Whitney gaped at she and Hollis’ hotel room’s flat screen television in disbelief. She’d heard the Anchor crew mention it in passing before handing the story to their reporter, and couldn’t believe her ears. She’d since stopped packing and forced herself to sit down and pay full attention. Whitney’s fingers itched as she held the remote up to change the channel, but something prevented her from pressing the button. She felt a numbing sensation starting to travel upward from her toes as the Californian news reporter seemed to stare solemnly into her soul with intense amber eyes. The unmistakable flash of cameras went off behind her as she started walking along her sister’s street. A gentle breeze blew the woman’s shoulder length strawberry blonde hair into her face as she started speaking.
“...Thank you, George. Hollywood lost one of their brightest stars over the weekend. Actress Theresa York-O’Sullivan was found unresponsive in the Estate she shared with her record producer husband Benjamin early yesterday morning at just 34 years of age. Presumably from an apparent suicide, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Mrs. O’Sullivan was well known for her roles in various commercials, and was in the middle of filming ”Inspirational Diaries Of The Unrequited Lover" at the time of her death. While the direct cause hasn’t yet been disclosed to the media, Theresa’s family is asking for privacy during this difficult time. We’ll have more developments as they become availab-”
“Do you have everything West Coast? We’ve gotta be on that five o’clock flight-” Hollis’ frantic voice trailed off as she glanced up from her army green duffel bag to find Whitney staring absently at the television. The dark haired girl’s shoulder’s were slumped, and she wore a dazed expression. Sensing something was wrong, Hollis abandoned what she was doing in the hallway and went to sink beside her shocked girlfriend on the king sized bed they’d been sharing all week. “Whit?” She cocked her head to the side with concern, clear grey eyes trailing to the television in confusion. An old Tom and Jerry cartoon was playing. “Babe? What’s wron-”
“She’s dead.” Whitney blurted bluntly as she quickly turned toward the window, making the other girl’s blonde brow furrow in bewilderment. Before Hollis could ask any more questions, her girlfriend burst into tears. “My sister...she died...Theresas dead Holly.” She started grabbing at her dark curls and shaking her head from side to side as she whimpered through the tears.
“Are you serious? Fuck. Hey, hey it’s alright, I’ve got you. Shhhhhhhh.” Hollis muttered softly as she wrapped her long arms around Whitney’s, effectively pinning them to her sides so she couldn’t tug at her scalp anymore. She rocked them back and forth on the bed as Whitney leaned forward with all her weight and wept unabashedly. “I’m so sorry, baby.” Hollis rested her blonde head against the distraught woman’s back and fixated her gaze on the TV. A million and one questions ran through her head just before the program switched back to covering Theresa’s story.
“The deceased actress’s parents prestigious litigator James and retired runway model Eileen York are asking that their estranged daughter, Whitney, get in touch with them in regards to private arrangements surrounding Theresa’s celebration of life. Back to you, George.”
| Hollis |
Hollis Bogard wasn’t having one of her better days.
It started with spilling piping hot coffee all over her uniform on the way to Ringo’s and being forced to turn around to change, because Nina mistook her spare for Dalton’s clothing and threw it in their load late last night. (which happened more often than Hollis would’ve liked, but her brother’s girlfriend was spacey like that. It’d be pointless to get pissed off over it.) There had definitely been some pain points with having to share her living space with Nina, but it wasn’t anything serious. She loved the feisty Spanish woman like a sister, and appreciated her for the way she took such meticulous care of Dalton following the devastating accident that’d left him paralyzed from the waist down. Since she’d hit the halfway mark, the unexpected detour wound up making her late.
18 minutes late, to be exact. Fuck. She HATED being late to ANYTHING. Especially work. Evan was going to lose his shit when he saw her.
Finally pulling her neutral blue corolla into an empty space in the restaurant’s parking lot, Hollis jumped out and secured her ash blonde hair into a low ponytail just before stealthily entering Ringo’s undetected.
“I was starting to wonder where the hell you were, dude.” Part-time bartender Jake shouted in an amused tone the second his dark chocolate brown eyes fell on his rushed co-worker and friend. The blue haired comedian of Ringo’s was holding things down while she swiftly punched in and slipped behind the counter post haste.
