The day after Thanksgiving is a busy one. Gerard meets Richard.
Holly arrived a few minutes after Christa. When she walked in Alicia was already cuddling &&& in her arms.
“Morning Holly.” Christa greeted her. “I just need to go over a few things with Alicia before we go.”
Holly nodded. “And I need a cup of coffee.” The aroma of fresh brew was filling the house.
“Help yourself.” Alicia smiled as Holly made her way towards the kitchen.
As soon as she was out of earshot Alicia walked closer to Christa. “She looks like she had a bad night.”
Christa nodded, “Yeah. I’m sure holidays are still hard for her because of Sonja.”
Alicia sighed, “I’m so bad. I never even thought of that. Shit, we had such a good time at Gee’s yesterday and she seemed so happy…”
“I’m sure she was. But I’m guessing last night when she got home to the empty loft it hit her.”
Holly walked back in cradling a mug of coffee in her hands. She knew immediately the way her two friends stopped talking that she’d been the topic of discussion.
“Yeah, I look like death warmed over this morning.” Holly said trying to make light of the situation.
“Bad night?” Christa asked.
Holly nodded, “Yeah. No sense in lying about that. I started thinking about Sonja on the drive back to the loft.”
“And without Molly it only got worse.” Christa said knowingly. “I’m sorry, Holly.”
Holly shrugged, “That’s just how it is sometimes. The pain gets to be too much and I just let it out. Cried for a long time then fell asleep.” She didn’t mention Gerard’s call that was too personal. Taking a sip of coffee she squared her shoulders. “But today is a new day and I start over. I accept that I’ll have bad times but they won’t last.”
Christa crossed the room to give her a careful hug mindful of her coffee cup. “Yep, that’s right.” She turned back to Alicia. “Now…” As a new mother she had a whole list of concerns about the baby she wanted to address with Alicia.
“Morning Squirt.” Gerard greeted his daughter as soon as her eyes opened. He’d just snuck into the room to check on her and was surprised when she stirred.
“Morning, daddy.” Molly smiled.
Gerard sat down on the side of her bed. “It’s still early. Do you want to sleep a little more?
Molly yawned. “Nope, awake now.”
“Well how about some breakfast?”
Molly sat up. “Yeah. I’m hungry. Then we go to Mikey’s?"
He smiled, “Yep, that’s the plan.” He noticed Molly’s smile fade.
“What’s wrong, Honey?”
“I miss mommy.” She whispered.
Gerard understood. “Hey I talked to your mommy last night after you fell asleep and she’s just fine.” He knew that really wasn’t true, Holly hadn’t been fine, but Molly didn’t need to know that. “But if you want we can call her?”
Molly nodded happily.
Gerard took out his cell and made the call.
“Good morning.” Holly answered moving into the kitchen so her call wouldn’t interrupt Christa who was once again going over everything concerning the baby with Alicia.
“Morning Holly.” Gerard answered. “I have someone here who needs to hear your voice.”
Holly smiled, “Well I need to hear her voice too.”
Gerard handed the phone to Molly.
“Hi Baby. Did you have a good time with daddy last night?”
Molly nodded, “We had fun. Daddy and me made lots of Christmas decorations.”
Holly sat her now empty coffee mug down on the counter. “That sounds like lots of fun.”
“And now daddy is gonna make me breakfast.”
“What’s he making?" Holly asked.
Molly looked at Gerard. “What are you making?”
He grinned, “What do you want?”
Molly gave this some thought. “How about dunkie eggs?”
Gerard stared at her. “Uh let me talk to your mom a minute okay?”
“Daddy wants to talk to you.” Molly said before handing him back the phone.
He heard Holly laughing. “Let me guess you want to know what dunkie eggs are?”
“She means over easy so she can dunk a piece of toast in the yoke.” Holly explained.
“Oh.” Gerard smiled, “Well I can do that. I was afraid this was some difficult thing.”
“Nope, not at all.”
