Sunday, January 23, 2011

PS, I Love You [Part 8 & 9]

PS, I Love You

Part 8

HOLLY STOOD IN FRONT OF the full-length mirror and inspected herself. She had carried

out Gerry's orders and had purchased a new outfit. What for, she didn't know, but several times every day she had to drag herself away from opening the envelope for May. There were only two days left until she could, and the anticipation left her no room to think of anything else.

She had settled on wearing an all-black outfit to suit her current mood. Black fitted trousers

slimmed her legs and were tailored perfectly to sit over her black boots. A black corset that
made her look like she had a bigger chest finished the outfit off perfectly. Leo had done a
wonderful job on her hair, tying it up and allowing strands to fall in loose waves around her
shoulders. Holly ran her fingers through her hair and smiled at the memory of her time at the
hairdresser's. She had arrived at the salon with her face flushed and out of breath. “Oh, I'm so
sorry, Leo, I got caught on the phone and didn't realize the time.”

“Don't worry, love, whenever you make an appointment I have the staff trained to pencil it in
for half an hour later. Colin!” he yelled, clicking his fingers in the air. Colin dropped everything
and ran.
“God, are you taking horse tranquilizers or something? The length of your hair already, and I
just cut it a few weeks ago.”
He pumped vigorously on the chair, raising Holly higher. “Anything special tonight?” he asked, attacking the chair.

“The big three-oh,” she said, biting her lip.
“What's that, your local bus route?”
“No! I'm the big three-oh!”
“Of course I knew that, love, Colin!” he yelled again, snapping his fingers in the air.
With that, Colin appeared from the staff room behind Holly with a cake in his hand, followed by a row of hairdressers joining Leo in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Holly was dumbfounded.

“Leo!” was all she could say. She battled the tears that were welling in her eyes and failed
miserably. By this stage the entire salon had joined in and Holly was just overwhelmed by their show of love. When it was over everyone applauded and normal business resumed.
Holly couldn't speak.
“Christ Almighty, Holly, one week you're in here laughing so hard you practically fall off your
chair and the next visit you're crying!”
“Oh, but that was just so special, Leo, thank you,” she said, drying her eyes and giving him a
huge hug and a kiss.
“Well, I had to get you back after you mortified me,” he said, shrugging her off, uncomfortable
with the sentimentality.

Holly laughed, remembering Leo's surprise fiftieth birthday party. The theme had been “feathers and lace” as she recalled. Holly had worn a beautiful tight-fitting lace dress and Gerry, who was always game for a laugh, had worn a pink feather boa to match his pink shirt and tie. Leo claimed to have been excruciatingly embarrassed, but everyone knew he was secretly delighted with all the attention. The next day, Leo had rung every guest who had attended the party and left a threatening message on their machine. Holly had been terrified to make an appointment with Leo for weeks after that in case he butchered her. Word had it that business was very slow for Leo that week.

“Well, you enjoyed the stripper that night anyway,” Holly teased.
“Enjoyed? I went out with him for a month after that. The bastard.”
A slice of cake arrived in front of each customer and everyone turned to thank her.
“Don't know why they're thanking you,” Leo muttered under his breath, “I'm the one who
bloody bought it.”
“Don't worry, Leo, I'll make sure your tip covers the cost.”
“Are you mad? Your tip wouldn't cover the cost of my bus fare home.”
“Leo, you live next door.”

Holly pouted her lip and pretended to sulk. Leo laughed. “Thirty years old and you're still acting like a baby. Where are you off to tonight?”
“Oh, nowhere mad. I just want a low-key, nice quiet night out with the girls.”
“That's what I said at my fiftieth. Who's going?”
“Sharon, Ciara, Abbey and Denise, haven't seen her for ages.”
“Ciara home?”
“Yeah, her and her pink hair.”
“Merciful hour! She'll stay away from me if she knows what's good for her. Right missus, you
look fab, you'll be the belle of the ball–have fun!”

