The Space Between Us

16: Alone

Turning the car off, Lionel quirked a soft smile, his stare drawn to Amelia who was curled up in the passenger seat. He hadn’t been surprised when he had first looked over and found her asleep. Despite several reassurances from him, and from Nora and Victor, that no one would be upset if she ducked out of the baby shower early, Amelia had insisted on staying until it was over, and it had left her exhausted. She had tried so hard to make sure everyone thought that she was fine. Every half sympathetic look from someone in Nora or Victor’s family had been greeted by a warm smile, but as the day had drifted on, it had become more and more obvious that she had started to struggle, something that meant that when people had started to leave, Amelia had been one of the first people out of the door.

Slipping the keys out of the ignition, Lionel tucked them into his pocket before he leant across the centre console, his hand gently nudging Amelia’s shoulder. “Amelia” he said softly.

Amelia stirred, grumbling a little, before she blinked her eyes open, her forehead creasing slightly in confusion.

Lionel smiled at her confusion. “You fell asleep on the drive back to your apartment” he said “I’ve just parked up” he added.

Slowly, Amelia looked around the car, getting her bearings, before she shook her head, her cheeks flushing a light shade of pink. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep” she said “Sorry about that” she added, an embarrassed smile on her face.

“It’s fine” Lionel quipped “You only snore a little” he added.

Amelia let out a surprised sound, something which made Lionel laugh gently. “I was kidding” he chirped.

Amelia glared at him playfully, allowing a beat of silence to pass between the two of them before she leant down, collecting her jacket from the floor in front of her seat. “I should probably be getting upstairs” she said “I need an early night if I am going to survive brunch with my mother and Lexi in the morning” she added.

“I’d offer to come with, but I am kind of busy tomorrow” Lionel chirped with a small smile, reassuring Amelia that he was joking. He didn’t want her to think that he had seriously thought about joining her family for their weekly dinner. It was too couple-like, and it was too friendly for the two of them who were still trying to figure out how their new friendship worked.

Amelia smiled down at her lap, fiddling with her jacket. “You’ll come next time then?” she played along.

Lionel huffed out a laugh. “Sure” he quipped “Next time” he added.

Amelia lifted her head to smile at him gently. “Thanks for today” she quipped.

“No problem” Lionel replied “It was actually kind of fun” he added.

Amelia offered him a slightly dubious look, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she carefully leant over the centre console and pressed a soft kiss against his cheek. After lingering for a moment with her lips pressed against his cheek, she pulled back slightly, a gentle smile brightening her features when she met his stare. “I’ll see you on Thursday?” she asked.

Lionel’s answering nod was a little dazed, something which Amelia’s smile widen a fraction. “Thursday” he repeated “I will see you then” he added.

Amelia pushed the car door open and climbed out, stopping only to offer Lionel a little wave before she made her way towards the elevator. Watching the doors slide closed, she smiled gently to herself until she felt her phone buzz in her pocket. Slipping it out of her jeans, she stared at the screen for a long moment before she swiped the decline button and stuffed the phone back into her pocket.

She never wanted to answer Fernando’s calls any more. Since their marriage had ended, every conversation that she and Fernando had had had taken its toll on her, but she was particularly keen to avoid talking to him that night. It had been a long day of pretending, of faking smiles and knowing that everyone was avoiding asking the question that was written all over their faces, but she had still managed to get through it in a good mood, and that wasn’t something she wanted to allow Fernando to take away from her again.

She had enjoyed celebrating Nora’s pregnancy. She had loved watching her friend and Victor open all of the gifts that had been bought for the baby, but the moment that she had liked the most had been the moment that she and Lionel had shared in Nora’s garden. It had been nice. The few minutes that she and Lionel had spent in Nora’s garden had been the most relaxed she had felt all day, and she wasn’t about to let speaking to Fernando ruin the good mood that it had left her in.

Watching the floor numbers tick by, she felt her phone vibrate again, something which caused her to sigh before she slipped the phone back out of her pocket. For a long moment, she just stared at it, willing Fernando to realise what he was doing, what he did to her every single time he called her, before she gave in, pressing the phone against her ear. “Nando?” she murmured.

“Don’t worry” Fernando replied “I won’t keep you long. I just wanted to make sure that you’d left Nora and Victor’s” he added.

“I’m at home” Amelia replied.

Fernando was quiet for a beat before he spoke again. “Alone?” he asked.

“Alone” Amelia confirmed. She didn’t want to start a fight by pointing out that it had nothing to do with him whether she was alone or not.

“How was the baby shower?” Fernando prodded.

“It was good” Amelia answered “Nora loved being the centre of attention, and a lot of the baby things they were gifted were adorable” she added.

“I’m sorry I missed it” Fernando quipped “Hopefully, the gift I got makes up for that. I’ll let you go” he added.

Amelia could hear the disappointment in his voice, something which caused her to close her eyes. She couldn’t wait for the day that the pain in his voice didn’t get to her any more. “Night, Nando” she murmured.

“Night, Amelia” Fernando replied before he hung up the phone.