Change of Focus
Jess fetched herself a drink while Mand and I tackled the salad.
"So does Jess know you are Drew?"
"Er not exactly."
"She thinks you're a girl like 100%." Mand accused.
Which of course now meant a further complication for our time here at Lilleshall.
"So," Jess started when she rejoined us, "what's this Paul look like?"
If I hadn't spent the last eighteen months pretending to be a girl I would never have believed just how vengeful they can be. So okay there was all that stuff with Jules back when we lived in Warsop but really, they are far worse than lads.
"I was just saying to Lily that we should do it tomorrow?"
"Er okay." I hadn't been paying much attention as I mused about Goth Girl's vengeance.
"So I'll come to your room Lil and the three of us will come down together."
"We'll sow the seeds tomorrow, he's so full of himself he won't be able to resist." Mand pretty much cackled.
"You guys looked round yet?" Jess enquired.
"Thanks to this one's hare- brained idea we've not had a chance yet," I sighed.
"Come on then, I'll give you the tuppeny tour," Jess enthused.
"Kewl," Mand muttered .
"Er sure." I agreed before catching sight of my ridiculous reflection - well I guess no one's likely to recognise me.
"Come on then, time's a wastin'."
"We need to clear up first." I observed. Well back home its expected.
"Gaby Bond you are such a girl!" Mand exclaimed.
Jess, having been here for a few days already, knew her way around the campus pretty well and so we saw a lot more over the following couple of hours than we would have stumbling around on our own. Lilleshall House started its life as a hunting lodge so it's not like some huge country house although it's still pretty big; these days it's used for conferences and even weddings. Bit pretentious if you ask me still the gardens are pretty nice for the photos, well not like the Englisher Gärten in Munich that we used for Marguerite's pics – I sound like a right snob!
I mentioned the archery butts by the cafeteria before, there's also an indoor range, I think it gets used for other stuff too as there was a pile of crash mats by the door. The main equipment gym is open to the public; it was quite busy with an assortment of wannabe sports persons when we passed through. A decent sized pool, not competition size but reasonable, saunas and a weight room could all have been in any municipal sports centre.
The main hall was split into smaller areas tonight using those big net curtains, a couple of badminton courts, a noisy game of five-a-side and a senior citizens keep fit class were in session. Shower and changing facilities of course then actually under the accommodation block several smaller halls set up with assorted gym equipment and lastly what Jess described as the dance studio.
“I can't see why we've come here.” Mand mentioned when we returned to the cafeteria for drinks.
“Maybe it's a new discipline, cyclo archery?” Jess suggested.
“Or like cycle gymnastics,” I put in.
We weren't the only ones in the food emporium even at this late hour, it was well after nine by now, Caro and Steve were deep in conversation over in one corner, what I'm guessing were skate coaches occupied another couple of tables and surprise surprise, Paul Redding and Sally Barnes were sat across the room from us.
“That's him Jess,” I pointed out to her.
“With the girl?”
“Sally Barnes, he's probably spinning some yarn of cycling prowess,” Mand supplied.
“You still want to do this?” I asked.
“I need some entertainment and like I said, I hate gob-a-lots.”
I hope this doesn't get out of hand.
Caroline watched as the three girls sat across the cafeteria chatted and giggled. The only other group staying at the moment were ice skaters and in a sporting context they looked like they fit that bill, slim build but well muscled – the little one with the daft hair style was even showing off some well toned abs. ‘Looks a bit like Drew from some angles,' she mused.
“So I reckon if we put Bond in as designated sprinter?” Steve suggested.
“Er yeah, do you think that girl over by the window looks like him?”
“The blonde? Could be related I suppose, the one on the other side looks a bit like Vicky. Why?”
“Just a daft thought.”
“You're thinking about plan B aren't you?”
“I can't help it Steve, cycling is what the kid does – extremely well, it's not like we're exactly blessed with a big pot of potential Merckx or Millars. He can go all the way, how many fifteen year olds are good enough to beat Olympic champions?”
“It wasn't exactly proper competition,” Steve pointed out.
“I didn't see Vic or Chris holding anything back.”
“I'll give you that,” Steve conceded.
“He's a precocious talent Steve, this doesn't go further right?”
“Sure.” Steve agreed realising Caro had her reasons.
“Last weekend, down at his Gran's well the pair of them rode a twenty five.”
“They were supposed to be resting,” Steve noted.
“Partly my fault, I should have set a proper programme but that's as maybe, the kid did the fastest time, made the local speed king look a bit of a prawn.”
“Oh dear, go on what'd he do?”
“56.47, course record to boot.”
