Gillian Rae woke abruptly to the sound of her mobile phone ringing. Opening her eyes she took in the unfamiliar surroundings and wondered, not for the first time, where the hell she was. The woman in the bed next to her sat up and muttered something about her bag. Gill looked blankly at her, only managing to blink a reply. The woman impatiently rose from the bed and thrust Gill's handbag into her lap. Fumbling around inside the bag, Gill located the noisy nuisance and finally answered the call.
"Hello?" she croaked.
"Gill, I'm outside your flat - will you answer the buzzer."
was the impatient reply as her teammate waited for Gill to catch up. "Look, get out of bed and buzz me in and I'll help you get ready."
"Eh, just one little problem, Julie...I'm not at home." Gill scrunched her face up waiting for the onslaught.
"Where the hell are you?"
"Give me a minute, I'll look out the window." Gill opened the thick, dark curtains and looked out onto a bright sunlit street that looked vaguely familiar. Then she remembered the woman in the bed.
"Where am I?" she asked meekly. The woman was sitting up in bed taking Gillian in with a look of complete disbelief.
"Thanks, ah, Julie, I'm not too far away. I'll grab a cab and be with you in under ten minutes." Gill shut off the phone before Julie could say anything more. Turning to her bedmate she tried desperately to recall her name. "Ah, I really have to get going, I'm late for my lift. I've got a game in Glasgow today." Gill was throwing on her blouse and dress trousers from the evening before as she spoke, hopping on one leg as she tried to locate one of her shoes. The woman in the bed continued to watch Gillian, a look of surprise on her face.
"Have you seen my jacket?"
"I think it's in the sitting room."
Gillian smiled, "Thanks."
Returning to the bedroom with her jacket Gillian gave the woman a quick peck on the cheek.
"Will I see you again?"
Gillian didn't miss the forlorn look on the woman's face. "I'll call you later." With those words she rushed from the bedroom and out the front door.
Alone in the bedroom the young woman stared at the now empty space beside and muttered, "It would help if you knew my number."
Julie Reid sat in her car and watched as a taxi pulled up across the road from the Canongate Kirk. She got out of her vehicle as Gillian jogged across the road to meet her.
"You're in last night's clothes, look at the state of you."
"I'm packed, don't worry, I just have to shower and throw on my tracksuit and we can go. I'll grab some breakfast at the garage."
Julie followed Gillian into her flat. "You don't have time for a shower, Gill."
"Two minutes, I promise."
Julie watched as Gillian stripped naked in front of her before quickly making her way to the bathroom. Gill was never one for modesty and she had been naked in front of Julie countless times after training and hockey matches, but Julie had found it a little different standing there in Gill's flat. As promised, Gill was pulling on her tracksuit two minutes later, then thrusting her bare feet into a pair of training shoes. She picked up her kitbag and sticks then smiled winningly at Julie. "Lets go."
As they walked towards her car, Julie's mobile phone rang. "Hello?" Julie opened the boot for Gill to deposit her bags into. "Yes, we're on our way, my fault I had a little car trouble, everything is fine now, we'll be with you in fifteen minutes."
Gill frowned as she sat in the passenger seat. "You didn't have to do that, I would have taken the blame."
Starting the car, Julie pulled out onto the main road. "I know, but Val is in a bad mood with you at the best of times, no point pouring petrol on the flames."
"I'm sorry, Julie, last night was totally unexpected."
Julie glanced briefly at Gill, "So who was she?"
Gillian rubbed her forehead trying to recall more about the previous evening, but failed to come up with a name. "I dunno, a friend of someone at work."
"I'm not sure, it'll come back to me."
The pair stared at each other and burst out laughing.
"What's it like being you, Gillian?"
"What do you mean?"
Julie kept her eye on the road. "You are so carefree, nothing ties you down."
Gill gave that statement some consideration. "We do the same job, we both have a mortgage and a car. The only difference is you have a husband."
Julie nodded, a thoughtful look on her face, "True."
The pair fell silent, both left to their own thoughts. As Gillian closed her eyes and rested her head back on the seat, Julie snuck a quick look at her friend and she shook her head, a fond smile on her face. Gillian was like a wild tiger and Julie doubted she could ever be tamed. She lived life to the full and enjoyed every minute of it.
As Julie pulled into the car park on the outskirts of the city, Gillian opened her eyes. She caught sight of Valerie's face; it was like thunder. "Thanks again, Julie."
Julie winked at her friend, "Anytime." She opened the car door and held up her hand in apology. "Sorry folks, Gill was ready, all my fault."
It wasn't the end of the world that the pair were a little late. The team always allowed plenty of time to get to away matches, as Saturday traffic could catch you out unexpectedly, what with all the sport going on all over the country, but there were still a few glowers sent their way. Gillian smiled good-naturedly and shrugged, what could she do? They would get over it.
As they approached the team, who were standing around waiting, Val was ready to go off on one. "Where the hell have you been?"
"As I explained, I had a little car trouble."
Valerie turned her anger on Gillian. "How come you are always involved?"
Gill simply shrugged and held eye contact with the irate woman.
"You are always a problem."
The team captain, Sheila, stepped in. "Come on, Val, cut Gillian some slack, Julie already explained that she had car trouble."
Gill and Val continued to stare at each other, Gillian refusing to look away, not saying a word. Finally it was Val who spoke adding, "We better get going." Before storming off towards her car.
Gillian pulled a face at the retreating woman's back, which raised a few giggles, but everyone was treading on eggshells around the temperamental Valerie Smith.
"Looks like Val's driving." Sheila looked around at the rest of the team. "We need four cars. Julie you better leave yours since it's playing up. I'll take you and Gill with me, keep you away from Valerie for a bit longer. Lindy, Sharon and Sarah, you go with Valerie."
"Looks like we've drawn the short straw, girls." Sharon declared.
"You three piss her off the least, so it makes our lives easier." Sheila reasoned. "Hilary, you travel with us and the rest of you go in Camilla and Fay's cars, you can sort it out between you."
With the traveling arrangements made, the fifteen players and Scott, their coach, headed to Glasgow.
Gillian and Julie made themselves comfortable in the back of Sheila's car, while Hilary took the passenger seat.
"Will you be stopping for petrol, Sheila?"
Sheila eyed Gillian using her rear view mirror. "Are you hungry?"
"Skip breakfast did you?" She enquired knowingly.
Gillian gave her trademark quirky little grin, "Something like that."
Sheila shook her head. "I'll stop at Harthill services."
Hilary turned in her seat to look at Gillian. "You're an asshole and Julie, you shouldn't be covering for her." The Doctor's smile softening the severity of her words.
"What can I say, Hilary, I got lucky."
Hilary laughed, "You can say no, Gillian."
"Where is the fun in that?"
"Gill, if you don't have a stormer today, I'm going to drop you for next week." Sheila declared.
Gill laughed, "What and play Val for fifty minutes instead of twenty?"
At that moment Gill's mobile phone rang. "Hi, Maggie, thanks for a lovely evening."
"Where the hell are you?"
Gillian pulled the phone from her ear and eyed it suspiciously; all eyes in the car were on her. "I'm on the M8 on my way to Glasgow, why?"
"Why the hell is Hannah calling me this morning asking for your number?"
"Hannah?" Gillian paused in thought, "Oh yeah, we shared a cab home last night."
"Don't start with me, Gillian, what the hell did you do?"
Gillian wanted to end this conversation fast. "Look, I'm in a car full of teammates, can we discuss this later?"
"I'm going to strangle you, not only is Hannah the new English teacher for next term, she is engaged to be married!"
"Okay, Maggie, I'll call you later. Bye."
"Gillian, don't you dare ha..."
Gillian pressed the off button before Maggie McLure, her assistant head teacher, could finish her sentence. She turned to look at Julie who was desperately trying not to laugh. "Don't say a word," she cautioned, but it was Hilary who broke the silence.
"Like I said, Gillian, you are a prize asshole."
Gillian sat with her arms folded as the other three occupants shared at laugh at her expense.
"Well done ladies, that was a good away result." Sheila praised her team on a hard fought win. "We now have a chance of finishing fourth in the league this year. That would be Dunedin's highest ever finish in the top division."
The players were all stripping off their sweaty clothes in preparation for a hot shower. The dressing room was buoyant, with the players in an upbeat mood. Gillian was struggling in the corner to untie her shoelaces.
"Let me see your fingers, Gillian?"
Gillian clasped her hand close to her bare chest, "No, no, Hilary, they're just a little bruised."
Hilary rolled her eyes impatiently, "For goodness sake, let me see them." She walked towards Gillian and grappled her hand from her chest.
"Look, full range of movement." Gillian wiggled her fingers for effect, "See, just bruised."
Hilary closely examined the swollen fingers of Gillian's right hand. "Hmm, you've taken quite a whack."
Hilary squeezed the fingers, then bent them to double check, which caused Gillian to pull her hand away.
"Ouch!" Gill shook her hand to ease the pain. "You're a sadistic bitch, Hilary."
The orthopaedic doctor looked at Gill with a glint in her eye. "Nothing broken I'm sure, but if they swell up, go to the hospital for an x-ray."
"Yeah, thanks, Hilary, I am positive you have a dungeon of pain in your basement."
Hilary laughed, "Get some ice on your fingers as soon as possible."
That evening Gillian took the twenty-minute walk to her best friend Justine's flat. They had been pals since they met at high school and almost inseparable since. She picked up their order from the Indian take-away that was literally around the corner from Justine's place, then headed to the tenement flat that Justine shared with her four year old daughter, Charlotte. The bouncy little girl was still awake when Gillian arrived at the second floor flat.
"Hiya, Charlotte." Gillian looked at Justine.
"She refused to go to bed until you arrived."
Gillian smiled and bent down to ruffle Charlotte's mass of red curls. "Shall I put you to bed? I'll read you a story, while your Mum sorts out my dinner."
Gillian handed Justine the brown bag full of takeaway, then picked Charlotte up and walked to her bedroom. Depositing the precious little bundle into her bed, Gillian asked which book Charlotte would like her to read. The little hands produced a book from under her pillow.
"Oh, one of my favourites." Gill took a seat on the side of Charlotte's bed and began to read. "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, oh, I met one today who was chewing a wasp." Gill flicked the end of Charlotte's nose with her finger and the youngster giggled.
"You can't eat wasps, Gilly."
Gill smiled, "True, she just looked like she was. Let me start again..."
Five minutes later Gill closed the book and laid it gently on the little table next to Charlotte's bed. She softly kissed the youngsters forehead and whispered goodnight, closing the bedroom door quietly behind her then headed to the kitchen.
"Where's my dinner, woman, I'm starving."
"I popped it in the oven to keep warm, I'll just serve it."
Gill followed Justine to the kitchen and sat at the table.
"How did the game go today?"
"Was good, we won."
"Yeah, a couple of goals."
Justine started opening the cartons and placing them on the table along with the rice and Naan bread. "How many is that for the season?"
"In how many games?"
"Twenty-one, just the one game left."
"You keep that up, they will have to select you for the national team."
"Eat your dinner, Justine." Gillian started scooping some Rogan Josh onto her plate, not wanting to discuss the matter further.
"Wait and see, your time will come, Gillian."
Gill didn't respond, instead she bit into a mouthful of Naan bread covered in curry. "Mmm, you have to try this, it's gorgeous."
The pair spent the next hour enjoying their food and some small talk, before making their way to the living room.
"I'm stuffed!" Gillian declared as she patted her full stomach, "I couldn't eat another thing."
"Oh, that's a shame, because I made banoffee pie this afternoon."
"Let me rephrase, I meant I couldn't eat another thing right now
Justine laughed, knowing it was Gill's favourite, "We can have some half way through the film."
"What rubbish do you have me watching this week?"
Justine rolled her eyes, "I know you like the films, Gillian, you just won't admit it."
"Come on, out with it."
"Made Of Honour."
Gillian looked dubious.
"I've heard good things about it."
"Okay, put it on. Let's have a look."
"Are you going to stop laughing?"
Gillian had tears in her eyes, "I'm allowed to laugh, it's a comedy."
"Yes, but you're not laughing at the humour in the film."
Gillian took a deep breath and composed herself. "Honestly, I did enjoy it, but those scenes in the highlands..." she cracked up again and Justine joined her.
"Oh, dear," Gillian wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes. "Do you have a match tomorrow?"
"Nope, the volleyball season is finished. I'm going over to my Mum's for lunch, me and Charlotte will spend most of the day there."
Gillian yawned, "Good stuff, I think I'm going to hit the road."
Justine looked at the clock, it was almost midnight. "You going home?"
"No, I think I'll take a walk by C.C. Blooms first."
Justine shook here head, "Do you never stop, woman?"
"Well I'm not going to get lucky here am I?"
"I doubt you're going to get lucky anywhere with those fingers."
Gillian waggled her tongue, "I still have this."
"Give it over, Gillian." Justine reprimanded her friend.
"You don't know what you're missing," Gill teased.
"Time for you to go I think."
The pair shared a hug.
"I'll catch up with you during the week, okay."
"Sure thing, Gill, night."
"Did you get parked okay?" Gill asked Julie as she entered her flat.
"No problem, thanks for letting me stay, it would have been hellish trying to get a cab all the way back to Macmerry tonight."
"You are more than welcome to my sofa bed anytime." Gill took Julie's overnight bag and stored it away in a corner of her living room.
"What made you choose a flat in this area?" Julie asked as she looked around.
"I just love the centre of town. I know you get less for your money, but all I need is the one bedroom, it suits me fine. Also I can walk everywhere in the evening and at weekends, I only need the car for school and hockey."
"What do you plan to do with your summer holidays? Six weeks off, Gillian, a lot of time to fill."
Gillian smiled, "I'll play summer hockey, volleyball too, that will take up a few evenings and weekends. I'll catch up with family and friends and I'm going on holiday. What about you?"
Julie sighed, "Neil is very busy with the youth team, so we won't be able to get away, not that we ever do. I usually holiday with my Mum or my sister, Neil never goes away unless it's a football thing."
"Come on holiday with me?"
Julie looked at Gillian, "Really? Your friends won't mind?"
Gill laughed, "God no, the more the merrier. We're off to Tunisia for a week, just book the flights, no need to worry about accommodation, there will always be a bed available somewhere."
"It would be great to get some sun."
"I'll book the flights for you, that okay? We can sort out the cash later."
"Thanks, Gill. I'm already looking forward to going. My summer break was sounding very boring."
"Neil won't mind you going away with us?"
Julie shook her head, "He will hardly notice I'm gone." The sad smile that accompanied the statement spoke volumes.
"You'll have a good time, Julie, I promise."
"Great. Now we better watch our time. The meal is at 7.30 p.m sharp."
"Let me just add the finishing touches to my make-up, then we can grab a cab."
They sat respectfully at the tables as the after dinner speeches and awards got underway at the end of season dinner. It was a reasonably long process since Dunedin Ladies was a fairly big hockey club. Finally they got to the first team and Sheila and Scott made their respective speeches, which only left the player of the year award to be presented.
"And finally we come to the first team player of the year award. This season's recipient has played in every game, keeping up a high standard of hockey. The skill she brings to the game is the envy of many of her peers. Ladies and gentlemen will you please be up standing for Camilla 'Cammo' Cameron."
There was lots of applause as Camilla made her way to the top table to receive her award.
Gill and Julie looked on as Camilla gave her acceptance speech. Julie leaned close to Gillian's ear, "Do you not get fed up, never winning?"
Gill turned to her friend, "Cammo had a fantastic season."
"True, and last year I thought she fully deserved player of the year, but this year you scored more goals in the top league than any Dunedin player has ever managed before. It should have been yours this year."
Gill smiled sincerely at Julie, "That's kind of you to say, but I'm absolutely fine with the choice that's been made."
