Like You Did Before

19: You Mean That

Placing the clean mug down onto the counter, Iker heard Matilda’s voice drift through the apartment, a sound which caused him to roll his eyes playfully to himself. She had held out for a while. She had spent nearly an hour and half with him and Lola, focussed entirely on just the two of them, before she’d ducked away to call Naomi back, and whilst it wasn’t much of gesture, Iker couldn’t help but smile at it. He knew that he’d have to get used to it again. Aside from Arthur, Matilda had a tightknit group of friends that she had known since she was a child, and he hoped that he had the chance to get to know them all again. They were important to Matilda, and he knew that if things were going to work between them for a second time, he’d have to try his hardest to win them over again.

Pulling the other mug out of the water, he wiped it over quickly with a towel before he set it down beside the first.

“I thought you would have ducked out”

Iker shrugged, turning so that his back rested against the counter. “Maybe I wanted to say goodbye first” he chirped.

Matilda smiled at him gently. “You didn’t have to” she mused as she stepped towards him, placing something in the sink behind him “I know I was on the phone for a while. I’d have seen you first thing in the morning” she added.

Iker lifted a shoulder, smiling at her warmly. “It was no trouble” he mused “Did you manage to help Naomi with her wedding plans?” he prodded.

Matilda, who’d moved to collect something from the fridge, stilled a little at the question before she nodded, closing the door softly. “She…she called to talk about Art” she admitted quietly.

Iker’s warm smile faltered a little.

“He’s going to be at the wedding” Matilda kept talking, not wanting to allow an awkward silence to fall between them “He and Micah…anyway, she just wanted to know how awkward things are between us. Apparently, she and Micah don’t love the prospect of us messing up their wedding in some way” she added, forcing a little laugh out of her mouth.

Iker flinched at the sound of her laugh. It was a hollow and empty sound that he’d heard more than he would have liked. “Have you spoken to him?” he asked.

Matilda’s forehead creased. “Arthur?” she asked.

Iker nodded. “I know you saw him the morning after” he mused “But have you heard from him since?” he asked.

Matilda wanted to ask him why he was asking, but she stopped herself as she studied the look on his face. It wasn’t accusatory. He looked genuinely concerned for her, and it was enough to kill the question on the tip of her tongue. Gently folding her arms over her chest, she shook her head. “I…I’ve thought about texting him, calling him, a few times, but I don’t want to make things worse” she admitted gently “I hurt him, Iker. Whether I meant to or not, the end product is that he got hurt, and I don’t really know what I can do to make it better. He’s my best friend, and I miss him, but I worry now that…that me being near him is just going to hurt him more” she explained.

Iker hesitated for a moment, but gave into the urge he had to move towards her, his hands gently settling on her shoulders. Squeezing, he watched her look up at his face before he leant over, touching a soft kiss to her forehead. “I’m sorry” he whispered “I know I never…that me and Art never really got on, but I know how close you two are, and I am sorry that it’s such a mess” he added.

Matilda’s eyes scanned his face. “You mean that” she stated more than asked.

Iker nodded, the faint smirk that had brightened his features sobering into a slightly sadder smile. “I think you’re right, though” he said “I know that you want to make it better, but I…I don’t know that you can. He had feelings for you, Mattie, for a long time, and now he knows that you don’t return them. It’s not something he’s just going to get over, and I worry if you push it…”

“I’ll only end up making it worse” Matilda finished for him “Mimi said the same thing” she added, noticing that he’d lifted an eyebrow.

Iker’s hand wandered up the back of her neck, gently twining his finger in her hair.

Matilda closed her eyes, enjoying the soft touches for a moment, before she let out a quiet sigh. “I’m sorry for talking about him” she whispered “I know that he’s not your favourite topic, but I thought I should be honest about it. Mimi wanted to know if was able to sit next to him at their wedding reception, that’s why she called” she rambled.

Iker sighed before he leant over, kissing the top of her gently. “If it is bothering you, I want you to talk to me about it” he mumbled into her hair “That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you, Mattie. If you need to talk about something, anything, I want to be one of the first people you think about turning to. You don’t have to tell me every little thing, but if it is bothering you, and if you think it’d be better if you talked to someone about it…I’d like it if you talked to me. Even about Art” he added, kissing her head again.

Matilda didn’t say anything for a moment. She just wrapped her arms around Iker’s waist.

Iker held her, moving only to drop another couple of gentle kisses against her head, before Matilda gently pulled back, offering him a shy smile.

Iker edged towards her, his nose gently brushing hers, but before he could touch his lips to hers, Lola’s cries filled the air. Breathing out a slightly rueful laugh, he took a pace back before he shook his head. “I should get out of here” he mused “I’ll see you in the morning?” he prodded.

Matilda smiled before she leant towards him, touching a light kiss against his cheek. “Goodnight, Iker” she said gently before she made her way towards her bedroom.

Iker followed her for a few paces, sweeping his jacket up from the back of the couch, before he progressed towards the front door, smiling gently to himself.