The Space Between Us

06: I Couldn’t Burden You With That

“Are you sure that you don’t want to go back inside?”

Amelia looked up at the sound of Lionel’s voice, watching as he ducked back out of the house, a blanket clutched in his hands. He was trying to look after her. After the dust had settled, and Amelia had realised what she had admitted to Lionel, and what he had admitted to her, she had insisted that she needed some air, but when she had tried to move towards the front door, Lionel had gently turned her around and guided her out onto the patio, insisting that she could sit out there for as long as she needed. She did need it. The patio was quiet, and cool, and with Lionel having ducked back inside, she had had the chance to just sit there and take a breath, something she hadn’t done since she had tapped on Lionel’s front door.

Offering him a tired smile, she shook her head before she held her hand out, allowing him to drop the blanket into it. “Is it OK if I stay out here a little longer?” she asked.

“Of course” Lionel said “I just worried you’d be getting cold” he added.

“A little” Amelia admitted “But this ought to help” she added, draping the blanket over her lap.

Lionel smiled gently before he shuffled towards the door, only to stop when Amelia gently wrapped her hand around his wrist. “Will you sit with me for a minute?” she asked.

Lionel hesitated for a second before he nodded his head. “If that’s what you want” he said.

Amelia pulled her knees up towards her chest, making a space for Lionel next to her.

After another beat of hesitation, Lionel moved into the space she’d left for him before he gently coaxed her feet into his lap and arranged the blanket over the two of them. Amelia watched him with a soft smile that didn’t fade as he turned to look at her, his cheeks flushed a soft shade of pink. “Is it too much?” he asked.

Amelia wordlessly shook her head. For a while, they just sat there, both lost in their own thoughts, before Amelia gently reached for one of Lionel’s hands, gently twisting her fingers through his. “How long?” she asked quietly.

Lionel watched her twist their fingers together. He didn’t want to look up and see the expression on her face. “I was never sure about it” he said carefully “I knew I liked you, but I could never quite figure out how, and then you met...him and it became pretty obvious” he added.

Amelia squeezed his hand. “You can say his name, you know” she quipped “I mean, everyone else does. It’s usually accompanied by a lot of colourful language, but they still call him Fernando” she added, attempting a warm smile.

Lionel’s lips quirked slightly, partially out of amusement, but mostly out of relief that Amelia wasn’t pressing too hard. “I imagine that Alexa has come up with quite a few words for him” he played along.

“My stepfather was actually the worst” Amelia mused.

“Albert?” Lionel spluttered “He’s so nice” he added.

Amelia shrugged, still smiling slightly, though it had obviously sobered a little.

Lionel’s hand squeezed hers reassuringly.

Amelia drew in a deep breath before she let it out slowly. “Why didn’t you talk to me?” she asked, breaking the silence that had settled between them.

“A lot of reasons” Lionel answered “But mostly, because you were happy, and you didn’t need me throwing that out and making things strange for almost everyone around us” he added.

Amelia nodded her head slowly, but didn’t move to say anything else, something which caused Lionel to squeeze her hand again. He could see that she was trying to process it, to figure out how she felt about what he was telling her, and he didn’t want to pressure her into doing it quickly. Just one minute with her had been enough to show him that Nora had been right when she had explained that Amelia wasn’t herself.

Amelia’s stare moved back towards their hands before she glanced back up at his face. “How could you just walk away?” she asked.

Lionel flinched, even though her voice wasn’t sharp or accusatory. “I...I had to” he murmured.

“Had to?” Amelia pressed.

“You were happy, Amelia” Lionel replied “You loved Fernando enough to want to marry him, and when I saw you that morning, in your dress and looking so excited, I realised that...that I couldn’t take that away from you. It didn’t matter that I felt what I felt, because you didn’t feel it, and I couldn’t burden you with the idea that I did. I just...I had to walk away” he added.

“You didn’t have to leave me” Amelia insisted.


“You were my best friend” Amelia interrupted “And I...I needed you” she added, her voice wobbling slightly.

Any frustration that Lionel had felt about Amelia not quite seeing things from his perspective faded when he heard the wobble in her voice. “I was selfish” he admitted “I just...I convinced myself that it was going to be for the best. I didn’t even stop to think that...that Fernando could turn out to be anything other than what you thought he was. I thought he was good for you, and that you’d stay happy with him, because for three years, he’d made you really happy. I am so sorry that I wasn’t there when you needed me” he added.

Amelia shook her head. “No one thought he was a bad guy” she said “You can’t be blamed for not seeing it. I was with the man for four years, and I never doubted that he was what he showed me he was, not until she appeared” she added.

Lionel squeezed her hand again. He could see the pain clouding her features again, and he wanted to draw her out of it, even if it was just for a second. “Are you hungry?” he asked.

Amelia blinked at the question, surprised that that was what he had asked her, before a small, relieved smile brightened her features. “I could eat” she said.

“Do you want to grab dinner, then?” Lionel prodded.

Amelia nodded her head wordlessly.

Lionel smiled at her, a small smile that was somewhere between pleased and tentative, before he pushed himself up to his feet and tugged on her hand, pulling her up after him.

Amelia let him guide her through the house, more than a little relieved that, for once, she didn’t have to talk about Fernando. It was all anyone else seemed to want to talk to about. Whenever she seemed a little out of sorts, or whenever she turned down an invitation to do something with her friends or family, they always brought him up, and Amelia liked that Lionel hadn’t tried to coax her into talking about him, even though she was sure that he would ask eventually. She liked that it hadn’t been the first thought on his mind.