When Kitty gets dropped off, I’m folding laundry. She plops down on the couch on her belly and asks me, “What’d you do last night?”
“Nothing. I just stayed home.”
“I organized my closet.” It’s humiliating to say that out loud. Hastily I change the subject. “So did Alicia’s mom make sweet crepes or salty ones?”
“She made both. First we had ham and cheese and then we had Nutella. How come we never have any Nutella?”
“I think maybe because hazelnuts make Margot’s throat itch.”
“Can we get some next time?”
“Sure,” I say. “We’ll just have to eat the whole jar before Margot comes home.”
“No problem,” Kitty says.
“On a scale of one to ten, how badly do you miss Gogo?” I ask her.
Kitty thinks this over. “A six point five,” she says at last.
“Only a six point five?”
“Yeah, I’ve been really busy,” she says, rolling over and kicking her legs up in the air. “I’ve hardly had time to miss Margot. You know, if you got out more, maybe you wouldn’t miss her so much.”
I boomerang a sock at her head and Kitty explodes into a giggle fit. I’m tickling her armpits when Daddy comes in from outside with a stack of mail. “Something came back return to sender for you, Lara Jean,” he says, handing me an envelope.
It’s got my handwriting! I scramble up and snatch it out of his hands. It’s my letter to Kenny from camp. It came back to me!
“Who’s Kenny?” Daddy wants to know.
“Just a boy I met at church camp a long time ago,” I say, tearing the envelope open.
It’s the last day of camp and possibly the last time I will ever see you because we live so far apart. Remember on the second day, I was scared to do archery and you made a joke about minnows and it was so funny I nearly peed my pants?
I stop reading. A joke about minnows? How funny could it have been?
I was really homesick but you made me feel better. I think I might’ve left camp early if it hadn’t been for you, Kenny. So, thank you. Also you’re a really amazing swimmer and I like your laugh. I wish it had been me you kissed at the bonfire last night and not Blaire H.
Take care, Kenny. Have a really good rest of the summer and a really good life.
Love, Lara Jean
I clutch the letter to my chest.
This is the first love letter I ever wrote. I’m glad it came back to me. Though, I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if Kenny Donati got to know that he helped two people at camp that summer—the kid who almost drowned in the lake and twelve-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey.
WHEN MY DAD HAS A day off, he cooks Korean food. It’s not exactly authentic, and sometimes he just goes to the Korean market and buys ready-made side dishes and marinated meat, but sometimes he’ll call our grandma for a recipe and he’ll try. That’s the thing: Daddy tries. He doesn’t say so, but I know it’s because he doesn’t want us to lose our connection to our Korean side, and food is the only way he knows how to contribute. After Mommy died, he used to try to make us have play dates with other Korean kids, but it always felt awkward and forced. Except I did have a crush on Edward Kim for a minute there. Thank God the crush never escalated into full-on love—or else I’d have written him a letter too, and that’d be just one more person I’d have to avoid.
My dad’s made bo ssam, which is pork shoulder you slice up and then wrap in lettuce. He brined it last night in sugar and salt and it’s been roasting in the oven all day. Kitty and I keep checking on it; it smells so good.
When it’s finally time to eat, my dad has everything laid out on the dining room table so pretty. A silver bowl of butter-lettuce leaves, just washed, with the water beads still clinging to the surface; a cut-glass bowl of kimchi he bought from Whole Foods; a little bowl of pepper paste; soy sauce with scallions and ginger.
My dad’s taking arty pictures of the table. “I’m sending a pic to Margot so she can see,” he says.
“What time is it over there?” I ask him. It’s a cozy day: it’s nearly six o’clock, and I’m still in my pj’s. I’m hugging my knees to me, sitting in the big dining-room chair with the armrests.
“It’s eleven. I’m sure she’s still up,” my dad says, snapping away. “Why don’t you invite Josh over? We’re going to need help finishing all this food.”
“He’s probably busy,” I say quickly. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to say to him about me and Peter, much less me and him.
“Just try him. He loves Korean food.” Daddy moves the pork shoulder so it’s more centered. “Hurry, before my bo ssam gets cold!”
I pretend to text him on my phone. I feel a tiny bit guilty for lying, but Daddy would understand if he knew all the facts.
“I don’t understand why you kids text when you could just call. You’d get an answer right away instead of waiting for one.”
“You’re so old, Daddy,” I say. I look down at my phone. “Josh can’t come over. Let’s just eat. Kitty! Dinner bell!”
“Co-ming!” Kitty screams from upstairs.
“Well, maybe he’ll come over later and take some leftovers,” Daddy says.
“Daddy, Josh has his own life now. Why would he come over when Margot’s not here? Besides, they’re not even together anymore, remember?”
My dad makes a confused face. “What? They’re not?”
I guess Margot didn’t tell him after all. Though you’d have thought he could have sussed it out for himself when Josh didn’t come with us to the airport to drop Margot off. Why don’t dads know anything? Does he not have eyes and ears? “No, they’re not. And by the way, Margot is at college in Scotland. And my name is Lara Jean.”
“All right, all right, your dad is clueless,” Daddy says. “I get it. No need to rub it in.” He scratches his chin. “Geez, I could have sworn Margot never mentioned anything. . . .”
Kitty comes crashing into the dining room. “Yum yum yum.” She slams into her chair and starts spearing pork onto her plate.
“Kitty, we have to pray first,” my dad says, settling into his chair.
We only ever pray before we eat when we eat in the dining room, and we only ever eat in the dining room when Daddy cooks Korean or on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Mommy used to take us to church when we were little, and after she died, Daddy tried to keep it going, but he has Sunday shifts sometimes and it became less and less.