Connie had not been lying about working at the bakery, its not exactly hard work even if it's surprisingly busy considering the size of Dernau. Believe it or not they open at seven even on a Sunday and a good percentage of the village buy their breakfast ‘Brötchen' from the Thesing's – even the Bond household if we're all about. The real reason for wanting some extra Sunday staff was so Connie's parents could get a little downtime instead of working all day.
Connie, as number one cheap waitress starts around ten usually but the new ‘girl', me, starts at one and through to just after five when the café closes. Con's parents tend to have a couple of hours break after I arrive although not necessarily both at the same time, Connie can work the coffee machine and even I can manage to serve cakes ‘n stuff. Most of the bread has gone by the time I arrive so most of the customers are for the café, but like I say, we're hardly rushed off our feet.
Today is my third one working here and I've been promised training on the coffee machine, such excitement! At the minute though its time for a quick sweep round and as newbie guess who gets the job?
“Hey Drew, hurry up.” Con shouted back to where I was emptying the sweeping pan.
“Coming!” geez, it can't have got that busy in the two minutes I've been out back.
I finished with the pan and gave my hands a quick rinse before heading to the shop.
“Come on Drew!”
“I'm coming already!” I pointed out stepping around the counter, “where's the fire?”
“There you are, Nena and Claudia are here, come on I'll introduce you.”
Introduce me? I already know Nena.
“Here she is guys, Claudia, may I introduce the new girl in the Dorf, Drew Bond.”
“Er hi.” I managed; I'll get you for that Connie Thesing! “Um nice to meet you.”
“Oh hi Drew, Nena has told me so much about you.” Claudia smiled.
I was a bit taken aback, Claudia was obviously Nena's sister but she looked more like a younger one than older. In fact she looked decidedly frail despite the chirpy grin that she shares with Nena, I realised with a start I was staring.
“Um sorry.” I blushed.
“Hey its alright, I get the same reaction all the time, I really am older than Nen aren't I Diddlina?”
“You guys want coffee?” Connie enquired.
“Ooh yes please Con, I've really missed coming here, um better make it decaf tho.”
“Sit Drew, we're not exactly overrun.” Connie instructed as she headed to coffee central.
“So Drew you are the famous Rennradlerin?”
I think that means race cyclist.
“Not exactly famous.”
“Does she always blush so Nena?”
“My Mum is the famous one.” I put in.
I gathered my courage, “I hope you don't take this wrong Claudia but Nena said you were really ill, you sort of look ok to me.”
“At the moment I am not so bad,”
“She has MS Drew.” Nena cut in as if I should know what that is.
“As I was saying before clog mouth here butted in,” Claudia nudged her sibling, “I'm having better health at the moment, do you know MS?”
“Here's your coffee Claud.” Connie announced placing the girls drinks on the table.
“Um nothing really, something with muscles?”
“Hmm sort of you maybe are thinking of MD, MS sort of affects all sorts of stuff. For me I have several things, mobility problems, I get tired easily and my memory is very poor also. There are other things but they are the main things, I am quite lucky, some people have things much worse.”
“How long have you been?…”
“Sick? Well maybe since kindergarten although not always so bad.”
“Nena said you are staying in a sanatorium in the south?”
“Worse luck! The Bad Herrenalb Sanatorium , which really sucks!”
“Claudia!” Nena sounded shocked.
“You don't have to live there sis. It really is dreary tho' yeah we sometimes go to Baden, to the baths or Karlsruhe shopping but the place is really in the back of nowhere with not much to do.”
“But you are much better in health there.” The younger sister mentioned.
“I guess but sometimes you really need to get out. That is when I'm not being tortured by the staff.”
“Tortured!” Con and I both exclaimed.
“They call it therapy.” She grinned.
“What do they do?” Connie asked before I could.
“All sorts of stuff, mobility stuff mostly but cognitive as well.”
“Sorry I forget you don't know the terms, sort of brain stuff, to help remember better and stuff.”
