Peter FREAKING Kavinsky was standing in front of her. He was just as tall and strong as she remembered. His foot was tapping on the ground. He wore the same black and white Adidas sneakers that he used to in high school. For a moment, she wondered if they were the same pair before she realized that would never happen. He was just as nervous as her. In the light, she could still see the curls on top of his head. That beautiful hair she would know anywhere. Her worries were quelled. She would be able to recognize him anywhere.
He wore a dark grey blazer and dark blue jeans. She had only seen him in a suit jacket once before, when they waved to each other at prom. She thought he looked so grown up and handsome back then.
Then she noticed what was in his hands. In his gruff hands, well-worn from handling lacrosse sticks, was a white envelope with red and blue washi tape down one of its sides. It was his letter. He brought the letter like he said he would.
As she watched him from a bit of a distance, her heart swelled. He showed up. He waited for her. Just like she hoped he would. Her body felt electric even though she hadn’t even made contact with him yet. She tried to remember everything about this moment. Right now, he was still her dream of Peter Kavinsky. If this all went wrong, she needed to know that at least for a moment, her dream came through.
“Covey?!” She heard his familiar voice ask, making her heart do another summersault. He squinted as she walked into the light. Her steps started out measured but picked up pace as he came into full view. His beautiful face’s details became clearer and she couldn’t help herself.
“You came.” His shoulders dropped as his awestruck voice danced around her ears. He was holding onto the stress of this too.
“I might have lost my job, but I wouldn’t miss it.” Lara Jean smiled up at him. He looked better than she imagined. He mostly looked the same. But way better. He looked like a man. His green eyes with golden flecks, the freckles peppered on his nose, the smile lines framing his perfect mouth. Some people were pretty. Some were sexy or hot. But Peter Kavinsky was beautiful.
“YOU LOST YOUR JOB? YOU CAN’T DO THAT COVEY!? If you need to go back, I’ll take you. HOLY SHIT! DID I MESS UP YOUR LIFE?” He ran his hands through his hair. His hair was shorter than she remembered, but it was still perfect. Still long enough for a rogue curl to fall in his face, Lara Jean’s favorite sight.
She was touched by his concern. It was so quintessentially Peter. “Peter.” She grabbed onto his upper arms. Their eyes met and a giant smile spread across both of their faces. “It’s all good.” She watched his eyes examine her. It was like he couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Her face lit up when his eyes locked in on hers. “Hi.”
A small chuckled escaped from his lips. “Hi.” He smiled at her for a moment before he threw his arms around her back and pulled her into a hug.
She breathed him in let her body rest into his. He smelled like mint and musk. It immediately put Lara Jean at ease. It was him.
“I’m sorry I missed you last week.” He rested his chin above her head.
She looked up at him. “I know you would have been there if you could.”
He nodded and gazed down at her. “Whoa.”
“What?” she couldn’t hold in a giggle.
“You’re just really beautiful.” He smirked.
She usually would be embarrassed to blush this hard, but in this moment, she didn’t care. Her heart felt full for the first time in a long time. She didn’t know how to respond. She was always awkward when it came to compliments. She looked back to his hands. “I can’t believe you brought the letter Honestly, I can’t believe you still have it.”
He held it up. “You think I would throw it away?” He acted insulted. “I’ve taken it everywhere.”
“Stop.” Her stomach did a flip. If he was telling the truth, it was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for her.
“I’m not lying.” He bit his lip. “I always pack it with me. Stanford, DC, Rome, Thailand, France. I like to have it. Reminds me that at least at one point, someone loved me.”
She could have fainted there. “You lived in Paris?” She wanted to know everywhere he’s been. Where he ate, what he did, she felt like she still knew Peter deep in her bones, but knew she had so much more to learn about him. She wanted to learn everything about the man he grew into.
“Lyon, actually. I did go for a long weekend though. Have you ever been? I remember you always said you wanted to go.”
“Never.” She shook her head. Her cells felt like they were vibrating faster as it sunk in that he still remembered the small details. “You’ve really lived a life, huh?” She smiled at him.
“I’ll tell you all about it if you go to dinner with me.” He spat out like he was holding it in the whole time. His face dropped into a dreamy smile.
“That was smooth.” Lara Jean blushed.
“So, is that a yes?” His eyes brows twisted funnily.
