Small Town, Va.
I don't think I've told you much about where the Walters live have I? The house that is. So lets go back to Saturday, that's yesterday, night.
After the ‘fine' speeches and buffet it was finally time to split up and go to our temporary homes.
“Right then girls, let's get your luggage organised” Mr Walters instructed, “Mrs Walters is just fetchin' the car out front”
Now don't get me wrong, Mr Walters doesn't have a strong accent but I had to digest that for a moment before having to stop myself replying in a very bad imitation.
“So is it far to your house Deb?” Jules enquired
“Just a couple of blocks”
“Right” I noted none the wiser. I mean how far is a block? What is a block? Whatever.
Between us we got everything outside on to the pavement just as Mrs W pulled up in a fairly new looking car, I'm not up on American cars but the badge on the wing said Caprice.
“Let's get these in the trunk and we can get off home,” Mr W stated.
I've seen enough American stuff on the telly to know that the trunk is what we call the boot, our bags actually looked quite lonely in that gaping maw! That done we clambered inside the car, which wasn't as big as I expected but big enough that all four of us were reasonably comfortable sat on the rear seat.
The ‘couple of blocks' turned out to be about as far as Mad's place is from ours; we carried our cases further in Manchester Airport! As much as Grottoes has an old town, this was it. I think Brit said before that they call it a brownstone or something like that, it and its neighbours look pretty much like some of the Victorian villas in Worksop except there're no gardens to talk of and the whole street looks a bit ‘twee'!
“Go on in girls, Mr Walters will bring your bags” Mrs W advised. Well you know what they say, never look a gift horse! The girl bit is already starting to grate already tho'.
“Come on, you'd better have the dime tour” Brit enthused.
Inside it was nothing like those English villas. On the ground floor, or as the Americans call it first floor, there was pretty much just the entrance hall and sitting room cum dining room, the kitchen and a toilet were in an offshoot at the back down a couple of steps. Upstairs on the first or is that second floor, the girls and their ‘rents bedrooms took most of the space apart from the main bathroom. Deb then led us through a cupboard like door and up another set of stairs to the newly converted attic. I was impressed, it was a good-sized space and the steep pitched roof gave plenty of headroom. As promised there was a small en suite and two single beds crowded the floor space just a bit.
“Mom was all for putting a queen bed in” Deb told us, “but we thought the singles would be er, more suitable”
“It'll give more space after you go too” Brit added.
There is a cellar too, and just like in the films, it gets used for the laundry and storage. I actually felt a bit guilty that we were getting the new room but the girls assured us it was the easiest way. Not for Mr W though, he was positively bushed by the time he'd dragged our bags all the way to the top!
Bum, that'll be the others back, I suppose I'll have to go down.
I carefully descended to the middle floor and then down to the ground floor where the Walters senior with Debs and Jules were just de-coating.
“So what did you girls get up to Gaby?” Mr W asked
“Hi mom, hi dad!” Brit joined us.
“Your father was just asking Gaby what you two did today,” Mrs W told her.
“I took Gab over to Erin's”
“I hope you behaved yourself Britney Walters”
“‘Course we did, didn't we Gab?”
“Er yes” I agreed.
“We just looked at the bikes and stuff, I told you Gab is a bike racer back home”
“I hope you've the sense to steer clear of my daughters hare brained schemes Gaby” Mr W stated
“She does have a habit of causing mischief”
“Er I'll bear that in mind” I allowed. Don't I just know it?
“So did you guys have a good time over in Waynesboro?”
Nice diversion Brit! We all ended up in the kitchen whilst the tale of the visit to the local metropolis was regurgitated – I'm sure Jules will repeat most of it later when we go to bed so I switched to ‘uh huh' mode.
Brrrng brng! Brrrng brng!
“I'll get it” Debs offered.
“Hi there, Walters residence…oh hi Mr Bond, its Deb…yeah sure, they're right here…and you to Mr B, here's Gaby”
I eagerly took the handset from Deb.
“Hi Dad, how's Mum?”
“Why was Debbie calling you Gaby?”
“It's a long story”
“And I don't want to know right?”
“Er yes. So how's Mum?”
“She's okay son, she went for a short ride earlier but it took a lot out of her”
“She's okay though?” I started to panic.
“Calm down, yes she's alright, the doctors have said to expect it. Look son, I wasn't supposed to say anything, your mother made me promise, but well,”
“Daad! What aren't you supposed to tell?”
“Your mother is going in to hospital tomorrow to be assessed for surgery.”
“You knew before we left?” I accused.
“Yes, we knew, it was your mothers decision not to say anything, she knows how you'd react”
“Its your mothers call son. I promise to get you here if things take a turn for the worse. Put your sister on son, I'll try to get your Mum on the phone tomorrow okay?”
“Yeah. Bye Dad, give Mum my love, here's Jules”
I passed the phone to my eagerly waiting sibling.
