The Space Between Us

22: I Can’t Do This

It was easy for Amelia to get lost in the kiss. Every touch was tentative, and the feel of Lionel’s smile against her lips was reassuring, and for a long moment, it was enough to drown out the sound of the voice in her head that was screaming at her that she was making a mistake, but eventually, the sound overwhelmed her again, causing her to pull back abruptly. Blinking dazedly, she searched Lionel’s face, admiring the warmth that had filled his expression, before she pushed herself back a couple of paces, putting space between them.

“Amelia?” Lionel prodded, taking half a step towards her.

Amelia countered it with half a step backwards, shaking her head. “I...uh...I need to go” she stumbled out.


“I’m sorry” Amelia interrupted “I...I made a mistake, and I am so sorry” she added before she turned and walked away. Hurrying down the street, she held her breath, half expecting the sound of Lionel’s jogging footsteps to follow after her, but it didn’t.

He didn’t follow after her.

Exhaling a shaky breath, she made her way into a nearby cafe, sinking into the first chair that she could find so that she could bury her face in her hands and let out the sound of frustration that had been burning in the back of her throat since she had realised what she had done. She was annoyed at herself. As awkward as things between her and Lionel could be, they had been going along well since he had come back into her life, and in one moment, Amelia knew that she almost certainly ruined it.

She wasn’t ready to start something new. Since she had spoken to Nora about her feelings for Lionel, she had only grown more certain that she wasn’t ready to start a new relationship, and it only made her feel worse about initiating the kiss. He had given her the chance to realise what she was doing, to think about every ramification of her lips touching his, but she had still done it, and by doing it, she had almost certainly ruined whatever friendship they still had.

His feelings were still there. He had smiled when she had kissed him, and Amelia knew what that meant. It meant telling him things that she barely admitted to herself. It meant admitting that she still wasn’t over what Fernando had done to her. It meant telling him that, as much as she wanted to be ready to move forwards with her life, she wasn’t. It meant admitting that she didn’t think she had it in her to trust someone else again.

Slowly sitting up, she blinked, allowing her eyes to adjust to the artificial light of the cafe before she let out a small noise in surprise, her stare landing on Lionel who’d stopped next to her chair.

Lionel followed her stare towards the door and back before he sunk down into the chair opposite her, wordlessly telling her that if she wanted to run, he wasn’t going to stop her.

Amelia’s stare lingered on the door for a moment longer before she reluctantly turned to look at Lionel. “I didn’t think you’d followed me” she said quietly.

Lionel’s lips quirked upwards into a slight smirk as he reached across the table, fiddling with a little sachet of sugar. “Did you think I could just let you leave things like that?” he asked.

Amelia’s answer was a silent shrug.

“I couldn’t” Lionel said, answering his own question “We kissed, Lia, and then just ran away from me” he added.

“I’m sorry” Amelia said quietly.

“What happened?” Lionel prodded gently.

“I made a mistake” Amelia answered “I am sorry” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly. “You think kissing me was a mistake?” he asked, fighting to keep his voice as even as he could.

Amelia could see the pain on his face, no matter how hard he fought to keep it out of his voice. “I...I do” she stumbled out “But not for the reasons you think. It’s not because I...I don’t like you like that, because I do, I just...I just know that I can’t do this right now” she added, vaguely gesturing between the two of them.

Lionel didn’t say anything. He just watched her, waiting for her to elaborate.

It took a few moments for Amelia to gather her thoughts before she hesitantly met his stare. “I am not ready for this” she admitted “I hate saying it, because it’s been so long since I found out about what Fernando did, and I hate how cut up I am about it still, but I am still hurting because of him. I don’t want to be, and I want to be ready to move forwards, but I am not. I like you, a lot, and that’s why I have been trying to put some space between us again. I didn’t want you to get too close because I am pretty sure that, if I let you get too close, I am going to do something stupid, and hurt you, and I don’t want to do that. You don’t deserve to be caught up in the mess that Fernando’s made of me” she added, shaking her head with a sad smile.

“You’re not a mess” Lionel mused.

Amelia shook her head ruefully, looking down at the table. “Are you sure about that?” she quipped “Because not ten minutes ago, I left you standing in the street” she added.

“That wasn’t great” Lionel admitted, flashing her a faint, teasing smile “But I don’t think I can blame you for being a little overwhelmed. I know that there’s stuff I still don’t know about you and Fernando, and it means I am not completely aware of how badly he hurt you, but you’re not a mess, Amelia. I didn’t see you when it first happened, but I am certain that you’ve gotten better since then, and you’re going to keep getting better. It is just going to take time, and you can’t force it” he added.

“I know” Amelia replied “I just...I just wish I was in a better place” she added, sparing him a significant look.

Lionel placed his hand over hers. “Who says I am going anywhere?” he prodded.

“Leo” Amelia objected softly. She couldn’t ask him to wait around for her. She had no idea when she would feel ready.

Lionel squeezed her hand. “We’re friends” he quipped “And I let our friendship slip away once. I am not going to do it again” he added.

Amelia looked down at their hands, watching him twist their fingers together, before she offered him a soft smile, wordlessly admitting just how pleased she was that he was going to stick around. She didn’t know what their future looked like. She didn’t know if there was going to be a second kiss to follow their first, but she was glad that she hadn’t lost him again.