I didn't see either Evan or little Dexter at all that summer. I hardly noticed for the first six weeks of my "vacation."
The six weeks I'm talking about were spent in Mr. Yamashiro's Intensified Summer Program, six days a week. MaiMai was rescued from it because she got accepted into some fancy art camp in upstate New York. That turned out to be educational in an unexpected way, but I will explain later.
After one weekend of rain, the drought came back for the rest of the summer in California. In August, we all went to Florida for what we thought would be two weeks of visiting Setsuna and checking out the parks around Orlando. They'd been having hot, clear weather too, until just after we arrived. Then they had storms that set Florida records.
That wasn't the worst of it. We had a sort of family problem we had to clear up. I won't explain here. But I will give you a tip: If one of my sibs ever wants to give you a rose, you might want to ask her why. You might also consider getting on your knees and begging. Don't bother to run.
Summer wasn't really over when I started at Orinda High. The weather was even hotter than before we went to Florida. Shorts and a halter top might have been more appropriate for my first day, but I chose to dress like Pleione: Shirt and calf-length skirt, with a tie. There were reasons for this.
First, I didn't want to stand out (for once.) Whatever I felt, I didn't want to interest any of the Born Again crowd and lead them to Betty. This was the first time Betty went to school since her father the Rev tried to snatch her in March. Zoë would be with us, too, another target.
Second, I felt rotten about leaving my friends Joline and Paula behind at Kennedy. I couldn't be going to Orinda to have fun and meet boys with cars and money and feel human, so I dressed like a serious student who was there to prepare for college.
Third, Mom made me do it.
Orinda High is a really good school, amazingly so for a public school in California. There's no discrimination, of course. It just happens that to live in the Orinda High district, your family has to have a lot more money than most of the people sending their kids to Kennedy High.
My little Kensington is rich, but it's little, too, much too small to support its own high school. Lots of the people here are old; since they don't have kids, they aren't very interested in raising their own taxes to pay for better schools. Orinda and its neighbors have more people, and more of them have kids, and enough of them want to send them to a good public high school to make Orinda High possible.
There aren't as many kids as there used to be, though, so Orinda has enough room for students outside the district. All you have to do to go to Orinda is pass an entrance exam, get approved by a committee, and pay the difference between the worth of your vouchers and the actual per- student budget at Orinda.
Don't understand that all? Let me translate for you. You have to be:
Let's see, there were nine of us bound for Orinda that day. The seniors were Zoë and Kag (his hair mostly hidden under a Raiders cap.) The juniors were me, Pleione, Miyo and Shi, and Princess Usami, whose plain outfit was still noticably better cut than the rest of ours. Finally were two freshthings, Maia and Deja. Our group would soon be ten.
Once we got through the fare gates and up on the platform, I found Evan Maxwell there. Wondering about a lot of things, I went over to him and asked, "What are you doing here so early? Just can't wait to start school?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"What's the real reason?"
"Why are you here?"
"We're trying to dodge reporters. The Prince, you know. Maybe Betty. Now, your turn. Why did you leave so early?" Of course, I already had a good idea, but I wanted him to talk about it.
He started walking, slowly, toward the end of the platform, away from everyone else. I stayed with him. "C'mon."
He stooped down to snatch up a loose sheet of newspaper and began wadding it up. "My dad's staying with us now."
"And why isn't that good news?"
When he had crushed the paper into an incredibly tiny wad, he stopped long enough to cram it into the last trash bin. "Mom shouldn't have let him stay. He'll just hurt her. Mess up Jenn and Tiff, too." He took a few more steps and said, "You ever hear from your father?"
"No, I mean your real father."
"I mean my real father," I came back. "He died before I was born."
"Sorry," Evan said. When we reached the end of the platform, he said, not looking at me, "I tried to call you."
"About two weeks ago. After my father showed up."
"We were in Florida. Uh, did your mom talk to you about me?"
