I woke up earlier than I always do. A smile immediately appeared on my face the second I remembered what happened last night. For the first time in my life, I’m finally in a relationship. All the girls I had kissed before didn’t matter. All I could ever think of was Isaiah’s lips on mine. Even with that clumsy attempt of a kiss, I couldn’t help but be giddy.
Never did I imagine that I’d be in a relationship with someone. Isaiah was a wonderful guy. He’s patient with me, understanding and kind. Even with his bad temper, he still does everything for me. He wasn’t asking for anything, just that he wanted to be with me.
No money involved.
No influence or power in exchange for being with me.
Isaiah just wanted me.
Another uncontrolled smile crept on my face and I giggled like an idiot. I buried my face in the pillow, hoping that it’d calm me down.
I’m in cloud nine right now.
I didn’t want to end this feeling as if I was high from drugs, but I had to get up and start my day. Paolo had been grounded for a week and even though I felt bad for him, I couldn’t help but be happy for my temporary freedom. I’m sure Tyler had already arranged his men to ensure I’d stay on my leash, and one of them was Stephen. I could already imagine him hovering over me with that annoying teasing smile of his while acting like the loyal guard dog that he was. Stephen and I both knew he hated doing things for Tyler. But it’s not as if he had a choice. His family had been working for the Torres-Shao for a long time and it’s to be expected that he also worked for us after being under my family’s protection. If it wasn’t for dad, Stephen’s father would have difficulties establishing his business in the country. Dad had all the connections in the government that needed bribing to get what others wanted.
Getting up, I almost skipped to my bathroom in sheer happiness. When was the last time I woke up like I’m happy to be alive? Oh, never.
I took a quick shower, washing my hair and body before getting out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my waist. I hated going to class so early in the morning but today was a different day.
Because the idea of seeing Isaiah in the corridor thrilled me more than anything in my life.
I didn’t notice I’d been smiling to myself since the moment I opened my eyes and remembered the blissful memory I shared with Isaiah.
No one could ruin this moment for me, no—
A knock on the door woke me up from my reverie. The smile I thought I’d have until I go to sleep immediately disappeared as I get the feeling I already knew who was behind the door.
And true enough, when I opened the door it was Stephen.
“Hello, good morning,” he greeted, his laidback smile immediately annoying me. He sees it and his smile turned bigger. “Let me guess, I ruined your morning, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” I said, giving a fake grin. “You know I can come to class by myself, right? I’m not some kindergarten you need to take care of.”
I let him come in as the door closed behind him. “Oh, trust me, Liam. I know that. But your brother thinks otherwise.”
Paolo could be annoying in some ways because of his overprotectiveness, but I’d choose him a heartbeat rather than Stephen who wouldn’t even hide the fact that he’s being forced to do this.
He sat on the couch while I sashayed back to my room. I looked at myself one last time, nodding my head when I saw I was ready to go out. I never liked wearing the damn blazer, it was too hot especially in summer. But Tyler would always tell me that I had to some kind of role model to these delinquents as if walking in proper uniform would make them follow. These kids were rapists, murderers, con-artists, and all other evil things that any insane human would be able to do.
I don’t want to be one of them but in some weird ways, I do belong to them.
And Isaiah doesn’t.
Well, there goes my cheerful mood. I was optimistic when I said it’d last until I go to sleep. Reality just had to ruin it.
Isaiah said he’s going to wait for me. He understood why I couldn’t tell him anything important about my family—the syndicate that we belonged in, my father and brothers who were not new to killing people and destroying their lives, and the other half that lived inside me that wanted so bad to take over…
I shut my eyes.
This wasn’t the right time to think about him.
“Are you sure?”
“Let’s go, Liam. You’ll be late for school, darling,” Stephen called out.
I grabbed my bag, heading out of the bedroom. “You’re not my mom,” I snarled at Stephen who only shrugged his shoulders.
“I might as well be, you’re my precious son after all,” he teased before laughing out loud from his terrible joke.
