'Why the hell did I have to tell her it would be no problem?' Rhydian mentally asked himself for the hundredth time as he grabbed a pack of bacon and a pack of Quorn sausages from the freezer. He went over to the cooker and placed the sausages into the frying pan before turning the TV in the living room on. Although the boys were sitting at the table, it was nice to have on in the background for a bit of company.
"... and the British Sports Association apologises for their association with substances considered by many in the general public as 'abhorrent'. They have promised never to let their athletes advertise Quorn again..." The news anchor continued reading as Rhydian burst out laughing.
"I'm glad I'm not the only one that hates that stuff!" he muttered sharply as the pan began to sizzle and spit.
"What?" Ollie looked round at him, not quite catching what he'd said.
"It's nothing." Rhydian muttered as he grabbed the bread and stuck two sausages between each two slices. He then grabbed the Ketchup and placed the vegetarian sausage sandwiches on the table. "Enjoy, lads."
"What are we doing today?" Joe asked. Rhydian cursed himself again. When Mrs Vaughan had told him her sister had called her to come and stay for three days because of an emergency, he'd assured her there would be no problem. In honesty, there hadn't been if he discounted the fact that he was bored stiff and wanted nothing more than to see Maddy, Tom or Shannon. He doubted Jana would have the patience to deal with the boys, but he'd have been grateful for even her help by this point.
"Rhydian, are you okay?" Ollie asked.
"I'm fine." Rhydian nodded as the boys tucked into their breakfast. Knowing they would find entertainment from anything, Rhydian reached up and grabbed a box of coco-pops from the cupboard. "Once you've had breakfast, you can do a jigsaw before you get dressed." Rhydian placed the box on the table and tapped the picture on the front as the doorbell went off. He went to answer it, knowing by the scent outside the door who was standing on the other side. His heart instantly skipped a beat with relief. He opened the door to see Maddy waiting on the doorstep.
"So, how are you?" Maddy asked as she threw her arms around him.
"I'm better now that you're here." Rhydian grinned. "They want to know what we're doing today and I have no idea. Right now, I've got them trying to use coco-pops to make the monkey on the box in the kitchen while I try and come up with something."
"I'm sure we can work out something to do." Maddy grinned cheekily as she pulled him in for a kiss.
"Do you want to join us for breakfast?" Rhydian asked. "I've got bacon in the kitchen. It's a full eighteen rasher pack as well. Mrs Vaughan got it for me as a big thank-you for agreeing to this."
"You say all the right things." Maddy rolled her eyes as she followed him through to the kitchen.
"Where do you want our plates?" Ollie asked. Rhydian took them and dumped them in the sink. The boys ran up to get dressed as Maddy burst out laughing.
"What?" Rhydian asked before looking at the table. The boys had managed to make a rough image of the monkey from the coco-pops box. It looked freaky as there weren't a lot of coco-pops left and they'd run out before giving him pupils, leaving his eye sockets completely empty. On the whole though, they hadn't done badly.
"I thought you were joking when you said that." Maddy laughed.
"How the hell am I going to get all of this back in the box?" Rhydian saw the funny side but was annoyed at the same time. "Now I wish I'd just given them some Weetabix and told them to make Stonehenge."
"Let's be fair, Rhydian: you literally asked for this." Maddy gave him a look that told him not to worry. "I'll sort this out. You just get the bacon on." What Maddy wasn't going to tell him was that she'd just had bacon, sausage, egg, beans and the rest of a full English breakfast at home. Somehow the thought of bacon always made her hungry again.
Rhydian opened the packet of bacon and took out a couple of the rashers. Due to the residual heat of the pan, they instantly started cooking even before he turned the cooker ring back on. Like clockwork, he kept putting two rashers on and then taking them off and putting them on a tin plate under the grill to keep hot. This process repeated until he'd cooked all the bacon and grabbed the bread and Ketchup from off the table.
"Do you need a hand?" Maddy asked.
"No thanks, I'm fine." Rhydian replied as he started laying rashers of bacon on the bread. He gave each of them nine rashers before slicing the sandwiches and putting them on plates. He carried them over just as Maddy's stomach let out a growl her parents would be jealous of.
"Thanks, Rhydian." Maddy nodded as she tucked in. Once they'd both finished, Rhydian took the plates back and dumped them in the sink too.
"You've got some ketchup in the corner of your mouth." Rhydian said as he leaned in and kissed her. Maddy felt his tongue dart across her bottom lip briefly. She opened her mouth and pulled him closer.
"That's so gross!" Rhydian looked up to see Ollie and Joe in the doorway looking scandalised. Maddy burned red with shame at having forgotten where she was.
