Surprise for Gaby
“You two look frozen,” Mrs. W stated when she opened the door, “get in here, the fire's on in the family room.”
“Hey Ga-ab” Brit cut herself off as bounded into the room behind us. “What?”
“Don't ask,” I hinted.
“You look kinda um, different.”
I shucked my backpack, “you don't say,” I stated with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
“I think she looks great.” Deb put in as she followed her younger sister in.
I took the jacket and gloves off and shook out my hair, I wanted to take the boots off but there is no way I can reach down there! I perched myself on a chair and sagged as much as the corset would let me, which wasn't much at all.
“We didn't think you'd get back today when we heard about the blizzards down south.” Brit told us.
“Well it was touch and go.” Jules started.
We had missed Mums call of course and I found myself pretty tired and headed up for an early night. It took me ages to unbutton the dress, you have to be a contortionist to reach that far up your back, I was actually thankful that I was pretty limber from the cheering. The corset was another matter, I couldn't even find the knot let alone get it undone so in defeat, and wearing the bloomers once again for decency I got my makeup off and finally got into bed. Not comfortable but I was beyond caring now.
I was soon asleep despite the discomfort and well into dreamland. Weird dreams too – I was on a train, maybe 438 and everyone was dressed in nineteenth century stuff – in fact it must've been the nineteenth century coz when I looked out of the train windows we were crossing a big grassy plain and there were Red Indians galloping alongside whooping and firing arrows at the train.
“Get down missy.” Mr. Pilling's voice instructed.
“Yes sir” I dutifully replied sliding off the seat.
“Tickets please” Zach called out as he strode along the carriage.
“One and three arrows please” I requested.
“Who's the other arrow belong to ma'am?” he asked.
“That's mine.” Jules supplied. But unlike the rest of the women on the train she was dressed in just a skimpy set of black lacy lingerie.
The Indians were now being pursued by the Cavalry; I don't know how I could tell as I was still sat on the floor.
“There you are Gaby, get up, you'll make your dress dirty.”
“What were you doing down there anyway?”
“Hiding from the Indians”
“Whatever for? They'd never hurt a soul.”
“Watch out Ma-am, the Cavalry are here,” it sounded like Dads voice.
There was an explosion and then I watched in horror as a rosette of crimson erupted from Mum's chest totally ruining her dress.
“That's not fair,” the still near naked Juliette pouted, “she's like totaled the new dress.”
“Ungh?” I came to a groggy consciousness.
“You were dreaming out loud again.”
“Sorry” I mumbled into my pillow. I tried to sit up.
“What now? Its two o'clock for gods sake.” Jools moaned across the dark room.
“What about it? You've still got it on haven't you?”
“I couldn't undo it,” I complained.
I heard my sister slide out of bed and pad across the room to the light switch.
“Lets have a look then.”
I managed to get upright and turned to let her look.
“It's well knotted.”
“Well duh” I noted.
“Do you want it off or not?”
At least she had found the laces.
After ten minutes of tugging and cursing – seems part of the problem was it wasn't that tight so the knot had got pulled into the laces, Jules had to pull it tighter to get the knot free, I was finally able to breath properly for the first time since mid day. I was really glad to have it off but I immediately missed its warm and somehow comforting embrace.
The rest of the night passed without further incident and morning arrived all too soon.
Wednesday. My brain struggled to pull things together and I finally got my eyes open after scraping the sleep away, must have been in a bit of a draught. Hmm, Wednesday – cool I get to see Diane and Derek later I hope. Well if its not snowing I ‘spose.
The overnight freeze meant that everywhere was still white over when Mrs. W drove us to school, the roads were clear though and I managed to convince her that I'd be safe for a ride later. I did have a bit of a flashback to the Christmas before last when I came off on some ice, then it was a good excuse to not be Gaby, now – well it could get complicated! Of course yesterdays adventure provided the early conversation and my subsequent experience of the full Victorian get up was not missed either.
