All Things Denied 19 - 'Ch-Ch-Changes'

Notes of a Journey Trilogy
Book 1
All Things Denied

Chapter 19 - 'Ch-Ch-Changes'

A Gaby FanFic by PB

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair!


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Photo Credit: Used with her permission....“Let Me In”  © by simpledrama .

Chapter 19

“Crikey! Looks like she’s done it again,” Dave muttered in a hushed tone.

“Is this what you told me about on the plane ... her blackouts?” Jenny asked.

“Uh huh ... Dr. Sanwari said it may be related to her current low oestrogen levels and how the rest of her system currently reacts to physical exertion. Further tests would answer that. I know that he prescribed a daily oestrogen pill to help bring those levels up to those of a normal girl her age ... but considering the race she just rode … I bet she just ‘ran into the wall’! Dave mentioned.

“I hope that’s all it is!” Jenny was beside herself with worry for her youngest child as Dave knelt down beside Gaby’s cot.

"Gaby! ... Gaby! ... C’mon girl ... wake up!" Gaby thought she heard a familiar male voice.

"Come on ... kiddo ... please?" an equally familiar female voice pleaded.

Just then, a female paramedic came in to check on Gaby. “Are either one of you related to the girl?” she asked as she wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Gaby’s arm.

“We're her parents,” offered Dave.

“What’s her name?” one of the EMT’s asked.

“Gaby,” Jenny replied.

The EMT’s worked quickly, putting Gaby on oxygen, taking her blood pressure and pulse before checking her pupil responsiveness.

“Does she have any medical conditions that might have contributed to this?” one of the two female EMT’s inquired.

“Nooo … not that we’re aware of … but she has a bit of a history of getting caught up in a race and forgetting to eat,” Dave's voice trailed off as the paramedic nodded and then began assisting her partner in inserting a dextrose I.V drip into her left arm.

“Sounds familiar ... c’mon ... wake up, Gaby!” she encouraged as she came over beside her and gently patted her cheeks. “Follow my pen ... good girl! Now … how many fingers do ya see?”

“Two an’ a thumb,” Gaby mumbled through her plastic oxygen mask.

“Ummm ... right,” the EMT sarcastically replied.

“Thanks, hun … you can sleep now … if you want.” As Gaby closed her eyes and laid her head back onto the cot, the EMT stepped away and motioned for Jenny and Dave to join her.

“In this case … I would tend to agree with your husband. Given that this course was more suited to a mountain goat … it’s probably more physical exhaustion than anything else. Hopefully she’ll be all right in a bit. She’s young and in good shape … but ... if her condition doesn’t improve … we'll need to transport her to hospital for further examination and treatment. If we do, it’ll probably be the Atlanta Medical Center. However … all her vital signs are good … and as far as I can tell … there's nothing really wrong with her … other than exhaustion. Let her rest until the I.V bag's finished ... I’ll be back to check on her a couple of times before then.”

“Thank you!” Jenny breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t appear to be something more serious.

“Yes … thank you very much,” added Dave. When the EMT left to look after another case, he gave Jenny’s hand a reassuring squeeze as they both watched their youngest daughter, appearing so content lying on her cot. After a while, Gaby started to stir.

"Mum?" Gaby mumbled.

"Yes, luv ... I'm here," Jenny replied, relieved to hear Gaby’s voice.

In the background the Bond’s heard the PA system blaring, as the last of the riders came across the finish line.

"How do you feel now?" an anxious Jenny asked.

“Like a truck hit me! Wot ‘appened?” Gaby weakly answered.

“You blacked out after you crossed the line ... again! A race marshal picked you up off of Tina and carried you into this medical tent,” Dave explained. “Don’t you remember? You challenged Lance and a few of the other pros to a sprint.”

“Wish I was there to see it!” Gaby managed as a smile crept across her face. “Where’s my bike?”

“Last I saw … Tina was still holding onto it,” Dave interjected.

"Entschuldigung ... Ich hab' ihr gesagt, sie soll nicht sprinten ... Jenny!" Until Jenny heard her voice, she was unaware Tina had come into the tent and was standing beside them.

“It’s not your fault, Tina. I know you tried to tell her. I guess we both should've known that she just can’t stay away from any sprints.”

“Ja ... (sniff) like her mama!” Tina quietly replied. As Jenny gently pulled her shaken teammate into a reassuring hug, she could sense Tina’s concern for the young teen.

“Short of slashing her tyres … there was nothing you could’ve done to stop her. It wasn’t your fault,” Jenny quietly pointed out while wiping the odd tear from Tina’s cheek.

“Gabi ... you feel bet-ter?” Tina asked hopefully, when she knelt down beside Gaby’s cot.

“Ummm ... I think I’ll live,” Gaby mumbled, still feeling a bit groggy. “My bike?”

“You sound just like your mama!” Tina sternly replied with a smile. She then leaned over Gaby’s ear and in a hushed tone confided, “Und you ride like her, too!”

Gaby managed a wide grin upon hearing the compliment.

