Das Bean (mysticaldream) wrote in passion_perfect,
Das Bean

I Know You Love Me, Chapter Seven (Part VI)

Title: I Know You Love Me
Author: mysticaldream
Fandom: Guiding Light
Pairing: Olivia Spencer/Natalia Rivera
Spoilers: This story begins at the end of the 8/31/2009 episode and includes flashbacks/references to earlier scenes, both canon and fictitious. This story will deviate from canon at the end of the 8/31/2009 episode.

Natalia pursues Olivia after returning from the retreat.
Rating: Will range from PG-NC17.
Disclaimer: The characters herein, including Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Emma Spencer, Matt Reardon, Maureen Reardon, Frank Cooper, Rick Bauer, Doris Wolfe and Buzz Cooper belong to Proctor & Gamble, TeleNext Media, and/or CBS. I do not own them nor am I making any profit from this work of fiction.

A/N: This story alternates between Olivia's and Natalia's POV and also sometimes between memories/flashbacks and present tense. I will do my best to make the differences clear. This is my first attempt at fanfic; constructive criticism is always appreciated. Thanks for reading and especially to those of you who take the time to comment - I appreciate it more than I can express! I used up all my good excuses for the long time between updates with the last one. So I'll just take the blame this time. Lob it at me. Chapter 8 called to bitch at me for making it wait. 2 questions to go in the chapter that won't die. Actually, I do have something relevant to say this time. I am begging for the willing suspension of disbelief in this chapter. I have absolutely no religious background or understanding of the faith issues that an individual in a gay or lesbian relationship needs to cope with. I thought about researching it but with it being the end of the quarter at school, then exams, then vacation, then the holidays, throw in a dissertation and well… who knows when I'd get to it. So, for the purpose of our little foray into the fictional world, can we pretend that Natalia's answers make sense and touch on most of the important issues? Please? I'd be much indebted to you. Wonky formatting again. One day I'll get it right.

(Chapter One) (Chapter Two) (Chapter Three) (Chapter Four) (Chapter Five) (Chapter Six) (Chapter Seven [Part I]) (Chapter Seven [Part II]) (Chapter Seven [Part III])(Chapter Seven [Part IV])(Chapter Seven [Part V])

Chapter Seven (Part VI) – Olivia Spencer

This feels perfect. How can this feel so right? I've spent so much time telling myself that this is wrong, that it won't work. But my body, my heart, they're telling me this is where I belong. In the previous months she had envisioned holding Natalia this was thousands of times, had imagined countless first kiss scenarios. She now realized that her woefully inadequate imagination hadn't been even close to being capable of depicting the assault of emotions that would wreak havoc on her body. She'd never believe that two simple kisses could completely transform her body, and even more surprisingly, her mind.

Olivia's thoughts were racing chaotically. Her blood surged, her nerves fired like live wires, her stomach trembled and she felt more weak than she ever had before, even immediately after the transplant. Everything inside of her was rioting and yet, by outward appearances, she was hardly moving. Neither she nor Natalia had moved since Olivia broke their second kiss. They held closely to one another, their bodies pressed tightly together. Their hands grasped the other's clothes; Olivia hoped doing so would will Natalia to stay, prevent her from running again.

But one look at Natalia and Olivia knew she wasn't running. She was looking at her with dark, expressive eyes that shone in the pale moonlight streaming in from the side of the gazebo. She was smiling radiantly at Olivia, her dimples gracing her flawless features. It was a look of adoration and contentment, and for a brief moment Olivia's racing heart stopped. Before panic over her heart condition could set into her consciousness, it began galloping once again.

Unfortunately, Olivia's life had been turned so far upside down in the last few months that she honestly didn't trust herself anymore. She lacked confidence in her ability to make rational choices; she wondered if deep down she was just trying to punish herself for… well, she didn't know. But her choices of late had been nothing but punishing to her body and her spirit. So though she had just kissed Natalia, and she wasn't being hyperbolic when she thought the kiss had literally changed her life, she quickly began to wonder if it had been a wise decision.

She told Natalia she wanted to go slow. Of that she was certain. She knew that jumping in headfirst, heart and risk and fear be damned, would be disastrous. It wouldn't give them time to continue to work through these critically important issues. She needed time to trust Natalia again. The crucial question in her mind right now was what exactly it meant to go slow. She was a woman who had never taken her time in relationships, at least not until Natalia. But they had gone so slow they barely moved. Glacial… she remembered teasing the younger woman about the inertia of her relationship with Frank, but that looked like a whirlwind romance in comparison to their own relationship. Frank got to kiss her. Hold her. Was going to take her away for a romantic weekend. Asked her to marry him.