"What do you mean?"
The tracks submerge for Berkeley and come up again in Oakland for the MacArthur station, where we got off to catch the Orinda train. It was still very early. Our platform wasn't empty, though. There weren't any other Orinda students, but there were plenty of people heading our way. A few of them were in business suits, or shirt-and-tie, or skirt-and-tie: people who would be going to offices. There were more people like that on the platform for San Francisco, and they were wearing nicer stuff. More of the people were dressed for other work. Lots of them were women, some of them wearing domestic uniforms. They were maids and housekeepers heading east for the homes of people like the ones on the platform for San Francisco.
Shi went off by herself, as usual. Ev drifted off in the other direction, and I stayed with him. I told Ed more about my summer, leaving out details like exactly what happened to Mr. Fortescu, and hoped he might open up. Then I told him how glad I was that Auntie Makoto (and her cooking had come back to us. "You have got to come over for dinner. I'll get okasan to ask your mom."
"Maybe after Dad takes off," said Evan. Before I could respond to that, he changed the subject. "I wonder if those two guys you beat up go to Orinda?"
"I don't know, maybe," I lied.
Just as we mentioned an old fight, a new one broke out. Some guys had started sniffing around Shi. Guess what happened? By the time I got there it was over. Zoë had been closer.
From MacArthur you go up into the hills, even higher than at our house, and then you go through them. The next stop is Orinda.
Deja, whose mother went to UC Berkeley (Cal) and who plans to do the same, informs me (whether I want to know or not) that Orinda used to be a tiny country town before the 1940's. That's when they finished the first two tunnels, a little after they built our famous bridges. I guess it was just something to put people to work on; Japan is big on big projects, too. I don't see how there was any desperate need for a shorter way to a tiny town then.
Right after the tunnels were built, though, the good old USA went to war, and started on a project that was a whole lot bigger than digging a tunnel or building a bridge or building a dam. That project was, of course, building a Bomb, and Berkeley did a lot of the work. After the war they put a reactor in Livermore and went on to build better and better Bombs, bringing lots and lots and lots of money to UC Berkeley. Orinda, of course, was the perfect place for your busy Science Professor/ Bomb Designer to live.
Anyway, Orinda is now a T-shaped town set where a gap in the eastern ridges opens up a way into a long, narrow valley. The station is right where the three parts of the town come together. Orinda High is further away, but walkable. We had plenty of time to get there and still probably beat any reporters and camera jockeys. However . . .
However, we didn't, because I knew by then that Evan was really hungry. He'd left his home without eating. Of course he didn't tell me, but, of course, he didn't have to. Anyway, I decided to become famished and insisted we stop to eat first at a coffee shop Pleione had said was kind of nice. Fortunately I have a bottomless stomach like Mom is supposed to have had, so I was able to eat enough of the ridiculous amount of food I ordered to be credible.
I figured we could hide better in the coffee shop than at a fast-food place, but I made a wrong guess there: there was already a camera guy there. For- tunately he didn't expect us to be there that early and was too interested in one of the servers to take a close look at us. I sort of amplified that interest of his, until the server's father came out of the kitchen and showed him his impressive tattoo collection. There were lots of tattoos; he had a lot of arm. The camera guy left real soon after that.
The young waitress reminded me of someone. I didn't know who, though, then.
Our long stay at the coffee shop gave the rest of the newshounds and the paparazzi time to gather at the school entrance. Fortunately one of the reporters was Jack Crawford, a friend of ours. He sent back his van for us, and Kag and Usami, Betty and Zoë got past the rest of the reporters unseen (Mr. Crawford was the only one Kakyuu asked the school to let in.) The rest of us walked the whole way. None of the reporters or picture-takers at the gate paid any attention to Pleione or me, or Deja. A few took shots of Maia, of course.
The cops and the school security guys let all of us through—except Evan. They wouldn't let him in until they found his name on their roster.
That's how my summer ended.