"Would you rather I was butt-ugly?"
His mouth curves into a twisted smile. "Maybe."
"You want me to cancel my date to make you feel better?" I ask seriously.
He looks up. "No, of course not."
"Good. 'Cause I wasn't going to."
"Amy ..." he says in a warning tone.
"Get a grip, Dad. I'm not going to do anything you wouldn't do at my age."
He stands up and says, "That's it. You're canceling this date."
Osnat walks out of the room and comes back with her mom. Doda Yucky says something to Dad in Hebrew. He sits back down, obviously defeated, and then Doda Yucky leads me out to the foyer.
Avi takes one look at me, smiles, and his hand goes to his heart. "Wow."
Then he takes my hand, squeezes it, and leads me to his car. Osnat and O'dead are already waiting in the back seat.
"Where are we going?" I ask.
"The disco," he answers.
The disco place? I don't really have visions of spending my last night in Israel in a loud, crowded, smoky bar. But I keep my opinions to myself. He's trying, even if my heart is a little deflated at the moment.
When we reach the place, I notice the line is longer than the last time we were here. Great, now I'm going to spend the better part of this evening in a line. What a bummer.
Avi drives up to the front of the club. Osnat and O'dead get out, and I open my car door.
"Where are you going?" Avi asks.
"Uh, to wait in line like the rest of the people who want to go in," I say sarcastically.
"I'm taking you somewhere else."
I furrow my eyebrows. "You said we were going to 'the disco.' I specifically heard you say the word 'disco'."
He says, "We are. But only to drop Osnat and O'dead off."
When Avi winks at me, I settle back in the car and close the door. I really do have butterflies in my stomach, because now I'm alone with him. I've never felt like this about anyone else in my life.
He holds my hand as we drive away from the club and head up a winding dirt road that probably hasn't been traveled in centuries.
He stops the car, turns to me, and shows me a handkerchief.
"Is my nose running?" I ask. I mean, is that a hint or what?
"It's to blindfold you, Amy. Close your eyes."
I close them, lean into him and feel him tie the blindfold around my head while he brushes a gentle kiss across my lips. After he helps me out of the car, he leads me somewhere.
This is exciting, he's exciting. I can't wait for all the surprises he's planned for me.
He takes the blindfold off. "Open your eyes."
I blink a few times before I can focus in the dark.
Candles. Lots of them. Two pillows. And between the pillows is an empty plate.
I follow his instructions.
"Okay, wait here." He sounds nervous, which is so cute. Usually he's so calm and cool.
I take in my surroundings. We're in the middle of nowhere, on some barren, deserted land with crickets serenading us. I sit down on one of the pillows and wait. Avi comes back with a Styrofoam carton.
He hesitates before opening it. "Are you hungry?"
One of his eyebrows raises. "You tell me. I have food here but if you're hungry for something else--"
"Food's great," I say, interrupting him.
He gives me one of his awesome smiles, sits down next to me, and opens the carton. When I see what's in there, I get so choked up I have to swallow a lump in my throat.
"You bought me sushi! My very favorite food in the whole world. How did you know?"
The sushi rolls are like little, round happy faces smiling at me.
He hands me a set of chopsticks. "Ron told me."
"I've been going through sushi withdrawal these past few months," I explain. "Do you know what quitting cold turkey like that will do to a person?"
He's looking at me like I'm nuts. But I don't care.
"Want some?" I ask, my mouth already full with a spicy tuna roll. I'm moaning in pleasure as I eat the sweet, tangy roll, the sound coming from my throat automatically.
Avi admits he's never eaten sushi, so I coach him. We share the meal, Avi tentatively trying small bites while I'm shoving the stuff very unlady-like into my mouth. I'll have to remember to tell Jessica Israelis make great sushi.
When we finish the meal, Avi stands up. "I have another surprise for you."
"What is it?" I ask, totally excited. So far this evening is absolutely perfect.
"Shoot, I forgot something." He goes off and comes back with a small bouquet of flowers.
Okay, I'm not trying to be bitchy here. But Safta got a whole flower shop from my grandfather. And what does Avi expect me to do with flowers when I'm going on a twelve-hour flight tomorrow? I try not to show my disappointment as he places them in front of me, so I smile as sweetly as I can.
"You don't like the flowers?"
"I do," I say.
He takes a red rose out of the bouquet and breaks off part of the stem. Then he kneels next to me and places the rose in my hair. "I wanted to get you something to remember me by, but I didn't know what you'd like."
"So you got me flowers. That's nice."
