"Avi, why dont you wait in the living room while I talk to Amy a minute. "

Avi rubs his hand over his crew cut, stalling, and I can tell he wants to stay and be my protector.

"Dad, youre embarrassing me," I say after I tell Avi to wait in the living room so he doesnt have to hear my dads lecture.

"This wont take long, Amy. Just cool it. "

"If its about sex, Mom already told me about it. "

"Yeah, well now youre going to get the Dad version, okay?" He rubs his hands together as if hes about to do some heavy weightlifting. The noise of his dry hands making sandpaper sounds makes me wish Id forced him to buy the hand cream the manicure lady suggested he get. He clears his throat and says, "No sex. "

"Got it. Thanks for the talk, Dad. Totally helped. Glad were on the same page. "

"Amy. . . " he says in a warning tone.

I moan, situate my pillows which are strewn across my bed, and lean back on them. "What?"

"Avi is eighteen, a man. You. just turned seventeen--"

"Over a month ago," I interrupt.

"Yes, well, guys are different than girls. Guys, um, have urges and, um, so you have to be careful, and uh, your own body is changing and, uh, you know. You might be having, um, feelings, too. . . "

All those ums and uhs are making my brain twitch.

"Aba, maybe you should have gone to that seminar our school had last year about talking to your kids about sex.

Mom went. She said to be careful; theres a lot of diseases. And to protect myself at all times, no matter what. And that if a guy tells me I have to do something in order for him to like me, then I should give him the old heave-ho. And that the risks of having sex at my age so outweigh the benefits. And that I can still be a teenager and liked without exploiting myself or my values. Does that cover it?"

He looks stunned. "I guess so. "

"Dont you trust Avi?"

"Honey, I dont trust any guy with my daughter. And something funky was going on here between you two before I came back. "

"Aba, nothing was going on. "

My dad bends down, picks up my Care Bear from the floor, and tosses it to me. "You cant pull the wool over these Israeli eyes. "

"Youre an Israeli with paranoid eyes," I tell him.

"Thats a good thing. Call it an occupational hazard. We need to set up a few rules now that Avis here. "

I hate the word "rules. " It diminishes your fun, freedom, and spontaneity. "Hit me with em," I say, knowing its no use arguing.

"No boys in your bedroom. You and Avi can hang out in the family room, living room, and kitchen. "

"Aba, I was just giving him a tour of the condo. "

"Sure," he says, obviously not believing me. "Rule number two: no sneaking out to the living room to visit Avi in the middle of the night. "

"Why dont you just lock me in the room so I dont escape," I say sarcastically. "Dont tempt me, Amy. "

I roll my eyes. "Dad, a lot of my friends are more experienced than I am. "

"Thats their parents problem, not mine. "

I stand and face him. "I mean, if I wanted to do something Id have done it. Im not ready. Dont worry. "

Before he can continue his lecture, I open the door and find Avi. Hes going through his duffle in the living room.

"Everything okay?" he asks.

"I got the sex lecture," I tell him.

"Avi, boyenna bvakasha," my dad calls out.

Oh, no. "What did he say?"

Avi stands. "I think Im about to get the sex lecture, too. " He walks to the back of the condo, where my dad is. Oh, great.

Why doesnt my dad trust me? I mean, Im not the kind of kid who usually rebels by hanging out with druggies and drinkers. Im clean cut. Okay, so Ive stolen my dads credit card and this summer I had feelings for Avi that surprised me. . . and I tested those feelings. But isnt that what teenagers are supposed to do?

I eye Avis open duffle. Not much in there besides jeans, socks, shirts, and underwear--those tight boxer-ones like the ones in the Calvin Klein ads.

Behind me someones clearing their throat. I jerk myself up, startled, and turn to Avi.

He nods, then says, "I got the sex lecture. "

"Was it harsh?"

"Lets just say your dad tried to convince me he has the knowledge to kill me with one finger. "

My dad walks into the room, looking pretty smug I might add. Sure, he just threatened Avis life if he probably so much as looked at me.

"Arg!"

Mutt is oblivious as he takes a squeaky hamburger in his mouth and drops it at my feet. I pick it up and throw it down the hallway. He bolts after it and brings it back for another round.

"I met with Mr. Obermeyer downstairs when I took Mutt for his walk," my dad informs me as he watches Mutt slide past him. "We had a long talk, which seems to be the theme of my day. "

"And?"

"And he said hes taking Princess to the vet tomorrow to see if shes pregnant. If she is, well deal with the consequences then. "

"Thanks, Aba. "

"Itll all work out; dont worry. Listen, Ive got some work to do and youve got school tomorrow, so I think you should both say your goodnights and go to bed. "

Since Avis bed is the couch, I pull out of the hall closet bed linens and a blanket. I feel Avis eyes on me as we make the bed together. "I wish we were back in Israel," I say. "This summer we had no rules to deal with, nobody telling us what we can and cant do. . . it was awesome. "

"This is your dads territory, his house, and his rules. "

"Goodie for me. " Isnt this my territory and my house, too? When can I start making my own rules up? Or be trusted enough not to have any rules?

