8

***

Deborah was a great prophetess of Israel, even led Israel for a time (fudges 4:4). She ordered a man named Barak (relation to me, perhaps?) to take ten thousand men into battle. Barak told Deborah that hed only do it if Deborah came with him. Kind of parallels my life, doesnt it? Also reinforces that men need women to back them up.

***

I want to protest, but the backpack is being shoved into my hands. "Dad, Im sure hell come back to get it once he realizes--"

"Amy, dont be a snob. "

My mouth opens wide in shock. My own flesh and blood just called me a snob. I head out the door and into our condo building entrance. I wave to the doorman, who buzzes me into the elevator banks.

"Amy, come back here," my dad says.

I put my hands on my hips. "I cant believe you, of all people, called me a snob. "

My dad never backs down. I guess being an ex-commando makes you act like a tough guy in your personal as well as army life. Occupational hazard. "Just because he doesnt look like the kids you hang out with doesnt mean you cant be friends with him. "

"Dad, he told Kyle Sanderson I joined a dating service because I couldnt get a date for the Valentines Dance. " Whos the snob now?

My dad looks concerned; his eyebrows are furrowed as he contemplates this new piece of information. Taking a deep breath, he tells me, "Then confront him about it. "

Spoken like a true Israeli.

Were in the elevator, which has just reached our floor. Stepping off, I turn around to face my father and hold out Nathans backpack (which weighs a ton, I might add). "You give it to him. Then you can ream him out for spreading rumors about your daughter. "

"Well go together. "

Ooh, partners in crime. "Fine. "

"Fine. "

I follow him to Nathans aunt and uncles condo right down the hall from us. My dad knocks obnoxiously loud, like he doesnt know the power of his own strength. Thats my dad.

Mr. Keener opens the door, but doesnt invite us in.

"Nathan left his backpack in the café," my dad says. "Amy wanted to bring it back to him. "

Mr. Keener smiles and opens the door. "You can go give it to him. Hes in the guest room. Its the second door on the right. "

My dad puts his hand on the small of my back and pushes me forward. Ive never been into their condo. Mr. and Mrs. Keener keep pretty much to themselves. I step inside the foyer. Im feeling awkward so Im glad my dad is backing me up.

A cell phone rings; its my dads ring tone. The national anthem of Israel. Dorky, but totally him. Hes still in the hallway as he answers the call. "Sorry, motek, I have to take this," he says as he waves and leaves me in the Keeners condo.

Oh, just great.

So now Im faced with going into Nathans room. All alone. With absolutely no backup.

Mr. Keener waves me toward Nathans room. Okay, Ill do it. Im not afraid of that guy. In fact, after I shove his backpack at him, Im going to give him a piece of my mind.

Because nobody makes a fool out of Amy Nelson-Barak.

I walk with purpose to the second door on the right. The door is closed, so I have to knock. Looking back, I see Mr. Keener hasnt followed. I knock lightly at first with the hand not holding the backpack. No response. I knock a little harder.

After I get no response again, I think he might not be home after all. Which is a good thing, I think. I mean, I want to confront him and everything but Im not sure I want to do it on his turf. I know the advantage to warfare. On your own turf you have the upper hand.

I check the doorknob to see if its locked. Nope. I turn the knob and crack the door open so I can peek inside.

Nathans in the room, but hes listening to his iPod while banging a pencil against a binder, so he cant hear me.

Sure enough, as soon as I look at his face I catch two green eyes narrowing at me.

"I can see you," he says.

Damn. I open the door wide and walk in, watching as he takes the earphones out of his ears. "You left your backpack at Perk Me Up! I brought it as a goodwill gesture. "

The guy just shrugs. Thanks would have been nice. Nathan is in dire need of etiquette lessons.

As I drop his backpack, I scan the room. Its obviously the guest room. Old bookshelves line the side wall and a pullout bed is open and takes up most of the room. Nathan is leaning on the bed, against the back, just staring at me.

"Whos the girl?" I ask, picking up a picture of a cute blonde girl in a bikini with short hair and abs I cant even imagine having. "Your sister?"

Nathan pushes his glasses up his nose and says, "Its my girlfriend. "

Yeah, right. There is absolutely no way this is Nathans girlfriend. Id bet my dog on it.

"Whats her name?" I ask, curiosity getting the best of me.

"Bicky. "

Wait. What did he say? "Becky?" I ask. The other alternative is downright ludicrous. "Bicky," he says again. "Bicky!"

"Now youre acting Barbie all over again. "

"Was she born with that name or is it a nickname?" I ask, ignoring the insult.

Nathan slides off the bed and snatches the picture out of my hand. "Her name is Bicky. No nickname. Just Bicky. "

While he shoves the picture into his half-zippered suitcase, I say, "You accuse me of being so Barbie when youre the one whos deliberately spreading untrue rumors about me just so you could seem cool. "

"I did no such thing," he says. "And I definitely dont want to hang around with your friends, if thats what you mean. "

"You told Kyle I joined a dating service. For your information. . . and not that its any of your business, but I signed my dad up. "

Nathan shrugs, as if falsely tarnishing my reputation is no biggie.

