A late night call goes unanswered because of a visitor
He walked in, shed his jacket then immediately went over to plug in the Christmas tree. Lighting it every night had become a ritual. The tree with its ornaments and lights gave him hope, it gave him a feeling he needed.
Sitting down on the sofa he slipped off his shoes then settled back to get comfortable but a moment later decided the house was chilly. Lately the temperature was really dropping dramatically at night. Deciding he wouldn’t be going to bed for hours because he was too wound up he walked over to the fireplace and soon a nice roaring fire heated the room. “Perfect.” He smiled as he warmed himself in front of the flames. He took a step back to look over at the tree. This was how he’d always envisioned a home should be. All that was missing was someone to share it with.
Before he could rethink he’s decision he called her.
Holly was busy at her worktable when her phone rang. Glancing over she saw the caller ID. Her first thought was to simply let it go to voice mail. Today she’d done a lot of thinking and knew she needed to put a stop to what was happening. Late night phone calls with Gerard were bringing them closer together and that wasn’t something she wanted to happen. At least that was what her head was telling her and she’d decided her head needed to rule her life, not her heart.
When the ringing stopped Gerard disconnected before the call went to voice mail. It had been stupid to call so late and besides what message would he have left? He couldn’t leave the message he so desperately wanted, he couldn’t tell her how much he’d missed her and how all he wanted at this moment was to have her and Molly here with him.
“Damn it.” Holly threw down the piece of glass she’d been holding. “This is so stupid.’ She muttered as she picked up her silent phone.
Gerard had walked back over to the sofa when his phone rang. A smile covered his face as he connected.
“You rang?” She tried to keep her tone light.
“Hey, hope I didn’t wake you up.”
Moving away from her work station she headed for the sofa to get comfortable. “Nope, actually I was just working on a Christmas gift.”
He smiled trying to picture the scene. “Oh, for who?”
“Lindsey and Jake.” Holly said telling him the truth. “We ran into them at the mall today and well, Lindsey been so nice to me I just wanted to make something special for her.”
“Wow, you ran into them?”
“Yep, they were out shopping too.”
His smiled faded slightly as he imagined Lindsey and Jake out together shopping, enjoying the season like he and Lindsey had once done. Pushing that thought away he asked, “So what are you making?”
“It’s a stained glass picture frame. I’ve cut bell shapes for the top.”
Gerard understood, “A wedding frame.”
“Yeah, Lindsey told me they had pictures taken at the wedding so I thought maybe they’d want to put one in the frame.” She hoped talking about this wasn’t upsetting him.
“I’m sure they will.” Gerard said softly. “That’s a very thoughtful gift.”
“Well like I said, Lindsey has always been very kind to me.”
He spoke up quickly, “Linds has liked you since the first time you two met.”
Thinking back to that first meeting caused Holly to frown. That had been a very awkward time.
Gerard spoke softly, “Linds actually realized so many things about you that I should have.”
He sighed, “She was the one who pointed out to me how none of us realized how much shit you were going through when we first met you.” He admitted. “She pointed out how we all had depended on you for help when we should have realized you were struggling too.”
Holly sighed, “Can’t we ever have a discussion without bring up crap from the past?” She tried to hide the anger she was suddenly feeling.
“I’m sorry.” He said quickly. “You’re right.” He didn’t want her to end the conversation. “What should we talk about?”
“We could talk about why you’re still awake.” Holly answered. “I’m sure you’re tired.”
“Well I’m still awake because I just got home and I’m wound up from working in the studio all day.”
“So how’s that going?” Holly asked thinking that would be a safe topic.
“Really good. We nailed not just one but two songs today. I’m really pleased with the way they turned out. I was thinking maybe after the holiday you could bring Molly by the studio. I’d love for her to see what her daddy does.”
The enthusiasm in his voice made Holly smile, “Maybe.” She said slowly. “Of course her daddy would have to watch his language.”
Gerard laughed, “Hey, what’s that mean?” He asked even though he’d understood the comment.
“Oh you know, Mr. F word. You haven’t put out an album without that colorful language.” She teased.
“Fuck no, I haven’t.” he laughed. “But I’m sure I could work around that if Molly’s there.”
“So tell me about the sound of the new album.”
He pulled out his cigarettes then lit one before answering. “Well, it’s sort of a combination of everything we’ve done before with a new sound thrown in.”