“Give me a pass, would ya? My stupid idiot self scalded my chest and stomach with coffee after some inconsiderate asshole pulled out in front of me two blocks away. Can you believe that crap? I thought I had a better grip on the damn cup but I guess not.” Hollis let out a short laugh as she quietly filled Jake in about her epic blunder out of ear shot from anyone else. Speaking of, the first layer of affected skin was crying out for some ice but her work uniform didn’t have much give, and it wasn’t worth the effort. Which was really awesome. Because who doesn’t like dealing with that constant dull burning sensation one gets from coming into contact with piping hot liquid?
“Heh, that explains the faded uniform. You really should’ve called in though, it’s been crazy busy around here.” Jake cracked a joke at the older style long sleeved black shirt she was wearing with a smirk as he began restocking a set of clean glasses passed over from their resident dishwasher, Mario. No sign of Evan- so Hollis figured she was in the clear. Nobody knew how he did it, but their more-often-on-than-off duty manager seemed to always know when someone wasn’t clocked in and at their designated spot. As serious as Hollis always was and had been about work, even she slipped up a few times and found herself on Evan’s bad side temporarily.
Hollis flashed a charming grin at the three patrons nursing their beers before raising a sarcastic eyebrow at her facetious partner in crime.“Oh yeah. Looks like you’ve been slammed. What would I do without you, Jakey?”
"A lot of things I don’t need to know about.” He retorted with a chuckle as Hollis reached for the clipboard discreetly hidden underneath a mostly empty cabinet. She started counting inventory while Jake finished re-stocking and began straightening up his station. They’d gotten super close since just after Christmas, and they were already good friends to be begin with. Coming out of rehab and having to deal with the pressures of daily life again had been a hell of a lot more difficult than Hollis expected, and in the end Jake was right. Having someone who got it made the transition back to work and her day to day much easier. Despite their at times vastly different schedules (Hollis continued to manage the bar at night full-time while Jake handled the early afternoon shifts, and busted ass alongside his friend during busy Saturday evenings), they both made time to attend group therapy together at least once a week.
“Don’t look now, but here comes your giiiirrrrl.” Jake suddenly jeered, nudging Hollis in the ribcage with a lanky elbow just as she was scribbling a memo to herself about the expired Grey Goose vodka that’d been lingering in the back room for almost a month. Their supplier fucked up, and Ringos was paying the price since they didn’t have any good bottles for their demanding customers. Hollis planned to stay on Evan’s ass until he ensured another batch was sent to their restaurant free of charge.
At the mention of Whitney, Hollis whipped her head to the left and felt herself involuntarily grin like an idiot. She really couldn’t help it. Even after almost five steady months of dating her easygoing dark-haired artist from California, she couldn’t believe how lucky one person could really be to wind up with someone so magical.
The other girl was dressed in light-washed skinny jeans, a baby pink silk cami-top, and black ballet flats sporting adorable pink bows in the back. Her simple eggshell colored cardigan tied the whole outfit together for a preppy girl-next-door look. Whitney’s nearly waist length black ringlet curls bounced around her shoulders and back lively as she approached the bar with wide, overly excited honey brown eyes. “I’m on lunch and thought I’d pop in to let you know I finally got all packed. In person, since you never believe me when I text you back saying I did whatever you asked me to.” She twirled a few curls around her slender finger with a coy tilt of her head as Hollis scoffed outwardly.
"That’s because I’m always catching you in a lie, West Coast. Don’t try and act all innocent in front of Jake. Oh and before you start arguing like I know you want to, I’ve got plenty of examples so test me.” The blonde’s twinkling grey eyes scanned over her inventory sheet one last time before setting it aside and regarding her incredulous girlfriend with a mocking snicker. No matter how busy she got, Hollis always made a little time during the day to banter with Whitney. It was like their thing.
