And so began a two-month whirlwind of activity for Roger and Holly, as they applied for and got a mortgage loan and formally bought the old Matthews house. Pat's son Michael Randolph and daughter and son-in-law Marianne and Dr. Rick Halloway returned to town to help with Liz's move. It fell to Michael Randolph, Rick Halloway, Sam Fowler, Matthew Cory, Jamie Frame, Ryan Harrison, and Dennis Wheeler to do all of the heavy lifting that emptying the house required, while Olivia, Pat, Alice, Rachel, Marianne, Vicky, Marley, and Dennis's wife Dr. Kelsey Harrison (Ryan's cousin) pitched in to help Liz pack the smaller items, such as clothes, linens, dishes and knick-knacks. Everything in the house was claimed by someone. Some of the furniture and antiques went to Olivia and Sam's house and to Alice's house in Bay City, others were packed to be shipped to Marianne and Rick's house in Wisconsin or to Pat's house on Long Island, to Russ's chalet in Switzerland, and to Michael Randolph's row house in Boston. A handful of things went to the Cory Mansion with Rachel, Jamie inherited his namesake Jim Matthews' antique desk and chair, which went to his and Marley's house in Bay City, and Liz took the rest to the assisted living facility with her.
Roger and Holly eagerly dived in to put their own stamp on the house once Liz had moved out, with her blessing. ("You don't have to wait for the house to get through escrow to start painting or putting up drapes or new carpet or whatever you want to do," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, the house is yours. The bank's just waiting for the paperwork to catch up.") Since they had the keys to the house from Liz, and they were both very excited about making the house truly theirs, they dove right in to getting ready to make the move.
They bought new living room and bedroom furniture, although that meant going to two different furniture stores, one for the bedroom furniture and the other for the living room furniture, tables, and lamps. Holly had kept the piano that Roger grew up on, the piano that she had brought back to her house as a surprise for him when she had found it in a shop on Third Street shortly before they officially got back together back in Springfield three years before; it was in storage in Springfield with the rest of her furniture. When she told him about this, after they agreed to get new living room and new bedroom furniture, he was visibly moved. "I can't believe you kept it," Roger said emotionally.
"It's yours. I couldn't get rid of it," Holly replied. "Knowing the piano was there...in storage, I mean..." She swallowed hard, getting emotional herself now. "It was one of the few ties to you I still had: the knowledge that it was there, waiting, when we weren't together. And maybe someday I'd get the chance to give it back to you."
Roger couldn't find the words to respond to that, to tell Holly how very much it meant to him that she was holding on to some slim thread of hope for them even when it seemed that all hope for them was gone forever...exactly the same as he was, deep in his heart of hearts, in the place that no one but Holly had ever gotten to and no one, not even Blake or her children, would ever get to because that place was Holly's alone, always had been, and always would be. So he did the only thing he could do, and kissed her until they were both out of breath.
With the new furniture ordered and a delivery date set for it all, and with the arrangements to get the piano out of storage and have it transported from the storage facility in Springfield to the new house in Bay City, the next step was the cosmetic work, the paint and flooring. They decided to replace the bedroom carpeting, and since they had decided to do the master bedroom in green and white, they decided on a gorgeous shade of green called Secret Garden that both looked and felt lush.
The trouble came when they tried to find a shade of paint for the bedroom walls. After each of them had rejected numerous suggestions the other had made, they were both starting to get frustrated. "What about this one?" Roger suggested, holding up yet another color chip. He was afraid if they kept at this much longer, he would start seeing everything in green.
"Envy?" Holly asked, frowning. "I'm not comfortable with a color named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins." She looked through the pile of chips they hadn't yet dismissed as possibilities, which was much smaller than the ones they had dismissed as possibilities, and pushed one across the table to Roger. "Rally Green," she offered.
"It looks like a golf course, and I hate golf," Roger said.
Holly rolled her eyes. "You do know it's paint on the walls and not an actual golf course, right?"
