Avi holds his hands up as if he did nothing wrong. "Are you kidding me? You tried to tackle me." He takes a look at me and Nathan, then at Jessica. "Wait, why are you all dressed like burglars?"
"We're kidnappers, not burglars," Jessica corrects him.
"Who're you going to kidnap?"
I stand up and whip out the handcuffs. "You."
Avi looks down at the cuffs dangling from my fingers. "They're plastic."
And cost me a dollar ninety-nine. "Yep. Now turn around and put your hands behind your back so I can complete this mission."
Avi turns to Tarik. "I guess we're not hanging out tonight."
Tarik is smiling wide. "This is better than reality television, man. I'd do what the girl wants."
Following my instructions, Avi places his hands behind his back and I secure the handcuffs to his wrists.
Just as I'm ready to escort him to the car, flashing lights and campus security cars screech beside the sidewalk. Security personnel come running at us from all directions. There's no escape.
"Which one of you is Amy?" a big guy who I swear could double as a WWE wrestler asks.
"Listen," Avi says to the guy, stepping between me and the security guard. "I'm responsible for this whole thing."
"Are you Amy?"
I think Avi is sizing up the guy, seeing if he could take him and his attitude on while handcuffed. My Israeli knight in shining armor.
"I'm Amy," I tell the guy while slowly raising my hand and peeking my head around Avi.
"Amy, I can handle this," Avi says.
"I can, too," I tell him. "Besides, you're handcuffed. I wouldn't be arguing while handcuffed."
Avi gives a short laugh. "Do you ever think there's consequences to your actions?"
The security guy clears his throat, getting our attention. "Are you done with your private conversation?" Shaking his head, he points at Nathan on the ground, looking like a wounded puppy. "Are you hurt?"
"Yes. And my ego is, too," Nathan responds.
The big guy surveys the situation. "We have a hazing policy on campus," he says. "I warn you; for breaking the policy you not only get stripped of your Greek affiliation, you get kicked out of the university."
"Lucky we're not students here, then," Nathan says groggily.
"Is there a reason this guy is in handcuffs?" the big guy asks, eyeing Avi and getting more annoyed by the second.
Letting out a breath I say, "Okay, here's the truth." I point to Avi. "This is my boyfriend...well, sort of. And he came to visit me but when he found out I kissed him..." I point to Nathan, "he left and stayed with him..." I point to Tarik. "My best friend is here for stakeout purposes and moral support," I say as I point to Jessica (who has taken off her hat), "and I have another friend in the getaway car over there," I say, pointing to the car.
By this time a large crowd has gathered around us and I think a photographer from the campus newspaper just took a picture of us. When my parents find out about this, I'm probably going to be grounded for life.
"Let me get this straight. This guy in handcuffs is your sort-of boyfriend. And you kissed that guy bleeding on the ground over there."
"And none of you are students at Northwestern?"
I nod enthusiastically and say, "You got it." No need to needlessly involve the innocent bystander, Tarik.
The security guys look over at Nathan. "Sir, would you like to press charges against anyone here for assaulting you?"
Nathan looks at Avi and says, "I don't think so."
"Does anyone here want to press charges?"
We're all silent.
He walks over to Avi. "Sir, turn around so I can release you from those handcuffs."
"Um...I'd like to keep them on," Avi says.
The security guard puts his fingers to his temples and starts rubbing as if he's got a migraine. "Well, then, whoever is not a student at this school should leave University property as soon as you get this all straightened out." I hear the guy mumbling about crazy teenagers as he walks away and tries to disperse the gaping crowd.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot Miranda stumbling out of my car to join us. But I'm not really focused on her; I'm concentrating on Avi...his eyes piercing mine as we stand by the Northwestern dorm with people watching and Nathan bleeding and Tarik all confused and Jess primping and Miranda trying to look innocent.
Avi's hands are pinned behind his back, still bound by the toy handcuffs. "What now?" he asks me. I've missed his deep, sexy voice.
I lick my lips nervously. "Well, the plan was to kidnap you."
"It was Amy's scatterbrained plan," Nathan chimes in while working his jaw back and forth. "I had nothing to do with it."
"Me, either," Miranda says, standing behind Nathan for protection.
I roll my eyes. My accomplices are such weak sauce.
Jessica, who is now fluffing her hair up, says to Tarik, "I suppose you're Tarik."
He holds out a hand to her. "And you're?"
"Amy's best friend Jessica. But everyone calls me Jess. And that's Nathan and Miranda."
Tarik looks at me, his eyes smiling but his words serious. "What are you planning on doing with him?"
"Do you care?" I ask.
Tarik shrugs. "I might. Then again, I might not."
"Whatever you're going to do," Avi says, "do it. If you haven't realized it, I'm standing handcuffed in the middle of the school campus and people are staring."
