“There’s the barista, and that guy over there by the door.” I try to discreetly point with my pencil. Things have been quiet at school; the last thing we need is another meme flare-up.
“Lara Jean, nobody’s going to film us if that’s what you’re worried about. We’re not doing anything.”
“I told you from the start I’m not into PDAs,” I remind him.
Peter smirks. “Really? Let’s not forget who kissed who in the hallway. You literally jumped on top of me, Covey.”
I blush. “There was a purpose for that and you know it.”
“There’s a purpose now,” he pouts. “The purpose is I’m bored and I feel like kissing you. Is that a crime?”
“You’re such a baby,” I say, pinching his nose hard. “If you stay quiet and study for forty-five more minutes, I’ll let you kiss me in the privacy of your car.”
Peter’s face lights up. “Deal.” His phone buzzes, and he reaches down to check it. He frowns and texts something, his fingers lightning quick.
“Is everything okay?” I ask.
He nods, but he looks distracted, and he keeps texting, even as we’re supposed to be studying. And now I’m distracted too, wondering what it could be. Or who.
I’M PUSHING MY GROCERY CART around, looking for condensed milk for key lime pie, when I spot Josh in the cereal aisle. I roll right up to him and bump him with my cart.
“Hey, neighbor,” I say.
“Hey, so guess what.” Josh grins a pleased, proud sort of grin. “I got into UVA early.”
I let out a high-pitched shriek and let go of my cart. “Josh! That’s amazing!” I throw my arms around him and jump up and down. I shake his shoulders. “Be more excited, you loon!”
He laughs and jumps up and down a few times too before releasing me. “I am excited. My parents are out of their heads excited because now they don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. They haven’t fought in days.” Shyly he asks, “Will you tell Margot? I feel like I can’t call her myself, but she deserves to know. She’s the one who helped me study all that time. It’s partly because of her that this is even happening.”
“I’ll tell her. I know she’ll be really happy for you, Josh. My dad and Kitty, too.” I lift my hand for a high five, and he smacks it. I can’t believe it—Josh is going to college, and soon he won’t be my neighbor anymore. Not like before. Now that he’ll be graduating and leaving town, maybe his parents will finally get their divorce, and then they’ll sell the house and he won’t even be my sort-of neighbor. Things have been off with us for months, even before the Margot breakup, and we haven’t hung out in ages . . . but I liked knowing that he was there, right next door if I needed him. “Once a little more time has passed . . . ,” I begin. “Once we have the all clear from Margot, will you come over for dinner again like before? Everyone misses you. I know Kitty’s dying to show you Jamie’s new tricks. I’ll tell you right now, it’s nothing fancy, so don’t get excited. But still.”
A smile spreads across his face, that slow smile I know so well. “All right,” he says.
THE SONG GIRLS TAKE VALENTINE making very seriously. A valentine is humble and sweet and sincere in its old-fashionedness, and as such, homemade is best. I have plenty of raw materials from my scrapbooking, but in addition I’ve saved snippets of lace and ribbon and doilies. I have a tin with little beads and pearls and rhinestones in it; I have antiquey rubber stamps, too—a Cupid, hearts of all kinds, flowers.
Historically, Daddy gets one valentine from the three of us. This year is the first that Margot will be sending one of her own. Josh will get one too, though I let Kitty take the lead on it and merely sign my name under hers.
I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon on Peter’s. It’s a white heart, edged in white lace. In the center I’ve stitched YOU’RE MINE, PETER K in pink string. I know it will make him smile. It’s lighthearted, teasing; it doesn’t take itself too seriously, much like Peter himself. Still, it acknowledges the day and the fact that we, Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean Song Covey, are in a relationship. I was going to make a much more extravagant card, big and beaded and lacy, but Kitty said it would be a bit much.
“Don’t use all my pearls,” I tell Kitty. “It’s taken me years to build up my collection. Literally, years.”
Pragmatic as ever, Kitty says, “What’s the point of collecting them if you don’t use them? All that work so they can just live in a little tin box where no one can even see them?”
“I guess,” I say, because she does have a point. “I’m just saying, only put pearls on the valentines of the people you really like.”
“What about the purple rhinestones?”
“Use as many of those as you want,” I say in a benevolent tone, much like a wealthy landowner to a less-fortunate neighbor. The purple rhinestones don’t go with my motif. I’m shooting for a Victorian look, and purple rhinestones are more Mardi Gras, but you won’t see me saying that to Kitty. Kitty’s temperament is such that when she knows you don’t much value something, she grows suspicious of it too and the appeal is lost to her. For a long time I had her convinced that raisins were my absolute favorite, and she must never ever eat more than her share, when in actuality I hate raisins and was grateful someone else was eating them. Kitty used to hoard raisins; she was probably the most regular kid in kindergarten.
I’m hot-gluing white bric-a-brac around a heart as I wonder aloud, “Should we do a special breakfast for Daddy? We could buy one of those juicers at the mall and make fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice. And I think I saw heart waffle makers online for not very expensive.”
“Daddy doesn’t like grapefruit,” Kitty says. “And we barely use our regular waffle maker as it is. How about we just cut the waffle into the shape of a heart instead?”
“That would look so cheap,” I scoff. But she’s right. There’s no sense in buying something we’d only ever use once a year, even if it only costs $19.99. As Kitty gets older, I see that she is far more like Margot than me.
But then she says, “What if we use our cookie cutter to make heart-shaped pancakes instead? And put in red food coloring?”
I beam at her. “Attagirl!” So maybe she’s got a little bit of me in her after all.