It's 2029 and there's an Otalia wedding brewing…
Just many thanks in advance to everyone who reads and takes a
few moments to reply – it really means a lot and inspires
writers – not just myself but others – to continue.
Disclaimer Ahead: Guiding Light is a product of Proctor
& Gamble (like Mr. Clean, Duracell and Old Spice), and
appears on CBS at the time of writing this. The characters are
the creative property of the show and its producers – I'm
just borrowing them for my amusement, and hopefully for those
few souls who read this.
Too many to count
Thursday, June 7th, 2029
A svelte, yet still shapely, dark haired woman in her
late-teens, possibly early-twenties, called out as she entered
the farmhouse kitchen. One of her hands was locked with
another woman of approximately the same age with ash blonde
hair. The blonde, who was rather buxom herself, followed
behind her, looking somewhat timid.
"Are you guys here?" the dark-haired woman called
out again as she led her companion deeper into the house.
"Maybe they're not home?" the blonde suggested as
they made their way to the living room.
Once they rounded the corner they saw another woman come
down the stairs and greet them. She was slightly taller and
looked around 10 years older with light brown hair.
"Hey rugrat," she said as she extended her arms
open for a hug.
The dark-haired woman smiled.
"How you doing Dr. Jellybean?" she teased back.
After they finished their greeting, Emma pulled back and
then offered her hand to the blonde woman.
"Since Elena is so terrible at introductions, I'm her
sister, Emma. It's nice to finally meet you, Rachel."
"Hey, you didn't give me a chance to introduce
her," Elena argued. "Rachel, Emma. Em' Rachel."
"It's nice to meet you," Rachel replied.
"I've heard so many stories about you guys it feels like
I know you, but it's nice to put a face to a name."
"Likewise," Emma agreed.
"So are the brides nervous?" Elena asked.
"Does throwing up twice count?" she asked.
Elena and Rachel both laughed and seconds later they all
heard a man call out, "Hey, Ma?"
"In here, Rafe," Emma yelled toward the kitchen.
Rafe rounded the corner and looked rather debonair in a
suit and tie. He took a few steps into the living room and
then stumbled back in mock-surprise when he saw Elena.
"Look at you! You look so grown up, girl. C'mere,"
he said opening his arms.
"Rafe," she said after the hug, "this is
Rachel. Rachel, my brother Rafe."
"My sisters score all the hotties I see," he
complimented making Rachel blush.
"Enough," Elena chastised her older brother with
a swat to his arm. "So where are they?" she asked
looking around again.
Emma pitched a thumb behind her, pointing outside.
"Momma Liv is ordering around the help like a drill
sergeant and Momma Tal is pretty much trying to keep the peace
so, you know, the usual." All of them chuckled. "I'm
just trying to keep the peace between them, at least until
Saturday. After that, I'm done - they can live happily ever
after or strangle each other. Either way, I'm out of it."
She sighed. "I'll be so glad when this weekend is
"It's just a wedding," Elena remarked.
"I know that. You know that. But you
also know how my mom gets about parties." Elena smiled
and nodded in agreement silently. "Even an impromptu
party takes hours of planning," Emma went on. "So
this is like... the second coming." Elena giggled, as
Emma turned to Rachel. "Don't get me wrong – I love my
mom. I do. And I love everything she's ever done for all of us
over the years. She just…"
"She drives Em' insane sometimes," Elena offered.
"Thank you El'," she complimented her sister for
finishing her though. "Yes, she drives me nuts and this
weekend is no exception."
"Well, you wanna go aggravate them for a change?"
Rafe offered as he nodded toward the door.
"Can we please?" Emma asked. "A little 'shoe
on the other foot' would do me some good," she chuckled.
"Sure, what are big brothers for?" he asked as he
put his arm around her and led all three women outside.
"Mi novios!" Natalia exclaimed, making Olivia
turn and look in the direction her wife stared.
The years had been kind to both women, even if their laugh
lines were now slightly deeper and more permanent. It was
obvious that Olivia still colored her hair, but Natalia’s
remained natural with a few grays around her temples.
Their children walked toward them taking in the scene. They
looked around in all the directions, taking in the backyard
that had been practically transformed into an outdoor
Elena tapped Emma on the arm as they approached a gazebo
specially constructed for the event.
"Momma Liv and Tal didn’t spare any expense on your
nuptials, did they?" the younger woman asked.
"I didn’t ask for this," Emma replied in a
"Sure you didn’t, Munchkin," Rafe teased with
"I didn’t," Emma insisted again. "I said,
‘How about an outdoor wedding at the farm?’ Next thing I
know we’re staring in a Hollywood production."
"Come on," Rafe chuckled. "You know when
Olivia does anything she does it big," he reminded her
before turning to his youngest sibling. "I can see we’ve
got our work cut out for us, Elena."
"Because if we ever decide to settle down with someone
and tie the knot it’s gonna be hard to top this."
"You two always gang up on me," Emma said with a
smile as she shoved Rafe.
"That’s because we come from the same womb," he
"Fine," Emma huffed. "Wait until Ava gets
here tomorrow – then it’s on."
Natalia went to Elena first and pulled her close giving her
a kiss on the cheek. Then she turned to the woman who stood
"Hi Rachel," Natalia told her. "I recognized
you from your picture. It’s nice to meet you."
"You too ma’am," she said politely.
"Call me Natalia," she told her. "This is
Olivia," she said introducing her.
Olivia extended her hand and gave it a shake. "You
girls have any trouble getting in?"
"No, it was a good flight. No delays," Elena
"Ava’s late," Olivia sighed. "She missed
her flight today, but she swears she’ll be on the next plane
"She’s not real happy with Ava right now,"
Natalia whispered to Elena.
"No, I am not," Olivia said loudly making it
clear that she’d heard Natalia anyway. "And she better
be here by rehearsal tomorrow."
"Relax dear," Natalia told her. "Go yell at
the, I don’t know, the dove handler for awhile."
"You’re not funny," Olivia told her.
"And you’re cranky," Natalia countered.
Olivia grinned slightly and then asked Emma, "You sure
you want to marry a woman tomorrow? They can be a bigger pain
in the butt than men, you know?"
A fake, silk flower slapped Olivia across the face and she
looked over to see a smiling Natalia.
"Hey, you behave," the Latina warned.
Rafe’s cell phone went off that was around his wrist. He
looked down at the name and grinned. "Sorry, I gotta take
this. It’s Decker." He pressed the button and a small
screen came up to show a much older Decker. Unlike Olivia, he
had not aged well.
"Hello Mr. Decker, how are you?"
"Fine, and yourself Mr. Rivera?"
"I can’t complain. I’m with my family right now so
I don’t have much time. What did you need?"
"We haven’t received those documents on the Paris
property yet – the one you weren’t sure about," he
added as if trying to jog Rafe’s memory.
"Right, please check on it Monday, just call my
receptionist and remind her."
"I was hoping you’d see to it," Decker told
"Quite frankly," Rafe began. "I’m a busy
man and the acquisition of the Galaxy Hotel Line by the
Spencer/Rivera Properties Group isn’t one of our largest
endeavors. If anything, we’ve done you a favor. So in the
interest of both our time just contact my assistant and she’ll
get it worked out, okay? Thanks." Rafe hung up without
waiting for his reply.
Olivia smiled and looked at the 39-year-old with a great
sense of pride. She figured one of her kids would follow in
her footsteps. She just always thought that it would be Ava or
possibly Emma. After spending a few years wandering and
feeling unfulfilled, Rafe took Olivia up on her offer to ‘show
him around.’ It wasn’t long after that when Olivia saw the
true talent that Rafe had with wooing people like his mother
could while also having a strong head for financial business
(something his mother didn’t possess). Not long after that
point Olivia realized her business prodigy was standing before
her and she had an heir to her kingdom, which also paved a way
for her to retire with ease someday.
"Decker’s still a douche, isn’t he?" Olivia
"Yep," Rafe said with a grin. "But you own
Galaxy." He smiled.
"We own Galaxy," she corrected. "I wish I
could have seen him when he signed those papers and handed the
chain over to us," she lamented. "I retired just a
little too early."
"Do you want to see it?" Rafe asked. "You
can since we record all the meetings at the headquarters. All
I need to do is plug into the server and cue it up."
A devilish grin spread across Olivia’s face.
Rafe and Olivia sat on the sofa watching a television that
was displaying the meeting between Rafe and Decker.
"Here-it-comes, here-it-comes, here-it-comes,"
Olivia said quickly as she sat on the edge of the sofa,
pointing at the screen. Rafe tried to hold back a laugh as he
watched too. "Riiiiiiiiight… THERE!" she said
excitedly. "Pause it! Did you see that? Did you see that
look? Rewind it again."
Rafe had to laugh at that point.
"You’re enjoying this a little too much," he
said although he rewound the video feed back a few seconds as
"Damn right I am. Pause it again – I want your mom
to see this," she told him. "Natalia?" she
yelled toward the kitchen. "Come in here and see the
point where Decker’s soul is crushed."
Rafe buried his face in his hand and chuckled.
"That’s just wrong," he told Olivia as he shook
"Tell me you didn’t see it?" Olivia countered.
"I see it," Rafe replied. "It’s the
pleasure you’re talking in it that’s so…" Rafe
couldn’t finish the sentence.
"Hey, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer
sleazebag," she countered. "I mean, really? What
jackass fires a woman while she’s IN a hospital bed and
right after he took a widow for all she’s worth, huh? What
goes around comes around, Rafe," she added. "You
remember that and never, ever do those underhanded dirty deeds
"You know I wouldn’t do that," Rafe told him.
"I’m the man that just increased everyone’s vacation
time by a week."
She looked back at the screen and grinned. "Good, then
maybe you’ll never be the victim of instant karma like this
sad sack." She then looked back at Rafe hopefully and
nodded enthusiastically as she motioned to the T.V.
"One more time?" he asked as he held up the
"Do it," Olivia commanded and turned back to the
television again with a wicked grin.
In the kitchen, Natalia was mixing something in a bowl
while Elena, Emma and Rachel sat around the table cutting out
sugar cookies shaped like bells on the flour filled table.
"Elena never said what kind of doctor you are,
Emma," Rachel began. "Are you like a real
doctor or someone who’s been in college forever?"
She thought about the question a moment. "Both,"
she said with a grin.
Natalia leaned over and kissed Emma on the cheek. "Dr.
Jellybean is in school to be a heart surgeon and she’s
already an inventor."
"Wow," Rachel said impressed. "So you’ll
like…cut people open and stuff?" Emma nodded. "I
don’t think I’d have the guts to do that."
"Me neither," Elena confessed.
"And you invent things too?" Rachel asked.
"Really, it’s not a huge deal," Emma said
brushing it off with a dismissive hand wave. "I saw a
problem in certain patients and I looked for a way to fix it
– at least temporarily. That’s all."
"I’m not sure I follow you," Rachel said
looking around the kitchen and hoping someone would explain
"Well, in laymen’s terms, hearts have valves,"
Emma began, "and in particular situations the patient
eventually needs a replacement heart – either through organ
donation or cloning."
"You made something so they don’t need a replacement
"No, she’s not superman," Elena chimed in.
"At least not yet," she added bumping shoulders with
Emma smiled and then continued by saying, "No, they
still need a transplant, but the biggest problem in this kind
of scenario is the wait time."
"I’m not sure I’m following you," Rachel
"Some patients don’t have a long time with the heart
they have, they need one immediately," Natalia answered.
"Right," Emma said nodding to Natalia for a
moment before addressing Rachel again, "so the valve I
invented gives them more time until a replacement is donated
or artificially created. So long story short…I just
reinvented the wheel when it comes to heart medicine. That’s
all, no big."
"Yes, big," Natalia told her and then turned to
Rachel. "She’s given thousands of people, if not
hundreds of thousands, the chance at a longer life."
"Okay, yeah, that’s true," Emma relented and
began to blush. "I mean, there are patients who were so
bad off they would have died if they didn’t have a few extra
weeks until they could get the replacement. So although the
valve won’t help everyone, it has helped some people."
"So did you always want to be a heart surgeon?"
Rachel asked. "I know El’ said your mom – Olivia, I
mean – she had a transplant, right?"
"Yeah, but that’s not why I got into it, not
Emma nodded and said, "Actually I was going to be a
businesswoman like my mom. But when I got into the human
physiology classes I was really amazed by the heart. And I saw
firsthand what heart patients go through, and how it takes a
toll too on the people that love them," she said looking
over at Natalia. "But what I really found astonishing is
how little we still know about something that plays such a big
a role in the human body. And when you look at how the heart’s
connected to so much in the body, and the functions it serves,
it’s…well…to me it’s fascinating. But I’m sure it’s
probably boring to you so I’ll shut up now," Emma ended
in a rush.
"Not at all," Rachel said, "What you’ve
already done makes my life look pretty damn dull by
comparison," she chuckled.
"Which is why I blush when everyone talks about it,"
Emma said as her eyes bore into Natalia.
"Can I help it that I’m proud of my daughter – all
my daughters?" she added.
"Oh yeah," Elena said sarcastically. "One
kid’s a business mogul, one’s a heart surgeon and the
other is…well, me. And there you have it – the black
"You are no such thing," Natalia chastised.
"You’re technically still a teenager. You’re not
supposed to have your entire life planned yet."
"Tali?" Olivia bellowed again from the living
room. "Did you hear me? Come in here - I want you to see
Natalia groaned. "I really don’t want to watch
Decker’s world crumble," she sighed.
"Go and get it over with Mama Tal," Elena told
Natalia gave another heavy sigh and took her apron off
before heading into the living room.
"The things we do for love."
Friday, June 8th, 2029
The family, which consisted of Rafe, Emma, Elena, Olivia,
Natalia and Elena’s girlfriend Rachel, walked up the
"That was a great rehearsal and the dinner was
fantastic," Rafe complimented. "Good call
"Yeah," Elena said and then tapped Emma on the
arm. "And only two of your bridesmaids looked like they
were ready to kill each other so, you know, given the size of
your wedding party, that’s pretty good."
"Please don’t remind me," Emma remarked.
A shadow stepped out from the porch and Emma squealed. She
did a little stationary dance before breaking into a run.
"Ava!" she exclaimed as she rushed toward the
woman. "You made it!"
"Of course I made it," Ava answered as she pulled
her into a hug. With the exception of a perfect gray
hairstreak by her right temple, she looked ten to fifteen
years her junior. "Not exactly when I expected to
be here, of course, but yes, I made it," she added.
"I figured you guys would be home soon so I just waited
"You missed rehearsal," Olivia told her. By the
tone in her voice everyone knew that Olivia was still anything
but pleased with their eldest daughter.
Natalia cleared her throat. "Why don’t we all go in
and give Liv and Ava a chance to catch up?" Although it
was a question everyone there understood it wasn’t open for
debate and they all shuffled inside. "I’ve got a
strawberry pie and some sugarless cookies," Natalia added
as the last of the group walked in.
Olivia just looked at Ava for a long while before she
spoke. "You know, with any luck, this is the only wedding
she’ll have," she began.
"I know," Ava replied. "I tired to get an
earlier flight. I did. But if I told you yesterday that I’d
be missing rehearsal tonight you’d have been even madder
than you are now."
"So you knew yesterday that you’d miss it?"
"You were already so pissed and I didn’t want to say
I’d miss rehearsal too because then you’d really spaz and
you shouldn’t get this upset. It’s not good for your
"I can’t believe that you’d disregard Emma like
"I didn’t disregard her! I knew I’d have time to
get here. And if anything I didn’t come earlier because I
wanted this day to be special for everyone."
Olivia’s voice began to rise. "I’m not sure how
carelessly missing your plane equals helping make the day
"I didn’t carelessly miss anything! I was busy with
damage control, alright?" Ava said becoming angry
herself. "Someone - and my money is on Decker - someone
started a rumor that the takeover meant we were cleaning house
across both chains – The Beacon and Galaxy Hotels. From San
Fran to San Diego, I was getting calls from employees,
managers, you name it…with all of them asking if they were
one of the hotels on the chopping block. Basically all of
California was in meltdown and I spent my day sending memos of
reassurance to BOTH chains that no one was closing and
everyone still had jobs."
"Why didn’t you tell Rafe?" Olivia asked.
"Because I knew he had already left. He was here. And
it wasn’t anything he needed to be involved with – I could
handle it. I know you think I’m incompetent, but I’m
"I don’t think that," Olivia replied.
Ava got quite for a moment. When she did finally speak it
was in a soft voice, barely above a whisper.
"Then why did you give it to him? Why did he get the
entire company and I only got California?"
Olivia’s mouth opened slightly and she closed it. Then
she took a calming breath.
"You didn’t want it, remember? You didn’t want all
that responsibility and you loved being in San
"I know," Ava agreed. "But…why didn’t
you at least make me the offer? …I’m your daughter."
"And Rafe is my son - a step-son, but nonetheless,
still a son," Olivia countered. "I don’t love him
more or less than you or Emma or Elena." Ava turned away
slightly. Olivia closed the distance between them and turned
Ava to face her by putting Ava’s cheek in her palm. When
their eyes met Olivia could tell the woman was slightly
crying. "I love you Ava," Olivia reassured her.
"But it’s not the same," she answered.
"Ava," Oliva stressed. "It’s no
"It is, but I don’t blame you. Look, I never lived
with all of you. Even Rafe – although he wasn’t there long
– at least he lived with everyone in there," she said
as she pointed toward the house. "…I’m the outsider
here and I get why. I just…I just wish you had asked me if I’d
like to take over – that’s all."
"Just because you didn’t wake up here in footie
pajamas like Emma or Elena doesn’t mean we view you as a ‘
lesser’ family member," Olivia answered. Ava gave her a
small grin. "And I knew you didn’t want the job so I
didn’t offer it - I didn’t want to put you on the spot of
saying no. I’m being honest, Sweetie…We all love you very
Ava smiled playfully. "Well, you looked fit to be
tied, but Emma was happy to see me."
"We’re all happy, but…she remembers Ava. When I
was really sick and we didn’t think I’d make it, you were
there…for both of us. She’s never forgotten that – none
of us have."
Ava looked down again. "I’m sorry. I guess I should
have told you the truth yesterday."
"Why? You’re absolutely right." Ava looked up
surprised. "I probably would have been more upset and
right now I might even be in jail for beating the hell out of
Decker for making our lives more difficult."
Ava chuckled. "Well, I’ll have you know it’s all
fine now. In fact, I made it to the airport yesterday, but
they just closed the gate and wouldn’t let me board."
"You’re here now," Olivia told her as she put
her arm around her and led her toward the house. "That’s
all that matters in the end."
Friday Night, June 8th, 2029
"Aren’t you tired?" Natalia asked Ava as she
handed her a glass of iced tea.
Natalia took a seat next to the younger woman at the
kitchen table and watched her shake her head.
"I’m still three hours behind you guys," Ava
replied. "For me it feels like it’s around nine at
night," she added. "But you don’t have to
entertain me. Head on up to bed if you want, Nat."
It was the older woman’s turn to shake her head.
"The rest of the house can sleep. I’m not tired yet…
besides I’ve missed you too." Natalia ran her hand
affectionately down the back of Ava’s head. "With all
this wedding brew-haha it might be the only chance we get to
Natalia then motioned toward the door with her head and Ava
took her lead by following her outside. Once at the porch, Ava
took a deep breath, inhaling the night breeze.
"Fresh air," Ava sighed. "Besides my family,
that’s the only thing I miss about Springfield." Both
women took a spot on the gliding bench. "So how’s Mom
doing? Is her health okay?"
"Yeah, but Rick still yells at her about her drinking
now and then."
"Is it a problem? Does she get drunk and-?"
"No," Natalia cut her off. "Nothing like
that. He doesn’t want her to drink at all, but you know your
mother." Ava snorted at Natalia’s comment and raised
her glass in agreement. "I figured after 20 years she’s
entitled to a martini or a glass of wine now and then. We’d
gone out to dinner with Doris the night before the hospital
did her last blood work and that’s how Rick knew. So he
assumed that drinking was an everyday event for her, but
really, it’s not. She was just having fun and had a few too
many, but that usually happens when we go out with Doris. It
ends up being a drinking contest between the two of
"Oh yeah? Who wins?"
"Who do you think?" Natalia smirked. "In 20
years I don’t think Doris has ever won, but that doesn’t
stop her from trying." Ava laughed with Natalia.
"But really, other than that Liv’s doing well."
"That’s good. I’m happy for her," Ava said
and then quickly added, "I’m happy for you both…You…You
kept your word."
"My word?" Natalia asked.
"Remember the first time I saw you after you and mom
got back together? That day at the airport?" Ava asked.
Natalia’s mind drifted back to the memory and she began
It was a warm day - warmer than most for that time of year
actually. Natalia watched with a smile as Ava closed the
distance to embrace her mother, but first she had to maneuver
around other airline travelers. She watched as Ava and Olivia
then made their way over to her arm-in-arm.
"I’d like to talk with Natalia. Is that’s okay,
Mom?" Ava asked.
Olivia looked between the two of them for a few seconds.
"Uh, sure I guess. I’ll check to see where your bags
are coming from."
Ava nodded graciously and smiled. She held her smile as she
watched Olivia’s retreating form for a few moments. Just as
quickly though, the smile fell from her face and Ava fixed her
gaze on Natalia instead.
"You hurt her…real bad."
"I know," Natalia answered immediately.
"I don’t think that you do," Ava pressed on.
"You know what she told me? She loves you – more than
anyone else she’s ever loved in her life. And I know they
weren’t just empty words. I’ve seen her at her best and at
her worst and…You hurt her real bad," she repeated.
"I know that," Natalia repeated as well.
"All I can do is tell you the same thing I’ve been
telling her – it won’t happen again."
"How do you know that?" Ava asked.
"Because along with Rafe and Emma, I found someone I’d
give my life for if need be. I love your mother, Ava. I swear
to God that I truly do. And I promise I’ll spend the rest of
my life proving that to her, to you and to anyone else that
Ava didn’t say anything at first. She continued to hold
her gaze on Natalia, but she noticed something immediately.
Natalia didn’t falter. She didn’t break the gaze. She didn’t
play with her lips, scratch her nose or blink rapidly. All the
physical signs that would show that Natalia was lying to her
simply weren’t present.
"If she’s happy, then I’m happy," Ava said.
"But I do have one question. What do you love most about
"Her faith," Natalia answered immediately.
Ava seemed surprised that Natalia didn’t hesitate in the
slightest. But she soon wore a questioning expression.
"My mother is suddenly religious? You HAVE had an
impact," Ava remarked.
Natalia chuckled. "No, not that kind of faith. She
doesn’t give up, ever. Whatever she believes, well, she
makes it happen. And honestly, if your mother didn’t want
me, I wouldn’t be here now. She’d walk away. But the truth
is… I make her happy. She makes me happy. That’s all
either of us need…But now it’s time for me to tell YOU
"What’s that?" Ava asked.
"I wouldn’t let my son – my own flesh and blood
– come between me and Olivia, so I sure as heck won’t let
you. I’ll fight to keep her. Nothing – not even you –
will stand in my way. So that means don’t try to be a wedge.
Understand?" Natalia warned.
At first Ava said nothing, but then she started to grin.
She put her arm around Natalia and led her toward the luggage
carousels where Olivia was waiting.
"Now THAT’S what I want to hear," Ava
Back in the present day Natalia still wore a grin. "We
pretty much laid the smack down on each other," she
Ava had to smile too. "Yeah, but it was something that
needed to be said. I knew you were a good woman. I just wasn’t
sure if you were good enough for my mom," Ava explained.
"She’d been burned by love so many times before…"
"I know. And the way I left that summer only made it
so much worse. I understood – well, not AT the time but…
later…I’m just grateful that you BOTH gave me a second
"If she could do it then I had to do it too. But if
you had blown it…" Ava let the sentence hang as she
bumped shoulders teasingly with Natalia.
"I didn’t. I didn’t blow it at all. Besides, when
you find the love of your life…You hold on to them and don’t
"I know. That’s why I’ve got Gerald now," Ava
said with a smile.
"He’s still good to you?"
"He’s great to me," the younger woman
clarified. "If you and mom have just a shred of what I
share with Jerry then I can see why you guys work so well. He’s…"
Natalia smiled and looked over at Ava. She took the younger
woman’s hand in hers. "Your everything," she
Ava slowly nodded as a grin formed deeper on her face.
"Your mother was so happy when we got back from that
trip after meeting him. ‘He’s the one, Tal. I’m tellin’
ya, he’s the one,’ she kept saying," Natalia
mentioned with a slight giggle. "I think she was more
excited than you were when she found out the two of you were
Ava laughed out loud, but then quickly tried to quiet
herself so she didn’t wake anyone. "I remember,"
Ava replied. "And I have her to thank for the proposal I
got that Christmas. Mom just wouldn’t let Jerry escape the
onslaught of ‘Why haven’t you asked her to marry you? I’m
married now for Pete’s sake!’ It spurred him into
Both women began to chuckle at the memory. "Like I
said, when your Mom sets her mind on something..."
"Yeah, she was determined that I deserved an
engagement ring. Jerry swears he was going to ask anyway, but
really, Mom can be...intimidating."
They both shared a laugh again.
Natalia began to yawn as she said, "Your mother does
have a way of pushing the right buttons with people."
Ava put her arm around Natalia’s shoulder and gave it a
squeeze. "Why don’t you head off to bed? I’m not
going to be ready for awhile."
"Yeah, you need your rest. Tomorrow’s the big
Natalia rose from her spot on the bench. She leaned over
and kissed Ava on the top of the forehead.
"I’m glad you’re here, Sweetie."
"It’s good to be home," Ava told her sincerely.
Natalia’s hand gently cupped Ava’s face for a moment
before she made her way back inside.
Moments later Natalia slipped into bed beside Olivia and
immediately she felt the older woman snuggle in closer to her.
Natalia smiled and put her arm over Olivia and their fingers
"Missed you," Olivia mumbled.
"I wasn’t gone. I was just downstairs," Natalia
"Don’t sleep well without you," Olivia
explained as she began to kiss the back of Natalia’s neck.
"Hey now," Natalia said as she rolled in Olivia’s
arms to face her. "We’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Get
"A busy day and a busy night I’m sure," Olivia
said as she resumed kissing Natalia’s neck. "I’ll
probably be too tired tomorrow."
Natalia didn’t resist. Instead she just ran her fingers
through Olivia’s hair slowly. "You know after menopause
women’s libidos are supposed to drop? How did we manage to
avoid that?" she told her.
"Not all women have partners who are still hotties."
Olivia said, now sounding more awake. She nipped at Natalia’s
jaw line, making the younger woman giggle.
"Good point." Soon enough Natalia began to return
the kisses that were slowly working their way to her lips.
"But you have to promise me something."
"Anything," Olivia said as she continued to kiss
"Please…Just keep it down. All the kids are home and
they’re trying to sleep."
Olivia rose up and looked down at her lover. "No
promises," she said as she kissed Natalia.
"I mean it Liv," Natalia said as she pulled back.
"Oh fine. But it’s not like they haven’t heard it
"It’s been awhile, okay? I still remember that night
Emma thought I was killing you."
"You were, Baby," Olivia said and then made a
sexy, growling noise.
Natalia tried not to laugh. "I mean it Olivia. I’ll
kick Rafe to the floor and sleep on the sofa if I have
"Alright, I’ll scream into the pillow. How’s
Natalia brought her back for a smoldering kiss. "Now
Olivia shook her head. "The things I do for love…
"Shut up and kiss me already," Natalia teased.
"My pleasure," Olivia answered before her lips
claimed her wife’s again.
Early Saturday Morning, 12:30 AM, June 9th, 2029
While the rest of the family slept, Ava walked around the
tents taking in all the decorations. The area that was devoted
for the wedding nuptials themselves looked like a cathedral in
Vatican City. Ava smiled and shook her head at the
outlandishness of it all.
"You certainly didn’t spare any expense, Mom,"
Ava said out loud to no one in a particular.
"No, she did not," said a voice. Ava jumped
slightly and turned around to face the person behind her.
"Sorry," a man in security guard outfit apologized.
"I didn’t mean to scare you, Ava."
Ava paused for a moment and studied the man. A look of
realization began to wash over her and she said,
The man nodded his head and offered her his hand. "It’s
been awhile," he said.
"Are you still working for the Beacon?" she
"Actually, I retired last year," he replied.
"But your mom wanted people she could trust to look after
all of this," he said as he motion around them.
"We’ll I hope you won’t be up too late," Ava
replied. "You should have a chance to come to the wedding
"I will," he said. "My shift here ends at 8
AM so I’ll get a nap and be ready to go."
"That’s good to hear," Ava replied.
Their conversation was interrupted as a pair of headlights
pulled in the driveway. Both of them looked over to see who
could be arriving at such a late hour. They watched as the
back door of the sedan opened and a woman in her late teens to
early twenties stepped out of the vehicle.
Ava smiled and a look of remembrance took shape on her face
upon seeing the woman. She turned to Edward.
"It’s okay. It’s just my other sister," she
told him. "See you tomorrow at the wedding?"
"You bet," he replied.
Ava picked up her pace as she walked down the sidewalk
toward the driveway. She could see the young woman was holding
a suitcase, which she promptly dropped. The younger woman then
raced empty handed toward Ava with her arms fully extended. It
was then, that the occupants of the car opened their doors on
the driver and passenger sides.
Ava brought the young woman into her arms. "Thanks for
insuring I’m not the last one to make it here, Chessie,"
Francesca pulled back and laughed, "Hey, I had to be
fashionably late, you know? Can’t let all those crazy people
in there think I’m too invested in this family."
Ava patted her arm and looked over her sister’s shoulder
to see Frank and Blake walking toward them, holding Francesca
"How have you guys been?" Ava asked the pair.
"Good," Frank answered. "Yourself?"
"Just fine. And thanks for cutting your vacation short
to bring her back."
"Are you kidding?" Blake said, "We wouldn’t
miss this for anything. It’s good to see you made it in.
Jerry and the kids here?"
"Tomorrow," she answered. "They’re cutting
it close, but the kids still had school today."
Blake and Frank looked surprised.
"They’re still in school this late?" he asked.
Ava nodded. "The school had a fire that keep them away
for week so they had to make it up."
Frank and Blake both made an ‘ahh’ motion with their
lips and bobbed their heads.
"Well, it’s late," he said. "We’ll catch
up more tomorrow?"
"Absolutely," Ava replied.
"You. Come here," Frank said as he motioned his
finger for Francesca to come over. "Thank you for taking
time out of your summer to visit this week. You’re not ‘court
ordered’ anymore but don’t be a stranger, alright."
Francesca pulled him into a hug and then kissed his cheek.
"I won’t. You guys are good company for old
folks," she teased him.
"Hey," Frank said trying to sound indignant and
Francesca then shifted toward Blake giving her a kiss on
"He’s a lot older than me – just so you
know," Blake whispered in a conspiratorial tone to
Francesca. That made the younger woman laugh.
"Are you two ganging up on me?" he asked.
"Always," Blake said and then laughed too as she
kissed Francesca one more time on the cheek. "We’ll see
you tomorrow," she added as she led Frank away before he
Ava and Francesca watched them walk back to the car.
"So what were you doing out here anyway?"
Francesca asked Ava.
"I couldn’t sleep and I got tired of listening to
the romantic ‘serenade’ of our mothers."
Francesca giggled. "I swear – some nights I can hear
them all the way to my dorm."
"Please, you’re going to NYU," Ava remarked.
"Exactly," Francesca chuckled, which made Ava
laugh too. "Hey, I’m not tired yet. Why don’t I drop
the suitcase inside and snag the car keys? We’ll head out to
the 24-hour diner. Whadda ya say? It’s either that or
listening to our moms shag."
Ava laughed and then asked, "Do you have permission to
take the car?"
"Ava, dear sweet Ava," Francesca said putting her
arm around her. "I learned something long ago…what mom
doesn’t know, doesn’t hurt her. Go wait by the Jag."
"Chessie," Ava said trying to sound
authoritative, but failing.
Francesca just shooed her toward the vehicle with a gentle
wave as she walked inside.
A few minutes later Ava was leaning against the car when
she heard it beep. She rose up and watched as Francesca made
her way toward her, keys in hand.
"Mom’s gonna hear the car start," Ava
Francesca opened the passenger door and motioned Ava to get
in while she walked around to the driver’s side.
"This car purrs quieter than a newborn kitten.
Besides, I didn’t hear anything upstairs so that means mom
has crashed. Now Ma, on the other hand, she might hear, but
she won’t care. I’ll just whine that I was hungry and bat
my eyes lashes. Then I’ll tell her I couldn’t find the
keys to her eco-putt-putter."
"You shouldn’t lie," Ava told her.
Francesca held up a finger. "I’m not lying. I never
looked for her keys and technically you can’t find what you’re
not looking for."
"You are the problem child without a doubt," Ava
"Yes, I am," she said proudly. "Now are you
gonna get in or do I have to shove you?" Francesca asked.
Ava grinned. "How is it that, genetically, you’re
Frank and Natalia’s kid, but you act like my mother?"
Francesca seemed to seriously consider the question and
stroked her chin for a second or two.
"Nurture verses nature?" she offered and then
started to smile. "We can debate it at the restaurant.
With a sigh and a slight grin Ava sat down. Francesca
opened the door confidently and followed suit.
Early Saturday Morning, 1:03 AM, June 9th, 2029
Francesca and Ava walked into the diner. With the exception
of one other couple at a table, the rest of the restaurant was
vacant of customers. The only other occupants were the
middle-aged waitress and a young cook behind the grill.
"Hey Ches," the waitress said greeted Francesca.
"How you doing girl?"
"Good, Lawanna. How about you?"
"I see the ‘drunk rush’ hasn’t arrived
yet," Francesca replied and motioned around them.
"Yeah, still got another hour or so," she
answered as Francesca and Ava took a seat at a booth.
"This is my big sister Ava," Francesca
introduced. "I don’t think you’ve met."
"Another sister! Damn! That farmhouse is just full of
estrogen, isn’t it?" Lawanna asked rhetorically. Ava
gave a small chuckle. "You girls want a drink while you
look the menus over?"
"Sure," Francesca replied.
"You want the usual?" Lawanna asked Francesca.
"Let’s go with just a decafe – I need to get to
sleep at some point tonight since it’s Emma’s wedding
"That’s tomorrow, huh?" Lawanna replied.
"Man, I remember when you and your mommas would come in.
You were so tiny and I think Emma was still in junior high.
And now she’s getting married, huh?
"It’s about time actually," Francesca replied.
"They’ve been a couple for like… forever. My Momma
Tal teased Emma all the time, saying glaciers moved faster
than the two of them."
"Coming from Natalia…?" Ava offered. "I’d
have to say that’s pretty damn slow then."
"But they’re on the right path," Francesca
said. "And it’s actually good they’ve been dating for
nearly a decade – they know they ‘fit,’ ya know?"
"Well, if you’ve got a wedding tomorrow what the
heck are you doing here, Sweetie? Shouldn’t you be getting
your beauty sleep?"
"Like I need that," Francesca said smugly.
"That’s true – and you work it while you got it
girl ‘cause it don’t last a lifetime. I know,"
Lawanna laughed. She then asked Ava. "How about you
Sweetie? Decafe too?"
"That sounds good." Ava agreed.
"’K, be right back."
After Lawanna had left, Ava remarked, "Seems like you
come here a lot."
"Yeah, I know just about everyone in
Springfield," Francesca replied. "It helps to be
connected and networking with folks. Even the smallest of
contacts can lead you to something big and you’ll meet some
fun folks too, like Lawanna." Ava grinned and looked
away. "What?" Francesca asked as she started to
God, she’s like Mom, Ava thought while she shook it
off and said, "Nothing," out loud. "So,"
she began. "Looking forward to the wedding then?"
"Absolutely," Francesca answered. "I love
Emma…and my parents, and Rafe, and you, of course."
