"Arg!"

As the elevator door closes, he bends over to pick up the box again. I wonder what this boy is doing in my building, on my floor, in my life.

Avi says everything happens for a reason. I hate to disagree, but hes wrong.

4

***

Ive seen Fiddler on the Roof. There was this one lady, Yente, who was the matchmaker--that was her job in the village. Right now Im the matchmaker. Maybe Ive found my calling. . .

***

"Hey, girl," Maria says as I walk into Perk Me Up! after school the next day. "Jessica is at the computer corner. "

Maria said she put in the computers because people wanted to be connected to the Internet and their e-mail no matter where they are. And if they want free, convenient Internet while theyre drinking her coffee, all the better.

I stand behind Jessica. "What are you doing?"

Her hands are busy clicking away. "Checking Mitchs e-mail. "

"Sneaky, Jess. Howd you get his password?"

"I have my ways. See, that bitch Roxanne is e-mailing him," Jess says, pointing to the screen.

Oooh, gossip. I know its bad, but gossip is seriously addictive and underrated. "What does she say?"

"Just that she needs help in biology, yadda yadda. "

"You better watch out for her," I say. "Now get off the computer so I can check something. "

"Im still mad at you, you know. "

Me? Innocent, little me? "Youll get over it. Besides, whatever I did was probably for your own good. "

"You took me to the dog park knowing Mitch would be there. Stop meddling in my life. "

I huff. "Im Jewish, what do you expect? I was born to meddle. "

Jessica shakes her head. Okay, so she has more Jewish blood because both her parents are Jewish and my dad is the one who gave me my Jewish genes. My mom gave me good fashion sense genes.

While Jessica goes to the bathroom, I quickly check the PJSN website and log into my fathers profile.

Oh. My. God.

Ive got thirty-seven responses from women who want to date me. . . I mean, my dad. And, checking the home page, my dad has gotten the most hits on the PJSN website in the past twenty-four hours.

It brings popularity to a whole new level.

Im almost giddy (does anyone use that word anymore??) as I scan the responses of women.

Three make sexual innuendos. Theyre out.

Ten live in the suburbs. Definitely out.

Five dont put their pictures on the site. Questionable. What if the supposed woman is a man?

Seven are over fifty. Ten have more than two kids. Out. Out. My dad can hardly handle me. How would he be able to handle a whole tribe?

That leaves two.

One is in human resources, the other a lawyer. I e-mail both of them and ask them if they want to have coffee sometime. Okay, its a little creepy asking women out on dates. But even more daunting is having to manipulate my dad somehow to get him to go on the date. I know meeting for coffee isnt the most original date, but at least its not a dinner or lunch where you have to sit and talk the entire time, waiting for that uncomfortable silence when you both want to escape.

"Does your dad know about this?"

I shriek and scold Jessica. "Didnt your mother tell you its not nice to sneak up on people?"

"No. "

My best friend shakes her head and puts her hand over her eyes. "Please tell me you didnt sign your dad up for an online dating service. "

"I didnt sign my dad up for an online dating service. "

"Youre lying, Amy. "

"Of course Im lying. "

"Amy, one of these days your little plans are gonna backfire and come crashing in your face. "

"Oh, ye of little faith," I say. "My dad will have a girlfriend by Passover. "

"Oh, ye of too many scatterbrained ideas," Jess says. "Your head is getting bigger than your boobs. "

"Shut up. Havent you ever needed something you didnt want?"

"Yeah, a flu shot. And it hurt me way more than it hurt my mom who made me get one. "

Jessica doesnt understand. "You dont expect me to sit around as my mom makes babies with Marc while my dad stays alone for the rest of his life, do you?" It makes me sad thinking hes pining for my mom.

"Your dad doesnt seem to mind," Jess says.

I turn in my chair and face her. I admit my dad doesnt outwardly show his unhappiness, but its in there. Deep down. And hes starting to age. "Hes got a few gray hairs already. "

"Your parents are way younger than mine, Amy. My dad is totally bald and my moms almost fifty and is totally white . . . well, underneath all of the hair dye shes as white as a snowball. "

"Great. In a few years my momll turn gray and people will think my little sister or brother is my own kid. Theyll think my mom is the grandma. "

"People in their late thirties have babies all the time. Dont stress about it. "

I put my hands over my heart. "Me, stress? I never stress about anything. "

Jess raises her eyebrows at me and chuckles. Because we both know its not true.

My cell phone is ringing. I click the little green button. Its my dad. "Hey, Aba. "

"Amy, I just took my clients out for dinner. Im about to pay the bill. "

"C So? "

"So," he says in a distressed voice. "Do you by any chance know where my credit card is?"

Oh, no. I forgot to put it back in his wallet after my run-in with Geek Boy. "Umm. . . Aba. . . youre not gonna believe this--"

5

To make a sin offering to God:

a) sacrifice an animal to the Lord (Leviticus 6:18) or b) wait until Yom Kippur and fast a whole day.

(Leviticus 16:29) So good to know I can erase my sins. (Erasing guilt is outlined in Leviticus 5. If God can forgive, surely humans should, too. )

***

Im grounded for the rest of my life.