“Well the way you say it makes me sound like some sorta manipulative procrastinator.” Her flustered lover grumbled, shooting Jake a sheepish half smile as he and the remaining two customers they had sitting at the bar laughed heartily at the couple’s playful bickering. Even though Whitney resigned from her waitressing position abruptly after the whole York family fiasco ensued several months back, she still had a great relationship with everyone who worked here. There weren’t any hard feelings had by anyone, and even Morgana and Vivian let her be when she came by to see Hollis right before dinner rush occasionally.
With her insane love for art, she’d managed to land a gig as a Shift Leader at ‘Pencil Me In’, a quaint little art shop not far from Hollis’ workplace. The arrangement worked out nicely, because she’d opted to work at night. This way, she wouldn’t have to wait for her days off to spend quality time with Hollis.
“Hey now, you said it. I didn’t. Remember that when you come over later on tonight with plans to kill me.” Hollis giggled as Whitney huffed with a dramatic stomp of her foot. She loved being able to rile that girl up so easily; It was one of the first things that attracted Hollis to Whitney on a romantic level, when she moved to Auburn from Hollywood nearing the start of Fall last year. Clearly some things just never changed.
"What!? UGH forget it, Holly. Shouldn’t you be working anyway?” The brunette rolled her eyes good-naturedly as she surveyed the practically empty restaurant. This was the last scheduled shift for both girls since they were flying to New York three days from tomorrow, and still had so much preparing to do.
Two weeks of driving each other fucking insane and loving every second of it. Between their week long stay in New York and whatever else Hollis planned for the two of them after, Whitney wanted to burst at the seams from over excitement. Could quitting time just be here already!?
Hollis’ Christmas present had been looming over Whitney’s head month after agonizing month, and it was finally time to get ready for it. May promised much warmer weather and it definitely delivered. In an effort to distract her girlfriend through the long Maine winter, Hollis had taken them both ice fishing a handful of times since Whitney had been dying to do anything besides spend all her time cooped up inside. Being used to having so many beaches and other outdoorsy activities at her disposal in sunny California, the dark-haired girl had become anxious at the thought of being shut away from all the fun. Luckily Hollis was a creative individual who loved being out and about herself, and managed to curb both their restlessness leading up to Summer.
“Well, I was working just fine until you marched on in here with your “Oh Holly, I finally packed! After weeks and weeks of you pestering me, I got it done the day before I’m supposed to.” Hollis mimicked Whitney’s bubbly Californian accent, bursting into laughter and backing away further behind the bar when her girlfriend’s eyes narrowed threateningly. Sarcasm was her first language, and sooner or later she always pushed the envelope a tad too far. Standing behind Jake, Hollis pretended to cower by crouching way down. It would have looked ridiculous otherwise, since she towered over her friend by at least six inches. “Help me dude, she looks pissed.”
“Uh-uh, nope. You’re on your own, Bogard. Someones gotta keep your mouth in check.” Jake snickered after closing out the gentlemen’s tabs and thanking them as they hopped off their stools and left with a wave.
"Keep it up, I dare you Hollis.” Whitney checked her rose gold Apple watch and frowned slightly. “As much as I’d love to sock you in the arm right about now, I have to start heading back. You’re so lucky. Anyways, I’ll be home by the time you can pick me up to spend the night. Bye Jake!” She waved at the Ringo’s employees, grinning as she followed their last two patrons out.
“She’s a live one, ain’t she Holl?” Jake guffawed, slapping his mischievous friend’s back roughly. The blonde resisted the urge to cough as she watched Whitney flounce out of Ringo’s with a wide toothy smile.
“Yeah, she really is.” Hollis’ love struck grey eyes remained fixated on Whitney’s retreating form until she disappeared from view. Then it was back to business. With newfound concentration, Hollis flew through the inventory sheet like only she could, seeing as the bar had been her responsibility for several years and she knew the station inside and out. Hollis was attentive to how overworked management was and consistently jumped at the chance to take on additional tasks. She was cross trained on just about every position, and the only full time bartender Ringo’s had. Jake was right behind Hollis, having picked up her shifts while she was away at Lakeside recovering for those two months late last year. Putting him to the test had really improved his skills, and there weren’t words to explain how proud everyone had been of the wisecracking jokester for stepping up.
