Alicia and Sally both do their part to help Gerard and Holly.
Holly closed the door then turned. “Well hello to you too. I see you are feeling better.”
“Yep, me and Mikey have returned from deaths door.” She spotted Molly sitting at the kitchen table. “Hey, kiddo. How are you?”
Molly looked up from her drawing. “I’m okay.” She immediately lowered her head and returned to coloring.
Alicia was surprised by Molly’s lack of enthusiasm. She looked over at Holly wondering if Molly had been ill too.
Holly was frowning as she walked over to where her daughter sat. “Honey, why don’t you go watch some TV so Alicia and I can have a cup of tea and talk?”
Molly sighed, “Sure.” She straightened her papers then left the table with another dramatic sign.
The tea was already made so it took Holly just a moment to pour two cups. When she placed one in front of Alicia she too sat down at the table.
Alicia lowered her voice. “Is she okay? Has she been sick?”
Holly glanced across the loft to make sure her daughter was watching TV then spoke. “She’s mad at me. We just got home from Gee’s this morning and she didn’t want to leave.”
“Oh.” Alicia said softly. “Uh, I knew you guys left this morning. Mikey called Gee before I came over here but I didn’t realize there had been a problem with Molly.”
Holly took a sip of tea trying to sort through her thoughts. “We were supposed to leave last night. I mean Gee is better so I knew he could take care of Bandit but both girls threw a fit when I said it was time for Molly and me to go home.”
Alicia could see that whatever had happened had upset Holly. “Well, I mean it’s not unusual for little girls to like to stay together.”
“It’s more than that.” Holly answered lifting her cup but not taking a drink. “Molly believes Gerard’s place is a home. She said we don’t really have one.”
The hurt in Holly’s voice was loud and clear. However her question surprised Holly. “So when Molly threw a fit about leaving did Gerard support your decision?”
“Did he support your decision?”
Holly thought a moment. “Yes, he did. He knew I needed to get back here to get ready for the show.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant.” Alicia said slowly. “Both of you are her parents and it’s important that you guys are on the same page where she’s concerned.”
“Oh.” Holly finally took a sip of her tea. “I see what you mean. Yes, he did support my decision but I’m the one who gave in and stayed. I understood Bandit’s behavior because she’s sick. But the way Molly acted shocked me.”
“And hurt your feelings.” Alicia said watching her friend closely.
Holly didn’t want to admit that so she remained silent.
Alicia took another sip of tea then tried to put her thoughts into words. “Look we both know this has to have been weird for Molly to find out Gerard is her dad. And while at first she seemed to really be okay with it I’m sure it confused her.”
Holly spoke up. “You mean why we didn’t tell her before?”
Alicia nodded, “Yeah. But she loves Gee so I’m sure finding out made her very happy. Still, it’s got to be weird for her.”
Holly sat silently sipping her tea.
Alicia smiled, “You know I’ve never been one to pussyfoot around, I just say what I think.”
This caused Holly to smile, “Yeah, you’re pretty blunt at times.”
“I am.” Alicia nodded. “So I’m just gonna say what I think. This has been hard for all of you, not just Molly. Suddenly Gerard was thrust into his true roll of father to Molly. It’s one he’s wanted since he found out the truth. And I know in my heart letting that truth out was very hard for you, it still is.”
“Not now.” Holly said quickly.
Alicia’s eyes narrowed. “You always said Gerard was a bad liar, well so are you. Until now you’ve been Molly’s only parent. You made all the decisions, she belonged only to you. But now that’s changed and you’re having a problem with that.”
Holly refused to admit that was true. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. By Molly wanting to stay at Gerard’s it had to seem to you she was almost choosing him over you.”
This was something she refused to admit. “No, that’s not it. Truth be told it made me feel bad because I realize she’s never really had a true home. That is what makes me feel bad.”
“I’m sure that’s part of it.” Alicia nodded. “But not all of it.”
Holly glanced across the room at her daughter.
“Holly, he’d never try to take her from you. I really hope that’s still not a thought in your head.”
“No.” Holly said softly. “I don’t think he would do that.”
“Good because he wouldn’t. Gerard knows how much you love Molly.”
Holly looked at her friend. “But what if Molly…” She snapped her mouth shut when she realized what she’d almost said.
Alicia reached across the table to touch her arm. “You’re afraid because you’ve never really had to share Molly’s love with anyone, not like this.”
