DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Third part of The Script Series.
What does marriage mean to you?
Even though it's Doris Wolfe standing at the top of the steps in the Church she's spent too much time in lately, Father Ray's words keep coming back to her, resounding in her ears over the sound of Doris'
Olivia's presence behind her the vision of the woman in the devil red dress is haunting her and she can't seem to focus on Frank's Norman Rockwell smile; on his shiny eyes filled with nothing but lies about the life they'll end up sharing.
What if feelings come along that you don't really understand?
She never knew how dense Frank was until that moment; until those words slipped out unabridged, and he did nothing.
He didn't blink or move or let go of her hand even though she wish he had, because his hand was, is, clammy and too warm and too tight around her fingers and it just reminds her that Olivia's hand fits so much better, is so much cooler and looser but still holds her close and keeps her safe.
And Father Ray just smiled and told her: Natalia, you have a strong set of values. They will never steer you wrong. Believe in them.
Except, believing in them will get her everything she's just figured out she wanted.
And that won't be good for anyone but her and Olivia.
Doris' voice her godawful scratchy, intrusive voice cuts into her thoughts, asks if there's any objections and for a heartbreaking moment, she thinks that someone will.
She thought things like that only happened on TV: the preacher asks for objections and someone stands up.
Her heart leaps into her throat when she realizes that Olivia really isn't going to stand up; Olivia isn't going to fight for her and she's really going to end up married to Frank.
This is really going to happen.
Olivia isn't going to stop her.
Frank smiles his watery smile and she realizes with a start that he's about to say his vows.
Olivia takes a deep breath behind her and Natalia flashes back to her meeting with Father Ray; flashes back to finding out all the things she knew, deep down she knew, but didn't want to admit.
You know, it seems like right from the start, Frank really knew me." The words tumble out and she knows she's just making conversation to make conversation.
Frank should know that too.
But he smiles dumbly, his giant, cheesy grin, and nods, self-assured and overly-confident. "It just, it just kinda clicked, I mean "
She hates the sound of his voice. "Yeah," she interrupts. "He knew, when I needed a shoulder to lean on, he knew when I needed to be swept off my feet, he knew when I needed to be left alone, or when I didn't. I just really feel like Frank gets me."
Frank pauses and takes a breath and for a moment, she feels Olivia move behind her.
Maybe But Olivia is only shifting her weight from foot to foot, restless.
"But I mean, I gotta be honest. I kinda had a little help along the way." Natalia feels her heart stop, dead in her chest.
'Help' can only mean one thing; can only mean one person.
And even though she doesn't have to ask, she can't stop herself: "What do you mean?"
"Well, um, Olivia." She feels the air go out of the room in one single sentence.
She wonders if Frank realizes what he's just done.
" Olivia, um, she kinda coached me a little bit. She kinda told me some things that you liked, and that you needed. Like, well, a romantic dinner, or visiting Rafe. She was a big help, she really was." In her mind, she sees the candles flickering in the dark kitchen of the farmhouse; she sees her favorite foods all the comfort she needs for the awful day she just had laid out in front of her.
But it's not Frank that comes out of the shadows, smile ready and waiting.
Frank pulls back a little, because she says Olivia's name so loudly in the small room, but he smiles anyway. Nods his head. "Yeah, yeah."
Her mind is racing. It was Olivia.
Everything was Olivia. "She was behind some of those really special things you did for me?"
And poor, dense, life-stealing Frank just doesn't get it. "Yeah, yup. Absolutely, she gave me some really good advice. And, I mean, I listened to her, I, I, look, we're here."
Here: a one-way ticket to a life she doesn't want.
It's a great place to be.
"Natalia?" She blinks and everyone is staring at her, waiting with bated breath to hear her vows, because Natalia Rivera is a woman who speaks from the heart.
But she can't say anything from the heart right now, because no one in the church wants to hear that she's in love with Olivia and that she can't marry Frank because she'd be lying to herself and to him and to Olivia and no one wants to hear that she's going to end up hating herself for the rest of her life if she goes through with this.
"Sounds like they both had your best interest at heart."
They both had her best interests at heart?
Or they both had their best interests at heart?
