The car had barely stopped before Jules was out of the door and heading for the house.
“Jules!” Dad called after her.
But there was no stopping or even slowing her down, it's a good job the door was already open because I think she would've gone straight through it anyway!
“Go on in Drew, I'll fetch your bags in”
“Thanks Dad.” I didn't need a second invite to join my sister.
To say it was an emotional reunion would be understating things by a factor of ten at least. Even though I saw Mum just a week ago, Jules hadn't seen her for the full six weeks so I let her have first dibs, not that I had much choice in the matter.
The smell of a fry-up roused me from my slumber and at first I felt more than a bit disorientated. I haven't slept on my own for six weeks so waking up to the comparative silence of my own room was a little weird. Wintry sunlight tried to penetrate the curtains and I could make out the radio downstairs. Its strange how you get used to things, in just six short weeks I'd forgotten about the gurgle that the water tank makes when the shower is in use and how the pesky Yorkie over the road always yaps until Mr Brewster gets home with the paper. I guess you tend to tune a lot of stuff out. I lay there for a while pretty much just staring at the ceiling.
I was roused by Mum's voice, “Drew? You getting up? Your Dad's making a fry-up.”
I flailed my arm uselessly at the side of the bed for about a minute to find my bra before I remembered I didn't require one. It's amazing how these things get to be second nature so quickly, in truth, as I slipped a t shirt on and dragged my jeans up my legs I felt kind of undressed. I've got so used to wearing a bra or camisole I sort of missed not wearing that symbol of femaleness. My chest was still quite red and puffy even four days after Jules helped me take the breast forms off, everything seemed to irritate my chest, I'll ask Mum if she has anything to make it more comfortable later.
I opened the curtains, “Warsop”, I sighed looking out into the grey morning view across the valley towards the town. After the last few weeks it seemed so ‘ordinary'. I suppose we all look at these things with a rosy tint, the scenery might be different but Warsop and Grottoes really are similar in so many ways. Yep, the trip was ace but it was good to be home.
Dad's fry-ups are legendary; it's not that he's a great cook but rather because you get so much stuff on your plate and this morning was no different. Eggs – fried and scrambled, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, black pudding and fried bread – enough to give you a heart attack just looking at it! Well it's not like he does it too often and Mum always says that a treat now and then never did any harm. All four of us cleared our plates despite the slightly crispy bacon; the runny scrambled egg and burnt toast that supplemented the main meal.
“Well I'm afraid I have to go into work.” Dad stated as Chris Moyles announced the nine thirty news.
“Do you mind if I have the car Dave?” Mum asked.
“Demoted to the camper already” Dad rolled his eyes, “'course not, just don't go tiring yourself out Hun.”
“No doctor” Mum grinned.
“Well I'll see you all later, and you two don't let your mother do too much okay.”
Our opposing replies both meant the same thing.
“So what are you two up to today?” Mum enquired.
“I'm going over to see Charlie and Anna.” Jules enthused, “we haven't talked in like forever.”
I thought she was laying the American bit on a bit heavy.
“Dunno, I might go for a ride later I suppose.”
“Well before either of you get too distracted you can unpack and get your washing in the machine.”
“Muu-uum” Jules groaned.
“If you think you are leaving six weeks of washing to fester in your case young lady you have another think coming.”
“We did do washing while we were in Grottoes.”
“You must still have dirty stuff, you can go out after you've unpacked.”
It was an unbeatable argument.
“Yes Mum.” we both allowed.
Of course there was a significant increase in my case's contents from when I left home. Gift's, souvenirs but mostly Gaby stuff. Stuff that I didn't want, had no interest in keeping, but nevertheless felt attached to like my favourite skirt and jumper. What am I saying? But it's true. I don't feel any different but the last six weeks as Gaby has been fun and I've got favourite Gaby clothing and it doesn't seem weird. I don't know really how that feels.
It was a bit after eleven when I returned to the kitchen with my dirty washing, mind you that did include having a shower.
“Thought you'd died up there,” Mum grinned, “your sister has already put her stuff on so just put yours in the wash basket.”
I dumped everything in my arms in the aforesaid laundry basket and wandered into the garage.
“You still fancy a ride?” Mum's voice queried from the kitchen.
“I've not ridden for nearly a week, I really ought to.”
“Well go and get yourself ready and I'll come with you.”
“I thought you wanted to go somewhere?”
