I stand there mute and numb as she fluffs her hair in the mirror.
“But don’t worry. Now that you’re a slut, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of guys who’ll want to date you. For a night.”
I flee. I run out of the ladies’ room and out the doors, back onto the bus, and I cry.
PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO FILE back on the bus. I can feel their eyes on me so I keep my head turned toward the window. I run my finger along the edge of the foggy glass. The window is cold, so it leaves a trail.
Chris slides in next to me. In a low voice she says, “Um, I just heard something cray-cray.”
Dully I say, “What did you hear? That Peter and I had sex in the hot tub last night?”
“Oh my God! Yeah! Are you okay?”
My chest feels really tight. If I get in a good breath, I am going to start crying again, I know it.
I close my eyes. “We didn’t have sex. Who told you that?”
Peter’s making his way down the aisle. He stops at our seat. “Hey, why didn’t you come back to the table? Is everything okay?” Peter is looming over the seat, looking at me with concerned eyes.
In a quiet voice I say, “Everybody’s saying how we had sex in the tub.”
Peter groans. “People need to mind their own business.” He doesn’t sound surprised, not at all.
“So you already knew?”
“Some of the guys were asking me about it this morning.”
“But . . . where did they even get that idea?” I feel like I’m going to be sick.
Peter shrugs. “I don’t know, maybe somebody saw us. What does it even matter? It’s not true.”
I screw my lips together tight. I can’t cry right now, because if I start, I’ll never be able to stop. I will cry the whole way home, and everyone will see, and I can’t have that. I fix my gaze somewhere over Peter’s shoulder.
“I don’t get it. Why are you mad at me?” He’s still confused.
People are starting to bottleneck behind Peter. They need to get to their seats. “People are waiting behind you,” I say.
Peter says, “Chris, can I have my seat?”
Chris looks at me and I shake my head.
“It’s my seat now, Kavinsky,” she says.
“Come on, Lara Jean,” Peter says, touching my shoulder.
I jerk away from him and his mouth drops open. People are looking at us and whispering and snickering. Peter glances over his shoulder, his face red. Then he finally makes his way down the aisle.
“Are you okay?” Chris asks.
I can feel my eyes welling up. “No. Not really.”
She sighs. “It’s not fair for the girl. Guys have it easy. I’m sure they were all congratulating him, pounding him on the back for being such a stud.”
Sniffling, I say, “Do you think he’s the one who told people?”
A tear trickles down to my cheek and Chris wipes it away with her sweater sleeve. “It might not have been him. But it doesn’t matter, Lara Jean, because even if he didn’t encourage all the talk, I doubt he discouraged it, if you know what I’m saying.”
I shake my head.
“What I’m saying is, I’m sure he denied it—with a shit-eating grin on his face. That’s how guys like Peter are. They love to look like the man, have all the other guys look up to them.” Bitterly she says, “They care more about their reputation than yours.” She shakes her head. “But what’s done is done. You’ve just gotta hold your head up and act like you don’t give a shit.”
I nod, but more tears leak out.
“I’m telling you, he isn’t worth it. Let Gen have him.” Chris tousles my hair. “What else can you do, kid?”
Genevieve comes on board last. I quickly straighten up and wipe my eyes and brace myself. But she doesn’t go directly to her seat. She stops at Bethy Morgan’s seat and whispers something in her ear. Bethy gasps and turns in her seat—and looks right at me.
Oh my God.
Chris and I watch as Genevieve goes from seat to seat.
“Bitch,” Chris breathes.
Tears burn my eyes. “I’m just gonna go to sleep now,” and I rest my head on Chris’s shoulder, and I cry. She keeps her arm tight around me.
MARGOT AND KITTY PICK ME up from school. They ask me how the trip was, if I stayed on the bunny slope all day. I try to be upbeat; I even make up a story about how I went down a blue circle slope. Softly Margot asks, “Is everything okay?”
I falter. Margot always knows when I’m not telling the truth.
“Yeah. I’m just tired. Chris and I stayed up late talking.”
“Take a nap when we get home,” Margot advises.
My phone buzzes, and I look down at it. A text from Peter.
Can we talk?
I turn off my phone. “I think maybe I’ll just sleep right through Christmas break,” I say. Thank God and Jesus for Christmas break. At least I have ten days before I have to go back to school and face everyone. Maybe I’ll just never go back. Maybe I can convince Daddy to home school me.
When Daddy and Kitty go to bed, Margot and I wrap presents in the living room. Mid-wrap, Margot decides that we should have recital party the day after Christmas. I’d hoped she’d forgotten all about her grand idea to have recital party, but Margot’s memory has always been killer. “It’ll be a post-Christmas, pre–New Year’s Eve party,” she says, tying a bow on one of Kitty’s presents from Daddy.
“It’s too last-minute,” I say, carefully cutting a sheet of rocking-horse wrapping paper. I’m being extra careful because I want to save a strip of it for a background page in Margot’s scrapbook, which is nearly done. “No one will come.”
“Yes they will! We haven’t had one in ages; tons of people used to come.” Margot gets up and starts pulling down Mommy’s old cookbooks and stacking them on the coffee table. “Don’t be a Grinch. I think this should be a tradition that we bring back for Kitty’s sake.”
I cut off a strip of fat green ribbon. Maybe this party will help me take my mind off things. “Find that Mediterranean chicken dish Mommy used to make. With the honey-yogurt dip.”
“Yes! And remember the caviar dip? People love the caviar dip. We have to make that, too. Should we do cheese straws or cheese puffs?”
“Cheese puffs,” I say. Margot’s so excited about it that even in my current state of self-pity, I can’t begrudge her.