“Your bike is safe mit your teammates ... now that I see you feel bet-ter … I must get back mit der team. I will see you later, ja? You now spend time mit Mama und Papa … Auf Wiedersehen,” a much relieved Tina whispered as she gently touched Gaby’s shoulder.

“Tschüss...” Gaby wearily replied with a smile, pleased to show off more of her limited German.

“Danke Tina,” Jenny quietly responded.

“Being around your ol’ mum, has rubbed off ... eh, sweetheart?” Dave asked in reference to his daughter’s attempt at German. Still not quite ‘with it’, Gaby gave her dad a weak smile.

"You've made a big impression today, young lady. That was quite the race you rode!" Lance piped up as both he and George Hincapie wandered into the tent and up to the side of her cot.

“How you feelin’?” George asked.

“Tired and weak,” Gaby replied. “Thank you.”

“You’re one remarkable girl … just like your ma,” Lance offered as he looked over at a blushing Jenny. “Now you just lie there and rest ... you’ll be on your feet in no time.”

“Sorry to run off like this, but we’ve been told that we have to be at some sort ‘team huddle’ in about ten minutes, but we told the boss we’re going to drop by to see how you’re doing, first. Great race, Gaby. Hope to see you later ... okay?” George offered.

After giving her hand a gentle squeeze, George and Lance said their good-byes to Dave and Jenny before giving Gaby a final wave as they walked out of the tent.

"What are we gonna do with you?" Jenny softly asked while holding one of Gaby’s hands.

"I dunno. Can I ask a dumb question ... what are you guys doing here?" Gaby wondered as she became more alert and she clearly saw her parents sitting beside her.

"Your dad thought we’d come over with the team and I’d finally be able to see you ride. You know you remind me of another young lady, many years ago...” Jenny replied, her voice full of pride.

“Judging by the sounds of all the commotion out there ... you’re not getting out of here quietly. It seems you’ve made some fans, young lady ... and they want to see you!" Dave remarked.

“Okay … let’s take a look!” the EMT exclaimed as she approached the Bonds. She examined Gaby, removed the oxygen and the I.V from her arm and then told Dave and Jenny, she was free to go. After a few words with Gaby’s parents, she went off to join her partner in another part of the tent.

"Come on, Lass ... easy does it," Dave encouraged as he helped Gaby to her feet. Once she was upright, he gently held her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. He then spoke to his daughter in a soft, caring voice.

“Sweetheart … you’ve got to remember to keep eating out there. If you don’t … we’ll be doing this more often … okay?”

“Yes … Dad,” Gaby sheepishly replied.


“I promise,” Gaby whispered as she threw her arms around her dad’s neck.

“If no one’s already told you … you rode one hell of a race. Your mum and I are proud of you,” Dave whispered as Gaby released her hug.

A few minutes later, as they slowly stepped outside the St. John’s tent and into the bright Atlanta sunshine, they were greeted with cheers and clapping from the spectators who remained to learn of Gaby’s condition. Near the crowd control barriers that lined the finish area, Jenny spotted Maria talking to George.

"Ahh … there you are! You look a lot better now than when you were carried into the tent!” Maria spouted as she looked over George’s shoulder. She was obviously relieved to see Gaby walking under her own power.

“Fräulein Bond! Wonderful to see you on your feet. That was a very impressive race ... und a very scary finish,” George commented after turning around and spotting Gaby and her parents.

“Danke … Herr Müller,” Gaby replied. George gave her a sharp bow at the neck and kissed the back of her hand.

“Jenny … your doing?” George asked, referring to Gaby’s linguistic efforts.

“She’s surprising even me,” Jenny gushed.

"Oh … thank heavens you're okay, Gaby! When we crossed the line, I didn’t see you, but I saw Tina with your bike and was told that you passed out … again. I got real worried that we…" a relieved Erin exclaimed giving Gaby a hug.

“I’m fine … now … an’ it was my choice to ride. You didn’t make me do anything,” Gaby sheepishly admitted.

Seeing a questioning look on her mother’s face with this strange woman coming up and hugging her daughter, Gaby quickly jumped in with the introductions.

“Mum … this is Erin. She’s the one I’ve been telling you ‘bout. Erin ... this is my Mum and Dad … an’ this is George Müller ... Mum’s boss. He’s the senior race director for Team Apollinaris ... an’ I guess you know Maria Pinger, Team Apollinaris’ road captain."

"Pleasure to meet you … Ms. Bond … Mr. Bond … Mr. Müller. It was an honour to ride with you Maria,” Erin allowed while nodding to each one in turn.

“Danke...” Maria acknowledged with a smile.

Turning her attention back to Jenny, Erin added, “I can see where Gab gets her good looks. “

“Excuse me ... Jenny? I haff to get back to der team … see you und der family later? Hope maybe to see you later, Erin?” Maria interjected.

“Tschüss Maria...” Gaby replied.

“Tschüss,” Jenny echoed and as Maria left, she turned back to Erin.

“After talking with you a few times, Erin … it’s nice to finally meet you! I want to thank you for looking after this one (nodding in Gaby’s direction) while she’s been in Grottoes … and please … do call me Jenny … everybody else does,” Jenny replied.

