Leo had been busy since that summer night following Marilyn and Douglas’s wedding.
After the kiss with Franny, and seeing her home, he took her direction seriously and set out to return to Marilyn’s house, to see what Douglas needed. Leo felt an imperative to compensate for the distress his kiss had obviously caused Franny by doing precisely what she had described as his duty.
Speeding in the dark on his bicycle, his head full of the events of the day and evening, his heart full of emotions he could not force into a sensible pattern, the sensation of Franny’s lips touching his still overwhelming him, he took a bumpy corner too fast.
The crash took place in slow motion and yet in the blink of an eye, somehow, simultaneously. Leo stood to pick up his bicycle before he realized what he’d crashed into, or rather whom: a young woman out for a walk in the June moonlight.
For one heart-stopping moment, Leo saw her lying on the concrete and believed her stillness meant death. Mercifully, he saw her move before his mind had time to process that belief. He knelt beside the woman, trying to focus on assessing her status.
“Are you okay?” Leo asked.
The woman’s response was a blur of words to Leo, but they seemed to mean she thought she was okay.
“Don’t move too fast,” he said. “Wiggle your fingers and toes first.” He remembered this from the single yoga class he’d taken years ago, as part of the instructions from the teacher as she roused them from the corpse pose at the end of the session. It probably was only about gently reinstating blood circulation, not a way of dealing with potential head injuries, but it still seemed like good advice.
The woman on the sidewalk’s fingers and toes wiggled reassuringly, as if they were waving at Leo from their places on the sidewalk. The pace of his heartbeat began to slow down. This whole move-various-body-parts-slowly thing was working for him, too, so he instructed the woman to gently bend her arms and legs. She did.
“Does anything hurt?” he asked.
She laughed. “Everything hurts,” she said, with a little gasp.
“You might have had the wind knocked out of you. I’m most worried about your noggin, though. Can you sit up?” Why am I using phrases from my grandmother? Leo thought. Wind knocked out of you? Noggin? Who talks like that in an emergency?
The young woman rolled onto her side, making a noise of pain, but not dire pain, and the sidewalk was clean underneath where her head had been. Relief washed over Leo. “That’s good. No blood or anything on the pavement.” Did I say that out loud? What is she going to think – I was looking for brains or something? Get ahold of yourself, Leo, you need to be the voice of calm here.
“I need to get off this rock,” the young woman said, and pointed to her ribcage. “Help me up?”
This, I remember from first aid class. How to help someone sit up without losing your own balance. “Okay, I’m going to put my arms under yours and steady you as you come up. On three. One, two, three.”
Sitting there, holding the young woman, Leo wept silently. He hadn’t made it back to see if Douglas needed him. He wanted to go and explain to Franny how he felt about her. Pain from scrapes and road rash on his arms and hands exploded into his awareness as swirling red and blue lights took over his vision.