Kitty continues. “We could put red food coloring in the syrup, too, to make it look like blood. A bloody heart!”
No, never mind. Kitty is all her own.
THE NIGHT BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY, I get it in my head that my card for Peter isn’t enough and cherry turnovers would be a fantastic idea, so I wake up before the sun rises to bake them fresh, and now the kitchen looks like a crime scene. Cherry juice splattered all over the countertops and tiles. It’s a bloodbath, a cherry-juice bloodbath. Worse than the time I made red velvet cake and got red food coloring in the backsplash tiles. I had to take a toothbrush to the grout.
But my turnovers turn out so perfect, right out of a cartoon, each one so golden and homey, with their fork-tined edges and the little holes to let out steam. My plan is to bring these to the lunch table; I know that Peter and Gabe and Darrell will appreciate them. I’ll give one to Lucas, too. And Chris, if she shows up for school.
I text Peter that I don’t need a ride, because I want to get there early and put the valentine in his locker. There’s something sweet about a valentine in a locker—when you think about it, a locker is much like a mailbox, and everyone knows that letters sent in the mail are far more romantic than when they’re unceremoniously handed over in person.
Kitty comes downstairs around seven, and the two of us set a beautiful Valentine’s table setting for Daddy, with his valentines from me, Kitty, and Margot arranged around his plate. I leave him two turnovers. I miss the big reaction because I don’t want to get to school after Peter. He always cuts it close, so I figure I’m fine being just five minutes early.
When I get to school, I slip the valentine into Peter’s locker, then head to the cafeteria to wait for him.
But when I walk in, he’s already there, standing by the vending machines with . . . Genevieve. He has his hands on her shoulders, and he is talking to her intently. She’s nodding, her eyes downcast. What could it be, this thing that has her so sad? Or is it just an act, a way to keep Peter close?
Here it is Valentine’s Day and I feel like I’m interrupting my boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend. Is he really just being a good friend to her, or is it something more? With her I feel like it’s always something more, whether he knows it or not. Have they exchanged Valentine’s gifts, for old times’ sake? Is that me being paranoid or is that a thing that exes who are still friends do?
She spots me then, says something to Peter, and walks past me and out of the cafeteria. He strides over to me. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Covey.” He puts his hands on my waist and picks me up for a hug like I weigh nothing. Setting me down, he says, “Can we kiss in public since it’s a holiday?”
“Where’s my valentine first?” I say, holding my hand out.
Peter laughs. “Damn, it’s in my backpack. Geez. So greedy.” Whatever it is, I can tell he is excited to give it to me, which in turn excites me. He takes my hand and leads me over to the table where his backpack is. “First sit down,” he says, and I obey. He sits down next to me. “Close your eyes and hold out your hand.”
I do, and I hear him unzip his bag, and then he puts something in my hand, a piece of paper. I open my eyes.
“It’s a poem,” he says. “For you.”
The moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of beautiful Lara Jean.
And stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of beautiful Lara Jean.
I touch my hand to my lips. Beautiful Lara Jean! I can’t even believe it. “This is my favorite thing anyone has ever done for me. I could squeeze you to death right now I’m so happy.” To picture him, sitting at his desk at home, scribbling away with a pen and paper, endears him to me so completely. It gives me shivers. Currents of electricity from my scalp down to my toes.
“Really? You like it?”
“I love it!” I throw my arms around him and squeeze with all my might. I will put this valentine in my hatbox, and when I’m old like Stormy, I will take it out and look at it and remember this exact moment. Forget Genevieve; forget everything. Peter Kavinsky wrote me a poem.
“That’s not the only present I brought you. It’s not even the best one.” He peels away from me and pulls a little velvet jewelry box out of his backpack. I gasp. Pleased, he says, “Hurry up and open it already.”
“Is it a pin?”
My hands fly to my mouth. It’s my necklace, the heart locket from his mom’s antique store, the very same necklace I admired for so many months. At Christmas when Daddy said the necklace had been sold, I thought it was gone from my life forever. “I can’t believe it,” I whisper, touching the diamond chip in the middle.
“Here, let me put it on for you.”
I lift my hair up, and Peter comes around and fastens the necklace around my neck. “Can I even accept this?” I wonder aloud. “It was really expensive, Peter! Like, really really expensive.”
He laughs. “I know how much it cost. Don’t worry, my mom cut me a deal. I had to sign over a bunch of weekends to driving the van around picking up furniture for the store, but you know, no biggie. It’s whatever, as long as you’re into it.”
I touch the necklace. “I am! I’m so, so into it.” Surreptitiously I look around the cafeteria. It’s a petty thought, a small thought, but I wish Genevieve were here to see this.
“Wait, where’s my valentine?” Peter asks me.
“It’s in your locker,” I say. Now I’m sort of wishing I didn’t listen to Kitty and let myself go a little overboard this first Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend. With Peter. Oh, well. At least there are the cherry turnovers still warm in my backpack. I’ll give them all to him. Sorry, Chris and Lucas and Gabe.
I can’t stop looking at myself in this necklace. At school, I wear it over my sweater, so all can see and admire. That night I show it to Daddy, to Kitty, to Margot over video chat. As a joke I show it off to Jamie Fox-Pickle. Everyone’s impressed. I don’t take it off, ever: I wear it in the shower; I wear it to sleep.
It’s like in Little House in the Big Woods, when Laura got a rag doll for Christmas. It had black button eyes, and berry-stained lips and cheeks. Red flannel stockings and a pink-and-blue calico dress. Laura couldn’t take her eyes off of it. She held that doll tight and forgot the rest of the world. Her mother had to remind her to let the other girls hold it.