“You still have school though?”
“Sure Drew, but that sucks too, I have a tutor and most of the other kids are younger so there's no one to talk with. Well I have some friends but they are older, you know what I mean.”
“Sorry Claudia, for the inquisition.”
“What for Drew? Most peoples first question is ‘can I catch it?' at least you didn't spring that one.” She grinned.
Actually I did want to ask that but I guess that wouldn't be wise just now would it?
“So how do you like living in Ahrtal Drew?”
“I'm a getting used to it I guess.”
“She's one of the gang now sis!” Nena added.
“I'm not sure that's a good thing.” Claudia noted with a straight-ish face.
“Hey!” Nena took a swipe at her sister.
“Only kidding, so you guys fancy going to Mayen tomorrow?”
“Mayen?” I asked, the name was sort of familiar.
“The other side of The Ring Drew.” Nena filled in.
“There's some good shops there.” Connie noted.
“So?” Claudia asked again, “you coming?”
We hadn't got anything planned, well I have my training run of course but I'm home before nine usually so that's no problem.
“Great! Annie and Steff already said yes and my friend Martine too.” Claudia beamed.
I guess she really doesn't get out much.
“Well we'd best get off, Dad is picking us up at the Haltestelle, we are going to the grandparents.” Nena told us.
“And I can't run so well!” Claudia joked as she started to get up.
I was quite shocked when I realised she had sticks to walk – I hope it didn't show too much.
“So we are taking the bus from Adenau so meet us on the nine thirty up train?”
“Sure.” Connie confirmed.
“See you guys tomorrow” Claudia waved before starting what to me looked to be a painful walk towards the main road.
“Come on Drew, we'd best start on the cabinets.” Connie encouraged.
“Er sure.” I gave a last look at Claudia and Nena's progress down the road, that must really suck.
I stared at my bedroom ceiling, not seeing the stuff stuck up there. I'd spent an hour after getting back home looking up Multiple Sclerosis on the web. It was really scary stuff and I'm sure Claudia wasn't exactly telling us everything. Some of the treatment sounds worse than the symptoms! And what's worse is that there's not a cure as such, just treatment. I know what I get like if I have to stay in hospital even just overnight, to just about live there must be so bad – I can't even imagine that. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't go riding and stuff, Claudia can hardly walk! But she seems so chirpy, not like really maudlin or anything – at least to us.
It being Monday, the ‘rest' day in my cycling schedule, I only had an hours ride to get in so I did my sort circuit, up the valley to Altenahr then up through Houverath before swinging around through Berg then Kalenborn before dropping back to Dernau via Esch. My computer makes it about thirty k's and it's a reasonable workout. Even so I was running a bit late and had to run to meet Connie at the station.
“Geez Drew, you're cutting it a bit fine.”
“Couldn't find any clean underwear.” I admitted.
In fact I found plenty except it was still wet as I forgot to put the drier on before I went out, as a result I resorted to raiding the ‘Gaby' drawer. So okay most of my knickers are girls ones but at least they are plain, the Gaby stash can only be described as ‘lingerie' – all lace an' that but at least they're clean and dry.
Before Connie could make anything of that the up train arrived and we joined the other early trippers. Nena and Claudia joined us at Mayschoß and the girls spent the trip up to Ahrbruck catching up with stuff that I didn't know about so I was only half listening.
“Aren't the others coming?” I realised there were supposed to be more of us.
“They cancelled this morning.” Nena advised with a sigh.
“We can have fun still.” Connie pointed out.
Once past Altenahr and the old Engine sheds the train was pretty empty, only locals really except for a couple of serious looking mountain bikers. The train terminates at Ahrbrück so we crossed the platform with everyone else to get on the bus that goes through to Adenau.
Claudia was walking almost normally this morning, just using one stick, I still had to stop myself trying to help her, I saw Connie do the same. I was surprised to see the mountain bikers get on too but there was a reserved bay on the bus so I guess it's quite normal.
