Maddy opened her eyes. Sunlight was streaming through the window and it energised her as each one of her senses came online one by one. The first thing she noticed as her eyes adjusted to the harsh light levels was that she wasn't in her room. The thin blanket draped over her had the familiar scent she'd come to love and partially crave the closeness of. The second thing she noticed was that she was slowly drifting up and down, making the whole room slowly shift and causing her to feel a bit sick as her sense of balance wavered. She looked down to see that she was sitting on Rhydian's chest.
As her hearing clicked into gear, she heard the voices of two women laughing. The first was her mother, obviously. It was unusually early for guests though. She took a breath in as her sense of smell oriented itself and figured it out in an instant. Mrs Vaughan was downstairs. Rhydian had been staying with them for a bit ever since there was a mild crisis in the Vaughan household. Ollie and Joe were staying with Mrs Vaughan's sister while repairs on the kitchen were taking place. They hadn't even started on the upstairs bathroom yet though.
Maddy knew she couldn't exactly go downstairs as she was. She was only wearing her nightie and she was willing to bet her mum was fully dressed before inviting someone over. Reluctantly she peeled herself off Rhydian, her back protesting to the loss of his warmth and headed to her own room. She flung open her wardrobe and grabbed a rust-coloured sleeveless top and a pair of jeans. She pulled them on before deciding she was presentable enough for this early in the morning and going downstairs.
"Well, I think it's a great idea." Mrs Vaughan said as Maddy neared the bottom of the stairs. "It'll really give the kids a chance to relax and I know Rhydian could certainly do with the fresh air. I know Rhydian should spend all the time he can with Maddy as well. She's such a good influence." Maddy double-checked she was actually awake. She was a good influence? How the hell did that happen?
"How do you mean?" Emma asked.
"Well, when I was upstairs I noticed she'd left her door open." Mrs Vaughan replied. "I saw her bed from the hallway and she makes it so nicely you'd think she'd never slept in it. Do you think if I ask nicely she could teach Rhydian that?"
"You can try?" Emma shrugged. "She's standing right there." Mrs Vaughan spun round with a startled expression on her face. Maddy was too embarrassed to even try saying that she actually hadn't been sleeping in her own bed for some time or that her parents had put a lot of rules in place when her bed boards fell out. She also didn't fancy telling Mrs Vaughan that those rules hadn't lasted the first night or that she'd just left Rhydian sleeping upstairs without even bothering to put the covers back on him properly since he never left them there anyway.
"Would you consider it, Maddy?" Mrs Vaughan asked.
"I'll definitely give it a go." Maddy shrugged, pleased at how neutral she'd kept her face. Emma couldn't keep a smirk off her face as Maddy said that, but quickly wiped it off as Mrs Vaughan turned back to her. Maddy went over to the kitchen area to get a drink.
"Anyway, when will you be leaving if they agree?" Maddy's attention was suddenly snared by the word 'leaving'. Her legs went from under her and she felt her head bounce off the edge of the kitchen table.
"Are you okay, Maddy?" Emma called over. Maddy flashed thumbs up as she hauled herself up.
"What the hell do you mean?" she asked. "Why are we leaving anything?"
"We're not moving. You don't have to worry." Emma held up a hand before she could go into a panic as she walked over and checked Maddy's head to make sure she hadn't split the skin. "I've had an idea and your dad agreed last night. But we're only going if you want to. We feel we all need a bit of a holiday. There's a place that's run by a person we know." Maddy took the way Emma stressed the word 'person' to mean 'Wolfblood'.
"Okay, so from what Mrs Vaughan said, I take it we're inviting Rhydian too." Maddy nodded before wincing in pain.
"Are you okay?" Emma asked.
"Can you hear something rattling?" Maddy asked.
"You can invite Tom and Shannon too." Emma told her.
"Can you hear something rattling?" Maddy asked. "Did I already ask that?" Emma suddenly realised that even though there was currently no obvious damage there might still be something seriously wrong.
"Maddy, are you alright?" she asked.
"Yeah, don't worry about me. I'm fine. I was just joking." Maddy said as an evil grin spread across her face.
