A CHRISTMAS STORY
Every year they come around and Steve
used to like them, used to look forward to them but that was before. ‘Used To’
being the optimum words. There were so many things in the past that he ‘Used
To’ enjoy and there were those words again. It is funny Steve thinks how two
little words like ‘Used To’ could define a person or events. I ‘Used To’ like
this person or I ‘Used To’ like going there or in Steve’s case he ‘Used To’
like the holidays. Love them as a matter of fact but that was when all his
relatives were still alive, his mom, grandparents but now he was alone and
everything bad that had happened to him seem to have happen around the holidays.
So he finally decided to acquiesced, throw in the towel, and just say to hell
with it and go to
Of course Steve has a lot of friends that invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner but he always felt funny. It wasn’t their fault, they made him feel welcomed, loved, cared for but he felt like that old third wheel and he couldn’t shake that old sadness, it was like an old overcoat that he pulled out of storage right at the end of October. It smelled of mothballs and dust and as hard as he tried not to he would always slip it on and he would wear it until about January and then he would take it off and hang it back up in the old emotional closet and he felt safe for another year.
So he was making plans to do just that. Get away, far away, run away as fast as he could before he could dig out that old overcoat of sadness, for once, he wanted the last part of the year to be a happy one and in the middle of making plans the phone rang. Something told him not to answer it, let the machine pick it up but of course he didn’t. It was his lawyer. Steve rubs his eyes as he listens. ‘Used To’ and there are those words again, used to when his lawyer called it was about something that Steve wanted to forget, not deal with but this was different. This wasn’t sad or bad it was just….weird. He didn’t go into too much detail; he would do that on purpose when he wanted Steve to come into the office, just like now.
It peaked his interest to be sure and his lawyer always knew how to yank his chain royally so Steve made the drive downtown, found a place to park, and then he went into the office building, which took up at least two city blocks and it was glass, brass and fancy plants. The offices were on the 14th floor and all the furniture was Cherry, polished, the chairs were leather and the coffee was imported and Steve was on his third cup. It wasn’t the fact that the coffee was that good that caused Steve to drink so much of it; it was the fact that he needed that many to help his mind come to grips with the letter that he held in front of him.
Nowadays it would be referred to as ‘old school.’ In this day and age of e-mail this letter was handwritten, three pages, and included was an old black and white Polaroid picture. Not the Polaroid’s from today but the old-timey version where you had to count and then peel the paper off to reveal the picture inside. Steve held the letter in one hand the picture in the other.
“Steve?” The lawyer says.
Steve doesn’t answer hell he doesn’t even look up.
“Steve?” The lawyer says louder.
“Huh?” Steve finally answers as he looks up.
“Are you okay?”
Steve shakes his head slowly. “I….uh….don’t really know.”
“Does any of that sound familiar to you? I mean the names, the dates, and the location? The person in the picture?” The lawyer asks.
“Steve, it’s okay. I mean we have handled this sort of thing before. Just take it home and think about it and if you decide….well we can go from there. I will make all the arrangements. It will be discreet, quick and painless.”
Steve just nods his head as he continues to look down at the letter, shuffling through the pages, staring a hole through the picture.
“Do you want us to call a car service to take you home?” The lawyer asks.
“What? Oh no that is just silly. I can drive it’s just that….can I have a minute or two alone?” Steve asks.
“Oh yeah sure of course. Take your time. I’ll be outside.” The lawyer gets up and he walks across the room and Steve watches over his shoulder as the lawyer shuts the door behind him then he lets his gaze drop back to the letter. The lawyer did say for him to take his time well Steve needed another lifetime for this. The profession that Steve had been in, was in, continue to be in from time to time allowed for this sort of thing. It was not an unheard of set of circumstances because at one time or another it had happened to all of them but all of those were bogus, a lie made up from whole cloth, somebody wanting to get something on the life of another, but this….it was the picture that sealed his fate.
All these years he had believed a lie and that one statement pinged around in his head as he left the lawyer’s office, as he drove home, as he made a quick stop at the Market to pick up a few things for dinner and after he put those few things away he had suddenly lost his appetite. So he decided to go for a walk on the beach, it wasn’t that far for him, so he bundled up against the late evening blustery weather and he started out. He was technically alone; there were a few runners, seagulls and he walked out to his favorite outcropping of rock and that is where he sat. He thought that if he looked long and hard enough at the distant horizon, where the ocean meet the sky, he could see that other lifetime that he once had. That much younger, dumb naïve Steve. Where everything was bright and shiny like a new penny when he wasn’t so….jaded. Was it true? Could it be true? Pictures didn’t lie and it was a black and white bold statement of fact but the truth part had yet to be determined. Before Steve knew it instead of looking at the horizon he was now looking at the stars it had gotten dark around him and he hadn’t noticed. His head hurt from so much thinking.
Thank goodness for street lights because when it gets dark it gets dark quick and when he got home he headed straight for the phone and he called his lawyer.
“Jack I want you to go ahead and set it up.”
“Steve are you sure? Maybe you should think about it some more.”
“No Jack.” Steve rubs his eyes. “I have thought about it enough and the not knowing is what’s killing me so just go ahead and….”
“Okay no problem. I will call them and make the arrangements and then I will call you back.” Jack says.
