Always and Forever, Lara Jean (10 page)

“I truly do,” he assures Daddy.

“I’ll take Ravi’s portion,” I offer. “I’ll take two thighs.”

Daddy saws off two thighs for me. “Ravi, tomorrow morning I’m making you a mean breakfast enchilada. No meat!”

Smiling, Margot says, “We’re going to
early tomorrow morning. Maybe the day he leaves?”

“Done,” Daddy says.

Kitty is unnaturally subdued. I’m not sure if it’s nervousness from having a boy she doesn’t know sit at her dining room table, or if it’s just because she’s getting older, and she’s less a kid in the way she interacts with new people. Though I suppose a twenty-one-year-old boy is really more of a young man.

Ravi has such nice manners—probably because he is English, and isn’t it a fact that English people have better manners than Americans? He says sorry a lot. “Sorry, can I just . . .” “Sorry?” His accent is charming, I keep saying pardon so he’ll speak again.

For my part, I try to lighten the mood with questions about England. I ask him why English people call private school public school, if his public school was anything like Hogwarts, if he’s ever met the royal family. His answers are: because they are open to the paying public; they had head
boys and head girls and prefects but no Quidditch; and he once saw Prince William at Wimbledon, but only the back of his head.

After dinner, the plan is for Ravi, Margot, Peter, and me to go to the movies. Margot invites Kitty to come along, but she demurs, citing her homework as the reason. I think she’s just nervous around Ravi.

I get ready in my room, dab a little perfume, a little lip balm, put on a sweatshirt over my cami and jeans because the theater gets cold. I’m ready fast, but Margot’s door is closed, and I can hear them talking quietly yet intensely. It’s a strange thing to see her door closed. I feel like a little spy standing outside the door, but it’s awkward, because who knows if Ravi has a shirt on, or what? It’s so adult, that closed door, those hushed voices.

Through the door I clear my throat and say, “Are you guys ready? I told Peter we’d meet him at eight.”

Margot opens the door. “Ready,” she says, and she doesn’t look happy.

Ravi steps out behind her, carrying his suitcase. “I’m just going to drop this off in the guest room, and then I’m all set,” he says.

As soon as he’s gone, I whisper to Margot, “Did something happen?”

“Ravi didn’t want to make a bad impression on Daddy by us staying in the same room. I told him it was fine, but he doesn’t feel comfortable.”

“That’s very considerate of him.” I wouldn’t say so to
Margot, but it was totally the right move. Ravi just keeps rising in my estimation.

Reluctantly she says, “He’s a very considerate guy.”

“Really handsome, too.”

A smile spreads across her face. “And there’s that.”

*  *  *

Peter’s already at the movie theater when we arrive, I’m sure because of Margot. He has no problem being late for me, but he would never dare be late for my big sister. Ravi buys all four of our tickets, which Peter is really impressed by. “Such a classy move,” he whispers to me as we sit down. Peter deftly maneuvers it so we’re sitting me, Peter, Ravi, Margot, so he can keep talking to him about soccer. Or football, as Ravi says. Margot gives me an amused look over their heads, and I can tell all the unpleasantness from before is forgotten.

After the movie, Peter suggests we go for frozen custards. “Have you ever had frozen custard before?” he asks Ravi.

“Never,” Ravi says.

“It’s the best, Rav,” he says. “They make it homemade.”

“Brilliant,” Ravi says.

When the boys are in line, Margot says to me, “I think Peter’s in love—with my boyfriend,” and we both giggle.

We’re still laughing when they get back to our table. Peter hands me my pralines and cream. “What’s so funny?”

I just shake my head and dip my spoon into the custard.

Margot says, “Wait, we have to cheers my sister getting into William and Mary!”

My smile feels frozen as everyone clinks their custard cups against mine. Ravi says, “Well done, Lara Jean. Didn’t Jon Stewart go there?”

Surprised, I say, “Why yes, yes he did. That’s a pretty random fact to know.”

“Ravi’s specialty is random facts,” Margot says, licking her spoon. “Don’t get him started on the mating habits of bonobos.”

“Two words,” Ravi says. Then he looks from Peter to me and whispers, “Penis fencing.”

