Fighting For Hope

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THREE

HOPE

Disconcertment chose to coil in my stomach like a depraved serpent. As I looked into the eyes of Tyler Rivera, it hissed in suspense, slithering within me.

I was led to a dissimilar surrounding after we were dismissed from school a few minutes ago. Malaise crawled discreetly into my chest, triggering me to feel uneasy. It was as if someone was spying me.

“Can you help teach me how to fight?” he requested. The fragile silence cracked with the sound of his voice.

My expression had immediately changed to incredulity. Disbelief caused my hands felt frosty like in a blizzard. Why did Tyler pick me to teach him how to fight? I knew he was wealthy since students frequently conversed about it. He could just hire a personal boxing trainer.

“My father signed me up for this fighting competition, which would take place next week. Though I could barely punch,” he explained sheepishly. “I just need the cash.”

“Besides, you can improve your skills if you are willing to teach me too. It’s just for a week.” The boy was persuasive. “You don’t have to speak either, just use actions.”

“I won’t bother you after.” It must have held significance for him to be so indefatigable.

It was a short week. And Tyler was right. There would be an enhancement in my skill if I coached him. I will hold a more significant advantage over my stepfather. Still, every situation had its cons. It will cause a difference in our relationship and may result in trust and all things parlous.

Just seven days.

“I can help you with something too.” Despair revealed on his face.

Sliding out a piece of paper and a black pen from my pocket, I hesitated. Then, I urged myself to scribble down a few words.

“In thirty minutes, I would expect you to be where we met the day before.” My handwriting was curved.

I offered it, then made myself scarce. I hope I will not feel repentant about the decision made.

I departed home before leaving for the gymnasium. I made an effort to arrive earlier. Though I mastered to disregard the nasty opinions of others, first impressions still counted.

I started without Tyler. Shifting my body weight to my right foot, I came close to the punching bag and swung my fist horizontally, then delivered some jabs as the bag started swaying. I moved back while the bag closed the distance and ended with a sidekick when I saw a silhouette enter the room. My eyebrow quirked disbelievingly. He was the last person who I believe would appear ten minutes early, equipped with a book and pen.

It was impossible to denigrate his effort. It made glee swell in my chest in a fulfilling manner.

“I brought my car along. I can give you a lift after,” he suggested. I did not turn him down.

The continuous flow of time ushered us to our current situation, where Tyler displayed an arrogant expression after learning how to perform a jab.

I gestured for him to conduct the move, which he promptly responded to by moving his left foot in front of his right. He placed his elbows in place and extended his right arm in a prolonged rate. When he punched, his limbs unconsciously moved. The punch was weak, and the punching bag barely budged.

He then switched his stance and extended his left arm.

It was impossible to win a competition with such low standards. A jab might be a basic move, but it could still affect Tyler’s future opponent. It pestered me to know he could not do it accurately.

I let out a defeated sigh as he continued throwing his punches.

After a few heartbeats, he finally stopped. A smile swept across his face as he asked, “How did I perform?”

I replied using his notebook. “Horribly.”

He frowned while tilting his head quizzically.

“How am I supposed to do it, then?”

I handed him the book and pen for him to grab. It was not necessary since I was not mute, but I was glad he brought it along with understanding that I was not comfortable exposing my voice to just him after such a long time of keeping it to myself.

I thought him to be imperious and ungenerous. However, I was proved wrong. His thoughtfulness is beyond my conceptualization.

I strode towards the punching bag while he observed my every movement. I kept my body and hands relaxed as I got into the boxing stance with my knees slightly bent, hands up and elbows in. I inhaled while I punched the bag while making sure to rotate my arm. My fist, entirely covered in the boxing glove, made contact with the bag with a thump.

Tyler widened his eyes, taking notes of my steps. “I think I got it,” he said, taking my place in front of the punching bag.

I offered him an encouraging smile as he mirrored my actions. He went into the right position and finally landed a robust and firm punch.