“Thank you … Jenny. Any chance of you and your husband joining us for supper this evening?” Erin asked.

“We'd love to but I’ve been told the team’s planning some kind of formal announcement at a small reception tonight and I don't think George here, would appreciate my missing it. Which reminds me …did you bring anything nice you can wear tonight, Gaby?”

“For once … yes … an’ ... no!” she admitted as she gave her mum her best puppy-dog eyes.

“And that means?” Jenny asked.

“Erin said we’d go out to a fancy ‘Southern’ restaurant before we left … so I brought an outfit I bought last weekend … but like everything else … it’s back in our room … I mean … me an’ Erin’s room,” Gaby explained.

“Well … maybe another time,” Erin disappointedly suggested.

“Nonsense!” Jenny gently touched Erin’s arm and turning to look at her boss, innocently called out, “George?”

“Ja?” Somehow he just knew she was going to ask a favour.

“George … can we slip a few extra bodies in this evening?”

“Für die Freund auf Gabi?” George asked Jenny while Gaby looked at him expectantly.

”Ja … der radler team von Grottoes!”

“Haben Sie nummern?“ George inquired.

“How many of you are there? “ Jenny asked a bemused Erin.

Even though Erin liked to pride herself of her knowledge of Jenny Bond, she was somewhat taken aback to hear Gaby’s mum so fluent in German.

“Umm ... ten … nine … if’en you don't count Gab,” Erin allowed after thinking about it for a very brief moment.

“Neun, George...” Jenny translated.

“Neun! Mein Gott!“ He skeptically looked at Gaby and Erin then back to Jenny. “Okay … Ich bilde alle Vorbereitungen!”

“Gaby und ich schätzen es ... danke, George...” Jenny replied.

“Sorry guys. Erin … do you think your team could join us tonight? Free food ... and ... there might even be a few faces you'll recognize,” Jenny asked.

“You're kidding right?” Erin enthused.

“Nope! George already said he’ll take care of all the arrangements. All you’ll have to do is show up,” Jenny confirmed with a straight face.

“George?” Gaby stopped him as he was obviously preparing to leave.

“Ja, Gabi?” George replied in a soft voice that reminded her of how Britney’s Granddad sounded when he talked to her.

“Danke!” Gaby gave George an unexpected but very appreciative hug then returned to her mum and Erin.

“Dave … ein moment, bitte?” George then led Gaby’s dad off, leaving the ‘girls' alone.

“First time I’ve ever seen George blush,” Jenny whispered to her daughter as the two men left the ladies.

Turning her attention back to Erin, Jenny pressed for an answer. “Well, Erin?”

“Please say yes,” Gaby pleaded with a bit of a pout. “Besides … you’ve really got no choice. Mum said George is going to make the arrangements … an‘ now they’re expecting all of us.”

Fixing a stare on Gaby, Erin quietly replied with mock annoyance, “Yer really working this ‘girl’ thing for all it’s worth … aren’tcha?”

As she broke out in a smile, Gaby latched onto her with a hug.

“The others would hunt me down and lynch me if’en I said no … Thanks, Jenny!” Looking at Gaby, then back at Jenny, a grateful Erin accepted on behalf of the ’Express’.

“My pleasure,” Jenny replied. “Oh! … Six–thirty at the Ramada.”

“I'd best go find the others, then … Diane and I need to get the bikes squared away and I know Patty will need a while to get ready! Thanks again! See ya later Gab,” Erin mentioned.

“Mum ... I still have to get my stuff from our room,” Gaby quietly pointed out.

“I forgot about that. Hmmm ... that gives me an idea!”

Before Erin had walked too far away, Jenny called after her.

“Erin? I just had a thought. Why don’t you …Diane and … Patty, is it? … Join Gaby and myself? We already have an appointment at the hotel’s beauty salon…”

“We do?” Gaby interrupted.

“Yes we do!” Jenny flatly stated, then continued, “As I was saying … Gaby and I already have an appointment and I imagine they could probably fit the three of you in while we’re there.” The last part of that statement sounded ominous to Gaby. As she was pondering her mum’s revelation, Jenny continued talking to Erin.

“Since you’re all coming tonight ... how about us girls go back to your hotel and you can shower and grab your clothes for later … and then we’ll return here for our appointments? Gaby can get her change of clothes and later on we can all use our room to change,” Jenny proposed.

“What about your husband?” Erin asked.

“Dave? It’ll take time him no time to get ready … so he’ll just have to wait his turn!” Jenny playfully replied.

“Sounds good to me. I’ll be right back!” Erin agreed. She walked over to the rest of the ‘Express’ and Gaby saw that she was talking to Diane, Derek and Frank. Returning to the two women, she laid out the gist of her conversation.

“Okay … so we can leave now … the men folk will pack the bikes in the trailer. Diane will take the five of us in her Envoy. We’ll have to be quick though ... that’s our tow vehicle so these guys will need it back here! Derek can drive it back to our hotel and Rob can handle my truck with the spares … so we`re good to go!”

