That evening, Maddy, Liv and Felix decided to celebrate their success with a meal. They went their separate ways after the rehearsal so that they could drop off their school things and change. Then, they met in the square later, just outside the restaurant. Choice of establishment was limited in a small town like Sanford, especially if you were underage. As such, one place in particular was favoured by the town's youngsters: an Italian bistro and pizzeria called Pepe's. It was a tidy place, though not too formal, so the kids had no problem with stopping by casually for lunch or dinner. This, however, was both a pro and a con in Maddy's eyes. It meant that she was more likely to run into people that she had no desire to see outside of school. As the trio entered the bistro together, it became apparent that that night was to be one such occasion. They wandered through the clutter of tables, and were pleased to see that their favourite seat, a crimson-leathered booth next to the far window, was unoccupied. However, to their dismay, the neighbouring table was occupied by Felicity Reed, no less. She was sitting with her friend and lapdog Elle Stephens, a pretty but vacuous girl who had followed Felicity around like a puppy for as long as Maddy could remember. Also dining with them were their respective boyfriends, Tyler Parkinson, the bullying star defender of the school's rugby team, and Nathaniel White, a stern, silent, upper sixth student with whom Maddy barely interacted.
Any chance they haven't seen us, do you think? Liv asked, tentatively. The smouldering glower that Felicity was shooting their way spoke for itself.
Just keep going, Felix muttered. She's not going to ruin our night.
However, as the three took up seats at their favourite table, it seemed that Felicity had planned otherwise.
Oh, look, she sneered loudly. It's Richards and her band of merry men. Come to celebrate being teacher's pet, have you?
Maddy opened her mouth, a biting retort forming on her tongue, but found herself pulled roughly into her seat by Liv and Felix, both of whom shook their heads at her gravely.
What? she hissed. She's asking for it!
Just let it be, Mads, muttered Felix, quietly. We don't want another public scene like last time.
Maddy opened her mouth to argue, but thought better of it and sat down, picking up her menu absently. She itched to put Felicity in her place, but she didn't want to embarrass her friends like she'd done last time, especially in a regular spot like Pepe's. She let her eyes slide over the list of dishes on offer, though she had read it dozens of times before, whilst she tried to listen to what the girl was saying.
I think I'm going to get the calzone again, Felix announced, as he perused the menu. It was really good last time.
Maddy barely heard him. She was far too busy trying to eavesdrop, though they had taken to talking too quietly for her to hear. She assumed this was a good thing if they were talking about her, they would be sure to do it loudly and deliberately. She took the opportunity to sneak a glance sideways at their table. Tyler and Nathaniel were deep in conversation, with Elle nodding along emphatically, making the rhinestone clip in her hair wobble madly. Felicity, however, was otherwise occupied: she was staring at Maddy in a manner that the girl found quite alarming. The coldness in her eyes suggested so much more than the simple rivalry Maddy had always thought them to share: it revealed no less than a bitter hatred. Maddy averted her gaze, glancing back down at her menu, dumbfounded.
You guys, she muttered, as discreetly as she could without moving her mouth. Just look at the way she's staring at me. It's like she wants to rip my kidneys out.
She almost cringed when both Liv and Felix glanced tactlessly up from the table at the same time.
What are you talking about, Maddy? Liv murmured, gently. She's not even looking over here.
She was, Maddy insisted, maintaining her hushed tone. I swear to you, I've never seen her look at me like that before it's like she hates me!
Neither Liv nor Felix batted an eyelid.
Are you feeling alright? asked Liv, pulling down her menu to look her in the face properly.
Yeah, Felix muttered, frowning. You do know this is Flic you're talking about? You guys have always hated each other. No, we haven't, said Maddy, truthfully. And I never really thought she actually hated me. But she was looking at me just now like she wanted me to crawl down a hole and die!
Liv and Felix remained unsurprised. Frustrated, Maddy simply shook her head.
Never mind, she sighed. You didn't see it. Keep watching her. If she does it again, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Alright, said Liv, kindly, though Maddy was sure she was being humoured. For now, though, how about we order some food? It doesn't seem as though they're going to bother us, so we might be able to get a nice meal out of this after all.
I'll agree to that, Felix seconded. I'm starving, and that calzone is beckoning me.
Reluctantly, Maddy tuned her eyes back to her menu. The food at Pepe's was wonderful, but she suddenly didn't feel like eating. It was not a pleasant feeling, to be hated. She had always brushed Felicity's bile off as envy and rivalry. Hatred, however, was a different thing. She could not imagine what she had done to warrant such a cold and loathing stare. She'd never really done anything to wrong the girl it had been Felicity who had initiated the enmity between them. Despite finding her spoilt and nave, Maddy and Felicity had gotten along well for some time. Then, when they had returned to school after summer for their first year of sixth form, it was as though she was a different person. Maddy had simply assumed she'd developed a bit of an attitude problem. Now, however, she wondered whether it ran much deeper. Maddy glanced up and was surprised to see a smiling waitress standing by their table; she had not even heard the woman approach.
Are you ready to order? she beamed, whipping out a crisp, white notepad from a pocket on her apron.
Yes, I'll have the pasta carbonara, please, Liv said politely.
And I'll have the pizza calzone, said Felix, closing his menu. The smiling waitress scribbled on her pad and turned to look expectantly at Maddy; she had not even thought about what to order.
I'll have the lasagne, she decided quickly, though she did not feel up to eating it.
Great, the waitress chirped happily. Can I get you any drinks at all?
Liv made as though to speak but was interrupted by the loud ringing of a mobile phone from the next table. Even the cheery waitress's smile faltered. Maddy, however, was no longer paying attention. Her gaze had been drawn back to Felicity, who was talking quietly to whoever was on the phone. She heard Liv order their drinks, but paid no heed to what was said. She was watching Felicity's face, which had once again become cold and stony, though this time it was not directed at her. After a moment, she put down the phone and placed it back in her handbag.
My dad, Maddy heard her telling her friends. He's going out and I've forgotten my key so he's going to drop it off with some taxi money. I'm going to go and wait outside for him.
There came the scraping of a chair on the wooden floor, and Maddy quickly looked away, determined not to let Felicity see that she'd been watching. However, as she walked past, she cast a dark glare down at Maddy, her lip curling into a horrible sneer. Then she marched straight past and out of the door. Maddy could only stare after her: she was right, she really did hate her.
Whoa, Liv muttered, bringing Maddy's attention back to the table. Her girlfriend was watching her, round-eyed in disbelief. What was that? she whispered.
You saw it? asked Maddy, relieved that she was not the only once to notice.
How could I miss it? murmured Liv. That was harsh.
What was? asked Felix, confused.
The look old Flic just gave Maddy, Liv explained. How did you not notice?
I can't see for Maddy's head, shrugged Felix.
Well, it was bad, Liv told him, shaking her head. I knew you two have issues but what's with that?
I told you, Maddy said quietly. She hates me that much is obvious.
Maddy fell silent, gazing out of the window. She could deal with petty rivalry, but she did not like the idea of someone hating her for no reason. She was not an unkind person, nor was she abrasive. She could see no reason for Felicity's animosity.
The waitress arrived moments later with a round of drinks, distracting her for a moment from her concerns. As she turned to accept her diet coke from the cheery woman, she failed to notice the sleek, black car that pulled up briefly outside of the restaurant, a trail of silvery smoke spiralling from an open window.