She moved next door five years ago with her family, and I’ve caught every glimpse of her as possible whether she was leaving for school or washing dishes behind the kitchen windows. Now and then, whenever it was, she would sit on the porch swing and play the guitar, her sweet voice filling the night. I had fallen in love with her, over and over, and when the day I left school arrived, I decided to meet her.

Back in the day, a boy was brave enough to knock on her door, introduce himself, and wish to speak to her parents, requesting permission to date their daughter. Now most boys out there impress girls with flowers on their first visit. They would then ask her out and try their best to experience their first kiss as soon as possible. But I wasn’t like that. I believed in the old traditional way.

So I planned everything the way it would be. I bought a dozen expensive donuts and made my way to her house. I would knock on her door, and she would answer.

I would say, “Hello, my name is Chad. This is for you. Do you mind if I speak with your Dad?”

And then I would meet him face to face, tell him that I’m interested in his daughter. He would say yes, and we would live happily ever after. This was the plan.

With the donuts in one hand, I knocked on the door. It opened almost immediately, I gulped. There in the doorway stood a beastly man with a ramrod posture. He glared at me as if I had stolen his donuts.

“We make our own donuts, chum. We don’t buy them,” he remarked as he began to close the door.

“Wait!” I said as I stopped the door with my free hand, “I’m not selling donuts. I’m your neighbour; I wanted to speak with you.”

“It’s been five years, and now you want to speak with us?” he said as he opened the door and went inside. He sat down on the couch and gestured to me to take a seat. I sat on the sofa and looked at the man before me. There was a coffee table between us. He had a weathered face, and that’s when I noticed the shrine behind him. It was a collage of army photos and medals. In fact, it seemed as if it was a different or special division of agents. I had knocked on the door of a warlord!

“Um, I’m sorry we never said hello, but the reason why I’m here is-“

“I know why you are here, boy!” he interrupted as he got to his feet. Below his army shrine was a set of drawers. He opened one of them and drew out three sets of newspapers. He then spread the newspapers across the coffee table.

“I know you are here for my daughter,” he said as he stared at me with deep dark eyes as if he was surfing through my soul, “These three news clippings will tell you about the three boys who tried their luck before. Consider them to be your predecessors.”

I stared at the articles in front of me.

TEENAGER DIES FROM MYSTERIOUS DEATH AT HOPEFIELD GROUNDS

BOY COMMITS SUICIDE ON HOPEFIELD TREES

STUDENT DIES FROM ASTHMA ATTACK ON HOPEFIELD GROUNDS.

I swallowed, “What happened to them?”

“In my division of the army, I was trained to take someone out and make it look like an accident very easily. If you still want to go out with my daughter, meet me at midnight by Hopefield Grounds. If you have the guts.”

“Look, I didn’t-”

“You can see yourself out now, boy. Have a nice day because your night isn’t looking all that good.”

I walked out stunned; what on earth was going on? This was ending like Romeo and Juliet before it was even beginning! I really didn’t have a chance unless his old age was my advantage. This was crazy! This maniac killed three kids! Maybe I should report him to the police and get him arrested and then live happily ever after with his daughter. Until he gets out again…

Sometimes when a boy creates an imaginative reality so appealing and attractive, it is hard to give up the possibility even if it isn’t true or could never be true. We love for things to become what we wish them to be, and that’s how I ended up walking through Hopefield Grounds that night after sneaking out of my house.

The night was still and quiet, the moon spraying a faint white light across the grass and trees, creating a chilling atmosphere. The baseball bat in my hands felt cold, but I was dripping with sweat. My heartbeat felt like a machine gun on automatic, and my breathing…

“You breathe like an asthmatic!”

The loud voice made me whip around in panic. I held the baseball bat in defence. My neighbour walked menacingly slowly towards me, his smile broad as ever.

“I saw you leave, and I followed you all the way here. You had no clue that I was stalking you for the past 20 minutes. And you brought a baseball bat?” he laughed.

I stepped back, the baseball bat extended, “Stay away from me; why did you kill those kids? All they wanted was to love.”

“Not my daughter. I want her to marry a man, not some useless bum who has no masculinity in his DNA.”

“All you had to do was tell them to leave or state your expectations.”

“That’s all talk and no action, and you are beginning to do the same thing. You brought a bat, and you’re still afraid of me?”

I threw the bat on the ground. Thunk!

“I wouldn’t want to hurt you.”

“And why is that?”

“Your daughter needs someone to walk her down the aisle when I marry her.”

He roared in laughter, but I noticed his eyes soften. It wasn’t long before tears began to pierce through his eyes.

“Are you okay, sir?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “You did good, son. The best answer I’ve ever heard.”

I smiled, “So you not going to kill me?”

He laughed, “I never killed those kids; they were real tragedies. Those three kids were children of my deceased colleagues who served in my intelligence agency. It’s just sad how their lives ended.”

A moment of silence gripped the air as we walked back home. The night was colder and darker, the wind brushing through the streets.

“What’s your daughters’ name?”

“You’ll have to ask her that.”

“So, can I take her out?”

“Listen, man, you passed my test, now you need to pass hers….”

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