Julie nodded her acceptance, "Come on, let's get a proper drink from the bar, no more of this cheap wine."
Gillian laughed, "I'm with you on that one."
The night was full of fun and frolics and, as always, there were some hi-jinks towards the end of the evening as some of the players got very drunk. Gillian had consumed a fair amount herself, but not as much as her nemesis, Valerie, who had been downing the Glayva like it was going out of fashion. The evening came to a crashing halt when a drinks tray was throw over one of the cubicles in the ladies' toilets and a scream was heard from inside. One of the younger players then appeared from inside the cubicle holding the bridge of her nose, which was pouring with blood.
Gillian grabbed a roll of toilet paper and started trying to stem the flow of blood, while Julie went in search of Hilary. "Christ, Valerie what were you thinking?"
"Oh, shut up, Gillian." was the indignant reply.
Valerie swayed near the sinks and if she fell Gillian knew she would make no attempt to help her. "Look at the state of her." Gillian gestured to the second team player, whose name escaped her. "What the hell possessed you to throw a tray into a toilet cubicle?"
Valerie waved her arms in a histrionic fashion. "I was having fun, Gillian. Something you have plenty of, am I not allowed?"
"Not when it involves harming others, Valerie," came the stern reply from Hilary Duffy. Hilary stood in front of the injured girl to get a good look at the damage caused. "Hmm, just a small nick, fortunately it won't need stitches, which means you won't have to wait in Accident and Emergency on a Saturday night. That's the good news. The bad news is that you are going to have a small scar and probably two black eyes for the next week or so. What's your name?"
"Okay, Carly. Do you live with your parents?"
"Yes, until I start University after the summer."
"I'm going to give you a lift home and explain to your parents what's happened. And tomorrow, Valerie is going to come to your house and apologise for her behaviour and she can explain to your Mum why her precious daughter is going to have a little scar on the bridge of her nose." Hilary turned to the petulant looking Valerie. "Isn't that right?"
Valerie gave a dismissive gesture with her hand. "Yes."
Hilary left with an arm around the injured Carly's shoulder. Valerie watched her go and Gillian had a sneaky feeling that the woman wasn't as drunk as she was making out.
"Did you enjoy that, Gillian? Me getting a dressing down from the mighty Doctor Hilary Duffy."
"Oh go off and have one of your little conquests, Gillian."
"I would feel sorry for you, Valerie, but then you're a right poisonous bitch."
"And you're an immature brat who is a disgrace to the teaching profession!"
"I'm a disgrace? You're the one who has now assaulted two teammates and you are calling me a disgrace?" Gillian had never told any of her teammates that Valerie had once slapped her across the face in a fit of anger.
"Come on, Gill let's go, she's drunk."
Gill looked at her friend, "She's not that drunk. I think she just got the wrong cubicle, I was in the one at the end."
Valerie wouldn't look at Gillian and Gill had her answer, the tray was meant for her.
The hotheaded woman left the ladies' toilets leaving Gill and Julie alone. "What other player has Valerie assaulted?"
"Oh, it's nothing, forget it."
Julie stepped in front of Gill, preventing her from leaving. "What other player, Gillian?"
Gill sighed, "That would be me."
"Not long after I joined the club, we had a bad result. I went to the loo, as I always do, after the game. When I came out of the cubicle Val was standing there cursing and moaning about a lack of general fitness amongst the team. Now she personally had a nightmare that game, missed at least two sitters. I pointed out that fitness could only take you so far and we needed to improve our skill levels to progress as a team. She went red in the face and slapped me." Gill shrugged and Julie looked horrified.
"What did you do?"
"I said I wouldn't be intimidated by a bully, and I stared at her until she stormed off - then I rubbed my stinging cheek."
"Why didn't you hit her back?"
"It's just not me, Julie, I don't believe in violence, but I won't allow her to intimidate me."
"She is an absolute bitch, I can't believe she hit you."
"Think about it, when I joined the club three years ago, she started to get less time on the pitch. The woman will do anything to remain in the first team. Lets be honest, she's no longer good enough and that's a simple fact. The game is getting faster, especially up front and she is getting slower. She should have been dropped a year ago, at least, but people are too afraid to upset her."
Julie knew it to be the truth, "I can't argue with that."
"Anyway, enough about her. The night is still young, let's go have some fun."
The pair took a taxi into town and got out at C.C. Blooms, joining the small queue that was starting to form.
"Don't worry, we will be inside within five minutes."
"I've never been in a gay bar, Gill, will it be all right?"
Gill laughed, "Don't worry, it will be like any other bar you go to, the only difference being, the females will be eyeing you up, not the males."
"That simple, huh?"
Gill shrugged, "It can be. Just relax, if a woman asks you to dance, if you want to dance, then go ahead, if she tries to kiss you..." Julie was hanging on Gill's every word. "You're on your own." Gill laughed when Julie playfully punched her arm. "Look, what do you do when a guy asks you to dance?"
"Sometimes I dance, sometimes I refuse."
"And when a guy attempts to kiss you?"
"I politely decline and tell him I'm married."
"Well, there you go. Why should it be different with a woman?"
Julie frowned. "They won't get pissed off that I'm into men?"
Gill smiled at her friend, "This place is full of straight women, well, so they say."
"It's not a rule that you have to be gay to get in. Just relax."
"One thing though, don't be surprised at who you might meet."
"What do you mean?"
"Trust me, you always see someone you don't expect to see. I've met school pupils in here, married members of staff. A husband of my sister's friend."
"Oh my God, what did you do?"
"Nothing, it's not my business."
"What about your sister's friend?"
Gill shook her head, "It's not my business. That's the best way to handle these things."
Julie nodded her agreement, as the doorwoman greeted them.
"Hi there." Gillian greeted the familiar figure at the door.
"Hey, Gill. Have a nice night."
"Come here often?" Julie joked.
"Most weekends. What would you like to drink?"
"A bottle of Bud."
As Gillian pushed her way forward to the bar, Julie looked at her surroundings. She wasn't sure exactly what she expected, but first impression was that the guys looked trendier than normal. Other than that, she could be in any bar in town."
"Here you go." Gillian took a drink from her bottle of Bud as she handed Julie the other one. "There is a dance-floor downstairs if you fancy it?"
"Oh, there's a downstairs too?"
Gill grinned, "Sure is."
The pair made their way downstairs to the sweaty, noise filled room below. Gill greeted some people on the way, but didn't linger. She led Julie to a rail that looked onto the dance-floor. The place wasn't quite full, but it was getting there.
"Is this where you usually stand?" Julie shouted her question over the loud music.
"Yeah, I like to see what's going on around me." Gill said close to Julie's ear, making sure she heard the reply.
Julie nodded, then continued to scan the dance-floor. "Some of the guys are fantastic movers."
Gill nodded, then pointed to a guy in the corner. "Keep an eye on him, he is really good."
Gill moved closer to Julie and spoke directly into her ear. "The guy in the corner wearing the crushed yellow v-neck shirt, keep an eye on him, he's really good."
Julie nodded as she located the young guy in question. She turned to Gill, "He looks about fifteen!"
Gill smiled and shrugged. Julie shook her head in wonder then became mesmerised when the boy began to dance.
Gill nodded and continued to move to the beat.
Julie laughed when the next track was played. "Is this your song?"
Gill smiled and started really dancing to 'Womaniser' by Britney Spears. Before she could blink, Julie found herself the object of Gill's charms. With her back to the rail and Gill's hands either side of her grasping it. Julie was only an inch shorter than Gill but, at that moment, she felt every centimetre of it, as Gill stood to her full five foot eight inches and stared straight into Julie's eyes, with a look that promised many things. As Gill continue to move her head to the music with a sexy smile on her lips, Julie could see why women fell for her, then as quickly as it began, Gill was back standing next to Julie singing along with the song.
"You want another?" Julie gestured to Gill's almost empty beer bottle, while holding up her own.
Gill nodded and Julie headed off to the bar. As she waited patiently to be served by the barman she noticed that there was no queuing system, and after a few minutes she wondered if she would ever be served.
The barman turned to look at the woman shouting his name.
"This woman's been waiting ages."
Gary nodded and indicated he would just be a minute.
Julie turned to her saviour, "Thank you, I thought I was going to be here all night."
"The woman smiled, "Gary is a sucker for a pretty face, so long as it's a guy. In almost any other bar in this city, you would have been served first."
Julie knew she was being complimented, but was uncertain as to how to respond.
"I'm Rhonda," The woman held out her hand, "Nice to meet you."
Julie shook the woman's hand, "I'm Julie."
The barman finally served Julie.
"You with a friend?" Rhonda asked.
Julie pointed over to where Gill was standing.
"Oh, you're with Gillian," The woman winked. "You'll have a really fun night." Then she was gone, leaving Julie wondering if she was one of Gill's conquests.
Julie returned to the spot at the rail and handed Gill her beer. "I met a woman at the bar."
"Oh, lucky you." Gill joked.
"Her name was Rhonda, she seemed to know you."
"Oh, yeah, I know Rhonda. A little butch looking?"
Julie nodded. "Is she an ex?"
"Oh no, I'm her type, but she's not mine."
"What does that mean?"
"We both like femmes. So, she's into my look, but I'm not into hers."
"She seems nice."
Gill agreed. "Rhonda is lovely."
"But you won't sleep with her?"
"Because of how she looks?"
"Noooo, because of what she wants."
"What does that mean? You're talking in riddles."
Gill rolled her eyes. "Rhonda wants to wear a strappy and fuck a woman all night."
Julie blinked, "And what do you want to do?"
Gill smiled, "The same." then burst out laughing. "You should see your face, Julie, it's a picture."
"Is that what you really like to do?"
Gill shrugged, "Sometimes."
Julie swallowed more of her beer as she mulled that information over. She just wasn't sure if Gillian was serious or not.
Gillian grabbed her hand. "Come on, let's dance."
It was two hours and several beers later when the pair walked out of the hot club and into a cool May evening.
"Oh damn, look at the taxi queue."
Gill waved away Julie's complaint. "We don't need a taxi, it's only a ten minute walk."
Julie scrunched her face up. "Are you sure?"
"Course I'm sure. C'mon, I know a short cut." Gill beckoned Julie to follow her.
The pair headed towards the Old Town, both sporting a slight stagger after the amount of alcohol they had consumed.
"I still can't believe Valerie slapped you."
"Oh forget all about her, she's a bitch."
Julie nodded, "Yes she is, in fact, she's a fucking bitch."
"Ooh, you swore."
"I know, but I think it was called for."
Gill nodded her head, "I agree, in fact, I would go so far as to say, she is a nasty fucking bitch."
Julie thought about that for a moment. "You're right, she is."
The pair burst out laughing and ended up with an arm around the others waist as they tackled the final uphill walk to Gill's flat. Once there, Julie flopped down on the large sofa.
"My feet are killing me!"
"That's what happens when you wear high heels." Gillian replied, as she attempted to pull out the sofa bed, only to stagger backwards onto her butt.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Making up your bed."
"Forget it, I'll sleep here."
"Okay, I'll go get some bedding."
Gill opened a cupboard in her bedroom and pointed to the top shelf. "It's up there. We need to get a sheet and a duvet cover and pillow slips." Gill turned to look at Julie when she didn't answer. Her friend was sitting on the neatly made double bed.
"Can't I just share with you? It will save all the hassle of making up a bed for me."
Gill shrugged. "I don't see why not." She went to her chest of drawers and pulled out a vest top and shorts.
Julie yawned. "Thanks, Gill. I'll go get my night clothes and pop to the loo."
Gill watched the departing Julie go, then changed into her sleepwear and waited for the bathroom to empty.
"Thanks, Gill, it's all yours."
"Great, be back in a few minutes."
When Gill returned from the bathroom she burst out laughing at the sight before her. "You've been snooping around my bedroom."
"I knew you would have a few of these."
"And you don't?"
"Some of them." Julie held up a rampant rabbit vibrator, "Like this for instance, but certainly not these." She motioned towards Gill's harness and various dildos. "I mean look at this one." Julie held up a seven inch black silicone spiked dildo. "It's not exactly a replica of a penis."
Gill smiled, "There is a lot more to that than meets the eye."
Julie examined the phallus closer, but looked doubtful. "Really?"
"Mmhmm." Gill lifted a small object from the bed. "You see this little bullet?" She held up the silver object for Julie to look at. "You twist the top," It started to vibrate in Julie's hand, "Then you pop it inside that dildo like so." She demonstrated what to do for Julie, then handed her the now vibrating dildo. "You attach the dildo to the harness and double your pleasure."
Julie stared at the vibrating dildo, then at the harness. She then turned to look at Gill, her face suddenly serious. "Put it on?"
Gill swallowed and felt her heart rate pick up, she knew where it would lead if she put on the harness. She nodded slowly, "Okay." They held eye contact, and Gill knew exactly what Julie was asking. Taking the dildo from Julie's hands, Gill inserted it into the harness. She then slid her shorts down her legs and stepped into the harness, fitting it snugly to her hips and thighs. Watching Julie intently, Gill removed her vest, leaving her standing naked with the phallus protruding proudly from between her legs.
Julie watched avidly as Gill knelt on the bed, before resting on her side facing Julie.
"What do you think?" she asked her blonde companion.
Julie swallowed hard and licked her lips, the only sound in the room coming from the faint buzzing, which was emanating from the bullet vibrator inside the dildo.
Gill didn't miss the husky quality that had seeped into Julie's voice. Pushing the various toys onto the floor, she eased closer to Julie, who giggled when the dildo prodded her leg. Gill smiled, "Why don't you touch it?" Gill watched with rapt attention as Julie fondled the dildo, moving her hand slowly up and down its length. It was Gill's undoing and she swiftly pulled Julie's head towards her own for a hard passionate kiss, to which Julie instantly responded. They both assisted with the hasty removal of Julie's shorts and vest and, as their bodies came together, Gill could feel the length of dildo press on her stomach as it became sandwiched between them. As Julie pushed Gill onto her back, she watched as the blonde knelt over her, the space between the dildo and her small patch of blonde hair decreasing rapidly as she bent towards it. Gillian slid down the bed and put her mouth where the tip of the dildo had just been. Julie gasped at the contact from Gill's mouth. Her thighs trembled with the effort of trying to stay upright while Gill used her mouth to pleasure her. Just as Julie's legs were about to give way, Gillian moved back up towards the pillows. She then put her hands around Julie's waist and guided the blonde towards the dildo watching with great pleasure as it disappeared inside her, releasing a sigh from Julie's lips.
Gill rolled her hips slightly as she held Julie in place, but soon the pace started to increase and before long Julie was working hard as she bounced around on top of Gillian, her glorious breasts swaying before Gill's eyes. Grabbing two handfuls, Gill massaged Julie's breasts and met her thrust for thrust, which soon had the blonde screaming her orgasm and, shortly afterwards, collapsing on top of Gillian, who held her as she caught her breath. Gill then flipped her over and started again.
"All night?" Julie asked.
"All night." Gill promised.
Gill awoke to a thumping headache. Her eyes were still closed as she rubbed her head. Shifting in the bed she was aware of something catching on the duvet, preventing her turning easily. As she reached down blindly with one hand she bumped the dildo.
"Oh God," she croaked, wondering who was lying next to her. Rubbing her eyes, they slowly began to open and then focus. Gill turned to her right and saw a mop of blonde hair and a tanned arm. Then everything came back to her. She had been to the end of season dinner then went to C.C. Blooms with Julie, then... 'Oh, dear God.'
Gill reached down, pushed the duvet aside, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Fumbling with the harness she eventually released it and stood, letting it fall to the floor with a soft thud. Gill then made her way, on shaky legs, to the bathroom, which was quickly followed by a trip to the kitchen in search of some juice.
"Bring me something to drink, will you, Gill?"
"Su..." Gill cleared her throat and tried again. "Sure, what would you like?"
