“Drew!” Mad's voice yelled above the din.
I made my way over.
“Oh Drew,” she grabbed me hard and started to cry.
“What's the matter?”
“It's Ally” she started to blub even harder.
“What about Ally?” I managed to steer my cousin to a bench away from the crowd outside Starbucks .
“She, she's been shot!”
“Is she okay? Where are the others?”
“They went with her.”
Mad was starting to get a bit hysterical.
“You're not wearing that to the funeral!” Juliette stated.
“Well for starters you'll freeze to death and secondly it's not very dignified.”
“But the others are wearing theirs”
“I can't see Aunt Carol letting Mad go like that, or Sylv for that matter.”
I must admit that she had a point with the weather but we had all agreed about our Foresters uniforms.
“Tell you, what I'll ring Miss C, you could wear those frocks you wore in the competition.”
To tell the truth I don't know what I would've done without Jules these last few weeks since Ally was shot. It seems to‘ve flown by until today, the funeral is this afternoon and half of Warsop will likely be there. I've had to be strong for the others, they actually saw it happen, mind you I've heard their accounts often enough to feel like I was there instead of buying trainers. It had been Mad's idea to wear our cheer outfits, which the rest of us agreed to do, but I think Jules might be right; the long dresses will be more respectful. Especially as her mum asked us to be at the head of the cortege with her and Mr. Lacey.
“Okay that's sorted, she's bringing them over to Mad's now, Bernie and Em will meet us there.”
Jules was already dressed in a black suit, stockings and even a hat with a veil so I scurried back to my room to change into something more practical for the walk to the Peters.
“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”
We finished Ally's favourite hymn and stood up while her coffin was carried out, following the Lacey's at a discreet distance. I was having a job not to burst into tears, Em had hardly stopped all day and even Bernie was red eyed. The church was rammed full and a lot of people had stood in the cold outside listening over the PA system. We walked slowly to the grave cut overlooking The Carrs and waited for the other mourners to congregate.
“Not now Jules” I mumbled under my breath.
She shook my arm, “Drew!”
“What?” I'd lost track of what was happening due to her interjection.
“Do you want chicken or beef?”
What a stupid question, “whatever.”
I heard her mumble to someone else and tried to concentrate on what was happening. Rhod, Paul, Clive and Bernie were lowering the white coffin into the grave.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
“Whoa Drew, get a grip!” Jules humphed.
“But they,” I opened my eyes, “what?”
“You've been asleep for two hours Drew” Mad mentioned from the other side of what I now realised was my seat on the plane flying us home.
“I ordered you beef for dinner.” Jules mentioned.
“Ally?” now I was confused.
“Hey Bern, sleeping beauty's woken up” Ally's voice drifted over the seat back.
“Bout time” Ms Rose supplied.
“But you got shot” my confused brain got out.
“You'd think someone'd died looking at you.”
“He's been dreaming” Mad announced poking my arm gleefully.
What did happen at Fair Oaks Mall I hear you ask. Well I'll tell you the story as far as I know; you'll have to ask the girls if you want to know more.
“You lot go on I'll meet you in Starbucks .”
“Okay” and off they all went leaving me alone.
The girls headed into H&M and after an initial trawl failed to find anything that needed closer examination they returned to the Mall and started drifting towards Starbucks. I'm still not entirely clear what happened next but according to Mad there was a lot of screaming and shouting, people ran every which way and next thing Ally is screaming that she was bleeding. From start to finish was like maybe a minute tops.
When I arrived Ally, Mad and Rhod had just departed with the paramedics leaving Mad to find Miss C and Mr P.
It certainly put a dampener on our last night stateside. Miss C had to go to the hospital while Mr Pilling took the rest of us back to the hotel. Of course nobody knew what was happening, how Ally was or anything so we all congregated in a worried knot in the lounge area. Mr P was trying to get us to go and eat when Mad let out a scream.
“Careful.” Miss C instructed as we all rushed over.
Ally was sporting a sling and a pale complexion and the others looked very tired, on reflection we all probably looked as bad.
Apparently, or so Ally told us, it could've been worse, well dur. The bullet had managed to go clear through her arm somehow missing bones and major blood vessels - just. A few millimetres to one side and it would have smashed her upper arm or even hit her body. It looked a lot worse than it was with blood everywhere but Bern had got a tourniquet on and although the hospital cleaned the wound up and stitched the muscle, a lot of the time at the hospital had been spent sorting out paperwork.
