A Christmas party with old and new friends.
Mikey who had just got off the phone nodded. “Yep they are here in town and ready for tonight’s party.”
“I’m glad they could make it. Ray and Christa are gonna be here around seven. Did you tell Gee seven too?”
“Yep. Oh and he said to tell you that Lindsey is gonna make some special dip she’s bringing.”
“So where’s Holly and M?" He’d expected to find them in the kitchen with his wife.
Alicia grinned, “They are across the street visiting Hal. Before they left they fixed a plate of sugar cookies for him.”
“Wow I still can’t believe it. You know it makes me feel sorta bad about all the shit we’ve said about him.”
“Well to be honest it’s not entirely our fault. The guy up to now hasn’t been the nicest of neighbors.”
Mikey pulled out a chair then sat down at the table. “Yeah, that’s true. Still, maybe if we’d tried to get to know him, it would have been different. Shit, Holly didn’t seem to have any trouble making friends with him.”
“Holly never has trouble making friends with anyone.” Alicia answered as she took the seat across from him. “Anyway about tonight. What are be gonna do about serving alcohol? I mean I would love to serve hot rum punch, it’s a really nice holiday drink but...”
He understood. “But you’re not sure we should serve it around Gee.”
Alicia nodded, “Yeah.”
Mikey sighed, “I honestly don’t know. I mean in a way it’s not fair to the others that we can’t have drinks but at the same time I really don’t want Gerard drinking and messing up our party.”
“You really think he’d do that?” Alicia asked softly.
“I’m really not sure what he’s gonna do anymore.” Mikey frowned. “His head seems so fucked up.”
Hal and Holly were sitting in the spacious living room talking as Molly played with several of the dolls Hal had let her bring from the bedroom.
Taking a bite of cookie Hal sighed. “These are wonderful. I haven’t had a sugar cookie in years.”
“Mes alped makes dem.” Molly said looking away from her imaginary tea party for a minute.
“Well you did a great job.” Hal smiled. He turned his attention back to Holly. “Thanks for being these over. I had started to think you weren’t going to accept my invitation to visit.”
“We’ve been so busy.” Holly smiled. “Trying to get ready for Christmas.” Sadly she had noticed that Hal had nothing in his home to welcome the holiday.
“Yes, Christmas.” Hal said softly. “I’d almost forgotten that’s almost here.”
“Will you be spending it with friends?” Holly asked.
He shook his head. “No, I don’t celebrate it anymore. Not since Estelle’s gone. Just don’t see the point.”
Holly’s heart went out to this lonely man. “If it wasn’t for Molly I probably would feel the same way.” She admitted softly.
“But you have Molly and she’s a lovely child.” Hal said his tired blue eyes growing watery. “You know she reminds me a lot of my Sally at that age.”
“Do you have a photo of her?”
He blinked in surprise. “Sure, would you like to see?”
“Very much.” Holly smiled.
Hal got up and soon returned with a large dusty old photo album. For the next hour he and Holly poured over photos as he shared his life with her through pictures and stories.
“Hey M, what’s you got?” Alicia asked when they returned.
Gently Molly held out the box containing a vintage toy tea set. “Hals gives it to mes.”
“Oh, how pretty.” Alicia said looking closely at the cups and teapot.
“Hal gave it to her as we were leaving.” Holly said talking a seat in the living room. “So where’s Mikey Boy?”
“He and his buddy took off a bit ago.” Alicia answered. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She noticed Holly looked sad.
“Mommy can mes go show dis to Sawa?”
“Sure baby.” Holly answered understanding that Molly wanted to show her new tea set to her doll.
Once she had headed down the hallway to the bedroom Alicia asked again what was wrong.
“Nothing is wrong.” Holly sighed. “I just feel so sad for Hal. He’s all alone, no family at all. When we were over there he showed me his photo album. All these years and he still misses his wife and little girl. He said it still feels like he lost them yesterday.”
“Oh.” Alicia said softly. “That is sad."
Suddenly Holly sat up a bit straighter. “I know it’s not right I ask this but I was wondering if I could invite him over here tonight. He probably won’t come but I’d like to ask him.”
“Well sure.” Alicia said slowly.
“I think maybe he’d enjoy talking to Don.” Holly said. “I just hate that he sits in that house all day long alone.”
