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Not That Bad
By Alsike


It wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be.

Alan turned red and seemed to hiss steam like a teapot, but luckily his fury made him unable to speak. Phillip flashed a thumbs up, which made Olivia queasy, even more queasy than she was already, which was a lot, but he was wearing that stupid smile that meant he was not yet utterly insane again. Daisy looked like she was going to faint, and Natalia knew she was going to tell Rafe as soon as she could. That was going to be more fallout that she wished she didn't have to deal with, but she had tried denial and that only hurt people, too many people.

Bill and Jeffery were walking half a pace behind them like bodyguards escorting them out of the church and Natalia decided to think that it was a good sign that Olivia managed to get out of some of her marriages with no hard feelings attached. That was all part of the infinite enigma that was Olivia Spencer, someone who could be selfish and selfless, vengeful and yet forgiving in the most impossible of circumstances, and so brave and so afraid at the same time.

Natalia couldn't look back at Frank. She could see the shock and horror on his face when he finally realized, far too late, that he had never been the one she wanted. When Olivia had rushed into the church, impeccable timing as always, fighting off the ushers who wanted to keep the crazed woman in the ratty jeans (that Natalia was sure she had thrown out) out of the ceremony. One of the ushers had hit her and bloodied her nose and Natalia couldn't stay silent, she had rushed down the steps, yelling and pulled him off of her, and she had turned and looked.

Natalia had been so lost in those eyes, light and dangerous, like a riptide or an undertow, she hadn't even heard the muttered words, the "I have to do this. It's not fair to let you do this when I lied." And she was being kissed, and the twisting snakes that had been trapped in her chest for the past few months exploded into a full-grown hydra breathing fire, and she was being incinerated. It felt like a fever breaking. She had been too stunned to react, to speak, to even see anything when Olivia broke the kiss and then started apologizing and trying to wipe away the blood that was smeared over Natalia's face. Natalia caught her hands and just stepped into her, burying her face in Olivia's neck, finally back where she belonged.

She had to spare a glance back to Frank, who still seemed blank and horrified. Buzz was at his side, patting him on the back. He gave Natalia a bit of a smirking, self-satisfied grin, and Natalia gulped, wondering how much breaking down in front of him the night Olivia and Emma moved out had to do with this.

Suddenly Ashlee was in front of them, blocking their exit. "Can I get a quote for the paper?"

And Natalia knew she was going to die right there. The whole town had watched this debacle. The whole town had watched her desert Frank at the altar and kiss Olivia in the middle of a church. Olivia had rubbed off on her more than she had thought: leaving men at the altar, ripping out Frank's heart. But this was the only place it could have happened. She felt God's eyes on her, and she had known, as she stood up there that she couldn't say yes, that even if she did say yes because everyone was watching, she was not going to do it. She couldn't. Because God saw her heart, and saw how she didn't love Frank, couldn't love him. She was making a perversion of this ceremony, one she had called "so sacred" to her. She had done many things wrong. She had committed countless sins. But this one was unforgivable.

Suddenly Doris was pulling Ashlee away from them. "Really, Ashlee, haven't they made enough of a spectacle of themselves already?" But once Ashlee had turned her back she gave Olivia a surreptitious wink that made Natalia's jaw drop, but Olivia just held her more tightly. Natalia gave the woman holding a wadded up handkerchief to her nose her patented "you're telling me everything later" look. She got a smile in response. That was just fine.

Dinah, of all people, was waiting by the car, and opened the doors for them. "You really weren't kidding," she remarked dryly, "about the doing everything different this time."

Olivia laughed. "I wasn't."

"You give me hope," in a tone that would have belied the words if it were anyone but Dinah who had said them. She shut the door behind Natalia and left, shaking her head.

Natalia finally breathed out. Olivia flashed her a grin. "Hey."

"Hi." It wasn't the time to be smiling like this, but she didn't think she could help it.

"So, list of people who are out for vengeance? What's your estimate?"

Natalia groaned. "Marina's number one."

"Good call."


"Nothing new there."

Olivia started the car and pulled onto the highway. She tossed Natalia the bloodstained handkerchief. "Clean up. You don't want your son to think you've been beaten."

Natalia froze. "Just where are we going?"

"Pick up Emma."

"At the prison?"

Olivia's eyes went soft. "That's where I was, until Rafe told me to stop being an idiot."

"Rafe?" Natalia squeaked.

"I think he figured that if he wasn't invited to your wedding, you really weren't that into it."

Natalia looked down at herself, at her wedding dress. It still looked okay. She could probably return it and get back the deposit. She pulled the engagement ring off and dropped it into the cup holder.

"That feels better."

Olivia raised her eyebrows.

"It was a little tight."

All the tension became laughter. They were on their way home.

The End

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