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Over the Airwaves

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The lock twisted open and the pitter patter of tiny feet and excited breath filled the air as she pushed the door open. “Oh, hello my baby.” Lara Jean leaned down to ruffle the hair of her favorite boy in the world. She slid her keys and work bag onto the small entry way table before she got on the ground with him. “Okay, Cully.” She took her dog into her arms, probably adding to his thought that he was smaller than he was.

She never thought she would be a dog person. She didn’t grow up with pets. Her family only got a dog after she moved to New York City for college. But when she saw his fox like face peaking up at her a year ago at her office’s adoption fair, she was a goner. He came over and rested his head on her leg and she knew they were connected in some spiritual way. He had to be hers. They were meant to be. “Have you been a good boy today Cullen?” She scratched the spot behind his ear that made his booty wiggle. His excitement to see her at the end of the day made her feel the love she dying to have.

Lara Jean slid off her baby blue blazer and threw it on the overflowing hanging coat rack. “Give me one second and we’ll go on our walk.” She smiled down at her pup and went into her room to change into something more comfortable. Her leggings and oversized sweatshirt had become the only things she wanted to wear as the crisp fall days took over from the last sun-soaked ones of summer. She needed the warmth, especially as the sun was starting to set earlier.

She exited her bedroom, now in her off duty uniform, to see Cullen the dog sitting with his leash laid in front of him. “Are you sure you’re not human?” She laughed at the smartest brown speckled dog.

Their evening walks had become the things she most look forward to. Feeling the crisp air on her face, soaking in the smells of the best restaurants in the world. It calmed her down after her long days at work. It all brought her back to Earth. She loved the routine of it. She was a planner after all.

But her favorite part of her nightly tradition was sticking in one headphone and escaping her own life.

She pressed play as Cullen took his time to smell every patch of green on their way to the park. “Hello humans! I’m Emma Hunter!” The first voice’s pep could be felt through the audio. “And I’m Nina Moreno. This is Dating Diaries NYC. The podcast that shares the reality of dating in New York.” The second voice was lower and more melodic. A jazzy Sex in the City inspired theme played softly. “Because hearing dating horror stories worse than yours will make us feel less alone.” The girls laughed as they settled into their newest episode.

It became a routine to walk Cullen and listen to two girls who she had never met but considered friends talk about dating. Lara Jean had been in a bit of a dry spell in that area. Not that she wasn’t trying. Since college, Lara Jean’s love life had turned into a string of dates that ultimately lead nowhere with tech guys, sulking artists, and everything in between. Some were better than others, but most ending up fizzling out after a few dates and she was back to square one.

After she broke up with her boyfriend from college, Will. She proclaimed she was turning her back on dating. He dumped her by sleeping with her roommate from freshman year a living room at a party just before they both were about to graduate.  What a way to end your first real relationship! Her only other “dating experience” was in high school with popular jock Peter Kavinsky.

In high school, they hatched a plan to pretend to date each other so they could make the people they actually liked jealous. It worked for him. He ended up getting back together with his girlfriend Gen, the rich beautiful but bitchy blonde who used to be friends with Lara Jean as kids. She went back to being invisible at school and longing for the cute boy from Model UN from afar. She had developed a crush, well more than a crush on him during their scheme. He was gregarious and the life of the party. He was nice to her sister and respected the strict no kissing rules she made in a moment of weakness. Well except that one time… There was nothing not to love about him. Except it was all fake.

“Come on, boy.” Lara Jean urged on her dog as the podcast rolled on.

“Today our guest is a 22-year-old fashion blogger from Washington. She moved to the city fresh out of high school and she says her ideal first date is going to the cat café for the purrfect oat milk latte. Welcome to the show Chelsea Cat Queen.” Every guest got a nick name to not reveal anyone’s identity. LJ constantly marveled at the savagery of them.

“God, I feel so special.” The new voice was high and jaunty, kind of put on to seem happier than she actually was. The hosts began with the normal questions. Tell us about your worst date in the city. What is your automatic red flag? Does it matter if they make less money than you? How many dates until you take someone home? What did your first heartbreak teach you?

Lara Jean basked in getting to know private details of people she would never know. The city had over eight million people. There was no way she’d actually know anyone who’d be on this, but it was fun to pretend. She had a small group of friends, but this city could feel isolating at times. The podcast weirdly made her feel less alone. She watched her dog who was smelling wildflowers in the park and smiled. “Come on Cully. Let’s go to the pond.”

 


“You sure you don’t need anything else for the day?” she popped her head into her boss’s window lined office. He barely looked up from his computer monitor to see who it was. Her boss, Harrison Peters had been called the savior of the publishing world. He was young, handsome, and wore designer suits that cost more than a year’s tuition at NYU. He was a fine boss, but Lara Jean would be far more impressed with him if he wasn’t such a jerk. He was curt, never wanting to spend a moment on something that wasn’t making him money. He didn’t really care about people. Just about results. He wasn’t the one to take a chance on something that would grow a readership organically. It had been to a hit from the start or he wasn’t interested.

Lara Jean had inherited him as a boss. She had been hired by Global Readers, a top world-wide publishing company, right out of college. Her old boss was a woman in her upper 60s. She was the kind of boss who knew every one’s birthdays and made you feel like your voice mattered. The complete opposite of Mr. Peters. She retired to spend more time with her grandchildren and husband in Maine. Lara Jean had been invited to her palatial estate once and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. No wonder she wanted to live out her days there.

LJ thought working for a publishing company would mean she would get to read and write all day. That was not the case when you worked for people in the executive suites. Her days were mostly spent managing her boss’ schedule and collecting reports from various departments. The only perk was getting the occasional advanced copy of a bodice ripping romance book that she loved so much.

“You can go. Just watch your email for something from Accounting. You know how they always mess up and just send it to you when they finally finish the reports. Two days late. Idiots.” He cracked his neck.

Lara Jean faked a smile. “Will do.” She pushed back from the doorframe she was leaning on. “See you tomorrow Mr. Peters.” She was met with a grunt and a fury of typing on the keyboard. It was time for her to slip out.

She raced back to her desk and grabbed her bag. She knew if she stuck around longer than she had to, she would be pulled into something else to do. LJ didn’t hate her job. It was in the industry she loved and she was helping make decisions that effected what books would be deemed most important for years to come. But, she probably would have quit to work at somewhere less corporate if it wasn’t for the pay. She was just Mr. Peters assistant but was getting paid more than some of her friends who were higher ups in their tech companies. It allowed her to have her cozy apartment and loving pup. So, she put up with it.

She tried to get home faster than usual today. She had a date with a guy she matched with on a dating app. He was cute and made her laugh over a text message. Seemed more promising than most things in her love life lately. She had gone on so many bad dates in the past month that if he could hold a conversation, she would be impressed.

As soon as she walked through the door, she threw her bag on the table and quickly pet Cullen. She ripped off her work clothes and changed into jeans and a tight knit top over her date bra, the one that made her boobs look bigger and perkier than they actually are.

Daniel, her date for the night, didn’t seem to formal. He was a personal trainer who wanted to go for a drink at a dive bar a few blocks from her place. Her outfit was more than enough.  

She looked at her phone to check the time. It was earlier than expected. “Quick one?” She looked down at her dog and cocked her head. She was met with a giant smile on his face, a wagging tail and a single bark. “Down the street & back.” Lara Jean smiled as she grabbed the leash and headed out.

 


“I have two sisters. I’m the middle. My older sister is two years older and the younger is six years younger than me.” Lara Jean sipped on her gin and tonic and swung her legs slightly behind her bar stool. Her and her date sat across from each other at a small high-top table.

“Six years? Wow. Was she a mistake?” He laughed at himself. LJ didn’t think it was funny. She was fiercely protective of her sisters. Daniel was a bit of a meathead. She liked athletic dudes, but the needed to like something other than working out. So far, she didn’t think Daniel did.

“No.” She faked a smile. “My mom said she always dreamed of having three kids, but after my sister and I were born, she said she was done. My dad told me once that she found one of her old journals from college while cleaning out the attic and decided she needed to have another kid after reading this vision she had for her future. I think she wanted to have a boy for my dad’s sake, but the Song-Covey streak of girls was unbreakable.”

“How old would that make your sister now?” He pushed up the sleeves of his black Henley. She almost wondered if someone was coaching him how to respond to her messages online. He had so much personality on there and was giving her nothing now.

“Nineteen. She’s in college back at home in Virginia.”

“I’ve never met someone from Virginia before.” His smile was oddly cocky, like he was interesting for only knowing people from the Metro New York area.

“Well there quite a lot of us.” She took a long sip of her drink.

“I don’t know. I expected someone from Virginia to be more…Southern?”

“There’s that side of it. I’m from a suburb outside Charlottesville. So not the country.”

“I like the idea of a southern girl.” He went on without even acknowledging what Lara Jean just said. “The sweetness and wanting to stay home and be a wife that takes care of their man. I love that shit.”

Lara Jean did her best to not throw up. Why were men like this? So was begging to change the subject. “So, tell me more about you. I know you’re a trainer but what do you do for fun?”

“Mostly just work out. I could give you some tips to gain more definition in your arms if you want. You have a great body, but we can always be improving.” He ran his hands through his thick golden locks.

“Oh. I’m fine.” Her arms tucked in close to her body. She was grappling with how offended she should be when she knew that this was going nowhere. “Watch anything good lately?” She was grasping at straws.

“I don’t believe in TV.” He uttered with the unearned confidence of a hot dude who has never had to come up with an original thought in his life. “It rots your brain and the media is feeding your unconscious messaging that only supports their brand of capitalism.”

She should just get up and leave now. This guy just kept getting worse but her need to be polite made her stick around. “So, do you read?”

“Some. But only non-fiction. Motivational stuff. Health & Fitness too I guess.  I don’t get people who read a lot. Like, what are you trying to escape?”

“Oh, look at the time.” That was enough. “I hate to go but I just remembered I still have to take my dog out.” She slid on her coat quickly and waved at him. “Nice meeting you.”

She began to walk away when he yelled from the table.  “I’ll text you later!”

“Please don’t.” She said shaking her head as she exited the bar.

 


“Oh, don’t eat that Cully!” She pulled her dog back from a patch of rocks. Her dog would explore anything he could get his mouth around if she let him. The dog did as he was told and began prancing into the park. His short legs bounded up and down, almost looking like a rabbit hopping around.

“On today’s pod, we have maybe one of the most handsome guests we’ve ever had.” Nina sighed in her ears.

“Oh my god yes. Those eyes. Ladies. When I tell you that it was hard to not get lost in them... just wow.” Her podcast partner, Emma giggled. “Let’s get to it. Here’s out interview with Lax Bro Energy.” A jazzy theme played before the interview started.

Lara Jean continued her walk. She tugged on her jean jacket. It was starting to get proper chilly. The lights in the park were already on even though there was still some light outside.

“Sorry if we all sound extra giddy in the studio today. Our guest is blushing. Oh god. Let me finish your intro.” Emma squealed. “This blushing beauty is a 26-year-old renewable energy consultant originally from Virginia. He is a former D1 lacrosse star & loves Fight Club, fruitcake & carnivals. Wow, range.” She giggled. “Welcome Lax Bro Lover.”

“Can I talk now?” the voice was soothing but mischievous. She recognized it instantly.

Lara Jean stopped in her tracks. She was hit with a freight train of flashbacks. She never dreamed she would know anyone who was a guest on here. But there it was. Peter Kavinsky was on her favorite podcast.

Chapter Text

Watching the leaves change this time of year was her favorite sight. She was mesmerized by the way they would delicately fall, soaring through the air on the crest of the breeze, not knowing where it will land. An orange-y red leaf landed on her shoe. She would have taken it as a sign on any other day. A good omen that positive change was coming. It was good luck for a leave to land on you after all.

But today, she didn’t even realize when it happened. She couldn’t even pay attention to anything expect the voice in her headphones. His voice did something to her. Just a few words and she felt her heart beat in a way she could never really explain. She hadn’t seen him in nearly 10 years, but the fact her knees started to feel weak from four words had to mean something. She took a deep breath and steadied herself to keep listening to Peter.

“So Lax Bro Lover, how long have you lived in the city?” You could tell one of the hosts, Nina had a wide grin on her face.

“About two years ago. I get moved around a lot for work though. I just got back from a trip to Mexico City for about a month.” Peter’s voice felt so silky and rich.

Lara Jean was pulled forward by her dog and jolted out of her fantasy. What did he look like now? “We’re sitting on the bench, Cully.” She continued to listen as she sat down, shocked he had been here for that long. She swore she would have known, but then again, it’s not like they have kept in touch since high school. When Lara Jean went away to college, she left most people behind. It was a fresh place to find herself, she didn’t want to constantly be looking back.

“Mexico City, that’s so cool. Are you a big traveler? Where is the coolest place you’ve ever been?” Emma asked, shuffling papers.

“Yes. I do it tons for work, but I also love to go explore. My brother met me out in Botswana and we got to see elephants on safari at Chobe National Park. I was helping with a solar energy project.” He pauses for a minute. “My favorite trip was to Greece though.” He sounded wistful and sweet. It was no surprised she used to be enamored by this boy. “We went as a family after I graduated high school. It was life changing. For me, and especially my mom.”

Lara Jean sucked in a quick breath. She flashed back to a moment in his Jeep.


 

It was another Friday night, so they were at another party at Peter’s friend Gabe’s massive house. It was more like a mansion if you judged a home by its massive entry way with crystal chandelier that most have been multiple stories high. Peter told LJ that Gabe came from old money and this was considered their modest home.

Lara Jean had settled in a nook with her best friend Chris. LJ hated parties like this. She always tried to get out of them but knew how important they were to Peter. They were important to keep up with their charade. Peter said going to a party without your girlfriend made people think you were on the rocks. So, she agreed and ended up in little alcoves with her best friend trying to make their own fun.  

“Your lover is looking at you.” Chris chuckled and I turned my head to the right to see him towering above the crowd that surrounded him. It wasn’t an unusual sight. Peter was a shiny human. People gravitated to him, most without even knowing why. He breathed and gave her a small smile.

Lara Jean felt her breath hitch before her mind reminded her to smile back. Being in Peter’s orbit made her feel like the most important person in the room. Even though it was all fake, the thought that she was important enough to be the thing on his mind made her heart grow three times bigger. When he did this it made her forget about their very entangled rouse. It felt like there was something real.

“He does that a lot.” LJ rolled her eyes. She was still slightly uncomfortable with the thought that anyone liked her in that way.

“But like a lot, a lot. Especially when you’re not looking. His face goes soft. It’s disgusting.” Chris laughed and took another sip of her drink. Chris lived just a street over from Gabe so she could drink all she wanted tonight. LJ was two drinks deep and was already feeling tipsier than she wanted to.

“I think the alcohol is making you see things.” Lara Jean laughed.

“Hey!” Peter stepped towards them. His big hands barely fitting into his jean pockets.

“Kavinsky.” Chris nodded. Chris was cousins with the girl that Peter wanted to make jealous, his ex-girlfriend Gen. She had hung out with Peter at too many family occasions to count. They both pretended to not like each other but would fight to defend the others honor if it came to blows.

“You wanna get out of here?” He cocked his head towards the door.

“Sure.” LJ smiled and felt my body go warm. He was too handsome for his own good. His face was the perfect mix of boyish and grown. He was so tall and commanding that I always felt safe with him. She turned to Chris, “Are you going to get home alright? Peter can ask one of his friends to walk you.” Peter nodded in agreement.

“I’m fine. I’ve had a drink and I live four houses away.” She pushed me off. “You two love birds go have fun.” She winked. Chris didn’t know this was fake and defiantly thought we were having sex, something LJ was not even close to comfortable with yet.

“Text me when you get home.” Lara Jean shouted as Peter started to usher her out of the party. “Make good choices!” She turned to Peter who had his arm around her shoulders. “I had two drinks. I shouldn’t have had number two.”

“Do you need to throw up?” The look of concern on his face made her feel electric.

“No.” she sighed. “Just need to sober up a little bit before going home.”

“I can make that happen.” He nodded. “How about a coke and a drive around the neighborhood?”

“It’s like you can read my mind sometimes.” She laughed as they got to his car, his mom’s old Jeep. Settling into the seat, she made herself cozy. She had gotten used to being the one in his passenger seat. The thought of it being over soon flashed through her mind and a wave of fear reared its ugly head. She couldn’t get this upset. None of this was real. She was not in a real relationship with Peter Kavinsky.

