PETER COMES OVER AFTER HAVING

dinner with his mom and Owen. When he rings the bell, I run to the front door and the first thing I do is ask if he’s spoken to his dad, but he brushes me off, the very picture of nonchalance. “It’s fine,” he says, taking off his shoes. “I didn’t even want him to come in the first place.”


This stings, because it feels like maybe he’s blaming me, and maybe he should—after all, I was the one who kept pushing him to invite his dad. I should’ve listened to him when he said no.


Peter and I go upstairs to my room, and I hear my dad jokingly call out, “Keep the door open!” the way he always does, which makes Peter wince.

I sit down on the bed, and he sits far away from me at my desk. I go over to him and put my hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. This is my fault. I never should have pushed you to invite him. If you’re mad at me, I don’t blame you one bit.”

“Why would I be mad at you? It’s not your fault he sucks.” When I don’t say anything, he softens. “Look, I’m really not sad. I’m not anything. You’ll meet him another time, okay?”

I hesitate before saying, “I’ve actually already met him before.”

He stares at me in disbelief.

“When?”

I swallow. “I accidentally met him at one of your lacrosse games. He asked me not to mention it—he didn’t want you to know he was there. He just wanted to watch you play. He said he missed it.” The muscle in Peter’s jaw jumps. “I should have told you. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s like I said, I don’t give a shit what he does.” I start to say something in return, but he interrupts before I can. “Can we just not talk about him anymore? Please?”

I nod. It’s killing me to see the hurt in his eyes that he’s trying so hard to hide, but I feel like if I keep pressing him, it’ll make things worse. I just want to make him feel better. Which is when I remember his gift. “I have something for you!”

Relief washes over his face, the tension in his shoulders loosens. “Aw, you got me a graduation gift? I didn’t get you anything, though.”


“That’s okay, I didn’t expect anything.” I jump up and get his scrapbook out of my hatbox. As I present the scrapbook to him, I find my heart is jumping all over the place. With excitement, and with nervousness. This will cheer him up, I know it will. “Hurry up and open it!”

Slowly he does. The first page is a picture I found in a shoe box when Kitty and I were cleaning out the attic to make room for Trina’s boxes. It’s one of the few from our middle school days in the neighborhood. It’s the first day of school; we’re waiting for the bus. Peter’s arms are slung around John McClaren and Trevor Pike. Genevieve and I have our arms linked; she is whispering a secret to me, probably about Peter.

I am turned toward her and not looking at the camera. I’m wearing a heather-gray camisole of Margot’s and a jean skirt, and I remember feeling very grown-up in it, like a teenager. My hair is long and straight down my back, and it looks pretty much the same as it does now. Genevieve tried to convince me to cut it short for middle school, but I said no. We all look so young. John with his rosy cheeks, Trevor with his chubby ones, Peter with his skinny legs.

Underneath the picture I wrote,

THE BEGINNING.

“Aww,” he says tenderly. “Baby Lara Jean and Baby Peter. Where’d you find this?”

“In a shoe box.”

He flicks John’s smiling face. “Punk.”

“Peter!”

“Just kidding,” he says.

There’s our homecoming picture. Last Halloween, when I dressed up as Mulan and Peter wore a dragon costume. There’s a receipt from Tart and Tangy. One of his notes to me, from before.

If you make Josh’s dumb white-chocolate cranberry cookies and not my fruitcake ones, it’s over.

Pictures of us from Senior Week. Prom. Dried rose petals from my corsage. The

Sixteen Candles

picture.

There are some things I didn’t include, like the ticket stub from our first real date, the note he wrote me that said,

I like you in blue.

Those things are tucked away in my hatbox. I’ll never let those go.

But the really special thing I’ve included is my letter, the one I wrote to him so long ago, the one that brought us

together. I wanted to keep it, but something felt right about Peter having it. One day all of this will be proof, proof that we were here, proof that we loved each other. It’s the guarantee that no matter what happens to us in the future, this time was ours.

When he gets to that page, Peter stops. “I thought you wanted to keep this,” he said.

“I wanted to, but then I felt like you should have it. Just promise you’ll keep it forever.”

He turns the page. It’s a picture from when we took my grandma to karaoke. I sang “You’re So Vain” and dedicated it to Peter. Peter got up and sang “Style” by Taylor Swift. Then he dueted “Unchained Melody” with my grandma, and after, she made us both promise to take a Korean language class at

UVA

. She and Peter took a ton of selfies together that night. She made one her home screen on her phone. Her friends at her apartment complex said he looked like a movie star. I made the mistake of telling Peter, and he crowed about it for days after.

He stays on that page for a while. When he doesn’t say anything, I say, helpfully, “It’s something to remember us by.”

He snaps the book shut. “Thanks,” he says, flashing me a quick smile. “This is awesome.”

“You’re not going to look at the rest of it?”

“I will, later.”

Peter says he should get back home so he can pack for Beach Week, and before we go back downstairs, I ask him again if he’s okay, and he assures me that he is.

