TG Universes & Series:
We’d be having dinner later so we restricted ourselves to soup, none of your tinned stuff of course but a rather fine home made Erbsen suppe complete with sliced würst – yummy. Although we’d had coffee everyone agreed on Heisse Shokolade to give a bit more warmth before returning to our steeds – well via the conveniences. When we emerged it was clear that the transport was impatient to get off if all the snorting and stuff was anything to go by.
Without a convenient table to stand on my climb to the perch was, well not exactly elegant, Sophia gave me a leg up which ended with me laid across Freja’s back. It took a bit of shuffling but I eventually settled into the saddle, much to everyone else’s amusement.
“We going back the same way?” Jules asked.
“If you want, I was going to go the short way,” Sara told us.
“Short way is good for me,” I quickly put in.
“Möggingen?” Soph confirmed with her sister.
“Uh huh, it’s mostly small lanes, it should be fine.”
“Let’s go then.”
With that we urged our four legged friends into movement and started the ride back to Harburg.
Riding on the road was very different to the forest tracks, well duh but it was a different thing for me. For one it’s noisier, no not from traffic of which there wasn’t any but from the horses themselves, the distinctive clip clop of hooves on asphalt had, for the most part been missing on the outward leg. The ride was harsher too, which was soon making itself felt via my poor derrière.
We clipped and clopped along the lanes for a while in companionable silence before Sara turned to speak to us.
“That’s Möggingen over there,” she pointed across the fields, “we can go through the village and round or up through the Wald and drop back down the meadows.”
“Which is quicker?” Mand asked.
“Nothing in it really.”
“Wald?” I promoted.
Jules shrugged noncommittally.
“Wald then,” Soph stated.
We turned onto another lane and headed up towards the trees.
“Sugar!” Soph exclaimed.
I turned to see what was up.
“We might want to get under the trees guys,” Soph went on.
Everyone by now had spotted the reason for her statement, a band of cloud that was definitely depositing something was heading our way quite quickly. There was no way we’d outrun it but the Taxis girls soon had us going at a faster walk. It wasn’t enough; the trees were still some way off when we were overtaken by what turned out to be something of a snow flurry.
It probably wasn’t going to come to much but flakes were settling on Freja as well as the ground long before we reached the meagre shelter of the largely leafless trees. Sara had us slow to our previous pace – no point wearing out the horses. We turned off of the road and onto a less travelled trail through the woodland, it was still snowing but less was reaching us.
The downside of being under the trees was lack of light; with the dark cloud above us not much light was making it below the canopy. The wildlife was now noticeable by its absence as we picked our way upward through the spooky trees, just the occasional snort from our mounts breaking the near silence. What had started out as a (reasonably) pleasant jaunt was now turning into something somewhat less enjoyable.
We seemed to have been riding through the gloom for hours but eventually we emerged from the trees pretty much as the weather departed leaving us cold, damp and did I mention cold? On a bike at least your legs are going round, you can keep some warmth but on these beasts all you do is sit and these jodhpur things are not the warmest apparel.
“Typical!” Soph exclaimed.
“Sod’s law,” Jules added.
“Well it’s not far now,” Sara told us, “we’ll go along the road for a bit then we’ll go through the Wald to the meadow, we should be back in about thirty minutes.”
“Hope so, I’m frozen,” Mand stated.
It wasn’t far to the road and not a great distance along the tarmac to the crossroads that took us back into the woodland. Although it was brighter now it is the middle of winter so the daylight was already fading even as we started the descent towards Harburg. The wildlife at least was making the most of the daylight; we were accompanied by plenty of birdsong and movement in the undergrowth.
Sara pulled her mount up as we came to the edge of the trees.
“Over there,” she whispered, pointing down the meadow.
Across the sward we could see a small herd of deer grazing on the winter grasses, all very picture postcard. Beyond, our destination, The Harburg stood out boldly, the white washed walls reflecting the low sunlight.
“Canter?” Sara suggested.
Now I may not be a horse person but even I know canter is faster than walk.
“Well I’m up for it,” Jules told us.
Damn, I’ll look a right wuss if I don’t go with it.
“It’ll be fine, Gab,” Soph insisted, “lift your bum off the saddle and keep a short rein, see?”
She demonstrated and I tried to copy her, it was a bit like being on tri bars I guess. Sara led off and all too quickly Freja was moving all too quickly across the grass, me hanging on with everything I have.
I was bouncing so much I couldn’t focus properly, I’m sure we were all out racing, surely canter isn’t this fast? I ended up closing my eyes; it must end soon, mustn’t it?
