DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. They are the property of people bigger and more powerful than I CBS, Telenext, Proctor & Gamble, etc. I made no money off this story and promise to put the characters back when I'm done playing with them.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was prompted by discussions on BPD about Natalia leaving town the way she does on the day of the Bauer BBQ. I couldn't shake the compulsion to explore what might be going on inside her head, so this is my version of her thoughts. The timing is after Rafe stops by the farmhouse and before Blake arrives. Story title and a few images are taken from the 22nd Psalm. Feedback welcomed (though it's a little hot outside for flames) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOILERS: Everything up through this year's Bauer BBQ is probably spoiled.
SPECIAL THANKS: To kckc7706 for feedback and encouragement.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Poured Out Like Water
By ocean gazer
You sit in a chair, hands fisted in your lap, tears sliding down your cheeks, staring off into a dark corner of the house. It feels like there's no air in here, no light, no hope.
The word "shame" runs around in your mind like a scared rabbit. You can't corner it, can't catch it so that you can face it directly. Every time you get close, it bounces away, jumping into the shadows of your thoughts and scattering them like spilled marbles. The echo of its paws is loud, louder than the rest of the chaos in your head, and it makes it hard to think, to concentrate.
You can't believe this is happening. Again.
The mere thought makes your stomach turn. Because you've been here before, pregnant after you committed a sin. It was hard enough at sixteen, when you had little idea what you'd do with a child and less idea what people would do with you. It feels harder now, because even though you know how to raise a child this time, you also know how people will see you. You will once again bear the scarlet P for the whole world to see and judge. You'll once again bear the sign that God has passed judgment on you for your sinful actions.
The judgments of others were bad enough when you were a teenager. At least then, you could blame your situation on ignorance. Or hormones. Or something. But now, you're a grown woman. Shouldn't you know better? You've done many bad things, atoned for those, done worse, atoned again, and finally seemed to be back on the side of the angels. You'd decided that your love for Olivia was right for you and ok with God. You'd done what you could to try and make things right with Frank after the doomed wedding. You felt like you were on the right track, that even if you weren't exactly on the path laid down by the beliefs of your church, you were at least walking alongside it, going in the same direction. But can it really be the right path if there's this big sign from God growing in your belly?
You know what non-believers would say. To them it's just a baby, just what happens sometimes when you have unprotected sex. But you know that things happen for a reason; you know God sends people signs since His voice cannot be heard by mortal ears. And there is no way that this child can be anything other than a sign; you finding out here and now can not be coincidence. You were planning to go to the barbecue with Olivia, to be seen openly as a couple, to commit yourself to her in a way you'd been too scared to do before. And the very same day, you found out you're pregnant. Your past sin is coming back to bite you at the same time that you were ready to brave the public accusations of sin for being with Olivia.
There is no getting around the fact that God is trying to tell you something about your life, about your choices.
You just wish you knew what it was.
And it's hard to figure it out when you're shamed and scared and all alone. Your son can't bear to be near you. Your ex-fiance finds a thousand ways to show his disapproval. And the friends you have in this town are all connected in one way or another to him. You know that Olivia would be here with you, that she loves you. The thought makes you smile for a bare second before the weight of your conscience drags it down into a frown.
That's part of the problem. Olivia has a forceful personality. She'd take charge of the situation. She'd tell you to stop being silly that it's a child, a welcome addition to your family, not a burning bush. And you'd let her convince you that everything is fine. But you don't know, deep down, if it is. And until you know that, truly know that, this will happen again in some other way, with some other sign.
It's ironic that one of the things you love most about Olivia is one of the reasons you can't run to her now.
Father Ray was right, about one thing anyhow. You need to reflect; you need to take a spiritual journey to examine your life and your choices. Since you came to this town, once Gus was securely yours, you've mostly just sat back and let life happen. Except for making sure that Olivia lived instead of died, you just floated by, fitting into the cracks between who you are and who other people think you are. Making choices and taking responsibility meant more conflict between the teachings of the church and the way you were living your life. The more you let other people take charge, the less you had to account for. And now you're in a mess of your own making. Or non-making. And no one can fix it but you. And God.
For a long moment, you think about staying here, in Springfield, hiding in the Farmhouse until you have some answers, some clarity. But there are too many ghosts in this house and too many distractions outside of it. You have to go away.
You know, to your shame, that by leaving you are running away. Again. Away from the person who loves you, away from a situation that's overwhelming. And that's bad. Away to a quiet place where you can hear God, away to the solitude that can help you find the answers you need. And that's good. How can it possibly be both?
You've already called Blake, asked her to pick you up. She's the one person you haven't hurt yet, whose life you haven't messed up. Because of that, she's the only neutral person you can turn to. You'll have her tell Olivia that you need space, just as you've already asked Father Ray to give her your message. You know you should call Olivia; that she deserves to hear all of this directly from you. You've even picked up the phone every five minutes and started to dial her number, only to chicken out.
