Fighting For Hope

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THIRTEEN

HOPE

I stacked my new items tidily into piles. They were bought recently from the shopping trip with Tyler. He sat in the living room of my house, patiently waiting for me to conclude what I planned to do before we set off to his parents’ place.

I am clueless why he invited me to be his company for the short road trip but is avid to follow since he had accomplished so much for me. This plan of revenge means a lot, and he agreed to support me even if sacrifices were compulsory.

He claimed the night would be in its darkest form when we return, and he did not encourage ‘later’ to do the packing. I have been slacking for quite a while and should go back to fighting, so I might not be able to pack the day after, too.

I took my time, slowly putting them away, when I paused abruptly, catching a glimpse of a mark on my shoulder. A wide cicatrix that spreads from lower back to my upper back inflicted from a man that tainted positive memories.

It was too hidden for anyone to notice, being under my shirt half the time. Years ago, when the blade first sliced through my skin, I thought it would recover and soon disappear into nothing. I was mistaken, but I refused to do anything like distract and divert attention away with a tattoo as Tyler had done. I still remember the horrendous feeling, like searing soreness, but it gives me motivation till this day and reminds me of the time I stood up for myself.

Still, I shivered and looked away. It is eternally an unpleasant memory and thinking back to that moment is like dipping my head in molten heat.

I climbed to my feet after I placed all outfits in the wardrobe and exited my room. Tyler sat on my couch with the book of my revenge in hand, fuelling me with puzzlement. I frankly do not mind since he already knows my greatest secret. What stunned me was him scribbling on my book with a pen.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’re back,” he stated and placed my book aside.

“What are you doing?” I reiterated, and this time, he shot me a sheepish smile.

“Just some ideas for us to take into consideration,” he said dismissively. Typically, he would be going on about how I should forget revenge because it is unhealthy. I suppose the visit to my parent’s place changed his perspective towards the situation, or he just wants my stepfather to be locked in jail. It was what I plan to do as well since being in prison would tear him away from his future and besmirch him. He would have to go through the heartbreak and pain I tolerated. It would steal his precious company away from him. But before he lands in a cell, I wanted him to suffer under my hands.

“Sure,” I mumbled as we walked abreast outside to his car. He informed that the trip would be lengthy, and we might have to stop for dinner.

“When exactly did you move out of that hellhole?” he asked, referring to my parent’s place, where he visited the day before.

“Six years,” I reply without missing a beat. Just when I turned twelve, I left home with some stolen money from my stepfather’s cupboard, which I am confident he failed to notice. I had my mind set on never returning. I had incessantly reminded myself of the horrific memories in the house. I was lost for a few days, homeless and ravenous. A lot happened in that short period, having to skip school and wander aimlessly without a destination, a whole different journey. But that was a story I was not willing to tell at the moment.

I was met with missing posters of myself on the third day on the streets and found only on the fifteenth day by my stepfather’s workers. We moved a few days after to the mansion my parents were currently living in, and the change was drastic.

“You started fighting and stopped talking six years ago too,” Tyler stated, and I nodded as a response.

“I had my mind officially set to have my stepfather locked and misery ten years ago,” I said, remembering the feeling of rage wash over me as revenge took over my soul and blood. I could recall every second vividly, the hate circling my brain and the image of my mother and stepfather lying like ghoulish mannequins in my mind. I wanted them to have blood spilling over from every inch of their bodies. The instinct to kill was almost unbearable. There was this strong hold of burning fury. It burned into my soul and ignited the urge to leave and never come back.

Then, after what seemed like forever, I felt nothing. Empty. I felt the need to end reality and visit my father in a better place. I was crying, not because I was sad, but because I felt nothing at all. There was no yearning to scream until my throat was sore because I was not mad. All I wanted to do was drown myself in a world of absolute darkness.

“You’ll get through it. I’ll help you see what you want to see.” He gave me a reassuring smile, and I scoffed as a reply, giving him a glare that screamed ‘farcical.’

“You don’t know what I want to see. Calvin in jail, locked up, is not enough,” I tell him, looking back at the road. There are only a few cars speeding past us as we head away from the small town.

He stayed silent, looking over at me. I was startled for a short moment when his hand brushed across mine. It sent waves of electricity sparking within my veins.

