DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sequel to Rainbows Just Fade Away Anyway, Don't They? The title is from this quote: Hark! The merry chimes are pealing, Soft and glad the music swells, Gaily in the night wind stealing, Sweetly sound the wedding bells. - Eliza Cook
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Geekgrrl.lurking[at]gmail.com
Gaily In the Night Wind Stealing
The wedding invitation is still in your trembling hand, clutched tight, like a lifeline. And maybe that's exactly what it is, your way back into the light, scrambling desperately out of the hole that is your life.
You stand at the back of a small group of guests all gathered in this beautiful garden overlooking the ocean. Not for the first time you question what the hell you are thinking? That's the secret, you haven't been thinking. You didn't even realize what you were doing until you cinched the airplane seatbelt tight and took note of the emergency exits, here, here, and here.
You slip your sunglasses onto your nose, covering your tired, red-rimmed eyes and wait. It feels like you haven't stopped crying for weeks, not with the knowledge that you'd made your own bed now you would just have to live with it. No you've lived with that horror for seven years now. No it was the loss of something you didn't think you could ever have and now even the possibility, the naked hope that you could have it was being taken from you. And that was just not acceptable.
Surely God in heaven isn't so cruel. Somewhere when a door closes, a window opens. You know this, you believe this, but sometimes you need to go find that window and open it yourself. If only you're not too late. You glance around taking deep breaths, trying hard not to cry yet again.
The small garden is lovely, white tulle wrapped around everything, yellow roses, Olivia's favourites scattered everywhere. It is almost too painful just standing there, surrounded by things Olivia loves and not being a part of it. Not being one of them. Who's to blame for that?
A wave of despair washes over you and you start to think that maybe this was a mistake, you shouldn't have come. Your heart is breaking but can you do this to her, on her wedding day? You rationalize that you needed to see for yourself that Olivia was truly happy, to see for yourself the woman who claimed her heart, who took care of her and Emma in your absence.
You nearly jump out of your skin as a warm hand touches your arm.
"Oh my God, it is you!" Emma wraps her strong arms around you and pulls you close for a long hug. You close your eyes, unprepared to come face-to-face with the seventeen year old girl you barely recognize. "I knew you'd come. I told Ava you would but she didn't believe me." Emma pulled away and smiled before starting to pull you towards the house. "We need your help "
You smile the first true smile in what feels like forever.
You suddenly feel alive, connected, the blood pulsing through your veins again, burning away the apathy that you've been wallowing in for so long. You've been snatched out of the quicksand you had been drowning in by this wee slip of a young woman. Thank God.
"Mom's a mess, and you're just the thing to snap her out of it. It'll be perfect." Emma's eyes danced with happiness and something else, lurking just there in the shadows. Was it hope? Her voice deepens, and she sounds so much like her mother your heart nearly stops. "I've missed you, Natalia."
You swallow hard and all you can do is nod back for a moment until you get yourself back under control. You barely recognize your own voice when you can finally choke out the words.
"I've missed you too. All of you, so very much" Your eyes begin to mist over as your realize just how much time you've lost and that old pain washes through you. "More than you'll probably ever know."
"Hey, you're here now, that's what counts." Emma grins widely at you, and then drags you deeper into the elegant seaside home, her heels sounding loud on the tiles in the foyer. There is more tulle and flowers everywhere you look. You pull off your sunglasses and glance over at a small table of photos by the stairway, finding pictures of yourself scattered amongst the family shots. It's the images of Olivia in the arms of another woman that hit you hardest, the thin brunette with bright blue eyes, smiling at each other, laughing together, living their lives together.
The life you could have been living with her.
Your stomach churns and once again you realize you're too late, you fool.
"Natalia? Are you okay?" You barely hear Emma ask softly.
"I'm fine, baby." You whisper, this echo of past lies resonating inside you as your tears threaten to fall. You try to work your way through it, after all what did you expect? That Olivia would just sit and wait for you to get your head together. You sigh and try to take comfort that at least Olivia had her happy ending. One of you should, you reason.
"Come on, she's up here." Emma squeezes your hand and you turn to follow her up the stairs and past the first bedroom. A commotion is happening inside but Emma just ignores it.
"I don't care if they have to wait until tomorrow morning; I am not going out there like this. Fix this birds nest of a hairstyle or else." You hear a strange voice from inside, frustrated and angry, spewing out from the room, the door slightly ajar. Emma just rolls her eyes and drags you further down to the far end of the hallway.
"Michelle can be a bit much, y'know?" Your eyes meet and you know instantly Emma does not like the other woman in Olivia's life. Not at all. You tuck that interesting tidbit deep inside and let hope flare for an instant. Maybe all is not lost after all.
