David turned his face into the brisk wind. The cold needles on his face felt better, somehow, than watching Leo go into Franny’s apartment building.
It was’t that he still harbored any idea that Franny would dump Leo and turn to him, David reminded himself. He knew that was a figment of his imagination, and probably always had been.
The thought flashed through his troubled mind: is this how Sasha feels about me?
He shook his head to rid himself of the trace of empathy. No room or time for that now, he considered. I have to fish or cut bait. If I’m going to have a life, I need to start it today, this minute. No more dithering, no more wasting time in hopes of something other than what is in front of me.
Walking quickly toward his house, his father’s house, Marilyn’s house, whatever it was, David blew his warm breath into his cold hands. What is front of me? He pondered. Stay with my dad? Watch his budding relationship with that other woman, what’s her name, Louise? Witness everyone finding a partner but me?
Nothing about that idea appealed to him, except that he couldn’t think of anything better. Going back to Seattle, dealing with Sasha’s feelings for him, filled him with dread. Finding someplace new should be a glorious challenge, as it always had been before. Today, it provoked only boredom.
He’d made it to the sidewalk in front of Marilyn’s house, but his feet kept going. He couldn’t stop until his mind quieted a bit, and that seemed far in the future. Tromping farther north, face still beaten by the wind, David made a sudden turn.
Allison, the small woman who lived down the street, who’d never welcomed him, not much anyway, who seemed at that moment to embody every person who’d ever rejected or ignored him, crossed the street in front of him and headed into the office supply store.
On a whim, he followed her. He watched her go into the back room, behind the counter, and emerge again with a name tag.
She works here? David tried to puzzle it out. Isn’t she some kind of genius scholar?
“Can I help you?” Allison asked him, a little too brightly. “Hello, David.” Her voice tightened almost imperceptibly at his name.
“Hello, neighbor,” David tried to muster a relaxed smile. “Just saw you pop in here, and wanted to say hello. I had no idea you’d joined the staff.”
A kernel of a plan made itself known in a far recess of David’s mind.