All This Time

47: I Can’t Make You Love Me

“Has Thea gone?”

Lionel, who’d been staring at the closed front door since Thea had stepped out of it, jumped at the sound of Amelia’s voice before he turned around, watching her as she moved towards the mug of tea that she had left on the coffee table. What Thea had said had left him slightly dazed, and for moment, he didn’t quite know how to respond to it. He wasn’t surprised that Amelia had spoken to Thea about their relationship. He would have been expecting it anyway, but even more so in light of everything that had happened with Fernando, but what had caught him off guard was the conclusion that Thea seemed to have reached. He didn’t quite know what he could have done to make Amelia say something that had her sister believing that there was a chance that he was leading Amelia on.

“Are you just going to stand there?” Amelia chirped, an amused smile on her face.

Lionel blinked a couple of times before he shook his head, but his forehead was still furrowed as he padded towards the sofa, something which made Amelia frown as she watched him sit a small distance away from her. “Is everything OK?” she asked.

Lionel stayed quiet for a moment, still a little dazed, before he turned to look at her. “What did you say to Thea about us?” he asked, his voice soft and cautious.

Amelia’s frown deepened. “What?” she asked.

“Thea spoke to me before she left” Lionel admitted “I thought it was going to be the same speech I have had from Henri, and from Molly, but she...she seemed to have a different interpretation of what’s happening here, and I just...I was wondering what you had told her. I want to know if I am missing something” he added.

Amelia opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, more than a little surprised by what he had said, before she shook her head. “I...I didn’t really tell her anything” she said “I mean, she asked how things were going between us, and I told her that it’s a work in progress, but that I was optimistic that we were getting somewhere. Why? What did she say to you?” she asked.

“She told me to just tell you if I wasn’t in this with you” Lionel revealed “She seems to have this idea that I am just some idiot who’s trying to waste your time, and she told me that, if I was, I should just leave now. Why would she think that, Amelia?” he prodded.

His expression wasn’t accusatory, nor was the tone of his voice. He didn’t want to start a fight, he just wanted to know if there was something that he had missed, something that Amelia hadn’t shared with him, but had told her sister, and whether or not it was something he could fix. He didn’t like the idea that Thea thought of him in comparison with Fernando.

For a moment, Amelia stared down at her hands before she lifted one, rubbing at her forehead in frustration. She couldn’t quite believe what her sister had said. She knew that she wanted to look out for her. After Fernando, everyone around Amelia seemed more protective, but she hadn’t thought that Thea would say something to Lionel, let alone accuse him of leading Amelia on.

“I told her about something that was bothering me” Amelia admitted “But I made it clear that it was nothing for her to worry about. It’s my problem. I definitely did not tell her that I thought you were leading me on. I don’t know why she would say that. I am so sorry that she did” she added.

Lionel fiddled with his hands for a second, allowing a beat of quiet to pass between them, before he cleared his throat. “What did you tell her was bothering you?” he asked.

Amelia was quick to shake her head, her cheeks warming. “It’s nothing really” she murmured “At least not enough for her to say something like that to you. Next time I see her, I am going to kill her” she added.

“What is it, Amelia?” Lionel coaxed gently.

Amelia wanted to shake her head again, to insist that it was nothing, but the concerned expression on Lionel’s face melted her resolve, causing her to exhale a quiet sigh as she pushed a hand back through her hair. “I told you that I love you” she murmured “And you didn’t really say anything. I wasn’t expecting you to say it back, and I am not going to make you say it, but I just...I thought you’d say something” she added, grimacing to herself as the words fell out of her mouth.

Lionel was quiet for so long after Amelia had finished speaking that she regretted saying anything. With an embarrassed scoff, she pushed herself up to her feet and tried to make her way towards her bedroom, but before she could get too far away, Lionel’s fingers gently curved around her wrist, tugging her to a stop. Determined to hide the tears that threatened to fill her eyes, Amelia kept her stare on the floor. “I can’t make you love me” she muttered “But, if you don’t...”

“I never said that” Lionel interrupted.

“You never said anything” Amelia countered “And, normally, that wouldn’t bother me, but it does” she added.

“Amelia...”

“I know you’re probably trying to be careful” Amelia interjected, her voice growing heavier “That you’re giving me time to be sure about my feelings, and to make sure that I don’t regret saying it to you. I know that you’re probably just being careful after what happened with Nando, but I...I really thought that you felt it. You tried to stop my wedding, for goodness sake” she added, trying, and failing, to stop herself from choking on a whimper.

Lionel drew her closer, something Amelia fought for a moment before she relented, sinking into the embrace he was offering to her. With a soft sigh, he settled his chin on the top of her head, feeling her tears soak into his t-shirt. “I’m sorry” he whispered “You’re right. I have been thinking about all of the implications of saying it. It’s a big thing to say. I know you mean it, but I didn’t know if you’d meant to say it aloud, and I just...I didn’t want to pile on and say it if you weren’t ready” he added.

“I love you” Amelia mumbled into his neck.

Lionel let out a shaky laugh before he tipped his head forwards, planting a kiss on her hair. “I love you” he replied softly “I’ve loved you for a long time, and I should have said it a lot sooner than this. I love you, Amelia” he added.

Amelia sunk further into his embrace, mumbling that she wanted to hear it again, something which made Lionel laugh before he obliged. He knew that he’d have to say it a lot to catch up with the amount of times the thought had crossed his mind.