Always and Forever, Lara Jean (14 page)

“You do love your white wine,” I say, and Trina swats at my shoulder.

Kristen exhales loudly. “Well, what about the little one?”

“Kitty’s very mature for her age,” Trina says.

Kristen crosses her arms. “I’m putting my foot down. You can’t bring a child on a bachelorette. It isn’t right.”

“Kris!”

At this I feel like I have to speak up. “I’m going to side with Kristen on this one. We won’t be able to bring Kitty to karaoke. She’s too young. They won’t let an eleven-year-old in.”

“She’ll be so disappointed, though.”

“She’ll live,” I say.

Kristen sips on her rosé and says, “Disappointment is good for kids; it prepares them for the real world, where it’s not all about them and their feelings.”

Trina rolls her eyes. “If you’re putting your foot down on having Kitty at the bachelorette, I’m putting my foot down on penises. I mean it, Kris. No penis cake, no penis straws, no penis pasta. No penises, period.”

I blush. There’s such a thing as penis pasta?

“Fine.” Kristen pushes out her lower lip.

“All right, then. Can we move on to the actual wedding, please?”

I run and get my laptop and pull up my vision board, which is when Kitty decides to grace us with her presence. She’s been in the living room watching
TV
. “Where are we in the planning?” she wants to know.

Kristen eyes her before saying, “Let’s talk food.”

“What about food trucks?” I suggest. “Like, a waffle truck?”

Kristen purses her lips. “I was thinking barbecue. Trina loves barbecue.”

“Hmm,” I say. “But a lot of people do barbecue, don’t they? It’s kind of . . .”

“Played out?” Kitty suggests.

“I was going to say common.” But yeah.

“But Trina loves barbecue!”

“Can y’all please stop talking about me like I’m not here?” Trina says. “I do love barbecue. And can we do Mason jars?”

I’m expecting Kitty to denigrate Mason jars again, but she doesn’t say anything of the sort. She says, “What do we think about edible flowers in the drinks?” I’m pretty sure that was one of my ideas that she just stole.

Trina does a shimmy in her seat. “Yes! I love it!”

I’m quick to add, “We could do a nice punch bowl and float some flowers on top.”

Kristen gives me an approving look.

Bolstered, I grandly say, “And as for the cakes, we’ll need a wedding cake and a groom’s cake.”

“Do we really need two cakes?” Trina asks, chewing on her nail. “There won’t be that many people there.”

“This is the South; we have to have a groom’s cake. For yours I was thinking yellow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.” Trina beams at me. That’s her favorite kind of cake, just plain. Not exactly exciting to bake, but it’s her favorite. “For Daddy’s, I was thinking . . . a Thin Mint cake! Chocolate cake with mint frosting, but with Thin Mints crumbled on top.” I have such a vision for this cake.

This time Kitty’s the one to give me an approving nod. I feel more in my element then I have in weeks.

17

KITTY’S MIXING NAIL-POLISH COLORS ON
a paper plate while I’m looking up “celebrity updos” for Trina’s wedding hair. I’m lying on the couch, with pillows propped up behind me, and she is on the floor, with nail-polish bottles all around her. Suddenly she asks me, “Have you ever thought about, like, what if Daddy and Trina have a baby and it looks like Daddy?”

Kitty thinks of all sorts of things that would never have occurred to me. I hadn’t once thought of that—that they might have a baby or that this pretend baby wouldn’t look like us. The baby would be all Daddy and Trina. No one would have to wonder whose child he was or calculate who belongs to who. They’d just assume.

“But they’re both so old,” I say.

“Trina’s forty-three. You can get pregnant at forty-three. Maddie’s mom just had a baby and she’s forty-three.”

“True . . .”

“What if it’s a boy?”

Daddy with a son. It’s a startling thought. He’s not exactly sporty, not in a traditional male sense. I mean, he likes to go biking and he plays doubles tennis in the spring. But I’m sure there are things he’d want to do with a son that he doesn’t do with us because no one’s interested. Fishing, maybe? Football
he doesn’t care about. Trina cares more than he does.

When my mom was pregnant with Kitty, Margot wanted another sister but I wanted a boy. The Song girls and their baby brother. It would be nice to get that baby brother after all. Especially since I won’t be at home and have to hear it crying in the middle of the night. I’ll just get to buy the baby little shearling booties and sweaters with red foxes or bunnies.

