Dinner with my mom and Marc was nice. Since we couldnt have sushi because of my moms pregnancy, we ordered Thai instead. Marc tried to engage Avi in conversation, but Marc isnt the most interesting person to chat with. Get him on a subject he knows, though, and hes a maniac. Like real estate. He could talk about prime Chicago real estate for hours. Its too bad nobody wants to listen.

After dinner Avi and I get in the car and cruise back to the city.

"Are we going back to the beach?" he asks. "Because I think another late night like yesterday and your dad really will pull out the Uzi. "

"Whats an Uzi?"

"An Israeli-made machine gun. Very popular during your dads time in the military. "

Yeah, I can see it. My dad waiting at the door sitting in the dining room chair with an Israeli machine gun strapped to his shoulder instead of just an angry stare.

"Nope. Im taking you to a club. You took me to a club in Israel. Its time for me to show you what clubs are like here. "

"I thought you had to be twenty-one to get into clubs in the States. "

"Yeah, well, this one is lenient. Besides, I know the guy playing in the band. "

30

***

Abraham had such faith and fear in God he almost sacrificed his son Isaac because God commanded it (Genesis 22:2). Abraham knew God would make everything okay in the end. I have faith that God will make everything okay in the end too.

***

We wait in line to get into Durty Nevins until Jess pulls us out of line and leads us to the front door. She mumbles something about her uncle being part owner of the security company responsible for the bouncers. We walk straight up to the burly bouncer, he takes one look at Jess, and waves the three of us in.

I hold Avis hand as we weave through the sea of people.

Miranda is sitting at a table up front. Shes wearing her hair up in a ponytail and has actual makeup on. "Wow, Miranda, you look great!" I say to her.

The girl smiles as if I just told her she won a million-dollar lottery. "Jess did it for me. "

I give Jess a thumbs-up sign, then join the others to snatch chairs for the three of us.

As soon as we sit, I reach for Avis hand. His hand is already reaching for mine. Looking up, I swallow hard when he flashes me a private knowing wink.

"Im glad you two worked it out, but if you start any major PDA I swear Im banning you from this table," Jess says, eyeing our hands.

"Whats PDA?" Avi says in my ear. Jess rolls her eyes, thinking hes whispering about how much he loves me and adores me and cant live without me.

I lean toward him, my hand braced on his chest as I whisper back, "Public display of affection. You know, making out in front of everyone. "

Jess is pulling me off him. "I need to talk to you, Amy. Its important. If you could separate yourself from your man for one second, that is. "

Tossing Avi an apologetic expression, I pry myself away and let Jessica pull me by my elbow into the hallway by the bathrooms. Music is blaring and pounding in my ears, but it sounds good. Anything would sound good to me right now. Im happy.

Jess is flushed as she stops and faces me. This is serious. I can tell by the way her mouth and stance get all intense and stiff. "Im in love, Amy. And I know it sounds weird and I dont want to get all dorky and googly-eyed like you and Avi, but I know hes The One. And my parents are going to have a complete meltdown when they meet him because hes everything theyve ever wanted for me. Hes Jewish, hes Israeli, hes gorgeous, intelligent, hes sweeter than a cinnamon bun. . . hes every Jewish parents wet dream--"

I put a hand up, wondering what this is all about. Cinnamon bun? Israeli? Wet dream? "Jess, the only Israeli youve been in contact with lately is Avi and my dad. Avi is taken and my dad. . . " I scrunch up my face in full gross-out mode.

"Im not in love with your dad, Amy," Jess says, her hands on her hips.

"Phew," I say, physically and mentally relieved. I just saved myself years of therapy.

"Im in love with Tarik. You know, Avis friend at Northwestern. After your kidnapping fiasco, he drove Miranda and Nathan home. Then we talked in the car for over an hour in front of my building. " I cant stop the girl or get a word in. Shes like a train that wont stop. More like a train wreck, because shes totally clueless. I listen to the rest of her rant before breaking the bad news. "Hes the smartest guy, Amy. I cant believe youve known him since the summer, knew he was coming to Northwestern, but didnt introduce him to me. I would question your loyalty to me, but Im so ridiculously in love. Did you ever think I would believe in love at first sight? I swear, I couldnt sleep last night thinking about him and this morning I had the biggest urge to go visit him and surprise him at the dorm. You know the way you feel about Avi? I feel the same way. "

"Do you think I could talk now, Jess?" I ask her. She laughs, this crazy I-am-in-love-and-cant-be-normal laugh. Gee, I hope Im not like that around Avi. Someone slap me please if I ever go over the deep end like that. "What did you guys talk about for an hour?"

"Everything. Life, family, friends. "

"Jess, I hate to break it to you, but. . . " How do I tell her that 1: Love at first sight is a bunch of bull. And 2: Hes--

"Wait. Before you tell me Im crazy and go off on me that Im supposed to be the friend who is realistic and sane, I need to know his last name. I dont even know my future husbands name. "

"Muslim. "

Jess cocks her head to the side in confusion. "Tarik Muslim? Thats not a Jewish name, thats a religion. Amy, stop making fun of me and tell me his last name before I start getting pissed. "

"Hes Muslim, Jess," I say slowly with a serious expression on my face. Its really a pity expression, because Im about to tell her that her cinnamon bun has raisins in it when she expected it to be plain.

