Fandom: Guiding Light
Rating: PG (so far)
Spoilers: This story begins after the episode which aired July 6th. Any similarities to actual future events on the show are due solely to great minds thinking alike. ;) Once again, I've kidnapped the citizens of Springfield and taken them to what I affectionately like to call Bronzeyfield.
A/N: Repeat after me: Otalia is endgame, Otalia is endgame. ;)
“How far is this place?” Olivia asked while shifting impatiently in the front seat of Doris’ car.
“Well, that’s a tricky question.”
“How is it tricky? Just look at your GPS and tell me.”
“Well, you see,” Doris cleared her throat and kept her eyes on the road as she drove. “My… source told me the retreat center Natalia went to is about forty miles from Springfield. The trouble is, while you were getting ready earlier, I looked online and found three possible Catholic retreat locations within a forty mile radius.”
“Can’t you ask this mysterious source for better directions?”
“I tried. I haven’t been able to reach them,” Doris replied. It wasn’t actually a true statement, but Olivia didn’t need to know that. Shortly before they’d left the Beacon, she had a short but fiery phone conversation with Blake, where she tried to squeeze out more information, but the woman stubbornly refused to give any more clues.
“Well, okay.” Olivia sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “Three possibilities. And let me guess, they’re not all next door to each other.”
“The way they look on the map you’d think they were representing north, east and south on a compass.” Doris frowned and felt a new surge of frustration. She wanted this to go well for Olivia’s sake and she couldn’t shake the feeling that finding Natalia was going to take much more effort than even her cynical mind wanted to imagine. “Why do Catholics need to go to retreats so much, anyway?”
“I suppose you need a lot of reflection when you have endless amounts of guilt over evil things like love and happiness,” Olivia grumbled and slid down in her seat a bit.
“Which way do you want to head first? Any preference?”
“What are our choices?”
Doris reached into her purse and pulled out a paper with a small list of names and numbers on it. Olivia took it from her, and blinked slowly as she tried to focus on the words. The words seemed to shuffle on the page. Even though she felt an almost manic desire to find Natalia, there was a need deep inside her that was reaching out and calling her to escape into the sweet darkness of sleep. She took a long drink of her lukewarm coffee and refocused on the task at hand. Nothing was going to keep her from reaching her goal.
“These all sound like something out of a horror movie,” Olivia said after a few moments. She tossed the paper onto the dashboard. “I don’t care where we go first. Just drive. The only thing that matters is finding her.”
Doris glanced over at Olivia. She had her eyes closed and was agitatedly pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Why don’t you try to sleep, Olivia? We have at least an hour drive ahead of us.”
Olivia held out her hand toward Doris. It was shaking. “I’m so hopped up on caffeine I feel like a sparking live wire.”
“Perhaps that double espresso wasn’t the best idea.”
“Ya think?” Olivia said and rubbed her hands restlessly over her thighs. “I’ll be okay. We just need to find her. If I could just talk to her for five minutes, I’m sure I could make her understand that…” Olivia’s words faded away.
“There are no guarantees we’ll find her, you know. I think some of these places have confidentiality rules.”
Olivia shook her head quickly back and forth and held up a hand to silence Doris. “We’ll find her. We’ll find her and I’ll talk to her. She just needs to be reminded how important this is… how important we are. And then she’ll come home.”
Doris let out a silent, worried sigh. “Okay. We’ll find her,” she said, even though she didn’t truly believe the words. She reached over and squeezed Olivia’s hand. She felt the hand tremble and grasp her back firmly before Olivia remembered herself and disentangled their fingers with a small grunt and eye roll.
“Can’t you drive any faster?” Olivia complained.
“No. The Mayor drives the speed limit. Plus, I’m hungry. We’re stopping at the next gas station for a fill up.” She patted her belly.
“God, you’re annoying.”
“It’s one of my special talents.”
Olivia chuckled despite herself and rubbed her hands impatiently over her thighs once more. That coffee was a damn bad idea, she thought to herself and tried to collect her scattered thoughts into a coherent plan. She needed to figure out what the hell she was going to tell Natalia to get her to come back home.
Doris munched on some Pringles and hummed along to a tune which quietly filled the car. Thankfully, Olivia had nodded off sometime after their snack stop. The minute Olivia stopped grumbling and twitching in her seat, Doris breathed a sigh of relief and settled into driving. Doris liked to drive. She liked the motion and the way the concrete hummed against the car tires. That hum, mixed with Olivia’s gentle, deep breathing, and the quiet beat of the radio, created a soothing melody. For the first time in hours she was able to look at the situation she was in with a more detached perspective.