"Water is fine."
Gill grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and walked more steadily back to the bedroom. "Morning."
Julie smiled, "Good morning."
Gill handed the water to Julie and got back into bed. She waited as Julie cracked the top on the water and took a few gulps of the cold liquid. She couldn't help but notice Julie's breasts as the duvet slipped below them; they really were fabulous and full. Julie wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and put the water on the bedside cabinet, before turning to look at Gillian. "You're quiet this morning?"
"Ah, bit of a hangover."
"You sure that's all?"
"Well, I don't know whether I should be apologising or not for last night?"
Julie frowned, "Why on earth should you apologise?"
Gillian shrugged, "I'm hoping you don't think I took advantage of you, or anything."
"Trust me, Gillian, I wasn't the one taken advantage of." She looked sincerely at Gill, "And I can tell you something else, Rhonda was right."
Gillian was confused. "What about?"
"When I told her I was with you, she winked and said I would have a really fun night. And I certainly did."
"So you don't regret it?" Gillian was relieved.
"Not at all, in fact, I wouldn't mind doing it again sometime."
Julie put a finger over Gill's mouth to keep her quiet."No strings attached, just a little fun over the summer?"
Gill smiled, "Sounds good to me."
Gill made her way into the sports clinic. She wasn't in much pain, but knew her left leg just wasn't working properly since she had taken a whack on it during a mixed hockey game two days ago. It was the strangest thing.
"Hi," Gill greeted the receptionist behind the modern desk. "I'm Gillian Rae, I have an appointment for 2.30 p.m."
The smartly dressed middle-aged woman nodded as she looked at the computer screen. "If you take a seat, the physio will be with you shortly."
"Thanks." Gill did as requested and sat in one of the comfortable chairs. There was a table in front of her stacked with various magazines. Gill let her eyes glance over the titles, but nothing interested her. Instead, she took in her surroundings. Various charts and posters adorned the walls, advertising everything from back pain relief to insoles. Gill shuddered involuntarily at the skeleton in the corner, wondering who thought that was necessary.
Gill looked up to see a tall, blue-eyed blonde smiling at her. Things were definitely looking up. "Hi, I'm Gill Rae."
The blonde smiled, showing a nice set of white teeth. She shook Gill's hand firmly as she introduced herself. "I'm Annabel Morgan, your physiotherapist. If you'd just like to follow me."
Gill followed, not missing the perfect posture of the woman or her equally lovely backside as she walked into the treatment room. Gillian was no stranger to physiotherapy and easily recognised the various pieces of equipment surrounding her.
"If you'll take a seat."
"So, what seems to be the problem?"
"I was hit on the thigh playing hockey a couple of nights ago. It hurt and I thought I had a dead leg but, yesterday, I noticed that I can't sprint. I'm not really experiencing any pain, but when I sprint my leg isn't coming back through as it should, I'm having to wait for it. I know it sounds odd, but that's the only way I can describe it."
The physio nodded as she took notes. She stopped writing and looked at Gill. "When you were hit, was your foot planted?"
Gill shook her head, "No, I was running past a guy when he swung his stick at me, it hit my thigh as I was sprinting past him." Gill demonstrated.
"So the impact occurred as you were moving your leg forward, before planting your foot?"
Again, Annabel nodded. "If you would like to remove your tracksuit bottoms and sit up on the table."
Gill knew the drill and was wearing shorts under her bottoms. She removed her tracksuit and took a seat on the state of the art physio table, stretching her legs out in front of her along its surface. Gill waited whilst Annabel adjusted the table to the height she required.
"Well it's obvious where the impact was."
Gill smiled, the bruising plainly evident. She kept her leg relaxed as Annabel palpated the area and did her best not to tense as the physiotherapist worked closer to the centre of her injury.
"Not too much pain?"
"Not really, it's more the problem of not being able to sprint."
"You can jog and run, but not sprint?"
Gill nodded, "That's right."
"You have some damage to one of your quads, rectus femoris to be more precise. It's a distal strain, just a small tear."
"Can you speed up the healing process?"
Annabel nodded, "Yes. The thing about this injury is that you can continue to play and train, so it won't affect your overall fitness too much. The one thing you can't do is sprint. Any activity below sprinting is absolutely fine."
This was good news for Gillian because she hated to be inactive. "Great, so how long till I can sprint again?"
"Hopefully in less than a month, but it's important that you don't sprint during that time, no matter how tempting it may be, you have to limit yourself." Annabel looked knowingly at Gill.
"It will be tough, but I'll do it, I don't want this injury to linger into the start of the new season."
"How far away is that?"
"Well, if you do as you're told, all should be well."
"What makes you think I won't?" Gill knew they were flirting a little, but it was harmless.
Annabel smiled, before turning to set up a machine in the corner, giving Gill another view of her pert bottom. 'Who said physio couldn't be painless'?
Gill smiled at her own thought.
Gill walked out into the bright Friday afternoon sunshine. She was on holiday for six weeks and was really looking forward to winding down. The injury wasn't going to put too much of a dampener on her plans. She could still enjoy the fun games of mixed hockey and go to the gym, it wasn't all bad. Taking in a deep lungful of warm air, Gill contemplated what she would do with the rest of her afternoon, maybe a bit of shopping. The ring of her mobile phone interrupted her musing. Smiling, Gill answered. "Hi, Julie, what's up?"
"Hi, Gill, I was in town shopping at John Lewis and wondered if you were free?"
"I'm on Broughton Street right now, not far from you at all. Meet you outside the Omni Centre in five minutes?"
"Great, see you soon."
Gill's smile got bigger as she wondered if this day could get any better. An afternoon delight, she hadn't had one of those in a while. With an added spring to her step, Gill quickly walked up towards the Omni Centre to meet Julie.
Julie was standing just beyond the crossing, her John Lewis bags in her hands. She looked very summery in her flared jeans and bright yellow top that showed off her magnificent breasts. Her flip-flops finished off the look perfectly.
"Would you like some help?"
"I got a bit carried away. I love that shop." Julie's smile was wide, showing her full set of perfect teeth. She looked more American girl next door than Scottish teacher.
"So I see." Gill took a couple of the bags, instantly lightening Julie's load. "Is there anything in particular you would like to do?"
"It was just a spur of the moment thing, I knew I was near your flat and thought I would give you a call."
Gill knew where this was leading and decided to speed proceedings along. "Are you hungry? Horny? Or both?"
"Are you always so direct?"
"Come on, time's a wasting, which is it?"
"Good, so am I. We can pick up some food from the deli on the way down the high street." Gill started to walk, but Julie didn't follow.
"What about my car and the bags?"
"To be honest you're better off leaving it here in the car park and picking it up later. I'll walk you back up."
"Can we at least put the bags in the boot?" Julie asked with a hint of exasperation.
Gill shrugged, "Okay, lead the way." As Gill followed her blonde companion she knew that for all Julie's attributes, and there were some very significant ones, she would never fall for her. She was just too high maintenance at times.
"What on earth happened to your leg?"
Gill looked down at her naked form; one thigh entangled in the bed sheets, the other exposed, showing the purple bruise. "I was hit playing mixed hockey the other night."
"I don't know why we play that game. There are too many unskilled idiots running around with a stick in their hand."
"True, but I enjoy the change from the tension surrounding the more serious stuff."
"I'll bet the guy did it on purpose." Julie stated distastefully.
"Ack, who knows, it wouldn't be the first time."
"That's my point, last season it was a guy who flicked his stick into your mouth."
"I would have been fine if I had been wearing my gum shield." Gill remembered the incident clearly and the feeling of all the broken bits of tooth in her mouth.
"That's not the point, Gillian, you could get seriously hurt. These guys get pissed off that you are better than them."
"Maybe so, but the other guys on our team always sort it out though."
"After you have been assaulted!"
Gill frowned as she looked at Julie, she seemed particularly irritated. "What's up with you, Julie? You usually laugh this stuff off and call me a masochist or something."
"Ahh, nothing, I've just been a little tense lately."
"Problems at home?"
"Do you always have to go straight to the heart of the matter?"
"You're in my bed, if everything was fine, I doubt you would be here."
Julie sat up and leaned her back against the headboard, the sheets pooled around her waist. "You're right, if everything was fine, I wouldn't be here. In fact, despite what we said the night of the club dinner, I had decided not to contact you again after last week. I came into town today and planned to shop and drive back home, but I ended up calling you, despite my good intentions." Julie ran a hand through her tousled blonde locks. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being with you, Gill."
"But you want your marriage back to how it was."
"I'm not offended, not in the least. We both know I'm not looking for a relationship and you are just looking for something you aren't getting at the moment."
Julie sighed, "Yeah."
"So what is it that you're not getting?"
"Don't get me wrong, Neil was a great guy when I married him and an attentive lover, but lately, there just doesn't seem to be the same level of interest. We take each other for granted and have forgotten to put in the effort, or maybe he just doesn't want to make the effort any more. Hell I don't know. I do know there have been other women."
"Just ask him for whatever it is you want and need."
Julie laughed without humour. "You make it sound so simple."
"Sometimes it is."
Julie looked at Gill with nothing but fondness.
"You know, you have all these great qualities, that a lot of people don't get to see. You're selfless and generous and when you do decide to settle down, I think you will make someone a really good partner."
Gill shook her head, "Nonsense, I won't be settling down anytime soon. Too many beautiful women on the planet."
"That's what attracts me to you, you're so carefree."
Gillian pulled Julie closer to her and idly nuzzled one of her breasts. "Mmm, I do love these." She let the nipple pop from her mouth, "So, are you going to talk to Neil?" She resumed her mouth's caress, this time moving languidly down Julie's flat, toned stomach.
Julie's hand moved into her hair, "Mmm, yeah, but right now I can only concentrate on what you're doing." And Gill continued her ministrations, slowly but surely until she was nudging Julie's thighs apart and feasting upon her centre.
Friday evening found Gill visiting her two favourite people, as she did almost every Friday. "Where is my dinner, woman?"
"You're lucky I even cooked for you and now you're making demands?"
Gill sat at the dining table with Charlotte, cutlery in hand waiting. "We're hungry. Aren't you hungry, Charlie?"
The four year old nodded, "Yes!"
"We want dinner! We want dinner!" Charlotte joined in the chant and banged her cutlery on the table, much to Justine's frustration.
"Charlotte, stop banging your cutlery and, Gillian...grow up!"
Gill and Charlotte laughed at their antics, giving each other a high five. "Seriously, Justine, what can I help with?"
"Really, I insist you remain in your seat, I don't know how, but something always happens when you try and help with the food."
Gill had a brief flashback to the curry she helped with. It had ended up tasting like chicken with sugar on it and that was only one of many disasters. She had to concede that Justine did have a point, "I insist on doing all the washing up then."
"Trust me, I won't be stopping you." Justine replied as she strained the spaghetti.
"So, Charlotte, you got a boyfriend yet?"
The little girl giggled at the question Gillian always asked her. "Noooooooo."
"Has Mummy got a boyfriend yet?"
"What!" Gill exclaimed as she stared at Justine. She had expected the same 'no' that she always got. Little Charlotte sat looking wide-eyed wondering what she had said.
Justine turned from the hob where she had been stirring the meatballs. "I don't have a boyfriend."
"Well that's not what Charlotte says." Gill looked at Charlotte who was still wide-eyed.
"I've been on a date." Justine began plating the spaghetti and adding the meatballs while Gill and Charlie stared at her. She served Gill. "You'll get yours in a minute, Charlotte, they need to cool down a little bit more."
"His name is Kenny, we have been on one date."
Gill's eyes narrowed, "And when were you going to tell me this?"
"Tonight after dinner." Justine looked pointedly at Charlotte, her inference clear.
"Great, we can chat after dinner. Eat up, Charlie, you're having an early night."
"Okay, Gilly," the little girl answered innocently, causing Gill and Justine to smile.
Emma Hughes unlocked her bicycle from the railings at the back of her new flat, then walked down the iron staircase, carrying the bike over her shoulder. It was odd to be walking on the flat roof of the shops below, but Edinburgh's Old Town was full of quirks like that due to the undulating character of the city. Placing her water bottle into its cage and fastening her helmet, Emma checked the security of her rucksack before popping one foot into a toe-clip and pushing off with her free foot. Once the second foot was secure, she began her five-mile cycle to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the new job she would be starting that morning.
Having been in the city for only four days, Emma had made a test run of the route yesterday and discovered that it was pretty much straight all the way out to the hospital. There was a slow incline, but that just meant that cycling home after work would be easier. Twenty minutes later, Emma was securing her bicycle in one of the allotted spaces. Removing her water bottle, she made her way to the Occupational Therapy department, where she would shower and change into her uniform, before starting her new job as a senior Occupational Therapist in orthopaedics.
After being allocated a locker within the changing rooms, Emma carefully hung up her tunics for the week, along with three pairs of trousers. She selected one of the neatly pressed white tunics, with a bottle green trim on the short sleeves and v-neck collar, and slipped it over her shoulders, doing up the buttons before smoothing her palms over the front of the tunic, removing any creases. Emma then selected one of the pairs of bottle green, cargo style trousers with a sewn down crease. Pulling them on, she zipped and buttoned them before slipping her feet into a pair of snow-white training shoes. Finally she pulled her hair back into a ponytail and fastened her ID badge to her tunic pocket. She was ready for the day ahead.
Emma spent the rest of the morning being shown around by the head of the Occupational Therapy department, Susan Munro, and meeting her fellow OT's along with the Physiotherapists who worked on the orthopaedic wards. She was then introduced to the orthopaedic nursing staff and the team of doctors. Emma took in as much information as she could, knowing the more technical details were in her induction pack. As of tomorrow, Emma would be working independently with her team of six orthopaedic OT's. The only person she was answerable to was her boss, Susan Munro. Other than that, she had complete professional autonomy. Emma was very much looking forward to the challenges this new promotion would bring her way.
After a quiet lunch, that gave Emma some time to relax and process some of the vast amount of information she had been bombarded with, Emma had an afternoon to spend in the OT department, familiarising herself with its workings. As she sat at the desk that was to be her working space, she was aware of one of her Senior Two's involved in a telephone call that didn't seem to be going well.
"Problem?" asked Susan Munro, the head OT. Until Emma was fully up to speed, Susan was overseeing the orthopaedic department.
"I just got off the phone to a community OT," the Senior Two replied. "I have a patient who requires a discharge home visit but he lives in Dumfries, over eighty miles away. If I do the discharge home visit, it's going to mean me and a patient transport ambulance, with two staff tied in, for an entire day. So, I called the community OT, who has been dealing with the gentleman prior to his surgery, to ask if she would do the discharge home visit for us. She refused, saying he is my patient until I fully discharge him." The OT shook her head, "That means I will have to go on a hundred and sixty mile round trip that will take up my entire day, to do a home visit that would take her all of an hour! Talk about being unhelpful."
Susan Munro mulled over the problem facing the Senior Two. "Hmm, while she is technically correct, most community OT's would do us the favour, recognising the time and cost we will incur. Not forgetting we are already a Senior Two down, and have two new OT's, fresh out of college, needing to be taught and looked after. We can't really spare you for an entire day."
Emma watched the exchange knowing that this would be her problem to deal with, as early as next week. She felt that there was no time like the present to get her feet wet. "May I call her back?" She asked.
The head OT and Senior Two looked at her, Susan Munro making the decision. "I don't see why not, this is your department after all."
"Thank you." Emma took all the details from her Senior Two. After familiarising herself with all the facts, she then made the call, with the others, whilst looking busy with their own work, undoubtedly listening in.
"Hello, may I speak with Muriel Wilson, please?"
"Good afternoon, Muriel, my name is Emma Hughes, head orthopaedic OT, at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary."
"I spoke with your senior two just a short time ago regarding Mr. Denholm. Are you calling in regards to this patient?"
