Molly hears Santa's sleigh bells, Gerard leaves a personal gift for Holly. Christmas Day is bittersweet.
“It was nice.” Lindsey said glancing back to see that Bandit’s eyes were heavy. She’d be asleep before they got home. Beside her Don’s eyes looked tried too.
“Good night, Dad?” Gerard asked.
“It was a great night.” He answered. “You sure it won’t be a problem taking me earlier in the morning?”
Gerard shook his head. “Nope, we don’t have to be at the airport till noon.” The plan was for Mikey to take Don to catch his flight later in the day.
“Holly’s gifts were really nice.” Lindsey said reaching up to touch her necklace.
“She’s talented.” Gerard answered with the sound of pride in his voice.
“Yeah but that’s not why they are so nice.” Lindsey said softly. “Her gifts come from the heart.” She thought a minute. “You know when she was at my studio she worked on a drawing of Sonja. She left it behind. Do you think it would be okay if I tried to finish it for her?”
Gerard glanced over her in surprise. “Yes.” He said slowly, “I think that would be very nice.”
“I don’t want to upset her.” Lindsey worried.
“You mean you’re afraid a drawing of Sonja would make her sad?”
Don spoke up. “Lindsey, I think finishing that drawing would mean a lot to Holly.”
Lindsey turned to look at him. “Good. I want to do something nice for her. I want to give her a gift that really means something.”
When the dishes were done Alicia and Holly returned to the living room where Mikey and Molly were just throwing away the last of the wrapping paper.
“Okay, Molly.” Holly smiled, “I think it’s time we go look for Santa.”
Molly smiled. “Yep.” She ran to take her hand.
Alicia sat down on the sofa next to her husband who was watching Holly and M as they made their way outside to the patio.
“This is a tradition she did when Sonja was little.” Alicia explained lowering her voice. “She’d take Sonja outside to scan the skies for Santa on Christmas Eve.”
“Oh.” Mikey smiled, “And now she’s doing it with Sonja’s little girl.”
Alicia smiled sadly. “Yeah, how sad that Sonja never got to do that herself.”
Mikey placed his arm around her shoulder. “Yeah.” He whispered.
Molly was standing looking up into the sky when Holly felt her phone vibrate. She pulled it out and read the message.
WHEN IT’S TIME TO HEAR SANTA’S SLEIGH BELLS OPEN THE ATTACHMENT
For a minute she was confused by Gerard’s text but suddenly she understood.
“Well see anything?” Holly asked as she placed the phone back in her pocket.
“Mes donts see em.’ Molly said sadly.
Holly took her hand. “Lets keep looking.” She urged. “But remember sometimes you can’t see him but you can hear the sleigh bells.”
Molly nodded still scanning the skies.
“Wait, did I hear something?” Holly whispered.
At once Molly let go of her hand and moved towards the edge of the patio trying to see more of the sky, her little ears listening closely to the night sounds. When Holly pushed the button on her phone Molly cried out. “Mes ears em. Mes ears em.”
Holly silenced the phone then walked over to her. “I heard the bells too. Oh my, he must be getting close. You probably should get to bed now. Santa won’t stop if you’re not in bed.”
“Otay.’ Molly agreed excitedly. “But mes gots to tell Uncle Mikey and Awisha mes heards Santa.” She raced for the patio door.
As Holly walked in she smiled as the little girl was explaining how she’d heard Santa’s sleigh bells.
Alicia sat up excitedly. “Oh my, you’ve got to get to bed.”
“Mes knows.” Molly said nodding.
Alone in his study Gerard lowered his head to the desk in defeat. As much as he wanted to make himself believe that this was a wonderful Christmas Eve, he just couldn’t.
As soon as Lindsey had put Bandit to bed she’d given him a quick kiss and explained that she was tried. So tried in fact that she’d just finish packing in the morning when he took his dad to Mikey’s.
Gerard had tried to hug her but she’d quickly turned before he could get his arms around her.
When his phone alerted him to a text he had to blink several times before he could read the message.
SLEIGH BELLS A BIG HIT. THANKS SANTA GEE
He smiled then sent back a text.
