DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
With a smile and a sigh, Doris Wolfe closed her eyes in contentment and slipped off her shoes. It was lunchtime and she was alone, and she could relax for ten minutes before having to put the mask back on and be the Mayor again. Alone time, she called it. She even had it pencilled in to her calendar with the initials AT. All her staff knew what it meant, and that she was not to be disturbed during it.
Olivia Spencer, however, didn't know. And if she had she wouldn't have cared.
"Can I talk to you?"
As soon as Doris heard the words and - more importantly - the voice she knew her alone time for the day was over. "Is there anything I could say that would stop you?" she asked, opening her eyes to see the aforementioned Ms Spencer standing in front of her and impatiently tapping her foot.
"No," Olivia said.
Doris groaned. "Well, I appreciate your honesty. I suppose." She gestured magnanimously to the chair on the opposite side of her desk. "Have a seat."
Olivia sat down, perched on the edge of the seat as if ready to pounce. "How the hell do you deal with it?" she asked.
Doris shook her head. "Uh...deal with what?"
Olivia threw her hands in the air. "Women!" she exclaimed. "Fucking women and their fucking bullshit!"
"Could you keep your voice down?" Doris hissed, glancing over at the door. Thankfully her secretary had gone for a quick break and wasn't around to hear Olivia's outburst.
"Sorry," Olivia said, and seemed to genuinely mean it. The chair scraped across the floor as she stood up, exchanging awkward sitting for pacing. "But seriously, Doris, how do you do it?"
Doris smiled, two parts amused and one part sad. "I don't, Olivia. I haven't had a relationship in...oh...ten years? Being in the closet and having occasional one night stands is a really good way of avoiding the - as you say - 'bullshit'."
Olivia stopped in her tracks. There was sympathy in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
Doris squirmed. "Oh dear sweet flying spaghetti monster, don't do that."
"That feeling sorry for me crap," she said. "I've made my choices, Olivia, and I don't want pity."
Olivia waved a hand dismissively in the air. "Fine," she said. "Whatever."
Doris cleared her throat. "I assume you came here to talk about Natalia," she said, trying to get Olivia back on track, but the other woman just shook her head.
"You know what, I'm sorry I bothered you," she said. "I need to get back to work." She grabbed her bag from the floor and made for the door, pausing briefly when she got there. "Flying spaghetti monster?" she asked over her shoulder. Doris sighed deeply.
"Google it," she said.
With that Olivia rolled her eyes and left, leaving Doris behind with silence, stillness and the unmistakable beginnings of a headache.
Blake Marler allowed her assistant to mope for a full two hours before she decided to meddle. She was pretty proud of herself. That was damn near a record for her, after all. She remembered the days when the mere hint of turmoil in her friends' private lives would have set her salivating like Pavlov's dog - but those were the days before Natalia had trusted her, and allowed her into her life. Before she'd been given the gift of this woman's friendship. But, while she was keen to show Natalia that her trust was not misplaced, there was only so much misery she could take.
"Okay, what is it?" she demanded, tossing her pen down onto the table and giving her assistant her full attention.
"Huh?" Natalia answered as if from a great distance.
"You've been skulking around all day like someone kicked your puppy. Come on." She patted the seat next to her. "Tell me what's wrong."
Natalia flopped down next to her with a sigh. "Don't have a puppy..." she mumbled. Blake smirked.
"Aw, is that it?" she asked. "Big bad Olivia won't let you get a puppy?"
Natalia shot her a withering look. "Why does everyone have to make fun of me?" she said angrily. "Why am I always the butt of everyone's jokes, huh?"
Blake sat back a little in her seat, completely nonplussed by the other woman's tone. "I'm sorry?" she began, but Natalia cut her off.
"I'm going for my break now," she said. "I'll see you this afternoon."
And with that she swept out the door and left Blake alone with silence, stillness and - yes - the unmistakable beginnings of a headache.
Doris sank down onto the barstool with an audible sigh. "Hey," she called to the bartender, and held her thumb and forefinger about three inches apart. "Give me that much vodka," she said, then shortened the distance between her fingers by half, "and that much cranberry juice. With ice."
A weary sigh behind her distracted her attention. "Oh, that sounds good," said a familiar voice. "Get me one of those too, would you?"
Doris raised an eyebrow and smirked just a little, but when the bartender returned with both drinks she instructed him to put them both on her tab. "Cheers," she said, reaching up to clink her glass together with Blake's before taking a long sip.
