After School Club

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XIX - Good Guy

Music could be heard booming from inside the large modern house of Beth’s, lights on and neon colours flashing. A small group of students were sitting around the pool, roaring with laughter and a couple of them paddling. Others were hanging around the entrance. Audrey bit down on her lip in excitement, Melissa watching the scene in astonishment. Maddox parked his car and all of us got out, heading inside. Beth herself was standing in the doorway, a short and tight silver dress showing off her figure as she flicked caramel waves of hair away from her face. She smiled when she saw us.

“Hey, guys. Omg, Esme, that dress is so cute!"

“Um, thank you,” I said with a smile, as Audrey pulled me inside and grinned approvingly at the surroundings.

People our age were everywhere - drinking at the bar, hanging around the stairs and sitting around on the second floor, which had a kind of balcony view of the ground floor. Extros from my school and others were talking and laughing together, a few of them looking over at us and smiling briefly. Carmen came up to us with a grin, taking us over to meet the team that plays football with her and getting drinks. Lavinia and Leroy came to say hi, Evelyn and Amanda came up to me and started talking about fashion and gossip as if I were one of them.

Was I one of them? It was too easy and too hard to believe.

Dance music filled the house, along with the conversations and laughing from students all around. Boys snuck out the entrance with each other, some with girls holding their hands and giggling. One couple tried to enter a side room but Beth put her foot down and literally padlocked it. I smiled, and she caught my eye, smiling back and rolling her eyes.

“That’s the problem with parties,” she told me, shaking her head, “you gotta be at least a little responsible, or before you know it you’ve got puke in wardrobes and duvets you’ll never use again.”

I burst out laughing, nodding in agreement. “Yeah, I guess that’s right. Thanks for hosting this and all.”

“Yeah, no worries. I’m gonna go check that the idiots outside aren’t too drunk and aren’t smoking in plain sight. Proper dance music’s starting soon,” she told me with a smirk, “so dance!”

She ran off with a giggle, and I leant against the wall, watching Audrey and Melissa talk with a group of semi-extros and laugh. Maddox was among them, sitting beside Harley playing cards and grinning smugly when he clearly won the game.

“He’s a proud douche,” a familiar voice told me, and I looked up to see Sebastian leaning on the wall opposite me with a half-smile. I smiled back, shrugging.

“Yeah, he is,” I responded, glancing over at Maddox and then back to Sebastian, “but he’s alright. I guess.”

Sebastian raised a brow a smirk similar to Maddox’s forming on his face. “Yeah?”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “You’re literally Audrey as a boy and with shorter hair,” I commented, and he grinned.

“Well, we are twins.” He looked over at Maddox, then to me. “He really likes you, you know.”

My cheeks flushed, and I shook my head. “How do you know that?”

“Ah, please,” he said, dismissing my question, “my sister may be the fairy godmother, but I’m...” he paused, then smirked, “I’m Don Corleone.”

I laughed again then, rolling my eyes.

“I’ll tell you this, Es,” he said, grabbing a fizzy yellow drink in a wine glass and handing it to me, “Maddox is a good guy. I’ve known him since Grade One. And I know he likes you. I know you like him. Don’t gimme that look, I’m no loon. But - and you didn’t hear this from me - he’s been hurt before. By a girl. And... that’s part of the reason he moved here.”

My lips parted as I processed his words in surprise and slight confusion. “Like, a breakup?”

Sebastian shook his head. “Not exactly. Look, all I’ll say is the girl’s a horrid little brat that took advantage of him because of how he is with his friends. He’ll do pretty much anything for his friends.”

I smiled lightly and nodded. “Thanks, Sebastian.”

He smirked and nodded. “Sure.”

The music suddenly turned down, and Beth picked up a mic, a grin on her face.

“Hey, guys, hope you’re enjoying the party. We’re putting on dance music now, kay? So grab a partner and make a fool of yourselves!”

The others around her whooped and cheered as she laughed and started up the music, switching off the mic. Sebastian smiled at me knowingly before sauntering off to the boys. I put down the glass, watching students spin each other around and laugh.

“You look deep in thought, Essie.”

I smiled and rolled my eyes as Maddox approached me with his signature smirk, leaning casually beside me against the wall and watching the seniors all crowded together, the lights dimmed a little and the neon lights in the corners of the room spinning around and highlighting faces as the music played in the background, a little slower and intimate.

“I’m really not.”

