Bandit and Molly refuse to be parted.
“Gee.” She said moving across the room towards the bed. “Why didn’t you wake me?” Not waiting for an answer she reached down to feel Bandit’s forehead. It was hot to the touch.
“She just woke up a few minutes ago.”
Holly looked into his eyes that were filled with worry. “Her fever is up because it’s time for more medicine.” She said trying to relieve some of that worry. Bandit was looking at her through teary eyes. “Come here, Baby.” Holly said softly holding out her arms. Bandit went to her immediately. “Gee, go get the medicine.” Holly said as she rocked the little girl in her arms.
When he returned to the bedroom Holly had sat down on the bed still rocking Bandit in her arms.
Gerard poured the medicine in the cup with shaky hands. He hated his little girl was suffering and felt so helpless. Holly understood.
“She’ll be fine as soon as we get the fever back down.”
“Okay Baby.” Holly said softly taking the cup from Gerard to hold it to Bandit’s mouth. “Swallow this and you’ll feel better soon.”
“She must feel terrible.” Gerard whispered. “She’s not even telling you she’s not a baby.” They both knew Bandit hated to be called a baby.
As Bandit swallowed the medicine Holly smiled. “It’s okay to be called Baby when you don’t feel good. Isn’t that right, B?”
The little girl swallowed all of the medicine then nodded slightly.
“That’s a good girl.” Holly said taking the cup back from her. She then looked closely at Gerard. “You haven’t slept at all, have you?”
He sighed. “I was keeping an eye on her.”
Slowly Holly stood still keeping Bandit in her arms. “You look exhausted. Won’t do any of us any good if you relapse. I’ll take B with me to the sofa until her fever breaks. You crawl into bed and get some sleep.”
“No, I’ve got this.” He answered shaking his head. “I’m okay.”
The dark circles under his eyes told a different story.
“No you’re not. You’re still getting over this flu. I told you that you’d feel better after three days but not that you’d be recovered. Bandit and I will watch some TV until her fever breaks.” Holly was sure it wouldn’t take long. She stood ignoring the pain in her back. “Bed, Gee.”
He sighed, “At least let me get you two settled.”
Holly carried Bandit down the hallway to the living room. Once there she sat on the sofa settling Bandit comfortably in her arms. Gerard placed the footstool in front of her so she could place her feet on it, then he covered them with the afghan.
“Better place the wastebasket close.” Holly said softly knowing there was a chance Bandit’s tummy might reject the medicine.
“Oh, sure.” He set it down on the floor near them then he handed Holly the remote. For a minute he stood back to look at them. Bandit was snuggled against Holly tightly.
“You handle this better than me.” He sighed.
Holly understood his feelings. “Gee, you were handling it. If you weren’t still sick this wouldn’t be an issue at all.”
“Me wuves Olly.” Bandit said softly.
Holly was touched by the little girl’s words. “And Holly loves you too B. Pretty soon this nasty old flu bug will be gone and you’ll feel so much better.”
Bandit smiled slightly believing Holly’s words.
“Now tell your daddy to get some sleep.” Holly prompted the little girl. “So he will feel better too.”
“Daddy get some sweep.” Bandit said looking at her father. “Me wuves you.”
Gerard laughed. “Wow you’re as bossy as Holly.”
“Yep she is because we both care about you.” Holly said looking into his eyes.
He was touched by her words. “Thanks Holly.”
She tore her eyes away from his. “See you in the morning.”
“Uh it actually is morning.” He answered knowing it was just after 3 a.m.
“Okay when the sun comes up.” Holly grinned. “How’s that?"
Gerard made sure the afghan was tucked around them both then taking one last look made his way back to bed. For several minutes he laid there letting his mind remember how sweet Holly looked holding Bandit in her arms. When Bandit had said she loved Holly it had taken everything ounce of will power not to tell his daughter that he too loved Holly. Soon the image faded from his brain as sleep claimed his tired body.
