|This is a single author story.|
Dear Stefan, Yvette and Famke,
I donít know if Chloe or Jess has found time to write to you recently, but I hope that Iím ahead of them when it comes to writing about the past couple of months. There are a few things to write about, but Iíll try and put them in order of newsworthiness rather than the time they happened. Iíll probably just end up writing things down in the order that they come into my head.
Before I get into the first piece of news, I have to tell you that the important thing to remember is that I am OK, OK? Four weeks ago, I was in collision with a van when out on one of my longer rides. The van driver was on his mobile phone and failed to stop at the give-way line when turning right out of a side road. I skidded and hit the van side-on. I was in a coma for almost a day and a half, had a punctured lung, and broke my left collarbone, three ribs and some bones in my left hand. Iíve also got a nice scar over my left cheekbone. Iíve still got the cast on my left hand, which comes off in two weeks time. All the other fractures had to heal by themselves.
The driver was soon found guilty of driving without due care and attention, and received enough points on his licence to put him in line for a driving ban. We were represented by solicitors engaged by British Cyclingís legal department, who tore into the driver over his claims not to have seen me. Firstly, he was wilfully distracted by his mobile phone. Secondly, he had an unobstructed view of the road. Thirdly, I am not invisible. Fourthly, I was in a position that promoted my visibility. The solicitors rejected the driverís insurance companyís first offer of compensation as derisory, which Eddie (Jessís dad, who is also a lawyer) agreed to be so. The solicitors said that it took no account of the stress and heartache caused to my family over me nearly losing my life, nor the stress that I would suffer in the future at having to re-live the memory. The figure has been agreed now, and itís more than enough to get my through university without a loan, although Iíd like to treat those who went through this with me.
Iíve been back at school a week and a half now. The ache from the healing bones was bearable, and I was in more pain from watching daytime T.V. Really, I couldnít justify still being off school because I had been using my bike on a turbo trainer from one week after the collision. Itís really cold out right now, and I canít ride on the road with this cast on, so Dad had half of our double garage converted into a makeshift gym. Dadís builder friends came along, put down a raised floor, erected stud partitions, lined and insulated it, and installed the electricity supply and some ventilation fans. That makes it bearable to work out on the bike, using a heart rate monitor to check that Iím working in the right zone.
At first, I couldnít take my weight on the handlebars, because of the stress that it put on my torso hurt my ribs, so I just sat up in the saddle, as if riding non-handed. Using a turbo trainer to replace long rides is boring, but I have a telly in there to play movies on as I work, and the great thing is I can do my work out nude, without attracting the attention I would if I was to cycle down the street that way. ;-) Now that I can use the handlebars again, my coach has given me one of those large inflatable balls, called a Swiss ball, and a list of exercises to help me overcome my loss of core strength due to my injuries.
The bike wasnít badly damaged in the crash; only the handlebars were wrecked and my left brake lever was knocked out of place. I obviously took most of the impact. There was an old guy and his wife who were behind me on the road when the van took me out. They arranged to look after my bike because the police didnít seem to want to take charge of it, and they only lived around the corner, in the estate that the van had pulled out of. It was a couple of days after I got out of hospital when Dad went to retrieve my bike, and I went with him, just to show that I was alive. They were a nice couple, and they have grandkids at our school, the eldest being in the year below Chloe, Jess and I. I think Iíll pay them another visit when Iím fully healed.
Although the bike has been repaired, Dad and I have both concluded that itís getting too small for me. Iíve replaced the handlebar stem with a longer one a couple of times already, and have pulled the seat post up to its safe limit. The problem is that Iíve moved on to using longer cranks, and Iím in danger of catching my toes on the front wheel as I make a turn. It will serve me well on the turbo trainer for a while, but Iíd rather sell it and use the money to buy a second pair of wheels to go with my new bike, so that I donít wear a good road tyre out on the turbo.
