Maddy arrived to school early on Monday morning. She had shunned her mother's offer of a lift, not wanting to spend any more time around the woman than she had to, opting instead to walk. However, an overestimation of the walking time had meant she'd arrived a good twenty minutes early. Liv would not arrive for another fifteen, and Felix would be lucky to turn up before the bell for registration. So, quite alone, Maddy decided to head to what she knew would be an empty registration room and entertain herself. She dumped her bag at her usual seat and lay her violin case on the table, opening it up. She had not played her beloved instrument since the night her parents had argued. There had been moments when she had taken it out of its case and raised the bow to her chin, only to find that her mind went blank and the urge to play had seeped away, like water passing though one's fingers. This morning, however, she felt differently. The tension in her household, and the lack of privacy she and Liv had had to endure were creating a well of frustration within the girl. Now, a melody had gripped her mind, full of angry, staccato notes and dramatic crescendos, and she was positively itching to play it. She lifted her violin out of its velvet-lined case, taking a moment to relish its sweet, woody scent. Then, she raised it to her shoulder, and began to play. The first note was low and haunted, piercing the silence in the room with deep reverberations. Then, steadily, the notes glided from pitch to pitch until the violin was emitting a keening and sorrowful cry. The melody grew faster and the notes shorter, punctuating the tune with the anger that Maddy could not quite put into words. She worked the strings with a merciless speed, whilst her hair and body swayed with the vigorous motion of her pace. She had not opened her eyes since she had begun to play, but she could imagine she looked like a woman possessed, hair flailing, mouth creased up with emotion and concentration. As such, she did not hear the soft click of a latch as the door opened, nor the footsteps that crossed the rough, woollen carpet, approaching her. Only when a hand fell upon her shoulder did she recognise another individual's presence and she gave a cry of surprise, dropping her bow. Oh, I'm sorry! came a voice that she recognised at once. I didn't mean to make you jump. Is anything broken? Maddy picked up her discarded bow, then turned to face Liv. It's fine, she smiled, setting the instrument down and pulling her girlfriend into a gentle embrace. I'm surprised to see you here so soon. Mum dropped me off early, Liv responded, softly. She had to pick up my aunt from the train station - she's staying over this week. Is that an excuse for you to come and sleep at mine? asked Maddy, feeling suddenly cheerful. Afraid not, sighed Liv, throwing down her bag next to Maddy's and sinking into her chair. Dad's finished the guest room now so I don't have to give up my bed. Maddy's ballooning excitement deflated rapidly. It must have shown on her face, for Liv reached across and grabbed her hand. I know we've not had much chance to be alone together recently, she began, apologetically. And I hate it as much as you do. But things will start looking up. We have Felix's party next weekend. We'll have a whole night together with no interruptions. I know, Maddy smiled, though somewhat faintly. Besides, I guess we chose to have it this way. Neither of us is ready to tell people yet.
God no, Liv muttered. Could you imagine it? I think my dad would disown me.
Maddy had heard these words many times. The sadness of them was that she knew Liv was not exaggerating. She could not comprehend it. Parents were supposed to love their children for who they were. Why, then, could she not see Liv's parents, or her own for that matter, reacting any other way but negatively to the news that their daughters were in a secret relationship?
She pondered this as she packed away her violin. Her playing had eased her tension momentarily, but now she could feel it bubbling under her skin once more. Liv was sitting just inches away from her, but she couldn't even begin to behave in the way she wanted to, in case someone should walk in and catch them. She thought about dragging Liv off to the bathrooms and locking her in a cubicle, but with only five minutes or so until the bell, it simply didn't seem worth it.
She sat through registration without paying the slightest bit of attention. Their form tutor, a strict yet still likeable woman named Mrs Francis, was giving them her weekly pep talk, but Maddy did not want to listen. She idled away the fifteen minute session gazing at Liv, her eyes lingering as surreptitiously as they could on her chest. On the few occasions that she chanced a glimpse down the front of Liv's blouse, she noted with pleasure that she was wearing the pink lace underwear that she had bought her as part of her birthday present. It was only when the bell rang, snapping her mind out of the gutter, did she notice something odd Felix had not turned up for registration. As the class filed out to head to their first lessons of the day music, in their case- Maddy pulled Liv away from the group.
