Jake and Lindsey arrived to pick up Bandit.
Lindsey scooped up her daughter as soon as she grew close to cover her face with kisses. “Baby B I’ve missed you.”
“Bandit missed mommy.” The little girl said while hugging her tightly around the neck.
Gerard closed the door then turned, “I didn’t expect you until later.”
Jake was the one who answered. “We got an earlier flight.” His gaze moved to Holly who had risen from the table to join them. “And you must be Holly. Nice to finally meet you.”
Holly smiled. “Nice to meet the voice on the phone.” To be honest Jake didn’t look at all like she’d pictured. He was very tall, with blond hair, a beard and bright blue eyes.
He laughed, “Yeah, that’s true.”
“Come on in and sit a minute.” Gerard said nodding to the living room.
Lindsey and Jake exchanged a look then it was Jake who nodded. “Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
By this time Molly had wandered over to join them.
“Hey, Molly.” Lindsey said to the girl was she placed Bandit on her feet. “How are you?”
“Fine, thank you.” Molly answered with a smile. “See our tree?”
Lindsey followed her gaze. “That’s a very pretty tree. I bet you and B decorated it.”
They all took seats in the living room, Jake, Lindsey and Bandit on the sofa, Holly and Gerard took chairs. Molly decided to sit on the blanket in front of the tree.
“So.” Gerard said looking over at his ex. “How’s the family?”
“Good. Grandpa is doing great and is home from the hospital.” Lindsey answered as Bandit crawled up into her lap. “I just wish I hadn’t gotten sick while I was there.” She glanced over at Holly. “Thanks again for taking care of B.”
“Thankfully Gerard was pretty much over the flu when B got sick.” Holly wanted her to understand that Gerard had shared in Bandit’s care.
“That flu was wicked.” Lindsey nodded. “I was so sick.”
“You guys want to take off your jackets?” Gerard asked trying to be a good host.
“We really can only stay a few minutes.” Again she and Jake exchanged a look which Gerard seemed to miss but not Holly. Something was up but she wasn’t sure what until she studied Lindsey a moment. What she saw surprised her.
“Lucky you got an earlier flight.” Gerard said sitting back in his chair. “That don’t happen often flying out of New York.”
Lindsey’s eyes dropped. Suddenly she spoke to Bandit. “Honey, go get your things ready to go home, okay?”
Bandit slid off her mothers lap.
“Come on Molly, let’s go help her.” She believed Lindsey wanted to talk to Gerard alone. She stood but was surprised when Lindsey spoke.
“Uh Holly? Why not just let M go and help her?”
“Okay.” Holly sat back down realizing Lindsey wanted her to stay.
The little girls skipped off down the hallway.
“Gee.” Lindsey said quickly. “I have to tell you something.” Jake reached over and took her hand. “Actually we have something to tell you.”
Holly glanced over at Gerard wondering how he was going to take the news.
“Jake and I didn’t fly in from New York. Actually we came from Vegas.” She paused, “Uh, we flew there yesterday.”
Gerard nodded showing no emotion.
Lindsey took a deep breath then just came right out with it. “Jake and I got married.”
The room was deathly silent for several moments.
Holly looked over at Gerard waiting for him to respond.
Slowly he got to his feet to move to the sofa. He extended his hand to Jake. “Congratulations.” He said. “You better take damn good care of her.”
Lindsey exhaled the breath she’d been holding. She stood up and Gerard immediately enveloped her in a tight hug.
“Be happy.” He whispered.
“Thanks.” Lindsey said feeling the tension leave her body. When he released her she sat back down this time right next to Jake who placed his arm around her shoulder.
Lindsey looked over at Holly. “You don’t seem surprised.”
Holly laughed, “Uh, I spotted the rings.”
Lindsey held up her hand which now sported a gold band with a diamond setting. “Oh” She laughed.
Gerard had returned to his seat. “Was this planned?”
Jake answered. “Nope not at all. I asked her while she was sick.”
Lindsey snuggled up next to him. “Yeah, I figured he really must love me a lot to ask me to marry him while he was cleaning up my puke.”
This caused everyone to laugh.
“So yesterday morning we thought why not now?” Lindsey explained. “So we hopped a flight to Vegas.” Her smile faded, “I hope you’re not mad. I know you had B a long time.”
