“I’ve told you before Britney Walters, one of these days your pranks are going to get you into serious trouble!” Mr Walters raised voice carried clearly to Jules and I sat at the top of the stairs. Brit’s reply was just a mumble.
“And if I find out that you are up to any more of your tricks or are trying to involve the Bonds in any of your plots, you will be grounded indefinitely” Mrs W’s equally annoyed tones continued. “Gaby and her cousin could have been lost out there, it was only last year that the Williams boy died right outside town when he got turned around.”
“I don’t care, it was a stupid thing to do, and they were neither of them dressed for it” Mrs Walters went on.
I know we shouldn’t have been eavesdropping but wouldn’t you? We were barely in the house when Dad rang, no real change with Mum, which at least wasn’t bad news, then Jules and I headed up to our eyrie to shower and get changed. When we emerged the Walters clan were already having this ‘discussion’ so rather than interrupt we plonked ourselves on the top stair to wait it out. The bits that reached us left no doubt that Britney and to a lesser extent Deb, was in deep doo doo over this afternoons ski episode.
“Doesn’t look good” Jules noted in a hushed voice.
“If they tumble me being, you know, a boy, Brit and Debs might as well join a monastery.”
“Nunnery. Yeah” Jules agreed.
The voices had descended to a less audible level now, it still sounded like the Spanish Inquisition! Questions, replies, more questions and so on. After about half an hour the door opened and a clearly chastened and tearful Brit exited.
“Dinner will be in thirty minutes, tell the girls.” Mrs W instructed.
“Yes mom.” Brit confirmed before closing the door and starting up the stairs.
“You okay Brit?” Jules asked.
Brit jumped and nearly missed her step.
“Shit Jules, you scared me!”
“Sorry, you okay?”
“Yeah why shouldn’t I be?”
“We sort of overheard a bit,” I admitted.
“Sounded like your olds were giving you the third degree.” Jules filled in.
Brit visibly slumped as she joined us on the landing.
“If it wasn’t for you two being here I’d be so grounded.”
One bit of me said ‘vengeance’ another was saying ‘poor Brit’!
“But nothing happened really.” I temporized.
“But it could have and it would have been my fault.”
“We chose to go.” I pointed out.
“Is it true about that boy?” Jules asked.
“Little Geoff Williams? Yeah he got lost out by the nature grounds, they found him a week later but he was only like ten.”
To be truthful I’d never even thought about being in danger this afternoon, the tracks were clear and we weren’t doing anything daft. I suddenly felt more vulnerable. Clearly the Walters took their parental duties seriously though.
“And mom was hinting at something going on with you two, I think she suspects something. If she finds out you’re a boy I am like so much toast!”
“Well we’re not going to say anything are we Drew?”
“Er no” I agreed. There is no way I wanted to go public, well in a way it would be a relief but there was more at stake here, would I get chucked out? Where could I go? One thing for sure, Brit and Deb would be grounded for life!
We were now in the girl’s bedroom, a place I always had mixed feelings about being. Jules and me sat on Debs bed while the archfiend washed her tear-stained face and repaired her makeup.
“Maybe we should come clean,” a still morose Brit offered.
“You might as well take vows now if we do that. And what happens to Drew? Your ‘rents will be more than pissed!”
“I guess, but what if they work it out?”
“And just how will they do that? Gabs chest is glued on and her other bits are taken care of too.”
“Yes really.” I pouted.
“There’s no way unless they saw him naked and even then….” Jules offered.
Jules seemed more confident of my disguise than I ever am.
“After all, Gab is never mistaken for a boy is she?” Jules continued to nail the coffin down.
“Erin knows.” I admitted.
“That biker woman?” Jules queried.
“Uh huh.” I agreed.
“She never said.” Brit mentioned.
“Well we talked a lot when we went to her house.”
Life with the Walters looks like it’s going to get a whole lot more complicated!
This week we have excursions on Tuesday and Thursday so today being Monday we are all in school. This morning I couldn’t help feeling that Mrs W was scrutinising Jules and I, would I slip up somehow and out myself? More pressure I could do without.
“Can all members of the Sherwood Foresters from England please meet Miss Cowlishaw in the gym after final period today”
This can’t be good news. Something else to worry about.
