“You could have called me,” Franny said.
“Yes,” Leo answered.
“I missed saying goodbye. I would have wanted to be there. I would have wanted to say goodbye.”
“Why? Why didn’t you call me? Were you still mad at me?”
Leo shook his head. Sitting in Marilyn’s garden, letting Precious sniff around her old turf, bundled up as the sun passed behind the trees, Leo leaned forward, elbows on his knees.
“Mad at you? No, of course not. Why would I have been mad at you, Franny?”
“You know. The kiss. Me running away. Avoiding your calls. You must have been mad.”
“Yes, I was. But I was mad at myself, not at you. I pushed you too far, too soon. I was mad at myself. And scared, because I figured I’d lost my chance. As usual, being selfish, thinking only about what I wanted, I’d blown it. You were just too kind to tell me. That’s what I was mad at myself about. Blowing my chance. Losing your friendship, along with everything else.”
Franny sighed, washed over with a kind of relief, some thin layer of guilt having been removed by hearing Leo’s words. “Then why. Why didn’t you call me, let me know, give me that chance to say farewell?”
“I can’t explain it. I thought about it. It seemed like every moment, something happened. I couldn’t get away, or if I got away, something else happened. Someone needed me. Or I couldn’t make myself dial. I think, maybe, in a weird way, I still believed it wouldn’t happen. If I didn’t say it into the phone, if I didn’t tell you or anyone, it wouldn’t happen.” Tears welled over his eyelids, meandered down his cheeks. He didn’t seem to take any notice. “I didn’t want it to be real. This is my failing, Franny. My signature failing. I don’t accept reality, and before I know it, reality has slipped through my fingers. Again.”
Something about his resignation reignited Franny’s anger. “That’s selfish, too. And before then, and after. You stayed away. I found out you moved in with Allison from the barista, Leo. That’s selfish.”
“I know. But, you too, Franny. You stayed away too. Last time I checked, the phone works both ways.”
“That’s a mean thing to say,” Franny started, but she knew Leo was right. She hadn’t called him, either. Until that moment, she hadn’t known why. But then and there, the reason for her reluctance wrote itself in all capital letters on the stark blank canvas of her mind.
“You should have fought for me, Leo. No one has ever fought for me. My ex husband didn’t fight for me, to keep our marriage together. Here I am, waiting, just waiting, for some man to think I’m worth fighting for.”
“You are, Franny.”
“Nope. I’m not. I mean, I am, but that’s the wrong answer. I can’t keep waiting for any man to fight for me. It’s time to fight for myself.”
That’s what Marilyn wanted me to realize, Franny thought, remembering their last conversation.