I’ve got half of it clipped and I’m almost done with one side when Chris comes climbing through my window. “I’m supposed to be grounded right now, so I have to wait until my mom falls asleep before I go home,” she says, taking off her motorcycle jacket. “Are you still depressed over Kavinsky?”
I wind another section of hair around the curling iron barrel. “Yes. I mean, it hasn’t even been forty-eight hours yet.”
Chris puts her arm around me. “I hate to say it, but this has been a train wreck from the start.”
I give her a wounded look. “Thanks a lot.”
“Well, it’s true. The way you guys got together was weird, and then the whole hot tub video thing.” She takes the curling iron from me and starts curling her own hair. “Although, I will say that it was probably good for you to go through all that. You were really sheltered, hon. You can be very judgmental.”
I snatch the curling iron back from her and make like I’m going to bonk her over the head with it. “Are you here to cheer me up or to tell me all of my flaws?”
“Sorry! I’m just saying.” She offers me a cheery smile. “Don’t be sad for too long. It’s not your style. There are other guys besides Kavinsky. Guys who aren’t my cousin’s sloppy seconds. Guys like John McClaren. He’s hot. I’d go for him myself if he wasn’t into you.”
Softly, I say, “I can’t think about anyone else right now. Peter and I just broke up.”
“There’s heat between you and Johnny boy. I saw it with my own two eyes at the time capsule thing. He wants you.” She bumps her shoulder against mine. “You liked him before. Maybe there’s still something there.”
I ignore her and keep curling my hair, one lock at a time.
Peter still sits in front of me in chemistry. I didn’t know you could miss someone even more acutely when they’re only a few feet away. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t look at me, not even once. I didn’t fully comprehend what a big part of my life he’d become. He’d become so . . . familiar to me. And now he’s just gone. Not gone, still here, just not available to me, which might be even worse. For a minute there it was really good. It was really, really good. Wasn’t it good? Maybe really, really good things aren’t meant to last for too long; maybe that’s what makes them all the more sweet, the temporariness of them. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. It’s working, barely. Barely is enough for now.
After class is over, Peter lingers at his desk, and then he turns around and says, “Hey.”
My heart leaps. “Hey.” I have this sudden, wild thought that if he wants me back, I’ll say yes. Forget my pride, forget Genevieve, forget it all.
“So I want my necklace back,” he says. “Obviously.”
My fingers fly to the heart locket hanging from around my neck. I wanted to take it off this morning, but I couldn’t bear to.
Now I have to give it back? Stormy has a whole box of trinkets and tokens from old boyfriends. I didn’t think I’d have to return my one token from a boy. But it was expensive, and Peter is practical. He could get his money back, and his mom could resell it. “Of course,” I say, fumbling with the clasp.
“I didn’t mean you had to give it back right this second,” he says, and my hand stills. Maybe he’ll let me keep it awhile longer, or even forever. “But I’ll take it.”
I can’t get the clasp undone, and it’s taking forever, and it’s excruciating because he’s just standing there. Finally he comes up behind me and pulls my hair away from my neck so it rests on one shoulder. It might be my imagination, but I think I hear his heart beating. His is beating and mine feels like it’s breaking.
KITTY FLIES INTO MY BEDROOM. I’m at my desk, doing homework. It’s been so long since I sat here and did homework; Peter and I usually go to Starbucks after school. Life is lonely already.
“Did you and Peter break up?” Kitty demands.
I flinch. “Who told you?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just answer the question.”
“Well . . . yes.”
“You don’t deserve him,” she spits out.
I reel backward in my seat. “What? You’re my sister—it’s not fair for you to take Peter’s side. You haven’t even heard my side. Not that you should have to. Don’t you know that you never take a side against your sister?”
She purses her lips. “What’s your side?”
“My side is, it’s complicated. Peter still has feelings for Genevieve—”
“He doesn’t think of her that way anymore. Don’t make an excuse.”
“You didn’t see what I saw, Kitty!” I burst out.
“What did you see?” she challenges, chin thrust out like a weapon. “Tell me.”
“It isn’t just what I saw. It’s what I knew all along. Just—never mind. You wouldn’t understand it, Kitty.”
“Did you see him kiss her? Did you?”
“But nothing.” She squints at me. “Does this have anything to do with that guy with the weird name? John Amberton McClaren or whatever?”
“No! Why would you say that?” I let out a gasp. “Wait a minute! Have you been reading my letters again?”
She screws up her face, and I know she has, the fiend. “Don’t change the subject! Do you like him or not?”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with John McClaren. It’s just about me and Peter.”
I want to tell her that he knew it was Genevieve who made that video, spread it around. He knew and he still protected her. But I can’t mar her little-girl notion of who Peter is. It would be too cruel a thing to do to her. “Kitty, it doesn’t matter. Peter still has feelings for Genevieve, and I’ve always known it. And besides, what’s even the point of a serious thing with Peter when we’re only going to break up like Margot and Josh did? High school romances hardly ever last, you know. And for a good reason. We’re too young to be so serious.” Even as I’m saying the words, tears are leaking out the corners of my eyes.
Kitty softens. She puts her arm around me. “Don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying. I’m tearing up a little.”
Sighing heavily, she says, “If this is love, no thanks. I don’t want any part of it. When I’m older, I’m just going to do my own thing.”