We watch with unwavering gazes as the sky gleam lurid orange while the enormous orb spreads its glimmering rays of light. The crisp air around me merged with the soothing breeze and made me shudder as it was professional in its gentle touches. It brushed across my exposed skin delicately. Tyler was hasty to notice, and from the corner of my eyes, I could see him shift closer, his warmth shielding me from the cold.
Incalescence flooded my insides. The heat crept up my neck and gushed from my fingertips, tracing with keenness. The feeling was foreign but addictive.
We did not plan to stay hours outside his car. We would have already arrived at our destination if we did not observe as the horizon devour the sun until it becomes nothing but darkness.
Weight was beginning to prevent opened eyes, and I was progressively starting to doze off. Tyler observed my drowsy state and said, “I assume it’s time to go.” He extended his hand for me.
I stood groggily, mentally chanting to regain full consciousness as I took his hand and followed him to his car. The moment I climbed in, a profound sleep cocooned me. It caused the pooling lethargy to defeat my conscious self and bury me alive.
The ride seemed to pass in seconds, and I was only called to reality when I felt a few soft taps on my shoulder. The vague recollection of my fictitious world withered away as my eyes peeled open. Tyler was hoarding over me in a position exceedingly close to me. A tingle stroked my cheeks.
“Wake up, Angel. We’ve reached our destination.” He started to climb out of the car. I clambered out of his car as he did and trailed behind him towards a typical house.
He had told me about his father, his job as a businessman and his fervid appetite for money. With that, I concluded that his parents are living in a magnificent and large house. Since Tyler’s house was fairly huge, I expected his parent’s home to be similarly vast. But I was shocked to realize it wasn’t. Still, it looked homely and comfortable, an excellent size for a small family. There was no garden, pond or fountain, but it was a definition of a house that was just enough. If I’d ever bought a home of my own, this would be beyond perfection.
He guided me to the entrance of the house, and I almost scoffed when I reminded myself about the fact that I had a hard, metal door and rolled my eyes. It was necessary, though, especially to protect me from him.
A thought floated in my mind. I wondered if I should communicate. Although that rule did not apply to Tyler, it still applies to his family, and I restrain from gritting my teeth at the exceptionally infuriating feeling to leave a good impression and to try to communicate with a family. I may regret if I were to avoid it as Tyler’s family may be as pleasant as he is. The only family I will ever speak to.
“Will I need to talk to them?” I asked.
Tyler smiles, shrugging as he looked into my eyes.
“I won’t force you into anything.”
As the door swung open, Tyler and I stepped in, and I decided on a choice I could regret.
The inside was reasonably modest and seemed smaller with its flawless plans of embellishments. From where I stood, there were five rooms in sight, consisting of a living and a kitchen which disappeared into the distance.
“Tyler.” I averted my gaze to the owner of the voice, his father, who I have met before. Beside him was his wife along with Hailey, Ajax, and his uncle, the vehicle rental shop. Tyler clenched his jaw at the sight of Ajax.
“You brought the girl,” he stated. Tyler replies with a brief nod and led me to the table, where we sat beside each other. On my left was his sister and on his right was his father. My eyes caught Ajax, and the faint bruise on his cheek for a short moment before he averted his gaze.
The table was more soundless than I desired. No one spoke, and I would be lying if I said there was no awkward tension. There was only one set of food on the table for Tyler since he was expected to come, and I was not. All dishes on plates were almost finished.
In a moment, a plate of food and utensils were placed in front of me, and I smile politely at his mother, who kindly helped prepared my meal. I was not uneasy despite the tense silence hanging in the atmosphere, but I could not say the same for Tyler.
His father cleared his throat in the middle of our dinner and made eye contact with his son. “So how have things been going?” he asked, looking between him and me. “Your uncle told me about your trip to his rental shop with…”
“Hope,” Tyler filled in on my behalf. His uncle had a penetrative stare set on me the very second Tyler’s father mentioned me.
