"Oh, yeah," I say. "Didnt you know? It was love at first sight. Right, Nathan?"
Its either going to be me and Nathan against Roxanne and the rest of the bunch, or me against everyone.
I turn my head and look at Nathan, sitting beside me. The fluorescent lights of the cafeteria are reflected in his glasses, so I cant see his eyes. But those circular frames are definitely directed at me. "Yeah, right," he says. "I guess its true. Opposites attract. "
I chow on another bite of my sandwich, staring down at my food so I dont have to talk.
But I do see Nathans fingers, reaching for his pizza. Within three minutes hes picking up the second piece. Its probably a world record in pizza eating. By the time hes done with his second slice, students are still entering the cafeteria.
One gulp of iced tea and hes done. Im still trying to choke down my sandwich.
Nathan murmurs something to me in my ear that I cant understand, and leaves.
"What did he say?" Jess asks, obviously confused. She knows Nathan and I arent even friends. Okay, we did kiss. But it was for show. I wasnt even a willing participant the second time.
"No idea," I mumble, then take another bite.
After school, Jess catches up to me on the way to the bus stop.
"Amy," she says. "I dont get it. You think Nathan is a dork--dont even argue with me because I know you better than your own mom does. Then you kiss him in front of the entire school while youre still hung up on Avi. Raine is telling everyone youve gone wacko on her. It doesnt make sense. "
"Life doesnt make sense, Jess. Do you hate me?"
"Why would I hate you? I may not understand you. I may get mad at you. But I could never hate you. "
Nathan is walking toward us, his uptight gait is so dorky I want to wince. I swear the guy needs a lesson in loosening up and being crazy. He probably dances like a sixty-year-old.
Avi is an amazing dancer. I remember in Israel last summer he was dancing with a girl and I got jealous so I picked a guy at random and pulled him out on the dance floor. Biggest mistake. Lets just say the end result almost had me arrested by the Israeli police.
When Nathan reaches us, Jessica walks to the bus stop to give us privacy. Shes such a good friend. Totally mistaken about the situation between me and Nathan, but her heart is in the right place.
I tap Nathan on his elbow. "We need to talk. "
"Why? You want to kiss again?"
"And have your glasses whack me in the face again? I dont think so. I want to talk. The kind of talking where lips dont touch. "
"Sorry. No can do. "
The bus is turning the corner. "Well, we cant keep pretending to be dating. "
"Sure we can," he says, putting his arm around me and leading me to the back so we sit with everyone else. I shrug his arm off.
When we get to our stop, we climb off the bus and he puts his arm around my shoulders again as if were a real couple. Before I can shrug him off again, I look up. My heart slams into my chest and I almost fall backward.
Standing at the front of my building, like an Abercrombie model posing without even meaning to, is Avi.
And hes watching me walk toward him with Nathans arm around me. Im too shocked to ask Avi how he got here, why hes here, how long hes going to stay, or if he still cares about me.
"Avi," I say softly when we get closer to him. I swear Im still in a trance when I add, "What are you doing here?"
"Whos this guy?" he answers back.
If God made the world in six days (Genesis 2:2), surely I can make sense of my life in seven.
I shrug Nathans arm off me. He drops it from my shoulders, but still stands next to me. What, is Nathan waiting for a formal introduction? Im not prepared to give it, even when I find myself saying, "Avi, this is Nathan. Nathan, this is my. . . this is Avi. "
It was a big deal to Avi that we didnt label ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend, with him in the Israeli army for the next three years. As much as my mind agreed with it, my heart didnt. My ego didnt, either. So I end up telling everyone hes my non-boyfriend. Let them decide what it means.
I look at Avi; his stance is stiff and his jaw is tight. Hes always been guarded and tough, and I can feel hes already putting up an invisible thick wall between us, ready to shut me out. And hes been with me less than two minutes.
Which actually pisses me off because he was the one who didnt want to be official boyfriend and girlfriend. I did.
I watch as Avi reaches out to shake Nathans hand. Theyre so opposite. Avi is the model type and Nathan is this ail-American boy-next-door (who needs a major makeover). They give one hard "shake and release" with their hands.
"I got time off," Avi says. "For a week. Surprise, surprise. "
A week. I have a week with him. A part of me is giddy beyond belief that Ill have seven days to spend with him and the other half is mad because its just a tease. Just when Im ready to move on in my life, he shows up and messes it all back up.
Nathan is still standing beside me, watching me with those stupid emerald eyes. "Catch you later, Amy," he says, then opens the door to our building.
He doesnt call me Barbie. Why that fact should stick in my brain is beyond me.
"Dont you have a suitcase?" I ask Avi.
"I left my duffle with the security guy inside. " He puts his hands in his jeans pockets and looks away from me. "This was a bad idea, Amy. I thought. . . well, screw what I thought. I have a friend at Northwestern I can stay with. "
A gust of Chicago wind rushes through the street and chills me to the bone. "You shouldnt have surprised me. I hate surprises. Although I probably should have told you that a long time ago. But now that you know, dont do it again. "
Avis eyebrow quirks up. "I told your dad," he says. His voice is smooth and reminds me of dark chocolate milk.
