DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was inspired by the absolutely amazing job OC did in her scenes on Friday. I lost track of the number of times I replayed her part on youtube, and by Sunday this little story would not leave me alone. Thank you to my awesome editors, pdt_bear, rysler, q_wordy13, and wonkots42. Their suggestions helped immensely, and any remaining errors remain solely my own.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
All Things are Difficult Before They are Easy
Doris downed her shot, aware of Buzz's concerned gaze the whole time. She shook her head slightly when he held up the bottle to pour another one, reminding herself resignedly that she did need to go back to work eventually. As she pulled herself up off of the stool, Buzz poured coffee into a travel mug and handed it to her, saying, "Don't worry about it" when she started to open her purse to pay. "You look like you need it."
Smiling tremulously, she took the coffee and left, intending to go back to city hall and attempt to run the town. Ten minutes later though, she found herself in the park, seated on a bench with sunglasses on hoping to hide the tears running down her cheeks. What she wouldn't give for a hat right then, she didn't know.
Blake was having a great day, and it wasn't even close to being over yet. The book would be published, the restaurant was saved, and she'd finagled payment for her "editor." Ashlee's excitement was infectious, and after an hour of trying to read through a new manuscript, she gave up and decided to go for a walk. She had energy to burn.
Twenty minutes and a caramel latte later, she was walking along the lake when she saw Doris sitting on a bench just off the path, wearing a rather large pair of sunglasses. Grinning, she dropped down onto the bench beside her. "Hey, Doris," she greeted cheerfully. "Did Ashlee tell you the good news?"
She didn't notice the choked laugh the mayor gave before answering softly, "No No, she didn't."
"Oh " That deflated her a little; she'd been wanting to tell someone about her brilliance, but she shrugged it off. "Well, I won't spoil it for you then." She glanced at the other woman in time to see her take a sip of her coffee. "Oh, I meant to ask, was there something you needed from me?"
Doris did look at her then, not following. "Huh?"
"Yesterday? You stopped by my room?"
"Oh, that." Doris shook her head and looked down at her hands. "I was looking for Olivia, and heard Ashlee's voice as I was walking by, that's all." Her voice caught as she said her daughter's name, and for the first time, Blake really looked at her.
In the sunlight, she could see dried tear tracks on the mayor's cheek. She gently touched her wrist, wrapping her fingers delicately around it, and asked, "Are you ok?"
Doris pulled away from her and looked out over the water. "I'm fine," she muttered.
"Doris," Blake said quietly, unconvinced, taking hold of her wrist again. With her other hand, she reached up and gently pulled the sunglasses off the mayor's face. Doris closed her eyes, but sat quietly while Blake tucked her hair back behind her ear and then traced a fingertip lightly under her eye. "You are so not fine," she murmured, taking in the flushed cheeks and smeared mascara and, when Doris blinked her eyes open, the redness in them. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong," Doris hissed, tugging her arm away as she grabbed her sunglasses from Blake's lap and tried to stand.
Blake tightened her grip enough to yank the other woman back down onto the bench. "The Doris Wolfe we all know does not sit in the park crying in the middle of the day. What happened?"
"Why do you care, Blake? We hardly know each other."
Blake sighed patiently, sliding her hand down Doris' wrist to hold her hand. "We may not be friends, but that doesn't mean you don't need one right now." When Doris just looked at her, she sighed again, frustrated. "Look, I know everyone sees me as the town gossip queen, but I promise, whatever you tell me, I won't say anything to anyone." She paused, waiting for a response that never came, and added earnestly, "You can trust me."
Doris laughed mirthlessly at that. "I don't trust anyone." When Blake just kept watching her, she set her sunglasses carefully in her purse. "Ashlee's mad at me." That sounded pathetic, saying it out loud. "I don't know if she'll be able to forgive me this time."
To her credit, Blake didn't laugh. She had no trouble seeing that this was not a laughing matter, not some trivial mother-daughter squabble. She just squeezed the hand she was holding, surprised and pleased when Doris tightened her own grip.
"What she said yesterday, about not knowing anything about me? She's right. I've been keeping something from her for her entire life, and it's damaged our relationship. But I told her some of it, this morning. I should have told her years ago, I know that, I know I should have But every time I tried I got scared, and so she's spent her life thinking I didn't love her, that I thought she wasn't good enough, when the whole time it was me. The person I hated, the one that wasn't good enough, was me." Doris' voice was soft, thick with the tears she thought she'd already shed enough of. "She walked away from me. I told her, and she just walked away."
