After School Club

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X - School Project

I woke up to the sound of water running from downstairs and cupboards opening and closing at the mid-morning of Sunday. I got out of bed and pulled up my blinds, and as soon as I looked at Maddox’s window I remembered, with a slight roll of my eyes and a smile, that today was the day me and Maddox were supposed to be doing the English project. Would we even get anything done? Were his parents and siblings going to be there too?

My phone ringing diverted my attention, and I answered it after glancing at Lavinia’s caller ID.

“Hi, Lavinia.”

“Hi. I’ve got to work on this stupid school project again today, you know!”

“So have I. I’m going to Maddox’s at around lunchtime,” I told her, putting the phone on loudspeaker and grabbing my hairbrush.

“Well, Maddox isn’t as bad as Leroy is!”

“Is he still getting on your nerves then?”

“Like hell he is! I mean, okay. I had to call him yesterday because he was out of town - like, convenient?! - and we picked out Macbeth since that’s the only kind of interesting one there is. He’s sort of a nerd, Es. He knows loads of quotes and wants to make it seriously detailed and bloody - not that I have a problem with it, but-”

“Isn’t this all a good thing?” I questioned her, confused, “It seems like he’s trying hard, and you’ll probably get a good grade in the end. Is he being rude and making remarks like he usually does at the same time then?”

A short silence hung on her end, and she spoke up again, her voice unsure.

“Well... no, but that’s probably because one of the teachers had a word with him, or he wants to get this all over and done with. And he does make stupid remarks every now and then, just not as often, I guess. Let’s just say he’s been way more aggravating than at the moment, but god knows how long that’ll last.”

I thought back to Maddox’s comment on Lavinia and Leroy, and rolled my eyes, putting down my brush.

“Oh. Well, that’s a good thing. I should probably go get ready - I’ll see you at school tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah, right. Bye!”

I pulled on some jeggings, a top and jumper, and put a headband in my hair before going downstairs and catching sight of my mum standing in front of the wall mirror, her bronze hair pulled back into a ponytail with a few loose strands framing her face, with her tight black denim jeans on and a top that covered her stomach. She glanced at me and smiled lightly.

“Hey, Esme.”

“Hi. You’re up... well, earlier.”

“Yep. I’ve been offered a job to work in The Downs’ Diner - you know, opposite Mugshotz? So if that all goes well, we’ll hopefully be getting more money coming in and all that.” She turned to me after a moment, looking hesitant. I frowned slightly.

“What?”

“Well... look. I know, things haven’t been great with money recently. But I’m gonna try harder, okay? Trust me, I don’t wanna work stupid late every weekday any more than you do.”

I shook my head, giving her a half-smile and pouring out some cornflakes.

“It’s fine, honestly.”

“No, it isn’t. I just feel... like we haven’t spent much time together for a while, you know? Let’s just hope all goes well, yeah?”

I nodded, smiling again. I half-hoped that she would get the job, but then I knew that there was a big possibility of it not happening. And if it did, what’d we do when we were together more? I doubt she’d have anything really in common with me now, and I was used to her coming briefly and going working, or out with friends or something. Still, I’ve been wanting the mother-daughter relationship ever since things went downhill, but knowing that mum would have to work more because of dad sort of ruled that out.

“Yeah, that’s great. Good luck.”

She flashed a smile at me and with a wave of her fingers, she picked up her handbag and went off. I nibbled the inside of my lip, glancing at the clock. I still had about an hour and a half until I was due to go to Maddox’s - just enough time to roughly plan what we could base our work on.

I grabbed a notebook and pen and sat on the couch, the TV playing with the volume down as I sat and thought. I guessed that pretty much every extro girl group would choose to do Romeo and Juliet, and I didn’t really like that play anyway. Lavina and Leroy were doing, Macbeth, Carmen and Melissa had told me they were doing a Midsummer Night’s Dream. After a few minutes of debating, my eyes lit up in thought and I wrote down Hamlet. Quite complex, with mystery and death and not too much romance. I grabbed my laptop and looked up a few key facts, and in just under an hour and a half, I had a good few pages of notes and ideas written down neatly and highlighted. I put down my pen, smiling at my work and then jumping a little as I heard my phone buzz, with Maddox’s name appearing above the message.

“U can come anytime now. we’re not doing romeo and juliet btw ;)”

I rolled my eyes and pushed my phone in my pocket, grabbing my notes and going upstairs to put them in my backpack. I pulled on a pair of Converse and made my way back downstairs, opening the front door and locking it up. Maddox was already leaning against the front doorframe, and he gave me his signature smirk when he saw me.

“’Sup, Ezzie?”

I raised a brow and rolled my eyes slightly.

“It’s Esme, and I was fine,” I replied, his smirk not leaving his face.

“Yeah, okay. C’mon, let’s get the boring stuff over with.”

He pushed open the door and went in after me, and I briefly glanced at the hall, which already looked quite decorated and fitted with belongings.

“You guys settled in pretty well then?”

He shrugged, closing the door and locking it.

“It took a few days. Sharon bought a crap ton of stuff over, and we all had to sort stuff out since we didn’t wanna keep tripping over boxes and looking around for stuff for ages.”

I nodded, frowning slightly.

“Sharon’s your sister?”

“Nah, my dad’s girlfriend,” he answered, his expression showing that he didn’t think much of her.

“Oh, right. Uh, should I like, take my shoes off, or...?”

Maddox raised a brow at me and smirked again.

“What? No, it’s fine. C’mon.”

Maddox went upstairs and I followed behind, and a few paces down the landing he pushed open the door to his bedroom.

“This is most likely the only place we’re gonna get anything done. My older brother’s downstairs.”

“Oh... okay?”

“He’s not that bad,” he said, once I stepped in the room and put my bag down, “you’ll see him later.”

Maddox’s room took me by surprise. It was quite tidy - a large white desk in one corner with a computer and headphones, with a few computer games scattered on the shelf above it, and a double bed with a skateboard and a few music posters on the walls.

“Do you like living here?”

“Yeah, it’s okay,” he said, sitting on the bed and running his fingers through his tufty blonde locks. “How long have you been here?”

“All my life, I guess.”

He nodded, then looked up at me expectantly.

“What are we doing then?”

“Well, Lavinia and Leroy chose Macbeth,” I told him, getting out my notes and sitting opposite him, “so I wrote down a few notes on Hamlet?”

“Okay. What is it then?”

“Well, the ghost of the King of Denmark tells his son Hamlet to avenge his murder by killing the new king, which is Hamlet’s uncle. He feigns madness, contemplates life and death, and seeks revenge. So it’s basically a play about how deadly revenge can be,” I said, opening up my notes. He nodded slowly, bemused, and took my notes after I offered them to him.

“A few notes,” Maddox repeated with a grin, “more like a few pages. Do you get tutoring or something?”

“No. I just researched it.”

“Huh.” He put them back down, looking back to me with his sage green eyes. “So, what, we putting it on a poster or something?”

“Sure. I don’t really have art stuff on me-”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that. My stepsister probably has stuff like that. This isn’t due in until Thursday, so there’s no massive rush.”

So Maddox and me got started. I wrote down all the notes on parcel and coloured paper, arranging it on a piece of black A2 that Maddox was sticking pictures on every so often.

I should’ve known that the day and conversation wouldn’t just be about Shakespeare.

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