“So how are we gonna do this?” Peter asks me, his mouth full of ice cream. “Do we dump it all out?”
I’ve given this some thought. “I think we should take turns pulling something out. Let’s make it last, like opening presents on Christmas morning.”
Genevieve leans forward in anticipation. Without looking, I reach into the cylinder and pull out the first thing my fingers touch. It’s funny, I’d forgotten what I put inside, but I know what it is instantly; I don’t have to look down. It’s a friendship bracelet that Genevieve made for me when we were in our weaving phase in fifth grade. Pink, white, and light blue chevron. I made one for her too. Purple and yellow chevron. She probably doesn’t even remember it. I look over at her, and her face is blank. No recognition.
“What is it?” Trevor asks.
“It’s mine,” I say. “It’s . . . it’s a bracelet I used to wear.”
Peter touches his shoe to mine. “That piece of string was your most treasured thing?” he teases.
John is watching me. “You used to wear it all the time,” he says, and it’s sweet that he even remembers.
Once it goes on, it’s never supposed to come off, but I sacrificed it to the time capsule because I loved it so much. Maybe this is where Gen’s and my friendship went sour. The curse of the friendship bracelet. “You go next,” I say to him.
He reaches inside the box and pulls out a baseball.
“That’s mine,” Peter crows. “That’s from when I hit a home run at Claremont Park.” John throws the ball to him, and Peter catches it. Examining it, he says, “See, I signed and dated it!”
“I remember that day,” Genevieve says, tilting her head. “You came running off the field, and you kissed me in front of your mom. Remember?”
“Uh . . . not really,” Peter mumbles. He’s staring down at the baseball, turning it in his hand like he’s fascinated by it. I can’t believe him. I really can’t.
“Awk-ward,” Trevor says with a chortle.
In a soft voice, like no one else is here, she says to him, “Can I keep it?”
Peter’s ears are turning red. He looks at me, panicky. “Covey, do you want it?”
“Nope,” I say, keeping my head turned away from them. I grab the bag of Cheez Doodles and stuff a handful in my mouth. I’m so mad all I can do is eat Cheez Doodles or else I’ll scream at him.
“Okay, then I’m gonna keep it,” Peter says, putting the baseball in his coat pocket. “Owen might want it. Sorry, Gen.” He grabs the time capsule and starts rifling through it. He holds up a worn-out baseball cap. Orioles. Too loudly he says, “McClaren, look what I got here.”
A smile spreads across John’s face like a slow sunrise. He takes it from Peter and puts it on his head, adjusting the bill.
“That really was your most prized possession,” I say. He wore it deep into the fall, too. I asked my dad to buy me an Orioles T-shirt because I thought John McClaren would be impressed. I wore it twice but I don’t think he ever noticed. My smile fades when I notice Genevieve watching me. Our eyes meet; there is some knowing light in her gaze that makes me feel twitchy. She looks away; now she is the one smiling to herself.
“The Orioles suck,” Peter says, leaning against the wall. He reaches for the box of ice cream sandwiches and pulls one out.
“Pass me one of those,” Trevor says.
“Sorry, last one,” Peter says, biting into it.
John catches my eye and winks. “Same old Kavinsky,” he says, and I laugh. I know he’s thinking of our letters.
Peter grins at him. “Hey, no more stutter.”
I freeze. How could Peter bring that up so cavalierly? None of us ever talked about John’s stutter back in middle school. He was so shy about it. But now John just flashes a smile and shrugs and says, “I’ll pass that along to my eighth grade speech therapist, Elaine.” He’s so confident!
Peter blinks, and I can see that he is caught off guard. He does not know this John McClaren. It used to be that Peter was the shot caller, not John. He followed Peter’s lead. Peter might still be the same, but John has changed. Now Peter’s the one who is less sure-footed.
Chris goes next. She pulls out a ring with a tiny pearl in the center. Allie’s, a confirmation gift from her aunt. She loved that ring. I’ll have to send it to her. Trevor pulls out his own treasure—an autographed baseball card. Genevieve is the one to pull out Chris’s—an envelope with a twenty-dollar bill inside.
“Yes!” Chris screams. “I was such a little genius.” We high-five.
“What about yours, Gen?” Trevor asks.
She shrugs. “I guess I didn’t put anything in the capsule.”
“Yes you did,” I say, brushing orange Cheez dust off my fingers. “You were there that day.” I remember she went back and forth between putting in a picture of her and Peter or the rose he gave her for her birthday. I can’t remember what she decided on.
“Well, there’s nothing inside, so I guess I didn’t. Whatever.”
I look inside the time capsule just to be sure. It’s empty.
“Remember how we used to play Assassins?” Trevor says, squeezing the last bit of juice out of his Capri Sun.
Oh, how I loved that game! It was like tag: Everybody picked a name out of a hat, and you had to tag the person out. Once you got your person, you had to take out whoever they had. It involved a lot of sneaking around and hiding. A game could last for days.
“I was the Black Widow,” Genevieve says. She does a little shoulder shimmy at Peter. “I won more than anybody.”
“Please,” Peter scoffs. “I won plenty.”
“So did I,” Chris says.
Trevor points at me. “L’il J, you were the worst at it. I don’t think you won once.”
I make a face. L’il J. I’d forgotten he used to call me that. And he’s right: I never did win. Not even once. The one time I came close, Chris tagged me out at Kitty’s swim meet. I’d thought I was safe because it was late at night. I was so close to that win, I could almost taste it.
Chris’s eyes meet mine, and I know she’s remembering too. She winks at me, and I give her a sour look.
“Lara Jean just doesn’t have the killer instinct,” Genevieve says, looking at her nails.
I say, “We can’t all be black widows.”