Fandom: Guiding Light
Archival: P&P, Kimly, and AUSXIP of course. Everyone else, please ask.
Summary: Phillip Spaulding has returned to Springfield with a vengeance. Olivia Spencer, afraid that Phillip will take their daughter Emma from her again, flees Springfield with the help of her assistant, Natalia Rivera. Can they stay one step ahead of Phillip? Will they ever be safe again?
Content Disclaimer: This is an AU story--based on a drabble I posted in February--that splits off from the "I can trust you with my life!" scene on 2/16/09. All canon after that does not exist in this story. Also, the Phillip Spaulding that returns in this story is still bat-shit crazy and evil. Graphic depictions of love between two consenting adult women are contained within, obviously, but not for a while.
Source Disclaimer: I do not own Guiding Light or the characters therein depicted. I do not seek to profit from this story.
A/N: I tried to remain as close to character as humanly possible but as I have only seen YouTube clips of Otalia and no full episodes, I cannot guarantee the results.
Style Note: As some of you have noticed, I am switching POVs for every chapter. Natalia, Olivia and Emma will tell their stories in their own words, first-person present tense. Any other exposition needed will happen in third-person past-tense. This will cover the urgency I need and will also allow for omniscience for exposition with multiple characters. I am very interested in knowing whether this style works how I have intended it, so let me know.
Thank You: To mightbefound and bldy_destini for beta-ing this story.
A REST AREA ON I-90 BETWEEN MITCHELL, SD AND RAPID CITY, SD
"So.... Tell me about this plan of yours," you say, and you look as nervous as I feel. I can see in your eyes that you're afraid of what other surprises I might have in store for you. I don't blame you. Not one bit. This isn't the way I'd planned to tell you about my childhood. Well--not that I'd really ever planned to tell you about it at all. It's just that if I had, I wouldn't have chosen...this.
Of course, who would?
I sigh and my breath swirls in the frosty air. I look at Emma on the monkey bars and wonder if she's warm enough. We should really get her back in the van. She could catch a cold or--
I close my eyes and drop my head.
Stop it, I tell myself. You have to get this out. The plan is the easy part. Stop avoiding her. I look up again and your eyes are pale celadon green with expectation. They change colors, you know. Your eyes. Depending on your mood or what you're wearing. You don't know this but sometimes I'll say something outrageous or unexpected just to see the color change....
I can't look at you right now. I look at my knees instead. I have the sudden, uncontrollable urge to do dishes. Why is it so much easier to have long, serious talks with you when I'm elbow-deep in lukewarm soapy water?
"I--I was thinking," I begin hesitantly, "it will be easier on Emma if she doesn't know what we're really doing, if she thinks this is...something else. For as long as we can keep it from her, I mean." I look up at you and smile ruefully. "She's too smart not to catch on eventually. She's your daughter after all."
"As frightening for her as that is," you agree, rolling your eyes.
I swat you gently on the arm, laughing. "Stop! I didn't mean it that way, Olivia!"
Your sudden smile is.... For one moment, it's like none of this ever happened--no Phillip, no running, no fear--and we're on the couch in the living room of the farmhouse, folding laundry while Emma does her homework upstairs. I say something to make you laugh and you do, smiling at me like sunshine--like--
It's breathtaking. There's just no other word for it.
Then--just as abruptly--it's gone, replaced by something less...brilliant. Something sadder.
"I know," you say softly, lowering your eyes. "Go on," you urge. "The plan?"
I'm the only one who gets to see this side of you, I realize suddenly. I'm the only one who knows this sweet, gentle woman who you hide under layers of boldness and sarcasm. I know trusting me with her must be hard for you. You've spent your whole life having to be stronger...faster...first in line.... It must scare the heck out of you to show even the slightest hint of vulnerability. What a gift--that you trust me that much. How can I ever repay that?
"Natalia?" you ask and I jerk my head, startled out of my thoughts by your concern. Where was I? Oh right. The plan.
"What if we pretend this is a vacation...for Emma. Take her to places like...the Grand Canyon or Disneyland or--or Washington, D.C. or Mount Vernon. Places with a lot of people from all over.... We'd blend in, in a way. Just another...just people seeing the--the sights. We'd stay on the move--a couple of days at the most at each place--and Emma.... Well, it would be easier to distract her from the truth this way." I search your eyes for your reaction but they're unreadable. "What do you think?"
"The Grand Canyon, huh?" you ask, beaming me that sideways grin of yours. "What--no World's Largest Ball of Twine? No Pez Museum? I mean, what with the Corn Palace and all--"
"Olivia!" I want to be infuriated with you, but instead I find myself trying not to smile. You will never let me forget the Corn Palace as long as I live, will you? "I want it to be educational! Really this time! She's missing enough school as it is."
