Title: Broken Bones and Mended Hearts (Part 2/2)
Fandom: Guiding Light
Disclaimer: I don't own Guiding Light, although I hear it's for sale… anyone want to chip in?
Summary: An accident with Emma puts things in perspective for both Natalia and Olivia.
Archiving: Just ask, I'll say yes.
A/N: Thank you to my beautiful beta sauciloo.
Natalia watched as Olivia walked down the hall and closed the door. Though her heart was pounding with nervousness and passion, both symptoms of the kiss she'd just shared with the other woman, she couldn't stop the smile that pulled her lips up and exposed her dimples. Natalia leaned against the frame of her bedroom door feeling like a teenager.
She laughed at the absurdity of her own thoughts. She was a grown woman, mother to a grown son… and a beautiful little girl. Natalia had loved Emma since the day she'd first met her. Emma had been the sole reason she'd made the decision to give Olivia Gus's heart. Emma had been the reason she'd fought so hard to get Olivia to live after the surgery, why she bullied her, made her eat and take her pills. It had been mostly for the love of a child; not her child, but a child she loved, one who'd become a foster daughter. Until today, recent events had changed things.
The trip to the hospital had shed quite a bit of light into the dark recesses of Natalia's heart; the thoughts and feelings that she knew were there but perhaps wasn't quite ready to think about in the light of day. The first epiphany had been that while Natalia often referred to Emma and Olivia as her family, she hadn't realized that Emma had somehow crossed the line from foster child to actual daughter. She was. Natalia no longer grasped a distinction between the child born of her body and the child born of her heart. Her defense of Emma with both the hospital staff and Frank had been as effortless as it was fierce. What's more, it had shocked her, the absolute irightness/i of such a role.
Natalia had also been forced to confront the fact that she'd been pulling away from both Olivia and Emma. It had been a gradual thing, like poison slowly seeping into the water supply. She'd convinced herself that it was to protect them; to make it easier when she broke up their home, when they moved out of the farmhouse. It was such a lie. She'd been trying to protect herself. Just the thought of no longer putting Emma to bed, of not having Olivia stumble sleepily down the stairs in the morning made the home she so loved into a mere dwelling, no different than the dozens of sterile, interchangeable apartments she'd lived in over the years.
These thoughts, coupled with her inherent sadness of late, and lack of enthusiasm in general for what should have been the happiest day of her life, all traced back to a common source: she shouldn't be marrying Frank. As often as Natalia had prayed over her choice, nightly asking God to send her a sign as to whether she was doing the right thing, she'd managed to dismiss the answer that had been before her all along.
She didn't love Frank. Oh, he was a good man, an upstanding citizen, and marrying him would make her safe on so many levels. He was 'right' for her in so far as he was hard working, kind, and would treat her very well, but Frank didn't have the capacity to make her happy. It was not his gift to give. The only person who had influence over Nataila's happiness… was Natalia herself.
And she'd been fighting off and flinging away happiness with both hands. Out of fear.
Natalia had been the happiest she'd ever been in life just a few short months ago. She'd had a job that was both challenging and rewarding, a home that radiated warmth, and she'd had Emma and Olivia. The only thing shadowing her complete joy had been Rafe's absence, and even that had seemed like a temporary situation.
Emma's presentation had shattered her sense of self. She hadn't been ready to face the fact that what she and Olivia had was more than mere friendship, that they were entwined in each other's lives so irrevocably. That's why she'd needed Olivia to spell it out so thoroughly. Emma had been totally and completely right. None of the little girl's conclusions had been in error, and neither had their friends and neighbors.
She and Olivia might not be lovers, but Natalia was in love with her all the same.
As Natalia got ready for bed she made a mental list of what steps needed to be taken to reclaim her happiness. Two things in particular needed to be taken care of first thing tomorrow.
She climbed into bed feeling tired, yet rejuvenated.
"Dear God," she began her prayers, "thank you for all your blessings, and for helping me to see the signs you've so clearly laid before me."
Olivia had just shut off the shower and was reaching for a towel when a knock sounded on the bathroom door.
"Olivia, I've got to run an errand this morning. Emma's downstairs eating breakfast, and the bus will be here in twenty minutes."
"Um, okay," Olivia answered through the door, trying not to sound disappointed. It was ridiculous. Just because they wouldn't be riding to work together didn't mean that Natalia was regretting the kiss. This wasn't the first time she'd had to drive separately. It was fine. Everything was…
"Can I open the door for a second?"
The question startled Olivia out of her thoughts. She wrapped the fluffy towel around herself quickly, and took two steps toward the door. "Sure."