Alicia nodded, “Sure it’s fine you ask him. There’s really not gonna be all that many people here so one more doesn’t matter.”
“Be right back.” Holly smiled. When she returned she look a bit happier.
“Well?” Alicia asked. “Is he gonna come over tonight?”
Holly sat back down. “He was pretty shocked by the invite. He said he’s not sure but thank you for asking.”
Gerard walked into the kitchen to find his wife at the counter working on some sort of dish. Bandit was sitting in her high chair eating Cheerios.
“Morning.” He said making his way directly to the coffee pot.
“Morning.” She returned not turning around.
Bandit threw a piece of cereal at her father’s head as soon as he sat down with is coffee at the table.
“No, B.” He said trying to sound stern but unable to keep the smile from his lips.
Lindsey turned around and sighed. “She’s been doing that since I gave her the cereal.” She said seeing her daughter pick up another piece and toss it.
Gerard said no again and shook his head.
Bandit’s bottom lip began to quiver.
“Don’t cry, Baby B.” Gerard said softly. “Just don’t throw your food.” He spoke again to Lindsey. “Dad’s not up yet?”
“No.” She sighed, “Gee I’m kinda worried about him. Since he got here he seems awful tired all the time.”
“Holly told me that when they were out shopping together he got sorta winded.”
Lindsey set down the spoon and turned to face her husband. “That’s not good. Maybe you should convince him to see a doctor. He could be having heart trouble again.”
“I know.” Gerard answered softly. “But I also know how hard that will be. Dad can be pretty pig headed when he don’t want to do something.”
“Well maybe you should involve Mikey. If the two of you gang up on him together he might listen.”
“Maybe.” Gerard said slowly. “But I kinda hate to even tell Mikey I think Dad might have a problem.”
He thought a minute. “Well Mikey will freak for one thing.”
Lindsey cut him off. “You know that’s one of the Way brothers biggest problems. You two are always keeping shit from each other thinking it’s the right thing to do.”
“What?” Gerard wasn’t sure what she meant.
“It’s true.” Lindsey said nodding. “Both of you are grown men but you act like you are still protecting each other. You act like Mikey is still your little brother who you have to shelter. He does the same thing towards you. Always worrying about things that will upset you.”
Gerard frowned, “You really believe that?”
“Oh yeah. I can tell there are lots of things Mikey would like to say to you but he doesn’t. He keeps things bottled up inside because he doesn’t want to upset you.”
“He doesn’t need to do that.” Gerard said.
Narrowing her eyes Lindsey continued. “No he doesn’t need to do that, he shouldn’t do that, but he does. Lots of people do that where you’re concerned. No one wants to upset Gerard.” She shook her head. “I never did understand that.”
Suddenly Gerard remembered that Holly had years ago said something similar to what his wife was saying. “So why do you think they do that?” He had to know.
She sighed, “Because of the way you act sometimes. Like if things go bad for you you won’t be strong enough to deal with it.”
"Is that what you think?” He asked softly.
She paused a minute before speaking from her heart. “No, Gee. I know you and I know you are a strong person. No matter what happens you find the strength within to handle it.”
In his heart he understood the underlying meaning to this discussion. She was telling him that soon things were going to dramatically change in his life.
Lindsey looked into his eyes. “You’ll find the strength.” She whispered.
The party was in full swing and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Holly was sitting on the sofa next to Jamia. In her arms she held Lily.
“Such a beautiful baby.” She said softly looking down into the infants eyes.
“You wouldn’t say that at 2 am when she’s squalling.” Frank who was standing nearby laughed.
“Sure I would.” Holly smiled over at him. “Babies are always beautiful even then.”
Across the room Gerard was watching Holly closely. Tonight she looked beautiful yet very tired. He crossed over to where Alicia was replenishing the snack trays.
“Is Holly okay?” He asked her softly.
Alicia looked up in surprise. “Yeah, why?”
He sighed, “She looks tired. She’s been eating more hasn’t she?”
“Yeah, she has.” Alicia answered looking around to make sure Holly wasn’t in hearing distance. “Not as much as I think she should but definitely more.”
The sound of the doorbell was heard over the din.
“Gotta get that.” Alicia said sounding surprised. She wasn’t expecting any more visitors so she was slightly confused as to who might be at the door.
A minute later she called out Holly’s name.