"I am indeed."
"As I said to the other OT, we won't take him over as a patient until he is fully discharged from the hospital."
"I understand, Muriel, but it's my first day and I just wanted to check a couple of details with you." Emma waited a beat allowing the community OT to relax a little. "Am I right in saying that, while we do the discharge, any equipment that Mr. Denholm requires will be coming out of your budget and not ours?"
"Yes, that's correct, Emma."
"Hmm, well I'm afraid it looks like Mr. Denholm will be requiring rather a lot of items to assist him with his daily needs. He will be living alone, after all, and we don't know his location or whether he may have any helpful neighbours living nearby. This is a pity, as I'm sure that information would have helped us to cut down the costs. Unfortunately, our lack of knowledge, in this instance will mean we will have to err on the side of caution. I'm sure you can understand our predicament." Emma had heard a sharp intake of breath coming from somewhere in the room behind her. There was a long silence on the other end of the telephone, which Emma waited out.
Finally, Emma heard a throat being cleared on the other end of the line. "I ah, actually have a free afternoon on Friday. Could the patient be discharged then?"
Emma scribbled down a note on a pad and indicated with her eyes for her Senior Two to read it. After receiving an affirmative nod, Emma continued. "I'm certain that can be arranged. I'll have my Senior Two call you back to confirm the details. Have a lovely afternoon and thank you for your help."
Replacing the receiver, Emma was suddenly aware that all eyes were upon her. Knowing the only ones that mattered were those of her boss, she looked directly at Susan Munro, but could read nothing from her. She instead turned to her Senior Two. "She has agreed to do the discharge home visit on Friday afternoon, can you arrange the patient transport for then?"
The senior two nodded, "I don't foresee any problems with that. I'll get right on it and call the community OT back with the details." The senior two left to finalise the details for the patient, leaving Emma alone with her boss.
"Well that was a unique way of dealing with the problem," her boss remarked.
Emma knew to tread carefully. "Do you disapprove?"
"Ordinarily, yes, but when someone is being deliberately difficult, I have been known to have a change of heart."
"And is that the case this time?" Emma asked with deliberate caution.
Susan nodded, "Yes." Her boss winked at Emma, "I think you're going to fit in just fine."
Senior orthopaedic registrar Hilary Duffy walked into the Doctor's staff room. She had been on her feet for the last twelve hours and was looking forward to a shower and change of clothing. She looked across the staff room, seeing one of her colleagues with his feet up on the table as he slouched in one of the low, comfortable chairs.
"Have you heard about our new OT?"
Hilary paused, coffee pot in hand, to favour him with a dubious look. "I met her this morning at the same time as you." She poured the coffee into a mug, then took a seat opposite him.
"Yes, but did you hear about her threatening to blow a community OT's budget on one patient if they didn't do as she asked?"
Hilary raised an eyebrow. "Impressive."
David Menzies sat forward, clearly warming to the subject at hand. "Rumour has it Penelope crossed herself before fainting."
Hilary snorted, almost spitting out her mouthful of coffee at the image of the very religious occupational therapist doing just what David had described. "Stop. While I don't doubt that she may have disapproved, I suspect someone is exaggerating." Hilary continued laughing at the image, true or not, it was funny. "Looks like our new OT might shake a few things up around here, certainly wouldn't be a bad thing."
"Definitely not, and... she can blow my budget anytime, she's hot."
"Such a pig."
David laughed, "By the way, I also hear she is looking for a hockey club to join and, having spoken to a reliable source of mine in Dublin, I'm told that she's apparently very handy with a stick. Better snap her up fast, Hilary."
She didn't miss his double meaning, shaking her head at his antics.
"What?" said David, "A new start over here, most likely still single after her bad break up." He shrugged, "Easy pickings."
"You don't know any of that to be true."
"Like I said, a reliable source in Dublin."
Hilary pursed her lips. "I'm not so desperate that I need to pick up a woman who may be vulnerable and on the rebound, but still, the hockey part sounds promising. I'll have a chat with her about that."
David leaned back in his chair as he remarked casually, "Better be quick, Murray is eyeing her up."
Hilary frowned. "Murray is gay and wouldn't know a hockey stick from a walking stick."
"Yes, but he's looking for an NBF."
"What the hell is that?"
David did a perfect impersonation of the staff nurse as he answered. "A new best friend, darling."
Hilary sighed, "This place is getting stranger by the day."
Gillian made her way down the sports centre steps to the Astroturf pitch. She really did enjoy her Wednesday evening summer hockey matches, despite the obvious hazards Julie had pointed out. It was a balmy Edinburgh evening and it would make a nice change playing hockey in the pleasant temperature.
"Hey, Nigel, who are we playing tonight?"
"Oh, Gillian, Hi. I wondered if you would make it after limping off last week."
"Yeah, about that. The physio says I can play, but I'm not allowed to sprint."
Nigel nodded, "You want to play further back then?"
"I'll start at centre midfield, see how that goes."
"Great! It's the Royal Infirmary tonight."
Gill glanced towards the goal to her left, looking for a familiar face. She saw the opposition warming up and laughed at the amount of tubigrip and physio tape on display. It was truly amazing what some people needed when it was available for free. She spotted the tall buxom form of Hilary Duffy, her shock of thick black hair in a ponytail. She was hitting the ball to a blonde Gillian didn't recognise, but instantly appraised. Blonde, tall and tanned. Very nice. Gill removed one of her sticks from her bag; deliberately selecting a slightly heavier model than she normally used. The Royal Infirmary were renowned for their robust
play. Gill remembered calling them a bunch of hackers to Hilary after last summer's game, Hilary claimed they were simply robust. Shinguards firmly in place, Gill slipped on her left protective glove and tucked her gum-shield into the waistband of her skirt.
After the warm-up the game got underway. Hilary didn't take long to notice that Gill was carrying an injury and was intent on pushing home her advantage and unexpected superior pace at every opportunity. As the pair moved towards a loose ball, Hilary got there first, taunting Gillian as she moved easily past her. "Come on, slowcoach!"
This was war for Gillian, the words spurring her on into some kind of reprisal. When she collected the ball in the centre she deliberately drove straight at Hilary, easily beating her with an outrageous piece of skill, then allowed Hilary to recover, before simply slipping the ball between her legs for a slide rule pass to one of the strikers. "That's what they call a nutmeg, Duffy."
The game continued in this vein, with the erstwhile teammates foes on this occasion. The verbal sledging going on between the pair was beginning to elicit laughter from the other players on the pitch. Emma wasn't sure what was going on with the normally efficient and competent Speciality Registrar that she saw at work each morning. Hilary Duffy had invited Emma along to play for the hospital team and also spoken to her about joining her club, Dunedin ladies. Now she was seeing a whole new side to the doctor.
"No wonder the NHS is in financial difficulties, your players are wearing half the stock."
"If you had any pace, Gillian Rae, you would be a half decent hockey player."
Emma thought that to be an understatement. If the opposition player had pace, she would be frighteningly good. She had already scored two penalty corners from five attempts, a fantastic ratio in anyone's book.
The game finally descended into outright comedy midway through the second half when Gillian jumped onto Hilary's back as she ran past her with the ball. "Get off me, you lunatic!" Hilary was desperately trying to dislodge Gillian, but Gill was hanging on for dear life.
"I thought that since I was so slow, I would hitch a ride."
"I'm not a taxi. Get off me, Gillian!"
Gill refused to let go and instead whispered in Hilary's ear, "That's not what you said the last time we were this close."
"You wish, Rae!"
A long, sharp blow on the umpire's whistle finally restored some parity to the situation. Calling both players over the umpire issued a lecture to them. "I'm not sure what to call that particular infringement, Rae, but I'm giving you a green card for unsporting conduct. I don't think the umpire's handbook has even thought to include such an incident."
Gill protested while trying to keep a straight face, "I was hardly being unfriendly."
Hilary also had something to say. "It was unwarranted attention and I think a green card is too lenient."
"I'm the umpire, not you, Duffy. One more word and you're joining her."
Hilary pointed to herself. "Me!"
"That does it." The umpire brandished the green card at Hilary as well. "That's for too much lip and that is
in the handbook. Now, the pair of you, behave. No more frolicking or flirting, whichever it is you are doing, or it's the yellow card next time and I don't think either of you wants that?"
"No, umpire," they answered in unison with their heads slightly bowed in shame.
"I've been umpiring the pair of you for years and never witnessed anything like it." The mirth was clearly showing on the umpire's face. "Now shake hands and get on with it."
They did as asked and the rest of the game passed without further incident, Gill's side running out 4 -2 winners.
"Well played, Hilary, though I have to say, on this occasion, I didn't enjoy watching your backside as you easily ran away from me." She shook the doctor's hand.
"Thanks, Gill, you played not too badly yourself. Still beat us, even with a dodgy leg. Are you going for a drink?"
"I can't, Hilary, I'm babysitting."
Hilary laughed thinking Gill was kidding around until a cute little red haired child ran up to them as they walked towards the side of the pitch.
"Hey, Charlie." Gill bent and caught the little girl as she flung her arms around her, easily lifting her up. "You looking forward to hanging out with me?"
"Yup!" she answered excitedly as Gillian ruffled her mass of red curls.
Hilary looked shocked. "Well I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."
"Hilary, this is Charlotte, my friend Justine's daughter. Charlotte say hello to Hilary?"
"Hello, Charlotte," Hilary boomed as she stood over the little girl. Charlotte buried her face in Gill's neck.
"Thank goodness you didn't choose a career in paediatrics." Gill laughed, before whispering to Charlotte, "Say hello to Doctor Hilary, she's really scared of children so she needs your help."
Charlotte nodded, then popped her head up from Gill's shoulder. "Hello," she said before holding out a little hand for Hilary to shake. Hilary's hand dwarfed Charlotte's and the truth was, Hilary really wasn't great with kids, they were just too small for her liking.
"Hello," Hilary whispered, "I play hockey with Gillian."
"Gilly is cool."
"Oh, I see you have her well trained, Gillian."
"No, Charlotte is just a good judge of character."
Hilary laughed, "She is cute as a button."
Gill couldn't agree more. "We have to get going, I'll see you soon, Hilary."
"Bye, Gill, bye, Charlotte."
The little girl waved over Gillian's shoulder and Hilary's heart melted.
Gill walked over to Justine and put Charlotte down. "I'll just get my bags and we can go." Jogging over to where her kit and stick bags were, she packed her stick away, then shouldered both bags and jogged back over to where Justine and Charlotte were waiting. "I'm starving and I haven't had any dinner yet, is it alright if we stop at -"
Justine cut her off before she could finish her sentence. "Don't you dare say it," she warned.
Gill pouted, "But I'm starving and you know I can't cook," she pleaded.
"That's why I made you a vegetable lasagne. There is also some mixed salad and garlic bread. Charlotte will eat some if she is hungry, but I wouldn't imagine she will have very much as we already ate. She might enjoy some fruit salad though."
"Oh, Justine you are the best!" Gill deposited a kiss on her lips.
"I trust you to feed Charlotte properly tomorrow," Justine cautioned.
"Don't worry about tomorrow, Margaret is doing the food."
Justine let out a relieved breath at hearing the name of Gill's older sister. "Thank goodness," she said before the three of them walked to the car park.
Emma had taken in the entire scene from her place over by the doors. She watched as the player Hilary had battled with all game walked over to a blonde before turning to pick up her bags. As she shouldered her bags, she spoke briefly to the blonde before planting a kiss on her lips. Then the two women walked off, with the little girl in the middle holding each of their hands. She thought they looked like a loving family unit and it gave her such a sense of longing she felt momentarily overwhelmed. Hilary interrupted her musings.
"That's Gillian Rae, she plays for Dunedin ladies."
Emma nodded, and realised the news that she would see more of the young woman pleased her. "I hope she strikes the penalty corners for the team."
"She does and I honestly don't think there is anyone better at it in the ladies' game."
"She's the best I've seen. Shame about her lack of pace though."
Hilary laughed, "Yeah, she was a bit slow. We're going to the pub across the road for a drink, are you up for it?"
Emma relished the chance to meet people and socialise. Her biggest problem since arriving in Edinburgh was that she hardly knew a soul. "Sounds great."
The following evening Gill returned Charlotte to her mother after a day of fun and adventure.
"Mummy! Mummy!" The excited little redhead ran into her mother's waiting arms.
"Oof, someone is pleased to see me." Justine kissed Charlotte on the forehead. "Did you have a good day?"
"What did you do?"
"Played with Dale." Gill answered quickly, but Charlotte was more descriptive.
Justine turned to favour Gill with a stern look. "Why is it not a surprise that my daughter has her first kiss when she is out with you!"
Gill burst out laughing. "What can I say, Dale is following in his auntie's footsteps."
"Dale is in big trouble." Justine said with mock seriousness, then she frowned as she looked more closely at her daughter. "Where are my daughter's clothes?"
"She's wearing them."
"Gillian, I'm a mother, I know what clothes my daughter owns, and none of these are hers."
"We went shopping, I bought those from Gap Kids, aren't they cute?"
"You went shopping?" Justine repeated and Gill nodded. "So where are the clothes that I packed for Charlotte to wear today?"
"Sorry? Did you just say in the bin?"
Gill scratched the back of her neck, "Eh, yes."
"You are going to explain to me, in minute detail, exactly what happened."
Gill rolled her eyes. "Well we spent the day at Margaret's because she invited us and I wanted to catch up with my sister. Obviously, with Dale being there and the two of them are of a similar age, Charlotte and Dale played a lot together."
"Yes, that much I have already gathered and Dale is six years old."
"Well anyway, Charlotte was playing on Dale's little trike, they found it in the kid's shed. At some point the chain must have come off and, instead of running helplessly to the nearest adult, little Miss Independent attempted to put the chain back on herself."
Gill nodded, "Is the Bluetooth switched on on your laptop?"
Gill sent a picture she had taken on her mobile phone of Charlotte when she found her trying to put the chain back on the trike. The little girl had oil all over the front of her brightly coloured t-shirt and on her little denim jeans and trainers. "She looks like an adorable little ragamuffin." Justine remarked.
"I know. I love the picture. I'm going to get it printed and framed."
Justine smiled at the pair of them. "Well that explains the new clothing but, Gill, you didn't have to buy her new clothes, really."
"I know, but I wanted to, and Gap Kids is just too cute. I wanted to get lots more."
"Well, thank you, the outfit is gorgeous, but next time..."
"Take the labels off."
"Oh." Gill laughed, "When do I get all the juicy details of last night's date?"
"You will have to wait until after Charlotte's bedtime for those kind of details. I trust you are staying for dinner?"
"Most definitely. I can't wait to hear all about it."
"After dinner then, for now you and Charlotte can tell me all about your day together and don't think I have forgotten her first kiss!"
Gill reached out blindly for her mobile phone, desperate to stop the racket. Using one hand to hold open an eye, she located the correct button and, with the other, she answered.
"Hello?" she croaked.
"Morning, sunshine, it's a beautiful day and they are setting up two nets down on Portobello beach, are you up for it?"
Gill sank back into her mattress. "What time is it?"
"Justine! It's Saturday morning." Gill complained.
"Do you have someone with you? Tell them you need to be somewhere."
Gill managed to fully open one eye and peer to her left. She was the only occupant of the bed, and was yet to remember what she had been doing the previous evening. "I'm alone."
"Good, that makes things easier. It's a ten o'clock start at the King Street end of the beach."
"Justine, I don't know, I would like to sleep in today." Her head hurt and she still didn't know what she had been doing the night before.
"That's a pity, it's a mixed tournament and Kenny and his friend Dave were going to partner us."
Gillian sat up quickly, which instantly caused more pain. "Wait! Just wait a minute. You wouldn't be making that up?"
"Absolute truth, Guides honour, if you turn up you will meet Kenny."