He hopped in the car and drove them towards the closest McDonalds. They had been to the diner before the party, it would have been weird to go again. A sad rock song played over the speakers. “Can I change this?” She asked with puppy dog eyes. “It’s so blah.”

He pulled his phone off the cord and handed it to her. “What did you have in mind?”

She thought for a moment then and tapped on her phone before the undeniably happy beat came in.

“ABBA?” Peter said through a laugh.

“I just watched Mamma Mia with Kitty for the hundredth time.” She shimmied to the music. “I wish I could live in that movie. It’s so beautiful and happy and even though Sophie is dealing with some capital T trauma, it all resolves at the end and everyone is happy. She gets 3 dads!”

“Did I tell you that I’m going to Greece after graduation?”

“PETER KAVINSKY! You did not!”

“My mom is planning it. Her family is from Greece. My great grandparents came over to America when they weren’t much older than us. They wanted to make a better life for themselves and all that.” He diverted his eyes from the road to watch her face.

“I never knew that.” LJ leaned the side of her head against the seat so she could look at him. A calm moment of silence hung in the air. It was serene. The quiet moments felt peaceful between them, not awkward like LJ always expected.

He broke the silence. “We still have family there apparently. Some distant cousins and stuff. The plan is to go visit them. They live near Patras. I think that’s what it’s called. Apparently, there’s an old family house there that’s been there for hundreds of years. My mom is so excited to go.” He lite up when he talked about his mom. She was so important to him. It was one of the things she liked most about him. “And then we’re going to spend a few days on the beach in Santorini. We haven’t gone on vacation for years so we could really go all out on this.” He smiled.

“It sounds like a dream.” She watches his face soften as he looked over to her. She couldn’t fight her blush.

“It feels like a lot just for me not fucking up in school.” He liked the attention from everyone except his family. He wanted them to be the stars.

“You deserve good things Peter Kavinsky and don’t you forget it.”

“You’ll probably have to remind me a couple more times.” His smile took up his entire face.

“Then I guess you’ll have to keep me around.”


 

She snapped out of her haze and tried to focus back on the podcast. “What is your biggest dating red flag?”

“Mean to waiters and someone who makes me feel bad for my chocolate milkshake addiction.”

“Hard to believe with that body but okay. How many girls have you taken home to meet the family?”

“Two.” He said confidently. “But no one since high school / college time.”

“Why not?” Emma went in.

“No one special enough, I guess. I was with one person from high school to college.”

“When did that relationship end?”

“Junior year of college. We dated on and off for nearly five years.”

“Damn. Did you go crazy after you broke up? Did being an athlete in college give you a warped vision of dating?”

“Oh, um…I don’t think so. I went out more with my friends, but I’m not really a hook up guy. My teammates used to get on my shit for it. People were defiantly there and willing, but I think I’m just a relationship guy.”

“Do you think there was ever a One The Got Away?” Nina asked.

There was silence. Lara Jean pulled out her phone to see if there was a problem, but no. He was just thinking. “Yes.”

She felt all the oxygen leave her body. He was Peter. Anyone would die to be with him. How did someone not want to be his?

“You’re going to need to tell me more about this mystery person this instant! Pod Rule: No names, but please tell me every detail.” Emma shrilled.

“Sorry, lost love is her favorite trope.” Nina said with a cool head.

“Um, I’m not sure if there was love to be lost on her end.” He laughed to make this not seem awkward. “We were never even really together.”

Lara Jean felt her heart drop. Her mouth went dry and her entire body tightened. “Holy crap.” It was her. 

“God, this story sounds so much more embarrassing than it is.” He took a long breath. “Me and this girl faked a relationship to make the people we both were into super jealous. She wrote me this…I don’t know if she wants me to share this.”

“You have to. I am on bated breath Lax Bro!” Emma huffed.

“She wrote me this love letter when we were in the 7th grade. After we were each other’s first kiss at our first boy-girl party in middle school. It somehow got sent to me and it was really cute. She was embarrassed but I was in a relationship at the time.  But when I got dumped, we hatched this plan and it worked.”

“How long were you fake dating this person? God, that sounds like a rom com speak and I love it.” Nina added.

“6 months or so. The beginning it was just going to parties and stuff, but then it got deeper.”

“Oh my god.” Emma’s low voice would have made her laugh in any other situation but Lara Jean was shaking. Cullen pawed at her knee to calm her down, but even his warmth couldn’t help her now.

“We would have these talks. Like deep talks about our hopes and dreams. I could be more myself with her than basically anyone else I’ve ever met. She has that special thing where you feel like you can tell them anything. We would drive around for hours, listening to music and going into deep debates about the best sandwich or who was the best Spiderman. It started out as just this couple week plan, but then feelings got involved. I think I…well I know I loved her, but she never felt the same way about me.”

The only thing that made Lara Jean know this wasn’t a dream was the crisp fall air whipping around her. Her whole life suddenly felt like a lie. He loved her?!

“How do you know? Did you ever tell her?” one of the hosts said and Lara Jean felt all the blood in her body rush to her ears. She never knew he felt this way. All those months she was pining after him, wishing he felt even a fraction of what she felt for him. She never had an inkling of an idea. There was never a sign to tell her that he felt the same way as her.

“I was too scared to tell her directly. I thought she knew at some points but yeah. I was planning to do something on Valentine’s Day. Make it official and all that, but the guy she really liked finally asked her out and that was it. I missed my opportunity.”

“I’m going to throw up.” LJ bent over and tried to steady her breathing. Her heart was going more than a million miles an hour. Cullen licked her cheek and she leaned back against the back of the green metal bench. “This can’t be happening.”

“The guy she liked was super smart. He went to the high school across town, but he was the valedictorian and all that smart stuff. He asked her to do something for Model UN, they did that together, and then we were done. Looking back, I don’t even think it was a date. I just think it was the end of our time together…” He took a beat and sucked on the side of his mouth.

“Shit,” Emma sniffled, “Well I’m crying. That’s so sad. “Do you know what happened to her?”

“I don’t think the two of them ever really dated.” He was correct about that. “I was feeling really shit about myself and the whole situation and ended up getting back with the girl I was dating before, the one I was trying to make jealous. So we got what we wanted from it, but I think what I actually wanted had changed.”

It was a sucker punch to the gut. She felt outside of her body. Things like this don’t happen to her. She could read all the romance novels in the world, but nothing out of one of them would ever happen to her. She wanted to scream. She felt the hurt in his tone. The same tone from when he talked about his dad leaving. She wanted to make it better, make him better.

But at this moment, he was only a voice.

Peter continued, “I don’t think it would have worked out in the long run anyway.” He tried to soften the blow. “She went to college here in the city. I was moving across the country to Stanford to play lacrosse. But yeah. I’ll always regret never telling her how I felt. I feel like I’ve been a little more fearless since then when it comes to love. Or hopefully I am.”

“Have you ever looked her up?” Nina offered.

“I’m not a social media guy. I don’t have any of them. My mom told me one time that she ran into her younger sister once at the grocery store. She had a sister who’s the same age as my brother and said she was working at a publishing company. It makes so much sense for her. She was always the best writer I knew. She had this way when she wrote you something, even if it was only a note, that made you feel special. Made you feel…seen.”

She paused everything as her chest heaved up and down. She couldn’t keep it in any longer. Like an avalanche, tears rushed down her face. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. He captured what she always thought about him so perfectly. He saw her in a way no one else did.

“Ma’am, are you alright?” A passerby asked with a mix of concern and disgust on her face. Normal adults didn’t break down on a park bench. Normal adults waited until they got home to sob uncontrollably.

“Sorry.” She cried and took one headphone out of her ears. “Just really emotional.”

“Oh honey, I’ve been there. You put on Joni Mitchell when I’m in a mood and I’m gone for hours.” The old woman, with graying hair and an oversized floor length coat offered. “Why don’t you head home? Do you have a bathtub? Crying in my bathtub was a staple for me in my youth.” A classic New York overshare made Lara Jean catch her breath with a laugh. “Go listen to something happy. You look like a girl who would have the audiobook for Pride and Prejudice on deck.” Lara Jean did but knew she had to see the podcast episode out.

She needed to listen to his voice again. She had to make sure what she heard wasn’t a figment of her imagination. She needed to bask in his glow for a moment longer.

She smiled at the woman and got out of her seat. Cullen jumped up from splaying himself out on the soft grass. “Thank you.” Lara Jean exited the park and hit play again and took in the last moments of Peter’s voice.

“What is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?” Emma continued with the rapid fire questions they always wrapped the podcast up with.

“Wrote love notes every day.” Those were to Lara Jean. She kept them in a box in her closet while they were fake dating. She thought they weren’t real all this time.

“What’s your favorite romantic movie?” Nina yelled.

“Sixteen Candles minus the Long Duk Dong stuff.” It was favorite movie. She made him watch it at least 10 times. They would have movie nights back in high school where they would have a double feature. One movie she picked, and one movie he picked. It was supposed to be a way to watch new things, but Lara Jean always wanted more Sixteen Candles in her life.

“Yeah, so problematic, but god when he’s waiting outside the church, I die, Lax Bro Lover. I die.” Emma smiled. “Last question, and we ask every one this, what is your best piece of dating advice?”

“Just do it.” He said plainly. “It sucks living in the what if’s.”  

She felt breathless. Was he living in the what if’s of them? What if they made it official? What if they had this great love? Would they have lived happily ever after with a picket fence and two point five kids? She was swimming in the what if’s he had warned against. She hated it.

As she approached the steps of her building, she knew what she had to do. She needed to find him. She needed to find her Lax Bro Lover.  

Chapter Text

She rushed to the computer as soon as she stepped through the door. Cullen, leash still on, nestled himself on his favorite fluffy pillow. Her fingers typed like mad. She didn’t have a plan. She didn’t know what to do. She just needed to find him. She felt it in her bones that she needed to see him, talk to him, just be in his orbit again. She got away once, she wasn’t going to be the cause again.

She landed on the podcast’s website. Who knows if the hosts actually check their Twitter mentions or Instagram DMs. Her eyes darted for a way to reach out. EMAIL US launched off her dirty MacBook screen. She clicked and suddenly felt blank. How does she explain a situation like this? Lara Jean closed her eyes took a deep breath and began.

 

Hi Emma, Nina, Producer Rachel & the DDNYC team,

Long-time fan, first time writing in. I NEED YOUR HELP!

The guy you had on last episode, Lax Bro Lover, I know him. His name is Peter Kavinsky. He’s from Charlottesville, Virginia, born June 15th at 9:45 AM. His lacrosse jersey number is 15 and his favorite food is the world is from Biscuit Soul Food. You might be freaked out why I know this. I swear I am not crazy. I know him. I know him more than most.

I’m the one that got away.

I never knew he liked me. Never knew my feelings were reciprocated. I was so hopelessly in love with him that I can’t stand to think that I let him get away. He was always my what if too.

When I heard him on the pod as I was taking my dog for a walk in the park, I felt like my heart flew out of my body. I need to talk to him. I know it’s not normal, but can you give me a way to reach out, email, phone, anything. I’m desperate. Even passing this information along to him.

I am begging you. I’ve lived in New York for nearly 8 years and have never felt the way about anyone I’ve met here the way I feel about Peter. Please.

XO - Lara Jean Covey aka The One That Got Away

 

She felt her hands shaking before she gained the courage to hit send. It whooshed off into the internet and she felt like she was about to throw up. Leaning into her couch, she tried to focus on anything but Peter. It was hopeless. Now that he was on her mind, there was no way to focus on anything else. At this moment, Peter Kavinsky was her moon, stars, and everything in between.

Her leg shook anxiously. She glared at her email mailbox. Nothing. She refreshed again. Why she thought something would change in the last 30 seconds was beyond her, but she needed to know.

LJ got up in a huff. “Ice cream. Ice cream will help.” She had a pint in the freezer. She always kept a pint in the freezer. Ice cream was an all seasons food for Lara Jean. Hot, cold, it didn’t matter. She always wanted ice cream. She slid the drawer out to get a spoon and Cullen followed her, wiggling wildly around her feet.

She sat back down in a huff and looked to her email. Still nothing. She threw her head back. “What am I going to do, Cully?” She took a heaping scoop of ice cream and put it in her mouth. It cooled down her body that had been on red alert for the past hour. Her dog hopped on the couch and nestled into her thigh. He was the best boy in the world she thought while placing a small kiss on the top of his white and brown speckled head.

Her computer screen called to her. She knew there wasn’t an email, but she needed to see him now. There’s no harm in searching his name. There were tons of Peter Kavinskys in the world… probably.

She typed his name into Google and pressed enter. The page populated with all thing’s lacrosse. News articles and player profiles popped up. He really was a star at Stanford. A ping of delight ran through her body. That was always his dream. He won National Player of the Week multiple times. Scored 23 goals his senior season.

There were pictures of him accepting an award in a suit. His shoulders still broad. He towered above everyone else. His jaw was stronger than before. More handsome and manly. His cheeks were still full and boyish. His hair was a little longer than he used to like it back in high school. In this picture it was pushed back showing his full face. LJ couldn’t help but wish a few curls were hanging down. She remembered loving when he would push the stray curls back. She would get a full view of his beautiful muscular arms and have a surge of butterflies swarm her chest.

She clicked back to the main search page and didn’t see a lot that wasn’t from when she knew him. He was right. He didn’t have any social media profiles to see to. Not even a LinkedIn page for work. Of course, he was too cool for Facebook or Instagram, but every businessy dude in existence had a LinkedIn to show how great they were at their job. Humble and hot. Classic Peter.

Without thinking, she started to dial her best friend. The phone was on speaker when she heard it connect. “Hey LJ!” Chris’s voice was clear and solid. Chris was confident. She never wavered in her opinions. She just knew how to get things done. Lara Jean always admired that about her.

“Did you know Peter Kavinsky lived in New York?” LJ asked without giving Chris a second to breath.

“Yes, hello to you too, best friend. My day was great, I sold an art piece at the gallery today. What are you up to?” She chastised me.

“Did you know?” She said it more emphatically.

“Um, I knew he was living on the East Coast again, but New York, no I didn’t. Did you see him or something?”

“No.” LJ took a deep breath.

“Are you looking for him?” Chris giggled. “I mean I could always ask Gen if she knows. I think they may still keep tabs on each other. You know how obsessed Gen was with him even after they broke up.” She paused for a second. “Just like in high school.”


 

They were the only ones left in the diner. Their usual booth was taken, so they settled for a table in the middle of the action. They had been there for hours. Laughing and talking about family and sports and their most embarrassing stories. It was easy for them to share. They had started to get so used to each other, they wouldn’t even notice how long they had been talking until either of them hit curfew.

Peter picked up a fry and brought it to his mouth. “But that doesn’t make sense. Why would he even make that bet in the first place?”

They had gone to see a screening of She’s All That at the local indie movie theatre. “I don’t know Peter. It’s a movie. He was trying to prove how macho he is.”

“I would never do that. It seems messed up to do that to someone.”

“Yeah. That’s the whole point. I would have never taken him back. Laney should go to art school and leave him behind.” Lara Jean took a sip of her chocolate shake, something Peter had gotten her addicted to. “It is a classic make over montage though.”

“All they did was take off her glasses & cut her hair a little bit.” Peter smiled wide.

“But the entrance down the stairs.” She swooned. “The way Freddie Prince Jr. lost his breath because she is so beautiful. It’s what every girl wants.”

“Every girl can’t want the same thing.” Peter rolled his eyes.

“Every person on the Earth wants to feel special to someone else. It’s literally built into our cells.”

Peter just smiled at her. His face soft. The trace of a dimple appearing on the left side of his mouth. His phone buzzed and he reached to pick it up. She sneaked a peak. It was another text from Gen. He started to type with an exasperated look on his face.

“You know you don’t have to answer her that quickly…or at all.” Lara Jean took a long sip of her shake.

“I know.” He put his phone back in his jeans pocket.

“You’re never going to make her actually jealous if you still run to her every time she comes calling.”

“It’s different with us though.” He bit his lip.

“How is it different? Explain to me why you still talk to her every day.”

“We grew together. When you spend so much time together for that long. You can’t just cut that bond like it’s nothing. It’s not fair.” He leaned on his elbows.

“You can’t or you don’t want to?” LJ cocked her head. “Because if we are talking about fair, I think it would be pretty unfair to still talk to her every day when you supposedly have a new girlfriend. If I was her, I wouldn’t buy it. I would keep you dangling there until I wanted you again.”

He sighed and shook his head. “Just drop it. You can’t understand it, Covey. You’ve never been in a relationship before.”

