We approached my glamourous vehicle that seemed to possess the magic of glistening. It glimmered under the scintillating evening sun, pristine and bathing in the comforting warmth of the significant source of illumination. Hope walked along the car.
“I’m not going to crash your car,” she said as I climbed into the passenger’s seat. I convinced myself that the car would not have a scratch by the end of the ride. Since she had learned every one of the controls to operate the car and had even won a race against me, I should be rest assured. She just needed help when parking it.
I then remembered she had yet to get a license to drive. I had to refrain from coaxing her to switch our seats because she already started up the car.
“How are your parents?” It was Hope who started the conversation.
“My father is tough to impress with his unreasonable expectations. He would tell me to do impossible things just for cash. If I fail, he’d be disappointed. But despite everything, he’s still my father, and as much as I hate to admit, I still care about him.” I said, stealing a few glances at Hope.
“Always money,” she sighed, and I nod in agreement. It was a constant reason for a problem.
“My mother, Violet, has always been the parent who gives relentless encouraging words and support. My older sister and I always looked up to her. Hailey always seems to be able to meet my father’s high standards. He’s proud of her for being a doctor, and demands me to make him equally proud.” I shrugged. “I never can.”
She frowned, but her eyes remain on the road in front of her. “I work hard for my own sake, not my parent’s.”
I nod, a demoralized look washed over my face. “Wish I could say that someday.”
She shot me a sympathetic look, then went back to driving. “Won’t your parents think it would be odd to bring me, a man, to family dinner?” I asked out of nowhere.
“Just say we’re dating,” she said simply. “That’s okay with you, right?”
I approved of the idea, then pondered about how peculiar of a line it is.
Hope’s driving was smooth, fortuitously. Just as I doubt, she will not damage my car in the slightest of ways, she caused the car to come to a screeching halt, merely missing hitting a rock.
“Sorry.” She did not sound sympathetic in any way. She unlocked the doors of my car and stepped out before announcing, “We’ve reached.”
I expected a millionaire’s house to be nothing insignificant. Perhaps enormous, with hallways filled with pricey paintings and the inside filled with rooms and unneeded items. When I step out of my car, my jaw dropped. It was indeed massive and beyond my imagination. The rock which the vehicle barely missed by centimetres was the beginning of a garden itself.
It leads to the back of the mansion that was probably three times my home. My place could barely be labelled as a large house after looking at Calvin Woodland’s estate.
Since it was night and the sky were an ocean of darkness filled with luminous stars, the light which escapes the window added to its magnificence. We strolled passed the different plants beside the path to the entrance and came to a stop just in front of the large wooden door.
I watched as Hope hesitantly raised her arm to knock on the door, which was soon opened by a woman who looked in her mid-forties. I plastered a polite smile to who I assumed is Hope’s mother. When I raised my head and took in her appearance, however, disbelief registered in a matter of seconds.
I attempted not to make my surprise seem noticeable, but from the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of Hope’s expression. She did not bother to hide the bemused appearance. Her mouth was agape as she stared at the woman with a bump on her stomach.
The mother’s hand was resting on it, a sheepish smile forming as she saw her daughter. It faltered slightly when her eyes met mine.
“May I ask who you are?” her mother asked.
“I’m Tyler, Hope’s boyfriend,” I introduced myself.
Her mother raised her eyebrows as she stared between her daughter and me with glee dancing in her eyes.
“Welcome in,” she said after a while.
I stepped into the large living room, not expecting any less when I see extravagant and modern furniture. My eyes followed the bannister, which stretches from the stairs to the second floor. There was a fireplace behind a white couch that faced the television.
I dragged my feet along the marble floor after taking off my shoes at the side and followed Hope’s mother towards the empty dining table. The ground seemed a foreigner to dust, and the sweet aroma of the food prepared smelled scrumptious.
I took a seat beside Hope around the rectangular table. I wondered where her stepfather was, but I was not effervescent to meet him, especially after what Hope had revealed.
“I have news,” her mother said, her voice just a little louder compared to whisper. Beside me, I could see Hope clench her fists, knowing what her mother would utter next.
“I’m pregnant.” The moment the words left her lips, I instantly reached for Hope’s hand in hopes to calm her down. I could detect from the deep curve temporarily engraved on her palm that she did not fancy having a sibling who was a biological child to that malevolent man.
“You’ll have a brother very soon,” she continued, looking oddly distraught. My hand was still holding Hope’s, and I let out a soft sigh of relief when she relaxed, tightening her grip on mine. She nodded in reply to her mother’s announcement, her eyes darkening. Her mother did not seem to be fazed by the fact that she did not reply with her voice.
Chilliness greeted me when Hope lets go of my hand and return to listen to her mother’s words.
As the two continue to interact, with Hope nodding and her mother speaking, I tuned out the conversation and paid scrupulous attention to the features of the mother’s appearance more. Something about her seemed unusual. Perhaps it was the bags under her eyes or the many blisters on her hands. Something odd just stands out.
It was until my eyes unintentionally trail to below her sleeves when my eyebrow shot up. There were terrible bruises and scars visible; some of them looked new and fresh.