While he had the phone he asked, “So you feeling okay this morning?"
Holly sighed, “Yep thanks.” She offered no other explanation.
“Good.” He answered. “Well I’ll give you back to Molly. I’ve got to go make some dunkie eggs.”
“Thanks, Gee.” Holly said softly.
He smiled, “Anytime.” Then handed the phone back to Molly.
Christa glanced over at Holly deciding if she should touch on anything personal. So far they had simply been talking about the shelter and Holly’s work.
“What?” Holly said seeing the look Christa had just given her.
“Uh, I was just wondering…” Her voice trailed off.
Christa concentrated on the traffic a moment then said. “Well, I’m wondering how you really feel about being back here.” When Holly didn’t answer right away she added quickly. “Sorry, I’m being nosey.”
Holly sighed, “No, that’s okay. As a friend I get that you are worried. Matter of fact I think you’re the only one who really gets this isn’t as easy for me as everyone thinks.” She paused a minute. “It’s weird, I guess. Back in Chicago I felt pretty together, you know? It was like my life had started over.”
“But being back here there is a lot of the past still lurking.” Christa said as they pulled up to a stop light.
“Exactly.” Holly nodded, “And spending time with Gee is…” She searched for the right word. “Crap, I don’t know.” She sighed, “It’s weird.”
Christa laughed, “I’ve always thought being around Gee is a little weird.”
Holly joined in her laughter. “Well yeah. Good Lord when he called me Wednesday night I could just imagine him standing in that grocery store looking all lost.”
“Alicia told me you and Molly went out that night to help him with Thanksgiving dinner.”
“I’m sure she did.” Holly rolled her eyes. “I know Alicia just thinks that it would be perfect if something developed between me and Gerard.”
Christa tried to choose her words carefully knowing this was a touchy situation. “Well, yeah, I think she does.”
“But it’s not that simple.” Holly sighed. “Gee has changed and so have I.”
“Gee has changed.” Christa said softly. “Definitely a change for the better and so have you.”
“But still.” Holly tried to explain her feelings. “The past we share…”
Christa understood, “Has a lot of pain in it.”
“Oh hell yes.” Holly admitted. “And that scares me.”
Christa waited until she pulled into the shelter’s parking lot to speak. “Guess, the answer is to take one day at a time and see what happens.”
“That would be a good answer but we both know Gerard. Patience is not one of his strong virtues.” She started to open her car door when Christa’s words stopped her.
“That’s not exactly true Holly. The whole time you were gone he’s waited while getting his life in control.”
Holly turned to her. “Waited?”
Christa believed she needed to hear the truth. “Yeah, he’s been waiting for you to come back.”
Holly stared at her a moment then quickly got out of the car.
“Holly.” Joan greeted her warmly. “It’s so good to see you again.”
“It’s good to be seen again.” Holly smiled.
“When Christa mentioned you were back in town I’d hoped you’d stopped by but I wasn’t really holding my breath.”
“I’m gonna go grab our aprons.” Christa said leaving Joan and Holly alone to talk.
“I’ve wanted for so long to talk to you about what happened.” Joan said softly. “I’m so sorry. If I hadn’t asked you to take that paperwork down to Safe Harbor…..”
Holly cut her off. “Oh, Joan. Please don’t tell me you’ve been blaming yourself in some way for what happened.”
“Of course I do. I put you in that position.”
“No.” Holly said shaking her head. “You simply asked if I could drop off some paperwork. I had planned on going to Safe Harbor anyway. Please, don’t blame yourself. The decision to go was mine.” She smiled, “And now it’s time to get busy.” She saw Christa returning.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” Joan hugged her again.
“I’m glad to be here.” Holly answered as Christa handed her an apron.
Gerard and Molly spent most of the day with Donna. First they went to the park then went out to lunch. It pleased Gerard that Molly seemed to be warming up to his mother. When they returned to Mikey’s in the late afternoon he was tired but feeling very upbeat.
