“Thank you, Ms. Davenport.” I slither out of from under her arm.
Mrs. Duvall, the guidance/college counselor stops me on my way to English. “Lara Jean,” she begins, then falters. “You’re such a bright, talented girl. You’re not the type of girl to get caught up in these sorts of things. I’d hate to see you go down a wrong path.”
I can feel tears coming up the back of my throat, pushing their way to the surface. I respect Mrs. Duvall. I want her to think well of me. All I can do is nod.
She tips my chin up tenderly. Her perfume smells like dried rose petals. She’s an older woman; she’s worked at the school forever. Mrs. Duvall really cares about the students. She is the one kids come back and say hi to when they’re home from college for winter break. “Now is the time to buckle down and get serious about your future, not high school drama. Don’t give colleges a reason to turn you down, okay?”
Again I nod.
“Good girl,” she says. “I know you’re better than that.”
The words echo in my ears: Better than that. Better than what? Than who?
During lunch, I escape to the girls’ bathroom so I don’t have to speak to anybody. And of course there Genevieve is, standing in front of the mirror, dabbing on lip balm. Her eyes meet mine in the mirror. “Hi there.” It’s the way she says it—hi there. So smug, so sure of herself.
“Was it you?” My voice echoes against the walls.
Genevieve’s hand goes still. Then she recovers, and screws the top back on her lip balm. “Was what me?”
“Did you send that video to Anonybitch?”
“No,” she scoffs. Her mouth turns up to the right, the smallest of quivers. That’s when I know she’s lying. I’ve seen her lie to her mom enough times to know her tell. Even though I suspected it, maybe even knew it deep down, this confirmation takes my breath away.
“I know we’re not friends anymore, but we used to be. You know my sisters, my dad. You know me. You knew how much this would hurt me.” I clench my fists to keep from crying. “How could you do something like this?”
“Lara Jean, I’m sorry this happened to you, but it honestly wasn’t me.” She gives me a pseudosympathetic shrug, and there it is again: The corner of her mouth turns up.
“It was you. I know it was. Once Peter finds out . . .”
She raises one eyebrow. “He’ll what? Kick my ass?”
I’m so angry my hands shake. “No, because you’re a girl. But he won’t forgive you either. I’m glad you did it if it proves to him what kind of person you really are.”
“He knows exactly what kind of person I am. And you know what? He still loves me more than he’ll ever like you. You’ll see.” With that she turns on her heel and walks away.
This is when it dawns on me. She’s jealous. Of me. She can’t stand that Peter’s with me and not her. Well, she just played herself, because once Peter finds out she’s the one who did this to us, he’ll never look at her the same way again.
When school lets out, I race to the parking lot, where Peter is in his car waiting for me with the heat on. As soon as I open the passenger side door, I gasp out, “It was Genevieve!” I scramble inside. “She’s the one who sent the video to Anonybitch. She just admitted it to me!”
Soberly he asks me, “She said she took the video? She said those exact words?”
“Well . . . no.” What were her exact words? I walked away feeling like she’d confessed, but now that I’m going over it in my head, she never out-and-out admitted it. “She didn’t admit it per se, but she practically did. Also, she did that thing with her mouth!” I turn up the corner of my mouth. “See? That’s her tell!”
He raises an eyebrow. “Come on, Covey.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll talk to her.” He starts the car.
I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but I have to ask. “Have any teachers said anything to you about the video? Maybe Coach White?”
“No. Why? Has anyone said anything to you?”
This is what Margot was talking about, this double standard. Boys will be boys, but girls are supposed to be careful: of our bodies, of our futures, of all the ways people judge us. Abruptly I ask him, “When are you going to talk to Genevieve?”
“I’ll go over there tonight.”
“You’re going over to her house?” I repeat.
“Well, yeah. I have to see her face to know whether she’s lying or not. I’ll check out this ‘tell’ you’re so excited about.”
Peter’s starving, so we stop and get hamburgers and milkshakes on the way. When I finally get home, Margot and Kitty are waiting for me. “Tell us everything,” Margot says, handing me a cup of cocoa. I check to see if she’s put mini marshmallows inside, and she has.
“Did Peter fix it?” Kitty wants to know.
“Yes! He got Anonybitch to take the video down. He told them how he has an uncle who’s a top lawyer, when in actuality he owns a pizza parlor in New Jersey.”
Margot smiles at this. Then her face gets serious. “Were people horrible at school?”
Blithely I say, “Nah, it wasn’t bad at all.” I feel a swell of pride for putting on a brave face in front of my sisters. “But I’m pretty sure I know who did it.”
In unison they say, “Who?”
“Genevieve, just like Chris said. I confronted her in the bathroom and she denied it, but then she did that thing she does with her mouth when she’s lying.” I demonstrate for them. “Gogo, do you remember that thing?”
“I think so!” she says, but I can tell she doesn’t. “What did Peter say when you told him it was Genevieve? He believed you, right?”
“Not exactly,” I hedge, blowing on my hot cocoa. “I mean, he says he’s going to talk to her and get down to the bottom of it.”
Margot frowns. “He should have your back no matter what.”
“He does, Gogo!” I grab her hand and link my fingers through hers. “This is what he did. He said, ‘It’s you and me, kid.’ It was really romantic!”
She giggles. “You’re hopeless. Don’t ever change.”
“I wish you weren’t leaving tomorrow,” I sigh. I’m homesick for her already. Margot being here, making judgments and doling out sage advice, makes me feel secure. It gives me strength.