How do I get into these positions? First period Home Ec, Dressmaking 101, of course today I have to make a start on ‘my’ prom dress, nightmare. Still there was no getting out of it and so I have found a picture of a dress I think Mad will like – if I can make it properly of course. I spent the first twenty minutes of Mrs Pryce’s class getting the low down on transferring the picture to a paper pattern and guestimating the materials required. Mrs P then left me with a pile of material swatches and colour samples, I get to put in my proposal at the end of the lesson and if it gets the go ahead I start in earnest tomorrow. I can’t say that I was greatly enthused by the prospect.
That was the highlight of the morning, I was pretty happy when I joined the others in the cafeteria for lunch. Don’t get me wrong here; being a girl at school is okay – if you happen to be one! Pretending you are one is another matter and into my second week it was no better than last. Although I suppose I look quite convincing, when it comes to the actual ‘being’ a girl bit I’m well off the mark. I’m not interested in boys, fashion, the latest heartthrob on telly or anything else remotely girly, nope, inside I’m still a 100% girl hungry, sport loving, boy! Rhod is my best chance of sensible conversation but even he seems reluctant to talk about sensible stuff, I guess he’s trying to fit in as Em. Here I am, surrounded by my best friends and I’ve never really felt quite this alone.
I went through the afternoon classes on autopilot; it only seemed like minutes after lunch that I found myself sat on the bleachers in the gym. The others were all chatting away, not intentionally leaving me out, well I don’t think so, but I’m feeling a bit isolated. Miss Cowlishaw came in talking animatedly with Miss Bell.
“Hello girls, everyone here?”
“Yes miss” Bernie replied for us.
I had a fair inkling of why we were here and Miss C confirmed my thoughts.
“Well you’ve escaped cheer practice for a couple of weeks now so we need to get cracking if we are going to be ready for the competition. So starting on Tuesday we’ll be having practice after class alternate days. Miss Bell has volunteered to help out and make sure our routine meets the competion criteria. So Tuesday make sure you have your gym kit, poms and cheer shoes. Any questions?”
“How long will it be?” Ally asked the question we all were thinking.
“About an hour” Miss Bell volunteered, “and don’t worry, we’ve got transport back to your hosts arranged”
“I was just gonna ask about that” Rhod mentioned.
“Well if you think of anything we can talk tomorrow but get off now, and we’ll see you in the morning okay?”
“Yes Miss” we all chorused, some with less enthusiasm than others.
Mrs W was waiting for me in the car park, the others having explained my lateness.
“Tactics?” Jules mentioned as I slid in next to her.
“Practice. Starting Tuesday Miss Cowlishaw wants us to practice three times a week after class”
“What about getting home?” Brit asked.
“I think Miss Bell will be doing taxi duty, well its organised anyway”
“I was a cheerleader at high school myself” Mrs W started.
“Muum!” the Walters girls started.
“Well I was. It wasn’t all this gymnastics stuff then of course”
“Gabs and the girls don’t do the fancy stuff either do you?” Deb queried.
“Er no, not really, there’s only five of us here so I think we’ll be staying low level.”
“Well I hope we are going to get to see your routine Gaby” Mrs W mentioned.
“They are entered in the regionals next month with us Mom” Brit told her mother.
“Well that’s something to look forward to then. Here we are.”
‘Here’ wasn’t the Walters place, no ‘here’ was a shop a short way up the street from Erin’s bike shop. I vaguely remember mention of going somewhere after class this afternoon but the Foresters meeting had blanked it from my mind. And not just any shop, ‘Venus’ is the local beauty parlour, the last place I wanted to be. So okay, with the copious amounts of slushy snow and patches of ice still about I wasn’t about to take Erin’s bike out but a beauty shop?
“Hi Jocelyn, girls and these must be your British visitors”
“Mary, meet Juliette and Gabrielle Bond” Mrs W introduced us, “girls, this here is Mary, owner of this oasis of calm.”
Well oasis was about right; the décor was a combination of Egyptian and Italian renaissance! These Americans haven’t got a clue! Somehow it wasn’t as bad as it sounds – quite but all the same. Compared to Sylv’s this place is in a different league even if the services offered are pretty similar. Not surprisingly the others, including Goth in waiting Jules, were well up on taking advantage of the services on offer. To say I wasn’t keen would be putting it mildly. Was this a test by Mrs W? Would an outright refusal prove my undoing?
