"Now theyre too close to your chin. " Jess lets out a frustrated sigh. "I wish I had your boobs. Guys love your boobs. "
"They droop," I say, my hands letting go of them. "How can they not, they weigh what. . . five pounds each?"
Ill have you know Ive never weighed my boobs. And Im sure they dont weigh more than two pounds each. I turn to my best friend. "Jess, you have perfect, perky boobs. "
"Otherwise known as virtually non-existent," Jess says. "They only look perfect because I bought this Fantasy Bra last week. " She pulls up her shirt to show me a padded pushup bra thats more padded than my moms down winter coat. "I need this in order to look like I have something. "
The door to Jessicas room flies open. Its her twelve-year-old annoying and testosterone-charged brother Ben. His eyes go wide at the sight of us in our bras. I screech and hold my hands out to cover my chest.
"Get out, you little creep!" Jess yells, pulling her shirt back down.
"Are you guys comparing boobies?" Ben says while laughing. "Amy, are those real?"
Jessica and I both grab pillows off her bed and fling them at the door while Ben slams it shut. "By the way, dinners ready," he says, still laughing.
When we enter the dining room a few minutes later, Jess flicks her brother hard on the back of the head before sitting down.
"If you dont knock next time, Im going to take a picture of you while youre in the shower and e-mail it to your entire school. "
"Thats enough," Mr. Katz says, putting on his kippah and motioning for Ben to put his on, too.
In the kitchen, Jess and I help place soup bowls filled with matzoh ball soup on the table.
Mrs. Katz sets up two Shabbat candlesticks with candles in them and takes matches out of a decanter on the credenza. "Amy, would you like to do the honors?"
Me? I usually watch while Jessica or her mom lights the candles and does the Hebrew prayer. "Are you sure?"
The entire room is silent as I clear my throat. Striking the match, I light both candles. When theyre lit, I cover my eyes with my palms and say, "Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech haolam, asher kidshanu bmitzvotav vtzivanu lhadlik ner shel Shabbat. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has made us holy through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath light. "
I take my seat at the table, abandoning the candles in the corner, when Mrs. Katz says, "Amy, did you make a wish?"
"Yes, over the candles. Its our custom to do the prayer, then make a silent wish to God. Or a thank-you to God. . . whatever your heart feels like saying. "
Standing up and walking back to the bright yellow burning candles, I cover my eyes again and think about what I want to say.
"Ask God for Ben to accidentally have his orthodontist wire his mouth shut," Jess says.
"Ask for Jess to grow boobs," Bens voice chimes in.
Ignoring both of them, I say to God, Please take care of my Sofia in Israel. She has cancer and needs your help. And also, thanks for giving me this family to have dinner with tonight so Im not alone.
I look up, expecting everyone to be staring at me and to ask me what I wished for. But theyre not; they respect my private Shabbat wish and thanks to God. I love Jessica and her family. Even Ben.
"I saw Amys boobies upstairs," Ben says, then wags his eyebrows up and down at me.
Okay, maybe not Ben.
Mrs. Katz slams her hand on the table. "Can I please have a respectful Shabbat?"
"Listen to your mother," Mr. Katz says. He stands while picking up the silver Shabbat wine cup and pours the red wine until its almost overflowing. "Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech haolam, boray pri ha-gafen. Amen. "
After he takes a sip from the cup, he passes it around for everyone else to take a sip. Ben puts on a big show of gulping down the wine, but then he coughs so it splatters across the white tablecloth.
Jess rolls her eyes, takes a sip, and passes the cup to me. Im not a wine drinker, but this wine is so sweet its like drinking sugary childrens cough syrup.
Ben lifts the embroidered cloth cover off of the challah, the Shabbat bread which is expertly braided at the kosher bakery down the street. "Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech haolam, ha-motze lechem min haaretz," he says, then makes a big show of singing, "Aaa, aaah, maaaaaaiiiiinnn. "
Jess and I mumble, "Amen. "
Ben tears a chunk of the challah off and tosses everyone a small piece from the chunk. I think he tried tossing it into my cleavage, but Im not sure. And when it comes to tossing a piece to Jess, he whips it at her. I think the kid needs to go to therapy, or at least be locked up until he turns eighteen.
"How is the conversion class going, Amy?" Mr. Katz asks me as he takes a spoonful of matzoh ball soup.
"Good. Rabbi Glassman is really nice. "
Mrs. Katz puts her hand over her husbands. "He married us, you know. Twenty-two years ago. "
I wonder if Rabbi Glassman will officiate my wedding one day. Even though hes not Orthodox, he wont officiate a marriage between a Jewish person and a non-Jew.
Hes kind of strict about that, even refused to marry his own sister because she married a Christian guy. I want to marry someone Jewish because I think it will head off lots of arguments. Its important that my kids are Jewish; its important that my family doesnt eat pork or shellfish. . . or mix meat and milk products.
"Are you going to the youth group meeting tomorrow?" Mrs. Katz asks.
Jessica nods her head and says, "Are you coming, Amy?"