The next time he awoke it was after 9:00. He made his way down the hall first stopping at the girl’s bedroom. He was surprised to see Molly was still curled up in her bed sleeping. When he reached the living room he found Holly and Bandit still on the sofa.
“Hey.” He said softly seeing that Holly was awake but Bandit was asleep in her arms.
“Good morning.” Holly greeted him with a whisper.
He squatted down near the sofa. “Any more problems?”
Holly sighed, “She threw up about an hour after you went to bed but enough of the medicine was in her system to lower her fever. After that she had a Popsicle and it stayed down.”
“You look exhausted.” He said unable to stop himself from reaching out to brush a curl away from her eyes. “You haven’t slept at all, have you?”
“I’m okay.” She answered quickly.
He stood. “No, now it’s time for me to take over and for you to get a few hours of sleep.”
Holly was going to object but something in his eyes made the words freeze on her lips. She understood how important it was to him that he take over. “Okay.”
As Gerard lifted Bandit off Holly’s lap the little girl woke.
“How’s my baby this morning?”
Bandit frowned, “Not a baby.”
“See she feels better.” Holly laughed as she got to her feet. “You might have her try a little apple cinnamon oatmeal.”
“How’s that sound?” He asked the little girl.
“Olly make it?”
Gerard frowned, “No daddy’s gonna make it for you. We’re gonna let Holly get some sleep.” He settled Bandit back down on the sofa then covered her with the afghan. Turning he took Holly’s arm. “Sleep for you, woman.” She offered no resistance as he led her down the hallway but instead of stopping at the girl’s room he gently pushed her towards his bedroom.
“Sleep in my bed.” He said not intending to take no for an answer. “Molly will be getting up soon and I don’t her to wake you.”
Holly was honestly too tired to argue. “I’m surprised she’s not up already.”
“Well she was up late last night.” Gerard answered as he crossed the room to straighten the blankets on the bed. He stood back. “Okay, in bed.”
“Now who’s being bossy?” She grinned.
“Me.” Once she was in bed he pulled the blankets over her body. “Get some sleep and I’ll take care of the girls.” He was almost to the door when her voice stopped him.
“Bandit loves you. The only reason she went to me last night is because when a little girls is sick they want their mommy. I was the closest thing to that for her.”
While he hadn’t wanted to admit it, he had been slightly jealous. Leave it to Holly to understand that. “I know.” He smiled, “But she does love you.”
“She’s a sweet little girl.” Holly said softly. “It would be pretty hard not to love her.”
Suddenly he truly felt better than he had in days. “Both of my girls are like that.”
Holly’s eyes fluttered closed. Gerard watched her a minute then softly pulled the door closed hoping she’s get several hours of uninterrupted sleep.
When Holly did wake it was almost three in the afternoon. She rubbed her eyes as she looked at the clock not believing she’d slept that long. Quickly she pushed back the covers then slipped from the bed. As she opened the bedroom door she immediately smelled the aroma of something so good it made her stomach rumble.
“Hey.” Gerard smiled when she came into view.
“What is that smell?” Holly asked looking towards the kitchen.
“Does it smell good or bad?”
Holly grinned, “Very good actually.”
“Come.” He motioned for her to join him in the kitchen. Pulling open the oven door he smiled, “I put a roast in. Added carrots, potatoes, and even a can of tomatoes. What do you think?”
She tried very hard not to laugh but he was obviously so damn proud he was beaming. “Wow, it looks as good as it smells.”
“It won’t be ready for about an hour yet.” He said closing the oven door. “So you’ll just have to wait.”
“Okay, so how’s Bandit?” She asked taking a step back to glance towards the living room where she saw both girls on the sofa watching TV.
“She’s better. I did make her some oatmeal. Molly too. And for lunch they had grilled cheese sandwiches. At first B thought her tummy wasn’t going to like it but she ate half a sandwich. So that’s good, right?”
Holly nodded, “Yep, that’s good. Looks like you’ve got things under control.” She looked at him closely. “And how are you feeling?”