When the couch is transformed into a bed, I turn to Avi. "You can use the bathroom to get ready first. "

"Todah" he says, grabbing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and blue flannel pants.

"Youre welcome. "

I hurry into my room and dress in a tank and shorts, my usual pajama attire. I sit on my bed and stare at the picture of Avi on my nightstand and cant believe hes really here . . . in my house, in my life again. Its not as perfect as it was in Israel, but theres something about Avi that calms my soul.

At the same time, I try to warn myself that hes only here for a week and not forever. Hes leaving soon and Ill be left alone again. . . no date for the Valentines Dance, no date for New Years Eve, no date for Valentines Day, and no date for the Fourth of July fireworks if the summer trip to Israel doesnt go through.

Nathanll be around, though. Every day.

Why am I thinking about Nathan when Avi is here? I dont even like Nathan, or his emerald eyes.

Surely I gave Avi enough time to change and brush his teeth. But the door to the bathroom opens just as I reach it and Avi comes out. . . shirtless, with his hair wet from showering.

Bronzed skin, chocolate eyes, hair that looks almost black when wet. "Hi," I say.

He rakes his fingers through his wet hair. "Sorry I took so long. I needed a shower. I felt dirty from the flight and all. "

"I think Im gonna need that sex talk again," I whisper, then give him a self-conscious smile and move past him to lock myself in the bathroom.

Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, I wonder what makes Avi think Im on the same level looks-wise as him. My teeth arent perfect, my top lip disappears when I smile, my hair is too frizzy, and my boobs are a cup size too big. I even kept my bra on with my pjs because I dont want Avi noticing how much my boobage sags when I unleash "the girls. "

He said that he likes me because I expect life to be perfect. Who doesnt fight for things to go their way? I guess some people, even Jessica, settle for the status quo. Its in my nature to fight. I guess I can blame that trait on my dad.

Ive also come to realize that with turning seventeen, Ive become boy crazy. I think about them all the time. It started when I met Avi, and hasnt stopped. Sometimes Ill think about boys at

the strangest times, like in conversion class or even when Im shopping. Last week when Jessica was telling me about her dance competition, my mind wrapped around the word "dance" and my thoughts wandered to when I was in Israel this past summer at a disco and I watched Avi dance. Hes an amazing dancer, so comfortable moving his body to music, unlike most guys I know.

Maybe the rules are a good thing, after all.

I peek into the living room before I go to bed. Avi is laying on the couch, the blanket covering his bottom half but his toned chest is exposed. Hes got one arm resting behind his head, which makes his bicep tense up. "What?"

"Are you on steroids or something?"

He laughs. "You ever try holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle over your head while walking five kilometers in water up to your waist twice a day. Your arms would be just as big. The gun touches the water, you get another kilometer tacked on. "

No thank you very much. "I thought you trained in the desert. "

"We did that, too. Its either holding the jerikon full of water, which is over twenty kilos, or being one of four supporting the heaviest guy in the unit on a stretcher while running. And no matter where you are, if the unit leader tells you to drop on the ground, you go down. . . whether its on sharp rocks or not. "

"How did you get the scars on your arms?" I ask, now focused on the raw skin on his forearms.

"Ground-crawling exercises. Fun stuff. Now can we stop talking about the army?"

"What do you want to talk about?" I sit on the edge of the mahogany coffee table in front of the couch.

"Tell me about your city. What makes it so special?"

Chicago is unique, unlike any place in the world. I can say just one thing about it and start rambling. "We have world-famous museums, the largest indoor aquarium, every sport team you could imagine with dedicated-to-the-death fans. We have Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the only free zoos in the country and the Harold Washington library, which is the largest of its kind in the world. We have three of the tallest buildings in the world and the best food in the entire country, which includes pizza, sushi, hot dogs, and Italian beef. You want me to go on?"

Avi sits up. "Your eyes light up when you talk about your city. "

"I love Chicago. I was born at Weiss Memorial not too far away from here and have lived here my whole life. My mom moved to the suburbs so now I live with my dad. I cant stand not being here. The energy of the city is contagious. My mom and her new husband are having a baby in their new house, anyway, and dont need me hanging around. "

"Does it bother you that theyre going to have a kid?"

I chip more polish off my nails. "Yeah. Its going to change our whole family. Just when Im trying to get used to a permanent man in my moms life, I now have to deal with a baby. Its totally strange. Im, like, confused about where my family begins and where it ends. No small nuclear family for me. In fact, I dont even know who my immediate family is anymore. "

Ive never been a fan of change, and my life has changed way too much in the past six months.

"Amy, I thought you were in bed," my dad says from the hallway.

"I was just saying goodnight to Avi. "

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