His eyes go wide when I say, “How would we even get to the city? Do taxis go from New Jersey to New York?” I can’t even believe I am considering it. It’s so unlike me. Hastily I say, “No, no, never mind. We can’t. We’d get lost, or mugged, and then we’d get sent home, and then I’d be so mad we missed out on Central Park and everything.”
Peter gives me a skeptical look. “Do you really think Jain and Davenport would send us home?”
“Maybe not, but they might make us stay at the hotel all day long as punishment, which is even worse. Let’s not risk it.” Then: “What would we do?” I’m playing pretend now, not really planning, but Peter plays along.
“We could go hear some live music, or go to a comedy show. Sometimes famous comedians do surprise sets.”
“I wish we could see Hamilton.” When we drove through Times Square, Lucas and I craned our heads to see if we could get a glimpse of the Hamilton marquee, but no such luck.
“Tomorrow I want to get a New York bagel and see how it stacks up against Bodo’s.” Bodo’s Bagels are legendary in Charlottesville; we’re very proud of those bagels.
Putting my head on his shoulder, I yawn and say, “I wish we could go to Levain Bakery so I could try their cookie. It’s supposed to be like no chocolate chip cookie you’ve had before. I want to go to Jacques Torres’s chocolate shop too. His chocolate chip cookie is the definitive chocolate chip cookie, you know. It’s truly legendary. . . .” My eyes drift closed, and Peter pats my hair. I’m starting to fall asleep when I realize he’s unraveling the milkmaid braids Kitty pinned on the crown of my head. My eyes fly back open. “Peter!”
“Shh, go back to sleep. I want to practice something.”
“You’ll never get it back to how she had it.”
“Just let me try,” he says, collecting bobby pins in the palm of his hand.
When we get to the hotel in New Jersey, despite his best efforts, my braids are lumpy and loose and won’t stay pinned. “I’m sending a picture of this to Kitty so she’ll see what a bad student you are,” I say as I gather up my things.
“No, don’t,” Peter quickly says, which makes me smile.
* * *
The next day is surprisingly springlike for March. The sun is shining and flowers are just beginning to bud. It feels like I’m in You’ve Got Mail, when Kathleen Kelly goes to meet Joe Fox in Riverside Park. I would love to see the exact garden where they kiss at the end of the movie, but our tour guide brings us to Central Park instead. Chris and I are taking pictures of the Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields when I realize Peter is nowhere in sight. I ask Gabe and Darrell, but no one’s seen him. I text him, but he doesn’t reply. We’re about to move on to Sheep Meadow for a picnic, and I’m starting to panic, because what if Mr. Jain or Ms. Davenport notices he’s not here? He comes jogging up just as we’re about to go. He’s not even out of breath or the least bit concerned he almost got left behind.
“Where were you?” I demand. “We almost left!”
Triumphantly he holds up a brown paper bag. “Open it and see.”
I grab the bag from him and look inside. It’s a Levain chocolate chip cookie, still warm. “Oh my God, Peter! You’re so thoughtful.” I get on my tiptoes and hug him, and then turn to Chris. “Isn’t he so thoughtful, Chris?” Peter’s sweet, but he’s never this sweet. This is two romantic things in a row, so I figure I should praise him accordingly, because the boy responds well to positive reinforcement.
She’s already got her hand inside the bag, and she stuffs a piece of cookie in her mouth. “Very thoughtful.” She reaches for another piece, but Peter snatches the bag away from her.
“Damn, Chris! Let Covey have a bite before you eat the whole thing.”
“Well, why’d you only get one?”
“Because it’s huge! And it cost, like, five bucks for one.”
“I can’t believe you ran and got this for me,” I say. “You weren’t nervous you’d get lost?”
“Nah,” he says, all proud. “I just looked at Google Maps and ran for it. I got a little turned around when I got back in the park, but somebody gave me directions. New Yorkers are really friendly. All that stuff about them being rude must be bullshit.”
“That’s true. Everyone we’ve met has been really nice. Except for that old lady who screamed at you for walking and looking at your phone,” Chris says, snickering at Peter, who scowls at her. I take a big bite of the cookie. The Levain cookie is more like a scone, really dense and doughy. Heavy, too. It really is like no chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted.
“So?” Peter asks me. “What’s the verdict?”
“It’s unique. It’s in a class of its own.” I’m taking another bite when Ms. Davenport comes up and hustles us along, eyeing the cookie in my hand.
Our tour guide has a pointer that looks like the Statue of Liberty’s torch, and he holds it up in the air to shepherd us through the park. It’s actually pretty embarrassing, and I wish we could just go off by ourselves and explore the city, but no. He has a ponytail and he wears a khaki vest, and I think he’s kind of corny, but Ms. Davenport seems to be into him. After Central Park we take the subway downtown and get off to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. While everyone else is in line for ice cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Peter and I run over to Jacques Torres’s chocolate shop. It’s Peter’s idea. Of course I ask Ms. Davenport for permission first. She’s busy talking to the tour guide, so she waves us off. I feel so grown up, walking through the streets of New York without any adults.
When we get to the store, I’m so excited, I’m shaking. Finally I get to try Jacques’s famous chocolate chip cookie. I bite into it. This cookie is flat, chewy, dense. Chocolate has pooled on top and hardened! The butter and sugar taste almost caramelized. It’s heaven.
“Yours are better,” Peter says, his mouth rudely full, and I shush him, looking around to make sure the girl at the register didn’t hear.
“Stop lying,” I say.
He is. “I just don’t know why mine aren’t like his,” I say. “It must be the industrial ovens.” It seems I’ll just have to accept my not-quite-perfect chocolate chip cookie and be content with good enough.