"But it looks like we'd be living in the middle of the fourteenth tee," Roger said with exaggerated patience. "And since I hate golf, because it's so boring, I would rather our bedroom didn't look like we were living in the middle of the tenth fairway at Pebble Beach."
"Fine." Holly bit off the word in a clipped tone.
"Fine," Roger agreed, an edge to his tone as well. "Center Stage?" he asked, pointing to a color chip that was in front of Holly.
"You don't want to live in a room that looks like the course at Pebble Beach; I don't want to live in a room that looks like we're swimming in the middle of a bowl of pea soup," Holly said.
Roger exhaled loudly through his nose. It was just paint. Why was this so difficult? Why were he and Holly getting so tense about paint colors? "Okay, what about this one, then?" he said, pointing to a random color chip without really looking at or reading the name.
"Is the leprechaun included, or do we have to pay extra for that?" Holly snarked.
"Well, then, just pick one!" Roger exclaimed. "They're all starting to blur for me."
"We agreed that we were going to pick the paint together, just like we picked the carpet," Holly reminded him.
"Well, I'm not the one complaining about leprechauns and pea soup," Roger pointed out.
"No, you just don't want to live in a room painted to look like a golf course," Holly retorted. "We won't even discuss the forty shades of green you summarily dismissed as too light or too dark."
"Hey, if you're that attached to Electric Lime, then we'll paint the bedroom Electric Lime! Never mind that it'll probably glow like neon in the middle of the night and wake us up," Roger groused.
"Well, we could always go with Hunt Club, since you obviously don't have the aversion to fox hunting that you have to golfing, and since paint always looks darker on the wall than it does on the sample chips, we'll just redo the furniture and everything in black to match the walls, and it'll be like living in a crypt!" Holly said. Then she got up from the table where they were sitting, stormed across the suite, and seconds later, Roger heard the bedroom door slam behind her hard enough to tear the door off its hinges.
Roger, angry and frustrated at both the ridiculous argument he and Holly had just had over paint and the billion and five shades of green that were the catalyst for the ridiculous argument, picked up a pile of paint sample chips and threw the chips across the room. They scattered like tenpins in the air, landing all over the living room of the suite.
Sighing, and now angry at himself for doing something so stupidly juvenile, Roger got up from the table and began picking up the paint sample chips. He was checking under the sofa, where, sure enough, he saw three chips, and was about to extend his arm fully to retrieve them, when he heard Holly's voice behind and above him. "Do you need any help?"
Roger stretched his arm and grabbed the chip that was closest to him, then sat up. "No, I've got it. There are a few more under there, but they can wait." The paint sample chip was still clenched in his palm as he leaned back against the couch, his knees drawn up in front of him. Holly sat down on the rug beside him then and mirrored his pose, meeting his eyes. "I'm sorry," Roger said earnestly.
"I'm sorry too," Holly replied just as earnestly. "It's paint. It's silly for us to argue about it."
"I guess since we've been so simpatico about everything else regarding the house, not agreeing on this kind of threw us for a loop," Roger mused.
"Yeah," Holly said.
"But I have to say, compared to the kinds of things we've argued about in the past, I'd rather argue about paint colors with you," he continued.
"Me too," she said, reaching for his free hand and threading her fingers through his. "Why is your hand still closed?" she asked, inclining her head toward Roger's other, closed hand.
He opened his palm, revealing the paint sample chip. "It's just this. I was able to reach it under the couch without having to extend my arm too far or move the couch to get to it," he replied.
Holly was looking at the paint sample chip in his palm, so Roger looked at it too, for the first time. "That's not a dark green," Holly remarked.
"It's not a light green, either," Roger reflected. "It's...medium."
"It's definitely not reminiscent of a golf course," Holly continued.
"Or a bowl of pea soup," Roger added.
"It looks like the shade of green you see on sun-drenched leaves on a stately oak tree in the middle of a picture perfect summer's afternoon," Holly said.
