After School Club

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XI - Mason and Maddox

The project work went on for about an hour. Overall it looked amazing, with only a few more things left to finish. It was about 1.30 pm when Maddox dropped his pen and leant back, eyeing the poster in approval.

"Looks alright."

I nodded, pushing my hair behind my shoulder and closing my notebook.

"Do you want to stop, or...?"

"Yeah," he replied, flicking his dirty blonde locks away from his eyes, "we can finish it off on Thursday or something since it's due in on Friday. There's hardly anything left to do now anyway." He sat up and slid off the bed, looking back to me with a small smirk.

"C'mon then."

I frowned slightly but got up, following him downstairs. He wandered into a large living room with a sliding door to the kitchen and opened a few cupboards and the fridge, tossing packets and bottled drinks down on the side.

"You can have whatever, really," he said, closing them back up and grabbing a soda from the fridge, "there's no proper food here, it's usually takeouts and stuff."

The main door suddenly swung open, and a boy appeared in the hall. He had thick, messy sandy-brown hair, forest green eyes and freckles that ran across his cheeks and nose. He wore a deep green hoodie and black denim jeans and looked slightly older than Maddox. Dumping his backpack in the hall, he looked to us with a smirk similar to Maddox's.

"Alright, Maddie?"

Maddox rolled his eyes, nodding to him.

"This is Mason. My older brother," he told me, "and that's not my name, idiot."

"Doesn't stop you from calling Lavinia Lavvy," I commented with a slight smile, and Maddox raised a brow, crossing his arms in mock defence.

"That's different."

"It's not different," Mason said, grabbing an energy drink from the fridge, "I get brother privileges." He looked to me then and flashed me a smile.

"And who might you be?"

"Esme," Maddox said, sitting on the counter, "we're working on a school project."

"Uhuh. He getting you to do all the work?"

I shrugged, shaking my head.

"Not really."

"Well, lemme know if he is. You know where to come if you want any dirt on him," he told me, grinning at Maddox. Maddox scoffed.

"You've got nothing on me."

"So you think, little brother. Anyway," he continued, checking his watch, "Sharon and that annoying kid of hers are coming early evening, probably with dad."

Maddox rolled his eyes, annoyance evident in his expression.

"I might sleepover at Harley's," he said, and Mason nodded.

"Well, you two have fun. I'll be back when I wanna be back," he said with a smirk, and went upstairs, grabbing his bag.

"Sharon's our dad's girlfriend," Maddox said to me disdainfully, "she's an annoying woman with a kid called Yasmine. They both ruin everything, so we try our best to avoid them."

"Oh," I responded, "are they really that bad?"

"Once you meet them, you'll see what I mean," Maddox insisted, getting down from the counter.

"Maybe you're just getting used to them being around?"

Maddox pulled a face and raised a brow, unconvinced.

"This woman's a total drama queen, and her kid's no better. She insisted on everything being unpacked when we first got here, and her junk takes up most of the space. It's like, they're taking over my family," he blurted, his jaw clenched as we sat down on the living room couch. "Mason feels the same way."

"Have you tried talking to your dad?"

Maddox sniffed, shaking his head

"There's no point. Seriously. He's a total pushover when it comes to Sharon. He'll do whatever the hell she wants to get her to shut up and make her happy, and she uses it to her advantage. She doesn't try with either of us too - not that I care."

I hesitated in my response, nibbling my bottom lip. Maddox had never really bought up his family life, but he seemed upset and annoyed by the whole thing and his dad's new partner. It was understandable. I suppose I just came to an unconscious and wrong conclusion that nothing really gets to boys like him.

"You could try talking to your dad about it when he's alone," I finally spoke up, "like, in a calm environment, with no disturbances. You don't have to give it to him completely straight - just make him see that boundaries have to be set at some point. He can't be that thrilled by this woman and her daughter controlling the situation, and they might not even be aware they're doing it."

Maddox processed my words, a small frown on his face. Then he shrugged, his usual confidence vanishing from his expression.

"I don't know..."

"Try it. What's the worst that could happen, really?"