|The coach at my cycling club has said that Iíve actually been doing too much, and had me cut back on the frequency and the duration of my turbo trainer sessions. Since Iím still only going to be racing at the under-sixteenís level, the focus is on me having fun and improving my handling skills. I only did a few local mid-week races last year, and it was clear that, although I was strong and had a good turn of speed for my age, the playing field was tipped in favour of the lads who already had had their growth spurts, and were physically more mature than everyone else in the age group. I did come close to winning on a couple of occasions, but those guys just wiped the field. Some of them will move into the juvenile classification this year, and Iíve matured more steadily. My coach had to point this out to me, to keep my spirits up after losing for about the eighth time. He also said that it was good that it mattered to me, because I am more likely to put in the work necessary to move forward in the future. He believes that some of the currently more physically gifted lads are relying on their physical ability, and will have a hard time handling the impact on morale when lads like me catch up to them. |
I think Chloe is sick of hearing about the bike. I think that my accident has scared her. She has ridden on her own when our schedules didnít match, however, I donít think sheís touched her bike since four weeks ago, and her mother has been driving her here whenever sheís come to visit. I admit that I can be a more than a bit obsessive about cycling, but, for me, itís almost as much of a way of life as naturism is, and if I decide to have a serious go at racing when I get to juvenile level and beyond, Iíll have to dedicate more time to it. For now, Iíll avoid talking about cycling when Iím around Chloe and then, when Iím healed fully, Iíll try to remind her what a good time we had when out riding.
We are still enjoying the naturist swims on Saturday nights, although, of course, I canít currently swim due to my cast. Iíve taken to hanging out in the cool room, just chatting with folk. Max, Stuartís dad has joined us, finally! Even talking about what made him nervous makes him nervous, but heís OK if nobody reminds him about it. Iím sure heíll get over it. Stuart and Jess are just so good together, both with the same devilish sense of humour. Jessís mum calls her a Ďcuddle bunnyí, and Stuart sure likes being on the receiving end of Jessís affections.
Just before my accident, the Head of Languages at school told Chloe and I that he was putting us in for our GCSE French exams a year early. I have to play catch-up with Chloe a bit now, because of the time off, but that shouldnít be too hard because Chloe kept me up to speed with the notes that our French teacher had prepared for us. She had also arranged for me to have notes from my science and maths classes copied from Nick Barber, my friend who we had double dating with Jess before Stuart reappeared.
That reminds me. Going back before Christmas, Chloe, Jess, Stuart and I had a run-in with one of the girls from my old school, who knew about me being a naturist. She is called Donna. The bad thing was not only had Donna been the girlfriend of one of my enemies, she was also the cousin of a girl in Jessís class. I thought the lies would get around school again, but the cousin is more open minded than Donna, and promised to keep it to herself. Stuart and I thought Donna was a tart and, even though that was the image she cultivated, it turns out that she was the victim of vicious rumours herself. In the end, it was found that she wouldnít be able to get away from the rumours and her image at my old school, so she ended up coming to my new school, which I was not pleased about one little bit. She was shocked by the revelations that Stuart had for her and was willing to do practically anything to get away from what people thought of her, so weíve made a pact, and she has been more than living up to her end of the bargain. In fact, sheís gone so far the other way that sheís getting a reputation for being frigid, which I think we will have to put a stop to, just for Donnaís sake.
There is something that confuses me about Donna still, though; her cousin said she started going off the rails when she was ten, which is way before the rumour mill in my old school started turning. She told us that sheís been attending counselling to get over the stress of what sheís been through, but Iím thinking that sheís been through more than we know.
Between Chloe, Jess and I, and our families, weíve been talking about you all and how we donít get to see enough of you on our holidays. As a result, we are inviting you and your folks to all come and spend the Easter break with us. This year, Easter runs from March 23 to April 7. My invite is officially to Stefan and his family, although Mum will be sending a letter in the post to confirm this. Chloe will be inviting Famke and her family, whilst Jess and her parents, although you havenít actually met yet, have agreed to host Yvette and her family. I know itís a bit short notice, and you may have already booked holidays for that period, but weíd love to have you.
|I donít know what Jess has said in her letters to Yvette, but she now lives next door to Chloe, in a house designed and built by my Dad. They have a sauna, an outdoor plunge pool and a wet room with multiple shower heads. They also have a roof terrace. Together with the Jacuzzi at Chloeís place, they have a decent mini-break spa resort going (almost).|
I know Famke likes horses, so sheíll like that thereís a riding school across the way from Chloeís house, which does organised horse treks up the valley. Unfortunately you wonít be able to ride in the nude. It will have to be jodhpurs and jacket or nothing Ė whoops, scratch that. What you know I meant to say is jodhpurs and jacket, together, are the only option. ĎNothingí is not an option.
