A slight problem at Ray's.
“Hey, Gee must be here.” Alicia said spying his car in the driveway.
The three women walked up to the door but as soon as it was open they came to an abrupt halt.
“Holy shit.” Alicia said staring at the scene before them.
“What’s going on?” Christa said loudly to be heard over the screaming of two little girls.
Holly who had been bring up the rear rushed past them. She ran to Molly but once she realized that the red substance covering the front of the little girls shirt wasn’t blood she stepped back, “Okay who wants to explain?”
“Shit I’m glad you guys are back.” Gerard said while staring down at his crying daughter. She too was covered in red.
“Oh, Gee said bad woud.” Molly said through her tears.
“Molly, quiet.” Holly’s tone was sharp and once again the little girls bottom lip began to tremble.
Mikey gave her a sheepish look, “Uh, I had a glass of strawberry soda.” He started to explain. “I didn’t want Bandit to knock it over so I put it over there on the shelf.”
Holly glanced over at the shelf in question, “That shelf? The one that’s just the right height for Bandit to stand on something to make her tall enough to pull something off of?”
“Wow, on the nose.” Mikey said in surprise. “How’d you know that’s what happened?”
Holly rolled her eyes. “That still doesn’t explain why Molly is covered in Strawberry soda too.”
“Mes tried to stop B.” Molly said in a trembling voice.
Ray smiled, “Yeah, she really did. Before any of us knew what was happening Bandit had put two toss pillows down and was standing on them. Molly saw that Bandit was starting to fall and she tried to grab her.”
“But not before the glass of soda spilled?” Holly guessed.
Bandit, who obviously was feeling ignored, began to scream again.
“B stop it.” Gerard yelled.
That of course only made her scream louder.
“So it was a plastic glass?” Holly asked making sure there was no broken shards of glass to contend with.
“Yeah.” Mikey nodded.
Christa finally found her voice, "Hey, no harm done.” She looked down at the wooden floor.
“But it’s a sticky mess.” Holly said loud enough to be heard over Bandit’s screams, which were reaching ear-piercing levels.
Gerard had had enough. He bent down and grabbed his daughter’s arm. “B, I said stop.”
Holly walked over to them, “Yelling isn’t gonna help.”
Gerard glared at her.
“Okay.” Holly said taking charge. “I’ll take the girls outside and get them cleaned up. Christa do you have a couple of tee shirts they can wear?”
“What?’ Gerard was clearly confused as she let go of Bandit’s arm and stood.
“Me and the guys will start on the floor.” Alicia said sprinting into action.
Holly ignored Gerard as she squatted down in front of Bandit. “Baby B you’re a mess. Let’s get you and Molly cleaned up.”
Amazingly Bandit stopped screaming.
Holly gently took the little girls hand helping her to stand. “Come on Molly, outside you both go.”
“Outside?” Gerard sputtered. “Why the hell…” He stopped when he heard Molly say “Oh” again. “Why are you taking them outside?” He asked trying to sound calm.
“Gonna hose them off.” Holly said as she walked towards the patio door with a little girl holing on to each hand.
“Hose them off?” Gerard repeated as he followed in their wake.
Holly laughed, “Well yeah. Gee it’s 80 degrees out. I’m pretty sure they won’t catch cold.”
“I didn’t say they would.” He frowned not liking it that Holly was making him sound like an idiot for asking.
Holly let go of Molly’s hand long enough to slide the glass door open. “So I’m taking them outside to hose the soda off them. You don’t think we should let them stay red and sticky do you?” She teased.
His head was pounding and his ears were still ringing from Bandit’s screams. He followed them outside feeling angry and confused by Holly’s attitude.
“Okay then.” She sat the girls down on the patio in the bright sunshine. “First off with those clothes.”
Molly, who had been hosed off after a messy adventure before, pulled off her tee shirt and shorts. Holly lifted Bandits sundress over her head. She was rewarded by a giggle from the little girl.
“Okay not sure how you’re gonna take this.” Holly said to Bandit. “But we’ll clean up Molly first so you’ll see it’s fun.” She picked up the garden hose then turned to Gerard. “Gee just turn it on low.”
Gerard walked over to the spigot and turned the handle slightly.
“Okay.” Holly laughed, “Molly stand up.” As soon as the little girl did Holly used her finger to distribute the water coming from the hose into a small shower. Molly laughed as the water hit her body. Beside her on the ground Bandit was watching closely.
“Rub you arms.” Holly said wanting to make sure all the sticky goo was removed.
Once she was satisfied Molly was clean she spoke to Bandit. “Baby B it’s your turn."
Bandit was still unsure.
“Fun.” Molly said reaching down to grab her hand.
Gently Holly sprayed Bandit with the light shower. Bandit was surprised at first but a moment later started giggling. Molly gently rubbed her friend’s arms while Holly worked the water. Soon both girls were clean.
