After School Club

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XXIII - What's Normal?

“Will someone please fill me in?”

Lavinia had come over with Melissa and Carmen a few hours after I had arrived home. It was a huge weight off my chest now that the Kayleigh problem was pretty much over with. Maddox had to stay behind for a while to talk to Principle Wilson, just to get the last few things sorted out. Mason had seen Audrey’s car pulling up outside my house and came out to ask how it went. His younger stepsister Yasmine came running out to meet us too; Mason rolled his eyes and sighed but didn’t really seem to mind her hanging around. Her dark brown hair was pulled neatly away from her face with sparkly pink clips. After a while, she went back indoors, and then Mason did too.

“Thanks for helping out my bro with all this rot, Es,” he said with a half-smile, “he probably wouldn’t have gone through with it otherwise. Ruins is badassery or something stupid like that.”

Audrey laughed, getting back inside her car, her and Sebastian saying their goodbyes to us all before we all went back to our homes. I texted Carmen and Melissa to tell them that it was a success, and half an hour later they both came over, wanting to hear the news. In the end, they went back home to grab sleeping bags and nigh stuff, my mum looking in on us in my room and suggesting that they sleepover tonight. It had been a while since all three of us had, and it was nice to all be together, just like we had been for ages. However, Melissa and Carmen were fervently discussing how rude Kayleigh had been, and Lavinia didn’t really know what they were talking about since she didn’t see.

“Too busy making out with Leroy,” Carmen joked, stressing the ‘e’ of his name, and Lavinia groaned and threw a pillow at her.

“Don’t burst it!” I jumped in with a laugh, grabbing it from them quickly with a smile. “There’s not too much to know, really. The good thing is it’s pretty much over with now.”

“‘Pretty much’ meaning...?”

“Meaning that Maddox had to stay behind for a few minutes to talk about it. Probably sorting out what he wanted to do in terms of staying away from Jared, something like that.”

“He’ll be fine,” Melissa said, pulling a blanket over her and grabbing a bag of popcorn, “you know him.”

“Yeah, but he’s not exactly Johnny Law, is he?” Lavinia pointed out with a smile.

“He’s not. But he can be sensible.”

Carmen looked up at me, a brow raised.

“A little bit,” I justified, but she crossed her arms.

“When he wants to. Stop giving me that look, I’m trying!”

Carmen grinned then, and my phone buzzed, causing the girls to glance at my phone and then to me expectantly as I picked it up, reading the message.

“Read it out,” Lavinia said impatiently with a roll of her eyes, we all know it’s Maddox.

“Exactly why I don’t want to,” I responded, but read it out anyway:

“Hey essie, the talk with winston was a drag but done now. basically, jared and kayleigh won’t be causing any crap with us now, tg. meet me outside urs in ten, we need to talk ;)”

Carmen’s eyes lit up in interest, and Melissa pulled me to my feet eagerly, Lavinia watching in amusement as she made a start on the popcorn.

“Come on, get up! You’ve got ten minutes!”

“Alright, calm down! I need to respond to the text first. Lavinia, you’re in charge while I’m gone. Don’t let them blow up the place.”

Lavinia grinned and nodded, pulling Melissa back down. “Stop squealing, stupid, and choose what nail varnish you want.”

Carmen pulled a face, snatching the bag out of her grip. “Seriously? They’re just gonna get chipped.”

“You’re a complete tomboy, Carmen.”

I grabbed a hoodie, pulling it over my head and taking my phone off Carmen, who was trying to get past the passcode stage with a smirk before heading downstairs. Maddox was already waiting, leaning against his car.

“Took you long enough. Who’s up there with you, the Mean Girls?”

I rolled my eyes with a slight smile. “Carmen, Melissa and Lavinia do not equal Mean Girls.”

“At least one of them does,” he argued with a smirk, “c’mon, get in the car.”

“Wait, what? Why?”

“Why not? Come on, I’m taking you somewhere. Don’t worry, it’s not part of the club, and it’s nothing amazing. Just somewhere to talk. Hurry up.”

Maddox pulled away from the space, and I rolled my eyes when I noticed Lavinia, Carmen and Melissa all watching us leave from the window. I’m surprised they didn’t break the glass with their hands pressed against it in interest, Lavinia elbowing Carmen out the way and Carmen doing the same back. Maddox looked up at them too, a brow raised in bemusement as he drove off.

“They’re almost as bad as the cheerleaders,” he said with a smirk, and I smiled, shrugging.

“Where are we going, Maddox?”

“You ask that every time,” he said with a smile, “don’t you believe in surprises?”

Maddox drove for about ten or so minutes, down near the beach way and up, stopping at a grassy kind of area on top of a large, sturdy cliff that overlooked the ocean, glinting in the light darkness of the evening. Getting out of the car when he switched the engine off, I looked around in wonder at the view. It was the total opposite of where I’d expect Maddox to hang around - peaceful and calm, the only sounds being the gentle rhythm of the waves and the birds that occasionally fluttered overhead.

“This place is beautiful,” I commented thoughtfully, “how’d you find it?”

“Just driving around,” he answered, looking out at the sight before sitting down, “a while ago, actually, when we first moved here. It’s alright. You know, to clear your head.”

I nodded, sitting down too. “So... what did you want to talk about?”

“Oh, yeah. So Wilson held me back, as you know - talked to me about Jared and stuff, which eventually led to him having some sort of formal warning. I don’t know. But at least they won’t bother us again now. I’m pretty sure he got excluded too.”

“That’s great,” I told him, “see, it worked out in the end. Now you’re not falsely accused of something you didn’t start anymore.”

“Oh, I don’t care about that,” Maddox said with a smirk, “good for my image, don’t you think?”

I rolled my eyes with a slight smile at his typical response. “Uhuh, right.” My eyes flicked over to the sea again, and the breeze ruffled my hair. “At least things are starting to sort of... get back to normal now.”

Maddox laughed then, a brow raised. “What’s normal? The two sworn enemies are dating - Lavvy and Leroy - my brother likes you more than he likes me, and then there’s you.”

“Okay - first of all, Lavinia hates it when you call her that, secondly, Mason just likes winding you up - and what do you mean when you say me?"

“My work,” he replied with a smug smirk, “it paid off. I think you’re almost exactly a bad girl.”

I scoffed then in disbelief. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Who’s being ridiculous? Come on. Okay, apart from you being a total geek and mathematician, you’re much more confident then you were before, you’re stubborn, and you’re... you know, yourself. If that doesn’t make you a bad girl then I don’t know what does. Oh - forget to mention the gamer girl part too. You’re welcome.”

“I really don’t think I am. My vision of a bad girl is leather and swearing and stuff.”

“That’s called biker,” Maddox said with a smirk. “But you know I’ve got a point. You just needed to experience more fun to discover yourself more.”

I shrugged then and nodded, thinking about it.

“But there is something else that Wilson said, actually,” Maddox spoke again, and I looked over at him. “Since he, like, knows I’m not the cause of all the chaos with Jared and Kayleigh... well - he offered me a place back at the school.”

My eyes widened in shock as I processed his words.

Yeah, what’s normal indeed?

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