“So Drew, my sister says you come from north England.”
“Well north Midlands really.”
“You have scenery there?” Claudia continued.
“Not really, we lived in the middle of a coalfield.”
“Like tante Helga in Itzehoe Nena, they have Kohl fields all around them, it smells terrible in autumn.”
We sometimes used to get a blast of sulphur from the coke plant if the wind was wrong but that'd be any time of year.
“Erm why in autumn?” I enquired.
“When they pick the Kohl of course.” Nena supplied.
Pick the coal? Surely they mine it and why only in autumn?
“At least it tastes better than it smells.” Connie noted.
“You eat coal?” I couldn't believe what I was hearing, geez even the thought of it!
“Hot pickled Kohl with potato and beef – surely you have tried it?” Claudia exclaimed.
I thought for a minute, the only red stuff I could think of I'm sure Mum said was cabbage.
The conversation was halted by our arrival in Adenau where we piled off in the market place.
“Look the Mayen bus is waiting.” Connie pointed out.
“There's five minutes before it leaves, I'm not that slow!” Claudia mentioned.
Con flushed, “sorry, I didn't mean anything Clau.”
“S'alright, Con, its just that everyone assumes I need help all the time.”
“She can be too stubborn sometimes.” Nena put in.
“I admit it sis.”
By this time we had arrived at the bus, well coach really, it wasn't exactly easy access.
“Hmm maybe I need a bit of help here.” Claudia admitted.
“I'll go up and help from the top.” I volunteered.
To give him his due the driver did assist by holding the boarding gate out of the way and although it sounds like a lot of fuss it wasn't really. The big problem was that Claudia hasn't much strength for stair climbing so Nena moved her legs while I steadied her from above.
“Thanks Drew, I sometimes end up crawling!”
How undignified! We barely got ourselves settled before we set off and we were soon climbing out of town towards Nürburg. This bus takes the long way up through the race circuit emerging up near the Grand Prix circuit. Not that you could see anything but we could hear cars or something being given some well around the ‘Alte' circuit, hmm maybe I'll have to come up on a race day. The bus paused briefly in the village and I could see the castle looming high above the Eifel.
The drive on to Mayen was uneventful; taking about thirty-five minutes by the time we'd visited several villages on the way. We got off at the bottom of the town and crossed over to the gate that marked the entrance to the old town.
“Have you been here before Drew?” Claudia asked.
“Er no, I think we drove past once.”
“So you don't know the church then?”
“You can show her later.” Nena mentioned to her sibling.
“Yeah Clau, lets look in Andererwelt .” Connie agreed.
“Yeah come on, they have some real neat stuff.”
We made our way towards a shop secreted into the town wall. Now at this point I must point out that except for my underwear I was actually wearing nothing that said ‘girl'. In fact I thought I looked as much ‘boy' as I ever do. The shop, it turned out, was one of those alternative places; you know all leather, velvet and big boots. It reminded me of that place in Worksop except all the signs were in Gothic German!
Somehow I found myself flicking through a rack of t-shirts and stuff – well this stuff is more Jules style than mine but a T is a T.
“Hey Drew, you should try this.”
Connie brandished a hanger at me.
“What is it?” it didn't look like anything in particular.
Now what was that now, oh yes Kleider that's just clothes.
“Okay” I sighed.
“Wo sind die Ankleideräume?” she called out to the very Goth girl at the till.
“Die Umkleidekabine ist unter der Treppe.”
“Danke, go on Drew.”
Whatever, it looked like some sort of jacket thing although there seemed to be a lot of it. I made my way to the changing room and went into the little cubicle. When I hung the garment up I discovered why there was so much material, it was a flippin dress! Connie! I debated what to do, refuse to put it on was at top of the list but before I could exit the cubicle Claudia called through the curtain.
“Hurry up Drew, there's a queue out here.”
“Its only a dress.” She noted.