Natalia poked her head into the steamy room, and Olivia was dazzled by the smile that greeted her. It took her a moment to realize that Natalia was holding out a cup of coffee.
"Good morning," Natalia said, handing Olivia the mug. "I thought you might want this."
"Thanks." Olivia could feel her cheeks heat, and was glad that the shower would conceal it. Natalia was still smiling at her. It was making Olivia's heart do funny things.
"I'll be at the Beacon by ten at the latest."
Olivia barely heard her, as Natalia choose that moment to brush an errant drop of water from her neck. She watched as Natalia's fingers trailed down her bare shoulder and arm to lightly entwine with hers. A quick squeeze and Natalia was backing out the door.
It took Olivia's mind at least two minutes to stop shrieking ohmygodohmygodohmygod. The kiss from the night before had been one thing, but the coffee and the touching and the blatant way that Natalia's eyes had roamed over her body. "She was totally checking me out!" Natalia covered her mouth, realizing that she'd shouted.
She downed the coffee, wincing a little at how hot it was, before giving herself a mental shake and heading back to her room to get ready. Only later, after she'd put Emma on the bus and was locking the kitchen door did she realize that the hand that had mapped the contours of her body had been bereft one engagement ring.
Natalia had been sitting in her car in Frank's driveway for a while. It wasn't that she was rethinking her decision, far from that. She was trying to remember why she had ever considered Frank's proposal in the first place. She desperately wanted not to hurt him, but she also would not entertain any future scenario that did not involved Olivia. And male fantasies aside, she wasn't interested in sharing.
She glanced at her watch and realized that she was running out of time. He would be leaving for work soon. Natalia opened her door and walked up the path to the side door. She was only slightly surprised to see Frank waiting for her in the open doorway. He saluted her with his coffee mug.
"Good morning Frank." Natalia wasn't sure what to make of Frank's mood. He didn't seem angry or upset, but he definitely wasn't his usual jovial self.
"So you're hear to have the talk with me." It wasn't a question.
Frank gave her a sad smile. "Natalia in all the time that we've been dating you've been to my house exactly three times. None of them without calling first, and none of them at eight o'clock in the morning on a work day." He reached over and gently clasped her left hand. "And you're not wearing your engagement ring."
Natalia looked down at his hand holding hers. "I can't marry you Frank."
"I know. I think I've always know." He gave a self-depreciating laugh. "I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop since you said yes. Last night I realized that it already had."
Natalia looked up into his sad eyes. "I'm so sorry."
Frank smiled and gave her hand a squeeze before releasing it. "I was the happiest man in Springfield for two weeks Natalia. That's got to count for something." He finished his coffee with one last gulp. "I have to head in to the station, and I'm sure you need to get to work too." He gave her one last smile. It didn't reach his eyes.
She watched him close the door. Slowly she pulled the small box out of her coat pocket and placed it on the bench next to the door.
Natalia got back into the car and pulled back out onto the road. "One down, one to go."
Rafe looked worried when he came into the visitor's room. It was a random Tuesday morning, outside of the regular second Saturday of the month when inmates were allowed to see friends and family members. Natalia knew that she was only being allowed to see him because of her perceived relationship with Frank. For once her Catholic guilt seemed to have granted her amnesty.
"Mom, what's wrong? Is Emma okay? Olivia?" Rafe stepped as close as he was allowed, mindful of the guard standing on the other side of the room.
Natalia found it incredibly telling that her son's first concerns were for Emma and Olivia, that Frank didn't even cross his mind. Yet another sign. "No, nothing is wrong. They're fine."
"Oh, good." The worry left his face, replaced by confusion. "What are you doing here then?"
"I wanted to talk to you about something." Natalia hadn't really thought about what she was going to say to Rafe. She'd only known that before anything could proceed further she had to have this discussion. Taking a deep breath, "A few months ago I started having doubts about myself. I was having these thoughts and feelings that didn't seem like a good idea. They just weren't me, and they scared me."
If anything Rafe looked confused. He nodded his head slowly, trying to figure out where his mother was going with this.
"My first reaction was to just pretend that they weren't there, that I wasn't having them. When that didn't work I tried to find other things…" Natalia's voice broke, thinking of the night she'd thrown herself into Frank's arms, "to drive these thoughts away." She shook her head, taking a moment to steady herself. "Nothing worked. Not running, not praying. Nothing."
"I fell in love. It wasn't anything horrible or bad, I wasn't bad. It just is. I am in love." A bright smile lit Natalia's face even as tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Call me crazy Mom, but we're not talking about Frank, are we?" Rafe was grinning.
