“Ashley invited me to dinner tomorrow,” Hope told me as we exit the restaurant. “I agreed. After dinner, I’ll visit my mother.”
I turn around, eyes broadening as I heard the anomalous but pleasant news. Since I laid my eyes on Hope’s mother, I could not help but realize she was not falsifying her compassion. There must be a story which had yet to be shared.
“I can be there for you.”
“I want to talk to her privately. You’ve already done so much for me.” She flashed me a gratified smile.
We were still in the west of town and had been promenading for the last hour, observing as the firmament darkened into a pool of caliginosity, a starless night. Still, this side of town was coruscating with flamboyant colours. The streets were illuminated with radiant light through windows and the lamps that towered over us. The fact that it was a working and school night did not affect anyone much since the area was still lively with vigour.
We were having a conversation when we passed by a group of people. One of them paused on her track abruptly, causing the whole crowd to halt.
“Hope Woodland,” another man stated as he glanced at us. Or more precisely, at Hope.
She opened her mouth to say something, but no voice came out as she scanned the batch of people. I reached out to grab her hand, softly tugging at her and soundlessly requesting her to leave the crowd before more gather.
As the daughter of Calvin, the former wealthiest man in town sent to prison, she is bound to be questioned by inquisitive outsiders.
Hope flashed me a quick look of reassurance before looking back at those gathering in front of us.
“I’m not Hope Woodland,” she said with conviction.
“It’s Hope Valentino.”
She looked over at me, nodding with a sly smile and an impish glimmer in her eye which did not go disregarded. With a pull on my arm, we found ourselves galloping away from about three dozen people while laughing hysterically.
Adrenaline rushed through my veins as we took a few turns to get rid of the crowd. It was until there was just a small group who continued chasing Hope when we made a sharp turn to the right and entered a clothing store nearest to the corner. It was quite amusing to see the group miss us, but I felt like what made tonight special was this side of Hope, who continued guffawing for quite some time.
Music blasted in the shop we were currently in, while racks and cupboards stood with the clothes in all separated categories. Mannequin wore exquisite outfits along with accessories to top them off.
The store was not crowded. It is substantial enough for people to stroll around with sufficient space.
“Shopping?” She stepped beside me when she spotted me eyeing clothes. “You brought me to a mall the last time, and I ended up having more shoes than I will need.”
“Now you’ll never run out of them,” I said, grinning. We sauntered more into the clothing store, and it was then when I received a call from my mother.
“Tyler. Thank God you picked up, your father is in the hospital,” my mum rambled through the phone in evident perturbation and apprehension.
“What?” I said in disbelief. “He was just fine yesterday, how can he be—”
“I’ll be right there,” I said after a deep breath, looking into the eyes of Hope who mirrored my disquieted expression.
We made our way back to the parking lot, and while we were approaching my car, we noticed a note. The windscreen wiper embedded it. Beside it was a small velvet box, which Hope checked on.
“What is this? A life-threatening note?” I asked with incredulity.
I looked over immediately, eyeing on the opened box of matches Hope held. We exchanged a glance right after, not needing to confirm the writer of the note because we both knew who it was.
I inhaled sharply, ignoring the gift from Josh and climbed into the car with Hope who followed soon after. I did not waste a second before starting it up and speeding towards the hospital nearest to our homes, where I spent a month in an unrealistic world and where my father currently laid.
My father was a man who placed pressure on me for as long as I could remember, as any other parent would. Except, he takes matters into his own hands. He did not need my opinions and acted on impulse. Nonetheless, he was my father, and I cared for his well-being, despite having done things without my consent.
We entered the room, instantly moving towards my mother, who sat with a frown beside my father.
“What happened?” I asked, rushing towards my mom, who stood upon my arrival. She hurried towards me, wrapping me in a soothing hug.
“After telling me he felt dizzy, he fell unconscious.”
I shut my eyes, flashing her a forced reassuring smile. I could not recall many positive things that happened since I woke up.
We pulled away from the embrace, while my mother’s gaze lingered on Hope. From all the news and reports, she would have heard of her.
“You are Calvin Woodland’s daughter,” she started. “I was stunned when I found out, so was my husband. You went through a lot, honey.”
That was an understatement, I knew it better than anyone, and it was not over. I am unsure if Josh will break into any of our houses unannounced with flames.
We left the hospital while the night was still young, hours before we were to sleep. I stopped and parked the car outside Hope’s apartment, stepping out of the vehicle with her.
“Aren’t you going home?” Hope asked, raising a curious eyebrow.
