Reconciliation 2 - 'A Long Time Comin'

Notes of a Journey Trilogy
Book 3
Reconciliation

Chapter 2 - 'A Long Time Comin' '

A Gaby FanFic by PB


 

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Chapter 2
 
“C’mon on, Gabs! Mum and Dad are waiting in the car!” Jules called out. Sometimes it was hard to tell which sister was the more anxious, Jules or Gaby.

“No sauna?” Gaby caught the towel tossed at her as she started to leave for the day.

“Sorry, Kris … gotta go before the stores close!” Gaby exclaimed as she tossed the towel back to Kristen.

“What’s the occasion?” Nina questioned.

“Later … I promise! “ With that Gaby flew out the double doors of the workout room.

She quickly joined the others in the car and they made their way into Bad Neuenahr.

When they arrived in town, they left the car in one of the public car parks and quickly made their way through the pedestrian street’s that make up much of the old shopping district. After a short walk, they stopped outside the same jeweller’s that she visited with Maddy and Kat on the previous weekend.

Upon entering the small store, a sales clerk recognized Gaby and directed her to a counter.

“Einen Moment bitte.” She then disappeared into a back room and after a short time, re-emerged with two ring boxes.

“Well … let’s see them, dear. Open up!” Gaby thought her mum sounded like a little kid at Christmas.

She felt a bit nervous when she opened both boxes for the family to inspect. There before them, sat two pair of virtually identical rings.

“Darling! They’re beautiful!” Jenny quietly enthused. Jules readily agreed with her mum.

“The clerk called ‘em ‘Traditional Celtic’,” Gaby offered. “Once I saw them ... I knew I had to get them ... for Dad an’ Gramps.”

“Thanks, Petal...” Dave whispered despite the growing lump in his throat. “Dad would’ve been so proud of her.”

Each of the diamond rings had a solitaire diamond set in a yellow-gold band that was the width of the stone. A raised ‘Celtic Knot’ chain, in white-gold, encircled the outside of the band. A similarly raised border of yellow-gold on each side of the band finished the rings. Each box also contained a matching wedding band.

“I thought that because of the ‘Celtic Knot’ design, it was better to get the matching wedding bands now, instead of gambling that I’d be able to find them at a later time,” Gaby explained to no one in particular.

“I’m even amazed that Gabs found this design, here. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you’d think a small jewellery store in the Ahr valley would carry,” Jules remarked.

“You know Maddy’s going to love these?” Jenny whispered. Gaby could see that her mother’s eyes were getting moist.

Since the rings were fully paid for, Gaby just had to gather up her purchases, thank the clerk and leave. Once out of the store, Dave threw a sorrowful look at his youngest daughter and squeezed her hand.

“I can’t believe our baby’s getting married,” Jenny choked back.

Looking at both her parents, Gaby realised that it was one thing for them to hear her talk about her plans, but now they had actually seen the rings, those plans had become real.

“I’m not getting married tomorrow, Mum. Mad has to say ‘yes’ ... an’ she’s still looking at four-and-a-half years at UMIST.”

When they reached their car Gaby turned and hugged both of her parents. “You’re not loosing me...”

“Just when they had their hopes up!” Jules playfully quipped.

“I love you too, sis…” Gaby replied with a smile, as they all got into the car.

Next morning, it was business as usual, with all the Bond’s heading for the Apollinaris facility. When they arrived, George quickly cornered them.

“Ah, der Bonds ... Guten Morgen. There’s been a change of plans, Gabi. Der team must leave within the hour instead of lunchtime. You’ll still come mit us und be dropped hoff at Manchester und der team vill fly back to France for the ‘Tour de Feminine’, as planned.”

“Are you sure, George?” Gaby weakly protested. “Dad could drive me to Bonn later and I’d grab a flight from there.”

“Call me cupid...” George whispered as he winked at Jenny.

“Well, kiddo ... looks like you’ll have to forget any plans for a morning ride. I’ll get your bag from the car,” Dave offered before his daughter could say anything else.

Gaby knew that since the race organizers were responsible for arranging all the team's ground transportation, Corporate had gone and chartered a Boeing 737 at the beginning of the 2008 season to give the pro team the extended global reach they needed to get to all the races on the World Cup circuit that they had been invited to .

The trip from Bad Neuenahr to the airport with the Pro team and the loading of the plane was just a blur for Gaby. Sitting back in her seat as the aircraft took off, she found time to think. One benefit of not taking a commercial flight meant that she wouldn’t have to worry about getting her connecting flight from Heathrow to Manchester, cutting her trip by about two hours and a bit.

However, it soon occurred to her that she’d not had time to warn Maddy or Carol of the change in plans.

