Holly goes to the party while Gerard remembers the past.
Holly turned to Richard with a smile, “Yes, as a matter of fact you have but thank you again.”
Richard placed his arm around the small of Holly’s back to lead her to yet another group of his friends standing by the marble fireplace.
“I’d like you all to meet Holly Lintz.” He smiled then continued the introductions.
Holly was trying desperately to remember names but was becoming hopelessly confused. Since arriving Richard had introduced her to at least fifty people.
A dark haired woman in a stunning short red satin gown spoke to Holly. “It’s so nice to meet you. Richard has mentioned you often.”
Holly pasted a smile on her face but it wasn’t easy. The crowded rooms, the loud Christmas music, and her aching back were making it difficult. “Nice to meet you.”
Joyce looked at Richard then back to Holly. “So I understand you’re an artist.”
Richard spoke up. “Come now Joyce don’t tell me you of all people didn’t see the article this morning in the paper featuring Holly’s work.” He turned to Holly, “Joyce here pours over the morning paper while drinking her French Brew.”
Joyce smiled, “As a matter of fact I only just got back into town late this afternoon. I’ve been at my château in France.”
Holly had never met anyone with a French chateau before.
“It was hard to leave.” Joyce said then took a drink of her champagne. “But of course I couldn’t say no when Albert told me he was hosting this party.” Joyce took another sip of champagne then laughed, “But Lord I almost didn’t make it. The airline lost my baggage. What a scramble trying to find something to wear tonight.”
The man standing at her side laughed, “You have closets full of dresses.”
Joyce frowned, “Well I couldn’t very well wear any of those.” She glanced at Holly. “Luckily I have a friend who owns a lovely shop on Rodeo Drive and she helped me out.”
Holly gave Joyce’s dress another look realizing it more than likely cost more than her whole wardrobe. “It’s a beautiful dress.”
“Thank you, dear.” Joyce smiled. “So is yours.”
Holly highly doubted Joyce meant that. The dress Holly was wearing was bought off the rack at a department store.
Joyce’s companion John spoke to Holly. “So since we missed the article in the paper we aren’t familiar with your work but I do know Richard has commissioned you to do pieces for his newest restaurant.”
Holly shifted her weight trying to ease her back pain. “Yes, I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
“You will all be amazed.” Richard said. As he spoke he gently caressed Holly’s back. “But you must excuse us.” He led Holly across the room to an unoccupied sofa. “I’m sorry I’ve made you stand so long. Can I get you anything for your pain?”
Holly gave him a surprised look.
Richard smiled as he sat down next to her. “I could tell it’s hurting you.”
She was touched he’d realized she was in pain. “It’s just standing for long periods sometimes hurts.”
He nodded to a passing waiter then retrieved two glasses of wine. “Here this might help.”
Holly took a small sip. “Thanks.” Her eyes traveled across the room taking in all the people.
“All of them aren’t like Joyce.” Richard said softly.
Holly tuned to face him. “What?”
“Oh come on Holly. Joyce is a snob. Let’s not pretend.”
She wasn’t sure how to answer because she’d believed the woman was his friend.
Richard smiled, “Just because I’m acquainted with people doesn’t mean I consider them friends. Now John, her husband, isn’t a bad guy but I can just imagine what he puts up with. When she said her friend who owns the shop on Rodeo Drive helped her out? That means she had the shop opened after hours just for her.”
Holly grinned, “I bet that dress she’s wearing cost more than my first car.”
“Undoubtedly.” Richard took a sip of his wine then added, “But believe me what you are wearing is much more stunning then anything Joyce would wear.”
“And I bought it on sale at Macy’s.” Holly whispered.
Richard threw back his head and laughed. “Oh Holly that’s what I love about you. You are so down to earth.”
She shrugged. “And not very good at hob knobbing.”
Again he laughed, “Hob knobbing? I like that. Well unfortunately it’s something you need to do. These people are who will buy your work.”
Holly leaned back against the cushions then sighed, “I suppose that’s true.”
“And that bothers you?” He asked softly.
She tried to put her feelings into words. ‘Yes and no. The first time one of my wind chimes sold I was shocked. I mean I really couldn’t understand anyone paying that much.”
“That is because you still don’t consider yourself a true artist.”