"And Elena?" Ava prompted. Francesca sighed.
"Don’t tell me you two still have this rivalry thing
going on?" she asked. "You’re practically
"Practically, but not quite," Francesca replied.
"Deep down you know you love her."
"I can say this… if there was a burning building and
we were both trapped inside… I’d certainly think about
"You can’t mean that," Ava replied.
"Why not?" Francesca replied. "I know she’d
say the same thing. Now Jellybean on the other hand…she’d
die trying to save us both. I know she would. So for that,
yeah, I’d help her, without a doubt. Now Elena…"
Francesca just trailed off and released a frustrated sigh.
"Elena is Elena. End of story."
Lawanna returned with the coffee’s and said, "Here
you go… Did you know what you wanted?"
"How about a muffin? Banana nut? We can split it since
I’m not super hungry," Francesca suggested to Ava.
"Works for me," Ava replied.
Lawanna grinned. "One muffin? And I wonder why I don’t
have the money to buy that yacht yet," she teased as she
"I’ll leave her a good tip." Francesca smiled
as she spoke to Ava. She seemed like she was going to say
something but then stopped and looked at Ava with slight
concern. "I, uh, I don’t have my pocketbook. Did you
bring any money by chance?"
"Oh god," Ava said. "We have no money. We
can’t be here washing dishes. We have to get up within the
next six hours," she said getting anxious.
Francesca put both hands on the side of her face. "Oh,
the horror. Whatever will we do?" She laughed and brushed
Ava off. "Chillax. I’ll handle it." A few seconds
later, Lawanna returned and Francesca looked up at her
"You know I love ya, Lawanna, right?"
Lawanna looked uncertain. "Uhh, sure. I love you too,
I guess. You, uh, you know I’m not like your moms right and
I am a bit old for you."
Francesca smiled even wider. "Don’t worry. I’m
straight too. I just mean I value you as a person and a
"Well, I value you too, Sweetie."
"Great…" She then motioned Lawanna to step
closer and she whispered so the other couple couldn’t hear
her. "We’re both broke right now – we left our money
at home," she said motioning to herself and Ava.
"Can I pay you this weekend? I’m good for it. If you
want to stop over to the wedding I’ll pay you then and throw
in a free dinner. Whadda ya say?"
"I got plans, but how about you pay me next time you
come in?" Lawanna offered.
Francesca held up one finger. "You are a princess –
no, dare I say, a queen among hostesses. I mean that
"My dear, you," Lawanna began as she mimicked
Francesca’s tone, "You are a total flirt who tries to
captivate folks and get her way. And I mean THAT
sincerely." Ava turned away trying not to laugh, but
Francesca couldn’t hide her amusement and did laugh.
"Enjoy the muffin."
"Thanks," Francesca replied as she watched
Lawanna walk away. She then turned back to Ava and motioned to
the muffin. "Dig in," she told her.
"Fine," Ava said as she took a piece, "But I’m
not dropping this thing between you and Elena."
"There is no ‘thing,’ okay?" Francesca
replied. "It’s simple. She was planned. I was the
accident. She enjoys reminding me of that in little ways any
chance she gets."
"You weren’t an accident, Francesca," Ava told
"Fine then. A mistake?" Francesca offered
"No." Ava shook her head. "Mistakes and
accidents are bad things. You were a surprise and I think you
continue to surprise us and, no, I don’t think that’s
horrible. In fact, it’s pretty wonderful," Ava
Francesca didn’t look at Ava. She focused on preparing
her coffee with the cream and sugar in front of them.
"I know my parents love me. I know you, Rafe and Em do
too. Elena though…she just…she’s had to one-up me
everyday of her life. Hell, I think she even walked and talked
before I did. The truth is, me and Jellybean – peas and
carrots all the way. Elena and I…oil and water. So… some
people I click with, like Emma, and some people, like Elena, I
don’t." Francesca tapped her spoon against her cup and
set it aside. Only then did she raise her eyes and look at Ava.
"Besides, it’s hard to love someone when you know they
don’t like you or respect you."
Ava watched Francesca take a drink of her coffee, but she
Early Saturday Morning, 7:03 AM, June 9th, 2029
"We need more eggs," Emma said insisted.
"A dozen’ll be fine," Rafe replied vehemently.
Immediately Emma shook her head. "No, do the
Ava walked into the farmhouse kitchen. Rafe and Emma stood
by the stove arguing while Natalia smacked them both with a
"Easy guys," Natalia told them. "It’s just
At the table, Elena and her girlfriend, Rachel, sat
side-by-side quietly cutting up fruit and avoiding the debate.
Natalia then noticed that Ava had entered and she smiled at
"Morning, Sweetie," she greeted. "Our goal
was having all the kids sleeping under the same roof for at
least a night. With that in mind, did you ever GET to
sleep?" she asked.
"Yeah…eventually," she replied and then yawned.
Back at the stove, Rafe and Emma continued to face off.
"I’ve been cooking eggs since before you were
born," Rafe replied.
"Rafe listen to me," she insisted, "We’ve
got seven people here. You, mom, ma and us four girls,"
she shot back. "That’s not even two eggs each if we
only do a dozen."
"Fine," Rafe relented. "A dozen and a
"Just do the full two dozen," Emma replied
exasperated. "I have ‘Spaulding money’, so we can
afford more eggs."
"Would you like to be in charge of the eggs?"
"Yes, I would," Emma answered in a confident
voice. "You can go on bacon duty as long as you make at
least two slices each. Two times seven equals…?" Emma
let the sentence hang.
"… a little sister who’s a big pain in the
butt," Rafe finished with a growing grin. Emma chuckled.
"But I’ll give her an easy out since it’s her wedding
day." Rafe leaned over and kissed her on the cheek,
calling a truce.
Ava looked around the room. "Where’s mom?" she
asked to no one in particular.
Natalia just pointed above them. "Guess," she
said knowingly. She then put down the dishrag and pointed to
Rafe and Emma. "Keep an eye on them," she told Ava.
Rafe and Emma put on the appearance of being offended. "I
need to wake the dead upstairs."
Ava stole a piece of cantaloupe from Elena’s bowl while
Natalia left the room. She climbed the stairs and went first
to Francesca’s room.
She smiled for a moment as she watched her sleeping in the
double bed that Ava had just vacated. Sporting trophies, award
ribbons and such lined the shelves and walls. The room still
looked the same from when Francesca lived there just a year
before. The smile vanished though as she realized the nearly
impossible task that lay ahead of her.
She tightened her jaw and grabbed the end of the comforter.
Giving it a quick and firm tug, the cover left the bed before
Francesca had a chance to reach out and retrieve it. Although
the younger woman didn’t get up or even open an eye, she did
grumble an unintelligible protest.
"Francesca Rivera-Spencer! Get your butt outta bed
now!" Natalia ordered.
She didn’t seem too worried by the order and instead
mumbled, "Five more minutes, Ma, please?"
"No. Now. Get up," she replied. "Your
brother and sisters are all downstairs making breakfast, so go
"I noticed you didn’t say mom," she mumbled.
"She’s my next stop. Come on," Natalia said as
she moved Francesca to a sitting position. The young woman
swayed for a moment and Natalia physically moved Francesca’s
legs so her feet were on the floor. "Stay up. I mean it.
Breakfast is in five minutes."
Natalia watched as Francesca sat perfectly still with the
exception of rubbing her left eye, trying to wake up.
Satisfied that she achieved her goal, Natalia walked to her
and Olivia’s bedroom.
Natalia entered the bedroom and smiled as she looked at
Olivia’s bare back. She was lying in bed, face down and
still naked. Natalia wondered for a moment why Olivia even
bothered to buy pajamas. Sure she wore them to bed, but she
rarely woke up in them.
Quietly, Natalia closed the door and locked it behind her.
She easily slid into bed and began to plant delicate kisses
along Olivia’s exposed back.
"It’s not gonna work," Olivia mumbled into her
"This always works," Natalia told her as she
continued kissing her until she reached Olivia’s neck. With
a groan of arousal, and defeat, Olivia rolled over and pulled
Natalia down to the bed, making the younger woman snort and
add, "Told ya."
Olivia began to nibble at Natalia’s pulse point as her
hand reached up and cupped her breast, giving it a tender
squeeze. Natalia rewarded Olivia’s effort with a gentle
sigh, but almost as quickly, she began to try to disengage
"What?" Olivia complained about the departure.
"We can’t do this now. The kids are up,"
Natalia told her. "Everyone is downstairs waiting for
"Everyone?" Olivia asked skeptically. "Even
Ches?" she added.
Natalia gave her a guilty grin. "Fine. Almost
Olivia grinned and guffawed in reply.
"Seriously though, Sweetheart," Natalia continued
as she stood up and began gathering Olivia’s underwear and
pajama’s that lay about the room. "You really do need
to get up," she told her. Olivia sat up, much more awake,
but she had a dejection expression on her face. Natalia looked
over and said, "Don’t pout. You can have your way with
me tomorrow, okay?" Olivia didn’t answer her. In fact,
the older woman seemed lost in though and Natalia stepped
closer. "What is it, Liv?" she asked, becoming
slightly concerned. "Is it your heart?"
Now that Olivia was getting older they both knew that
Olivia’s heart – although she’d taken care of it – was
still fragile and not as dependable as someone without a
transplant. Building a family together was a risk they both
took knowing that someday Olivia might pass away unexpectedly,
and years before a healthy woman her age.
But as Natalia pointed out, when they discussed having
Elena, there was no guarantee that she would live a long life.
Anything could happen to Natalia too. She could be hit by a
bus or get a fatal disease, like cancer. Olivia didn’t like
to even consider the thought of Natalia dying, certainly not
before her, but her wife did make a valid point.
"No one knows when their time is up, so why not live
each day to the fullest?" Natalia had told her as they
waited for Francesca to get her three-month booster shots.
After an impassioned plea not to wait for another child,
that next week they went to the sperm bank and began looking
into donor possibilities. Roughly nine months after that,
Elena had joined their family. It was far from simple juggling
two girls who were nearly 12 months apart, but they did it –
and even Emma was a great help at times.
In the present, however, Olivia’s lack of speech was
beginning to worry Natalia more.
"Olivia," she repeated, more firmly. "Are
"Jellybean’s getting married today," she said
in a fashion as if she was just getting the news for the first
time. "She’s not a kid anymore."
Natalia felt a sense of relief and released the breath she
didn’t realize she was holding.
"Honey," she began, "our kids haven’t been
KIDS for awhile. We’re already grandmas to Ava’s
"I know that," Olivia said slightly annoyed. Her
expression then softened. "This just…This feels
different for some reason because she’s ours, ya know? I
love Ava and Rafe, but we didn’t raise them TOGETHER – at
this house…But Emma?…Yeah, we did…And our little girl’s
Olivia began to tear up and Natalia dropped the clothes at
the foot of the bed and gathered Olivia in her arms. "I
hear you, Sweetheart. I do. I started crying yesterday when I
was doing dishes," she confessed. "But this is a
good thing, you know? She’s got a great education. She’s
going to be a doctor soon and she’s got a beautiful
soon-to-be wife who adores her as much as I adore you…We did
Olivia smiled and kissed Natalia gently on the lips.
"Now if only we can fix Elena and Ches," she said
with a heavy sigh.
Natalia sighed too with a slight grin. "Now you’re
asking for the impossible," she teased.
Olivia chuckled and reached over her lover, taking the
clothes Natalia had gathered.
"Thank you," she said holding up her pajama top.
"No problem," Natalia answered. "I’m the
one that ripped them off. It’s only fair I pick them
"Honey," Olivia replied. "Anytime you wanna
rip my clothes off… that’s fine by me."
Early Saturday Morning, 7:09 AM, June 9th, 2029
Francesca walked into the kitchen where everyone was
gathered around the table eating breakfast.
"Hi all," she greeted and was met with a
welcoming course of voices. Still rubbing her eyes she
practically stumbled to the counter. "Coffee," she
"When’d you get in?" Rafe asked holding a fork
full of eggs.
Francesca considered the question. "Late," she
The diners in the kitchen turned to hear Olivia and Natalia
"You better get dressed then," Natalia said as
she turned to look at Olivia, who was following behind her.
"Ha!" Francesca pointed at the pair. "I’m
not the last one here," she said as she specifically
pointed to Olivia.
"It’s my house. I’m allowed," Olivia
answered. She came over and took Francesca’s coffee cup and
banana nut muffin.
"Hey," Francesca whined.
Olivia took a drink and made a satisfied noise and then
said, "Just the way I like it. Thanks Ches." She
patted the young woman’s upper arm in appreciation before
taking a seat at the table next to Natalia.
Francesca grumbled something unintelligible and began to
make another cup.
"Anything to aggravate," Natalia said softly as
she swatted her wife’s arm.
"So what did I miss yesterday at rehearsal?"
Francesca asked no one in particular as she prepared her
"Lots of fake walking," Elena answered.
"How do you fake walk?" Francesca asked.
"Either you walk or you don’t."
Elena gave a frustrated sigh. "You know what I mean
– walking down the aisle."
"Sounds like real walking to me," Francesca
replied as she took a seat next to Elena.
"Girls," Natalia said as she held her hands
trying to call a truce. "It’s seven in the morning. I’m
not ready for this."
"We’ll she’s the one who said–" Francesca
"Enough!" Olivia snapped, cutting her short.
"You wanted everyone here under the same roof for a
night," Natalia scolded Olivia quietly.
"Talk about being careful what you wish for,"
Emma said to Rafe who grinned and nodded.
Francesca then looked over her coffee mug to see Rachel for
the first time. She pointed at the stranger and then looked to
"Did you guys adopt another kid, Momma Tal? This one’s
kinda old, wouldn’t you say?"
Rachel giggled and Francesca smiled, giving her an
appraising, and then appreciative eye, an act that didn’t go
unnoticed by Elena.
"You’re not funny," Elena said tightly.
"Come on - admit it. I’m a little funny,"
Francesca replied to her and held her thumb and finger
slightly apart. "After all, she laughed," she said
pointing to Rachel again.
"Well, she doesn’t know any better," Elena
"Which brings me back to my point," Francesca
replied, "…who IS she?"
"Sorry," Rachel said extending her hand. "I’m
Rachel, Elena’s girlfriend."
Francesca smiled, but instead of shaking Rachel’s hand
she kissed the back of it.
"Enchanté," she said making Rachel blush. As she
let it go she added in a quiet voice, as if trying to hide it,
Emma tried not to laugh and hid behind her napkin in the
guise of wiping her mouth. Elena, however, dropped her fork on
her plate in annoyance and threw her hands in the air.
"That’s it," Elena declared. "Here,"
she said sliding the bowl of eggs toward Francesca. "Have
"You know I’m allergic to eggs," she replied
and pushed it back.
"Have a few bites so I can see if you blow up like a
balloon." Elena reached to push it again, but Emma picked
it up and handed it over to Ava who moved it out of the way.
"Chill out ladies," Emma warned. "We've got
a lot to do today and we don't need to be picking egg out of
our hair after an impromptu food fight."
"You’re right," Francesca agreed. "And I
apologize to you both," she added to Elena and then
"You say you’re sorry for insulting my girlfriend
and I’m supposed to say that’s okay?" Elena asked.
"Hey, you insulted HER by saying she didn’t know
anything," Francesca replied. "I simply asked who
"Condolences," Elena mimicked. "What
the heck was that about, huh? And-and-and the hand kisses
and-and the French…and you’re not even gay!"
For as irate as Elena was becoming, Francesca was equally
"True, but I can appreciate beauty," she
remarked. "I’m not blind."
Elena made a noise between a snarl and a groan. Natalia
began to rub her temple while Olivia closed her eyes and
pinched the bridge of her nose. Emma, Rafe and Ava all looked
at one another shaking their heads.
"Besides, the condolences comment was an insult direct
at you and not this lovely lady," Francesca admitted as
she winked at Rachel.
Elena took a deep breath as she opened her mouth, but
before she could reply Olivia yelled, "Knock it
No one said anything or moved for a full ten seconds.
"Look," Olivia continued, "no more talking,
alright? I know I wanted everyone here but please, for a few
hours, can we all just…get along."
Francesca and Elena both started to mumble something about
them getting along just fine if it weren’t for the other
woman. Olivia slammed her hand down on the table and shot them
both a look of displeasure. Both young women closed their
mouths at same time.
"Just give it a rest guys," Emma said
diplomatically. "You might give Momma Liv a heart attack
and that would kinda ruin my wedding day, wouldn’t you
"Sorry," Francesca said as Elena said, "I’m
sorry," with both of them directing the comment to Emma.
There was a knocked at the door, and everyone seemed to
release the breath they were holding. The noise was a nice
reprieve to the growing anxiety in the room.
Emma was the closest so she got up with a curious
"Who coming this early?" she wondered aloud as
she made her way to the double set of doors. Although her body
was obscured they heard her say, "Come in and join the
Francesca and Elena both lit up at the news and squealed,
"Aunt D!" as they rose to their feet. As soon as
Doris entered, a Spencer sister bombarded her on each side.
"Hey girls," Doris said as she hugged them in
return. "Nice to see everyone made it in," she added
to the group that welcomed her with waves and smiles. She
pulled back and looked at Olivia. "And I can see some of
you aren’t even freakin’ dressed yet," she said
annoyed while pointing to Olivia who was still in her pj’s.
"You told me to be here at seven," she added.
Olivia looked at her watch and smiled.
"It’s quarter after. You’re late."
Doris still had to laugh. "Hello? You’re not even
dressed and thanks to Ms. Punctuality here," she said
motioning to Olivia, "I got up an hour ago."
"Did you eat, Doris?" Rafe asked pulling out a
chair for her. "Have some food - we’ve got lots and
lots of eggs," he told her as he gently jabbed Emma in
the shoulder for good measure.
"Sure," Doris replied. "I just had a piece
of toast this morning since I didn’t want to be late,"
she punctuated, looking at Olivia.
"And look?" Olivia told her. "You ended up
being late anyway." Doris didn’t look amused.
"You know what Spencer…"
"Guess that’s my cue to get ready," Olivia said
quietly before Doris said anymore. She finished off the last
of her muffin and kissed Natalia on cheek before she carefully
slipped out of the room.
Emma then prodded Rafe. Then she motioned to a hand to
Doris, who was now putting eggs on a plate. "Ha! Aren’t
you glad we made extra?"
Rafe leaned over and kissed Emma on the cheek. "You’re
right, Munchkin. Are you happy?"
"Delighted," Emma replied.
Doris looked over at Ava and asked, "Jerry and the
"Probably standing in a security line at the airport
in California right now," she replied with a grin.
"They’ll be here around two."
"Cutting it close, aren’t they?"
"That’s the soonest flight open. The kids had school
Before Doris could reply, Francesca asked, "Not that I’m
not happy to see my favorite aunt, but what brings you by so
"Gee," Doris replied. "Even more favorite
than Aunt Sam’s wife?"
"Pfftt," she replied. "I never see those
"Francesca," Natalia admonished.
"It’s true," Francesca replied.
"For once, I agree with Frankie," Elena replied.
Francesca sighed and turned to Elena. "You know I hate
it when you call me Frankie."
"Frannie, then? Fran? Or how about just Frank
Francesca took a deep, calming breath and blew it out
slowly as she closed her eyes.
"She's your younger sister," Francesca said
noticeably, but also for her benefit. She held her hands and
arms in a Zen-like pose. "…She has greater immaturity.
Therefore, she knows not what she does. You can rise above
such pettiness. You are better."
"YOU…" Elena punctuated. "Are a horse’s
Emma and Rafe both snickered, while Natalia tried to be
"Girls!" their mother warned, although she
started to grin.
Even Francesca had to smile and she opened her eyes.
"YOU…are observant," Francesca said and then
tussled Elena’s hair as she stood up. The slightly younger
woman was momentarily caught off-guard by the admission and
somewhat affectionate gesture. By the time she recouped, she
raised her hand to try to bat her sister away, but Francesca
was already going to the fridge. "You want some O.J.,
Auntie D?" she asked.
"Sure," Doris replied.
"How’s Ash?" Elena asked. "Did she make it
"Yep, she’s good," she replied. "She’s
in from California. Seems like every one who goes out there
ends up staying," she added as she motioned to Ava.
"And the grandbabies?" Natalia asked.
"Adorable and will be spoiled rotten by the time they
leave," Doris replied with a wide grin. "What about
you guys? Have any special plans for Ava's brood?" she
Before Natalia could offer a remark Ava held up her hands
as she stood up, going to the coffee pot. "Whatever it
might be I’m sure they have you beat when it comes to a ‘granny-off’
"I wouldn’t say that," she replied. "I’m
a pretty good spoiler myself."
"Last year, my mom let Taro drive her Jaguar around
because, quote, ‘It’s important that he know what driving
a world class car feels like’ end quote - he was ten and
barely touched the pedals."
"Oh," Natalia said, "speaking of the Jaguar.
Who had it out last night?"
Ava and Francesca looked at each other and Francesca began
"Ava," she said quickly. "It was all Ava’s
Ava opened her mouth and began to point.
Natalia put Ava’s arm down. "Don’t worry. I heard
the car start and watched her drive away," she replied.
"She twisted my arm and made me get…" Francesca
stopped and began to chuckle instead. "Okay, I can't keep
this up with a straight face. I'm guilty."
"You realize that no one under 25 is supposed to drive
that car, right? That if you’d gotten into an accident that
the insurance wouldn’t cover it because of that special
rider in the policy?"
"Wait," Ava said. "Now THAT I didn’t
know," she replied firmly and looked at Francesca.
"You should have let me drive," she told her.
"Hindsight, 20/20 and all that jazz," Francesca
"I’m serious," Ava said not letting it go.
"You were wrong to do it, Francesca."
"You didn’t have an issue last night," the
younger woman replied.
"No, because I figured if something did happen, it
would be covered. You took a big risk and now I feel like crap
for letting you do it."
"I’m sorry," Francesca said cantankerously.
"I really like that car and I had no idea. Besides if my
ten-year-old nephew could drive it, why can’t I? Unlike him,
I actually HAVE a license."
"No," Natalia replied. "This is NOT the same
thing. Taro was driving around the farm with your mom IN the
car. She wasn’t out on the open road at ‘closing time’
– big difference."
"I’m sorry," Francesca repeated, sounding
sincere this time. "I honestly didn’t know I wasn’t
covered if I drove it. I just thought mom was protecting her
‘other baby.’ Honest." Although she hadn’t looked
Elena’s way yet, she muttered, "Get that goofy ass grin
off your face El – I mean it."
"What?" Elena asked, trying to look serious.
"You effed up big time."
Francesca finally turned to scowl at her sister, but
Natalia said, "Don’t do it ladies," before
Francesca could say a word.
"Anyway," Francesca continued as she looked back
at Natalia. "I'm sorry, Ma, and I won't take it out
again. I promise."
"Thank you," Natalia replied. "And just so
everyone is clear… this discussion does not leave this table
– understand? What Olivia doesn't know won't hurt her,
"So that's where you get it from," Ava muttered
"Got it?" Natalia stressed, "It's not a huge
deal since everything is fine, but she's got enough stress
Everyone nodded and Natalia turned to Francesca.
"Why don't you get ready while we get started cleaning
up here?" Francesca nodded and left the room without
comment. Elena began to open her mouth, but Natalia held up a
finger. "We don't need your two cents," she warned
her. "So if the next words out of your mouth are about
Francesca keep them to yourself, Missy."
Elena stuffed her last fork full of eggs in her mouth.
Saturday Morning, 8:09 AM, June 9th, 2029
"Did you grab the orange juice?" Olivia asked
conspiratorially as she watched Doris walking toward her at
the back of the barn.
"Yeah," Doris replied and held it up. "But
why the secrecy?" She came to a stop beside a mini
refrigerator in one of the corners. Olivia held up a finger
and then opened the door. Inside were a slew of bottles –
soda pop, Champaign, wine, vodka and rum. "Why do you
have a fridge in a barn?" she asked with a chuckle.
"You know hiding booze is one of the signs of
Olivia ignored the comment and pulled out the mini-bottle
of Champaign and motioned for Doris to put the orange juice
down. She filled a third of the tall steam glass with
Champaign and then filled up the rest with the orange juice.
She then handed it to Doris proudly.
"Mimosa!" she said.
Doris took it with a smile. "That doesn’t answer my
"Well, this unit used to be up in the loft."
"Yeah, Natalia and I liked to fool around outdoors and
having this here was easier than having to run back to the
house. I didn’t even have to get dressed."
Doris began to chuckle. "Yeah, but now it’s down
here," she said as she pointed. "Does that mean Nat’s
lost her adventurous side-or wait," she amended quickly.
"Maybe it’s you that’s gone vanilla?"
Olivia grinned as she finished making her own drink.
"No, the kids are gone so I don’t have to worry
about anyone coming into the barn. We can be wherever we like
in here, and honestly…it’s getting harder and harder to
climb that ladder."
Doris laughed again and took a sip. "You know, I knew
Natalia was far from the innocent school girl, but the barn,
huh? Who’da thunk she likes a good roll in the hay."
Olivia smiled at first, but then seemed to appear
apprehensive. Doris picked up on the mood shift.
"What is it?"
Olivia took a long drink. "I bought this fridge not
long after the affair."
Olivia nodded. "I, uh, I did a really dumb
"I’m not sure if the kisses with Josh count. I mean,
after all, Nat was the one who left you."
"It wasn’t then. It was later. The girls were around
7 and Em was in high school."
Doris said nothing for a few seconds and then regrouped.
"You slept with someone else?"
Olivia just nodded.
"I’m your best friend and you never said anything to
"What could I say? I was ashamed. I could have lost
everything. I almost lost everything…But if there was one
person I might have told it would have been you. Besides, I
wasn’t the only one humiliated by what I did. I shamed
Natalia too – her wife was unfaithful."
"So Natalia found out?" she asked in a low voice.
Olivia nodded. "Here’s a word of advice, my friend.
Having an affair can make you feel alive. It’s true. But not
any more than your wife can. And you do feel fantastic,
youthful and desired and…it’s great…until about ten
seconds after you come. And then it’s the worst feeling in
Doris just stood still, clutching her glass and shaking her
head. "I can’t believe it." Olivia just shrugged.
"What brought all this up now?" Doris asked.
"I’m not sure…Maybe it’s Emma getting married.
Maybe I don’t want her to go through what I put Natalia and
"You think that’ll happen?"
"I don’t know," Olivia replied. "What I do
know is marriage is hard work and also one of the easiest jobs
in the world. And yes, I realize the irony of that statement
and that the sentence I just spoke makes no sense."
Doris grinned. "No, I get it," she replied.
"I know exactly what you mean…but …you gotta tell me
what happened, Liv. I gotta know."
Olivia took a drink and began to remember the day Natalia
The Latina wasn’t spying on Olivia that day when she came
to the Beacon. She just wanted to see if she wanted to go to
lunch. She was almost around the corner to her office when she
heard Olivia talking with someone.
"I can’t do it again," Olivia said sounding
"That’s your fear talking," a female voice
replied. Natalia cocked her head to try to see if she could
figure out who it might be but she was drawing a blank.
"No, I love my wife and I made a mistake. If you care
even the slightest bit for me you’d let this go."
"She’ll never make you feel the way I make you
feel," Natalia heard the woman say.
"I know," Olivia replied after a beat. Ashamed,
mournful, dirty, Olivia thought. I never felt that way
with Natalia. God, I’m such a fuck up. Of course,
Olivia didn’t add that part. She felt it best to let her
believe she was completely satisfied with their afternoon, but
had a great commitment to Natalia.
On the other side of the hallway, however, the only thing
Natalia heard was the sound of Olivia’s regret and she felt
her heartbreak. At first she thought she might start
hyperventilating from her despair. But with each passing
second as the thought of what they were talking about became
clearer Natalia went from dejection to anger.
Suddenly, she was torn.
Did she turn the corner and rip into both of them like a
shrewish, jilted wife or did she simply walk away? She could
clean out the bank accounts, pack up Elena and Francesca and
be at Blake’s before Olivia even got home. From there, she’d
find a place for all of them to stay. Emma, of course, was
another matter. She would give her a choice of where she
wanted to live since she was considerably older and nearly an
Natalia was lost in her thoughts of her family falling
apart in just mere minutes, but the sound of Olivia’s office
door closing caught her attention. Natalia looked around the
corner to see her wife’s lover walking in the opposite
direction of the hallway and her stomach tied in knots.
She was obviously younger…taller… abundant curves…
and long, dark nutmeg hair. Self-consciously, Natalia ran her
hand through her tresses that now stopped just shy of her
shoulders and she caught her reflect in the adjacent mirror.
She only looked for a moment before she had to look away –
the onset of crow’s feet reflected back at her was too much
Natalia nodded that by the woman’s dress she was one of
the many maids at the hotel. She didn’t recognize her
though, but it had been several years since she worked at the
Beacon – people often came and went in service jobs. She
knew because she used to be in service… working as a maid…at
Natalia’s blood began to boil.
"I think I need to sit down," Doris said as she
made her way over to a hay bale in the barn. She emptied the
Champaign glass and handed it back to Olivia. "Refill
that please and skip the O.J."
Olivia did as she was instructed without comment.
"So she didn’t confront you at work?" Doris
asked as she took the full glass back.
"No. She had a plan," Olivia replied as she
recounted the story.
After spending a few hours driving around aimlessly,
Natalia pulled into the local bank. She walked inside and was
immediately greeted by a teller who obviously knew her.
"Hello Mrs. Spencer," she said with a welcoming
smile. "How can I help you today?"
Mrs. Spencer. Mistress Spencer. I’m not her mistress
anymore. She someone else filling that role, she thought
Natalia mustered a grin and produced three accounts.
"I need to move some funds," she began as she
handed the paper work over. "I want to move $90,000 from
the joint savings account and $90,000 from the joint checking
into my single account here." The teller, who had a
nametag that read Donna, paused and looked at the slips and
the sums. Natalia was sure by the action she was taking it
probably wasn’t the first time Donna had seen this happen.
The young woman could recognize there was trouble brewing in
the Rivera-Spencer household. "Is that a problem?"
Natalia asked when Donna didn’t immediately begin the
"Oh, no," she answered. "That’s fine. So
that’s $180 thousand to your account. That’ll leave
$10,000 in each joint account, correct?"
"Yes," Natalia answered.
The teller nodded and nervously finished the transaction as
quickly as possible. Then she handed Natalia her deposit slip.
"Here you go…H-Have a good day, Mrs. Spencer."
"Thanks Donna," Natalia said sincerely. "You
Moments later, Natalia got home to see Emma on the sofa
playing a video game. When Natalia didn’t say anything
immediately Emma stopped playing and looked over at her. She
noticed that Natalia’s eyes seemed red; puffy.
"What’s wrong?" the teenager asked, upon seeing
something was troubling her mother.
Natalia opened her purse and pulled out a hundred dollar
bill. "Here," she said handing it over.
"Cool, but what’s this for?" Emma replied.
"It’s not just for you. I want you to take El and
Ches to the movies tonight. Then have dinner and then go see
another show, or go to the park if nothing’s playing. Just
make sure you’re home no sooner than 8 but no later than 10,
okay? I need some private time with mom."
"Some private time, huh?" Emma teased. "A
little late afternoon delight by chance?"
"Not exactly," she said trying to keep her tone
The last thing she wanted to do was drag the kids into this
mess. Olivia was a good mom…she was just a lousy wife at the
moment. Emma, however, still knew something was amiss and she
cocked her head as she studied Natalia.
"Are you okay?" she asked again.
Natalia held back her tears. "Please don’t ask that
again. Just…get the girls and go, okay? I need to talk to
"If this is about the boat she just bought," Emma
began, "try not to be mad. She bought it for all of us.
And I know she didn’t discuss it with you, but it’s not
like we don’t have the money and-."
"Emma," Natalia said firmly, "please get
your sisters and go, alright?" Natalia walked over and
kissed Emma on the forehead. "I should be here when you
guys get back tonight, okay?"
"What do you mean should?" Emma said
picking up on the word. "Why wouldn’t you be?"
"No more questions," Natalia told her.
Emma took an unsettled breath and shouted out toward the
staircase. "El? Ches? Get your shoes on. We’re going to
see a double feature and grab some burgers."
Both sisters looked over the banister.
"Really?" they asked in harmony.
"Yeah," Emma told them. "It’s Spencer
girls night out. Hurry up though -we’re leaving in less than
The two younger girls high-fived each other and ran down
the stairs and quickly put on their shoes. Once they finished
they were hopping in anticipation.
"Give Momma Tal a hug and kiss bye," Emma told
They both ran over and wrapped their arms around her.
Natalia kissed Francesca and then Elena. They didn’t stay in
her embrace long. They darted out the door as quick as their
feet would carry them.
"After 8 but before 10," Emma repeated. "Got
it." she nodded and then went to the door too. She paused
and turned around. "If you need me, just call the cell,
okay?" Natalia began to tear up and nodded, not trusting
her voice immediately.
"Thank you Emma. I love you, Sweetie," she
managed to get out.
"I love you too Ma," she replied. She paused, as
if torn between staying and helping Natalia or tending to her
sisters. It was Francesca’s demanding voice that made her
"Emma! Let’s go!"
Emma and Natalia smiled at each other.
"She knows how to bellow, huh?" Emma remarked and
then shouted back, "I’m coming already, sheesh!"
She then turned back to Natalia. "Really," she said
mimicking a phone, "Call if you need me."
Natalia nodded and watched her leave, closing the door
behind her. Once she heard the car pull away from the house
Natalia collapsed on the sofa in a fit of tears.
The first thing Olivia noticed when she entered the
farmhouse was how dark it was. Not a single light was on.
"Natalia," she called out from the living room.
Not getting an answer from upstairs she made her way into the
She found Natalia there alone with a bottle, two glasses of
wine and a candle in the center of the table as the only
source of light.
"I take it the kids aren't home?" Olivia asked
"They won't be back until eight. I wanted to get you
alone. I have a very important question and I'd like an honest
Olivia picked up the glass of wine and took a drink.
Natalia took a deep breath and then asked, "What's her
Olivia paused and then sat the glass on the table.
"Who's name?" she asked fledging any knowledge of
who Natalia was talking about, yet still unable to look at her
"Don't play dumb with me. It belittles us both,"
Natalia told her. Her voice was an eerie calm that unsettled
Olivia. "What's. Her. Name?" she asked again,
stressing each word.
"Sweetheart," Olivia sighed with a hint of
anxiety and guilt.
Natalia's reserve broke upon hearing the faltering in
Olivia's voice. She shot to her feet and she threw her wine
glass at Olivia, but the hotelier managed to duck before it
made its impact on her. Instead, the glass shattered against
the wall and Olivia's mouth hung open, disbelieving what she
Natalia then picked up the bottle. "What's her
"Let's talk about this calmly, okay?" Olivia
insisted putting her hands out.
"Goddamn it!" Natalia swore. That made Olivia's
eyes widened even more. "Tell me her name! The one you've
been fucking! Who is she?"
"It was once and it didn't mean anything," Olivia
Natalia snorted. "So you pissed away what we have for
a pointless fuck? Is that what you're telling me? Is that
supposed to make me feel better?"
"Look," Olivia tried to begin again. She didn't
get any further in the conversation because Natalia threw the
bottle into the China cabinet, shattering several of Olivia's
"You tell me who she is right now you lying,
unfaithful bitch or it's another bottle and more plates!"
"Maria!" Olivia shouted. "Her name's
Maria," she said in a quieter voice.
"Maria, huh?" Natalia nodded, growing calmer
herself. "Puerto Rican?"
"Mexican," Olivia answered.
Natalia gave her a sad smile. "You gotta weakness for
young Latina's, don't you Chicka?" Olivia looked away and
didn't reply. "She's a maid at the Beacon?"
"Yes," Olivia replied.
