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I’M IN FRENCH CLASS, LOOKING out the window as I am wont to do, and that’s when I see Josh walking toward the bleachers by the track. He’s carrying his lunch, and he’s alone. Why is he eating alone? He has his comic-book group; he has Jersey Mike.
But I guess he and Jersey Mike didn’t hang out so much last year. Josh was always with Margot and me. The trio. And now we’re not even a duo, and he’s all alone. Part of it’s Margot’s fault for leaving, but I can see my part in it too—if I’d never started liking him, I wouldn’t have had to make up this whole Peter K. story. I could just be his good friend Lara Jean like always.
Maybe this is why Mommy told Margot not to go to college with a boyfriend. When you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you only want to be with that person, and you forget about everybody else, and then when the two of you break up, you’ve lost all your friends. They were off doing fun stuff without you.
All I can say is, Josh sure is a lonely figure eating his sandwich on the very top bleacher.
* * *
I take the bus home from school because Peter had to leave early for a lacrosse game with his club team. I’m in front of the house, taking the mail out of our mailbox, when Josh pulls into his driveway. “Hey!” he calls out. He climbs out of his car and jogs over to me, his backpack slung over his shoulder.
“I saw you on the bus,” he says. “I waved, but you were doing your daydreaming thing. So how long’s your car going to be in the shop?”
“I don’t know. It keeps changing. They had to order a part from, like, Indiana.”
Josh gives me a knowing look. “So you’re secretly relieved, right?”
“No! Why would I be relieved?”
“Come on. I know you. You hate driving. You’re probably glad to have the excuse not to drive.”
I start to protest, but then I stop. There’s no use. Josh knows me too well. “Well, maybe I’m a teeny-tiny bit relieved.”
“If you ever need a ride, you know you can call me.”
I nod. I do know that. I wouldn’t call him for myself, but I would for Kitty, in an emergency.
“I mean, I know you have Kavinsky now, but I’m right next door. It’s way more convenient for me to give you a ride to school than him. I mean, it’s more environmentally responsible.” I don’t say anything, and Josh scratches the back of his neck. “I want to say something to you, but I feel weird bringing it up. Which is also weird, because we’ve always been able to talk to each other.”
“We can still talk to each other,” I say. “Nothing’s changed.” That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever told him, even bigger than the lie about my so-called dead twin Marcella. Until a couple of years ago Josh thought I had a twin sister named Marcella who died of leukemia.
“Okay. I feel like . . . I feel like you’ve been avoiding me ever since . . .”
He’s going to say it. He’s actually going to say it. I look down at the ground.
“Ever since Margot broke up with me.”
My head snaps up. That’s what he thinks? That I’m avoiding him because of Margot? Did my letter really make that little of an impact? I try to keep my face still and expressionless when I say, “I haven’t been avoiding you. I’ve just been busy.”
“With Kavinsky. I know. You and I have known each other a long time. You’re one of my best friends, Lara Jean. I don’t want to lose you, too.”
It’s the “too” that’s the sticking point. The “too” is what stops me in my tracks. It sticks in my craw. Because if he hadn’t said “too,” it would be about me and him. Not about me and him and Margot.
“That letter you wrote—”
Too late. I don’t want to talk about the letter anymore. Before he can say another word, I say, “I’ll always be your friend, Joshy.” And then I smile at him, and it takes a lot of effort. It takes so much effort. But if I don’t smile, I’ll cry.
Josh nods. “Okay. Good. So . . . so can we hang out again?”
Josh reaches out and chucks my chin. “So can I give you a ride to school tomorrow?”
“Okay,” I say. Because wasn’t that kind of the whole point of this? To be able to hang out with Josh again without that letter hanging over our heads? To just be his good friend Lara Jean again?
* * *
After dinner I teach Kitty how to do laundry. She resists me at first, but I tell her that this is a job we are all sharing from now on, so she’d better just accept it.
“When the buzzer goes off, that means it’s done and you have to fold it right away or it’ll get wrinkled.”
To both of our surprise, Kitty likes doing laundry. Mostly because she can sit in front of the TV and fold and watch her shows in peace.
“Next time I’ll teach you how to iron.”
“Ironing, too? Who am I, Cinderella?”
I ignore her. “You’ll be good at ironing. You like precision and clean lines. You’ll probably be better at it than me.”
This piques her interest. “Yeah, maybe. Your stuff always looks wrinkled no matter what.”
After we finish the laundry, Kitty and I are washing up in the bathroom we share. There are two sinks; Margot had the one on the left and Kitty and I used to fight over who the sink on the right belonged to. It’s hers now.
Kitty’s brushing her teeth and I’m putting on a cucumber-aloe face mask, when Kitty says to me, “Do you think if I asked, Peter would take us to McDonald’s tomorrow on the way to school?”
I rub another dollop of green face mask onto my cheeks. “I don’t want you getting used to Peter giving us rides. You’re taking the bus from now on, okay?”
Kitty pouts. “Why!”
“Because. Besides, Peter’s not giving me a ride tomorrow, Josh is.”
“But won’t Peter be mad?”
My face is getting tight from the mask drying. Through clenched teeth I say, “Nah. He’s not the jealous type.”
“Then who’s the jealous type?”
I don’t have a good answer for that. Who is the jealous type? I’m mulling this over when Kitty giggles at me in the mirror and says, “You look like a zombie.”
I hold my hands out to her face and she ducks away. In my best zombie voice I say, “I want to eat your brains.”
Kitty runs away, screaming.
When I’m back in my room, I text Peter that I don’t need a ride to school tomorrow. I don’t tell him Josh is giving me a ride. Just in case.