You Loved Me Once

42: Don’t Let Her Go

“You really don’t have to come tonight if you don’t want to” Lionel mused as he stood in the hall, listening to the distant thumps of Alba rushing around his apartment. He knew that she was nervous, as much as her talking with his mother had calmed her down, he knew that she was still a little unsure and that, twinned with the moment that she had had with her mother whilst she was out with Eva, made him want to offer the chance to duck out, not wanting to make her uncomfortable.

“Why wouldn’t I want to?” Alba posed as she stepped into the hall way, a thoughtfully bought bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine clutched in her hand.

“I am merely offering” Lionel noted “I know that you’re still a little unsure and I thought, with you having seen your mother…”

“Leo” Alba interrupted “Your mother invited us for dinner and I am not going to be the reason we don’t show up. She seemed so excited last night when we agreed and I don’t want to get on the wrong side of her” she insisted.

“If I explained, you wouldn’t” Lionel offered.

“I’m fine” Alba insisted “She and I didn’t even speak, Leo, and I don’t want to let her get me down. You want me to come with you, don’t you?” she posed softly.

“I’d love you to” Lionel smiled “I was just trying to be a considerate boyfriend. Remind me not to do that again” he teased sarcastically.

Alba rolled her eyes before she extended the flowers and wine to him, allowing her to pull on her jacket.

Lionel admired her for a moment, still a little in awe of her, before the sound of his phone caught his attention. “We should go” he commented, reading the message from his mother asking where they were “If we don’t get there soon, my mother’s going to appear here and that’s not what I want” he enthused.

Alba nodded. “If she shows up here, she might not leave” she teased.

Lionel rolled his eyes playfully. “Why did you have to be so loveable?” he muttered.

Alba giggled gently. “I can’t help it that your mama loves me” she teased as she collected his keys, handing them over to him “It’s clearly a trait that runs in your family” she grinned.

Lionel smiled and leant into her, sneaking a quick kiss that made Alba swat for him, quipping about them already running late.

“Are you sure that you don’t want a hand with anything, Celia?” Alba posed as she padded into the kitchen. It had been a pleasant evening, Alba had spent a lot of it catching up with Lionel’s brothers and sister as well as his father, and whilst she felt relaxed, she wanted to offer her help to Celia who had set about preparing a meal for them all.

“I’m certain, Alba” Celia mused “Everything’s just cooking away and should be ready soon. Why are you out here?” she posed.

“I wanted to help” Alba mused softly “You seemed to be doing everything by yourself and I figured you’d like a hand” she added.

“Always so helpful” Celia smiled “You’re not too different to the little girl who used to wander in here and help me bake” she mused.

Alba’s cheeks warmed. “You used to make the best cookies” she quipped.

Celia smiled and padded towards the cupboard, returning moments later with a biscuit tin in hand. “I make them for my grandchildren, but I am sure I could spare you one” she enthused, offering the tin out to Alba who gratefully collected a biscuit, offering the older woman a grin that made her shake her head. “You’ve really not changed, have you?” she teased.

Alba offered her an impish smile before she bit into the biscuit, letting out a small happy groan. “Amazing” she insisted.

“Did I ever give you the recipe?” Celia posed as she padded towards another cupboard, returning moments later with a shoe box in hand.

“You never did” Alba smiled.

“It’s in here somewhere” Celia fussed, moving papers and pictures onto the counter.

Alba watched her for a moment before she stepped a little closer, her fingers brushing over a collection of photos that she hadn’t seen for years. “You kept all of these?” Alba posed as she moved to lift them up.

Celia nodded. “Of course” she fussed “Feel free to look at them” she added.

Alba flashed her a brief smile before she took the pictures, flicking through them happily.

“Our 7th birthday party” Lionel quipped as he stepped into the room, peeking at the picture that Alba held in her hand.

Alba, who’d not heard him step into the room, jumped, offering him a glare over her shoulder.

Lionel poked his tongue out briefly before he stole the picture, grinning at it. “You made the cutest Minnie Mouse” he teased as he moved to sit on the counter.

“My madre insisted on dressing me up like that after your parents decided to dress you up like Mickey Mouse” Alba noted “I split my skirt trying to keep up with you” she added.

Lionel grinned. “You cried for a solid hour and a half” he noted “It took two pieces of cake to shut you up” he added.

Alba rolled her eyes and flicked to the next photograph, her cheeks reddening a little at the slightly awkward picture.

“Our first official date” Lionel grinned, taking the picture out of her hand “You shook every time I tried to hold your hand” he mused.

“And you spilled water on your shirt whilst glaring at a boy from school we’d run into” Alba countered, moving to look at the next photograph.

“The night I proposed” Lionel commented, his tone shifting a little.

Alba, who was staring at the picture, nodded a little, a small lump in her throat. It was the elephant in the room, the thing they never talked about, but the picture in her hand was a reminder that she could have done without. It was a cute picture, Alba was standing with Lionel’s arms wrapped around her whilst she showed off the engagement ring that was sat on the finger, but it still got to her, something which Lionel seemed to sense. “It happened, Alba” he murmured as he took the picture out of her hand “I did propose to you” he added.

“And we both know how that ended” Alba mumbled, stowing the pictures on the counter “Excuse me” she added with a look towards Celia who’d stopped what she was doing.

“Alba” Lionel protested as he moved to follow after her.

“Leave her” Celia mused as she caught his arm “She’s not going to appreciate you following after her” she added.


“She’s working at forgiving you” Celia mused “Even though you’re happy right now, there’s a part of her that still hasn’t quite gotten over it and you need to just let it happen. The fact that you two are as you are right now is remarkable and you need to keep it going at her pace, Lionel” she insisted.

Lionel looked at her for a moment before he sighed.

“She’s still as amazing as she was before, Leo, and she still adores you, it’s clear from the way she smiles. You just need to let her get to a point where she can look at you and say that she forgives you” Celia fussed as she patted his cheek gently.

“I want her to be happy, Mama” Lionel noted as his mother pushed the hair out of his eyes.

“She is” Celia quipped “And you’d do well not to let her go again. She’s still the best match for you” she fussed before she kissed the top of his head, moving back towards the meal she was ready to serve.

Lionel nodded his head, knowing that his mother had a point. It was good, things between him and Alba almost felt as they had when they’d been nervous teenagers, but he knew that he had to take each day as it came. Alba was still getting over what he’d done and he had to let her do it in her own time.