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.
A/N - Did anyone miss the big announcement? Who else is bouncing? I'm bouncing :-D
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11] [Part 12] [Part 13] [Part 14] [Part 15] [Part 16] [Part 17] [Part 18] [Part 19] [Part 20] [Part 21] [Part 22] [Part 23] [Part 24]
Josephine stood stock still for a long moment then stumbled back into the wall, clutching her heart. Natalia was by her side in an instant, steadying her.
"Mom," she gasped, anger and concern warring for dominance in her voice. Josephine waved her off.
"Like you care if my heart is breaking," she snapped. "You didn't care the last time you did it."
Natalia stepped back. "You have a very strange recollection of who hurt who," she said tightly.
Rafe glanced back and forth between them like a spectator at a tennis match. "Ma," he mumbled. "What are you talking about?"
Natalia's chin jutted forward. "Ask her," she ground out. "Ask her what she and my father had planned for me when they found out I was pregnant with you."
Josephine's head whipped up. "What?" She shook her head in confusion. "Plans? We had no plans."
For a long moment Natalia was speechless, but then she laughed - a long, bitter, humourless laugh. "Now who's lying?" she demanded, then stepped forward and slapped the wall dividing her room from Josephine's. "Thin walls, remember? I heard you."
Rafe sank down onto his mother's thin single bed, feeling like he'd just been dropped into a very surreal play. He looked at his mother, standing with her back straight and her head held high, fire in her eyes, and felt a little afraid. He'd never seen her like this. His mom didn't get angry. She just sighed resignedly at whatever life had thrown at her and got on with it. This new side to her was, if he was honest, a tiny bit scary.
"Heard what?" Josephine spat.
Natalia shook her head. "I heard you," she said, slowly and deliberately, "planning to make me have an abortion."
Rafe's head shot up. His grandmother had gone deathly white and was leaning against the wall even more heavily. "Grandma?" he mumbled, but she didn't look at him. Her eyes were locked on her daughter's flushed face.
"It wasn't like that-" she began, but Natalia cut her off with a hollow laugh.
"How dare you talk to me about sin?" she demanded. "How dare you tell me that my love is wrong when you and dad wanted me to murder my child?"
"It wasn't like that!" Josephine screamed, holding her hands to her ears as if to block out the words. Or the past.
Natalia wasn't about to let her off that easily. "Oh no you don't," she muttered, stalking over to her mother and forcing her hands away from her head. "You're going to listen to me for once."
Josephine stared into the face of her only child and narrowed her eyes. "Okay, Natalia. You tell me what you think you heard, hmm?"
"I know what I heard," Natalia replied firmly.
"Do you?" Josephine said in a low whisper and something in her tone made Natalia hesitate.
"I..." she said, then coughed to clear her throat. "I heard you and dad talking."
"You mentioned the part where you were eavesdropping on an adult conversation," Josephine remarked acidly. Natalia flushed.
"Dad was talking about making an appointment at a clinic," she said, a little more strength in her voice. "He asked you what you'd do if I refused to go through with it."
Josephine raised one eyebrow. "And?" she prompted.
"And you said 'then she'll find out that actions have consequences.'"
Rafe looked up at his mother, a frown deepening on his brow. "That's it?" Natalia's head snapped round.
"Keep out of this, Rafe," she snapped.
"You're talking about when you were pregnant with me, remember?" he said, then did a double take when two sets of identical eyes rolled exaggeratedly.
"How did you raise such a stupid child?" Josephine muttered. Natalia rounded on her at once.
"Leave him out of this," she growled. "This is about you and me."
Josephine tilted her head. "So talk to me," she said. "Tell me what you thought I meant by that, hmm?"
Natalia took a step back, her confidence faltering again. "I don't know," she admitted. "I just know it was nothing good." Josephine threw her hands in the air.
"You stupid girl," she hissed. "Don't you know you destroyed your father? Don't you know you broke his heart?" Natalia turned away, her jaw clenched.
"Yeah, yeah, sixteen, pregnant, unmarried-" she began, reciting the usual litany, but Josephine cut her off.
"No!" she exclaimed, shaking her head. "Idiotic child. Because you left!"
Rafe sat back a little on the bed, watching his mother and grandmother squaring off against each other. He realised suddenly that his mother had never talked about the circumstances surrounding her leaving home. He supposed he'd always assumed that his grandparents had kicked her out. She'd never talked about them, never tried to get in touch, never attempted to ask them for help, even when they'd been so poor that she hadn't been able to feed them both and had so gone hungry.
Natalia set her jaw. "I didn't have a choice."