Gratified, a smile reached my lips. I recalled the first time I wanted to learn to fight. I was so bumptious, thinking I could make both my mother and stepfather atone for their sin after I learned the basics. I then discovered it was not as effortless as I thought.

It took weeks to master the simple moves and months to learn the more complex ones. It had been years, and I was still insecure about the way I fight. At times, scepticism affected the mindset stating I can beat the people that ended my father’s life.

I detested knowing they did not get caught. Everyone in town believes my father died because of a ridiculous story. My mother and stepfather had fooled the public into thinking he committed suicide after my mother left him.

I saw it all, and I knew the truth. But I lacked evidence. My stepfather is a prosperous and successful businessman who owns a prominent company. He must have already hired people with his money to hide the hideous truth.

I nodded, shoving the thoughts to the back of my head.

I wanted to continue with teaching him yet another move, but before I could, Tyler brought me to the corner of the room and handed me one of the bottles of water I brought along. He had the widest smile on his face.

“It has been half an hour, and I have only learned one of the skills in fighting. Must be hard for you. I’m curious, how long you have been fighting? A few months?”

With one hand, I held out two fingers to represent the number six.

“Six weeks is technically a month and a few days,” he said, and I shook my head again.

“Years?” He sounded astounded. Perhaps he thought it was impossible to cling onto a hobby or activity for so long. I assumed the same when I started.

I assumed that after learning most of my current knowledge, I could simply use it against my stepfather.

Little did I know that there were always things that I have yet to learn and discover.

It is an on-going process.

“Six years?”

It seemed to take a few seconds for the information to sink into Tyler’s brain before awe befall his expression. I did not quite think it was something others would find remarkable or bizarre since professionals had learned to fight their whole lives.

“You never struck me as someone who fights,” he said while the corners of his lips stretched into a wide grin.

I startlingly laugh, placing the bottle on the ground. I realized how long it had been since the last time I had genuinely laughed.

I guess it did not matter if the ice around my heart melts for just this week since after it ends and Tyler gets the competition over with, he would not bother me. I could go back to planning how I want my parents to pay.

In the meantime, I decide to enjoy the presence of another person. But one thing’s for sure; I did not plan on letting him into my secret or life.

“Angel,” he called. That nickname had triggered too many memories I would rather forget. “The title comes to mind with a look.”

I sent a glare his way, hoping it was enough to tell him not to call me by that name.

“Why don’t you talk?” he overlooked my intense stare. I don’t think he got my message.

I opened my mouth, but no words escaped. I did not mind communicating with Tyler. After all, it would make my job much more manageable when instructing him on how to fight. We were already technically interacting.

It was then reality struck, and I realized I was letting my guard down. I tried convincing myself that we will act as we had never met soon enough.

My father, the man who truly gave me happiness, told me years ago that trusting someone will most likely end horribly. It was only right if I do not go against him, but why did something tell me I have nothing to worry about around Tyler? He might turn out different from my imagination. It reminded me that not everyone had a soul as dark as my stepfather’s.

I shrugged in response to his question. I guess I was still not comfortable. Staying quiet might probably be for the best, but it will not resume forever.

It took half an hour for him to learn how to throw a regular punch. I had yet to show him a hook and defence. I decided to stay a little longer to finish teaching him another move.

It was until the light from the sky above was obliterated by total blackness when Tyler could remember all the steps by heart. Fatigue gripped onto me. Never had I needed to recite the same action so many times, but while I did, I could correct my mistakes as well.

“Thanks for agreeing to help me.” Tyler flashed me a glance with an unforced charming smile. It kills to admit, but it did affect me. A flutter of warmth tingled in my body, like lively butterflies.

I nodded in reply. My eyes trained on the poster with all the information about the competition Tyler is most probably participating.

Just a day before, I presumed it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

“Do you need a ride home?” he asked, getting onto his feet and stretching out a hand for me. I disregarded it, standing up on my own. It was already late at night, and it was indeed dangerous to walk back home myself. I suppose time drained more rapidly than I anticipated.

