“You’re lucky I’m a pack rat,” Ms. Rothschild says, sipping coffee from her thermos. She reaches into her bag and tosses me a pair of high, high black platform heels. “When I was in my twenties, Halloween was my thing. I was the queen of dressing up. It’s your turn to take the crown now, Lara Jean.”
“You can still be the queen,” I tell her.
“No, dressing up in costumes is a young person’s game. If I wore a sexy Sherlock Holmes costume now, I’d just look desperate.” She fluffs up my wig. “It’s all right. My time has passed.” To Kitty she says, “What do you think? A little more gunmetal eye shadow, right?”
“Let’s not take it too far,” I say. “This is still school.”
“The whole point of wearing a costume is taking it too far,” Ms. Rothschild says airily. “Take lots of pictures when you get to school. Text them to me so I can show my work friends. They’ll get a kick out of it. . . . God, speaking of work, what time is it?”
Ms. Rothschild is always running late, something that drives Daddy crazy because he’s always ten minutes early. And yet!
When Peter comes to pick me up, I run outside and open the passenger-side door and scream when I see him. His hair is blond!
“Oh my God!” I shriek, touching his hair. “Did you bleach it?”
He grins a self-satisfied kind of grin. “It’s spray. My mom found it for me. I can use it again when we do Romeo and Juliet for Halloween.” He’s eyeing me in my getup. “I like those shoes. You look sexy.”
I can feel my cheeks warm up. “Be quiet.”
As he backs out of my driveway, he glances at me again and says, “It’s the truth, though.”
I give him a shove. “All I’m saying is, people better know who I am.”
“I’ve got you covered,” he assures me.
And he does. When we walk down the senior hallway, Peter cues up the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” on his phone, loud, and people actually clap for us. Not one person asks if I’m a manga character.
* * *
After school, Peter and I are lying on the couch; his feet are hanging off the end. He’s still in his costume, but I’ve changed into my regular clothes. “You always have the cutest socks,” he says, lifting up my right foot. These ones are gray with white polka dots and yellow bear faces.
Proudly I say, “My great-aunt sends them from Korea. Korea has the cutest stuff, you know.”
“Can you ask her to send me some too? Not bears, but maybe, like, tigers. Tigers are cool.”
“Your feet are too big for socks as cute as these. Your toes would pop right out. You know what, I bet I could find you some socks that fit at . . . um, the zoo.” Peter sits up and starts tickling me. I gasp out, “I bet the—pandas or gorillas have to—keep their feet warm somehow . . . in the winter. Maybe they have some kind of deodorized sock technology as well.” I burst into giggles. “Stop . . . stop tickling me!”
“Then stop being mean about my feet!” I’ve got my hand burrowed under his arm, and I am tickling him ferociously. But by doing so, I have opened myself up to more attacks.
I yell, “Okay, okay, truce!” He stops, and I pretend to stop, but sneak a tickle under his arm, and he lets out a high-pitched un-Peter-like shriek.
“You said truce!” he accuses. We both nod and lie back down, out of breath. “Do you really think my feet smell?”
I don’t. I love the way he smells after a lacrosse game—like sweat and grass and him. But I love to tease, to see that unsure look cross his face for just half a beat. “Well, I mean, on game days . . . ,” I say. Then Peter attacks me again, and we’re wrestling around, laughing, when Kitty walks in, balancing a tray with a cheese sandwich and a glass of orange juice.
“Take it upstairs,” she says, sitting down on the floor. “This is a public area.”
Disentangling myself, I give her a glare. “We aren’t doing anything private, Katherine.”
“Your sister says my feet stink,” Peter says, pointing his foot in her direction. “She’s lying, isn’t she?”
She deflects it with a pop of her elbow. “I’m not smelling your foot.” She shudders. “You guys are kinky.”
I yelp and throw a pillow at her.
She gasps. “You’re lucky you didn’t knock over my juice! Daddy will kill you if you mess up the rug again.” Pointedly she says, “Remember the nail-polish-remover incident?”
Peter ruffles my hair. “Clumsy Lara Jean.”
I shove him away from me. “I’m not clumsy. You’re the one who tripped over his own feet trying to get to the pizza the other night at Gabe’s.”
Kitty bursts into giggles and Peter throws a pillow at her. “You guys need to stop ganging up on me!” he yells.
“Are you staying for dinner?” she asks when her giggles subside.
“I can’t. My mom’s making chicken fried steak.”
Kitty’s eyes bulge. “Lucky. Lara Jean, what are we having?”
“I’m defrosting some chicken breasts as we speak,” I say. She makes a face, and I say, “If you don’t like it, maybe you could learn to cook. I won’t be around to cook your dinners anymore when I’m at college, you know.”
“Yeah, right. You’ll probably be here every night.” She turns to Peter. “Can I come to your house for dinner?”
“Sure,” he says. “You can both come.”
Kitty starts to cheer, and I shush her. “We can’t, because then Daddy will have to eat alone. Ms. Rothschild has SoulCycle tonight.”
She takes a bite of her cheese sandwich. “I’m making myself another sandwich, then. I don’t want to eat old freezer-burn chicken.”
I sit up suddenly. “Kitty, I’ll make something else if you’ll braid my hair tomorrow morning. I want to do something special for New York.” I’ve never been to New York before in my life. For our last family vacation, we took a vote, and I picked New York, but I was voted down in favor of Mexico. Kitty wanted to eat fish tacos and swim in the ocean, and Margot wanted to see Mayan ruins and have a chance to work on her Spanish. In the end, I was happy to be outvoted. Before Mexico, Kitty and I had never even left the country. I’ve never seen water so blue.