The Potato Salad
What if Natalia DID go to the Barbeque instead of the retreat
with news of her pregnancy?
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.
Pass The Potato Salad – Part I
How is this happening? How is this even possible? Okay, I
slept with Frank. That’s how…This is a test from God –
it has to be, and one of the biggest ones I’ve faced since
he’s given me the gift of Olivia’s love. I just need-.
"We’re here," Blake says from the driver’s
I look out the window and see the convent; the retreat is
only steps away now. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts I hadn’t
noticed we’d arrived. But as I look out the windshield,
everything about leaving feels wrong. I know this isn’t
where I belong.
"Can you take me back?" I ask.
"Where? To Springfield?"
I simply nod.
"Uh, okay," Blake says confused. "But I
thought you wanted to reflect on everything. You’ve got some
big decisions to make, Natalia."
"Yes. I know. And they’re decisions I can’t make
Blake nods and puts the car into gear. About a half hour
later we arrive at my house, dropping off my suitcase. She
says she planned on heading back to the barbeque, so I tag
"Can you do me another favor?" I can hear the
timid tone in my own voice as she puts her car in park at the
Bauer house. I feel like I’ve become such a burden to this
woman, but she smiles reassuringly anyway.
"Can you ask Phillip to look after Emma while you
bring Olivia out here to me? This might take awhile."
At first, she seems reluctant. I know she has a history
with Phillip, and not all of it positive. Still, in light of
that, she says, "Yeah, I can do that. You’ll wait
here?" I nod in response. "Okay. Sit tight. I’ll
She leaves the car running as she walks inside, and after a
few minutes, I pull the keys from the ignition and stand
outside. It’s not that hot out today and I can’t see the
sense in wasting her gas. I’ve already done enough of that
with her driving me around town while I think. I put the keys
in my pocket as I listen to the gathering in the backyard.
From the amount of noise, I can tell there are tons of people
here, so I’m grateful that I decided to meet Olivia out
front. I’m still not sure what I’ll say. Should I ease
into it or should I just blurt it out? I can’t decide and
before I have the chance to consider it any longer I hear
Olivia’s concerned voice behind me.
I turn and I wave her toward me. I can see the look on her
face from here. It’s a mix of nervousness and sadness. I can
tell that she thinks I’ve changed my mind; that I’m
embarrassed or ashamed of our love. The truth is I DO feel
embarrassment and shame right now, but it has nothing to do
with her. Somehow, twenty years later, I managed to find
myself in the exact same position - unmarried, pregnant and
unsure of where my life is heading.
As she approaches, I nervously play with my fingernails.
"Are you okay?" she asks, although she already
knows the answer. I don’t reply. She takes me by both elbows
and pulls me slightly closer.
No, I’m not okay. I’m anything BUT okay. I’m a girl
in trouble, again, twenty years later.
"What’s wrong?" she asks.
That answered one question. I went with ‘just blurt it
She shakes her head and then looks at me again.
"You’re pregnant?" she asks.
I nod. "I just found out yesterday. I wanted to say
something then, but you were so excited about the barbeque
"You’re pregnant?" she repeats.
I can tell she’s absorbing this information, so this time
I only nod.
She blinks several times. "How?…Who?…When?"
Seems neither one of us can form complete thoughts at the
moment. But something occurs to me when I hear the hardness in
her voice. She thinks I’m recently pregnant; that I cheated
on her after we’d declared our love.
"It’s Frank’s," I tell her quickly.
"Remember? It was right after Coop died."
I can tell by the look on her face that she’s computing
the time in her mind.
"But that was like four-five months ago?"
"I know," I tell her, unable to hide the worry in
"How could you not know?" she asks in disbelief.
Now I’m feeling defensive.
"I’ve never had regular periods. I haven’t had any
symptoms until recently. Heck, I thought my nausea was the flu
until Blake made a comment about us."
"She said something about us?" she replies,
sounding miffed at Blake.
"No, nothing bad. She said if I wasn’t with you she
might suspect I was pregnant. So I took a test after you and I
got back from the market yesterday... It came back
"Well, maybe it was just a bogus result," Olivia
"I thought that too, so Blake took me to the hospital
for a blood test and-."
"Blake took you?" she asked, her voice rising.
"You went to Blake with this before me?"
