The information yanked my way caused a cyclone to rage in my guts. It brewed menacingly and spiralled viciously. I blinked twice, letting the new-found knowledge sink. My father left me a million dollars, along with a video I could have watched years ago.
“Make your way to my rental shop anytime, and I’d hand it over,” Tyler’s uncle said, dismissing himself to the kitchen.
“A million?!” Tyler said in astonishment after his uncle left the both of us alone around the dining table. The fact stupefied me just as it flabbergasted him; although my father was relatively wealthy compared to an average family, he was never a millionaire like Calvin Woodland.
“When I was just eight?” I mumbled; it just did not add up. I scan my eyes around the room as I mentally tried to sum up the puzzle, but nothing made sense. But all seemed to be forgotten when I put my mind into the fact that there were only three bedrooms. One definitely for the parents, another for Hailey and the last for Tyler. No guest rooms.
“Tyler,” I called. My voice was just slightly above a mutter. I made sure I hear a hum in response before I continued my sentence. “Where am I sleeping?”
I knew the answer, but I never had quite shared a room with anyone for as long as my memory serves. I barely had anybody, except a girl I called a best friend when I was in kindergarten. It seems like a long time ago. I could only see the memory if I closed my eyes. It disappears when I try to focus, and it blurs when I start questioning if she was a person or just a fabrication in my fictitious world.
However, I can vaguely remember her smile, the way her ponytail swayed as she ran and how we would engulf each other in a hug before we separated. The nebulous memory of us playing in her backyard before our parents, who met through our friendship, had a friendly dinner with her family.
She was a year older than me. Hence, she left school a year before I did. As a child, I let go of it with a pout and a wave of my hand and realized exactly how much she meant to me for being my first friend, and I believed she was also my last until Tyler came into the picture. It hits me so suddenly. I have been missing out in my past years because I forgot what it was like to have friends.
“My room?” Tyler replied. It was as if he expected me to know. “You don’t mind, right?”
“No,” I told him, shooting a small smile his way.
We only left the table after that small conversation to the living room, just for a comfortable seat. Tyler mumbled something incoherent under his breath when his eyes settled on Ajax, before sitting on a separate sofa.
I listened to the conversation with the siblings and their mother. I tuned out after a while and was silent until Violet called me back to reality.
“Hope, right?” I nodded, not feeling to speak to anyone at the moment. “What do you do in your free time?”
I opened my mouth, frantically trying to find an answer. I have never been in a situation any similar since barely anyone would throw questions my way.
“I read.” I shrugged, hoping it sounded natural. Books were my utter nightmares.
Tyler snorted beside me, and I shot him a warning glare in secret. “She exercises half the time,” he helped to answer, “with me.”
“That’s great…I figured you would stop after that fighting competition,” his mother said, looking back at Tyler. “How was the event?”
I wondered if Hailey knew Ajax was a fighter himself, who went against her brother in the competition.
“It went fine. My trainer was exceptionally patient with me. If it wasn’t for her, I could have never won,” he said with a slight smile on his lips. I had to bite back a smile of my own at the indirect mention.
“It was a woman?” His mother raised an eyebrow, impressed. Her son only nodded in reply.
My eyes land on Hailey’s partner beside her as the conversation continued. He was fiddling, sending me a venomous look. He was still bitter about his loss in the competition and the last fight with Tyler. I understood his point. It must have felt quite atrocious to have disheartened a massive crowd of people in the competition, who sees him as a winner. But it was self-centered to offer a large amount of money with confidence that he would not lose it.
“You should talk to your father.”
“I don’t think he would want to,” Hailey said with a dubious grimace, joining the conversation. “I think Dad had gone too far. He knows Tyler has no experience in fighting at all, but still signed him up to a competition for fighters.”
“Exactly,” Tyler agreed, giving his sister a proud smile.
“I got you,” she pointed at her brother, but the moment was ruined with a sigh by their mother.
“It’s not a healthy relationship. I know your father puts a lot of pressure on you, but you know how much this means to him.” She frowned.
I could tell Tyler was biting back from replying defiantly but instead responded with a low hum. It was then the uncle announced his leave. The man gave me dubious vibes. I could almost sense him burying something he fears to tell. I planned to visit him to retrieve the items my father left for me on the last day of spring break, in just a few days. It was quite distasteful, in a blink of an eye, I would have to return to school. I recalled how I loathed the break. I assumed it would brim with isolation and despondency, but it took a turn after Tyler.