Morning class had never been interesting for me. North Vale always advertised their exceptional disciplinary programs that would correct a child’s behavior to turn him into an exemplary citizen, but it was all bullshit. There’s no difference between the juveniles and the delinquents, only that they had different buildings to stay at. But once lunch came, we all gathered in shared cafeterias. I didn’t know if dad was a genius or a desperate idiot to do this, but I’m sure he’s all doing it for money. And now that he had connections with powerful men and politicians in the country, he could do whatever he wanted with North Vale. The school only existed because it was the perfect place to hide his illegal dealings.
Drugs, firearms, and human trafficking, this place was hell for people like Isaiah. He shouldn’t be in here and yet he had fallen into my father’s lies.
As if anyone would come out right when they attend North Vale.
I looked at Rocky. The last class before lunch had already ended but I had no will to get up and eat. I kept thinking about whether it was the right choice to drag Isaiah into my shitty world. He’s a strong guy, but we still had different lives. Even if I explain to him what my family does for a living, I’m sure he’d look at me in disgust and disappointment.
I wouldn’t want to see him regret his decisions.
He was so happy when I told him we should try it out, dating and other stuff. And believe me when I said I was as happy as him.
For me to be able to meet that one person who’d understand me.
But I couldn’t be fully honest with him.
And it’s killing me inside.
“Grounded,” I answered after a long pause.
Rocky raised a brow at me, confused. “For what?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Oh, come on, boss. It’s not like we have five minutes for lunch,” he said, grinning at me.
I stared at him only to crack a defeated smile. Rocky was one of the few people in my gang that was level-headed. And being friends with Martinez for a long time, a trait like that would be impossible as Martinez tends to be the most annoying person in the room with his big mouth and brash attitude. Nevertheless, Rocky maintained his calm and would only lose it if people dare to step on him.
“Fine,” I said, surrendering at his whims. Rocky always wanted to know what was happening around him, or maybe Tyler had told him he had to look out for me now that Paolo was locked in his room for the meantime. “Let’s go.”
We walked out of the classroom and into the busy corridor where some students were hanging out outside of their rooms, gossiping at the latest news in North Vale. I couldn’t help but wonder what they’re talking about. It’s either about their classmates, the Torres-Shao group, or the gangs that they belonged to.
Or maybe it’s about me and Isaiah.
No, don’t be ridiculous. It’s impossible for people to discover my relationship with Isaiah. I was careful not to let anyone see. We were in front of Maria’s office, no students would be able to come close to the building without being reprimanded.
“Did you hear about the latest news?” Rocky asked.
I eyed him. “What latest news?”
“About Evan punishing that first year,” he said.
I didn’t hear anything about that. Evan was known for being unpredictable and cruel. Behind that innocent face lied a cunning and merciless guy that could do anything he wanted just because he was the headmistress’ little brother. And not only that, I heard his family was acquainted with the Mafia although I wasn’t sure what group it was…or even if it was real. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be that hard to believe. Evan had done some crazy things in the past and never faced consequences for it. His sadistic tendency usually turns people away from him, well, except Miki.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Some first-year tried to flirt with Miki and the rest was history,” Rocky mumbled. He didn’t try to hide his disgust as he also knew how ruthless Evan could be when it comes to people who try to touch what was his. He’s been keeping Miki all to himself, making him act like a loyal guard dog who’d do whatever he asks.
“Is that why he didn’t attend classes this morning?” I asked. It wasn’t that hard to miss Miki when his height towered most of our classmates. He’s been called the gentle giant because of his nonchalant attitude. But I knew better not to anger him. He could be as dangerous as any murdered in the school, and with Evan backing him up, he too would be unstoppable if angered.
“Did Evan go to school?” I asked.
He’s two years younger than we were but it doesn’t stop him from hanging out with the older kids. Besides, he was a gang leader feared in the senior high department even when he’s only a junior. That’s how powerful Evan could be.
“No, I don’t think so,” Rocky answered. “I don’t think he will after what happened. It was a bloodbath. I heard the first year was admitted to the hospital.”
I tried not to roll my eyes. I should talk to Evan about this matter. Just because he’s a gang leader doesn’t mean he could do things like this. Tyler wouldn’t let it go as well since he’d be the one to pay for the damage done.
“I’ll call Even,” I announced.
Rocky gulped, his eyes shifting nervously at me. “Do you think he’ll even answer?” he asked.
