Always and Forever, Lara Jean (15 page)

“I’m just saying. I feel like if I was Trina, I would want a fresh start,” Chris says.

“Well, that’s kind of impossible when her husband-to-be already has three kids.”

“You know what I mean. As fresh as possible.”

“They’re getting a new bed, at least. It’s coming tomorrow.”

Chris perks up at this. Flopping on my bed, she says, “Ew, is it weird to think about your dad having sex?”

I slap her on the leg. “I don’t think about that! So please don’t bring it up.”

Picking at the strings on her cutoffs, she says, “Trina does have a great body.”

“I’m not kidding, Chris!”

“I’m just saying, I would kill to have her body at her age.”

“She’s not that old.”

“Still.” Chris preens at me prettily. “If I open the window, can I smoke in here?”

“I think you know the answer to that question, Christina.”

She pouts, but it’s just for show because she knew I wasn’t going to say yes. “Ugh. America is so annoying about smoking. So basic.”

Now that Chris is going to Costa Rica, she relishes looking down on everything American. I still can’t believe she’s leaving. “Are you really not going to prom?” I ask.

“I’m really not.”

“You’re going to regret not going,” I warn her. “When you’re working on the farm in Costa Rica, you’ll suddenly remember how you didn’t go to prom, and you will feel abject regret, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.”

With a laugh, she says, “I highly doubt it!”

After Chris leaves for work, I’m on my computer in the kitchen looking for bridesmaid dresses and/or prom dresses, and Daddy and Trina walk in from being outside with the movers. I try to look busy, like I’m studying, in case they ask for help. Shrewd little Kitty has made herself scarce these past couple of days, and I’m regretting not following her lead.

Daddy pours himself a glass of water, wiping sweat from his brow. “Do you really need to bring that treadmill?” he asks Trina. “It doesn’t even work properly.”

“It works fine.”

Gulping the rest of his water, he says, “I’ve never seen you use it.”

She frowns at him. “That doesn’t mean I don’t use it. It means I don’t use it in front of
you
.”

“All right. When’s the last time you used it?”

Her eyes narrow. “None of your business.”

“Trina!”

“Dan!”

This is a new side to Daddy—bickering, losing his patience just barely. Trina brings it out of him, and I know it sounds strange, but I’m glad for it. It’s something I never realized was gone in him. There’s making do, living a pleasant life, no big ups or downs, and there’s all the friction and fire that come with being in love with someone. She takes forever to get ready, which drives him crazy, and she makes fun of his hobbies, like bird-watching and documentaries. But they just fit.

19

THERE’S A LACROSSE GAME TONIGHT,
and Pammy can’t go because she has to work, and of course Chris would never deign to go to a lacrosse game, so I bring Kitty with me. She pretends to mull it over, musing aloud that it might be boring, but when I say, “Never mind, then,” she quickly agrees to come.

In the stands we run into Peter’s mom and his younger brother, Owen, so we sit with them. He and Kitty proceed to each pretend the other doesn’t exist—he plays games on his phone and she plays games on hers. Owen is tall, but he sits hunched, with his hair in his eyes.

We chat about my dad and Trina’s engagement for a bit and I tell her some of my ideas for the wedding. She’s nodding along and then she suddenly says, “I hear congratulations are in order for you, too.”

Confused, I say, “What for?”

“William and Mary!”

“Oh! Thank you.”

“I know you were hoping to go to
UVA
, but this might be for the best anyway.” She gives me a sympathetic smile.

I smile back, unsure. Unsure of what, exactly, “for the best” means. Is she glad I’m not going to
UVA
with Peter? Does she think this means we’re breaking up now? So all I
say is, “Williamsburg isn’t really that far from Charlottesville anyway.”

Her response is, “Hmm, yes, that’s true.” Then Peter scores a point, and we both stand up and cheer.

When I sit back down again, Kitty asks me, “Can we get popcorn?”

“Sure,” I say, glad to have an excuse to get up. To Peter’s mom and brother I ask, “Do you guys want anything?”

Without looking up, Owen says, “Popcorn.”

“You guys can share,” Peter’s mom says.

I make my way down the bleachers, and I’m heading for the snack bar when I notice a man, standing off to the side, his arms crossed, watching the game. He is tall; he has nut-brown hair. Handsome. When he turns his head and I see his profile, I know who he is, because I know that face. I know that chin, those eyes. He’s Peter’s dad. It’s like seeing the Ghost of Christmas Future, and I’m frozen in place, transfixed.