“Not for lack of trying.” She offered.

“Bullshit.” Peter perked up. “You’re gorgeous and you could get any guy you wanted. You just don’t want to. I know guys have asked you to dances before and you say you’re busy or you can’t.”

“Are you keeping tracks on me, Kavinsky?” She leaned forward to call his bluff.

“People talk, you dummy.” He smirked. “But why haven’t you? You’ve gotten asked out before. You are obsessed with your romance books. Why are you so afraid of being in love?” He pushed her.

She paused for a moment and dropped her shoulders. Peter was her “fake boyfriend” but she didn’t know how emotionally vulnerable to be with him. “In real life, love is scary. I can read about it and know that it is the greatest feeling in the entire world, but to open up to someone and show them your entire self, it’s terrifying. What if they don’t like what they see and I’m a disappointment?” She said in a voice just loud enough for him to hear.

He offered her a small smile. “I don’t ever think you could be a disappointment if you tried.” He breathed. “Well you don’t seem to have a problem being vulnerable with me.”

“Well that’s different. This isn’t real.” She shrugged.  Her gut immediately tensed, signaling to her that it didn’t come out right.

Peter leaned back and ran his hands through his beautiful curls. “You really know how to make a guy feel special.”

“Shut up.” She playfully hit his hand that was splayed out on the table. “Gen was staring laser beams at you the entire pep rally today and all we were doing was standing next to each other. You’re making her jealous. We’re accomplishing what you want Peter.” She tried to recover and make this feel light again. She had feeling for him, but knew he did not feel the same. No use pretending he did.

“Whatever you say, Covey.” He rolled his eyes and threw way more cash than he needed to on the table. It was something she admired about Peter, he was so nice to people in restaurants. “Let’s get you home before your dad kills me.”


 

“Want me to come over? You sound…distressed.” Chris asked over the phone after a moment of silence.

LJ snapped back to reality. “I’m fine. But we should do something this weekend.” She started to scroll down her Google search of Peter again.

“My friend is performing at an open mic night on Saturday. We can do dinner before then be there for an emotional support laugh?” Chris offered.

“Sounds great. Love you.” Lara Jean was already getting lost in the little information she could find about Peter.

“Love you too. Bye.” Chris cheered before hanging up the phone.

LJ saw a picture of him from high school. He was standing with his arms around Trevor and Gabe. They were in their lacrosse jerseys in the hallway. It must have been a game day. This was the Peter she was so in love with. She traced her finger along his face before pulling her hand back quickly. What the fuck was she doing.

She got up and sped to the kitchen. Wine. Wine would help. It sped down her throat, she took it all at once. What was going on with her? She had barely even thought about Peter Kavinsky in years. Why now? Why was this taking over her every thought?

Her computer pinged and she raced back to the couch. A new email.

 

Hi Lara Jean,

Thank you for writing in. Unfortunately, we do not release the names or information of anyone on the podcast. Each guest signs a confidentiality agreement and policy says we cannot forward things on. This story if fascinating though. I hope you find a way to get to him.

-Producer Rachel, DDNYC

 

She felt her heart break all over again. No. This isn’t how this ends. She couldn’t give up now. She let Peter go once, she couldn’t do it again. She typed back furiously.

 

Rachel,

Put me on the podcast. I need to find him and am willing to do whatever it takes. I’m not usually so out there, but for him I will be. It would be an amazing story. I listen to every episode and I would be obsessed with this story if I wasn’t a part of it. Please I’ll do whatever you need me to do.

-Lara Jean

 

It sent off and she felt the pit in her stomach grow larger. She looked at the time. It was past 10. There was nothing else she could do about it tonight. She closed her laptop and looked at Cullen who was cuddled on his favorite throw pillow. She slid his collar off and placed it on the entry table. “Let’s go to bed, Cully.”

The next morning she woke up early. The sun was barely peaking through the clouds but she couldn’t sleep. She just replayed his words over and over. He loved her. She was the one who got away.

After pouring herself a cup of coffee, she grabbed her phone from the couch. A single notification beamed bright. An email from Dating Diaries NYC.

 

Let’s do it.

Chapter Text

Her hands tapped on her desk as she watched the minutes tick by. She hated that she was watching the clock but 5PM seemed like lightyears away. Every minute she had to wait felt like another minute she was letting Peter Kavinsky slip away.

After almost a week of waiting, she was going to record the podcast tonight. She had signed all the paperwork and had been emailing with podcast producer Rachel all week. Lara Jean made sure to look extra cute today, as if a podcast was not a strictly audio medium. She tugged at her simple gold necklace and earrings to give her hands something to do. Her skirt splayed out just above her knees. It was a deep winter green with delicate mini flowers scattered around. Her leg shook. She needed to get downtown ASAP.

Doing all this was so unlike her. She wasn’t as shy as she used to be back in high school, she could start up a conversation with most people if needed, but baring it all for the world to hear was something different. She should text her family that she was doing this so they wouldn't be shocked. She had tried to do everything she could to keep her nerves at bay. She did a meditation at lunch, avoided drinking caffeine this morning, and tried to do breathing exercises any chance she had a free moment. They worked in the moment, but as time approached she could barely keep still.

When she had five minutes to go before leaving for the studio downtown, she stuck her head inside her boss’s office. “Hey, I have a hard out in 5. Anything else from me before I go?” She said with a smile.

“Why are you in a hurry to leave again?” He asked taking in a deep breath. His dark features were stark against the bright light coming in from the windows behind him.

She did not want to get into this with him. “Doctor’s appointment.”

“Didn’t you go to the doctor a few weeks ago?” He didn’t look up at her while he was up to his eyebrows in reports.

“Yes. Um, this is for lady issue. Urgent” Her lips pulled thin. She shouldn’t have to explain herself to anyone, especially her employer. He didn't care what she was doing outside of work. He only cared that she wouldn't be there at his beck and call if he needed anything. 

“Go.” He waved her off. “Just next time I need more notice. What if I had a meeting?”

“Next time.” She faked a smile and ran back to her desk. Her stuff was already packed and ready to go. Here goes nothing.


  

They recorded a podcast in an old brick building downtown situated between a bakery and a nail salon. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but she felt like this is where everything was about to change for her. She made note to stop in the bakery on her way out. It smelled absolutely heavenly. Lara Jean clicked the podcast’s button on the call box and a scratchy voice came through. “Are you Lara Jean?”

She leaned in and tried to talk clearly. “Yes. I’m here to record the podcast.”

“Great. I’ll let you in.” It buzzed loudly and the door clicked open. She entered and was met by a petite woman in a bright yellow jumpsuit. Her box braids danced as she bounded towards LJ. “Hi Lara Jean!” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Rachel. I’m beyond excited to have you here.”

“Same.” She nervously fumbled with the jean jacket she was holding. The sweater she was wearing was more than warm enough. NYC’s ability to be freezing one day and be warm like it was the middle of summer the next still amazed her.

“Come on in.” she motioned and lead her to a small room with a modern purple tufted couch and fluffy white chairs. It was lined with a light wallpaper with a tiny colorful design with woodland creatures. “We record in the basement, but we don’t really want to be in there for longer than we have to be.” She smiled as Lara Jean sat down on the couch.

LJ looked at the colorful fun décor. “This place is amazing.”

“Thanks! We’ve been in this building for a while. Before us, it was a recording studio for a Russian metal band company.” Her smile was bright against her dark purple lipstick. “I am so excited for this to happen today.”

“Yeah.” LJ took a deep breath, starting to feel comfortable around Rachel. “Me too. I’m really nervous though.”

“I want to say you have nothing to be nervous about because Emma and Nina are literal angels, but I would be nervous too. That boy you fake dating in high school is fine.”

“So how does this happen?” LJ rubbed her hands nervously. She didn’t want to talk about him yet. If she did too much, she thought there was a chance she would run out.

“Well, we keep all your details a secret from Emma & Nina until we start. They like to be on the journey with you, makes it more real you know. They have a little bio and some fun facts to start a conversation, but the rest is where ever you want to take this thing.” She nodded along. “I was thinking we start off like every episode, you told me you listen, but we intro you, ask a few basic questions about you then start with dating stories. I figure you could tell one than transition to the One That Got Away thing. I have that you have a connection to a past guest on their rundowns.”

“Okay, so do I bring it up?” Lara Jean took a deep breath.

“No. They’ll lead you into it. Then the world is yours. Emma may freak out about it. She’s the softy of the two, you know that though. They are great at this. They’ll give you time to say whatever you want to him. Just no names. Podcast rule.”

“Got it.” Lara Jean smiled. “I feel like I’m gonna throw up.” she chuckled.

“We’ll keep a trash can at the ready.” Rachel smiled and nodded. “This is going to be awesome. Ready to rock?”

“As I’ll ever be.” Lara Jean followed Rachel’s lead down the stairs to the studio. Two girls were already sat around a light wood round table. The walls were lined with linen white panels, probably to keep it soundproof. A faded neon sign was attached to the far wall closest to the audio engineer.

“Hi!” Nina got up from her seat and met LJ and Rachel. “I’m Nina.”

“Lara Jean.” She gave her a quick handshake.

“Oh, I know! I’ve been reading your rundown. Love Letter Lady. Obsessed.” Emma, the other host joined their group. “I love your skirt by the way.”

“Thank you. I got it from a thrift store on 112th.”

“I should go thrifting more often.” Nina sighed. “My Zara obsession is making me feel not environmentally friendly.”

“You drink from like 5 plastic straws a day.” Emma laughed at her friend.

“But I have a glass water bottle, so it’s a step.” Nina smiled at her playfully. Lara Jean saw why this worked. They were so genuinely lovely to each other. They made everyone feel like their friends.

“Why don’t you guys get ready to go? Will you show Lara Jean the headphone and everything?” Rachel said heading for the door to the control room.

“Love you Rachel!” Emma yelled out before turning back to LJ. “You’re going to great.” She smiled and showed her to her seat. “Here are headphones for you to use. We clean them after every person so don’t worry about getting infected or anything.” She smiled and slid on her own pair. “It’s kinda trippy listening through them at first. But after thirty seconds, it will seem natural.” Lara Jean smiled at her and nodded nervously.

“So, we’ll intro you from the form you filled out from Rachel & get right into it. If you need us to stop at any moment, just say so. We can always edit anything out if you don’t feel comfortable. Sound good?” Nina smiled.

LJ took a deep breath. “Sounds good.”

“Perfect. We ready Rach?” Nina looked over to the booth.

Rachel gave them a thumbs up. “Rolling.”

Emma took a moment than nodded at Nina. “Hello humans! I’m Emma Hunter!”

Nina leaned into the mic. “And I’m Nina Moreno. This is Dating Diaries NYC. The podcast that shares the reality of dating in New York. Because hearing dating horror stories worse than yours will make us feel less alone.”

“I’m so excited for our guest today.” Emma smiled and adjusted her papers.

“Beyond.” Nina nodded. “Let’s get to know this magnificent lady now.” She took a beat. “Today we are joined by an outrageously beautiful creature who is an expert baker& romance reading dog mom who works for one of the biggest publishing companies in the world. She’s been in the city since going to NYU for creative reading. Wow, smart and hot. Men, get in line for the one, the only Love Letter Lady!”

Emma clapped and Lara Jean blushed. “Thank you. You’re far too kind.”

Emma talked next. “So, what’s the secret to a good love letter since you are the expert!?”

“Oh gosh, it’s embarrassing.” Lara Jean smiled. “So it started when I was a kid, I had all these big feelings and I was too shy to ever tell a boy I liked them, so I would write them letters and never send them. When I went back years later to read them, they were mostly just me saying how much I didn’t think they felt the same way. I really needed to work on the self-confidence thing.”

“I feel that. I literally hid away until I was like 22.” Emma laughed.

“Do you remember any of your best lines? Anything that just sticks out?” Nina smiled.

“I wrote one for a guy I thought was cute at sleep away camp. In it I wrote that I admired how he always had the perfect golden-brown roasted marshmallow.  I said he should look into a career in the culinary arts. I was 10.”

“I’m obsessed with baby Love Letter Lady.” Nina laughed and leaned her elbow on the table.. “Do you consider yourself a hopeless romantic then?”

“One hundred percent. My best friend says it’s the best and worst thing about me. I fall fast, but I don’t think there’s any harm in it. I may get my heart broken more than usual, but more stories, right?”

“Angel. An angel on Earth!” Emma smiled. “When was the last date you went on?”

“Like a week and a half ago.” Lara Jean flashed back to her horrible date with Daniel the personal trainer. “We went for drinks at a bar and he proceeded to tell me that he went out with me because I’m originally from Virginia and he likes the idea of a Southern girl wanting to basically be a slave to her husband.”

“EW.” Nina recoiled. “He sounds like a personal trainer.”

“How did you know?” Lara Jean’s mouth gapped open. It was like some kind of magic. Rachel was right about the girls, they did make her feel instantly comfortable.

“Because he’s full of himself and selfish people go into finance or personal training, and you seemed like the type that would be more drawn to the athletic type.”

“Well you figured me out. Podcast over. I can leave now.” Lara Jean joked.

“It’s my super power. I didn’t ask for it, but here we are.” The host laughed before Emma kicked in with more questions. They were fun and light but Lara Jean couldn’t help but still be a little nervous as she waited for Peter to be brought up. She came here on a mission after all.

“Okay, so Producer Rachel tells us that you wanted to be on the pod for a very specific reason that’s not just becoming besties with us.” Nina smiled up at Lara Jean.

“Yes.” This was jumping off the cliff. Fearless. She needed to be brave. She took a big breath. “There was a guy on your podcast about a week ago. He talked a lot about having a One That Got Away.”

“Lax Bro Lover!” A lightbulb went off for Nina. “Very hot and very sweet. So tall.”

“That’s the one.” She replied nervously. “Well…” She tried to start before Emma jumped in.

“You’re the one!” Emma gasped. “Both from Virginia. He said the one went to school here. That’s why you’re bringing him up! Holy crap! Tell me I’m not crazy! Holy shit! RACHEL! HOW DID YOU NOT TELL US!”

Rachel’s voice came through her headphones. “The journey girls, the journey!” They all laughed and Lara Jean felt her heart rate go back to normal for a moment.

“This is amazing. You must have written a letter for him? Right?” Nina brought them back on topic.

“I did. I talked a lot about the golden flecks in his green eyes and how I shouldn’t have kissed him during spin the bottle because I knew my friend had a crush on him. I mean, I had a crush on him too, but she declared it first.”

“It’s spin the bottle rules. Girl code only sort of applies.” Emma engaged. “Wow. He’s super tall. He must have been what, almost a foot taller than you? I’m imagining you together. I can see it. You have complimentary energies.”

“Almost a foot taller. I used to wear these boots that would make me like 2 inches taller when we were fake dating so it didn’t look totally crazy.”

“Who came up with the idea of fake dating?” They dug deep.

“He did. I didn’t want to do it at first. My sister mailed out the love letters I had saved and that’s what started this whole thing.” LJ rolled her eyes remembering how furious she was at her sister. “I still kind of had a little baby crush on him. I remember thinking it would be such a bad idea, but once we started, I immediately fell in love with him all over again.”

“Ohmygod.”

“I mean you’ve met him. He has this thing. He was the super popular but sweet jock. I was the nerdy girl who had one friend and ate my lunch most days in the library. Being with him made me feel so special, like a little of his light got to shine on me too.”

“Did you have any idea that he felt for you too?” Nina dug deeper. “He said he had all these big feelings for you but didn’t think you did.”

“I blame it on being 16 and dumb. I had never had a real boyfriend before either. I was so blind to every sign.” Lara Jean huffed. “And when I heard him on the podcast, I felt like my entire world was flipped upside down. I always thought I was the hopeless one who put him out of his misery when the guy I also kind of liked from another school asked me to help him with something for Model UN. But if I knew,” Lara Jean paused. “I just had to find a way to reach him.”

“Do you still have his number? Did you try any other way?”

“His number has been changed. I tried calling it and a nice Russian grandma now has the number. He doesn’t have social media. He said so on the podcast and I searched and found nothing. I figured since he was on the podcast, there was a chance he could be listening and… I don’t know.”

“So, we’re your match makers?” Emma squealed. “I love this so much. You’re both so hot now. God, you’d make cute babies.”

“EMMA!” Nina laughed. “You can’t go around saying people would make cute babies together.”

“I do it all the time. When I meet a new couple, I automatically judge if they will make attractive children. I just get a vision. I just keep it to myself 98% of the time.”

“Psycho.” Nina rolled her eyes.

