“What does that mean?” I ask her.
Kitty shrugs. “If I like a boy, fine, I’ll date him, but I’m not going to sit at home and cry over him.”
“Kitty, don’t act like you never cry.”
“I cry over important things.”
“You cried the other night because Daddy wouldn’t let you stay up to watch TV!”
“Yes, well, that was important to me.”
I sniffle. “I don’t know why I’m arguing over this stuff with you.” She’s too little to understand. Part of me hopes she never does. It was better when I didn’t.
That night, Daddy and I are doing the dishes when he clears his throat and says, “So Kitty told me about the big breakup. How are you holding up?”
I rinse off a glass and set it in the dishwasher. “Kitty has such a big mouth. I was going to tell you about it later.” Maybe deep down I was hoping I wouldn’t have to.
“Do you want to talk about it? I can make some Night-Night tea. Not as good as Mommy’s, but still.”
“Maybe later,” I say, just to be kind. His version of Night-Night tea isn’t the best.
He puts his arm around my shoulders. “It’ll get easier, I promise. Peter Kavinsky isn’t the only boy in the world.”
Sighing, I say, “I just don’t want to hurt like this ever again.”
“There’s no way to protect yourself against heartbreak, Lara Jean. That’s just a part of life.” He kisses me on the top of my head. “Go upstairs and rest. I’ll finish up here.”
“Thanks, Daddy.” I leave him alone in the kitchen, humming to himself as he dries a pan with a dishcloth.
My dad said Peter isn’t the only boy in the world. I know this is true, of course it’s true. But look at Daddy. My mom was the only girl in the world for him. If she wasn’t, he’d have found somebody new by now. Maybe he’s been trying to protect himself from heartbreak too. Maybe we’re more alike than I ever realized.
IT’S RAINING AGAIN. I’D HAD the thought that I might take Kitty and Jamie to the park after school, but that’s out now. Instead I sit in bed and curl my hair and watch the rain shoot down like silver pellets. Weather to match my mood, I suppose.
In the midst of our breakup, I forgot about the game. Well, now I’m remembering all too well. I will win. I will take her out. She can’t have Peter and win the game. It’s too unfair. And I will think of some perfect wish, some perfect something to take from her. If only I knew what to wish for!
I need help. I call Chris, and she doesn’t pick up. I’m about to call again, but at the last second I text John:
Will you help me take out Genevieve?
It takes a few minutes for him to write back.
It would be my honor.
John settles into the couch and leans forward, looking at me intently. “All right, so how do you want to do this? Do you want to flush her out? Go black ops on her?”
I set down a glass of sweet tea in front of him. Sitting next to him, I say, “I think we have to run surveillance on her first. I don’t even know what her schedule is like.” And . . . if in winning this game, I find out her big secret, well, that would be a nice bonus.
“I like where your head is at,” John says, tipping his head back and drinking his tea.
“I know where they keep the emergency key. Chris and I had to pick up a vacuum cleaner from her house once. What if . . . what if I try to get under her skin? Like I could leave a note on her pillow that says I’m watching you. That would really creep her out.”
John nearly chokes on his iced tea. “Wait, what would that even get you?”
“I don’t know. You’re the expert at this!”
“Expert? How am I an expert? If I was really any good, I’d still be in the game.”
“There’s no way you could have known I’d be at Belleview,” I point out. “That was just your bad luck.”
“We have a lot of coincidences. Belleview. You being at Model UN that day.”
I look down at my hands. “That . . . wasn’t a total coincidence. It actually wasn’t a coincidence at all. I went there looking for you. I wanted to see how you turned out. I knew you’d be in Model UN. I remembered how much you liked it in middle school.”
“The only reason I joined was so I could work on my public speaking. For my stutter.” He stops. “Wait. Did you say you went there for me? To see how I turned out?”
“Yeah. I . . . I always wondered.”
John’s not saying anything; he’s just staring at me. He sets down his glass abruptly. Then he picks it back up and puts a coaster under it. “You haven’t said what happened with you and Kavinsky that night after I left.”
“Oh. We broke up.”
“You broke up,” he repeats, his face blank.
That’s when I notice Kitty lurking in the doorway like a little spy. “What do you want, Kitty?”
“Um . . . is there any red pepper hummus left?” she asks.
“I don’t know—go check.”
John is wide-eyed. “This is your little sister?” To Kitty he says, “The last time I saw you, you were still a little kid.”
“Yeah, I grew up,” she says, not even a little bit nicely.
I throw her a look. “Be polite to our guest.” Kitty turns on her heels and runs upstairs. “Sorry about my sister. She’s really close with Peter and she gets crazy ideas. . . .”
“Crazy ideas?” John repeats.
I could slap myself. “Yeah, I mean, she thinks that something’s going on with us. But obviously there isn’t, and you don’t, like, like me like that, so, yeah, it’s crazy.” Like, why do I speak? Why did God give me a mouth if I’m just going to say dumb stuff with it?
It’s so quiet I open my mouth to say more dumb stuff, but then he says, “Well . . . it’s not that crazy.”
“Right! I mean, I didn’t mean crazy—” My mouth snaps shut, and I stare straight ahead.
“Do you remember that time we played spin the bottle in my basement?”
“I was nervous to kiss you, because I’d never kissed a girl before,” he says, and picks up the glass of sweet tea again. He takes a swig, but there’s no tea left, just ice. His eyes meet mine, and he grins. “All the guys gave me such a hard time afterward for whiffing it.”
“You didn’t whiff it,” I say.