Gerard remembers the first time he met Holly.
He carried her in the house while trying to sooth her with comforting words. It wasn’t working. Since it was already almost dinnertime he decided that maybe she was hungry. The lunch they’d had at the zoo had been hours ago and he realized his stomach was rumbling.
Unfortunately dinner did nothing to improve Bandit’s mood. It took every ounce of willpower not to snap at her when she managed to pry the lid off her cup and pour the juice on the floor. She also threw noodles from her bowl at his head. And still Lindsey didn’t come home.
Gerard pulled out his cell after mopping up the juice to call her but it went to voicemail.
"Uh give me a call.” He said hoping she’d get back to him soon.
Gerard looked down at his daughter in her high chair. “Okay kid, bath time.” Much to his relief Bandit gave him a beautiful smile. It was what he needed. He loved his daughter’s smile. “Yeah, a bath is def a good idea.”
Holly didn’t wake Molly until she and Alicia had dinner ready. She knew Molly’s late afternoon nap could present problems later tonight when it was the girl’s bedtime but she just hadn’t had the heart to wake her. Molly had been exhausted from the day at the zoo.
“Molly. Time for dinner.” She said softly taking a seat on the bed.
The little girl slowly opened her eyes beautiful green eyes and smiled. “Mes hungry.”
“Me too.” Holly said not bothering to correct her language. “Alicia and I made tacos.”
Molly sat up. “Yummy.”
It was hard for Holly not to laugh at her enthusiasm.
As they joined Mikey and Alicia in the kitchen Molly asked looking around, “Where Gee and B?”
Alicia smiled down at her, “Oh they went home.”
Molly frowned obviously upset.
Mikey crossed the kitchen then scoped her up in his arms taking her to the table. “You have fun today Little Molly?”
She giggled, “Yep.”
Mikey sat down next to her but spoke to Holly who was helping Alicia set dishes on the table. “It was funny when she said he smelled pretty.”
Holly rolled her eyes.
“Gee?” Molly said trying to follow the adult’s conversation.
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, Gee. He’s my brother.”
Molly titled her head to the side while processing his words. “Gee’s youse brother?”
Holly who was setting down the large bowl of ground beef almost dropped it when Molly said innocently. “Mes got no brother or sister. Mes only got mommy.”
Mikey looked up into Holly’s eyes and could see the pain. Times like this had to make her remember Sonja.
“Oh.” Holly said looking down at the bowl that had clunked on the tabletop. “Sorry, it slipped.”
“It’s okay.” Mikey said softly looking deeply into her eyes with compassion. It gave him a feeling of hope that while he understood Alicia had brought Holly back into their lives thinking she could help him he hoped that his love and friendship could help her.
By 10 o’clock Gerard was growing angrier by the moment. After dinner he had bathed Bandit then played with her until bedtime. Now she was tucked in bed sleeping soundly. For a moment he let his mind travel back and he smiled thinking how beautiful she’d looked when her sleepy eyes had finally closed.
Suddenly he shook his head to dispel those memories. It was late and where the hell was his wife? He knew she’d gone out today with her friends but the fact that she wasn’t answering her phone bothered him. He honestly didn’t know if he should be angry or worried but the fact that she did this often made him lean towards anger.
He tried to call again but when the call went directly to voice mail he threw the phone down in disgust. For a brief moment he entertained the idea of just going to bed but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. His mind was too full of unanswered questions.
A moment later he found himself standing in the kitchen pouring himself a drink. He reasoned that one drink was acceptable because it would calm him down. Suddenly in his mind he saw the look on Holly’s face when she’d seen him a Mikey’s pouring the whiskey. “Fuck.” He muttered trying to dispel the memory from his mind. He took a long, hard swallow knowing how to erase that memory. However as he settled back down in his chair with glass in hand he found it impossible to stop thinking about Holly. Suddenly he mind traveled back through time to their first meeting.
