Good News for Jen
“And finally this morning,” Mr. Wood intoned as he surveyed the hall, “we must welcome back our intrepid travelers from the exchange programme. I'm sure you will recall that before half term I told you of the success of the girls in the cheer squad at the competition in America?” there was a mumble in the stalls. “Well ladies and gentlemen, it seems our away team had some interesting adventures after that, our cycling champion managed to get on American television at an event in Atlanta competing with some of the worlds top riders, Mr. Bond?”
Bum! I stood up, how many times has this happened now? There was the usual neck craning and a smattering of applause before I could hide my blushes back in my seat.
“However,” he continued as I slunk from sight, “I must also report an incident from the trip which was very serious indeed. One of our students was injured in a shooting incident” this news of course caused a noisy, inquisitive response. “Quiet! I won't name the student who was an innocent bystander, she is recovering well and I don't want to add to her hurt. I just want to raise the issue with you all. We could so easily have been discussing a students murder, I know, the incident was in America but gun crime is much closer than that. In these violent times we must all be vigilant, carrying weapons of any kind is not only stupid but also illegal. I do not want to have to stand here and tell you that one of your fellow students has been injured or killed, I can't tell you what to do outside of this school but just imagine that a pupil in your form, your year, maybe the person sat next to you becomes a victim of this culture – how will you feel? I will leave you with that thought.”
Well it certainly caused a lot of conversation and thankfully diverted any lingering attention from myself.
At least the rest of the day was more normal, weird because I'd got used to the way they do stuff in Virginia, but at least it was ‘normal' lessons. No dressmaking or other weird stuff just double English, Geography, RE then after lunch double Physics and double Art. Just another day really. It was a bit odd not being ‘one of the girls', but there again I'm not am I? At least Art was with Miss C.
“So what did you two want to see me for?”
“Well you know we are supposed to be doing this photo journal?” Mad started.
“Well there are lots of pictures but none with Rhod or me in.” I filled in.
“I mean we are in the pictures but as Gaby and Em, people will wonder why.”
“I see what you mean Drew. Leave it with me, remember its cheer practice after school.”
“Yes Miss” Mad confirmed.
How could I forget? Still not for much longer, my days as a cheerleader are numbered. I followed Mad out into the hallway.
“You did bring your stuff?”
“Lets get changed then.”
After six weeks of sharing the same locker room it was odd that Mad seemed so coy this evening, making sure I didn't get to see anything, the same anything I was exposed to every day just about in Grottoes. I'm not any different am I? I pulled my tights up and slipped into my leotard and dance skirt.
“Is my bum getting bigger?”
“You should worry! You make everyone else look fat including me.”
I snuck another look at my behind, it looks huge to me.
“Come on, we'll be late.” Mad instructed.
Well as you might expect the first thing, after our warm ups, was to reprise our American performance for the other girls. I have to admit that I enjoy cheering, I'm gonna miss doing it when we move.
“Okay girls, gather round.”
We all congregated around Miss C and Mrs. J.
“Everyone here? Right Bernie can you pass these round please.” Bern handed everyone the two stapled sheets before Miss C went on. “This is our programme through to the end of the school year, now we don't expect everyone to be available for everything, that is after all why we have reserves. Obviously the sooner you can confirm the dates the better so we can plan things. As you can see Mr. Wood wants us to travel with the basketball team to their away games and obviously attend the home games. We've got three competitions and Warsop Fayre so it's quite a busy schedule. Can you please get the parental consent forms back to Mrs. Johnson by Friday; we don't want to be chasing after you. Any questions?”
Well I didn't have a question but I stuck my hand up.
“Well Miss I erm, well I think I'm going to have to leave, we are moving away in a few weeks.”
This caused some consternation amongst my peers who didn't know and Miss C's face dropped too.
“I'm sorry to hear that Gaby, there's no need to leave the team just yet is there?”
“I guess not.” I allowed.
“Well that's it for tonight, see you all on Thursday.”
Everyone started talking at once and I spent five minutes fending questions from my teammates while I made my appearance a bit more ‘street' and warmer. We were just leaving when Miss C called me back.