Holly stared at her a minute then nodded.
“See? I understand.” Alicia smiled. “But that’s just silly. Kids love both of their parents. Molly loves both of you.”
Something Gerard had said came to Holly’s mind. “When I was gone did Gee ever mention Molly?”
The question surprised Alicia. “To be honest when you were gone was when Gerard really changed. At first Mikey and I were worried because it was like he was shutting out the world and retreating into himself. But as time when by we both realized he was finding himself, learning what was important to him and that was his kids. He stopped drinking, and found peace. The divorce was hard but because he and Lindsey remained close they both helped each other through it. But to answer your original question about Molly…Gee didn’t talk much about you or Molly and I can tell you why. He was afraid you wouldn’t come back. He never admitted that but we knew. Mikey and I both asked him why he didn’t try to get a hold of you and he’d just say he had made a promise.” She looked into Holly’s eyes. “You understand what he meant, don’t you?”
Holly’s voice was soft and full of emotion. “He promised me he would wait until I was ready to deal with things.”
Alicia nodded, “I figured that was it. And he did, didn’t he?”
Holly looked down at her half empty tea cup. “Yeah, he did.”
“And you know why?”
“Why?” Holly looked up at her in confusion.
“Oh, boy.” Alicia grinned. “You’re totally gonna get mad at me but damn it I’m gonna say it anyway. Holly, he waited because he made a promise to someone he loves.”
As Alicia had predicted Holly immediately started shaking her head. “No.”
“Lord, I can’t figure out if you really believe what you’re saying or if you only want to believe it. Either way it’s the truth. Gerard loves you.”
“He loves Molly.”
“Yep and her mother.”
Holly sat back then folded her arms in an angry pose. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Are you trying to tell me you don’t think Gerard has ever loved you?’ Alicia challenged.
“Maybe he thought he did once.” Holly said rising from the table.
Alicia watched as she refilled her tea cup. She knew she’d upset her friend but deep in her heart she felt this was an important discussion. When Holly sat back down she spoke.
“Look, I really regret I was so blind in the past. I honestly don’t know how all of us missed the truth about you and Gee. But when I think back now, when I remember the times I saw you two together, I see I was blind. He loved you Holly, he still does.”
“Only because it would be convenient to love the mother of his child.” Holly said with anger in her voice.
Alicia stared at her a minute then surprised Holly by laughing. “Oh man, you’re so wrong about him.” She stood up from the table. “But I have faith you’ll figure that out.”
Holly was surprised when Alicia started for the door. “Where are you going?"
“Christmas shopping.” Alicia answered. “And then I have to get home to get ready for my friend’s benefit auction tonight.”
Holly followed her across the loft. She waited while Alicia gave Molly a kiss then moved towards the door.
“Of course I’m guessing my friend still wants me there tonight?” Alicia asked.
This abrupt departure was still confusing Holly. “Of course I want you there.”
Alicia threw her arms around Holly giving her a tight hug. “Good cause your friend loves you and wants to be there.” She whispered.
Gerard had just put Bandit down for a nap when Sally called.
“Hey.” He said falling heavily down on the sofa. “What’s up?”
Sally was concerned, “Do you still feel bad?” She knew Gerard had been suffering from the flu but thought he’d be over the worst of it by now.
“No, I’m okay. Why?”
Sally laughed, “Well you don’t sound okay. What’s wrong?”
Suddenly he needed someone to talk to. “Holly left his morning.” He went on to quickly explain how she’d been there for days first taking care of him and then Bandit.
“So you’re sad she’s gone?” Sally guessed.
“I’m sad because of what happened last night.” Gerard said slowly letting himself have time to come to grips with his emotions. “She was going to leave but both Molly and Bandit threw fits about that.”
Sally was trying hard to understand. “Well that’s not really very surprising. Kids at that age throw fits all the time when they don’t get their way.”
“I don’t think Molly does.” Gerard sighed.
She had a thought about this. “Gee, from what you’ve told me Molly hasn’t spent much time around other kids, has she?”
“Uh, no I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t know a fuckin’ lot of what when on when they lived with Bryar.”
Sally cut him off. “Okay first you have to let go of that anger about the time they spent with Bob.”
“I don’t have any anger about that.” Gerard lied.
