Can’t Look Away

34: I Don’t Like That We’re Like This

“Is she there yet?”

Sasha stirred her drink and smiled, holding her phone against her ear. “Do you think I would still be on the phone with you if she was?” she retorted teasingly “I’m early” she added. She could hear Lionel’s apprehension in his voice. Like she was, he was nervous about what Leila wanted, and how their meeting would go, but Sasha wanted to try and soothe his worries, even if she shared them. There was no sense in either of them getting worked up before they knew what was going on. It had set them both on edge. Sasha hadn’t been able to arrange for the meeting to be earlier, so for a couple of days, they’d both been stuck, wondering just what it was that Leila wanted, but she had tried more than once to push it out of both of their minds. It wasn’t doing them any good, worrying about something they had no control over, and she didn’t want them to dwell. They were in a good place and they ought to have been enjoying it.

Lionel sighed at the teasing tone of her voice. “You’re still sure that you don’t want me there?” he asked.

“I’m sure” Sasha replied “It’s coffee with my sister. I think I can handle it without you” she added, her voice caught between playful and sincere. He had offered more than once, knowing how quickly things between her and Leila could get awkward, but she had always said no. She needed to talk to Leila, to get a few things off of her chest, and she didn’t think him sitting beside her would help.

“Sasha” Lionel complained softly.

“I’m going to be fine, Leo” Sasha replied “I promise” she added.

Lionel was quiet for a beat before he sighed. “Alright” he said “Am I still OK to come over later?” he asked.

“Cassie’s staying at Nolan’s” Sasha replied “So, yeah, you’re OK. I can’t wait” she added, allowing herself a smitten smile.

“I can’t, either” Lionel said “I love you, Sasha” he added.

Sasha opened her mouth to say the same thing back to him, but stopped herself as she watched Leila settle into the seat opposite her. Swallowing, she mumbled a quiet goodbye to him before she hung up the phone, greeting her sister with a tight smile.

Leila took a sip from the paper cup she had put down onto the table, allowing an uncomfortable silence to hang over them for a beat, before she gently shook her head. “I think there’s some things we need to get off of our chests” she said gently “I talked to Leo the other day, when we were all at James and Ellie’s, and he...he put some things in perspective, and I think...I know we need to talk, so that’s what this is. I want to talk. I don’t like that we’re like this, Sasha” she explained.

“I don’t like it, either” Sasha admitted.

“I want to talk about Leo” Leila said “And Olivier. Can we do that?” she prodded.

Sasha’s nod was slow, but certain, causing Leila to exhale a soft sigh of relief. Fiddling with her cup, she took a few seconds to compose her thoughts before she looked up, meeting Sasha’s eyes. “Leo first?” she asked.

Sasha nodded.

Leila mimicked the nod. “I was jealous” she admitted.


“I was” Leila interrupted “Part of me still is. When I knew him, when we had our nights together, I was so smitten with him. I thought for sure he knew it, and that that was why we’d ended up in bed together, so when he told me that he didn’t want it to be more than those nights, it devastated me, and then there he was, with you, and it hurt me more than I wanted to admit” she added.

“Why’d you not just tell me that?” Sasha prodded, fiddling with the spoon which poked out of her drink.

“Because it’s ridiculous” Leila replied “Because it’s been years. He was always honest with me, he told me he didn’t want more, and I told him that it was fine, but it hurt, Sasha, and seeing him all smitten with you...I was selfish. I thought I could get you two apart without having to admit that I’d had feelings for him that he’d never had for me. I was embarrassed” she added.

Sasha shook her head. “I’m your little sister, Leila” she replied “You can always just talk to me. I’d much rather that than the alternative” she added.

“Can I talk to you, though?” Leila asked “Since Olivier...” she trailed off, hoping the silence spoke for her.

Sasha’s eyes dropped to the table, allowing the silence to hang between them, before she shifted in her seat. “You didn’t tell me” she said softly “You didn’t even come and talk to me after Olivier had. You just expected me to be OK with it. How could I just be OK with it, Leila?” she prodded.

Leila opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, testing out a couple of responses but ultimately saying nothing.

“Everyone assumed I was so weird at your wedding because I still had feelings for Olivier, but that wasn’t it” Sasha continued “I liked him, sure, but I knew what the two of you had was more, and I was...I was happy you’d found that, but I was devastated that you never even took the time out to apologise to me. It made me think that you didn’t care about what you’d done, about whether or not I was hurting. You just seemed to expect me to go along with it, and that hurts, Leila, and now you’re interfering with me and Leo. I’m sorry you got hurt by him, but he makes me happy, isn’t that enough for you?” she pressed.

Leila’s expression softened guiltily. “Of course I cared, Sasha” she said.

Sasha fiddled with her cup.

“I didn’t know you were hurting over him” Leila continued “You didn’t show it. I should have known, of course I should have, but I...I just chose to believe the front you put on. You didn’t bat an eyelid, Sasha, and I chose to go along with that because it suited me. I’m selfish, always have been, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t mean to fall for him” she added.

“I know you didn’t” Sasha replied “And I am not mad that you did. You two belong together, I just wish that you’d act like my sister again. I wish that you’d let me talk to you about this new relationship of mine without feeling the need to walk on eggshells. I wish that you’d acknowledge that I got hurt, but that I am happy for you and Olivier. I don’t want to play games, Leila, I just want my big sister to be my big sister again, because you’re right, we’ve not been good to each other in years, and I hate that” she added, lifting a hand to wipe at her eyes.

Leila reached over, her hand squeezing Sasha’s gently. “I hate it, too” she said.

“Then do something about it” Sasha retorted.

Leila nodded and pushed out of her chair, pulling Sasha up with her so that she could wrap her in a tight hug, letting her cry softly onto her shoulder. “I’m so sorry” she whispered “For everything, and I know that that’s just words, but I am going to show you, Sasha. We’re going to figure this out, and I am going to be the best big sister to you again. I promise you” she added, squeezing tighter.

Sasha sniffled, but made no move to pull out of the hug, something which made Leila smile sadly.

Sasha was good at keeping things bottled up. Instead of talking about what bothered her, she had always favoured pretending that things were fine, and seeing her break down in her arms told Leila more than words ever could. There’d been fractures between them for years. Leila had noticed that they weren’t quite on the same page even before Olivier had appeared, but she hadn’t truly realised how big the gulf had gotten, and how badly she had treated Sasha. She had ignored things that she shouldn’t have done, chosen to go along with the flimsy facade that Sasha chosen to hide behind when she had known that there was more to it, and she had been selfish about Lionel too. One look at Sasha when he was around was enough to prove that they were good for one another, and that had to be enough to make Leila happy too. Sasha had been happy for her for years, and she had to return the favour.