“He has to,” I murmured. I needed to know what his reasons were before Tyler comes back and demand answers from me. For some dumb reason, it became my responsibility to look after the other gangs established in our school. Why was it my job again? Ah, right. Because I’m a Torres-Shao.
I took my phone out and found his number in my list of contacts. Evan Aquino. An enigmatic individual who hides demons behind his carefree smiles. I’d be lying if I say I’m not scared of him.
A few rings later and he finally answered. “I didn’t expect I’d receive a call from you, Liam.” Evan’s voice was teasing as if he hadn’t mutilated someone yesterday.
“What did the first year do, Evan?” I asked. Rocky and I continued to walk through the spacious corridor, going our way to the nearest cafeteria on the first floor.
“I’m sure you already know but she tries to f*ck Miki.”
This time, I successfully rolled my eyes due to his pettiness. “You’re better than that, Evan. You could have told her not to mess with Miki. It’s not that hard.”
“It’s also a warning to your damn classmates who’s always around him when I’m not there.” The tone of his voice dropped, letting me know that he’s not kidding around. Miki was his and no one would be able to take him away from Evan without meeting death itself.
I was quiet for a second and so was he. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you don’t even like Miki.”
Evan scoffed and I could see that derisive gaze he always had when people oppose him. “It doesn’t matter whether I like the idiot or not. He’s useful for me. And that’s what matters. Out of all the people in this school, you should know what it’s like to have useful people around you.”
I furrowed my brows. “What?”
“Isn’t that why you still have Paolo when he clearly likes you? We’re the same, Liam.”
My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t know what to say. “Why are you bringing Paolo into this?” I asked, my voice almost cracking.
Evan laughed. “I’m just saying that to defend myself, dear Liam. Anyway, I’ll talk to my sister to do something about Tyler. You don’t need to worry about what I did. It won’t affect you in any way, I promise.”
He hung up the phone leaving me stunned.
“What did he say?” Rocky asked.
I hid my trembling hands in my pocket before looking at him with a forced smile. “He said he’ll take care of Tyler. So, no need to be worried about me.”
He smiled in relief. “That’s good then. Your brother won’t like it if he knew something like this happened while he’s on vacation.”
I averted my gaze off him, my heart filled with guilt. Paolo doesn’t like me in that way. I knew Miki’s doing everything for Evan because he liked the guy. As for Paolo, it was his duty to always be with me. He’s getting paid for it, I—
I closed my eyes for a second.
It’d be fine.
I’ll be fine.
Finally, we arrived at the cafeteria. It wasn’t as busy as I thought it’d be, probably because a lot of the students were outside playing sports or smoking whatever drugs to pass time.
I wasn’t hungry but I had to eat or else Rocky would report my strange behavior to Stephen and it would reach Tyler. And if my brother asks me why I’m acting weirdly, he’d know about my relationship with Isaiah.
All my life I had been walking on eggshells. One mistake and it’d be over for me and Isaiah. I wouldn’t dare make him suffer because of my family. If the time ever comes where I had to choose him or my family, I’d gladly let him go for his own safety.
“Are you sure about that?”
I ignored the voice in my head.
“What do you want to eat, boss? There’s alfredo pasta, man…I missed the spaghetti in Jollibee. Can’t they make something like that here?”
I smiled at Rocky’s rant. “Make Tyler eat fast food then maybe we’ll have it here.”
“But your brother doesn’t eat anything unhealthy, it’s insane,” he complained.
Tyler loved to be in shape. Anything unhealthy was out of his diet. And that goes for me too. I’m not allowed to eat anything that his private chefs didn’t make. It’s almost hilarious how detailed he was when it comes to my body.
“I’ll just get the fried chicken and salad—”
I stopped when I noticed a few students rushing out of the cafeteria in excitement. “…the new student, right?!”
“Yeah, they’re outside fighting, let’s go watch!”
“Oh, I can’t wait to see Josh’s group annihilate that f*cker!”
I blinked. “What’s happening?” I asked. Stopping in the middle of the hall to watch the other kids run outside.
Rocky shrugged his shoulders. “Just another stupid gang fight. Nothing important. Let’s eat.”
New student. It can’t be…that’s—
“I’ll check it out,” I said.
