Like You Did Before

11: You Have To Say That

“Are you sure that you don’t want to go back to your place?” Matilda asked as she wandered into the living room, her eyes drifting towards Iker who was settled on her couch, babbling happily to Lola. It wasn’t the first time that she had asked. With her due to got out for the evening, she had suggested a few times that Iker would probably be more comfortable having Lola at his place for the night, but he’d insisted that he didn’t mind, something Matilda couldn’t quite figure out. He didn’t like spending time there. After she had asked him if he was still in love with her, his visits had gotten shorter and their conversations more stilted, and it meant that his insistence that he didn’t mind spending a couple of hours in her apartment had surprised Matilda. She had assumed that he would jump at the chance to have Lola for the night.

Iker lazily lifted his head, shrugging a shoulder. “I’ve got an early meeting” he replied “And I’d not have time to get back here in the morning or to wait for you to get to me. You’re only going to be gone for a couple of hours, aren’t you?” he asked.

Matilda, who’d been pulling a loose thread out of the sweater she wore, nodded her head. “It’s just dinner” she confirmed “Art…he got a promotion and we are going out to celebrate it” she added.

Iker’s lips quirked into a bitter smile, but he stifled it before Matilda looked up at him. “The two of you?” he prodded.

Matilda shook her head, tucking her hair back off of her face. “A group of us” she answered “My friend Naomi’s going to be there with her boyfriend. Art’s sister and her husband…it’s a pretty big thing” she added.

Iker nodded his head, but didn’t say anything.

Matilda stared at him, trying, and failing, to come up with something she could say to break the silence which had settled between the two of them, before her phone vibrated in the pocket of her jeans, drawing Iker’s stare down towards it briefly before he glanced up at her face. “Art” he said rather than asked.

“He’s my ride” Matilda confirmed with a little nod.

Iker turned back towards Lola without another word, something which made Matilda sigh gently before stepped over to him. Opening her mouth, she thought about saying something to him, but she opted against it, instead just leaning over to kiss the top of Lola’s head softly. “I’ll be back soon, sweetheart” she said quietly “Be good for your papa” she added before she stood up.

Iker’s eyes tracked every movement, his expression softening, but he said nothing.

Matilda waited, hoping that he’d say something, anything, but when he didn’t, she offered him a said smile. “I’ll see you later, Iker” she mused before she walked away.

“You should be taking it easy”

Matilda set her empty glass back down onto the table, glancing up at Arthur who’d slipped back into the seat next to her. “I’ve had two glasses” she mumbled.

“And you’ve not had alcohol in almost a year” Arthur replied, slipping the bottle of wine she had picked up out of her hand “I’m just trying to look out for you, Mattie” he added, offering her an impish grin.

Matilda rolled her eyes. “I thought this was supposed to be a celebration” she replied.

“It was” Arthur mused “And I’ve had a great time, but my sister’s paid the bill and everyone else is leaving, so that leaves me to take you home. You can continue being grumpy in the car if you want to” he added brightly.

It had been hard to miss. Since she had slipped into his passenger seat, she had been quiet and distant, and whilst she had tried to hide it by joining in with their friends, Arthur knew her well enough to know that whatever was on her mind, almost certainly something which related to her and Iker, was still bothering her.

Matilda offered him an unimpressed look, something which made Arthur chuckle before he stood up, pulling his jacket around his shoulders. Leaning over, he picked her coat up and held it out to her, allowing Matilda to slip her arms into it before they walked towards the exit. After they had said goodbye to their friends, they wandered towards Arthur’s car and climbed inside, sitting in a comfortable silence until Arthur had pulled out of the carpark and started the short trip back to Matilda’s apartment. “Did something else happen with Iker?” he asked.

Matilda had her head rested against the window when she shrugged. “Nothing worse than before” she replied “It seems like every time we talk, we hit the same wall and we both end up frustrated with the other. I asked him if he was still in love with me and he…he didn’t say anything. That spoke volumes about where he is to me” she added.

Arthur’s hands tightened on the steering wheel slightly before he forced himself to relax his grip again.

“We’re stuck in this circle” Matilda continued, staring out of the window “Every time we try talking about us, we both seem to hedge the conversation, keeping it from getting too real or serious, and then we get annoyed with each other. We’re both as bad as each other” she added with a rueful smile.

“You know you’re not the best at communicating” Arthur commented, turning the car around a corner.

“I’m not” Matilda confirmed “But I am trying. I just wish I knew what was on his mind. I don’t want to say something and make it worse” she added.

Arthur nodded his head, showing that he’d heard her, but he didn’t say anything else until he moved to pull his car up outside of Matilda’s apartment building. Pulling the keys out of the ignition, he stuffed them into his pocket and followed Matilda out of the car, something which caused her to tilt her head as he came to a halt beside her on the pavement. Quirking a grin, he gestured towards the door. “After you” he chirped.

Matilda’s forehead furrowed slightly, but she walked into the building, Arthur following close behind her.

“He’d be stupid not to love you, you know” Arthur commented as they exited the elevator on Matilda’s floor.

Matilda flashed him a teasing smile over her shoulder as they walked towards her apartment. “You have to say that” she quipped “You’re my best friend. It’s like rule number one. You’re obliged to tell me that my ex-boyfriend didn’t know what he was losing when we broke up” she added.

“True” Arthur agreed.

Matilda poked her tongue out at him playfully before she moved to find her keys in her bag, slipping her front door key into the lock.

“But that’s not the only reason I’m saying it” Arthur continued, watching as Matilda turned to look up at him “Mattie, you’re wonderful, and if Iker can’t see it, then maybe he’s not the one you’re supposed to end up with. I know you loved him, and that you’ve got Lola together, but if he can’t appreciate what’s right under his nose then…then it’s his loss” he added before he stepped towards her. One of his hands tipped her chin upwards slightly, allowing him to press his lips to hers, whilst the other pushed back through her hair.

Matilda lingered in the contact, mostly out of surprised, but the moment it took her to pull back was too long, because by the time she did, Iker’s frame had filled the doorway. Blinking, she pulled away from Arthur so quickly that she stumbled. “Iker” she squeaked.

Iker shook his head and walked back inside.

Matilda turned, looking between the two of them, before she let out a soft sigh. “I…I need to…I’ll see you, Art” she spluttered before she walked inside, pushing the door closed with a thump behind her.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)