"What was that you were saying about her being a good influence?" Emma asked Mrs Vaughan in an exasperated tone.
"I take it all back." Mrs Vaughan sighed. "They totally deserve each other."
"Speaking of beds and memories, where are you currently staying?" Emma asked.
"Oh, I'm still in the house." Mrs Vaughan shrugged. "It's only the bathroom and kitchen I can't use. My neighbour has agreed to let me use hers until it's fixed. The kitchen's nearly done anyway."
"So they managed to get the pieces of bath out of it then." Maddy concluded.
"Leona, you can't keep that up!" Emma rolled her eyes. "Stay here while we're gone."
"Oh no Emma, I couldn't do that." Mrs Vaughan replied. "I couldn't sponge off you like that."
"You're not." Emma told her. "We won't even be here and you can't go round the neighbour's every night for a bath. We don't have a problem provided you keep the place clean and we know you will. It's not sponging if you genuinely need it."
"Well, thank you, Emma." Mrs Vaughan said before bursting into tears. Emma sat next to her and wrapped an arm around her.
"It's okay; we all have catastrophes like that." Emma handed her a tissue. "I remember when Maddy was younger she had a habit of swinging on the shower. One day she did it and she'd grown too much. She tore the whole shower unit off the wall and it filled the bath up with freezing water that then spilled over the edge. It flooded the bathroom and was so deep that she couldn't climb out of the tub. We found her nearly hypothermic and trying frantically to get out. It was a miracle she managed to keep her head above water. If Mike and Laura hadn't taken us in while the house was getting fixed, I don't know what we'd have done."
"It's not all bad at my place right now." Mrs Vaughan gave Emma a sly look. "I'm in a house full of builders. There isn't a single one wearing anything with sleeves in this heat wave. I'm thinking of ways to thank them but getting them cakes and stuff just doesn't seem like enough."
"That's gross!" Maddy instantly saw what she was trying to get at. "Right, I'm going to finish getting dressed!" Maddy stormed upstairs and Emma went over to one of the wine racks in the corner of the kitchen.
"Give them this!" she said to Mrs Vaughan as she brought a bottle of wine over. "This is potato wine I made nearly ten years ago that's been maturing all this time. My mother knew someone who grew potatoes. She taught me how to make this when I turned eighteen. If this doesn't get them so drunk that they're easy prey, nothing will!"
"You'll have to show me how to make this." Mrs Vaughan said as she took the bottle and held it up to the light.
"There's really nothing to it." Emma told her. "The only thing you have to remember is that home grown works best."
"I'll commit that to memory." Mrs Vaughan nodded.
Upstairs, Maddy walked back into Rhydian's room. She noticed he'd rolled over to try and re-warm the patch on his front she'd been laying on. Grinning evilly to herself, she jumped before turning round in mid-air and landing squarely on her backside on the bed. Rhydian was bounced into the air and woke up instantly as he spluttered for breath.
"Time to get up, Rhydian." Before he'd realised what was happening, she'd reached forward and landed a kiss on his cheek. Rhydian slowly woke up properly and looked Maddy over as he reached out and held her gently.
"I love it when you dress like that."
"What?" Maddy asked. "You mean when I can't even be bothered to put socks on in the morning? Rhydian, you like it when I walk around in just my nightie! This is nothing!"
"It's the same principle though." Rhydian gently rubbed Maddy's shoulder the way he knew she loved.
"I don't get it." Maddy said as she suppressed a shiver.
"It shows you're at ease." Rhydian told her. "As long as you're happy, so am I."
"Well, that's comforting." Maddy rested her head on his chest. "By the way, Mrs Vaughan's downstairs. Get this: she was still trying to live in that house!"
"Why?" Rhydian shrugged. "Two of the key rooms are totally destroyed."
"I think she likes the adult company." Maddy grinned suggestively at him.
"Oh, that's gross!"Rhydian rolled over and buried his face in the pillows.
"It's not unlike us when you think about it." Maddy shrugged.
"I know, but she's my substitute mother who's raising me!" Rhydian groaned. "I've never known what it's like to think about that kind of thing with your real mother but I'm pretty sure this is at least close!"