"Okay, I'll be there."
"Don't you go back to sleep, Gillian."
Gill yawned, "I promise I will be there." Ending the call, Gill leaned back on her pillow. 'What on earth was I doing last night?'
She groaned as she started to remember. An Indian restaurant with the mixed hockey team, then a couple of bars and after that they had all ended up back at Nigel's house drinking tequila sunrises. Gill could still taste them on her tongue and she doubted she had been in bed more than four hours. Forcing herself to get up, she headed straight to the kitchen and opened her fridge, looking for fruit juice. She immediately disregarded the fresh orange and selected the apple juice, drinking it straight from the carton. Opening a tube of ready salted Pringle's, she started to eat them as she repeated her mantra, 'sugar and salt, sugar and salt'
. She knew that if her stomach didn't rebel against them she would be fine. After showering, Gill popped two paracetamol and decided things weren't as bad as she had first feared. Until, that was, she opened the blinds and squinted into the bright sunlight. Returning to bed suddenly seemed very tempting, but she had promised Justine and she really did want to meet Kenny.
Having first put on a dark bikini, Gill then selected shorts and a tank top to put over it. Choosing a grey hoodie and a pair of Oakley sunglasses, she slid her feet into a pair of flip flops, then filled a small rucksack with shower gel, shampoo, a towel and lots of suncream. Picking up her purse, phone and car keys from the dresser, she was all set for a day of beach volleyball.
Parking a short distance away from the beach, Gill walked towards the promenade. It was getting busy, but she had no problem spotting the volleyball nets that were already seeing good use with a few players warming up on either side. Through her shades Gill glanced up and saw nothing but blue sky. It was going to be a scorcher.
Gill turned to see who was greeting her so cheerily. Her frown instantly turning into a smile at the sight of Justine's mum. "Hi, Pauline." She waited on the older woman to catch her up.
"You remember Brian?" Pauline asked as she introduced her husband of six months.
"Absolutely, I really enjoyed your wedding." Gill briefly recalled that fateful day at school when they found out that Justine's father had died of a massive hear attack. Having survived two previously, the third one was just too much. They were only fifteen when it happened. It had taken Pauline a long time to get over the loss of her husband, but she had finally started living her life again and she knew that Brian had been a big part of that. Despite her mum's concerns, Justine had approved wholeheartedly of Pauline's relationship with the kind, handsome man.
"Nice to see you again, Gillian."
"I take it you're heading down to watch the volleyball and enjoy a day at the beach with Justine and Charlotte?"
Pauline had the good grace to blush a little. "Well, we will get to meet Kenny at last. I shouldn't be so nosey, but I want to see the guy that has managed to get my daughter to agree to more than one date."
"Me too, I was all but refusing to play today until she mentioned he would be here." The women shared a giggle, while Brian smiled and shook his head. "Let's go and find the girls."
"Grandma! Gilly!" The ever exuberant Charlotte came running over the sand to greet them. Justine followed a little way behind, walking towards them accompanied by a tall, dark haired man. A little slim, Gill thought, but volleyball players tended to be lean.
"Hi, Mum, Brian, Gillian, this is Kenny." Justine looked a little embarrassed, but Gill knew it wasn't anything to do with the guy, she just always felt uncomfortable in these situations. Deep down she was a very private person.
Gill waited until Pauline and Brian had said their hello's before she spoke. "Hi, Kenny, really nice to meet you." She shook his hand. Instantly taken with his easy smile.
"Hi, Gillian, I've heard a lot about you, I feel like I already know you."
"I hope it wasn't all bad."
He grinned again, "No, Justine has almost only good things to say about you."
Gill pretended to be surprised. "Really?"
Justine intervened, "You know I love you really."
"I brought my friend Dave along and he's looking for a woman to team up with for the day. Justine says hockey is your game, but you're not half bad at volleyball. Would you mind partnering with him?"
"Not at all, it should be fun."
"Thanks so much, Gillian, I'll let him know." He turned to Justine, "I'll be back in a couple of minutes. We're already down to play and it should all be starting in about quarter of an hour."
They watched as Kenny jogged towards a group of people who seemed to be organising the day's events. Gillian turned to Justine, a glint in her eye. "I never would have credited you with such good taste."
"Thanks, Gillian!" Justine swatted at her friend's arm.
"Seriously, Justine, I like him."
"No joke, I get good vibes from him, and I think he is really good looking."
Justine looked dubiously at her friend, "Don't mess around, Gill. I want you to say what you think, I have a terrible track record with guys and I don't exactly trust my judgement all that much."
Gill looked at her friend. She knew Justine had been reluctant to date after her failed relationship with Charlotte's father but, until now, Gill hadn't been fully aware of just how much that break up had shattered her confidence. "Seriously, Justine, I like him. I know I joke around a lot, but not with this. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and I do think he's good looking." Gill tried to convey to her friend just how sincerely she meant it.
"Thanks, Gillian. I like him a lot, but I want to take things slowly, Charlotte comes first."
Gill hugged Justine, "I know and I'm really happy for you, I hope it works out."
"We'd better head down there, it looks like the games are about to start."
They spent the morning enjoying the short games of beach volleyball. Dave turned out to be a very good player and, although Gillian was short of his standard, he was content to play the game as it should be played and not dominate the ball. While Dave and Gill enjoyed a mixture of wins and losses, Kenny and Justine were reigning supreme on the taped out sandy courts. It was a joy to watch them play together.
"Gilly, will you take me to the water?"
Gill looked at Pauline who had been looking after Charlotte, and instantly took pity on the poor woman. She looked like she was ready to wilt. "Of course I will."
"Oh thanks, Gillian, she has me worn out."
"You have a sit down and enjoy the sun, Pauline, I'll take over for a while."
"Would you mind if I joined the two of you?" Dave asked.
Gill instantly started searching for what to say. She didn't want this day to turn out like some strange double date.
Dave seemed to pick up on Gill's dilemma, "It's okay, Kenny said, you know, you're not interested in guys."
Gill was relieved, that removed any awkwardness from the situation and she could simply enjoy Charlotte and Dave's company. "Charlotte, can Dave come down to the water with us?"
"Yeah!" she screamed, her little feet already scampering towards the sea.
"Looks like we better hurry up, Dave." The pair of them took off after the little imp, catching her before she did a full belly flop into the water.
Justine looked up during a short break in play as she heard the delighted squeals of her daughter carrying on the soft breeze. She laughed as she saw Charlotte and Gill chasing Dave and trying to soak him, only to have the tables turned and scurrying away to a quick retreat. It was a wonderful snapshot.
After a break for lunch, which Justine had so generously provided, Gill and Dave were the next match on. As they took their place on court number two Gill's eyes nearly popped out at the sight that greeted them on the other side of the net. She turned, slack jawed, and looked at Dave. "Who are the catwalk models?"
"The guy plays for the Jets, I'm not sure about the woman."
"Are they a couple?"
Dave laughed, "I have no idea. Do you like her?"
"I think so too."
"I forget you're practically thinking the same way I am."
"Just with different parts of anatomy."
Dave burst out laughing, "You're worse than a guy!"
"Really?" Gill was doubtful.
"No." Dave conceded. "I'm just not used to hearing anything like that from a woman, or swapping notes on a woman with another woman."
"Come on, we'd better focus, I suspect this is going to be very tough." And it was. The pair on the other side of the court took the set easily, despite the best efforts of Gill and Dave. All they could do was walk up to the net and congratulate their opponents on a great game.
"Thank you," came the cool reply that instantly sent shivers down Gill's back.
"Oh, I love your accent, a little hint of Swedish?"
The cool blonde favoured Gill with a raised eyebrow, "Yes."
"I'm Gillian Rae."
Gill smiled, "Nice to meet you, Maddie."
"Do you play for one of the ladies teams?"
Gill laughed, "I like a woman of few words." She looked meaningfully at Maddie, hoping her point was taken.
"Indeed." She was favoured with the merest quirk of a smile, then it was gone as quickly as it appeared, but it was enough for Gillian to proceed.
"Will you be here for the duration, or do you have to rush off somewhere?"
Well it wasn't exactly a brush off, so Gill forged ahead. "I'd really like to continue this one sided conversation a little later?"
"My place, around eightish?"
Maddie Anderson gave a faint nod of agreement. "I'll need your address."
Gill remained cool, but inside she was doing cartwheels. She told Maddie her address and then watched as the woman strode purposefully off without so much as a backwards glance. Gill walked back over to where her friends had set up camp.
"What were you saying to Maddie Anderson?" Justine enquired.
"Oh, you know her?"
"Vaguely, I've played against her a good few times, never gotten to know her though. She's colder than the corpses she sees."
Gill looked horrified. "Eww, what does she do, cut them up?"
"No, she's in the Police, part of the murder squad."
"It suits her, she gives me tingles."
Justine frowned, "Please tell me you don't want to sleep with her?"
"I think it's already a done deal, she's agreed to come to my place tonight."
Dave almost choked on his drink at hearing that.
"Good luck with that, Gillian, she's cold."
"I know and I'm looking forward to melting her."
Justine shook her head at her friend's glee. Gill loved the thrill of the chase and was confident enough to go after what she wanted. She looked at Dave, who seemed to be lost in his own little daydream, probably thinking of Gill and Maddie together, he was practically drooling, poor guy.
Gill spent the rest of the afternoon playing some volleyball, funning around with Charlotte and ogling Maddie Anderson at every available opportunity. She was really looking forward to her evening.
"Why am I the one driving?"
Gill grinned at Susan Leslie as they sat in her two-seater sports car, with the top open. "Because you have several cars and I only have one."
"That is not a sensible answer."
"Sue, you offered to drive on Wednesday evening, after the game."
Gill watched as Sue frowned, then seemed to remember. "Oh, yes, I did, didn't I?"
"You can leave your car if you want to drink, I'll give you a lift to pick it up tomorrow if you like."
"Thank you, but I will probably have Alan drive me back to get it."
"Who is Alan? Have you got a man?" Gill teased.
"Goodness no, I still haven't found one who isn't after the family money. Alan is my father's driver."
"Try a woman?" Gill suggested impishly.
Sue gave Gill an imperious look, "I have, darling, it just didn't move me."
"She mustn't have been doing it right."
"Oh no, that wasn't the problem, I had some lovely orgasms, and she was such a dear. No, I'm afraid I have a preference for males."
"No need to apologise, it happens," Gill replied as she laughed at Sue's apology and the woman's straightforwardness.
Gill looked down the long stretch of road on the outskirts of East Lothian. "It's almost at the very end of this street. Take a right turn before the junction, it leads to a private road."
Sue did as instructed and they soon found themselves in a secluded area, surrounded by big, mock Tudor, houses. They both turned to look at each other. "Professional footballer?" Sue asked.
"Yes, I think you will find a few of them living around here."
Sue parked as close to Julie's residence as she could, then they both made their way to their teammate's house for the end of season summer barbecue. The weather was great and Gill was looking forward to relaxing and having a few drinks. The summer mixed hockey team was primarily made up of lawyers and police officers. "How did you end up playing for this team, Sue?"
"Farquar is father's lawyer."
Gill was quiet as she recalled exactly how she had come to be playing for the mixed hockey team. She groaned internally.
"Is everything alright, Gillian?"
"Yes, I was just thinking about how I ended up playing for the team."
"Oh, do tell."
They had reached the front gate of the two garaged home and Gill hoped Sue would forget all about her question. The front door was open and they walked inside, simply following the noise, which led them to the kitchen and out into a well crafted, perfectly manicured, back garden.
"Ahh, Gilly and Sue, we were just wondering where you two were." Farquar said.
"Are we the last to arrive?"
"Fashionably late, ladies."
Gill and Sue hugged Julie, their teammate and host, "What would the two of you like to drink?"
"And a cold Bud for me, thanks."
They sat amongst the gathered teammates and their partners. Gill took a sip of her cold beer straight from the bottle, enjoying the smooth taste.
"Gillian was just about to tell me how she ended up playing for our team."
Suddenly the beer wasn't going down as smoothly as it had been and Gill almost choked on it. With her eyes watering she croaked, "Maybe another time." Everyone was now interested in the story and insisted that she tell it. Gill took a few more mouthfuls of beer trying to put off the inevitable.
"Come on, Gillian, get on with it."
She held a hand up to forestall the badgering. "Alright. But please remember, I was young and impressionable."
"Oh, this should be good."
"I had just left high school and was on a night out with my school friends. We'd had a few drinks and decided to walk home. On the way home we passed some roadworks with the area sectioned off by traffic cones. I decided to borrow one and then proceeded to walk home with the cone on my head." Gill stopped and caught Nigel's eye, he was the only other person present who knew this story. "Anyway, after about ten minutes of walking this way in my inebriated state, I was vaguely aware of a flashing blue light and being told to stop. I was so drunk I didn't even consider that the problem might be the traffic cone on my head." There were a few giggles and laughs as Gill told that part. "A policeman walked up to me while his colleague remained in the car and he asked me if I was aware that it was illegal to remove a traffic cone? I said I wasn't." More laughter ensued. "He then ever so officiously, asked me my name, my address and what I did for a living. I told him I had just left high school and was about to start university. This prompted him to demanded to know my date of birth as well. Turns out that, not only was I unaware that I could not go around removing traffic cones, I was also not suppose to go drinking in bars until I was eighteen." There was a lot more laughter. "I thought he was splitting hairs as I was in my eighteenth year, though admittedly a few months short of my birthday. He asked me what I had intended to do with the traffic cone when I got home. I told him I intended to add it to the pile I had already gathered in my parents' back garden. This clearly was not a good answer as I suddenly found myself in the back of the police car with my friends watching on in horror. I told them not to worry as it would save me the cost of the taxi fare, which I didn't have anyway due to spending all my pocket money in the pub."
Gillian stopped to take another drink from her rapidly disappearing beer, and without asking, another was placed beside her. "Thank you." She smiled and looked around, noting that she had everyone's attention. "I was given a lift home to my parents' house where, sure enough, a very unimpressed policeman found my stack of traffic cones by the back wall of the garden. By this time my mum and dad had woken up and joined us wearing their matching dressing gowns. They were wondering what all the fuss was about and couldn't understand the policeman's problem at all. To quote my mum 'It keeps her happy and off the streets.'
You should have seen the officer's face until my mum clarified that I used the cones to practice my hockey dribbling. And that is when the evening took an entirely different twist. The police officer asked me who I played for but, of course, at that time in my life, I had no team. I had just left school. He said he was playing in a mixed hockey tournament the following day and they were short of players. If I played, he would overlook the road traffic offences I had committed. He also gave my mum a guarantee that he would pick me up in the morning and bring me back home safely in the evening. I agreed straight away, as did my mum. He then took away my pile of traffic cones, which I wasn't very impressed about, and told me to go to a sports shop and get the official ones. I've been playing for the summer hockey team ever since."
Gill finished and everyone was quiet for a moment, until they realised she wasn't saying any more.
"Oh come on, Gill, you can't leave us hanging, who was the officer?"
"I'll never tell."
Gill was tickled mercilessly until she screamed out Nigel's name.
"PC Innes, I'm impressed with your particular brand of justice." Farquar stated.
"Thank you M'lud." Nigel joked.
As the day wore on and the drink flowed liberally, there was a lot of hi jinx and teasing going on in the hot afternoon sun. Gill decided to get some more food to soak up some of the alcohol she had been so freely indulging in. She had lost count of how many buds she had drunk.
"Can I get you another drink, it's a really hot day?"
Gill turned to look at Julie's husband Neil, who she had met a couple of times before. "Sure, a cold bud would be great."
He returned with her drink and she was aware of him looking at her double tank top covered breasts. Then she saw his eyes move downwards to where her shorts ended mid-thigh and then along her tanned legs to her flip-flops. Gill felt strangely exposed by the blatant way he checked her out. She took the drink from him as he grinned at her. "Thanks."
