DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to fewthistle for providing one of the best opening sentences ever and, even though it wasn't exactly aimed directly at me, I just couldn't resist taking a stab at it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Greatest Mystery
By Ann


The rosary came apart in her hands, beads and prayers scattering across the hard wood floor. Stunned, Natalia Rivera could only listen as the last of the white gemstone beads slipped from her fingers and bounced and rolled away, the clatter sounding even louder in the quiet, almost saintly solitude of the church. She stared down into the narrow space between the pew in front of her and her navy blue dress, her eyes drawn to the beads that had landed in the wooden prayer book holder affixed to the back of the pew. Which prayers, if any, had been caught and saved?

Were they the slightly larger beads that had headed each decade of her rosary, the ones that had stood alone and separated the sets of ten? The Our Fathers that had forever offered hope of what was to come next? The signal to recite another mystery before moving steadily and piously forward to the next set of repetitive prayers?

Or were they from one of the five decades? The Hail Marys she'd always prayed so reverently in hopes that the Virgin Mary would understand her confusing thoughts and give her the strength to believe in herself as strongly as she believed in God and to have the courage to just follow her heart? Had the fact that the beads broken and fallen apart while she'd been praying her second set of mysteries of this week – the Sorrowful Mysteries – been a sign from God? Had he purposely stopped her before she could pray the Glorious ones?

Angling her hand, Natalia carefully reached inside the narrow wooden box and gently fingered a few of the trapped beads. She pushed them hard against the solid surface of the pew and slowly lifted, using the smooth grained wood as a brace to aid her in freeing the beads from their confines. A soft sigh pushed past her lips as she successfully scooped several into her palm when her fingers finally reached the top edge of the wood. She cupped her hand and, with her other one, used a finger to roll a bead back and forth across her palm, the friction caused by the move blazing a trail across her skin. She'd only felt such heat once before – well, several times actually – and all associated with the touch of a single person. Her friend, a woman… Olivia Spencer.

Natalia slowed her finger until it was barely moving, its tip lightly caressing the oval-shaped bead that was slightly larger than the other two she cradled in her hand.

Definitely one of the Our Fathers.

A slight discoloration near one edge of the bead caught her notice and caused Natalia to frown. She gently pinched the area, careful not to allow it to slip free of her grasp, and noted how perfectly her thumb and index finger aligned with the worn edge, the familiar grip bringing, as always, an instant sense of peace and calm to her. She closed her eyes and blocked out everything but the warmth of the bead between her fingers as the different mysteries it held flowed within her.

The Sorrowful: the shift of emotions in her parents' eyes from disappointment to hurt and finally to immense shame, the sting of their words, like jagged barbs digging into her soft, tender skin, when they threw her out into the wintery cold, the loss of the only love and security she'd known - her family - and then, much later, losing Gus to death and Rafe to prison.

The Joyful: holding Rafe in her arms for the very first time, finding Gus again after so many years, realizing her dream of moving into the farmhouse, and Rafe finally being released from prison.

The Gloriful: Gus's proposal, becoming part of a family again with Olivia and Emma, and finding something she'd never really had before – someone she could trust implicitly - a best friend and confidante.

The Luminous: discovering the good within Olivia and the seemingly sudden realization that her feelings for the other woman had gone well beyond the boundaries of friendship to a love that filled her with both wonder and confusion.

Opening her eyes, Natalia stared down at the three beads in her palm as her thoughts centered on the reason she'd come to pray the rosary today: to try to understand the intense love she felt for Olivia, a mystery in itself and one that seemed to have no explanation. She hadn't expected it and she certainly hadn't sought it out; it had just happened. A sequence of events, so unnatural, so unbelievable that it hinted to something akin to divine intervention.

Natalia's head snapped up and she focused on the large crucifix that hung on the wall behind the altar. Could it be? Had she really been so blind? Had she so easily accepted every single mystery the rosary and the church had to offer but had refused to believe in the one mystery that had been meant for her and her alone? Was that how it worked? Each person had his or her own mystery to wrestle with, define, and then unravel? Was it simply a matter of blind faith?

Her expression brightened at the thought and a slight smile worked at the corners of her mouth as Natalia closed her hand around the beads tightly. With a slight, but reverent nod to the crucifix, Natalia hurried to collect her errant rosary beads from the floor.

She understood now.

Everything was exactly as it should be.

Natalia had been blessed with the greatest mystery of all: Olivia.

The End

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