Fighting For Hope

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SIXTEEN

HOPE

His absence is a true blessing.

I consider moving every time this happens, but he can find me even if I move states away. After all, rich people always get the information they wanted.

Making amends is infeasible. Penitence drowns me every three days in a year. Again, I have to battle the impulse to harm myself from all the culpability which comes crashing down like meteors. The game to pretend I am fine then restarts once again.

The thirteenth of March, today.

The fourth of June, the day his wife and daughter passed.

The third of October, the day of his son’s death, caused by me.

I clenched my fist, digging my nails into my palms as I thought about Ian Carson, the man whose life I ruined. I deserved the consequences—all the stalking and persecuting. But it was so difficult to accept it.

I met Ian during the time I left home when I felt like living in a house with murderers was unbearable. Little did I know I destined to become one. In that short period, I caused tribulations I could have circumvented.

He was the most amiable man I have met besides my late father at the time. He took me in, fed me, gave me clothes and told me stories about his family. He had one son when I met him, and he took me in because I reminded him of his deceased daughter. That son, unfortunately, died in my hands.

Blaming it on youth and ignorance was ineffective because even at the moment, I felt too empty to care. It was like I had nothing to lose. It fretted me, feeling like I had become the person I feared when I did not shed a tear when I realized I had ended a life. Instead, all I could think of was how I was capable of annihilating one. Did I have it in me to murder my stepfather?

Of course, that only crossed my mind when I was merely a child, but I don’t rue contemplating it.

The pulse in my chest quickened in alarm when I heard a few indistinct knocks. A wave of shivers embalmed me. It took the shape of a creature and immobilized me.

I hopped out of bed in a speedy move, about to ensure all windows are closed to ease the paranoid feeling bubbling within me when I froze abruptly in my tracks.

“Hope? Are you in there?” He should have left by now. “You forgot your bag in my car!”

I darted to my door, slamming it open in and staring at him apprehensively.

“Thank you.” I grabbed my bag and instantly tried to slam the door shut, but he instinctively held it open before it closed.

“Did I do something wrong?” he asked, looking genuinely perturbed. I shut my eyes, feeling my stomach lurch.

“No, Tyler. But you need to leave,” I said. The tone of my voice was harsh and firm. If Ian ever finds out I care about someone, he will not be compunctious to make me repent ever doing so.

“Why?”

From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a familiar car.

“Go!” I commanded, but he made no move to leave. In the distance, I could see a figure stepping out of the vehicle. “I’m serious. He’s coming,” I plead. My eyes drew to Ian, who had a face of pure indignation.

“Hope, who is coming?” His voice was slightly calmer. I looked frenetically at the approaching figure, and a step before he could see Tyler and me, I yanked him into my apartment, then immediately shut the door.

“What—” I cut him off by clamping his mouth with my hand.

“Listen very carefully, Tyler,” I whispered, stinging him with my tone. “The moment you open this mouth of yours, you can say goodbye to your life.”

I removed my hand, leading him into my room. Three knocks then sounded from the front door.

He raised an eyebrow, and I replied with shaking my head. I don’t expect anything to transpire differently from what I imagined. Ian will come to my place, threaten me and anyone I cherish, trying to break any windows or doors. If I am present in the house, he will find me, and it would result in a hideous fight perhaps with me grunting on the ground.

If I don’t welcome him with my presence, I might find items missing. There were times I saw photographs of my late father burnt in irate and peckish flames, reminding me just how his son died.

“Open the door, or I’d have to do it the hard way.” Ian’s gruff voice was audible even from inside my room.

I didn’t budge, ignoring Tyler’s inquisitive gaze. There is always a chance he is unable to break in. A few more knocks sounded, which escalated into rough banging. By now, Tyler’s curiosity replaced with a fleeting face of trepidation.

“Who is that guy?” Just as he decided to speak, the door gave in.

I let out a frustrated groan. “Find somewhere to hide, make sure he can’t find you,” I tell Tyler before stepping out of the room. He staggered into my closet as I walked out, looking into the eyes of the man who made my life more sickening. He had a bottle of alcohol in his right hand as he looked back at me.

My revenge never directed at him. He had once given me a home, someone to talk to, and all necessary items for a living. He gave me something to revere and miss. He must have rued the day he welcomed me into his house with a big smile, but I never regretted approaching him.

“I see you’ve upgraded your door,” he said. It now lied on the ground. I bit back from giving a snarky remark as I narrowed my eyes at the man.

