“Well dur! Think about it Drew, all those girls”
“Yeah but the glue?”
“Come on Drew, it's only for today, and you'd best put the other thing on too!”
I guess she was right but this was not my idea of how to start the weekend.
“Come on you two, its quarter past seven” Aunt Carols voice came up the stairs
“Bum, we have to be at school for eight” Mad stated
It was really weird, the weight of the breast forms now firmly attached to my chest. I never thought I'd be doing this ever again, this whole ‘look like a girl' thing. I shivered as I followed Mad out to the car; Mrs P was dropping us off rather than have us walk. Why I had to be dressed like this I do not know, why couldn't I just wear jeans? ‘It'll make you feel more girly' Mad insisted as she handed me the cardigan ten minutes ago. Girly? Sheesh I certainly looked it in this getup. So the tights are woolly but the dress still only comes to mid thigh and it's really thin, both layers! I guess on Mad I'd score my outfit as ‘cute', on me I just felt exposed.
“Come on girls, bags in the back” Miss C advised when we finally got away from Mrs Peters
“Morning you two” Bernie called out of the minibus door.
“Hiya” Mad called back
“Morning” I mumbled as I climbed aboard
“Hey cute dress Gab” Flo mentioned as I plonked into the seat opposite
Sash and Tina were last to arrive, climbing aboard behind Mad.
“Not a morning person eh Gaby?” Sue called from the back
“Well not today” I allowed.
The back doors were slammed shut and Miss C appeared in the door.
“Yes Miss” chorused down the bus.
“Right lets get this show on the road!” she slid the side door closed and skipped round to the front where Mrs Johnston was already sat at the wheel.
“Here we go Fran”
Mrs J stuck the bus in gear and with lots of waving to parents through the steamed up windows we were on our way. Get a dozen girls in a minibus and what do you get? Verbal diarrhoea that's what! And what's worse is that there's no escape! Peterborough is @ 75 miles from Warsop, just over an hour in a car, nearly two in the school minibus. Especially as we had to make a toilet stop at Colsterworth on the A1. Then of course we got lost in Peterborough looking for the venue, Longthorpe School.
What a sight! There were literally dozens of minibuses, even a double deck bus, loads of cars and lots of girls!
“Wait here girls, I'll just find out what we're doing” Miss C told us as she de-bussed, “won't be long Mary, can you get this lot organised?”
Coach disappeared and Mrs J turned to us in the back.
“Okay girls, get your kit, Miss Cowlishaw won't be long”
We were just about all reunited with our bags when Miss C got back.
“Okay girls listen up” Miss C started
We gathered around and I wished for a warmer outfit as a cold gust lifted my skirts.
“We've got a classroom to use for changing and practice, so we'll head there in a minute. Now remember that you are representing the school so no shenanigans, best behaviour please”
“Maybe we can continue inside” Mrs Johnston hinted
We trooped into the school buildings and followed Coach on a seemingly endless walk to the room that was assigned to us for the day.
“The heating's on” Vicky told us feeling a radiator
There was the start of a debate on who sat where, interrupted by Miss C.
“Girls! Can I have your attention for a minute”
Order was returned in a relatively short time.
“Okay. Now we make our appearance at” she checked her paperwork, “one fifteen. We have to check in by one so that gives us just under three hours to get ready, run through the routine and grab some lunch”
“Please Miss?” Tina stuck her hand up
“Were we supposed to bring sandwiches?”
“I did tell you on Tuesday” Miss C sighed, “you could bring packed lunches or get something here, the school canteen will be open for snacks and drinks”
“I think Miss Cowlishaw, if the girls get changed and ready, we can all go and have something to eat before the competition” Mrs J suggested
“Well you all heard Mrs Johnston, get your uniforms on. Tina, Sasha, try to make sure they are all dressed properly”
“Okay, there's a pair of tights and bobby socks for everyone in the box, look after them, no holes in the tights please? When you are ready we'll have a quick run through then we'll go eat okay?”