At this point I can only nod as I continue, "I didn’t
want to worry you for nothing, but that test was positive too…so…we’re
gonna have a baby. Or…I’m gonna have a baby. I mean, I’m
not dumb. You didn’t sign on for any of this." I can
feel the tears start to well up in my eyes and I try to push
them down. "Emma is halfway to adulthood and Ava’s
already grown. You might not want to start all over again with
the diapers, and the bottles and the midnight feedings and...
You may not want to be a part of my life now that…"
I can’t stand the thought of her leaving me and I bury my
face in my hands in fear of her resentment. I can’t stand to
see the look of abandonment on her face so I choose to hide.
Yes, this might be a test from God and perhaps this baby is
a blessing. But she might not see it that way. She might see
this child as an anchor around her neck. That though makes me
start to cry in earnest and I begin to mourn for her love that
I’m certain I’ve lost.
"Shhh," I hear her say as she wraps her arms
around me. "Settle down. Just focus on breathing,
I take a few deep breaths and wipe my eyes. "There’s
more," I say.
"More?" she asks incredulously.
"I left today," I confess. "Blake was going
to take me to a retreat because my first reaction was…"
"I thought God was trying to send me a message that I
should have stayed with Frank."
Her arms drop and she takes a step back, but I’m not
letting her get away and I step up and put my hands on her
"Please hear me out?"
She doesn’t answer, but I continue anyway.
"That feeling didn’t last long though, because I
looked at everything that led us to each other. The more I
considered it all, the more I realized that our love truly is
a design of God – and God makes no mistakes. This love –
our relationship was meant to be. And this child isn’t a
curse, but a blessing because the one thing you wished for was
the possibility of me having more children to raise in a
loving home. You said it was the one thing that Frank could
give me that you couldn’t, remember?" She nods and I
continue, "I see it now…God is granting us that. But I
didn’t see it at first, which is why I was going to go to
the retreat. I had to sort things out and my plan was to have
Blake tell you I wasn’t coming because I-I just…I was so
ashamed and the truth is part of me still is."
"That’s why you didn’t tell me; why you haven’t
talked to me?"
I nod. "That and the fact I didn’t want to face you,
and therefore face the prospect that you’d leave me."
Again, I tear up as I feel old wounds from 20 years ago
reopen. "Last time this happened…the people I loved
more than anything tossed me aside. And the love I feel for
you is a million times stronger, which means the pain would be
a million times worse. Like I said, you didn’t agree to
having another child and I couldn’t bare…"
…losing your love.
I have to finish the thought in my head because I’m
crying too hard again to speak. But I suddenly feel her lips
on my forehead and I get my sobs under control.
"I’m sorry," I whimper.
"For what?" she asks gently as her hands cup my
cheeks. I feel her thumbs brush away the tears and the
affectionate gestures steadies me for a moment.
"Everything," I whisper.
"No. Don’t. You said it - this child is a gift. Of
course, I’m not sure how Frank’s going to feel about it
all. We could be in for quite a battle. Have you told him
I shake my head. "You, Blake and a doctor at the
hospital are the only ones who know. Oh, and Father Ray – he
suggested I go away."
"Go figure," she sighs.
"Olivia, he was only trying to offer me help to sort
"I doubt that."
"I told him my insecurities that perhaps God was
telling me I should have married Frank."
"I’m sure he couldn’t wait to agree."
"But he didn’t. He said he didn’t know what God’s
plan was for me. He could have played on all my insecurities,
used my faith against you and I, but he didn’t, Olivia. I
honestly believe he wanted me to go for my best
She shakes her head. "Let’s not argue about Father
Ray, alright? You stayed and…we’ll deal with it…together."
For the first time since finding out the news, I suddenly
"You want to raise this child with me then?"
"I can’t think of anything else I’d want
more," she replies firmly and with a sincerely smile.
I have to smile too and I take her hand.
"It’s our Independence Day – and a bit ironic in a
way," I tell her.
"How do you figure?"
"Our Independence Day starts with being shackled to
another child." That comment makes her snort.
"Seriously though, are you sure you want my
She chuckles now. "Dear, I have enough baggage to live
in Europe for a year, maybe two. A baby is a walk in the park
I smile and tighten my grip on her hand. "So you are
ready to come out?"
"I’ve been ready," she says with great
"I know you have, even when I wasn’t."
"But are you ready now?"
I smile. "Aside from a healthy child for us, there’s
nothing I want more, so lead the way."
She places my hand around her upper arm and escorts me
around toward the backyard.