It's not her reaction to the news of the pregnancy that scares you. You're scared how she'll react to your fear that maybe God's trying to tell you that you shouldn't have let yourself love her, that you should have married Frank instead. You're scared to be honest with her. If you're honest about your shame for the lies leading up to this moment, for saying "I'm okay" instead of "I'm still scared" so you didn't crush her happiness, you'll hurt her badly. If you're even more honest about how you don't know if love is enough if it's not what God wants you'll cut her to the bone. For weeks, you assured her that things were fine. You thought they were or at least that they would be. Now you're not sure, and you're ashamed about that too.
You haven't committed any sin with Olivia, not yet. Maybe that's why God chose to give you this sign now, so He could stop you before you put yet another black mark on your soul. And before you added a stain to Olivia's. But you thought, honestly believed, that your love for Olivia was pure and beautiful and good, that God would approve of it. Now, you don't know what to think. Did God's plan for you include a traditional family so that you could get Rafe back on the right path? Did He want you to marry Frank, even when you don't love him?
Is God telling you that love isn't the most important commandment of all?
You're also scared that Olivia will push you into a choice that you're not able to make right now. She pushed you towards marriage once before, even though she loved you, because she thought it would be best for you. There's a part of you scared that she'd do the same thing again not because you're carrying Frank's child, but because you're having doubts. Ok, so you don't really think she'd do that. But with your thoughts whirling wildly like a mixer on high speed, it's hard to know what's real and what's imaginary.
If she pushes you in any direction, as confused and scared as you are, you'll go. You know you will. And you can't do that now, not with this. Maybe not ever again. You have to know, for yourself, who you are and what you want. And what God wants for you.
If you call her, to tell her you need to go away for a while, you're sure she won't be satisfied with that. She'll want answers you can't give, reasons you don't have. And when Olivia wants something, she moves heaven and earth to get it. She'll want to come straight over and talk to you 'til she's blue in the face and you're a puddle on the floor and she's said whatever she needs to say. And she'll want to talk you out of doing the one thing you know you need to do.
Hard as it is to admit it, you don't have the strength to stand up to her right now.
And maybe it's better if you run away without talking to her yourself, if she sees you for the shameful coward you are, that you always have been. Then she'll have a reason to get mad, for her love to turn to hate, for her hate to keep her heart from breaking. Because the sad reality is that no matter what you do unless you add to your sins by lying you're going to break her heart. Whether you leave with no word at all or say the words that confirm her worst fear, the end result will be the same. And that's another thing that terrifies you. That makes you ashamed.
There is no good choice. There is nothing that doesn't end badly for everyone else. You already know there is no happy ending for you. There shouldn't be, as much damage as you've done. You don't deserve anything good. All you seem to do is hurt everyone you care about.
Even God seems to have forsaken you. And without God, without knowing that you're right with Him, even Olivia's love is not enough. You have to find peace with God, to decipher the sign He's sent, to know absolutely in your heart and your soul and your mind that you love Him and He loves you. Without that, nothing else matters.
You take a deep breath, consciously un-fisting your hands, but unable to keep the tears from falling. Once more, you reach for the phone. Once more, you stop yourself. This is your shame, your test, your burden to bear. You have to bear it alone.
You know you're throwing away your chance with Olivia. You won't be surprised if she never wants to see you again. She deserves nothing but the best. And that's not you; at least not anymore. You always wanted to be a good Christian, a pious woman who followed the rules and got her reward. But you're nothing. Nothing but a horrible sinner, one who destroys everything she touches. You're as lowly as a worm and even God is far away in your time of trouble.
But if Olivia is the one that you're meant to be with in the end, if she is a part of God's plan for you, then you have to trust that God will help you fix things with her when the time comes. And if she's not ... well ... then maybe it's best that she hate you now so she can get on with her life. Even though you still love her and believe that love is stronger than hate.
All this thinking makes your head ache and you feel like you're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. And none of your thoughts make any sense anymore and you wonder why you can't seem to figure out what you need to know. What will make the shame easier to bear? Where are you going? What's the right thing to do?
You hear the soft crunch of gravel and stand up suddenly, looking out a window to see Blake's car coming towards the farmhouse. For a moment, you stand perfectly still, uncertain. A ray of light breaks free from a cloud and shines across the hood of the moving car. It's gone as quickly as it came, but it was there. Whatever the pregnancy means, the meaning of this is obvious. You grab hold of your suitcase and walk out the door.
Leaving like this is probably just another in a long set of bad decisions. But for the first time all day, you know you're doing what you need to be doing. The sign is crystal clear, clear as the signs that led you to give your dead husband's heart to the woman who was your enemy. The retreat is where you're meant to be. You settle in to the passenger seat and close your eyes briefly, saying a prayer for yourself and for the ones you love. Then you look straight ahead, as the car moves down the driveway, your eyes glued to the path that you're starting down.
You've made the only choice you know how to make right now, the only choice you can make, the choice you should have made months ago. You trust in God.
Everything else will fall into place from there.
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