While Kitty’s putting on her boots, I whisper to Margot, “If I talk to Peter, you should talk to Josh. Don’t go back to Scotland and leave things like this with him.”
“We’ll see,” she says, but I see the hope that flares in her eyes, and it gives me hope too.
MARGOT AND KITTY ARE BOTH asleep in the backseat. Kitty’s got her head in Margot’s lap; Margot’s sleeping with her head back and her mouth wide open. Daddy is listening to NPR with a faint smile on his face. Everyone’s so peaceful, and my heart is thumping a million beats a minute just in anticipation of what I’m about to do.
I’m doing it now, this very night. Before we’re back at school, before all the gears shift back to normal and Peter and I are nothing more than a memory. Like snow globes, you shake them up, and for a moment everything is upside down and glitter everywhere and it’s just like magic—but then it all settles and goes back to where it’s supposed to be. Things have a way of settling back. I can’t go back.
I time it so that we are one stoplight from Peter’s neighborhood when I ask Daddy to drop me off. He must hear the intensity in my voice, the necessity, because he doesn’t ask any questions, he just says yes.
When we pull up to Peter’s house, the lights are on and his car is in the driveway; so is his mom’s minivan. The sun is just going down, early because it’s winter. Across the street, Peter’s neighbors still have their holiday lights up. Today’s probably the last day for that, seeing as how it’s a new year. New year, new start.
I can feel the veins in my wrists pulsing, and I’m nervous, I’m so nervous. I run out of the car and ring the doorbell. When I hear footsteps from inside, I wave Daddy off, and he backs out of the driveway. Kitty’s awake now, and she’s got her face up against the back window, grinning hard. She sends me a thumbs-up and I wave back.
Peter opens the door. My heart jumps like a Mexican jumping bean in my chest. He’s wearing a button-down I’ve never seen before, plaid. It must have been a Christmas present. His hair is mussed on top, like he’s been lying down. He doesn’t look so very surprised to see me. “Hey.” He eyes my skirt, which is poofing out from under my winter coat like a ball gown. “Why are you so dressed up?”
“It’s for New Year’s.” Maybe I should’ve gone home and changed first. At least then I would feel like me, standing at this boy’s door, proverbial hat in hand. “So, hey, how was your Christmas?”
“Good.” He takes his time, four whole seconds, before he asks, “How was yours?”
“Great. We got a new puppy. His name is Jamie Fox-Pickle.” Not even a trace of a smile from Peter. He’s cold; I didn’t expect him to be cold. Maybe not even cold. Maybe just indifferent. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
Peter shrugs, which seems like a yes, but he doesn’t invite me in. I have this sudden sick-to-my-stomach fear that Genevieve is inside—which quickly dissipates when I remember that if she were inside, he wouldn’t be out here with me. He leaves the door ajar as he puts on sneakers and a coat, and then steps onto the porch. He closes the door behind him and sits down on the steps. I sit next to him, smoothing my skirt around me. “So, what’s up?” he says, like I’m taking up his precious time.
This isn’t right. Not what I expected at all.
But what, exactly, did I expect from Peter? I’d give him the letter, and he’d read it, and then he’d love me? He’d take me in his arms; we’d kiss passionately, but just kissing, just innocent. Then what? We’d date? How long until he grew bored of me, missed Genevieve, wanted more than I was prepared to give, bedroomwise and also just lifewise? Someone like him could never be content staying at home and watching a movie on the couch. This is Peter Kavinsky we’re talking about, after all.
I take so long swept up in my fast-forward reverie that he says it again, just slightly less cold this time. “What, Lara Jean?” He looks at me like he’s waiting for something, and suddenly I’m afraid to give it.
I tighten my fist around the letter, shove it into my coat pocket. My hands are freezing. I don’t have any gloves or hat; I should probably just go home. “I just came to say . . . to say I’m sorry for the way things turned out. And . . . I hope we can still be friends, and happy new year.”
His eyes narrow at this. “‘Happy new year’?” he repeats. “That’s what you came here to say? Sorry and happy new year?”
“And I hope we can still be friends,” I add, biting my lip.
“You hope we can still be friends,” he repeats, and there is a note of sarcasm in his voice that I don’t understand or like.
“That’s what I said.” I start to stand up. I was hoping he’d give me a ride home, but now I don’t want to ask. But it’s so cold outside. Maybe if I hint. . . . Blowing on my hands, I say, “Well, I’m gonna head home.”
“Wait a minute. Let’s go back to the apology part. What are you apologizing for, exactly? For kicking me out of your house, or for thinking I’m a dirtbag who would go around telling people we had sex when we didn’t?”
A lump forms in my throat. When he puts it that way, it really does sound terrible. “Both of those things. I’m sorry for both of those things.”
Peter cocks his head to the side, his eyebrows raised. “And what else?”
I bristle. What else? “There is no ‘what else.’ That’s it.” Thank God I didn’t give him the letter, if this is how he’s going to be. It’s not like I’m the only one with stuff to apologize for.
“Hey, you’re the one who came here talking about ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘let’s be friends.’ You don’t get to force me into accepting your half-assed apology.”
“Well, I wish you a happy new year anyway.” Now I’m the one being sarcastic, and it sure is satisfying. “Have a nice life. Auld lang syne and all that.”
I turn to go. I was so hopeful this morning, I had such stars in my eyes imagining how this was all going to go. God, what a jerk Peter is. Good riddance to him!
“Wait a minute.”
Hope leaps into my heart like Jamie Fox-Pickle leaps into my bed—swift and unbidden. But I turn back around, like Ugh, what do you want now, so he doesn’t see it.