“Where are we going to get Girl Scout cookies this time of year?” Daddy asks.

“I have a box of Thin Mints hidden in the freezer,” I say.

He gives me a hurt look. “Hidden from who?” Thin Mints are his favorite. If there are Thin Mints in the house, forget about it. Daddy is a Thin Mint Monster.

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I give an enigmatic shrug. “Also I’m sending Margot’s favorite kind of roller-ball pen, and . . . I think that’s it.”

“Don’t forget her brown boots,” my dad reminds me. “She specifically requested we send her brown boots with the laces.”

“Did she?” I was hoping Margot hadn’t noticed she’d left them behind. “When did she say that?”

“She e-mailed me yesterday.”

“I’ll see if I can find them.”

My dad says, “Weren’t you wearing them this weekend?” and at the same time Kitty says, “They’re in your closet.”

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I throw up my hands. “All right, all right!”

“If you get the box together tonight, I can drop it off at the post office tomorrow morning on my way to work,” Daddy offers.

I shake my head. “I want to send the scarf I’ve been knitting, and it won’t be ready in time. Maybe in another week or two?”

Slurping her milk, Kitty waves a hand at me and advises, “Just give up on the scarf already. Knitting isn’t your thing.”

I open my mouth to argue and then close it. Maybe she’s right. If we wait for my scarf to be done to send the care package, Margot will probably be out of college already. “All right,” I say. “We’ll send the care package sans scarf. I’m not saying I’m giving up on knitting, though. I’ll keep chugging along on it and have it ready for you for your Christmas gift, Kitty.” I smile at her sweetly. “It’s pink. Your favorite.”

Kitty’s eyes go wide with horror. “Or Margot. You could also give it to Margot.”

Kitty slides a piece of paper under my door that night. It’s her Christmas list. It’s only September—Christmas is still months away! “Puppy” is written at the top in capital block letters. She also wants an ant farm and a skateboard and a TV in her room. Yeah, that TV’s not going to happen. I could buy her the ant farm, though. Or maybe I could talk to Daddy about the puppy. She hasn’t said so, but I think she misses Margot a lot. In a way, Margot is the only mother she’s known. It must be hard for Kitty having her so far away. I’ll just have to remind myself to be more patient with her, more attentive. She needs me now.

I go to her room and climb into her bed. She’s just turned the lights off but is already halfway to sleep. “What if we got a kitten?” I whisper.

Her eyes fly open. “No way in heck.”

“Don’t you think we’re more of a kitten family?” Dreamily I say, “A fluffy gray-and-white kitten with a bushy tail. We could name him Prince if it’s a boy. Ooh, or Gandalf the Gray! Wouldn’t that be cute? Or if it’s a girl, maybe Agatha. Or Tilly. Or Boss. It really depends on her personality.”

“Quit it,” Kitty warns. “We’re not getting a cat. Cats are blah. They’re also very manipulative.”

Impressed, I say, “Where’d you learn that word?”

“TV.”

“A puppy is a lot of work. Who’s going to feed him and walk him and house-train him?”

“I’ll do it. I’ll do it all. I’m responsible enough to take care of it on my own.”

I snuggle closer to her. I love the way Kitty’s head smells after she’s had a bath. “Ha! You don’t even do the dishes ever. And you never clean your room. And when have you ever helped fold laundry even once in your life? I mean, really, if you don’t do any of those things, how you can be responsible for another living creature?”

Kitty shoves me off. “Then I’ll help more!”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“If I help out more, will you help me convince Daddy about the puppy?”

“If you help out more,” I agree. “If you can prove to me you’re not a baby anymore.” Kitty will be ten in January. That’s plenty old enough to help out around the house. Margot babies her too much, I think. “I’m putting you in charge of emptying the upstairs trash cans once a week. And helping with the laundry.”

“So . . . would I get a raise in my allowance?”

“No. The incentive is me helping you convince Daddy to get a dog, and also you not being so babyish anymore.” I fluff up my pillow. “By the way, I’m sleeping in here tonight.”

Kitty gives me a swift kick and I almost fall out of the bed. “You’re the babyish one, not me, Lara Jean.”

“Just let me sleep in here one night!”

“You take up all the covers.”

Kitty tries to kick me again, but I make my body heavy and pretend I’m already asleep. Soon we both fall asleep for real.

Sunday night I’m doing my homework in bed when I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. “Hello?”

“Hey. What are you doing?”

“Um . . . sorry, but who’s this?”

“It’s Peter!”

“Oh. How did you get my number?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

There’s a longish silence. It’s agonizing, every millisecond that ticks by with neither of us talking, but I don’t know what to say. “So, what did you want?”

Peter laughs. “You’re so awk, Covey. Your car’s in the shop, right? So how about I pick you up for school?”

“Okay.”

“Seven thirty.”

“Okay.”

“O-kay . . .”

“Bye,” I say, and I hang up.

28

THE NEXT MORNING, I WAKE kitty up early so she can braid my hair. “Leave me alone,” she says, rolling on to her other side. “I’m sleeping.”

“Please please please can I get a braid crown?” I ask her, squatting in front of her bed.

“No. You can have a side braid and that’s it.”

Swiftly Kitty braids my braid, and then she falls right back to sleep and I’m on my way to figure out clothes. Now that Peter and I are official, people will be noticing me more, so I should wear something good. I try on a polka-dot puffy-sleeved dress with tights, but it doesn’t look right. Neither does my favorite heart sweater with the little pom-poms. Everything looks so kiddish all of a sudden. I finally settle on a floral babydoll dress I ordered off a Japanese street fashion site, with ankle boots. Sort of a seventies London look.

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