"Amy, you said he was Israeli. "

"No, I said he was Avis friend from Israel. So as much as you like him, your parents would freak. Especially your dad. Isnt he the president of the mens club at the synagogue? I admit Tarik is awesome, Jess. But your parents want you to find a nice Jewish boy and Im sure his parents want him to find a nice Muslim girl. "

I shouldnt have put it like that. Just by looking at Jessica I can tell shes gone from elation to confusion to sorrow to defiance all in a matter of seconds. Defiance in my best friend is scary.

"He asked me out on Saturday night," she says matter-of-factly.

Oh, man. "And?"

"And of course I said yes. Crap," she says, as tears start filling her eyes. She turns and hurries into the restroom, leaving me to either go after her like a good friend or pay attention to my boyfriend who probably thinks I ditched him.

I peek around the corner to check out what my boyfriend is doing. Hes abandoned the table and is talking to a couple of guys at the bar.

I decide to be a good friend and hope Avi can amuse himself for another five minutes.

In the restroom, Jess has some other girls from our school gathered around her, asking whats wrong. Mitch cruelly dumped her and now the guy of her dreams turns out to be a guy shes probably forbidden to date. Jessica goes to Hebrew school twice a week, Sunday school, and in the summers Jess rides a bus all the way to the middle of Wisconsin to spend four weeks at a Jewish overnight camp.

Needless to say its been ingrained in Jessicas head since she was born that she has to marry a Jewish boy. Her kids have to be Jewish, and its her responsibility to carry on the Jewish traditions and religion.

But I never lose hope. There must be some loophole, some way Tarik and Jess can date without causing her Grandma Pearl to go into a nursing home prematurely.

Jessica waves the crowd away. "Im fine. Really. " Shes trying to convince them. Its not working. First of all, her mascara is running down her face like streaks of ash with tears leading the way.

I push everyone else out of the way. Picking her chin up with my fingers, I say quietly, "Jess, dont cry. Im sure once you explain the situ

ation to your parents, it wont be such a big deal. Youll see. "

Leading me to the side, away from everyone else, she says, "No, I wont. My moms family was killed in the Holocaust, Amy. My great-grandfather has a number tattooed on his arm from when he was in a concentration camp. A reminder you cant wash away with soap and water. If I even mention a non-Jewish boys name in his presence I feel guilty. "

I still think God will take care of Jessica and look after her. I have complete faith. And theres always the guilt offering of a burnt animal. . .

Jess wipes her eyes, trying to compose herself. Grabbing paper towels and looking into the mirror, she witnesses the streaky mess her face is. "Take a look at me, Amy," she says. "I cant go out there looking like this. "

"You have to. Nathans counting on us being here. "

New tears start streaming down her face and she turns to me. "Tarik said hed be honored to go to the Valentines Dance with me, Amy. Honored. When I spilled the beans about how I didnt have a date, he asked me. Right there in his car in front of my condo. And we had a moment. I know it sounds crazy and stupid, but we did. "

A moment? Is she kidding me? A moment of lust, perhaps, but not love.

Oh, man. I know how much she wants to go to the Valentines Dance. Its not about the dance. Its not about love. Its about being wanted and accepted.

I wish I could stop her from looking in the mirror again, but its no use. One more wipe of the running mascara and I can see the defeat in her eyes. "Im going home. Tell Nathan and Miranda Ill see them at school. "

She moves past me and out the door. I dont even try and stop her because Ive been best friends with Jessica long enough to know I cant convince her to stay. Besides, what more can I say? I cant tell her Tarik isnt awesome, because he is.

Speaking of awesome guys, Ive left mine alone enough tonight. Heading back to the big crowd, I scan the area and find Avi sitting at the table with Miranda. Theyre surrounded by a bunch of people, talking and laughing. Two girls who Ive never seen before are standing right near Avi. I can tell theyre flirting by the way one is flipping her hair and the other girl is licking her lips. My protective radar goes off (okay, my jealousy radar goes off, too) and I weave through the mass of people with my chest held high, and steer toward my boyfriend like a paper clip to a magnet.

The hair-flipping girl is telling a story about her trip to Israel two summers ago and how shes dying to go back. Its hard to hear the details of her adventures because music is blaring in the background and Im stuck standing behind Miranda. Theres no room next to my boyfriend.

The lip-licker is laughing while lip-licking, which I think shes practiced in the mirror before. She does it frighteningly well. Avi is so intrigued with her conversation he doesnt know Im standing here.

Miranda looks up at me. "Maya is telling us about her trip to Israel," Miranda tells me. "She went to Gadna for a week. Its a military training camp. "

Oh, great. Flippy-haired Maya can talk guns with my commando boyfriend. Im feeling sick and might just follow Jessica out the door so I can go home, too. "I went to Israel, too," I blurt out.

I have nothing else to say. I didnt go to an Israeli military training camp and I dont have hair I can flip over my shoulder and make it look like I just got it styled at a salon.

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