I became a watcher of the sky, although I generally enjoy snow, I did promise Mrs. W that I wouldn't ride if it snows today. A crappy deal but it was the only way she'd even contemplate letting me ride today.
Miss Cowlishaw suggested adding, well changing the start of our routine for Saturday and I was outvoted so we worked up the new bit for most of cheer practice. Miss Bell thought it was highly amusing, I wasn't but what do I count for? The good news as far as I was concerned was that the white stuff held off so while the rest of the gang headed to the diner, I set off on ‘my' training ride.
My legs ached something rotten from all the cheering stuff so I spent the first couple of miles just loosening up before I could really put the pedal to the metal. It was still damn cold, my breath condensing readily in the afternoon air, I felt like 438 yesterday as I huffed and puffed across Rockingham County. I fell into a comfortable cadence and found myself singing Queen's Bicycle Race in my head. I grinned to myself as I powered up an incline, it felt good to be out here – even if my fingers are dropping off.
I was on a shorter version of Saturdays route, at Elkton I took the Harrisonburg turn that then bucked and rolled into the late afternoon sunshine. I heard a distant train whistle and my thoughts turned to Zach and Mary Ann on the A&R – sugar I've still got all those clothes and things at the Walters. I crossed under I-81 and managed to negotiate central Harrisonburg, even recognizing the Grottoes road.
Time to turn up the burner, the 659 headed south and with the sun sinking over my right shoulder the temperature dropped a bit further. The still white roadside seemed to radiate cold, well it seemed like it anyway, my feet joined my hands in the brass-monkey imitation stakes. The bridge over the South Fork came and went and I was almost done. No sign of Diane and Derek but I'm sure they'll be at the diner. That lack didn't stop me sprinting for the town sign, was I ever grateful to see the welcoming lights of the diner!
“Heya Gab” Sandy greeted me when I finally forced my frozid feet through the doorway.
“English tea right?”
I duck walked to where my peers were having an animated conversation about something.
“You look frozen,” Sab informed me.
“A bit,” I allowed, “it's getting colder I think.”
“Where you bin Gab?” Amy enquired.
“The long way to Harrisonburg.”
“Long way?” Bern asked.
“Via Elkton, I think it was about forty miles.” It was a pretty shrewd guess but Erin's computer didn't seem to like the cold and stopped giving a proper reading before I got to Harrisonburg.
“You need to change.” Mad stated, “I've left your bag with Sandy.”
She was right and ten minutes later a mostly defrosted Drew Bond rejoined the others whose conversation was now on the male of the species.
“What do you think Gab? Is Sam a hunk or what?”
“Stop winding her up Bern” Ally instructed, you know she only has eyes for her bikes.”
Bikes – there was still no sign of Diane Biggs, maybe she's changed her mind? But I thought they always rode on Wednesdays? Whatever. They didn't materialize before Mrs. Walters picked us up which left me a bit sad and a bit concerned. I suppose more than anything I was disappointed, particularly after Mums ret, rety – not wanting me to use the super bike. And now it looks like there won't be a bike, or I guess the trip to Atlanta. I was in quite a fugue by the time we got home.
“What's up Drew?” Mum asked from thousands of miles away.
“I was supposed to see Diane earlier but she didn't turn up.”
“Maybe something came up?” Mum proffered .
“Jules was telling me you had quite an adventure yesterday?” she prompted.
So I spent ten minutes giving her my version of the trip to Clifton Forge, tried to skirt around the costume business but Jules had obviously primed her.
“So will I see any pictures?”
“Probably” I mumbled, “I'm sure someone took some.” Well I know Miss C did and I'm sure the gang did so it was a safe bet that I'll be embarrassed by it all further.
“Oh I meant to tell Jules, the Pinger's are coming to visit this weekend.” She sounded brighter at the prospect.
“Kewl, say hi to Kat for me.”
“I will, I'd best not run this phone up anymore”
“Okay” I sniffed a bit.
“Talk to you tomorrow?”
