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Occasionally Yours: Episode Seven
Published Jul 14, 2011


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Written By

spladoum

Storyteller
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... tears left me cold as a stone
But then I fooled around and fell in love ...

- Elvin Bishop, "Fooled Around"


And we go on ... and on! Many many thanks to everyone who is reading and commenting! And as always, do go read "Welcome to the Childhood" by RatRaceRob if you haven't yet--double your pleasure, double your fun!

... tears left me cold as a stone
But then I fooled around and fell in love ...

- Elvin Bishop, "Fooled Around"


And we go on ... and on! Many many thanks to everyone who is reading and commenting! And as always, do go read "Welcome to the Childhood" by RatRaceRob if you haven't yet--double your pleasure, double your fun!
If anyone had told Holden Wozny that one day he would wake up with the most popular girl in town lying against his bare chest, he'd have assumed he was dreaming. If they had told him that he would wake up with the most popular girl in town lying against his bare chest AFTER he'd spent the previous night in the arms of the most popular girl at work ... well, he'd have assumed he was in Las Vegas and alcohol was heavily involved. But here he was in poky old Foxgrove, terribly sober, traces of River McIrish's lip gloss in his beard and Gwen Glover nestled in his arm. She was out like a light. She'd had a pretty bad couple of days. He felt sorry for her--another something he wouldn't have believed if he'd been told in advance. He tried to slide his arm from under her shoulders as gently as possible but she woke up right away. "Where ya goin'?"

"Work."

"Work," she repeated. "Is it that late?"

"It's almost noon, I need to at least check in for the day."
He dressed quickly. He almost got coffee before he saw all of the mugs on the dish rack and remembered that just a few hours earlier they had gone through an entire pot in under an hour. No more coffee needed.

Gwen was on his heels. She followed him to his truck.

"Everything alright?"

"Yeah."
"Um. I'm sorry, Holden. For everything."

"Don't worry about it."

She flushed a pretty shade of pink, and leaned over.
Holden felt her arms around his neck first, and then her lips on his cheek. And then something ELSE happened that he never have imagined he'd do if Gwen Glover should happen to kiss him.

He tensed up.
Of course he knew in the back of his head that she hadn't meant a thing by that kiss and that she was just being emotional. But he gently pushed her away all the same. Judging by the sheepish expression on her face, the awkward feeling was mutual.

"... I'd better go," he said quickly, and went.
He came in and got to work on system maintenance immediately. More than one person gave him an odd look, but he didn't pay attention. He had to keep working. It was the only way NOT to think about Gwen ... and what she'd told him ... and this Jesse ... and ...

... why the hell'd she have to wait so long!?

The alarm bell went off in his ear, and Marilyn ran by, panting. "Wozny! Come on, need you to drive!"
He came. His brain stayed behind. Far, far behind.

So when they actually got to the fire and Holden got out with the rest of the firefighters and didn't entirely put the parking brake on, well ...
Suffice to say, not even the kindly Chief could protect him from the fallout. Gwen and Rosalind both started at the distant BOOM. "What the hell was that?"

"I dunno."

There was no way to find out without going to see and neither of them was about to budge. It had taken Rosalind a full thirty minutes to show up, a sure sign that she was sound asleep when she got the original call. They had cups of coffee spiked with alcohol in hand, they were comfortably lounging on the deck, and neither had any intention of moving.

Until, of course, Gwen's phone went off again.

She looked at the caller ID tiredly. "... oh, it's Viv. I gotta take this. ... hello?"
Rosalind wasn't paying attention at first, only noticing that Gwen's voice was becoming progressively louder and squeakier. She was paying attention at the end, though, as Gwen screamed, "No! No, Viv! No! NO!" and viciously flung her phone across the yard into the grass. For a long moment there was only shocked silence, and Gwen's hard breathing.

"... what just happened?" Rosalind asked, though she wasn't entirely sure she wanted an answer.
"Help me find my phone," Gwen said.

They were searching for nearly twenty minutes before Rosalind spotted it under a tree, shattered and useless. She looked at the phone, sighed, and looked at her friend.
"Would you believe that Viv wants me to do another concert? In a WEEK?"

"That's her job, Gwen."

"Rosalind!"
"That's her JOB, Gwen!"

