Fighting For Hope

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SEVEN

HOPE

The bodacious sun shone with its stupendous phosphorescence and laid its gentle, warm touch on the gleaming blue car that Tyler operated. In just a glance, I could tell it was fit for a race with its aerodynamically curved figure, spotless paint, and leather interior. Still, I was contented to pick the car I chose for its exquisite shade of dark red.

His chosen car slowed beside me and lowered the car window. “Just one round?” he suggested, and I nodded in response. I supposed the empty road is a one-way street that leads back to where we currently were.

Tyler flashed me a grin, and I certainly did not miss the twinkle in his eyes. “The moment it reaches ten,” he said, rolling the car window back up.

The unusual twist of a smile invaded my features with the overwhelming adrenaline which coursed through my veins. I felt delirious and was vibrating with anticipation. They were emotions I missed since my father’s death.

I tolerantly waited until it reached ten, then I recalled Tyler’s instructions and started operating the car. I sped it up, feeling more effervescent than I ever thought was attainable. I slammed my feet on the accelerator, seeing as Tyler was just a few meters in front. I caught a glimpse of the look of approbation on his face as I whizzed passed him.

Using the advantage of being in the lead, I steer right hastily with force, cutting into his lane. I threw my head back, guffawing at his priceless features before concentrating on the race once again. Euphoria wired through my body as he emerged beside me with a determined expression plastered on his face.

Worry flooded me when I spotted the corner in the distance. This idea of racing with no history in cars was preposterous, and I could probably crash the car in a heartbeat. But I adored this absurdity—the pulse pounding in my temples, the stir in my soul.

Like in fighting, I could predict the moves he was going to make. When he was about to manoeuvre into my lane, I steered into his. That caught him by surprise, causing him to slow down and for me to steer back to the right.

I was now retaking the lead.

Upon encountering the first corner, I slowed down, going the safer route. I narrowed my eyes slightly, taking in how Tyler did a neat slide and ended up in front of me.

I could recall him teaching me about drifting, the move he attempted just a few seconds ago. I planned to try it out in the next corner, despite how hazardous it looked.

The turn was only a few meters ahead. There was no way I could get in the lead again unless I aced the move. I already had all of my pressure on the pedal.

Once the next turn came into view, I realized it was going to be a tough job considering I still had difficulty doing the basics in driving. After unbuckling my seat belt, I reached for the clutch and violently turned the wheel. I guess the relentless pestering for speedy rides in my father’s vehicle became beneficial. I would always observe in wonderment at how he controlled his car, in case I owned one in the future. The vague memories of how he drove, along with the extra lesson Tyler gave less than an hour ago helped trigger my confidence in the race.

It was then I found myself more than a meter ahead. Swiftly, I get the car running at its swiftest speed again. With a satisfied smile on my face, I resumed the intense yet compelling ride. Amusement danced in my eyes as I watched Tyler switch the lanes freely, trying to catch up but to no avail.

I was delighted to know I had already learned some of the sequences in driving so expeditiously, though I had not yet encounter traffic or any situation that faces peril. The possibility of my current act caught up with me. An accident can occur, one that is potent enough to land someone in a coma. I shivered with a chest filled with fleeting foreboding.

I had the vehicle in control, yet unaware of the third turn ahead. This time, Tyler was able to swerve his car in the corner professionally, and we found ourselves neck on neck, right beside each other.

The edge of his mouth tugged into a grin, and I returned it with a smile. Such beams had always failed to suppress after the death of my father.

Something happened, and soon I realized his car was starting to trail behind. Using the opportunity, I drifted in the fourth and last corner, chuckling as Tyler failed to do the same and ended slowing down much more.

As the car rental shop came in sight, I slammed my foot on the brakes, surpassing the invisible finishing line I imagined in my head.

Tyler came to a screeching halt beside me with an indecipherable expression taking over his countenance. I let out a quiet giggle at the look while exiting the car.

“You were impressive,” he commented. “Is there something you can’t do?”

I replied with silence, causing him to add along with a chuckle. He said, “Right. You can’t talk.”

I had the sudden urge to prove that I could indeed speak. Tyler made me feel as if chatting would not make much difference. I could stay quiet or start a conversation out of the blue. It would not affect our relationship either way.

It was tough to admit, but we were friends—a pair comfortable with each other and shared a bond. They typically consisted of trust.

