DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just a little aside.. peanut butter has always been one of the four food groups for me, but I've developed an entirely new appreciation for it. heh. Just had to get that off my chest.
SPOILERS: Week of April 20th. Best week of TV ever. (For now).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Natalia's heart was pounding so hard and loud in her chest that she barely heard the ringing of her cell phone. That oh so brief encounter at Olivia's door had totally shaken her to her core. She had always known that Olivia Spencer was an extremely intense and passionate person. She'd just never had that intensity and passion focused on her before and it made her knees weak. Never in her life would she have considered simple hand holding to be erotic, but combine that with those incredible eyes and Natalia was seriously wondering how she'd been able to say goodnight at all, much less with a steady voice. She was also wondering whether or not she'd actually be able to survive a relationship with this woman, if such an innocuous touch could nearly knock her legs out from under her.
Sighing, she reached into her pocket for her cell phone, more to stop the irritating ringing that had disturbed her heat inducing thoughts than out of any real curiosity as to who it was.
Oh God. "Frank?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I know you probably want to be alone right now ."
Not totally true, Natalia thought with a somewhat inappropriate, slow smile.
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay." The concern in her former fiancés voice caused another wave of guilt to wash over her.
"I'm okay, Frank. Really. I'm just sad that Rafe had to go to the halfway house earlier because of " she couldn't finish the thought for multiple reasons.
"I'm sorry I couldn't do more," Frank said soberly.
"It's alright, Frank. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have had him for as long as I did. I just tell myself that this means he'll be released a few days earlier."
Frank sighed. "You're amazing," he said in that tone of voice that had tended to make Natalia uncomfortable.
Natalia knew the time had come. She needed to set things right with Frank so that she could finally relax and start to enjoy her relationship with Olivia. "Do you want to come over tonight? We need to talk," she rushed to add that last part, wanting to stave off any false hopes he may read into the invitation.
"I'd love to," Frank said happily, squashing Natalia's expectations.
"Great. How about an hour?"
"That sounds wonderful. I really think that this will be good for us."
"Frank, I don't " Natalia stopped. She knew she was going to have to be brutally honest with him and she couldn't do it over the phone. "I'll see you then. "
Frank agreed and Natalia hung up, not surprised in the least when her thoughts instantly drifted back to the woman she'd just left.
Olivia didn't know how much time had passed before she was finally able to move away from the door without fear of collapse.
She couldn't stop the race of her pulse as she relived the encounter with Natalia. She'd been wanting this for so long and what had happened went way beyond even her wildest hopes. Natalia loved her. Olivia couldn't stop the dreamy smile from once more crossing her face as she changed clothes. God, she had wanted to kiss her so badly and it seemed that Natalia was almost waiting for it too, but neither one of them could make that move. Olivia was glad in a way. This was all so new for both of them and Olivia had done so many things wrong in her past, that this time she wanted to do everything the right way. Though, Olivia thought with a small shiver, if Natalia had of smiled that beautiful smile of hers just one more time, she would have said to hell with 'right'.
Olivia ordered a coffee from downstairs and went to stand on the balcony. She thought back to their exchange at Emma's school. She had been hurt by Natalia's failure to step up and tell Frank about their feelings. The thought that Natalia was ashamed of her came close to destroying her, but then Natalia showed up at the Beacon and forced Olivia to deal with her. She grinned as she remembered how Natalia had lost her temper. She'd seen it before, but knowing that this time the fire was because she was fighting for her, thrilled Olivia, even as she was still struggling to trust Natalia's feelings. No one had ever fought for her before and Olivia wasn't entirely sure what to make of it.
She laughed to herself as she considered everything that happened over the last year. If anyone had told her she'd be mooning over the woman she'd so enjoyed tormenting, she would have either laughed in their face or unleashed a barrage of insults the likes of which Springfield had rarely seen. Now? She couldn't imagine her life without her. She'd told Natalia she'd been in love before, but she suddenly found herself doubting that statement. No one she'd ever been with had ever affected her this way. For the first time in her life, Olivia felt complete, content and at peace.
The knock on the door resulted in an immediate knot in Natalia's belly. She stared longingly at the wine bottle she'd just opened, wishing she could take a quick sip to calm her nerves, but she resisted. She quickly went to let Frank in and nearly panicked when he pulled her into his arms before she could say hello. As gently as she could, she pulled away.
"Hi," she said offering a smile that she hoped was more authentic looking than it felt.
"Hi baby." Frank grinned broadly as he stepped further into the kitchen. "I'm so glad you asked me over. I've been going crazy."
"Frank, I why don't you go on into the living room."
Natalia, trying to stall for time, went to get the wine and glasses and stiffened when she felt Frank behind her.
"Here, let me get "
"I can get it myself," she snapped and then instantly regretted it. She knew he meant well, but she was getting so very tired of being treated like a child.
Frank was a little startled by her tone but he knew she'd been under a lot of stress lately. "Okay. Sure." He offered her a concerned look and then left her alone.
