“And don't forget you've got a doctors appointment at four thirty.”
Mum's voice trailed me out of the front door, geez I'm already running late! I'm glad I put my Air Rifts on rather than shoes like I was going to, I walk-trotted away from the house, it's a good job the bus isn't due until half past, I can just get to the stop.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Where the heck are you?”
“On my way, meet you at the stop.”
I cut the call before she started a tirade over the airwaves and stowed the phone, it was starting to drizzle and the forecast said it could turn to sleet later, great. I zipped my coat up, no point getting wet for the sake of it and hurried on. I arrived at the bus stop literally as the bus pulled up much to everyone's relief, I got even wetter waiting for the others to get on. The bus was steamed up despite barely being half full; we commandeered the seats at the back that were at least a little bit warmer due to the engine behind them.
“So?” Mad enquired.
“Dur, like why were you late?” Bern put in.
This was just too embarrassing.
“I um ladderedmytightsandhadtochangethem.” I managed to get out in one breath, hoping no one else could hear me.
“It's a bummer when you do that.” Ally agreed.
“I wouldn't 've bothered if I was wearing jeans.” Bern mentioned.
“Well I would.” Em stated. It was definitely Em with us; she was wearing opaques and a skirt despite the weather.
“How's the arm Al?” I decided to change the subject.
“It aches this morning, Mum says it's the damp weather.”
“So what are we gonna do guys?” Mad changed the subject again.
“Trawl the mall!” the others chorused, well I actually still wanted to hit the Space Centre.
The rest of the ride up to Worksop was spent catching up on what everyone did yesterday. Ally spent a good chunk of the day having her arm prodded and x-rayed so they can claim on the medical insurance. Bernie went to her Gran's; Mad went to Nottingham with her Mum. Rh-Em had hung around the salon all day helping Sylv who of course was horrified by the new hair colour. So after some argument Mfanwy now sported a toned down colour and a few layers that looked really good on her.
“What about you Gab?”
“I'll tell you on the other bus, we'll be getting off in a couple of minutes and there's loads.”
We were just crossing the ring road; the bus station really was just along the road.
The Sheffield bus was waiting and we were soon installed on the second vehicle.
“So?” Em picked up the inquisition.
The journey to Meadowhall went quickly as I recounted my day and told them about Germany.
“Your Mum's right Gab, it's a great opportunity.” Ally opined.
“I know but I don't want to move.”
“Couldn't your Dad work from here?” Bern asked.
“Not really, he'll be traveling with the team like Mum so that wouldn't work.”
“So what are you going to do?” Em followed up.
“I dunno.” And truly I still didn't.
Mad had been strangely quiet on the way over; maybe it was still some jetlag.
The weather in Sheffield was, if anything, worse than at home but that's the beauty of Mall's, it's all inside. We joined the throngs of shoppers, a large percentage of whom were, like us, kids off school for the week. We, or me at least, would have to catch the five past two bus to get home for the doctors appointment which given it was after eleven now left us with @ two and a half hours.
I never thought about it until we were in the main concourse but Ally seemed a bit edgy and so did Mad. It was only when Ally jumped at a loud noise that it clicked and memories of Saturday in Washington came back in a rush.
“Lets get a burger.” I suggested.
We headed for BK, it's quieter than Maccy D's, and we squeezed around a table with our lunch.
“You okay Al?”
“A bit shaky, I thought I could do this.”
“I told you it was too soon Maddy.” Bernie admonished my cousin.
“Sorry Al.” Mad mumbled, but I think she was a bit shaky too.
Em held Ally who was getting a bit teary.
“Sorry guys I've ruined everyone's day.”
“No you haven't,” Bernie reassured her. “We should've thought more.”
We picked at our food all thoughts of shopping gone. By mutual consent we headed straight to the bus station when we finished eating, the slow bus to Worksop was waiting so rather than wait best part of an hour for the express we got on. It was a much more subdued group who travelled back to Warsop than this morning.
“You're back earlier than I expected.” Mum stated when I walked into the kitchen.
“We sort of cut it short, Ally was really upset and I think Mad was a bit too.”
“Poor luv how is she?”
“Her arm's still in a sling, she said that was just to rest it though.”