Holly stopped daydreaming and returned her gaze to her reflection in her bedroom mirror. She didn't feel thirty. But then again, what was being thirty supposed to feel like? When she was younger, thirty seemed so far away, she thought that a woman of that age would be so wise and knowledgeable, so settled in her life with a husband and children and a career. She had none of those things. She still felt as clueless as she had felt when she was twenty, only with a few more gray hairs and crow's-feet around her eyes. She sat down on the edge of the bed and continued to stare at herself. There was nothing about being thirty worth celebrating.

The doorbell rang and Holly could hear the excited chatter and giggles of the girls outside. She

tried to perk herself up, took a deep breath and plastered a smile on her face.
“Happy Birthday!” they all yelled in unison.
She stared back at their happy faces and was immediately cheered up by their enthusiasm. She ushered them into the living room and waved hello to the camera being held by Declan.
“No, Holly, you're supposed to ignore him!” hissed Denise, and she dragged Holly by the arm
onto the couch, where they all surrounded her and immediately started thrusting presents in her face.

“Open mine first!” squealed Ciara, knocking Sharon out of the way so hard that she toppled off the couch. Sharon froze in horror, unsure of how to react, then she burst into giggles.
“OK, calm down, everyone,” said the voice of reason (Abbey), struggling to help up a hysterical Sharon. “I think we should pop open the bubbly first and then open the pressies.”
“OK, but as long as she opens mine first,” pouted Ciara.
“Ciara, I promise to open yours first.” Holly spoke to her as though she were addressing a child.

Abbey raced into the kitchen and returned with a tray full of champagne flutes. “Anyone for

champers, sweetie darlings?”
The flutes were a wedding gift and one of the glasses had Gerry and Holly's names inscribed on it, which Abbey had tactfully removed from the set. “OK, Holly, you can do the honors,” Abbey said, handing her the bottle.
Everyone ran for cover and ducked as Holly began to remove the cork. “Hey, I'm not that bad, everyone!”
“Yeah, she's an old pro at this by now,” said Sharon, appearing from behind the couch with a
cushion on her head.
The girls all cheered as they heard the pop and crawled out from their hiding places. “The sound of heaven,” Denise said dramatically, holding her hand up to her heart.
“OK, now open my present!” Ciara screamed again.
“Ciara!” they all shouted. “After the toast,” added Sharon.
Everyone held up their glasses.
“OK, here's to my bestest friend in the whole world who has had such a difficult year, but all
throughout, she's been the bravest and the strongest person I've ever met. She's an inspiration to us all. Here's to her finding happiness for the next thirty years of her life! To Holly!”
“To Holly,” they all chorused. Everyone's eyes were sparkling with tears as they took a sip of
their drink, except of course for Ciara, who had knocked back her glass of champagne and was
scrambling to give her present to Holly first.
“OK, first you have to wear this tiara because you are our princess for the night, and second
here's my present from me to you!”
The girls helped Holly put on the sparkling tiara that luckily went perfectly with her black
glittery corset, and at that moment, surrounded by her friends, she felt like a princess.
Holly carefully removed the tape from the neatly wrapped parcel.
“Oh, just rip it open!” said Abbey to everyone's surprise.
Holly looked at the box inside, confused. “What is it?”
“Read it!” Ciara said excitedly.
Holly began to read aloud from the box, “It's a battery-operated . . . oh my God! Ciara! You
naughty girl!” Holly and the girls laughed hysterically.
“Well, I'll definitely need this,” Holly laughed, holding the box up to the camera.
Declan looked like he was about to throw up.
“Do you like it?” Ciara asked, searching for approval. “I wanted to give it to you at dinner that
time but I didn't think it would be appropriate . . .”
“Gosh! Well, I'm glad you saved it till now!” Holly laughed, giving her sister a hug.
“OK, me next,” Abbey said, putting her parcel on Holly's lap. “It's from me and Jack, so don't
expect anything like Ciara's!”
“Well, I would worry if Jack gave me something like that,” she said, opening Abbey's present.
“Oh, Abbey, it's beautiful!” Holly said, holding up the sterling silver–covered photo album.
“For your new memories,” Abbey said softly.
“Oh, it's perfect,” she said, wrapping her arms around Abbey and squeezing her. “Thank you.”
“OK, well, mine is less sentimental, but as a fellow female I'm sure you will appreciate it,” said
Denise, handing her an envelope.
“Oh brilliant! I've always wanted to go here,” Holly exclaimed as she opened it. “A weekend of
pampering in Haven's health and beauty clinic!”
“God, you sound like you're on Blind Date,” teased Sharon.
“So let us know when you want to make an appointment, it's valid for a year, and the rest of us can book the same time. Make a holiday out of it!”
“Oh, that's a great idea, Denise, thank you!”
“OK, last but not least!” Holly winked at Sharon. Sharon fidgeted with her hands nervously
while she watched Holly's face.