He wanted to lie. He wanted to tell her he still wasn’t really feeling all that well because he knew as soon as he admitted he felt fine she’d leave. However he’d given it thought while she was sleeping and he knew to do so would be selfish. Holly had a lot of things to do to get ready for her show tomorrow night and it would be wrong to make her stay. “I’m feeling a lot better.” He finally answered.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Holly laughed.
Gerard glanced away. “No, it’s a good thing. Bandit’s better too so I guess you’ll be leaving after dinner.”
“Guess I should.” Holly answered softly. “I do have a lot to do before tomorrow night.”
“Yeah, I know.” When he saw he take a seat at the table he joined her. “I talked to Linds while you were asleep. She and Jake aren’t going to be back until Sunday night.”
“How’s she feeling?”
“She said a little better but still pretty whipped out. But she did want me to tell you she feels terrible she won’t be here for your benefit auction.”
“I do wish she could be but I understand.”
“Oh and you had a couple of calls that went to voice mail.” Gerard said suddenly remembering. When she started to get up he jumped to his feet. “I’ll get your phone.”
Holly thanked him when he returned and handed her the phone. She scrolled through the call log. “One is from Arthur.” She sighed, “The other is from Bob.”
“Is he going to be there tomorrow night?”
“The last I heard he and Angie were going to be here.” Holly said as she connected to her voice mail. A frown covered her face as she listened to Bob’s message. Gerard too was trying to listen without her noticing.
Holly disconnected then sat the phone down. “He and Angie can’t make it.”
“Oh that’s too bad.” Gerard sat back down at the table. “Nothing’s wrong is it?”
She was actually thinking about the other part of his message not pertaining to the show. That part of the message was about her trailer and Bob wanting to know if she’d talked to Gerard about it yet. Holly forced her mind to concentrate on Gerard’s question. “Oh no not really. Angie can’t get away.”
“So he and Angie are pretty close?”
“Yep, Bob asked her to move in with him.”
Gerard smiled, “Well that’s good.” He hated to admit it but he’d always been a bit jealous of Holly’s relationship with Bob. Hearing that he was involved with another woman made him happy.
“It is good.” Holly agreed. “They really are a good couple. I liked Angie the first time Bob introduced her to me.”
Molly’s voice from the living room interrupted the conversation. “Daddy, Bandit’s tummy hurts. Think she’s gonna puke.”
“Oh shit.” Gerard muttered jumping to his feet.
Fortunately that didn’t happen but once more Bandit was feeling very ill. As soon as she saw Holly follow Gerard into the living room she held up her arms for Holly to take her.
“Poor B.” Holly crooned lifting her up into her arms. “I’m sorry you don’t feel good.” She sat down on the sofa settling Bandit’s body against hers. “Mean old flu bug won’t leave you alone.”
Bandit snuggled against Holly simply wanting to feel comforted.
After dinner Holly insisted that she and Molly would clear the table and wash the dishes. Gerard took Bandit into the living room where she quickly fell asleep in his arms.
About fifteen minutes later Holly and Molly joined them.
Holly gently touched Bandit’s forehead. “Not much of a fever.” She whispered.
Gerard nodded, “Yeah and so far the potatoes she ate have stayed down.” Bandit hadn’t wanted to eat anything but the adults had convinced her to at least eat some potatoes that Holly mashed for her.
“Well.” Holly said standing up. “Guess we should be going now.”
Molly who hadn’t heard about this plan was immediately upset. “We can’t go. We have to stay and take care of daddy and Bandit.”
Gerard smiled at his daughter. “Squirt, I’m okay now. I’ll take care of B but your mommy has a lot of things to get done before the auction tomorrow night.”
“No we can’t go.” Molly said shaking her head. “I don’t want to. I like it here.”
Holly had been afraid this would happen. “Honey, you know we were just staying here to take care of your daddy while he was sick but he’s better now so we have to go home.”
“This is home.” Molly said her bottom lip beginning to tremble as she crawled up next to Gerard. “We don’t have a home.”