“Gee turn off the water.” Holly said without turning.
He reached down and the water stopped.
“Okay Molly show B how to dry off.” Holly laughed.
Molly nodded happily. "Gotta way in da sun.” She told her little companion. Taking B’s hand she led her to a spot on the patio where the water hadn’t touched. Molly lowered herself down laying on the warm cement. Bandit followed suit. “See?” Molly said, “It’s oasy.”
Gerard was now standing by Holly. "Oasy?”
“Toasty.” Holly laughed as she watched the two little girls. “Uh Molly has been through this before. Last time it was when she made mud cakes. Hosing her off outside and letting her dry in the sunlight was a much better idea then taking her inside.”
Christa appeared at the sliding glass door. “Here.” She said handing Holly two tee shirts and two fluffy towels.
“Thanks.” Holly said placing them on the nearby patio table. “Gee watch the girls I’m gonna help clean up the floor.”
“No need.” Christa said quickly. “We’ve got it covered.”
“Yeah, lets sit.” Gerard said as he pulled out a chair for Holly. “We’ll watch the girls dry off.” He hoped she’d agree because it would give him a chance to talk to her alone.
Holly shrugged and sat down.
Now however Gerard was finding himself unsure what to say. He sighed, “Uh, you were right about yelling at Bandit. It didn’t help at all.”
Holly looked closely at him a moment then turned back to look at the giggling little girls.
“What?” Gerard has seen the disapproval in her eyes. “I’ve got a headache and her screaming was making it worse.” He said defending his actions.
“Maybe you wouldn’t have a headache if you weren’t hung over.” She said softly.
His first thought was to deny. “I’m not hung over.”
Holly glared at him. “Gee don’t lie to me. I saw you hung over plenty of times. I know you’re hung over.”
“I just had a few drinks last night waiting for Lindsey to get home.” He said “No big deal.”
Holly’s eyes narrowed. “What time did she get home?”
He felt trapped, “Uh, she didn’t.” He could see no reason to lie. “She stayed at her friend's house.”
“Damn it, Gee.” Holly said making sure to keep her voice lowered. “You’re telling me that you were drinking while you were supposed to be watching B?”
“B was already asleep.” He answered shortly.
“Oh so you think that makes it okay? What if she woke up? What if she’d been sick and needed you?”
“She didn’t.” He answered angrily. “Nothing happened.”
Holly couldn’t let it go. “But it could have. God, Gerard grow up.” She started to stand but his hand shot out of grab her arm.
“Wait.” When she glared down at him he added softly, “Please.”
She sat back down but didn’t look at him. Her eyes were on the girls.
“Okay, it was stupid. I was just angry because Lindsey wasn’t answering her phone. I just thought a drink would help me relax.”
Holly remained silent. After a few minutes she said sadly, “And one drink became two and two became three.”
He didn’t respond because in truth he’d lost count of how many drinks he’d had.
“Gee you can’t do this to yourself or your family.” Holly whispered.
“I know.” He responded quickly. “It was stupid and I’m not gonna do that again.”
Holly turned to look into his eyes, “You’ve said that before.”
“I mean it.” He answered quickly. “I just got caught up in memories and before I knew it I….” He couldn’t bring himself to say the word drunk.
“Memories?’ Holly asked.
He looked down at the table unable to meet her eyes. “I was thinking about the first time I met you.”
His words shocked Holly. “Why?”
He honestly wasn’t sure. “I don’t know I just was.” Suddenly he looked up. “Do you still have the marshmallow coat?”
The question surprised Holly. “You remember that coat?”
A smile lit his face, “Holly anyone who ever saw that thing would remember it.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, “Pretty hideous wasn’t it?”
His smile faded, “Oh yeah, it was. But the reason you wore it was beautiful.”
His words touched too close to her emotions, “The girls should be dry now.” She grabbed the tee shirts and towels then moved away from the table quickly. Once both girls were wearing their tee shirt ‘dresses’ she walked back towards him holding their hands. “Do you have an extra pair of Pull-Ups?”
He nodded, “Yeah in the car. We’ve been trying to potty train her but..”
Holly smiled, “It isn’t easy and I’m sure sometimes she still has accidents.”
“Lots of them.” Gerard said standing. “I’ll just run out to the car and get one.”
As Holly slid the door open and was helping the girls walk into the house Gerard asked softly, “So do you still have it?”
Holly sighed, “Yeah, Gee. It’s packed away but I have it.”
In the car on the way home Alicia was still laughing about the soda incident. “Man, you should have seen the looks on your faces when we walked in.” She said to her husband.
Mikey sighed, “Yeah, but it had just happened. I’m sure we would have gotten it under control.”
“Sure.” Alicia grinned. “You guys looked ready to spring into action. So how come Gee was there anyway?”