“I’ll have to ask George if it’s okay to use the plane’s phone when we level off so I can warn Carol of the change in plans. I knew I shoulda brought my mobile. Betcha Mad’s already at the school helping the other seniors get things ready for tonight. Depending on the time, maybe I could ask Carol to stop in and surprise her and possibly see Mr. Woods or Miss C. again?”

“Hello … Auntie Carol? Ummm ... where am I? Ummm … in a 737 leaving German airspace an’ heading for Manchester. No, that’s okay! You still got a bit of time…”

Gaby listened to Carol for a minute and then got into the reason for her call.

“I’m calling because I’ve got a favour to ask. Can you meet me at the airport … like … in about ninety minutes ... give or take? No ... not at the ‘Arrivals’ … I’m not on a commercial flight. Oh ... okay.”

Carol made Gaby hold while she grabbed a pen and paper to write down any new instructions. A minute later she was back on the phone.

“...The team chartered a plane for the race season an’ I’ve hitched a ride with them. You’ll have to meet me over on the side where all the private stuff goes … at ‘FlightLink’ ... just as it sounds ... all one word. You see the ‘FlightLink’ sign when you drive along that long road that goes into the main terminal ... yeah, that’s it ... over there! Thanks ever so much ... see you in a bit!“

As she listened to Carol talking about the impending visit, Gaby heard her name being called.

“Be right there Tina! … Auntie Carol? Sorry to cut you off, but I’m being paged by one of the team … before I go, though … remind me to show you something … no ... I have to show you. You’ll just have to wait ‘til we see each other. Later’s …‘bye”.

“Bet Carol’s going nuts right now, trying to figure out what I have to show her,” Gaby smirked to herself as she hung up the phone and walked back to her seat.

“What are you looking so smug about … Frá¤ulein Bond?” Tina asked as she rose to allow her travelling partner to get back into her seat.

“Ahhh … a girl’s gotta have some mystery,” Gaby coyly replied.

“Mein Gott! … Gerade wie Ihre Mutter!” Mumbled Tina.

“What?”

“I said … Just like your muv-atter!” Tina hissed a bit louder than she intended.

“Danke!” Gaby playfully replied as both started laughing.

George just looked across the aisle at the two of them, smiled and shook his head, before lying back in his seat and closing his eyes.

Having seen the way those two got along on and off the bike, he was quite sure the day would come when he’d have another Bond — Porsche duo riding for the team. He knew Jenny, he knew Tina and he’d come to know Gaby in the few years she’d been in Germany.

It was a little before eleven in the morning, when the Boeing 737 touched down in Manchester. The aircraft taxied up in front of ‘FlightLink’ and with the engines idling just long enough for Gaby to de-plane, the team was once again on the move.

After walking the short distance across the apron to the small terminal, she didn’t have to wait long in the lounge before Carol walked in.

“I have to make one or two stops first ... but I thought if the traffic gods are kind to us … we’ll stop by the school and pick Maddy up. How’s that sound?”

“You read my mind ... I was just going to ask you that! Ummm ... those traffic gods don’t require a sacrifice or anything ... do they?” Gaby playfully replied.

“Don’t worry ... I offered up John’s old football jersey,” Carol joked.

“Please say it wasn’t his ‘Red Devils’* jersey! That was signed by the whole team!”

“Good God, no! Do I look like I have a death wish? Besides ... we’ve finally got it re-framed and back up in his study. This was his old jersey from his team at work. They got new one’s last week,” Carol smirked.

By the grace of lighter-than-usual-traffic and her driving, Carol made all the stops she wanted in Manchester and still arrived at Warsop College a good half an hour before the kids were officially let out for the year. After she turned into the school’s carpark and pulled into a vacant spot, Carol quickly shut off the ignition and turned on her passenger.

“Okay, young lady … now what’s this that you have to show me?” Carol impatiently asked.

“Can it wait until you and Uncle John are together ... without Maddy?” Gaby replied.

“You’d have a better chance of Maddy not knowing, if you show me now … and I can tell her father in private.”

“Yeah … I guess you’re right. She was always nosey!”

“Still is…” Carol replied with a smile.

Gaby went into her bag and took out a small ring box. Opening it slowly, she revealed the two diamond rings.

“Gabeeeeee!” Carol squealed as her eyes quickly misted over. “Are you sure?”

“Never more sure of anything in my life. You know how I’ve always felt about her … an’ … I’m not going to chance losing her again when she goes to UMIST.”

Carol knew exactly what Gaby meant as she smiled at her future daughter-in-law.

“That ‘Mother-in-law’ remark the first time I visited you in Germany. You knew then … didn’t you?”

“I knew what I wanted … if she did,” Gaby softly replied.

