After School Club

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XVII - Parties 101

“Maddox invited you to who’s party now?!” Audrey exclaimed, on a FaceTime call I started straight after Maddox had left.

“Her name’s Bethany Dean,” I told her, “she’s a complete extro, and throwing a party at her house. All the Year 11′s are invited, and there’s supposed to be a pool and stuff like that there. And he told me that it’s what we’re going to be doing on Friday.”

“Wow! You gonna do it?”

“Well, I don’t really want to! There’s probably gonna be alcohol and chaos and all of that stuff, and I’m not used to it. I don’t do wild parties.”

“It’ll be amazing! We went to that entertainment party thing at The River Front, remember?”

“Yeah, but this is different,” I pointed out with a sigh, “it’s full of popular people and things going on that probably shouldn’t be... I don’t know. I don’t even have anything to wear, or bring - and what the heck do I say?!"

“Okay, okay,” Audrey said with a smile, “we need a Party 101 lesson.”

I frowned, and she laughed.

“A 101 lesson. Preparing you for everything that’s gonna happen and stuff you can do - things like that! We’ll make it part of Maddox’s after school club. Tomorrow?”

“That’d be great, but I don’t know if he’d agree.”

“Oh, leave that to me,” Audrey assured me with a smirk, “just meet me in town after school, and we’ll get straight on it. Sebastian and Maddox can go do whatever weirdo stuff they want while we do our stuff, okay? Don’t worry - I’m your fairy godmother without the wings... or the over the top dress. And younger.”

I laughed again and rolled my eyes, and Audrey invited Maddox to the call. He answered after a few moments, Mason in the background on his laptop.

“’Sup?”

“That’s a bit short notice,” Audrey complained with a roll of her eyes, “I’m gonna have to give Essie here a Party 101 lesson tomorrow. So can it be part of your weird after school club thing?”

Maddox scoffed. “I let her know a day in advance, actually. But okay. If Sebastian’s coming.”

“He will be,” Audrey told him. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to Jordan and Angela on My So-Called Life. See you tomorrow!”

The call ended, and I sighed and laid back on my bed, hearing my mum come in from downstairs and switch the kettle on a few moments after. Then she came upstairs, slow and even footsteps. She pushed open the door and carried in a tray carefully, with two cups of tea and biscuits laid out on it. She smiled at me and placed it on my bedside table, before sitting beside me.

“You alright, Es? Work finishes mid-evening for weekdays now.”

I smiled and nodded. “It’s going well, then?”

“Oh yeah, great! The boss took to me well, I think. It’s just a diner, really - you know, taking orders, breakfast, lunch and snacks...”

“So you’re a waitress?”

“Yep. And I work at the register sometimes. Still, work’s work, and it’s going well. I quit the job at the pubs now, you know. We’re alright, we are.”

“That’s great!”

She smiled and sipped her tea, glancing out of my window and then back to me. “So, what are your plans, Es? Been up to anything recently?”

Seriously, how do you answer that?

“It’s been good, thanks. I’ve been hanging around with Maddox and a couple of other new friends recently too. They, uh... well, on Friday, there’s this party...”

“Oh, cool! Well, enjoy yourself. Don’t look so nervous, Esme - I know you’re not much of a party girl, thanks to Patricia’s influence, but I think you’ll enjoy it. I’ve been to my fair share of parties.”

Me and mum talked for a while, about parties and school and everyday things - which was nice. I hadn’t spoken properly to her for ages, and I liked our conversations. She speaks to you like she speaks to everyone, and doesn’t avoid subjects because of your age or anything belittling like that. She speaks to me like a normal grown-up having a conversation, and it’s great.

The next day, I looked over the project before handing it in, at the last period of the school day, the teacher looking impressed and smiling approvingly at me and Maddox before letting us all go a few minutes early. We went straight to town, where Audrey and Sebastian were waiting for us. Audrey grinned and hugged my tightly, pulling me away from the boys and arranging for us to meet back with them at the entrance later.

