The Space Between Us

79: I’m Sure I’ll Survive

Pressing her phone against her ear, Amelia bounced her leg anxiously, listening to the dial tone as she waited for the sound of Lionel’s voice to fill her ears. She had been trying to get a hold of him all day. With hours ticking past, and the start of Nora and Victor’s engagement party drawing nearer, she was slowly growing more and more nervous, and it had left her needing to hear his voice, knowing that it, almost always, made her feel better.

She wanted it to not matter. When Nora had told her that Fernando was bringing Gianna to the party, she had wanted to be able to shrug it off and insist that it was fine, but she hadn’t even come close to being able to fake it. It hurt her. Despite everything that had changed for her since her marriage had ended, the thought of watching Fernando walk into a room with Gianna at his side felt like a knife to the chest, and Amelia couldn’t shake the feeling, no matter how many times she reminded herself of how happy she was with things as they were. The idea of seeing Gianna’s face again was one that she found overwhelming.

Chewing on her lip, she listened to the phone as it continued to ring before, finally, Lionel’s voice followed, causing her to let out a soft sigh in relief. “I really thought that you weren’t going to answer” she chirped softly.

“Sorry it took so long” Lionel replied “I was in a meeting. I was actually about to call you, actually” he added.

“Oh?” Amelia asked, trying to keep her voice as even as she could.

Lionel hesitated for a beat before he sighed. “I can’t make it to the party” he said “Something came up, and I have to stay here. I’m so sorry” he added.

Amelia nodded her head slowly, trying her hardest to swallow the lump in her throat.

“Amelia?” Lionel pressed gently.

“It’s fine” Amelia’s voice was shaky, despite her best efforts to keep it even “If you can’t get away, then you can’t get away. It would have been a little weird for you, anyway. You’d have only known me, my family, Nora and Victor, and Fernando” she added, forcing out a little laugh.

Lionel didn’t say anything for a moment, allowing an awkward silence to hang between them, before he cleared his throat softly. “I really am sorry” he said “Are you OK?” he asked.

Amelia thought about telling him about Gianna, about how much she had started to dread going to an event she had been looking forwards to, but she opted against it. It wasn’t something he could fix if he wasn’t going to be there and she didn’t want to make him feel bad. “I’m just a little disappointed” she admitted “I was looking forwards to seeing you” she added.

“I’m sorry” Lionel repeated.

“It’s OK” Amelia said “I am sure I’ll survive” she added, huffing out a laugh that she knew was nowhere near convincing.

“Are you sure that you’re alright?” Lionel pressed.

“Maybe I am a little nervous” Amelia conceded “You know how much I like seeing Nando” she added.

“Nora will kill him if he tries anything” Lionel quipped reassuringly “She’d never let him get away with doing something that’ll hurt you” he added.

Amelia squeezed her eyes closed against the wave of tears that had started to sting her eyes, huffing out another laugh. She knew how hard Nora had tried to dissuade Fernando from bringing Gianna, but she knew that it hadn’t changed his mind. She knew that he wouldn’t see how much it had the potential to hurt her. It shouldn’t have done. Amelia had Lionel, and she was happy, but she knew what seeing Gianna would be like. She knew that all of the hurt that she had worked so hard to bury would be brought rushing back to the surface.

“You’re probably right” Amelia managed to get out without her voice shaking “I’m sure it will be fine” she added.

“Give Nora and Victor my best” Lionel said “And I will see you tomorrow when you get home?” he asked.

Amelia wiped at her eyes. “Yeah” she confirmed “I’ll see you then. I love you” she added.

“I love you, too” Lionel’s voice was soft and warm, and for a second, it was the reassurance that Amelia had hoped for when she had dialled his phone number.

“Say it again” Amelia whispered.

“I love you” Lionel repeated.

Amelia’s face brightened with a soft smile, despite the tears in her eyes. “I love you, too” she said “I’ll see you tomorrow” she added before she hung up the phone. Turning it over a couple of times in her hands, she let out a quiet sigh before she pushed herself to her feet, willing herself to get ready.

Slowly lowering the phone away from his ear, Lionel stared down at it in his hand for a long moment before he exhaled a quiet sigh, hoping that that would do something to alleviate the knot in his stomach.

“Are you coming back in at some point, Leo?”

Lionel’s eyes lifted away from the phone, landing on Angel who’d poked his head out into the hall. Blinking a couple of times, he fixed a small smile onto his face before he nodded. “I’ll be right there” he said.

Angel grinned at him before he disappeared back into the other room, allowing Lionel to let his faint smile fade away into another, slightly guilty frown. He knew that he had been wrong to lie to Amelia, but he hadn’t been able to find the words to admit that he wasn’t quite ready to return to Barcelona. He knew that he would have to do it eventually. It was Amelia’s home, his home, and he knew that there was no way he could avoid visiting forever, but that day felt too soon.

Turning the phone over in his hand again, he briefly contemplated redialling Amelia’s number. He knew how much she wanted him there. As happy as she was for Victor and Nora, he knew that the idea of going to their engagement party, and being confronted with Fernando’s inevitable presence was one that Amelia found overwhelming, and he felt bad about letting her down, even more so since he had heard the shake in her voice. She had tried to hide it, but how nervous she was had been obvious to him, and made him feel even worse about the lie he’d told her. There was no meeting, just a dinner with his new teammates that, if he wanted to, he could have gotten out of in a heartbeat.

Staring at the phone for another minute, he allowed his thumb to hover over Amelia’s name before someone else called his name, causing him to let out another sigh before he stuffed his phone into his pocket, making a note to call Amelia as soon as he could.