“No?” He raised a brow in bemusement. “Go on, tell me.”

“I don’t know. This scene kind of reminds me of Back To The Future, where everyone’s dancing and... no, actually, it’s nothing like it. Well, maybe - but more modern, and with Dua Lipa playing through speakers everywhere instead of Martin Berry playing Earth - stop laughing at me! This is why I said I wasn’t thinking about anything.”

Maddox snorted with laughter, shaking his head. “No, I’m laughing because your thoughts are random and weird - it’s a good thing, it makes you more fun to hang out with.”

I smiled, meeting his eyes. “You think I’m fun to hang out with?”

“Uhuh. Thanks to me,” he said with a smirk, glancing back at the crowd and then nodded towards them. “Come on, let’s join in.”

I raised a brow and shook my head, scoffing. “What? No-”

“Yes,” Maddox insisted, grabbing my hand, “this is part of the cub, remember? Come on.”

I sighed but let him pull me over to the floor, Lavinia and Leroy nearby. She smiled briefly at me but eyed Maddox before moving away a little. He grinned, rolling his eyes.

“She still hates me, doesn’t she?”

“Because you like winding her up,” I told him, Maddox simply delivering a boyish smirk and shrugging in response. “Sebastian thinks you’re a good guy, and you’re not proving his point.”

“Nah I’m a bad boy,” Maddox told me with a smug smirk, “obviously.”

“Why, because you’ve ridden a motorbike?”

“You say that like it’s not impressive,” he said with a smirk, “and trust me, I’ve done more than that.”

“Like what?”

Maddox hesitated, dropping the eye contact for a moment. “I don’t know, just - I don’t let people mess with my friends or family. And like I said, life’s about having fun, isn’t it? Gotta make the most of your teen years. Speaking of,” he continued, raising a brow in interest, “you still using the Play Station?”

I smiled and nodded. “Audrey tried it too today.”

“Not as good as me though, right?” He questioned, giving a half-smile. “Yeah, it’s alright. This place isn’t bad too, is it?”

“No, it’s... it’s great,” I agreed, “I didn’t think it would be, but to be honest I probably wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t made it part of the club.”

“Why wouldn’t you? What’s there to be wary of?”

“I don’t know, just the alcohol and... you know, stuff. And it’s full of extros. Which are the people I try to stay away from. But they’re being okay. A couple of girls started randomly talking to me about fashion and boys, so I’m guessing that’s a good thing.”

“Sure it is,” Maddox responded with a smile, “people like you because you’re a good person, Es.”

I raised a brow in confusion. “Aren’t you the one who told me I needed to be less of a good girl? That’s why you made up this after school club.”

“Uh, no, it wasn’t,” he said in mock annoyance, a small smirk on his face, ” I started it because you needed to live a little. Have fun, enjoy yourself, do crazy things. Which you’re doing. And it’s working.”

“It’s working?” I repeated, and he nodded.

“Well, yeah. When you get out and do stuff like this more, you can start seeing a different side of you, discover yourself more,” Maddox said, his sage green eyes staring straight into mine. “See how amazing you really are.”

I held my breath for a moment, processing his words in slight wonder. His expression was genuine, and I realised how close we actually were. I didn’t feel self-conscious though - in fact, I felt warm and lightly curious, of the blonde bad boy standing mere inches away from me, with a soft and earnest look. I could scarcely move, could scarcely think about anything else that was happening around me. Just Maddox, a shiver running down my spine as he brushed a stray lock of hair out of my face.

“Esme,” he murmured, looking slightly nervous and sincere, “I... I need to tell you something...”

He moved a little closer, his eyes flicking from my eyes to my lips, and my breath hitched, anticipating what was about to come.

“Maddox!”

I jumped at the shrill call of a girl, and looked over to where it was coming from, blushing and frowning slightly, my nerves still buzzing with the close event of just moments before. A girl with loose chestnut brown curls that flowed down to past her shoulders and hazel eyes approached, freckles scattered over the bridge of her nose and a cropped top with a short skirt showing off a large amount of tanned skin. Her face was made up completely and her air oozed with simpering confidence and coyness. She totally ignored me and beamed at Maddox, hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek. My eyes widened in surprise, and glancing to the side of me I noticed Audrey and Sebastian, with matching expressions of anger on them as they came over.

The girl broke away from the embrace that Maddox barely returned, an anxious half-smile on his face as he nodded at her.

“Kayleigh,” he said shortly, nodding at her.

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