All This Time

03: Elephants

“Are you looking for someone?”

Lionel, who’d been hovering halfway between the entrance and the reception desk, looked up to find the receptionist smiling at him politely. Quirking a bashful smile of his own, he moved towards the desk, nodding his head slightly. He was nervous. It had been over a year since he had stepped foot in that office, and he had no idea how Amelia would feel about him dropping in unannounced, but he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the look he’d seen on her face a few nights previous when she had revealed that her marriage had ended, something that had bought him to her office. He wanted to check on her and make sure that the expression that he had seen on her face wasn’t one she wore frequently.

“I am” Lionel confirmed, clearing his throat to cover the slightly nervous wobble in his voice “Can you tell me if Amelia Rosales is in?” he asked.

“Do you mean Amelia Perotti?” The receptionist asked.

Lionel’s answering smile was polite, if a little pained. He should have known that Amelia would have reverted to her maiden name. “Yes, I do” he confirmed.

The receptionist nodded his head and typed something into the computer before he looked up. “She hasn’t swiped out of the building and it’s lunch time, so she is probably upstairs in her office. Do you know where that is?” he asked.

Lionel wanted to nod his head, but he knew that he couldn’t. In the last year, the brief conversation that he and Amelia had had at the bar was the only time they had spoken and it meant that he had no idea about what could have changed in her life. He had no idea how many of things that he could once recall about her without a thought were different now. “Is she still on the fourth floor?” he asked.

“She is” The receptionist confirmed “Once you get out of the lift, take a left and you should find it pretty easily. Her name is on the door” he added.

Lionel offered the other man a polite nod before he padded towards the lift. When the doors closed, he blew out a sigh, trying, and failing, to eradicate his nervousness. He didn’t know how she would react to seeing him. They weren’t friends any more. The relationship that they had had before Amelia’s wedding day had disappeared the moment that Lionel had stepped foot outside of the bridal suite, and as polite as they had managed to be to one another when they’d bumped into each other, it had been painfully evident that things between them weren’t the same. After what Lionel had admitted and Amelia’s decision to marry Fernando in light of his admission, their friendship hadn’t stood a chance.

He couldn’t watch it any more. Seeing Amelia happy with Fernando had hurt him more than he could put into words, and when she had insisted that she couldn’t just run away from the other man, Lionel knew that he had to step away. He couldn’t keep pretending to be happy for her when he wasn’t.

Hearing the ding of the lift doors opening, Lionel hesitated before he forced himself to move, quickly finding himself outside of Amelia’s office door. For a moment, he just stared at it, debating heading back towards the lift, before he lifted a hand, knocking on the door lightly. When he heard Amelia’s voice from inside, he pushed the door open, peeking his head around it. “Hi” he breathed

Amelia stared at him, her expression moving from surprised to confused, something which made Lionel duck his head, an embarrassed smile on his face. “I’m sorry” he said “Do you want me to go?” he added.

Amelia shook her head. “It’s OK” she mused “I am surprised to see you” she added.

Lionel stepped further into the room, closing the office door softly after himself. Shaking his head, he smiled at her shyly. “Is it a good surprise?” he asked.

Amelia wanted to smile and play along, but instead, all she could manage was a small shrug.

Lionel’s smile faltered, but he didn’t let it drop.

Amelia saw his flinch before she gently shook her head. “I’m sorry” she said.

“It’s OK” Lionel mused “It’s been a long time and I showed up unannounced. I get why it might not be the best surprise” he added, his voice caught between sheepish and playful.

Amelia smiled then. It was small and tentative, but when Lionel saw it, his nerves eased slightly. “It’s not the worst” she chirped.

Lionel stepped towards her desk, settling into the chair that sat in front of it. “I know you’re probably going to hate this” he said “I mean, you’re probably sick of hearing it. I doubt that your mother has stopped asking since...whatever happened, happened. Thea, too, and all of your other friends...” he trailed off when Amelia shook her head, laughing sadly.

“Just ask” Amelia said.

“Are you OK?” Lionel asked “You don’t have to tell me. I know I...I haven’t been around. I just...I saw the look on your face the other night. You’re probably sick of people asking, and if you want me to back off, just say it. I promise, I won’t be offended” he added, hoping that the smile he offered her comforted her even a little bit.

Amelia smiled back at him briefly before she lifted her shoulders in a short shrug. “I...I want to be” she admitted “It’s not been easy, and it feels like every time I get close to feeling it a little less raw about it, I remember what happened and I go back to the beginning, but I think I am getting somewhere. I hope I am, at least” she added.

“I’m sorry that things didn’t work out” Lionel said gently.

Amelia’s stare flicked up to meet his, holding it for a moment before she looked away again.

Lionel ducked his head. He knew that she had been checking to see if he meant what he had said and whilst he understood why, it didn’t soften the blow. It wasn’t that long ago that she wouldn’t have even thought about doubting him. Rubbing his jaw, he closed his eyes for a moment before he looked back over at her. “Do you want to get dinner together some time?” he asked.

“Leo...”

“No talking about Fernando” Lionel was quick to interrupt “No...elephants” he added.

“Elephants?” Amelia prodded.

“Awkward stuff” Lionel clarified “The elephant in the room?” he added.

Amelia’s smile was genuine. It was bright and easy and the most natural it had looked since Lionel had bumped into her.

Lionel grinned back at her, the tops of his cheeks a soft shade of pink.

“No elephants?” Amelia asked “You can promise that?” she added.

Lionel nodded. “I can give it my best shot” he said.

Amelia contemplated his answer before she nodded her head. “OK, then” she said “I think I’d like that” she added.