FOR THE BACHELORETTE, KRISTEN DECIDED

the theme of the night should be the nineties, because there’s nothing Trina loves better than the nineties, so everyone has to dress up in nineties clothes. Honestly, I think the whole reason behind the theme is because Kristen wants to wear a crop top and show off her abs. She arrives at the house in a blue T-shirt that says

SKATER GURL

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and baggy jeans, and her hair is parted down the middle. She’s wearing dark brown lipstick, very matte.

The first thing she does is turn on a nineties station, which blasts all over the whole house. The girls are meeting here, and the boys (and Kitty) are meeting at the steakhouse. I’m glad, because I still don’t know what I’m going to say to Peter.

We’re still getting ready. I’m going with a floral babydoll dress I found on Etsy, and cream-colored knee socks and black platform Mary Janes. I’m brushing my hair into two ponytails when Kristen comes upstairs to do inspections, carrying a martini glass that says

Maid of Honor

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in pink cursive. “Aw, you look cute, Lara Jean,” she says, sipping on her cocktail.

I tighten my ponytails. “Thank you, Kristen,” I say. I’m just glad my outfit is up to snuff. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and I would hate to mess up Trina’s night.

Kitty and Margot are on the floor; Kitty is painting Margot’s nails black. Margot has chosen to go the grunge route—a long flannel shirt and jeans and a pair of Doc Martens I borrowed from Chris.

“What are you drinking?” Kitty asks Kristen.

“Cosmopolitan. I have more downstairs in a Sprite bottle. Not for you, though.”

Kitty rolls her eyes at this. “Where’s Tree?”

“She’s in the shower,” I tell her.

Kristen tilts her head and squints at me. “You’re missing something.” She puts down her glass and digs into her clutch and pulls out a lipstick. “Put this on.”

“Oh . . . is it the color you’re wearing?” I ask.

“Yes! It’s called Toast of New York. It was the shit back in the day!”

“Um . . . ,” I hedge. Kristen looks like she smeared Hershey’s kisses all over her lips and then the chocolate dried.

“Just trust me,” she says.

“I was thinking about wearing this.” I put down my hairbrush and show her a shiny pink lip gloss. “Didn’t the Spice Girls wear lip gloss like this? Weren’t they from the nineties?”

Kristen frowns. “They were more late nineties, early two thousands, but yes. I guess that’ll work.” She points her lipstick at Margot. “You need this, though. Your outfit isn’t nineties enough.” She watches as Kitty puts the finishing touches on Margot’s nails. “I used to use a Sharpie,” Kristen says. “You girls don’t know how lucky you are to have all these options. We used

to have to make do. Sharpies for black, Wite-Out for white.”

“What’s Wite-Out?” Kitty asks her.

“Oh my God. You children don’t even know what Wite-Out is?”

As soon as Kristen turns her back to pick up her cocktail, Kitty bares her teeth at her and hisses silently.

“I saw you in the mirror,” Kristen says.

“I meant for you to,” Kitty says back.

Kristen eyes her. “Hurry up and finish with your sister’s nails so you can do mine.”

“I’m almost done,” Kitty says.

A minute later the doorbell rings, and all three of them head downstairs. I hear Kristen yell, “You get the door; I’ll get the drinks!”

* * *

Trina’s sorority sister Monique is wearing a slip dress with big sunflowers splashed all over it, and a white T-shirt underneath, plus black platform Mary Janes that look like space shoes. Her friend Kendra from SoulCycle is wearing overalls with a pink ribbed cami and a matching pink scrunchie in her hair. A lot of the stuff people are wearing, the kids from school wear too. Fashion really is cyclical.

The nineties theme was the right call, because Trina is delighted by all of it.

“I love your dress!” Kendra says to me.

“Thank you!” I say. “It’s vintage.”

She recoils in real horror. “

Oh my God.

Are the nineties considered vintage now?”

Trina says, “Yes, girl. Their nineties are our seventies.”

She shudders. “That’s terrifying. Are we old?”

“We’re geriatric,” Trina says, but cheerfully.

In the car on the way to the karaoke bar, I get a text from Peter—it’s a picture of him and my dad in their suits, smiling big. My heart lurches when I see it. How do I let a boy like that go?

* * *

We have a private room reserved at the karaoke bar. When the waitress comes around, Margot orders a pomegranate margarita, which Trina notices, but she doesn’t say anything. What could she say? Margot’s in college. She’ll be twenty in a month.

“Is that good?” I ask her.

“It’s really sweet,” she says. “Do you want a sip?”

I would surely love a sip. Peter’s texted twice from the steakhouse, asking how my night is going, and my stomach is tied up in knots. Furtively I look over at Trina, who is doing a duet with Kristen. She might not have said anything to Margot, but I have a feeling she will say something to me.

“In Scotland, the drinking age is eighteen,” Margot says.

