Holly moved into her embrace. “Good to see you too.” She whispered.
Gerard exhaled in relief.
When Donna stepped back, her eyes moist with tears, she went to Molly. “Oh my, look how much you’ve grown.” She said as she neared the sofa.
Molly gave her a small smile. “Yes, I am much taller now. She looked towards the door. “Hi Uncle Mikey and Aunt Alicia. We’re watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.”
Donna looked into Gerard’s eyes a moment then asked softly. “Molly, do you remember me?”
Luckily commercials were on so Molly could tear her attention away from the TV. “Oh, sure.”
Because Donna had been told that Molly now knew Gerard was her father she said, “I’m very happy to see you here with your daddy.”
Gerard glanced over at Holly who had taken a seat once Mikey and Alicia had sat down in matching chairs. He still was unsure how Holly felt about his mother.
Molly nodded, “I’m happy to be here with daddy cause he’s my real daddy, you know?”
Donna nodded, “Yes, I do know.”
Gerard saw Holly sigh and be believed he understood why. She was worried Molly would once more try to question as to why they hadn’t told her the truth about Gerard before. “Hey, look.” He said happily, “The parade is back on.”
Once more Molly’s attention went to the screen.
Donna sat down next to Gerard. “Bet you’re waiting for Santa to arrive.” She said gently reaching out to touch Molly’s arm.
“Sure am.” Molly smiled.
“Well I’m just waiting for dinner.” Mikey spoke up. “It smells delicious.”
Alicia nodded, “Man, I swear when you opened the door my mouth started to water.”
Holly grinned, “It does smell good, doesn’t it? I just checked the turkey and he’s about done.”
“Hey Gee.” Mikey teased, “I though you were the one making dinner.”
Gerard’s eyes locked with Holly’s for a brief moment. “Uh, I’ve had help.”
“Mommy and me came over last night.” Molly piped up. “So we could help daddy cause he was in a pickle.”
This caused the adults to laugh.
“A pickle?” Alicia giggled.
Gerard hugged Molly. “She’s right, I was definitely in a pickle. I called Holly after I left the studio last night while standing in the grocery store in full panic mode.”
Holly shrugged, “He was a little stressed.”
Gerard smiled over at her. “More than a little. But Holly talked me through it, told me what to buy then offered to come over and help.”
“Well that was nice.” Donna said with a smile.
“Very nice.” Mikey grinned “Cause if she hadn’t I have a feeling we’d be eating turkey pot pies today.”
Holly felt bad that Gerard was being teased. “No, I’m sure Gee would have pulled it together.”
Gerard hoped with all his heart she really did believe that.
“So, did I see pumpkin pies over on the table?” Alicia asked.
“Mommy made them.” Molly answered.
Alicia reached down into her large purse to pull of a plastic grocery bag. “And we brought the whipped topping.”
Holly stood moving to take the bag from her. “I’ll just pop that in the fridge.” She wasn’t surprised when Alicia followed her into the kitchen.
“Man, does that turkey smell good.” Alicia said leaning against the counter.
Holly placed the whipped topping in then closed the refrigerator door. “So, go ahead.”
Alicia tried to look confused “Go ahead?”
Holly rolled her eyes, “Go ahead and ask me about us staying here last night. I know you want to.”
“No, I don’t.” Alicia said crossing her arms in front of her. “I just think it’s nice you did.”
Holly didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. “Look, I understood this dinner was important to him being as it’s his first Thanksgiving in this house. And I knew how much Molly was looking forward to it.”
Alicia held up her hand to stop her. “I know that.”
Holly decided she might as well mash the potatoes. “So that’s why we came over.” She said over her shoulder as she took the pot off the stove and moved towards the sink to drain the water.
Alicia tried to hide her grin, “Uh, I think someone is protesting too much.”
Holly glanced over at her. “I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
“Hey.” Gerard walked in interrupting what Holly was about to say. “I’m supposed to be doing that.”
“Thought you were watching the parade.” Holly said placing the pot back on the stove top.
“Commercial time.” Gerard explained.
Holly placed her hands on her hips. “Well good then you can mash the potatoes.” She brushed past him in a huff.
Gerard glared at Alicia.