I was going to say that we have plenty of space at my house, with Anne being away on her medical degree, but sheís announced that she will be coming back to Bury during her breaks. She did say that sheíd stay with a friend, but was coy about whom that was, so Iím wondering if I can count on her room being available. She also said that sheíd be spending time volunteering at the hospital, to be able to see real-life emergency work up close. Iíve camped out in the back garden before, but that was for fun, not necessity.
I was half way through that last paragraph and thinking about wrapping this e-mail up when Mum and Dad dropped a bomb shell: Mum is expecting a baby. She had been sneaky and popped to the doctorís to get a test done when we were out shopping in the middle of the week. The doctor phoned her up probably an hour ago. When I went down to get a drink I found them both, all kissy and cuddly, so I asked what was going on. Mum and Dad have always been upfront with Anne and me about sexual relationships, and werenít embarrassed about relating how Mum had been upset enough about my accident that she forgot about taking her contraceptive pills for a few days. Although the baby was probably not conceived during my time in hospital, the lack of pills probably caused a hole in Mumís fertility cycle, which meant that she was ovulating a couple of weeks later.
Wow, Iím going to be a big brother! I hope they donít follow the celebrity trend for naming their kids after where they conceived; Hawkshaw doesnít make for a good first name, neither does ĎMaster Bedroomí. If itís a girl I hope they take my suggestion and call her Joy, after being overjoyed at my recovery. Dad joked that they should name the kid Whoopsi, but mum just slapped him one, saying that the name was Whoopi.
Mum will be forty by the time the baby is due, which did give Mum and Dad some concern, but after consulting widely, they are both optimistic. Dad was more concerned about being able to keep up with a young kid well into his fifties, but if any of our older friends from the cycle club are anything to go by, he should be fit enough well into his seventies, although running may not be on the cards. Itís lucky that cycling isnít so hard on the knees.
Iíd better sign off now, as it would be pointless me surviving my accident if I get murdered by Jess for not giving her a birthday card tonight. Itís her birthday on Wednesday, but weíre surprising her tonight at the swim. Just to reduce suspicion, Stuart has said heís going over to his Granís for tea. I just need to pop to the newsagents to buy the card. Mum has bought her a small gift from all of us.
I hope you will all be able to come at Easter, and look forward to receiving your replies.
|Mes chers amis,|
I hope you are all well. It has been a while since Iíve written, and there is a bit to catch up on.
First things first, though. We here have agreed to ask all of you, including your families, to come and visit us here during the two week Easter holiday. Famke, Iíd like to ask you and your family to come and stay with my family. We have agreed with the stables across the road for your dad to park your camper van, if necessary. We will also be able to go riding, if youíd like, but it wonít be as good as when we are able to ride free in France. Scott and Jess are to extend invitations to Stefan and Yvette, respectively, since Jess has been corresponding with Yvette, in order to improve her French.
That house that was being built next door to us was actually being built by Scottís dad for Jessís family. I actually did know that it was Scottís dad that was the developer when we were together in France, but I was sworn to secrecy because it was meant to be a surprise. I only found out by accident, and I thought Scottís dad was developing the site for his family. Scott didnít know anything, neither did Jess. I should have guessed something, because Jessís dad had sold his old house after he moved in with Jessís mum. His old house was a big old thing with a large private garden, so it makes sense that heíd be on the lookout for something better than the terraced house that Jess and her mum lived in. Iím sure that Jess will give you the grand tour of her new home, if you do come. She loves it so much.
Talking of things that Jess loves, she and Stuart are totally, totally mad about each other. I sometimes think that it will take a crowbar to separate them. That would be pointless though, because if you turn around they will be stuck together again. Stuart lives in the next town to the east, where Scott used to live, and itís a couple of bus rides between his place and Jessís, so most of the time we all go out as a group, in Bury.
