All This Time

00: It Could Be

For the first time all morning, Amelia felt as though she could breathe.

She thought that she had been ready for it. As the big day had drawn closer, the excitement of everyone around her had only increased, but the leap in excitement now that the day had arrived had caught her off guard. She had been overwhelmed. Between her over-excited bridesmaids, and her anxious mother, she had barely had a second to think, so it had come as a great relief when they had each been called away to deal with one hiccup or another. All Amelia wanted was a second of quiet. A moment where she could sit and try to grasp how it was she was really feeling.

She was excited. They had been planning for months, almost a year, and she was excited that the day had finally arrived, but the excitement hadn’t come without a tinge of worry, or without the few doubts that lingered at the back of her mind. It had felt right. When Fernando had asked her to marry him, the yes that she had given him had almost burst out of her without a beat of thinking time, and whilst she was sure that it was still the right answer, she had a slight case of cold feet. She wasn’t close to running away, she knew that she would probably regret it if she did, but it hadn’t stopped her mind from racing. It hadn’t stopped her from wondering if there was something she had missed.

Letting out a shaky breath, she brushed a few flyaway hairs out of her face before she looked up at the mirror, her lips quirking into a reluctant smile when she saw the figure who was lingering the doorway. “Why didn’t you knock?” she asked.

It took a moment for Lionel to respond, but eventually, he dragged his stare up to meet hers in the mirror, a slightly forced smile of his own playing on his lips. “You looked lost in thought” he replied “I didn’t want to make you jump” he added.

Amelia turned around to look at him. “It’s the first time I’ve actually been alone since I woke up” she admitted “I was just making the most of the quiet. My mother and the others will probably be back here before I know it” she added.

“I don’t think so” Lionel said as he moved to close the door after himself “Your mother was called downstairs to deal with the florist, and your bridesmaids are a little preoccupied with the photographer. You’ve probably got a little longer than you think” he added.

Amelia smiled at him, watching his eyes dip away from her face, before she pushed herself out of her seat, allowing her dress to fall into place.

“Amelia” Lionel’s voice was soft with awe. He wanted to say more, but the words stuck in his throat.

Amelia ducked her head shyly. “What are you doing up here?” she asked after a moment of quiet.

Lionel’s stare snapped back up to her face. “What?” he asked.

“Last I checked, you weren’t one of my bridesmaids” Amelia teased “So, what are you doing up here?” she prodded.

Lionel smoothed out his tie, taking a moment to think about the question, before he shook his head, squeezing his eyes closed. “I need to say something” he said “I need to say it before you go down there and marry him” he added.

The amusement that had previously been in Amelia’s eyes evaporated when she heard the slight wobble in Lionel’s voice. “Has something happened?” she asked “Is Fernando OK?” she added.

Lionel nodded his head tightly. “He’s fine” he said “And nothing has happened. I just...I need to talk you. I need to say something” he added.

“What’s the matter?” Amelia pressed, her expression concerned.

Again, Lionel fiddled with his tie before he looked over at her. “Don’t marry him” he said.

Amelia felt her breath evade her as she took a step backwards, jumping when she bumped into the stool behind her.

Lionel followed her, matching her step backwards with one forwards, but he didn’t step in too close. He didn’t want to overwhelm her any more than he already had.

For a moment, neither one of them spoke. Amelia looked anywhere but at Lionel, and Lionel kept his eyes on her, waiting for the moment that she looked up and asked him to elaborate. He knew that she would. They had been friends for too long for her to just pretend that he hadn’t said it, and as terrified as he was that she would reject him, he knew that he had to say it. He knew how selfish his timing was. Amelia was barely an hour away from walking down the aisle towards another man, and he knew that his admission had the potential to spoil what could have easily been the best day of her life, but he hadn’t been able to find the nerve until there was no time left. He had to tell her then.

“Amelia” Lionel murmured.

“What did you just say?” Amelia’s voice was a shaky whisper.

“I asked you to not marry Fernando” Lionel repeated “Please, Amelia” he added.

The laugh that Amelia let out was hysterical. “You can’t...You can’t be serious” she spluttered out “Leo, what on earth are you saying?” she pressed.

“I...I don’t want you to marry him” Lionel said “I want you to...to be with me” he added.

Amelia’s eyes met his. She swallowed thickly, but she didn’t say a word.

“I’m sorry” Lionel spoke just to break the deafening silence that had settled between the two of them “I know I should have said something before now. I know that this is ridiculous, and selfish, but there’s no time left to say it. I adore you, Amelia. I am crazy about you” he added.

Amelia tried and failed to keep the tears from overflowing. “Leo” she protested.

Lionel moved towards her, using a thumb to brush the tears off of her skin as he gently pressed her forehead to hers.

Amelia gently brushed her nose against his. “How long?” she whispered.

“A couple of years” Lionel replied just as softly “Before Fernando. I didn’t know how to say it” he added.

Amelia squeezed her eyes closed, breathing shakily for a few moments.

Lionel gently outlined her ear with the tips of his fingers. “Amelia” he whispered again.

Amelia stayed close for a moment, her lips ghosting over his, before she pulled away. “I can’t” she said.

“Amelia...”

“I love him” Amelia interrupted “I’ve built a life with him for the last two years, Leo. I can’t just...not for something like this. It’s not enough” she added.

“It could be” Lionel countered.

Amelia stared at him for a long moment before the sounds of footsteps and voices drew closer to them. Glancing at the door, she shook her head before she looked back at him, feeling her heart ache in her chest. “Leo, I am so sorry” she whispered.

Lionel ducked his head, trying, and failing, to hide the pain on his face. “Me, too” he murmured.

“Leo...”

“Amelia!”

Amelia flinched at the excitement in her mother’s voice, and before she could compose herself, the older woman had bustled into the room and Lionel had left it. Turning away, she wiped at her cheeks quickly before she greeted her mother with the best smile she could put on. The older woman was oblivious. She fussed just like she had done before, completely unaware of the ache in her daughter’s chest, and Amelia didn’t say a word about it other than to lie and say that Lionel had been there to wish her good luck. She couldn’t have told the truth even if she had wanted to.

“Are you ready, baby?” Her mother asked.

Amelia drew in a deep breath before she nodded her head. “As ready as I will ever be” she answered.