Just as Jake had finished restocking the bar’s napkins and straws, Hollis turned toward him with a wry grin while she stashed the clipboard back in it’s respective cabinet. “Speaking of girlies, have you thought more about how you’re going to ask Nora out? I’ve been waiting for like three weeks dude, I half ass expect her to ask you first.”
She was referring to the cute alcoholic in her mid-twenties, who Jake had immediately become smitten with when she started attending their weekly meetings over a month ago. The 5′2 freckly faced woman seemed to like Jake too, but their endearingly awkward conversations made Hollis want to shove them alone in a room together so they wouldn’t be so nervous. Hopefully, they could get something going before whatever connection they did have died along with their unspoken words. Jakob Aldridge was a nice guy, he deserved someone just as awesome in Hollis’ opinion.
Not used to being on the other end of such pinpointed teasing remarks, the blue-haired emo’s cheeks burned furiously as a shy smile spread across his face. ”You’ll know when I know. The last thing I need is to embarrass myself so bad I can’t go to group anymore.”
It didn’t seem so long ago that Hollis was going through the same thing after meeting Whitney York. Jake gave the up until then emotionally unavailable bachelorette so much shit for catching unexpected feelings, returning the favor proved to be too good to resist. Hollis prepared to continue the onslaught when their boss, Evan Richardson, briskly started walking toward them with a perplexing expression.
“Mandatory team meeting. Hollis, Jake, you guys can stay here. I’ll wait for the others and have them gather around the bar.” While it wasn’t unusual for Evan to seem stressed and overworked, he looked abnormally so tonight and neither employee could figure out why. Hollis felt Jake’s questioning gaze bore a hole in the side of her head since she was usually privy to all things Ringo’s, but the startled blonde turned to shrug with widened grey eyes. Mouthing I have no idea, she frowned and leaned against the small sink with crossed arms.
As if on cue, several of the 5 O’Clock servers started shuffling in for their shift and were approached by Evan at the time card machine. After everyone was accounted for, they joined the puzzled bartenders at the furthest table in the dinning room since the bar was right there in the back. Mario emerged from the kitchen along with Derrick, their cook. Then the prep team followed close behind. Morgana Dahl was the last one to arrive, and she hastily tailed their manager on duty as he took his stand in the center of the crowded circle.
Once he was sure everyone was present, Evan tucked the manila envelope he was holding under his arm and surveyed his hardworking employees with fierce, but saddened jet black eyes.
“Thank you all for your prompt attention. There isn’t an easy way to say this, so I only wanted to have to relay the message once. The owners already told the morning team.” He paused to regain his composure, and everyone started whispering feverishly to each other. After a minute or two passed, Hollis leaned over and gently touched Evan’s upper arm in confusion. Everyone watched intently, a few servers even seemed alarmed that she of all people didn’t seem to know what this was about.
“What’s going on?” Her frown deepened as she and everyone else waited anxiously for an answer. Evan wasn’t rendered speechless often so whatever was happening wasn’t good, and Hollis knew it.
The assistant manager forced himself to swallow hard as he first looked directly at his right-hand woman, and then the rest of the present staff. Taking a deep breath, he continued with a weighted sigh. “Johnny and Corrine are retiring from the restaurant business. Their only son is backpacking across Europe and doesn’t have any interest in taking over. Unless someone buys them out, Ringo’s will be closing in three months. I’m sor-”
Several gasps came from the shocked servers and prep staff, drowning out Evan’s attempt at a long winded apology. Mario started speaking to Derrick in a hushed tone and they both shook their heads with dismay. Jake’s breath hitched right before he let out a string of quiet cursing, and he felt Hollis come up behind him to place both shaky hands on his shoulders. She felt sorry that he somehow missed the owner’s morning announcement, and had to find out right when his shift ended. At least she’d have some time to try and attempt to process this bullshit before having to face her brother, Nina, and Whitney.
“What the fuck are we going to do, Holl? I need this job.”
They all did. Ringo’s staff was made up of college students. Parents. People like Jake, who cared for his ailing father. Nobody could afford what was happening, but it seemed like they wouldn’t have a choice. They’d all need a miracle; AKA someone with enough passion and money to secure their livelihood.