Gwen looked at her, aghast. "I don't believe you're agreeing with her! You're supposed to be my friend!"
"You don't believe ME? Am I the one you should be arguing with? Gwen, for heaven's sake! This woman has worked HARD for you! She's made you a star, she's gotten you gigs that you didn't deserve, she's kept you in the spotlight so that people actually came to those gigs, she's protected you after you blew those gigs, and you're complaining?" Rosalind threw the dead phone on the ground, stormed to the front of the house, got on her bike and gunned the motor. "Stop wasting her time and your parents' money if you don't want her to work for you. Be an adult and quit."

Now Gwen looked stunned. "Quit?" she squeaked.

"Yes! Quit! It's okay to quit a job that you don't like or don't do well. People do it a LOT. It is completely legitimate to quit a job that you hate. Come on, I'll take you to the store so you can get a new phone."

"No," Gwen said. "Take me to Doo Peas. I'll ... I'll quit."
They rode up to floor eighteen in silence and entered the gilded halls of Star Type Talent Agency without an appointment. Rosalind opened the main office door and watched Louanne's expression change from surprise to mild fear. "Ms. Glover? ..."

"I need to see Viv right now."

"I ..." Louanne stuttered and trailed off. She looked at the office door, back to Gwen, and sighed. "One moment."

Both Gwen and Rosalind could hear Viv's voice break off and go silent as Louanne gave her message in a low voice. The silence was dangerous. Finally Viv said, "Tell her to come in. But JUST her."
Louanne returned, held the door as Gwen walked through. She looked at Rosalind and gestured to the shut door. "How long have you known her?" she asked in a whisper.

"Just about five years."

"Has she ever been like this before?"

"No," Rosalind said. "Never."
Viv sighed. "You have really been a piece of work in the past forty-eight hours, Gwen. You've screamed at me, hung up on me, interrupted a conference call that I needed to be on, and now you're just here in my office wasting my time. SAY SOMETHING." "I quit."

"I'm not surprised," Viv said quietly. "Have you told your parents?"

"... no."
"Still not surprised. Sit down, honey. It strikes me that you've been doing a lot of running and hiding lately. Is there anything you've done with yourself in the past five years that you're actually proud of?" "Yes," Gwen said immediately. "I liked doing 'Candy Cane.' I worked hard on the music, I worked hard on the lyrics, I worked hard on the video. Have you ever tried to dance on a wet floor in four-inch heels and not slip AND look cute? It's hard! But at the end of the day I felt like I'd done something cool even if the only people who ever saw it were my friends. I didn't care that it went viral--I just remember that it was fun!" "Y'know, that's a big part of what's so frustrating about working with you, Gwen. You are entirely capable of working very hard, and you're immensely talented. And for whatever reason, you're just throwing it away. It's not going to be this way forever, sweetie. Talent and art fade with time. You're going to get older and you won't look the same at all. I know you won't believe this, but there was a time that I could wear a size 4 just like you." She stood, sighed again. "I'm just worried that you're going to wake up at age forty-four and realize that you squandered all of your opportunities ... and start foisting all your hopes and dreams onto your kid, the same way your mother's done with you. Are you SURE this is going to make you happy?"

Happy! ... Gwen could have laughed if it wasn't all so pitiful. Happiness hit the highway headed north driving a repo truck. And it wasn't coming back.

"It's not going make me happy," she said finally. "But I sure as hell can't get any sadder."
When she came home, Holden was already there with a look on his face that she knew all too well. She didn't ask what happened, she just let him tell her that he'd been indirectly responsible for the destruction of a city fountain AND a city fire truck. When she sheepishly admitted that she, too, had quit HER job, they both laughed until the tears rolled and their stomachs hurt.

Gwen finally gasped out, "Help me pack some of my dresses. I have a few that that I can return to the store."
While Gwen waited for the store clerk to finish processing the return slips, Holden hung out in electronics and watched a football game. He was so distracted that he almost didn't see his newly-former coworker Bronson approaching in work clothes.

Bronson gave him a look of sympathy and muttered, "Hey, I'm sorry, man."

Holden shrugged.
"I dunno if you already knew this, but River ain't looking so good. She was throwing up all afternoon. They had to send her home."

"Really," Holden said. The food at the firehouse was pretty crappy even at the best of times. He'd always intended to clean the fridge out one day, but between trying to keep the old equipment working and responding to actual emergencies it had just never quite happened. "I'd better call her."