Steve nods his head. “Thanks Jack.”
Jack had some pull obviously because an hour or so later he called Steve back and told him where to be at ten the next morning and Steve said that he would be there. Now all Steve had to do was fill those hours until the next morning. A movie would be a good start. Go and get lost in a good movie. He didn’t even bother to check the paper to see what movie was playing where at what time, he was just going to show up and take his chances and if he had to sit through it twice well then so much the better.
The drive the next morning took longer than what they had to do and Jack was right, they were discreet and it was quick but as for being painless well that remains to be seen. He still had to wait for the results and since Thanksgiving was coming up he would have a longer wait. The normal wait without a holiday was three days but now it would probably be four. Steve, even though people like to think so didn’t have any control over that actually he didn’t have any control over anything.
“Jack when the results come back call me
“Steve why don’t you spend the holiday with my family? There will be plenty Nancy and the kids they would love to see you.”
Steve smiles as he looks at the floor. “Thanks Jack I appreciate that but I think I want to be alone. Get away from the city.”
“You’re alone too much.” Jack says.
“Well when this comes back maybe I won’t be.” Steve says as he pats Jack on the back.
Hawaii was always beautiful and warm and when most of the country was all bundled up against old man winter Steve was kicked back on the lanai reading the paper and drinking coffee wearing Bermuda shoes and sandals and wearing one of his many Hawaiian t-shirts. Yesterday had been Thanksgiving and instead of turkey Steve attended a luau where they had roasted a huge pig in the ground and had those little drinks with the umbrellas and Steve had spent a wonderful evening with a beautiful lady talking and laughing and Steve was thinking about calling her when the phone rang.
“Hello?” Steve says.
“Steve this is Jack how fast can you get back here?”
“I’ll be on the next flight.”
And Steve was. Six hours later Steve was
“I would say that is pretty conclusive. I mean you can’t beat 99.99 percent right?” Steve says as he looks at Jack then Steve wanders over to the window and he taps on the windowsill. “What happens now I mean what should I do?” Steve asks as he looks out the window.
“Steve I can’t tell you what to do.”
Steve chuckles. “You’re my lawyer and you can’t tell me what to do?”
“I meant morally. Legally you have already established paternity so if she wanted to push it she could but she shows no sign of wanting to do that. She’s not asking for anything, not yet, anyway. She hasn’t threatened you, she hasn’t gone to the press, and she’s not suing you so basically the ball is in your court. Now morally that is another story. I know you and you’ll do the right thing.”
“The right thing. The right thing.” Steve repeats. “Can you….?” Steve looks back over his shoulder at him. “I mean I think that is the right thing to do….I don’t even know if she will you know?” Steve looks back at the window leaning hard on the windowsill. Jack approaches Steve and he puts his hands on his shoulders and he can see Steve’s reflection in the glass. His head bowed and his eyes closed against the tears but that doesn’t stop them.
“Jesus god I didn’t think I would react this way. I’m scared. So scared. It wasn’t real to me until….now.” Steve takes a deep breath. “I thought some how that it could be a mistake but when I saw the picture I knew….I knew.” Steve’s tears dropped down onto the windowsill then he wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket.
“Steve do you want me to contact her for you? Set up a meeting? Is that what you want me to do?”
Steve simply nods his head.
“I’ll do that myself and I’ll let you know when okay?”
“Thanks Jack. I think I’m going to go home now.” Steve says as he pulls away from Jack.
“Are you going to be okay Steve?”
“I’m going to be fine.” Steve says as he stops in the doorway and he looks back. “For the first time in a very long time I have someone else to think about.” Then he walks out of the room.
Steve was really, really nervous. It took a couple of days and more than a dozen or so phone calls but Jack managed to do it. To pull it off. And within in an hour or so she was going to be here. Here at the lawyer’s offices. Steve thought it would be the best place because it was private and safe and neutral territory. He reasoned that she was just as scared as he was maybe even more so. Steve was really, really nervous as he paced back and forth, back and forth, wringing his hands, practicing what he was going to say and how he was going to say it. He checked his watch for the millionth time. It was in the afternoon and her plane was due to land now. What with getting off the plane, waiting on her luggage, and factor in traffic from LAX she probably won’t here until at least give or take a few minutes. When the door to the conference opened Steve jumped a foot but it was just Tiffany one of the young ladies that worked in the office she was pushing a cart loaded down with refreshments.
“Oh I’m sorry Mr. Perry I didn’t mean to startle you.” Tiffany says as Steve goes over to hold the door for her.
“Oh no Tiffany that’s okay.” Steve says as he goes back to pacing.
Tiffany looks back over her shoulder at him as she makes a fresh pot of coffee. “Would you….?”
“Thanks but I don’t think my stomach can handle it right now.”
“Mr. Perry if you don’t mind me saying so you shouldn’t be so worried. She’s going to love you.”
“Thanks Tiffany that’s very nice I appreciate it. But I don’t know how to act, what to say I don’t know what she is expecting.”
“Right now I bet she’s thinking the same thing about you. Just be yourself.”
“I don’t know sometimes I don’t even like me.”
Tiffany laughs. “Mr. Perry you will do great and you look very nice.”