It was a large silver photo frame with a photograph of Sharon, Denise and Holly at the

Christmas Ball two years ago. “Oh, I'm wearing my 'spensive white dress!” sobbed Holly
“Before it was ruined,” pointed out Sharon.
“God, I don't even remember that being taken!”
“I don't even remember being there,” mumbled Denise.
Holly continued to stare at the photo sadly while she walked over to the fireplace.
That had been the last ball that she and Gerry had been to, as he had been too ill to attend last year's.
“Well, this will take pride of place,” Holly announced, walking over to the mantelpiece and
placing it beside her wedding photo.
“OK, girls, let's get some serious drinking done!” screamed Ciara, and everyone dived to safety, as another bottle of champagne was popped open.
Two bottles of champagne and several bottles of red wine later, the girls stumbled out of the
house and piled into a taxi. Through the giggling and shouting someone managed to explain to
the taxi driver where they were going. Holly insisted on sitting in the passenger seat of the
taxicab and having a heart-to-heart with John the driver, who probably wanted to kill her by the time they reached town.

“Bye John!” they all shouted to their new best friend before falling out onto the curb in Dublin
city, where they watched him drive off at a high speed. They had decided (while drinking their third bottle of wine) to chance their luck in Dublin's most stylish club, Boudoir. The club was reserved for the rich and famous only, and it was a well-known fact that if you weren't rich and famous, you then had to have a member's card to be granted access. Denise walked up to the door coolly waving her video store membership card in the bouncers' faces. Believe it or not, they stopped her. The only famous faces they saw overtaking them to get into the club, as they fought with the bouncers to get in, were a few newsreaders from the national TV station who Denise smiled at, and she hilariously kept repeating “good evening” very seriously to their faces. Unfortunately after that, Holly remembered no more.
Holly awoke with her head pounding. Her mouth was as dry as Gandhi's sandal and her vision
was impaired. She leaned up on one elbow and tried to open her eyes, which were somehow
glued together. She squinted around the room. It was bright, very bright, and the room seemed to be spinning. Something very odd was going on. Holly caught sight of herself in the mirror ahead and startled herself. Had she been in an accident last night? She ran out of energy and collapsed flat on her back again. Suddenly the house alarm began wailing and she lifted her head slightly from the pillow and opened one eye. Oh, take whatever you want, she thought, just as long as you bring me a glass of water before you go. After a while she realized it wasn't the alarm but the phone ringing beside her bed.

“Hello?” she croaked.
“Oh good, I'm not the only one,” said a desperately ill voice on the other end.
“Who are you?” croaked Holly again.
“My name is Sharon, I think,” came the reply, “although don't ask me who Sharon is because I don't know. The man beside me in bed seems to think I know him.” Holly heard John laughing loudly in the background.
Sharon, what happened last night? Please enlighten me.”
“Alcohol happened last night,” said Sharon drowsily, “lots and lots of alcohol.”
“Any other information?”
“Know what time is it?”
“Two o'clock.”
“Why are you ringing me at this hour of the morning?”
“It's the afternoon, Holly.”
“Oh. How did that happen?”
“Gravity or something. I was out that day in school.”
“Oh God, I think I'm dying.”
“Me too.”
“I think I'll just go back to sleep, maybe when I wake up, the ground will have stopped
“Good idea, oh and Holly, welcome to the thirties club.”
Holly groaned, “I have not started as I mean to go on. From now on I will be a sensible, mature thirty-year-old woman.”
“Yeah, that's what I said too. Good night.”
“ 'Night.” Seconds later Holly was asleep. She awoke at various stages during the day to answer  the phone, conversations that all seemed part of her dreams. And she made many trips to the kitchen to rehydrate herself.

