A late night conversation
Holly spoke as soon as she heard the phone connect. “No, you can’t call me because I was getting ready to call you.”
He felt the tension slip from his body. “Fine, woman. But you could have said that.”
Holly laughed, “Why take all that time typing words that were unnecessary?”
He laughed, “Okay good point. So how are you?”
“I’m fine.” She lied. “How are you? How come you’re not sleeping? I know you’ve got to be in the studio early.”
“That’s true. But I’ve just been puttering around the house.” He loved the sound of her laughter.
“Yeah, puttering around. Don’t tell me you don’t do that sometimes?”
She giggled, “Well sure I do. That and wander around talking to myself.”
Gerard heard something in her voice that caught his attention. While she sounded happy on the surface he believed there was an underlying current. “Talking to yourself? About what?”
“About what isn’t important. The fact that I wander around chatting with myself is the part that should concern you. Hell it concerns me. I haven’t’ done that in a long time.”
Gerard immediately remembered the night he’d walked in and caught Holly talking to herself. At the time he hadn’t realized she’d been trying to calm herself down because of her worries about Sonja. Was something troubling her now, he wondered. He tried to worm some information from her without scaring her off. “Talking to yourself ain’t bad. I do it from time to time.”
Holly sighed, “I suppose that’s true. Still it surprised me.”
“Maybe you are just tying to get your thoughts in order?”
“Yeah well if that’s why it isn’t working.” She said softly clutching the phone tighter. “Anyway, tell me about your puttering.”
“About my puttering?”
“Yeah, what exactly does that mean? Were you dusting? Changing light bubs? Alphabetising your books?”
Gerard laughed, “Nope. None of that though I suppose I should dust.” He sat down then let his gaze return to the tree. “If you must know I was looking at the tree.”
“Looking at the tree?”
He closed his eyes trying to decide if he should tell her the truth. While he was afraid it might upset her something deep inside urge him to go on. “I was lost in a memory.”
Holly’s heart began to beat faster. “A memory?”
He prayed he was doing the right thing. “Yeah, I was thinking about that time I joined you and Sonja while you guys were making a snowman.”
Holly’s breath caught. “Oh.”
As much as he feared this could upset her he felt he should continue. “Yeah, do you remember that day?”
“I remember.” Her voice was soft and low. She closed her eyes a moment as the memory focused, the crisp air, the sunshine, the snow and Sonja’s beautiful smile. “I splatted you with a snowball.” She forced herself to laugh.
His grip on the phone loosened slightly, “Yeah you did. But if you remember correctly Sonja and I got even with you for that.”
Holly closed her eyes. “Yeah you did.” She forced herself to ask. “Why were you thinking about that?”
“Sonja’s ornament. I saw it and suddenly that memory came to me.”
Holly forced herself to keep her emotions in check. “That was a good day.”
“The best. I remember how happy both of you looked. I was glad I got to be a part of it.”
“Me too.” She whispered.
He took a deep breath praying what he was about to do was the right thing. “Uh Holly? Remember how her friends showed up early?”
Her eyes still closed she answered, “Yeah, when we were getting ready to go in for cocoa.”
“And remember how she called me over before she left?”
The pain was filling her heart. “Yeah so she could give you the buttons for the snowman’s mouth.”
“That’s not the only reason, Holly. She called me over to give me the buttons but she knew you were sad she was leaving. She asked me to go in and have cocoa with you. She didn’t want you to be alone.”
Moments passed as he waited for her to respond. When he heard what he believed was the sound of her crying he cursed himself for bring up a painful memory. “I’m sorry.” He whispered.
“No.” Her voice was shaky. “Thank you for telling me that.”
Again silence fell. Gerard waited until he couldn’t take it anymore. “Holly?”
“I’m here.” Her voice sounded so small and lost.
“Are you okay?”
Holly forced herself to be strong. “Yep, I’m fine. But please talk to me about something else.”
He wished more than anything he could take her in his arms at this moment. “Okay, how about our plans for Thursday?”
“You’ve talked to Lindsey about taking B?”
He realized he’d been holding his breath, afraid she’d changed her mind. Exhaling he answered, “Yep, sure did. So I was thinking I’ll pick you and Molly up around nine if that’s okay?”