Holly laughed, “Okay that sounds interesting.”
“It really is. I’m excited about it. I think it’s gonna be better than anything we’re ever done before.”
“You always think that.” Holly said softly. “But that’s good.”
He sighed, “Of course you don’t think I’ll ever top the Black Parade, do you?”
She was afraid she’d hurt his feelings. “I didn’t say that. You just have to remember the Black Parade was sorta special to me.” She struggled to explain, “It came out at a time in my life that was rough and the music touched me.”
Her words touched him. “I’m glad about that.”
Holly wanted to keep the conversation upbeat. “But damn it man, you’d never sing along to any of the songs on the radio.”
Gerard threw his head back and laughed, “Nope, still don’t do that but it was funny to see you watching me when a song came on the radio.”
“Good times.” Holly said surprising herself because she realized that was truly how she felt.
“The best.” Gerard whispered. “They really were.”
Holly shook her head to dispel those memories. “So anyway, when’s the album gonna be done?”
“Hell if I know.” He laughed, “We still have a lot of work to do but we’ve decided to work a bit tomorrow then take a break. That way we’ll be able to approach it with fresh minds after the New Year.”
“Sounds like a good plan.”
“Yep.” He took a deep drag then asked, “So did Alicia drag you all over the city today?”
Holly laughed, “That she did. Molly and I didn’t get home until almost eight. We ended up staying and having dinner at Alicia’s.”
He liked that they were simply chatting about unimportant things that happened during their day. “So what did you have?”
“Did you make it or Alicia?”
Holly giggled, “I made it. Alicia offered but I didn’t mind.” She was confused when she heard Gerard sigh, “What?”
“Surprised you didn’t hear it, my stomach just rumbled. You said tuna casserole and now I’m starving. We ordered in pizza at the studio but I only ate one piece.”
“Oh poor Gee.” Holly teased.
“Yeah, poor me. Had I know you made tuna casserole I would have gone in when I dropped off Mikey. I’m sure there were leftovers.”
“Yep. There was.”
“Damn.” He muttered. “Missed my chance.”
“Well go in the kitchen and make yourself something to eat.”
He sighed, “Not much in there. I haven’t been to the store.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “There’s food in there. Remember I was just there Sunday. I know you’ve got cheese and bread. Make a grilled cheese sandwich.”
“Too much trouble.”
This caused Holly to laugh. “No, you’re too lazy.”
“Not true. But to be honest I’d rather just talk to you then so make something to eat.”
Holly stretched out on the sofa trying to ignore the little voice in her head telling her she should end the conversation. “Because talking to me is so exciting?” She teased.
Gerard snuffed out his cigarette then stretched out on his sofa. “Yep, it is. I get to talk to you, lay on the sofa, listen to the roaring fire and look at the tree. Pretty damn perfect.”
Holly smiled as she pictured that scene. “Oh, you built a fire?”
“Yep, the house was chilly when I got home.”
He groaned inwardly at her words that she’d practically purred. “Yep, very nice.”
For the next two hours they simply talked about nothing in particular. Gerard realized this was what they needed to reconnect. Holly kept denying it meant anything but deep down that voice was screaming for her to stop. But for tonight at least, she ignored that voice.
The next morning Holly got a frantic call from Alicia.
“Holly I think something is wrong.”
Taking her freshly poured cup of coffee to her worktable Holly asked, “Wrong?”
“I feel weird.” Alicia whispered making sure Mikey who was in the other room wasn’t listening. “I can’t explain it any better than that.”
“Are you in pain?” Holly asked concern lacing her words.
“No not pain but it feels so weird.” Alicia couldn’t think of another word to describe it any better.
Holly thought a minute. “Uh, does it feel like fluttering?”
Alicia nodded to herself. “Yeah kind of. Like I said it doesn’t hurt but I haven’t felt anything like this before.”
“Oh.” Holly gave a sigh of relief. “Pretty sure what you’re feeling is called quickening. It’s normal.”
“Are you sure?”
Holly wanted to put her mind at ease. “You’re about three months right?”
“Well then that weird feeling is called quickening. That’s the baby letting you know he or she is in there. I always thought it sorta felt like butterfly wings in my stomach.”