Once the women arrived back at their motel, everyone went to their respective rooms to freshen up and get what they required for the evening. Jenny went with Erin and Gaby.

“Erin? Why don’t you go first … I’d like to talk to my daughter,” Jenny suggested as the three women entered the room.

“Okay … I’ll be out in a jiff!”

Jenny sat on the side of one of the beds and motioned for Gaby to sit beside her. As Erin closed the bathroom door, she turned to her youngest child.

“Now … before we go to that appointment ... I need some honest answers from you.”

“…’kay…“ Gaby quietly agreed.

“When Jules first suggested this for you … she said it was because she wanted to do something nice for her sister … and … my daughter! When I asked her to explain … she said to ask your father … which I did.”

“He told you ... right?”

“At first he wanted to leave it up to you … but when I told him about your sister’s idea … he finally relented and told me about you and Dr. Sanwari … but I somehow got the feeling that you knew long before the good Doctor … didn’t you?” Jenny softly revealed.

As Gaby slowly nodded, she gently added, “I get the feeling that there was a lot your father couldn’t tell me ... so, I’d really like to hear the whole story from you … please?”

Gaby sat on the edge of her bed beside her mother and explained everything she could think of, including when she first noticed the changes in her body and how she tried to convince herself they were because of her training or whatever other explanation she could think of.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I dunno … you really weren’t around much, were you? I mean ... you were busy with the team an’ all ... an’ when I did get to see you … you only saw Gaby. I don’t think you ever saw Drew once when you were in Germany … an’ I know you never saw him when you visited us in Dorset,” Gaby admitted.

As Jenny was planning to refute her daughter’s statement, she tried to think of all the times she did see Drew and was shocked to find Gaby was right.

“We didn’t tell you when we got the letter because you were so sick an’ Dad said we wanted you to only think about getting better,” Gaby allowed in a hushed voice. “I’m sorry, Mum.”

“For what?” Jenny was starting to get emotional. She tightly hugged and held Gaby for several minutes. When she found her voice, Jenny continued in a soft, quiet voice that was almost apologetic.

“It’s me who should apologize. I admit that in the past I’ve allowed others to see Gaby rather than to correct them. I’ve even let the media see her … and times ... I even insisted she appear … only because I wanted her around.”

Following a few more minutes of silence, Jenny softly continued.

“Truthfully … in all those times Gaby was around ... did I ever do anything … or insist on any change to your appearance that would’ve made it hard for my son to reappear?”

“No,” Gaby quietly agreed.

“Okay ... so am I right in thinking now that you’ve decided to stay as my daughter ... you’re no longer concerned about Drew having to come back?”

“It’s just Gaby for now on ... no more trying to be two people,” she quietly conceded.

“You’re sure?”

“Uh huh. Mr. Woods even said that he’d let Gaby come back to school after I get home.”

“Fine … so … as long as you’re quite sure. How ‘bout we do something a little more permanent now that she’s here to stay?” Jenny softly suggested.

“Like what?”

“Well ... Jules suggested that I might want to ask Carol about some online photos of you and Maddy at some cosplay convention ... Obicon, I think it was. You know the ones I mean, don’t you?”

“Uh huh...” Gaby answered as a wide grin threatened to hide her face.

“Anyway ... your sister said you’ve always told her you wished you could always have hair that long.”

“Yeah … Mad and I both wore these really long wigs. She looked lovely with long hair,” Gaby fondly recalled.

“Carol said Maddy made it very clear she felt the same about Gaby,” Jenny quietly stated.

“Mad’s told me that a few times,” Gaby admitted with a smile.

“Did you like how you looked?” Jenny asked.

“With long hair? ... Yeah...” Gaby whispered.

“If you both felt like that, then why didn’t Gaby just wear a wig?” Jenny asked out of curiosity.

“We both felt that it'd be a problem for me to change back to Drew if I had a wig to worry about and it'd also be too hard for me to keep at home. At least all Gaby’s clothes were at the back of my closet.”

“Fair ‘nuff. Now ... if you could have long hair like that again ... without a wig ... would you?” Jen pressed the point.

“Uh huh...”

“It wouldn’t be practical to have hair as long as those wigs ... but I was thinking about something a bit longer than it is now ... say ... about here?” Jenny touched Gaby’s back an inch or two below her bra strap.

“That’d be nice,” Gaby softly replied.

“I warn you ... it’s a lot of work to care for hair that length,” Jenny cautioned.

“I’d do it...” Gaby softy answered.

“Okay ... because I could’ve always cancelled if you felt different,” Jenny revealed.

“...But ‘ow you gonna do that without a wig?”

“They're called 'hair extensions'. Each 'extension' is matched to your hair colour and attached to your own hair and once they're in place, you treat them like your own hair. You have to remember though, that unlike a wig, 'extensions' are part of you .. so once they're in place ... you okay with that?”

Gaby immediately threw her arms around her mum and gave her a long, tight hug.

“After we talked it over, Jules and I both agreed that they’re the only real option open to you, considering how active you are ...” Jenny added. “... And you’ll be in that chair for some time while they put them in...”

