VIII - Old Friends
As I pulled my brush through my honey blonde locks in the morning, my phone started ringing, and Patricia’s name came up on the ID.
“Hello, Esme dear. How are you doing? I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve spoken.”
“Yeah, it has. I’m fine, just getting ready for school.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good. How are your parents doing? Your dad?”
“He’s...” I struggled to find the words, nibbling the inside of my lip. “The same as normal.”
“Oh, I see. And your mother? Doing anything useful with herself yet? She’s bringing back enough money and everything?”
“Yes, she’s fine. She wants me to start an after school job, because-”
“She wants you to what?! Is she insane? Are you even old enough to do that yet?”
“Well, I will be in a few months.”
“I’ll have to talk to her. Again. Is she still working in that pub?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Yep, I hear you. I can’t keep up with it all either.” She sighed, pausing for a moment. “Esme... how are you doing with things at home? Are you still friends with that lovely girl... oh you know, big brown eyes and brown hair, wears pink...”
“Melissa. Yeah, we’re still friends. And I’m fine, really. I should probably start getting ready to go now actually.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Your mum still has the same number, right?”
“Yes. She’s not home at the moment though, but she probably will be later.”
“Mm. Okay. Have a nice day then, Esme. I’ll speak to you soon.”
I pushed my phone in my pocket and swung my rucksack over my shoulder, going downstairs and grabbing a breakfast bar. I sat on the counter, playing with the plastic wrapping until I heard Maddox’s car start up. I jumped down and went outside, and he smirked at me once I locked the main door.
“Alright? Come on, you’re late.”
I rolled my eyes and got in the car.
“I’m not late, I just got a call from someone.”
“So, what are we doing after school?”
“You’ll see. But it’s not all that challenging yet, and I mean yet. But it does involve socialising.”
“Socialising? Who with?”
"You’ll see. Just go with it, Es, I’m not gonna start giving everything away.”
And Maddox was as good as his word. He didn’t budge, and school seemed to stretch on for ages.
“Alright, class. For your homework assignment, you’re going to be working on a project over two weeks in partners or threes. Pick a Shakespeare play of your choice and create a large poster or banner based on it, which you will be assessed on.”
A buzz of chatter started up again throughout the room, and as Lavinia and Carmen sat with us I felt something hit the back of my head and fall to the floor. I jumped, frowning and picked it up.
“we’re partners. consider it part of our club ;)”
I rolled my eyes and looked behind me to see a smirking Maddox, leaning back on his chair with his arms folded. He widened his sage green eyes and frowned slightly in fake innocence, shrugging and shaking his head.
“Schoolwork isn’t part of your club,” I argued, but he shook his head again.
“Sure it is. But we probably won’t have time to do it on most weekdays, so we’re gonna have to do it on a Sunday too or something.”
“No, that doesn’t work for us,” Lavinia said icily, overhearing our conversation and glaring at Maddox. “Esme’s my partner, blondie.”
“Not anymore,” he responded with a smirk. “Go with Carmen and Sydney over there. Hey, Melissa?”
Melissa whipped her head around, glancing between us in slight confusion.
“You’re cool with Lavvie here teaming up with you and Carmen, yeah?”
Lavinia’s mouth dropped and she scowled in annoyance, but Melissa obliviously nodded.
“Um... yeah, okay?”
The bell suddenly rang and everyone stood up, grabbing their bags and heading off with their friends. Maddox pulled me over to walk with him and Carmen walked with Harley, Lavinia staying behind with Melissa.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going yet?” I asked him as we exited the school building.
“Just meeting some old friends, okay?”
I bit the inside of my lip, thinking about it. Knowing him, they were probably wild and noisy and extro.
“Uh, I don’t... I don’t know about that...”
“Relax, I’m not friends with just anyone. Have you got any other mates apart from those three?”
I shook my head.
“Exactly. So come on.”
We got in his car and drove away from the school, then past local houses and streets and rows of shops. After a while, he parked his car outside a large bar and club, with a skatepark a small distance away, boys flicking their boards up ramps and jumping fearlessly, tossing and performing tricks proudly. I got out warily and eyed them, unsure.
“You know where we are?” Maddox asked me as he glanced at the skaters for a moment, and I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
“Here we go,” I started, raising a brow, “forget it - I’m not getting on a skateboard.”
“No, you're not. Not yet anyway. Come on.”
Maddox led me inside the bar and past several people crowded around pool tables in small groups, their faces illuminated by glowing neon lights that outlined the black ceiling. I bit down hard on my lip, stalling in my tracks as I noticed girls and boys around my age laughing and talking loudly in a confident manner. Extros, pretty much all of them.
Maddox looked back, noticing my uncertain expression. He gave me a half-smile and grabbed my hand, and my cheeks flushed as he pulled me forward by the hand to the front bar, where a girl and boy sat together with smiles on their faces. They both had dark hair wavy hair, and freckles were scattered across their noses. The girl noticed us coming toward them and smiled at me.
“Hey, Maddox! Who’s your friend?”
“This is Esme,” he said, smirking at the boy next to her and nodding. “This is Sebastian and Audrey. They’re from my old school.”
“And now he’s moved to your school,” Audrey commented, rolling his eyes and flashing me a smile. “Poor you.”
“Yeah, poor thing,” Sebastian agreed, grinning at him. “It’s been a while. Since when have you been hanging out with a girl?”
“Esme’s in my after school club. And today she’s here to socialise with new people and have fun.”
“And you’re running this club?” Audrey asked in amusement.
Audrey raised her brows and pulled a face, turning to me and smiling warmly.
“Wanna leave these losers to it?”
“Sure,” I answered, and she stuck her tongue out at Sebastian before pulling me away from them, back outside.
“He’s my brother, Sebastian Lennard,” she explained, as we walked on the wide pavement outlined by bushes and overlooking the skate park to the side. “So, how did you meet Maddox?”
“Oh, just at school. He finds my ‘good girl’ attitude amusing and wouldn’t leave me alone until I agreed to join his after school club thing.”
“Yeah, he’s a smug little douche, but he’s great once you get to know him.”
I looked up, my attention caught.
"How long have you guys known each other then?"
"Since primary school actually. He's good friends with my brother."
We sat down on a low wall, our legs swinging as she watched the boys joke around and ride the skateboards in the park area.
"You must be a super-nice person or something," she commented with a smile, "Maddox doesn't really talk to girls."
I raised a brow, unconvinced.
"I thought he was some kind of bad boy?"
"Well, yeah, I guess he his," she said with a laugh, "but definitely not a bad person that makes bad decisions."
I nodded, debating on asking more.
"So... so why did he move schools?"
Audrey's smile wavered a little and she shifted in her seat, hesitating on her answer.
"Sorry, I guess that's not really my business."
"No no," she said reassuringly, "it's not that. Look, it's not really my place to tell you the full reason, but the main thing is that there are some nasty pieces of work at our school, and he was sort of forced to leave. But it wasn't his fault."
"Wow, that sounds serious."
Audrey shrugged and nodded.
"I guess it was. But moving was a good thing. They sort of had to move house anyway, since there's more people living with them. And Harley's at your school. And you." She smiled at me again.
"He's lucky to be hanging out with someone like you. You've got a great personality."
I shrugged, pulling a face.
"Have I? I'm a good girl."
"And? That's not something to be ashamed of. Is Maddox's club stuff affecting that?"
"I mean, a bit. This is, like, the second day though."
She nodded, then got out her phone, tapping the screen a few times and then handing it over.
"Here, save your number into mine. You're so my new best friend now," she said with a grin, and I smiled back.