Rocky gasped. “Wait, what? Why?”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” I said. I followed where the others had gone off to and found them across the lobby, hurrying their way out of the building.
Please don’t let it be Isaiah.
I ignored the others who I bumped into when I got out. I heard the girls squealed, delighted that it was me they saw. But I was too worried to apologize for what I did. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t Isaiah they’re fighting with.
He came here to prove to his father that he’s not like the other delinquents who’d fight anyone, anywhere they wanted just because they could. He didn’t teach Isaiah to be a fighter to use it for all the wrong reasons.
I made my way to the back of the high school building and my utter horror, I saw Isaiah in the middle of a crowd. Three of Josh’s boys were on the ground, their faces beat up. Only the leader, Josh was standing. The others were cheering for the fight to continue.
I was right.
Damn it, Isaiah!
I forced my way into the crowd, glaring at one random guy who pushed me back. “F*ck off,” I warned, and he quickly backed away, pulling the others he was with after realizing who I was.
“You little shit, you’ll regret doing that!”
Josh was about to charge at him, but I was quick to stop his fist from ever touching Isaiah. They were both surprised to see me. “L-Liam?” Josh mouthed my name, his eyes widening in realization.
He knew he’s f*cked.
“Who told you to attack him?” I asked, shoving him away from Isaiah.
“Wait, Liam, what are you doing here?”
I glared at Isaiah. “Don’t,” I simply said, giving him a threatening glare. I was expecting he’d back away, just like the others who knew what I was capable of doing. But instead, Isaiah glared back at me, his annoyance evident on his face. He didn’t have any wounds or bruises, just that he was sweating profusely as it was damn hot outside.
Good, thank God nothing happened to him.
“This is my fight,” he said. Hearing his growl woke something inside me but I was too angry to even listen to my body. “Stay the f*ck away,” he cautioned.
“This isn’t anyone’s fight.” I looked back at Josh and saw he was getting ready to run away like the coward that he was. Just because he was under Keanne’s gang doesn’t mean he’d go unpunished for what he did. “Who told you to attack him? And why?”
“I-I—” he stammered.
“Tyler? Keanne? Who? Paolo?” I listed the names of the people that might have unfinished business with Isaiah. “Tell me!”
I don’t shout. I never do. But I wanted to know who it was who gave out orders for Josh to beat up Isaiah. He wouldn’t just do something like this unless it’s related to me or the other three that I just mentioned.
“Don’t bother answering, I’ll ask Keanne himself,” I said, my glare never leaving Josh’s face. He panicked and finally spilled the truth.
“Yes, yes, it was him! Please, he’ll kill me if I don’t land a punch on that f*cker!”
My fist moved on its own and I punched him straight on the face. Blood spurted everywhere as he dropped on the grass, unconscious.
“Someone clean up the f*cking mess or I’ll send you all to Tyler.”
My threat worked and five guys from the crowd hurried to carry Josh and his cronies. The other students were also quick to run away after hearing Tyler’s name in fear that they’d get punished for simply watching a dumb fight.
I turned to Isaiah and he was pissed. “Are you alright?” I asked. I didn’t notice my heart beating so fast. Now that I’ve calmed down, I could finally talk properly.
“I’ve had it! Why did you have to interfere?” he asked. Why was he angry when I just saved him from detention?
“I just save you from—”
“I don’t need saving, Liam! I can handle myself, god damn it.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “I was just—”
“They were the ones who came at me, is it bad that I just defended myself from those f*ckers?!”
Isaiah was really pissed, and I couldn’t do anything but just look at him in utter shock. “I was just worried that you’ll—”
“I’m not hurt,” he snapped, still glaring at me in anger. “God damn it, f*ck! Those f*ckers deserved to be punched like bitches!” he screamed before panting.
“Calm down, I was just really worried about you. I don’t want you going to detention because of them.”
“I’m calm, I really am, isn’t it obvious?” he asked sarcastically, smirking at me.
I rolled my eyes at him. “I’ll call Keanne and confront him about this. But for now, let’s go somewhere safe. Where we can be alone.”
Isaiah stared at me. The fury in his eyes was long gone as it was replaced by guilt.