But moving so slowly the first time around, being so timid and uncertain obviously had not worked as well as she had hoped. She had promised herself she'd do everything differently if she ever fell in love again, but at the time she hadn't realized what that meant. In the process of doing things differently she ended up a different person. In some ways good, but in some ways she shuddered now to think about. Olivia Spencer was not a scared woman. She was assertive and flirtatious, confident and even cocky. Looking back on those months she hardly recognized the woman she had become. She needed to strike some balance between doing love differently without doing Olivia differently.

The dilemma was how to negotiate going slow with Natalia without falling into their familiar and at times destructive patterns of hiding, equivocating, mitigating. Olivia needed to stop trying to be the person she thought Natalia wanted or needed and just be herself. That was who Natalia fell in love with in the first place.

As she stood there in Natalia's arms, wishing she could stop her charging thoughts and focus instead on the soft and sweet sensation of holding the woman she loved, she realized with sadness that there was probably only one way to make this work at this point. It was a decision she dreaded making and she believed that it would break Natalia's heart a little. With sadness and resignation, she realized that it was the only way she believed this could work. Just a minute more. Let me hold her one minute longer.

She took half a step forward. Natalia was already trapped between Olivia and the gazebo post; this small step pressed them more tightly to one another. Natalia's pregnant belly fit into the near concave hollow of Olivia's own. Her six week foray into desolate despair had left her nearly gaunt. Their thighs had been touching before but her movement toward Natalia had resulted in Olivia's thigh resting between Natalia's and vice versa. Olivia was certainly cognizant of the pressure she felt at the apex of her legs and she toyed with an ephemeral thought of moving closer still to increase the pleasant friction. But immediately chasing the thought was the simple contentment that came with the closeness, the intimacy of their embrace. And it was that realization that reminded her she was making the right decision. Their relationship needed to have strong foundations of trust, intimacy, connection and love. As much as she wanted Natalia, as much as she basked in the knowledge that Natalia now wanted her, it was not the time. Not tonight.

But before she broke the connection, she needed to feel it just a little longer. She needed to sear this memory, every sight and smell and the tactile proof of Natalia against her, into her mind. Because when she got scared again, when her trust and abandonment issues boiled angrily to the surface again, when she got frustrated with not being where she wanted to be in their relationship, she needed to remember this exact moment. Their two soft, sensual, electrifying kisses. Natalia's breath against her lips, and then her tongue against her lips. Natalia's small, thin fingers entwined behind her neck, warm against her bare skin in the chilly night atmosphere. She rest her head on Natalia's shoulder, facing in and inhaling the soft scent of Natalia's botanical shampoo and simple baby powder, as Olivia knew Natalia refused to splurge on expensive perfumes. She closed her eyes, willing every intense sensation to her memory. She nestled closer, and ever so softly placed her lips against the taut and smooth skin on her neck. It was so light it couldn't even be considered a kiss. It was simply her lips lying upon silky warm skin and she knew it was dangerous. She also knew that she would never forgive herself if she didn't take this one opportunity, maybe the last opportunity for a while or maybe the last opportunity ever, to feel Natalia's warmth and softness against the hypersensitive flesh of her lips. Even with the barest, lightest contact, the effect on Olivia was staggering. Her lungs constricted and her heart rate soared.

"Olivia," she heard Natalia moan softly. It reminded Olivia that she needed to be stopping this, halting forward progress before she surrendered her self-control and resolution. One last squeeze of the woman in her arms, and she pulled away. Her fingertips drifted lightly over Natalia's arms, over the sensitive skin of her wrists, and then she took the smaller hands into her own. She stepped back, the distance great enough that their hands were the only parts of their bodies touching, but small enough that they could still easily discern each other's features, read the emotions on their faces.

"Natalia," she began softly, searching the younger woman's dark eyes for understanding and compassion for what she was going to say.


"I need to go slow with this. I know you said this," she motioned absently to the space between them, hoping Natalia would understand, "is helping to build trust. But it's going to take more than that for me. I think…" Olivia sighed heavily. "I think we should try to be friends again first. See what happens from there."