"I wasnt planning on it. "
"You should go. Its fun. "
After dinner, Jess and I convince her parents to let us go back to my place to crash. We spend the rest of the evening Ben-less, talking about boys and bras and books until were tired. Then we take out ice cream from the freezer and watch movies on TV until I convince Jessica to call Mitch.
He isnt answering his cell, so she tries his house. Unfortunately, she gets reamed out by Mitchs dad for calling past eleven oclock. He doesnt even tell her if Mitch is home or not.
What do two parentless teenagers do at eleven at night? I have a brilliant idea. "Lets call my cousin in Israel. Its eight hours ahead there. "
Before Jess can tell me its a horrible idea, I start dialing the gazillion digits to get access to the Israeli phone system. "Allo?" my Doda Yucky answers.
"Doda Yucky, its Amy," I yell into the receiver.
"Ah, Amyleh. Mah nishmah?" The woman thinks Im fluent in Hebrew, but really my dad told me mah nishmah means "how is everything?" Its a staple phrase for Israelis.
"Great. Is Osnat there?"
"Shes right here. Give your aba my love, tov?"
"Amy?" Osnat asks.
"Yeah, its your American cousin. Remember me?"
"How could I forget. Our sheep still has a Mohawk from when you shaved it. "
Ha, ha. Very funny. Okay, so my sheep-shearing skills are definitely lacking, but I did make a valiant effort. "Mah nishmah?" I ask her.
"Ah, evreet shelach mitzuyan. "
"Okay, cut the Hebrew. You know I have no clue what youre saying. Hows Avi?"
"Looking hot. "
"Youve seen him?"
"Yeah. Why, hasnt he called you since his basic training was over?"
No. "Im sure he was busy. " He wrote that hed be in basic training for another week. I wonder what hes doing back home. Even more, I wonder why he hasnt called. You know what they say: if theyre not into you, they dont call. If theyre into you, theyll find the time.
My stomach muscles clench up, but I continue talking to Osnat and then talk to Sofia, my grandmother, who tells me the doctors think her tumor shrunk since her last set of chemo treatments. She insists shes doing fine, but her voice is weaker than I remember. I promise to call next week and she promises shell stay healthy and strong until I come to Israel for summer break. r />
Jess is thumbing through my CD collection, looking more depressed than I am. I come up with an idea. "Try texting Mitch. "
"I tried before. He ignored it. "
I grab her phone and start texting.
Jess sits on the bed next to me. "What are you doing?"
"Getting your boyfriends attention," I tell her. Mitch is obsessed with his cell phone. Hell for sure have it with him. If hes ignoring Jess on purpose, Ill kill him.
Me: Mitch, its Amy. Jess is XOXOing another dude
Me: Just kidding. Where R U?
Mitch: At a movie w/friends. Cant talk.
Me: Call your gf tomorrow. Or else.
Mitch: U dont scare me, Amy.
Me: Y not?
Mitch: Bark worse than bite.
Me: I dont bite.
Mitch: I dated U. U bite.
I turn off the phone and look up at Jess. "He said hell call you tomorrow. "
"Really?" she asks, looking hopeful. "Where is he?"
"At a movie with friends. "
"I talked to him earlier. He didnt say anything about a movie. Since when cant I go with him and his friends to a movie?"
I shrug. I cant figure out my own boyfriend. How am I supposed to figure out hers?
I lie in bed later thinking about all the promises I forgot to get from Avi. Maybe Im delirious thinking hes waiting for me to come back to Israel. If hes not thinking of me, why am I so obsessed with him?
"When a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be unclean seven days. . . If she bears a female, she shall be unclean two weeks. " (Leviticus 12:2-5) Umm. . . does this mean boys are viewed as cleaner than females? Has God seen the boys restroom at Chicago Academy lately?
"Do you know if its a boy or girl?"
Its Sunday and Im in the burbs with my mom. Were sitting in her car, heading to a maternity-clothes shop. She looked so excited about this little excursion; I couldnt say no.
My mom rubs the bump in her stomach, like a prego person in the movies would. "We want it to be a surprise. "
"What if its twins?" I ask her.
When she smiles at me, the corners of her light blue eyes crinkle. Isnt she too old to have a baby? "There was only one heartbeat. No twins. "
The baby is due in six months and already my moms stomach looks like a small bowling ball. I cant believe I havent noticed it before. Maybe shes been trying to hide it with those ponchos shes overly fond of lately.
When we drive up to a place called Modern Maternity I feel stupid. Im seventeen years old. I could seriously be a mother myself.
"Marc and I both want you to be involved in this pregnancy," she says. "Its important to us. "
My moms not Jewish, but she definitely has the Jewish guilt thing down pat.
I put on a huge, toothy smile. Im probably overdoing it, but the reality is I want my mom to be happy. "Im so happy for you," I gush. "And I want to be a part of this new family, too!"
"Amy, Im your mom. I can see right through you. "
Were still sitting in the car. I watch her face turn from elation to unhappiness in a matter of seconds. Oh, no. I gotta talk to her before she starts crying. "Mom, I am happy for you and Marc. Its just weird for me. First the wedding, now the baby. I just need time to get used to it, okay?"