Return To Walters
The evening in Lexington with Miss Bell's family was great. I'm still struggling with people automatically thinking I'm a girl but at least I was Gaby and not Maddy for the night so it was a bit less confusing. The Bell's were great, Mr Bell works for, what was it? State Legis something, well it sounded like the equivalent of the County Council at home. Mrs Bell was just like an older version of Jessica, (that is still weird, calling a teacher by their first name, somehow it feels disrespectful); she's even a teacher the same but she teaches English.
The pot roast was excellent – real food and I'm afraid I wasn't very ladylike, a second helping was on offer and I took it. Well I was quite hungry! It seemed like we had barely finished eating when Miss Bell announced it was time to head back to Piedmont. In fact it was heading towards nine thirty, it would be pretty late before we were back in Augusta County.
It wasn't far up the road before I dropped off to the tones of what I think was Pink, I remember thinking that it wasn't something you'd get Woody listening to anyway.
Jessica glanced over at the now sleeping form of the youngster in her passenger seat. Fran was emphatic that Gaby really is Drew but, well for a boy she makes an exceptional girl! Mom and Pops can usually spot a fraud a mile off but they never said anything, Mom most certainly would. And she's got young Sam convinced; I wonder what she thinks about that, I mean he. I just can't see her as a boy!
She shook her head, all she could do was keep an eye out for the youngster, after Dan over in England, and well things could get nasty if anyone finds out.
“Gab, Ga-ab. Come on hun, we're home.“
“Hmmm?” I stretched as my mind tried to engage.
“Lets get you inside, its school tomorrow.”
School. Urgh! That's right I'm in America. It wasn't just a dream then, well maybe some of it was but that sure looks like Miss Bell to me.
“Come on sleepy head,” Miss Bell released my seat belt and helped me out of her car.
I was pretty knackered, its not like I did much today but its been a fairly busy weekend and I suppose it just caught up. I stripped down to bra and pants and dived into bed, I shivered under the cold sheet for a minute or two before I finally succumbed to the land of nod.
“You got everything?”
“Well I don't suppose it would matter too much, we can easily get anything you forgot back to you.”
When I arrived for breakfast Miss Bell sent me back to dress ‘more girly', why I asked, to look more like Mad she says. If I look much more like my cousin I'll be having babies! So anyway I put on a skirt and guess what? I just looked outside and it's started to snow. I hope Mad wears trousers to school this morning.
Jessica, Miss Bell that is, plonked a load of her school stuff in my arms and we went out into the already settling snow.
“I hope this doesn't keep up.”
I think I said before, I actually like snow but I was hoping to get a quick blast on the GT this afternoon so I grunted my agreement.
The drive to Augusta High was interesting, snow flurries alternated with clear blue skies, all the time the Jetta's heater did its level best to keep us at least semi warm! I still find it strange seeing school kids driving and some have got really nice cars too. I saw Sandy's old Volvo swing into the car park, okay so some are pretty cruddy but all the same. Not that I'm saying Sandy's car is cruddy – oh you know what I mean.
Miss B locked the car and we headed towards the entrance, a sudden flurry getting up my skirt reminding me of the last time I was so attired in the snow. Brrrr! Usually a lot of kids hang about outside until the first bell but pretty much everyone was going straight in this morning. Inside it was bedlam , all the music, conversation and monkeying around that takes place outside was just transferred inside. The result? One god-awful din.
“You okay then?” Miss Bell asked.
She grabbed my arm and steered me out of the maelstrom to a quieter corner.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes thanks Miss”
“I'll see you later then.”
She gave my shoulder a squeeze and disappeared into the mob. The first of the school buses pulled up outside and it was with some relief that I spotted some familiar faces getting off.
Talk about heart attack!
“Are you okay Mad? You look a bit pale.”
“You surprised me, I was watching for the others.”
“Soz. So is he a good kisser then?”
“The new man in your life.” Rhod grinned.
“There isn't one.” I mumbled.
