He nods, but I don’t think he believes me. “I’m your dad, so of course I’d rather you wait until you’re fifty, but . . .” He clears his throat again. “I want you to be safe. I’m making an appointment with Dr. Hudecz on Monday.”
I start to cry. “I don’t need an appointment, because I’m not doing anything! I didn’t have sex! Not in the hot tub or anyplace. Somebody made the whole thing up. You have to believe me.”
My dad has a pained expression on his face. “Lara Jean, I know it’s not easy to talk about this with a dad and not a mom. I wish your mom was here to navigate us through this.”
“I wish she was too, because she’d believe me.” Tears are running down my cheeks. It’s bad enough for strangers to think the worst of me, but I never thought my sister and dad would believe it.
“I’m sorry.” My dad puts his arms around me. “I’m sorry. I do believe you. If you tell me you’re not having sex, you’re not having sex. I just don’t want you to grow up too fast. When I look at you, you’re still as young as Kitty to me. You’re my little girl, Lara Jean.”
I sag against him. There’s no place safer than my dad’s arms. “Everything’s a mess. You don’t trust me anymore; Peter and I are broken up; Margot hates me.”
“I trust you. Of course I trust you. And of course you and Margot will make up like you always do. She was only worried about you; that’s why she came to me.” No, it’s not. She did it out of spite. It’s her fault that Daddy thought that of me for even a second.
Daddy lifts my chin and wipes the tears off my face. “You must really like Peter, huh?”
“No,” I sob. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
He tucks my hair behind my ears. “Everything will work out.”
There is a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out your eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight. All you see is blood.
As soon as Daddy leaves and I hear him go to his room to get ready for bed, I barge into Margot’s room without knocking. Margot is at her desk on her laptop. She looks up at me in surprise.
Wiping my eyes, I say, “You can be mad at me all you want, but you had no right to go to Daddy behind my back.”
Her voice is piano-string tight as she says, “I didn’t do that as revenge. I did it because you clearly have no idea what you’re doing, and if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up some sad teenage statistic.” Coldly, as if she is speaking to a stranger, Margot continues. “You’ve changed, Lara Jean. I honestly don’t even know who you are anymore.”
“No, you definitely don’t know me anymore, if you think for one second that I would have sex on a school trip! In a hot tub, in plain view of anybody who might happen to walk by? You must not know me at all!” And then I lay it down, the card I’ve been holding against her. “Just because you had sex with Josh, that doesn’t mean I’m going to have sex with Peter.”
Margot sucks in her breath. “Lower your voice.”
I feel happy that I’ve wounded her too. I yell, “Now that Daddy’s already disappointed in me, he can’t be disappointed in you, too, right?”
I whirl around to go back to my room, and Margot follows close behind me.
“Come back here!” she shouts.
“No!” I try to close my door in her face, but she wedges her foot inside. “Get out!”
I lean my back against the door, but Margot is stronger than me. She pushes her way in and locks the door behind her.
She advances toward me and I back away from her. There’s a dangerous light in her eyes. She’s the righteous one now. I can feel myself start to shrink, to cower. “How did you know Josh and I had sex, Lara Jean? Did he tell you that himself while you two were going behind my back?”
“We never went behind your back! It wasn’t like that.”
“Then what was it like?” she demands.
A sob escapes my throat. “I liked him first. I liked him all that summer before ninth grade. I thought . . . thought he liked me back. But then one day you said you were dating, and so I just, I just swallowed it. I wrote him a good-bye letter.”
Margot’s face twists into a sneer. “Do you seriously expect me to feel sorry for you now?”
“No. I’m just trying to explain what happened. I stopped liking him, I swear I did. I didn’t think of him like that again, but then, after you left, I realized that deep down I still had feelings for him. And then my letter got sent and Josh found out, so I started pretend dating Peter—”
She shakes her head. “Just stop. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t even know what you’re talking about right now.”
“Josh and I only kissed one time. Once. And it was a huge mistake, and I didn’t even want to do it in the first place! You’re the one he loves, not me.”
She says, “How can I believe anything you ever say to me now?”
“Because it’s the truth.” Trembling, I tell her, “You have no idea the power you have over me. How much your opinion means to me. How much I look up to you.”
Margot’s face screws up like a fist; she is holding back tears. “You know what Mommy would always say to me?” She lifts her chin higher. “?‘Take care of your sisters.’ So that’s what I did. I’ve always tried to put you and Kitty first. Do you have any idea how hard it was being so far away from you guys? How lonely it was? All I wanted to do was come back home, but I couldn’t, because I have to be strong. I have to be”—she struggles for a breath—“the good example. I can’t be weak. I have to show you guys how to be brave. Because . . . because Mommy isn’t here to do it.”
Tears roll down my cheeks. “I know. You don’t have to tell me, Gogo. I know how much you do for us.”
“But then I left, and it’s like you didn’t need me as much as I thought.” Her voice breaks. “You were fine without me.”
“Only because you taught me everything!” I cry out.
Margot’s face crumbles.
“I’m sorry,” I weep. “I’m so sorry.”