DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Third in the Slow Burn series.
Doris Wolfe, Winner/Loser
Doris Wolfe was having a fairly good day, considering it was a Monday. For her, most Mondays began in a haze of wine fuelled headaches and a vague sense of self loathing - particularly if the preceding weekend had involved Ladies' Night, a random conquest, and an awkward wait for said conquest to fall asleep so she could sneak out without incident. She would never have admitted this if anyone asked, of course. Partly for the sake of her pride, which was considerable; partly because that crushing, suffocating feeling had been with her for so long that she had begun to believe that it was how everyone felt.
The last few months or so had changed that, or - at least - had begun to change it. She no longer felt that all consuming itch that led her out into the night, badly disguised and almost hoping to get caught. A smile curled her lips upwards as she traced her cheek with her fingertips and thought of one of the reasons for that. Olivia had kissed her. Not the empty air kisses of political campaigns or Governor's receptions. Not the wild, inflammatory kisses of faceless girls looking for trouble and a good time. Not the slightly awkward, guilt laced kisses of a daughter who didn't really know her. A simple kiss of gratitude, affection, friendship. Nearly a full week after the fact, it still made her smile.
Another reason to smile arrived just then in the form of a buzzing Blackberry. Lunch in the park? said the text message. I have BIG news. B.
Ah. Now there there at last was a sign of the Blake Marler of old - a woman with a secret buzzing around inside her like a bee trapped under a glass. Doris imagined how desperate she must be to let it out, and grinned. OK, she quickly tapped out in reply. Half an hour, by the lake.
She finished up the last few pieces of urgent-ish paperwork on her desk before heading out. Blake was already there when she arrived, and Doris took the opportunity to study her from a distance before she made her approach. She looked good in white, she decided. She'd have to tell her that one day - not today though, not so soon after coming out to her. She might take it as a come-on. Doris cringed inwardly at the thought. That was the last thing she wanted. Their friendship was so young, so delicate, so fragile. The last thing they needed were...misunderstandings.
"You look happy," Doris breezed when she finally approached. Blake looked up at her with a dazzling smile.
Doris did a slight double take. Well well, Natalia Rivera, the performer of the Great Disappearing Act of 2009, had finally strolled back into Springfield. "Has she seen Olivia?" Doris blurted, sitting down quickly beside the other woman. Blake shook her head, holding her bottom lip between her front teeth. Doris did another double take. "Does she have a plan?"
"That's what I said!" Blake replied excitedly.
Doris shook her head. "It'd better be a damn good plan," she muttered. "I'm talking petitioning the Governor to change the law, buying the world's biggest diamond, and then proposing in the middle of Main Street with a sky-writer and a marching band good."
"I have a feeling it's not that good," Blake replied, frowning. She bit her lip again. "Doris, she has no idea how much she screwed up."
Doris rubbed her temples. An ache was creeping in from the back of her skull. "It's taken Olivia this long to even think about pulling herself together..."
Blake brightened suddenly. "Oh!" she said, fishing around in the pocket of her jeans. "Here. You won." She held her hand out. Doris frowned as she took the twenty dollar bill from the other woman's outstretched fingers.
"What did I win?"
Blake smiled. "The bet, remember? You said she'd apologise within a week."
Doris's face cleared. "Oh." She smiled. "So she apologised for being such a bitch, huh?"
"You know, I think those were her exact words," Blake replied.
Conversation stopped for a few minutes as Blake began to rummage in the paper bag she'd brought. There were a couple of six inch subs and two iced teas. Doris tore into the sandwich gratefully - she hadn't had breakfast and was famished.
"So," she murmured between bites. "Why did she leave?"
Blake shook her head. "I can't tell you that yet," she said. "She hasn't even told Fr- I mean, she hasn't even told her family yet."
Doris looked up sharply. "You were going to say Frank," she said levelly. Blake flushed.
"Please don't ask me," she pleaded. "I kept all her secrets for so long. And I'm desperate to talk to someone about it, you have no idea. I just..."
Doris quieted her by placing her hand briefly over Blake's where it lay on the table. "Okay," she said gently, then grinned ruefully. "I can't ask you to betray someone else's secret while you're keeping mine, right?"