So she’s pregnant…and she left…But she came back. She
had a moment of doubt, but she came back. So I should feel
happy, right? I tighten my hold on Natalia’s hand as we
round the corner of the house. So why don’t I feel any
Blake heads toward us. At first, her face is unreadable,
but then she begins to smirk. I look over and I see Natalia
smiling at the woman.
"So…?" Blake asks as she approaches us.
"I told her," Natalia replies and squeezes my
hand. "And she’s staying."
Blake smiles even wider. "That’s wonderful.
Congratulations." She turns to me. "She really loves
you, ya know? You better not mess this up. She’s a sweet
"The sweetest," I find myself replying as I grin.
Blake leans closer towards us. "Are you telling Frank
today?" she whispers.
We both shake our heads.
"No, mum’s the word," Natalia says before I say
anything. Blake takes it as unspoken request to keep quiet and
nods in agreement. "Besides, we have to tell Emma we’re
a couple first," she adds. She quickly turns to me with a
hopeful expression. "We are still going to tell her,
But you almost left me.
"Yeah," I say instead, unsure if I can add more.
Like always, Natalia seems to pick up on how my mood is
betraying my words. She continues to look at me as she reaches
into her own pocket and pulls out Blake’s keys. Her
outstretched hand extends to Blake and she talks to the
strawberry blonde while never taking her eyes off me.
"Here you go," she says, still maintaining eye
contact with me. "Could you get us two waters while I
speak to Olivia?"
Blake knows something is up, but she’s not sure what it
is, so she mutely agrees and walks away.
"You don’t want to tell Emma, do you?" Natalia
Yesterday, when I was certain of us, yes. Today when you’ve
had doubts, no.
"I don’t want to hurt her," I reply trying to
keep my voice steady. "I-I don’t want to hurt myself.
If we tell her then…it’s real; we’re…real…and…"
"What’s wrong with real? I thought you wanted real.
I want real."
"Do you?" I can hear the challenge in my own
voice and it saddens me. With the way her eyes water up I see
my words saddens her too and I find myself rambling.
"Just an hour ago you were going to walk away without a
word because you thought God wanted you with Frank," I
explain. Now her bottom lip starts to quiver.
Just shut up Spencer. Stop while you’re behind. God, I
hate the Bauer Barbeque - nothing good ever happens for me
here. I don’t know why I come to this goddamn thing every
year. Next year, it’s wennies and sparklers in the backyard
of the farmhouse.
"I shouldn’t have told you," she mutters
dejectedly, pulling me from my thoughts.
Or maybe you’ll be at the farmhouse alone because she
"No," I answer louder than I originally intended.
This makes her look up and meet my eyes. "I’m glad you
told me…and…I’m not glad too…Look…" I sigh,
frustrated with myself for confusing her, and even confusing
myself a little in the process. "It’s like this: I’m
glad you trust me enough to tell me everything, even stuff I
might not like. I’m just not happy about some of the stuff
you had to say."
"That’s true of any relationship, Olivia. But I
think without honesty you’ll never make it as a couple. Of
course, if you look at my history of romantic relationships, I
can count them on one hand, so what in the world do I
My hand cups her cheek. "Far more than me
sometimes." She grins at the compliment. "I’m just…
worried. I’m scared that I’ll love you and…you’ll
leave me – not because of some bonehead thing I do, and
believe me I’ve done some really bonehead thing in past
relationships. I just…I worry you’ll leave because of your
church, or your friends, or even total strangers who want to
"You think my love for you isn’t strong enough to
survive an onslaught of…unfavorable public opinion?"
"Yes! That’s a great way to put it."
She pulls my head down toward her shoulder so her mouth is
only inches away from my ear.
"I’m only gonna say this once," she begins.
"I’m not a vulgar woman, but I think this will help me
make my point… I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks
My head shoots up in response.
"Right here is all that matters," she continues
as she waves a finger between us. "Understand?"
The last sentence isn’t really a question. It’s the
same tone she brought out when she used to battle me about
taking care of myself after my surgery. It was the ‘I’m
not taking your shit’ Rivera – I liked many parts of
Natalia, and truth be told, this one was one of my favorites;
even if it was directed against me from time-to-time. I find
myself grinning and nodding in response.
"Now kiss me and let’s go find our daughter."
I smile at her use of the term ‘our daughter. I move
closer, but then I see Phillip wearing an evil smirk,
motioning toward an unsuspecting Rick, whom he’s standing
behind. He’s egging me on to kiss my girlfriend and I start
to giggle and shake my head before I can close the distance to
"So kissing me makes you laugh now?" Natalia
"No," I say as I take her face in my hands.
