Mr. Obermeyer runs over to his bitch. "Hes tainted her womb. "

"Mr. Obermeyer, shes just a dog. "

The old man blinks in shock and I think he just turned a paler shade of white, if it was possible. "Princess is a state champion in obedience. "

"Obviously," I mutter.

Mr. Obermeyer regards the crowd, still gathered around. "Someone call the police. "

I can just see me being dragged to jail because my dog humped a prized poodle named Princess. "Mr. Obermeyer. . . please. "

"Whos going to pay for the veterinary costs for this fiasco? Shes in heat and was supposed to be bred with a stud. Now shell have a litter of mutts instead of purebreds. Its all because you cant control your animal. "

The old man looks like hes about to have a coronary and his wrinkles threaten to crease further into his waxy skin. "Im sorry," I say, trying to break the tension while thinking the only stud around here is my mutt.

Mr. Obermeyer holds his hands up. "Sorry?" he says. "How is your sorry going to change the situation?"

It cant. "I dont know. "

"If hes not a purebred, your responsibility is to have him fixed. " Pursing his lips together, Mr. Obermeyer stalks off with Princess strutting beside him.

I dont care if Mutt isnt a purebred. Hes mine. And Avi gave him to me, which makes him more valuable than any purebred. Oh, no! Avi.

I run over to Mutt and clasp the leash on him. I walk back home, but stay a safe distance behind Mr. Obermeyer and his bitch, waiting long enough for them to reach the condo before I venture into the elevator with my stud.

I find Avi sitting on our couch, his elbows resting on his knees and his hands clasped together.

"Sorry it took so long," I say, releasing Mutt and hanging the leash back on the hook. "There was kind of a commotion at the dog park. " I look over at Mutt, who is now stretched out on his back on the floor looking more relaxed and content than Ive ever seen him.

What am I going to tell my dad about Princess and Mutt?

"I thought you ditched me," Avi says, the side of his mouth quirked up. "Amy, the more Im here, the more I realize this was a bad idea. "

I step around the couch and sit next to him. "Dont say that. Theres just a lot going on right now. "

His midnight eyes are so different from Nathans. Theyre brooding, just like my dads. I can tell hes been through a lot just by staring into them. Hes worried about something but hes trying not to show it.

"Hows the Israeli army?" I ask.

"Sababa," he says.

"Whats sababa?"

"It means cool, awesome, no problem. " He talks in that deep, dark voice of his that can melt my own invisible walls Ive built around myself.

"You look bigger and more muscular than this summer. " Most American guys I know dont look as serious or manly at eighteen years old.

"Survival training will do that to a guy. "

I nod. Survival training. My survival training consists of running to the racks at Neiman Marcus on the opening day of their winter blowout sale. It doesnt tone my muscles, but it definitely does hone my skills in sniffing out the best deals before anyone else can get to them. Kinda different than being stuck in a desert with a gun as your only companion. Although Neiman Marcus can be considered a battleground on those winter blowout days.

"I missed you," I say. I omit the fact that Ive thought about him every single day since I came back from my trip to Israel. I also fail to mention that Ive been having doubts about our relationship. . . or non-relationship, as it might be. And even though Im totally blown away with seeing him again, I dont want to be a "friend with benefits. " I want more.

Does he? And where does Nathan fit into all of this? Ugh, Im an emotional mess.

Avis hand reaches out to mine. As he takes hold of it, the warmth and comfort Ive been missing since the summer comes rushing back to me. His other hand touches my shoulder and slowly moves up, caressing my neck and cheek. I lean my cheek into his palm, the warmth of it drawing me in.

"I missed you, too," he says.

I tentatively lick my lips, scared for this first kiss that will tell both of us where we stand in this relationship. Weve got a lot to live up to. Our summer makeout sessions were sensual and emotional and made me feel drugged without any chemicals or alcohol.

He leans forward, watching me. His eyes are fixed on mine. "I shouldnt want you so bad," he says, then his full lips capture mine.

It starts off like before. He brushes his lips over mine as if hes painting them. . . memorizing the shape and softness. Im totally getting into it, but then my mind wanders. I have no clue why. Thoughts of Nathan, and Mutts fiasco, and my moms pregnancy, and the dates I keep bungling and. . .

When Avis tongue reaches for mine, the events of the day are swirling in my head. And I have this nagging feeling Im forgetting something really important, but I cant remember what. Especially while Avis trying to take our kisses to the next level, concentrating is impossible.

I lean back and break the kiss.

Those beautiful brooding eyes are staring back at me. "Whats going on? Is it that guy? Just tell me" he says.

Now I remember! With his lips on mine I couldnt think, but now my brain starts to function again. "I have to go to work," I say and hop off the couch.

18

***

Jonah tried to dis God by refusing to go to Nineveh as God commanded. The poor guy was thrown into the sea and sat in a fishs belly for three days as punishment (Jonah 2:1). Didnt Jonah know you cant hide from God--He knows everything. My boyfriend however, doesnt. (Except when my friends open their big mouths. )

***

Avi insists on accompanying me to work.