When she realized where I was eyeing, her immediate instinct was to pull her sleeves to hide the scars while dropping her hands under the table. She flashed me a small smile and gazed back at her daughter.
It was then footsteps were heard from behind me, causing both mine and Hope’s head to turn. I recognized the man from pictures in newspapers and magazines as Calvin Woodland, the man who kept his wife and stepdaughter a secret to the public for so many years.
“Calvin,” his wife called almost an instant after his arrival. “I’ve prepared your dinner.”
He returned with a swift nod, taking a seat beside her just as she stood and disappeared into the kitchen.
“And you are?” The question directed to me.
“Tyler,” I replied, hesitantly extending my hand to shake his. He seemed like any ordinary, magnanimous father. I had to remind myself that he had once committed an awful sin.
“My daughter has never brought any guy back home,” he stated, a friendly smile on his lips. I returned it with a courteous grin, watching as Hope avoided making eye contact. It was then her mother returned to the table with just two plates. “Hope, honey. Can you help me with the bowls and dishes?”
Seizing this opportunity without second thoughts, she stood with a sly tug on the side of her lips. I sighed, quickly following behind her, dismissing myself respectfully to her stepfather.
“Help me place all these dishes on the table,” her mother said the moment we entered the kitchen. “I’m going to the restroom.”
The second her mother left the kitchen and her father was nowhere in sight; we instantly got to work. I promised not to help her drug the man, so I stepped aside as she dug out the drug from her pocket. While she grabbed a cup, I made my way to all the dishes, plates and bowls and brought it to the table.
I perked my head to spot Calvin Woodland when I realized he was not present around the table where he originally was.
Without missing a beat, I rushed closer to Hope, only to see her begin pouring the packet in, all while the father watched a distance away.
He cleared his throat, catching Hope’s attention and causing her action to halt.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
I clenched my fist, getting ready to fight if he makes a move. Captured by severe horror, Hope dropped the empty packet on the counter. The plan was failing, and just as Hope expected, a fight will, unfortunately, break out.
“You were trying to drug someone?” he asked, a hollow laugh rippling from his throat. “You know there is absolutely no way to fool me. I knew something was up since I saw this ‘boyfriend’ of yours. You’re just like your father. Weak, ludicrous and worthless.” I can tell that the words were stabbing Hope in the heart by the scowl she directed to her stepfather.
“But there was one thing about him,” her stepfather paused. “He was clever, just like you are.”
His crooked smile spreads across his lips as he said, “But not smart enough.”
The moment the words left his lips, he moved his right foot, about to launch himself forward when I hurried to stick my leg out to trip him. To my astonishment, he rolled back to his feet the moment he hit the ground, seeming as if the fall never occurred.
He looked at me with amusement in his eyes, “Coming for Hope’s safety?”
He threw himself towards me instead, and I immediately dodged, blocking a fist that was aimed at me right after.
“You know how to defend yourself?” he asked, looking exceedingly fascinated before an egocentric smile stretched across his face. “Let’s test it.”
I ducked a punch, swiftly standing and trying to elbow him in the side of the head but missed when he simply took a step back. Like greased lightning, he is swift. Too quick for me.
Hope was trying to help, but we were fighting at such an extraordinary pace that it is almost impossible to intervene.
“You do know just the basics, but you can do them well,” he said while throwing a fist which I caught. It was a wrong move since he was twice the size of me. He got the upper hand, using his other hand to grab me and throw me towards the ground.
The moment I hit the floor; pain rippled through my back. It erupted like scorching molten in a volcano. Soon, the searing agony reduced to become throbs. An audible gasp escaped Hope, and she wasted no time before attacking her father from behind. She snaked his arm around his throat, picking up the drugged water from the counter and about to force it down his throat when he used his free hand to knock the glass away, causing it to shatter along with the poisoned water.
I know Hope had no intention of slaughtering anyone, not even her stepfather. The moment the glass dropped; she released her death grip on him.
He clenched his jaw before raising his fist, aiming it and throwing it towards Hope’s nose. She was quick to block the blow, causing bafflement to overtake Calvin’s features.
“You know how to attack,” he stated, pausing for a brief second. “This makes things so much interesting.”
Hope threw a punch at Calvin, who missed when he moved aside. However, in a short period, a hook landed on the side of his face. With intensifying fury, he began throwing punches more rapidly.
Hope then caught his fist with her right hand, then reached out for his throat with her left.
“If you dare tell Mom-”
Before she could finish her sentence, he used his left, free hand to shove her away, causing her to land on the ground. I watched as her face scrunched up in discomfort, glancing at me as if I was her only hope.
I stood, with some difficulty, my mind set on fighting for Hope.
I narrowed my eyes at Calvin Woodland before launching towards him to throw a punch. He ducked without a problem, bending to grab my leg to pull it towards him, causing me to slip on the water. I felt the razor-sharp glass pierce into my skin.
I grit my teeth, kicking his leg, but it barely affected him.
Just as Hope climbed onto her feet, her mother joined the picture.