IT’S THURSDAY, CHARACTERS DAY, THE

day I’ve been looking forward to all week. Peter and I spent hours going back and forth over this. I made a strong case for Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler, but had to back down when I realized how expensive it would be to rent Colonial costumes on such short notice. I think couples costumes might be my favorite part of being in a couple. Besides the kissing, and the free rides, and Peter himself.


He wanted to go as Spider-Man and have me wear a red wig and be Mary Jane Watson, mostly because he already had the costume—and because he’s really fit from lacrosse, and why not give the people what they want? His words, not mine.


In the end we decided to go as Tyler Durden and Marla Singer from

Fight Club

. It was actually my best friend Chris’s idea. She and Kitty and I were watching it at my house, and Chris said, you and Kavinsky should go as those psychos. She said it would be good for the shock value—for me, anyway. At first I balked because Marla isn’t Asian and I have my only-Asian-people-costumes policy, but then Peter’s mom found him a red leather jacket at an estate sale, and it just came together. As for my costume, Ms. Rothschild is loaning me clothes from her own wardrobe, because she was young in the nineties.

This morning, Ms. Rothschild comes over before work to help me get ready. I’m sitting at the kitchen table in her black slip dress and a fake mohair jacket and a wig, which Kitty delights in messing up to get that crazy bedhead look. I keep swatting her moussed-up hands away, and she keeps saying, “But this is the look.”

“You’re lucky I’m a pack rat,” Ms. Rothschild says, sipping coffee from her thermos. She reaches into her bag and tosses me a pair of high, high black platform heels. “When I was in my twenties, Halloween was my thing. I was the queen of dressing up. It’s your turn to take the crown now, Lara Jean.”

“You can still be the queen,” I tell her.

“No, dressing up in costumes is a young person’s game. If I wore a sexy Sherlock Holmes costume now, I’d just look desperate.” She fluffs up my wig. “It’s all right. My time has passed.” To Kitty she says, “What do you think? A little more gunmetal eye shadow, right?”

“Let’s not take it too far,” I say. “This is still school.”

“The whole point of wearing a costume is taking it too far,” Ms. Rothschild says airily. “Take lots of pictures when you get to school. Text them to me so I can show my work friends. They’ll get a kick out of it. . . . God, speaking of work, what time is it?”

Ms. Rothschild is always running late, something that drives Daddy crazy because he’s always ten minutes early. And yet!

When Peter comes to pick me up, I run outside and open the passenger-side door and scream when I see him. His hair is blond!

“Oh my God!”

I shriek, touching his hair. “Did you bleach it?”

He grins a self-satisfied kind of grin. “It’s spray. My mom found it for me. I can use it again when we do Romeo and Juliet for Halloween.” He’s eyeing me in my getup. “I like those shoes. You look sexy.”

I can feel my cheeks warm up. “Be quiet.”

As he backs out of my driveway, he glances at me again and says, “It’s the truth, though.”

I give him a shove. “All I’m saying is, people better know who I am.”

“I’ve got you covered,” he assures me.

And he does. When we walk down the senior hallway, Peter cues up the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” on his phone, loud, and people actually clap for us. Not one person asks if I’m a manga character.

* * *

After school, Peter and I are lying on the couch; his feet are hanging off the end. He’s still in his costume, but I’ve changed into my regular clothes. “You always have the cutest socks,” he says, lifting up my right foot. These ones are gray with white polka dots and yellow bear faces.

Proudly I say, “My great-aunt sends them from Korea. Korea has the cutest stuff, you know.”

“Can you ask her to send me some too? Not bears, but maybe, like, tigers. Tigers are cool.”

“Your feet are too big for socks as cute as these. Your toes would pop right out. You know what, I bet I could find you

some socks that fit at . . . um, the zoo.” Peter sits up and starts tickling me. I gasp out, “I bet the—pandas or gorillas have to—keep their feet warm somehow . . . in the winter. Maybe they have some kind of deodorized sock technology as well.” I burst into giggles. “Stop . . . stop tickling me!”

“Then stop being mean about my feet!” I’ve got my hand burrowed under his arm, and I am tickling him ferociously. But by doing so, I have opened myself up to more attacks.

I yell, “Okay, okay, truce!” He stops, and I pretend to stop, but sneak a tickle under his arm, and he lets out a high-pitched un-Peter-like shriek.

“You said truce!” he accuses. We both nod and lie back down, out of breath. “Do you really think my feet smell?”

