Summer in the city is slow, hot, and boring. Most days, Yumi wakes up with sweat in the creases of her limbs, the nape of her neck, and between her breasts, and she doesn't get out of bed for at least another hour. What is there to get up for? Most of her friends have gone home for the summer (not by choice, but predictably Ulrich proves weak to even the idea of his father's disapproval), with the exception of Jeremie, for reasons that all begin with "Aelita."
On afternoons when he can find the free time, he sneaks off-campus and walks to her house. He's never allowed inside, her parents rules about boys being what they are (even when she says, "It's Jeremie," like that should be an explanation all by itself), but they can sit on her front steps and talk, or sometimes they walk a block over to get fresh fruit from the market and eat raspberries that pop sweet-and-sour in their mouths or melons that drip water down their forearms.
Yumi's forgotten what a comfortable city she lives in. It's a good place to pretend to be a normal girl for awhile, living in a quiet neighborhood where she can walk safely alongside her friend. (A friend that her parents regard with polite suspicion because he's a boy, and parents whose suspicions she's finding harder and harder to put to rest with each passing day.)
"How did you convince your parents that you wanted to stay for the Summer Session? What could you possibly need to get ahead on?" she jokes with him one day, and he laughs self-consciously.
"Well, would you honestly be surprised that I wanted to hang around school more?" he says, adjusting his glasses on his face.
She nods -- "I guess not," -- and palms another handful of blueberries out of the bowl in-between them, eating them gracelessly and hoping he doesn't notice how a few of them manage to fall down her shirt. "It's nice to hang out one-on-one, though."
He gives her a friendly, ignorant smile. "Yeah."
She likes being alone with Jeremie. He's easy to talk to and -- though she'd never say it out loud -- easy to push around, and she never did outgrow thinking it was funny to slip ice cubes down someone's back, or accentuate a joke with a slug on the arm.
"Why do you always pick on the people you like?" her mother asks her one day while they're sorting the laundry, and continues, "I'm surprised that boy keeps coming to see you."
Yumi gapes for a second, before settling her expression into her perfected "Long-Suffering Teenage Daughter." "Mom, no, Jeremie and I aren't like that!"
"If you say so," her mother says in a tone like she knows differently, and Yumi glares at the pile of sheets, feeling a strange coil of embarrassment and enjoyment at her suggestion.