“Well, you freeloaders don’t pay the mortgage on it, I do, so that should make it my house slightly more.” With that final dad joke, he puts on oven mitts and takes the sizzling chicken out of the oven.
When we sit down to eat, Daddy stands at the head of the table and carves the chicken with the fancy new electric carving knife Ms. Rothschild got him for his birthday. “Ravi, can I offer you dark meat or white?”
Ravi clears his throat. “Um, I’m so sorry, but I actually don’t eat meat.”
Daddy gives Margot a horrified look. “Margot, you didn’t tell me Ravi was a vegetarian!”
“Sorry,” she says, grimacing. “I totally forgot. But Ravi loves salad!”
“I truly do,” he assures Daddy.
“I’ll take Ravi’s portion,” I offer. “I’ll take two thighs.”
Daddy saws off two thighs for me. “Ravi, tomorrow morning I’m making you a mean breakfast enchilada. No meat!”
Smiling, Margot says, “We’re going to DC early tomorrow morning. Maybe the day he leaves?”
“Done,” Daddy says.
Kitty is unnaturally subdued. I’m not sure if it’s nervousness from having a boy she doesn’t know sit at her dining room table, or if it’s just because she’s getting older, and she’s less a kid in the way she interacts with new people. Though I suppose a twenty-one-year-old boy is really more of a young man.
Ravi has such nice manners—probably because he is English, and isn’t it a fact that English people have better manners than Americans? He says sorry a lot. “Sorry, can I just . . .” “Sorry?” His accent is charming, I keep saying pardon so he’ll speak again.
For my part, I try to lighten the mood with questions about England. I ask him why English people call private school public school, if his public school was anything like Hogwarts, if he’s ever met the royal family. His answers are: because they are open to the paying public; they had head boys and head girls and prefects but no Quidditch; and he once saw Prince William at Wimbledon, but only the back of his head.
After dinner, the plan is for Ravi, Margot, Peter, and me to go to the movies. Margot invites Kitty to come along, but she demurs, citing her homework as the reason. I think she’s just nervous around Ravi.
I get ready in my room, dab a little perfume, a little lip balm, put on a sweatshirt over my cami and jeans because the theater gets cold. I’m ready fast, but Margot’s door is closed, and I can hear them talking quietly yet intensely. It’s a strange thing to see her door closed. I feel like a little spy standing outside the door, but it’s awkward, because who knows if Ravi has a shirt on, or what? It’s so adult, that closed door, those hushed voices.
Through the door I clear my throat and say, “Are you guys ready? I told Peter we’d meet him at eight.”
Margot opens the door. “Ready,” she says, and she doesn’t look happy.
Ravi steps out behind her, carrying his suitcase. “I’m just going to drop this off in the guest room, and then I’m all set,” he says.
As soon as he’s gone, I whisper to Margot, “Did something happen?”
“Ravi didn’t want to make a bad impression on Daddy by us staying in the same room. I told him it was fine, but he doesn’t feel comfortable.”
“That’s very considerate of him.” I wouldn’t say so to Margot, but it was totally the right move. Ravi just keeps rising in my estimation.
Reluctantly she says, “He’s a very considerate guy.”
“Really handsome, too.”
A smile spreads across her face. “And there’s that.”
* * *
Peter’s already at the movie theater when we arrive, I’m sure because of Margot. He has no problem being late for me, but he would never dare be late for my big sister. Ravi buys all four of our tickets, which Peter is really impressed by. “Such a classy move,” he whispers to me as we sit down. Peter deftly maneuvers it so we’re sitting me, Peter, Ravi, Margot, so he can keep talking to him about soccer. Or football, as Ravi says. Margot gives me an amused look over their heads, and I can tell all the unpleasantness from before is forgotten.
After the movie, Peter suggests we go for frozen custards. “Have you ever had frozen custard before?” he asks Ravi.
“Never,” Ravi says.
“It’s the best, Rav,” he says. “They make it homemade.”
“Brilliant,” Ravi says.
When the boys are in line, Margot says to me, “I think Peter’s in love—with my boyfriend,” and we both giggle.
We’re still laughing when they get back to our table. Peter hands me my pralines and cream. “What’s so funny?”
I just shake my head and dip my spoon into the custard.
Margot says, “Wait, we have to cheers my sister getting into William and Mary!”
My smile feels frozen as everyone clinks their custard cups against mine. Ravi says, “Well done, Lara Jean. Didn’t Jon Stewart go there?”
Surprised, I say, “Why yes, yes he did. That’s a pretty random fact to know.”
“Ravi’s specialty is random facts,” Margot says, licking her spoon. “Don’t get him started on the mating habits of bonobos.”
“Two words,” Ravi says. Then he looks from Peter to me and whispers, “Penis fencing.”
Margot’s so lit up around Ravi. I once thought she and Josh were meant for each other, but now I’m not so sure. When they talk about politics, they’re both equally passionate, and they go back and forth, challenging each other but also conceding points. They’re like two flints sparking. If they were on a TV show, I could see them as rival residents at a hospital who first grudgingly respect each other and then fall madly in love. Or two political aides at the White House, or two journalists. Ravi is studying bioengineering, which has not a lot to do with Margot’s anthropology, but they sure make a great team.
* * *
The next day, Margot takes Ravi to Washington, DC, and they visit a few of the museums on the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. They invited Kitty and me to go along, but I said no on behalf of both of us because I was pretty sure they would want some time alone and because I wanted to be cozy at home and work on my scrapbook for Peter. When they get back that night, I ask Ravi what his favorite thing to do in DC was, and he says the National Museum of African American History and Culture by far, which makes me regret my decision not to go, because I haven’t been there yet.