My dad laid down that law a few minutes ago, and he sounded dead serious. Now I hear his little outbursts of anger coming from the kitchen.

The phone rings. Its probably Jessica.

"Dont you dare pick dat phone up!" he yells from the other end of the condo, his thick Hebrew accent getting thicker by the minute. I swear, the neighbors are going to start calling the police soon if he doesnt calm down.

I hear him stomping closer to my room. He opens the door and scowls at me while running a hand through his hair, his signature and patented I-am-frustrated-and-dont-know-what-to-do-with-my-teenage-daughter move. "Do you not understand what you did was wrong on so many levels, Amy? You stole my credit card--"

"Borrowed it," I correct him.

"You made me look like a fool in front of clients. You sign me up for a dating service. . . whats next?"

Before I can open my mouth to defend myself, he says, "How much did it cost me?"

"The dating service?"

He nods.

"Um. . . less than sixty dollars a month," I answer. "How much less?"

"One penny. "

"Go on the computer now and cancel it before I have to pay for two months. "

"Um, Aba?"

"What?"

"I got you a six-month subscription. It was cheaper to pay it all up front. I got a deal. Think of me as your Yente from Fiddler on the Roof. Your personal matchmaker. "

This time he laughs, and I think hes broken way past the anger barrier and is quickly gliding toward delirium. A delirious Israeli ex-commando is not a good thing.

"Whats the problem with a dating service? Its for Jews," I interject, hoping to lessen the blow. "You gotta love Jewish women. Youre Israeli. "

"Thats not the point. You used my credit card without asking. "

"Yeah, well, I dont exactly have one of my own. "

I swear I hear him praising that fact under his breath.

The doorbell rings. Mutt is going nuts, barking nonstop. "Arg! Arg! Arg! Arg!" It gets my dads a

ttention. Hes afraid hell have to pay a fine if we get too many complaints from the neighbors about Mutts excessive barking. Im saved from my dads rant for now. Thank you, Mutt!

"Stay here," my dad orders, leaving my room.

So now Im sitting on my bed, alone once again. And Im grounded. I wonder how long Ill be stuck here before he gives in.

"Amy, come here!" he calls out.

"Yeah?" I say innocently as I head to the foyer of our condo. Dad is holding Mutts collar, holding him back from jumping on and sniffing the crotch of whoever is at the door. Ive had the talk with Mutt, but he doesnt listen. I dont know what the big deal about crotches is. I assume once youve smelled one, youve smelled them all. Not that Id know. I have no desire to go near anyone elses to test my theory.

"You know Mrs. Keener, dont you?"

I scan the suit and tailored attire of the woman, sure she hasnt smiled in at least a year. Can she pull that 1970s bun tighter on her skull? I turn my gaze to the person beside her. Oh, no. Its Concerned Citizen Boy, in the flesh.

Mrs. Keener pushes him closer to us and directs her conversation to my dad. "This is my nephew, Nathan. Hes come to live with us for a while. " She shakes her head as she says, "Its a long story I know your daughter is about the same age and was wondering if shed be able to show him around the city. "

Nathan looks about as happy as I do to be in this situation. But I suppose being grounded and stuck in my room is worse than being stuck with Nathan Keener. Nathan Keener.

Just the name alone could get a kid beat up. "Amys grounded," my dad says. Thanks a lot for sharing that humiliating piece of information, Dad.

"Oh," Mrs. Keener says, obviously put in an awkward situation.

"But I guess if she takes Mutt for a walk, she could go out for a bit--"

Needing no further push, I grab Mutts leash off our hall tree and snap it on his collar. "Come on, Nathan," I call over my shoulder as I hurry to the elevator with a very excited and very large puppy.

Nathan, it seems, needs no further push either. He follows right behind me and enters the elevator as soon as Mutt and I step inside.

We have no elevator music in our building, so its just silence except for heavy panting courtesy of my dog.

"You dont have to babysit me, you know," he says while crossing his arms over his chest, trying to look tough. He doesnt.

"Your aunt seems to think I do," I reply.

The elevator door opens. Nathan Keener is right behind me, not missing a step when I exit our building. But once I turn toward the dog park, I dont hear his footsteps behind me anymore. Turning around, I find Nathan

walking in the opposite direction. With his long, corduroy-wrapped legs, hes already half a block away.

Mutt is pulling me toward the park. "Hey, Nathan!" I yell, but the guy doesnt turn around. Now what am I supposed to do?

6

Chicken soup can help heal you when youre sick. Is there a recipe for healing relationships?

***

If you can believe it, I found out this morning Nathan Keener is going to my school, a private prep school called Chicago Academy. Yep, its true. I also have the pleasure of sitting behind him in English class and hes even in gym class with me. It wouldnt be so bad, but hes already the talk of the entire school.

What is it about transfer students that fascinates people so much? If I hear one more time, Amy, did you see the new guy? I swear Im gonna scream. Its fifth period. I have study hall. I sit next to Kyle Sanderson, the varsity center for Chicago Academys basketball team and all-around popular guy. The only flaw is that Kyle wears no less than a half a bottle of cologne every day. You can tell when Kyle leaves a classroom that hes been there. Hes like a bear, leaving his scent behind for girls.

Source: www.allfreenovel.com