Winter took hold of Pine Street and its denizens in fits and starts. Early snow, then moderate weather; a white Christmas, ice storms in January and February. Franny took an assignment teaching a course in central Mexico, where she spent a little over three weeks learning about avoiding the local water, dealing with altitude sickness, and adoring the interested, engaged, young students.
Young, so young, and so eager for all that their future would bring them. Franny soaked up their energy as an antidote to the thin air in the mountains. She pinged back and forth between getting back in touch with her own eager optimism, and feeling desperately old and jaded.
While she was away, Leo took care of Precious, and waited for Franny to return. They tried a couple of sketchy cell phone calls, and even a Skype session with Leo on Allison’s computer, but distance did not work in their favor. Leo missed Franny terribly, but rarely mentioned her to Allison. He spent a lot of time with Precious, who showed her age by loathing the cold and ice, and trying to spend as many hours a day under a blanket as she could manage.
Allison quietly worked on the inside of the old green house, with Leo’s help when he could. They upgraded plumbing, cleaned out the attic, and removed an ugly dropped ceiling in the living room and kitchen. The real ceilings were nine feet high on the main floor. Allison celebrated the feeling of openness the high ceilings created, even as her arms ached from patching the plaster where it was crumbling.
Kassandra kept an eye on Franny’s apartment, making sure the pipes didn’t freeze, picking up the mail, and opening a window now and then to let in fresh air. She spent that winter term learning all about painting and sculpture, and sending occasional e-mails to her parents about how happy she was. They rarely responded.
David prowled the neighborhood, learning its quirks, finding its secrets, and working hard to keep his own to himself. He knew that with the warmth of spring, much of his past would be exposed, as the melting snow and ice would expose grass, gravel, and the garbage no one picked up before.
They would all meet again, he knew, and he wanted to be ready.
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