At Cross Roads

Re-entry for the Name on My Wrist comp


18. November 30th 2012 ~ Rome, Italy

Daniel walked across the school hallways, regarding the uniform rows of bright red lockers against the pale blue walls, only broken by the classroom doors. The order and structure contrasted so starkly with the chaos within the classrooms themselves - the children shouting and the teachers trying to calm them down. Until Daniel came upon a classroom where he could only hear one voice, ringing out clearly in English. He leaned against the wall by the door, folding his arms, glancing every so often at the clock on the wall opposite him. Daniel watched intently as Amanda (known as Miss May, over here) instructed her class, handing them their assignments for the weekend before a bell rang. The kids rose from their seats and stepped out of the class, some of them giving Daniel funny looks, but he shrugged them off and went in.
Amanda was sitting at her desk and reading through some papers. Sensing someone's presence, she raised her head and smiled.

“Hey,” Daniel said, putting his hands on his trouser pockets.
“I thought you were too cool for school, Mr Cross,” Amanda replied.
“Can't believe you just said that,” Daniel laughed.
“I tend to get a little old around here,” Amanda said, picking up her papers and setting them in order before stapling them.
“When you said kids... I thought they'd be a little smaller,” Daniel commented.
“I haven't got the patience for ABCs.”
“How does that make sense?”
“What do you mean?”
“You had the patience to clean up my mess a few days ago. You can practically donate patience.”
“I can yell at you. I can beat you up. I can swear your face,” Amanda said, “I can't do that to a little kid.”
“But you don't do any of that.”
“Mm,” Amanda fussed over some of her things, and stood up, “There's something awkward about hitting someone taller than you.”
Daniel laughed.
“What brings you here though?” Amanda said, “Couldn't find a pub?”
Daniel shrugged, “I missed you.”
“Don't give me that crap.”
“I'm serious. I just... wanted to see you.”
“You got bored.”
“Well, yeah, that too. Only so much mindless television a mindless man can take.”
Amanda went round to the front of her desk and leaned against it, folding her arms and shaking her head, “And how did you find me? I didn't tell you where I work.”
Daniel placed his hands on her hips, “I just walked around the streets for a bit, asking for the hottest English teacher in the country.”
Amanda rolled her eyes, “Try again.”
Daniel's face blanched, “I'm a secret agent. It's what I do.”
Amanda paused, “You googled me, didn't you?”
Daniel passed Amanda an irritated look, “You're really annoying, you know that?”
Amanda laughed, “I've been looking 'annoying' in my rear-view mirror for ages, sugar,” she rose to kiss him.
Daniel held her, “Isn't this against policy?” he asked.
“Why would you care?”
“That's a good question,” they kissed again.

Then a knock came at the door, followed by and abashed, “Um... Miss?”

Amanda pulled away from Daniel and looked at her student, “Bianca. Come in. What can I do for you?”
Bianca walked in, staring at Daniel before she asked, “Is that your boyfriend, Miss May?”
“Business first, Bianca,” Amanda scoffed.
Daniel stood to a side as they discussed an assignment. A punishment, Daniel realised as he listened. The girl had disrupted the class and Amanda had given her an assignment she couldn't seem to do because of it.
“Miss, just let me off this once,” Bianca pleaded.
“It's one quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Great play, by the way, if you want to read it all. All I'm asking you to do is explain it.”
“But I don't know what it means!”
“Have a think on it, Bianca!”
“You know I'm not good at that!”
“Of course you are. You're doing it right now to get out of an assignment,” Amanda laughed, “You can do this, okay? There's no wrong answer in English, so long as you can back it up with evidence. If it's on my desk before I walk in on Monday, you won't need to present it to the class.”
“And if I don't?” said Bianca slyly.
“You think Shakespearean is bad?” Amanda said, staring down at the girl, “Just casually avoid doing this assignment, and you'll be doing Chaucer.”
“Oh,” Amanda warned, packing one of her textbooks into her bag, “not someone's work you want to study and have as a general view of your overall grade.”
“You're evil, Miss,” Bianca said, walking out.
“Such a strong word, Bianca. I'm selectively merciful, that's all.”
Bianca laughed, “Evil, Miss. Evil. You always tell us to call a spade a spade.”
“Fair point. Though I don't see that as a very useful tactic to climb out of your predicament: offending me,” Amanda retorted in a joking fashion, “Go off to lunch, then see if you can find some resources online or in the library to help you out. No plagiarising.”