He took his phone out--he actually began to dial--and then a baby screamed and a mother scolded and Gwen came back to ask him about something, when he thought about it afterwards he never could remember what it was--and he forgot all about the news.
He had to appear before a judge shortly, so the next four days were a period of suspense. He borrowed a few outfits from Connor, got an actual haircut for the first time in almost two years, and shaved. Sorta. He was in the courthouse right on time. Ms. Toford, his attorney, was waiting for him. She was the very definition of prim. Hair in a bun, glasses, barely-there makeup, drab suit. For all that, she was very pretty. Except for the 'I will eat you' expression.

"Are you Wozny?"

"Mm-hmm."
"Do us both a big favor. When we get in there, don't say a word unless you're directly spoken to. You don't have much of a case and the city is ready to tear you to shreds. You're going to need all of the mercy that the court can spare, so don't make it hard on yourself. Got it?"

"Yes ma'am."
True to his word, Holden did not say a word except to assure the judge that he was "incredibly remorseful" that he had been responsible for allowing a fire truck destroy a solid marble fountain. Ms. Toford haggled with Mr. Herrera, the city attorney assigned to the case, and he thought to himself in silence until she placed a warm hand on his shoulder. "Y'Honor, rather than force Mr. Wozny to serve jail time for what was clearly an accident, or burden him with a bill that no one in his position could reasonably make good on, perhaps we could have him do community service?" "Community service?" Mr. Herrera roared. "This moron's ruined a priceless fountain and totaled a city vehicle and you want to give him community service? Hell, why don't we just waive all charges and give him a medal while we're at it?"

Before anyone could say another word, Holden was on his feet glowering down at Mr. Herrera, who had suddenly stopped shouting.
"Let me explain something, sir," he said. Ms. Toford reached for his arm; he shook her right off. "I've maintained the fleet trucks for the past two years. Before I came along every single one of them needed to be decommissioned. Now they're operable and usable and they haven't needed major repair work for months. That means I've saved the city from having to replace five fire trucks over the past two years. If that isn't worth anything to you, have fun buying new ones." There was a moment of shocked silence before the judge finally collected himself and asked, "Ms. Toford? Is this the case?" "Why ..." Ms. Toford looked at Holden. The left side of her face was twitching with anger at his disobedience, but she recognized an opening when she saw one.

"Yes, y'honor. We have the city maintenance records available. Mr. Wozny has ... done every maintenance ... required ..." She kept flipping through the folder. "... for the past two years. They've all been verified by city engineers ... and passed all standard testing."
The judge turned back to the city attorney and said coolly, "Seeing that the city itself acknowledges Mr. Wozny's value as a mechanic, it appears that community service should not be entirely off the table, Mr. Herrera."

The city attorney went utterly scarlet and skimmed over his notes before murmuring, "But ... but he's done god-knows how much damage--"
"Fire trucks are made of steel for a reason. The vehicle sustained cosmetic damage to its main grille, its left windshield and headlights." Again Ms. Toford tried to restrain Holden and again he brushed her away. "The truck can be repaired and brought back to regulations for under §5000. The fountain can be replaced with a concrete equivalent for less than §15,000."

"Ms. Toford?" the judge asked again.
Ms. Toford stuttered something that no one could hear, and Mr. Herrera visibly slumped. They were both utterly mortified. She clearly hadn't known any of this information ahead of time, and if the expression on his face was anything to go by, he realized his original request for jail time and a massive judgment would not be granted.

Ms. Toford finally mumbled, "We'll need to get some verifiable estimates and discuss all of this further."
"Discuss it till the cow comes home, but the next time you come in my chambers, Ms. Toford, both you and Mr. Herrera better have your acts together so you don't get outmaneuvered by your clients. You're free to go, Mr. Wozny."

Holden left. His attorney came running after him.
It took two flights of stairs for her to catch up, which didn't seem to improve her mood. "I can't believe you. I specifically asked you NOT to speak and you not only speak twice, you completely humiliate both me and my colleague in front of a judge!"

"You're humiliated," he snorted. "I'm the one who's gonna be on the hook for two hundred grand because Mr. Herrera didn't bother to research how much stuff costs nowadays! And you were caving in left and right!"

"I wasn't going to let that happen!"