“If anyone deserves this … it’s you two. As soon as Parliament passed that law … I thought about you ... and Maddy finding herself. Congratulations,” Carol quietly remarked as she leaned over the car’s centre console and gave Gaby a long hug.

“She still has to say ‘yes’,” Gaby’s voice was subdued and reflective.

“Ohhh … I’m fairly sure she will,” Carol replied while giving Gaby’s hand a couple of squeezes. Upon further examination of the rings, she glanced at her niece and exclaimed, “They’re gorgeous, Gaby!”

“I left the wedding bands with mum. She’s supposed to be putting them in our safety deposit box at the bank.”

“You’ve got the wedding bands?” Carol quietly asked.

“I wasn’t going to chance not being able to get the matching bands at a later date,” Gaby replied.

“How will this affect your plans for university?” Carol wondered.

“I want us to finish our schooling an’ at least one of us to have a job before we start any serious planning,” Carol took another long look at the rings before she let Gaby return them to her bag.

“We both know she’s going to say ‘yes’ … don’t we?”

Carol laid her hand on Gaby’s arm in a hopeful gesture of support, then turned and then slowly re-directed her attention back to her book.

“Go on, dear. I know you want to go in...” Carol softly prodded.

Gaby nervously checked her make-up for the umpteenth time before getting out. Hiding behind the opened passenger door, she took the opportunity to give another tug to the hem of her denim mini skirt before bending down and peering back into the car.

“Do I look okay?”

“You look fine, Gaby … now relax … and go collect your bride!”

“We’re not married yet, Mum...” Gaby playfully pointed out.

“You will be...” Carol softly replied, with a chuckle.

Once inside Warsop College, Gaby was met by an empty main corridor that seemed to be devoid of all forms of life. “It seems forever since I stood here.”

While standing and looking at the mother-daughter ‘team’ portrait that Jenny had donated to the school, Gaby heard faint voices and turned to see Mr. Woods coming out of the staff lounge, deep in conversation with Mrs. Johnston.

“Miss Bond?? … Gaby?? … Good Lord! … It is you!” Mr. Woods enthused as he saw the distant lone figure grinning back at him. Both administrators quickly closed the short distance to the former student.

“Hello Sir … Mrs. Johnston,” Gaby greeted her former headmaster and assistant headmaster.

“Definitely not the young lady who left here!” Mr. Woods quietly exclaimed as the two staff members stood looking at Gaby. “The resemblance to your mum is even more striking than it is in that photo.”

“Thank you.”

What brings you here? ... Visiting?” Mrs. Johnston inquired.

“Maddy … actually.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Mr. Woods remarked. “She has to pass here … final bell hasn’t gone yet…”

“Can I ask you something, Sir? When I spoke with her last evening she’d been unable to speak with you … but I wonder if she was able to have a word with you today?”

“About tonight’s disco? Yes, she did. I saw her briefly this morning and she explained your ... relationship … and her wish to have you accompany her … in her words …’as her date’.”

“And?” Gaby anxiously asked.

“I told her that it was a bit unusual for the College … but considering the times we live in, I saw no problems with her request.”

“Thank you, sir! … Sir? Do you happen to know if Miss Cowlishaw will be there as well?”

“I know Maddy told her that you may be at tonight’s festivities … so I doubt you’ll be able to keep her away!” Mr. Woods replied with a smile.

“And Gaby? I look forward to seeing the both of you there, as well … and you can tell me all about your national championship!”

“Sir?”

“I have my sources, Miss Bond … you should know that!” Mr. Woods smugly replied.

(Brriiiinnngg)

At exactly three PM, the final bell sounded and the corridors quickly filled with excited students. The trio quickly moved to one side, content to let the sea of humanity pass, until they heard a not-so-faint voice call out in the wilderness.

“Gaby!”

Maddy quickly wound her way through all the other students clogging the hall. Finally reaching her target, she stopped short and turned to Mr. Woods with pleading eyes.

“Ohhhh …. go ahead, Miss Peters! Other students do it in the corridor, so why should you be any different? Besides … I’m hardly going to start to discriminate now … am I?” Mr. Woods couldn’t hide his smile on seeing the two back together.

With the Headmaster’s approval, she threw her arms around Gaby’s neck and planted a kiss squarely on her lips! One could swear the noise level in the corridor, immediately dropped to zero.

“Thank-you, Sir! See you tonight!” Maddy excitedly bade the two staff members’ good-bye.

As the girls were leaving, a path that crossed through the crowded corridor and ended at the main doors, seemed to magically open before them. Feeling a bit like Moses with the parting of the Rea Sea, the girls exited the building and quickly got into the waiting car with Carol. In a few minutes they were safely at Chez Peter’s.