"I guess we can't just leave the country, can we?" you ask, your disappointment evident.
I shake my head. "We--we don't have the resources for that," I explain. "We'd need fake passports--which is hard enough to do now, since 9/11--but we'd also have to exchange money, book flights.... The paper trail is too...obvious. And if Phillip isn't watching the airports and borders, then Frank is. It's possible they know what we're doing by now." I wince, afraid to confess the next part. I feel stupid enough as it is. "I missed a staff meeting yesterday."
Your head whips up and you're goggling at me incredulously. "You missed a--"
"I know! I know!" I say, agreeing with your lecture before you can even start it. I cover my face with my hands. "I scheduled it ages ago and totally forgot about it! I--"
"Do you think Cynthia waited until lunchtime to start looking for you or do you think when you hadn't showed up by 10:15, she tapped her foot twice and released her housekeeping minions on Springfield like the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz?"
I peek through my fingers, horrified. "Oh my God!"
Your eyebrow arches over a pair of ruefully amused eyes. "Yeah. That's what I'm saying. A splash across the front page of The Mirror would have been less conspicuous."
"We have to assume he knows now--they both know. Even if we could get passports, it would be too dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket like that. Leaving the country, I mean."
"No, you're right. The landmarks--it's a good plan, Natalia. It is. We won't look out of place with other tourists and it'll be easier to stay ahead of Phillip if we're on the move every few days."
"And Frank," I remind you absently, wondering if he's been to the farmhouse yet. Who am I kidding? I'd be surprised if he wasn't still there, using it as a base camp or a tactical command center or whatever cops call those things.
You don't say anything and the silence is deafening to me. I look up and catch something in your eyes--a mixture of disgust and regret that puzzles me. "Olivia?" I ask, concerned.
You look away. "I'm sorry, Natalia," you say quietly. "I'm sorry I've dragged you into this, taken you away from him--from them. You should be in Springfield, making Frank pancakes, staying near your son, not running all over God knows where with me...with us. If you want to--" You blink rapidly a few times, then close your eyes. I can't tell if you're trying to say something or trying to keep from saying something, but your jaw twitches and, inexplicably, I want to cup it in my hand, smooth the knotted muscle with my thumb.
You open your eyes and they're dark jade with resolve. "You should go back. Emma and me, we'll be okay. We'll be--"
"Unh-unh," I say, shaking my head. I'm angry and confused and touched all at the same time and I can't decide what to feel. I settle on insulted because how dare you? "Don't do that. Olivia, don't. Don't be noble with me. Don't tell me where I should or shouldn't be. You didn't 'drag' me anywhere, 'take' me from anyone. I chose to be with you and Emma. I did, not you. I'm a grown woman. I came here of my own free will--and I'm Catholic! I know what that really means. So don't you try to push me away because you--you feel guilty or responsible or whatever it is that you're feeling right now. I won't stand for it. I won't."
I can feel the heat in my face as my anger grows. "My son is fine, Olivia. He's still in prison, yes, but he's safe there. As safe as he can be." I lean toward you, wanting you to read the emotion in my eyes, wanting to pummel you with it. "I told him what happened, about Phillip coming back to town and what that could mean for Emma, for you. Do you know what he said to me?"
You shake your head, your eyes round with fear, and I stop, stricken by the look on your face. You've never looked at me like that before, never been afraid of...of me before. My stomach twists with revulsion. This is not who I am. I am not this person!
I take a deep breath, deliberately trying to quench my anger, deliberately trying to cleanse my mind of its poison. I will not be like that. Not with you. Not with anyone.
My voice softens, my muscles relax.
"He said 'You gotta go with them, Ma. You'll never forgive yourself if something happens to them.' And he was right. He was right, Olivia! I would never, ever forgive myself if I left you and Emma alone out here with Phillip--" The thought squeezes my throat shut and I can't breathe past the sudden panic rising in me. "--and something happened...to you or your little girl..." I choke the words out, my voice breaking. "Please...don't make me feel that..."
What would I do if I lost you, lost Emma? It's unthinkable, that's what that is. So I just won't think about it. I won't.
Tears well up in your eyes. "How am I supposed to deal with this guilt?" you ask, but you're smiling now, too, and I know where this is going.
"Denial's always an option," I reply and you snort bleakly, raising one eyebrow at me.
"It didn't make you feel any better when I said that to you, did it?" you ask, looking away.
I shake my head. "Nope. Sorry." I catch your eye, though, and make you look at me. "But I got through it. Let me help you, Olivia." I cover your hand with one of mine, wipe my eyes with the other. "It's still my job, isn't it? Unless you managed to find someone to replace me out here in the Wild West."
