Karen listened to the rain falling outside. The patter of raindrops on cement reached her even through the closed glass patio doors, and ornate velvet drapes.
He picked up his hat, from the low manhogany table, signaling it was time to end the date.
"Shall we?" he said. She nodded.
They both stood up, and walked past the fountain, and towards the exit. They stood by the revolving doors. The same revolving doors that she'd entered by an hour and a half previously, with such high hopes.
At least she'd brought the car, and didn't need to rely on public transport and on boys' goodwill anymore. No flurrying into and out of a cab, careful to sit modestly, and not brush against her escort, even by accident. No more being dropped off at a crowded bus stop, and standing alone, arrayed in all her dating finery, ignoring the knowing glances of those around, waiting for the bus to come.No more standing in heels, in the aisle between the already occupied seats, clutching a handle jutting out of patterned felt, swaying on stilettos, as the bus went through curves, down and out of the hills.
"How are you getting back?" he asked, when they stood outside, out of the doormen's hearing.
He was expecting the standard answer of "from the central bus station".
"I drove here" she said. "My car's parked outside."
He was taken aback. Chareidi women didn't drive. It was forbidden by the seminaries. Girls were often expelled if they were caught possessing a driving license. This is what came of dating a girl who was out of a framework, who was semi independent. He'd know not to do it again.
"Would you like a ride?" Karen offered. "Your yeshiva is right on my way"
He shook his head in two brief yet decisive strokes. "That's ok. I'll walk"
"Are you sure?" she asked. "It's really no trouble"
But he was quite sure. What would his friends think of him, if they saw him being driven around by a woman?
He said a curt goodbye, and strode off. Karen remained standing there, on the sidewalk, car keys clutched in one hand.
Later- once Karen had arrived home, and parked the car, and made herself a sandwich (to ward off the post date starvation), and attempted to explain to Abba and Ima what she'd done wrong this time, with this boy, and ignored the ringing of her cell phone, and gotten ready for the long awaited moment when she could collapse into bed, and logged into her site account, not expecting anything new- she found a message waiting, in her inbox.
It was from someone called Yishai. She checked his profile, first, before beginning to read. Too often the loveliest messages came from totally unsuitable men, often twenty years older than she was, so she preferred to be reading their words in context.
This Yishai guy looked intriguing though. She wondered how she hadn't noticed his profile before; she was very thorough in her site searches.
His message was friendly and flattering. She smiled as she read it.
There was one thing that bothered Karen, about Yishai's profile. There was one statement there, that didn't fit in with what she was looking for, that could be a problem, a rather big one in fact. But she decided to ignore it, for the meanwhile.
Because would he care, that she drove a car? Would he mind, that she'd ignored one of society's unwritten rules?
It sounded like he wouldn't. Actually, it sounded like he didn't pay much attention to what society thought, at all.
She spent twenty minutes, writing out the perfect reply; casual, encouraging, and light.