I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows. One of them rolls down. “Lara Jean? Are you okay?”
I nod my head yes and make a motion like he should just go. He rolls the window back up, and I think he’s really going to drive off, but then he pulls over to the side and parks. He climbs out and starts inspecting my car. “You really messed it up,” he says. “Did you get the other guy’s insurance info?”
“No, his car was fine.” Furtively, I wipe my cheeks with my arm. “It was my fault.”
“Do you have Triple A?”
“So you called them already?”
“No. But someone’s coming.”
Peter sits down next to me. “How long have you been sitting here crying by yourself?”
I turn my head and wipe my face again. “I’m not crying.”
Peter Kavinsky and I used to be friends, back before he was Kavinsky, when he was Peter K. There was a whole gang of us in middle school. The boys were Peter Kavinsky and John Ambrose McClaren and Trevor Pike. The girls were Genevieve and me and Allie Feldman who lived down the block and sometimes Chris. Growing up, Genevieve lived two streets away from me. It’s funny how much of childhood is about proximity. Like who your best friend is is directly correlated to how close your houses are; who you sit next to in music is all about how close your names are in the alphabet. Such a game of chance. In eighth grade Genevieve moved to a different neighborhood, and we stayed friends a little while longer. She’d come back to the neighborhood to hang out, but something was different. By high school Genevieve had eclipsed us. She was still friends with the boys, but the girls’ crew was over. Allie and I stayed friends until she moved last year, but there was always something just a little bit humiliating about it, like we were two leftover heels of bread and together we made a dry sandwich.
We’re not friends anymore. Me and Genevieve or me and Peter. Which is why it’s so weird to be sitting next to him on somebody’s curb like no time has passed.
His phone buzzes and he takes it out of his pocket. “I’ve gotta go.”
I sniffle. “Where are you headed?”
“You’d better get going then,” I say. “Genevieve will be mad if you’re late.”
Peter makes a pfft sound, but he sure does get up fast. I wonder what it’s like to have that much power over a boy. I don’t think I’d want it; it’s a lot of responsibility to hold a person’s heart in your hands. He’s getting into his car when, as an afterthought, he turns around and asks, “Want me to call Triple A for you?”
“No, that’s okay,” I say. “Thanks for stopping, though. That was really nice of you.”
Peter grins. I remember that about Peter—how much he likes positive reinforcement. “Do you feel better now?”
I nod. I do, actually.
“Good,” he says.
He has the look of a Handsome Boy from a different time. He could be a dashing World War I soldier, handsome enough for a girl to wait years for him to come back from war, so handsome she could wait forever. He could be wearing a red letterman’s jacket, driving around in a Corvette with the top down, one arm on the steering wheel, on his way to pick up his girl for the sock hop. Peter’s kind of wholesome good looks feel more like yesterday than today. There’s just something about him girls like.
He was my first kiss. It’s so strange to think of it now. It feels like forever ago, but really it was just four years.
Josh shows up about a minute later, as I’m texting Chris that I’m not going to make it to the mall after all. I stand up. “It took you long enough!”
“You told me 8109. This is 8901!”
Confidently I say, “No, I definitely said 8901.”
“No, you definitely said 8109. And why weren’t you answering your phone?” Josh gets out of his car, and when he sees the side of my car, his jaw drops. “Holy crap. Did you call Triple A yet?”
“No. Can you?”
Josh does, and then we sit in his car in the air-conditioning while we wait. I almost get into the backseat, when I remember. Margot isn’t here anymore. I’ve ridden in his car so many times, and I don’t think I’ve ever once sat up front in the passenger seat.
“Um . . . you know Margot’s going to kill you, right?”
I whip my head around so fast my hair slaps me in the face. “Margot’s not going to find out, so don’t you say a word!”
“When would I even talk to her? We’re broken up, remember?”
I frown at him. “I hate when people do that—when you ask them to keep something a secret and instead of saying yes or no, they say, ‘Who would I tell?’?”
“I didn’t say, ‘Who would I tell?’!”
“Just say yes or no and mean it. Don’t make it conditional.”
“I won’t tell Margot anything,” he says. “It’ll just be between you and me. I promise. All right?”
“All right,” I say. And then it gets quiet with neither of us saying anything; there’s just the sound of cool air coming out of the A/C vents.
My stomach feels queasy thinking about how I’m going to tell my dad. Maybe I should break the news to him with tears in my eyes so he feels sorry for me. Or I could say something like, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, I’m fine, not a scratch on me. The bad news is, the car is wrecked. Maybe “wrecked” isn’t the right word.
I’m mulling over the right word choice in my head when Josh says, “So just because Margot and I broke up, you’re not going to talk to me anymore either?” Josh sounds jokingly bitter or bitterly joking, if there is such a combination.
I look over at him in surprise. “Don’t be dumb. Of course I’m still going to talk to you. Just not in public.” This is the role I play with him. The part of the pesky little sister. As if I am the same as Kitty. As if we aren’t only a year apart. Josh doesn’t crack a smile, he just looks glum, so I bump my forehead against his. “That was a joke, dummy!”
“Did she tell you she was going to do it? I mean, was it always her plan?” When I hesitate, he says, “Come on. I know she tells you everything.”
“Not really. Not this time anyway. Honestly, Josh. I didn’t know a thing about it. Promise.” I cross my heart.