|Copyright @ 2013 by Anne Osterlund. Used by permission of Speak, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.|
“So you gonna ask her out?” came the inevitable question.
Salva groaned, though it was hard not to let his gaze linger a little too long on Char’s bare shoulders, gleaming in the late August sun. She knew how to look sexy even at church. “Are you kidding me, man? I’ve known her since I was eight. We were practically raised together.”
“Must have been rough chasin’ her through your sprinkler.” Pepe grinned, then leaned back against the outer brick wall and rolled a wrapper off a limón candy. “You want one?” he offered.
Salva shook his head. His father would blow a gasket if he caught him with it at mass. “Look, you want to date Char, she’s all yours.”
“Right. We both know she ain’t lustin’ after my rep,” Pepe said.
Salva elbowed him, though jabbing his best friend in the chest was a lot like elbowing the statue of El Pípila, hard as stone. “You break a few more sacking records this fall, and she might start.” “Everybody knows you’re gonna be the prime merchandise at school this year,” said Pepe. “She didn’t wear that outfit for me.”
Once again Salva found himself staring at the teal-green top with the off-the-shoulder sleeves. There was no denying the fact that Charla looked fine.
His best friend might be right that she’d dressed on Salva’s behalf, but that didn’t mean Salva could ask her out. It wasn’t just that he’d known her forever or that their parents were always pushing their children together; he’d dated Char back in their freshman year for two months, and despite the fact that they shared the same culture, their parents worked the same shift at the onion-processing plant, and he and Char had been in the same class since second-grade migrant summer school, they really didn’t have much to say to each other.
“We have nothing in common,” he tried to explain to Pepe.
That went over like a flat football. “Have you lost it, man? She’s hot, and you’re a friggin’ god at our school. What more do you want?”
Salva shrugged. “Someone who wants the same things I do, I guess.” He’d never heard Charla mention any grander ambition than making head cheerleader, which hadn’t worked out, since her mom had refused to let Char join the squad.
“Like a state football title?” Pepe mocked. “Not a whole lotta girls lookin’ for that.”
Salva grinned. His best friend had pretty much a two-track mind: girls and football, in the reverse order. “Like college…and a future.”
“Yeah, well, we can’t all be gods and brainiacs, can we?” The linebacker reached out as though to slug him.
“Knock it off.” Salva blocked Pepe’s fist. “If my father thinks I’m being blasphemous in church, he just might yank me off the team. He already says it’s too much time off from my studies.”
“Has he seen your GPA?”
“Yes, but I have to get a scholarship. I can’t just coast in on football.”
“Hey!” Pepe argued. “I am taking geometry.”
“Enjoy that. Lundell’s mind-numbing.”
“I’d rather be numb than dead. I heard AP calc is like an execution.”
“I’ll handle it.”
The church bell started to ring, and Char chose that moment to stroll past both Pepe and Salva, her brown shoulders glimmering in the sunlight before disappearing into the vestibule. “Don’t know what good all that brainpower is doing you, man,” Pepe whispered, “if you can’t even recognize a God-given gift like her.”