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WE ALL GO TO PICK up margot from the airport. Kitty’s made a sign that says Welcome Home Gogo. I keep my eyes peeled for her, and when she comes out I almost don’t recognize her for a second—her hair is short! It’s cut in a bob! When Margot sees us, she waves, and Kitty drops her sign and runs toward her. Then we’re all hugging and Daddy has tears in his eyes. “What do you think?” Margot says to me, and I know she means her hair.
“It makes you look older,” I lie, and Margot beams. If anything it makes her look younger, but I knew she wouldn’t want to hear that.
On the way home, Margot makes Daddy pull over at Clouds for a cheeseburger, even though she says she isn’t hungry. “I’ve missed this so much,” she says, but she only has a few bites and Kitty has the rest.
* * *
I’m excited to show Margot all the cookies we made, but when I take her into the dining room and show her all the tins, she frowns. “You guys did the Christmas Cookie Bonanza without me?”
I feel a little bit guilty, but I honestly didn’t think Margot would mind. I mean, she was in Scotland, doing way more fun stuff than baking cookies, for Pete’s sake. “Well, yeah. We kind of had to. School ends tomorrow. If we’d waited for you, we wouldn’t have had time. We saved half the dough in the freezer, though, so you can still help us bake the rest for the neighbors.” I open the big blue tin so she can see the cookies layered and lined up in rows. I’m proud of how they are the same size and height. “We did some new cookies this year. Try an orange Creamsicle; it’s really good.”
Margot picks through the tin and frowns. “You didn’t do molasses cookies?”
“Not this year . . . We decided to do orange Creamsicle cookies in their place.” She picks one up and I watch her bite into it. “Good, right?”
She nods. “Mm-hmm.”
“Those were Kitty’s pick.”
Margot glances toward the living room. “When did you guys do the tree?”
“Kitty couldn’t wait,” I say, and it sounds like an excuse, but it’s true. I try not to sound defensive as I add, “I think it’ll be nice to enjoy the tree for as long as we can.”
“So when did you put it up?”
Slowly I say, “A couple of weeks ago . . .” Why is she in such a bad mood?
“That’s so long ago. It’ll probably be dried out by Christmas Day.” Margot walks over to the tree and moves the wooden owl ornament to a different branch.
“I’ve been watering it every day and putting in Sprite like Grandma taught us.”
Somehow this feels like a fight, and we never fight.
But then Margot yawns and says, “I’m really jet-lagged. I think I’m going to take a nap.”
When someone’s been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it’s like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little bits slip out of your hands, and then you’re just clutching air and grit. That’s why you can’t save it all up like that.
Because by the time you finally see each other, you’re catching up only on the big things, because it’s too much bother to tell about the little things. But the little things are what make up life. Like a month ago when Daddy slipped on a banana peel, a literal banana peel that Kitty had dropped on the kitchen floor. Kitty and I laughed for ages. I should have e-mailed Margot about it right away; I should have taken a picture of the banana peel. Now everything feels like you had to be there and oh never mind, I guess it’s not that funny.
Is this how people lose touch? I didn’t think that could happen with sisters. Maybe with other people, but never us. Before Margot left, I knew what she was thinking without having to ask; I knew everything about her. Not anymore. I don’t know what the view looks like outside her window, or if she still wakes up early every morning to have a real breakfast or if maybe now that she’s at college she likes to go out late and sleep in late. I don’t know if she prefers Scottish boys to American boys now, or if her roommate snores. All I know is she likes her classes and she’s been to visit London once. So basically I know nothing.
And so does she. There are big things I haven’t told her—how my letters got sent out. The truth about me and Peter. The truth about me and Josh.
I wonder if Margot feels it too. The distance between us. If she even notices.
* * *
Daddy makes spaghetti bolognese for dinner. Kitty has hers with a big pickle and a glass of milk, which sounds terrible, but then I take a bite, and actually pickle and spaghetti taste good together. Milk, too.
Kitty’s dumping more noodles on her plate when she says, “Lara Jean, what are you going to get Peter for Christmas?”
I glance at Margot, who is looking at me. “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Can I go with you to pick it out?”
“Sure, if I get him something.”
“You have to get him something; he’s your boyfriend.”
“I still can’t believe you’re dating Peter Kavinsky,” Margot says.
She doesn’t say it in a nice way, like it’s a good thing. “Can you just . . . not?” I say.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t like the guy.”
“Well, you don’t have to like him. I do,” I say, and Margot shrugs.
Daddy stands up and claps his hands together. “We have three different kinds of ice cream for dessert! Pralines and cream, Chunky Monkey, and strawberry. All your favorites, Margot. Help me get the bowls, Kitty.” They gather up the dirty dishes and go into the kitchen.
Margot looks out the window, toward Josh’s house. “Josh wants to see me later. I hope he finally gets that we’re broken up and he doesn’t try to come over every day while I’m home. He needs to move on.”
What a mean thing to say. She’s the one who’s been calling Josh, not the other way around. “He hasn’t been pining for you, if that’s what you’re imagining,” I say. “He gets that it’s over.”
Margot stares at me in surprise. “Well, I hope that’s true.”