I take a quick sip, and it’s good, tart and icy.

Meanwhile, everybody’s looking through songbooks, trying to decide what songs to put in. The rule of the night is only nineties music. It takes a while for people to get warmed up, but then the drinks start coming fast and furious, and people are shouting out song numbers for the queue.

Trina’s friend Michelle goes up next. She croons, “There was a time, when I was so broken-hearted . . .”

“I like this song,” I say. “Who sings this song?”

Kristen pats me on the head indulgently. “Aerosmith, baby girl. Aerosmith.”

They all get up and sing Spice Girls.

Margot and I sing “Wonderwall” by Oasis. When I sit back down, I’m breathless.

Trina’s SoulCycle friend Kendra is swaying to the beat of whatever nineties song Trina and Kristen are dueting, her frosted martini glass in the air. It’s acid green.

“What are you drinking, Kendra?” I ask her.

“Apple martini.”

“That sounds good. Can I try it?”

“Yeah, have a sip! They’re so fruity you can’t even taste it.”

I take a little hummingbird sip. It is sweet. It tastes like a Jolly Rancher.

When Kristen and Trina’s number is up, they fall on the couch beside me, and Kendra jumps up to sing a Britney Spears song.

Kristen is slurring, “I just want us to stay close, you know? Don’t be boring. Don’t be, like, a mom all of a sudden, okay? I mean, I know you have to be a mom, but like, don’t be a

mom

mom.”

“I won’t be a mom mom,” Trina says soothingly. “I could never be a mom mom.”

“You have to promise to still come to Wine Down Wednesdays.”

“I promise.”

Kristen lets out a sob. “I just love you so much, girl.”

Trina has tears in her eyes too. “I love you, too.”

Kendra’s martini is just sitting on the table all alone. I take another sip when no one is looking, because it does taste good. And then another. I’ve finished the glass when Trina spots me. She raises her eyebrows. “I think you might’ve had a little

too

much fun at Beach Week.”

“I barely drunk a thing at Beach Week, Trina!” I protest. I frown. “Is it drunk or is it drank?”

Trina looks alarmed. “Margot, is your sister drunk?”

I put my hands up. “Guys, guys, I don’t even drank!”

Margot sits down next to me, examines my eyes. “She’s drunk.”

I’ve never been drunk before in my life. Am I drunk now? I do feel very relaxed. Is that what drunk feels like, when your limbs are loose, kind of silky?

“Your dad is going to kill me,” Trina says with a groan. “They just dropped Kitty off back at home. They’ll be here any minute. Lara Jean, drink a lot of water. Drink this whole glass. I’m going to get another pitcher.”

When she returns a few minutes later, the bachelor party is in tow. She gives me a warning look.

Don’t act drunk,

she mouths. I give her a thumbs-up. Then I jump up and throw my arms around Peter.

“Peter!” I shout above the music. He looks so cute in his button-down and tie. So cute I could cry. I bury my face in his neck like a squirrel. “I’ve missed you so, so very much.”

Peter peers at me. “Are you drunk?”

“No, I only had like two sips. Two drinks.”

“Trina let you drink?”

“No.” I giggle. “I stole sips.”

“We’d better get you out of here before your dad sees you,” Peter says, eyes darting around. My dad is looking through a songbook with Margot, who is giving me a look that says,

Get it together.

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt a living soul.”

“Let’s go out to the parking lot so you can get some air,” he says, putting his arm around me and hustling me out the door and through the restaurant.

We step outside, and I sway on my feet a little. Peter’s trying not to smile. “You’re drunk.”

“I guess I’m a weightlight!”

“Lightweight.” He pinches my cheeks.

“Right. Weightlight. I mean, lightweight.” Why is that so funny? I can’t stop laughing. But then I see the way he is looking at me, with such tenderness, and I stop. I don’t feel like laughing anymore. I feel like crying. Look at the way he made my dad’s bachelor party so special. Look at all the ways he loves me so well. I have to love him back just as much. I didn’t know what I was going to do until this very moment, but now I know. “There’s something I want to say to you.” I straighten up suddenly and accidentally knock Peter in the collarbone, which makes him cough. “I’m sorry. Here’s what I want to say to you. I want you to do what you’re supposed to do and I want to do what I’m supposed to do.”

He has a half smile on his face. Shaking his head at me, he says, “What are you talking about, Covey?”

“I’m talking about, I don’t think we should be in a long-distance—a long-distance relationship.”

His smile is fading. “What?”

“I think that you need to do all the things you need to do at

UVA

, like play lacrosse, and study, and I need to do what I need to do at

UNC

, and if we try to stay together, everything will just fall apart. So we can’t. We just, we just can’t.”

He blinks and then his face goes very still. “You don’t want to stay together?”

