I’m so entranced I don’t notice at first that Kitty is watching with me. Both of our heads are tilted, trying to suss out what it is we’re looking at. “You shouldn’t be looking at this,” I say.
“Are they doing it?” she asks.
“It’s hard to say because of her nightgown.” But maybe?
Then the girl touches the boy’s cheek, and there is something about the movement, the way she touches him like she is reading braille. Something familiar. The back of my neck goes icy cold, and I am hit with a gust of awareness, of humiliating recognition.
That girl is me. Me and Peter, in the hot tub on the ski trip.
Oh my God.
Margot comes racing in, wearing one of those Korean beauty masks on her face with slits for eyes, nose, and mouth. “What? What?”
I try to cover the computer screen with my hand, but she pushes it out of the way, and then she lets out a scream too. Her mask falls off. “Oh my God! Is that you?”
Oh my God oh my God oh my God.
“Don’t let Kitty see!” I shout.
Kitty’s wide-eyed. “Lara Jean, I thought you were a goody-goody.”
“I am!” I scream.
Margot gulps. “That . . . that looks like . . .”
“I know. Don’t say it.”
“Don’t worry, Lara Jean,” Kitty soothes. “I’ve seen worse on regular TV, not even HBO.”
“Kitty, go to your room!” Margot yells. Kitty whimpers and clings closer to me.
I can’t believe what I am seeing. The caption reads Goody two shoes Lara Jean having full-on sex with Kavinsky in the hot tub. Do condoms work underwater? Guess we’ll find out soon enough. ;) The comments are a lot of wide-eyed emojis and lols. Someone named Veronica Chen wrote, What a slut! Is she Asian?? I don’t even know who Veronica Chen is!
“Who could have done this to me?” I wail, pressing my hands to my cheeks. “I can’t feel my face. Is my face still my face?”
“Who the hell is Anonybitch?” Margot demands.
“No one knows,” I say, and the roaring in my ears is so loud I can hardly hear my own voice. “People just re-gram her. Or him. Am I talking really loud right now?” I’m in shock. Now I can’t feel my hands or feet. I’m gonna faint. Is this happening? Is this my life?
“We have to get this taken down right now. Is there a help line for inappropriate content? We have to report this!” Margot’s grabbing the computer from me. She clicks the REPORT INAPPROPRIATE tab. Scanning the comments on the page, she seethes, “People are absolute jerks! We might have to call a lawyer. This won’t get taken down right away.”
“No!” I scream. “I don’t want Daddy to see!”
“Lara Jean, this is serious. You don’t want colleges to google you and have this video come up! Or, like, future employers—”
“Gogo! You’re making me feel so much worse right now!” I grab my phone. Peter. He’ll know what to do. It’s five o’clock, which means he’s still at lacrosse practice. I can’t even call him right now. I text instead:
Call me ASAP.
Then I hear Daddy’s voice calling up the staircase. “These potatoes won’t mash themselves! Who’s helping me?”
Oh my God. Now I have to sit at dinner and look my dad in the face, knowing that this video exists. This can’t be my life.
Margot and Kitty look at each other, then back at me. “Nobody says a word to Daddy!” I hiss at them. “That means you, Kitty!”
She gives me a hurt look. “I know when to keep my mouth shut.”
“Sorry, sorry,” I mumble. My heart is pounding so hard it’s giving me a headache. I can’t even think straight.
At dinner, my stomach is churning and I can barely get down a bite of potatoes. Luckily, I have Margot and Kitty to run interference and keep a steady chatter going so I don’t have to talk. I just push the food around on my plate and sneak Jamie Fox-Pickle bites under the table. As soon as everyone else is done eating, I sprint upstairs and look at my phone. Still nothing from Peter. Just more texts from Chris and one from Haven:
OMG is this you??!
I don’t know who the girl in the video is. I don’t recognize me in it. It’s not how I see myself at all. It’s like some other person who has nothing to do with me. I’m not someone who climbs into hot tubs with boys and sits in their laps and kisses them passionately with a wet nightgown clinging to them. But I was that night. The video just doesn’t tell the whole truth.
I keep telling myself it’s not like we’re really having sex in the video. It’s not like I’m naked. It just feels like I’m naked in the video. And all I can think is, everybody at school has seen that video, a video of me in one of the most intimate and truly romantic moments of my life. And not only that, but someone recorded it. Someone was there. That memory was supposed to only be mine and Peter’s, but now it turns out there was some random Peeping Tom in the woods there with us. It’s not just ours anymore. It feels tawdry now. It certainly looks that way. In the moment I felt free, and adventurous, maybe even sexy. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt sexy in my whole life. And now I just want to not exist.
I’m lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, phone at my side. Margot and Kitty have forbidden me from looking at the video. They tried to take my phone away, but I told them I need it for when Peter calls. Then I snuck a look at the video, and so far there are over a hundred comments, none good.
Kitty’s playing with Jamie Fox-Pickle on the floor and Margot’s emailing Instagram customer service when Chris knocks on my window. Margot unlocks it for her, and Chris climbs inside, shivering and pink-cheeked. “Is she okay?”
“I think she’s in shock,” Kitty says.
“I’m not in shock,” I say. But maybe I am. Maybe this is shock. It’s a queer, surreal sort of feeling, like I’m numb, but also all my senses feel heightened.
Margot says to Chris, “Why can’t you come in through the front door like a normal person?”
“Nobody answered.” Chris yanks off her boots and sits down on the floor next to Kitty. Petting Jamie, she says, “Okay, first of all, you can barely tell it’s you. And second of all, it’s really hot, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, you look great.”
Margot makes a disgusted sound. “That’s so beside the point I don’t even know where to begin.”