“Okay, M.” Alicia said joining them in the living room. “Wanna help me make dinner?”
“Sure.” Molly smiled. “I’m a good cook.”
Gerard followed them into the kitchen. “Uh, so when did Holly and Christa get back?” He’d been disappointed to see Holly’s car was gone when they’d returned.
“About an hour ago.” She asked Molly to get several ingredients out of the fridge then turned to Gerard. Lowering her voice she said, “Holly really looked tired and I could tell her back was hurting. She said she was going to go home and take a long, hot shower.”
“Oh.” He sighed leaning against the counter. “I was afraid she’d start pushing herself too hard.”
“You know Holly.” Alicia smiled “Going to the shelter makes her happy. I think it’s important she doesn’t let anything stop her from that.”
Gerard nodded, “That’s true but still I worry.”
“Anyway, she said she’d come over later and pick up Molly.” Alicia glanced at the clock, “But she really didn’t say what time.”
“I’ll give her a call.” Gerard nodded.
“Invite her for dinner.” Alicia instructed. “It won’t be ready for about an hour. Mikey won’t be home until then.”
He nodded then walked through the back door to make his call. When he heard Holly answer her voice sounded tired.
“Hey.” He smiled, “We were just wondering if you’d like to come to dinner? Alicia and Molly are starting it now.”
Holly sat down pulling her robe tightly around her. “Oh, thanks but I’m pretty tired.” She admitted. The shower had helped her back but now she was sleepy. “If it’s okay I’ll just pick up Molly in a few hours.”
“No need.” He said quickly. “I’ll bring her home. You just relax, okay?”
Holly laughed, “Gee, I’m really okay, just tired.”
He sighed, “I know that. But you did put in a full day at the shelter and that would make anyone tired. Just try to relax, no working, and I’ll bring Molly home later. Besides Ma is leaving in the morning and I know she wants to spend as much time with Molly as she can.”
“Sounds good.” Holly said reaching for her cup of tea. “Thanks.”
“No problem. See ya later.” He disconnected but before going back in he smoked a cigarette giving himself time to think. Holly did sound very tried. He knew however he had to try to hide his concern. Holly was a strong willed woman and he had to tread carefully. She wouldn’t like him treating her any other way.
“Well?” Alicia asked as soon as he walked back into the kitchen. “Is she coming to dinner?"
“Nope, she’s tired.” Gerard said smiling at Molly who was looking at him. “But I told her I’d take you home later.”
Alicia sighed unhappily. She’d really hoped Holly would accept the invitation.
“I’m gonna go talk to ma unless you need my help?” He teased knowing there was no way Alicia was going to want his help in the kitchen.
“M and I have this under control.” Alicia answered. “Don’t we?” She glanced at her niece.
“Sure do.” Molly nodded.
“So.” Donna said trying to ease into a conversation with her son she felt important. “I heard Holly’s not coming to dinner.”
Gerard had wondered if his mother had been listening to them talking in the kitchen. “Yeah, that’s right. She’s pretty wiped out from working at the shelter today.”
“How do you feel about that?’ Donna asked watching him closely.
His eyes narrowed, “How do I feel about what?”
Donna sighed, “How do you really feel about her going down to the shelter?”
Gerard sat back getting comfortable before answering, “I don’t have any control over what Holly does. If she wants to go down to the shelter she will.”
“I didn’t say you had any control over what she does.” Donna said, “I simply asked how you feel about it.”
“What difference does that make?” He challenged.
Donna rolled her eyes. “Don’t get prickly with me. My question is a simple one. How do you feel about it?”
He sighed, “I worry. Is that what you want me to admit? But it’s not just because of what happened before. I know she still has a lot of issues with her back and I don’t want her to hurt herself. But at the same time I know how much satisfaction Holly gets from helping others. I think it would be a shame if she stopped doing it.”
His mother nodded, “I feel the same. Holly does get a lot of satisfaction from helping others, she always has. I’m glad to hear you understand that.”