Her face shined bright as she grabbed his arm and started to pull him towards the elevator. “Let’s do this.”
He didn’t take her somewhere fancy. He took her to a small diner a few streets over. It was a Mom & Pop shop. Tables were metal, booths were sky blue and white. It felt like them. It felt like home.
“Then Chris started yelling at the security guard for insulting her character and now we aren’t allowed to go to the Botanical Gardens for six more months.” Lara Jean giggled as she regaled Peter with her best New York stories. “At least it’s mostly during the winter.”
Peter studied her face in pure joy. “That sounds like the Chrissy we know and love.”
“Wouldn’t know how to do life without her.” Lara Jean took a fry from the plate they were sharing and stuck it in her mouth. In any other case, she would think it’s crazy how easy this was. She was private and took a while to open up to people. But Peter Kavinsky wasn’t just people.
“Do you see her a lot?”
“Yeah. We still talk every day, and we try to see each other at least once a week.”
“I don’t even know that last time I saw Chris.” He leaned back and pushed back a few rogue curls.
“She hasn’t changed much. Still a rebel at heart, even if she works a 9-5.” Lara Jean felt her heart swell. This was like old times. It was natural in a way it wasn’t with anyone else.
“You’re so lucky you have her even after college and all this time.” He took a long sip of his shake.
After all this time. A knot that was still in Lara Jean’s stomach jolted. Now was the opening. She had to ask for she’d blame herself forever. “Can I ask you something?”
“Anything.” He took a fry and put it up to his perfect mouth.
“Why now? Like, I might have switched my number, but there were ways to reach me.” She bit her lip, not knowing if she wanted to know the answer.
“Yeah. Totally valid question.” He tapped his fingers on the table. “Well I don’t have any social media. I deleted it all in college when some troll started harassing me on Twitter. Mostly about lacrosse, but you know they always make it personal. I deleted everything to take away his power, but it kinda cut me off from a lot.” He offered. “It’s not an excuse, but…” His voice trailed off for a moment. Lara Jean stayed silent knowing the cogs in his head were working.
“I did try to look you up once. I wanted to reach out when we were in college.” His voice got shyer. “I was breaking up with Gen for the tenth time. I honestly think we were only together for so long because we felt like it was what we were supposed to do. Plus, it was nice to have a little reminder of home when things got hard ya know. In college, I was so busy that I maybe saw her once a week. But whatever. I looked you up on Facebook. I remember your profile picture. You were with Chris and another girl. You were dressed up in different color turtlenecks. Looked like it was a costume for something.” Lara Jean knew exactly the one. Chris and her roommate Erin were the Alvin & Simon to her Theodore. There was always an excuse for a theme party in college.
“And I did a little snooping.” He shrugged. “It said you were dating someone. There were pictures of you being all couple-y. He’d have his arm around you or you’d have a picture with him and caption it about how lucky you were to have him.” He leaned back and brushed his hand over his face. “I thought you looked happy and I didn’t want to mess up your life.”
“You wouldn’t have though.” She grabbed his arm from across the table. “I would have wanted to know how my friend Peter was doing.”
“But you were always too good for me, Lara Jean.” He looked at her with wide eyes. “You have this confidence about you that always intimidated me. You’re sure of yourself in a way I wish I could be.” He searched her questioning face. “You were so smart. You knew what you wanted and you knew how to make it happen. You respected yourself and had boundaries which is something I didn’t even really know were a thing until college. Like how you wouldn’t let me kiss you because it wasn’t real. Who else would do that Covey? Only you.”
“And here I was thinking you were too good for me.” She met his gaze. “You were the most popular guy in school. With the best eyes and hair and all the guys fighting to be your best friend.” She smiled as he slightly blushed. “And every girl had a crush on you. I don’t care if you don’t think they did. They did. And they didn’t just like you because you were the most handsome boy in school. They liked you because you were kind. You don’t even realize it, but you really pay attention to people when they talk. It makes anyone in your orbit feel important.” She took a sip of her shake. “I was just happy to be the one who you made feel most important. Even if it was fake.”
Peter leaned forward and rested his elbow on the table. His hand slide towards hers and rested top. His long finger traced circles on her wrist. Now that they knew both of them had actual feelings, their fake relationship didn’t feel so fake after all. Both of them could feel it, even if the words were never actually said.