Maddox smirked then, his confidence returning.

"I could give it to him straight and tell him I was under your influence, and-"

"No," I interrupted with a roll of my eyes, and he grinned in amusement.

"Yeah yeah, I'll think about it. What about your home life then? Your parents the reason why you love math so much and freak out when you make a spelling mistake?"

I rolled my eyes again at his exaggeration.

"Not really. That was more my aunt. I spent a lot of time with her as a kid," I told him, surprisingly open about it, "so she brought me up more."

He nodded, no judgement or mocking in his look.

"What about your parents?"

Yeah, what about them? What was there to say? I had to be careful of what I said throughout primary school just in case someone got a little too nosy and social got involved - but that was when my dad's problem just started. How could I explain all of that to Maddox Cole?

"Uh... my mum's sort of between jobs," I managed to say, "she works at bars and clubs. She's supposed to be at a job interview for something similar."

"Cool. What does your dad do?"

I couldn't help but flinch at the last sentence, and Maddox noticed.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, it's fine," I assured him, "he, um, he doesn't really work at the moment..."

"Yeah, I get it," he said, nodding, "whereas my dad always works. Well, he used to, until he met Sharon."

"What did he work as?"

"Accountant. For businesses." He smirked then, nodding to me. "You'd be good at that sort of thing, I bet."

"Why do you act like I love math so much?!"

"Don't get defensive, Ezzie, you know I speak the truth!"

"Ah, leave her alone, Maddie," Mason said, coming downstairs with an i-pad in his hand, "me and her, we could gang up on you one of these days."

I smiled and Maddox rolled his eyes with a smirk, leaning back in his seat.

"You set a really bad example for me."

"You don't need me to do that," Mason answered, sitting opposite us with a grin. "She's too nice for you. Why'd you put up with him, Esme? I only do 'cus I have to."

I laughed then, and Maddox threw a cushion at him.

"Push off, Annoyance."

"Not a chance."

The rest of the day was just me, Maddox and Mason, talking like friends talk and laughing. The hours passed so quickly. It was one of the first times I felt properly at ease and normal around Maddox. Rain started to come down, hard, and soon the street was peppered with small puddles and thin streaks of water outlining curbs and wetting the ground.

I glanced at my watch and shifted in my seat.

"Uh, I should probably get going?"

Maddox nodded with a half-smile.

"Sure. Sharon'll probably be here soon," he mentioned with an unimpressed glance at Mason, which Mason returned. "Nice one with the project stuff. We'll pass, for sure."

"Well, that'll be a first," Mason commented with a smug smirk, "that's down to her, that is."

"Yeah, shut up."

Mason ripped some paper off a notebook and scribbled down something, then nodded at me and pushed it into my hand.

"In case of emergency blackmail," he informed me with a wink, and I smiled back, rolling my eyes slightly. Mason and Maddox - no better, no worse than each other.

I grabbed my bag and Maddox walked me to the door, leaning on the wall looking out at the rain.

"You're gonna get soaked," he told me and stood up properly. "Hang on."

Maddox bounded upstairs, and a few moments later he came back down and threw a hoodie at me. I raised a brow in confusion, looking up at him.

"Why...?"

"To keep you dry. Duh," he said with a smirk, and taking it from me he pulled it over my head. "There. It looks kinda cute on you, actually."

My cheeks flushed red and I smiled slightly. The hoodie was a deep red and had a sports logo on it, a little oversized on me, so it hung just above my knees.

"Uh... thanks... when do you want it back?"

He shrugged, not looking bothered.

"Whenever. Not much of a rush," he said simply. "Go on, before it gets worse."

I nodded, pulling up the hood and opening the door.

"I'll pick you up tomorrow morning, Esme."

"Yeah, okay. Bye."

And I rushed outside, ducking my head as I crossed the street to get to my house and quickly unlocked the door and let myself in. I pushed it closed and locked it back up, my breathing heavy as I leant on the door and pulled the hood back down. I felt the scrap paper Mason had given to me in my pocket when I stuffed my hands inside them and smiled lightly to myself.

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