"Speaking family, how would you like to go on holiday?" Maddy asked.
"I don't know. I've never been on one." Rhydian shrugged as he rolled back over.
"Right, well we're looking to go and Mum says we can bring Tom and Shannon too." Maddy told him. "By that, I think she means we have to at least invite them because they'll kill us if they find out we went and didn't even try to get them to go."
"Okay, so if you ring Shannon, I'll ring Tom." Rhydian nodded as he grabbed his phone from his bedside table. Maddy got up and went into her room, grabbing her phone from the bedside table. She found Shannon's name in her contacts list and put her phone on speaker as she let it ring.
"What?" Shannon's tired voice drifted through the speakers.
"Well, good morning to you too, Shan." Maddy said sarcastically.
"Maddy, I was up past last night finishing Jefferies' History assignment." Shannon moaned. "I'd literally just managed to get off to sleep. You just woke me up."
"Sorry about that. Wait, we had a History assignment?" Maddy heard Shannon sigh on the other end.
"I'm assuming you need something desperately on pain of the secret being revealed."
"Actually, no I don't." Maddy heard Shannon sit up a bit. Clearly that had caught her by surprise. "My parents have decided that we all need a vacation. So far I'm just guessing that we're leaving as soon as the half term starts at the end of the week since that seems like the most logical and perfect time but I'll double check that. If you're interested, you're welcome to come."
"You know what; I think I could do with a holiday." Maddy heard Shannon swing her feet out of bed. "I'll check I've got nothing I need to cancel. Are Tom and Rhydian coming or is this just a girls' getaway?"
"Rhydian's already said he wants to go and he's ringing Tom now." Maddy told her. "My parents know someone who owns the place we're going to."
"Okay, thanks Maddy." Shannon said as Maddy heard her start down the stairs.
"I'll confirm the date with my parents and get back to you." Maddy replied.
"Okay, bye." Shannon hung up with a yelp. Maddy heard a painful crunch as she trod on one of her baby brother's toys. Unfortunately the connection terminated at that moment so Maddy couldn't ask if she was okay. She'd just have to trust in Shannon's tenacity and agility. That meant Shannon was pretty much screwed, but Maddy had to hope anyway. She pocketed her phone and made her way back to Rhydian's room. She got through the door just as Rhydian hung up.
"Tom's in." Rhydian told her.
"Shannon agreed straight away." Maddy nodded.
"So that's both of them coming." Rhydian sighed.
"You don't seem happy." Maddy observed.
"I'm just tired." Rhydian shrugged. "Still, hypothetically how great would it be if we went on a holiday together just the two of us? Your parents and Mrs Vaughan stayed behind and we both just went somewhere."
"Rhydian, as great as that might be, we really can't." Maddy hugged him close. "You've got social services watching your every move right now and I've got my parents watching mine. Let's just save that for the honeymoon."
"What honeymoon?" Rhydian's head snapped downwards to Maddy's direction as she looked up at him with an evil grin.
"I'm joking!" she shoved him lightly before letting him rest back and lying herself on top of him. "Or am I?" She'd tried using a seductive voice and it suddenly occurred to her that it was a tone of voice she really needed to work on.
"Don't push it, Mads." Rhydian said as he pulled her closer and planted a kiss on the top of her head. "We'll see what the future brings."
"That's the beauty of the future." Maddy nodded. "You never know what's coming. Anyway, if you want to go and say hi to Mrs Vaughan, I'd do it now. For god's sake get dressed first though."
"I suppose I'd better." Rhydian muttered as he pulled himself up. Maddy experienced a moment of vertigo as her head suddenly shifted angles causing the room to rotate until she eventually slid down his chest and ended up with her head in his lap. "Come on, up you get."
"It's comfy here." Maddy protested. Rhydian gently picked her head up and moved his legs out from under her.
"It's comfy for me too, but it's only polite for me to go and talk to Mrs Vaughan." Rhydian shrugged. "I can't have her thinking that I prefer being here than there. True as that is because I get meat here, I can't have her knowing that. Social services would have a field day."