He didn’t want the conversation to end yet. “The girls are gonna have a blast. You think B will be able to skate?”
Holly forced herself back to the present. “Well she will fall a lot at first but B is a very determined little girl. She’ll get it. Kids learn a lot faster than adults.”
He smiled, “Yeah she will. And don’t forget the most important thing is they talk to Santa. We gotta figure out what our little girl wants for Christmas.”
She wondered if there would ever be a time when hearing him call Molly ‘their’ little girl wouldn’t cause her hear to flutter. “I just hope whatever she asks for isn’t impossible to find. Christmas is right around the corner.”
“Put that worry right out of your head. We’ll find whatever it is. While Molly still believes in Santa we’ll make sure he comes through for her.”
Holly sighed, “They grow up so fast but I hope for a least a few more years she believes in Santa.”
“Yeah, me too.” He slowly stretched out on the sofa into a laying position. “Can I ask you a question?”
There was something in his voice that told her he was worried the question would upset her. “Okay.”
“How old was Sonja when she stopped believing?”
Again memories filled Holly’s mind and for a few moments it was impossible for her to speak.
Gerard silently cursed himself for bringing up Sonja again.
“She was six.” Holly said softly. “Al had just gotten home from work and I told him I was going to leave for work a little early because I wanted to go shopping. I’d taken Sonja to see Santa a few days earlier so I knew what she’d asked him for.” Holly’s voice trailed off.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about this.” Gerard said sadly.
Holly shook her head, “No, I should. I’m fucking tired of remembering things then pushing them back and burying them.”
Her anger surprised him but he waited patiently.
“Al and I got into an argument. He told me I’d already spent enough money on Sonja for Christmas so I didn’t need to buy her the doll she’d asked Santa for. I tried to explain to him that I’d been squirreling my tip money away so I’d be able to buy the gift, but he didn’t care. He said we’d never have any money if I kept spoiling her. While we were arguing Sonja walked into the kitchen.” She paused a moment and when she spoke the pain and anger in her voice was clear. “Al turned to her and told her that it was time she knew the truth, that there was no Santa, just parents with no money trying to pay for whatever crap their kids wanted.”
“Son of a bitch.” Gerard ground out. “How the fuck could he do that to his little girl?”
“I told you before he felt trapped by us. He was right we were just making ends meet and at that time the factory where he worked had just laid off several employees. He was afraid he’d be next.”
“That doesn’t excuse what he did.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Holly said softly. “But that’s how it was.”
“Nothing like that will ever happen to Molly.” Gerard said softly. “I promise you that.”
Holly leaned back against the sofa cushions then closed her eyes. “I know.”
“Molly will always know her parents love her.” He said passionately.
Again Holly grew silent.
“Fuck, can I ask something else?” While he didn’t want to bring up another painful memory this question was something that had been in his mind for a while.
Holly braced herself for the question. “What?”
“Why did you choose the name Molly?”
Holly’s eyes popped open and a moment later she felt the tension start to leave her body. “Oh.” She said softly. “A good question.”
“Yeah, one that’s not upsetting.” She laughed slightly. “The whole time I was pregnant I simply referred to her as Baby. I didn’t know if Baby was a boy or a girl because I wouldn’t let the doctor tell me. I guess in a way I was almost afraid to pick a name, afraid something bad might happen.”
While she said this was a good question he could hear her voice start to change again.
“I’d told the doctor about Sonja’s disease.”
This too had been a question that had plagued Gerard. “Because you were afraid Molly might also have it.”
“I knew the chances of that happening were very, very small but still I was afraid. The delivery wasn’t easy and she was born C-section. They put me under even though I begged them not to.” Holly was again in the past. “I remember opening my eyes in the delivery room and the nurse told me I had a beautiful girl. I wanted to be happy but until the tests came back the next day saying Molly didn’t have Hunter’s disease I just so scared. The nurses were so kind to me. One nurse in particular showed me such kindness. When the doctor came in to tell me Molly’s test had come back and that she was perfect that was when I broke down crying. The doctor was confused by my reaction but the nurse understood. She came back from the nursery carrying my baby. I remember she put her in my arms and told me I had a beautiful little lady who needed a name.”