“Everything okay Gaby?” Mrs W asked when I joined the others in the family room.
“I guess so”
“Homesick huh? Come and have a cuddle”
In lieu of an alternative I took up the offer and joined Mrs Walters on the sofa where I managed to embarrass myself by crying onto her shoulder for a good ten minutes.
Mad picked up on my mood as soon as she and Sab arrived for the ‘sleepover' half an hour later. Miss Bell had run the taxi service; Mad is actually staying with her rather than at Sab's remember?
“You okay Drew?” she hissed as she trailed me up to the Walters bedroom.
“What do you think?” I snapped
“Sorry, I only asked”
“Okay girls, you know the rules,” Mrs W intoned following us into the room. “I'll do you some supper later, and please keep the music down a bit huh?”
“Yes mom” Deb and Brit chorused.
“Okay then, have fun” and with that she was gone.
“So, what happens now?” Mad queried
“You mean you've never had a sleepy?” Deb squealed
“Well we sometimes stop at each others house for the night, we don't really do anything tho”
At this point I should mention that I'm not exactly ignorant of the format myself, you remember the incident last year? If there was going to be any sort of repeat, I'm out!
“I'll leave you lot to it.” I told them heading for the door.
“Where're you off to Drew?” Brit immediately asked.
“Upstairs, out of you girls way.”
“Whatever for Drew?” Sab followed on.
“So I'm out of your way, Mad might not know what goes on at a sleepover but I do and I want no part right? And besides in case you lot have forgotten, I am not a girl! ”
“Shush!” Brit hissed, “You want the olds to hear you?”
I looked daggers at her.
“Look, you girls have fun, I'll see you in the morning” I turned for the door once more.
“You can't Drew” Deb implored, “mom will smell a rat straight away if you go”
“I won't say anything”
“That's not the point Drew and you know it” my sister joined in. “you have to stay, it won't be anything like last time, I promise”
“What happened last time?” Sab asked before adding, “and how come Drew was at a sleepover?”
“Long story Sabrina, I'll tell you some time but we both ended up grounded.”
“Not good huh?” Sab allowed.
“Please Drew, this is gonna be different, honest. No drinking, no dares, just a video,”
“We got ‘Lizzie McGuire' ” Deb put in.
“And listening to music and stuff” Jules finished.
“Drinking?” Sab exclaimed
I could see that my absence might raise questions and it didn't sound too bad even if the film sounds a bit flaky.
“Okay I'll stay” I let go of the door”
“Brill!” Brit exclaimed grabbing me into a hug.
I stood in the shower letting the hot water play over me as I went over the events of last night. It was actually quite good fun, even for me, and certainly no repeat of my last ‘sleepover'! The film was one of those flaky teen romance things; I'm told there is a telly series too. I've seen worse and the girls seemed to enjoy it. Mrs W actually made a sort of Spaghetti Carbonara for supper – she should have a cook off with Aunt C! Then we listened to CD's for a while, I remember feeling a bit drowsy then I just woke up this morning. I guess the traveling finally caught up with me.
“Hurry up Gab, we're being picked up in an hour” Jules encouraged.
Oh yeah, today we've got our, what did Miss Bell call it, that's it, orientation. The weather looks pretty good, almost spring like with an almost clear blue sky and bright sunshine, good weather to be out on a bike. Despite appearances, I decided to go with warm, so I pulled jeans and my roll neck on, I'd rather be warm than cold, call me nesh if you like!
All six of us went down to the corner to wait for our transport and pretty soon an ugly yellow bus grunted into sight.
“See you guys later” Brit smiled as Mad, Jules and I climbed aboard.
“Bye” Mad waved back.
“Morning girls” George greeted us as we clambered inside.
“Hi” Jules replied.
“One more stop then we'll head for the school,” George advised us.
To be honest, after that last stop to pick up one of Jules mates, everyone was talking and the drive out to Augusta High School went by in a blur of noise and excitement. I couldn't stay miserable with the general mood on the rattley bus and we soon pulled up alongside a couple more buses at the front of a modern building that couldn't be anything other than a school. We climbed off the bus and gathered to take in the ‘view'.
Miss Cowlishaw and some of her charges!
(l to r, Maddy, Drew, Miss C, Jules, Bernie, Ally and Rhod)
We saw Miss Bell heading towards us and soon we were started on a tour of the ‘facility'. A more seasonal temperature soon replaced the warmth of the sun when we moved into the shadows; thankfully we were soon inside the school. I'm not sure what I was expecting but I suppose schools are pretty similar wherever they are. Biggest difference I suppose is that back in Warsop we have a cloakroom where we put our coats and our lockers are in our form rooms. Here they just have a locker in one of the corridors, more convenient I s'pose. Mr Fredericks allocated our party some lockers for our stay then we assembled in a classroom, Miss Bells from what I could see.
