Gerard remembers his first Thanksgiving with Holly.
Tiredly he made his way to the bedroom, undressed then crawled into bed. Beside him his wife was curled up on the other side.
“Linds?” He whispered. When he received not response he pulled up the covers and sighed.
For several minutes his eyes remained open staring at the shadows on the ceiling. Suddenly memories that had threatened earlier returned…
Thanksgiving morning 2006
“Good morning.” Holly smiled as Gerard walked upstairs from his basement bedroom and stumbled into the kitchen.
“What are you doing up already?” His mother asked.
“Uh, a heard of elephants woke me.” He muttered as he sat down at the kitchen table.
Holly laughed, “Sorry that was me.” She’d been sent downstairs by Donna to retrieve another baking pan. While pulling it off the shelf it and several other pans had fallen to the floor.
“What the hell did you drop?” Gerard asked.
Pouring a cup of coffee she sat it down in front of him before responding, “Just a couple of pans. It was pretty loud though, wasn’t it?”
“You could say that.” Gerard took a sip of the coffee, “Thanks.”
Holly smiled then returned to the kitchen counter where she was helping Donna slice up apples. While peeling one she turned back to him, “But I did say I’d see you in seven hours.”
Gerard glanced over at the clock. “Uh, yeah well I didn’t know you really meant seven hours. I was gonna kinda sleep in.”
Donna laughed, “Holly means what she says. You’ll figure that out soon enough.”
He took another sip of coffee remembering the conversation from the night before. “Yeah she warned me not to ask her a direct question unless I wanted to truth.”
Holly sighed, “That’s true.” Suddenly she giggled.
Gerard looked up at her confused.
“Sorry.” She turned away.
He took another sip of coffee deciding he needed the caffeine the asked, “Okay why are you laughing at me?”
Holly turned back around to face him. “I’m not laughing at you.”
His eyes narrowed, “That’s not an honest answer.”
“Yes, it is.” She nodded. “I’m not laughing at you."
For a minute he studied the woman closely. This was the first time he’d seen her without that huge puffy coat. She wasn’t thin but she wasn’t nearly as large as she’d looked in that coat. Her short hair was curly and she was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt that was too big for her. He wondered what she looked like under those clothes. That thought surprised him.
“Okay so you’re not laughing at me but you are laughing about something, what is it?’ He asked.
Holly surprised him by bending over to look under the table. A moment later when she straightened up she said trying not to smile, “Just checking to see if those are footie pajamas.”
The look of surprise on Gerard’s face made her giggle.
“You’re laughing at my pajamas?” He asked in confusion.
“Yep.” Holly nodded, “Not that they aren’t cute or anything. I mean it’s just I haven’t seen Star Wars pajamas in years.”
His eyes narrowed, “I’ll have you know woman these are not pajamas.” He looked down, “I mean yeah these are pajama pants but this is just a Star Wars tee.” He said pointing at his chest.
Holly grinned then returned to slicing the apples.
Gerard wasn’t sure he liked her laughing at his sleeping ensemble. “Don’t tell me you got something against Star Wars.”
Sill peeling she answered, “Oh I love Star Wars.”
Donna finished up her last apple, “Okay then. I’ll leave the rest of this to you. I’m gonna go dig out the china.”
Once she left the kitchen Gerard asked, “So what you makin’?”
“Apple Brown Betty.” Holly answered wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
“What the hell is that?”
Holly laughed, “You’ll just have to wait until it’s done to find out.” She moved around the kitchen working on the dish while Gerard nursed his coffee.
“So you came early to make it?”
“Actually I came early to help Donna get stuff ready for this afternoon because I won’t be able to help her later.”
He frowned, “I thought you were having dinner with us?”
“I am.” She nodded, “But I have to leave soon to go down to the mission.”
Donna walked back into the kitchen and explained, “Holly helps down at St Tim’s.”
Gerard had heard about the place. It was a homeless shelter. “Doing what?” He asked.
“Helping out with whatever needs to be done. Today I’m helping serve Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Oh.” Gerard said, as Holly was suddenly refilling his cup with hot coffee, “That’s nice.”
Holly smiled, “I’ve met some really great people down there. Some are just temporarily down on their luck but to some it’s home.”
Donna spoke to Holly, “So did you tell Sonja just to come over when she’s ready?”
