Until this moment.
Don’t. Just please, don’t.
Whatever he’s thinking, whatever he wants to say, I don’t want to hear it. I will do anything, literally anything, not to hear it.
Before he can, I say, “I’m dating someone.”
Josh’s jaw goes slack. “What?”
“Yup. I’m dating someone, someone I really really like, so please don’t worry about this.” I wave the letter like it’s just paper, trash, like once upon a time I didn’t literally pour my heart onto this page. I stuff it into my bag. “I was really confused when I wrote this; I don’t even know how it got sent out. Honestly, it’s not worth talking about. So please, please don’t say anything to Margot about it.”
He nods, but that’s not good enough. I need a verbal commitment. I need to hear the words come out of his mouth. So I add, “Do you swear? On your life?” If Margot was to ever find out . . . I would want to die.
“All right, I swear. I mean, we haven’t even spoken since she left.”
I let out a huge breath. “Great. Thanks.” I’m about to walk away, but then Josh stops me.
“Who’s the guy?”
“The guy you’re dating.”
That’s when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good. “Peter. Kavinsky. Peter Kavinsky!” The bell rings, and I sail past Josh. “I’ve gotta go! Talk later, Josh!”
“Wait!” he calls out.
I run up to Peter and launch myself into his arms like a shot out of a cannon. I’ve got my arms around his neck and my legs hooked around his waist, and I don’t even know how my body knows how, because I’ve for sure never touched a boy like this in my life. It’s like we’re in a movie and the music is swelling and waves are crashing around us. Except for the fact that Peter’s expression is registering pure shock and disbelief and maybe a drop of amusement, because Peter likes to be amused. Raising his eyebrows, he says, “Lara Jean? What the—?”
I don’t answer. I just kiss him.
My first thought is: I have muscle memory of his lips.
My second thought is: I hope Josh is watching. He has to be watching or it’s all for nothing.
My heart is beating so fast I forget to be afraid of doing it wrong. Because for about three seconds, he’s kissing me back. Peter Kavinsky, the boy of every girl’s dreams, is kissing me back.
I haven’t kissed that many boys before. Peter Kavinsky, John Ambrose McClaren, Allie Feldman’s cousin with the weird eye, and now Peter again.
I open my eyes and Peter’s staring at me with that same expression on his face. Very sincerely I say, “Thank you.” He replies, “You’re welcome,” and I hop out of his arms and sprint off in the opposite direction.
* * *
It takes all of history class and most of English for my heart rate to slow down. I kissed Peter Kavinsky. In the hallway, in front of everybody. In front of Josh.
I didn’t think this thing through, obviously. That’s what Margot would say, including and especially the “obviously.” If I had thought it through, I would have made up a boyfriend and not picked an actual person. More specifically, I would not have picked Peter K. He is literally the worst person I could have picked, because everybody knows him. He’s Peter Kavinsky, for Pete’s sake. Kavinsky of Gen and Kavinsky. It doesn’t matter that they’re broken up. They’re an institution at this institution.
I spend the rest of the day hiding out. I even eat my lunch in the girls’ bathroom.
My last class of the day is gym. With Peter. Coach White gives us a reintroduction to the weight room, and we have to practice using the machines. Peter and his friends already know how to use them, so they separate off from the group and have a free-throw contest, and I don’t get a chance to talk to him. At one point he catches me looking at him and he winks, which makes me want to shrivel up and die.
After class is over, I wait for Peter outside the boys’ locker room, planning out what I’m going to say, how I’m going to explain it. I’ll start out with, “So about this morning . . . ,” and then I’ll give a little laugh, like how hilarious was that!
Peter’s the last one to come out. His hair is wet from a shower. It’s weird that boys take showers at school, since girls never do. I wonder if they have stalls in there, or just a bunch of shower heads and no privacy.
“Hey,” he says when he sees me, but he doesn’t stop.
To his back I hurriedly say, “So about this morning . . .” I laugh, and Peter turns around and just looks at me.
“Oh yeah. What was that all about?”
“It was a dumb joke,” I begin.
Peter crosses his arms and leans against the lockers. “Did it have anything to do with that letter you sent me?”
“No. I mean, yes. Tangentially.”
“Look,” he says kindly. “I think you’re cute. In a quirky way. But Gen and I just broke up, and I’m not in a place right now where I want be somebody’s boyfriend. So . . .”
My mouth drops. Peter Kavinsky is giving me the brush-off! I don’t even like him, and he’s giving me the brush-off. Also, “quirky”? How am I “quirky”? “Cute in a quirky way” is an insult. A total insult!
He’s still talking, still giving me the kind eyes. “I mean, I’m definitely flattered. That you would like me all this time—it’s flattering, you know?”
That’s enough. That’s plenty enough. “I don’t like you,” I say, loudly. “So there’s no reason you should feel flattered.”
Now it’s Peter’s turn to look taken aback. He quickly looks around to see if anyone heard. He leans forward and whispers, “Then why did you kiss me?”
“I kissed you because I don’t like you,” I explain, like this should be obvious. “See, my letters got sent out by someone. Not me.”
“Wait a minute. ‘Letters’? How many of us are there?”
“Five. And the guy I do like got one too—”
Peter frowns. “Who?”
Why should I tell him anything? “That’s . . . personal.”
“Hey, I think I have a right to know, since you pulled me into this little drama,” Peter says with a pointed look. I suck in my top lip and shake my head and he adds, “If there even really is a guy.”