County Cork—July 8, 2012
Sounds of splashing and laughing added to the usual noises of the forest on the edge of the country estate. The young couple bathed playfully in the brook that ran next to where their rusty and dented RV was parked. Bright yellow sunshine kept them warm in the cool water and glimmered on the ripples that they created with their activity.

Slipping back into his shorts after drying, Roric asked, "Do you think they'll be alright?"


"The girls."

Avi shrugged. "No reason they shouldn't be. In the end they just got an interesting story for their What I Did on My Summer Vacation essays—spent a weekend in a hotel with a hot Irish guy."

She shook her head and sighed, "It could have been so much worse if you hadn't been waiting at the airport when we arrived. I wasn't watching out for the girls or trying to keep the men away from them. I was useless, caught up in Reg's head games. If you hadn't been there to help me find my strength…" She turned to him, as if struck with a revelation, "...and I've never properly thanked you."

"That's funny," he said wryly, watching her dress, "I feel thanked."

"No," she said moving closer to stand over him, "This is important." Avi took his hands, her dark chocolate eyes seeming to melt with emotion.

"On behalf of Gillian, Taneka, Carrie, Jordan, Trixie and myself, you saved our lives. And we're forever grateful."

He rose and held her close, as if she were a miracle. His older brother Brian had told him about the room that the police had found in Tim Maebry's castle, with the stark bed and chains and…accessories. Would that have been Avi's ultimate destination? Instead she was here. He could hold her and love her. On behalf of all of them, he sent a thank you up the chain of command.

London—October 12, 2012
"You can't use me like that and then just leave, Roric Finnegan."

I look at her in surprise. What did she expect after we'd known each other just a few hours? I'm in such a foul mood, that I want to say somethin' real short, like, I just did, but my mam would slap me raw if I ever talked to a woman like that. Instead I grab my jacket and say, "Sorry, I thought we were usin' each other," then walk out of the woman's flat before she can say anything else. It's still not polite, I know, but if I go back and apologize, I'll have to hear her again.

New rule: not only do all of the women I have need to be older than me, I need to be able to stand to listen to them afterwards—that or able to get away quicker. I don't care what they look like. It's not like they could be prettier than Avelina anyway, so what difference does it make?
Geez, what I've been reduced to...from a happy guy, bein' loved by the most gorgeous, lovable, exciting girl in America, to a pathetic, angry asshole, driving alone around Ireland and England, picking up girls (that is women) in pubs, parks and other public places. (The alliteration habit that Avi and I started hasn't stopped.)

When I first found out that I was going to America as a foreign exchange student, I wanted to be sent someplace sunny, like California or Florida.

Instead, I got Ohio Township, Indiana, and months of being slammed into lockers, snubbed—typical bullying. I'd made a few friends, but I wasn't enjoying my time there until Avi came from New York and changed my life.

I remember our meeting like it just happened. It was early March. I was talking to a friend before classes started and she walked by and said hello to him and smiled at me. She seemed to say Follow me, so I did. Everybody else—strangers, friends and bullies—were pushed to the side in my mind. There was just this girl I had to know. She's one of those people who just make you feel good to be around her and when she loves's incredible.

But now she's still in Indiana and I'm back on the road in Europe, doing what I can to keep from missing her too much. It surprised me at first how much the minor celebrity of me and my brothers would keep me constantly laid. We haven't done anything on our peace campaign in over a month, but the girls still remember…in Ireland anyway. In England I have to use a little more effort, but the outcome's the same.

Six feet with dark hair, a good smile— I do okay. Avi said my deep voice was like honey. And she loved my blue eyes, almost as much as I love hers. They're so dark, they're almost black. They see and know everything, like how to make me her slave for life.

"Bong," goes that bell, as I walk across the car park. I hate it. I guess it's fine for people in their offices during the day and homes at night, but I'm in this badly-insulated RV and I get no relief from the damn bells of Big Ben and the clock. It's just an hourly reminder that I have nowhere else to go.

Maybe I should correct that. This sorry state is my choice. My family's still at home. They want me there, even if I did act like a real ass between the time that Avi left after her visit there and when I finally took off.

Not a great idea to fall in love at sixteen with someone I only knew a few months and who is now thousands of miles away…but nothin' to be done about it now.

Our goodbye at the airport was final—not because we didn't love each other, but because we did. I didn't want her to waste away, waiting for me, and she couldn't stand the idea of either of us becoming less important to each other over time. No, we'd already proven a regular long-distance relationship wouldn't work for us. So it was goodbye.

I tried to carry on normally, but it was so damned hard. I guess the final straw was when I came home drunk one night and my little sister Celia said, "Avi would be so disappointed." She didn't think I knew that?

But I couldn't help it. There was emptiness in me, where my life had been so full, and I couldn't figure out how to live with the change. The only time I'd felt good since she went back to Indiana was when I planned my vengeance trip to that bastard Tim's castle and broke his jaw—one full minute of complete satisfaction.

