6. October 21st 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
It was a nice place, where Daniel had decided to take Amanda.
They were seated in a private booth, the round table was covered by a red and white checkered cloth and a single crystal glass vase sat on the centre holding a solitary red rose.
The waiters wore crisp white shirts and black waistcoats. Daniel himself was wearing a three-piece set - no tie, however. His hair was still very much untamed and the brown, padded brace he wore on his arm was visible beneath his sleeve.
Very expensive. Very classy. Not at all anything Amanda had expected of him. Unfortunately for her, however - sitting in the tight black, strapless dress and highly uncomfortable shoes as she was - her date hadn't said a word to her in the last twenty minutes. Unless “Mm?” was a word, in which case he'd spoken a great deal.
The fingers of Daniel's right hand drummed on the table-top continuously, trying his utmost best to avoid eye-contact and he had barely had any of the food he had ordered. He had had a substantial amount of wine, though.
Amanda put down her knife and fork, and pushed her plate away. This caught Daniel's attention and he turned to her as she folded her arms on the table, “I don't understand you,” she said at last.
“Mm?” Daniel said.
“Is this a date?” she asked, “Or are you feeding me out of self-loathing and regret? If it's the latter, I don't see why I've gone to the trouble of destroying my otherwise perfectly-functioning feet.”
Daniel sucked in his cheeks, and mumbled something.
He cleared his throat, “Nobody asked you to destroy your feet.”
“You said to wear something nice.”
“And that means bad shoes?”
“Well, it doesn't mean go barefoot, now, does it?”
Daniel chuckled, “I'm sorry... I, uh, haven't done this... in a while.”
“You make it look a lot harder than it is.”
“You decided not to say a thing to me. I don't see how that would get you on my good side.”
“I was hoping you'd feel sorry for me.”
“Oh, I do, but not in a his-life-is-so-sad-he's-definitely-getting-laid-tonight kind of way. More like the I-should-pat-him-on-the-head-and-give-him-a-hard-candy kind of way.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, “How would you have gone about this then?”
“I would have gone with - oh, I don't know: 'Hi, Amanda, how was your day? Nice place isn't it? See, I'm not really the sloppy drunk you see traipsing through your home all the time. I'm actually a rich billionaire who pretends to be poor so smoking-hot chicks like you feel bad for me.'”
Daniel scoffed, “Your American accent is terrible.”
“Yes, well,” Amanda stuck her tongue out, “it's rich coming from the American who doesn't talk so much that I can pick it up from him.”
Daniel smiled, pausing a moment, “So, how was your day?”
Amanda shrugged, “I had a few lessons, chased the kids for their homework.”
“A bit old for a student and a bit young for a mother, aren't you?”
“No,” Amanda snorted, “I teach Italian kids English.”
“That's the extent of your commentary on that?”
“And...” Daniel sighed, “How does that work out for you?”
“It's nice. I mean, the kids drive me straight-up crazy at times, but it's a subject I like and being British seems to have its privileges,” Amanda paused, “What... what do you do for a living?”
Daniel could have told her anything at that moment. He could have told her that he was a suicidal dentist who'd recently been sacked, or an obsessed historian who had realised that his career choice was fruitless, or a post-traumatically-stressed veteran that was living off government funds.
Instead, he chose to say, “I'm... not supposed to say.”
Amanda furrowed her brows, “What do you mean?”
Daniel chewed his tongue, “Erm...”
“Do you work for the government or something?”
“Something like that, yeah,” he drank some of his wine.
“My, my,” Amanda drank from her glass of wine slowly, “who would have thought it? How do you introduce yourself?” Amanda made a mocking face, imitating Daniel's voice by deepening hers, wriggling her eyebrows, “'Name's Cross. Daniel Cross.'”
Daniel snorted, and choked on his drink. He coughed and spluttered for a short while, getting red drops of wine on his white shirt.
Amanda laughed, “Are you alright?”
Daniel nodded and cleared his throat, “I'm fine,” he smiled.
“I'm talking too much, aren't I?”
Daniel considered how to answer. It seemed like a trick question to him, but he said, “A little bit,” anyway.
Amanda smiled at him, “I'll stay quiet.”
“About my job, or...?”
“Just, you know, generally.”
“You don't have to do that.”
“I think I've grilled you enough for tonight. Given that it almost killed you just now.”
She pulled back her plate and ate. Daniel watched her eat. He really didn't know how to carry himself around in this circumstance. How to build a new conversation. How to behave. Does one just get up and leave to go to the rest-room? Or does one have to proclaim it? He laughed inwardly at the thought.
For him, killing a person wasn't this hard.
“You look nice,” Daniel mumbled.
Amanda looked up, “Hmm?”
Daniel frowned slightly, “Please don't make me say it again.”
“I really didn't hear you.”
“You... you look nice.”
Amanda smiled, “You think so?”
“Why would I say so if I didn't think so?”
“Because it's humanly possible to lie.”
Daniel paused, “I'm not lying. I think you look nice.”
Amanda scoffed, but didn't say anything.
“I think you're becoming more liberal with your voice, Daniel.”
“Can... can I ask you something? It's a little irrelevant.”
“Sure. What's on your mind?”
Daniel leaned forward and put out a hand, “Imagine there was a device that could control the thoughts and minds of people. Like, more than propaganda through media or brain-washing through religion. Something that could control entirely.”
“That's... a scary thought, but go on.”
“And imagine that the world split into two factions; one that believed that the device should be used to bring order and stability - and ultimately peace - through control,” Daniel held up his left hand, that bore a simple silver ring marked with a red pectoral cross, “and the second believing that imposing such a force - even if not violent - was wrong and people should learn the meaning of peace by the mistakes that they make,” he raised his right hand, the arm that bore the brace.
Amanda hung on his every word, “Where is this coming from?”
“What do you mean?”
“You don't strike me as the philosophical type.”
Daniel smiled, “I didn't strike you as a rich, secret agent character either, Amanda.”
“What's your point, Daniel?”
“Which faction would you side with?”
“I... I don't know. I've always been a bit of a coward,” Amanda admitted, “I'd probably go live in a cave until something had been decided.”
“It's hypothetical. You have to pick a side.”
Amanda paused, thoughtfully, “Well... since English is what I teach, history is an over-lapping subject. The claim that humans will learn from their mistakes is fairly far-fetched. Time tells a very different tale. We've made the same mistakes again and again - just in different places, wearing different clothes, under different names. Peace is... a dream. It's a perception of the world that, maybe, can never really exist. But it could be achieved if people's minds were controlled... And yet, at the same time...” Amanda furrowed her brows, “To control the minds of people would be... well, it would be unfair. If I had the power to control your mind, Daniel, I'd probably have you yapping all day long - and you'd hate that. The means don't justify the end in that scenario,” Amanda shrugged, “We've been given the freedom to choose between the options presented to us... I don't think it's right to take that away.”
“So you would side with the people who would destroy the device and allow the world to purify itself through the fire of its own chaos?”
“No... Kudos on the poeticism, by the way. If I had to side with anyone, it would be the other faction. I'd just hope that mind-control still left room for small freedoms - what we eat, where we go, who we love. Maybe if things were more controlled, people - people like you and me - maybe we wouldn't be so fucked-up in the head.”
Daniel leaned back in his seat, “You think love is a choice?”
“If it wasn't, we'd all be screwed,” Amanda laughed, “You're an interesting man, Daniel. Tell me interesting men pay for all expenses on dates.”