“Leo,” Franny said. “Hi.”
“How are you, Franny?” Leo asked, still kneeling to scratch Precious’s ears. “It’s been a while. I’ve been thinking about you. I meant to call.” Stop talking, Leo thought. You’re doing that thing, where you ask a question and then don’t give the person a chance to answer. “How about I stop talking now so you can answer?” He tried to make a joke of it.
“Fine. You?” Uh oh. Leo knew Franny well enough to recognize that short, definitive answers were not her typical style. She became concise only when she was tense, stressed, uncomfortable.
“Doing well, thank you.” Leo stood. “How could I not be doing well on such a beautiful day?”
Franny blinked into the autumn sunshine. “It is pretty.”
“Very pretty.” Leo tried to make eye contact, but Franny gazed at a spot just over his shoulder. He turned to see what she saw.
Allison was out raking leaves. She gave a hesitant wave.
“Would you like to come see what we’re doing? In the house? It’s coming along.” Leo was unsure how to proceed. All he knew, all he felt, was his desire to extend this moment with Franny. He sensed her hesitation. His heart beat so loudly in his ears he wondered if she could hear it too.
“Franny.” Leo began. “We need to talk.” The flash of panic in her eyes told him he needed to move quickly, or she’d flee. “The funeral, the stuff that happened, all that. The kiss. Everything. Can we talk about it? Franny, I miss you. You’re, you know, you’re important to me.” How lame is that? Leo chided himself. You’re important to me? It’s so much more, what I feel.
“I don’t. I mean, Leo. I’m not sure. It’s not you. It’s just. You know?” Franny’s expression mingled pain, sorrow, “I mean. I don’t know.”
“Let’s just talk. It doesn’t have to be long, or hard. Let’s just talk.” Heat crept into Leo’s cheeks, embarrassed at the note of pleading in his voice. But it worked. He saw Franny’s face soften.
“Okay. Leo. Okay.”
Precious wagged her tail and did a little spin in a circle, her way of saying, “finally, humans.”