“I guess that’s part of it. But spending huge amounts of money on non necessary things isn’t something I’d do.”
Richard smiled, “But that’s what a lot of people do.”
“At the same time it seems wrong of me to be bothered by the money I make because it is important to me. I want to be able to provide for Molly.”
“I hope it’s not out of line for me to ask but doesn’t Molly’s father help out?”
Holly looked down. “I know he would if I asked him.”
Richard was very unsure about Holly’s relationship with Gerard. “But you haven’t asked him?”
Holly took another sip of wine before answering. “Gerard didn’t know he was Molly’s father until I told him right after I was attacked.”
Richard had read all about Holly’s attack in the papers. “I didn’t realize that.” He reached over to take her hand. “What happened to you was terrible. It’s sad there are areas in this city where it’s not safe for good people to go.”
“I was there because of the shelter.” Holly said softly.
“Yes, of course, I realize that.”
“And the shelter is full of good people who need help.”
He realized he’s touched a nerve. “Yes, I agree. And I know how important it is to you to try to help those people.”
She nodded, “Yes and that’s another reason I shouldn’t be bothered by people paying a lot for my work. Their money helps those people.”
Richard worked on damage control. “The benefit auction did a lot of good for the shelters.”
“That made me very happy. I’m so glad I was able to help out.”
For several moments Richard stared into her eyes making Holly feel slightly nervous.
“I’m sorry.” He smiled, “I know I’m staring but there is such a passion in your eyes when you talk about helping people. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Holly glanced away.
Richard gave her hand a light squeeze. “You know that passion is something I wish I had. But sadly I think dealing with the kind of people I associate with on a day to day basis…” he paused. “I was thinking that perhaps I could do something for your shelters.”
Holly smiled, “They aren’t really my shelters.”
“You know what I mean.” He smiled, “Each day my restaurants dispose of a tremendous amount of food. Food that is perfectly good but we are unable to use.”
He nodded, “I’m aware of several other restaurants that donate their unused food to shelters. I’m planning on looking into the possibility of doing that.”
“That would be wonderful.” Holly nodded.
Richard was silently pleased she was obviously excited by the prospect. “Well you’ve made me want to do something for others.” He said looking again into her huge green eyes. “You’re the kind of woman who makes a man want to be the best he can be.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide as he leaned forward. He briefly kissed her then sat back.
“Ready to go meet some more people?” He asked. “Or is your back still troubling you?”
“I’m fine now.” Holly forced her voice to sound normal.
He stood then extended his hand.
Gerard had just arrived home when Lindsey called.
He sat down on the sofa but not before switching on the Christmas tree lights. “Hey Linds. How are you?”
“I’m fine.” She paused, “Uh, I just wanted you to know we told B and she seems okay with it.”
“She likes Jake, I know that. So I’m sure she’ll be fine with it. So are you two going to live at his place or yours?”
She had wondered when he was going to ask this. “We’re planning on living here in my house.” She glanced over at Jake then added, “I hope that doesn’t bother you.”
“Linds it’s your house.” He said softly. “And the only home B’s ever known. I’m fine with you and your new husband living there.”
Gerard heard a man’s voice in the background.
“Uh Jake wants me to tell you that we’ll be taking over the mortgage.”
Lindsey knew he sounded distracted. “Gee, is this a bad time?”
“No, just got home.”
“Then what’s wrong?” She could tell by his tone something was bothering him and she hoped it wasn’t what they’d been discussing.
“Nothing really.” He said slowly.
“Oh, did you talk to Alicia?”
Gerard leaned back against the cushions then closed his eyes. “Yeah, I understand you did too.” He sighed, “And Holly.”
“I’m just trying to help.”
“I know and thank you. But I’m not sure anyone can really help.”
“Did Alicia tell you we think Holly is refusing to admit how she really feels about you because she’s afraid?” Lindsey asked.
“Yeah and that she’s still holding on to a lot of anger about what happened between us.”
Lindsey smiled at Jake on the other end of the sofa who was massaging her feet. “That’s true. And while I really like Holly and want to help her she still has problems with talking to me about you two.”
“Yeah, I can understand that.” Gerard said sadly.
Lindsey’s voice was soft, “Gee, I told her today that I knew that even though you loved me when we were married that I understood a part of your heart belonged only to her.”