“After that letter and box, you won’t know if Josh would turn up whenever,” I said. I doubt my door is capable of standing if he decides to come at night, but Hope still had her metal door to protect her from Josh’s father.
“Also, in that coma, you said you wanted a friendly match between us. I can grant you that.”
She shrugged, gesturing for me to follow her into the empty room where we used to have our friendly fights. It was apparent she would prefer a home of reduced size.
When going against Josh, who had no fighting experience, I found out the month break I took affected my technique and skill, causing my punches to degrade.
“I’ll go easy on you to correct mistakes,” she said, getting into position.
She started with a punch which I was able to block by throwing my forearm in front of me. In an instant, she moved to the side, grabbing the back of my neck and forcing me to lean forward.
“If this happens, you’ll have to get me to release my hold on you and outsmart me,” she said, waiting for me to perform my move.
I studied the position I was currently in, picturing the outcome of a few actions before using my feet to catch the heel of her foot, leaning slightly to the side to clasp the back of her head and applying pressure while forcing my leg to the front. I was sluggish to ensure she knows what I am planning.
Hope was hasty to catch herself and roll to her feet after she fell.
“Not bad, but make sure I stay on the ground by pinning me down speedily,” she suggested.
With that, she launched towards me with an elbow to the side of my head. It did not do much damage since she did not apply much force. I reached out to hold her arm and planned to raise my knees to hit her abdomen, but it, unfortunately, was blocked by her free hand.
I twisted the hand I had been grasping onto, ducking the swing aimed for my head seconds after. I made an effort to deliver a right hook, but my fist was caught in her palms.
In an instant, I was jerked forwards as a knee planted onto my stomach. Stumbling backwards, I took a moment to regain composure before we exchanged punches, both landing and missing.
Right after throwing a swift jab, she neared me and threw her hands around my shoulders, pushing me down as she kneed my gut continuously. I slid out of her grasp when I had the chance, going for a high kick which was caught.
She released it, giving me a second try.
We threw punches and kicks, blocking or ducking most of them. It was then I slid out of the way of her fist, and I got the chance to send a series of punches. She was able to step back, shooting me a smile at the move.
We were both still on our feet, but in a moment after she blocked my swinging arm, I bent down to grab both her knees and brought her down to a sitting position. Since my head faced the ground beside her right leg, I moved my body to the left, remembering this exact move Hope taught me.
She knew how to defend this. She battled her leg from the ground, but I stayed where I was. After a split second, after I struggled to focus and recall what to do next, I used my left leg to lift her legs and locked it in place.
It was then she was stuck, and I could deliver punches without it being blocked. I studied the different ways I could attack, deciding to remove the hand she had to steady herself on the ground.
With that move, we know I would win the fight. Hope gave a small laugh, smiling ecstatically as I let go of any hold on her and climbed to my knees, straddling her.
“That was something I taught on the first few weeks when I met you,” she said, still lying comfortably on her back.
“It just came to mind in a random moment,” I told her.
It then became silent for a moment. There was a period when nothing else could distract us besides each other. It lingered in the air, and all I heard was ceaseless buzzing against my ears. My eyes searched Hope’s face as she scanned mine, and on the spur of the moment, my lips found hers.
It is outrageous how months ago she pushed me away and caused a bruise on my face. We have grown from then, us and our relationship. From a person who kept things to herself, she made friends she can trust.
I know that this move I made might be a mistake that changes everything.
It is eminently affectionate and demonically hot—an addicting combination. It was brief but left a temporary, feverish warmth that surged from my heart. Hope pulled away with her captivating eyes brimming with bewilderment. I was drowning in my thoughts, already craving for more. I had never once thought such an innocent kiss could feel so electrifying. It was so much different with Hope; it meant something, and I felt as if every part of me saturated with devotion. I am wholly enamoured of her.
Just seconds passed when an unexpected move snapped me out of my stupor.
I felt her lips on mine, and this time it was much ravenous. My eyes fluttered shut, and my hands started travelling, and in a swift motion, she was on top with our lips still locked.
It was around then we heard knocking. Hope pulled away, breathless with a faint blush on her cheeks.
The visitor was becoming more impatient by the second, and what was once knocking became banging. Hope’s gaze flickered to me before she climbed onto her feet, heading outside the room.
I followed her shortly after. She pulled open the door to a young man with a broad smile plastered on his face.
“Hey, I’m Seth, the person you helped set free when I was locked in Calvin Woodland’s cell,” he introduced.