“Well get yourself showered and changed, if you're quick we can pop into Carol's for a few minutes before we go to Dr Sanwari.”
“Okay.” I sighed.
I really wasn't looking forward to this but at least Mum was here this time.
“Uh huh…hmm...ahm.“ Dr Sanwari moved his hands over my chest, under my armpits before moving down to my groin. “Hmm. So how have you been feeling? Any more fainting?”
“Well I did sort of feint a couple of times in America.” I admitted sitting up again.
“You're still taking the medication?”
“Usually, I forget sometimes.”
“When you feinted?”
“Twice, the other time was a really hard ride.”
“Hmm. Any discomfort anywhere?”
“Not really, well apart from…it's nothing really.”
“Let me judge that, go on.”
“Well my chest has been itchy lately.”
He returned his cold hands to my torso.
“Sort of all over.”
“Okay Drew you can dress yourself.”
“Doctor?” Mum queried as the Doc sat himself back at his desk.
“Well Mrs. Bond I have to admit this is beyond my knowledge. I have a colleague who I'd like to refer Drew to, let me see if I can set up an appointment.”
“Thank you Doctor.”
I finished re-dressing and joined Mum in front of the Doctor's desk to wait nervously as he made the call. There was a brief conversation and exchange of information.
“Can you get to Queens on Friday morning?”
“Yes” Mum replied.
There was a further exchange before the phone call ended.
“Okay Dr. Johnson will see you at ten thirty at his clinic. He'd like to do some of those tests we talked about before; I'm confidant he'll get to the bottom of this. In the meantime I'll give you a repeat proscription for the tablets you've been taking and another for a cream to make your chest more comfortable.”
We stood up and Mum took the proffered paperwork and a card with the details of Friday's appointment.
“Make an appointment to come see me in a fortnight.”
“I remember when I was that age, drove me to distraction for months.” The girl in the chemist told us, “don't worry love, this stuff works miracles and you'll feel much better.”
“Thank you.” Mum took the bag and we left the shop.
“What was she on about in there Mum?”
Mum instantly coloured up.
“Um it's er…it's the stuff girls use when their um…thingies are starting to grow”
I was in a bit of a fugue as we walked home. Did this mean I was growing breasts? No it's just coincidence that it's the same cream girls use, I don't care as long as they stop itching. But another doctor wants to do some tests on me so what is wrong with me?
Dad was working late so the discussion about Germany was put on hold again which was just as well as I'm as far as ever from making a decision.
Wednesday, just a week until my fourteenth birthday. We hadn't planned anything for today apart from me and Mum going to the Peter's this afternoon so I decided to sort out my holiday photos. You'd think that over six weeks I'd have hundreds of pictures but there were fewer than I thought. I'm just glad they were digital, it would've cost a fortune to develop what I did have if they were on film.
It took nearly an hour to upload them all to the computer and then another hour discarding the out of focus and plain bad shots. I was pretty pleased with what remained, of course a lot were of the gang and our hosts but I had quite a few from our excursions and even some from Atlanta. Of me however there were just a couple of group shots which on reflection might be just as well.
I printed a few of the best ones out and then burnt them all onto a cd to take around to Mad's. I decided to get some dinner and arrived in the kitchen just as Mum came in from the garage.
“Ooh I ache.” She grumbled.
“I've just been on the rollers for an hour, didn't you hear me call up?”
I should've guessed from her just showered appearance really.
“Um no.” I admitted.
“What are you up to now?”
“Getting a sandwich, you want one?”
“Please. Have you seen your sister today?”
“Not since breakfast.”
“What do you want?”
“Erm cheese and Branston please.”
Mum went through to the lounge while I put the kettle on and made the sandwiches.
“Um, what do you think is wrong with me?”
“I don't know luv that's why we are going to see the doctor on Friday, hopefully he can tell us.”
“You don't think I'm turning into a girl?”
She hesitated slightly, “of course not kiddo, you can't just turn into a girl, it doesn't happen like that. Come on Drew you know that.”
“This is because of your sore chest and being Gaby in America isn't it?”
“Sort of.” I admitted.
“We've never really talked about you and Gaby have we?”
I shook my head.
“Maybe it's time we did then, in fact well past time. Come and sit with me.”
