Holly and Gerard finish shopping. Her night out with Richard ends with a surprising twist.
“Uh, wait a minute. You haven’t missed one aisle yet.” She grabbed their basket and started down the ‘pink aisle’ as Molly called it.
“The girls didn’t ask for Barbies.” He frowned trying to take control of the basket again.
“So why would we go down this aisle?”
Holly grinned, “You have gone up and down every aisle in this store. And in each of the aisles you’ve played with at least one toy. I totally want you to check out the Barbies.”
“Okay first off I already explained, I’ve not been playing with the toys I’ve been testing them out. And secondly I’m not going to test out a doll.” He knew she was teasing but he still tried to sound serious. “Do I look like someone who would play with dolls?”
Holly tried not to laugh. “Do you really want me to answer that Mr. Action Figure Man?”
He stopped the cart to give her a fake glare. “Holly I’m sure you understand action figures are not dolls.”
“If you say so.”
He nodded but his gaze fell on something. “Wow.”
Holly turned around to see what had caught his attention. “Oh no way.” She began shaking her head.
“Oh come on think how much the girls would love it.” He left the cart and walked over to the huge 3-story house. “Man, this has everything and look it even has a working elevator.”
Holly groaned, “Yeah and look at the price.”
“But look how cool this is.” He said studying the house on display. “And we can get them a car to park right beside it.”
He was eyeing it from all sides. “And it comes with the furniture. This is awesome. What if Santa gets this for both of the girls and leaves it at my house? There’s room in their bedroom for it.”
“Hey, that’s up to you.” Holly said slowly. “But you’ll notice it doesn’t come with dolls.”
He was already imagining setting this up near the Christmas tree. “It’ll be great. Linds is bringing B over early Christmas morning. She and Molly will love it.”
“Gotta buy clothes too.” Holly warned him.
By the time they left the pink aisle Gerard had already found a salesperson and the doll house would be waiting to be picked up when they were done shopping. And the basket was full of Barbie clothes, two dolls each girl and a car.
“And you didn’t think you needed to go down that aisle” Holly teased.
“Glad we did.” He smiled. “This is gonna be a great Christmas. Hey did you have Barbies?”
“Growing up? Sure. But most of the clothes I had for them were made by my mom.”
“Cool. Do you still have them?”
Holly shook her head, “No, Sonja played with them when she was little but when she outgrew dolls we gave them away.”
“Oh that’s too bad.” Her eyes were full of sadness. “Do you wish you’d kept them?”
She glanced away. “We gave them away because Sonja had realized she would never be able to have children and Lord knows I never thought I would have another little girl.”
He reached over to touch her arm. “I’m sorry.”
Holly forced the memories out of her mind. “Hey, it’s okay. We gave them to a little girl who lived down the street from us and she loved them.”
Not wanting her to dwell on the past he said as he pushed the basket down then next aisle. “Okay now I’ve got Santa gifts for the girls. What else do we need?”
“Molly mentioned to Alicia she wants a Light Bright.” I think I’ll get that for her from Santa to go with the electronic game she wanted.”
Soon the Light Bright was added to the cart.
When he saw Holly glance at her watch he knew it was getting late. “You need to get home.” He said trying not to dwell on why. “Let’s head to the check out.”
Holly followed behind but he noticed she’d gotten quiet.
“What’s wrong?” He asked as they stood in line.
“Nothing.” Holly answered not meeting his gaze. “Just sorta tired.”
“If you want I’ll wait in line. You can go sit in the car if your back is hurting.” He offered.
His thoughtfulness made her feel worse. In the back of her mind she kept reminding herself not to get caught up in all of this because it wasn’t going to last. Eventually Gerard would meet someone and chances were by next Christmas nothing would be the same between them. “I’m okay.” She started to sort things in the cart. “Besides I have to pay for my stuff.”
“Holly won’t you let me pay for all of it?’ He asked hoping she wouldn’t get defensive.
She looked into his eyes. “No but thank you anyway.”
He was about to try to plead his case when he caught sight of something. “Oh wow.”
Holly knew that ‘oh wow’ tone. “Now what did you see?”