“This move is very sudden Gaby.”
“Yes Miss, Dad got a job offer to work in Germany so we'll be moving around Easter.”
“How are you with that?”
“Well it is sort of exciting but scary too. And I sort of feel bad about the Foresters.”
“Don't, you know you can talk to me if you need to, lots of kids move, I did, my Dad was in the RAF so we moved about quite a bit, treat it as an adventure rather than a problem and you'll be okay.”
“Bob along then, I can see Maddy waiting for you.”
“Night Miss.” I dashed to join the others for the walk to Ally's for tea.
“Night Drew” Fran whispered after the departing teen, “I'm going to miss you young man.”
"That's great news Jen"
I came into the kitchen halfway through my parent's conversation.
"Well I got the all clear from the clinic this afternoon."
"Does that mean you are cured?"
"Sort of Drew, it means that the cancer hasn't come back, it doesn't mean it won't but its a good sign."
I gave Mum a long hard hug. Life seems full of ups and downs just now, this is definitely an up.
"And I've got a job"
I looked up at her, "you've already got one."
"I know but it's a bit boring sat at home waiting to get better so I'm gonna do a bit of teaching three days a week."
I groaned, there's only one thing worse than going to school and that's having your Mum teach there!
"Don't be like that Drew, your Mum needs to do something and Mr. Wood is short of a teacher. Anyway I've got some news too. I've been talking to Frank and to George and we've come to an agreement. Instead of just working out my notice at the yard I'm going to start straight away."
"You're going to Germany this week?" Mum asked in surprise.
"No, no. I'm going to fly out on Monday for a couple of days then I'm going to work from here until Easter and do a couple of days a week for Frank tidying stuff up before I finish at the yard."
Suddenly the whole Germany thing took on a new realism, until now it seemed a little remote, something that was happening to someone else, some other family.
“So Drew, how was school?” Mum enquired.
“Okay I guess. We've got a new girl in our form.”
In truth I don't know why I mentioned that. I hadn't really given her much thought all day after all I was getting back into things myself, I was a bit irked that my usual seat in registration had been usurped, I don't think Clive was that impressed either.
“That's nice, did you invite everyone for Wednesday?”
“Yeah, Paul and Clive are definites, Rhod and the girls of course, that's six, it's a pity Josh and Kristen live so far away.”
“Is that everyone?”
“Well I would've asked the cheer squad but there's too many.”
“I hope me and your Mum are invited?”
And I suppose The Dark One will want to come too.
Mum wasn't starting back at school until Wednesday so I found myself walking to Mad's at what felt like an ungodly hour. Jules seemed calmer last night when Dad told her his news, no doubt Mum's outweighed it in importance, but I can tell she's just on a gentle simmer ready to boil over anytime.
It was unseasonably windy this morning, Mum reckoned there might be snow later and I had my coat zipped right up. I debated wearing tights under my uniform to keep warm but we have PE this afternoon so I settled for black knee-highs instead of my usual ankle socks, I was glad of the extra warmth. I was congratulating myself when I spotted a figure on Meden Road pushing a bike.
She, for it was clearly a girl, was not exactly dressed for the weather and her bike looked like something Miss Marple might use complete with a huge basket on the front. I had to wait to cross over by which time she was nearly at the junction too.
“Hiya!” she called out as we waited on opposite sides of my road.
I didn't recognise her at first then it dawned on me that it was that new girl, Helen.
“Hi” I replied as she joined me.
“You're early, Drew isn't it?”
“I'm meeting my erm cousin. What's up with the bike?”
“The gears have got stuck, they do it all the time, I'll fix it at school.”
So okay I'm not up to Dad's level of mechanics but I had to at least offer didn't I?
“Can I have a look?”
“If you want.”
As soon as I stepped around the bike I knew I was in trouble, it was one of those hub gear things. I knelt down to take a look and have a poke.
“You're that racing champion everyone goes on about aren't you?”
“Well I don't know about that.” I spun the wheel and tried the shifter, nothing.