“Like my father always said just be yourself and you can’t go wrong.” Tiffany says as she finishes stocking the refreshments then she pushes the cart towards the door and Steve opens it for her. “Sit down and relax.” Tiffany says as she leaves.
Steve wishes he could relax. Ever since he found out that she agreed to come Steve hasn’t slept a wink, he has barely ate, all he thought about was her and her mother and lord knows what else. He wanted to buy her a gift but that was hard, he had no idea what she liked and he kept thinking that she was a little girl when in fact she was young woman, at least in her early 30’s. So Steve begins to pace again, back and forth, back and forth across the room looking at his watch. This waiting was maddening but then finally it was over. Jack opened the door and Steve jumped.
“Steve she is here. How are you doing?”
“Nervous. How is she? I mean….who does she look like? Me or her mother? Oh you wouldn’t know that you never saw her. Oh god I’m rambling!”
Jack laughs. “She is beautiful but you can see for yourself because here she is.”
Jack moves from in front of Steve and there she stood in the doorway. Long reddish brown hair with a slight wave to it, greenish hazel eyes and she had the same facial structure as Steve but luckily, at least he thought it was lucky, she didn’t have his nose. She was maybe about 5’4 to 5’5 and she wore a nice pants outfit with a low-heeled boots. She wore a little make-up and she seemed a mixture of tom-boy and feminine. She seemed comfortable in her skin. She was wearing a stylish type of jacket and her purse was over her shoulder, which she had a tight grip on. They looked at one another and when she smiled he could see some much of himself in her.
Jack crosses the room and he put his hand on her shoulder. “Steve this is Holly Daniels and Holly you know who this is. I’ll leave you two alone now.”
They both watch as Jack leaves the room and the closing of the door sounded final and now they were left alone and they both looked at one another, either one afraid to move or even speak. So they both rock back and forth looking at the floor. Steve tries to gather his thoughts.
Then both spoke at the same time and they laughed breaking the silence and the tension.
“I’m sorry what did you say?” Steve asks.
“I said it was nice to finally meet you.” Holly says. Steve notices that she has somewhat of a southern accent.
“Holly? That’s a beautiful name.”
“I’m a Christmas baby.”
“Oh I brought you some flowers. Roses.” Steve opens the box and he hands them to her.
Holly smells them as she takes them. “They’re wonderful. You didn’t have to do that. I’ll put them back in the box and take them back to the Hotel.”
Holly says as she puts them back in the box then she strolls over to the window.
“Do you want some coffee or a soda? Water?” Steve asks her.
“No thanks. This is a remarkable view! I
can’t believe I am in the big city of
Steve finally gets his feet to move and he walks over to the windowsill and he stands next to her.
“Where do you live?” Steve asks.
“Just about.” Steve replies.
“I have been up since three in the morning and I know that I am rambling but I am so excited! And I have a tendency to ramble when I get excited!”
Steve laughs. “You know I do that too.”
“Mom said that I got that from you.”
“What Hotel are you staying at?” Steve asks.
“Oh well you are close. It’s that building right over there. The one with the glass elevator. Do you see it?”
Holly stands on her tiptoes and she looks where Steve is pointing. “Oh yes I do. Oh my goodness it’s beautiful.”
“How long can you stay?” Steve asks.
“Well the ticket is open-ended I can go home whenever I want or whenever you want me to that is. Mr. Cartwright is a very nice man.”
“Yes he is I have known Jack for a long time now. He has been with me since my Journey days, way back when.”
“Do I look like what you thought I would look like?” She asks.
Steve smiles. “Honestly? I pictured a dark haired little girl with pigtails wearing a gingham dress little white socks and those shoes. What are they called? The ones with the straps?”
“Mary Jane’s?” Holly asks as she laughs.
“That’s it Mary Jane’s! That’s just silly because you’re grown up and I’m glad that you take after your mother. I’m glad that you don’t have my nose! Holly you’re beautiful, really beautiful.”
Steve notices that she blushes. “Thank you.”
“What about me? Do I look how you thought I would look?” Steve asks.
Holly takes a step back. “You look a lot younger than what I pictured.”
“Well thanks for that.” Steve laughs.
Holly laughs. “I mean I have seen all the pictures of you from the magazines and I didn’t expect you to wear a suit. Mom said that you were a jeans and t-shirt sort of guy and she did say that you were really handsome and you aren’t as skinny as she described you.”
“Oh that was a long time ago and I was just a skinny kid then and I still wear jeans and t-shirts but for special occasions I like to dress up. Oh I’m sorry why don’t you sit down you have been up for hours and you must be exhausted.” Steve rolls a chair over to her and she sits down and Steve sits on the end of the conference table and they are silent for a few minutes.
Steve looks at her and he can’t take his eyes off of her. Now that his initial nervousness has worn off he can really take a good look at her. She wears little clips in her hair and she wears a watch and a bracelet and a ring on her finger. She is either married or engaged and when she laughs it sounds so much like him. It is strange. This is his daughter. Sitting here in the same room with him. He is amazed. He always wondered if he had children what he or she would look like, be like it, and act like. She seems to be happy, well adjusted, well educated and confident. He has a daughter. A daughter. A daughter. Up until this moment he never really thought that word would have such a lyrical quality to it and he is a….father. His little world has expanded and he isn’t alone in it.
