Maddy and Caden had played long into the night. They had stopped only when their father had come upstairs, thinking someone had left a stereo on, and told them quietly to go to sleep. Exhausted, and satisfied that the arguing had at least stopped, Maddy had put her violin to rest and retreated to her bed.
It was late morning when she finally awoke. Sunlight was streaming in through a gap in her curtains, shining an irritatingly bright light in her eyes. She rolled over to avoid it and almost screamed in surprise at seeing Liv perched on the edge of her bed, gazing down at her good-naturedly.
Good morning, lover, she said softly, smiling at the surprise on Maddy's face.
Hey, Maddy murmured back, rubbing her eyes. How on earth did you get in here?
Your dad let me in, she admitted. Your mum's out so I don't think he really cares that you're supposed to be grounded. Actually, I get the impression that he's quite glad you hit Felicity last night. He doesn't seem to like the Reads much.
Hates them, smiled Maddy. She sat up in bed and pulled her girlfriend into a drowsy embrace. I'm glad you're here. I could have used you here last night.
Why? Liv asked. I know you were in trouble but, let's face it, it's not the first time.
Maddy sighed and proceeded to tell Liv about the argument she had heard between her parents last night. Liv's features softened with sympathy and she placed a delicate kiss on Maddy's cheek.
Don't worry about it, she said kindly, taking Maddy's hand and squeezing it. It doesn't necessarily mean what you think it might mean. I wouldn't trouble yourself with it until you know for sure. Anyway, how are you this morning?
Her gaze dropped to the scratches on Maddy's cheeks.
I'm okay, said Maddy, truthfully. A little achy from falling down those few times, though.
How about a nice hot bath? Liv suggested. Her tone was completely casual but there was an impish twinkle in her eyes.
Alright, Maddy agreed, a shiver of eager anticipation running down her spine. It was rare that she and Liv had opportunities like this, even in her house: Liv's shyness, coupled with the mutual fear that they would be discovered, made intimacy difficult.
As though she'd read her mind, Liv gave Maddy's hand another squeeze.
One day, she said, we'll be able to behave like a normal couple and not have to worry about being caught.
I know, said Maddy softly. We're just not ready to tell people yet and I don't mind that.
She kissed Liv on her velvety pink lips, tentatively, for the bedroom door was still slightly ajar. Liv beamed before getting up and heading for Maddy's en-suite.
I'll call you when the water's ready, she said, still smiling. Maddy watched her retreat, giving her denim-clad backside a thorough once over before she disappeared into the next room.
Love you, Maddy whispered, before snuggling down gleefully into the soft, cosy confines of her bed covers. She listened to the peaceful trickling of water in the adjoining room. The worries of last night still dominated her mind, but she did her best to cast them aside. Liv was right: there was no use in getting upset until there was a definite reason to. Besides, she could not let her family problems mar her relationship. That was difficult enough by itself.
Felix will be round later, Liv called through the open door. He sent me a text earlier. So we'd best not take too long.
Is the water ready? asked Maddy.
Yes, I think it'll about do, Liv replied. Come on in.
Positively glowing, Maddy slipped out of her bed and crossed the room to her bathroom, locking the door behind her. Liv, who had been sitting on the bath mat, running her fingers through the bubbly water in the tub, rose to her feet.
All done, she smiled. Let's get you out of these pyjamas then.
A becoming flush adorned Liv's cheeks as her slender fingers began to work the buttons of Maddy's top. Not for the first time, Maddy marvelled at her own good fortune. Liv was genuinely the sweetest and kindest creature anyone could ever hope to meet. She was a little on the quiet side, which sometimes came off as indifference, but Maddy knew better. As a lover, she was affectionate and gentle and attentive, though she had a mischievous streak that Maddy was sure no one but her had ever seen. She could see it twinkling in her eyes as her hands moved lower down Maddy's shirt. When the last button had been undone, Liv pushed it over and off Maddy's shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Then, her smile widening, she reached for the waistband of Maddy's pyjama bottoms, easing them delicately over curved hips.
You're so beautiful, Maddy, she whispered, running a hand lightly down Maddy's bare back. Maddy smiled and drew her into a delicate kiss. She pressed Liv's hips gently against her own and was rewarded with a tremor of pleasure for both her and her lover.
Maddy Liv murmured hesitantly, stiffening in her arms.
It's ok, Maddy assured her. I'm not going to. Not here.
She pulled away from the embrace, giving Liv's hand a reassuring squeeze. Then she turned to the bathtub and lowered herself into the water. It was pleasantly hot and Maddy caught the sweet scents of jasmine and lavender on the sheen of slowly rising steam. Her worries and frustrations began to melt away instantly.
How is it? Liv asked, sitting delicately on the side of the tub with a sponge in her hand.
It's perfect, sighed Maddy. You always did run the nicest baths.
Liv beamed at the praise, dipping her sponge into the water before pressing it against Maddy's back. Maddy felt the warm water trickling down her skin, tickling pleasantly. She sat still and watched as Liv began to wash her in this way, letting the sponge soak up the moisture then squeezing it out over her body. It was as soft and gentle as Liv herself and Maddy adored it. As she went about her task, Liv began to sing quietly. It was a classical song, with words that Maddy did not understand, but she appreciated it nonetheless. Liv was a trained singer and, as such, had a voice that even a siren would be envious of.