“I hope so, we've got cheer practice though so I might not make it home for this time.”
“I'll try to call later then, take care son”
“Night Mum, love you”
“Love you too, night kiddo”
I put the receiver down, I'm missing seeing Kat, what a bummer, hmm, maybe I'll get to talk to her though? I felt a bit better at that prospect but then I thought about everyone else I was missing. I realised that I couldn't really put a face to a lot of the names of my classmates; it's only a few weeks, how fickle the memory. Clive and Paul I've known so long I could never forget them, Josh and Kristen were pretty clear in my mind and then there's Cat, she had a mate too didn't she, what was she called? Kate? Kath? No, that's not it; it's Karla, that's right. I couldn't really remember what she looked like though. Memory's a funny thing.
“Gab-ee!” Jules called up to where I was sat on the stairs.
“Someone here for you.”
A visitor? Who on earth would be coming to see me? I slunk down the stairs, my curiosity piqued.
“Hi Gaby” Erin's smiley voice greeted my arrival in the hallway.
“Hiya, I wasn't expecting to see you tonight”
“Well if that's your attitude!”
“No, no, I didn't mean it like that Erin, honest”
She grinned back at me. “I know you didn't.”
“You! So what's up? The race thing is off isn't it?”
“Of course not, whatever gave you that idea?”
“Well Diane didn't turn up at the diner earlier and we sort of arranged to meet up.”
“Is that so? Well in that case you probably don't want to come with me tonight.”
“Go with you? Where to?”
“I dunno that I should say, you being in a mood and all.”
“Erin! Tell the girl.” Mrs. W's voice.
“Aw Jo, you spoil all my fun” Erin replied.
“Well you always were a teaser Erin Brown”
Erin poked her tongue out at her friend.
“So you coming girl?” Erin enquired.
“You've still not said where.”
“Does it matter? Come on get your shoes and coat on“
“Go on Gaby” Mrs. W grinned.
Well I've not got anything pressing tonight, what the heck.
“Come on Erin, spill” I encouraged.
“You'll see soon enough.” She replied as we edged along the frozen street to the main road.
I shivered and rubbed my legs through my tights to try and warm them up a bit.
“Sorry – the heater's foobahed!” Erin apologised, “its not far.”
Unless I'd missed a turn we seemed to be on the road out to the airport – and the Biggs place.
“We going to Diane's?”
“There're no flies on you kid are there?” she half pouted.
I recognised the turn off a few moments later and Erin's truck bounced into the yard and we pulled up by the house.
“Come on up, they're expecting us.”
I dropped to the ground and shivered dramatically as the cold hit me anew, the truck was warm by comparison to out here! I followed Erin to the door and we waited for a reply to the doorbell.
“Hi guys, you should've just come on in instead of standing out there.” Diane admonished ushering us inside a moment or two later. “Go on through, I'll make some chocolate.”
The two of us went through to the living room, I was expecting to find Derek inside but it was empty, the telly was showing what appeared to be ‘The Wonder Years' , of course its miles ahead of what I've seen at home but for some reason I didn't think I was here to watch telly.
“Here we go, this should warm you up.” Diane handed the mugs to us and perched herself in a chair.
“Gaby was concerned that she didn't see you earlier” Erin mentioned, “You were meeting?”
“Sorry ‘bout that Gaby, we had the Chamber of Commerce here today so we missed our ride.”
“How'd it go?” Erin asked.
“Well I think we've got the money, Derek impressed the socks off ‘em!” she beamed.
“Er, where is Derek?” I asked.
“Celebrating with Patty about now” Diane smirked.
“Patty?” who the hell is Patty?
“You thought me and Der…no Gab we just work together. In fact I think Derek was gonna propose to Patty tonight.”
“Oh” I think I was a bit disappointed that they weren't an item – they certainly act sort of close. “So what am I here for guys?”
Erin nodded to Diane.
“Okay Gab, close your eyes.” Diane instructed with a grin.