GLAD IT WORKED BET SHE WAS EXCITED
OH YES SHE JUST NOW FELL ASLEEP BUT I’M WAITING A FEW MINUTES BEFORE I GO TO PUT HER PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE
He tried to block out the image that immediately came to mind – Holly in bed. Slowly he sent another message.
MIKEY PROBABLY CANT’T WAIT FOR THE COOKIES
Holly grinned. In the darkness she typed.
YEP BUT HE SAYS I HAVE TO DRINK THE MILK
YOU SHOULD IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.
While Holly was trying to decide what if anything to say next she received another text.
MERRY CHRISTMAS HOLLY
Sadly she realized he must be busy.
YOU TOO GEE
Holly waited about twenty minutes then slid out of bed. Mikey was waiting for her in the living room.
“I already grabbed the gifts from the garage.”
“Good.” Holly smiled. She took them from the large black plastic garbage bag and carefully placed them under the tree. Mikey was busy eating the cookies Molly had left on a plate by the tree.
“Okay you’re up.” He laughed handing her the glass of milk.
Holly sighed then drank the milk down in one long swallow.
“I can’t wait to do this for my own kids.” Mikey said softly.
“The years they believe in Santa are just wonderful.” Holly sighed, “But they pass by so quickly.”
Mikey gave her a quick hug. “Well, good night Holly.” He started to leave but turned suddenly. “Having you and M here made his a wonderful Christmas Eve.”
“Thanks Mikey Boy.” Holly smiled. “It was a special night I’ll always remember.”
Holly had just started back towards the bedroom when she was surprised by another text.
SANTA WORK DONE?
She decided to go back to the living room. Once she was comfortable on the couch she typed.
YEP GIFTS IN PLACE. COOKIES DEVOURED. MILK DRANK
Still sitting at his desk Gerard had been trying to imagine the scene in his head. He knew that it had to be better than what had happened at his own home. Lindsey had simply asked him to place Bandit’s Santa gifts under the tree before he went to bed. Fighting sadness he typed.
UNDER THE TREE SKIRT IN THE VERY BACK IS A GIFT FOR YOU
Holly glanced over at the tree. Slowly she got up and soon found a small gift bearing her name. The package was a short cylinder. Taking it back to the sofa she typed.
WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?
I LEFT IT FOR YOU
SHOULD I OPEN IT NOW?
Holly carefully unwrapped one end then slid the rolled paper out of the tube. Her breath caught as she gazed at the drawing. “Oh.” She whispered immediately blinking back tears. The couple, in the drawing, were shown from the back. As they gazed at the Christmas Tree their hands were clasped together. It took her a minute to gather her thoughts.
Gerard wondered if the drawing had upset her. Maybe he shouldn’t have given it to her. Maybe he should have simply thrown it away years ago and yet that was something he’d never been able to do. He’d done that drawing shortly after he and Holly had moved their relationship past simply being friends.
GEE IT IS BEAUTIFUL. THANK YOU
THAT WAS OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS EVE
He paused then added.
A MEMORY I WILL ALWAYS TREASURE
Silent tears cascaded down Holly’s face. She wiped her eyes then typed.
I TREASURE THAT MEMORY TOO
Gerard’s smile was bittersweet.
She picked up the drawing and holding it carefully to her heart she made her way back to bed.
Mikey peered out his bedroom door having just ducked back inside. He wondered what Holly was carrying and why it looked like she was crying. Once her bedroom door closed he silently made his way down the hall.
When he returned to bed Alicia rolled over. “Did you put it under the tree?”
“Yeah.” He answered. He’d placed Holly’s Santa gift near the front.
“What’s wrong?” Alicia asked sensing something was amiss.
“Oh nothing.” Mikey leaned back and closed his eyes. He tried to convince himself that he hadn’t really seen Holly crying but deep down he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
“Mommy, mommy, mommy.” Molly bounced up and down on the bed. “Santa was ear.”
Holly forced her eyes open. Judging by the light in the room it was still very early. Still she understood it was definitely time to get up.
“Tum on.” Molly urged.
