Holly spends the day shopping with Don but his health becomes an issue.
“Here, let me take another one.” Holly said reaching for one of the heavy shopping bags.
He smiled at her. “Thanks, I’m just a little out of breath at the moment.”
Holly saw that his face had lost some of its color. “Don, why don’t we sit down for a few minutes?” She was worried.
He nodded, “Okay, good idea.”
As soon as they found an empty bench, not an easy task at the mall this time of year, he sighed.
“Are you okay?" Holly asked gently.
“I’m fine Honey, just a little winded. This power shopping ain’t for old guys.”
“You’re not old.” Holly smiled. “But some of those packages are pretty heavy. Why don’t you sit here and I’ll take most of them out to the car unless you’re done shopping for today.”
“Can’t be done.” Don said shaking his head, “Christmas is comin’ and I got to get this done.”
Holly looked at him closely, “Are you really okay?”
He smiled, “You worry too much.” He paused a moment trying to catch his breath, “But how about if you and me take a break for lunch?”
She nodded, “Okay.” But when she saw him start to stand she shook her head, “You sit here and I’m taking some of these to the car, then we’ll eat.”
“Now Holly you’re gonna make me feel like a feeble old man.” He frowned.
Her genuine concern for him made her speak the truth, “Don, we both can sit here and pretend you’re feeling okay but we both know that’s not the truth.”
He sighed, “Okay so I’m a bit under the weather but it’s nothing for you to worry your pretty little head about. But if it makes you feel better I’ll sit here while you take some of this stuff to the car.”
“It will make me feel better.” Holly smiled. She gathered up everything she could carry. “I’ll be right back.”
He laughed, “Uh, I remember where we parked the car.”
“Okay, I’ll be back soon.” She grinned.
Don watched as she struggled with the bags then started off through the crowds. Once she was out of sight he pulled out his bottle of pills with fumbling fingers.
Gerard was having trouble concentrating during the interview. He heaved a sigh of relief when it was finally over.
“Hey, Bro.” Mikey smiled as they were walking towards their cars. “What do you have planned for the rest of the day?”
“Last minute Christmas shopping with Lindsey.” He answered as he fished through his pocket for the car keys.
“Alicia and I are gonna take M to that Santa’s Workshop we’ve seen advertised on TV so she can make Christmas gifts.”
“Oh yeah, I saw that too. I’m sure she’ll love that.”
They had almost reached their cars. “It still seems weird to do interviews without Ray and Frank don’t it?” Mikey asked sadly.
Gerard stopped and looked over at his brother. “Well yeah but it wasn’t Ray’s fault he was busy today and Frank won’t leave Jersey.”
“Yeah, I know.” Mikey nodded, “I guess I just liked it better when we all lived in the same place.”
“You missing Frank?”
Mikey smiled, “Yeah, guess so but he’ll be here tomorrow for my party.”
“That’s true.” Gerard nodded. Still he was worried about Mikey’s attitude. “You ain’t happy out here?" Gerard asked.
“I love LA." Mikey smiled, “I’m just saying it was nicer when we all could get together easily. Now it’s like everything is a hassle.”
“Well things change.” Gerard shrugged. “I mean Franks pretty busy with his girls anyway.”
“Yeah, I know. And man, aren’t they cute. He send you that pic yesterday of them?"
Gerard nodded. “Yeah, they’re adorable. Linds bought their gifts last week. Got them matching outfits with little baby boots.”
Mikey laughed, “Oh cool. Alicia and I got them matching outfits too but no boots. Hey, I was wondering are we still planning on opening gifts Christmas Eve?"
“That’s the plan, ain’t it?”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, but I got to tell you I’m psyched I get to help Holly play Santa for M after everyone leaves. She told me I’ll have to eat the cookies M’s gonna leave out for Santa.”
Gerard smiled, “M is at that perfect age for Santa. Oh and I’ll bring the gift she wanted Santa to leave for Holly. You can put it under the tree when you’re putting out Santa’s gifts.”
“So what is it?” Mikey asked.
Gerard laughed, “I’m not gonna tell you. Hell, I still have to pick it up today.”
“Sure you’ll be able to find it?”