“Oh.” Alicia cried happily. “I’m so glad to hear that. I was so scared.”
“Nothing to worry about.’ Holly assured her. “Perfectly normal. You know pretty soon you’ll be showing.”
“I think I am.” Alicia said happily. “This morning when I stood looking in the mirror I have a little more belly than before.”
Holly laughed, “Funny having a bit more belly never makes a woman happy until she’s pregnant.”
“That’s for sure.” Alicia now feeling the tension leaving her body sat down at the kitchen table. “Oh I’m supposed to tell you Mikey loved the tuna casserole.”
Mikey who had just walked in the kitchen called out his thanks.
“What’s he doing there?” Holly asked, “I’d have thought he’d already be at the studio.”
“The rest of the guy are.” Alicia answered as she watched her husband pour yet another cup of coffee. “But Mikey’s brother is running late this morning. Seems he slept through his alarm. So Mikey’s still here waiting to be picked up.”
“Oh.” Holly offered no information she might know as to why Gerard had obviously been tired and slept through his alarm.
“So what’s your plans for the day?” Alicia asked.
Holly looked over the items spread out on her work area. “Making Christmas gifts. Gonna spend the whole day doing it.”
This pleased Alicia. “That’s nice.”
“Can Mikey hear me?” Holly suddenly asked.
Alicia held the phone close to her ear. “Nope.”
“Good. Don’t want him to hear but I’m making a Princess Leia ornament for him to go with Luke.”
“Oh wow. Good idea.” Alicia answered so as not to give anything away. Just then Gerard walked through he kitchen door. “Hey Gee.”
Gerard nodded to her then headed immediately to the coffee pot for some much needed caffeine.
“Tell him I said good morning.”
Alicia glanced at her brother in law. “Holly says good morning.”
His whole face lit up. “Oh, good morning Holly.” He called out so she could hear.
“Hey can I come over and watch you work?” Alicia asked returning to her call.
“Sure.” Holly smiled, “Don’t think it will be a lot of fun for you but it will be nice to chat while I’m working.” They settled on a time then Alicia disconnected.
“So.” Gerard said, “How’s Holly this morning?”
Alicia smiled, “She’s fine. How are you?”
He gave her a confused look. “How am I?”
“Well late that’s obvious and in need of caffeine by the way you beelined the coffee pot.”
Gerard nodded, “True.”
“So another late night talking on the phone?” Alicia asked.
Mikey too was confused.
Alicia giggled, “I know Monday night you were on the phone with Holly and I’m guessing last night as well?”
“She told you?”
“She told me about Monday night I’m just guessing about last night.”
Gerard smiled, “Yeah, we talked until pretty late.”
“Thought so.” Alicia got up and surprised him with a quick hug. “I could tell by that dopy smile on your face.”
Mikey glanced over at his brother as they drove to the studio. “So I guess you and Holly are getting along pretty well?”
Gerard kept his eyes on the traffic. “Yep. I think so.”
“You think so?”
Waiting until after he’d safely changed lanes he answered, “The last couple of conversations have been good but still there are some things Holly resists talking about.” Gerard explained.
“What things?” Mikey asked.
Gerard sighed, “Personal shit about us and our past. I’m sure Alicia’s talked to you about this.” While he didn’t want his brother to think he was angry about it he still was bothered that others were involved in his and Holly’s business.
“She’s told me she thinks Holly is still holding on to a lot of bad feelings.” Mikey said slowly. “A lot of them anger.”
“Yeah well she’s probably right. But when Holly talks to me she won’t go there. That’s what makes this fuckin’ hard. I want things between us to be right. I want that so she and I can move forward.”
“Yeah, together.” Gerard nodded. “I’ll tell you straight out, I love Holly and I want us to have a future together. I want that more than anything.”
Mikey sat back in the passenger set then stretched his long legs out. “Gee, tell me what it is about Holly that makes you love her.”
The question so surprised Gerard that his head snapped around to stare a moment at his brother. “What it is about her?”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, I want to hear you say what it is you love about her.” He was asking this question for a reason he believed was very important. “I mean is it because she’s Molly’s mother?”
Gerard frowned, “Hell no. That’s not why at all.” He paused, “Oh, you’re wondering if I just am still trying for that perfect married life I always wanted. A wife and child at home waiting for me while I’m on the road.” There was definite anger in his voice.