He wasn’t sure what to say. “Oh, Linds..”
“It’s okay, Gee. Honestly I understand.” She smiled lovingly at Jake.
“I just don’t know what to do.” Gerard said hopelessly. “All I do know is I don’t ever want to hurt her again. She deserves to be happy.”
“You love her. Don’t give up hope.” Lindsey said with passion. “Both of you deserve to be happy, make it happen.”
“I’m trying.” He said opening his eyes. “Anyway, I was wondering if it’d be okay if I took B for the day on Thursday.”
“Sure, do you have something planned?”
“Well yesterday Holly agreed to go to Bear Lake. We want to take the girls.”
“That sounds nice.” Lindsey tilted her head as a thought came to her. “That’s where you went with them last year, isn’t it?”
“Yeah” he sighed, “I remember watching Molly and thinking how much I wished my daughter was there with me.”
Lindsey laughed softly, “Well one of your daughters was, you just didn’t know it. But I do remember the pic of you and Holly skating. That was sweet.”
Again he wanted to make sure she knew the truth, “Linds, there was never anything going on between us while we were married.”
“I know that.” Lindsey laughed, “Holly wanted to make sure I knew that too. But still I remember looking at the photo again after you learned the truth about Molly and I thought how could I not have seen it.”
“The love in both of your eyes.” Lindsey said, “It was pretty obvious.”
Holly tried not to sigh as Richard led her towards another group of people. She was tired and in pain but mostly she was confused. Richard kissing her earlier had thrown her emotions into turmoil. She honestly wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Richard was a very attractive man who was showering her with attention. She tried to reason with herself that there was nothing wrong with enjoying his company. Yet as the evening wore on she found herself wanting to go home.
Gerard had been sitting staring at the Christmas tree since his conversation with Lindsey had ended an hour ago yet his mind was a million miles away. What was Holly doing at this minute, he wondered. Was she having a good time? He tired to reason with himself that he should hope she was enjoying herself she deserved that. Still the idea of her being with Richard was something that bothered the hell out of him.
“Nite M.” Mikey said to the sleepy child now curled up in bed. “Sweet dreams.”
“Nite Uncle Mikey.” Molly answered with a yawn. “I love you.”
“Love you too.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek then turned to find Alicia standing in the doorway watching the scene with tears in her eyes. He put his arm around her to lead her into the living room. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong.” Alicia smiled, “I was just thinking what a good dad you’re gonna be.”
Mikey sat down on the sofa then pulled her on to his lap. His hand gently caressed her abdomen. “Hear that in there kid? I’m gonna be a good dad.”
Alicia laughed the kissed his lips. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” Mikey hugged her close. “Just think this is the last Christmas it will be just you and me. Next year we’ll have a little one with us.”
“We already have a little one with us.” She corrected him.
“True.” He kissed her again. “I can’t wait to tell everyone.”
Alicia sat back to look into his eyes. “You haven’t told Gee?”
He shook his head, “Nope but I’m guessing you’ve told Holly.”
Alicia’s smile faded, “Are you mad?”
Mikey laughed, “Nope. I knew when you suggested that impromptu slumber party you’d tell her. So I’m sure she’s happy for us.”
Mikey sighed, “So tell me about this Christmas party with Richard. Does she like him?”
Alicia knew Mikey was worried about his brother’s reaction to the fact that Holly had gone out with Richard. “She said that Richard told her it would be a good opportunity for her to meet potential clients for her art.”
“I saw the way he looked at Holly during the auction. That dude has ulterior motives.”
“Yeah, I think that’s true too.”
This was the first time he’d gotten to talk to his wife alone since he’d gotten home. “What did you and Gee talk about?”
“He was pretty upset she was out with Richard?”
“He was but what else I had to tell him upset him more.” She told Mikey about her talk with Holly and what she and Lindsey had discussed.
“Shit.” Mikey said sadly. “She needs to let go of the anger.”
“Easier said then done. I get that you want her to because you know how much Gee loves her and you want him to be happy.”
“I want both of them to be happy.” Mikey corrected her. “I love Holly too and M.”
“I know.” Alicia said laying her head on his chest. “In a perfect world Gee and Holly would remember the love they once shared and want to recapture the feeling.”