“That's what they consider to be evil?” Daniel muttered, as the girl walked away.
“They're teenagers. Young and naïve,” Amanda shrugged, slinging her bag over her shoulder, “Why not let them be?”
“I didn't know ESL students did Shakespeare.”
“They don't,” Amanda said, “it's just an amusing punishment.”
“You like Shakespeare?”
“There's no liking him. There's only loving him or being an ignorant dolt.”
“Sure, sure. That's fair.”
“Did you come for something, Daniel?”
“Just you.”
Amanda smiled to herself, flattered for good measure, “You wanna get some lunch?”
“Sure, where do you want to go?”
Amanda furrowed her brows, “To the canteen.”
“Oh, wait, American, right: I meant ca-fe-te-ri-a,” she stretched the word mockingly.
Daniel rolled his eyes, “I don't wanna sit around so many kids.”
“Oh, come on. We can sit at a table by ourselves. I will let you rudely deny someone a seat,” Amanda took his arm and led him out of the classroom.
“Okay. I could be down with that.”

The kids in the hallways glanced at the pair strangely, as they walked towards the canteen. They chattered amongst each other, this being like celebrity gossip for them. Daniel looked around the place. His head hurt. Amanda caught his expression.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Fine,” Daniel murmured.
“Really? We can head out if you really don't want to do this.”
“I'm fine,” Daniel repeated, more aggressively.
Amanda squeezed his hand and said, “Okay.”

She led him to the canteen and they picked their lunches on trays, before they sat down at a table. The bustle and chatter grew around them as students and teachers alike found their seats and enjoyed their meals.
Daniel looked up, “Mm?”
“I know this is the third time I'm asking this - but you've been holding your head all this time and you haven't said a word or touched your food - are you alright?”
“Headache,” Daniel said, “It's nothing.”
Amanda gnawed on the inside of her cheek and popped open the clasp on her bag. She pulled out a sheet of pills and passed them to Daniel. He read the small scrawl on the back. Paracetamol.
“This some British shit?” he asked.
“You're welcome.”
“Don't you have aspirin?”
“Paracetamol is stronger than aspirin.”
Daniel paused, “Gimme more.”
Amanda laughed, “Get some food in you, Daniel. You can have six of them in four hours, but no more than that.”
“Only six?” Daniel said, eating his food mechanically.
“Unless medically instructed otherwise.”
“I'mma go see the school nurse then.”
Amanda laughed, as Daniel popped out two pills and swallowed them with his water.

“Well, this is new,” she scoffed to herself.
Daniel looked up, “What is?”
“The popular jock dating the needy geek.”
“Yeah, that is new...” Daniel said, “though, I wouldn't say I'm a needy geek.”
Amanda laughed, looked away, blushed, “Don't.”
“Hey, I'm not a popular jock either, Amanda,” Daniel said, “I'm that one kid who'll eat thumb-tacks just to show that he's badass.”
Amanda scoffed, “You've done that before?”
“I don't know. Probably. Sounds like something I'd do,” Daniel laughed, “but it's not my point. Idiots like me need needy geeks like you.”
“What? To do your homework?”
“Well, doy. If we're all doing homework, who's gonna eat the thumb-tacks?” Daniel smiled as Amanda laughed, “But not just that. We need you around to take you for granted, to blame you for everything, to intimidate. And then when we get out of school and waste the rest of our lives on weed, alcohol and butt-naked bitches - we need you to look at and kick ourselves for what we did to you. Look at us:” Daniel smiled, “You're not the loser here, Amanda. Sober Daniel knows that, though Drunk Daniel likes to think that he's still a straight winner. Drunk Daniel also owes you like four new rugs. Don't shake your head, look at me,” he touched Amanda's chin and raised her head, “I got lucky. You're a winner, you just date losers.”
“I don't think you're a loser.”
“Well, I'm not any more. Not since I met you. All those other popular jocks can suck on that.”
Amanda smiled to herself, “You can be such an arse sometimes... I forget you can be sweet too.”

