They sat cross legged, in a circle on the grass. As she leaned over, to take the photos from her bag, Brachy's skirt brushed against Avner's jeans. Brachy shifted a little, away from Avner. She did it carefully, for him not to notice and be offended. It felt strange for a boy to be so close.
Avner was nice; her one friend in the class. He always saved a place for her, and filled her in on what Ilana had taught, when Brachy arrived late after work. The others mainly ignored her. They were busy with their cameras and equipment. Unscrewing lenses, playing with the settings, using foreign terms like "aperture priority" and "white balance".
The two men on her left were having a heated debate on the merits of Canon vs. Nikon. "Canon's autofocus is useless!" the one man was practically shouting.
Brachy had a Canon. It lay on her lap now, an even rectangle of metal and plastic. It was dwarfed by the cameras around her. They were big and bulky, jutting out in awkward angles; they were cameras for professionals.
"Can I see?"
Avner pointed at the pile of pictures she was holding. He could only make out the brick wall, on the top one.
"They're the photos Ilana told us to bring, our best ones from before the course."
"Yes, I guessed. I'd like to see them, can I?"
Brachy passed them over to him. She was careful to hold only the one edge, so that Avner could take them by the other side, without their fingers touching.
She watched him, as he placed the photos one by one on the top of the stack. She watched his eyes, his face, the creases around his mouth, trying to guess what he thought of her work. She felt as if she were letting him see inside her. She never showed her photos to anyone. They were taken in random moments, and then forgotten.
Avner was surprised. He'd expected panoramic views, of rivers and the sea shore. He'd expected close ups of flowers and butterflies. He'd expected smiling babies, and toddlers in beribboned dresses. Those were the type of pictures that girls took, that his old girl friends used to coo over.
Instead he saw people; adults, old men, teenagers. They kept their backs to the camera, their faces turned away. Their backgrounds were walls, and wires, and odd patches of shadows.
"I like the composition" Avner said finally.
His eyes met Brachy's.
Ultra orthodox girls weren't new to Avner. He saw them every day, as they streamed past him in flocks, between schools and stores and apartment buildings. They looked away from him, ignored him. They were primly dressed, staidly dressed, in pleated skirts and baggy blouses, buttoned to the collarbone. They sent out a forbidding aura, carefully bred into them by mothers and matrons and teachers. "Stay away", their every gesture told him.
Brachy was dressed the same. But Brachy was different.
He wanted to know her.
"How about we go grab a coffee, afterwards? I know a fun place in town. It's Mehadrin, you only eat Mehadrin, right?" Avner said it casually, as if it wasn't a big deal.
Brachy should have known this would happen. It was what she had been warned about, her whole life. Boys were dangerous, if you got too close to them.
"I can't" she said. "I don't do that."
Avner shrugged. "No problem."
He picked up Brachy's phone from where it nestled by her side, in the grass, and tapped on a few buttons. It only took a minute.
"Here's my number, call me if you ever change your mind. Maybe one evening you'll be free, and bored." Avner smiled at her, and gave Brachy back her phone, and her pictures.
4 days ago