I laugh. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were so refined,” I say, blowing Cheetos powder off his shirt. “What do you need to tell me?” I ask. I steal a few Cheetos out of the bag. When he hesitates, I say, “Lucas, I hate when people say that they have something to tell you and they don’t just say it. It’s like when people say they have a funny story—like, just hurry up and tell the story and I’ll decide for myself if I think it’s funny or not.”
Lucas licks cheese off his lips. “Well, you know I live in the same neighborhood as Genevieve, right?” I nod. “Last night I saw Kavinsky leaving her house.”
“Oh.” That’s all I say. Just “oh.”
“Normally I wouldn’t think it was that big of a deal, but there’s one other thing.” Lucas wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. “Genevieve and her college guy broke up over the weekend. You know what that means, right?”
I’m nodding but I’m numb inside. “Yes. . . . Wait, what?”
Lucas gives me a look that’s half pitying, half impatient. “She’s going to try to get Peter back, Lara Jean!”
“Right,” I say, and I feel a pang even as I’m saying it. “Of course she will.”
“Don’t let her,” he warns.
“I won’t,” I say, and the words come out soft like jelly, without any conviction at all.
I didn’t know it until now but I think maybe I’ve been counting down to this moment all along. For Genevieve to want Peter back. For Peter to figure out this whole thing has been a zany little detour and now it’s time for him to go back where he belongs. To the person he belongs to.
* * *
I wasn’t planning on telling Peter a thing about Josh kissing me. I really wasn’t. But then, as Lucas and I are walking together, I see him and Genevieve walking down the hallway. Lucas gives me a meaningful look, which I pretend not to see.
In chemistry class I write Peter a note.
You were right about Josh.
I tap him on the back and slip the note in his hand. When he reads it, he sits up straight and immediately scrawls something back.
Be more specific.
He kissed me.
When Peter stiffens, I am ashamed to say that I feel a little bit vindicated. I wait for him to write back, but he doesn’t. As soon as the bell rings, he turns around and says, “What the hell? How did that even happen?”
“He came over to help us trim the tree.”
“And then what? He kissed you in front of Kitty?”
“No! It was just the two of us at the house.”
Peter looks really irritated, and I’m starting to regret mentioning it. “What the hell is he thinking, kissing my girlfriend? It’s fucking ridiculous. I’m gonna say something to him.”
“Wait, what? No!”
“I have to, Lara Jean. He can’t just get away with it.”
I stand up and start packing up my bag. “You’d better not say anything to him, Peter. I mean it.”
Peter watches me silently. And then he asks, “Did you kiss him back?”
“What does it matter?”
He looks taken aback. “Are you mad at me for something?”
“No,” I say. “But I will be if you say anything to Josh.”
“Fine,” he says.
“Fine,” I say back.
I HAVEN’T SEEN JOSH SINCE he kissed me, but when I get home that night from studying at the library, he is sitting on the front porch in his navy parka, waiting for me. The lights are on in the house; my dad is home. Kitty’s bedroom light is on. I’d rather go on avoiding Josh, but here he is, at my house.
“Hey,” he says. “Can I talk to you?”
I sit down next to him and look straight ahead, across the street. Ms. Rothschild’s put her Christmas tree up too. She always puts it by the window near the door so people can see it from the outside.
“We have to figure out what we’re going to do before Margot gets here. It was my fault what happened. I should be the one to tell her.”
I stare at him in disbelief. “Tell her? Are you nuts? We’re never telling Margot because there’s nothing to tell.”
He juts his chin out. “I don’t want to keep a secret from her.”
“You should have thought of that before you kissed me!” I hiss. “And for the record, if anybody was going to tell her, it would be me. I’m her sister. You were just her boyfriend. And you’re not even that anymore, so . . .”
Hurt flashes across his face and it stays there. “I was never just Margot’s boyfriend. This is weird for me, too, you know. It’s like, ever since I got that letter . . .” He hesitates. “Forget it.”
“Just say it,” I say.
“Ever since I got that letter, things have been messed up between us. It’s not fair. You got to say everything you wanted to say, and I’m the one who has to rearrange the way I think about you; I have to make sense of it in my head. You totally blindsided me, and then you just shut me out. You start dating Kavinsky, you stop being my friend.” He exhales. “Ever since I got your letter . . . I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”
Whatever I was expecting him to say, it wasn’t that. It definitely wasn’t that. “Josh . . .”
“I know you don’t want to hear it, but just let me say what I need to say, okay?”
“I hate that you’re with Kavinsky. I hate it. He’s not good enough for you. I’m sorry to say it, but he’s just not. In my opinion, no guy will ever be good enough for you. Least of all me.” Josh ducks his head, and then suddenly he looks up at me and says, “There was this one time, I guess it was a couple of summers ago. We were walking home from somebody’s house—I think it was Mike’s.”
It was hot, around dusk. I was mad because Mike’s older brother Jimmy had said he’d give us a ride home, and then he went somewhere and didn’t come back, so we had to walk. I was wearing espadrilles and my feet were hurting something terrible. Josh kept telling me to keep up with him.
Quietly he says, “It was just me and you. You had on that tan suede fringy shirt you used to wear, with the straps, and it showed your belly button.”
“My Pocahontas-meets-seventies-Cher-style shirt.” Oh, how I loved that shirt.
“I almost kissed you that day. I thought about it. It was this weird impulse I had. I just wanted to see what it would be like.”