He chuckles. "The flowers were from my mom. She's old-fashioned. To be honest, she bought them for me to give to you."
This is not the romantic guy I thought he was. "The sushi was great," I say. "But you're losing brownie points fast, buddy."
"Wait here," he says. "I have one last surprise." When he comes back and I see what he's holding, I can't believe it.
Avi is holding Mutt. The puppy has a blue ribbon around his neck. And he's beautiful. "You washed him," I say, tears streaming down my cheeks.
"He's officially yours now," he says, and places Mutt in my lap. "I've arranged for you to take him back to the States."
I can't believe how fluffy and soft he is now that he's clean.
"Can I really take him home?"
"Yep. He'll probably have to go through a quarantine period, but--"
I smother his words with my lips, because this is the most perfect night of my life.
We spend the rest of the evening talking, making out, fooling around, and playing with Mutt. Right before we pack up the pillows and candles, I know we have to have The Talk.
"So ... I guess our summer fling is over," I blurt out, fingering his bracelet still on my wrist. I undo the clasp and hold it out to him.
Avi leans forward, resting his elbows on his bent knees. "Keep it. So you won't forget me."
As if. "I'll never forget you. And I realize I am a spoiled American bitch."
"Amy, I'm sorry I ever said that..."
"No," I say. "I'm spoiled because I want us to keep in touch and maybe one day, after you finish the army, we could, you know, get together again."
"It's a long way off," he says. "What if you're dating some-one?
"What if you are?" I counter.
"You've taught me so much about myself."
He smoothes the stray hair in my face and tucks it behind my ear, his fingertips lingering on my earlobe. When his fingers trail down to the Jewish star still around my neck he says, "You really are a gift from God, Amy."
"No, you are."
When he leans down to kiss me for the last time, I know for a fact somewhere, sometime, someplace, I'll be kissing Avi again.
And next time, it might just be on the top of Mount Masada.
The end of one thing is just the beginning of another.
I'm back home in Chicago. Yep, Dad and I actually made the long plane ride back.
I was kind of nervous to tell Mitch about Avi, but when Jessica spilled the beans and told me she and Mitch kind of got together after their Ravinia night, I felt a lot better. Of course I made them both sweat it out for a couple of hours. Then I spilled my own beans and told them about Avi.
My Israeli non-boyfriend is in the army now, training to be a kickass commando. He writes when he can, which is about once a week. I realize from his letters O'dead's name is spelled Oded and Moron is actually spelled Moran (thank goodness for them). Doo-Doo still goes by his nickname, but I hope to change that next summer.
Avi never told me he loved me, but he doesn't have to say it. I know he's worried about me worrying about him and he loves me. He has a hard time saying it out loud. I'm okay with that, for now.
My dad and I are going to spend my summer break in Israel next year. This time, I'm planning a two-week-long camping trip throughout the country. I can teach Dad a few things this time, like when to duck when an alpaca starts to make gurgling noises. Avi will be able to take two weeks off then; I can't wait to see him. Safta is doing okay--she starts her next set of chemo treatments next month. I'm sending her a care package today.
The wedding between my mom and Marc with a "c" was okay. Marc and I had a talk before the wedding. I told him he could be a friend to me, but I already have a father. He took the news better than I expected. Ron was at the wedding; he was a great dance partner for me.
I've been living at my dad's apartment until Marc and Mom's new house in the 'burbs (which they decided to build from scratch) is ready, which will be months from now. While I'm here, I have a lot of work to do ...like teaching Ron how to dress to impress a woman. He's not there yet, but he's on his way to becoming a retired bachelor. All I have to do is find the right woman for him. In the meantime, he's teaching me Hebrew and swears to his friends I'm a natural when it comes to herding sheep.
Me and my religion? Well, I'm taking conversion classes with Rabbi Glassman over at Bait Chaverim (which for you non-Hebrew speakers means House of Friends). Mom was shocked when I told her I'm becoming Jewish. I've made her promise to make sure there are no pork or shellfish products in the food she makes for me. Keeping kosher is part of who I am now.
Yes, that's Mutt. And yes, my dog has a speech impediment. I can't help but love the little bugger. He eats most of Mom's shoes, but knows to leave mine alone. He also thinks he's a lap dog although he's going to be about ninety pounds when he's full grown. We've been through a lot together and he's teaching me to love animals.
My name is Amy Nelson Barak and I went to Israel for my summer vacation. I learned about my family, my heritage, a beautiful land full of rich history, and love. Wouldn't you know, my ruined summer vacation turned out to be the best three months of my life.