"You seem like you've had a hell of a morning," Blake said, grimacing a little at the strength of her drink.
"Oh, the morning was just fine," Doris replied with a rueful smile. "It's the last half hour or so that gave me the need for this."
Blake drummed her fingers on the bar. "Let me guess," she said. "Olivia?"
Doris held up her glass in a mini toast. "Got it in one, Ms Marler, got it in one."
It was no secret these days that Olivia Spencer and the Mayor had struck up an odd kind of friendship. They were often seen together around town, having lunch at Company or drinks at Towers. She was a frequent dinner guest at the Spencer-Rivera farmhouse too - about as frequent as Blake herself, in fact.
"Yeah, I figured as much," said Blake, taking another brave sip of her drink. "Natalia's been in full on victim mode all day. I guess they had a fight."
Doris rolled her eyes. "I am getting so sick of this," she said sharply, surprising the other woman with the vehemence in her tone. "I mean, do they have any idea how lucky they are? They fought tooth and nail to get to where they are. They had to fight with Frank, and Rafe, and that goddamn priest, not to mention their own fucked up expectations. But they made it. They won the prize, they got the brass ring. They got each other, didn't they? So why is Olivia in my office every other week complaining about some minuscule misunderstanding? Don't they know how many people would give anything to have what they have?" She finished her rant with a hard slap on the surface of the bar and a grimace.
Blake blinked once, then twice, and filed away the emotional outburst for a later date. She had a feeling the good Mayor wasn't just talking about just any hypothetical people. That had sounded a little too personal. "Okay," she said. "How about we get to the bottom of this one?"
Doris downed the last of her drink. "What do you mean?"
Blake shrugged. "You call Olivia," she said. "I'll call Natalia. We'll get them together and force them to talk this out. If only to get them out of our hair."
Doris seemed to consider the idea for a moment, then pulled out her cellphone.
A half hour later, four women sat squashed into a booth at Company. Olivia and Natalia sat opposite one another, arms crossed and glaring, while Blake and Doris sat next to their respective friends, blocking their escape.
"I'll have a Buzz burger with extra cheese and bacon," Doris was saying, ignoring the tension crackling between Olivia and Natalia. "Large curly fries, onion rings, and..." she closed the menu, smiling up at Buzz, "ice tea."
Blake nudged the Mayor with her foot under the table. "Are you feeding a third world country?" she asked caustically. Doris rolled her eyes.
"I always order extra because Olivia always steals from my plate," she said. Olivia scoffed.
"Well, maybe if someone let me order what I actually feel like," she said, shooting Natalia a glance.
"Fine, have a heart attack, be my guest," Natalia snapped back. "I just hope I'm around to reboot you like last time."
Olivia sank back into her seat. "Resuscitate," she mumbled under her breath.
Blake turned to Buzz with a patient smile. "I'll have a grilled cheese sandwich and a coffee," she said. "And the warring parties will both have water." She turned to Natalia. "You can eat when you make up."
But that didn't seem to be on the cards anytime soon. They sat in total silence for fifteen whole minutes, until the food was delivered and Olivia's lips twitched and Doris suddenly knew that the way to reconciliation was definitely through Olivia's stomach.
"Mmmm," she moaned around an onion ring. "Wow, that is really good."
"I hate you," Olivia grumbled.
Doris laughed. "I'm happy to share," she said, watching Olivia's lips purse. "As soon as you and your paramour tell us what's got your collective panties in a bunch."
Olivia shot Doris a look of pure venom, and then leaned forward. "Okay," she said to Natalia. "Can you explain to me again why wanting a silver ring means I don't love you?"
Doris met Blake's eyes. Ring? she mouthed. Blake shook her head. That was news to her too.
"That's not what I said," Natalia replied vehemently. "It's just that gold is symbolic and if I'm going to marry someone, then I want to know that it's precious to them."
Olivia threw her hands in the air. "Of course it's precious to me!" she exclaimed. "It's precious to me because you're precious to me. I just don't like gold jewellery!"
Blake shook her head and held up her hands. "Wait a minute," she interrupted. "Just wait one gosh-darned minute here. You're getting married?"
Olivia and Natalia glared at each other, breath coming hard and nostrils flared, for ten more seconds. Then Natalia looked away. "Yes," she said softly. "We're getting married."
For a moment Doris wasn't quite sure how to react. Then one emotion made itself known over the tumult raging in the pit of her stomach - annoyance. "Are you kidding me?" she demanded. "You're getting married - married - and you're arguing about what metal the ring should be made of? Are you shitting me?"
