I can hang about bike shops all day if anyone let me. Erin's wasn't a great deal different to the shops back home really, maybe a little tidier but it would fit in well back home. No, apart from the silly name, the really amazing thing to me about Erin's shop was the fact it was here at all! I know there are a few top riders from America but it's hardly a hot bed of cycling. The fact that the shop was here in this little town suggests a bit more interest in bikes than I expected. Not that I'd seen anyone riding one yet!
“Hi girls” Erin came through from the workshop.
“Hi” I allowed
“Did you find anything Erin?” Brit asked
“I think so, come on through girls”
We followed her round the counter and into the workshop.
“I've just been tidying it up a bit”
Erin pointed to a sparkling jewel in the workstand.
“Erin” Brit started.
“Its okay Brit, it was a trade-in last fall, it's on the small side for most riders so a few extra miles won't make much difference”
“Its gorgeous” I sighed eyeing all the sparkly bits.
It really was a beaut. From the cherry red metal flake paint to the highly polished wheels it was sweet. Campag Chorus from about two years ago made up the bulk of the kit hung from what looked like a lightweight steel GT road frame. Only the tyres and bar tape showed any sign of use, this bike had obviously had one very careful owner, then I noticed the top tube.”
“I can't use this Erin”
“Why ever not Gaby”
“It's your bike” I accused
“Okay so it's mine, but I never get the chance to use it much, I've got a Trek that I use most days, the GT hasn't been out since last May”
“But what if I damage anything?”
“I can tell that you appreciate fine things, I know you'll look after it. I'd rather it was ridden to be honest rather than sit in my attic collecting dust.”
It was very tempting.
“You got any togs with you Gaby?”
My heart sank, with Mad packing my case stuff like bike shorts never made it.
“No” I replied despondently.
“Can you watch the shop for a few Brit?”
“Come on then Miss Bond, lets find you some kit”
I found myself propelled out of the shop and into a slightly careworn pickup. Erin soon had us heading out towards the high school but we turned off before we got there and bounced along a dirt road for about half a mile before pulling up at what I guessed was Erin's home.
“Come on Gaby or do you prefer Drew”
“I thought you probably did young man”
“Well I do try to keep up with stuff over the pond. And I know that it was Jenny Bond's son that was crowned circuit champ last summer.”
She led me into the house, so much like what you see on the telly!
“So the Gaby thing is one of Brit's games huh?”
I ended up giving Erin a potted version of the events leading up to the present situation while my unexpected benefactor found me a full set of winter riding kit including shoes, we actually share shoe size.
“I've a mind to tell Jocelyn, Britney has overstepped the mark this time”
“Please don't Erin, I don't want to get her in trouble”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment.
“Okay then, I'll go with it for now but you want out, come see me or give me a call okay?”
“Deal” I agreed.
“Come on then, lets get back and see if that girl has bankrupted me yet”
It was almost six and dark when we returned to the shop.
“I thought something had happened to you guys” Brit greeted us.
“Just talking about Drew's cycling career” Erin emphasised.
“Oh” Brit allowed.
“So have you given the shop away while we were gone?”
“I did not give it away, it was marked with the wrong price!”
“So any customers?”
“Only that banker guy to collect his wheels”
“Yeah that's him, said he'll catch you tomorrow night”
Erin blushed slightly, is Alec her romantic interest? Hmm, I'll have to find out.
“Lets get you two and this bike home.”
I took charge of strapping the bike into the rack bolted into the pickup while Brit and Erin closed the shop up. Erin did join us for dinner and I arranged to meet with her for a ride on Saturday morning, she has someone look after the shop for her so she can get a ride in.
Dad's phone call was pretty much a rehash of yesterday so I won't bore you with the detail. When I get some real news I'll let you know.
I was feeling pretty nervous as I stood with the others and a few other kids waiting for the school bus to arrive. Although the sky was fairly clear, a few flakes of snow were blowing about, not enough to settle or even make the footpath damp but it was snow nonetheless. It wasn't George driving the bus today but a middle-aged woman who would make Oliver Hardy look slim! By the time we left the town the bus was fairly full of students exchanging tales of their Christmas and New Year break. None of the others were on this bus, Mad would be travelling with Miss Bell, Rhod with the mystery Sandy Jones, the others were on different bus routes.
Once at Augusta High, Brit and I went to find her friends, this is just like starting a new school – well I guess I am sort of. I was introduced as Drew who's nickname is Gaby. No one queried my gender so it looked like I could be Drew at school anyway. We stowed our coats in our lockers and headed in to ‘homeroom'. Yep just like back home. Biggest difference really was that there wasn't a big assembly; instead the principal relayed the notices over a scratchy PA direct to each room. That ended with everyone bar me standing for flag allegiance thing Miss Bell told us about yesterday. As Brits we are excused that bizarre episode. Bernie reckoned it was something they probably do in communist countries; she might have a point there.