“What should I call you?” Holly asks him.
“I don’t really know I mean….what do you want to call me? What are you comfortable with?”
“Mr. Perry.” Holly says and they laugh.
“Oh that is too formal. How about Steve?”
“Okay I think I can do that. Steve.”
“Good.” Steve says as he smiles.
Another moment of silence and Steve can see that she is taking her time with the words that she wants to say.
“I… just want you to know that I didn’t come here wanting anything from you. I don’t want your money or your name. You don’t even have to acknowledge me as you’re….daughter. I just want to get to know you. I have about a million questions!”
Steve nods his head as he smiles. “Well I can top that I have a billion! I will admit that all of this, you, has been a shock. This was the last thing that I ever expected to happen and I have been scared to death!” Steve says.
“You too?” Holly asks surprised.
“Scared that I wouldn’t live up to your expectations of me! Scared of the things that you have heard, read, been told about me and if that would change your opinion of me! I have just been scared! I was less worried about what you wanted from me and more worried about what you thought of me! Holly I want to get to know you too.” Steve says.
For Holly hearing Steve alleviated some of her fears was too much. Lately her stress level has been so high what with the writing of the letter and then the phone call from the lawyer and then the realization that she was finally going to meet the one person that she had thought of for years and now hearing him accept her and not reject her, that was another fear, rejection, well it was too much. So she did what a lot of people do when a weight is lifted off their shoulders, she cried. She buried her head in her hands and she cried and Steve was stunned. He had no idea what he could have said to cause such a response. He got off of the table then he desperately looked around the room for some tissues, paper towels, something and when he finally spotted a box of tissues he grabbed them then he walked over to her and he got down on knee in front of her and he offered the box of tissues.
“Holly I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
She reaches out and she takes two tissues and she wipes her eyes.
“It’s not your fault it’s just….” Holly says.
“….Your tired.” Steve says as Holly nods. “….and I am stupid. I should have realized that. Tell you what, we take you to the hotel and get you settled in and you rest. Take a nice long hot bath and then take an even longer nap.” Steve smiles as Holly smiles at that. “Then at about 7:30 or so I will call you and see if you want to have dinner with me but if you don’t and it’s alright to say no, you can order room service, something from the menu that you can’t pronounce but always wanted to try….” Holly smiles again. “….and watch a good movie on the television. If you want I can have one of the girls from the office go with you, I know what it’s like to be in a strange place and to be far from home. How does that sound to you?”
“That sounds good.” Holly says.
“Okay just wait here one minute.” Steve gets up and he quickly goes to the door and he opens it and he leaves and five minutes later he returns with Tiffany.
“Holly this is Tiffany.” Steve says.
“Hello Holly.” Tiffany takes her by her hand and she helps her to her feet. “The Hotel Suite has all been arranged now all we have to do is get you there okay?”
“Okay and thank you Steve.”
“You are very welcome Holly and I’ll call you later okay now go and get some rest.”
“I will.” Holly says as she looks back over her shoulder at him and she waves and Steve suddenly had a vision of her mother doing the exact same thing at least a century ago. Steve makes sure that she is good and gone then he goes and he sits in the chair and he puts his head between his knees and he closes his eyes.
Five minutes or so later Jack opens the door enough to look in and when he sees Steve slumped over in the chair he goes into the room.
“Steve are you okay?”
“I feel faint.” Steve says.
“When was the last time you slept?” Jack asks.
“I don’t remember.” Steve replies.
“When was the last time you ate?” Jack asks.
“I don’t remember that either.” Steve replies.
“Okay take deep breaths and I think that it is time that you took your own advice Dad. Ups a-daisy.”
Jack puts his hands under Steve’s arms and he lifts him slowly until he is standing almost up-right.
“Easy.” Steve says as Jack puts his arm around his shoulder and he walks him slowly towards the door.
“I am going to drive you home and then I am going to order us the biggest pizza I can get and after you eat I’m going to tuck you in Pops.”
“Pops?” Steve says.
“Old man?” Jack says.
“I think I like Dad better.”
“Dad it is.” Jack says.
After a large combo pizza with extra cheese and a long nap Steve was feeling more like his old self when he call Holly’s hotel room and he was just a little surprised when Tiffany answered.
“Oh I guess that means that she is still asleep?” Steve asks.
“Oh yes she is out.” Tiffany says.
“Well tell her that I’ll call her in the morning then.” Steve says.
“You better make that call in the afternoon. We have plans to go shopping.” Tiffany says.
“Oh well okay then I’ll call your cell and thanks Tiffany.” Steve says.
“Oh anytime Mr. Perry….” Tiffany says.
Steve laughs. “Tiffany I think you can call me Steve.”
“Alright….Steve, we had a nice long talk and she is very sweet just like you.”
Steve thinks that he is blushing. “Thanks Tiffany.”
“She has a lot of you in her.” Tiffany says.
“Oh no I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. A lot of my characteristics I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” Steve says.
Tiffany laughs. “Well it is too late for that now but she wears them well. Goodnight Steve, I’ll tell her that you called.” Tiffany says.