“Just as I remember, a quiet fighter.” He rolled his eyes, scanning my room. He looked back at me, impressed. “You didn’t change a thing.”

I mentally groaned, wanting to get this over with speedily.

“You know…” He stepped closer, a wicked smile plastered on his face. “I’m quite shocked your stepfather isn’t dead yet. You told me how much you disliked him. I expected him to have died in your hands by now.”

He was a few feet in front of me as he raised his eyebrow, digging into his pocket and fishing out a lighter. A tug was on the side of his lips as he held out the bottle, removing the cover and tilted it, causing the liquid to escape and flood the ground.

“I want you to feel how appalling it is to burn in the flames of fire,” he said, holding the lighter close to the liquid. But just a second before he could click and set my house in unrestrained flames, I launched towards him and hit it out of his grasp with the back of my hand.

He glared at me, and between a heartbeat and the next, he threw a hard punch to the side of my face. I stumbled back, almost falling on my back before continuing with the fight he started.

I darted towards him, wanting to hit him square in the face but he dodged it in a swift motion. He grabbed my shoulders, forcing me in front of him before he slid his arms around my neck, choking me. I used my hands to claw his arm from around my neck, digging my nails in his flesh.

Ian used his leg to kick one of mine, letting go of my neck and causing me to land on the floor. A groan escaped my lips as I felt the wind get knocked out of my lungs, and the pain that overcame my whole body.

“You’re foolish,” he commented as I got into the sitting position, “but fun and unpredictable.”

I climbed onto my foot unsteadily, giving myself a moment to breathe before sprinting toward him and kneeled him in his stomach. He staggered, groaning at the force in which I delivered my attack. He tried punching my face, but I ducked, and it missed by mere centimetres. I then decided to provide another kick but failed drastically.

He caught my leg and smiled wickedly. Any wrong move and I might end up grunting on the ground. I thought about my next attack strategically, a small tug on the side of my lips as I swung my arm, catching him by surprise with the feasible move.

I kicked him in the abdomen since my leg is free from his grip and continue with a few punches without a second of hesitation. He starts blocking only after a while, but he seemed to always miss a beat. Using all power within me, I swung my hand to the side of his head, expecting him to fall limp on the ground.

Instead, he impressed me with a roll on the ground, which helped get him on his feet once again. I continued with the punches, feeling myself get depleted and weaker by the second. He was fortunate to be able to have my hand caught and wrist twisted. He grabbed my other hand before I could stop him.

“It has just been half a year.” He nodded approvingly. “You improved.”

With that statement, he let go of both my hands, lifted me and swung me across the room.

All I wish at that moment was for Tyler to stay concealed in my room and disregard my grunts of anguish. Ian would not kill me. My death would be much more painful in his hands. The wish went down the drain when Tyler decided to sprint out of my room and into Ian’s sight. His eyes were instantly drawn to Tyler, dancing with amusement.

I took the opportunity to reach out and grab the lighter from the ground, hoping he did not have a spare.

“Who are you?” Ian asked, smiling politely. However, I knew his intentions were far from gracious.

“I should be asking the same,” Tyler retorted, looking at him incredulously. “Who would barge into a house and start a fight?”

Ian widened his smile as a reply and looked back at me. “A friend? I thought you knew better than that,” he said. “Nonetheless, this was a pleasant surprise. I’m also a friend of Hope. Ian Carson. Nice to meet you.”

Tyler reluctantly extended his hand to shake Ian’s, observing as he spared me a glare before striding out of my house. He usually stays for much longer. Leaving in such a short time meant a more extended visit in the future.

“What is wrong with you?” I exploded the moment Ian was out of sight.

“You were thrown a few feet across the room, and you expect me to stay inside your closet and resume watching through the small gap?” he questioned, looking at me outrageously.

“It would be better if you’d just stay! Now both of us will be his target!” I said, glaring at him.

“Who exactly is he?” he asked, ignoring my earlier outburst. His eyes drew to the door which was rebuilt an uncountable number of times. The story of Ian is one I am uncomfortable to share. I have told Tyler enough of my secrets.

“Hope, come on. It’s obvious he had been here many times before,” he said while frowning. “His name sound so familiar.”

I ignore him, glad that Ian would not be hot on my trails for the next few weeks. Standing, I flinched at my sore back from being thrown a few feet in the air and head into my room.

“Where are you going?” Tyler asked as I left.

“Requesting for my door to be fixed and then heading to the gym,” I replied. Then, as if our little argument never happened, I heard Tyler mumble a soft ‘I’ll follow’.

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