Gill nodded as she sat down and took a bite of her hamburger.
"I've seen you play a few times, you're very good. I didn't know you were charming and funny as well as talented and pretty."
"Uh, thank you. I hear you were a very good footballer."
"Had to retire early from the game with a knee injury."
"That must have been difficult."
"It was at the time, I'm youth team coach now, I hope to move into management when the time is right."
Gill was aware of Neil invading her personal space and she was becoming more and more uncomfortable with the situation.
"Relax, no one's paying any attention, they're all too drunk." He stroked her bare arm with a finger.
Gill glanced over and caught the eye of his wife, Julie. The blonde simply stared over at them. She swallowed her food and took another drink of her beer.
"How about you and I get together later in the week." Neil Reid was leaning in closer and Gill's eyes never left his wife's. Neil's meaning was clear, he wanted to have sex with her and she in turn was supposed to be flattered. She finally looked away from Julie to speak directly to him. "I'm sorry, but I don't think that would be a good idea." She glanced back over to Julie then back at him.
"Oh, don't worry about Julie, she is used to my extra curricular activities." He grinned.
"Does that mean she can indulge in her own?"
He frowned, "She isn't interested in other men."
"Me neither, you see, I would be more interested in your wife than you."
Neil's face suddenly turned to stone. "Do you think that's funny?"
"No more funny than you trying to chat me up whilst she is sitting over there in your back garden surrounded, by her teammates."
"Fucking dyke." He whispered harshly before storming off.
Gill sat back and sipped her beer as she whispered under her own breath, "Yeah, and I shagged your wife." as she watched him go into his house.
Julie came over to join Gill after her husband left. She sat down next to her friend and sipped her fruit juice. "What was Neil saying?"
"Was he asking about, you know?"
Gill turned to look at Julie, "Trust me he doesn't suspect a thing."
Julie looked worried, "How can you be sure?"
"Because he was hitting on me."
"Well at least he is being true to form. He didn't look very happy when he left?"
"No, I turned him down by informing him I had no interest in other men, just like his wife, and I said that if you were allowed the same extra curricular activities that he was, I would be interested in you. He was pissed at that."
"I know, but he won't actually think anything has been going on, he believes you are a dutiful wife who quietly puts up with his affairs."
"Well I was until recently."
"I know and I also know it's over." Gill had known that when Julie pulled out of the trip to Tunisia.
"No hard feelings?"
"Of course not, I had a really good time."
"Come on let's mingle before rumours start flying around about a threesome."
Julie laughed as the pair made their way back to the main group, her husband nowhere to be seen. That evening, as people started to leave, Gill found herself amongst the last of the stragglers, not by accident.
"Any chance of a cup of tea?"
Julie smiled as she saw Gill standing in the doorway of her kitchen. "I wondered if you had already left?"
"No, still here. Everyone else has gone,"
"Neil's gone too, I don't know where."
Julie put the kettle on and prepared the teapot and cups. Gill thought she looked sad.
"I had a lovely time and I know I'm a bit drunk, so I'm going to call a cab now just in case I change my mind about earlier and make a pass at you."
Julie smiled as Gill looked up the cab company on her phone. She watched as the younger woman squinted to see the correct number and she knew if Gill made a pass at her, she wouldn't say no. She poured the tea and sat opposite her at the table.
"Five minutes they said." Gill was leaning on the table, her head resting in her hand as she sipped her hot tea. "Don't look so sad."
Julie was about to protest, but thought better of it. "It's not what you think."
"What do you think you know, Gillian Rae?"
"That you're pregnant and your husband's an ass."
"Good, God, what are you, psychic?"
"Nope. Anyone can see he is an ass and you have been drinking juice and water all day."
Julie nodded, "I am pregnant and I haven't told Neil yet."
Gill lightened the mood, "Don't be coming after me for child support!"
Julie laughed, "You're good, but even you are not that
The doorbell rang, interrupting the pair. "That will be my taxi." Gill stood up and smiled at Julie, "Congratulations, I hope the baby makes all the difference to your relationship." she hugged her friend.
"Thanks, Gill, I hope so too."
They connected once more, their eyes conveying what they both wanted, but knew neither should act upon the desire. Gill took Julie's cheek in her palm and kissed her softly, the kiss deepened, but the doorbell again interrupted them. "Time for me to go. Take care of yourself."
"You too, Gillian. Night."
Gill banged on the changing room doors, "Hurry up in there, girls. The bell will be ringing in less than five minutes and you're half-day today."
It was the end of the working week, and although every Friday was a half-day for the pupils, it meant staff in-service for Gillian, but she would still be out from school earlier than usual.
She checked her watch knowing the bell would go any second...
The fourth year girls started to filter slowly out of the changing rooms. The older they got, the slower they got. The boys on the other hand were flying past her, all legs and arms and testosterone. Gillian shouted into the changing rooms to hurry them along. "Come on, girls, I want to get some lunch."
"I need to do my make-up, Miss, I can't go out without my face on."
"Me too, Miss."
"Hurry it up then." Gill stood in the corridor with the door open shouting in to the two female changing rooms.
"What you doing at the weekend, Miss?"
"Nothing this evening, just ironing and getting my kit ready for my game on Saturday."
"Honestly, Miss, you have such
a boring life, you need to get out."
Gill smiled, "I know, what can I say."
"Have you got a boyfriend, Miss?"
"Aww, but you could, Miss, I mean you're nice looking and that. And I've seen Mr. Glaboski checking you out, and lots of the fourth year think you're hot."
Gill laughed, "You concentrate on your own love life, Miss Tonner."
"Miss, do I need to wear my tie?"
"School's over for today, Sarah, you can wear it round your head for all I care."
"Seriously, Miss, just tell us what you will be doing tonight?" Carla Tonner wasn't going to give up easily.
Gill rolled her eyes; the girls were always trying to find out details about of her life. "Okay, but just this once." She watched as they all stopped what they were doing. "After lunch, I have staff in-service. To you lot, that would mean a boring meeting. After that's over I have an appointment with the beautician to get my waxing done."
"Eww, Miss do you get everything waxed?"
"Enough! That's your lot." Gill laughed.
"Aww, Miss, you agreed."
"You girls are relentless. Okay, after my waxing, I'm going to top up my tan and a friend has invited me to dinner this evening."
"You do always have a lovely colour, Miss. I knew you used sun-beds."
"I only use them occasionally, remember they are as harmful as the sun." Gill cautioned.
"We know, Miss, especially after what happened last year."
Gill still couldn't believe some of the pupils had been booking a sun-bed in their lunch hour. It had made the national news. "Yes, so don't go getting any ideas. Now come on, out with you, I'm starving." Gill shook her head as she watched the group of girls, all gossip and lip-gloss, finally leave the PE department.
It was the start of a new season for Dunedin ladies and they had high hopes this year of a top three finish. Today wasn't a league match, the first competitive game was still two weeks away. Instead they were taking part in a tournament that would both improve match sharpness and give the captain and coach a chance to check out some new players who had joined the club and looked like promising additions to the first team squad.
Sheila Muir, the team captain, looked around and counted the players in attendance. "Right, I think that's almost everyone, we're just waiting on Scott."
"Why don't I make introductions whilst we wait for him to arrive?"
"If you do, Gillian, you will be taking the vacant position of vice-captain," Sheila cautioned.
Gill shrugged, "Okay, why not, I'll be captain of vice."
That produced a few laughs.
"We don't have a full first team squad today, there are three players unable to make it for one reason or another." Gillian looked around the players, "Let's begin by introducing the two new players here today." Gillian looked to a young woman, "Melinda, you're here to study at university, first time away from home?" The younger woman nodded. "What position do you normally play?"
"Excellent, we'll do our best to make you feel welcome. Everyone say hello to Melinda." Gill waited as the players greeted Melinda. "That brings us to Emma, who has joined us from Dublin Ladies. Emma is an Occupational Therapist, now I don't know exactly what that is, but I'm sure I'll find out soon."
"Stop flirting and get on with it, Gillian." Sheila said.
Gill pretended to be offended, "I would never." She then smiled winningly at Emma, before continuing. "I do apologise for the rudeness of some of my teammates. What position do you prefer, Emma?" There were a few groans of despair at Gill's joke.
Emma didn't miss the innuendo, but chose to ignore it. "Left midfield."
"Everyone, say hello to Emma." Gill waited on the greetings to stop, before continuing. "I'll introduce the squad to you both. I'm Gillian Rae, a P.E. Teacher, I usually play striker. We have two more P.E. Teachers, a popular profession." Gill pointed to each player in turn as she said their name. "Julie Reid, who plays midfield and Valerie Smith, who is a striker. Our Captain, Sheila Muir, works in sports management and plays sweeper or central defence. Next to Sheila is Laura MacDonald, also a central defender. Laura is a scientist, as is Professor Linda Wood, who plays right midfield. Hilary 'Two Gloves' Duffy, who Emma already knows, is an Orthopaedic surgeon, who plays midfield. Next to Hilary is Camilla 'Cammo' Cameron, a midfield dynamo. Moving on we have Sharon Flynn, an Art teacher who plays left defence. Jane Dodds, a right defender and corporate shark. Fay Williams, a banking striker and Karen Crawford, a midfielder who works in insurance" Gill whispered, "She's very quiet. Finally, we have Lindy Paterson, a student and our goalkeeper. The missing players are Sarah Mathieson, a policewoman who is on duty today and Susan Leslie who is probably sunning herself on some exotic island that she owns."
There was some added laugher at the last comment. "What? It's probably true." Gillian protested. "She has a Bentley."
"Oh, thank God, Scott is here." Hilary said with relief. "We don't have to listen to any more of your hyperbole, Gill."
"It's charm, you should try it."
Emma wondered if the two women ever stopped ribbing each other, it was all she had seen them do so far. She had to admit, Gillian Rae did have a certain charm to her, but she was a flirt, a quality Emma always found off putting in a person.
Julie Reid asked everyone for a few moments of their time. Gill knew what was coming. "I want to let you all know that I'm not going to be playing this season as I'm pregnant. Today is my last game for a while."
The team simultaneously began congratulating Julie and wishing her all the best.
Scott arranged the team selection for the first game, which didn't include Gillian or Sheila. "Since you are now vice captain, you can have some input into the team. Laura and Sharon are carrying injuries, so they won't feature today. They can do some jogging and gentle hitting, but we won't play them. We will start with Val and young Melinda up front. See how they do as a partnership. You and Fay can go on second half, Gill."
Gill nodded and quickly did the sums. If Melinda made the squad then one of the other three strikers would have to be dropped, that meant either herself, Fay or Valerie. She already knew Val was the weakest of the three and, with a possible say in future selection, she hoped fairness would prevail.
At half-time Dunedin were one nil down, but Emma Hughes had already impressed with her skill. Sheila, Fay and Gillian replaced Val, Melinda and Hilary for the second half and, after a short corner routine, Dunedin pulled a goal back, ending the game all square. As the short games came and went throughout the day, it became clear that Emma Hughes was going to make a great acquisition to the side, but a doubt remained over young Melinda. She had not, so far, managed a shot on goal, but then Gillian felt the youngster hadn't really been given enough time to allow her potential worth to be properly assessed. One thing was clear, Valerie wasn't doing anything to help or encourage the girl and Gill knew why. For the final match in the pool, Gill started up front with Melinda whilst Sheila remained on the sidelines with Scott to enable her to get a good look at the two of them together.
"Hey, Melinda, just relax and don't try too hard, play your usual game. I'll keep talking to you." Gillian smiled at the youngster, "We'll score a few goals," she encouraged.
Melinda looked doubtful and Gillian knew how tough it was to make the step up from school hockey to women's hockey, it could be very daunting, but she knew this girl had it. She just needed a boost to her confidence. After five minutes the game was goalless and Dunedin were facing a penalty corner against them. Gillian stood on the halfway line with Melinda.
"We need to work closer together and switch around more. You have the freedom to go wherever you like up front, don't stick to the left or right side. You play wherever you want and I will switch to the right place, don't worry." Gillian winked, "Go express yourself."
With the corner successfully defended, Dunedin broke out from their circle. Gillian screamed for the ball and Hilary slammed it hard in her direction. With the ball remaining true on the artificial turf, Gillian flattened her stick and simply let it deflect into the path of the onrushing Melinda, it left the youngster one on one with the opposition goalkeeper and she smashed a shot low past the goalie into the bottom left corner. The ball hit the backboard with a resounding thud and Melinda turned to greet her teammates with a wide smile made all the larger by her red gum shield.
Gillian high-fived the delighted youngster, it was a moment of brilliance. At half time, Val and Fay replaced Gillian and Melinda. They failed to score any more goals, but with the defence not leaking any, Dunedin held on for the win and a place in the semi-finals.
"Well what do you think?"
Sheila gave Gill's question some consideration. "Emma is a definite for the first team. I'm just not sure about Melinda."
Gill frowned, "She's a good young prospect, we should add her to the squad."
"I think she should start with the second team, then maybe we can add her to the first."
Gill shook her head. "I don't believe you, Sheila, why won't you drop her? What are you so scared off?"
"I'm not, I just think Val's experience will serve us better."
"This is wrong, Sheila, we are losing players because of her and if we don't add Melinda to our squad now, we could lose a really good young prospect. She could easily play in the second league for the University, but she has come here because she wants to play in the top league. We could have her for four years if we add her to the first team squad now. Or we could lose yet another good player because they see someone who isn't as good as them getting a game."
"She won't accept it, Gillian."
"Tough," Gill stated, "We need three strikers in the squad, we have four, Valerie is the weakest, so she should go. Why should she get to remain in the squad just because you are too scared to drop her?"
"So is Scott." Sheila protested.
"I'll drop her."
"I'll do it. She doesn't scare me. I think this entire scenario is a complete nonsense."
"I don't know, Gill, it's difficult."
Gill shook her head and walked off.
They played the semi-final with Gill and Fay starting as the strikers and it was one all at half-time when the striking partnership swapped over. With two minutes left, Dunedin were losing two one when Melinda drove through on goal only to be fouled as she was in the act of shooting. The umpire immediately pointed to the penalty spot, awarding Dunedin a penalty stroke. Last season Cammo had been the penalty stroke taker and Gillian expected her to take this one. She was surprised when Valerie placed the ball on the spot and took up a position to flick the ball. The umpire went through the penalty flick routine, then blew the whistle to allow Val to take the flick. Gillian watched as the ball left Val's stick with no height or pace on it, allowing the keeper an easy save. She shook her head in disbelief.
When the Dunedin players left the pitch, Gill approached Camilla and asked her what happened. "Why didn't you take the penalty stroke?"
"Val said a stroke taker hadn't been decided yet for this season and she wanted to take it. When some of us protested, she simply ignored us and took the ball."
"And you let her?"
"What could I do, Gillian, push her out the way and take the flick?"
Gillian could understand what a difficult position Cammo had been put in by Val, but something would have to be sorted out. As the team sat in the changing room, there was an atmosphere amongst the players. Gillian was furious and decided to say something. "Can we assume that Camilla will again be taking the penalty flicks again for this season?"
Laura spoke up, "I thought it was a given that she would be taking them this season." She peeled her sweaty shin-guard from her sock and threw it onto the floor.
Sheila added, "I think we'll stick with the same stroke taker from last season so, Camilla, you're back on the penalty strokes."
"Like she should ever have been off them." Laura muttered, as she draped a towel over her shoulder and strode into the showers.
Val was sitting in the corner, packing her kitbag, demonstrating her obvious anger as she made a show of noisily slamming her trainers into her bag. Gillian rolled her eyes as she made her way into the showers.
"Who's got conditioner, I've forgotten mine." Gillian reached for the nearest bottle to her, which happened to belong to Linda.
