“And I'm sending you to prison for twenty years!”
He woke with a start, confused and disorientated, a glance at the clock revealed it was still twenty minutes the wrong side of seven. The only bit of the dream that he now remembered was something about being guilty – of what he couldn't remember. There was some movement elsewhere in the house, no doubt Uncle John getting ready for work.
Sleep wasn't likely to return now and he gave in to the inevitable a few minutes after he heard Uncle J drive off. A nights sleep didn't seem to have mellowed how he felt about the girls treatment of Bernie, how could they be so, so mean?
“Ah Drew, I was just gonna call you.”
“You fancy coming to Nottingham with me today?” Aunt Carol offered.
“I was thinking of going to see Bernie again.”
“We can call in on the way back, I want to see Cheryl anyway.”
“Er okay I guess.”
Maddy was clearly trying to avoid me, I got a terse ‘Morning' during her brief visit to the kitchen to raid the larder, Aunt C and I exchanged looks as the front door slammed behind my departing cousin. We both had a shrewd idea what the problem was but by mutual consent we didn't say anything.
There was no point in leaving for Nottingham until the rush hour traffic was well on its way so helped Aunt Carol with a few chores until it was time to leave. There's really only one road from Warsop to Nottingham, the A60 and we joined the southbound traffic a little before nine. We caught a little late commuter traffic going into Mansfield but by the time we passed Newstead Abbey the road was pretty clear. It's only just a bit over 35km in total but it was still nearly quarter to ten by the time we got parked at the Vic Centre.
“Anywhere you want to go?” Aunt C enquired as we made our way down to the shops from the car park.
“Not particularly, a bookshop maybe.”
“I've got a few places to go, you want to tag along or meet me later, we can get some lunch before we head back.”
“Okay I guess.”
“Well lets say what? Half twelve outside the tourist office?”
“Fine, see you later, tschuss!”
It was sort of exciting getting some ‘shop' time in the county town, I've become used to not just the German shops but you've got to go all the way to Köln to find as many shops as Nottingham and even then they are pretty much the same as Bonn or even Koblenz. They are however quite different to Nottingham.
I wasn't fantastically flush after an expensive Christmas season, I don't make that much at Thesing's but I wasn't skint either. It was one of those really cold, slightly damp mornings that seem to typify the time of year so I turned up my collar, pulled my hat down and stuffed my hands in my pockets as I perused the shop windows.
It was easy to get sucked into the warm stores and I soon had a couple of bags of assorted goodies! The time seemed to fly past and Aunt C beat me to our rendezvous point.
“Looks like someone's been busy.”
“Just a few prezzies and stuff.”
“Well come on then, lets get some lunch, I need something to warm me up.”
It was only a five-minute walk up to the castle and we were soon ensconced in the bust tearoom opposite the lace museum. It was a bit twee, all lace doilies and stuff but the menu was surprisingly cosmopolitan. Despite the temptations of assorted Panini, jacket spuds and stuff on toast we both settled on the thick farmhouse soup with a pot of tea and toasted teacakes to follow.
“So what did you buy then?” Aunt C enquired as we waited for our soup.
“Erm,” I dug into my bags, “the new Pratchett,” I placed it on the table then stacked the others on top, “a couple of manga books, its difficult to get them in English back home.”
“You know you can ask us to get you stuff?”
“Thanks but it's nice to buy it yourself.”
“Well the offer's there. What else have you got?”
“Let's see, toffee for the girls, some Thornton's for Mum, I couldn't resist this,” I flourished a cute miniskirt, “and there was a nice dress I saw in Primark, I might get it on the way back.”
“Here we are ladies, two soups.” I was interrupted by the waitress's arrival with our food.
“Hmm, smells good.” Aunt Carol noted.
Indeed it did look and smell good, and the accompanying bread was freshly baked too. Well you know me, the soup didn't last long and our teacakes arrived in short order. Back home you don't get anything quite like them, maybe I should get Frau Thesing to try them out! And getting proper tea without mashing it at home – well it doesn't happen.
“Well if we're going to pop in to the Rose's we should get a move on.”
Bernie. I'd got her a present, a nice blue cashmere sweater that was on offer for just twenty quid in Next but presents wouldn't solve her problems.
We made our way back across town and after a quick visit to the cake shop in the Vic Centre were back at the car for two. The traffic was fairly light and we cleared Nottingham without a major delay.
“Do you dress often Drew?”