I joined Mum on the settee and snuggled up to her.
“Do you know what it's called when you dress up as Gaby?”
“Dunno, I never thought it had a name.”
Mum seemed to be gathering her thoughts.
“Okay, I'll try to explain this but I'm not exactly an expert. There are some boys, men in fact, that like to dress in women's clothes.”
“Like Dame Edna?”
“Sort of, well they don't want to be women necessarily just dress like them, there's a fancy name for that, transvestite which means cross dresser.”
“Is that what I am?”
“Well it's a possibility but there are other things too. Some people dress up because they believe for all they are worth that they are in the wrong body. They are called transsexuals and they often live all the time as the opposite sex and even get surgery.”
“Well technically that's what Rhod is, he wants to be Mfanwy all the time now doesn't he?”
“I never thought about it like that, I thought it was because of his Dad.”
“Well that's why he started pretending to be a girl but somewhere in his head was a switch and at some point it went from boy to girl.”
I sat silently for several minutes.
“There is another possibility.” Mum offered.
“Well I erm…”
“Some people have girl and boy bits.” She got out hugging me closer.
“So am I one of those transvestite things or a…thing?”
“I don't know Drew, I don't know. And don't go getting yourself into a state; we'll do whatever we need to sort you out, seeing Dr. Johnson is just the next step. Now come on cheer up, get yourself ready and we'll go over to see Carol and Maddy eh?”
I nodded and peeled myself away from Mum.
Upstairs I realised that I was in fact dressed pretty much as I would to be Gaby, was I really like Rhod? Was I growing boobs because I'm really a girl? I made a point to change into Drew jeans and underwear, my chest was a bit sore still despite the cream, but I was making a statement. I even took out my earrings before tying my hair back. Hmm, there, no sign of Gaby. I silently vowed to not wear any girl's stuff again, ever.
“So are you having a party then?”
“It is your birthday next week isn't it?”
“Er yeah, um I dunno, not really thought about it.”
“Get with it Drew, you've got to have a party.” Mad stated.
“I s'pose, I'll ask Mum later.”
To be honest I was still distracted in my thoughts by my earlier talk with Mum about you know what. What if I really am turning into a girl? But I don't want to be a girl! Well I suppose it's not all bad, these pants are really uncomfortable, maybe I should've worn at least a cami too, my nipples feel like they are red raw.
“So I said to Bernie, ‘what, the whole packet?' and she says ‘yeah, Dad never got a look in.' can you imagine Mrs. R doing that? Drew?”
“You've not been listening at all have you?”
“Something about Bernie's mum?”
She shook her head, “you really are out of it aren't you?”
“Drew Bond, you are so, so…annoying!”
Now what did I do?
“Let's finish this then.” She sighed turning back to the computer.
We were supposed to be putting together a sort of photo diary of our trip for the school website, and just like mine, a lot of Mad's pictures had the gang in them. Well you'd expect that but unlike mine a lot of hers had Gaby in, Gaby at the ski party, Gaby on that steam train, Gaby at the cheer contest, Gaby at AHS, Gaby at the diner. What there wasn't was Drew, well a few from our time in Washington but otherwise it was clear that it was Gaby in Grottoes not me, I mean me me, Drew. My mates at school would be expecting to see me in America not Gaby, I can get round some of it by saying I took the pictures (true) but it's impossible to not use any pictures with Gaby in, how do we explain her presence? I checked out another shot, no its worse than that, what about Rhod/Em too? Bum! Whilst it doesn't bother me too much, I don't want to be outed at school and I doubt if Rhod does either.
“Mad, how are we going to explain about Gaby and Mfanwy?”
“What do you mean?”
Now who's being thick?
“Like why are they in the photo's and not me and Rhod.”
It took a moment to sink in.
“I think we need to talk to Miss Cowlishaw about this, if anyone at school works out that I'm Gaby I will be so dead.”
I could see it now, the beatings, name-calling, I'd be oyster, no ostracized , and I'd have to leave school if I survived the day, the same for Rhod.
“Lets save this for now, we'll talk to her at cheer practice on Monday.”
We wrapped up our computer session and headed through to the lounge where Mum and Auntie C were talking.
“Okay kids? Finished your journal?” Aunt Carol enquired.
