Liv provided a much-needed friendly ear in English class the next day. Maddy had been too upset to talk to Felix about the ordeal properly, and had spent the rest of his visit quiet and distant, until even her old friend had gotten bored of trying to reach her. By the morning, however, her shock had dissolved into anger at her mother's indiscretions. She had claimed to be working late for as long as Maddy could remember: how long, then, had this been going on?
Can you be sure that she is having an affair? Liv asked, quietly. The class had been spilt off into pairs to discuss the nature of Marlowe's Edward the Second as king, and it was a perfect opportunity for the two girls to talk, without being overheard. Well, it's not like I walked in on anything, Maddy admitted. But why else would she be home when everyone's out with a strange man in tow?
Perhaps she was actually looking for her file? Liv suggested, tentatively.
She left empty handed, from what I could see, muttered Maddy, darkly. I see, Liv responded. There was a brief pause whilst she was clearly thinking of a way to react. Have you mentioned it to your dad? she asked, eventually. How could I? sighed Maddy. How could I begin to tell him that I caught my mother bringing a man home whilst she was supposed to be working? I don't know, Liv shrugged. But if it's for real, then he has a right to know. I know that, Maddy said. I just don't know how to tell him. Their tutor was doing her round of the classroom, so the pair tuned their eyes to the open book in front of them, their pens poised above their notepads in mock attentiveness.
So he can be described as irresponsible' for the way he lavishes money on Gaveston, said Maddy loudly, making a show of writing her point into her notes. The tutor smiled as she passed them and Maddy beamed in response. Once she had gone, however, she put down her pen and glanced up from her book. You know what this means don't you? she groaned. It means that Felicity Read was right. I really hate it when she's right! She might not be, said Liv, soothingly. You should try and talk to your mum, see if she has anything to say. Oh, that'll be fun, Maddy snorted. A heart to heart with the ice maiden that calls herself my mother I shall look forward to that. Just try it, Liv told her, in a firmer tone. You need to know what she has to say on the matter. I guess, Maddy sighed. She gave Liv's ponytail a playful tug as she leant back into her chair. In truth, she didn't want to talk to her mother because she wasn't sure if she wanted to know the truth for definite. She did not know what the repercussions might be. Separation? Divorce? And what of their family home, would they have to give that up to buy separate houses? Perhaps they would be better off not knowing.
At the end of the day, Maddy met Felix and Liv in the auditorium for their orchestra rehearsal. This was the day that they would decide which pieces to perform for the competition. Along with their own suggestion, other ideas included Harry Brook's idea to perform Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, Ravel's Bolero, as suggested by Isabella Green, a clarinet player, Tchaikovsky's Waltz From Sleeping Beauty and Verdi's La Forza Del Destino. Personally. Maddy much preferred Schubert. She was also fond of the Bolero, thought this was a modern piece and would be in competition with her own. Upon entering the auditorium, she found Liv and Felix occupying seats on the second row. She slipped in beside them, on Felix's left. Have you noticed we've yet to actually play anything this year? Felix asked her, as she sat down. I have, Maddy admitted, stowing her bag under her seat. Though I'm sure once we pick our songs, that will be different. She glanced around the cavernous room. Mr Gibson was already present, leaning against the stage and deep in conversation with Harry. There was a box on the edge of the stage with a slot cut into the top, with a sheaf of papers next to it; it became apparent how their votes were to be cast. Here, Liv muttered, quietly, leaning past Felix to shove a paper bag into Maddy's hands. I got you something in my free period. Maddy opened the bag and found it to be full of her favourite sweets lemon bonbons. Thanks honey, she smiled, and she offered them around, before stashing the gift in her blazer pocket. Moments later, My Gibson assumed his position at the front and centre of the room, and the dull throb of speculation died down. Good afternoon, he addressed them, beaming at them all good-naturedly. Maddy noted that today he was wearing a purple satin jacket and a tie featuring a certain cartoon sea sponge. She decided then and there that if he was, by some miracle, married, his wife must have been as batty as he was.
I'm sure you all know the purpose of our meet today, he went on. On Tuesday we identified seven potential pieces that we could perform in the orchestral competition. I'm also sure that you will have noticed the ballot box that I have fashioned and placed on the stage. As you are an intelligent bunch, I would expect that you have put two and two together regarding how this is to be done.
He paused for a moment, allowing the several bursts of laughter that had broken out to diminish. Then he cleared his throat and continued.
