"I wouldn't be called a daddy's girl, if that's what you mean," I say. "In fact, I'm not close to anyone in my family. My mom's kind of in her own world and Ron isn't exactly the best father. I don't even have a cousin who likes me. Well, Besides your brother, but he can't even speak English. If he did he probably wouldn't like me, either."
"You aren't exactly the funnest person around," Osnat says.
"Are you kidding? I have a lot to offer," I say. "For example, I can show you how to put on makeup so it won't look overdone and won't smear. I'm a whiz when it comes to hairstyles, I can even French braid hair. And I can beat most people I know in tennis. What have you got to offer?" I ask, putting my hands on my hips as I wait for an answer.
"I can ride a horse bareback and I'm really good at dancing. And I'm a great person once you get to know me," she says, absolutely certain she's won me over.
I can imagine riding a horse bareback isn't much different from riding in that Jeep on the rocks, but it does have merit.
"And I can tell you Avi has changed since he met you. He smiles now ...something rare since his brother died. I guess I don't mind you've gotten together since you make him happy."
We hug and I feel lucky to have a cousin who can ride bareback. And to be a friend, too.
The threat of taking something away makes us appreciate it more.
Two days later, all seven of us are back in the Jeep heading back to the moshav. I'm anxious to see Ron and tell him I want a fresh start.
We all enter Osnat's house and it seems like the whole neighborhood is crowded inside. And they all have their eyes glued to the television screen. I see my little curlyhead cousin Matan and Doda Yucky. I don't see Ron or Uncle Chime.
The mood is definitely somber.
"What's going on?" I ask. I can't understand the newscaster who is obviously covering a very important story.
The house erupts with Hebrew, everyone explaining to Osnat, Ofra, Avi, Doo-Doo, O'dead, and Moron what they're so upset about. Except I don't understand any of it.
"There's been a bombing," Avi explains to me after listening to the others. "In Tel Aviv."
"Where's my dad?" I ask in a panic. "Where's Ron?" I need him now more than ever.
Avi pulls me into an embrace. "Amy, it'll be fine."
Tears fill my eyes and I say again, this time directing the question to Doda Yucky, "Where is he?"
I don't get an answer and I feel bile rising to my throat. I pull back from Avi 'cause I want to throw up.
"Your aba drove to Tel Aviv with Chime to deliver some meat to some restaurants there," she explains.
"They're fine, right, Doda Yucky?" I say, crying fully now and not caring a bit.
Tears are running down her face, too. "I don't know. There's a lot of confusion. After one bombing, people ran to help ... a second bomber ..."
"Ohmygod," I say.
I may not know Ron well, but I definitely know if people were hurt, he would be one of the first to run and help. The second bomber ... I can't think about it.
"We don't know where they are," she says. "The cell phone isn't working."
Going into Osnat's room, I frantically rummage through my backpack. In one of my jean pockets I fish out the Jewish star Safta gave me. The diamonds are shining back at me, almost as if telling me I'm a Jew just like the rest of my family. We've survived thousands of years even though we've suffered through most of them, I remind myself.
Walking back into the main room, I put my hands over my face. I don't want anyone looking at me right now. I feel so helpless. How many people were injured or died today? I feel sick just thinking about it. I try to push the image of Ron's body lying in the street out of my mind. But what if he's dead and I wasn't there to help him? I need strength because I think I've lost all of mine. I put my hands down and my gaze rests on Avi.
I need him.
I need him so much I don't know what to do with myself.
"Avi," I say as I run into his chest and hold him tight. "Please don't leave me; I don't think I can handle this without you."
"I'm here," he assures me in a soft voice as he strokes my hair. "And I'm not leaving."
That's right, he lost his brother in a bombing. He must be rehashing the pain of his own loss. We can help each other through this.
Holding out the necklace to him I say, "Will you put this on me?"
We wait the longest hour of my life as Avi and I sit by Sofia in her room and avoid watching the news report. She tells me about her childhood in Israel and her experience when she first came to what she calls 'the holy land'. She's scared, I can tell. The loss of two sons would devastate her.
When the phone rings, I jump up and run to the kitchen.
Doda Yucky is on the phone, and she looks directly at me as she answers it.
My heart is racing.
"Amy," she says, and I lean against Avi for support as I'm preparing for bad news. "It's your mudder."
My mudder! I hurry to the phone and clutch it to my ear. "Mom!"
"Hi, sweetheart. I heard on the news there's been a bombing in Israel. I'm just calling to make sure you're okay. Jessica called and she's worried, too."
"I'm ...I'm okay," I say, barely able to make the words out through my sobs. "But ... I was traveling and Ron was in Tel Aviv ...and we haven't heard from him and I'm freaking out. I don't know what to do. We're waiting for a phone call but..."
"Oh, no. This is terrible, I never thought--"
"Mom, I got to get off the phone in case he calls."
