Dad cocked his head, urging me to come inside the house. I walked past the iron gate, head cast low as I was too afraid to look at him. His eyes were burning in rage after witnessing that stunt with Remus. Damn it, and here I thought I could just take a bath and go to sleep.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked, his voice low and scary. I have fought many men in my life and some of them were much dangerous than my father, but he was the only one I couldn’t fight back when hurting me. It’s not like I could just punch my father for slapping me on the face for disobeying his word.
Never get involved in fights, never. It’s one of the many rules that dad laid out for me a long time ago. He had lots as I was a naughty child who never wanted to follow rules. I loved getting into trouble, putting fuckers to their respective places. There were too many assholes in this world and most of the times, they’d only learn their lesson by getting beaten up. I hated seeing people oppressing others, using violence to intimidate the weak, fuck that, I’d rather be punished by dad rather than turning a blind eye on those people who needed my help. What’s the point of even learning various fighting techniques if I wouldn’t even use it for the good? Sure, dad’s reason for enrolling me into those summer lessons was to make a man out of me and help me turn away from being gay, but it’s not like I could just command myself to become straight by doing manly things.
Dad knew that. Thus, why he stopped berating me for liking the same sex. As long as I stay out of trouble, he’d be fine about the fact that his only son was gay. I knew how much he’s suffering from it as he often says that he was a failure as a parent for allowing me to become who I am. And as much as it hurt, I couldn’t blame him.
Mom was the only one who understands me. She’d always protect me from dad’s wrath, showing how much she loved me whatever and whoever I was.
Fuck, I’m suddenly missing her, damn it.
“Listen, Dad,” I said, preparing the right words I had to say to avoid being sacked and hang on the tree for the rest of the night, “t-that was Steph’s date!”
Dad made a face, disgusted at what I just said. Seeing that expression and I immediately knew what he was thinking. “No! It’s not like that, dad! I don’t like that guy!”
“Then why the hell is he dropping you at our house, huh?” he asked through gritted teeth, his arms crossed in front of me as he was stopping himself from hurting me. I’m sure he was angry, of course, he would be, I just got out of suspension for initiating a fight with my schoolmate and now I’m causing another trouble.
“Dad,” I said, holding his arms to look straight into his eyes. I wasn’t sure if it would convince that I wasn’t lying but I wanted him to see that I was telling the truth. “That fu—” I stopped before I could spurt out something that would further help me get punished, “—that guy’s a bastard, dad! I accompanied Steph on her date with that guy she met online and he threatened me and told me not to come to their date next time because he couldn’t bang Steph!” I was panting as I explained my side of the story. I wasn’t wrong, I knew I wasn’t. That Remus was nothing but an asshole who wanted to satisfy his libido. And any girl would do, not just Stephanie. She was already head over heels for Remus and it wouldn’t be a challenge for him to manipulate my friend. He’d kiss her and immediately go for the kill—oh fuck, I don’t even want to think about it.
She’s too precious for me, and to get her heartbroken by a worthless bitch like him, I wouldn’t ever let that happen. Stephanie told me a hundred times how much she wanted to find the right one and give her all to that man. But with her sheltered upbringing, she’d only attract assholes like Remus and take advantage of her innocence.
“I don’t want Steph to end up with that guy, dad,” I said, biting back the tears as I showed him my sincerity. Stephanie’s unwary nature would be her demise and as her friend, I didn’t want that to happen. “Punching him was the only way to warn him not to come close to Steph!”
Dad stared at me, his gaze calculating. Stephanie had been my friend, the longest one actually, and dad adored her. He met her a lot of times as she always visits us, and he loved how ladylike Stephanie was. She was brought up with good manners, impressing dad as most students in public were widely known as brash (of course, to which I didn’t agree as there were more douchebags in private schools). Nonetheless, I believed that if dad realized I did it for Stephanie, I’m sure he’d let me go.
Finally, after a long wait of standing in front of dad, bracing myself to receive a heavy punch on the face, he grabbed my shoulders and heaved a long sigh. “Jesus, Isaiah, please don’t get in trouble again, please.” His voice almost cracked, and I was guilty of making him say those words, again. How many times have dad begged me to stay out of trouble? “I’m proud that you did it for Steph. But…I don’t want you to get into pointless fights anymore. You know why, right?”