“Not the E72 * then.”
“It was described to me as ‘sporting', it's used for a hilly event in the pre season silliness.”
“Sugar, how'd de Vreen fair?”
“1.00.11 I think she said, just over the hour at least.”
“Not bad, I knew she had potential.”
“That's just it though Steve, Mandy, Sal, Claire, Laura – they all have great potential, I'm sure they can each deliver the goods. But Drew, let's face it, he's been making mincemeat of the lot of them, gods gift over there is a year older but Bond is in another class.”
“The German system is better than ours.”
“Yeah and Drew is the de facto champion of Germany, you've seen the tapes, maybe he lacks some maturity but talent wise…”
“So what happens if we have to go to plan B? We might end up with no one to take forward to the ultimate goal, that what you're saying?”
“Worse really, the kid'll be on his, her own, the other girls are just not in the same league, yes I know they'll improve but so will Drew.”
“I'd not thought of that, you mentioned this to the boss?”
“Not in as many words.”
“We need a plan C,” Steve stated.
“Short of doing a Zola ** with his German team mates I don't know what.”
“You reckon we could do that?”
“I think the German's might have something to say about it,” Caro chuckled.
“Guess we'd best get our thinking caps on then.”
The diminutive figure that sparked their conversation walked past towards the exit with her friends still deep in conversation.
“I tell you, it was at least this big.” She threw her arms wide.
“Give over Gab, you'll be telling us you danced with Prince William next.” The tallest of the three stated.
Caroline shook her head, girls!
“See you tomorrow Gab, Lil.”
“Tomorrow,” Mand added.
We headed towards our own quarters.
“Where're you going?”
“Bed? Big bouncy thing you sleep in?”
“I know what a bed is dumbo but aren't you forgetting somethingSammi ?”
“Talk about give blondes a bad name,” Mand sighed.
Of course it clicked what she was on about then, “Just testing.”
“Yeah and I'm Vicky Beckham, come on let's get out of this stuff."
To be completely truthful I'd pretty much forgotten how I was dressed over the last couple of hours, now as I started to divest myself of the silly outfit I started to colour up.
“You wouldn't really have dobbed me in would you?”
“What do you take me for Drew?”
“Let me get that stuff off your eyes, I bet you haven't got any remover.”
“Duh, why would I? What time is it?”
“Ten past eleven.”
“Sugar, the curfew.”
My room wasn't far away and it was only just turned eleven wasn't it? I crept as quietly as I could, letting out a huge sigh of relief when I closed the door behind me.
Steve checked the corridor; he could've sworn he heard a door go. There was a thin line of light peeking from under a couple of doors but it looked like everyone was where they should be. The last door was Drew Bond's, he listened for a moment, no TV or radio, the kid must be reading or something.
His conversation with Caroline kept coming back to him, “We might end up with no one to take forward to the ultimate goal, that what you're saying?” “Worse really, the kid'll be on his, her own, the other girls are just not in the same league.” They really did need a plan C but quite what he wasn't sure, trying to keep the kid in the male ranks might well be taken out of their hands, after all in theory the rules only forbade males competing as female not the other way around.
A few metres away Caroline was mulling over the same issue, could Drew take up the mantle and fulfill all the promise. Over the years there'd been numerous great hopes for British cycling, whilst some had seen a degree of success, Sherwen, Millar, Yates, Boardman none had been able to move up from good to great, Millar coming closest but still not reaching the ultimate level. Of course Drew wasn't quite the only youngster being groomed by BC but he truly was streets ahead of his British peers.
The kid'll make it whatever, she was sure of that, but despite all the talk of sexual equality as far as most sports are concerned the big prizes, the greatest accolades go to the men. She'd fought to even the playing field within BC, with some success it has to be said, on the track both sexes got the same backing, the same support but the road is different.
Jen was a great role model for the girls but the rarified atmosphere of the women's pro ranks was like local park football to Premier division. Drew's Mum might be good but in the men's ranks she'd rank as peloton fodder. Held to that level by gender would most likely stifle the kid's talent, yes he or rather she might well take the honours at the Feminin like his mother, possibly take a world title or two but there would always be that ‘what if' question.
Drew put down his German history textbook, it might be summer vacation but he still had homework to do for Herr Ansbacher. Why couldn't German's stop bickering about Bavaria this, Prussia that? It was his home now so he ought to know some of this stuff; still it could wait until tomorrow.
The book was barely on the bedside table before he zonked out, light still blazing.
* Famous fast course in Essex.
** South African runner Zola Budd famously changed nationality to British to gain Olympic legibility
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 04.10.12