The Space Between Us

31: Were You Expecting It To Be Bad?

Gently smoothing the material of her dress over her lap, Amelia stared vacantly out of the taxi’s window, trying her hardest to get her mind off of what Fernando had said to her before she had left Nora’s place. He had said it before. Throughout their divorce proceedings, he had flitted from trying to convince her to take him back to promising that he wouldn’t make things harder on her than they already were, and it meant that Amelia was annoyed that it still bothered her. He never kept to his word. He always made things harder on her, and she was annoyed that it had still gotten her hopes up. She was annoyed that, on her way to meet Lionel on the night of their first date, her mind was still stuck on Fernando.

Tipping her head forwards, she pressed it against the cool glass of the car’s window until she felt the car slow. Reluctantly, she sat up and paid the taxi driver before she climbed out of the car, pausing for a long moment on the pavement. Squeezing her eyes closed, she took in a deep breath and exhaled it slowly before she walked towards the restaurant’s door and ducked inside.

Shuffling a few steps forwards, she scanned the dining room before her stare landed on Lionel. He didn’t see her immediately, but when he eventually caught her eye, Amelia felt all thoughts of Fernando evaporate. Instead, she focussed on the soft smile that lit up Lionel’s face at the sight of her. He looked so happy to see her. All of the anxiety that had been in his expression the second before their eyes had met had evaporated, and it meant that Amelia couldn’t resist smiling back at him, feeling a rush of excitement stifle the wave of anxiety that had been gnawing at her since she had seen Fernando.

Taking a second to smooth out her dress again, Amelia walked towards Lionel’s table, causing him to rise out of his seat. There was a beat of hesitation, neither of them were quite certain of how to greet one another, but one half step forwards from Amelia had them moving in sync. Lionel’s lips grazed her cheek, turning them a gentle shade of pink, before he wrapped her in a gentle hug that she happily returned for beat until they drew apart again, goofy smiles on both of their faces.

“I’m sorry I am a little late” Amelia mused as she slipped into the seat that Lionel had pulled out fro her “I borrowed this dress from Nora, but I didn’t want to drive here, so I had to go home and get a taxi” she added.

“It’s fine” Lionel replied, retaking his own seat “I’ve only been here a couple of minutes” he added.

Amelia smiled across the table at him. “Are you ready for this?” she asked.

Lionel blew out a laugh that was somewhere between amused and nervous. “As ready as I will ever be” he replied.

“Have I shown you a picture of baby Antonio yet?”

Lionel, who was sipping on his glass of water, smiled over the top of it before he set it down, shaking his head slightly. They had gotten off to a slightly rocky start. They had been nervous, and it had been obvious in the stilted conversation that they had shared at the beginning of the night, but as the meal had progressed, they had both relaxed more and more until it had started to feel like the hundreds of meals that they had shared in the past. They didn’t have a reason to be nervous. They both knew each other well enough to be comfortable, and eventually they had both realised it. It was just dinner, and dinner was something they’d done a million times before.

“Nora and Victor’s baby?” Lionel chirped “Only a million times. Don’t worry, though. You were worse when Charlie was born” he added.

Amelia scoffed. “I like being an aunt” she quipped “I am not going to apologise for that” she added.

Lionel held up a hand, grinning. “I never asked you to” he mused.

Amelia shook her head, gently tucking her hair off of her face. “I’m having fun” she admitted after a moment of quiet.

Lionel, who’d flicked his attention towards the dessert menu, glanced back up at her, his lips quirked upwards. “You sound surprised” he teased “Were you expecting it to be bad?” he added.

“Not bad” Amelia quipped “But I am surprised by easy it has felt. I thought it would feel a little stranger” she added.

“We’ve had dinner before” Lionel quipped with a nonchalant shrug “It was a big reason why I suggested that that was what we did tonight. I know that tonight’s a big deal to you, for a lot of reasons, and I wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I wanted to make sure that you had as good a time as possible” he added.

Amelia’s face lit up with a soft smile. “Well, it’s worked” she mused.

Lionel ducked his head, trying, and failing, to hide the fact that his cheeks had turned slightly pink.

Amelia smiled to herself as she slid the dessert menu towards her. “What are you thinking for a second date, then?” she chirped.

“Are you saying that you’d like to go on one?” Lionel played along.

“If I was saying that, would you ask me?” Amelia teased.

Lionel laughed gently before he nodded his head. “Yeah, I would” he said.

“Then, I have some good news for you” Amelia teased “I’d love to do this again” she added, her expression softening a little.

It wasn’t something she had expected to find herself saying. For a multitude of reasons, starting with being worried that it would make things strange between them, and ending with the fact that Fernando had, again, gotten into her head, she had expected that, at the end of the night, she would suggest that they put the idea of dating behind them, but as the night had gone one, she had grown more confident. The doubts had quietened, and all that was left in their place was the fluttery feeling she got in the pit of her stomach when Lionel looked over at her and smiled.

Lionel couldn’t stop himself from grinning, something which made Amelia’s smile widen, too. It felt like the beginning of something good. It was going to be tentative, and Amelia was almost certain there were going to be bad moments, moments where they both wondered what they were doing or if it was worth the hassle, but, for the first time in a long time, she felt excited about what came next, not terrified of it.