"That's what I take," Mad told me
"Yeah well I've got to take them for a fortnight and then the Docs gonna do some more tests" I told her as we walked into the school grounds next morning.
"So you are coming on Saturday?"
"Drew Bond, our bonfire party!"
"Oh that, yeah we're all coming. I thought there was something else I'd forgotten about. I've got my first cross race this weekend, that reminds me, I've got some stuff for you at home, I'll bring it on Saturday"
"Drewww" Mad whined
"Nope, you'll find out Saturday"
"Its half term next week" Mad changed the subject
"Yeah" It was also when Mum was supposed to be coming home, that is before this Australia trip came up.
Just when I thought things couldn't get worse I got a summons to attend Mr Woods office last period before lunch. What now? I was both surprised and relieved to find the rest of the gang, Jules and everyone else who was involved in the exchange programme.
"Come in and find somewhere to sit, leave your bags out there with Mrs Parker" The head summoned us inside where Mr Pilling and Miss Cowlishaw were already waiting. We shuffled in and found places to perch our bums.
"Sorry to drag you all out of class like this but I thought it would be better than keeping you after school"
"That's alright sir" someone quipped
"I've got some paperwork for you all for the American trip in January. First of all, has everyone got their own passport?"
Only one of the fifth years hadn't and that was apparently in hand so Mr Wood went on.
"The forms Miss Cowlishaw is going to pass out need to be filled out and returned to my secretary by Monday week. They are important as they cover insurance and your United States visa's."
Miss C passed the forms out and returned to her seat.
"Now as you know it will be term time when you go so unfortunately I sha'n't be able to accompany you so instead Mr Pilling has agreed to take my place and will travel with you and Miss Cowlishaw. I can't tell you too much about the programme but it will include a trip to Washington DC and various sporting events so you get a good flavour of American life."
"Like MacDonald's?" Jules asked
"Well hopefully a bit more real than that Juliette. Now somewhere in that pile of paperwork is a list of stuff you need to take with you, common sense mostly but we will be checking before you go! Any questions?"
"Will we be staying with the people we had here?" one of the older lads asked
"As far as I know, we'll confirm that for you as soon as we can. That's it folks, it's nearly time for lunch so don't bother going back to class. Can the girls in the cheerleaders stay back for a couple of minutes?"
Everyone started to depart; I thought I'd make my escape and the fact that Rhod was in front of me signalled that he had similar thoughts.
"And where are you two off to?" Miss Cowlishaw called out
"Er dinner Miss?" I ventured
Mr Pilling grinned at me as he left shutting the door behind him.
"I asked the cheerleaders to stay" Mr Wood started, "and if I'm not mistaken, you two are part of the squad?"
"Er yes Sir" I admitted
"I'm not" Rhod tried
"Mr or should I say Miss Morgan, you are part of the squad isn't she girls?" Miss C asked
"I know it was you? I had to mark everyone's records and there wasn't one for 'Mfanwy Morgan'. Well it didn't take Sherlock Holmes to track down someone who is friends with this lot by the name of Morgan!"
"I've spoken to your mother" Mr Wood continued, "she's told me all about this thing with your father. Whilst I don't exactly agree with the charade I'm not about to interfere"
"Mum never said anything" Rhod mentioned "you're not upset are you Miss?"
"Surprised that I've actually got two boys on the girls cheer squad, yes. Upset no. All the time you look, sound and act like a girl there's a place for you"
"But the girls I beat to get on the squad?"
"Will have their chance later."
"Now that's cleared up, what are we here for Sir?" Bernie asked
It was Miss Cowlishaw who answered.
"Well you've put us in a bit of a spot, partly my fault. I was so impressed by you lot that I bragged a bit to Miss Bell"
"What Miss Cowlishaw is trying to tell you is that your hosts want the Sherwood Foresters to compete in a cheer competition while you are there."
"And I said yes" Miss C finished with a grimace
"Can't you just tell them we can't do it?" I suggested
"Drewww!" Mad complained
"Well" I shrugged
"It's not that simple Drew. Miss Bell has already entered you in the competition and we'll look daft if we pull the plug now." Miss C explained, "Obviously we've got a problem with you two. Any ideas?"
"Well most of them thought Drew was a girl anyway" Ally mentioned
"Miss Bell did mention something of the sort, in fact I think she still thinks you are Drew" Miss C agreed
"Great" I mumbled. Just when I thought Gaby was on the descendant too!
"Would you mind Drew?"
"If we er perpetuated the myth?" Miss C finished
"Do I get any choice?"
"You've always got a choice Drew" Mr Wood told me
It didn't feel like it. School pride or personal comfort. I guess it would only be for the competition, I'd be myself the rest of the time wouldn't I. What I do for this school!
"Okay, I guess I can do that for the competition"
I really should have thought about it more but you know me!
