Erin was always somewhat taken aback about how secretive Holtz was about her private life. As somebody who came off as so brash and candid, she was surprisingly slow to open up and often gave the vaguest possible answers to any questions about her life before the ghostbusters, muttering and waving her hands in a way that conveyed clearly that she wasn’t up for talking about it, whatever “it” was.
Erin figured that that would have changed once they started dating, but it hardly did. Holtz was a little more open with her sometimes, especially on early mornings when they were cuddled in bed, and had revealed certain snippets of her life that allowed Erin to make some sort of patchwork timeline of how things had gone, but there were still a lot of blanks that she yearned to fill in. She tried to be an open book herself and often told Holtz about her childhood, as horrific as it had been. Holtz would frown and shake her head and tell her that she didn’t deserve to have been treated the way she did, but she seldom responded to Erin’s anecdotes with her own. Since Abby had known Holtzmann longer than she had, Erin would occasionally try to subtly ask her questions about her past, but Abby would usually just shrug off the questions and suggest that Erin go ask her girlfriend herself. Which would be a brilliant idea if she hadn’t already tried that.
So Holtz, despite being an amazing girlfriend, was still somewhat of an enigma to Erin. Sure, she knew Holtzmann in the literal sense. She knew what she liked on her half of the pizza (sausage and pineapple), and what her favorite kind of ice cream was (mint chocolate chip). She knew that she was a little bit afraid of the dark and a lot afraid of heights and that she functioned on less than six hours of sleep and that she really preferred it if Erin let her hold doors for her. She knew, even, what she liked in bed. But there was also so much she didn’t know about Holtz. She didn’t know if she had any siblings, or where she’d grown up. She didn’t know if she’d had pets as a kid, she didn’t know what her parents had done for work. She didn’t, of course, even know her parents.
Erin had introduced Holtz to her parents after they’d been dating for nearly six months. She had brought her formally as her date to her mother’s birthday party and Holtz had charmed the whole family almost instantly with her quick wit and easy smile. Since then, her parents had badgered her constantly about “bringing Jillian around for a visit”, refusing to refer to her girlfriend by her last name despite the fact that Holtzmann much preferred it. They had been once or twice for a quiet brunch, but it was a long drive, and Erin could only take so much of Holtz’s complete disregard for speed limits coupled with her “Jamz” playlist. But no matter how many times Erin brought Jillian to visit her parents or gave her the phone to talk to them when they called, Holtz seemed adamant about not having Erin meet her parents and wouldn’t even talk about them.
Erin figured it must have been because Holtzmann was embarrassed of her. That was the only logical explanation as to why, eight months into their relationship, there hadn’t even been so much as a group facetime or phone call with her family. Honestly, it made Erin wonder if Holtz was really in the relationship for the long run or if she was just dating Erin because she was… around and available. It seemed like their relationship had been going on too long for it to have been a charade, but with each passing day that Holtz’s past remained mysterious Erin doubted less and less that what they had was real and feared more and more that Holtzmann would suddenly pack up and leave her in the dust, like some inversely proportional graph of worries.
As mother’s day approached, Erin kept hoping that Holtzmann would say something about making plans to see her mother for the holiday. Erin knew they were close, there were photos of her and her mom tacked up all over Holtz’s organized chaos of an apartment. She got the feeling that Holtzmann may not have had a dad at all, or at least if she did they weren’t close. He wasn’t in the photo of a brightly smiling teenaged Jillian in her high school cap and gown, nor in the vacation photos of a younger Holtz and her mother. Either he was an observer who liked to be behind the camera, or he wasn’t there at all. Erin didn’t ask, she didn’t pry. Because she wanted Holtzmann to tell her on her own time. She just hoped that she would tell her something .
Finally gearing up the courage to ask, Erin thought she would use the impending holiday to try to figure out some details about Holtz’s parentage. They lay in bed early one morning as sunlight was just starting to stream through the filmy white curtains of Erin’s bedroom. They were both early risers by habit but often liked to stay in bed for a while before going into the station. Being your own boss had it's perks that way. Taking a deep breath against Holtz’s chest where she lay as her girlfriend flicked through the latest Scientific American, Erin spoke to get Holtzmann’s attention.
“So, Mother’s Day is coming up.” She says, turning her head toward her girlfriend’s face.
“Is it?” Holtz replies, shooting her eyebrows up slightly but hardly tearing her eyes from her magazine.