"I know." Maddy said regretfully as Rhydian pulled on his jeans from where she'd had thrown them in a heap the previous night.
"Don't worry, I won't be a minute." Maddy walked over to his wardrobe and threw him a clean shirt.
"You're not wearing the same shirt you wore yesterday. I don't care if she knows when you last wore it or not!" she said sternly. "You say you'll change it in a minute and then you always forget." Rhydian shrugged the new shirt on and grabbed his old one before throwing it into the wash basket with a very precise aim.
"Come on then." He held out a hand which Maddy accepted. They made it downstairs and she was relieved that Mrs Vaughan was looking much better.
"Rhydian, how are you doing?" Mrs Vaughan asked as soon as she saw him. She stood up and hugged him and Maddy couldn't help but notice how he briefly tensed at her touch before returning it. Even when he did, it was only with one arm and a half-hearted attempt.
"I'm doing okay." Rhydian replied. "How are you getting on? I heard you're still living in the house."
"Well, my sister gave her only spare room to the boys and there were men in my house for the first time in nearly ten years." Mrs Vaughan rolled her eyes as she let go of Rhydian.
"Yeah, that's just gross." Rhydian muttered.
"Anyway, my housing crisis has just been sorted." Mrs Vaughan told him. "Emma has kindly offered to let me stay here while you're on holiday, so you don't have to worry about me. You just go and enjoy yourself with your friends."
"Will you be joining us for breakfast, Leona?" Emma asked as she grabbed a pack of bacon from the freezer. Mrs Vaughan tensed as she saw the bacon.
"I'd love to, Emma; but I'm afraid I have to get home and start packing." Mrs Vaughan made her way over to the door.
"That's a point, when do we leave?" Maddy asked.
"You're breaking up from school on Friday and then we'll take this weekend to make sure everything's prepared." Emma replied as she mentally ran through it all in her own head. "We'll leave on Monday."
"Okay, I'll let Shannon know." Maddy nodded.
"Yeah, I'll let Tom know too." Rhydian pulled out his phone and fired off a text as Maddy went over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of chilled water. She poured two glasses and took one over to Rhydian.
"Can one of you get me another tin of tomatoes out please?" Emma asked. "They're under the stairs."
"I've got it." Rhydian said as he went to the cupboard.
"But you always hit your head on it." Maddy sighed.
"Not always, just usually." Rhydian corrected her. "Besides, this is going to be one of my better days for that." With that, he stuck his entire top half into the cupboard as his wolf activated to stop Mrs Vaughan from seeing his veins. Using his wolf lit the cupboard up like early morning even though there was very little light.
"You're never this helpful at home!" Mrs Vaughan observed.
"I've got it!" Rhydian called. "And the best bit is there wasn't even an incident this time." As he spoke, Tom's reply text arrived. The vibration in his pocket startled him and caused him to jolt upwards, cracking his head on the roof of the cupboard. Maddy went to help him, but she just couldn't hold the laughter in.
"This isn't a good day for people keeping their cranial cavities intact!" she muttered. "Are the tomatoes okay?"
"Oh, by all means save the helpless tinned fruit and leave your boyfriend suffering at the edge of the room!" Rhydian replied drily as he handed her the tin.
"I'll just be going then." Mrs Vaughan said.
"See you later." Rhydian waved briefly as she left. As soon as he heard the door shut, he visibly relaxed to the point where he slid down the wall he was leaning against and ended up sitting on the floor.
"Why are you always so tense around her?" Maddy asked gently as she sat down next to him.
"It's not her, it's me." Rhydian sighed. "I'm just petrified of her finding out the secret whenever I'm around her. It only takes the boys playing up and pushing me that little bit too far…"
"Rhydian, you've really come a long way." Maddy rested her head on his shoulder and looped one arm around the front of his chest. "You're able to put up with much more now than you were before. Do you remember the day you arrived here? You got so furious with Jimi that you nearly lost it in front of half the school. Since then, Jimi was always pushing it further and further but you've never had a repeat of that. You've been growing stronger each day. If you can handle Jimi, I think you can handle Ollie and Joe."