Whatever, Miss Jackson introduced me to the other students who for the most part were a little bit less than bothered. I received a few looks of appraisal, mostly from the girls but I got the uncomfortable feeling that a few of the boys were checking me out too. I'm sure that Brit had told me her schedule at some point but I was still surprised that after homeroom we took ‘home ec'. Don't get me wrong, I mean I do washing, cooking and cleaning at home but I wasn't really expecting to be sitting in on a dressmaking course! And of course it got worse!
As I didn't have any course work to do I got ‘volunteered' to act as tailors dummy. Not good! Luckily I was actually wearing some Gab pants which kept my, um bits under control. Luck stayed with me as the current project was a skirt, it was embarrassing but somehow I managed to keep my bits from display. I'll have to try and get out of this class if its possible, maybe extra maths? Well the other classes went better, American History, Algebra, English, then it was lunch before having Geography with Miss Bell and finally Art where Miss C was helping out. Do you know? Miss C is really cool. Oops did I just say that?
It was only as we waited for the bus back into town that I realised that most of the cars in the huge car park belonged to students. I saw Rhod following a tall girl to an old Volvo estate, that must be Sandy I guess. The late afternoon sky held the promise of more snow but for now it was just cold with a mean wind. Well I guess I've survived the first day at Augusta High.
“What now?” Jules sighed from her bed where she was reading a book.
“I'm sort of out of clothing options”
“What do you mean? ‘Run out of clothing options'”
“Well I can hardly wear jeans and a jumper again tomorrow can I? Mrs W will smell a rat, lets face it, you change three times a day and your ‘little sis' wears the same stuff every day? Not likely is it?”
“You must have brought more than that”
“Mad packed remember? So I've got underwear but no extra trousers, and the only other stuff I've got is full on Gaby, I can hardly wear that for school can I?”
“Well I'm being me, your brother at school?”
“You are kidding aren't you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I'm sorry to burst your bubble brother mine but half the guys want to meet ‘that cute little blonde' and you've got half the girls hating you for being ‘that stuck up British bitch'”
I groaned and slumped to the floor. Here I was thinking that everything was going swimmingly, sugar! Home ec this morning! They thought I was a girl! Why me? I've been wearing my boy stuff even. I started to sob a bit, there was a thump beside me and I felt Jules arm go round me. We sat like that for a while, I eventually got myself together and we moved from the floor to our beds.
“What are you reading?”
“What's that exactly?”
“Its called A Walk in the Woods, it's about walking along the Appalachian Way”
“Its quite funny really, Bryson is American but he used to live in Yorkshire and he sort of pokes fun at American attitudes.”
“I still prefer Discworld ”
“So what are you going to do?”
Good question. The Walters think I'm a girl. At AHS they assume I'm a girl because I'm with Britney. Only Erin doesn't take me for a girl, well she knows I'm a boy at least, she never said I look like a boy though did she? And we've got that stupid cheer contest in a few weeks. Looks like the decision is made for me doesn't it?
“Looks like I'm gonna have to be Gaby”
“For the whole six weeks?”
“You got an alternative?”
“Ut uh” she replied.
“You brought those foam pad things?”
“What pads” by her blush she knew exactly what I meant. “Er what for?”
“Well Gaby needs her boobs, Mad's got my stuff so until tomorrow I need a bit of stuffing.”
When I joined the others a bit later it was as 100% Gaby. Mad had packed what I've come to think of as my favourite Gaby outfit, well at least this time of year. My lightly padded bust looked more like I was bra less than boob less and I always find this outfit comfy.
“Well don't you look purdy tonight?” Mr Walters mentioned as I found a seat in front of the telly.
“Give over dad, you've got her blushing” Deb mentioned.
Well it was more than a slight blush I have to admit. My fate is sealed for the next what? Five and a half weeks. It doesn't entirely solve the clothing problem but at least I can borrow from Jules and the others now. Great.
Dad didn't call yet; he said it might be late if they decided to operate. Mum please be okay! I really need you, especially right now! By how quiet Jules was over dinner she was having similar thoughts. By the way the senior Walters were treating us I'm guessing that Dad has spoken to them and clued them in a bit. Neither of them has mentioned Mum directly but they are so obviously trying to avoid mentioning ‘something'.
It was a little after seven when Dad finally called, that's like midnight or something at home.
Jules got first crack at him then I just about snatched the phone from her as she finished her goodbyes.
“Did they operate?”
