Like You Did Before

09: I Don’t Think It’s That Easy

“You’re not listening”

Matilda, who was quietly pushing a spoon around her drink, glanced up at Arthur, answering him with a little shrug. She knew that she had been quiet. Since Arthur had arrived nearly half an hour previous, she had barely uttered two words to him, but she didn’t quite know what to say to him. He’d shown up just after Iker had left that morning. The goalkeeper had spent an hour with Lola before he left, but in that time, he and Matilda had only exchanged pleasantries, something which upset her.

It’d felt like they had made progress when they’d had dinner the previous night. The conversation had been the most open and honest one they’d had in a long time, and it’d felt like they’d gotten somewhere, but all sense of that progress had been lost when they’d move onto the topic of them moving on. She didn’t know what it was that she wanted. Part of her still hoped that she and Iker would be able to figure things out and put them back together, but another part of her kept reminding her of how badly things had ended and how, if it happened again, it wouldn’t just hurt her and Iker.

“Sorry” Matilda said quietly “I guess I am just preoccupied. Were you saying something important?” she prodded.

Arthur shook his head. “It was just a story about my brother” he replied “It doesn’t matter. What’s up with you?” he asked.

Matilda shrugged, still pushing her spoon around the mug of tea ahead of her. “It’s nothing” she replied “Just thinking about some stuff is all” she added.

Arthur gently slipped the cup out of her grasp, settling it on the counter behind him, before he turned back to look at her. “Iker?” he queried knowingly.

Matilda’s lips tipped upwards into a slightly rueful smile. “That obvious?” she asked.

“Only to me” Arthur replied, flashing her a playful smile which quickly faded to be replaced by a concerned frown “Are you two doing OK?” he asked.

Matilda hesitated before she exhaled slowly. It was something she’d done too much of. Whenever she and Iker would fight, she would go to Arthur to talk things through, and after the dinner they’d had the previous night, Matilda realised the effect that that had had on Iker. He felt like he’d been left out of the loop, that she’d chosen to tell things to Arthur that she hadn’t shared with him, and he’d made her see the damage that that had done to them, something which, for the first time, made her hesitate as she looked at her friend.

“Mattie?” Arthur prodded.

“We had dinner” Matilda replied “Last night. It went OK, but I ruined it at the last moment. He was quiet this morning, and it bothered me” she added.

Arthur nodded his head slowly. “How’d you ruin it?” he asked.

“It doesn’t matter how” Matilda said “I just did and things are weird again. They’re probably going to be weird for a while” she added, letting out a gentle sigh.

Arthur frowned, but didn’t say anything immediately. Instead, he watched as Matilda got up from her seat and moved to tip away her cold cup of tea before he spoke. “You didn’t tell me you were going to dinner with him” he said.

“It was a last minute thing” Matilda replied with a shrug as she leant her back against the countertop “We both know we need to work on the awkwardness between us and he invited me to dinner so that we could talk” she added.

Arthur nodded his head. “Did you?” he asked “Talk, I mean” he clarified.

“We did” Matilda confirmed “He talked about what bothered him whilst we were together. It was stuff I hadn’t heard before, stuff I’d never really thought about, and I was glad he told me. It was good to have an insight into why things were how they were” she added.

“What’d he say?” Arthur asked.

Matilda hesitated for a moment, her eyes surveying Arthur’s face, before she looked down at the floor. “He said I kept putting you between us” she admitted “And he was…he was right. Whenever we fought, I’d duck out of talking to him, but I’d be happy to talk to you and he felt like…like I was putting you between us. He felt out of the loop and that’s why he used to worry about…you know, us” she added, the tops of her cheeks flushing a faint shade of pink.

Arthur’s expression softened a little, his own cheeks flushing. “I’m your best friend” he pointed out “Why wouldn’t you talk to me?” he prodded.

“I don’t think he meant it like that” Matilda retorted “I think he just…he wanted me to be comfortable with him. Comfortable enough to talk about things that upset me with him. It was easier to talk to you, because we’ve been friends forever, and you’ve seen me at my best and worst, but he wanted me to be that comfortable with him, and every time I ran off to talk to you…”

“He got more and more worried that I was about to steal you away from him” Arthur finished for her.

Matilda nodded. “I told him that he didn’t have to worry about it. I told him that you weren’t interested in me that way, and that I wasn’t interested in you like that, but I think I can see why he was worried now. There’s a lot of history here, and whilst that’s never changed anything for me, I could see why it’d make him uncomfortable” she explained.

Arthur ducked his head, hiding the flinch his features gave as she spoke, before he cleared his throat slightly. “What are you going to do now?” he prodded “I mean, you said that you ruined last night. Are you going to try and fix it?” he added.

Matilda lifted her shoulders in a small shrug, a rueful smile on her face. “I wouldn’t even know how” she mused “I just…I am just not quite sure of where I am. There’s a part of me that’s nowhere near being over him. I loved him, Art, for two years and whilst the end was messy, that’s not something that just…disappeared, but I know that it’s going to take a lot more than that to fix it and even if we did, it could fall apart again and I worry how that would affect Lola. I don’t know what I want, and until I do, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere” she added.

Arthur looked up at her. “Don’t you think it might be best to just move on?” he asked.

Matilda shook her head, smiling sadly down at her feet. “I don’t think it’s that easy” she replied.

Arthur was grateful that she wasn’t looking at him so she missed the way his face fell. “Well” he said “I’m here. Whatever you need” he added.

Matilda grinned at him before she stepped towards him, dropping a kiss on his cheek as she made her way out of the room to collect Lola who’d just woken up from her nap. Lifting a hand, he gently touched the skin she’d kissed before he let out a sigh, wondering just what he had to do to put himself in Matilda’s focus. She’d always missed him. She had had three serious relationships, one with a mutual friend of theirs, one with one of his cousins, and with Iker too, but she’d never quite seen what was under her nose and Arthur didn’t know what more he could to make sure that she did.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)