“That’s an amazing idea,” Margot says with an approving nod.
“Really great,” Daddy enthuses. “Obviously no white wine for you, but the cheese puffs, definitely!”
“Oh, Daddy,” we all chorus, because he loves it when we do that, when he gets to be the cheesy dad (pun intended!) and we all groan like we’re exasperated and say “Oh, Daddy.”
When we’re doing the dishes, Margot tells me I should follow up with the Belleview idea for sure. “They need someone like you to take charge of things,” she says, sudsing up the Dutch oven. “Fresh energy, new ideas. People can get burned out working at a retirement home. Janette will be relieved to have an extra set of hands.”
I mostly said all that stuff about Belleview to get everybody off my back, but now I’m thinking I really should talk to Janette.
When I go back upstairs, I have a missed call from Peter. I call him back, and I can hear the TV on in the background. “Did you talk to her?” I hope hope hope he believes me now.
“I talked to her.”
My heart thuds. “And? Did she admit it?”
“No.” I let out a breath. Okay. That was to be expected, I guess. Gen isn’t the type to lie down in the street and die. She’s a fighter. “Well, she can say whatever she wants, but I know it was her.”
“You can’t get all that from a look, Covey.”
“It’s not just a look. I know her. She used to be my best friend. I know how she thinks.”
“I know her better than you, and I’m telling you, I don’t think it was her. Trust me.”
He does know her better; of course he does. But girl to girl, ex–best friend to ex–best friend, I know it was her. I don’t care how many years it’s been. There are things a girl knows in her gut, her bones. “I trust you. I don’t trust her. This is all her plan, Peter.”
There’s a long silence, and I hear my last words ringing in my ears, and they sound crazy, even to me.
His voice is heavy with patience as he says, “She’s stressed out with family stuff right now; she doesn’t even have time to plot against you, Covey.”
Family stuff? Could that be? I feel a pang of guilt as I remember how Chris mentioned that their grandma broke her hip and the families were discussing whether or not to put her into a home. Genevieve was always close to her grandma; she said she was the favorite out of all the grandchildren because she looked just like her—i.e., gorgeous.
Or maybe it’s her parents. Genevieve used to worry about them getting divorced.
Or maybe it’s all a lie. It’s on the very tip of my tongue to say, and then he says, wearily, “My mom’s calling me downstairs. Can we talk about this more tomorrow?”
“Sure,” I say.
I mean, I guess it could be anything. Peter’s right. Maybe I knew her well once, but not anymore. Peter is the one who knows her best now. And besides, isn’t this the way one loses boyfriends, by acting paranoid and jealous and insecure? I’m fairly certain this is not a good look on me.
After we hang up I resolve to put the video behind me once and for all. What’s done is done. I have a boyfriend, a possible new job (unpaid, I’m sure, but still), and my studies to think about. I can’t let this bring me down. Besides, you can’t even see my face in the video.
THE NEXT MORNING BEFORE SCHOOL, we’re packing up the car so Daddy can take Margot to the airport, and I keep looking up at Josh’s bedroom window, wondering if he’ll come down and say good-bye. It’s the least he can do. But his lights are off, so he must still be asleep.
Ms. Rothschild comes out with her dog while Margot’s saying her good-byes to Jamie Fox-Pickle. As soon as he sees her, he leaps out of Margot’s arms and makes a run for it across the street. Daddy chases after him. Jamie is barking and jumping all over Ms. Rothschild’s poor old dog Simone, who ignores him. Jamie is so excited he pees on Ms. Rothschild’s green Hunter boots, and Daddy’s apologizing, but she’s laughing. “It’ll wash right off,” I hear her say. She looks pretty, her brown hair is in a high ponytail, and she’s in yoga pants and a puffy bomber jacket that I think Genevieve has.
“Hurry, Daddy!” Margot calls out. “I need to be at the airport three hours early.”
“Three’s a bit much,” I say. “Two hours is plenty.” We watch as Daddy tries to scoop up Jamie and Jamie tries to wriggle away. Ms. Rothschild snatches him up with one arm and plants a kiss on his head.
“With international flights you’re supposed to be at the airport three hours early. I have bags to check¸ Lara Jean.”
Kitty doesn’t say anything; she’s just gazing across the street at all the dog drama.
When Daddy returns with a squirming Jamie in his arms, he says, “We’d better get out of here before Jamie causes any more trouble.” We three hug each other fiercely, and Margot whispers to me to be strong, and I nod, and then she and Daddy are gone for the airport.
It’s still early, earlier than we would’ve woken up on a school morning, so I make Kitty and me banana pancakes. She’s still lost in thought. Twice I have to ask her if she wants one pancake or two. I make a few extra and wrap them in aluminum foil to share with Peter on the way to school. I do the dishes; I even send Janette over at Belleview a feeler email, and she writes back right away. Margot’s replacement quit a month ago, so it’s perfect timing, she says. Come in on Saturday and we’ll talk about your responsibilities.
I feel like finally, I’ve gotten it together: I’ve hit my stride. I can do this.
So when I walk into school that cold January morning, holding Peter’s hand, full on banana pancakes, with a new job and wearing Margot’s Fair Isle sweater she left behind, I am feeling good. Great, even.
Peter wants to stop in the computer lab to print out his English paper, so that’s our first stop. He logs in, and I gasp out loud when I see the wallpaper.
Someone has taken a still of the hot tub video, of me in Peter’s lap in my red flannel nightgown, skirt hitched up around my thighs, and across the top it reads HOT HOT TUB SEX. And on the bottom—YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
“What the hell?” Peter mutters, looking around the computer lab. Nobody looks up. He goes to the next computer—same picture, different caption. SHE DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT SHRINKAGE on top. HE’S HAPPY WITH WHAT HE CAN GET across the bottom.