Right there, on the sidewalk in front of Marilyn’s house. Leo took Franny’s hand in his. He gently turned her to face him, touched her chin, and leaned in. His lips were warm and surprisingly soft. He let go of her hand and slipped his arm around her lower back.
After the kiss, Leo held Franny to him as she cried. For a long moment, she buried her face in his shoulder as he held her, and gently touched her hair.
“That’s not exactly the reaction I was hoping for,” he said. Franny pulled herself out of his arms, anger flaring agin.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she snapped. “I didn’t realized you’d been planning this. I’m sorry to disappoint you. Don’t worry, you never have to kiss me again.”
“No, no, come on,” Leo said, reaching for her hand. “I’m teasing you, Franny. I don’t plan anything, you know me better than that. Much less a kiss. You’re just so… you know.”
“So what?” Franny asked, heat rising in her cheeks. “What am I?”
“Beautiful. Intelligent. Kind. You’re so everything, Franny. Don’t you see all that?”
Franny gulped. What is happening? Exhaustion took over, sagging her shoulders, weakening her knees. “All I know is, I’m so tired, Leo. I need to go home. I need to say goodbye to Douglas and go home.” I’m rambling. I need to stop talking now. But she couldn’t. “Marilyn is sick, you know? She is so sick. Douglas is an amazing man. But he is spent. And me, I’m as tired as I can ever remember being. You must be tired, too. Or else you wouldn’t.”
“Wouldn’t what, Franny?” Leo’s voice nearly sent her back into a cascade of tears.
“Wouldn’t do this. This, kissing thing, and complimenting thing, and being all stupid thing.” She flinched at the hurt in his eyes. “Not that you’re stupid. It’s just, this whole thing, it’s stupid. I really need to go rest. I’m sorry. I am. Sorry, I mean. I’m the stupid one here.”
“Okay. Okay, Franny, it’s okay. I’m sorry too. Let’s go say goodbye to Douglas and then let me walk you home.”
They did just that. Said goodbye to Douglas, with awkward hugs, and walked to Franny’s apartment in silence.
Franny closed the door with Leo on the other side, leaned her back on the door, and slid to the floor as the tears gushed.
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