Eventually at nine o'clock that night Holly succumbed to her stomach's screaming demands for food. As usual there was nothing in the fridge, so she decided to treat herself to a Chinese
take-away. She sat snuggled up on the couch in her pajamas watching the very best of Saturday night TV while stuffing her face. After the trauma of being without Gerry for her birthday the previous day, Holly was surprised to notice that she felt very content with herself. It was the first time since Gerry had died that she was at ease with her own company. There was a slight chance she could make it without him.
Later that night Jack called her on her mobile. “Hey sis, what are you doing?”
“Watching TV, having Chinese,” she said.
“Well, you sound in good form. Unlike my poor girlfriend who's suffering here beside me.”
“I'm never going out with you again, Holly,” she heard Abbey scream weakly in the background.
“You and your friends perverted her mind,” he joked.
“Don't blame me, she was doing just fine all by herself as far as I remember.”
“She says she can't remember anything.”
“Neither can I. Maybe it's something that happens as soon as you hit thirty, I was never like this before.”
“Or maybe it's just an evil plan you all hatched so you wouldn't have to tell us what you got up
“I wish it was . . . oh, thanks for the pressie by the way, it's beautiful.”
“Glad you like it. It took me ages to find the right one.”
He laughed.
“Anyway, I was ringing you to ask if you're going to Declan's gig tomorrow night.”
“Where is it?”
“Hogan's pub.”
“No way. There is no way I'm ever setting foot in a pub again, especially to listen to some loud
rock band with screeching guitars and noisy drums,” Holly told him.
“Oh, it's the old 'I'm never drinking again' excuse, is it? Well, don't drink then. Please come,
Holly. Declan's really excited about it and no one else will come.”
“Ha! So I'm the last resort, am I? Nice to know you think so highly of me.”
“No you're not. Declan would love to see you there and we hardly got a chance to talk at dinner, we haven't gone out for ages,” he pleaded.
“Well, we're hardly going to have a heart-to-heart with the Orgasmic Fish banging out their
tunes,” she said sarcastically.
“Well, they're actually called Black Strawberries now, which has a nice sweet ring to it I think,” he laughed.
Holly held her head in her hands and groaned, “Oh, please don't make me go, Jack.”
“You're going.”
“OK, but I'm not staying for the whole thing.”
“Well, we can discuss that when we get there. Declan will be chuffed when I tell him, the
family never usually goes to these things.”
“OK then, about eightish?”
Holly hung up and sat stuck to the couch for another few hours. She felt so stuffed, she couldn't move. Maybe that Chinese wasn't such a good idea after all.


PS, I Love You

Part 9

HOLLY ARRIVED AT HOGAN'S PUB feeling a lot fresher than the day before, but her
reactions were still a little slower than usual. Her hangovers seemed to be gradually getting worse as she got older, and yesterday took the gold medal for the hangover of all hangovers. She had gone for a long walk along the coast from Malahide to Portmarnock earlier that day and the crisp fresh breeze helped to clear her fuzzy head. She had called into her parents' for Sunday dinner, where they presented her with a beautiful Waterford crystal vase for her birthday. It had been a wonderful, relaxing day with her parents and she almost had to drag herself off the comfortable couch to go to Hogan's.