Unfortunately, weíve not been out for a while because Scott had a cycling accident. It scared me so much because he nearly died. I donít want to ride without Scott, maybe because his accident has made me nervous. Iím sure Iíll be okay once heís healed and back on the road. However, it seems he doesnít want to talk about riding, for some reason. I know that sometimes he used to talk about his bike as if it was his best friend, but heís not said much about it after the accident. I donít want to talk about the subject if itís going to upset him.
Scott and I are being put through our French exams a year early. I know that Scott would like to apply to sit the German GCSE next year, even though we havenít been formally taught it. He thinks weíll be up to it, but I wish I had his confidence. I think Iíll get one of those computer language programs to check what I know. Iím not sure there is a GCSE in Dutch.
I have to get going. Itís our swim night tonight, and Jessís mum and dad have arranged a surprise party for her at the pool, since itís her birthday on Wednesday.
Hopefully weíll be in touch real soon.
Lots of love,
Iíve got some good news. My mum and dad said that we can go to Bordeaux in August, together with Chloe and Scott. Isnít that brilliant! Iíve always wanted to go there with Chloe, but for years my biological father wouldnít let me. Anyway, heís out of the picture and, at last, we will get to meet.
Oh, Iím forgetting. Chloe and Scott asked all of our parents if it would be OK if you, Famke and Stefan, and your families could come and stay with us over the Easter fortnight, which is from the last week in March to the first week in April. If you can come, that will be the first time we meet, being before summer.
I know itís a bit sudden, but it kind of came to Scott in a flash, and maybe it makes sense now, now that we all have decent sized houses. My boyfriend, Stuart, lives in a good sized house with a private back garden, which was actually Scottís old home, but thatís miles away and wouldnít make for a good group holiday.
Iím sure youíll like Stuart. Heís cheeky and likes to be hugged and kissed a lot. But then again, you wonít be getting your hands on him ;-) Oh, before I forget, heíll be coming to Bordeaux with me and my parents in August, too. Chloe and Scott have pretty much told us everything there is to know about the holiday centre, but Iím sure weíll love to hear all about it from you too.
Iíve actually remembered to take some photos of our house, its inner courtyard and the roof terrace, which you can find attached. The house was designed by Scottís dad and is absolutely brilliant. The thing I like the idea of the most, although I havenít been able to try it yet, is throwing open the glass sliding doors on my bedroom and being able to join Mum and Dad for breakfast in the courtyard, right after getting up. I still havenít convinced Mum that she should bring me breakfast in bed. Perhaps she thinks all this luxury would spoil me.
Youíll see from the photos that the house isnít quite a complete ring around the courtyard. There is a passage between the bedroom wing and the sauna with its shower area. That passage takes you to the path that runs all the way around the house, up to the driveway, and down to a gate which leads to Chloeís back garden. Mum and I use this gate all the time because it saves us from having to get dressed when popping round for a visit, although the weather hasnít been warm enough recently. If itís warm enough at Easter, Iím sure Iíll be spending a good length of time in Chloeís Jacuzzi. Mumís favourite room in the house has to be her studio, located beyond the lounge and Dadís study, just before the saunaís shower area. She did an arts degree and had been talking or taking it up again, but our old house didnít have anywhere with good light. This and Dadís study are the only two rooms in the house with large windows to the outside, rather than the courtyard.
We are heading out to our usual naturist swim tonight, which is something we can take you to at Easter. I wasnít that bothered about going tonight, since Stuart said he has something else planned, but Mumís insistent, probably because Scott still needs cheering up after his accident. Oh, Iíve just realised that I havenít written about that. Iím sure that Scott will, so Iíll leave that to him, but so as not to leave you worrying Iíll just say that heís very much better and, if it wasnít for a cast that has to be removed in a couple of weeks, you wouldnít know that anything had happened.
Please write back soon, and tell me that your parents say that you can come at Easter.
Whoops, sorry I forgot. Please see the attached photos now ;-)
END OF EPISODE 11
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