"There's a big difference between him and them." Rhydian replied as he hauled himself up and held out a hand to her. "He targeted me deliberately with the kind of bullying I've learned to endure and built up a hardened shell against. Those two are just plainly annoying. They don't deliberately bully, they just behave like children."
"What's wrong with that?" Maddy shrugged.
"I just find it annoying." Rhydian told her. "Maybe I'm just bitter and jealous because I never got the chance to be a kid. There wasn't a single day of my life before I met you where I actually had fun."
"As lovely as this is, do you two want breakfast?" Emma asked.
"Oh, yeah…" Maddy took the tin and brought it over to Emma.
"Have a seat, kids. This should be ready soon." Maddy and Rhydian sat down and Rhydian looped an arm around Maddy as Dan walked in from his workshop. As soon as Emma saw the state of him, she walked over and promptly smacked him round the ear. "Daniel Smith, how many times have I told you never to wear your apron in the house?" she said sharply. Rhydian had to admire the power in the smack Emma gave Dan as he let out a cry of pain.
"I can do that too." Maddy whispered to him as if reading his mind. Rhydian remembered the arm he'd rested across her back and raised it up a bit so it wasn't sitting quite so low.
"I forgot to take it off!" Dan protested.
"Get back to your workshop, take it off and get back here before I succumb to the temptation to burn your breakfast!" Emma smacked him round the back of the head as he went. "You only get one slice of bacon this morning."
"Rhydian, take my advice and never get married." Dan said, looking him straight in the eyes. "Once they know you well enough, alpha females will use your weaknesses against you." Emma shoved him outside and slammed the back sliding door shut.
"You know how you were talking about honeymoons?" Rhydian whispered to Maddy. "If that's what we'll become then that'll be a long time away yet."
"Eat up, cubs." Emma said as she put two plates in front of them. On each plate was a bacon sandwich made of two slices of fried bread and four rashers of bacon. On top of the bacon were the tinned tomatoes before being topped off with the other slice of fried bread.
"This looks amazing." Maddy looked ready to start drooling on the spot.
"And to round it off…" Emma placed two glasses on the placemats in front of them.
"I don't get it." Rhydian looked confused.
"This is something we literally get once in a blue moon." Maddy told him.
"Yeah, but what is it?" Rhydian sniffed cautiously at his glass.
"Have you never had tomato juice before?" Maddy gave him a disbelieving look.
"No." Rhydian shook his head.
"You are such a peasant!" Maddy elbowed him. "I should have seen this coming when Mum asked for the tomatoes."
"Is it good?" Rhydian asked, still looking confused.
"Try it and see." Maddy gestured to the glass. Rhydian picked it up and took a nervous sip. It broke both Maddy and Emma's hearts to see him still so nervous to try new things, especially ones he should have been introduced to long ago.
"How is it?" Emma grinned; fairly confident of his answer by the way he'd suddenly taken a much larger sip.
"This is amazing." Rhydian returned the grin. "Did you add Worcester sauce to this?"
"Yeah, that's what gives it the extra kick." Maddy nodded.
"What the hell? How did Mrs Vaughan never show me this? She's a vegetarian! If anyone I know could have known about this, it would be her!"
"The mind boggles." Maddy shrugged as she picked up her sandwich and hungrily bit into it.
"I'll be sure to ask her that." Rhydian muttered as he tucked in. "This bacon just melts in the mouth."
"I'm glad you like it." Emma leaned back against the edge of the counter. "Once you've finished, you can both get ready for school."
"I think that's the only thing that'll be plaguing us until this weekend." Maddy muttered.
"Well, it's only two days." Rhydian took another bite. "Besides, Jefferies is showcasing something important today. I think it's part of a new security thing the school invested in."
"Oh yeah, that'll be a laugh." Maddy nodded. "Jefferies can't do anything right. That's why he never caught the people who took that trophy and put it on the roof of the Art block."
"Yeah, because as far as he knew, they were still in the detention he was taking." Rhydian laughed. He finished his food and Emma took his plate to the sink.