For those of you who are half asleep this afternoon, allow me to explain anyway. In a moment, I will ask you to form a line down the centre aisle. You will come up to the box, write on a sheet of paper the name of your classical choice and of your modern choice, fold the paper and then place it in the box. Once you are finished, you may return to your seats and remain there until all the votes are in and counted. Any questions?
He glanced around, clearly looking for any raised hands or bemused faces. There were none.
Alright then, he smiled. A queue down the centre aisle, if you please and no pushing!
He backed away to one side of the stage as the students all got to their feet. Maddy, Liv and Felix joined the back of the line before it became too long. As they did so, they passed Felicity and her sycophantic friend Elle. Maddy narrowed her eyes, to which Felicity simply sneered: Maddy tried not to think about her accusations at Heaventeen, not after a day of trying to banish all thoughts of her mother from her mind. She ignored her, setting her sights firmly on the task at hand. She knew which pieces she was going to vote for her own suggestion, of course, and Harry's, partly because she liked the piece, and partly because she knew Harry liked hers, so it seemed only fair. When she reached the head of the queue, she approached the stage and picked up a piece of paper. With the thick, black marker provided, she carefully printed the names of her two chosen songs. Then she folded the paper, and slipped it into the ballot box, before returning to the second row to sit beside Felix. Liv came moments later and Maddy took the opportunity to give her hand a gentle squeeze.
Think we've got it? she asked, excitedly. Liv suddenly didn't look so enthused: her eyes shone wet with apprehension.
If we do, I'm going to have to sing, aren't I? she said, dolefully.
I'm afraid so, Maddy grinned. Don't worry, I'll get rid of those nerves somehow.
I'm guessing you voted for Harry's idea? Felix asked.
Yeah, said Maddy. I owe him one, plus it's a pretty good piece.
I thought so too, Felix agreed. No surprise as to who you voted for, eh, flute player?
What? shrugged Liv. I like Tchaikovsky.
Nothing to do with the prominent flute melodies? smirked Felix. Liv's cheeks reddened slightly but she remained defiant.
Nothing at all, she said, firmly. I've liked that one since I was a child nothing more!
Maddy and Felix exchanged a brief smile. Maddy took out her sweets and she and Felix proceeded to play a game, where they tried to throw the round candies down the front of Liv's blouse. Liv allowed them a few throws, though she sat and glowered at them both, deeply unimpressed. However, after a couple of successful shots, she snatched the bag irritably from Maddy's hand.
Enough! she snapped. I didn't buy them for you so you could lodge them in my underwear.
She delved into her top and began retrieving the powdery, yellow sweets.
Leave them in, Maddy murmured, just loudly enough for her to hear. I can get them out for you later.
No, Liv said, crossly. They're all sticky. I'm sorry, giggled Maddy, whilst Felix chortled behind her. I didn't mean to abuse your present. Can I at least have them back?
She expected Liv to say no teasing her had often led to drawn out strops in the past. However, Liv simply smiled. She removed the last successfully thrown sweet from her shirt and pressed it up to Maddy's lips. Maddy was surprised: this was the most affectionate Liv had ever been in public before. Determined not to look a gift horse in the mouth, she took the offering, making a point of licking Liv's fingers as they were pulled away from herm making her giggle.
Easy, you two, Felix muttered. Don't forget where we are.
Don't be so prudish, smiled Maddy. I've done more flirtatious things with you and no one thinks we're up to anything. Besides, who's watching?
The fact that all eyes were watching the stage, where Mr Gibson was tallying up the votes, was probably the reason Liv had done something so bold in the first place. However, Maddy was not about to complain: it was nice, every once in a while, to flirt with the risk of being caught, even if it was through actions that most people would construe simply as two girls being silly.
As Liv surrendered the rest of Maddy's sweets, an unusual hush fell over the students in the auditorium. Mr Gibson was standing at the front of the room again, a single sheet of paper in one hand. He smiled at them all for a moment, clearly relishing their suspense. Maddy was just contemplating throwing a bonbon in his direction when he finally spoke up.
I have counted your votes, he informed them, still smiling. It was a close call, but I can reveal that the two songs we will be performing are The Waltz from Sleeping Beauty and Think of Me!
Several excited shouts erupted around the room; Maddy's and Felix's were just two of them. The pair embraced a smiling but pale-looking Liv in a tight hug, jumping up and down with glee.
I have to sing, came Liv's muffled murmur, from within the vice-like grip of her friends' arms.