DISCLAIMER: The characters of Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Frank Cooper, Billy Lewis, and Emma Spencer are the sole property of Procter & Gamble, Telenext and CBS. They 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 alter it. Someone suggested that I do the engagement party scene. I didn't really want to tell the story of the party itself, so I have started the scene after the party is over.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Frank was the last person to leave the engagement party. He tried to persuade Natalia to meet him later for a romantic trip to the park, but she declined. After Frank left, Natalia walked back into the living room and started picking up plates to take them to the kitchen. Olivia walked into the room with a broom.
Natalia hurried over to her and reached for the broom. "No, let me do that!"
"Oh, no, I got it," Olivia replied.
Natalia was insistent, "You have done enough already. I can... " She reached her hand out to take the broom. Olivia's hand reached out to block hers, and then their hands slid together so effortlessly. Her eyes were on Olivia's. They both smiled shyly at each other, intensely aware of the contact.
"I'm happy to do it. Stop it. I got it," Olivia said, still holding her hand. Several seconds ticked by as they looked into each other's eyes.
"Thank you for that speech," Natalia said, not taking her eyes off Olivia.
Olivia dropped Natalia's hand and put her hand on the broom. "It was nothing," she said.
Natalia replied softly, "It was not nothing. It meant a lot to me."
"This party meant a lot to you. I could see that."
"When you got up and said that you were going to make a toast, I really... I had no idea what you were going to say." In truth, Natalia had been very nervous when Olivia had started her speech. She was afraid that Olivia, who had been drinking too much, would say more than she intended.
"Honestly, neither did I," Olivia replied.
"It was a beautiful speech."
"I meant every word. More than anything, I just want you to be happy."
"And I would never do anything to get in the way of that, ever," Olivia said, raising her eyebrows slightly as she walked around Natalia and left the room. Natalia's mind was whirling. She took the dishes she was holding into the kitchen and left them. Then she walked back into the living room and sat down on the sofa. She thought about Olivia's last comment to her, about not doing anything to get in the way of her happiness. Olivia must have known that Natalia had dropped her wine glass on purpose, to stop Olivia from saying too much, but she completely misunderstood Natalia's reason for doing it. She didn't want Olivia to say any more in front of everyone, to expose herself that way. It had nothing to do with Frank or the engagement.
Thinking about the engagement made Natalia feel the guilt all over again. She knew what she needed to do. She had known it before Olivia even started her speech, before the guests or Frank had even arrived for this party. She had known it when Olivia was fastening the clasp of the necklace she gave Natalia as an engagement gift.
Natalia touched the beautiful necklace at her throat. Her mind immediately seized on the image of Olivia, standing so close to her, helping her to put on the necklace.
Her hands were so close to Natalia's face, that if she had just leaned slightly toward Olivia... She could smell Olivia's subtle perfume and the clean, intoxicating scent of her, as Olivia explained to her about the catch on the necklace, "You know what, it's very, very delicate. So if you push too hard, it won't work. But if you're gentle... " Then their eyes met and locked for a precious second. She could see the love in Olivia's eyes, and something else...desire. The recognition struck Natalia to her core. She had seen the same thing in Olivia's eyes earlier, when she looked at Natalia and echoed Emma's evaluation of Natalia's dress. "Beautiful," Olivia had uttered, her voice gentle and sad, but her eyes were on Natalia's, not on the dress. The way Olivia had said it, and the look in her eyes, made Natalia go weak in the knees. She had wished at that moment that there was no engagement party, and she and Olivia were all alone, so they could talk about what was happening between them.
Finally, Natalia and Olivia were alone in the house, except for Emma, who was fast asleep in her room upstairs, but Natalia didn't know how to start the conversation.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Olivia, who had walked into the living room carrying two steaming mugs. She handed one of the mugs to Natalia. "I thought you could use one of those. I certainly needed one." Olivia sat at the other end of the sofa, both hands securely holding the warm mug. Natalia took a sip from her mug. It was hot chocolate, and Olivia had put some miniature marshmallows in it. Natalia smiled. Olivia was getting comfortable with their little rituals.
