DISCLAIMER: The characters of Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Emma Spencer, Larry Decker, Buzz Cooper, Mr. & Mrs. Xiao, and Gus Aitoro are the sole property of Procter & Gamble, Telenext and CBS. The words to the song are lyrics from 'Go Up to Go Down,' copyright 2005 by Gabriel Mann and Shabby Music. All characters and the lyrics are being used for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being gained."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is part of my Alternative Scenes Series, in which I take a scene from the Otalia story on Guiding Light and re-write it as a fan fiction. Litigatorcat likes to challenge me, and after she got me to tackle one pre-roommate episode of the story ("The One"), I guess she thought I should try another, and suggested that I write a story about the Dinner With Decker episode (November 14, 2008). I didn't do anything with it for a long time, because I was busy with "Waiting for the Spring," and frankly, I was so disappointed in how the show ended that I wasn't feeling very inspired to write any Otalia fics. So I'm finally getting around to this story. I hope you all enjoy it. Most of the dialog from this scene is the actual dialog from the show.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
I'll Drink to That
"If I'm this tired, you must be exhausted!" I said, turning from the front door, which I had just closed behind Mr. Decker, my boss and the CEO of Galaxy Hotels. The dinner had gone unexpectedly well, considering that neither Natalia nor I had been prepared for it. Someone had informed Decker that I changed the dinner from tomorrow night to tonight, someone who would be losing his or her job tomorrow, the minute I arrived at The Beacon and found out who had made the colossal mistake.
In spite of being completely caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Decker and Mr. and Mrs. Xiao at Cassie's farmhouse, in spite of having no food or anything else she could serve when they surprised us by showing up a day early, Natalia had somehow managed to create a beautiful meal for my guests. She had rescued me from a huge embarrassment, and the possible loss of my job with Galaxy. Larry Decker isn't known for tolerating mistakes graciously. But the dinner had gone off smoothly. Natalia had saved the day. It was becoming a pattern. This wasn't the first time Natalia had rescued me from certain disaster, and I was definitely impressed. In fact, I found myself becoming more impressed every day.
"Not really," Natalia replied. "I actually had a great time. Are you okay?" She walked toward me, and placed her hand on my shoulder. Her hand felt so good, warm and comforting. "You should sit down," she said. The soft brown eyes looked worried, her concern for me evident. Normally, my cynical side would kick in, and I would just have to make a sarcastic remark about Gus's heart, but not tonight. Tonight wasn't about Gus, and she had gone well above and beyond her job description. I knew that she had pulled this dinner off for me, that it had nothing to do with taking care of Gus's heart. She was taking care of me. Recently, it had become a habit with us. I would call her, and she would just drop whatever she was doing and come to me, ready to do whatever I needed. I wanted to give her something too, to show her how much she had come to mean to me.
"I'm okay," I said, walking over to the sofa and sitting down. "I just need to rest. Where did you get the food?" I leaned back into the sofa, and she sat down in the chair next to me. She smiled, and her dimples appeared. It seemed as if her smile lit up the room. She really is quite beautiful, I thought.
"Oh, I had some help from an angel," she said, touching her hair and pushing it away from her face.
"Well, I don't believe in angels, but I do believe in that meal. Gosh, don't forget that Mrs. Xiao wants the recipe for your flan."
"I know! She likes simple things," Natalia replied, smiling again, the dimples appearing briefly. She looked tired, but very happy. This house suits her. It's unpretentious, and charming, just like her. I thought about the Mason jars she had used for the martinis, and smiled to myself. Her explanation was so perfect. She had charmed all of them. Then it occurred to me that she had charmed me, too. I hadn't really paid that much attention to it before, until Larry's toast before dinner. When he said he was toasting "this truly amazing woman," I knew he was referring to me, but all I could think about was Natalia, and it seemed to me in that moment that the only "truly amazing woman" in the room was the raven haired, brown-eyed beauty standing next to my chair, her hand on Emma's shoulder. She was constantly surprising me. I wanted more than anything to get to know her better. I was seeing so many things about her that I admired, and I felt somehow that we were destined to be good friends.
"You know, I know when you were telling them about the food, and the glasses, and going without, you were talking about yourself. But, you know, I was poor, too." For some reason I needed her to know that, needed her to understand that we had that in common. It felt important. I watched to see her reaction. Her fingers were stroking her cheek and her neck, nervously, once again pushing back an errant strand of her shining hair. I wondered what it would feel like against my fingers.