“Mostly.” Mad confirmed, “we have to see Miss Cowlishaw on Monday about some stuff for it.”
“You know it's my birthday next week?”
“How could I forget!”
“Well I was sort of just wondering, if like I could have a party? Just a small one for the gang and maybe a couple of others.”
Mum hesitated before answering, “I'm not sure that I'm up to that kiddo.”
“We'd be real good.” I half pleaded, the idea of a birthday party suddenly seemed important to me.
“I know Drew, maybe later eh?”
“How about if we had it here?” Aunt C suggested.
“I couldn't put you out like that Carol.” Mum stated.
“It'd be no trouble Jen, they're round here half the time anyway so a few more and a bowl of jelly won't be much effort.”
“Please Mum.” I almost pleaded.
“Well if you're sure Carol?”
“I wouldn't have offered would I?”
“Well okay then.”
“Thanks Mum.” I gave her a hug.
“Aren't you forgetting someone?” she admonished nodding towards my aunt.
I crossed to Mad's mum and gave her a hug too, “thanks Auntie.”
“It's okay Drew.”
“Um do we have to have sandwiches and stuff?”
“Yeah that's for little kids.” Mad mentioned.
“I guess not, what had you got in mind instead?”
“Could we have one of your spag bols?”
“Drew, Carols offered to hold the party, you are pushing your luck laddo.” Mum admonished.
“It's alright Jen, it'll actually be easier doing that. How about we do it properly and call it a dinner party eh?”
I nodded my agreement.
“Cool” Mad agreed.
“If it's gonna be a sit down we'll have to limit it to twelve of you, that okay?”
“Thanks Auntie Carol.” I gave her another hug.
“Well now that's settled, anyone for a cuppa?”
I was certainly in a slightly better mood when we left the Peters estate, even if my life is getting complicated at least I'll have a great party.
Dad was home when we got there, so was Jules so it looked like tonight the long delayed family meeting would happen. Dad confirmed my supposition over dinner, I still wasn't 100% sure of where I stood and now I had barely half an hour to decide.
“You've already decided so there's no point talking about it! Take the f$%*! Job if you want but don't expect me to like it.” Jules shouted before thumping up to her room.
“Jules!” Dad called after her.
“Leave her be Dave, I'll talk to her in a bit when she's a bit calmer.” Mum stated.
“What about you Drew, what do you think?”
What do I think? I sat in silence for a moment before answering.
“I think you should do it Dad.”
“Well I think that's a yes from both of you.” Dad sighed. “Maybe it's not such a good idea.”
“We discussed this Dave, she'll come round.” Mum cuddled up to Dad.
“I hope so Jen, I do hope so. I don't want to lose her because of this.”
“When do we go to Germany then Dad?”
“Not for a while yet kiddo. I have to hand my notice in to Frank and work my notice so it'll be a few weeks yet, Easter maybe.”
A few weeks.
“I'll go talk to Jules.” Mum stated getting up from the sofa.
“Are you really okay with this Drew?” Dad enquired.
“‘Course. It'll be great with you and Mum working together and if we can survive Augusta High a new school in Germany won't be that bad.” I joked.
“It'll be more difficult for your sister.”
“She'll be okay, she just likes making a fuss over stuff.”
“Maybe.” Dad allowed, “I hope you're right. So you're Mum says you are having a birthday dinner next week.”
“Yeah, Aunt Carol is gonna do spag bol, I'd best do some invitations.”
“I hope you thanked her.”
“Well I guess I should ring George, let him know the good news.”
I took that as dismissal and headed to my room.
So, we are moving to Germany. I enjoyed it when we went last year but what will it be like to live there? Will it be very different or just like Warsop in a foreign language? Hey cool, I can help find the new house and everything, it's got to have a big garage for the bikes. I wonder if Dad'll get a company car, the Saab is pretty cool but maybe a big Mercedes…one thing though, Gaby is not going to Germany, no sirree. Mind you, after tomorrow it might be Drew not going, I might actually be Gaby. I lay on my bed imagining the scenario. Why is it that in dreams things are so simple, you can always understand everyone, talk the language and so on. ‘Today class we have a new student from England, Gabrielle Bond, please introduce yourself to the class.' ‘G ü ten tag, meine Namen ist Gaby Bond, meine mutter ist die Radfahren Weltmeisterin Jenny Bond.' My ability to switch from English to German was apparently seamless and unworthy of note.