"Thank you," she said. "I've been sitting here thinking about...stuff. It's just a lot of stuff that I haven't really thought about yet. You know, I'm used to getting up, packing Emma's lunch, going to the Beacon and working, and figuring out our schedules, and then we come home and put Emma to bed, and wake up here. With you." She looked at Olivia and felt her heart fill up with tenderness toward this woman, who had come to be so much more than just her best friend. Her fingers had subconsciously moved to finger the necklace again.
"Do you like it?" Olivia asked, her eyes not quite meeting Natalia's. Natalia could see the sadness in them, though.
"I love it," Natalia said. "It means so much to me because you're the one who gave it to me."
"Well, you needed something new...you know, for the wedding," Olivia said, her right index finger nervously tracing the lip of her mug, around and back. "Now you just need to find something old, something borrowed and something blue, and you'll be all set, right?" She laughed nervously.
"Right," Natalia said, taking another sip of her chocolate. Olivia was clearly agitated. It had been an emotional party. Natalia's mind went back to Olivia's toast.
"That's right, Billy Lewis. When I feel something, I just come right out and say it. That's who I am, so... I mean, how often do you get a chance to stand up and tell somebody how you feel about them?"
Natalia waited anxiously, not taking her eyes off Olivia. She could hear the men's voices but couldn't make out what they were saying. All of her attention was focused on the beautiful woman in front of her, with such love and such pain shining from her eyes. Olivia was looking at Natalia with such open love that Natalia was surprised that no one else seemed to notice. Natalia thought the heat of those looks would cause everyone to spontaneously combust. But no, the men kept going on and on about something, ignoring Olivia, who looked so lost. Natalia wanted to go to her and wrap her arms around her and tell everyone to just leave them alone.
Finally, Olivia tried to get things back under control. "Okay, guys. I'm just-- I'm in the middle of a toast."
"Well, you better pick it up," Billy Lewis joked, "because you're losing your audience."
Natalia wanted to slap him. Her eyes went to Olivia's, as she started again.
"Okay, all right, all right. Okay. Okay," Olivia said, trying to quiet everyone down. When the room was a little more quiet, she looked at Natalia again, and her heart was in her eyes. "Gus brought Natalia and I together, and not in a way that either one of us wanted or expected. And I... well, we didn't like each other. And honestly, I never thought that we would, but... we slowly came to rely on each other. And we became friends. And then we became a family." She raised her glass and looked into Natalia's eyes, "You have changed my life forever with your grace and your optimism and your faith. And I'm grateful for that. I've never told you that. I am so grateful. I've also never told you that..."
Natalia's eyes were riveted on Olivia's. She knew what was coming next, and fear of it overwhelmed her. Before Olivia could finish, Natalia's champagne glass crashed to the floor.
Natalia looked around, her face stricken, "Oh, my God. I'm so sorry."
Frank had hurried to clean it up, but Natalia was just watching Olivia's beautiful face crumple. Tears were streaming down her face, but she wasn't making a sound. Her hand went up to her face to wipe away the tears. Natalia's eyes were locked on the eyes of the one who was, for her, the only other person in the room at that moment.
Someone... Billy...was saying something to her. "I'm sorry, what?" she said, looking around in the direction the voice had come from. Everyone was laughing...except Olivia and Natalia. Natalia felt like she had just emerged from deep water.
So, Natalia knew how Olivia felt about her. But clearly, Olivia was not comfortable with the idea of loving another woman. Natalia could see that. It wasn't so surprising. Natalia wasn't entirely comfortable with it herself. But she knew in her heart that she loved Olivia, and that God does not make mistakes. She had known it ever since Olivia kissed her after Emma's presentation. Even though Olivia dismissed the kiss as being something she had done just to make a point, Natalia was there. She had felt it. She knew there was more to it than that. The more frightening thing for her was that she wanted to do it again. Each time they seemed to get close to talking about it, she had changed the subject, fearful of where the conversation might lead, afraid it would lead to another kiss, a different kind of kiss. She had been praying about this for months, ever since Emma's presentation.