Grabbing her robe she met Mikey and Alicia who were just coming from their bedroom. A moment later Donna’s door opened.
Molly was sitting by the tree when the adults arrived.
“Wow.” Alicia said happily. “Santa left you lots of stuff.”
Holly knew that most of the gifts weren’t expensive but she still hoped they made the little girl happy.
“Dis mommy’s name.” Molly said holding out a brightly wrapped gift.
“What?” Holly looked at the tag totally confused. When she glanced over she saw that he friends were trying not to smile.
“Mes wanted Santa to brings mommy somesing.” Molly said.
“Well that was very nice of Santa.” Holly said looking over at Mikey and Alicia. She opened the package just as Molly was opening a box of similar shape. “Oh.” She laughed pulling out a pair of pajamas covered in a sock monkey pattern.
“Looke” Molly cried out happily. “Dey likes mes.” She said holding up her own pair of pajamas. “Now wes can match.”
As Molly tore into her next package Holly got up to move to the sofa. “Thank you.” She said softly to Alicia and Mikey.
Mikey shook his head. “I’d like to take the credit.’ He said pausing to make sure Molly wasn’t listening. “But that was Gee’s doing. Remember up at Bear Lake when he took Molly shopping? That was so he could ask her what she wanted Santa to bring you.” He smiled. “He even found the PJ’s and brought them over last night.”
Holly was so touched by the truth a lump formed in her throat.
“Lookie.” Molly said holding up the doll she’d wanted so badly.
“Very pretty.” Donna said. “What are you gonna name her?”
Molly was tearing open the box to get to the doll. “Mes don’t know yet but mes wuvs her.”
Several hours later Holly was disappointed when Gerard dropped Don off but didn’t come in. Donna’s flight had been delayed so she wouldn’t be going to the airport with Gerard and his family. Holly had really wanted to thank Gerard for his kindness.
Don spent several hours across the street at Hal’s visiting before Mikey drove him to the airport. Donna decided since her flight was leaving so late she would take a taxi to the airport.
Now, as Molly played one of her new video games, the three women were relaxing.
“This was a nice Christmas Day.’ Donna said with a sigh. “Not hetic at all.”
Alicia nodded. “Yeah, just relaxing.”
Holly took a sip of coffee. “I’m really happy Don spent some time visiting with Hal.”
Donna nodded, “Yeah, he was telling me they really have a lot in common.”
“Oh Holly.” Alicia said changing the subject. “I wanted to remind you to pack Molly’s coat. I talked to mom and she says it’s really cold in Missouri.”
“Okay.” Holly nodded. “But I’ll have to borrow one of yours again.”
“Sure.” Alicia smiled. “Oh and mom said to tell you that Santa left a gift for Molly under her tree.”
Holly frowned slightly. “That wasn’t necessary.”
“Sure it was.” Alicia smiled. “My mom loves little kids. She’s so happy you and Molly are coming. Oh and they have about six inches of snow so I’m pretty sure some sled riding is gonna happen.”
“That will be a hit with Molly I’m sure.” Donna laughed.
“Yep, for sure.” Alicia nodded remembering how much fun Molly had had up at Bear Creek. Suddenly she noticed Holly wasn’t smiling. “You okay?”
“Just a slight headache.” Holly answered truthfully, “And sorta tired.”
“Why don’t you go take a nap?” Alicia urged. “We’re not gonna have dinner until Mikey gets back.”
As much as she wanted to relax and talk to her friends her head did hurt. “Will you be leaving soon?” She asked Donna.
“The taxi will be here in less than an hour. So I’ll just take a goodbye hug from you now.”
Holly walked over to the older woman who had stood. “It was so great to see you again.”
Donna hugged her tightly. “I’m happy you’re back in our lives.” She whispered.
Her words caused a wave of sadness to wash over Holly. “Hope to see you again soon.” In her mind she knew the chances of that were slim.
Sadly once Holly lay down in bed sleep suddenly eluded her. At first she was simply thinking about the trip tomorrow but then her thoughts turned to another trip long ago.