Roger turned the chip over to read the name of the shade on the back: "Scotch Plains Green." He looked up to meet Holly's gaze. "I like it," he said hopefully.
"I do too," Holly said, growing excited. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I'm thinking we're going to paint our bedroom Scotch Plains Green," Roger replied, half-questioningly.
"That's exactly what I'm thinking," Holly declared with a smile.
Roger smiled back at her. "I wish I'd thrown those paint chips across the room two hours ago," he said.
Holly laughed out loud, which made Roger laugh too. "So is this the part where we make up from our silly argument?" she asked, resting her palms flat on Roger's chest.
"Just as soon as we put this sample of Scotch Plains Green in a safe place," Roger replied.
Three days later, they painted the bedroom Scotch Plains Green. Roger thought Holly looked really cute in her white painter's overalls and white painter's hat, and Holly loved the jeans Roger wore, the first pair of Levi's he had owned since he was 17 years old. Holly realized she had never seen Roger in jeans before, and told him, "That's a look that really works for you."
"I'll remember that," Roger assured her.
And then two days before they were supposed to move in, the furniture store that was delivering their bedroom furniture called Roger at work to confirm the delivery of the bedroom furniture that afternoon.
Roger's initial thought was that somebody had messed up, because the furniture wasn't supposed to be delivered for another two days.
But he quickly realized that he could turn this snafu into something positive, and as he agreed to meet the delivery men at the house, an idea, a romantic surprise for Holly, was forming in his mind.
Near 5:00 PM, Roger walked into Holly's office. She was just hanging up the phone, looking somewhat flustered, when she saw him. "Remind me why I thought it was a good idea for us to move at the end of May sweeps," she greeted him.
Roger remembered sweeps periods from his time at WSPR. "Nervous about the ratings?" he asked knowingly.
"We didn't do so well in February," she reminded him. "I'm hoping we do better this month."
"You will," Roger assured her.
"You didn't rig the ratings, did you?" Holly asked, only half-jokingly.
"If I knew how to do it, and it wouldn't infuriate you, I would have," Roger replied, "but no, I know nothing about the ratings. I get my news about the ratings from you."
Holly sighed. "Well, there's really nothing else I can do here," she said. "And we have a million things to do before tomorrow-"
"Actually, we only have one thing to do before tomorrow," Roger replied as Holly stood up, gathering her things. He held out his hand, and she took it, knowing that he was up to something by the gleam in his eyes, but unsure what it was. "Where are we going?" she asked.
"First, I have to know if we're going in the same car, or if you're following me," Roger said. They had reached the parking lot of KBAY now.
"If I leave my car here, how do I get it tomorrow? There won't be time," Holly pointed out.
"Okay, then, you're following me," Roger said.
"Following you where?" Holly asked.
"You'll see," Roger said with a grin. "And I promise, you'll like it."
It started to rain just as they were leaving KBAY, and they were in a full-fledged downpour by the time they pulled up to the house. They both dashed for the covered front porch. "Roger, what are we doing here?" Holly asked. "We move in tomorrow."
"True," he replied as he unlocked and opened the front door and ushered Holly inside, "but we're going to have delivery men, the cable guy, Chrissy and Ross and the boys, and all of our friends except Cass and Frankie because they just had a baby, coming and going tomorrow, and this place is going to be like Grand Central Station. And tomorrow night, we'll be totally exhausted after spending the whole day moving in. Tonight is just for us."
That was when Holly noticed the picnic blanket spread out before the fireplace, and the picnic basket, the bottle of wine in an ice bucket and two wine goblets resting on the floor beside it, and two unlit candles waiting to illuminate the scene. Her expression softened as Roger helped her out of her jacket and hung it with his own on the coat rack by the front door. "You never cease to amaze me," she said as he slipped his arm around her waist and they took the two steps down into the living room and headed to the blanket.
"That's my goal: to never cease amazing you," Roger replied as he lit the candles.