Natalia paused. "Was she good?"
"Natalia," Olivia pleaded, not wanting to have
"I deserve to know. Did she make you come?"
Olivia paused, still too ashamed to look at Natalia.
"Total honesty here – don't lie," she added when
Olivia said nothing.
"Not like you do," she finally answered.
"Either you come or you don't - there is nothing
else," Natalia replied.
"That's not true," Olivia replied. "And the
way you make me feel is far and beyond anything she could ever
"Gee, thanks for the lip service," Natalia said
"You wanted honesty," Olivia said looking up to
meet Natalia's eyes. "I'm being honest."
A small silence passed between them.
"You know," Natalia sighed, "I thought about
going to Blake's, but then Frank would know and then I'd get
the 'I told you so' speech about how 'You shouldn't trust
Olivia' and how 'Olivia can't be faithful to one person' and
how 'Olivia'll never change.' And you know what? The bastard
was fucking right!"
Olivia reached for Natalia and tried to walk toward her at
the same time. "Natalia please," she begged.
"No!" Natalia said batting her hand away and
backing up. "You don't get to touch me – not now, maybe
not ever. You want comfort? Go to Maria! After all, I'll never
make you feel the way she makes you feel, right? Isn't that
what you told her?"
"Were you spying on me?"
Natalia began to laugh without merriment. "Don't EVEN
try to accuse ME of anything disreputable here."
"That's not what I meant. I just-."
"I heard you in the hallway today, alright? That's how
I found out. I came to take you to lunch because it's been so
long since we've done that…Instead, I heard the two of you
talking. So no, Olivia, I wasn't spying. I've never spied on
you because I believed in us, I believed in you. But now I'm
left wondering just how many other 'Maria's' have there been
over the years? How long have I been the fool for you,
Natalia anger slipped away and she collapsed into tears
now, falling back into the chair. Again, Olivia tried to reach
out to touch her, but once more Natalia slapped her away.
"You two timing snake!" she snapped. "Keep
you dirty hands off of me."
"There's never been anyone else. I swear."
"You swear?" Natalia replied with an acidic.
"Your word doesn't mean SHIT right now!"
Olivia paused. "I have to explain what happened,"
she tried to begin again. She didn't touch Natalia, but she
did move to her knees in front of her. She ran her hands
through her hair, taking a deep breath.
Natalia wiped her eyes. "There aren't enough words to
EXPLAIN this or make it alright. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Olivia said without argument.
"I heard you say that she makes you feel things I
can't, so be honest with me. Lord knows you haven't so far,
but please be honest now... Do you want to be with her?"
"No," Olivia said decisively. "I said that
to appease her. But it's true that she made me feel different.
With her I felt cheap; ashamed," Olivia said. She reached
out for Natalia's hands that sat in her lap. Yet again,
Natalia batted them away and pulled back.
"Really," Olivia said firmly.
"Look, I-I'll leave, Liv. I will because I won't be
second best, or be your burden. I won't do it."
"I don't want you to go. The reason this happened is
because I DO want you."
"What the hell does that mean? You fuck her because
you want me? You've already got me, Liv."
"What kind of asinine question is that?"
"Fine," Olivia said growing short herself.
"Maybe what I should be saying is the reason this
happened is because she wanted me."
Natalia snorted. "So every man or woman who wants you
in the world has a shot? Is that it?"
"No!" Olivia said getting angry herself.
"Is it because she's younger? Prettier? I didn't see
much of her, but I couldn't help noticing she looked like me
about 10 years and two kids ago. Or maybe that's just it –
maybe every decade or so you decide to bed a Beacon maid? Pick
up a newer model?"
"That's not what this was about!" Olivia shouted
as she bolted to her feet.
Natalia followed suit as she screamed too. "Then tell
"She wanted me, okay?! She desired me! She made me
feel like I was the only woman in the world!"
"So this is my fault?! You're blaming me for not
"Desired!" Olivia corrected. "She looked at
me like she wanted to devour me. She made me feel like a
sexual goddess! I missed that! I need that!"
"You ARE blaming me! I don't believe it!" Natalia
Olivia gave it right back to her. "Admit it! There was
a time you and I couldn't keep our hands off each other,
remember?! We had a magnetism that was so intense we couldn't
get through an entire day without having each other! Hell, I
walked into my office one day to find you stark naked on my
desk. Do you remember? I know it's been a reallllllllly long
time, but THINK!"
Natalia began to shake her head. "You're not blaming
this on me. You don't get to do that. I've been
faithful," Natalia whimpered.
"I'm not blaming you," Olivia said, lowering her
voice. "I'm explaining why this happened. Is she younger?
Yeah, but SO WHAT? Does she remind me of you? You bet she
does. Is she prettier than you? No, there's no one more
beautiful than you."
Natalia began shaking her head.
"Listen to me," Olivia insisted. "Rather
than come home and tell you what was happening – what I was
feeling – I got caught up in her attraction to me; the
attention I got. So no, Tali, I'm not blaming you. I'm not
blaming her. It's all on my shoulders. I did it. I should have
said no and I should have tried to rekindle that passion with
you, but…I didn't. And now I'm paying the price."
Olivia was in tears now.
"You? You're paying?" Natalia asked
incredulously. "No, Olivia. You're wrong. We're all
paying – you, me, the kids…I have $180,000 in my private
bank account now. I pretty much cleared out our joint accounts
at First Springfield Bank. I thought about leaving you a note
and just taking the kids. I was going to ask Emma what she
wanted to do."
Olivia looked like a scared child. "I'm not
complaining, but why didn't you?" she asked.
"I made a promise – to you and to God - that I'd
never run out on you again. And I made a promise to you and
God that we'd be together until death do us part."
Olivia didn't say anything as she released a calming
breath. Natalia continued.
"But I'm not going to be your doormat. Even the bible
tells me that I have the right to leave if you hurt or wrong
me. And you've hurt me. And you've wronged me. And you…you
broke my heart. What's worse is I really have no one to talk
to about this. I can't tell Blake 'cause she'll tell Frank and
I can't tell my best friend because... she's the one that
broke my heart to begin with."
Natalia began to cry and Olivia started to weep silent
tears. She tried again to touch Natalia, and although Natalia
didn't return the embrace she did let Olivia put her arms
"Do you want me to stay?" Natalia asked after a
few moments, her voice muffled in Olivia's shoulder.
Olivia tightened her hold and began to stroke Natalia's
"I don't want to let you go…ever."
Natalia disengaged herself and stepped away, putting the
kitchen table between then. She began to point at Olivia.
"Then there are a few things that are going to happen.
One, we find a marriage councilor." Olivia nodded.
"Two, you tell no one about this – not Doris, not Josh,
no one. If I can't have a sounding board then neither can
you." Olivia nodded again. "Three, you are on the
sofa until further notice. I won't sleep in the same bed as
you and if the kids ask why then we tell them you kissed
someone else and it was wrong."
"I can stay at the Beacon if you want?" Olivia
"What? So you have free reign to keep fucking Maria on
the side?" Natalia asked.
"No!" Olivia answered. "I wanted to give you
'space.' That's all."
"Space? Not fucking likely," Natalia replied
shortly. "Beside maybe when you wake up with a sore back
you'll spend the day thinking about how pissed I am and
why." Olivia didn't dare open her mouth again. She only
nodded. "Where was I?" Natalia asked herself, more
than Olivia. "Oh yeah, four…Tomorrow's Friday – you
go in and you fire that woman."
Olivia suddenly looked reluctant and not wanting to upset
her wife again. "Natalia, if I fire her she could try to
bring a sexual harassment lawsuit against me and the
"Then you should have thought of that before you
fucked her, huh?" Natalia said calmly. "Either way,
one of us is leaving – it's me or her – so what's it going
"I'll fire her Monday," Olivia replied.
"No, you will fire her tomorrow, or I AM gone. Those
are your choices," Natalia answered. "I'm not going
to have that worry over my head for another minute longer. You
Olivia nodded. "I'll do it tomorrow."
"Thank you," Natalia replied and then cleared her
throat. "Now it's my turn."
"Your turn?" Olivia asked in confusion.
Natalia nodded. "You're not entirely wrong, Olivia.
The actions you took were… erroneous, to say the least, but…I
understand why you felt neglected. The reason is I did neglect
you. Too many nights I went to bed instead of taking you with
me. Too many days I ran through my to-do list in my mind,
rather than listen to your day. Too many times I had the
chance to flirt and I didn't because…why did it matter? We
loved each other, right? Well, wrong…obviously…so although
I can't do it right now because I am pissed beyond words…I
promise that I'll do what I can to get back to being the girl
you married. I'm not sure how to get there, given how angry I
feel, but…hopefully that's where the councilor will help
"You don't owe me anything," Olivia told her.
"I know you love me."
"But what about desire? That was your point earlier,
Olivia didn't reply and Natalia took a deep, relaxing
"I'm bringing your pillow and blanket downstairs. I
just…I need to be alone for awhile…Okay?"
"Whatever you want," Olivia answered. "I'm
just grateful you're not giving up on us…on me."
Natalia gave a snort. "I don't know whether to kiss
you or slap you right now."
Olivia closed the distance between them by coming around
the table. She took Natalia by the waist, pulling her slightly
closer. She was grateful when Natalia didn't automatically
"Maybe it's both?" Olivia told her. "Go
ahead. Get it out of your system," she said offering up
her cheek. "I wouldn't blame you."
Natalia raised her hand and Olivia closed her eyes. Olivia
waited, but the slap wasn't coming. She opened one eye and
then the other. She then watched Natalia began to stroke her
"Mad as I am, I still can't hurt you," Natalia
whimpered and then began to cry. Her hand continued to stroke
Olivia's face and soon Olivia's tears brought on by Natalia's
reaction began to fall across the Latina's fingers.
Back in the present day, Doris still sat in the barn,
looking totally floored by the confession.
"I-I can't believe it," she stuttered. "I
see you two today and it's like it never happened."
"No, it happened. We both know it happened,"
Olivia replied. "She forgave me and I eventually forgave
myself. But we never forgot. Not once…That affair was the
worst thing that happened in our marriage and the best
"Yeah, we didn't take each other for granted after
that. We both realized that no matter how much you love
someone that love itself is fragile and requires care. Little
caresses, short stolen glances of longing…those things
mattered to both of us. And it was important that the kids saw
us as sexual beings. I mean we didn't get naked in front of
them," Olivia laughed. "But we showed them that two
people in love can kiss longer than two seconds. They should
rub each other's shoulders or stroke their hair when they're
close...Somewhere between dating and being mom's we forgot
those 'superficial things,' like holding hands at the mall or
feeding each other popcorn on movie night. Those little things
are really important. And once it came back, it stayed,
because we made sure it did."
Doris was quiet for a long moment. "That's all well
and good, but…what's the story with the fridge?"
Olivia chuckled. "Well…"
Doris was quiet for a long moment. "That's all well
and good, but…what's the story with the fridge?"
Olivia chuckled. "Well…"
"Actually, back up," Doris said.
"How long did you spend on the sofa?"
"Three months, six days," Olivia answered.
"Three months, let's say. That's how long she…withheld…?"
Doris asked trying to be delicate.
"No, that was two months…three days and 16
Doris had a curious expression as if she was trying to do
the math in her head.
"She'd bring me to bed," Olivia explained,
"but once I, uh, fulfilled my conjugal duties it was back
to the sofa."
"She didn't even let you stay in bed after you had sex
Olivia nodded her head to Doris's question. "And she
was a total pillow queen during that time – she didn't
reciprocate at all."
"So she'd just…?"
"Make me do her bidding and leave me hangin'? Yeah.
The first time it happened..." Olivia smiled slightly.
"Don't get me wrong - it wasn't funny, but it was just
'so Natalia' because I, well, made sure she 'arrived'
right?" Doris nodded in understand. "I figured,
okay. I'm making strides here. I'll get my bed back, but oh
no. She calmly rolled over, putting her back to me and told me
not to forget my blanket and pillow on the way out."
"Ohhhh maaaan," Doris said with a slight giggle.
"I'm sorry, that's not funny but...damnnnn. She was
"Hell yeah she was, and she had every right, so that's
why I didn't complain. I knew better. After a while though it
was, uh, it was… Let's say there was a ton of tension in the
house and the girls felt it," Olivia replied. "Not
Emma so much, since she was usually out with her friends, but
El and Ches knew something was up. Even they started to bicker
with each other - and it never stopped. Looking back maybe I
should have just come clean with them, but instead I found I
tried hide it. I mean I'd go to bed after they'd gone to sleep
and then wake up before them."
"Ah, so they would never know about the sofa or see
there was a problem."
Olivia nodded. "But Ches found me sleeping down there
one night and called me on it at breakfast."
"Did you tell her you kissed another girl like Natalia
"Actually, Natalia didn't give me the chance. She said
she was real tried and probably snoring so that's why I left
the bed and it seemed to satisfy Ches. It'd been a few weeks
at that point and I think she wanted to spare them from it
Doris finished the rest of her Champaign and handed the
glass back to Olivia. "Hit me again."
"You know I need your help today. I've got
preparations I'll need sober Doris for," Olivia warned.
"This makes number three."
"I'm fine. Hit me again," she repeated. "Now
eventually Natalia DID…return the favor, right? I can't see
you staying with her all these years if she didn't, no matter
how much you love her."
Olivia grinned. "Yes, it was after one of our therapy
sessions. We were examining why I have this propensity to
cheat, particularly on Natalia because…God, Doris, I do love
her. More than anyone – I'd die for that woman, you know
that. And the mountains we both climbed to find each other…"
she said looking wistful.
"I know. That's why I'm flabbergasted and on my third
Champaign," she said taking a drink.
"Well, the psychologist surmised that it might have
something to do with me not having a real connection to anyone
over an extended period of time. He had a valid point. I mean,
my father died when I was 13, my mother at 18, and then my
older sister. Heck, even my younger brother Sam. Sure, he
didn't die, but I rarely saw him when he went off to school.
All my self-worth came from being alluring to people and
having their attention because, for me, having that attention
equaled love and happiness.
And for years I did have that with Natalia, but then the
kids demanded more time and it was just hard for Natalia and I
to be lovers. We were already built-in moms, but at least when
Ches was small we made time to steal away to be with each
other. But when afternoon naps were replaced by Springfield
t-ball games or volleyball it was just harder and harder for
us to be together since we had three other directions,
otherwise known as kids, pulling us away from each other. In
short, we lost touch with one another."
"So the psychologist held you both responsible?"
"No, I was to blame. I admitted as much, and I made a
promise in the office that I would make time for us as a
couple and I would come to Natalia if I felt the need to be
validated. I would do my best to realize I have self worth
without needing to use sex. I also decided I would never go
looking to someone else to feel alluring and to fill that
void. And she promised to take my concerns seriously and
reciprocate my flirting when I did it because, well…"
"You need to flirt like you need air since you ARE the
world's biggest flirt," Doris answered with a slight
grin. Olivia smiled guiltily. "Actually, I take that
back," Doris amended. "Next to Francesca, you're the
world's biggest flirt. The apple didn't fall far from the tree
there…and how she got those green eyes of yours is beyond
"I know!" Olivia said excited, "When she was
a baby she resembled Frank because they were a bluish-hazel,
but once she was five it was like 'BAM!' green all the
Doris smiled and took a drink. Then she continued by
saying, "Anyway, so you went to the councilor. Had a
break through to curb the cheating tendency, which you never
did again, right? Be honest with me here because as your best
friend, I'm gonna get mad if you hold out and don't tell me
"I have been a one-woman woman since then and I will
be for the rest of my life. The reason is I recognize it now
– why I couldn't stay with one person for very long – and
once I got past it… Well, I'm no saint, okay? I see a
beautiful person – male or female – I notice. I'm
faithful. Not dead. But my first thought is how lucky I am
that I've got Natalia - someone who's still just as hot as the
person I'm scooping out and who's waiting at home for ME or
standing next to ME at MY side."
"That's good…But…again…the fridge…What's the
"It's our sex fridge," Olivia replied simply.
Doris simply cocked her head at first. She opened her mouth
and then she closed it. Then she opened it again. When no
words came out Olivia chuckled.
"Now should I explain?" Olivia asked.
Doris just nodded.
"It all started with Emma's pony. Here's the thing
about ponies… they're very cute, but they become horses. I
was mucking the stable for her because one, I wanted the
exercise; two, she had her homecoming stuff she was doing at
high school and three, I'll admit it, I liked the horse too
and riding was fun. It's only fair I did my share now and
Anyway, I had just finished and I was tired, dirty; just
utterly exhausted. I looked like hell; I smelled like hell. So
I went and pumped some water into a bucket from the old well
to rinse myself off because I wasn't even going near the
farmhouse like that. The only thing is…I didn't realize that
Natalia had been watching me for several minutes."
Olivia paused and started to grin as she remembered that
It was early October, but it was still really warm for the
season. There had been three days of 80 degrees in a row and
although it had cooled slightly it was still rather warm.
Olivia hoisted her pitchfork into a nearby hay bale as she
worked the well handle, putting some water in the bucket. She
removed the white wife beater shirt that was covered in grim
and tossed it over one of the stales, leaving her only in her
sports bra and denim jeans.
She picked up the bucket and dumped the water over her head
and let it cascade down her body. Unknown to her at the time,
Natalia stood at the opposite side of the barn, watching her
and biting her lip and fingernail to restrain her growing
eagerness at perhaps touching her.
Using the bar of soap they always kept handy near the water
spout, Olivia got it wet by pumping some more water into the
bucket. She worked up a good lather between her hands and ran
the soap through her hair, over her face and down, and under
her arms. She then picked up the semi-full bucket and raised
it over her head again, this time rinsing herself off.
"Oh, that's cold," she said out loud and shook it
"Looks like it," Natalia said, finally making her
Olivia dropped the empty bucket and turned sharply to see
Natalia pointing at the sports bra. The older woman looked
down to see her nipples pointing through the cotton material
and she suddenly felt very exposed. Her cheeks became rosy.
"Is, uh, dinner done?" Olivia asked, trying to
change the topic and hide her blushing cheeks behind her arm,
which used under the guise of reaching for the pitchfork.
Natalia was already closing the distance between them and only
nodded. Olivia wiped off her dripping face and said, "I
was thinking this Spring, maybe we could..."
Even though she knew Natalia was a few feet from her she
was still surprised when her wife reached up and pulled her
into a passionate embrace and kissed her soundly and without
When they pulled back, Olivia said, "I'm not
complaining, but…what brought that on?"
"I want my life back," Natalia answered and then
kissed her decisively again before, pulling back once more.
"And besides, there is another reason." Olivia just
looked at her questioningly. "Half naked, wet, breathing
hard…you look sexy as hell."
Olivia couldn't contain her grin and she pulled Natalia's
to her face to hers and then captured her lips. After a few
moments of their lips and tongues searching each other,
Natalia began to work the buckle of Olivia's belt. The older
woman put her hands over her lover's.
"Here?" Olivia asked questioningly. "The
kids might come in," she commented.
Natalia looked around for a place to go and Olivia smiled.
It had been so long, perhaps years even, since she witnessed
Natalia's need to take her somewhere – then and there.
Natalia's eyes finally settled on the loft. She then grabbed a
couple of the fresh horse blankets, tossing them over her
"Come on." Natalia motioned her to follow as she
made her way up the ladder.
Olivia couldn't help but smile. When she didn't move
immediately Natalia leaned over the side.
"You know the view of you from up here is great,"
she said. Olivia looked down at herself suddenly aware that
Natalia could see right down her bra. She smiled wider as
Natalia continued, saying, "…but I'd rather have you
next to me."
Olivia didn't need to be told twice. She raced up the
rickety wooden ladder to find the two blankets laid out neatly
over the straw and Natalia lifting her dress over her head
leaving her in her bra and panties. Olivia unceremoniously
pulled her boots off and did her best to peel herself out of
the semi-wet jeans, which Natalia came over and helped remove.
With both of them half naked, Natalia pulled Olivia back to
the blankets. Olivia was surprised when Natalia rolled her
over and immediately her hand began to creep around her
thighs. Olivia grabbed her wrist.
"Please don't tease me," Olivia told her. "I
know I have no right to ask for anything but…not that, okay?
I'll do whatever you want me to do for you. All I'm asking is
for a little mercy here."
Natalia pulled back slightly.
"You think this has been easy on me? Not touching you
or watching you react to my touch? I can't hold back anymore,
and you know what, I realized I don't have to. You've done all
you can, Olivia. You've said all you can. The rest of this
journey back to each other lies with me now…I'm ready."
Natalia then gave a short snort of a laugh. "Beyond
ready, actually…Just…let me take you," she said as
she ran her hand over Olivia's neck and between her breasts.
"Please?" she added for good measure.
Olivia smiled and nodded.
Back in the present day, Doris grinned.
"So you guys did it up in the loft?"
Olivia nodded and then whispered conspiratorially although
there was no one around.
"And it was one of the best sexual experiences in my
life. It wasn't just because Natalia wanted me again. I mean,
don't get me wrong, that was fantastic and something I was so
worried would never happen again. But it was everything that
day… the smell and feel of the hay under the scratchy
blanket; the natural breeze of the air; the feeling of maybe
getting caught." Doris smiled even larger. "It was…"
Olivia paused, looking for the right words, "…just an
unbelievable rush. We both loved it and swore we'd do it
again. So we did do it again, and again, and again. And each
time after, I'd have to get dressed, go to the farmhouse for
some drinks, climb the ladder again, get naked again."
Olivia sighed at remember the hassle. "So Tali suggested
just getting a little fridge for out here. Of course El and
Ches had no idea why the fridge was at the top of the barn in
the loft and not below."
Doris chuckled. "Then why is it down here now?"
"Like I said before…the kids are gone and it's
harder to climb the ladder now. So if we want to take each
other, we just do it down here. And if someone comes in
without knocking, then hey, that's their own damn fault. I'm
too old now to 'hide' and I make no apologies for still
finding my wife entirely sexy…But you have to promise me
something," Olivia added.
"What?" Doris asked.
"You can't tell Natalia I told you anything."
"AND," Olivia stressed. "You can't go acting
different around her now that you know about…everything. Got
"Oh, please," Doris replied. "Honey I spent
years being a closeted lesbian but also a politician. I can
mask what I'm REALLY thinking pretty well."
"I know…so tell me honestly…do you hate me for
what I did?"
"No," Doris answered immediately.
"Disappointed to hear it. Shocked and slightly mortified…yes…But
you've always been there for me Olivia. I couldn't hate you.
And thankfully neither could Natalia…she is a great woman.
You know that, right?"
Olivia's eyes slightly filled with tears.
"Yeah, I do," she said softly.
Saturday Morning, 10:03 AM, June 9th, 2029
Emma looked out the window into the backyard. She giggled
lightly to herself as she watched her mother and Doris arguing
over a whether to soak the charcoal a little now or wait until
"What’s so funny?" she heard Rafe say behind
her from the hallway.
She didn’t turn around. She simply pointed out the window
at the bickering pair.
"Mom and Doris," she answered as Rafe made his
way over to watch. "If I knew asking for a barbeque
station would have been caused this much turmoil I woulda just
skipped it." He rested his hand on her back as they both
watched the two women below them in the yard laughing and
throwing briquettes at each other.
"Oh, man," Rafe said as he and Emma both began to
The fun didn’t last too long though. Although they couldn’t
hear what she was saying, Rafe and Emma could tell Natalia
wasn’t pleased. The younger woman stepped between them and
scolded them with a wag of her finger. Then she pointed for
them to pick up the pieces they’d thrown.
As Doris and Olivia began to clean up, Rafe turned to Emma.
"You always liked the barbeque, didn’t you?"
She shrugged. "It feels like home. And yeah those
first ‘battles with the Bauers’ over Fourth of July were
tough, but we won in the end. Even Dr. Rick comes to our house
now." Emma paused and then pointed between her and Rafe.
"We’ve gotta history, ya know?"
"Yeah, you’re my little sis," he said.
"No," Emma said and then quickly corrected
herself. "Well, yeah, but that’s not what I mean… We
know things; have shared things…stuff that Elena and Chessie
Emma thought and then pointed at the BBQ pit.
"Like why we never went to another Bauer B-B-Q. They
don’t know why. In fact, they have no idea what the Bauer
B-B-Q was. They’ve only known the Rivera-Spencer B-B-Q’s."
"Well, it was too hard on our moms to go – it
brought up some painful stuff and they wanted a fresh start
with each other."
"Exactly," Emma replied. "We know
that, but El and Ches… they don’t have a clue – not
really. And there’s stuff I shared with them that I didn’t
share with you – like making S’mores for them because
neither one of them could keep a marshmallow on a stick."
Emma laughed at the memory. "Theirs would always end up
in the fire. Then they’d cry. Then I’d give them mine.
Over and over and over again."
"You’re a good big sister," Rafe told her.
"Who, incidentally, has never had a S’more in her
life thanks to her marshmallow toasting inept sisters. True
story," she teased, making Rafe chuckle. "Nah,
seriously, I had a good guy who taught me what it means to be
the older sibling," Emma complimented him. She then held
up her finger. She walked over to a jewelry case. "I’ve
got something I need to put in my shoe now so I don’t forget
it today. I’m taking it with me to the church."
"What?" he asked curiously.
"I know it’s superstitious, but I still have
it," she told him as she brought it over. She motioned
for him to open his hands. When he did she placed a quarter in
"It’s my magical quarter," she showed him.
"The day you left for the service, when we found out
Granddad died, you told me that whenever I get sad or lonely
to think of you because you’ll be thinking of me. Do you
"I remember," Rafe told her as he handed it back
"I know it’s silly, but…I like to think it brings
me good luck." Rafe began to tear up. "Hey, it’s
not a bad thing," she told Rafe.
He shook his head and held up a finger for a brief moment.
Then he reached into his back pocket to pull out his billfold.
He reached into one of the slits and pulled out a quarter.
"You still have yours?" Emma asked amazed. Rafe
could only nod, not trusting his voice. Emma inspected it
closely. "It’s…warped," she said in a curious
Rafe walked over to the door and closed it, giving them
"I’m gonna tell you a story that only a handful of
people know and they only know because they were there. I
never told Daisy or Ashlee. Never told Frank or Buzz. And I
sure as heck didn’t tell our moms," he said.
"What happened? Was it during the war?"
"You know when I got my assignment to Afghanistan? God
bless Momma Liv, really. One of the first things she did was
buy some state-of-the-art flak jackets. The outsides were all
Kevlar, but the plates came in ceramic, metal and polyethylene
– and since she got conflicting info on what was best, she
spent over five grand and bought all three. She figured once I
was there I could learn from people on the front line what
really worked or didn’t work. Then your Dad – God bless
him too – when he found out lots of guys in my Platoon didn’t
have adequate body armor he had an entire case of 100 shipped
over so everyone could hopefully get at least two each."
"Everybody must of have loved you then," Emma
"I was popular for the first time in my life,"
Rafe chuckled, "but I was kind of an enigma to them too.
Anyone who knew someone that rich shouldn’t have to join the
military. At least that’s what lots of people thought. But I
told them I wanted more out of life – I wanted to make my
own way…but I wasn’t dumb enough to turn down proper
protection either. I wore the damn vest."
Rafe smiled for a moment, but then began to grow serious.
Emma didn’t say anything. She just watched the lines on his
face deepen slightly.
"We were near Gardez, just south of Kabul," he
said, his voice barely above a whisper. "And I got a bad
feelin’ and usually when I did something happened before or
after we came through an area. I was nervous – truth is, I
was always nervous, but…but this time…it felt
Although Rafe knew he was in his sister’s bedroom, twenty
years later, it was like he was back in the desert as he told
He was nineteen, afraid and looking around the small town
filled with buildings of various sizes, yet nothing over 3
stories tall. His eyes darted from rooftops to windows - never
stopping; always searching.
He shifted in the seat of the armored vehicle when suddenly
he heard – rather than felt – a huge explosion. With a
loud ringing in his ears, he opened his eyes and realized that
he was now upside down; the roof of the armored vehicle was
lying on the ground. It seemed as if time moved agonizingly
slow although he sure only seconds had passed. He watched five
men armed with AK-47’s running toward the vehicle, firing
wildly and erratically.
Now that the windshield was busted, four of the five men in
Rafe’s squad held position at the front of the vehicle and
took aim. As Rafe and his comrades opened fire, two of the
attacking five men dropped immediately, but it didn’t stop
the other three who charged forward, rifles blazing.
"Son of a bitch!" the solider said beside him as
he tried to take aim. "This is gonna-!"
Rafe felt the spray of blood hit the side of his face and
from his peripheral vision he watched the solider slump to the
side. He looked down only a second to see a bullet in his
buddy’s forehead. Rafe quickly looked back and held is
position, firing again.
Dixon, Rafe’s Staff Sergeant, said, "We need to get
a clear shot! We need a diversion!"
Rafe put his riffle over his shoulder and using the grill
of the vehicle quickly made his way to the top. He laid down a
spray of bullets that took one man off his feet, but also made
him a standing target for the other two. Rifle fire shot out
from both sides of the vehicle and the power of one of the
blasts from their attackers took Rafe off his feet, sending
him flat on his back on top of the vehicle.
Next thing Rafe remembered was a sound of eerie quiet
followed by people screaming, "Riverea! Riverea!"
Rafe felt a stabbing pain in his chest and thought for a
moment that maybe he was having a heart attack or he was shot.
He looked down, but didn’t see any blood. A few seconds
later, two fellow soldiers made their way to the top.
"You alive Riverea?" one of them yelled.
"Chest hurts," Rafe said in a shallow breath.
"Hold on Buddy," the other one told him.
Below Dixon called in their location, requesting
reinforcements, as his other two squad members checked Rafe
"Holy shit! You’re the luckiest man on the planet
Rivera!" one of them said. "Look at this!" he
said showing him the flat quarter and flat bullet to match.
Back in the present day, Emma was equally amazed. "The
bullet hit the quarter?"
"I always carried it in my breast pocket in my
fatigues. And the pain I felt? That was from a cracked rib. I
still felt the gunfire, but at least the bullet didn’t shred
my heart…just my magic quarter. After that though, there was
no way I was ever gonna be without it. So warped as it might
be…it’s still got some magic left in it."
"That’s just astounding," Emma said. "You
never told anyone?"
"That I mighta died? No," Rafe shook his head.
"Buzz once told me that he saw some of the most horrible
things during the war and some of the most wonderful. I didn’t
understand him until I came home.
But I try not to dwell on it all too much though because I
got to come home. When I was lying in that hospital bed later,
playing with that quarter, I realized that a lot of guys, like
the two in my squad that day, were only going home in flag
draped coffins. I decided then and there I would do everything
in my power to make it home…After all, I had a munchkin
waiting for me."
Emma pulled Rafe into a hug.
"And I’m so glad you’re here. You know that,
"Yeah," he answered and pulled back to take his
quarter again. As he put it away he said, "Maybe I’ll
even be good enough and make you a S’more tonight."
Emma stood on her tippy toes and gave him a kiss on the
Saturday Morning, 10:17 AM, June 9th, 2029
Natalia heard the voice behind her as they entered through
the kitchen door. She smiled when she saw Matt Reardon make
his way inside.
"You better be alone," Natalia warned, waving a
spatula she was drying at him.
"Does this guy count?" he asked, pitching a thumb
behind him to Phillip who was walking inside.
Natalia made her way over to both of them, kissing each one
of them on the cheek as they returned the favor.
"Emma!" she called upstairs. "You've got
company!" She turned back to the men and asked in a
quieter voice. "Would you like some coffee?" Both
men answered in the affirmative and Natalia got two cups out.
"I quit waitressing years ago," she told them with a
warm grin and began to point after handing over the mugs.
"Milk's in the fridge and sugar's on the table. Have at
Matt took his straight black and nodded in approval as he
took a sip.
"How's Olivia doing?" he asked. "She looked
a little…dirty…when we came in."
Natalia rolled her eyes.
"Her and Doris," she sighed. "They got into
a charcoal fight a few minutes ago." Matt and Phillip
both looked confused and started to laugh. "I
swear," Natalia continued. "It's like having two
kids. But how about you? Are the misses behaving and doing
"Charlotte's good," Matt told her. "She
still manages to put up with me."
"Same with Beth," Phillip offered. "I can't
complain, but I'm sure she might have something to say about
me if you asked her."
"Why? Have you been naughty?" Natalia asked.
Phillip smiled. "Not that I know of, but sometimes I
find out I've misbehaved without my knowledge."
"Like throwing charcoal at Rick and vice versa?"
Phillip considered. "Well, no, we've never done
anything that childish yet."
All three of them began to chuckle.
Emma came into the kitchen and instantly exclaimed,
"Daddy!" upon seeing Phillip. She pulled him into a
hug, which he graciously returned. "I didn't expect to
see you until the church," she told him.
"I know, but I just had to see you," he answered.
When Emma pulled back that's when she noticed Matt.
"Oh, hey!" Emma said making her way over and
giving him a hug too. "I didn't see you there. I'm
"I know," Matt sighed. "I'm not as appealing
as Phillip Spaulding. All the pretty girls notice him
first," he teased. "Seriously though, no cold feet
yet? No running back up the aisle?"
"No, she's not like her Ma," Natalia said in a
Emma wrapped her forearm around Natalia's chest and gripped
her shoulder as the older woman sat in the chair. She leaned
closer and said, "You only ran away when it wasn't right
for you…and I thank God everyday that you did."
"Frank is good guy," Natalia defended.
"But he's no Olivia Spencer, is he?" Emma
countered. Natalia smiled and shook her head. "No, he is
not. So to answer your question, Matt, no. I won't be running
because she's not MY Frank – she's MY one and only. I'm
certain of that," she answered.
"Sure, but you made her wait forever," Phillip
added as he gripped Emma by the arms as he stood behind her.
"No, no, no," Emma countered, waving her finger
and pulling away from Natalia and Phillip. "I had to make
sure SHE knew I was the right one for HER…And since she did
wait for me, now we both know it's forever." Emma smiled
warmly. "I remember that first day I saw her. Well, not
the first day, but…the FIRST day."
It was Emma's twenty-first birthday. Doris insisted on
taking her to ladies night for martinis with Olivia and
Natalia. Doris's wife, Brenda, acted as designated driver.
The quartet walked over to the table as Olivia pointed Emma
to the bar. "Five martinis – and tell them not to skimp
on the olives," she instructed.
The bartender smiled warmly as Emma approached. "New
here?" she asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," she said politely. "My moms
brought me. I got my drinking license today so my aunts came
along too," Emma answered.
"So I get to deflower you, eh?" the bartender
teased. Then she motioned with her hand. "Let's see that
proof of age, Missy." Emma gave an embarrassed grin, but
handed it over. "It really is your birthday today,"
she remarked. "First drink’s on the house, how's
"Thanks," Emma replied. "I've been ordered
to get 5 martinis and-."
"Olives," the bartender cut her off. "I know
the drill – believe me… I know. I'll bring 'em over,
Sweetie," she said as she motioned Emma to go back over
to join her family.
Emma put her license back in her back pocket and began to
turn when she bumped into another woman. "Sorry,"
"Don't. It's my fault. I was going to awkwardly ask if
I could buy you a drink, but now that I've made an ass of
myself I think…" The woman trailed offer and looked
closer. "Emma? Emma Spencer?"
Emma seemed confused at first, but then she leaned closer.
"Maureen Reardon? Oh my goodness!"
Both women chuckled and pulled each other into an embrace.
Maureen pulled back, but kept her hands on Emma's arms as she
said, "You look so…grown up. It's been years since I've
"I know," Emma replied. "I think the last
"My mom's funeral," Maureen replied, but tried
not to dwell on it. "You, ah, you look…wow." She
began to nervously chuckle. "I saw you from across the
bar and I usually don't see women this young here."
"I'm not that much younger than you – only three
years if I remember right," Emma replied.
