Bern's face was a picture as everyone leaped from hiding places, Martin and Max releasing the banner to reveal the message 'Glück Bernie!'.
Once the Rose's regained their composure, Cheryl was affected to the point of tears as much as her daughter, the proceedings moved into the house where the girls ensured everyone had a plastic cup of something vaguely alcoholic.
"Shush!" Brid hissed, "Mart?"
Marty came forward to where Cheryl and Bern stood with the Bond's.
"A couple of months ago, well it only seems that long, Gabs brought a friend from England to school with her. She had little German and knew only our Weinkönigin; many of us were curios as to why she had come. Over the weeks and days, as her German quickly improved and we had the chance to speak with her, we warmed to her and quickly she became just another classmate."
"Get on with it!" Pia hissed.
"Sorry, I'm waffling here. Look, we're all going to miss you Bern,"
"Some more than others!" a voice called from the back.
Ignoring the heckling Martin ploughed on, "anyway, we bought you something to remember us by."
Steff passed him a gaily wrapped parcel.
"From all of us we hope you find it useful."
Bern took the gift with eyes already full of tears.
She managed "thanks everyone." before rushing out with the first tears already falling, Cheryl in hot pursuit.
"Was it something I said?" the clueless Martin asked.
"Well duh, what do you think lover boy." Anna grinned.
"I'd best see that she's okay." Drew offered already halfway to the door.
"Are you alright?" Drew enquired from the kitchen door.
"She's just a little emotional right now." Cheryl offered.
"Anything I can do?"
"No luv, you go on back to the party, we'll be back in a few."
Things didn't look all right to Drew, Bern was sobbing into her mums shoulder still, nevertheless he turned to go.
"Drew?" Cheryl called out before he could shut the door.
"Thanks for doing this, Bern; well both of us appreciate it."
"Er no sweat." the Bondling started to colour up.
"We'll be through in a minute."
He had to use the washroom himself before returning to the muted party, having got quite a flush on from Mrs R's words.
"She okay?" Dad asked on his return.
"Yeah, just a bit overwrought, they'll be through shortly."
"Hey Gab, you wanna dance?" Max enquired from Drew's elbow.
"Um, maybe later."
"Hey Max, you seen Gabs medals?" Nena distracted her would be beau.
"What are you two whispering about?" Steffi asked around a mini pizza.
"Gaby's love life." Roni quickly interjected.
"We were not."
"Ooh the luscious Maxxie." Steffi grinned.
Drew was saved from further 'boy' talk by Bernie's return.
“Sorry guys, just a bit, you know.” Bern mentioned.
“No problem girl,” Bridget supplied, “we can all get a bit emo.”
From there on the evening picked up, the oldies decamped to the kitchen and despite the somewhat sombre occasion we had quite a party – well until Dad came to break things up about ten as yours truly has an appointment with a bike and Mr Tarmac in the morning.
“So remind me Drew, just why are we up at five am?” Bern asked as I loaded the toaster.
“Me bike racer, we go race.” I delivered in a silly voice.
“Drew! You know what I mean.”
“It's a couple of hours drive at least.”
“And I'm coming why?”
“Because you like watching lycra clad boys tearing about on bikes?”
“Actually it's the girls Gaaaby!”
“I knew there was a reason that I'm wearing a bra.”
“No Gabs, the toaster!”
I turned to find black smoke streaming from the bread browner.
Bern was nearly in hysterics as I ejected the two slices of charcoal and proceeded to juggle them to the bin.
“What am I going to do without you to entertain me Gab?”
“Dunno, pass me some more bread.”
To be honest I'm not sure how I'll cope either, Bern's become like a second sister while she's been here, we've swapped secrets, homework and become closer than we were even back in Warsop. A lot has passed since those days of course and not always good stuff.
“One of them for me?” Roni enquired as she bounced into the kitchen with far too much energy for this time of day.
“Only if you like cinders.” Bern giggled.
“If it started out as food I'll try it.”
“Your funeral.” Bern noted passing her a slice of charred bread.
“How's the packing going?”