“Yes Miss” we chorused
“I've never seen so many girls,” I mentioned to Mad dropping one of the blinds
“I did see a couple of boys”
“Likely” I mentioned
“Come on you two, less chat” Mrs J suggested
There was a sort of changing area at the back of the class behind a couple of room dividers, I think it was usually a language lab, so we took turns getting into our uniforms, saving everyone's blushes!
“Leave your hair and makeup, we'll do that after lunch” Miss C told us, “lets have a quick run through. Right then, five minutes to stretch and warm up!”
It was the first time that we'd done the whole routine with everyone dressed and waving poms and it went surprisingly well. Coach had us run through twice more before we departed en masse to find the canteen. Without being there it's difficult to describe the atmosphere, imagine a wet lunch break in a girls school where the uniform is a variety of cat suits, leotards and so on in various bright and spangley colours and the students range from about eight up. Get the idea? No? Well I couldn't believe it either. By comparison we looked decidedly plain in our traditional style cheer outfits.
The other Foresters were well into dissecting what they saw and being bluff north Nott's girls, the conclusion was that the fancy outfits, dance outfits really, were intended to distract the judges. Well we'll see I suppose. We commandeered a couple of tables and made use of the canteen's provisions or homemade snap as appropriate.
“Erm excuse me”
I looked up to see a be-sequinned and purple clad girl of about our age stood behind Mad.
“Can we help?” Ally enquired
“Well, I know this sounds a bit silly,” she started, “but are you related to Drew Bond? He races bikes?” she addressed the question to me.
“It's just that you look so much like him and you coming from Nottinghamshire, sorry I'm Sarah Matheson”
What to answer? I was rescued by Karen.
“Hey Drew's in my class, do you know him?”
I tried to place the girls face without success.
“Well not really, my brother John races and I've seen him a couple of times, he's quite cute!”
“Best not tell your cousin that eh Gab” Gill piped up
“He's your cousin?” Sarah asked
“Mine too” Mad agreed before I could reply.
“You both look really like him, do you ride at all?” Sarah mentioned.
“Occasionally” Mad advised
“I bet you wish you were as good as Drew's Mum eh? It must be cool being so famous!”
“I suppose so.” I allowed
Mrs J was apparently keeping a photo journal, everytime you turned round she was taking another snap and she chose that moment to catch us again.
“Well nice seeing you, good luck” Sarah gave a finger wave and left us.
“How weird was that?” Mad asked
“Very” Ally allowed.
We returned to ‘our' classroom just before twelve and the place was transformed into a beauty salon! The next three quarters of an hour went by in a flurry of makeup and hairdressing but eventually we were ready. Nervous but ready.
“Okay team, time to go. Now remember, smile and have fun” Coach enthused
We trooped along in pairs, following Miss C through the school towards the noise that advertised our destination. The sports hall was packed with noisy, glittery girls and we were directed to a ‘holding area at one end where a couple of other groups were holding last minute run throughs.
“Nervous girls?” Mrs J asked
“Not really Miss, we've been practising” Karen mentioned loud enough for the cat suited troupe practising next to us to hear.
We watched a glitzy performance by a group at least twenty strong, it looked more like team gymnastics than cheering to me. Miss C returned and had us do our warm up routine; the tension in the team was building as performance time approached.
“All the way from North Nottinghamshire, it's the Sherwood Foresters!” the MC was doing a great job of keeping the crowd informed. I plastered a smile on my over made up face and waited for Miss C to give the go.
“Okay girls, remember…”
“Smile and enjoy ourselves” everyone chimed
“The Sherwood Foresters!” the MC announced again and we all ran and skipped out into the arena to a chorus of yeah's and pom pom waving. We took our positions and waited for the hall to quieten down, our music started and it was go!
The whole thing only lasted ten minutes but it seemed like a lifetime. I guess you could say our routine, like our uniforms, was on the traditional side, but that's what we do and I think we do it pretty good. We got in all the traditional moves that Brit and the girls showed us, pom stars, Mexican wave as well as some more gymnastic elements that Coach added on Miss Bell's advice. We ended with four girls doing standing splits, the rest of us, yep, me and Em included, in horizontal splits around them (it still smarts when I do that). By the cheering that followed we went down pretty well. We left the arena and decamped to where our support team were ready with towels and drinks.
