HOPE, A DECADE LATER
Ceaseless buzzing emerged from various spots in the classroom.
My teacher’s eyes lingered on me for a second before it roamed to the girls beside me.
“Miss Hill?” he called out to Ashley Hill, who sat two seats away from me.
She was a woman of natural beauty. Her hair was the most noticeable. It flamed in multiple coruscating colours under the gentle touch of the brilliant sun. She is one of those who perpetually talked to me, though knowing a reply would not eventuate. I had barely uttered a word for the last few years. I found it useless to communicate since interaction will cause attraction, and I was dispassionate in getting close to anyone.
Footsteps were heard from behind me, causing every pair of eyes to draw to the young man that strolled into the last class of the day, forty minutes late.
“Mister Rivera.” I could tell my teacher was fighting the urge to roll his eyes in vexation as he pointed to the empty seat on my right. The young man promenaded his way beside me as if he were in a park.
“See me after class,” my teacher articulated, turning away. It was not his first time being late. His unpunctual arrival in the class was almost a regular occurrence.
Tyler Rivera was the definition of trouble. I’ve seen him fight, and truthfully, he could only lay a few punches that would not do much damage, but the simple jab was enough to bring others with no experience in fighting to end up with a ghastly bruise.
“Hope,” he called out. My name rolled resoundingly off his tongue as if it was the easiest thing to say. I looked over, raising an eyebrow before ignoring him and looking back at the teacher.
“Come on, Angel.” My hands clamped shut instantly, forming a fist. He had no right to call me by that nickname. I could only glare at him as he looked back at me.
“I’m sorry,” he said, raising his hands in surrender, “for whatever I did.”
“I was just getting you to talk. Nobody has ever heard you speak,” he explained simply. It was quite common, approached in hopes of hearing my voice.
He continued his rambling and I grit my teeth in frustration.
“Mister Rivera!” my teacher snapped, shooting me an apologetic smile. He must have known how infuriating Tyler was with his endless questions.
I loathed how others turned their heads around upon hearing about him, causing their attention to shift to me. It took a moment before everyone had their minds focused on the teacher again, and I released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. But before I knew it, he continued to speak again.
It went on for the rest of the class until school ended, and everyone departed from the room. Fortunately, Tyler had to stay behind while I left the class and briskly headed home. My apartment, to be exact.
I had willingly moved out of my mother’s and stepfather’s mansion to live alone for some time as I barely spoke to them anymore. I could scarcely bear the sight of them. I could only feel the enmity that masquerades as callousness. Despite the bubbling of utter revulsion towards my parents in my guts, I knew to muster the courage to attack is arduous. I want to, and success is the wife of determination. I worked in that pertinacious manner, hoping I will not release my diminishing strength that clutches the idea.
I could do so much more now to hurt them; I was just waiting for the right time to strike.
The moment I unlocked the door to my home, I went straight to my room. I sauntered across the photos of my father and me and made my way to the closet, where I took a few bottles of water and picked out an appropriate outfit for boxing in the gymnasium.
I made my way there on every alternate day, and it became a habit.
The gymnasium was close to my apartment. It was one most people stayed away from because of its eerie surroundings—the entrance located close to a quiet and dark alleyway.
I have seen others avoiding to go that way. However, the inside was quite modest and welcoming. It would often be empty, unless there was a poster placed inside the room, stating a fighting competition would happen soon.
It happened a few days ago when this new poster placed there. I learned that it would take place a day next week. It caught my attention for a while, but knowing I was not taking part and that it did not concern me in the least, I shifted it to the back of my head.
I pushed open the glass door, tugging the corners of my lips upwards at the vacant, serene room. I initially thought I would have a vast place to myself, but that was unfortunately not the case. While I was delivering some punches to the punching bag half an hour later, the door was pushed open by a man on his phone.
“I know what you mean, Father!” he snapped. “I will get the money if you stop interrupting me with your calls.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here now. I don’t think there’s anyone here. Bye.” He ended the conversation before chucking his phone into his pocket.
I paused at the familiar voice, turning my head to look directly at him, who looked rather shock himself.
My face remained emotionless while I looked away and delivered a quick left hook to the leather bag, followed by a sidekick, ignoring him completely. I could still feel his unwavering gaze burning holes through my back. I ended with a final firm punch, and my hands dropped to my side.
Glancing sideways, I noticed Tyler, being just a few feet away. I strolled to the corner of the room, paying no attention to him.
I picked up the bottled water I brought along and was a second from twisting the cap when it carelessly slipped out of my hands. It fell on to the ground and rolled its way to his feet. He grabbed it, and I expected him to hand it over instantly, but instead, he kept it in his grasp and moved closer to me.
“I did not expect you to be here, Angel,” he commented, a well-known smile spreading across his face. It took me a second to realize he pinned me against a wall.
Angel. Do not call me Angel.
My head snapped to his legs, fighting the urge to scoff. His legs were not only apart, but he was using the strength of just one leg to support his body. In a swift movement, I caught his feet with mine and swept it sideways. I could see his eyes widen just before he hit the ground headfirst.
He should still be conscious since I did not forcefully cause his fall, but he was still stiff on the ground. Either he was expecting me to help him up or is too weak to climb back on his feet. I would go with the former.
I could see him squirm before his hands shot up to his face. A purple bruise was already starting to form.
Not giving him a second glance, I took a sip from the bottle in my hand and headed back to the heavy leather bag.
Energy drained from my grasp like a relentlessly flowing tap. Soon enough, I came to a halt for the day. It was remarkably tranquil, although there was an extra person in the room. He had tried countless times to talk to me and ask about my unwanted action, which left his face bruised, but his efforts were left incessantly vain. I never replied to him once.
Tyler was in another corner of the room, where all the weights were. I sauntered to the small collection of my empty bottles and picked them up, after which I headed for the door. I needed to hurry home, remembering the countless assignments my teacher had given.
“Wait, Hope.” With a raised eyebrow, I turned around and looked straight into the eyes of Tyler Rivera.
I quickly looked away, expecting him to hate me after ignoring him when I caused him to fall on his face unreasonably. Instead, he still tried speaking to me.
“I need your help with something.” He bit his lips nervously. “Can I give you my number?”
I was taken aback. Tyler had no reason to give me his number and assume I would talk to him on the phone. I quizzically stared at him. I had the choice to message him even after he registers on my phone. Hence, I decided to reach for my device and handed it over.
“Thank you,” he mumbled, walking towards me to take my phone from me.
I could not understand why he was perturbed.
“Just text me when you are free, provided you want to help me.” He sent a smile my way before placing my phone back in my hands and rushed back into the gymnasium. I was still bewildered for a moment before I recollected my thoughts and made my way back to my apartment.
Soon, I found myself sitting quietly in front of my cell, which reflected Tyler’s number.
“Don’t trust anyone but yourself, Angel. Or you will get hurt,” my father’s voice rang in my ears.
I was not planning to trust him. I can circumvent the deal, even after I know what his request is. I was just inquisitive about why he would want my help. The simplest thing requires the most summoned courage.
Gnawing my nails into the skin of my palm, I inhaled sharply. Harm will be absent from this innocuous option. The cat will not be killed by curiosity this time. I grabbed my phone from in front of me, holding my breath as I typed in my text and hit send: “What do you need my help with?”