She shrugged in response then quickly turned to catch up with Holly. Before Holly realized what she was going she threw her arms around her hugging her tightly.
“Uh, what’s this for?” Holly asked resisting the urge to wiggle out of the embrace.
“So you’re not mad at me.” Alicia answered still hugging.
Holly sighed, “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself for being prickly.
“Well then.” Alicia hugged her even tighter. “This hug is so you don’t stay mad at yourself. So we have the perfect day.”
“Oh hell.” Holly threw her arms around Alicia and hugged her tightly.
Mikey, who’d decided to see what his brother was doing walked by them slowly. “Am I missing something?”
Alicia laughed, “Nope you’re just having a hugfest.”
“Yeah, it’s obviously a new Thanksgiving tradition.” Holly added twisting her head to look at him.
“Okayyyy.” Mikey laughed. As he started towards the kitchen he saw Gerard standing in the doorway watching Holly and Alicia. Mikey gave him a questioning look but Gerard just smiled.
“We’ll eat as soon as the parade is over.” Gerard announced to his guests as he returned to the living room.
“But we gotta wait to see Santa, right daddy?”
Gerard was pleased when Molly got off the sofa allowing him to sit back down so she could reclaim her spot on his lap. “Well of course.”
“You put the green bean casserole in to heat?” Holly asked. When she saw the look on his face she laughed. “I take that as a no?”
He started to get up but Holly stood. “I’ll do it. I’ve got to put the rolls in anyway.”
Gerard smiled, “Thanks. I’m sorta busy watching a parade.”
This time as Holly entered the kitchen it was Donna who was following her. “Anything I can do to help?” She asked.
Holly shook her head, “I just have to take the turkey out so I can pop the casserole and rolls in.” She started to grab the hot pads but Donna stopped her.
“Oh honey let me lift it out.” She gently pushed Holly away from the oven.
“Donna I can lift it.” Holly started to protest.
“Well of course you could but why take the chance of hurting your back. Lord knows I’ve lifted my share of big turkeys in the past so it’s not a problem.”
Holly moved back allowing the older woman to lift the turkey out. Once it was placed on the large wooden cutting board Holly had set out Donna stood back. “It looks beautiful.” She lowered her voice. “I’m so glad you helped him with this, Holly. This day is very important to him.”
Holly nodded, “Yes, I know and he’s done a great job.” She quickly grabbed the casserole out of the fridge and placed it in the oven. Then she slid the dinner rolls in also all the while knowing Donna was watching.
“There.” Holly said. “I’d set the timer but since the oven isn’t really calibrated I’m just going to watch these.”
“Don’t be silly.” Donna said fluttering her hands nervously. “You go on back in there with the others and watch the end of the parade. I’ll keep an eye on the rolls.”
“That’s not necessary.” Holly said glancing away. She hated that there still seemed to be a forced politeness between herself and Donna.
Suddenly for the second time today she found herself being surprised by a hug. “Honey, I really am so sorry.”
Holly returned the hug understanding her words. “Donna you don’t need to say that. It was a very stressful time for all of us. We both said things we normally wouldn’t have said.”
“I know.” Donna sighed, “But I just wanted to say it. I just want you to understand how happy I am that Molly’s my granddaughter. She’s such a beautiful little girl.”
“Who looks more and more like her father every day.” Holly smiled as she took a step back.
Donna nodded, “Yeah, she really does but I can still see a lot of you in her too.”
“Mommy.” Molly’s voice caught their attention. “Hurry. Santa is coming.”
“Better get back in there.” Donna smiled.
Holly turned but not before giving the older woman one more quick hug.
Gerard looked around the table feeling very content and at peace. This Thanksgiving dinner was everything he’d hoped it would be. The meal was excellent, thanks in large part to Holly, but it was much more than just good food. It was a sense of family that filled him with happiness. Had Bandit been here it would have been complete but he reminded himself that not everything could always be perfect.
“Uh Gee?’ Mikey said again knowing his brother seemed to be spacing out.
“Yeah?” Gerard answered before taking a final bite of turkey.
“I was wondering if you want to head into the studio on Sunday.”
Gerard frowned, “I thought we’d decided to wait until Frank gets back and go in on Monday.”