I don’t. I love the way he smells after a lacrosse game—like sweat and grass and him. But I love to tease, to see that unsure look cross his face for just half a beat. “Well, I mean, on game days . . . ,” I say. Then Peter attacks me again, and we’re wrestling around, laughing, when Kitty walks in, balancing a tray with a cheese sandwich and a glass of orange juice.

“Take it upstairs,” she says, sitting down on the floor. “This is a public area.”

Disentangling myself, I give her a glare. “We aren’t doing anything private,

Katherine

.”

“Your sister says my feet stink,” Peter says, pointing his foot in her direction. “She’s lying, isn’t she?”

She deflects it with a pop of her elbow. “I’m not smelling your foot.” She shudders. “You guys are kinky.”

I yelp and throw a pillow at her.

She gasps. “You’re lucky you didn’t knock over my juice! Daddy will kill you if you mess up the rug again.” Pointedly she says, “Remember the nail-polish-remover incident?”

Peter ruffles my hair. “Clumsy Lara Jean.”

I shove him away from me. “I’m not clumsy. You’re the one who tripped over his own feet trying to get to the pizza the other night at Gabe’s.”

Kitty bursts into giggles and Peter throws a pillow at her. “You guys need to stop ganging up on me!” he yells.

“Are you staying for dinner?” she asks when her giggles subside.

“I can’t. My mom’s making chicken fried steak.”

Kitty’s eyes bulge. “Lucky. Lara Jean, what are we having?”

“I’m defrosting some chicken breasts as we speak,” I say. She makes a face, and I say, “If you don’t like it, maybe you could learn to cook. I won’t be around to cook your dinners anymore when I’m at college, you know.”

“Yeah, right. You’ll probably be here every night.” She turns to Peter. “Can I come to your house for dinner?”

“Sure,” he says. “You can both come.”

Kitty starts to cheer, and I shush her. “We can’t, because then Daddy will have to eat alone. Ms. Rothschild has SoulCycle tonight.”

She takes a bite of her cheese sandwich. “I’m making myself another sandwich, then. I don’t want to eat old freezer-burn chicken.”

I sit up suddenly. “Kitty, I’ll make something else if you’ll braid my hair tomorrow morning. I want to do something

special for New York.” I’ve never been to New York before in my life. For our last family vacation, we took a vote, and I picked New York, but I was voted down in favor of Mexico. Kitty wanted to eat fish tacos and swim in the ocean, and Margot wanted to see Mayan ruins and have a chance to work on her Spanish. In the end, I was happy to be outvoted. Before Mexico, Kitty and I had never even left the country. I’ve never seen water so blue.

“I’ll braid your hair only if I have time left over after I do mine,” Kitty says, which is the best I can hope for, I suppose. She’s just so good at doing hair.

“Who will braid my hair when I’m at college?” I muse.

“I will,” Peter says, all confidence.

“You don’t know how,” I scoff.

“The kid will teach me. Won’t you, kid?”

“For a price,” Kitty says.

They negotiate back and forth before finally settling on Peter taking Kitty and her friends to the movies one Saturday afternoon. Which is how I come to be sitting cross-legged on the floor while Peter and Kitty sit on the couch above me, Kitty demonstrating a French braid and Peter recording it on his phone.

“Now you try it,” she says.

He keeps losing a piece and getting frustrated. “You have a lot of hair, Lara Jean.”

“If you can’t get the French, I’ll teach you something more basic,” Kitty says, and there is no mistaking the contempt in her voice.

Peter hears it too. “No, I’m gonna get it. Just give me a second. I’m gonna master it just like I mastered the other kind of French.” He winks at me.

Kitty and I both scream at him for that. “Don’t talk like that in front of my sister!” I yell, shoving him in the chest.

“I was kidding!”

“Also, you’re not

that

good at French kissing.” Even though, yeah, he is.

Peter gives me a

Who are you kidding?

look, and I shrug, because who

am

I kidding?

* * *

Later, I’m walking Peter to his car when he stops in front of the passenger-side door and asks, “Hey, how many guys have you kissed?”

“Just three. You, John Ambrose McClaren—” I say his name fast, like ripping off a Band-Aid, but Peter still has enough time to scowl. “And Allie Feldman’s cousin.”

“The kid with the lazy eye?”

“Yeah. His name was Ross. I thought he was cute. It happened at a sleepover at Allie’s; I kissed him on a dare. But I wanted to.”

He gives me a speculative look. “So me, John, and Allie’s cousin.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’re forgetting one person, Covey.”