“Gee remembers.” Mikey said softly. “I know he does.”
Gerard had finally forced himself to leave the sofa but he found himself aimlessly walking around from room to room. He had tried to work on his latest comic but couldn’t focus, he’d tried to watch a movie but after a few minutes had switched it off. He’d tried to write lyrics to a song that was flittering in his brain but the words wouldn’t come.
Finally he gave up and sat back down on the sofa to once more stare at the tree. Suddenly an old demon pushed its way into his brain. He could see the bottle clearly; almost feel the glass in his hands.
“Oh fuck no.” He said out loud, his voice filling the room. “Not gonna happen.”
Instead he got up and walked over to the tree. Sonja’s glittery ornament caught his eyes and his memories traveled back in time.
As Gerard stepped out the front door onto the snow covered porch the bitter cold air almost took his breath away. He’d grabbed a broom to sweep away the latest snow fall from the steps when he just happened to glance up the street. What he saw made him smile. Holly had somehow coaxed her teenage daughter outside to build a snowman in their front yard. Ignoring the fact his mother would whine about the snow covered steps the set down the broom, pulled his coat tightly around him then hurried up the road.
“Hey, Gerard.” Sonja smiled as he grew near.
Holly popped her head around the snowman. “Bet you came to help.”
“Not likely.” He laughed.
“Oh come on.” Sonja said pulling at his arm. If I have to do this you do too.”
“But it looks done.” He said eyeing the snowman. Got a bottom, middle and top.”
Holly again popped her head around then rolled her eyes. “Bottom, middle and top? Excuse me?”
“Well he ain’t got legs or a waist.” Gerard reasoned.
“But look.” Holly pointed to the smallest snowball. “He’s got a head.”
Gerard laughed, “A head with no eyes, nose or mouth.”
“Not yet.” Sonja grinned, “But soon.” She pushed her gloved hand into her pocket to produce a carrot. “There.” She said pushing it into the center of the top snowball. “He’s got a nose.”
Gerard had folded his arms while watching. “Uh, yeah.”
By this time Sonja had placed two halves of a lemon above and on each side of the nose. “See? Eyes.”
“Yellow eyes?” Gerard laughed.
“I wanted to use a lime so he’d have green eyes.” Sonja explained to Gerard, “But mom used them all up last night.”
Holly who was still smoothing the snow on the back of Frosty peered around. “His eyes look fine.”
“Sure they do. You can just explain to everyone in the neighborhood that your snowman has jaundice.”
The snowball seemed to come out of nowhere. It smashed against Gerard’s chest.
“Hey.” He yelled in surprise.
“That’s for saying our snowman has jaundice.” Holly laughed then ducked back behind the snowman.
Sonja reached out and touched his arm to get his attention. Without words she motioned her plan. Gerard nodded with a huge smile on his face. He and Sonja both scooped but enough snow to make huge snowballs. While Sonja went one way he went the other. They both launched their snowballs at Holly simultaneously.
“Not fair.” Holly cried shaking snow out of her hair.
For several minutes they launched snowballs at each other while neighbors drove by slowly shaking their heads.
“Cease fire.” Holly finally called out. She was covered from head to toe with loose snow. Gerard and Sonja on the other hand looked relatively untouched.
“You give up?” Gerard asked snowball still in hand reach to launch.
“Yes, I give up.” Holly laughed. “How about some hot cocoa?”
“Sounds good.” Sonja said dropping her last snowball. “I accept your surrender.”
“Me too.” Gerard said as they started to walk towards the house.
They had just started up the stairs when a car pulled to the curb and honked.
“Oh they’re early.” She said glancing back at her mom. She saw the look of disappointment on her mother’s face. Holly had wanted to spend the day with her but she’d already agreed to go with her friends and now they were early. “It’s okay if I go, right?” Sonja asked.
Gerard was watching Holly’s face and could see the sadness in her eyes. “Sure Honey. Be careful.”
Sonja ran up to give her mom a quick kiss. “I will.” She ran towards the car but suddenly stopped to call out to Gerard.
He looked over and saw she was motioning to him. When he reached her she spoke.
“Uh Gee. Here’s the red buttons to make the snowman’s mouth. We forgot.”
He took the buttons from her.