“Okay,” she started, “first, we need to get you a new outfit. Then we’ll talk more about the actual party and stuff.”

“Do I really need to buy a new outfit?” I asked Audrey doubtfully, but she nodded emphatically.

“Of course you do! Why not? Maybe like a short dress or something like that. What’s your style, Es?”

“Um... I don’t really know, casual?”

“Favourite colour?”

I shrugged, and she rolled her eyes and smiled.

“I bet red would look good on you. And that’s Maddox’s favourite colour, by the way. Come on!”

Audrey pulled me into a clothes shop, picking up multiple dresses and pleated skirts and tops and belts, then hung them all up in a changing room clothes bar and stood outside.

“You want me to try all of these on?”

“Well, yeah! Go on, Esme.”

The next half an hour or so consisted of changing into several outfits, Audrey smiling and observing, taking photos on her iPhone and then showing me afterwards. We eventually decided on a fingertip-length dress, with a pleated red skirt and a white torso, with white fishnet tights and a leopard print denim jacket. Audrey squealed so loudly one of the sales assistants jumped.

“You look so good, Es! Ugh, wait ’till Maddox sees! Don’t you love it?!”

I smiled and nodded, tugging at the skirt a little. “Yeah, it’s actually really nice - isn’t the skirt a little short?”

“Nah, it’s a great length. C’mon, get changed and we’ll go get shoes and accessories.”

Audrey picked out leopard print and red lace-up pumps, and then picked up a matching headband and slid it on my head.

“We’re getting you this too. Hey, do you have jewellery and stuff that’ll go with this?”

“Yeah, I think so. Seriously, that’s fine - I’ve got bags and everything else at home!”

“Dude, I’m doing the job properly. But okay. Do you wear makeup?”

I pulled a face and shrugged. “Not really. I don’t have much at home either.”

“Well, I do. What if we did something light? I can bring it over tomorrow after school. I’ll do your hair for you too if you want.”

“Sure,” I said with a smile, as we walked out of the shop with a bag between us. “Audrey, you know this is just a party, right? Not an invite to Buckingham Palace.”

“Correction. It’s your first proper party, and I want you to look awesome. Which you will. Let’s go get a milkshake or something. You can fire whatever questions you have while we drink.”

“Okay. I’m still not sure about all of this,” I told her, as we sat down opposite each other, “there’s going to be so many extros and probably drinking, or worse-”

“So what? You don’t have to drink if you don’t want to, Es. And who cares if there are extros there? The whole point of a party is to have fun. Dance around when Dua Lipa plays, hang around the pool, talk and do whatever you want. Aren’t any of your friends coming too?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I know, you’re right, I’m just a little nervous, I guess.”

Audrey nodded understandingly. “I get it. But honestly, there’s no need to be. You’re gonna look great, and you’re gonna have fun. That’s the whole point of Maddox’s weird club, right?”

I laughed and nodded, finishing my drink and standing up. “Apparently. We should probably get back to them before they start spamming our phones.”

Sebastian and Maddox were waiting at the entrance and talking amongst themselves, Sebastian smiling at the sight of us.

“Hello, girls. What’d you get then, Audrey?” Sebastian asked, and she snatched the bag away and shoved him lightly.

“Push off, Seb, this is for Esme. And don’t even think about it, Maddox - it’s for tomorrow. Don’t undo all my fairy godmother work.”

“If that’s what you call spending hundreds on outfits,” Maddox said with a smirk, and Audrey rolled her eyes.

“Please, I know what I’m doing.”

When I got back home, I carefully took out the clothes and hung them up in my closet, stroking their soft fabric in thought. My phone buzzing snapped my attention back, and I smiled and bit down on my lip as I read.

“I’ll give u a lift back to urs 2moro after school for Operation Party ;p Audrey xx”

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