From the beginning when the Israelites were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt to the Nazis attempt to annihilate the Jewish race, Jews have suffered--but in the end have prevailed and become stronger. Theyve even overcome Gods anger (Exodus 32:10). Overcoming obstacles is in my Jewish blood.
"The whole school thinks Im gay. "
Im standing at my locker, fishing for my U. S. history book. Its in here somewhere. "Did you say something?" I say sweetly to Nathan, still keeping my attention on the books stacked in my locker.
Oh, there it is. I reach out and grab my book, wondering when Mr. Krazinski will spring a pop quiz on us. Maybe I should take the book home tonight and read it.
Nathan grabs my arm, pulling me away from my locker. "Ouch," I say. Hes stronger than Id ever give him credit for, but it doesnt hurt. I rub my arm for effect.
"I didnt hurt you. Yet. "
"What do you want from me, Nathan? Ive got to get to class and Im already late. "
Hes wearing a stark white button-down shirt and pleated navy pants. Im not even concentrating on his lack of fashion sense because Im trying not to look at his eyes. I keep thinking about that ludicrous comment Miranda said about emeralds.
"I want you to admit you told the entire school Im gay-"
Leaning back against the lockers while avoiding his eyes, I say, "Listen, Nathan. I didnt tell anyone youre gay. I may have said youre not into girls. "
"Why, cause Im not into you?"
"Thats low, Nathan. "
"Oh, I can get lower, Amy. Just try me. " He steps forward and straddles both hands on the lockers behind me, locking me in. "Look at me. "
Id like to still keep my gaze on the wall opposite him, but that would be cowardly. Im anything but a coward. Hes tall and close. I can smell spicy cologne radiating off his body. And when I look up, Im staring straight into his eyes because his glasses have slipped down. I swallow then say, "Whats wrong with people thinking youre gay? Jason Hill is gay and hes probably the most popular guy in school--with girls as well as guys. "
"If I was, I wouldnt give a shit. But Im not. "
"So tell everyone youre hetero. Just like I have to tell everyone I didnt join a dating service. " I shove his arm out of the way and head to class, thinking all the while that his personality does not in any way match his looks. Its like dressing a buffalo up as a hyena. Its just not right.
Jessica is in my U. S. history class. I sit in my usual spot next to her after being grilled by Mr. Krazinski about why I was late. I lied and said it was a feminine problem and that quieted him real quick.
Jess looks horrible. Id be surprised if she took a shower this morning, she looks so disheveled. Her brown hair is frizzed out; shes wearing sweats and no makeup. I dont care if she was insensitive to me last night. I need to find out whats going on. Ive been best friends with Jess for twelve years. Our friendship can weather any fight.
Now Im worried. She wont even look in my direction, so I wait until the bell rings to corner her. I swear this school should be called Drama Academy instead of Chicago Academy today.
When the bell rings, Jess grabs her stuff and hurries out of the classroom faster than a jackrabbit being chased by a dog. I push the other students out of my way to catch up with her. Im hearing curses from guys as I shove past them but all I can think about is my friend in trouble.
I find her in the girls bathroom. "Jess, I know youre in here. I saw you. " When I get no answer, I continue. "I admit Ive been wrapped up in my own crap and have ignored you, but please lets talk about it. "
The door to one of the stalls opens. Its Roxanne Jeffries.
With a toss of her red hair and a smirk on her face, she says, "I hear Mitch dumped Jessica for a freshman. "
"Shut up, Roxy, or Ill tell people you got implants last summer when you told everyone you went to overnight camp," I hiss.
"Youre a bitch," Roxanne says with a huff.
"So Ive been told. Now scram. Your perfume is making me ill. Or maybe its your B. O. that reeks. "
Roxanne washes her hands, then storms out of the bathroom.
"Youre not a bitch," Jessicas voice bellows from one of the stalls. I can tell from her tone shes been crying. "Youre just preoccupied. "
"No, I think everyones right. Im a bitch because no matter whats going on in my own life, I should never let down my best friend. "
Jess pushes open the stall door with bundled-up tissue in her hand. "Im sorry what I said about you and Avi. "
"Im sorry for not realizing earlier that youre having a crisis. Whats up? Is what Roxanne just said true?"
Her eyes get watery and I hand her a paper towel. "Mitch called me before I left for the youth group thing last night. He said he had something important to talk to me about. I tried getting it out of him, but he said wed just talk later. I asked him if it was good news and he said no. "
I bite my bottom lip in fear. "He didnt?"
"Yep. After I got home from the youth group thing I called him. He broke up with me and said he was asking Kailey Pulson to the Valentines Dance. "
My eyebrows furrow in confusion. "Kailey Pulson? Freshman Kailey Pulson?" Kailey Pulson is a total jock girl. I think she rock climbs for fun.
Tears run down Jesss cheeks as she nods. "Now what am I gonna do?"