He made me look at him, his face etched in worry. I bit my lip, averting my gaze off him. As much as I value my strong sense of justice, but dad had suffered the consequence of losing someone because of their firm conviction. “I know,” I quietly said, my shoulders dropping in dismay.
“Promise me, Isaiah,” dad said, squeezing my arms as he looked straight into my eyes, “promise me you’ll stay away from any fights.”
I looked at him, slowly nodding. I knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t. As long as I see someone needing my help, even if the situation was dangerous, I’m sure I’d run towards them and save them.
“I promise,” I quietly said.
Dad forced a smile at me. “Okay, good,” he said, pulling me for a tight hug. When he let go, he urged me to get into the house. The smell of adobo (1) filled the air and only then did I realize how hungry I was. Eating at that fancy restaurant felt like it’s been ages ago. “Go change your clothes and let’s eat dinner.”
I did what I was told. I walked to my room only to find Sam, my little sister, on top of my bed. She smirked at me, wiggling her brows knowingly.
“The fuck are you doing here?” I asked, glaring at her.
“Is that your boyfriend, big bro?” Sam asked, grinning slyly at me.
I was disgusted to even think that that fucker might be my boyfriend. Hell would freeze before I even imagine dating a prick like him. “No,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “What the hell you doing here anyway? You have your own room already, get out.”
Sam pouted at me. It’s obvious she’s been spying through my window as it was facing the front of our house. I hated letting her see any violent stuff, and so was dad. “Is that why dad is angry?” she asked, jumping out of my bed to near me. “Because you brought your boyfriend home? He has a nice car. Is he rich?”
I grunted. I began taking my uniform off, pulling a shirt and jogging pants from the wardrobe. “I’d rather die than to date that guy,” I said.
“Why? He looks hot,” she said. I flicked her forehead with my middle finger, and she gasped out loud, rubbing it. “Ouch! That hurts!”
“Don’t you dare go close to those kinds of guys, I’ll beat them to a pulp,” I threatened, playfully glaring at Sam.
She puffed her cheeks and said, “I’m too invested in Kpop to even think about boys.”
I stifled a laugh, loving how childish my little sister was. She might be annoying at times, but I loved her to death. “Come on, let’s go eat dinner.”
I woke up early in the morning to get ready for school. I remembered we have a test in Algebra and that I hated not preparing for any examinations. It’s like going to war without any weapons, as a famous philosopher once said something close to that.
Taking a quick bath before Sam wakes up and hogs the bathroom, I finished getting dressed. Dad was already up preparing breakfast for us. I made a quick detour towards the altar where mom’s photo was. I smiled at her and greeted her good morning before going to the dining room where the table was already set with food. I salivated upon seeing bacon and egg on the plate with fried rice.
“Wow, looks delicious,” I said, walking to my usual chair to sit down.
“Where’s Sam?” dad asked while making his coffee.
“Still taking a bath,” I replied. I began eating while reviewing my notes on the upcoming test. While memorizing mathematical formulas, I sensed dad staring at me. “What?” I asked, blinking.
“Remember what you promised me last night, Isaiah,” he said before taking a sip of his coffee.
I chuckled. “Yes, dad,” I said, “I haven’t forgotten it yet. Don’t you trust me?”
“If I do, we won’t be having this conversation,” he sarcastically asked.
Ugh, he’s right. “Don’t worry, I won’t get in trouble anymore. I promise.”
“You better. You’re one mistake away before I enroll you in North Vale.”
I inwardly scoffed. Dad had always been using that threat for a long time that I wasn’t even scared of it anymore. I was back when I was like ten and North Vale was first established. It gained popularity across the country for its unique style of education. Yeah, reforming fucked-up teenagers my ass. Unlike those bastards, I haven’t committed a real crime. And if protecting people were considered as illegal, then it’s not surprising this country wouldn’t progress at all.