You follow silently behind Emma, your shoes quiet in the plush carpeting. She grins back at you bolstering your courage just a fraction. She taps at the door and opens it as you blow out a long breath, trying to settle your nerves.
"Hey Mom, look who I found wandering around in the garden." Emma steps deeper into the room, holding back her chuckle.
"If it's the caterer, she's a dead woman. Ava is ready to--" Olivia's voice is like a balm for your soul, washing over you, flowing like slow molasses across your skin, caressing and clinging seductively, keeping you snared and desperately wanting more. Carefully you move past Emma and come completely into the bedroom, preparing yourself for the inevitable.
Nothing could prepare you for this though.
The familiar scent of her perfume hits you first, and you remember that she always smelled so good, and then you finally see her. Her back is to you and she doesn't see you at first but that's fine, you have a moment to just take it all in. It might be all you'll ever get.
Olivia is standing facing a full length antique mirror, dressed in a timeless silk dress, her hair swept up, revealing her elegant neck and diamond studded earrings. Your heart stops for a moment, as you realize time has been gracious to her and she is even more beautiful than you remember.
And then your eyes finally meet her intense green ones, reflecting back at you in the mirror. And in that instant you know nothing will ever be the same again
Her voice is soft, almost reverent, as Olivia speaks your name, layers upon layers of unspoken emotions and feelings threaded through the simply uttered word. You smile sadly at her reflection, watching as Olivia's eyes widen, obvious questions swirling there, fear and hope and a quiet joy. It calls to you, to something buried so deep that you didn't even know it was there anymore.
"You're here." She's trying to process it all, tilting her head in disbelief, or shock, it's hard to tell but you'll take it. At this point, you'll take anything given to you from this gorgeous flesh and blood woman standing before you.
In the moment it takes for her to turn from her full length mirror to face you, her intense green stare has changed, suddenly flashing with a barely controlled emotions burning there. You swallow hard and nod slightly. You remember this Olivia too, the force of nature that bends you to her will or snaps you in two.
And then you smile, because you have already felt more alive in her presence in the past few moments than you have in the last seven years at Frank's side. And it feels so good, like the universe has finally righted itself and you can breathe again.
Olivia doesn't understand all this though. How could she? The last she knew she had left you in the safe comforting arms of Frank Cooper with a babe in arms. The picture perfect happy ending, except that wasn't the ending you really wanted, was it? It wasn't then and it isn't it now. Fear had you in a strangle hold and it was slowly killing you, but no more. It was time to fight for the future you want.
If it already wasn't too late.
Straightening your shoulders you take a step and then another, deeper into the bedroom, glancing over at Emma, who is still grinning like its Christmas and she's just been given the best present ever. Turning back you focus once more on those amazing green eyes and before you have time to talk yourself out of it, you take the last few steps needed and wrap Olivia into your arms, holding her close. You close your eyes, cherishing the feel of her warm skin against yours, the scent of her perfume and something all Olivia surrounding you as you nuzzle into the crook of her neck.
"God, I've missed you." You can't stop the words tumbling softly from your lips, pulled straight from your heart, from your soul even. Olivia seems to melt against you then, her arms moving around your waist, tightening gently. You feel her shiver ever so slightly in your arms, and hope flares. Slowly you pull slightly apart, both of you reluctant. Safe in the circle of her arms, you look up into the tear filled green eyes, conflicting emotions still swirling there.
"I've missed you, too." Olivia murmurs and you both smile sadly. You lean back in for another much needed hug.
"Are you happy?" You whisper just below her ear, needing to hear it from Olivia herself. She stills in your arms and you wait.
"Are you?" Olivia murmurs back, a little brusquely. You close your eyes dreading the conversation that is about to take place, but knowing it needs to happen. A small part of you wants to say 'I asked you first', but you don't. You won't do that dance of avoidance or denial anymore, no more running away from the truth. That pathway just leads to pain for everyone concerned.
"No." You say into the warm skin of her neck before leaning back, searching her eyes carefully for any hints of what she is thinking as you cup her cheek. "No, I'm not. But I'm trying to change that."
Olivia frowns and blinks at you for a moment, processing your words before turning to Emma, who has been quietly watching with bated breath.
"Emma, honey, can you check on Ava for me. I don't want her going ballistic on that caterer in her condition." Olivia smiles as her youngest daughter grins and nods and heads quickly out of the room. You close your eyes as you hear the bedroom door click quietly shut behind her.
"She's amazing, Olivia." You can't help the comment. The little bundle of energy you remember has turned into an elegant, poised young woman. Regret wraps around your heart and squeezes with cold fingers. You've missed so much.