Holly handed Lily carefully to her father then stood. When she turned around she was pleasantly surprised to see Hal standing just inside the doorway wearing a slightly out dated suit.
“Hal.” Holly rushed to him. “I’m glad you’re here.”
He gave her a small smile.
Taking his arm Holly turned to Alicia. “So I guess you’ve met Alicia.”
He nodded to his hostess. “Seen you around but we’ve never really been introduced I guess.”
Alicia smiled, “Glad you’re here, Hal. Come on in.”
Gerard had made his way over to Mikey. “Who’s that?” He whispered watching as Holly led Hal towards Ray and Christa.
“That’s our neighbor from across the street.” Mikey answered softly.
“The cranky old fart?”
Mikey shot him a silencing look. “Yeah, Holly’s sorta befriended him.”
After she introduces Hal to the Toro’s she moved on towards Frank, Jamia and the girls. “This is Frank, he’s also in the band, his wife Jamia and their beautiful little girls Lily and Cherry.”
“Nice to meet you.” Hal nodded. He looked down at the babies. “Beautiful girls you got there.”
Jamia smiled, “Thank you. Nice to meet you, Hal.”
“Okay then.” Holly said happily as she led Hal over to where Gerard and Mikey were standing. “This is Mikey, Alicia’s husband.”
Mikey extended his hand. “Glad you’re here.”
“Thank you.” Hal answered.
“And this is his brother Gerard.” Holly smiled, “He’s the singer of the band.”
“Gerard.” Hal nodded.
Gerard smiled, “Hey, Hal. Nice to meet you.”
“Howl.” Molly cried out racing across the room to him.
He immediately smiled, a true smile, “Hey there Molly.”
“Mes and B’s pwaying with Sally ands tea set.”
Holly saw the smiled fade from Hal’s face. Quickly she explained. “She renamed her doll Sally. She heard us talking about your daughter and liked the name.” As she said this she gave Hal’s arm a gentle squeeze.
“Oh.” He said softly. “Well that’s good, Molly. You make sure to have lots of fun with that tea set, okay?”
“Otay.” Molly said before racing back across the room.
Holly led him towards Don and Lindsey to make more introductions.
“What was that all about?” Gerard asked Mikey softly.
“Hal gave Molly a tea set this morning that had belonged to his daughter.” He paused then added sadly, “She died when she was seven.”
“Oh.” Gerard was still watching as Holly introduced his wife and father to the neighbor.
Soon everyone was talking and laughing again. When Holly returned with a plate of food for Hal she was pleased to see he was sitting near Don. The two older men were apparently enjoying each other’s company.
Holly handed him the plate. “Here you go, Hal.”
“Thank you, Holly.” He smiled up at her.
“Be back in a few minutes.” She turned and made her way back over to the Iero’s. “Hey I want to give you guys your Christmas present now.”
“A prezzie?” Frank smiled. “I like prezzies.”
Holly grinned. “Well I think Jamia might like it a bit more than you.”
After Frank handed off Lily to Christa and Alicia took Cherry from her mother’s arms Holly led Frank and Jamia out to the garage. She presented them with the wind chime she’d made.
“Oh Holly it’s beautiful.” Jamia said looking at the wind chime that for the moment was suspended from the ceiling. As she looked at it closely she suddenly realized each beautifully cut piece of stained glass had a matching shape. “Twins.” She giggled. “I get it.”
Frank looked confused.
“Look.” Jamia said happily. “There are two exact pieces of each shape.”
Holly was so pleased she had noticed. “It is the only one I’ve made like this. I wanted something special for my friends with the twins.”
Jamia hugged her tightly. “It’s so special. Thank you.”
Back inside Gerard took a seat on the floor by Lindsey who was watching the girls play. “Having a good time?” He asked softly.
She smiled, “Yeah, I am.” She glanced over at Don and Hal. “It was nice of Holly to invite him. Alicia told me earlier that Holly had asked her if it was okay.”
Gerard nodded, “Yeah it was nice. I didn’t know who he was a first.”
“Alicia told me she and Mikey feel bad they had just wrote him off as a cranky old man. I guess Holly’s really gotten to know him. He’s been alone for a lot of years.”
Gerard’s eyes spotted Holly as she and the Iero’s walked back in. “Holly’s always been like that.” He said softly. “She takes the time to get to know people.”
Lindsey followed his gaze. When she turned back she saw a look in her husband’s eyes. For a moment she was shocked but before she had time to process that emotion Gerard turned to her.