“Sand said you were at the diner with some other kids yesterday and one in particular.”
Flippin' blabbermouth Sandy.
“I er did go to the diner but I wasn't with anyone. Not really.” Well I wasn't!
“Hey guys,” Em called over my shoulder, “Mad's got a new boyfriend!”
Damn! I missed them coming in.
“Woo, who is it Mad?” Brit gushed.
“No one, we just went to the diner.”
“Must be a cute no one to make you blush like that.” Brit went on.
I tried to make ‘save me' eyes to Mad who took an age to come to my rescue.
“I need to talk with Mad before class, in private like.”
“See you there then, and find out about this hunk of Mad's.” Brit stated as a parting shot.
“Yeah, see ya later, I've just seen Sab.” Em gushed.
“Laters” Mad mentioned to the departing backs. “Come on you, we've just got time to swap before home room.”
Mad dragged me into the toilets and pretty much threw me into the first empty cubicle we came to.
“Quick, we've only got a couple of minutes and I need to do your hair. You can fill me in later.”
Thanks Mad, she had her hair in twin ponytails, which means I'll have to have mine like that, at least for a while. Ever tried changing in a toilet cubicle? Now do it with two in that little space, not something I'd volunteer for. But needs must, we did the major costume change in moments, I was disappointed to realise that Mad had gone for a skirt this morning too. The homeroom bell sounded as Mad finished my hair and we joined the latecomers in the hallway heading to class.
I got there just as Miss Jackson was finishing the register.
“Ah, Miss Bond, glad you could join us.”
“Er sorry Miss,” I had to think on my feet here, “I er had to make a bathroom stop, you know?” I'd seen that work for some of the other girls, what had I to lose?
She gave me an appraising look, “well don't make a habit of it, take your seat.”
Short as it was, the conversation was readily picked up by the rowdier element of the class. I picked my way towards Brit and my seat to shouts of ‘Gaby forgot her period' ‘have you got the right period girl?' and more of similar ilk. I was blushing impressively by the time I got to Britney. For her part, Brit just raised her eyebrows.
I breathed a silent sigh of relief, at least I was me again, well Gaby and not Mad at any rate. It was pretty cool, fooling everyone like that, well everyone but Jessica Bell, Rhod certainly hadn't twigged and, I glanced at the girl beside me, Brit had missed our little deception too.
The start of our third week as students of Augusta High quickly settled into the normal routine, I was just thankful that we had swapped back before any classes. It could have been quite embarrassing for both of us as Mad and I don't share the same level of academic excellence in all subjects, especially Math's! At lunch I found myself lamenting the still falling snow, another day without turning a pedal I really fancied a rerun of last Wednesdays ride, see if I could improve my time. Even if it stopped snowing now I doubted it would clear before I could get out.
It wasn't until gym class that I got a chance to talk alone with Mad.
“So what did you get up to yesterday?” Mad asked as we shared our warm-up.
“Not much, church in the morning, the diner after lunch then we went to Miss B's ‘rents for dinner.”
“Less talking!” Miss Cowlishaw's voice carried across the hall.
“So what was Rhod on about?” Mad whispered between stretches.
“The boyfriend?” she prompted.
“Oh that. I was sort of at the diner with Sam.”
“On a date?”
“Well not as such, he invited me after church, there were some other kids there too.”
I couldn't decipher Mad's look, except she didn't look particularly put out, in fact more like the reverse. There wasn't much news going the other direction, Mum of course had seen straight through the deception when Mad as me spoke to her and was apparently quite amused by the whole thing, I'm just glad that I'll get to talk with her tonight. We didn't get much more chance to talk as our cheer practice was taking on a more intense, purposeful and I guess, for me at least, fulfilling dynamic.
Our tormentors drilled us unmercifully and despite the growing fatigue we were improving, even I could see that. Miss Bell was at it with her video camera again and after we finished we had an impromptu film show.
“…So you guys, well done, we have ten days before the East Coast Cheer & Dance Champs over at GMU, I'm sure you'll knock their socks off.” Miss B concluded.
