While Franny and Douglas rested and talked about (and to) the dog Precious, Leo finished putting the chairs and tables away, restoring Marilyn’s backyard to its former peaceful state. He was carrying the last two folding chairs to his van to return to the rental place the next morning when he spied the young woman standing in front of the house next door. Leo recognized her face from the dinner party at Franny’s apartment. Was that last week? Or last year? But he couldn’t recall her name.
“Good evening,” he said, and the young woman startled. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. You okay?”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m fine. No, you didn’t scare me. Not exactly. I was, you know, lost in thought, I guess.” She smiled then. Leo could not recall if she’d smiled that night at Franny’s. With a smile that lovely, he thought he would have remembered seeing it before.
“I’m Leo,” he said, leaning the chairs on his van and extending his hand. “I know we’ve met but I apologize, I can’t recall your name.”
“I know.” The young woman smiled again. “I mean, I know you’re name is Leo. I’m Allison. I live next door to Franny.”
“That’s right. How’s that nice sweetheart of yours? He seemed awfully doting.”
Her smile evaporated. “We broke up. Today, in fact. Only a couple of hours ago.”
“Well, then, he’s an idiot.” Leo wondered if Allison was sad or relieved. Just in case she was sad, he added, “And I’ll say I’m sorry for the third time in this very short conversation.”
“It’s okay. I’m going to buy this house.” Allison turned back to the somewhat dilapidated dark green house next door. Leo followed her gaze. His eyes landed on the skewed front porch, aimed toward the sidewalk. He scanned the roof that would most certainly need replacing. He took in the overgrown shrubs and weedy yard. He saw no “For Sale” sign.
He felt protective of this young woman, having lost her sweetheart so recently, looking for all the world like an elf on an impossible quest. Words of warning were on the tip of his tongue. No, he wanted to say. It’s in bad shape, it’s too much work, it’s going to be too expensive for you.
Then he noticed her expression as she stared at the house and sipped from her take-out cup. She was not scared, or apprehensive. She was not sad.
She was enthralled. It already owns her, this house, Leo thought.
“Congratulations,” he said, and she rewarded him with another view of her beaming smile.