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.
After several days of limbo while they waited for the results of the autopsy suddenly there was so much to do that Natalia hardly had time to think. Between choosing readings and hymns for the requiem Mass, discussing the service with the priest, deciding which family members should read or speak, dealing with the funeral home, choosing a coffin, selecting flowers and keeping her mother calm and happy Natalia barely managed to sit down over the few days following the release of her father's body. Hours and days bled into one another until suddenly, as she sat at the dressing table one night, she realised she hadn't spoken to Olivia for three whole days.
Her head snapped round immediately to check the clock. After midnight. Much too late to call. Damn.
All of a sudden she was hungry for the sound of the other woman's voice and it seemed almost an impossibility that she would be able to wait until the morning for it. She toyed with her cellphone for half a minute, thinking of calling anyway and waking her up, but then she remembered how she'd left their last conversation and winced. Maybe she shouldn't add waking Olivia in the middle of the night to the list of things she'd have to explain away.
Natalia scraped her hands through her hair and wondered what had happened to the woman who, at the age of only sixteen, had stood up to her parents and struck out on her own. What had happened to the woman who'd raised a sickly child all by herself for sixteen years, defying all the odds? What had happened to Olivia's superhero?
She watched her reflection in the mirror for a very long moment. "Who are you?" she whispered, staring into her own eyes. Unsurprisingly, her reflection had no wisdom for her.
Deciding to shelve the introspection for the night, Natalia turned away from the mirror. Tiredness - her constant companion - overtook her and all she could think of was her bed at home, with its firm mattress and clean, cool sheets. The bed in this room was by no means a substitute but it would have to do.
She tossed and turned for an undefined amount of time, trying to get comfortable. A loose spring kept digging into exactly the wrong places - first her hip, then her side, then her arm. She couldn't get away from it. A couple of times she nearly managed to slip away, but then her body twitched without warning and suddenly she was wide awake all over again. Her eyes nipped painfully, but worse than that were her legs which were...not painful, but just there, heavy and leaden and unwilling to be ignored.
After an hour of fruitless trying Natalia finally gave in and slipped out of bed. Insomnia had never really been a problem for her in the past - she was normally so tired from working two or three jobs that keeping awake when she needed to was more of an issue. There had been nights though, in the recent past, when thoughts and unvoiced feelings were swirling unchecked through her mind at such speed that sleep was impossible to come by. On those nights she'd busied herself with laundry or with paperwork for The Beacon or even cooking. But in this tiny apartment she couldn't do any of that for fear of waking her mother who, frankly, she was not up to dealing with at that particular point in time.
As quietly as she could Natalia stole into the kitchen and made herself a mug of peppermint tea. Her stomach was a little upset now, as if she didn't have enough to deal with, and she vaguely remembered that peppermint tea was good for that.
When she returned to her bedroom she nearly tripped over her suitcase for the umpteenth time. Setting her tea down on the bedside table she turned her attention to the bag, glad of the distraction. Living out of a suitcase was becoming a bother, especially as it looked like she'd be around for a while yet. The funeral was still three days away, and she couldn't just disappear afterwards - her mother would need help settling into life without her husband, and Natalia knew that was the hardest part of all.
All of which meant it was beyond time to unpack her things. For the first time she was glad that her parents had left her room untouched. She was still planning to ask her mother about that one at some point. It had blind sided her completely. She would have expected them to rip every stick of furniture from the room and have a bonfire in the street after she left. But no, everything was as she'd left it - the closet even still had a few items of clothing hanging in it. Her dresser drawers were not empty either.
"Oh..." she breathed as she opened the top drawer and closed her fingers round the book inside. Her diary. She'd left it behind when she abandoned the family home, though she couldn't remember why. Maybe she'd just forgotten to pick it up. Maybe she'd wanted to leave behind all memories of the past.
She sank onto the bed and leafed through it, a slow smile appearing on her face. Turning to a random page, she began to read.
March 4th 1990 - Nicky asked me on a date today! I can't believe he actually noticed me! Christina was absolutely green. She's been trying to get her claws into him for months but he wants ME! Me, me, me! I just have to think of some excuse for mom and dad, but I think Selina will help me. I can say I'm staying over at her place or something. She won't mind.
Natalia looked up from the book. Selina. Wow, she hadn't thought about her in years.
She flicked through the rest of the book, expecting to find more reminiscences about Gus. And she did. There were a number of entries about him - about how sweet he was, and how cute his smile was, and how fluttery he made her feel when he walked past her in the halls. But, to her surprise, she found that for every one entry about him there were two about Selina - what they'd done together in school, how much she was looking forward to their next sleepover, how pretty her hair was, or how nice her hands were, or what a lovely shade of nail polish she'd been wearing that day.
"Oh my God," she muttered. "Oh my God."
It was all there, and so damn obvious she could barely conceive that her teenage self hadn't seen it. Her crush on Gus - Nicky, as she'd known him then - came through loud and clear. But just as loud and clear to her now was her crush on Selina. And all this time she'd thought Olivia was the first and only woman to make her feel this way. From the pages and pages of entries in her diary about how pretty Selina was, what a nice shade of blue her eyes were, how soft her hair was...well, clearly she had been mistaken. Olivia was not the first. Not the only. This had been part of her for a long, long time.
She flicked to the end of the diary, deliberately avoiding the entries she knew would be about finding out about her pregnancy and the ensuing chaos.
January 12th 1991 - Mom says I'm not allowed to see Selina anymore. She won't tell me why. I don't think she found out that she was covering for Nicky and me. She's been giving us these funny looks lately. Maybe she found out about Selina's sister and that boy. Or maybe she's just decided she hates me and doesn't want me to have any friends. Well that's okay because I hate her too.
Natalia closed the diary slowly and looked up. Mom knew, she suddenly realised. I was clueless, but she knew. That's why she tried to keep us apart.
And it had worked. Pretty soon after that she'd found out she was pregnant and had to leave school, and home, and the whole area. She'd started again in a new neighbourhood and she'd never seen Selina again.
Still, maybe it was time to change that. She was the prodigal daughter after all, back in the neighbourhood after long years of absence.
What could be more natural than looking up an old friend?