After his departure, everyone realized it was late and called it a day. Tyler owned a house and also had a room in his parent’s house, where I was supposedly spending the night.
“Exhausted?” Tyler asked as we made our way inside his room.
The walls were painted a light shade of grey. A desk and computer were in a corner while two large frames hung above Tyler’s bed—the first was a photograph with his parents and the second with his sister. It was a congenial sight. He gave me a brief introduction of where every spare morning essentials were before I climbed only his bed, feeling my breath hitch as he scrambled beside me.
The room was dimly lit, and I felt more at home compared to when I’m in my apartment.
“At least your father is better than my stepfather,” I stated, easing the tension.
“That is true.” He sighed, shifting beside me. “But sometimes I don’t feel like my own person at all. It’s tough at times, but you’ve been through the worst.”
I let out a soft laugh, turning my head slightly to the left to have a glance at him. “You mean the death of my father right in front of my eyes?” I asked, and he nodded. My past consisted of so much more he had yet to be told.
“It had to be rough, right?” he asked, before chuckling. “Sorry. Stupid question.”
I rolled my eyes and said, “Rough is the understatement of the century.” I paused for a moment. “I’ve forgotten how to feel happy anymore. I just feel numb.”
It was quiet for a moment, silence lingering in the air as I waited for his reply.
“I’ll show you,” he said after a while. “Goodnight Angel.”
I glanced at him before I fluttered my eyes close and replied, “Night.”
The vision of day overshadowed the night. The rays of the florid golden orb flowed through the cracks of the curtains. I roused from my slumber when something possessing immense weight shifted beside me. I peeled my eyes open, furrowing my eyebrows as I felt breath fanning my neck. I looked behind me and made eye contact with Tyler.
Arms snaked around me, shielding me from non-existent creatures. They were defensive and gave me an indestructible sense of home. A type of warmness I wish can remain forever.
“Hey.” His voice was raspy and deep, and I could not help but admit that it was quite alluring.
“Morning,” I said, ready to climb out of bed when he tightened his hold around me. I roll my eyes playfully.
After Tyler assured me that Hailey would not mind me in her clothes, we left his room to the dining table. I sat on the empty chair beside Hailey, who was eating breakfast that her mother prepared earlier.
I would not have minded if we were to spend more time at his parent’s, but Tyler seemed eager to leave the house. He announced that we were to go right after our meals.
“What does my brother have against Ajax?” Hailey asked. Her voice was barely above a whisper. “You can sense it, right?”
I looked over and realized I have never studied her features. I could recognize her from the pictures Tyler had but never paid attention to how she looked. She had untamed independence and vivaciousness swirling around her. Her eyes were pale grunge blue, just like her brother’s, and her hair was a dark shade of brown. She is gorgeous.
I nodded, contemplating whether I should tell her about her partner being a fighter, but decided against it. Instead, I said, “They had a history together.”
“They were friends before he met me?” she asked, her eyes wide in disbelief.
“I doubt ‘friends’ ever defined their relationship,” I told her. “I was with Tyler when he first met Ajax.”
“In what situation did they meet? It can’t be that bad,” she frowned. “They have been glaring at each other from the moment you and Tyler entered the house.”
I open my mouth, struggling for a reply since I dreaded to tell her the truth about her boyfriend. Fortunately, Tyler tapped me on the shoulder before I could respond.
“Finished?” he asked.
Bidding goodbye to the family around the table, we exited the house.
“To your place?” he asked as he climbed into his car. I nodded, shooting him a gratified smile as he started to drive. However, it faltered easier than tile glass can shatter when my eyes land on the date stated on the car’s dashboard. It slipped my mind almost entirely—the thirteenth of March.
“Um, Tyler?” I called out. “Can you just drop me off?”
His eyebrows furrow, “I can’t go in for a seat?”
I inhaled sharply, “I’ll be heading out for the gym after you drop me off,” I improvised, smiling to convince. I do want to head over, but it will have to wait until the next day.
“Sure,” he said, and it bothered me because he sounded sceptical. If he saw Tyler anywhere around me, dangers will descend. After all, it was one of those days when my large metal door came into great use.
The ride to my home was silent after that, allowing me the opportunity to think. I hope I was not too late. It would be horrendous if he were already there.