Donna arrives. The past pulls at Gerard.
“This is insane.” Alicia said as she pushed the grocery card down the crowded aisle.
Holly laughed, “Well tomorrow is Christmas Eve.” She placed cans of various bean in the cart. “Are you sure you don’t mind me helping out at the shelter tomorrow? I promise I’ll be home in time to help with the dinner.”
“No, problem.” Alicia answered while checking her list. “I told Gee we were having a late dinner so they aren’t gonna come over until seven.” She stole a glace at Molly who was sitting in the cart. “I just think it’s gonna be pretty rough on some people who are gonna wanna open presents.”
Holly laughed, “I’m sure it will be but she understands we don’t open gifts until after dinner.”
“Mes knows.” Molly nodded.
Alicia ruffled her hair. “Yep and don’t forget you got to get to bed pretty early. Can’t be awake when Santa’s sleigh flies by.”
“That’s true.” Holly smiled.
Again Molly nodded a smile of pure happiness on her face.
“Yeah, it won’t be a late night anyway.” Alicia said as she began pushing the cart further down the aisle. “Gee, Lindsey and B are gonna be leaving on Christmas to go to her folks house. Donna’s flight back to Jersey is about the same time so there all going to the airport together.”
“Oh I thought Donna was going to stay longer.” Holly said.
Alicia shook her head, “Nope, but remember we’re gonna be leaving the day after Christmas anyway.” It has taken a lot of time but she and Mikey had finally convinced Holly that Alicia’s family truly wanted them to visit. “And don’t be getting that look on your face.” Alicia said narrowing her eyes.
“That look that says I’m still not sure it’s a good idea. I already told mom you and M are coming and she’s really excited. She can’t wait to meet Molly.”
“I did not have that look on my face.” Holly lied.
Alicia laughed, “Sure you did. I know you Holly.”
Sadly Holly realized there were so many things Alicia didn’t really know about her and never would. Deep down it hurt that there were things she could never share with her best friend.
“What?” Alicia said looking at her. “What’s wrong?”
Holly forced herself to smile, “Nothings wrong. I’m just wondering what other deserts we should make.”
“Oh.” Alicia smiled, “Well since we’re gonna have your Apple Brown Betty I was thinking we should have something a bit more decadent.”
Holly smiled, “Chocolate?”
“Oh yeah.” Alicia nodded, “Definitely something chocolate.”
“I could make fudge.” Holly offered.
“Bingo.” Alicia smiled, “I was hoping you’d say that.”
“Honey, you look tired.” Donna said as soon as she stepped back and looked into Gerard’s eyes.
“I am tired, Ma.” He sighed. “Been having trouble sleeping. You know Bandit’s had an ear infection and she been pretty cranky.” He sighed again. “Actually I was sleeping when that brother of mine called and asked me to pick you up.”
“I was wondering about Mikey.” Donna smiled, “What happened?”
“His friend Kevin called as he was on the way to the airport with some sort of emergency. So he called me and asked if I’d pick you up.”
“My sons are passing off their mother.” She laughed.
“Hey, I didn’t mind at all, ma.” He gave her another hug. “I’m always glad to see you.”
As they started to walk towards the luggage carousal Donna asked, “So how are things with you and Lindsey?”
Lord, Gerard thought, she’s as bad as dad. “Things are okay.” He answered trying not to lose his patience.
“How come she didn’t come with you?”
His patience was wearing thin, “Oh you know she had lots of stuff to get ready for Christmas.”
Donna nodded, “And Don’s already here?”
“Yep, he’s straying with me and Linds.”
“So how’s he doing?” Donna asked.
Gerard looked over at her. “He’s okay.” Suddenly he asked something that had always been in the back of his mind. “Ma, why did you and Dad break up?”
The question surprised Donna. As she tried to form an answer Gerard shook his head.
“Forget I asked.”
“No, that’s okay.” She said softly. “I guess the best answer it because we just weren’t in love anymore.”
“So you stopped loving him?”
She smiled sadly, “I will always love your father. But we weren’t in love anymore. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do.” He sighed.
Once the groceries were put away Holly started on the fudge. Alicia was at the kitchen table watching closely.
“I didn’t think making fudge was this involved.”
Holly laughed, “There’s lots of ways to make fudge. Some are much easier but this is how my grandma made it.”
“What was she like?” Alicia asked.
