“I’ll be right back, I promise,” Holly says as she rubs his head with a soothing hand and closes the door. The store is so close it takes a mere two minutes to drive there, yet the light on the dashboard blinks so loud it is all she can do to keep her eyes on the road.
The lights in the store pierce the blackness outside even though they are the energy-saving version, a bit more dull than usual. The rain sprinkles her windshield in tiny droplets, tapping out a mournful tune of loneliness. Taking a deep breath, Holly throws the door open, grabbing her tattered purse, and sprints to the welcoming doors as they slide open for her, beckoning her to a place of comfort.
The bakery sits inside the door so customers can have a look at something to tantalize their families with after their meal. Holly sees the red and green crystal covered cookies cut in various Christmas shapes and she beams. She loves the smells of Christmas with the wreaths, gingerbread, and pumpkin pie filling the air. But there’s no time for relaxing now as she opens her eyes and continues to the back of the store.
The bottles line the shelves in various sizes and colors as she grabs a nameless brand of lemon-lime carbonated beverage from the top and heads to the soups. There are so many to choose from. Holly grabs a can of half-off chicken soup and hustles to the check stand.
The cashier smiles at her. “Hello, how are you? Did you find everything okay?” she asks.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” But her eyes shift to the place where the numbers appear with the totals as she waits. “Oh no, I don’t have that much.”
“We didn’t add in your store card. You do have one, don’t you?”
Holly reaches into her purse, fumbling through the receipts, notes from her kids, and finds her card. Her hand is shaking as she hands it to the checker who swipes it through the machine and returns it to her. The cost drops considerably. “Now I’m much better than fine,” she says feeling the tears threatening to reveal themselves.
“See?” the clerk says. She accepts the check card and runs it through. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
Holly shakes her head. “Just have a good night yourself.”
The rain pummels at a diagonal as she makes a dash for her car. She laughs with tears of relief mixing with the rain as it streams down her cheeks.
The car stops in front of her house, the headlights halting on the front door. The wind pushes at the door, but she forces it open. Her son remains on the couch shivering. “I told you I’d be right back, didn’t I?” Holly watches her son who doesn’t stir, but remains resting in a sweat-saturated pillow. “I’ll always be here for you,” she says sitting in the chair across from him, watching and waiting for him to get better.
Her little girl comes around the corner. “Did you get me something?” she asks.
Holly motions her over and takes her in her arms. “I brought home fresh hugs, just for you.”