“Your Dad's just loading the bikes.” Ron supplied.
Instead of the Saab Dad's borrowed the team bus to give us a bit more room.
“Boing!” the latest batch of toast shot up from the toaster
“Any more for any more?”
“I'm fine.” Bern allowed.
“Me, me, me!” Roni insisted.
I dropped another couple of slices in and let Roni have control.
“I hope your mum knows what she's let herself in for today.”
“I doubt it,” Bern stated, “but she'll live.”
“Who's ‘she'?” Mrs R enquired.
“Erm.” Bern replied.
“I was just wondering if you knew what you are letting yourself in for today.”
“Don't worry Drew, your dad told me all about it yesterday, any tea left in that pot?”
We were barely on the autobahn before Bernie was asleep and it wasn't long after that I started nodding.
A sudden deceleration jolted me awake.
“Nearly I think.” An equally blurry eyed Roni suggested.
“You're awake then.” Dad called back to us.
“kinda.” I yawned, “Where are we?”
“Just crossing the river again, be about ten minutes I think.”
It had still been a bit dank and misty when we left home but the view outside now was of the makings of a glorious sunny day, the clear sky meant that the outside temperature was still fairly low but later it would be warm with a capital W.
“Hmm Marty.” Bern murmured looping an arm around my neck.
“Bern?” I gave her a little shake, Bern give over!”
“Nothing, we're nearly there.”
“Oh, was a nice dream.”
“We can guess what about.” Roni mentioned.
“You were mumbling to yourself.” I told her as I extricated myself from her tentacles.
By the time Bern had pulled herself together we were turning into the race car park just outside of Xanten town wall. We were here to tackle the Xanten Junger Grand Prix; 120km which Dad reckons will be hard, fast and take us into Holland! Kick off so to speak is at nine which isn't too bad if you don't have a couple of hours drive to get here – don't you just love this life?
“You coming Bern?”
“I think I'll stay here and checkout the view.”
“View? It's a car park.”
“Not that kind of view Drew,“ Roni told me with a nudge, “that kind of view.”
I blushed crimson seeing where she was looking; some poor sod was doing some stretching across the car park and was the unwitting subject of the girls gaze.
“Not you too.”
“Hmm, wouldn't mind a bit of that if it was offered.”
“Er, oh right.”We made our way to the kontrolle and duly presented our licences in exchange for our numbers.
“Good luck girls!” the official called out as we departed the tent.
“Grrrr, one of these days!”
“Yeah, one of these days you'll not be bothered by what they see.” Roni noted.
“But its not like I'm wearing a dress and makeup yet they still think I'm a girl.”
“I hate to break it to you but at one metre sixty with long blonde hair in a braid you don't need a dress or makeup to look like the superior sex.”
What can you say to that? There's no point in trying to argue my corner, most people it seems go by first look and with me first look apparently says girl.
We arrived back at the bus just in time to set up the turbo's for our warm up – did I mention it's going to be warm today? I mounted my bike and started pedalling, still fuming about the girl ‘slur', well not slur, error but within a couple of minutes I was lost to the steady rhythm of riding and the feeling of well being that the release of endorphins brings with it.
“Five!” Dad shouted at us after what seemed just a couple of minutes.
I kept the legs spinning but by degree slowed the pace, Ron following suite, matching the tone of the spinning cylinders until we freewheeled to a halt. I never used to understand the point of such intense warm ups, surely it just uses energy that you need in the race? Apparently the advantage of starting with warmed muscles outweighs that effect so its now second nature to spin away for thirty minutes before the start!
Mrs R and Bernie pinned our numbers on while Dad gave our bikes a last once over before we headed for the start. And what a start, no wonder Dad wanted us to do this event. I hadn't actually noticed but only a matter of meters away from the car park was Xanten APC – a huge partial reconstruction of a roman town and the start was inside the place.
“I wondered why we were travelling so far.”
“Some culture for later.” Dad grinned
“If you say so.”
It looked impressive but so do Dads bruises from Saturday!
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 30.03.11 © 2011