“Of course I do.” He muttered.
“And that you understand you can’t change her.” Donna said softly.
He stared at his mother as her words sank in. “I wouldn’t want to change Holly. She’s a beautiful person inside and out.”
Donna smiled, “And you still love her.”
This was something Gerard did not want to discuss. “I got some phone calls I need to make.” He said starting to stand.
His mother’s voice stopped him. “Gerard. Sit down.”
He did but said, “Ma, I don’t want to talk about this.”
Donna shook her head sadly, “Okay, I’m not going to push the issue. But as your mother I will say this…don’t push Holly. I know in my heart you’ve been waiting all this time for her to come back into your life and now she has. Give her time to see just how much you’ve changed. See what develops.”
He sighed, “I have changed. But that don’t mean that who I am now is someone she’ll want.”
Donna smiled with love at her son. “Oh, I think it will work out just as it should.”
“What’s that mean?” He asked narrowing his eyes.
She just smiled, “Gee if I’ve learned anything in life it is that what should happen, will happen. You and Holly share a past that at times has been brutal but I’m guessing there were a lot of happy, good memories?”
“Shit, it’s hard to remember those.” He whispered.
“But they are there.” Donna said softly. “And you two also share a beautiful reminder of those memories.”
Gerard smiled, “Molly is a beautiful reminder.”
“I love that little girl.” Donna said her eyes growing misty. “Every time she calls me grandma…well, it really touches me. I can never say how sorry I am about the way I acted when I first found out.”
Gerard shook his head, “Ma, you need to let that go.”
“I know.” Donna nodded, “Holly said pretty much the same thing. She’s right, it was a very bad time for all of us.”
“A brutal time.” Gerard agreed. “But we’re past that now.”
“We are.” Donna walked over and took a seat beside him. “Now is the time to start over for all of us.”
Gerard put his arm around her. “I love ya, ma.”
“I love you too.” She smiled, “And for the record I am so proud of the man you’ve become.”
It wasn’t until almost nine o’clock that Gerard found himself walking Molly up the stairs to the loft. He hoped Holly wouldn’t be upset even though he’d called earlier and asked if it would be okay for Molly to stay and visit a while after dinner before he brought her home.
“You tired, Squirt?” He asked his daughter who’d just yawned again.
“Carry me?” She said half way up the stairs.
Gerard smiled, “Sure.” He lifted her in his arms then continued on. “You knock.” He said as they reached the door.
Molly did and a moment later Holly pulled open the door. “Hey.” She smiled at her daughter. “Did you have fun today?”
“Yep.” Molly nodded wrapping her arms tightly around Gerard’s neck. “Me and daddy had lots of fun.”
“That’s good.” Holly stepped back to let them enter. It was then Gerard saw she wasn’t alone.
“Uh Gee.” She said, “This is Richard. Richard, Gerard.”
Slowly Gerard lowered Molly to her feet then glanced over at the tall, blond man. “Nice to meet you.”
“Richard owns the restaurant I’m doing the artwork for.” Holly wasn’t sure Gerard remembered.
Gerard nodded, “Yeah, you mentioned that.”
“I just stopped by to show Holly a few photos of some of my other restaurants.” Richard explained. His eyes went to Molly. “Hey, Molly. Glad you’re here. I brought something for you.”
Molly watched as he walked back over to the sofa and grabbed a bag.
“Here you go.” He handed it to her.
Molly slowly opened the bag. “Oh.” She took out a small stuffed rabbit. “Cute.”
“Well I remembered you said you like rabbits.” Richard smiled. “So when I saw that one in a store today…”
“What do you say?” Holly reminded her daughter softly.
“Thank you.” Molly said looking at Richard.
“You’re welcome.” He smiled.
