I try pulling Avis hand to make him leave the room, but hes planted where he is like a stubborn tree root.
"I dont like people spreading rumors about my girlfriend. "
I pull his arm more. "Avi, lets just leave. "
Roxanne laughs. "Rumors? Dude, youre the second guy shes been locking lips with this week. And speak of the devil. Hi, Nathan. We were just talking about you and Amys hot show in the cafeteria. "
Oh, man. Im toast. I look at the door and see Miranda, Jess, and Nathan walking toward us.
The entire room is silent for the moment while the next CD is put into the slot.
"Hey," Jess says. "We finished with the scavenger hunt and wanted to see if you were still here. "
Avi knows the truth. He saw the way Nathan and I looked at each other just now. Is the guilt transparent in my eyes?
"You lied to me," he says.
Right in front of everyone he lets go of my hand and leaves me standing here in the middle of Kyles party.
Its not so easy to convert as one might think. I still have to go before three respected Jewish community members called a "Bet Din" and take a verbal test. Rabbi Glass-man told me not to stress over it; its not like the SATs. Life is full of little SAT tests, though, isnt it?
"You made an ass out of me," he says after I catch up with him at the entrance to my building.
"Avi, Im sorry. I didnt expect you to go up to Roxanne and get details. "
He turns to me while were in the elevator. "You looked me right in the eye and lied to me. "
I put my hands up in surrender. "Okay, I admit it. I lied to you. Are you happy now?"
"Dont turn this around to make me the bad guy. Do you always go around kissing guys?" he asks when we reach my floor and step off the elevator. "Wheres your loyalty and honor?"
I roll my eyes and say, "Were not in the army now, Avi. "
"Maybe we should be. "
"Whats that supposed to mean?" When I open the door and walk inside my condo I turn to him, "Besides, wheres your commitment?"
"Please, Amy. What would you know about commitment?"
I open my mouth wide in shock. "Screw you!" I yell, then go to my room and slam the door shut.
I cant remember how long its been since I had a good cry. You know, one of those cries where you cant catch your breath and just when you think there cant possibly be any more tears coming out of your eyes, a new wave of desperation washes over you and you bawl all over again.
Thats the way Im crying right now. I feel so horrible I messed up with Avi. I feel so horrible that I want to figure out Nathan and what makes him the way he is. Nathan told me I liked Avi because of his looks and warned me if he looked as good Id be after him, too.
Im a terrible person. Its not Avis fault, either. Its mine.
Avi knocks on my door after about a while.
"Open the door and let me in. "
"You arent allowed in my room, remember?"
He knocks again, louder. "Then just open the door. "
When I do, I see that hes got his duffle slung over his shoulder. "What are you doing?"
"This isnt working. You and I both know it. Im going to stay with Tarik over at the Northwestern dorms. You remember Tarik, dont you?"
"Hell be here soon. Listen, Amy. . . you want to kiss other guys, thats cool. This thing between us wasnt going to last anyway. "
"You told me not to wait. You wanted to be the non-boyfriend, remember?"
"Whats in here," he says, pointing to his head, "and whats in here," he says, fist pounding on his heart, "are two different things. "
I step forward and hold out my hand, wanting to ease his insecurity and the tension between us. "Avi. . . come here. "
Instead of stepping forward, he steps back and points to his head. "Gotta keep my mind clear," he says. "Remember what I told you about the mind games?"
"Yeah. Theyre worse than the torture. "
"God, I cant tell you how many irrational things are running through my head right now. Kissing you until you cant think straight. Kicking that Nathan guys ass. Smashing the wall with my fist because youve been looking at other guys. "
"I told you Im the Disaster Girl. "
"No, Amy. Youve got your life here. Mine is in Israel or wherever the army sends me. Its the way it is; its the way it was always meant to be. Who were we kidding, thinking this thing between us could work?"
I did, but I dont tell him. Hes obviously given up the fight. "Youre really leaving?"
"Tarik is probably downstairs waiting for me. "
New tears start to come, damn it. I will them to stop, but they wont. "I dont want you to go. " I want to beg, plead, grab his leg and hang on until he agrees to stay. . . but I cant.
When he pets Mutt and walks to the door, I let him. And then I stay with him and walk outside where I recognize his friend Tarik in a car outside my building. Tarik steps out of the car and gives me a small hug. "Hey, Amy," he says. "Its been a while, huh?"
I wipe my nose and watery eyes with my sleeve. "Hows school?" I ask.
"Tough, but Im getting used to it. " Tarik looks from me (obviously overwrought and devastated) to stone-faced Avi. "Um. . . you want me to get involved in this?"
"No," Avi says emphatically, while I tilt my head to the side and contemplate asking for intervention. Maybe what Avi and I need is third-party arbitration. I learned about arbitration in my social studies class last week and the magic of an unbiased party deciding your fate.
