I LIKE TO WATCH PETER when he doesn’t know I’m looking. I like to admire the straight line of his jaw, the curve of his cheekbone. There’s an openness to his face, an innocence—a certain kind of niceness. It’s the niceness that touches my heart the most.
It’s Friday night at Gabe Rivera’s house after the lacrosse game. Our school won, so everyone is in very fine spirits, Peter most of all, because he scored the winning shot. He’s across the room playing poker with some of the guys from his team; he is sitting with his chair tipped back, his back against the wall. His hair is still wet from showering after the game. I’m on the couch with my friends Lucas Krapf and Pammy Subkoff, and they’re flipping through the latest issue of Teen Vogue, debating whether or not Pammy should get bangs.
“What do you think, Lara Jean?” Pammy asks, running her fingers through her carrot-colored hair. Pammy is a new friend—I’ve gotten to know her because she dates Peter’s good friend Darrell. She has a face like a doll, round as a cake pan, and freckles dust her face and shoulders like sprinkles.
“Um, I think bangs are a very big commitment and not to be decided on a whim. Depending on how fast your hair grows, you could be growing them out for a year or more. But if you’re serious, I think you should wait till fall, because it’ll be summer before you know it, and bangs in the summer can be sort of sticky and sweaty and annoying. . . .” My eyes drift back to Peter, and he looks up and sees me looking at him, and raises his eyebrows questioningly. I just smile and shake my head.
“So don’t get bangs?”
My phone buzzes in my purse. It’s Peter.
Do you want to go?
Then why were you staring at me?
Because I felt like it.
Lucas is reading over my shoulder. I push him away, and he shakes his head and says, “Are you guys really texting each other when you’re only twenty feet away?”
Pammy crinkles up her nose and says, “So adorable.”
I’m about to answer them when I look up and see Peter sweeping across the room toward me with purpose. “Time to get my girl home,” he says.
“What time is it?” I say. “Is it that late already?” Peter’s hoisting me off the couch and helping me into my jacket. Then he pulls me by the hand and leads me through Gabe’s living room. Looking over my shoulder, I wave and call out, “Bye, Lucas! Bye, Pammy! For the record, I think you would look great with bangs!”
“Why are you walking so fast?” I ask as Peter marches me through the front yard to the curb where his car is parked.
He stops in front of the car, pulls me toward him, and kisses me, all in one fast motion. “I can’t concentrate on my cards when you stare at me like that, Covey.”
“Sorry,” I start to say, but he is kissing me again, his hands firm on my back.
When we’re in his car, I look at the dashboard and see that it’s only midnight. I say, “I still have an hour until I have to be home. What should we do?”
Of the people we know, I’m the only one with an actual curfew. When the clock strikes one o’clock, I turn into a pumpkin. Everyone is used to it by now: Peter Kavinsky’s Goody Two-shoes girlfriend who has to be home by one. I’ve never once minded having a curfew. Because truly, it’s not like I’m missing out on anything so wonderful—and what’s that old saying? Nothing good happens after two a.m. Unless you happen to be a fan of watching people play flip cup for hours on end. Not me. No, I’d much prefer to be in my flannel pajamas with a cup of Night-Night tea and a book, thank you very much.
“Let’s just go to your house. I want to come inside and say hi to your dad and hang out for a bit. We could watch the rest of Aliens.” Peter and I have been working our way down our movie list, which consists of my picks (favorite movies of mine that he’s never seen), his picks, (favorite movies of his that I’ve never seen), and movies neither of us have seen. Aliens was Peter’s pick, and it’s turning out to be quite good. And even though once upon a time Peter claimed he didn’t like rom coms, he was very into Sleepless in Seattle, which I was relieved for, because I just don’t see how I could be with someone who doesn’t like Sleepless in Seattle.
“Let’s not go home yet,” I say. “Let’s go somewhere.”
Peter thinks about it for a minute, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, and then he says, “I know where we can go.”
“Wait and see,” he says, and he puts the windows down, and the crisp night air fills the car.
I lean back into my seat. The streets are empty; the lights are off in most of the houses. “Let me guess. We’re going to the diner because you want blueberry pancakes.”
“Hmm. It’s too late to go to Starbucks, and Biscuit Soul Food is closed.”
“Hey, food isn’t the only thing I think about,” he objects. Then: “Are there any cookies left in that Tupperware?”
“They’re all gone, but I might have some more at home, if Kitty didn’t eat them all.” I dip my arm out the window and let it hang. Not many more nights left like these, where it’s cool enough to need a jacket.
I look at Peter’s profile out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes I still can’t believe he’s mine. The handsomest boy of all the handsome boys is mine, all mine.
“What?” he says.
“Nothing,” I say.
Ten minutes later, we are driving onto the University of Virginia campus, only nobody calls it campus; they call it Grounds. Peter parks along the side of the street. It’s quiet for a Friday night in a college town, but it’s UVA’s spring break, so a lot of kids are still gone.
We’re walking across the lawn, his hand in mine, when I’m hit with a sudden wave of panic. I stop short and ask, “Hey, you don’t think it’s bad luck for me to come here before I’m actually in, do you?”
Peter laughs. “It’s not a wedding. You’re not marrying UVA.”
“Easy for you to say, you’re already in.”
Peter gave a verbal commitment to the UVA lacrosse team last year, and then he applied early action in the fall. Like with most college athletes, he was all but in, so long as his grades stayed decent. When he got the official yes back in January, his mom threw a party for him and I baked a cake that said, I’m taking my talents to UVA in yellow frosting.