she wants to know.

Kristen eyes her before saying, “Let’s talk food.”

“What about food trucks?” I suggest. “Like, a waffle truck?”

Kristen purses her lips. “I was thinking barbecue. Trina loves barbecue.”

“Hmm,” I say. “But a lot of people do barbecue, don’t they? It’s kind of . . .”

“Played out?” Kitty suggests.

“I was going to say common.” But yeah.

“But Trina loves barbecue!”

“Can y’all please stop talking about me like I’m not here?” Trina says. “I do love barbecue. And can we do Mason jars?”

I’m expecting Kitty to denigrate Mason jars again, but she doesn’t say anything of the sort. She says, “What do we think about edible flowers in the drinks?” I’m pretty sure that was one of my ideas that she just stole.

Trina does a shimmy in her seat. “Yes! I love it!”

I’m quick to add, “We could do a nice punch bowl and float some flowers on top.”

Kristen gives me an approving look.

Bolstered, I grandly say, “And as for the cakes, we’ll need a wedding cake and a groom’s cake.”

“Do we really need two cakes?” Trina asks, chewing on her nail. “There won’t be that many people there.”

“This is the South; we have to have a groom’s cake. For yours I was thinking yellow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.” Trina beams at me. That’s her favorite kind of cake, just plain. Not exactly exciting to bake, but it’s her favorite. “For Daddy’s, I was thinking . . . a Thin Mint cake! Chocolate cake with mint frosting, but with Thin Mints crumbled on top.” I have such a vision for this cake.

This time Kitty’s the one to give me an approving nod. I feel more in my element then I have in weeks.

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