"I’ll explain in a few minutes."
I spare a glance one more time to see Phillip tap Rick on
the shoulder and motion toward Natalia and I.
Phillip’s been good about everything. I need to give him
I close my eyes as I bridge the distance between Natalia
and myself. Our lips collide gently at first and after a few
seconds of nipping at the supple flesh, we deepen the kiss as
tongues explore for a few moments. I feel her hand slide
around the small of my back, pulling me closer. A few more
seconds pass and I feel a slight push to my abdomen. She and I
both pull back instantly and look down at our stomachs.
"Did you feel that?" she asks.
Hell, yes, I felt it. I have to smile.
"I think we have a field goal kicker or a soccer
player in the making," she giggles.
"Is that the first time you’ve felt anything?"
She nods excited. "It’s a sign," she says.
"He’s happy he’s going to have two mommies." The
use of the word ‘him’ makes me feel uneasy. I think of
Rafe and it must show on my face. "What’s wrong?"
"Nothing," I wave it off. I don’t want to worry
her about something she can’t control.
"Really?" she asks sounding annoyed. "Didn’t
we just talk about opening up, saying things that might hurt,
and so on? What were you thinking just a second ago? Be
"I wish his brother could be just as excited about us.
There. I said it and I’m sorry if that hurts you."
"Why would it?" Before I can answer, she
continues, "I agree. I’d hope Rafe would be excited for
us too. But Rafe is an adult. I’m not gonna baby him or hold
his hand anymore. I’m done with that. When I said I didn’t
care what anyone else thinks about us, that included Rafe…and
the Coopers and Alan and Father Ray…and anyone else who
wants to berate us. So let me state it again…." She
motions between us and then grabs me gently by the lapels of
my jean jacket, giving me a slight shake, "…we’re all
that matters. Now kiss me again…or else."
I like the playful tone in her voice and it puts my fears
to rest…for now. When we finally move apart, I look back
over to see Phillip, Josh, Matt and Rick standing around the
barbeque grill. Matt and Rick are totally slack jawed while
Phillip and Josh are giggling like schoolboys. Could I be
upset by their laughter? Sure, if I thought it was at Natalia’s
expense and mine. But I know it’s not. I know that, even if
the town hates us, our family included, they’ll still care
and support us.
"I guess we had an audience," Natalia says a bit
"Don’t get mad with this next question, but… are
you ashamed?" I ask.
"Of us? No, not at all. But I do feel a bit unnerved
"I think they, uh, liked that a lot - too much
I burst out laughing as we walk toward the barbeque.
"I told you guys I wasn’t looking," I say as I
raise Natalia’s hand to show it locked with mine.
Rick and Matt are still both speechless as Frank walks over
to the cooler to get a beer. He notices me holding Natalia’s
hand and takes a deep breath before quickly turning away. I
can tell he’s doing his best to avoid us and makes a hasty
"Wo-wo-wo…" Matt’s trying really hard to form
words and it makes Natalia and I both grin widely. "Would
you do that again?" he asks, finally managing to get the
"Absolutely," Natalia said as she brushes my hair
behind my ear with her free hand. She runs her hand down my
cheek seductively and that’s pretty much all it takes for me
to feel a puddle of arousal growing between my legs. "But
not for your amusement," she tells him. "Only
Rick clears his throat. "That’s just…oh
Josh and Phillip continue to giggle from behind.
"Have you seen our daughter?" I ask my ex.
"She’s inside with Maureen," he replies.
"I’ll go get her."
I nod my thanks and turn to Natalia. "Where’s Blake
with our water?" I wonder out loud.
"Rick, here," Josh motioned, "he sent her on
a food run to the store. It seems he decided to hold a
barbeque, but forgot all of the food." He closed the
distance between them. "So…you two, huh?"
"You gotta problem with that," I say half in
jest; half serious.
"Are you both happy?" he asks as he looks back
and forth between us.
"Very," Natalia answers for us.
He then looks to me.
"Very," I mimic.
He nods in approval.
"Do me a favor?" he asks Natalia. He doesn’t
wait for a reply and says, "Don’t hurt her. She’s
been hurt by enough people, myself included. And although you
probably know this by now, she’s not as tough as she lets on
so…be firm; but gentle."
"I’m way ahead of you," she replies.
That’s my girl. I grin.
"I think you’ve met your match," he tells me.
"I have," I answer with great sincerity.