“Of course you do and while I understand it you need to try to look at it in a different light. I think the time Holly spent living in Chicago was good for her. Not just because she was healing physically but mentally. It gave her time to reevaluate her life. Gee, think about it. The woman almost died. That changes people.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that.” He admitted..
“So back to the original conversation. I’m guessing Molly hasn’t spent a lot of time around kids mostly she’s been around adults so she does act differently. And Holly is used to that. So I’m pretty sure that when Molly threw a fit about staying it shocked Holly. But I think there was more to it than that.”
“There was.” Gerard said sadly. “She told me it made her feel back because Molly said that my place is a home and that they don’t have one.”
“Oh.” Sally whispered. “I see now.”
“Yeah well I do too but I don’t know what to do about it.”
Because she thought of Gerard as a dear friend Sally told him the truth. “What you’d like to do about it is admit to Holly you have the perfect solution.”
“Perfect solution?” He wondered if she really did understand how he felt. Her next words confirmed she did.
“You’d like to tell Holly that you love her and would like nothing better than to be a true family. You’d like to marry her and make your house a true home for all of you.”
“Yeah well I can’t do that.” Gerard sighed. “She sure as hell don’t want to hear that.”
“Gee, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…give her time. Holly is still in the process of getting her life back. And now she has a chance to start over so to speak. She has a new lease on life, a life she almost lost. You’ve told me a little bit about your past with Holly and I know you loved her back then but does she know that?”
Gerard was shocked by the question. “What?”
“Does she know you loved her?”
“I told her I did.” He said slowly trying to take in what Sally was saying.
Sally sighed, “Gee, telling someone you love them doesn’t mean they really believe those words. And let’s be brutally honest here, what happened between you two would definitely make a person wonder if you were sincere.”
“You think she really believes I didn’t love her?” He asked trying to wrap his brain around that thought.
“I think it is a definite possibility. But by just what you’ve told me about Holly I’m sure she loved you.”
“And look how that turned out for her.” He ground out miserably.
“It actually turned out very well.” Sally said shocking him in the process. “By giving her Molly you gave her a reason to go on when she lost Sonja.”
Guilt that had been plaguing him for so long made him reveal something. “But what if what happened between us made her lose Sonja? I mean she wouldn’t have left Jersey if it wasn’t for me. Sonja would have never met her husband and ultimately been in the car with him when they died.”
“Oh Gee.” Sally said sadly. “You can’t think like that, it’s not right. You’ve told me that Holly admitted Sonja loved her husband very much. If she hadn’t left Jersey chances are she’d never have met him. She found happiness even if it was for a short time. But I truly believe each of us can’t outrun our fate. I don’t understand why and often is seems so unfair but each of us die when it’s our time. We like to think we can change that but I don’t believe we can.”
“I just don’t know.” Gerard said sadly. “I don’t know what to think or do anymore.”
Sally could hear the sound of depression settling in. “Okay Way that’s enough. You’ve come too far to let yourself give in to depression. You need to wake up and realize you too have a second chance to get things right. She’s back and the truth about your daughter is finally out there. Give Holly time to believe.”
Sally laughed, “Yes, believe. Give her time to believe you really love her. Make her see it but don’t push it.”
Fear made him say. “But what if she don’t love me anymore?”
Sadly Sally knew this was a possibility. “You won’t know if that’s true until she has time to find out for herself. If I was guessing I’d say she’s scared. The past is still haunting her and I understand why. You have to try to understand that too.”
“But I can’t change that past.” He whispered as his eyes took in all the colorful decorations his daughters had made to brighten up his home. Right now they only seemed to make him feel sadder.
“Nope you can’t. But you can make sure she understands the truth about that past. In time you need to make sure she knows you truly did love her back then. Once she believes that then making her believe you still love her won’t be as hard.”
“If you say so.” He muttered softly.
Sally laughed, “Yeah, I say so. So you’re gonna see her tonight, right?”
He sighed, “No I sent her a text earlier explaining I don’t feel right about leaving B with a sitter. She’s better but still not feeling great.”
Sally shifted her phone from one ear to the other. “Oh, that’s too bad. I was going to meet you there.”
“Can’t be helped.” He said sadly. “But she did send a text back saying she understood.” He suddenly smiled, “God, if you could have seen how good she was with B. Have to say I was sorta jealous, Bandit wanted her more than she wanted me to take care of her.”
