The Space Between Us

33: I Wish You’d Tried

“Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be back in a second”

Amelia, who was stood in the centre of Lionel’s living room, jumped slightly at the sound of his voice, turning to look back at where he stood in the doorway, a shy smile brightening his features. They were both nervous. From the moment that Amelia had stepped through the front door a matter of seconds earlier, both of their nerves had been almost tangible, but Amelia was optimistic that they would disappear eventually. They had already survived one date, and a couple of their regular Thursday night dinners. She was pretty confident that they would be able to make it through that night too.

“Are you sure that I can’t help with anything?” Amelia asked.

“I think I have it mostly under control” Lionel replied “But, if I go back in there, and it’s gone horribly wrong, I’ll shout” he added.

Amelia replied with a smile that was warm, if a little uncertain. “I’m sure it will be fine” she said encouragingly.

“Let’s hope so” Lionel played along “So just..hang around in here. I will be right back” he added before he ducked out of the room.

Amelia shook her head, still smiling to herself, before she turned to look around the room again. She had been there before. Before the wedding, before Fernando, she had spent countless evenings in Lionel’s living room, but in light of everything that had happened, it felt more than a little unfamiliar to her. It looked the same, everything seemed to be, more or less, where she remembered it being, but it had done very little to cure the feeling she had of being out of place. Everything had changed. The moment that she had met Fernando, everything in her life had changed, and whilst, on the surface, a lot of things were going to back what they had been before, there were some things that would never be entirely the same again.

Swallowing the little lump that had grown in her throat, Amelia slowly crossed the room and sunk down onto the sofa, still looking around the room before her stare came to a stop on a picture that was propped up on a shelf. Standing up again, she stepped towards the shelf and picked the frame up, a soft, slightly awed smile on her lips.

“Good news, dinner’s not ruined”

Amelia looked up from the photo in her hand, offering Lionel a lopsided grin. “Were you really that worried?” she prodded.

Lionel answered with a shrug as he stepped towards her, his stare drawn to the photograph in her hand. “What’s that?” he asked.

Amelia tilted the frame towards him, showing the picture to him. “It was on a shelf” she said.

Lionel nodded his head slowly, taking a moment to think of what to say next. He knew what Amelia was trying to ask. The picture was of the two of them, and he knew that, without using the words, Amelia was trying to ask why it was still there. She had thought that, when he had walked away from their friendship, any trace of it ever having existed would have been removed too.

“I didn’t get rid of everything” Lionel murmured after a moment “I didn’t want to pretend that I had never known you. I didn’t even really mean to stay away for as long as I did, but after I had pulled away, it was too hard to try and fix it. I didn’t know what to say. How was I supposed to explain to you that being around you, and your brand new husband, was just too hard for me?” he asked.

Amelia didn’t answer immediately. For a long moment, she just stared at the picture in her hands before she lifted her head, her eyes mirroring his. “I wish you had just tried” she admitted gently “I’m not saying that it would have been easy, and I don’t know what I would have said to you then, but I wish you’d been around when all of the Fernando stuff came out. I could have used my friend being around then” she added with a sad smile.

“I’m sorry” Lionel said.

Amelia shook her head, returning her stare to the picture in her hand. “It’s in the past” she mused “Besides, you’re here now and things aren’t so bad” she added, glancing up at him through her eyelashes.

Lionel answered with a slightly awkward smile, something that made Amelia smile back at him reassuringly before she stepped towards him, pressing her lips to his. It was a brief kiss, one that was shy and careful, but when Amelia drew away, the uncertainty that had been in Lionel’s expression had disappeared. Instead, he looked at her with a soft smile, one that was laced with awe.

Amelia gently squeezed his hand. “You OK?” she asked.

Lionel nodded his head, gently twisting his fingers through hers. “Yeah” he confirmed “I just...I’m just happy. I know it’s really early days, but I think I like this” he added.

It was an obvious thing to say. They wouldn’t have been there, on their second date, if he hadn’t liked the way that the first one had gone, but he still thought that it was an important thing to say. They were being so careful, so cautious not to blur any lines so badly that there was no going back before they were ready, but he wanted Amelia to know that he was enjoying what was happening being them. As slow as their progress had been, and as careful as they were determined to continue being, he liked what was happening between them.

Amelia thought about making fun of the fact that he had said that he ‘thought’ that he liked where they were going, but opted against it. Instead, she gently pulled herself close to him again, a soft smile dancing on her lips. “I like it, too” she admitted.

Lionel’s first instinct was to ask if she was sure, but he swallowed it, answering only with a lopsided grin instead.

Amelia pressed another kiss to his lips before she moved to place the photograph back onto the shelf. Stepping back towards him, she offered her hand to him, something Lionel didn’t hesitate to take before he led her towards the kitchen so that their dinner date could really get started.