"No," Maureen said quickly. "I mean 'our
age' - most of the ladies at ladies night are…well, kinda
Emma and Maureen giggled.
"Like them," Emma said as she pointed to where
Natalia, Olivia, Doris and Brenda sat.
"Well, yeah," Maureen replied and started to
giggle again. "I knew about your moms – hell, everyone
in town knows about them – but I didn't know that you liked
"You could say I'm open minded to all the
possibilities of love," Emma replied. "I'm…I'm
actually on the rebound right now. I had a high school
sweetheart who wanted to stay together during college and…"
"Didn't last?" Maureen asked sympathetically.
"No, he decided he wanted to see other people, so I
decided I would too. I met a girl in my French class, but…"
Emma shook her hands back and forth and seemed to be trying to
find a way to describe the lack of desire she'd been
"Not feeling a spark?"
Emma smiled and pushed her hair over her shoulder. She
licked her lips and examined Maureen from head to toe before
meeting her eyes again.
"Let's say for starters you're way hotter and you
complimented me more in five minutes here then she has in
Maureen took a step closer and cocked her head slightly.
"Oh, so we like to be…worshiped," Maureen
teased. "The apple didn't fall far from the tree
"Oh and you don't like a little adoration?" Emma
said as she played with the lapel of Maureen's coat. "You
don't like it when a woman takes hold?" she said as she
grabbed the coat for emphasis, pulling her slightly forward.
"You don't enjoy it when a woman tells you how incredibly
blue your eyes are?" Emma then inhaled noticeably and
added, "Or tell you how amazingly delicious you
Maureen's jaw noticeably dropped, but she quickly regained
herself and said, "Oh yeah…You've grown up."
Emma stepped back slightly, but she still didn't let
Maureen go. "Why don't you have a drink with us? I can
buy legally now," Emma remarked.
"I was the one who asked you if you'd like a
drink," Maureen countered.
"How about this then? First round on you. Second on me
and for the third…let's just see where we are then?"
Emma gave Maureen a little tug, but then released her and
gave her a 'come and get me' look from over her shoulder as
she walked toward her parents' table.
Maureen smiled and shook her head slightly before giving
The minutes had turned into hours with Doris and Brenda
saying they had to call it a night. Ashlee was in town so they
didn't want to stay out too late. Doris claimed she didn't
want to be hung over at breakfast. Olivia, however, was just
convinced Doris was chickening out again in their drinking
contest. She then turned to Emma, asking if she was up to the
challenge of taking on her mom.
Emma didn't immediately answer. Instead, she looked to
Natalia in a silent plea that the older woman seemed to
understand. Natalia didn't drink very much. Rather than
downing shots she spent the better part of the night watching
how Emma and Maureen tried to steal glances at on another when
they didn't think the other was looking.
"Actually, Liv," Natalia replied. "Why don't
we head home and let Emma and Maureen catch up? Besides,
Frank's got the girls tonight and we'll pretty much have the
farmhouse to ourselves for awhile."
Olivia promptly put down her drink.
"Enough said," she replied. She reached into her
pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to
Emma. "Make sure you gals get a cab if you've had too
much, okay?" she told them.
"I don't plan on getting blitzed just because I
can," Emma told her.
"Smart girl," Natalia told her. "Correction
– smart woman." She then walked over and opened her
arms. Emma stood up and Natalia kissed her on the cheek as
they hugged. "Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I love you."
"I love you too, Ma," Emma answered. Maureen
Doris and Brenda followed suit offering their well wishes
while Brenda said she was going to bring the car around.
Olivia swayed slightly as she came up to Emma.
"I love you so much, Bean," Olivia said teary
eyed. "You know that, right?"
"Mom, you've had a few too many."
"I know, but that doesn't change how I feel. No matter
how old you get you'll away be my Baby, remember that?"
"Like you'd let me forget," Emma teased.
"I certainly will not. I love you, Sweetie," she
repeated. "Happy birthday."
"I love you too, Mom," Emma replied.
Olivia then turned to Maureen. "Make sure she gets
home, okay?" Maureen nodded. "Just not too soon,
though. I have plans with a hot Latina," Olivia said in a
"Mother," Emma sighed in embarrassment while
Maureen just giggled.
"What?" Olivia said with a devilish grin while at
the same time Natalia said, "That's it," and took
Olivia by the elbow.
"Goodnight you two," Natalia added as she steered
Olivia away from the table and toward the door where Doris was
swaying a bit herself.
"They're quite a group," Maureen replied.
"I'm sorry to put you through that," Emma
"Why? They're great folks and they adore you. I'd love
to just have five more minutes with my mom, or even my
step-dad Billy for that matter," Maureen told her.
"It's been over five years now for me, but trust me. Once
they're gone Em', you'll miss them."
"I know," Emma replied. "I thank God
everyday for my family. I do. I just know they're not…what
most people expect when it comes to…parental figures."
"I think they're great. And I've had a splendid time
so far." Emma didn't appear convinced.
"Seriously," she added. "Brenda's nice and
Doris and your mom are just funny as hell together. And
Natalia…she cares a great deal for you. She was watching you
quite a bit tonight with admiration and pride – particularly
when you'd sling those one-liners at your mom or Doris. Plus…
I think she might have picked up on it."
"Picked up on what?" Emma asked.
"How attracted I am to her eldest daughter,"
Maureen replied sincerely. Emma grinned, looking a bit
bashful, but she didn't say anything. Sensing that Emma wasn't
sure how to respond, Maureen said, "It's not too cold for
October this year. We could head over to the lighthouse, watch
the water and share a bottle of cheap wine. Whadda ya
"Are you trying to get me drunk?" Emma asked
"Fine – a two-liter of Root Beer instead,"
Maureen replied. She then took a chance and reached up, her
palm cupping Emma's cheek. "I love talking to you and I
don't want this night to end yet."
Emma felt Maureen's thumb caress her cheek back and forth.
She took a deep breath and then she closed the distance
between them. The kiss was shy and tentative at first, with
their lips barely touching. But Maureen didn't resist and when
she began to pressed more firmly. Emma took it as a sign to
continue. She delicately snared Maureen's bottom lip between
hers lightly licking it, before recapturing her lips again.
When she pulled back, she began to giggle.
"Okay," Maureen said confused. "Not the
reaction I was hoping for."
Emma smiled broadly. "It's not what you think,"
she assured her. "That was…that was everything I always
thought it would be." Maureen still looked confused.
"I've had a crush on you – heck, even when I didn't
realize what I felt was a crush," Emma confessed.
"Now?" Maureen asked hopefully.
Emma took Maureen by the chin. "I'm thinking we better
stick with Root Beer tonight," she replied.
"Don't want to do something you'll regret?"
"Yes, but again, it's not what you think. I just don't
want to lose a single memory of my best birthday yet,"
she replied as she stood and offered Maureen her hand.
Maureen took it with a smile.
Saturday Morning, 10:31 AM, June 9th, 2029
Olivia and Doris both came into the kitchen laughing to see
Emma, Phillip, Matt and Natalia there. They both came to an
abrupt halt in their conversation when they noticed everyone
was gawking at them.
"We're a little dirty," Olivia said bashfully.
"She started it," Doris added.
Natalia sighed. "Just get cleaned up in the utility
room 'cause you two are NOT going into the bathroom and
messing it up."
Although Olivia had wiped off her hands, the charcoal was
still present, in addition to having smudges on her cheeks and
"Gimme a hug," she said working her way over to
Natalia, making everyone chuckle except Natalia.
"Don't you dare, Liv," Natalia warned.
Before Natalia could argue further, or get away, Olivia
wrapped her hands around Natalia's face and brought her in for
a kiss, leaving black smudges on her cheeks in their wake. She
then grabbed Natalia's backside and pulled her closer.
"Ya know ya love me," Olivia teased and then
swatted Natalia gently for good measure.
Natalia struggled away and then looked to Emma.
"Did she get me?" she asked their daughter.
Emma chuckled and nodded.
"Son of a pup!! Olivia Freakin' Spencer!" the
"Time to go!" Olivia said quickly as she dragged
Doris with her toward the utility room, and away from Natalia.
"You can hardly see it," Phillip said
straight-faced and then began to giggle too.
Natalia turned around and began to run the water in the
sink when Emma and Phillip, who were behind her began to laugh
Natalia didn't turn around when she asked, "She got my
butt too, didn't she?"
"Uh huh," Emma remarked dryly.
Natalia released a heavy sigh. "I'll be back in a
Minutes later, Doris and Olivia re-emerged wearing clean
jogging suits. Their hands and faces were now clean as well
and they both took seats at the kitchen table. A few moments
later, Natalia walked in, also wearing new clothes.
"You changed again?" Olivia asked her, fully
knowing the reason why. "You're such a clothes
Doris chuckled, "You're really pushing your luck
today, aren't you Spencer?"
Natalia grinned and came up next to Olivia standing over
her. Olivia just looked up batting her eyelashes at Natalia.
She took Natalia's hand in hers and gave her knuckles a light
"Love you," Olivia said as she continued to look
up at Natalia.
"You're damn lucky you're good in bed," Natalia
remarked, making everyone in the kitchen chuckle. "That's
why you get away with half the crap you do."
"What about the other half?" Matt asked.
Olivia pretended to whisper. "The other half she
doesn't know about." She then turned to Natalia and gave
her a big, toothy smile.
"Oh, I always know what you're up to," Natalia
"Not always," Olivia said, "You should have
seen her the day I proposed."
"She got me there," Natalia replied. She then
turned to Phillip and pointed at him accusingly adding,
"And you... the... accomplice."
"What did I do?" he said, trying to appear
innocent. "I have no idea what you mean." It lasted
for all of two seconds before he began to chuckle.
"Uh huh," Natalia replied. "He was in on it
and him and Beth watched all the kids. It was about a year
after Elena was born," she told Matt. "Sneaky little
Spauldings," she muttered.
"So what exactly did they do?" Matt asked.
"Well," Natalia said as she squeezed Olivia's
shoulder. "Phillip let Olivia take the company jet. And
as my wife once said, 'When she does something, she does it
big' and her proposal wasn't any different."
"So you pulled out all the stops then?" Matt
"I wouldn't go THAT far," she answered.
Natalia harrumphed. "Yeah, right. The woman put me on
a plane at night, so I had no idea where we're going. After
hours and hours of flying, we land. But before I can look out
the window to even get an idea of where we are, she blindfolds
"Sounds kinky," Matt remarked. "I'm
Natalia threw a dishtowel at him. She continued to smile as
she looked down at Olivia.
"It wasn't kinky at all. In fact, it was one of the
most loving and thoughtful things she could have done for me.
I would have been a fool to say no."
That day, without her vision to lead her, Natalia found
herself relying on her other senses more heavily. She could
feel the wool of Olivia's jacket as she held onto her arms as
the other woman led her around. She could hear people talking
in several foreign languages – some in Spanish, some in
French and some in Italian. One thing she did notice is the
lack of English, or at least no one close to her was speaking
"I'm in Europe," Natalia said as they slowly
walked. "But not England or the British Isles I'm
"You're very smart. What makes you say that?"
Olivia asked as they continued to slowly walk. She carefully
navigated Natalia around.
"I don't hear English…but I smell…water…and car
fumes…" She chuckled. "Is itttttt…Paris
maybe?" she asked.
"Excellent way to try to use deductive reasoning, but
no," Olivia replied and then chuckled. "Want to
"You know I don't like guessing games."
She slowed Natalia down for a moment and said, "Well,
don't worry. We're almost there. Now, we've got a slight step
up – it's about six inches. Ready?"
Having cleared that, Natalia noticed the lack of springtime
air, and she heard the sound of echos. She knew they were now
indoors as they came to a stop.
"Ciao, la signorina Spencer, presumo?" a male
"Lei hanno ragione in orario. Questa maniera,"
Natalia heard him say and then felt Olivia begin to direct
"We're getting into an elevator," Olivia told
her. "Just walk straight ahead."
"You're taking me somewhere to kill me, aren't
you?" Natalia teased.
"Never," she replied.
Olivia took Natalia's hands in hers and they both squeezed
each other's appendages in anticipation. Natalia began to
"This better be good… the things I let you do to
Olivia leaned close to Natalia. "It will. You'll
see," she said, her voice cracking slightly.
Natalia heard that same inflection only a few times in all
the years she'd known Olivia – usually it was when she was
nervous or hurt. She knew that Olivia had nothing to be hurt
over. They both were having a fun time. She quickly realized
that Olivia must be nervous. Whatever her lover had planned
maybe she was having second thoughts, or she was worried the
idea she had in store wouldn't be as accepted as she first
assumed. To Natalia though, the thought was nonsense, of
course. To her, Olivia was special because, honestly, anyone
who would go to this much trouble was either in love, insane
or perhaps both. She grinned at the thought, but before she
could vocalize anything she heard the doors of the elevator
Leading her around again, Olivia took Natalia by the hands
and brought her back outside, or at the very least somewhere
slightly windy. Still unable to see Natalia was forced to use
her other senses. She could only assume after the elevator
ride, which she felt go 'up,' she was on a rooftop.
"Ready?" Olivia asked. Natalia smiled broadly and
nodded her head. "It might be a little bright at
first," Olivia warned as she reached around and slowly
took off the blindfold. Natalia blinked a few times adjusting
her eyes to the shift in lighting. Her mouth began to open as
she looked around. "Do you know where we are?"
"I-I don't believe it," Natalia stuttered. She
looked at the line of statues below them and the two fountains
on either side of a large courtyard where in the center stood
an obelisk. Looking further out, she had one of the best views
of Rome with its white, tan and sandstone structures.
"We're in the dome of St. Peter's Basilica?"
Natalia said in amazement and adoration. "You brought me
to Vatican City?"
Olivia just nodded at first.
"Yeah, but I have to admit it's for selfish reasons
too," she replied. Natalia looked confused for a moment,
but then she saw Olivia moved down to rest on one knee.
"Oh my goodness," Natalia muttered and put her
hand over her mouth in surprise.
"I told you I have prayed before," Olivia began,
"and I meant it. I really have. And I'm praying again
right now in the one place where I think God might be more in
tune to listen," she said with a smile.
Natalia began to chuckle.
"So God," Olivia said, "If you are
listening, please convince this extraordinary woman to be my
wife. I swear to you, and to her, I will love her until the
day I die, and I will do everything I can to provide for her
and give her the support she needs." She then reached
into her pocket and pulled out a solitaire diamond ring.
"So…here goes nothing…my sweet, beautiful Natalia…will
you do me the honor of being my partner for the rest of our
Natalia had tears in her eyes, as well as tears running
down her cheeks, at that point. Words failed her. She could
only nod, but that's all the confirmation Olivia needed. She
rose up and put the ring on Natalia's shaking hand and that's
when she noticed that she too was shaking pretty intensely.
Olivia carefully wiped the tears away from Natalia's face with
her thumbs and kissed her delicately at first and then with a
sense of growing passion.
Olivia smiled and then looked over at the elevator door to
see the security guard who brought them there standing watch,
trying not to look at them. It was then that Natalia realized,
they were the only ones standing out there.
"You had them close the dome for us?" Natalia
"I'd like to say I have that much power, but the truth
is, someone at the Vatican owed Emma's dad a favor, so when I
told him my idea, well, Philip gave me the company jet and
used his favor on us."
"So people are physically waiting on us?" Natalia
asked. "You actually stopped the Catholic Church to
propose to me?"
Olivia considered her words. "Yep," she finally
"Olivia," Natalia began, "We can't stay here
all day - you know it wouldn't be right?"
"I know," Olivia replied and put her arm around
Natalia. "But let's enjoy this for just a few more
Natalia smiled and cupped Olivia by the face. "You're
the best thing that's ever happened to me, and not because of
all this," she said waving her free hand. "It's
because you know me so well to plan all of this and knowing
how much it would mean to me."
Olivia kissed Natalia and brought their foreheads together.
"You're everything to me. You always will be, so don't
ever forget that." They both then turned to look out over
St. Peter's Square a few moments longer.
Thursday Evening, 5:07 P.M., November 26th, 2009
Ten-year-old Emma ran through the dinning room of Bill and
Lizzie's house when Olivia reached out and snagged her arm,
which brought her to a halt. Behind her, giving chase was
Maureen, who quickly stopped too.
"Girls," Olivia warned them. "Tag is an
outside game." Just then James, Daisy and Ashlee
followed, coming to an abrupt stop as well. The three of them
tried to act nonchalant, but failed miserable. Olivia's eyes
hardened. "If you guys end up knocking over this table
I'm turning Lizzie loose on you all. Understand?" They
all looked at the place settings that were waiting on
Thanksgiving diner. They nodded in agreement and Olivia
released Emma's arm. "If you want to run around get your
coats and go outside. Otherwise, find something to do that has
less destruction possibilities, okay guys?"
"Yes, ma'am," Maureen said politely and then
motioned for Emma and the crew to follow her.
Phillip walked up next to Olivia.
"Some kids never grow up," she said.
"Did we?" Phillip asked.
Olivia paused. "Hmm, some days, yeah." She
followed it up with a smile, which Phillip returned.
"Thank you for coming," he told her.
"Thank you for inviting us," she replied. "I
know Natalia thought about doing Thanksgiving, but with Rafe
gone and her not seeing her feet in months this was an
appropriate idea, so, really, thanks."
"No, thank you," he insisted. "It's great to
have all my kids under one roof for the evening."
"I think your dad would have liked this too,"
"Yeah," Phillip said as he nodded. "In a way…it
feels like he's here, ya know? Like he's watching and he's
Olivia grinned. "I know what you mean."
Moments later, Emma came up and took both her parents by
"Come with me please," she said. Phillip and
Olivia exchanged confused expressions, but followed along as
she tugged them.
Emma stopped in front of the bathroom door and gave a
"Natalia, I got them."
A very pregnant Natalia opened the door.
"Thanks, Sweetie. Can you go play with Maureen
Emma nodded and then scurried away.
"What wrong?" Olivia asked in a hushed tone.
"Don't spaz, but my water broke."
"Your wa-!" Olivia began, but Natalia put her
fingers over her lips silencing her.
She then turned to Phillip. "Would it be too much of a
hassle for you and Beth to take Emma tonight?" Natalia
Phillip put his arm around Olivia and gripped Natalia's
upper arm with his free hand. "Not at all," he said.
"Okay, we need to get you to the hospital then,"
Natalia shook her head.
"The contractions are about 20 minutes apart,"
she said. "We've got time. We're closer to Cedars here
than we are at the farmhouse. And if we go to the hospital now
they're just going to make us walk the hallways. So we might
as well stay. You have dinner and I'll…find excuses why I
can't eat. I don't want anyone here to know that I'm in labor
until after dinner, okay? I don't want to take away from
Lizzie's first Thanksgiving at home."
"Fine," Olivia conceded. "But if the
contractions start going to ten minutes, we're leaving for
Cedars regardless. Agreed?"
Natalia nodded. "Agreed. The only bad thing is my
overnight bag is at home by the front door."
Phillip raised his hand slightly. "If there's nothing
you need in it immediately I can run it up to you at the
hospital tonight," he offered.
"Thank you," Natalia sighed.
"Of course, if we left it in the car like I suggested…"
Olivia said letting the sentence hang.
"Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda doesn't mean much right now,
does it?" Natalia retorted. "So why dwell on
Olivia grinned, letting the comment go. "Should we
call Frank?" she asked.
"No, but when we get to Cedars, we'll call. For now,
let him enjoy his Thanksgiving with the Cooper Clan and we'll
hang here with the Spauldings."
"Sounds like a plan," Olivia said.
"I know mum's the word," Phillip began. "But
I'm going to take Beth aside and let her know what's up and
that we'll be keeping Emma tonight."
"That's fine," Natalia told him. "I just
don't want to be a distraction to everyone."
Phillip nodded and then walked away leaving Natalia and
Olivia alone in the hallway. Natalia closed her eyes. She took
a deep breath and blew it out slowly. When she opened her eyes
Olivia looked like she was on the verge of tears.
"You okay?" Natalia asked her.
Olivia started to nod, but then shook her head as she said,
"No…I'm nervous. You're…everything to me."
"I'll be fine," Natalia told her. "Francesca
will be fine. You'll see."
Olivia grinned and looked more confident. "You're
right. You're right."
"There you are," they heard Bill say from the end
of the hallway. "Everything okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," Natalia answered. "Just great."
"Good," he told her. "I'm gonna make a toast
so get outta the shadows," he added as he smiled and
waved them to follow him.
As they joined the gathering, Beth was all smiles and
gently squeezed Natalia's bent elbow in support and then
rubbed her back briefly as they turned their attention to
"Everyone grab a glass please," he instructed.
"First of all, I want to give my thanks for having a
beautiful wife who's a beautiful cook and having an equally
gorgeous step-daughter. So thank you Jonathan for having the
courage to bring Sarah back into our lives." Jonathan
raised his glass toward them. "I'm also happy to see that
Matt and Maureen could make it here tonight," he added,
"because honestly, without his help we wouldn't have a
functioning kitchen or dining room for tonight's feast
because, let's face it, I am NOT a hands-on contractor,"
he said among a few chuckles.
"No kidding," Phillip agreed, which heightened
the laughter in the group.
Bill smiled as he went on. "It also does my heart good
to see that my folks here, together as a couple, but also the
fact that my mom can break bread with her ex, Matt…and
hopefully not have it end in a food fight. Seriously, I've
learned so much from all of you on how to never lose hope and
not allow your past disappointments cloud your judgment of the
present. You're proof, for various reasons, that ex's can
co-exist. And speaking of ex's…" He paused as another
slight chuckle went through the crowd. "I'm glad to see
Olivia here tonight and my, let's see…how would this work…
Emma is my sister-in-law and, at one point, was my
stepdaughter. Is that right?" Again a slight laughter
went through the crowd. "Anyway, I'm thankful that both
of you are here today, and I'm thankful that someone as
wonderful as Natalia came into your life and Jellybean's life
because…what you have with her… it's the most normal,
down-to-earth relationship you've ever had, Olivia."
From the back Doris yelled, "Your father-in-law and
Uncle Josh included?" Reluctantly Olivia had to agree
with a silent nod as another wave of laughter and agreement
went through the gathering.
"This is true," Bill agreed with a smile. He then
began to look serious; proud almost. "With Natalia,
you've found the permanence you always wanted, and a family
you're making larger…and that's a wonderful thing. So thank
you for always being civil and trying to treat me with
respect, Olivia – even when I'm sure there were times I
didn't deserve it." Olivia nodded and raised her glass.
Bill then focused his attention to James, Phillip and Beth.
"I've got great parents, but I'm blessed to have found
another family in Lizzie's parents and brother. I know we've
had some rocky times, but I like to think the worst is behind
us and I'm proud to call you family. And let's face it…this
house is all your doing. For those of you that don't know,
Phillip saw this house and decided it was for us, so he bought
it…At first, truthfully, Lizzie and I seriously considered
the issue of your sanity again, but really…it was the best
thing you could have done. This place had a strong foundation,
but it required some work to make it look like it does now. I
take great pride in the fact that together, with all our
friends and family, we've got a place we can call home that we
"Hey, Bill," Lizzie interrupted. "Food is
done dear and it's getting cold – wanna speed this up?"
"We wanna eat," Billy bellowed and a chorus of
"Okay, okay," Bill replied. "To Doris,
Ashlee, and Daisy – you all hold a special place in so many
peoples lives and I'm delighted that you picked our house to
celebrate at this year. And last, but not least, Lizzie's
granddad, Alan." He raised his glass toward the ceiling.
"Like many of us here, you did things you weren't proud
of at times, but in the end…you did the right thing when it
mattered most…So cheers to everyone here, and to those who
can't for whatever reason...Hope you all have a Happy
Everyone toasted and raised their glasses before taking a
"Now let's chow!" Bill said and motioned everyone
to start taking his or her seats.
Natalia turned her back and began to take deep breaths. She
looked at her watch and Olivia began to rub her back and her
"Okay?" the older woman asked.
Natalia nodded. "Still at 20 minutes," she said
quickly. "We're good."
Olivia kissed Natalia temple as she rode out the last of
the sharp pain. Doris looked at both of them for a long moment
before she made her way toward them.
"She in labor?" she asked Olivia in a whisper.
Olivia looked concerned and placed a finger over her lips,
"That's why I asked real quiet-like," Doris said
"I'm okay," Natalia told them. "Worst part's
over. I just want everyone to enjoy their dinner, okay? Only
Phillip and Beth know."
"No problem," Doris replied. "You better sit
down soon though – people are going to start asking
"Good idea," Olivia remarked. "Can you
"I'm good," Natalia told her. "Just sit next
to me, okay?"
Olivia smiled. "Anything you want, Sweetie."
Thursday Evening, 5:37 P.M., November 26th, 2009
Everyone was gathered around the dining room table at Bill
and Lizzie’s house, except for the kids, who were at their
own table. Bill was seated at one end of table, while Philip
was seated at the other. Their wives sat to the right of them
James, Daisy and Ashlee sat next to the Maureen and Emma
looking none too thrilled.
"Don’t you think we’ll all a bit too old for
this?" James asked Daisy and Ashlee.
"Are you pouting because you can’t sit at the big
boy table?" Ashlee teased. Daisy smiled.
James slowly began to nod. "Yeah, maybe I am."
"Hush," Daisy told him. "Eat your
Resigned to his fate, James pushed his peas around on his
plate. The feasters at the dining room table heard commotion
at the front door and turned to see Rick Bauer and Mindy Lewis
"I see we have perfect timing. The food’s ready and
we don’t need to do any work setting the table," said
Mindy slapped him lightly on the arm, while holding a
pumpkin pie in the other. "Sorry we're so late," she
said, "but at least we made it before dessert."
Bill stood up and motioned to the ‘kid's table’ and
said, "Sorry guys, but you lost your seats. You’ll have
to sit over there after you grab some food."
"Very funny, Bill," Rick replied.
"Seriously," Bill continued, "That’s all
the space we’ve got right now."
"Are you kidding?" Rick asked.
Bill didn’t in reply. Instead, he held up a bowl and
grinned widely. "Potatoes?" he asked.
"I’m going to remember this if you ever come in for
prostate exam," Rick said waving his finger.
"Don’t be wagging that finger at me," Bill
said. "In fact, you can keep that finger far away from
"Guys, we are trying to eat here," Lizzie
Natalia turned to look at Olivia, and they smiled at one
another. Across from them, Doris and Matt who sat side-by-side
simply shook their heads. At the same time, platters and bowls
of food made their way around the table. Lizzie noticed that
Natalia had very little food on her plate.
"For someone who’s eating for two, you didn't take
very much. Is it awful? I bet it's awful," she said
"All of this smells and looks delicious," Natalia
reassured her. "My tummy is just feeling a little upset
Doris smiled wickedly. "I have some Tums in my purse,
if you need them," she offered. "Heartburn can be
the worst in the last trimester."
Olivia’s eyes narrowed for a brief moment, and she began
to grin. "Thanks, but we have some already."
"Well, if you change your mind just let me know."
"Thank you ever so much," Olivia said
Doris smiled and scrunched up her nose knowing she was
successful in antagonizing Olivia. "Welcome."
Bill stood up again and said, "I won’t lie. I’m
not a religious man, but I think it’s fitting that we say
grace. I have it on good authority from one of the cutest
10-year-olds in the world that Natalia does a great job with
dinner prayers. So if you wouldn’t mind, would you say grace
Natalia glanced at Olivia concerned and then looked to her
watch before turning her eyes back to Bill and nodding.
"Heavenly Father," Natalia began, "on this
day of Thanksgiving, we ask that you bless this food that we
are about to receive with grateful hearts as a sign of your
continuous bounty and providence. We also pray that you bless
these families that have gathered here with peace, prosperity
and health for the coming year. We also ask that you look
after those we love who are not gathered around this table and
hold them in your safe embrace. Through Christ our Lord, we
pray. Aaaaa…" Natalia stopped speaking and began to do
her Lamaze breathing. Everyone watched silently, unsure of
what to say. After a few seconds she said, "Amen."
The table, still unsure what was happening, gave a half
hearted ‘amen’ while they continued to watch her.
"Arrrre you okay?" Matt asked as he leaned closer
from across the table.
Natalia and Olivia looked at each other, but said nothing.
"Oh, for Pete’s Sake guys," Doris sighed at the
duo. She then turned to the table and announced, "I’m
sorry, but Natalia’s in labor."
The table erupted into noise and slight chaos.
"Doris!" Natalia chastised above the growing dim.
"This is exactly why I didn’t want to say
"Oh my goodness," Matt remarked.
"Do you need anything?" Lizzie asked.
"Should we call 911?" Billy asked.
"Hey, you’ve got a doctor here," Rick replied.
"Like Billy says," Phillip teased. "Should
we call 911?"
"You’re not funny," Rick said, "And this
plate of food I’m holding could slip at any moment," he
said as he hovered it over Phillip’s head.
"We can boil some sheets, right?" Bill said
nervously. "No, that’s not right. Water! You boil
Natalia chuckled and waved her hand dismissively.
"See?" she told Doris. "This is why I kept
quiet." She then turned to everyone else. "First
thing we need… everyone just relax. Enjoy this great food.
My contractions are around 17 minutes apart. When we get to 10
minutes Olivia and I will go, but until then we’d like to
say here. Your house is closer to Cedars than our farmhouse.
So if you don’t mind us hanging out…?"
"No," Lizzie said, "Did you want to, I don’t
know, lay down or something? We’ve got the spare room
upstairs." Bill nodded in agreement.
"I’m good. Everything is fine. Please, just enjoy
your Thanksgiving and you," Natalia pointed at Olivia.
"Eat something. I’m going to nibble just a little in
"In case, what?" Matt asked.
"If I need a C-section then I won’t have much on my
stomach. Sometimes anesthesia can make you ill, so a little
bit of turkey and a few spoonfuls of potatoes will do just
"Are you sure you don’t need anything?" Lizzie
"Thank you Sweetheart, but I’m fine. Just enjoy your
dinner. I’m sorry to interrupt."
"What? Are you kidding? This is cool," Bill said.
"Our first Thanksgiving and we’ve got a woman in labor.
The only thing cooler would be if you popped that kid out
Olivia laughed and shook her head, as did other folks
around the table.
"Seriously," Bill went on. "We’ll just
hack of the umbilical cord with the carving knife and prop her
up with a plate of food too. Think she’ll like pumpkin
"She kicks like crazy when I eat vanilla ice cream so
maybe if you make it ala mode you’ll be safe," she said
joining in on Bill’s merriment.
Bill clamped his hands once and started to chuckle.
"Behave," Lizzie told him. "I swear between
prostate exams jokes and placenta remarks, I’m surprised
anyone has any appetite."
"That reminds me," Doris chuckled. "Pass the
Matt chuckled and reached over to give them to her.
"So, does Frank know you’re in labor?" he asked
She shook her head. "We’ll call when we get to
Cedars. No sense in getting him all excited."
"That’s funny actually," Matt remarked and then
"What?" Olivia asked.
"Well, I knew she was pregnant before Frank did, and
now I know she’s in labor before him. I feel like Mr. ‘In
the know', and I like it. I mean, I know something Frank doesn’t...
again," he said smugly.
"Oh, please," Doris sighed. "That’s not an
accomplishment. Lots of people know more than Frank."
"Be nice," Natalia replied amid a few giggles.
"Yeah, at least Frank knows how to keep his mouth shut
if you ask him," Olivia retorted. "I’m feeling a
bit pissed at you right now."
Doris looked surprised. "Why?"
"Because Natalia didn’t want anyone to know she was
in labor, but you had to open your mouth. What kind of friend
are you anyway?"
Everyone in the room got quiet.
"She was sitting there in obvious pain," Doris
said as she pointed.
"Ladies," Natalia tried to interrupt.
"But it wasn’t your place to say anything. I asked
you not to say anything, and you did it anyway. I trusted you,
Doris. Beth and Phillip knew, but they kept their mouths
"I don’t see what the big deal is," Doris
"Exactly. That’s the problem," she shot back.
"To you, keeping a confidence means nothing. But maybe I’m
the idiot for thinking you would." Olivia turned to the
table. "I’m sorry. This isn’t the time or the
Doris stood up. "The time is now, but the place is
outside. Let’s go please," she said before she walked
out of the room.
Olivia turned to Natalia. "I’m not leaving you here
Natalia smiled. "I’ll be fine…Besides, I’m not
alone. I’ve got Bill here ready to boil sheets for me if I
need it." A small grin appeared on Olivia’s face.
"Go on – talk to her. I’m not upset by anything she
said, but obviously you are."
Olivia walked outside to find Doris pacing on the porch,
with her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth.
"Look, I wasn’t trying to start any troubled,"
Doris began. "But it was obvious to anyone in there that
something was wrong with Natalia. I didn’t see what I did
being a betrayal of trust."
"I might have blown things out of proportion,"
Olivia said. "To be honest, I feel about as high strung
as a spooked cat right now."
"She’s going to be okay," Doris told her.
"Women have babies every day. Just realize I didn’t say
what I did for my benefit…I’ve got so much to be thankful
for this year. I’m thankful for finally finding the courage
to live my life honestly. I’m thankful I told Ashlee the
truth, and I’m thankful that she still loves me, a-and that,
even if she is thousands of miles away, she and I are closer
than ever. And I’m thankful…" Doris trailed off a
bit. "I’m thankful that for the first time in my life I
found someone I can call a best friend. I’m sure you’ve
had lots of best friends over the years, but me… not so
much. In fact... not ever. So believe me when I tell you I
honestly had no intention of hurting you or Natalia. I wouldn’t
do that because…you’re my best friend, Olivia."
Olivia smiled. "I haven’t had as many friends as you
might think," she replied. "But even those few
people I've known... I’ve never shared with them as much as
I’ve shared with you. So the feeling is very mutual. I have
lots to be thankful for this year too. And yes, one of those
blessings is you." Olivia smiled even wider. "It’s
funny, ya know? If someone came to me two years ago and told
me that I’d be starting a family with Natalia, having
another daughter, with Doris Wolf beside me as my best friend
I'd say they were insane. But I’m so thankful that's how my
life is turning out. I just need to know that if something is
important to me, and I ask for confidence, then whatever it is
will stay between us. So can you make that promise?"
"You don’t even need to ask," Doris replied.
"But if it makes you feel better, you can trust me with
Olivia ran her hands over her arms and smiled. "Come
on. It’s cold out here and, besides, this conversation is
getting way too mushy." She put her arm around Doris and
led her back inside.
Once back to the dining room, they found Natalia and
Phillip talking to Emma who was now crying in Natalia’s
"What’s wrong?" Olivia asked concerned.
"She keeps saying she doesn’t want me to go
away," Natalia answered.
Olivia knelt down and began to rub Emma’s back.
"What’s the matter, Jellybean?"
Emma looked reluctant at first. "It seems like
everyone I know who goes to the hospital ends up dying."
"That’s not true," Olivia told her.
"Uh huh," she nodded. "Granddad went to the
hospital, and then he died."
"So you think if Natalia goes to the hospital she’s
going to die too?" Olivia asked.
Emma just shrugged.
James grinned from the nearby ‘kiddie table’ where Rick
was also seated. "Emma, Uncle Rick is here so I’m
pretty sure your Mama Natalia will be okay tonight."
Rick flicked a pea at James to get his attention and then
said, "You’re as funny as your old man."
"Sweetie, look at me," Natalia said. When she
still didn’t look up, Natalia reached down and took her
chin, forcing the two of them to lock eyes. "Emma, I’m
going to be okay and when I come back home, your mom and I
will bring your new sister with us. Besides, think of all the
people that have gone to the hospital – like your mom and
your dad – and they came back better than ever. Right?"
"I know it’s silly," Emma said. "I’m
just…I’m scared is all."