"Great. My dad knows more about my boyf--about you than I do. "
All, it all makes sense now, why my dad asked me how I felt about Avi when we had our manicures.
"I thought youd want me to come. "
"I do, Avi," I say, but I can tell by the way hes standing stiff he doesnt believe me.
Right now is the awkward stage. I mean, really, we havent even touched or hugged or really, really looked at each other yet. I can tell him how much Ive missed him until Im blue in the face, though Im already blue in the face because Im freezing my ass off out here.
"Lets talk up in my condo, okay?"
He nods and follows my lead. The doorman gives Avi his huge, army green duffle as we pass.
In the elevator, Avi looks straight ahead while I stand behind him. I cant believe hes actually here, in America, in Chicago, in my elevator!
I have so many questions running through my head, number one being why is he here? I thought hed be in training until February.
Glancing at him, I analyze the differences a few months can make. Wow, he looks taller and more muscular than he did last summer--hes obviously been working out. And I swear hes standing straighter and has a determined look to him that I dont remember. Raw confidence. A commando in the making.
Although theres a caged animal energy radiating from him, as though being in an elevator is making him claustrophobic.
The door to the elevator opens and I lead him to my condo. Mutt greets us with energetic "Args!" and a tail wagging so hard I think itll fall off if he gets any more excited.
Avis eyes go wide. "Hes gadol. . . big," he says in Hebrew and English as he leans over to pet Mutt. When Mutt goes for his crotch, Avi says in a calm, deep voice, "Die!
"Thats not nice to say to my dog," I say. Maybe Avis not the guy I once thought he was. Telling my dog to die is not my idea of being cool.
Avi stands up tall. "Die means stop in Hebrew, Amy. As in thats enough; I dont want your nose in my balls. That okay with you?"
Oh, no. Things are not going well at all. "Ye
ah," I say sheepishly. "Thats fine. "
Mutt scratches the door and noses the leash. I wish Mutt would wait, but if you gotta go, you gotta go no matter if youre human or animal.
"I need to take him out or hell pee on the floor," I say.
Avi drops his duffle and says, "Ill go with you. "
The problem is we need to talk honestly and openly (at the dog park thats not going to happen). I dont want to alienate Avi more than I already have. "Thats okay. Itll just take me a minute. I mean, itll just take Mutt a minute. Wait here, okay?" He nods. "Fine. "
I hurry and clip Mutts leash to his collar. In the elevator, Mutt looks up at me with his puppy dog eyes that are so expressive sometimes I think theres a human soul inside all of that fur. "Avis here," I tell him. "And its awkward. What can I do to make it all better?"
Mutt looks up at me, sticks his tongue out, and pants like a. . . like a dog who wants to pee.
No answers from this genius dog.
At the dog park, I unclip the leash when were fenced inside the park. My mind isnt on Mutt. Its on Avi. I contemplate what Im going to say to him when I get back upstairs.
Do I tell him I kissed Nathan. . . twice?
It didnt mean anything, and yet I did participate. But how much participating do you have to do before it can really be labeled cheating?
Although how can I cheat on someone who Im not even officially dating? Does the label of "dating" matter, or is it the feelings in your heart that takes precedence? Oh, man, I am so screwed up. Can my life get any worse?
As if on cue, I hear screaming and a ruckus coming from the other end of the dog park. I turn around and my eyes go wide when I see Mutt humping another dog.
Hes usually humping another male dog, showing him whos the boss.
But not this time.
My mutt Mutt is humping Princess. Mr. Obermeyers prized purebread Princess.
And he is going at it but good. Oh, shit.
When I run over, Mr. Obermeyer is screaming at me, "Get your dog off her!"
I swallow, hard. "What. . . what do you want me to do?"
In a state of panic, I catch Mitch watching the whole obscene scene and laughing. Most of the other people have their mouths wide open in horror because everyone knows to keep their dog away from Princess and Mr. Obermeyer.
I start yelling words to make Mutt leave Princess alone. "Mutt, come! Treat! No! Get off! Leave her alone! DIE!" Yeah, even that last word Avi just taught me didnt work.
Now all I want to do is DIE.
"Do something, besides give commands your dog doesnt follow," Mr. Obermeyer yells. "Hurry!"
I take a step toward the two dogs in a romantic dance. "Get off Princess," I growl through clenched teeth. "Shes not your type. "
Mutt obviously has selective hearing.
When I move closer, Im getting queasy. Im not an all-natural-comfortable-in-nature kind of person. Interrupting two dogs in the middle of a very private moment in a very public setting is not my thing and never will be.
Taking a deep breath and bracing myself for humiliation, I step behind Mutt and wrap my arms across his middle. And pull. And pull. But Mutt refuses to let go. Damn.
As soon as I release my grip and give up, Mutt bounds away from Princess as if the entire thing was no big deal.