Holly smiled, “Grandma Betty was….” She searched her mind to find the right word. “Uh she was entertaining.”
“Entertaining?” Alicia smiled, “Okay tell me more.”
Holly sat down the specula she’d been using to level the fudge on the pan. “Well she married when she was fourteen. She only went to school until the fourth grade. She pretty much taught herself how to read.”
Holly nodded, “Yep.”
“That was your mom’s mom, right?”
“When did she die?” Alicia asked.
“Grandma died the year after I married. It still hurts that I didn’t get to see her much that last year.”
“Well Al and Grandma didn’t get along at all. Matter of fact she hated Al so she’d never come to visit, said she couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him.”
“I’m sorry but your ex really sounds like a douche.” Alicia said frowning.
Holly still found it hard to talk badly about Sonja’s father. “Well he’s not the nicest guy in the world.”
“What did you mom and dad think of him?” Alicia asked.
“Dad had already passed before I met Al. Mom didn’t like him either. She hated that I married him.”
“So why did you?”
Holly sighed, “Because I was seventeen and pregnant.”
“Shit. That’s right. I forgot you had Sonja so young.”
“Yep. I just wish I’d been a stronger person. I wish in a lot of ways I’d never married him. But at the time there was no way I could support a baby by myself and Mom really couldn’t help me. So I married him the day after I graduated high school.”
“Fuck, that’s insane.” Alicia shook her head.
“He never loved me.” Holly whispered. “If I hadn’t been pregnant we would never have married. I always knew that.”
“Oh shit, I’m sorry.” Alicia said reaching out to touch Holly’s arm. “I’m sorry I bought this up.”
“It’s okay.” Holly said picking the spatula up. “That’s just how it was and nothing can change it.”
Alicia watched her spread the chocolaty mixture a few minutes then said softly. “Holly you’ve been divorced for years. Don’t you think it’s time to move on? Find someone who’ll love the wonderful woman you truly are?”
Holly looked up. “Nope. Years ago I realized some people are meant to find true love and some aren’t.”
Alicia shook her head, “That’s silly. I’m sure true love is just waiting for you.”
For a brief moment Holly wanted to tell her the truth that years ago she had found love but that was impossible. She forced herself to laugh. “You sound like one of the on-line dating companies.”
“I just want you to be happy.” Alicia said softly.
“I am happy.” Holly answered. “I’m happy raising Molly. I’m happy to once again be close with my friends. That’s all I need.” Deep down he knew that was a lie but it was a lie she’d learned to live with because that was just how it had to be.
An hour later the first thing Donna said when she walked into the house was “Oh my it smells wonderful in here.”
Holly looked up but was confused to see Gerard standing behind his mother holding her suitcase. Alicia was surprised too.
“Where’s my husband?”
Gerard laughed, “Uh, he pawned off getting mom on to me.”
Donna playfully slugged her son’s shoulder. “You said you were happy to get me.”
“So why didn’t Mikey pick you up?” Alicia was still trying to figure things out.
Gerard explained to her about Mikey’s phone call.
“Well you think he would have told me there was a change in plans.” Alicia huffed. “I’m gonna call him.” She left the kitchen after giving Donna a hug.
Gerard set his moms bag down by the doorway then walked over to the kitchen table. “Uh, so I think I should try a piece. I mean I’m sure you want me to, right?”
Holly laughed, “Yes, Gee. I was just hoping someone would come along who was brave enough to try a piece of my fudge, thank goodness you’re here.”
He grinned, picked up a piece quickly taking a bite.
Holly folded her arms. “Well?”
“Not sure yet.” He said taking another bite.
Donna rolled her eyes. “Gerard just tell her how good it is.”
He swallowed then turned to his mother. “Ma, I have to be sure. Holly is counting on me for an honest opinion.”
Holly smiled, “Okay, Gee. What is your honest opinion?”
“Well…” He reached for another piece of fudge. “That one was excellent but you know in order to form a true opinion I have to try another.”
“Hide the fudge from him.” Donna laughed.
“Wouldn’t do any good.” Gerard laughed, “I know where Holly hides fudge.”
Their eyes locked and for a moment it was hard for her to look away. Anytime he mentioned memories for the past they shared her heart would begin to race. “You know where I used to hide the fudge.” Holly forced herself to smile, “But that was years ago and a different house. And I had to hide it then. If I hadn’t I never would have had enough to take to St. Tim’s.”