“Yes, Hope,” he muttered, before asking. “So how have you been?”
“Good, I’ve been taking a break from all the business matters you want me to take over,” he replied, shrugging nonchalantly. His father let out an audible sigh, a frown carved on his face.
“You know you’d have to take over my business one day, I’m just getting you ready,” he said, causing Tyler to let out a snort.
“By sending me to a useless fighting competition?” he raised his voice, clenching his fist on his sides.
“Calvin Woodland fought in competitions as such and won grands. Look where he is now,” his father responded to his outburst, keeping himself composed.
“Stop comparing me to that millionaire, you barely know him.” Tyler was seconds away from leaving the room. Both of our family dinners seemed to have taken a wrong turn, but I know his family is not as ruined or messed up as mine, his parents did care for him. Hesitantly, I reached out to take his clenched fist like he did to mine the day before and it seemed to calm him down as it did to me.
“Stop fighting,” his mother, Violet, demanded. The argument died almost immediately. “Tyler is just eighteen, give him a break,” she told her partner, then turned to Tyler. “I don’t think that is the way you should speak to your father.”
I could hear him mumble something under his breath as I looked around the table. Hailey and Ajax were casually having their meal, taking the unfinished vegetables to their empty plates. I ignored Tyler’s uncle, who still was looking at me with an indecipherable expression. Then, unexpectedly, I found Tyler’s hand holding mine in a manner that is stranger to me. Almost possessive.
“Have you brought the cash?” his father asked after a moment.
“No, I forgot,” Tyler responded.
His father released an exasperated sigh, looking at his son almost helplessly, but still, he moved on from the topic. He stood to take his plate to the kitchen.
When he left the picture, a forced smile spreads across Violet’s face. “I think we started on the wrong foot,” she said, looking over at Hailey. “Who is this incredibly kind man beside you?”
“This is Ajax,” she announced. “You’ve only met him once before.”
He greeted her and nodded politely.
“And how about the lovely woman beside you, Tyler?” his mother asked after smiling at Ajax.
“Hope. I’ve introduced her before.” For the first time we stepped into his parents’ house, a genuine smile played on his lips.
“Mrs Rivera,” I greeted, shooting a small smile. Tyler’s eyes rapidly enlarged. I could tell he did not expect me to speak, but I made my decision.
“Please, call me Violet.” She returned the smile with a grin and showed her pearl white teeth. “My children are growing up fast,” she commented.
Violet apprised us to leave the plates on the table. After she left, Tyler’s sister and Ajax made their way to the living room, leaving just his uncle, me and Tyler.
“Hope,” the uncle said. He was pensive as if racking his brain to remember someone forgotten. I look at him with a raised eyebrow, watching as he closes his mouth then open them again.
“Is there, by any chance, you are related to a man named James Valentino?” The very second I heard my father’s name escape his lips, I visibly tensed. My heart rate increased slightly. Tyler had a baffled expression on his face, his hand still intertwined with mine, but I could barely register anything at the moment.
“He’s my father,” I said. My mouth was dry as I anxiously waited for his next sentence. Questions were flooding my brain. How does he know my father? Does he know how he died?
“Just as I thought. You look very much like the man,” the uncle said. “Your father was a great friend of mine. I’m deeply sorry to hear what happened to him.”
I felt a hint of disappointment wash all existing sparks of hope within me. If he were so much of a great friend, he would know the truth; that he did not die from suicide but murder. But the look of his face reflected guilt. With that, the washed away hope returned.
“He left things behind for you; I had been looking for you for years,” he said, causing my heart to lurch. That book has many scribbled with many plans of getting back at Calvin Woodland, and my mother was all he got for me when I was younger. It was the only crucial thing I kept with me. “It’s in my home, quite a distance away. I’d like to hand it over.”
The thought of an item that reminds me of my father made me optimistic, and I could not help but smile.
“May I ask, what are the items?”
“It’s a compact disc, a video he made just for you,” he said, “along with a million dollars.”