Have you heard from Felix this morning? she asked, thoughtfully. The perplexed expression on Liv's face gave her her answer, though the girl responded anyway.
No, I haven't, she said, thoughtfully. It's not like him to miss registration. He usually lets us know if he's sick.
They walked the corridors to the music room together, musing Felix's unusual absence. Whilst Felix was almost always only just on time, he was rarely actually late and he had never outright missed a lesson without forewarning. Maddy wondered if there was any cause for concern perhaps she should message him and ask him where he was?
The two girls were just approaching the music room, however, when Felix rounded a corner with two other boys. He was not running, nor did he look particularly concerned. In fact, he didn't look much like Felix at all. His shirt was un-tucked and splattered at one side with mud, whilst his hair, usually combed neatly, had been spiked up with gel. It was all Maddy could do not to stare. He however, waved as he spotted them coming towards him, whilst his companions took the opportunity to whistle and then laugh stupidly.
All right, girls? called one boy with blonde hair, and he winked at Maddy and Liv as he passed them.
See you later, guys, smiled Felix, as the carried on past the door to the music room, still laughing to themselves. Maddy could only glare.
What? Felix shrugged. You're looking at me like I have three heads.
Where were you when you were supposed to be in registration? asked Maddy, sternly.
Oh, yeah, we were walking across the fields, came Felix's dismissive response. Must have lost track of the time or something.
He gave an idle wave of his hand and attempted to brush past Maddy into the classroom. However, a pungent smell alerted Maddy's senses and she pulled him back.
Have you been smoking?! she asked, incredulously, her eyes widening in disbelief. She watched Felix give a half-hearted shrug of his shoulders.
What's it to you if I was? he muttered sullenly, glaring at her from underneath his eyebrows. What are you, my mother?
And he jostled irritably past her, his hands in his pockets. Maddy turned to stare at Liv, her mouth half open in outrage.
I know, Liv said quietly. We'll talk to him about it in a minute. Let's just get inside first, okay?
She allowed Liv to lead her inside the music room, where they sat down at their usual table with Felix. Felix looked as though he was going to get up and sit elsewhere, but he seemed to think better of it.
Once their music teacher had noted them down on the attendance sheet and sent them off to work on their projects, Maddy had the opportunity to talk to Felix properly. Despite Liv's protests, she followed him over to the printer at the back of the room, which was churning out sheet music for his piece.
So that's what you've been up to this weekend, is it? she hissed, quietly, for their teacher was in the adjoining office. Hanging around in fields, smoking?
Felix pulled an exasperated face.
No, it wasn't, he snapped back. Not that it's any of your business, but I was playing football. And you're jumping to conclusions. When did I say I had been smoking
Your defensiveness said it for you, Maddy spat back. Not to mention the fact that you stink of the things. I knew you'd do this Felix. You can't just be friends with people like that. You have to become one of them!
Oh, will you just get off my back? Felix groaned, as he collected a wad of paper from the out tray. You're just jealous because, for the first time in five years, I'm hanging around with someone who's not you. There's only so much of you two dykes I can take, you know?!
Maddy almost recoiled in anger and horror. Of all the people she could have expected to hear that disgusting word from, she had never imagined it would be her own best friend. Felix seemed to have realised what he'd said too, for his features had softened with guilt and remorse. However, Maddy was far too livid to listen to his inevitable apology. Furiously, she knocked the pile of papers out of his hands and over the floor. Then, without another word, she turned on her heel and marched away. She could see Liv by the table, fretting and looking concerned by this sudden aggressive turn of behaviour.
Maddy- she began, timidly. Yet Maddy simply strode right past her. She was too angry even to relay to Liv what had happened. Instead she stormed straight out of the classroom to the girls' toilets.