The Space Between Us

27: Is It Really That Surprising?

“You do know that I would have forgiven you for cancelling, right?” Lionel chirped from his spot in Amelia’s bedroom doorway, watching as she stepped out of the bathroom and hurried over to her wardrobe to collect a pair of shoes. He had half thought that it was just an excuse. When Amelia had announced partway through their weekly dinner date that she had made plans to go out with Alexa that night, part of Lionel had thought that she had made it up, keen to curtail the rather awkward evening that was developing between them, but when she had seen the concern on his face, she had been quick to show him a text that Alexa had sent to her, something that had reassured Lionel that she wasn’t just trying to put distance between them again.

It wouldn’t have surprised him if she had been trying to distance herself. Despite his reassurances that the kiss that they had shared didn’t have to change anything between them, he knew that Amelia was still a little wary, and it wouldn’t have shocked him if she had tried to pull away from him again. She was scared of getting hurt again, and Lionel couldn’t blame her for it. Both he and Fernando had done a lot wrong when it came to Amelia.

“I know” Amelia replied, settling on the edge of her mattress “But I figured I could do both. We tend to eat early, and Alexa wanted to head out late. It’s been an eternity since we’ve gone clubbing” she added.

“Clubbing?” Lionel chirped, trying, and failing, to hide his surprised smile.

Amelia rolled her eyes. She hadn’t seen his smirk, but it was obvious in his voice. “Is it really that surprising?” she asked.

“Honestly?” Lionel played along “Yeah. It doesn’t seem like your scene” he added.

“It’s not” Amelia admitted, slipping her feet into her shoes “But Lexi loves it, and since Asier and Charlie are away for the weekend, she badgered me into going with her. I’ll probably only stick it out for an hour or two” she added.

“Do you want a lift?” Lionel prodded.

“You’d not mind?” Amelia asked.

Lionel shook his head. “I’m leaving anyway” he quipped “I don’t mind dropping you off where you need to go. I’ll even pick you up later if you want me to” he added.

“Really?” Amelia asked.

Lionel nodded his head and opened his mouth to insist that it was no problem, only to find himself lost for words when Amelia stood up and smoothed out the dress she wore. She looked amazing, and for a second, it made him speechless.

Amelia knew that he was staring at her, even though she was staring down at her feet, trying to hide how pink her cheeks were. “Are you really OK with me calling you later?” she asked “Because if not, I will get a taxi home with Lexi. It’s not a problem” she added.

Lionel stared for a second longer before he forced himself to look away, clearing his throat slightly. “It’s fine” he said “I wouldn’t have offered if it wasn’t” he added.

Amelia smiled. “Thank you, then” she mused.

Lionel shrugged in reply, allowing a moment of quiet to pass between them, before he cleared his throat again. “You look beautiful” he said gently.

Amelia just offered him a shy smile, not quite sure what to say. The compliment had been so genuine. Lionel’s voice had been warm and kind, and Amelia didn’t know what she could say that wouldn’t make the moment awkward. It was something she did too easily sometimes.

Lionel huffed out a slightly embarrassed laugh, scratching the back of his head awkwardly, before he gestured towards the front door. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.

Amelia nodded. “I’m ready” she confirmed.

“We really should make time to do this more often” Alexa chimed as she slipped back into her seat, taking the fresh drink that Amelia was offering out towards her.

Amelia rolled her eyes, smiling tipsily. She had stayed for longer than she had thought she would. Despite her admission that spending time in nightclubs was something that she didn’t usually enjoy, almost as soon as she and Alexa had found a table, she had felt comfortable and relaxed for the first time in a while, and the amount of drinks she had had, as well as the dancing she had done, had only made her feel better. She hadn’t let loose in a long time. When her marriage had first ended, she had been too upset to do much more than mope around her mother’s house, and by the time she had moved on from that, Nora, who would have been her first choice for company, had been pregnant, meaning that it hadn’t really been much of an option, not until Alexa had invited her out that night.

“If you think you can survive Charlie’s screaming with a hangover, then by all means, we’ll do it every week” Amelia quipped.

Alexa grimaced at the thought, causing Amelia to giggle. “I’ll take that as a no” she teased.

“Maybe not too often” Alexa quipped “But sometimes. You look like you’re having a good time, and that’s not something I have been able to say a lot in the last year” she added.

Amelia smiled bashfully into her glass. “It’s not been the greatest year” she admitted.

“It is getting better though, isn’t it?” Alexa asked.

“I think so” Amelia confirmed.

Alexa offered her a searching look before Amelia’s phone, which was sat on the table between them, vibrated, causing them both to move to pick it up. Alexa got there quicker, sweeping the phone out of Amelia’s grasp, before she let out a little squeal, reading the text on the screen. “It’s from Leo” she gushed.

“Lexi” Amelia complained.

Alexa merely grinned. “He’s cute, Lia” she fussed “And he likes you” she added.

“You don’t know that” Amelia countered as she reached across the table, sweeping her phone back from her sister “And he’s outside, so I have to go. Please text me when you get home” she added.

“Promise” Alexa chirped “Have fun with Leo” she added with a sly wink.

Amelia rolled her eyes, giggling to herself as she made her way out of the club. Looking up and down the street, she quickly found Lionel who was stood by his car, clearly looking for her. Tottering up the street, she greeted him with an enthusiastic wave, something which made him laugh before he pulled the car door open for her. “Good night?” he asked.

Amelia beamed up at him. “Great night” she answered.

“Can I get you anything?” Amelia asked as she wandered into her apartment, haphazardly dropping her shoes beside the front door.

Lionel, who was watching her amusedly, shook his head. “It’s pretty late” he quipped “I should probably just go” he added.

Amelia turned back to look at him. “Oh” she breathed.

“I’ll call you tomorrow, though” Lionel mused “To make sure that you’ve survived the hangover” he added impishly.

Amelia nodded her head slowly, something which caused Lionel to step towards her, wrapping her in a quick hug before he pressed a soft kiss to the crown of her head. “Get some sleep, Amelia” he mused as he stepped back a little.

Amelia’s fingers gripped the bottom of his t-shirt, keeping him from getting too far away. “I should have said something earlier” she murmured “When told me that I looked nice. I just...I didn’t know what to say. I am so good at sticking my foot in things” she added.

Lionel’s fingertips gently smoothed her hair behind her ear. “It’s OK” he mused “We’re both a little weird around each other. I think I can forgive you” he added, the ghost of a smile on his face.

“I like you” Amelia whispered.

“I like you, too” Lionel replied.

“I mean it” Amelia pressed, tilting her head to look up at him “I really, really like you, Leo” she added.

Lionel’s eyes searched her face, looking for any sign that she didn’t mean what she was saying, but despite seeing nothing, he still ducked his head when Amelia tried to close the space between their faces. Amelia tried to step back, to hurry to her room, but Lionel didn’t let her, wrapping her in a hug that, after a second, she sunk into, hugging him back tightly. It was what he wanted. The feelings were there, they always had been, but it wasn’t the right moment, and he wasn’t about to let Amelia do something he was almost certain she would regret in the morning.