“Franny,” Leo said. It seemed the dumbest thing he could say, and yet it escaped his mouth before he could stop it. “Franny.” It came out again.
Precious the dog wiggled all over with pure delight as Franny knelt to scratch behind her ears. “Hi, sweetie,” Franny said. “It’s so good to see you, too.”
Tears burned Leo’s eyes. Was Franny really ignoring him, or was her greeting meant for both of them? And wasn’t she supposed to be back tomorrow?
And would she realize that he’d walked Precious by her apartment building every day while she’d been gone, nurturing his connection to her when his cheap cell phone and his lack of ability on a computer kept their conversations to a minimum?
“Franny,” was all the speech he could muster.
“Leo,” she replied, standing up. “It’s good to see you, too.” She peered more closely at him. “Are you okay? Are you crying? Is something wrong?”
“I’m fine. It must be the wind.” Leo smiled with relief that she was speaking to him, and that he could form words other than her name again. “I’m so glad you’re home safe.” He noticed the duffle bag with a pang of panic. “Unless you’re leaving again?”
“What? Oh, no, that’s just my laundry. I was heading over to the laundromat.”
He held Precious’s leash out to her. “Let me, then. Here, you take Precious, and I’ll carry the bag.” The scruffy little dog voiced her enthusiastic approval of this plan, letting out three sharp barks of joy at being back with Franny, and on a walk, and still with Leo.
“I’m sorry,” Franny said. “I know I told you I’d be back tomorrow.”
“You did? Well, I’m glad you’re back today.”
“Weren’t you keeping track? You know, for taking care of Precious?” Franny’s expression was mysterious. Leo couldn’t tell if she was angry or hopeful.
“Oh, it’s written on my calendar. But you know how I am.” Leo immediately regretted this answer, seeing Franny’s face. “I would have realized it tomorrow. If you hadn’t been here, I mean.” That’s still not right, he thought, that’s not what I mean.
Leo took a deep breath. “No. That’s not what I mean, Franny.” He stopped, and put a hand on her arm. “Wait a minute. Let me tell you what I really mean.”
This time, she responded to his kiss by initiating a second one of her own.