The Space Between Us

64: This Isn’t Some Little Thing

For a few moments, neither Lionel nor Amelia spoke.

It had been days since they had seen one another, since their stilted goodbye in Lionel’s bedroom, and for a little while, that overwhelmed all of the tension that had filled the two of them prior to the call being made. They were happy to see one another, happy to watch the other smile at them, and for a few seconds, it was more than enough to drown out all of the doubts and worries that they both had.

Shaking his head slightly, Lionel allowed his smile to grow slightly more sheepish. “I’m sorry I called late” he said.

“I’m just happy you called” Amelia’s reply was playful, but Lionel could see the genuine relief on her face.

“I know we’ve got stuff to talk about” Lionel said “And I want to do it, but can we just say hi first? I am so happy to see you” he added.

He could see the worry creeping into Amelia’s expression, and whilst he knew that he was just asking to postpone the inevitable, he wanted them to take a few seconds to just be happy to see one another, because he was happy to see her. He hadn’t quite realised how much he had missed her until her face had filled the screen of his tablet.

The worry didn’t disappear from Amelia’s face entirely, but the soft smile that she answered with was genuine. “I’m happy to see you, too” she mused “Weirdly happy. You’ve only been gone for a few days” she added, letting out a slightly bashful laugh.

“I guess we’ve been spending a lot of time together” Lionel played along “So it’s weird when we’re not together now” he added.

Amelia nodded in wordless agreement, allowing a moment of quiet to pass between them, before the smile on her face sobered a little, causing Lionel to exhale a quiet sigh, knowing that they could only put off the inevitable for so long. It wasn’t just going to go away, no matter how much they wanted it to. The only way to clear the air was to talk it through.

Rubbing his jaw thoughtfully, he watched Amelia nervously tuck her hair back off of her face before he shook his head. “I’m sorry for the way we left things” he said “I don’t think it was my best idea to try and have such a big conversation the night before I left. It meant that, when things got tough, I could just run away, and that’s what I did. You were really honest with me, and I just...I ran away” he admitted.

“I let you” Amelia said.

Lionel offered her a slightly rueful smile, wordlessly thanking her for not letting him take all of the blame even when he knew it was mostly his fault. “You just surprised me” he admitted “I mean, I know how badly Fernando hurt you, but I just...I guess that what you said hadn’t really crossed my mind. It should have done” he added.

Amelia shook her head. “You’re allowed to be upset, Leo” she said.

Lionel scratched at his jaw, taking a moment to think about what he wanted to say next, before he exhaled a heavy sigh. “It was surprising” he admitted “I thought we were on the same page, we have been about so many things, and I thought that this would be just another thing, and it surprised me that it’s not. It is something I saw in our future, and the idea that you don’t...” he trailed off with a slightly rueful shake of his head.

Amelia was quiet for a moment before she closed her eyes, shaking her head slightly. “It’s not because of you” she said “You’re wonderful, and you know how I feel about you. I just...I don’t know if I could be ready for something like that again, and I wanted to be honest with you about it. I didn’t want to go along with it, and then realise, when you were really asking, that I wasn’t ready. I don’t want to hurt you” she explained.

“I know” Lionel’s smile was sad, but reassuring, telling her that he knew that nothing she had said or done had been designed to hurt him.

“What are you thinking?” Amelia asked tentatively.

Lionel answered with a slightly tired shrug. “A lot of things” he answered “About how I should have just ignored what Alexa said. We’re so good at dodging around awkward things, and I should have just let it go” he added, a half-hearted laugh falling out of his mouth.

“We’d have to talk about it eventually” Amelia pointed out.

Lionel nodded in agreement, allowing another momentary silence to fall between the two of them, before he shook his head. “I don’t care” he announced.

Amelia shook her head. “Leo” she protested.

“I don’t” Lionel insisted.

“You just admitted that you cared” Amelia pointed out “This entire conversation has been about you caring” she added.

“Well, then we’ve wasted a lot of time” Lionel quipped.

“Lionel” Amelia complained.

“I want to be with you” Lionel said “And if this isn’t what you want, then OK” he added.

Amelia just blinked for a few seconds, a little too stunned to reply.

Lionel’s expression softened with a gentle smile. “I know you think this is something that I am just saying” he said “I know you think that I am just going along with you, in the vain hope that one day you wake up and change your mind, but whilst I would love that, I am being serious. I missed years of chances with you, and now that we’re finally doing this, I just don’t want to let you go. So, if it isn’t what you want, then OK. I will be happy with you, whatever it looks like” he added.

He could see the doubt on her face, the suspicion that he was just saying what he was saying just to avoid a fight or a breakup, and he wanted to convince her that it wasn’t true. It was a big thing to give up, and he knew that Amelia knew how much it meant to him, but he wanted her to know that she meant more. He wanted to be with her, and it didn’t matter what it looked like. He just wanted her.

Amelia stared at him for a long moment before she shook her head. “You can’t mean that” she whispered.

“I do” Lionel insisted “Amelia, I love you” he added.

“I know you do” Amelia said gently “That’s not in question. I just...this isn’t some little thing, Leo. I saw your face when I told you that I couldn’t see myself wanting to get married again, I saw how much that hurt you. I...I don’t want you to say that it’s OK now, only for you to realise how much it means to you in the future. I don’t want to be a reason you get hurt” she explained carefully.

She wanted to believe him. She wanted to be fooled by the warmth in his eyes, and gentleness of his smile, but she couldn’t let herself be. It was tempting. He had said what she wanted to hear, that they could still be together, be happy, and that nothing had to change, but she knew that she couldn’t just go along with it. It was too big a thing for him just to say, and her to just believe.

Lionel nodded his head slowly. “I know what I am saying, Amelia” he said.

“Do you?” Amelia asked, her expression caught between cautious and hopeful.

Lionel’s answering nod was immediate and confident. “I do” he confirmed “I just want to be with you, and it doesn’t matter to me what it looks like. I want you, Amelia, however you want it” he added.

Amelia looked at him for a long time, almost waiting for him to say something else, but when he didn’t, she finally allowed herself a small, shaky smile. “If you’re sure, then I am, too” she said.

“So we’re OK?” Lionel prodded, making no attempt whatsoever to stop a relieved grin brightening his face.

Amelia’s smile grew surer, closer to the one he loved so much. “We’re OK” she confirmed.

Lionel’s grin grew wider, earning a soft laugh from Amelia who was quick to start another conversation, more than happy to be the tension that had existed between the two of them behind them.