* * *

After Peter leaves, Margot comes up to my room and helps me pack. I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, arranging my suitcase, and she’s passing me piles. I’m still feeling worried about Peter, so I’m glad to have her company to take my mind off things.

“I can’t believe you’re already graduated,” Margot says, folding a stack of T-shirts for me. “In my head you’re still the same age you were when I left.” Teasingly she says, “Forever sweet sixteen, Lara Jean.”

“Almost as grown-up as you now, Gogo,” I say.

“Well, you’ll always be shorter than me, at least,” she says, and I throw a bikini top at her head. “Pretty soon we’ll be packing you up for college.”

I stuff a curling iron into the pocket of my suitcase. “Margot, when you first went to college, what did you miss most about home?”

“Well, you guys, obviously.”

“But what else? Like, what were the unexpected things you missed?”

“I missed giving Kitty a kiss good night after she’d had a bath and her hair was clean.”

I make a snorty sound. “A rare occasion!”

Margot takes her time, thinking about what else. “I missed a good hamburger. Hamburgers taste different in Scotland. More like . . . meat loaf. Meat loaf on a bun. Hmm, what else? I missed driving you guys around. I felt like the captain of a ship. I missed your baked goods!”

“Which ones?” I ask.

“Hmm?”

“Which ones did you miss the most?”

“Your lemon cake.”

“If you’d told me, I would’ve sent you one.”

Smiling, she says, “I’m pretty sure sending a cake overseas is exorbitantly expensive.”

“Let’s make one now,” I say, and Margot kicks her legs up happily.

* * *

So we go downstairs and that’s what we do. Kitty is asleep; Daddy and Trina are in their bedroom with the door closed. As much as I love Trina, that’s a strange thing to get used to as well. Daddy’s door was never closed. But I suppose he needs his time too, time where he’s not a dad. Not even for sex, but just to talk, to take a breath. But also for sex, I guess.

Margot’s measuring flour when I ask, “Did you have on music when you and Josh first did it?”

“You made me lose count!” Margot dumps all the flour back in the canister and starts over again.

“Well, did you?”

“No. Nosy! I swear, you’re worse than Kitty.”

I roll a lemon around on the counter to warm it up before I start squeezing. “So it was just . . . silent?”

“It wasn’t

silent

. There was the sound of someone mowing their lawn. And his mom had the dryer going. Their dryer is really loud. . . .”

“But his mom wasn’t home, right?”

“No way!

I couldn’t do that. My roommate brought someone home once and I pretended to be asleep, but honestly, I was trying not to laugh. The guy was a heavy breather. He was a moaner, too.”

We both giggle.

“I hope my roommate doesn’t do that.”

“Just set up ground rules in the beginning. Like who can use the room when, that kind of thing. And just remember that you should try to be understanding, because Peter will be visiting a lot, and you don’t want to use up her goodwill.” She pauses. “You guys haven’t had sex yet, right?” Quickly she adds, “You don’t have to say if you don’t want to.”

“No,” I say. “I mean, not yet.”

“Are you thinking about it?” Margot asks, trying to sound casual. “Because of Beach Week?”

I don’t answer her right away.

I hadn’t been thinking about it, not Beach Week specifically, anyway. The thought of Peter and me having sex in the future, for it to be as commonplace as us going to the movies or holding hands—it’s a little strange to imagine. I just wouldn’t want it to be less special, after we do it. I want it to always be a sacred thing, not something to take for granted because everybody else does it, or because we’ve done it before. I suppose anything can become ordinary or commonplace if you do it enough times, but my hope is that this never is. Not for us. “I think I definitely want music,” I say, straining lemon juice into a glass measuring cup. “That way if I’m a heavy breather or he’s a heavy breather, we

won’t really know. And it’ll be more romantic. Music makes everything more romantic, doesn’t it? One second you’re walking your dog in the suburbs, and then you put on Adele, and it’s like you’re in a movie and you’ve just had your heart brutally broken.”

Margot says, “In movies they never put on a condom, so make sure you’re in real life for that part.”

That’s enough to shake me out of my reverie. “Daddy gave me a whole kit. He left it in the upstairs bathroom for me. Condoms, cream, dental dams.” I burst out laughing. “Isn’t ‘dental dam’ the unsexiest word you ever heard?”

“No, I think ‘gonorrhea’ is!”

Abruptly I stop laughing. “Peter doesn’t have gonorrhea!” Now Margot’s the one cracking up. “He doesn’t!”

“I know, I’m just teasing. But I think you should pack your kit just in case things go in that direction.”

“Gogo, I’m not planning on having sex at Beach Week.”

“I said just in case! You never know.” She pushes her hair out of her face and in a serious tone, she says, “I’m really glad my first time was with Josh, though. It should be with someone who really knows you. Someone who loves you.”

* * *

Before I go to bed, I open up that kit and take out the condoms and pack them deep in the bottom of my suitcase. Then I pick out my prettiest bra and underwear set, pale pink edged in electric blue lace, never been worn, and I pack that too. Just in case.

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