When we returned to the others my buns were already broken out and apart from the fact that Dieter was chowing down on the strawberry tart I'd got for myself, grrr, it was a bus of happy er campers.
“Everything okay Drew?” Dad enquired.
“Uh huh, they're expecting us about seven, she's gonna text over the address.”
“That should be okay,” Dad confirmed, “we'll check in at our hotel and get straight off.”
“There's not some weird dress code is there?” Gret enquired from round a bit of Pflaumkuchen.
“Nah, just normal stuff.”
“Normal for whom?” Roni murmured.
A few minutes later and we were back on the road, stretched, relaxed and refreshed.
“Over on the left everyone.” Dad instructed.
“That looks like a space shuttle like.” Josh observed.
“An' a jumbo jet on the roof.” I added.
“Sinsheim Technik Museum.” Dieter informed us from the back.
“Looks pretty cool.”
We were soon past; I made a mental note to have a look on the net when I get home.
The autobahn rolled on then a change of roads to take us down to Stuttgart. The balmy conditions of an hour ago were becoming more humid and it didn't come as too much of a surprise when we ran into a thunderstorm, all black skies and torrential rain. By the time we turned off to drop into the city things had settled to a humid drizzle, great – not.
Our accommodation was surprisingly just a five minute walk from Stuttgart's shopping zone it wasn't exactly grand occupying as it did half an apartment block. The Hotel Find, Stuttgart Zentrum on Hauptstätterstraße was to be polite, a commercial travellers hotel.
“Okay people,” Dad tried to get our attention, “back here for six thirty please. Right then, Dieter and Sonja room twelve, Grönbergs you're in fifteen, Gret, Tali sixteen, Josh you're with me in twenty one and Drew you get the single, eleven.” He concluded having passed keys out.
I collapsed on my bed and surveyed my surroundings, pretty standard fare, bed, dresser, open wardrobe, chair and from what I could see, a ‘compact' bathroom / toilet combo. I checked the time, hmm five twenty, plenty of time. First things first, shower.
I returned to the main room to finish drying off and to find some clothes to wear for dinner. Obviously my kit bag was sans proper clothing, but my overnight bag should have something. I swung it onto the bed and flipped the lid open, hmm, knickers – check, bra – check, shirt – check, chino's – check, socks, yup – for once I've got everything!
I got as far as pulling my trousers up before things came crashing down. Here I am doing my best impersonation of myself, Drew and Sophia and her parents will be expecting Gaby, the girl that shared accommodation with her in Augsburg. Shit, shit, shit! The only girl stuff I've got with me, apart from my undies of course, is the dress I'm supposed to be returning. Why is my life so complicated?
“Who is it?” Tali asked.
A moment later Tali opened the door a crack, “what's up?”
“I um have a problem, can I come in?”
“You decent Gret?” she called over her shoulder.
“Topped and tailed, who is it?”
“Best let her in.”
The portal was opened a little wider and I slipped inside.
“So what's up?” Tal enquired.
“Well a um…”
“Get on with it.” Gret encouraged.
“Its kinda awkward, “
“Yes?” Tali interrupted.
“Have you guys got anything I can wear to dinner?”
“You've not forgotten your bags again – no I saw you carrying them in.” Gret observed.
“Its what's in my bag that's the problem.”
“And?” Gret asked.
“Well Sophia and her rents will be expecting Gaby not Drew.”
“I hate to break it to you D, but you'd look like a girl in a sack.” Tali supplied.
“Have you got a sack?” my eyes were starting to leak.
“Calm down Drew, I was just pointing out that you could dress in anything to be Gaby.”
“But the chinos are Drew stuff, Gaby doesn't wear that kind of thing, am I right?” Gret surmised.
“Lets see what we can find.”
“I thought you looked pretty, a um cute earlier Drew, you're looking a right Fox now man.” Josh managed to tell me half an hour later.
