I'm not sure what I expected; some shaven headed lag with LOVE HATE tattooed across the knuckles perhaps. The reality of course is that Bern was just Bern, bigger of course, junior isn't far off making an appearance, but Bern nevertheless.
Aunt Carol, Mad and me were the first to arrive; Mrs. R gave me a quick hug before propelling me towards the lounge where Bern was ensconced.
“Tis I,” I agreed moving in for a hug, which was awkward of course as she's like the size of half a house.
“Oh Gab, I've missed you so much.”
“Sorry I didn't get over to see you.”
“I didn't expect you to, but it's so good to see you again.”
“So, how are you?”
“You know, fair to middlin' – ooh, have to sit.”
I helped ease her onto a chair.
“That's better, this one's getting to be a right pain,” She stated rubbing her distended belly.
“I bet.” My mind went back to last year wearing that belly suit for a week* – Bern's had the real thing for, like, months.
“Everything okay?” Mrs Rose asked as she led the others in.
“Just a bit of a twinge, Mum.”
I saw Mrs. R glance at the clock, “The others should be here soon. ”
“Hey Mad, Mrs P.”
My cousin moved in for a hug, “ Hey, yourself.”
I know relations between them were a little – let's say strained before Bern came over to Dernau and while the awkward embrace showed progress it was clear the pair still had issues.
“Are the others coming?” Bern asked.
“They'll be here,” her mum confirmed.
It was always going to be an awkward reunion, no one wanted to be the one to ask the wrong question and the arrival of the others only exacerbated the situation by a factor of three.
“So what have you all been doing this week? Schools out right?” Bern enquired.
“This and that,” Ally supplied.
“I went to Wales for the weekend,” Em volunteered.
“I thought you'd stopped that stuff?”
“Well it's not that bad, Da and Cherys are taking me to Spain next week so it made sense to stay Mfanwy this week.”
“Me an' Mad went to a con on Sunday,” I supplied.
“Yeah and guess who won first prize?” Mad added.
“You?” Bern suggested.
“I had no chance, try again.”
With a choice of two, even Em could work that out.
“You never said,” Ally mentioned.
“It never came up,” I shrugged.
The conversation did eventually loosen up, it wasn't like old times; it couldn't be really could it? I mean, I live hundreds of miles away, Bern is not only expecting but she's been in prison and dropped out of school, Rhod can't decide who he or she wants to be and Helen whilst tight with Mad and Ally isn't one of our mouseketeers. No, it can't be the same but we can all be friends.
Mrs. R had put together a bit of a buffet that we all sort of picked at but by six things had stalled somewhat.
“I ought to get home Bern, Dad's taking us over to my Gran's,” Ally was the first to crack.
The rot had started and by ten past Em, Ally and Helen had all departed.
“We really ought to go too,” Aunt C suggested.
“You don't have to,” Cheryl offered.
“I'll pop round tomorrow Cheryl, you and Jack need some time with your daughter without us around.”
“Thanks Carol, I'll hold you to that.”
“Come on then kids, Bernie's had enough excitement for one day.”
“Laters Bern,” Mad allowed.
“Glad you're back Bern,” I mentioned with a hug.
“Me too,” Bern agreed.
I was back in the car before I realised I hadn't given Bern her presents.
“I'll just pop these in, I can walk back if you like.”
“We can wait,” Aunt Carol observed.
“Nah, its okay, I can do with the exercise now it's stopped raining.”
“Don't be too long, I'm doing chops for tea.”
Grabbing the bag of goodies I clambered back out of the car and pausing only to wave as the Peters set off, returned to the Rose's.
I rang the bell and waited and waited. After five minutes I thought there must be something wrong so I hollered through the letterbox.
“Halloo, it's only me, Drew.”
There was no reply, what the heck is going on? I know they haven't gone out, I mean, we only just left so why aren't they answering the door? Was that a scream? Oh my god, Mrs. R must be attacking Bern . A second scream rent the air. Sugar, what to do? You read about this stuff going on, parents killing wayward children, the murderer going on a rampage and killing all the family and stuff.