We were joined shortly by a stern looking woman and Principal Roberts. The Principal introduced her as Mary Jones; the schools head counsellor, whatever that is? Apparently we should go see her if we have any ‘issues', I haven't the foggiest what that means. Still, Mr Roberts seems to be okay, a taller version of our Woody, and fancies himself as a bit of a wag. Ms Jones left with him shortly afterwards leaving us to the care of Ms Bell and Mr Fredericks, Mr P and Miss C sat at the back sipping coffee.
In many respects it would be similar to last year at Warsop, we would be ‘shadowing' our hosts in their classes on the days we were attending school, that is three days each week. The other two days we would be doing visits and other stuff, the weekends will be ‘free' with our hosts. The biggest difference really is the school day; apparently we start in ‘home room', that's like our form room, at eight o'clock. Eight o'clock! Jeez, I'll still be asleep then. The bonus is that school finishes at three; any extra curricula stuff is therefore done on the afternoons. We'd mostly be using the yellow buses for transport; a couple of us, Mad for example, would travel in by car.
We left the school just before twelve, the canteen was shut it not being a school day so we all piled onto George's yellow rattler and we started our first lesson, Grottoes 101 – well that's what Miss Bell called it! So I'll try to remember the geography for you, here goes. Grottoes itself is midway between Newtown and Waynesboro, its about 25 miles to either of them, and lies on the border between Augusta and Rockingham counties. The school takes students from both ‘Counties', there is only a sparse rural community outside of Grottoes. To the east and north lies the Shenandoah National Park – more of that later, to the west is a rolling river valley beyond which are more hills and the state of West Virginia. Trying to put it into a frame I can relate to, it's sort of like being on the edge of the Peak District, well sort of.
Anyway, as it was still quite pleasant if a little cool, George took us up towards the hills, stopping at a little pull-in going by the name of Madison Lookout, the road went on but it was as far as a yellow bus could get! Miss Bell told us that the little river was called Madison Run and very pretty it looked too. This was to be our lunch stop, George fetched a box up from the back of the bus and soon we were all tucking into a picnic lunch, chicken, corn, hot tomato soup, brownies and fruit. A surprisingly balanced meal!
After eating we had a bit of spare time and not surprisingly our gang got together, the first time really since we set off on this trip.
“So how are yours” Ally asked me.
“Okay I guess”
“They think he's a girl” Mad put in.
“Why?” Bernie voiced the obvious question.
“Apparently Brit and Deb never told their olds he was a boy”
“Well its true”
I sighed, there was no denying it.
“Poor Drew, so they think you are Gaby?”
“Sort of.” I allowed, “they know my name is Drew but they are thinking ‘Barrymore', they think Gaby is some sort of nickname.”
“Haven't they noticed your lack of, um, bits?” Rhod asked.
“Well they are hardly gonna say anything are they Rhod?” Mad pointed out.
“I suppose not.”
“What about you lot?” Mad asked.
“Okay I suppose” Bernie was non-committal.
“I've got my own room” Ally mentioned.
“How about you Mr Morgan?” Mad pursued Rhod.
“Yeah what's this Sandy like?” Bernie joined in.
All eyes turned expectantly towards the slightly effeminate looking Rhod.
“I bet he's a right hunk,” Ally stated.
“Er not exactly” Rhod finally managed.
“So?” I urged.
“Well I guess you'll find out soon enough.” he sighed. “Sandy's eighteen,”
“We knew that” Mad interrupted.
“Let him talk Mad” Ally admonished.
“She lives on her own and has a car”
“Hang on, you said she” ever sharp Bernie pointed out.
“So she's a girl” I joined in. “go on then Rhod”
“Well she's quite pretty, fairly tall and slim, look you'll meet her tomorrow, you can do the Spanish Inquisition bit then okay?”
“Come on you lot, time to go” Mr P called over.
We finished the 101, (apparently that's what the ‘Mericans call basic level courses), and found ourselves back at AHS. Miss Bell had included just about anything of interest, tho to be honest that didn't really run to much. There was the municipal pool (closed for the winter as its open air), the Augusta County Showground (empty for now), the nature park at the south end of town and a very ‘Back to the Future ' style town square, that just about wrapped it up. She did point out the local teen hangouts, the big M and ‘Jenny's' drive through, a games arcade and a diner type place called ‘Jacks'. Much the same as we have at home I guess.
It was quarter to three when Jules and I got back to Walters central.
“Come on Gab, time to go” Brit grabbed my arm.
“I only just got here”
“We have to get to Erin's remember”
“I'm sure Erin won't mind you being a few minutes late,” Mrs W pointed out. “and invite her back for dinner okay?”
“Let Gaby get changed if she wants”
“Go on then Gaby ” Brit was being a bit of a pain.
In truth, a change of footwear and a wee was all I needed and I joined an impatient Britney Walters for the short walk to Erin's Cyclery.
Maddy Bell 10.04.05 © 2005
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