Line one I write, Peter will be on time.
Peter cranes his neck to read upside down. “Wait, does that say, ‘Peter will be on time’?”
“If you say you’re going to be somewhere, then be there.”
Peter scowls. “I didn’t show up one time and you hold a grudge—”
“But you’re always late.”
“That’s not the same as not showing up!”
“Being late all the time shows a lack of respect for the person who’s waiting for you.”
“I respect you! I respect you more than any girl I know!”
I point at him. “‘Girl’? Just ‘girl’? What boy do you respect more than me?”
Peter throws his head back and groans so loudly it’s a roar. I reach across the table, over the food, and grab him by the collar and kiss him before we can fight again. Though I have to say, it’s this kind of fighting, the bickering kind, not the hurt-feelings kind, that makes us feel like us for the first time all night.
This is what we decide on.
Peter will not be more than five minutes late.
Lara Jean will not make Peter do crafts of any kind.
Peter doesn’t have to call Lara Jean before he goes to bed at night, but he can if he feels like it.
Lara Jean will only go to parties if she feels like it.
Peter will give Lara Jean rides whenever she wants.
Lara Jean and Peter will always tell each other the truth.
There’s one thing I want to add to the contract, but I’m nervous to broach the subject now that things are going smoothly.
Peter can still be friends with Genevieve, as long as he is up front with Lara Jean about it.
Or maybe it’s Peter will not lie to Lara Jean about Genevieve. But that’s redundant, because we already have the rule about always telling each other the truth. A rule like that wouldn’t be the truth anyway. What I really want to say is Peter will always pick Lara Jean over Genevieve. But I can’t say that. Of course I can’t. I don’t know a ton about dating or guys, but I do know that jealous insecurity is a real turnoff.
So I bite my tongue; I don’t say what I’m thinking. There’s only one thing, one really important thing I want to be sure of.
“I don’t want us to ever break each other’s hearts.”
Peter laughs easily; he cups my cheek in his hand. “Are you planning on breaking my heart, Covey?”
“No. And I’m sure you’re not planning on breaking mine. Nobody ever plans it.”
“Then put that in the contract. Peter and Lara Jean promise not to break each other’s hearts.”
I beam at him, relieved as anything, and then I write it down. Lara Jean and Peter will not break each other’s hearts.
THE DAY BEFORE WE GO back to school, Kitty and I are lying in my bed watching pet videos on my computer. Our puppy, Jamie Fox-Pickle, is curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed. Kitty wrapped him up in her nubby old baby blanket so only his face is peeking out. He’s dreaming—I can tell by the way he shudders and shakes every so often. I can’t tell if it’s a good dream or a bad dream.
“Do you think we should start doing videos of Jamie?” Kitty asks me. “He’s cute enough, right?”
“He’s definitely got the look, but he doesn’t have any discernible talent or quirky thing about him.” As soon as I say the word “quirky,” I think of Peter and how he once said I was “cute in a quirky way.” I wonder if that’s still how he sees me. I’ve heard people say that the more you like someone, the more you think they are beautiful even if you didn’t think so in the beginning.
“Jamie does that thing where he prances around like a baby deer,” Kitty reminds me.
“Hm. I wouldn’t exactly call that a ‘thing.’ It’s not the same as leaping into cardboard boxes or playing the piano or having a really grumpy face.”
“Ms. Rothschild will help me train him. She thinks he has the right personality for tricks.” Kitty clicks on the next video, a dog that howls when you play Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Kitty and I crack up and we watch it again.
After a video of a woman whose cat wraps itself around her face like a scarf, I say, “Wait a minute—did you do your homework?”
“All I had to do was read a book.”
“So did you read it?”
“Mostly,” Kitty hedges, snuggling in closer to me.
“You’ve had all of Christmas break to read it, Kitty!” I really wish Kitty were more of a reader like Margot and me. She much prefers TV. I click stop on the video and snap my computer shut with a flourish. “No more pet videos for you. You go finish your book.” I start to shove her out of the bed, and Kitty grabs on to my leg.
“Sweet my sister, cast me not away!” Proudly she says, “That’s Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, in case you haven’t read it.”
“Don’t act high and mighty like you were reading Shakespeare. I saw you watching the movie on TV the other day.”
“Who cares if I read it or I saw the movie? The message is still the same.” Kitty crawls back up by me.
I pat her hair. “So what’s the message?”
“Don’t kill yourself over a boy.”
“Or a girl.”
“Or a girl,” she agrees. She opens up my computer. “One more cat video and then I’ll go read.”
My phone buzzes, a text from Chris.
Check Anonybitch’s instagram NOW.
Anonybitch is an anonymous Instagram account that puts up scandalous pictures and videos of people hooking up and getting drunk at parties around town. No one knows who runs the account; they just send in the content. There was a picture of a girl from another high school that went viral last year—she was flashing a cop car. I heard she got expelled from school for it.
My phone buzzes again.
“Hold on, Kitty, let me check something first,” I say, pausing the video. As I type in the address, I say, “If you want to stay in here, close your eyes until I tell you to open them.”
At the top of Anonybitch’s feed, there is a video of a boy and a girl making out in a hot tub. Anonybitch is particularly famous for her hot tub videos. She tags them #rubadub. This one’s a little grainy, like it was zoomed in from far away. I click play. The girl is sitting in the boy’s lap, her body draped over his, legs hooked around his waist, arms around his neck. She’s wearing a red nightgown, and it billows in the water like a full sail. The back of her head obscures the boy. Her hair is long, and the ends dip into the hot tub like calligraphy brushes in ink. The boy runs his hands down her spine like she is a cello and he is playing her.