WHEN I WAKE UP, I

loll about in my bed for a while, stretching out my arms and legs like a big X, reaching north, south, east, west. Last night feels like a dream. Is it really true? Am I really going to


UNC

?


Yes, yes I really am. How crazy, how thrilling that your whole life trajectory can change in just one night. I’ve always been scared of change, but right now I don’t feel that way. I feel excited. I’m seeing now what a privilege it is, to be excited about where I’m going. Peter and Chris and Lucas, they’re going where they want to go, but my future felt like a second choice because it was, no matter how great a school William and Mary is.

UNC

is a choice I didn’t even know I had, like a door that magically appeared, a door that could lead anywhere.

When I’m done with my reverie, I look at my clock and see that I’ve slept the whole day away. I sit up, turn my phone on, and see all the missed calls and voice mails from my dad and Kitty from the night before. I delete those without listening to them, so I don’t have to hear the anger in Daddy’s voice; then I see that Peter left me a voice mail too. When I see his name on my phone, my heart does a little dive into my stomach. There are texts, too, wondering where I am. I call him back, but he doesn’t answer, so I figure he must be training. I leave a message telling him to

just come over when he gets back home. We’re supposed to go to Steve Bledell’s party tonight. I’m nervous to tell Peter the news. Our plan was set, and now I’m changing things around, but it’s not like I knew this door would open for me. He’ll understand. I know he will.

I flop back on my bed and FaceTime Margot. She’s outside walking, on her way somewhere. “What’s up?” she asks.

“Guess what.”

“What!”

“I got into

UNC

!”

She promptly screams and drops her phone. Thankfully, it falls in the grass. She scrambles to pick it up. She’s still screaming. “Oh my God! This is amazing! This is the best news! When did you find out?”


I roll onto my stomach. “Yesterday! Chris and I went to visit last night, and Gogo, it was so much fun. We went to see a band play, and we danced and we screamed ourselves silly. My throat is sore!”

“So wait—you’re going, right?”

“Yes!”

Margot screams again, and I laugh. “What’s

UNC

’s campus like?” she demands.

“Well, it’s a lot like

UVA

.”

“I’ve heard that. I’ve heard the campuses are very similar. The towns, too. Both liberal, but Chapel Hill maybe even a little more so. Lots of great minds there. I can’t wait to look at the course book with you.” She starts walking again. “You’re going to love it there. Maggie Cohen, she was a year above me, she

loves

it. You should talk to her.” Beaming, Margot says to me, “This is when everything begins, Lara Jean. You’ll see.”

* * *

After I get off the phone with Margot, I take a bubble bath and do all my rituals: face mask, loofah, brown sugar–lavender scrub. In the bath, I practice what I’m going to say to Peter.

There are two trees, on opposite sides, and their branches meet in the middle

. . . . I stay in for so long, Kitty screams at me to hurry up. When I get out of the tub, I dry my hair and then curl it; I redo my nails and I even apply the lemon cuticle cream I bought but never remember to use.

Daddy, Trina, and Kitty have gone out to see a movie, so I’m all alone in the house when Peter arrives around eight. He’s wearing new

UVA

sweats; his hair is freshly washed and still damp. He smells like Dove soap, which I love on him. He pulls me in for a hug, leaning his body weight into me. “I’m so sore,” he says, falling onto the living room couch. “Can we not go to Steve’s tonight? I just want to stay here and hang out with you and not have to talk to people. I’m fucking exhausted.”

“Sure,” I say, and take a deep breath to tell him my news, but then he looks up at me with weary eyes.

“Those guys on the team are in incredible shape. It was hard to keep up.”

I frown. “Hey, you’re in good shape too.”

“Not as good as them. I need to get my act together.” He rubs the back of his neck. “So are you finally gonna tell me where you were last night?”

I sit down on the couch and face him, my legs tucked

under my butt. I put the backs of my hands to my cheeks, which feel flushed. Then I put them in my lap. “Well, okay.” I pause. “Are you ready for this?”

He laughs. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

“Okay. This is so crazy, but I was in North Carolina with Chris.”

Peter raises his eyebrows. “Weird. Okay. Go on.”

“I was there because . . . I got into

UNC

!”

He blinks. “Wow. That’s . . . wow. That’s awesome.”

I take another deep breath. “I didn’t think I’d want to go there, but then when Chris and I visited, the town was really charming, and the people were really nice, and there’s this bench, by the Old Well, where if you lie down and look up, two trees on opposite sides, they meet in the middle. Their branches touch, like this.” I start to demonstrate, and then I stop, because I realize Peter isn’t really listening. He’s staring into space. “What are you thinking?”

“Does this mean you’re going there now and not William and Mary?”

I hesitate. “Yes.”

He nods to himself. “I’m happy for you, I am. It just sucks that you’re going to be so far away. Like, if I had to get in my car and drive to Chapel Hill right now, I’d fall asleep at the wheel. How far away is Charlottesville from Chapel Hill? Four hours?”

I feel a sinking sensation in my stomach. “Three hours and twenty-five minutes. I know it sounds long, but I swear it goes by fast!”

“That’s double how long it takes to get from

Charlottesville to William and Mary. And that’s without traffic.” He drops his head back against the couch.

“It’s not double,” I say quietly. “It’s an extra hour and a half.”

He looks over at me, and I see the regret in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just really wiped right now. This is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not you and me, but college. I’m going to be at practice 24/7, and when I’m not at practice, I’m training or I’m in class or I’m sleeping. It’s gonna be intense. Nothing like high school. It’s a lot of pressure. And . . . I didn’t think you’d be so far away.”

I’ve never seen him like this before. He looks so defeated. When it comes to lacrosse, to school, he’s always so easygoing, so confident. Everything’s always come easily for him. “Peter, you’re going to be great. You’re just starting out. Once you get the hang of things, it’ll be like always.” Shyly I say, “And . . . we’ll get the hang of things too.”

All of a sudden he sits up straight. “You know what? Let’s go to that party.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure. You’re all dressed up. Let’s not waste your hair.” He pulls me toward him. “Let’s celebrate your big W.”

I put my arms around him and hug him to me. His shoulders feel tight; I can feel the tension in his back. Most boys wouldn’t notice a thing like that: that I curled my hair, put on a blouse. I try to concentrate on that and not on how he didn’t really congratulate me.

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