"I didn't know that," she said, her fingers finally stilling, as she leaned her chin against them, and her eyes connected with mine, and softened. There was a single beat, while we sat there, looking at each other, before she broke the connection. "Okay, you, um...sit and rest here for a minute. I'm just going to clean up a bit, and then I'll get Emma together and I'll take you guys home." I watched as she walked into the kitchen to do the dishes. Yes, this house really suits her, I thought. She seems so at home here. She really should buy this house.
Then it occurred to me how good it felt to be here with her, just the two of us, talking and laughing. I had never really been close to a woman before. They were always my rivals, never my friends. But Natalia was different. There was something there, a connection, something that had been there from the beginning, even when we didn't like each other. Before, it had been hidden behind our mutual antagonism. But, somewhere along the way, my feelings toward her had changed, and I had grown to really enjoy her company, and appreciate her finer qualities. I could feel it whenever we were together now, and I realized that I had been calling on her more often, not because I was that helpless. I had an entire staff at the Beacon at my disposal, so it wasn't about needing assistance. I needed her. Maybe this is what real friendship is all about, I thought. Needing someone so much that you create reasons to spend time together.
My thoughts were taking me perilously close to an area that was not all that comfortable for me. I don't like needing anyone too much. But before I could think about it too much, I heard the sounds of Natalia washing dishes in the kitchen, humming, and the perfectness of the moment came rushing back. I felt so happy just sitting in this room, with its ridiculously corny furnishings, listening to Natalia...my friend...wash dishes in the next room.
I was standing in the farmhouse kitchen, washing dishes. Actually, I love washing dishes. It relaxes me, gives me time to think, without any interruptions. When you're a single mother, you learn to find time for your own thoughts where you can in the shower, washing dishes, ironing. There is a simple beauty to it. Your hands are busy, but your mind is free to wander. Mine wandered back to the toast Larry Decker had made before dinner. When he was toasting "this truly amazing woman," Olivia's eyes were on me the entire time, and when he finished, she raised her martini to me, her eyes never leaving mine, the connection becoming intense, personal, and said, "I'll drink to that." It had given me a warm feeling all over, knowing that she considered me an "amazing woman." Olivia's faith in me was addictive. It made me start to have more faith in myself, know that I was capable of more than I ever thought before. It felt good. I had misjudged Olivia, I now realized. She really is a wonderful person.
After everyone left and we sat and talked, it had surprised me when Olivia told me she used to be poor. I never would have guessed it. I always thought we had nothing in common, except Gus. I smiled at the thought. I used to hate her so much for trying to steal Gus away from me. But that was before...before I started to feel drawn to her, before I started to seek out her company, eager to go to her whenever she called me. I even found myself hoping she would call, because when we spent too much time apart, I missed her. Imagine that, I thought. Me, missing Olivia Spencer. But strangely, I knew I did, and more than anything else, I had grown to love our times alone with each other, like tonight.
It occurred to me then that the real reason I was willing to go to such extremes to pull off this dinner had nothing to do with my job. I did it for her, for Olivia. When everyone left, and we were finally alone together, and she closed the door and looked at me and smiled, it made all of my hard work worth it. I had felt an overwhelming urge to hug her, after our guests left. She looked so relieved, and so tired, but so very beautiful, and I just wanted to put my arms around her and hug her, show her that she meant more to me than just an employer. It had never occurred to me to hug Olivia before. She had never seemed the type to need or want a hug. But tonight, I really thought she might need and want a hug, after all we had gone through to pull off this dinner.
I had stopped washing dishes, and caught myself, just standing there thinking about Olivia, remembering the way she had looked at dinner, her eyes glancing across the table at me from time to time, shining with appreciation...and something else, something I didn't recognize, but whatever it was, I knew I liked it. I liked it a lot, and I wanted her to look at me that way again. I'm never going to get these dishes done like this, I thought. I focused on the task at hand, and managed to return the kitchen to its former order and tidiness. Then I went into the living room to tell Olivia it was time to go back to the Beacon.
"Just put her on the bed, okay?" Olivia said as she opened the door of her suite for me. I carried a sleeping Emma over to the bed and gently deposited her there. She rolled over but never woke up. I love how children can do that. I wish I could feel that secure again. I couldn't remember ever feeling that safe. "I'll get her into her PJs," Olivia added. "You've done enough." I turned around from the bed to look at her. "And since you didn't let me say it before," she continued, her eyes shining like before, at dinner, a smile on her lips, "Thank you." I could see how much she meant it, and I felt again the urge to hug her, but I thought it wouldn't be appropriate. I crossed my arms in front of me, resisting the temptation.