"Thanks Drew. Mr Morgan, how about you, are you up for it?" Miss C asked
"I suppose if Drew is I can"
"Thanks lad's" Miss C mentioned, "now that's settled we just need to get you ready. We're registered with the BCA already so I've entered the whole squad in the East of England championships at the beginning of December"
"But that's only four weeks away" Mad pointed out
"That's why I've asked Mr Wood if we can use the gym next week for what our American cousins call a cheer camp."
"Brill" Ally supplied
Just what I need!
"You okay with that people?" Mr W asked
"Yes Sir" I sighed
"In that case people, go get your lunches"
We filed out of the office and retrieved our bags. I just caught a bit of the conversation in the office before the door was closed.
"Well that went easier than I anticipated Jane"
"I'll keep an eye on them"
"I thought Drew would object more..."
Maybe Drew should have objected a lot more!
Can my life get any more complicated? Mum's been away all year, I keep getting duped into being Gaby 'just once more', I've got no testrone or whatever it is and now I've got to spend half term learning to be a better cheerleader! Sheesh! Oh bum! I've just realised, if I've got to go cheering next week I'm gonna have to arrive as Gaby. Bum! Bum! Bum!
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The fireworks were loud and colourful and as is the way with the things, over far too quickly. Although people have been setting them off all week, most of the bonfire parties seem to have been held over until today, that's Saturday. Thursdays meeting about the exchange trip has stirred things up a bit, it even prompted a slightly overdue round of emails to Grottoes. I'm a bit uneasy about this cheerleading business but I've said I'll do it now; Rhod on the other hand seems to be enjoying the whole thing. I'm a bit worried about him.
"Come on Drew, Mum's got baked tater's" Mad tugged at my arm
The whole gang were here at the Peters, plus parental units and siblings where appropriate. At least it's dried out from earlier on, mind you it's damn cold, typical November night I s'pose. The olds were partaking of Irish coffee's and chatting, the rest of us variously watching the myriad fireworks going off overhead, eating or, um, dancing!
"Dave! Phone, it's Jenny" Mr P called out and Dad headed inside.
I hope I get a chance to talk to her.
Mrs P had really gone to town for tonight and everyone was enjoying her endeavours. I'd been watching a session of dunking for apples, the look on my sister's face as Aunt C snapped her with a mouthful of fruit set me off.
"What are you grinning at?" Jules asked drying her face off
"You. Couldn't you get any more of that apple in your mouth?"
"It was only little"
"Your turn Drew" Rhod shoved me forward into Sylv's arms
"Come on young man, let's see how you get on" Sylv suggested.
If you've never tried it, you'll never believe how difficult it is, and how wet you can get. I thrashed about for seemingly ages before finally snagging a piece of fruit.
"Well done Drew" Bernie mentioned
"Now who's got a big gob?" Jules giggled
"Drew, Jules, can you come inside" Aunt Carol sounded concerned
I didn't need a second calling; I joined my sister in the Peters kitchen.
"Your Mum's on the phone kids, she wants to talk to you both"
"She's alright isn't she?" Jules asked
"As far as I know luv, as far as I know"
"There's something up though isn't there?" I pressed
"Your Mum'll tell you"
"It's serious isn't it?" Jules stated more than asked
Aunt C's look answered for her.
"Drew, can you come through" Dad called, a waver in his voice, "your mother wants a word"
I took the phone off him.
"Hi Drew, you okay?"
"Same as usual, what's up Mum, how did you know we were at Aunt Carol's?"
"Slow down Drew. I tried the house, when there wasn't a reply I remembered the bonfire party."
"Look Drew, there's no easy way of telling you this," she paused
"Telling me what?"
"Me and your Dad, we're splitting up"
"NO, it's not true! Say it's not true!"
Her crying on the other end of the line said it wasn't a prank.
"I'm sorry Drew, it just sort of happened"
"It's nothing to do with your Dad, it's me."
"But why?" I persisted
"I've, I've met someone and we're moving in together when I get back"
"Who is it? Tell me! You're coming back" I was starting to babble.
"I'll tell you another time son. No I'm not coming back home, not for now, we're going to live in Germany"
"Mum" I started to blubber which set her off again
"I'm sorry Drew"
"Why Mum, why?"
"When I know I'll tell you. Now behave for your Dad, he'll need you to be strong. I'll come and see you as soon as I'm settled, maybe you can visit eh?"
"I hate you!" I relapsed into sobs
"Yes you probably do and I deserve it. Take care son; look after your Dad for me. Can you put Jules on please."
I resisted the temptation to slam the phone down on her.
I left the receiver and fetched my sister.
"Mum wants you sis"
I guess Dad had already clued her in by her wet red eyes.
"Thanks Drew" she headed to the Peters lounge.
"Dad!" I sank into his arms and sobbed, "why Dad?"
