In case you havent noticed, my teenage life is officially ruined.

12

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Rabbi Glassman said he realized he wanted to study to be a rabbi when he was in high school. To be honest, I think God chose him to be a rabbi

instead of the other way around. Hes too unbiased and wise to be a regular person.

***

Yes, I had to last the rest of the night with wet, sticky banana-encrusted jeans. And no, Jessica and I still arent talking. Miranda is, though.

"That was so much fun, wasnt it?" Miranda says as we get into Jessicas car at the end of the night. I put down a plastic bag before I sit in the back seat while the engine is warming up.

Jessica grunts and I say, "Yeah. Great fun. " I love being laughed at by an entire group of high schoolers and smelling like baby food. Where can I sign up for the next meeting?

"Sorry about your pants," Miranda says from the front passenger seat. "Im glad you came, though. Theres not many kids from CA here. "

"We dont necessarily have a huge Jewish population at the Academy," I say, leaning back and hearing the bag under my butt crinkle with every movement I make. Jewish kids probably make up fifteen or twenty percent of the student population at Chicago Academy, and CA isnt the biggest school in Chicago by far.

"They think were rich snobs," I blurt out.

Miranda turns and faces me while Jessica concentrates on driving us home. "People dont think Im a snob. They think of me as the fat girl. They think youre a snob because youre pretty and dont smile a lot. "

"Smiling is overrated. "

Jessica snorts.

Miranda looks animated now. Shes going into excited mode. "Smiling takes years off your life. Did you know it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile?"

"Did you know it takes more energy to talk than to be silent?"

Did I just say that? Oh, man. Miranda bites her lip and turns around, slinking down in the seat. I didnt mean it. I just wanted to stop feeling like I was bombarded with everyone pointing out whats wrong with me.

Jessica stops the car. I think shes so pissed shes going to dump me off the side of the road and order me to get out. But now I realize were at my building.

Keeping up with the Im-not-a-good-friend-and-I-dont-smile theme, I open the door to the car and step onto the sidewalk. Im about to swallow my pride and thank Jess for the ride, but she blurts out, "Close the door. "

As soon as I shut the door, Jessicas off like a NASCAR driver.

I feel like the biggest bitch. Maybe I am. Should I feel better that Im a bitch with a conscience? Because I feel totally wretched.

I stay on the sidewalk for a minute before I turn and walk into the building. I want to smile. I want to be a good friend to Jessica and even Miranda. Miranda doesnt look or dress or act like me, but shes nice and smiles. Does she smile because shes genuinely nice or is she perceived to be nice because she smiles?

Does it even matter?

Exhausted physically and emotionally, I pass our night doorman Jorge who opens the door for me as I head for the elevator bank.

"Did you have a good evening with your friends, Miss Barak?" Jorge asks.

"Not particularly," I answer back.

"Some days are like that, Im afraid. "

"Yeah, some days are crap. "

In the elevator, I lean my head against the wall. The doors start to close, until I hear someone stopping the doors from shutting with their hands. Those hands are attached to none other than Nathan.

Nathan enters the elevator in sweats and workout pants. A lady who Ive only seen a few times who lives on the fifth floor follows in right behind him.

I close my eyes to block out everything. When we stop on the fifth floor to let the lady out, I open my eyes.

Nathan is staring right at me through his glasses. His eyes are as bright as Kermit the Frog and the gold specks in them are shining in the lights of the elevator. Stupid lights. Stupid elevator. They make my mind think stupid thoughts, like wondering what I could do to make Nathan like me.

He takes a drink from a water bottle hes carrying in his hand. I start breathing heavily, as if my mind is one big mashed potato. I stare at his lips. Ive never noticed them before, but now theyre shiny from that water.

Nathan hates me, but maybe. . .

No, I cant.

But hes looking right at me; our eyes are locked. I cant change anything else in my crappy life, but maybe I can change his attitude and animosity toward me.

If I dont try it, Ill never know. I drop my purse on the floor of the elevator and rush toward him, pressing my lips to his. Im kissing Nathan in the elevator as we ride up from the fifth to fortieth floor, my eyes still locked on his while Im waiting for some reaction from him.

I get none.

My hands. What should I do with my hands? I place them on his chest, which feels unusually hard for a guy like him, and tilt my head to attempt a more intimate kiss.

Nathan isnt responding. His lips are soft and inviting but hes standing stiffly with his arms at his side. Hes not shoving me away from him, but he surely isnt acting like a guy whos being kissed by a girl. His lips are parted slightly against mine, his breath is warm and smells sweet. But hes not all here. Hes not into it and Im the one doing all the work.

When the elevator dings and the doors open, I lift my hands off his chest and lean back.

"Well, that was pleasant," I say as I lift my purse and step out of the elevator.

"For who?" Nathan responds, walking right past me.