Mikey concentrated on traffic a moment before answering. “He called and I told him were I was.”
“So he and B just wandered over?”
Sadness covered Mikey’s face. “I don’t think he had anything else to do.”
“So where’s Lindsey?”
Again Mikey sighed, “He didn’t say but I got the feeling she’s not home.”
Alicia turned to the backseat. “So what do you guys want for dinner?”
Holly shrugged, “Whatever you guys want.”
“Molly what sounds good to you?” Alicia asked the tired little girl.
“Mes wikes wond ake.”
Alicia looked at Holly for help understand Molly’s words.
“She likes the round steak and mushroom gravy I make.”
“Oh, well we’ll have to hit the grocery store.” Alicia answered.
“Really whatever you have is fine.” Holly said not wanting them to go to any trouble.
“Hey, I’ll drop you guys off and go to the store.” Mikey said joining the conversation. “I remember when you used to make that and it was so good.”
Holly laughed, “I only made it a few times.”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, you made it at moms and we loved it.” He made a mental note to call his brother. If Gerard and Bandit were still on their own he’d invite them too.
Alicia suddenly remembered, “Oh the round steak that’s covered in mushroom gravy? That is good.”
“I can’t believe you guys remember it.” Holly laughed.
“Are you kidding?” Mikey laughed, “It was so good.” He smiled in the mirror at Molly. “Good call M.”
Molly stared at him blankly.
Holly spoke to her, “Honey, Mikey is calling you M for Molly. Remember Molly starts with the letter M?”
The little girl perked up. ‘Yep. M O L L Y dats mes.”
“We need to work on pronouncing L’s and T’s” Holly smiled to Alicia.
“I think the way she pronounces them is adorable.” Alicia smiled at Molly with love but sadness in her eyes.
Holly understood Alicia was yearning for a child of her own. She smiled at her friend with love and understanding.
When Holly emerged from the bedroom Mikey was waiting in the hallway. “She’s down for the count?”
Holly whispered, “Yeah, she was more than ready for a nap. You boys must have wore her out with video games.”
“She’s a great kid.” Mikey said linking arms with Holly. “And before Alicia and I head to the grocery store I have a surprise for you.”
Holly looked puzzled. “A surprise?”
“Yep.” Mikey nodded. “Come on.”
“Well lead the way, Mikey Boy.” Holly laughed as he took her hand.
She was surprised as he led her through the kitchen then out the door leading to the garage.
“Ta da.” Mikey said with a flourish.
Holly looked around. “You brought all my supplies in?”
“Not only in I set up tables so you can work here. And…” He pointed to a nearby shelf. “There is the baby monitor so you can listen for M”
Holly was touched, “Thanks Mikey Boy.”
Mikey smiled, pleased that she was happy with what he’d done. “Hey all I really did was empty your car. But I figured you’d want to work on your wind chimes.”
“I do.” Holly nodded, “Mr. Ravenell is expecting me to deliver at least two more, soon.”
Mikey walked over to one of her boxes and lifted the lid. “Wow there’s some really pretty stained glass in here.”
Holly peered into the box he’d opened, “That glass is from an old stained glass church window. It was damaged beyond repair for most so I got it for ten dollars.”
“That’s cool.” Mikey said carefully touching one of the pieces of glass. “I love how you can make something like this into a beautiful work of art.”
Holly laughed, “Work of art? Not really.”
“Sure you do.” Mikey said stepping back then looking directly into Holly’s eyes. “You are an artist but you never give yourself credit for anything you do.”
His words made her uncomfortable. “Mikey I’m just making wind chimes.”
“Beautiful one of a kind wind chimes.” Mikey said softly “But I’m not really just talking about them. I’m saying that you don’t understand that so many things you’ve done and do for people makes a difference in their lives.”
“No.” Holly said shaking her head, “That’s not true.”
“It is true.” Mikey said softly, “You made a difference in my life, for sure.”
“Hey” Alicia said as she walked into the garage. “You ready?” She asked her husband.
Mikey wished she hadn’t interrupted his conversation with Holly. There was so much he wanted to say to her. “Yeah, sure. We’ll be back soon.”
“Okay so what were you and Holly talking about in the garage?” Alicia asked as they drove towards the grocery store.
Mikey sighed, “I guess I was trying to make her understand how glad I am she’s here and how much she means to us but I don’t think I got that across.”
Alicia nodded, “You know today I learned a lot more about her. I’m fuckin sad about it too.”
Mikey glanced over at her, “Like what?”
“Well I realized how much we took advantage of her. Christa is really the one who pointed it out first. Don’t you remember how we all counted on her? No matter what the problem we turned to Holly and now I realize I’m still doing the same thing. I went to her because I thought she could help us with Gerard.” Alicia said looking down.
Mikey nodded sadly, ‘Yeah I knew that. You also wanted her to keep me straight too, didn’t you?”
