“What happened to you? Your face is in the colour of Scarlet red.” The voice of my good friend, Josh Carson, snapped me out from my state of stupor. The image of my earlier situation swivelled in my head as if fervent to leave me in demise.
“Can you put your phone down for just a second?”
I disregarded his words, too lost in my sea of thoughts. I was astounded beyond belief. I least expected Hope Valentino to be someone who could throw a punch. The lingering admiration clung onto me, as relentless as a mosquito. The way she presented herself in her stance screamed professionalism.
Without hesitancy, she attacked me. Her silence resulted in substantial underestimation. Of course, there was revelation behind it. For one, I did find her in an abandoned area.
My father ensured disruptions were non-existent when I train since he is resolute to have me win this fighting competition which he signed without my consent. I was cautioned that many strong competitors would be present since numerous posters were placed. It welcomed all who had seen it to enlist. Little did I know, I would come across Hope Valentino.
“Hey! Are you listening to me?” Josh questioned and threw a pillow from my couch, which landed on my face with an impact that shoved my thoughts away. My eyes appeared to be glued on my mobile since she left for home.
“Do you know Hope Valentino? She’s in a few of my classes.” He shook his head in response.
His gaze remained on me with a small smirk. “Dating?”
“You’ve seen her! She doesn’t talk to anyone and usually sits alone.” I frowned, ignoring his impossible assumption.
“Oh!” he finally said, then added, “I don’t know her.” There was a hint of irresolute when he spoke the phrase. His body went still.
My chest was weighty with dread, thinking of the contest I might confront unaided. There was no point in telling Josh about Hope’s when he was unaware of her existence.
I let the situation slide, drawing my eyes back to my phone.
“What happened to her?” Perhaps he believed something unfortunate happened. After all, I called him over to my place because my heart was overwhelmed with an unexplainable amount of anguish.
“After listening to your rant about your father and the things he wants you to do, I don’t think there’s time for love. Just give her up.”
I did not bother to explain my current state. He supposed it was just another woman who I share an ongoing infatuation with, but I beg to differ. I felt oddly apprehensive that she would turn me down. I needed severe help if I wanted to win the fight and bring home a fortune. What could she gain from helping me, anyway? She had every right to turn me down.
I let out an inward sigh, tearing my watch from my mobile.
It was then the sound of vibration rented the room. In all possible haste, I looked at the sender of the text, and a smile instantly touched the corners of my lips.
“That’s her? How does she have your number, didn’t you say she couldn’t talk?” Josh started firing questions, but I caught up with answering Hope.
She texted: “What do you need my help with?”
I thought of a response: “Can we meet up? I’d like to talk about it. I promise, helping me would not cause you any harm.”
Josh was just behind my shoulders, peering at everything I was informing her. His raised eyebrow was perceptible from the corner of my eye.
We observed as three dots jump, signifying that she was replying. In no time my phone vibrated once again: “Right after school. If I am reluctant to help, I won’t do it.”
I held back a smile, replying with ‘thanks’ before placing my phone on the table.
Bending towards the cupboard on my side, I grabbed two controllers for a game and handed one to Josh.
“I’m guessing you’re not telling me about what’s going down in your life right now.”
I was shaken back to reality by the constant ringing of my alarm. I groaned, batting my eyes as I recalled the reason I decided to wake up so unreasonably early. Reluctantly, I threw myself out of bed and got ready for the morning.
I lived alone in an overly spacious house my sister, and I inherited from our grandfather, who had unfortunately passed on. My family is reasonably wealthy, but to my father, it is never enough. Though he has a stable job that pays well, an expensive car, and a luxurious house, he continually craved more. He has the highest expectations, and I can never meet them.
My mother is an average, caring and doting parent. She is the only person to call when my father is blinded with indignation and wrath, and the only one who can calm him down before kicking me out of his house.
My sister is an erudite woman who had already graduated and lives in a different town, working hard to pursue her dream and be an Oncologist.
I journeyed to school, earlier than regular days. Risking being held back by the teacher is one I made an effort to avoid since I doubt Hope would wait for me after the last class of the day. It should be the other way around instead.
I did not suppose I will get ready for the morning this quick, but there was no harm in going to school earlier since my closest mates would already be present.
I hopped into my car, which I have recently gotten from a relative on my father’s side of the family, and drove off.
Peculiar stares pierced through me as I climbed out of my car and entered the school’s hallway. A look of consternation pierced through me as students knew I barely come to school on time.
Running my hand through my hair, I glimpsed around to spot the two lads I hang out with daily. They had a habit of arriving at school early just to have a chat, which I struggled to adapt.
A few steps before I could reach them, someone sped my way and placed a hand on my face.
“What happened, Tyler?” Ashley asked.
Concern was visible in her eyes, shaping her features into one with arched eyebrows as she inspected the bruise on my face.
“I simply fell down a set of stairs, no big deal,” I lied fluently and convinced her with a smile.
“Is there a reason you’re early today?”
I simply shrug, not wanting to reveal the truth.
Ashley had a small smile on her lips as she brushed her fingers across the injury on my face.
“I’ll follow you back to your place right after school.” She eyed me with a suggesting eyebrow, waiting for me to respond.
However, I was not heading home after the last class of the day. I needed to have a word with Hope.
“I’ve got things to do after school,” I said, disinclined. I shot her an apologetic smile.
Her grasp on my arm tightened as she drew closer to me.
“Just for today?” she pouted.
I sighed, “I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
I received a small nod and watched as she left to join her friend.
“What has gotten into you?” Another of my best friends, Grayson Owen, asked. He was another who would come to mind when I needed a company. “Turning her down and coming to school much earlier than typically with a punched face? Strange.”
“Josh told me you’re hiding something.” He eyed me curiously. “Discovered a secret and don’t want to tell anyone about it?”
I let out a low chuckle.
“Think as you want.”
Grayson chortled, assuming it was a joke and changed the topic, knowing I would not just simply release concealed information.
“A disguised fighter,” I mumbled quietly to no one, discovering how odd of a title it is.
I joined my friend’s conversation for a few more minutes before the bell rang and we dispersed to our classes, where I willingly sat next to Hope, who was quietly writing in an impressively designed notebook.
“She doesn’t talk to anyone. I doubt Tyler is interested in her,” someone told another.
“Can everyone stop making a fuss about seats?” Ashley spoke with asperity, walking into the class and cutting off all murmurings for just a second before they resumed with their dialogues.
I gave a furtive glance at Hope, who looked at a page in her notebook with pure ferocity reflecting in her eyes. I could almost see the luminosity of the seething flame that blazed within her orbs. It reminded me of the day before—the outraged look in her eyes a second before she made me fall effortlessly.
At that moment, the teacher strolled into the class. His eyes landed on me, and bewilderment lit his gaze before he recollected his calm expression. Perhaps he thought I was involved in a fight. I ignored him, diverting my attention to Hope, who dropped her pen into her pocket and the notebook with a small piece of paper clipped under it into her bag.
She then looked up to meet my gaze. I smothered a grin, and to my utter shock, she returned with the most breath-taking smile I have ever witnessed.