“Look.” He said pointing to the display of battery powered cars. “Man, the girls would love those. They could drive them around in the backyard.”
“What about the Barbie house?” She asked.
He had bent down to check out one of the child sized cars. “Hey that’s from Santa. These could be from me.”
“Gee you already bought the girls gifts.”
He stood back up. “Not much really. Come on, don’t you think they’d love these?”
“I think they’d love a lot of things.” Holly said slowly. “But you can’t buy them everything.”
“Bet I could get them to deliver two of these.” He said already trying to plan it all out. He spotted a sign. “Yep, look. They’ll deliver them for me.”
“Okay even if you can get them delivered you’ll have Molly all day tomorrow.” Holly reminded him.
“Not a problem. The front gate will tell me when arrive. I’m sure one of the guys will put them in the garage for me. Molly won’t even know.”
It was getting late and Holly really needed to get home. “Whatever you want.”
He grinned, “Yeah, I definitely want to get each of them a car.”
It was hard for Holly not to cringe when Gerard was quoted the price for delivery and because he lived quite a distance away that price was almost as much as the cars. Gerard however, didn’t mind at all.
It was decided that since the shopping trip had taken so long that Gerard would drop Holly off back at the loft first. Since all of the Christmas gifts were hidden in the back of the vehicle this wouldn’t present a problem when he picked up Molly.
He parked in front of the art gallery and before Holly had a chance he grabbed her dress and shoes.
“Okay, I’ll just grab Molly’s clothes and you can get ready for tonight.” He said rounding the car. Holly had already gotten out her keys.
“She’ll have time to change before we go to Mikey’s tomorrow night, right?” Holly asked as they started up the stairs.
“Yeah, sure.” He answered bounding up the stairs behind her.
Holly unlocked the loft and went directly to Molly’s room. When she returned a few minutes later Gerard was standing looking out the window.
“Looks like it’s gonna rain.” He said smiling.
Holly laughed, “Rain makes you happy?”
“I’m hoping it rains here tomorrow.” He explained. “Cause if it does then we might get a little bit of snow at my place tomorrow night. Wouldn’t that be great? Come on, snow on Christmas eve would be perfect.”
She handed him Molly’s bag. “I suppose so.”
“Talked to Nick this morning and he thinks there’s a chance we might get some snow tomorrow night.” Gerard said as he took the bag from Holly’s hand. “Nick seems to think Christmas Eve snow is magical.”
This caused Holly to laugh. “He does? That’s what my mom used to say.”
“I never really gave it much thought before.” Gerard said softly. “But I think now it just might be.” As he spoke he moved closer to Holly. “And magic is what we need.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide.
Gerard moved even closer. “Don’t you?”
She forced her mind to work. “I don’t believe in magic.”
“I do.” He whispered.
“Well okay.” Holly took a few steps back. “You sure you have enough wrapping paper?”
Gerard nodded. “Yep, I’ll wait until Molly is asleep to unpack the car. I’ll wrap everything downstairs and make sure the gifts are hidden.”
Suddenly Holly laughed, “Oh and don’t forget you have to assemble the doll house.”
“Why are you laughing?”
“If you could have seen you’re face when they carried the doll house box up to the check out. You really thought it came assembled, didn’t you?”
“Yeah.” He admitted. “I kinda did.”
“We could assemble it tomorrow night.” Holly offered. “After Molly falls asleep.”
The idea of them working together to assemble a gift for the girls made him smile. “Yeah, that would be great. We can do it downstairs just in case Molly wakes up then carry it up. I want to make sure it’s by the tree on Christmas morning.”
“It’s really important to you that everything is prefect, isn’t it?”
The question caught him off guard. “Not exactly perfect but I want this Christmas to be memorable.”
“I’m sure the girls will have lots of great memories.” Holly said walking back towards the sofa where he’d placed her dress and shoes.
“I want you to have lots of good memories, too.” He said as he followed her. “I want us to make those memories together.”
Holly sighed, “Gee, I’m not even sure Molly and I will be in the LA area this time next year. Hell for that matter who knows where you’ll be? I’m sure your new album will be done. You and the guys might be touring.”
