The Space Between Us

25: I’m Not Expecting You To Fix It

Turning onto his side, Lionel let out a sleepy groan, trying his hardest to hide his face from the early morning sunlight that spilled into the through the uncovered window of Amelia’s living room. He knew that he had to move soon. He had training that morning, and he didn’t have a change of clothes with him, but for a second he wanted to stay where he was and acknowledge just how far things between him and Amelia had come. He had made a mistake. He had allowed his feelings for her to convince him that they were better off away from one another, but the more time they spent together, the more certain he got that he had made an error. It wasn’t as straightforward as it had been before. Things that they had both said had made their friendship more difficult to figure out, but he felt like they were getting somewhere, even if it was clumsy at times.

Slowly stirring himself, he rolled onto his back before he slowly sat up, his stare moving slowly around the living room until it landed on Amelia’s bedroom doorway where she stood.

Amelia’s face brightened with a shy smile when he met her eyes, something that made Lionel smile back at her. “Hi” he said.

“Hi” Amelia replied “Did you sleep OK? I know from experience that that sofa isn’t the most comfortable bed in the world” she added, a nervous laugh bubbling out of her mouth.

Lionel shrugged as he swung his feet to the floor, stretching his legs out in front of him. “It was fine” he answered “Besides, it isn’t like I had to stay. You gave me ample opportunity to say no” he added, flashing her a small, reassuring smile.

She was worried that he would feel awkward. She hadn’t said it, but after they’d run into Fernando the night before, she hadn’t wanted to be by herself, and so she had kept making excuses from him to stay a little longer, culminating in her offering him the spot of her sofa for the night, something he hadn’t had the heart to turn down. She didn’t say anything direct. She didn’t scream about how unfair it was that Fernando had shown up on her birthday, but even her subtle reactions had made it clear how much it had bothered her, and Lionel had just wanted to be there for her, even if he knew that he would have had no idea what to say if she had started talking about Fernando. She needed someone to be there for her, and Lionel was happy to do it.

Amelia shook her head, trying, and failing, to hide the blush that was spreading across her cheeks. “Are you in a hurry to leave?” she asked “Because if not, I was just about to make some breakfast” she added.

Lionel grinned impishly, sneaking a quick glance down at his watch. “Are you sure that you’re not bored of me yet?” he chirped.

Amelia smirked back at him. “I was just about to ask you the same thing” she quipped “I mean, I have thrown a lot at you in the last twenty four hours” she added.

“Well, unless you’ve got more relatives for me to be awkward around waiting in the kitchen, I think I can probably handle it” Lionel quipped.

Amelia playfully scoffed. “Did I forget to mention that I invited my entire family over for breakfast?” she played along.

Lionel laughed, causing Amelia to laugh too as she stepped past him and towards the kitchen.

Lionel stood up and followed, watching as Amelia stopped for a split second in the doorway before she purposefully strode towards the fridge. Glancing away from her, he traced her eye line from the kitchen doorway until his stare landed on the bin that was directly in front of him, the tops of the flowers that Fernando had bought for Amelia poking out of the top of it.

Taking a step forwards, he tucked the flowers further into the bin before he looked up, finding Amelia watching him, a soft expression on her face. “Are you OK?” he asked “And I don’t want the superficial answer you’d normally give me. Are you really OK?” he added.

Amelia thought about shaking her head and insisting that she was fine, but she stopped herself when she saw the look on Lionel’s face. It was something they had fallen into the habit of doing. With everyone else around her knowing the ins and outs of what had happened between her and Fernando, Amelia had kept a lot of it away from Lionel, wanting at least one person in her life that didn’t ask how she was every time they saw one another, but it meant that their conversations were often superficial. They talked about work, their friends, and what they had watched on television, but they didn’t talk about Fernando. It was too messy a topic.

Exhaling a quiet sigh, Amelia gently pushed her hair behind her ear before she shrugged. “I shouldn’t have been surprised” she mused “He...He loved making a fuss of my birthday, and he’s not exactly shy about just showing up here normally, so I don’t know why I was surprised to see him, but I just...It’s like being punched in the stomach, every time” she added.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, but didn’t say anything, wordlessly encouraging Amelia to keep talking.

“Gianna just appeared” Amelia murmured “There was no warning. I opened my front door one day, and there she was, armed with a bundle of photographs that blew my marriage apart. I remember when Fernando came home. I watched his face fall when he saw who was sat on the sofa with me, and I knew that Gianna was telling the truth, and that’s the feeling I get every time I see him. I hate that I still get it. I hate that I am not moving forwards, because that’s what I want to do, but I just...I can’t seem to get started. You saw that first hand last night” she added.

Lionel’s lips quirked upwards into a small, sympathetic smile. “There’s no hurry” he said.

Amelia nodded. “I know” she mused “I just...I hate how easily he still throws everything off. He was here for five minutes last night” she added with a rueful shake of her head.

Lionel hesitated for a second, not quite sure what to do or say, before Amelia offered him a soft, tired smile. “Don’t look so worried” she quipped “I am not expecting you to fix it. It’s just going to take time, and I know that, I just get frustrated. I left him. I walked out of our home, and I didn’t go back, and I think I shouldn’t be so affected by it still, but I am. I guess I kind of loved him” she added.

“Do you still?” The question was out of Lionel’s mouth before he could stop it.

Amelia shook her head after only a beat of hesitation. “No, I don’t” she answered “I can’t love someone that I can’t trust, and I cannot trust Fernando Rosales” she added.

Lionel stood silently for a moment, allowing Amelia to process what she had just said, before she turned back towards the fridge, rifling through it in an attempt to distract herself from the lump that had appeared in her throat. It was the first time that she had said it. Every other time she had been asked about her feelings for Fernando, she had been purposefully vague, not knowing how she felt about him, but when the words had fallen out of her mouth, the rightness of them had threatened to overwhelm her. She had loved him once, but she didn’t any more. All she could see when she looked at him was every thing he’d done to hurt her, and that wasn’t going to just fade away. Fernando couldn’t ever be the man she loved again.

Lionel watched her carefully before he stepped forwards, wordlessly settling a comforting hand on her shoulder. He didn’t know what to say to her. It was clear that acknowledging that there was absolutely no way back for her and Fernando had hit her hard, but he didn’t know what to say to soften the blow, so he just stood there, hoping that something as simple as just being there would be enough.