"Never," you say and the conviction in your voice is almost...Biblical. Then you blink and that silly grin comes back. "I mean I interviewed a few people in Kansas but none of them had your--your--"
You're covering something with humor again. I saw the change, like a switch being flipped! I play along because I still don't understand this--this reflex of yours. I want to, though. Badly.
"My...winning personality? My...loyalty and dedication? My unique je ne sais quoi?" I try a French accent with the last one but it fails miserably.
You raise a dubious eyebrow at me. Again. "Your bullshitting skills," you deadpan--and then correct yourself before I can. "Or would that be 'bullpooping'?"
Seriously, the way your nose crinkles when you say 'poop' is extremely cute and I'm just about to point that out to you again when you look me straight in the eye and say, "If you say the 'c' word to me one more time, Natalia, so help me God..."
I just laugh. "Well, it is," I say. "And that's not my fault."
You mutter something under your breath that I carefully avoid listening to because I'm sure it contains profanity. Instead, I turn my eyes to Emma, who has moved on to the swings and is twisting hers tightly in one direction until her toes barely reach the gravel beneath her feet anymore. She lets go then and flings her head backward, her long blond hair splayed around her head like a cape as she spins. Her unrestrained laughter peals like silver bells across the playground. She is unbelievably beautiful and I feel my smile widen.
And then it slides away.
I have to protect her. You don't understand because you don't know...what I went through. Years of...this, of running. Years of bus shelters in the middle of the night, of listening to my mother sobbing in the bathroom of whatever dank apartment we lived in that month, of leaving everything behind--sometimes even the cereal in our bowls at breakfast, fleeing in mid-bite--only to start all over again in the next town. I won't let Emma's father do to her what mine did to me. I won't. And if that means leaving Springfield and my house and my son--who is safe and sound, Thank you, God--for a little while, then that's what I have to do...that's what I am doing. And not even you can stop me.
"Hey," you say, gently touching my arm. "Hey, you okay? You looked as if you were--I don't know--girding yourself for battle or something..."
I glance at your worried eyes and grimace with another wave of nausea. This is the hard part. This is the part I've been dreading.
"You know how I said there were things about me you...you should know?"
You nod, just once. As if you're afraid too much movement will startle me. I look away from your sea green gaze. You leave your hand where it is, though, and that gives me hope that maybe I can keep it together long enough to tell you everything.
The words crowd my mouth, held prisoner by my clenched jaw. I know I have to say it sooner or later. Why couldn't it be later?
"My father was César Delgado-Vargas. He was a...a lieutenant in a Columbian drug cartel and he was not..." I close my eyes, trying to forget.
Trying to forget his crazy black eyes, his cruel laughter.... Trying to forget his fists, like hammers.
"He was not a nice man," I whisper.
I wait for the shock, the outrage...but you say nothing. I search out your eyes and they are more intensely alert and open than I think I've ever seen them.
"Tell me," you say and it's an order. Your voice is measured and calm.
But before I can, a breathless Emma runs up to us and grabs my hand. "Can you push me on the swings, Natalia? Please? I want to go really, really high!"
I look blankly at you and I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. You have a similar look on your face but it softens when you see Emma's joy. You rub your eyes with a gloved hand and chuckle.
"I guess we'll have to finish this later," you say softly. You pin me with a sharp look. "And we will, okay?"
I nod, numbness setting in. "Yeah. Later."
"Natalia! Come on!" Emma tugs at my hand and I smile weakly.
"I'll be right there, okay? Go on and pick out which swing you want." I let her go and she tears off across the playground like a doe. I wonder where she gets her energy from. A thirty-minute conversation has practically wiped me out. I could sleep for days.
"Just a few minutes on the swings," I tell you, rising from the bench. "Then we'll get back on the road. It's only three or so hours to Rapid City from here. We should get there in time for supper." I look at you, trying to gauge how you're doing, if you're too cold or too tired. "Will you...be okay here while I--"
"Yeah, go. Go. She loves the swings. I'll sit here and--I don't know--watch the van so it doesn't get stolen."
I laugh and shake my head at you. "Okay then--" I say, turning to go. But you stop me.
"Hey. You never told me--you never told me your new name," you say, holding up the fake ID I gave you as a point of reference. Your smile is tremulous, hesitant...and heartbreakingly beautiful. I suddenly don't want to leave you, not even to go ten yards to the swing set, and I feel pulled--physically pulled--in two directions at once.
I clear my throat, trying to cover my uncertainty. "Um...it's Laura," I say. "Laura Santiago."
I turn and walk away from you before you can say anything else.
My legs ache every step of the way.
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