Quietly I ask, “How would you know?”
Josh gives me an Oh, come on look. “Because I know you.”
“Not as well as you think.”
We’re quiet the rest of the way.
It won’t be that big of a deal. Peter will stop by my house, see that I’m not there, and then he’ll leave. Big deal, so he had to go five minutes out of his way. I waited for him last night for two friggin’ hours.
When we get to school, Josh heads for the senior hall and I go straight to the junior hall. I keep sneaking peeks down the hallway at Peter’s locker, but he doesn’t arrive. I wait at my locker until the bell rings, and he still doesn’t come. I run off to first period, my backpack banging against my back as I go.
Mr. Schuller is taking attendance, when I look up and see Peter standing in the doorway glaring at me. He gestures at me to come out. I gulp and quickly look down at my notebook and pretend like I didn’t see him. But then he hisses my name, and I know I have to talk to him.
Shakily I raise my hand. “Mr. Schuller, can I go the bathroom?”
“You should have gone before class,” he grumbles, but he waves me on.
I hurry out to the hallway and pull Peter away from the door so Mr. Schuller can’t see.
“Where were you this morning?” Peter demands.
I cross my arms and try to stand tall. It’s hard, because I’m so short and he really is tall. “You’re one to talk.”
Peter huffs, “At least I texted you! I’ve called you like seventeen times. Why is your phone off?”
“You know we’re not allowed to have our phones on at school!”
He huffs, “Lara Jean, I waited in front of your house for twenty minutes.”
Yikes. “Well, I’m sorry.”
“How’d you get to school? Sanderson?”
Peter exhales. “Listen, if you were pissed I couldn’t come over last night, you should’ve just called and said so instead of the shit you pulled this morning.”
In a small voice I say, “Well, what about that shit you pulled last night?”
A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Did you just say ‘shit’? It sounds really funny coming out of your mouth.”
I ignore that. “So . . . where were you? Were you with Genevieve?” I don’t ask what I really want to know, which is, Did you guys get back together?
He hesitates and then he says, “She needed me.”
I can’t even look at him. Why is he such a dummy? Why does she have such a hold on him? Is it just the amount of time they’ve been together? Is it the sex? I don’t understand. It’s disappointing, how little self-control boys have. “Peter, if you’re just going to go running every time she beckons, I don’t see a point to any of this.”
“Covey, come on! I said I was sorry. Don’t be pissed.”
“You never said you were sorry,” I say. “When did you say you were sorry?”
Chastened, he says, “Sorry.”
“I don’t want you to go to Genevieve’s anymore. How do you think that makes me look to her?”
Peter looks at me steadily. “I can’t not be there for Gen, so don’t ask me to.”
“But Peter, what does she even need you for when she has a new boyfriend?”
He flinches, and right away I’m sorry I said it. “I’m sorry,” I whisper.
“It’s fine. I don’t expect you to understand it. Gen and I . . . we just get each other.”
He doesn’t know it, but when Peter talks about Genevieve, he gets a certain softness in his face. It’s tenderness mixed with impatience. And something else. Love. Peter can protest all he wants, but I know he still loves her.
Sighing, I ask, “Did you at least study for the test?”
Peter shakes his head, and I sigh again.
“You can look at my notes during lunch,” I say, and I head back to my class.
It’s starting to make sense to me. Why he’d go along with a scheme like this, why he’d spend his time with someone like me. It’s not so he can move on from Gen. It’s so he can’t. I’m just his excuse. I’m holding Genevieve’s place for her. When that piece makes sense, everything else starts to.
JOSH’S PARENTS FIGHT A LOT. I don’t know if it’s a normal amount of fighting because I only have one parent, but I don’t remember my parents fighting that much when I had two. Our houses are close enough that I can hear them sometimes, if my window is open. The fights usually start out with something small, like Mrs. Sanderson accidentally leaving the car door open and the battery going dead, and end with something big, like how Mr. Sanderson works too much and is inherently selfish and not cut out for a family.
When they fight bad, Josh comes over. When we were younger, he’d sneak out sometimes in his pajamas with his pillow, and he’d stay until his mom came looking for him. It’s not something we talk about. Maybe him and Margot, but not me and him. The most he ever said about it was that sometimes he wished they’d just get divorced so it could finally be over. They never did, though.
I can hear them tonight. I’ve heard them other nights since Margot left, but tonight sounds particularly bad. So bad I close my window. I gather up my homework and go downstairs and turn on the living room light so Josh knows he can come over if he wants.
Half an hour later there’s a knock at the door. I wrap myself in my pale blue baby blanket and open it.
It’s Josh. He smiles at me sheepishly. “Hey. Can I hang out here for a bit?”
“Course you can.” I leave the door open and trudge back to the living room. I call back, “Lock it behind you.”
Josh watches TV and I do my homework. I’m highlighting my way through US history when Josh asks me, “Are you going to try out for Arcadia?” That’s the spring play. They just announced it yesterday.
“No,” I say, switching highlighter colors. “Why would I?” I hate public speaking and getting up in front of people, and Josh knows it.
“Duh, because it’s your favorite play.” Josh changes the channel. “I think you’d be a really good Thomasina.”
I smile. “Thanks but no thanks.”
“Why not? It could be something good to put on your college apps.”
“It’s not like I’m going to be a theater major or anything.”
“It wouldn’t kill you to get out of your comfort zone a little bit,” he says, stretching his arms out behind his head. “Take a risk. Look at Margot. She’s all the way over in Scotland.”