Leo had been delighted to help Franny pick out an apartment. Living in the town for as long as he had, he knew just about everyone, and while he would never be so rude as to say he was bored with them all, a new person in town would be a welcome diversion from the familiar dramas playing out around him.
Although boredom dampened the edges of his spirit, if he were completely honest, Leo would have to admit he often found himself surprised to realize how many people in town he did not know yet, even if they’d lived there nearly as long as he had. It was harder than you might imagine to meet every one of twelve or so thousand souls. And Leo, probably one of the most outgoing of those souls, drew the ones to him who were lost, lonely, odd, eccentric, or otherwise out of the mainstream. He knew the local royalty, of course – the property owners who hired him to take care of small repairs at even smaller hourly wages, the college professors who also hired him and paid him far more for his assistance, because they loved conversing with him, and the women who ran the downtown. The town was surrounded by ranches run by gray-haired cowboys, but the historic downtown itself was the province of strong, capable women with big dreams for the place. They led the downtown association, the chamber of commerce, and owned most of the art galleries, boutique shops, and restaurants. Leo knew them from his days of hanging out in the downtown between odd jobs, playing his ukulele on corners for tourist dollars.
Tourists were in short supply in these days of recession, so Leo hadn’t played his ukulele in a long time. A few weeks before, an old friend had called to say his little cousin, Franny, was moving to town and would Leo help her, show her around, be her local friend. Leo jumped at the chance to meet someone new, although technically he’d known Franny since they were both in junior high, when Leo had still been called Leonard by his parents and teachers. Their life paths had taken them in very different directions, him to this small town and Franny to the big city, and they hadn’t seen one another in years. She would bring some sparkle to the dark months of winter, and some interest to the short days.
Leo whistled as he walked home after checking out the apartment for Franny. For some reason he could not explain, he counted the blocks between his place and the place that would soon be hers.