Careful fingers float across the Grand piano, soft and beautiful music flowing from the internal strings. Even from far away, though, you can tell what song this is. A beautiful, melodious version of Part of Your World, from The Little Mermaid.
Our piano prodigy silently hums along, sometimes singing the chorus in a hushed whisper.
Suddenly, a voice breaks our prodigy out of their trance.
"Wow, Roman. You're amazing!"
Roman jumps, terrified by the sudden voice.
"Penny! What are you doing- how long have you- why are you... You scared me!"
Penny laughs as she sits next to her best friend on the piano bench, her brown bob-cut bouncing as she does.
"You told me that you could play a little, you liar," Penny said, tickling Roman under the chin. "You're friggin awesome!"
Roman swats Penny's hand away playfully, an embarrassed blush forming on his face.
"I'm not that good."
Penny scoffs. "Sure. And I'm not a brunette lesbian."
"Wow." Roman rolls his brown eyes. "You just love to flaunt that in my face, don't you?"
Penny plays dumb. "Flaunt what?"
Roman smiles. "The fact that you're out and you aren't afraid if people know. The fact that I'm forbidden to do the same."
"Roman, why do you care what your parents say anyways?" Penny asks.
Roman sighs and plays a random chord (D sharp, to be precise). "According to them, I'm already condemned to Hell. And, apparently, I'll be spending eternity with every Muslim, Buddhist, Gay, and Black or Brown man that has ever died."
Penny bites the inside of her cheek. She's so happy to have parents that understand and accept her. She can't imagine what Roman has to go through every day, what with his super religious, super homophobic parents and sister and all.
Suddenly, the voice of Principal Rosia-Martinez comes over the rusty old intercom. "Hola, students! Hope you are all excited for the last bell of the last day of school!"
The hallways and classrooms erupt in cheers. Roman and Penny smile.
"So, just know, mis hermosas estudiantes, that I look forward to seeing you all in August! Adios!"
The intercom clicks off, and the bell rings. Penny and Roman look at each other and smile again as they walk out of the music room. The hallways are already flooded with students, all cheering and whooping, and ready for summer vacation.
"So, what are you doing this summer?" Roman asks. Penny bites her lip.
"I'm going to music camp in New Jersey!" she squeals. Roman lights up.
"That's awesome, Penny!"
Penny nods. "You can come, too, you know! My parents bought a slot for my little sister, but she's going to swim camp by the Gulf."
Roman's heart beats fast. "Really?" Suddenly, he feels like someone stabbed him in the stomach. "I can't go."
His best friend tilts her head. "Why not?"
"My parents think piano is too feminine, and they hate it when I'm anywhere near our Baby Grand."
"You have a piano, and yet they won't let you play it?"
"It's Greek's. She can't even play well. Her piano instructor quit when she heard me play, when I was five, and told my parents to take her where they were taking me. " Roman sighs. "So she just watches YouTube videos while I sit in absolute torture as she plays Mozart's Quartet with chords that no one has even heard of."
Penny sighs. "Okay. Well, we'll FaceTime every night, and I'll send pictures and lessons, even though I don't know if guitar lessons will help a piano player who is basically Billy Joel."
Roman gasps. "I am not Billy Joel," he says, surprised Penny would call him that good.
"You're right," Penny replies. "Billy Joel got nothing on you."