Am I Weird?
I think Dad felt the same as me at Salvatore's. Instead of the usual banter and jokes all I could think of was the last time we were here. Mum was here then and all her German teammates, Kat – that was some night! Well I could've done without the dress. Was Mum acting odd then? I couldn't say for sure but by the look on Dad's face he was having similar thoughts.
After Fridays cheer practice Miss C seemed well pleased with our progress, we were certainly gelling as a squad more now.
“We going to Meadowhall tomorrow?” Bernie asked as we waited for Em and Ally to make some hot chocolate.
“I'm in, I want to start Christmas shopping” Mad enthused
“Not doing anything else,” I admitted
“What about you two?” Bernie called to the others out in the kitchen. “Meadowhall tomorrow?”
“Good idea” Ally poked her head out
“A girls day out” Mad enthused
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! I never said anything about going as Gaby”
“I bet Em will”
“That's up to her, him whatever, but I'm not”
“I am so not!”
“You even sound like a girl” Bern chuckled
“How about a compromise? Gaby goes but we all wear trousers,” Mad suggested
“Well I was going to anyway,” Al pointed out bringing in a tray of steaming cups.
“I guess so,” Rhod didn't sound that certain.
“Come on Drew, it'll be fun” Al encouraged
“Not for me” I mentioned
“Don't be so wet Drew,” Bernie told me, “you need cheering up”
Looks like I've got two choices, stay at home on my own or go to Meadowhall dressed as Gaby with the gang. Neither particularly appeals but the thought of being at home on my own really does depress me. And it's not like I've got to wear a skirt or dress.
“Okay” I sighed in defeat
“Great! That's settled then!” Mad enthused
Well I guess it wasn't that bad, at least I'd be with the guys.
I cried myself to sleep again but not before me and Jules had a blazing row over, of all things, how much milk I put in her coffee! Dad stepped in before it got to the physical stage, it had got very heated and we both headed to bed in tears. Dad was looking increasingly tired, I don't think he's slept much this week what with one thing or another and our petty argument didn't exactly help.
Saturday dawned, just about, it was quite foggy, freezing cold and according to the radio we could expect rain. Great. As Gaby's wardrobe doesn't run to jeans or trousers, I borrowed a pair from Mad when I got there. There was no mistaking they were girls, embroidered hipsters but at least I managed to get away with a plain white polo on top. So okay I was wearing a bra and my forms but it was better than the really girly top Mad wanted me to wear! Small victories.
The shopping mall was pretty busy, the Christmas decorations were up, the singing bears were singing and the place was a bit on the warm side!
“It's flipping hot in here,” I complained
“Well take your coat off dumbo,” Bernie suggested
I didn't really want to take my fleece off; it was doing an excellent job of hiding my chest. On the other hand I was starting to cook inside it.
“So where are we off to now?” I asked slipping my jacket off, “my feet are killing me”
“Teen Queen?” Mad suggested
My mind went back to the last time I went in one of those places, when I got Mad's birthday present over in Chester. I followed the others into the noisy store and we joined the throng of mostly young girls devouring the stock.
“Gaby? Gab?” Mad was shaking my shoulder, “are you alright?”
No I wasn't. That time in Chester, Mum was with us and we had a really good day.
“See you outside” Mad called to the others as she guided me outside and to one of the benches.
“Sorry Mad, I was just thinking about Mum”
“There, there” she laid my head on her shoulder and I hung on to her quietly sniffling while she stroked my back.
“What's up?” Ally asked a few minutes later
“His Mum” Mad whispered
“Oh, is he okay?”
“I think so, look you guys go on, we'll meet you a bit later”
“I think it got a bit much in there, we won't be long” Mad went on
“Okay, we're going round to Smith's, see you in a few”
“She gone?” I asked
“Do you mind if we get a drink”
“No prob Drew, you're shaking like a leaf” she mentioned sounding worried as she helped me up.
“Ruining your day”
We found a table in Massarella's and the waitress was quickly with us to take our order.
“Look, you're entitled okay. If my Mum left I don't know what I'd do. Is she coming back to see you at all?”
“Dunno, she said she will but not when”
“I'm sorry Drew”
“What are you sorry for?” I sniffed
“For this” she motioned to what I was wearing, “all this Gaby stuff.” It was obviously time for fessing up. “We just about made you dress up today didn't we? And the con and cheerleading. We've not been very good friends Drew.”
I felt a need to deny it but couldn't.