“I know dude. Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out. We’ve got three months.” Hollis stated gently with much more reassurance than she felt.
It was probably a good thing Evan ensured the restaurant was empty before organizing this meeting. After the news settled in, a number of different emotions swept rapidly throughout the group. Hollis swiftly exited the bar and started making her rounds, trying to offer encouraging words alongside Evan. After struggling to comfort a few sobbing wait staff and calm down an irate Jake, Hollis excused herself numbly and disappeared into the kitchen before Evan could object. The second the door closed behind her, she growled in frustration and paced the perimeter. Cracking her knuckles, Hollis’ cloudy head reeled as she tried to think of anything that might help their situation. Ringo’s had been around for fifteen years and was a customer favorite in Auburn. Their restaurant was featured in a few travel guides, and most of the staff had been with the establishment long enough to become a tight knit family.
Hollis especially had a soft spot for this place. Ringo’s was there when Dalton got into his accident. Evan didn’t fire her after finding out she was addicted to pills and heroin, instead he gave her the opportunity to get clean and she did. Mostly because of her friends and family, but she’d be lying if she left Ringo’s out as an additional reason. Bar tending for the last almost six years earned more than enough to pay her bills, and she’d even managed to help Dalton where she could when needed.
There had to be a way...she couldn’t let this place go under.
As it turned out, Evan’s oblivious attitude toward Hollis not being on time for her scheduled shift made sense. It was the start of something much worse, unlike the stroke of luck she originally took it for. As the hysteria grew just outside the swinging white doors, Hollis stopped pacing to lean against the prep table with a dazed groan. Allowing her head to slam against one of the metal bars, she stared at the ceiling and blinked away tears.
This isn’t just a bad day; It’s the absolute fucking worst.
| Whitney |Humming along to the Zelda soundtrack playing in her left Bluetooth earbud, Whitney finished counting down Pencil Me In’s last register and recorded the numbers with efficient accuracy. She figured it might be a busy night with all the summer specials they had going on, but instead it was unusually quiet. Not that Whitney was complaining; The lack of customers gave her plenty of time to finish the tasks on her to-do list before clocking out and not worrying about the art store for the next two weeks.Oh! Which reminded her. “Hey Jenny, do you need any help pulling the old tags off?” Whitney shouted clear across the isles on her way to the manager’s office with the newly filled out revenue reports. She tucked a strand of black curly hair behind her right ear as she continued walking in search of Pencil Me In’s latest scheduled employee, stocker Jennifer Vaughn.“Naw I’m about done. Thanks thou
| Hollis |“Last call!” Hollis shouted across the restaurant in a clear voice as she whipped up a jack on the rocks for Kenneth, one of their regulars. 1:30 A.M always came too soon for everyone, so the bartender wasn’t surprised at all to find Morgana bouncing between tables before rushing to the bar to get those last minute alcohol orders in.“What do ya got for me?” Hollis asked absently, finishing up Kenneth’s drink and eyeing Morgana expectantly as the petite waitress peered at her notepad with tired sky blue eyes.“Uh two Bud-lights and a White Russian.”“Coming up!” Less than two minutes later, Hollis had Morgana’s patron’s drinks lined up neatly so the server could easily carry them over. “Whipped cream for Donna today?” The blonde hitched her chin in the direction of Harold and Donna Cunningham, who frequented Ringo’s at least once a week. While both husband
| Hollis |After spending just over an hour re-packing Whitney's three suitcases plus her carry on, the girls were finally heading back to Hollis' with two heaping plates of mashed potatoes, corn, and chicken. As Whitney prepared to lock the door, her lover leaned against the side of the house with a drowsy smile. "You got everything West Coast?" "Yep! Thanks to you, baby." Whitney's thick black bun bounced slightly as she jangled the door, then stooped to grab her newly organized Michael Kors bag. Hollis had already loaded the rest, and their dinner had been stashed underneath the back seat safely."Don't discredit yourself; I watched your cute little butt hustling in there. Oh, can you drive? I'm so fucking tired." The blonde yawned as she stretched in place. That much was true, but it was more of an emotional and mental exhaustion. Hollis had completely forgotten about sending Whitney that text, and refused to bring the mood down by telling