Hogan's was a popular three-story club situated in the center of town, and even on a Sunday the place was jammed. The first floor was a trendy nightclub that played all the latest music from the charts. It was where the young, beautiful people went to show off their latest fashions. The ground floor was a traditional Irish pub for the older crowd (it usually contained old men perched up on their bar stools and stooped over their pints contemplating life). A few nights a week there was a traditional Irish music band that played all the old favorites, which was popular with the young and old. The basement was dark and dingy and it was where bands usually played, the clientele was purely students and Holly seemed to be the oldest person in there. The bar consisted of a tiny counter in the corner of the long hall, and it was surrounded by a huge crowd of young students dressed in scruffy jeans and ripped T-shirts, pushing one another violently in order to be served. The bar staff also looked like they should be in school and were rushing around at a hundred miles per hour with sweat dripping from their faces.
The basement was stuffy with no ventilation or air-conditioning at all, and Holly was finding it difficult to breathe in the smoky air. Practically everyone around her seemed to be smoking a cigarette, and her eyes were already stinging her. Holly dreaded to think what it might be like in an hour's time, although she seemed to be the only one who was bothered by it. She waved at Declan to let him know she was there but decided not to make her way over, as he was surrounded by a crowd of girls. She wouldn't want to cramp his style. Holly had missed out on the whole student scene when she was younger. She had decided not to go to college after school and instead began working as a secretary, where she moved from job to job every few months, ending with the awful job she left so she could spend time with Gerry while he was
sick. She doubted she would have stayed at it that much longer anyway. Gerry had studied marketing at Dublin City University but he never socialized much with his college friends; instead he chose to go out with Holly, Sharon and John, Denise and whoever she was with at the time. Looking around at everyone, Holly didn't feel like she had missed anything special.

Finally Declan managed to tear himself away from his female fans and make his way over to Holly.
“Well hello, Mr. Popular, I feel privileged you chose me to speak to next.” All the girls stared Holly up and down and wondered what the hell Declan saw in this older woman.
Declan laughed and rubbed his hands together cheekily. “I know! This band business is great, looks like I'll be getting a bit of action tonight,” he said cockily.
“As your sister it's always a pleasure to be informed of that,” Holly replied sarcastically. She found it impossible to maintain a conversation with Declan, as he refused eye contact with her and instead scoured the crowds.

“OK, Declan, just go, why don't you, and flirt with these beauties instead of being stuck here with your old sister.”
“Oh no, it's not that,” he said defensively. “It's just that we were told there might be a record company guy coming to see us play tonight.”
“Oh cool!” Holly's eyes widened with excitement for her brother. This obviously meant a lot to him, and she felt guilty for never taking an interest in it before. She looked around and tried to spot someone who looked like a record company guy. What would he look like? It's not as if he would be sitting in the corner with a notebook and pen scribbling furiously. Finally her eyes fell upon a man who seemed much older than the rest of the crowd, more her own age. He was dressed in a black leather jacket, black slacks and a black T-shirt and stood with his hands on his hips staring at the stage. Yes, he was definitely a record company guy, as he had stubble all around his jaw and looked like he hadn't been to bed for days. He must have stayed up all night every night this week attending concerts and gigs and probably slept all day. He probably smelled bad as well. Or else he was just a weirdo who liked to go to student nights and ogle all the young girls. Also a possibility.