Daniel scoffed, but tried to hide it.
“What?” Amanda said.
“Say 'ass' again.”
Amanda furrowed her brows, “Arse?”
Daniel laughed hysterically.
“Right,” Amanda shook her head, taking back her sheet of pills, “no more painkillers for you.”
“You Brits put an 'r' in ass.”
“Ass is a donkey, sweetheart.”
“No. Ass is ass.”
“Because repeating a word does wonders in explaining it.”
“You know what I mean.”
“It's arse. The rear end of a human being is colloquially called an arse.”
Daniel snorted elaborately, trying to hold in his laughter, “I think you're wrong.”
“You might be the secret agent, Danny, but I'm the English teacher.”
“English teacher with a great ass.”
“Yes. Mary had a little lamb, but - it seems - Amanda has a great ass. He followed me to school today and is currently high on pain medication. I was wrong. He should have stuck to aspirin.”
“'R' in ass...!”
“Oh, shut up, before I stick an 'r' in your arse,” she said, kissing him softly, “I suppose you're feeling better now then?”

“If I get some ass when we get home, this'll probably be the best day of what I remember of my life,” Daniel said, rubbing his eyes and laughing.
Amanda raised a brow, “You... don't remember your school years?”
“I...” he leaned back in his seat and his head began to hurt again when he tried to remember, “I know I went to school, I guess. But I don't remember the name of the place, my teachers, how long I was there... Probably dropped out at sixteen. Everything's... messed-up, foggy... incomplete. My memories. I think that's why... the headaches,” he rubbed his forehead with his knuckles, “and there are all these... other memories. I don't know how or when they got there. They don't seem to... fit in with anything else. Everything's everywhere and I don't know where any of it goes. It hurts just to think about it. Like...” he waved a hand, “Ah, screw it, there isn't a point,” he sipped his water.
Amanda took his hand and stared at him for a while, “How do you live like that? Not knowing how or why or when about anything?”
“Isn't that obvious? I drown my brain in alcohol because that's the only thing that makes sense to me - the only thing that makes remembering things irrelevant. And then I go around screwing-up other people. I've been doing it to you since we met.”
“You're not screwing me up.”
“Not in my usual way or within my usual time-period.”
“Daniel, stop. Okay?” Amanda said, “I know you have this crazy, evil image of yourself-”
“I am crazy and evil,” Daniel insisted angrily.
“Not from what I can see.”
Daniel grinned sadly, “Then, what do you see?”
Amanda paused, searching for the right words, “A good guy who's had a lot of bad things happen in his life.”
“I couldn't even tell you if that's what my life's been like.”
“Daniel, don't feel bad because you can't remember things.”
“What if you wake up one day next to me and I can't remember you, huh?” Daniel snapped, “Won't that hurt you? Freak you out?”

Amanda narrowed her eyes, “Daniel... Are you...? Are you leaving again?”
Daniel raised his brows, impressed by how well Amanda was able to read him, “I...” he sighed, “My last mission hadn't gone as planned. I didn't... catch my man, so, yeah, they're sending me out again.”
“I, uh, need to catch a flight tonight. At ten.”
Amanda looked at her feet for a while, trying not to look too perturbed and said, “I think I'll ask for the rest of the day off then,” she stood up, “And, Daniel?”

“I'd be hurt if you didn't remember me one day,” Amanda conceded, “But I'd understand and I'd try to help you remember. Or start again. You might not think that you've affected me much, Daniel, but...” she sniffed, “you have.”
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