We joined the audience as group after group went through their routines, until around three the last troupe left the floor. Compared to all these other groups, our routine seemed pretty mundane, mind you I think we were pretty slick in our transfers, some groups just seemed to go from one set piece to another with no continuity. At least we were doing ‘real' cheering, not these circus tricks!
The MC advised everyone that the judges would be a few minutes before announcing the category winners so the Foresters descended en masse on the toilet facilities! When we got back to the hall there were more people than ever crammed in waiting for the results. To be honest I didn't rate our chances of picking up a prize very high, lets face it we've been at it what? Ten weeks and against all these glitzy outfits and very visual routines. Nah no chance!
I didn't realise there were so many categories, pairs, big troupes, small troupes, under 12, under 16, under 18, adult – well you get the idea, we were in under 16 small troupe.
“Next we have small under 16's” the MC announced.
That's us. I found myself holding hands with Susan and Ally.
“In third place, from Saffron Walden, The Spangler's!” there was much whooping and cheering as the Spangler's went to fetch the ridiculously large trophy.”
“In second place, the girls from Warsop School, The Sherwood Foresters!”
Oh boy! That's us! We went down onto the floor where Bernie and Gillian accepted our prize. To be honest we were having such a good time that we missed who won! Miss C shepherded us back to the stands where everyone resumed our excited chatter. Yes I joined in, it's the adrenalin when you win, and multiply that by fourteen and you get very excited. In the background the MC was continuing to announce the winners.
“That's you,” a woman behind us mentioned
“…The Sherwood Foresters. Where are you girls?”
“We've won another prize!” Karen whispered
Miss C led us down again.
“Here they are people, the judges favourites, the Sherwood Foresters, winners of the most entertaining display! They won due to having kept their performance as a true example of traditional cheering as performed at basketball and American football games. ”
So apparently we didn't need all the glitz! Two prizes in our first competition huh!
Of course we had to pose for various photos before we could escape to our changing facility. A quick change of clothes and a flannel wash later and we were headed for the bus. For the most part, the other teams were pretty friendly although there were a few sour and disgruntled faces. It started to rain as we left Peterborough in the gathering gloom of five o'clock.
“Well done everyone, Mr Wood will be pleased I think” Miss C mentioned
“He better be!” someone shouted from the back.
“Anyway, you're a school team so you get treated the same as all the other teams when you travel to an away ‘fixture'.”
“How's that then Miss?” Flo enquired
“The school stumps up for a meal”
“What, like MacDonald's Miss?” Vicky asked
“Usually, yes. But Mrs Johnston and I think you deserve something a bit better so how does a Little Chef sound?”
Well it's not cordon bleu but it's a step up from the golden arches. And if the schools paying? Count me in. similar thoughts must have gone through most heads as we all affirmed it was quite acceptable. It's amazing that no one on any of the teams ever mentions this ‘perk'. We joined the A1 and drove north for about an hour then pulled into the Chuff at Foston, just north of Grantham.
Goodness knows what they thought in the restaurant. I only realised during the ‘compulsory' toilet stop that we might all be in our casual clothes but no one had removed their ‘stage' makeup or the yellow and blue ribbons we all had in our hair. Oh right, I forgot to tell you that didn't I, everyone except Bernie whose hair was too short, had their hair in bunches tied off with blue and yellow ribbon. Bern didn't escape; she had a sort of Alice band thing with a floppy bow on top instead. Only Tina and Sasha escaped this ridiculous treatment as they weren't in uniform. We must look a right sight! Mind you, it's difficult to be embarrassed for long when all your friends are in the same situation. It's not like Mad has dressed Gaby up, we are a team and teams do things together.
It was heading towards nine o'clock when the bus dropped Mad and me at the bottom of the Peters road.
