When I get Avis attention, he gives me a small smile. The lip-licker sneers at me and the salon girl says, "Did you go on a Birthright trip or Shorashim?"
"Neither. I went with my dad. . . Hes Israeli. "
"Oh," she says, then her friend boasts about her trip to Ireland with her Irish family.
While everyone talks about their adventures abroad, Avi reaches out and snakes an arm around my waist and pulls me toward him. "Theres no chair for me," I say to him.
Guiding me onto his lap, he says, "Yes, there is. " He taps the hair-flipper on the shoulder and Im wondering if he wants to keep up the military talk until I hear Avi tell her, "This is my girlfriend, Amy. "
While my heart opens up and loves Avi for telling a girl whos obviously hitting on him that he belongs to me, Miss Hair-Flipper gives me a small nod and turns her back to us to talk to another guy.
"Why is it every time I turn around another girl is talking to you?"
"I was talking to everyone, Amy. Dont be so paranoid. That guy over there, Dale, is from the South Side and that dude, Kyle over there, goes to your school. He wondered if I met you on an online dating service. "
"What did you tell him?"
"I said he should get a life. Wheres Jessica?"
"She left. Its kind of a long story," I tell him.
I guess I shouldnt be jealous of any other girl. I know how Avi feels about me. I guess a little part of me. . . that insecure part that shows its ugly head once in a while, knows the reality of it all. Hes going back to Israel and Im here. In less than twenty-four hours Avi will be back on a plane flying far away from me. And who knows whatll happen. I know what I want to happen, but how realistic is it?
"Dont look all serious, Amy," Avi tells me as he guides my chin down so Im face to face with him.
Avi and I are in our little imaginary cocoon looking into each others eyes as if no one else in the world matters.
A loud "Ahem" interrupts us.
Looking up, Im shocked at the person standing in front of me. Okay, I knew Nathan was going to be playing tonight at the bar. But I didnt know that Nathan was going to transform into a rock star look-alike. His hair is spiked up, hes got eyeliner on, ripped faded jeans with a faded gray vintage T-shirt, and a black leather necklace hanging from his neck. I might add that hes not wearing glasses, either.
"Nathan?" I ask, not really sure if the guy in front of us is a Nathan look-alike or the real deal.
Nathan leans in and says to me, "The guys in the band call the Nate. And. . . well, this is me. You said to be me, right?"
Wow. Talk about going from geek to. . . wow. "Yeah. "
When he leans back, Im aware that Avis grip has gotten tighter around my waist. I look down at my boyfriend, whose eyes are a little darker and intense like hes ready to fight for me.
"Avi?" I say.
Hes still glaring at Nathan when he says, "What?"
"Look at me. " He does.
"Nathans my friend, like a brother. Stop glaring at him like hes the enemy. "
"I cant help it. Besides, if hes going to be your friend I liked it better when he wore glasses and the pants that were too short. "
"Dude, dont be so lame," Nathan says. "The girl is in love with you. Or are you really all muscles and lack in the brain department?"
I feel Avis muscles tense up, but before he can respond, I wrap my arms around his neck and hold him back. Luckily, the announcer starts introducing the band and Nathan is all too happy to jump up on stage and avoid another confrontation with Avi. I notice Nathan still has a cut and bruise from yesterday when Avi decked him.
"Nathan looks so hot, doesnt he?" Miranda says as Nathan, now the lead singer for Lickity Split, takes the mic. Okay, so hes the substitute singer for Lickity Split. Its not permanent, but its still super cool.
Avi pulls me closer. "I never want you to look at him the way you look at me, Amy. "
Nathan aka Nate Greyson puts the mic to his mouth, points to me, and says, "Amy, this ones for you. "
Did he just dedicate a song to me?
My arms are still around my boyfriend, and his arm is still holding me tight while Lickity Split starts the loud music. Nathan belts out lyrics Ive never heard before:
Shell freak you out, shell screw with your head
Shell kiss you once, then leave you for dead
I stop listening after the word dead. Nathan and I are going to have a long talk about this song. Its too angry. Is Nathan angry? Im sure with his past theres a lot of anger built up inside, but I can help him with that. Isnt that what friends are for? And to set the record straight I kissed Nathan twice, not once. And I did not leave him for dead. I knew after Avi kicked his ass last night he was alive. . . and left in very good care.
I shake my head and listen to the rest of the song. I can tell the crowd is getting into the lyrics and the fast beat. Nathan is a hit. The song tells the story about a guy falling for a girl who he thinks is playing games with him but in the end is just being herself. He realizes that the friendship is the real deal; the attraction was just a facade.
The mass of people in the bar are jumping up and down, shaking their heads to the song, and waving their hands in the air like crazy people. Or more like people who are totally engrossed in the beat and lyrics. Nathan aka Nate is jumping on stage like the rest of the crowd, getting totally into the song.
"Lets dance," Avi says loudly so I can hear over the speakers right near our table.
