Just as I say, “Is this about the dating profile I set up for you? Because I haven’t even activated it yet,” he says, “Why didn’t you tell me what was going on at school?”
My heart drops all the way to the floor. “What do you mean?” I’m still hoping, praying this is about something else. Tell me I failed my chemistry test; say anything but the hot tub.
“The video of you and Peter.”
“How did you find out?” I whisper.
“Your guidance counselor called me. She was worried about you. Why didn’t you tell me what was going on, Lara Jean?”
He looks so stern, and so very disappointed, which I hate most of all. I feel pressure building behind my eyes. “Because . . . I was ashamed. I didn’t want you to think of me that way. Daddy, I swear, all we were doing was kissing. That’s it.”
“I haven’t seen the video, and I won’t. That’s private, between you and Peter. But I wish you had used better judgment that day, Lara Jean. There are long-lasting consequences to our actions.”
“I know.” Tears roll down my cheeks.
Daddy takes my hand out of my lap and holds it in his. “It pains me that you didn’t come to me when things were so hard for you at school. I knew you were going through something, but I didn’t want to push too hard. I always try to think about what your mom would do if she were here. I know it’s not easy, only having a dad to talk to—” His voice breaks, and I cry harder. “But I’m trying. I really am trying.”
I jump out of my seat and throw my arms around him. “I know you’re trying,” I cry.
He hugs me back. “You have to know you can come to me, Lara Jean. No matter what it is. I’ve spoken to Principal Lochlan, and he’s going to make an announcement tomorrow saying that anyone who watches or distributes the video will be suspended.”
Relief floods over me. I should’ve come to my dad in the first place. I stand up straight, and he reaches up and wipes my cheeks. “Now, what’s this about a dating profile?”
“Oh . . . ” I sit back down again. “Well . . . I started one for you on Singleparentloveconnection.com.” He’s frowning, so I quickly say, “Grandma doesn’t think it’s good for a man to be alone for so long, and I agree with her. I thought online dating could help you get back out there.”
“Lara Jean, I can handle my own dating life! I don’t need my daughter managing my dates.”
“But . . . you never go on any.”
“That’s my concern, not yours. I want you to take down that profile tonight.”
“It was never even active; I just set it up in case. It’s a whole new world out there, Daddy.”
“Right now we’re talking about your love life, not mine, Lara Jean. Mine we’ll save for another time. I want to hear about yours.”
“Okay.” Primly, I fold my hands in front of me on the table. “What do you want to know?”
He scratches his neck. “Well . . . are you and Peter pretty serious?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I think I might love him. But maybe it’s too early to say. How serious can you be in high school, anyway? Look at Margot and Josh and how that turned out.”
Wistfully, Daddy says, “He never comes around here anymore.”
“Exactly. I don’t want to be the girl crying in her dorm room over a boy.” I stop suddenly. “That’s something Mommy said to Margot. She said don’t be the girl who goes to college with a boyfriend and then misses out on everything.”
He smiles a knowing kind of smile. “That sounds like her.”
“Who was her high school boyfriend? Did she love him a lot? Did you ever meet him?”
“Your mom didn’t have a high school boyfriend. That was her roommate she was talking about. Robyn.” Daddy chuckles. “She drove your mom crazy.”
I rest back in my seat. All this time I thought Mommy was talking about herself.
“I remember the first time I saw your mom. She was throwing a dinner in her dorm called Fakesgiving, and a buddy of mine and I went. It was a big Thanksgiving meal in May. She had on a red dress, and her hair was long back then. You know, you’ve seen the pictures.” He pauses, a smile flickering on his face. “She gave me a hard time because I brought canned green beans and not fresh ones. That’s how you knew if she liked someone, if she teased them. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I was pretty clueless about girls back then.”
Ha! Back then. “I thought you guys met in a psychology class,” I say.
“According to your mom, we took the same class one semester, but I don’t remember seeing her. It was in one of those lecture halls with hundreds of people.”
“But she noticed you,” I say. That, I’ve heard before. She said she liked the way he paid attention in class, and how his hair was a little too long in the back, like an absent-minded professor.
“Thank God she did. Where would I be without her?”
This gives me pause. Where would he be? Without us, certainly, but probably he wouldn’t be a widower either. Would his life have been happier if he’d married some other girl, made some other choice?
Daddy tips my chin. Firmly he says, “I would be nowhere without her, because I wouldn’t have my girls.”
I call Peter and tell him Mrs. Duvall called my dad and he knows all about the video, but he’s talked to Principal Lochlan and everything will be fine now. I expect him to be relieved, but he still sounds down. “Now your dad probably hates me,” he says.
“He doesn’t,” I assure him.
“Do you think I should say something to him? I don’t know, like, apologize, man to man?”
I shudder. “Definitely not. My dad is super awkward.”
“Please stop worrying, Peter. It’s like I told you, my dad’s sorted it all out. Principal Lochlan will make the announcement and people will leave us alone. Besides, there’s nothing for you to apologize for. I was in it just as much as you were. You didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.”
We hang up soon after, and even though I feel better about the video, I still feel unsettled about Peter. I know he’s upset about not being able to protect me, but I also know that part of why he’s upset is because his pride was injured, and that has nothing to do with me. Is a boy’s ego really such a fragile, breakable thing? It must be so.