From what the police had said, Ally was really unlucky. Apparently the gunman was an aggrieved ex employee at one of the stores at the mall. There had been an argument at which point she had started waving the gun about, she made a run for it when someone tried to grab her which is when all the screaming started. Mall security gave chase and it was as she was tackled that the gun went off, the bullet randomly picking a target - Ally.
Which brings us back to today. The hotel bus carried us to Dulles International right after an early breakfast and we were soon into the three hours of queuing and waiting before our flight was ready to board. This time we were all allocated a block of seats together and our eleven ten departure was only fifteen minutes late getting into the air. We had barely cleared the ground before I was asleep, an exhausted sleep prone to dreams.
“ So what are you looking forward to Drew?” Rhod asked.
In truth I didn't know what to answer. Mum of course – and Dad, my own bed – well pretty much just home I suppose. There was lots of stuff that I sort of missed, Neighbours, chips from Hygenic Fisheries, riding out to Retford, Sainsbury's – well all sorts of stuff, it has been six weeks after all.
“School” I surprised myself with that reply.
“School?” Bern queried.
“Well not school as such but people at school” I rationalised.
“Elizabeth Jenner” Ally taunted.
“Course not” I flushed brightly.
Well maybe I allowed to myself, she is pretty hot, pity she's in the lower sixth and going out with Clive's cousin Jezza.
“Who then?” Mad challenged.
“I dunno. Teachers and stuff.”
The conversation moved on and I fell back to my own thoughts. It has been quite a trip hasn't it? I suppose for me last weekend was the high point down in Atlanta, riding with Lance, seeing Mum and Dad, getting on telly and everything, yep that was the best. Mind you when we won the cheer competition was pretty cool too, the look on some of the Yanks faces, kewl! It's a good job Ally didn't get herself shot before that. That has to be the low point, I daren't think how bad it could've been, I'll have to email Brit when I get home and tell her.
We've done so much, Dad was quite jealous when I told him some of the places we'd been to last week. And of course there are all the people we, I've met, Erin, Diane, Sandy, Derek, even Hooch come to think of it. It's going to be a bit strange at school with Mr Pilling and Miss C, we sort of know them better than any of the other teachers, we've done stuff together, stuff teachers and pupils don't normally share like the party on Friday night at the Chinese restaurant. And in just a few hours all that we've shared comes to an end.
I glanced at my sister grinning to herself as she listened to her Walkman; I bet she'll be pleased to see Mum. I felt a twinge of guilt over last weekend, but it was just a coincidence Mum and Dad were there, wasn't it? Then there was Maddy. She seems happy enough but I can't help thinking that things have changed between us somehow. There was that business with Sam, we got him back good and proper didn't we, I mean she had a hairy fit over that but I didn't do anything, I guess I'll have to wait and see on that one.
I wonder if the others think I've changed at all? I twiddled my earring idly, nah I've not changed, not really.
“Drew!” Mad hissed.
“We are starting our approach, you need to buckle up please miss.” The hostess repeated.
Back in England already, I tried to see out of the window past Maddy but it was just dark outside of course.
The first thing that hit me when we emerged into the bright lights of Manchester Ringway Airport were the voices. It wasn't that they were English for the most part rather they weren't American, it felt really strange, like we were in a foreign country. Being close on eleven o'clock there weren't that many people about and the people off of our flight made up a large percentage of those in the terminal. We were all a bit weary, I got ‘volunteered' to push the luggage trolley with everyone's bags, well the gangs and I was getting a bit tetchy.
“Any chance of a hand here?” I gasped as I struggled up the incline to the pickup area.
“I would, you know” Ally winced as she waved her injured arm.
No one else exactly leapt to help; instead they just trudged on with me falling ever further behind. With a “whaaa !” I lost the fight with the slope and ended up in a tangle of trolley and bags back at the foot of the climb.
“You okay miss?”
“I er think so,” I allowed getting back to my feet.
“Lets get these back on for you,” the guy suggested.
He obviously worked at the airport as he had a hard hat and one of those fluorescent jackets on.