Before we can say more Emma comes racing out and who does
she run to? Of course. Natalia. And I have to smile as my
daughter – correction, our daughter, wraps her arms around
"You made it!" she says excited.
"I did!" is her response.
I smile as Natalia strokes Emma’s hair. I look up to see
Phillip smiling too. Even he can see the love between these
two is genuine.
"Why don’t we get some Popsicles and go under that
big tree over there? What do you say?" Natalia suggests.
"Okay!" And with that Emma bolts over to the
cooler and holds up three wrappers. She starts to come back
but stops. "What about Rafe? Can he come?"
We look at each other. "Not right now, Sweetie,"
Natalia offers. "I want to spend a little Emma time
Emma nods, satisfied with that response. I snag a blanket
off one of the chairs as we walk over to the tree.
"Your mom and I wanted to talk to you," Natalia
"What about?" Emma asks as she dives teeth first
into her Popsicle. How this child can bite into ice is a
mystery to me. I don’t dwell on the though because I know
Natalia is expecting me to begin.
Here goes nothing; or everything. "I love Natalia
and she loves me."
She nods. "I love her too."
"Yes, we all love each other," I continue.
"But I love Natalia more than a best friend. I love her
like mommies and daddies love each other. Some families have a
mom and dad. Others have just one mommy or one daddy and
others have two moms or two dads. Do you know what I mean, Em?"
Emma is computing this and I look to Natalia. "Not
really," she answers.
I’m suddenly nervous, but Natalia is the picture of cool
and speaks up.
"Your mom and I love each other as friends, but also
romantically. Remember those butterfly feelings you have for
Emma shakes her head. "I like Jake now," she
"Oh," Natalia replied. "Okay, well I like
your mom and she likes me the same way you like Jake."
"But you’re both girls," Emma replies.
"Does that mean you’re lesbians now?"
Wow. No one’s really asked that bluntly. Leave it to Bean
to do the honors. And how does she know what a lesbian is?
"How do you know what a lesbian is?" I find
myself asking out loud.
"Ellen is a lesbian and she’s gotta wife - that
actress lady that’s named after a car."
Natalia and I both snort. "Okay, then," I tell
"So?" Emma asks.
"Are you lesbians now?"
How do I answer that when I’m not even sure?
"When it comes to your mom, yes, I am," Natalia
answers firmly. What a fantastic answer. "I’d
like to marry her someday like Ellen and Portia."
"Portia!" Emma says excited. "That’s her
"Yes, and I think if you asked your mom she’d says
she feels the same way about me."
"Yes, I do," I agree.
"And my wish is that you and your mom will come back
to the farmhouse," Natalia continues
"For good?" Emma asks excited.
"Yes, for good," Natalia says with great
certainty. Emma launches herself at Natalia and I quickly
reach out to help lessen the impact. They are smiling and
laughing as they both tumble over on the blanket.
"Can we go pack right now?" Emma asks
Natalia and I both chuckle. "No, Bean. But soon,
"This is so great! Can I tell Rafe we’re gonna
really be like brothers and sisters now?"
"Bean," I say trying to get her to calm down.
"Rafe’s not as happy about this as you are."
"Why not?" she asks.
"Well, he doesn’t think I’m a good match for his
mom," I answer.
"It’s more than that Jellybean," Natalia
replies. "He’s one of the people, like Derek’s
parents, who don’t understand that love is love, not matter
what kind of package it comes in. He doesn’t understand how
close we’ve all gotten over all these months. But please don’t
think for a moment it’s about you, okay? Rafe loves you very
"Maybe he should live with us too so he can see how we’re
all a family and how much fun it is?"
"I’d like that someday," Natalia tells her.
"But I don’t think he’s ready. It’s a decision he’ll
have to make on his own."
"And Bean," I tell her, "you need to know
now that when we do move back, we’ll have a few new
"Like knocking on doors before you come in,"
"Right, and I’ll be in Natalia’s room when we move
"Well, it’ll be our room; not my room," Natalia
insists before she turns to Emma. "The room your mom used
to stay in will be Rafe’s in case he decides to come
"What else?" Emma asks.
"Natalia and I might be acting different like cuddling
on the sofa when watching a movie."
"You do that now."
Natalia and I look at each other. "Okay, but we might
be holding hands."
Emma giggles. "You do that now."
"Okay, there might be kissing," I say frustrated.
"I know we don’t do that now."
"Sure you do," Emma mutters as she finishes off
the last of her Popsicle. "You just think I don’t
"When did you-?" Natalia begins.