"Okay, who wants to prove to me how good they can be?" Rhydian asked. Both Ollie and Joe's hands shot up. "Ollie, you can wash up and Joe can dry up. Maddy and I can supervise."
"How are you going to supervise from your room?" Ollie asked.
"I wasn't going up to my room." Rhydian lied. He could swear Ollie could read minds.
"I can't read minds, Rhydian. Maddy can just be that easy to figure out." Ollie rolled his eyes.
"Don't give me attitude!" Rhydian said playfully, digging Ollie in the ribs and making him laugh uncontrollably.
"Well, I can see this day being boring." Joe muttered as he grabbed a towel and began to dry the plates Ollie passed him.
"That's because you never get exercise." Rhydian shot back as the doorbell rang. Everyone who knew Mrs Vaughan knew that she'd asked him not to have anyone over so Ollie and Joe could be focused on. He indicated to Maddy to stay in the kitchen in case they didn't give him chance to explain that he hadn't called her over. As he made his way to the door, he couldn't resist one last jab at Joe. "Changing channels on the TV is not a workout!"
"Rhydian, leave him alone and answer the door!" Maddy snapped as the bell went again. Rhydian reached out and opened the door as he carried on.
"His only problem is he's a lazy f- hello, father Gascoigne. What brings you here?"
"Hello, young man." Father Gascoigne was the local priest and a personal friend of Mrs Vaughan's. "Is your foster mother here?"
"She's away right now because of a family emergency." Rhydian rolled his eyes.
"Ah, yes. I remember her telling me." Gascoigne said in his slight Scottish accent as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a flyer. "I didn't know that was still going on. Anyway, my annual church garden party is coming up and I need volunteers on the day to help me give my parishioners a nice day out. I was wondering if she'd be good enough to come and help. I hate having to ask, but the volunteer sheet is looking awfully bare right now."
"Well, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until tomorrow to ask her." Rhydian shrugged.
"I see." Gascoigne handed the flyer to Rhydian as a resounding crash came from the kitchen.
"Rhydian, I need you!" Maddy called as the sound of Joe crying floated through the lounge.
"I thought Leona said you weren't to invite friends over?" Gascoigne turned a suspicious eye on Rhydian.
"I didn't call her over. She came of her own accord." Rhydian told him quickly. "If you'll excuse me..." With that, he shut the door in the priest's face and turned back to the scene before him. Maddy was ushering the two of them into the lounge with Joe's hand dripping blood.
"He put a glass down on the work surface." Maddy explained. "It was still hot from the washing up water and there was cold water on the top..."
"... So the glass shattered and hit him." Rhydian finished. Okay, you go and clean up in there and I'll check him over." Maddy nodded and went into the kitchen. "There's a dustpan and brush under the sink." Rhydian called through.
"Okay, I have it." Maddy called back as she slammed the cupboard door shut.
"Okay Joe, just lie back and let me have a look." Rhydian said gently as he eased the sobbing boy down onto the sofa before looking at his bleeding hand. To his relief, the puncture wounds were only skin-deep. The glass had barely gone into his hand at all. It would have been the shock more than anything else. Joe had been amazingly lucky.
"Will he have to lose his hand?" Ollie asked, causing Joe to freak out even more.
"Shut up and go grab his iPod from your room!" Rhydian snapped. "Joe, I need you to wait right there while I get the first aid kit, okay?" Joe managed to nod, so Rhydian darted into the upstairs bathroom and grabbed a translucent blue box. He raced back downstairs as Ollie arrived with the iPod. Rhydian plugged the earphones in and stuck them on Joe's head.
"What's the iPod for?" Ollie asked.
"Music can distract from pain." Rhydian explained as he grabbed the tweezers from the first aid kit. "It's not like we have any anaesthetic here, so this is the next best thing." Maddy came back in after clearing up the glass to see Rhydian getting ready to take the pieces out of Joe's hand.
"Here, use a tissue." Maddy grabbed a tissue box from beside Mrs Vaughan's chair and threw it to him.
"Thanks, Mads." Rhydian pulled a tissue from the box and started counting bits of glass into it. "Why do they call this stuff 'safety glass'? It's still just as sharp!"
"It's because it shatters into little cubes that are less likely to get lodged in your skin." Maddy explained.
"So why are there so many in his hand?" Ollie asked.
"That's probably because it was point-blank range." Rhydian shrugged. "If his hand hadn't been there, that could have got him in the chest and face. He got really lucky."
"Are you nearly done?" Joe asked over the music that was playing.