Donna smiled, “You sure spent a lot of time there.”
“Yep.” Holly nodded. “I really enjoyed going there”
“So have you been back to the shelter here?” Donna asked innocently.
Again Gerard and Holly’s eyes met. “Uh, yes.” Holly nodded determined not to mention Eliza. “Matter of fact I’m going there tomorrow to help serve brunch.”
Gerard frowned. He’d hoped Holly had changed her mind about going back to the shelter. The last thing he wanted was for her to run into Eliza again.
“That’s nice, dear.” Donna said unaware of the tension in the room. “Well I’m gonna go get settled in.” She lifted her suitcase waving Gerard away as he tried to take it from her.
Gerard waited until she was gone to speak. “Are you sure going to the shelter is a good idea?”
“Gee, I’m certainly not gonna let the possibility of running into her again keep me from doing something I feel is important.”
He sighed, “I’m just thinking about what’s best for you.”
“What’s best for me is to not let anyone stop me from doing what I want.” Holly said with anger in her voice.
Gerard blinked in surprise. “Whoa, I didn’t mean to piss you off.”
Holly realized she’d snapped at him. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it to sound like that.”
“Maybe you should have.” He said softly. “There ain’t nothing wrong with you being strong and determined. I think it’s time.”
Again her anger flared. “You think it’s time? I’m stronger than you could ever imagine.”
He wasn’t sure where this anger was coming from. “Holly, I don’t understand.”
“Nor will you ever understand.” Holly said turning her back to him.
Gerard watched her a moment then turned to leave the room. He wasn’t sure what had just happened but just knowing Holly was upset bothered him more than he could deal with right now.
“Gee, left?” Alicia asked a few minutes later as she returned to the kitchen.
“I guess.” Holly mumbled not looking up.
Alicia had the feeling something had happened while she was gone but decided not to question her friend. Still it was hard not to be slightly annoyed with her brother in law. It seemed to her that Gerard was always upsetting Holly and she didn’t like that one bit.
That night Holly had trouble falling asleep. Her mind kept returning to Gerard’s visit earlier in the day. She had seen the look on his face before he’d left. He truly hadn’t understood why she snapped at him and for that she was sorry.
Sighing she slipped from the bed, grabbed her cell phone and went out into the living room. Moving in the darkness she started to sit down but suddenly decided to plug in the Christmas tree. Soon the tree would be taken down and she wanted to enjoy its beauty while she could.
For several minutes she simply sat holding the phone and thinking. Part of her felt it was wrong to text him and yet she hated that her anger had hurt him.
Gerard was just getting ready to go to bed when the text arrived.
H: Sorry I was bitchy today.
He walked back down the hallway to take a seat in the living room. He thought a minute then typed.
G: No problem. Sorry I made you mad.
H: Wasn’t your fault. Alicia and I had been talking about my ex and it made me realize how weak I have been for most of my life
Gerard read the text, a frown on his face. He knew this conversation would be easier if he could hear the tone of her voice. Holly could never hide her true emotions when speaking.
Holly sighed; she should have known he’d call.
“I don’t understand.”
“What don’t you understand?” She asked.
He tried to choose his words carefully. “Well I’m not sure why what I said has anything to do with your ex-husband.”
“I’m just a screwed up woman. I really don’t know why you don’t understand that.”
He wished he was there so they could have this conversation face to face. He could tell by her tone she was very upset. “Okay, now I’m really confused. How in the hell can you even say that? You are one of the most down to earth, level headed people I know.”
“See? That just proves you never really knew me. Gee, I lived for twelve years with a man I knew didn’t love me. Yeah, I can try to convince myself that I did it for Sonja and maybe that was part of it but the truth is I was just a scared woman who was weak. My whole life I’ve been weak.”
“No, Holly. That’s not true. You were strong for Sonja.’ He said softly. It broke his heart when he heard that she was starting to cry.
“Yeah and what did that get me? I lost her.”
Gerard closed his eyes trying to picture Holly in his mind. “Sugar, where are you right now?”
The question caught her off guard. “What?”
“Where are you?”
“Sitting in the living room.” She answered swiping at a stray tear.
“Is the Christmas tree lit?”
“Yes.’ She whispered.
