ACT 1

It was dark and rumbly; that was all Natalia knew. Her head swam. The minute a thought was formed, it was just as quickly washed away. She knew she had arms, legs, and a back that was no doubt aching, but for the life of her she couldn't feel them.

Natalia desperately tried to struggle against the confined space. She quickly discovered that every movement was in vain. It was like struggling against quicksand. Even if she had the strength, there was no way to tell which way was up. Her equilibrium turned and her foot caught the sharp terrain below her. She stumbled and flailed out her hands trying to catch herself only to find she was already lying down.

She couldn't shake the notion that she was making her way to an inferno. Was this purgatory or had she simply passed “Go” and been sent straight to Hell? She focused her attention on the rusted iron gates that loomed high above her. They sang out in high pitched wails as they shook from tremors resonating deep underground. Natalia drove her ear against the flat surface below her attempting to muffle the sound.

Her attention was suddenly drawn to a blade of light that cut through the gates. Slowly it engulfed the entrance, illuminating her entire field of vision. This was God here to save her. Natalia's chin shook awaiting His voice. Her steady breaths echoed through the quiet space. A dark figure drifted weightlessly into the white glow above her. As it loomed closer, she was struck by the realization that this wasn't God at all. A mild wave of nausea numbed her lips and everything fell away.

***

 

The last time Olivia was here - staring at a wedding dress lying tauntingly out before her - it was much different. It was in a box, for starters. That box was in a room that Natalia single-handedly occupied. And most importantly, Natalia was here with tears in her eyes and professions of love on the tip of her tongue. She couldn't have the one thing she wanted. Olivia had no words for how much she wanted to hear that she was what Natalia wanted. Even now, after all they had been through and the intimacy they had shared, that thought turned lazy flips in her stomach.

The sensation was cut devastatingly short by the reality that Natalia was gone... again. Olivia's confession didn't matter. She could have all the words in the world, and they would do nothing but echo in an empty room. 

“You okay?” Doris asked as she placed her hands on Olivia's shoulders from behind. Olivia shook her head 'no' refusing to turn and take her eyes off the dress. She felt Doris' grip tighten briefly as she let out a breath of understanding.

“How long do you get for killing a priest?” Olivia asked absentmindedly as she finally turned to meet Doris' gaze.

“Too long,” Doris answered. “Besides, you don't know for sure that he's had anything to do with this.”

Olivia rolled her eyes and paced a few steps away. She didn't want to give the slightest acknowledgement that she believed Doris was most likely right. It was easier to point blame at Father Ray than it was to find some equally painful alternative explanation for Natalia's disappearance.

“We don't have the best track record with weddings,” Olivia admitted as she placed her hands on the dresser behind her and leaned back against it. “Natalia locked me in a bathroom during her wedding to Gus. Then the Frank wedding, which you know way too well. And now this.”

Doris couldn't help but shake her head.

“Ma’am, please don't touch anything,” a man's booming voice startled them. Olivia raised her hands suddenly acquiescing to the young officer's wishes. He nodded at her and then headed back out of the room.

“It's not like I moved anything,” Olivia grumbled as she stepped towards Doris. “I mean, they're going to find my fingerprints here anyway. This is my room in my house.” Olivia's voice rose as she finished her statement. Doris recognized the shift in Olivia's posture. Her shoulders tensed and her back straightened. It was only a matter of time before Olivia would be lashing out.

“Ma’am,” the young officer said as he moved into the room again.

“Ms. Spencer,” Olivia corrected him immediately.

“Sorry,” he offered unapologetically. “Ms. Spencer, do you have anything we can pull the victim's fingerprints from to cross check?”

“Ms. Rivera,” Olivia said firmly. The officer stared at her blankly.

“I thought your name was Spencer,” he stated flatly.

Doris could swear she saw steam shoot forcefully from Olivia's ears as her face reddened.

“It is,” Olivia stated slowly. “The 'victim,' as you so caringly referred to her, is named Natalia Rivera. And I think your best shot at pulling Ms. Rivera's prints is to dust my ass!”

“Okay, okay.” Doris stepped in, pushing Olivia gently away from the officer. “I think maybe we should go. We should give them some space to do their job.”

Olivia scoffed at Doris' words but allowed herself to be led out of the room.

Outside the farmhouse, it seemed as though the number of police vehicles had tripled. Olivia spotted Ava walking hand-in-hand with Emma by the old barn. There was so much for Olivia to explain to Emma, again. Everything was repeating itself. Even though Olivia was fully aware that this time was much different, those scars of being left before ached.

“Why don't you go get your girls, and I'll take you guys to the Beacon?” Doris asked pulling Olivia's attention back to her. Olivia shook her head and started to back away. “I know Emma could use the rest,” Doris continued.