Only a dress. But I'm a boy! I could just go out couldn't I?
“Come on Drew, I want to see what it looks like.” Connie cajoled.
Okay, I put it on, show Connie and change back, tops ten minutes.
“Ah so there you are,” Connie gushed, “looking good, hmm I think it needs some other stuff tho.”
Well that was as much encouragement as first just Connie but then the others needed to use me as their dress up doll. The girl at the counter was no help – in fact she made things worse suggesting stuff and even going to fetch stuff. The first dress wasn't so bad, at least it was a decent length, a bit frilly maybe but it was liveable – not that I'd choose it!
Stupidly I assumed that would be that, I'd get changed back into my jeans and we'd continue shopping. The others had other ideas. Lots of other ideas in fact! So while Nena and Claudia tried one or two pieces on I got to play real size Barbie®!
So okay it wasn't all bad but at some point I let my guard down, Connie painted my nails and I let Claudia play with my hair. I thought she was just using some hair lacquer to hold it in place – Sylv used to do that after all but then I got to look in the mirror.
“What have you done?”
“Keep your hair on,” Nena giggled, “its only a temporary colour.”
“I look like a freak!” I almost cried.
“It'll wash out.” Claudia soothed.
“But, but its BLUE! My hair is BLUE!”
“I think you look cute,” Connie added.
“You don't have BLUE hair!” I pointed out.
“Tell you what, I'll buy you that outfit to make up for it,” Claudia offered, “but you do look cute Drew.”
I don't want to look cute – especially not blue haired cute! I look like some anime character! And exactly why would I want a skirt and camisole? GRRR!
“Sorry Drew, I didn't think you'd mind, you showed me that picture from when you had it green.” Connie put in.
“That wasn't me, it was Maddy.”
“Your Cousin?” Nena asked.
“Yes.” I confirmed with tears now welling up.
Connie held me close.
“Sorry Drew, I thought it was you, its my fault ‘cos I told Claudia about it.”
By now hot salty tears were in full flow and it was some minutes before I regained some sort of composure.
“Tell you what Drew, lets go get some lunch.” Connie suggested.
(Sniff) “Ok” (sniff)
“Come on then.” And my friend dragged me out of Andererwelt.
We were out on the street waiting for the guys to join us before I realised what I was dressed in.
“I've got them.” Nena advised as she helped a distraught Claudia out of the door.
“Really Drew, I should of asked.” She sniffled.
“I guess it could be worse,” I admitted. “It could' a been pink.”
“It nearly was,” Connie mentioned, “but it was a two to one vote for blue.”
Ah well, what's done is done. I left home as a blonde boy and now I'm a blue haired girl! Once I'd calmed down I had to admit that it did look quite good but don't tell anyone I said that right? Well, after lunch, salad in the Dinea, Claudia pointed out the church that Mayen is known for – flippin heck it's just like Chesterfield! I tried to translate the Story about the Chesterfield Spire but I think it got lost somewhere and the girls didn't know why the Mayen spire is twisted – maybe I'll look it up when I get home.
By mid afternoon we were running out of shops and it was clear that Claudia was getting pretty tired.
“We should head home,” I suggested. “When's the next bus?”
“Four thirty.” Nena supplied.
“That's nearly two hours!”
“Well we could get the train.” Connie suggested.
“There's one to Andernach in fifteen minutes.” Nena consulted her diary.
“Lets go then!”
Well I have to tell you, it was a close thing. The station was a bit of a walk and there was nom way to rush – even when Claudia let us help her. We must've been quite a sight, me with blue hair, Claudia with her sticks and the other pair sort of dancing about trying to contain their urgency! So anyway, we got the railcar to Andernach then had to negotiate all the steps in the Bahnhof to get to the right platform for the train north. Another train change at Remagen finally got us home shortly after five thirty. I was not looking forward to walking in the house like this – oh bum! Everyone in the village will think I'm a girl now!
Maddy Bell 19.12.07 © 2007
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