“We are here for you though Drew you know that”
“Thanks Mad I know you are” I played with my cup. The bustle of the shoppers and the coffee shop swirled around us, Mad laid a hand on my wrist.
“Come on Drew, it'll be okay”
“Will it? Mum's left us, Dad's cracking up, I've got some weird hormone thing, Jules is the only one in the family not mucked up.”
“Look on the bright side, you're National Champion, your family loves you and you've got loads of good friends”
“Half of which think I'm a girl” I mentioned
“Sorry Drew” Mad mumbled dropping her gaze and took up cup staring.
“There they are!” Al's voice called from the walkway above. “Coo-eee guys!”
The three of them waved down before disappearing towards the escalator. A minute later they were stood at our table.
“What have you two been plotting?” Bernie asked
“I think Gaby's leaving after today,” Mad told them, a tear glistening in her eye
“Oh.” Al managed
Em sat down next to me and put an arm round me but didn't say anything.
“Come on guys, this is getting maudlin” Bernie told us, “if Gaby's leaving we need give her a good send off”
“Drew?” Mad questioned
“Whatever” I managed a smile.
“Have you seen this kids?” Aunt C asked
“What is it?” Mad asked
“Something about your cheerleading”
“Lets see then” Mad demanded
“You want apple pie Drew?”
Mad flattened the paper out between us so we could both read the article.
** Chad Shorts **
Warsop School has gone International! The school has formed a cheerleading team, the Sherwood Foresters. Headmaster James Wood told us ‘After the American exchange in the summer, we felt it would be good to introduce an alternative to the traditional sports on offer at the school'. The squad of 2nd and 3rd year pupils, Sarah Atkinson, Gaby Bond, Bernadette Rose, Allison Lacey, Florence Worrell, Karen York, Madeline Peters, Susan Moore, Vicky Trenchard, Mfanwy Morgan, Sasha Stevens, Tina Johnson, Sue Burton and Gillian Hornsby along with their coach Francesca Cowlishaw will travel to Peterborough for the East of England championships in two weeks time. Good luck girls!
“Cool!” Mad finished reading before me.
“Urgh! No it's not. Half the world knows about it now”
“Don't be so melodramatic”
“You are so!”
“Leave him alone miss bossy boots” Aunt C mentioned returning with the desserts.
I tuned out the ensuing mother daughter ‘discussion' and thought about earlier. It was really weird. After the session in the coffee shop I felt, I don't know, liberated! I've no idea why but I felt pretty relaxed and the fact I was dressed, as Gaby and ‘one of the girls' didn't matter. I didn't even mind when I got suckered into trying on some jeans in ‘The Jean Shack', girls of course. I never noticed before how well they fit me, whenever Mum gets me some they are never a very good fit. Of course I had to mention this to the others didn't I?
By the time we got back to Warsop my earlier outburst was all but forgotten. And what about Rhod eh? Today was the first time that Mfanwy has really been out with the gang; she is just so not Rhod. After today I'm not sure which ones real, Rhod or Mfanwy – and considering how long I've known Rhod I'm afraid I'd have to vote for Em! How weird is that!
That damned paper. Why did they have to go and name everyone? Gaby's gone now so why should it bother me? Hmm the others didn't seem to be that bothered, is Mfanwy going to fill ‘my' slot as part time girl? For some reason that made me feel a bit jealous. Damn! The others on the cheer squad. I'm gonna have to tell them I've quit and Miss C. hang on a mo, I can't can I? I agreed to do it for America didn't I? Ah well, I suppose I can do that, it's only a few weeks then I'll quit!
“Drew?” Aunt C's voice cut through my daydreaming
“Eh? Oh sorry”
“You okay, you haven't touched your pie”
“Daydreaming” I allowed
“Well don't let it get cold,” she admonished.
Dad arrived with Jules just after seven and all too soon we were home. The atmosphere indoors was still very much subdued but we ended up watching ‘Smokey and the Bandit' which even had Jules laughing. It's difficult trying not to think about Mum though, there's that TdF picture on top of the telly, and Dad even framed one of her yellow Jersey's and hung it on the wall. Everywhere you look in our house there is something to remind you of her, will this hurt ever go away?
“Come on Drew!” Mad shouted as I passed Dad and her on lap three.
I changed down a gear and plugged on up the slope. This was a fair bit different to my first go at cross, Roundhay Park is decidedly more up and down as well as a fair bit gloopier! My fellow competitors all seemed to be more accomplished than last time too, not that I was letting the side down. Off, run, pickup bike, down, change up, brake – hard! There was no respite on this circuit!