Olivia swallowed hard and finally conceded with a nod. She walked purposely over to the barn watching her every step. The numbness had started to kick in making her feel as though she was floating to her destination.

“Hey Ava,” Olivia said as she approached her children. “We're going to go.”

“We're going to leave?” Ava questioned quickly. “Why...”

“No argument. We should just go and let them do their job,” Olivia responded. She saw Emma staring up at her biting her lip. “Plus, I want to spend some time with my baby.” She kneeled down and opened her arms out. Emma ran over and hugged her mom soundly.

Olivia carried Emma in her arms back to the farmhouse with Ava walking closely behind. All Olivia could hear in her head was Natalia reprimanding her for carrying Emma. She knew she partly did it just to see if Natalia would magically appear scolding her for it.

Doris leaned up against a post on the front porch with a phone to her ear. She said her good-byes and hung up as the family approached.

“There you are,” Doris said placing her phone in her pocket. “That was Blake. She said she's willing to take care of Francesca for a while if you need it.”

“Let's just get to the Beacon,” Olivia answered. “I'll give her a call once we get settled in. I think we would all feel better to have her with us.”

“Yes,” Emma chirped drawing everyone's attention down and inciting the first legitimate group of smiles since the news of Natalia's disappearance.

“I need to speak with Frank before we go,” Olivia stated looking over her shoulder at him. She turned back and met eyes with Doris.

“I'll get the car ready,” Doris said shifting side to side. “Come on, girls.”

Olivia stood back for a moment waiting for Frank to finish his conversation with one of the other officers. Patience was something that had never come naturally to her. Natalia had taught her differently, though. Maybe it was never a matter of having that skill. Maybe Olivia never had anything really worth being patient for, with the exception of Emma, of course. She had always been patient with Emma. With Natalia, it wasn't the same kind of patience. Natalia was really the first one to make Olivia wait for what she desired. And for Natalia, she would happily wait until the end of time.

Frank finally noticed her standing off to the side. He walked over tentatively, unsure of what to expect.

“I just wanted to let you know we're going to the Beacon,” Olivia said crossing her arms. “We want to give you some room to do your job.”

Frank could see Olivia struggling with the words of a plan that was most likely not her own. She winced holding back what she really wanted to say. “If you could please call me the minute you know anything.”

“Sure thing,” Frank answered feeling a momentary bit of pride in being in control. His spirits dropped the moment he saw Olivia's eyes narrow. She wasn't able to hold back anymore.

“I'm serious, Frank,” she had warned him. “I go too long without a phone call and you might find me wandering the streets of Springfield with a gun in my hand.”

Frank just nodded his head as she stared him down. Olivia turned and walked towards the car. Doris, Ava, and Emma were already inside and ready to go. She eyed Frank one last time and then got in.

The ride over to the Beacon was very quiet. Doris watched as Olivia stared distraughtly out of her window. She glanced in the rear view mirror to find Ava doing the same. Emma was lying down across the back seat with her head in her sister's lap.

“How's it going over there?” Doris asked breaking the silence.

“I shouldn't have yelled at Leyla like that,” Olivia answered without looking over.

“You were upset. It was understandable.” Doris comforted her.

“Maybe she deserved it,” Ava said surprising both women. “Maybe she's really just a burden for everyone. Maybe she got kicked out of her parents’ house instead of leaving of her own accord.”

“Ava,” Olivia warned.

“No,” Ava responded immediately. “I don't want to hear you defend her anymore. We don't know her. We don't know why she's here butting into everyone's life. And now her behavior has gotten Natalia into trouble – injured or even killed.”

“Ava,” Olivia repeated turning around to look her in the eyes.

Emma's head turned looking back and forth between her mother and sister. “I like her,” Emma said finally breaking the glare between the women.

Olivia looked down at Emma and offered a closed mouth smile. She faced forward again and settled back into her seat. “Me too,” Olivia said softly.

***

 

Mel knocked tentatively on the face of the thick oak door before crossing her arms and resting her weight against it. The office door was wide open revealing a full head of blond, curly hair hovering over a desk. She watched Beth writing feverishly as she mumbled incoherently to herself.

“So now you're a mad scientist?” Mel asked into the room.

Beth looked up with a scrunched brow and then relaxed at the sight of her business partner. She ran her hand around the back of her neck rubbing as she turned her head to the side.

“I didn't know you were going to be here,” Beth said.

“I had to pick up something I left in my office,” Mel responded moving into the room. She took a seat in one of the leather chairs that sat in front of Beth's desk. “I'm surprised to see you here, considering.”

“I know,” Beth agreed as she sat back and let out a breath. “Philip is very worried about them. He's running around trying to secretly solve every problem. You don't mess with his family.”

“Secretly?” Mel asked.

“He has to tip toe when it comes to Olivia,” Beth responded. “I think he'll be forever trying to make up for his past.”