Between the girls, we had to get Roni involved too, I was now clad in a decidedly girly white blouse, knee length black skirt, tan hose and a pair of slightly too big kitten heels from Gret. Roni had put my hair into a French plait and a quick swipe of makeup completed my Gaby look.
“It's Gaby tonight.” I advised him.
“Drew, Gaby, whichever you still look a canny lass.”
“Thanks I think.”
Dad came into the reception area, “you got the address Dr-aby?”
“Uh huh, on my handy.” I got the message up and handed him my phone.
“I'll just get the Sat Nav going, you lot ready?”
“I think so.” Angela told him.
Dad went out to open up the bus.
“Um Gab? Dress?” Tali prodded.
“Sugar! Won't be a minute.”
I dashed back up to my room and rescued the cause of this evening's disruption. By the time I got back to reception everyone was gone bar Josh.
“Where's everyone gone?”
“Out to the bus man, let me take that.”
“Er thanks.” I let him take the garment bag.
“‘S all right like, we'd best get out.”
“There you are,” Dad stated, “its not far according to this thing, everyone okay?”
It was still a bit damp but the bus seems to have a cosiness about it, at least now with everyone on board. We seemed to stop and start and turn about before we cleared the city centre and the bus finally got out of 2nd gear. Apart from the fact that we were climbing I'd already lost any sense of direction but the Sat Nav quickly announced arrival at our destination.
“This it?” Roni asked.
“It's the address that Gaby has.” Dad replied sounding equally unconvinced.
I had to admit that it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, not that I could tell you exactly what that was. The building we were stopped at looked like, well was an ageing factory building, not looking in the best level of repair.
“I'll ring Sophia to make sure its right.” I suggested.
The phone rang for far longer than I'd expect, thoughts of this being some kind of hoax crossed my mind before it was finally answered.
“No it's her mother, to whom am I speaking?”
“Um, hello your grace its Gaby, um Gabrielle Bond? We met at the wedding last week?”
“Ah the von Strechau girl, of course, you and your team are coming to dinner yes?”
Phew, not a hoax then.
“I um that is we don't want to impose.”
“Don't be silly dear, now what can we do for you?”
“Um, well Sophia gave me the address but I think we got something wrong because we're at some old factory place.”
The Duchess let out a chuckle, “no you have the right place, but you need to come down the side to the rear, the house is in front of you, we'll expect you in a couple of minutes.”
“Thanks your grace.”
“Frau Taxis will do, we don't stand on ceremony.”
“Er okay, a couple of minutes then.”
I ended the call.
“Well?” Dad asked.
“It's the right place, we need to take the road down the side.”
“Okay, I'll take your word on it.”
The engine rumbled back into life and Dad steered the bus through the narrow roadway at the side of the factory. The route angled across a yard before passing through an ornate gateway after which we could see the house. It was big, one of those late 19th century piles that often find themselves transformed into apartments or nursing homes, slightly gothic but not obscenely so. Dad drew up next to the ageing Passat and newish C Klasse already parked in front of the mews.
“Flippin' ‘eck.” Josh mentioned.
“You have some interesting friends Gab.” Tali observed.
“We only like met last week.”
“Well no one I know lives in a place like this.” Roni mentioned.
“You know Max, he lives in a schloss.” I pointed out.
“Are you coming or sitting there all night?” Sonja chivvied.
We disembarked and I guess everyone had the same thought, straighten clothing, check hair – even the men!
“Gaby! You made it!” Sophia almost squealed from the top of the steps.
“Eventually.” I allowed.
“Mama mentioned you rang from the road, sorry I forgot to tell you that bit. Come on in, the olds are just finishing the food.”
We trouped up the steps with me at point then followed Sophia into the house.
“Gabrielle, so nice to see you again!” I was quite taken aback as the Duchess air kissed in greeting.
“Hello your Grace, er thanks for inviting us.”
“Its nice to have some company, now who are your friends?”
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 31.05.11 © 2011