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“What’s sadistic?” Kitty wants to know. She puts her head between us.

I push her back and say, “Put your seat belt on.”

Peter puts the car in reverse. “It means seeing other people in pain makes you happy.”

“Oh.” She repeats it to herself softly. “Sadistic.”

“Don’t teach her weird stuff,” I say.

“I like weird stuff,” Kitty protests.

Peter says, “See? The kid likes weird stuff.” Without turning around, he lifts his hand up for a high five and Kitty leans forward and slaps it heartily. “Hey, gimme a sip of whatever it is you’re drinking back there.”

“It’s almost gone, so you can have the rest,” she says.

Kitty hands it over, and Peter tips back the plastic container in his mouth. “This is good,” he says.

“It’s from the Korean grocery store,” Kitty tells him. “They come in a pack and you can put them in the freezer and if you pack it for lunch, it’ll be icy and cold when you drink it.”

“Sounds good to me. Lara Jean, bring me one of these tomorrow morning, will you? For services rendered.”

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I shoot him a dirty look and Peter says, “I mean the rides! Geez.”

“I’ll bring you one, Peter,” Kitty says.

“That’s my girl.”

“As long as you give me a ride to school tomorrow, too,” Kitty finishes, and Peter hoots.

32

BEFORE FOURTH PERIOD, I’M AT my locker, trying to repin my milkmaid braid in the little mirror hanging from the door.

“Lara Jean?”

“Yes?”

I peek around the door and it’s Lucas Krapf, wearing a thin V-neck sweater in brilliant blue and stone-colored khakis. “I’ve had this for a while now . . . I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I thought maybe you’d want it back.” He puts a pink envelope in my hand. It’s my letter. So Lucas got his, too.

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I drop it into my locker, make a yikes face at myself in the mirror, and then close the door. “So you’re probably wondering what this is all about,” I begin. And then I immediately falter. “It’s um, well, I wrote it a long time ago, and—”

“You don’t have to explain.”

“Really? You’re not curious?”

“No. It was just really nice to get a letter like that. I was actually pretty honored.”

I let out a relieved sigh and sag against my locker. Why is Lucas Krapf just so exactly right? He knows how to say the perfect thing.

And then Lucas gives me a half grimace, half smile. “But the thing is . . .” He lowers his voice. “You know I’m gay, right?”

“Oh, right, totally,” I say, trying not to sound disappointed. “No, I totally knew.” So Peter was right after all.

Lucas smiles. “You’re so cute,” he says, and I perk up again. Then he says, “Listen, can you not tell anybody, though? I mean, I’m out, but I’m not out out yet. You know what I mean?”

“Totally,” I say, super confident.

“For instance, my mom knows but my dad only kind of knows. I haven’t outright told him.”

“Got it.”

“I just let people believe what they please. I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to quantify myself for them. I mean, you get what I’m talking about. As a biracial person, I’m sure people are always asking you what race you are, right?”

I haven’t thought of it that way before, but yes yes yes! Lucas just gets it. “Exactly. It’s like, why do you need to know?”

“Exactly.”

We smile at each other and I feel that wonderful sensation of being known by someone. We walk together in the same direction; he has Mandarin class and I have French. At one point he asks me about Peter, and I’m tempted to tell him the truth, because I’m feeling so close to him. But Peter and I made that pact: we explicitly said we would never tell anyone. I don’t want to be the one to break it. So when Lucas says, “Hey, so what’s the deal with you and Kavinsky?” I just shrug and give him an enigmatic smile.

“It’s crazy, right? Because he’s so . . .” I search for the exact right word, but I can’t think of it. “I mean, he could play the part of a handsome guy in a movie.” Hastily I add, “So could you, though. You’d play the guy the girl should pick.”

Lucas laughs, but I can tell he likes it.

Dear Lucas,

I never met a boy with manners as good as yours. You ought to have a British accent. At homecoming, you wore a cravat and it suited you so well I think you could wear one all the time and get away with it.

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Oh, Lucas! I wish I knew what kind of girls you liked. As far as I can tell, you haven’t dated anyone . . . unless you have a girlfriend at another school. You’re just so mysterious. I hardly know a thing about you. The things I know are so unsubstantial, so unsatisfying, like that you eat a chicken sandwich every day at lunch, and you’re on the golf team. I guess the one remotely real thing I know about you is you’re a good writer, which must mean you have deep reserves of emotion. Like that short story you wrote in creative writing about the poisoned well, and it was from a six-year-old boy’s perspective. It was so sensitive, so keen! That story made me feel like I knew you at least a little bit. But I don’t know you, and I wish I did.

I think you’re very special. I think you are probably one of the most special people at our school, and I wish more people knew that about you. Or maybe I don’t, because sometimes it’s nice to be the only one who knows something.

Love, Lara Jean

33

AFTER SCHOOL, CHRIS AND I are hanging out in my room. She’s in trouble with her mom for staying out all night, so she’s hiding out over here until her mom leaves for book club. We’re sharing a big bag of Kitty’s Pirate Booty, which I’m going to have to replace because she’ll complain if it’s missing from her lunch on Monday.

Chris stuffs a handful of Pirate Booty puffs in her mouth. “Just tell me, Lara Jean. How far have you guys gone?”

I almost choke. “We’ve gone nowhere! And we have no plans to go anywhere in the near future.” Or ever.

“Seriously? Not even over-the-bra action? A quick swipe across your chest?”

“No! I told you, me and my sister aren’t like that.”

Chris snorts. “Are you joking me? Of course Margot and Josh have had sex. Quit being so naive, Lara Jean.”

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