“Uh-huh,” Erin replies almost stupidly, shifting so that she’s leaning on her elbow next to Holtz rather than nestled on her abdomen.
“Are we going to visit your mom then?” Holtzmann asks, almost like a statement, still engrossed in the article she’s reading. Erin wrinkles her nose.
“I was kind of wondering if you were going to visit your mother?” Erin asks sheepishly, noticing how Holtz’s eyebrows shoot up at the question.
“I don’t know…” Holtzmann says slowly, trailing off as she puts down the magazine on her stomach. Erin steels herself and takes another deep breath.
“I think you should,” she says decisively, nestling her own chin in her hand, “and I think you should take me with you.” Erin adds quickly, casting her eyes down slightly. Holtz furrows her brow slightly and does this little nose-scrunchy thing that Erin would find adorable under most other circumstances before she allows her features to relax back into something neutral.
“Okay.” Holtz replies simply as she picks up the magazine again.
“Really?” Erin asks, pretty surprised that her plan seems to have worked. Usually her plans ended with her covered in ectoplasm, so this was a welcome step up.
“Yeah,” Holtz replies, seemingly disinterested in the conversation as she goes back to reading an article on antimatter enthusiastically. Erin feels a little uncomfortable at the reaction. Sure she’s excited that Holtzmann has agreed to introduce her to her mother, but she’s also suddenly afraid that she’s somehow alienated or distanced Holtz from herself. She takes a deep breath. Hopefully it’ll all be okay she tells herself, already doubting that it will.
However, as that Sunday gets closer and closer Erin starts to feel her excitement mount and outweigh her anxiousness to some extent. She loves Holtz and she’s excited to meet the woman who helped make her into the amazing woman she is today, even if her girlfriend does seem a little on edge about the whole subject still. She wonders if maybe there’s a chance that she’s the first girlfriend that Holtz has ever really brought home, and that’s why she’s so nervous. Holtzmann had revealed to her early in their relationship that she hadn’t had a serious girlfriend in a while and was prone more to short flings over anything else. If Erin was getting the honor of being the first girl Holtz brought to see her mother she was more than honored.
On Saturday as Erin struggled with a difficult equation before heading home for the night, she chatted casually with Abby about her weekend plans. It turned out her friend was headed home for the weekend to spend some time with her own mother, and she inquired whether Erin was doing the same and insisted she send her regards to her mom for her if she was. Erin wondered if Abby had ever met Holtz’s mom quickly before answering slowly, her eyes still trained on her work.
“No, actually, I’m not seeing my mom.” Abby’s eyebrows shoot up at this, obviously shocked at Erin’s response.
“Really? Why not?” She inquires, bustling around the room as she prepares to leave as well. Erin nervously knits her hands together,
“I’m actually going with Holtz to see her mom.” Erin answers as confidently as she can, trying to not let her self-consciousness show. Abby knits her brows together slightly in a somewhat confused facial expression.
“Oh,” she remarks, “That’s nice I guess.”
And sure, Erin’s a little surprised at the way Abby seemingly rushes out the door after that, and she’s surprised that Abby doesn’t seem more supportive and excited at her finally getting to meet Holtz’s mother, but it doesn’t seem like any real cause for alarm. She briefly considers asking Patty if she knows if there’s any sort of beef between Abby and Holtzmann’s mother but she decides against it, figuring it’s best if she goes into the interaction with an unbiased opinion.
Holtz lets herself into Erin’s apartment at nearly 1 AM that night, obviously exhausted, and they fall into bed almost immediately. Erin doesn’t have time to ask Holtz about their plans for the next morning or about Abby’s strange reaction to them before Holtz is fast asleep with her arms draped over Erin’s middle. Even though she was shorter, Holtz much preferred being the “big spoon” and Erin always let her ( mostly because Holtz always ran warm and functioned, essentially, as Erin’s own personal space heater).
In the morning Erin woke to find Holtz missing from her apartment, and a post it note on her kitchen counter in Holtzmann’s messy scrawl telling her that she went home to change and that Erin should prepare to be picked up at 11. Holtz often left Erin post-its, much preferring writing down notes to texting them. This may have also been due to the fact that Holtz’s phone was either dead or missing at least 75% of the time, but Erin appreciated the quirk and secretly kept all the notes that Holtzmann left her, even the ones that were more a grocery list than anything sentimental. Glancing at the clock, Erin wishes that she had set an alarm or simply woken up earlier, it’s almost 9:30 and she still needs to shower and find a suitable outfit before Holtz arrives.