After Gaby was installed in the guest room, the three ladies congregated in the kitchen, catching up on events. When John came home for tea, she had no problem finding a reason to take Maddy out of the room so her parents could talk.

Later, the only indication Gaby had that Carol even mentioned anything to her husband was when they returned to help set the table, John gave her a knowing smile and nodded his head. Following tea and the washing up, Carol announced that it was time for the girls to start getting ready for the big night.

After their respective showers Carol did her best to blow-dry and brush each girl’s hair. She was relieved to learn that her hairdressing skills wouldn’t be challenged since both girls wanted it left long and straight.

“Do you want yours parted on the side, like Maddy’s?” Carol asked.

“Ummm ... I think I’ll stay with it in the middle ... for now” Gaby thoughtfully replied.

At Maddy’s request, Gaby had brought her feather earrings to wear. She also gave Carol her ‘dream-catcher’ earrings to pass onto Maddy so both girls could have a similar aboriginal influence to their outfits.

While Gaby was finishing getting dressed, she nervously thought about what she was planning and Maddy’s possible reaction. After zipping herself up and nervously re-checking her make-up, she decided she couldn’t delay any longer.

Walking out of the guest room, she carefully descended the stairs as her mum showed her and made her entrance into the lounge where Maddy’s parents waited. Although they had seen ‘Gaby’ many times in earlier days, this was the first time either one had seen her in a formal.

“Carol!” John quietly prompted his wife when he saw Gaby walking towards them.

“You look exactly like Jen when she was your age,” Carol gushed when she looked up from her seat.

Gaby stood in their midst wearing a black satin, bias cut gown and black open-toed sandals with a three inch heel. Her jewellery was kept equally simple, consisting of a plain black velvet choker, her feather earrings and a watch. Her long, mousey-blonde hair, lightened with highlights for the occasion, reached to the middle of her back and provided a welcome contrast against her black gown.

“Do I look okay?” she innocently asked, as she did a slow twirl for Maddy’s parents.

“You look very pretty, dear…” Carol quietly allowed. John quickly agreed.

“Thank you,” Gaby shyly replied.

A minute or two later, Gaby turned to look as Maddy came down the stairs and entered the room. She was wearing a sleeveless burgundy floor length gown, with a V-neck and a full skirt. Like Gaby, she was wearing a pair of black dress open-toe sandals with three-inch heels.

A lump began to form in Gaby’s throat when she saw the silver double-heart shaped locket around Maddy’s neck. Although now on a longer silver chain, it was unmistakably the one Drew had given her on her fourteenth birthday.

Like Gaby, she kept her jewellery simple with a watch and a plain white gold chain bracelet on her wrists in addition to the locket. Catching sight of the ‘dream-catcher’ earrings when Maddy quickly turned her head, Gaby thought they definitely looked better on her.

“You look … beautiful … Mad…” Gaby breathed.

“So do you…” Maddy softly replied.

Un-noticed by either girl, John and Carol quietly retreated out of the girls sight, to the dining room, but still within earshot.

Gaby gently took Maddy by the hand and led her to the couch where they both sat down. Looking directly into her girlfriend’s eyes and taking both of her hands in her own, she spoke in a quiet voice.

“Mad … not long after we first started hanging around each other and the ‘gang’ … I first told myself that I fancied you …an’ later … it was easy to admit that I’d fallen in love with you. Even after learning I was born a girl ... I still loved you ... an’ not being with you for four of the hardest an’ loneliest years of my life … if anything ... only made me want you in my arms, even more. Now you tell me that I’m looking at being apart from you for another four-plus years while you’re at UMIST ... an’ I don’t think I can take that … not without knowing you’d still be there for me…”

“I...” Maddy began. Gaby softly continued after giving Maddy’s hands a gentle squeeze.

“...Please?” Gaby softly pleaded before taking a second to compose herself. “Attitudes an’ laws are changing all over … an’ ... we can do this now ... if you want to ... it’s just one little word…”

Tears of joy were beginning to run down Maddy’s face as she anticipated her girlfriend’s intentions. Gaby then slowly opened her closed right hand, exposing a diamond ring.

“I love you, Mad …an’ I need you in my life. Will you marry me … an’ stay with me … as my wife?”

“Oh, shit!” Maddy whispered. “I mean … I … oh, God! … yes … YES!”

Gaby then gently took her left hand and slipped the diamond onto her ‘ring’ finger. After she retrieved the other ring from her bag, she presented it to Maddy and quietly asked, “Would you?”

“I guess this means you’re going to be my wife?” Maddy tearfully joked.

“Yes…” Gaby quietly replied while unsuccessfully fighting her own tears.