“Oh yeah.” Gerard nodded. “No problem. It’s not something hard to find, it’s just funny.”
“And you won’t tell me.’ Mikey grouched.
“Hey Santa don’t tell shit like that.” Gerard laughed. He stopped as he neared his car. “Anyway, I’ll call you later tonight, okay?”
“Okay, Gee.” Mikey surprised him by giving his brother a quick hug.
“Man, you’re in a good mood.” Gerard teased.
Mikey nodded, “Dude, it’s almost Christmas. Of course I’m in a good mood. You and Lindsey still planning on leaving Christmas morning for her folks?"
Gerard’s smile slightly slipped. “Uh, yeah but our plane don’t leave until noon.”
Mikey nodded, “And you got it covered? I’d be happy to drive you guys to the airport.”
“Not necessary.” Gerard answered. “We’re just gonna leave the car in long term parking since we’re only gonna be staying out there a few days.”
“We might be leaving too.” Mikey told him as he watched his brother unlock his car. “We’re gonna talk to Holly about that today. We want them to go with us to visit Alicia’s family. Remember how much they liked Holly?”
Gerard nodded, “Yeah, but do you think she’ll agree to go?”
“Hope so.” Mikey shrugged. “We should have got this all figured out sooner but originally Alicia’s family was gonna come out here after Christmas but the plans got all messed up. So now we’re gonna fly there to see them.”
Opening the door Gerard smiled, “Catch you later.”
“See ya.” Mikey said before continuing towards his car. He hurried his steps excited to get home and pick up Alicia and Molly. Today he just knew was gonna be a blast.
Gerard started the engine but suddenly a feeling he couldn’t quite explain came over him. Something was bothering him but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Taking out his cell he simply held it for a moment then decided to make a call.
Holly had just got the bags on the ground and was opening the trunk of the car when her cell rang. She pulled it out of her pocket and answered without glancing at the screen.
“Oh, hi Gee.” She answered as she nestled the phone between her ear and shoulder so she could start to lift the bags from the ground. “What’s up?”
He heard the noise, “What are you doing?”
“Putting Don’s bags in the trunk.”
She placed the last one in then slammed the trunk closed. “Oh, he’s still inside the mall.”
“And you’re dealing with all the bags?” He asked slowly.
Holly sighed, “Gee, I’m glad you called. I’m sorta worried about Don. He’s not feeling well.”
Immediately Gerard was concerned, “What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m not sure but he seemed sorta winded. I asked him if he was okay and he said he’s just a little under the weather.”
He knew what she was thinking, “Is it his heart again?”
Holly started walking back across the huge parking lot. “I really hope not. But I thought you should know. Just don’t tell him I told you though, okay? He’s already told me not to worry.”
Gerard sighed, “The man is so pigheaded sometimes.”
Holly laughed, “Oh so that’s were you get it?”
He smiled at her teasing, “I’m not pigheaded.”
“Sure, sure.” She smiled, “Not at all. Hey, I’m almost to the mall and it’ll be hard to hear you inside. Was there something you needed?”
Sadly he knew the answer to that….he needed to hear her voice. “Uh, no not really. Just wanted to see how you and Dad were doing with the shopping.”
“Well take care, Gee.”
“You too.” He disconnected then sighed. His dad’s health was always a worry in the back of his mind.
Alicia sat back on the bench and looked around at all the parents helping their little ones make gifts. A beautiful smile covered her face. Until a few minutes ago she’d been helping M and Mikey but M had explained that she wanted to make Alicia’s gift so she has to leave.
Glancing down in the shopping bag provided by the business she saw all the brightly colored, small trinket boxes that Molly had colored and glittered. She was glad there wasn’t a limit to how many gifts the kids could make because Molly had made one for almost everyone she knew.
Soon Mikey and Molly walked over to where Alicia was sitting. She saw that Mikey had Alicia’s gift hidden behind his back. “Okay now it’s your turn.” He told his wife with a smile, “M wants to make my present now.”
Alicia nodded then stood. She smiled when Molly slipped her little hand in hers. “Okay M lets go make Mikey’s present.”
“Otay.” Molly hopped from foot to foot in excitement.