Olivia wanted to look away, more than anything she wanted her eyes to see anything other than the sadness that swelled in Natalia's eyes, the slight quivering of her lower lip, the silent tears Natalia didn't try to hide or wipe away from her face. Her instinctual protectiveness had her moving closer before she knew what was happening. She pulled Natalia back into her arms, ran her hand over Natalia's head, gently guiding it to her shoulder and then smoothing the hand down her silky ebony tresses. She could feel the warmth of Natalia's tears streaming on to her own pale skin, contrasting starkly with the cool breeze blowing past them.

"'Talia?" Olivia could feel Natalia smile against her skin at the use of the new nickname. "Sweetie, I want everything. I do. I'm not saying that all I want is your friendship. But I need to start there. And I don't know, maybe it will only take a month. Maybe it will take a year. Maybe it will take longer. I'm just afraid if we rush we won't be able to build a strong enough foundation to stand up to all the bullshit that Springfield and the people and your church are going to throw our way."

Natalia pulled away, nodding softly. "Olivia, I told you I will be patient. I don't care how long it takes for you to trust me again. I don't care if you're still scared when we're ninety years old. I care about you. I love you. I will be with you in any way that you'll have me in your life. You know what I want and I can tell you that I am ready for it right now. This very minute, Olivia Spencer. Whatever you ask of me, I will do without question or hesitation if it will help you overcome your fears. But if it takes time… if it takes all the time we ever have on this Earth, it will be worth it. You were made for me, Olivia. God made you for me to love. For our time here, and for eternity."

Natalia sounded so serious and Olivia felt guilty as she tried to stifle a laugh. "Natalia, I'm not so sure you and I are going to the same place for all eternity!" And they laughed together, easing some of the heaviness and expectation between them. Natalia swatted playfully at her.

"Stop it, Olivia. You want everyone to think you're big and bad and scary. You're not." Natalia stated firmly. Olivia mocked indignation at the assertion, but she felt herself smiling through the façade.

"I think you are a good person. I think you are loving and kind and forgiving and generous. And, well, if anyone disagrees, I'll just sneak you into Heaven with me," Natalia joked.

Olivia felt a disconcerting thought prickling in the corner of her brain. As much as they had discussed tonight, as much as Natalia had helped to ease her fears about Frank and Rafe, Olivia realized that she had not yet explained how she could reconcile her religion with their relationship together. Surely six weeks at a religious retreat did not leave someone feeling confident and assured about being in a lesbian relationship.

"Natalia?" she asked seriously.

"Hmm?" Natalia looked back at Olivia, her face gentle and soft, so beautiful as it had softly filled out with her pregnancy.

"What about your church? Your religion? You've said you figured out how to handle Frank and Rafe, but what about God? And Father Ray? And your faith?" Olivia sounded slightly panicked, wondering how she had forgotten such a fundamental barrier to their relationship. Just as she had begun to give in, to feel hope again, her fears and insecurity crashed around her once more.

She felt Natalia's hand touch her face, the back of the younger woman's fingers brushing gently down the curve of her jaw. When her hand reached Olivia's chin, she cupped it so that Olivia's gaze was forced to lock with her own.

"Listen to me, Olivia, and I mean really listen." Natalia stated. Olivia quirked her eyebrow in question, wondering if she should feel offended at the implication of the statement.

"I see what you're thinking Olivia. Just stop thinking for a minute. You are a good listener, sometimes. But other times you have your mind made up before you give anyone a chance to explain. Shoot first and ask questions later, remember? Thank God you didn't do that with Philip. I know my religion and my faith scare you, and in your mind you've already decided that our relationship and my faith are mutually exclusive." Natalia took a deep breath and Olivia took the opportunity to jump in.

"But they are, Natalia-"

"Ah-ah!" Natalia held up a finger, stopping her. For a brief moment they stared at each other, a competition of wills. Olivia never gave in, never stopped talking because someone told her to. But in that moment, she deferred to Natalia. Even though she believed there was no way to make peace with a relationship in Natalia's faith, she desperately wanted to hear what Natalia had to say, praying that she had found some loophole. The thought itself seemed pathetic to Olivia, but she couldn't push it from her mind. Was it possible that Natalia had found some way to love her without giving up her belief in God?

