KITTY’S MIXING NAIL-POLISH COLORS ON
a paper plate while I’m looking up “celebrity updos” for Trina’s wedding hair. I’m lying on the couch, with pillows propped up behind me, and she is on the floor, with nail-polish bottles all around her. Suddenly she asks me, “Have you ever thought about, like, what if Daddy and Trina have a baby and it looks like Daddy?”
Kitty thinks of all sorts of things that would never have occurred to me. I hadn’t once thought of that—that they might have a baby or that this pretend baby wouldn’t look like us. The baby would be all Daddy and Trina. No one would have to wonder whose child he was or calculate who belongs to who. They’d just assume.
“But they’re both so old,” I say.
“Trina’s forty-three. You can get pregnant at forty-three. Maddie’s mom just had a baby and she’s forty-three.”
“True . . .”
“What if it’s a boy?”
Daddy with a son. It’s a startling thought. He’s not exactly sporty, not in a traditional male sense. I mean, he likes to go biking and he plays doubles tennis in the spring. But I’m sure there are things he’d want to do with a son that he doesn’t do with us because no one’s interested. Fishing, maybe? Football
he doesn’t care about. Trina cares more than he does.
When my mom was pregnant with Kitty, Margot wanted another sister but I wanted a boy. The Song girls and their baby brother. It would be nice to get that baby brother after all. Especially since I won’t be at home and have to hear it crying in the middle of the night. I’ll just get to buy the baby little shearling booties and sweaters with red foxes or bunnies.
“If they named him Tate, we could call him Tater Tot,” I muse.
Two red blotches appear on Kitty’s cheeks, and just like that, she looks as young as I always picture her in my head: a little kid. “I don’t want them to have another baby. If they have a baby, I’ll be in the middle. I’ll be nothing.”
“Hey!” I object. “I’m in the middle now!”
“Margot’s oldest and smartest, and you’re the prettiest.”
I’m the prettiest?? Kitty thinks I’m the prettiest?
I try not to look too happy, because she’s still talking. “I’m only the youngest. If they have a baby, I won’t even be that.”
I put down my computer. “Kitty, you’re a lot more than the youngest Song girl. You’re the wild Song girl. The mean one. The spiky one.” Kitty’s pursing her lips, trying not to smile at this. I add, “And no matter what, Trina loves you; she’ll always love you, even if she did have a baby which I don’t think she will.” I stop. “Wait, did you mean it when you said I was the prettiest?”
“No, I take it back. I’ll probably be the prettiest by the time I get to high school. You can be the nicest.” I leap off the couch and grab her by the shoulders like I’m going to shake her, and she giggles.
“I don’t want to be the nicest,” I say.
“You are, though.” She says it not like an insult, but not exactly like a compliment. “What do you wish you had of mine?”
“Your nose. You have a little nubbin of a nose.” I tap it. “What about me?”
Kitty shrugs. “I don’t know.” Then she cracks up, and I shake her by the shoulders.
I’m still thinking about it later that evening. I hadn’t thought of Daddy and Trina having a baby. But Trina doesn’t have any children, just her “fur baby” golden retriever Simone. She might want a baby of her own. And Daddy’s never said so, but is there a chance he’d want to try one more time for a son? The baby would be eighteen years younger than me. What a strange thought. And even stranger still: I’m old enough to have a baby of my own.
What would Peter and I do if I got pregnant? I can’t even picture what would happen. All I can see is the look on Daddy’s face when I tell him the news, and that’s about as far as I get.
* * *
The next morning, on the way to school in Peter’s car, I steal a look at his profile. “I like how you’re so smooth,” I say. “Like a baby.”
“I could grow a beard if I wanted to,” he says, touching his chin. “A thick one.”
Fondly I say, “No, you couldn’t. But maybe one day, when you’re a man.”
He frowns. “I
a man. I’m eighteen!”
I scoff, “You don’t even pack your own lunches. Do you even know how to do laundry?”
“I’m a man in all the ways that count,” he boasts, and I roll my eyes.
“What would you do if you were drafted to go to war?” I ask.
“Uh . . . aren’t college kids given a pass on that? Does the draft even still exist?”
I don’t know the answers to either of these questions, so I barrel forward. “What would you do if I got pregnant right now?”
