Amanda woke with the same lethargy, but stayed lying down for a moment.
Daniel had refused to speak to her, refused to interact with her in anyway. She sat up, and put her hands to her face. It was dry with stale tears.
“Welcome back,” Dr Sung said, “More exploring-?” she paused abruptly when she saw Amanda crying, “Are you alright?”
Amanda bit her lip and didn't say anything. She looked away from the doctor and shook her head, a shaky sigh leaving her.
Dr Sung sat down in the swivel chair, and thought for a moment, “Is this about your slight joust with Mr Otso Berg? You have nothing to worry about, Amanda,” the doctor reassured, putting a hand on the woman's shoulder, “Abstergo encourages aggressive competition. Daniel, for one, would have been proud that you floored his fresh but biggest rival.”
Amanda sniffed, “That's what I thought...” she murmured, “But...”
“I'm... so confused,” Amanda said, “I... I'm not sure who I am anymore. And this person I'm becoming...” she shook her head, looking at her hands, “Do I want to be that?”
“Oh my...” Dr Sung said, “Amanda, there's nothing wrong with you.”
Amanda bowed her head, “I don't believe that.”
“Why don't you go over to the recreation facility?” Dr Sung suggested, “Play some snooker or paint a picture perhaps? I think, in my bid to relieve of your daily stress, I've given you too much time on your own.”
“I'm fine... I just...” Amanda looked at Dr Sung and shrugged, “I don't know.”
Dr Sung paused for thought and said, “I have another patient scheduled right now, but how about you meet me for lunch? We'll eat out somewhere, and talk this through.”
“I don't know...”
“Amanda, I am not taking 'no' for an answer!” the doctor said, “I insist on trying to help you. As your friend, not your general practitioner.”
Amanda looked at Dr Sung and said, “Okay. Where should I meet you?”
“There's a restaurant a few blocks down, a nice Italian place. Big red sign, you can't miss it,” the doctor said, “Meet me there.”
Amanda nodded slowly, “Okay.”
“There's nothing much to report this time round, Amanda,” Dr Sung said, “About your retreat in the Black Room. Though, your adrenaline levels are very high in there. Cut down on the sugar, maybe? Your hyperactivity would scare a regular doctor,” she chuckled and went back to her desk.
Amanda smiled a little and got off the Animus. She picked up Daniel's coat and put it on, fastening it to her.
She hadn't cared for how big it was until now.
She swallowed her sorrow and made herself smile and said, “Thanks again, Dr Sung.”
The doctor nodded, and Amanda left the office.
As she stepped out, loud music played across the corridors. It sounded like a country's anthem or the song someone might play at a coronation.
“The holy princess cometh! Behold! Beh-o-ld!”
Amanda rolled her eyes, stuffed her hands into her pockets and padded her way to her room. She guessed this was Berg's way of resenting her. As people stuck their heads out of their lodgings and gave Amanda amused looks, she slowed her step, walking with more grace and regality, with her nose held mockingly in the air and a douchey look spread across her face.
“Nice legs, Princess!” someone called and whistled.
She laughed with haught and said, “Thank you kindly, my humble subject,” in a nasal voice.
Her neighbour stepped out of his quarters and gave her a look, “What are you doing?” he laughed.
“Taking Berg's lemons, making lemonade and then throwing it in his face,” she replied, taking out her key and entering her room. She turned and blew kisses, “Farewell, my subjects! I do hope the court jester, Mr Berg, has entertained you to your satisfaction!”
Amanda shut the door and laughed. It had almost made her forget about Daniel. Almost. She slid down to the floor and hugged her knees.
She caught sight of herself in the mirror across the room and stared. She looked at the bruises that covered her face like purple face-paint, the red cut that split her lip. She felt the aches and pains around her body and wondered why she wasn't swearing internally about them all the time. She stared and stared at the person in the mirror, examining the face screwed in confusion. Amanda took off the coat, and stepped towards the mirror - touching the glass surface that reflected her strong arms, large thighs, built waist. She traced over the blotchy purple patches.
This wasn't Amanda May.
Amanda May was a school teacher, who never got into fights but ran away from them or endured them. She had skinny arms and skinny legs and she could count her bones when she wanted to. Amanda May would gladly lose to an arrogant bastard like Berg by convincing herself that it was what the bigger thing to do.
So who was she looking at?
Who was the stranger in the mirror who had the ghost of a reminiscence of Amanda May but was not her?
Amanda touched the face on the glass and said, “Nope. Nope, I was right. You are never going to be fine.”
She sighed and went to her wardrobe. She picked out her clothes, and put them on. She took down Daniel's confidential briefcase and procured the photograph of her old self. She stared at it - as if to remind herself of who she had been, but more importantly: who she no longer was, who she could no longer be.
Amanda shook her head, “This is who I wanted to be,” she said, “The lonely, sad English teacher - who's hardest decision in life was which country to go to next, which moron to sleep with for a bout of stress release,” her eyes were lost in a mist of tears, “Who the hell am I now? Templar princess? A messiah?” she threw the picture away, “He was right. A big fuck-up. We should have broken-up.”
Amanda remained this way, thinking and thinking in solitary confinement, until she couldn't take it anymore. She stood up and got out of her room.
This time, a Darth Vader theme blasted down the corridor.