I wonder if you could sing for the orchestral competition, Maddy wondered aloud. Liv's song ceased at once.
Don't be silly, she murmured. They wouldn't want an amateur like me spoiling their chances.
Liv, have you ever heard yourself sing? asked Maddy, raising her eyebrows. Your voice is beautiful. You'd blow them away.
I don't think so, Liv muttered, shaking her head. Besides, I'm sure vocal pieces aren't allowed, so it doesn't really matter.
Maddy thought otherwise, but she decided not to press the matter for the moment. She would have words with Mr. Gibson on Tuesday. In the meantime, there would be plenty of opportunities to convince Liv to at least give it a go. She could get Felix onto it too when he joined them later.
Onto your front for me please, Liv requested, and Maddy obeyed, rolling over to lie on her stomach in the water, whilst Liv delicately sponged the backs of her legs. She found herself hoping that somehow, be it purposefully or accidentally, her girlfriend's hand might slip its way between her legs. Unfortunately, Liv managed to avoid this, letting her sponge and the trickling water do that job for her.
Would you like me to wash your hair for you? she asked, as Maddy sat up.
Very much so, Maddy smiled. She felt Liv's hand on her back and she relaxed as her girlfriend leant her backwards, dipping her hair into the water. She looked up into Liv's eyes and saw a wealth of warmth and love there, shining just for her. God help anyone who ever hurts you, Olivia Hartford,' she thought. I will make them suffer.'
The air between them became sweet and floral-scented as Liv began to work shampoo into Maddy's golden blonde tendrils.
Your hair smelt like this the first time we met, Liv murmured, her cheeks glowing once again. When I started at Sanford, I never imagined the first girl I met would be the most beautiful girl in the world.
You had a boyfriend at the time, laughed Maddy, splashing Liv playfully.
I know, Liv admitted. But he was two towns away. Cheating on me, might I add. That's not important though. He could have been the nicest boy in the world but it still wouldn't have been enough to stop me falling in love with you.
Charmer, Maddy murmured. She reached up a wet hand to stroke Liv's cheek and was surprised when the timid girl caught it and kissed it firmly. Her eyes were alight and there was a roguish smile toying with the corners of her lips.
Wash that off and get out, she whispered. We don't have much time.
Maddy was just straightening her bed sheets when Felix knocked on her door. Liv was sitting on the sofa, gazing idly into space with a serene smile on her face. So Maddy abandoned her task to let him in.
All right, Rocky? Felix grinned, enveloping her in hug before slipping into the room. Nice to see old Flic didn't make too much of a mess of you last night.
Maddy gave him a rough, reprimanding shove. Felix, however, simply laughed. He dumped the rucksack he was carrying at the foot of Maddy's bed and went to join Liv on the sofa. When she didn't greet him, he glanced at the girl's expression and then looked back to Maddy, perplexed.
What's she smirking about? he asked.
It's nothing, Maddy said, though she gave him a smile that told him it was most certainly something. The subsequent grin that split Felix's face told her he'd comprehended.
So, he smirked. What have you girls been up to? Apart from screwing each other, of course.
Liv snapped out of her reverie, her cheeks reddening furiously. Maddy and Felix could only laugh.
Relax, Liv, Felix said, still grinning. I won't tell anyone what a dirty hussy you really are hey!
Felix just managed to dodge the cushion that Liv had throw his way, watching it sail past his ear instead. Maddy couldn't resist a smile. She went and sat down between her best friend and her girlfriend, making sure to secure the remaining cushions between her and the sofa.
Actually, she began. There's something we were talking about earlier that I want your opinion on. What do you think about Liv singing for one of our competition pieces?
Oh Maddy, not this again, Liv sighed, but Maddy ignored her protests. She looked to Felix, who appeared enthused by the idea.
Actually, that's not a bad thought, he responded, pensively. It would certainly be different.
Liv, however, shook her head adamantly.
I don't think I can sing in front of everybody, she objected. Besides, as I said before, it's an orchestral competition, not a choral competition.
True, Felix admitted. But I'll bet it's not against the rules. And think of the edge it would give us on the competition!
Liv's face was a paroxysm of conflicting emotions. She seemed to be torn between her own shyness and the desire for her fellows to do well. She glanced at Felix shrewdly, then at Maddy.
What do you think? she asked, quietly.
Maddy pulled Liv gently across into her lap.
You know what I think, she replied, softly. I think you have a beautiful voice and it would be very mean of you not to let us exploit that to up our chances of winning.
The tension on Liv's face broke as she gave in to a smile. Maddy kissed her forehead.
That's my girl, she murmured. You'll blow them all away, I just know it.
Maybe, Liv shrugged, though she was glowing happily at Maddy's praise. What would I sing though? We'll have to find a song that's good enough for the orchestra to play.
Oh, I think I have just the thing in mind, Maddy smiled.