Gerard’s eyes were on Holly. She was wearing sweats and her hair was pulled back in a pony tail. But it was her eyes that worried him, he could see she looked exhausted. “Uh, Alicia already gave Molly a bath. She knew how tired you were so…”
Holly cut him off. “Oh that was thoughtful of her.” She saw that Gerard was now glaring at Richard. “Uh Gee would you mind putting Molly to bed? It’s past her bedtime.”
“Not at all.” Gerard was glad he had a reason to stay.
“I can finish showing you these photos another time.” Richard said having picked up on Gerard’s words.
“Don’t be silly.” Holly said walking back over towards the sofa. “You’re already here.”
Gerard looked down at Molly. “Give your mommy a kiss and I’ll tuck you in.”
“And tell me a story?” Molly asked looking up at him.
“Well sure.” He smiled. Even more time he could spend here.
Molly gave her mom a kiss then said goodnight to Richard. As she walked back over to Gerard he put his arm on her shoulder and led her towards her bedroom. Once she has in her PJ’s and tucked into bed she smiled.
“Daddy could you hand me my bear?”
He spotted it on the foot of the bed where she’d also tossed Richard’s bunny. “Uh sure.” He lifted the bear he’d given her. “You want the bunny too?”
Molly shook her head. “No he can stay down there.”
It was hard for Gerard not to smile.
“Okay, tell me a story.” Molly snuggled down in her blankets.
“You want me to tell you a story or read one?" Gerard asked pulling a small chair up next to the bed.
“Tell me one.” Molly smiled.
Gerard laughed, “Okay Squirt.” He searched his brain. “Okay this is the story of a little girl and her bear.”
“Me and Bobo?”
“Bobo?” Gerard repeated.
Molly lifted her stuffed friend. “Yep, I named him Bobo the bear.”
“Okay.” Gerard grinned, “This is a story about Molly and Bobo and their adventure in New York.”
“I’ve never been there.” Molly said.
“Well then this story will be a surprise.” He tried to get comfortable. “Okay Molly and Bobo..”
Molly shook her head, “Daddy, you start with once upon a time.”
He laughed, “Oh sorry. Okay, once upon a time Molly and Bobo went on a trip to New York.” As he spoke he pulled memories of the city from his mind. “It was Christmas time and they wanted to see the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.”
“Where?” She asked.
Gerard realized this would take some time. A thought that made him very happy.
“Well.” Richard said closing the book of photos. “That’s the last one.”
“I really like your restaurants.” Holly smiled, “Especially the one in San Diego.”
“That’s one of my favorites too.” Richard smiled, “It’s important to me that they all are different. I hate cookie cutter establishments. That’s one reason I was very excited when I saw your work. I wanted my restaurant here in LA to have more of an open air feel. I don’t want a lot of partitions. I want the restaurant to have a flow and your wind chimes will work great for that feel. I want everything very light, colorful and almost surreal.”
Holly sat back trying to ease the pain in her back. “Well I hope my work fills the bill.”
He smiled at her. “Oh I’m sure it will. I’m very impressed with the way you obviously chose your color scheme for each piece and I’m sure the murals will be perfect. But I did want to get your thoughts on one more thing before I go.”
“The huge mural I want for the front of the restaurant…I was wondering what you think about having a lights installed behind it? My thinking is that it would bring out the beautiful colors of the glass even more.”
Holly thought a minute then smiled, “I like that idea.”
He nodded, “Good. This won’t present a problem will it?”
“Well I need to give this some thought.” She admitted. “When I was just attaching the glass to the actual wall I wasn’t worried about the weight of the piece. But now that is a concern. It will have to be reinforced.” She thought a moment. “Maybe I could actually work on a sheet of plexiglass.”
He smiled, “Attach each piece to that?”
“It would give the piece strength.” She sighed, “I’ll give this some thought.”
“Good.” Richard stood while gathering his things. “Think about it and we’ll talk in a few days.”
Holly walked him to the door.
“Well sorry I didn’t call before just stopping by.” Richard said softly.