Maddy then slipped Gaby’s diamond onto her ‘ring’ finger after which both girls sealed their engagement with a lingering kiss, only to have the moment interrupted a short time later by some quiet sniffling, emanating from the direction of the dining room.

As they sat up and turned towards the noise, Maddy’s parents came back into the lounge. Carol immediately offered the girls the box of tissues that she had in her hand. Once all eyes were dried, both girls presented their left hands for close inspection.

“About bloody time you two came to your senses! …Congratulations!” John remarked. Both John and Carol gave each girl a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll get the car.”

“Could you call Mum while we’re out an’ see if she managed to put the wedding bands in a safety deposit box at the bank? I don’t need to loose track of them now,” Gaby asked as Carol broke her hug.

“I have to call her anyway. You think she’s not going to hear about this?” Carol replied with a huge grin.

“Better shake a leg if you expect to get to the school by seven … and fix your make-up. You don’t want to go looking like that, do you? John’s out in the car, waiting to drive you two ladies to the ball.”

The girls quickly checked themselves over and went outside to the car. Playing up the role of chauffeur, Maddy’s dad held the rear door open while inviting the girls to get in.

“Ladies?” John offered, gesturing towards the opened rear door with his hand.

Living the moment, Maddy casually replied, “Thank you, John … Warsop College, please.”

“Very good m’lady.” After both girls were comfortably in the back seat, he then closed the door and got behind the wheel.

After a few minutes, Mr. Peters pulled into the car park at Warsop College and instead of stopping in one of the parking slots, he went around and pulled the car up to the front steps of the school. Once he put the car in park, he got out and opened the back door for the girls.

“We have arrived … m’lady,” Mr. Peters intoned as he held the door for the girls to exit. Both girls, especially Gaby, tried real hard to stifle a few giggles.

“Thank you, Daddy. I have my mobile, so I’ll call when we’re leaving … that okay? We’ll try not to be too late.”

Maddy gave her dad a peck on the cheek, then gently took her fiancée’s hand and watched as he drove off.

Gaby looked at her old school and mumbled something about ‘in for a penny’. The two took a deep breath, looked at each other and then at the school’s entrance.

“Well … we’re here now … an’ your dad’s left. Only one way to go. (sigh) Shall we?”

“Now I know how Dorothy felt before seeing the wizard,” Maddy softly commented. Gaby just looked at her.

“You know … Dorothy … the Wizard of Oz?”

“Just hope we don’t meet the wicked witch,” Gaby replied.

“We won’t … unless Cynthia shows up!” She immediately started giggling and soon had Gaby joining her.

All during this time kids and other couples arrived, so after agreeing to press on, they started up the ‘yellow brick road’ to the main doors of the school. They didn’t get far inside when Maddy slowed her pace.

“I need some water!” she hissed, but with a smirk that betrayed her feelings.

“Why?” Gaby quietly inquired.

“The wicked witch is up ahead.”

Maddy motioned to a group of girls who were hanging around outside the gym with their boyfriends. As they approached the small group, Maddy greeted Cynthia and the others.

“Hi, guys...”

“Maddy dear … when will you learn? You’re a big girl now. You’re supposed to bring a date to these things … not your girl friends!“

Gaby just glared at Cynthia. “Meeeowww!”

Maddy quickly looked at Gaby and turning back to face her long-time tormentor, sweetly replied, “Actually … she’s my fiancée.”

The two girls then held up their left hands, palms facing inwards and took great pleasure in watching Cynthia’s jaw hit the floor. They thought the look on her face was priceless!

Only one of the girls in the group seemed initially uncomfortable as they ‘outted’ themselves to Maddy’s fellow students. The remaining girls were more interested in looking at their rings and questioning the two girls on their relationship. A few minutes later, even the one girl who’d initially held back became caught up in the moment.

After introducing her friends to Gaby, Maddy formally introduced her.

“Guys … meet Gaby!”

“You’re the girl who races bikes … and that’s your photo hanging by the main doors … isn’t it?”

“Yes ... on both counts.”

“The Head sometimes mentions you at our assemblies…”

“Maddy?” Gaby was surprised that he would still be mentioning her achievements.

“Not me! … I swear … but he has gone on about some of your races.”

“I’m gonna have to find out ‘ow ‘e does it!”

“Yes, dear…” Maddy smugly replied, amidst the chuckles of her friends.

Meanwhile, the ‘dates’ that were with the other girls were left standing in the hall, wondering what just happened. No one did see Cynthia slink off, but eventually everyone noticed she wasn’t around.

“Better late than never,” Gaby thought as she saw Mr. Woods and Miss Cowlishaw approach.

“Evening, all…” Mr. Woods greeted when they reached the small group of students.

