When We Were

Eighty Five: Then & Now

Pushing her recently dried hair back off of her face, Emilia let out a slightly tired sigh, not enjoying the silence which filled the bedroom around her. She felt nervous, from the moment that she had made her way through the front door, she had felt a knot of dread twisting in her stomach, and despite being home for a couple of hours, the discomfort hadn’t lessened. Lionel hadn’t let the strain show easily, when she’d come through the door without Luca who’d opted to spend his time with Isaac, he’d greeted her with a smile and watched happily as she fussed over Maisie, but she knew that he was impatient to talk to her. His smile had been ever so slightly off, and try as he might to hide it, it was something Emilia had seen almost instantly.

Closing her eyes, she gently pulled her knees to her chest, hugging them tightly for a few moments before she slowly let them go. Allowing her feet to settle on the cool flooring, she hesitated for a second before she moved to get up, making her way towards her dressing table in search of a hair tie. Moving her hand over the wooden surface, she eventually found one and picked it up, using it to tie her hair into a messy ponytail.

“Maisie’s asleep”

Emilia’s hands fumbled in her hair at the sound of Lionel’s voice before she looked up, catching sight of him in the mirror’s reflection. “Is it her nap time already?” she asked, sparing a vague look down at her watch.

Lionel nodded, stepping towards the bed before he sat down on the side of it. “It’s a little late, actually” he mused “She didn’t settle very easily, but we got there in the end” he added, placing Maisie’s monitor down on the end table.

Emilia watched his movements in the mirror, not saying anything for a few long seconds, before she gently turned around, resting her weight against the table. “I have always been honest with you” she said quietly, so quietly that Lionel almost missed it.

Lionel looked up at her. “When you’ve wanted to be” he countered “You’ve always been cagey about Isaac, Em, and I get it. Why would you want to talk about your ex-boyfriend with your current one? But I need real honesty, Em. Please?” he asked softly.

“What do you want me to be honest about, Leo?” Emilia’s voice was caught between soft and protesting.

“Is there any part of you that wanted to kiss him back?” Lionel asked, his eyes mirroring hers.

Emilia shook her head without missing a beat. “No” she replied firmly.

Lionel sat up a little at her answer, his eyes still mirroring hers.

“I loved him” Emilia said, stressing the word ‘loved’ for emphasis “Or, at the very least, I thought I did. I thought I loved him when he used to hold my hair back during my morning sickness. I thought I loved him when we used to settle Luca down to sleep and share this smile like we had the most amazing thing between just the two of us. I told him I loved him on so many nights when we’d just lay in bed together and you know how he responded to that? First, he ran away when I needed him the most, and then, when I thought I had him back and everything could be perfect, it turned out that he was a liar and that he was just...just using me because he could” she explained slowly.

“I know that” Lionel whispered “I just...is there anyway...?”

“That I could still love him?” Emilia finished for him.

Lionel closed his mouth, confirming the question with one firm nod.

Emilia shook her head. “I wanted him to love me for so long” she said slowly “Even after everything, I just...I wanted it so badly. I probably wanted it for a lot longer than I even really knew it, but it isn’t the same now. If I’m honest, part of the reason I held myself back like I did was because I hoped, perhaps naively, that he’d wake up one day and want me like I wanted him. I didn’t think anyone else could” she spluttered out a sad laugh.

Lionel gently stood up, stepping close enough to her that he could gently brush her hair behind her ear.

“And then there was Jordi’s wedding” Emilia breathed, looking up at him with a soft smile “And his blatantly obvious attempts to match make” she added.

Lionel’s lips quirked upwards. “You knew he did it on purpose?” he asked.

“It was so obvious” Emilia replied “Him and Samia didn’t agree on anything throughout the whole planning process, but they were both adamant about the seating plan, even though they weren’t sure you were coming. Your seat was always next to mine” she added.

Lionel smiled at her, but it sobered a little as he remembered where they were and what they were doing. “What changed after the wedding?” he asked.

“There was you” Emilia replied simply, a nonchalant shrug rolling over her shoulders.

Lionel smiled down at his feet bashfully.

Emilia gently reached out, tentatively touching his chin so that he would look back up at her. “I wanted him to love me, past tense. I wanted a life with him, past tense. I loved him, past tense” she mused softly “But you? I want you to love me, now and in the future. I want a life with you, I want to marry you, I want to have another baby with you...I just want you. I love you, now and tomorrow and for as long as you’ll have me. It’s you I want, Leo, just you” she added, a nervous smile on her lips.

Lionel searched her eyes for a few moments before he closed the gap between them, kissing her gently.

Emilia sighed happily into the kiss, smiling gently into it. It already felt so much better than the last kiss that they’d shared. It was tender, sweet, and most importantly, it felt normal, like all of the other kisses that had littered the previous two years.

“I’m not letting you go any time soon” Lionel mumbled against her lips.

“I know” Emilia whispered “I won’t let you” she added.

Lionel grinned into the next kiss, his hands tugging her as close as she could get. “We need to figure out what to do about him” he mumbled between kisses.

“Do you really want to be thinking about him right this second?” Emilia asked as she looked up at him through her eyelashes, her fingertips slipping under the bottom of his t-shirt to skim over his stomach.

Lionel breathed out a laugh. “You know that Maisie’s nap isn’t that long, don’t you?” he asked.

Emilia shrugged, smiling up at him gently. “We’ll just have to wait until tonight, then, won’t we?” she asked coyly.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, a grin on his face. “I guess we will” he agreed.

Emilia leant up onto her toes, kissing him again. “I’m sorry” she whispered.

Lionel touched his forehead to hers. “What are you sorry for?” he asked.

“Isaac” Emilia replied, tentatively touching the bruise on his face.

Lionel closed his eyes at the touch. “He’s not something you need to apologize for” he murmured.

Emilia opened her mouth to object, but another soft kiss stopped her words before they had the chance to fall off of the tip of her tongue. Briefly, she thought about interrupting the kiss, about insisting on apologizing for all the trouble Isaac had caused her, but Lionel’s gentle kiss persuaded her against it. It wasn’t another moment that she wanted the thought of Isaac to ruin.