“Oh, fuck you, Berg!” she screamed, “Stop being a pissy little bitch, disturbing everyone because you couldn't beat me! Good fucking God, a neutered dog has more inches than you!”
There was a chorus of assent as she said this, “See? Even the goddamn Republicans agree!”
The music continued to play and she said, “When any one of you get the news that Juhani Otso Berg's balls have dropped, please let me know? So I can kick them so hard, they come flying out of his nostrils?”
She locked her door and walked down the corridor and descended down a flight of steps.
“Going somewhere?” asked her neighbour, who was sorting through some of his mail.
“Mike,” Amanda said in greeting, “Hi, er... I'm getting sick of sitting about, so I thought I'd walk around aimlessly outside.”
“Productive,” he said, “Let me know how that works out for you,” he paused, listening to the pounding music, “First princess and now emperor? I think Berg really likes you.”
“I think my fist is going to really like his face,” Amanda said, “and my knee, his groin.”
Mike laughed, “Amanda, he's just a sore loser. He's upset because people still talk about Daniel Cross, and now he's furious that Daniel's English-teacher girlfriend gave him what-for. Just enjoy the popularity or ignore it.”
“It's hard, Mike,” Amanda said.
“I might just buy myself a crown if he keeps coronating me.”
“Which reminds me,” Mike took a hat off the desk next to him, “You left it in the cafeteria the other day.”
“Thanks, and do me a favour,” she said, putting her hat on her head, “if you see anyone hanging around my place, please stop them from sabotaging my idyllic room. It's music now, but I see a lot of hate-crime-worthy pranking in my future.”
Mike snorted, “You have my word, your Highness.”
Amanda laughed, doffed her hat and left the lobby.
She stuffed her hands in her pockets and regretted not wearing the coat. The cold was refreshing though, it reminded her of home somewhat. She sighed and gave in to a whim, stepped into a coffee shop and bought a cup of tea. She felt the warmth spread through her as she drank it.
This was something Amanda May would do.
Walk around the streets in shorts - mid-November - and buy tea to warm up.
She went around to look for Dr Sung's Italian restaurant, and found one as she had described - a few blocks down, big red sign that you couldn't miss if you were blind.
Wouldn't it have been so much easier to just give a name?
But Amanda knew why she hadn't. Dr Sung wanted a private conversation, and she didn't want to be followed by a jealous bitch like Berg.
Amanda stepped into the restaurant, finding half the place empty.
“Ah, Amanda,” Dr Sung's voice reached her, “You're early.”
“This place is so nice, but it's so empty,” Amanda commented.
“It usually opens around 7 pm. Before that, only members get in,” Dr Sung showed her a card, “Sit. Order whatever you like and however much, the bill is set on a monthly basis.”
“Wait...” Amanda said, “Seriously?”
Dr Sung gestured for her to sit down, “As serious as serious gets.”
A well-dressed waiter passed them and handed them their menus. He greeted them and told them about the specials.
Amanda put in her order - food enough to feed a horse - and handed him the menu. Dr Sung chuckled and ordered something much, much lighter.
“Maybe I should have ordered up some fish and chips again,” Dr Sung joked.
Amanda blushed, “Are you sure this is no hassle?”
“No hassle at all,” said the doctor, “Daniel came here a few times with me. And I assure you: he ate a lot more.”
Amanda smiled, “You really had a soft spot for him, didn't you?”
“He'd been my most frequent patient for the last decade or so. You could say I learned to connect with him,” Dr Sung gazed at Amanda, “I see a lot of him in you.”
Amanda paused, “Really?”
“It's not at all a bad thing, Amanda. Yes, Daniel had some very awful traits, but he did have some good ones also. He was a confused man, one whose mind had been severely tampered with,” the doctor looked at her hands, “But some of his best qualities are in you. Sensitivity. Wit. Determination. Loyalty.”
“I feel like I'm... picking up his bad qualities as well.”
“Correct me if I'm wrong, Amanda, but you've been through Hell and High Water these last few months. That's not Daniel rubbing off on you, that's just you being frustrated and trying to focus all your energies on something other than your more sensitive emotions. You substitute sorrow for anger, words of regret and longing for strong words of rebuke. I believe it will pass, with time.”
“But... this person... this person with all the bruises on her face and the muscular body... that isn't me. That isn't who I was.”
“The person you used to be can't survive in the world you've stepped into. Amanda, you're just adapting. It's normal.”
Amanda furrowed her brows and sighed, “I just... I feel so out of place, so strange... I don't want to fight with people, hunt down conspiracies and become this... thing that does that. But the desire to just submit to it becomes... so much more tempting. It scares me.”
“Don't let the adrenaline and endorphins get the better of you, Amanda. You are a good person, I believe that. Just remember it, when the temptation strikes you.”
“Thank you, Dr Sung,” Amanda said.
Dr Sung smiled and said, “I heard your coronation this morning.”
“I think the whole state of Pennsylvania might have heard that.”
Dr Sung laughed, “I know you feel bad about beating Mr Berg up - subconsciously. But he had it coming. And I firmly believe that Daniel wouldn't have missed it for the world, if he was here.”
“When... when am I going to stop feeling like a stranger?”
“When you've given your mind enough time to catch up with the changes in your body and your environment. When you accept that this,” she gestured to Amanda, “is now who you are, and the Templar way and purpose is what defines you.”
“Do you think it defines me?”
“That's not a question I can answer.”