"Go on up and get your school clothes on, Rhydian, you don't have to wait for me." Maddy took another bite as she reached over and gave him a one-armed hug.
"Okay, if you're sure." Rhydian got up from the table and made his way over to the stairs.
"You don't mind eating alone for a second, do you cub?" Emma asked. "I'm going to get my cardigan from upstairs."
"Okay, go on." Maddy shrugged. Emma darted up the stairs after Rhydian.
"What is it, Emma?" Rhydian asked, lowering his voice. Something told him that if Emma had followed him upstairs, it was because it was something she didn't want Maddy to hear.
"I just wanted to say thank you." Emma said as she matched Rhydian's lowered tone. "I noticed you stick by Maddy through literally everything, and how much she appreciates it. I never got the chance to thank you for being there for her. Being her mother, I desperately want to be there to solve all her problems. I learned the hard way that I can't do that. Some things can only be shared with people her own age."
"Why are you thanking me?" Rhydian asked as he walked with Emma back to his room. "I should be thanking you! If it weren't for all of you, I'd have blown the secret long ago. I'd have been carted off to a lab where they'd be running experiments on me like Whitewood wanted to do to you guys at one point. If Maddy hadn't have been there, that's what would have happened with Jimi on my first day at Bradlington. She saved my life."
"You've saved each other." Emma told him as she briefly hugged him. She noticed that he tensed slightly for a second before returning it, just as with Mrs Vaughan. She understood that she'd never hugged him before and she didn't exactly give him warning. She let him go quickly so as not to make him uncomfortable. Without another word, she grabbed her cardigan from where she'd hung it above the radiator to warm it and pulled it on. Rhydian shut himself in his room to get changed for school.
Once he was changed, Rhydian sat on the edge of his bed. Usually after he and Mrs Vaughan had a talk like that, he had a mini panic attack and used the time alone to covertly freak out. This time though, he didn't feel so bad. He had almost everything he could ever want in life now. He knew that after the way his life had begun, he could never have expected to have much. The only thing in life he could ever have hoped for had arrived repeatedly and gone before. That was a chance to have a family.
He'd been fostered repeatedly before, but it had always collapsed after a couple of weeks and put him back to square one. Mrs Vaughan was the one to keep him the longest. He'd also met Maddy in that time. The Vaughans had taken him into their family and the Smiths had let him into their pack. He'd started out wanting one family, and now he effectively had two. While it was difficult to juggle both and not show that either one was more important, it was better than he could have hoped for. For a while, Rhydian just sat there. He didn't know why, but he suddenly felt relaxed.
Downstairs, Maddy had finished eating and taken her plate to the sink. She went upstairs and saw Rhydian's door was shut. She shrugged it off as being nothing. He was probably getting changed. As she went into her own room and locked the door, something seemed to suddenly click. It was like something inside her had shifted and changed. She sat on the edge of her bed as far as she could without the risk of falling through it. It had never occurred to her how lucky she was to have Rhydian around before. She couldn't believe it hadn't, but she realised in that second that she'd started taking him for granted. It had started to feel like he'd always lived there with Mrs Vaughan and always would. She knew he had no plans for that to change and neither did Mrs Vaughan. That wasn't what she was worried about. She was worried about the fact that there was something she hadn't told him.
Deciding enough was enough; she got up and went over to his room. She knocked on the door and waited for him to open it. When he did, her words came out in a rush.
"There's something I feel I should tell you but I don't know exactly how."
"Just say it." Rhydian shrugged. "Whatever it is, you know I'll stick by you."
"You say that like I'm about to say something drastic." Maddy rolled her eyes.
"How do I know you're not?" Rhydian defended. If there's something you have to tell me and don't know how to, it could be anything from 'I'm pregnant' to 'can I drag you round a photography exhibition?' Actually, we haven't been on a date in a while. Maybe we should do that."
"I'd love to." Maddy quickly hugged him. "And for the record, I'm not pregnant and asking to drag you round a photography exhibition isn't telling you something."
"Well, that puts my mind somewhat at rest." Rhydian let out an exaggerated sigh and earned an elbow to the gut from Maddy.
