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Variation 2

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"Hey, wait up, Jess!" Lorenzo stammers, running down the hall after her, backpack swooshing in his wake. She stops, cradling her own books in her arms, and looks directly at him. Her eyes are wide open, innocent and yet interrogating.

"Yes? Hi, Lorenzo." She blushes a little bit as they stand next to a pair of lockers.

He is silent for a little bit too long, and his eyes are drilling a hole into her face, then it all comes out at once, sounding frantic and nervous. "Do you... Do you want to go to the prom with me? We've already got a limo rented, I'm sharing with Gratiano and Salerio and Solanio and their dates. It could be fun."

"I'd love to," she says with a broad, sympathetic smile. "But I don't think my father will let me. It's on Friday night, and I always have Shabbos dinner with my father. We've done it since my mother died. I'm all he has. It would break his heart if I abandoned him to go to a 'goyish prom with a goyish boy'" She makes finger quotes and tilts her head to the side, screwing up her beautiful eyes.

Lorenzo frowns, then scrambles to save his momentum. "You're going away to college next year. You're not going to be with him forever, right? He'll deal."

She turns her head away from him for a moment, hesitating, before giving in. Her chest seems to collapse inward, and it's as if she's suddenly lost an inch of height. "Okay, I'll come up with a story for my father. I'll tell him I'm going to a Shabbaton in Monsey."

"Excellent! It's a date."

"But listen, Lorenzo," she hisses. "We can't do anything that would make my father suspicious. You can't tell anybody but your closest friends, the ones you trust with your life. We can't be seen together. If you need to pass me a message, do it through my German tutor, Mrs. Gobbo. She'll be happy to do it. I think she hates my father."

"Anything you say, Jess." And as she turns back to look directly at him, she sees he means it. And trembles in fear and joy.

Empty Prom Dress and Tux