"Target practice," Avi says.
I hope their aim is accurate.
In less than two months Avi will be a soldier, too, learning to shoot a gun. And he's less than two years older than me.
It's the strangest thing. I'm actually getting used to seeing soldiers all around and guns and tanks daily ... it boggles my mind how different life is here.
We stop off at a little store to get Cokes (thank the mighty lord) and snacks.
I watch through the store window as Avi goes out to the parking lot alone. I pay for my Kit Kat with the few shekels Snotty gave me and head after him.
"Okay, let's have it out," I say.
He turns to me as if surprised I'm cornering him. "What do you mean?"
"Duh! Why did you say back in the kayak you kissed me because I needed it? If that wasn't the biggest copout, I don't know what is."
"What's a copout?"
I roll my eyes. "You know, taking the easy way out instead of admitting you liked kissing me. Admit it, Avi."
"I told your aba I would take care of you on this trip and nothing would happen to you."
"Yeah, well you can throw that promise out the window."
"I'm sorry if I led you on, but it's not going to happen between us."
I'm tired of arguing. Instead, to prove my point I reach out and grab the back of his head and pull him toward me. Instantly, our lips touch and it's like I'm in that kayak with him once again. I close my eyes and wrap both arms around his neck, glad when his arms go around my waist and he pulls me closer. I don't care who's watching, I wouldn't change this for the world.
But suddenly he drops his hands from my waist and pulls away. Then I watch in horror as he swipes his mouth with the back of his hand, as if he wants to erase the kiss off his lips.
"I can't do this, Amy. Don't make it hard for me."
Tears are welling in my eyes and I'm not even trying to stop them or wipe them.
"Don't cry," he says, reaching out to wipe a tear streaming down my cheek. "You're a great girl--"
"Don't say that just to try and make me feel better. In fact, don't say anything to me. I get it, loud and clear."
I start to walk away from him and head to the minibus.
"Amy, let me explain," he says, catching me on my arm.
I stand there, waiting for words I'm not sure I want to hear. I look up at his face and for the first time I see something I've never seen before from him. Sorrow. It is so prevalent it makes me scared.
He squeezes his eyes shut for a second, as if the words coming out of his mouth will cause him pain just by saying them.
"My brother Micha died last year in a bombing."
He looks at me for my reaction, but I'm too stunned to say anything. Instead, I hug Avi tight, wishing I could take some of the pain away from him even though I know in my heart I can't.
"I'm so sorry," I whisper into his chest.
We stay that way for a long time. When he pulls back, I notice his eyes are bloodshot. He covers them with the palms of his hands.
"I hate being emotional," he says.
"I'm probably one of the most emotional people I know," I admit.
He gives me one of his rare smiles, then his expression turns serious.
"I like you, Amy. Probably more than I want to admit, even to myself. But I don't want to get serious with anyone right now. I have a nephew without a father and a sister-in-law who just sits at home grieving her dead husband. I'm going into the army next month. If something happens--"
"If I promise not to grieve for you if you die, will that make you feel better?" I say.
He shakes his head. "It's not funny, Amy. I'm going to be trained as a commando."
"Listen, I'm just talking about a summer fling, not some lifetime love affair." I'm not even thinking about Mitch right now. And I have a feeling Mitch isn't thinking about me, either. Avi and I have a connection I can't ignore.
"You're too emotional not to get involved. You could never have a summer fling. Not the way it's been between us, at least."
"Then what about we end it when this little adventure trip is over. If you want to be a coward for the rest of your life, go ahead. But if you want to have a great time with a kickass girl, you're going to have to face your fears." I want to say please, please, please, but I don't. Listen, a girl's got to have a little dignity left if she's rejected by the guy she likes.
"Who's the kickass girl?" he asks, pretending to look around for one.
Playfully I punch him in the stomach.
Nothing more is said about our non-relationship, but he kisses me and says, "You ready for this?"
I wink at him and say playfully, "Absolutely."
When he grabs my hand and leads me toward the rest of the gang, I'm not surprised their eyes are wide with shock. Listen, if I were in their shoes I'd think the world spun on its axis a bit too fast to see me and Avi trying out an actual relationship. Even if it's only a non-committed, short fling.
The only thing nagging me in the back of my head is . .. what are the sleeping arrangements going to be like tonight?
Avi is eighteen, and way more experienced than me.
Will he expect more than I'm willing to give?
Doing the wrong thing sometimes feels so right.
Moron drives us to a hotel. To be honest, I don't know how he found the place. It's in the middle of the desert with nothing else for miles around, or at least that's what it seems like.
The whole ride to Beersheva, Avi and I were really close, almost as if an invisible wall has been lifted between us. I rest comfortably in his arms and even sleep on his lap during the ride. And you know what? He strokes my hair, as if he treasures it. It feels sooooo good, almost too good because I'm getting these tingling sensations all over my body from just thinking about him kissing me again.