Tears filled her eyes, “I’ve been worried about you.”
He reached across the seat to take her hand, “I’m sorry about that. I get so worked up about my brother and what’s going on with him I forget I have my own life.”
“Mikey, I know you worry about Gee, I understand that. He’s your brother and you love him. Maybe it was crazy to think Holly could help him but I just kept remembering how close they were and how he used to listen to her about the drinking and shit.”
He didn’t want her to feel that way, “Look I think maybe it will help. Today Gee admitted to me that he was very glad Holly is here.”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, I think he’s really missed their friendship. Holly always had a way to make him listen to her and she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.” He sighed, “She’s not like the rest of us, always afraid we’ll say something to piss him off.”
Alicia agreed, “Yeah, that’s true. She’s not afraid of the wraith of Gee.”
Mikey snorted, “The wraith of Gee?”
“Well yeah.” Alicia laughed, “You know how your brother can be. No one ever wants to piss him off because he can stay mad for a long time. But Holly was never afraid of that. She told him what she thought in no uncertain terms.”
“Why do you think that was?” Mikey asked.
Alicia thought a moment. “I think because she genuinely cares about him so she’s willing to take the chance that he’ll get mad because she knows he needs to hear the truth.”
“I think so too.” Mikey said softly, “She has a big heart. Like all that volunteer work she did. You could tell it made her happy to help others.”
For several minutes a comfortable silence filled the car.
“You know.” Alicia said slowly trying to decide how to say what was on her mind, “Today I noticed that she doesn’t smile or joke as much as she used to.”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, I’ve noticed that too.”
“I think.” Alicia said, “No, I’m sure losing Sonja has a lot to do with that. I can’t begin to imagine the pain of losing a child. I just wish there was something I could do to being some more happiness into her life.”
Mikey squeezed her hand, “You really like Holly, don’t you?”
“She’s like a sister to me.” Alicia admitted, “I’d never met anyone I felt so close to so fast. I remember the first time I met her it was so weird but it was like meeting a friend you’d had your whole life. And I’ll never forget how she was there for me before we got married.”
“You mean when you were second guessing your decision to marry me?” He whispered.
Alicia shook her head, “Mikey I love you and I never second guessed my decision but I’m not gonna lie, I was afraid. Holly was there to remind me how much I loved you and that our love could overcome anything.”
“Even my state of mind?”
He was surprised when Alicia leaned over and kissed his cheek, “Our love can overcome anything.” She whispered. “As long as we stick together we’ll be okay.”
“I love you.” He whispered as he pulled into the store parking lot. “Oh I was thinking I should call that brother of mine and see if he wants to have dinner with us.”
“You don’t think Lindsey is home yet?”
Mikey shrugged, “Got no idea but if she isn’t he and B will be on their own tonight.”
“Mikey what do you think is really going on with them?” Alicia asked as they both got out of the car.
“Wish I knew.” He admitted, “But Gee won’t talk to me about it. Whenever I try to ask him he’ll just shrug it off and pretend nothing is wrong.”
“But something is.” Alicia said reaching out to take his hand as they entered the store. “I can’t remember the last time I saw them together, it’s been months.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And what about Thanksgiving dinner?” Alicia asked. The original plan they’d made months ago was to have the dinner at Gerard’s.
“I’m gonna have to ask him.” Mikey said as he pulled out a shopping cart. “But mom called today and she’s for sure coming.”
“Did you tell her Holly was here?”
Mikey laughed, ‘Oh yeah that made her happy. You know how much mom likes Holly. She was pretty hurt when Holly left like she did.”
“You know what Holly said about leaving?”
Mikey slowed down the cart, “No, what?”
“She said she left because all of us were married or getting married and she didn’t wanna be like a third wheel, She didn’t wanna be the friend who tags along alone because they don’t have anyone.”
Mikey frowned, “Shit, I never even thought about that. How fucked up is it that I never thought Holly could be lonely because she didn’t have anyone?”
“Hey I feel the same way.”
As they walked down the first aisle Mikey asked, “So think she still feels like that? I mean because she doesn’t have a boyfriend?” He suddenly stopped, “She doesn’t does she?”
“Not that I know of.” Alicia answered but couldn’t help remembering the sound of Holly’s voice when she talked about Bob. Was there more than just friendship between them?
“Maybe we could set her up with someone.” Mikey said thinking out loud.
“A blind date?’ Alicia shook her head, “Knowing Holly she would probably say no.”
“Well what if we didn’t give her a chance to say no? We could invite someone over and they could meet that way.”
Alicia’s eyes narrowed, “You got someone in mind?”
“Not really.” He admitted, “But I’m sure we can think of someone. Maybe Gee could come up with a name.”
Note - Thanks for the reviews. Nice to know people are enjoying my story!