It was a moment before Maddy realised what she had done. She lowered her hand and glanced at the girl whom she'd struck and knocked to the ground. Felicity's face was one of utmost surprise, with an angry pink welt across her cheek, but when their eyes met, her features contorted with fury.
How dare you hit me! she screamed, and she flew at Maddy in her rage. Maddy did not have the time to blink, let alone react, before the vexed girl bore down upon her, slapping and scratching at every inch of her she could reach as she knocked her to the floor. You bitch, Felicity screeched. You complete and utter bitch!
Maddy could barely see to fight back. Over the tumult of Felicity's screams, she could make out gasps and cries from the onlookers, and the muffled sound of Liv's voice begging her to stop. Yet she couldn't just stop she had to fight back. She grabbed a lock of hair, which she knew was not her own, and yanked down on it hard. Felicity howled in pain.
I'll teach you to talk about my family that way! Maddy hissed, slapping back the hands that were assailing her own face. Her fingers met the sensitive flesh of Felicity's face and she dug in her nails, eliciting another cry of pain. Her assailant fought back, clawing at the skin of Maddy's neck and shoulders, tearing the strap of her dress in the process. Maddy could not see it, but she heard the fabric rip and felt cool air on her skin as one side of the dress collapsed, partially revealing the garments underneath. A furious Maddy raised her hand again. Yet someone caught it roughly before she could bring it down forcefully on Felicity's face. The next thing she knew she was being pulled to her feet, just as Felicity was being dragged off her. More gasps arose from the gathered crowd and, with her assailant's hair out of her face, Maddy could see why. A stern-faced doorman was holding Felicity by the wrists and judging by his expression, he was not at all pleased. Maddy glanced nervously over her shoulder and saw that, sure enough, there was a similarly angry face glaring down at her, whilst strong hands were nearly lifting her off the ground.
That's enough, you two, a rough voice said beside Maddy's ear. You're out of here both of you!
Maddy winced in pain as the doorman frogmarched her off the dance floor and through the club. She could hear Liv and Felix calling to her but she didn't know what she could do. People were staring at her and she felt her face burning with humiliation, a feeling that doubled when she glanced down and saw her dress hanging off one shoulder, revealing her bra. They reached the door and Maddy found herself dumped rather unceremoniously on the floor outside, some three metres away from Felicity.
Keep an eye on them, Reg, said the doorman who had been holding Maddy. I'll go call their folks. You two - names and numbers now.
Maddy glanced incredulously up at the man towering over her. The last person she wanted here now was her mother: she'd be in a world of trouble. Judging from Felicity's silence, her sentiments were shared. The doorman simply raised his eyebrows.
Either you give us your names and numbers, he stated simply, or we call the police and get them to deal with you.
Maddy's heart skipped a beat. If she were taken home in police car, that would be it she would never see the light of day again. Reluctantly, she gave up her name and her home phone number to the surly looking doorman. Felicity did the same. As he went back inside to phone their parents, Maddy was relieved to see Liv and Felix come dashing out of the club.
Mads, you idiot, what were you thinking? Felix sighed, as he sat down on the floor next to her. Maddy did not respond. She glanced up at Liv, who was frowning at her in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of her mother.
That was stupid, she said, quietly.
I know, Maddy admitted. Then she added, They've gone to call my mum.
Liv's austere expression softened at once and she sat down on Maddy's other side, putting an arm around her shoulders.
Someone arrived for Felicity first. An elegant, black car pulled up by the pavement and a tall, silver haired man stepped out Mr Read. Mr Read was also a barrister, so Maddy had met him many times through her mother. Flashy, arrogant and pretentious, he marched up to Felicity and looked down at her with a peculiar expression on his face. Then he glanced at Maddy and raised his eyebrows.
Richards, he muttered. Why am I not surprised?
Maddy bit down hard on her lip to keep herself from swearing at him.
You should thank your lucky stars you're not to be prosecuted, he said, before turning to his daughter. Come, Felicity. Let's get you home and cleaned up.
As Maddy watched them leave, she noted with satisfaction the numerous red and bleeding scratches on Felicity's face. She wondered how her own face might look; after all, Felicity had done her fair share of slapping and clawing. She reached into the bag that, miraculously, was still hanging from her shoulder. Unsurprisingly, her face powder had been smashed, covering the contents of her bag in a fine, peach coloured dust. She dug through this and pulled out a compact mirror, blowing it clean before holding it up to her face. There was a small bruise forming under one of her eyes and her right cheek was marred with several long but shallow scratches. That aside, she was relatively unscathed. However, with her mother on her way, she did not expect that to last.
Why do you think she said that? Maddy asked, suddenly, remembering how the whole thing had started. About my mum, I mean. You don't think
Don't be silly, said Liv, reassuringly. She was just lashing out. Everyone knows her dad's slept with half the women in town since his divorce. She was just attacking you before you had chance to bring it up.