Rushing through her breakfast and her coffee, Erin feels her nervousness begin to set in again. What if Holtz’s mom hates her? What if she says or does something stupid or offends her in some way? Erin’s not good with people. She’s good with numbers and theories and sometimes words when they’re written, but she’s terrible with human beings. That’s why she lets her colleagues deal with all the face to face customer billing and what not, Patty’s charm and easy smile and Abby’s somewhat aggressive but still comforting presence and even Holtz’s outright strangeness was infinitely more successful than Erin’s awkward stuttering and tripping over her words, and sometimes even her feet. So she was sure that there were infinite ways for her to mess up, and possibly one epic way for her to mess up in all those infinite ways at once. But she definitely wasn’t panicking. Of course not.
Just as Erin picks the right shoes, she gets a text from Holtz saying that she’s outside, and immediately feels like she’s going to throw up. The logical part of her knows that she’s not actually going to, that the nervousness is only making her think she’s sick. But the illogical part of her is afraid she’s going to show up to meet Holtz’s mom covered in her own vomit, which wouldn’t make a good first impression. At all.
She hurries down to the street, shoes in her hand because she was too anxious to get them on, and slides her way into the passenger seat of Holtz’s car.
“Hey gorgeous,” Holtzmann says, turning her head to smile at Erin as she buckles her seatbelt and takes another deep breath.
There’s a bouquet of daffodils sitting brightly on the dashboard, and Holtz shrugs when she sees Erin eyeing them.
“They’re mom’s favorite,” she says with a soft smile, and suddenly all of Erin’s fears dissolve because if Holtz is by her side than everything will probably turn out okay. Holtz is remarkably quiet as she drives them out of the city, and her usual playlist of 80’s jams is missing, but the silence isn’t awkward, exactly. It’s a nervous silence from both parties, and Erin can feel the anxious energy coming off of Holtz as she sits behind the driver’s wheel, eyes uncharacteristically glued to the road. It’s not exactly like Erin’s complaining that Holtzmann seems overly focused, but it’s a strange change from the way Holtz usually seems to drive while staring at her or trying to brainstorm new ideas for ghost-fighting technology.
They drive for a few hours, the buildings becoming farther and farther apart as they get farther from the city. Finally they turn off the highway and enter a more residential area and Erin assumes they must be getting close to their destination. After a few more miles,Holtz maneuvers the car onto a somewhat bumpy dirt road and Erin’s breath catches in her throat, knowing they must practically be there.
She drives slowly down the road and Erin holds on to the stems of the flowers as they threaten to slide off the dashboard into her lap.
When they pull up at a graveyard, Erin wonders for a second if this is some sort of practical joke. If Holtz really doesn’t trust her enough to meet her parents and instead wants to go ghost hunting or something. But as Holtz turns to her with a sad little smile on her face and nods, Erin’s sure this is no joke.
Holtz’s mom is dead, and this is the only way she knew how to tell her. Her heart breaks a little bit at the expression on Holtz’s face, but she steels herself and gives her an encouraging smile, hoping to convey that she gets it, that Holtz doesn’t have to explain. Taking the hint, Holtz nods brusquely again and opens the car door, sliding out of her seat and walking quickly around to the other side to open Erin’s door for her. Grabbing the flowers off the dashboard, Erin takes Holtz’s outstretched hand and squeezes it in her own, following silently as Holtz leads her through the graveyard with a practiced sort of grace.
They stop in front of a simple yet elegant headstone with a fading bunch of daffodils in front of it, and Holtz squeezes her hand a little harder before letting go and bending down to scoop up the decaying flowers, shoving them unceremoniously into a pocket of her jacket to be thrown away later.
“So,” she says awkwardly, gesturing vaguely “Mom, Erin. Erin….” She turns her face back towards the ground and sighs, “Meet my mother.”
Erin fights back tears, which feels almost unfair to Holtz. It’s not her grief. Her mom is nestled quietly in the suburbs, waiting for a FaceTime call from her daughter and her girlfriend. Her mom is probably drinking tea or gardening. Her mom is not buried in the ground in the suburbs of New York State.