Blake shot her a grateful look and Doris tried to stamp down on the anxiety that had suddenly gripped her. Why would Natalia need to speak to Frank? Was she going back to him? Surely not. Surely no-one - whatever their orientation - would choose that lump over Olivia Spencer. But then why else would she need to speak to him?
An idea...a hideous, sickening idea...began to form. She paled. "Did she sleep with Frank before the wedding?" she blurted out. One look at Blake's face was enough for her to get her answer. She pushed the remains of her sub away, suddenly feeling sick. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed.
"I didn't say anything," Blake said hurriedly, desperately. Doris waved her off.
"Don't worry, I'm more than capable of connecting the dots," she replied, her face still a mask of barely controlled disgust. "God, how stupid! How could she let this happen?"
Blake shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I don't think she let it happen," she reasoned. "I think it just sort of...happened."
"Oh, so she fell over and just happened to land on Frank's frankfurter?"
For a moment Blake tried very hard to look severe. But it was no use. Her eyes began to twinkle first and then her shoulders started to shake and then, before she knew it, she had dissolved in a wave of uncontrollable giggles. In the face of that, Doris found it hard to maintain her ire.
"It's not funny," Doris gasped through her laughter.
"No, definitely not," Blake replied, bending over almost double as she tried in vain to rein herself in.
"Olivia is so screwed," Doris said, trying to remind herself of just how serious the situation was.
"Not as screwed as Natalia," Blake quipped, and then they were lost again, clinging to each other desperately as they laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.
After the hiccups had passed and the tears had dried and the giggles had stopped bubbling up, Blake turned to Doris with a small smile. "I have a feeling I'm going to have to help Natalia with a little damage control pretty soon," she said. "I'm glad I have...well, I'm glad I was able to talk to you about it."
Doris nodded. "I'll let you know if Olivia tells me anything that might help," she said. "Hey," she added at Blake's slightly surprised look. "I'm a romantic you know."
Blake still looked sceptical. "You. A romantic," she deadpanned. Doris shrugged.
"Olivia and Natalia love each other," she said softly. She looked away. "If they can't get it right, what chance do any of us have?"
Her words sat in the still air for a long moment. She couldn't quite bring herself to look at Blake, wary at having revealed too much. She had a horrible feeling her voice may have been trembling as she spoke. She closed her eyes when she felt a warm hand descend on hers.
"You'll get your chance," Blake said, and Doris was surprised by the warmth and sincerity in her voice. "I know it."
It was too much. Doris shook her head and plastered her best Mayor hoping for re-election smile on her face. "I was talking about Olivia and Natalia," she said, in a tone that very clearly said back off.
Blake pulled back. A trace of sadness flitted across her face and then was gone, chased away by a matching fake smile of her own. "Well, I've got to get back to the restaurant," she said, a little too cheerily. "Have to finish up the rest of my shift."
Doris watched her as she began to walk away, and the sick feeling was back. Why did she always do that? Why did she always push people away when they showed any kind of concern? Why did she have to rely on sarcasm and jokes and prevarication? What the hell was wrong with her? "Blake!"
Blake turned round, a carefully controlled expression on her face. "Yes?"
Doris managed a small, nervous smile. "What time did Olivia apologise to you today?"
Blake frowned. "Uhm..around ten, I suppose," she said, confused. "Why?"
Doris stood and crossed the few paces across the grass to where Blake was standing. "Then I didn't win," she said gently, holding out Blake's money. She shrugged at Blake's confused expression. "I met you in the park at ten last week," she explained. "So Olivia must have spoken to you earlier. She didn't apologise within the week." Doris smiled lopsidedly. "Fair's fair, right?" she said.
Blake continued to frown for a moment, and then a slow smile smile spread across her face. "Right," she replied and reached out to take the money. Their fingers brushed together as she grasped it and then, impulsively, she leaned forward. "Thanks, Doris," she murmured, and pressed a brief kiss against her cheek. Then she was gone, a twenty dollar bill in her pocket, a smile on her face and a spring in her step.
Doris gazed after her, a feeling of warmth spreading through her from the place where the other woman's lips had touched her skin. Her fingers came up of their own accord to touch the spot.
She didn't even care that she'd lost the bet. Standing there in the pork, with the sun shining, the birds singing, and the warmth of Blake Marler's lips lingering on her cheek, she felt like a winner.
She felt like she'd won the goddamn jackpot.
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