Unnerving silence traversed the hospital environment. The fact that Tyler was oddly quiescent wormed into my head. In the past, when I was obmutescent, he would always rent the silence. Our roles have turned.
“It’s been five weeks since you’ve been unconscious in this same bed,” I told him.
“I’ve told you four weeks ago that my ugly past was leaked to Grayson. He’s a guy I barely had conversations with, but recently we’ve gotten closer. Josh hasn’t been coming to school for weeks now, and only Grayson knows my story and voice. I guess at the moment we just have each other.”
“He told me he’s coming to visit you tomorrow.” I rested a hand on the bed, a small smile forming as I recalled the reaction Grayson first had when I informed him about Tyler’s unconscious state. He was in a state of disbelief before hurtling at warp speed to visit his best friend.
I looked around the small room, recalling something I wanted to tell Tyler.
“Remember when I said I got a car license the last time? I’ve bought a car with the money my father left me, and I’m telling you because I don’t plan on keeping it.”
“When you ever wake up, it’s going to be yours since I wrecked your car.”
I fiddled with the hem of my shirt. “I don’t know how much I’ve repeated this in the last few weeks, but this relationship we have is so special to me and so hard to let go.”
“I have proof in my hands for weeks now, a video of murder that could put a monster in jail. Yet I have been keeping it to myself, wanting you to be awake and the first one to tell once I succeed. Or perhaps you could fight alongside me to put Calvin in a cell where he belongs.”
“Nothing much is going on right now, not even a message from Calvin, even after he had most likely heard from the people I beat up in his underground basement that I had set the people he had locked in there free.” Looking back, it seemed quite odd to know he had let it go without a bloody fight.
“You have to wake up soon. I miss our friendly matches. Days in the gym alone had been so dull.”
I sighed, leaning back on the chair a nurse gave me after realizing I have been standing beside him for quite some time. The only seats in the area were attached to the wall, a meter from the bed. But I wanted to be beside Tyler, just in case a preposterous miracle happens, and he opens his eyes.
He looked serene, yet there was a feature I was unable to point out, which made him appear quite perturbed. Was it his eyebrows? Or the slight frown on his lips?
In the mid of my thoughts, the door was pushed open, and Hailey entered the room. I had not seen her for a month, and it was apparent she had not been sleeping much. Although she had a devitalized appearance from all that is enervating, she is still imposing.
For a second time, I laid my eyes on her, an image of a young girl I used to be friends with wavered in my head, then vanished as if it was never there.
“Hey,” she greeted, smothering a smile. I returned it, offering my seat since I planned on leaving soon.
“No. It’s fine. The nurses are bringing me a chair.” Just as she said it, a woman entered the room and placed it tenderly beside mine, receiving a gratified nod from Hailey.
I sat back down, pushing the chair closer to the bed before a soft sigh escapes my lips.
“It isn’t your fault he’s here,” she told me while settling down. I vastly doubt she knew what happened at all, no one knew, not even Josh, Tyler’s family or the police. They made me sound heroic and eminently valiant.
Since I did not have a license then and only Tyler had it, everyone assumed it was him who drove that night. They thought I was a passenger in the car who miraculously survived.
I doubt telling the truth to Hailey would do me any good at all, yet there was a pestilential bugging within me, reminding that a lie cannot be falsified in perpetuity. I glanced at her, how she reached out to clasp her brother’s hand with anguish that I could feel from meters away. Then my eye caught her hand, or more precisely, the ring she had on her finger.
“You’re engaged,” I blurted before I could stop myself. Hailey looked over with a small smile that managed to glisten her eyes.
“It’s the only pleasant thing that happened in months,” she told me, still holding on to Tyler’s hand. “Ajax proposed, and I said yes, but we haven’t discussed the whole marriage ceremony. He knows I want my brother to be there.”
“Even though he doesn’t like him much,” she said, causing a little chuckle from me. “Ajax is a good man. He is just fighting for money to pay for his bills. He’s finding a stable job.”