“Evening, Sir … Miss,” The gathered seniors chorused.

A short time later, when Mr. Woods, Miss Cowlishaw and the two girls were about to enter the disco and join the rest of the students, Fran abruptly stopped and reached for the girl’s hands.

“What’re these?” Fran happily asked.

“They weren’t there at final dismissal,” Mr. Woods voiced.

“Gabs proposed before we came to the school,” Maddy proudly beamed as they both surrendered their left hands for inspection.

“I wanted her to have her diamond before she went off to UMIST,” Gaby put in.

“I always felt that despite everything, you two would end up together!” Mr. Woods enthused.

“So did I,” Fran whispered as she hugged both girls.

“Well, ladies … on that note … shall we?” Mr Woods offered as he gave a sweeping motion with his arm, towards the main entrance to the disco.

“What are you two doing here?” Maddy asked when they found both Em and Ally standing inside the doors.

“We heard that you two were going to be here so we thought we’d come and say ‘Hi!”, Ally admitted.

“Em thought we’d be run out when Mr. Woods caught us since we’re ‘former students’, but both he and Miss C were kewel with us being around once we explained we were hoping to see you two,” Ally further explained.

Maddy, noting Em’s subdued demeanour, gently nudged Gaby. Taking the hint, she approached the girl and gently took hold of her hands.

“Em? Remember you once said to me we’ve been friends too long and I told you I might forgive you sometime, but not then? Well … you were right. We were mates for a long time … and now it’s well past time I that I did forgive you.” She then drew her into a hug.

After the two parted, Em could only smile as she nodded her head and quickly grabbed a tissue from her bag.

“OhmyGod!” Ally squealed. She held Maddy’s left wrist and as she made a grab for Gaby’s wrist, Ally frantically addressed her bewildered friend, “Em! … Are you blind?”

“For real?” a shocked Em managed to squeak after staring at their rings.

“Uh huh!” Maddy gushed.

While Em was hugging Gaby and looking at her ring, Ally had Maddy in an emotional hug.

“Didn’t I tell you she still loved you? I’m so happy for you Mad.”

“You knew?”

“Not this!” Ally shot back, as she playfully held her hands up in mock surrender.

“You guys set a date?” Em wondered.

“Give it up Em … they just got engaged!” Ally remarked. “You did just get engaged … didn’t you?”

“To answer your questions … I only asked her before we came to the school … and no … no date … both of us still have uni,” Gaby revealed.

“Did she go down on one knee?” Ally jokingly asked Maddy.

“Are you kidding? In this frock an’ these heels?” Gaby replied with mock annoyance.

“I’ll have you know … I thought she was very romantic,” Maddy softly offered as she cuddled up to Gaby.

The four friends went inside the disco and spent some more time together catching up on things and mingling with Maddy’s schoolmates. Occasionally they talked with either Miss Cowlishaw or Mr. Woods and even had a few dances. Unfortunately, Bernie had left for Scotland with her parents earlier that evening, or it might’ve been a ‘gang’ reunion of sorts.

Other than a ‘curious look’ from a few of those in attendance during the first couple of slow dances and when they snuck the odd kiss, the disco was very enjoyable for the two girls.

All too quickly, the time came when Maddy thought she should phone for a ride and plans were made quickly with Em and Ally to meet the following day and go into town. It was to be Maddy’s last full day in Warsop, for a few weeks.

Next morning, Carol poked her head in the room, “Breakfast in ten!”

Gaby immediately thought she sounded too cheerful for this time of day — like her mum! She smiled to herself as she started to wonder if it’s some sort of genetic condition.

After getting out of bed and taking care of business, she decided to awaken her ‘sleeping beauty’ like in the fairy tales. Tiptoeing into Maddy’s room, she bent over her princess and planted a kiss on her lips.

“Mmmmm … I could get used to this…” Maddy cooed with her arms wrapped around her fiancée’s neck.

“Your mum said ‘brekkies’ in ten, an’ that was five minutes ago! Guess ya gotta get up,” Gaby sweetly replied.

“Oh, pooh!” Maddy exclaimed with a pout, as she tried to playfully pull Gaby into bed.

“Girls!” Carol called up stairs.

Heeding the voice from downstairs, both girls reluctantly hauled themselves out of Maddy’s room and joined her parents for breakfast.

“Gabs, one thing I meant to ask when I was at your place last weekend. I noticed that your Apollinaris skins have small German flags on your collar, but when we were at the team meeting, no one else … juniors or pros, had them on their skins. How come?”

“When you see the national flag on the collar of anyone’s skins, that means they’re a national champion,” explained Gaby.

“So … you’re now the German National Champion, then?” Maddy’s interest was obviously peaked.