Tarik jangles keys from his fingers. "Amy, why don't I take your friends back home while you two work out...whatever you need to work out."
"Really?" I say, giving him my best impression of a thankful puppy dog.
"But if he ends up floating in Lake Michigan tomorrow, I'm not covering for you."
Leaning forward, I kiss Tarik on the cheek and whisper in his ear, "You're a good friend."
After saying my thank-yous to my accomplices and assuring them they'll be well taken care of by Tarik, I grasp Avi's elbow like a police officer would and lead him to the car.
When we reach the car, I open the door for him and gesture toward the seat.
"Aren't you going to take the cuffs off before I get in?"
Does it mean freedom from persecution?
Freedom to do whatever you want?
Or is freedom a state of mind?
Maybe it's all of those mixed together.
"You don't trust me?"
I give a short laugh. "I didn't cause that whole scene just to let you go free. Get in."
He bends his head, his hands still bound behind his back, and sits in the passenger seat. He's forced to situate himself so he's not leaning against the uncomfortable cuffs, which makes me want to unshackle him, but what if he decides to leave me after I free him? No, I need him to hear me out, no matter what.
I have to lean over him to put his seatbelt on. He can't do it himself while his hands are bound behind his back. I can feel his breath on my neck as I reach over his body to fasten the seatbelt. It's the law, you know. I think I just heard him give a little grunt/moan combination, but I'm not sure.
"Are you wearing a new perfume?" he asks, his breath hot on my skin. "You smell different."
I don't answer, although it's either the French fries I had at lunch or the Pleasure perfume I sprayed on an hour ago.
"Where are we going?" he asks when I drive off campus, heading north on Sheridan Road.
"You're my prisoner. Prisoners aren't usually told where they're going to be held hostage. And they don't talk." To be honest, I don't know where I'm headed. Somewhere we can be alone, somewhere nobody can find us. If there was a button I could press to whisk us away to a stranded island, I'd do it. He needs to hear me out. After that, well...I'll hold my breath while I wait for his response.
When I reach a red light, I look over at him. He's wearing a gray long-sleeve T-shirt with some logo in Hebrew on it, along with faded jeans with a small rip on one of the knees. I wonder if that rip happened tonight when Nathan jumped him. I can't read Avi's face; he's a master at hiding emotion. Is that something he's been taught, or was he born with that talent?
"Amy, you don't have to do all this," he says.
"Oh, yes. I do," I tell him before I push on the accelerator and start driving again.
"Listen, Amy, when I came to Chicago I didn't know--"
"Avi, wait until you hear me out before you say anything. Okay? I mean, I have some things I have to get off my chest before you tell me how much of a mistake it was that you came here and you're going back home in two days never to see me again."
"Whatever you want," he says, looking out the window and taking a deep, frustrated breath.
Oh, great. Now I've pissed him off. I'm passing the Baha'i Temple, which looks like the Planetarium. It's so huge and brilliantly lit up.
"It's the Baha'i temple," I explain when Avi's eyes go wide from seeing such a unique building.
"Whoa," Avi says. "The one in Haifa by my aunt's house has a gold dome. Stuck in the middle of the mountain you can see it from miles away."
I drive past the temple, past Gillson Park, past the million dollar houses on Sheridan Road only people who have old money can afford, my mom says. By the time we pass Glencoe I know my destination.
It's a small beach in Highland Park my mom took me to one summer when I was little. I remember the wind was so strong my blanket flew up and threw sand in my face. I wasn't a sand person to begin with. It was too messy and got all over and it took days to get out of my hair and shoes. And as much as my mom wanted to get me in that Lake Michigan water, I resisted. I saw the kids who played with their buckets in the water and splashed around... eventually they had to come out of the water and walk on the sand. That dry sand stuck to their feet and legs and hands and... ugh, all over.
Turning into the little driveway leading down to the tiny parking lot, I think of how messy situations can sometimes be a good thing. I think I'm just learning that.
I park the car in the darkened parking lot right near the edge of the beach overlooking the lake. No other car is in sight. We're the only ones here in this secluded place.
Almost as if we're on an island alone.
"Are you going to take the cuffs off now?" he asks.
"Nope. Not until you hear what I have to say." I turn in my seat so I'm facing him. The only thing between us is the arm rest and cup holders. And our strained relationship, if you want to get technical.
I reach over and unbuckle his seatbelt, the click releasing him from the harness. He's as comfortable as he's gonna get with his hands secured behind his back.
His eyes are shining in the bright moonlight. I can feel them on me as though they were his hands.
"Don't look at me," I tell him.
"It embarrasses me. What I'm about to say embarrasses me."
"So let me talk," he says in his smooth, confident voice. "I'm not embarrassed."
I tilt my head and raise my eyebrows. "Just turn around."