Maddy tried not to let the agony show. She was trying not to let everyone know that Rhydian being forced by the cruel hand of fate to break his promise to always be there for her had broken her resolve. But after two and a half months of him not being there, her long-held defences were crumbling fast and it had worn her down both physically and mentally. Despite a valiant effort with her hair and make-up, the trace evidence of her sleep deprivation was plain to see for anyone who knew her. The fact she wasn't tearing into the meat on her canteen tray like she and Rhydian were so used to doing together was clear to see for even those that barely knew her. If anything, eating meat at all reminded her of Rhydian. It felt like someone was sawing her heart in half and pouring salt into the wound as they did so.
"What are you doing?" Maddy looked up, startled by Tom's question.
"Nothing… I'm just…." Maddy couldn't find the words.
"I was talking to Shannon, Mads." Tom said. "We all know you're depressed." Maddy knew how dangerous it was to use her wolf in public, but she couldn't stop the briefest flash of yellow from entering her eyes. Tom backed down quickly at the clear indication that she wasn't amused.
"I'm just going over some notes from last term." Shannon shrugged as she wound spaghetti round her fork. "It's just some work on Pythagoras' theorem and…"
"Never mind, forget I ever asked." Tom cut in quickly as he leaned out. Maddy watched as a grape flew towards him and he expertly caught it in his mouth. She looked over to see that Jimi had managed to make a catapult out of his pencils, his fork and some elastic bands.
"Maddy, things are only going to pick up when you pick yourself up." Shannon shrugged before flinching as the spaghetti burned her mouth.
'I hope that hurt!' Maddy thought bitterly. Shannon knew how cut up she'd been when he left. Why should it be different after a couple of months? He wasn't just an infatuation!
"Maddy, you're a keen photographer. You should know better!" Tom chipped in.
"How is photography relevant in any way?" Maddy glared at him, daring him to say the wrong thing.
"You need to stop being negative!" Tom snapped loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Boo! You suck! Get off the stage!" Jimi yelled as he threw and apple which hit Tom square in the head. Angrily, Tom grabbed the badly dented apple and launched it back.
"Guys, it's not like I don't get what you're trying to say and I'm sorry you're so bored of dealing with me and my mood." Maddy swiped away a tear that threatened to escape. She would not let her defences break now! "I just think things might have been easier if he knew I loved him before he'd left. Maybe he'd even have stayed."
"Trust me, he wouldn't." Shannon stood up to take her tray back. "We found out. He had to leave. He had no way of guaranteeing we'd keep the secret and your parents had just thrown him off the territory. If he loved you too, seeing you again would have made it impossible to leave." Off to Shannon's side, Maddy could see Tom making various 'don't do it' and 'abort mission' gestures to Jimi. "What you need to do is to…" Shannon was cut off as a chicken nugget smacked into the back of her head, the ketchup gluing it into place. Everyone froze in shock as Shannon screwed her eyes shut and willed self control. Maddy cast a glance, following Tom's glare over to Jimi who was pointing over at Sam and Liam who were too busy arguing about football to even notice there was trouble.
Outside, Kay, Kara and Katrina were chatting away. Normally, there'd be nothing unusual about that, but this was different. This time, there was a boy with them. This boy was undeniably attractive with his flawless hair, firm jaw and perfect face. To anyone else, it was no wonder the Ks would be all over him. That wasn't the unusual thing. The unusual thing was that he'd actually stuck around for longer than a minute. It wasn't that he'd wanted to, but Miss Parish had pulled them aside and asked them to show him around. He cursed every second he had to suffer through it, since it was becoming a bit of an endurance test. But if he could survive this, he could survive anything.
"So Harry, is there anyone you already know at the school?" Kara asked. He couldn't miss the flirty note in her voice.
"No, you're the first people I've talked to other than Miss Parish." Harry shrugged. "I'm thinking of getting a band together though. I love music. Maybe if it works out you could come and see us play." No… Please… No…
"Oh my god, that sounds amazing!" Katrina said in a rush.
"We'll be sure to dress our best!" Kay giggled. Harry shivered at the thought of whatever they might be wearing. That was a mental bridge he didn't want to cross. Still, they didn't seem the type to keep their mouths shut. If they got enough people to come, it couldn't be all bad.
"Well, you can scope out the students and see who might be interested in a second." Kara told him as they walked past the lunch hall. "The people here are brilliant. It's a place full of such agile and innocent minds." Behind her, Harry could see the telltale signs of carnage brewing. Mashed potatoes and sun dried tomatoes were slamming into the glass along with one of the kids. Harry could make out the name 'Tom' on the nametag of his jumper.
"Okay, they're just in here." Katrina gestured to the door to the lunch room. "We're really excited for you to meet them. Just don't get nervous."