He catches me staring at him, and offers a friendly smile. I feel like I have no choice but to take a step forward and ask, “Excuse me . . . but are you Peter’s dad?”

Surprised, he nods. “Are you a friend of his?”

“I’m Lara Jean Covey. His, um, girlfriend.” He looks startled, but then he recovers and extends his hand. I shake it firmly, to give a good impression. “Wow, you look just like him.”

He laughs, and I’m struck anew by how much of him is in Peter. “He looks just like me, you mean.”

I laugh too. “Right. You were here first.”

There is an awkward silence, and then he clears his throat and asks me, “How is he?”

“Oh, he’s good. He’s great. Did you hear he’s going to
UVA
on a lacrosse scholarship?”

He nods, smiling. “I heard that from his mom. I’m proud of him. Not that I can take any credit for it—but still. I’m really proud of the kid.” His eyes flicker back to the field, to Peter. “I just wanted to see him play again. I’ve missed it.” He hesitates before saying, “Please don’t mention to Peter that I was here.”

I’m so taken by surprise, all I can say is, “Oh . . . okay.”

“Thank you, I appreciate it. It was nice to meet you, Lara Jean.”

“It was nice to meet you, too, Mr. Kavinsky.”

With that, I go back to the bleachers, and only when I’m halfway up there do I remember I forgot the popcorn, so I have to go back down. When I get back to the snack bar, Peter’s dad is gone.

Our team ends up losing, but Peter scores three points and it’s a good game for him. I’m glad his dad got to see him play, but I really wish I didn’t agree to keeping it a secret from Peter. The thought makes my stomach hurt.

In the car I’m still thinking about his dad, but then Kitty says, “That was weird what Peter’s mom said about it being a good thing you weren’t going to
UVA
.”

“I know, right! You took it that way too?”

“There really wasn’t any other way to take it,” Kitty says.

I check my side-view mirrors before turning left out of the school parking lot. “I don’t think she meant it in a
mean
way, exactly. She just doesn’t want to see Peter get hurt, that’s all.” And neither do I, so maybe it’s for the best that I don’t say anything to Peter about seeing his dad tonight. What if he gets excited about his dad coming, and then his dad hurts him again? Abruptly I say, “Do you wanna stop and get frozen yogurts?” and of course Kitty says yes.

*  *  *

Peter comes to the house after he showers up, and as soon as I see how happy he is, my mind is made up not to say anything.

We’re lying on the living room floor doing face sheet masks. If the kids at school could see him now! Through gritted teeth he asks, “What’s this one supposed to do?”

“Brighten dull skin.”

He twists toward me and croaks, “Hello, Clarice.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s from
Silence of the Lambs
!”

“Oh, I never saw that. It looked too scary.”

Peter sits upright. He’s terrible at sitting still. “We have to watch it right now. This is ridiculous. I can’t be with someone who’s never seen
Silence of the Lambs
.”

“Um, I’m pretty sure it’s my turn to pick.”

“Covey, come on! It’s a classic,” Peter says, just as his phone buzzes. He answers it, and I hear his mom’s voice on the other line. “Hey Mom . . . I’m at Lara Jean’s. I’ll be home soon. . . . I love you too.”

When he gets off the phone, I say, “Hey, I forgot to tell you this earlier, but at the game tonight, your mom said that maybe it was for the best that I didn’t get into
UVA
.”

“What?”
He sits up and pulls off his face mask.

“Well, she didn’t say it exactly like that, but I think that’s how she meant it.”

“What were her exact words?”

I peel off my mask too. “She congratulated me on getting into William and Mary, and then I think she said, ‘I know you were hoping to go to
UVA
, but this might be for the best anyway.’ ”

Peter relaxes. “Oh, she always talks like that. She looks for the bright side in things. She’s like you.”

It didn’t seem that way to me, but I don’t push it, because Peter’s very protective of his mom. I guess he’s had to be, since it’s just the three of them. But what if it didn’t have to be? What if Peter has a real chance of having a relationship with his dad? What if tonight is proof? Casually, I ask him, “Hey, how many graduation announcements did you sign up for?”

“Ten. My family’s small. Why?”

