Since I Last Saw You

00: I Wish You Weren’t Going

Leaning forwards, Lionel gently scratched his jawline, his tired eyes surveying the quiet living room around him for what felt like the thousandth time that morning. He had been sat there for a while, after he had slipped out of bed, he had taken to just sitting in the living room, staring at the half packed cardboard boxes that littered its floor, but it had only made him feel worse, reminding him that he was only a matter of hours away from pulling his car up at an airport and watching Ava climb out and disappear for months.

He’d known it was coming, from the moment that they’d started to see one another a couple of months previous, Ava had told him that there was a chance that she would be given the opportunity to spend six months abroad, but it didn’t make it any easier to take. He liked them, despite the fact that they’d only been seeing one another for a couple of months, he knew that they were onto something good, and the idea of sitting around for six months, only seeing Ava on the screen of his phone or laptop, was one which didn’t set well with him, no matter how many times she insisted that it would fly by. He still couldn’t quite get to a place where he felt like he was ready to say goodbye to her.

Closing his eyes, he pushed a hand back through his hair before he let out a soft sigh, lifting his gaze across the room, his lips quirking upwards slightly. “You were surprisingly quiet” he breathed, a hollow laugh escaping him.

Ava, who’d been quietly watching him from the doorway, shrugged, a weak smile of her own pulling her lips upwards. “You looked like you were having a moment” she noted “I didn’t want to intrude, but I wanted to make sure that you were still here. Your side of the bed is pretty cold” she added.

Lionel glanced up at her sheepishly. “I’ve...uh...I’ve been out here for a little while” he stumbled out.

Ava nodded her head slowly, allowing a few seconds of quiet to pass between the two of them, before she gestured towards a box on the floor, her face brightening with another feeble smile. “You could have at least finished this” she teased as she stepped across the room, carefully shuffling a few more of her belongings into the box “I mean, I have to be at the airport in a few hours, but my brother...” she trailed off as her eyes met Lionel’s.

Chewing on her lip, she searched his dark eyes for a moment before she shook her head, diverting her stare back towards the box.

Lionel sat and watched her shuffle a few more things into the box before he sighed. “Ava...”

“What do you want me to say?” Ava interrupted, making no attempt to look up at him “You knew that this was coming. I told you about it on our first date” she added.

She knew what he was going to say, since she had told him that she had been officially offered the job, they’d had a similar conversation on a couple of occasions, and she wanted him to know that that time wasn’t likely to be different from the others. The opportunity was something she had wanted for a while, even before she and Lionel had started to see one another, and she wasn’t prepared to turn it down, even if it did mean causing a few bumps between her and Lionel. She was certain that they’d figure things out.

“I know” Lionel conceded “I just...I guess I didn’t think it would...I don’t want you to go” he stumbled out, grimacing as the words fell out of his mouth.

Ava, who’d still been pushing things into the box, exhaled softly before she looked up. “Leo...”

“I know you’ve wanted this longer than you’ve wanted us” Lionel interrupted, cutting off what he was sure would be the same speech she had given him a few times already “And I know that you’re not going to turn it down for a guy you’ve been dating for all of three months, but that doesn’t mean that I am OK watching you pack up all your stuff, Ava. I hate it, and I wish you weren’t going” he insisted.

Ava was quiet for a second, not quite sure of how to respond to him, before she slowly lifted her gaze, mirroring his stare. “It’s not going to be that bad” she murmured softly “I mean, it’ll probably take us a few days to figure a schedule out, but we’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. We’ll talk all of the time, and in six months, there’s bound to be more than one opportunity for me to come back over for a weekend or something. It’ll be fine, Leo, I know it” she insisted, forcing the brightest smile she could muster up onto her face.

Lionel studied her smile, not missing that it seemed forced, before he shook his head. “By the time you get back here, I’ll have spent more time talking to you on my laptop than in person” he noted.

“We’ll figure it out” Ava repeated.

Lionel swallowed, allowing her words to hang around them for a few seconds, before he sighed. “Maybe it’s best that we don’t” he murmured.

Ava stilled, staring at him with wide, confused, eyes.

“I like you” Lionel insisted “You know that I do, Ava, but this’s too much. We’ve barely been together five minutes, and you’re going away, and it seems like too much for us to be thinking about right now. I’ve not even met your parents yet, and you’re standing there, asking me to be happy with a few weekends” he pressed, the tone of his voice hard to place.

Ava just blinked a couple of times.

“I think makes more sense to just...” Lionel trailed off, looking up at her helplessly.

“To just end things?” Ava breathed.

Lionel didn’t want to nod, but he did, his hand rubbing his neck in discomfort.

Ava took in a shaky breath, trying to process the words, before she shook her head. “You just want to end things with me?” she murmured.

“I don’t want to” Lionel replied “I just...I don’t think I can do distance right now, Ava” he added.

Ava stood still, staring down at the floor next to his feet.

“A break” Lionel suggested, speaking just to fill the awkward silence that seemed intent on hanging in the air between the two of them “Not a breakup, but a break. We can put things on pause while you’re gone, and, if you want to, when you get back we could...maybe...try to give this another shot?” he asked more than started.

Ava just stared at the ground for a few seconds before she lifted her hand, brushing a couple of loose tears off of her cheek quickly. “You’d want to do that?” she murmured softly.

“I’d rather you weren’t going” Lionel replied without hesitation “I’d rather that I woke up here tomorrow with you, but I know that that isn’t going to happen. You know how I feel about you, but this is...we’re still so new right now. Maybe too new to be thinking about six months apart as boyfriend and girlfriend” he added, frowning a little at his own words.

He wasn’t sure that he was doing his best at explaining himself, but he hoped that Ava understood, at least, where he was coming from. They’d barely been a couple, if he was honest, he couldn’t think of one time that he had called Ava his girlfriend, or Ava had called him her boyfriend, and he didn’t know that their fledgling relationship was strong enough to handle six months apart. They’d only spent three months together.

Ava chewed on her lip thoughtfully before she let out a shaky breath, slowly nodding her head. “Maybe you’re right” she whispered.

Lionel’s smile was sad as he nodded. “I think so” he replied quietly.

Ava shifted her feet a little, something which caused Lionel to stand up, moving to press a soft kiss against her cheek. “Call me” he murmured against her skin “When you get back, call me and we’ll...we’ll try and figure things out, OK?” he added, pulling back to meet her tearful eyes.

“I hope that we can” Ava breathed.

Lionel nodded. “So do I” he replied.