Like You Did Before

25: Above Everything Else

Placing her newly emptied glass down onto the bar, Matilda kept her stare on her phone, still debating whether or not she ought to pick it up and call Iker. She knew that they’d left things badly. Despite the embrace and the kisses they’d shared before she’d left, the feeling in the pit of her stomach was a familiar one, one that she’d always gotten after their fights, but whilst she wanted to get rid of it, she couldn’t quite bring herself to pick up the phone. She didn’t want to say the wrong thing and make things worse. It was something she was good at. When she didn’t turn to confide in Arthur, she made the mistake of rushing to try to smooth things over, and it had often blown up in her face, something she didn’t want happening when things were still so tentative between her and Iker.

Letting out a quiet sigh, she picked the phone up and stuffed it into her pocket before she waved to the bartender, nodding at her empty glass.

She knew that Iker had a point. Telling Arthur about what was happening between the two of them was probably going to be the kinder thing to do in the long run, but still she dreaded it. She’d hurt him. The last time they’d been together in the same place, she’d told him that she didn’t have the feelings for him that he had for her, and she couldn’t imagine doing it again so soon. The last thing she wanted was to lose her friendship with Arthur permanently.

“Aren’t you supposed to keeping an eye on the bride-to-be?”

Matilda visibly startled in her seat before she turned around, her eyes landing on Arthur who stood a couple of paces away from her, an uncertain smile on his face. Blinking a couple of times, she took a moment to just look at him, before she nodded, a faint smile making its way onto her lips. “I was” she replied “But she’s so excited, she was asleep by nine. Aren’t you supposed to be with Micah?” she asked, turning back to her drink.

Arthur slipped into the empty stool beside her, shrugging as he moved to order a drink. “His mother is with him” he mused “She won’t let him go anywhere” he added.

Matilda quirked another faint grin, but didn’t say anything, allowing a long moment of quiet to stretch between the two of them.

Arthur picked up his beer bottle, taking a sip from it, before he cleared his throat. “How’s Lola?” he prodded.

“Good” Matilda replied a little too exuberantly “She’s…she’s good” she added, trying, and failing, to hide the pink that had crawled up her face.

Arthur’s smile softened, becoming easier and warmer. He could tell that Matilda was nervous, and he wanted to try and encourage her to relax. He wasn’t there to try and make things any more awkward between the two of them “Is she here?” he asked.

“She’s at Iker’s” Matilda replied, shaking her head “She’s a little young to be the flower girl” she added.

Arthur nodded his head, allowing another moment of quiet to linger between them, before he shook his head, staring down at the beer bottle he clutched in his hands.

He had a lot of things he wanted to say, that he wanted to ask, and he was having a tough time choosing where it was he wanted to start. He wanted them to make amends. Whilst he knew that their friendship would never be completely the same as it had been before, he wanted it to be something, and he knew it meant talking about things that were likely to be uncomfortable for them both. Whether he liked it or not, Matilda’s feelings and his didn’t match and it was something they had to confront if they were ever going to be close again.

“Are things between you and Iker Ok?” Arthur asked “I mean, the last time I saw you was after I…after our kiss, and I can’t imagine that that was something that he took all that well. Are you guys doing alright?” he prodded.

Matilda’s eyes dropped to her lap. “You don’t have to worry about that” she replied “Me and Iker…we’re OK” she added.

“Are you sure?” Arthur prodded curiously.

Matilda nodded her head before she slowly lifted it, her eyes meeting Arthur’s cautiously. “I’m sure” she confirmed “We…we talked a lot after that night. We said things that we’d not said before and we both understood a little more where the other was coming from. So much so, we…uh…we started to sort of see each other again” she stumbled out.

Arthur’s eyes widened a fraction, but he didn’t say anything right away. Instead, he picked at the label on his bottle for a moment before he let out a slightly sad laugh. “I…uh…I should have seen that coming” he mused “You and him, it always felt a bit unfinished” he added.


“Please, don’t apologise” Arthur cut in, his eyes snapping back up to Matilda’s “You don’t have to apologise to me for having feelings for someone else, Mattie. I know that you don’t feel like that about me, and I am trying to be Ok with that. You don’t owe me an apology for not feeling the same way about me, or for feeling that way about Iker. I should have told you that a lot sooner than tonight. I just…I needed some time to get my head around everything. It’d always been a possibility before and then suddenly it wasn’t, it was definite no and I needed to get my head around that. I’m sorry for not calling sooner” he added, shaking his head ruefully.

“I understand why you didn’t” Matilda said softly “Why didn’t you tell me about…it sooner?” she asked, grimacing at her inability to say the word ‘feelings’.

“Lots of reasons” Arthur replied with a shrug “You always thought your first kiss was with Marcos and I knew how much of a crush you had on him. You were happy with him, and then with Simon and with Iker…I didn’t want to make things complicated for you. It sucked, knowing how I felt about you and seeing you with them, but I always convinced myself that as long as you were happy, then that’s all that mattered. After you and Iker broke up, I thought I finally had a window, but then you told me that you were pregnant and I knew that that meant Iker and complications, and I told myself that you needed me as a friend more than you needed a boyfriend. The night I kissed you…I just threw it all out there, hoping it’d stick and it didn’t” he explained.

Matilda wanted to reach out to him, to pull him into a hug like she had done a million times before, but she stopped herself, something Arthur noticed with a sad shake of his head. “You and Iker” he breathed “How’s that going?” he asked.

“It’s good” Matilda said. She didn’t want to say too much, not wanting to hurt him more than necessary.

Arthur’s eyes searched her face for a long moment, hoping to catch any sight of uncertainty or a lie, but when he didn’t, he just forced a gentle smile. “Then I am happy for you” he said “We weren’t ever close, but I know how much you liked him and I am glad that you’re trying to figure it out” he added.

“You don’t have to say that” Matilda protested softly.

“I mean it” Arthur replied “I want you to be happy, Mattie. Above everything else” he added.

Matilda didn’t know what to say to that, something which made Arthur smile gently before he stood up. Placing his bottle on the bar, he leant over and embraced her quickly before he backed up, throwing a thumb over his shoulder. “I should get back upstairs” he mused “I’ve got to make sure that Micah’s still here. I’ll see you at the wedding tomorrow?” he prodded.

Matilda nodded. “I’ll be the one in the blue” she quipped shyly.

Arthur laughed, a sound that Matilda adored. “I’ll look out for you” he played along “It was…It was good seeing you, Mattie” he added.

Matilda didn’t hesitate then. She almost jumped out of her seat before she tossed her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Arthur remained still for long enough that she began to pull away before he tossed his arms around her, hugging her back just as tightly. “It was good see you, too, Art” she murmured.
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