“I'll go after the ride, it's not like I've got a busy schedule.” She noted.
Fifteen minutes later the pair of us set off towards Ollerton resplendent in our matching Apollinaris kit. Although she looks a bit paler than usual Mum doesn't really look ill, you know sort of like she has a cold or something instead of having come through cancer. As we pootled along in silence I reflected that not everyone is so lucky, six weeks ago I never thought I'd see Mum again, let alone be riding with her.
“So kiddo, good to be home?”
“Er yes. I'm glad it's half term though, it would be too weird to go straight back to school.”
“I know what you mean. I felt like that after the big tours last year, it's always odd settling back into your routine. So did you enjoy Washington?”
Washington, it seemed so long ago.
“You heard about Ally?”
The news of the shooting obviously hadn't made it to our household yet then. Last night we were just too excited to be home and to be honest I never thought about it. It wasn't something I wanted to keep going over, the incident frightened all of us and the retelling, even to Mum, brought those recent feelings back.
“We'll stop for a cuppa in Retford eh?” Mum suggested.
I realised that it was just an excuse to rest, we hadn't exactly been tearing up the tarmac and Mum was looking like she'd just ridden a hundred miles not fifteen.
“You want to come this afternoon?”
“I'm meeting Caro for a chat, that's why I wanted the car today.”
I'd really like to see Caro; it seems like forever since Dad took us up.
“I'd just get in the way, you go on your own.”
“I'm sure she'd like to see you, you can tell her all about Atlanta and I could do with a bit of company for the drive.”
“If you're sure?”
“That's settled then, finish up and we might just miss that rain they forecast.”
The ride home was a bit more cheerful and Mum seemed to have found her second breath as we stepped the pace up a bit for the last couple of miles. It seems really strange with me being stronger than Mum, it's always been the other way around but she was grinning when we got home.
“Get yourself showered and changed and put on something smart.”
The routine is so ingrained that it usually only takes ten minutes and today was no exception. My problem came when I went to get dressed. After my time as Gaby I found myself pulling out Gab stuff before I realised what I was doing. I looked at the stuff on my bed, the girls would call it cute and as Gaby I was / am comfortable in it. But I'm not Gaby anymore am I? I'm not a girl and however you look at it a skirt is not boy's clothing, except it does belong to me. Hmm, maybe I need to sort of wean myself back into my boy's stuff, get used to boys underwear and stuff again? That's it; maybe I'm like those drug addicts but with clothes.
I didn't want to go out as Gaby, I'm Drew again now after all. After a little debate I swapped the skirt for jeans, the bra for a camisole and the pink jumper for a t-shirt and AHS sweatshirt. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail using a plain elastic and debated taking my earrings out, I'll have to for school but I've got used to having them in. I checked in the mirror, with no makeup on I'm definitely Drew.
“There you are, grab your coat kiddo, we need to get off.”
I followed her out and after locking up took in the new car for the first time, well properly.
“Get in then, it's only a car.”
I climbed into the passenger seat and pulled the safety belt out.
“Bit nicer than the Passat eh?” Mum grinned.
Although it's not brand new, its 51 registered, you wouldn't know it. It is pristine; I think it only got driven to the shops before! Within a couple of minutes my seat started to warm up, pre warned I didn't comment, this will be so cool going to races in this. We got onto the motorway and when I looked over we were doing slightly more than the limit!
“Oops, I'm so used to the Mercedes back home.”
She eased down and I settled in for the ride.
“You look nice.” Mum noted. “New shoes?”
Of course they're new.
“I got them in Harrisonburg.”
I looked at my feet, these shoes are really comfy and I like the way the ankle strap looks, hmm maybe I should've worn a different colour pair of tights, I've got those plum ones that look good.
“There's a lot of traffic today.”
“Yeah.” I agreed absently.
“I wanted to have a chat with you kiddo.”
We joined the queue of almost stationary traffic.
“Well you remember in Atlanta George offered your Dad a job?”
“He's gonna do it?”
“We haven't made a decision yet, we thought we'd include you and your sister in deciding as there are implications.”
“I think it's well cool, Dad's an ace spanner and I think he enjoys all the travelling to races and that.”
“It's not quite as straight forward as that though Drew.” Mum hesitated, “we'd probably have to move to Germany and we have to consider schooling for you girls and I know your Dad is concerned about job security. He's been working for Frank for a long time, the house is paid for and it'll be a huge wrench to leave all that.”