Finally, when Olivia was in the hospital for her pacemaker, and was still unconscious from the sedation, Natalia had almost kissed her. The only thing that prevented it was Olivia waking up before she could do it. But she knew in her heart that she was in love with Olivia. The feelings not only weren't going away, they were getting stronger. She had gone to church and prayed about it after the incident in the hospital. She knew what she needed and wanted, but she thought Olivia didn't want the same things, until her toast, until she had seen the way Olivia looked at her. There was no way she could marry Frank. She didn't love Frank, and it wouldn't be fair to use him that way.
Natalia glanced over at the woman sitting at the other end of the sofa. She hadn't even taken one sip from her mug yet. She was just holding it, and tracing the rim of the mug with her finger, her eyes looking off in the distance. Natalia noticed that she was touching the necklace again. She wanted to look at it. She hadn't gotten a chance to really see it because it had been on her neck the entire evening.
"Would you please help me take this off?" Natalia asked, her words shattering the silence between them, and startling Olivia. "I want to look at it."
"Sure," Olivia said, gathering her composure. She put down her mug and moved closer on the sofa. Natalia lifted her hair so Olivia could find the clasp. Olivia's eyes were focused on the necklace. Her hands were very close to Natalia's face. Natalia was watching her as she worked on undoing the clasp. Olivia looked up and caught her watching, but Natalia didn't avert her eyes. Instead, she reached up and put her hand over Olivia's. The silence stretched out like a thread between them, until finally Natalia broke the silence.
"It's not going away, Olivia."
"What?" Olivia said, her voice catching.
"This thing between us," Natalia replied, watching as Olivia's eyes closed at the words. She tried to move her hands away, but Natalia caught Olivia's hand in hers and stopped her. Olivia opened her eyes and looked at Natalia again.
"You're going to be married, and more than anything I want you to be happy, and have the wonderful life that you deserve," Olivia said. "I meant what I said in the toast, Natalia. You have changed my life. The thing is, I'm having a hard time with all this right now." She started to cry again, and then stopped and took a deep breath. Natalia waited for her to say whatever it was she felt she needed to say. "The thing is, Natalia, you were right. Our routine is going to change. I won't wake up here with you every morning, and I will really, really miss that. You have become my family and I know we will always be friends," Olivia's voice broke on a sob, but she continued, "We will always be friends, but it won't ever be the same. I'm going to miss that. That's all." She was crying now, and Natalia reached up and brushed the tears from her face. Olivia reacted as if Natalia's touch had burned her skin.
"I'm sorry," Natalia said. "I didn't mean to upset you. But I couldn't see you hurting like that and..."
Olivia drew in a deep breath, and even managed a sad smile, as she looked into Natalia's eyes again. "I just wanted you to know. I don't want to hurt you, but I'm going to need some time before I can be around you. You mean so much to me. You will never know how much, but I can't bear to be near you right now. Some time and distance will fix that. At least, I hope it will. But I ... I can't come to the wedding. I can't risk embarrassing you again in front of other people."
"You didn't embarrass me. The glass just slipped," Natalia lied. She couldn't explain that part of it to her now. It was too soon. "Olivia, I don't want you to avoid me. You are the most important person in my life. I've been ...such an idiot. I've made a mess of everything."
"Natalia...you don't have...," Olivia started, and stopped when Natalia put her hand up.
"No, wait...I need to say this. This is not about taking care of you." When she saw the skeptical look in Olivia's eyes, and knew she had caused that. She took both of Olivia's hands in hers and looked into her eyes for a moment. Then she continued, conviction in her voice, and her eyes brimming with unshed tears, "It's not about that, " Natalia said in a calm, firm voice, and she gently squeezed Olivia's hands for emphasis. "I shouldn't have agreed to marry Frank. I was afraid...and I thought maybe if I married Frank, I could stop feeling so afraid."
"What are you afraid of?" Olivia said, her voice very soft. She had not taken her eyes off Natalia's the entire time Natalia was talking.