Sonja glanced back at the porch but saw Holly was slowly going up the stairs. “Gee, could you have cocoa with mom?”
He was slightly confused, “Yeah, sure.”
“Good.” Sonja smiled then turned to climb into the car. He watched as they pulled away from the curb then turned to see Holly standing at her front door. He smiled as he realized that Sonja even in her haste to go with her friends had recognized the fact her mom was sad she was leaving.
“Are you coming in for cocoa?” Holly called out.
Gerard started walking towards her. “No, not until I give this poor snowman his mouth.” When he reached the snow figure he carefully placed the buttons in a pattern to resemble a smile. Then he turned to make his way up to the front door.
“Thanks.” Holly said softly as he reached her.
“Hey couldn’t have the guy standing out there without a mouth.”
“That’s not what I’m thanking you for.” Holly said glancing down.
He reached out to brush the snow from her hair. “Come on woman. You promised me cocoa.”
Gerard reached out to gently touch the ornament. His fingertip traced Sonja’s name. That day he’d seen the love Sonja felt for her mom and that memory touched his heart. Obviously it hadn’t only been hard for Holly seeing Sonja growing up and away from her. Sonja too had felt it.
Sadness filled his heart as he realized he couldn’t really remember the last time he’d seen Sonja. Those last few days before he left for PR had been filled with anger towards Holly. He’d stayed away from her house so he hadn’t seen the young girl.
“Oh Holly.” He whispered. “The pain you’ve gone through.” And he knew in his heart that was true. Now that he had children it was impossible for him not to realize losing a child would be insufferable. “I’m so sorry.” He whispered still touching the ornament. “So sorry.”
Holly closed the door then even before switching on the lights reached down to slip out of her high heels. Now not only her back ached but her feet did too.
“That’s better.” She sighed as she straightened back up to flip on a small table lamp. The loft was still rather dark but she welcomed the shadows and the quiet.
“First things first.” She said making her way towards the bedroom. Once there she quickly shed her dress then threw on her sock monkey PJ’s. Then she took a pain pill for her back.
As she walked back into the living area her mind returned to what had happened before she’d reached the sanctuary of the loft. Richard had walked her to the door then before she had time to react he’d pulled her into his arms for a goodnight kiss. Holly hadn’t pulled away but at the same time she hadn’t encourage him. When he released her he’d hinted about coming in. Holly had ignored the hint, told him goodnight then quickly slipped inside the door.
“He’s not a bad guy.” She sighed as she walked over to the large windows. Outside the street looked so colorful and festive. Christmas lights twinkled and the rain puddles on the street reflected their lights. “I should be happy.”
Suddenly her eyes grew wide. “Crap I’m talking to myself. Haven’t done that in a long time.”
And it was true. Holly had started talking to herself when Sonja had gotten older and was gone most of the time. She’d done it to calm her nerves but once Molly came along it was a habit she’d stopped.
“Don’t want her to think I’m crazy.”
She leaned forward to press her forehead against the cool glass window. “Maybe I am crazy. I should be happy.”
But she wasn’t. Sadness filled her eyes. “What am I going to do?”
For several minutes she watched the cars pass on the street not really seeing them. Her mind was a million miles away. Her thoughts were jumbled and confused.
“Crap.” She suddenly stepped back from the window and before she could talk herself into stopping she crossed the room to grab her cell phone out of her purse.
Gerard was just about to unplug the Christmas tree when the text arrived. He grabbed his phone and as he read the words his face broke into a huge smile.
Holly: HOPE YOU ARE REMEMBERING TO WATER THE TREE
She sat down on the sofa. “That was a lame thing to say.” However when he answered she grinned.
Gerard: I’M TAKING GOOD CARE OF OUR CB TREE
Holly: NOT NICE TO CALL IT A CHARLIE BROWN TREE. IT’S BEAUTIFUL
He agreed with her whole heartedly. Their tree was beautiful.
Gerard racked his brain for a response to type. But he knew what he needed. He needed to hear her voice.
Gerard: OKAY IF I CALL YOU? PLEASE
He held his breath waiting for her response. Several minutes passed but his phone remained silent. Suddenly a text arrived but as he read the two letter response his heart sank. He was about to toss his phone down when it rang. His fingers fumbled to connect.