"Yeah, I've only got a few more bits to get." Rhydian replied. "Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six... Okay, that looks like all of them. Try moving your fingers gently and see if you can feel anything left." Rhydian was sure he'd got it all. It would have been easy for him to spot any he'd missed. But he thought it was best that Joe checked anyway. Joe moved his fingers slowly and shook his head.
"I think it's all gone."
"Okay, I'll bandage it up then." Rhydian carefully wound a bandage round Joe's hand before tying the knot. "There we are, mate."
"Thanks, Rhydian." Joe leaned over and hugged him.
"If you're desperate to hug something, go and hug a tree." Rhydian rolled his eyes as he ruffled Joe's hair. Maddy grinned to herself. These boys were probably the closest thing Rhydian had ever known to having brothers. She loved to see them together genuinely enjoying the time they were spending. Just then, the phone started ringing. Rhydian grabbed it and put it on speaker.
"Hello, Rhydian?" Mrs Vaughan's voice came over the speaker.
"Hello, Mrs Vaughan." Rhydian rolled his eyes. "This is the third call in three days." He whispered to Maddy.
"How's everything going, love?" she asked.
"We've just had a small incident, but it's nothing we couldn't sort out." Rhydian said truthfully.
"What happened?" Mrs Vaughan's voice seemed to raise an octave from concern.
"Joe found out that hot glass and cold water don't go together well." Rhydian explained. "He's fine though. I've sorted it out."
"Well done you." Everyone heard her let out a breath.
"Also, father Gascoigne was round to see about getting volunteers for his church garden party." Rhydian told her.
"Oh, yes I forgot to sign up for that." Mrs Vaughn paused for a second. "Would you mind running over and telling him that I volunteer? If he asks you too, then be sure to be honest. You don't have to say yes if you don't want to do it."
"I have no problems with telling him that I don't want to spend eight hours on my feet in the cold." Rhydian rolled his eyes.
"I hope you'll be more diplomatic than that." Mrs Vaughan said sternly. "I've tried to spend whatever's left of your upbringing instilling politeness in you and I'd appreciate it if you tried let it show once in a while, especially when talking to a good friend. You can even meet up with Maddy when you run down if she's free."
"She's here now." Ollie giggled as Rhydian glared daggers at him.
"I beg your pardon?" Mrs Vaughn's voice carried a warning tone.
"I hadn't called for two days so she called round to see if everything was alright." Rhydian explained.
"How are you doing, Leona?" Maddy asked.
"Well, I think it's pretty fair to say things are a mess over here, Maddy." Mrs Vaughan replied. "By the way, do you promise Rhydian didn't call you round and you honestly came on your own?"
"Yeah, I thought I'd come and check up on him." Maddy shrugged.
"Right, there's £40 in my bedside table drawer." Mrs Vaughan said. "My plan was that if Rhydian made it three days without calling you then he could invite you over and get takeaway for everyone, but since you came over of your own accord then that's fine. I can tell you two genuinely care about each other. By the way, I want a word with you both when I get back."
"That's fine." Maddy shrugged. "Rhydian said you should be back tomorrow when he told me what was going on. I can call round at about two if that's alright with you."
"That's just fine." Rhydian could swear he could feel Mrs Vaughan grinning from the other side of the phone.
"Okay, so we'll all take a walk round to the church then." Rhydian got up and went to hang the phone up. "Boys, grab your hoodies. Maddy, how cold is it out there?"
"It's the hottest British summer on record." Maddy shrugged.
"Grab your coats too." Rhydian called after the boys.
"Have fun, Rhydian." Mrs Vaughan said before hanging up. Rhydian and Maddy went over to the door as the boys grabbed their hoodies.
"Okay, you two stick by us." Rhydian said as he helped Ollie who had managed to get his left arm tangled in his sleeve. "We're going to head to the church, tell the priest that Mrs Vaughan wants to help him and head straight home again. There will be no detours to the park, no deviations to Bernie's or the bakery and absolutely no talking to anyone else we bump into unless I give the okay or you know them from school. Once we get into the church, we tell the father what we came to tell him and get out as quickly as possible before he asks one of us to help too. Mind your manners, no back-talk and please-literally-for the love of god, don't ask him a question! While I'm as open to people's views on anything as anyone else, he goes on like nobody's business. He will rant and tell stories until gone midnight! If anyone starts him off, they won't get takeaway. Is that understood?" Ollie and Joe nodded. Maddy noticed that the takeaway was a strong behaviour incentive and filed the information away for the next time her little cousin terrorised her.
"Let's get a move on then." Maddy opened the door and stepped outside into the unseasonably warm sun. Rhydian followed and kept Ollie and Joe beside him.