“Up, up, up Bond!” I recognised Caroline and managed a grimace as I made the brow where she was stood watching the race.
I wiped at my mouth, I must look a right sight with all this mud flying around! I tracked the lad in front, we were evenly matched and I was sort of mesmerised by his Huddersfield Road Club strip, it was always there. This time round though I decided to carry my bike through the gloop rather than try plugging through again. Not that I'd really thought of it as a tactic but despite losing a couple of metres as I jumped off I soon drew abreast of my foe and was easily back on and away before he cleared the mud hole.
“Way to go Drew,” Dad bellowed
“Keep it going” Mad added
By my reckoning I was still only fifth but I was enjoying myself. I now discovered the best reason to be in front when you do cross, much less mud in your face! And you can see the course. I could see the riders in front, maybe fifty metres separated us and I started to give chase. When the bell sounded I was still ten metres down and my legs were like lead. Having learnt my lesson at the mud hole, I was a bit less awkward dismounting after three more goes and I was surprised to find myself right on the fourth placed lads wheel when I remounted. Just maybe I can steal another place!
It was clear that he was tiring fast but I wasn't exactly full of energy either as we exited the single track and started the long sweep round to the finish. At least I could get away from the mud off his back wheel as I picked a track just to his left. Luck was with me, my less used route was a bit more solid under wheel and my knobblies gave enough grip that I started to overhaul Mr fourth place on the climb to the line. He realised too late what was happening, I was alongside and despite a desperate thrash at the pedals I gained the advantage. Not too soon either, I crossed the line and freewheeled to a breathless stop.
“Good ride Drew”
“Th, thanks Caro” I sucked in big lungfulls of damp air
“Here, slip this on” she put a jacket around my shoulders
“Great ride son, hi Caro”
“I'll see you in a few minutes guys, go get changed and warmed up Drew” Caroline advised.
I pulled her coat around me and Dad wheeled my muddy Orange along back to the camper.
“I've got the kettle on” Mad greeted us when we arrived
“Thanks Maddy, there's cup a soup in the cupboard, do four will you love, I'm sure Caroline could do with one. And Drew”
“Keep that mud off the seats?”
“I won't be long, they've got a power washer set up so I'll get this mud off the bike here instead of taking it home with us.”
That's probably the worst bit, not getting wet and muddy, no, peeling the sweaty, claggy, kit off is decidedly yucky! Without thinking I shucked Caroline's coat and started undressing, pulling my sodden skinsuit off, yeurgh!
“God you're blue!”
“Mad!” I squawked grabbing a towel and covering my embarrassment, ”I thought you'd gone out?”
“I'm making the drinks”
“It's not like I haven't seen you naked before”
Well she sort of had me there although I was in Gaby mode at the time so my bits were actually covered.
“That's hardly the point”
“Stop fussing and get yourself cleaned up,” she ordered.
I huffed a bit as I got myself into the tiny cubicle which doubles as toilet and washroom in the camper.
“You might want these” Mad mentioned with a grin, handing me my clothes as I passed her.
I certainly was cold, Mad was right, my legs were decidedly blue and my bits were, to say the least, shrivelled and numb! I managed to get most of the muck off; at least we had hot water even if the camper doesn't run to a shower. I was dieing for a wee but my poor thingy was too cold so I used the trick I've used before, push Mr Willy into my crotch to warm him up. For the first time I realised that he just about disappeared when I did that, shoot it's almost like having that gaff thing on! I tried to pull him out again but it was like he was stuck, then with a sudden ‘plop' he re-emerged much to my relief. That was well weird! Still it seems to have done the trick, relief at last as a warm stream was released into the toilet.
I could hear muffled voices outside, sounds like Dad and Caroline. I finished dressing, no pants but I can go commando, and finally I felt somewhat warmer. My exiting the bathroom coincided with Mad opening the outside door so I heard the conversation.
“Soup everyone?” Mad queried
“Ooh thanks Drew, what is it?” Caro enquired taking a cup
“Caro, this is my niece, Madeline” Dad interjected
I stifled a laugh
“Maddy” she corrected
“But? You're kidding. You're having me on” Caroline bumbled
I chose that moment to make my appearance.
Caroline gold fished as her gaze went from me to Mad and back again.
“They are alike aren't they” Dad allowed
“Dave Bond! Tell me it wasn't Maddy the other week?”