“Yeah, well I was just thinking maybe you, me and Ray could get some work done on Sunday.” While he didn’t say it Gerard knew his brother was stressing as much as he was about the attitude the record company was giving them. They were demanding a finished product and soon.
“ Suppose we could for a while.” Gerard said slowly, “But I’ve got to stop by and see Bandit when they get back Sunday night.”
Donna sighed “I’m sorry I won’t get to see her.”
Gerard gave his mother a surprised look “You’re heading back home before then?”
“Yes, I’m flying back home on Saturday. It was the only flight I could get.” Donna explained. While she was taking Holly quickly excused herself when she heard her cell phone in the living room.
When she returned to the table Gerard asked softly. “Everything okay?” He’d noticed she looked a bit unhappy.
“Oh yeah.” Holly nodded, “That was just Christa. We had plans for tomorrow but her baby sitter had to cancel.”
Alicia frowned, “You and Christa had plans?”
Nervously Holly glanced down at her plate. She suddenly wished she’d remained silent about this topic. “Uh yeah.”
Gerard was watching Holly closely. “So you were gonna leave Molly at Ray and Christa’s with the sitter?”
“Well how come you didn’t just ask me to watch Molly?”
All eyes including Molly’s seemed to be trained on Holly. “Well” She said slowly. “Christa just said I could leave Molly with their sitter so I didn’t need to.”
Gerard tried to hide his disappointment. “So what are you two going to do now?”
Holly shrugged, “She said she’s going to try to find another sitter but since it’s Thanksgiving weekend the odds of that happening seem sorta slim.”
“Well I got this one covered.” Alicia said pulling her cell out of her pocket. A minute later she was talking to Christa offering to watch the baby tomorrow. When she closed her phone she saw her husband was staring at her. “What? Why are you looking at me like I’ve suddenly grown a second head?”
“You’re gonna miss out shopping the day after Thanksgiving to baby sit” Mikey said slowly.
Alicia nodded, “Yep, that’s right.” She turned to Holly. “Cause I’m pretty sure I know where you and Christa are going and that’s more important then me shopping.”
Holly smiled at her warmly. However Gerard was again frowning. “Where are you going?” He asked fearing he already knew the answer.
It was however Molly who answered. “Mommy is going to help feed the less for-tune- ate.”
This was met with silence for several moments. It was Donna who finally spoke. “Well that’s a very nice thing for your mommy to do.” She said smiling at her granddaughter.
Molly nodded. “Yep.”
Gerard had sat back in his chair staring at Holly. “Uh, which shelter?”
“Helping Hands” Holly answered.
That at least relieved his worry slightly. The thought of her actually going to the shelter where she’d been attacked scared him beyond words. “So.” He said slowly. “I’d like to spend some time with Molly tomorrow.”
While Holly was happy he’d obviously decided not to push the subject of her going to the shelter she was surprised by this new comment.
“Hey.” Alicia laughed, “I’m supposed to get Molly tomorrow.”
Molly was smiling happily.
Gerard tired to keep an upbeat attitude. “Well I’ll hang with her at your place cause I’m sure ma wants to spend time with her.”
“You know I do.” Donna nodded, touched that her son understood her feelings. “I was thinking maybe you’d like to maybe go to the park?” She said looking across at Molly.
“Sure Grandma.” Molly answered.
Tears came to Donna’s eyes which she quickly wiped away.
It was over desert that Gerard suddenly had an idea. “Uh, what time are you and Christa going tomorrow?” He asked Holly just as she was taking a bite of pumpkin pie.
She took a minute to chew then swallow. “I’m supposed to pick her up at eight. The shelter is serving a special large brunch so we need to be there early to help prepare the food.”
“That’s early.” Gerard said then smiled, “Do you think Molly could just stay with me tonight that way you wouldn’t have to wake her. Once she and I get moving around in the morning I’ll take her over to Mikeys.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, well…”
Gerard didn’t understand her hesitation. “Hey, Molly can help me take down the Thanksgiving decorations and maybe we could make some Christmas ones.” He desperately wanted to spend time with his daughter and this seemed like a perfect opportunity considering he’d be spending so much time in the studio in the near future.
Holly took a sip of coffee but didn’t answer.
“That sounds fun daddy.” Molly said softly.