Natalia felt as if every nerve in her body was suddenly charged with electricity, and yet she shivered as though she was cold. This was it. She needed to just say it ... tell Olivia how she felt. Why was she so afraid? Then she knew. "If I say it, it could ruin everything, because once I say it, I can't go back. I can't take it back. The one thing I don't want is to lose you. But I feel as if, no matter what I do, that's exactly what's going to happen."
She was still holding Olivia's hands and searching her eyes. The look in Olivia's eyes was like a caress. Do you have any idea how much you can make me want you with just a look? She thought. "Olivia, the thing is...I want...It's just...I know this isn't what you want. I saw it in the hospital...when..." Why can't I just say it?
Olivia looked at her sheepishly and admitted, "I knew you were going to kiss me."
"In the hospital. I knew you were going to kiss me. I felt you kiss my forehead, and then...I could feel your hand on my cheek and your breath against my face, and I knew. But I couldn't let it happen."
"Oh...I'm so sorry, Olivia. I shouldn't have ..."
"No. Don't apologize. I couldn't let it happen because I was afraid of what would happen next, and what it would mean, how it would change me."
"What happens next, Olivia?"
"I don't understand..." She looked caught. Natalia knew that she hadn't expected her to ask the question, and when she had, it caught her off guard.
Natalia was calm and determined. "Yes you do. What is it you want?" She was looking into Olivia's eyes, daring her to answer the question.
Natalia saw Olivia swallow, before she answered, quietly, "You ...us."
"I feel the same way. I'm just as scared as you are."
"You are?" Olivia said, smiling at her with the cute little shy smile, her head tilted slightly.
"Yes. When we're together, it feels right. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know I'm not running away ever again. You make me happy," Natalia said, her eyes filling with tears.
Olivia chuckled a little through her tears, "Well, not at the moment, apparently."
"This isn't a joke, Olivia."
"I know. I'm sorry. It's not a joke for me either." She looked contrite.
"When I'm with Frank, I keep thinking about being here with you. I can't marry him. It wouldn't be right. I can't do it. I don't love him. I love you." Natalia watched Olivia's eyes darken at her words. "Yes, Olivia, that's the truth. I love you. I can't marry Frank when I'm in love with you, when every moment I'm with him, I keep thinking about being with you ... and doing this." Natalia leaned forward and pressed her lips against Olivia's. Her arms were around Olivia, pulling her closer. Olivia melted into the kiss, her reserves finally broken. When she felt Olivia's lips part slightly, she felt a rush of desire so intense that she gasped. Olivia traced Natalia's lower lip lightly with the tip of her tongue. Her own tongue found Olivia's, and she kissed her passionately, deeply, one hand slipping into her hair, as she pulled Olivia into the kiss.
Natalia was the first to break the kiss, pulling her head back to look into Olivia's eyes. Those amazing eyes were full of love...for her. "Oh, wow..." Natalia said gently, "That was..." She was having trouble catching her breath.
"Do you see now why I was so afraid? I mean, when you almost kissed me at the hospital and I stopped it... It wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want to have these feelings...you know?" Olivia's eyes were gentle.
"Yes," Natalia said, feeling sadness grip her at the words. As afraid as she had been of her feelings for Olivia, she hadn't properly prepared herself for the possibility that Olivia might reject her love.
Olivia raised her hand to cup Natalia's cheek. "No, don't be sad. Please...I can't stop the feelings, Natalia. I tried, but I can't. I love you too much."
"Yes. With all my heart. I've never felt this way about anyone except you," Olivia said, kissing her again.
When Olivia finally broke the kiss and was looking tenderly at Natalia, Natalia took her hand and pressed the palm to her lips, kissing it. "Would it be all right with you if I keep this necklace?" Natalia asked, touching it.
'Of course," Olivia replied.
"It will help me to always remember not to be afraid just because something is new and unexpected," Natalia explained.
"I guess it's a good thing I couldn't get the clasp to work," Olivia chuckled.
"That's okay," Natalia said. "I won't be taking it off any time soon."
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