Nena: Book 6
Remind Me Again
by Maddy Bell
Copyright © 2015 Maddy Bell
All Rights Reserved.
“Of all the cuckoo plans this has got to top them all,” Den spluttered.
“Jules wanted us to be married,” I offered in conciliation.
“That girl has a warped mind.”
“Tell me about it,” I agreed.
“What did Bill have to say about this harebrained scheme?”
“Well I’m talking to you about it.”
The following week was pretty ordinary, Den did a couple of one-man jobs, I did a private hire with him for some tourist board junket on Wednesday. Thursday was paperwork day then Friday we both had off so we’d have the driving hours for the Livigno trip.
“I’ll pick you up at ten,” Den advised.
“Okay, see you tomorrow.”
Friday was nothing like a day of rest for me though, oh sure I wasn’t at the office or driving, no I was victim to my girlfriends ministrations to turn me once more into Nena. I thought we’d just buy a new wig, shave my legs and put on a bit of slap but no, to convince a busload of teenage girls that I’m female I apparently have to go much further. I won’t go into detail but by lunchtime I was thoroughly plucked, painted and bleached.
“Come on, I’ve booked you in with Donna to get your nails done.”
“Do I have to? I can get them pretty tidy.”
“Yes you do, no boyfriend of mine is going out with those ratty nails.”
“She’ll recognise me,” I tried as a last get out.
“No she won’t, I told her you’re a friend from work.”
“I‘ll bet you she won’t.”
I had to push didn’t I?
“So what do I win when she outs me?”
“Geez, Chris, she won’t. Tell you what, if I’m right you wear full uniform tonight, if she spots it’s you, you get to choose what you wear.”
As I’m gonna win it’s a no brainer, “Deal!”
“Very smart,” Julie grinned as I tried to make my skirt a bit longer, “stop tugging at it.”
“It’s freezing out there.”
“Well you’ll hardly be stood out in it will you?”
There was no way she’d let me squirm out of this. Donna hadn’t even blinked when ‘Nena’ was introduced; I was just another client too busy to do her own nails. Of course my usual ratty nails had efficiently been transformed into longer neatly painted talons in a dark red that would, I was assured, go with anything. Certainly no one’ll confuse me for a bloke dressed like this, let’s hope that remains the case.
She did let me get my head down for a few hours when we got back from the nail bar but I was already looking forward to our arrival in Italy so I can get a good sleep. At five to ten Den tooted to announce his presence, no backing out now, time to man up (huh!) and get the job done.
The little darlings hove into view variously lugging and dragging an assortment of cases and bags.
“Take your bags over to Dennis then you can get on board.” I instructed.
The bus was half full before the adult contingent arrived, none of whom looked particularly pleased to be looking after four dozen teenagers at one thirty in the morning. I guessed the one with the clipboard was in charge so I went across to introduce myself.
“Er hello, I’m Nena, that’s Dennis loading the cases.”
“Mrs Frazer, what time are we leaving?”
She seemed a bit short; maybe it was the time of night.
“As soon as all the bags are on, we’re booked on the seven forty ferry so we’ll drive straight through to Dover.”
Rather than reply to me she instead chivvied the last few teens waiting to board our transport. “Stop dilly dallying Sarah, Cindy Jones lose that gum now!”
They were soon all on board; I waited for Den to put the last couple of bags in the hold.
“The one in charge is a bundle of fun,” I quietly mentioned.
“None of them look very happy,” Den noted.
Den was taking the first driving stint so I climbed up behind him and took the mic.
“Good morning everyone.”
Of course that got no response. Perhaps sensing that we wouldn’t be going anywhere without me having my say, Mrs Fraser, who’d taken station on the front seat behind my perch, motioned for me to give her the microphone.
“St Martins, we will have quiet.” It took a minute but things did quiet down, “Before we set off Norma has a few instructions for you.” She handed me back the mic.
“Thank you, Mrs Fraser. Firstly I’m Nena and the chap driving is Dennis, we’ll be your drivers for the week. We’ll be setting off in a moment but I have to go through some safety announcements.” I went through my spiel and I thankfully took my seat as Den manoeuvred us out of the school grounds.
From the depot to Dover it’s a fairly easy five-hour drive however we weren’t starting from the depot. Not anywhere close in fact, one issue with the BET work is that the pickups could be almost anywhere in the UK, we’ve had pick ups in Bristol, Newcastle and Norfolk in recent weeks. St Martins School is in Scarborough which adds a good hour to the trip, we’ll be on the rivet to catch our boat although we should have a fairly traffic free run.
By the time we’d reached the Malton by-pass the hubbub behind us had all but ended as teens and teachers found sleep to be preferable in the darkened interior of the bus. Having about three hours until I take over from Den I kicked off my shoes and made myself comfortable to catch forty winks myself.
I awoke with a jolt, bleary eyes revealing the blazing lights of a service area, damn, my turn to drive.
“Nearly five,” Den advised as he swapped the tacho over.
“Should do it then,” I noted slipping my footwear back on.
We swapped seats and in just under five minutes we were under way once more. It might still be early but the M25 was *quite busy but not enough to cause any delay even at the Thames crossing. It’s pretty much a straight hour down to Dover once you join the M2 and with no hold-ups I pulled into the port at five past seven. Anyone who has used this route will know that it’s not as simple as just checking in, no there’s passport control and potentially customs too before you get dockside.
