“I can’t,” I say. “I’m going over to Belleview.”
“What about you, Kitty?” Daddy asks.
“Sophie’s mom is teaching us how to make latke cakes,” Kitty says. “Did you know that you put applesauce on top of them and it’s delicious?”
Daddy’s shoulders slump. “Yes, I did know that. I’m going to have to start booking you guys a month in advance.”
“Or you could invite Ms. Rothschild over,” Kitty suggests. “Her weekends are pretty lonely too.”
He gives her a funny look. “I’m sure she has plenty she’d rather do than watch The Sound of Music with her neighbor.”
Brightly I say, “Don’t forget the tacos al pastor! Those are a draw, too. And you, of course. You’re a draw.”
“You’re definitely a draw,” Kitty pipes up.
“Guys,” Daddy begins.
“Wait,” I say. “Let me just say one thing. You should be going on some dates, Daddy.”
“I go on dates!”
“You’ve gone on, like, two dates ever,” I say, and he falls silent. “Why not ask Ms. Rothschild out? She’s cute, she has a good job, Kitty loves her. And she lives really close by.”
“See, that’s exactly why I shouldn’t ask her out,” Daddy says. “You should never date a neighbor or a coworker, because then you’ll have to keep seeing them if things don’t work out.”
Kitty asks, “You mean like that quote ‘Don’t shit where you eat’?” When Daddy frowns, Kitty quickly corrects herself. “I mean ‘Don’t poop where you eat.’ That’s what you mean, right, Daddy?”
“Yes, I suppose that’s what I mean, but Kitty, I don’t like you using cuss words.”
Contritely she says, “I’m sorry. But I still think you should give Ms. Rothschild a chance. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”
“Well, I’d hate to see you get your hopes up,” Daddy says.
“That’s life,” Kitty says. “Things don’t always work out. Look at Lara Jean and Peter.”
I give her a dirty look. “Gee, thanks a lot.”
“I’m just trying to make a point,” she says. Kitty goes over to Daddy and puts her arms around his waist. This kid is really pulling out all the stops. “Just think about it, Daddy. Tacos. Nuns. Nazis. And Ms. Rothschild.”
He sighs. “I’m sure she has plans.”
“She told me if you asked her out, she’d say yes,” I blurt out.
Daddy startles. “She did? Are you sure?”
“Well . . . then maybe I will ask her out. For a coffee, or a drink. The Sound of Music is a bit long for a first date.”
Kitty and I both whoop and high-five each other.
BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST AT THE DINER was a bit of a tradition with Margot and Josh and me. If my birthday was on a weekday, we’d wake up early and go before school. I’d order blueberry pancakes, and Margot would put a candle in them, and they’d sing.
The day of my seventeenth birthday, Josh sends me a Happy Bday text, but I get that we won’t be going to the diner. He has a girlfriend now, and it would be weird, especially with no Margot. The text is enough.
For breakfast Daddy makes chorizo scrambled eggs, and Kitty’s made me a big card with pictures of Jamie pasted all over it. Margot video-chats me to wish me happy birthday and to tell me my present should be arriving that afternoon or the next.
At school Chris and Lucas put a candle in the donuts they got out of the vending machine and they sing me “Happy Birthday” in the hallway. Chris gives me a new lipstick: red for when I want to be bad, she says. Peter doesn’t say anything to me in chemistry class; I doubt he knows it’s my birthday, and besides, what could I even expect him to say after the way things ended between us? Still, it’s a nice day, uneventful in its niceness.
But then, as I’m leaving school, I see John parked out front. He’s standing in front of his car; he hasn’t seen me yet. In this bright afternoon light, the sun warms John’s blond head like a halo, and suddenly I’m struck with the visceral memory of loving him from afar, studiously, ardently. I so admired his slender hands, the slope of his cheekbones. Once upon a time I knew his face by heart. I had him memorized.
My steps quicken. “Hi!” I say, waving. “How are you here right now? Don’t have you school today?”
“I left early,” he says.
“You? John Ambrose McClaren cut school?”
He laughs. “I brought you something.” John pulls a box out of his coat pocket and thrusts it at me. “Here.”
I take it from him, it’s heavy and substantial in my palm. “Should I . . . should I open it right now?”
“If you want.”
I can feel his eyes on me as I rip off the paper, open the white box. He’s anxious. I ready a smile on my face so he’ll know I like it, no matter what it is. Just the fact that he thought to buy me a present is so . . . dear.
Nestled in white tissue paper is a snow globe the size of an orange, with a brass bottom. A boy and girl are ice-skating inside. She’s wearing a red sweater; she has on earmuffs. She’s making a figure eight, and he’s admiring her. It’s a moment caught in amber. One perfect moment, preserved under glass. Just like that night it snowed in April.
“I love it,” I say, and I do, so much. Only a person who really knew me could give me this gift. To feel so known, so understood. It’s such a wonderful feeling, I could cry. It’s something I’ll keep forever. This moment, and this snow globe.
I get on my tiptoes and hug him, and he wraps his arms around me tight and then tighter. “Happy birthday, Lara Jean.”
I’m about to get into his car when I see Peter striding over to us. “Hold up a second,” he says, a pleasant half smile on his face.
Warily I say, “Hey.”
“Hey, Kavinsky,” John says.
Peter gives him a nod. “I didn’t get a chance to say happy birthday, Covey.”
“But—you saw me in chem class . . . ,” I say.
“Well, you left in a hurry. I have something for you. Open up your hands.” He takes the snow globe out of my hand and gives it to John. “Here, can you hold this?”
I look from Peter to John. Now I’m nervous.
“Hold your hands out,” Peter prompts. I look at John one more time before I obey, and Peter pulls something out of his pocket and drops it into my palms. My heart locket. “It’s yours.”