Me? Jumping around and head-banging? Yeah, I might do that in my room with nobody watching, but theres a bunch of kids from school here and Im not used to losing control in front of an audience. "You go," I say, standing so Avi can mingle with the crowd. "Im not the getting-sweaty-in-front-of-other-people kind of person. " Id rather he stay with me, but Im not going to be the loser girlfriend who tells him what he can and cant do. If hes not afraid of people staring at him . . .
Avi stands and pulls me into the middle of the dance floor, which has become a pit of sweaty people drowning themselves in the music. Nathan is on his second song. This one is about rough times and even tougher times ahead. Very depressing, if I say so myself. . . and Im a pessimist.
Avi starts getting into the music. The music is so loud I think my brain is rattling and were all going to suffer brain damage and wake up deaf tomorrow morning. I cant stop watching Avi and how masculine and cool he looks while hes waving his fist in the air and moving to the pounding bass.
"Come on," he says. "Lose control with me. "
Me, lose control? Not my style. Besides, if I jump around then my boobs are going to bob up and down like a buoy in the middle of a tsunami. I shake my head, refusing to make a spectacle of myself.
Scanning the people around me, though, makes me realize that Im making a spectacle of myself by being the only one in the crowd right now standing still. Even Miranda is jumping around, waving her hands in the air like shes about to take flight. And shes got bigger and saggier boobs than me.
I start by bending my knees up and down. Looking over at Avi, his hair wet from sweat, inspires me. I take a tentative jump to test my new bra to see how bounce-resistant my boobs really are when theyre strapped in tight. I look down as I take another test jump. The bounce rate is acceptable. But when I look up and see Avis eyebrows furrowed as he watches me, I bite my bottom lip.
"People will stare at me," I try to explain over the loud music.
Avi shakes his head in frustration. "Let go, Amy. I want to see you without your inhibitions. If people stare, theyre just jealous theyre not having as much fun as you are. "
I look down at my boobs.
His eyebrows go up. "Just try it," he says. "I dare you. "
I do not take dares lightly, and he probably knows it. With a deep breath and determination I never knew was in me, I start jumping to the music and shaking my head around like Mutt after he takes a swim in Lake Michigan, Surprisingly,
it feels good to let go and lose control for once.
The pit of people has gotten more crowded, Im being pushed and pulled around by the mass of dancing maniacs. When I look up at the stage, Nathan is into his third song. . . or maybe his fourth. The words are seeping into my body:
Fight the fight worth fighting
Fight it to the death
Fight the fight worth fighting
And give up all the rest
As the words enter my consciousness, I wonder how many fights Ive fought that werent worth fighting. Nathan is totally into the performance. His face is fierce as he sings the words into the microphone. Hes still trying to figure out where he fits in this world and why his parents gave him up.
When Nathan opens his eyes, he catches me watching him and winks at me before bending down and singing to some girl in the front row.
Soon the music stops and the band takes a break. While my ears adjust to the absence of blaring music, I head back to our table and plop myself down on an empty chair.
"You should let go more often," Avi says from behind me.
"I looked stupid," I say, which pretty much sums it up. Yes, I admit I had fun looking like a dork having my arms flailing and my boobs bopping around without caring what anyone thought. But in the end, I did look stupid. And in the end, I still do care what people think.
Avi bends down and kisses my neck. "You looked sexy, Amy. "
"Will you two ever stop?" Nathan says as he joins our table.
I push Nathan away, but hes not paying attention to me. Something or someone at the other end of the bar is occupying him. I follow where his attention is focused.
"Bicky," Nathan whispers in shock.
The girl is even prettier in person and I hate her instantly. She has short, blonde hair pulled back with a headband and a half shirt showing off her amazing abs and bellybutton ring. And I swear her jeans must be painted on, theyre hugging her body so tight. When I wear tight jeans I have to lie on my bed while Im zipping them up. Bicky must have taken a dip in oil or grease in order to cram into her size zeros.
She sashays up to Nathan and puts her arms around his neck. "Arent you going to introduce me to your friends?" she asks in a high, singsong voice.
Nathan is still in shock. His arms go slowly around her waist but hes looking at her like something isnt right. "What are you doing here? Did you break out of rehab?"
"You betcha. " Bicky leans into him, almost tripping over her feet. "I heard you were performing. And besides, I wanted to meet the girl you kissed and wrote a song about. " She looks me up and down. "Youre her, arent you?"
Oh, boy, am I busted. But before I can deny anything, Nathan says, "Youre wasted, Bic. "
"That I am, baby," she purrs, looking up at him. "You used to like getting wasted with me, until you turned all geek on me. " She eyes his spiked hair and faded jeans. "Glad to see youre back to normal. "
He grabs her wrists and pries her arms off him. "What we did wasnt normal, Bic. It was crazy and stupid. "
Bicky is getting mad; her cheeks are red and splotchy and her eyes narrow into tiny slits making her look like an evil little pixie. "You used to like crazy and stupid, Nate. Or are you still going by Nathan? I cant keep up with all your personalities. Can she?" she says, pointing to me.