“Psychic.” Emma smiled and turned back to LJ. “I really hope he’s listening.”

“Me too.” Lara Jean smiled.

“Will he know how to reach out to you?” Nina got quiet, realizing that even if Peter were to hear it, how would they get together.

Lara Jean chewed on it for a moment. She was so nervous about getting it out there that she hadn’t made a plan to follow through on. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this trip we took in high school to New York. It was my first time here. It’s when I knew I had to come to school here. We were “together” then. We went to the top of the Empire State Building and he asked me to the Homecoming dance with a teddy bear holding an I Heart NY red heart. It was one of the happiest days ever. He knows I’m obsessed with romantic comedies and it was like he gave me a Sleepless in Seattle moment.”

“I’m not crying, you’re crying.” Emma sniffled and tried to laugh.

“Is it crazy if I ask him to meet me there?” Lara Jean sat back as the idea washed over her.

“You have to do it. Sleepless in Seattle style. Do it for Meg Ryan!” Nina got excited.

A bolt of confidence ran through her body. “Okay… If you’re out there Lax Bro Lover, meet me at our spot on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The spot where you gave me the bear & asked me to the dance. Friday night. Sunset.”

“Chills. Actual chills.” Emma smiled so big that it looked like her cheeks were about to explode.

“I don’t think we can top this.” Nina said looking towards Rachel. “This is gold. You are golden Love Letter Lady.”

“We can’t think you enough for being here today. I really want this to be your love story. We’re gonna need an update. I will not sleep until I know how this goes.” Emma added. The hosts signed off and LJ’s head was in the clouds. The rush made her ears ring and her eyes fluttered as she realized what she just did.

She hadn’t even thought about that he might not listen to the podcast the way she did. She took her headphones off. “Do you think he’s going to hear it?” Her head swiveled between both hosts.

Nina touched her arm lovingly. “He said he listened.” She smiled. “Rachel, can we send the episode to him. No names or anything because I know the rules but please.”

Rachel nodded and offered her big lovely smile. “I’ll get it to him.”

Lara Jean felt herself tearing up. She felt like she was on the precipice of seeing Peter. The nerves were gone, at least for the moment. She could bask in her bravery until the day she would actually see him. Then the nerves would be in full effect again. “Thank you, ladies. You didn’t have to let me do this, but you did.”

“Stop it right now!” Nina pointed a finger at her. “If you cry, I’ll cry and then Emma will cry and Producer Rachel will have to lift us up off the floor like dummies.”

“I’m just so hopeful.” Lara Jean said through a tight smile.

Chapter Text

“YOU DID WHAT!?” Two voices echoed at once. She had just told her sisters about what was going on and to no one’s shock, they were utterly confused.

“I know. It’s so unlike me. But, I’ll send it to you. You need to hear what he said. It was like my heart was outside of my body.” LJ tried to convince them this wasn’t absolutely insane. To be honest, it was a little crazy for Lara Jean. She was the one who played it safe after all. But this love that she let slip away from her felt big enough to at least try. So, they could call her crazy, but the crazy people are the ones who make things happen. “You have to hear it. Then you’ll understand.”

“How insane is it that he went on the one podcast you are a religious listener of?” Margo shrugged. “How did it even get on the subject of you? Like hasn’t he had other girlfriends?”

“He said he’s dated casually, but hasn’t seriously dated anyone since college. And that was when he was with Gen.”

“Fascinating. He seemed like the guy who would have a small harem in high school” Margo let out. She never really got Peter. She was in college in Scotland when Peter and I were together. She never got to know him in the way I did. Or even the way Kitty did. “When does the episode come out again?”

“Tomorrow. Well technically it drops at midnight.”

“And you said you would meet him Friday? So, he has a few days to listen to it?” Margo tried to logic it out.

“Can I ask you a question you might not want to think about?” Kitty piped in her voice a higher pitch than the older Covey sisters. What are you going to do if he doesn’t show up?”

Lara Jean had been avoiding thinking about that possibility as much as possible. She wanted to put positivity out to the universe. This whole thing had felt like fate. If it didn’t happen, if he didn’t show up, she genuinely did not know what she would do. “I mean, probably die alone.”

Giggles filled their phone call. It was supposed to lighten the mood but Lara Jean knew her sisters. Their giggles were just as nervous as hers.

“Well I’m so freaking invested in this.” You could hear Kitty smile through the phone. “I always really liked Peter. He was so nice to me when I was just your annoying little sister and he didn’t have to be. And to think, you thought me sending out those letters was evil.” She joked.

“Still not sure I 100% forgave you for that.” LJ sneered.

“Well, if the worse-case scenario happens and he doesn’t show up, I’ll be there with ice cream.”


 

She was always told that the final semester of Senior year of high school would fly by, but she didn’t realize how true that would be. The first half of the year was the final push for colleges. Applying, touring, waiting for the first wave of acceptances. Pure torture. But the second half of the year was where all the fun events were. It was where your forever memories were made. Prom, graduation, and for Lara Jean: her first break up.

She and Peter had both decided to end things two weeks ago. It was the end of January. A perfect time to not have to go through the motions of Valentine’s Day. They were sitting at the diner, in their favorite booth with milkshakes and fries when she told Peter that she had been asked to help their former friend John Ambrose McClaren prepare for the national Model UN conference. Peter knew about the crush she had on John. She had liked him since the 8th grade, right before he moved across town and out of their school district. Peter had joked about how she liked him first, but knew John had also had a letter written for him. A letter she wrote when her feelings were too big to hold in.

Peter was the first to suggest they should call it then, but it felt more mutual than anything. John had gotten jealous enough to ask Lara Jean out. The mission of their fake relationship was accomplished. They cheered their glasses and both faked a smile to the other.

“Thanks for being the best girlfriend a guy could ask for.” Peter shuffled his shoulders. He was in training for his college lacrosse program and was feeling the extra workouts. It made Lara Jean feel extra special that he made time for her when he was in training mode.

“Fake girlfriend.” Lara Jean smiled.

“Whatever you say, Covey.” He took a long sip of his shake and leaned back into the red vinyl.

 

Things had been weirdly okay for Lara Jean since then. They were still friendly. They would say hi or smile in the halls. They weren’t hanging out, but they didn’t hang out much before they started fake dating either. Lara Jean knew she had to let her crush on Peter go. She missed being in his orbit. She missed feeling like she was important to him, even if it was all fake. She knew Peter would go on to have a great, big life. She was just happy to be a tiny part of it. Even though she knew he didn’t feel the same about her, he made her feel alive again. If that’s all she ever got from Peter Kavinsky, he had given her the greatest gift. He had made her feel seen.

“Hey Chica!” Chris bounded towards her and swung her arm around LJ’s shoulders.

“Hi! How’d your test go?”

“Fine. Let’s hope the extra credit pulls me through.” The parking lot seemed particularly busy today. Someone was blasting music from their car speakers and the entire senior class seemed to be out in full force.

“Are you meeting up with John today or do you want to hang later?” Chris looked down at her phone.

“Not with John. I don’t think there’s anything there. We’ve met up twice and actually just worked on his arguments for Model UN. I think he just wanted to use my creative writing skills to help his speech feel more epic.” She shrugged.

She felt embarrassed about the whole thing. She had built a dream about John Ambrose in her head and it turned into nothing. Peter had even texted her after he knew they were meeting up for the first time and asked her how it went. She lied and said good. She didn’t want to admit to herself or Peter that John obviously didn’t want her that way. The damage had been done and she needed to get over both of the boys she harbored feelings for.

“Want to go to the indie movie theatre tonight? Ryan, from my film studies class, said they are doing a series of classic romantic movies from the 30s and 40s. Starts tonight.”

“That sounds amazing. I heard about that on Instagram but didn’t realize it started--” Lara Jean stopped when Chris’s arm stopped her suddenly, pulling her back in her tracks. She looked at her best friend. “What the hell was that for?”

Chris’s eyes went big and face went paler than usual. She took hold of her friend’s shoulders and faced her away from the line of cars. “How are you at walking backwards?”

“That’s weird even for you.” She tried to turn around, now curious about what her friend was trying to hide from her.

“Lara Jean.” She said in a flat but concerned voice. LJ knew it must be something serious. Chris didn’t get this way if it wasn’t, but she needed to look. Her heart was beating a thousand times faster than usual similar to when Peter made her watch a horror movie. She nodded at her friend before she stepped out of her grip and turned to see her own heart breaking.

Up against the driver’s side door, Peter laid is weight on Gen as his lips were locked on hers. Her arms draped around his neck. It looked so causal to them, like it was no big thing. But to her, it was pushing in the knife even further. Killing her and twisting the knife.

She had seen them kiss before, but not since their fake relationship. She had heard rumblings that they had gotten back together, but chose not to believe it. There were rumors about everyone dating everyone in high school.

All the air left her lungs. She was frozen. She knew how creepy it must look. Her staring at her former boyfriend making out with someone else. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t. Her bones had been jelly in sadness and she fought to keep herself up. She wanted to say something to break the ice, make it seem like she wasn’t breaking down inside, but nothing came out.

“Are you okay?” Chris asked turning her away from Peter and Gen since LJ’s own feet felt like bricks.

“I…I…I” Lara Jean’s mind was mush. How could she say that she was about to crumble when she had been so fine about their breakup up to this point. It wouldn’t make sense.

“Come on.” Chris grabbed her arm and b-lined for Lara Jean’s car. She turned LJ’s head away from Peter and Gen who were still making out. “We’ll get you home.” Chris did most of the walking. She was dragging Lara Jean along. The shock and your heart ripping apart will do that to a person.

“Took you two long enough.” Kitty, Lara Jean’s younger sister huffed as Chris and Lara Jean approached. “I have to finish my social studies homework before soccer practice so I can go for pizza with Rachel after.” Her younger sister was in the junior high school who’s building shared a parking lot with the high school.

Chris looked at the youngest Covey to tell her now was not the time.

“Is everything okay?” Kitty got concerned as Chris opened up the driver’s side door.

“I’m driving you home.” Chris said as Lara Jean looked at Kitty as if their non-existent pet just died. Kitty gulped.

The moment they got through the door of Lara Jean’s bedroom. All the emotion she was holding in was set free. She slid down the door and pulled her knees in close as tears streamed down her cheeks like a waterfall.

“Oh baby.” Chris pulled her up and onto her comfy bed and held her in her arms. “It’s okay to cry. Let it out.”

“I shouldn’t even be allowed to be sad about it.” Lara Jean cried as Chris pet her hair.

“Of course, you can be sad about it. In fact, it has been kinda weird how not sad you’ve been about the whole thing. Him being your first boyfriend and all.” She cooed.

“But it wasn’t…” LJ started before a lump her in throat filled up. She hadn’t told anyone, even her best friend, that her relationship with Peter was all for show. “It was all a lie.” She cried.

She explained the entire story to her friend. The love letters. The making people jealous. The way she had accidently fell for Peter when it was meant to be strictly business. Through her tears, she told her everything. She told her about the times she thought he might have some of the same feelings, but how every time something about Gen would come up and he got all defensive. The whole thing was to make her jealous to being with. “I just feel dumb.”

Chris pulled away from her best friend to look her in the eyes. “Do you even know who you are?” She shook her head at her best friend. “All those emotions inside of you. Of course, you were going to fall head over heels in love with him. Anyone who has met you for one second could tell you that this was how it would end. You’re not dumb. You’re smarter than anyone else I know. You just wear your heart on your sleeve.” Chris smiled.

“You don’t think it’s all crazy?” Lara Jean smiled before sucking in her tears.

“Oh, it’s fucking insane.” Chris laughed and pulled her friend back into her side. “But not for nothing, I think he felt the same way about you.”

“I’m literally sobbing because he was making out with Gen.”

“Still…” Chris sighed. “Maybe he was just as scared of his feelings as you.”

Lara Jean was about to respond when there was a small knock on the door. It peaked open and Kitty popped her head in. “I heard you crying.” She stepped into Lara Jean’s room holding 3 pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and three spoons in her arms. “I thought this might help.”

Chris and Lara Jean looked at each other and smiled. “Come here, little Covey.” Chris said pulling Kitty onto the bed with them. Lara Jean picked up one of her favorite flavors, Cherry Garcia. She opened it and brought a spoonful to her mouth. The silky flavor captured her senses. Surrounded by her best friend and sister, she finally started to feel a little bit better.

 


“Do you think I could pull this off?” Chris held up a purple leather jacket with fringe dangling dorm the arms. They had gone out thrifting after work the day the episode of her podcast was posted. Lara Jean needed a distraction staying at home. It was Wednesday. Only two short days until she hopefully saw him. She figured going through racks and racks of clothes with her friend was the best distraction for her.

“You?  Yes. You can pull off anything.” LJ smiled.

“I think I’m gonna get it.” She felt the soft leather in her hands and smiled. Chris had been her best friend since childhood. They met in the 1st grade when Chris told off a boy trying to steal Lara Jean special sparkly gel pens. They had lived near and far from each other but always remained close. After high school, Chris had gone on a gap year to Costa Rica to work on a farm before transferring into NYU, the same school as Lara Jean. Chris was a New York City person. She was more rock and roll. The city belonged to her. Her whole vibe fit way better than Lara Jean’s, but they took on the city together, just like Chris said they would.

Lara Jean knew she had to tell her best friend what was going on. It made no sense to hide it from her. Plus, she was so nervous that if she didn’t talk about it, she might explode. “Did you listen to that email I sent you this morning?”

“The one with that podcast you like?” Chris across the rack at her.

“Yeah. Did you listen to it or them? There was two.” Her foot tapped on the tile floor nervously.

“No. Wanna give me the TLDR? Your nervous energy is freaking me out.”

“So, remember a few weeks ago when I asked you about Peter Kavinsky?” Lara Jean pulled at a loose thread of a jade green dress she picked up.

“I am aware.” Chris gave her an inquisitive look.

“Well it’s because he was on this podcast.” Lara Jean breathed slowly.

“Excuse me?” Chris clutched her heart.

“Yeah. Our of the millions of podcasts in the entire world, he’s on my favorite. The one I listen to almost every day. I knew it was him instantly and the podcast doesn’t give out names or ways to contact people so… I went on the show to try to find him.” LJ sped through her monologue.

“YOU WENT ON A PODCAST TO FIND PETER KAVINSKY?!” Chris’s mouth hung ajar. “HOW THE HELL DID YOU NOT TELL ME?! YOU ARE FUCKING INSANE!”

“I know.” Lara Jean scratched her temple. “I would have never done anything like this… but he said something on the podcast.”

“What?”

“He said when we dated, or fake dated I guess. He said he loved me.” LJ stared at the floor.

“Whoa.” Chris stopped. “Holy shit.”

“And you know how I felt about him. I was so in love with him and just knew thought he felt the same way. What if this is like fate or something?” She smiled. “What if it was fate that I listen to the podcast and fate that he was on it and now it’s fate that I went on because I had to meet him.”

“I know you’re a hopeless romantic, but I don’t know if fate is a real thing.” Chris came around the rack and stood in front of Lara Jean. “So, you went on a podcast?”

“Yeah.” She smiled at her friend. “I felt like I was gonna throw up. You know how bad I am at public speaking.” She chuckled. “Did I also mention that on the podcast I told him to meet me at the Empire State Building on Friday? Because I think I lost my mind and did that too.” She chuckled.

“Who are you and what did you do with my friend Lara Jean Song Covey?” Chris laughed in shock. “You’re going to meet up with him…” She questioned every word.

“Hopefully. They said they would send the episode to him. So, he would get it.” Lara Jean shrugged trying to hide how nervous she was.

“I love this for you. I do. Romantic gesture that you love and all that. I just don’t want you to get hurt.” Chris offered.

“Me too.” Lara Jean agreed. “I’m kind of terrified.”

“No. You’re fearless. You are stepping off the edge not knowing what’s about to come, but you are doing it anyway.” Chris hyped her friend up. “I wish I was more like you.”

Lara Jean felt herself blush. She had always looked up to her best friend. She had more confidence in her pinky finger than any other person she had ever met. Chris lived like the world would just work out. And the funny thing was, it usually did. Chris didn’t stress. It was something Lara Jean always wished she had an ounce of. “So, you don’t think I’m insane?”

“Oh, you’re losing your freaking mind. But in a good way.” Chris smiled and threw her arm around her friend.

“I love you.” Lara Jean felt a little more at peace by the encouraging words from her oldest and closest friend.