“Who?”

“Sanderson!”

I wave my hand. “Oh, that doesn’t really count.”

“Allie Feldman’s cousin Ross who you kissed on a dare counts, but not

Josh

, who you technically cheated on me with?” Peter wags his finger at me. “Nuh-uh. I don’t think so.”

I shove him. “We weren’t actually together then and you know it!”

“A technicality, but okay.” He gives me a sidelong look. “Your number’s higher than mine, you know. I’ve only ever kissed Gen, Jamila, and you.”

“What about the girl you met at Myrtle Beach with your cousins? Angelina?”

A funny look crosses over his face. “Oh yeah. How’d you know about that?”

“You bragged about it to everyone!” It was the summer before seventh grade. I remember it drove Genevieve crazy, that some other girl had kissed Peter before she did. We tried to find Angelina online, but we didn’t have much to go on. Just her name. “So that makes it four girls you’ve kissed, and you did a lot more with them than kiss, Peter.”

“Fine!”

I’m on a roll now. “You’re the only boy I’ve ever

kissed

kissed. And you were the first. First kiss, first boyfriend, first everything! You got so many of my firsts, and I didn’t get any from you.”

Sheepishly he says, “Actually that’s not entirely true.”

I narrow my eyes. “What do you mean?”

“There was never any girl at the beach. I made the whole thing up.”

“There was no Angelina with big boobs?”

“I never said she had big boobs!”

“Yes you did. You told Trevor that.”

“Okay, fine! Geez. You’re missing the whole point, by the way.”

“What’s the whole point, Peter?”

He clears his throat. “That day in McClaren’s basement. You were my first kiss too.”

Abruptly I stop laughing. “I was?”

“Yeah.”

I stare at him. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“I don’t know. I guess I forgot. Also it’s embarrassing that I made up a girl. Don’t tell anybody!”

I’m filled with a glowy kind of wonder. So I was Peter Kavinsky’s first kiss. How perfectly wonderful!

I throw my arms around him and lift my chin expectantly, waiting for my good-night kiss. He nuzzles his face against mine, and I feel gladness for the fact that he has smooth cheeks and barely even needs to shave. I close my eyes, breathe him in, wait for my kiss. And he plants a chaste peck on my forehead. “Good night, Covey.”

My eyes fly open. “That’s all I get?”

Smugly he says, “You said earlier that I’m not that good at kissing, remember?”

“I was kidding!”

He winks at me as he hops in his car. I watch him drive away. Even after a whole year of being together, it can still

feel so new. To love a boy, to have him love you back. It feels miraculous.

I don’t go inside right away. Just in case he comes back. Hands on my hips, I wait a full twenty seconds before I turn toward the front steps, which is when his car comes peeling back down our street and stops right in front of our house. Peter sticks his head out the window. “All right then,” he calls out. “Let’s practice.”

I run back to his car, I pull him toward me by his shirt, and angle my face against his—and then I push him away and run backward, laughing, my hair whipping around my face.

“Covey!” he yells.

“That’s what you get!” I call back gleefully. “See you on the bus tomorrow!”

* * *

That night, when we’re in the bathroom brushing our teeth, I ask Kitty, “On a scale of one to ten, how much will you miss me when I go to college? Be honest.”

“It’s too early for this kind of talk,” she says, rinsing her toothbrush.

“Just answer.”

“A four.”

“A four! You said you missed Margot a six point five!”

Kitty shakes her head at me. “Lara Jean, why do you have to remember every little thing? It’s not healthy.”

“The least you can do is pretend you’ll miss me!” I burst out. “It’s the decent thing to do.”

“Margot was going all the way across the world. You’re

only going fifteen minutes away, so I won’t even have a chance to miss you.”

“Still.”

She clasps her hands to her heart. “Okay. How’s this? I’m going to miss you so much I’ll cry every night!”

I smile. “That’s more like it.”

“I’ll miss you so much, I’ll want to slit my wrists!” She cackles wildly.

“Katherine. Don’t talk like that!”

“Then quit fishing for compliments,” she says, and she goes off to bed, while I stay behind and pack up my toiletries for the New York trip tomorrow. If I get into

UVA

, I’ll probably just keep a set of my makeup and creams and combs here at home, so I won’t have to pack every time. Margot had to be so careful about what she brought with her to Saint Andrews, because Scotland is so far away and she isn’t able to make the trip back home very often. I’ll probably only pack for fall and winter and leave all my summer things at home, and then just switch them out when the seasons change.

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