"By the pond, in the barn, in the kitchen-," she
rattles off sounding bored.
"Hey!" I point a finger at her. "You weren’t
supposed to be spying."
"I wasn’t. You just kiss each other A LOT,"
Emma says in an exaggerated tone. "I’m bound to see
"Well," I begin, "From now on, no more
hiding. So…is there anything you want to ask us?"
Emma looked skyward for a moment as she considered the
"No. May I go play with Maureen again?"
I wave my hand. "Scoot."
Emma smiles broadly and takes off running back toward the
"I think we made her day," Natalia says as she
settles back against me.
It’s a feeling of extremes – the roughness of the bark
against my back and the softness of Natalia leaning against my
"Hey?" she says softly.
"Do you think Phillip might take Emma for the
"Perhaps. I could ask him. Did you have anything in
She turns and curls into my shoulder. "I want to make
love to you tonight."
Did I just hear that right? "Come again?" I
"Come again," she snorts. "I know there’s
a naughty joke in their somewhere."
"Poor choice of words."
"Is it?" she asks as she leans up and places a
tender yet teasing kiss on my ear lobe. "I mean if you’re
not ready Olivia, I won’t push-."
"I’m ready. At least, I think I’m ready. I mean,
are you ready?"
And why can’t I stop saying the word ‘ready’ for God’s
"I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t." She turns back
around and settles into my embrace again. "I told you, I
want everything that two people in love share, raising
children, snuggling under trees and yes, sex." She
intertwines my fingers with hers. "I want to take you. I
want give myself to you…I…want it all, but, if you’re
still not certain-."
"I’m certain," I tell her more firmly this
time. "And I’ve never wanted anyone more."
"Oh, you say that to all the girls," she teases
I giggle nervously. "Do not. I don’t even say that
to all the guys, or any guy for that matter."
"It’s true. Call my a sap-."
I slap her arm playfully. "I’m being serious…I’ve
truly never desired anyone like I desire you, not ever."
She shifts position and straddles my lap. Her hands stroke
the side of my face for a few moments and I close my eyes,
soaking up the feeling.
"Tonight then?" she asks hopefully with an
eagerness that surprises me.
"Tonight," I tell her as I open my eyes.
Her lips almost make contact with mine when we both hear
"God, Ma. Here? Really? In front of all these
Her eyes are closed at first and as she opens them I see a
fire in them. It's not passion or even anger. It's conviction.
She looks over her shoulder at Rafe casually, not turning her
body around completely.
"I'm glad you're here," she begins, totally ignoring
his disgust. "Have a seat."
He's got on that sarcastic, know-it-all grin on his face.
"If you think I'm sitting here with you on her lap
I'm surprised by the stern timbre in her voice. The force of
it makes both Rafe and myself jump slightly. It even turns a
few heads in our direction, including Frank's.
"Please," she adds politely, her tone quieter and
more diplomatic now that she has his full attention.
With all eyes now on him, Rafe decides to take a seat. I'm
sure he's hoping that in doing so it will steer everyone back
to their own conversations that were going on prior to his
mother's authoritative voice boomed through the area. I try to
hide my smirk I feel coming on that's a result of Natalia's
small victory in the battle of wills with Rafe. Feeling
confident herself that she's won this part of the challenge,
she slides off my lap and settles next to me so she can face
"Now what?" he asks.
"Now, you will stop behaving like an ass," Natalia
begins. He starts to grumble a protest and she holds up a
finger. "Enough!" she warns him. "I'm talking
and you will have a chance to talk too because that's what
grown-ups do. You take turns. Now, somewhere along the line, I
failed you as a mother."
"Ma, you didn't fail. It's her-."
"No interrupting," she tells him. Again, he gets
quiet. "You will have a chance to speak. I promise. Now
it's my turn." He reluctantly nods. "I said I failed
you as a mother because you think the world owes you something
just because you're here."
Rafe tries to argue. "That's not true."
"Bullshit." My eyes and Rafe's go wide at the
She sounds like a drunken sailor today...I kinda like it
actually. Is that horrible?