“And I love this top.” She pulled out a silky maroon blouse. The chiffon caught the overhead light beautifully. It looked soft and elegant and perfect. She threw the top into Lara Jean’s hands and whipped her head around. “Wear this with your black skirt & chunky boots when you sweep Peter Kavinsky off his ass.”

Chapter Text

She could hear the rumbling behind the art deco doors. She totally understood why this was one of the most popular NYC landmarks. The grand entrance alone but almost anything else she had ever seen to shame. It was about the arrive and her nerves were at full effect.

Today had felt like the longest day ever. Lara Jean called sick into work this morning. She couldn’t risk Mr. Peters keeping her in the office. She had received about 60 different emails today about an 8PM meeting, only making her more confident in her decision to not go to work.

The extra time at home made her mind run crazy. She tried to read a book but couldn’t focus on more than three pages at a time, causing her to throw the book across the couch on more than one occasion. With every description of the book’s hero, she compared him to Peter. Or more specifically who she wanted Peter to be. Every thought kept running back to him, making her nerves reach new heights.

She tried to bake, her favorite hobby to center her mind. Making chocolate chips cookies was like meditation for her. The careful measuring of the flour and baking soda. The packing of brown sugar before mixing it with salt, sugar, and eggs. It all felt methodical. There was a right way to do it. Best practices. It usually made her feel in control, something she desperately needed now. But the moment she put the cookies in the oven, she felt something was off. She let herself huff down on the couch and closed her eyes to clear her mind. Her body was running on empty and she drifted off into a half sleep. In the 10 minutes of shut eye she got before the timer went off, the cookies burned. Something that Lara Jean had not let happen since she was a teenager.

She left the burnt cookies on the counter and took Cullen on another walk. He had already been out three times today and it wasn’t even 3PM yet. She put in her headphones and listened to his episode of the podcast again. His voice sounded so steady, so confident. She always admired that about him growing up. He always had a presence. He cared what others thought about him. It was something he revealed during one of their long nights in the back booth at the diner. But it didn’t effect who he handled himself or more importantly how he felt about himself.

The sun was shining bright today. Lara Jean was trying to take that as a good sign. A sign that things would work out. The good weather was a sign that this was the start of something great.

They did a lap around the park, over the stone bridge and through the flower garden where Cullen had to smell every species of flower. She was surprised at the spring in her puppy’s step. On a normal day, he was exhausted after one walk, but today was different. Today nothing could go wrong.

The doors to the elevators opened and Lara Jean stood motionless for a moment. This was it. It was time to see him. She slid into the elevator and huddled in the corner. The elevator was fuller than she assumed it would be for that time of day. But she guess it made sense, to see the sunset and all. The operator was a short older man, maybe 70 or 75. His uniform was spotless and pressed. Either he or someone he loved wanted to make sure he looked sharp. It made her heart swell. The little things like that is what she wanted in a relationship. The small gestures were the most important to her.

The elevator moved fast. Lara Jean closed her eyes. She wasn’t afraid of heights or rollercoasters moving quickly. But the pit in her stomach only grew deeper as she inched closer to their special spot. The ding of their arrival meant she was stepping off the cliff. She nodded at the operator to say thank you and stepped into a room lined with windows and glass doors to the observation deck. She followed a group of girls, probably college aged, outside. They were in their most Instagram-able outfits for a photoshoot for one of their birthdays. She had overheard in the elevator that it was the red-head’s 21st.

When she stepped outside, she almost couldn’t contain herself. The view of the city took her breath away every time. No matter how long she had lived in New York City, its splendor delighted her to no end. The sun was beginning to set and put a golden hue over the cityscape. She walked to the edge and marveled at the red, yellows and oranges of the tree tops that peppered the city. For the concrete jungle that New York was known to be, there was such a lot of nature. The quiet moment as the crisp air swept across her feel so grateful to live here, to get to be a part of the city she had always dreamed of.

Lara Jean looked down at her watch. She told him to meet her at sunset and according to her weather app, sunset wasn’t for another 45 minutes. She was early, almost embarrassingly so. Story of her life. She was too anxious to wait around at her apartment. She kept thinking what if something went wrong to get there? What if the Subway shut down? What if there was a blackout and the street lights were out for hours? What if there was no Ubers to be seen? Leaving early squashed some of her fears.

She was used to this though. She came prepared. A small bench sat near one set of doors. She grabbed a small paperback from her purse and took a seat. If Peter came, there was no way he wouldn’t see her. From the bench, she saw their spot. The spot where he made her feel special.


She locked arms with Chris as they exited the elevator. Their classmates yelling about who was going to get the best view first reminded LJ of field trips in elementary school. Lara Jean had been dreaming about their Senior trip to New York City for as long as she could remember. She had never been before but had a dreamy idea of the city in her head. From movies and books, she saw it as the city of opportunity. The place you go to make it big. The place where you drop a novel in an indie bookstore and a handsome stranger picks it up for you, creating the ultimate meet cute.

She had planned her outfits months in advance. She knew New York had a style all its own and wanted to fit in. On a whim, she had applied to NYU before the school year started. She hadn’t heard back but she was convinced this trip would give her the answers she needed. It was colder than expected, but her outfits were too nice to be covered up by a giant jacket. So, she stayed cold and leaned into one of her friend’s for warmth.

“Wow.” Chris’s eyes went wide. “You can really see everything from up here.” Her head swiveled in every direction. The city went on as far as the eye could see. Being up so tall made you feel powerful, like you could take the city on if you tried.

“I think that’s Central Park.” Lara Jean pointed at the pocket of trees.

“I think you’re right.” Chris smiled and took a deep breath of the crisp September air. “How many people do you think are down there?”

“8 million. Give or take the commuters.” Lara Jean smiled. She felt so alive here. More than at home in Virginia anyway. She couldn’t hide the creeping feeling like maybe she belonged here.

“Hey Covey!” Trevor’s bass toned voice called from behind them. “I think someone left you something.” The small snicker in his voice brought a smile to Lara Jean’s face.

The girls turned around and went to Peter’s best friend. “What are you talking about?” LJ asked.

Trevor nodded to the right where an Adler backpack sat unopened in the middle of the observation deck. A smile spread across his face. “Go get um, tiger.”

Lara Jean giggled while letting go of Chris’s arm to approach the bag.

“MISS!” A security guard yelled out suddenly. “MISS STEP AWAY FROM THE BAG! THIS IS AN UNIDENTIFIED PACKAGE. IT COULD CONTAIN SOMETHING DANGEROUS. STEP BACK!”

Lara Jean was startled. “I was told it was for me.”

“Does the bag belong to you ma’am?” He said sharply.

“IT’S MINE!” Peter’s voice rang out as he came out behind a large pole. “It belongs to me. It’s a surprise.” He hung his head in embarrassment.

“Open the bag, sir.” He said curtly.

Peter picked it up and did as he was told. His face slightly blush from a mix of the wind and sticking his tail between his legs. Inside the backpack was a teddy bear holding a bright red heart with I Heart NY embroidered in white thread. He pulled it out and Lara Jean saw the note tied to its fuzzy foot.

Will you go to homecoming with me?

The guard looked back and forth between Peter and Lara Jean. “Son, you could have created an international incident.”

Peter held the bear but his eyes didn’t move away from Lara Jean. “I’m so sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”

The guard rolled his eyes and went back to his post, leaving the two of them standing there, eyes locked on only each other. The whole city view surrounded them, but the only view they really cared about was each other.

“So…” Peter broke the silence with his cheeky smile. “What do you say?”

“About the international incident or homecoming?” She joked, biting the inside her of cheek to stop from cheesing hard enough for her face to fall off.

“Homecoming.” He rolled his eyes and threw his head back laughing. “Wall you go to homecoming with me, Covey?

She nodded and let her smile come through. “Yes, Peter Kavinsky. I will go to homecoming with you.”

He threw his arms around her and picked her up off the ground in a bear hug. Even if this was all for show, Lara Jean’s heart couldn’t tell the difference. It swelled with just how in love with him she was. The only room between their bodies was the plush brown bear squeezed between them. His big hands spread wide across her entire back made her feel warmer than she had the entire time in New York.

He put her back on the ground. Their bodies still close, faces inches apart. Kiss him her mind screamed. It was all she wanted to do. She had dreamed of doing it so many times. In his car, on her doorstep, in the diner. But never did. Right now, she should cup his face in her hands and never let go of his lips. That’s what she dreamed of doing. But her mind stopped her. They had a no kissing rule. The rule that Lara Jean insisted on putting in their fake couple contract was really coming back to kick her in the ass. She sucked in a shallow breath before the bear and backpack fell to the ground.

“Oh god.” Lara Jean was the first to break away. “I don’t want your hard work to get dirty.”

Peter smiled out one side of his mouth as he leaned down to join Lara Jean. “I’m really glad you said yes.” His face felt warm and safe. His eyes were kind and compassionate. She swore he meant what he said but doubted he had the same kind of feelings as her.

“Me too.” He hoped her blush was hidden by her wind-stained cheeks. Peter Kavinsky coming in making her grand romantic gesture dreams come true, one moment at a time. She wouldn’t be able to wipe this smile off her face for days, even if it was all for show.


The sun was really setting now. Slipping behind the skyscrapers, the sun gave way to the dark tones of the night sky. It was only the boom of the lights turning on, that Lara Jean even realized how dark it had gotten. She put her book to the side and looked around. Still no sign of him.

A gust of wind howled and she pulled her jacket across her chest. She had worn the outfit Chris suggested but didn’t take account of how cold it got once the sun went down. She got up, put her book in the bag and walked around. Maybe they missed each other. Maybe he remembered their spot differently. Walking warmed up her body, made her cells feel alive. She walked to the barrier and stared out at the city. There was no doubt it was beautiful, but right now it was the last thing on her mind.

She hummed a song in her head. One from high school. One they danced to when he took her to the homecoming dance. She turned on her boot heels and continued to pace.

The minutes ticked by and she didn’t see him. She must have walked past the elevator seventy times. She would rush back any time the doors opened and search for him in every crowd. But he wasn’t there. She didn’t see him. She was beginning to think she was looking suspicious as she paced, her face getting more and more anxious and angry. She sat back down on the bench.

She looked at her phone to check the time. It was starting to get late. She knew they were closing soon. The elevators would stop running any minute now and he still wasn’t there. What if she had gotten this all wrong? What if what he said on the podcast was just words? What if he didn’t actually feel the same way? What made her believe that just because she was his so called “One That Got Away” that he would still want to be with her? Want to meet her even? Shit. She rested her head in her hands.

Her emotions were bubbling at the surface. She felt angry. Angry for being left alone. Angry for getting her hopes up. Angry for believing that some fairy tale was about to happen. Her ears were red with anger, but she couldn’t feel angry with him.

When she thought about him, she felt devastated. It was a kind of sadness she wasn’t used to. It wasn’t the sadness when someone dies or you lose something special to you. It wasn’t the break up kind of sadness where you are mourning the loss of a huge part of your life. It was sadness for your hopes and dreams not coming true. A sadness that was starting to shake her to the core. One that made her feel her entire way of looking at the world was wrong, weak even. She believed in love. She got her hopes up only to have them ripped at the seams.

“ATTENTION PATRONS!” A voice coming from a speaker above her head sounded. “THE LAST ELEVATOR WILL BE DEPARTING FROM THE OBSERVATION DECK IN FIVE MINUTES. AGAIN, THE LAST ELEVATOR WILL BE DEPARTING FROM THE OBSERVATION DECK IN FIVE MINUTES.”

Her stomach dropped as her mind could finally wrap around what her heart was already feeling. He wasn’t coming. “Give him two more minutes.” She whispered to herself as she wrapped herself more in her coat. “Please Peter.” She closed her eyes like she was making a wish on her birthday candles.

She listened as the crowds of people headed to take the elevator down. She focused on each voice, but none were the one she yearned for. None of them were Peter. LJ took a deep breath as her surroundings went silent. She was the last one left.

She didn’t know if her feet would move anymore. Frozen from the chilly temperatures and lost hope. She took a deep breath. She couldn’t stay here forever. She had to go inside. She had to leave the observation deck. Leave their special place and the hope and memories that she attached to it.

Eventually, she got the courage to get up. Her feet regaining their ability to move. She opened the large glass double door and took a moment to calm herself down. She looked back at the skyline one last time. She didn’t think she’d be able to come back here anytime soon. It might hurt too much.

She got in line for the last elevator of the night. The gold detail of the art deco design no longer feeling whimsical and magical. It felt hallow and defeated. Just like her.

Chapter Text

She woke up slowly the next day. As her eyes opened, it seemed like any other Saturday. The sun was starting to seep through her window. The street was quiet. The whole city wanting to be at rest for a few more minutes. It was a Saturday like every other. But every other Saturday, Lara Jean Covey woke up with excitement. Today, she woke up feeling broken. If her mind wasn’t already alive with depressed thoughts, she would have tried to go back to sleep. She didn’t want to get up. Getting up meant she had to face what just happened. She’d have to face the fact he didn’t show up.

She thought she could hide away in bed, stay in her baggy sweats and oversized sweatshirt. She could watch Netflix on her phone and pretend last night didn’t happen. Cullen the dog had other ideas. He pawed at her leg and Lara Jean threw her head back against the pillow. “CULLY!” she sighed. “Don’t make me do it.”

The dog barked as if he was telling her to get her ass up. With a whine, she did. The covers were thrown to the other side of the bed and her feet met the ground. “Give me a second.” She walked into the bathroom to examine her damage. Her skin looked dry. Her eyes puffy from crying herself to sleep. She pulled her hair up in a messy bun and sighed. This was all she had the energy to do.

She attached Cullen to his leash and grabbed a pair of sunglasses from the table. If someone was a stranger, they would think she was just hung over. They wouldn’t know her heart had just been trampled on what felt like a couple thousand times.

 


When she got home from the walk, she climbed her way back into bed. She usually would have gotten herself something for breakfast. Saturdays were usually the time to hit up the bakery down the street for bagels and whatever looked best for the weekend. But today she had no appetite. She would Postmates something later if she wanted to eat.

Her phone binged. She glanced over at the lit-up screen. A text from Chris. A simple question mark. She didn’t want to respond. She didn’t know how to say that this thing, this relationship to be that she envisioned in her head was just that. All in her head. The screen stared blankly at her for minutes before LJ sent back a sad face emoji. It was all she could muster without feeling like she was about to have her first breakdown of the day.

Chris’s reply came back instantly. Her best friend knew what she needed before she did.

I’m so sorry, love. We don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to. I’m sending you all my love & hugs. Wanna drink wine and watch a Halloween movie tomorrow?

Lara Jean let out of small laugh and replied with a heart.

As the hours clicked by, her heart still felt heavy. Today was going to be a wash. Hell, this entire weekend would be. There was no way she could stop these big feelings of hers. She had tried in the past and it never worked. She had to feel them to move past them. She decided to give herself the weekend to get over them and Peter Kavinsky.

 


She threw herself into her hobbies. She spent the afternoon making four dozen spice cookies for when Chris arrives tomorrow. They would only eat about a dozen, but it made Lara Jean feel better that she was helping someone else. Chris would bring them to work like she usually did. Maybe they would help her sell a few more pieces. They were intricately cut into shapes. Ghosts, tombstones, witch hats and pumpkins. Halloween was this week. LJ usually wasn’t much on the holiday. She hadn’t dressed up since college. But maybe getting in the spirit would make her forget about her own troubles. She decorated them with royal icing in ten different colors. Orange wasn’t her favorite color in the world, but it fit for the season. She sent a picture of one of the completed cookies to Chris and she sent back a Cookie Monster Gif.

Later in the day, she decided to read. She wanted her mind anywhere but in her real life. She picked a random off her TBR shelf and settled into the couch. The book was short, maybe 350 pages. The cover was cute. An illustrated image of a couple in each other’s arms. They were in Victorian garb. The back said it was a mix of magical fantasy and noble families. Just what she needed to read about to transfer her mind on a far off imaginary world. Get out of the one she was currently in.

She raced through the novel. Only stopping to readjust her position on the couch. She was tucked under a blanket for some of the positions. She laid on her stomach, on her back. Held the book on its side or above her head. The anxiety of yesterday was still racing through her body. She had to let it out some way.

If books had movie level scores, she would be at the point where the music swelled. After begrudgingly falling in love, the couple were being torn apart after one magical night together where they were forced to share a bed after getting lost in the woods after a witch went after both their families carriages. The drama drew her in but their sweet and tender relationship made her swoon. Their families tried to keep them apart, but the young couple would sneak out to meet. Both wanting each other but knowing they couldn’t. They planned to run away together. The only chance to be together. They made the plan. Meet behind the old church and live happily ever after. But the heroine never showed up.