"You should thank Buzz," I deflected. "He was the angel. And he's also the one that told Decker that the dinner was tonight."
Olivia looked surprised, and a little annoyed. "Why would he do that?"
"He said that my menu wasn't me, and that I need to trust myself more," I explained.
"Oh. Remind me to smack him," Olivia joked. "Although it's good advice." Her eyes were full of admiration again, admiration for me, and I felt the warmth of it fill me up inside.
"It's scary," I said, unsure of anything right now, including what I was feeling about her.
"You think I don't get scared, too?" she said, her voice soft, as if she was echoing my thoughts. I dropped my eyes to avoid hers. Bad idea. My eyes swept down to her shirt, unbuttoned and open at the neck to reveal a hint of cleavage. It was the way she always dressed, accentuating her assets. I had never really paid that much attention to it before. I had helped her get dressed and undressed many times after her surgery. Over the course of the months since her surgery, I had seen more of her than this small glimpse, but this time it felt different. I felt a lump form in my throat, and swallowed over it. I needed to get out of her room before I did something I would regret later. I looked quickly from her, back to the bed where Emma was sleeping.
"All right," I said, averting my eyes, trying to avoid hers, and I pushed my hair back nervously. "So, you should rest. Good night." I risked glancing at her again, briefly. I felt as ungainly and awkward as a newborn colt. I needed to get out of there, get my bearings again. It was a stressful night. It's no wonder I'm so flustered.
"Good night," she said, as she turned toward the bed, and I moved quickly to the door. Then I couldn't help myself, I looked back at her. Her back was to me now, and I allowed my eyes to travel down the length of her body. She didn't see me. Feeling a little guilty, I closed the door behind me. What was that all about?
I got into my car and pulled out of the Beacon parking lot. I intended to drive myself back to the boarding house, so I could put the evening out of my mind, go to bed and get some rest. Things would probably be back to normal in the morning. I turned on the radio. A song was playing that I hadn't heard before.
Cause my head aches
when your love takes me
The earth quakes
and my heart awakes
cause you got to go up to go down.
For some reason, I couldn't help thinking about Olivia, and the way her eyes had looked when she raised her martini to me and said, "I'll drink to that." I needed something...and I wasn't sure what. I turned off the radio to silence the song, but the words still echoed in my mind. I found myself headed back to Cassie's house, telling myself that I needed to check again to make sure everything had been put away and left in good order.
When I got to the farmhouse, I stood in the living room and looked around. I glanced at the chair where Olivia was sitting when she raised her glass to me, and smiled again, remembering the look in her eyes. Then I looked at the sofa where she sat afterward, telling me that she had also been poor. Suddenly, the sound of the phone ringing startled me. Should I answer it? I thought. Who would be calling so late?
"Cassie Lewis' house," I announced when I picked up the phone.
"I knew you'd go back there," Olivia said, and the sound of her voice was like music to my ears. It felt like she was right there in the room with me once again. All my nervousness returned. I caught myself smoothing back my hair, which was silly. No one could see me.
"Olivia... I just... I had to come back," I said, stammering. "I wanted to make sure, you know, I didn't leave anything out." It sounded like a lame excuse, even to me.
Olivia didn't believe my excuse any more than I did. "Oh, please. You're totally at home there. The house is you," she said, and I could hear the laughter in her voice. I imagined her beautiful face, and that twinkle she gets in her eyes when she teases me.
"Because it's a home," I replied. And because you were here with me, I thought.
"And not some room in a boardinghouse?" She added.
She was pushing it, trying to push me into buying the house. I loved it, but I couldn't afford it. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" I asked.
"You know, there's nothing wrong with admitting that you like the house. And the house is for sale. Somebody is going to buy it," she said, emphasizing the last part, as if I hadn't been thinking constantly about finding a way I could buy it. But she thought I just came back to look at the house again, because I wanted to buy it.
My mind was whirling. What would you say if you knew how much I've been thinking about you tonight? What would you say if you knew I was standing here thinking about you when you called? "Good night, Olivia," I sighed into the receiver, and hung up. The words from the song echoed again in my head.
Cause my head aches,
when your love takes me
and the earth quakes
and my heart awakes ...
Good night, Olivia, I thought. Sweet dreams. And I knew mine would be filled with images of her face, lifting her Mason jar, her eyes gazing into mine.
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