The Space Between Us

42: I’m Terrified He’ll Do It Again

Drying his hair with a towel, Lionel leant down towards the end table and picked up his phone, a small smile already starting to bloom on his face when he spotted Amelia’s name on the lock screen. Things seemed easier. Since he had reassured her that he knew what their relationship was, and what it wasn’t, it seemed as though some of the anxiety Amelia had about them had ebbed away, and whilst he was still determined to be cautious, they had both started to relax into things a little more. Amelia had spent time with his friends. They often spent nights at one another’s homes, and that night, they were due to have dinner at Nora and Victor’s home, something Lionel was cautiously looking forwards to.

He knew how big a deal it was that Amelia had asked him to go with her. Despite the fact that it wasn’t the first time that he had met Nora and Victor, he knew that Amelia was wary about Victor’s attitude towards the idea of her moving on from Fernando, and the idea that she was willing to brave it meant almost as much to Lionel as the invitation did. It had the potential to get awkward. Victor hadn’t been subtle about the fact that he didn’t like that Amelia was moving on, and adding Lionel to the mix meant the chances of someone saying something they’d regret increased, but it was a risk that Amelia seemed ready to take, and something that meant a lot to Lionel. It was only a small thing, but it was another sign that their relationship, whatever it was, had the potential to move forwards.

Answering Amelia’s call, he put the phone on speaker before he dropped it onto his bed. “Hey” he greeted.

“Hi” Amelia mused “I’m just leaving my apartment. Are you sure that you don’t want me to wait for you?” she asked.

Lionel, who’d been buttoning up the shirt he’d pulled around his shoulders, smiled to himself. “Do you think that, if we show up separately, Victor won’t let me through the front door?” he asked.

Amelia’s answering laugh was a little reluctant. “I’d love to tell you that the answer is definitely no” she said.

Lionel sunk down onto the edge of his bed and picked up the phone, pressing it against his ear. “Do you want to cancel?” he asked “It’s OK if you do” he added reassuringly. He was looking forwards to it, to the dinner itself and what it represented to him, but he would have backed out if that was what Amelia wanted. He could hear the worry in her voice.

Amelia was quiet for a long moment, so long that Lionel was convinced that she was trying to find the words to let him down easily, before she sighed gently. “I just wish I wasn’t so nervous” she admitted “Nora’s promised that Victor’s going to be on his best behaviour, but...” she trailed off with a soft noise that told Lionel that she was shaking her head to herself.

“Nora’s scary when she wants to be” Lionel chirped “I am sure that’ll be enough to keep Victor from saying anything” he added.

Amelia huffed out another slightly reluctant laugh. “You’re probably right” she mused “I’ll see you in a little while?” she added.

“It’ll be fine, Lia” Lionel mused reassuringly “You’ll see” he added.

“I hope you’re right” Amelia replied.

“Can I get you anything else, Leo?”

Lionel, who’d been watching Amelia as she stepped out of the room, startled a little at the sound of Nora’s voice before he turned in his seat, his eyes meeting Nora’s as she smirked down at him teasingly. It wasn’t the first time he had seen that look on her face. Every time that he and Amelia had done something that was even remotely couple-like, Nora had started to grin at the two of them, and despite the blush it always caused, it was something that Lionel had started to take comfort in. He knew how important Nora was to Amelia, and he knew what having her support meant.

Quirking a sheepish smile, he shook his head. “I’m fine, thank you” he said “It was delicious, though” he added.

Nora grinned at him as she took the empty plate from in front of him. “I’d love to take credit, but Victor’s actually the chef out of the two of us” she quipped.

Lionel looked at Victor, his expression slightly more nervous. “It was great, Victor” he said.

Victor’s answering smile was pleasant enough, if a little forced. “I’m glad you enjoyed it” he said.

Lionel offered him a small smile as the three of them lapsed into a silence that was only broken when the baby monitor that was sat on the table burst into life, allowing Antonio’s cries to fill the air. Victor glanced at it before he leant back in his seat, offering it out to Nora who was passing behind him. “I’d go, but I used the last bottle when I fed him before we put him to bed” he said.

Nora’s eyes flitted between Victor and Lionel for a moment before she reluctantly took the monitor out of Victor’s hand. “Be nice” she warned before she strode out of the room.

In Nora’s absence, the vaguely companionable silence that had previously filled the room felt stifling. Lionel didn’t know what to say, and judging by the way that Victor kept avoiding looking at him, he didn’t either.

Shifting in his seat, Lionel reached for the glass of water that sat on the table in front of him.

“He still loves her”

Lionel’s hand froze partway back to his mouth, his stare darting towards Victor who stared down at the table.

“Fernando” Victor clarified “He’s still crazy about her, and he’s not just going to let it lie” he added.

“Do you really think he deserves a second chance?” Lionel’s voice wasn’t accusatory, just curious.

Victor shook his head. “He really fucked up” he conceded “I mean, cheating was bad, hiding Penelope was worse, but the way that he let Amelia find out? He ruined them, and any chance for them fixing it. I know that. I know that Lia thinks I am interfering because I want her and Nando to reconcile, and part of me does, but mostly I am...I don’t want her to get hurt again, and I think that she will. Fernando’s not going anywhere. He’s going to keep hovering, keep interfering, and I worry that any new boyfriend is going to be caught in the crossfire. Fernando was enough to scare you off before. I am terrified that he’ll do it again” he explained.

He knew what it looked like, what Amelia had thought when he kept inviting Fernando to events, but it wasn’t what she thought it was. Fernando was his friend, and he wanted him at parties, but he had little interest in seeing him and Amelia reconcile. Fernando didn’t deserve a second shot.

Lionel blinked owlishly. “Victor...”

“He’s still in love with her” Victor interrupted “And until that changes, he’s going to keep trying to change her mind. I just don’t want her to be hurt when he gets to be too much for you, because he’s not going to stop until you two are over” he added before the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs reached them, causing him to rise to his feet to greet Nora in the doorway whilst Lionel stared at him, a frown on his face.