June 30th 2007
“So which direction do I go?” Holly asked glancing over at Gerard. They were sitting in her Bug all packed and ready for their trip.
He decided it was time to tell her the truth. “Okay I know I sorta made this road trip sound like it was totally spontaneous but I have a plan.”
“Care to share?” Holly smiled.
“Well I’ve got a friend who has a small vacation house up in Long Branch. It’s pretty close to the beach.”
“The beach?” Holly gave him a surprised look.
“What? You don’t like the beach?”
She drummed her fingers nervously on the steering wheel. “It’s not that I don’t like the beach but you just don’t strike me as a soaking up the sun kinda guy.”
Gerard laughed. “Okay that’s true but I do like long walks along the beach in the moonlight.”
Holly’s breath caught. “Oh.”
He reached over and took her hand off the steering wheel. “Sugar, I really just want us to get away together. If you want to go somewhere else that’s fine.”
“No.” Holly said fighting the nervous feeling that kept threatening. “I think that sounds just fine.”
It didn’t take long to drive to Long Beach. Along the way they stopped and bought a few groceries to take with them. When they pulled into the driveway Holly cut the engine.
“Josh told me where he leaves the spare key.” Gerard said opening his door. “Lets look at the house first then we’ll grab our stuff.”
“So how far is the beach from here?” Holly asked following him up the pathway towards the front door.
“Less than a mile.” Gerard answered. He bent down, lifted the third flower pot then stood holding a key. Quickly he unlocked the door and allowed Holly to enter first.
The house was small, modestly furnished but nice. Holly walked around the living room taking it all in. “This is nice.”
“He said he hasn’t been here in a few months but we’re welcome to anything left in the pantry.” As he said this he and Holly moved towards the kitchen. After opening a few cabinets they moved down another hallway, passed a small study, a bathroom then the hall dead ended at the bedroom.
“Wow only one bedroom.” Holly said gazing at the large Queen size bed. Nervously she glanced away.
Gerard moved quickly to put his arms around her. “Sugar, we slept together last night. You can trust me.”
As much as she loved this man this was all happening so quickly. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Gee.”
He smiled, “But we are moving pretty fast.”
“You could say that.” Holly said looking down.
He used his fingertip to raise her chin. “All that is important to me is that we’re together. I want to spend time with you, just you. I want to pretend we are the only two people in the world.”
While she understood his words and feeling she sighed, “But we’re not.”
“You worried about Sonja?” He guessed.
She was relieved he understood giving him a slight nod.
“Well she doesn’t get back until Sunday night, right?”
Holly nodded again.
“And if she needs you she’d call your cell, right?”
“So there’s nothing to worry about.”
“I’ve worried about things my whole life.” Holly whispered.
Gerard nodded, “Yeah, well it’s time to give yourself a break.”
She looked deeply into his eyes. “Yeah, I think it is.”
When their lips met the kiss was sweet but promised so much more to come.
Holly rolled over wishing she could put these memories to rest once and for all. However she understood that would never happen. There would always be so much regret.
When Mikey returned for the airport they had a light dinner. Holly’s headache hadn’t improved but she hid that fact the best she could.
As evening drew near she excused herself to pack for tomorrow’s trip.
Alicia looked over to see Molly was engrossed in her video game before she spoke.
“I don’t think Holly is feeling well.”
Mikey thought a minute. “Think she’s just stressing about tomorrow?”
“I hope not.” Alicia sighed, “It’s gonna be fun.”
Mikey put his arm around his wife. “Sure it is. Once we get there she’ll be fine.”
“Wonder if Gee had arrived yet.” Alicia said changing the subject.
Calculating the time in his head Mikey nodded. “Should be. I hope they have a nice visit with Lindsey’s family.”
Alicia couldn’t stop herself from voicing her concern. “Even thought they both try to hide it there is so much tension between them. It worried me.”
Mikey nodded. “I know what you mean. It’s sad to see them that way.”
“It just seems like this has been going on such a long time.”
Mikey tried to keep a positive attitude. “Maybe spending this time away with her family will help.”
Alicia didn’t really believe that would help but she smiled, “Maybe you’re right.”