I nodded. Perhaps behind Ajax’s pomposity, there was indeed a part which was devoted and altruistic. After all, there is always a story behind comportment and personality. I take that from experience.
“I’m still confused…my brother trained for just weeks and there was no way he could have beaten Ajax. Yet he was able to bring the money home,” she brought up the subject, and I decided to share the innocuous truth.
“I fought Ajax that day. Tyler did lose, but I took over and won the money,” I told her. Never had I ever thought fighting was a considerable deal since it has felt like forever since I started.
“You? Fight?” she asked incredulously, urging for me to share more.
Indeed, it has been quite a while since I had a conversation about me. The last time was months ago when Tyler was still awake.
“I started when I was twelve. My father was a great fighter, and he taught me some basics,” I shared it with avidity.
“Your father sounds like an intriguing man,” she commented, which made a broad smile form on my face.
“He was. He would do anything for me, but he passed.” I left out the catastrophic details.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, smiling sympathetically. I have heard it thousands of times. People came up to me telling me how much of a remarkable man my father was and how it was a shame for him to have departed for a better place. Yet when Hailey says it, there was an intimation of honesty.
I gaze at Tyler’s features again for a moment before standing on my feet.
“I’ll be heading off. It’s late, and there’s homework,” I said and received a quiet nod.
I headed home after. It had been a routine for weeks. To visit Tyler, return home, perhaps visit the gymnasium, finish my assignments, then slumber.
However, that night before I slept, my phone rang beside me. I only expected it to be Grayson. Instead, it reflected a name I had not seen for a month. In an instant, a sweltering sensation erupted within my body.
It had been quite some time since I heard his voice, and I was yearning to accept the call. But I am aware that this might not go the way I want it.
I wonder if he still works for Calvin and knows that Grayson is out. I want to question for the reason he chose to lock his best friend away. I needed to know if he was still the Josh I knew.
Before I could hesitate more, I clicked to accept the call to hear what he had to say.
“You’ll pay for what you did,” he said, one which I could not say was unexpected. It was not what he said, which affected me. It was the way he said it. It felt like thunder which struck my heart. It startled me how someone could change so much in such little time.
“You can end this, you know—all of it. Tomorrow morning at ten, your father will be setting up the annual celebration for his company,” he told me. “Calvin wanted me to send you that invitation, along with a message.”
“This will be our final fight,” he delivered, and I felt my self-assurance building up. The message was perspicuous. He knows our fights will be infinite, and so he promised me death. I could not guarantee I am stronger than him, but I had nothing much to do but train for the last month. If he wants a fight, he will get one.
“I’ll be there,” I said simply, then cut the line. Josh then sent a text of the venue of the celebration.
I did not waste a second after to call Grayson, impatient to inform him about his missing ‘best friend’ he had been struggling to find.
“Hopey! Did you miss me already?” his voice boomed through my phone.
“Josh called,” I said without elaboration, receiving silence. “He said my stepfather is having his annual party because it’s been more than ten years into making. He wants me dead, but with the right determination, there’s a chance I can finally beat him.”
There was hesitation on the other side of the line before I hear him mumble something incoherent.
“It’s dangerous,” he warned after some time.
“I know,” I said. I had gone over the consequences but concluded that this was a chance to finish what Calvin started. The retaliation I craved for my father since the day he died.
“You’re okay with it?” he asked with a hint of incredulity in his voice, and I hummed in response. Then in a second, he uttered the most ludicrous thing I have heard, “I’m coming with you.”
“What?” I shout, certain that he could picture the expression on my face. “No, you’re not!”
“Tell me the venue and hand me your thumb drive tomorrow. I will be there after I visit Tyler in the morning. I have an idea that could make use of that video.”
I grumbled, not wanting him to be there, in such a treacherous place. Yet there was this part of me that wanted support. I just wanted Tyler there for my final fight.
“I’ll see you there then,” I said after a moment of contemplation.