The couple had the grace to look sheepish. "Well," Olivia began, but Doris cut her off.
"Jesus tap-dancing Christ," she muttered. "I take it all back. No-one should be envious of you two. You're fucking insane."
Natalia frowned. "Envious? What?"
Blake spotted the twitch around the Mayor's eye and quickly distracted Natalia's attention. "Okay, Natalia," she said. "So you want a precious metal for the symbolism, and she wants silver for the aesthetics, is that right?" Slowly the two of them nodded, twin blushes painting their cheeks. Blake grinned. "Then, if I may be so bold, may I suggest...platinum?"
Olivia sat stunned for a full thirty seconds, then extended her hand with a cautious smile. "Uhm...that could work," she said, brushing her fingers over Natalia's hopefully.
"It could," Natalia allowed, tangling her fingers together with Olivia's with a small smile.
"Oh halle-fucking-lujah," grumbled Doris. She pushed her plate across to Olivia, suddenly losing her appetite. "Glad you managed to work that one out, ladies. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a city to run."
Olivia and Natalia shared a troubled look. "Is she okay?" Natalia asked doubtfully. Blake shook her head.
"I don't think so," she said. She handed her own plate to Natalia. "I'll take care of it," she said. "You two stay here and have lunch. And take the rest of the day off, okay?" She smiled. "Consider it an early wedding present."
She found Doris in the parking lot leaning against her car and hugging her torso. Blake felt a pang of pity rush through her, although she was careful to keep it from her voice. "Hey," she said. "What's wrong?"
Doris shrugged with one shoulder. "Nothing."
Blake leaned on the car beside her. "It doesn't look like nothing," she said benignly. Doris scraped her hands through her hair and sighed.
"They just...make me so damn angry sometimes," she admitted. "They've got everything. The home, the family, the love. And they seem to be desperate for ways to screw it up."
Blake considered that for a moment, then reached out to take Doris's hand. The Mayor turned her head sharply, but didn't pull away. "They've got everything you wish you had," Blake said.
Doris pursed her lips, then closed her eyes and sighed. "Yes," she admitted. Blake squeezed her hand.
"You could have all that if you wanted to," she said. "You're a beautiful woman. You're available. And you're a lot nicer than you like to let on." She smiled. "What's stopping you?"
Doris sighed. "What indeed," she murmured. There was pain in her voice - pain, and shame, and a dozen other things Blake couldn't name, but none of them were good. She felt her heart clench in compassion and - to her surprise - interest. She paused for a moment, studying the other woman's profile.
"Are you gay?" she said suddenly. The other woman tensed and tried to pull away, but Blake wouldn't let her go. "It doesn't matter if you are," she said hurriedly. "I mean, I won't tell anyone if it's a secret. But...are you?"
Doris bit her lip. For a long moment she said nothing. "Yes," she whispered finally. "Yes, okay?"
Blake stood quietly for a moment as she absorbed that information. Her thumb caressed the knuckles of the Mayor's hand softly and rhythmically. Her eyes ghosted over Doris's profile, taking in the hard set of her jaw and the barely perceptible trembling round her mouth. She was scared, Blake realised. Her heart began to beat just a little bit faster. What was she so scared of?
"Would you like to go for a drive with me?" Blake asked. Her voice was lower than normal, and slightly husky. Doris blinked.
"A drive," Blake repeated. "There's a spot I like to go to, out in the woods. Very beautiful, very...secluded." She glanced up at Doris through her eyelashes, a small smile spreading across her face. "I'd really like to show it to you."
Doris stood stock still, like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights. "Uhm..." she said at last, then swallowed hard. "Okay..."
Blake grinned. "Great," she said, then tugged on her hand. "Come on, I'm parked over there."
Doris followed her closely, slightly in a daze. Blake didn't let go of her hand.
Back in the restaurant Olivia and Natalia were also holding hands, gazing into each others eyes like there was no one else in the world.
"I'm sorry I was so silly," Natalia said bashfully. Olivia shook her head.
"I'm sorry I didn't try to see it from your point of view," she said. "Forgive me?"
Natalia smiled. "Always," she assured her. "Always."
Olivia smiled and leaned over the table. "Thank you," she whispered, then kissed her fiancée - she didn't think she'd get tired of that - their argument swiftly forgotten, just like all their other arguments, with the help of their confidantes.
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