Natalia laughed. "No, we're not."
"So, should I be expecting Olivia soon -- to come and ask my permission to court you?"
Olivia walked up the stairs after her daughter with a smile on her face. She was still pleasantly full from the amazing diner that Natalia had made for them, and when she'd offered to clean up the other woman had swatted her. Literally, she'd actually turned her around, pointed Olivia toward the door and swatted her on the butt.
"It's your turn to read to Emma."
Olivia had laughed and followed her equally amused daughter out of the kitchen. Natalia had been acting odd since the night before. Well, not odd precisely. Her smiles were back, her teasing, her touchy-feely brand of affection. Emma had even whispered to her before diner that "the old" Natalia was back. Olivia had nodded along with her daughter, but she didn't quite agree.
"The old" Natalia had never touched her like she did this morning, and she'd certainly never given her the long, lingering caress of the eyes Olivia had been receiving all day. If it weren't for the tingling still radiating from her left cheek, she'd swear that she'd finally taken a nose dive off the sanity train.
Olivia helped Emma get ready for bed, but before she could even open the book, the little girl pulled her close.
"Mommy, I'm glad that Natalia's happy again. I didn't like it when she was sad," Emma whispered into Olivia's ear.
"Me too Jellybean."
Olivia started reading a few moments later. When Olivia read the part where Anne and Gilbert tie for best score on the Queens entrance exam, Emma clapped and cheered. Olivia stumbled a bit over the words describing Anne's cold treatment of Gilbert after the results, thinking back to her conversation with Natalia from the night before. Anne was truly pig-headed.
"It's okay Mommy." Emma patted Olivia's arm. "Anne and Gilbert won't always be mean to each other."
"They won't?" Olivia questioned, touched that her daughter was trying to comfort her. "Have you been reading ahead?"
Emma shook her head. "No, Natalia told me that they become best friends, like you guys."
Olivia raised her eyebrows. "Like us?"
Natalia thought they'd end up like Anne and Gilbert? Olivia couldn't help but smile at that. "Okay then, I won't worry about them then."
She finished the chapter and tucked in Emma with a kiss. "Sweet dreams Jellybean."
"You too," the little girl mumbled sleepily.
The lights in the living room were off when Olivia came back downstairs. She was immediately disappointed that Natalia had gone to bed. It was early still, and she'd hoped they'd get a chance to spend the rest of the evening talking again. Besides, she was incredibly curious about the other woman's behavior and wanted a chance to investigate further. The kiss, the ring or lack of one, the flirtatiousness; these were all telling Olivia that Natalia might be willing to consider…
Olivia walked into the kitchen and stopped at the sight that greeted her. The lights were off in here as well, but unlike the living room it wasn't dark. Dozens of tea lights laid out a path on the floor. The back door had been propped open allowing the small candles to wind through it and out to the yard. She had a horrible thought for just a second that Frank was responsible for all this. That it was some elaborate romantic apology to Natalia, and that she was going to walk outside and find them in one of the embraces she'd been forced to witness so often of late. She dismissed the idea almost as soon as she thought it. It just wasn't Frank's style. Which left her with only one other option. Olivia raised an eyebrow and set off on the path. This was definitely not the old Natalia.
The candles led Olivia to the bench that they so often sat on. Larger candles were placed on the surrounding ground, and Natalia was standing next to it, a single daisy held in her hand. Olivia continued walking until she stood a foot away from the other woman.
"Hi." Natalia's voice was soft. She extended the flower to Olivia, smiling when it was taken.
"Hi." Olivia honestly didn't know what else to say. This didn't even seem possible. She questioned her sanity yet again.
"Do you remember when Anne finally realizes that she's in love with Gilbert?"
Olivia frowned a bit at the apparent non sequitur. "Um, it's at the end of the second book. They're getting ready to go to Redmond and she realizes that…"
"Love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship." Natalia twined her fingers with Olivia's.
Olivia felt like she was drowning in the brown eyes before her. The love shining out of them could not be written off to insanity or misunderstanding. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Tears were already gathering in Olivia's eyes.
"I'm saying that I love you. That somewhere between bullying you and feeding you and making a life with you I fell in love with you Olivia Spenser."
Olivia closed her eyes and smiled. Whatever higher power ruled the universe was apparently back on the job. She sent a very quick but heartfelt prayer of thanks out to them. Olivia opened her eyes and looked at the woman she loved.
"Natalia I love you. I love you so much."
Both women leaned in, their lips meeting with a joyfulness that neither woman had experienced before. The candles had burned down to nothing by the time they finally ventured, hand in hand back inside their farmhouse and into their new life.