Doris considered herself a patient woman… to a degree. Olivia tended to be a person who annoyed her very quickly. She liked her. That couldn’t be denied, but she was always left with a nagging sense of aggravation after they talked. Perhaps it was this all-encompassing love the woman had for the saintly Natalia. She didn’t quite get it. It was clear to see that the women loved each other. So what was the problem? What the hell was Natalia’s problem? She had perfection in the form of a woman willing to throw herself on hot coals for their love, and she runs off? It was perfectly idiotic. She couldn’t decide who annoyed her more: Natalia, the fool who walked away from her love without explanation, or Olivia, the fool who blindly chased after her love without question or judgment.
Doris understood fear. She understood that Natalia might have been afraid to come out to so many people at the Bauer barbecue, but Olivia claimed she agreed to it. Why would she agree if she had no desire to actually do it? Did something happen to change her mind? It didn’t make sense. If anyone should be having issues with this, she felt it should be Olivia. Hell, the woman had direct connections to just about every person at that damn barbecue. What did Natalia have to worry about? It’s not like she’s Mayor or anything. Doris knew if she was Natalia, just an unassuming woman with no powerful ambitions, she’d hang quietly onto Olivia’s arm and watch with glee as half the town looked on with jealous surprise.
Doris shook her head. The only explanation she could come up with was that Natalia lost her mind. Perhaps this retreat center doubles as a loony bin, she thought to herself with a smirk.
“Are we there yet?” Olivia suddenly said in groggy but startled voice. Doris had turned onto a gravel road and the change stirred her out of sleep.
“We are actually. Welcome to the St. Ursula Retreat Center.”
Olivia ran her hand through her hair and looked around. They were pulling up to a group of large, modern-looking buildings. “This doesn’t look too bad. I was afraid there would be moats and drawbridges.”
“Yeah, I think you’ll be able to get in without swooping over the wall on a flying dragon.” She parked and looked over at Olivia. “Are you okay to go in there? Do you want me to come with you?”
“No. Thank you, but I think this is something I have to do myself.”
Doris nodded. “If you need me, I’ll be here.”
Olivia left the car and began walking toward a door that was labeled “Visitors.” As she walked, she pleaded in silence: Please God, make this easy. If you exist, show me I’m right. Just this one time. I’ll never ask again. She needed the heavens to smile on her. She needed this to work. It had to work out.
Not feeling any comfort from the silent prayer, she opened the door and heard a tiny bell echo through the room. After a moment of standing awkwardly in an empty room that looked much like a doctor’s waiting room, she saw a small woman came bustling down a hallway to her right.
“Oh, hello!” the woman said with a large smile on her face. “I do apologize! I was in the back helping Sister Claire with her computer. We think she’s been infected by spyware again. Don’t you hate when that happens?”
Olivia blinked and nodded.
“Oh, me too. It seems to happen all the time to Sister Clare, though. I don’t know what that woman does to get it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was looking at porn or something like that,” she said with a loud laugh.
Just then an older, tall woman came bounding down the hallway with a laptop in her hand. “I got the little windows to stop popping up whenever I hit the ‘w’ key!”
“I gotta tell Kathy about this.” The taller woman bounced on the balls of her feet for a moment before taking off down the opposite hallway.
Olivia blinked again. Her mouth fell open a little.
“I apologize! Where are my manners? I’m Sister Lucy. Can I help you?”
“I um… you’re a nun?” Olivia asked.
“I sure am. I was the last time I checked, anyway. Most of us here are.” She winked. “Why don’t you come over here and sit down. If you don’t mind me saying, you look like someone just ran you over with a truck. What’s your name?”
“Olivia. I’m sorry,” she said, as she made her way to a chair. “It’s just… you don’t look like a nun.”
“What? And here I was thinking I look a lot like Julie Andrews.”
Olivia frowned. The woman before her did actually look a bit like Julie Andrews. “You do actually, but I mean… aren’t you supposed to wear a nun outfit?”
“Most nuns don’t wear habits anymore, love.”
“But you know what? I’m willing to bet you’re not here for a lesson on nuns. How about we just forget about that part for now? Please, call me Lucy and tell me what brings you to us this fine day.”
“I’m looking for a friend. I’m not sure she’s here, but I need to find her. Her name’s Natalia Rivera, and if you could just…”
Just then two young girls came charging through the door. They were giggling and attempting to quiet each other.
“Hello, ladies,” Sr. Lucy said, with a hint of reproach in her voice. “Did you need something?”
“Oh damn,” said one of the girls when she caught sight of Olivia. “Hey there, how you…” she started to say before her friend forcefully grabbed her wrist and began leading her away.
“No, Sister, just passing through!” she said with a bright smile and dragged her stumbling friend, who was still staring at Olivia, through a nearby door.
Olivia was convinced she heard the term “milf” come through the door just as it clicked shut again.
“Rambunctious teenagers!” Sr. Lucy said loudly with a small, slightly nervous laugh. “We’re hosting a senior class retreat for a local all-girls high school this weekend. I think they see it as more of a vacation with friends than a spiritual retreat, but we do what we can to keep them centered.”
