Avi is staring at me strangely. "What are you doing?"
"Tell me youve never dipped bread in oil and parmesan. "
"Ive dipped pita into hummus," he says.
"Not the same. " I rip off a piece of bread and hand it to Avi. "Here, try it. "
He tries it and nods. "Thats awesome. Totally unhealthy, but awesome. "
When our dishes come, Avi digs in to his food with gusto.
His mouth is going to get spoiled eating Chicago food. We have the best restaurants in the entire country, the largest portions, and probably one of the highest obesity rates.
"Are you watching me eat?" Avi asks, slowing his chewing rate.
"I just want to make sure you like it. "
"Amy, in the army you get eggs, jam, bread, and slow-cooked meat. As long as Im not eating any of those, Im in heaven. "
My dad laughs, then goes into a long, detailed story on the horrible food they served when he was in the army. I stop listening when he talks about bees being stuck in the jam. The rest of the dinner is okay, except that its mostly my dad and Avi talking and me just wondering when I can get some alone time with my non-boyfriend.
I guess now is better than ever to break it to my dad before he finds out from someone else. "Mutt kind of had an incident this afternoon at the dog park. "
Both of them look at me.
"What kind of incident?" my dad asks.
I start peeling away the nail polish from the manicure I just had. "He sort of impregnated Princess. Well, Im not one hundred percent sure, but Mr. Obermeyer seems to think he did and hes more of an expert on these things than I am. "
My dads hand slaps over his face and he squeezes his eyes shut. "Please tell me youre joking. "
"Mr. Obermeyer almost called the police. " Then I blurt out, "But he didnt, so its okay. "
"Okay? Okay? Amy, I told you Mutt needs to be fixed. "
I throw my hands up in the air and say, "I get it, Dad. "
"A little late, dont you think?"
I stand up, glad the meal is over, and start walking out of the restaurant. The last thing I need is for Avi to see me and my dad fight. He probably already thinks Im the drama queen everyone accuses me of being.
Avi catches up to me at the front door. "Amy," he calls
I stop and turn around. "Im not the girl you thought I was, Avi. I screw up my life, like ninety-nine percent of the time. Im like a mistake that wont stop. " I was born a mistake and will always be one.
Avi grabs my shoulders and makes me face him. "Say one good thing. "
"One thing thats not a mistake. One thing you dont screw up. "
I search through the recesses of my brain to come up with something, with no luck. "Thats the problem, Avi. I screw up everything!
My dad comes out of the restaurant before we can finish our conversation. He looks tired and worn out.
"Aba, Im sorry about the Mutt fiasco," I say. "I didnt mean for it to happen. "
"I know," my dad says. "I know," he repeats. "Listen, Ill take care of Mr. Obermeyer, Amy. You just keep a better eye on Mutt. Deal?"
We start walking back to the condo and Avi takes my hand in his, then blows on my fingers with his warm breath. It feels so good. I want to moan and give him my other hand, too, but then Id have to shuffle sideways and that would be dorky.
At the condo, Mutt runs into the foyer so fast he cant stop on the tile floor and flies into the wall. I look over at Avi, whos smiling with those sexy lips of his that were on mine a few hours ago. Avi, his lips, and that kiss stressed me out.
Right now, those lips formed in a tender smile make me less stressed.
"Mutt needs a walk," I say, then grab his leash and clip it to his collar.
I have to say, thats one negative thing about living in the city. In the burbs, people just open their doors and dogs run outside in their own yards and do their thing. In the city, its a whole ordeal. Poop bags, leashes, elevators. . .
"Ill take him," my dad says, stepping forward and taking the leash from me.
"Cool. " I give him a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Aba. "
My dad says something in Hebrew to Avi which I obviously cant understand. Avi steps away from me. Oh, God, I hope my dad didnt warn Avi away from me like he did over the summer. Sometimes fathers can be too overprotective. If anything, this summer Avi was the one who stopped us from going too far physically not me. It was like one minute I was a sane sixteen-year-old who had always vowed to be a virgin when I got married to one who was questioning everything because I was caught up in the moment with a guy who I had a major connection with.
"Be good," my dad says right before he leaves us alone in the foyer.
Parents shouldnt say "be good. " If they know teenagers rebel against authority, saying "be good" to a teen is asking for trouble. Im tempted not to "be good" just to show him how independent I am.
"What are you thinking?" Avi asks.
I swallow, hard. "Nothing. Nothing at all. "
"You seem nervous. You dont have to be nervous. "
Yeah, I do, when Im thinking about being a rebel. "Im not," I say, then start walking backward. "Do you want a tour of the condo?"
"Ken. " I know enough Hebrew to know that ken means "yes. "
I start rambling while showing him the kitchen, the bathroom, the office, my dads room, and finally my own bedroom.
