“Keep driving,” I manage to say to John, and he obeys. He drives right past Peter’s house; they don’t even look up. Thank God they don’t look up. Quietly I say, “Can you take me home?” I can’t even look at John. I hate that he saw too.
John begins, “It might not be . . .” Then he stops. “It was just a hug, Lara Jean.”
“I know.” Whatever it was, he missed his game for her.
We’re almost at my house when he finally asks, “What are you going to do?”
I’ve been thinking it over this whole ride. “I’m going to tell Peter to come over tonight, and then I’m going to tag him out.”
“You’re still playing?” He sounds surprised.
I stare out the window, at all the familiar places. “Sure. I’m going to take him out and then I’m going to take Genevieve out and I’m going to win.”
“Why do you want to win so badly?” he asks me. “Is it the prize?”
I don’t answer him. If I open my mouth, I will cry.
We’re at my house now. I mumble, “Thanks for the ride,” and I get out of the car before John can reply. I run into the house, kick off my shoes, and run up the stairs to my room, where I lie down and stare at the ceiling. I put glow-in-the-dark stars up there years ago, and I scraped most of them off except for one, which hung on tight as a stalactite.
Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. I wish not to cry.
I text Peter: Come over after you’re finished hanging out with Genevieve.
He writes back one word: Okay.
Just “okay.” No denials, no explanations or clarifications. All this time I’ve been making excuses for him. I’ve been trusting Peter and not trusting my own gut. Why am I the one making all these concessions, pretending to be okay with something I’m not actually okay with? Just to keep him?
In the contract we said we’d always tell each other the truth. We said we’d never break each other’s hearts. So I guess two times now he’s broken his word.
PETER AND I ARE SITTING on my front porch; I can hear the TV on in the living room. Kitty’s watching a movie. There is an interminably long silence between us, only the sound of crickets chirping.
He speaks first. “It isn’t what you think, Lara Jean; it really isn’t.”
I take a moment to gather my thoughts together, to string them into something that makes any kind of sense. “When we first started all this, I was really happy just being at home with my sisters and my dad. It was cozy. And then we started hanging out, and it was like . . . it was like you brought me out into the world.” At this his eyes go soft. “At first it was scary, but then I liked it too. Part of me wants to just stay next to you forever. I could easily do that. I could love you forever.”
He tries to make his voice light. “Then just do that.”
“I can’t.” I take a shaky breath. “I saw you two. You were holding her; she was in your arms. I saw everything.”
“If you’d seen everything, you’d know that it wasn’t anything like what you’re saying,” he begins. I just stare at him, and his face falls. “Come on. Don’t look at me like that.”
“I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can look at you right now.”
“Gen needed me today, so I was there for her, but just as a friend.”
“It’s no use, Peter. She laid claim to you a long time ago, and there’s just no room for me here.” My eyesight is going fuzzy with tears. I wipe my eyes with my jacket sleeve. I can’t be here anymore, around him. It’s hurting me too much to look at his face. “I deserve better than that, you know? I deserve . . . I deserve to be someone’s number one girl.”
“No, I’m not. She is. You’re still protecting her, her secret, whatever that is. From what, though? From me? What have I ever done to her?”
He spreads his hands helplessly. “You took me away from her. You became my most important person.”
“But I’m not, though. That’s the thing. She is.” He sputters and tries to deny it, but there’s no use. How could I believe him when the truth is right in front of me? “You know how I know she’s your most important person? You pick her every time.”
“That’s bullshit!” he explodes. “When I found out she took that video, I told her that if she ever hurt you again, we were done.” Peter’s still talking, but I don’t hear anything more that comes out of his mouth.
He knew it was Genevieve who posted that video; he knew and he never told me.
Peter isn’t talking anymore; he’s peering at me. “Lara Jean? What’s the matter?”
His face goes gray. “No! It’s not like how you think. I haven’t known this whole time.”
I wet my lips and press them together. “So at some point you found out the truth, and you didn’t tell me.” It’s hard to breathe. “You knew how upset I was, and you kept defending her, and then you found out the truth, and you never told me.”
Peter starts talking very fast. “Let me explain it. It’s only recently I found out Gen was behind the video. I asked her about it, and she broke down and admitted everything to me. That night at the ski trip, she saw us in the hot tub; she took the video. She’s the one who sent it to Anonybitch and played it at the assembly.”
I knew it, and I let myself go along with Peter and pretend not to know what I knew. And for what? For him?
“She’s been really fucked up over stuff she’s going through with her family, and she was jealous, and she took it out on you and me—”
“Like what? What is she going through?” I don’t ask expecting an answer; I know he won’t tell me. I’m asking to prove a point.
He looks pained. “You know I can’t tell you. Why do you keep putting me in a position where I have to say no to you?”
“You put yourself in that position. You have her name, don’t you? In the game, you have her name and she has mine.”
“Who cares about the stupid game? Covey, we’re talking about us.”
“I care about the stupid game.” Peter is loyal to her first, me second. It’s first Genevieve, then me. That is the deal. That’s always been the deal. And I’m sick of it. Something clicks in my head. Suddenly I ask him, “Why was Genevieve outside that night at the ski trip? All of her friends were in the lodge.”