“I’m just trying to figure everything out.” Mikey said softly.
“I know.” Gerard answered feeling his anger lessen. He understood his brother loved him and wanted him to be truly happy. “But that’s not why. I first fell in love with Holly when she was the mother of a teenage daughter. I fell in love with a woman who would piss me off telling me a truth I didn’t want to hear then make me laugh a moment later. She always understood me even when I didn’t.” He paused letting his true emotions speak, “Holly made me feel safe, safe to be myself even when that self was fucking up but when I was with her I felt like there was hope. It was like she could see a good person inside me even though I couldn’t. Shit, does that make sense?”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, it does.”
Gerard went on. “And now Holly makes me want to be the best person I can be. Not for myself but for my daughters and for her. So in a way what you were thinking is right. I do want a wife waiting at home for me, I want that but I want Holly to be that wife. At the end of the day I want to be in her arms. I want to love her like she deserves to be loved. I want to make up for all the pain I’ve caused her.”
It had been a very long times since Mikey had heard his brother talk this way. “Don’t give up hope.” He said softly.
“I’m not going to. But if there comes a time when I think I can’t be for Holly what she needs, if she can’t be happy with me that’s when I will give up. Her happiness means that much to me.”
It had been a long day and Holly was exhausted. She’d spent hours while talking to Alicia making Christmas gifts. She’d completed Mikey’s Princess Leia figure, put the final touches on Lindsey and Jakes frame and started work on another wind chime for the gallery. Her back and fingers ached but it had been worth it because now as she looked over her work she was pleased.
But now that Molly was asleep and she’d showered she felt restless. In her mind she was still trying to decide what she wanted to give Gerard for Christmas. And thinking about that brought up another thought that was making her feel uncomfortable, having agreed to stay at his home Christmas Eve.
“But it’s for Molly.” She told herself softly. Deep down she knew that wasn’t the complete truth and that’s what really bothered her.
“I didn’t come back here to get involved with him.” She said out loud then a moment later sighed, “Shut up Holly. You’re talking to yourself again.”
When her phone rang her heart started to race. As much as she hated to admit it she’d been expecting Gerard to call all evening. However when she picked up the phone and spotted the caller ID she was surprised.
“Hello Holly.” His tone was deep and smooth. “Not a bad time is it?”
Holly sat down on the sofa. “No of course not.”
“Good. I was wondering if I could come up a minute?”
“Come up?” Holly jumped off the sofa. “You’re here?”
“Down on the street actually.” Richard laughed. “I took a chance that you’d be home. I promise I won’t take up much of your time but I have something for you.”
“Oh.” Holly was momentarily shocked. “Uh give me a minute and I’ll come down and unlock the door.”
Holly disconnected then looked down at her sweats. “Crap.” She muttered. “Don’t I look ready for a guest.” She ran to the bathroom and brushed her tangled, still damp hair. Deciding she didn’t have time to apply make-up she simply shrugged at her reflection in the mirror. “Oh well.”
Richard smiled as she pushed open the door.
“Just got out of the shower.” She explained as they walked up the steps to the loft’s entrance.
“I really should have called before I showed up.” Richard replied as they walked in and Holly shut the door.
“Please, have a seat.” She motioned to the sofa.
Richard set the shopping bag down he’d been carrying then shrugged out of his jacket. Before walking to the sofa he picked up the bag taking it with him. Once he was seated on the sofa Holly also sat down.
He reached into the bag and pulled out a wrapped package. “This is for Molly.” He explained handing it to Holly. “I think it is age appropriate for a little girl but I must admit my knowledge of children is fairly limited.”
Holly took the package from his hands. “That’s very kind of you but you I’m sure whatever it is she will be pleased.”
He’d reached into the bag again, “And this is for you.” He said softly as he took out a small wrapped box.
Nervously Holly began to shake her head. “Richard I wasn’t expecting you to get me a gift.”
He smiled. “I saw it today and immediately thought of you. I’d really like you to open it now.”
Holly sighed, “But I don’t have a gift for you.”
“Good.” He laughed, “I wasn’t expecting one.”
He smiled, “Holly, this is just a token of my appreciation for the work you’re doing for me.”
She took the package from his hands and while he watched her fingers fumbled with the wrapping paper. When she had removed it and saw the jewelers box from an expensive Beverly Hills store she started shaking her head. “I can’t accept this.”
