They exchange a look. “Gen, chill out,” Emily says, and I can tell she is walking that tightrope, a little bit feisty but careful not to further incur her wrath. “We still have plenty of time to shop.”
Genevieve notices me then, and her peevish expression disappears. Waving, she says, “Hey, Lara Jean. Are you waiting for Kavinsky?”
I nod, and blow on my fingers just to have something to do. Also, it’s cold.
“That boy’s always running late. Tell him I’ll call him later tonight, okay?”
I nod without thinking, and the girls walk away, arms linked.
Why did I nod? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I ever come up with a good comeback? I’m still berating myself when Peter appears. He slides onto the bench beside me and slings his arm around my shoulders. Then he ruffles the top of my head the way I’ve seen him to do to Kitty. “What up, Covey.”
“Thanks for making me wait for you outside in the cold,” I say, pressing my freezing fingers on his neck.
Peter yelps and jumps away from me. “You could’ve waited inside!”
He has a point. That’s not what I’m mad about anyway. “Gen says to tell you she’ll call you later tonight.”
He rolls his eyes. “She’s such a shit stirrer. Don’t let her get to you, Covey. She’s just jealous.” Standing up, he offers me his hands, which I accept begrudgingly. “Let me take you for a hot chocolate to warm up your poor frozen body.”
“We’ll see,” I say.
In the car, he keeps sneaking peeks at me, checking to see if I’m still annoyed. I don’t keep up my chilly routine for much longer, though; it takes up too much energy. I let him buy me a hot chocolate and I even share it with him. But I tell him he can’t have any of the marshmallows.
That night my phone buzzes on my nightstand, and I know without looking that it’s Peter looking for more reassurance. I take off my headphones and pick it up. “Hi.”
“What are you doing?” His voice is low; I can tell he’s lying down.
“My homework. What about you?”
“I’m in bed. I just called to say good night.” There’s a pause. “Hey, how come you never call me to say good night?”
“I don’t know. I guess I never thought of it. Do you want me to?”
“Well. You don’t have to—I just wondered why not.”
“I thought you hated the whole ‘last call’ thing. Remember? You put it in the contract. You said that Genevieve insisted that she be your last call every night, and it was annoying.”
He groans. “Can we please not talk about her? Also, why is your memory so good? You remember everything.”
“It’s my gift and my curse.” I highlight a paragraph and try to balance the phone on my shoulder, but it keeps slipping. “So wait, do you want me to call you every night or not?”
“Ugh, just forget it.”
“Ugh, fine,” I say, and I can hear him smiling through the phone.
“Wait—can you bring me one of those yogurt drinks for lunch?”
“Say pretty please.”
It takes me another two hours to finish my homework, but when I fall asleep that night, I fall asleep smiling.
I THINK MY DAD IS on a date. tonight he said he had plans with a friend, and he shaved and put on a nice button-down shirt and not one of his ratty sweaters. He was in a hurry to leave, so I didn’t ask who the friend was. Someone from the hospital, probably. Daddy doesn’t exactly have wide social circles. He’s shy. Whoever it is, this sounds like a good thing.
As soon as he leaves, I turn to Kitty, who is lying on the couch watching TV and licking the sour off sour gummies. Jamie lies asleep next to her. “Kitty, do you think Daddy’s—”
“On a date? Duh.”
“And you’re okay with it?”
“Sure. Though I’d rather it was with someone I knew and already liked.”
“What if he got married again? Would you be okay with that?”
“Sure. So you can quit making your concerned-big-sister face at me, all right?”
I try to smooth my face out like a blank sheet of paper. Serenely I say, “So you’re saying you’re okay with Daddy getting married again.”
“It’s just a date, Lara Jean. People don’t get married off of one measly date.”
“But they do off of a lot of dates.”
A flash of worry crosses her face, and then she says, “We’ll just wait and see. There’s no point in getting all revved up yet.”
I wouldn’t say I’m revved up, exactly, but I am curious. When I told Grandma I wouldn’t mind if Daddy dated, I meant it, but I do want to know that she’s good enough for him, whoever she is. I change the subject. “What do you want for your birthday?” I ask her.
“I’ve got a list going,” she says. “A new collar for Jamie. Leather. With spikes. A treadmill.”
“Yeah, I want to teach Jamie how to walk on one.”
“I doubt Daddy will go for a treadmill, Kitty. They’re really expensive, and besides, where would we even put it?”
“Okay fine. Scratch the treadmill. I also want night-vision goggles.”
“You should cc Margot on that.”
“What kinds of special things can I get only from Scotland?” she asks.
“Genuine Scottish shortbread. A tartan kilt. What else . . . golf balls. Loch Ness monster paraphernalia.”
“A stuffed Loch Ness monster. A Loch Ness T-shirt. Maybe a glow-in-the-dark poster.”
“Stop right there. That’s a good idea. I’m gonna add that to my list.”
After Kitty goes to bed, I clean up the kitchen—I even scrub the stove with a Brillo pad and organize the refrigerator—so that I can give Daddy the third degree the second he gets home. I’m refilling the flour canister when Daddy walks through the door. Casually I say, “How was your date?”
He frowns in confusion. “Date? I went to the symphony with my colleague Marjorie. Her husband came down with the flu, and she didn’t want the ticket to go to waste.”
I deflate. “Oh.”
Humming, he pours himself a glass of water and says, “I should go to the symphony more often. Any interest, Lara Jean?”