Gerard trudged through the crowded airport absently pulling his black stocking cap down tighter around his head. Again he found himself wondering what on earth he’d been thinking. It was the day before Thanksgiving for Christ’s sake. What made him think it was a good idea to fly home? A frown suddenly marred his tired face. Home. Well he really didn’t have a home now, did he? Since he and Kat had broken up all his stuff was at his mom’s house. He sighed; yeah he was back in the basement.
His cell phone alerted him of a text message. Finding an out of the way area he pulled out his phone and read it.
“Shit.” He muttered. Before boarding the plane he’d called his mom and told her he was coming. She’d been thrilled but at the same time worried. The snowstorm outside was worsening. Now she’d sent a text telling him her car wouldn’t start. With a sinking feeling he realized he’d have to take a cab and with this weather there was no telling how long the wait would be for a ride.
Just as he was about to place the phone back in his pocket he got another message. Gerard read it then read it again. It said that Holly was coming to pick him up and where to meet her. “Holly?” He said softly. "Who the hell is Holly?”
A passing teenage girl looked over at stopped in her tracks obviously recognizing him. He knew he needed to get moving.
Holly’s gaze scanned the crowded airport. She had checked the board and knew Gerard’s plane had arrived, so where was he? She decided to find a pay phone to call Donna just to make sure Gerard had gotten the message she was going to pick him up when she spotted him. A smile covered her face. His head as ducked and he looked like he was about to bolt.
“Hey.” She said rushing up to him.
Gerard looked at the woman in front of him in confusion. Was she a fan who’d recognized him? He nodded slightly then started to move away.
“So are you gonna walk?” Holly laughed.
Gerard slowly turned back to face her. ‘What?”
“Well I’m your ride. But if you’d rather walk…uh there’s only about eight inches of snow.”
“Holly?” Gerard asked.
“That’s me.” She smiled.
“Oh sorry.” He muttered tiredly. “I just got mom’s text and to be honest I was kinda confused.” Looking at this woman in front of him wearing a huge white puffy coat he was still confused.
Holly took pity on him. “It’s okay we’ve never met. I’m Holly.” She extended her hand.
“I’m Gerard.” He answered tiredly taking her hand for a brief moment.
Holly saw that several girls were now casting glances in his direction, "You certainly are.” She laughed. “And we probably should be going.” She slightly titled her head in the direction of the girls.
Gerard saw them and sighed, “Yeah, we should.” It wasn’t that he didn’t like meeting his fans but right now jet lag was catching up with him.
Twenty minutes later he and Holly were dodging deep snowdrifts on the way to her car. He had his suitcase they’d picked up and she was carrying his messenger bag.
“Here we are.” She said pulling the car keys from deep within her pocket.
Gerard stopped dead in his tracks. “This is your car?”
Holly laughed, “Don’t be hating on my Bug.”
He cast a doubtful look at the yellow 1972 Volkswagen. “Uh, this thing is good in snow?”
“Got me here.” She said while unlocking the doors. She tossed his messenger bag in the back then moved towards the drivers seat.
Gerard placed his suitcase in the back then got in.
“Fasten your seat belt.” Holly said as she clicked hers.
He did so without comment.
“Sorry but it will take the heater a few minutes to warm up.” She said as she slowly pulled out of the parking space.
“Uh want me to brush off the snow?” He said gazing out the white windshield.
Holly laughed then flipped on the wipers. The snow vanished, “There. This light snow is easy.”
“Shit, it’s cold.” Gerard muttered as they slowly inched towards the exit of the lot.
Holly nodded, “Yeah but like I said soon the heater will work and you’ll be all nice and toasty.”
The cold air coming from the vents made him high doubt that but he didn’t voice that opinion.
“You should have worn something heavier.” She said glancing over at his pea coat.
Her words sounded like something his mom would have said. “You mean likes yours?” As soon as he said it he felt bad. He hoped his tone hasn’t sounded angry.
Holly laughed again. “Yeah like my Stay Puff Marshmallow Man coat. It’s huge and ugly but damn it’s warm.”