"I just feel like I've started to take you being around for granted." Maddy shrugged. "I feel bad about it because it makes me look as if I seem to appreciate you less and I really don't. I love you and it just…" Maddy was cut off by Rhydian's lips on hers suddenly. All conscious thought left her. When Rhydian pulled back, her cheeks flamed with embarrassment as she realised she'd been rambling and her mouth burned as she longed for the contact again.
"Maddy, you mean the world to me." Rhydian said as he pulled her into a hug. "But sometimes, you have these moments where you just panic and look so hard at the bad side of things that you end up blinding yourself to the good side. You stress out over every little imperfection in everything you do and you really don't have to. Everyone has imperfections. Sometimes those can drive wedges between people and for others it's just adorable. You're definitely one of the adorable ones." Maddy couldn't keep the tears out of her eyes.
"Thank you." Her voice was barely any more than a whisper.
"Go and get changed." Rhydian gently nudged her in the direction of her room. "We'll talk more on the way and there'll always be time to chat when we get back." Maddy nodded and vanished quickly into her room, remembering what time it was and how little time they had before school. Rhydian almost couldn't keep himself from laughing. He didn't want to laugh though. He knew it would hurt Maddy. But he wanted to so badly. He threw himself on his bed and sunk his teeth into the pillow to kill the laughter. He really did have more than he could ever have asked for between the Smiths and the Vaughans. For him, it was like he was dreaming.
"So, this will be the school's new security gate." Jefferies said to everyone as he gestured to the wrought iron gate behind him. "It opens automatically and folds completely into the rest of the fence. Once it starts to open, it can't be stopped. Now that you know that, anyone stupid enough to put their arms or fingers through the bars while it's opening who then ends up losing the appendage can't say they weren't warned. Any such stupidity displayed, therefore, is not the school's liability."
Maddy could swear she heard snoring from the back. It was two minutes before home time and Jefferies had dragged them out to look at an iron gate. She glanced sideways and saw Jimi, Sam and Liam exchanging crisps and tins of lemonade. Suddenly, she was distracted by Rhydian's hand nudging hers.
"Watch this!" he whispered. Maddy dreaded to think what he was planning, especially since he flashed Jimi thumbs-up. Suddenly, Jimi put his hand up.
"Sir, so this gate is supposed to protect people breaking in, right?" he asked.
"Yes, that's why it's got big heavy bars, a spiked rail on the top and a CCTV camera mounted on it." Jefferies replied.
"But what if someone just walks through the bars?"
"Jimi, no one is going to be able to fit through the bars." Jefferies said pointedly.
"Well, Rhydian has." Sam pointed to the gate. Rhydian stood on the other side. A look of horror crossed Jefferies' face as he spun round to see. Behind him, everyone else cheered. At that moment, the gate opened for home time.
"Rhydian Morris, you are in big trouble!" Jefferies snapped as Emma pulled into the car park to pick them up. Spotting salvation, Rhydian made a dash for it. Instantly, Jefferies turned on Maddy.
"Before you say anything, I had nothing to do with this." Maddy said, trying not to laugh.
"Rhydian's still living at yours, isn't he?" Jefferies asked venomously.
"You can't blame me for that!" Maddy protested. "You can blame Ollie and Joe for crashing the bathtub through the kitchen ceiling!"
"I'm not blaming you, Miss Smith!" Jefferies looked ready to spit fire. "I'm simply conveying a message!"
"Is it a long message?" Maddy asked.
"Just tell him I want a full essay on the topic of security measures in Tudor times through to Victorian times on my desk the day he gets back from his holiday and it had better cover at least twelve pages at font size twelve with single spaces with illustrations to annotate it! Off you go!" Without needing to be told twice, Maddy sprinted for the car.
"Did he just give you grief over something I did?" Rhydian asked protectively as she got in.
"No, he gave me a message to give you." Maddy replied. "He's not keeping you for detention because he can't be bothered. Instead, he wants a pretty sizeable essay when you get back."
"What am I looking at?" Rhydian sighed. Maddy gave him a sideways glance and tried not to laugh.
"You're in for a rough time of it."