It’s known that North Vale was a place where the trash of the society goes to. I had no idea what’s it like inside that prison, no one does. There were rumors that students who go in rarely comes out alive. You either die there due to the relentless gang wars and such, or you graduate from North Vale and live the rest of your life traumatized at how scary it was to be in a place where you could potentially get killed. Numerous gossips circulated our school about the delinquents who were involved in serious crimes such as drug usage, participating in gangs or fraternity activities and any other felonies that required them to go to North Vale to be reformed. And none of them have come out.
North Vale was a dangerous place, but many people see it as the last resort to send juveniles to be rehabilitated. It beats the government taking over the minors which would only be attending seminars only to repeat the crimes they had done and, in the future, be involved in heinous ones that could destroy innocent lives. It’s been one of the country’s greatest problem and the public wanted nothing but to be safe against these kids that they couldn’t discipline. And North Vale was the perfect solution for that. They think the school was the answer for their prayers, as juvenile crimes had been rising for the past years. It’s almost as if it’s normal to hear news about kids being tangled in some sort of murder, rape or thievery and the people couldn’t do anything about but shake their heads in disappointment.
The government approved of North Vale’s disciplinary actions. As of today, there were two branches of the school and not a lot of people knew where exactly it was located. Somewhere deep in the forest, island, whatever, I didn’t give a shit.
It’s not like dad dared to bring me to that school. He’s not that desperate, right?
Sam finally finished taking a bath and I was already done with my breakfast. I put my notes back in the bag, standing up from my chair. “I need to go,” I said, drinking the glass of water empty.
My little sister eyed me with a raised brow. “What? So early?” she asked.
“Yeah, I have an exam and I don’t want to fail,” I said, smirking at her. “Not like someone who spent her whole night watching music videos of those Korean bands again,” I teased, ruffling Sam’s hair to which she groaned in annoyance.
“What’s wrong with that?!” she demanded, puffing her cheeks at me.
Before I could leave, dad called my name. I turned to him and waited for what he had to say. “I have to finish repairing the toilets at Mrs. Santos’ warehouse. It’s clogged again,” he said, scrunching his nose. It’s been the third time he was called to fix at Mrs. Santos’ place, what the hell were they shitting to clog it that many times? “Can you go back with Sam after school?”
Ever since mom passed away, dad had been borderline protective of Sam and I couldn’t blame him, and neither could my little sister. He always fears for the worst when it comes to her knowing how dangerous the roads were at night. And with Sam’s extracurricular activities as she was a member of our school’s volleyball team.
“Sure, as long as she’s fine with me escorting her and not her oppas,” I teased even more and Sam finally got up, hitting me hard on the arm. It stung, and I’m proud that she could hit me that hard that I winced from it.
“Shut up you fu—”
Dad glared at her before she could finish what she had to say. I left the house, listening to dad scolding Sam for having the same temper as me. I walked towards Stephanie’s house. I sent her a message last night about what Remus said to me, but she hadn’t replied to it yet. Was she…angry? Disappointed?
Ringing their doorbell, I was surprised to see her mother getting out of the door. Her face brightened when she recognized it was me. “Oh, hey, Isaiah,” she greeted. She was already in her uniform as she’s about to leave for work.
“Good morning, tita [aunt],” I greeted. “Is Steph still getting ready?”
She giggled. “She already went to school, dear,” she informed. “She said she has tests this morning.”
I was surprised. She never goes to school alone before, well, besides the other times when we fight about petty things. “Oh, is that so.” I rubbed my chin and thought for a second. Was she upset with me because of what I told her? Grinning at Stephanie’s mother, I waved a hand. “Thanks so much, bye!”
I headed to school, hoping to talk to Stephanie as soon as I could. When I arrived, I ran straight to the classroom knowing she’d be there. She had to be there.
I barged inside the room, surprising the three students waiting inside for the assembly. Fortunately, one of them was Stephanie. I marched towards her, but she kept her gaze off me, pretending she was reading her notes.
“Are you angry?” I asked, ambushing her with a straightforward question. I’m not a person who’d beat around the bush to get what I wanted. If she was angry with me, then so be it. At least let me explain why I told her to stay away from that prick. In person.
Stephanie didn’t reply. I was about to sit down at the desk behind her, but she stood up, attempting to leave. I caught her hand to stop her, but she only glared at me. “What?” she asked, her voice low and upset.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “You’re angry about what I told you last night, aren’t you?”