Outside, thunder rumbled loudly enough outside to rattle the windows. "Good things happen for us when it's raining," Holly reflected as she slipped off her shoes and settled herself on the picnic blanket.
Roger settled himself across from her and reached for the wine bottle, uncorking it and pouring them each a glass. "Yes, they do," he agreed as he handed her a glass of wine and then touched the rim of his wineglass to hers.
They feasted on spinach and orzo salad, cold fried chicken, brie on crackers, and the wine. While they ate, the wind and rain picked up outside.
"That storm's really getting bad," Holly remarked. "It's too bad we couldn't just stay here for the night." Even by candlelight, she saw Roger's look at those words. "What?" she asked.
Roger wordlessly rose and went over to turn the lights on, but they didn't turn on. "I think we've lost power," he said. He returned to the blanket and extended a hand to help Holly to her feet. Then he picked up the two candles, handing one to her. "I brought these to be romantic, but it turns out they're going to serve a practical purpose as well," he said.
Wondering what Roger was up to, Holly slipped her hand into his and they ascended the stairs together. When they reached the master bedroom, Roger looked at her and said, "I'm not sure if you'll be able to really get the full effect by the light of two candles, but..." Then he opened the door...and Holly saw that the room was completed! All of the furniture was in the room, exactly where she had mentioned she wanted it to be: the sleigh bed in the center of the room, covered with the seafoam-green-and-white-striped comforter with the matching pillows and pillow shams, the dresser, the small desk with padded chair, the oak nightstands with the matching hurricane lamps, and the two white chaise lounge chairs by the fireplace with the end table on which another hurricane lamp rested between them. "The store made a mistake, and called me this afternoon to deliver all of the bedroom furniture today," he told her. "So I thought, why not turn this snafu into something good? I rushed over here and told them where to put everything, and then I thought-"
Holly set her candle on top of the nearby dresser. "Why don't we spend our first night in our new house tonight instead of tomorrow?" she finished, putting her arms around his neck.
"I packed pajamas and clothes for both of us for tomorrow and our toothbrushes," Roger said, nodding to the suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed as he set his own candle on top of the dresser beside Holly's and wrapping his arms around her waist. He looked at her happily. "Have I thanked you recently for not giving up on me, on us, even when it looked like we'd lost any chance of being together?"
"I couldn't give up on you, or on us," Holly replied in a hushed tone, moving closer in his arms. "Some part of me has always loved you, since I was nineteen years old. It took a long time and a lot of turmoil and pain for us to get here, but I guess the part of me that's forever nineteen always believed, against all odds, that someday we could be like this, that we could have something amazing and right and good. And being here with you now like this...It's everything I ever wanted."
"Being your husband is the best, most right thing I've ever done," Roger said, gently pulling Holly flush against him. She stretched up to brush a kiss across his lips, and when she started to pull back, he followed, kissing her again, more deeply this time. When they pulled apart, he said, "And tomorrow, our daughter and our friends...our friends," he reflected, awed, "will be here to help us finish moving in."
"Then we'd better get to bed," Holly said, and there was no mistaking the flirtatious tone in her voice. "Morning will be here before we know it, and we should make the most of tonight."
He reluctantly released her to go to the suitcase, but she followed after him, stilling his hands on the suitcase's clasps. He lifted his eyes to look at her, knowing what her unspoken message was: that they didn't need the contents of the suitcase just yet.
Holly emphasized her point when she gently pulled Roger back up so that they were once again standing face to face, then wrapped herself around him. "I love you," she whispered as she moved in for another kiss.
"I love you more," he whispered back before they fell onto the bed together, wrapped in each other's arms.
Home for Roger and Holly now was Bay City, and this beautiful old house, but most of all, home was one another, and so it would remain for the rest of their lives.
Thanks for taking this journey with me, and with Roger and Holly and the denizens of Bay City and the soap opera Another World. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. My next story, coming soon, will return us to Springfield, and the universe where Jack Thorpe exists. Thanks for reading, reviewing, and following. :-)