Gerard saw the look of pain on Holly’s face. Quickly he spoke up. “Squirt you and your mom have a nice home.”
“No” Molly shook her head wildly. “We got no home. This is a home.”
“Molly that’s enough.” Holly said a bit more sharply than she’d intended. However her daughter’s sudden attitude had upset her. “Now go get your coat.”
Immediately Molly burst into tears waking Bandit in the process. Bandit sat up, her eyes wide. “Why Molly crying?”
Gerard tried to take control of the situation. “She’s just upset because it’s time for her and Holly to go home.”
Molly snuggled closer to Gerard. “Daddy I don’t want to go.” She whined.
The sight of Molly crying caused Bandit burst into tears too. “Olly don’t want you to go.” Before he could stop her the little girl crawled off Gerard’s lap and ran to Holly.
“Oh B.” Holly lifted her into her arms. “Don’t cry, Honey.” She whispered.
Bandit threw her arms around Holly’s neck. “Don’t go. Bandit needs you.”
Holly gave Gerard a pleading look. Once more he tried to take control.
“B, Holly has to go. You know she has an important art auction tomorrow night. But she’s taken good care of us, hasn’t she?” As he spoke Molly crawled onto his lap wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Hey we’ll see you again soon.” Holly said gently to the crying child in her arms.
“But Bandit is sick. You take care of me.” Bandit hiccuped.
Holly tried not to flinch as a pain shot down her back. However Gerard saw the pain in her eyes. He gently pushed Molly off his lap then stood. “Okay enough of the drama, girls.” He said using his best stern dad voice. He walked over to where Holly stood holding Bandit. “Come on B.” He put out his arms to take her but she tightened her hold on Holly neck.
“No.” She cried harder. “Me needs Olly.”
Gerard reached out but Holly took a step back. “It’s okay, Gee.” She said softly. “Molly, Bandit, listen to me.” She waited until both girls quieted down. “Okay here’s the deal. Molly and I will stay tonight but in the morning we have to go. Do you both understand?”
The little girls looked at each other. Finally it was Molly who answered.
“Okay, mommy.” In her world one more night was a small victory.
Holly looked into Bandit’s eyes. “Okay, B?”
Slowly Bandit nodded, “Okay, Olly.”
“Are you sure?” Gerard asked softly as he reached out again for Bandit. This time the girl went to him.
“One more night.” Holly said more to herself then Gerard. Right now she was filled with sadness by Molly’s words and actions. Her daughter had never before defied her like this. Part of her knew she shouldn’t have given in but at the same time guilt had fueled that decision. Molly so badly wanted a home and now she’d found one. How badly would she react if Holly decided they should leave LA?
“Hey.” Gerard said softly to get her attention. “You okay?” The look on her face concerned him. Was her back causing her a lot of pain or was it something else?
Holly forced herself to smile. “Yeah, sure.” It was a lie because right now her emotions were anything but okay.
The rest of the evening passed with Molly snuggled up next to Gerard on the sofa and Holly holding Bandit while they watched Christmas movies on TV. While the girls were content both adults were lost in thought.
It was nearly ten pm when Molly finally fell asleep. Gerard looked over and saw that Bandit too had nodded off. Slowly he shifted Molly in his arms then stood.
“I’m gonna put her to bed.” He whispered to Holly. She simply nodded then turned her attention back to the TV. He hoped that when he returned it would give him an opportunity to talk to Holly. What had happened earlier had obviously upset her and he needed to understand her feelings.
As he gently placed Molly in her bed she woke. She was momentarily confused and her small voice sounded scared. “Daddy?"
“Go back to sleep Squirt.” He crooned squatting down by the side of the bed to stroke her soft black hair.
“Daddy I want to stay here.” Molly said grabbing his hand.
Gerard’s heart went out to her but he knew he needed to handle this correctly. “Squirt, you and your mommy can visit any time. But you guys have a nice home too, right?”
“Not a home.” Molly’s eyes once more filled with tears.