| Hollis |The next time Hollis woke up, she was alone. Her weighted blanket was designed to help her feel like Whitney was always next to her when she was trying to fall asleep, but that unique warmth associated with another human body just wasn’t there. Much less Whitney's. She could hear faint laughter and animated conversation coming from downstairs and blinked away the first few minutes of grogginess. As if suddenly remembering something, Hollis cursed softly and lunged for her charging Google Pixel 4 XL to peek at the time.4:15 P.M.Fuck. She had group in an hour, and had promised to pick up Jake this go around since he'd been having some car trouble. Trying to remember if she asked Whitney to wake her up or not, Hollis quickly dashed out of bed and grabbed a random short sleeved black shirt and dark wash jeans before slipping into the guest bathroom for a hot shower. Ok, let's go through the m
Fourteen years Prior, Auburn Maine| Hollis |“You sure you’re gonna be alright if I go to the tailgate party, Holl?” Sixteen year old Dalton asked tentatively, tossing his little sister the football he’d won at some stupid arcade in town last year. “The guys wouldn’t mind if you wanted to come, you know.” Hollis caught it and fingered the white stitching with what was supposed to be a reassuring smile.“I’m meeting up with Kendra for dinner, otherwise you know I’d be there. She’s not about that scene.” The blonde shrugged, tightening the strings of her plain off-white hoodie and hopping off Dalton’s bed to hand him the ball back. Her apprehensive grey eyes shone with something her brother couldn’t read, and he only hesitated for a second before embracing her fiercely.“If it gets bad again, stay over at her place.”He
| Hollis |The next dayWhitney’s arm laid like dead weight as it remained looped around Hollis’ bare midsection protectively. Her angelic face was buried in the other girl’s neck while she continued to sleep soundly. Each breath felt light and airy as they caressed her nape, right along the crimson love bites Whitney always had a habit of leaving behind. It’d been fifteen minutes since Hollis woke up in a groggy state, but she didn’t want to risk stirring her girlfriend so she just watched Whitney with a relaxed smile. Laying perfectly still. Recollections of the previous night rushed forward, and they made Hollis infinitely grateful for the adorable woman curled up against her now.********************Hearing the despairing cries coming from Hollis’ bedroom, Whitney rushed upstairs to find her girlfriend grabbing at her hair to keep from punching the wall as she screamed blindly at nothing,
| Whitney |"Hey Californiiiaaaa!" Jake sang teasingly, grinning broadly as Whitney skipped over to give him a side hug. His silver snakebites glinted in the afternoon sun when he turned toward the petite woman slowly approaching them with a shy grin of her own. "This is Nora. We met at group about a month ago. Nora, Whitney. She's Hollis' girl." "What's up, what's up?" Whitney chirped, extending her hand toward Nora with a toothy smile. The smaller woman took it graciously, bouncing on her heels slightly as she did so. With her luminous strawberry blonde hair and peppy spirit, she radiated hella good vibes. The soft yellow romper she was rocking might have looked out of place on anyone else, but it fit her tiny body nicely. The white Keds she wore were really all that mattered, since hiking required decent footwear. "Hi! It's nice to meet you. Gosh, you're so pretty!" Her green eyes glittered like jewels as they broke their handshake. She di
| Whitney |Neither girl said anything for the first ten minutes during the drive back to Hollis’ house. The blonde kept her tired eyes on the road ahead as she casually drummed a few fingers against the steering wheel, like she often did while deep in thought. Whitney stared at her lap trying to focus on anything other than her growing irritation.Honestly, to say Whitney was irritated would’ve been a massive understatement. Hollis swore she’d stop hiding things from her as a stipulation of getting back together just before Christmas, so she’d been completely blindsided by Jake’s comment about Ringo’s. Since her girlfriend said she’d elaborate, Whitney had been biting her tongue in hopes that she would start talking sooner rather than later. As the stifling silence continued however, she sighed loudly and turned to glare out of the window.Her girlfriend drew in a deep breath, and Whitney held hers.&ldq