"Oh, Olivia, I wish you were here," Natalia sighed as she poured the wine and went to join Frank.
She handed him a glass and then took a long drink of her own, trying to ignore the way he was looking at her. He really was such a good man and she hated herself for letting things get as far as they had. He didn't deserve to be treated this way.
"So, did Rafe get settled in okay?" Despite everything else, her concern for her son would always take priority and she desperately needed to know he was alright.
"He sure did. He'll be fine there, Natalia. I promise and he'll be home before you know it."
"I hope so." She took another sip of her wine, needing to refocus her mind on the matter at hand.
"How've you been?" Frank finally asked.
"Miserable," Natalia blurted and then looked at Frank, hoping he hadn't misunderstood. Once again, her hopes were in vain.
"Oh, me too Natalia. I've missed you, baby."
"Frank, you don't understand. I "
"I do understand, I swear. I am trying to be patient and give you time to get over Gus, but I just miss you. So much."
Natalia clenched her jaw. Just once she wished someone would let her finish a sentence without interrupting. That goes for you too, Olivia. And she wished he'd stopped talking to her as if she was some delicate addle brained teenager.
"Why do you love me, Frank?" Natalia suddenly asked.
"What exactly is it about me that you love?"
"Natalia, what kind of question is that?" Frank laughed and Natalia realized for the first time, just how condescending it seemed.
"It's a simple question and one I'd like the answer to."
Frank just shook his head. He wasn't sure what was going on in his fiancées head, but he would play along if it made her happy.
"Well, you're incredibly beautiful, for one thing."
"Looks aren't everything," Natalia interjected.
Frank looked a little hurt at that. "Of course not. You're also kind and selfless and your faith in God amazes me. You sacrifice for so many and don't expect anything in return. You're everything I said at the church. And more."
"I see. And why exactly do you want to marry me?"
"Natalia, you know why. I love you. What's this about?" Frank was starting to feel nervous for the first time in months.
"Please Frank? Answer my question."
Frank sighed in frustration. "Okay. I want to marry you because I love you. You fit in so well with my family. They're as crazy about you as I am. I want to take care of you and make sure you don't have to work as hard as you have your whole life. I want to protect and care for you and treat you like the Princess you are."
Natalia appreciated that, she did, but she also couldn't help but feel a little smothered by it. That was the whole problem.
"I'm not a Princess, Frank," she said tiredly. "I'm just a plain, ordinary woman."
"You could never be plain or ordinary," Frank protested.
Natalia offered a half smile of acknowledgement, but she had the answer she needed. Now she had to make Frank see. She sat down next to the older man took his hand.
"Frank, I need you to listen to me and let me finish, okay?"
"Sure," he agreed, growing more and more confused.
"I do love you." The smile that started to cross his face caused her to hold her hand up. "I love how you've always been there for me ad how you've been there for Rafe," she paused, praying for strength. Just like pulling off a band-aid, she coached herself. "I'm not in love with you Frank. Not the way a woman should be with the man she marries."
"I don't understand."
"I don't think you're in love with me either," Natalia continued. When she saw Frank starting to protest she stopped him again.
"Frank, you're a natural protector. It's who you are and that's one of the things I love about you. But I don't need to be protected. I don't need to be taken care of. I only need to be loved."
"Natalia, that's what I want to do," Frank protested.
"I know you think you love me, Frank, but the truth is that you love who you think I am. You have this image of me that I'll never live up to. I'm not a saint, I'm not a woman who's defined by her relationship with God, and I'm not content with merely cooking and sewing and domesticity. I do want more from life. I want passion and desire with someone who truly loves me. All of me, flaws and all. I want someone who'll challenge me, not hold me back, someone who can tell me with just a look, how much they want me."
Frank ran a hand through his hair in resignation. He had lost her and the sad fact was, he couldn't disagree with anything she said, but he still had to try. "I can give you that, Natalia."
Natalia smiled a gentle smile and stroked his cheek. "I know you would give your all to try Frank, but in the end we would both wind up unhappy. You will truly be a wonderful husband, but," she paused as it was time for the final truth. "I already have someone who gives me all that and so much more."
Frank was past being shocked at this point and it was at that moment, the reality he had fought so hard to keep suppressed finally surfaced. "It's Olivia, isn't it?"
Natalia breathed a sigh of relief. "Yes. Yes it is." She found herself blushing at the wistful tone of her own voice.
"When? How?" His addled mind was unable to come up with any more specific questions.
"I don't know when it happened, Frank. I can't remember not loving her. I fought it. I fought it with everything that I am, but at the wedding, standing there, prepared to offer you a heart that no longer belonged to me, I couldn't do it. All I was aware of was Olivia. Olivia who has loved me like no other person ever has. She stood there, not saying a word, watching as I prepared to leave her life forever. She wanted me to marry you Frank. She knew you'd be good to me. She knew you'd love me and care for me. But as I talked to you about love, I heard her crying and it tore me apart. I knew I couldn't lie to you, to myself or to God any longer."
