My hands underwent a frigid winter, frosty and slithery. The drink I clasped virtually slipped. My broadened eyes affixed on Hope like adhesives. It is the first time she spoke voluntarily.
My heart sped unreasonably. It was not a massive deal, but it indicated a lot. She trusted me out of everyone from the last six years with her voice.
“You couldn’t?” I restated, and she bobbed her head. It made no sense. “Why are you speaking right now?”
“I trust you,” she told me, leaving me at a loss of words.
I wanted to ask what precisely I did to earn her faith but kept the subject to myself. Instead, I smothered a grin in reply, and we made our way to my car after we finished our little snack.
I assisted in carrying some of the bags into her place while she grabbed the rest of them. She dropped them off outside the wardrobe in her room and paced back to the living room. As she sauntered, she grabbed the book she continually carried around and placed it on my hand.
“Remember when you promised me a favour?” she asked, and I provided a gesture of agreement. She had once supported me, and it was only right to return the favour.
“It’s not that simple.” She sighed, and I induced her to expand on her statement. I was still dumbfounded and delighted that she spoke.
Slowly and deliberately, I opened the book in my hand. Though I had previously browsed through a page the night before, I was still curious about every written word.
“What is this?” I prodded.
“Ten years ago, I witnessed a murder.” She paused, looking back at me with eyes with no emotion in the slightest bit. As if it carried no relevance.
“Yeah?” I was not sure where the conversation was going.
Questions sprang into an obstreperous act. Hope was only eight, ten years ago. How was she able to get images of revolting death out of her mind?
“I watched as my father died with my own two eyes.” As she summoned her words, I felt like every wisp of air was purloined from my lungs. It was not a stranger which she watched got killed; it was her father.
“It was in the hands of my mother and stepfather,” she continued.
My mouth went dry. This girl in front of me was different as I noticed from the beginning. She was strong because she learned independence the hard way. She lived alone without a father figure and a mom who is certainly not trustworthy.
“Do they know you saw them commit the murder?” I asked, inhaling a sharp breath.
“No,” she replied simply. There was not a hint of anguish, mourn or indignation in her eyes. It was empty, unrecognizable from the usual gleam every time she smiled. “Everyone thinks my father died from suicide. There is no proof of any kind showing my stepfather and mother committed the murder.”
“That’s because my stepfather is Calvin Woodland.”
The name sounded extraordinarily familiar. It took me a few moments before bricks descended on my chest in realization. Calvin Woodland, the chief executive officer of Wood International Industries—a multi-million company.
“He’s your stepfather?”
“He used a big amount of money to cover up the truth, and there is no proof in this world that could bring him down. But I know of a method.” Her eyes darkened.
“What are you going to do?” I asked, waiting for her response. But instead of using her voice, she pointed at the open book I held. “Drug him?!”
A fleeting twinkle lit her blue orbs before she said, “But something is bound to go very wrong. He’s an exceptionally genius man, but not in a positive way. I’m sure a fight will break out.”
“Before I get him to spill out the truth with a spiked drink, I need him to pay for what he did ten years ago. I want him to pay for what he’s done.”
Ambivalence flickered across her eyes as she muttered, “But I need assistance.”
It was apparent she was asking me for assistance. I would discountenance of the idea because I just was unsure if it was the best approach. I had to question myself if I were eager to assist her in drugging a powerful millionaire who could have anything in a snap of his fingers. A man who my father has been fantasizing of working for. My father frequently speaks of the Woodland industry.
“Are you sure you want revenge? Why not just get the evidence then call it an end?” I asked. I would be keener to help if that were the case.
“I swore to make my current parents pay.” She looked so fragmented, the side of her which was always there but never noticed. “I promised to be merciless.”
I glanced at the book once again with a faltered grin. If any of my family died in the hands of another, I would have the instinct to kill too. Forgiveness would be a stranger, an unknown term in my dictionary. Her father must have meant a lot to her.
I lifted my head and stared her in the eyes. She was waiting for my answer, restlessly eager.
“But what can I do to help?” I asked. I was not so foolish to agree to be the person who takes the drugs.
“You know how to fight now,” she told me in a convincing tone. “Calvin is a professional in fights, I’ve seen him. I just need an extra hand.”
“I’ll help you,” I agreed, and she lets out a soft sigh of relief. Calvin Woodland had sinned, and he belonged in jail. But I consented only to show Hope that revenge was not the only way out because I did not want her to live her life clutching onto a load of penitence on her shoulders.
“I’ll be visiting them tonight; we’ll do it then,” she said, sitting down beside me hesitantly.
“Tonight? You have drugs?”
