Like You Did Before

41: I Didn’t Know It Was That Bad

For a while, the room was quiet.

Matilda busied herself with Lola. She sat down on the floor in front of the sofa, lowering the little girl onto her play mat, before she leant back, watching her quietly so that she could avoid glancing up at Iker who she knew was watching the two of them. There was a lot to talk about. Their fight the previous night, the state of things with her parents and Iker’s decision to bring up Arthur all needed discussing, but Matilda couldn’t find the point to start and worried that if she said anything, she risked making things worse.

They had had mornings like that one before. Too many times in the two years that they had been together they had spent their mornings sat in awkward silence, waiting for the other to say something, and it upset Matilda that they found themselves there again. They had had their moments since they’d gotten back together, it hadn’t exactly been plain sailing, but that morning was a painful reminder of the way things had been before, something Matilda had been cautiously optimistic that they’d put behind them.

Sighing quietly to herself, Matilda leant forwards and tugged Lola’s shirt down, before she felt something against the top of her head. Closing her eyes, she leant back into Iker for a moment before she felt him touch a soft kiss to her shoulder. “I didn’t want you to worry” he murmured, his voice slightly muffled against her “I knew that if I told you what your mother said, you’d get worked up, and I was just trying to avoid that” he added, sitting up slightly.

“I know” Matilda replied softly “What did she tell you?” she asked, turning her head to look up at him.

Iker’s warm eyes searched her face before he looked down at his hands, a soft sigh falling out of his mouth. “She told me about how you were after we broke up” he said “She told me how you cut yourself off, how you weren’t yourself, and she told how it got worse when you found out that you were pregnant. I think she meant it as a warning. I think she was trying to make me aware of the risk we’re taking, but all it made me think about was how I could have missed that. I knew you weren’t happy. You were never quite yourself when we had all those appointments. But I didn’t know that it was that bad. I...I didn’t realise that I’d had that much of an effect on you” he explained.

Matilda turned around, glancing back at Lola so that Iker couldn’t see when she wiped her eyes. “I had a lot of hope for us” she admitted quietly “Maybe we weren’t perfect, but I hope you know that I loved you then. It hurt more than anything else I’d been through, and when I found out that you’d gotten me pregnant, I knew you’d be back in my life, but I didn’t…I thought I’d spend the rest of my life seeing you come around for our baby, and knowing that there was someone else at home, making your happier than I could. Someone who wasn’t scared to show you every part of her. I hated that thought” she added, a rueful smile pulling her lips up was she wiped her eyes again.

Iker stared at her back for a few long moments, knowing that she was crying to herself, but he made no move to turn her around. When she wanted him, he knew she’d turn back to him. “You do know that you made me happy, don’t you?” he asked gently.

“I doubt that sometimes” Matilda replied “It’s harder to remember the good times over the stupid arguments” she added, picking at her t-shirt.

Iker didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, he just watched her in silence.

Matilda knew he was staring, but she didn’t turn to look at him. “Don’t you think it ought to be easier than this?” she asked.

Iker felt his stomach drop, but he didn’t show it. “What do you mean?” he asked, trying to keep the strain out of his voice.

“Being together” Matilda clarified “Don’t you think it should be easier than it has been for us?” she asked.

Iker took in the question, mulling it over, before he ran a hand over his face. “I think it’s different for everyone” he mused “Sometimes you get a fairytale, sometimes you get something that you need to work at, but that doesn’t mean it’s less special. I think we have something special, Mattie” he added.

Matilda nodded, acknowledging that she had heard him, but she didn’t reply.

“What are you thinking, Mattie?” Iker’s voice was soft, almost afraid that asking that question would end with him hearing an answer that he didn’t want to hear.

Matilda wiped her eyes again. “Honestly?” she asked “I was thinking about the night we met” she added.

Iker smiled instinctively. He could remember when he’d seen her for the first time. She had been working at her father’s restaurant, filling in for a waitress who’d taken the night off sick, and he remembered watching her around the room, hoping that she would find herself working at his table. She had done, and somehow, despite his slightly awkward flirting, she had left her phone number on the back of his receipt, a number he’d called the same night without any hesitation. He could still remember how she’d joked that he could take her to dinner anywhere, just as long as it wasn’t Luis’s restaurant. “Why are you thinking about that?” he asked.

Matilda’s shoulders lifted and for a moment, she didn’t answer, and when she did, it wasn’t much above a whisper. “Do you regret calling me?” she asked.

“Never” Iker’s reply was instant and firm “I got to know you, to fall in love with you, to have a beautiful little girl with you. I don’t regret that, no matter how bad things get. I would never regret calling you” he insisted.

Matilda sniffed, trying, and failing, to cover a slightly hiccuped sob. “I shouldn’t have called our relationship a waste of time” she said “You were never that. We were never that” she added.

“No, we weren’t” Iker agreed “We still aren’t” he added.

It was then that Matilda turned around. Her blue eyes were red around the edges and still full of tears, but Iker smiled at her nevertheless. A warm smile, a patient smile, a smile that told her that it was going to be alright without him needing to say it aloud. “I never could express the effect you had on me” she said “You have given me some of the best moments of my life and I...I want you to give me more. You make me happy, Iker” she added.

Iker held a hand out to her and when she placed hers into it, he used it to pull her towards him gently, encouraging her knees to land either side of him as his other hand moved up, wiping a few more loose tears off of her face. Pushing her hair off of her face, he coaxed her forehead to lean against his, their noses gently touched together. “I want to make you happy” he said softly “I love you, Mattie” he added.

Matilda let out a breathy laugh, a sound which earned her another soft smile from Iker. “I’m sorry” she said.

“Me, too” Iker mused. He wanted to say what for, but he knew it didn’t need to be rehashed. He knew they both knew the mistakes they’d made and he knew that they were talking about a lot more than the previous night which had merely been a replaying of the same old fight they had. Matilda worried about letting him too close, about things becoming too serious, and Iker tried to protect himself by deflecting things back onto her, not wanting to admit that he was just as guilty as she was of pushing away when things got too real.

Matilda ghosted her lips over his, smiling at the whisper of contact. “I love you, too” she murmured “I don’t care who knows it. I love you, Iker” she repeated.

Iker closed the distance between them in a kiss that was over too quickly when Lola’s grumbles filled the air. Matilda pulled away, climbing out of his lap, before she moved to collect the little girl, returning to lower her into Iker’s arms, something he watched with a tender smile, hopeful that the air between him and Matilda was clearer than it’d been in a long time.