After School Club

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VII - Fun Filled

The rest of the late afternoon went better than I thought it would. Maddox asked me questions about what I wanted to do when I got out of school and normal things friends discuss, frequently teasing me as we spoke.

“You gonna be the next Einstein? We all know how you hate missing those double maths classes.”

I rolled my eyes and he grinned at my reaction.

“You’re never going to let that go, are you?”

He shook his head, his eyes looking past me to our waiter, who was standing next to a couple at a table in their sixties.

“I can see you two are gonna be a problem,” he told them and went off like he had done earlier with us. My eyes widened in surprise, and I looked back to Maddox.

“Did you just see what he did to that couple?”

“Yep. Now comes the best part,” Maddox said with a smirk, leaning back in his seat. I frowned slightly, confused.

“How?”

“Okay, so now that we got our food we’re not worrying about spitting in it. So, the same thing, but negative reinforcement.”

I nodded slowly, biting my lip as the waiter came to us with a smile.

“How are my two favourite customers?”

“Yeah, Louis, it’s been amazing. You’ve turned a simple meal into a dining experience,” Maddox responded with a smile.

“Well thank you, Maddox. I have to say it’s been a pleasure serving you.”

Maddox nodded at him, and I looked up at the waiter too with an anxious smile.

“I’ll get you a refill,” he said, taking our glasses, and started to walk off.

“What a jerk,” Maddox said to me, and my eyes widened a fraction as the waiter stalled and turned back to us.

“Excuse me?”

Maddox looked back to him with his casual expression, and I dug my nails into the palm of my hand to stop myself smiling.

“Some more soda, right?” he asked him, looking to me.

“Yeah, and ice?” I added. The waiter didn’t move for a moment, looking between us with his mouth open but no words coming out.

“The ice,” I repeated, and he started to move.

“Jackass,” Maddox muttered, and the waiter looked back and then went off, scowling. I snorted with laughter, burying my face in my hands.

“That was so wrong, Maddox,” I said, and he grinned at me, shrugging and paying the bill.

“The guy’s gonna be up all night trying to figure out what went wrong,” Maddox said with a smirk, and we stood up, going back downstairs and leaving the restaurant.

“You gave him a 10p tip, Maddox, that’s so mean!”

“It’s fun, and he deserved it!”

I smiled, checking the time on my phone - 5.50 - and a text came up from mum.

“Working l8 at The Jester Bar, don’t w8 up 4 me. When can u get after school job?”

I rolled my eyes, stuffing my phone back in my bag and not bothering to respond. Maddox looked at me with slight concern, a brow raised.

“What’s up?”

“Oh - nothing. Just, you know, mums.”

He nodded, leading me back to his car and exiting the car park.

“See, I was right. You did have fun,” he insisted with a smirk.

“Yeah, it was, but it was still sort of wrong,” I replied, and he shook his head, still smirking.

“I wanna know how long that good girl phase is gonna last during these after school clubs.”

“It’s not a phase,” I corrected, “it’s just who I am.”

“Yeah, I refuse to believe that.”

We pulled up outside my house, and Maddox turned the engine off, hands resting on the steering wheel.

“Sorry I couldn’t really, like, contribute to food. But I’m not rich in the slightest.”

Maddox rolled his eyes and shook his head, smiling slightly.

“It’s my club, isn’t it? You’re not paying for anything.”

I nodded, smiling lightly. “Thanks.”

He shrugged, hesitating for a moment as he looked straight at me with his light green eyes. After a few moments, he broke the eye contact and unlocked the doors.

“I’ll pick you up same time tomorrow morning, okay?”

“You’re picking me up every morning now?”

“Well, yeah. Either that or you’ll be completely unprepared for after school.” He glanced up at my house, the lights off and the curtains open, except for dad’s bedroom’s, which were always pulled tightly together.

“Your parents at home?”

“My dad is, probably,” I replied, picking up my bag. “I’ll, um, see you tomorrow?”

Maddox raised a brow at my uncertainty, smirking his signature smirk.

“Um, okay? Weirdo.”

I rolled my eyes and got out the car, unlocking my front door and looking back at Maddox once more. He smirked and winked at me, and I rolled my eyes again and entered my house, shutting the door and sighing. A small smile was on my face as I heard his car drive off and reverse into his space, and I went upstairs to my room, dropping down on my bed and exhaling deeply. My phone ringing from inside my bag diverted my attention, and I took it out, seeing Melissa’s caller ID on screen and answering.

“Hi, Melissa.”

“Hey, Esme! How did the club thing go?”

“Yeah... it was... better than I expected,” I admitted.

“Yeah? Where’d you go?”

“Manresa. You know, that restaurant near town?”

Melissa gasped in surprise.

“Wow, lucky you! So, that was fun?”

“Well, we sort of, teased the waiter,” I told her, smiling. “You know, positive to negative reinforcement?”

Melissa laughed.

“So, you enjoyed it?”

“Well... yeah. It was kind of wrong, but it was fun.”

“It’s not wrong, he’s just teaching you to live a little. Is it gonna get better and trickier each day?”

“I don’t know, he doesn’t say what we’re doing until we’re there.”

“Oh. Well, I’m glad you had fun. Are you getting a lift with him again tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah. I’ll see you at the school gates or the lockers or something, okay?”

“Okay, Esme. Have a good night.”

Melissa hung up, and I smiled to myself slightly as I changed and pulled out the drawer underneath my bed. I rummaged through art books and journals and revision guides until I found what I was looking for, and lifted it carefully, placing it on my bed and shutting the drawer with my foot. It was my dad’s old video camera.

I turned it on, flicking through videos and photos of smiling mum and young me until I found the one I wanted. It was me, ice skating with dad, with mum and Patricia filming us. I was six.

Faint pop music was playing from inside the building as mum walked out of the building and to the fence where the skating rink was, and dad appeared beside her, walking in front with me holding his hand, struggling to balance in the shoes. Dad was amazing at skating, letting me grip the sides as he glided slowly and carefully on the outside, a wide smile on his face. After a few moments I lost my balance and tripped, falling over and bringing dad down with me - and we were in a heap on the ice, laughing hysterically. I smiled, remembering the whole day so clearly even though it was years ago. Patricia was with mum too, and after a while, she took the camera while mum went out to join us. The day was full of smiles and laughter and happiness, like something out of a children’s film. I remembered one I’d watched ages ago, where it was just the child and his parents until the kid got a baby brother and his life turned upside down. No one came to ruin it for me. It just happened. “Circumstances,” Patricia had always answered when I’d talked to her about it.

I sighed, stopping the video and putting the camera back underneath my bed. My phone vibrated against my bedside table, snapping me out of my thoughts, and I picked it up, reading the message with a slight roll of my eyes and a small smile. It was from Maddox.

“Gr8 job with the waiter, ur gonna love 2moro ;)”

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