He couldn’t stop himself. “I wish I was there with you. We wouldn’t talk we would just sit together. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand, Gee.” She teared up again. “Thank you.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
“Nite, Gee.” She whispered.
“Goodnight Holly.” He disconnected then looked across the room at the tree. In his mind he knew it wasn’t right he wished he was with Holly right now but in his heart it was what he wanted desperately.
Suddenly he was filled with despair. And with that feeling came another. He got up and walked into the kitchen. When he returned a few minutes later it was with a full glass of whiskey. He took a long swallow then let his mind return to the past.
June 29 2007
Gerard looked across the kitchen table and smiled, “Uh, there’s spaghetti sauce on your chin.”
Holly grabbed her napkin and rubbed the spot. “Damn.”
He laughed, “Damn? I thought it was cute.”
“Oh sure, spaghetti sauce always looks super cute on ones chin.” Holly said rolling her eyes.
“Well I think it did.” He offered her another slice of garlic bread, which she declined.
“Thanks for making dinner.” She said looking down at her plate.
Gerard frowned, ever since they’d sat down to dinner she was spending a lot of time avoiding eye contact. “Holly?”
“Yes.” Still no eye contact.
“Holly?’ He said again.
She finally looked up. “Right here, Gee.”
“What’s wrong?” He asked looking into her eyes.
“Are you regretting last night?’ He asked in a soft, low voice.
The truth was she still was unsure how she felt. “Nope.”
“That didn’t sound very convincing.” He said reaching across the table to grab her hand. “I thought you said our kiss was damn nice.”
This brought a small smile to the corner of her lips. “It was damn nice.”
“For sure.’ He nodded. “Now you run along and take your shower. I have something special planned for tonight.”
Her eyes grew large and as hard as he tried he couldn’t help but laugh.
She glared at him. “Don’t laugh.”
“Holly seriously you should see your face. I swear I’m not gonna attack you or anything.” A slow smile came to his face, “Uh unless you want me to.”
“Damn.” Holly scooted her chair away from the table. “I can’t do this, I knew I couldn’t. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m so damn lame. An absolutely gorgeous guy is flirting with me.” Her words were coming in a rush and her hand were gesturing wildly, “I mean I think you’re flirting with me. You are flirting with me, aren’t you?’ Before he could open his mouth she started ranting again. “And I’m acting like an idiot.” She was so busy babbling she didn’t notice he’d stood until his arms were suddenly pulling her close.
“Wow I didn’t realize all I had to do was hug you to make you be quiet.” He whispered in her ear. His hands gently caressed her back. “Take a deep breath.” He smiled when she did.
“Gee.” She said he name then stopped.
“Calm down, Sugar." His warm breath caressed her ear. “It’s okay. Tonight’s plan is for a movie and some snuggling.”
Holly’s heart began to race, “Snuggling?”
“Yeah, there’s a horror movie on tonight and I’m hoping you’ll want me to hold you tight during the scary parts.”
She was finding it hard to think with his body pressed to hers. “Oh.”
“And maybe, since we’re taking it slow, some kisses.” To illustrate his point he kissed the soft skin just below her ear. He felt her body quiver. “And maybe a little making out.” This time his teeth gently grazed her earlobe.
“Oh hell.’ Holly sighed.
Gerard loosened his hold on her just enough to move back and look in her eyes. “Oh hell? Don’t like that plan?”
“I love that plan.” She whispered. “It’s just…”
“Just what, Sugar?”
“Oh damn…I mean.. oh hell…I’m so..you’ll think I’m so lame.”
He continued to stare into her eyes, “Lame?”
“Gee I’ve never really..” She paused looking down, “I mean I was married to a guy who uh…”
Gerard was trying to follow her words but it wasn’t easy.
She continued to look down. “We never snuggled, or cuddled or…just made out.” She whispered.
Gently he released her and she wanted to cry.
“Holly.” He used his fingertip to raise her chin. “Sugar, you were obviously married to an idiot. That ain’t your fault.”
“He just didn’t fine me very desirable.” As soon as she admitted that she wished she could take it back.
“Then he was a fool.” Gerard smiled. “But I’m not a fool.” He stepped back. “Now go take your shower while I wash up the dishes.”
Holly stared at him.
“If you don’t go now the movie will start and we’ll miss it.”
Slowly she nodded.
“And believe me Sugar.” He said smiling. “We’re gonna make out.” A smile covered his face as she turned and fled the room.