Frank had listened to her monologue in stunned silence. Despite his acknowledgement that Natalia may have been correct in his feelings for her, he couldn't help but feel hurt, betrayed and a little angry. Whenever there was strife in a Cooper's love life, Olivia Spencer was generally behind it. He looked into Natalia's honest, tear filled brown eyes and held back his anger. He didn't understand her feelings. He would never have thought she'd fall for another woman, but he still believed that she would never hurt him maliciously.
"Natalia, I don't know what to say. I wish you had felt you could trust me with this earlier," he said slowly. "Though in retrospect, I'm not entirely sure how I didn't see it for myself. " Frank was smart enough to realize part of his anger was at himself, for being so oblivious to the signs that now seemed so obvious.
"I do know this had to be hard for you to admit to me. I can imagine that you've probably denied it to yourself for even longer than you realize." He finished..
"You're right," Natalia finally acknowledged. "This was not something I expected or even thought could happen to me and it took me a long time to figure out exactly what I was feeling. But now that I know, I can't I can't deny it, Frank. I can't deny her." She looked at him, pleading for him to understand.
Frank nodded and offered a little half smile. "I think I should go." He got to his feet and they walked slowly to the door.
Natalia fought back tears at the dejected look on his face. "I'm so sorry Frank. I never meant to hurt you."
"I know you didn't," he said morosely, "but that doesn't really change the fact that you did."
Natalia knew she deserved that and so much more. Instead, he surprised her with a kiss to the forehead. "Goodbye, Natalia."
Before she could respond, he left the farmhouse and Natalia couldn't hold back the tears any longer. She desperately wished Olivia was there to hold her and tell her it was going to be alright.
Olivia couldn't sleep. She kept replaying the dinner with Natalia over and over and she was a bit surprised that even her fairly active imagination didn't change one single moment of it. Even their slightly awkward, kiss-free goodnight.
Smiling she reached for her phone and dialed. After a few rings, her smile was instantly wiped from her face when she heard Natalia's trembling voice. "Natalia? What happened, are you okay?" Olivia was out of bed and headed to her closet before Natalia answered her.
A little laugh caused some of Olivia's anxiety to die down. "I'm okay, Olivia. Really."
"No you're not. You're crying? What happened?"
"Olivia, please calm down. I'm really not up for a trip across town, just now."
Olivia relaxed as she heard the gentle teasing. "Fine, but tell me why you're crying?" A heavy sigh was the response and she longed to race to the farmhouse and simply hold her.
"Frank just left," Natalia said simply.
"Oh?" Olivia's heart started to pound.
Olivia couldn't help but feel a flicker of fear that the woman she loved was having second thoughts.
"I know what you're thinking Olivia and you need to stop, I meant it's over with me and Frank. And no, I don't regret ending things with Frank, and I sure don't regret loving you. The only thing I regret is hurting a good man."
"I'll never get tired of hearing that," Olivia said softly.
"I do love you," Natalia said firmly. She vowed she would make Olivia trust fully in that one truth if it was the last thing she ever did.
"I love you too," Olivia said, her voice having dropped to that sexy throaty level that caused Natalia's heart to flip.
"Frank knows about us. He's hurt, but I think he understands."
"I'm sorry. For you and Frank," Olivia said sincerely. She was no novice in breaking up relationships, but aside from trying to steal Gus from Natalia, this was the only other time she could remember feeling bad about it.
There was a small but emotion packed silence before Olivia found herself sporting a wicked grin. "You in bed?" She could almost feel the heat from the brunette's blush through the phone and she couldn't hold back a soft laugh. She loved to throw the religious woman off guard.
"Not quite yet. I was right in the middle of changing clothes when you called."
The image hit Olivia's brain like a ton of bricks and she almost dropped the phone. "What?" she croaked and Natalia burst out laughing.
"Want to keep playing?" Natalia asked innocently and Olivia laughed again.
"Fine. You win."
"Yes. I think I definitely did," Natalia replied seriously. "I wish you were here," she added longingly.
"I can be there in less than thirty minutes."
Natalia laughed. "I appreciate that, but I think "
"Alright," Olivia said with a grin. "I'll stay put. Will I will I see you tomorrow?"
As it had just a short while ago, the almost tentative tone of Olivia's voice surprised Natalia. She'd never seen this unsure side of the older woman before and she couldn't help but find it seductive.
"Of course you will, Olivia .we have that meeting with the linen contractors tomorrow."
Olivia grinned. She really loved Natalia's playful side. "Gosh, you're such a romantic," she teased back, relishing the whispered chuckles sounding in her ear.
"Goodnight, Olivia." Natalia finally said.
After an extended pause, both women hung up and turned in, smiling and lost in their own thoughts of what their futures held, knowing only that their futures were forever intertwined.
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