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THAT FRIDAY I GO TO my first ever football game. I’ve never had even the tiniest bit of interest in it before, and I still don’t. I’m sitting high in the stands with Peter and his friends, and as far as I can tell, there’s not a lot to see. It just seems like a lot of waiting and huddling and not a lot of action. Nothing at all like football games in the movies and on TV shows.
By nine thirty the game’s almost over, I hope, and I’m yawning into my coat when Peter suddenly throws his arm around me. I nearly choke on my yawn.
Down below, Genevieve is cheering with the rest of the squad. She is shimmying and shaking her pom-poms. She looks up in the stands, and when she sees us, she stops for just a half second before launching into a new cheer, eyes blazing.
I glance at Peter, who has a satisfied smirk on. When Genevieve’s back on the sidelines, he drops his arm and suddenly seems to remember I’m there. He says, “Eli’s having people over tonight. Wanna go?”
I don’t even know who Eli is. I yawn again, a big one for show. “Um . . . I’m really tired. So . . . no. No, thank you. Can you just drop me off on the way there?”
Peter gives me a look, but he doesn’t argue.
On the way home, we pass by the diner and Peter suddenly says, “I’m hungry. Do you want to stop and get something?” Pointedly he adds, “Or are you too tired?”
I ignore the dig and say, “Sure, I can eat.”
So Peter turns the car around and we go to the diner. We get a booth up front. Whenever I used to come here with Margot and Josh, we would always sit in the back near the jukebox so we could put coins in. Half the time the jukebox was broken, but we still liked sitting near it. It’s weird to be here without them. We have so many traditions here. The three of us would get two grilled-cheese sandwiches and cut them up into squares, and we’d order a bowl of tomato soup to dip the squares in, and then Josh and I would share a waffle with extra whipped cream for dessert and Margot would have a bowl of tapioca pudding. Gross, I know. I’m pretty sure only grandmas like tapioca pudding.
Our waitress is Kelly, who’s a student at the college. She was gone all summer, and I guess now she’s back. She eyes Peter as she sets down our waters. “Where are your friends tonight?” she asks me.
I say, “Margot’s left for Scotland, and Josh . . . isn’t here.” Which Peter rolls his eyes at.
Then Peter orders blueberry pancakes and bacon and scrambled eggs. I get a grilled cheese with fries on the side and a black-cherry soda.
When Kelly leaves to put in our orders, I ask him, “Why do you hate Josh so much?”
“I don’t hate him,” Peter scoffs. “I barely know the guy.”
“Well, you certainly don’t like him.”
Peter scowls at me. “What’s to like? That kid turned me in once for cheating in seventh grade.”
Peter cheated? My stomach twists a little. “What kind of cheating was it? Like, homework?”
“No, a Spanish test. I wrote down the answers in my calculator, and Josh freaking told on me. Who does that?”
I search his face for some sign of embarrassment or shame at having cheated, but I don’t see even an iota. “What are you so high and mighty for? You’re the one who cheated!”
“It was seventh grade!”
“Well, do you still cheat?”
“No. Hardly ever. I mean, I have.” He frowns at me. “Would you quit looking at me like that?”
“With judgey eyes. Look, I’m going to school on a lacrosse scholarship anyway, so what does it matter?”
I have a sudden revelation. I lower my voice and say, “Wait . . . can you read?”
He bursts out laughing. “Yes, I can read! Geez, Lara Jean. Not everything has a story behind it, okay? I’m just lazy.” He snorts. “Can I read? I’ve written you multiple notes! You’re hilarious.”
I can feel my face get flushed. “It wasn’t that funny.” I squint at him. “Is everything a joke to you?”
“Not everything, but most things, sure.”
I drop my chin. “Then maybe that’s a character flaw that you should work on,” I say. “Because some things are serious and they should be taken seriously. Sorry if you think that’s me being judgey.”
“Yup, I think that’s judgey. I think you’re judgey in general. That’s a character flaw that you should work on. I also think you need to learn how to kick back and have fun.”
I’m listing off all the ways I have fun—biking (which I hate), baking, reading; I consider saying knitting but I’m pretty sure he’ll only make fun of me—when Kelly drops off our food and I stop so I can bite into my grilled cheese while it’s still oozy.
Peter steals one of my french fries. “So who else?”
“Who else what?”
With his mouth full, he says, “Who else got letters?”
“Um, that’s really private.” I shake my head at him, like Wow, how rude.
“What? I’m just curious.” Peter dips another fry into my little ramekin of ketchup. Smirking, he says, “Come on, don’t be shy. You can tell me. I know I’m number one, obviously. But I want to hear who else made the cut.”
He’s practically flexing, he’s so sure of himself. Fine, if he wants to know so bad, I’ll tell him. “Josh, you—”
Peter snorts. “Kenny? Who’s he?”
I prop my elbows up on the table and rest my chin on my hands. “A boy I met at church camp. He was the best swimmer of the whole boys’ side. He saved a drowning kid once. He swam out to the middle of the lake before the lifeguards even noticed anything was wrong.”
“So what’d he say when he got the letter?”
“Nothing. It was sent back return to sender.”
“Okay, who’s next?”
I take a bite of sandwich. “Lucas Krapf.”
“He’s gay,” Peter says.
“He’s not gay!”
“Dude, quit dreaming. The kid is gay. He wore an ascot to school yesterday.”
“I’m sure he was wearing it ironically. Besides, wearing an ascot doesn’t make someone gay.” I give him a look like Wow, so homophobic.