A snide smile started to appear. “Guess what they’re talking about: corner booth, left side.” They used to play this game when they would spend hours at the diner in high school. They did it the first time they hung out. From that moment on, Lara Jean knew they would be friends as they came up with the most ridiculous scenarios for the unexpecting members of their small Virginia town.
Joan dropped off a plate of fries and two chocolate milkshakes with a smile. This was the first time they ever hung out as a fake couple. The booth in the back was Lara Jean’s favorite spot in the world and she insisted they sit there. She had some of her best memories here in the diner. Ice Cream Sundays with her Dad and sisters, where they were able to order as many scoops as they could dream of. Long talks with Margo and Josh about movies and books. Playing the song her mom loved most on the jukebox and dancing in the aisles as a kid. This place was her safe place to land. It felt like a big step to share it with Peter.
“So, I’ve been thinking.” Lara Jean clasped her hands on the table.
“No, Covey. You can’t back out of this yet. We haven’t even been a couple for a week.” Peter rolled his eyes playfully. “Have I been that horrible of a fake boyfriend that you already need to jump ship?”
She smiled. “No. It’s not that. I just think if we are going to pull this off, we need to learn more about each other. Like, it would be weird if someone asked me something basic about you and I didn’t know.”
“I guess you’re right.” He shrugged. “We can do a speed round.”
“Sure.” She grabbed a fry and ate it while compiling a list of questions in her head. “Ready?” She waited for him to nod. “Birthday.”
“September 15th.” He replied quickly.
“May 3rd.” she pointed to herself. “Favorite color.”
“You really think someone is going to quiz you on my favorite color?” He laughed.
“Peter.” She insisted he play along.
He put his hands up, not wanting to be scarred by one of her killer looks. “Navy Blue. You?”
“Orchid. It’s a purple.” She said proudly.
“I thought it would be pink.” He smirked.
“Everyone does.” She rolled her eyes. “Favorite food in the world?”
“Soul Biscuit.” Peter sat up proudly.
“I don’t know what that is.” Lara Jean tried to smile.
“No, shit. I thought you were a foodie, Covey. It’s only the best thing to ever exist. I’ll have to take you there one day.” Peter smiled and Lara Jean was trying her hardest not to blush. He was thinking long term. Sharing his favorite things with her. It felt weirdly intimate for a guy she hadn’t really talked to since middle school.
“What about something I know about?” Lara Jean ate another fry.
“Cinnamon Toast Crunch.” He shrugged.
“Glad you agree it’s the best cereal.” She smiled. “I think I would murder someone for a good chocolate croissant.”
“I didn’t know a pastry could get you so worked up.” he laughed his beautiful deep laugh. It sent a current up Lara Jean’s spine.
“This girl knows what she likes.” She smiled as she unconsciously leaned in towards her fake boyfriend. “What were you obsessed with as a kid?”
“Trucks and dinosaurs.” He said proudly putting down his shake. “When I was really little, my uncle used to take me to a truck stop and I would just watch them all go by on the highway. Entertained me for hours.” She could imagine him now. A baby Peter, curls all over his head and his green eyes wide with glee as trucks traveled across the country. She tried not to swoon.
“And dinosaurs?” she took herself out of her daydream about how cute a baby Kavinsky would be.
“A babysitter let me watch Jurassic Park way to young.” He relaxed into his side of the booth. “What about you?”
“Fairy princesses.” She said proudly. “My older sister, Margo, passed along a trunk of costumes and I was obsessed with a pair of fairy wings. They had pink and purple sparkles. I wore them where ever I could. The grocery store, family trips, I even wore them to the beach one time. My mom used to have to bribe to take them off so she could wash them when they got too smelly.”
His face was sweet as he asked her something she might have a hard time talking about. “How old was your mom when she passed?”
“I was around 7 when it happened. I have some memories with her, but a lot of what I remember is because of Margo & my dad. They tell me and Kitty stories all the time, about the kind of woman she was. I feel so bad for Kitty that she never got to know my mom. She was just a baby when she passed away. Margo was barely 10, but she remembers so much more than me. I think there is a part of me that’s nervous that I’m not going to have any memories of my own with her, like I’m going to forget the longer she’s gone. I only really remember what her voice sounds like because of home videos.” She stopped for a moment and looked up at Peter who offered her a reassuring nod. “But you didn’t need to know all of that.”