Gerard suddenly understood. “That nurse’s name was Molly?”
“Yep.” Holly laughed. “Nurse Molly was an older Irish woman with bright red hair, green eyes and a beautiful smile. She treated me like I was her daughter. She showed me such kindness I named Molly after her. Only later did I laugh when I realized that I’d given my daughter a name that rhymed with mine.”
“Holly and Molly.” Gerard said softly.
Holly giggled, “Yep.”
“Well I always liked the name and now I know the story I like it even more.” Still there were so many unanswered questions he needed to know. His voice grew serious, “Holly was anyone with you when Molly was born?”
She understood the question perfectly. “No.”
“Didn’t you have any friends, anyone who was with you?”
She blinked back the tears again. “No, not really. The woman I worked for was very kind to me but it was the off season and she’d left town. Constance, a neighbor of mine was the one who drove me to the hospital.” As she spoke the memories flooded her mind. “There was a huge snowstorm the day Molly was born. Both of us were afraid we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. We did but I insisted she get back home before it got any worse. That morning…” She paused, this was something as Molly’s father he had a right to know. “I kept having contractions but my due date was still a few weeks away so I tried to tell myself not to panic. But when my water broke I knew Baby wasn’t going to wait anymore.”
“Molly was premature.” He said digesting that information.
“Yes, but her lungs were well developed so she was only placed in the incubator for a few hours. Still…”
“What?” He whispered.
“I wanted to see her as soon as I came to in the recovery room but I couldn’t.” She suddenly laughed, “Oh Lord and let me tell you the pain from a C-Section is a memorable experience.”
He closed his eyes filled with regret. “I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry?” She wasn’t sure how to take that comment.
“Sorry you were alone, sorry you were in pain, sorry you had to deal with everything on your own.”
“Having a beautiful daughter was worth all of it.” Holly said softly. “I’m not sure I could have found the strength to go on after Sonja died if it hadn’t been Molly. Knowing there was a new life depending on me made me strong.”
“Holly I’m trying to fill in a lot of blanks but if this is hard for you..”
“What do you want to know?”
He sighed, “I guess I just want to know everything that happened during that time. I know Bob was with you for Sonja and Jimmy’s funeral but I don’t know where it was.”
“In Georgia.” Holly answered softly. “Bob flew to Colorado to get us then we flew down to Georgia. He paid for everything including the funeral.”
“Did you ever meet Jimmy?”
“No.” Her voice shook slightly. “I really wish I had. Sonja met him shortly after moving in with her father in Missouri. He was visiting friends there and Sonja told me it was love at first sight. He’d actually just gotten out of the military and my first concern was the age difference. He was almost ten years older than her. I was so upset when she called to tell me they’d gotten married. I guess in my mind the fact she’d gotten married so young was wrong. I was afraid she’d done it because she’d been so unhappy and was looking for a way to be free from all of it.” She grabbed a tissue from the box on the table then continued, “Her dad was furious which upset Sonja. It’s sad but her whole life she tried so hard to please him. I’m sure she went to Georgia where Jimmy lived thinking she’d once more disappointed him.”
“He didn’t deserve to have a daughter like Sonja. Gerard said softly.
“No, he really didn’t.” Holly’s voice contained a trace of anger. “But while I never did meet Jimmy in person I did talk to him on the phone a few times. Once he called me when Sonja wasn’t home. He wanted me to know that he was taking good care of her. But when he told me that she was a treasure..” Gerard could hear she was crying again. “He told me Sonja was the best thing that had ever happened to him. The love I heard in his voice that day made me realize I’d been wrong to worry. They loved each other very much.”
“I’m glad about that.” Gerard said, “Very glad Sonja found happiness and love.”
“It’s just so unfair that they died.” Holly was now openly sobbing. “That drunk driver ended their lives, caused so much pain and yet he walked away from the accident without a scratch.”
Gerard hung his head in shame for all the times he’d crawled behind a wheel after drinking too much.
Holly wiped her eyes. “Is there anything else you want to know?”
Right now he knew he’d opened up a lot of pain. “Thank you for telling me.”
“It’s okay. I realize as Molly’s father you have a right to know things about her.”