Margot’s so lit up around Ravi. I once thought she and Josh were meant for each other, but now I’m not so sure. When they talk about politics, they’re both equally passionate, and they go back and forth, challenging each other but also conceding points. They’re like two flints sparking. If they were on a
show, I could see them as rival residents at a hospital who first grudgingly respect each other and then fall madly in love. Or two political aides at the White House, or two journalists. Ravi is studying bioengineering, which has not a lot to do with Margot’s anthropology, but they sure make a great team.

*  *  *

The next day, Margot takes Ravi to Washington,
, and they visit a few of the museums on the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. They invited Kitty and me to go along, but I said no on behalf of both of us because I was pretty sure they would want some time alone and because I wanted to be cozy at home and work on
my scrapbook for Peter. When they get back that night, I ask Ravi what his favorite thing to do in
was, and he says the National Museum of African American History and Culture by far, which makes me regret my decision not to go, because I haven’t been there yet.

We turn on a
show on Netflix that Margot has been raving about, and it was filmed near where Ravi grew up, so he points out landmark places like his first job and his first date. We eat ice cream right out of the cartons, and I can tell that Daddy likes Ravi by the way he keeps urging him to have more. I’m sure he noticed that Ravi is staying in the guest room, and I’m sure he appreciates the gesture. I hope Ravi and Margot keep dating, because I could see him in our family forever. Or at least stay together long enough for Margot and me to take a trip to London and stay at his house!

Ravi has to leave for Texas the next afternoon, and while I’m sad to see him go, I’m also a little bit glad, because then we get to have Margot all to ourselves before she leaves again.

When we say good-bye, I point at him and say, “Hufflepuff.”

He grins. “You got it in one.” Then he points at me. “Hufflepuff?”

I grin back. “You got it in one.”

*  *  *

That night we’re in my bedroom watching
on my laptop when Margot brings up college—which is how I know that on some level she was waiting for Ravi to go too, so she
could talk to me about real things. Before we load the next episode, she looks over at me and says, “Can we talk about
? How are you feeling about it now?”

“I was sad, but it’s all right. I’m still going to go there.” Margot gives me a quizzical look, and I explain, “I’m going to transfer after freshman year. I talked to Mrs. Duvall, and she said if I got good grades at William and Mary, I would definitely get in as a transfer.”

Her forehead wrinkles up. “Why are you talking about transferring from William and Mary when you aren’t even there yet?” When I don’t answer right away, she says, “Is this because of Peter?”

“No! I mean, it is, in part, but not completely.” I hesitate before saying the thing I haven’t said out loud. “You know that feeling, like you’re meant to be somewhere? When I visited William and Mary, I didn’t get that feeling. Not like with

“It might be that no school gives you the exact feeling you have with
,” Margot says.

“Maybe so—which is why I’m going to transfer after a year.”

She sighs. “I just don’t want you to live a half life at William and Mary because the whole time you’re wishing you were with Peter at
. The freshman-year experience is so important. You should at least give it a fair chance, Lara Jean. You might really love it there.” She gives me a look heavy with meaning. “Remember what Mommy said about college and boyfriends?”

How could I forget?

be the girl who goes to college with a boyfriend

“I remember,” I say.

Margot takes my laptop and goes on the William and Mary website. “This campus is so pretty. Look at this weather vane! It all looks like something out of an English village.”

I perk up. “Yeah, it kind of does.” Is it as pretty as
’s campus? No, not to me, but then I don’t think anywhere is as pretty as Charlottesville.

“And look, William and Mary has a guacamole club. And a storm-watchers club. And oh my God! Something called a wizards-and-muggles club! It’s the largest Harry Potter club at any

“Wow! That
pretty neat. Do they have a baking club?”

She checks. “No. But you could start one!”

“Maybe . . . That would be fun. . . .” Maybe I
join a club or two.

She beams at me. “See? There’s a lot to be excited about. And don’t forget the Cheese Shop.”