The bell rings again. Im late for another class. "Ill figure something out, Jess. They dont call me your best friend for nothing. What we have to do is find us both hot dates for the dance. Leave it to me. "
Jess sniffles. "To be honest, right now I dont want to go. The last thing I want to do is see Kailey and Mitch together. "
She has a point. As I open the door to the bathroom, I turn back and face my best friend. "Then well just hang out, the two of us dateless girls. Well watch DVDs, order pizza, and gossip all night. Sound good?"
"Thanks, Amy," Jess says.
I got to English class late because of my chitchat with Jess in the bathroom, but Miss Haskell has a sub so it wasnt a big deal. Can it be a sign of good karma coming my way?
At lunch I pay for the salad bar, then search for Mitch. Im going to find my old boyfriend and give him a piece of my mind. Jessica told me not to. She wants me to leave him alone but I cant.
"Barbie," a male voice says from behind me. I whip around. Of course its Nathan. Nobody else would have the nerve to call me Barbie. Without saying another word, he pulls me close and starts kissing me.
I mean really kissing me. To the point where I drop my food tray and dont even care Ive just made a mess on the floor and on my shoes with a mixture of lettuce and vegetables and Thousand Island dressing. Nathans soft, inviting lips are open to mine and just when Im about to pull back and yell at him, he snakes his hand around my waist and pulls me closer.
My brain is telling me to pull away even though my lips are as involved as Nathans are right now. I grab onto Nathans biceps and attempt to push him away, but hes too strong and Im not as determined as I want to be.
Nathan is the one to pull back first, after his glasses hit my face and I wince. He turns to the crowd with a huge grin after he pushes his glasses up and says, "Fine, Ill go to the Valentines Dance with you. "
Fine? Nothing is fine around here.
The cafeteria is in an uproar with cheers from the guys. Im still in a daze when the lunchroom lady, Gladys, sees the salad mess on the floor and moves us aside with a look of disgust and comments about PDA rules at Chicago Academy.
When my eyes finally focus, Im still in shock. Nathan tries to help pick up the mess with Gladys, but she shoos him away with a wave of her hand.
Without a word, I walk through the cafeteria and plop myself down at a lunch table next to an open-mouthed Miranda. I know. I never sit at Mirandas table. I just know Miranda and her friends dont gossip like my friends do.
I give her a small smile. Unfortuna
tely Mr. Emerald Eyes follows my lead and sits down next to me.
"Here," he says, shoving a brown bag at me. "Its my lunch. You can have it since you dropped yours. "
As if hes a gentleman. Puh leaze.
I look over at Jessica, sitting at the popular girls table. Less than two hours ago I told her Id stay home for the Valentines Dance instead of going. She probably thinks I was lying and Im hooking up with Nathan.
"Im not hungry. " I bark the words at Nathan. In fact, I dont think I could eat all day after that kiss.
I love listening to Hebrew prayers put to song. I have no clue what the words mean, but hearing the cantor and congregation sing together makes me want to chant right along with them.
Okay, I admit it. Nathan surprised me. I would have never guessed the guy would go ahead and do a crazy thing like kiss me in the cafeteria and declare us a Valentines Dance couple. Now all the kids at school are whispering about us behind my back, in front of my back, and all around me. Theyre waiting with bated breath for another Amy/Nathan spotting.
Im not gonna let that happen.
So after school I take a cab home instead of waiting for the bus. If Nathan has no problems kissing me in front of half of the student body, what other stunt is he going to pull on the bus ride home?
After I let Mutt do his duty, I walk over to Perk Me Up! The rich smells coming from the café immediately make me feel energized and lift my spirits. I dont even need to consume the coffee in order to get the caffeine fix.
Maria hands me an apron and Im immediately into Perk Me Up! employee mode. I clean off tables, start taking orders, and try to keep a big bright smile on my face. Show teeth when you smile, Maria told me last week. Yeah, Im trying.
My toothy smile fades when Nathan walks in to the café. He has his backpack slung over his shoulder and I didnt notice it before, but hes got splotches of Thousand Island dressing on his white shirt. I dont think those stains are going to come out.
"Im sorry," he says when he reaches the register. Unfortunately nobody else is in line behind him.
Maria stands beside me, watching and listening.
I ignore Nathans apology and instead say to him, "Welcome to Perk Me Up! Can I take your order, sir?"
"Come on, Barbie. You kissed me yesterday. Why am I the villain for kissing you today?"
"You kissed him?" Maria asks.
I turn to her. "Only because I wanted him to stop hating me. "
Marias eyebrows furrow in fascination. "You kiss people who hate you?"
"I dont hate her," Nathan chimes in.
"Oh, really?" I say sarcastically, putting my hands on my hips. "Then why do you keep calling me Barbie? And why didnt you kiss me back yesterday when we were in the elevator, but today you have no problem making out with me with the entire school watching?"
"It was to prove a point. "
"To prove youre not gay? Listen, youre not cute enough to be gay. "
Nathan laughs. "Are you kidding me? You are the most stereotypical, insensitive, and obnoxious girl Ive ever met. "
"I take offense to that," I say, then cross my arms in front of my chest.
"Me, too," Maria interjects. "Amys rough around the edges, but shes as good as gold. "