“You haven’t even opened it yet.” He grinned. “Maybe I just used a box I had laying around my house.”
Holly highly doubted that.
“Now please, open it.” He urged.
With a sigh she pulled open the velvet box. Inside was a delicate gold bracelet with diamonds and rubies. “It’s beautiful.” Holly whispered. “But really, I can’t accept it.”
“Of course you can.” Richard smiled. “A beautiful woman should have beautiful jewelry.”
Holly continued to look at the bracelet but did not remove it from the box. “Richard this is truly lovely but...” Her voice trailed off.
In the short time he’d know Holly had prepared him for this. “Like I said it’s just a small token of my appreciation, nothing more. I saw it and thought of you, doesn’t that make it a good gift?”
Holly sighed, “Than make it a wonderful gift, that’s not the point.”
“Oh so the cost is the problem?”
Deciding to be honest Holly nodded, “I’m sure this is very expensive…”
He held up his hand to silence her. “And that makes you uncomfortable.”
She nodded, “Well, yes.”
“To me, a successful restaurateur, the cost seemed reasonable but to a struggling artist just coming into her own I’m sure it would be a bit expensive.” When he saw her frown he laughed, “That did come off wrong. Okay let me try again. In the short time I’ve known you I feel I have a fair idea of how you view the world. I am guessing that even if you could afford to cover yourself in jewels you wouldn’t. In your mind the money they would cost could be used for so many more important things, like helping the less fortunate.”
Holly sighed, “Please don’t make me into some kind of saint.”
“That’s not what I meant at all. But Holly, you do find great enjoyment in helping others. I can see that in your eyes when you speak of the shelters. You are a very giving woman.” His voice dropped. “And for me, I find that very endearing.”
“Endearing?” Holly whispered.
“Oh yes. I do not believe I have ever met anyone like you. Your kindness touches me deeply.” He moved towards her slightly. “Meeting you was like a breath of fresh air. I deal with so many privileged, greedy people every day but you…you are different and I’m very attracted to you.” Again he reached into the bag. “And as much as I know you are resisting accepting the bracelet I’m hoping this might make it a bit easier for you.” He handed her several pieces of paper.
“What’s this?” Holly glanced down at what looked to be some sort of legal contract.
“Well I mentioned to you how much food goes unused at my restaurants each day. Perfectly good food that we are unable to use. I spoke to my lawyers and starting after the first of the year we will be donating that food to several shelters.”
“Oh, Richard, that’s wonderful. I’m sure the shelters will be grateful.”
“It thought you’d be pleased.” He said softly. “So in essence the idea you put in my head will benefit many. I think accepting one small gift from the man you gave that idea to shouldn’t be a problem.” His voice was low and smooth. “The truth is Holly, you make me want to be a better person.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide as he leaned forward. She knew he was going to kiss her and that knowledge seemed to paralyze her. As their lips met her eyes closed.
The sound of her phone ringing broke the spell. Holly sat back then jumped to her feet. “Excuse me.”
Richard watched as she crossed the loft to grab her phone off the table. He saw her stare a moment at the caller ID then quickly silence the phone. When she returned to the sofa he said softly. “If you’d like to take that call I will be on my way.”
Holly wasn’t sure at this moment what she wanted but she knew answering Gerard’s call at this time would have been impossible. “That’s okay.”
Richard sat back against the cushions studying her face. “I’m afraid I’ve upset you.”
“No, I’m not upset.” Holly tried to put her emotions into words but was unable.
“You honestly didn’t realize I was attracted to you? I must be losing my touch.” He grinned.
“It’s not that.” She glanced down. “It’s just my life is so unsettled right now. I came back to LA for two reasons. One was to do the benefit auction I’d promised to do and the other..” She paused, “So that Molly could learn the truth about her father. Once that was done I’d planned on leaving but you offered me such a wonderful job..” She glanced up. “I’ve decided to stay until it’s done but..”
He smiled, “So romance just wasn’t in your plans?”
“No, not at all.” Again she glanced away.
“I think I do understand.” Richard said evenly. “I know you almost died and I’m sure that made you take stock of your life. Reevaluate things.”
Holly nodded, “Yes.”
“And how is that working out for you?”