Gerard who was still trying to come to grips about how he truly felt shook his head, “Not at all. But you could have told me.”
Lindsey smiled at him. “I know but we were caught up in the moment, I guess.”
“When are you gonna tell B?” Gerard asked softly.
“When we get home.” Lindsey answered. “I think she’ll be okay with it.” She stammered, “At least I hope so.”
Holly was still watching Gerard closely trying to gauge his emotions.
“I’m sure she will.” Gerard answered.
The sound of little feet running down the hall ended the conversation.
As they prepared to leave Lindsey hugged Gerard again then she turned to Holly. She threw her arms around her to hug her tightly then whispered she’d call her tomorrow.
Holly was the one who closed the door as they made their way to the car. She turned to see Gerard had sat down on the sofa looking shell-shocked.
Molly crawled up into his lap. “Daddy can we watch a movie now?”
He nodded not really hearing her.
“Honey, we should be getting home now.” Holly said believing Gerard needed some time alone.
His eyes met Holly’s. “Can you guys stay for dinner?”
“Sure.” She nodded unable to deny his request. “I’ll head into the kitchen and make something.”
She had just pulled open the freezer when Gerard showed up in the doorway. “Don’t bother.” He said softly. “Molly’s putting her coat on. I told her we’d go pick up a pizza. We’ll bring it back here.”
“Gee are you okay?” Holly asked closing the freezer door.
He smiled slightly. “Yeah, just surprised but I guess I really shouldn’t be. I’ve kinda seen this coming. They’ll be happy together.”
She impulsively hugged him because he really looked like he needed one. “Want me to come with you guys?”
“Hey, kick back and relax.” Gerard answered giving her one more hug then stepping back. “We’ll pick up the pizza and be back before you know it.”
They enjoyed the pizza in front of the TV while watching a Christmas movie. Afterwards Molly was very happy when Holly flipped through the channels and found yet another Christmas movie obviously not in a hurry to leave. Molly settled herself down on the blanket by the tree. Before the movie had ended her eyes fluttered closed.
“Uh, I think Squirt has crashed.” Gerard said softly to Holly who was sitting beside him on the sofa.
Holly had been waiting for that to happen. She stood and extended her hand. “Come on lets sit at the table.”
He smiled slightly and took her hand. Once seated at the table Holly spoke. “Okay, so tell me how you’re feeling.”
Gerard had known she was delaying their departure so she could talk to him and that touched him deeply. He sat back and sighed, “Really, I’m okay with it. I was thinking about it…”
Holly smiled, “All night. I could tell your mind wasn’t on the movies.”
He nodded, “Yeah, that’s true.”
“So?” Holly believed he needed to talk about his feelings.
“So, I guess it’s sorta hard to put my feelings into words. I was shocked at first but I’m okay with it. Jake is a good guy and I think they’ll be happy together. It’s just…” He paused, “I guess I’m sorta sad is all.”
“That’s understandable.” Holly said softly.
“But I shouldn’t be.” He frowned, “I want her to be happy and this will make her happy so why should I have a problem with it?”
“Because she was once your wife.” Holly glanced over to make sure Molly was sleeping. “And you made her happy. You’re sad that it didn’t last. Gee, that’s understandable.”
“I guess.” He said slowly giving himself time to put his feelings into words. “And to be honest it’s weird to think that Bandit now has another dad.”
Holly nodded, “She does but you’ll always be her daddy who she loves nothing will change that.”
“We’re you upset when your ex got remarried?” He asked not sure if it was wise to bring up Holly’s past but he really wanted to know.
“My situation was very different from yours.” Holly said looking down, “Al never loved me and deep down I always knew that. If I hadn’t been pregnant with Sonja we never would have gotten married. But my mother and his parents both pushed him to marry me. They believed it was the right thing to do.” As much as she hated talking about her past she made herself go on. “He told me once that he hated them for pushing him into marriage.”
Gerard shook his head, “He really said that?”
“Oh yeah, he did. Right after his parents died in a car crash that’s what he said.”
“Fuck, your ex is really a piece of work.” Gerard said angrily.
