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“There is so a guy! It’s Josh Sanderson.”

“Doesn’t he go out with your sister?”

I nod. I’m surprised he even knows this. I didn’t think Josh and Margot would be on his radar. “They’re broken up now. But I don’t want him to know I have feelings for him . . . for obvious reasons. So . . . I told him you were my boyfriend.”

“So you used me to save face?”

“I mean, basically.” Basically exactly.

“You’re a funny girl.”

First I’m cute in a quirky way; now I’m a funny girl. I know what that means. “Anyway, thanks for going along with it, Peter.” I flash him what I hope is a winning smile and turn on my heel to go. “See ya!”

Peter reaches out and grabs me by the backpack. “Wait—so Sanderson thinks I’m your boyfriend now, right? So what are you going to tell him?”

I try to shrug him loose, but he won’t let go. “I haven’t figured that part out yet. But I will.” I lift my chin. “I’m quirky like that.”

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Peter laughs out loud, his mouth open wide. “You really are funny, Lara Jean.”

21

MY PHONE VIBRATES NEXT TO me. It’s chris.

“Is it true?” I can hear her puffing on her cigarette.

“Is what true?”

I’m lying on my bed, on my stomach. My mom told me that if my stomach hurt, I should lie on my stomach and it would warm up and feel better. I don’t think it’s helping, though. My stomach’s been in knots all day.

“Did you run up to Kavinsky and kiss him like a maniac?”

I close my eyes and whimper. I wish I could say no, because I’m not the kind of person to do that. But I did do it, so I guess I am. But my reasons were really good! I want to tell Chris the truth, but the whole thing is just so embarrassing. “Yeah. I went up to Peter Kavinsky and kissed him. Like a maniac.”

Chris exhales. “Damn!”

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“I know.”

“What the hell were you thinking?”

“Honestly? I don’t even know. I just . . . did it.”

“Shit. I didn’t know you had it in you. I’m kind of impressed.”

“Thanks.”

“But you know Gen’s gonna come after you, right? They may be broken up, but she still thinks she owns his ass.”

My stomach lurches. “Yeah. I know. I’m scared, Chris.”

“I’ll do my best to protect you from her, but you know how she is. You better watch your back.” Chris hangs up.

I feel even worse than before. If Margot was here, she’d probably say that writing those letters was pointless in the first place, and she’d get on me about telling such a big lie. Then she’d help me figure out a solution. But Margot’s not here, she’s in Scotland—and even bigger than that, she’s the one person I can’t talk to. She can never-never-never know how I felt about Josh.

After a while I get out of bed and wander into Kitty’s room. She’s on the floor rifling through her bottom drawer. Without looking up, she says, “Have you seen my pajamas with the hearts?”

“I washed them yesterday, so they’re probably in the dryer. Tonight do you wanna watch a movie and play Uno?” I could use a cheer-up night.

Kitty scrambles up. “Can’t. I’m going to Alicia Bernard’s birthday. It’s in the schedule notebook.”

“Who’s Alicia Bernard?” I plop down on Kitty’s unmade bed.

“She’s the new girl. She invited all the girls in our class. Her mom’s making us crepes for breakfast. Do you know what a crepe is?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever had one? I heard they can be salty or sweet.”

“Yes, I had one with Nutella and strawberries once.” Josh and Margot and I drove down to Richmond because Margot wanted to go to the Edgar Allan Poe museum. We ate lunch at a café downtown and that’s what I had.

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Kitty’s eyes go big and greedy. “I hope that’s the kind her mom makes.” Then she dashes off, I guess to find her pajamas in the laundry room downstairs.

I pick up Kitty’s stuffed pig and cuddle it in my arms. So even my nine-year-old sister has plans on a Friday night. If Margot was here, we’d be going to the movies with Josh, or stopping by the cocktail hour at the Belleview retirement home. If my dad was home, I could maybe get up the courage to take his car or have him drop me off, but I can’t even do that.

After Kitty gets picked up, I go back to my room and organize my shoe collection. It’s a little early in the season to switch out my sandals for my winter shoes, but I go ahead and do it because I’m in the mood. I think about doing my clothes too, but that’s no small undertaking. Instead I sit down and write Margot a letter on stationery my grandma bought me in Korea. It’s pale blue with a border of fluffy white lambs. I talk about school, and Kitty’s new teacher, and a lavender skirt I ordered from a Japanese website that I’m sure she’ll want to borrow, but I don’t tell her any of the real things.

I miss her so much. Nothing’s the same without her. I’m realizing now that the year is going to be a lonely one, because I don’t have Margot, and I don’t have Josh, and it’s just me alone. I have Chris, but not really. I wish I’d made more friends. If I had more friends, maybe I wouldn’t have done something as stupid as kiss Peter K. in the hallway and tell Josh he’s my boyfriend.

22

I WAKE UP TO THE sound of the lawn mower.

It’s Saturday morning and I can’t fall back to sleep, so now I’m lying in my bed staring at my walls, at all the pictures and things I’ve saved. I’m thinking I want to shake things up. I’m thinking maybe I should paint my room. The only question is, what color? Lavender? Cotton-candy pink? Something bold, like turquoise? Maybe just an accent wall? Maybe one marigold wall, one salmon pink. It’s a lot to consider. I should probably wait for Margot to come home before I make such a momentous decision. Plus I’ve never painted a room before, and Margot has, with Habitat for Humanity. She’ll know what to do.

On Saturdays we usually have something good for breakfast, like pancakes or frittata with frozen shredded potato and broccoli. But since there’s no Kitty and no Margot, I just eat cereal instead. Who ever heard of making pancakes or frittata for just one person? My dad’s been awake for hours; he’s outside mowing the lawn. I don’t want to get roped into helping him do yard work, so I make myself busy in the house and clean the downstairs. I Swiffer and DustBust and wipe the tables down, and all the while my wheels are turning about how I’m going to get myself out of this Peter K. situation with even a sliver of dignity. The wheels turn and turn, but no good solutions come to mind.

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