So after my night of drunken disgrace, Brian took me out for a lot of sobering coffee and we talked about that. He's a law student so he shut me up just before I could tell him about the castle visit. But he knows what a sick creep Tim is and he helped me to see that I couldn't stand not knowing what he was doing, if he was using any other young girls like he had my Avelina.

Now I follow him all over Europe, making sure he doesn't get a chance with anyone else. I want to keep watching him until I get the evidence that'll put him in prison where he belongs. How long will I do this? I don't know, but right now I don't want to do anything else, since I can't be with Avi.

It's not just getting over first love. In the first place, I don't want to get over it, and in the second place, it's everything we went through together.

We got real close, real fast in the States because we didn't have a lot of time before I'd have to go back home. No sex, but she needed me and made me feel better than I ever had in my life.

"You should've known better than to get so wrapped up in somebody you'd only be able to see for a few months," Brian had said that night in the coffee shop.

"How was I supposed to know better? I'd never been in love before," I'd argued, letting the steamy drink touch my lips. It's the only thing that had in weeks at that time.

The all-night diner was quiet, low-lit with no decoration and almost empty, like the owner knew anybody in there at that hour would be in the shape I was and didn't need any more stimulation than the brew.

"Well, I can see where Avi would've been impossible to resist," Brian had said. "And after the episode in Cork with her and the other girls...those degenerate men...I feel protective of her too."

He'd studied me for a minute then asked, "Is that it? Are you afraid she'll fall victim to other predators?"

"Stop talkin' like a damn lawyer," I'd told him. "No, I'm not afraid she'll 'fall victim' to anyone. She's too smart to let something like that happen again."

I remember putting my head on the table. "What am I gonna do without her? I know tellin' her we couldn't see each other anymore was the right thing. We're too young and too far away from each other and I want her to have a normal life, but what am I gonna do without her?"

Then Brian had said, "I don't know, Ric, but you can't keep on like this. Celia is right; Avi would be disappointed."

That's when I hit on this brilliant scheme. Brian didn't like the idea, but I guess thought as long as he helped me, then I'd stay in touch and he'd know what was going on...or at least, what I let him know. All I want right now though is sleep.

Ric, baby, I hear the whisper, c'mere.

"Oh, Avi," I practically beg, "no, not tonight." But then I feel her hands on my face and neck and her sweet trail of kisses. I follow that trail, as if I had any choice.

The bed isn't empty to me. I can see her lying there, like that first night here, the best night of my life, followed by the best two days that we spent in the woods alone —the Latina Eve with her Celtic Adam.

Yeah, I'm young and in love, but I'm being totally objective when I say she's the most beautiful thing (person, sunset, natural or man-made wonder) in the world. She has gorgeous, soft black hair, enough curves for two girls (small, but ideally-proportioned—that's what the critic wrote about her when she was in that young people's theater group in New York). And that face—the big, dark eyes, beautiful little nose and perfect mouth. There's a reason they call it Cupid's bow lips. They might've been designed by the man himself, just for kissin'.

I've learned in the last month that I have great sense memory. I know how she feels; I can smell the spicy and sweet scent on her skin and run my hands over its silkiness.

Touchin' myself is my only option but it's not good enough. I don't want to feel my big, rough hands; I want her. Sometimes, when I'm really lucky, I can get as far as...ahhhh, there it is —Internal Avi, my favorite place in the world.

Aww, Avi, I miss you so much. Do you miss me? You're not...I mean, I know I said I didn't want you to wait for me, and I didn't want to think of you alone, but...and I've lost her.

This is why even though it's the only thing I can really enjoy, I fight it...why I use the women to wear me out so I don't do this, but go to sleep quick and have normal dreams about Avelina. Because losing her over and over again, like I always do when I think of her in bed with me, is killin' me.

I have to be where she is or I'm gonna lose my mind. It's not a choice anymore. I don't have or want a life without her. I'd be there already, if it weren't for that bastard Tim.

I hate him more than I ever thought I could hate anyone, the "sophisticated, distinguished" (that's how he was described in one of the newspaper clippings I've collected on him) rich man, who lives in a castle and, with the help of Avi's slimy theater director, Reg Winston, used and hurt her when she was sixteen.

God, that night that I heard her crying and talking in her sleep, begging him to stop...

And he planned to take her and keep her when she was here in Ireland this past summer, with the younger girls, believing there was a cultural exchange program for theater kids. She saw it as a way to get to me. But it was bogus, a lure created by Tim and that pimp of a theater director to get her here so he could keep her captive.

He actually thought he was going to drag her out of a restaurant in broad daylight and take her to his estate and that tower room that the police found. He almost got away with it.

How he got out of custody so fast, I haven't been able to find out. But if anyone deserves to rot in prison, it's him. He molests young girls, he bribes to get out of trouble, he makes plans to live out these sadistic dreams of his.

And personally, he's keepin' me from Avi!