Were in the hall on the fortieth floor of the building with nobody else around. Nathan is in front of his door and Im in front of mine. I look down the hall at him while he fishes for his keys. "For nobody, Nathan. That was a joke. You obviously dont like girls. "

He gives a short, cynical laugh. "Whatever you say, Barbie. Did anyone ever tell you you smell like fruit?"

"Stop calling me Barbie!" I yell, ignoring the fruit comment for the moment. Nathan doesnt respond as he opens the door to his condo and slams the door shut behind him.

The door quickly opens to my condo and my dad rushes at me. "Whats wrong? Who are you yelling at?"

"Nobody, Dad. "

"I heard you yelling. Are you okay?"

"Dont spaz on me. Im fine," I say, then brush past him.

My dad follows me to my bedroom, my private sanctuary where I go to be alone. "Im your father. I have a right to spaz. Why are you acting like this? And why do you smell like bananas?"

I give him my famous sneer. "Acting like what?"

"Like youre angry with the world. "

"Im not angry with the world; the world is angry with me. And for your information, I sat on a banana. Now if youll excuse me, Id like some privacy so I can change. " That gets him to leave pretty quick.

After I shimmy out of my now crusty jeans, I dress in pjs and head down the hall to brush my teeth and scrub my face. With all the stress Im under, Im bound to get a zit or two. . . or twenty. Im in the bathroom, scrubbing my lips and that kiss away with a washcloth. Back in my room, I look up and see my dad standing in the doorway.

He leans against the door frame. "I admit Im not used to teenage girl problems. But Im here to listen. "

I can tell hes mentally preparing for some heavy discussion. Hes not used to heavy teenage girl problem discussions. My dad is such a guy. He needs some feminine influence in his life. "Why dont you want a girlfriend?"

"Because relationships are a time commitment. "

I roll my eyes and say, "Its no secret you have commitment problems. Lets just get that out in the open. Are you refusing to date because youre in love with my mom?"

"Im not talking about this with you. "

"Why not? Youre obviously not talking about it with anyone else. And if you think by working yourself to death you can hide from the truth, you cant. "

"Im committed to you, Amy. I hardly have ti

me to spend with my own daughter these days, which is killing me inside. How can I add something else to take me away from my family?"

"You call two people a family?"

"Yes. "

My poor dad doesnt get it. "What about when I go to college? Youll be all alone while Marc and Mom have more babies together. And what about after you retire? Youll be sitting at home by yourself with nothing to keep you company but a set of dentures and an old, wrinkly body. "

The side of his mouth quirks up in amusement. "Thanks for painting the full picture. Consider me officially forewarned of my future fate. "

"Great. Now will you go on a date?"

"No. But Im coming home early tomorrow to spend time with you. After working at Perk Me Up!, Ill take you anywhere you want to go. Tov?"

Leave it to my dad to slide in a Hebrew word now and then. " Tov" I say back.

When he leaves my room, I let out a long, frustrated sigh and look over at my cell phone. I was really rude to Miranda tonight in the car. I practically told her to shut up. And I hate fighting with Jessica. Every time we argue I feel sick.

I decide to text Jessica.

Me: You there?

Jess: No.

Me: Want to talk?

Jess: No.

Me: Fine.

Jess: Fine.

Crossing my room to my desk, I take out the CA student directory and dial Mirandas number.

"Hello?"

"Miranda?"

"Yeah. "

"Its Amy. Um. . . I just wanted to say Im sorry I was kinda rude tonight. I mean, if I hurt your feelings I didnt mean to. It was the banana incident and--"

"And your fight with Jessica," she says, stating the obvious.

"Yeah, that too. Well, I just wanted to apologize. "

"Apology accepted. "

Phew. One person to check off my list of people pissed with me. "Maybe we could hang out sometime. "

I think Miranda just dropped the phone, cause I hear this big bang on the other end of the line. She recovers pretty quickly, though. "You really want to hang out with me?"

"Sure. I know youre in pretty much all AP classes and Im not, but you were really cool tonight. "

"Wow. Thanks," Miranda says excitedly. "Youre way more popular than me, Amy, but you must know that. I just thought you would think I was lame like the other girls at school. . . well, except Jessica. Although Jessica and I dont hang out unless its for the youth group. "

Heres the thing about popularity: its the ones who declare themselves popular who usually get pegged as popular. Youve got to know how to talk big and act like youre someone important and people will treat you like youre big and important. My wonderful mother taught me to be who I want to be without making excuses. I admit sometimes I go a bit overboard with my comments and actions, but I have a conscience. I apologize.

Of course its only to the people who deserve an apology.

I guess you can call me apologetically selective. (I think I just made that up, but I like it. )

"Dont you live next door to that new guy from school?" Miranda asks. "Hes totally cute. "

Ugh! "You mean Nathan?"

I can feel the vibration of excitement over the line. "Yeah. Nathan. He sits in front of me in calculus and has the coolest eyes. Like emeralds. "

"Dont waste your breath, Miranda. Hes not into girls. "

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