His voice was rough with emotion. “Yeah I’m her father and I’m going to be the best father I can to her. I won’t fuck this up, Holly. I promise.” He needed her to believe that.
And while she wanted to believe it was still at times very hard. Alcoholism had claimed her father and taken her oldest daughter from her.
Gerard knew what she was thinking. “Holly, I know I’ve said it before, that I won’t drink but this time I mean it. This time I realize I have two beautiful girls who depend on me and God knows I need them. I won’t let them down.”
“It’s a terrible disease.” Holly said softly.
“Yes, but one I will control.”
Holly glanced over at the clock. “Okay, Gee. Time for you to go to bed. You’ve got to get to the studio early in the morning.” She’d been forced to remember some painful memories and needed time to deal with her emotions.
While he would have stayed up all night talking to her he knew the conversation hadn’t been easy on her. “Yeah, that’s true. What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Shopping with your sister-in-law.”
“You guys are taking Molly with you?”
“Yep.” Holly slowly lifted herself off the sofa. “So I better get some sleep too. I’m sure Alicia will drag us all over the city.”
“I’m sure she will.” He too got off the sofa.
“Well, nite Gee.” Holly said softly.
“Nite Holly.” He answered. “Thanks for calling.”
“Gee? Thanks for telling me what happened that day with Sonja. It really means a lot to me to know that I’m not the only one who remembers her.”
“Oh Sugar, anyone who ever met Sonja remembers her. She was a beautiful person, one I will always remember.”
Holly blinked back a fresh batch of tears. “Yeah, she was. Talk to you later.” She disconnected quickly then sat back down. The tears she shed couldn’t be stopped even if she had tried.
By noon the next morning Alicia had to ask. Holly had been yawning all morning. “Okay so why so tired?”
Holly kept her eyes on Molly who had run over to a fountain in the mall to toss the coins her mom had given her. “I didn’t get to sleep until almost 2 am.”
Not understanding Alicia was upset by the news. “Oh, guess you and Richard were out late.”
Holly sighed, “Nope, he had me back at the loft just after midnight.”
Alicia crossed her arms. “Oh guess he stayed quite a while.”
“No.” Holly turned to her. “I didn’t invite him in.”
“Oh.” Alicia smiled, “I just thought...”
“You thought wrong.” Holly called out for Molly to join them.
As they started walking Alicia asked, “So how come you couldn’t sleep? Was your back hurting?” Holly had mentioned that by the time she and Richard had left the party her feet and back were aching.
“Not much after I took a pain bill.” She debated wither or not to tell Alicia the lack of sleep had been because she’d been on the phone with Gerard. Part of her knew that news would please Alicia but at the same time the call had been very personal.
“So you’re not gonna tell me.” Alicia said softly.
Holly stopped. “What?”
“I can always tell when you’re keeping something from me.” She was afraid Holly would be angry but suddenly Holly broke into laughter.
“Damn you’re good. How do you do that?”
“Know when you’re keeping something from me? Oh that’s easy. Once I learned you used to do it all the time I started paying more attention. You get this weird look when you’re trying to decide if you should say something or not.”
“Fine.” Holly said rolling her eyes. “I was on the phone with Gerard.”
Alicia’s face lit up. “Oh, well why didn’t you just tell me?”
“Because I don’t want you reading too much into it.” Holly grabbed her daughter’s hand because the mall was becoming more crowded. “It was no big deal.”
To Alicia’s way of thinking it was a big deal. Holly had gone on a date with Richard but had come home and spent hours talking to Gerard. “So you guys talk about Thursday?”
Holly shot her a silencing look. Thursday was supposed to be a surprise for Molly and Bandit. Unfortunately Molly had been listening.
“Thursday’s a surprise.” She said nodding.
Holly frowned at her daughter, “Who told you it was a surprise?”
“Daddy.” Molly answered. “He said he would see me Thursday but he wouldn’t tell me why.”
“Well that’s because it’s a surprise.” Holly laughed.
“Are we going somewhere?” Molly asked as they continued to walk.
Alicia laughed, “Sorry didn’t mean to start this.”
“It’s okay.” Holly smiled then spoke to her daughter, “Yes we are going somewhere.”
