24. December 8th 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
Daniel checked the time and sat on the side of Amanda's bed as she stirred from her sleep and groaned. She was wearing a figure-hugging vest and shorts, and her hair was in disarray. Amanda shut her heavy eyes tight before turning over and rubbing her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Bloody, fucking bottle...” she muttered.
Daniel tried to hide his amusement as she sat up and rubbed her eyes, squinting at the light that managed to seep through her curtained windows. She sighed and turned her head and looked at Daniel as if she was seeing him for the first time.
Daniel looked back at her and said, “Amanda-”
“Oh my God! You're real!” she cried, falling back in shock.
“Yeah, I'm rea-” Daniel laughed, moving towards her.
“Shhhh!” she put a finger to her lips, “Shh! Shh! You're practically yelling at me right now.”
“Sorry,” Daniel scoffed quietly.
“How long have you been-?” Amanda gagged and got up in an uncoordinated fashion, and staggered towards the bathroom where she threw up loudly. This continued for a while, until a flush sounded and she stepped back into the bedroom and collapsed against the door-frame with her eyes shut.
Daniel stepped towards her and pulled her up in his arms, carrying Amanda to her living room where he placed her on the couch in a seated position. She put her head back against the rest with her eyes closed and groaned.
“When did you get here?” she asked.
“Last night,” Daniel replied in a whisper, moving some of her hair off her face.
She turned her head to look at him, “You've been here all night?”
Daniel stood up and went to the microwave in the kitchen, and pulled out a bowl. He searched through a few drawers until he found a spoon and put it in the bowl before setting it down on the coffee-table.
“You're not ready to hear about it yet,” he said, with a slight scoff.
Amanda raised her head and furrowed her brows at the bowl. She giggled, “Daniel, what's this?”
“I don't have any experience in making anything, but I found a packet of that dehydrated soup and I made you some.”
“Yeah. Why? What's wrong with soup?”
“And you thought tea was for losers,” Amanda snorted, “I want something cold.”
“What?” Amanda said.
He kissed her mouth softly - not caring about the bitter taste he found there - and held on until she returned it, wrapping her arms around his head.
When he let go, Daniel said, “I missed you.”
Amanda smiled and kissed him lightly on his nose but didn't say anything.
“What?” he said, sensing her amusement.
She paused before she said, “Two months ago, you walked in here, the biggest arsehole I'd ever met. But you've changed, Daniel. I've turned you around,” she smirked, “You're a vagina now.”
Daniel snorted at the remark, “Don't be a dick about it, Amanda,” he said, before he kissed her again.
When they parted, Amanda whispered, “I missed you too,” and hugged Daniel tightly. Daniel held her, relishing the feel of her embrace, the way she wrapped herself around him as if wishing that he'd never let go. He thought he heard her sob, but Daniel chose to ignore it. When she let him go, she rubbed her eyes and sniffed, but then picked up her bowl of soup and sipped at it. It wasn't very good - it was still a bit powdery - but Amanda was determined to throw it down her gullet just to show her appreciation of the gesture. Her only concern was whether her gut would throw it back out again.
“Did you sleep, Daniel?” she asked between sips.
“I tried, but I couldn't.”
“I have the urge to ask whether you watched me sleep all night, but that sounds a little creepy, so if it's affirmative - please, just don't answer.”
“No,” Daniel laughed, “no, I, uh, watched a lot of TV and went out a couple of times for a smoke. I only checked on you every now and then. And I'm just gonna say - for a grown woman, you sure do own a lot of Disney movies.”
“I like Disney,” Amanda said defensively.
“You have a kid, don't you?”
“Yes. He happened to make me soup this morning,” Amanda said, sticking out her tongue, “Did you watch any of them?”
Daniel paused before he said, “No.”
Amanda sniggered, before finishing her soup.
“Before I tell you everything that happened last night,” Daniel said, “Can I ask why it happened?”
“Well, I had a few friends over,” Amanda said, “and it started out alright, but then we got into an argument and I sent them all out because I was upset. And, well, I was alone and... a bottle was just standing there, also alone, and...” she looked at Daniel, “yeah.”
“Just one bottle?” Daniel scoffed.
“Sober Amanda is unable to recall what Drunk Amanda drank.”
“Well, if it helps, when I walked in there were like seven or eight empty cans scattered over the floor.”
“Yeah,” Daniel snorted.
Amanda rolled her eyes, “Go on. Let's get this over with.”
“I'll spare you the details. Though, I will say this - you're a very responsible drunk person.”