“You can jot down your address,” he said, disposing of the two plastic bottles.

He led me to his car, grabbing the handle and pulling the door to his car open for me. “Just hop in.”

Reluctantly, I slid into the passenger’s seat and waited until Tyler climbed in, to hand the paper with my address written on it

“Glad you trust me with your address,” he said. If his sentence halted in the middle, the walls guarding my heart would have tumbled up again. He was not conscious of how much it would affect me.

I had been trying so unbelievably hard to block everyone out of my life. It was so hard in the first few weeks when I was younger, but after a while, it became an insecurity and habit that I cannot stop.

It was because I wanted to respect my father by taking his reminder to avoid trusting others so swiftly.

“We’re here,” Tyler announced, ridding of my train of thoughts.

I flashed him a small smile, stepped out of the car and left for my apartment.

The next morning sun painted the sky as meticulously and magnificently as an artist.

Unwillingly, I carried myself to the edge of my bed. Like a slope of water, memories of the night before flood into my head.

I am one step closer to my goal.

My revenge will be taking place soon enough. With the thought in mind, satisfaction course through my body. I have planned my attack for years, and it was about to begin.

I left my apartment, making my way to school when a honk of a car startled me from behind. I turned to the direction of the sound with furrowed eyebrows.

Tyler sat inside, looking back at me with amusement.

“Climb in,” his voice was muffled, but I got the message. I was baffled. Yet again, I have mistaken him for being unkind. It was amiable for him to have waited outside my place. My unwillingness to drift closer to him faltered before I reminded myself of the dangers it possesses.

I entered the passenger seat once again, as he started up the car and began driving to our destination, all the while we were sitting in comfortable silence.

I supposed he did not find the need to speak since I would not respond anyway.

I considered the ride a pleasant one until we arrived in front of a big group of pupils who stared at us while we exited his vehicle.

“Who is she?” A chorus of cacophonous voices mixed to form one.

Tyler turned to face me, apologetic. “Sorry. You probably hate this attention.”

“Tyler!” The voice of Ashley Hill broke out, sprinting towards him and clutching onto his arm. “Is she the reason you don’t allow me to come over to your home?” Her mutter was barely soft at all.

“No—”

“Don’t lie to me. I saw you with her yesterday behind the school’s building!” she cut Tyler off. “What’s your relationship with her?”

Not wanting to listen to their conversation any longer, I looked away. I was about to leave the area when Tyler clutched onto my hand and ushered me into the building.

My jaw dropped, flashing him an incredulous stare. Why would he walk away from Ashley? I have never given them much thought, but one glance and I would think they belonged.

“Are you aware that she doesn’t speak? What’s so special about her? Don’t you think it’s-” She tailed us with exasperation.

“Stop it, Ashley,” Tyler’s voice was firm. I stole a glance at his face and was quite shocked to realize he was indeed incensed. “You barely know her.”

So do you, the thoughts resounded in my head

With that last sentence, he dragged me away from the centre of attention. I was frankly dumbfounded by what just took place. Tyler would be the last person I expected to defend and drag me out of that mess.

He let go of my hand the moment we arrived in the hallway of the school. A few people were loitering around, lazing or engaged in conversations. I presumed Tyler is close to the two boys beside the lockers where he is leading me.

“Where’s your group of friends?” he inquired. We lived in a vastly different world. I am lonesome, and he is gregarious. But I tell myself that I did not need any friends, intimate or not because they judged too much.

I shook my head, silently stating that there were none but those fragmented in mind.

“How about I introduce mine?” he asked before calling out two lads. “Josh? Gray?” Only one turned to look at him with an inquisitive gaze. The other seemed too engrossed with his phone to realize his name was called.

“This is Hope, the one I talked about,” he introduced me to one, leaving me bewildered. Has he mentioned me in conversations?

The guy then flashed me a captivating smile. A look of familiarity crossed his features before it concealed so expeditiously that I queried if it was there at all.

“I’m Josh Carson, nice to meet you.”

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