In that moment, on that chaotic night and early morning after the wedding, Leo chose Marilyn. He went to the room next door to Kassandra’s, he saw Marilyn in a bed, connected to tubes and cords, looking tiny. Douglas must have stepped out, or maybe he’d needed to go back to the house.
It was just Marilyn there, wrapped in a cocoon, tiny as a caterpillar.
“Marilyn?” Leo whispered, unsure if she was awake.
“Leo.” Her voice rasped, full of pain and uncertainty. Leo wanted to weep, but he couldn’t, not in front of her.
“I’m here,” he said.
“Thank you.” Her eyes closed. “Sit with me, if you would.”
Leo pulled up a chair.
“How’s Franny?” Marilyn asked without opening her eyes.
Uncertain how to respond, Leo did not answer. Instead, he remembered the awful sound of Franny’s sobs on the other side of the closed door, after they’d shared a lovely kiss.
“She’ll come around, Leo. Be patient. She loves you, but she is still grieving her lost marriage, and the ground beneath her feet is only just now becoming solid again. She’s scared that it will open up and swallow her if she loves anyone ever again.”
Marilyn’s eyes were still closed. The machines in her room wheezed softly. The nurse in bright pink scrubs came in, checked some numbers, wrote something on the chart at the foot of the bed. The nurse smiled sadly at Leo, and rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment. Then she bustled off to tend to another patient.
Leo sat by Marilyn’s bed, weeping quietly, until Douglas returned.
Later on, as that summer turned into fall, Leo would question whether she’d really spoken those words, or whether he’d imagined the whole conversation. Given what happened afterwards, the latter seemed quite likely.