“The bar thing gets stuck, you have to take it out to release it.” She offered.
It looked simple enough so I unhooked the little chain thing and unscrewed the bar.
“Is it true your Mum races bikes professionally?”
“Um, yeah in Germany, she's World Champion.” I agreed as I inspected the bar, “this is bent, that's probably why it sticks.”
“Kewl, oh, looks like I'm walking home too then.”
“It might work a bit, lets give it a go.” I reconnected everything, “try it now.” I lifted the wheel up and Helen turned the pedals and tried the gears.
“Hmm, I don't think its working but at least I should be able to get home on it. Oh I'm Helen by the way, Helen Joyce.”
“Drew Bond. Sorry I couldn't fix it.”
“'S'alright, thanks for trying, oh your hands are covered in oil.”
I inspected my paws; “it's okay I can wash up at Mad's.”
“Well I'll see you at school then.”
“Yeah, see you later.”
She gave me a wave as we went our separate ways.
“What have you been up to?” Auntie Carol asked seeing my grimy hands a few minutes later.
“I was just fixing Helen's bike, her gears are broke.”
“Well just make sure you get that oil off before you use my best towels.”
“Hi Drew, what's up?”
“Oh hi Mad, just washing my hands.”
“Well shake a leg or we'll be late.”
Carol watched them depart, Mad rabbiting away and Drew mostly just nodding his head. ‘I dunno, they really are more like siblings than cousins. I wonder who this Helen is? I've never heard her mentioned before, I'll ask Mad tonight.'
Drew found himself looking for Helen when they got to school, he wasn't sure why really but he was disappointed when he didn't spot her before registration.
But there she was sat next to Clive in class.
“Hi again.” She offered.
“Hey Drew, what've we gotta wear to this dinner thing tomorrow?” Clive asked.
“Something smart I guess.”
“I guess combats are out then.” He sighed.
I slipped away to take my new seat next to Paul.
“Hey Drew is Gaby coming tomorrow?” he asked.
“No.” I answered maybe a bit quickly.
“That'll bum Clive off, he was hoping to see her. I thought she was bound to be going isn't she related or something?”
“Um sort of, I think she's got flu or something.” I ad libbed.
So started another exciting day.
The next time I saw Helen was at morning break, none of the girls in class seemed to have any interest in talking to her or anything and me and the gang were discussing the upcoming festivities. She was stood looking like she'd like to disappear from sight as school life went on around her.
I kept glancing her direction; there was just something that made me keep looking. I saw her sigh and slump back against the banister.
“… And so Vicky said…”
I tuned out the gossip and looked over at Helen again, did I just catch her looking at us? She was examining her shoes in between taking bites of her flapjack. It suddenly dawned on me that she didn't have any friends here, she is the newbie, most of the kids here have always lived around here so everyone pretty much has some friends. But Helen doesn't, it wasn't that people were being nasty or anything just that they have their own friends just like me and the gang. Will it be like this when I go to Germany in a few weeks? Not if I go to Kat's school, I'll at least know a couple of kids; Freddie and Lori are in Kat's class and Kat of course.
Helen looked, I dunno, sad I guess. This time I definitely caught her looking our way; she quickly looked away but was now blushing.
“Back in a mo.” I dropped into the cauldron of gossip. There was barely a ripple as I detached myself and headed over to my new classmate.
She was still blushing.
“So how'd you like Warsop then?”
“S'okay I guess.”
“Where'd you used to live?”
“Holland, just outside Antwerp.”
“Well that explains the bike then.” I mentioned.
“Everyone rides at home.”
“So how come you moved here?”
“My Dad died so Mum decided to come and live with Nan and Gramps.”
Shit! Oops, excuse my French. No wonder she looked so sad, moving away from her friends and her Dad dieing too.
“You didn't know, I've sort of got used to it now.”
My curiosity was piqued so I pressed on.
“Did he die? A brain tumor, one day he was taking us to the Kriskindle Markt in Antwerp, next day he was in hospital, he died two days later, it was very quick.”