“Ah,” Mel said as she nodded. “So why are you here?”

“I'm mostly just staying out of the way,” Beth stated as she nudged at the paper in front of her. “I'm really nervous about Dinah's trial too. I thought I would come here and just jot down a few ideas.”

“You're going to be great,” Mel offered reassuringly.

“Are you sure I'm the right person to do the opening statement? You have so much more experience,” Beth asked.

“You know this case better than any of us,” Mel responded placing a hand on the desk. “You have the passion and knowledge that will win this. You're Dinah's best shot. If any of us thought any differently, we wouldn't ask you to represent us.”

Beth smiled at her timidly and let out a breath. She shook her head and rolled her shoulders.

“Okay,” Beth said in a sigh. “I should know better than to argue with an attorney anyway.”

***

 

Frank leaned back against his car and scratched the patch of scruff already forming along his chin. Today was definitely not what he expected. Here he was again on a wedding day not knowing where the bride had run off to. The only thing he was sure of was that he wouldn't find her stowed away in a gazebo in the middle of a snow storm with tears in her eyes. Some days he felt that Natalia falling in love with Olivia was the worst thing that happened to him. Other days, like today, made him realize how trivial it had all been.

He caught sight of some movement out by the pond. Leyla was walking up to the farmhouse with her arms wrapped tightly around herself.

“Leyla,” Frank called out. “Where have you been?”

Her eyes connected with his for a moment and then she continued on her path walking away from him.

“Leyla,” Frank said again as he jogged to catch up with her. He placed his hand on her arm to stop her. “Where are you going?”

“Don't touch me,” she responded curtly as she turned out of his reach.

“Hey,” Frank offered defensively. “I just wanted to make sure you're okay.” Leyla didn't speak. She turned and looked away. “I know this is difficult right now, but I need to get a statement from you.”

“Oh, I see,” Leyla said as she rolled her eyes. “You ready?”

Frank nodded.

“Fuck,” she said as she pointed deliberately at him. “Off.”

“You remind me of another Rivera,” Frank said placing his hands on his hips.

“Don't talk about my family like you know them,” Leyla yelled.

Frank let out a light bark and looked her up and down. “I know them a hell of a lot better than you do. I've done more than you can ever imagine to help them. And where were you, Leyla? Where were you when Natalia needed you today?”

Frank immediately regretted the words the minute they left his mouth. He just snapped. Between the stress of the wedding and everyone coming down on him to find Natalia, he was feeling at the end of his rope. He watched the hurt dance across Leyla's eyes and moved to apologize.

“Chief,” Frank heard Remy call out. He looked up to see Remy and Anna approaching him. When he turned back, it was too late. Leyla was already making her way down the driveway.

“What's going on?” Remy asked.

Frank dropped his head and kicked at the dirt.

***

 

Olivia heard a light knock on the door as she was rocking a sleepy Francesca in her arms. She adjusted the girl and then stood up to answer. “Any chance that's your Ma?” she whispered to the child as she made her way over.

Olivia cracked the door enough to see Doris standing on the other side. She closed it and took off the latch and opened it again. “It's just Aunt Doris,” Olivia said to Francesca.

“Just?” Doris teased as she came in. Olivia looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. “I wanted to check on you.”

“We're okay,” Olivia said as she went back to rocking Francesca. “How was your dinner with Blake?”

“It was fine,” Doris responded. “We're all pretty somber right now.” Doris rubbed her face, finally feeling the effects of the day. “Blake said to give her a call if you needed anything. Or if you wanted her to take Francesca while you got some rest.”

“I don't think I'll be sleeping much,” Olivia said as she sat down. “I have Ava here to help too, so I think we'll be okay.”

“Well, you know Blake and I would do anything for you,” Doris offered. Olivia just looked down at her daughter in her arms. She couldn't help the tears. They slid down her cheeks as she closed her eyes.

“I'm sorry,” Doris said with a frown placing her hand on Olivia's forearm.

“I'm okay, I'm okay,” Olivia said shaking her head. “We'll get through this. Won't we Sweet Pea?” Olivia held the girl to her a little tighter. “This isn't our first rodeo.”

“You know, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat,” Doris said.

“What?” Olivia asked.

“The nunnery road trip,” she answered. “I mean, it sucked watching you in pain like that. But the passion you have for Natalia and the passion I know she has for you, I would ride to the ends of the earth to make sure you got that back.”

Olivia's eyes met Doris' and she knew instantly that the woman was telling the truth. If it wasn't for the wrenching pain in her gut, she would have smiled at her dear friend. Olivia felt how much her life had changed and how distant she was from the pain of even just a year ago.

“It's different this time,” Olivia stated as she looked into the distance.

Doris hesitated and then simply nodded in agreement.

***