The Space Between Us

04: I Shouldn’t Have Said That

Settling awkwardly into a chair in front of Nora’s empty desk, Lionel glanced over his shoulder at the closed office door, waiting for it to swing open and allow Nora into the room. Initially, he had been surprised by her phone call. The last time he had seen Nora had been at Amelia’s wedding, when she had tried in vain to convince him not to leave, and they hadn’t been in contact since, but it hadn’t taken him long to figure out why she had called.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Nora had called him the morning after he and Amelia had had plans to meet up. He knew how close they were, and that if Amelia was going to tell anyone about the two of them meeting up, then she would have told Nora, and he knew that Nora would do anything to protect Amelia, even if it meant intervening in their attempts to talk. He had hurt Amelia. In trying to protect himself, he had hurt her, and it meant that he knew why Nora had called. She wanted him to know what damage he’d done, to understand how badly Amelia had been hurt, and to make it clear that he couldn’t just expect to be let back into Amelia’s life without a question.

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he kept his stare on the door until it finally swung open, allowing Nora to walk inside. When she saw him, she offered him a slightly reluctant smile before she walked around her desk, settling an armful of files down as she slipped into her chair. “I’m sorry for the random phone call” she mused, breaking the slightly uncomfortable silence that had settled over them “I know it was out of the blue, and I know I didn’t leave you a lot of room to say no” she added.

Lionel’s answering smile was caught somewhere between tight and soft. “It’s fine” he said.

Nora nodded her head slowly, her stare searching his face as she tried to find the right words.

Lionel held her stare for a moment before he looked away, focussing his stare on his lap. “I just want to talk to her” he admitted.

“I know” Nora said “But it isn’t that simple” she added.

Lionel lifted a hand, scratching as his jaw uncomfortably. He didn’t know what to say to that.

Nora watched him for a moment before she sighed, pushing a hand back through her hair. “Look, I am not against you trying to fix things” she said gently “I know why you did what you did, and I get it, and I think that if you were really honest with Amelia, and by that I mean you told her absolutely everything, then I think she would understand too. She’d never want to be the reason you were hurting, Leo, but I just...I don’t think it is the right time. There’s a whole lot of stuff you don’t know about, and she’s struggling with that. I just don’t think that this is going to be good for her” she explained carefully.

She didn’t want to be harsh with him. As much as she had thought that he had handled things with Amelia badly, she knew that he hadn’t done it lightly, but she also knew that she had to try and coax him into slowing things down with Amelia. Amelia wanted to talk to him, Nora had seen it in her face when she had admitted that she had been going to meet him, but Nora couldn’t see a way in which the two of them talking didn’t make things more complicated. Amelia would inevitably ask why he had disappeared on her, and whatever Lionel said, whether it was the truth, or another lie, would probably only do more damage.

Lionel frowned at the worry on Nora’s face. “Is she OK?” he asked.

Nora sunk back into her chair. “Do you really think that you get to ask that question?” she countered.

Lionel ducked his head, exhaling a heavy sigh. She was right, and he knew it.

Nora’s face softened as she watched him before she leant forwards in her chair and settled her hand on his arm, squeezing it gently. “Sorry” she murmured “I just...I don’t know that you really know how much damage you did to her. You just ghosted her, a woman you’d been friends with for years, you just cut her out of your life so easily, and it hurt her badly” she explained.

“I know” Lionel murmured “But I...I didn’t know what else to do. I showed up that day, convinced that I was really going to tell her how I felt, and then I saw her in her wedding dress and it just...hit me. It was too late. I had had years to tell her, and to do it that day wasn’t fair. She loves Fernando, and I couldn’t ruin that day for her. It was the happiest day of her life” he added.

Nora tried, and failed, to stop herself from scoffing, something which made the frown on Lionel’s face deepen. “Nora?” he pressed.

“Amelia left Fernando after four months” Nora admitted “Their divorce was finalised a few weeks ago” she added.

Lionel’s eyes widened, but before he had the chance to ask any of the hundreds of questions that had filled his head, Nora shook her head and pushed her chair away from her desk. “I can’t tell you more than that” she insisted “I almost certainly shouldn’t have told you that, but it explains why I am suggesting that you give her some space. What Fernando things ended between them, it was sudden, and painful, and as much as she likes to pretend that she’s getting over it, she’s not. He was supposed to be her happily ever after, and he...he wasn’t even fucking close. She doesn’t need complicated now, Leo, so just...just let it be, OK?” she prodded, a gentle look on her face.

Lionel nodded his head wordlessly. The last thing he wanted to do was make things any harder for Amelia. He had already done enough of that.

Nora smiled at him softly. “It was good to see you, Leo” she said.

Lionel smiled back at her. “I didn’t realise that you ever liked me that much” he quipped.

Nora laughed gently before she excused herself, mumbling something about needing to get to a meeting. After she offered Lionel a quick goodbye hug, she stepped out of the room, leaving Lionel behind as he tried to wrap his head around all that she had told him.