“There we go,” he announced, “tell you what, I'll hook the trolley up and take you up.”
I was tired enough to accept readily and climbed gratefully onto his electric cart.
“Hang on lass.”
We took off and quickly made the slope.
“Where are you headed?”
“We're getting a coach home.”
“In that case I might as well take you round to the pickup area, I'm headed that way anyway.”
“Been anywhere nice?”
“America on a school exchange.”
“Wow, the furthest we ever got was Morecambe on a school trip” he chuckled.
We zipped past the gang and overtook everyone else before we arrived at the collection zone.
“There we go Drew, looks like your coach now.”
I checked outside and sure enough there was one of Johnson's coaches just pulling up in the well-lit collection zone.
“Have a good ride home” Dez waved cheerfully as he pulled away.
The others weren't long in joining me.
“How'd you manage that?” Mad demanded.
“Skill.” I stated.
“Okay people.” Mr. Pilling claimed our attention. “The coach is here, so go straight out, we don't want to be too late getting home.
We were quickly loaded and we were soon on our way home, at least this bus was more comfortable than George's yellow schoolbus. We were still going round Manchester when in quick succession we all started to spread out, there was hardly a shortage of space. I watched the late night traffic for a bit but when we left the motorway to cross the Pennine's I was soon in dreamland.
“And congratulations to the members of our cheer squad who did so well on the exchange trip to the US. Come on girls, come up so everyone can see you.” Mr. Wood instructed.
The girls happily got up and made there way forward.
“Come on Gaby, you too” Mr. W admonished, it seemed like every eye in the hall swiveled towards me as I reluctantly got up to join the others. Why does he have to do this every Monday? It is so embarrassing.
I joined the others, Ally, Bern, Em and Mad on the stage and somehow found myself holding a set of Poms.
“Okay girls, from twenty two,” Miss C instructed, “one and two and… now!”
We proceeded to do the second part of the routine in front of our peers much to the apparent delight of a loudly vocal segment of the school populace. After something of an ovation I proudly strutted back to the floor and carefully picked my way back to my seat where my bf Josh was waiting with Kristen and the other bike babes, Cat and Lisa.
“Heya Gaby, that was like uber excellent” Lisa noted.
“You wanna like make out,” Josh drawled.
“Sure handsome” I agreed sitting on his…
“Ooh!” I landed with a thump.
“Sorry folks, sheep,” the driver called back.
I wasn't the only one to end up on the floor by the sound of things behind me. Fully awake now I stared out of the window at the darkness beyond, we must be somewhere over the Woodhead I guess. Half twelve, I guess we'll be back in Warsop about one thirty. My guess to our location was confirmed when we reached the Sheffield turn a few minutes later. Even at this time of night the road was well busy and there was an accident on the Stocksbridge bypass that held us up for a few minutes.
The rest of the way, down the motorway past Sheffield and Meadowhall then off at Junction 30 to cut across the last few miles to Warsop. The last couple of twisty miles before Cuckney seemed to wake most people, as there was suddenly a lot of activity.
“Everyone” Miss C started, “when we get to the school, can you please get your bags from Colin our driver before you find your parents, I'm sure he'd like to see his bed tonight too. In case we don't get a chance to speak with you again we both that is Mr. Pilling and myself want to say that we've enjoyed the trip, you have done yourselves and the school proud. So we'll see you all back in school after half term, thank you.”
There were a few thank you's before someone loudly started.
“Three cheers for Miss C and Mr. P, hip hip.”
The dim lights of Meden appeared and in moments we were pulling into the school car park where our parents were waiting. I spotted Dad with Mad's olds, I guess Mum must be too tired to come, I checked my watch, twenty past one, and it is pretty late. It was still good to see even just Dad and there was no doubt that Jules was well pleased to see him. Our transport departed and it was only after I got in the car that I realised there was something different.
“Where's the Passat?”
“Gone, we needed something more reliable and Frank was selling his wife's old car so I bought it.”
“This seats hot” Jules exclaimed.
“Heated seats” Dad grinned.
“We can go for a drive tomorrow if you want.”
“I just want ta sleep” Jules yawned. “Mum in bed?”
“No she's waiting indoors” Dad replied as he swung onto our drive.
Maddy Bell 11.07.06 © 2006
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