"Okay, okay," she says in a panic. "I'll hang up. Call me back when you hear something ...anything. Okay? And you stay put. I need you to come back to me in one piece."
"I will, Mom," I say.
When I hang up, the phone rings again. I hand it to Osnat, who's as anxious and scared as I am.
"Ze aba!" she screams to the crowd after talking to the person on the other end of the line. "Hakol beseder!"
Avi picks me up and twirls me around. "They're okay!"
I can't believe it. I go into Sofia's room and tell her the good news. I learn from Doda Yucky that Uncle Chime and Ron had stayed at the bombing site to help the forty-plus wounded.
There's a lot of hugging and rejoicing even though we're all full of sorrow for the poor souls whose lives were lost today in the bombings. It's a strange thing to be happy and sad at the same time. I don't know how Israelis deal with it all the time.
Avi waits at the front entrance to the moshav with me, along with Mutt. The little guy is lying next to me, almost as if he's my protector.
"I can't believe what happened. This has been such a nightmare," I say. "I almost lost my father. Before I really even knew him." It's too scary to think about.
Avi says thoughtfully, "But you get a second chance."
I lean against him. "Yeah, I do. And from now on I'm going to make every second count."
"Me too," he says, and gives me one of his amazing kisses to prove it.
When the gate opens and I see headlights from a car, I stand up. The car stops and my daddy, whose shirt has blood splattered on it, hops out and pulls me into his arms.
"Are you okay?" I'm staring at his stained shirt.
"Don't worry, I'm fine."
"Aba," I say to him in Hebrew. "I love you so much."
"Oh, Amy, I love you, too."
I pull back and wipe my tears with the back of my hand. "I'm so sorry I didn't say it before. I know I've been treating you badly. I want you to be a big part of my life now. I want to be Jewish, too. And I want to learn Hebrew. Can you teach me?"
"Slow down, I cant catch up with you. I'm still basking in the 'I love you, Aba part." I see his eyes getting red and watery. "I never want you thinking I didn't fight to be with you, sweetheart. I screwed up real bad in so many ways."
He wipes a tear streaming down his face and I'm dumbfounded.
"I was hoping this trip to Israel would change everything. I don't want to lose you to Marc. You're my daughter, not his," he says as he embraces me.
He's crying like a baby. So am I.
"I thought I lost you," I say as we walk back to the house, letting Uncle Chime drive back all by himself.
Avi has left us alone, too, giving me and my dad privacy.
"I lost you a long time ago, daughter. I'm glad we've finally found each other."
"Do you think you could find room in your apartment for me?"
"You mean it? I'd love for you to move in with me. For a year. For weekends. Forever. I'll take whatever you want to give."
"If you're not too busy with the Director of Homeland Security, that is."
He chuckles and puts his arm around my shoulder. "I always have room in my house for my number one girl and don't you ever forget it."
"You sure you don't have a girlfriend?" I ask.
"Not anyone important enough to bring home to my daughter."
"I think you need someone ... to take the edge off of you."
"And who should I thank for taking my daughter's edge away? Or maybe I don't want to know."
"He's been a perfect gentleman."
"Can you see me with a guy named after feces?"
"His real name is David."
"Doo-Doo is a nickname for David."
Stupid nickname if you ask me. "It's Avi."
Ron's face is serious now. "He's eighteen years old, Amy. And he lost his brudder ..."
"I know all that. We've helped each other during our trip and I... I love him."
My dad's jaw tightens and the muscle in the side of it starts to twitch.
"It's not like that. He respects me and I respect him. Maybe too much."
"I have to get used to having a teenage daughter," he says.
I look at him straight in the eye. "No. You have to get used to me."
You don't even know what you want until it's put in your lap.
Well, it's the day before I have to leave for Chicago. Avi and I are going on an double date with Osnat and O'dead.
I glance at my cousin, who looks great now that I've shown her how to put on makeup so she doesn't look like a dartboard.
She's watching me pick out clothes to wear. I can tell by the way she's staring longingly at my Ralph Lauren sundress that she likes it.
"I don't like this dress," I say. "You want it?"
Her eyes light up. "Really?"
"Absolutely. It makes my butt look big," I say, and toss it to her.
I end up wearing a short, slinky, navy skirt and white top with frilly sleeves. It's the first time I've dressed this nice since I've been in Israel. I hope Avi likes it--all he's seen me in is jeans and shorts.
When I hear Avi's voice in the hallway, my whole body is filled with anticipation and I can't stand it.
Mitch is really going to be pissed when he realizes I've fallen for another guy, but it would be impossible to ignore the excitement I feel when I even think about Avi.
Just as I'm about to walk out the bedroom door, my aba walks in the room. He sits on my bed and does a double-take. "You're beautiful," he says. "Like your mother. It scares me."