I seemed to have a new ‘gang' and we all wore the school uniform of blouse and skirt that somehow looked like something from my manga comics. Of course we all rode and raced bikes, the boys all thought we were cool but we were above them. I told my new friends about meeting Lance and they all thought that was so cool.
“Come on Drew, we'll have to leave soon if we are going to make your appointment.” Mum opened my curtains allowing a flood of light into the room.
“Do we have to go?”
“Yes we do. Now up and at ‘em, and take a shower.”
“Yes Mum.” I groaned.
My chest seemed more sensitive than ever this morning, the cream helped a bit but I still debated slipping a bra on but rejected the idea as I didn't want to arrive at the doctor's wearing anything girly, for today I'll put up with the discomfort.
Well the drive to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham was nightmarish and then parking left even Mum spitting feathers! We made my ten thirty appointment but only just. Doctor Johnson was actually a woman; quite good looking if I say so myself and I quickly felt at ease. She took all sorts of measurements; I got weighed, scanned, sampled and tested for what seemed like hours. She sat Mum and I down and then asked a load of questions, some of which were a bit embarrassing to say the least. All the time she was taking notes and somehow I felt less worried when we finally prepared to leave.
“We'll get these test's processed and I'll call you on Tuesday Mrs. Bond to let you know how they turn out. In the meantime Drew, wear a vest or something under your t-shirts so your chest doesn't get so sore and keep using the cortisone cream that Dr Sanwari gave you. I'll put you on my list for next Friday and we'll start getting you sorted out eh?”
“Thank you Doctor.” Mum mentioned.
“So, you feeling any happier?” Mum asked as we pulled out of the car park. Mum had been chuntering for five minutes about the cost of parking, ‘ripping off the sick' she called it, I could only agree that the nearly seven pound charge for a little over two hours was a bit excessive.
“Well we'll know more next week. Are you taking your bike to your Gran's?”
“Well I'm taking mine.”
We stopped for lunch near Newstead Abbey before completing the drive home arriving just after three.
“Go and pack Drew, we'll set off as soon as your Dad has had his tea.”
For once I was going to pack for myself and I was determined to make sure I had enough suitable clothing for the visit to Gran's. I started accumulating piles of stuff and soon had about three case fulls of stuff. Obviously I needed to slim it all down so I started ‘weeding' my selections.
I was disturbed by some shouting then I presumed it was my sister who stormed up stairs and slammed her bedroom door.
“Open this door now!” Mum screamed.
“No! I hate you, all of you!” came the muffled reply.
“Juliette Bond open this door.” Mum repeated perhaps a little calmer.
At this point I was peeking through a cracked open door.
“We talked about this last night.”
“You talked about it, me and Drew were just told.”
“That's not true.”
“You'd decided before we got back from America.”
“We hadn't, honest Jules we hadn't.” Mum replied earnestly.
“You don't care about us at all.”
“Don't be so ridiculous, we love you both very much.”
“Humph! You treat us like little kids. I'm fifteen for heavens sake I can get pregnant. I'm not your little girl anymore!”
“If you want to be treated like an adult you need to act like one.”
“I do but you don't take any notice.”
“Oh Jules. Come downstairs and we'll talk, I'll put the kettle on.”
I watched Mum sigh deeply before she headed back downstairs. What had sparked this latest row?
“What are you doing?”
“Spying on me you little perv.”
I hadn't noticed Jules open her door and cross to mine.
Then I realised what the catalyst for the argument was, Jules golden locks were no more, replaced by, I have to say, a horrible black mop. The look was completed with full Goth makeup and an outfit that made my dress sense look good.
“Whatever!” she turned and followed Mum downstairs – at least it looked she was going to talk to Mum.
Just as I was debating whether to go downstairs Dad's voice roared.
“Juliette Bond, up to your room!”
I shut my door and listened to my sister returning to her room. There was a heated discussion going on downstairs but I could only catch the odd word through the door. I sat against the wall and tried to decipher what was going on but to no avail.