The Cheese Shop is a specialty food store right by campus, and they sell cheese, obviously, but also fancy jams and bread and wine and gourmet pastas. They make really great roast beef sandwiches with a house dressing—a mayonnaisey mustard that I have tried to duplicate at home, but nothing tastes as good as in the shop, on their fresh bread. Daddy loves to stop at the Cheese Shop for new mustards and a sandwich. He’d be happy to have an excuse to go there. And Kitty, she loves the Williamsburg outlet mall. They sell kettle corn there, and it’s really addictive. They pop it right in front
of you, and the popcorn is so hot, it melts the bag a little.

“Maybe I could get a job in Colonial Williamsburg,” I say, trying to get into the spirit. “I could churn butter. Wear period garb. Like, a calico dress with an apron or whatever they wore in Colonial times. I’ve heard they’re not allowed to speak to each other in modern-day language, and kids are always trying to trip them up. That could be fun. The only thing is, I’m not sure if they hire Asian people because of historical accuracy. . . .”

“Lara Jean, we live in the time of
! Phillipa Soo is half-Chinese, remember? If she can play Eliza Hamilton, you can churn butter. And if they refuse to hire you, we’ll put it on social media and make them.” Margot tilts her head and looks at me. “See! There’s so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be.” She puts her hands on my shoulders.

“I’m trying,” I say. “I really am.”

“Just give William and Mary a chance. Don’t dismiss it before you even get there. Okay?”

I nod. “Okay.”


and rainy out and it’s just us three girls, because Daddy’s left a note for us on the refrigerator saying he got called into the hospital, and he’ll see us for dinner that night. Margot’s still jet-lagged, so she got up early and fixed scrambled eggs and bacon. I’m luxuriously spreading eggs on buttered toast and listening to the rain tap on the roof, when I say, “What if I didn’t go to school today, and we did something fun?”

Kitty brightens. “Like what?”

“Not you. You still have to go to school. I’m basically done. No one cares if I go anymore.”

“I think Daddy probably cares,” Margot says.

“But if we could do anything . . . what would we do?”

“Anything?” Margot bites into her bacon. “We’d take the train to New York City and enter the
lottery, and we’d win.”

“You guys can’t go without me,” Kitty says.

“Be quiet, And Peggy,” I say, giggling.

She glares at me. “Don’t call me And Peggy.”

“You don’t even know what we’re talking about, so calm down.”

“I know you’re cackling about it like a witch. Also, I do so know about
, because you play the soundtrack
all day long.” She sings, “Talk less; smile more.”

“For your information, it’s a cast recording, not a soundtrack,” I say, and she makes a big show of rolling her eyes.

In truth, if Kitty’s anyone, she’s a Jefferson. Wily, stylish, quick with a comeback. Margot’s an Angelica, no question. She’s been sailing her own ship since she was a little girl. She’s always known who she was and what she wanted. I suppose I’m an Eliza, though I’d much rather be an Angelica. In truth
probably And Peggy. But I don’t want to be the And Peggy of my own story. I want to be the Hamilton.

*  *  *

It rains all day, so as soon as we get home from school, the first thing Kitty and I do is get back into our pajamas. Margot never got out of hers. She’s wearing her glasses, her hair in a knot at the top of her head (it’s too short to stay put), Kitty is in a big tee, and I’m happy it’s cold enough to wear my red flannels. Daddy is the only one still in his day clothes.

We order two large pizzas for dinner that night, plain cheese (for Kitty) and a supreme with the works. We’re on the living room couch, shoving oozy slices of pizza into our mouths, when Daddy suddenly says, “Girls, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about.” He clears his throat like he does when he’s nervous. Kitty and I exchange a curious look, and then he blurts out, “I’d like to ask Trina to marry me.”

I clap my hands to my mouth. “Oh my God!”

Kitty’s eyes bulge, her mouth goes slack, and then she flings her pizza aside and lets out a shriek so loud that Jamie Fox-
Pickle jumps. She catapults herself at Daddy, who laughs. I jump up and hug his back.

I can’t stop smiling. Until I look at Margot, whose face is completely blank. Daddy’s looking at her too, eyes hopeful and nervous. “Margot? You still there? What do you think, honey?”

“I think it’s fantastic.”

“You do?”

She nods. “Absolutely. I think Trina’s great. And Kitty, you adore her, don’t you?” Kitty’s too busy squealing and flopping around on the couch with Jamie to answer. Softly, Margot says, “I’m happy for you, Daddy. I really am.”

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