After a full twenty minutes of walking, the church finally came into view. Rhydian visibly relaxed as he saw it.
"Well, this walk has been absolutely painstaking."
"Rhydian, lighten up." Maddy laughed as she wrapped her arm round him.
"You two are embarrassing." Ollie grinned.
"Well, it's going to happen to both of you before you know it." Maddy winked at them. With that, she pushed open the door and stood aside to let Rhydian in.
"Hello there?" Father Gascoigne looked up to see everyone entering as he continued dusting one of the pews. "Has someone passed?"
"Father, it's me." Rhydian said as he moved closer to let the aging man see his face. "You dropped by this morning."
"Oh, yes." The priest snapped his fingers as he tossed his duster onto the pew in behind the one he was working on and motioned for them all to sit. "What brings you here, Ryan?"
"Ryan…?" Maddy was instantly confused.
"My name's Rhydian." Rhydian told him.
"Of course it is." The priest slapped a hand to his forehead as they all sat down exchanging various looks of concern.
"We're here because she said yes." Rhydian continued.
"Oh, well that's easily sorted." Gascoigne went over to his lectern and grabbed a red book before returning.
"This is your life." Maddy whispered and Rhydian had to bite the inside of his cheek to kill the laughter.
"Okay, what date were you looking for it to happen?" Gascoigne asked. "Please keep in mind that there are numerous arrangements to make and there should be a meeting between the two families since you're very young and it's very complex at your age."
"What?" Now Rhydian was really confused.
"Father, have you hit your head?" Maddy asked.
"What's he on about?" Joe giggled. Maddy tried to think of ways to tell them and struggled to hold the laughter in.
"Well, I just fell off my ladder dusting the wooden cross at the back." Gascoigne pointed with a shaky finger at an upturned ladder. "I thought I'd keep my feet on the ground and get someone in to do it for me."
"Right, that's it. I'm calling an ambulance." Rhydian pulled out his phone. "How far did you fall?"
"You're not using that in here!" Gascoigne said sharply. "Read the board outside! It says 'Thou shall turn off thy mobile' for a reason!"
"I think the powers that be would understand this once." Maddy replied, rolling her eyes as she stood up and guided the priest to sit down.
"Yeah, I need an ambulance to Stoneybridge church, please." Rhydian started rattling off information as Ollie and Joe went over to Maddy.
"So, how did you know he was hurt?" Ollie asked.
"When Rhydian said 'she said yes' and he started talking about getting the families together, I knew something was wrong." Maddy whispered to them as she started giggling again. "He thought Rhydian was getting married." Rhydian hung up and walked back over to the others. While they'd been whispering, he'd gravitated towards the door to boost his phone's signal.
"Right, they're on their way so let's…" What's so funny?" They'd tried. They'd all tried. But by the time Rhydian had hung up, Maddy, Ollie and Joe were laughing so hard that they were still next to useless by the time the paramedics arrived.
Maddy, Rhydian, Ollie and Joe sat together on the sofa with Chinese takeaway and a movie. Maddy knew she probably should have left long ago, but she felt bad for Rhydian. She worried they might have hurt him by taking their laugh at his expense personally.
"I got a call from the hospital by the way." Rhydian said out of the blue. "He's going to be fine. They think it's just a concussion."
"That's okay then." Maddy shrugged. She decided to say it before she lost her nerve. "Look, I'm really sorry I cracked up in the church. I just found it hilarious that the priest thought you were getting married and it just got the better of me."
"What's so funny about the idea of me getting married?" Rhydian asked. "People have been married at our age before. Many years ago, they weren't even our age. I'm not saying it's right, but it happened."
"I know that, but I'm going to be honest I just can't envision you proposing. Maybe it's because we're still really young and don't have to figure things like that out. We're just teenagers. We don't need to worry about it. Also, let's face it you do struggle with talking about things like feelings quite often. There's nothing wrong with that. I have those issues too."
"Why do you have problems talking about your feelings?" Rhydian asked. "I know I have issues because there was no one in the care system that I could talk to, but what's your excuse?"
"It's near enough the same thing." Maddy shrugged. "Before you came along, there was no one else who knew me 'that' well." Rhydian knew instantly that she was talking about being a Wolfblood and not being able to discuss it with Tom and Shannon. It made sense. They were human. Before he came along, she hadn't been able to tell them. They hadn't known what she was.
"So you sometimes forget that you have the freedom to talk to someone about it." Rhydian summarised. "You've spent so long trapped in that vicious cycle of keeping your feelings bottled up and even though you have parents I bet you find it weird to talk to them about some things.
