DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Frank was having a good day. People were congratulating him left and right as the news of his engagement to Natalia spread at a wild fire's pace through the town. He'd shaken more hands and received more hugs in the last two hours than in the last two years. And he was a bit on the touchy-feely side anyway.
Things were changing for him, he could feel it. Ever since he had started dating Natalia, the world had turned in his favor. He couldn't believe that Olivia had offered to throw an engagement party for the two of them. He was really looking forward to celebrating this next part of his life. He'd been making phone calls to his family all day and they'd all been happy for him and he expected the Coopers to be a united front at the event.
It was a slow day at the office, too. He was busy with paperwork and he'd taken a long lunch, unwilling to tempt fate by exposing himself too much to the elements. Inside his bubble of tranquil bliss, he was unaware of the energy in the room changing until the reason for the change was standing right in front of him.
"Hey Frank." He looked up, surprised, losing his pen as he quickly tried to hide the flowers he'd been talentlessly drawing on the back on one of the folders that he'd found on his desk.
"Olivia. Hey. I wasn't expecting you. What can I do for you?" He was half under his desk, trying to reach for the pen, when she spoke again.
"We need to have a little talk."
He hit his head when he tried to get up again, the serious tone in her voice worrying him. "What's going on? Is everything alright?"
"You better hope so." He wasn't really aware of the fact that there was complete silence in the police station. He could feel the heavy atmosphere, but his focus was completely on Olivia Spencer (as was everybody else's).
"What do you mean?"
"You will listen, Frank and you will listen carefully. I'm only going to say this once, but I expect you to remember it. Word. For. Word. Understood?" She didn't wait for his answer. "You have something very precious. You have Natalia's love and a chance at making her happy. And you will make her happy."
"That's all I want to do, Olivia. I-"
"I'm not interested. I don't want your promises. I just want you to listen, because these are just facts. Your promises mean nothing, because you can break them. What I'm telling you now is just fate or reality, the future. Whatever you wanna call it. It's the future that will happen if you hurt her. Because if you hurt her, Frank, I will hunt you down and I will do things to you that Phillip Spaulding couldn't dream of. You will cease to exist and I will make it happen." She looked at him and her eyes reminded him of the woman she'd been before Natalia. He pressed himself into his chair, believing every word she said. It didn't matter that there were dozens of witnesses to her threat or that nobody was laughing at what could have been a joke. Everyone knew that Olivia Spencer had just spoken the truth and if her words hadn't convinced him, her long hard look would have.
"Nod if you understand this."
He did. Quickly and jerkily.
"Good. Keep it in mind." She turned to go. Everybody was staring at her, but it seemed like she wasn't aware of it. She left the station with her head held high and everybody's respect. After door had fallen shut behind her you could have heard a pin drop. Frank took a deep breath, suddenly feeling like he was suffocating. He quickly grabbed his coat. He had to get some fresh air.
Outside the station he welcomed the cold air and made his way to the street, not really noticing anything around him until he saw her car. Quickly, he hid behind a van, certain she had not seen him yet. He wondered why she was still there, just sitting in her car. From where he stood he could see her profile quiet clearly and he just waited, hoping for something to happen. He had no idea what it was. When he saw it, he could do nothing but stare. Tears were slowly making their way down Olivia's cheek. He was so close, he could see them. All three of them. She'd not moved, the whole time he'd been in the parking lot, but suddenly she wiped the tears off her face. He could see her anger in her movements. She started the car and drove off, unaware of her audience.
Frank stood alone in the parking lot, feeling the cold slowly creeping through his clothes. He had no idea what had just happened. He could somehow explain Olivia's words. She was Natalia's best friend. The vehemence of her words was harder to explain, but he was very aware that Olivia didn't do things in halves. He couldn't explain her tears.
He walked into the lobby of The Beacon, half-expecting and half-fearing to come face to face with Olivia again. Instead, he almost bumped right into the woman he'd wanted to see.
"Hey sweety!" He immediately felt better. The last hour had confused (and even though he would never admit it, frightened) him. He enveloped her in a hug and tried to kiss her, but to his shock she did neither return his hug nor his kiss. Instead, she put a hand against his chest and pushed him away.
"What's going on?" He was confused once more. Had he done something?
"I work here," Natalia hissed.
"I know, silly. That's why I came here. I wanted to see you." He smiled brightly.
"You can't just barge in here, Frank. It's hard enough to get people's respect without you coming in as if I was on vacation." She took another step back. She was smiling politely, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Frank, this is neither the time nor place to have this conversation. I need- We'll talk later, okay? I need to find Olivia." He didn't understand, but looked around anyway. It was Olivia's hotel after all. She was bound to be somewhere in the building. When she wasn't haunting poor police officers.