Mikey sat down in the spot vacated by Alicia. He smiled as she watched the two of them make their way back over to the work area. Suddenly he realized he felt better than he had in a very long time. Depression, that often struck him at the holidays, wasn’t an issue this year. He realized that a lot of that had to do with having Molly here. Seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes was an amazing thing.
Gently he placed Alicia’s gift in the bag. Yes, this Christmas was going to be one of the best he'd ever enjoyed, he could just feel it in his bones.
“Uh, I still need to find one more thing.” Gerard said looking over at his tired wife.
“Gee, we’ve got everything.” Lindsey said trying to keep a tight hold on Bandit’s hand.
“I got to get one more gift for Holly.” He started to explain but she cut him off.
“We got her that purse. You said she’d like it.” Lindsey answered with a frown.
“Oh, it’s not from us. It’s from Santa.” He quickly explained how Molly had asked Santa to bring Holly a gift.
Lindsey smiled, “That was sweet of her. It’s nice you found out what she’d asked.”
He smiled, “Well I didn’t want the kid to be disappointed.”
“So what is it?” She asked deciding to simply scoop Bandit up in her arms.
Gerard moved to take the little girl. “I’ll hold her, you’re tired.”
She smiled at him gratefully. “Yeah, I am tired. So lets find this last gift then get home. Baby B is in need of a nap, me too.”
He nodded, “Okay.”
As they started walking with Lindsey carrying the bags she asked again about the gift. When Gerard explained she laughed, “Oh that’s precious.”
Gerard smiled, “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Where’s the best store to find it?”
Lindsey thought a minute. “I bet I know who’ll have it.” She led the way.
“Okay now you lay down and rest.” Holly said to Don as they walked into Gerard’s house. “And I’ll unload the packages. Hey, would you like me to wrap them for you?” Don had bought his own wrapping paper.
Don laughed, “I’ll help you. I’m not an invalid you know.”
“Didn’t say you were but you’re tired. I’m sure it’s just jet lag catching up with you.” She truly wished she believed that.
“Yeah, probably.” He nodded. “And I got to admit a nap doesn’t sound all that bad. I’d appreciate your help with the wrapping if you’re sure you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.” Holly smiled. “Hopefully I can get it done before they return.”
“You’re a good woman, Holly.’ Don said suddenly growing serious.
Holly gave him a surprised look.
“As I get older I’m realizing I don’t say what I feel near enough.” Don explained. “I’m trying to change that.”
An icy finger of fear made its way down Holly’s spine. Was Don’s health an issue? Was there something wrong that he was holding back?
Don laughed, “I know what you’re thinking. Old Dandy Don is sick, maybe dying and he’s trying to make peace. Well Honey, that’s not the truth so don’t worry. You’ll find as you get older your emotions just get closer to the surface. Being here with my family has made me sorta emotional, that’s all. And spending the day with a woman I truly admire has made me realize how lucky I am.”
“Admire?” Holly was again shocked.
Don smiled, “Yes, admire. Life has thrown you some wicked curves but you haven’t let that keep you from being a caring, kind person. It may sound strange coming from me but I’m proud of you Holly. Have been since I first met you.”
Holly looked into his eyes, “You know about Sonja, don’t you?”
“Gee told me.” He said softly. “I hope that’s okay. But to be honest he only told me after I asked him. I always felt something was off. She was a beautiful girl but I just knew there was something wrong.” When Holly didn’t answer he added, “I’m sorry if me knowing upsets you.”
“It doesn’t upset me.” Holly answered softly. “I’m just surprised you knew before. No one else noticed.”
“I noticed a lot back then, Honey.” Don said. He suddenly smiled, “Now I’m gonna go lay down for a bit.”
Holly watched him walk away wondering if she’d just imagined it or if he’d meant more when he’d said he noticed a lot back then. She sighed then forced herself into action. She really didn’t want to be here when Gerard returned home and there we’re a lot of gifts to wrap.
“She’s asleep and so is your dad.” Lindsey said rejoining Gerard in the living room. He’d brought in all the bags while she’d been putting Bandit down for her nap. “Guess I’ll get these wrapped while I have a chance.”
“I’ll help you.” Gerard nodded. “Where’s the paper?”
Lindsey looked at him closely. “I can handle it.”