“Okay and thanks again Tiffany. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
“Your very welcome and goodbye.” Tiffany says.
the next day Steve called Tiffany’s cell and he was
told to meet them at the Hotel and he and Holly would go from there. So Steve
did. He knocked on the door of Holly’s room and when the door opened he saw a
whole, new Holly. Her hair had been cut and styled and she was wearing a new
outfit that just screamed
“Holly you look amazing and you weren’t kidding about doing some shopping were you?”
“I showed her the parts of
“Do you really like it?” Holly says as she brings her hands up to her newly coiffed hair.
“Yeah I do I mean I thought you were beautiful before but now you are really, really stunning.” Steve says.
“She has great hair just like her dad.” Tiffany says. “Well I should go to the office and see if Mr. Cartwright needs anything. Holly it was really fun and if you two need anything just call me. Bye.”
“Bye Tiffany and thanks!” Holly says.
“Yes thanks Tiffany talk to you later.” Steve says as they wave to each other.
“You two have been busy what with shopping and getting your hair done I bet your ready for some lunch?” Steve says.
“Oh yes I am starved. “ Holly says as she grabs her purse. “Tiffany is very nice is she your girlfriend?” Holly asks as Steve opens the door for her.
Steve laughs. “Tiffany is very sweet and helpful but no she isn’t my girlfriend. She is young enough to be….you! So what sort of food do you like?” Steve asks.
“All kinds but my two favorites are Mexican and Italian!” Holly says.
“Italian? Well a girl after my own heart! I know this great little hole-in-the-wall Italian place and then after I can take you on the tour that Tiffany didn’t. How’s that sound?” Steve asks.
The Italian restaurant was perfect as
was the food but the surroundings were not conducive for a serious
conversation, which they were both craving. The more time that he spent with her
the more questions he had but he also knew that a public format was nor the
time nor place, Steve knew that the questions that she had were not going to be
nice and easy ones. They were both holding back feelings and emotions that
eventually would have to come out. She had had a life from birth till now that
he wanted to know about and he….well…. he was sure that he had a lot of
explaining to do. After lunch he took her to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and they
both ooooo and awwwwww over the footprints there. Steve took her to the places
that he himself visited when he first came to L.A. and it took up the rest of
the day and before they knew it, it was time for dinner and this time Steve
knew a Mexican place. After he dropped her off at her Hotel he promised to come
by and pick her up in the morning and they could drive up the coast to
She said that she would and he was just about to walk away after saying their goodnights when she stopped him.
Steve stops then he turns and they look at one another for half a minute then she slowly puts his arms around him and she hugs him. Steve didn’t know what to do exactly, he was unprepared for this, and actually he was unprepared for all of this. So he did the natural thing, which was to put his arms around her and hug her back and this first initial contact felt good and awkward and strange all at the same time. This was just the start of many hugs that he had missed over the years.
“Thank you for a great day.” Holly says.
She finally broke the hug by pulling away but before she could get too far away Steve grasped her by her hands holding them in his and they looked very small and fragile in his.
“Here’s hoping that tomorrow will be
just as great as today. We have a lot more of
Steve says hoping he hasn’t said too much.
Holly smiles that smiles that Steve knows so well because that is his smile. “I like being here too. See you tomorrow Steve.”
“Alright bye Holly.” Holly waves at him as this time he turns and he leaves.
Steve was up early the next morning and even if he wanted to sleep in he couldn’t he was too excited. He didn’t know if Holly was an early riser or not so common sense dictated that he would wait awhile so in the meantime he took shower, drank some coffee, read the paper, and drank some more coffee and like a kid at Christmas he couldn’t wait any longer so he called her hotel room and she was up and by the time he drove over there and found a place to park she would be ready to go. Steve grabbed his overnight bag and he headed out.
He didn’t have to wait long and after
they had breakfast they headed for
“You know the first time I saw it I had the same reaction. Up ahead is a place we can stop.” Steve replied.
On the other side of the Bridge was the
Scenic Overlook and it was just a parking lot but it had many vantage points.
The parking lot was filled with Tour Buses and many tourists and Holly snapped
many pictures. Holly was tireless as they moved about the city partaking of
what it had to offer, they toured Alcatraz, China Town, any and all
attractions. Holly did some shopping and they completely forgot about lunch and
before they knew it they ended up at Fisherman’s Wharf and the sun was setting.
After dinner Steve found a Hotel that
overlooked the bay and he got two rooms that had connecting doors and they
spent the night in
Before Steve knew it a week had stretched into two and Christmas was fast approaching and that wasn’t the only thing that was fast approaching. The showdown. Oh yeah it was coming and Steve knew it. They both had been teetering on the edge of it and the fall was closer than it was two weeks ago. Steve had his own questions and he was curious about so many things as he knew that Holly was. He could see it in her eyes, the unasked questions, both of them walking on egg shells afraid to get to the heart of the matter, the circumstances surrounding her. Although Steve was scared out of his wits, afraid of the things that she would bring up to him, those skeletons out of his closet from his not so perfect past it had to be done. They have traveled all over California but the one place that she hadn’t been to yet was his home, his sanctuary, the one and only place where he felt safe and it was private, they could talk here.
A car would bring her out to his house while he prepared dinner, something simple, pasta, garlic bread and by now he knew what she liked and she liked cheesecake for desert. He bought some wine just in case she drank it and he also bought tea and more coffee and he was good to go so when she knocked on his front door and they saw each other they both knew that this evening would be different. Steve noticed that she was carrying a tote bag and it looked heavy and he found it was when he took it from her.