That word is still noxious, but maybe trusting just one person would not end with me getting hurt. My father had always been one of the few I trusted, and I will eternally put him first. Although I had never understood how trusting another could end with someone getting hurt, I believed him.

Maybe just this once, I should open up.

“I’ll bring you back home,” he said, “after we return the cars.”

I nodded, getting into the car I picked and tailing behind Tyler’s.

He parked his car, but I had a fear of scratching it since reversing was beyond my abilities at the moment, so I climbed out for Tyler to assist me.

“Impractical! That’s your first time driving?” his uncle asked with approving nods as I stepped out of the car. A smile stretched across my lips as I gave an affirmative response. From the corner of my eye, I spot Tyler hop out of his parked car and enter the vehicle I used for the race.

The uncle scanned my features meticulously before saying, “You remind me of an old friend of mine.”

My eyebrows furrowed, inquisitiveness at a peak.

“Yeah, he’s a fast learner too, exceptionally gifted, but unfortunately, the man died from suicide.” I bit my tongue, holding myself back from asking for his name because it was too much of a coincidence. My curiosity awakened once again when I heard him mutter. “However, I know otherwise.”

Before I could raise an eyebrow and exhort him to spill more of what he knew, and probably the name of the man he called an old friend, Tyler climbed out of the car and reached my side.

“She doesn’t speak,” he said, looking between his uncle and me.

“I just noticed,” was his response.

Tyler bid goodbye to the old man before he led me to his car and said, “Hop in.”

I nodded slowly, watching as his uncle spare me a glance and forced a smile for his nephew. Tyler started his car, driving to my place. He had been there a countless number of times and did not hesitate to make the turns. The passing foliage became a hazy blur as he drove. I shifted uneasily while eyeing beyond the window, trying my best to ignore Tyler’s piercing stare on the back of my head.

After being dropped off outside my apartment, I sauntered back to my place with my bag behind me. I slumped on my bed once I entered my room, reflecting on the time I had outside my home. Candidly, I experienced elation and had smiled more than I ever did in the last few years.

I found my phone, then entered the screen to send Tyler a text message, dithering before I hit send. His reply came in seconds.

“Thank you for today.”.

His sudden reply caused a small smile to reach my lips, “You deserved it.”

“You know, you shouldn’t hide your talents,” he sent after a while, then added, “And your voice.”

I bit my lip, curious as to why he wanted to hear my voice. Having no utter idea how to answer him, I left him on without reply and placed my phone aside, getting ready to vacate my home for the gymnasium.

It was until Sunday when I came across Tyler while training. I thought we would be minding our own business and doing our separate workouts since the competition had already ended, but instead, he approached me.

“Would you teach me the other moves you did?”

I frowned, feeling my head spin with indecisiveness before giving in and showing him some of the more complex moves. Refusing did not seem like a choice, not with his persuasive character. He offered to have dinner with me, and I dreaded to answer. Staying away from him might be the best idea, but before I could repudiate, I found myself shrugging. It happened to be an approving gesture to him, and I could not bring myself to back out.

He beamed, informing me that he would bring me to his place right after. Fear corrupted my chest instantaneously, realizing we were not eating outside, but in his home with ordered food. I did not mind, but I did promise myself that I would never step into his house again. Something unpleasant was bound to happen, we might get too close, and I had to be concerned.

Seizing the thoughts to the back of my head, I performed a move for him.

“So I have to go behind, reach underneath the jaw and choke that person with my elbow, grab the bicep, then push his head forward?” Tyler said in disbelief. “Who made that up?”

I stifle a giggle, urging him to try the moves I just showed. “Who do I try that on?” he asked and scrunched his nose. I gave him a bored look, causing a frown to take over his features. “On you?”

I nodded, turning around, so he was behind me. After a while of him being frozen, I scowled, giving him a side glance.

“I just don’t think it’s right to choke you,” he said sheepishly. I turn around abruptly, throwing a punch aimed for his face which I knew he would dodge. I slowed my moves down since he was still a beginner.

He caught my leg, foolishly letting go of my hand. I swing my arm, but before it landed on the side of his head, he ducked. I took the chance to turn around. I dreaded to perform that move since it was exceedingly unintelligent, but it was the only way he can present the step I taught.

It worked impeccably because soon I found his arm snaked around my neck and his body against my back. He was supposed to push my head forward, making sure to lock me in that posture, but he skipped that step.