“I don’t have anything else to do ... do I?” Gaby smugly answered.

“Next!” Erin called out as she walked out into the hotel room.

“You’re up, kiddo!” Jenny enthused.

Without hesitation, Gaby casually stripped down to her bra and panties in front of both her mum and Erin.

“Don’t worry, Mum ... Erin knows.”

As she grabbed a clean bra and panty set before starting off to the shower, her mum’s expression was priceless. Even with Gaby walking around in her underwear, Jenny saw no trace of her son. Later, when everyone was ready, they got back in the Envoy for the short drive back to the site of the race.

Sandwiched between Jenny and Patty in the back seat, Gaby turned to her mum, “You never finished tellin’ me why you an’ Dad are here … an’ how com’ you never said you were coming

“Well ... as to why we never told you we were coming ... your father and I actually made tentative plans to come as soon as you told us that you were going to ride in this race … but since Dr. Sanwari has also been keeping an eye on me since my surgery ... it was his call if I could fly ... and he only made that decision last Thursday ... so we didn’t say anything until we heard from him because we didn’t want you to get your hopes up in case he said 'no'.”

“Oh, okay … but why’d George bring the team here? The Atlanta Winter Classic isn’t even on the World Cup schedule ... is it?” Gaby questioned.

“No it isn’t, but both George and Apollinaris saw it as an opportunity when he received the organizing committee’s invitation for the team to attend. You may not realize it, but this is a very high-profile race on the North America circuit and a lot of the journalist's who cover cycling come to cover this race,” Jenny explained.

“That explains why the pro teams were here,” Gaby quietly reasoned.

“The team’s also doing a few more races in the States and Mexico before heading back, but your dad and I will be heading home on Tuesday ... he’s still got to work and Dr. Sanwari will personally come after me if I’m not back,” Jenny hastened to add, with a smile.

“...And besides seeing you race … your father thought it would be a nice touch for me to sign another contract extension while we’re here … whaddya think?” Jenny added.

“He wanted you to sign another contract?” Gaby asked in disbelief.

“When George offered the extension ... it was one of the things your dad and I spent a lot of time thinking about while you kids were over here.”

“But I thought you couldn't ride?” Gaby persisted.

“Well … I may be ‘taking time off the bike’ right now … but I'm officially still on the team and I intend to keep riding when this is all over!” Jenny proudly admitted.

“An’ stay in Germany...” Gaby sarcastically thought.

“Oh, yes … Kat sends her love.”

“She didn’t come over with Maria?” Gaby asked.

“No … she’s still in school. You do remember school, don’t you?” Jenny playfully joked. Gaby just snuggled into her mum’s side while she continued with her explanations.

“So you’ve had a good time in Grottoes?” Jenny asked, attempting to learn about her youngest daughter’s time in America.

“You mean besides the cycling?” Gaby expectantly asked.

“I assume you’ve done more than ride...” Jenny softly replied.

Gaby snuggled closer to her mum and whispered an answer with a shrug of her shoulder.

“Do I hafta answer that now?”

“Not really...” Jenny whispered as she lovingly bundled her daughter closer to her. “Jules hinted you might say something like that. I’m sure you’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

The rest of the drive was spent in relative quiet with mother and daughter just enjoying holding each other.

When they reached the former site of the ‘Express’ tent, they hooked the trailer to the Envoy and soon after that, the small convoy drove to Jenny’s hotel where the men dropped the women off and then left to deal with the bikes before returning for the evening’s festivities.

Upon entering the Ramada’s beauty parlour, Jenny announced herself and Gaby to the receptionist.

“Would it be possible to also fit my three friends in? We’re all attending the same reception here in the hotel, this evening.”

“No problem. Can I get their first names?”

“Erin, Diane and Patty,” Erin volunteered.

“Sherry can take one of you, now … but the other two will have to wait until one of the other girls are free,” the receptionist replied, directing her comment to Erin.

“Patty … you go,” suggested Erin.

As Patty left for her wash n’ set, Erin and Diane took a seat and watched Gaby flip through some styling photos while her mother gave final instructions to Gaby’s stylist.

“Sweetheart … this is Denise and she’ll do your hair. Now off you go,” Jenny instructed.

“Hi, Gaby. Any idea how y’all want me to style it after I’ve finished putting the extensions in? Your mom said we should bring your hair down to here…” Denise commented as she touched Gaby’s back.

"Nothing fancy … just straight an’ parted in the middle ... like this,” Gaby replied as she showed Denise a photo she found in one of the magazines lying around the shop.

“Ya know? With your face … I think that’ll look very nice on you.” Looking at the model in the photo, she suggestively asked, “How ‘bout we shape those eyebrows while we’re at it?”

Sitting in Denise’s chair, Gaby thought about it as she looked at her reflection in the mirror in front of her. After a few seconds of thoughtful silence, the teenager voiced her decision.

“Why not?”

Jenny looked forward to a quick wash and blow-dry and while following the stylist to her station, she noticed that Gaby was already starting to get her nails done while Denise was preparing to work her magic on her hair.

“Who’s next?” asked Sherry, as Patty returned to the waiting area.