He shook his head, “We won’t be touring at Christmas. It’s important to all of us to be with our families for the holidays. And besides you said you’re probably going to stay in California.”
“Maybe.” Holly needed to get ready for tonight and right now she didn’t want to think about the future. “So, what time will you and Molly pick me up tomorrow?”
He wasn’t going to push her, they’d had a good day and he wouldn’t let anything spoil that. “I was thinking around three if that’s okay. They are picking ma up at noon and Alicia said she wants to eat around six.” He grinned, “I’m guessing she’s hoping you’ll help her with dinner.”
Holly smiled, “Yep, she is and I will.”
Gerard moved towards the door but not before glancing down at the dress she was now holding. “You really are gonna look beautiful tonight.”
“Thanks for helping me pick out what to wear.” She tried to lighten the moment. “It’s a far cry from what I used to wear. You know, marshmallow coat?”
“I told you before the reason you wore that coat made you look beautiful in it. I know you probably think you’ve changed a lot since then but deep down your kind heart has never changed.” He said softly. “It never will.” With that he left the loft leaving Holly blinking back tears.
“So how’d the shopping trip go?” Alicia asked as soon as Gerard walked through the kitchen door.
He glanced around. “Where’s Molly?”
“She and Mikey are watching a movie. I’m just making popcorn. You’re not gonna take off already are you? I was thinking maybe you guys would stay and have dinner with us.”
Gerard leaned against the counter giving the invitation some thought. “Suppose we could.” He glanced over at the table. “Wow that’s a lot of cookies.”
Alicia grinned as she added corn to the air popper. “Yep me and Molly went a little wild with the baking. So anyway, the shopping?”
“It was great.” Gerard answered lowering his voice to tell her about the gifts they’d bought.
Alicia turned on the popcorn popper then moved a bit closer to him to be heard over the machines noise. “And how was Holly? Did she have a good time?”
He nodded, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure she did. We talked and laughed together like old times.”
“The good old times.” Alicia said softly.
“Yeah, exactly.” He paused, “And she got a beautiful dress for tonight.”
Alicia could see the sadness in his eyes. “You’re not really very happy she’s going with Richard tonight, are you?”
He crossed his arms in front of him then shrugged. “Hey, she’s doing it for charity and I know how happy that makes her. I’d be a jerk if I didn’t want her to do something that makes her happy.”
“Yeah doing something for charity does make her happy. But I’m not talking about that and you know it.”
He sighed, “Okay I’ll admit I wish she wasn’t going with Richard. Shit, you should see the bracelet he gave her. Pretty sure he’s interested in more than just her art.”
Alicia switched off the popper before asking, “Bracelet? What bracelet?”
“A fuckin’ expensive one. Gold, emeralds and diamonds.”
“Holly showed it to you?” Alicia frowned.
He looked sheepish, “No, but she left the box on the table and I saw it.”
“Oh.” Alicia said softly. “Did you ask her about it?”
“I don’t want any secrets between us so I admitted I’d seen it.”
“And what did she say?” Alicia asked as she began pouring the popcorn into bowls.
“Just that he said it was just a small token of his appreciation for the work she’s doing for him.” Gerard sighed, “I don’t wanna be a dick about this, maybe he’s really a nice guy and I’m sure Holly enjoys that attention.”
Alicia glanced over at him. “Most women would enjoy the attention of a good looking, rich guy.” She tried to put her feeling into words. “This is something Holly’s never really experienced before.”
Gerard tried not to be hurt by her words. “I ain’t a good looking guy?”
“You never openly courted Holly we both know that.” When she saw him frown she quickly added, “Yeah, I know why but still…for the first time in he life Holly is going out in public with a guy like Richard. Shit, think about it Gee. Far as I know she’s not really gone out with anyone since her divorce.”
He sighed, “Yep, I know what you mean.”
“Did she seem excited about tonight?” Alicia asked.
