All This Time

52: Did That Make You Feel Better?

“On a scale from one to ten, how annoyed will you be if I call you at midnight?”

Lionel, who was stuffing a t-shirt into the backpack that he had settled on Amelia’s bed, rolled his eyes before he huffed out a quiet laugh, his stare drifting towards where Amelia sat in front of a mirror, perfecting the curls she had twisted her hair into. He wished that he was going with her. When she had revealed that her company had hired out a private room in a bar to celebrate the new year, he had seen the hope in her expression that he would be available to go with her, and whilst she had tried to shrug off the idea that she was disappointed that he couldn’t, he knew that she was lying. She was expecting it to be awkward. Whilst it had been almost a year since her marriage had ended, that night was the first time that Amelia was going to attend a work event without Fernando at her side since they had met, and Lionel knew that she was dreading the questions that her co-workers had been too polite to ask before, questions which would probably come more easily under the influence of the free bar.

“I said I was having a quiet night” Lionel replied, pulling around the zip on his backpack “Not that I was going to bed before midnight. I won’t be annoyed if you call” he added.

Amelia tucked a curl behind her ear, smiling shyly at her reflection. “You say that now” she said “But I am taking Molly as my plus one. I don’t know how cute you’re going to find it if we’re both yelling down the phone at you” she added.

Placing the backpack down beside the bedroom door, Lionel moved towards where she sat before he leant over, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “You know it’s not going to be as bad as you’re thinking, don’t you?” he murmured into her hair “You work with them. You’re friends with them” he added.

Amelia sighed a little at the contact, her hand reaching for his which had settled on her shoulder. “I know I am being silly” she murmured “I just...I’ve avoided this for a long time. I’m not worried about the people I work with, but their partners? People I don’t see every day? I don’t think I have ever really explained just how likeable Fernando is. People like him easily, and they remember him, so when I show up without him….” she trailed off with a small, rueful shake of her head.

She was blowing it out of proportion and she knew it. The chances of anyone walking up to her and asking where her husband was were minimal, but the fact that there was a chance bothered her, as did how scared she was to face it. She had said it more times than she liked to remember. She had had to tell her friends, her family, and Lionel that her marriage was over, and how it had ended, but still the thought of saying it again still threatened to overwhelm her, and she hated that it did. She hated that it was still on her mind, that all of her thoughts about her relationships and her future were seen through the haze of being Fernando’s ex-wife, and she hated it didn’t seem to be getting easier. She hated that, at times, she still felt as overwhelmed as she did when Gianna had first placed a picture of Fernando cradling Penelope into her hands.

“Are you sure that you want to go?” Lionel asked, gently turning Amelia to look up at him.

Amelia didn’t hesitate to nod her head gently. “I am” she confirmed “Molly’s going to be with me, and honestly, I want to go. I have spent a lot of the last year hiding, and I don’t want to keep doing it. Just...Don’t be too surprised if I call you to come and pick me up early, OK?” she added, offering him a slightly tentative smile.

Lionel returned her smile. “Call me whenever you need to” he quipped.

Amelia stood up and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips before she slipped into the bathroom, leaving Lionel staring after her, hoping that that night went better for her than she thought it would.

“Is your husband not with you?”

Amelia tried to ignore the way that her stomach twisted in knots. She tried to resist the urge to look for Molly who was stood a couple of groups away from her, talking with someone that she had once worked with. Instead, with a slightly jerky shake of her head, she quirked a small, almost apologetic smile, glancing up at the man who stood ahead of her. “Uh, no” she said quietly “He’s...he’s not here. He’s not my husband any more” she added.

The man’s face flushed embarrassedly. “I’m so sorry” he apologised “I just...I remembered him from last year and...I’m sorry” he added.

Amelia shook her head, staring into the glass of wine she held in her hand. “It’s OK” she said gently “He’s quite memorable” she added.

The man spluttered out a polite laugh before he mumbled an excuse to leave, something Amelia accepted with a nod before she walked through the crowd. Pushing through a door into a quiet corridor, she found somewhere out of the way before she slid down the wall. Pulling her knees to her chest, she pressed her forehead against them for a few beats before she reared upwards, throwing the plastic glass of wine that she still held in her hands at the wall opposite her.

“Did that make you feel better?”

Amelia, who’d been staring at the pool of wine on the floor, huffed out a watery laugh before she turned, glancing up at Molly who stood a little way down the corridor, watching her. “No” she mumbled.

“You want to talk about it?” Molly asked, moving to pick the cup up off of the floor.

Amelia was quiet for a moment, watching as Molly tried to soak up the liquid with a napkin, before she blew out a quiet sigh. “I am so tired of feeling bad about it, Mol” she whispered.

Molly stopped trying to clean up the spill, moving to sit down beside Amelia. “What have you got to feel bad about?” she asked “We both know who screwed up, and nothing you did to him could ever justify what he did. You know that” she added.

“Then why is it still so fucking hard some times?” Amelia complained “Why does it still feel like I failed somehow? I don’t know how he’s done it, because you’re right about what he did, but he’s got me feeling like it’s my fault somehow, like I should still feel bad that it’s over, and I am so tired of it, Mol. I am so tired of this thing hanging over my head and effecting everything” she added, moving to rest her head against Molly’s shoulder.

Molly gently lifted a hand, pushing Amelia’s hair out of her face. “I don’t know what to say” she said softly “I could tell you that it’s going to take time, but it’s been almost a year, and I get how that could sound just like a hollow thing that everyone says when they don’t know what to say. The truth of it is that you saw your entire life with him, and losing that isn’t something that you can just get over, but you have to realise that losing Fernando, whilst it is shitty now, it might have given way to something better. I mean, you and Leo are pretty special together” she added.

Amelia smiled despite herself. “You were pretty anti-Leo to start with” she quipped.

“I wasn’t anti-him” Molly replied, resting her head against Amelia’s “I just wanted you to be cautious. My point is that, whilst there’s no rushing getting over Fernando, maybe something better will come out of him being a colossal asshole. I’ve seen you with Leo, and you’re so happy. I know you’re still not quite ready to trust that entirely, but it’s undeniable, and if you focus on that, then maybe the other stuff will just fall away” she added.

Amelia let out a shaky sigh, something which made Molly squeeze her hand before the sound of a phone vibrating filled the air, causing them to pull apart slightly so that Amelia could slip her phone out of her bag.

Molly smiled as she read the screen. “It’s nearly midnight” she quipped “I’ll head outside to find us a taxi. Talk to him” she added before she stood up and walked away.

Amelia answered the call before she pressed the phone against her ear, feeling her entire body relax at the sound of Lionel’s voice. Closing her eyes, she listened to him talk, the smallest of smiles pulling at the corner of her lips.