Holly saw the look of confusion on Gerard’s face, “Sonja is my daughter.”
He nodded remembering she had mentioned a teenage daughter last night.
“I told her.” She said in answer to Donna’s question. “But I’m not sure what time that will be. She’s still sleeping.”
Donna saw the frown on Holly’s face. “Problems?” She knew lately that Holly and her daughter were butting heads about a lot of issues.
“She came home two hours late last night.” Holly sighed, “Matter of fact when I got home from picking up Gee she still wasn’t home.”
Donna sympathized with her, “Kids, they drive you crazy.”
Gerard frowned at his mother, “Not all kids. I always told you when I’d be late."
Donna laughed, “Honey for a time there you never left the house so that wasn’t a problem.”
For some reason his mother’s answer bothered him. He didn’t want Holly to think he’d been some kind of basement dwelling geek. He was trying to think of a response when Holly spoke, “Okay it’s done.” She said looking down at the pan. “It will take 45 minutes to bake.”
Donna moved to the counter to look at the dish. “That looks so good. I haven’t had one in years.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had one.” Gerard groused, “But then I’m not sure cause she won’t tell me what’s in it.”
Holly grinned, “Anticipation, Gee. Just make sure to save room for some after dinner.” She washed her hands then said, “Okay I gotta go. Sorry I can’t be here to help more.”
“That’s okay, dear.” Donna smiled, “Just make sure you get back in time for dinner.”
“I will.” Holly promised. She moved towards the living room where her coat sat on the sofa. Before leaving she turned to Gerard, “Uh may The Force be with you.” She grinned walking out before he could respond.
When the front door closed he turned to his mom, “How long have you known her?”
Donna poured herself a cup of coffee then sat down at the table. “Oh Holly and Sonja moved in a few months ago. They are renting Mrs. Myers house.”
“So how’d you meet her?’ He asked.
“Well.’ Donna laughed, “I was outside weeding the flower garden when Holly came over to introduce herself. She and Sonja had just moved in.”
Gerard’s eyebrow rose, “She introduced herself?”
Donna laughed, “Yeah Gee. Holly made sure to introduce herself to everyone in the neighborhood. She’s like that, very friendly and very helpful. She even shovels snow for several elderly people.”
“Yeah, she told me that’s how she got that lovely coat.” He said rolling his eyes.
Donna nodded, “Holly is a kindhearted person. The world would be a better place if more people were like her.”
Gerard wasn’t so sure of that but he kept that opinion to himself. The truth was he wasn’t sure what to make of Holly Lentz. “So where’s she from originally?”
“Wyoming.’ Donna answered. “She said after her divorce she just wanted to make a fresh start.”
“In New Jersey?” Gerard laughed, “Okay I can think of a lot of better places than here to make a fresh start.”
Donna frowned, “There’s nothing wrong with here.”
He could tell he’d hurt his mom’s feelings, “Didn’t say there was but I just wonder why she chose here.”
“Maybe you can ask her.” Donna said standing up from the table. “Now you need to get dressed. I have jobs for you to do.”
Gerard sighed, “Yeah sure ma.” He finished his coffee then returned to his basement bedroom to dress. As he was talking off his Star Wars pajama pants he found himself grinning. Holly’s teasing him about footie pajamas was pretty funny.
Gerard rolled over in the darkness and sighed. That Apple Brown Betty she’d made was pretty damn good. Now he almost wished he’d asked her to make one for dinner tomorrow. Since sleep didn’t seem to be an option he let his mind return to the past.
Thanksgiving afternoon 2006
“Donna if you don’t need anymore help I’m gonna head home. My friends are gonna be picking me up soon.”
Donna was just wiping the soapy water from her hands. She turned to look at the pretty young girl with long black hair. “You get going but that’s for the help, Sonja.”
“Dinner was great.” Sonja said remembering her manners, “Thanks for inviting me.”
“You’re very welcome.” Donna answered, “I just wish your mom could have made it back for dinner.”
At the kitchen table where he’d escaped the noise and chatter of all his relatives Gerard nodded, “Yeah, me too.”
Sonja glanced over at him. “Well that’s mom for you. She wouldn’t just leave if they needed her.”
Donna remembered the call she’d received from Holly earlier telling here that there had been a much larger turn out at the shelter. She’d told Donna she was sorry but couldn’t make it back for dinner. “She said the line waiting for food was out the doors and down the block.”
