Berkeley students basked in the spring sunshine. They were watching a group of Hawaiians hula to the beat of traditional drums. I pushed my way through the crowd, bumping into a display of tie-dyed T-shirts.
The vendor caught it before it fell. "Take it easy, kid!"
"What's the rush, Jazz?" the drummer asked.
I mumbled an excuse and kept going. The hat must be empty, I thought. I usually jump-started the giving for the hula dancers by dropping a dollar in the drummer's battered straw hat, but I couldn't stop now. I had big news to tell Steve. Bad news, I thought, almost crashing into the barefoot actor reciting Shakespeare.
Finally. There it was. The Berkeley Memories booth, or the Biz, as we called it. Steve was selling tickets to a bunch of tourists, and my stomach started dancing to the drumbeat at the sight of him.
"Hey," he said, handing me a roll of bills. "Busy day today. Count that, will you?"
I took the money but didn't say anything. Steve looked up and saw my face. "Jazz! What's wrong?" he asked.
"The orphanage won the grant," I said. "I'm spending the summer in India."
I heard a cough and turned to see an elderly lady tapping her watch. "Biz Rule Number Three: Customer Is King," I muttered to Steve. "Meet you at the coffeehouse. Gotta get a latte."
Not too many fifteen-year-olds are addicted to lattes, but Steve and I got hooked on them while we were planning the Biz last summer. Berkeley Memories belonged completely to the two of us--Steven Anthony Morales and Jasmine Carol Gardner.
But Steve was far more than just my business partner. We'd been best friends since kindergarten--the kind of friends who never have a fight, the kind who know exactly what the other person's thinking. Or at least we used to.
Until last summer, that is, when something terrible happened.
I fell in love.
Our friendship might have survived if I'd fallen in love with someone else. But no. I had to fall in love with him. Steve Morales himself--who'd once been the kid I wrestled every day of second grade.
It was almost impossible to keep a secret from Steve, and lately I could tell he was wondering why I was acting so weird. I'd dissolve into tears while we watched some silly movie, blubbering into the popcorn while Steve stared at me like I was some kind of lunatic. And I'd developed a new habit--one that made him furious. I'd started to put myself down. A lot.
"Are you nuts?" he'd ask, trying not to shout. "Do you know what you just said?"
I couldn't help it. All my unspoken passion made me feel like a volcano, and insults about the way I looked or acted came gushing out of my mouth. Part of me wanted him to leap to my defense, but my plan always backfired. He just got mad at me instead.
Now I watched him glumly through the window of the coffeehouse. Why did he have to grow up to be so gorgeous? So out of my reach? Big brown eyes, long lashes, a great jawline, and a cleft in his chin that I always wanted to touch. Not to mention those long legs and great shoulders, which gave him the perfect build for high jump and hurdles. He'd broken several school records already and was about as obsessed with track as he was with the business.
He'd even talked me into joining the team. We were the only two sophomores on varsity who won consistently. My records weren't for running or leaping, though. I made the school paper for throwing a shot put farther than most girls in our district--and most guys. The school paper printed a photo of Steve and me that someone had snapped from behind us, of all places. track-team twins, read the caption. I was wearing two sweatshirts and we looked exactly the same size on top. Farther on down, though, his shape got slimmer. Mine just stayed wide.
But there was more to Steve than met the eye. He was an honor student, just like I was. He was kind; I'd actually seen him leave the booth to help old ladies cross Telegraph Avenue. And he was humble, too. I don't think he had a clue that he was one of the top ten feature attractions at school.
Even as I watched, a group of East Bay High girls joined the line at the booth. One was a small-boned, tiny-waisted girl who reminded me of a Barbie doll. Julia something or other. She was the batting-eyelash type who made guys feel like hulking superheroes. I'd actually seen a few of them flexing their biceps when she passed by. A group of second-rate imitators accompanied her everywhere.
She was twisting a strand of her long hair, gazing up at Steve. I figured she was about to make a move. Sure enough, she fumbled in her bag and "accidentally" dropped a handful of coins. Steve, of course, bent down to pick them up. I winced as he handed her a tie-dyed T-shirt, placed a headband around her forehead, and draped a peace medallion around her neck. This was our usual Biz routine, but she smiled at him the whole time as if they were getting married. Then she followed him into the booth, winking at her giggling friends.
Mentally, I walked with them through the Biz routine, counting the seconds. First, she'd pick one of four picket signs--u.s. out of vietnam, no more nukes, peace now, or end apartheid. Holding it, she'd pose in front of a huge picture of Sather Gate and the Campanile clock tower, two Berkeley landmarks. Steve would snap some photos. In about three minutes, they'd both come out. When she left the booth, she'd be ten dollars poorer, but she'd have a set of a dozen postcards with her picture on the front and a caption that read, the dream never dies. berkeley memories, berkeley, california.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins. Copyright © 2004 by Mitali Perkins. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.