He reached across the booth and put his hand on her shoulder. His massive appendage covered her entire upper arm. “I know it’s not the same, but my dad left us. He doesn’t really call or text anymore. Sometimes it feels like he’s gone. He has a new family now and all that. I know it’s not the same, but if you need to talk, I can listen. I get what it’s like to really miss someone.”
She felt like she could burst out into tears. He had every ounce of sweetness that she remembered from middle school. They smiled at each other for a few seconds before Lara Jean’s heart felt like it would stop for good if she gazed into his eyes any longer. “I think we need to establish a meet cute.”
“What’s a meet cute?” Peter rolled his eyes at her and took a handful of fries.
“You know in a rom-com when a couple first meets and it’s in a really cute way. Maybe they meet at the bookstore when someone drops something or someone’s dog runs up to a stranger in a park & they hit it off. That’s a meet cute. Every good couple should have one.” She said like it was the simplest concept in the world.
“Well, it should be based in reality.” He was all in to getting their stories straight. The whole fake dating thing was his plan after all.
“The best lies are.” Lara Jean smirked.
“What about your bad driving? Like how you almost backed into me the other day.” He smiled knowing it would get a rise out of her. She wasn’t looking in her mirror when backing out of her parking spot at school. Thankfully, she was going so slowly that the car barely touched him.
“It was one time!” Her exclamation turned quickly into a giggle. “But it’s not a bad idea. I did break down last week.”
“So, maybe I saw you stranded on the side of the road and waited with you. We talked and you thought I was so cute that we hit it off.” He offered.
Lara Jean nodded and felt her stomach fill with butterflies. This man was a romantic at heart even it was disguised under a cocky flair. “I think that would be great meet cute.”
“I could drive you to school, if you want.” He looked down at the table, shy all of a sudden. “You seem to really hate driving.”
“You don’t have to. Plus, I have to take my sister.” She scratched her head.
“I’m happy to take you both.” He bit his lip lightly. “Plus, it would make us look like a real couple if we walk in together every day.”
“Okay.” She smiled back. “You can drive us to school. Just make sure you’re on time. My sister gets so annoying if she thinks we’re gonna be late.”
Peter’s smile met hers and filled her body with warmth. Their smiles matched. This was a crazy situation they found themselves in, but weirdly they both felt like it might work. Peter was the first to break their gaze. He looked around the diner and smiled. He leaned in close to her. “Hey Covey, what do you think that couple is talking about? The one near the table.”
Lara Jean gingerly turned her head to see a couple, maybe in their 30s, obviously in heated discussion over something. The woman talked with her hands and flipped her dark hair. The man’s hands clenched under the table. His brow was clinched like he was fighting every urge to explode. “Well they are obviously fighting about something. Probably their… cat.” She smiled.
“Definitely about the cat.” Peter laid into the bit. “He’s taking up too much of your time. Daily photoshoots! There’s not time for me.” Peter’s voice was just loud enough for Lara Jean to hear.
“And don’t get him started on the fancy food she insists on giving the cat. None of that stuff from a can. She pickles the meat herself.”
“It costs more than the mortgage payment!” He chuckled as the couple continued to fight.
“But Snowball is a STAR!” Lara Jean said a little too loudly and the crowd in the diner turned to her. Peter stifled his laughter and Lara Jean sunk into the booth, face bright red from embarrassing herself. “Sorry for being so awkward.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I like my weirdo girlfriend.”
Spring was a lot of people’s favorite time of the year in New York City. The trees were renewed with fresh leaves. Flowers bloomed bright. The temperature was perfect to just need a light jacket. Spring was magical, but Fall was Lara Jean’s favorite. The food (especially the baking) was decadent. The sweaters were cozy and warm. But she loved Fall the most for nights like this.
The crisp air danced around her and Peter as they wandered down the brick building lined streets. They had all but closed down the diner. It was so natural between them, like no time had passed even though it had. It was easy to tell stories about what they had been up to since they last saw each other. It was like they were in each other’s soul. There connection could have been pressed down, but it always lingered, waiting to erupt.
The moon was almost full and lit up Peter’s perfect face on a dreamy late fall night. She had realized how beautiful he still was. He was older, but in a good way. But his smile was the same. The smile that she would travel thousands of miles just to get a glimpse of still made her head feel dizzy. But most importantly, his heart was the same. He still lit up when talking about his mom and brother who were back in Virginia. He deeply loves those he cared about. It continued to be one of Lara Jean’s favorite things about him.