“You didn't piss anywhere and every time you vomited, you made sure to go and do it in the toilet. And you flushed afterwards too.”
Daniel laughed at her reaction, “Also, who were... who were you talking to?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I came here last night at about half eleven and I found the door open. You were alone but you were screaming at someone. You kept saying they didn't exist.”
“Ah...” she said, as if this was a point of embarrassment.
“That would be Jack. He doesn't exist.”
“As in he's dead to you...?”
Amanda chewed on the inner of her cheek and stood up, taking the bowl with her, “As in he's imaginary.”
Daniel raised his brows and followed her as she scurried into the kitchen, “What do you mean imaginary?”
Amanda dropped the bowl in the sink and didn't turn to look at Daniel, “He's just... I don't know, Daniel.”
“Amanda, look at me,” when she didn't, Daniel sighed and went on, “I'm the biggest lunatic you're ever going to meet. You don't need to be ashamed of this.”
“But I am...” she mumbled.
Daniel stood there uncomfortably. What to say or do now? There was no consolation for this. He embraced her from behind and kissed her hair, “We can ignore it, if you want.”
Daniel watched as she closed her eyes and two pinpricks of water rolled down her cheeks.
“No, don't...” said Daniel, beginning to panic, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-”
“It's okay... I'm just a big baby,” Amanda said, wiping her face with the back of her hand. She sighed, “I'd like to say that Jack is just a voice in my head, but... he's not. He becomes a little more real, when I'm upset or when I'm drunk. I... I don't know how he got there, he just... happened, when I was a kid. He laughs with me, fights with me. He's... kind of always been there for me, in a way, you know? But... he can be a bit of an arse-fucker at times,” Amanda shook her head and looked away.
Daniel paused a moment, thinking about what Amanda had just told him, “Two months ago, I came here thinking that I was the only one who had problems worth fucking around about,” he murmured, “And here I am -listening to another version of myself: who gets drunk, gets high, because she sees things no-one else sees and then cries about it all. I am so glad I didn't fuck you and then leave you.”
Amanda laughed, “Yes. Those are the... twelve words every girl wants to hear.”
Daniel laughed and kissed her deeply.
She moaned at his passion, “Dear God, I've missed you,” she whispered when she let go.
“Oh, shut up,” Daniel chuckled, reaching under her top. His hand stopped at the touch of a rough piece of cotton around her waist.
He went cold with realisation and pulled away to look at the bandage on her body, “What's this?” he asked hesitantly.
“Oh, I, uh,” she looked queerly as Daniel began to stare at her intently, his eyes becoming red and wet, “Daniel...?”
“Was this because of me?” he choked loudly, “Because I wasn't here? Did you...?”
Amanda shook her head and held his face, “No, no! I got mugged a few days ago. The guy stabbed me and took my purse,” she wiped Daniel's eyes with her thumbs, “I was in ER for a day, but they said I should be fine.”
“When was this?”
“Beginning of the month, I think.”
The text-message, “You messaged me, right?”
“Yeah, I think so. I... I wasn't feeling great.”
Daniel cursed himself silently, “Did they catch the guy?”
“Yeah, I got everything back.”
Daniel growled under his breath, “Wait here while I go beat the living shit out of him.”
Amanda grabbed Daniel's arm and said, “No, Daniel, please-”
“He hurt you!” Daniel barked, “The fucking bastard hurt you!”
Amanda's face pinched into an angry scowl, “Why are you yelling at me then?”
“Because-!” Daniel caught himself and sighed, “Because I came here for you, found you drowning in drink, put you to bed at 5am, watched you sleep through the whole morning, and now you're telling me that some sleazy little fucker stabbed you? What am I-?”
“If you want to go so badly, go,” Amanda snapped.
Daniel scowled, “I'm upset, okay?” he shouted, moving away from her, “I'm upset! Because someone hurt you and I wasn't here! I didn't want this to happen! You're like this thing that exists outside the rest of the world for me!” Daniel implored her with his eyes, “When I step in here, when I'm with you - the rest if the shitty world can burn in Hell for all I care. And if that world and this world mix... I'm... I'm not sure what this and that is any more.”
Amanda made a worried face, “All of this is real, Daniel.”
“Some of it... Some of it seems more real than the rest.”
Amanda reached up and caressed his hair, kissing his forehead, “Beating a sleazy little fucker won't help.”
“But he hurt you.”
Amanda ignored the point, “Don't go, Daniel,” she whispered sadly, “The times between when you're here and when you have to go are so short...” she trailed off. She didn't need to continue. It was enough.
“Thank you,” Amanda said.