When he turned back to Natalia, Olivia was there. As if summoned by Natalia's words, she suddenly stood right next to his fiancée. Frank had no idea where she'd come from. "Are you alright?" Olivia's whisper could be barely heard from where he stood. The way they stood nobody but him could see them. He, however, watched them carefully. Olivia's hand was on Natalia's elbow, her thumb moving in slow circles. Her voice was soft and her eyes were full of concern. He saw Natalia lean forward slightly, as if her body was pulled into Olivia's by some kind of invisible string. "I'm okay, Olivia." He couldn't understand what they were saying next, Natalia said Emma's name and Olivia nodded her head and then Natalia looked up quickly, before her eyes focused back on the ground. "Of course. Jane is with her, but I'm sure she'd love a break." He saw Natalia nod, while a small smile played across her lips. She quickly turned back to him and mumbled a goodbye, before walking away from both of them. Frank's eyes widened when he saw her put her hand quickly on Olivia's and simultaneously realized that the woman who was supposed to be his fiancée had never initiated that kind of simple but loving contact with him.
Suddenly, he was alone with Olivia and braced himself for another attack, but she said nothing. Instead he watched her eyes stay on the spot where Natalia had vanished around a corner. When she finally turned she barely looked at him; the confident woman from the precinct was gone. Instead he saw a thoughtful and almost shy version of Olivia he had seen before whenever Natalia was around as well.
"Where did Natalia go? I wanted to talk to her."
"She went upstairs to look after Emma. She asked me to tell you that she wants to talk to you tonight, at the house." Olivia was still avoiding eye contact and he found that her lack of aggressive energy actually unnerved him.
"Okay, tell her I'll be there at seven."
"Better make it seven thirty. We have a conference call at five thirty that might take a while."
"Do you really need her there for a conference call? Maybe I could pick her up here at five thirty."
He didn't recognize the look in Olivia's eyes, but at least she looked more like the Olivia he knew. "It's her conference call. She just asked me to be there, because she still gets nervous. She'll see you at seven thirty."
"Okay." He knew he had done something wrong in her eyes, but once more, couldn't quite grasp what that something was.
She nodded at him, but didn't reply. Instead she just waved and made her way towards one of her employees. As he watched her go, he couldn't deny that she seemed sad. He also couldn't deny the bad feeling he had about the fact that Natalia hadn't invited him herself, but had sent Olivia with a message instead. Deep in thought, he turned around and left.
He arrived early at the farmhouse. The bad feeling from the afternoon's events had only solidified during the rest of the day and by the end of his workday he'd felt exhausted despite having done very little.
The lights were on and he saw both cars in the driveway.
He knocked quickly and then walked in. The living room was empty, but he heard sounds coming from the kitchen. "Natalia?" He didn't get an answer, but he soon found her in the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. His instincts told him to go to her and kiss her hello, but her body language told him not to. Instead of going to her, he came to a stop at the kitchen table. There were pictures of wedding dresses scattered across the surface. There was also a catalogue for even more dresses with post-its sticking out. He recognized Olivia's erratic scrawl immediately.
"Well, Olivia sure dived right into the wedding preparations, didn't she?" Frank said with a nervous chuckle, but Natalia wasn't really listening. She hadn't even greeted him properly. Frank was getting more and more worried. Absentmindedly, she just answered, "I guess she's overcompensating."
Frank looked at her, trying to get her attention, but failing. "What do you mean, overcompensating? Overcompensating for what?"
Natalia was still. She was fiddling with a dish towel and seemed very distracted. Suddenly he saw her take a deep breath, before she turned to him. "She's overcompensating, because she doesn't want me to marry you."
"What? She's been so supportive. The party, the dress The way she congratulated us. She seemed very pro-marriage." He hadn't expected that they'd be talking about this and he certainly couldn't agree with what Natalia was saying.
"That's only because she thinks that I will be happy with you and she wants she thinks that I can find happiness with you."
He didn't understand what the problem was. "I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I want that. I think that I can make you very happy."
He wanted her to agree. He wanted her to say that she believed in him and that together they could make each other happy. Instead, she asked him a question. "Frank, do you remember what it is like to kiss Olivia?"
He took a step backwards. He had a feeling, whatever the answer would be, he would not like her reaction. "I of course I remember, it well, it sure was something." He tried to laugh, but Natalia didn't smile at him at all.
He saw her close her eyes. He wasn't sure what reaction he had anticipated, but a sigh and a half smile wasn't it. "It's like she's snatching you up, out of reality into a world that is pure sensation. For whole seconds you forget that there is anything else and everything that's left is this bubble in which nothing else exists. That is what kissing Olivia is like."
For the longest time Frank didn't understand. When he finally did understand what Natalia was saying he could only stare at her for a minute. "When did you kiss Olivia?"
Natalia let out a breath that was more relief than anything else. "Well, I didn't really kiss her, she kissed me and it didn't count, because she was trying to make a point about people and what they thought. And about Emma and her presentation."