Lara Jean’s eyes were waterfalls. It was a miracle she could even see the words on the page but she soldiered on.

The girl didn’t show up because on the way there, on the way to her happily ever after. The witch put a curse on the horses leading the carriage, slamming her and her maid that was accompanying her into a tree. Both of them died on impact.

It was another knife to the chest. This was hitting a little too close to home. She had assumed Peter just didn’t want to show up, but what if he couldn’t. No. She couldn’t think like that. She needed to take steps to get over him, not forgive him for never showing up.  She was sobbing uncontrollably. She shut the book after reading the last heart wrenching page and felt like she could barely breath. It all felt too much. The characters were so close to something perfect and it was ripped away from them. Just like Lara Jean’s hope for Peter, it was gone before she had it.

She knew she needed to cry like this. She could blame it on the book, but she knew the real reason the tears fell.


 

She brought over another glass of wine to her friend and pulls her leg up on the couch.

“These cookies are too cute.” Chris held up a tombstone cookie. “RIP ME!”

“Hold that pose.” Lara Jean took out her phone and snapped a picture. The light was hitting Chris perfectly and the cookie was shining. “Model!”

“Oh nice. Can you send it to me? I would look great on my Bumble profile. Very autumn.” She smiled.

“Yeah.” She clicked on her phone and sent it away. “How does the cookie taste?”

Chris took a big bite. “Fabulous!” She said with a mouthful of cookie.

“Great.” Lara Jean had been trying to fake a smile all day. She needed to be okay by tomorrow when she was back at work. If anyone could break her out of it, it would be Chris.

“Speaking of dating apps.” Chris offered, her wine glass was half way up to her mouth.

“Christine.” Lara Jean protested.

“Lara Jean! I think it would be good for you. Get you out there. I know you always just delete them after a few weeks, but I think if you really stuck to it, you can find someone really great for you.” She tried to encourage her friend. “You don’t even need to use the popular ones. There are ones that cater to not club-ish finance dudes.”

“I just can’t” LJ whispered. She felt so raw from Peter not showing up that she couldn’t even imagine moving on yet. “I just need a break. I don’t think even if I met someone organically that I could get into a relationship right now. I built him up too much. All I would do is compare someone to him. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“I don’t want to push you. I’m sorry if it seemed like it. I know you’re still hurting. I just want you to be happy. I hate seeing you so upset.” Chris rubbed her friend’s knee to try to comfort her.

“I know.” She sucked in her now runny nose. “Can we just watch Hocus Pocus and forget about him.”

“You got it boss!” Chris smiled and grabbed the remote from the table.

 


“This place is so beautiful.” Lara Jean slid onto the bar stool in the nicest hotel bar she had ever been to.

“Yeah, I’ve been researching it for weeks. I can be a real bitch about my birthday.” Lucas, her favorite co-worker smiled. They had met right when LJ started the job. They were both assistants to major executives and spent hours writing messages back and forth while sitting in the corner during board meetings which seemed to never end.

“Another year older & wiser.” Lara Jean smiled. It had been over a week since Peter didn’t show up. Her heart still felt heavy but she was doing her best to not let it show. In the past, when she felt like this, she would come up with some excuse to not go out. But today, Lucas’s friendship meant a lot to her and she was going to try to stick it out.  

“And hotter hopefully.” Lucas flicked his non-existent hair. “I was a mess when I moved to New York. Now at least I have style. I’m considering getting Botox. I know I’m only 26, but I hear teens are starting to get it now, for preventative measures.”

“You do not need Botox!” Lara Jean squealed. “There is not a line on your face, dummy.”

“True. It’s my curse to bare, still looking like I’m a literal baby.” He beamed. Lara Jean loved being around Lucas. He was fun and fun was what she needed right now. Fun would get her mind off he who shall not be named. They ordered drinks from a leather apron clad bartender and turned back to each other.

Lucas’s eyes lit up. “Guys in the corner booth. Into you or me?”

LJ smiled. “You know I’m bad at this game.” She had grown up with zero gay-dar. One of her letters had gone out to a crush she had freshman year of high school to a gay guy. It had been a major blind spot for her. As she got older and moved to the city, she had gotten better, but Lucas still lovingly picked on her for it. Just as she was about to turn to look at the table, Lucas grabbed her arm.

“Don’t look yet. One of them is looking over. He’s cute. Brown curly hair. Broad. Good teeth.” Lucas smiled beyond her before turning back to his friend.

That sounded like him. If he was looking at them, had he recognized her? Her heart was going wild, like it had forgotten about how crushed it was just a week ago. She took a long deep breath and turned her head slowly.

It wasn’t him.

The man was good looking. Broad like Lucas said, but shorter than Peter would be. His facial features were sharp and face slightly jaunt. His suit was nice. Looked expensive and tailor into a nanometer of its life. He was cute. But he wasn’t Peter.

She tried to examine him a little more as he watched his friend talk with his hands. He wore more jewelry that she expected with the suit. His hair was fluffy but not too fluffy, like he had spent more than a few minutes quaffing it. The man looked up and his eyes met with hers. Nothing. No spark. No tension. Not a feeling to be seen.

Lara Jean turned back to Lucas. “I don’t know if he’s into you, but he certainly is not into me.” He laughed and picked up the Cosmo that had been placed in front of her.

“Damn.” Lucas shrugged. “To finding boys who show up for us.” He held up his drink. Lara Jean laughed and took a long sip. She had told Lucas what was going on earlier in the week and he had said a night on the town was just what they needed.

“Sometimes I think you’re the only one who will.” She rolled her eyes at Lucas.

“Well then, one of us,” He motioned to her, “needs to start making more money. I expect to be a kept house husband by the time I’m 30.” He took another sip of his drink and called the bartender over for another.

Lara Jean rolled her eyes and took down the rest of her drink. If she was with Lucas, this was sure to be a fun night.

 


Another long day at work lead to another walk to the park with Cullen. It was the first truly cold day of fall. Lara Jean had her scarf billowing around her neck to block the wind. Her headphones were in. She pressed play on the latest episode of her favorite podcast.

Part of her thought she was about to lose her podcast friends forever. She was convinced that listening to them would remind her of Peter. It only turned out to be half true. There was a pang to her heart, thinking of what might have been. But listening also made her feel like she belonged. Like she wasn’t alone. That everyone else was also falling on their face when it came to their love life too.

Wind wicked at her body. The street lights were already on since the sun went down so early now. “Good boy.” Lara Jean said as Cullen started to pee next to the base of a wide oak tree.

The started to zone out. Work was rough. Her boss was freaking out about quarterly reports and making numbers for the end of the year. His frustration about not having everything at his fingertips was pointed at Lara Jean. She smiled and used her yoga breathing. It wasn’t always this bad…or at least that’s what she told herself to get through the day.

“WE WILL RETURN TO OUR REGULAR SCHEDULED POD IN A BIT BUT OHMYGOD! THIS HAS TO COME FIRST!” Nina, the podcast host could not contain her excitement.

“This is a FIRST!” Emma echoed. “We have our first ever repeat guest and they are here on a mission!”

“In the last few weeks, we have taken you on a journey. A love story that spans time, space, and now three separate podcast episodes.” Nina smiled.

“Now dear listeners, we usually stay very strict about pod rules. But…well…we are to obsessed with this to let it go on any longer. We need to know these two love birds will make it happen.” Emma smiled jollily. “The airwaves are yours friend!” It was like she was nodding it was okay for someone to start. A silence hung in the air.

“Hi Covey. I hope you’re listening. It’s Peter.”

Chapter Text

“Hi Covey. I hope you’re listening. It’s Peter.”

Her heart stopped. This was deja vu. Hadn’t he done this before? Come back into her life through her ears. Her body shook at the timber of his voice. It was just as soft and sweet as she remembered it. He sounded tried, like he used to after a lacrosse game, but determined like he did when they were studying for a big science test.

“Covey, I am so sorry for not showing up. I didn’t listen to your episode in time. I was in the middle of the rainforests in Bolivia helping them set up a solar and water energy grid. That’s what I do now. All the science-y stuff. Guess our chemistry study sessions payed off, huh.” There was a sparkle to his voice that was so undeniably his. The Kavinsky Charm as Kitty used to call it.

“I had no signal even with all my devices which usually give me at least enough WiFi to check my email. I couldn’t listen to the episode they sent me until yesterday when I got back to the airport. I replayed it over and over again on the ride home.”

Lara Jean’s breath felt short. Holy crap. He didn’t not want to show up. He couldn’t have.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there. I got back to the city this morning. I tried to call your old number from high school, but it didn’t work. Some guy with a thick Southern accent thought I was a telemarketer and tore me a new one before…well none of that matters. But when I couldn’t get you on the phone at the airport, I was a mess. I usually have this system for getting home. But I needed to get to you or at least have a way for you to hear me.” He started to sound frantic. “I took an Uber here.” Small giggles filled the silence. Defiantly Nina and Emma’s doing. “I came here right from the airport probably smelling like grass and bad coffee because…I needed some way to reach you. I needed to know that you’re okay.” He let out a deep breath like he hadn’t been able to calm down until he knew.

“I’m so sorry, Lara Jean. If I could have been there. I would have been. You know I would.” His voice sounded smooth and confident. Lara Jean could imagine him running his hands through his curly locks. When he promised something, it was as good as Gospel. “God, Covey, when I heard your voice on the podcast. It was like something within me felt alive again. Like angels singing or some big feeling you read about in your romance books.”

Lara Jean laughed before she realized the tears coming down her face. She always said she wanted grand romantic gestures and what could be more romantic than this.

“I’ve lost you before. I let you go because you liked John, but it killed me inside. You would smile at me in the hallway and I was exploding on the inside. I wanted to tell you more than anything about my feelings for you. But, I know we said we were still friends and good and all that. But honestly, I would have broken down if I saw you with anyone else.”

Lara Jean’s heart was racing even before Cullen pulled at her leash to continue their walk around the park.

“ I wanted to tell you everything when you told me about John. How yes, it started out fake but… damn. I knew it was real to me the moment you let me kiss you that one time at Gabe’s party.”


 

Gabe’s parties were the place to be seen in the Adler High School’s social scene. Gabe had a huge house and his parents left every weekend for their lake house an hour away, making it the perfect spot to throw at least one blow out a weekend.

Parties weren’t Lara Jean’s thing, but Peter put it in the contract. Lara Jean must attend parties with Peter. So she fulfilled her duty. Most of the time, he would get her a drink, make sure she was okay with one of her friends and go off to hang with his. It seemed all for show, just to be seen. She didn’t understand why she had to come if he was just going to leave her alone most of the time, but tonight was different.

Gen, Peter’s ex-girlfriend, showed up to the party with her new older boyfriend. He went to the local community college. They met volunteering at church and Gen was all too happy to  parade him around like she won the lottery.

Peter was glued to Lara Jean’s side all night. He hung out with her and Chris on the massive couch in the living room. He was attentive and checked on her a million times if she was okay. It would have been kind of sweet if it wasn’t to just make it look real for Gen. Trevor called his lacrosse friends over and a crowd gathered around, like suddenly LJ was the coolest girl in school. Peter had always made her feel like she was just being in his orbit.

When Lara Jean sprung up from the couch to get a drink a few minutes later, Peter came with her. It was time for LJ to check on him. She knew he would just say he’s fine in front of his lacrosse buddies. He would be honest when it was just the two of them. He leaned against the counter as she poured a glass of Sprite into her blue Solo cup. “I know you saw her with him.” She didn’t even have to look up at his face. She knew he was in pain.

“Yeah. I don’t feel great about it.” Peter tried to laugh but it feel flat to her ears.

“You know you don’t have to pretend for me.” She put her hand over his strong bicep. His eyes darted right to where they were connected and he took a loud breath. Lara jean’s eyes were fixated on his jaw. It clenches and relaxed in rapid succession.

“I just don’t want people to see me as a joke.” He let out. “I mean, I don’t care what people, especially random kids in Trig say or whatever. But I don’t want them to pity me or think that I’m less than. I’m not.”  

“Then don’t give them a reason to.” Lara Jean cocked her head and tried to hype him up. She knew he would do the same for her when needed.

“But she’s showing him off like it’s a new phone or something. It’s just so inescapable. Everyone needs to meet Robert. Who even goes by Robert if that’s your real name. Be normal and be Rob or Bobby or something.” He rolled his eyes.

“Hello?!” Lara Jean hit his shoulder playfully. “Do you not remember that you have a fake girlfriend stating right in front of you? You got into a relationship first. You won, Peter. You made her so jealous she had to go and get a guy who she obviously doesn’t really like to make you jealous.” She pointed out how Gen’s face went dead after she moved him from friend group to friend group to introduce him. “Also you’ve got much better hair.” Lara Jean smiled to try to boost Peter’s spirits.

“You think so?” He scrunched his face.

“I know so. Both the jealousy and the hair thing.” She smirked and pushed back a curl that fell in front of his forehead. He laughed genuinely this time and Lara Jean had to try to hold back the smile that would eventually take over her face.

“Don’t tell Trevor this, because I will deny it, but I think you’re maybe my best friend.” He leaned in closer to her. She could feel his breath dance across her ear. It sent chills down her spine.

“And don’t tell Chris, but you’re giving her a run for her money too.” Lara Jean looked up at his tall frame. He was almost a full foot taller than her. When she hugged him, she only came up to the middle of his chest if she wasn’t wearing some sort of platform shoe.

He pulled her into his chest and squeezed her upper arms. His eyes met hers and his face became warmer and brighter, like a switch had been turned on. They stood in that position for a while. Comfortable and close. Lara Jean used to be afraid when he would touch her, but now it felt natural. She had started to initiate a hand hold a few weeks ago. Something she would have never done when they signed the contract a few months ago. Her rule in their contract after all was No Kissing.

“Want to go back before Chris and Trevor fight to the death about the proper rules of whatever game they’re playing?” Lara Jean saw the commotion starting from their joined friend groups on the couch.

“Let’s do it. I am not dragging anyone to the urgent care tonight.” He chuckled and touched the curve of Lara Jean’s back to usher her back to their group. It was something he had never done before. It felt more intimate than holding hands or having his arm around her. It felt dangerous for Lara Jean. And oddly, she liked it.

She had realized she had feelings for Peter about two weeks after she started fake dating him. He was playing a game of Connect Four in the family room with Kitty while Lara Jean finished up baking brownies to for Kitty to bring to a sleepover later that night.

Lara Jean watched from the kitchen as Peter raised his eyebrows at the youngest Covey to get her to give away her next move. Peter and Kitty had a lot of things in common but their competitive streaks were their biggest similarity.  He was over dramatic when she blocked his winning move and helped her find out that she could win in two different ways. Kitty won and was so happy she was moved to her feet. Peter sat there, a gracious loser, asking her how she got so smart. That moment cemented in what she already suspected. She was in love with Peter.

 

When they arrived back to their friends, the group had expanded. More lacrosse guys gathered to see what Trevor had come up with. Peter & LJ slid into their saved spots on the couch.

“You’re lying.” Chris glared at Trevor who would not back down from the challenge.

His face was hard, not giving any emotion away for almost a minute before he broke. “You’re right. It’s a lie.” The crowd broke out in cheers as Trevor downed his drink and Chris cheered victoriously.

“Truth or lie, it’s a classic.” Peter leaned into LJ.

“Is this a game you’ve played before?” LJ crossed her arms across her stomach and leaned into him.

“We get bored really easily at practice.” He smiled and Lara Jean felt her entire body viberate. This smile was small but powerful. The whites of his teeth were barely visible to LJ but it was suddenly all she wanted to see.

Their eyes were locked for a moment. Both of their faces focused only on each other. It was like no one else was there. It was only them in the room. They were like magnets. Connected in a way only the two of them could understand. They had a level of trust that not many real relationships had. It was something that neither of them fully understood, but were not going to question it when things were going fine as they were.

“Hi everyone!” Gen’s tinny voice filled the space. Peter and Lara Jean broke apart. Lara Jean crossed her arms across her body. For a moment, she felt vulnerable with him. Now that it was broken, she wanted to hide away. They both avoided Gen’s gaze and took long sips from their cups. “This is my boyfriend Robert.” She put her hand on his chest as if they were posing for engagement photos. He was fine looking. He had sandy blonde hair like Gen and his nose was Roman and strong. He was tall but not huge like Peter. He was less muscular that Peter too. Poor Robert definitely knew who he was trying to impress and darted his eyes away from Peter.

