The Space Between Us

41: I Know What This Is

Drawing her knees up towards her chest, Amelia exhaled a quiet sigh, her gaze settled on Lionel who was still sound asleep a little away from her. She had been careful not to wake him. When she had slipped out from beneath the arm that he had wrapped around her waist, and untangled her legs from his, she had done it as slowly and as carefully as she could, but the initial urge that she had had to leave had subsided, leaving her sat at the foot of the bed, not quite sure what to do next.

She felt overwhelmed. Everything that she and Lionel had done up until that night had felt simple. They were friends who had, on occasion, kissed, and that was something that had felt comfortable to Amelia, but what had happened that night had left her staring at the bigger picture. It had solidified feelings that she knew that she had for him, big, overwhelming feelings, and it meant that her first instinct when she had woken up had been to run. She didn’t know what to say to him. She didn’t quite know how to admit that she had strong feelings for him but that she wasn’t quite ready for anything more serious than what they had, but she had quickly reached the conclusion that running away would only make things worse.

Rubbing her forehead gently, Amelia closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath before she felt the mattress shift. Blinking her eyes open, she watched Lionel wake up before he turned to look at her, taking her in with a slightly bemused smile on his face. “Hi” he said sleepily.

Amelia smiled shyly, ducking her head slightly. “Hi” she said.

“Are you OK?” Lionel asked.

Amelia didn’t answer right away. For a long moment she stared down at her hands, watching them toy with the duvet that she was sat on, before she carefully shrugged her shoulders, chancing a glance up to see the expression that passed over Lionel’s face. “I don’t really know” she admitted.

Lionel nodded his head slowly. “Do you want me to take you home?” he asked.

Amelia blinked at the question. “You’d do that?” she asked.

“If that’s what you need” Lionel confirmed with a nod “Is it what you need?” he asked.

Amelia hesitated, but eventually, she shook her head.

Lionel didn’t press her any further. He just sat and patiently waited for her to figure her thoughts out. It didn’t come immediately. For a few moments, they were both quiet, but eventually, Amelia let out a quiet sigh. “I’m scared” she admitted “Up until tonight, it had felt...casual, and now it feels a lot more serious, and that’s….that’s overwhelming to me” she added, grimacing a little at her choice of words.

“Can you explain to me why it’s overwhelming?” Lionel asked “You never know, I might be able to say something that makes you feel a little better” he added, offering her a soft smile.

Amelia’s eyes searched his face for a long moment before she ducked her head again. “I know that you’re not him” she said quietly “I know that this...that you and me aren’t me and him, but I just...I don’t know that I am ready to be in something serious yet. I don’t know that I am ready to put my faith in something like that again. He broke me. Everything he did, all of the lies he told. I thought I had found my future. I believed in it with everything I had, and I just...I don’t feel like I am ready to do that again. I probably should have said something before...” she trailed off, her stare drifting towards the mattress.

Lionel followed her stare, the tops of his cheeks flushing a light pink, before he gently reached out, laying one of his hands over hers. “I know what this is” he said.


“You told me what this was going to be” Lionel interrupted, gently squeezing her hand “And I am not going to sit here and push it to be something more than that. Tonight doesn’t have to change anything. It happened, and it can happen again, but it doesn’t have to. I agreed to let this happen on your terms, and if you’re not ready for serious, then I am not going to ask for it” he added.

Amelia just stared at him, eyes wide.

Lionel gently twined their fingers together. “You know how I feel about you” he said, mostly just to fill the silence that had crept back in “But I know that what happened between you and Fernando has left scars. I am not going to ask for something big and serious, but I am not going anywhere either. I’m here, Amelia, for whatever you need” he added.

Amelia’s gaze searched his face before she shuffled closer, gently pushing the hair back off of his forehead. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you” she said softly “I am scared that I am going to do it without meaning to” she added.

Lionel gently cupped her hand to his cheek, turning his head slightly so that he could press a soft kiss against her palm. “I know what this is” he repeated “I promise” he added.

He knew that she was trying to warn him. After the way things had ended between her and Fernando, it was likely to be a while before Amelia was ready to settle into another serious relationship, and she wanted him to know it. She wasn’t ready to be his girlfriend and she wanted him to know that there was a chance that she wouldn’t be ready for a while, something he wanted to reassure her that he already knew. They had always said that it would be tentative. From the outset, Amelia had told him that she was wary of getting into something too serious too soon, and he wanted her to know that he wasn’t about to force it. He was just happy to have the chance to spend time with her again. Everything else could be figured out as they went.

Amelia hesitated for a second before a slow, shy smile brightened her features. “I like spending time with you” she said “I like you, an awful lot” she added.

Lionel kissed her palm again, smiling gently against her skin. He was relieved to see her expression relax. “I like you, too” he said.

Amelia ducked her head, trying, and failing, to hide the pink on her cheeks. “Is it OK if I stay?” she asked.

Lionel, who was rested against the headboard, pulled the duvet back in reply, something which made Amelia smile at him gently as she moved to tuck herself in at his side, a feeling of relief blossoming in her chest. They still had a way to go, but she was relieved that, for the moment at least, they seemed to be on the same page.