“Sure it is.” He said soothingly. “Home is where you are with the people you love. You love your mommy, right?”
Molly nodded. “I love mommy.”
“Then your home is wherever you and your mommy live.”
“But I love you and Bandit too.” Molly answered.
He tried another tact. “But most of the time Bandit doesn’t live here either. She lives with her mommy.”
Molly seemed to be thinking this over.
“And I need you to do me a big favor, can you do that?” He asked.
“Okay.” He smiled. “I need you to look after your mommy for me when you go home.” He hoped this would give Molly a feeling that she was doing something for him that was very important. “Can you do that? I need you to make sure you and your mommy stay safe while we're apart.”
Molly seemed to be thinking this over. For several moments she stared at Gerard while still holding his hand. Finally she spoke. “Because you love us?”
“Of course.” He answered from the bottom of his heart. However at the same time he truly hoped this didn’t get repeated wrongly to Holly because even though it was very true he knew right now Holly wasn’t ready to hear how much he loved her. Several minutes passed before Molly spoke.
“Just wish we could all stay here.” Her voice was so sweet and innocent it tore at his heart because he wished the same thing.
“I know.” He pulled the blankets up over her body. “But sometimes in life things aren’t exactly the way we want them to be.” He wanted so badly to see his daughter smile. “But just think, Christmas is coming soon. That’s gonna be lots of fun, right?”
Molly nodded. “Christmas is magic, mommy said so.”
“Magic?” Gerard was slightly surprised. “Yeah, I guess so.” He wondered if Holly had actually said that or the girls had been watching too many Christmas movies.
A slow smile came to Molly’s face. “It’s magic. Especially Christmas snow.”
Gerard laughed, “Well I don’t know about that but hey, maybe it will snow here. I’ve heard it does sometimes but so far I haven’t seen more than a few flakes.”
Molly eyelids slowly closed. Gerard watched her a few minutes then when he was sure she’d fallen asleep he stood. Taking one final look at his daughter he uttered a silent prayer of thanks. No matter what happened of didn’t happen between him and Holly they had a beautiful daughter he loved with all his heart.
Holly looked up when he reentered the living room. “Everything okay?” She asked because she’d wondered what had taken him so long.
“Sure is.” He nodded then moved closer to take Bandit from her arms. “I’m gonna put her in bed with me again tonight.” He explained. “I’ll get her settled then be right back.” He hoped this made it clear that he wanted to talk to Holly when he returned.
Bandit, unlike Molly, did not wake as he settled her into his bed. He covered her body then placed a kiss on her forehead happy to feel her fever was still staying down. Hopefully this meant she was over the worse part of this flu. Holly had told him that kids bounced back much faster than adults and he prayed she was right.
He walked back into the living room and his heart sank. The chair Holly had been sitting in was vacant however when he heard a sound in the kitchen he realized she hadn’t gone to bed.
“Hey.” He smiled walking into the small kitchen.
Holly turned. “I was making us a cup of tea.” She explained. She’d done a lot of thinking this evening and she knew they needed to talk. “Sound good?”
“Sure does.” He watched her movementd noticing they were slightly slower than usual. “Your back hurts, doesn’t it?”
“Not bad.” She answered quickly dismissing his question. “Go sit down. It will just take a few minutes and I’ll bring out tea in there.” She needed time to get her thoughts in order.
Gerard nodded then did as she suggested. He knew Holly well enough to see she had a determined look on her face and one that bothered him. Molly’s outburst earlier in the evening had upset her, that he knew. Now he just hoped it didn’t mean she’d made any decisions that were going to affect all of them.
By the time Holly walked in carefully carrying two cups of tea he’d switched off the TV and had soft Christmas music playing from the stereo.
“Here you go.” Holly’s voice sounded strained and the smile on her lips didn’t match the look in her eyes.
“Thanks.” He said as he took the cup she offered. “Uh, you want to take something for your back?”
Holly shook her head. “No, it’s fine.” She sat back down in the chair avoiding sitting on the sofa next to him.