“No that was Drew”
“Thank heavens for that” Caroline sighed, “sorry about your mum Drew, your Dad's just told me”
“Thanks” I mumbled
“Caroline's invited us for tea, you can get a shower as well Drew”
“Thanks” Mad and I chorused
“Twins, they must be twins!” Caroline chuckled.
“I'll put that stuff through the wash, it'll stain otherwise” Caroline offered seeing me move my sodden kit off the camper step.
“Thanks and thanks again for the bike”
“I'm just glad to see it getting used again. Now get yourself showered”
Boy was that shower good! It was one of those power showers, needles of hot water massaged my head and shoulders and I was almost asleep stood there.
“Drew?” Caroline's voice came from beyond the door
“I've put some more towels out here”
For some reason I was intrigued by my earlier experience down below and repeated the procedure. It was more difficult as he was warm now but after a couple of goes he slipped inside which felt really strange. I took my hand away and noted how smooth I looked down there, weird times ten! The little fella finally popped out of his own accord and slightly embarrassed I finished my shower.
I climbed out and cautiously opened the door to retrieve the towels that Caro had left for me. I grabbed the pile and pulled it inside and relocked the door. There was a note on top pinned to what looked like a pair of knickers.
Found your pants in with your wet kit, thought you could do with something to wear under your jeans. Sorry their not your usual but they should fit you.
I picked them up; well at least they were white! I dried myself off and decided to go with the knickers; well only Caro would know I was wearing them. Somehow it just didn't seem right seeing the bulge of my equipment in the otherwise smooth underwear. Hmm, I wonder? I slipped them down and spying some talc, dusted my bits before repeating my earlier experiment. I pulled them back into place and, voila, no bulge. Why that bothered me I have no idea, it never did before, but today it just felt, I dunno, right.
“You took your time” Mad stated
“That shower's good eh Drew?” Caroline winked
“Er yeah” was her winking prompted by the shower or the knickers?
“Caroline was just telling us about a new coaching scheme the federation is starting” Dad advised me
“I was just telling your Dad and Maddy, BC is starting a scholarship programme,” Caro told me. “The idea is to catch talented youngsters early and nurture them so we get more Millar's [writers note: remember this is 18 months before his drugs suspension] and world class riders.
“She reckons you should go in for it” Mad enthused
“You certainly have the talent Drew, and the pedigree,” Caroline added
“It'll be up to you lad. You know I'll support you whether you decide to go in for it or not. It'll be your choice in the end. Best tell him a bit more Caro”
“Sure Dave. Well Drew, how it works is this, you get to attend various training camps, there's one at Manchester, another in Cardiff and a few others we haven't fixed yet. You get assessed in the various disciplines, road, track, cross, even BMX, and we sort you out a training schedule. What we need from candidates is dedication and a willingness to follow our advice. We don't want anyone specialising at this stage.
Then when you reach 16 we take you more firmly in hand, and if things pan out you join the National squad.”
“Sounds good eh Drew?” Dad mentioned
Well I had to admit it sounded good.
“If you're interested Drew I can organise the selection committee”
“Well there are only ten places each year” Caro told us, “I don't reckon you should have much problem though, not with your results this year”
“You should at least try out for it” Mad pointed out
“No rush Drew, think about it and let me know eh”
“Sausages okay for tea?”
“Great thanks” Dad answered
“I'll help” Mad volunteered.
We ended up with toad in the hole, mash and carrots, which is one of my favourites. Maddy got on really well with Caroline who in turn took quite a shine to my doppelganger.
“We should get off kids,” Dad mentioned after Mad and I finished washing up.
“You don't have to” Caroline told him
“It'll be eight before we get home and this pair have school tomorrow” he pointed out
We gathered our stuff, including my washed and now dry kit.
“It's alright Dave, I've enjoyed it”
“Nice meeting you Maddy, sorry for mistaking you for this one” she ruffled my hair
“I think I'll go for the training thing,” I told her
“Great, I hoped you would. I'll get the ball rolling then. I'll ring later in the week Dave”
“Okay, thanks again”
“That's alright, bye kids!”
I'd like to be able to tell you that things returned to normal after half term but what's normal? I suppose the last couple of weeks have been as normal as it gets round here lately. No doubt you'd like me to fill in some of the details, I would if I was you!
Where to start? That first Monday back I suppose. Mum was home, home in Germany that is. She was supposed to be home with us now and I don't think Jules or I will ever forgive her for this, this betrayal. Of course I wanted to be at home when Mum rang but Dad enlisted Aunt C to make sure I stayed there while Jules was, I think equally upset at Anna's. So I can't tell you anything of what went off and Dad wasn't saying anything when we got home either. She sent her love but we want her not some, some platitude over the phone! What I can tell you is that Dad was more than a little bit p'ed off that night. Not good.