“Over there, Deco!” Holly raised her voice over the noise and pointed at the man. Declan looked excited and his eyes followed to where her finger pointed. His smile faded as he obviously recognized the man. “No, it's just Danny!” he yelled, and he wolf-whistled to grab his attention.
Danny twirled around trying to find his caller and nodded his head in recognition and made his way over. “Hey man,” Declan said, shaking his hand.
“Hi Declan, how are you set?” The man looked stressed.
“Yeah, OK,” Declan nodded unenthusiastically. Somebody must have told Declan that acting like you didn't care was cool.
“Sound check go OK?” He pressed him for more information.
“There were a few problems but we sorted them out.”
“So everything's OK?”
“Good.” His face relaxed and he turned to greet Holly. “Sorry for ignoring you there, I'm
“Nice to meet you, I'm Holly.”
“Oh sorry,” Declan interrupted. “Holly, this is the owner; Daniel, this is my sister.”
“Sister? Wow, you look nothing alike.”
“Thank God,” Holly mouthed to Daniel so Declan couldn't see, and he laughed.
“Hey Deco, we're on!” yelled a blue-haired boy at him.
“See you two later,” and he ran off.
“Good luck!” yelled Holly after him. “So you're a Hogan,” she said, turning to face Daniel.
“Well, no actually, I'm a Connolly,” he smiled. “I just took over the place a few weeks ago.”
“Oh.” Holly was surprised. “I didn't know they sold the place. So are you going to change it to Connolly's then?”
“Can't afford all the lettering on the front, it's a bit long.”
Holly laughed. “Well, everyone knows the name Hogan's at this stage; it would probably be stupid to change it.”
Daniel nodded in agreement. “That was the main reason actually.”
Suddenly Jack appeared at the entrance and Holly waved him over. “I'm so sorry I'm late, did I miss anything?” he said, giving her a hug and a kiss.
“Nope, he's just about to go on now. Jack, this is Daniel, the owner.”
“Nice to meet you,” Daniel said, shaking his hand.
“Are they any good?” Jack asked him, nodding his head in the direction of the stage.
“To tell you the truth, I've never even heard them play,” Daniel said worriedly.
“That was brave of you!” laughed Jack.
“I hope not too brave,” he said, turning to face the front as the boys took to the stage.
“I recognize a few faces here,” Jack said, scanning the crowd. “Most of them are under eighteen as well.”
A young girl dressed in ripped jeans and a belly top walked slowly by Jack with an unsure smile on her face. She placed her finger over her lip as though telling him to be quiet. Jack smiled and nodded back.
Holly looked at Jack questioningly. “What was that about?”
“Oh, I teach her English at the school. She's only sixteen or seventeen. She's a good girl, though.” Jack stared after her as she walked by, then added, “But she better not be late for class tomorrow.”
Holly watched the girl down a pint with her friends, wishing she had had a teacher at school like Jack; all the students seemed to love him. And it was easy to see why; he was a lovable kind of person. “Well, don't tell him they're under eighteen,” Holly said under her breath, nodding her head in the direction of Daniel.
The crowd cheered and Declan took on his moody persona as he lifted his guitar strap over his shoulder. The music started and after that there was no chance of carrying on any kind of conversation. The crowd began to jump up and down, and once too often Holly's foot was stomped on. Jack just looked at her and laughed, amused at her obvious discomfort. “Can I get you two a drink?” Daniel yelled, making a drinking motion with his hand. Jack asked for a pint of Budweiser and Holly settled for a 7UP. They watched Daniel battle through the moshing crowd and climb behind the bar to fix the drinks. He returned minutes later with their drinks and a stool for Holly. They turned their attention back to the stage and watched their brother perform. The music really wasn't Holly's type of thing, and it was so loud and noisy it was difficult for her to tell if they were actually any good. It was a far cry from the soothing sounds of her favorite Westlife CD, so perhaps she wasn't in the right position to judge the Black Strawberries. The name said it all, though, really.
After four songs Holly had had enough, and she gave Jack a hug and a kiss good-bye. “Tell Declan I stayed till the end!” she yelled. “Nice meeting you, Daniel! Thanks for the drink!” she screamed and made her way back to civilization and cool fresh air. Her ears continued to ring all the way home in the car. It was ten o'clock by the time she got there. Only two more hours till May. And that meant she could open another envelope.
Holly sat at her kitchen table nervously drumming her fingers on the wood. She gulped back her third cup of coffee and uncrossed her legs. Staying awake for just two more hours had proved more difficult than she thought; she was obviously still tired from overindulging at her party.
She tapped her feet under the table with no particular rhythm, and then crossed her legs again. It was 11:30 P.M. She had the envelope on the table in front of her and she could almost see it sticking its tongue out and singing “Na-na na-na-na.”
She picked it up and ran it over in her hands. Who would know if she opened it early? Sharon and John had probably forgotten there was even an envelope for May, and Denise was probably conked out after the stress of her two-day hangover. She could just as easily lie if they ever asked her if she cheated, then again they probably wouldn't even care. No one would know and no one would care.
But that wasn't true.
Gerry would know.
Each time Holly held the envelopes in her hand she felt a connection with Gerry. The last two times she opened them she had felt as though Gerry were sitting right beside her and laughing at her reactions. She felt like they were playing a game together even though they were in two different worlds. But she could feel him, and he would know if she cheated, he would know if she disobeyed the rules of their game.
After another cup of coffee Holly was bouncing off the walls. The small hand of the clock seemed to be auditioning for a part in Baywatch with its slow-motion run around the dial, but eventually it struck midnight. Once again she slowly turned the envelope over and treasured every moment of the process. Gerry sat opposite her at the table. “Go on; open it!”
She carefully tore open the seal and ran her fingers along it, knowing the last thing that had touched it was Gerry's tongue. She slid the card out of its pouch and opened it.
Go on, Disco Diva! Face your fear of karaoke at Club Diva this month and you never know, you might be rewarded . . .