“The 2008 German Junior Women’s National Champion for ‘under 19’ … yeah,” Gaby replied as if it was no big deal. She explained that she won the title back in the first weekend of June, in Lahr, but since no one asked her about it, she didn’t mention it!

“That’s one Mr. Woods never mentioned!” Maddy enthused.

“That’s what I forgot last night!”

“What?” Carol wondered.

“I was going to ask Mr. Woods how he always seemed to know all about my races…”

“He kept mentioning Gaby’s races at our assemblies,” Maddy added for her mother’s benefit. “Oh, well … that’s another of life’s mysteries I guess.”

“What’s on your agenda’s today?” John asked no one in particular.

“I still have to pack, but Gabs and I’ve agreed to go into town with Em and Ally for awhile,” replied Maddy.

“I’ve got to get a few groceries or we won’t be eating tonight,” Carol added.

Having officially heard that he’d be left alone, John resigned himself to yard work while the girls were out and Carol volunteered to drive the kids into town, once Em and Ally arrived.

Following breakfast, Maddy went upstairs to get ready, while her mum and Gaby did the washing up. Carol used the time alone to talk to her a bit more. At least by the time she went upstairs, she didn’t have to vie for the ‘facilities’ with Maddy!

The girls filled in the time until Em and Ally got to the house, with Gaby helping Maddy pack for Germany.

“Pack for the summer, luv. Something tells me that we won’t have too much time for shopping. According to the tour schedule Mum told us ... it sounds as if we’ll either be racing or travellin’…”

As Maddy started pulling out various dresses and skirts, Gaby suggested she not get carried away.

“It’s kind of hard to work on bikes in a mini and heels … I think you’ll have more of a need for jeans, trainers and tops.”

“Think you’re right,” Maddy agreed as she began putting some clothes back in her closet.

“Then again…” Gaby thoughtfully uttered as she pondered a few of the sexier outfits that Maddy was putting back. “There’ll probably be a few times that we’ll need something dressier … put these back in.”

“As you wish…” Maddy softly replied and then gave Gaby a gentle kiss as she took the clothes from her.

“Girls! Em and Ally are here … and I’m about ready to go … you two finished packing?” Carol called up from the bottom of the stairs.

“Be right down, Mum!” Maddy called back. “Let’s go.”

Both girls came bounding down the stairs where they greeted their guests with hugs. When everyone was ready, Carol ushered the four girls out to the car.

“Okay … I have to grab some groceries … if you girls want a lift back, meet me here in about two hours.”

“We’ll probably be longer than that … Gabs and I have to pick up some stuff to take with us. We’ll grab the bus back, later.”

“See you back at the house for tea, then … have fun, girls!”

Maddy took the opportunity to get herself some new trainers and jeans. Old habits die hard and Maddy soon had Gaby in a sporting goods store, looking at bathing suits.

“C’mon Gabs … there’s bound to be a pool at these hotels, isn’t there?” Maddy pleaded. “An’ this will look sooo sexy on you….”

After letting her fiancée go on for a short while, Gaby willingly gave into Maddy’s wishes and got a new two-piece bathing suit or two.

Any Warsop shopping trip was not complete until Gaby had purchased one or two pairs of shoes from her favourite salesperson. In fact, all four girls fell prey to Sarah’s ‘salesmanship’!

After a couple of hours wandering the stores, they found a quiet café where they could sit and relax. It wasn’t until late afternoon that they collectively decided to get the bus and head to their respective homes. The lovebirds had a six-thirty flight to catch the next morning and it was going to be an early night for both of them!

Gaby admitted to herself, she enjoyed the shopping as much as Maddy did and yet it felt strange. As she thought about it, she wondered if it was because when she used to shop in those very stores, Drew was always mistaken for a girl by various sales staff and Maddy had played along, at Drew’s expense.

But that was a distant memory. Now she had her future and Maddy to think about.

(Bzzzzzzttt)

Gaby threw her arm in the direction of her nightstand and eventually managed to turn off the radio alarm. As she entered the land of the living, she became aware of an arm across her chest and turning her head, saw Maddy staring at her with an evil grin on her face.

“Shhhh … I couldn’t resist … but I should get back before Mum comes and tries to wake me up,” Maddy whispered as she leaned in to give Gaby a morning kiss.

(CLICK!) “Shit!”

Maddy quickly threw the covers over her head as overhead light was turned on. Carol stood in the doorway and knowingly scanned the room, her gaze finally resting on the strange ‘lump’ in Gaby’s bed.

Gaby propped herself up, leaned over and lifted the covers.

“Busted!” she softly remarked as she looked at Maddy.

“Mum! … I…”

“Shhhh … it’s okay” Carol quietly told her daughter as she stood beside the bed looking at the girls.