Police, ring the police. Now where's my handy, bum, must've left it at home. Don't panic Drew, check the windows, right, that's a good idea, I can knock on next door for the police then. I edged towards the front windows and carefully peered inside. Bern was writhing on the floor, her mother leaning over her, oh no, she's going in for the kill, there's already blood all over the carpet .
I must save her. On impulse I rapped on the window, Mrs. R span around, oh boy, she knows I'm here now.
“Back door,” she mouthed; well I couldn't hear through the double-glazing.
When I didn't move she frantically indicated I should go round the back. What should I do, I could be her next victim?
“Round the back.”
If I can save Bern it'll be worth it. Decision made I dashed for the side gate which of course was locked, bum. I've climbed it before so with a short run up I leaped onto the gate and hauled myself over; I was dropping to the floor when another scream punctuated the air. Must hurry, I scrambled around the corner to the kitchen door which stood ajar.
I gathered myself, you can do it Drew. I pushed open the door and entered purgatory.
“Drew? Quick, come and help me with Bern.”
She wants me to help in the killing, sugar? A quick look for a weapon revealed nothing I thought I could handle, damn, so long world, tis a better thing I do. The next minute was a blur; I dashed into the lounge with a war cry and tripped over my own feet sending me sprawling over the sofa to land in a heap in front of the telly.
“Ouch,” Bern noted.
“You alright, Drew love?” her mum enquired.
“Er think so.” I allowed, quickly checking that all my appendages were working.
“Can you sit with Bern while I ring the midwife?”
“It's coming Gab, the baby,” Bern told me with a grimace.
“Drew?” Mrs R prompted.
“Oh right,” I kept my previous thoughts to myself as I moved to Bern's side replacing her mum.
“So why'd you come back?” Bern asked gripping my hand.
“Maybe thirty minutes…”
“I er forgot to give you some stuff the gang sent from Germany.”
“An hour, okay…”
“There's a bear for junior from the girls.”
“Looks like you can give it to the bairn yourself. Aaarrrrggghhhh!”
I gripped her hand as her body tensed in what I now realised was a contraction.
“Here Drew.” Mrs R passed me a damp flannel.
“Looks like the carpet's a gonner.” I noted realising then that the puddle I'd seen from the window was in fact where Bern's waters had broken.
“It'll clean,” she stated matter of factly.
“So what did the midwife say?” Bern asked between breaths.
“Stay put for now, she'll be around in an hour.”
“Shouldn't we get her to hospital?” I suggested.
“There's plenty of time if we need to. I'll get some sheets and ring your Dad, you okay to stay Drew?”
“Please?” Bern mouthed.
“Er sure, of course,” I agreed.
“Thanks,” Bernie allowed squeezing my hand.
“Nearly forgot,” I noted getting up to retrieve the goody bag from where it had landed under the telly.
“What're you up to?”
“Here,” I presented her with the parcel, “from Marty.”
“Shush, she might hear.”
“Well aren't you going to open it?” I prompted.
“Give me a chance, girl.”
I was right, it was a necklace, a silver chain with a Swarovski® crystal pendant.
“Presents?” Mrs. Rose enquired.
“From the girls in Germany,” Bern offered showing her mum the necklace.
“Very nice, make sure you write to thank them.”
“I will.” Bern agreed with twinkle in her eye.
“Let's get you a bit more comfortable eh?”
We spent the next few minutes making up a sort of nest on the floor and moving Bern into it. It was a bit embarrassing helping Mrs. R divest my friend of her soiled underwear and dress and into a fresh maternity nightdress. Geez her stomach looks well ready to burst .
We went through another round of contractions before the doorbell rang announcing the arrival of the midwife.
“Hello, hello, I'm guessing the one with the bump is our mum to be?”
“Bernie,” my girl friend managed with a smile.
“I'm Julie, call me Jules if you like; let's take a look eh?”
I went to get out of the way, Anna's mum had told us what to expect back in the classes in Germany.
“No no, love, stay there with mum, I'll just check where we are.”
“This is Gabs, my birthing partner, ” Bern told her.
* Book 5 Bits, chapter 24
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 07.06.12