After that the week settled down I suppose. I held off quitting the cheer team and Caroline rang on Thursday to let us know the coaching interview and medical were set for the second Saturday in December, the week after the cheer competition. The biggest surprise came on Friday though. Jules and me were called out of class by Mr Wood.
“Your father rang a short time ago”
“Is he alright?” Jules asked with a hint of panic in her voice
“He's fine Juliette. He told me about your mother, I'm very sorry about that”
“You didn't get us out of class to tell us that though Sir?” Jules acted as spokesperson
“Well no, I didn't. He rang because he's flying to Germany this afternoon to see your mother.”
“Way to go Dad,” I grinned
“What about us? He never said anything,” Jules the practical asked
“Apparently it was all a bit spur of the moment. He has arranged for you to stay with your Aunt until he gets back.”
“The Peters?” Jules checked
“The same. If either of you need to talk to someone about this, speak to your form teachers. We'll support you all we can, remember that you aren't alone, it's happened before and I suppose it will again.” Mr Wood looked truly saddened; he really did have a soft spot where Mum was concerned.
“You'd best get back to your lessons”
So that's how come we spent last weekend at Mad's place. It was all a bit awkward and although I spend a lot of time at Peters Acres, it just didn't feel right. Of course I missed Sundays Clumber cross race, I could hardly expect a taxi service as well as lodging. Dad rang on Sunday, he didn't say much other than he'd be home Monday, he couldn't get a flight earlier.
So that brings us to this week. The gang was supposed to meet at ours Monday night but I had to cancel, I think the guys expected that. Dad was already at home when I got there.
“Did you see her?”
“Yes I saw her”
“Lets wait for your sister eh? I take it you cancelled your normal Monday night?”
“Sorry for diving off like that. My boss told me to go, said he was fed up looking at me moping round the office.”
The door banged shut announcing my sister's arrival. She ran in and gave Dad a hug.
“Tea first or talk first?” Dad asked
“Talk” Jules answered for both of us.
“Sit yourselves down then” this was not going to be good news.
Dad sat in silence for a bit before starting.
“I won't lie to you kids, you're both old enough to know what's going on and you can make your own decisions”
That was ominous.
“Your mother was surprised when I rang on Friday from Bonn airport but she agreed to meet me on Saturday morning. We spent a couple of hours talking but the long and short is that she's not coming home. Apparently she hadn't even told Maria or the rest of the team when she rang the other week, Maria won't talk to her. I went to see the Pingers yesterday, to say your mother isn't flavour of the month would be putting it mildly.”
“Did you meet this Dieter guy Dad?”
“No, it's probably just as well, I'd have probably taken a swing at him.”
“Did Mum mention us?” I asked
He took a deep breath.
“She did. And I'm only the messenger here remember. She said she wants both of you to visit in the New Year”
“But we're going to the States then” Jules mentioned
“Your Mother suggested half term, when you get back. She didn't say as much but I think she wants both of you to go live with her.”
“No way” Jules stated, “she's the one that's run off, I'm staying with you Dad”
My mind was in turmoil, I didn't know what to think, to say.
“Well you know I want you both to stay here with me, but if either of you decide to go and live with your Mum that's fine too.” The look on his face said it wasn't.
“We're with you Dad” I went and sat next to him and he gave me a hug.
It would be easier if she was dead. I know that's not very nice to say but at least we'd know where we were then. She's always gonna be there, birthdays and Christmas, bringing turmoil into our once happy household. She won't be there for us will she? Oh I know she'll say she is but she won't be, not really.
“She's not the woman I married” Dad suddenly mentioned. “When she first rang from Australia I thought she was larking around. It took her five minutes to convince me she was serious. I never saw it coming. We've had our arguments in the past, what couple hasn't, but I thought we were doing okay even with her away so much. Something's changed her.”
It was unlike Dad to be so, I don't know, direct.
“I tried kids, I really tried but she won't listen to anyone, least of all me it seems”
So that was Monday. Things can only improve from there right? Well Tuesday was marginally better, at least until Miss C announced extra cheer practice every night this week in preparation for Saturday, that is tomorrow. So I guess you could say life for the last fortnight has been typical for the Bond household of late!
Maddy Bell 28.10.04 © 2004
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