But as we arrive at the hotel and head to the front desk in the lobby, I'm getting a bit nervous. Sleeping next to
O'dead was safe and uneventful. To be fair, we never actually slept together because of my fake snoring.
I look over at Avi. I know I couldn't pass the fake snoring past him; he knows when I'm faking. Besides, I wouldn't even want to be fake with him.
But I'm nervous as to what he expects from me. I don't want to be one of those girls who gets in trouble with a guy and then says, "Yes, I slept in the same bed with him, but I didn't expect it to get out of hand ..." I'm always thinking, You shouldn't have slept in the same bed with him in the first place, dummy.
"What are the sleeping arrangements?" I ask Ofra.
"Who do you want to sleep with?" she asks with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Snotty dangles three keys in our faces and says, "The girls are sleeping with the girls and the guys with the guys."
I'm relieved the guys and girls are going to be sleeping in separate rooms. Somehow I have the feeling things could get out of hand with me and Avi. Our relationship is so explosive in other ways I'm sure it will be that way if we're alone together.
We settle ourselves into our rooms, take a short siesta, and head to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner in the evening.
After dinner, I make it my business to sit next to O'dead as we all sit in the lobby of the hotel.
"O'dead, will you help me with something?" I ask.
He shrugs. "Sure."
I give O'snot a wink and lead him to my hotel room. It's the one I'm sharing with Ofra and O'snot. When we get in the room I motion to the bed and say, "Sit down."
He shuffles his feet uncomfortably. "Amy, I'm not interested in you like that."
I lean against the wall. "Is there someone you are interested in? Like O'snot?"
His mouth goes wide. "How did you know?"
I roll my eyes. "It's obvious. And you need a little kick in the butt to make it happen between the two of you."
A knock on the door interrupts us. When I open it, it's Avi. And he's not looking too happy.
"What's going on here?" Avi asks.
I put my arm around Avi and kiss him on the lips to calm him down. "Are you jealous?"
He just stares into my eyes without saying anything.
"I'm trying to fix up O'dead and O'snot," I explain.
Avi's eyes dart from me to O'dead, whose nod confirms what I just said.
I say to O'dead, "O'snot wants to know how you feel, so go to her and spill your guts." When his eyebrows are furrowed I realize my slang English has confused him. "Go tell her how you feel. Now, before she finds some other guy."
He leaves the room quicker than I've ever seen him move before.
"What?" I ask.
"You did a very nice thing, Amy. Totally selfless."
I turn away from him. "No I didn't. I was just getting sick and tired of watching him look at her like he'd die if she didn't pay attention to him." God forbid I should be seen as soft.
He comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist.
"You want to go for a walk?"
He holds my hand as we exit the hotel and aimlessly trek down a gravel path. I get a sweet fluttering feeling in my heart just by being close to Avi.
"Tell me more about your brother."
Avi's pace slows and he takes a deep breath. "I don't talk about him much."
He hesitates before saying, "It hurts. Like deep inside here." He points to his heart. "I know, it's not very cool."
I squeeze his hand. "No, it is cool. I mean, it shows you loved him. But you have to talk about it. If you don't, part of your brother's spirit dies along with him."
He stops and thinks about this for a minute. Then he nods his head slowly. "He loved playing soccer. He was way better than me, but he let me win most of the time to boost my ego."
"Sounds like a cool brother to me. You're lucky."
"Yeah." He shakes his head and sighs. "I wish it was me who died instead."
"Is that why you're Mr. Angry all the time?"
"I don't know," he says. "I guess so."
"You can't change the past, Avi. Believe me, I've tried. But it doesn't work."
"This conversation is deep."
I laugh. "You're right."
"Let's talk about something else. Like how much you like me."
I want to say I am totally into you, but instead blurt out, "Ofra says you've dated a lot of girls. Is it true?"
This feeling in my heart scares me and maybe I want to push him away subconsciously. If I hear about his other girlfriends, it will be easier to protect myself because I'll distance myself emotionally from him.
"I've dated," he answers. "But not for a while. I was afraid in the kayak I'd be a bad kisser, it's been so long."
"Your kissing was just fine," I say. More than fine. We start climbing a rocky hill next to the hotel. "I want to know more about you," I say as he helps me reach a large rock that sits high on the hill.
Avi sits down overlooking the dark desert on one side and lights twinkling like diamonds from a town in the distance on the other. It's a very romantic setting and I wonder if Avi's taken other girls here. He guides me down and I sit in front of him, between his outstretched legs.
"What do you want to know?" he asks.
A lot, to be honest. But I say the most common question a girl asks a guy, hating I can't come up with something original or something sounding more mature.