“Lara Jean, we’re not even having sex. That would be the immaculate conception.”
“If we were?” I press.
He groans. “You and your questions! I don’t know. How could I know what I would do?”
“What do you
you would do?”
Peter doesn’t hesitate. “Whatever you wanted to do.”
“Wouldn’t you want to decide together?” I’m testing him—for what, I don’t know.
“I’m not the one who has to carry it. It’s your body, not mine.”
His answer pleases me, but still I keep going. “What if I said . . . let’s have the baby and get married?”
Again Peter doesn’t hesitate. “I’d say sure. Yeah!”
Now I’m the one frowning. “?‘Sure’? Just like that? The
biggest decision of your life and you just say sure?”
“Yeah. Because I
I lean over to him and put my palms on his smooth cheeks. “That’s how I know you’re still a boy. Because you’re so sure.”
He frowns back at me. “Why are you saying it like it’s a bad thing?”
I let go. “You’re always so sure of everything about yourself. You’ve never been not sure.”
“Well, I’m sure of this one thing,” he says, staring straight ahead. “I’m sure I’d never be the kind of dad my dad is, no matter how old I am.”
I go quiet, feeling guilty for teasing him and bringing up bad feelings. I want to ask if his dad is still reaching out to make amends, but the closed-up look on Peter’s face stops me. I just wish he and his dad could fix things between them before he goes to college. Because right now, Peter
still a boy, and deep down, I think all boys want to know their dads, no matter what kind of men they are.
* * *
After school, we go through the drive-thru, and Peter’s already tearing into his sandwich before we’re out of the parking lot. Between bites of fried chicken sandwich, he says, “Did you mean it when you said before that you couldn’t picture marrying me?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“I mean, you kind of said that. You said I’m still a boy and you couldn’t marry a boy.”
Now I’ve gone and hurt his feelings. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant I couldn’t picture marrying anybody right now. We’re both still babies. How could we
a baby?” Without thinking, I say, “Anyway, my dad gave me a whole birth-control kit for college, so we don’t even have to worry about it.”
Peter nearly chokes on his sandwich. “A birth-control kit?”
“Sure. Condoms and . . .” Dental dams. “Peter, do you know what a dental dam is?”
“A what? Is that what dentists use to keep your mouth open when they clean it?”
I giggle. “No. It’s for oral sex. And here I thought you were this big expert and
were going to be the one to teach
everything at college!”
My heart speeds up as I wait for him to make a joke about the two of us finally having sex at college, but he doesn’t. He frowns and says, “I don’t like the thought of your dad thinking we’re doing it when we’re not.”
“He just wants us to be careful is all. He’s a professional, remember?” I pat him on the knee. “Either way, I’m not getting pregnant, so it’s fine.”
He crumples up his napkin and tosses it in the paper bag, his eyes still on the road. “Your parents met in college, didn’t they?”
I’m surprised he remembers. I don’t remember telling him that. “Yeah.”
“So how old were they? Eighteen? Nineteen?” Peter’s headed somewhere with this line of questioning.
“Twenty, I think.”
His face dims but just slightly. “Okay, twenty. I’m eighteen and you’ll be eighteen next month. Twenty is just two years older. So what difference does two years make in the grand scheme of things?” He beams a smile at me. “Your parents met at twenty; we met at—”
“Twelve,” I supply.
Peter frowns, annoyed that I’ve messed up his argument. “Okay, so we met when were kids, but we didn’t get together until we were seventeen—”
“I was sixteen.”
“We didn’t get together
until we were both basically seventeen. Which is basically the same thing as eighteen, which is basically the same thing as twenty.” He has the self-satisfied look of a lawyer who has just delivered a winning closing statement.
“That’s a very long and twisty line of logic,” I say. “Have you ever thought about being a lawyer?”
“No, but now I’m thinking maybe?”
has a great law school,” I say, and I get a sudden pang, because college is one thing, but law school? That’s so far away, and who knows what will happen between now and then? By then we’ll be such different people. Thinking of Peter in his twenties, I feel a sense of yearning for the man I may never get to meet. Right now, today, he’s still a boy, and I know him better than anybody, but what if it isn’t always this way? Already our paths are diverging, a little more every day, the closer we get to August.