Maddy bit her lip, unsure. She didn't know what to think. She didn't think her mother capable of such a thing as infidelity, yet she could not imagine why Felicity, for all her faults, would make something like that up. Liv squeezed her shoulder a fraction tighter and Maddy leant back into the embrace, relishing Liv's warmth and trying not to think about what Felicity had said.
It was another ten minutes of anxious silence before a silver convertible rounded the corner and screeched to a halt outside the club. Maddy did not even have to look at her mother to tell that she was livid: the forceful slam of the car door was enough. Even Liv and Felix shrank back as the suited and scowling woman marched up to where they were sitting. Wisps of blonde hair were falling out of her once-neat bun and her green eyes, identical to Maddy's, were flashing with anger.
Mum, Maddy began, trying to think of something to say that might remedy the situation. Nothing came to her, so she closed her mouth and kept her head down.
I don't believe this, her mother hissed. Fighting, Madeleine? And with the Reads' daughter, of all people! I thought your father and I had taught you better than this.
If you'd heard what she was saying, you'd have hit her too, Maddy muttered petulantly. She longed to tell her mother that really it was her fault, but she couldn't bring herself to repeat what Felicity had been saying.
You can't start scuffling with people just because you disagree with them! Maddy's mother went on, exasperatedly. If the whole world did that, what kind of mess would we be in? Now get up, we're going home. Felix and Olivia, you too. I'll drop you both off.
Maddy glanced back apologetically at her friends before following her mother to the car.
Nobody spoke a word on the journey home. The tension was thick and heavy in the air and Maddy thought her friends were lucky to be sitting in the back, away from the steely glare that her mother shot at her every so often. Felix was dropped off first. He waved Maddy a sympathetic goodbye as he climbed the steps to his father's smart townhouse. After that was Liv, who resided in a sweet, detached property in the middle of a newly built suburb. She touched Maddy lightly on the shoulder before getting out of the car and disappearing behind the hedgerows that guarded her home. The moment Liv was out of sight, Maddy's mother turned to her angrily.
You're grounded for the next two weeks, she said, coldly. And if you dare answer me back, Madeleine, I'll make it four, is that clear? I don't care how old you are. If anything, you should know better now that you're nearly eighteen.
Maddy opened her mouth to protest but thought better of it. It wouldn't do to be stuck inside for a whole month. Felix's birthday was in just over four weeks if she were grounded, she wouldn't be able to help out. She held her tongue, resorting instead to glowering at the glove compartment in front of her.
When they arrived back home, Maddy went straight inside and upstairs to her room without another word to her mother. In truth, she didn't know what to say and she certainly didn't want to wait around for the inevitable question of how the fighting came to happen. She closed her door behind her and went straight over to her desk, where a black leather case was sitting and calling to her. She opened its lid carefully and ran a single finger along the lovingly polished spruce surface of her violin. It was an exquisite instrument, commissioned for her by an award-winning craftsman from overseas. She'd had it given to her on her eighth birthday by her grandparents but only when she was thirteen did she begin to play with it. It was by far her most treasured possession and the only thing she had left by which to remember her grandparents. She thought of them as she lifted the instrument from its velvet-lined sanctum and began to play away her frustration.
Without a conscious thought, her fingers led her into a fiery rendition of a Bach sonata. It began quietly, but as her anger flowed out of her body and into her bow, the song swelled in volume until every note resonated powerfully around the room. She knew her brother would be sleeping only a few doors down but she did not care. With each note that sang out from her strings, it was as though poison was being drawn from her body. Her irritation ebbed away and clarity was restored to her mind. Even as the tempo of the piece began to diminish, she felt herself pleasantly calm. Yet angry voices from downstairs brought her playing to an abrupt halt. She paused, bow in hand, and listened to the shouting that was floating up to her.
How can you say this is my fault? Maybe if you were here once in a while and actually spent some time with your daughter, she wouldn't feel the need to act up like this!
Don't you dare, Jason, don't you even dare! You had your career whilst I was stuck at home, wrist deep in nappies. Now let me have mine!
Oh, let's not pretend this is about your career, Sally! If you spend half as much time at the office as you pretend you do, I'll eat the bloody dog!
Maddy closed her eyes. She'd have given all the money in the world not to have heard those last few words. Did this mean it was true? Was her mother really fooling around behind her father's back? Had she not heard it twice in one night, she would not have even entertained the thought. She suddenly found herself wishing she was back with her friends. Felix would squeeze her hand and tell her it was okay, that all parents fought sometimes. Liv would hug her tightly, stroke her hair, wipe away her tears. But they weren't here and the yelling from downstairs showed no sign of relenting. There was only one thing she could do. She raised her bow once again and began to play, as loudly as she could bear to, drowning out the arguing and accusations that were rife in the air.
It was not long before she heard her door open and her eleven-year-old brother padded softly into her room. His eyes were red and it was clear he had been crying. In one hand, he was carrying his smaller, three-quarter size violin, in the other a blue blanket. Maddy gave him her kindest smile as he sat himself down on her bed and, without a word, began to play along with her.