“Whatever, dude. She told me you tried to kiss her. You try that again, and I’m kicking your ass.”

Josh lets out a short laugh. “Go ahead.”

Panic rises in my chest as Peter moves toward Josh with purpose. I pull Peter’s arm back. “Stop it!”

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That’s when I see her. Margot, standing a few feet behind Josh, her hand to her mouth. The piano music has stopped, the world has stopped spinning, because Margot has heard everything.

“It’s not true, is it? Please tell me it’s not true.”

I open and close my mouth. I don’t have to say anything, because she already knows. Margot who knows me so well.

“How could you?” she asks, and her voice trembles. The hurt in her eyes makes me want to die. I’ve never seen that look in her eyes before.

“Margot,” Josh begins, and she shakes her head and backs away.

“Get out,” she says, her voice breaking. Then she looks at me. “You’re my sister. You’re the person I trust more than anybody.”

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“Gogo, wait—” But she’s already gone. I hear her feet run up the stairs. I hear her door shut and not slam.

And then I burst into tears.

“I’m so sorry,” Josh says to me. Bleakly, he says, “This is all my fault.” He walks out the back door.

Peter moves to put his arms around me, but I stop him. “Can you just . . . can you just go?”

Hurt and surprise register on his face. “Sure, I can go,” he says, and he walks out of the kitchen.

I go to the bathroom off the side of the kitchen and sit on the toilet and cry. Someone knocks and I stop crying and call out, “Just a minute.”

Mrs. Shah’s cheery voice says, “Sorry, dear!” and I hear her heels clack away.

Then I get up and splash cold water on my face. My eyes are still red and puffy. I run water over a hand towel and I wet my face with it. My mom used to do this for me when I was sick. She’d put an ice-cold washcloth over my forehead and she’d switch it out with a fresh one when it wasn’t cold anymore. I wish my mom was here.

When I step back into the party, Mr. Choi is sitting at the piano playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Ms. Rothschild has my dad cornered on the couch. She’s throwing back champagne, and he has a mildly startled look on his face. As soon he sees me, my dad jumps off the couch and over to me. “Oh, thank God,” he says. “Where’s Gogo? We haven’t done our number yet.”

“She doesn’t feel well,” I say.

“Hm. I’ll go check on her.”

“I think she just wants to be left alone.”

Daddy’s forehead creases. “Did she and Josh have a fight? I just saw him leave.”

I swallow. “Maybe. I’ll go talk to her.”

He pats me on the shoulder. “You’re a good sister, honey.”

I force a smile. “Thank you, Daddy.”

I go upstairs and Margot’s bedroom door is locked. I stand outside it and ask, “Can I come inside?”

No answer.

“Please, Margot. Please just let me explain. . . .”

Still nothing.

“I’m sorry. Margot, I’m so sorry. Please talk to me.”

I sit down outside my door and start to cry. My big sister knows how to hurt me best. Silence from her, being shut out by her, is the worst punishment she could conjure up.

69

BEFORE MOMMY DIED, MARGOT AND I were enemies. We battled constantly, mostly because I was always messing up something of hers—some game, some toy.

Margot had a doll she loved named Rochelle. Rochelle had silky auburn hair, and she wore glasses like Margot did. Mommy and Daddy had given her to her for her seventh birthday. Rochelle was Margot’s only doll. She adored her. I remember begging Margot to let me hold her, just for a second, but Margot always said no. There was this one time, I had a cold, and I stayed home from school. I crept into Margot’s room and I took Rochelle, I played with her all afternoon, I pretended Rochelle and I were best friends. I got it into my head that Rochelle’s face was actually kind of plain; she would look better with lipstick on. It would be a favor to Margot if I made Rochelle more beautiful. I got one of Mommy’s lipsticks out of her bathroom drawer and I put some on her lips. Right away I knew it was a mistake. I’d drawn it on outside of her lip lines, she looked clownish, not sophisticated. So then I tried to clean off the lipstick with toothpaste, but it only made her look like she had a mouth disease. I hid under my blankets until Margot came home. When she found the state Rochelle was in, I heard Margot’s scream.

After Mommy died, we all had to realign ourselves. Everybody had new roles. Margot and I were no longer locked in battle, because we both understood that Kitty was ours to take care of now. “Look out for your sister,” Mommy was always saying. When she was alive, we did it begrudgingly. After she was gone, we did it because we wanted to.

Days go by and still nothing. She looks through me, speaks to me only when necessary. Kitty watches us with worried eyes. Daddy is bewildered and asks what’s going on with us, but doesn’t push me for an answer.

There is a wall between us now, and I can feel her moving farther and farther away from me. Sisters are supposed to fight and make up, because they are sisters and sisters always find their way back to each other. But the thing that scares me is that maybe we won’t.

70

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW, SNOW IS falling in clumps that look like cotton. The yard is starting to look like a cotton field. I hope it snows all day and all night. I hope it’s a blizzard.

There’s a knock at my door.

I lift my head up from my pillow. “Come in.”

My dad comes in and sits down at my desk. “So,” he says, scratching his chin the way he does when he’s uncomfortable. “We need to talk.”

My stomach drops. I sit up and wrap my arms around my knees. “Did Margot tell you?”

My dad clears his throat. “She did.” I can’t even look at him. “This is awkward. I never had to do this with Margot, so . . .” He clears his throat again. “You’d think I would be better at this since I’m a health professional. I’ll just say that I think you’re too young to be having sex, Lara Jean. I don’t think you’re ready yet.” He sounds like he’s about to cry. “Did . . . did Peter pressure you in any way?”

I can feel all the blood rush to my face. “Daddy, we didn’t have sex.”

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