“Wow what do you have in here?” Steve asked her as she came in.
“Photo albums, I thought you might like to see them.” Holly says.
Steve glances in the bag. “Sure I would love to. Why don’t you put your purse there and dinner is almost ready. I was waiting for you to get here so I could cook the pasta. I have tea, coffee, and wine?” Steve asks.
“I would love some tea.” Holly says.
“Tea it is.” Steve sets the tote bag on the coffee table then she follows him into the kitchen.
“I love your house it is so….” Holly says as she looks around.
“So what?” Steve asks.
“Clean!” Holly replies as Steve laughs.
“Well you caught me on a good day! Actually I spent all day cleaning up.”
“You clean your own house?” Holly asks surprised as Steve puts a glass of tea on the counter in front of her.
Steve laughs. “Oh yeah I do. I make my own bed, do my own dishes, and do my own laundry. Why does that surprise you?”
“Well I know this is silly but I pictured you living in a huge mansion with servants and limos at your beck and call. The typical rock star persona.” Holly says.
Steve smiles as he waits for the water to boil. “I think everybody has that same perspective but that rock star persona was a long time ago. Let me show you something.”
Steve goes over to the back door and he opens it and they walk out onto the deck and Steve points in the direction of the ocean as Holly leans on the railing.
“Oh my god, you are so close to the beach! I have never walked on a beach before.” Holly looks at him wide eyed.
“No?” Steve says surprised. “After dinner we will have to do that. Oh, speaking of which!” Steve says as he goes back into the house.
Holly helped him cook dinner and afterwards they walked that cheesecake off on the beach and then Steve made some coffee and they sat together on the sofa looking through the photo albums that Holly had brought with her. Steve held the photo albums gently on his lap as Holly explained each and every picture in it, Steve reliving every snippet of her life through the pictures. Seeing the pictures of her mother caused him to pause and all of these were memories for her but for him they were merely afterthoughts, happenings, the way that lives are played out, through pictures and Steve was there for none of it. Not for the happy or sad times, schools days, skinned knees, broken hearts and the inevitable growing into womanhood and by the dates on the pictures he could chart the course where he was at the time. Tour, always on tour or he was in the midst of the death throes of his relationship with Sherrie, the death of his mother and his other relatives.
Steve was silent for a long few minutes looking and wondering and Holly was patient then she finally spoke. “What are you thinking?”
Steve smiles slightly. “I was thinking about my mother and she would have loved you.” Steve looks at her.
“How long has she been gone?” Holly asks.
“Oh it has been awhile now and what about….?” Steve asks as he nods at a picture of her mother.
Holly rubs her hands together then she hugs herself and she smiles back at him halfheartedly. “She has been gone for three years now….”
“Oh god I’m sorry Holly. Can I ask? I mean….Jesus this is….” Steve rubs his eyes as Holly gets up and she walks around the living room finally coming to rest in front of the living room windows.
“When I was a teenager she had a car accident. It was a bad car accident and honestly we don’t know how she survived it. She was in the hospital for months and when she finally came home it was in a wheelchair. After awhile it was like the wheelchair wasn’t even there, she was a very strong woman. She didn’t let it stop her. She learned to do things all over again. She was very determined and head strong.”
Steve smiles as he nods his head. “I remember.”
Holly picks at some unseen lint on her sweater. “And I think she was also a little psychic. I think she had a premonition of sorts….”
“Why do you say that?” Steve asks.
“Because she thought that she shouldn’t have lived through that accident. She thinks she survived for a reason.”
They look at one another, father and daughter, both so different but then again both so similar.
“What was the reason Holly?” Steve asks slowly but in some ways he already knew the answer.
“You.” Holly answers simply as Steve looks at the floor. “She wanted me to know about you. Hank, for all intense purposes was my father; I mean he was the only father I had known. He raised me and he loved me but kids always know, you know. I knew something wasn’t right, I mean I didn’t look like him and we were so different but still….I loved him.”
“He sounds like a good man, is he?” Steve asks.
Holly nods. “Oh yes he is. He is still
alive and well. He owns a garage there in
“Hank, I bet he hates me doesn’t he?” Steve asks.
Holly shakes her head. “No he doesn’t. He doesn’t fault you a thing. Three years ago she had surgery to try and reverse some of the damage from the car accident but….” Holly looks at the floor.
“You don’t have to….”
“So you see the years we had together she explained it to me. About you and her….she told me how you met but I want to hear it from you in your own words. I want to hear it all again from you.”
By now Holly had progressed across the living room to stay by the fireplace her arms crossed over chest looking at him and waiting. Steve moves closer to the end of the sofa cushion as he places the photo album back on the coffee table.
“Well I was going to school, it was a two year College actually and your mother was a year ahead of me and I wasn’t doing very well….” Steve looks at her. “I admit that I was a bad student, I had other things on my mind, music, girls, the typical things and I was in danger of flunking out and one of my teachers suggested I go to the Student Union where they had tutors available and I did and that is where I met your mother. That is where I met Jenny. She became my tutor. She told me she wanted to be a teacher….did she?” Steve asks.
