When I see that, the chin tremble, I can’t be mad anymore. I just can’t, not even a little bit. So I go to her, and I hug her tight. “It’s all right,” I say, and she sags against me in relief. “You can keep the box. Put all your secrets in it.”
Kitty shakes her head. “No, it’s yours. I don’t want it.” She thrusts it at me. “I put something in there for you.”
I open the box, and there are notes. Notes and notes and notes. Peter’s notes. Peter’s notes I threw away.
“I found them when I was emptying your trash,” she says. Hastily she adds, “I only read a couple. And then I saved them because I could tell they were important.”
I touch one that Peter folded into an airplane. “Kitty . . . you know Peter and I aren’t getting back together, right?”
Kitty grabs the bowl of popcorn and says, “Just read them.” Then she goes into the living room and turns on the TV.
I close the hatbox and take it with me upstairs. When I am in my room, I sit on the floor and spread them out around me.
A lot of the notes just say things like “Meet you at your locker after school” and “Can I borrow your chemistry notes from yesterday?” I find the spiderweb one from Halloween, and it makes me smile. Another one says, “Can you take the bus home today? I want to surprise Kitty and pick her up from school so she can show me and my car off to her friends.” “Thanks for coming to the estate sale with me this weekend. You made the day fun. I owe you one.” “Don’t forget to pack a Korean yogurt for me!” “If you make Josh’s dumb white-chocolate cranberry cookies and not my fruitcake ones, it’s over.” I laugh out loud. And then, the one I read over and over: “You look pretty today. I like you in blue.”
I’ve never gotten a love letter before. But reading these notes like this, one after the other, it feels like I have. It’s like . . . it’s like there’s only ever been Peter. Like everyone else that came before him, they were all to prepare me for this. I think I see the difference now, between loving someone from afar and loving someone up close. When you see them up close, you see the real them, but they also get to see the real you. And Peter does. He sees me, and I see him.
Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s part of the risk. I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be brave, like Margot. It’s almost a new year, after all.
Close to midnight, I gather up Kitty and the puppy and the sparklers. We put on heavy coats and I make Kitty wear a hat. “Should we put a hat on Jamie too?” she asks me.
“He doesn’t need one,” I tell her. “He’s already got on a fur coat.”
The stars are out by the dozen; they look like faraway gems. We’re so lucky to live by the mountains the way we do. You just feel closer to the stars. To heaven.
I light up sparklers for each of us, and Kitty starts dancing around the snow making a ring of fire with hers. She’s trying to coax Jamie to jump through but he isn’t having it. All he wants to do is pee around the yard. It’s lucky we have a fence, or I bet he’d pee his way down this whole block.
Josh’s bedroom light is on. I see him in the window just as he opens it and calls out, “Song girls!”
Kitty hollers, “Wanna light a sparkler?”
“Maybe next year,” Josh calls back. I look up at him and wave my sparkler, and he smiles, and there’s just this feeling of all rightness between us. One way or another, Josh will be in our lives. And I’m certain, I’m so suddenly certain that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, that I don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye doesn’t have to be forever.
When I’m back in my room in my flannel nightgown, I get out my special flowy pen and my good thick stationery, and I start to write. Not a good-bye letter. Just a plain old love letter.
Dear Peter . . .