We are a meme.
Over the next couple of days, the picture shows up all over the place. On other people’s Instagrams, on their Facebook walls.
There’s one with a dancing shark photoshopped in. Another one where our heads have been replaced by cat heads.
And then one that just says AMISH BIKINI.
Peter’s lacrosse friends think it’s hilarious, but they swear they don’t have anything to do with it. At the lunch table Gabe protests, “I don’t even know how to use Photoshop!”
Peter stuffs half his sandwich into his mouth. “Fine, then who’s doing it? Jeff Bardugo? Carter?”
“Dude, I don’t know,” Darrell says. “It’s a meme. A lot of people could be throwing their hat in the ring.”
“You have to admit, the cat-head one was pretty funny,” Gabe says. Then he turns to me and says, “My bad, Large.”
I stay quiet. The cat heads were kind of funny. But overall it is not. Peter tried to laugh the first one off, but now we are a few days in and I can tell it’s bothering him. He isn’t used to being the butt of the joke. I suppose I’m not either, but only because I’m not used to people paying this much attention to anything I’m doing. But ever since I’ve been with Peter, people are, and I wish they weren’t.
THAT AFTERNOON, WE HAVE A junior class assembly in the auditorium. Our class president, Reena Patel, is onstage giving a PowerPoint presentation on the state of the union—how much money we’ve fund-raised for prom, the proposal for senior class trip. I’m sitting low in my seat, relieved for the respite, where people aren’t looking at me, whispering and making judgments.
She clicks on the last slide, and that’s when it happens. “Me So Horny” blasts out of the speakers and my video, mine and Peter’s, flashes on the projector screen. Someone has taken the video from Anonybitch’s Instagram and put their own soundtrack to it. They’ve edited it too, so I bop up and down on Peter’s lap at triple speed to the beat.
Oh no no no no. Please, no.
Everything happens at once. People are shrieking and laughing and pointing and going “Oooh!” Mr. Vasquez is jumping up to unplug the projector, and then Peter’s running onstage, grabbing the microphone out of a stunned Reena’s hand.
“Whoever did that is a piece of garbage. And not that it’s anybody’s fucking business, but Lara Jean and I did not have sex in the hot tub.”
My ears are ringing, and people are twisting around in their seats to look at me and then shifting back around to look at Peter.
“All we did was kiss, so fuck off!” Mr. Vasquez, the junior class advisor, is trying to grab the mic back from Peter, but Peter manages to maintain control of it. He holds the mic up high and yells out, “I’m gonna find whoever did this and kick their ass!” In the scuffle, he drops the mic. People are cheering and laughing. Peter’s being frog-marched off the stage, and he frantically looks out into the audience. He’s looking for me.
The assembly breaks up then, and everyone starts filing out the doors, but I stay low in my seat. Chris comes and finds me, face alight. She grabs me by the shoulders. “Ummm, that was crazy! He freaking dropped the F bomb twice!”
I am still in a state of shock, maybe. A video of me and Peter hot and heavy was just on the projector screen, and everyone saw. Mr. Vasquez, seventy-year-old Mr. Glebe who doesn’t even know what Instagram is. The only passionate kiss of my life and everybody saw.
Chris shakes my shoulders. “Lara Jean! Are you okay?” I nod mutely, and she releases me. “He’s kicking whoever did it’s ass? I’d love to see that!” She snorts and throws her head back like a wild pony. “I mean, the boy’s an idiot if he thinks for one second it wasn’t Gen who posted that video. Like, wow, those are some serious blinders, y’know?” Chris stops short and examines my face. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Everybody saw us.”
“Yeah . . . that sucked. I’m sure that was Gen’s handiwork. She must’ve gotten one of her little minions to sneak it onto Reena’s PowerPoint.” Chris shakes her head in disgust. “She’s such a bitch. I’m glad Peter set the record straight, though. Like, I hate to give him credit, but that was an act of chivalry. No guy has ever set the record straight for me.”
I know she’s thinking of that boy from freshman year, the one who told everyone that Chris had sex with him in the locker room. And I’m thinking of Mrs. Duvall, of what she said before. She would probably lump Chris in with the party girls, the girls who sleep around, the girls who aren’t “better than that.” She would be wrong. We’re all the same.
After school, I’m walking out of class when my phone buzzes in my purse. It’s Peter.
I’m out on parole. Meet me at my car!
I race to the parking lot, where Peter is in his car waiting for me with the heat on. Grinning at me, he says, “Aren’t you going to kiss your man? I just got released from prison.”
“Peter! This isn’t a joke. Are you suspended?”
He smirks. “Nah. I sweet-talked my way out of it. Principal Lochlan loves me. Still, I could’ve been. If it had been anybody else . . .”
Oh, Peter. “Please don’t brag to me right now.”
“When I came out of Lochlan’s office, there were a bunch of sophomore girls waiting for me to give me a standing O. They were like, ‘Kavinsky, you’re so romantic.’” He hoots, and I give him a look. He pulls me to his side. “Hey, they know I’m taken. There’s only one girl I want to see in an Amish bikini.”
I laugh; I can’t help it. Peter loves attention, and I hate to be another girl who gives it to him, but he makes it really hard sometimes. Besides, it was kind of romantic.
He plants a kiss on my cheek, nuzzles against my face. “Didn’t I tell you I would take care of it, Covey?”
“You did,” I admit, patting his hair.
“So did I do a good job?”
“You did.” That’s all it takes for him to be happy, me telling him that he did a good job. He’s smiley all the way home. But I’m still thinking about it.
I beg off the lacrosse party I was supposed to go to with Peter tonight. I say it’s because I have to prepare for my meeting with Janette tomorrow, but we both know it’s more than that. He could call me on it, remind me that we promised to always tell the truth to each other, but he doesn’t. He knows me well enough to know that I just need to burrow in my little hobbit hole for a while, and when I’m ready, I’ll come out again and be all right.