“Suppose that’s true.” Holly sighed, “But back then I didn’t want to admit that to myself, I couldn’t. In my mind I had Sonja because of him so I couldn’t hate him.” She sat back trying to ease the tension in her body that this discussion was causing. “But back to your original question no, I really wasn’t upset when he remarried. I knew he’d been with her for a long time before the divorce.” She stopped suddenly as her true feelings forced their way through. “No I take that back. I was upset but not for me. I was upset for Sonja because once he remarried he wanted nothing to do with her.”
Gerard reached across the table to place his hand on hers. “I honestly can’t believe he’d be that stupid. Sonja was a beautiful young girl how could he turn his back on his child?”
Holly’s eyes filled with tears. “For a long time I blamed myself. When he looked at Sonja he saw the reason he got stuck with me.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. “It killed me every time Sonja would call him trying to figure out a time to be with her dad but he’d say he was busy. Every time he broke her heart, it broke mine. That’s why I decided to move away. I thought at least if we weren’t still close by his excuses why he couldn’t see his daughter would make some kind of sense.”
Gerard knew she was finally opening up the part of her past that she’d tried to bury. “So you moved to Jersey to start over.”
Holly smiled sadly, “Yep that was the plan.”
His own guilt about the past began to tear at him. “And you met me and..”
Holly began to shake her head. “Don’t say it. I don’t regret it. I realize now if I hadn’t met you then that beautiful little girl in there wouldn’t exist.”
“Still.” He whispered.
“Gee, let it go. What happened between us, happened. There is no changing it. Besides you have to realize it things had gone differently then maybe you wouldn’t have been with Lindsey.”
“And I wouldn’t have Bandit.” He said softly.
Holly nodded, “Yeah, see?” She knew deep down she needed to continue letting the past finally go. “So anyway, you can imagine how hard it was for me when Sonja decided to leave me and go live with her father. I was so scared he’d break her heart yet again.”
“I’m sorta surprised he let her move in with him.” Gerard said slowly hoping that Holly would continue to open up.
“Oh I’m sure part of it was to hurt me. He knew Sonja was my life and so I’m sure he just loved that she wanted to leave me and live with him.” Holly said in anger. “Matter of fact I know that’s true. Sonja took my car without telling me where she was going and drove to Missouri. It was Al who called me first to tell me when she got there. He gloated that since I was such a terrible mother his daughter was going to live with him.”
“Son of a bitch.” Gerard ground out. “How could anyone think you were a bad mother?”
Holly laughed but the sound was hollow. “Oh that’s easy. You have to realize Sonja was very angry at me so I’m sure she told Al all kinds of things.” She let her gaze go to the darkness outside the windows. “And of course she told him I was pregnant, unmarried and too wrapped up in the baby to care about her anymore.”
Gerard felt his heart sink at the pain he heard in Holly’s voice. “That wasn’t true, you loved Sonja.”
“Of course I did.” Holly answered softly. “But in her mind she refused to believe that. She was angry and hurt. She didn’t want me to have the baby.”
Gerard’s eyes grew wide. “She thought you should terminate the pregnancy?”
Holly forced herself to look at him. “Never once did I consider that but I struggled with the reason I felt that way.”
“I don’t understand.” He said looking deeply into her eyes.
“I knew it was going to be difficult to raise the baby. At the time Sonja and I were barely making ends meet. I was scared.” She whispered. “So scared. But I knew the baby growing inside me was a product of my love for you.” Again tears filled her eyes. “She was my gift, I always believed that she was a beautiful reminder of that love. So even though I knew how difficult it would be for me to raise another child I knew I’d do everything in my power to give the baby a good life.”
He was so overcome with emotion he was unable to speak.
Holly forced herself to go on. “But Sonja couldn’t understand that. She was angry and hurt and I know a lot of her feelings were because she was scared for me. She knew how difficult it was going to be to raise another child.”
“And that’s why she wanted you to tell me about the baby.” He said, his voice filled with sadness. “She thought it was only right I should help you.”
Holly wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Yeah, that’s true. But I couldn’t tell you and she couldn’t understand that.”
“Holly, you could have told me. I would have helped you.” He needed her to believe this because it was true.
“Gee, the day I realized I was pregnant was the day the first photos of you and Lindsey showed up on the Net. I could see how happy you were. I couldn’t go to you and tell you I was pregnant.”
