Until The Sunshine Fades

Nine

Looking over at the table where Gerard waited for her, Isabella felt her stomach dip, watching as he absent-mindedly fiddled with the napkin that was still neatly folded ahead of him. It wasn’t a good sign. Gerard was usually calm and confident, it was something Isabella had always admired about him, and she knew that if he was fidgeting, then there was a reason, something which had only strengthened her belief that things between them weren’t quite right. She had wanted to believe that they were. When he had texted her, asking her to meet him for dinner, she had wanted to buy into the assurances that Elena had tried to give her, but one look at him and his anxious fiddling had been enough to wipe away the little confidence that she had. Things were different between them.

Letting out a soft sigh, she smoothed down the t-shirt she was wearing before she walked towards where he was sitting.

When he caught sight of her, Gerard sprung up to his feet, a warm smile doing its best to brighten his features. “You made it” he said, leaning over to brush a brisk kiss against her cheek.

Isabella ducked her head, smiling gently. “I texted you to say I would” she replied.

“I know” Gerard said “But you are late” he added.

Isabella rolled her eyes, shaking her head amusedly. “By about five minutes” she mused “And that’s only because I was at Lena’s, helping to build baby furniture. Her place it further from here than mine” she added, sinking into her chair.

Gerard offered her a playfully sceptical look, something which made Isabella roll her eyes again before she diverted her attention towards the drinks menu. Sliding it in front of her, she studied it for a few long seconds before she chanced a look up, catching Gerard’s gaze before they both hurried to look away.

“Baby furniture” Gerard spluttered out, disrupting the awkward silence that had been settling over the two of them “Elena must be pretty close to her due date now. I didn’t think she’d leave things to the last minute” he added.

“She hasn’t” Isabella replied, not looking up from the menu “She and Dani have everything they need for immediately after he’s born ready, but she wanted to get a head start on the nursery, and I had nothing else to do on my day off. Besides, I reckon if I keep helping with baby-related chores, then she’ll have to choose me to be his godmother” she added, a grin tugging up the corner of her mouth.

Gerard laughed, but when the sound faded, it left another slightly uncomfortable silence in its wake. Reaching his hand out, Gerard messed with his napkin, something Isabella watched for a moment before she shook her head. She wanted to say something, to ask if he wanted to talk about what had happened, or if he felt the discomfort that she did, but she couldn’t force the words out of her mouth, knowing that if they started that conversation, there was no taking it back and it wasn’t something she was ready to risk. She wouldn’t have known what to say to him. The almost-kiss that they had shared had stirred mixed emotions in her, and she hadn’t quite figured them out enough to know what to say, so she didn’t want to say anything.

“Have you spoken to your parents since the other night?”

Isabella blinked a couple of times, breaking out of her thoughts, before she shook her head. “I’ve not spoken to them” she mused “But I have had a few texts from my mother. She was still as smitten with you, even when she wasn’t a little tipsy” she added.

“Are you saying you have to be tipsy to enjoy my company?” Gerard quipped.

With a slightly crooked grin, Isabella shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt” she teased.

Gerard scoffed, but his grin was bright. “I thought you liked me” he played along.

“I didn’t say that I didn’t” Isabella countered “I just said that being a little tipsy makes liking you a little easier” she added.

Gerard rolled his eyes dramatically, causing Isabella to laugh gently before she spotted a waiter moving towards them. Calling him over, she ordered herself a drink before he wandered away, allowing her to turn back to Gerard. “So, I am guessing that you’ve not broken the bad news to them yet” he said, his smile appearing a little tighter.

“I was planning on leaving it for a couple of weeks” Isabella answered “I mean, I think if I tell them now, then they’ll probably figure out something’s up. But, don’t worry, I will tell them, I promise you” she insisted.

Gerard nodded his head slowly.

“Do you want me to tell them sooner?” Isabella prodded.

“I just didn’t want to cause you a problem” Gerard replied, his voice even “There’s a woman that I want to take out on a date, and if that gets photographed, and your parents see it, then they’re going to think badly of me, and I don’t want that” he added, his eyes glancing up at her face in search of a reaction.

It took everything Isabella had to keep her expression blank despite the painful twist in her stomach. His comment had caught her off guard, as had the way he’d delivered it, but she didn’t want it to show. “I can do it sooner” she said “Give me a couple of days?” she asked.

Gerard’s eyes searched her face, clearly looking for something, before he nodded his head. “Just make sure you don’t forget” he quipped “That’s how we ended up in this mess in the first place” he added, flashing her a grin.

Isabella let out a laugh that was slightly shakier than usual. “I’ll stick up a note when I get home” she quipped “Call mama, tell her I broke up with my fake boyfriend” she added.

Gerard chuckled before their waiter reappeared, causing Isabella to look away from him for a split second, just long enough for him to let his expression falter before he fixed it, smiling at her as she smiled at him.

He had wanted a reaction. As childish as it was, when he told her that there was someone else on his radar, he’d wanted to see something on her face that gave him an idea of what she was thinking or feeling, and it frustrated him that there’d been nothing. There wasn’t anyone else, but he didn’t know how else to start the conversation. He didn’t want to be too forward. If he admitted that he had started to feel something for her, and she didn’t feel the same, then any chance they had of saving their friendship flew out of the window, and he wasn’t quite prepared to take the risk, not if it meant entirely ruining what they had.

Isabella’s eyes searched his face, trying to get a read on what he was thinking, before she asked him about his return to preseason training, something Gerard was more than happy to launch into conversation about. The way he smiled when he talked was almost enough to make Isabella forget the dull ache that had settled in her stomach, but not quite. As much as she didn’t want it to, her mind kept wandering to the thought that there was someone else, and that she had probably missed the tiny window of opportunity that there had been to say something.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comments :)