All This Time

02: It Was Just Dinner With A Friend

“Do you still prefer white to red?”

Amelia slowly pulled her stare away from the window, looking up at Lionel who had slid into the seat opposite her as he slid a wine glass across the small table between them. She was surprised that she had stayed. When Lionel had left her at a table, her immediate instinct had been to get up and sneak away before he reappeared, but she hadn’t managed to do it, too distracted by the barrage of emotions that had hit her when she had turned around and found him there. She hadn’t seen him since her wedding day. When her mother had appeared, Lionel had disappeared, and Amelia hadn’t seen him again. Everything that had existed between them had stopped. Aside from a couple of unanswered texts that Amelia had sent, asking if they could just talk, there’d been no contact between the two of them, and it meant that being face to face with him was overwhelming. She hadn’t allowed herself to think about him since he had walked away.

“I do” Amelia confirmed quietly “Thank you” she added.

Lionel bowed his head, fiddling with the straw that had been placed in his glass of water.

Amelia watched him, wordlessly urging him to be the one to break the silence, but after a few moments, she shook her head, nervously pushing her hair off of her face. “Am I getting in the way of something?” she asked “If you’re supposed to be meeting someone...” she trailed off when Lionel shook his head, a pained smile on his face that made her stomach drop.

“It was just dinner with a friend” Lionel answered “He’s already left” he added.

Amelia nodded jerkily, her eyes fixed on the glass in front of her.

Lionel stared at her, fighting the urge he had to reach across and squeeze her hand comfortingly, before he cleared his throat. “You can leave” he said “I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to. I thought about ducking out of the door when I went to the bar” he added, offering her the best smile that he could force.

It wasn’t that he regretted the invitation. When he had seen her moving past him, the urge to reach out to her had been instinctive, but he understood the urge to flee. As happy as he had been to see her in the moment, he knew that the longer they stayed close to each other, the more the inevitable awkwardness would seep in. It had to. The last time they had been in the same room, Lionel had admitted that he had feelings for her and Amelia had gone onto marry another man, and that wasn’t something that they could just gloss over. It was the elephant in the room that was already overwhelming the two of them.

Amelia smiled sadly into her glass before she set it back down. “If I hadn’t been so stunned to see you, I would have sneaked away whilst you were at the bar” she admitted shyly.

Lionel let out a laugh, more than a little relieved to see that she felt as overwhelmed as he did. “I’m glad you didn’t” he said “It’s...It’s good to see you, Amelia” he added.

“Really?” Amelia’s voice was playfully incredulous, but Lionel could hear the concern in it.

With a quirked smile, Lionel nodded his head. “Yes” he confirmed “Really” he added, meeting her stare.

Amelia held his stare for a moment before she ducked her head, fixing her stare on the table again. “It’s good to see you, too” she admitted softly.

Lionel smiled to himself, allowing a few moments of quiet to pass between the two of them, before leant back in his seat, feeling a tiny release in the stifling tension between them. “Who did you say you were here with?” he prodded.

Amelia blinked in surprise at the casual question before she allowed the corner of her mouth to lift slightly. “My mother” she answered “And Thea. It’s Thea’s birthday, and my mother insisted that we do something together” she added.

Lionel smiled at the way she rolled her eyes. He knew that she loved how much her mother still fussed over her and her sister. “Just the three of you?” he asked.

Amelia nodded, sipping on her drink.

“Your husband can’t even earn an invite?” Lionel chirped, trying his hardest to keep his tone light.

Amelia’s entire expression changed. The hint of a smile that had been pulling at the corner of her mouth dropped away instantly and the warmth that had started to glow in her eyes disappeared as she shakily put her glass back down.

Lionel didn’t say anything for a moment, hoping that Amelia would explain, but when she she didn’t, he leant forwards slightly. “Amelia?” he prodded.

Amelia let out a shaky breath. “He’s not my husband any more” she said quietly.

Lionel’s eyes widened, but he managed to stop himself from saying anything. He wanted to ask all sorts of questions, to know what had happened to ruin a relationship that Amelia had been so confident in, but one look at her face twinned with the pain that was audible in her voice, he knew that it would have only made things worse and destroyed the tiny amount of progress that they had made since they had sat down.

Amelia looked over at him, waiting for him to ask the questions that she had been asked too many times since she and Fernando had broken up, but he stopped himself, and Amelia stopped herself from saying anything more. She knew that the last person who’d want to hear about her marriage and its problems would be the man who was sat across from her. Picking up her glass, she drained the last of her drink before she set it down, offering Lionel a sad smile. “I’m going to go” she murmured.

Lionel nodded, standing up when she did. Without saying anything, he gently reached out and squeezed her hand. It wasn’t much, but it was a small gesture that let her know that he was there for her. It was his way of trying to comfort her.

Amelia stared down at their hands for a moment before she looked back up at him, smiling at him gently. “Goodnight, Leo” she murmured.

Lionel reluctantly pull his hand from hers. “If you need anything” he murmured.

Again, Amelia smiled, but she didn’t say anything. She just shouldered her bag and swept her jacket off of the back of her chair before she skittered away. Lionel watched her go before he shook his head, trying to ignore the lump in his throat. Seeing her had overwhelmed him, but knowing that she was hurting, and that there was little he could do about it was even worse.