“It’s this one up here.” She pointed to a building a few down from where they were. The smile that was plastered on his face all night made her heart race and she watched his eyes examine her again from head to toe. He had said so many times tonight that this all felt like a dream. She couldn’t help but agree. It all felt too magical, too good for it to be real.
But it was real. He was standing in front of her on her doorstep, hands in his pockets, more nervous than she had seen him in a long time. “Sorry I’m getting you back so late.”
“No. I had the best time.” She smiled with her whole face. “I will however have to go into work super early to make up for leaving earlier. Fingers crossed I’ll still have a job.”
“I’m so sorry for that again.” His hand rubbed the back of his neck. “If your boss like needs a note or something, I’ll get you one.”
She touched his arm. “Peter Kavinsky, stop apologizing. In case you haven’t noticed, we are adults now. We get to make our own choices.” She said reassured.
His body relaxed at her golden touch. “When can I see you again?” His voice danced through her ears better than any of her favorite songs.
“When do you want to see me again?” She bit her lip as her heart started to gallop.
Peter’s smirk showed his cheeky nature more than any jab could. “Tomorrow.” He answered confidently.
“Tomorrow, then.” She felt all of her cells on high alert.
“I’ll pick you up.” He cocked his head to the side. “Do you still like Drunken Noodles? I know a place I think you’d love.” She couldn’t believe he remembered her order after all this time. She couldn’t find the words to express the pull to each other they had. She just nodded.
“Any idea when you get off tomorrow?”
“None.” The sound that escaped her mouth was a mix of a laugh and a cry. “But now you have my number.” They had exchanged them at the diner. “You can text or call or whatever floats your boat.” She blushed.
“But it was so fun communicating only over podcast.” They both laughed and Lara Jean pinched her hand to make sure this wasn’t a dream for the thousandth time tonight.
They stood there for a moment, speechless, just staring into each other’s eyes. There connection didn’t need words most of the time. They just felt it and now that they weren’t hiding their true feelings from each other, it was undeniable.
Lara Jean heard a ping from his phone and broke from their moment of Zen. She coughed. “I should get inside.” She motioned to the door behind her.
“Yeah. Totally. I’ll text you about tomorrow.” He smiled nervously. She half expected him to kiss her but knew this was new for both of them. He had already made a date for less than 24 hours from now. They were Lara Jean and Peter. She didn’t feel the need to rush.
When he didn’t move forward, she nodded and turned to the door. “See you tomorrow, Kavinsky.”
“See you tomorrow, Covey.” He smiled and turned on his heels.
Lara Jean bounded up the flight of stairs to her second-floor apartment. She felt like she was floating on air. Tonight, was as magical as it could get in her book. She got out her keys when she heard another loud ping coming from her bag.
She grabbed her phone and saw it was a call from a new number. Peter’s number. She swiped to open the call and bound back down the steps. “Couldn’t wait two whole minutes to see me again?” She laughed as his handsome face came into view outside her front steps. She opened the door, exposing herself to the crisp air.
“I forgot to give you something.” He raced to her. His hands grasping both sides of her face and pulling her lips into his. The breath left her body and shock took over for a moment. THIS WAS HAPPENING?! After the moment of shock wore off, she let herself fall into him. His lips were pillowy soft and with every movement of his lips a million fireworks went off in her brain.
This moment, this kiss, this man that she had dreamed of for some many years was finally happening. And it was better than she could have ever dreamed.
Lara Jean slid her arms around his back and he moved their bodies together. Making them closer. His body was much larger than hers and took over. She was happy for him to. This felt like a fantasy and she was not here to mess it up.
It could have lasted a few minutes, it could have lasted hours. She wouldn’t have known. She was too wrapped up in him to even care. This kiss said all the things neither of them had the courage to get out. The longing they felt for each other, the disappointment for letting each other go, the hope of what they could be. But when he did pull away, he rested his forehead against hers. They both breathed heavily, just trying to catch their balance. “I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to do that. You weren’t getting away again without doing that.”
A smile spread across her face as she breathed in his sultry smell. The dream of him lived up to reality, in fact, he was better. The worry and tears had been worth it to get to be with him. She would do it a thousand more times if it meant she got to be with him.