When we enter the elevator again, I want to tell him everything thats been on my mind and why Im confused. But theres no time. My life is spinning out of control and theres no button or switch to stop it. Time sucks that way.

"Avi," I say. I dont really have anything to tell him, I just want him to stop looking away from me.

"Yeah?" he says, turning to me. I wish I could tell what hes thinking.

"Ill see if I can get some time off work this week so we can do some Chicago sightseeing. "

"I dont need sightseeing, Amy. "

He doesnt have to say he came here for me. The fact that he came all this way to spend a week in Chicago is flattering and overwhelming at the same time.

At the Perk Me Up! counter, I introduce Maria to Avi. Maria smiles wide and drops the cup shes holding so she can shake his hand. Then she giggles, which Ive never seen her do before.

When I first met Avi it was a really confusing and awkward time in my life. To be honest, I was rebelling. Avi is the only guy who has ever challenged me. He stayed in the fight long enough to duke it out. . . mentally, of course. Hes as strong on the inside as he is on the outside.

Im taking care of customers. Avi sits on one of the big cushy chairs and waits. Hes leaning back with his arms crossed in front of his chest and I cant believe hes actually here while Im making skim vanilla lattes instead of spending time with him.

I glance over at him every time I have a free second. And when theres nobody else in the café, I ask Maria if I can make Avi one of my fave hot chocolate drinks.

"You didnt tell me he was visiting," Maria whispers while Im mixing the drink.

"Yeah, well I didnt know. My dad did, though," I inform her as I top off the cocoa with a triple dose of vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

"And he forgot to tell you?"

"I guess they wanted it to be a surprise. " I have yet to tell my dad I hate surprises. Surprises are like having your period in the middle of class. Initially youre shocked and confused, then youre embarrassed and have to deal with everyone staring at you. Im self-conscious enough as it is; I dont need surprises in my life to make me feel more aware of people gawking at me.

Maria holds out a cup holder for me so I can slip

it onto the perfectly made hot cocoa. "I miss my teenage years," she says with a wistful smile on her face. "Boys, school, friends. Enjoy it before you grow up and have more responsibilities than you ever signed up for. "

I already feel like I have more responsibilities than I signed up for. And Im only seventeen.

My specialty drink in hand, I walk over to Avi just as the door to Perk Me Up! opens. Its Jessica.

"I heard about what happened at the dog park today. Amy, are you okay?" Her hair is brown and stick-straight and her eyes look darker than usual because shes wearing a black top. It takes her a second to focus on the guy in the chair, but when she does, a little shriek escapes from her mouth. "Avi?" she asks, totally pointing like a little kid.

Avi stands and I clear my throat. "Jessica, this is Avi. Avi, this is my best friend Jessica. "

"Call me Jess," she says, smiling so wide I think her cheeks are going to crack and her lips stretch out so much she reminds me of that elastic woman from the cartoon movie.

"Why didnt you tell me he was coming?" she says through gritted teeth although Avi can hear every word thats coming out of her mouth. Duh! Hes standing right here.

"I didnt know," I say back. "It was a surprise. "

"Oh. "

Jess knows I hate surprises, thus the understanding "Oh" comment.

"What happened at the dog park today?" Avi asks.

I didnt really want to share the disaster so I just say, "Urn. . . "

"Mutt humped another dog and impregnated her right in front of everyone," Jess blurts out. "The owner of the other dog almost called the cops. "

"It was no big deal," I say, trying to blow it off. Well, at least Im trying to make it look like Im blowing it off. It actually is a major deal and my dad is going to kill me when he finds out Princesss womb is ruined because of my dog. And the fact that he might be a grandpa to a basketful of puppies in a few months.

"Amy, are you kidding? Everyone knows," Jess says.

Avi leans forward with a confused look on his face. "Why didnt you tell me?"

"I. . . I dont know. " Its the truth.

Id like to give Avi the hot chocolate concoction I made him, but the whipped cream is melting and running down the side of the cup onto my hand and it doesnt look as decadent and appetizing as it did before Jess came in the café. And now my hand is all grody and sticky from the melting, now lopsided whipped cream.

"Im going for a walk," Avi says, obviously upset Ive shut him out. I cant even blame him for being pissed as I watch him open the door and step out into the cold. I wish I could tell him whats going on, but how can I express it to him when I dont even have it all figured out.

So now its just Jessica and me standing together. "Ooh, can I have that?" she says, eyeing the drink in my hand.

I shove my "Avi peace offering" at her and go back to working behind the counter.

Why cant things go my way? Is this Gods way of entertaining me so I dont have a boring life? I swear, for once Id like to have a calm, uneventful day.

Maria is in the middle of blending the new Tango Mango Crème Blend for a customer. The entire café now smells like mangoes.

Source: www.allfreenovel.com