"And so she kissed you?" Frank sounded shocked and he was. Natalia was nodding her head as if she was trying to tell him that Olivia's actions had made sense at the time. "Natalia, I don't understand. Why are we talking about this?"
Natalia took another deep breath. "The point is, Frank, I remember what kissing Olivia feels like and lately it's the only thing I've been able to think about and what this means, I think, is that now is not the time for me to get married to anybody."
Frank stared at her. "So the wedding's off?"
"I really think that's for the best, Frank. It wouldn't be fair to you, to do this now, when I'm not sure about anything, actually."
Frank watched in horror as Natalia slowly pulled the ring off her finger and grabbed the box he'd given her from a drawer. Carefully, she put the ring into it and handed it over. In her outstretched hand, it seemed to him as if the small blue box might bite. But then he quickly took it back and stuffed it in his pocket. He looked around the kitchen of the farmhouse that he'd already started to think of as his own. As his home. As a place where at some point he would've loved to come home to. Part of him already did. He couldn't understand how he had lost all that. He'd tried to do everything right. He'd been gentle and kind. He'd done everything for Natalia. Everything but listen, he realized with a start. He looked at her. "Do you love Olivia?"
Without hesitation Natalia answered, "Of course I do."
"Are you in love with her?"
She hesitated. "That I don't know yet."
"Do you realize that you never actually told me that you love me?"
"Oh, Frank. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You said you loved my family and you said that I was kind and a good man. But you never said those three words, even after I said them, even after we slept together. And I never could bring myself to ask why. Maybe because a part of me knew that I wouldn't like the answer." Frank pushed the box with the ring deeper into his pocket and looked at Natalia. He wanted to look angry, but he really couldn't muster up the energy. He'd been defeated, not by her, but by himself and his own delusions. And her honesty was something he couldn't fault her for, because it was one of the reasons he loved her.
"I think, we shouldn't see each other for a while, Natalia."
"No, listen to me. I'm not angry. Well, maybe I'm a little angry, but not at you and not at Olivia. I know you wanted to be happy and make me happy. To give me what I wanted. And to return something that you thought I'd given you. Something you thought I deserved. But love can't be about giving and taking like that and we both know that. So, I'm not angry. Maybe, in a little while, we can be friends again."
"I would like that," Natalia answered with a smile. She couldn't believe how well this conversation had gone after everything she'd imagined. She reached for Frank's hand and squeezed it gently. He squeezed back quickly, before letting go.
"I gotta go." She looked as if she wanted to say something else, but he just turned and left as Natalia watched him go. And as the door fell shut behind him, he closed his eyes briefly.
When he opened them again he saw Olivia and Emma come up the drive way. He had wondered where they were, since Olivia's car was parked right next to Natalia's. When Emma saw him, she let go of her mother's hand and ran over to him to give him a hug.
"Hi, Uncle Frank. Mommy took a walk with me to see all the animals!" He could only smile at her enthusiasm. The sweetness of the little girl was nothing less than a miracle. He hugged her briefly, before he looked at her mother.
"Why don't you go inside, honey and tell Natalia that we're back. I think she wanted to order us some food for dinner."
"Okay. Bye, Uncle Frank." The little girl was through the door in a flash and he could hear her call for Natalia as she ran to the kitchen.
Olivia was looking at him.
"I can't believe I didn't put it together before." He'd had no intention to speak, but the words were out none the less.
"What do you mean Frank?" Her voice sounded weak, like in the first few weeks after her heart transplant and, as if a veil had been lifted, everything she'd said or did since he'd proposed to Natalia, seemed to make sense.
"I didn't know you were in love with her."
"Neither did I." Her answer was cryptic, but what really struck him was how defeated she sounded. Olivia Spencer was probably the proudest woman her knew and she was standing before him, defenseless as a kitten, as her attention was completely captured by the ball of string that was Natalia.
And Natalia wasn't even there.
At first he didn't understand why she sounded so defeated, but then he realized that she still thought that he and Natalia were getting married.
"I think you should go inside, Olivia." He took the first step towards his car. "Natalia has some news." He chuckled briefly as it dawned on him what he had to do.
With a clear voice he repeated the words he'd only heard once, but had immediately memorized as he'd been instructed. "You have something very precious. You have Natalia's love and a chance at making her happy. And you will make her happy. I don't want you to make any promises. I just want you to listen, because these are just facts. Your promises would mean nothing, because you can break them. What I'm telling you now is just fate or reality, the future. Whatever you want to call it. It's the future that will happen if you hurt her. Because if you hurt her, Olivia, I will hunt you down and I will do things to you couldn't even think of. You will cease to exist and I will make it happen." His voice was strong till the very last syllable, but there were tears in his eyes. He knew she was confused, but he couldn't stay and watch her claim what he'd so desperately wished for.
As he walked to his car, he heard the door quickly open and then close behind him.
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