Lee sat in his Agency loaner car and watched Dotty leave the pretty looking house on Maplewood Drive. She got into a white sedan that was waiting for her and briefly spoke to the woman who was sitting in the driver's seat. He saw them both laugh and then move off down the road.
Having already seen the boys leaving earlier that evening with some friends and their parents, Lee knew it was safe to visit Amanda. He got out of the car and after a cursory glance in both directions, he crossed the road.
Amanda wearily sank onto the couch and let out a long sigh. Philip and Jamie were at a sleepover being as the next day was a Saturday, and Dotty was out at the movies with the friend she'd met for lunch. She switched on the television and gazed blankly at the screen letting her mind drift over the day's events.
In particular, she recalled the talk she'd had with Billy. She had told him that she needed some time to think over her position at the Agency as she wasn't sure that it was what she wanted anymore. It was the truth, she tried to persuade herself. It had just taken Lee's harsh words to make her realise it, that's all.
Of course, Billy had tried to convince her that she was a valued member of the Agency but she'd been adamant in her decision. In the end, he had agreed to give her a week to think about things and then give him an answer either way.
A gentle tapping sound snapped her out of her reverie. She turned her head and looked expectantly towards the kitchen window. Nothing. Disappointment filled her and she silently chiding herself for even momentarily believing it would be Lee.
The sound came again and when Amanda turned this time, her heart missed a beat when she saw Lee entering her kitchen. "Hi," he greeted with a slight smile, uncertain of his welcome.
Amanda rose from the couch and stared back at him. "Hi."
"I saw your mother and the boys go out earlier so I thought I'd just come straight in," he explained.
Amanda didn't respond. Instead, they stood in an awkward silence and looked at each other until both started talking at the same time.
"What did you…"
"Amanda, I wanted…"
They stopped. Another silence followed then Lee finally said, "You go ahead."
"No, you first," she replied.
"Amanda, please…" Lee said, his tone revealing a hint of exasperation.
"I just wanted to know why you were here," she told him. "I thought you'd said everything this afternoon."
Guiltily, Lee glanced away then cleared his throat before saying, "Yeah, well, I had a little chat with Billy after you left this afternoon and he told me what you'd talked about. He was concerned about the decision you were thinking of making and asked me if I had any ideas to keep you at the Agency."
"Oh." She looked down. "So, Mr. Melrose asked you to come see me," she stated, the disappointment evident in her voice.
"No, I came because I wanted to," he corrected quietly.
Her head shot up and she stared at him in surprise. "Oh," she said again.
Lee stared into her expressive brown eyes and sighed. "Amanda, I didn't mean what I said this afternoon about you leaving the Agency. I was angry and now that I've calmed down I realise that I…well…overreacted a little bit."
"A little bit?" she questioned incredulously. "I think it was more than a little bit, Lee."
"Ok, it was more than a little bit," he allowed. His voice took on an edge of reproval as he pointed a finger at her and added, "But if you had just done what I told you in the first place, then none of this would've happened."
"I was concerned about you. You don't know what it's like to sit and wait in a car wondering what's going on," she argued back. "I'd rather be helping you."
"You would be helping me if you could just do as you're told!" he retorted with voice raised.
For a second they stared at each other irately then, suddenly, Lee's face took on a contrite look. "Oh, Amanda, I'm sorry. I came here to apologise for what I said and here I am starting another argument."
Amanda let out a sigh. "Lee, you don't have to apologise. In a lot of ways you were right. I am going to have to learn to deal with certain aspects of the job if I want to stay on. You just voiced my own concerns for me that's all. It made me stop and think and that's what I needed. My life seems to have been on a constant rollercoaster since we met and a week off to think over things as Mr. Melrose suggested is just what I need right now."
"I can understand that. This job makes my life feel like a rollercoaster too sometimes and I'm used to it," he admitted with feeling.
"It doesn't get any easier then?" she asked curiously.
"I wouldn't say it gets easier. You just try to ignore the downs and make the most of the ups. The only time it gets tricky is when it throws a curve in that you weren't expecting."
"Like I did today?"
Lee gingerly rubbed his head and gave a mock grimace. "Well, I'd call that more of a dark tunnel with a curve thrown in." He flashed her a smile and added warmly, "But I'm getting used to those now."
Amanda felt a light blush creep up her cheeks at his words. "Well, I like to keep you on your toes," she commented with embarrassment.
"You do that all right," he agreed with a chuckle. "It's good practice for being out in the field."
Amanda laughed with him, then sobered and let out a sigh. "You know, in an odd sort of way, it's comforting to know that you go through the same thing as I do. I feel very alone not being able to talk to anyone. Not even my own mother. Do you know how hard it is for me to lie to her all the time? It's horrible."
"Yeah, I know," Lee replied solemnly. Seeing how dejected she was, he moved closer to her and reached out. Tenderly, he placed a finger under her chin and lifted her bowed head to look at him. When he had her attention, he let his hand drop. "Amanda, why don't we make a deal, huh?" he suggested with a gentle smile. "To stop me worrying, you promise to stay put when I tell you and in return…"
"You worry about me?" she interrupted, her face visibly brightening.
"What?" he asked in confusion.
"Just now. You said I should stay put to stop you worrying." She gave him a tremulous smile. "Oh Lee, that's really very sweet that you care."
Lee cleared his throat and shuffled his feet uneasily. He was caught. Inwardly, he cursed himself for letting the comment slip. "I only worry about whether you'll interfere with the job," he told her defensively.
"Well, of course. I knew that," she replied. Her grin grew wider as she watched him squirm uncomfortably under her amused scrutiny. "But I want to say thank you all the same."
Lee's cheeks grew warm. Feeling decidedly out of his depth, he cleared his throat once more and started edging backwards. "Look, uh…I'd better get going, I've got an early start in the morning. You know how it is." He turned on his heel and headed towards the back door. Upon reaching his goal, he rested his hand on the doorknob then paused to turn back and look at her smiling face. "Will you be in tomorrow?" he asked somewhat curtly.
After a slight hesitation, Amanda hedged, "Well, I do still have those transcripts Mr. Melrose asked me to type up, so I guess…"
"I'll see you tomorrow," he cut in with a sudden grin. At her nod, he left the kitchen and shut the door behind him. As she watched, he stopped briefly to turn and give her a wave before disappearing into the darkness.
Amanda sat back down on the couch and hugged herself. "He worries about me," she said aloud and grinned. "That's just so sweet."