“Gab, pull back,” Sara instructed.
“What?” I yelled back.
“Pull back on the reins, she’ll slow down.”
Why isn’t there a brake lever? I wasn’t quite sure how I was supposed to do that but fortunately my mount started to slow as the other beasts put the brakes on around her. Both Mand and Jules seemed to have things under control – they did have more experience than me.
I was only too pleased to return Freja to the care of the stable staff and hurry, albeit a little stiffly back into the castle and warmth.
“Nice ride?” Mum enquired.
“Not much, Mum,” Jules told her.
“It was settling wasn’t it Mand?”
“A bit,” she agreed.
“Maybe a shower?” Gran suggested.
Now that sounds like a plan.
“And put something decent on afterwards,” Mum called to our retreating backs.
I’m not sure where Soph disappeared to, I get first crack at the shower I guess – if I can make it work of course. I stripped the damp and smelly riding kit off and clambered into the shower cubicle. After playing with the control for a couple of minutes I managed to get some luke warm water – well it was better than nothing.
“Here, turn it all the way.”
“Aaargh!” My eyes shot open as Sophia squidged in beside me and the water temperature changed from warn to yay!
“Better eh?” she stated.
“Pass the soap.”
Look, I’ve seen naked women before, I’ve had showers before, what I’m not used to is sharing a shower with one of the aforesaid naked females. I passed the soap to her and let the blush pass over me, hands firmly covering my boobs.
“Turn round, I’ll do your back then you can do mine.”
Soph seemed to be oblivious to my embarrassment chatting about goodness knows what. It’s not the biggest of showers so it was inevitable we’d be um, touching – touching is one thing but any movement meant closer er contact. My brain was screaming, my body was doing weird stuff, I was heading towards meltdown.
“You alright, Gaby?” Dad enquired as I sipped at mug of Glühwein I’d been given when I returned to the family room.
“Er yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?”
“You look a bit distracted.”
“Just erm thinking.”
“That’ll be a first,” Jules chimed in.
“Girls!” Mum shut down any retort on my part before it got to my lips.
“I’m sore in places I didn’t think I had,” Mand advised us.
“You get used to it,” Sara mentioned joining us, “where’s Soph?”
“She was playing with her hair when I came down.”
Marianne, that’s the Duchess came through to join us.
“That’s dinner sorted, anyone for cards?”
Which is how I ended up playing cards with my Gran and a Duchess on New Year’s day in a Bavarian castle – you couldn’t make it up!
Dinner was, for a German household, unusual. It was goose but presented in a very non-German way more like a carvery back in England. Not that I’m complaining, there was plenty of meat and even if the roast taters were a little dry it wasn’t Bratkartoffeln and there was gravy, yup proper gravy. Not only the main course was a surprise, there was a proper dessert, okay it was strudel but with hot almost proper custard.
“Everything okay?” the Duchess asked as we tucked in.
“Lovely thank you, Marianne,” Mum replied.
“Luddy prefers his Vanillesoße thicker,” she told us.
“It’s brill,” I offered.
“We have it thick like this in England,” Mum added.
“That’s where I got the liking,” Ludwig told us, “I backpacked around England with some friends when I was a student, jam roly poly, amazing!”
“Now that’s a pudding,” Dad agreed, “Juliette is a dab hand making it.”
“Daad!” my sister complained.
“She does it for Willie at the restaurant sometimes.”
“Your daughters have many talents eh?” the Duchess stated looking at her own.
“We’ll have to do it next time you are at the Ahrtal,” Dad pressed on.
We ended the evening playing some inane board game where you had to answer questions on different subjects depending on the square you landed on. The adults seemed to enjoy it at least. By mutual consent we had a relatively early night, we’ll be heading home in the morning.
“What’s up, Gab? Come on the bed is warm tonight.”
To be honest the earlier business in the shower has been on my mind all evening, not just sharing the cubicle but my reaction to it. It was only a shower; people share showers all the time don’t they? So why did my body respond like it did when Soph touched me?
And then there was this morning, it was nice cuddled up, comforting but… oh I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m used to sleeping on my own and the shower – well I used to use the communal showers when I went to Warsop College. Oh my god, I was showering with the boys, naked! Calm down, Gabs, you were a boy back then, well if not in fact, in belief, so it was alright wasn’t it?
“You getting in or what?” Soph prompted.
“Sure,” I replied clambering into the covers that my bedmate held open for me.
I was immediately pulled into a hug, a not entirely unwelcome hug. I pulled the light cord and closed my eyes.
Maddy Bell 26.04.16
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