The Space Between Us

19: You Tell Me

Readjusting the napkin that had been spread across her lap, Amelia shifted in her seat, trying her hardest not to glance anxiously towards the restaurant door in search of Lionel. He was coming. When she had texted him earlier that day to tell him that she had to work late, he had been the one who had suggested that they grab dinner at a restaurant close to her office so that they wouldn’t have to cancel their weekly get together, but still Amelia felt nervous. It had only been a handful of days previous that she had admitted to Nora that there was a chance that she had feelings for Lionel, and the prospect of seeing him, of saying something that she couldn’t take back and wrecking the tentative friendship that they had forged, had her terrified.

It wasn’t concrete. Fernando’s accusation had got her thinking, but Amelia hadn’t gotten a real grasp of what she was feeling, and she knew what the consequences of saying something too soon would be. It wasn’t something she could just test out. Lionel had admitted that he had had feelings for her once upon a time, and Amelia couldn’t admit that there was a chance that she had them for him now, not until she was sure. She didn’t know how he felt about her then, and she knew that she couldn’t risk asking him. It was likely to be the start of a conversation that had the potential to shift everything between them again, and it wasn’t something that she was ready for.

Smoothing the napkin out again, Amelia closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, only to jump when she felt a light touch against her shoulder.

Lionel let out a slightly sheepish laugh, holding his hands up innocently. “I didn’t mean to scare you” he quipped.

Amelia shook her head, pushing the best smile she could muster onto her face as she stood up to greet him with a soft hug. “I was a million miles away” she mused.

“Rough day?” Lionel prodded, returning her hug.

Amelia lingered in the hug for a beat before she pulled away, shaking her head. “Just a long one” she replied.

Lionel’s eyes searched her face, his expression slightly dubious, before he offered her a small smile. “You still want to have dinner with me, though, right?” he chirped.

Amelia couldn’t stop herself from smiling back at him, even despite the pang of nerves in the pit of her stomach. “Right” she quipped.

Lionel flashed her another smile as he sat down, already eagerly telling a story about something that had happened at training. Amelia followed suit, slipping back into the seat opposite him, before she shook her head, trying to hide how pink her cheeks were getting. She didn’t want to think about it. She knew that, the more she thought about what she was feeling, the harder it would be to hide from Lionel, but she couldn’t stop it. The question was stuck on her mind, and until she knew the answer, one way or the other, she doubted it was going anywhere.

“Thank you for the ride”

Lionel, who’d just parked his car, startled slightly at the sound of Amelia’s voice before he turned, finding her smiling at him timidly. She had been strangely quiet. For the first time in a while, their conversation had felt a little forced, and Amelia had seemed distracted, but Lionel hadn’t quite been able to find the right words to ask what was wrong. They kept things superficial. Lionel was more than happy to tell stories about his teammates, and Amelia was more than happy to talk about her friends, or her family, but when it came to things that were bothering her, things that were almost certainly related to Fernando, Lionel knew that she went to Nora, or Alexa.

It wasn’t that he didn’t care. The idea that Amelia was still hurting over what Fernando had done was one that bothered Lionel more than he had ever said, but he knew that it was for the best that Amelia spoke to Nora or Alexa. They didn’t have the same point of view as him, one that was biased by the fact that he had had feelings for her in the past, and he didn’t want anyone to think that he was taking advantage of the fact that she was hurt. He didn’t want anyone to think that he was doing anything other than being Amelia’s friend when she needed one.

“You’re welcome” Lionel mused.

Amelia offered him another timid smile before she leant over, collecting her bag from the floor. “I had a lot of fun” she chirped, determined not to let the silence linger “Maybe we should consider having dinner out more often” she added.

“I don’t know” Lionel quipped, ducking his head shyly “I kind of like having dinner here, just the two of us” he added.

Amelia’s grip on her bag faltered slightly, but she was quick to recover it, trying to ignore the flutter of butterflies that had hit her.

Lionel’s forehead furrowed, watching as she fiddled with the handle of her bag. “Lia?” he asked.

Amelia looked up at him, flashing him a smile that she hoped was convincing. “I should get upstairs” she mused “Goodnight, Leo” she added as she leant over the centre console, ghosting a hasty kiss over his cheek before she moved to push the car door open.

Lionel, however, was slightly faster. Before she had a chance to climb out of the car, he gently wrapped his fingers around her arm, tugging her to a stop.

Amelia blinked a couple of times, her stare settling briefly on his hand around her arm, before she lifted it slowly, meeting his concerned gaze.

Lionel let his fingers slip off of her arm as he stared up at her, his expression soft. “Are we OK?” he asked gently “You’ve been...a little distant tonight, and I guess I just wanted to make sure that that wasn’t because of something that’s happened between us. Are we OK, Amelia?” he asked.

Amelia’s eyes searched his face for a long moment, noticing the worry in his expression, before she pushed a smile onto her face and nodded. “Of course we are” she chirped “Why wouldn’t we be?” she added.

“You tell me” Lionel replied.

Amelia scoffed out a laugh, shaking her head. “We’re fine, Leo” she mused.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, his answering smile just as put on as the one Amelia knew she had on her face. “OK, then” he quipped “Night, Amelia” he added.

Amelia climbed out of the car and watched it pull away before she let the smile slide from her face, being replaced by an expression that confided that she didn’t know what to do for the best. She didn’t want to damage their friendship. She had missed him when he’d been gone, and she didn’t want to lose him again, but she couldn’t see what she was supposed to do. Putting distance between them was going to do damage, saying something about her feelings prematurely was going to do damage, and Amelia had no idea what to do for the best.