Doubt and hesitation burdened Olivia, she felt them physically as her posture shrunk and her eyes fell to the ground. She had decided that evening that she was no longer going to be someone different, someone not true to herself, in order to be with Natalia. By the same token, she could never ask Natalia to be someone other than who she was.

Two years ago, Olivia would have had no problem telling someone who she needed them to be. Mocking choices she found to be questionable would have been a fun way to pass the time. She had grown since the transplant, and especially since falling in love with Natalia. Asking her to give up her faith, her religion would be completely unfair. It was a defining characteristic of Natalia. It was infused into all her best qualities – her kindness, her generosity, her ability to forgive. It had given her strength throughout her lifetime, allowing her to accept the worst of circumstances and continue to hope for something better. She could give it up no more easily than she could give up her identity as a mother. Olivia had refused to let Natalia sacrifice her relationship with Rafe for them to be together, and she similarly rejected the notion of Natalia giving up her faith so they could be a couple.

Natalia must have noticed Olivia's distraction, as she took Olivia's hand in her own and squeezed it tightly. "Olivia? Stay with me, okay?"

Olivia looked at their joined hands, and then into Natalia's eyes as she silently nodded.

"God is love," Natalia said simply, as though that answered all of Olivia's questions.

"God is love?" Olivia repeated because she wasn't sure what else to say at that point. Natalia had told her to listen carefully, and so she had expected something lengthier and perhaps a little more profound than three little words.

Natalia smiled at her. "All love is God's love. When we give love, and when we accept the love that is given to us, it is a reflection of God's love for us. Just as God has made each human being individual and different, He has also provided us with the ability to feel multiple types of love for those very different individuals. The love I feel for Rafe is based in protection, nurturance, pride, legacy, and shared history. That love is entirely different than the love I felt for Gus. With Gus, it was based on childhood dreams, idealized romantic notions that were shaded with possessiveness and a fear he would leave again. The love I feel for Buzz and Frank and the Coopers is different still. It is based in gratitude, a sense of community, a wish for a family since I lost mine so long ago." Natalia paused.

Olivia felt the words washing through her consciousness. She was doing her best to uphold her commitment to listen without judgment, to hear Natalia's thoughts without coloring them with her own experiences, biases, or her generalized distrust of religion. Thus far, everything Natalia had said rang true for Olivia. She had certainly experienced multiple types of love in her lifetime, and though she had never given it much consideration, she did realize that each love had a different cornerstone, a different melding of emotions and connections and hopes and fears. "Okay," she urged Natalia to continue by nodding her acceptance of the preceding statements.

"The love I feel for you, Olivia, is different from all of those loves, too. It is built upon respect, admiration, and compromise. It is colored with passion and intensity and desire. It is based in our shared past, the struggles we have overcome to get where we are, but also in our future. In our shared goals and our resolve to be together no matter what happens or what people say. Our love is selfless and giving and fulfilling. And this love, it is just another variation, just another reflection of God's love. And just like all of God's forms of love, this one deserves to be cherished and honored and expressed."

Olivia was surprised that she found herself believing Natalia. Was it possible that the last insurmountable hurdle between them could in fact be overcome?

"But…" Olivia felt so many thoughts and doubts swirling through her mind and she tried desperately just to grab on to one. She'd never be able to grasp the questions she needed answers to if she couldn't slow her mind down just a little. "But, it's a sin, right? It is okay to love me but your religion says to act upon that love, or to even think about acting on that love, is a sin right?" Realization dawned on her. "Oh, God, Natalia! The kiss? We kissed, that's a sin!" Somewhere in her consciousness she knew she shouldn't be freaking out because Natalia had asked for the first kiss and initiated the second; those were not actions of a woman encumbered with fear. But with her new resolve to stay true to herself, and to ensure Natalia stayed true to herself, she found herself panicking.

She felt Natalia squeeze her hand again, drawing her back into the moment and soothing her racing fears. "Olivia, listen. This? Us? It's not a sin. A sin occurs when you do something you believe to be wrong. I believe it is fundamentally wrong to hurt a child, or to knowingly use someone for your own personal gain, or to be jealous and hateful because someone has something you don't. If I were to do any of those things, I would be sinning because I believe them to be wrong."

Olivia considered the distinction, still not certain that she understood where Natalia was going or how this could make their relationship okay in the eyes of her religion. "Okay…" she replied, hoping to encourage Natalia to continue so the conversation might begin to make more sense.