“So Gabrielle, such a nice name, what about you?” Mary asked. “Trim, pedicure, manicure, facial?”
“Its Gaby please”
“Okay, so what’s it to be then Gaby?”
“I er had my hair done before we came”
“How about we sort those nails out then, might as well make use of Jocelyn’s generosity eh?”
I looked at my nails; they were looking a bit the worse for wear.
“Er okay” I agreed.
It couldn’t be that simple could it? The ‘nail technician’, a girl named Sandra that I vaguely recognised from Augusta High, expertly trimmed my nails, poked at my cuticles and finished off with a coat or two of cherry red varnish – well it was vaguely better than baby pink or any of the other colours. She insisted on doing my toes too, how embarrassing!
“How’re you doing Sandra?” Mary asked as Sandra finished my toenails.
“Just about done, I was gonna say Gaby, you could do with doing your legs”
Talk about embarrassing!
“And you a cheerleader too” Mary stated shaking her head.
“I er forgot,” I offered.
“Well I have just the solution young woman”
Not waxing, please don’t say waxing.
“I’ll just check with Jocelyn its okay, but I think a thorough sugaring is in order, on me”
Sugaring? That doesn’t sound so bad, even quite pleasant.
“Er okay” I allowed carefully.
“The results are just sooo good Gaby, your legs won’t need doing for weeks.” Sandra enthused.
Mary was soon back.
“The others are going on home, you okay to get there yourself when we’re done?”
“I think so, I’ve been to Erin’s a couple of times,” I allowed.
“Okay then, Sandra will get you ready and I’ll be in shortly.”
With that she was off again.
“Come on Gaby, we do this out back, I’ll just fetch you a robe”
Robe? Oh bum! I’ll have to take my jeans off. I looked for a way to escape but Sandra was already back with a white terry bathrobe thingy, I just hope they don’t go too high. A few minutes later I was enduring the application of something that looked suspiciously similar to leg wax although it was more like the result I got when I tried to make toffee last year.
“Come now Gaby, its not that bad” Mary told me as I let out a second yell as the ‘sugar’ was removed.
When she started on the other leg I passed out.
“Gaby? Gabrielle? You okay?”
I recoiled as I caught a whiff of something quite astringent.
“Careful there, you fainted” my eyes started to focus and I recognised Sandra.
“Is it finished?”
“Yeah, Mary thought it best to leave you out while we finished up, we did your arms too as you were getting a bit hairy” she giggled.
My arm hair? Gone? I felt at my arms and sure enough instead of the light fuzz I was so proud of I found just silky smooth skin.
“She okay Sandra?” Mary’s voice came from out front.
“Yeah, she’s awake now.”
Sandra handed me my jeans and as I slid them on it was clear that my legs were much smoother than even straight after a shave and it was almost, I dunno, goose bumpy when I pulled my socks on.
“You might be a bit sore this evening so put a skirt on when you get home, the redness will fade by morning.” Mary advised as I made my getaway.
“Er thanks Mary, it was good of you to do that,” I allowed.
“No problem, you can forget about shaving for a few weeks at least, when your hair comes back it will be finer and more sparse, a few treatments and you can just about forget having to shave again.”
Just what I need!
I made good my escape and stepped out onto the street, a quick look in the bike shop before I go back to the Walters’ is in order. The shop was shut when I got there but the window was lit so I spent a few peering through the glass at the wondrous contents inside. I realised as I made my way back to the Walters that I was actually getting quite used to this place, quite at home. By the time I got ‘home’ Mary’s prediction of soreness was manifesting itself somewhat so my first stop was the attic and a change of apparel. It‘s certainly different having such thoroughly smooth limbs, on inspection I couldn’t find more than one or two fine hairs even on my hands, my arms and legs look more girly than ever, especially with these nails! I hope I won’t get in trouble at school.
The others were busy arguing about something so I settled down in front of the fire with Jules Bill Bryson to await Dad’s call or dinner, whichever happens first!