“She admitted she was nervous.” He started to grab two of the bowls. “Shit, I don’t know. Maybe she really wants to go out with Richard. Maybe he’s the direction she wants her new life to take. I’m just someone from her past and a painful past at that.”
Alicia grabbed his arm to stop him. “Hey, don’t start thinking like that. She’s been spending a lot of time with you.”
“But that’s because we have a daughter.” He said sadly.
“I don’t think that’s the only reason. Maybe right now she’s trying to convince herself that’s why but deep down I don’t think so. You just need to keep things good between you two.”
He needed to believe her. “Yeah, I know. And don’t say anything but she and Molly are going to stay at my house tomorrow night.”
Alicia’s face broke into a grin. “Really?”
“Yeah, and I’m pretty psyched about that. But don’t say anything in front of her about it because I don’t want her to rethink that decision.”
She nodded, “Yeah, I get what you mean but Gee that’s wonderful.” She picked up the largest bowl. “This is gonna be one of the best Christmases ever.”
It wasn’t until almost ten Gerard was sure Molly had fallen asleep. After they’d arrived home they’d watched a Christmas movie together while drinking hot chocolate. But now he was sure his daughter was sleeping soundly and he had work to do.
Sneaking downstairs he went out the back sliding door then around to the car. It took him five trips to get everything inside. He hid the large box containing the doll house then took a seat on the rug surrounded by bags and wrapping paper.
“Okay I can do this.” He whispered trying to ignore the fact that he hated wrapping gifts.
As he cut off a large piece of wrapping paper decorated with dancing snowmen his mind was suddenly a million miles away. What was Holly doing right now? Was she having a good time?
“Wish she was here.” He muttered as he placed a gift in the center of the piece of paper. He forced himself to concentrate on that task at hand because he still had something very important to do tonight. He had to make Holly’s Christmas gift.
“So.” Holly said turning to Richard who had followed her to the door. “Would you like to come up for a few minutes?”
He smiled, “I’d love to.”
Once inside the loft Holly immediately slipped off her shoes. “That’s better.”
Richard laughed, “I would have bet you were going to do that. They shoes looked great on you but I had a feeling they weren’t comfortable.”
“I have no idea how some woman can wear heels all the time.” Holly admitted. “They didn’t bother me at first but damn, for the last hour they’d become torture devices.”
They both settled down on the sofa.
“Well you looked lovely tonight.” Richard said “That dress looks stunning on you.”
Richard was confused. “Does it make you uncomfortable for me to say that?”
“Not uncomfortable. I guess it’s just that this dress isn’t something I’d normally choose to wear.”
He titled his head, “Okay, I’m confused.”
“I didn’t really pick it out.” Holly admitted.
Richard settled back allowing himself to get another good look at her. “So who did?”
The conversation had suddenly become a bit strange. “Oh, doesn’t matter.” She said. “Would you like something to drink?”
He was studying her closely. “Let me guess, Gerard picked it out.”
“Why would you think that?” Holly asked in surprise.
“Oh my.” Richard laughed. “Well let me think…could be because it looks very good on you or maybe I thought that because of how uncomfortable you looked when I asked.”
“It’s no big deal.” Holly said quickly. “I mean I had to get something to wear and since he and I were out Christmas shopping today he helped.”
Holly frowned, “See what?”
“You’re uncomfortable talking about Gerard with me.”
“No, I’m not.” Holly lied. “So would you like a glass of wine?”
“Yes, thank you.” He watched as she crossed the loft then poured two glasses. When she handed him one he took a sip. “Iron Horse?”
“How did you know?”
“I serve this wine in my restaurants.” Richard admitted.
“I like it.” Holly said taking a sip. Then as Richard watched she took another.
A few moments passed then Richard asked, “So is it working?”
Holly who had just taken another sip lowered her glass. “What?”
“Is the wine helping you relax?”
“Why would I need it to help me relax? I’m not nervous at all.”
Richard laughed, “If you say so.”
Holly frowned, “Do I seem nervous to you? I don’t know why I would. We’ve had a very lovely evening.” She snapped her mouth shut realizing she was starting to ramble.
