Allison watched the black Jeep crawl up the street to the house that used to belong to Marilyn. She’d put a chair on the front porch, despite the wind-blown chill in the air, just to feel the newly-emerged sun on her face.
Summer was just around the corner, and Pine Street felt its nearness. Trees bloomed, tulips unfolded their petals, ants swarmed out of their underground dens, birds chirped their ancient stories of where to find the best seeds and grubs.
The front bumper of the Jeep still had that dent. The sight of it made Allison shiver inside her fleece jacket.
They’d come that close to losing Leo.
That day Franny returned, and Precious was nearly crushed, Leo knocked over by David’s Jeep. Allison had heard about it all from Kassandra, the barista.
The news from Leo’s trip to the hospital. The broken rib that had grazed his spleen, the bleeding in his abdomen, the emergency surgery.
His long recovery, while the denizens of Pine Street pondered how close they’d come to life without Leo.
Kassandra considering never seeing him pass in front of the coffee shop again. He rarely came in, but he often stopped for conversations with her regular customers as they arrived or left. When those conversations ended, her customers smiled, heading into the rest of the day with something lighter about them.
Allison pondering the empty basement apartment, and having to sort through all Leo’s collected stuff, the coolers and totes full of mysterious bits and pieces, fasteners, caps, plugs, hooks, and ephemera, and having to eat her meals alone, and tackling the rest of her remodel without Leo’s strong back, scattered attention, and willingness to try anything.
Douglas, away in the big city dealing with his own illness and treatment, wondering if his son David would be the cause of the biggest loss Pine Street would see since Marilyn’s death.
David himself, planning the rehabilitation of his reputation, if the worst happened.
Precious the dog, puzzling over why her tail seemed less likely to wag itself during those days staying with David in Marilyn’s old house, her own old house, she vaguely recalled, although all its smells had changed.
And Franny, marveling at the ways in which Leo felt essential to her, already, and terrified that he would be taken from her before she could tell him that.
Leo was the only one of them who knew, even when his recovery was at its most fragile, knew without a doubt in his mind that he would always come back to Pine Street.