“No problem. Thanks for showing me the photos. It gives me a better idea of what you like.”
Richard pulled open the door. “Oh tell Gerard I said goodbye and it was nice meeting him.”
Holly nodded, “I will.”
Still Richard lingered. “Uh, so it’s okay if I call you in a few days?”
“Of course.” Holly smiled. “I’ll do some thinking on this idea.”
He smiled, “Good night, Holly.” With that he turned towards the stairway.
Holly closed the door then made her way towards Molly’s bedroom. She stopped in the doorway. “Uh, Gee. Molly is asleep.” She said softly.
Gerard pretended he hadn’t noticed until now. “Oh.”
“So.” Holly folded her arms.
He got up and walked out into the living area with her. “I was telling her a story about her and Bobo in New York. Uh, she named the bear I got her Bobo.”
“I know.” Holly said reaching her hand behind her to massage her back.
Gerard looked around. “Uh, so Richard left?” He knew because he’d heard.
Holly sighed, “Yes, Gee. Sorry. I’m sure you wanted to glare at him some more.”
“What? I wasn’t glaring at him.” Gerard lied.
Holly just wanted to take another pain pill and go to bed. “Oh whatever. You know you were. I just wish you’d try to be a bit more civil. I’m working for the guy. He’s paying me a lot of money which I need. I don’t need you causing a problem.”
“I didn’t say anything.” Gerard answered trying to remain calm but he was upset Holly was angry. “The only problem I had with him being here was I know how tired you are and I can tell your back hurts.”
Holly sighed, “Yep you’re right on both of those accounts. So I’ll just see you out then go to bed.”
Gerard stared at her but made no move towards the door. Finally he sighed, “Well shit. You’re already mad at me so who cares?”
“What?” Holly wasn’t sure what he meant.
Quickly he closed the distance between them. “You need a pain pill?”
She was still confused, “Yeah I’m gonna take one before I go to bed. It’s a muscle relaxer.”
“Where are they?"
“Gee, I’ll take the damn thing after you leave.” She said folding her arms again.
“You’ll take one now.” He gently grabbed her arm. “So where are they?”
Holly sighed, “In my room.”
“Fine.” He started to pull her towards her bedroom area.
“Gee, what are you doing?”
He continued moving. “Putting you to bed before I leave.”
Holly pulled her arm away. “I can put myself to bed, thank you very much.”
“Of course you can.” He sighed, “But you’re gonna let me so I’ll leave.”
“Fine. Whatever.” She brushed past him. Once in the bedroom she opened her drawer then handed him the bottle. “Child proof cap. Think you can open it?”
He ignored the sarcasm. “Yeah, probably.” He got the lid off and pulled out one pill. “Hold on I’ll get you some water.” When he returned a moment later Holly was still standing in the same place. “Here.”
She took the water then swallowed the pill.
Gerard walked over and pulled down the blankets on the bed. “In you go.”
“This is really ridiculous.” Holly huffed but she did walk over to the bed and a moment later he was pulling the covers over her body. “I’m not an invalid.”
“Never said you were.” He smiled. “But it’s obvious just looking in your eyes you’re exhausted and in pain.”
“Gosh, thanks. I must look really great.”
He grinned, “Well…”
“Shut up.” She rolled her eyes. “Go away now. I’m in bed.”
He switched off the bedside lamp. “I’ll turn off the lights and lock up.” He said as he started to leave. However he suddenly stopped and turned, “Oh and since you’re already mad at me I’ll just go ahead and say it…I think you look beautiful.” Before Holly could replay he walked out.
A few minutes later he had all the lights turned off in the loft except for one small lamp. He couldn’t help but make one final check on Molly. She was curled up on her side hugging Bobo. “Sleep tight.” He whispered leaning down to press a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Then he moved towards Holly’s bedroom area. Through the semi-darkness he saw her eyes were closed, her breathing even. She’d been so exhausted she was already asleep. “Sleep tight.” He whispered then left the loft.