"You could've fooled me."
"I wasn't," Ms. Toford said firmly. Now that she had some blood in her cheeks, she looked even more pretty. He turned away and she sighed. "I do have to admit that your knowledge of mechanics swayed the judge. I had no idea the fire trucks were so old."

He refused to respond to the flattery. "What's this community service you were talking about?" he asked.
She passed him to continue down the stairs. "There's a local congressman who has a son in film school. His son needs to direct a public-service announcement for his portfolio. Since it'd be for the city, they'd normally use city funds to film it, but I figured if you did it, they'd save money and time on the casting process. It's not a very big deal, but it'd knock off some of the judgment against you."

"Fine," he muttered.

He was getting aggressive. River would have been proud--
River!

He suddenly remembered that he hadn't called her for days. He dialed her number and got no answer save her voice mail.

He kept calling. No answer. He went by her house and knocked on the door. No answer. Puzzled, but helpless, he forgot about it. Again.
The day of the community service project arrived. Holden found himself in the midst of a tv commercial about 'buckling up for safety.' He was on set, filming when he was needed, waiting with Ms. Toford when he wasn't. She'd been more chummy lately. He probably wasn't supposed to be noticing that she looked really good in regular clothes. He probably wasn't supposed to be aware that her eyes locked on him every time the director made him change outfits, either. The "dressing room" was a small corner of the green-screened set, and after the third change he didn't bother to conceal himself anymore. Her pale ears were a semi-permanent shade of pink. As he rehearsed the state's new catchphrase "Get Clicked," went through another take and changed clothes yet again, the sound of arguing in the background steadily grew louder until the big metal studio doors opened and a voice shouted, "Lady, you can't be in there!"

But the lady was clearly on the set and getting closer, and Holden looked up, as did Ms. Toford and the crew members, and ...
... it was River.

The security guard finally caught up to her. "Hey! There's a shoot going on in here! You can't just barge in!"

"Well, I'm here, little man," she said coldly. "And I'm not here for you."

She turned her gaze on Holden. She wasn't smiling. He blinked.
"Uh. ... hey?"

"Hi," she said.

Everyone in the room was staring at him. He licked his lips. "What ... what's up?"

"Can I borrow you for a minute?"

"Right now?"
"Ma'am," the young director said, "we're in the middle of filming."

"A minute," River repeated in that voice that usually shut people down.

The director shut down. "Fine, a minute."
Holden followed her, all too aware that many eyes were watching him. He and River wandered out of easy earshot and she faced him with a defensive expression. Which was odd since HE'D been the one chasing HER around! "You haven't been answering your phone lately, River."

"No. I haven't really known what to say to you."

"Is this about me getting fired?"

"No. It's about me being pregnant."
She turned away. "I'm sorry about chewing out your roommate. It's just ... I KNOW girls like her. They get or take whatever the hell they want with a wink, a wiggle, and a smile. I've never had the time to be a cute girl. Whatever I got in life, I bled and sweated and cried for. "I've been on my own since I was fifteen-and-a-half. My mom died in a car accident; my dad got too stressed out trying to keep peace between me and his girlfriend, so I made it easy on him and left. I've lived with one friend after another and I've worked two, three jobs at a time trying to make ends meet. "When I was twenty-one, I met Lydia's father, Rory. He was a construction worker. He said that I wasn't like most women, I could pull my own weight and didn't expect to be taken care of. I was dumb enough to believe that meant something. When you go for years and years without so much as a 'thank you' from anyone, sometimes you cave in pretty fast. "Anyway. I kept working through the pregnancy and he figured since I was still working, he was free to spend his money on booze and other women. Once Lydia was born, Rory vanished. I haven't seen him since. "About three months ago I got a call from his mother. She said she'd just found out about Lydia and she wanted to take care of her granddaughter. She wanted me n' Rory to get married, have a big church wedding, change Lydia's last name ... pretty much erase my entire life to fit in with what she thought it SHOULD be like. Never mentioned the fact that she was calling me, not her son, or that according to the rumor mill, he'd had another baby with another woman. I told her I was sorry for her trouble, but Lydia was my daughter, not a little dolly for her to play dress-up with, and I'd appreciate it if she didn't call again. She hasn't."

Holden noticed for the first time that River was drumming her nails nervously against her lean arms.
"I swore once I got rid of those two that I'd never let anyone else dangle a carrot on a stick in front of me again. I was alone for six years before Rory came into my life and I was fine after he left. And then I met a guy at one of my jobs who was a complete freakin' klutz and I was right back in over my head before I knew it. I ..."