The question, so unexpected, made her smile, “Not too good to be honest.”
Richard smiled, “I may be out of line and if this is something you’d rather not discuss I will understand.” He paused, “But I have a strong feeling Molly’s father is playing a huge part in this.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide. “Gerard?”
“Yes, Gerard.” Richard nodded, “I have noticed he doesn’t seem overly fond of me. You may not have noticed at the auction but the man was shooting daggers with his eyes at me while I stood by your side. That leads me to believe there may still be something between you two.”
“He’s Molly’s father, that’s all.” Holly whispered.
Richard didn’t believe it was as simple as that. “I’ll admit there is a lot about this situation I don’t know but what I do know having spent time with you is this, you obviously loved him very much at one time. You would not have had his child if that wasn’t true.”
Holly nodded unable to speak.
“So the question that begs to be asked is do you still love him?”
Nervously Holly twisted her hands. “That was a very long time ago. So much happened.”
His smile was slightly sad. “You know I’ve never believed time heals all wounds.”
“What?” She was completely confused by his words.
“Maybe I should tell you something about myself. Something I’ve shared with few people. I know I’ve spoken to you about being divorced but actually I’m twice divorced. My first marriage was when I was very young.”
Holly could hear pain in his voice.
“Jess was beautiful and I loved her madly. We were so young and ready to take on the world together as soon as we graduated from culinary school and we did. We married and together we started a restaurant. It was small but the hours were long and sadly I began to crack under the pressure.” He sighed, “I was so driven to make that restaurant a success and when the long hours and stress began to take their toll I turned to drugs thinking they would give me extra energy I needed. At least that’s what I told myself.”
“Oh.” Holly whispered. “I had no idea.”
“That I was once a drug addict? Well that’s definitely not something I discuss often. It was a very painful time in my life.” He seemed lost in thought for a moment then continued, “At first I tried to hide my drug use from Jess but she was a smart girl, obviously much smarter than me. When she confronted me about it my first response was to lie, something I’d never done before. I’d never lied to Jess. I could see how much my lies hurt her but I couldn’t stop. I convinced myself the drugs were helping me to handle the stress so I could successfully run the restaurant. So I reasoned by taking them I was really doing it for her.” He shook his head sadly, “I honestly did that.”
“Richard I’m so sorry.” Holly said softly.
He reached over and took her hand in his then forced himself to continue. “Jess loved me so much, I knew what was happening was hard for her to understand. When she finally decided she had to confront me about what I was doing it was because of her love for me and for the baby.”
“Jess was pregnant. It wasn’t planned and to be honest even if I hadn’t had a drug problem it happened during a time when neither of us were prepared to deal with it.”
“So she didn’t have the baby?” Holly asked.
“When she told me I reacted badly. My life was spiraling out of control and suddenly she was telling me someone else was going to depend on me.” He lowered his head, “I wanted her to abort the child.”
Holly could hear the pain in his voice. “Did she?”
When he looked up the sadness in his eyes spoke volumes. “Jess wanted the baby so she refused then told me she was leaving me.”
“Oh Richard.” Holly whispered.
He sighed, “I’m afraid it gets worse. Once she moved out my drug use escalated. I felt so lost without her I couldn’t function. Two months later I lost the restaurant. It was at that lowest time in my life I realized what the drugs had done, they had made me lose the woman I loved. So I went to Jess and begged her to give me another chance. I was like a madman believing my life would end if I’d truly lost her. But still, I hadn’t given up the drugs and she knew it by looking in my eyes.” He paused a moment trying to maintain his composure. “She was staying at a friends house…” He paused again as the painful memories consumed him. “We argued, I begged, she refused. I grew angry. In my drug crazed mind I suddenly believed she loved the baby more than me. I grabbed her arm…” His voice suddenly became lifeless. “She fell down a flight of stairs as I watched unable to make myself move.”
Holly braced herself for what she knew he would say next.
“Jess lost the baby.”
Tears silently rolled down Holly’s cheeks. “Richard I’m so sorry.”
He took a deep breath then reached out to wipe her tears away. “Your tears attest to your beautiful heart. You feel other’s pain, Holly.”
Holly couldn’t speak.