"Truth is," Natalia replied. "I’m a little
scared too. Your mom’s a little scared, but sometimes when
you’re scared you know what you have to do? You just have to
tell yourself that you can do it, over and over sometimes, and
that no matter what, God is looking out for you." Natalia
leaned over and kissed Emma on the forehead. "I’ll be
okay, Sweetie. You’ll see…Okay?"
Emma nodded her head and cuddled back into Natalia’s
arms. The dark haired woman looked over to Olivia to see her
smiling broadly. She returned the gesture, but it didn’t
last long. Instead, she began her Lamaze breathing.
"That was sooner than 17 minutes," Olivia told
"I agree. I think it’s time to call Frank to meet us
at Cedars," she replied.
Thursday Evening, 6:03 P.M., November 26th, 2009
"Damn it," Olivia swore as she brought her white
Nissan to the red light. "This makes the third stop light
in as many miles." She looked left and looked right.
There was no one near them. Natalia groaned and Olivia made
her choice. She gunned it.
"Olivia…what… are… you… doing?" Natalia
asked between puffs from the passenger seat. "We've…got…time."
"Sorry, but your panting isn't making me feel super
confident of that fact," she shot back.
She'd only managed to make it a few yards when she saw
lights and sirens behind her.
"Son of a bitch," she sighed.
"Can we stop with the swearing, please?" Natalia
asked as Olivia brought the car over to a stop at the
shoulder. Olivia looked in her rearview mirror and grinned
upon seeing the cruiser behind her. Then she took out her
phone and pressed a button.
"Frank!" Olivia said thankfully. "I'm glad
you picked up. Look, I got a situation here. A flatfoot just
pulled me over on the way to taking Natalia to the hospital.
She's in labor." She paused for a moment and said then
said, "Yeah, Cedars. But don't hang up yet. I want you to
get this officer to give us an escort, or at least not give me
a ticket for running a red light." Olivia paused and
rolled her eyes. "Yes, I stopped and looked! I didn't
just blow through it!"
"License and reg…" Remy trailed off.
Olivia smiled. "Frank? Never mind. Just go to the
hospital. I got this one." Olivia disconnected and
pointed over to Natalia. "Hi Remy. I was very careful
back there if you noticed, but I couldn't wait. Natalia's in
labor and her contractions are coming a lot faster than we
expected. Would you be good enough to forego a ticket and give
us an escort? Frank's on his way to Cedars now to meet
"You're in labor?" Remy asked Natalia with a
smile, leaning over to get a look at her.
Natalia grinned too and leaned down to wave at him through
the open window. "Yeah, I'm at about five minutes apart
now. I'd prove it by sitting here, but that might be bad on
Liv's leather upholstery."
"Oh," Remy said slightly alarmed. "Well,
don't worry about it. Follow me, okay? I won't go too fast,
but we'll clear a path, alright?"
He didn't wait for a response. He just ran back to his
squad car and hopped inside, pulling out around Olivia, with
his lights and sirens going again.
"Knowing the SPD Chief has its perks," Olivia
remarked with a snobbish grin as she put the car in gear and
Minutes later Olivia pulled up to the emergency room doors
to see Frank already waiting there. Olivia drove up, following
behind Remy. When she came to a stop, Frank opened the car
door and offered his hand to Natalia.
"You got here fast," she told him.
"We were all at Company," he told her.
She nodded. "Well, get her inside. I'll park and catch
"Thanks, Frank," Natalia told him as she leaned
on him for support and he closed the door once she was clear
of it. Remy made his way over too as Olivia pulled away from
"You guys need anything else?" he asked.
"Thanks, Remy, but we're good," Frank told him.
"We all appreciate you getting them here. Maybe in seven
months I can return the favor," he added with a smile.
"No problem," he said with a smile of his own and
then told Natalia, "Good luck," as he walked
backward to his cruiser.
"Thanks," she said with a wave. She took a step
forward and then stopped, gripping Frank's arm.
"Another contraction?" he asked as she began to
"No… just… Lizzie's… bad… cooking," she
joked. Frank looked unsure. "Yes…contraction," she
added, seeing the humor was being lost on him at this point.
"Look, let's try to get you inside," Frank said
as they each took small, slow steps.
After what seemed like a mile to both of them, they finally
reached the registration desk.
"Name?" a bored woman said from behind a plastic
"Police Chief Cooper," Frank told them with an
air of authority. "This is Natalia Rivera, she's having
"Spence," Natalia strained and took three
breaths, blowing them in and out. The woman looked annoyed
with Natalia's inability to speak. "Spencer. Olivia
Spencer," she pushed from her lips. "My girlfriend.
She's parking the car. She'll be with us. I don't want to go
back until she's here."
"That's fine. You've got time. You've got to fill this
out first," the woman said, still sounding bored. She
then handed them a clipboard through a small open area of the
"Do you have insurance?" Frank asked her as he
took the clipboard and helped her walk to the nearby chairs.
"Spaulding," Natalia said, focusing on her
breathing as she took a seat. "Alan was good enough… to
start my benefits immediately."
"No kidding?" Frank said amazed. "That was
good of him. I just figured since you're with Olivia that
you'd have benefits through the Beacon – you know, like
domestic partners or something like that?"
"She mentioned domestic partners to Greg…our banquet
manager…Now he's all gung-ho…looking for new insurance
carriers…who accepts domestic partners…since the current
one doesn't." Natalia smiled through her subsiding pain.
"His reaction was pretty funny…He literally squealed in
delight according…according to Liv."
"Really?" Frank asked.
Natalia took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
"Yeah," she said in a relatively normal voice.
"He's got a partner too and the insurance his partner
pays pretty much eats his paycheck. If the Beacon finds a
carrier then Greg can put Steve on his insurance and they'll
save hundreds a month."
"I guess that would be cheaper, huh?"
Natalia nodded. "You know, Frank, I never realized how
much I took for granted. I didn't understand how many 'simple
rights' I had as a straight woman. That's one of the reasons
why I'm not going back there without Olivia. Did you know they
could deny her the right to go back, even if I want her there,
since she's not legally my family? That's why I'm not taking
"That's not right," Frank replied.
"Nope," she replied. "And it's not right
that she and I pay more in income tax than you and Blake would
if you guys got married. It's not right that if anything
happens to Liv I have no rights to Emma at all."
"Phillip wouldn't take Emma away from you," Frank
"I know that. You know that. It's just…It's not
right that he CAN if he wanted to, and I have little to no
recourse – even if Olivia gave me that right in her will.
Heck, even this child…I know you could be a real jerk if you
wanted to," Natalia said getting teary eyed.
"Natalia, I told you-."
"You promise me, Frank – right here and now, that if
I don't make it through this, you promise me Olivia won't lose
her rights as Francesca's mom."
"Natalia, you're gonna be fine."
"Promise me, Frank," she said forcefully.
"Even if you have to lie to me right now," she said
starting to tear up again.
"Shhh," Frank hushed her and kissed her on the
temple as he stroked her hair. "I promise. Okay? I'll
look out for all of them, always. You've got my word. But we
both know you're gonna be just fine. So no more doom and gloom
talk, all right? I won't have it."
Natalia wiped her eyes and grinned at him as she patted his
knee. "I believe you."
"Good, because I mean it. Besides, things are going
really great with Blake and, if I did that, I wouldn't just be
in the dog house, I'd be at the pound." They both
chuckled. "Seriously," he said as he stroked her
hair again. "I wouldn't do that."
"Look who I found?" Frank and Natalia heard
Olivia say as she made her way over. Blake followed behind
"Were your ears burning? He was just talking about
you," Natalia told her.
"Nothing horrible I hope?" she remarked.
"Not at all – in fact, I think he's quite fond of
you," Natalia answered.
Blake looked at Frank and smiled. "The feeling is very
mutual," she said, making Frank grin.
"Oh," Natalia said as if remembering something.
"I gotta finish this," she said as she held up the
clipboard and looked at the paper. Before she could write
anything though she gripped the pen in her hand and started to
Olivia came over to sit beside her. She took the clipboard
and hurriedly began to fill out the information. On the other
side of Natalia, Frank held her hand and told her to focus on
her breathing, telling her to breathe in and out just like
they did in the class.
"Still five minutes apart, Baby?" Olivia asked
Natalia, who only managed to nod at first.
"Little closer," she struggled.
"Okay," Olivia said, not looking at Natalia as
she finished the preliminary form. She stood up to take the
form up to the nurse.
"Insurance card," Natalia strained out.
"They can get it later," Olivia told her and
walked over to the window.
"Here," Olivia said as she slid it through.
"She's at under five minutes for contractions. Can we get
someone to wheel her up?"
The woman looked the form over. "There's no insurance
"I'll get it to you later."
"We need it now."
Olivia's jaw set for a moment. "By law, you have to
treat her regardless," she started. "So I expect you
to get an intern here on the double to wheel her to maternity.
You have five seconds to make the call, or I contact our
attorney, Mel Boudreau Bauer. Your choice."
The woman yawned and then picked up the phone. "Yeah,
we need a chair down here – gotta woman named Rivera about
to pop so hurry up," she said and then hung up. She then
turned to Olivia. "They're on their way."
"Thank you for allllll your help," Olivia replied
The woman's only reply was a forced smile.
Olivia walked back and knelt in front of Natalia, taking
her hands in hers. "They're on the way to get you,
"I heard you raising heck," Natalia said with a
"She was being unbearable," Olivia replied.
"She really needs to find another line of work where she
can inflict pain on people – like dentistry or…hair
Natalia grinned, but she didn't have time to reply. They
heard someone say, "Rivera!"
"Over here," Olivia replied as she stood up and
reached so she could guide Natalia to her feet.
They carefully made their way over and Olivia made sure
Natalia was situated in the wheelchair.
"Ready to go for a spin, Ms. Rivera?" the intern
asked in a friendly tone.
Olivia looked back to see Frank still standing by Blake.
"Aren't you coming?" she asked him.
Frank squeezed Blake's hand and motioned for her to sit. As
she did, he walked over to Olivia and Natalia.
He leaned his head down until he and Natalia were forehead
"First, I'm grateful for how much you've both included
me. But I think I need to sit this one out," he told her.
"Just don't take it the wrong way, all right?"
"Frank?" Natalia tried to begin.
"No, listen, please," he told her. "I know
my place. Right now, it's down here with Blake. Olivia needs
to be the one you share this with." As he stood up he
brushed his fingers against her cheek. Then he looked at
Olivia. "All I ask is I get to be the first guy to hold
"You gotta deal," Olivia replied.
Frank nodded. "We'll be anxious to see my daughter, so
don't forget us, okay?" he asked.
Olivia shook here head. "I won't, Frankie, and I'll be
back here as soon as I can."
Frank patted Olivia on the arm and then walked over to
Blake. They watched as Olivia held Natalia's hand as the
intern wheeled her down the hallway.
Thursday Evening, 8:29 P.M., November 26th, 2009
Natalia screamed and reached out, gripping Olivia by the
hair, which made both women yell. As delicately as possible
Olivia worked Natalia’s fingers out of her hair and held
them tight between her own fingers.
"You did this to me!" Natalia shouted.
"Breathe, Baby. Focus. In. Out. In. Out. In.
Out." When Natalia began to breathe in time with Olivia’s
coaching, she complimented her by saying, "That’s good.
You’re doing great…but for the record, I did NOT do this
to you. Yes, I’m not a saint. But this is one thing you CAN
NOT blame on me," she said stressing the words.
The nurses in the room snickered, but Natalia was already
gearing up for the next contraction.
"Okay," the doctor instructed. "She’s
almost here, Natalia. Just one more big push."
"You said that three pushes ago you bastard!"
Natalia yelled at the doctor.
"Now, dear, let’s be nice to the man with the
forceps, okay?" Olivia was trying to smooth things over
with the doctor and added, "She doesn’t know what she’s
saying right now."
"I’ve been called worse," the doctor said
casually with a quick grin before focusing on Natalia.
"Come on Natalia. One more."
Tears erupted from Natalia's eyes and she turned to Olivia.
"I can’t do it, Liv. Make it stop, okay? You said
you’d do anything for me so make it stop."
Olivia automatically teared up. I would if I could Baby,
but you’re too far gone now, she thought.
"You can do it, Honey," she said instead, trying
to build the younger woman with confidence. "Listen to
us, okay? It's almost over. Just one more push. Here…"
Olivia offered up her hand. "You squeeze as hard as you
need to, all right?"
"Here it comes," the doctor said, looking at his
monitor. "On three – one, two, three. Push!"
Olivia leaned over to Natalia’s ear. "Push, Baby.
You can do it. You can do it."
"Here she comes," the doctor said proudly.
"Keep pushing, Natalia! Almost there!"
"Doin’ great, Baby. Keep it up. Keep it up."
Seconds later Olivia looked into the mirror to see the doctor
holding Francesca. "You did it," she said proudly.
Seconds after that, they heard the unmistakable sound of a
baby crying – a very loud and very demanding cry.
"You did it, Sweetie," Olivia whispered again,
kissing Natalia on the forehead.
"Ten fingers, ten toes," the doctor said merrily.
"She looks healthy, but not so happy right now," he
added over her cries.
Natalia was soaked with sweat as Olivia continued to run a
cool washcloth over her face. She put it to Natalia’s lips
and the labored woman sucked on it trying to bring some
moisture into her dry mouth. She looked over to see a nurse
gathering Francesca in her arms.
"Would you like to cut the cord, Mama?" the
doctor asked Olivia, who was busy still focusing on Natalia.
"I’m the Mom. She’s Mama," Olivia clarified.
"Okay, then. Wanna give it a go, Mom?" he asked
again, holding a pair of scissors.
She looked reluctant. "I’m not sure what to
do," she confessed.
"We’ll show you," the nurse said encouragingly.
"Go on," Natalia told Olivia as she grinned up at
the older woman. "Make her ours."
Olivia moved forward and took the surgical scissors and
made a few snips where the nurse and doctor showed her. Once
she was done, she watched them take Francesca over to the
small sink to clean her skin, as her high-pitched screams
continued to fill the room. Olivia then returned to Natalia's
"You did it, Sweetheart," Olivia told Natalia
proudly as she stroked her face. They both took a moment to
look over to where Francesca was fussing like crazy. "She’s
absolutely beautiful like her Mama."
"And mouthy like her Mom," Natalia joked, which
made Olivia smile. She then captured Olivia’s hand and
planted a kiss on it. "Thank you for being here,"
"There’s nowhere else I’d rather be."
"I know, but you could have walked away and never come
back, like my parents did the last time I was in a situation
like this. But you stayed. And you have no idea how much that
means to me."
"Yes, I do because you stood by me when no one else
did, and, when, honestly, I really didn’t deserve it...
Besides, I told you – this is where I need to be and where I
WANT to be."
Natalia grinned. "I’m not gonna get rid of ya, am
"Nope." Olivia grinned and kissed Natalia gently
on the lips.
Francesca was now clean and bundled as the nurse
"Would you like to hold her for a moment before Mama
starts to breastfeed her?" the nurse asked, extending the
crying baby to Olivia.
"It’s been a long time since I’ve held one this
small," she confessed as she gingerly took Francesca in
her arms, acting as if she was afraid she might break. A look
of speechless awe, incredible love and total devotion took
shape on Olivia’s face in a matter of seconds. The sight of
her lover bounding with their daughter brought tears to
Natalia’s eyes. Olivia, for the moment, didn’t notice her
partner. She was too captivated by the other lady in her life,
and in her arms.
"Hey, Peanut. Don’t cry, Sweetheart," Olivia
cooed to the newborn, finally allow herself to relax. She
calmly held the baby close to her bosom, while gently rocking
her. Suddenly, the baby got quiet and grew still, although her
eyes remained closed. "You recognize my voice, don’t
cha?" Olivia smiled proudly at their girl. "Well,
you’re gonna hear it a lot. Yes, you are, Sweetie. Yes, you
Olivia leaned down so Natalia could see their daughter
clearly for the first time. The Latina smiled broadly.
"Hey, Beautiful," she sighed and played with her
"She is beautiful," Olivia agreed and then
giggled, "And so small. I don’t remember Emma ever
being this size…" Olivia grinned again and added softly
and affectionately, "our little peanut."
"Uh, oh, Kiddo," Natalia told Francesca. "I
think you just got your nickname."
"Okay, ladies," the doctor told the new mothers.
"We’re almost done. Time for stage three. If you want
to start feeding her Natalia it’ll help with the
"No," Olivia said bringing Francesca closer to
her again. "I’m not letting her go," she pouted
for a moment; her bottom lip sticking out.
"Olivia, we discussed this before she was even
born," Natalia said in mock frustration. "You have
to share her."
"I don’t wanna," she said in a childish tone,
but then began to grin as she helped Natalia pull the snaps
loose on her gown.
"Looks like you’ve got two kids in here,
Natalia," the doctor joked.
Olivia smiled. "I feel like the Abominable Snowman
from that Looney Tunes cartoon," she began and then
followed up with a dopey sounding voice, saying, "I will
hug him and pet him and squeeze him and name him George."
The nurses in the room gave her quiet laughter in response.
With a smile, Olivia asked her lover, "All ready for her,
Natalia nodded and Olivia gently placed Francesca in her
arms and helped situate the baby so Francesca could start to
feed. It only took a few moments, but Francesca’s suckling
instinct kicked in and she was feasting away with little
"I love you both so much," Olivia said as she
knelt down, coming eye-to-eye with Natalia. "And Emma is
just gonna flip when she sees her," she said happily.
Natalia reached over and tried to touch Olivia’s hair.
"How’s your scalp?" the younger woman asked
"You remember that, huh?" Natalia only nodded
guiltily. "I can do a comb over to the area that you
yanked out," she added.
"I am soooo sorry, Liv," she said sincerely.
"I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just grabbed the closest
thing I could and, well, there it was in front of me."
"For the next baby, I’ll wear a ponytail,"
"Next baby, huh?" Natalia asked.
"If you think you’re up to it, yeah, maybe."
"Right now my answer is a heck no!" Natalia and
Olivia both chuckled. "And your hand? How's that?"
"Bruising into a nice purple hue. Thanks for
Natalia chuckled self-consciously. "Labor is painful
"Yeah, and here I thought I’d get away with all the
joys of childbirth, but none of the pains. Ha! Stupid me,
Natalia started to laugh, but then she began to feel the
contraction coming on.
"Okay, Natalia," the doctor said looking at the
monitor. "Here it goes – one more big push for
me." Natalia grit her teeth as Olivia steadied both
mother and child. "Wonderful," the doctor said
positively. "Just what we needed. We’re gonna keep you
here awhile longer, get you cleaned up and then get you a nice
room for the night, okay?"
"Thank you, doctor," Olivia told him as he stood
up and took his gloves off.
"I’ll be back before they move you," he told
them. "For now though, I’m off to see how room three is
progressing. It’s a busy night, but I did get my turkey
dinner before all the fun started," he teased.
He patted Olivia on the arm warmly as he made his way out.
Olivia then turned to the nurse.
"So she’s okay then? Everything is fine?"
"You both did wonderfully," the nurse replied.
"Of course there were a few moments when I think you
needed the breathing exercises more than she did," she
"Yeah, I was a little nervous," Olivia admitted.
"A little? I’d hate to see what terrified looks like
then," the nurse teased.
"Okay! Yes, I was a lot nervous."
"Well, relax, everything turned out just fine,"
the nurse said with a friendly smile as she started to clean
up the area.
Olivia bowed down to Natalia.
"Will you be okay here for now?" she asked.
"Sure, I don’t see me going anywhere soon," she
remarked dryly. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Frank and Blake are downstairs."
"Oh, right. Sorry, my mind’s…it’s been on other
things. But yeah, go ahead, Sweetie."
Olivia turned to nurse. "Any idea where her room will
"You can check with the nurse's station on maternity
when you’re done with your calls."
Olivia nodded her thanks and then turned to the love of her
life and her daughter she never expected to have. A sense of
contentment washed over her and it showed on her face because
Natalia slowly began to smile.
"I’m gonna have you call Emma when we get to the
room, so she can hear your voice. I know she was worried. For
now though, I’m gonna go give Frank and Blake the news, but
I’ll be back, okay?"
Natalia stroked Olivia’s face as Olivia gave her a rather
chaste kiss. Not happy with that, Natalia’s palm hooked
Olivia’s cheek as her fingers pulled at the back of her neck
drawing her closer.
"I just had your baby, Dear. Kiss me like you mean
it," Natalia whispered.
Pleased with Natalia's demand, Olivia grinned slightly and
then let her lips titillate and tease Natalia’s for a
moment. She sucked the top lip into her mouth and then the
bottom before she deepened the kiss. Before she pulled away
completely though she placed a loving kiss on Natalia’s
"I’ll be back," she promised.
Thursday Evening, 9:01 P.M., November 26th, 2009
Frank stood up, followed by Blake, as Olivia entered the
maternity waiting room. He wore a concerned, yet hopeful
expression. Olivia noticed that behind him stood Ashlee and
Doris and beyond them stood Buzz and Lillian. Automatically,
Olivia smiled. Her happy gesture created a similar result on
the sea of faces who had been waiting for her arrival.
Frank spoke first. "I take it Natalia and the baby are
okay?" he asked hopefully.
"They’re both doing wonderful," Olivia
answered, with a smile. "Would you like to see your
newest little girl, Frankie?"
Frank wore a huge smile and nodded excitedly.
"So they’re both doing good?" Doris asked as
she walked over and rubbed her hand up and down Olivia’s
arm. "No problems with Natalia? The baby’s
Olivia captured Doris’s hand as it made it’s way to
hers and gave it a squeeze. "Natalia is pretty tired, and
sore, but other than that she’s and the baby are both doing
"No offense," Ashlee began with a kind smile.
"But it looks like you could use a rest too."
"Once I get me a cup of coffee, I’ll be good as
new," Olivia replied as she waved her off.
"Well! Let’s go see my grand baby!" Buzz said
as he motioned them out of the door and toward the nursery.
Moments later, the six of them headed toward the maternity
ward, as Lillian said, "You better let me go first."
Taking the lead, Lillian led the group of well-wishers. She
and Olivia stopped at the desk, standing side-by-side. The
nurse on duty automatically recognized Lillian and smiled.
"Hi Bonnie," Lillian began in a friendly tone.
"I know we have more people than usual, but I promise we’ll
be quiet and only stay a few minutes. Buzz and I wanna show
off our granddaughter, if that’s okay?" she added
"As long as you keep it down to whispers that’s
fine," Bonnie answered. "Natalia Rivera,
right?" Lillian and Olivia both nodded. "Let’s
see," she said looking at a chart. "That’d be room
seven. Right that way and on the left," she said
"Thanks Bonnie," Lillian said as she motioned
Frank and Olivia to move ahead of her.
"This is what she wanted you know? Something she and
Rafe never had – a big family for Francesca right from the
start," Olivia said almost absently in a low voice as
they walked together. "Thank you for being here and
letting us… have this. Another man might have made things
far more... complicated."
Frank took hold of Blake’s hand and spoke as equally
"I’m moving on and in the right direction… And as
long as we’ve got a place in Francesca’s life, and you and
Natalia make her as happy as you make Emma, that’s good
enough for me, Olivia."
Olivia smiled at him briefly before looking through the
door window where Natalia sat in bed, holding Francesca. She
slowly opened the door and crept inside. Natalia looked up and
smiled, which only broadened Olivia’s smile even more.
"I brought a few folks," she said as she motioned
her head behind her. True to Lillian’s word, the group piled
inside the room quietly with a few oohs and ahhs when they saw
"Would you like to hold her Frank?" Natalia asked
as she began to offer the baby up.
Frank looked slightly nervous, like Olivia had moments
before in the birthing room. Both women helped him get the
"She’s so small," he marveled as he gathered
her closer in his large arms.
Natalia gave a short chuckle. "Olivia’s been calling
"Peanut?" Frank asked.
"She’s tiny and round," Olivia defended.
"Our little peanut."
"You realize this is your second child who’s named
after food, right?" Buzz asked in a quiet voice.
"Maybe I just think with my stomach?" Olivia
Frank looked just as captivated as Olivia did less than an
"Well, look at that," Natalia said as she
pointed. "Francesca roped in another one," she added
with a slight giggle.
"I can’t help it. I just…" he said as words
began to fail him. "Thank you for her, really. She’s
gorgeous," Frank doted, not taking his eyes off of her.
Back in the present day, Olivia was sitting on the picnic
table watching as Rafe picked up Francesca and put her over
his shoulder as she protested. Then he began to spin her
around in a circle as she laughed and slapped his back to be
put back down. When he got too dizzy himself, he put her down
and they both stumbled around the yard.
Olivia was chuckling quietly when she felt a hand on her
"Remember when Peanut could fit tucked on one
arm?" Frank asked as he began to watch the siblings
cavort with one another.
"I was just thinking about that actually," she
confessed. She grinned as she watched Frank smile at their
daughter. "So what brings you by? Not that I’m
complaining," she added.
"I thought I’d stop out and see if you guys needed
any help – last minute store runs, stuff like that?"
"Thanks, but I think we’re good."
Frank shrugged. "No problem. I know Emma’s not ours,
and she didn’t spend nearly as much time with us as Elena
did, but still, she's family."
"Yeah, she didn't always want to hang out with the
Coopers," Olivia said with a growing smile. "She
figured out quick if you took the younger kids she could have
me and Momma Tal all to herself," she remarked. "Don’t
get me wrong – she loves Francesca and Elena very much, but…"
"Sometimes she liked it just being the three of you?
Like in the beginning?"
"Yeah," Olivia replied. "And you were good
to take Elena along too, Frank. You didn’t have to do
"Are you kidding? When she wrapped her arms around my
leg and begged me to take her too, really, what could I do? I
was defenseless." He smiled.
"You could have said no," Olivia answered
bluntly. "Lesser men would have."
"Nah, I love kids," he told her. "The more
the merrier and with Elena it was kind of a bonus, you know? I
could be like the Uncle that spoils her - all the love, but
none of the extra responsibilities."
Olivia gave him a short snort. "Sure you don’t want
to share tuition costs on Elena too?"
"No, ah, I’ll pass on that. But thanks for the
offer," he laughed. Not long after though he grew
serious. "However, if you needed the money…"
"I know," Olivia said as she reached over and
squeezed his hand. "Elena knows it too and that's why she
loves you as well."
"Hey, Frank," Doris greeted as she came up with
two coffee cups. "You want a coffee?" she asked as
she handed one over to Olivia.
"I’m good. I’m gonna be taking off anyway after I
say hi to Francesca." He then turned back to Olivia.
"Are you sure you don’t need anything?"
Olivia brushed him off. "Go see your daughter ya big
lug," she teased.
He nodded and then walked over toward her. In the distance,
Olivia and Doris heard Francesca’s excitement and curiosity
at seeing her father and both women smiled.
"He’s done a really great job with them," Doris
remarked. "Emma too when you come right down to it."
"He has and, although I love my children dearly, with
him taking them now and then it was nice for Natalia and I to
‘get away,’ ya know?"
Doris gave her a knowing smile but it slipped away as she
noticed a look of annoyance, perhaps even anger start growing
on Olivia’s features.
"What is it?" Doris asked.
Olivia just nodded her head over to their right. Doris
looked over to see Natalia and another woman who appeared to
be talking to each other.
"It’s the flower girl," Olivia replied
with a touch of acidity.
Doris appeared confused. "I thought James and Daisy’s
girl was the flower girl?"
Francesca walked over and saw her mother scowling and
asked, "What’s wrong?" and followed Olivia’s
line of sight. "Ohhhh, I see. The flower bitch is
here," she replied.
Doris chuckled, but was still dumbfounded.
"Someone please explain what's going on?" she
Saturday Morning, 11:31 AM, June 9th, 2029
The trio of Doris, Olivia and Francesca watched as Natalia
spoke to the woman who appeared to be in her early-to-mid
"Come on guys," Doris prompted as Olivia and
Francesca were scowling at the newcomer who stood next to
Natalia across the lawn. "You're both looking at that
woman like she's the anti-Christ. What gives?" she
Francesca nodded forward. "She dotes all over Momma
Tal and Momma Liv doesn't like it very much. I don't blame her
"Who is she?" Doris said still confused.
"The florist," Olivia hissed in distain. "I
call her the flower girl since she's practically half our age…She
flirts with Natalia like crazy. Of course, Natalia doesn't see
it. She says she's just being 'friendly,' which is a load of
horse crap." Doris chuckled. "It's true!"
"Look who's become the green-eyed monster," Doris
teased. She then looked back across the lawn to the florist
and Natalia who were both talking and pointing around the
yard. "I don't see anything that would indicate…"
Doris's words died on her lips as she watched the florist run
her hand down Natalia's arm and gave her hand a squeeze.
"Okay, yeah, there is. You're right."
"See? D'ya see?" Olivia said as she pointed.
"It's not in our heads. Elena and Rafe don't see it, but
"Yeah," Francesca agreed. "But that's
because the three of us know the 'art of flirtation,' so to
us, it's obvious. I just don't know why Momma Tal can't see
it? After all, she flirts with you all the time and it's…well,
to be honest, it's kinda creepy to see your parents do
Doris and Olivia both chuckled.
"Just go help Rafe get the bar set up," Olivia
said as she shooed Francesca away. The young lady left without
"So Natalia's got an admirer, huh?" Doris began.
"I'm sure Ms. Florist isn't the first."
"No," Olivia agreed, "but with this one...
Natalia flirts back. She never did before…"
"Ahh." Doris nodded, but didn't say anything
Olivia took a ragged breath. "I can't help but think…
You know that old cliché? Revenge is a dish best served cold?…
Anyway, the two of them 'click' and it gets under my
"Olivia," Doris said sympathetically.
"Natalia adores you. You can see it with the way you two
behave. So she's getting her 'flirt on' -- big deal. As long
as you're the one reaping the residual effects, who cares?
Besides, did you ever stop flirting?"
"That's different," Olivia said quickly.
Doris guffawed. "So let me see if I've got this right.
You can flirt, but Natalia can't? Is that it?"
Olivia looked over at her seriously and squared her
shoulders a little. A small smile came to her lips and she
tried to seriously say, "Yes, that's right."
Both of them began to laugh.
"Oh, Liv… You know I never thought that there could
be sexism in a lesbian relationship, but you've proved me
wrong," Doris remarked.
Olivia then began to chuckle. "Nah, like I said, I
don't mind Natalia flirting…except with…" she
motioned toward the courtyard.
"The flower bitch," Doris finished. Olivia just
nodded. "She loves you, Olivia and she knows the pain
that happens when someone cheats, and, no, that's not a shot
at you," she said to preempt any backlash. "I think
Natalia's, well, smarter than you on that front."
"Thank you," Olivia said sarcastically.
"You're welcome." Doris smiled. "Seriously
though, she adores you and although she knows you're attracted
to her…well…it's kinda of an ego boast for her
"My devotion and attention isn't enough?"
"I'm not saying that," Doris defended. "I'm
saying she probably thinks it's nice to know she can still
turn someone's head on occasion…Honestly, I really wouldn't
worry about it."
"Well, regardless, the flower bitch still treats me
like I'm a second class citizen -- something else that Natalia
doesn't see." Olivia then let out a deep sigh.
"Does Flower bitch know you're one of the folks
flipping the bill here?" Doris asked. "Maybe you
should remind her of that?"
"No, because she might be petty and it would ruin
Emma's day. I won't do that. Besides, it's only a few more
hours. I can't say anything… however…." Olivia
trailed off and got a devilish look on her face. "You
wanna go say hi?" she asked.
Doris grinned following Olivia's train of thought.
"Sure," she said. "Does she have a name or do I
just call her Flower Bitch?"
Olivia chuckled. "Just follow my lead."
They both rose and walked over to where Natalia and the
florist were standing. Immediately upon arrival Olivia snaked
her arm around Natalia's waist in an affectionate, but
somewhat possessive gesture. Rather than kissing her on the
cheek, Olivia instead kissed the delicate area between
Natalia's ear and cheekbone. Doris stood by and grinned
slightly when she saw the florist flinch.
"Hey, Baby," Olivia greeted her wife, looking
deep into her eyes. Realizing her 'manners' she turned
abruptly. "Oh, I'm sorry. Doris?" Olivia began,
being sure to place emphasis on Doris first. "This is
Emma's florist, LeeAnn Sinclair. LeeAnn, this is Doris Wolfe,
the long standing mayor of Springfield, and Elena's
"It's nice to meet you Mayor Wolfe," LeeAnn said
"Likewise," Doris answered neutrally. "Have
you been a florist long?"
"Just over a decade. I started my own shop right after
I graduated from college."
"So that makes you what? Around thirty-five
"Yeah," LeeAnn replied. "Thirty six."
"So married, single, divorced?"
LeeAnn seemed taken aback by the questions. "Sorry,
but it feels like I'm on the witness stand here," she
replied with a nervous smile.
"I apologize. It's ironic you say that because I left
the D.A. office to be the mayor. You can take the mayor out of
the courtroom but you can't take the courtroom out of the
mayor. I'm just curious, that's all… So…?"
"I'm not married," LeeAnn said shortly.
"Well maybe someday you'll be as happy as Emma and
Maureen or even Natalia and Olivia here. Have they told you
how long they've been together?"
"No, but I'm assuming a decade at least."
"Twenty years actually," Doris replied.
"It's been a roller coaster, but they've been fortunate
to have more ups than downs. That's all any of us can really
hope for, right?"
"Right," LeeAnn drawled out.
"Yeah," Doris sighed. "You'll never find two
souls more suited for one another than these ladies. In
fact," she said leaning over to LeeAnn in a mock whisper,
"they're so ideal, it's nauseating. My wife is always
saying, 'Why can't we be more like Olivia and Natalia? They
make love everyday, sometimes twice,' and I'm like, 'I'm not a
sex machine, Sweetie.' Don't get me wrong – I love my wife
dearly, but I have limits. These two, sheesh," she said
motioning toward a smiling Olivia and a blushing Natalia,
"forget about it. The sky's not even the limit."
Natalia pinched Olivia's side in a silent gesture for her
to reel Doris in.
"Doris," Olivia said firmly.
"You said you did it in an airplane once, right?"
Doris asked Olivia.
"Look," Olivia began by ignoring the remark,
"I know we've grown close with LeeAnn during the wedding
planning, but I'm not sure if we're THAT friendly with her.
I'm sure she doesn't want to hear about our love life. She'd
have no interest in that." Olivia then turned to LeeAnn.
"Sorry if she made you uncomfortable."
"No," LeeAnn said as she smiled at Olivia, almost
in challenge. "Actually, I'm not surprised by what she
said. Natalia strikes me as a very sensual and passionate
woman. I hope you realize you're lucky to have her – any man
or woman would be," she added.
"Believe me, I realize," Olivia said in a tone
that was itching for a fight.
Natalia tightened her hold on Olivia's waist.
"I didn't mean to offend you," LeeAnn said
brusquely. "I'm just stating the obvious – your wife is
a wonderful woman."
"If it's obvious, then why state it?"
"Hey!" Natalia said before LeeAnn could reply and
escalate the growing tension in the small circle. "Why
don't you go check on how they're doing with the bar?"
she suggested to Olivia.
"Chessie and Rafe are seeing to the bar," Olivia
replied, not breaking away from the stare down with LeeAnn.
"Yes, but I'd feel better if you were there… right
now… this very second. Pretty please?"
Olivia grinned triumphantly and faced Natalia.
"Anything for you, Dear."
She then cupped Natalia's cheek and brought her in for a
tender kiss, full on the lips. For a couple of seconds she
thought about deepening the kiss, but even she considered that
was going a bit too far. After she pulled away she gave LeeAnn
a smug look and then motioned for Doris to follow her.
Once they were out of earshot, and LeeAnn and Natalia were
talking again, Olivia offered her palm slyly to Doris. She
gently slapped it and Olivia returned the favor.
"You're right. She IS a flower bitch," Doris
muttered in agreement.