“Yes, you could have.” He said passionately.
“And risk that you would hate me?” Holly said shaking her head. “No, I didn’t want that, that was something I couldn’t have dealt with.”
“I could never hate you.” He said squeezing her hand. “Never.”
“Gee, think about it. What did I have to go on? I’d already made one man hate me because I had his child. I wasn’t going to risk having that happen again.” Suddenly she sat up straighter. “Okay, why are we talking about this? We’re supposed to be discussing you and your feelings about Lindsey remarrying.”
Her sudden change in attitude didn’t surprise him. “Holly, don’t do that.”
“For once you’re letting me be the one to listen to your true feelings. You always try to help me understand mine but damn it, I want to help you.”
She stared at him but didn’t speak.
Gerard knew this was his chance to get her to open up and he didn’t want to waste it. “Tell me about Sonja’s ornament.” He urged softly. He knew earlier when she’d seen it that it had opened long buried emotions.
“Oh.” Holly blinked.
“Tell me. Tell me how you felt. Let me understand what goes on in that beautiful head of yours.”
Holly stared at him a moment then looked away. “Gee, it’s hard for me to talk about certain things.”
“I know, Sugar but I think maybe you should. The look on your face when you saw the ornament scared me.”
She glanced up. “It scared you?”
He nodded, “I want to believe you’ve dealt with all the shit from your past but when I saw your eyes I knew that’s not true. You said it made you feel like you’d forgotten Sonja?”
“Seeing it shocked me because I’d forgotten all about the ornament and yet…” She paused, “That made me feel terrible. How could I have forgotten it? I made that for her first Christmas. It was on every tree I’ve ever put up. Last year was the first time it didn’t make it out of the box and…” Her voice broke, “Well you know, because last year I was in LA.”
He squeezed her hand. “Last year was so fuckin’ hard for you and I’m sorry about that.”
She shook her head, “No, don’t be. Being in LA was my choice. I just…” Suddenly tears rolled down her cheeks. “I’m being so stupid about an ornament.”
“No, you’re not.” He said as he reached out to wipe away her tears. “I understand, Holly. I’m sure at times, now that your life is changing, the past pulls at you. But you’ll never forget or stop loving Sonja. I know that from the bottom of my heart and so do you. And you have to remember that Sonja would want you to be happy. She loved you very much and whatever happened between you two those months before her death didn’t change that fact.”
“She was my baby.” Holly whispered. “I miss her so much.”
“I miss her too.” Gerard said softly. “She had such a beautiful smile, just like yours. And even though she was a confused teenager when I knew her I could see the way she cared about others.”
Holly glanced across the room at the tree. “Thank you for hanging her ornament.”
“I told you that’s our tree.” Gerard smiled, “It’s only right that the ornament be a part of it.”
Holly was feeling mentally drained and physically tired. “I better get Molly home now.” She said slowly pulling her hand from his.
“You know you can stay here if you want.” He offered understanding that she’d opened up a lot tonight and he didn’t want to push her too much.
She shook her head, “No, we better go besides you’ve got to be at the studio early.”
Gerard sighed, “Yeah, that’s true. We have so much work to do and that sick week has pushed us behind schedule.”
As she stood Gerard reached out for her hand. “Holly, thanks for staying and talking.”
She smiled but didn’t respond.
It was hard to rouse Molly but with Gerard’s help they got her into her coat as the night air had grown very chilly. Gerard carried Molly out to the car with Holly following behind.
As he secured his daughter in her seat Molly’s eyes opened. “Bye Daddy.”
He kissed her cheek, “Bye Squirt. Take care of your mommy for me, okay?"
“I will.” Molly nodded. “Take care of our tree. Make sure it has lots of water.”
Gerard laughed, “I’ll do that.” He closed the door then went around to Holly side of the car. . “Be careful on the drive home.”
He closed her door and took a step back but was surprised when she lowered the window.
“Thursday sounds like a good idea.” She said softly.
He smiled realizing she’d just agreed to the trip to Bear Lake. “Great. I’ll get it set up.” As her car left the driveway Gerard was smiling. Slowly Holly was bringing down the barriers she’s built. Taking a deep breath of the frosty mountain air he let himself believe this was a wonderful first step for both of them.