Olivia was feeling amazingly out of her depth. She felt like this whole situation could easily be turned into a Monty Python sketch. She decided to go back to the task at hand even though her curiosity was supplying her with endless questions. “Um, so does that mean there are only high school students here right now?”
Sr. Lucy tilted her head thoughtfully. “That’s not something I’m really at liberty to say.”
“Please, you don’t understand. I have to find my friend. She left without explanation, and I’m worried something might be wrong. I need to talk with her. If I could just have five minutes with her, I think I could make her understand she doesn’t have to do this.”
“Sometimes,” Sr. Lucy began slowly. She wasn’t quite she what to make of the woman who sat before her. She was quite clearly distraught and deeply cared about the woman she was searching for, but she didn’t want to make assumptions on how deep that love ran. “Sometimes, when a person comes to a place such as this, it’s the only way they can sort out the problems in their life. I know that it might not make complete sense to you, but different people handle life’s difficulties in very different ways. If your friend has taken time out to reflect upon her life, it might be the only way she can sort her problems out. Chances are, intruding on her private time would not solve her problems, and might potentially make them worse. However, I can assure you that centers such as these only have the best interests of their visitors in mind. I’m not saying she’s here, but if she were she would be safe.”
“But I think if I just had a few minutes. Please.”
“I really can’t divulge that sort of information, Olivia. I do apologize, but sometimes, no matter how much we want the people in our lives to see things in a certain way, no amount of words can change it, or make it better. Sometimes quiet contemplation and time alone with God is the only thing that can help people work through difficult times.”
Olivia leaned forward in her chair and looked at the nun with intense eyes. “You don’t understand. I have to see her. She has to let me talk to her.”
Sr. Lucy stared into Olivia’s eyes and realized she was looking at a woman who was deeply in love. She knew that kind of love was the only thing that filled the human eye with such crazed desperation. Her heart went out to the woman before her. She felt like she could feel Olivia’s heart breaking apart even as she sat across from her. “Believe it or not, I do understand.” She glanced upward for a moment, trying to find the right words. “I understand that right now you feel like the world is crashing down around you. You feel like no matter how hard you try, you can’t do anything to make your situation better. Sometimes, when you love someone enough, you have to trust them to do the right things in life. You can’t expect them to do things just because you want them to. You have to trust that your love is strong enough to get you through the rough times.”
“All we have are rough times.” Olivia looked at Sr. Lucy with a eyes filled with so much pain that the nun couldn’t stop herself from sending up a quick, silent prayer for her. “That’s all we ever have. I just want a day.” Olivia swallowed and tried to steady her voice which was starting to tremble. “I just want one single, small day where we can just be happy and free and… in love.”
Olivia held up a hand before the nun could finish her thought, “I know you don’t approve, and I don’t care. That’s why I want to talk to her. I don’t want her getting brainwashed by you people.”
“We don’t brainwash people, Olivia,” Sr. Lucy said a bit defensively. “I’m not sure where you got your ideas about the church, but many of us are open-minded about this type of thing. I’m not here to judge you or your friend.” Olivia looked at her doubtfully. “Believe it or not, I’d be quite happy for you and your Natalia if you found love with one another. I think love is never anything less than a blessing from God.”
“Tell me she’s here,” Olivia said quietly. She didn’t want to go into a “God is love” conversation with a nun right now. She wanted to find Natalia and just… damnit! She wanted to physically pick her up and take her back home. She could deal with God and love and every damn thing else in this world if she just had Natalia back.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
Olivia frowned and sighed with frustration. “If you’re not going to tell me where she is, I’ll go find her myself.”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
Olivia stood up and attempted to look as threatening as she could in her rumpled shirt and old jeans. “Who’s going to stop me? You and what army?”
Sr. Lucy rose quietly from her chair and tentatively put a hand on Olivia’s forearm. “Please, Olivia, you seem like a kind woman – and a tired, sad, frustrated woman. I’m willing to bet you don’t want to add the annoyance of a night in jail into the equation.”
Olivia released a defeated sigh. “It would be the perfect end to a perfect day,” she muttered and slid her hands deeply into her jeans pockets.
Sr. Lucy looked at her sympathetically. “I’m not allowed to give information out about our guests, but I will tell you one thing, we’re not very good at multitasking here. When we host retreats for the local schools it takes up all of our time and attention.”
“So she’s not here?” Olivia said in a small voice and blinked back tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes.
“I hope you find her,” Sr. Lucy said with a small shake of her head and squeezed Olivia’s arm gently. “I know a lot of people who would give anything to have someone in their life so willing to fight for them. Don’t fight too hard, though. Only fight when you find a real reason to fight. Until then, give her some time. If she truly loves you, she’ll come back to you.”
Olivia nodded reluctantly and walked slowly out of the retreat center.