For several moments neither spoke. Gerard searched his mind for something to say that would break the tension but almost everything he thought of he was sure would upset her.
“Gee.” Holly said finally, “About Molly’s behavior earlier, I’m sorry.”
Of all the things he thought she’d say that wasn’t one of them. “Hey, she was just upset.” He fell silent when Holly spoke up.
“She has never defied me like that before, never.” Holly frowned.
He smiled, “Holly, she’s a kid. That’s what they do when they are upset.”
“No. That’s not acceptable.” Holly said shaking her head. “She can’t throw a fit when she doesn’t want to do something and me giving in to her wasn’t right.”
He tilted his head to study her face. “I think that’s not the only reason it upset you.”
She was about to lie when she suddenly changed her mind. “Yeah, that’s true. But I can’t let my feelings keep me from being a good parent.”
Now he was confused. “I don’t get it.”
“Letting her have her way because she threw a fit sets a bad precedent.”
He nodded, “Yeah, I get that but what about your feelings?”
Holly sighed, “Gee, I know I’ve not given Molly a very stable childhood up to this point.” She glanced away. “The only true home she ever knew was our trailer and I’m not even sure she really remembers it that well. Then after the accident we lived in Bob’s house.” She took a sip of tea before continuing. “She doesn’t look at the loft as a home and to be honest it really is only temporary. Tonight made me realize I’m going to have to make some decisions soon.”
He was immediately worried by this. “What kind of decisions?”
“I need to decide on a permanent place for Molly and I to call home. Maybe with the money I’m getting for my work for Richard I’ll have enough to make a down payment on a small house but it definitely won’t be in LA. There is no way I could afford a home here in an area that will have a good school for Molly.”
Gerard had been afraid that was what she meant. “But Holly her family is out here.” He said before thinking but once the words had left his lips and he saw the look on her face he wished he could take that back.
Holly continued to glance across the room while speaking. “Families don’t always live near each other. No matter where we settle you will still be able to see Molly when you can find time.”
Anger unfortunately was his first response. “When I find the time?” He repeated.
“You know what I mean. You’re a busy man with several careers. Molly will understand that.”
He tried unsuccessfully to control his temper. “You really don’t get how important my kids are to me, do you?”
The question surprised Holly. “I never said that.”
“You might not have come right out and said it but you definitely implied it. You have no idea how badly I wanted to see Molly while you were in Chicago. One of the brightest moments during that time was when Bryar sent me a picture of Molly dressed up for Halloween. Other than that, not a fucking thing.”
Holly forced herself to look at him. “You could have called Bob and asked about Molly.”
“And risk upsetting you? I didn’t as much as I fuckin’ wanted to because of you.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide. “Because of me?”
He set his tea cup down on the coffee table with a thud. “Yeah, you. I told you I’d wait until you were ready to deal with things and I kept my promise. I waited.”
This conversation had gotten into territory Holly didn’t want to explore. “Well we did handle it, Molly knows you’re her father.” She said softly once more looking away.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” The hurt in his voice was loud and clear.
Abruptly Holly stood. “No, I didn’t. I know you love her and she loves you. But I’m her mother and it’s my job to make the right choices for her.”
Gerard stood too. “No, it’s our job to make those choices. She’s ours.”
Holly stared at him.
Slowly his anger began to fade when he saw what he believed was fear in her eyes. “Holly, we have a beautiful daughter, you and me. Don’t shut me out.”
Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. “I wouldn’t.” Was all she said before she quickly turned to walk towards the bedroom where Molly was asleep.
“Shit.” Gerard sat back down heavily on the sofa. That hadn’t gone well at all. While he understood on one level that Molly was the most important thing in Holly’s life he also understood his own feelings. He didn’t just love his daughter, he loved her mother too. But sadly he understood that was something Holly didn’t want to consider.
In the morning when Bandit stirred waking him he found the house empty. They’d left without saying goodbye.
AUTHORS NOTE: JUST A QUICK THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO COMMENT. I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR WORDS!