The Space Between Us

24: It’s Not Just About Today

“Leo, it has been a while”

Lionel didn’t quite know what to do or say when Fernando looked past Amelia and at him, finally breaking the heavy silence that had settled between the three of them. He wanted to fade into the background. One look at Fernando’s expression when he had caught sight of him following Amelia down the hallway had been enough for Lionel to know that his being there was only likely to make an already tense situation worse, but he knew that he couldn’t just walk away. He didn’t know what Fernando was going to do or say, but the sharp smirk on his face suggested that whatever it was was going to be designed to hurt Amelia, and whilst Lionel was wary about getting between Amelia and Fernando and making an already bad situation even worse, he wasn’t about to stand by and watch as she got hurt.

“Fernando” Lionel replied curtly.

“When did I see you last?” Fernando chirped, feigning thought.

“Fernando” Amelia warned.

“Ah” Fernando exclaimed, exaggeratedly slapping his palm to his forehead “That’s right. It was the day before our wedding, Lia. He shook my hand, and wished me good luck, and then I never saw him again. Why was that, Leo?” he added, forcing his voice to stay light.

Lionel had no intention of responding, even before Amelia had looked back at him, her expression wordlessly pleading with him not to sink to Fernando’s level. It was what he wanted. He wanted Lionel to try and defend their relationship, he wanted him to say something that suggested that his feelings for Amelia predated the end of her marriage, and Amelia wasn’t about to let him twist anything that Lionel said.

It didn’t change anything. Lionel’s feelings for Amelia were an entirely separate issue from Fernando’s affair and the end of their marriage, and she didn’t want to give him the chance to try and spin it differently. She didn’t want him to have the chance to make another excuse that was meant to absolve him of any of the blame for their marriage falling apart.

“I think I can guess, even if you don’t answer” Fernando chirped.

“What are you doing here?” Amelia pressed.

Fernando tipped his head forwards, gesturing to the bouquet of yellow and pink flowers in his hand with a softened expression. “I came to wish you a happy birthday” he said “I was just going to drop these in front of your door. I wasn’t even planning on knocking. I know that you probably didn’t want to see me, but I couldn’t just ignore your birthday, Lia” he added, a hopeful smile on his face.

Amelia was quiet for a moment, trying to find the right thing to say, before she shook her head. “Nando, you’ve got to stop just showing up here” she said.


“It’s not fair” Amelia interrupted, cutting off what she was sure would be Fernando insisting that he was only there because it was her birthday. He always had a reason, some incidental excuse for why he would appear at her front door, and Amelia had to tell him that his reasons for visiting didn’t matter. She didn’t want to see him. After what had happened between them, seeing him only served to reopen wounds that Amelia was still trying to stitch closed.

Fernando blinked a couple of times, his forehead furrowing. “Is it so bad that I wanted to wish my wife a happy birthday?” he asked.

“It isn’t just about today” Amelia countered “It’s about every time you’ve shown up here unannounced. Every time you have called or texted, trying to coax me into to talking to you. Our marriage ended, Fernando, and acting like it hasn’t isn’t fair. Do you have any idea how much seeing you hurts me?” she asked.

Fernando opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, but couldn’t quite get anything out.

“Maybe you should just go, Fernando” Lionel suggested gently.

Fernando’s stare didn’t move away from Amelia, even despite the overwhelming urge he had to snap and insist that what was happening had nothing to do with Lionel. “Is that what you want?” he asked.

Amelia’s answer was a wordless nod, her eyes not meeting his.

Fernando didn’t move immediately, waiting for Amelia to say something more, before he slowly and reluctantly nodded his head. Taking half a step forwards, he gently extended the bouquet of flowers he held to Amelia who took them from him, offering him a ghost of a smile in thanks. Watching her expression for a moment, he willed her to say something else, but she didn’t. She just watched him, her eyes soft and sad like they had been every other time she had looked at him after he had confirmed what Gianna had told her was true. She had used to look at him with so much warmth. Before she had known about Gianna, before everything between them had fallen apart, Amelia’s eyes had always been bright and hopeful, but since Gianna’s revelation, all Fernando saw in Amelia’s eyes was the pain he’d caused her, pain he wished away every single day.

Taking a step backwards, he glanced up at Lionel who was watching him warily before he finally made his way down the corridor.

Amelia listened to his retreating footsteps before she let out a shaky breath.

Lionel stepped up beside her, one hand gently settling on her back as the other slipped the bouquet of flowers out of her grasp. “Are you OK?” he asked quietly.

Amelia nodded her head wordlessly.

Lionel gently rubbed her back. “Do you want me to leave?” he asked.

“Do you have to?” Amelia asked quietly.

“Not if you don’t want me to” Lionel answered.

“Stay” Amelia said “I’ve still got those presents to open and I would still like the company” she added.

Lionel smiled. “Then I guess I am staying” he chirped.

Amelia turned to offer him a soft smile before she walked towards the front door and unlocked it, moving inside with Lionel trailing after her. Amelia wandered through into the living room, settling her bag and keys down onto the coffee table before turned and caught sight of the flowers that were in Lionel’s hand. Shaking her head, she stepped towards him and tugged them out of his grasp before she walked through to the kitchen, dropping them into the bin before she walked back into the living room.

Lionel watched her, concern on his face, but when Amelia turned and smiled at him again, he smiled back at her gently. “Presents?” he asked.

Amelia’s smile widened a little in relief. “Presents” she confirmed.