11. November 11th 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
Amanda hummed to herself as she set her coffee table with big bowls of finger-foods. Everything was set. Her night alone with the TV, buzzing with the final game of the season. She wore nothing but an over-sized red football jersey to celebrate. Picking up the remote in one hand, and a can of Red Bull in the other, she switched the TV on and curled up on her sofa.
She smiled as the pre-game antics began, popping the key of her can open and taking a sip.
Nothing. Nothing could disturb her, her food and her game. Not unless someone planned to bomb the stadium or her apartment sky-high.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Amanda placed her can on the table and got up swiftly to open her front door.
“Oh,” she said, smiling, “uh, hey, Daniel, I wasn't expecting you.”
Daniel gave Amanda a look - with her shirt big enough to cover her upper-arms and thighs, and her hair tied up in a loose ponytail. He didn't find it a particularly ravishing outfit, “What are you wearing?” he asked, with furrowed brows.
Amanda laughed, “What's that supposed to mean?” she gestured, “Come in. You can watch the football game with me.”
Daniel stepped in and peeled off his coat, hanging it on a hook, and then undid the straps on his brace and left it on the small table by the door. A doubt rose in him as he regarded the coffee-table laden with food.
He gave Amanda a narrow-eyed look, “There aren't gonna be more people, are there?”
“No,” Amanda scoffed, scurrying over to the fridge to get Daniel a drink, “Just me and, apparently, you.”
“All this food for yourself?” he asked, sitting on the sofa.
“Don't worry. You can have some.”
“You planned a one-person party?” Daniel commented.
“Oh, Danny,” said Amanda, handing him a can and curling up next to him. Danny - it was a new affection of hers. If it were anyone else, Daniel might have hurt them, “When there's me at a party, do you really need anyone else?”
“The British English-teacher, who has depressing thoughts on just about anything?”
Amanda took his face in her hands and kissed him softly, “You're becoming too liberal with that tongue of yours,” she whispered.
“What're you gonna do about it?” Daniel replied suggestively.
“Game's starting soon, so presumably duct-tape your mouth.”
Daniel scowled and popped his can open. He took a sip and smiled. Beer. She knew what he liked. His opinion changed as he observed the game on screen, “This ain't football.”
“Yes, it is,” Amanda replied, snacking on popcorn.
“This is some sissy European sport.”
Amanda took immediate offence, “You're a sissy European sport.”
“Yes, but I hurt just you. You offended an entire continent.”
“Nobody's jumping anyone else!” he pointed at th screen, “That guy fell on the floor and he's crying!”
“He's writhing in pain.”
“Oh, so much more macho.”
“What's your problem?” Amanda laughed, “At least this game allows room for strategy. And they actually play with their feet. They don't try to murder everyone in their path with an odd-shaped ball in their hands.”
“Those guys are the ones palming their odd-shaped balls.”
“Ah, the crude American has spoken,” Amanda said bitterly.
“Should I go?” Daniel stood up, “Have I intruded on your big game-night?”
“Daniel, what the hell are you on?”
“I don't know, Amanda! I walked in thinking I was hitting on a straight chick, but she's acting like a right lesbian tonight!” Daniel paused, “Even if she's watching soccer.”
Amanda raised her brows and paused. She sucked in her cheeks, not knowing how to respond, then saying, “Did... something happen today?”
Daniel was caught off-guard, “What? No. Nothing,” he said quickly.
Amanda tilted her head to a side and gazed at Daniel. His face was flushed red and he was looking away.
She put a hand on his arm, “Please watch this sissy European sport with me.”
Daniel sighed, “You didn't have to... I didn't mean...”
“I know,” she said, pulling his sleeve so that he sat, “It... It just seemed like you needed a win tonight.”
They sat in silence for a while, the only sound being the irritating commentator yapping this player's name and that player's actions. Daniel picked up his drink and tapped it awkwardly with his finger.
“Why sports?” he asked.
Amanda moved her head slightly, still quite focused on the game, “Hmm?”
“Why sports? Why not some other mindless rubbish?”
Amanda shook her head, smiling to herself. And here she thought she was the most pessimistic person on the planet, “Should I switch over to GOD TV or something?”
Daniel scoffed, “That wasn't my point.”
“I don't know, Daniel. I grew up watching football-”
“Shut up. I grew up watching football, with all this turmoil around me - family, school-mates, dealings and just problems. It sucks being a girl, you know that? I mean, maybe it's a bit sexist to say, but I hate having all these... these extra emotions and actually giving a damn about them. Guys never do. They see a girl cry and they'll just walk the other way, like. But football... it's just a game. Twenty-two idiots chasing a ball. No emotions or feelings or consequences involved. Just cheering on a team and watching them have their own little dramas. It kind of made me feel better. It was nice to not worry about something.”
“That's why you're not watching something like, I don't know, 'Sex and the City' right now?”
“I've never even considered watching that idiot show.”
“How would you know it's an idiot show then?”
“Are you about to vouch for it?”
“Then it's an idiot show. I haven't got the patience to watch idiot women do idiot things with idiot men and then curse their idiot selves for the idiot mistakes that they make. Idiots.”
Daniel laughed at that.
“Are you... Are you going to tell me what's wrong?” Amanda asked carefully.
“...” Daniel's face became set immediately, “Amanda, I... I like to leave my problems outside when I come here.”
“And you don't think they follow you in?”
