Since I Last Saw You

12: Was It Just Me?

Watching the clock on his car’s dashboard, Lionel shifted slightly in his seat, sparing a brief glance towards the restaurant he was parked outside of. He had made a point of getting there early, with Ava’s intention being to introduce him to her parents, the last thing he had wanted was to show up late and embarrass her, but in his haste to get there early, he had forgotten to text Ava and ask when she was going to arrive, something which had led to him sitting in his car, watching the restaurant’s entrance for any sign of her. The invitation had been a surprise, when Ava had suggested that he go with her to the party, he had been almost certain that she was either joking, or that she would realize what she had said, what she had asked him to do with her, and try and backtrack, but she hadn’t, even despite the copious ways out he had offered to her. She still insisted that she wanted him to go with her.

Sparing another look at the clock, he itched the side of his neck apprehensively before he heard a knock against the car window, something which caused him to glance up, the knot in his stomach relaxing a little at the sight of Ava who stood outside, a small smile tugging the corner of her lips upwards. Feeling himself smile in return, he gently pushed the car door open before he stepped out, self-consciously smoothing out his shirt.

Ava watched him, gently tugging the material of her coat a little more around herself. “You look like you’ve been out here for a while” she noted.

Lionel felt his cheeks warm as he sheepishly shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t want to be late” he replied “So I left stupidly early and didn’t text you to ask when you were going to show up, so I’ve just been sitting here waiting” he added shyly.

Ava, who’d been brushing some imaginary speck off of her dress, smiled down at the floor for a moment before she shook her head, gently tucking her hair behind her ear. “Are you ready?” she asked.

“I think so” Lionel replied “Are you?” he added, his voice caught between teasing and curious.

Ava hesitated for a split second before she nodded. “Yeah” she confirmed.

Lionel lifted an eyebrow, not missing her hesitation, but he didn’t say anything, instead opting to follow her as she made her way towards the restaurant’s entrance. Following her through the door, he smoothed out his shirt again before he heard someone calling out Ava’s name, something which caused him to look up, watching as an older woman made her way towards them, quickly sweeping Ava up into a tight hug that had the brunette laughing gently.

Lionel watched the two of them for a few seconds before Ava tugged out of the hug, directing the older woman’s attention towards him. “This is Leo” she noted gently “He’s a friend of mine. Leo, this is Carmella, my mother” she added.

Lionel fixed a polite smile onto his face, sticking a hand out ahead of himself. “It’s good to meet you” he mused shyly.

Carmella stared at him for a moment, looking him up and down, before she placed her hand in his, allowing him to shake it a little too enthusiastically.

Seeing the slight flinch in Carmella’s expression caused Lionel’s cheeks to warm. “Sorry” he noted softly.

“It’s fine” Carmella mused warmly “You’re a little nervous and that’s OK. I know I was the first time I met Alfredo’s parents” she added.

Lionel breathed out a nervous laugh, something which caused Carmella’s smile to soften before she turned back towards Ava, lifting a teasing eyebrow.

Ava rolled her eyes. “Where are papa and Lucas?” she asked.

“They’re here somewhere” Carmella replied “And you can go and find them in a second, but first, let me get you both something to drink. Champagne?” she asked.

Lionel smiled politely, but shook his head, showing off the set of car keys which he had been nervously clutching in his pocket. “Could I just get some water, please?” he asked.

Carmella nodded. “Of course” she noted “And for you, Ava? I’m guessing you’re not driving” she added, offering her daughter a suggestive glance.

Ava ducked her head, trying, and failing, to hide the pink which had begun to spread over her cheeks. “I’m not” she confirmed “So, some champagne would be lovely, mama. Thank you” she added.

Carmella smirked before she sauntered away, something which caused Lionel to breathe out a soft sigh in relief. “Did that go badly or was it just me?” he asked.

Ava shook her head, stepping a little closer so that she could offer his hand a brief, but reassuring, squeeze. “It went fine” she mused “Just try and relax a little” she added.

Lionel let out another nervous laugh. “That’s easier said than done” he replied.

Finishing the last bite of the piece of cake that he had been plied with, Lionel felt himself smile, catching the sound of Ava’s amused laugh from somewhere nearby. They’d spent most of the night together, with him having had a hard time relaxing, Ava had ensured that she had stuck close to him, prepared to bail him out of any conversation that it looked like he was struggling with, and whilst they’d caught their share of curious smiles, none more so than from Carmella and her husband who’d almost snorted when Ava had introduced Lionel to him as her ‘friend’, the night had gone well. There had been no denying his nerves, the awkward little laughs he gave in most conversations as well as his slightly overzealous handshakes were giveaways, but they had started to fade, allowing him to relax a little.

“Your coach is going to kill me” Ava chirped as she plopped down into the seat next to him.

Lionel just grinned at her, placing his fork down.

Ava rolled her eyes before she spotted a smear of icing at the corner of his mouth, something which caused her to lift a napkin up off of the table. Turning the piece of material over in her hand a couple of times, she briefly contemplated handing it over to him, before she leant towards him slightly, dabbing the chocolate off of his skin.

Lionel’s breath hitched slightly, his dark eyes meeting Ava’s, before he quirked a half-smile, something she mirrored as she leant way from him, tossing the napkin down onto the table. Lionel watched her as she ducked her head, wanting nothing more than to gently tip it back so that she looked up at him, but before he had the chance to act, Ava was pulled out of her seat. Blinking, he turned in his own seat and forced a small smile, his eyes meeting those of Alfredo, Ava’s father.

“You don’t mind me borrowing your friend for a moment do you, Leo?” the older man pressed, playfully stressing the word ‘friend’ “My daughter owes her papa a dance” he added, not noticing Ava roll her eyes.

Lionel shook his head, smiling politely. “How could I get in the way of that?” he played along.

Alfredo laughed loudly, almost certainly a little drunk. “I like you” he grinned.

“That’s good to know” Lionel replied “Thanks for having me here, Alfredo” he added.

Alfredo waved a hand. “Ava wanted you here” he noted “She must like you or something” he added impishly before he tugged Ava away.

Lionel watched the two of them away, noticing the pink on Ava’s cheeks, before he smiled to himself, hoping that that night, which had gone far better than he had thought it would, would mark the start of things between the two of them settling down into something it was clear they both wanted it to be.
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Thanks to FootieJo for the comment :)