“Drew, come and get your tea and bring your sister.” Dad shouted up the stairs. This was not good.
I got up and was quickly at my sister's door.
She opened the door wiping her eyes as she did so which had the unfortunate effect of smearing her makeup into a good impression of a Panda.
Tea was only beans on toast; Gran would no doubt have something waiting for us so this really was just a snackette. Dad just glared at Jules, Mum kept glancing between them in case anything flared up but Jules just sniffed a lot. Tonight's drive will not be fun! Dad left to get showered and changed.
“What are we going to do with you Jules?” Mum sighed.
Jules just sniffed some more.
“Okay you two, you finished packing Drew?”
“Nearly.” I lied.
“Well don't forget your bike kit and shoes, five minutes. You'd better sort your face out Juliette, don't bother putting anymore on unless you want another slanging match with your Dad, we'll sort your hair out when you come back down.”
“Yes Mum.” we both chorused.
Damn, five minutes. I grabbed the first pile of clothing, it was my take pile I think, my jeans were on top anyway, then I grabbed my bike kit and stuffed that in on top. Something missing…um…shoes. I fished in the bottom of my wardrobe for my school / best shoes, slipped my Air Rifts on and headed downstairs. Mum was already brushing out Jules ebon locks and shaking her head.
“Your cycling shoes are by the door Drew, put the bags in the car, your Dad'll put the bikes on the roof when he comes down.”
As you might guess the drive across to Gran's was not exactly a bundle of laughs. Jules looked, well to be honest a bit daft, the black hair made her look pale and sickly, maybe that's the idea? Dad wasn't saying very much and Mum, in the back with Jules was soon asleep. I kept my own counsel and watched the Pennine countryside slip by in the cars headlights. It didn't actually take any longer than usual but the journey seemed to take forever.
It was good to see Gran again and she even avoided mentioning Jules change of appearance. As Mum had surmised there was food waiting for us, one of Gran's stews complete with suet dumplings. I don't get dumplings very often but I do enjoy them, Gran seems to get the amount of stodginess just right, at school they are more like lumps of tasteless gristle! The rents let me and The Dark One dominate the conversation as we told Gran all about our trip to America. Time seemed to fly by and the day was fast catching up on me.
“Come on Drew, bed time.” Mum stated.
“You're nearly asleep and if you're coming for a ride in the morning I want to be out and back early so we can all go to Wrexham.”
“Okay,” I sighed, “night Gran.”
“Sleep tight Drew.”
I headed to my bed and was soon in the land of nod.
“Next left.” Mum directed as we left Nantwich for our ride. The roads were a bit damp from the early morning mist that is something of a feature of this area so I took the turn carefully almost missing the sign.
“It can't be very secret, there's a signpost.” I chuckled.
“The Secret Bunker.”
“It used to be a secret nuclear control place but I think it's a sort of museum now, I think your Dad went once.”
“Sounds creepy,” I stated as we passed the turn a minute later.
We rode on towards Audlem but at the A525 we turned towards Whitchurch before taking to the lanes again towards Ightfield. There wasn't much traffic on the narrow lanes which was just as well as in places the road was barely a cars width! We had been going for fifty minutes when we turned for Whitchurch, which was effectively half way through our ride. I'm glad Mum knew her way around these lanes, I'm sure I would've missed our turn as it looked like a dead end.
It felt good to be riding with Mum today, she had a smile pasted on her face and was clearly enjoying herself. Weak sunshine managed to raise the temperature a bit by the time we got to Wrenbury, it's only a few miles back to Gran's from there and Mum picked up the pace a bit. For the next couple of miles we did bit and bit ending with a sprint for the sign at Ravensmoor. Mum just didn't have the legs though so I scored a hollow victory by ten lengths. We slowed back to a more modest speed to warm down for the last bit back to Gran's arriving in a slightly steamy state just after nine.
“Shower and change Drew, your Dad wants to get off sharpish.”
I left Mum to look after the bikes and after shedding my shoes went directly to the bathroom. I sometimes think the shower afterwards is one of the best bits of bike riding and this morning was no different. I stripped off my kit and was soon enjoying the soothing spray of the shower, I jumped when the water hit my chest, more in expectance I think, it certainly doesn't seem quite as sensitive this morning. Mindful that Mum needed to shower too I cut my own short and wrapped in a bath towel dived out to my accommodation.
