Leo recognized Douglas first, his tall frame coming into focus the closer he came to the sidewalk in front of Allison’s old green house.
No, that’s not true. Precious recognized her old friend Douglas first, expressing her joy with whimpers, wiggles, and three short yips. She’d sniffed him from a block away, his comforting smell of laundry soap and leather shoes, and made it difficult for Leo to hang on to her as she squirmed with delight, trying to escape his lap.
None of them ever let Precious outside any more without her harness and leash, and so when she finally made it off Leo’s knees to the porch, she was tethered to Leo’s hand, and still could not reach Douglas. She stared his direction and yipped again.
Leo followed her gaze, saw Douglas, and stood up quickly to greet him. The wave of dizziness that still occasionally swamped Leo when he pushed his body too far knocked him back into the porch chair. Precious looked back at him with an air of disappointment. Come on, she seemed to say, you know who this is!
The commotion stirred Franny out of a reverie, all too common these days, in which she was trying on various futures: living on her own, dating Leo; moving in together; running away. When she first glanced at the tall man walking toward them, she thought it was David, and wondered why her spine did not tingle as usual.
“Douglas!” Allison cried, and she ran to embrace him. This surprised Franny and Leo. Allison had been the least connected to Douglas and Marilyn.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Douglas said. “Thanks for all those letters, keeping me in the Pine Street loop.” He hugged her again, stooping from his height to hers.
“Of course,” Allison beamed. Franny and Leo exchanged a look, recognizing that much could happen under their noses without them realizing it. “Have you been to see David, yet?” Allison continued, a note of concern in her voice.
Douglas did not answer. Instead, he walked up the porch steps. “Leo,” he began, and then his voice appeared to desert him. “Douglas,” Leo answered, and their hug lasted long enough for Franny to wipe a tear or two away. She stood to receive her hug in turn, saying nothing, but welcoming her friend back with all her heart.
“Dad,” a voice came from the sidewalk. “Hello, dad.”