“Just wondering. I signed up for fifty, so my grandma could send some to family in Korea.” I hesitate before asking, “Do you think you’ll send your dad one?”

He frowns. “No. Why would I?” He picks up his phone. “Let’s see what movies we have left. If
Silence of the Lambs
is off the table, we could watch
Trainspotting
, or
Die Hard
.”

I don’t say anything for a moment, and then I snatch his
phone out of his hands. “It’s my turn to pick! And I pick . . .
Amélie
!”

*  *  *

For someone who once put up such a fuss about not watching rom coms or foreign films, Peter sure loves
Amélie.
It’s about a French girl who is afraid to live in the world, so she concocts these whimsical fantasies in her head, with lamps that talk and paintings that move, and crepes that look like records. It makes me want to live in Paris.

“I wonder what you’d look like with bangs,” Peter muses. “Cute, I bet.” At the end of the movie, when she bakes a plum cake, he turns to me and says, “Do you know how to bake a plum cake? That sounds delicious.”

“You know, mini plum cakes could be good for the dessert table.” I start researching recipes on my phone.

“Just make sure you call me when you do your trial run,” Peter says, yawning.

20

TRINA AND I ARE ON
the couch drinking tea. I’m showing her pictures of floral arrangements when Daddy walks through the front door and collapses on the couch with us. “Long day?” Trina asks him.

“The longest,” he says, closing his eyes.

“Question,” I say.

His eyes flutter open. “Yes, my middle-born?”

“What are you guys thinking for the first dance?”

He groans. “I’m too tired to think about dancing right now.”

“Please. It’s your wedding! Be present, Daddy.”

Trina laughs and pokes him in the side with her foot. “Be present, Dan!”

“Okay, okay. Well, Trina’s a big Shania Twain fan.” They grin at each other. “So—what about ‘From This Moment On’?”

“Aww,” she says. “You really do know me.”

“Shania Twain?” I repeat. “Doesn’t she sing that song ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’?”

Trina holds her mug like it’s a microphone and tilts her head. “From this moment, I will love you,” she sings, off-key.

“I don’t think I know that song,” I say, trying to sound neutral.

“Play it for her on your phone,” she says to Daddy.

“Don’t judge,” he warns me, and then he plays it.

It’s the most un-him song I’ve ever heard. But he’s got a goofy smile on his face the entire time, and it only gets bigger when Trina puts her arm around his shoulder and makes him sway with her to the beat. “It’s perfect,” I say, and suddenly I feel like crying. I clear my throat. “So now that the song is picked out, we can start ticking other stuff off the list. I’ve been going back and forth with Tilly’s Treats about doing mini banana puddings in little canning jars, and they say they can’t do them for less than seven dollars apiece.”

Worry lines cross Daddy’s forehead. “That seems pricy, no?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a call in to a bakery in Richmond, and if the delivery price isn’t too bad, that might be the way to go.” I flip through my binder. “I’ve been so busy with desserts, I haven’t had a chance to go meet with the band I’ve been in touch with. They’re playing in Keswick this weekend, so I might try and go see them play.”

Daddy looks at me with concern in his eyes. “Honey, it seems like maybe you’ve replaced baking with wedding planning as your stress relief. This is all a little much.”

“The band isn’t exactly a
band
,” I quickly say. “It’s a singer and a guy with a guitar. They’re just starting out, so it’s all very reasonable. I’ll know more when I see them in person.”

“Don’t they have videos you can watch?” Trina asks.

“Sure, but it’s not the same as seeing them live.”

“I don’t think we need a band,” Daddy says, exchanging a look with Trina. “I think we’d be fine with just playing music off the computer.”

“That’s fine, but we’d need to rent sound equipment.” I
start flipping through my binder, and Trina reaches out and puts her hand on my arm.

“Sweetie, I love that you want to help us with this, and I’m so grateful. But honestly, I’d rather you didn’t stress yourself out. Your dad and I don’t really care about any of the details. We just want to get married. We don’t need a food truck, or mini banana puddings. We’d truly be just as happy ordering a bunch of barbecue from
BBQ
Exchange.” I start to speak, and she stops me. “You only get one senior year of high school, and I want you to enjoy it. You have a hot boyfriend and you got into a great school. Your birthday is coming up soon. This is the time to just be young and celebrate and enjoy each other!”

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