I did as instructed and tried to listen to what was happening. The fire crackled and the telly talked to itself while I could hear my friends moving something with the occasional grunt and thump.
“You can open your eyes now” Erin allowed.
It was beautiful. No it was amazing.
“Well? What do you reckon?” Diane asked.
“Wow!” was all I could manage as I moved over to the object of my desires.
“It was Derek's idea not to paint it.”
“Its not painted?” Erin mentioned.
“No, the colour is part of the metal, you pass electric currents through it to get different colours and patterns, you wouldn't normally do it on something like this but they use it for jewellery a lot, see?” she showed us her dangly earrings which were apparently treated by the method used on the object in front of me.
To call it a mere bike would be a crime. It was a jewel, a work of art! I knelt down to inspect it closer.
“Erin managed to get the Campy air freighted from Italy, it arrived this morning.”
Ten speed Chorus – cool.
“Try it.” Erin encouraged.
The bike was mounted on a turbo so I turned the cranks and tried the shifters, well slick compared to my Veloce at home.
“I told your Mum it was nothing special.” Erin grinned.
“Erin!” Diane smirked.
I was back to admiring this, this masterpiece. So okay it wasn't Record but Chorus isn't far behind, some of the B league pro teams use it after all. I examined it in minute detail, trying the brakes, checking the bar width and comfort. The wheels are super light 16 spoke on the front and 20 spoke rear with – wow well kewl, Stelvio Evo tyres.
“Super light tubes too” Diane mentioned, “only seventy grams each.”
My attention returned to the frame, I stroked the perfect tubing in awe, whoever had done the colour stuff really knew their stuff. There was literally a rainbow of colours , everything from acid yellow to cobalt blue via pink, purple and green. The down tube has ‘BIGGS' stenciled in natural titanium colour and the top tube has got ‘Gaby Bond' in the same finish.
“I put you a set of Specialized S-Works Zokes on instead of my titanium forks but we can change that if you want.” Diane added as I examined the carbon steering set up.
“It's fantastic Diane. How much?”
“Weigh” I clarified.
“I dunno Gab, I only finished it an hour ago. Tell you what, Erin you sort out the other and I'll get the scales.”
“Sure” Erin agreed.
I continued to drool over the wonder bike and didn't notice what Erin was up to.
“Here we go”
“One team all in one” she shook the skinsuit out, “one jersey,“ she waved a road jersey “and a trackie, welcome to the Grottoes Express!”
“Best try em on Gab, make sure we got the right size eh?”
“Okay” I took the proffered garments and headed for Diane's guest bathroom.
Rather than strip completely I just slipped my skirt and tops off and pulled the skinsuit on over my tights and underwear. It was a bit tight over my boobs but once closed it felt okay. It was pale blue with ‘Grottoes Express' on the front and back; one leg had ‘Erin's Cyclery' the other, ‘Biggs'. I pulled the road jersey on over the top; it was a good fit, apparently shaped for boobs, as it was fairly close fitting. The tracksuit top was a more generous cut which had ‘ Gaby Bond ' emblazoned high on the left breast.
“You died in there?” Erin enquired as I preened in front of the mirror.
“Er be right there.” I pulled my shoes on and returned to the front room.
“Well Miss Bond, up to scratch?” Erin asked.
“Here we go!” Diane stated rejoining us, “cute look with the hose”
Huh? What's she on about? Hose?
Erin had the bike off the turbo already and Diane soon had the bike suspended from the scale.
“How much then Gab?”
With all that Campag, the super light wheels, um.
“Nine and a half kilos”
“I'll go for eighteen pounds.”
“So what is it then?” I pressed.
“Well you were both over, how about seventeen pounds?”
“Well seventeen point two to be exact”
“That's scary light!” I pointed out.
“Well Derek reckons we could get it down to about sixteen and a half by sticking some more carbon stuff on.”
“Its sure a nice machine Diane” Erin stated.
“Well Gabs?” Diane queried.
“Its absolutely mint Diane.”
“Well girl its all yours.”
