“Coming of Age in Berkeley” by Jake Warner
Blurb: Romance is the furthest thing from Tamiko Gashkin’s mind when she drops her copy of the Brothers’ Karamazov on the path through Faculty Glade on the Cal Berkeley campus. Imagine, then, how stunned this almost 16-year-old brainiac athlete is when she’s instantly beguilded by Alec Burns, the shaggy-haired college senior who not only retrieves her book, but pledges his affection. But how is a high school girl who has never been kissed to cope with a far more sophisticated older guy given that almost everyone in their world disapproves, especially Tamiko’s protective single mom, Amy? Indeed this modern fairy tale might have been squelched right there were it not for the appearance of Max, a demonic psychopath from Amy’s past ready to destroy everyone in his way. But with survival now the overwhelming priority, can there suddenly be room for Alec and Tamiko to be together?
As he walks down the path that traces the south margin of Cal’s Memorial Glade, Alec Burns sees a chunky paperback protruding from the bottom of the pack worn by the tall girl just ahead. Although the book, which is more in than out of the torn seam, jiggles with each of the girl’s long strides, it somehow hangs on to the frayed fabric. Then, as the book suddenly drops another half inch, Alec, who plans to veer left to grab a latte at Café Milano on Bancroft Avenue, instead picks up his pace. Now only a few steps behind the girl whose baggy jeans do little to conceal her round, upturned bum, he mouths “Fall baby, fall.” Seemingly in response the fat book shifts to the right and descends at a 45 degree angle. Although it now can only be a matter of seconds before the book finally respects the law of gravity, Alec nevertheless slows his pace, embarrassed to realize he is in danger of stalking the girl. But before he can turn towards the café, the book hits the ground with a plop, rolls over once and comes to a rest at his feet.
Feeling, or perhaps hearing something, the girl begins to turn back before apparently dismissing her concern and taking several more steps down the path. Then, as if deciding to trust her first instinct, she executes a ballerina spin, long honey blond hair flying, to face Alec, who has picked up the book.
“That’s mine,” the girl says in a surprisingly musical contralto as she points at the worn copy of The Brothers Karamazovin Alec’s right hand. Surprised by the girl’s intensity, and even more by her almond-shaped blue eyes, Alec—who thinks of himself as something of an expert when it comes to chatting up attractive girls—is tongue-tied.
“That’s my Brothers Kyou just picked up,” the girl insists, this time louder as if perhaps Alec is hard of hearing.
“It fell out of your backpack,” Alec replies, eyes drifting down to see that her oversized maroon sweatshirt with Tsunamiprinted on the front in bold yellow letters doesn’t completely hide her curves. Jerking his gaze back to the girl’s arresting blue eyes he adds, “I’m also reading it for European Lit, but I haven’t seen you in class.”
“I’m taking Physics this summer. I read it on my own a couple of years ago and I’ve been just kind of revisiting my favorite parts.”
Still holding the paperback in his right hand Alec moves to the girl’s right, all but forcing her to fall into step. Then, as if belatedly realizing he’s in danger of being impolite he blurts, “What passages do you like best?”
“Above all don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him and so loses respect for himself and for others.”
“Do you think that’s profound or romantic bullshit?” Alec asks, a grin lighting his angular face.
“I don’t really know,” the girl replies looking down as if to avoid an invisible stone. Then, after a short pause she adds in a tone that makes it clear she seriously doubts whether he has opened the book, “OK, so why don’t you tell me your favorite part?”
“I’m good with Father Zosima’s wisdom, but I also like the passage that goes something like this: “I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man as an individual.”
“It ends with – ‘the less I love man in particular’, not, ‘the less I love man as an individual’.”
“Did you read the book or memorize it?”
“Pretty much both I guess,” the girl replies, reaching out her right hand for her book. “It’s not hard for me to remember things.”
”I’d love to hear more about why you admire the Brothers Kso much. How about I buy you a coffee?”
“How about you give me my book back?”
“Of course,” Alec says extending his hand, “but what about coffee?”
“Sorry, I have to go,” the girl replies, snatching the plump paperback before abruptly turning right on an intersecting path and almost loping towards the north side of the campus.
“But, but I don’t even know your name,” Alec shouts after her retreating back.
“Tamiko,” she says over her shoulder, now moving so fast she’s almost running.
About the author: Jake Warner is the co-founder and long term publisher of Nolo, America’s leading publisher of consumer law materials. He is the author of a number of Nolo titles on tenants’ rights, marriage and divorce law, and the legal rights of unmarried couples. WillMaker, the bestselling software program he helped design, has allowed millions of Americans to create their own wills and living trusts without the cost of hiring a lawyer.