Olivia presses up against the back of her dress. "Here," she whispers, pressing Frank's soon-to-be wedding ring into her hand, their fingers tangling slightly in the hand-off. "They'll make you strong."
It breaks her instead.
But Olivia presses it further into her hand and she knows if she were to look down, her palm would be imprinted with Frank's wedding ring, searing a circle the circle of love into her skin. Olivia presses the ring harder into her hand and her eyes tell Natalia something that her mouth won't at least not now.
"I love you," they whisper to her, in the suspended silence of the church, in the hallowed halls of her God.
"I love you, but I can't" they tell her.
"I love you, and you're marrying him," they scream out to her and even if the ring is supposed to give her strength, she knows the only thing she needs right now is Olivia.
Olivia and Emma and her farmhouse and her son.
Olivia and Emma and their Friday nights and their family dinners.
She needs her family.
And that doesn't involved crazy Greeks looking to fill the missing placeholder in their lives; the person that balances out their family photos.
It's Olivia who doesn't gasp in surprise when she takes off down the aisle, tears streaming down her face and apologies streaming out of her mouth. She knows the sound of Olivia's gasp; she's heard it in the moments in the farmhouse, when they just stared at each other across the kitchen table, too nervous to actually move. She knows how Olivia sounds, in almost any crowd she can pick Olivia out.
She hears Frank and Marina and Mallet and even if it's a little rusty, she can hear Rafe give a sigh from his seat.
She doesn't hear Doris, but she doesn't care anyway, because that woman is too smug for her own damn good.
Until she pushes the church doors open, she forgets that it started snowing this morning.
Like her heart.
Like her loveless marriage to Frank will have been.
She's not sure how, but she ends up in her car, her foot pressed to the floor of the car, weaving in and out of the lazy traffic. It's just a gazebo, but it seems like refuge in her mind her Eden of sorts, encapsulated in white and encased in fiction.
She can lie to herself here; pretend that she didn't just run away from her own wedding, pretend that she didn't just run away from the sweetest man she's ever met, pretend that she didn't just run away from the one woman who makes her feel more than she's ever felt in her life.
But she's already tired of pretending.
"Natalia," Olivia says from behind her.
Natalia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath because she expected this: she expected a search party and she expected Olivia to find her faster than anyone else.
"Natalia," Olivia tries again.
"What?" She turns around and feels her breath catch she knows Olivia heard it. The other woman is just staring at her, like she's never seen Natalia before; like she's never seen a wedding dress before.
Well, Natalia reasons. She's never seen me in a wedding dress before.
But that's a lie too, because she's suddenly hit with the dangerous look in Olivia's eyes that she saw through the mirror reflection in the bridal shop; the dangerous look she was never supposed to see; the look she wished she'd never figured out. And Olivia must see that regret in her eyes, because she turns away now, in the gazebo in the park in the snow.
She turns away now when she should have turned away then.
"We should get you back to the "
Natalia feels her eyes flash fire. "Stop. Just just stop it, for God's sake." She tries to steady herself, calm her breathing and her racing heart that is suddenly beating in places it hasn't since she was a teenager.
"Stop trying to give me away Olivia Spencer." Without really thinking about it, she's drifting forward in her big white dress and she ends up only inches away from Olivia; so close she could reach out and touch her.
"Don't." Olivia warns when she sees the look in Natalia's eyes the conviction and determination and the fear.
"Shut up," she whispers, taking another step forward.
And the distance is gone eliminated in a single step forward that she's not sure who took.
This is where she should have been, instead of that church.
But Olivia pulls the rug out from under her feet, pushing her back just enough so that Natalia can still feel Olivia's breath run across her mouth, and then even farther, until Olivia is turning and walking away, leaving Natalia alone in her dress in the snow.
"I said 'don't,'" Olivia mutters over her shoulder, not turning to look back when she hears Natalia's strangled sob.
She sinks to the bench and doesn't notice when she starts to shiver; doesn't notice when Frank comes to rescue her; doesn't notice how she forgets to tell him that there won't be a wedding.
She doesn't notice much except that she finally kissed Olivia and Olivia walked away.
She starts to cry harder and Frank just stares at her.
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