“It’s not ugly." Gerard felt it was his duty to lie. As soon as he said that she started laughing and he realized he liked the sound.
“Don’t lie, Gerard. It’s ugly and you know it. To be honest even though it’s warmer than a toaster oven left on high I hate it.”
He smiled, "Then why wear it?”
“It was a gift. You remember Mrs. Innis?”
He nodded knowing she was talking about his mom’s elderly neighbor.
“Well she gave me this coat. One day last week I went over to shovel her walkway. Her son died last year so she’s pretty much all alone.”
Gerard hadn’t realized that but before he could say anything Holly was speaking again. “Anyway, I started shoveling and she came out with this coat. I started to tell her the coat I was wearing was fine but I saw something in her eyes.” Holly’s voice grew serious, “It turns out Mrs. Innis didn’t just lose a son she lost her daughter years ago. This coat had belonged to her. I knew then that giving this coat to me was her way of giving me something special.” She glanced over, “So now the Marshmallow coat is mine.”
Her words touched Gerard. He found himself wondering how many women he knew would wear an ugly coat to please an old woman. “Well at least it’s warm.” He said lamely.
Holly pulled out of the lot then switched on the radio. The sound of Christmas music made both of the cringe.
“Damn.” Holly said pushing another button. “Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas music but there should be a law it can’t be played until after Thanksgiving.”
Gerard agreed, “Yeah it was driving me crazy in the airport.”
Suddenly the sound of “Welcome to the Black Parade” filled the small car. Much to Gerard’s surprise Holly sat back and started to sing along.
He shook his head and started to reach across the change the station but she swatted at his hand.
"No way, dude. I love this song and I have a rule. My car, my radio, my choice.”
Gerard stared at her. “Seriously?”
“Seriously” She smiled then went back to singing.
Leaning his head back he closed his eyes and sighed. A moment later one eyes opened and he saw that she was looking at him. “What?”
“I just wondered if you were gonna sing along.”
“Sing along with my own song?” He asked giving her a look that clearly said he thought she was crazed.
“Well yeah. See I’ve always wondered if recording stars sing along with their own music on the radio.” When he closed his eyes again she sighed, “If you’re the norm then I guess not.”
When the song was over she spoke again, “So Gerard I was right wasn’t I?”
He opened his eyes, “About what?”
“It’s getting really toasty in here, isn’t it?”
He had to admit she was right. The car was now very warm, almost too warm. He pulled his stocking cap off.
“Oh.” Holly said softly.
“Sorry but that hair just sorta throws me.”
He tried not to sound angry, “You don’t like it?” He said reaching up to touch his almost white hair.
Holly turned her attention back to the road.
As much as he liked the silence he had to know. “So?”
“So, what?” She asked fringing confusion.
“So, you don’t like my hair?”
“Well.” Holly began then paused a moment. “See here’s the thing. I’m one of those really honest people. When someone asks me a direct question I give them an honest answer. I always try to warn people about that.”
Gerard’s head was starting to pound again. “And you don’t want me to ask because you don’t want to tell me the truth?”
Her short curls bounced as she shook her head, “Exactly.”
He ran his hand through the short strands, “Well I probably won’t have it much longer anyway.”
“Good.” Holly smiled.
Once more he leaned back and closed his eyes.
“So are you all excited about spending Thanksgiving with your family?”
God, he wished she would just be quiet.
Holly steered through a slick patch then spoke, “That’s good because your mom is so happy you’re here.”
“Whatever.” He mumbled.
Her voice was soft. “The holidays can be hard sometimes. Especially when you’re alone. Seems all you see are couples.”
He sat up and glared at her. “I’m not alone.”
“Oh.” Holly answered. “Sorry.”
“Why did you think I am?” He asked narrowing his eyes.
“Well Donna told me you broke up with your girlfriend.”
Sadness filled him hearing the truth spoken out loud. “Well yeah we did just break up recently.” Still he didn’t want this woman to think he was alone, “But I’ve got someone else.”
