The Space Between Us

53: I Can’t Believe That I Have The Chance

The entire cafe seemed to freeze as the words fell out of Amelia’s mouth.

They had been on the tip of her tongue for a while. From seeing the way that Lionel had effortlessly fit in with her family, to watching him talk with Nora the morning after her birthday, she had only grown more certain that the feelings that she had for him were big and important, but the way he had been with her that morning had been the nudge that she needed to finally say it. He knew what was bothering her, and without saying a word about Fernando, he had resolved to try and make her feel better. He was always trying to make her feel better. He was always trying to make sure that she knew how cared for she was, and how much he valued her happiness, and Amelia wanted him to know how much she adored him for it. He had been different from everyone else, and until he had shown up, she hadn’t quite know how much she needed that kind of different.

Trying to ignore the ringing that had filled her ears, she kept her eyes on Lionel’s, waiting for him to say something, anything, to fill the seemingly endless silence that hung over them. It had only been a fraction of a second, the words were barely out of her mouth, but it felt like forever before Lionel’s mouth quirked upwards ever so slightly in a small smile. It was soft, and awed, but it was easily the best thing that Amelia had seen in a long time, even if he had yet to say anything. The soft smile was all she needed to know that she wasn’t about to fall flat on her face.

“You love me?” Lionel asked.

Amelia breathed out a nervous laugh before she nodded her head. “Yeah” she said “I do” she added.

Lionel let out a similarly bashful laugh, something which made Amelia smile softly before she gently twined her fingers through his. Squeezing his hand gently, she let a couple of seconds pass between them before she shook her head, smiling down at their interlaced hands. “I love you” she repeated “I love how warm you are, how compassionate you are. I love that you can make me smile, and make me feel cared for. I just...I love you” she added.

Lionel stared at her for a long moment. He wanted to believe it, it was just taking him a little while to process what Amelia was saying, and that it was her saying it. He had missed so many chances. Before Fernando had walked into Amelia’s life, he had had countless opportunities to admit how he felt about her, how he had always felt about her, but he had missed them, and he had been almost certain that the chance would never come around again, something which made what was happening in that moment feel more than a little surreal. He had convinced himself that it was over. He had seen Amelia and Fernando together, and he knew how good they were together, and it meant that he couldn’t quite fathom that he and Amelia were where they were.

“Leo?”

Lionel blinked owlishly, finding himself staring at Amelia who’d looked back up at him, a shy smile on her face. “You OK?” she asked.

“Fine” Lionel replied “Just...uh...I am trying to take this all in” he added.

Amelia nodded her head slowly. “Have I freaked you out?” she asked after a moment.

Lionel shook his head without hesitation, squeezing her hand gently. “No” he insisted “I just...I can’t quite believe that this is where we are. I thought this...us...I thought that that was done the moment that you met Fernando, and I just can’t quite believe that...”

“That I love you?” Amelia finished for him.

“I can’t believe that I get the chance to love you” Lionel corrected, seeing the worry in her eyes “I was so selfish. When I ghosted you like I did, I told myself that I was doing that to help you be happy, but that was just a lie I told myself. I couldn’t stand by and watch you be with Fernando. It was a reminder of the fact that I had been so...so scared of just admitting that, from the moment I met you, I liked you. You were so bright, and kind, and I was so smitten, and seeing you with Fernando, being reminded that I had never found the nerve to just admit it, wasn’t something I was brave enough to face” he explained.

Amelia’s worried expression eased. “Well, we’re here now” she mused.

Lionel laughed despite himself. “Yeah, we are” he mused.

Amelia gently played with his fingers in the silence that settled between them before Lionel knitted them back together again, allowing him to gently lift her hand to his lips. “I love you, Amelia” he whispered.

Amelia smiled at him softly. “You didn’t have to say that” she mused.

“I know” Lionel replied “But I have wanted to say it for a long time, and now feels like the right moment” he added.

Amelia ducked her head, trying, and failing to hide the way her smile grew a wider.

Lionel couldn’t resist smiling back at her, marvelling at the relief that had surged through him when the words had fallen out of his mouth, after they had come out of Amelia’s. He knew how easily he could get ahead of himself. His feelings for Amelia were deep, and they were also older than hers for him, but the relief he had felt when she had said them first had only been surpassed by the relief of finally getting to say the words he had held to his chest for years. He knew that they were still figuring things out together, that they were still growing into a relationship that had come about as a result of a lot of changes in both of their lives, but they were going from strength to strength, and growing into the couple that Lionel had thought that they could be before Fernando had ever even appeared.