Burn Us Down

20: In Between

Wiping his hand back over his forehead, Gerard made a noise in frustration, glaring down at mess which sat in front of him, looking nothing like the image which was on the page he’d marked out in one of Olivia’s cookbooks. It was something he hadn’t tried to make before. The recipe that he’d tried to follow was one that Olivia had made for him a few times, and he knew that it was one of her favourites, but despite his best efforts, the food on the plate in front of him looked nothing like what Olivia had made for him before, something which irked him more than it should have done. It wasn’t like it was a special occasion. Their anniversary wasn’t for months, his birthday had passed and Olivia’s wasn’t for another couple of weeks, but he had wanted to do something to for her, wanting to buoy her spirits which had been down since they’d made the calls to cancel their wedding plans.

It had hit them both hard. As much as they’d talked about it, and as much as it was the only option, the actual process of making the phone calls had hurt them both, and Gerard wanted to try and lift Olivia’s spirits, even if he was sure that the sting would last for a while. He still wanted to make an effort to make her smile, even if only for a night.

Sighing, he moved to pick up the book and perused the recipe again, trying to figure out which step he’d done wrong.

“What’s it supposed to be?”

Gerard smirked down at the book, hearing the amusement in Olivia’s voice. “You can’t tell?” he quipped, glancing over at her.

Olivia, who was studying the mess he’d made on the counter, looked up and caught his eyes, a shy smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “It looks like it’s got the components for the fish tacos I make” she quipped “But I don’t quite remember mine looking so…rustic” she added.

Gerard shook his head, still smirking down at book. “Rustic?” he quipped.

“It’s got…charm” Olivia replied, smiling sheepishly.

Gerard laughed before he moved to settle the book down onto the counter, sparing a look at the mess that he’d made. “I thought I’d give it a go” he mused “You can see how that worked out, but it still achieved its purpose. You’re smiling” he pointed out.

Olivia’s cheeks flushed a soft shade of pink as she reached towards the counter, fiddling with the first thing that came to hand. She knew that she had been distant. Since they’d made the calls to cancel their plans a handful of days previous, she knew that she had been quieter and distracted than usual, but she hadn’t noticed that Gerard had noticed. They had missed each other a lot, mostly by Olivia’s design, and she didn’t realise he’d seen enough of her to know that she was still hurting badly.

Gerard watched her, allowing the quiet to stretch out between the two of them, before he stepped a little closer to her, hesitating for a beat before he wrapped his arms around her waist, his lips pressing a tentative kiss against the back of her shoulder. “You could try and teach me again” he mumbled gently.

Olivia’s hands closed around his which had settled against her stomach, a soft smile lighting up her features as she glanced over her shoulder at him. “You do remember all the other times I’ve tried that, don’t you?” she quipped.

Gerard feigned rolling his eyes. “It wasn’t that bad” he replied.

“Wasn’t it?” Olivia chirped as she pulled away from him “You don’t remember throwing a tantrum because my cupcakes were lovely and fluffy and yours were more…”

“Rustic?” Gerard interjected, grinning at her impishly.

Olivia couldn’t stop herself from giggling, a sound which caused Gerard’s already bright face to light up a little more.

“Rustic” Olivia confirmed.

“Are you going to finish that?” Gerard prodded, sparing a glance down towards the half-finished plate of food that Olivia was prodding aimlessly with her fork. It had been a good evening. There had still been the customary awkward silences, they had both still seemed a little hesitant around the other, still not entirely sure of what was and wasn’t too much, but it had been good. They had cooked together, laughed at the memories they shared, and for a couple of hours, it hadn’t felt like they were clinging onto things. It’d felt like countless other nights they’d shared before.

Olivia shook her head, edging the plate towards him. “I’m finished with it” she mused “I’ve eaten too much” she added.

“It was good, though” Gerard smirked, placing another forkful of food into his mouth “I mean, I did a good job, right?” he added.

Olivia normally would have played along, quipped back a line about her having done most of the work and Gerard having been little to no help, but instead she exhaled a soft sigh, a sound which had the grin slipping off of Gerard’s features. “What?” he prodded.

Olivia shook her head. “It’s nothing” she mused.

Gerard offered her a sceptical look. “Livy” he encouraged.

Olivia’s eyes flicked up to his before she let out a soft sigh. “I…I don’t know where we are now” she stumbled out.

The temptation to make a joke almost got the better of Gerard, but just about stopped himself. Instead, he tilted his head. “Where we are?” he asked.

Olivia pushed her fingers back through her hair, seemingly frustrated with herself. “I’m your fiancée, right?” she asked “That’s what you’d say to someone if they asked?” she added.

“What else would I say?” Gerard replied, trying his best to smile.

“I don’t know” Olivia replied “And that’s what’s tripping me up. There’s no wedding anymore, Geri and that…that’s so strange. I had a class today and I was wearing this” she paused, looking down at her ring.

“I’d like to hope so” Gerard joked, a shaky smile on his face.

“One of the students asked about it” Olivia spoke almost as though Gerard’s hadn’t said a word “She said it was beautiful, which it is, and then she asked if we’d picked a date and I…I wanted to say yes. I wanted to gush and fuss about all of ours plans, but…but there aren’t plans anymore. We’re stuck somewhere between together and not together, getting married, and not getting married, and it’s…it’s overwhelming” she added.

Gerard opened his mouth to say something, but Olivia spoke up again. “Melissa’s throwing me a birthday party” she said “And I…I don’t know if I should bring you with me. That’s how unsure of this I still am. A few weeks ago, it wasn’t even a question. If I was having a birthday party, you…you had to be there and now…” she trailed off as her hazel eyes peeked up into his blues, seeing the pain in them.

Gerard held her stare for a beat before allowed his head to drop, a pained sigh falling out of his mouth. “You don’t want me there?” he asked.

Olivia’s silence was as damning as an answer.

“Oh” Gerard squeaked.


“I get it” Gerard interrupted “I mean, I’m just your fiancé, right? Why would I need to be there?” he added, his voice sharpening.

“My sister will be there” Olivia argued “My father. My friends. It would be too awkward” she added.

“No, really, I understand” Gerard said, pushing his seat back “It’s your birthday. I’d hate to screw it up with my presence” he added sarcastically.

“Are you forgetting why this is how we are?” Olivia shot back, standing up.

“Of course not!” Gerard couldn’t quite stop himself from shouting.

“Then understand that things aren’t back to how they were!” Olivia yelled back “Understand that I don’t want my birthday to become about you and my family and friends being at each other’s throats. It’s too much” she added.

“You can’t avoid it forever” Gerard sneered “Unless that’s where we are. Are we just a couple when it’s the two of us? Do they know that you came home? That we’re actually making any kind of progress?” he pressed.

Olivia’s eyes dropping to the floor told him everything he needed to know. Letting out a humourless laugh, he shook his head before he stepped backwards across the kitchen. “Are we making progress?” he asked, the tone of his voice shifting from annoyed to something softer, more resigned “Or are we just putting off the inevitable? We’ve cancelled our wedding plans, are you going to give me that back soon too?” he asked, nodding towards her hands.

Olivia glanced down at her ring.

“Are we kidding ourselves?” Gerard asked quietly.

Olivia looked back up at him. “I don’t know” she replied.

Gerard’s face creased into an expression that Olivia had never seen before. “I don’t know either” he muttered.