“I’ve told you this for a reason. After that night I checked myself into rehab and got clean. Hope, that Jess could forgive me, that she would take me back, was all I had to live for.” He shook his head, “But it never happened. I completely got my life back on track but she couldn’t forgive me. If she had I would have spent the rest of my life doing everything in my power to make her happy. Almost a year later she agreed to see me. I begged her to forgive me, I told her honestly that I too grieved for our lost child. I promised I’d love her forever but she couldn’t get go of the past, the pain. She couldn’t forgive me. She cried when she told me she’d always love me but the pain was something she couldn’t let go of.”
Holly leaned forward to hug him tightly. “I’m so sorry, Richard.” She whispered.
When she sat back she saw him quickly brush away a tear. “Thank you. But again I want you to understand I’ve shared this with you for a reason. Maybe I’m totally wrong but I believe in my heart if Jess had given me a second chance I could have made her happy. Maybe that’s wrong of me to think that way but I do. I believe deep in my heart we could have made it work.”
“But she couldn’t let go, she couldn’t forgive.” Holly whispered.
He nodded, “Yes, exactly. Jess has never remarried she lives alone in Florida. I married again trying to fill the emptiness in my heart only to have that marriage end in divorce after five years. Neither of us has found happiness. And I am left with the knowledge that the pain I caused and her inability to forgive has left us both unhappy.”
Holly glanced down.
“Maybe I’m wrong but I just felt I should tell you my story. I’m sure our situations are very different but still…”
His story had touched her deeply on several levels but the question running through her mind over and over as simple. Was she like Jess, unable to let go of the pain, unable to truly forgive?
“So.” Richard needed to pull himself out of the past. “You and Molly do have Christmas plans, don’t you?” When Holly looked up at him he could see in her eyes she was still in the past. “You’re not spending the holidays alone, are you?”
“Oh.” Holly forced herself out of her memories and back to the present. “Actually we are spending Christmas Eve with Mikey and Alicia Way.” She failed to mention that she and Molly would then go to Gerard’s.
Richard smiled, “And I’m sure Mikey’s brother will also be there. It’s good Gerard will be with his daughter.”
Holly nodded, “His other daughter will be with her mother Christmas Eve.”
“Yes, I spoke to Lindsey just today.’ Richard admitted. “I must say I was surprised when she told me she’d remarried but she sounded very happy.”
“You talked to Lindsey?”
“She and her new husband want to reserve one of my restaurants for a party after the New Year to officially celebrate their marriage with friends and family.”
“Oh.” Holly suddenly had a thought. “What will you be doing Christmas Eve?”
He smiled knowing the question was asked out of kindness. “I’ll be spending it with my brother and his family out in Carmel. If you and Molly hadn’t had plans I was going to insist you two join us.”
“Oh.” Holly smiled, “Thank you for thinking about us.”
“Thank you for thinking about me.” He said softly knowing she’d understand. “And Christmas Day I will be working at one of my restaurants. Christmas is always one of our busiest days but my head chief and his wife recently had a baby so I’ll be taking his place.”
Holly smiled, “That’s very nice of you.”
Richard laughed, “Oh don’t say that out loud. My employees know me as a rather demanding boss.”
Holly smiled, “I know you as a very sweet man.”
Their eyes locked. “I’m really not.” He said softly. “But as I said before you make me want to be a better man.”
When Holly looked away he stood suddenly, leaned down to place a kiss on her check then spoke. “Time for me to go.” He walked towards the door stopping only long enough to pull on his jacket.
Holly got up quickly and reached him as he pulled open the door. “Richard, thank you for the gift.” She said looking into his eyes, her words taking on a deeper meaning.
He smiled, “Thank you, Holly. And remember if you need someone to talk to, or a shoulder to cry on, I’m a phone call away.”
Holly watched his retreating form until the street door closed. Once she heard the door lock engage she walked back into the loft then closed the door. Returning to the sofa she sat down trying to deal with the overwhelming emotions Richard’s visit caused. Never had she expected him to share such an intimate part of himself with her. While part of her understood why he had another part of her mind still wanted to pretend it didn’t understand. Hours later when she finally crawled into bed her mind was still in turmoil, her emotions raw. Sleep was a long time coming especially since she kept remembering she’d had a call that had gone unanswered tonight.
“Go to sleep Holly.” She whispered to herself. “You’ll see him in the morning.” But even that thought caused her more confusion.