Natalia continues, "And as your mother, you feel I'm
supposed to give my entire existence over to you. But neither
of these points are not true. You earn love and respect Rafe,
it's not unconditional for anyone. Olivia has earned my love
and respect, but you haven't been here to see it." Rafe
looks like he wants to argue. "And I know why you weren't
here. You were in prison. You went to prison because, accident
or not, you let your emotions control your actions and nearly
killed a man in the process. I got news for you, Son. You're
doing it again. Only this time you're not physically killing
someone. You're doing it emotionally. Our relationship is
dying and it's your choosing, not mine. I want you to move
back into the farmhouse when Olivia and Emma come, which'll
probably be next week. That way you can see first hand what I
"Which is?" he asks trying to sound bored.
"That we're a family...The family I always wished I could
"That ain't happening, Ma."
"Really? Because living at the farmhouse is one of the
conditions of your parole."
Oh, yes, she does still have the devil in her.
"You wouldn't." He sounds slightly alarmed.
"Wouldn't I?" Natalia doesn't flinch. She doesn't
stutter. She doesn't grin. She's a stone wall that's
"You're bluffin'," he says with a touch of
apprehension in his voice. He's not sure if she's serious, and
the truth is, neither am I.
"You might want to talk to Mel, Remy's sister. She's an
attorney. Since she knows you, she might work your case pro
bono. She'll have to because your hardware store job doesn't
pay much and I'm not giving you another dime because,
honestly, who wants to give money to someone who treats you
like crap? Certainly not me."
"Ma, that's not fair."
"Life's not fair. I figured you'd learned that in prison,
but I guess not."
"So you're just gonna hold me hostage?'
Natalia looked skyward in consideration.
"Yes," she answered firmly. "And expect it to
start today. You're going to do the three-legged race with
your stepsister. She asked me, but I'm not feeling up to
"She's not my step-sister," Rafe challenges.
"She's my cousin."
"She's both," Natalia says firmly. "She's got
her heart set on this race and you're not gonna let her down.
She needs you."
"Why should I?" he asks annoyed.
"I'll repeat: one, it's not always about you and two,
love is earned. Here endith the lesson, Son. Grab a string and
Emma and get hoppin'. Got it?"
Rafe rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "I can't believe
you're doing this."
"I can't believe it took me this long to do it," she
retorts. "Now go. Be the decent person I know you can be
and make Emma's day."
Without another argument, I watch Rafe get up and go over to
the pool where Emma and Maureen are blowing up more water
balloons. He knells down and they talk for awhile. She puts
her arms around his neck and then he motions to his back. Emma
climbs aboard and Rafe makes sure her legs are secure as he
rises to his full height, giving her a piggyback ride.
"It's gonna be rough," I hear Natalia sigh.
"He's not going to be much of a joy to live with I'm
"No, but I'm really proud of you today. I'm glad you took
the kid gloves off with Rafe. He needed it."
"And maybe someday he might actually speak to you,"
she says hopefully.
"You noticed that, huh? Yeah, he doesn't like to talk to
me...at all. Well, unless it's to shout at me."
"He'll come around."
"Do you really think so?"
"I do." She soon settles back against me again.
"But I meant it, you know? Everything I told him. If he
continues to violate parole, he's going back."
My hand makes lazy circle eights against her hand. "I'll
support whatever decision you make," I tell her
sincerely. "When, uh, when are you going to tell him he's
going to be a brother?"
"He's already a brother," she says as she nods
toward him and Emma who are now playing tag.
"You know what I mean," I say before I lean over and
kiss her temple.
"Soon. Frank first and then everyone else...Speaking
of...will you go with me when I talk to Frank?" I must
look taken aback because she quickly adds, "If you don't
want to I won't-."
"No, I'll go," I tell her. "I just thought you
might want to talk privately with him. It's your baby
"It's our baby - all of us. You, me and Frank," she
"I'm not sure Frank's going to see it that way."
"All the more reason for you to be there. He needs to
know, right from the start, that you're this child's mother
too." I don't say anything. I wait to see if she has more
to add but then she starts to look, insecure. "Unless
you've changed your mind and you don't want to have another
"I want to have this child with you. I really do, but I
don't want to cause you more problems."
"You're not a problem, Olivia. Sure, at one point I was
ready to hang you up by your toenails, but you've grown on me
She turns her head back toward me, dimples blazing and I lean
over and kiss her on the lips.
"I think Rick's about done cooking. You wanna grab some
She nods and rises up. Using a foot hold, she easily pulls me
to my feet.
"Just keep in mind I might have to excuse
myself," she says. "Food isn't staying down too good
at the moment. I haven't figured out what I can and can't eat
"I'll be certain to make sure Rick thinks it's his
"Olivia! That's mean," she chastises. Then she adds,
"But he deserves it for trying to make me feel I was
being an emotional leech."