She turned away. “What does it matter to you?”
“Have I ever lied to you, Steph?” I asked. Stephanie froze. She knew full well that I’d never do anything that would hurt her unless I’m protecting her. I might be frank and act like a sarcastic bitch, but I’d never let anything, or anyone hurt her. “I know you like him, but he’s not the right guy for you.”
Finally, she stopped struggling against me. Turning her face to my direction, her eyes glossed. “I’m just…frustrated!” she blurted out, faking a sob. “Remus was my type, you know!”
“And I’m telling you he’s an asshole,” I said. Not to mention that he’d definitely ditch her after taking her virginity. Guys like that were the worst. If he thinks I’m going to let Stephanie fall into his plans, he’s even dumber than I think he was. “I won’t let that kind of guy date you,” I said, looking straight into her eyes.
Stephanie pouted, her cheeks blushing. “I hate how you’re always acting like a protective boyfriend! Are you even sure you’re gay?!” she asked, hitting my chest. “It’s not fair!” I cracked a smile, relieved that she’s finally back to normal. Our classmates kept looking at us, confused about what we’re talking about. “I believe you,” she said, smiling at me. “I already deleted his number. I won’t be contacting him anymore.”
“You better promise me,” I said, glaring at her.
“Yes, I promise. I’ll believe you a hundred times more than some random guy I just met online,” Stephanie said, grinning at me.
I felt the weight in my heart finally lifted. I’m fortunate Stephanie wasn’t that desperate to have a boyfriend.
Classes finished and we were finally allowed to go home. Stephanie hadn’t been holding her phone the whole time, proof that she stopped communications with that guy. I could hear her phone vibrating every time we go for a break but never did she reply to any of the messages. And I know it’s not from her parents as they were always too busy with their work.
“Are you going home already?” Stephanie asked after fixing her bag.
“No, I have to wait for Sam to finish her practice,” I said, slinging my bag on my shoulder.
“Oh, then I’ll go home first,” she said.
We both went downstairs, parting at the entrance as she walked out of school while I headed to the gym. I could hear people’s distant screams as the practiced, as the gym holds both volleyball and basketball practice for the varsity players. I walked to a nearby bench and easily found Sam warming up with her teammates.
I took my phone out and began playing games. An hour after, she was finally done with her practice. I saw her waving a hand at me while walking to the bathroom to get changed. While waiting, I noticed three guys from the basketball team approaching me, all were drenched in sweat while one of them was carrying the ball.
“Hey, Montenegro,” they called, sneering at me. “You’re finally done with your suspension?”
“What’s it to you?” I asked, raising a brow at him. I hated how these seniors acted like they owned the place just because they were older. I didn’t give a shit if they were a century-old than me, who the hell gave them the right to behave like they’re superior to anyone else?
“This little bitch,” the guy on the middle said, smirking at me as his eyes flashed in anger. “Want us to send you to the hospital?” he asked.
I cringed at how hard this bastard’s trying to act smug and gangster-like. It’s embarrassing. Standing up, I towered them with my height as I was pretty much taller than everyone else in their group. But instead of bowing down to their level of pettiness, I walked away from them. They were pissed because I managed to expel Gavin, one of their closest friends and they had been wanting revenge for it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t interested in beating up old people.
Sam came out of the bathroom, wearing a new shirt and pants. She looked past me and found the basketball players glaring. “What’s their problem?” she asked.
“Nothing, let’s go.”
Dad would usually be at home when we come back from school, but he reminded me that he’d be busy working. Sam was already in her room, doing her homework and blasting those Kpop songs that the whole neighborhood could hear.
I decided to prepare dinner for the three of us and wait for dad to come back. After I was done, I took out the trash and noticed a black van parked across from where our house was. I was familiar with most vehicles owned by our neighbors. That van didn’t belong to anyone residing here.
Throwing the trash in its designated place, I walked back to the house only to be stopped by three guys wearing black masks. They surrounded me, backing me up into a corner. I wasn’t an idiot not to know what these idiots wanted with me.
“Remember what you promised me last night, Isaiah.”
I rolled my eyes and grunted.
(1) Adobo - Philippine adobo is a popular Filipino dish and cooking process in Philippine cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade.
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