“Shh, no more talking,” she says.
The hair is what takes the longest. Kitty and I have watched countless hair tutorials to figure out the logistics of the victory rolls. There’s a lot of teasing and hair spray and hair rollers involved. And bobby pins. Lots of bobby pins.
I stare at myself in the mirror. “Don’t you think my hair looks a little . . . severe?”
“What do you mean, ‘severe’?”
“It kind of looks like I have a cinnamon bun on top of my head.”
Kitty thrusts the iPad in my face. “Yeah, so does this girl’s. That’s the look. It’s got to be authentic. If we water down the look, it won’t be true to the theme, and nobody will know what you’re supposed to be.” I’m nodding slowly; she has a point. “Besides, I’m going over to Ms. Rothschild’s for a Jamie training session. I don’t have time to start all over again.”
For my lipstick, we achieve the perfect shade of cherry red by blending two different reds—one brick and one fire engine—with a hot pink powder to set it. I look like I kissed a cherry pie.
I’m blotting my lips when Kitty asks, “Is that pretty boy John Amber McAndrews picking you up, or are you meeting him at the nursing home?”
I wave my tissue in her face warningly. “He’s picking me up, and you’d better be nice. Also he’s not a pretty boy.”
“He’s a pretty boy compared to Peter,” Kitty says.
“Let’s be honest. They’re both pretty. It’s not like Peter has a tattoo or huge muscles. In fact he’s very vain.” We never passed a window or a glass door Peter didn’t check himself out in.
“Well, is John vain?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Kitty, stop making this a competition of John versus Peter. It doesn’t matter who’s prettier.”
Kitty keeps going like she didn’t hear me. “Peter has a much nicer car. What does Johnny boy drive, a boring SUV? Who cares about an SUV? All they do is guzzle gas.”
“To be fair, I think it’s a hybrid.”
“You sure like to defend him.”
“He’s my friend!”
“Well, Peter’s mine,” she says.
Getting dressed is an intricate process, and I enjoy each step. It’s all about anticipation, hope for the night. Slowly I put on the seamed stockings so I don’t get a run in them. It takes me forever to get the seams straight down the backs of my legs. Then the dress—navy with white sprigs and little holly berries and floaty cap sleeves. Last the shoes. Clunky red heels with a bow at the toe and an ankle strap.
Put all together, it goes great, and I have to admit that Kitty was right about the victory roll on top of my head. Anything less wouldn’t be enough.
On my way out Daddy makes a big fuss over how great I look, and he takes about a million photos, which he promptly texts Margot. She immediately video-chats us so she can see for herself. “Make sure you get a picture of you and Stormy together,” Margot says. “I want to see what sexy getup she’s wearing.”
“It’s actually not that sexy,” I say. “She sewed it herself, off a 1940s dress pattern.”
“I’m sure she’ll find a way to bring the sexy,” Margot says. “What’s John McClaren wearing?”
“I have no idea. He says it’s a surprise.”
“Hmm,” she says. It’s a very suggestive hmm, which I ignore.
Daddy’s taking one last shot of me on the front porch when Ms. Rothschild comes over. “You look amazing, Lara Jean,” she says.
“She does, doesn’t she?” Daddy says fondly.
“God, I love the forties,” she says.
“Have you seen the Ken Burns documentary The War?” Daddy asks her. “If you have any interest in World War Two, it’s a must-see.”
“You should watch it together,” Kitty pipes up, and Ms. Rothschild shoots her a warning look.
“Do you have it on DVD?” she asks Daddy. Kitty is aglow with excitement.
“Sure, you can borrow it anytime,” Daddy says, oblivious as ever, and Kitty scowls, and then her mouth falls open.
I turn to see what she’s looking at, and it’s a red convertible Mustang driving down our street, top down—with John McClaren at the wheel.
My jaw drops at the sight of him. He is in full uniform: tan dress shirt with tan tie, tan slacks, tan belt and hat. His hair is parted to the side. He looks dashing, like a real soldier. He grins at me and waves. “Whoa,” I breathe.
“Whoa is right,” Ms. Rothschild says, googly-eyed beside me. Daddy and his Ken Burns DVD are forgotten; we are all staring at John in this uniform, in this car. It’s like I dreamed him up. He parks the car in front of the house, and all of us rush up to it.
“Whose car is this?” Kitty demands.
“It’s my dad’s,” John says. “I borrowed it. I had to promise to park really far away from any other car, though, so I hope your shoes are comfortable, Lara Jean—” He breaks off and looks me up and down. “Wow. You look amazing.” He gestures at my cinnamon bun. “I mean, your hair looks so . . . real.”
“It is real!” I touch it gingerly, I’m suddenly feeling self-conscious about my cinnamon-bun head and red lipstick.
“I know—I mean, it looks authentic.”
“So do you,” I say.
“Can I sit in it?” Kitty butts in, her hand on the passenger-side door.
“Sure,” John says. He climbs out of the car. “But don’t you want to get in the driver’s seat?”
Kitty nods quickly. Ms. Rothschild gets in too, and Daddy takes a picture of them together. Kitty poses with one arm casually draped over the steering wheel.
John and I stand off to the side, and I ask him, “Where did you ever get that uniform?”
“I ordered it off of eBay.” He frowns. “Am I wearing the hat right? Do you think it’s too small for my head?”
“No way. I think it looks exactly the way it’s supposed to look.” I’m touched that he went to the trouble of ordering a uniform for this. I can’t think of many boys who would do that. “Stormy is going to flip out when she sees you.”
He studies my face. “What about you? Do you like it?”
I flush. “I do. I think you look . . . super.”
It turns out that Margot is, as ever, right. Stormy has shortened the hem on the dress; it’s well above the knee. “I’ve still got the gams,” she gloats, twirling. “My best feature, from all the horseback riding I did as a girl.” She’s showing a little cleavage, too.