"Leave it alone, Gillian, you should bring your own."
Gill squirted some into the palm of her hand. "Don't be so tight, Linda, it's only a little conditioner."
Linda grabbed the bottle from Gillian and closed the lid before returning to shampooing her hair.
Gill caught the eye of Laura and the pair quietly walked over to Linda with their shampoo bottles in hand, pouring small amounts into her hair as she attempted to rinse all the shampoo out of it. When Linda realised the task was becoming impossible she opened her eyes.
"Stop it, you two!"
Gill and Laura burst out laughing and squirted more shampoo onto Linda. "Serves you right for being so mean." Laura stated, as they continued laughing.
Laura squirted one final bit of shampoo at Linda before the pair left her to shower in peace.
"What's going on in here?" Hilary asked as she stepped under the spray.
"Linda was being mean with her conditioner, so we shampooed her." Gillian stated.
Hilary rolled her eyes, "You're not that poor, Linda."
"They should bring their own stuff, Hilary."
Hilary squirted conditioner at her. "Here, have some of mine."
"So bloody childish." Linda stomped out of the showers."
Hilary motioned to the departing women, "What's up with her?"
Gillian and Laura shrugged.
"Oh well." Hilary poured some shower gel into her hand. "You two going for a drink?"
"Yeah, where did you have in mind?" Gill turned off her shower and picked up her bottle of shampoo.
"What about the clubhouse upstairs?"
"Means leaving the cars, Hilary." Laura cautioned.
"Yeah, I suppose."
"What about Madogs?" Laura suggested.
"As good a place to start as any." Gillian agreed.
Most of the team sat in Madogs enjoying a happy hour cocktail. The mood had picked up since the dressing room, helped by the non-appearance of Valerie, who had opted to head straight home. Gill looked around at her teammates, all chatting about their summer holidays amongst many other topics. She looked at Emma Hughes, the quiet Dubliner. Gill remembered her from the mixed hockey game a few weeks back. Emma was sipping on a Pina colada, looking relaxed and happy in the company of her new teammates, but her posture was very correct, which made Gill smile. She was a lovely looking woman, which Gill had noticed that very first time she saw her hitting with Hilary.
"Leave her alone, Gillian."
Gill almost jumped at the whispered words in her ear. "Hilary! I nearly choked on my drink."
"I saw where you were looking."
"Can you blame me? She's lovely."
Hilary's eyes momentarily slid to Emma, then back to Gill. "She is, but I don't think she's the type that just hops into bed on a first date."
Gill pursed her lips, "Shame."
"She's already turned down a few offers at the hospital."
"Yeah? Tell me a little more about her?"
"She's good at her job, very punctual. Has a great rapport with her patients and other staff members. Confident and trustworthy. Always well turned out."
Gill rolled her eyes, "Thanks for that, Hilary."
"You're most welcome, Gillian." The doctor grinned, "Are you hungry?"
"What do you fancy eating?"
Gill smiled saucily at Hilary.
"Like I said, I don't think she's on the menu."
"Oh, well, how about Mexican?"
"Sounds good, but we might struggle to get a table on a Saturday night."
"Let's just wander out and see what we can find."
"We're going to end up in Pizza Hut or eating a take-away in the street."
Gill laughed, "Wouldn't be the first time."
The two friends walked over to where most of their teammates were sitting, chatting and drinking. "Anyone want to join us for a bite to eat?" Gill addressed the entire table and waited whilst some debated what they wanted to do. She was pleased when Emma agreed almost immediately to join them. But then again, Hilary was about the only person on the team that she knew so far. Still, it would be fun getting to know a little more about her. Finally, seven of the original team left Madogs together and went to find somewhere to eat. They couldn't get a place at any of the Mexican restaurants but eventually found a table in one of the many Italian eateries dotted around the city's George Street.
"Gillian, who gets pizza with potatoes on it?" Linda asked. Sounding almost disgusted with the idea.
"It's on the menu so I'm assuming I'm not the only person who orders it." Gill replied in a reasonable tone. "Have a taste when it arrives, you might be surprised."
Laura watched the conversation as she sipped on her white wine, "Linda, what's bitten your arse today? You've done nothing but moan and pick faults."
Linda glanced around the table at her teammates, "I'm sorry, it's been a stressful few days."
"Heavy work load?" Laura enquired.
Linda shook her head, "No, it's more of a personal nature."
Gill shared a glance with Hilary, both of them wondering if Linda would say any more, but it was Laura who continued the conversation. "I thought you and Richard split up a while ago?"
"So are you seeing someone new?" Laura just kept prodding and to everyone's surprise Linda flushed red.
"Oh, that's an interesting colour." Hilary remarked.
Everyone watched in astonishment as Linda thumped her glass down on the table before addressing everyone present. "I have been seeing someone new and Richard suspected me of having an affair. I denied both, so Richard let himself into my flat and hid in the wardrobe. When I got into bed with my new lover, he jumped out from it and created a scene."
Gillian almost sprayed her wine all over the table, but managed to get her hand over her mouth in time. Emma looked utterly shocked. Laura coolly sipped on her wine and said, "I bet that was an unexpected surprise."
Hilary regained her composure first. "Oh my goodness, Linda, what did you do?"
"Well, after the screaming stopped, I demanded that Richard return my keys and I threw him out of my flat."
Something didn't sound right to Gill. "Why did he wait until you both got into bed?"
"Because he wanted to be sure."
"Didn't Richard try to punch the guy?" Laura asked.
Linda went red again and looked very uncomfortable. "I was with a woman. That's why Richard didn't come out until we actually got into bed, I think he got even more of a shock than me and Mel."
"Jesus Christ!" Hilary exclaimed.
"So, you've been shagging a woman since you and Richard split up and he hid in the wardrobe and caught you at it. That's a new one." Laura poured herself more wine and topped up Linda's glass. "There, have some more wine, Linda."
The rest of the table were yet to speak, still shocked at what they had heard. Hilary looked at Gillian and could see her shoulders shaking. "It's not funny, Gillian."
Gillian looked up, she had tears in her eyes and her face was flushed from the effort of trying to keep her laughter in. She couldn't hold it any longer and as she began to laugh, so did everyone else at the table. "I'm sorry, Linda," she said between breath's, "But that is one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time." As the laughter settled down and the food arrived, Linda finally relaxed and even managed a little giggle herself and, after trying a bit, admitted that Gillian's pizza was really quite tasty.
With the bill settled and everyone heading home, Gill couldn't decide what to do. It would be easy enough to walk the half-mile to the gay bars next to the playhouse theatre and, since there were no taxis with their orange light on, it looked like she was walking regardless of what she chose to do. The group of friends walked down to Princes street and then split to head their separate ways. Gillian found herself walking with Laura and Emma. Laura heading to the Waverley Bridge to catch a night bus home, which was on Gillian's way.
"What about you, Emma, are you getting a bus, or going to wait for a taxi at the rank?" Gill enquired.
"I'm walking home, I live on the Royal Mile."
"Oh, me too, we can keep each other company?"
If Gill had looked at Laura, she would have seen her roll her eyes. The three walked down the Waverley Bridge and said their goodbyes, leaving Gillian and Emma alone.
"Which part of the Royal Mile are you on, Emma?"
"Ah, the Canongate, just behind the Pancho Villa restaurant."
"Oh, we're almost neighbours, I live just a couple of hundred yards down from you, opposite the Kirk."
Emma smiled, "I like the Old Town."
"I know what you mean, I always wanted to live here." They had reached the main junction at the top of Jeffrey Street, and Gill knew Emma was almost home. "If you ever need a lift to training or to games, my number is on the team sheet, you probably got the email?"
"Yes, I did, thank you. I don't have a car, so if I'm picked to play for the first team, I may take you up on that offer, especially for away games."
Gill smiled, "Trust me, Emma, you will definitely be in the first team. If there had ever been any doubts, today's performance removed them."
"Well, I hope you're right, I really enjoyed today's games."
They had arrived at the close where Emma walked through to her flat. "I'll see you on Tuesday, Emma."
"Yes, oh and Gillian?"
Gill turned in expectation, hoping for an invite to Emma's flat.
"Are you carrying an injury?"
Gill frowned, momentarily flummoxed, "Ah, yes, but it's healed, I'm in the process of regaining full fitness. I haven't been able to sprint for about four weeks, but the physio gave me the all clear last week to resume full training."
"That's great, well thanks for walking back with me. Goodnight."
"Night, Emma." Gill watched as her new teammate walked through the close and inserted her key into the lock of one of the old buildings in the courtyard behind. Seeming to sense she was still there, Emma turned and waved at her before going inside. Gill sighed, then regained her composure and, instead of walking the couple of hundred yards down to her own flat, she cut down New Street and, less than ten minutes later, was in C.C. Blooms.
It was a sunny, late August evening. Gill parked in an available spot at the home ground of Dunedin ladies and removed her sunglasses. She looked over at the fenced off plastic pitch, then at the many rugby pitches beyond. She inhaled deeply of the fresh air, very much looking forward to the new season. Gill greeted some of the other players who had arrived early, then she walked across to the enormous playing fields and stood on the grass doing some gentle stretching exercises.
"Hey, Gill, you going for a jog?" asked Caroline, the second team captain.
"I am, I thought a couple of times around the park before we begin training."
The pair began at a gentle trot. They were about to do three miles and Gill would set a faster pace for the second lap.
"What's going to happen with the first team? Will anyone from last season be dropped?"
"We are definitely adding one new player to the squad, I want to add two. That means we will most likely be dropping players."
"Do you know who?"
"The team for the weekend won't be selected until after training tonight, you know the drill better than I do, Caroline."
"True, but I thought you might already know."
"I only know who I want to drop, that might not be in agreement with the rest of the selectors."
They were passing the large oak tree, which marked roughly the half way spot of their first lap.
"I might be in agreement." Caroline suggested.
Gill turned to look at her. "Really?"
"Okay, I want to select purely on merit, I believe that to be the fairest way."
"I agree with that."
Gill knew she had an ally and accepted the olive branch she was being handed. "I'm going to suggest that Valerie be dropped to the seconds."
They began breathing a little harder as they tackled the incline in the far corner of the large playing fields. "You know Sheila wasn't the only person keeping her in the first team last season?"
"Well, Hilary was selecting also."
Caroline shook her head, "Yes, but Hilary never selected Val, she remained in the first team only because the two selectors for the seconds never agreed with Hilary. They simply didn't want a disruptive influence like Valerie in their team."
Though a little surprised to hear this, Gill couldn't blame last season's second team captain and vice captain. Wherever Val played, she was going to be a disruptive influence on that team. "And you're willing to put up with her antics?"
They reached the top of the incline and the ground flattened out again. "I want to select who I believe to be truly worth their place. If that means Valerie playing in the seconds, that's how it has to be."
"I'm delighted to hear that, Caroline. I look forward to working with you on selection."
Gill increased her pace as she began her second lap, all chat ceasing and soon Caroline was left trailing in Gillian's wake as she practically ran the final stretch at 400m pace.
Gillian continued at a slow jog as she caught her breath and her heart rate began to slow. The car park was really busy now with most of the players having arrived for training. Gill jogged to her car and removed her shin guards and stick bag from the boot, before making her way to the plastic pitch.
"You're cutting it fine."
Gillian looked at Val wondering what the hell she was on about. It was still a couple of minutes before training officially got under way and Gill had spent the previous twenty minutes running.
"I'm on time, Valerie."
Scott, the first team coach had laid down cones for stick work and was now splitting the team into groups of four for drills.
"I don't know why we're bothering with this. We should be going on a five mile run."
Gill looked at Val like she had lost her mind. "Why would you want to do that?"
"It will improve our fitness."
"We have a hockey pitch here, this is the time to be doing stick work and tactics, practice short corners, hit outs and push ins. We can all work on fitness in our own time."
Val was unhappy. "I think some of us could do with improving our fitness." She looked pointedly at Gillian.
"Are you saying I'm not match fit?"
"I'm saying, I last better in a match than you do, so perhaps you and some others could do with improving your fitness."
Gillian had finally had enough of this woman and it was time to get a few points off her chest. "I agree that you are fresher than me at the end of a game."
Some team members looked aghast at Gill, but she had a smile on her face. "However, there are reasons for that. Firstly, I put in twice the effort you do. I sprint further and faster and more frequently. I don't stand around waiting for the ball to be put on my stick, I look for it. I run into space to receive and unselfishly make space for my teammates. Consequently, I see a lot more of the ball in a match then you do and I create a lot more chances than you do. Now, I say we stay on this pitch and work on keeping the ball on our stick. Some of us could really do with improving that side of our game. You only want to go on a five-mile run because you don't want your inadequacies to show up. It doesn't really matter how fit you are if you can't keep the ball on your stick."
"I'm not staying around to listen to this!"
Valerie stormed off in a huff and everyone watched her go.
"Well, that told her." Hilary remarked.
Gill looked around at her teammates, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't listen to her nonsense anymore."
"No need to apologise, she had it coming. She's been creating an unpleasant atmosphere for a good while now and getting away with it." Hilary added.
"I nearly wet myself when you said she couldn't keep the ball on her stick." Laura remarked.
Gillian remained serious. "As harsh as it sounds, her best days are behind her and she has to face some stark realities. It's time for her to drop to the seconds. It's not fair on other players that she remains in the first team simply because she will have a hissy fit if she is dropped. There are better players than her not getting a game for the firsts."
There was a chorus of agreements.
"Can we get on with training then?" Scott enquired.
"Yes, let's get started," Sheila confirmed. The captain had remained quiet throughout the argument between Gillian and Valerie and Gill wondered what Sheila would have to say after training, at selection.
"So that's it settled then? Valerie Smith is being dropped down to the second team?" Caroline Mills, the second team captain had been instrumental in supporting Gillian to get the decision passed. The eight selectors were all in agreement, including Sheila, who had the strongest say in the matter.
"How do you wish to proceed, Sheila?" Caroline enquired.
"I'll give her a call, but I know she will refuse to play for the seconds."
"Probably, but she only has two choices available to her. Play for the second's or join another club."
"She'll say she isn't playing and then she will turn up for the seconds game on Saturday in a foul mood."
"Why do you think that, Gillian?"
"If she goes to another club, she won't get any special treatment, she will simply be a new player. All her friends and her reputation are here. She'll stay, but she is going to make the second team a miserable place to be at times."
"Are we making the right decision here?" Sheila asked.
"We are making the right decision in accordance with the club's selection policy. I think we have to stick to that." Caroline replied.
"Here! Here!" were the replies, and that was it. The decision was final.
Gillian left the selection meeting with a bad taste in her mouth. It didn't feel good to be dropping Val, she took no joy from it, but it was the right decision. On a sporting level, she felt sorry for Val having to come to terms with the fact that she was no longer good enough to play for the first team, but that was the only reason Gill felt sympathy. The woman had been an obnoxious bully from the time Gill joined the club and her temper had people afraid to drop her. That was wrong and it was finally about to be addressed. She did feel genuinely sorry for the members of the second team; they were in for a turbulent time with the moody, bad tempered Valerie Smith.
Thursday evening training was abuzz with the news that Valerie had been dropped. The only person not talking about it was the woman herself, who had not turned up for the training session that saw each team practice specifically for their weekend match. Gill was standing on the sideline removing a hockey stick from her bag.
"Are you regretting your decision?"
Gill turned to look at Hilary knowing exactly what she was referring to. "Nope."
"I have to admit, Gillian, I never knew you had it in you."
"I took no pleasure in it, but we both know it was the right and fair decision."
Hilary nodded, "I can't disagree with that."
"As I hear it, you yourself were after this last season, but got no back-up."
"As you say, it's the right decision. It was last season too."
"Going to be hell in the seconds though." The pair began jogging towards the far goalmouth area, where their teammates were hitting in pairs.