Josephine's face was flushed, but her eyes were watery and her lips were trembling. "You left," she whispered. "You didn't talk to us. You didn't give us a chance to explain. You didn't give us the benefit of the doubt. After everything we'd done for you. You know, coming to this country wasn't easy for us. We did it for you - so you'd have a better life. And how did you repay us?"
Natalia took one step forward. "I couldn't let you hurt my child," she insisted, but she didn't seem as sure as she had been. Josephine waved her hand dismissively.
"We just wanted what was best for you," she said. A single tear escaped her eye and trailed down her cheek. "Especially your father. You were...you were his whole world. He loved you so much, Natalia. He only wanted you to have an easier life. He didn't want you to have to grow up so fast." She shrugged. "He wanted you to stay his little girl."
Natalia paled, her face stricken. "But...what about the clinic?"
"It was an option," Josephine replied. "Just an option. He hated it. My God, Natalia, he'd changed his mind by morning. I doubt he could have gone through with it, but you never gave us the chance to talk to you about it. Because you'd gone by the time we woke up." Silent tears were flowing freely now, but Josephine's voice was calm. "No note. No call. No explanation. Just a few clothes and some money missing." She closed her eyes. "Do you realise that we didn't know if you were alive or dead for six months? Not until your cousin Maria finally admitted to seeing you. And even then she wouldn't tell us where you were."
Natalia took a step forward, her hand flying to her mouth. "I didn't think-" she began, but her mother cut her off.
"No, you didn't," she said. "Look around, Natalia. Look around at the shrine to you that your father erected." She opened her eyes. "He always hoped you'd come back."
Natalia's eyes spun wildly about the room, taking in the pastel pink walls, the anachronistic posters, the carefully maintained furniture. "I wondered why you'd kept the room like this..." she whispered.
Josephine looked away. Silence stretched between them like a taut rubber band.
"But what about those consequences," Natalia demanded, when the tension finally became unbearable. "What did you mean by that?"
"What do you think?" Josephine exclaimed. "Having a baby at sixteen is a consequence, isn't it? Losing your childhood is a consequence. Not being able to go to college. Having to work your fingers to the bone. Spending your nights worrying about money instead of having fun, like a teenager is supposed to."
Rafe squirmed uncomfortably on the bed, but went ignored by both women. "It was my choice," Natalia said defensively.
"But you didn't have to do it alone!" Josephine clenched her fists. "Stupid girl, we would have helped you!"
Natalia took a step back, her eyes stricken. "But..." she spluttered. "But...I thought-"
"You thought what?" Josephine demanded. "That we'd disown you? Throw you out on the streets? Condemn you to hell?" She barked out a brief, humourless laugh. "You really think your father would have done that?"
"Not him," Natalia said without thinking, then flushed, clamping her mouth shut. Josephine's eyes narrowed.
"Oh, of course not. But you could believe that I would do it, yes? That's what you're saying."
Natalia shook her head. "Mom-" she said, but Josephine wouldn't let her continue.
"How typical. You and your father, so alike, so close. You had him wrapped round your little finger from the moment you were born. And I was always the bad guy, wasn't I? Always the one who had to make you go to bed, or brush your teeth or do your homework."
Natalia took a step forward, but Josephine waved her away. "Everything I did was for your own good. Because I wanted you to be healthy and happy and successful. Is that so terrible? Does that make me a monster?"
Natalia shook her head. "I thought..." she said, then seemed to lose the words.
"I know what you thought," Josephine said bitterly. "I know how you see me. But you know something? Just because you never loved me it doesn't mean I never loved you."
Natalia stepped back, tears filling her eyes and spilling over onto her cheeks. She cast her eyes around the room, taking in all the detritus of her broken childhood before finally settling her gaze on the unwitting cause of it all - her very confused looking son. "I have to go," she whispered, gathering up her jacket and purse, making sure to slip the letter she'd been reading inside.
"Where are you going?" Josephine demanded, reaching for her. Natalia ducked from her grasp.
"I don't know," Natalia admitted. "I just...I need to think. I need to think."
Josephine surged forward, but didn't manage to stop Natalia before she made it out the door. "Running away again?" she yelled to her daughter's departing back before slamming the door hard and collapsing against it. Rafe watched her for a long moment before he realised that she was crying, deep silent sobs.
"Grandma," he murmured, reaching out for her. She flinched away from his touch.
"You have Olivia's number?" she asked shortly. Her eyes were dark and unreadable.
Rafe nodded, frowning. "Yeah..."
Josephine closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Give it to me," she said.