"Can you read minds?" Maddy asked.
"No, the boys are right." Rhydian shrugged. "You're just that easy to figure out."
"You're an arse!" Maddy punched Rhydian in the arm causing him to flinch with pain.
"You still love me." Rhydian rolled his eyes.
"That's what makes it so frustrating." Maddy growled. Rhydian got up to take his plate to the sink. He grabbed hers on the way past and took it too. When he came back, he bent down and whispered to her, noticing that the boys were too engrossed in the movie to take notice.
"How about we head upstairs?" he whispered. Maddy silently got up and went with him. Once she'd shut the bedroom door silently behind her, she sidled over to Rhydian and pulled him gently over to his bed. He sat down on the edge and she sat straddling him. They stared into each other's eyes and after a split second of unspoken communication they had their arms around each other. The first kiss was brief as always. It was only after that their kisses would become a lot more frantic.
"I love you." Maddy said breathlessly as she pulled back for air.
"I love you too." Rhydian replied before his mouth was captured by hers again. They carried on like this until eventually they collapsed on Rhydian's bed. They held each other delicately as though each touch might shatter the other person. Each found the other's touch a welcome burn that felt like only thing that might save them if they were freezing to death. It was so warm in fact, that they couldn't help themselves. They pulled each other close and closed their eyes. They let the most peaceful sleep they'd ever felt carry them away together.
The Next Morning…
Rhydian knew that earthquakes were calculated on the Richter scale. He knew that tornadoes were measured on the Fujita scale. But he had yet to know what scale the wrath of a rampaging foster parent was measured on. Mrs Vaughan had arrived home and she was not happy. The twins had told her everything. Rhydian was already planning his revenge. They had to sleep sooner or later. They'd told her about Maddy and Rhydian sneaking off upstairs and they'd told her about them having to put themselves to bed. To top it all off, Maddy had stayed the night like she'd promised not to. To top it off, she'd walked in on them practically fused at the lips that morning since things had managed to get 'carried away' after they'd woken up. It had been Rhydian's response which proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Let's face it, this is probably not the worst thing you've ever caught me doing."
Mrs Vaughan had dragged them both into the kitchen, sent the boys out to play and read the teen wolves the riot act. They'd braced themselves and stayed that way until she'd got it out of her system. Only then had Rhydian made any attempt to defend them by saying that the stress of the incident with Father Gascoigne had left them exhausted and they'd collapsed together. It hadn't been intentional and certainly hadn't been intended to get as heated as it did. As soon as Rhydian had run out of lies and excuses that Mrs Vaughan hit him with the one question he was hoping she wouldn't.
"If it wasn't meant to get as heated as it did, then why did it?" Rhydian thought for a moment.
"I've honestly got nothing."
"Actually, what you have is a lot of trouble." Mrs Vaughan gave him a piercing glare. "Luckily, I have just the thing in mind. I've just had a phone call from Emma and Dan." Maddy groaned at the mention of her parents. "Maddy, your cousins are coming over in about a month. You have just kindly volunteered to look after them for the duration of your aunt's day-long stay. Rhydian, you have just volunteered to help her."
"Which aunt is this?" Maddy asked.
"It's your aunty Ella." Mrs Vaughan grinned evilly. That was her dad's younger sister. She had a set of twins. The look of horror on Maddy's face told both of them that she'd just understood what Mrs Vaughan was getting at.
"So, what's wrong?" Rhydian shrugged. "You said your cousins were about Ollie and Joe's age. We'll just play in the back garden for a bit, take them running on the Moors and then take them back and do roast chicken for dinner."
"That would be great if it were those cousins." Maddy buried her head in her hands. "Those cousins are my Aunty Whitney's. She has two boys one two years younger than the other and growing well. She was a bit older than usual when she had them. When one broke his wrist, she took him to A&E with a friend and the doctor started talking about it to the friend before asking what 'Nan' thought. Unsurprisingly, 'Nan' thought he was an idiot."
"What about the aunt that's coming over?" Rhydian asked.
"Aunty Ella has two girls." Maddy explained. "They're twins and they're not even a year old yet. Actually, we'll be lucky if they're even walking by the time we get them."
"Oh, and I have a meeting to go to that day as well." Mrs Vaughan added. "That means I'm going to need you two to take the boys to the park for a day."
"Wait, so…" Rhydian was mentally piecing it all together until Maddy filled in the blanks.
"We're going to be down the park with two babies looking like stressed out teenage parents along with your two foster brothers running riot." Maddy said. "Basically, we've got double trouble."