"When I was at the retreat I thought so much about you, about me, about us, and about our love. And no matter which angle I examined it from, I could not find anything wrong with it. This love could never be wrong. God would not have given us this gift if He didn't want for us to embrace it and express it. I believe God brought us together, Olivia. He had to."

"Why?" Olivia questioned.

"I came to Springfield for a reason. I thought for a very long time that reason was Gus. And in a way, it was, but not in the way I thought. I had to find Gus and marry him so when the time came, I could give you his heart. I battled that decision. I didn't want you to have it. I thought I hated you. But God came to me that day, Olivia, He came to me through Emma. And suddenly I knew I had to give you his heart. It was what God wanted me to do. He knew it would bind us together, it would force us to learn about each other and learn to depend on one another." Natalia was speaking softly but her voice was full of conviction, and she periodically squeezed Olivia's hand or stepped closer to Olivia, gestures that were greatly appreciated by the older woman as they helped to pacify her fears.

"But the church?" Olivia questioned. "Your religion says that it is wrong. So if they say it is wrong, doesn't that still make it a sin?"

Natalia didn't hesitate in answering. The ease with which she was discussing this matter helped to allay some of Olivia's nervousness and distrust. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the time away had been put to use. Natalia didn't just go away to bake cookies and knit for her new baby. It was still unforgivable that Natalia had left with no word, had not contacted her, but Olivia felt better knowing that she had been thinking of Olivia and trying to find a way for them to be together without hindrance or guilt.

"Religion is a set of rules, Olivia. A set of rules governing practices and behaviors. Those rules are written by fallible humans. Not God. Some rules change over time, but others are thousands of years old. They are guidelines for how to practice your faith. Religion provides a community, a sense of ritual and continuity. My religion, Olivia, and what my religion says about our love, is not the same as my faith. I love my religion. I love the church and the services and the people I see there. But that is not what is most important to me. My faith is what is important. My faith is my trust in God and His Will and His guidance. He has guided me to you. The rules tell me to act on my love for you is wrong, but my faith tells me that it is not."

Olivia felt tears stinging in her eyes as she weighed Natalia's words, coming to understanding and acceptance of them. She wanted desperately to believe in her assertions, but doubt still lingered. "I just… I don't want you to have to break the rules for me."

Natalia laughed, sonorous and genuine with dimples and flashing eyes. "Olivia! Sometimes you have to break the rules. You know that. You taught me that!"

"Well, yeah, I break the rules, but I don't have Catholic guilt dragging me down."

"I've broken rules, too. When we blackmailed Doris? That was breaking the rules, Olivia, but we did it to protect our family and Emma when we thought Philip would try to kidnap her again," Natalia rationalized.

Olivia considered the example, but quickly realized her own culpability in Natalia's transgression. "Yeah, but that was my suggestion," she explained. "Just like me, corrupting the innocents of society," she added, and she immediately winced when she realized how sarcastic and wounded she sounded. "I'm sorry," she quickly backpedaled. "That didn't come out right. I'm not making fun of you, I promise. I just know that you did that for me, and for Emma, and you never would have done that on your own."

Natalia narrowed her eyes briefly before looking back at Olivia. "Wouldn't I? I've told you before that I love Emma, I love her like she is my own daughter and I will do anything necessary to protect her. I'm not a child, Olivia, and I'm not naïve. You didn't drag me against my will to Doris' office to blackmail her. I went willingly because I knew it would help us to protect our family. I slept with Gus while he was married to Harley. I almost slept with that married scumbag Vince Russo, and I would have if you hadn't shown up to stop me. Premarital sex with married men without the purpose of procreation? That is breaking the rules of Catholic doctrine. I broke the rules, and I would have broken them again, but I was doing it for Rafe. God wanted me to give all I could to make a better life for Rafe. I thought that meant giving him a chance to know his father. I would have done anything to help him avoid prison time. The church said it was wrong, but I'd do it over again in a heartbeat."

Natalia leaned into Olivia again, wrapping her arms around her and resting her head on her shoulder. Olivia could feel her breath against her neck and her skin erupted in goosebumps in response. She could feel Natalia's heavy hair draped over her shoulder, down her own back, and it tickled where the dress didn't cover her flesh.