"Why do you hate me so much?"

He rubs his hand on top of his shaggy, light brown hair that resembles the color of maple syrup, and sighs. "I dont hate you, Amy. I just hate people like you. "

"Same difference," I say, then storm out of the condo. When I stomp into my own place, my dad is sitting at the dining room table, still on the phone as he shuffles through some papers.

Men. I feel the taste for revenge. I head to the back office, where the computer is, and type in www. pjsn. com. It prompts me to type in my login name and password.

I have fifty-five new people who left messages on my dads profile and the two women I asked out for my dad responded. Wow. The human resources worker, Kelly, would love to do coffee, how about next week? and the lawyer, Wendy, says shes looking for an American guy so shes not interested.

Good. I didnt want a lawyer to be my stepmom anyway. Lawyers probably follow all the rules and regs in life. Thats not my style. I live inside the gray areas and love it.

I e-mail the human resources lady back and ask her to meet me (aka my dad) at Perk Me Up! tomorrow night at seven.

As I settle into the chair, I hear a crinkling sound from my back pocket. Oh my God. I cant believe I forgot with all the Nathan-and-my-dad commotion to open Avis letter. Is my forgetfulness a betrayal of our relationship?

Uncrinkling it, I sink back in my bed and open the envelope.

"Sorry, Avi. " He cant hear me, but maybe my conscience can.

As I unfold the letter, my heartbeat starts racing.

Amy,

You know Im not good with letters, but I promised to write so Im writing. Im assigned to a new army base, but I cant tell you where it is. Top secret stuff I can tell you that I shot a new gun today. I know you hate guns, but this one was cool. It shoots around corners. We run every day until I think my legs are going to fall off. Tomorrow my unit will be dropped off in the Negev in the middle of the night to see if we can navigate with nothing but the stars to guide us through the desert. I guess thats it. If I survive desert training Ill write you again. You know I miss you, dont you?

Avi

I hold the letter to my chest, concentrating on the last sentence. You

know I miss you, dont you? Avi isnt one of those sappy guys; hes guarded because he lost his brother in a bombing and hasnt let himself open up, be vulnerable, and grieve. And I know he doesnt want me to wait around for him while he spends his required three years in the Israeli military, so he doesnt write romantic and mushy letters.

I dont want a romantic and mushy guy, anyway. I want Avi. Oh, I know Im not going to even see him until the summer when I go back to Israel. Im not holding my breath that hell be waiting for me. Okay, I am. But Im not admitting it publicly.

Leaning over my nightstand, I open the drawer and pull out Avis silver chain link bracelet. He gave it to me after we started dating this past summer. I also pull out a picture of him. It was after our last official date, when he gave me Mutt and a sushi dinner. I snatched a photo with my dads camera right before our last goodbye.

I stare at the picture, him with his mocha eyes and thick head of dark hair to match. Not to mention his signature half-smile, which can make my heart stop. There is no way the girls in Israel are going to leave him alone; thats a given. It scares me and brings out my worst insecurities. Im not pretty enough, my boobs are too big, Im not skinny enough.

Ugh, I hate when I pick myself apart and focus on the negatives. Avi likes me for who I am. I know he does.

Kissing his picture would be the dorkiest thing. Id never do that. But I do clutch his picture to my chest and hug it. Its still dorky, but less so than actually kissing it.

"Amy, Im sorry but it was an important call. "

Great, now my dad is invading my personal space and witnessed me hugging a picture. The only thing keeping me from telling him how important knocking on a teenagers door is the revenge date Im setting him up on. "You know what your problem is?" I tell him.

"What. "

"You think work is more important than your personal life. "

He takes life way too seriously, but Im trying to help him loosen up and not be such a stiff. Its the work part that worries me. I swear hes gonna have a heart attack one of these days if he doesnt let up on the work hours.

He walks closer to my bed and I slip the picture of Avi and his letter under my pillow.

"I have responsibilities, Amy. Ones Ive committed to long ago. "

"Yeah, yeah," I say, sitting up. "Ive heard the spiel before. What now, the president of the United States needs you to act as his bodyguard?"

"The Secret Service does that. "

"Then whats so important?" I ask him.

"I have to go out of town. Thats what the call was about. It cant be postponed, not this time. "

Cool. So Ill get the condo all to myself? The possibilities are endless.

"When?" I say a little too eagerly.

"On Friday morning. Ill be back on Sunday. "

Two whole nights without parental figures! Brighter times are definitely ahead. "Can I use your car?"

"Only to go to your mothers house. Thats where youll be staying. I just got off the phone with her. You can have my car to drive to her place. "

Nope, not okay. "I am not staying with Mom and Marc. What would I do with Mutt? Besides, I think Marc is allergic to both of us. "

"Well put him in a kennel. "

I wish he were talking about Marc, but Im not that lucky. This time I stand up, ready for battle. "First of all, Mutt and I are a package deal. He is not going to a kennel. Period, end of story. "

Source: www.allfreenovel.com