“Will you be my girlfriend, Lara Jean Covey?”
The elevator dings and out steps the three Covey girls, each laden with boxes. Their appearance garners brief looks from other bustling freshman, chaos reigning as students begin moving into their new college dorm. The two elder, perhaps, also receive a few lingering stares but neither really take notice.
Margot - the eldest - has already experienced the rampant hormones of excited freshman two years prior; Lara Jean, the actual freshman, is far too busy soaking in every single detail to notice. Each step forward feels momentous and she is determined to remember each and every one.
“Co-ed dorms,” Margot comments, a little skeptically. “I forgot UVA was trying to be ‘progressive’ now.” Lara Jean, of course, stifles the urge to roll her eyes at her big sister’s over protective tendencies.
“Not everyone gets to go to a posh, snooty Scottish University, GoGo,” Kitty, the youngest, chimes. “With all their stuffy rules, are you sure they even have guys at St. Andrews?”
This comment makes Lara Jean stifle a laugh. Kitty has always been known for her biting wit.
“I think I recall it being on your UVA ‘cons’ list,” Lara Jean pipes up, diplomatically. “You didn’t want the 'distractions'.” Also, at the time Margot had been in a steady two-year relationship with Josh Sanderson, and it hadn’t seemed like they were going to break up anytime soon, so co-ed dorms didn’t have much of an appeal… at the time. But Lara Jean doesn’t mention that.
To be honest, she’s actually quite nervous about the whole co-ed situation. It’ll certainly be a big adjustment to live around guys. And college was already a big adjustment on its own. The only man Lara Jean has ever had to live with was her Dad, and at least he had his own private bathroom.
The Covey house is all girls otherwise - no chance of seeing a guy strut around shirtless down the hall. Most girls might find it exciting, but she found the prospect a little terrifying. At her senior year ski trip, one of Kenny Cavanaugh’s friends had yanked off his towel to reveal all that was underneath. Lara Jean was still scarred from the sudden shock of seeing... it.
“I know,” Margot intones, shooting a stern look at a pair of guys checking her sister out as they passed.
“Margot!” Lara Jean whines out the side of her mouth. “You’re embarrassing me.” It almost made her wish her big sister had left for Scotland last week like originally planned, instead of tomorrow. At the time, Lara Jean had been feeling so anxious about starting college, that having Margot there seemed like a blessing. Now… well, Lara Jean was reevaluating the situation. It might have been a better idea to move her things without Margot’s watchful gaze.
Their Dad was actually a lot cooler about these things than Margot was - perhaps even a little too cool, lest Lara Jean forget the envelope full of condoms he had handed to her just as she had left on the aforementioned ski trip. Unfortunately, their Dad was circling the carpark right now, trying to navigate through the throng of parents dropping off their kids.
Continuing down the hall, Lara Jean mumbled under her breath, “208, 210, 212… Ah! 214! This is me!” she exclaimed, excited to see her name scribbled on the small whiteboard affixed to the door. Well, half her name, technically, but she was long accustomed to people assuming that her name was Lara Covey by now, everyone always left out the Jean.
Margot takes a step forward, peering at the board. “Hmm… looks like your roommate’s name is Edith McClaren. I really hope you both get along.” A slightly pinched expression crosses her face and Lara Jean knows she’s remembering her own freshman roommate from hell.
“Hopefully!” Lara Jean repeats cheerfully, trying not to think the worst before she’s even met the girl. She didn’t want any negativity before stepping inside what would be her new home for the coming year.
She swings the door open, but gets distracted before she can get a proper look at her room. A guy - not shirtless, but in a tank top so tight he might as well be - walks past giving Lara Jean a typical ‘Wassup’ look as he goes. She gulps, her eyes following him shamelessly. He looked liked someone out of her favorite romance novels, and from the confident swagger, the guy knew it.
“Man, I can’t wait until I go to college,” Kitty announces breathily, fanning her face like they do on all her TV shows.
“Kitty!” Margot admonishes, torn between horror and amusement. Playfully, Margot moves forward to cover Kitty’s face with one hand, shielding her innocent eyes from the view. “You’re much too young to be ogling guys. Of any age!”
“Aw, come on, GoGo!” Kitty argues, twisting in vain to get another peak. “I’ve seen plenty worse on the internet!”
This garners another gasp from Margot. “What have your eleven year old eyes been looking at on the internet, Kathrine Song Covey?!”
“I meant, like on cable and netflix!” Kitty counters, laughing.
A pang of sadness hits Lara Jean as she watches her sisters’ playful banter, suddenly feeling very homesick. It’s silly, really. Margot has already been off in Scotland for two years now, so it’s not usually like this during the school year. And to be frank, Lara Jean has kind of gotten used to not having her big sister around.
Kitty, on the other hand, has always been a constant, and it’s hard to imagine not having her just down the hall, waking up to her loud footsteps running rampant around the house, watching Golden Girls marathons, or when the pair sneak downstairs for impromptu midnight sundae sessions. The University of Virginia isn’t too far from home, only fifteen minutes with no traffic, but it’s not the same. It’s not, 'just down the hall'.
Lara Jean sighs. She supposes she’ll just have to get used to Kitty not being around either. Out of all the adjustments she’s going to have to make, that’s the one she feels least prepared for.
The little tussle is beginning to escalate, peals of Kitty’s laughter bouncing off the walls at her continual attempts to escape Margot’s grasp.
“Woah, woah, woah…” a deep, panicked (and a little amused) voice exclaims just as Kitty’s boxes start falling, the contents rattling around noisily.
