"Hey Tombie, what are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you."
"You can't come with me."
"I'm not coming back."
"I'm not stupid Neil, I helped plan this trip for you. Remember? I've decided to run away too."
She was right of course. I parked my over-laden bicycle alongside hers at the crossroad outside town, knowing that any argument I put forward would be dismissed and if I refused to acknowledge her, she would follow me anyway. Once she made up her mind, her stubbornness and determination would see it through. After being friends for so many years, literally all our lives, I couldn't reject her now, yet I worried how we would get on, not only during the long bike ride but afterwards, when we reached our destination. My internal thoughts debated what to do but, as usual with my dealings with Tombie, I gave in and grunted, "Get your arse on the saddle then, and start peddling and see if you can keep up." More likely it would be me that fell behind.
Sharon Anne Edwards, nicknamed Tombie, a corruption of tomboy, came into this world four days before me and lived four doors down the road. Our mothers shared the babysitting, so naturally we grew up together and for years we accepted her as one of the boys in our little gang. Although one of the smallest in her class, we all treated her with respect especially after an incident when she was eight. Somehow she became involved in an argument with an older boy who punched her face several times. Bob Collins, an ex SAS instructor, heard of this and suggested she came to his marshal arts classes and offered them free. She took the offer and soon became so proficient that none of us boys dared touch her otherwise, before we knew what happened, we'd be on our backs and hurting. In later years, when she'd completed all the usual stages, Bob showed her techniques the SAS used and she had no hesitancy in using some of them.
I guess we were about twelve and rambling across afield, tossing the freshly cut hay at each other, when three youths blocked our path and demanded money. I was prepared to give them the few pennies I had but Tombie had other ideas. She shook her head no, and looked afraid. Thinking they could have some fun, the boys came at her, the biggest one leading. Although shit scared, I went to her but she quickly separated herself from me and let the big bully get close. For the first time I saw her in action for real. We'd played at wrestling but I gave up because I always came off worst, this time she didn't hold back and in a quick flurry of movements, she kick boxed his face as he bent down to grab her, and punched him a couple of times. In seconds he lay groaning on the ground. His companion, too shocked to move, soon found himself lying alongside holding his painfully sore groin. The third boy ran off. I looked on dumfounded and felt somewhat incompetent because I didn't do anything to help her. We walked on in silence after she'd commented, "If that ever happens again, keep clear of me. I want to know that you are out of the way when I swing a kick."
Despite her small size, she packed a hefty punch, partly from the training and partly because her father is a blacksmith and from the age of nine, she spent time in his forge, hammering hot metal, a skill at which she soon became very adept. As with learning the marshal arts, she set about learning the techniques with fierceness and great determination to succeed. Now at sixteen and only 5ft 1inch, she could produce ornamental ironwork better than her father, who now concentrated on the agricultural engineering side of the business and generally left the ornamental blacksmithing to her.
In many ways I had similar traits but I disliked handling dirty metal, preferring the cleanliness of wood, particularly the carving of animals, plaques and lettering. I wanted to be the world's greatest carver and had a flair for art especially when I could interpret it into clay and particularly wood. I didn't have her defiant spirit though, and usually gave way when trouble started. Neither of us liked school and did as little as possible in subjects such as history and geography that we knew would be of no use to us later. Tombie even went so far as to refuse to do any homework in those subjects resulting in a short term of expulsion.
When she hadn't done her history homework for the fourth week running, Mr. Matthews gave her detention, which she ignored and went home. Next day she had him for the last period and when he dismissed the class, he took her arm and led her across the courtyard to the detention room, or a least he the started to. I'd met her at the classroom to walk home with her and could see from the look on her face that she wasn't going to let him boss her around. And she didn't. In the middle of the courtyard, in front of many children, she suddenly did some quick turns and Mr. Matthews flipped over her back and lay face up on the tarmac. Cheers went up from us kids but we knew she wouldn't get away with it for long.
Next morning, the headmaster sent her home with a note saying she was suspended for two weeks. Her father, a big burly man went to the school and tried to sort it out but he too, took the view that it was a waste of time for her to do homework when she could be earning money at the forge. It was never really resolved but she never did any history homework.
Perhaps Tombie should have been born a boy. Certainly she never wore a bra, she had no need to. Her chest mounds hardly exceeded mine except her nipples were slightly larger and had a darker area around them. I developed more or less normally but stopped growing at 5ft 4 inches so I wasn't all that much bigger than her and one of the smaller boys in my class. I had the sexual thoughts of most teenagers and even wondered about fucking Tombie but I doubted that would occur so my wanking sessions centred on several of the well-endowed girls at school. They never noticed me and I only fucked them in my imagination. Tombie and I had seen each other naked several times when we skinny-dipped in the sea but when I lay in the sun to dry off and my prick started to rise, she told me in her forceful way, "Don't even think about putting that in me unless I ask you to, not unless you want the pain in your balls to last several weeks." I knew it wasn't an idle threat and that she was fully capable of carrying it out.
At Easter in the year we were sixteen and due to leave secondary school that summer, my uncle Ewen visited. He had his own joinery business in Wales almost as far across country as he could get from my home and when I showed him some of my work, he suggested that if I wanted a job when school finished, I should contact him. He gave me his email and web addresses. Mother and father had no great liking for Ewen and were set on my going to building college on a two-year course with a further two years for an advanced diploma. They even opposed my getting an apprenticeship at a local joinery firm. By then I'd had enough of school and a gutful of arguing with my parents so I secretly contacted my uncle. Of course I confided in Tombie and I knew she was a little jealous of my being able to get away and do what I wanted. The situation at her home deteriorated after her mother left soon after the Easter break and she told me her father kept looking at her and she believed he wanted her to take her mother's place, and not just in the kitchen.
I had enough money saved up to have taken the train and buses to my uncle's but thought it would be more of an adventure if I cycled the 300 plus miles and I would have my own transport when I arrived. I'd have to wait another year before I could take driving lessons. Tombie and I planned a route that kept me away from most of the main roads, even if it added a considerable number of miles to the journey, a journey I expected to take about a week. The morning before leaving, I carefully wrapped and packed the woodworking tools I possessed and a few other items I would need when I arrived, into a holdall and took them to DHL to send to Uncle Ewen. I knew my bike would have more than enough to carry without them. To economise, I took a small tent and a sleeping bag and would only look for a B&B when there was no alternative or if the weather turned foul. I promised to keep in touch with Tombie but, as she'd told me many times, we were friends and not lovers. We'd held hands a few times but never kissed and certainly, I hadn't tried to fuck her. It was therefore a complete surprise to find her waiting and prepared to travel with me to a destination miles from her home, without knowing if a job or a place to stay would be available and knowing I expected to spend my nights in a small tent.
Even when there are two of you, cycling is lonely way to travel. On the fairly busy road, we rode in single file and, for the first few miles, I frequently glanced behind to see if she was keeping up. I didn't need to worry; she was fitter than me. Two hours later we arrived at a roadside café with many lorries parked outside. "Fancy a break for breakfast?" We'd gone about eighteen miles and were making good progress and our route would turn off and meander along country lanes a couple of miles further on. This was the last café we could expect until the next largish town some thirty miles ahead. I hoped to talk with her and find out why she'd decided to come and how she viewed our sleeping arrangements but the café was fairly full and a driver took a spare seat at our table and asked about our destination. With the noise and his conversation, we didn't get to talk. I paid for the food and wondered if I would have enough money to keep both of us for the journey but outside, she gave me a fiver which more than covered the cost.
.... There is more of this story ...