“As Gaby, you bought quite a bit of stuff for her today didn't you.”
I was stunned to silence, had I really bought Gaby stuff?
“You don't have to tell me, I didn't say anything before as you looked pretty happy about it.”
“I hadn't realised, I was sort of on automatic. Back home when we go shopping – well they treat me like one of the girls, I guess I can give this stuff away.”
“Come on Drew, it's me your talking to. You end up as Gaby a lot don't you?”
“I guess.” I allowed.
“And you enjoy it?”
“I wouldn't go that far. It's just easier to go with it sometimes, I have to be the Wine Queen and like most people have put one and one together and made three.”
“Mum must've told you?”
“Well its sort of like a local festival thing and all the people in the village vote for the wine queen, they um voted for me for some reason, I coulda got out of it but that woulda been more embarrassing than just doing it.”
“Well um they pretty much all think I'm a girl for some reason and I um have been seen in a dress once or twice so just putting on a fancy frock a few times didn't seem too much like a problem.”
“You certainly have an interesting life Drew!”
“Tell me about it!”
“So why did you buy the skirt and dress?”
“Habit I guess.”
“So I don't need to buy you a dress for your birthday then?”
“Just checking, here we are.”
We pulled up outside number 24, I found Bernie's present and joined Aunt C at the door.
“Ah Carol, Drew, come on in it's a bit parkie out there today.”
“Hi Cheryl, we bought some cake.” Aunt Carol advised.
“I'll put the kettle on, go on through – Bernie? Come and give me a hand, Drew's here.”
Ten minutes later our tea level was being topped up supplemented with some gateaux to help soak it up! The conversation was a bit stilted, you could tell the olds wanted to talk but it was difficult with me and Bern in the room.
“Can we go to my room mum? There's some stuff I want to show Drew on my computer.”
“Okay, but you know the rules.”
“Yes mum.” Bern sighed, “Come on before she changes her mind.”
We might have been friends for half our lives but I reckon if I've been in Bernie's bedroom more than three times it would be surprising. It just didn't happen.
“Rules?” I whispered as she led the way upstairs and round the landing to her room.
“No loud music and the door has to stay open.”
“That sorta rule.” I nodded.
“Sorry about the mess.”
I must admit I wasn't expecting the bombsite that greeted us, girls are generally pretty tidy but even my room was neater than Bern's. It wasn't like it was dirty, on a closer look it was mostly piles of stuff, washing, books, well you get the idea but some had collapsed giving the appearance of being just chucked on the floor.
“You can sit on the bed if you like.”
“Thanks, oh I erm bought you this in Nottingham this morning, I hope it fits.”
I was sure it would, being around girls so much gives you a pretty good idea on sizes.
“Oh Drew, its gorgeous! You shouldn't have bought me anything.”
“Think of it as an early birthday present.”
“In that case thanks.” She leant over and gave me a hug.
“So how are you today?”
“Depressed.” She admitted.
“I talked to Mad yesterday.”
“I had a bit of a go really and she's not spoken to me since.”
“Oh Drew, you didn't have to do that.”
“Yes I did, so okay you've got in some trouble but friends, real friends don't act like Ally and Mad have, even Helen who I thought was more independent has been influenced by them.”
“Its not their fault, I've overstepped the mark quite a bit.”
“Does that make you any less in need?” our voices were going up in volume.
“You two okay up there?” Mrs R enquired from below.
“Yes Mum.” Bern replied through the open door. “Look Drew, I appreciate your concern but you shouldn't fall out with the others over me, it's not fair on you.”
“Its them not being fair, I've got other friends but you guys were always so tight, I bet no one else has been to see you?”
“Well, only Miss Cowlishaw.” She admitted.
“So if I don't do anything they'll leave you on your own with all this.”
“I've got mum an' dad!”
“Its not the same and you know it.”
Our conversation was interrupted by the doorbell.
“I'll get it!” Mrs R called out.
We could hear some muffled conversation before the door was closed, I thought I recognised the voices but I couldn't be sure.
Mrs Rose appeared at the bedroom door.
“More visitors if you're up to it?”
“Who is it?” Bern enquired.
“Ally and Maddy, they're in with Carol. I can send them away?”
“No we'll come down in a minute.”
She left us alone and headed back downstairs.
“Thanks Drew.” I was hugged again, this time with a few tears.
“Hey what are friends for?”
Maddy Bell 24.11.08 © 2008
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