“Can I get you anything?”
“I’d like a glass of the warm rum punch but..”
He smiled sadly, ‘I’ll get one for you. And don’t worry I’m not drinking tonight.”
“Everyone had fun, didn’t they?" Alicia asked as she handed an ashtray to her husband who then dumped it in the trashcan.
“Yeah, it was a great party.” Mikey smiled. To him it seemed like everyone had had a wonderful time, especially Gerard who hadn’t had one alcoholic beverage.
“Here you go, that’s the last of them.” Holly said as she handed over two more glasses that needed to be loaded in the dishwasher. “Uh I think Gee and Lindsey are getting ready to go.” The couple, along with Don, had stayed to help with the clean up.
The three of them walked back into the living room. “Want me to go get B?" Holly asked. Both of the girls were sleeping in the guest bedroom.
Lindsey nodded, “Yeah, thanks. We need to be taking off now.”
“Thanks for helping.” Alicia said to her sister in law as Holly made her way down the hall.
“Good night, wasn’t it?’ Mikey said as he sat down next to his brother.
“Sure was.” Gerard smiled. That smiled faded as he watched Holly walk back in with Bandit in her arms.
“She feels a little feverish to me.” She said walking over to Lindsey.
Lindsey reached out and touched her daughter’s head. “Damn, she does.”
At that moment Bandit woke up and began crying. Holly handed her over to her mother. Lindsey walked to the sofa and sat down. “What’s wrong Baby B?’ She said in a comforting voice.
Holly watched for a moment then said, “You know several time tonight I saw her pulling on her right ear. She might have an ear infection.”
Lindsey gently touched Bandit’s ear causing the little girl to cry harder.
“Should we take her to the emergency clinic?” Gerard asked rushing to their side. “How hot is she?” He reached over to touch his daughter’s hand.
“Pretty hot.” Lindsey said nervously.
“Mikey do you have a flashlight?’ Holly asked.
He gave her a surprised look, “A flashlight?”
Holly nodded. “Yeah, we can use it to look in her ear.”
Gerard looked a Holly. “You can tell if she has an ear infection?”
“Probably.” Holly nodded.
A minute later Mikey was back with the flashlight. He handed it to Holly. “Gee you want to look or should I?” She asked.
Gerard stood and moved so Holly could take his place. “I don’t know what I’d be looking for.”
Holly smiled trying to lessen his concern. “You just look to see if it’s red. Sonja was always getting ear infections when she was little so I got pretty good at this.” She spoke in a gentle voice to Bandit. “Baby B I’m just gonna look in your ear.” Meeting Lindsey’s eyes she whispered. “I’m sure it hurts so she’s probably not gonna like this.”
Lindsey nodded that she understood and tightened her hold on Bandit.
Very carefully Holly took hold of the little girls ear then shined the light inside. “Oh my, very red.” She sat back. “Let me check the other one.”
Once she had moved to the other side of Lindsey she looked in that ear. “This one looks okay.”
“Oh poor B.” Lindsey said soothing her still crying daughter.
“Hold on.” Holly got up, went down the hall and a minute later returned with a bottle of children’s pain and fever reducer. She showed the bottle to Lindsey. “This is what I give Molly.”
Lindsey nodded, “Yeah, we use that a home.”
“If we give her some now she should sleep through the night.” Holly said. “Then you can make an appointment for the doctor in the morning.”
“Thanks." Lindsey smiled.
Luckily the medicine had a favorable taste and Bandit didn’t mind drinking from the little dispenser cup Holly poured for her.
“That will make you feel better soon.” Holly said placing a kiss on Bandit’s warm cheek.
“Thanks Holly.” Lindsey said.
“No problem.” Holly stood. “You guys need any help getting her to the car?”
Gerard reached out to take Bandit from Lindsey’s arms. “No, but thanks.”
All the adults walked towards the door. Mikey pulled it open for Gerard who walked out carrying his daughter. Don followed but not before telling Holly he was glad she'd invited Hal who he'd enjoyed getting to know. Holly smiled then gave him a hug.
"Well." Lindsey said, "Thanks again." She started to move towards the door but suddenly stopped. Holly was surprised when Lindsey moved towards her to give her a hug. She looked into Holly's eyes a moment then quickly turned to leave without another word.