"When you started feeling better and you thought I wanted
you to move out, remember?"
"He did the same thing to me too. You know you shouldn't
excuse yourself if you feel sick. You have my permission to
throw up on him right there."
"Now you're gonna make me sick. Please stop."
We make our way to the line where all the food is spread out.
We each pick up a plate and look at the selections along with
Lillian and Buzz who are ahead of us.
"So which ones yours?" he asks me as he points to
the variety of dishes.
"I didn't make anything," I reply. "Emma made
crispy treats for desert." Buzz looks skeptical.
"Okay, I helped a little."
"Being a chef I figured you'd bring some culinary
delight," he remarks.
"Chef?" Natalia says. "Her? She can barely boil
Buzz starts to laugh as I make a motion for him to shut up.
"You duped her, didn't you? You little sneak." He
Natalia catches me motioning across my neck and I suddenly
start to play with the neckline of my jacket.
"You're a real chef? All this time I've been the one
cooking and you're a chef? Are you kidding me?"
Oh, boy. Time to fess up.
"Yes, I can cook. I just like your cooking better. Is
that a crime?" Maybe flattery will save my ass.
She grins. That's a good start. "Tomorrow night you're
making me dinner."
She waves her finger, but I snare it and pull her hand toward
me. I kiss the back of her hand, brushing my lips gently
across her knuckles.
"As you wish, Sweetheart."
I hear, rather than see, Buzz's plate fall into the deviled
"Damn," he says as he tries to rescue the contents
of his plate. "I, uh, gotta watch what I'm doing."
Lillian clears her throat. "So," she motions her
head toward our linked hands. "...is this why things
didn't work out with Frank?"
I'm not sure what to say, but something like, 'Yes, I stole
his girl,' comes to mind. Before I can say something Natalia
"No. I love Frank. I do, but I wasn't in love with him
– I never was. I was in love with Olivia."
"Then why date Frank?" Buzz asks. "Why agree to
"I was too scared to face it. I thought if I could fall
in love with Frank these feelings would go away, so much so
that I nearly married him and ruined three lives. He might
hate me, and you might too," she says motioning to
Lillian and Buzz, "but Frank's too good a guy not to find
a girl who can give him 100% of herself. I never was that
girl. He deserved more, and still does."
I feel someone behind me and I turn to see that it's Rafe with
Emma behind him. I wonder how long he'd been standing there.
"What about you?" Buzz asks. "Were you in love
I look over and I see Natalia's dimples shinning again. She
doesn't look embarrassed or guilty. All I can see is love
written on her face.
"Yeah," I tell him. "So much that I was willing
to watch her walk away with Frank because I wanted her to be
happy. I wanted her to have what I thought was a better life
than I could give her."
"I'm not sure I could do it," Buzz replies.
"Do what?" I ask unsure of where this conversation
is going. There's an edge to my voice and I'm ready to go off
at any moment if he dare saying anything combative.
"Walk away. I-I-I couldn't stand next to Lillian and give
her to someone else I thought was better. I couldn't do that
Olivia. That takes strength...or stupidity." I see his
teasing grin and I relax.
"It's neither," I tell him. "I just wanted what
I thought was best for her – I thought it was Frank, but she
"Who is best for me," Natalia adds firmly as she put
some carrots on my plate as a roadblock to the french fries
"Really? Carrots? Can't I have just three french fries,
please? It's a celebration."
She reaches over and puts four on my plate. "Just for
I give her an exaggerated grin of thanks.
We all continue down the line and Lillian says, "I'll
admit I'm a little thrown but..."
"But what?" I ask.
"I can see it. I even asked Buzz once, oh I think it was
months before you started dating Frank, if he thought you two
were a couple."
"Why?" I ask.
"You two just...fit, ya know? You two argued and
bickered, but there was...a passion there too; this
unbreakable devotion. I thought it was an intense friendship
building, but it was something more."
I grin back at Lillian. "It's both. It's friendship...and
much more. I literally wouldn't be alive without her."
"And vice versa," Natalia replies before she looks
at me with a smile as if there's no one else in the world
except she and I.
I smile and I turn. I see Rafe looking at me, almost as if
he's seeing me for the first time, and not as someone who
tried to steal his father and, now, trying to take his mother
away. I look, but I don't speak.
"Can you pass the potato salad, please?" he asks me
Can you pass the potato salad, please. They're simple,
yet magical words because maybe Natalia's right; maybe there's