Reaching into the bag, he pulls out a homemade treat and hands it to Princess, whos lying on a pink plushy dog bed with her name embroidered on it. Her water bowl is right next to it. The pampered pooch doesnt even have to get up to drink; she can hang her head over the side of the bed and lap up her refreshment.

What a life!

"Your mutt really messed things up, didnt he?"

I bite my bottom lip. "I know its my fault, Mr. Obermeyer. And Ill pay for the vet bills and even take all the puppies and sell them after theyre weaned if you want so you dont have to look at them more than you have to. Just. . . Id appreciate it if youd not terminate the pregnancy. " Tears are coming to my eyes, which sucks because even though Im emotional I hate to show it to other people.

"Wait here a second," Mr. Obermeyer says, leaving me alone while he disappears down the hall with his feet shuffling slowly across the floor. He shuffles back, holding a picture of an old woman beside a huge silver cup. A poodle is sitting next to her. The woman is grinning from ear to ear. You can tell shes deliriously proud. So is the dog. "Is that Princess?"

"Yes, with my wife. Esther died last year, right after the dog show. " Mr. Obermeyer gazes at the picture longingly. "I miss her. "

"Im sorry I ruined your dogs uterus," I say, taking advantage of the sentimental moment and praying hell forgive me.

The old man shakes his head. "You didnt ruin her. Its just. . . well, Im a little overprotective of Princess. "

Ya think? "What about the puppies?"

"My wife wanted to breed Princess and create champion purebreds. "

"What do you want, Mr. Obermeyer?"

"I just want my wife back. "

His dedication to his wife makes me think of Avi. And for the first time since I moved into my dads building, I can relate to the old man. Hes not bitter. Hes jealous that I have a dad and friends and hes got nobody. Well, nobody except an ugly dog.

Here I was thinking all along that two people cant possibly make up a family, but I think I was wrong. Yes, it does happen that Im wrong. Not often, but on the rare occasion.

"Mr. Obermeyer, how about you join us for a family Shabbat dinner next Friday. "

"Im not Jewish. "

"You dont have to be Jewish in order to be in my family, Mr. Obermeyer. Just ask my mom. "

26

***

I love the Lord for He hears my voice, my pleas; for He turns His ear to me whenever I call (Psalms 116:1). Sometimes my brilliant ideas get me in trouble and I need a little help from above.

***

"Knit caps?"

Miranda holds out our newly purchased hats for our kidnapping operation. "Check. "

"Black clothes?"

Miranda does a scan of me, Nathan, Jess, and herself. "Check. "

"Flashlights?"

We all click them on to make sure theyre working. "Check. "

"Walkie-talkies?"

Jess holds up four Motorola ones her parents use when they go to Disneyland every year so nobody gets separated for too long.

"Handcuffs?"

I hold up the plastic ones I bought at Walgreens. "Lipstick and scrunchies?"

"Now heres where I draw the line," Nathan says, flicking the light from his flashlight in my face.

"Nathan, obviously I didnt mean you. Miranda, youve got the keys?"

Miranda jingles her keys in front of her. "Got your dads keys, your dads car, and the address. You ready for this, Amy?"

Considering my heart is beating a million times a second and I havent eaten for two days because Ive been nervously looking forward to today, Im ready.

We pile into my dads Lexus and drive north toward Evanston. Miranda is driving. Im in the front passenger seat. Jess and Nathan are in back. When were close, I order everyone to put on their knitted caps from their back pockets.

"Do I have to?" Jess asks. "My hair will get all flat. "

I roll my eyes. "Do you think commandos worry about their hair being flat?"

"Amy, were not real commandos. And Avi will know its you. This isnt a real military operation. Its a girl who wants her guy back. "

Its a real operation to me.

At Allison Hall, we park out front.

"Now what?" Miranda asks.

I scan the area, analyzing the best place to plant ourselves.

"How do you know hes even here?" Jess asks. "He could be out for the night, staying in for the rest of the night. . . "

"Jess, youre not helping," Nathan chimes in. Jess shuts up.

"Okay, heres the deal," I say. "Jess, you go inside and ask around. Pretend youre a student and ask if people know where Tarik is. "

She puts her hand on the handle to the car door, but pauses before she opens it. "Whats his last name?"

"I dont know. But Im sure theres not an abundance of Tariks in the dorm. "

While I watch her saunter to the front doors of the dorm. Manicure be damned, I peel off the remaining nail polish from my fingernails, then start to chew on each nail.

"Stop that," Nathan orders. "Nail biting creeps me out. Listen, if he likes you he likes you and if he doesnt. . . well, thats his loss. Either way, whether you bite your nails or not isnt going to change the outcome. "

"Youre heartless," I tell him.

"Im a realist," he argues.

I disagree. As a person who thinks when life gets shitty you can plow right through the shittiness and change the course of your life, Im going to do what I can to change it. I do think I can change my destiny.

Every guy who enters the dorm I think is Avi. Every girl who enters the dorm I think is there to see him. Oh, man, I know what Avi means about how dangerous your mind can be.

