Footsteps reverberated in the room as she dismissed herself for a break from the video. Her rhythmic and brisk footfall soon dwindled. I know it must be tough to uncover the truth years after her father died. She witnessed the murder of someone exceptionally close to her and kept it to herself for years.
I stood from the couch and moved towards the television, almost turning it off when a sudden grandiloquent and coruscating light shone, followed by the familiar face coming back into the screen.
“I have one more thing I’d like to add,” he said, clearing his throat. “It’s about your Uncle Clyde. Remember when I said he’s using lies to cover the truth? He has a rather fantastic relationship with this generous man, one he doesn’t deserve to call a friend. My brother and I still communicate as siblings at times, although I have every reason to despise him for being imprudent. I need to get this out of my chest.” He sighed, looking down at his fidgeting hands.
“On a sleepless night, he told me about his plan to betray that best friend of his. With a straight face, he announced that he wanted to stab that friend from behind when he isn’t looking.”
I should not be listening to this without the presence of Hope, but there was so much information she had to digest, I considered keeping it a secret. Perhaps she might watch the video again when she has fewer problems weighing her shoulders. Life of an eighteen-year-old should not be so tough.
“I don’t understand why you’d keep this from me,” Hope snarled after I explained the rest of the information she should have known days ago.
“You were dealing with too much.”
“I deal with problems every day!” she snapped. In a hasty motion, she pushed the door open and left the car. I frowned, viewing as she disappeared from my sight.
I wanted to sprint after her but decided to give her space. With an uneasy weight in my chest, I climbed out and strolled towards the entrance of the school. I approached them while Hope was having a conversation with Josh.
“Have you seen Gray?” I asked him as I realized he was nowhere to be seen. He would typically be the earliest or come to school with Josh.
“I tried calling him tons of times. I even dropped by his house to find no one. I thought he had made his way to school before I did,” Josh explained, dismissing the subject rather quickly. “I’m certain he’s just with his mother.”
I nodded. The small fights with Gray’s parents continually resolved. They are the most significant part of his life.
Hope was undoubtedly ignoring me. She grabbed a few books from inside her locker and then slammed it shut. She flashed Josh a smile before insouciantly walking off.
“What did you do to piss her off?” he mused. “She’s quite an adventure. I remembered angering her once when we were kids. She landed me in some serious trouble.”
I looked at him with a quirked eyebrow. But I did expect Hope to be vindictive and tactful growing up; someone who didn’t need to be protected by others because she had herself.
I tried starting a conversation when we had a class together and was gleeful to receive a reply. Hope gave me a chance to explain, but they were already voiced.
“I know you should’ve known this before anyone since the message was for you. Look, I’ll do anything to make it up to you,” I suggested, relieved when she pondered before nodding.
“Honestly, you didn’t have to do anything. You didn’t have any bad intentions. But I appreciate the offer, and would very much like to take it,” she told me. I raised an eyebrow in curiosity, hoping whatever in her mind was pleasant.
“I want to drive your car,” she said.
I nodded, busy taking down the notes shown on the board when I paused and registered what she just said. My eyes widened, and my head turned in an instant.
“What? Hope, you don’t have a license. The moment you get caught, you might have to go to jail. I don’t think you are willing to waste the million your father left you so soon,” I warned her about the consequences.
“I’m a fast learner, and I know the beginner controls. I miss the feeling of freedom when driving,” she persuaded, and I could not bring myself to refuse.
“Promise me you’re getting a license.”
She looked up from her paper of words and responded, “Sure.”
Time seemed to drain like water, and soon enough, the sound of the bell reverberated in my ears, signifying the end of school. We were just about to leave when a blonde darted towards us with two copies of a celestially designed card.
“I’ve been dying to invite both of you! I’m planning a party tonight, no dress code, just a fun night for my birthday. I’ve gotten half of our level to come along, make sure you show yourself. It starts in an hour,” she beamed, flashing a wide grin before handing us the invitation and digging more cards from her pocket and rushing out of the classroom. She was known around the level for her affluence.
“We have school tomorrow.” Hope scrunched her face in uncertainty. “And why would someone ever invite me? What do you usually do at parties anyway?”
I chuckled. “You want to find out?”
She considered for a moment, the boisterous, warm surroundings, a room filled with people, either high or sober. She was a second from rejecting the offer when I reminded her that there was a first for everything. Additionally, I would be there to keep her company.
“Fine, but I would be the one driving when the party’s over,” she said, and I agreed without much contemplating.
We exited our classroom where we sat for our last period of the day and met with Josh, who stood where we frequently met.
“Are you attending?” he asked.
“Of course. Wouldn’t miss it, it’s been months since the last party. I’m going with Hope,” I told him.
A guileful smile stretched across his face before he said, “I’ll meet you there.”
I nodded, leading Hope to my car to have a meal before stopping by the blonde’s house. The house was much prodigious than I pictured in my head. There was a pool, where familiar faces loiter around with grins plastered on their faces.
Hope looked around her surroundings, hearing the resounding music trumpeting from inside the house. We had yet to amble into the entrance, but I had a brief idea of the party inside. I reached out to grab her hand and ushered her into the home.
I looked around the jammed place for my best friend while leading the brunette beside me to a corner with empty seats. I then spotted Josh, who excused his way towards us.
“I didn’t expect this many people to show up, this is incredible.” I could barely hear him, but I could tell he was very astounded.
“Pity Gray isn’t here. He’d love it. I tried contacting him, and he left me on seen.” He leaned in closer to be heard. He had a drink on his hand, which he chugged in a swift motion.
“Hope, when did you learn how to fight?” Josh asked out of curiosity.
I helped to answer, “Six years ago.”
“The year we met?” he asked with eyes of admiration.
She nodded and said, “After the flames engulfed your house, I ran away and was found eventually by my father’s men who had been searching for me. They brought me back to my stepfather’s sickening house. From then on, I tried learning, hoping I could fight people off in the future.”
We engaged ourselves in a conversation until Josh decided we should live the life and soul of the party. He hauled us closer to the ferociously strident radio blasting the latest songs by pushing through the throng.
Before I could convince Hope into having fun, a young man had already approached her. He had his hair styled into a pompadour and a posture that screamed outrageous self-esteem. I sprinted towards her with difficulty.
“Dance with me,” he said, roughly grabbing her hand. She shook her head and withdrew her hand from his grip. The smile was wiped from his face in an instant.
“It wasn’t a question.” His upper lips curved in disdain.
I was excusing my way towards her, gritting my teeth as the man snatched her arm, apoplectic with rage.
I started worrying, not for Hope but the man.
In one expeditious movement, his hand was excruciatingly twisted. Hope let go of his hand for a brief second before he ended on the ground. Attention was caught by a few teenagers, who dashed beside him while Hope strolled away from the scene as if it had never happened.
“Can we go?” she asked the moment she reached me. I could tell she execrated the venue. I nodded, informing Josh of our leave.
“At least show a little mercy,” I tried to joke, smiling as she willingly hopped into the driver’s seat.
“People won’t learn if I did.”
“It’s dark, it would be safer if I drove,” I told her, though I knew it was impossible to change her mind.
She was driving well, and I trusted that she could drive us to our destination until a deafening crash pounded in my ears. That was about all my memory allowed for recollection.