Slowly I say, “I thought you returned the necklace to your mom’s store.”
“Nope. Wouldn’t look right on another girl.”
I blink. “Peter, I can’t accept this.” I try to give it back, but he shakes his head; he won’t take it. “Peter, please.”
“No. When I get you back, I’m gonna put that necklace back around your neck and pin you.” He tries to hold my eyes with his own. “Like the 1950s. Remember, Lara Jean?”
I open my mouth and then close it. “I don’t think pin means what you think it means,” I tell him, holding the necklace out to him. “Please, just take it.”
“Tell me what your wish is,” he urges. “Wish for anything, and I’ll give it to you, Lara Jean. All you have to do is ask.”
I feel dizzy. All around us, people are exiting the building, walking to their cars. John is standing beside me, and Peter is looking at me like we’re the only two people here. Anywhere.
It’s John’s voice that makes me break away. “What are you doing, Kavinsky?” John says, shaking his head. “This is pathetic. You treated her like garbage and now you decide you want her back?”
“Stay out of it, Sundance Kid,” Peter snaps. To me he says softly, “You promised you wouldn’t break my heart. In the contract you said you wouldn’t, but you did, Covey.”
I’ve never heard him sound so sincere, so heartfelt. “I’m sorry,” I say, my voice whisper-thin. “I just can’t.”
I don’t look back at Peter as I get into the car, but his necklace is still dangling from my fist. At the last second I turn around, but we’re too far away; I can’t see if Peter’s still there or not. My heart is racing. What would I regret losing more? The reality of Peter or the dream of John? Who can’t I live without?
I think back to John’s hand on mine. Lying next to him in the snow. The way his eyes looked even bluer when he laughed. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to give up Peter, either. There are so many things to love about them both. Peter’s boyish confidence, his sunny outlook on life, the way he is so kind to Kitty. The way my heart flips over every time I see his car pull up in front of my house.
We drive in silence for a few minutes, and then, looking straight ahead, John says, “Did I even have a shot?”
“I could fall in love with you so easily,” I whisper. “I’m halfway there already.” His Adam’s apple bobs in his throat. “You’re so perfect in my memory, and you’re perfect now. It’s like I dreamed you into being. Of all the boys, you’re the one I would pick.”
“But . . . I still love Peter. I can’t help it. He got here first and he . . . he just won’t leave.”
He sighs a defeated kind of sigh that hurts my heart. “Goddamn it, Kavinsky.”
“I’m sorry. I like you, too, John, I really do. I wish . . . I wish we got to go to that eighth grade formal.”
And then John Ambrose McClaren says one last thing, a thing that makes my heart swell. “I don’t think it was our time then. I guess it isn’t now, either.” John looks over at me, his gaze steady. “But one day maybe it will be.”
I’M IN THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM, retying a bow around my ponytail, when Genevieve walks in. My mouth goes dry. She freezes, and then she turns on her heel to go inside a stall. When I say, “You and I are always meeting in the bathroom,” she doesn’t reply. “Gen . . . I’m sorry for the other day.”
Genevieve whirls around and advances on me. “I don’t want your apology.” She grabs my arm. “But if you tell one single person, I swear to God—”
“I wouldn’t!” I cry out. “I won’t! I would never do that.”
She releases my arm. “Because you feel sorry for me, right?” Genevieve laughs bitterly. “You’re such a little phony. Your whole sugary sweet routine makes me sick, you know that? You’ve got everyone fooled, but I know who you really are.”
The venom in her voice stuns me. “What did I ever do to you? Why do you hate me so much?”
“Oh my God. Stop. Quit acting like you don’t know. You need to own the shit you did to me.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “What I did to you? You’re the one who put a sexy video of me on the Internet! You don’t get to change the story because you feel like it. I’m Éponine; you’re Cosette! Don’t make me out to be the Cosette!”
Her lip curls. “What the fuck are you even talking about?”
“I don’t watch musicals.” She turns like she’s going to leave, and then she stops and says, “I saw you guys that day in seventh grade. I saw you kiss him.”
She was there?
She sees my surprise; she revels in it. “I left my jacket down there, and when I went back to get it, I saw the two of you kissing on the couch. You broke the most basic rule of girl code, Lara Jean. Somehow in your mind you’ve made me out to be the villain. But what you should know is I wasn’t being a bitch just for the sake of being a bitch. You deserved it.”
My head is spinning. “If you knew, why did you keep being my friend? You didn’t stop being my friend until later.”
Genevieve shrugs. “Because I liked throwing it in your face. I had him and you didn’t. Believe me, we weren’t friends anymore from that moment on.”
It’s odd that out of all the things she’s ever said to me, this hurts the most. “Just so you know, I didn’t kiss him. He kissed me. I didn’t even think of him that way, not before that kiss.”
Then she says, “The only reason he even kissed you that day was because I wouldn’t. You were second choice.” She runs her hand through her hair. “If you had admitted it back then, I might have forgiven you. Might have. But you never did.”
I swallow. “I wanted to. But it was my first kiss, and it was with the wrong guy, and I knew he didn’t like me.”
It all makes sense. Why she went to such lengths to keep me and Peter apart. Leaning on him, making him prove she was still his first choice. It’s no excuse for all the things she’s done, but I see my part in it now. I should’ve told her about the kiss right away, way back in seventh grade. I knew how much she liked him.
“I’m sorry, Genevieve. I truly am. If I could take it back, I would.” Her eyebrow twitches, and I know she’s not unmoved. Impulsively I say, “We were friends once. Can we—do you think we can ever be friends again?”