DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
TIMELINE: Takes place during the engagement party which Olivia plans for Natalia and Frank.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"It's just a little sparkling water. It's got bubbles too."
Natalia smiles, but you don't smile back. You're not sure whether she's making fun of you, not sure whether she expects you to laugh. Normally you can gauge her tone exactly, but tonight your head is fuzzy with champagne. Champage which you've been drinking to block it all out. To block her out. Tonight you can't bear to be around her for another moment, not when it means watching her be with someone else. So you snap at her instead. Ask her if you're embarrassing her. Make her feel awkward. Accuse her of trying to control your life. Anything so that she'll go away and leave you to wallow in your misery. Alone.
But as she turns to leave, you see the hurt in her eyes, and you instantly regret your earlier words. You can't bear for her to leave, knowing that you've done that to her. Knowing that you've tarnished the evening which you so carefully planned for her. All you want is for her to be happy. So you call her back, your voice softer this time. You need to make this right, for both of your sakes.
She leaves the safety of the doorway and steps forward tentatively into the room. Your name is on her lips in a warning before you have even begun to speak. Deep down, she knows what you want to say. And she also knows that some things can never be unsaid. She's terrified, you can see it in her eyes.
Terrified of what?
Terrified that you'll embarrass her, here in front of Emma and all your friends? Or terrified because she knows why? Because she knows why you're doing this, hiding up here in your bedroom, with glass after glass of champagne, while everyone else is downstairs, celebrating her 'love' for Frank.
Everyone else is downstairs, but she's still up here with you. She came to you, as she always has done, as she always will. You look at her carefully, your gaze travelling slowly across her features. She's beautiful. She should be glowing. Tonight should be one of the happiest nights of her life, but you suddenly realise that you've never seen her look so sad.
You reach out and take the glass from her hands, pulling her closer. A silent tear escapes from the corner of her eye and trickles slowly down her cheek. She doesn't flinch as you reach out with your thumb and gently wipe it away. You could spend forever wiping away her tears. But right now, you have tears in your own eyes. Right now, there's something else you need to do.
The world melts away. The people downstairs are no more than a blur of noise. In this moment, there is just you and her.
"What's the matter?" you say softly, knowing the answer already as you reach out again to stroke her cheek with the back of your hand.
She shakes her head gently, but leans into your hand all the same. Her lips graze your knuckles and you think you might faint from the fluttering in your stomach. She takes a deep breath but she can't say it and you know she never will. She can't bring herself to shatter this pretense you've both so carefully built around yourselves.
You think she's done, you think she's ready to turn and leave, like you've both done so many times before, but then she utters a single word, so quietly that it takes you a moment to realise that you've heard it at all.
The question could mean a thousand things, but you know exactly what she's asking. You know what she's asking, but you don't have the words to explain. You don't think you'll ever find the words to tell her how you feel.
So instead you do what you did the last time your words couldn't make her understand. You lean in, you take her face in your hands, and you kiss her. Slowly and gently, giving her every chance to stop you as your lips inch towards hers. But unlike last time, she doesn't squeal and pull away. Unlike last time, her eyes are full, not of surprise, but love. Unlike last time, her lips part in a soft moan, inviting your tongue, which finds no resistance as it slips between them. Unlike last time, she returns the kiss and drinks you in as you drink her.
Around you, the walls all come crashing down. Downstairs, reality waits, cold, threatening and harsh, ready for you to maintain the illusion. But here, on the island that is this room, her arms tighten around you and there are only the two of you, clinging to each other to save yourselves from drowning. There are only the two of you and you are kissing her and she is kissing you back.
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