“You go Diane … I won’t take as long as you,” Erin urged her friend.

Diane walked past Jenny before she was seated in her chair. When asked, she explained that she only wanted some highlights and a trim. Not long after, Jenny went out front and Erin was led back to have her turn at having her hair done. Later, when they were all waiting out in front of the salon, Jenny went back to talk to Gaby and Denise.
After finding out she probably had another hour to go, Jenny gave her the room number and told her to come up when she was done. Once she settled the bill, the four ladies left to go check out a couple of the Hotel’s stores they’d passed earlier, before heading up to the Bond’s room to prepare for the evening. Forty-five minutes later Gaby was knocking on the door to her parent’s room.

While the ladies were getting changed, Dave arrived at the room and casually started to open the door.

"We’re still changing!” Jenny announced as she ran down the short hallway to prevent Dave from opening the door wider.

“Oh, sorry ... who’s ‘we’?”

“Gaby’s lady friends. We spent the afternoon at the salon getting pretty for you men ... and now I’m letting them use our room to change for tonight … so you’ll just have to wait until they’re done. Now ... how did it go with George?" Jenny asked as she discreetly stepped into the hall.

"You already know what he wanted to talk about … why didn’t you say anything? Even if only to let me know that he wanted to talk to me," Dave replied as he came up to her.

"Sorry luv … but he asked me as a friend, to keep quiet. So what happened?" Jenny replied.

“I need to think about it ... and talk to Frank,” Dave allowed.

“That’s understandable … but what did you think?” Jenny asked, pressing for an answer.

“It sounds like something I could go for … but like I said ... I need to give it a lot of thought and we have some time before George needs an answer. Give me five … I need a quick rinse,” Dave stated as he turned to open the door of their room.

Not so fast! Let me check that the coast is clear!”

Jenny made Dave continue to wait outside the room while the other women finished dressing. Once they were all ready, each of them filed out into the hall.

“Okay … you can come in now, dear.”

A smug Jenny allowed Dave into the room where the first thing he saw was Gaby standing between the twin beds, with her hands behind her back and wearing a grin on her face. She was wearing her black pleated mini-skirt and pearl-grey blouse, plus a pair of black dress pumps with 3” heels. Dave silently stood there, looking at his daughter for the first time. This was not Drew in a dress!

“Well?” Jenny asked impatiently.

Gaby took a step back and gave a slow twirl to allow her dad to look her over. Gone was the young teenage girl with the impish shoulder-length ‘mushroom’ hairstyle. Instead, standing in front of him was a sophisticated and confident young woman with long mousey-blonde hair reaching down to the middle of her back.

Very lovely. You look so much like your mother when we were dating,” Dave emotionally whispered as his daughter threw her arms around him.

“Thank you!” Gaby softly replied as she wrapped her arms around his neck and held him in a hug for several minutes.

“Don’t forget to thank your sister when you see her. I understand she masterminded this whole ‘hair thing’,” Dave quietly insisted.

“I won’t!” Gaby softly responded.

As Jenny approached, Dave stepped aside and let Gaby hug her mother. “Thanks, Mum … thank you!”

“C’mon, kiddo … now you let your ol’ man get dressed,” Jenny told her daughter while she gently steered Gaby out of the room. As Jenny was shutting the door, she called back, “We’ll meet you in the lobby dear!”

The two walked along to the elevator, which opened straight away after Gaby hit the down button. Jenny hit ‘L’ and they started to descend.

“Mum?” Gaby softly asked.

“Yes, dear?” Jenny responded
“Things are going to be okay, aren't they? … With you and Dad, I mean...” Gaby quietly asked as she took hold of her mum’s hand.

Jenny stood in thoughtful silence past the seventh and sixth floors. Looking over at her daughter, she sighed deeply and then answered in a soft apologetic voice,
“I think so, darling. I’ve already said we talked a lot while you've been over here and ... that’s what we talked about the most. I never realized how insecure and selfish I was all the time I was in Germany … signing contracts and everything … without even asking my family…”

“That kinda did hurt. It was kewel to say you were our mum … but there were lots of times Jules an’ I wanted her back. Even when you did come back for a couple of days, you didn’t really have time for us … an’ now you told us that you’re gonna leave us!” Gaby was on the verge of tears when she was interrupted by her mother.

“Gaby!” Jenny sharply injected as she pressed the button for the next floor.

When the elevator stopped on the third floor, she took Gaby’s hand and quickly exited the elevator, pulling her youngest behind her. Finding a secluded alcove by the stairs, she turned to Gaby and pulled her into a tight hug.

“Now you listen to me, Gaby Bond! I am not leaving your dad … or you … or your sister … ever! Okay?

“Since before coming home with your dad, I thought hard about what I did and I’ve had even more time to talk with your dad and think, since you kids came over here. During all that time, I’ve realized just how much I hurt everyone ... especially your dad ... and that's something I didn’t want to do. Darling ... always remember that I love him and when I married him … it was for life! I know it’ll take time … but I hope all of you will forgive me,” Jenny quietly, but emotionally explained.

