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AFTER SCHOOL I GET A text from josh.
You, me, and the diner like old times.
Except old times would have included Margot. Now it’s new times, I suppose. Maybe that’s not altogether a bad thing. New can be good.
OK but I’m getting my own grilled cheese because you always hog more than your fair share.
We’re sitting in our booth by the jukebox.
I wonder what Margot’s doing right now. It’s nighttime in Scotland. Maybe she’s getting ready to go out to the pub with her hallmates. Margot says pubs are really big over there; they have what they call pub crawls, where they go from pub to pub and drink and drink. Margot’s not some big drinker, I’ve never even seen her drunk. I hope she’s learned how to by now.
I hold my hand out for quarters. Another Lara Jean–and-Josh tradition. Josh always gives me quarters for the jukebox. It’s because he keeps mounds of them in his car for the tollbooth, and I never have quarters because I hate change.
I can’t decide if I want doo-wop or folksy guitar, but then at the last second I put in “Video Killed the Radio Star,” for Margot. So in a way it’s like she is here.
Josh smiles when it comes on. “I knew you’d pick that.”
“No you didn’t, because I didn’t know I was going to until I did.” I pick up my menu and study it like I haven’t seen it a million times.
Josh is still smiling. “Why bother looking at the menu when we already know what you’re going to get?”
“I could change my mind at the last second,” I say. “There’s a chance I could order a tuna melt or a turkey burger or a chef salad. I can be adventurous too, you know.”
“Sure,” Josh agrees, and I know he’s just humoring me.
The server comes over to take our order and Josh says, “I’ll have a grilled cheese and a tomato soup and a chocolate milkshake.” He looks at me expectantly. There’s a smile coming up on the corners of his lips.
“Ah . . . um . . .” I scan the menu as fast as I can, but I don’t actually want a tuna melt or a turkey burger or a chef salad. I give up. I like what I like. “A grilled cheese, please. And a black-cherry soda.” As soon as the server is gone, I say, “Don’t say a word.”
“Oh, I wasn’t going to.”
And then, because there’s a silence, we both speak at the same time. I say, “Have you talked to Margot lately?” and he says, “How are things going with Kavinsky?”
Josh’s easy smile fades and he looks away. “Yeah, we chat online sometimes. I think . . . I think she’s kind of homesick.”
I give him a funny look. “I just talked to her last night and she didn’t seem homesick at all. She seemed like the same old Margot. She was telling us about Raisin Weekend. It makes me want to go to Saint Andrews too.”
“What’s Raisin Weekend?”
“I’m not a hundred percent sure . . . it sounds like it was a mix between drinking a lot and Latin. I guess it’s a Scottish thing.”
“Would you do that?” Josh asks. “Would you go somewhere far away?”
I sigh. “No, probably not. That’s Margot, not me. It’d be nice to visit, though. Maybe my dad will let me go during spring break.”
“I think she’d like that a lot. I guess our Paris trip isn’t happening anymore, huh?” He laughs awkwardly, and then he clears his throat. “So wait, how are things going with Kavinsky?”
Before I can answer, the server comes back with our food. Josh pushes the bowl of soup so it’s in the middle of the table. “First sip?” he asks, holding up the milkshake.
Eagerly I nod and lean across the table. Josh holds the glass and I take a long sip. “Ahhh,” I say, sitting back down.
“That was a pretty big sip,” he says. “How come you never get your own?”
“Why should I when I know you’ll share?” I break off a piece of grilled cheese and dip it into the soup.
“So you were saying?” Josh prods. When I stare at him blankly, he says, “You were about to talk about Kavinsky . . .”
I was hoping this wouldn’t come up. I’m not in the mood to tell more lies to Josh. “Things are good.” Because Josh is looking at me like he’s expecting something more, I add, “He’s really sweet.”
“He’s not what you’d think. People are so quick to judge him, but he’s different.” I’m surprised to find I’m telling the truth. Peter isn’t what you’d think. He is cocky and he can be obnoxious and he’s always late, true, but there are other good and surprising things about him too. “He’s . . . not what you think.”
Josh gives me a dubious look. Then he dunks half his sandwich into the soup and says, “You already said that.”
“That’s because it’s true.” He shrugs at this like he doesn’t believe me. So I say, “You should see the way Kitty acts around Peter. She’s crazy about him.” I don’t realize it until the words are actually out of my mouth, but I say it to hurt him.
Josh tears off a hunk of grilled cheese. “Well, I hope she doesn’t get too attached.” Even though I’ve had that exact same thought for different reasons, it still hurts to hear.
Suddenly the easy Josh-and–Lara Jean feeling is lost. Josh is withdrawn and closed off, and I’m stinging from what he said about Peter, and it feels like playacting to sit across from each other and pretend it’s the same as the old days. How could it be, when Margot isn’t here? She is the point of our little triangle.
“Hey,” Josh says suddenly. I look up. “I didn’t mean that. That was a shitty thing to say.” He ducks his head. “I guess . . . I don’t know, maybe I’m just jealous. I’m not used to sharing the Song girls.”
I go soft inside. Now that he’s said this nice thing, I am feeling warm and generous toward him again. I don’t say what I’m thinking, which is, You may not be used to sharing us, but we’re very used to sharing you. “You know Kitty still loves you best,” I say, which makes him smile.
“I mean, I did teach her how to hock a loogie,” Josh says. “You don’t forget the person who teaches you something like that.” He takes a long sip of his milkshake. “Hey, they’re doing a Lord of the Rings marathon at the Bess this weekend. Wanna go?”
“That’s like . . . nine hours!”
“Yeah, nine hours of awesome.”
“True,” I agree. “I wanna go; I just have to check with Peter first. He said something about going to a movie this weekend, and—”
Josh cuts me off before I can finish. “It’s fine. I can just go with Mike. Or maybe I’ll take Kitty. It’s about time I introduced her to the genius that is Tolkien.”
I’m quiet. Are Kitty and I interchangeable in his mind? Are Margot and I?
We’re sharing a waffle when Genevieve walks into the diner with a little kid who I guess must be her little brother. Not her actual little brother; Gen is an only child. She’s the president of the Little Sib program. It’s where a high school student is paired up with an elementary school kid and you tutor them and take them out for fun days.
I slump down in my seat, but of course Gen still sees me. She looks from me to Josh, and then she gives me a little wave. I don’t know what to do so I just wave back. Something about the way she’s smiling at me is unsettling. It’s how genuinely happy she looks.
If Genevieve is happy, that’s not good for me.
* * *