When Sonja had left Gerard said to his mom, “She seems like a good kid.”
Donna tiredly sat in the chair across from him to catch her breath, “Holly’s doing a good job raising her but it can’t be easy. As far as I know she has no family support at all.”
Once again Gerard had questions are Holly. “What about Sonja’s dad?”
Donna sighed, "I don’t know Holly’s never really talked about him.”
“Keeping secrets?” Gerard wondered out loud.
“I don’t that that’s it.” Donna said softly, “I think Holly doesn’t talk about herself much because she’s always too busy worrying about other people’s problems. Just last week she insisted on driving Mrs Allis to the doctors so she wouldn’t have to take the bus.”
“Man you’re making her sound like a saint.” Gerard kidded.
“Oh crap, I hope not." Holly said walking into the kitchen through the back door. “Cause that’s not the case.”
Gerard immediately felt guilty she’d overheard his comment. Rising quickly he smiled, “Hey give me your coat and all toss it downstairs.” He’d been putting guests coats on his bed.
Holly struggled out of her coat tiredly. “Thank you.”
As he took the coat from her he smiled but remained quiet. He was gonna tease her about it but she looked so tired.
“Sit." Donna commanded rising from her seat. “I’ll heat you up a plate of food. Sonja just left a few minutes ago.”
“Thanks.” Holly said. “Yeah I saw her. Did she help with the clean up?”
Donna laughed, “Yep, she did.”
A minute later Gerard bounded back up the stairs. He sat down and looked at Holly again. The poor woman looked exhausted. “Rough day?”
“There were just so many people there.” Holly said softly, “So many kids. As I was serving I couldn’t help but think how lucky Sonja and I are. At times money has been tight for us but we’ve never had to relay on a food kitchen.”
Gerard saw that his mother was warming up a plate for Holly so he asked, “Uh what do you wanna drink?”
“Water is fine.” Holly answered. ‘Thanks.”
As he added ice to a glass then the water he decided Holly was saying thanks too much. “Here” He said placing the glass on the table. “And stop being so polite."
Donna turned to stare at her son. “Holly is polite unlike my sons.”
Holly glanced up and him then laughed, “I’m too polite?”
“Well yeah.” He said sitting back down suddenly wondering why he’d said that.
Holly gave him a confused look but shrugged. “Uh” She held up the glass, “About time I was thirsty.”
Gerard laughed, “That’s better. You gotta be tough to fit in with this crowd.”
“Holly.” Mikey said walking into the kitchen, “About time you got here.”
“Hey Mikey Boy.” Holly smiled as she saw him followed by Alicia walk into the room. “Hey Alicia.”
Gerard was surprised when Alicia quickly bent down to hug Holly, “Hey, girlfriend.”
He frowned realizing he hadn’t known they both knew Holly and seemed very friendly with her. It made him feel out of the loop.
As Mikey picked at the turkey still on the stove and Alicia poured herself a drink Holly glanced over at Gerard, “Why the frowny face?”
He hadn’t realized he was frowning. "Nothing.”
“Nothing, eh?” She teased.
His Sidekick went off. Pulling it from his pocket he glanced down at the screen.
“Oh major frowny face.” Holly said softly.
Gerard looked up then shrugged.
“Eliza?” Mikey guessed moving towards the table.
Gerard put the phone back in his pocket. “Yeah.”
“So how come you didn’t invite her?’ Alicia asked.
Again Gerard just shrugged. He didn’t want to talk about his relationship with Eliza.
“Holly come in the living room when you’re done.” Alicia said seeing Donna put a plate down in front of her.
“Okay.’ Holly nodded. Once they left the kitchen with Donna following them Holly took a bite of the warmed up turkey. She was about to take a second bite when she said softly. “Wanna talk about it?"
“Talk about what?" He asked.
“Why you are suddenly wearing that frowny face.” Holly said before taking a bite of mashed potatoes.
“I’m not wearing a frowny face.” Gerard answered quickly.
Holly gave him a pointed look that clearly said he was lying but returned to her meal.
“I just sorta wanna be left alone about her.” He blurted out.
“Oh.” Holly said looking up from her place, “Sorry.”
“No, not you.” Gerard sighed, “I meant Ma, and Mikey and Alicia.”