“Holtz…” She says, almost wanting to apologize for something. For not knowing, for not asking, for assuming. There’s too many things to choose from. She settles for something else, not an apology exactly, but an understanding. Kneeling down next to the headstone, she carefully places the flowers in her hand as gingerly as possible on the damp earth. It must have rained during the night. She glances to Holtz to gauge her reaction and sees a small but definite smile on her face. Erin clears her throat.
“Um-Hello, Mrs. Holtzmann,” she says, looking up to Holtz for confirmation that she’s gotten the formalities right, she nods with encouragement and Erin returns the gesture, nodding back.
“I’m Erin. Erin Gilbert. It’s nice to meet you,” She says, trying to not seem awkward but failing. She almost starts the sentence over to announce her title as “Dr. Erin Gilbert” but decides against it. When she looks up at Holtz again she gets another encouraging nod and a smile a little bigger than the last one.
“I’m a colleague of Holtz- I mean, Jillian’s,” She says, wrinkling her nose a little at Holtz’s first name. She hardly ever says it. She takes a deep breath again and continues.
“She’s one of the smartest, most creative, most amazing women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Mrs. Holtzmann,” She looks up again to see Holtz looking at her with something most akin to awe, “You did an incredible job raising her, you must have. I mean, look at her! She’s a ghostbuster!” Holtz laughs at that and replies,
“So are you, smarty pants.” Uncrossing her arms from over her chest.
Erin laughs back and Holtz comes down to sit next to her, taking her hand again.
“The truth is, ma’am, I’ve been dating your daughter for a while now,” Erin continues, feeling almost like some high school boy. Holtz is smiling at her so she continues, wanting to keep her smiling for as long as she can.
“She makes me very very happy,” Erin nods, squeezing Holtz’s hand, “She makes me laugh, she stays up late with me when I’m frustrated, she always has my back, no matter what.” Erin almost feels like crying again, saying all these things that Holtz has never heard from her before.
“I love her.” She says, looking directly in Holtzmann’s eyes this time. She almost looks like she’s going to say something in response, but Erin keeps talking, both to Holtz and to the ground.
“And I swear I make sure she eats more than take-out and Hot Pockets! Vegetables even!” Erin jokes, earning another laugh from Holtz, who leans her head on Erin’s shoulder. They laugh together for a moment before they let a comfortable silence fall. A few meters away a young man comes to lay white roses on a somewhat weathered grave. They watch him for a moment but turn away, not wanting to intrude on his intimate moment.
Holtz presses a kiss to Erin’s temple, and Erin knows she’s saying “Thank you.”
“She’s heard all about you, you know. I try to come down here at least once a month,” Holtz explains.
“Has she really?” Erin asks, trying to match Holtz’s mood.
“Uh-huh,” Holtz says, “She heard all about the uptight physicist who came into my lab wearing a tiny bow-tie and helped me save the city.”
“Helped, huh?” Erin jokes, Holtz grins wolfishly. “And I was not uptight!” She exclaims, hitting Holtz lightly on the upper arm. She grins and continues,
“And how after months of flirting she finally got the picture and kissed me,” Holtz recounts, Erin blushing at the memory of her own ignorance.
“And how she’s crazy smart and beautiful and how she makes me eat vegetables.” Holtzmann finishes, punctuating the sentence with another quick peck to Erin’s cheek.
“She really would have loved you.” Holtz says quietly, running her thumb over the back of Erin’s hand.
“I’m sure I would have loved her too.”
“You would have. Everybody did.” She says matter-of-factly, blinking back her tears. Erin wraps her in a hug and she sniffles into her sweater, crying for the first time since they had arrived. They stay like that for a while as the young man leaves his flowers and walks with his head down out of the graveyard, wishing his mother a happy mother’s day just loud enough for the two of them to hear.
“Erin?” Holtz says after a few minutes, sitting up to wipe the moisture from her face.
“Yeah babe?” Erin replies as tenderly as she can, running a hand down Holtz’s arm affectionately.
“You know I love you too, right? Like so much?” Holtz says, seeming so innocent and kind that Erin almost wants to start crying herself.
They’re both quiet again, and Erin knows that when they get home Holtz might have more to say. About who her mother was and how she died and how she raised a brilliant beautiful soul like Holtzmann.
For now she’s uncharacteristically quiet, standing up and wishing her mother a happy mother’s day as well before helping Erin to her feet and leading her back towards the car, the bunch of daffodils peeking out from under her jacket.
As she opens the car door and helps Erin inside, she knows with clarity that Holtz really is in this for the long haul. And so is she.