It’s true, Chris does always have fun. Sometimes a little too much fun, but fun nonetheless.
THE NIGHT BEFORE MARGOT LEAVES, all three of us are in her room helping pack up the last little things. Kitty is organizing Margot’s bath stuff, packing it nice and neat in the clear shower caddy. Margot is trying to decide which coat to bring.
“Should I bring my peacoat and my puffy coat or just my peacoat?” she asks me.
“Just the peacoat,” I say. “You can dress that up or down.” I’m lying on her bed directing the packing process. “Kitty, make sure the lotion cap is on tight.”
“It’s brand-new—course it’s on tight!” Kitty growls, but she double-checks.
“It gets cold in Scotland sooner than it does here,” Margot said, folding the coat and setting it on top of her suitcase. “I think I’ll just bring both.”
“I don’t know why you asked if you already knew what you were going to do,” I say. “Also, I thought you said you were coming home for Christmas. You’re still coming home for Christmas, right?”
“Yes, if you’ll stop being a brat,” Margot says.
Honestly, Margot isn’t even packing that much. She doesn’t need a lot. If it was me, I’d have packed up my whole room, but not Margot. Her room looks the same, almost.
Margot sits down next to me, and Kitty climbs up and sits at the foot of the bed. “Everything’s changing,” I say, sighing.
Margot makes a face and puts her arm around me. “Nothing’s changing, not really. We’re the Song girls forever, remember?”
Our father stands in the doorway. He knocks, even though the door is open and we can clearly see it is him. “I’m going to start packing up the car now,” he announces. We watch from the bed as he lugs one of the suitcases downstairs, and then he comes up for the other one. Drily he says, “Oh no, don’t get up. Don’t trouble yourselves.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t,” we sing out.
For the past week our father has been in spring-cleaning mode, even though it isn’t spring. He’s getting rid of everything—the bread machine we never used, CDs, old blankets, our mother’s old typewriter. It’s all going to Goodwill. A psychiatrist or someone could probably connect it to Margot’s leaving for college, but I can’t explain the exact significance of it. Whatever it is, it’s annoying. I had to shoo him away from my glass-unicorn collection twice.
I lay down my head in Margot’s lap. “So you really are coming home for Christmas, right?”
“I wish I could come with you.” Kitty pouts. “You’re nicer than Lara Jean.”
I give her a pinch.
“See?” she crows.
“Lara Jean will be nice,” Margot says, “as long as you behave. And you both have to take care of Daddy. Make sure he doesn’t work too many Saturdays. Make sure he takes the car in for inspection next month. And make sure you buy coffee filters—you’re always forgetting to buy coffee filters.”
“Yes, drill sergeant,” Kitty and I chorus. I search Margot’s face for sadness or fear or worry, for some sign that she is scared to go so far away, that she will miss us as much as we will miss her. I don’t see it, though.
The three of us sleep in Margot’s room that night.
Kitty falls asleep first, as always. I lie in the dark beside her with my eyes open. I can’t sleep. The thought that tomorrow night Margot won’t be in this room—it makes me so sad I can hardly bear it. I hate change more than almost anything.
In the dark next to me Margot asks, “Lara Jean . . . do you think you’ve ever been in love before? Real love?”
She catches me off guard; I don’t have an answer ready for her. I’m trying to think of one, but she’s already talking again.
Wistfully, she says, “I wish I’d been in love more than once. I think you should fall in love at least twice in high school.” Then she lets out a little sigh and falls asleep. Margot falls asleep like that—one dreamy sigh and she’s off to never-never land, just like that.
I wake up in the middle of the night and Margot’s not there. Kitty’s curled up on her side next to me, but no Margot. It’s pitch dark; only the moonlight filters through the curtains. I crawl out of bed and move to the window. My breath catches. There they are: Josh and Margot standing in the driveway. Margot’s face is turned away from him, toward the moon. Josh is crying. They aren’t touching. There’s enough space between them for me to know that Margot hasn’t changed her mind.
I drop the curtain and find my way back to the bed, where Kitty has rolled farther into the center. I push her back a few inches so there will be room for Margot. I wish I hadn’t seen that. It was too personal. Too real. It was supposed to be just for them. If there was a way for me to unsee it, I would.
I turn on my side and close my eyes. What must it be like, to have a boy like you so much he cries for you? And not just any boy. Josh. Our Josh.
To answer her question: yes, I think I have been in real love. Just once, though. With Josh. Our Josh.
THIS IS HOW MARGOT AND josh got together. In a way I heard about it from Josh first.
It was two years ago. We were sitting in the library during our free. I was doing math homework; Josh was helping because he’s good at math. We had our heads bent over my page, so close I could smell the soap he’d used that morning. Irish Spring.
And then he said, “I need your advice on something. I like someone.”
For a split second I thought it was me. I thought he was going to say me. I hoped. It was the start of the school year. We’d hung out nearly every day that August, sometimes with Margot but mostly just by ourselves, because Margot had her internship at the Montpelier plantation three days a week. We swam a lot. I had a great tan from all the swimming. So for that split second I thought he was going to say my name.
But then I saw the way he blushed, the way he looked off into space, and I knew it wasn’t for me.
Mentally, I ran through the list of girls it could be. It was a short list. Josh didn’t hang out with a ton of girls; he had his best friend Jersey Mike, who had moved from New Jersey in middle school, and his other best friend, Ben, and that was it.
It could have been Ashley, a junior on the volleyball team. He’d once pointed her out as the cutest of all the junior girls. In Josh’s defense, I’d made him do it: I asked him who was the prettiest girl in each grade. For prettiest freshman, my grade, he said Genevieve. Not that I was surprised, but it still gave me a little pinch in my heart.