“If they named him Tate, we could call him Tater Tot,” I muse.

Two red blotches appear on Kitty’s cheeks, and just like that, she looks as young as I always picture her in my head: a little kid. “I don’t want them to have another baby. If they have a baby, I’ll be in the middle. I’ll be nothing.”

“Hey!” I object. “I’m in the middle now!”

“Margot’s oldest and smartest, and you’re the prettiest.”
I’m the prettiest?? Kitty thinks I’m the prettiest?
I try not to look too happy, because she’s still talking. “I’m only the youngest. If they have a baby, I won’t even be that.”

I put down my computer. “Kitty, you’re a lot more than the youngest Song girl. You’re the wild Song girl. The mean one. The spiky one.” Kitty’s pursing her lips, trying not to smile at this. I add, “And no matter what, Trina loves you; she’ll always love you, even if she did have a baby which I don’t think she will.” I stop. “Wait, did you mean it when you said I was the prettiest?”

“No, I take it back. I’ll probably be the prettiest by the time I get to high school. You can be the nicest.” I leap off the couch and grab her by the shoulders like I’m going to shake her, and she giggles.

“I don’t want to be the nicest,” I say.

“You are, though.” She says it not like an insult, but not exactly like a compliment. “What do you wish you had of mine?”

“Your nerve.”

“What else?”

“Your nose. You have a little nubbin of a nose.” I tap it. “What about me?”

Kitty shrugs. “I don’t know.” Then she cracks up, and I shake her by the shoulders.

I’m still thinking about it later that evening. I hadn’t thought of Daddy and Trina having a baby. But Trina doesn’t have any children, just her “fur baby” golden retriever Simone. She might want a baby of her own. And Daddy’s never said so, but is there a chance he’d want to try one more time for a son? The baby would be eighteen years younger than me. What a strange thought. And even stranger still: I’m old enough to have a baby of my own.

What would Peter and I do if I got pregnant? I can’t even picture what would happen. All I can see is the look on Daddy’s face when I tell him the news, and that’s about as far as I get.

*  *  *

The next morning, on the way to school in Peter’s car, I steal a look at his profile. “I like how you’re so smooth,” I say. “Like a baby.”

“I could grow a beard if I wanted to,” he says, touching his chin. “A thick one.”

Fondly I say, “No, you couldn’t. But maybe one day, when you’re a man.”

He frowns. “I
am
a man. I’m eighteen!”

I scoff, “You don’t even pack your own lunches. Do you even know how to do laundry?”

“I’m a man in all the ways that count,” he boasts, and I roll my eyes.

“What would you do if you were drafted to go to war?” I ask.

“Uh . . . aren’t college kids given a pass on that? Does the draft even still exist?”

I don’t know the answers to either of these questions, so I barrel forward. “What would you do if I got pregnant right now?”

“Lara Jean, we’re not even having sex. That would be the immaculate conception.”

“If we were?” I press.

He groans. “You and your questions! I don’t know. How could I know what I would do?”

“What do you
think
you would do?”

Peter doesn’t hesitate. “Whatever you wanted to do.”

“Wouldn’t you want to decide together?” I’m testing him—for what, I don’t know.

“I’m not the one who has to carry it. It’s your body, not mine.”

His answer pleases me, but still I keep going. “What if I said . . . let’s have the baby and get married?”

Again Peter doesn’t hesitate. “I’d say sure. Yeah!”

Now I’m the one frowning. “ ‘Sure’? Just like that? The
biggest decision of your life and you just say sure?”

“Yeah. Because I
am
sure.”

I lean over to him and put my palms on his smooth cheeks. “That’s how I know you’re still a boy. Because you’re so sure.”

He frowns back at me. “Why are you saying it like it’s a bad thing?”

I let go. “You’re always so sure of everything about yourself. You’ve never been not sure.”

“Well, I’m sure of this one thing,” he says, staring straight ahead. “I’m sure I’d never be the kind of dad my dad is, no matter how old I am.”

I go quiet, feeling guilty for teasing him and bringing up bad feelings. I want to ask if his dad is still reaching out to make amends, but the closed-up look on Peter’s face stops me. I just wish he and his dad could fix things between them before he goes to college. Because right now, Peter
is
still a boy, and deep down, I think all boys want to know their dads, no matter what kind of men they are.