Her voice went bad and she stopped. Holden waited. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Ms. Toford watching the two of them from a respectful distance.
When River spoke again her voice was firm. "I already know you don't have a job now. I didn't come here because I expect anything from you. I just thought you'd like to know."

"River. That's NOT why you came. You could have told me this on the phone." Her silence confirmed his words. "And it's not like this place is anywhere near the firehouse. You came here intentionally. Why?"
"I don't know, Holden. Maybe I didn't want you to hang up on me. Maybe I just needed to see for myself if I meant something beyond a few nights in bed. Maybe I hoped that you loved me as much as I love you."

She turned to go. He caught her by the wrist.
"Maybe I do." He went back to the main set.

Ms. Toford was looking away, pretending to be busy with her phone. She bit her lip as he passed. He wasn't supposed to see that, he was sure.
He recited his lines perfectly, complied with all of the director's changes, additions, subtractions, re-writes and re-takes. In the end they went with the line that Holden inadvertently ad-libbed.

"You might think you're too cool for seatbelts, but there's nothing cool about a hospital visit. Get clicked."

"Cut! And print!"
The kid looked a bit foolish. "Sorry, I know this is a lot of work for thirty seconds. But it's gotta be perfect. If I don't make an A on this project I'm gonna fail the class and Pop's gonna have my head. Thanks for being so easy to work with. Um ... you want me to get that woman off the set?"

Holden quickly shook his head. "If she's not making trouble for you, I'd like it if she stayed."

"No problem."
The director returned to his crew and Holden watched him idly while returning to his thoughts. He was sure now that he could have something very good with River if he chose it. He knew her well enough to know that she would not force herself on him--no ultimatums, no threats. He also knew that if he walked away from his child now she would never let him return. She had pride; besides her children, it was probably all she had to hold on to.

And of course he knew beyond doubt that Gwen really had cared for him, maybe even deeply. If he went home right now and told her about his day, he'd have a redheaded girlfriend before night had fallen.
... and as much as he might want a relationship with Gwen, if this was the only way to get it, it wasn't worth it. At all. He would always regret using River to get to Gwen, and Gwen would always see Jesse Simanski when they kissed. And in the end, they would learn to hate each other for it.

"Mr. Wozny?"
He flinched as if he'd been burnt. Ms. Toford's hand on his arm had never felt so out-of-place. "Yeah?"

"I'll need you back in court in two weeks. Please bring any independent estimates you've gathered for damages at that time. If you have any character witnesses who'd be willing to testify for you, bring them as well. And ... um." She nodded towards River, who continued to wait patiently. "Good luck."
The shoot wrapped eventually, and Holden took River to a hole-in-the-wall diner for a late lunch. She refused to eat. She stirred the food with her fork and looked at him. He saw the anxiety in her eyes. If there had been an ounce of indecision left in him, it all drained away now. She wouldn't let him pay for her meal.

"I can't offer you much of anything."

"You're here, aren't you? You're already doing more than one other guy I know."

He put his arm around her, and she covered his hand with her own, held it, squeezed it tight.
What he whispered in her ears was a secret, but considering that it made her laugh, cry, and crush him in a hug (all in the space of two seconds), it was probably something that she'd been waiting a long time to hear.
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Golden97Apr 9, 2012

Great start, can't wait to read the next chapter and find out more :3

SuziShazamAug 15, 2011

Holden has become quite a man. I am enjoying catching up on the stories \:\) on to part 8 yay!

fabrizioammolloAug 5, 2011

Extraordinary chapter! You keep us in suspence... but in the end I'm glad with Holden choice. He saw that between him and Gwen it wouldn't work, for many reasons. He made a conscious decision. I'm waiting to see what will Gwen ponder for herself!

staceface2009pJul 19, 2011

I agree with mogan44 (comment above me) . Wow, I was so caught up in the fact that River was being mean to Gwen that I would've never thought she had a scarred past of her own. Poor River, I feel bad that I trashed her. That saying is true, be nice to people because they could be going through something worse than you think you yourself are going through! her and Holden do make a cute couple though! Can't wait to read the next part! (BTW, i'm at work and sat here at my desk and read this, hehe) \:wub\:

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