PS, I love you . . .

She felt Gerry watching her and the corners of her lips lifted into a smile and she began to laugh.
Holly kept repeating “no way!” whenever she caught her breath. Finally she calmed down and announced to the room, “Gerry! You bastard! There is absolutely no way I am going through with this!”
Gerry laughed louder.
“This is not funny. You know how I feel about this, and I refuse to do it. Nope. No way. Not doing it.”
“You have to do it, you know,” laughed Gerry.
“I do not have to do this!”
“Do it for me.”
“I am not doing it for you, for me or for world peace. I hate karaoke!”
“Do it for me,” he repeated.
The sound of the phone caused Holly to jump in her seat. It was Sharon. “OK, it's five past twelve, what did it say? John and I are dying to know!”
“What makes you think I opened it?”
“Ha!” Sharon snorted. “Twenty years of friendship qualifies me as being an expert on you; now come on, tell us what it says.”
“I'm not doing it,” Holly stated bluntly.
“What? You're not telling us?”
“No, I'm not doing what he wants me to do.”
“Why, what is it?”
“Oh, just Gerry's pathetic attempt at being humorous,” she snapped at the ceiling.
“Oh, I'm intrigued now,” Sharon said, “tell us.”
“Holly, spill the beans, what is it?” John was on the downstairs phone.
“OK . . . Gerry wants me . . . to . . . singatakaraoke,” she rushed out.
“Huh? Holly, we didn't understand a word you said,” Sharon gave out.
“No, I did,” interrupted John. “I think I heard something about a karaoke. Am I right?”
“Yes,” Holly replied like a bold little girl.
“And do you have to sing?” inquired Sharon.
“Ye-eess,” she replied slowly. Maybe if she didn't say it, it wouldn't have to happen.
The other two burst out laughing so loud, Holly had to quickly remove the phone from her ear.
“Phone me back when the two of you shut up,” she said angrily, hanging up.
A few minutes later they called back.
She heard Sharon snort down the phone, relapse into a fit of the giggles and then the line went dead.
Ten minutes later she phoned back.
“OK.” Sharon had an overly serious “let's get down to business” tone in her voice. “I'm sorry about that, I'm fine now. Don't look at me, John,” Sharon said away from the phone. “I'm sorry,
Holly, but I just kept thinking about the last time you–”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she interrupted, “you don't need to bring it back up. It was the most embarrassing day of my life, so I just happen to remember it. That's why I'm not doing it.”
“Oh, Holly, you can't let a stupid thing like that put you off!”
“Well, if that wouldn't put a person off, then they're clinically insane!”
“Holly, it was only a little fall . . .”
“Yes, thank you! I remember it just fine! Anyway I can't even sing, Sharon; I think I established that fact marvelously the last time!”
Sharon was very quiet.
Still silence.
“Sharon, you still there?”
There was no answer.
Sharon, are you laughing?” Holly gave out.
She heard a little squeak and the line went dead.
“What wonderfully supportive friends I have,” she muttered under her breath.
“Oh Gerry!” Holly yelled. “I thought you were supposed to be helping me, not turning me into a nervous wreck!”
She got very little sleep that night.

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