FANDOM: Guiding Light
RATING: PG for this part
SUMMARY: Natalia needs to make a choice between her past and her future.
TIMELINE: Begins immediately after the episode on the 12th of May and goes off into its own little world at that point.
DEDICATION: This is dedicated to the memory of badtyler, a great writer and an even better friend.
Natalia had been living in a small town too long. How else could she explain the sheer claustrophobia that was sneaking up on her the closer she got to the place that for so many years she'd considered home? The traffic made her nervous. She spent the first hour of the drive through the metropolitan area getting cut up and honked at almost every five minutes. It was like she'd forgotten how to drive in a city - and maybe she had. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had to deal with traffic of more than ten or twenty cars.
Her nerves built with every mile that disappeared under her wheels. With every passing moment the traffic grew denser, the buildings grew taller, the crowds grew thicker, and she could feel her palms starting to sweat. She wiped them on the leg of her jeans when her hands started to slip on the steering wheel.
She hated this, she realised suddenly. The cars and the noise and the people and the thunder of the El above her head. Her head was thumping and she longed to be back at her farmhouse. Her safe, comfortable and above all quiet farmhouse. With Olivia.
She lost concentration for a fraction of a second as the memory of kissing Olivia goodbye washed over her, and had to brake hard to avoid rear ending the car in front of her as it stopped at a red light. It had been such a simple kiss really - and yet the mere thought of it was enough to draw all the air from her lungs. Olivia's soft, full lips fluttering so briefly under hers...
A honk from behind her alerted her to the fact that her light had turned green and she flushed darkly, holding a hand up in front of her rear view mirror to apologise. "Sorry!" she called, even though she knew the other driver couldn't hear her.
She consciously pushed Olivia from her mind for the rest of the drive and when she pulled up outside a very familiar apartment building on the Lower West side she sent a quick text then switched her phone off. She couldn't have any distractions right now.
Her hands shook alarmingly as she gathered her things from the trunk and slowly climbed the stairs to the fifth floor. Before she was really ready for it she found herself at the door. She hesitated for a moment. Should she knock? Or just go in? She knew the door was never locked when someone was home - she could just walk in as if the last eighteen years of separation had never happened. As if there was no bad blood between them at all.
The door opened almost instantly and Natalia had the impression that her mother had probably been watching her through the peephole. She blushed. How long had she been standing there dithering on the doorstep?
"You took your time."
Natalia took a step back. She should have expected this, she realised. When had she ever been able to do anything right after all? It was foolish to imagine anything but a criticism could drop from this woman's lips. It's good to see you. Over her dead body. I missed you Maybe when hell froze over. I'm sorry. Not if she waited for eternity.
"I had some things to take care of at home," Natalia said.
Her mother flicked back her long dark hair - greying at the roots, Natalia noticed. That was new. "Well, are you going to stand in the hallway all day?" She stepped back and disappeared into the apartment, not waiting to see if her daughter followed. Natalia sighed as she gathered her things and stepped over the threshold.
Birds flew, fish swam, and Josephine Rivera was rude. Natalia had long ago accepted that she couldn't help it. There were some things that would just never change.
* * * * * *
She had arrived at her childhood home over an hour ago and Natalia had so far managed to avoid speaking to her mother completely - a feat of which she was almost proud. It took real dedication to avoid another person in a tiny two bedroom apartment with walls as thin as paper but she had managed it. Her mother had gone to the living room and Natalia had retreated to where she felt the most comfortable - the kitchen.
The pantry was well stocked, as were the fridge and freezer. She could easily whip up a simple, quick meal for them both. But that would mean she'd have to go and speak to her mother sooner rather than later, and she knew she'd rather pull her own fingernails out with rusty pliers.
She found an apron hanging on a hook behind the door, tied it round her waist and then gathered ingredients and utensils for a lasagne. She vaguely recalled that her mother liked lasagne, and it would take her a little while, which was a big plus.
It was so hard to believe that just that morning she'd been in her own home, in her own kitchen, throwing an unhealthy lunch together for Emma and quietly looking forward to Olivia coming back - even if she wasn't quite sure what that meant for her, or for them.
She knew she loved Olivia. She knew it in the same way she knew that the sky was blue or that grass was green. What was uncertain was just exactly what she was willing to do to keep storm clouds from turning that sky grey, or a drought from turning the grass dead and brown. Could she walk down the street with Olivia without caring if people looked at them twice? Could she take her hand in public without trembling? Could she handle people thinking she was a...a-
Lesbian! a voice - a familiar voice, a voice a lot like Olivia's - in her mind snapped. It's not a dirty word.
Maybe not, but it wasn't a word she could apply to herself. And she couldn't help the defensiveness that crept into her heart when she thought of people assuming that she did. Why wasn't just loving Olivia enough? Why did it have to come with all this extra confusion?
Because we can't live under a rock, her mind supplied. No-matter how much you'd like to. Consequences are a fact of life. You've known that since you were sixteen years old.
With a quick shake of her head she returned her attention to cooking.
"I made you some dinner," she said a little while later, placing a portion of lasagne carefully on the table next to her mother's armchair. Josephine glanced at it.
"Too much cheese," she muttered, and returned her attention to the TV.
Natalia sighed as she sank onto the couch. "Please don't start with this mom," she said, covering her face with her hands.
"Start with what?"
Natalia squeezed her eyes shut. "Just eat the food I put so much time and effort into making for you, would you? Please?"
There was no reply, but when Natalia heard the scrape of cutlery against the plate she managed a small smile. That was a start.