"Yeah, just play it cool." Kay advised. Harry moved past them and opened the door desperate to find anything to get them away from him. Immediately they were all met with chaos.
Maddy and Shannon had to flip a table for cover as a rogue can of 7up went flying overhead. Tom ducked behind the table with them as Jimi turned round to counter someone who'd dropkicked a meatball his way and accidentally trod on a ketchup bottle. While Tom had managed to get out the way, Scott Malkinson from chess club wasn't so lucky. He took the hit full-force and instantly shielded his face to stop it from going into his eyes. One of the girls from the volleyball team was ripping open ketchup and brown sauce sachets and hurling them indiscriminately.
"What the hell is going on in here?" Jefferies bellowed as he stormed into the room. He hadn't taken two steps into the carnage before being simultaneously hit by a ketchup pack and a fistful of spaghetti sauce. "Alright, just get it out of your systems!" he snapped, his voice breaking as he sat down on the steps and buried his face in his hands. "It's only two more years until retirement. Only two years…"
"We're going to have to make a break for it!" Shannon called to Maddy over the chaos. Maddy could see the dinner ladies emerging from the kitchens. She noticed they'd used what appeared to be electrical tape to fix trays to their arms like riot shields to wade in and break it up.
"The right side looks more manageable." Tom pointed to an area on the right side where there was virtually no one. "I'll keep us covered."
"Tom, this is not what a game looks like!" Maddy snapped.
"That's why I'm getting serious." Tom replied as he pulled out a packet of crisps. "Let's move!" The three friends broke for the door. They had to jump over someone who'd combat-rolled to the side to avoid a bag of skittles but the door was getting ever closer. Suddenly, Tom shoved Shannon aside. She thought at first that it was someone else until she looked up to see that someone had thrown a tin of fizzy drink at them. Tom had taken it straight to the face so Shannon didn't have to.
"Come on!" Maddy hauled him out through the door as he hurled the tin of Sprite back into the crowd.
"We made it!" Shannon gasped as they headed out into the fresh air. Inside, they could hear the head moving in and finally breaking the fight up.
"Did that actually just happen?" Maddy panted. Only then did they look to the side and see the three Ks plus someone else.
"Uh, I don't believe we've met." Shannon said to the boy.
"My name's Harry Averwood." Harry replied. "And you are…"
"I'm Shannon Kelly." Shannon said as she shook his hand.
"Is that sort of thing common?" Harry asked as he pointed to the destruction.
"Actually, it's really rare on this kind of level." Shannon told him. Maddy could see the Ks burning with barely controlled rage off to the side.
"By the way, I don't suppose you know where the music room is?" Harry asked.
"Are you new here then?" Shannon asked back.
"Yeah, it's my first day today." Harry nodded.
"Well then, allow me to show you round." Harry eagerly followed Shannon as she led him away from the Ks and from the devastation in the hall behind them.
Maddy was laid on her front with her covers buried around her face. She'd been looking through photos of her, Rhydian, Tom and Shannon trying to convince herself that she wasn't broken. She was trying to convince herself that she was no better or worse than she once was. It hadn't worked. She'd broken down within thirty seconds. Emma and Dan could hear her crying and she could hear them arguing. It surprised her that her dad thought Emma had been harsh in saying that Rhydian needed to leave their territory, but Emma's response caught her off guard.
"Dan, I wasn't actually talking to Rhydian when I said that." Emma confessed. "I was talking to Ceri. The fact that he went anyway was entirely his choice."
"Emma, we made the choice to abandon him!" Dan snapped. "Even if we weren't talking about him, how could he know that? Also, what about the issue with Tom and Shannon? Shan had photos of him in wolf form!"
"That's my point, Dan!" Emma shot back. "Either way, he had no option but to leave. It was only because his mum was there that he went with her! But does that really matter? He's left Maddy heartbroken. That should be the thing we focus on."
"How can we focus on it, Emma?" Dan asked. "We hurt her in a way no school bully ever could when we told her he wasn't our problem." Maddy desperately wanted to go downstairs and put a stop to their arguing. Unfortunately, she was in no shape to do it. Suddenly, her phone went off in her pocket. She pulled it out and checked it to find a message from Shannon.
'Oh my god, Tom just texted me a carnage report from today! They gave out over four-hundred detentions, made everyone put everything back to an immaculate state and Miss Parish has threatened to make everyone run laps of the race track until they vomit if this incident ever get's repeated.'
'Good.' Maddy only sent a one-word reply. It was all she could think to send. It was all she could bother to send. Rhydian was on her every thought. He was everywhere she went, in everything she did, everything she touched and everything she ate. He invaded every dream she had. Even today she couldn't help but wonder how he'd have been if he were with her in that food fight.