"Is that him?" Miranda says excitedly for the millionth time. "No. "

Ten minutes go by and my great kidnapping idea maybe isnt so great, after all. When Jessica finally comes back to the car Im ready to ditch the plan and trek back home.

"Tarik left about a half hour ago with a guy Im assuming is Avi. "

I grill her with questions. "How do you know? Did you ask a guy or a girl? Do they know where they were going? Do you know when theyll be back? Who else was with them?"

"Amy," Jess says. "Why dont you go in there and ask the guy yourself. I got the info you wanted. Hes not at the dorm. Do you want to stay and kidnap him when he comes back, or do you want to abort the mission?"

I consider both options. Leaving here means Im giving up on him. . . on us. Leaving here means that my insecurities and self-doubt have overpowered and won over my desire to change the course of my life for the better.

"Were staying on course," I tell them.

"Can we abort the stupid knit hats, at least?" Jess asks.

"No. "

I hand everyone their walkie-talkies and we sync our channels. "You all know what he looks like, right?"

Miranda bites her bottom lip. "Ive only seen him once in real life and once in a picture. Its dark out, but Ill do my best. "

"Good enough," I say. "Nathan, you wait by that tree on that side of the dorm and Jess. . . you wait over there by that statue. When you see Avi, Tarik, or both of them, announce it on the walkie-talkies and well surround them. Got it?"

Nathan shoves the black knit cap on his head and heads for the tree with the walkie-talkie in hand.

Jess puts her cap on, but leans over the front seat and turns the rearview mirror toward her so she can see what she looks like. After loosening some curly wisps of tendrils from beneath the cap she says, "Im doing this because were best friends, you know. "

"I know. And I love you for it. "

"Uh huh. You owe me big for this, Amy," she says, and jumps out of the car, marching toward her lookout spot.

"Where are you going to stalk him. . . I mean, stake him out?" Miranda asks.

I stick the handcuffs in my back pocket and shove my hair under the cap. Then I stumble out of the car, toss my cell phone at Miranda, and say

, "Ill be across the street. Ive got to have all sides of the building covered. "

With a walkie-talkie in hand, the cuffs hidden in my back pocket, and my hair hidden from sight, I seriously feel like Im undercover.

I sit on a bench at a bus stop across the street from the dorm. And wait. And wait some more. I think weve been on the stakeout for over fifteen minutes.

"Ten-four, do you read?" Jessicas voice calls over the walkie-talkie.

I press the talk button. "Do you see him?"

"No. I just wanted to know what our operations name is. Every operation has a code name. "

"Yeah," Miranda chimes in. "How about Operation Wildcat. You know, for the Northwestern Wildcats. "

"How about Operation Kidnap Avi," Jessica chimes in.

"How about Operation Stupidity, ten-four" our fourth accomplice chimes in.

"Nathan, shut up," Jessica says.

"I was just wondering. . . " Nathan says. Im trying to keep the walkie-talkie on a low sound level so no one else can hear us. I didnt know my recruits were going to be so chatty. "What do you want me to do if I see him?"

Well-thought-out plans are not my strong point. I say, "Stall him. "

"How?"

"I dont know. . . do whatever it takes to stop him," I whisper into my walkie-talkie. "Just make sure he stays still long enough for me to handcuff him and lead him in the getaway car. "

"THIS IS NORTHWESTERN CAMPUS SECURITY," an unfamiliar and very authoritative voice comes through the walkie-talkie speaker in my hand. "IDENTIFY YOURSELF AND YOUR LOCATION IMMEDIATELY. "

"Dont give out any information," Nathan says. "Theyll never find us. "

Spoken like a true bad boy.

"Im scared, Amy," Mirandas voice comes through the walkie-talkie.

I bang my head against the lightpost Im leaning on. "You just said my name. "

"Im sorry. I didnt mean to. Im turning this thing off right now. "

"THIS IS CHIEF OF SECURITY ON NORTHWESTERN CAMPUS," the walkie-talkie bellows. "AMY, YOURE ON A CAMPUS RADIO FREQUENCY AND WE HAVE YOUR ENTIRE CONFESSION RECORDED. IF ANYONE IS ASSAULTED ON MY CAMPUS, WEVE GOT EVIDENCE AGAINST YOU. "

His threat gets met with silence until Nathan chimes in with, "Im hungry. "

"Im cold," Jess says.

I think I need new recruits.

Just as Im about to send everyone home, I see two guys out of the corner of my eye who look just like Avi and Tarik. In fact, Im sure its them. I quickly press the talk button. "I see them! Nathan, theyre headed to Allison Hall, almost reaching you right now. "

I hear a "Stop right now!" and the walkie-talkie goes dead. I run across the street, aware Jessica is behind me trying to catch up.

The area is dark and is surrounded by trees, but I can make out the scene without light. Nathan is moaning on the ground, Avi is in deep commando mode with his hands in fists, and Tarik is standing behind them.

I run and kneel on the ground beside Nathan. "Are you okay? Oh my God, youre bleeding," I screech when the side of his face catches the light.

"He punched me and did that Israeli self-defense stuff on me," Nathan says while staying in the fetal position.

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