I looked around my shoulder, encouraging him with a delighted smile. We stayed in that position for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. An itching feeling of warmth chose my body as their possession.

I dismissed the heat. I grabbed his hand as a reflex, tripped him, twisted his arm and locked it behind his back.

“I shouldn’t have stopped,” he mumbled.

“Sorry,” I murmured in an inaudible voice and shot him an apologetic look before letting go and stepping out of the way.

“I think we should call it a day,” he suggested, and I nodded in agreement. “Come on. We’ll get to my place, and you can have a shower there.”

I recollect the situation we were in minutes ago. I was pleased that I showed Tyler that I was not a vulnerable, helpless girl, but I did act too harshly. He stopped outside his place, which was now reasonably familiar to me. It felt different from the first time I have been to his house because I knew what to expect.

Knowing I had the permission to shower, I headed for the bathroom first right after I picked out a set of clothes that belonged to Tyler’s sister. I dreaded to wear them, but getting out of my current dirty garments seemed to be the first thing in my mind at the moment.

I stepped out of the bathroom, furrowing my eyebrows as I heard a commotion from outside the room. There were a few voices that I could effortlessly recognize.

“Hope, I forgot to say that I invited Grayson and Josh as well. Are you fine with it?” Tyler asked. I nodded, I used to them being around anyway. I remembered them discussing hanging out together while in school. Today must be the day they planned on meeting.

“There she is! Always welcomed,” Grayson said, eating a slice of pizza.

Josh chuckled, looking behind his shoulders to face me, “Hope, come here,” Josh said, patting on the empty spot next to him that was sandwiched between him and Tyler. Shrugging, I made my way over and sat beside him since there was no other space.

Josh flashed me a shy smile, seeming reticent before looking away to eat a slice of pizza on his plate.

“It’s been a long time since I had both of you over,” Tyler stated, his eyes trained on me. I tried ignoring his gaze, helping myself with the food.

“Yeah, caught up with things concerning your father?” Josh asked with a small tug on the side of his lips. “But you’ll be inviting us either way because we’re your only friends.”

He turned to me. “Tyler has severe trust issues.”

I forced a smile at his statement. With my current knowledge of Tyler, I know it was an exaggeration. He seemed to trust me with his items the moment I stepped into his home.

“Maybe because others might cheat on his feelings when they find out I’m so much more attractive,” Grayson added, still joking. He had a personality nobody can execrate and is humorous without effort. He is attractive, but I learned that judging people by their looks was erroneous. My stepfather looked like a marvellous and frank man, but I know his true colours.

“I made this guy pay with my genius skills the other day because he scammed me saying I’ll be receiving shoes, but I got a rock,” he changed the topic, pouting, as he took another bite out of his pizza.

Josh snorted while Tyler stifled a laugh, but all I could do was raise an eyebrow.

“Grayson has sick technical knowledge when it comes to computers, it can be beneficial at times,” Tyler explained after studying my expression. I listened to their casual and friendly conversation. Despite the two guys beside me continually stealing glances at me, it was a reasonably good night until my phone rang from inside my pocket.

I shot them a smile, silently excusing myself. I pressed to answer, frowning when I realized it was from my mother.

“Hope! Your teachers called to say you skipped school on Friday; are you sick?” I bit back a scoff, knowing that she was simply faking to care. She only wanted me to pass my academic, so I could grow with a steady job and earn some money for the family. I hummed in reply, not bothering to use words to answer.

“You’re better now, right?” she asked, and I hummed again, wanting to end our conversation as soon as possible.

“That’s great! I can’t wait for your short break. I have news to tell you,” she said, before ending the call. I raised an eyebrow. She did not sound thrilled. Instead, her tone hinted that she was somewhat sorrowful.

I brushed it off, returning to the living room. I liked Tyler’s friends, but it did not necessarily mean I trusted them. I had no idea when I would be leaving, but I supposed it was after Grayson and Josh depart.

“Don’t you just hate it when people force you to do something for money?” Tyler complained, most likely referring to his father and the fight.

“Can’t relate, but sure.” Grayson shrugged.

“Can’t either, but I’m sure it feels awful,” Josh said.

“Yeah,” I mumbled, making sure no one could hear me.

Tyler seemed to have been through something similar to what happened to me. We were forced to withstand rough events due to money and selfishness.

So maybe, just maybe, I could trust him after all.

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