By the time I stopped at the French passport control most of the coach was awake and luckily there wasn’t a queue so the official directed the passengers inside. It took almost fifteen minutes to get them all through, if we get called to customs we’ll definitely miss our boat. Luck was with us and after a trip around the racetrack to check in I pulled up at the control, Den diving off to do the deed.
“We make it?” I enquired.
“One sixty and don’t hang about,” he instructed as he clambered back on, ”they’re already loading.”
There is a speed limit but I ignored that as I headed to our loading lane where we were waved straight to the ramp, the doors were closing even as I put on the handbrake.
“That was a bit tight,” I allowed as Den locked the bus up.
“No kidding,” he agreed.
The Pride of Burgundy was already edging out of the berth by the time we reached the passenger decks. We weren’t the only coach on board; in fact the boat was near capacity with fifteen busloads of mostly BET trips causing every available seat and plenty of the floor to be occupied by teenagers. Thank heaven for the driver’s facilities!
“Breakfast?” Den asked.
“Yeah, get an extra round of toast, I’ll find a table.”
I looked around the canteen, it’s not that big and being last on board – well all the tables were occupied.
Hmm, where to sit?
“Nena, over here!”
My brain finally engaged, Nena, that’s me. I scanned the table to see who was calling finally spotting a waving arm off in a corner. Of course I recognised the face, one I knew as both Chris and Nena, Maureen and where Maureen is George will be close by. Just what I need but they have seats, I smiled and headed over.
Of course they know Nena as being German so I had to move my brain into phoney accent mode.
“Hello stranger,” Maureen grinned.
“Morgen, how are you?”
The last time I saw the pair; well George in fact was when Maureen was taken ill in Berlin. That became quite an adventure to say the least!
“Not too bad.”
“Light duties, Nena,” George put in, “you with Dennis?”
“Ja, he fetches food, we have school ski trip.”
“Lucky you,” Maureen offered, “sit, it’s like a cattle pen in here this morning.”
“Danke, so you are still with the tour company?”
“Yeah, hi Den, when Wally’s were taken over we stayed on doing the Grand Tourer stuff.”
Dennis unloaded our food and I set too buttering toast before it went cold.
“So how come you’re with Dennis, Nena?”
Den replied before I could, “Chris works in the office a lot now so we conned Nena into doing a few trips.”
I gave a shrug, “A girl needs to eat, ja?”
“So where are you off to?” Den enquired.
“Engadin Winter Wonderland, five days in Davos,” George supplied. “You?”
“Oh we know Livigno don’t we, George?”
“Nice little place, tunnel to get in and out this time of year.”
“You’ll be able to stock up on duty free, Nena.”
“And beer, Den,” George added, “it’s some sort of tax haven like Andorra.”
We spent the next hour exchanging travellers tales, the French coast was slipping past when we left the canteen.
“And you,” I replied.
We separated, they were parked at the pointy end us at the blunt bit, they’d be on the motorway before we get on shore. There’s usually at least one passenger goes awol when it’s time to depart but the St Martins party arrived together in short order so we were ready to move off when our turn came. I relinquished driving duties, Den’s taking us across France, we’ll swap at the lunch stop for me to take it the rest of the way.
Our passengers were now fully awake so any hope of getting some sleep was gone, I pulled the last Pratchett book out of my bag and settled down for the long boring ride across northern France. It was a grey day, we had a spot of rain once or twice but the traffic was light and we passed George and Maureen in the services shortly before Strasbourg.
Our own stop wasn’t too much further on at the actual Strasbourg services. For driving hours it had to be forty-five minutes so we followed our passengers into the restaurant. A busload of females quickly clogged up the ladies toilets, we headed for the food instead.
Two coffee’s and a bowl of Beef Stroganoff and I was ready, well almost, to start my stint behind the wheel. The toilets were still under assault by our passengers so I headed out to the bus to use our mobile facility. Thankfully it had remained under the radar of most of our passengers – I reckon they were too tired to take in what I was saying at one thirty this morning!
On these BET trips our duties really only cover driving, the teachers are responsible for getting their charges where they need to be. Mrs Fraser and her cohorts had so far done a good job but possibly due to the toilet fascination we were nearly ten minutes late returning to the motorway. I quickly settled in, so did Den, unlike me he was soon snoring away leaving me to my own thoughts.
We have to transit Switzerland so we had a brief stop at the Basel crossing before following the signs for Zurich. The next stop was somewhat shorter, really just a toilet break and we were on our way again as a gloomy day turned into a damp evening. We finally ran out of motorway when we rejoined the Rhein, the final couple of hours through the Engadin to our destination are on main but narrow roads.
The best bit was the lack of traffic that made negotiating the twists and turns somewhat easier. We left the St Moritz road just after seven and after climbing for several kilometres we reached the Livigno tunnel. We had to wait our turn to go through, fully fifteen minutes as we’d just missed the lights.
Our passengers were getting a bit fractious by the time we set off through the narrow pipe but with Mrs Fraser making a round of announcements that changed to an air of expectation. Luckily we drove pretty much straight to the accommodation, a fairly new complex on the edge of the town. We hadn’t seen much snow on our journey down but here it was piled a couple of metres high.
©Maddy Bell 29.03.15
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