Saturday Morning, 11:55 AM, June 9th, 2029
Olivia held a bottle of Gray Goose in each hand. But she
stopped from putting them behind the bar as she watched
Natalia storming towards her. Francesca saw Natalia walking
over swiftly, and she turned to Olivia.
"I think somebody’s in trouble," she said in a
singsong voice. "Momma Tal looks fit to be tied."
"Oh, crap," Olivia muttered.
"I’m sorry," Doris offered. "Blame me. I’ll
take the heat. I don’t think you want this kinda heat."
"I can handle it," Olivia replied.
Natalia stopped and pointed a stern finger at Olivia.
"You. With me. Right now," she said harshly.
Without looking to see if Olivia was going to follow,
Natalia began to march away. With a sigh, Olivia rested the
bottles on top of the bar and turned to Doris.
"Find a place for these please. This may take a
Once alone in the living room of the farmhouse, Olivia
grinned and batted her eyelashes as she approached Natalia,
reaching out for her lover’s waist to bring her closer. Maybe
charm might help me, she considered. Before Olivia could
hit her target, Natalia swatted her hands away.
"What were you doing?" Natalia asked firmly.
"I did absolutely nothing."
"Fine. What did you put Doris up to?"
Olivia rubbed the back of her neck and shoulder guiltily.
"I don’t like that woman," she finally
confessed. "And obviously she doesn’t like me. End of
"No, that’s just the beginning," Natalia
countered. "What are you so afraid of?"
Olivia didn’t answer, at first. She took more of an
interest in her feet then actually looking at Natalia.
"Who said I was afraid?" Olivia said in a soft
Natalia grinned at Olivia with deep affection that went
unnoticed since Olivia couldn't meet her eyes. "I know
you, Sweetheart. Please talk to me."
Olivia took a deep breath and then blew it out slowly as
she finally looked up again. "I don’t like how she acts
around you… But more than that, I really hate the way you
flirt with her." Olivia ran her hand through her own
hair. "Look, please drop this. In a few more hours, she’ll
be out of our lives forever."
"Are you worry that I’m attracted to her?"
"Just forget it."
"Do you think I find her desirable?"
"Yes! There! I said it! Are you happy?!"
For a brief moment, a small silence passed between them.
Olivia appeared scared and uncomfortable while Natalia was the
picture of serenity.
"I won’t lie," the dark haired woman began,
"LeeAnn is an attractive woman, and I think she's a
natural flirt, just like you and Francesca."
"Ah ha! So you admit – she does flirt with
Natalia released a heavy sigh. "Okay, so I played dumb
to try to keep the peace. Sue me."
Olivia found herself beginning to pace. "So that’s
the only reason why you lied?"
"Lied? I didn’t lie," Natalia insisted.
Olivia seemed to recoil into herself as she continued to
pace. "You said before that you didn’t know she was
flirting, but obviously you did and obviously you liked it…
So… you think she’s attractive, huh? Do you want her?
Because obviously she wants you."
Natalia put her hands on Olivia shoulders to stop her
movements. "First, relax. Second, your reaction right now
is exactly why I downplayed her attraction to me. Third, just
because she wants me, doesn’t mean she can HAVE me. I’m-."
"Not me?" Olivia challenged, before Natalia could
Natalia squared her shoulders. "I was going to say the
reason is I’m yours. But now I see… This isn’t about me,
or even LeeAnn for that matter. This is about you. You don’t
trust me and you think I’m gonna get payback for what
happened years ago. Is that it? Because, honestly Olivia, I
thought we were beyond that."
Olivia’s jaw set. "She’s different."
"I don’t understand," Natalia replied.
"LeeAnn – she’s different. I’ve seen men and
women flirt with you over the years and, really, how could I
blame them. You’re positively gorgeous. You’re more
beautiful now then when I married you – and that’s not
just some token throwaway line. You’re stunning to me and…
I don’t want to lose you."
"You’re not going to Olivia – at least, not if I
have anything to say about it. What God has in store for me, I
don't know, but I know what my plans are."
Olivia took a ragged breath. "Then why do you flirt
back?" For the first time, Natalia looked away with a
guilty expression. "Right there!" Olivia pointed at
her. "That’s why I’m worried. You know you do
"Why do YOU flirt?" Natalia challenged, locking
eyes, her breathing becoming labored. "And don’t say
you never flirt because we both know you do. But you don’t
have to answer because I know why. It makes you feel special,
Olivia nodded as her eyes traveled the length of Natalia’s
body, soaking up her features – her heaving bosom that hadn’t
lost the war with gravity yet; her dilated eyes that showed
her growing passion for what she was saying and feeling, and
her moist lips that screamed to be kissed. Olivia considered
capturing those lips, but Natalia continued to speak.
"Flirting makes you feel prized in a way that neither
of us can make each other feel, but that’s not a bad thing,
Liv. Because it makes me value what we have with each other.
Our relationship feels so more special and much, much better.
That might sound crazy, but it does and the reason is I know
that no matter how turned on you make someone else, or how
turned on I might make someone, there will be no one in heaven
or on earth that will ever match the intensity of desire we
Olivia didn’t respond vocally, instead she captured
Natalia’s face in her palms, much like she did twenty some
years before when she wanted to test the waters thanks to
Emma's ‘two mommies’ report. She pulled Natalia closer,
kissing her soundly. Only this time instead of looking
shocked, Natalia welcomed this action and deepened the kiss.
Olivia pulled away only a moment to change the position of her
head before she returned to Natalia's lips again.
"How long until Ava and the kids get here?"
Natalia asked as she began to nip, nuzzle and suck Olivia’s
Olivia looked at her watch over Natalia’s shoulder.
"About a half hour," Olivia replied in a groan.
"Plenty of time," Natalia said as she quickly
grabbed Olivia by the wrist and pulled her up the stairs to
Saturday Morning, 12:12 PM, June 9th, 2029
Olivia’s back was on the bed, as she tried to catch her
breath. While wrapped somewhat haphazardly in their 800 thread
count sheets, she reached down and pulled her wife up to her
complimented in short gasps as her hands made lazy patterns on
Natalia’s naked back.
"Look who’s talkin’," Natalia retorted as she
nibbled on Olivia’s earlobe.
"No, baby," Olivia said with regret, and pulled
back slightly. "You can’t do that. We gotta get up. The
kids’ll be here any minute." She looked over at the
clock and added, "…if they’re not already, that
Natalia gave a disappointed moan as her hands slipped under
Olivia’s sheet. Although neither woman could see just where
Natalia was touching her wife her attention was obviously
having a reaction.
Olivia’s eyes closed and she moaned, "Tali, Sweetie.
Really. We gotta…" Olivia’s mouth dropped open and
her hips bucked forward. "Oh God…"
Natalia moved slightly up on her elbow, so she could look
down at Olivia.
"Still want me to stop?" she asked seductively.
"I will. You just say the word."
"No fair," Olivia strained out as her body
continued to rise and fall. With a groan of frustration that
quickly turned to untamed arousal, she pushed Natalia to her
back as her hand reached southward. This time it was Natalia
whose back arched. "You’re insatiable, Woman,"
Olivia scolded playfully.
Natalia had already begun to pant. She clutched at Olivia’s
arm with one hand while slipping the other to her back in an
effort to draw her closer.
"For you," she repeated as she continued to arch
and pant against Olivia. "I never get enough of
"Oh God," Olivia muttered again.
She straddled one of Natalia’s thighs and buried her face
into the Latina’s neck and hair. When she started to grind,
skin against skin, both women moaned at the contact.
Downstairs, at the outdoor make-shift bar the family helped
stock the bar with Elena and her girlfriend, Rachel, on one
end and Doris, Rafe and Francesca at the other.
"Do your parents fight often?" Rachel asked as
she helped Elena place wine bottles.
"Not really," she replied. "I just think
everyone’s a little tense right now. Weddings are happy
occasions, but stressful ones too. I think that’s why I’ll
elope if I ever get married."
"Seriously?" Rachel asked.
"Yeah," she replied. "I never had any fairy
tale plans for my nuptials."
"Well, I’d like to have a wedding someday. I think
what Emma’s doing here is beautiful."
"Please," Elena snorted. "Even Emma thinks
this is over the top."
"Yeah, but, by the end of the night, I’m sure she’ll
be glad your moms did this for her."
"You didn’t strike me as a big wedding gal,"
"That’s because you don’t know everything about me
yet," Rachel retorted. Elena didn’t seem to know what
to say so Rachel said, "But that’s okay, you’ll
"Yes, I will," Elena said optimistically. When
Rachel turned to start restocking the wine rack Elena’s face
took on an uncertain look that betrayed the words she just
Back upstairs, Olivia and Natalia had both donned shower
caps as Natalia started the water in the bathroom. She raced
around nervously, getting their towels in order while Olivia
looked at her totally relaxed with a light grin. The hotelier
cleared her throat.
"I just want to say, for the record, that Doris didn’t
"What?" Natalia stopped shuffling around and
turned to face Olivia since the remark seemed to come out of
"What?" Natalia asked again, only more annoyed
"Doris mentioned sometimes we have sex twice a day. We
did it three in the last twenty-four hours. Last night and
then two times just now…three times."
Natalia rolled her eyes, but still wore a small smile.
"Get in the shower," she ordered.
"And wash the scent of you off me? What if I want to
smell like you?" Olivia replied. "Especially when I’m
standing next to the flower girl," she added.
Natalia chuckled. "So now we’re just animals who
mark our territory by… scenting, huh?"
Olivia’s teeth captured her own tongue for a moment.
"Well," she began. "You were pretty animalistic
a few minutes ago. The panting. The grunting. The-."
"Get in the tub," Natalia ordered, trying not to
smile. "I mean it."
Olivia grabbed Natalia’s naked waist. "When’s the
last time we did it in the shower?"
"Last week," Natalia said aggravated.
"Then we’re overdue."
"Olivia, I swear-."
Seeing that Natalia was now reaching her limit in patience,
"Okay. Okay. I’ll behave, but we’ve got to
hurry," she said climbing inside. "Come on, you don’t
want to make us late."
Natalia shook her head. "Me?" Olivia just smiled
and held the door open for her. "You infuriated me
sometimes," she added.
"Good to know I can still get the blood pumpin’,"
she countered as Natalia joined her inside.
A few minutes later Olivia, wrapped in a towel, was drying
Natalia’s back when they heard a knock on the door.
"Oh ladies," Doris called out. "I’d ask if
you’re decent, but I already know the answer."
Olivia chuckled. "Ava here?" she asked as Natalia
slipped into her robe.
"No, but Mary and Joseph are," she said and then
giggled. "I’m sorry. I always want to include Jesus
when I say their names," she added.
"See?" Olivia told Natalia. "I’m not the
Natalia quickly opened the door to see Doris standing there
in the hallway, wearing a smirk. The mayor looked over Natalia’s
shoulder to Olivia.
"It appears you got quite the tongue lashing."
She smiled. "You two work things out?"
"I’m going to get dressed," Natalia said, not
bothering to entertain a response. She walked to their bedroom
and looked out the window to see Mary and Joseph standing just
before the porch, talking with her girls. She smiled. It
seemed like only yesterday that she found them on her stoop.
It was Friday, February 12th when they met.
It started with a knock on the living room door.
"Natalia, Emma. Hurry up," Olivia said as she
made her way over, opening the door. "Frank’s here and…"
she stopped when she saw the woman who appeared to be in her
mid-twenties and a man who was slightly younger, in his
early-twenties. "Oh, sorry," Olivia said. "I
was expecting someone else. Can I help you?"
The pair looked at each other and then the woman spoke to
"I’m not sure I have the right place, but…does
Natalia Rivera live here?"
At first Olivia didn’t know what to say. "Uhhh, who’s
"Sorry. I’m Mary and this is my brother,
Joseph," she answered, pointing to each of them. Joseph
gave a mute wave.
Natalia was already on her way down the stairs, but she was
taking to Emma asking, "Did you pack your PJ’s, Bean?
Frank’s here." Emma shouted back a, ‘Yes, Ma’ as
Natalia walked toward Olivia, who stood at the door.
Olivia smiled as watched Natalia came closer.
"You look beautiful," she complimented with deep
affection, not caring that the strangers were standing two
feet away. Natalia blushed at the flattering remark. "But
we have guests maybe," she added as she pointed outside.
With a curious expression, Natalia looked around the door
to the young couple standing there.
"It is you," the younger woman said with
certainty. "It’s Mary and Joe. I know it’s been a
long time, but…"
Olivia looked at her lover who wore a peculiar expression -
one that she couldn't quite read. It seemed fearful, yet
hopeful at the same time. She’d never seen the look before
and it worried her.
"Natalia? Do you know these people?" she said
Natalia nodded and her bottom lip quivered.
"Yes. They’re my sister and brother," she
Friday Evening, 6:03 PM, February 12th, 2010
"Come again?" Olivia asked Natalia as the two
strangers still stood outside, nervously shuffling from foot
"They're my sister and brother," she repeated.
Olivia grinned uncomfortably and turned to their visitors.
She held up a single finger.
"Excuse us one moment please," she told them as
she carefully closed the door, leaving them on the porch. She
took Natalia by the elbow and led her away from the door. In a
quiet voice she asked, "You have a brother and a sister
that you never mentioned before?"
Natalia nervously chewed on her fingernail a moment and
said in a quiet voice, "It never came up."
Olivia stood in astonishment for a moment and then pinched
the bridge of her nose as she took a calming breath.
"Saying you were in girl scouts or-or you played
tennis in high school…hell, saying you know how to play a
musical instrument -- those are things that might 'never come
up.' This is…this is…"
"A shock, I know. But I never really had the chance to
say anything," Natalia replied.
"Oh really?" Olivia said sarcastically. "So
when I've talked about my brother, Sam, or my late sister,
Marissa, you couldn't have jumped in and said, 'Oh, by the
way, my brother Joe and sister Mary are exactly the same.' You
couldn't have done that? Really?"
Natalia said nothing for a full four. "Technically, I
have two sisters and a brother. I'm the second eldest to a
sister who's older than me."
Olivia looked flabbergasted for a second time. But she
closed her slacked jaw as she ran her fingers through her
"Fine," she began, "What do you want me to
do? Should I tell them to go away? Invite them in for coffee?
'Cause ya know Frank is gonna be here any minute to pick up
the kids. The three of them might all be on the porch talking
as we speak." Natalia seemed to space out for a moment.
"Natalia," Olivia said a little louder, getting her
attention. When the younger woman looked her way, Natalia
appeared as though she might burst into tears. "Look, I'm
sorry, okay?" Olivia coaxed. "This is…this is a
shock to you too obviously. Why don't I invite them in,
alright? We'll find out what they want, and if they start to
get out of line I'll kick them the hell outta here."
"You'd toss my family out?"
"Hey, they did it to you." Natalia began to tear
up at Olivia's blunt words. "I'm sorry," she
immediately said, holding Natalia's waist. "I open my
mouth and my foot shoots right inside – you know it happens
quite often when I'm…shocked beyond belief."
"It's not that – not entirely. It's just,"
Natalia reached up and stroked Olivia's face with undying
affection. "I've got someone who'd defend me this time
for being in love, and it's…it's comforting. But honestly,
you'd toss them out of here if things get…intense?"
"If they hurt you? In a heartbeat," Olivia
replied. "But it's your call, Sweetie. I'll do whatever
you want. You just say the word."
Natalia nodded. "Yeah, okay. Let's invite them
"What if Emma asks who they are?" Olivia asked.
She immediately rolled her eyes. "Man, who am I kidding?
What do we do WHEN Emma asks who they are?"
Natalia grinned. "We'll play it by ear," she said
as she nodded her head toward the door. "Go ahead and let
Olivia swiftly walked back and opened the door with an
"Sorry about that," she told them. "Please
come inside and have a seat on the sofa. I'm Olivia, by the
As they shook hands, Emma stood at the top of the stairs
holding her overnight backpack.
"I though you said it was Frank," she called
"We have some unexpected guests," Natalia told
her as she took a seat in the chair. "Come down Emma, I'd
like to introduce you to my sister, Mary, and my brother,
"I didn't know you had a brother and sister, Ma,"
Emma said excited as she descended the staircase.
"Makes two of us," Olivia muttered above a
"This is your daughter?" Mary asked as she
"Step-daughter," Natalia clarified.
"Oh, you have a husband then?"
Natalia looked up to Olivia, who was standing on the other
side of her. The hotelier understood the unspoken request, and
she put her hand possessively on Natalia's shoulder. Natalia
covered the appendage with her own hand, giving it a squeeze.
"No. I have a wife. Emma is Olivia's daughter."
Natalia literally held her breath as she waited to see what
Mary looked taken aback, but Joe grinned.
"Told you," he said as he tapped Mary's knee.
"You owe me five bucks."
"Told her what?" Olivia asked in a voice that
came out much harsher than she intended.
"Well, when you answered the door," Joe replied,
starting to sound nervous. "You said Natalia looked
beautiful. Mary said it was just a compliment, but to me it
sounded like, well, something more intimate. Like a husband
would say to a wife or in this case…a wife to a wife."
Olivia nodded. "Yeah, that's what it's like."
For a long moment, no one said anything until Emma asked
Natalia, "Since they're your brother and sister does that
make them my uncle and aunt?"
Olivia and Natalia's eyes both went wide, but before anyone
else could say anything Olivia ran interception.
"Hey, Jellybean. Can you be a big girl and help me in
the kitchen to get our guest something to drink?"
"Sure," Emma said excited to be helping out. She
raced to the kitchen.
"Will you be okay while I get some drinks together for
us?" Olivia asked Natalia.
The younger woman nodded quickly, but didn't say a word.
She didn't have to – her eyes conveyed her trepidation –
and Olivia tightened her hold on her shoulder for a few
"I won't be too long," Olivia promised, as she
recognized the uncertainty in the nod. She leaned down and
kissed Natalia briefly on the lips before going to catch up to
Joe had a sly grin while Mary averted her eyes from the
affectionate gesture. Instead, she looked around the house and
"You have a very nice home," she complimented.
"It's a lot different from where we came from, huh?"
Natalia didn't reply at first. Her eyes simply bore into
the two siblings, practically strangers, who sat on her sofa.
"Let's drop the pleasantries and cut through the
bull," Natalia began. "Why are you both here? And
why are you here now? Someone's dying? Is that it? I'm
supposed to go to someone's bedside and make amends?"
Mary opened her mouth, but no sound came out at first.
"Well, no," she managed to get out.
Before she could say anymore though, Francesca began to
whimper from upstairs.
"Hold that thought," Natalia told her. "I
need to get our other daughter, Francesca."
As Natalia walked toward the stairs, there was a knock at
the door. She walked over and let Frank inside.
"Sorry I'm late," Frank said. "I had to stay
over and Blake's car is in the shop so she couldn't get
her," he added in explanation.
"That's okay, Frank," she told him. She led him
inside and then pointed to her siblings. "Frank, this is
my sister and my brother, Mary and Joe." He looked as
confused as Olivia did earlier. "Don't ask," she
told him. He held up his hands, as though he wasn't going to
press the issue. "Emma's in the kitchen with Liv. I'll go
get Francesca." She then turned toward the kitchen.
"Sweetie, Frank's here," she said in a louder voice.
Then she turned to the gathering in the living room.
"I'll be right back."
Emma came running out of the kitchen, barreling toward
Frank as she yelled his name.
"Hey, Em!" he said as hugged the girl. "Am I
gonna have lots of fun with the Spencer Sisters tonight?"
"As long as Chessie's not too cranky," Emma
replied. "But she had a nap, so she should be in better
spirits than earlier."
"Better spirits, huh?" Frank chuckled at how
mature she sounded.
She then pitched a thumb back to Natalia's siblings.
"Did you know that Natalia had a brother and
"Actually, no, I didn't," Frank said.
"Come on," Emma said as she pulled him over
Olivia came out holding a serving tray with a kettle of hot
water, a carafe of coffee and four mugs. There was a selection
of sugars, creams and other drink assortments that she put on
the coffee table.
"This is Frank," Emma announced to Mary and Joe,
as if he was a prized show and tell item she'd brought to
school. "He's not REALLY my step-dad, but he is my
sister's daddy. He's super nice and even though I have my own
daddy, he says I could stay with him and Francesca whenever I
want… or whenever my moms want to spend a romantic night
together, like tonight," she quickly amended.
Olivia chuckled, both in amusement and slight
embarrassment. "Kids say the darnedest things," she
sighed. "Hey, Em. Go get your backpack, okay?" She
then turned to Mary and Joe. "I've got coffee and tea
there," she told them. "But if you'd like something
else, I can-."
"No," Mary cut her short. "This is
wonderful. Thank you."
Olivia nodded, but then she looked above them and
practically beamed. The expression on her face was enough to
make both Mary and Joe turn to see what delighted her so much.
They watched as Natalia made her way down the stairs holding
"This is our youngest, Francesca," Natalia
announced. "You want to hold her Frank while I get her
"Absolutely," he replied as he took her.
"How's daddy's little girl?" he cooed. When she made
a happy, gurgling noise he began to chuckle. Carefully,
Natalia put her little arms through her winter jacket as Frank
continued to hold her upright.
"Liv, can you get the bottles from the fridge?"
Olivia nodded and Natalia turned to Frank. "You're going
straight home, right?" she asked him.
"Yeah, why? Did you need me to get something?"
"Oh, no," she said waving her hand. "I just
wanted to make sure that the breast milk stays cold. But if it
spills or you run out I've got some canned formula in there
too, just in case."
"Yeah, we'll be good," he said as Olivia brought
out the diaper bag.
"Here Emma," Olivia said. "You're young and
strong. You can handle your pack and Chessie's too, can't
"Yep!" she said as she placed it on her shoulder
while carrying her own bag in her hand.
Olivia and Natalia gave both girls a kiss and Natalia
opened the door for them.
"Call if you need anything, Frank," she told him.
"Don't worry," he replied. "You ladies have
a nice night." He then waved to the duo on the sofa.
"Nice to meet you," he replied as he tightened his
hold on Francesca and covered her face with a burp cloth to
hide her from the cold. Once they were outside Natalia closed
the door and turned back to her wife and siblings.
"You have a lovely family," Joe complimented.
"I do," Natalia replied. "But I'm still
waiting to find out why you two are here. And since my wife
and I DO have dinner reservations tonight, let's cut to the
chase, shall we?"
Friday Evening, 6:23 PM, February 12th, 2010
"We didn’t come here to cause problems," Mary
explained, as Joe nodded.
"Honestly," Joe added. "I have no memories
of you since I was two when you left, but I couldn’t let
Mary come here alone because, well, I wasn’t sure what you
might do. I had to protect her. But neither one of us are here
to cause you any trouble."
Natalia took a deep breath and Olivia motioned to the chair
for her to sit down. The hotelier walked into the kitchen and
brought in one of the table chairs. Placing the kitchen chair
beside Natalia’s, she then took her lover’s hand in hers.
"Why are you here now?" Natalia asked.
"I was eight when you left," Mary continued.
"For years we were told you were dead. Joe, here,"
she said motioning to him. "…he didn’t question it
– I think because he was so young, and he didn’t have
memories of you. But I did because we were about the same age
as Emma and Francesca, and you didn’t leave until you were
in your teens. So I had real memories of you, like how you’d
stop by the party store the last day of every month and get me
Pop Rocks. Remember that?" Natalia grinned slightly and
squeezed Olivia’s hand. "And every summer, when it got
really hot, you’d sneak an extra fudgesicle and always made
sure I’d get mine first. And when dad never took the time to
teach me how to ride a bike, you ran behind me at the park.
Remember? You twisted your ankle catching me and we both ended
up hobbling back home, pushing the bike since neither one of
us could ride it," Mary laughed.
Natalia smiled bittersweetly at the memories and only
"The point is Natalia," Mary continued. "You
mattered to me…and one day you were gone. No goodbye. No
explanations other than you were dead. And for the longest
time I couldn’t understand that... if you were really gone
then why didn’t I go to a funeral? And when I got older, I
didn’t push the funeral issue… because… what if dad was
the one who did it? What if he killed you and didn't tell
anyone? You know how angry dad could get sometimes. What if
you were…?" Mary couldn’t finish the thought.
Again, Natalia only nodded.
"If I went searching, I might have uncovered a very
nasty truth. And although we didn’t have the best dad in the
world, he helped put food on the table. And if he were gone,
what would my sisters and brothers do? We all needed his
support, so I let it go for the longest time."
"Isabella was in beauty school though," Natalia
said. "She was almost out on her own when I left."
Mary and Joe looked at one another and Joe cleared his
throat before he turned back to her.
"I have a younger brother and sister," Joe told
"I-I-I have two more siblings?" Natalia
stuttered. "After I left, they…?"
Mary nodded. "Mom was pregnant when you left because
Ramon was born about six months after you went away, and he
was healthy. Then Abigail came a year and a half later."
"This family of yours keeps getting bigger and bigger,
doesn’t it?" Olivia retorted.
"No shit," Natalia swore uncharacteristically,
making Olivia do a double take. Natalia didn’t notice that
she was being watched though since her focus was back on her
"So you thought I was dead?" Natalia asked. Her
siblings just nodded. "But how did you find out the
Mary took a deep breath. "When I was at the community
college I began researching around the time you left –
looking at obits, death records, anything that might indicate
you had passed away and what happened. Like I said, Dad would
always change the subject and Mom wouldn’t challenge him –
she knew better. By then Abuela had passed away so I couldn’t
ask her the truth."
"Grandma's gone then?" Natalia asked, her voice
cracking. Mary simply nodded. Natalia took a steadying breath
as she felt Olivia squeeze her hand in support. "So what
did you do?" she asked. "How did you end up ‘here’?"
she added as she motioned around them.
"Went to college on a scholarship, but it just…your
fate gnawed at me. The only other person you might have any
idea of what happened was Isabella. So I…" Mary grinned
playfully; two dimples just like Natalia’s were gracing her
cheeks. "I kinda threatened her."
"You threatened her?" Natalia asked in disbelieve
as Joe nodded his head and smiled broadly too.
"Get this," he said, bouncing slightly from his
position on the couch. "She takes Isabella out to dinner
knowing that she just brought a brand new Camaro. She spent
years saving for that car, and it was her baby. Mary asks if
she can take the car for a spin, you know, just to try it out.
Bella says, ‘Sure’ and hands over the keys. So they go out
to the docks. Mary parks, but she doesn’t get out so as
Bella leaves to change seats, Mary locks the doors.
Olivia started to chuckle, knowing where the story is
going, but Natalia continued to listen, slack jawed.
"She didn’t," Natalia said.
Joe nodded and continued, "She starts revving the
engine. Bella starts pounding on the driver window and
screaming for Mary to let her in. Mary tells her that she’ll
let her in on one condition."
"You wanted the truth about your sister," Olivia
Mary nodded. "I knew she was alive," she answered
and then started to tear up. She turned to face Natalia.
"I just knew it. And I would have dropped that car into
Lake Michigan if she tried to shut me down. She knew how
serious I was. That’s when she told me about the pregnancy
and how Mom and Dad gave you an ultimatum. So I stopped
looking for death certificates, and I went on the trail of
Riveras who were born that year. So I followed you from
address to address until it led here to Springfield."
"And here you are," Natalia replied, her voice
shaking. Olivia put her arm around her shoulder.
Mary nodded. "I’ve known you’ve been here for at
least two years but I…I kept chickening out. What do I say
after 20 years? I didn’t want to make your life difficult. I
just wanted you to know the truth," she said as she began
to tear up.
Natalia’s face was a mask, but Olivia could hear the
quiver in her voice. "And what truth would that be?"
Mary began to wipe her eyes, but the dam inside her broke,
and she started to sob, "They might have tried to forget
about you in Chicago, but I didn’t. You were my big sister
and I loved you. I still do, but I was just too young to do
anything about it then, and now, maybe now I’m too late
because I should have come here sooner. I just…"
Mary began to cry full-force and Joe put his arm around
her, comforting her.
Seeing Mary break down was Natalia’s undoing, and she
cried too. Olivia moved to her knees.
"If it’s too much," Olivia told her holding her
hands, trying to steady herself from weeping too.
"...remember what I said. We’ll end this conversation
Natalia shook her head.
"No," she said as she and her sister both began
to pull themselves together. Almost as if it were
choreographed, Mary and Natalia both raised tissues to their
noses and blew at the same time. Both immediately took a deep
breath and then chuckled slightly at how unintentional, yet in
sync, they were with each other.
"No denyin’ they’re sisters," Joe teased to
ease the tension.
Natalia took another deep breath. "We have plans like
I said earlier," she began as she motioned to Olivia.
Olivia cleared her throat. "Honey, I’m sure under
the circumstance here-."
"No," Natalia told her. "I need a night out
with my wife - no kids. If Mary and Joe have waited twenty
years I’m sure they can wait one more day, can’t
you?" she asked as she turned to them.
"Absolutely," Mary replied. "In fact, we
booked a hotel here for the weekend, so we don’t have to
leave until Sunday night," she replied.
"Where are you staying?" Olivia asked.
"The Super 8 over by the highway. It’s a nice place.
It’s not as nice as that fancy hotel we passed on our way
here, but, it’s livable."
"How would you like to stay at that fancy hotel?"
Natalia smiled knowingly.
"I couldn’t ask you guys to pay for a place like
that," Mary replied. "It wouldn’t be right."
"So it IS genetic," Olivia told Natalia. Although
Natalia didn’t ask what Olivia was talking about vocally,
her eyes conveyed the unspoken question. "This stubborn
pride when it comes to accepting something nice. It’s very
annoying," she answered. Natalia grinned in response.
Olivia then turned back to Mary and Joe and held up her
finger. She pulled out her cell phone from her pocket and
pressed a few numbers before listening.
"Hey Ron, it’s Ms. Spencer. What’s the booking
status on the two-room Penthouse this weekend?" She
paused and listened. "Okay, great. I’ve got a Joseph
Rivera and his sister, Mary, who will be staying with us as
our guest so give them whatever they desire…Siblings
actually…Okay, thanks Ron. You too." Olivia then turned
back to the pair. "Just go to the Beacon front desk and
they’ll have everything waiting for you. If you want to eat,
just order room service. They'll bring you anything you
"You know the owner?" Mary asked impressed.
Olivia just grinned. "I AM the owner."
"No kidding?" Joe asked while Mary just looked
"Well, one of the owners," Olivia replied and
then pointed to Natalia. "Your sister owns half of
everything I own, and as much as I would love telling you THAT
story, as Natalia pointed out, we do have dinner
"Oh," Mary said startled as she rose, taking Joe
with her. "I’m sorry."
"That’s okay," Olivia said. "We’ll walk
out with you."
The donning of shoes and coats was a quiet affair, but once
everyone was outside, Natalia asked, "Would you both like
to come over tomorrow for brunch around eleven?"
"We’d like that," Mary said with an
Natalia extended her arm and they awkwardly shook hands
with each other until Natalia realized how ridiculous it felt.
She couldn’t keep her distance, so she pulled Mary into a
"For the record," Natalia confessed. "I
never forgot about you either."
Mary tightened her hold as tears began to fill her eyes
again. "I won’t lie. I still don’t think Mom and Dad
would welcome you back, but I know how I feel and how Joe
feels. I hope that’s enough."
Natalia pulled back and looked at Mary. Then she planted a
soft kiss on her cheek.
"That’s more than I could ask for."
Saturday Afternoon, 12:42 PM, June 9th, 2029
Mary and Joe both smiled when they watched Natalia walking
out of the house with her arms open to greet them. Before they
could hug her though another man shot around them and
intercepted the warm welcome. He pulled Natalia into an
embrace and spun her around in a circle repeatedly.
"Put me down, Samuel!" she protested as she
laughed and slapped his back.
Sam placed her on the ground and he helped hold her upright
for a second as she swayed slightly. He then turned back to
Mary and Joe.
"I’m sorry. Would you like to hug this dizzy
woman?" he asked. "You might wanna wait since it
looks like she might toss her cookies."
Natalia slapped him on the chest slightly.
"Hey, where’s Mrs. ADHD?" she asked.
"Mrs. ADHD. That’s funny," he complimented.
"She at the hotel…primpinnnnnn’," he finished in
a stereotypical gay singsong voice. "I just thought I’d
swing by and see if you guys needed anything."
"You’re like the hundredth person today. Where are
you all the other 365 days out of the year?" she asked.
"And why am I still talking to you?" she said as she
playfully pushed him away. "C’mere you guys,"
Natalia said opening her arms for her own siblings. "How
are you?" she asked as they hugged.
"Good," Joe said as he pulled back.
"Yeah," Mary agreed and then quickly added,
"and just so you know, Sam put us up to that," she
explained as she smiled. "You know… I always thought
Olivia was odd…but this one here…"
"Got her beat hands down," Sam offered. "It’s
a gift; a power, if you will. But with such power comes great
"Hey Spiderman? Go see your sis. She’s upstairs in
the bedroom," Natalia told him.
Sam smiled broadly. "The bedroom? This time of the
day? You’ve still got her tied up I bet, huh?"
"You’re an ass," Natalia laughed.
Sam paused a beat.
"I didn’t hear a denial in there. I just hope you’re
gonna release her for the swingin’ soirée tonight? I better
go free her so she can start primping too," he said and
started to leave.
"Ahem," Natalia said sarcastically to get his
attention and motioned to her cheek. He walked back over and
gave her a soft kiss. "That’s better," she told
Sam looked left and then looked right before he crooked his
finger to motion Natalia closer.
"You know," he said in a conspiratorial whisper,
"if you ever decide you wanna drive stick again, I’m a
phone call away – just throwing it out there." He
smiled playfully and then gave her a wink.
Natalia snorted and shoved him. "Go on, Studly, before
I tie you up too."
"Promises, promises," he said in a bored tone as
he made his way toward the house.
Upstairs in the bedroom Olivia stood in her underwear
looking in her dresser for something to wear for the time
being. Doris sat on the corner of the bed.
"You make me sick. You know that?" the mayor
"Excuse me?" Olivia asked.
"You still look fan-freakin’-tastic," she
grumbled. "How do you do it?"
"Exercise…and lots of it since I can’t have
plastic surgery," she replied with a grin.
"The heart thing?"
"Yeah," Olivia replied. "But really, taking
my vitamins and working out benefits me two fold – I stay
healthy and I stay firm."
Doris studied Olivia up from head-to-toe and then shook her
"Damn, Natalia’s a lucky woman."
Olivia grinned and put a t-shirt over her head. "Not
thinking of straying are you Wolfe? Did you learn nothing from
my story earlier today?"
"No, I wouldn’t do anything like that – not to
Brenda. I’m…I’m grateful she came back into my life. I
don’t want to blow that…even if it is with a hottie who
looks better than women half her age."
"Thank you," Olivia said with a curtsy before she
put her shorts on. "But like I said, this does take work.
Besides, Brenda is no slouch either. She’s got it goin’ on
Doris smiled. "Yeah, she does. And to think I nearly
strangled Ashlee when I first found out what she’d
Friday, June 11, 2010
Ashlee was home for the summer as she walked through the
halls of the main campus building at the University of
Springfield. She looked at the room numbers as she also
nervously looked at the piece of paper in her hand. She came
to a name on one particular frosted glass door of the
University that read, ‘B. Berit.’ She knocked and the door
pushed open at the impact.
An attractive, redheaded woman in her early to mid-forties
looked up at the noise to find Ashlee standing there, her hand
still frozen in the air.
"I’m sorry," Ashlee said timidly. "It flew
open. I don’t mean to interrupt."
"That’s okay," the woman replied with a gentle
smile. "Can I help you?"
"Possibly," Ashlee replied. "Are you Brenda
Berit, graduated from the University of Springfield; professor
here of English?" Brenda nodded apprehensively and Ashlee
moved into the room and closed the door behind her. Brenda’s
mouth opened slightly in alarm, which Ashlee sensed. "I’m
not going to harm you," she said with a smile. "The
reason I’m here is we’ve met before, or so I was told, but
you probably don’t recognize me since it was a long, long
Brenda stood up and leaned over the desk. She looked
closely at Ashlee’s face. Brenda then bit her bottom lip to
stop it from trembling.