I shake my head, and the hurt on his face sobers me up. “I want you to do what you’re supposed to do. I don’t want you to do something for me.

UVA

is what you’ve worked for, Peter. That’s where you have to be. Not at

UNC

.”

He turns ashen. “Did you talk to my mom?”

“Yes. I mean, no . . .”

The muscle in his jaw twitches. “Got it. Say no more.”

“Wait, listen to me, Peter—”

“Nah, I’m good. Just for the record, I mentioned

UNC

to my mom as a throwaway possibility. It wasn’t anything definite. Just something I threw out there. But it’s cool if you don’t want me to come.” He starts to walk away from me, and I grab his arm to stop him.

“Peter, that’s not what I’m saying! I’m saying that if you came, if you gave up everything you’ve worked for at

UVA

, you’d only end up resenting me.”

Flatly he says, “Just stop it, Lara Jean. I saw this coming a mile away. Ever since you decided to go to

UNC

, you’ve been saying good-bye to me.”

My arm drops away from him. “What does that even mean?”

“There’s the scrapbook, for one thing. You said it was to remember us by. Why would I need something to remember us by, Lara Jean?”

“That isn’t how I meant it! I spent months working on that scrapbook. You’re putting this all on me, but you’re the one who’s been pushing me away. Ever since Beach Week!”

“Fine, let’s talk about what happened that night at Beach Week.” I can feel my face flush as he looks at me with a challenge in his eyes. “That night you wanted to have sex, it was like you were trying to put a bow on this whole thing. Like you were putting me in your—your hatbox. Like I played my part in your first love story, and now you can go on to the next chapter.”

I feel light-headed, unsteady on my feet. Peter, who I thought I understood so well. “I’m sorry you took it that way, but that’s not how I meant it. Not at all.”

“It clearly is how you meant it, because you’re doing it right now. Aren’t you?”

Is there some hidden truth to what he’s saying, even a little bit? It’s true that I wouldn’t want my first

time to be with anyone else. It’s true that it felt right to have it be with Peter, because he’s the first boy I ever loved. I wouldn’t want it to be with some boy I meet in college. That boy is a stranger to me. Peter I’ve known since we were kids. Was I just trying to close a chapter?

No. I did it because I wanted it to be him. But if that’s how he sees it, maybe it’s easier this way.

I swallow. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I did want my first time to be with you so I could close a chapter on high school. On us.”

He freezes. I see the pain in his eyes, and then his face closes up like a shuttered empty house. He starts to walk away. This time I don’t try to stop him. Over his shoulder he says, “We’re good, Covey. Don’t worry about it.”

As soon as he’s gone, I turn to the side and throw up everything I drank and ate tonight. I’m bent over, heaving, when Trina and Daddy and Margot walk out of the karaoke bar. Daddy rushes over to me. “Lara Jean, what’s the matter? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I mumble, wiping my eyes and mouth.

His eyes widen, alarmed. “Have you been drinking?” He looks accusingly at Trina, who is rubbing my back. “Trina, you let Lara Jean drink?”

“She had a few sips of a pomegranate martini. She’ll be fine.”

“She doesn’t look fine!”

Trina stands up straight, her hand still on my back. “Dan, Lara Jean’s a young woman now. You can’t see it, because you still see her as a little girl, but she’s grown up so much in the time I’ve known her. She can handle herself.”

Margot breaks in. “Daddy, I let her have a few sips of my drink—that’s it. She really doesn’t have any tolerance. Frankly, it’s something she should work on before she gets to college. Don’t blame Trina.”

Daddy looks from Margot to Trina and back to Margot. She is standing shoulder to shoulder with Trina, and in that

moment they are united. Then he looks over at me. “You’re right. This is all on Lara Jean. Get in the car.”

On the way home we have to pull over once so I can throw up again. It’s not the pomegranate martini that’s making me want to die. It’s the look on Peter’s face. The way the light in his eyes went away. The hurt—if I close my eyes I can see it. The only other time I’ve seen him look that way was when his dad didn’t show up at graduation. And now that look is there because of me.

I start to cry in the car. Big sobs that make my shoulders shake.

“Don’t cry,” my dad says with a sigh. “You’re in trouble, but not that big of trouble.”

“It’s not that. I broke up with Peter.” I can barely get the words out. “Daddy, if you could’ve seen the look on his face. It was—terrible.”

Bewildered, he asks, “Why did you break up with him? He’s such a nice boy.”

“I don’t know,” I weep. “Now I don’t know.”

He takes one hand off the steering wheel and squeezes my shoulder. “It’s all right. It’s all right.”

“But—it isn’t.”

“But it will be,” he says, stroking my hair.

I made the right choice tonight. I did, I know it. Letting him go was the right thing.

I can see the future, Peter. That way lies heartbreak. I won’t do it. Better to part while we can still see each other in a certain way.

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