He smiled, “I’ll help. Is the paper in the storage shed?"
Soon they were both side by side on the floor wrapping gifts. Lindsey had turned on the radio to a station playing Christmas music.
“Gee, I haven’t got a gift for you.” Lindsey said softly not looking up from the package she was wrapping.
He glanced over at her. “That’s okay.” He answered feeling sadness wash over him. Before they had always made special gifts for each other. Obviously this year she hadn’t felt she could do that for him.
“I just haven’t had time.” She whispered.
“It’s okay, Linds.”
She continued wrapping. “Uh, I talked to mom this morning.”
“They excited about us coming?” He asked.
Lindsey looked up, "Are you sure you still want to go?”
He understood her words. “I’d like to see them.” In his heart he couldn’t help but feel this would be the last time he and Lindsey would see her family together.
She nodded, “Yeah, okay.”
He reached out to touch her arm gently, “Linds I love you.”
“I love you too, Gee. Always will.” She answered without looking at him.
It was then his fathers words came back to him. He realized he would always love Lindsey, he’d always treasure the years they’d had together but loving someone and being in love with them wasn’t the same thing.
It was late that evening Gerard showed up at Mikey’s house. He’d been worried about his dad since he’d talked to Holly and wanted to question her about him. However the fact that his dad had insisted on visiting Mikey earlier had presented a problem. When he’d dropped him off he hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to her.
As he walked through the kitchen door and saw Holly preparing tea.
“Oh, hi.” She smiled. “I’m making chamomile. Would you like a cup?”
Gerard closed the door behind him. “Sure, sound good. I came to pick up dad.”
Holly smiled, “He’s in the living room. Molly has taken quite a liking to him.”
Gerard walked quietly over to the doorway. He didn’t want the other to know he was here yet. A smile came to his face as he saw Don with Molly on his lap. They were watching Frosty the Snowman.
Holly spoke softly, “He seems to be feeling a lot better.”
Gerard walked over to the counter where she stood pouring the tea into cups. “How winded was he today?”
“More than normal, I think.” She answered with a frown. “Gee.” She turned to face him. “He said something today that sorta confused me.”
Holly took a deep breath, “He told me he knew about Sonja’s illness.” When Gerard started to explain she held up her hand to stop him. “I know you told him all about it but he said he knew before that. He said he could always tell something was wrong. He also said he noticed a lot back then.” She looked into Gerard’s eyes. “What did he mean?”
Gerard couldn’t lie to her. “He knew there was something more than friendship between us.”
“Oh.” Holly glanced away.
“Holly, I was shocked when he told me that yesterday. I had no idea he knew.”
She returned to filling the cups.
“Are you upset?” Gerard asked softly.
“I honestly don’t know how I feel.” She answered.
Gerard sighed, “Dad’s a pretty smart guy. At first I was just gonna deny it but he told me it would be pointless that back then he could see how we felt about each other.”
Holly placed the teakettle down on the stove. “I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
“He wanted to know why we kept it a secret.”
“And you told him that was my idea?”
Gerard nodded, “Yeah, but he understood why. He said you were wiser than me, he said you understood how I was back then.”
“How you were?” Holly wasn’t sure she understood.
“Yeah, how much I fuckin’ cared about what other people said.” Suddenly he had to make her understand, “I was an idiot then, Holly. I only cared about myself and what I wanted. Dad told me straight out that’s how I was, he understood that. I wouldn’t have been strong enough back then to handle shit. I’m sorry, it wasn’t that you weren’t what I needed, and it was because I wasn’t the man you needed.”
Holly shook her head, “Gee, just let it go. Nothing can change the past.” She placed the cups on the tray preparing to take them into the living room. “But you’re wrong, it wasn’t just you, I was so afraid of being hurt. I couldn’t get past that fear, I couldn’t take that chance.” She looked deeply into his eyes, “You were what I needed.”
“Holly.” He took a step closer to her.
“Hey, I thought I heard voices.” Mikey said walking into the kitchen.
Gerard quickly stepped away from Holly. “Hey, Bro. I came over to pick up dad. Think he’s ready to go?” He walked towards the living room.
Mikey laughed, “Not until Frosty is over.”
Holly took a few minutes to get her emotions under control before following them.