“A very lovely evening.” Richard answered smoothly. “One that I definitely hope isn’t over yet.” It was hard for him not to smile when he saw her eyes suddenly grow huge.
“Well of course it’s not over yet. I mean I thought it would be nice to talk for a while.”
Slowly he reached over and took the glass from her hands. Holly’s heart started to race as she watched him place both of them on the table.
“Now then.” Richard whispered moving closer to her. “This is what I believe should happen next.” He pulled her to him covering her lips with his before she knew what was happening.
Holly forced herself to relax in his embrace. The kiss went on for several moments before Richard could coax her to open her mouth. As the kiss deepened he caressed her neck with his fingers slowly trailing them down her body. He pulled her closer pressing her body to his. Suddenly he sat back.
“Now you know.” He whispered looking deeply into her eyes.
Holly blinked, “Know?”
“You know how much I want you. We’re both adults Holly you must have a good idea where I’d like this to go. The bedroom would be nice but I’m sure we can make this sofa work.”
“Oh.” Holly scooted back out of his embrace. “Oh, I…oh no.”
When she started to stand he grabbed her hand. “Calm down. As much as it pains me to admit I don’t expect you to invite me into your bed.”
Holly stared at him.
“But I do know you invited me up here because you wanted to believe you just might.”
“Richard.” She started to shake her head.
“Hear me out.” He said reaching over to pick up her glass then hand it to her. “Here take a drink.”
Her hands shook as she took the glass.
“Holly, correct me if I’m wrong but there is a part of you that wishes it could invite me into your bed.”
She took a sip of the wine. “I don’t understand.”
“Sadly for me, I do.” Richard said settling back against the cushions. “That part of you wants to forget your past and move on. That part of you wants to forget Gerard.”
Again her eyes grew wide. “Richard, that’s not true.”
“Yes, it is. And when I said sadly for me, I meant it. I’d love to be the man who could make you forget him. But to be honest I like you too much to do that. If anything more happened between us you would regret it. You have way too many unresolved feeling for him and I know that. I also know you’re trying very hard to deny that fact.”
She didn’t know how to answer that at all.
“I will be totally honest with you Holly, something that I don’t do very often where beautiful woman are concerned. I’d love to coax you in my direction. Matter of fact I probably would do that to any other woman. But you are different. I wouldn’t just want a physical relationship with you, I’d want more. I’d want what you can’t give me and that is your heart.”
Holly looked down at the glass in her hands. “I don’t know what to say.’ She whispered.
“You don’t need to say anything to me. You need to make peace with yourself and your past. And we both know who is a big part of that past.”
He finished the wine in his glass then stood. “Now walk me to the door and just be prepared, I’m a selfish man, I’m going to steal one more kiss before I go.”
Holly took his outstretched hand he extended. At the door he pulled her into his arms. This kiss, while not as intimate as before, was passionate. He released her then opened the door.
“Listen to your heart.” He said softly. “Never let fear stop you.”
Gerard was muttering curses at the tape dispenser when his phone vibrated. He quickly flicked off a stay piece of tape from his finger before grabbing the phone from his pocket.
He glanced at the clock and was immediately worried something was wrong.
SURE WANT ME TO CALL?
Holly sighed as she started down at his text. Her emotions at the moment were raw and hearing his voice would make it worse.
NO JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE MOLLY WAS OKAY
He sighed realizing that even thought it was late she probably had just gotten home.
WE HAD A GOOD NITE. POPCORN AND A MOVIE HOW WAS YOUR NITE?
That was something she wasn’t going to give an honest answer.
EVENT RAISED LOTS OF MONEY
GOOD TO HEAR. DID YOU HAVE FUN?
MET LOTS OF ARTISTS IT WAS NICE
He felt in his gut something wasn’t right but he didn’t know what to do. Before he could give it much thought she sent another text.
WELL SEE YOU TOMORROW
OK SLEEP TIGHT
He started to put his phone away but suddenly he knew what he wanted to say.
KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED FOR SNOW
Holly stared down at the text. The tears blurring the words of his next text.
MAGIC IS REAL
She set her phone down then closed her eyes. If only she could still believe in magic.