“How did it go girls?” Mr P asked letting us in.
“We came second and we got a prize for, what was it Gab?”
“Most entertaining or something”
“Well done you. Have you had tea?” Mr P asked leading us through to the lounge
“Yeah, we stopped on the way back”
“Well done you two” Aunt C enthused
“It wasn't just us, it was the whole team” Mad pointed out
“Are you staying tonight Gaby?”
“No, I've got a race tomorrow, I'd best get changed I suppose”
“Your stuff is in the spare room,” Aunt C advised
“Okay won't be long”
“There's make up remover on my dresser” Mad called after me
As I transformed myself back to Drew I thought about the days events. I dunno, it seemed different being Gaby today, it felt sort of right. Well not odd or anything anyhow. I was part of a team, a team that for the most part only know me as Gaby, and it felt good. I cleaned my face of makeup, my lips were still stained slightly but even without makeup, the face looking back from the mirror was Gaby. Was this something to do with that test stuff the Doc was on about? Is this what life has in store for me?
“You okay Drew?” Mad called through the door
“Er yeah, won't be long”
“Dad said he'll drop you home”
“Tell him thanks”
I slipped out of Mad's dress and in fairly quick order removed the breast forms and what I thought of as my girl pants and once again I was Drew. I dressed quickly and gathered my, well Gaby's stuff, up and returned to the Peters lounge.
“Okay Drew?” Aunt C enquired, “get him a bag for that stuff Maddy”
Dad and Jules were watching some really bad film when I got home, they seemed more than happy to move their attention to my day. Of course Dad knows about Gaby, hell how many times have I ended up in girls stuff while out with him? But this was different. I wasn't Drew in a skirt because he's been a twat today; no today I was Gaby intentionally. Dad has usually made a joke of things but I could sense there was something else behind his eyes tonight, something different to before.
Dave Bond was only half listening as Drew skimmed through his day. He looks so much like his Mum, that smile! Is he destined to stay like this? He's always been small but I can see why he gets mistaken for a girl, the clothes are just window dressing, he really does look like his cousin! Is this what the doctor was hinting at, that my son will look more like a daughter? Nah! That only happens in bad fiction surely, not in real life. He's just a late developer like I was.
“Sorry Drew, what?”
“What time in the morning?”
“Morning, oh yeah Markeaton Park. Best leave about eight I suppose. You coming Jules?”
“Think I'll pass”
“I was thinking of stopping at Ikea on the way back”
“On the other hand” Jules can't resist that place!
After my previous cross events, Markeaton Park was another ball game so to speak. For a start the course was pretty much flat and was essentially a long loop around the small lake then a second loop around a couple of football pitches before a short ‘technical' bit that took in a stream crossing and several bunny planks before completing the lap. In short it was a fast course and the winner wouldn't need to have very good technical skills, rather speed would decide today's race.
I recognised a couple of competitors from the other week in Clumber but most of the field were unknown to me. The gun sounded and a couple of dozen eager under 16's headed towards the course proper. My turn of speed propelled me into the leading group as we joined the marked circuit and we sped along past the ducks and geese watching us with that bemused look they have.
By the start of lap two there were riders spread around half the circuit. My legs felt a bit tired after yesterday's efforts but I was okay in myself, and I was pretty comfortable tucked in with the fast group. Today we had a set distance to cover, eight laps and if we keep going at this pace I might be struggling to keep up. The same thought must have occurred to a couple of the others as the speed dropped noticeably although it was still proving high enough to shell out another couple of riders over the next two laps.
The only place you might need to dismount was over the bunny planks but there again even I can manage a bunny hop! Then on lap six the lad I was following blew in a major way, he pretty much just stopped and I only just managed to miss running into him. That actually left me in a quite handy fifth place little more than twenty metres off the big lad who was leading us round but just far enough away from the fourth placed lad to not get rear wheel debris in my face.