*  *  *

After school, we go through the drive-thru, and Peter’s already tearing into his sandwich before we’re out of the parking lot. Between bites of fried chicken sandwich, he says, “Did you mean it when you said before that you couldn’t picture marrying me?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“I mean, you kind of said that. You said I’m still a boy and you couldn’t marry a boy.”

Now I’ve gone and hurt his feelings. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant I couldn’t picture marrying anybody right now. We’re both still babies. How could we
have
a baby?” Without thinking, I say, “Anyway, my dad gave me a whole birth-control kit for college, so we don’t even have to worry about it.”

Peter nearly chokes on his sandwich. “A birth-control kit?”

“Sure. Condoms and . . .” Dental dams. “Peter, do you know what a dental dam is?”

“A what? Is that what dentists use to keep your mouth open when they clean it?”

I giggle. “No. It’s for oral sex. And here I thought you were this big expert and
you
were going to be the one to teach
me
everything at college!”

My heart speeds up as I wait for him to make a joke about the two of us finally having sex at college, but he doesn’t. He frowns and says, “I don’t like the thought of your dad thinking we’re doing it when we’re not.”

“He just wants us to be careful is all. He’s a professional, remember?” I pat him on the knee. “Either way, I’m not getting pregnant, so it’s fine.”

He crumples up his napkin and tosses it in the paper bag, his eyes still on the road. “Your parents met in college, didn’t they?”

I’m surprised he remembers. I don’t remember telling him that. “Yeah.”

“So how old were they? Eighteen? Nineteen?” Peter’s headed somewhere with this line of questioning.

“Twenty, I think.”

His face dims but just slightly. “Okay, twenty. I’m eighteen and you’ll be eighteen next month. Twenty is just two years older. So what difference does two years make in the grand scheme of things?” He beams a smile at me. “Your parents met at twenty; we met at—”

“Twelve,” I supply.

Peter frowns, annoyed that I’ve messed up his argument. “Okay, so we met when were kids, but we didn’t get together until we were seventeen—”

“I was sixteen.”

“We didn’t get together
for real
until we were both basically seventeen. Which is basically the same thing as eighteen, which is basically the same thing as twenty.” He has the self-satisfied look of a lawyer who has just delivered a winning closing statement.

“That’s a very long and twisty line of logic,” I say. “Have you ever thought about being a lawyer?”

“No, but now I’m thinking maybe?”


UVA
has a great law school,” I say, and I get a sudden pang, because college is one thing, but law school? That’s so far away, and who knows what will happen between now and then? By then we’ll be such different people. Thinking of Peter in his twenties, I feel a sense of yearning for the man I may never get to meet. Right now, today, he’s still a boy, and I know him better than anybody, but what if it isn’t always this way? Already our paths are diverging, a little more every day, the closer we get to August.

18

TRINA PUT HER HOUSE ON
the market a couple of weeks after she and Daddy got engaged. Kristen’s a real estate agent, and she told her that now was the time to sell, because everybody likes to buy in the springtime. It turns out she was right; a couple made an offer on it the very same week—sooner than any of us could have imagined. Daddy and Trina thought the house would sit on the market for at least a month, but now movers are unloading boxes at our house and everything’s careening forward at lightning speed.

There was never any big discussion about who was moving in with who—it was just understood that Trina was coming here. For one, our house is bigger, but also, it’s easier to move one person than four. You would think. For one person, Trina has a lot of stuff. Boxes and boxes of clothes and shoes, her exercise equipment, random pieces of furniture, a huge velvet upholstered headboard that I know my dad is horrified by.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t want to move into another woman’s house,” Chris says. She’s standing at my window, watching Trina direct the movers. She stopped by on her way to work to borrow a pair of my shoes.

“What other woman?” I ask her.

“Your mom!
I would always feel like it was her house. Like, she picked the furniture, the wallpaper.”

“Actually Margot and I picked a lot of it,” I say. “I picked the dining room wallpaper; she picked the upstairs bathroom color.” I remember that Margot and Mommy and I sat down on the living room floor with all the wallpaper books and carpet samples and paint chips spread around us. We spent the whole afternoon going over every book with a fine-tooth comb, with Margot and me battling over which blue was the right blue for the upstairs bathroom we’d share. I thought robin’s-egg blue, and Margot thought sky blue. Mommy finally had us do rock, paper, scissors for it, and Margot won. I sulked over it until I beat her out with my wallpaper choice.

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