“Yes Drew, that's why I'm calling so late, I've only just got home”
“Well the good news is that the surgeon thinks that it went exceedingly well but it will be a few days before they can tell how successful the surgery has been.”
“Does that mean she's cured?”
“Not exactly son, it could still go either way and your mother is still very sick”
I could tell he wasn't telling me everything but it sounded like good news for the most part. He sounded tired with more than a hint of worried.
“So how are you kiddo?”
“Okay I guess. Mrs Walters friend, Erin, she owns the local bike shop, has lent me a bike to ride and I'm supposed to be going for a ride with her on Saturday”
“That's very good of her. Make sure you thank her and look after the bike.”
“Daad, course I will! It's a really cool GT with Chorus kit and its mint!”
“Just remember you have to ride on the opposite side of the road and be careful.”
“I will be, give Mum my love”
“Of course I will, I'll try to ring a bit earlier tomorrow okay”
Wednesday dawned dry but with a sky promising a fall of crystalline water droplets, in fact a few were already blowing about as I looked out of the dormer into the morning gloom. I headed for the shower about the happiest I've been on this trip so far, after all Mums surgery seems to have gone well, I know Dad said it was early doors yet but you have to think positive right?
It was only when I emerged from the shower and started looking for my jeans that the day started to go badly.
“What?” my sibling grunted from the shower.
“You seen my jeans?”
“Ut uh. Where did you put them last night?”
“On that wicker thing”
“The laundry basket? By the door?”
“What do you mean ‘ah!'” I heard the shower shut off.
Jules poked her head round the bathroom door.
“Er Mrs Walters took the laundry after dinner last night, I guess she thought you put your jeans to be washed”
“So what am I supposed to wear to school today? I could borrow yours”
“I only brought one pair and I did put mine in to be washed”
“Sugar! Don't you have any other trousers?”
“Bum, bum, bum!”
“I guess Gaby is going to school in a skirt today then”
“It's going to snow, I'll freeze my bits off” I moaned.
“Don't be so melodramatic. I'll lend you some thick tights and you can wear two pairs of knickers.”
“Gee thanks” I replied sarcastically.
When we left for school there was little doubt of Gaby's gender. I ended up borrowing a coat from Deb, a skirt and trainers from Brit and a top and the aforementioned tights from Jules. I just caught Mad before she left with Miss Bell, my breast forms and stuff would be at Augusta High when I arrived. This is not going to plan – not by a long chalk!
Of course wearing a skirt to school would confirm to the natives what they assumed yesterday – there will be no way to be Drew on this trip now. As you might recall, its not like I've not attended school as Gaby before, but that was literally only for a couple of days and my appearances as a cheerleader haven't exceeded a few hours either. As I stared out of the bus window I realised that I was going to be Gaby for a long, long time. It didn't click last night but wearing this stuff this morning it finally sank in.
Despite Jules assurances of temperate comfort, it was absolutely freezing around my nether regions as the cold wind whipped up my skirt when we arrived at school. Of course, in my short skirt I was in a minority of one, either ankle length skirts or trousers clothed all the ‘other' female students, I couldn't have stuck out much more if I tried!
Two things happened on my second day of High School. Firstly, with any doubt over my gender removed I became more of a target for male lust, not good! Secondly, the luke warm reception from the girls now evolved into a more polarised response to my presence. Whilst I was largely made more welcome, a few girls with insecurity problems took bigger dislike to me than yesterday. Brit told me that they considered me competion, hot competition for their boyfriends. As if!
Unlike at home, most students have the same classes every day here, they do fewer subjects than I'm used to and I guess it keeps the timetable straightforward! So it was pretty much a repeat of my first day except I was attracting more attention. At some time during the day I shared classroom time with all the extended gang, the only ‘lesson' that we all share is gym but that's not until tomorrow. I wonder if I can pull a sickie? At least there's no school on Friday, we are off on our first ‘excursion', we're going to Richmond I think it is.
One thing is for sure. If I'm going to be Gaby for the next six weeks, I need to do some shopping – I can't keep borrowing stuff from the Walters and Jules. And one skirt and jumper and one cheer outfit won't go very far. Damn! I'm not exactly rolling in dollars, not that there's much to spend them on but buying girls clothes was not on my original game plan. And if that snow does finally make a bigger effort I'll need some warmer kit too.
The other thing that happened today was that we got invited to go and ‘hang' at the diner after school. Brit and the others were all keen to go; apparently it was a regular thing much like our gangs Monday nights. I didn't want to chance missing Dad's call but the others, mostly unaware of the situation, finally persuaded me to join them. From what Dad said last night I don't suppose there will be any real news today, I consoled myself with that thought as I climbed into the back of Sandy's Volvo.
Maddy Bell 12.04.05 © 2005
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