THE NIGHT BEFORE I LEAVE

for college, there is a Perseids meteor shower in the forecast. It’s supposed to be a good one. Peter and I are going out to the lake to watch. Kitty doesn’t say so, but she wants to come too; she’s dying to. Her whole body is rigid with wanting and not being able to ask. Any other time I would say yes.


When I say good-bye, her lips twist in disappointment for just a second, but she hides it well. How hard it must be to be the youngest sometimes, to be the one left behind.


In the car I feel sick with guilt for being so possessive about my time with Peter. It’s just that there’s so little time left now. . . . I’m a terrible big sister. Margot would have brought her.

“What are you thinking about?” Peter asks me.

“Oh, nothing,” I say. I’m too ashamed to say out loud that I should have invited Kitty along.

When I come home for fall break, we’ll do something the three of us. Peter and I will take her to the midnight show at the drive-in, and she’ll go in her pajamas and I’ll set up the backseat with a blanket for when she falls asleep. But tonight I want it to be just Peter and me, just this once. There’s no use lingering in the guilt and ruining the night, when I’ve already done the selfish deed. And if I am truly honest with

myself, I would do it again. That’s how covetous I am of every last moment I have left with Peter. I want his eyes only on me; I want to talk only to him, to be just him and me for this little while longer. One day she’ll understand. One day she’ll love a boy and want to keep him all to herself and not share his attention with anyone else.

“We should have let Kitty come,” I burst out suddenly.

“I know,” he says. “I feel bad too. Do you think she’s mad?”

“Sad, probably.”

But neither of us suggests turning the car around and going back to get her. We are silent, and then we are both laughing, sheepish and also relieved. Assuredly, Peter says, “We’ll bring her next time.”

“Next time,” I echo. I reach over and grab his hand, and lock my fingers around his, and he locks back, and I am comforted in knowing that tonight he feels the exact same way, and there is no distance between us.

We spread a blanket out and lie side by side. The moon looks like a glacier in the navy night. So far I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. It looks like the normal night sky to me.

“Maybe we should’ve gone to the mountains,” Peter says, turning his face to look at me.

“No, this is perfect,” I say. “Anyway, I read that stargazing is a waiting game no matter where you are.”

“We have all night,” he says, pulling me closer.

Sometimes I wish we’d met when we were twenty-seven. Twenty-seven sounds like a good age to meet the person you’re

going to spend the rest of your life with. At twenty-seven, you are still young, but hopefully you are well on your way to being the you you want to be.

But then I think, no, I wouldn’t give up twelve, thirteen, sixteen, seventeen with Peter for the world. My first kiss, my first fake boyfriend, my first real boyfriend. The first boy who ever bought me a piece of jewelry. Stormy would say that that is the most monumental moment of all. She told me that that’s how a boy lets you know that you’re his. I think for us it was the opposite. It’s how I knew he was mine.

I don’t want to forget any of this. The way he’s looking at me at this very moment. How, when he kisses me, I still get shivers down my back, every time. I want to hold on to everything so tight.

“The first sixth-grade assembly.”

I look up at him. “Huh?”

“That’s the first time I saw you. You were sitting in the row in the front of me. I thought you were cute.”

I laugh. “Nice try.” It’s so endearingly Peter to make up stuff to try and sound romantic.

He keeps going. “Your hair was really long and you had a headband with a bow. I always liked your hair, even back then.”

“Okay, Peter,” I say, reaching up and patting him on his cheek.

He ignores me. “Your backpack had your name written on it in glitter letters. I’d never heard of the name Lara Jean before.”

My mouth falls open. I hot-glued those glitter letters to my backpack myself! It took me forever trying to get them straight enough. I’d forgotten all about that backpack. It was my prized possession.

“The principal started picking random people to come on stage and play a game for prizes. Everybody was raising their hands, but your hair got caught in your chair and you were trying to untangle it, so you didn’t get picked. I remember thinking maybe I should help you, but then I thought that would be weird.”

“How do you remember all that?” I ask in amazement.

Smiling, he shrugs. “I don’t know. I just do.”

Kitty’s always saying how origin stories are important.

At college, when people ask us how we met, how will we answer them? The short story is, we grew up together. But that’s more Josh’s and my story. High school sweethearts? That’s Peter and Gen’s story. So what’s ours, then?

I suppose I’ll say it all started with a love letter.

“I’ve had a splendid time,” she concluded happily, “and I feel that it marks an epoch in my life. But the best of it all was the coming home.”

—L. M. M

ONTGOMERY,

Anne of Green Gables

Acknowledgments

I never thought I’d write another book about Lara Jean, so I feel lucky to have one last opportunity to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way. With all my heart, I would like to thank my agent, Emily van Beek, and the team at Folio; my editor Zareen Jaffery and my entire S&S family, but especially Justin Chanda, Anne Zafian, Chrissy Noh, Lucy Cummins, Mekisha Telfer, KeriLee Horan, Audrey Gibbons, Katy Hershberger, Candace Greene, Michelle Leo, and Dorothy Gribbin. Thank you also to my film agent, Michelle Weiner; my publicist, Brianne Halverson; and my assistant, Dan Johnson. I would also like to thank Jeannine Lalonde from

UVA

admissions and Vincent Briedis from

UVA

’s athletics department. Thank you to my friends and fellow writers for reading this manuscript and offering me amazing notes and cheering me on every step of the way—Siobhan Vivian, Adele Griffin, Jennifer E. Smith, Melissa Walker, and Anna Carey. I could not have done it without you.

And lastly, thank you to my readers. If not for you, I would not have written this book. Truly, this one is for you. My dearest wish is that you are happy and satisfied with the way Lara Jean’s story ends. This time, I mean it—it really is the end for me and Lara Jean. But she’ll live on in my heart, for there’s always the bend in the road.

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