"Yes, she is." Olivia says softly, staring off into the distance where her daughter had just stood, lost in her own thoughts. Your own mind wanders as you look up at her, memorizing her features once again.
How often have you dreamed of this, wrapped in Olivia's arms, alone, together in her bedroom? Is that all that it will ever be? You sigh and blink as you suddenly find Olivia watching you, her eyebrows descending.
"Why are you here?" Olivia whispers harshly, finally stepping away from you. You feel the loss keenly and you know this is it. The time has come to face the music.
"I couldn't let you make the same mistake I did. I needed to make sure you were happy, and that " You wave vaguely at the doorway, at the woman down the hallway terrorizing her hairdresser. "Michelle was the one for you."
Olivia snorts in disbelief at that and then just glares at you.
"No really. Why are you here Natalia? What have I done, what planets have aligned, what sign from above did you see that you have decided to grace us with your presence?" Olivia glances up to the heavens, her arms wide and then back down to you, her eyes glittering with pain and anger. "It's only taken you, what? Seven. Freakin'. Years."
You duck your head for a moment, letting the pain and anguish wash over you. You blink away the tears that are threatening and then straighten your shoulders, standing tall and ready to fight back. You are not going to back down this time. You will not lie to Olivia anymore, or to Frank and least of all, to yourself.
"I was afraid, Olivia and you knew it. Don't deny that you were so innocent in all of it either. You pushed me into Frank's arms remember?" You pause as Olivia looks away, the truth of it hard to face, even after all this time. You swallow down your fear and take a step closer, reaching a hand out to touch her, your skin contrasting with the white silk of her dress. "I thought I was doing the best thing for everyone, that it was even what you wanted, but all I did was screw everything up. And then there was little Nicky to think about."
You turn look up and meet her sad eyes, both of you remembering how that had been the final nail in the coffin, changing everything, sealing both your fates. You reach up to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear, as she closes her eyes and leans in to your touch.
"God, I hurt you so badly," You whisper softly taking in her sad beauty. "I'm so very sorry about that. And then it was as if I looked up one day and you had left me there, taking your love and our family and disappearing to the far side of the universe, without me."
Olivia's eyes snap open as her jaw clenches, her emotions barely in check.
"Well whose fault is that, huh?"
You flinch at the sudden harsh tone. Olivia sighs and steps away from you, obviously needing space to think.
"I couldn't " Olivia shook her head slowly, swallowing hard and moving to the nightstand to pull a tissue from the box sitting there. "It was too hard to watch someone else live the life I wanted with you. Okay? There I said it."
You both just stare at each other, the past like a chasm gaping wide between the two of you. You bite your lower lip and watch as her eyes focus on your mouth. The old chemistry is still there, bubbling away, it just needs a chance to bloom.
"I'm getting a divorce, Olivia." You finally blurt into the charged silence. Olivia's eyebrows nearly disappear into her hairline. "I set the ball in motion before I flew out. Mel is looking after the paperwork for me and I broke it off with Frank last night."
"It's too late for us now." Olivia slowly shakes her head, not wanting to believe you. And maybe she's right, maybe it is too late. But the look in her eyes says otherwise. You just need to fight for what you want for a change.
"I don't believe that." You take a step forward and then another, as if approaching a wild animal, cornered and scared. "I'm leaving Frank regardless. I can't live like that anymore, or raise my son in that mess. What is it teaching him about love? My soul is slowly withering and dying there, and I don't think that's what God intended for anyone." You tilt your head and smile up at Olivia again, hoping that she can understand. "As for what's between us, please just think about it before you do something you might regret too. I know the timing is bad."
"Bad?" Olivia snorts, her eyes narrowing. "It's my wedding day, Natalia." She shakes her head as you just smile weakly. She stares a moment longer, a small lopsided smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. "I still can't believe you're here."
"I can't believe it either, but here I am." You shrug and sigh; feeling like you can finally breathe again, the shackles of the past dropping in the bright light of the truth finally spoken and revealed.
"Seven years " Olivia murmurs sadly. You both feel the pain of lost opportunity and time. Her eyes drift to the window as the stringed quartet start to play down in the garden.
"It's not too late." You whisper, hope and fear clutching at you. Her eyes turn back to you, locking and holding, a world of emotions displayed for only you to see.
"You don't understand." Olivia shakes her head with a bittersweet smile. "My relationship with Michelle, it's complicated."
You take a final step forward and take Olivia's hand in your own, your fingers tangling as you pull it to your chest, holding it over your thundering heart.
"It seems pretty simple to me. Do you love her?"
The silence is deafening as you search her eyes and wait for Olivia's answer. She opens her mouth to speak but instead you both turn at the sound of a furious voice at the door.
"Of course she does."
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