"Well, then. . . I guess Ill leave you two to say your goodbyes. " Tarik heads back to the drivers side, but calls over his shoulder, "If you need me, just give a holler. "
Im tempted to holler.
Avi tosses his duffle into the back seat of Tariks car, then turns to me. "Ill call you before I leave Chicago. "
"I wanted to take you to the top of the Sears Tower. Every tourist has to go there. "
"Ill go on my own. "
"And what about Oz Park? Did you know the guy who wrote The Wizard of Oz lived here?"
"Ill figure it out. "
"But what if you dont, Avi? What if you go back to Israel without seeing what Chicago has to offer?"
Avi cups my cheek with his palm. "It doesnt all have to be perfect. Life isnt perfect. "
"I want it to be. "
His thumb slowly caresses my face. "I know. Its what makes you unique. " He squeezes his eyes shut, then says, "I gotta go before I do something stupid. "
I watch as he sits in the passenger seat, says something to Tarik, and the car drives off.
After he leaves me alone, crying, and devastated, I want to kneel right here and start bawling all over again.
"Youre not crying over that guy, are you?" I hear Nathans voice behind me.
I face him and squint my eyes accusingly. "Have you been spying on me this whole time?"
"Nope. Why, was it a good breakup? Cause if it was, Im sorry I missed it. "
I walk up to Nathan, take my finger, and poke it into his chest. "You are the rudest, most self-centered, dragon-eyed, inconsiderate, egotistical. . . " Im racking my brain to think of more words when Nathan takes my finger into his hand and stops me from poking him again.
Nathans touch doesnt affect me like Avis does. And for the first time its clear Nathan isnt "The One" and never has been. I have a connection to him, but its oh, so different than the connection I have with Avi.
Im too weak to do anything else but slump my shoulders and cry. The pain is too great, like someone is ripping open my heart and squeezing it tight. My knees start to buckle and Nathan catches me.
"You really are upset, arent you?" he says, staring at me with his eyebrows down and furrowed in sympathy. Ive never seen Nathan have sympathy for anyone, especially me.
I squeeze my eyes shut. "Im not as plastic as you accuse me o
f being. "
"I guess not. Listen, Amy. Im sorry. Youre right about me. Well, except for the dragon-eyed part. "
"I played you. I played your boyfriend. It wasnt fair, I know. Sometimes I want everyones life to be as screwed up as mine. Call it a self-defense mechanism. "
He helps me stand. I wipe my nose and eyes with the sleeve of my shirt. "Whats so wrong with your life, Nathan? Who are you? Make me feel better about my crappy life by sharing yours. "
I understand why Im insecure: my dad just came back into my life, my mom and her new husband are planning a family without me. . . and I dont know where my family life begins and where it ends.
"Im a foster kid. Parents gave me up when I was ten because they couldnt afford all eight kids they had. Ive been tossed from one foster home to another since then. "
Wait, I dont get it. "I thought Mr. and Mrs. Keener were your aunt and uncle?"
"No other foster home would take me after they took a look at my file, so they were kind of forced into it by the courts. My aunt and uncle arent on speaking terms with my parents. They cut all ties a long time ago. Something about marrying trailer trash makes you trailer trash. "
I cant imagine my parents giving me away. Even when my dad and I werent talking, he still tried. It was me who pushed him away. My mom raised me since she was in college, going to school and working while trying to juggle having a kid and getting a career going. I admire her so much. I dont think she ever considered giving me up.
"Why do you dress like--"
"Like Im a dork?"
"Well, yeah. "
"My aunt wants me to dress conservative. Thinks if I dress like a bad kid, Ill be a bad kid. "
"Are you bad, Nathan?"
He focuses on the ground and shrugs. "I have been. You dont get kicked out of thirteen foster homes in seven years for being a model kid. "
"I guess Im still fucked up. " He looks at me. "I shouldnt have kissed you in front of everyone in the cafeteria. And. . . I have to admit. . . I knew your boyfriend was going to be at the party tonight and was secretly happy he found out we kissed. I know I hurt you, Amy. "
The truth is I hurt myself. I let my insecurity and confused emotions overcome what I knew deep in my heart was right all along. I play a tough game, but inside Im weak. Just like Nathan.
I hook my arm through Nathans and say, "Do you have any ice cream at your place?"
"I think so. Vanilla, maybe. "
"Thatll do. "
"You want to hang out with me?" he asks, totally shocked.
"Yeah. Isnt that what friends are supposed to do?"
"Ive got to admit, I havent had a friend in a long time. Dont know if I even know how to be one. "
"What about Bicky?" I ask when we get in the elevator and head to the fortieth floor.
"Shes a foster kid, too. I met her in a home in Freeport last summer. "
"Where is she now?"
He takes a deep breath and says, "Rehab. She got into some bad stuff and is all messed up. I bring her flowers every Saturday, but they wont let me see her or talk to her. She receives my letters and notes, though. "