A tall - like, really, really tall - dark haired guy who was walking past lunges and Lara Jean watches in horrified slow-motion as he tried valiantly to save it from hitting the ground.
“Oops, Sorry!” Kitty sing songs, still breathless with laughter. At least Margot has the decency to to look properly sheepish.
“It’s okay, Kitty,” Lara Jean reassures with a laugh. There was nothing valuable in that box anyway. She had made sure of it. Quickly, she sets her own boxes down and scrambles to pick up the fallen box herself.
The guy moves at the same time and their heads bang against each other.
“Oh, sorry!” They both apologize together.
“No, no, I’m the one who should be…” Lara Jean rushes but trails off as she looks up into the guy’s face, inches away from hers. “... sorry.”
It’s not the guy’s devastatingly good looks that has Lara Jean stunned speechless - like seriously, his face belongs on a billboard or movie screen somewhere - but there is something about his eyes that seem startling familiar.
She squints, puzzled.
Margot coughs softly after a few moments and Lara Jean realizes she’s blatantly staring.
“Um, thanks,” she finally says, gesturing to the box still being held in both of their hands. “For, um, trying to save my stuff, I mean.”
“You’re welcome,” he responds, nodding his head. He doesn’t say it in a cocky way, more gently, even though he’d totally be in his rights. She’s sure he is more than used to girls staring.
Lara Jean feels so embarrassed that she doesn’t register that he’s staring at her too, equally confused.
It’s startling to hear the familiarity in his voice. Wait. Huh?
“Er, yes? Er, do I - have we met?”
A broad grin breaks out across his face and he laughs. “It’s me, Peter! Peter Kavinsky. Do you remember? From elementary school?”
“Oh!” Her eyes widen in surprise, something finally clinking into place - those eyes, how could she have possibly forgotten the eyes with golden specks in them, the eyes she once knew oh-so-well. “Oh, wow, Peter!” She laughs. “Peter Kavinsky!”
Lara Jean hadn’t meant to repeat his name like that, but she was struggling to form a coherent thought and it was the best her befuddled brain could manage.
Probably partly habit, too. Back when they were kids, in the third or fourth grade, she had always referred to him by his full name in her head - that or Peter K. Never just, Peter.
It was so bizarre seeing him all grown up now - decidedly not the short, scrawny ten year old boy anymore.
“It’s so good to see you! I can’t even… this is… wow!” she stammers out.
Peter laughs again, scrunching his nose, his grin still stretched across his features. The action hits her with its familiarity. He used to do that all the time. That’s how she knew he was really, genuinely happy, and not just forcing it to be polite.
“It’s great to see you, too!” he exclaims, surprising Lara Jean again when he leans down and pulls her into a hug, again, just like when they were kids. It’s the breifest of hugs but Lara Jean still feels her face grow hot at the embrace. Thankfully Margot has already ushered Kitty inside her new dorm room, and the pair are only obliquely watching the unexpected reunion.
“I haven’t seen you since…” she starts.
“Since I moved away, yeah,” Peter finishes without prompting. “This is so cool. Are you on this floor, too?”
“Um, yeah, actually, this is me.” Lara Jean gestures to the open door and Peter studies it for a moment.
“Ha! That’s insane!” His head turns and he nods. “I’m 213! Looks like we’re gonna be neighbors again, Covey. Small world, huh?”
“Yeah,” she responds, chuckling nervously, still stunned. “Really small world.”
Peter’s pocket dings and he pulls out his phone. “Oh, my mom’s just parked, so I gotta go get my stuff, but like, I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Yeah,” she repeats, nodding. She still feels a little numb. Peter quickly dumps his stuff in his room before turning back, leaning down to pull her into another hug.
“Great! This year just got a whole lot more awesome, Lara Jean. I can’t wait to catch up. I’ll talk to you soon!”
“Yeah, talk soon.”
With that, Peter, Peter Kavinsky, disappears down the hall into the elevator, shooting her one last brilliant smile and a wave as the doors ding shut.
“Who was that? ” asks Kitty, a gleeful (read: mischievous) twinkle in her eye.
“Peter, Peter Kavinsky,” Lara Jean parrots again, turning back to her sisters and entering her new room. Her new living situation for the next eight months completely escapes her notice as she walks over to the uncovered mattress like a zombie and plomps backwards on the bed.
“He’s the little boy that used to live across the street from us, right, LJ?” Margot asks thoughtfully and Lara Jean nods.
“Yeah, um, he used to live in Ms. Rothchild’s house before his family moved away.”
Margot snickers, a reminiscent lilt to her teasing. “Yeah, I remember now. You two used to run around the front yard in the paddling pool. You used to get so jealous that he could run around with his shirt off and you couldn’t.”
Lara Jean groans. She’d forgotten about that. “Thanks for reminding me, GoGo,” she says just as Kitty squeals, “Really?!” followed by a peal of laughter.
Thankfully, their Dad arrives before more teasing can get underway, two large suitcases rolling along with him, and Lara Jean distracts herself with unpacking, trying desperately not to think about her childhood friend.
Best friend, really.
And if she really wanted to get technical about it, he had also been Lara Jean’s very first boyfriend; and there hadn’t even with a space between those words, boy and friend.
Peter Kavinksy had been Lara Jean Covey’s first real, live boyfriend.
It had only lasted one day, but still, it counted.
At least to her it did.
But, she doubts Peter even remembers that day on the playground before he moved away.