“Not surprising. Little girls want their mommies when they’re sick. And let’s face it Holly is a good mommy.”
“The best.” Gerard smiled. “I’m damn lucky my daughters have such great moms.”
Hours later Holly was nervously looking at herself in the full length mirror. She’s chosen a simple black mid length dress for tonight’s event but wasn’t sure it looked right.
“Stop frowning.” Alicia said, “You look great.”
“I’m glad you and Mikey came early.” Holly said smiling at her friend. “And that’s for getting Molly dressed.”
Alicia’s smile slipped. When she and Mikey had gotten to the loft they’d been shocked when a young girl had answered the door. “No problem.” She finally answered.
Holly had seen the look on Alicia’s face and was confused. “So why the frown?”
Deciding to level with her Alicia answered. “Well I didn’t know you had a sitter for Molly.”
“Something wrong with that?” Holly asked turning to face her friend.
“Not wrong. I mean I get that Molly will get tired before the end of the auction but you know you could have just asked me and Mikey to take care of her. We would have been happy to come up here with her when she gets tired.”
Now Holly understood. This subject had come up before. “Look, I know you guys would have done that but I just figured you’d want to spend time down in the gallery. Please don’t look at it any other way. Molly loves you guys and I know you and Mikey love her.”
“Yep, we’re all family.” Alicia said softly.
Holly kept herself from saying that while Molly was family she wasn’t. She turned back to the dresser for her earrings.
“Holly, you’re family.” Alicia said softly coming up behind her. “Damn woman like it or not I think of you as my sister.”
Holly closed her eyes a minute to get her emotions under control. Alicia’s words had touched her deeply.
“It’s true.” Alicia whispered.
“I think about you the same way.” Holly admitted turning to face her. Both women hugged each other tightly.
“Uh.” Mikey suddenly appeared. “Everything okay?” He was wondering why they were hugging.
“Everything is fine, Mikey Boy.” Holly laughed then turned to the mirror to put in her pierced earrings. “Just some sisterly love going on.”
He grinned, “Cool. Well I think we better get down there. Molly and me been looking out the window and a whole lot of people have already gone in the gallery.”
“Let’s do this.” Holly said linking arms with Alicia.
The sound of the doorbell surprised Gerard. He and Bandit had been so engrossed in the movie they were watching he hadn’t heard a car drive up. Pushing the pause button he then slipped off the sofa to head towards the door.
“Sally.” He said in surprise as she bustled in from the cold. “What are you doing here?”
Sally laughed, “Well now that’s a nice greeting.”
Bandit spoke from her spot on the sofa. “Hi, Sally.” The little girl was very fond of her daddy’s friend.
“Hey, B.” Sally answered as she set down the basket she was carrying then slipped out of her coat. “Gosh, glad I wore this. It’s cold up here.”
“Uh, you came to visit us?” Gerard asked.
Sally shook her head. “Nope, I came to hang out with B. You, sir, have an art auction to attend.” She picked up the basket again then made her way over to the sofa. “I brought some things for Bandit and me to play with.”
“Sally gonna play with Bandit?” Bandit clapped her hands.
“Sure am.” Sally looked back over at Gerard. “Why are you standing there? Go get dressed you certainly can’t go looking like that.”
“But I’m not going.” He said trying to come to grips with what was happening.
“Yes, you are.” Sally turned to Bandit. “Don’t you think your daddy should go to Holly’s show?”
Bandit considered this question.
“Because that will give us time to play with these.” She opened the lid of the basket to show Bandit the dolls she’d brought. “These were mine when I was a little girl.” Sally explained. “When I was sick I loved to play with them. Look, they can have a fashion show.” She held up several different items of doll clothing.
“Yea, fun.” Bandit nodded happily as she picked up one of the dolls.
“See?" Sally said looking back over at Gerard. “Bandit and I are gonna have fun while you’re gone.”
Gerard smiled, “Sally, thanks.” He really had desperately wanted to go to Holly’s show.
She nodded, “You’re welcome. Just remember to tell Holly why I’m not there. I would have loved to have been part of tonight’s auction but I’m sure she’ll understand.”
“She will.” Gerard realized he needed to take a quick shower. “Uh, I better get moving.”
“Yep, you better.” Sally turned her attention back to Bandit. “Okay sportswear or fancy dresses first?” She asked dumping out the clothing.