Pine Street, Episode 14

By the time the music was over and the party was winding down, Franny felt as drunk as she could remember since her college days. No, wait, she prompted her memory. There was that trip to Prague, the Slivovitz… Franny shuddered at the recollection, and tried to focus on Leo. He seemed to have gained energy rather than spent it, as he bopped between packing up equipment, hauling it out to the various trucks and trailers of the band members, and inhaling large plates of food from the dregs of the buffet.

Food seemed a good idea, but when Franny arrived at the buffet tables, most platters and serving dishes were empty. There was a bowl with some broken chips, and dinner rolls that were a bit stale around the edges, and some cheese that looked suspicious. Franny nibbled a roll, thinking stale bread would at least absorb the wine in her system. As she happily spied a small wooden bowl of almonds and reached for a handful, she felt a touch on her lower back. Marilyn, she thought, come to check on me.

“Hey there,” Leo’s voice reached her ear. “How you doing?” He left his hand on her lower back long enough for heat to build there.

“Fine. Great. Fine. Just fine. Great.” Jiminy, she thought, how drunk or stupid can I sound?

“Good, good. I should be done in a little while. Are you okay to hang out until I can take you home?”

“I can walk,” Franny said, suddenly nervous about being alone with Leo. Warmth from her lower back radiated up her spine, around her neck and into her cheeks, and she knew her face was flushed. “I’m fine. It’s not far.”

Leo’s face fell. “Oh. Well, if you’d rather. But I’m happy to take you, if you can wait a while. Just a little while.”

She smiled. It occurred to Franny that she wasn’t entirely certain how long a walk it would be, although she was convinced she knew the right direction. Probably. And it was cold outside.

“Well, it is cold outside,” she said out loud. Leo’s expression changed to hopeful again.

“Great. I won’t be long, I promise,” he said, and melted away.

By the time he really was done and ready to take her home, Franny believed another hour had passed. The banquet room was empty except for band members and their wives, waiting for their spouses as Franny waited for Leo. Her wine buzz was wearing into a post-drunk chill, and her head had begun to throb. She was nearly ready to venture the walk home when he came up to her, coats in hand.

“Ready, finally,” he grinned.

That smile of his, damn it, Franny thought, as she took her coat and followed him out.

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