“Mum said I wasn't to accept anything like this, Er?”
“It's alright Gaby, Diane meant it's yours for the Classic and while you're here, right Di?”
“That's what I meant Gab, yours while you're here.”
I caught Erin making some sort of face; did I miss something going on? Hmm I dunno.
“Tell you what girl, I'll put it back on the turbo and we can check the adjustment, we need to set your shoes up anyway.” Erin suggested.
“But my shoes are already set”
“Well we thought you should have new shoes seeing as everything else is new.” Diane put in.
Mum'll flip big time if she ever finds out about all this lot, maybe she'd better not find out.
“Here you go” Erin presented me with a big plastic carrier with a couple of boxes inside. “I'll put this baby on the turbo.” She prised my fingers off the bars.
“I'll put the supper on” Diane told us as she left us again.
“This is silly Erin, I've got shoes and stuff”
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Erin whispered, “go on, take a look.”
I sat on the sofa and pulled the boxes out, the bigger box was a new helmet, ‘only' a Met Techno Stradivarius, brill helmet but the white and lilac colour scheme ruined the effect a bit! A pair of new Gore mitts were next out, well I didn't actually have any mitts with me, before I pulled out the battered shoebox.
“You've got to be kidding”
I withdrew the Look Chrono Vectrans from the box in awe. They might not be the best looking shoe (excuse the pun) but they are really the biz! I admired them from every angle, from the ski binding closure to the carbon fibre sole. Someone, I presume Erin, had prefitted the red Arc plates to the soles so I slipped them on and snugged the fit with the ratchet.
“Come on, hop on board, we'll set your plates first.” Erin instructed.
So for the first time I climbed onto ‘my' Biggs super bike. Even on the turbo it felt light and I take my hat off to Derek, the position was almost perfect already. Erin played with the plates and pedal tension, I practiced clicking in and out a couple of times before both of us were happy, the Arc plates are fairly forgiving but a couple of mil's make a big difference.
“All set Gab, give it a go.”
Erin stood back and was joined by Diane as I settled into place and started to wind things up a bit. I tried and failed to crunch the gears, even static the bike felt – I dunno, alive? I didn't want to get too hot and sweaty so I just gave it a quick blast before easing back down to a steady, comfortable rate.
“SUPPERS ABOUT FIVE MINUTES” Diane shouted over the loud thrum of the turbo trainer so I started to ease down to a halt.
“Well? What do you reckon?” Diane asked as I tucked into the supper that she'd supplied, what Erin described as a ‘Filly Sub', a sort of long roll thing with sliced beef and onion inside and melted cheese over the top.
“Its brilliant!” I managed between mouthfuls of warm sandwich.
“It's a shame you're missing Saturdays run.” Erin mentioned.
“Yeah” I sighed, “don't suppose it would go down too well if I tried to skip the cheer contest.”
“I don't suppose it would” Erin allowed, “how about Sunday though, as long as the weathers okay we could get a decent training session in and get your bike properly bedded in.”
“Count Derek and me in” Diane added.
“Oh damn! Is that the clock right Diane?”
“Maybe a couple of minutes off, why?”
“I promised Jo that I'd have this one home by ten thirty.”
I looked at the clock myself, where did all the time go? It's five to eleven!
“So I'll see you on Sunday missy” Diane called as we waved goodbye.
“Bye Diane, thanks!”
The others were already in bed when Erin dropped me off so I crept upstairs and into the attic room.
“You back?” Jules mumbled.
“Who else would it be?”
“Where've you been?”
“I'll tell you tomorrow.”
“Humph, night Drew”
I got ready for bed as quickly as possible and snuggled down, my mind awhirl. I never thought the bike would be anything like that, it's awesome! Mum'll be jealous, its better than her team bike, mind you I've only got it for a couple of weeks, but how cool is it! What a day though. I lay there daydreaming (?) for a while before finally succumbing to the land of nod.
Maddy Bell 14.02.06 © 2006
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