She told it so matter of fact but her expression told another story.
“It's my birthday tomorrow.” I spouted out.
“Um thanks, I'm having a sort of party, do you fancy coming?” why did I say that?
Her expression changed slightly, was that hope in her eyes.
“You don't want me there, all your friends will be there right?”
“So, it's my party, it's not like you've got a full social calendar right?”
She coloured up again.
“I don't want your pity Drew 'I'm the champion' Bond so thanks but no thanks!”
I'm not used to this stuff and outright rejection was not what I expected, so okay maybe tact isn't my strong point.
“Look it's not pity right, I'm inviting you because I want you there.” Where is all this coming from?
“You're friends are looking, you best go.”
“Just think about it eh? Let me know before home time.”
I left Helen and returned to the gang.
“What was that about?” Ally enquired.
“Nothing really, I was just seeing how her bike was after I fixed it this morning.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Helen slink off.
“Not another bike racer?” Bern exclaimed.
“Hardly, more Miss Marple, she even has a wicker basket on it.”
“Not exactly Bond material then.” Rhod put in.
“I invited her to my party.”
“You what?” Mad snapped, “You don't even know her!”
“She doesn't have any friends here, she used to live in Holland.”
“So?” Mad the sensitive added.
“And her Dad died just before Christmas.” That was a guess, I'm sure Kat mentioned there was one of those kindle markets in Ahrweiler before Christmas. “So I thought she could do with cheering up okay?”
“Well it's your party I ‘spose.” Mad seemed a bit put out, dunno why.
The bell went for a return to academia so our conversation was put on hold until lunch.
I don't want to bore the pants off you so suffice to say that the rest of the school day was pretty uneventful, we had cross country in PE and yep, the bit of snow that decided to fall today fell while we were out around The Carrs. Bit different to cheer practice in Grottoes. The girls got to play badminton, which is pretty snidey.
The gang didn't mention Helen at all over lunch and it seemed like she was keeping out of the way as I didn't see her the rest of the day really, well not to speak to. I gathered by that that my invite was rejected, ah well at least I tried.
I'd left Mad at the end of her road when a noise caught my attention.
“Drew wait up!”
I turned round to find Helen pedaling furiously towards me.
“Urgh…” she panted as she slumped over the bars, “ Got you walk quick!”
“Not really.” I shrugged.
“Look I'm sorry about earlier, for being so off.”
“Look, if the offer is still open I would like to come to your party, you're right they are hardly beating my door down with invites.”
“It's not exactly a party, we are having Spag Bol.”
“We are having it at Mad's place, her Mum, Auntie Carol is an ace cook and my Mum is still not very well.”
“Are you sure it's okay for me to come?”
“I invited you didn't I? Be there at six okay?”
“Okay, but just where is there?”
“You see the house with the tree in the garden?” I pointed back up the road.
“Well if you go up that road it's the um,” I had to count the houses in my head, “the fourth on the left, our car'll be there by then, a Saab estate.”
“Fourth on the left, Saab estate. Got it. Um do I dress up or what?”
“I'm sure the other girls will be.”
“Okay, thanks Drew. I've been here three weeks and you are the first person to really talk to me.”
“See you tomorrow!”
She grinned at me as she pushed off. She has a cute smile you know.
“I've invited the new girl to the party.” I confessed to Mum ten minutes later.
“That's very bold of you.”
“She's not got any friends yet, she used to live in Holland and her Dad died just before Christmas.” I got out in one breath.
“You'll make the gossip team yet!”
“It's not gossip Mum, she told me herself, I sort of fixed her bike this morning then we talked at morning break.”
“So what's her name? This paragon of girlhood.”
“I guess I'll get to meet her tomorrow at school, I seem to recall that I get to take you lot for Geography sixth period.”
“Urgh! I'll never live it down.”
Although Mum used to teach at Warsop College this will be the first time that she has taught me although I know Jules had her for two years.
“And just a warning young man, I might be your mother but at school I'm your teacher so no lip or acting up okay?”
Maddy Bell 07.09.06 © 2006
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