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I’M NOT SURE HOW DRESSED up I should get for dinner at Peter’s house. At the store his mom seems so fancy. I just don’t want to meet her and have her be thinking of all the ways that I’m lacking compared to Genevieve. I don’t see why I have to meet her at all.
But I do want her to like me.
I go through my closet, and then Margot’s closet. I finally pick a cream-colored sweater and a blouse with a Peter Pan collar, with a corduroy mustard circle skirt. Plus tights and flats. Then I put on some makeup, which I hardly ever wear. I put on peach blush and I try to do some eye makeup, but I end up washing everything off and starting over again, this time with just mascara and lip gloss.
I go show Kitty and she says, “Looks like a uniform.”
“Like in a good way?”
Kitty nods. “Like you work at a nice store.”
Before Peter arrives at my house, I go on the computer and look up what fork to use with what, just in case.
* * *
It’s strange. Sitting at Peter’s kitchen table, I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. It turns out Peter’s mom has made pizzas, so I didn’t even need to worry about forks. And their house isn’t fancy on the inside; it’s just normal and nice. There’s a real butter churner on display in the kitchen, pictures of Peter and his brother hanging on the walls in wooden frames, and red-and-white gingham everything.
There are a bunch of pizza toppings on the breakfast bar—not just pepperoni and sausage and mushroom and pepper, but also artichoke hearts and greasy kalamata olives and fresh mozzarella and whole cloves of garlic.
Peter’s mom is nice. She keeps putting more salad on my plate all throughout dinner, and I keep eating it even though I’m full. Once, I catch her looking at me, and she has a soft smile on her face. When she smiles, she looks like Peter.
Peter’s younger brother is named Owen. He’s twelve. He’s like a miniature Peter, but he doesn’t talk as much. He doesn’t have Peter’s easy way. Owen grabs a slice of pizza and shoves it into his mouth even though it’s too hot. He puffs out hot air and he almost spits a piece back out into his napkin, and their mom says, “Don’t you dare, Owen. We have company.”
“Leave me alone,” Owen mumbles.
“Peter says you have two sisters,” Mrs. Kavinsky says with a bright smile. She cuts a piece of lettuce into bite-sized bits. “Your mother must love having three girls.”
I open my mouth to answer her, but before I can, Peter does. He says, “Lara Jean’s mom passed away when she was little.” He says it like she should already know, and embarrassment crosses her face.
“I’m so sorry. I remember that now.”
Quickly I say, “She did love having three girls. They thought for sure my little sister Kitty was going to be a boy, and my mom said she was so used to girls she was nervous about what she was going to do with a boy. So she was really relieved when Kitty turned out to be a girl. My sister Margot and I were too; we would pray every night we’d get a sister and not a brother.”
“Hey, what’s wrong with boys?” Peter objects.
Mrs. Kavinsky’s smiling now. She puts another piece of pizza on Owen’s plate and says, “You’re heathens. Wild animals. I bet Lara Jean and her sisters are angels.”
“Well . . . Kitty might be part heathen,” I admit. “But my older sister Margot and I are pretty good.”
Mrs. Kavinsky takes her napkin and tries to wipe tomato sauce off Owen’s face, and he swats her hand away. “Mom!”
When she gets up to take another pizza out of the oven, Peter says to me, “See how my mom babies him?”
“She babies you way more,” Owen counters. To me he mumbles, “Peter doesn’t even know how to cook ramen.”
I laugh. “Can you?”
“Hell yeah, I’ve been cooking for myself for years,” he says.
“I like to cook too,” I say, taking a sip of iced tea. “We should give Peter a cooking lesson.”
He eyes me and then says, “You wear more makeup than Genevieve did.”
I shrink back like he slapped me. All I’m wearing is mascara! And a little lip gloss! I know for a fact that Genevieve wears bronzer and eye shadow and concealer every day. Plus mascara and eyeliner and lipstick!
Swiftly Peter says, “Shut up, Owen.”
Owen’s snickering. I narrow my eyes. This kid is only a few years older than Kitty! I lean forward and wave my hand in front of my face. “This is all natural. But thank you for the compliment, Owen.”
“You’re welcome,” he says, just like his big brother.
* * *
On the drive home, I say, “Hey, Peter?”
“What? Just ask.”
“Well . . . your parents are divorced, right?”
“So how often do you see your dad?”
“Oh, okay. I was just wondering.”
Peter looks over at me with expectant eyes.
“What?” I say.
“I’m just waiting for the next question. You never just have one question.”
“Well, do you miss him?”
“Oh. I don’t know. I think it’s more that I miss how it used to be with us. Him and my mom and me and Owen. We were like a team. He used to come to every lacrosse game.” Peter gets quiet. “He just . . . took care of things.”