Gulp. “I promise I’ll be careful.” But I’m not sure I even know what that means. How can I be careful when I already like him so much?
MARGOT’S OFF SHOPPING FOR NEW boots with her friend Casey, Daddy’s at work, and Kitty and I are lazing about watching TV when my phone buzzes next to me. It’s a text from Peter. Movie tonight? I text back yes, exclamation point. Then I delete the exclamation point for sounding too eager. Though without the exclamation point, the yes seems completely unenthused. I settle on a smiley face and press send before I can obsess over it further.
“Who are you texting with?” Kitty is sprawled out on the living room floor, spooning pudding into her mouth. Jamie tries to steal a lick, but she shakes her head and scolds, “You know you can’t have chocolate!”
“I was texting with Peter. You know, that might not even be real chocolate. It might be imitation. Check the label.”
Of all of us, Kitty is firmest with Jamie. She doesn’t immediately pick him up when he’s crying to be held; she sprays him in the face with a water bottle when he’s naughty. All tricks she’s learning from our across-the-street neighbor Ms. Rothschild, who it turns out is kind of a dog whisperer. She used to have three dogs, but when she and her husband got divorced, she got to keep Simone the golden retriever, and he got custody of the other two.
“Is Peter your boyfriend again?” Kitty asks me.
“Um. I’m not sure.” After what Margot said last night about taking things slow and being careful with my heart and not going to a point of no return, maybe it’s good to exist in a place of unsureness for a while. Also, it’s hard to redefine something that never had a clear definition in the first place. We were two people pretending to like each other, pretending to be a couple, so now what are we? And how might it have unfolded if we’d started liking each other without the pretense? Would we ever have been a couple? I guess we’ll never know.
“What do you mean, you’re not sure?” Kitty presses. “Shouldn’t you know if you’re somebody’s girlfriend or not?”
“We haven’t discussed it yet. I mean, not explicitly.”
Kitty switches the channel. “You should look into that.”
I roll on my side and prop myself up on my elbow. “But would that change anything? I mean, we like each other. What’s the difference between that and the label? What would change?” Kitty doesn’t answer. “Hello?”
“Sorry, can you say that again at the commercial break? I’m trying to watch my show.”
I throw a pillow at her head. “I would be better off discussing these things with Jamie.” I clap my hands. “C’mere, Jamie!”
Jamie lifts his head to look at me and then lies back down again, nestled against Kitty’s side, still hoping for pudding, I’m sure.
In the car last night Peter didn’t seem troubled by the status of our relationship. He seemed happy and carefree as always. I’m definitely a person who worries too much over every little thing. I could do with a bit more of Peter’s roll-with-it philosophy in my life.
“Wanna help me pick out what to wear to the movies with Peter tonight?” I ask Kitty.
“Can I come too?”
“No!” Kitty starts to pout and I amend: “Maybe next time.”
“Fine. Show me two options and I’ll tell you which is the better one.”
I dart upstairs to my room and start going through my closet. This will be our actual first date, I want to wow him a bit. Unfortunately, Peter’s already seen me in my good outfits, so the only thing to do is go for Margot’s closet. She has a cream sweater dress she brought back from Scotland that I can put with tights and my little brown boots. There’s also her periwinkle Fair Isle sweater I’ve been admiring; I can wear it with my yellow skirt and a yellow ribbon in my hair, which I’ll curl, because Peter once told me he liked it curled.
“Kitty!” I scream. “Come up and look at my two options!”
“On the commercial break!” she screams back.
In the meantime I text Margot:
Can I borrow your fair isle sweater or your cream sweater dress??
Kitty votes for the Fair Isle sweater, saying I look like I’m wearing an ice-skating outfit, which I like the sound of. “You can wear it if we go ice skating,” she says. “You, me, and Peter.”
I laugh. “All right.”
PETER AND I ARE STANDING in line for popcorn at the movies. Even just this mundane thing feels like the best mundane thing that’s ever happened to me. I check my pocket to make sure I’ve still got my ticket stub. This I’ll want to save.
Gazing up at Peter, I whisper, “This is my first date.” I feel like the nerdy girl in the movie who lands the coolest guy in school, and I don’t mind one bit. Not one bit.
“How can this be your first date when we’ve gone out plenty of times?”
“It’s my first real date. Those other times were just pretend; this is the real thing.”
He frowns. “Oh, wait, is this real? I didn’t realize that.”
I move to slug him in the shoulder, and he laughs and grabs my hand and links my fingers with his. It feels like my heart is beating right through my hand. It’s the first time we’ve held hands for real, and it feels different from those fake times. Like electric currents, in a good way. The best way.
We’re moving up in the line, and I realize I’m nervous, which is strange, because this is Peter. But he’s also a different Peter, and I’m a different Lara Jean, because this is a date, an actual date. Just to make conversation, I ask, “So, when you go to the movies are you more of a chocolate kind of candy or a gummy kind of candy?”
“Neither. All I want is popcorn.”
“Then we’re doomed! You’re neither, and I’m either or all of the above.” We get to the cashier and I start fishing around for my wallet.
Peter laughs. “You think I’m going to make a girl pay on her first date?” He puffs out his chest and says to the cashier, “Can we have one medium popcorn with butter, and can you layer the butter? And a Sour Patch Kids and a box of Milk Duds. And one small Cherry Coke.”
“How did you know that was what I wanted?”
“I pay a lot better attention than you think, Covey.” Peter slings his arm around my shoulders with a self-satisfied smirk, and he accidentally hits my right boob.