“I’ve been planning for a long time; it’s no surprise I got everything in advance,” she replied. I stole a glimpse of her face, and for a fleeting second, I caught a frown. It was quite evident that she was reluctant to take action despite planning for years. She was simply blinded by rage and vengeance.
“Tell me about you,” I changed the topic.
“What do you want to know?”
“Fighting helps to release my anger…” As if she was a stranger to herself, she struggled to answer. “I’ve never spoken much throughout the years because I never found anyone who was trustworthy. I’ve been avoiding to meet people. There’s not much about me that’s fascinating. I’ve just been a daughter of a dead man,” she said, biting her lips as she tried picking another fact about herself.
“You know, you don’t have to remind yourself repeatedly of the Incident. I know it’s tricky to forget, but sometimes you have to move on. Forget your plans, Hope,” I said. It was never as simple as it sounds, but she can do it. It was a waste to hang onto her unchangeable past.
“Don’t.” She glared, causing me to stop my words “I opened up just so you understand and help, I’m not interested in you telling me otherwise.” She stood and strode into a place directly behind the couch. I sighed, watching as she vanished from my sight to a room I had yet to explore or see.
I climbed onto my feet and followed her inside to see an empty room. No furniture was present. The walls were chalky, as white as pasteurized milk.
I was about to apologise when she chimed in. “Friendly fight.” She clenched her fists by her side.
I was taken aback by the sudden proposal and change of attitude when I recalled a fact—fighting helps calm her down.
I averted my eyes to her face. I wanted to hold back but knew she would discourage it.
“Rules?” I asked, and she shook her head.
“Don’t hesitate,” she reminded me before launching forward.
I threw the first punch, she dodged right, and I swiftly performed another jab on my right hand, but she had already moved out of the way. I swung my legs sideways, aiming for the head. It was always challenging to avoid, but Hope knew what I was planning and ducked just in time.
I realized she had yet to make a move to attack and was just predicting every step I made. With a small tug at the side of my lips, I threw a left jab and almost immediately delivered a right hook. And right after, I lurch forward to elbow her in her sides.
She failed to block it, stumbling back. Then, before I could make a move, she was in front of me, throwing punches at an expeditious pace. I barely had time to register and block.
Her fist landed on my jaw, and I stumbled back. She did not take a break, not for a second. The moment I glanced her way, all I saw was a fist aimed for my nose.
I used as much energy as I could muster and catch her hand inches before it landed on my skull. I kicked her legs, taking advantage of the lack of rules and making her land on her knees. Locking a hand behind her back, I foolishly forgot about her free hand.
Before I could steady my breaths, her hand caught mine and twisted, causing me to release the grip on her arm. She climbed back up in a blink of an eye and a fist immediately connected with my face. I did not get to regain my composure before she elbowed my face once again. I fell almost instantaneously, feeling too depleted to move. Fiendish pain took me as a hostage, surging my body. Grimacing, I welcomed the excruciating ache.
“Focus,” Hope prompted before heading my way. Knowing what she was going to do, I roll out of the way and watch as she kicks the spot I was previously lying.
I got on my feet in one swift motion, ducking a high kick with was just inches away from my face and throw a punch that was effortlessly blocked.
I hastened my speed in my punches, delivering right and almost immediately delivering a left. She was just defending again while I try to land the attacks. I felt my nails dig into the skin of my palm as I focused on her speedy moving figure. I then forcefully threw my arm forwards, aiming for her stomach.
That punch landed.
She doubled over and worry invaded me with razor-sharp weapons. I dashed towards her side. Kneeing her in the face was an option, but I knew I could never bring myself to do it.
She was Hope, never my opponent.
I had a hand snaked around her waist and another covering her hand on her stomach. I was in the process of suggesting a break when I swallowed my words whole. In an estimation time of two seconds, she grabbed my hand and spun, causing my right hand around her waist to drop and my left being twisted.
“Focus,” she repeated, a small smile plastered on her face as she released the grip on my hand and stepped away, looking as if I have never landed a punch on her.
“You’re doing splendid,” she commented. A delighted smile formed on my face. However, she did not look equanimous when she announced, “We’re ready.”
Right after she completed that sentence, she exited the room, ushering for me to follow close behind her. She took a small packet of powder and slid it into her pocket. Then, she grabbed a camera from her room and placed it inside her.
“I’ll call a car to bring both of us to my parent’s. It’s quite far away, it will be very late when we return,” she said, and my confusion arose.
“I brought my car along, I can bring us there,” I suggested. She was hesitant for a moment before she agreed, carrying her bag and heading out of the room. I knew with a firm conviction that the powder was the drugs. The glint in her eyes was more deadly than mischievous, and it was then I realized it might be impossible to stop her from carrying out this plan.
However, I will not allow her to live with repentance.