From the way she was talking they had made a decision and were really just asking us kids.
“So what do you think? We'd find a house near the Pinger's so you'd be near to Kat, you'd see more of your ole Mum too.”
“What about school and stuff? Me an' Jules don't speak much German and Jules is halfway through her GCSE's.”
“There's an English school in Bonn you can both attend, the exams would be different but taught in English. Or at least for you we could have you go with Kat, you'll soon pick it up, look at me.”
I fiddled with my earring, ‘ move to Germany. How cool is that? Just wait until I tell the gang! ‘ Then it hit me, I'd be leaving the others here in Warsop including Mad. We can visit I suppose but I'll miss hanging out with them, Kat's okay but it's different with her. On the other hand I'll get to mix with all the pro riders and see loads of cool places. But the gang, we've been together for like ever, we all went to junior school together, we know each other inside out. To leave the others behind, that'll be difficult, worse than starting a new school – we've always done stuff like that together.
“You okay Drew?”
“Hmm? Yeah, just thinking.”
“So what do you think?”
I'm sure for Mum to be asking this now her and Dad have discussed this at length.
“If you kids really hate the idea it won't happen but it's a huge opportunity for all of us to have a fresh start, I know I cocked things up big style but, and your Dad agrees, this is a once in a lifetime chance for all of us. George has funding guaranteed for the next three years and even if I don't return to racing for the team he's got me a job lined up.”
This was the first time I've heard Mum say anything about not racing again and it's frightening. Since I can remember we've been going to races with Mum, not every week but often enough for me to become infatuated with bikes and racing. When she decided to do less teaching and have a concentrated go at racing two years ago I was over the moon. So much has happened since then, so much I never even dreamt about.
We were nearing Caro's place and I still didn't know my answer.
“Have a think this afternoon kiddo, we can talk on the way home okay?”
“Okay.” I agreed.
We pulled up outside Caro's little terrace and Mum pipped the horn.
“Hi kids.” Caro greeted as she slipped into the back seat moments later, “nice car Jen.”
“The other one was getting a bit unreliable.”
“Leather seats too.”
“It was Dave's boss's wife's. How are you?”
“Busy as usual, left here, and how was America young un?”
The tone of the afternoon was set; we ended up in Ilkley where we mooched around the shops then into a slightly twee tearoom where we indulged in soup, tea and a slice of gattux. Mum was really happy and we talked about all sorts of stuff before we dropped Caro off just after six.
Caro stood waving the Bond's off from her front step. ‘ We should do this more often, Jen seems to be in good humour. Drew seems to've enjoyed America; I can't believe what he did with Lance, only a Bond!' she shook her head as she closed the front door behind her. ‘I'm not so sure about this Apollinaris junior team thing, I'll need to have a chat at HQ about this tomorrow and how it affects his place on the development squad. We can't, and I won't let a precocious talent like Drew slip through our fingers – I'll have to speak to the Germans as well.
She continued to muse about her friend and the family in front of the box all evening. ‘That's something else that we have to try to work out. He might've been answering to Drew today but it was a girl that was with us, and a pretty one at that. That might be a problem with his career, there are others like him in sport, even in cycling but it might stifle his chances of getting to the top. Drew or is it Gaby? You really are gonna give me some headaches!'
I'm sure Mum was a bit tired but I was absolutely knackered, all the travelling having caught up in one go. I slipped off my shoes and curled my stockinged feet under me on the deliciously warm leather seat and fell asleep under the hypnotic effect of the streetlights on the M1. So the conversation about Germany was left on hold, at least for today.
“You want to go to Sheff tomorrow?” Mad enquired.
“Could do.” I allowed.
“The others are going.”
“Okay, I'll go.”
“We'll get the 9.30 bus then, I'll confirm with the others.”
“I thought you said they were coming anyhow?”
What's that mean? I never will get how girls think.
“Catch you in the morning.”
I put my mobile down on my bedside table and readjusted my nightdress. ‘ I'll talk to the gang about Germany tomorrow, see what they think. Dad must've talked to Jules about it before we got home, she didn't look too chuffed over dinner. Not long to my birthday, next week, maybe I can drop some hints tomorrow, maybe me and Rhod can slide off to the comic shop.' I absently scratched at my itchy chest, ‘bum have to see if Mum has anything for this itch in the morning.'
Maddy Bell 20.08.06 © 2006
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