"You’re Ashlee Wolfe, aren’t you?"
"I guess you do remember me," Ashlee said
nervously, playing with the piece of paper in her hand.
Brenda began to tear up. "It’s the eyes," she
croaked. "You’ve-you’ve got her eyes." She
swallowed hard. "Why are you here?" she added
"I don’t want to upset you," Ashlee said
quickly. "I just…Last year my mom…" she trailed
off and lowered her voice. "…she came out and for the
first time I really started to learn about her life…and her
loves…I could tell by how she talked about you that you were…well,
pardon the cliché, the one that got away. She let her fear
control her and…I don’t want to say it ruined her life
because she does have a good life, but I think sometimes she
feels she missed out on something wonderful. And to be honest,
I’m not sure why I’m here. I guess I just…I wanted to
meet the woman who for the first few years of my life was my
Brenda chuckled caustically. "Mom? No, I was never
your mom. That was the problem. I was the nanny. That’s what
we told everyone. She was your mom. I was the nanny…"
Brenda paused and took a deep breath to steady herself.
"But I couldn’t have loved you more than if you were my
flesh and blood. You were a part of her so how could I not
love you, ya know?"
Tears now rolled down Brenda’s cheeks and she cried
silently. Quickly, Ashlee pulled out a tissue from the desk
and handed it to her.
"I’m sorry. I’m not here to open up old
Brenda blew her nose and composed herself.
"You were always the innocent one in this,
Ashlee," she said. "I know your mom did love me. I
just couldn’t live a lie anymore and your mother…she was
just too fearful to come out."
"See? That’s the thing," Ashlee said hopefully.
"She’s not afraid anymore. And if you’re not…seriously
involved with anyone, well, maybe you’d like to meet
"She sent you here to set up on a date?" Brenda
said growing angry.
"No!" Ashlee said quickly. "No! She doesn’t
even know I’m here! I went looking for you on my own. I
found you and I’m the one who’s asking. Please don’t
hold this against her. If I left this up to Dor-, my mom, it
might never happen and she’ll still be lonely. Maybe you’ll
both be lonely. But maybe I can fix it…Like I said, I didn’t
do an in-depth search of your life. I just…I wanted to speak
Brenda grinned. "You must love your mother a great
deal to do something like this."
"She and I… we’ve had a unique relationship over
the years. She spent a lot of time trying to shield me from
feeling hurt, which in the end resulted in me… feeling hurt.
But, really, now that’s she’s been honest about her life,
and I’m learning more… a lot of things are falling into
place. Lots of things are finally making sense…"
"But I’m one of the missing puzzle pieces,
Ashlee simply nodded. "So can I call you next week to
see if you’d like to meet her? I don’t want to put you on
the spot here and now for an answer."
"I don’t need a week," she said decisively.
Ashlee held her breath for a moment as Brenda walked around
the desk. She put a hand on each side of Ashlee’s face and
admired her for a moment. Then she cleared her throat.
"I’ll meet her. But on one condition," Brenda
added as she reached over the desk and picked up a business
card. She then handed it to Ashlee. "She has to call and
ask ME out."
Ashlee grinned ear-to-ear.
Back in the present day Olivia sat next to Doris, the
shifting of the bed bringing her back to their conversation.
"Admit it," Olivia told her bumping shoulders.
"Ashlee’s done a lot of good things for you, but
finding Brenda was one of the best."
Doris grinned and just nodded. Before she could say
anything Sam peeked his head inside the bedroom.
"Oh Liv, making time with the beautiful Mayor of
Springfield. Shame, shame, shame."
Olivia squealed and raced over to her brother pulling him
into her arms.
Downstairs on the porch, the sound of two children saying,
"Abuela!" made Natalia look over Mary and Joe’s
"Nieto! Nieta!" she replied as two tweens came
racing toward here – one boy and one girl.
Mary and Joe both waved to Ava who waved back as she walked
over holding hands with a Japanese American man.
Natalia gathered both kids in her arms, kissing each one on
top of the head. "Did you have a good trip?" she
"Yeah," her eleven-year-old grandson, Taro,
His nine-year-old sister Eriko added, "I wish we could
have come here sooner, but we had school."
"But you’re out for the summer now," Natalia
offered. "So that’s good, right?"
They both nodded and Taro asked, "Where’s
"Inside with your Uncle Sam and your Aunt Doris. She
was upstairs so go in and give her a shout." Before she
could add anything else they were off and running toward the
house. "Boy, that was quick," Natalia chuckled.
Ava laughed too. "They know who’s the enforcer and
who’s the spoiler," she replied.
"Now, I do my fair amount of spoiling too,"
Natalia said indignantly.
"Ha!" Ava croaked. "You give them cookies.
Mom gives them car keys."
Natalia smiled. "You know what’s so ironic? When
Emma was young – and we’re talking not even grade school
– your mom fretted over her doing flashcards, speaking a
second language, getting her into the right preschool. Oh, and
she was never allowed any sugar after 5 PM, and that’s if
she was allowed to have it at all. But with her grandchildren
she’s turned 180 degrees," Natalia waved her hand in a
cavalier fashion. "They can skip school and eat ice cream
sundaes at midnight." Everyone in the circle laughed.
"Actually, it’s not just the grandkids though. It
started with ours too. Emma never got on her bike without a
helmet, kneepads, you name it. By the time we got to Elena,
pfft, Olivia would let her ride upside down on the handlebars
"That’s not true and you know it," Ava said.
"Yes, I’m exaggerating, but after you’ve been a
mom for awhile you don’t sweat the small stuff and you pick
your battles carefully."
"That’s true," Jerry agreed. "Ava wanted
Eriko to pack her purple dress for the wedding, but last night
Eriko wanted her pink jumpsuit, so I said okay."
"You didn’t bring the purple dress?" Ava asked
"Oh, I brought it – in my suitcase. I just didn’t
make her pack it in hers. I figured if it’s that big of a
deal then YOU can reason with her because pink is fine by
me," he chuckled. "Again, like you said Natalia, it’s
about picking your battles. And after working all day…it
just wasn’t worth the fight last night."
Ava’s face hardened. "Gerald Satou…" she
"Picking battles also works with wives too," he
told the group, which started to chuckle. "But if that
fails there’s always the puppy approach." He tried
giving Ava his best puppy dog eyed look as he pulled her
closer by the waist.Taro and Eriko climbed
off their Aunt’s backs and ran over toward them.
"Easy," Ava shouted to them before they could
"Do we get to go driving this time, Grams?" Taro
asked as soon as he stepped out of the hug.
"Not today," Olivia replied, "But maybe
before you’re gone if your mom and dad say okay." She
then turned to Eriko. "So are you and your Aunt Elena
giving your brother and Aunt Chessie a run for their
Eriko nodded enthusiastically. "We’re tied now –
two and two!"
"So it’s winner take all then, huh?" Both kids
nodded. "Abuela and I have to get ourselves prettied up,
but let’s see who wins before we go."
She motioned to where her daughters were waiting. The kids
raced back over, leaping on to each aunt’s back. At the far
end of the field Rachel yelled, "On your mark…get set…go!"
and waived the white flag.
The gathered crowd, on-lookers and hired help alike,
stopped what they were doing and began cheering and rooting
each team on.
"You’re goin’ down El," Francesca taunted as
they raced side-by-side.
"More running; less talking," Taro coached from
Both sisters began to giggle at how demanding the 11 year
old sounded and they both lost their footing, which sent all
four of them tumbling to the grass.
"Get up!" Eriko said, trying to pull Elena to her
feet. "Get up!" she shouted again as Taro was doing
the same with Francesca.
Elena and Francesca both continued to laugh, but around the
same time, they managed to regroup and get upright.
Respectively, they put their niece and nephew on their backs
again before taking off down the field.
"This one’s gonna be close," Ava said excited.
Jerry nodded in agreement as they all watched the race come
down to the final seconds.
Rachel moved out of the way to stand on the left side of
the field so she could perhaps see ‘the photo finish’ and
pick a winner. Both teams soon crossed the line, but it was
too close to call.
"It looks like a draw!" Rachel shouted.
Taro and Eriko both began to plead their case of being the
winner when Francesca pulled Taro gently toward her.
"You know, our sisters are younger than us. Why not
give this one to them, Taro? It’ll make ‘em feel good and
if you’re nice to her now maybe Eriko’ll remember and be
nice to YOU someday. Whatta ya say, Sport?"
Although he didn’t vocally agree, Taro did shrug his
shoulders somewhat in solidarity.
"I think they won!" Francesca announced. Rachel
went over and raised Eriko and her girlfriend’s arm, naming
them both the winners. This of course prompted Eriko and Elena
to start a victory dance that include ‘the bump’.
"See how happy you made them?" Francesca
whispered. "Doesn’t that make you feel good?"
Taro smiled. "Not really, but they sure do look silly
right now and that’s pretty funny."
"Pfft. All sisters are silly, Taro. Every last one of
‘em," she added as she patted his back.
For a moment Elena and Francesca locked eyes and smiled at
each other. As if realizing they were actually enjoying each
other’s company, and there was something inherently wrong
with that prospect, Francesca quickly looked away. The happy
expression on Elena’s face, one that mirrored Francesca’s,
slipped away too. But she quickly diverted her attention to
her celebration with her niece.
Back at the starting line, Natalia held out her hand to
"What?" Olivia asked.
"Where’s my $20?"
Olivia rolled her eyes. "I was teasing. That was for
the kid’s benefit." Natalia didn’t reply. She simply
rubbed her fingers and thumb together as a gesture to pay up.
"Son of a-."
"Swear jar," Natalia muttered. "Want to make
Without further argument she reached into her pocket and
pulled out $25.
"But this is more than…" Natalia began.
"Son of a bitch," Olivia hissed, finishing her
Natalia pursed her lips. "Was it worth the $5?"
Olivia held up a finger and pulled out another $5.
"Hell, yes!" and handed it to her before she started
Natalia laughed too and then reached up to stroke Olivia’s
face as she kissed her. The older woman turned toward the
"Hey Eriko!" Olivia yelled. "C’mere,
Sweetie." As Eriko began to run back to the starting line
Olivia turned to Ava. "Do you think Eriko would like to
come with us to the salon? I told Taro I’d drive with him,
so I figured I’d do something with just her."
"No, I’m sure she’d love it," Ava replied.
When Eriko came to a stop Olivia said, "Would you like
to go with me and Abuela to the salon? Us gals are gonna get
pretty for the wedding – hair, nails, the works. Whadda ya
"Can I?" Eriko asked Ava excited.
"Yeah, that’s okay," Ava replied and got a hug
"K," Olivia told Eriko, "We gotta go now
though, so go get in the car, Hon." Eriko ran to the car
as Olivia added, "We’ll be back in about an hour."
After saying their goodbyes, Olivia handed Natalia the
"You feeling okay?"
"Yeah, but I’d rather not take the chance that today’s
the day this ticker gives out – not with Eriko in the car
"Soooo, if it’s just me in the car then that’s
fine if you drive?" Natalia teased as she started to
Olivia grinned too. When they arrived at the car, the older
woman stopped and faced her wife.
"Be honest. If you died tomorrow could you say, ‘Life
"Yes, I could," Natalia answered with great
"So could I," Olivia agreed. "But Eriko can’t.
So yes, I want you to drive. I feel okay, but I’m not taking
the chance of her getting hurt."
Natalia stroked Olivia’s face. "You’re a
"And you are one sexy Abuela," she said as she
playfully swatted Natalia’s back side before walking over to
the passenger side.
Natalia shook her head in amusement as she too entered the
Saturday Afternoon, 1:22 PM, June 9th, 2029
Olivia, Natalia and Ava's nine-year-old daughter Eriko were
on their way to the beauty salon as Eriko chatted away in the
"So what did you do?" Olivia asked as she turned
slightly from the passenger seat to face her granddaughter.
"I froze. I didn't want to get into a fight. I've
never been in a fistfight in my life. And over something as
dumb as a cupcake? I didn't take his stupid cupcake."
"Sometimes, it's best to walk away," Natalia
"Yeah, but sometimes you need to fight," Olivia
countered and looked at Natalia to see if she would challenge
"Eriko," Natalia continued. "Using your
fists never settles anything."
"Can we agree to disagree?" Natalia sighed. Eriko
silently watched the women verbally volleying back and forth
with each other.
Natalia cleared her throat and then said, "Let's just
say that more often than not, fighting only causes more
"True," Olivia replied, trying to be diplomatic.
"Here we go," Natalia sighed.
"I was saying…" Olivia stressed as she faced
Eriko again, "Sometimes you don't have a choice, and you
have to get physical, like when someone is physically hurting
you or someone weaker than you is getting picked on and needs
"Sometimes it's best to just stay out of other
people's conflicts," Natalia added.
Olivia held up a finger. "You know, until the day I
die, I'll still say Francesca was right."
"We're not talking about me anymore, are we?"
"No," Olivia said and both she and her wife
grinned. "Your Aunt Francesca broke a bully's nose, along
with some school property." The pride was still evident
in her voice, causing Natalia to shake her head in
disapproval. "What? The other girl was like a foot
taller. That's an accomplishment."
"Eriko," Natalia sighed. "I love your Grams,
"She drives you wonky?"
"Exactly! She drives me wonky," Natalia said as
spared Olivia a small playful glance as she continued to
"My dad drives my mom wonky sometimes, so you're not
alone there. Anyway, why did Aunt Francesca get into a
"Well," Olivia began, "First…you're right
Eriko. Getting a bloody nose over a cupcake would be pretty
dumb. But like I said, sometimes you have to fight for things
Thursday, October 3rd, 2025
Fifteen-year-old Francesca was walking next to her friend,
a short, blonde girl, in Springfield High School. They rounded
the corner into the 'senior hallway.'
"One more month and I've got my license!" she
"What's the car sitch?" her friend asked.
"Not sure, my dad and moms are still talking it over.
I thought I'd end up with my ma's SUV, but then my dad said
he's worried about rollover accidents, blahblahblah. So right
now, nothing of my own, which is an injustice because, 'Hello!
Beacon Hotels! More money than God!' They can't afford to get
me a car? Please."
"Heck, you're lucky to even get your license,"
her friend replied. "At least your parents paid for the
class. I'll be 18 before I can even drive, let alone get a
"True, I guess I should count my blessings, huh?"
Her friend just nodded in response "…Oh, damn it,"
Francesca rolled her eyes and pointed to the person several
feet in front of them. She had on a school jacket that read
'Rivera-Spencer' across the back.
"Annoying sister at 12 o'clock," she warned.
"Elena's not that bad. My sister, on the other hand…"
Francesca's eyebrows furrowed as she watched Elena.
"What?" her friend added as she noticed the curious
expression on Francesca's face.
Three girls had Elena surrounded. One of them pushed her
head to one side as another knocked the books from her hand. A
third girl stood by and just laughed. When Elena reached down
to retrieve her items another one pushed her down, face first,
with a foot to her backside.
"Come on," Francesca said motioning her friend to
follow her as she picked up the pace.
Once there, Francesca asked the trio, "What's going
on?" When she didn't get an answer immediately from them,
she turned to Elena. "What did you do now?" she
"Nothing," Elena insisted. "I was just
trying to get to class."
"Not in our hallway, Freshman. You walk around,"
one of the girls taunted, and smacked away the book Elena had
managed to pick up.
Francesca pushed the bully backward with a hard shove,
which began to create a group of onlookers, hoping to see a
"Let it go," Elena told Francesca. "I'm
Francesca ignored her and continued to face the bully.
"Your hallway, huh? Where's your name on it,
The growing crowed 'oohed' and 'ahhed' at the remark as
Elena quickly began to gather her belongings.
"I don't have to take any shit from some lowly
sophomore and her spaz FreshMEAT sister."
"So you know us then?" Francesca asked.
"Everyone knows the Spencer Sisters. Your parents are
dykes," she taunted.
Francesca began to laugh.
"You know, no one in the last 15 years of my life has
told me that before, so, really, thanks for the tip," she
said sarcastically. "Honestly…If that's the most
original 'insult' you can come up with – some 'yo momma is
gay' comment, well, I'm not gonna have a battle of wits with
an unarmed person, okay?"
This time the gathering chuckled collectively.
The bully didn't look very happy to be made fun of, and she
fired off with, "Your parents are perverts!"
Again, Francesca grinned.
"How would you know what my parents do? Oh, wait! Now
I recognize you! You're the one! The one who hangs out in the
trees around my house, looking through our windows at night.
So tell me, who's the REAL pervert here?"
Again, the group collectively chuckled.
Francesca didn't say more. She just handed her friend her
books and began to help Elena recover the last of her items.
The bully, however, had other plans and shoved Francesca while
her back was turned, which sent her to her knees. Then she
kicked Elena on the shoulder – an act that put her on her
Francesca's jaw tightened and Elena began to shake her
"Walk away, Chessie. She's not worth getting into
Francesca smiled. However, it wasn't a look of merriment
exactly. It was one more of recognition. She was resolving
herself for what she knew would lie ahead of her.
"No," she replied calmly. "Some things are
worth fighting for, El."
Francesca swiftly moved to her feet and faced her foe.
"Hey, Coward, why not take a shot now that my back's
The group around them began to chant 'fight, fight, fight'
upping the tension between them.
"Come on," Francesca taunted. "One swing is
all it takes to open a can of whoop ass."
The bully charged and swung, but Francesca raised her arm,
blocking the blow. She then used their close proximity and
drove her elbow right into the other girls' nose. Almost
immediately blood began to flow. Elena turned away from the
fight for a moment at that point. Francesca didn't pause for a
second though. She grabbed the girl by the arm, and with all
of her strength, she tossed her toward the crowd of onlookers.
That's when the attackers two friends decided to get into
the mix. One of them managed to snag Francesca by the arms,
leaving her torso open to attack. As the bully moved to her
feet, the second friend reared her hand back to hit Francesca
in her stomach. Francesca readied herself for the blow, but
Elena pushed the second girl before she could strike her
ensnared sister. That gave Francesca enough of a distraction
to work free from her capture.
Seeing what was happening, Francesca's friend now threw her
books aside to stand beside Francesca and Elena. Across from
them, the other three girls stood, holding their ground. In a
matter of seconds, both gangs ran toward each other – fists
were thrown, hair was pulled, skin was bitten. It was far from
the most graceful of melees, and in truth, it didn't last that
long before the staff tried to make their way to the fighting
girls. Their arrival, however, proved too late for the bully
as Francesca landed the coupe de grâce that would have SHS
talking for years.
"You threw someone through a plate glass
window?!" Natalia screeched in the principal's office a
half hour later. The five of them – the principal, Natalia,
Olivia and the Spencer sisters, with ice packs on their
knuckles – sat in the small office.
Francesca tried to keep the grin from her face as she
"I didn't start this fight. I just finished it,"
Olivia had to hide her grin behind her hand.
"By throwing someone through a plate glass
window?" Natalia repeated hotly. "You could have
killed her and then what? Prison?"
Francesca shrugged. "It was shard-proof. She's fine.
The window though, well, that's toast…"
"There aren't enough days on the calendar for your
grounding," Natalia told her.
"What?!" Francesca and Olivia both asked. The
fact that Olivia had piped in too made everyone look in the
older woman's direction.
Olivia turned to the principal.
"Mr. Suttor, we will pay for the window or anything
else that was damaged. But honestly, I don't think my
daughters are to blame here based on what you've told
"What?!" Now it was Natalia, and even Elena and
Francesca, who were surprised.
The principal leaned forward from behind his desk.
"You should know that the other families are
considering a civil suit, and they've asked that the police be
"Fine," Francesca said as she shrugged and folded
her arms across her chest. "Let 'em call the police. My
dad's the chief. No one here is going to jail except
"You drop the attitude now, Missy," Natalia
warned. "Your father is not getting you out of
"Fine," Francesca said again, "But how can
"Francesca Emily Rivera-Spencer," Olivia said
cutting her short. "Quit digging the hole you're in and
shut the…heck up." Olivia then turned to the principal.
"My daughter's comments aside, if the other family would
like to press charges, that's fine - so will we. I'd like to
chalk this up to a schoolyard scuffle and an old, faulty
window. However, if they want to press the issue, I'm willing
to take our chances in court, regardless of Chessie's
relationship to Chief Cooper."
"Well, we take these kinds of situations very
seriously," the principal replied.
"As you should. But self-defense is not a crime. And
honestly, if someone here at this school had paid attention to
see these girls taunting Elena to begin with, then none of
this would have escalated. If I wanted to be really vindictive
I could suggest that this is all the fault of the school, and
you know what? Chances are, I might win. But instead of all
that, why don't we speak to the other parents, see if we can
let bygones be bygones and buy the school a new window? Whatta
"They're with the assistant principal right now,"
Olivia motioned to the door. "Lead the way…"
She then turned to Elena and Francesca. "You two stay
here for now."
Both girls nodded and watched their moms and the principal
leave. There was a thick silence in the room, with the only
noise being the loud, ugly white clock. That was until Elena
It was a single question.
"Why what?" Francesca asked in annoyance,
although she knew what Elena was about to ask.
"Why'd you stick up for me?"
Francesca rubbed the back of her neck and stood up to pace
"Why do you think, Dumb ass?"" When Elena
didn't argue about the insult or even blink, Francesca added,
"Because you're my sister."
"But you don't like me."
"Yeah, but that doesn't give anyone the right to beat
you up for no reason…" Francesca smiled, just slightly.
"Besides, beating you up for no reason…that's my
Elena grinned a little as another silence passed between
them. She looked behind her to the door to see if anyone was
approaching. In a whispered voice she admitted, "It
really was kinda cool when you tossed her through that window.
At first, I was worried she was dead, and you'd be in prison
like Ma said, but afterward…it was cool. Even Mom smiled.
Did you catch that?" she asked conspiratorially.
Francesca nodded and grinned a bit too widely. She had to
put the ice pack to her bruising cheek as the pain overtook
"And it was pretty cool how you eventually stood up to
them," Francesca complimented.
"I wasn't standing up to them," Elena argued.
"I was trying to even the odds for you. Of course, unlike
you, I was scared out of my mind."
"I was scared too," Francesca admitted in a quiet
"Please, you never get scared," Elena replied.
"Whatever," Francesca sighed.
Elena paused. "Really?"
"Do I need to call you a Dumb ass again? Yes, really.
Everyone gets scared, but sometimes you gotta take chances.
And that fear, well, that's there to let you know what you're
doing is probably something really important… or incredibly
"So fighting is important then?" Elena asked.
"According to Ma-."
"Ma, can be a wuss sometimes," Francesca cut her
off. Elena looked quickly to the door. "And obviously you
can be a wuss too since you checked out the door to see if she
heard that comment."
"I dare you to say that to Ma's face."
"Ya see? Doing that right now would be one of those
'incredibly stupid' things I mentioned."
For a brief second they shared a small smile, until
Francesca gave Elena an appraising and grateful expression.
"Anyway," Francesca continued, "it's good to
know that when push comes to shove…literally…Miss 'Give
Peace a Chance' is at my side and ready to fight." She
then quickly added, "And so help me God, if you tell
anyone I said that-."
"It'll be our secret," Elena piped up.
"Good…Now here's hoping that Mom wins the debate
over Ma in the punishment area. I'd like to be able to go to
"That's in two years," Elena pointed out.
"Yeah, I know." Francesca said dryly.
Elena just smiled.
Saturday Afternoon, 1:25 PM, June 9th, 2029
"Aunt Chessie really throwed a girl into a
window?" Eriko asked from the back seat.
"Threw a girl," Olivia corrected. "And yes,
it's true, much to your Abuela's chagrin."
"What's chagrin mean?"
"Disappointment," Natalia answered flatly. Olivia
"Well, I'd be too scared to hit someone," Eriko
replied. "I'd worry about them hitting me back."
"You're wise beyond your years, Eriko," Natalia
"Have you ever been scared Grams?"
"Lots of times," Olivia answered.
"What would you say was the scariest?"
"That's easy. It was when your Aunt Elena was born -
your Abuela died."
"So they tell me," Natalia replied. "I just
remember feeling real sleepy and then waking up in a hospital
Natalia motioned for Olivia to continue.
"Well, it stated when your Uncle Rafe was on leave
from the Army. Well, actually, I should back up - we didn't
get along too great before Elena was born. He kind of…tolerated
"Lots of reasons, but one was he wanted your Abuela to
be with Francesca's daddy instead of me."
Olivia nodded. "And to be honest, your Abuela and I
really didn't get along when we first met. But that's a story
for another time. Needless to say, we found out we had a lot
in common and fell in love."
Eriko paused. "Okay, but what's this got to do with
"I see you like to cut to the chase like your
mother," Olivia said getting back on path. "Well,
Rafe was home for New Years and your Abuela was ready to have
your Aunt Elena at any moment…"
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
The Coopers, which consisted of Buzz, Lillian, Frank and
Blake were donning their coats at the farmhouse living room
door. Over by the sofa sat Doris and her girlfriend Brenda.
Nearby were Daisy, Ashlee and James. Over the fireplace was a
sign that read, "Welcome Home Rafe."
"Natalia, everything was wonderful," Lillian
"Yeah, I think I gained ten pounds. So thanks a
bunch," Blake said sarcastically, but then smiled as she
hugged Natalia, who stood between Rafe and Olivia.
"Seriously, Lillian's right. It really was
"Don't thank me," Natalia replied. "Olivia
did most of the work. I just made the sugar-free cake."
"Really?" Lillian was surprised.
"She's a chef," Buzz said casually as he nodded
to Olivia, who was lingering behind her pregnant wife.
"No way," the Cooper women replied in harmony.
Frank and Buzz both nodded along with Natalia.
"Yeah, and I found out this information…when was it,
Dear?" she asked turning to Olivia who mumbled something.
"We didn't hear you," Natalia added.
"Six months ago," Olivia replied guilty.
"Right, six months ago. She's made me cook all these
years, never knowing she's a chef. I'm making tuna noodle
casseroles and she's Julia Child over here."
Olivia giggled. "If you knew I was a chef you'd make
me do all the cooking, so I kept my mouth shut."
Even Rafe had to grin a little at that.
"Olivia Spencer is one smart cookie," Frank
chuckled and they high-fived, which earned them disapproving
looks from their women.
"What?" Olivia and Frank asked jointly.
"That's not true, you know?" Natalia replied.
"You mean Olivia is dumb?" Buzz provoked, which
earned him a light slap from Lillian and Blake.
"Thanks a lot, Sweetheart," Olivia harrumphed to
Natalia. "Call me dumb, sheesh."
"No! It's not true you'd have to do all the
cooking," Natalia told her.
"Be honest," Olivia began and held up a finger.
"Would you have made me tuna noodle casserole if you knew
I was a chef?" Natalia didn't answer. She just looked
away guiltily. "See? You wouldn't have and I love tuna
noodle casserole, especially yours. Just because I'm a chef
doesn't mean I have to eat duck and Beef Wellington all the
"Speaking of," Buzz said, "That Beef
Wellington tonight was fantastic."
"I was partial to the duck myself," Blake replied
as she nodded.
"And I can't make either, so there," Natalia
"Honey, when you can see your feet again, I'll be
happy to teach you," Olivia offered.
"I might hold you to that," Natalia said as she
pulled Olivia down for a quick kiss. At that moment, Emma
entered carrying a cranky Francesca.
"I think she needs something," Emma surmised.
"She's not happy AT ALL," she stressed.
"AT ALL?" Olivia mimicked Emma playfully as she
took her. "Well, let's see what the problem might
be." The infant settled down for only a moment in
Olivia's embrace. Upon seeing Frank, she reached out for him,
her hands making, and releasing, little fists that were
grasping for him. "You want daddy, huh?" Olivia
asked and got a 'DaDa' in response.
Frank opened his arms and the baby leaned forward into him.
Once secure in his arms, Francesca rested her little head on
his shoulder and began to suck her thumb.
"Ah, someone's getting tired," he said as he ran
his hand over the back of her head of dark curls.
"At home," Blake began, "Frank lays on the
sofa with her on his chest and she usually falls asleep on
"You wanna go beddy-bye, Angel?" Frank asked.
Francesca's little head nodded. "Can I…?" Frank
motioned toward the top of the stairs with his head.
"Sure," Natalia told him. "Let's go see if
we can get her down."
"Ah," Buzz sighed. "The joys of
grandparenthood allows us the luxury of leaving," he
joked. "Seriously, we're gonna take off. Seven comes
pretty early." He then turned to Rafe. "And you
Buddy…" he pulled Rafe into a hug. "Welcome home,
Pal. We expect to see you again on the next leave."
"You can count on it, Buzz," he said as he pulled
back and gave Lillian a hug too.
Blake was taking off her coat as Buzz and Lillian left.
"So…" Olivia said to her, "…another
drink while we wait?"
She tossed her coat over the stair railing. "Why the
hell not? Lead the way."
As they headed toward the kitchen, Olivia called over to
Doris and Brenda, "Another?"
"Like you need to ask," Doris answered with a
grin and pulled Brenda along with her.
Upstairs, Frank was sitting in the rocking chair as Natalia
finished putting on Francesca's PJ's.
"Can I ask a question?" he called over softly.
"Sure," Natalia replied as she struggled to keep
Francesca's leg still enough to get it inside the fuzzy
"Why are you naming the new little one Elena?"
"It means 'shinning light' or 'the bright one' in
Spanish," she replied. "I liked having a Spanish
name this time and Olivia liked the meaning…Any reason
Frank shrugged. "It's just similar to my ex-wife's
"Oh, Frank, we didn't even think of that. I'm
Frank snorted. "Why are you sorry? She's your daughter
– you can name her what you like."
"I know, but still, we didn't do it maliciously."
Frank waved her off. "Eleni and I were over a long
time ago. I'm happy with Blake. I was just curious – that's
"Really? That's the only reason?" Natalia asked
as she brought their daughter over to him.
"Really," he said sincerely. "I think it's a
beautiful name and I'm sure she'll be just as gorgeous as this
little gal," he said taking Francesca. Natalia grinned,
but as she turned she grabbed her back and winced before she
started to rub it. "You okay?" he asked.
"I think I might have overdone it today. Just don't
tell, Liv. She worries."
Frank began to rock Francesca as she cuddled up in his
"Sure, as long as you promise to tell her if the pain
keeps coming back tonight. Agreed?"
"Frank," Natalia sighed.
"Still trying to look out for me?"
Frank nodded. "And this little one here," he said
pulling Francesca closer. "She's need her mom – both
her moms," he amended, "and she needs them in good
shape. So promise me?"
Natalia grinned. "I promise."
Downstairs in the living room, Rafe and his friends were
"So… have you, uh, seen people die?" James
Daisy and Ashlee both hit him.
"Stop being morbid!" Ashlee shouted. "You
don't have to answer that, Rafe."
"I don't know anyone who's been over there,"
"Yeah, I have," Rafe said in a low voice and
Ashlee looked to Daisy and gave a little motion of her head
to the kitchen.
"Why don't we get everyone some more drinks?"
Daisy asked James.
"It wasn't a suggestion," she said firmly as she
pulled him away.
"I'm sorry about him," Ashlee said as she came
around the coffee table. She sat on the end so she could face
Rafe, who was seated in the wooden chair. "He's a
Spaulding." She rolled her eyes.
"Technically, so am I." Rafe grinned.
"Correction – you didn't 'grow up' Spaulding. That
makes a difference."
"Even you were a Spaulding for awhile. Wasn't your mom
married to my granddad?" Ashlee didn't justify the
question with a response. She shook her head instead, as if
she wanted to forget it all. Rafe paused and then started to
point at her as he did the equation in his head. "That
means your mom was my step-grandmother, which means as Doris's
daughter, you're my step-aunt." Rafe began to roll with
"You pipe down and respect your elders young
man!" Ashlee said as she smiled.
"Hey James!" Rafe yelled toward the kitchen.
"Our step-aunt's gettin' thirsty. Where's her
"You're a pain," Ashlee laughed and grabbed a
pillow from the couch and proceeded to beat Rafe with it. Both
of them still laughed as he managed to steal the pillow away
from her. He tossed it aside and grabbed her by both arms,
pulling her into his lap. She lost her balance and crashed
against him as he tightened his hold.
"I gotcha. Whatta gonna do now?" he said softly,
their lips mere inches away from each other.
At first, neither one of them moved.
"Uh," Ashlee stuttered, "Maybe throw myself
on the mercy of the court?" she suggested as she relaxed
into his embrace.
Rafe relaxed his hold and he pushed a piece of wayward
blonde hair behind her ear. His fingers trailed down her cheek
and she lazily blinked her eyes.
"I never thanked you yet."
"F-for what?" Ashlee asked.
"For all the letters you guys sent. Well, your
letters, in particular. James sent a postcard or two. Daisy,
well, she mostly talked about James. But you…you were
Ashlee grinned. "Why?"
"Every time I got your letter it felt, just for a
little while, like I was home."
"Then I guess I'll just have to keep it up then,
"I'd like that," Rafe said.
Neither of them was sure just how it happened, but their
lips began to close the small distance between them as their
eyes fluttered shut.
Daisy and James rounded the corner, as Daisy said, "We
got the dr-. Oh, wow!"
"It's not what it looks like!" Ashlee said
quickly as she shot to her feet. "Rafe was just thanking
me for the letters I sent, right?"
She looked to Rafe and nodded her head quickly, hoping he'd
take the hint to agree with her.
"Right," he said sounding a bit defeated.
"Don't go making it a Federal case guys… Where's my
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
Rafe stood on the back porch as he watched his friends
climb into James car. He waved as they made their way down the
driveway. Although they were out of sight, he continued to
stand, his bare hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat.
Olivia paused for a moment just inside the doorway, watching
him. Taking a deep breath she walked outside, two coffee mugs
in her hand. He turned to see who opened the door and then
turned back around. Olivia stepped up to stand beside him.
"Double cream, no sugar," she said holding out
"Thanks," he said as he took it. A small, nervous
silence settled between them before Olivia continued.
"Before Chessie came along," she started,
"your mom and I would sit out here year-round. We’d
watch the rain or the snow - even before we became a couple we’d
just sit and talk - my plans for the Beacon; her plans after
you got out of prison. Of course nothing we planned really
happened the way we thought. I still haven’t franchised as
much as I’d hoped, and you’re not living with us and going
Rafe took a drink of his mug but didn’t say anything.
"She liked being outside," Olivia continued,
"and swore she’d never move back to the city. We don’t
really get much of a chance to come out in the cold now
though. Maybe when your sisters are a little older we will
again and watch them play in the snow."
"Why do you talk to me?" The question wasn’t
spoken in malice. There was a true sense of wonder in it. He
turned to face Olivia.
"For all practical purposes, you’re my step-son. Why
"I treated you like…"
Rafe hung his head. "Yeah."
Olivia shrugged. "Not at first. Remember that time you
picked Emma up from school?" He nodded. "I met your
compassion and generosity by lecturing that your father was
dead and I wasn’t him just because I had his heart. You
remember that?" Rafe nodded again. "I was still
recovering and…I was too self-absorbed and blind to take
what was offered me. Maybe if I had then…maybe you would
have come to talk to me instead of taking a gun into Jeffrey’s
"No, that was my doing," Rafe said.
"You’re damn right it was," Olivia said
matter-of-factly. "But the point remains the same. During
that time, I pushed you away. I pushed your mother away. But
unlike your mother, you stayed away and things went from bad
to worse for you. If I made more of an effort, maybe you would
have made different choices; that’s all I’m saying."
Olivia cleared her throat. "So here’s the deal…I’m
not your Mom."
Rafe chuckled slightly. "Boy, do I know THAT."
