Amanda stepped out of the caravan and shut the door quietly behind her. She didn't want to wake Shaun and Rebecca. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and walked in the direction of a local park, shivering at the early-morning chill in the air. Not many people were up this early and Amanda appreciated the solitude and quiet. She sat on a wooden bench and looked across the grassy land, listening to a few birds twitter in the trees closest to her. The leaves on trees were beginning to change in colour, becoming a tapestry of vivid reds, oranges and browns on proud trunks and balding branches.
Despite all this, her vision of John was still bothering Amanda to the point of distraction.
It was a clear sign of the Bleeding Effect, but what the hell did it mean? Did it have to mean something at all? And that feeling that she knew him from somewhere... Amanda was sure she had never met such a man before. What? Did one of her ancestors know him? How could that even be possible? Or maybe... maybe one of her ancestors knew one of his ancestors?
How much more ridiculous could all this nonsense get?
“You got room for one more?”
Amanda looked up.
Speak of the Devil.
“Sure, John,” she said, shuffling to a side, “take a seat.”
He sat down and took a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket. He took one out and offered one to Amanda.
“Thanks,” she said, as he lit it for her and then lit his own.
They smoked for a while, silently competing to blow the longest trail of smoke.
“So,” John said, tapping his stick and making the ashes scatter, “What are you doing up so early?”
“I could ask you the same question,” Amanda replied, watching the wisps of smoke trail away from her mouth in mild fascination, folding and curling into the clean air.
“You could. But you haven't.”
“Just wanted to be away, be alone for a few minutes to think,” Amanda took a long pull and blew out smoke, “You?”
“Those two irritate me,” John replied, bluntly, “You all do.”
Amanda scoffed, “Nice.”
“But I thought - since you were wondering around on your own I could ask you: what the hell happened when we met?”
Amanda hesitated, “I guess I owe you that explanation, thing is - I'm not entirely sure myself. I touched you and... I don't know... Something weird happened.”
John chuckled, leaning back on the bench and spreading his arms across the back-rest, “I can have that effect,” his smug voice said.
Amanda gave him a look, “Don't flatter yourself,” she scoffed with a wry smile on her face, “They've been putting me in the machine, they said it would help to train me and... I think it's working. But I can't sleep and I'm... seeing things,” she shook her head, as if that might help to clear her thoughts, “When I touched you, I saw you in an English military uniform or a Crusader's uniform - complete with sword, shield and cross of St George. It freaked me out,” she blew out smoke and threw her cigarette away, her ring glinting in the meagre sunlight, “It's absolutely ridiculous, but I feel like I know you from somewhere.”
John didn't say anything for a while, he didn't even look at her. He continued to smoke until his cigarette was burnt down to the butt, and then flicked it away. But he noticed the silver on Amanda's thumb and said, “You're not one of them, are you?”
Amanda paused, “What do you mean?”
“An Assassin. You're not an Assassin.”
Amanda touched the Hidden Blade around her right arm and slid the blade out for a moment, before using the mechanism to slide it back in, “I don't really know what I am,” she admitted, perhaps more to herself than to John.
“Then what's with the ring?”
“It belonged... to Daniel Cross.”
“Right, right... Your boyfriend left you something, then?”
Amanda didn't know how to respond to the question. What if John disapproved of it all as well? She didn't need to hear anymore about how awful Daniel had been. So she just stayed quiet and hoped that John would drop the subject.
He didn't, “Shaun told me,” John explained, “Big guy, Daniel. Saw him once. He was an asshole. How'd you put up with him?”
Amanda regarded John for a long moment, “You don't seem at all... hostile about knowing this.”
“Hostile? I'm just making conversation.”
“I know, it's just the others-”
“I told you: they're irritating.”
Amanda scoffed, “And what makes you different?”
“Oh, maybe it's: I don't care?”
Amanda smiled and didn't respond.
She observed the man with the Elvis haircut and the strange eyes, the man in the blue jacket over a black T-shirt printed with a white skull, the man wearing black fingerless gloves. She saw a pendant around that man's neck, with the image of a beautiful woman locked inside.
And before she could stop herself: “Who's that?” Amanda asked.
“Who says it has to be anybody?” John snapped, knowing immediately who she was asking about. He zipped up his jacket to hide the pendant.
“Well, it doesn't really seem to go with your look,” Amanda said, rubbing a finger under her nose to hide her amusement at John's reaction. She didn't know that someone as apathetic and indifferent as him could be self-conscious, and seeing him so uncomfortable made her feel light-hearted. It was a nice change from all the heavy material she had become so accustomed to hearing and seeing.
“What are you talking about?” John snapped, scowling.
“The pendant is elegant...” Amanda commented, “which is clearly not what you're going for.”
John turned to look at her, “My God. She has a sense of humour,” he laughed, “The lady's just... somebody,” he said with a shrug.
“Do you... you ever miss her?” she asked with caution.
She didn't think John would answer, but he said, “All the time, Amanda. All the time.”