Burn Us Down

28: We Love Having You Around

Running a hand back through his hair, Gerard peeked up the stairs, just about refraining from yelling up them to Olivia who he could hear padding around as she got ready. He’d already called up to her twice and he knew if he did it a third time, then she’d only get annoyed, something he didn’t want to happen. It’d been a while in coming, the dinner invitation from his parents had been one that Gerard had been waiting to receive for a little while, and he knew that it had Olivia on edge, even if she had sounded cheerful on the phone when she’d accepted it.

He knew that it was a situation that exacerbated the new worries that she had about their relationship. She worried about how people saw them now, about what people thought of her decision to stay with him in light of the kiss, and whilst he knew that his parents, who’d adored Olivia from the outset, wouldn’t have had a bad word to say about her, he couldn’t seem to make her stop worrying about it, something which had manifested itself in nerves which seemed worse than the first time she’d gone to meet his parents.

Pulling his hand back, he spared a glance down at his watch.

“Calm down” Olivia’s playful chirp preceded the sound of her footsteps against the stairs “We’re not late yet” she added.

Gerard turned and watched her down the stairs, a lazy smile kicking up the corner of his lips. “Are you finally ready?” he played along.

Olivia, who’d moved to collect her phone and purse to put into her bag, rolled her eyes. “I only changed twice” she replied.

Gerard stepped towards her, his hands landing on her hips as he leant over to kiss the top of her head. “You look great” he mumbled into her hair “And I’m sure you’d have looked great in the first outfit too. Can I ask why you changed?” he asked.

He knew the answer, she was nervous and uncomfortable, and he wanted her to say it. If they were to ever make it back to something close to what they’d been before, it was going to involve a lot of communication, starting with Olivia admitting all of the worries and doubts that Gerard’s mistake had bought to the surface.

“I just liked this one better” Olivia replied with a little shrug “Why? Do you think I need to change again?” she asked, glancing at him with concern.

Gerard’s smile was warm and reassuring as he shook his head. “No, you look beautiful” he mused.

Olivia furrowed her forehead doubtfully, but before she had the chance to argue, Gerard pressed a soft kiss against her lips. Olivia hesitated for a second before she kissed him back, something which made Gerard smile against her lips before he drew back, his thumb tracing her cheekbone. “You’ll tell me if something’s getting you down, won’t you?” he asked softly.

Olivia looked away from him before she sighed gently. “You’ve noticed?” she asked.

“That you’re acting like you’ve never met my parents before?” Gerard prodded “Yeah, I’d caught on” he added.

Olivia opened and closed her mouth, not quite sure what to say, but she was saved from answering when Gerard leant down, kissing her gently. Relaxing into him, she allowed the kiss to draw on for a few long seconds, before he pulled back, pressing a kiss to her forehead which was his way of telling her that, as far as his parents were concerned, there was nothing for her to be worried about.

“How is that adorable nephew of yours, Olivia?” Montserrat cooed.

Olivia, who’d been sipping at the glass of wine that had just been placed down on the table ahead of her, smiled easily at the question, something which was a relief to Gerard who sat at her side, his arm draped over the back of her chair. She had been quiet. Throughout the drive to the restaurant that his mother had chosen out, Olivia had barely uttered two words that hadn’t been coaxed out of her by his questions, and he had worried that her nerves would be obvious to his parents, something he knew would earn the two of them more than a few suspicious looks. He had told his parents that things were OK. He’d told them that he and Olivia had taken a bit of a break after the pictures had come out, and that they’d agreed to stay together and that things were going well, but he’d worried that they’d have their doubts if they saw just how far away they were from being themselves again.

“He’s great” Olivia mused “He’s still giving my sister and brother-in-law all the trouble in the world” she added.

“How’d he like being Gerard’s mascot?” Joan asked “You said he was pretty excited about it when you told him about it” he added.

“He loved it” Olivia replied “He was so excited about walking out onto the pitch that he actually managed to fall asleep during the second half” she added.

Montserrat cooed before the table fell quiet, something which caused Gerard to shift his hand, brushing it gently over the top of Olivia’s arm. Olivia glanced down at his hand, smiling softly at the comforting movement, before she glanced across the table, seeing the hopeful smile that both of Gerard’s parents wore.

Montserrat watched as Olivia ducked her head, her cheeks flushing a light shade of pink. “You two look good together” she cooed softly.

Olivia’s answering smile was sheepish. “I like to think so” she said softly.

“Can I ask how you are?” The older woman asked softly.

“Mama” Gerard warned softly.

Olivia squeezed his hand, telling him that it was OK. The question had been inevitable. “I’m OK” she said softly “And I think we’re OK. I wouldn’t say we’re quite back to where we were. I think we’re still learning where the cracks are before we set about really trying to fix them, but I think it’s going alright. Wouldn’t you say so, Geri?” she asked.

Gerard, who’d been watching her intently, nodded, a soft smile on his face. “I hope so” he replied.

Montserrat and Joan looked between the two of them before Montserrat spoke up again. “You’re still wearing the engagement ring” she pointed out as tentatively as she could “Does that mean that there might still be a wedding?” she asked.

Gerard’s hand stilled as he turned, offering his mother a pointed look. He had warned her to take things easily. “Mama…”

“I hope so” Olivia cut Gerard off “But it isn’t going to be for a long time yet. We’re OK, and we’re working towards being good, but that is…it’s a way off” she added.

Montserrat reached over and took Olivia’s hand in hers, offering it gentle squeeze. “I hope so too” she cooed “I don’t think it’s much of a secret how much we want to add you to the family. We love having you around, Olivia” she added, sparing a glance back towards her husband who nodded his head in agreement.

Olivia smiled gratefully, her cheeks pink. “Thank you” she whispered softly.

“Any time” Joan mused before he offered Gerard a pointed look.

Gerard acknowledged it with a pained smile and nod. He knew just how close he’d come to losing Olivia. He knew that he wasn’t entirely out of the woods yet, and he knew that a lot of people would be devastated if their relationship was to end. A lot of people were invested in them, their friends, their families, all of them had grown to know Gerard and Olivia as a couple and he knew how many other people would hate to see the end of them and how few of them would side with him if, or when, a breakup happened.