I dunno about that but you could see the improvement in the videos – and we thought we were already okay! Not great maybe but okay.
“Hey Gab!” Em's voice carried across the foyer from where she, he, whatever was stood with Ally and Sandy.
“Wassup?” I slung my book bag on my shoulder and headed over.
“Never guess what?” Ally enthused.
“What?” I tried to sound enthusiastic.
“Sandy's Mum has agreed to let us have a proper sleepover at the weekend!” Em filled in.
“Isn't that cool?” Ally burbled.
“Come on Gab, it won't be like Anna's.” Em stated.
“Anna's?” Sandy queried.
“Gab and Jules got into major doggy doo after the last sleepover they went to.” Ally told our would be host.
“Why?” a slightly worried Sandy asked.
“Gab got really drunk”
“Really drunk?” an even more worried Sandy repeated Ally's last words.
“Wish I'd been there” Em stated.
“But how could you get drunk, you're only thirteen?”
I could've done without this! What is it with girls and sleepovers?
“Don't worry Sand, she doesn't make a habit of it.” Em put in.
“I er, don't know whether I can come anyway,” I mentioned, “I need to ask Mrs Walters.”
“Well your sister's invited too.” Sandy told me.
“Sugar! Come on Em, I said I'd collect Kevin from the child minder on the way home.”
“See's ya later!” Em grinned as they departed.
“Bye Rh-Em” I said to their departing backs.
“So, you gonna go?” Ally asked.
“Go?” Mad and Bernie chorused as they joined us.
“Yeah, to Sandy's sleepover.”
“You kidding? Try stopping me.” Bern enthused.
“Ye---ah!” Mad confirmed.
“Gab?” Al pressed.
A horn tooted outside and I looked out to see Mrs W's old Subaru waiting.
“I gotta go, see you guys tomorrow”
“Laters” Bern called.
“Bye Gab” Ally added.
The snow had stopped mid afternoon but what had settled was still about, the freezing temperature that allowed that was more than enough to send shivers up my skirt on the short walk to my ride.
“You okay Gaby?”
“A bit cold.”
“You got everything you need?”
“I think so.”
“Well don't be shy to ask if you need more towels or anything.”
“Er sure, thanks.” What's that all about?
“So your cheering going okay?”
“I used to enjoy it, mind you it wasn't so competitive then and some of the outfits you girls wear these days.”
I realised that we weren't headed back into Grottoes.
“Where are we going?”
“Your sister said you'd forget, over to my parents, its Granny Williams birthday, the others have gone on ahead with Mr Walters.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now.” No I didn't, you could have said Mad. “what about Mums call?”
“Calm down, I put the phone on divert so the call will come directly through to Franklin so you won't miss her.”
I realised I was hardly dressed for a family gathering either.
“Was I meant to change?”
“Juliette has taken your party dress with her, you can shower and change at Moms. You are a worry Gaby Bond!”
“Don't sweat it.”
The drive to Franklin took just over an hour, it was pitch black by the time we arrived and pulled in behind Mr W's Caprice. The Williams house was the typical clapboard affair that makes up ninety percent of Virginia homes, someone must've been watching for us, as the front door was open before we reached it.
“Alice! And this must be Gaby” a woman I guessed was Brits Gran gushed, enfolding first her daughter then me in a hug. “Lets get you inside, it's cold enough to freeze the Potomac out here!”
I can agree it was cold and whatever a Potomac is I can believe it would freeze! Inside the rest of the family were all in evidence plus a few more bods who I guess were other bits of the Williams clan.
“Gabeee! We thought you'd got lost.” Brit squealed as she reached me.
“I um, need to change and stuff.”
“You do pong a bit!”
“Thanks.” I stated with the start of a pout.
“Come on then, Jules brought your dress and stuff, you can shower in the guest room some of the other Rels will be a bit late but I know my cousins are dying to meet you!”