“You are going with me and daddy?”
“Yes and so is Bandit.” Holly decided it was okay for her to know that much.
“Oh goodie.” Molly giggled. Suddenly she saw the North Pole area with Santa. “Mommy, I need to talk to Santa.”
Holly had been afraid this would happen. “Oh not today, Honey. Look at that long line.”
“But mommy I have to talk to Santa.” Molly pressed.
Since Alicia knew that one of the reasons they were taking the girls to Bear Lake was to see Santa she wondered if she should try to dissuade Molly. She was about to say something when Holly spoke.
“Honey, your daddy wants to be with you when you talk to Santa.”
Molly was looking longingly at Santa. “Oh. You and daddy both are gonna be with me when I talk to Santa?”
Holly nodded slightly. She was seeing more and more that it seemed Molly wanted to think her parents were together.
Suddenly Molly smiled, “That must mean we’re gonna see Santa on Thursday.”
Holly didn’t answer.
“Smart kid.” Alicia whispered in Holly’s ear.
“Too smart.” Holly sighed.
“I fuckin’ love these lyrics.” Frank said holding up the paper Gerard had handed him. “We gotta work on this.”
Gerard smiled pleased his friend liked his words.
“So when did you write this?” Frank asked. The band was taking a break and Gerard had taken the opportunity to run the lyrics by Frank first.
“About 3 am.” Gerard laughed.
“Shit man, did you get any sleep at all?”
“A few hours.” Gerard answered before taking a sip of his soda. “Don’t matter I’m not tired.”
Frank looked at his friend closely. He was surprised to see Gerard truly didn’t look tired, matter of fact he looked better today then he had for several weeks. “Uh, so why were you up so late?”
Gerard was glad he and Frank were alone. He wanted to share his happiness. “I was on the phone with Holly.”
“Yep.” Gerard nodded.
“Oh.” Frank looked down at the paper in his hand again.
Gerard wondered why that bit of news bothered Frank. “Why, what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing.” Frank said refusing to look up.
“Hey, come on.” Gerard urged him. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
Frank sighed, “It’s just Mikey told me Holly had a date with that restaurant guy last night.”
“Oh.” Gerard understood his friends concerns. “Yeah she did but she got home around midnight and first she sent me a text and then she called.”
Frank grinned, “So I guess the date wasn’t that great?”
Gerard refused to let anything ruin his mood. “She didn’t say. All I care about is she called me.”
“So it was a good conversation?”
Gerard nodded, “I think so. She and I talked about Sonja at first and she really opened up to me. She also told me about Molly’s birth.”
“That does sound like she’s opening up. That’s good.”
“Yeah.” Gerard said softly, “I know there is still a lot left that needs to be dealt with between us but it’s definitely a start.”
“Mikey told me she and Molly are gonna be at his house Christmas eve.” Frank said. “That’s a good sign too.”
“An even better sign is she’s agreed to come to my house on Christmas.” Gerard said then looked around to make sure the other band members weren’t coming back yet. “Keep this between us but she and Molly are gonna stay with me Christmas eve.”
Frank smiled, “They’re gonna spend the night?”
Gerard smiled, “Yeah, remember how I told you last year that Holly has that tradition of taking Molly outside to listen for Santa’s sleigh bells?"
“I’m gonna get to be a part of that this year. I haven’t even told Holly yet but I’ve got it all set up. One of the security guards is gonna park up the road and he’s gonna play the sound of sleigh bells over the loud speaker in his golf cart.”
Frank laughed, “Man, that will be exciting for Molly.”
“For me too.” Gerard said softly. “I can just imagine sitting out on the porch me and Holly with Molly between us waiting.”
Frank leaned over and clasped him on the shoulder. “Looks like things are really working out.”
“I really hope so.” Gerard said taking the sheet of paper from Frank’s hand. “I want this to work out so fuckin’ bad.”
“The lyrics are written for Holly.” It wasn’t a question. Hearing Gerard talk he understood.
“Yeah, they are.” Gerard sighed, “I just hope she’ll be able to get over the past so we have another chance.”
Frank sat back as he lit a cigarette. “Thinking back I just feel so fuckin’ stupid I never saw what was really going on between you two.”