Lara Jean looked at Peter and saw him fiddling his thumbs. She needed to find a way to make him see how much better he was. She put her hand on his thigh powerfully, like she was marking her territory. She watched Gen’s cheeks go red in envy. Peter looked up at Lara Jean. His eyebrows rose.

The thrill of Gen’s jealous did something to Lara Jean. She already knew about her feelings for Peter, but making him feel special, made them even deeper. Her body felt on fire. She leaned in and whispered in his ear. “I know it’s against the contract, but if you need to kiss me to make her jealous, I’m game.”

She heard a gulp from his throat. He leaned away, only slightly and kissed her cheek. She blushed. Lara Jean wished she was cool enough to not, but she knew herself. Her eyes fluttered as he pulled away, no longer being able to feel his skin on hers. It wasn’t the kiss she was expecting, but it felt more important than any moment with him before.

The room could be on fire right now, but Lara Jean would only care about this moment with Peter. She suddenly felt his hand snake around the back of her neck. His nose swiped across hers. LJ’s breath was taken away as she felt his bounce off her lips in a moment of tension. This was what she had been dreaming about, only this was better. Of course it was better. It was Peter.

He gently pressed his lips onto hers. Every cell of her body on high alert. His lips were plump and soft. He tasted like chocolate covered peanuts. Sweet and salty and strangely familiar. She leaned into him. He was more experienced than her when it came to this and she was happy to let him take the lead. A small moan escaped from her mouth and danced across his lips. He gave her neck a gentle squeeze of excitement. Her heart was beat a hundred miles a minute.

He leaned into her for a moment before pulling away. Her body felt like it wasn’t even on the ground. She guessed this is what feeling high would feel like. He brought his lips back to her cheek before whispering in her ear. “Thank you, Covey.”


 

Peter’s voice continued strong. “I wanted to tell you that you were the only one I ever wanted to be with after the team won a game and how I could talk to you about things that no one else knows. I wanted to tell you that I was all in if you were. But I chickened out because I didn’t think you had the same feelings as me. I’m so mad at how wrong I was.”

Lara Jean felt her ears ringing. Holy crap.

“So here I am. On the podcast again, now that I know that you listen. It’s that crazy. It’s fate or something like it.” His voice got excited. “I bribed them to let me come on again. I’m going to have to take them out to an outrageously expensive meal, but hopefully you can be there with me.” She knew he was smiling and wiped her tear stained cheeks.

“Meet me at our spot. Empire State Building. 8PM. Tomorrow night. Thursday. I would say Friday but I don’t know if I can wait that long to see you. Please say you’ll be there. I’ll be the one holding the letter.”

Music faded in as the podcast transitioned to its normal affairs but there was no way Lara Jean could focus on that. The same feelings she had when she first heard Peter on the podcast flooded her brain.

“He didn’t abandon me on purpose.” She said faintly. “He’s going to be there tomorrow.” A wide smile spread across her face. She couldn’t hold it in. She looked down at her phone for the time. 8:30. How was she supposed to wait almost 24 hours to see him when her body felt on fire now? How was she supposed to sleep when her mind could only be focused on seeing him? How was she supposed to do anything in the world when she knew Peter Kavinsky was waiting for her.

Chapter Text

When Lara Jean got home from her walk, her phone was blowing up. Mostly from Chris sending her a new text every 30 seconds. Since Lara Jean had filled her in on the podcast, Chris had been listening religiously. She was convinced she was the Nina and Lara Jean was the Emma of their friendship. She had been texting her after every episode to recap for the last week, but this was different.

 

HOLY FUCK!

HE CALLED YOU OUT! BY NAME! SCREW THE POD RULES!

PETER MOTHER FUCKING KAVINSKY!

SHIT. HOLY SHIT LARA JEAN

HE WORKS IN EXOTIC PLACES? DOING GOOD THINGS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?! REMEMBER WHEN HE USED TO MAKE TREVOR FART ON PEOPLE?

ARE YOU BREATHING? DO I NEED TO COME RESUSCITATE YOU? ACTUALLY, NOT KIDDING

DID HE JUST SAY HE LOVED YOU? LIKE LOVE LOVED YOU?!

GABE’S PARTY! WTF HAPPENED AT GABES PARTY?

YOU KISSED PETER AT A PARTY? WHY DON’T I REMEMBER THIS?! I FEEL LIKE I WAS SITTING NEXT TO YOU AND I DON’T REMEMBER THIS! LARA JEAN! HOW DRUNK DID YOU LET ME GET?

ITS ALMOST EMBARRASSING HOW IN LOVE WITH YOU HE SOUNDS.

OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS FOR YOU.

YOU ARE GOING TO MEET HIM RIGHT? YOU’RE NOT LIKE MAD AT HIM AND HOLDING A GRUDGE? RIGHT!? LJ! REPSOND TO ME! I’M DYING HERE!

IF YOU DON’T GO, I’M GOING AND WILL DRAG HIM TO YOUR APARTMENT!

LARA JEAN!

 

 

Lara Jean sent a simple message back to her friend.

Tomorrow can’t come fast enough. J

 After eating and trying to distract herself with an episode of the Great British Bake Off, she finally got into bed. She had listened the podcast episodes again to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

It was real life. This was happening. She tried to focus on the excitement, but couldn’t help the anxiety nudging itself in. She closed her eyes and tried to think about the last time she saw him.


 

They threw their hats in the air. It was over. They were done. According to the speeches at their graduation, it was time for them to spread their wings and fly. Adler High School’s newest graduating class was out of the nest. Some off to college, some off to jobs. Chris, who ran over to her best friend and attacked her with a hug, was off to Costa Rica for a gap year.

“We’re outta here!” Chris yelled happily.

“We did it!” Lara Jean hugged her again. “Couldn’t have done it without you Chrissy.”

“Stop.” Chris pointed at Lara Jean’s face. “If you get weepy, I’ll get weepy and we promised we wouldn’t cry.”

“I just can’t believe that in a few months from now, I wouldn’t get to see you every day.”

“How dare you.” Chris felt her throat close up and shook her head.

“Okay. No crying.” She kissed her friend’s cheek and slung her arm through hers. “We need to take a picture before we start sobbing. Where are your parents?”

“They told me to meet them outside. Shall we?” She skipped.

“We shall.” Arm and arm, the girls walked outside to the crowds of parents. They slithered through families hugging and smiling until they stumbled upon the Coveys. Dr. Covey was messing with his old-fashioned camera. Kitty and Margo were looking at something on one of their phones.

“Hi family!” Lara Jean smiled wide.

“There’s our graduate!” Her dad pulled her in for a hug. “We are so proud of you sweet heart.”

“Thank you.” She hugged all her family members. “Can you take a picture of us?” She leaned into Chris before she posed with her friend as the camera clicked. The girls laughed and it felt like this truly was a milestone in their lives. A moment they would think back on forever. A moment of happy before they had to start real life.

“I’m going to go find my own family, but I will find you later chica!” Chris yelled and waved at the Coveys.

“Call me!” Lara Jean yelled before turning to her family. Her sisters pulled her in for a group hug. There was laughter and squeals and fun. Everything felt right in Lara Jean’s world.

“I’m starving. Can we go eat?” Kitty piped up from inside the hug.

“Yes. We’ve got the big outdoor table reserved as Bella Luna’s. Your aunts and cousins are meeting us there.” Dr. C smiled and lead the girls to the car.

When they arrived at the cute little eatery that had become Lara Jean’s favorite, they were ushered out to the patio where members of their extended family were already there. There was lots of hugging and asking about what she already had for her dorm room. Her Uncle Jim was desperate to get rid of his son’s old dorm essentials that were living in his garage. Lara Jean had a smile and a canned answer for everyone. “I’ve already ordered everything online and its being delivered to the NYU dorms during move in week. But, thank you for offering.”

“I can’t believe you’re cool enough to move to New York.” The Covey’s cousin Haven looked up uninterested.

“I am going to take that as a compliment.” Lara Jean sat down between her sisters. She knew this was a celebration for her entire extended family, but she really wanted to celebrate with the ones who meant the most to her, her sisters. 

Their meal was filled with laughter and listening to stories that her great aunt had told twenty times before. Lara Jean felt warm in the glow of her family. The food was great and the company was even better. She leaned into her older sister’s shoulder and smiled. “Are you sure you don’t want to transfer to NYU, so we can go to the same school together?”

“I think Saint Andrews might miss me a little too much.” She smirked at her younger sister. “Plus, I think New York City will be good for you. You’ll really be able to experience anything you want. It’s the best part about living in a city.”

“What if I…Never mind.” Lara Jean shook her head. Her sister could never understand how nervous she was about moving away for college. Margo happily went as far away as possible without a second thought. Before the New York trip, she had assumed she’d go to UVA and stay close to home. But then things changed. This was a big change, arguably the biggest, and she wasn’t great with change.

“Hey! Look who it is! Peter Kavinsky!” Her dad smiled and got up to shake Peter’s hand. She didn’t know his family was coming here. She sucked in a shallow breath. Even though they used to see each other almost every day outside of school, now that they were broken up, it felt like seeing Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

He was with his family in a fitted light blue button down and dark grey pants, handsome as always. His mom beamed with pride at her eldest. She had so much to be proud of. Peter was off to college on a full lacrosse scholarship. Most importantly, he was smart and kind. At least that’s what Lara Jean thought was most important.

She put her napkin on the table and walked over to him and his family. They hadn’t really talked since their fake break up, but she always liked his family. His mom was nice enough and Owen was sassy and sarcastic in a perfect mix. “Hi!” She smiled and gave his family a hug before gazing right at him.

“Congratulations, Covey.” He smirked before pulling her in for a quick side hug.

“You too, Kavinsky.” She let out a small giggle. She had never called someone by their last name until she got with Peter. She resisted it at first, but she loved it. It felt casual but formal. It showed a closeness that brought her a new sense of comfort. “When are you headed out to lacrosse training? You told me you leave early for school, right?” she asked as she clasped her hands in front of her body.

“Thursday.” He nodded.

“So, you don’t even have a full week of summer?” Her eyes went wide as they slipped into a comfortable conversation.

“Yeah. It’s not ideal, but some of the guys are already there. I’m technically going late.”

“Dang. Being a lacrosse superstar is hard.” Lara Jean smirked knowing Peter hated it when she called him a star. He would blush and it made LJ feel like she won the lottery.

“The worst.” His face softened and Lara Jean felt her heart flip inside her chest. She could fight her feelings for Peter all she wanted, but they were resurfacing the longer she gazed into his green orbs. They held contact for a while, neither of them knowing what to do next. Peter looked down at his shoes. “Are you going to Gabe’s party tomorrow?”

“I wasn’t invited.” She rubbed her forearm.

“Everyone is invited to Gabe’s party. You should come.” He rocked back and forth on his heels.

“Maybe.” She shrugged. There was no way she was going. She didn’t want to go to a party and watch Peter and Gen make out. She didn’t want to go to the party and imagine what life would have been if she and Peter were actually together. It would hurt too much and she was ready to move on.

“Well, I should go join my family.” He nodded to the table in the corner where his mom and brother were seated. Owen was feeling the leaves of the vines running up rustic looking trellises. “They did come here to celebrate me.”

“Sure.” She faked a smile as she realized that this could be one of the last times she ever sees him.  “If I don’t get to see you before you go.” She hugged his middle. “You’re always gonna be my super star.” She held him for a moment and his arm snaked around her. Lara Jean pushed back the tears from her eyes and let the moment happen. There was no use trying to make it more than it was, two friends saying good luck.

“Thanks Covey.” He said as he let go and walked over to his family and out of Lara Jean’s life.  

 

The Coveys were saying their goodbyes outside the restaurant when she saw him come running out. “Hey.” Peter’s voice was heavier than usual.

“Hi?” Her voice went up at the end to question what was going on.

“We’ll meet you at the car.” Kitty said and pulled her sister and dad off to their SUV parked near the entrance of the parking lot. Kitty was always Peter’s biggest fan. She was the only one who knew how close the fake couple actually were.

“What’s up Peter?” Lara Jean turned from her family to him.

“I just needed to tell you that I think you’re going to be great in New York.” He didn’t stammer on his words. They came out confidently and clear, like he had marinated on the idea for a while. “I just wanted you to know.”

It was like he could read her thoughts sometimes. “But what if I’m not?” Her voice was quiet. The fact that she could still be so vulnerable with him meant so much to her. He would always have a special place in her heart. No matter how old she got, her first love would always be there.

“Not possible. You are going to do great things, Lara Jean Song Covey. I know it. I just do.”

Lara Jean felt a lump in her throat and tears forming in her eyes. “Thank you for making me feel like I can.”

He pulled her in for a hug. It was tight and comforting in all the ways she needed. “It was always there. You just needed someone to make you believe it.” He kissed the top of her head before dropping his arms. It looked like he was contemplating on his next thought. She saw his eyes race back and forth as she stepped back from the hug. His mouth was slightly ajar, like he was fighting with himself to say his next sentence. It seemed like he settled for “Promise me you’ll at least try to get out of your head a little bit.”

“I don’t know if it’s a promise I can keep, but for you, I’ll try.” She stared up at those big green eyes for what felt like the last time. She was trying to memorize his face in this light at this time. He was perfect. This felt like the real goodbye and both of them knew it. “You are going to change the world, Peter Kavinsky.” She said tearfully.

“Well I have my fake girlfriend to thank for that.” His eyes were getting hazy now.

Lara Jean grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. Tears were falling but she didn’t care. This was Peter, her Peter. “Goodbye, Kavinsky.”

“Later, Covey.” He sucked in his runny nose and smiled at her one last time before her hand slipped from his.

Lara Jean smiled and turned on her heels to walk away. When she was about to step off the curb into the parking lot, she turned back to him. She needed one last look. His face broke out into the smile that took up his whole face. The one Lara Jean loved most. He nodded at her, as if to tell her it would all be okay. She nodded back and knowing that if this was the last time she ever saw him, it was enough.


 

How was she expected to work at a time like this?

She couldn’t take today off. Unless she was dying in a hospital bed, she was basically required to come into the office. It was getting to the end of the business year and the executive suite was crazy with bosses ravaging reports and trying to come up with last minute ways to get the numbers to where they wanted them to be.

Too bad, Lara Jean couldn’t focus today. Every time she wasn’t actively doing something, her mind raced to Peter. She was excited, nervous, and every feeling in between. He had basically said he was all in but what if when they finally met up, the feelings weren’t there. She had to shake that thought away. It wasn’t possible. It was the anxiety getting to her.

At her desk, her legs bounced up and down. Her body needed a way to get out the energy that was racing through her veins. It created her own mini earthquake. She was lucky she had a desk all her own or she would be the most annoying person to share a surface with. Her desk was shaking slightly but she had to solider on. She couldn’t get fired on the day she felt like her life was about to change. No day needed that much of a shift.

But, her mind was elsewhere. She had replayed both podcasts last night before she fell asleep. His words were thoughtful and sweet. She closed her eyes to imagine his face saying those beautiful words. Relaxed or flustered, he was always beautiful to her. Lara Jean didn’t think boys could be truly beautiful until Peter came along. Before boys were handsome or cute, but Peter’s soul is what made him beautiful.

She went to the printer room to pick up a report that just came in. While the rest of the office was painted a calming light crème, the printer room was bright red. In almost an offensive way, it seemed like a trick to make people not want to stay inside. The walls not lined with cabinets of various office supplies were filled with HR posters about workers comp & building policies. It’s manic energy matched LJ’s own today. She felt oddly peaceful in there. She grabbed the block of paper that made up the report and tried to head back.

She smiled at one of her coworkers who said she liked her dress. She nodded before she found her feet tripping over each other. The papers flew out of her hands, flying high in the air before landing all around the aisle. “Shit.” She mumbled to herself as she kneeled to pick up the scattered papers. It was going to take at least a half hour to make sure they were in the right order.

“LARA JEAN!” She heard a yell from inside the office. It was Mr. Peters. Unfortunately, she knew his voice anywhere.

She grabbed the papers and put them down on her desk before sticking her head in his office. “Yes sir.”

“Have you gotten the South American & European sales reports yet?” He huffed.

“Coming up now. Just finishing getting it together. Will have them on your desk in 30.” She faked a smile. She could organize fast.

“It’s taking too long already. Why is everyone being so incompetent today? Sometimes I think I should just clear house. Pay them less and have them do more.” He rolled his eyes.

