V - After School Club
There was only one thing that I was determined to do the next morning as I got ready for school and looked out my window to catch sight of Melissa.
Avoid Maddox Cole.
His house was just opposite mine, a bedroom window right opposite mine too. I just hoped to god it wasn’t Maddox’s. I gazed out of my own in a slightly tired daze, tracing the droplets of rain scattered on the glass, sliding down and leaving faded, wet trails as it went. School and home were never going to be the same again and I knew it - Maddox was pretty much always there, relentlessly throwing me annoying comments and kicking my seat when he sat behind me - and he was in two classes, just my luck.
As if on cue, a boy’s shadow came closer to the window, and turned around to face it. Instantly my body flushed and eyes widened in shock.
Well, damn. That’s that determination broken.
Maddox grinned from his window, and I rolled my eyes, trying to find something to busy myself with. But before I could, he bent his head down for a few moments, then looked up and held a message scribbled on A4 with a wink face next to it.
“Just can’t take ur eyes off me, right?”
I scoffed and glared at him before pulling the blinds down, annoyed. The doorbell diverted my attention, and grabbing my bag I headed downstairs and met Melissa. My mum wasn't home yet, which I had expected - she'd probably had to work late or had gotten caught up in something with her friends. Dad was home, but most probably in bed or on bed and staring at the ceiling, the door firmly shut. I thought back to the times when it wasn't so bad when I was younger - when he stared into space almost unblinking, and I pretended to bury him and make him a coffin with the sofa cushions. Just when I was beginning to worry a little, he'd snap out of his trance and smile at me, throwing a cushion at me playfully.
That was ages ago. He's not smiled like that for ages too.
"Hi Esme," Melissa greeted, smiling cheerfully, "good news, I managed to calm down Lavinia, and I think I'm gonna work on making her and that Leroy friends, or something that doesn't involve death stares and shouting."
"Good luck with that," I replied, back to my normal self as I pushed the front door closed and stepped outdoors, "her and Leroy hate each other. The only way that'd ever work would be in a parallel universe or something."
Melissa laughed as the cool, fresh morning breeze tangled itself in her hair and created chocolate brown streamers. I tried to walk a few paces faster to see if I could avoid bumping into the new neighbour, and Melissa followed, catching on.
"Ah, come on, you're not that scared of me, are you?"
I rolled my eyes and bit down on my lip, turning around to be met with Maddox's signature smirk, raising a brow at me in amusement. His eyes flicked to Melissa, and he nodded at her.
"Um..." she looked between me and him for a moment, her cheeks flushed. "Yes?"
Carmen came rushing up to us, football kit on and smiling.
"Hi!" She noticed Maddox and jerked her chin up casually as mates do. "Hey, Maddox."
"Carmen, you mind walking with Melissa? Me and Esme have stuff to talk about."
I frowned, mouth open slightly in protest as Carmen nodded and dragged her away. I glared at him, annoyed.
"What do you want, Maddox?"
"I don't want anything," he replied, walking behind Carmen and Melissa with me, "I just wanna know. Do you ever wanna try new stuff? Stuff you can actually have fun doing?"
"I don't know. Maybe," I replied warily. "Why are you so interested in that?"
"Because you're probably one of the only girls I've met that doesn't know the meaning of letting your hair down and living a little."
"That's not true," I persisted, "I just... just don't like change?"
"Yeah, sure," he said, not convinced. "But if you had the opportunity to try some cool things, where you could actually enjoy yourself properly, would you take it?"
I looked down for a moment before meeting his eyes again, confused.
"Yeah, I guess, but-"
"And that's all I wanted to know," Maddox told me with a smirk. "Thanks Esme. You can get back to talking about whatever you were discussing with Melissa." And with a final smirk, he went off to Harley, leaving me confused and annoyed. I rolled my eyes and caught up with Carmen and Melissa, and the rest of the day went quite smoothly. Apart from the kicks from Maddox when he was sitting behind me in form, and Lavinia and Leroy's furious bickering and hissing, I didn't really see much of Maddox around school, which was odd. I shrugged it off, talking with Lavinia and Melissa after school, Carmen rushing off to her football game.
"Oh, great," Lavinia growled, picking up her pace. "It's Maddox. Hurry up."
I looked up and noticed him approaching us, grinning at Lavinia.
"Hey, Esme, we need to talk. Leave Sydney and Lavvy to talk amongst themselves for a sec."
Lavinia glared daggers at him, enraged at the nickname, and before I could answer he grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from them.
"Uh, what are you doing?!"
"Continuing what I was talking about earlier," he replied as if it were obvious. "You said you'd try out new stuff that you'd have fun doing if you had the opportunity. Well, now you do."
I frowned, puzzled.
"What are you talking about?"
"I call it an after school club, run by me. Every day, after school, you're gonna try out one new thing with me that I swear you will enjoy. Starting from tomorrow."
My eyes widened in shock and I stopped abruptly in my tracks.
"What?! Are you insane?!"
"Duh," he said with a smirk. "Come on Esme, what've you got to lose?"
"Uh, my life?! I'm not putting myself in your hands after school to try out things that'll give me an adrenaline rush, so just forget it okay?"
"Look, Esme, you've gotta learn to loosen up. You're never gonna get out there and actually have fun, and discover yourself properly if all you do is act like a wallflower and bury yourself in revision books. You can't deny it, that's not fun."
I shrugged, sighing.
"I don't think it's a great idea. What would we even be doing?"
"Well, you'll have to wait and see. Mugshotz, tomorrow, for the rules, okay?"
I shook my head, frowning again.
"This is ridiculous. You want to do something crazy every day after school with me because I need to loosen up and learn to have fun?"
"Exactly." He rolled his eyes, stuffing a scrap piece of paper in my hand. "Text me when you're ready to start. You know I'm just gonna keep bugging you for the rest of your life if you don't anyway." He grinned, and went off with some other boys, leaving me spellbound as Lavinia and Melissa came up to me.
"What was that about? Was he annoying you again?" Melissa asked, curious.
"He's more than annoying. I swear, if I hear him call me that stupid name again he'll be picking up a tooth and a gap."
I shook my head, looking at the paper with his number scribbled on the paper, and pushed it in my pocket.
"He just thinks I should have more fun and live a little. He wants to start some kind of after school club, where he gets us to do something new and fun every weekday afternoon."
"I wouldn't be paid to do that," Lavinia spat, looking at me pitifully. "I feel sorry for you, Es. I don't know how the heck you've put up with him. He's almost as bad as Leroy. Almost."
Lavinia waved and shoved open her door, entering her house and leaving me and Melissa alone.
"I think it could be fun," Melissa said once we were out of earshot. "You could enjoy it, Esme. It's a distraction from all these exams, and at the same time, your good influence could rub off on him too."
"I don't know. He's not exactly the most mature person, is he?"
"But you are, aren't you?" Melissa answered, "Just think about it. He can be annoying, I suppose, but I don't think he's that bad. Give him a chance." She smiled at me and went inside her own home, and I bit my lip hard, making it to my home and twisting the paper in my hands as I flopped on my bed, thinking everything over. Then I rolled my eyes and cursed myself internally, as I made my first crazy decision.
I entered the number into my phone, typing my sentence in and hesitating before pressing send.
"I'll do it, but we're defo going over the rules first, okay?!"
A few long moments passed until I saw the three dots and the small bubble appear on the opposite side underneath the message, and then his response:
"ill pick up 2moro at 8. don't b l8 ;)"
I pulled my pillow on top of my head and hit it hard with my hands, groaning. There was no going back now.