As the bell sounded I decided to chance my arm and I closed the gap to the riders in front in fairly short order. Do I wait or do go for it? I was feeling good so I what the hell, I made my move as we rounded the end of the lake with maybe three quarters of a lap to go. My move took the others by surprise and at the stream crossing I was several metres clear of the chasers.
I suppose I'd got a little cocky now. It was an almost clear run to the finish with just four planks to slow things up and I grinned to myself, Drew Bond, Cyclo cross champeen! I cleared the first plank, the second but the third one I didn't quite get enough height and my back tyre grazed the top. One to go, I pedalled like fury and I guess I misjudged it with the extra speed. I came crashing down, my rear wheel taking the full load resulting in a bounce that in turn conspired to unseat me.
I got up dragging my bike upright but the back wheel was well mashed. Ah well, I shouldered the Orange and started running for the line. It was a hopeless effort, within a few metres I was overtaken and by the line I was back to fifth place and a wheel down. Bummer! To say I was a bit cheesed was putting it mildly especially after I heard myself referred to as a show off. Now come on, you all know me, do I ever show off?
“Come on Drew, snap out of it” Dad told me as I moped on the camper step.
He cut me off.
“No but's young man. These things happen. Think how lucky you are, you could have done yourself a nasty injury”
I rubbed the inside of my thigh where a bruise was already making its presence felt.
“Get yourself showered and changed, then we can get off to Ikea ”
“Whatever” I sighed grabbing my kit bag and starting towards the shower block, I suppose the footballers do have some uses!
I was still chuntering to myself as Dad threaded us around Derby then up to Ilkeston and along to the busy Ikea site. Jules was keeping up a non stop diatribe about what she wanted to look at / buy / have bought, I just tuned her out but Dad was keeping tabs on things, making a comment now and then. By the time we got parked I was absolutely starving.
“Food first?” Dad asked as we entered the ‘hallowed' portal.
“I s'pose” Jules allowed
“Great idea” I enthused
We must have just timed it right, the queue in the restaurant wasn't too bad and I was soon tucking into a plate of meatballs, I never have anything else when we come here.
“So what are you after Dad?” I asked around my food
“Just a few odds and ends”
“Can I get a new desk lamp?”
You don't want a guided tour of Ikea do you? Pretty much we mooched around in Jules' wake, I got to push the trolley, which always used to be a treat. Dad was pricing various stuff up and my sibling added various soft furnishings as we made our way round. I conned a new light out of Dad and bought myself a CD storage tower. At least it took my mind off this morning's debacle.
“The schools newest team has already had some success,” Mr Wood told the morning assembly. “On Saturday our cheerleaders travelled to Peterborough where in their first competition they scooped two trophies. Stand up please girls”
I had to stop myself getting up and Rhod got further than me before checking himself! Close call!
“Lets hope that the girls inspire the football teams eh” Woody mentioned referring to another dismal set of results from the so-called school footie stars.
What a start to the week.
“I can't believe it's December already” Ally mentioned at lunch
“Just three weeks to Christmas” Rhod mentioned
“Then we go to America” Bernie added
“What are you doing Rhod?”
“Mum and me are going to Wales”
“So we'd best address our cards to Em then” Mad joked
“What about you Drew?” Bernie enquired
“Dunno, we usually go to Gran's, I suppose we'll still do that even without Mum”
“Sorry Drew I didn't mean…”
“‘S allright. I'm sort of getting used to it”
“Is everyone going to the Christmas disco?” Mad asked
“You bet!” Ally stated
“Suppose so,” I allowed. For once I'm going as me. Yeah I know I've said it before but there is nothing the others can come up with this time. It's not a costume party; Clive was dumped, so there is absolutely nada! I grinned to myself; yep this time it'll be me, Drew Bond, going to the dance! I might not be Gaby free yet but I'm not having any repeat of last year. Last year. Mum was here last year.
“Hey you alright Drew” Bernie asked, concern in her voice.
“Its Christmas isn't it” Mad put her arm round me, “we'll be here Drew”
“I know. Thanks guys” yep, they'll be around but the person I want most won't be.
Maddy Bell 01.11.04 © 2004
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