”I love you, Mum!” Gaby squeezed her mother harder and held it until the ding announcing the elevator returning to that floor, brought the two back to the present.

“I guess we had better go meet the rest, hadn’t we?” The two reluctantly broke the hug and made their way back to the elevator to resume their silent descent to the lobby.

“So, what did George want with Dad?” Gaby inquired as they exited the elevator.

“Well … it’s not exactly a secret although we'd prefer if you didn’t let it go beyond your sister … but … George has offered your father a job with the team working part-time with Mike ... but his main job would be to co-ordinate a new training program the team has set up,” Jenny calmly explained.

“If he takes the job … does that mean we'll be moving to Germany?” Gaby enthused.

“I don’t know. We haven’t gotten that far yet. Knowing your father ... he’ll want to involve both you kids in any discussion before he makes a final decision,” Jenny speculated.

“You’d like us to move, though … wouldn’t you?” Gaby quietly asked.

“Between you and me, darling … yes ... I really would. It could be a new start for all of us,” Jenny softly replied. Gaby only smiled as she looked at her mother.

“Kewel! Does that mean you’re going back to race?” Gaby enthusiastically replied.

“I told you ... your dad wants me to re-sign with the team before we leave here,” Jenny softly replied.

“How long until you can compete again?” asked the puzzled teen.

“The doctors are optimistic that I can return to something like light training in a few weeks. If it goes well I should be back racing by Whitsun. So until then, I’m afraid you'll be stuck with me at home for a few more months,” Jenny cheerfully answered.

“Brill!” Gaby was elated upon hearing her mother would be with them a while longer.

“What are you two plotting?” Dave enquired as he later met his two girls in the hotel’s lobby.

“Sprekken zee Doitch?” Gaby attempted.

“We'll see,” Dave flatly stated as the rest of the Grottoes Express showed up.

“I see you found the boys!” Jenny exclaimed as Diane and Erin came up to where the Bonds were standing.

“Yep! They finally showed … some lame excuse about changing a tire on the trailer,” Diane chipped in, displaying mock annoyance with the men.

“More likely Derek’s allergy to anything other than jeans,” Patty jokingly suggested as she draped her arms around her fiancé.

“It’s almost time ... shall we go?” urged Dave.

As they neared the hotel’s conference room in which the reception was to be held they saw some of the invitees milling around the hall while others were entering the large room. Seeing Dave offer his arm to Jenny when they arrived at the doors, Aidan decided he wasn’t going to be outdone.

“Wow! You look fantastic!” Aidan breathed as he held out his ‘crooked’ arm for the girl.

He stood there motionless as he looked at his fantasy girl for what seemed like hours, before Frank’s cough brought the lad back to reality.

“Thanks,” Gaby softly replied.

A very noticeably blushing Gaby gave Aidan a peck on the cheek as she accepted his proffered arm and with the rest of the ‘Express’ following behind them, the two teenagers followed her parents as they entered the hall where the reception was being held. The individual members of the Grottoes Express soon found themselves embroiled in various conversations with Jenny making the introductions to some very well-known faces. In addition, since they were the winning amateur team, they also found themselves the subjects of interest with the invited cycling press.

At the stroke of seven, the invited guests made their way to their seats scattered amongst the many large round tables in the room and George took a position behind the podium that was offset to one side of the front of the room. Looking over the assembled crowd, he noted the Gerolsteiner boys were in attendance as well as both T-Mobile teams. The members of Team Apollinaris and the Grottoes Express found themselves sharing neighbouring tables near the front of the room

As everyone took their seats, Dave and Jenny choose to sit with their daughter and some of the Grottoes Express.

“Aidan seems like a very nice boy … you fancy him?” Jenny whispered as she and Gaby took their seats. Both Jenny and Dave had noticed the interaction of the two prior to entering the room.

“He’s a nice kid, Mum … an’ yeah … I like him ... but only as a friend.”

“By the way he looks at you, I’d say he quite fancies you,” Jenny observed.

“I know he does ... but he also knows my feelings about the two of us an’ ‘ow I feel about a certain girl ... an’ before you ask ... those feelings haven’t changed one bit,” Gaby revealed in a hushed voice.

At that moment George began to speak and all attention was focused on him.

“Ladies und gentlemen … let’s get right into the spirit of the evening with a video presentation of Team Apollinaris’ 2003 season highlights. This was one of our best season’s to-date, so sit back und enjoy!”

As the lighting in the room dimmed, the large screen to the right of the podium came to life, showing a well-edited montage of the 2003 season. Much of the footage featured Jenny in all her races, including some that even Gaby was unaware she rode. The rest of the team also got their fair share of the spotlight including Tina’s GC win in Spain and several of Maria’s wins. During the video presentation, various comments were directed to Jenny and Gaby by the others at their table. Later, when the video ended and the lighting levels came back up in the room, George once again took his position behind the podium.

“Maria ... Jenny … bitte?” George asked as he indicated they should join him at the front for his opening remarks and the planned presentation.

“Please, darling … I’d feel much better if you came … please?” Jenny sweetly asked her husband as she prepared to get up from the table.

