The Space Between Us

09: I Bet It Is

Stepping back a little from the door that he had knocked on, Lionel glanced up and down the hallway, frowning slightly at how different it felt compared to the last time he had stopped by Amelia's home. It was a different place. The last time that Lionel had visited Amelia, she had been living in a house that she loved, with the man that she loved, and as much as Lionel didn’t want to fixate on how everything had changed, it was impossible to ignore. Everything was different. Amelia was different, their friendship, or what was left of it, wasn’t the same as it had been before, and Lionel knew that it was going to take a little getting used to. They couldn’t be like they had been before, but he was optimistic that they could still be something.

Pulling his stare back towards the front door, he watched it for a long moment before it finally swung open, allowing Amelia to greet him with a small smile. “Hi” she greeted.

Lionel returned the smile without a thought. “Hi” he said “Are you ready to go?” he asked.

Amelia ducked her head slightly, pushing a curl of her hair behind her ear. “I was actually hoping that we could stay here instead” she replied “If that’s OK with you. I just don’t quite feel like going out” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, slightly perturbed by the fact that he couldn’t read her expression as easily as he had done in the past. “Do you want me to go?” he asked.

Amelia hesitated before she eventually shook her head. “I could use the company” she said.

“And you want me?” Lionel chirped, his voice playfully incredulous.

Amelia rolled her eyes, smiling despite herself as she took a step out of the doorway.

Lionel paused for a moment before he followed her into the apartment. Pushing the door closed after himself, he took a look around the small apartment before his stare landed on Amelia who was watching him, a slightly pained smile on her face. “It’s a little different from the house, isn’t it?” she quipped.

“It’s nice” Lionel replied with a little shrug.

Amelia's expression softened a little. He hadn’t said what she had expected him to say. She had thought that he would ask about the house, that he would want to know how Fernando had ended up with it instead of her, and the fact that he hadn’t left her speechless for a moment. Everyone else had asked, so much so that she had the answer rehearsed, and she was, for a second, too surprised that she didn’t have to use it to say anything. “It is” she agreed “And it is certainly better than staying with my parents” she added.

Lionel’s answering smile was caught somewhere between warm and sympathetic. “I bet it is” he quipped.

Amelia waited for a second, waiting for the inevitable questions about how her mother and stepfather had reacted to what had happened to Amelia, but they never came.

Instead, Lionel just offered her another small, shy smile. “Are we going to do something about food?” he asked.

Amelia nodded. “I’ve got some food cooking already” she answered “Just head through to the living room. It should be ready pretty soon” she added.

Lionel nodded and followed her instructions, leaving Amelia staring after him, a little furrow between her eyebrows.

“How’s your little nephew?”

Amelia, who was pushing her food around her plate, blinked a couple of times at the sound of Lionel’s voice before she looked up, finding him watching her from the seat opposite. She didn’t quite know what to make of it. Like the first time she and Lionel had had dinner together, the conversation hadn’t flowed particularly easily and Amelia couldn’t shake the idea that eventually, Lionel was going to ask one of the questions she dreaded him asking, but he still hadn’t. She kept thinking he would. Every time he opened his mouth to say something, she was convinced that it would be a question about Fernando, or a question about how she felt about what he’d admitted to her, but it never came, and whilst she was mostly relieved by it, she couldn’t help but wonder why he hadn’t asked.

“Huh?” Amelia spluttered.

Lionel smiled around the top of his glass of water. “Your nephew” he said “Charlie?” he added.

“He’s four” Amelia replied “He’s a bundle of energy that no one can keep up with, but my mother says that Alexa was the same, so it’s probably something he inherited from her” she added.

Lionel chuckled, shaking his head amusedly.

Amelia watched him quietly for a moment before she shook her head, staring at the fork that she was messing with in her hand. “Can I ask you something?” she asked.

The easy smile that had been on Lionel’s face slipped away slowly when he heard the tone of her voice. “Of course” he answered.

“Why haven’t you asked yet?” Amelia said quietly “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to start a conversation about Nando, but I just...I keep expecting you to ask, and then you don’t. Why?” she added.

Lionel shifted in his seat, taking a moment to think about the question, before he looked up at her. “I don’t want to make you talk about it” he said carefully “Whatever happened between you and Fernando, you’ve probably been over it a million times since it happened, and I just...I didn’t want to make you do it again. It is obvious that you’re still hurting over it, and I don’t want to sit here and probe into it, and make you hurt again. If you want to talk about it, then I am happy to listen, but I didn’t want to ask. I don’t think I should ask. I wasn’t here for you, and I didn’t want you to think that I was trying to insert myself as a shoulder to cry on. I hurt you, too. I don’t want to keep doing it” he added.

Amelia blinked a couple of times, trying to wrap her head around his answer, before she slowly extended her hand across the table. Lionel hesitated for a beat before he placed his into hers, allowing her to gently knot their fingers together. “Thank you” she murmured.

Lionel shook his head. “Don’t thank me” he replied “I wasn’t here when you needed me” he added.

Amelia's lips quirked upwards slightly into a sad smile. “You’re here now, though” she said “That’s something” she added.

Lionel squeezed her hand gently, something Amelia returned before she slipped her hand out of his again and turned back to her food, starting up another conversation that Lionel was more than happy to join in with. It was superficial. On the surface, they were fine, and their friendship seemed to been knitting itself back together, but they both knew that there were things that were going unsaid, things that they’d need to talk about if they were going to keep things going long term.