The Space Between Us

23: I Make No Promises

“Did you spend the entire day with your parents?”

Amelia, who was pushing a spoon around a mug of tea, huffed out a laugh as she glanced across the table at Lionel, watching as he poked at the plate in front of him with a fork. The awkwardness hadn’t dissipated entirely, but after they’d talked about the kiss, the lump in Amelia’s throat had grown smaller, meaning that the urge she had had initially to run away from Lionel had all but disappeared. She still felt bad. As hard as he had worked to reassure her that things between them weren’t going to change, there was still a little voice at the back of her mind that kept insisting that it wasn’t possible for everything to remain just as it was, but she had tried her hardest to ignore it. For a little while, whilst they were sat in that cafe, everything was OK, and she wanted it to be OK for as long as it could be.

“I did” Amelia confirmed with a nod “And, before you ask, it wasn’t my idea” she added.

“Your mother’s?” Lionel asked with a knowing smirk.

Amelia made a show of rolling her eyes, but nodded her head. “I like to think that she was just excited to spend my birthday with me” she mused “But, I think it is probably a little more likely that she was worried about Fernando” she added, her smile dimming a little.

Lionel’s own smile slipped away, an acknowledgement that, without meaning to, he’d stumbled into the subject that Amelia liked talking about the least. “What exactly was she worried about?” he asked tentatively.

Amelia didn’t look away from her mug, fiddling with the spoon that still stuck out of it. “He likes to show up” she mused “And my last four birthdays were planned by him, so it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that he’d just appear, but I can’t rule out that she was just worried that, if I was left alone, I would end up doing something stupid like calling him” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly. “Would you have done?” he asked after a moment of quiet.

Amelia didn’t hesitate to shake her head, her eyes flashing up to meet his. “No” she insisted.

Lionel held his hands up, a soft smile on his face. It wasn’t meant as an accusation. Whatever happened between Amelia and Fernando was between the two of them, and he didn’t want Amelia to think that he was trying to intrude. He was just still trying to figure out the dynamic between the two of them now that their marriage had ended. It was clearly complicated. Despite his carefully avoiding the topic of Fernando, whenever they did stray into talking about him, it was obvious just how much he still affected Amelia, and Lionel just wanted to know what he was supposed to do or say. He didn’t want to inadvertently make things worse by saying the wrong thing.

Amelia let out a soft sigh, shaking her head slightly. “Sorry” she murmured “I just...I just get a little frustrated sometimes. I know I am not as over what happened as I like to pretend I am, but I am over it enough to know that...that going back to Fernando is very much off of the table. I just wish everyone else around me could see it, too” she added.

“You know that they mean well, right?” Lionel chirped “You’re their daughter, or their sister, or their friend, and they watched you go through something really difficult. They might not be handling it perfectly, but in their own way, they’re trying to take care of you. Though, if you invite me to another family dinner, do you think you could convince them to not stare at me all night?” he added impishly.

Amelia laughed. “I make no promises” she quipped.

Lionel made a show of rolling his eyes, causing Amelia to giggle again, a sound that made the soft smile on Lionel’s face widen a fraction. She didn’t laugh as much as she used to, what had happened with Fernando had changed her, but it just made him love the sound even more when he got the chance to hear it.

“Are you sure that you don’t want me to leave you to it?”

Amelia, who was already striding towards the car park’s elevator, turned back towards Lionel, shaking her head with a soft smile. She knew why he was asking. After an entire day that had been spent around other people, it would have only been natural for her to want a little time to herself, but after the way the night had gone, she wasn’t quite prepared to say goodnight to him. She was worried that things would get awkward between the two of them. Despite Lionel’s reassurances that he wasn’t upset about the kiss, Amelia was scared that, as soon as they said goodnight, the inevitable awkwardness would creep in, and whilst she knew that the night couldn’t last forever, she wanted to draw it out for as long as she could.

“I’m certain” Amelia answered “It’s still early, and I have a bunch of birthday presents to open. It’d be weird to do it by myself” she added.

Lionel hesitated for a second, lingering next to his car, before Amelia padded back towards him, grabbing his hand. “Come on” she chirped.

“Alright” Lionel mused, rolling his eyes good-naturedly.

Amelia flashed him another smile over her shoulder before she tugged him towards the elevator. In silence, they rode the elevator up to her floor before the doors slid open, allowing Amelia, who was still holding Lionel’s hand in her own, to tug him along the corridor. Lionel followed after her, his stare drawn towards their hands until he bumped into Amelia’s back, causing him to startle slightly.

Taking half a step backwards, he felt Amelia slip her hand out of his before he looked up, the little smile that had been tugging at his lips slipping away when he spotted the figure who stood in front of Amelia’s front door.

Fernando’s eyes moved between Amelia and Lionel a few times, dropping down towards their hands before they let go of one another, before he looked back up again, a sharp smirk splitting across his features. “What was it you told me, Lia?” he chirped, his voice bitter “That this isn’t what I think it is?” he added.