Blake carefully raised her free arm and rested it on the back of the bench, fingers playing lightly with Doris' hair. She bit back the urge to try and rush her; she was surprised enough already that Doris was actually talking to her, and she didn't want to scare her off. She did edge a little closer, pressing their legs together and moving their joined hands to rest on her knee.
For awhile she didn't think the other woman would say anything else, but start again she did, though Blake had to lean in to hear her she was speaking so quietly, her head turned away.
"I've known I liked girls women since I was twelve. I didn't understand it, didn't learn the words for it for years, but I knew it was different. I realized people thought it was wrong in high school, when I finally understood what the priest was talking about when he spoke from Leviticus. And I didn't want to be different, I wanted to fit in, even though I never really did, so I dated a couple boys, but it was never right.
"It wasn't until college that I met other people like me. I finally fit in somewhere, and decided to hell with my parents, I wanted to live my life for me. I met someone there; we were together for six years, from the last year of college, both our graduate degrees, and my first years with the D.A. in Cleveland. Karen. We were committed to each other, I thought, until I brought up having a family one day. Turned out, she didn't want kids, and I have always wanted them. The only part of me true to the Irish Catholic, I guess, wanting a big family.
"She didn't, but I went ahead anyway, to the clinic, and when I told her I was pregnant, she left me. It wasn't what she wanted and she left. I left Cleveland and went home for awhile, to get away and figure out what to do next, only to have my parents kick me out three months later when I started showing. They disowned me completely, but then I had Ashlee and it didn't matter. She was perfect. She has always been perfect.
"And then she was seven, and asking me why she didn't have a daddy like all the other kids at school, and I tried to tell her, I did, but I chickened out. I didn't want people to hurt her because of me. I wanted to protect her, I've always wanted to protect her, but I screwed it up, every time. I was the one who was mean to her; that hurt her. I ruined her life."
Blake had gone completely still after that first sentence. Whatever it was that she was expecting to hear, this definitely wasn't it. Doris' hand had gone completely limp in her own, but Blake could feel her trembling where her other hand rested on the back of her neck. Doris didn't bother to wipe away the fresh tears on her face, and Blake wondered if the other woman even realized that she'd started crying again.
"I don't think you ruined her life," she interjected, when Doris paused to draw in a ragged breath.
Doris jerked away from her, looking as if she'd forgotten she was actually talking to someone. For the first time, she met Blake's eyes, and realized that the publisher hadn't pulled away from her confession. "What makes you say that?"
"Ashlee is a happy young woman. She doesn't act like someone who thinks their life has been ruined; you want to see that, look at Rafe Rivera. She's working, she's got friends, she doesn't spend all day complaining about you, and she's not bitter. She loves you."
"Have things been easy between you two?" she went on. "No, they haven't. But despite everything, jail, Cooper, the election, she loves you, and she wants to know you."
Doris sniffed, looked at her lap, and then rubbed her eyes. "She's so angry at me."
"She'll get past it." Blake smiled encouragingly when Doris eyed her in disbelief. "She will! Have you kept something important from her? Yes. But you told her. It took a while, but you started the process of letting her in. Give her some time to think it through, settle into it. It's big news, but you can build on this. It's not too late."
Doris pulled her hand out of Blake's grasp, and this time, Blake let her. She shifted on the bench and wrapped her arm more firmly around Doris' shoulders. "You were very brave today," she mused, watching Doris watch the ducks in the lake.
Doris laughed a real laugh this time, at that. "I'm sitting in a park crying my eyes out. You call that brave?"
"Yes," Blake replied with a charming smile.
Because it was there, Blake leaned her head against Doris' shoulder, her arm dropping down between the bench and the Doris' back. "Does anyone else know," she asked a moment later.
"Olivia and Natalia," was the reply.
"You told them?"
"No. Olivia found out and told Natalia. It's a long story." Doris sounded a little guilty, and Blake couldn't help but remember a news conference from that winter, where no one had been named, but there'd been rumors after that of some interestingly defensive behavior from one Olivia Spencer.
"Hmm," was all she said. There were other days to come to get to the bottom of that story.
They sat there for a while longer, and Doris started to relax against her. "Are you going to be ok?" she asked quietly.
Doris didn't answer right away. "I think so," she said in the end. "I'll give her time. She had to wait twenty years for me to be honest with her, I can wait for her. As long as I need to."
Doris reached out tentatively and took Blake's hand. "Thank you."
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