Leo walks through the sloppy snow, falling in large clumps, mixed with freezing rain. This is what he does when he doesn’t know what to do: he walks. He’s worn the wrong shoes – hiking boots meant for rocks and dirt, not ice and snow. He’s worn the wrong coat – or rather, no coat at all, just a series of sweatshirts with an old hoodie on top.
The cold and wet seems to match his mood. Or maybe, he thinks, I deserve to be cold and wet. After all, I’ve been invited to be warm and dry.
He begins by reminding himself of what he knows, without a doubt: he loves Franny. With all my heart. I love her with all my heart.
Ah, but that’s where the tiniest of doubts opens. All my heart? What about the part that is embedded here, in the sidewalks and streets and buildings and trees and the people, the friends here who have been family for decades?
It’s just a visit, Leo reminds himself, plunging through the thin layer of ice on top of a deep puddle, cold water overtopping the boot, soaking into his socks. Just a week, maybe two. Nothing permanent.
As he walks, through more icy puddles, more glops of snow soaking his hoodie, more wind-blown frozen rain pelting his face, Leo imagines every drop of frigid water is forming a web around him, trying to keep him here, in this valley. He imagines himself a tree that is trying, ridiculously, to walk out of its own rootball. His own tears join the cold rain on his face.
“Leo?” The voice jolts him out of himself. “Leo, is that you? For goodness sake, get in this car. It’s not a fit night out for man nor beast.” Jeeves has pulled up alongside him, opened the passenger door of her vehicle.
He gets in, as instructed, apologizes for the flood of water that begins to melt from his clothes and shoes.
“Nonsense. You were walking as someone who had no care for his own safety, who was trying to outrun a demon or two. Well, they can’t get into this car. It’s demon-proof.” Jeeves smiles. “Where to?”
Leo cannot answer.