Holly smiles, “Yes she did. She loved
teaching and she loved helping people. She taught Junior High in
“Oh really a teacher Holly that is wonderful, what do you teach?” Holly laughs hard at his question and it causes Steve to laugh as well.
“What is so funny?” Steve asks.
“Oh you will laugh, it is very ironic.”
“Okay what?” Steve asks.
“I teach Music Appreciation and I am also the Band Director.”
“A music teacher, oh yeah that is funny! Do you sing….?” Steve asks as Holly holds up her hand.
“Oh no unfortunately I didn’t inherited your singing talent. But I do play the piano and guitar and I love all kinds of music.”
Steve points to her hand. “I noticed the ring are you married?” Steve asks.
Holly looks at the ring and she smiles. “No I am engaged. We planned on getting married in June, his name is Eric.”
“What does he do?” Steve asks.
“Eric is a fireman.” Holly says proudly.
“Wow that is really impressive and dangerous. You must worry about him.”
“I did I mean I do but I realized a long time ago that things will happen that I have no control over and I have to leave it in God’s hands. I have known him awhile, he would come to the school and talk to the kids about Fire Safety and being a fireman and we just hit it off, you know how that happens, right?” Holly says as she looks pointedly at him.
“I….yes I do.” Steve glances at the pattern on the rug then he looks back up at her his eyebrows knitted together.
“How about you Holly how do you feel about….me?” There it was and Steve finally said it.
She doesn’t hesitate. “I don’t really know. Remember when I told you that I didn’t want anything from you?”
Steve nods his head.
“I lied. I do want something.” Holly replies as Steve stands up.
“The truth. I want the truth.” Holly says. “Mom already told me her side and now I want to hear it from you. I want to make sure that the two sides make a whole….” Holly comes closer to him until she is standing on the other side of the coffee table and Steve has no place to go. “….I want…” Holly holds up one finger. “….no I need honesty!”
Honesty. To Steve it would have been easier if she had come here asking for money. It would have been much easier. Steve takes a deep breath. “What do you want to know Holly?”
“I want to know how you reacted when she told you that she was pregnant. I want to know what you felt and what you said! I want to know if you….even wanted me.”
Steve looks at Holly and this was what he was afraid of. Her wanting to know. Steve couldn’t stand still so he began to pace. “Six months, we had known each other six months. We even lived together for a little while and one night I came home and I could tell that something….she had been crying. She was upset. When I finally got her to tell me I was….”
“What?” Holly asks.
“Shocked. That was the only way to describe it. I didn’t know what to say or what to do.”
“But you did say something didn’t you?” Holly asks.
Steve stops pacing and he looks back over his shoulder at her. “Holly I….”
“She told me that the look on your face was one of horrified disbelief. She also told me that you accused her of….!” Holly says loudly as Steve turns around and he walks towards her. “….And you told her that a baby didn’t fit into your plans! That I didn’t fit into your plans! Did you say that?” Holly by now was shouting at the top of her lungs, her face turning red.
As much as Steve wanted to run from this he couldn’t so he gave her what she craved more than anything else….honesty. “Yes I did say that. She wanted more at that moment in my life than I was ready to give!”
“Oh god.” Holly was crushed and before she hit the floor Steve grabbed her by her arms and he guided her over to the sofa and he let her slip from his hands as she sat down on the cushion. “She was telling me the truth.”
“She was talking about getting married and how she was willing to give up college for at least a year or two….”
Holly looks up at him. “….But you weren’t willing to give up music….not for a day or a week or a month? Right!”
Holly stands up so abruptly that he is caught off guard so he reaches out and he grabs her and now they are locked in an embraced, Steve caught between his past and her.
“Right!” Holly says again but louder.
“You’re right I wasn’t willing to give up music….”
Holly hits him on his chest with her fist then she struggles against him. “Let me go!”
“Let me go!” Holly says again and Steve lets her go and he watches as she steps around him and she runs her hands through her hair her back to him.
“You wanted the truth and that is the truth! At that point I had finally made it or at least I thought I did. Alien Project was making a name for itself! Everything that I had done up to that point was to achieve that brass ring and it was in reach for the first time! Yes! Back then I was a callous bastard! I had tunnel vision and nothing was going to stand in my way….not even….”
“….Me?” Holly says as she glances back over her shoulder at him.
“Yes not even you. I didn’t even know that you existed. That night after we had that fight, I left. I had to get away I had to think damn it! The next day when I got back home she was gone. All her clothes were gone. Everything. A few days later she called me. Holly I begged her to tell me where she was, that she was alright and she told me….”
Steve walks over to her and he stands behind her and he puts his hands on her shoulders as she wipes away a tear. “….She told me that she had had a miscarriage. I was in a panic and again I begged her to tell me what hospital she was calling from. I wanted to see her, I wanted to make sure that she was alright, I wanted to tell her that I was….”
“What?” Holly asks.
“That I was sorry. But she wouldn’t tell me and she hung up and everybody I asked couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me where she had gone and I never heard from her again.” Holly shrugs away from his hands. “Holly I felt so guilty….I had an opportunity but I threw it away but Holly she lied to me! All these years….”
Holly turns to him as she wipes tears from her face. “Can you blame her?”
Steve shakes his head, “No no I don’t but Holly if I had known about you I could have….”