Gerard shrugged, “Ain’t your fault.”
“In a way it was.” Frank said letting his mind travel back in time. “When I think about some of the times I saw you and Holly together, even before you two had hooked up I can remember the look on your face. You were in love with her before you admitted it to yourself.”
Gerard nodded as he too lit a cigarette. “Yeah, I realize now from the very first time I met her she touched something in my heart.” Suddenly he laughed, “But damn she was so unlike any woman I’d ever met. Her and that God awful coat.”
Frank threw his head back and laughed, “Fuck, yeah. She really did look like the Staypuff Marshmallow man in that thing.”
Frank was like a brother to him so he felt comfortable admitting his true feelings. “She did and yet her smile and her eyes were so beautiful.”
“Windows to the soul.” Frank said softly thinking about Holly’s eyes.
Gerard gave him a surprised look. “Yeah.” He whispered looking down at the lyrics. “Yeah, exactly.” He fumbled in his pocket for a pen.
Frank watched him. “Fuck, don’t tell me I’ve just inspired some lyrics?"
Gerard was scribbling furiously. “That you have, Frankie, that you have.”
Both women turned to scan the crowd trying to locate who had called out their names. A moment later they saw Lindsey rushing towards them.
“Hey you guys.” She said giving each woman a quick hug.
Holly glanced over to see Jake, who was carrying Bandit, walking towards them.
“Christmas shopping?” Lindsey guessed looking down at the bags they held.
“Yep.” Alicia smiled then turned to Jake. “I hear congrats are in order.”
Jake smiled, “Sure are and thanks.”
“Down.” Bandit started squirming in his arms having spotted Molly.
“Easy there little lady.” Jake laughed as he set her down. “Gotta promise to stand by Molly, no running off.”
Bandit took off running but in Molly’s direction. As the adults watched the little girls hugged each other than immediately started talking about Christmas.
“Wow.” Jake laughed, “You can really tell they are half sisters.”
Holly titled her head, “You see a resemblance?”
He nodded, “Well, sure.”
Alicia sighed, “Yet another thing I totally missed.”
Lindsey who was standing next to her said softly, “Hey you aren’t the only one.”
Jake realized his innocent comment had caused a problem. Deciding to change the subject he said, “So have you ladies had lunch yet?” He knew Lindsey wouldn’t mind if they joined them.
“Actually we just ate at the food court.” Holly answered.
Lindsey was listening to the girls. She frowned, “Uh, Molly knows about Thursday?” Gerard had told her it was a surprise so she’d been shocked listening to Molly talking to Bandit.
Holly laughed, “Not exactly. She only knows Gerard and I are taking them somewhere.”
“Oh.” Lindsey smiled, “Uh, so I guess I need to make sure B takes warm clothes?’ She said lowering her voice.
“Yeah, and I need to buy some for Molly. She’s outgrown most of her stuff.”
Lindsey thought a minute. “No you don’t. I’ve got snow pants and a jacket at the house that’s too big for B. I’m sure they’d fit Molly. I’ll just give them to Gerard when he picks up Bandit.”
Holly smiled, “Hey, that would be great. Thanks.”
“No prob.” Lindsey answered. “Well, I guess we better be going.” She walked over and immediately Jake put his arm around her. “Someone here is hungry.”
Jake laughed, “I haven’t even complained.”
“Not yet.” Lindsey smiled, “But I can tell it’s coming.”
Holly watched the couple with a smile on her face. It was obvious they were very much in love.
When Jake walked over to get Bandit she frowned. “Wanna stay with sis.”
Jake smiled, “But we gotta go eat and they have to finish shopping.”
Lindsey joined him. “Besides you’re gonna see Molly day after tomorrow.”
Molly nodded, “Yep for our surprise.”
Unable to stop herself Lindsey squatted down to hug Molly. The little girl was so sweet. “That’s right.”
After they parted and began walking through the mall Alicia said softly. “I’m really glad Lindsey’s so happy.”
“Me too.” Holly nodded.
Alicia absently placed her hand on her abdomen, “Yep, Christmas time is the best time to be happy and in love.” She was so wrapped up in her happiness she didn’t see the sadness in Holly’s eyes.