Like You Did Before

38: A Brave Face

Lowering his head, Iker placed a kiss on the top of Lola’s head, his eyes quietly surveying the busy restaurant around him before they settled on Luis who stood in the kitchen, watching him through the window which allowed him to peer out into the dining room. He knew that he was coming. Matilda, albeit reluctantly, had asked if the four of them, and Lola, could get together once they were back in Porto, and both Luis and Adrienne had insisted that they were happy to do it, but Iker could already feel the older man’s wariness, even though they’d yet to say a word to one another. There was an expression on Luis’s face that Iker had grown more than a little familiar with during his original relationship with Matilda.

He knew that they didn’t dislike him. Luis and Adrienne had always been a little distant with him, a little unsure about his relationship Matilda, but they hadn’t disliked him, something he hoped was still true. They had their concerns. Matilda had told him that they worried that he and Matilda didn’t fully understand what they were doing, and that they worried that they were getting ahead of themselves before they’d fully wrapped their heads around the way things had changed for them since Lola had arrived, but Iker hoped that if Adrienne and Luis saw them together, they’d relax, something he hoped would help Matilda relax too.

Gently brushing his fingers back through Lola’s hair, he smiled as she reached for the toy he’d left on the table in front of him. Picking it up, he gently waved it in front of her, causing Lola to giggle softly.

“She really does look like you, doesn’t she?”

Iker lifted his head, glancing at Adrienne who’d stopped next to the table, her eyes fixed on her granddaughter. “You think so?” he asked.

Adrienne met his eyes, putting on a polite smile. “I’ve always thought it” she mused “But this is the first time I’ve really seen the two of you together since she was really little. She’s beautiful” she added.

Iker turned away, smiling bashfully.

Adrienne watched Lola for a moment before she glanced at the empty seat at Iker’s side, her head tilting to one side curiously. “Mattie’s not joining us?” she prodded.

Iker glanced up again, following Adrienne’s look towards the vacant chair. “She stopped by her office this morning” he quipped “They’re on the verge of completing some deal, and they wanted her to look over the paperwork before it was finalised. She promised she’d make it, though” he added.

“She has actually been taking it easy, hasn’t she?” Adrienne asked as she moved around to another empty chair “She is supposed to be on maternity leave” she added, a slight playful smile tugging the corner of her mouth upwards.

Iker nodded his head. “She does little bits when Lola’s asleep” he mused “Mostly, it’s just reviewing stuff, but I think she likes still being in the loop” he added.

“She’s too much like her father” Adrienne mused, shaking her head slightly.

Iker smiled at her briefly before he turned back towards Lola, allowing a slightly uncomfortable silence to settle over the table. Shifting in his seat, he gently pried Lola’s toy out of her hand before he wiggled it in front of her, causing her to grasp for it as she babbled happily.

Adrienne simply sat and watched them, a soft smile slowly spreading across her features. “Why are you trying again?” she asked quietly.

Iker’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing.

“It’s just such a risk” Adrienne continued “If things go wrong, the person who will be most affected is right there” she added, gesturing to Lola.

Iker shook his head, refocussing his stare on Lola who let out a soft giggle as she swatted for the toy Iker still held. “Mattie told me that you were worried” he said lowly.


“Do you think I am oblivious?” Iker’s voice remained low, but he did manage to keep it even and calm.

Adrienne closed her mouth, thinking the question over for a moment, before she shook her head. “I don’t think that” she replied “And I don’t think that Matilda is either, before you suggest it. I don’t think you’re too optimistic that you’re almost naive, I just worry, OK? Her life’s been turned upside down. You were apart, and then she was pregnant, and now she’s a mother and you’re together again, and I worry what happens when things settle down. I don’t want you falling in the same traps, either of you, and I don’t want to watch you get hurt again. I don’t know how Mattie would come through that” she admitted.

“What do you mean?” Iker asked.

Adrienne’s smile was sad as she reached over, hesitantly placing her hand over the one of his that had settled onto the table. “She was a mess after last time” she said “I mean, she tried to hide it, but I am her mother, I saw through it all. She buried herself in work, avoided everyone but us and Arthur...she wasn’t herself for weeks and then when she found out that she was pregnant, it got worse. You must have felt something similar. All of a sudden, the person you really wanted to see was back in your life, but there was this distance between you, and neither of you tried to bridge it. She probably put on a brave face for you, but when she got home from all of those appointments...” she trailed off, shaking her head softly.

Iker looked down at the table. “I...I didn’t know that” he murmured “It was really that bad?” he asked.

“It got better” Adrienne insisted softly “When you got closer to Lola coming along, she got better, but can you see why I worry?” she prodded.

“I can’t give you promises, Adrienne” Iker replied after a moment “I can’t sit here and tell you that it’s going to work out this time because I don’t know that it will, but I know that I want it to, that me and Mattie want it to, and that’s going to have to be assurance enough for you. Maybe it will go wrong, but there’s also a chance that it won’t, and that we could be...we could be something really wonderful together. I can only promise to try and make sure that you don’t have to see her like that again” he added.

Adrienne’s stare moved between Iker and Lola before she quirked a slightly reluctant smile. “You love her” she stated.

Iker’s nod was instant. “A lot” he confirmed “I hope you can just...just give me a chance. Give us a chance” he added.

Adrienne went to speak, but was cut off by a flurry of movement beside the table which preceded Matilda falling into the chair at Iker’s side, an apologetic smile perched on her features. “I’m so sorry” she said “I lost track of time. You haven’t eaten yet, have you?” she asked, her eyes fixed exclusively on Iker.

Iker’s entire expression transformed. His eyes brightened and his mouth lifted into a tender smile as he shook his head. “You think I’d start without you?” he prodded “Me and your mama we just getting reacquainted” he added.

“Oh” Matilda squeaked “How’s that going?” she prodded, her expression growing slightly uncertain.

“OK” Iker replied “We were just talking about Lola and how much she looks like me” he added, his voice warm and reassuring.

Matilda ducked her head and shook it, the tops of her cheeks pink. Iker gently brushed her hair, mumbling something that Adrienne, who was watching the two of them, didn’t quite catch, before Matilda glanced up at him, a gentle smile on her face. Adrienne couldn’t stop herself from sighing quietly, hoping that, eventually, the knot in her stomach dissipated and she could appreciate how at ease they looked together. They did look happy. Iker’s entire face had lit up at the mere sight of Matilda, and Matilda had relaxed under his touch and his words, but they had looked happy before in patches, something which left Adrienne, and her husband, hesitant to believe that it would last.