“I’m just being honest! Objectively, it sucks, but also objectively, Lara Jean looks awesome in it.”
Crawling under my quilt, I say, “I thought you could barely even tell it was me! I knew I shouldn’t have gone on that ski trip. I hate hot tubs. Why would I willingly get into a hot tub?”
“Hey, be glad you were in your pajamas,” Chris says. “You could have been nude!”
My head pops out from under the quilt and I glare at her. “I would never be nude!”
Chris snorts. “Never nude. Did you know that’s a real thing? Some people call themselves never-nudes and they wear clothes at all times, even in the shower. Like, jean shorts.”
I turn on my side, away from Chris.
The weight of my bed shifts as Margot climbs in. “It’s going to be fine,” she says, peeling back the blanket. “We’ll get them to take the video down.”
“It won’t matter,” I say. “Everyone’s already seen it. They all think I’m a slut.”
Chris’s eyes go narrow. “So are you saying that if a girl has sex in a hot tub, that makes her a slut?”
“No! That’s not what I’m saying; that’s what other people are saying.”
“Then what are you saying?” she demands.
I look at Kitty, who’s braiding Chris’s hair in microbraids. She’s being extra quiet so we forget she’s here and don’t kick her out. “I think that as long as you’re ready and it’s what you want to do and you’re protecting yourself, then it’s okay and you should do what you want to do.”
Margot says, “Society is far too caught up in shaming a woman for enjoying sex and applauding a man. I mean, all of the comments are about how Lara Jean is a slut, but nobody’s saying anything about Peter, and he’s right there with her. It’s a ridiculous double standard.”
I hadn’t thought of that.
Chris looks down at her phone. “Like, three different people just texted the video to me as we were sitting here.”
I let out a sob and Margot says, “Chris, that’s not helping. At all.” To me she says, “If people say anything, just be really blasé, like it’s beneath you.”
“Or just, like, lean into it,” Chris says.
From behind her Kitty says, “Nobody will say anything to Lara Jean because she’s Peter’s girl. That means she’s under his protection, like on The Sopranos.”
Aghast, Margot says, “Oh my God, you’ve seen The Sopranos? How have you seen The Sopranos? It’s not even on TV anymore.”
“I watched it on demand. I’m on season three.”
“Kitty! Stop watching it!” She shuts her eyes and shakes her head. “Never mind. That’s not what’s important right now. We’ll talk about it later. Kitty, Lara Jean doesn’t need a boy to protect her.”
“No, Kitty has a good point,” Chris says. “It’s not about the fact that Peter’s a guy. Well, not completely. It’s about the fact that he’s popular and she isn’t. That’s where the protection comes into play. No offense, LJ.”
“None taken,” I say. It’s slightly insulting, but it’s also true, and now isn’t the time for me to get my feelings hurt about something so miniscule in comparison to a would-be sex tape.
“What did Kavinsky say about it?” Chris asks me.
“Nothing yet. He’s still at lacrosse practice.”
My phone immediately starts to buzz, and the three of us look at each other, wide-eyed. Margot picks it up and looks at it. “It’s Peter!” She hot-potatoes the phone to me. “Let’s give them some privacy,” she says, nudging Chris. Chris shrugs her off.
I ignore both of them and answer the phone. “Hello.” My voice comes out thin as a reed.
Peter starts talking fast. “Okay, I’ve seen the video, and the first thing I’m going to say to you is don’t freak out.” He’s breathing hard; it sounds like he’s running.
“Don’t freak out? How can I not? This is terrible. Do you know what they’re all saying about me in the comments? That I’m a slut. They think we’re having sex in that video, Peter.”
“Never read the comments, Covey! That’s the first rule of—”
“If you say ‘Fight Club’ to me right now, I will hang up on you.”
“Sorry. Okay, I know it sucks but—”
“It doesn’t ‘suck.’ It’s a literal nightmare. My most private moment, for everybody to see. I’m completely humiliated. The things people are saying—” My voice breaks. Kitty and Margot and Chris are all looking at me with sad eyes, which makes me feel even sadder.
“Don’t cry, Lara Jean. Please don’t cry. I promise you I’m going to fix this. I’m going to get whoever runs Anonybitch to take it down.”
“How? We don’t even know who they are! And besides, I bet our whole school’s seen it by now. Teachers, too. I know for a fact that teachers look at Anonybitch. I was in the faculty lounge once and I overheard Mr. Filipe and Ms. Ryan saying how bad it makes our school look. And what about college admissions boards and our future employers?”
Peter guffaws. “Future employers? Covey, I’ve seen much worse. Hell, I’ve seen worse pictures of me on there. Remember that picture of me with my head in a toilet bowl, and I’m naked?”
I shudder. “I never saw that picture. Besides, that’s you; that’s not me. I don’t do that kind of stuff.”
“Just trust me, okay? I promise I’ll take care of it.”
I nod, even though I know he can’t see me. Peter is powerful. If anyone could fix such a thing, it would be him.
“Listen, I’ve gotta go. Coach is gonna kick my ass if he sees me on the phone. I’ll call you tonight, okay? Don’t go to sleep.”
I don’t want to hang up. I wish we could talk longer. “Okay,” I whisper.
When I hang up, Margot, Chris, and Kitty are all three staring at me.
“Well?” Chris says.
“He says he’ll take care of it.”
Smugly Kitty says, “I told you so.”
“What does that even mean, ‘he’ll take care of it’?” Margot asks. “He hasn’t exactly proven himself to be responsible.”
“It’s not his fault,” Kitty and I say at the same time.