“She spend the whole night, Gaby?”

“Not that I know of.”

“I’m surprised!” Carol had a grin on her face that told the girls she didn’t quite believe them as she left the room.

“John’s still sleeping … so keep it down. Better start to get ready.”

“Don’t think she believed you, sweetheart...” Maddy whispered. She then got out of bed and headed for her own room, leaving Gaby with a peck on the cheek.

“Hey!” Gaby shouted in a loud whisper.

“That’ll have to hold you until breakfast … see you downstairs,” Maddy playfully quipped as she exited the ‘guest’ room.

Later, after telling John she was heading out to the airport, Carol led the girls out into the breaking dawn and to the car. Traffic was light at that hour, even for a Sunday and they got to the airport in good time. Carol bade them good-bye and headed back to a warm bed, leaving the girls to make their own way to the boarding gate.

The flight itself was boring, but once back in Bonn, Dave was waiting to pick them up.

“Good flight?” Dave inquired, talking to no one in particular.

“Dunno … we slept for most of it … I think. We were up pretty early,” Maddy replied for the two of them.

“Well … relax for the day … ‘cause you two and Jenny will be up even earlier tomorrow. Everyone’s to meet at the facility by four AM. Apollinaris has given you guys one of their corporate jets for the ‘tour’.”

“I understand they’ve even re-configured the interior to accommodate your bikes and any equipment that can’t fit in the cargo hold. Since there will be only seven of you … you’ll all be pampered … executive style,” Dave revealed.

Dave and the girls eventually made their way to the car. Once on the Autobahn, he had a pretty quiet drive home with the two girls in back trying hard not to doze off.

At the house, Maddy was once again put in with Gaby. After she got settled and both girls rejoined the family downstairs, everyone wanted to know everything about the girl’s weekend.

Both Jenny and Dave had lumps in their throats when they actually saw the girls wearing their diamonds and cuddled up to each other on the couch. Following supper, Jenny and the girls decided on an early evening.

“Everybody up!” Jenny quietly barked as she both tried to hide a yawn and wake the girls up at the same time. Maddy rolled over and looked at Gaby’s clock radio.

“Two AM? Why’d we even go to sleep?” Maddy propped herself up on one elbow and stared at her still sleeping fiancée.

(Yaaaaawwwwn) "C’mon, sweetheart … I think your mum wants us up,” Maddy softly said, as she tried to shake Gaby into something resembling a living being.

With all three women exhibiting reluctance to become mobile, they eventually got showered and dressed, arranged all bags by the door and even managed a bit of breakfast. At three-thirty, Mike appeared at the door, the team van pulled into the drive.

“Don’t you dare say it! It’s way too early to even think about being awake,” Jenny warned, shaking her finger at Mike, eyes half closed and a smile on her face.

Once Mike loaded the girls into the van and collected Kristen, he then drove them to the team facility to join Hans and the other two girls. After repacking the van and getting everyone situated, they headed to the airport and the Apollinaris corporate hanger.

As they walked into the corporate hanger, the ladies saw all five of the Apollinaris Canadair Challenger 604 ‘biz’ jets were done up in the same colours as their team skins, but one aircraft had something extra to the standard paint job.

Beside the door, it had the legend ‘2008 Women’s Junior World Cup Tour’. Immediately below that, the races were listed and below that, the names of all the individuals who were on the ‘Tour’. The words ‘Team Apollinaris’, ‘written’ in fancy script, appeared in four inch gold letters on the side of the fuselage below the cockpit windows. For the girls, it was like a dream come true.

Once everything was loaded and everyone was allowed to board they all wondered if they could ever be satisfied flying on a normal airliner again. They unanimously agreed that they were about to be spoiled!

“Next stop, Charleston, West Virginia! Get comfortable … we do have a microwave and a small kitchenette at our disposal, as well as an entertainment centre stocked with CD’s and DVD’s … washroom is back there,” Jenny announced as they settled in, while pointing to the rear of the cabin.

She explained that they had to fly into Charleston and then by car, take the Interstate into Beckley. It was something like a forty-minute drive.

One of the pilots assigned to the aircraft came back and briefed everyone on emergency procedures and where everything was. All that remained was to get airborne. By now, everyone was extremely excited to actually be on the way!

In due time, the excitement levels diminished and everyone settled into the normal ‘routine’ of a transatlantic flight, after they got used to the idea of crossing the Atlantic ocean in a ‘small’ aircraft.

After several hours in the air, one of the pilots came back and announced they were coming into Charleston.

~~~~

* ‘Red Devils’ is the club nickname for the ‘Manchester United’ football club.
 
 
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To Be Continued...
 



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