She gets a pen and paper from the kitchen and starts writing things down. “So we said the chicken dish, caviar dip, cheese puffs, punch . . . We can bake some cookies or brownies. We’ll invite all the neighbors—Josh and his parents, the Shahs, Ms. Rothschild. Who of your friends do you want to invite? Chris?”
I shake my head. “Chris is visiting her relatives in Boca Raton.”
“What about Peter? He could bring his mom, and doesn’t he have a younger brother?” I can tell she is trying.
“Let’s leave off Peter,” I say.
Her forehead creases and she looks up from her list. “Did something happen on the ski trip?”
Too quickly I say, “No. Nothing happened.”
“Then why not? I want to get to know him better, Lara Jean.”
“I think he might be going out of town too.” I can tell Margot doesn’t believe me, but she doesn’t press me further.
She sends the evites out that night, and right away there are five yeses. In the comments section Aunt D. (not our real aunt, but one of Mommy’s best friends) writes, Margot, I can’t wait to hear you and dad sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” Another recital party tradition. Margot and Daddy sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and I am always commissioned to sing “Santa Baby.” I used to do it lying on top of the piano with my mom’s high heels on and our grandma’s fox stole. Not this year. No way.
When Margot tries to get me to go with her and Kitty to deliver our cookie baskets to the neighbors the next day, I beg off and say I’m tired. I go up to my room to put the finishing touches on Margot’s scrapbook and listen to only the slow songs from Dirty Dancing, and I keep checking my phone to see if Peter’s texted again. He hasn’t, but Josh has.
I heard what happened. Are you okay?
So even Josh knows? He’s not even in our grade. Does the whole school know?
I write back, It isn’t true, and he writes back, You don’t have to tell me—I didn’t believe it for a second, which makes me feel weepy.
He and Margot have hung out once since she’s been home, but they haven’t taken that DC trip Josh mentioned. It’s probably for the best if I go ahead and take the Josh-and-Margot page out of the scrapbook.
I stay up late just in case Peter texts again. I think to myself, if Peter calls or texts me tonight, I’ll know he’s thinking about me too and maybe I’ll forgive him. But he doesn’t text or call.
Around three a.m. I throw away Peter’s notes. I delete the picture of him from my phone; I delete his number. I think that if I just delete him enough, it will be like none of it ever happened and my heart won’t hurt so badly.
CHRISTMAS MORNING, KITTY WAKES UP everyone while it is still dark out, which is her tradition, and Daddy makes waffles, which is his tradition. We only ever eat waffles on Christmas, because we all agree it’s too much trouble to lug the waffle iron out and clean it and store it back on the cabinet top shelf where we keep it. And anyway it makes waffles more of a special occasion this way.
We take turns opening presents to make it last longer. I give Margot her scarf, and the scrapbook, which she loves. She pores over every page, exclaiming over my handiwork, marveling over my font choices and paper scraps. Hugging it to her chest, she says, “This is the perfect gift,” and I feel like all the tension and bad feelings between us evaporate into nothingness. Margot’s gift to me is a pale pink cashmere sweater from Scotland. I try it on over my nightgown and it’s so soft and luxurious.
Kitty’s present from Margot is an art set with oil pastels and watercolors and special markers, which makes Kitty squeal like a piglet. In return Kitty gives her socks with monkeys on them. I give Kitty a new basket for her bike and the ant farm she asked for months ago, and Kitty gives me a book on knitting. “So you can get better,” she says.
The three of us pitched in for Daddy’s present—a thick Scandinavian sweater that makes him look like an ice fisherman. It’s a little too big, but Daddy insists he likes it that way. He gives Margot a fancy new e-reader, Kitty a bike helmet with her name on it—Katherine, not Kitty—and me a gift certificate to Linden & White. “I wanted to get you that locket necklace you’re always looking at, but it was gone,” he says. “But I bet you’ll find something else you like just as much.” I jump up and throw my arms around him. I feel like I could cry.
Santa, aka Daddy, brings silly gifts like sacks of coal and water guns with disappearing ink inside, and also practical things like athletic socks and printer ink and my favorite kind of pens—I guess Santa shops at Costco too.
When we’re done opening presents, I can tell Kitty is disappointed there is no puppy, but she doesn’t say anything. I pull her into my arms and whisper to her, “There’s always your birthday next month,” and she nods.
Daddy goes to see if the waffle iron is hot and the doorbell rings. “Kitty, could you get that?” he calls from the kitchen.
Kitty goes to the door, and seconds later we hear her high-pitched scream. Margot and I leap up and run to the door, and right there on the welcome mat is a basket with a biscuit-colored puppy in it and a ribbon around its neck. We all start jumping up and down and screaming.
Kitty scoops the puppy up in her arms and runs into the living room with it, where Daddy stands grinning. “Daddy Daddy Daddy!” she squeals. “Thank you thank you thank you!”
According to Daddy, he picked the puppy up from the animal shelter two nights ago, and our neighbor Ms. Rothschild has been hiding him in her house. It’s a boy, by the way—we figure that out pretty quick, since he pees all over the kitchen floor. He is a Wheaten Terrier mix, which Kitty declares is far better than an Akita or a German shepherd.
“I always wanted a dog with bangs,” I say, cuddling him to my cheek.
“What should we name him?” Margot asks. We all look to Kitty, who chews on her bottom lip in a contemplative way.
“I don’t know,” she says.
“How about Sandy?” I suggest.
Kitty sneers. “Unoriginal.”
So I say, “What about François? We can call him Frankie for short.”
“No thanks,” Kitty says. Cocking her head, she says, “What about Jamie?”
“Jamie,” Daddy repeats. “I like it.”
Margot nods. “It has a nice ring to it.”
“What’s his full name?” I ask, setting him down on the floor.