‘Dear diary, its been a funny day today with one thing or another. Miss C wants us to start regular cheer practice starting Wednesday, I hope I can still get some riding in. then I ended up at this place called Venus with the Walters, they go every couple of weeks. I thought I’d escaped with just getting my nails done but it must be some sort of sadistic streak in beauticians and hairdressers coz I ended up getting sugared on my legs and my arms. It’s a bit like waxing but hotter and more painful! Its ‘sposed to last longer tho’, why she did my arms I dunno but they do feel really smooth now.
I’ve started reading Jules book by that Bryson bloke, it’s actually quite interesting and funny. Mum rang tonight, she sounds a lot more chipper today, she laughed when I told her about the beauty shop which was a bit mean but it was good to hear her laugh – and I know she didn’t mean anything by it.
Tomorrow we are off to some place called the ‘New Market Stud’, some sort of horse place. Well that’s enough for today’
I was getting a bit erm, excited in the shower this morning. My hairless arms and legs made me feel, I dunno different, not like usual that’s for sure, my little friend was straining at the leash and I had to use a cold flannel to get him small enough to fit in my special pants, pretty embarrassing.
Apparently Virginia is famous for horse breeding and today’s trip is to one of the stud farms a couple of hours away. George was driving again and I felt a bit happier as we headed up the interstate, it wasn’t as far as Richmond, which was just as well as the comfort of the bus hasn’t improved! As it was a joint trip with our hosts there was little chance of acting the wallflower! I was expecting a farm sort of place with stables and loads of horses but we pulled up at what looked like some sort of visitor centre. It seems that the New Market Stud exists as much as a tourist attraction as a breeding centre, we weren’t the only visitors, there were two huge campers and a couple of cars in the car park.
I’m not exactly into horses but the guys here were determined to educate everyone about ‘equines’ as they insisted on calling them. We started with a short, well thirty-minute, vid tracing the history of the horse from the Russian Steppe to modern thoroughbreds. After that there was a sort of museum bit all about the Virginia studs and the New Market Stud in particular. It was heading towards twelve by the time we finished in there so Miss Bell suggested we eat before continuing with the tour of the stud.
It brought back fond memories of last summer, all of us together on a day trip, it might be supposedly educational but it was fun too. After eating we had a brief wait for the tour ‘bus’ to arrive, we all clambered on board and cameras at the ready chugged off between neat white fences towards the first stop.
It was amazing some of the stuff they had here. Laboratories, a sort of horse hospital, eventually we even saw some stables and horses! Of course the girls all oohed and aahed at the foals, I have to admit they did look cute but opinion remained fairly ambivalent to our four legged friends. We eventually returned to the entrance area and the gift shop! Kids and gift shops – made for each other. I restricted myself to a few postcards and a guidebook, some of the others spent out on china horses and stuff.
We didn’t head straight back to the interstate, George navigated our yellow bus around the country roads for a while, well in fact we used minor roads all the way back to a Grottoes now bereft of the weekends winter whiteness, instead a watery sun did its best to warm the place. There was still another hour or so of daylight when we got back to Walters central so I made a break for the loft and my borrowed bike kit.
Ah! This is so good. The tarmac zipped away under my tyres, and I feel revitalised. It feels good to be out on my own, a chance to think and relax. Out here on the bike I’m not compartmentalised, not Gaby, not Drew just me. I’m not a boy pretending to be a girl; nope out here I’m just Drew Bond, bike rider. I rode west out of town towards the local airport, Shenandoah Valley Regional the signs call it, well that is actually a bit grand considering what is actually there.
I turned back towards town with the wintry sun behind me lighting the hills in front over the Shenandoah range behind me so that the peaks were bathed in light the lower slopes by contrast in deep, almost black shadow. It was something of a race against Sol to get home before the light went, it was a close thing but I just made it before the streetlights started warming up. After my second shower of the day I ‘borrowed’ some of Jules body lotion, which soothed my still slightly sore arms and legs. We seemed to be getting into a sort of routine, read or watch telly until dinner, talk to Mum and or Dad, do our homework then return to either reading, listening to music or watching telly. Its easy to forget how you are dressed, at least I have some jeans now!
Maddy Bell 30.05.05 © 2005
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