Lara Jean had to fight the urge to flip him off. How dare he make her feel like she was bad at her job. She knew she was exceptional at it. He just didn’t know how to manage people. “On it now.” She faked a smile and went back to her desk. LJ quickly started to organize the pages. The rage fueled her to get it done faster. At least she had something else for her mind to fixate on for a moment.


 

It was getting late. She had been busy all day but as the clock ticked closer to the end of the day, the pit grew larger in her stomach.

“You okay lady?” Lucas’s friendly voice perked up. Lara Jean looked up from her computer screen to see him leaning against the side of her glass desk.

“Um, yeah. Just today has been a lot. But, I’m fine. Promise.” She took a shallow breath.

“I simply don’t believe you.” He smirked. “What’s up?”

“He’s being…himself.” Lara Jean rolled her eyes.

“Why am I not surprised?” Lucas offered LJ a smile. “Want me to go grab you some coffee from downstairs?”

“I already have enough anxiety running through my body today.” She went back to typing.

“Spill.” He turned her chair to face her.

“I’m meeting the guy tonight.” She said shyly.

“THE GUY!” Lucas gasped.

“Yeah. At the Empire State Building. I just need get out of here first. Which feels like it’s never going to happen.” She sighed.

“LARA JEAN!” Another yell from her boss’s office.

“I’ll talk to you later.” She smiled at her friend and headed towards her boss. “Mr. Peters.”

“Why isn’t there a meeting with Karen from Finance on the schedule tomorrow? I told you to set it up ASAP.” He ran his hand through his thinning hair.

“It’s set for Monday morning, sir. I talked to her assistant and Karen is out of the office for a family funeral out of state.”

“No. It needs to be tomorrow.” He sneered.

“I can call and see, but again she’s out for a family FUNERAL, sir.”

“Even if it’s tonight. You’ll stay for late it. It needs to get done.” He went back to his screen.

“Sir. I can’t stay tonight. It’s already getting late.” Lara Jean felt the air suck out of her body.

“If you want to keep your job, you’ll stay.” He didn’t even look up at her.

“Mr. Peters, on any other day, you know I would stay. I have a personal commitment this evening. I can’t miss it.” Lara Jean tried to stand her ground. “I’ll come in early tomorrow and stay late if you need me to, but not tonight.”

“Guess you’ll make your choice.” He said so nonchalantly.

Lara Jean nodded and turned back to her desk. As tears formed in the ducts, she felt like her dreams were slipping away from her. Why couldn’t she have a career she loved and the man she wanted? Why was this all crumbling when all she dreamed of was right in front of her?


 

It was just past 7 and completely dark outside. Her heart felt heavy. Her shoulders slumped as her fingers still managed to type out a report. She could feel Peter slipping away from her at every keystroke.

She had to choose her job. She couldn’t live in the city without it. It was what she had worked so hard for at this company for years. She couldn’t throw it away for a man. Maybe she’d have another chance at love one day. She took a long sip from her water bottle and leaned back into her chair.

“When are you headed out?” Lucas asked, leather messenger bag around his shoulder.

“Never.” Lara Jean’s voice cracked. She couldn’t hide how upset she was.

“What? You need to go. Hot boy who was the one who got away!” Lucas talked with his hands in high emotion and not full sentences.

“He won’t let you leave?” Lucas’s face flushed in anger.

Lara Jean gulped. She feels like she couldn’t say it out loud without her dick of a boss hearing and firing her on the spot.

“No.” Lucas shook his head. “No. You are going.”

“Lucas, I can’t lose my job.” She stuttered angrily. Why had she been put in this situation in the first place?

He took his bag off his shoulders and threw it on her desk. “I’m covering for you.” He motioned for her to get out of the desk chair.

“What?” Lara Jean felt breathless. Why would someone do this for her?

“Stop pretending you’re not one of my best friends and that I wouldn’t do anything to help you in your time of need.” He grabbed her hands and pulled her up. “You NEED to go meet up with the love of your life.”

“Lucas…” Tears were blurring her view. She didn’t deserve her friends. They were too good to her.

“You would do the same thing for me and more, you idiot.” He squeezed her hands. “Now, get your ass to the Empire State Building. I will need a fully detailed report on my desk tomorrow morning.” He smirked.

“I can’t thank you enough for this.” She grabbed her bag and coat from the back of her chair.

“Go, go, go.” He basically pushed her towards the elevator.

“I owe you a million margaritas for this!” She said as she all but ran into the elevator.

“GO GET YOUR MAN!” was the last thing she heard Lucas yell before the doors closed.

She was on the way to see Peter.

 

Chapter Text

The moment the elevator doors to her office opened, she raced outside. The cool air pinched her skin. She would have bundled up on any normal day, but today she didn’t care. She embraced the cold. Her body was hot enough to warm up anyone in a three-foot radius. Her soul was on fire.

She started down the street but after she took a few steps, she quickly realized she didn’t know where she was going. Her mind was a buzz. Thoughts raced a million miles an hour. What subway line did she need to take? What stop? Did the building have its own stop? It would make sense if it did, but her mind couldn’t even process what was going on.

Taxi. She would take a taxi. They would do the work for her. She hurried to the street and stuck her hand out to get attention. The cars whizzed by. The whoosh of wind making the hem of her dress blow up slightly. “Come on, come on, come on.” She mumbled to herself as no one pulled over. “Screw it.” She took off towards the corner to get a prime taxi getting spot. Her arm jutted back out and like magic, a taxi almost immediately stopped. “Figures.” She rolled her eyes and rushed into the taxi.

“Good evening!” A man with a thick accent welcomed her into the taxi.

“Hi. Empire State Building, quickly please.” Lara Jean smiled and tried to adjust herself in her seat. Her jacket was half off her body. No wonder no one wanted to pick her up. She looked like a crazy person. She smoothed out her skirt and rolled her neck, trying to relax even though her body was racing at a thousand percent. She needed to calm down, but part of it felt hopeless. Her body would be on high alert until she saw him. Hugged him. Knew he was there.

“On it.” He said and was off. Lara Jean grabbed her phone from her bag. She tapped on the screen and looked at the google search she had pulled up of him. She looked at the picture she had seen from some lacrosse award ceremony. It looked like the most recent picture she could find of him. She wondered how different he would look. He couldn’t look that different. She couldn’t imagine Peter changing his look up too much. She should have stalked him harder on the internet, for safety purposes of course.

She looked up and realized they only had traveled a few blocks. “Oh gosh.” She sighed to herself. She had about fifteen minutes to get there before the clock struck 8.  

“Friday night in New York, am I right?” the cab driver shrugged. “What are you doing at the Empire State Building?”

Lara Jean smiled. “Meeting someone.” She tried to steady her breath to calm down. The clock was ticking closer to 8, but there was no way he was leaving right then. He would wait for her.

“Ah. Friend or…something more.” He engaged. He was obviously trying to make her not stress about the fact they were basically at a standstill for several minutes.

“Hopefully more.” Lara Jean closed her eyes. “Haven’t seen him in a while.”

“Well, he is a lucky man. Meeting at the Empire State Building is very romantic. Like a romantic movie that my wife loves. Tom Hanks, right?”

“Yeah.” She blushed.

“If you want some advice from an old man who has been married for many, many years.” He started. “Always go to each other. Even if you don’t want to. The best relationships are ones where you can lean on each other. My wife and I have been through a lot. Kids, moving to a new country, cancer, all of it. Having each other was the only way we got through it. Without her, I am not half the man I am today.”

Lara Jean felt a frog in her throat. She wanted that kind of love. She wanted to have someone to go to in the good, the bad, and the ugly. She wanted someone who would love her through it all and would make every moment feel lighter because someone else was taking some of the weight off her shoulders. That’s how her dad had always described his relationship with her mom. “That’s lovely.” She couldn’t help but smile.

The cab driver sighed and looked ahead. “I’m so sorry Miss that we are not moving. On my GPS it just looks grid locked.”

Lara Jean’s heart started to beat faster. She looked down at the clock on her phone. It was getting close. She adjusted herself to look out at the traffic. The man was right. They were not moving. All four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, were stood still. In any other situation, she would have played it out, to thank him for his time. But tonight was time sensitive.

“How far away is it?” Lara Jean asked. Her palms were beginning to get sweaty as her anxiety increased.

“About 5 blocks or so.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Okay.” Lara Jean weighed her options. She could wait in the cab and have the chance of missing him, or she could make a run for it. She took a long breath and knowing what she had to do.

She pulled her wallet from her bag and handed the man almost double what the cab ride was worth. “Here. Thank you so much. I’ve gotta get to him.”

The man shook his head as Lara Jean leaped out of the car and onto the side walk. She knew she’d miss him if she walked. She would have to run. Something she usually avoided at all costs.


 

P.E. class was never Lara Jean’s strength. History, Technology, English. She was all in. P.E. not so much.

She hated running or throwing balls of any sort. She was just bad at it. When she was young, she tried to be good at sports. She asked her dad to try every single one that their local rec center offered. But she was hopeless. She had no coordination and just didn’t like playing sports. She wanted to pick flowers in the grass instead of play soccer. She wanted to design everyone’s uniforms when she played basketball. Sports were just not her thing.

She was a creative and she knew it. But P.E. was a requirement at her school, so here she was. They were supposed to be running laps. Lara Jean was not a runner. Neither was her best friend Chris. So, they pretended to job together.

“What did you end up doing last night?” Chris asked in a bit of a huff.

“Finished another book. It was really good.” Lara Jean smiled.

“A bodice ripper I’m sure. You little vixen.” She smiled back before lacrosse team captain, resident popular boy Peter approached them. “What are you doing here Peter?”

“Um, I need to talk to Lara Jean.” He jogged with them before his statement brought them to a halt. Both girls looked at him like he was speaking in a different language. “Alone.” He continued.

Chris looked to a shrugging Lara Jean before nodding that she would go. “Okay, if you need me, I’ll be in the nurse’s office, looking up shirtless pictures of Justin Trudeau.” She smirked and walked off back to the main school building.

Peter, large in stature and beauty, turned to Lara Jean. She was dressed in her ratty gym shirt and leggings. Her sneakers were more for fashion than running. She felt underdressed for him. “So, it was really nice of you. Like I’m flattered, but it’s never going to happen.” He said with a straight face. His eyes laser focused on her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking, Peter Kavinsky.” She shook her head. She hadn’t spent much time with him since middle school, when they ran in the same friend group with Chris and his ex-girlfriend Gen. He was much taller now. Much more handsome. He smelled good too, woody but not overwhelming.

“I mean, I just broke up with Gen.” He leaned forward and offered a weak smile.

“I know. I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” She reiterated. She tried to wipe away the droplets of sweat from her forehead. It had usually cooled down by October, but the sun was out in full force this afternoon.

He pulled out an envelope from his back pocket. “The letter. It was really nice you talked about gold specks in my eyes, but like I said, Gen and I just broke up.”

Lara Jean’s head was spinning. Her heart stopped. How did he have that? It was supposed to be in the hat box in the top of her closet. How did it get out? How had he read her deepest thoughts about him from the seventh grade? She felt her breath shorten and air stopped going to her brain.

The next thing she knew, she opened her eyes to see him hovering over her. His green eyes shining. They still had those gold flakes she was obsessed with as a pre-teen. His jaw slightly clenched and curly brown hair hanging over his forehead. “You okay, Covey?”

Covey. She had never been called that before. She liked the way it sounded from his mouth. “Um, I’m okay.”

“Here. Let me help you.” He gently offered his hand to help her sit up. She took it and looked up at him face blushed red remembering what had just happened.

“The letter, it’s not yours. Well it is, but it’s not from now. I wrote it in the 7th grade. I don’t know how you got it. It’s…I don’t really understand what’s happening.” She spurted out quickly as she wrapped her arms around her pulled up knees.

Peter smiled and let out a small chuckle. “I don’t know if I understand either Covey.”

Her mind was racing so fast that it couldn’t stop to put things together. But when another boy who received a letter, her neighbor and older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh, came into her line of vision everything went blank. His letter wasn’t from the 7th grade or even 7 months ago. It was recent. She had a crush on him because he was her friend and a good boyfriend to Margo. She loved the idea of him, not him. Too bad she didn’t realize that until after she wrote his letter. This couldn’t be happening! He would freak out. He would tell Margo. Everything would be chaos. Her eyes darted around and the only other figure she could see was Peter. Holy crap. What was she going to do? “Oh crap.”

A millisecond later, she had pushed Peter Kavinsky onto his back and planted a kiss on him. He squirmed under her for a second before she pulled away and got on her feet. Kissing someone would make Josh freeze in his tracks. He’d be so confused. He wouldn’t know what to do. Maybe he’d fall over like one of those goats.

Lara Jean heard yelling behind her, probably from the P.E. coach but knew her only course of action was to get out of there. The fastest way to get her out of her personal hell was to run.

She took off down the path back to the locker room. Her feet moved faster than she ever thought she could. Guess when she really needed it, running was beneficial.


 

She couldn’t even remember the last time she attempted to run. Her breath was already heavy. Huffing and puffing as her legs moved faster than they were used to. She could hear the content of her bag sloshing around and she bounded down the street. It was going to be a mess in there but she didn’t care. She knew with each stride forward she was closer to Peter. She was getting close now, thank god. She could see the art deco building in front of her. Knowing she was so close gave her a new burst of energy. She was going to find him.

She stopped running when she got into the building. The grand foyer greeted her with walls of marble and gold. There were a few people already in line after she got her ticket. A couple holding hands, a woman and a young girl stood happily waiting for their moment to be above the city. When she got in line, she finally let what was happening wash over her.

He was going to be waiting for her. She would see him for the first time in almost ten years. After everything he said on the podcast, would he still feel the same when she was there in the flesh? She tried to take a deep breath but the anxiety was bubbling over.

Her mind snapped out of it when the ding of the elevator greeted the waiting crowd. She closed her eyes and took a long breath. There was no way she was backing out now. This was standing on the edge of a cliff. She wanted to be brave. She knew what she had to do. She opened her eyes and stepped into the Otis elevator.

“You’re back!” A familiar face greeted her kindly. It was the same operator as last time. “Back so soon?”

“He’ll be there this time.” She let herself be optimistic for just a moment before the weight of the statement hit her once more. She hoped he would be there. He said he would be there. But what if he didn’t. What if he was already gone? She could fall on her face with him once, but twice. Ugh. She didn’t know how she would get back up if she did.

The doors opened to the familiar glass windows. The attendant nodded at her before she stepped out. She tried to smooth out the skirt of her dress and pressed her lips together. She should have thought to touch up her make up before she saw him, but there was not time. Her face might be red and blotchy, from the running and the cold, but it didn’t matter. She just needed to see him.

The observation deck was less crowded than last time. There were a few families, and couples walking around, taking in what was left of the view. But, it was colder and the sun was setting earlier. The view now was mostly of lit up apartments peppering the scenery. She loved it, but wasn’t surprised it wasn’t the view for everyone.

Her boots clacked on the concrete floor. She was walking fast. She stopped herself, took two deep breaths, and looked around for their spot. She walked closer, but there was no one to be found.  

She was fighting her heart. It was beating wildly out of her chest and dropping at the same time. There was no way he wouldn’t show up. Sure, she was a few minutes late. But Peter would wait. He would wait for her.

Her emotions were too high. She couldn’t not move her body. She started walking. She walking into the corner where he was trying to hide as a surprise. She walked past the bench where her heart broke into a million pieces just over a week ago. She placed her hand on her throat. No. No. No. This wasn’t how this ended. She just walked.

What if he looked different? What if she didn’t recognize him? What if he had left? The final one ate at her as she rounded the corner. Her head was down. Eyes glued to her slightly shivering feet. The warmth that was coursing through her body was gone.

She closed her eyes. “Please be here.” She whispered just loud enough for her to hear. “Please Peter.” Her defeated feelings were catching up to her. Her vision started to haze. But she kept moving. She didn’t have to accept the failure if it wasn’t over yet.

She wasn’t sure how long it had been when she realized she had walked the length of the building. Her heart beating faintly, trying to hide itself from the shame she was feeling. She knew she shouldn’t be ashamed. If he didn’t show up when he promised, he was the liar.

But she knew Peter. He didn’t lie to her. He might have not said exactly what he was feeling, but he didn’t lie. He couldn’t to her. When she heard his voice, she knew he would be there. She just needed to find him. Just keep going. “Please Peter.” She closed her eyes tight as if she was making a wish.

She looked up to turn the corner when she stopped head in her tracks. Silhouetted by the flood lights and the mood, her heart did more flips than any Olympian she had ever seen. It was him. He showed up and he was beautiful. 

Chapter Text

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.