"Right, huh?" she chuckled, asking it more in
agreement than in question. "In some ways though, that’s
better. You don’t have to protect my feelings or worry about
my peace of mind. You can be totally open and honest with me
and I can take it. Because, although I do care, I’m not AS
invested as she is. And unlike Buzz or Frank, I’m not ‘one
of the guys.’ You don’t have to put on the stiff upper
lip; manly attitude. Right here," Olivia said as she
motioned back and forth. "Between us…you can just be
Rafe…I’m mention this because I heard Daisy in the kitchen
berate James for asking if you’d seen anyone killed…I’m
saying…if you want to talk about it, or anything, you can
talk to me. You won’t be any less of a man in my eyes and I
don’t see you as my baby that I need to protect."
Rafe cleared his throat. "I love Frank; Buzz too…
But yeah, you’re right. It’s not easy to talk about
it." Rafe barked out a laugh. "You can’t tell
another guy you pissed yourself the first day in-country. So
much for being strong or brave, huh?" Olivia didn’t say
anything. She just listened and sipped her coffee. Rafe, for
his part, took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
"That kid. He was 18. He’d just graduated from high
school. Like most of us he just wanted to go college. He didn’t
have the money and his parents couldn’t help with a loan so
he signed up…You know, Alan told me before he died that he
was proud of me – I was the first Spaulding to serve his
country. I didn’t realize it then but what he was really
saying was money bought privilege. And the people who say that
the freedom of this country and the wars in the country are
covered in the blood of the poor…They may not be entirely
right but they’re not wrong either. Pvt. Monroe could tell
you that if he was still here. But he’s not."
Rafe took a ragged breath as Olivia just continued to
listen as his voice cracked. "You realize how short life
is when you’re faced with not living anymore. You
He turned to her and she nodded in complete understanding.
"It’s like…one moment you can be talking to
someone and the next they’re gone… At least I can say I
made it out of my teens," Rafe guffawed, although there
was little merriment in his voice. For a few moments, neither
of them said anything. "Monroe didn’t – he was barely
out of high school. So it makes you start to count your
blessings. So – and I won’t lie here - although I wish my
mom could have loved Frank, I’m just glad to see she’s
happy. And I hope you keep making her happy."
"I’ve never loved anyone more," Olivia said
"Not even Emma’s dad, or my dad?"
"Nope. She’s the one…And for the record, she’s
very proud of you Rafe. We both are."
"Even though there are times over there I feel like a
quivering bowl of Jello?"
"Especially then. It means your human." Olivia
smiled. "Really, Rafe, I couldn’t do what you’re
doing right now. I’m not sure I’d have the courage. But
the great thing is when you come home you can always look at
every difficulty you face and say, ‘At least this is easier
than being in a war zone’."
Rafe gave her a genuine laugh. "Yeah, I’m primed to
take on anything huh?"
"Yes, you are. And whatever you decide I’m sure you’ll
be great at it. That courage and determination will be a
wonderful asset to any company."
Rafe just smiled his thanks when they heard the door open.
Natalia stepped out wearing her coat with Doris and Brenda
"Hey," Natalia said. "Sorry, I didn’t want
"That’s okay. You alright?" Olivia asked as she
looked from Natalia to see Brenda and Doris both grinning
broadly behind her.
"Brenda and Doris are gonna stay here tonight. I think
I’m having back labor and number four is on the way."
Olivia’s smile soon mimicked her friend’s.
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
"You mean five," Olivia corrected Natalia as they
stood on the porch.
"Yes, we have five kids," Olivia said. "Ava,
Rafe, Emma, Chessie and now this little one. One, two, three,
four, five," she added as she held up her fingers.
"Oh please, Ava doesn't count," Natalia tisked
with a wave of her hand.
"Ava does too count," Olivia insisted.
"She's never lived here. It's not the same."
"I distinctly remember you telling Ava when I first
moved in that she would have a room in this house. Did you, or
did you not, say that?"
"Olivia, it's not the same."
"Did you, or did you not, say that?" Olivia
"Yes, but she's been married and she's on her own for
"So, by your reasoning, if Rafe got married or the
girls got married, they'd cease being our kids?"
Suddenly, Natalia held her back and winced in pain. "Oh,
you're not faking labor to get outta this one," Olivia
"Can we argue about this on the way to the
hospital?" Natalia asked annoyed, gritting her teeth.
"We're not going anywhere until you acknowledge Ava as
our daughter." Olivia put her arms across her chest.
"Olivia!" Doris and Brenda both scolded her.
"Are you serious?" Natalia growled. "Are you
really going to give me a hard time about this right
Olivia didn't reply, but her eyes continued to bore into
"Fine," Natalia relented. "Ava is our
daughter just like Emma, just like Francesca, and just like
Elena will be." In a smaller voice she muttered under her
breath, "even if Ava is only a decade or so younger than
me." She turned back to Olivia and, in a louder voice,
asked, "Happy now?"
Olivia unfolded her arms and cynically said,
"Delighted. Get your coat."
Several minutes later, Natalia made her way to the
maternity ward at Cedars with Olivia on one side of her and
Rafe on the other.
"Ava doesn't count," Olivia muttered as they
stepped off the elevator.
"I said you won," Natalia sighed in frustration.
"Let it go."
"Wait until she hears this one," she continued
"That's it!" Natalia exclaimed as she reached her
limit. "You're dismissed. Go sit this one out because you
aren't helping me relax," she said as she pointed a
finger at Olivia. "Rafe? Be my coach!"
Rafe smiled and held his hands up.
"You know I love ya, Ma. But I don't know nothin'
about birthin' no babies, okay?" he laughed. "You
two just need to sort this out."
Olivia smiled, but Natalia didn't look very happy.
"I'm just teasin'," Olivia told Natalia.
"I don't care," she replied. "Do I look like
I want to be teased right now, Olivia? Huh? Do I? I'm busy
being in labor, giving birth to our daughter–and-so-help-you-GOD…
if the next words out of your mouth are about Ava being our
daughter too you'll be living at the Beacon for a month, maybe
more. No, I take that back. You'll be at home taking care of
the kids while I'LL be at the Beacon ordering room service.
"Ma'am, yes ma'am." Olivia saluted.
Natalia growled a little and Rafe shook his head.
"Now that right there, Liv," he told her as he
held up his hands. He seemed to struggle for what to say and
just gave up. "That's just…dumb. Never poke a bear with
"Who you callin' a bear?" Natalia challenged her
"You know," he began, trying to sound diplomatic.
"I'm so far out of this conversation, I'm just gonna go
sit in that waiting area," he added as he motioned to the
"I'm sorry," Natalia sighed. "Come
here," she said as she pulled him into an embrace.
"Good luck, Ma. Not that you'll need it."
"I love you, Raphael."
"I love you too, Ma," he told her as they kissed
each other on the cheek. When he pulled back, he looked at
Olivia. "You come get me when it's over, okay? Don't
forget about me."
"Never," Olivia said sincerely.
"Tell me that wasn't another Ava jab," Natalia
Olivia shook her head as she smile.
"I really opened a can of worms, didn't I?" she
said to Rafe.
"I'll repeat, I'm out of this conversation," he
laughed, backing up slowly and heading toward the vacant
As his mother and Olivia made it toward the double doors
that would take them back to the labor rooms, he watched
Olivia give him one last look. He gave her a thumbs up sign,
which she returned.
Once they were out of sight, he sat down and picked up a
magazine. And then another. And then another. He looked up at
the clock to see an hour had gone by. He opened his cellphone
and pressed a number.
"Hey Blake," Rafe said. "I just thought I'd
call and let you guys know that Ma went into labor tonight…"
Rafe smiled as he listened to the other end. "Not long
after you guys left, actually…. I'm up at Cedars now. I'm in
the waiting room on maternity and Olivia's back there with Ma…With
Doris and Brenda at the house…Nah, you don't have to do
that. Of course, you're welcome to come by if you like. I just
don't want you to think you have to come here….Nah, I'm good
with waiting on my own. I just wanted to give you guys a heads
up…Okay, will do… You too, Blake. Bye."
Rafe hung up and stood to put the phone into his pocket
when he saw Olivia at the double doors. He smiled
automatically, but with each passing second his smile began to
fade. Something wasn't right. Olivia wasn't smiling. She
wasn't happy at all. Her eyes were blood shot and red.
Rafe's voice cracked, "Ma? Is she…?"
Olivia looked like she was going to hyperventilate and she
clutched at her chest, trying to draw in a deep breath. Rafe
quickly closed the distance between them.
"Olivia, is Ma okay? Is it the baby? What's going
on?" he asked in rapid fire.
Olivia held a hand up, to let Rafe know she was trying to
speak. He looked impatient, but he didn't press her.
"When I left, the doctors said she's alive
again," Olivia told him.
Rafe's mouth hung open for a moment. "What do you mean
"She died," Olivia whimpered.
"What?" Rafe asked in shock.
Olivia nodded. "And they brought her back. I wanted to
stay but they said I couldn't; t-that I had to come out here.
And Elena…she died too, but she came back too and-and-and…I
don't know what's happening right now."
Olivia broke down into tears and Rafe physically had to
hold her upright to stop her from falling over.
"Here," he said trying to guide her to the
nearest chair. Once she was settled, he went to the desk.
"Ma'am," he said to one of the nurses. "We need
an update on my mother, Natalia Rivera. Her… her partner
said she died, but they brought her back. We need to know
what's going on," he told her.
"I'll see what I can find out," she said
Rafe nodded his thanks and made his way back to Olivia, who
was now shaking violently in the chair.
"Olivia?" he began as he knelt before her. He put
his hands on her knees. "Look, I've got the nurse
checking into things, okay? But you're gonna have to calm
down." He could see her struggling to get her breath.
"We're gonna count backwards from 100, okay? Count with
me, Liv…100…99…Come on, Liv, what comes next?"
"98," she said softly. Rafe nodded his head for
her to continue. "97…96…95…" When she trailed
off and started to tear up, he took her gently by the chin.
"What comes after 95?" he asked her. "Stay
focused on me, okay? 95 and then…?"
Olivia closed her eyes and continued to count.
"94…93…92…91…" With each number her voice
"Good," he said as he pulled out his cell phone.
"Keep counting, Liv. Don't stop no matter what. I gotta
make a call, okay?"
He pushed another number and walked a few feet away.
"Buzz, save the congrats. I need to talk to Lillian
right now, okay? Immediately. She'll explain it to you… Hey,
I need help up here at Cedars. They kicked Olivia out of the
birthing room - my mom died and came back to life…We don't
know. All I know is Liv is seriously freaking out here. Can
you get someone here on the double to give her a pill or a
shot or something? I think she might end up having a heart
attack… I got her counting backwards now. That's what we do
with the guys in the field… Yeah, it's working for now, but
I don't know how long that will last…Okay, bag, got it.
Three breaths in and four without, right. Thanks Lillian.
Rafe hung up and raced back to the nurse's station. He
noticed a brown paper bag on behind the counter and opened it.
"That's my lunch!" one of the nurses said as she
reached for it. Rafe spilled the contents on the counter.
"You can keep the food," he told her as he raced
back to Olivia with the bag in hand.
That got their attention enough to notice they might have
another emergency on their hands.
"Hey, Liv?" Rafe said gently, coming to rest
beside her. "I called Lillian and she's gonna call
someone to bring you something, okay? Until then I've got a
bag for you to breath into, but let's just keep counting,
alright? Help's comin' - we just gotta be patient."
"Olivia Spencer and the word patience don't go hand in
hand," Rick said making Rafe turn around.
"That was quick," Rafe said. "Lillian works
The intercom said, "Paging Dr. Bauer. Paging Dr.
Bauer," as his beeper began to go off.
"I'm one step ahead of the Coopers," he said as
he held up a syringe.
"But how did you know…?"
Rick looked guilty for a moment.
He'd been downstairs in the ER when one of the nurses came
"She was dead," the nurse said to the
registration nurse. "A goner. How she came back, it's a
"Who?" Rick asked as he overheard them.
"Woman up on maternity. Get this: normal pregnancy,
healthy older woman, and boom, cardiac arrest. The freaky
thing is it was a C-section and the baby died too. But Dr.
Ayers brought 'em both back."
"A two for one special, huh?" Rick teased.
"No doubt," the register nurse laughed.
"Which one was it? Two ladies came in tonight."
"The Latina. I don't remember the name, but it was the
lesbian couple. Starts with an 'R'."
"Rivera?" Rick said, sounding worried.
The nurse snapped his fingers. "That's it – Rivera.
You know her?"
"Shit," Rick said. "Get me four millgrams of
"But Ms. Rivera has a doctor."
"It's not for her – it's for her partner with a
heart transplant. Don't make me ask twice."
The nurse ran off and retrieved the syringe he now held as
he talked to Rafe.
"Truth is," he told the young man, "word
about what happened to your mom reached the ER. I figured
Olivia might need this," he said as he held up a needle.
"Of course I'm not sure why I'd be compelled to help –
you stole my Annual 4th of July Barbeque – everyone goes to
your house now."
Olivia ignored the barb. "What are you doing
Rick?" she asked.
"Just a little friend from the benzodiazepine family
called Lorazepam. I'm sure you've heard of his cousins Valium
"I'm not going to be stoned for my daughter’s birth…and
then death…and then birth again…" Olivia teared up.
"She might have died again, Rick." She started to
cry, "They could be dead."
"And what happens when they survive, but you don't,
because you had a heart attack, huh? Quit being so stubborn
and take the damn shot."
Olivia began to cry again, but this time she lowered her
shirt over her shoulder to expose her upper arm to Rick. After
he was finished he turned to them both. "I'll find out
what's going on."
"I want to see her, Rick. Now. I don't want to
wait," Olivia told him.
He held up his hand. "Let me find out where they are,
okay?" he said before he walked away.
Olivia looked at the carpet by her feet, not focusing on
anything in particular as she spoke to Rafe who sat on a
coffee table directly across from her, holding her hands in
"Remember that summer before Ches was born? When your
mom went away?"
"I was wrong."
Rafe's brow furrowed. "About?"
"I didn't think I could feel more lonely, more
devastated, than I did then…" She looked up and met his
eyes and took a ragged breath. "But, I was wrong.
Tonight's topping it…I think my entire world is starting to
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
"Hi there," a man in a white coat said as he
entered and then shook Natalia's hand. "I'm Dr.
Poniewozik – Dr. Pon for short," he said extending
across her to shake Olivia's hand. "Rumor has it, you're
having a baby tonight," he said cheerfully.
"That's the plan," Natalia answered.
"Well, in these parts I'm known as 'the dealer'. I'll
be giving you the anesthesia and good stuff so you'll get
through this feeling just fine. I have a few questions though.
First, do you smoke?"
"No," Natalia replied.
"Good. Second, what medications are you on? I need to
know anything you take regularly, or in the last day or
"Pre-natal vitamins and a Tylenol earlier tonight. I
thought I had a back ache, but it was labor."
"That happens sometimes," he said warmly.
"So, no problems with your nervous system; no heart
issues; no circulation issues."
"No other surgeries of any kind before?"
"So you're the poster gal for good health, huh?"
Dr. Pon asked with a pleasant smile.
"Aside from a cold now and then, I've been blessed
with being pretty healthy."
"Great," he replied with a nod. "So what
child does this make then?" he asked.
"Apparently that's open for debate," Olivia
"Five," Natalia stressed as she smiled toward
"You've had five children?" Dr. Pon asked
"Well, five between us," Natalia motioned toward
herself and Olivia. "I didn't give birth five times. She
has two daughters from previous relationships. I have a son
and this one here will make our second girl we've had
"So it's like the Brady Bunch," he teased.
"It's the storyyyyy…of a lovely ladyyyy," he began
to sing, making Olivia and Natalia giggle. "So you've had
two kids so far and both of them naturally; no drugs?"
"Right, this is the first druggie child. That sounds
bad, huh?" Natalia chuckled.
"Ehhhh, I know what you mean," Dr. Pon replied
with a smile as he jotted down a note. He looked through his
paper work. "Dr. Ayers is still doing a C-section, is
Natalia nodded and Olivia added, "Yeah, the baby
decided she wanted to back out instead of coming head
"Kids, huh? They never do what you want, do
they?" Dr. Pon looked up and smiled. "Women deliver
breach babies quite often, but – and no disrespect is meant
by what I'm about to say – given your age, Natalia, a
Cesarean is probably the best route for both your sakes. The
less variables, the better." He pulled out a piece of
paper and closed his chart as he rested the paper on top. He
pulled a pen out of his pocket.
"Now for the formalities. What we'll be doing is
giving you epidural anesthesia, which is injected into the
spine that blocks the transmission of signals through nerves.
The purpose is to create a loss of sensation and a loss of
pain. As a woman who's been in labor before, you're probably
thinking that's not a bad thing." Olivia and Natalia
grinned at the smiling doctor. "But there are risks
involved that we need to point out. That's why I need you to
sign these forms saying that we've talked about this. The side
effects are listed here," he said as he handed it to
Natalia. "Most people experience none of these things,
but you could experience anything from drowsiness to loss of
function of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls
blood pressure or other symptoms that result in death. Of
course, that's worst-case scenario, and statistically
speaking, you're more likely to die from a car accident, an
assault or a fall in your home. The point is epidural
anesthesia isn't 100% safe, but it is safer than walking
across a busy intersection. So I'm going to leave this with
you so you can sign it. Once we've got it, we're good to go,
and I'll be back with your drugs."
Natalia held up a finger and signed the form. "I know
what's here," she said, handing it back.
Dr. Pon nodded and took the form from her.
"It's almost showtime, so I'm going to get ready. I'll
see you two ladies in the deliver room, okay?"
"Thank you Dr. Poniewozik," Olivia told him.
"Yes, thank you," Natalia added.
He nodded and left the room.
Natalia grinned and held up her hand. "Five," she
said with a grin and rubbed her belly.
Olivia laced her fingers between Natalia's. "I get it
and in some ways Ava isn't even MY kid, let along yours."
"Olivia," Natalia tried to argue.
"Just hear me out, okay?" Natalia nodded and
waited for Olivia to continue. "I love Ava, and yes, she
is blood, but I didn't raise her. She found me when she was
practically an adult, and much like with you, during our first
few months, well, I didn't like her," Olivia chuckled and
Natalia smiled, but then Olivia grew serious. "And,
again, over time, like with you… I realized how special she
was. So yeah, we've never made her super secret sandwiches
together like we have for Em' so…I get why you feel the way
"Actually, I don't think you do."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you know one of the problems I have?"
Natalia asked. Olivia cocked her head and waited for her to
continue. "I see Ava and…I see a grown woman who's not
that much younger than me. I feel like Aston Kutcher to your
Demi Moore sometimes."
"Hey! I'm not THAT much older than you," Olivia
countered with a chuckle.
"Okay, true. You had Ava young, like I had Rafe young.
So I guess it's more correct to say I feel like Aston Kutcher
to Ava's Rumer Willis. There's only about a decade or so
separating us. Even Aston has said he's more the friend than a
step-dad because of the age thing. But they still respect each
Olivia grinned. "I didn't know you followed celebrity
"I don't, but most of the maids of the world do. So
whether you like it or not, you pick up a few things in the
course of conversation. Another fact with Ava is…well… I
don't really know her – I haven't been around her that much.
All the other kids…we've had tons of interaction
"Well, how about we change that?"
"Why don't I buy a hotel in California and have her
run it? I'll bring her here for training. She can live with
us. And then you can get a chance to know her. She'll get to
hang out with Emma and the girls too. It could be good for all
"I like the idea, but do you think she'll do it?"
"I'll ask her," Olivia replied. Natalia began to
grin broadly. "What?"
"You're a good mom, Olivia. Not that I've ever doubted
that. It's just not everyday someone will buy a hotel for
"It's for my kid, but it's also for you, so she can
get to know the love of my life."
Natalia reached up and stroked Olivia's face.
"Besides," Olivia continued, "it's good
business sense – California is a big tourist market. It's
just nice when a company venture has a positive impact on
The smile ran away from Natalia's face, and she began to
breathe deeply. Olivia took Natalia's hand, but immediately
let it go. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a
ponytail ring and pulled back her hair. She then quickly put
it in place and took Natalia's hand again.
"NOW I'm ready."
Remember Francesca's birth, and Olivia almost being scalped
during labor, Natalia managed to grin despite the growing
"I love you," Natalia huffed out as she tried to
"I love you too, Sweetie," Olivia said as she
pressed her lips to Natalia's head and kept them there as the
contraction painfully gripped her lover.
About a half hour later, the situation had taken a much
different turn. In the operating room, Olivia stood next to
Natalia, who had a grasp on her hand. The younger woman's hold
was weakening as her eyes struggled to stay open.
"I'm real sleepy," Natalia muttered.
"Hang in there. It won't be too long, Honey,"
Olivia told her optimistically.
Dr. Ayers and the nurses continued to prep Natalia for the
C-Section when Natalia's hand went totally limp.
"Natalia? Are you-?"
Olivia didn't get to finish the sentence. The long monotone
of the heart monitor started.
"Natalia?" Dr. Ayers called up as the nurse
checked the monitor.
"She's flatlined," she quickly reported and waved
to a nurse in the corner.
"What's happening?" Olivia asked, her head
looking around the room for an answer. She watched helplessly
as they rolled the crash cart toward the bed.
"Olivia, we have to restart her heart. You need to let
go of her," the nurse replied and motion to Natalia's
Shocked, Olivia didn't move at first, until a nurse on the
other side gently extracted her and guided her to step back.
"Fetal monitor?" Dr. Ayers asked.
"Fetal heart rate weakening," the Nurse Verno
said after checking.
"Okay, baby first. We do this now. Nurse Verno
countdown by minute, please," Dr. Ayers said as he made
an incision in Natalia's stomach.
Olivia watched through teary eyes as the doctor sliced
through one layer of skin and then another. It was unlike
anything she'd ever seen before, and for a moment, she
couldn't watch. But she took a deep breath and steaded her
nerves to look back again to see what Dr. Ayers was doing.
"One minute," Nurse Verno called out, stealing
some of the attention Olivia had fixed back on Elena.
Dr. Ayers removed Elena from her lover's uterus and cut the
cord. Olivia's eyes didn't seem to know where to focus – on
Natalia or on Elena. Everything in the room seemed to be
moving so quickly, yet agonizingly slow at the same time.
Dr. Ayers handed Elena off to Nurse Saldor, who cleared the
infant's throat. Olivia noticed that the baby was out, but she
"She's not crying," Olivia told the nurse who
took Elena to the examining table. "Why isn't she
crying?" Suddenly Elena let out a shrill, but almost
immediately it stopped. "What's going on?" Olivia
The tiny heart monitor was on Elena, but Olivia noticed it
wasn't working. Nurse Saldor took Olivia's hand.
"I need help, Olivia. Everyone else is busy. Watch me.
I need you to blow, count to three and then repeat," she
told Olivia. She leaned close to Elena's face and exhaled
slowly, but steadily. "Got it?"
It took a couple of seconds, but Olivia nodded. Nurse
Saldor moved and let Olivia take over. She did as instructed
while the attending nurse reached over and turned on a machine
that had a tiny clear mask attached to it. Before Nurse Saldor
could attach it to Elena, the baby gave out a tremendous
"Wonderful job, Mom," Nurse Saldor commended
Olivia and gave her a rub on the arm. "That's it,
Angel," she told Elena. "You keep on yelling' darlin'
- get that little blood flowin' and those lungs pumpin'."
Olivia just nodded, still in shock, when Nurse Verno got
her attention by calling out, "Two minutes!"
"Nurse Canon," Dr. Ayers called out. "Get
Canon nodded and began to rub the pads together as Dr.
Ayers put the finishing touches on closing the C-section.
"Three minutes!" Nurse Verno called out again.
Dr. Ayers nodded and took his hands away and said,
"Go!" as he pointed to Nurse Canon.
"Clear!" Canon yelled out as everyone took a step
back from Natalia.
The jolt of the paddles shook Natalia's body. For three
seconds, no one, except Elena, dare to breathe. When nothing
happened, Dr. Ayers said, "Again!"
"Clear!" Canon yelled again…and once more there
was no response.
Olivia only really heard two things – the insistent drone
of the heart monitor flat-lining noise in front of her and
Elena's wails directly behind her. Everything else sounded
like she was underwater, voices were muffled, and that was if
she could hear them at all.
She watched Natalia's body rise and fall again, and again,
and again while the heart monitor continued to whine the same
note announcing death. She began to shake. Her eyes were
complete pools of saline that were now starting to run down
"Four minutes!" Nurse Verno noted.
"Again," Dr. Ayers said, this time with much less
"Natalia!" Olivia shouted at her lover. "You
listen to me - don't give up! You hear me! You finally got
everything you wanted, and I'll be goddamned to have you just
walk away from us! So you better FIGHT!"
"Clear!" Canon yelled with renewed enthusiasm.
When Natalia didn't reply, Canon began to rub the paddles
again. She nodded for Olivia to continue.
Olivia leaned over to Natalia. "Come on Baby! Don't
leave me! Fight!"
"Clear!" Canon said as a nurse gently pulled
Olivia back as a precaution.
Within seconds of that jolt, the heart monitor began to
beep again and Canon smiled brightly and looked down to Dr.
Ayers who wiped his sweating forehead with his forearm.
Olivia nodded toward Natalia's hand and the nurse nodded
giving her the okay to take it. Natalia felt cold - so cold -
to the touch and Olivia teared up. However, after a few
moments she felt warmth return to the appendage. The reality
of what happened, and the fact it might happen again, hit
Olivia, and she began to shake.
"Olivia?" Dr. Ayers began. Olivia looked at
Natalia's blue lips that were slowly gaining some color again.
"Olivia," he said in a louder, firmer voice to get
her attention. She turned toward him. "We've got to get
them both to ICU so you'll have to go to the waiting area
right now, okay? We'll come get you as soon as we can."
At the time, Olivia could only nod. Now, back in the
present, sitting with Rafe, Olivia cleared her throat.
"When they rolled that crash cart over, and when your
sister literally died next to me…I can't describe…My
father died…My mother died…My grandson died…But this
emptiness...that helplessness of seeing my dead child next to
my dead soulmate..."
Olivia began to cry again and Rafe pulled her close to him
and gave her a hug.
"But she was okay when you left, right?" Rafe
asked. "You said they were both breathing again."
"But what if they're not now? What if they died
again?" Olivia asked. "What then?"
The elevator doors opened and they both looked over to see
"Hey," he said softly. "Lillian called us.
"Not yet," Rafe shook his head.
"Well, with everything that's happened, Blake and I
decided that we'll take Francesca and -."
"No!" Olivia shouted as she came to her feet.
"You're not taking her away from me, Frank! She's mine
too, and you are NOT taking her from me and Emma!"
"Olivia," Frank tried to cut in.
"Do you understand me?" she continued as she
ignored him and turned to her step-son. "You can't let
him do this, Rafe! You can't let him take her from me!"
Rafe looked between both of them, not sure what to say.
"Not for good!" Frank said much firmer. His voice
softened and he added, "Blake and I will look after
Francesca and Emma right now. That way you and Rafe don't have
to worry – you can both stay up here as long as you need to.
And if Emma doesn't want to stay with us, I'll call Philip and
Olivia let out a small chuckled that came across like a
small gasp too.
"I'm sorry, Frankie. Rick's injection hasn't kicked in
yet. I'm kinda…high strung and I thought…"
"I understand," Frank said.
"No, you don't," Olivia replied. "It's just
when you said you'd take her I just…I can't stand to lose
one more thing right now. And you don't get it because you
don't have to worry about me taking Francesca away. Sure, I've
got some signed papers, but in the hands of a bias judge… I
have no sound legal rights to her. You're her dad, her blood
kin, and I'm…"
"Her mom. Case closed," Frank said with great
certainty. "…Or as she says when she sees you, 'MumMumMumMumMum',"
he said mimicking the excited noise the infant makes.
Just for a moment they both grinned.
"Look," Frank continued, "I don't know what
else I can do to assure you that you'll always be Francesca's
mom - just like I'll always be her Dad and Natalia will always
be her Ma. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, but it seems
that neither one of us want to cut the other out of
Francesca's life, right?" Olivia nodded. "Then it's
settled. I'm here for you – all of you – because I
believe, if we needed help, you'd be there for us."
"Well our women are close friends and your
mother-in-law is one of my best friends so…yeah…we're
stuck with each other."
They both grinned.
Rick walked back up to the group. "Okay, I found
"How are they?" Olivia asked nervously.
"Fine, actually. Like nothing happened, in fact."
A sense of wonder, but hopefulness filled the area as Rick
spoke. "Baby Rivera-Spencer is in stable condition in the
Newborn ICU. Momma is in stable, yet albeit, sleepy condition
in the regular ICU. Oh, and she's asking for Jello."
"Jello?" Rafe asked with a growing smile.
Rick just nodded before he continued, "…And her wife
… and her new baby… but not necessarily in that
order." All four of them began to smile and released a
sigh of relief.
"Now, here's the deal, Spencer," Rick told Olivia
as he pointed at her. "She can't have Jello yet and the
baby is in the NICU for at least the night. You, however, I
CAN deliver to her IF you promise to try to calm down, okay?
Think you can keep your emotions in check for both your
Olivia grinned. "I think the meds are finally kicking
in, so, yeah."
"Okay, let's go then," he said motioning her to
She started to walk away, but she paused when Frank and
Rafe stood there.
"Are you coming?"
Rafe shook his head.
"You go. You tell Ma we love her, okay? We'll see her
tomorrow when she's more awake. You're the one she needs
Olivia grinned and then closed the distance between them.
She gave Rafe a soft kiss on the check.
"Thank you for everything. I don't know if I'd gotten
through tonight without you here."
Rafe stroked her arm, but then gave her a gentle push.
"Go on, get outta here. Ma's waiting on ya."
Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
Rick opened the door and motioned his head for Olivia to
make her way in. With careful footsteps, she walked over to
the bed. Natalia's head was turned away from the door – her
chest gently rising and falling as she breathed. Gingerly,
Olivia took Natalia's hand. The younger woman wore a grin
before she even opened her eyes.
"Hey, Baby," Natalia said softly, as she turned
her head toward Olivia.
"How'd you know it was me?" Olivia asked with a
"I'd know those hands anywhere," she replied as
she slowly opened her eyes. "How ya doing?"
Olivia snorted. "How am 'I' doing?" she replied
"Yeah," Natalia said softly.
"Oh, you know," Olivia said casually, "It's
been a pretty uneventful night. …I bonded with my stepson…watched
my daughter's birth, then her death and then her birth again…
Oh, yeah, my wife died too for a few minutes. But ya know,
other than that, it's been quiet. And you?"
"Yeah, rumor has it I died," Natalia said with a
"Make a deal with me. Don't do that again, okay?"
Natalia grinned. "I gotta keep you on your toes
somehow." She began to look serious though after a few
seconds. "How's Elena?"
"I haven't seen her."
"They took her to ICU," Olivia admitted. "I
had to see you first. Rick snuck me in here since visiting
hours are over."
"Why don't you see Elena and then go home,
"Trying to get rid of me?"
"Not at all. I'm just sure you'd like to see her and
get some rest."
Olivia looked reluctant. "Can I make a confession
Natalia only nodded.
"I'm, uh, I feel…bad."
"I wouldn't hurt Elena. Heck, you gave birth to her
and I literally had to breathe life into her. But…I can't
look at her right now. I don't want to see the tubes and the
wires and I…"
"A little part of me hates her," Olivia
whimpered. "It's awful, I know, but…It's because of
her, I almost lost you."
"Olivia," Natalia said compassionately.
"Elena was innocent in this and I'm fine. She's fine.
We're all gonna be fine." Natalia tightened her hold on
Olivia's hand. "You too – you're gonna be fine."
"I'm a horrible person, huh?"
"I think you're human and I think you're tired. Like I
said, go home. Francesca and Emma's waiting for you, I'm
"Big brother Rafe has them, and if he needs help 'Aunt
Doris' and Frank will lend a hand...I'm not leaving you."
"Olivia, I'm fine...now."
"Yeah, now, but that might change. I'd feel better if
I stayed here."
"Well, I won't. You need your rest. You've got a heart
"Pot calling the kettle, Dear?"
Natalia grinned. "I feel fine, honest. I don't know
"I do," Olivia replied. "Or at least Rick
has a theory."
"Bad heart too?"
Olivia shook her head. "No, you seem normal now.
That's why he thinks it might have been the anesthesia. You
never had it before, and he thinks you had what he calls an
'adverse reaction'. Rick," Olivia harrumped, "the
king of understatement."
Natalia grinned. "So all that 'statistically speaking'
stuff kinda went out the window, huh?"
"Seems that way."
"I better not try to cross any busy intersections soon
Olivia let out a chuckle, but then her eyes began to tear
up, and she started to cry. She rested her forehead on the bed
as she sobbed.
"I don't know what I'd do if I ever lose you,"
Olivia mumbled into the blankets.
"Shhhh," Natalia said stroking her hair.
"I'm okay. Elena's okay. That's all that matters,
Olivia sniffed and nodded her head as she raised it again.
She tried her damned to smile.
"Fine. Just promise me you won't go into cardiac
arrest again, okay? It's pretty damn scary watching the woman
you love dying."
"Don't I know it," Natalia replied with great
"You didn't love me then," Olivia countered.
"Sure I did. I just didn't realize it, or to what
extent. I included myself in that list of people that loved
you when you were outside at Company. So I get it and, yeah,
it's nothing I want to see again for either of us." A
small silence fell between them until Natalia continued.
"Elena's the last one, you know? No more kids after
"Do we need any more?" Olivia chuckled.
"No," Natalia said as she stroked Olivia's face.
"I'm quite happy, and blessed, with the family I
Olivia smiled and leaned over, kissing Natalia on the
forehead first and then settling on her lips.
A few minutes later, when Natalia started to yawn, Olivia
decided to let her rest. She made her way to the Newborn ICU.
There were three babies there, one of which was Elena.
"Hi there," the nurse on duty greeted. "You
must be Elena's mom," she said in a friendly tone.
"I hear your partner's doing well now," she added.
"Yeah." Olivia nodded. "She wanted me to
come down and see Elena."
"Sure, come on over," she said as she motioned
her. As Olivia walked over, she had to pass the two other
infants who were attached to breathing and feeding tubes. One
was so tiny she looked like she might fit into the palm of her
hand. In that moment, Olivia realized it could have been worse
– a lot worse. Elena could be one of these children fighting
for her life or she might have stayed dead in that delivery
room. But as it stood now, according to Rick, she was healthy
and responding just the same as any newborn. Her stay in the
newborn ICU was only a momentary precaution, not a struggle
for existence, unlike the other two children in the room.
"Would you like to hold her Mom?" the nurse
"Is it okay?" Olivia asked as she looked into the
crib to see the heart monitor attached.
"Absolutely," the nurse answered optimistically.
"Have a seat," she said as she motioned to a rocker
chair. Olivia sat down and the nurse gathered Elena, and
placed her in her waiting arms.
Olivia looked down at her daughter who was now starting to
suck her tiny thumb, and she began to tear up. It was only a
matter of seconds when the tears began to fall down her
"I'm sorry," Olivia apologized to the nurse.
"I should be overjoyed, right? But I'm still worried; I'm
scared – for her; for her momma."
The nurse handed Olivia a tissue. "Would you believe
you're not the first person to sit in this room and tell me
Olivia gave a short chuckle. "I guess not, huh? I
probably sound pretty dumb."
"No, you sound like a woman who loves people very
deeply, so I'm sure this little lady and her momma will be
well taken care of."
Elena turned her little head and settled against Olivia's
bosom. Immediately after finding a comfortable position, she
let out a small noise that sounded like a contented sigh.
"I think she's claimed you as hers," the nurse
said with a sweet smile.
Olivia looked up with a huge grin and then back to Elena
with total devotion.
"I think she has."