In my room, Avi eyes the perfumes on my dresser and the messy, unmade bed. I lean down nonchalantly and pick up yesterdays panties off the floor and throw them into the closet with the rest of the clothes I have to wash. "Im not usually this messy, and if I knew you were coming and you didnt surprise me, I would have actually cleaned up for you. "
Avi picks up a picture of me, Jessica, and Cami on Halloween last year. We dressed as the three blind mice. We all wore black leotards with tails, ears, and black sunglasses. "Cute," he says.
I sit on my bed and hug an old Care Bear my mom bought me when I was six and had gotten my tooth knocked out when I was learning how to ride a bike. She let go and instead of me pedaling faster, I turned my head to make sure she was still holding on. When I realized she wasnt, I totally panicked and stopped so fast the bike fell over and I hit the pavement teeth first. I was okay, until I saw my moms face. She was panicked, and when I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my shirt and saw it full of blood, I cried so hard it took me over an hour to stop doing that heavy, jerky Im-trying-to-stop-crying-but-cant breathing.
I bet if Avi saw me back then, in hysterics and snot running down my bloody face, he wouldnt think I was so cute.
Ive grown up since then. Well, sort of. I still hate riding bikes. I prefer walking. And deep water scares me, but Avi already knows that.
Avi studies my tennis trophies I won, lined up on my shelf. "You still play?" he asks.
"Not on the team. " I didnt make the team this year, partly due to the fact that I didnt go to tennis camp last summer. Its also partly because Ive been really busy with conversion class and hanging with friends. Being on a team at CA is totally time-consuming and I missed a whole day of tryouts to go on Jesss parents boat the day before they were going to sail it to Wisconsin and dock it there for the winter. Before this year I would have never thought anything was more important than getting on the tennis team.
Avi focuses on the picture of him on my nightstand. "I remember that picture. It was your last day in Israel. "
"It was before you were in the army. " He nods slowly. "Do you hate it?"
"What, the army? Im proud to serve my country, if thats what you mean. All guys get a high on the range, shooting a weapon so strong it could take out an entire three-story building. Makes you feel invincible. "
"But youre not. "
"You learn that, too. Especially during combat training. With an instructor trained in kicking ass, watch out. "
"Eww. " Id be flunking
combat training for sure. Im not into physical pain, inflicting it on myself OR others. Its no surprise Mutt isnt neutered.
"Its not the torture thatll mess with people. Its the mind games. " Leaning back on my dresser, he catches his bottom lip with his teeth and looks straight at me.
He looks so adorable I just want to run over to him and hug him tight until I feel all safe and secure in his arms. "What?" I say, totally self-conscious that hes staring at me as if hes memorizing my face.
"I think of you. During the toughest training, when my mind gets weak and I have dark thoughts, Ive thought of you. "
"Me? Im Disaster Girl, remember?"
"No. Youre the only girl I know who expects life to be perfect and gets pissed off when its not. Youre the girl whos not only beautiful and has a kick-ass body, but youre funny when you dont mean to be and would rather eat dirt than back down from a fight. "
"I hate most things. "
"Give me one thing you hate. "
"But you love sushi. "
"Im not fond of my stepdad, Marc. "
"But youre close with your dad now. "
"My room is messy. "
His eyes rest on my closet and the clothes bursting out of it. "Yeah, it is. "
Taking my Care Bear, I throw it at him. He catches the stuffed animal with one hand. "Be careful who you throw things at, Amy. "
"Why? Whatre you going to do?" I take one of my pillows and fling it at him. With his free hand, he catches it without flinching.
He cocks an eyebrow. "Youre just asking for trouble. "
"Im already trouble. " Picking up my last pillow, I pull it back. "You have no more hands," I tell him. "What are you going to do now?"
Before I have a chance to fling it, Avi pounces on the bed and pins me down while holding my hands at my sides and my legs with his feet.
"Is this what you learned in combat training?" I ask him, laughing and trying to escape so I can best him, but no such luck. The guy is pure, lean muscle. Ill bet he has, like, zero percent body fat. Ill bet my boobs alone have more body fat than his entire body.
Hes sitting on top of me, but with just enough weight for it not to hurt. "Judge your enemys strengths. . . and weaknesses," he says.
"Am I the enemy, Avi?"
"Are you? Because right now I can sense youre scheming. That overactive mind of yours is planning an escape. "
"How did you know?"
"I can see it in your eyes," he says. "And I feel the adrenaline radiating off your body. "
My heart is beating fast and Im anxious, but not because I want to escape. I havent been this close to a boy since this summer, when Avi and I went touring through Israel. I want him to kiss me now, like before. But he doesnt. Why?
"Amy, Im back!" I hear my dads voice yell from the foyer. Avi jumps off my bed faster than he got on it and reclaims his position leaning on my dresser.
When my dad peeks his head in the doorway of my room, he looks from me to Avi. Ive managed to sit upright, but my comforter is all messed up and Im sure my hair isnt much better.