I open up his Instagram and go to Anonybitch’s page. I see the entry that was below ours, a picture of a passed-out guy with penises permanent-markered all over his face. It’s the top of the feed now. I gasp. The hot tub video is gone! “Peter, how did you do this?”
Peter grins a peacocky kind of grin. “I messaged Anonybitch last night and told them to take that shit down or we’re suing. I told them how my uncle is a lawyer and you and I are both underage.” He gives my knee a squeeze.
“Is your uncle really a lawyer?”
“No. He owns a pizza parlor in New Jersey.” We both laugh, and it feels like such a relief. “Listen, don’t worry about anything today. If anybody says anything, I’ll kick their ass.”
“I just wish I knew who did it. I could’ve sworn we were alone that night.”
Peter shakes his head. “It’s not like we did anything so wrong! I mean, who cares if we made out in a damn hot tub? Who cares if we had sex in it?” I frown and he quickly says, “I know, I know. You don’t want people thinking we did something when we didn’t. We definitely didn’t, and that’s what I told that bitch Anonybitch.”
“It’s different for guys and girls, Peter.”
“I know. Don’t be mad. I’m going to find out who did this.” He looks straight ahead, so serious and unlike himself; his profile is almost noble for all its good intent.
Oh, Peter, why do you have to be so handsome! If you weren’t so handsome I never would have gotten in that hot tub with you. It’s all your fault. Except it isn’t. I’m the one who took off my shoes and socks and got in. I wanted it too. I just appreciate that he’s taking it as seriously as he is, writing emails on our behalf. I know this is the kind of thing that Genevieve wouldn’t care about; she never had a problem with PDAs or being the center of attention. But I care, I care a lot.
He turns his head and looks at me, studying my eyes, my face. “You don’t regret it, do you, Lara Jean?”
I shake my head. “No, I don’t.” He smiles at me so sweetly I can’t help but smile back. “Thanks for getting them to take the video down for me.”
“Us,” Peter corrects. “I did it for us.” He links our fingers together. “It’s you and me, kid.”
I tighten my fingers around his. If we just hold on tight enough, it will all be okay.
When we walk down the hall together, girls whisper. Boys snicker. One guy from the lacrosse team runs up and tries to high-five Peter, who swats him away with a growl.
Lucas comes up to me when I’m alone at my locker trading out my books. “I’m not going to mince words,” he says. “I’m just going to ask. Is the girl in the video really you?”
I take deep, calming breath. “It’s me.”
Lucas lets out a low whistle. “Damn.”
“So . . . did you guys . . .”
“No, we definitely did not. We are not.”
I’m embarrassed by the question, though I know there’s no reason for me to be. It’s just that I’ve never been in a position to talk about my sex life before, because who would ever have thought to ask me anything? “We aren’t because we aren’t. There’s no big reason behind it, other than I’m not ready yet and I don’t know if he is either. We haven’t even talked about it.”
“Well, it’s not like he’s a virgin. Not by any stretch of the imagination.” Lucas makes his cerulean blue angel eyes go wide for emphasis. “I know you’re innocent, Lara Jean, but Kavinsky definitely isn’t. I’m saying this to you as a guy.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with me,” I say, even though I’ve wondered and worried about this myself. Peter and I had a conversation about this once, about whether a guy and a girl who’d dated for a long time were automatically having sex, but I don’t remember if he ever said what his take on it was. I should have listened harder. “Look, just because he and Genevieve did it like . . . like wild rabbits or whatever—” Lucas snickers at this, and I pinch him. “Just because they did it doesn’t mean we automatically are, or that he automatically even wants to.” Does it?
“He definitely wants to.”
Gulp. “Well, too bad, so sad, if that’s the case. But honestly, I don’t think it is.” In this very moment I decide that Peter and I will be the relationship equivalent of a brisket. Slow and low. We will heat up for each other over time. Confidently I say, “What Peter and I have is completely different than what he and Genevieve were. Or had. Whatever. The point is, you shouldn’t compare relationships, okay?” Never mind the fact that I’ve been doing that constantly in my head.
In French class, I hear Emily Nussbaum whisper to Genevieve, “If it turns out she’s preggo, do you think Kavinsky will pay for the abortion?”
Genevieve whispers back, “No way. He’s too cheap. Maybe half.” And everyone laughs.
My face burns in mortification. I want to scream at them, We didn’t have sex! We are brisket! But that would only give them more satisfaction, to know they’re getting a rise out of me. That’s what Margot would say anyway. So I hold my chin up even higher, as high as I can, so high my neck hurts.
Maybe Gen did do it. Maybe she really does hate me that much.
Ms. Davenport grabs me on my way to my next class. She puts her arm around me and says, “Lara Jean, how are you holding up?”
I know she doesn’t care about me, not really. She just wants gossip. She’s the biggest gossip of all the teachers, maybe even the students. Well, I’m not going to be faculty-lounge fodder. “I’m great,” I say sunnily. Chin up, chin up.
“I saw the video,” she whispers, eyes darting around to see if anyone’s listening. “Of you and Peter in the hot tub.”
My jaw is clenched so tight my teeth hurt.
“You must be really upset about the comments, and I don’t blame you.” Ms. Davenport really needs to get a life if all she’s doing over her winter break is looking at high school kids’ Instagrams! “Kids can be very cruel. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. I’m not that much older than you guys.”
“I’m really fine, but thanks for checking in.” Nothing to see here, folks. Keep it moving.
Ms. Davenport’s lower lip pushes out. “Well, if you need to talk to someone, you know I’m here for you. Let me be a resource. Come hang out with me anytime; I’ll write you a note.”