"What's it like to live in Sweden?" Chelsea asked Per as they were eating.
"It is much colder there than it is here," Per replied. "We have winter for eight months every year."
"Wow, that's a lot!" Shanika commented.
"The weather here has been very nice since I arrived," said Per. "When will it get cold?"
"It gets a little cooler after Halloween, but it never gets really cold," Chelsea replied. "We almost never have to wear a coat or anything."
"You are very fortunate," Per remarked.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" asked Chelsea.
"I have an older brother," Per replied. "His name is Sven, and he's five years older than me. You?"
"I have a little brother named Gavin," said Chelsea. "He's twelve."
"I have a little brother too," said Shanika. "His name is Tyree, and he's fourteen."
"And what about you?" Per asked Shelby.
"I have two little brothers," Shelby replied. Her eyes didn't meet Per's.
The group talked until the bell for the next period rang, then went their separate ways.
"I met a new boy in school today," Chelsea told her family at the dinner table that evening. "His name's Per, and he's an exchange student from Sweden. Shanika and I had fun talking to him at lunch, but Shelby was so shy she hardly said a word at all."
"She has a really religious family, doesn't she?" asked Jan.
"To put it mildly," Chelsea replied.
"Well, her parents have probably scared her to death about boys," said Jan. "They might have told her you can get pregnant by holding hands or something like that."
"Yeah." Chelsea giggled. "I feel so sorry for her sometimes."
Later that night, Jan was sitting up in bed reading a paperback romance when Ilya walked into the room.
"Our little girl is growing up," he remarked.
"She's only a few months younger than I was when I first met you," Jan agreed. "Do you remember that day?"
"Of course I do." Ilya sat on the side of the bed and reached for her, and she took his hand. "I thought you were the prettiest young lady I had ever seen. I knew I had to find a way to talk to you, but I didn't know how. Then I saw your card fall out of your purse. In a flash I was there, picking it up and handing it back to you."
"I'm really glad you did," Jan replied. "If you hadn't, I would have had to buy a duplicate, and even worse, I would have missed out on meeting the most wonderful man in the world."
Ilya grinned. "Oh, you are sweet!"
"I mean it. Come here." She reached for him, pulling him to her and placing a passionate kiss on his lips. He reciprocated, and within moments they'd completely forgotten their previous conversation.
Per sat with Chelsea and her friends for the first few days of the term, and then he began sitting with a group of boys from one of his classes. Chelsea was a little disappointed but understood he didn't want to get teased for sitting with just girls.
Shanika also started sitting with a football player named Jamal at lunch, which left just Chelsea and Shelby to sit together. That was all right, but Chelsea missed Shanika and was a little jealous of her. She wished she had a boy to sit with, too. One Friday, Shelby was telling Chelsea about a movie she'd seen on movie night at her church's youth group meeting when Per walked up to them.
"May I sit here?" he asked.
"Of course!" Chelsea moved over to make room for him.
"There is a football game tonight," said Per. "The Bentleys are taking me." The Bentleys were his host family.
"Yeah, we're going too," Chelsea replied.
"I would like to sit with you there, if that is all right," said Per.
"That would be great!" Chelsea replied. "That way, you can meet my family."
After dinner that night, the Risoviches got ready and drove to the high school. The stadium was already crowded when they got there, and it took them a little while to find a seat. When they did, Chelsea looked around until she saw Per sitting with the Bentleys.
"I'll be right back," she told her parents, before making her way to where they were.
Per's face lit up and he grinned when he saw her.
"We're sitting right over there," she told him, pointing to where her parents and Gavin were. He followed her back to her seat, and she made the introductions.
"This is Per. This is my Dad, my Mom, and my brother, Gavin."
"How do you do." Ilya shook Per's hand.
"You are from another country as well," Per observed.
"I was born in what used to be the Soviet Union," Ilya told him. "I defected to the United States when I was nineteen years old, and about ten years later, Communism fell and my country got its freedom back."
"That was a happy day," Per agreed.
"Do you like the Power Rangers?" asked Gavin.
"I do not know what they are," Per confessed.
"Oh, man! You don't know what the Power Rangers are?" Gavin couldn't believe his ears.
"Why don't you come over for dinner Sunday," Jan suggested. "We'd love to get to know you better."
Per smiled. "I would be happy to."