As Dave got up from his chair and assisted Jenny, she looked at Gaby.

“It seems you’re the hostess now, dear … we’ll be back.”

Once they had joined George and the applause of the room died down, he continued with his planned presentation.

“Team Apollinaris have made some exciting plans for this season, plans which I will be officially introducing later this week in Los Angeles ... but because a certain individual ist here ... now ... I would like at this time to officially announce our new Youth Development Program. Under this program, Apollinaris will subsidize the training und travel costs for selected girls who have demonstrated an excellence in cycling.”

“Now before you jump all over me for not being politisch korrekt … ah … politically correct … since Team Apollinaris is a Women’s Elite Cycling team … our junior development program will naturally be restricted to the young ladies.” He paused for a brief moment to survey the assembled guests before continuing. “...Und at this time I would like to introduce the first member of our Youth Development Program ... our own Welt Champion's wunderkind … Gabi Bond!"

As Jenny motioned her daughter to come forward, a surprised Gaby had to be prodded off her seat by Diane and Erin. When she timidly reached George’s side, he continued with his introduction after letting the applause die down.

“We all witnessed the tremendous effort put forward by this young lady in today’s race. At her age … her demonstrated ability to keep pace with several pro cyclists over the entire length of the race, was nothing less than remarkable! Gabi … like her Mama … was born to race bikes und if this race was even a small indication … we can all expect great things in the future from both generations of Bond women.”

George turned and shook Gaby’s hand, after which Maria and Jenny put an Apollinaris team jacket on over her blouse. As Gaby inspected it before she zipped it closed, she noticed that her name was embroidered over her left breast like the other team members. Once she got the jacket on, both women gave her a congratulatory hug and a kiss on each cheek, followed by a big hug from her dad. The small group then spent several minutes posing for the obligatory photos before she was allowed to remove the jacket and head back to ‘her guests’. On the walk back to her table, she was showered by applause and well wishes from those in the room.

“I told you guy’s when she first rode with us, we were in the presence of royalty!” Frank gushed when she finally sat back down. A blushing Gaby received hugs from Diane and Erin.

“I knew you were special,” Aidan commented as he rose from his seat and walked the few steps to Gaby’s chair before offering her a hug.

When her parents rejoined the others back at the table a few minutes later, Gaby asked her mum exactly what it meant to be part of the Youth Program.

“It means that the team is going to sponsor you … help with your travel expenses and stuff,” Jenny explained.

“What about BC? Does this mean I can't join them?” Gaby asked, referring to Caro’s efforts to get Drew into the British Cycling Program.

“No … of course not! All it means is that you’ll be getting some additional support above what BC will be giving you. George has also been putting something together and your ol’ mum’s been busy talking with the powers-that-be in Manchester to give all the juniors in BC least some extra help,” Jenny offered.

“Kewel!” was all Gaby could say.

After all the business stuff concluded, it turned into a regular party and Gaby, along with the ‘Express’, had a good time, mixing with the other invited guests. It didn’t escape Gaby’s attention that Diane and Tina seemed to get along quite well as did Erin, Maria and her mum. Despite her mum looking increasingly tired as the evening wore on, both Gaby and Dave were elated to see Jenny so happy, after the events of the preceding few months. There had been one awkward moment earlier when one of the journalists asked why she wasn't riding the US series, but Jenny responded with the team’s official line and that she was recovering from an un-named lingering illness. The party broke up a bit after ten. After a hectic and eventful day, everyone was quite keen to get to their beds. Jenny and Dave made arrangements to meet the ‘Express’ for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning, Gaby reluctantly joined her friends for the long drive back to Grottoes after one long tearful hug with both her parents. It was really hard for her to say good-bye to them a second time, but her mum was quick to point out that she'd be back home in a week. As their small convoy crossed the State line into the Carolinas, Erin led them into a service area for gas and food. After gassing up the vehicles and pulling into the main parking lot, the ten members of the Grottoes Express secured the bikes and walked over into the restaurant.

“So you riding in the van now Gaby?” Frank asked.

“Um … okay … I guess ... if Erin is,” a weary Gaby replied.

“We'll take the pickup, Erin!” Derek offered while cuddling his fiancée.

“Don't distract him too much, Patty!” Hooch joked.

“Okay … I could do with a break and I'm sure Gab can do with someone else to talk to … right young ‘un?” Erin offered.

“Ummm … yeah.” Gaby was more interested in sleep than conversation at that point.

"Tuesday evening, Gab … you doing anything?” Don asked.

"Packing … we've got something scheduled for Wednesday night so Miss Cowlishaw suggested we start on Tuesday."

They continued on for a while longer, until just outside of Waynesboro at another ‘truck stop’, where they planned their final stop of the long drive. Erin and Gaby swapped with Derek for the last time and climbed back into Erin’s pickup. It was dark long before they arrived back in Grottoes. They’d been on the road since about eight that morning. Even though they made good time it was just after seven in the evening, when Erin finally dropped Gaby back at the Walters.

Comments are greatly appreciated

To Be Continued...

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