“You done Drew?”
“Well don't be all day getting dressed the others are waiting for us.”
I finished drying off and stuck my hand into my holdall for my clean jeans and underwear; however what I pulled out only shared the same material. These aren't my jeans, oh sugar! I checked the rest of the contents by tipping them on the bed. How the… oh I remember now, it was all that stuff with Jules put me off, I just grabbed a pile of clothes and dropped them in my bag, the wrong pile. Don't panic, at least I can wear my other jeans, now where did I leave them? My first look did little to allay my fears; I found a discarded sock and t-shirt but no keks. Not again! Did I sigh in relief when I discovered a denim leg under the edge of the bed! However my underwear was a bit beyond redemption so I returned to the stuff on my bed, at least no one will know I'm wearing girls underwear.
“There you are, come on your Mum is already outside.” Dad mentioned when I got downstairs. How'd she manage that?
I slunk outside and Dad locked up behind me, Gran was already sat in ‘my' seat in the front of the Saab. Mum ushered me into the back seat and slid in after me so that I was sat in the middle. Dad and Jules seemed to've made some sort of peace; things were a little less frosty this morning. It's not that far to Wrexham from Gran's, she sometimes catches the bus over into Wales rather than going to Chester on the train, just for a change. I was surprised when we turned off the main road towards Tarporley.
“I thought we were going to Wrexham?”
“We are,” Mum agreed.
“A bit of a diversion on the way.” Dad added over his shoulder.
“ Some stupid castle .” Jules schwarzkopf mumbled.
We passed a sign for Bunbury then turned off towards Beeston.
“I thought Beeston was near Nottingham.”
“Not this one obviously!” Jules pouted.
“Stop it you two.” Mum ordered.
By this time we were pulling into a little parking area, Jules was right.
“Here we are, Beeston Castle.” Dad declared.
Well I guess it's only fair to humour him, he does the bike taxi bit all the time, and the occasional visit somewhere like this isn't so bad really. The entrance didn't look very impressive and I couldn't see anything inside but Dad seemed pretty enthusiastic so we trooped along behind. Dad got the tickets and led the way up the track towards what I guess must be the castle. We followed another group up the steep path and soon arrived at what I guess is the real gate. Dad took a bunch of pictures before we went through then followed the wall around and up the hillside.
We eventually came to a ravine spanned by a bridge across to the inner bailey. We trudged along and over the bridge to emerge in a disappointingly ruined area. However, ruinous as it is the views are something else. While Dad jumped around taking photos the rest of us tried to identify the towns and stuff laid out below us. The Welsh hills were clearly visible and Wrexham then there was Chester and further away the industrial chimneys of Runcorn and Ellesmere spewing forth goodness knows what. Whoever built this must've liked the view, it was amazing.
Dad finished his photographic antics and we trooped back down to the entrance where we had hot chocolate while we looked around the exhibition and shop bits. It was heading towards twelve when we left to continue the trip to Wrexham, the sky now overcast and even giving the odd spot of rain.
“I hope you've brought something smarter to wear tonight?” Mum enquired as we headed down the A41.
“Don't tell me that's all you've brought.”
“Well sort of.”
“What do you mean ‘sort of'?”
“Well I picked up the wrong pile last night.”
“So what have you brought?”
“Girls stuff.” I mumbled.
She let out a huge sigh, “what are we going to do with you?”
Our visit to Wales was uneventful; Dad took himself to the museum while the rest of us did the shops. It's not the biggest of places shop wise and despite trying on about six pairs of jeans and trousers; we couldn't find any that fit half way decent. They were either too tight and the right length or they fit but were miles too long. There wasn't enough time in our schedule to start altering clothes so it looks like I'm going to embarrass my family with my grubby old jeans at the restaurant. Oh I forgot to say, Gran is treating us to a meal out to celebrate Dad's new job and my birthday. It was originally just my birthday but it might be the last chance we get to do stuff together for a while so any extra excuse is valid.
“Have you got anything Dave?”
“I only brought my suit luv.”
“He'll be alright Jen.” Gran soothed.