Holly nodded but remained silent.
Gerard wasn’t sure why but he explained, “Yeah, Eliza and I have known each other a long time.”
“Oh, so you’re really with her?”
This time it was Gerard who looked surprised, “You know her?"
“I’ve met her.” Holly said slowly. It was obvious by his tone he wasn’t happy.
“She was at your mom’s one day a few weeks ago.”
“Oh yeah.” He remembered Eliza had told him about the impromptu visit she’d paid to both of his parents.
The car grew silent.
After several minutes Gerard asked, “So what did you think of her?”
Holly gave him a surprised glance, “What?”
“Eliza. What did you think of her?”
“Wow it’s really starting to snow again.” Holly said looking at the huge white flakes dancing in front of the headlights.
Gerard snorted, “Oh, I asked you a direct question you don’t want to answer, right?”
Maybe it was his headache that pushed him. “Okay, I’m asking again, what did you think about her?”
“Why does it matter?” Holly asked softly.
Her question caught him off guard. Why indeed did it matter? If he liked her why should he care what anyone else thought? “Just wondered.” He whispered feeling the exhaustion washing over him again.
Holly was saddened by his tone, “Hey, I only met her briefly. She seemed nice. I’m glad you have someone. Like I said before the holidays pretty much suck when you are alone.”
“So are you alone?” He asked realizing he really didn’t know anything about this woman.
Holly smiled over at him. “I have my daughter.”
“Oh, how old is she?”
“Seventeen.” Holly said then laughed, “Surprised?”
“Well yeah. You don’t look old enough to have a seventeen year old daughter.”
“Thanks.” Holly answered. “But truth is I’m older than you.”
“Really?” He looked at her closely. Her round face was unlined, she wore no makeup but it was her eyes that he’d noticed when he’d first saw her. They were huge and a beautiful shade of green.
“Yep.” Holly said, “I’m five years older than you.”
“Wow.” He really was surprised but wasn’t sure what to say. ‘you don’t look that old’ sounded wrong.
Holly grinned, “Yep I’m old.”
“Hey.” He smiled back, “Since you’re only five years older than me you can’t be old. That would make me almost old.”
“Almost old is better than old.” Holly laughed.
“Let’s just agree that neither of us is old.” Gerard suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.” Holly agreed.
Gerard got up and splashed another generous amount of alcohol in his glass. He sat back down remembering the rest of the trip to his moms had been filled with a lot of laughter. Holly’s fun personality had won him over. When they arrived at his mom’s he’d been shocked how quickly the time had passed and he realized as he grabbed his bags out of the car he wished he’d had more time to talk to her. Her honesty at first had been hard to take but at the same time he’d welcomed it. At that time in his life he’d been surrounded by people who’d said anything to him they thought he wanted to hear. Holly was different.
“Well thanks for the ride.” Gerard said leaning back in the car.
“No prob.” Holly answered.
“Uh, you don’t have too far to drive home, do you?’ It was still snowing and the roads were slick.
Holly laughed then pointed. “See that house? Third one down?”
"That’s where Sonja and I live.”
“Oh, cool.” He hadn’t realized she was one of his mom’s neighbors.
“Well, take care, Gerard.” She smiled.
He still didn’t move. "Uh, well hopefully I’ll see you again.”
Lifting her arm Holly glanced at her watch, “How about seven hours?”
His confused look made her laugh.
“Donna invited Sonja and me for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m gonna be over early to help her with the meal.”
“Oh.” He smiled, “Well see you in seven hours.” As he moved to close the door he added, “Bye Holly.”
She answered just before the door closed, “Bye Gerard.”
Before she could put the car in gear he pulled the door open. “Uh call me Gee.”
Her smile was bright, “Okay, night Gee.”
He remembered standing on the sidewalk while being blanked with snowflakes but not talking his eyes off the Bug driven by a woman in a Marshmallow Man coat.
When the text from Lindsey arrived hours later telling him she would be spending the night at her friend’s house it went unread. Gerard had passed out.