Holly smiled, “I understand. Sometimes when you’re not sure about things you hate to be expected to explain them to others.”
He was about to say she was wrong, that he was sure about his relationship but he stopped. Holly was right and he was sure she knew that.
Rolling over again Gerard realized that Holly had always seem to know what he was thinking, sometimes before he realized it himself.
Gerard watched Holly pick at the plate of food but he was really lost in his own thoughts. Suddenly he asked, “So you never really did say what you think of Eliza.”
Holly nodded, “Well I sorta did. I said she seemed nice.”
“Yeah but the way you said it seemed like a you didn’t really mean it.”
She chewed her bite of dinner roll giving herself time to think. “No, that’s not true she does seem nice.”
“But you think there is more below the surface, don’t you. Come on tell me, I really wanna know.”
Holly sighed, “Just like last night I gotta ask you why what I think matters.”
Gerard sat back feeling slightly angry, “You’re right why would I care?”
Without missing a beat Holly answered, “Because you want to be able to talk about it with someone not so close to the situation. I knows she’s friends with Mikey and Alicia so that would present a problem.”
For a minute he just stared at her wondering what it was about this woman that made him feel comfortable enough to admit she was right. “Yeah, that’s true.”
Holly took a drink of water then spoke, “Okay here’s the thing. I met her here at your moms. We were outside talking and Eliza drove up. I could tell your mom was pretty surprised but she invited us both in to chat. It was painfully obvious to me Eliza wasn’t happy. I think she wanted to talk to your mom alone. So I tried to beg off saying I needed to get home but Donna insisted I come in too.”
A frown appeared on Gerard’s face again.
Holly laughed, “You know if you keep doing that frowny face you’re gonna get wrinkles between your eyebrows.”
He knew she was teasing but he was too interested in what she had to say to comment. “So you came in and talked with mom and Eliza?”
Holly nodded, “Yep.” She stopped, “Can I ask you something?"
“How long have you known her?”
“Uh.” He hedged, “A couple of years.”
“And before that you were in a long term relationship, right?”
“Yeah” he said nodding. He really hoped she didn’t ask any questions about that. His betrayal of Kat was something he didn’t want to talk about.
“So Eliza started out as the other woman.”
Holly’s comment shocked him a moment. He tried to decide if and how he wanted to answer that when she continued.
“I thought so. That’s why it’s so important to her to stake her claim now that she’s got you.”
“No one “has” me.” Gerard said pulling out his pack of cigarettes. He lit one trying to calm his growing anger.
Holly rolled her eyes, “Oh my now I’ve pissed you off.”
He took a puff, “I’m not pissed.”
“You don’t lie very well.” Holly answered looking in straight in the eyes.
He was lying and he hated that she knew it. “Look just tell me why you think she’s trying to stake her claim on me.”
“Sure you wanna talk about this?" Holly asked twirling her fork in the mashed potatoes.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Okay if I had a dime for everything during the conversation she said “me and Gee” I’d be a rich woman. She wanted to make sure your mom knew that you two were together and had been for quite some time.”
“Fuck." Gerard muttered.
Holly shrugged, “Well if you are together I can understand why she’s doing that. If she’s wanted to be with you for a long time she’s happy now.”
Gerard looked down at the ashtray lost in thought.
“Are things happening too fast?” Holly asked softly.
He looked up, “Yeah, but it’s probably my fault.” For the life of him he couldn’t understand why he was opening up to this woman but for some reason it felt right. “I don’t know what to do.”
Holly looked at him a moment before saying gently, “Because while you’re not really sure it’s what you want you do know that you don’t want to be alone.”
The fact that she was right shocked him.
“It’s okay.” Holly smiled, “Not wanting to be alone is something most of us feel. I understand.”
“Fuck" Gerard said glancing over at the clock. It was now almost 2 am and tomorrow was going to be a hectic day. He forced his eyes closed and tried to shut off his brain. Still he couldn’t help but wonder how differently things would have turned out back then if he’d listened more to Holly. She knew he was allowing himself to be pushed into a relationship he was unsure of. She’d known he was doing it simply out of fear of being alone. But what made him really feel saddened by this memory was he now realized that while he talked to Holly about all of his problems he never once thought to ask her about her life. She had said she understood that not wanting to be alone most of us feel. Why hadn’t he realized she was alone too, why hadn’t he cared?