"I don't know son"
We hugged, comforting each other over our loss. Jules returned to us in the kitchen.
"She's gone," Jules stated flatly joining us in a three-way hug.
"You okay guys?" Aunt Carol asked coming in from the patio.
"Yes thanks Carol, well as it goes. You knew?"
"Well she hinted the other weekend at something so I was half expecting it"
"I never picked up on it" Dad told her, "Did she tell you who?"
"She wouldn't tell me on the phone" Carol joined the sobbing of the Bond family.
Needless to say we left for home somewhat earlier than planned, after all why should we spread our misery around?
I went straight to bed and started to sob for the mother who was deserting us. I could hear Jules across the hall in a similar state. I tried to reason it through but there seemed to be no sense to it as far as I could see, but I'm not Mum. Thinking back I could now see that things with Mum have changed over the year, certainly she was nervy and quick to snap last time she was home. Last time she was home! That's it, that's why she brought Erik, she's leaving Dad for Erik! If I'd got to that conclusion I'm sure other people will.
I cried myself to sleep
"Come on Drew, up and at 'em" Dad poked his head around the door
He shook his head, "come on, you've got a race to ride"
"I can't, not today"
"You can and you will. I'm not having you two moping around the house all day"
When he was in this mood you don't argue!
"You coming with us Jules?"
"No, I'm going over to Charlie's"
"You okay luv?" Dad queried
Dad looked absolutely crap! Last nights phone call was the first indication that he'd had that anything was wrong in his marriage.
"Looks like it's just you and me champ" he tried a grin but it didn't work.
"Whatever" I mumbled
"Come on son, it's not the end of the world" I could see by his eyes however that he felt the same as me, betrayed and angry.
I was more than a little bit nervous a couple of hours later as I lined up with a couple of dozen other teens for the start of my first cross race. I glanced along the line at my foes, a motley bunch on a mix of cross and mountain bikes. I was starting to dread the thirty minutes plus a lap when the starters gun went off and the dash for the course proper started.
My natural speed carried me into the first ten as we hit the single-track and I did my best to hang on to the wheel in front. I was glad of my knobbly tyres almost immediately as the course angled through the trees over the roots and down through a small stream. I joined the melee of bodies variously dragging and carrying bikes up the far bank, Dad had shown me how to do it properly and my practice paid off, overtaking a couple of riders before the top.
The circuit was mostly pretty dry and fast; I was surprised just how fast, and was maybe half a mile round. There was no chance to ease your concentration though as being in the trees of Clumber Park there were plenty of obstacles to avoid! By the fourth lap I was up to fifth and comfortable, I was surprised when the bell rang at the end of that lap signalling one to go. If there was one thing Mum always says, put 100% in. what Mum says. I hesitated at the water crossing and was repaid by losing a place but as luck would have it, two guys in front had a tangle that moved me up to fourth. The finish was pretty wide and as the guy in third was only just in front I decided to go for it. With less than 100 metres to the line I pulled out and gave it everything. It was like he'd stopped, I shot past and crossed the line a couple of lengths clear for third place.
"Great ride Drew"
"Thanks Dad" I took a gulp of energy drink while Dad draped my shoulders with my fleece. I don't know why but my mind leaped back to last Christmas 'Mum put a pair of high sandals on and donned her track top, then presented me with another lower heeled pair and a fleece, I didn't realise it at first but it was moms own pink one.' It seems so long ago!
"Penny for 'em"
"Come on, get yourself dressed then we'll watch the seniors for some pointers eh?"
"Yeah, okay Dad"
We were back at the Peters later, we had a standing invite and today seemed a good time to take it up.
"You okay Drew" why does everyone keep asking that?
"Well if you want to talk" Mad left it hanging
"I know, thanks"
"That's what friends are for"
We were lying on Mad's bedroom floor listening to CD's, I didn't really feel too much like talking and Mad was just offering much needed company.
"You are still going to cheer practice this week?"
"I hadn't thought about it"
"The others know you know"
"I guess it was obvious last night"
"Well Mum filled us in a bit, we're all here for you"
"Things change I guess"
"Dad's not saying much but he's really hurting and Jules just isn't talking"
"They'll be alright"
"Why now Mad, she couldn't even tell us face to face"
"I bet she wanted to. It must have been hard on her too"
"She was crying a lot," I allowed
"Think what she's giving up. You, Jules, your Dad, nice house, most of her friends and family"
"She didn't, doesn't have to lose us"
"I think she does, for herself," Mad sounded very mature
"But what about me, us?"
"That's just it Drew. Going away she's seen the life she could have had if you and Jules weren't around, if she wasn't married to Uncle Dave."
We lay there in silence for a while.
"Yeah I'll go"
"Cheer practice, I'll go"
Mad leant over and gave me a hug.
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