Gerard smiled, “It will be but only if it’s okay with your mommy.” Not only his eyes but Molly’s turned to Holly.
“Sure that would be fine.” Holly forced herself to smile.
“Cool.” Gerard smiled. “Well have so much fun.” Gerard said reaching over to tickle Molly who immediately burst into laughter.
Holly finished her pumpkin pie in silence deciding once she helped clean up after dinner it would be time for her to leave.
“What?” Gerard couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had just finished clearing the table with Holly’s help only because she had insisted and now she was telling him she was leaving.
“Gee, I told you before I have a lot of work to get done before the benefit auction. And since I’m going to be busy the next couple of days I really need to get at least one wind chime completed.”
“But it’s so early.” He’d had so much planned for the rest of the afternoon and evening. “You don’t have to go yet.”
Holly sighed, “I really do. But thank you for inviting me. It was a perfect Thanksgiving.”
He gently took her arm and led her into the kitchen where he knew they wouldn’t be overheard. “Are you mad at me?”
“What?’ Holly was genuinely surprised. “Why would I be mad at you?”
“Because I asked about Molly staying tonight before I talked to you about it.” He’d been feeling guilty since it had happened.
“Gee, I’m not mad at you about that. I understand you and Donna want to spend time with Molly. But I will admit I am a little worried. Not because I don’t trust you watching her but because I’m afraid Molly might not really be so okay with the idea. I know right now she’s happy about the thought but honestly since…” her voice trailed off.
“Since your attack.” Gerard said softly. “She’s probably afraid to be away from you.”
“So isn’t she worried about you going to the shelter tomorrow?” He asked.
“She doesn’t remember that’s where I was going when it happened.” Holly said then added quickly, “And I don’t want her to. There’s no reason for her to know that. What happened to me was because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Christa and I had parked in the lot and not down the street it wouldn’t have happened. I don’t Molly to fear helping people ever.”
“I understand.” He said softly. “So you think I should just tell her it would be best for her to go with you now and I’ll pick her up in the morning?”
Holly could see how much that idea saddened him. “No, in a way this is good. She can’t keep being afraid something will happen to me, that’s not good. I just don’t want you to get your feelings hurt though if she suddenly gets upset tonight. She loves you Gee but if she wants to go home it’s because she’ll be scared I’m alone.”
It was so hard for him to resist taking Holly in his arms but he knew right now that was something she wouldn’t welcome. “I’ll understand. If she gets upset we’ll call you, okay?”
Holly smiled, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
A few minutes later Holly had said all her goodbyes and was at the door. Molly was suddenly clinging to her.
“Mommy I don’t want you to go.” Her bottom lip trembled.
Holly slowly kneeled down next to her daughter while carefully balancing the plate of food she was going to drop off for Sam on her way out. “Honey, I’ve got to work on my wind chimes you know that.”
“But I want you to stay here tonight with daddy and me.” Molly said her eyes filling with tears.
“Molly you and your daddy are going to have a lot of fun tonight. But I’ve got to go home now.” She hugged her tightly. “Be a big girl, okay.”She whispered something into Molly’s ear which made the child giggle.
Gerard wondered what Holly had said.
Giving her one final hug Holly stood then looked into Gerard’s eyes. “Talk to you later.”
He understood that she knew tonight Molly would be upset and that he’d be calling so she could talk to their daughter. “Here you go.” He handed Holly a paper bag.
“What’s this?” She asked taking it from him with her free hand.
“I made you a turkey sandwich for later tonight and I put in a can of Coke for you.”
Holly was touched her remembered she loved having a left over turkey sandwich and a Coke on Thanksgiving night. “Thanks, Gee.” She said softly.
Again he wanted so badly to hug her but instead her put her hands on Molly’s shoulders. “See you tomorrow.” He said as he opened moved to open the door for her. As they watched her drive away he knew he had to keep Molly’s spirits up. “Okay Squirt. How about we tell everyone we want to go out back and swing?”
Molly’s eyes lit up. “Okay.” She raced into the living room. “Daddy and I want to swing now.”
“Me too.” Alicia said getting up off the sofa.
As the started for the stairs Gerard said, “You all go on out. I’m gonna make a fresh pot of coffee.”