Daniel looked back at the screen, “Which ones are you rooting for? The red ones or the blue ones?”
Amanda indicated her red shirt, “Take a wild guess.”
“Right,” Daniel scoffed, “Sorry. Should I be rooting for the other team, then?”
“Probably. My team isn't that great.”
Daniel gave Amanda a look, “Why root for them then?”
“Loyalty, I guess. There's just something... better about rooting for a weaker team. Like, you won't be so disappointed if they lose because you kind of expect it. It's not that big of a deal. But if they win, you appreciate it more. Does that... Does that make sense?”
“You haven't put money on them, have you?”
Amanda laughed, “No. I'm not that loyal.”
Daniel smiled but didn't say more.
He seemed occupied, distracted - like he'd come for some purpose but he couldn't remember or didn't know how to proceed.
“Daniel, why don't you eat something?” Amanda asked.
“Not hungry,” Daniel mumbled.
Daniel sighed, frustrated, and sat up facing Amanda, “Why do you care?”
Amanda paused, took the remote in one hand and turned the TV off. Daniel bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Because I do, Daniel,” Amanda said, “I... I like you, that's why I care.”
Daniel shook his head.
Amanda tried to put a hand to his shoulder, but he shrugged her off. Amanda gnawed at the inside of her cheek, wondering what to do, and then got up. She cleared the coffee-table and sat cross-legged on top of it, in front of Daniel.
Daniel looked at her, “What are you doing?”
Amanda shrugged, “What do you want me to do?”
“I...” Daniel sighed, “I'm just so confused in my head. Right now. All the time. Most of the time nothing makes any sense to me,” his face crumpled, “And it's when things make sense, that it scares the living shit out of me. You - you scare the shit out of me, Amanda. And I can't get enough of that. But...” he sniffed and rubbed his forehead.
“Is this something to do with work? Are you not allowed to tell me?”
“Yes. No. Kind of, I guess,” Daniel replied, “I had a mental check-up at... at...”
“The office, yeah. And I got the report today.”
Daniel searched his pockets and brought out a folded sheet of paper, “It's better I show you, wait...” he tore some of it off and passed it to Amanda.
She took the page carefully, looking from it to Daniel - wondering for a moment, what she would find out - before she read it. Daniel watched Amanda's face change - from worried to surprised and back to worried.
Dizziness, loss of consciousness, frequent and severe headaches, psychiatric/neurological problems, nausea, memory loss, visual and auditory hallucinations, and nightmares.
That's what Daniel had. That's what the sheet detailed.
What more was there to say?
Amanda put the sheet down, “On the bright side...” she said, after an awkward pause, “You don't have gastric problems. And menstrual disorders aren't even applicable.”
Daniel was in no mood to be humoured.
“I'm sorry... I'm not much help, am I?” Amanda paused, before she embraced Daniel, resting her chin on his shoulder, “I... I don't really know what to say to you, Daniel.”
Daniel held her - breathing in her scent and feeling the tips of her hair brush his face - and whispered, “This is a mistake.”
“This. Us. It's a mistake,” Daniel said.
Amanda pulled away, looking at Daniel incredulously. He couldn't meet her gaze.
“Is that why you came?” she murmured, “To... break up with me?”
“You're going to get hurt. I'm going to end up hurting you, Amanda.”
Amanda blinked, “Daniel, look at me.”
He looked up at her.
“I know. I know, okay? I know that... this,” she waved the page in the air, “freaks you out. But didn't you already know this? You're still the same person you were before you got these results.”
“That's just it. I'm the same person. There's no... fix for me. And... on top of that...” Daniel rubbed his arm, “I'm not a good person, Amanda. I don't know if I class as bad, but I'm not good.”
Amanda stretched out her hand and stroked his cheek, then held his face, “I'm not going to tell you that good times are coming and there's some fairytale wonderland waiting for you at the end of all this. I'm not even going to tell you that they'll figure out a way to cure this. But don't do this, Daniel, please. Don't... Don't end this,” she sat next to him, “You came here to break things off with me... That's not something a bad guy does. I... I don't know what your life is like outside of this apartment, Danny, so there isn't much I can say, but... Everybody needs somebody, Daniel.”
“It shouldn't be you. It should be some slimy, bitchy, evil cunt.”
“I don't see what the appeal would be there...”
“Amanda... this is going to end up being a huge fuck-up.”
“Maybe,” Amanda replied, taking Daniel's hand, “but... it'll be the best one I make in my entire life,” she kissed him.
Amanda held his neck and his face, and Daniel put his hands to her waist, pulling her onto his lap. Amanda's body pressed against his and she moaned slightly.
“Aren't you wearing anything under this?” he asked, groping at her loose shirt.
Amanda pulled the band from her hair and let it fall around her face, “Guess.”
He pulled away abruptly, “I can't.”
“I... I have a flight to catch. In a few hours.”
Daniel nodded, “I have to be at... the office. For a while.”
“Oh,” Amanda sighed in relief, “For a second, I thought you were leaving because of me. How... How long will you be gone?”
“Two weeks, a month - I'm not sure. I'll be back here though, as soon as I'm done,” he made to stand, but Amanda pressed him down.
“When is your flight?”
“Four a.m.,” Daniel replied.
Amanda placed a hand under his shirt, on his chest and flicked her tongue over his lips, “Stay.”
“I won't be able to-”
She snapped, “Phones have alarms, damn you! Stay!”