Like You Did Before

08: If Or When

“Are you cold?”

Matilda, who’d been holding her coat closer around herself, lifted her head, glancing up at Iker who walked next to her. They had been walking for a while. After they’d finished dinner, Matilda had asked Iker if he wanted to come back with her so that he could say goodnight to Lola, but his agreeing had meant leaving his car on the other side of the park, meaning the two of them had spent a while walking together in silence.

They’d steered towards safer territory. After they’d talked about Arthur, they’d shifted the topic of conversation towards ground that they both felt comfortable with, and whilst the spectre of their failed relationship still hung heavily over them, they’d managed to relax into the night, enjoying it a lot more that Matilda had been expecting when Iker had offered her the invitation. The awkwardness wasn’t just going to dissipate. There were still a lot of things unresolved between the two of them, but that night had given Matilda more hope that they could get along, even if things wouldn’t quite be the same.

Quirking a little smile, she shook her head, returning her stare to the pavement ahead of her. “A little” she answered “But’s it’s fine. We’re almost back at my place” she added, tipping her head towards the building which stood a small distance away from them.

Iker offered her a dubious look before he slipped his scarf out from underneath his jacket. Tugging it off, he gently wrapped it around her neck, something which made Matilda shake her head, her hand smoothing over the material. “Thank you” she mumbled.

Iker shrugged with a faint smile, but didn’t say anything, allowing the silence to linger between them for a few beats.

Matilda fiddled with the scarf, inhaling Iker’s familiar scent, before she let out a soft sigh. “I never apologised for biting your head off” she said “When you asked me to let you know if I…if my relationship status changed. I shouldn’t have blown up at you like that” she added.

Iker slipped his hands into his pockets before he shrugged his shoulders. “I get it” he noted “I’m your ex-boyfriend. I am probably the last person you want to talk about it with” he added.

“I haven’t even thought about it” Matilda said after a few long seconds of quiet “Dating, trying to meet someone new. It’s not even crossed my mind yet. The last few months have been…they’ve been pretty overwhelming, and I don’t think that I want to add…that to this. I’ve got Lola, she takes up all of my time. I don’t think it’s going to be something you need to worry about for a while” she explained, offering him a faint smile.

Iker took another handful of steps before he spoke again. “Promise not to bite my head off again?” he asked “What about Art? Are you…considering him?” he added, trying to be as tentative as he could.

The last thing he wanted to do was cause another fight between them, but it was a question that he had to ask. Arthur was interested in Matilda. Iker had seen the way that he looked at her when she wasn’t watching and he needed to know whether the other man was an option Matilda was considering. He needed to prepare himself for a future of seeing the woman he loved with the man she’d insisted was only a ‘friend’.

Matilda let out a slow breath before she shook her head. “I’ve not thought about it” she answered “About anyone, Iker. Art included. I’ll let you know if there is something to know” she added.

Iker wanted to push, but knew better. Instead, he offered her a little smile. “I’m not seeing anyone either” he announced “I thought you’d want to know” he added.

“You’ll tell me when you are?” Matilda asked.

“When?” Iker prodded, his expression the most playful it’d been in a long time.

Matilda rolled her eyes, her hand smoothing out his scarf around her neck again as Iker pushed the building’s door opened for her. “You’re a good guy” she replied “It’s only a matter of time before someone else notices that” she added, her voice softening a little.

Iker followed her through the door, letting Matilda’s comment hang in the air as they walked towards the elevator, before he nodded. “If or when there’s something I need to tell you, I will tell you, Mattie” he noted.

Matilda pushed a grateful smile onto her face, one that Iker knew immediately was fake, before she gently unwrapped his scarf from her neck and placed it back into his hands.

Iker stuffed the material into his jacket pocket, watching the floors tick by, before the doors slipped open, allowing them both to progress into the hall. Iker followed a pace behind, allowing Matilda to slide the key into the front door, before he gently settled his hand on her wrist, stopping her just before she pushed the door open. Matilda glanced up him, her eyes searching his for a moment, before Iker took a pace back, mumbling a quiet apology beneath his breath.

Matilda gently pushed the door open. “Mama?” she called softly.

Adrienne poked her head around the corner, whatever question she had on the tip of her tongue when she caught sight of Iker. “Iker” she squeaked.

Iker smiled sheepishly, offering her a small wave. “Adrienne” he mused.

“He wanted to come and say goodnight to Lola” Matilda said as she shrugged out of her coat “Is she in my room?” she asked.

“She is” Adrienne confirmed “I’ll go and get your papa and we’ll get out of your hair” she added before she skittered away.

Matilda busied herself, slipping her feet out of her shoes and hanging up her coat, before she turned to glance at Iker who stood, watching her. “You don’t need me to show you to the bedroom, Iker” she mumbled “What are you waiting for?” she added.

Iker’s smile was bitter and sharp as he shook his head. “I would really love to know what it is you want from me, Mattie” he said “You were the one who walked out my house all those months ago, insisting that we’d just wasted our time, and yet now that I’ve suggested that I might be thinking about moving on, you’re all pissed at me? This would be going a lot better if you’d just talk to me, but you don’t. You close yourself off and expect me to guess at what you want. I can’t keep doing that, Mattie” he insisted.

Matilda didn’t say anything, something which caused Iker to let out a scoff before he stepped around her, muttering as he made his way towards her bedroom. Matilda waited until he was a few paces away before she turned to watch him, her eyes soft and sad. She didn’t know what she wanted and she knew for as long as that was the case, things between them would keep flitting between good and bad.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)