I’M ON PINS AND NEEDLES

all day, waiting to hear the news from William and Mary. My entire focus is on my phone, waiting for it to buzz, waiting for that e-mail. In

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English class, Mr. O’Bryan has to ask me three times about the slave narrative tradition in

Beloved

.

When it does buzz, it’s just Margot asking me if I’ve heard anything yet, and then it buzzes again, and it’s Peter asking me if I’ve heard anything yet. But nothing from William and Mary.

Then, when I’m in the girls’ room in between classes, it finally does buzz, and I scramble to zip up my jeans so I can check my phone. It’s an e-mail from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, telling me my application has been updated. I stand there in the bathroom stall, and even though I truly don’t expect to get in, my heart is pounding like crazy as I click on the link and wait.

Wait-listed.

I should be happy about it, because

UNC

is so competitive and the wait list is better than nothing, and I would be happy . . . if I had already gotten into

UVA

. Instead it’s like another punch in the stomach. What if I don’t get in anywhere? What will I do then? I can see my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Victor now:

Poor Lara Jean, she didn’t get into

UVA

or

UNC

. She’s

so different from her sister; Margot’s such a go-getter.

When I get to the lunch table, Peter is waiting for me with an eager look on his face. “Did you hear anything?”

I sit down in the seat next to him. “I got wait-listed at

UNC

.”

“Aw, shit. Well, it’s impossible to get in there out of state unless you’re a basketball player. Honestly, even getting on the wait list is impressive.”

“I guess so,” I say.

“Screw them,” he says. “Who wants to go there anyway?”

“A lot of people.” I unwrap my sandwich, but I can’t bear to take a bite, because my stomach’s tied up in knots.

Peter gives a begrudging shrug. I know he’s just trying to make me feel better, but

UNC

is a great school and he knows it and I know it, and there’s no use pretending it’s not.

All through lunch I’m listlessly sipping on my Cherry Coke and listening to the guys go on about the game they’ve got coming up in a few days. Peter looks over at me at one point and squeezes my thigh in a reassuring way, but I can’t even muster up a smile in return.

When the guys get up to go to the weight room, it’s just Peter and me left at the table, and he asks me worriedly, “Aren’t you going to eat something?”

“I’m not hungry,” I say.

Then he sighs and says, “It should be you going to

UVA

and not me,” and just like that, poof, the traitorous little thought I had last night about me deserving it more than him disappears like perfume mist into the air. I know how hard

Peter worked at lacrosse. He earned his spot. He shouldn’t be thinking those kinds of thoughts. It’s not right.

“Don’t ever say that. You earned it. You deserve to go to

UVA

.”

His head down, he says, “So do you, though.” Then his head snaps up, his eyes alight. “Do you remember Toney Lewis?” I shake my head. “He was a senior when we were freshmen. He went to

PVCC

for two years and then he transferred to

UVA

his junior year! I bet you could do that too, but you’d be able to do it even sooner, since you’re going to a regular four-year college. Getting in as a transfer is a million times easier!”

“I guess that’s true. . . .” Transferring hadn’t occurred to me. I’m still getting used to the idea that I won’t be going to

UVA

.

“Right? Okay, so this fall you’ll go to William and Mary or U of R or wherever you get in, and we’ll visit each other all the time, and you’ll apply to transfer for next year, and then you’ll be with me at

UVA

! Where you belong!”

Hope flares inside of me. “Do you really think it’ll be that easy for me to get in?”

“Yeah! You should’ve gotten in in the first place! Trust me, Covey.”

Slowly, I nod. “Yeah! Okay. Okay.”

Peter breathes a sigh of relief. “Good. So we have a plan.”

I steal a french fry off his plate. I can already feel my appetite coming back to me. I’m stealing another fry when my phone vibrates. I snatch it up and check—it’s an e-mail from

the office of admissions at William and Mary. Peter looks over my shoulder and back at me, his eyes wide. His leg bounces up and down against mine as we wait for the page to load.

It is with great pleasure that I offer you admission to the College of William and Mary . . .

Relief floods over me. Thank God.

Peter jumps out of his seat and picks me up and swings me around. “Lara Jean just got into William and Mary!” he shouts to the table and anyone who is listening. Everyone at our table cheers.

“See?” Peter crows, hugging me. “I told you everything would work out.”

I hug him back tightly. More than anything else, I feel relieved. Relieved to be in, relieved to have a plan.

“We’ll make it work until you’re here,” he says in a soft voice, burrowing his face in my neck. “It’s two hours away—that’s nothing. I bet your dad would let you take the car. It’s not like Kitty needs it yet. And I’ll do the trip with you a few times to get you comfortable with it. It’s gonna be all good, Covey.”

I’m nodding.

When I sit back down, I send a group text to Margot, Kitty, Ms. Rothschild, and my dad.

I got into W&M!!!

I throw in those exclamation marks for good measure, to show how excited I am, to make sure they know they shouldn’t feel sorry for me anymore, that everything is great now.

My dad sends back a string of emojis. Ms. Rothschild writes,

You go girl!!!!!

Margot writes,

YAYYYYYYY! We will celebrate IRL next week!

After lunch, I stop by Mrs. Duvall’s office to tell her the good news, and she is thrilled. “I know it’s your second choice, but in some ways it might be an even better fit than

UVA

was. It’s smaller. I think a girl like you could really shine there, Lara Jean.”

I smile at her, receive her hug, but inside I’m thinking,

I guess she didn’t think a girl like me could really shine at

UVA

.

* * *

By the end of the week, I get into James Madison and University of Richmond, too, which I’m happy about, but I’m still set on William and Mary. I’ve been to Williamsburg plenty of times with my family, and I can picture myself there. It’s a small campus, a pretty one. And it really isn’t far from home. It’s less than two hours away. So I’ll go, I’ll study hard, and then after a year I’ll transfer to

UVA

, and everything will be exactly the way we planned.

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