They decide to wait until spring. Franny will spend the early winter with her aunt in warmer climes, scouting for possible homesteads. Leo will stay on Pine Street, helping Allison with some indoor projects, keeping an eye on Franny’s apartment. They do not tell their friends about their plan to depart more permanently. Franny cannot face goodbyes, and Leo secretly wonders if she will change her mind. He will stay with her wherever she goes, of course. But what kind of place out there could be so much better than the community they have here?
Rosa accepts a key to Franny’s apartment, offered up for those late or long shifts when heading all the way out to her place afterward is too daunting. Kassandra loves the idea of having the nurse as a neighbor, even part-time. They both dote on little Penny, who is growing like a weed. David struggles to keep his little daughter in winter gear – both because she grows out of her coats and boots, and because she wriggles out of them as quickly as he can fasten them up. Father and toddler both fall apart in giggles, although deeper down, David feels that lingering parental anxiety. Is she warm enough? Too warm? Can I keep her safe?
Douglas and Louise also take a few weeks away as the serious cold approaches. In what Louise considers to be a minor miracle, they spend the first week with her daughter Jessie and her big, boisterous family. The older grandchildren are cautious around Louise, but Jessie’s husband Stephen embraces her warmly. The foster kids are simply themselves, unperturbed by the past drama in Louise’s family. This, in and of itself, is profoundly healing for Louise and Jessie, both.
Allison and Emil continue navigating their path together tentatively, with Jeeves in the background, watching in case she is needed. Oddly, this does not feel like interference to the fiercely independent Allison. It feels like the loving attention of a parent.
So you see, our friends on Pine Street find themselves on solid footing as winter approaches. Even so, as Franny waits for the bus to the airport, the chill in the air creeps under her coat collar, around her wrists, whispering of the coming dark.