“Leo!” Franny called down the block. She turned the other way and saw him talking to her neighbor Alison. Douglas needed to go rest, too, and she wanted Leo to come back and finish helping with the clean up, to give Douglas permission to say good bye to them both.
And there he was, back to her, apparently in rapt conversation with Alison. Franny could see the beaming smile on her neighbor’s elfin face.
Maybe it was the worry about Marilyn, or maybe it was her own fatigue, or maybe it was something else. Something more sour, and more green. Whatever it was, Franny’s head vibrated with a sudden rush of anger.
“Leo!” She walked toward them trying to breathe deeply, to shake the impatience out of her voice. “Leo.” He finally turned toward her, eyes crinkled from a smile of his own, and that nearly did her in. “Douglas needs you,” she said, voice cold and curt.
“Okay, Franny. I was just talking with your friend here.” The smile stayed on Leo’s face.
“Hi, Alison,” she squeezed out. “Douglas needs you, Leo. Right now.”
Leo’s expression morphed into concern. “Is Marilyn okay? Is something wrong?”
Yes, Franny wanted to answer. Yes, it’s wrong that you are down her flirting with someone so much younger than you when your friends need you. It’s so wrong I don’t know how to explain it. It’s even more wrong that you don’t seem to know it’s wrong.
“She’s sleeping. But Douglas needs you. Us. He needs us, so he can get some rest too. Come on.”
“Okay, Franny,” Leo repeated. Franny found his tone intolerably condescending. She turned on her heel and headed back toward Marilyn’s house. She heard Leo say good bye to Alison, and picked up her pace. “Franny. Franny!” Leo called. “Wait up!”
She didn’t slow down. “Franny.” Leo caught up anyway. “Are you okay?”
“No,” she answered. “But it’s not about me right now, Leo. Don’t you get that? Our friends need us to clear out so they can rest. It’s about Douglas and Marilyn. Can you stay focused on them, just for two minutes, without – ” She stopped herself, just in time.
“Without what?” Leo asked. “What did I do?”
Franny sighed. “Nothing. You just, you disappeared, that’s all. You weren’t there all of a sudden, and Marilyn’s asleep, and Douglas needs to rest, but he’s waiting for you to come back so he can say goodbye and thanks, because he’s that kind of a man. And you weren’t there.”
“I was just down the street. I was taking out the garbage and saw your friend, and – ”
“She’s not my friend, Leo. She’s my neighbor. Alison’s my neighbor.”
“Okay, your neighbor. She looked sad. Or lost. I don’t know. She looked like she might need something.”
Franny’s nerves wore through their last protective shield. “We all need something, Leo. Everyone of us needs something. Marilyn needs something, Douglas needs something, I need something, you need something, the kids in the bars every weekend need something, the president of the college needs something, the homeless people need something, the soccer moms need something. If you hanker after every single person who needs something, you’ll never come back.” Do not cry, she chided herself. Do not give him the satisfaction of seeing you cry.
Franny didn’t ask herself why she imagined Leo being satisfied at the sight of her tears. She didn’t have time to ask herself anything, because of the next thing that happened.
Leo kissed her.