“No Mum, it's a special do, he does this every time.”
“I'm sure he doesn't mean to do you Drew?”
“As if, I'm sorry Mum.”
“Looks like Gaby is back.” Jules sniggered.
“Hmm, that would solve things.” Mum agreed.
“But Mum! Dad?”
“Do as your mother says, if you took more care of your stuff you wouldn't get into these fixes.”
I slumped back into the seat, beaten by logic and circumstance once again. Why did I have to pick up the wrong pile of clothes? Is it only me does stuff like this? Probably, how many other boys have as much girl's stuff in their wardrobe as boys? Well Rhod maybe, but I'm sure Paul and Clive don't have any. So does that make me one of those trans things that Mum was on about? I thought you had to like dressing up to be one of them?
At least it was nothing too fancy, I had to borrow a cardigan off Jules and Mum had some spare tights. I wasn't particularly happy about it but I guess I was dressing like this for most of the last two months!
Mum insisted I go the whole nine yards so to speak so I dug my sleepers out of my wallet and borrowed some nail varnish off Gran and makeup from Blackie before Mum was satisfied. Gaby was back whether I liked it or not.
Well the meal, at one of Nantwich's premier eateries, was actually very good. Well except for when everyone in the place sang Happy Birthday, that was so embarrassing, far more than wearing a skirt and a bra stuffed with socks. I suppose I should be grateful that I can pass so well – well I'm not, I hate it! I think. We had steak with all the trimmings with apple strudel with ice cream for pud and Dad even let me have a glass of wine. The disconcerting thing is that it was only when we got back to Gran's and I was getting ready for bed that I remembered that I shouldn't be wearing a skirt and bra.
Sunday arrived with a steady drizzle which scuppered our plans for another ride in the Cheshire lanes so we spent the morning up at the Hurleston locks on the Shropshire Canal watching the narrow boats climb and descend the four lock flight. Afterwards we went back to Gran's for Sunday lunch, by the time I finished even I couldn't manage the pudding, Gran's special rice pudding, straight away so we all watched the telly for a bit before finishing the meal.
“Here you go Drew.” Gran passed me an envelope through the car window.
“Thanks Gran.” I leant to receive the kiss Jules and me always get.
“Have a good birthday on Wednesday, you know where I am if you need to talk, you too Juliette.” She added addressing The Dark One.
I surmised there had already been some Gran intervention over her gothness's appearance, the ‘rents, especially Dad, were still spitting feathers but some of the tension has lifted during the weekend. There was an extended farewell with Gran and the olds then we were off, I waved to Gran until we were out of sight, I was still clutching my birthday card and I gripped it tightly. I wish you were closer Gran.
“Get yourself in gear Drew Bond.”
So okay it's the first day back at school and I'm running late.
“Take those earrings out.”
Sugar! It's a good job Mum is dropping us off, she's gonna talk to Mr. Wood about something or other, that's the only reason. I checked my appearance in the hall mirror again, yup fine, no sign of Gaby.
“Come on then or we'll be late.”
I hoisted my rucky and joined Jules at the camper. It would've been so cool to turn up in the Saab but Dad had it today so it's the LT. It felt really weird going back to school, I know we were attending Augusta High in Grottoes but it didn't feel the same. It's been two whole months just about since I attended classes at Warsop and I was feeling a bit nauseous.
The drive is barely five minutes, Mum pulled into the car park and we both baled.
“See you both later.”
“Whatever.” Moody agreed.
“Is that you Jules? Cool hair!” one of my sister's friends hailed her and I took the opportunity to go my own way.
The bell went before I found any of the gang in the yard so I headed for my form room. I headed for my usual desk to find it already occupied by a body I didn't recognise. Mind you I was getting a few odd looks too.
“Drew, over here!”
It was Paul, at least someone recognises me!
“Wotcha, who's that at my desk?” I enquired sinking down next to him.
“She started while you were away, Helen something. So how was the good ole US of A?”
“Pretty good. Ally got shot.”
“Yup, she's alright like, it was a flesh wound.”
“Quiet please!” Mr. Pilling's voice boomed out.
“Later.” I whispered.
So started my first day back at Warsop College.
Maddy Bell 28.08.06 © 2006
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