“I know,” he muttered.

“Would you still support me then?” I asked, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Yeah,” he replied, seeming assured but hesitant at the same time. “I won’t interfere with the torturing part, but I’ll be siding with you.”

I smiled, feeling the warmth and a small flicker of spark ignited my chest. I had never met someone who cared. All I have met with was false affection, those who pretended to care.

We engaged ourselves in a pointless conversation, exchanging small talk. Tyler shared many different topics and prompted me for some information about myself. I could not think about much to tell since I was only after a single thing in my life. But there was always something I could dig from my childhood, when I was still contented, with my biological father still around.

It took some time until we arrived in an empty road with a tremendous patch of frondescence on our left. It paired spectacularly with the ornamental trees and interspersed flowers. If I squinted my eyes, I could see about five kids in the distance, relishing time in a park. I could make out a figure that jostled another when wanting to be the first to go down the slide in the playground.

“I thought we were having dinner?” I asked though I was quite gratified and thrilled to be in our current location. I never had a trip to nearby parks in such a long time. Beholding the sight brought me back to my older and carefree days.

“There’s a little restaurant down the street,” he informed me, about to move forward when I tapped him on the shoulder.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

“Not really— “

“Let’s head over there in the meantime then,” I cut him off, pointing west to the benches just beside the playground. After receiving an approving look, I shot him a bright smile and headed over at a faster pace.

Something about innocent kids made me feel alive again. They have not seen what I have, and emptiness did not consume them entirely. They were pure and jubilant. Thinking you were strong enough to go against the world was probably the best feeling in the world.

I ignore the stare piercing into the side of my head as Tyler and I settled down on the bench. The fragrant scent of foliage and blooms welcomed themselves into my nose. The whistles of the imperturbable breeze that grazed the leaves soothed me and caressed my cheek ever so tenderly.

“Angel,” Tyler said, and I respond to it by humming. If he were a mere stranger, I would be driven by indignation since the nickname reminded me profoundly of my late father. But I have gotten used to his distinctive pronunciation of the title. “You’re beautiful.”

The risible comment caused me to release a half-suppressed laugh. The faintest blush mantled my cheeks and made my stomach churn.

“What?” I managed to choke out.

“I’m saying this as a friend,” he informed, still looking at me from the side. “You’re actually very intriguing when someone gets to know you.”

“You’re interesting naturally,” I complimented back, laying back and relaxing, my eyes still trained on an energetic little girl who was engrossed in a conversation with her friend. Watching them made me want to get up on my feet and move, do something I like to do.

“You like kids a lot, don’t you?” Tyler changed the subject. I shrugged nonchalantly as a reply.

“They just look so untroubled and buoyant,” I said, a slight smile playing on my lips at the delightful sight.

“I’m sure you can be just as happy,” his voice was nothing more compared to a mumble. I turned to his side, narrowing my eyes in doubt.

After some time, I pushed myself to stand. “Dinner?” I asked, waiting for him to get on his feet before we walked to the restaurant to have our meals.

I learned a lot about his family through our small talks about his mother, sister and father. Two of them even attained their initials tattooed on his arm. I encountered all three of them from a business event a month ago, and I wondered if they still remembered me. I doubt so since I was a mute in front of them.

My rules still apply, and I would not talk to anyone else but Tyler unless I had to. His family might never know I have a voice and my own opinions. I usually sat alone in school, ignoring people who tried to communicate with me.

The sky was still bright when we exit the restaurant after having our meal. Tyler said he was not rushing to his parents’ place and had all the time in the world.

“I’d be staying over at my parents for a night,” he said when we were walking back to the bench, we were on just an hour ago. My eyes widened, and I turned to stare at him. “Would you mind staying over with me? Or do you need me to fetch you home, first.”

Although I am closer to Tyler than any other person in the world, I am still unsure if I am willing to stay the night at his parent’s. It is only right to agree, for him driving a long way back seemed exceedingly callous on my part.

I nodded, leaning backwards as I stare at the descending, tangerine-coloured sun in the emblazoned sky while feeling Tyler’s presence beside me.

I could not help but think that this moment was a definition of flawlessness.

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