“Sounds wonderful.” Donna smiled as she took the hand Molly had extended.
“Come on Grandma.” Molly said pulling her along.
Gerard found himself whistling as he moved towards the kitchen.
“Now Holly you really didn’t need to go to this trouble.” Nick said as she handed the Styrofoam plate through the window into his waiting hands. “But I sure do appreciate it.”
“Enjoy.” Holly smiled.
Nick leaned down. “Molly’s staying?” He asked noticing she was alone in the car.
“She’s gonna spend the night with Gee.” Holly explained.
“I’m sure he’s happy about that. Spending time with your kids when they’re young is mighty important.”
“Do you have children?” Holly asked but when she saw Nick’s smile slip she wished she could take the question back.
Nick sighed, “No children of my own.”
“Oh” Holly whispered. “Well, Happy Thanksgiving Nick.” She smiled then continued on her way. Suddenly as she drove tears came to her eyes. Guilt filled her as she realized this was the first time today she’d thought of her first born, Sonja. God, would she ever stop feeling the pain caused by her death?
By the time Holly got home depression had consumed her. Walking around the empty loft missing Molly only made it worse. She knew she needed to work on the wind chime which was almost completed but she just couldn’t. Alone, in the dark she curled up on the sofa and cried.
Hours later the sound of her cell ringing pulled Holly out of a troubled sleep. Sitting up in the darkness she blinked rapidly trying to get her bearings. Then it came back to her, the overwhelming sadness that had forced her to ignore what she needed to do. The phone continued to ring as she finally reached her purse she’d thrown on the floor near the door.
“Hello?” She was still slightly disoriented and hadn’t looked at the screen but she was now fearful it was Gerard calling because of a problem with Molly.
“Hey, Holly.” Gerard knew by the sound of her voice something wasn’t right. “What’s wrong?”
Holly sat down still not bothering to turn on lights. “Nothing. Is Molly, okay?"
He sat down on the sofa. “She had a few moments when she was sure she should go home but in the end I convinced her you were okay and there was nothing to worry about.” He paused then added softly, “Was that the truth? Are you okay?”
Holly didn’t want to discuss this. “Did you two have a fun evening?”
Gerard knew she was ignoring his question but figured as long as he could keep her talking he had a chance to discover what was wrong. “Well Mikey, Alicia and Ma didn’t leave until almost seven. Alicia and Molly played on the swing set for about an hour.”
Holly laughed softly. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
“And then when we came in I made some hot cocoa with the little marshmallows and Molly and I made some Christmas ornaments out of construction paper, markers and lots of glitter.”
“Sounds like fun.” Holly whispered.
“It was fun. Wish you’d been with us.” He couldn’t keep himself from adding.
“Oh well I know but I had work to do.” Holly said without emotion.
Gerard hoped he wasn’t pushing her but he was worried, “So did you get a lot done?”
Holly opened her mouth to lie then snapped it shut.
“Holly?” He was afraid she’d disconnected.
“I’m here.” She said pulling her feet up under her on the sofa. “No, the only thing I got done was crying until I gave myself a headache then I feel asleep.”
“Oh Sugar why were you crying?’ He almost bit his tongue when he realized he’d called her Sugar but this time the word didn’t seem to bother her.
“Because I miss Sonja.” Holly whispered. “And I miss Molly. Gee, she’s gonna grow up before I know it and leave me.” Tears spilled down her cheeks.
Gerard wished with all his heart he was with her. He thought a moment hoping what he was about to day was the right thing. “Holly thank you for admitting to me that you’ve been crying.”
His words weren’t what she’d been expecting. “What?”
“It’s important that you allow yourself to release those feelings. I know you would probably have liked to lie about it and not tell me but you didn’t. That means a lot to me.” He could hear her breathing but she didn’t speak.
“And if I was there I’d make you a cup of cocoa with lots of little marshmallows.” He said softly. “And insist you cry on my shoulder.”
“Oh.” Holly whispered. Suddenly she forced herself to stand and make her way towards the table where she switched on the lamp. “Well I’m okay now.” She said standing taller. “But thanks, Gee.”
He knew when to back off. “Good night, Holly.”
“Nite Gee.” She said softly then disconnected.