“You….could have done what exactly?” Holly asks him as she puts her hands on her hips all traces of her tears dried by her anger.
“I could have helped financially I could have….” Steve pleads as Holly starts to laugh as she moves away from him.
“She didn’t want your money she wanted you! She loved you! She wanted you to be there for her….for us!”
“Holly if only I had known! I would have been there! I would have gone anywhere for you!”
“And when would you find the time?” Holly asks.
“When would you have found the time?”
Holly then goes over and she picks-up one of the photo albums and she opens it
and she shows it to Steve. Jenny, her mother, was very meticulous in labeling
each picture with dates and what the picture was about and Holly points to a
“Here. Where were you then on this date? When I started first grade?”
“And here! When I won the spelling bee at school? Or here? My first school play….”
“Or here! High school graduation! Where? Could you have taken the time off? In between touring and albums!” Holly says.
“I would have made time! Jesus Holly I wasn’t given a chance!” Steve says.
“Yes you were given a chance! That night she told you. That missed opportunity….”
“Holly I was scared….” Steve says.
“And you think she wasn’t?” Holly says.
“I admit I was stupid and selfish and young! I was so young and I wasn’t ready then but now I am….” Steve says.
“I don’t know if I am….” Holly says as she looks at him her arms holding herself.
“What, what are you saying?” Steve asks as Holly moves around the coffee table and sofa collecting the photo albums. “Holly….?”
“I’m saying that maybe I made a mistake in coming here.” Holly says as she places the albums in the tote bag. “She felt just as guilty as you. She felt bad that she had lied to you and she wanted you to know and now you do. All of this has been nice but I think I changed my mind….”
“Changed your mind? Changed your mind about what exactly?”
Holly stands up straight clearly frustrated. “About you and me, about me being in your life….”
“Holly I do want you in my life.” Steve pleads.
“I don’t know if I want you in mine. I have to go back to the Hotel now. Could you call whoever you have to call, please?”
Holly holds up one hand. “No. Just give me a couple of days to think about what I want to do. Could you call please?”
All Steve could do was nod as he turned toward the phone and he called the number to the car service. Luckily or unluckily the car was up the street and was there quickly.
“I’ll call you in a couple of days.” Holly says to him before the car drives off and all Steve could do was watch her go.
It had to be the longest two days of his
life. Waiting, every time the phone rang he jumped, hoping. But it was always
someone else. Not the one person that he wanted to talk to. By the second day
he couldn’t wait any longer for her to call so instead of calling her he drove
to her hotel. He knew he was taking a risk but he wanted to see her to talk to
her. It was mid-afternoon in
“Could you call Holly Daniel’s room please?”
The clerk types into the computer then she says, “I’m sorry sir that party has checked out.”
Steve wasn’t sure that he heard correctly. “Checked out? When?”
“About thirty minutes ago.” The clerk says.
“Do you know where she was going?” Steve asks.
“I believe the airport….”
The words were barely out of her mouth and Steve turned around and he ran. Ran as fast as he could go out of the Hotel with his coat flying out behind him, dodging people and objects. Once outside he threw his valet parking ticket at the Valet driver and his car was brought to him quickly then he jumped in it and he floored it. It was like something out of a movie. He was driving like a maniac. Passing where he shouldn’t have been passing, weaving in and out of traffic and he even ran a few red lights. He had to get to the airport. He knew which airline because his lawyer only used one so that part was easy. He made it to the airport in record time and he parked his car as close as possible to the terminal and he doesn’t even remember if he locked the doors or not as he run towards the terminal.
Dodging more people he ran into the terminal and he finds the Customer Service counter.
“Excuse me please! Please page Holly Daniels! Please!”
The young lady behind the counter picks up the microphone. “Holly Daniels. Paging Holly Daniels. Please come to the customer service counter. Holly Daniels.”
Steve walks a little ways out from the counter looking up and down the concourse. When he doesn’t see her he goes back to the counter.
“Page her again! It’s emergency! Please….”
Then he sees her out of the corner of his eye to his left. Standing there holding her purse and her bag on wheels behind her. He backs away from the counter then he slowly walks towards her and she begins to walk toward him and they both begin to walk faster and faster until they are both running towards each other and when they meet in the middle they both throw their arms around each other and they hug.
“Oh my god Holly I didn’t think I was going to make it. Don’t go. I don’t want you to leave. Not until we’ve talked. I know I can’t make up for all the years I wasn’t there but I want to try….”
“I was going to go back home and try to get on with my life but I couldn’t get on that plane. I couldn’t….” Steve lets her go but he was still holding onto her hands. “Mom wanted me to know you. That was her wish.” Holly looks at him. “She wasn’t bitter; she knew why you did what you did. She loved you all those years ago and she wanted the same for me. So….what do we do now?”
Steve smiles at her. “Start over. It’s Christmas Eve and tomorrow is your birthday Holly. I can’t think of a better time to start over than Christmas.”
Holly asks as she smiles. “What should I call you?”
Steve smiles back at her. “I don’t really know I mean….what do you want to call me? What are you comfortable with?”
“Dad.” Holly says.
With one hand Steve takes her bag by the handle as he takes her by the hand with the other.
“I like the sound of that. Merry Christmas Holly.”