"I can tell you dozens of times in my life that I have gone against the teaching of my religion, Olivia. But I will not go against my faith. My faith tells me that we should be together. My faith tells me that God has given us this love, this all-encompassing and terrifying and thrilling love, and He did that so we can share it and use it to make the world a little better. So we can bring joy to each other. So we can make our lives better, richer, fuller. So we can give Emma a stable, happy home, and we can give this baby two loving, adoring, doting parents."

Olivia looked for loopholes, fallacies in the argument but she couldn't find any. The words Natalia said made sense, and more importantly, she was convinced that Natalia truly believed them. She was not saying these things to placate Olivia. "You're sure?" She asked meekly, still holding Natalia against her.

"I can't live without you. I can't live without our family. I can't live without my faith." Natalia looked up and Olivia looked down in response. "I wish the Catholic Church had a different stance on this matter because I like the Church. But there are other Churches that will allow me to be a part of their community, will allow me to keep my faith intact, and will allow me to love you in all the ways I want to. My relationship with a Church is secondary to my relationship with God." Her eyes were dark and pleading and Olivia felt hope start to snake its way through her veins, sinuous and pervasive, into her heart.

"You're sure?" She asked again because she needed to hear the answer again. As much as she wanted this, Natalia had said she was ready before and then disappeared. She suspected she would be asking this question frequently in their future, until she had absolute certainty that Natalia wouldn't run from her again.

"Yes. I've told you already tonight, I know my weeks at the retreat were much, much more difficult for you than they were for me, and I will apologize again for that. But Olivia, I hated being there. I hated being away from you and from our family. I hated that I have our baby growing inside me and you weren't there to share it with me, feel him or her kick for the first time or to hold me when I didn't feel well. Every single day I wanted to come home to you. But I had to be certain. I had to be sure. I had to work through every single obstacle that stood in the way of our happiness."

Natalia hugged Olivia once more and then stepped back to look into her eyes. Olivia could feel their connection as her heart fluttered before starting to race. As their bodies instinctively drew closer. She couldn't deny that they shared something magical. They always had. Even as enemies they were drawn together. Whether it was God, or fate, or just the most random and chaotic string of events, Olivia knew that on some level, Natalia was right. They were destined to be together. Nothing could feel this powerful, this right, and be only fleeting. Olivia had loved enough men in her life to know that this feeling was different. It was forever.

Natalia continued, unprompted by Olivia. "I know that you wanted me to call. And I know you would have tried to help me come up with the answers I was looking for. And I owe you an explanation for that. These questions, I needed to answer them on my own. They were my hang-ups, my barriers, and so I needed to come to terms with them without outside influence. I didn't think you would manipulate me, Olivia, but of course other people were telling me that you were. I needed to come to these answers without your help so when the time came, I could stand up to Frank and Rafe and Father Ray and say, 'No, Olivia did not manipulate me, she did not feed me lies or confuse me. These are my conclusions.' I knew if I told you were I was, or what I was doing… you'd come for me."

Natalia touched her face. "I'm sorry, Olivia. I'm sorry for leaving with no word. But it was the only answer I saw at the time. You have your own barriers that you need to work through, things I cannot help you with. I can't make you trust me. I can't make you forgive me. I can't give you those answers anymore than you could give me answers about my faith. I came to my conclusions, and they may not make sense to anyone else in the world. But they make sense to me, and that is all that matters. I am certain. I refused to leave that retreat until I had found a way to reconcile every single doubt and fear that I had. I refused to leave until I was completely sure that I could be everything you needed me to be, Olivia."

Olivia tried to respond, but the words were caught in her chest, jammed somewhere between her racing heart and her oxygen-depleted lungs. It finally made sense to her. She still hated it. She still wished it had never had to happen this way. She still regretted each of the 47 days Natalia was gone. But she understood that Natalia was right. The questions about Frank and Rafe and God were not questions Olivia would have been able to answer. Natalia needed to make her own choices, follow her faith and her heart, free of outside influence. In a convoluted way, it was maybe better that Natalia had left to find the answers. Because maybe Olivia would have been able to persuade her. But maybe Frank, and Rafe, and Father Ray would have been more persuasive. Natalia hadn't just been hiding from Olivia. She had been hiding from everyone. Natalia had done this not for selfish reasons, but for Olivia. So she could be with Olivia with a clear conscience and confidence in her decision.

She had fought and grappled and prayed and thought. She needed time to make decisions, but she had made her choices. And she chose me. It was perhaps all Olivia needed to know.

*To Be Continued*
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