Brit left me in the guest room where I found a hanger with my ‘party' dress on it and a bag with fresh underwear and stuff. I let out a big sigh; I really could do without all this girly dressing up. I looked at the dress, when I said it looked cute when I saw it in the shop I most definitely didn't reckon on wearing it! From the fitted bodice to the flared skirt it screamed girl, I mean any dress would do that but this goes that extra mile!
I shook my head in disgust and peeled off my school clothes, which I admit did pong a bit. I'm a bit of a narcissistic individual that led me to stand in front of the full-length mirror inspecting my bod. I reckon that I look pretty buff; I checked out my flat stomach, no fat there, my arms and legs are still hairless and looking pretty toned. It was the other bits that were less inspirational. My boy bits, even freed as they are at the moment, are not exactly impressive, I pushed them back between my legs, I hardly need the gaff! Worse though was my chest. The falsies stuck there are just so real to look at, I'll have to take them off one night this week for ‘maintenance', I struggled to remember what I look like without them.
The sounds of new arrivals downstairs brought me back to the present and with another deep sigh I headed into the en suite.
The chatter and noise in the room died and much to my embarrassment it was apparently due to me.
“Gab-ee!” Brit exclaimed.
I blushed profusely, now rooted in the doorway.
A kindly voice broke my rabbit trance.
“Well young lady, you sure know how to make an entrance! Come on in and meet the rest of the family.” I let myself be guided by, I realised, Granny Williams, into the family room where conversation was just restarting after my arrival. “Alice said you were a little heartbreaker and she wasn't wrong.”
After that I just sorta zoned out. Mrs Williams, Brit's Gran that is, introduced me round her family before Brit took over and a new round of intro's with her cousins followed. How come I attract so much attention? The other girls, I mean the girls were all dressed up and compared to one or two at least I felt very under dressed, no not undressed, oh you know what I mean. But the male members of the congregation seemed to be paying me far too much attention. Most of the names went in one ear and out the other, what does it matter, I'll never see them again after tonight will I?
“Gaby? Juliette? Your Mom” Mrs W interrupted Brits audience and it was with some relief that I followed her through to the hallway where the phone was waiting.
“Who is that? It sounds like my daughter but I don't think it can be.”
“Hiya kiddo. Having a good time?”
“We're at Brit's Gran's”
“Mrs Walters said, so you having fun?”
“Sort of. I'm wearing a ridiculous dress that shows my boobs off and everyone keeps looking at me.”
“How are you Mum?”
“Thought you'd never ask. Better thanks Drew, and better for talking to you. The Docs think that I will be back up and about in a week or so, we'll have to see.”
“I miss you Mum.”
“I know. You'll be back before you know it. Maddy said you'd been to a bike factory?”
“Yeah it was well cool. Its not exactly a bike factory, Diane just makes frames, really good titanium ones, they cost a fortune.”
“I bet.” Mum agreed.
They have all these computers and stuff, I wouldn't mind doing that some day.”
“Well if the job as an actress falls through you'll have to ask this Diane for a job.”
“Yeah, oh Mu-um!”
“Jules is here now.” I was being prodded by my sister.
“Okay kiddo, take care, talk tomorrow?”
“Yeah! Love you Mum.”
“Love you son and your Gran sends her best. Put your sister on.”
I handed Jules the receiver and sat on the stair behind her.
I suppose as these things go, the Granny Williams party went pretty well. Being the only non family at the do, well with Jules, was a bit strange, everyone else knew each other and whilst they were all friendly enough it was like finding a piece of a puzzle missing. For the second night in a row I didn't get to bed much before midnight but at least tonight I was in ‘my' bed.
And I forgot all about asking about the sleepover thing at Sandy's, I suppose I could just ‘forget' it all together but someone's bound to dob me in. in the morning then. My eyes closed to the rhythmic snoring of my sister in the bed across the room, have to tell her not to sleep on her back. I smiled to myself and passed into the land of nod.
Maddy Bell 31.12.05 © 2005
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