"Yup," Hilary replied as she trapped a stray ball and began a short push pass and dribble routine with Gillian, the pair seamlessly swapping places to work alternately on their front and reverse stick. "I think you should be back to defend penalty corners."
Gill trapped the ball dead on the turf and stood up to look at Hilary. "Are you serious?"
"You're the quickest player at this club. It makes sense."
"It would mean putting my head in the line of fire."
"Someone has to do it."
"True, I can't argue with that."
"Are you scared?" Hilary grinned, knowing she was baiting her friend.
"No, you know I'm not."
"Let's give it a go, you've already taken the strong step of dropping Val, I think it's time for you to step up and allow this club to utilise its main assets, and that, Gillian, means you. You might as well go all the way with this and implement the changes now."
Gill knocked the solid orange ball from left to right over and over with her stick as she thought about what Hilary was suggesting. Finally she stopped and let out a deep breath as she locked eyes with Hilary. "Some people may think I'm taking over."
"You're a born leader, Gillian, with lots of ability to back up your decisions. No one can refute that."
"It means I will be striking our attacking corners and be the main rushing defender when we defend corners."
Hilary nodded, "Tell me who you would pick instead?"
Gill looked out over the pool of first team players as she considered Hilary's question. "Fay is quick, as is Jane; she is the runner at the moment. I may not be the quickest over the first sixteen yards." Gill added reasonably.
Hilary nodded her agreement. "Why don't we find out then?"
Gill shook her head and pointed the end of her stick at her teammate. "You're trouble, Hilary Duffy!"
Hilary laughed, "Come on. Let's get these penalty corner routines ironed out before the weekend."
By the end of training that evening it was clear that Gillian was indeed the quickest over sixteen yards, and easily the fastest player over 100 yards, the length of the hockey pitch, not only in the first team, but out of the entire club. If serving no other purpose, the impromptu sprints made the decision to make Gillian first runner at defending corners an easy one to implement and for the rest of the team to accept.
Emma had watched the proceedings with a keen eye. A few short weeks ago she had assumed Gillian Rae was a gifted player with no pace. So much for first appearances, she thought, as she had watched the young woman eat up the turf in a tracksuit and pair of Astroturf shoes. She turned to Hilary as they walked from the pitch at the end of their two hours. "What time can Gillian do for the 100 metres?"
"I'm not sure but she has been hand timed at 10.78 seconds for 100 yards."
Emma nodded, conceding that, although not as long as 100 metres, it was a very decent time.
"She was timed on a cold night, wearing a tracksuit and a pair of training shoes...on grass."
"Grass?" Emma repeated.
Hilary nodded, "Imagine what she could do in a pair of spikes on a proper track."
"Has she never wanted to find out?"
"Seems not, although she is entering for the New Year's sprint this year."
"An annual race run over 110 metres with four thousand pounds to the winner, anyone can enter. It's a handicap event that has never been won by a woman."
"You think Gillian can win it?"
"With the handicap system in place, she has a great chance of doing it. You should come along and watch, will be a good day out."
"When is it?"
"Tuesday 29th December. We are going to make a day of it. There is a horse meeting on as well as the New Year's sprint meeting, should be fun, if a bit cold. If nothing else we might get to see Gillian fall flat on her face in the mud."
The pair laughed.
Gill drove the very short distance to Emma's flat. It was the first league game of the season and she was really looking forward to it. Parking outside the Mexican restaurant, Emma, as expected, was already there. Gill pushed the button to operate her electric window. "Afternoon, boot's open."
Emma smiled and put her kit and stick bag in the boot, before getting into the passenger seat. "Hi, Gillian, thanks so much for giving me a lift."
"You're most welcome, we can't have you using up valuable energy cycling to the games."
"It's very much appreciated."
"Oh, something smells fantastic," Gill exclaimed, as she looked at the Tupperware boxes on Emma's lap."
"It's my contribution to match teas, I was allocated cakes."
"Are those chocolate brownies?"
Emma didn't miss the longing look on Gill's face and she opened the top box.
"May I?" Gillian asked, looking like a kid desperate for a treat.
Gill selected a brownie and immediately took a bite. "Oh, these are fantastic!" she declared around a mouthful. "Did you bake all this yourself?"
Emma looked a little embarrassed, "Yes, I really do love to cook and I don't often get the chance to bake lots of goodies. I usually only bake for special causes, otherwise I would pile on the pounds eating all the cakes."
Gill's eyes closed and she hummed with pleasure. "Trust me, anytime you feel the need to bake, I'll help you eat everything." Gill started the car, the last piece of brownie being held between her teeth as she manoeuvred out into the busy Saturday afternoon traffic. She stopped a short distance up the road. "Be right back." And before Emma could answer Gillian was jogging into a nearby sandwich shop. Emma watched her walk back out less than a minute later with two trays of sandwiches in her hands. Gill motioned for Emma to open the car door.
"This is my contribution to match teas, I'm on sandwiches. Gerry always makes them for me."
Emma looked incredulously at Gillian as the trays of freshly made, professionally arranged sandwiches were thrust at her.
"Make sure they don't get squashed. I've gone to a lot of trouble making those." Gill laughed as she jogged around to the driver's side and got into the car, where Emma sat holding the tray's staring at Gillian in disbelief.
"You went to the local sandwich shop to have the sandwiches made instead of simply making them at home?"
Gill nodded as she started the engine and pulled out again into busy traffic. "Trust me, if you had seen my previous efforts you would understand. Besides, it leaves me time for other stuff."
Emma wondered why Gillian didn't ask her partner to help with the sandwiches if she was so bad, but it wasn't her business or place to inquire. "What are the team we are playing today like?"
"Ah, I don't know too much about them. They won the second division last season, so are newly promoted. I think it will be a tough game today. They are riding high on their promotion. They haven't suffered any defeats yet this season to dampen their confidence, so we will need to be fully concentrated on the task at hand today. It's a home game for us, so we should be winning regardless of who we play."
"Did you win every home game last season?"
"No, but we should have."
"What are your expectations for this season, Gillian?"
Gill gave that a little thought. "For the team, I want us to win something. It will be tough to shake the grip of the big two, but I think we have a chance. At the very least, I want us to finish third, but preferably higher. On a personal note, I would like to finish as the league's top scorer."
Emma nodded, not surprised that Gillian had high expectations of both the team and herself. She did wonder about international hockey for Gillian. "Can I ask you a question, Gillian?"
"Why is it that you don't play for Scotland?"
Gill frowned, she had never received a call up to the national squad and she doubted she ever would. It wasn't the first time she had been asked this question and she knew it wouldn't be the last, but Emma knew nothing of her past, so Gillian decided to be a little more forthcoming with the truth than usual.
"My face doesn't exactly fit."
Emma nodded, "That explains a little."
"Well, I mean no disrespect to any other players but, in my personal opinion, you have the skill and the game to play for the national team. I've seen two players who have been called up into the development squad and you are better than either of them, in my opinion."
Gill sighed, "I don't expect a call up any time soon. There was eh, an incident or two when I played for the under twenty-one squad and I don't think I'm ever going to be forgiven. I have been told that if I mend my ways
I might be considered in the future, but I doubt that even if I stopped having any kind of social life it would ever happen."
Emma nodded and Gill was pleased that she didn't make further enquiries as to the exact nature of the misdemeanours that resulted in her being banned from representing her country at any level. They were almost at the hockey club and Gill thought she would turn the tables. "What about you, any caps for Ireland?" Gill glanced over at Emma and smiled.
"Yes, but none recently."
"That could all change this season. No disrespect to Irish hockey, but you have your potential players split between, what's that game you play where you wear helmets and the sticks are like big clubs?"
"That's it. Irish woman either play camogie or hockey, so you have less hockey players in Ireland. Don't get me wrong, Scotland isn't the greatest league either. That's why we have Scottish players playing over in Holland and German, they have a very high standard there."
Gill parked and immediately got out of the car knowing Emma was effectively trapped in the passenger seat surrounded by home baking and sandwiches. Gill opened the passenger door, "Here, let me give you a hand with that."
"Thanks," Emma remarked dryly.
"We'll drop our food off in the clubhouse kitchen."
Emma followed Gill into the clubhouse. It was fairly quiet at that moment as there were currently three rugby games and one hockey game on and most people were outside watching.
"Don't worry about anything else, some of the spectators or the second team will lay the teas out for us, we return the favour when we can, but we are usually the last slot for home games, so mostly we owe a lot of favours." Gill looked out the windows that banked the back wall of the clubhouse and out onto the hockey pitch. There on the pitch, not twenty yards away, was Valerie Smith, with a face like thunder, muttering to herself.
She turned to Emma, "Would you like to go out and watch some of the second's game?"
Emma nodded and the pair took the short walk outside to join the spectators who had gathered on the sidelines to watch the game. Gill stood next to Yvonne Reynolds, a stalwart of the Dunedin ladies hockey club, and now president. The woman had retired over ten years ago at the age of forty-five, gracefully moving down the teams as she enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing the game. "What's the score, Yvonne?"
"Hello, Gillian. It's one all, a close game."
"How's Val been playing?"
Yvonne raised an eyebrow, "Let's just say you're not flavour of the month amongst the second string."
"Hmm, they'll come round, and hopefully Val will start to impart her vast knowledge of the game and help some of the younger players along."
"Well I certainly admire your optimism, but that woman is a brat. She was a brat when I met her as a youngster when she joined the club and she's still a brat twenty years later."
Gillian nodded, "I hope she isn't too disruptive an influence on the team."
Yvonne turned to Gill and patted her on the shoulder. "Regardless of her antics, you made the right decision from a hockey perspective. She isn't even the best player out there today, the second string is most definitely where she belongs."
"And who do we have here?" Yvonne pinned Emma with a warm gaze.
"Ahh, please excuse my bad manners. Yvonne, this is Emma Hughes. She's joined us from Dublin Ladies, having taken a job here in Edinburgh. Emma, this is Yvonne Reynolds, our club president."
The pair shook hands, "Lovely to meet you, Emma, please excuse Gillian's manners, she's great with a hockey stick, take it away and she flounders like a fish out of water, unless of course there is a pretty woman present."
"There are two."
"Ahh, there's the famous charm." Yvonne said fondly.
They watched as Val mishit a ball in front of goal but, luckily, it was quickly pounced upon by her striking partner and duly dispatched into the goal past the stranded keeper. The spectators burst into warm applause while shouting their encouragement.
"Shall we call that an assist?" Gillian joked.
Yvonne smiled, "I'm sure she will be claiming it."
"You staying around for our game?"
"Of course, and I expect to see goals."
"I'll do my best. We better get going, we'll be starting our warm up in a few minutes."
"Have a good game, you two, lovely to meet you, Emma. Gillian you be good."
Yvonne laughed, genuinely charmed with Gillian and Emma wondered if there was a woman on the planet that her teammate didn't flirt with.
The pair picked up their hockey kit from the boot of Gillian's car and headed into the changing room that was already filled with their teammates. The opposition had arrived and they were busy getting ready in one of the other rooms. With the second's game finishing, both teams exited the changing rooms to begin their warm up. After a half hour warm up, Dunedin ladies first team went back to their changing room for a last team talk and to make final preparations for the match. Gill could feel her anticipation build as the 4 p.m. start drew ever nearer. Removing her tracksuit and training top, she pulled on her number eight shirt. A tight fitting, short sleeved cotton v-neck in navy and green. Next she slipped on her short skirt over a pair of skimpy navy lycra shorts. Fitting her shin guards into her socks, she pulled the long white socks with the navy and green stripe at the top over the shin guards, holding them in place. Rechecking the laces of her Astroturf trainers, Gillian then redid her ponytail, making sure every bit of hair was neatly pinned back. Tucking her gum shield into the waistband of her skirt, Gillian put the protective glove onto her left hand and picked up her stick bag. She was ready to do battle with the opposition. Taking a few deep breaths, Dunedin ladies left the changing rooms and marched the fifty yards over to the pitch, clapping and offering words of encouragement to each other as they went.
Gillian walked into the clubhouse for match teas. It had a been a good solid display from Dunedin, winning the match by four goals to one and Gill had scored a hat trick. The match teas were a low-key affair, but after the opposition had left the celebrations began.
"Okay, Gillian first round is on you." Hilary remarked.
"You have to be kidding me."
"You know the rules, if you score a hat trick you buy a round." Laura backed Hilary up.
The chant started to go up as Gillian wanted to protest more. "Jug! Jug! Jug! Jug!"
Gill got up amid cheers and headed to the bar.
"Well played, Gillian."
"Thanks, Peter." Gill said to the president of the rugby club.
"You keep this up, you will be needing to take on a second job."
"Any work going behind the bar?"
The older gentleman laughed, "I don't think we will be seeing you that side of it somehow."
"True." Gill turned to the barmaid, "Hi, Glenda, I need about, oh," Gill looked over at the first team, there were also several other hockey players and spectators still in the far corner of the clubhouse. The place was packed with rugby players too. "Give me five jugs of beer, Brenda, I think that will get all the hockey crowd a drink."
"I'll bring them over, Gill, go back and have a seat."
"How much is that?"
Peter closed his hand over Gillian's as she went to get money from her purse. "Put that away, Gillian, the club will be paying for this."
Gill was about to protest, but knew she would lose. "Thank you, Peter, that's very generous."
"Enjoy your evening, Gillian."
"Thanks, I will."
As the beer flowed liberally and the evening wore on, Gillian found herself sitting next to Emma. "You had a really good game today. I'm delighted you decided to join us."
"Thanks, Gillian. I'm enjoying my hockey and you had a fantastic game yourself. Three goals is a great start towards being the league's top scorer again."
Gill smiled at Emma, "You have such a lovely accent, I could listen to you talk all day."
"Oh, well you know, we all have them back in Dublin." Emma was a little flustered with Gillian's attention. Though she wasn't looking for any kind of romance, she wasn't immune to feeling flattered by the attentions of a good-looking woman. Even one that oozed charm like Gillian.
"Would you like to go to the cinema with me on Wednesday? There's a new film I'd really like to see."
Emma's face turned serious, "Wouldn't you rather go with your family?" she replied testily.
Gillian was perplexed and wondering why Emma would make such a suggestion. "My parents enjoy eating out, Jazz and travelling, they aren't so keen on the cinema and my sister Margaret hardly has any spare time to do anything with a husband and three kids on her hands. Why would I be wanting to go to the cinema with them?"
Emma was very unimpressed with Gillian's blatant subterfuge. "Look, it's ultimately not really any of my business, Gillian, but I'm not going to be your latest conquest. You have a lovely girlfriend and I assume you share the parenting of that beautiful little redheaded girl. Maybe you should concentrate more on them?"
Gill's eyes widened in surprise before she burst out laughing, much to Emma's disgust.
"It isn't funny."
This statement only made Gill laugh harder. She eventually managed to take a few deep breaths and compose herself long enough to explain, "I don't have a girlfriend."
"I saw you with her!"
"At a summer hockey game, the one where you were fooling around with Hilary."
Gill stopped to think about that, recalling how Justine and Charlotte had met her at the end of the match."
"Emma, Justine is my best friend and Charlotte is her kid. I was babysitting for Charlotte that evening so Justine could go on a date."
Emma's mouth formed an 'o', but no sound came out. This only caused Gill to laugh more. "You looked like a family. I saw you kiss her on the lips!" Emma accused.
Gill shook her head as she wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes. "I have been best friends with Justine since we were twelve years old. I kissed her because she had cooked dinner for me. I suppose we are like a little family."
"I see." Emma paused, "Well don't I feel like the fool. I apologise, Gillian."
"There's no need, Emma, really. I can understand why you thought that, and for the record, I'm inviting you to the cinema as a friend, there's no hidden agenda. I like spending time with you and I thought you might like to socialise a bit more. I mean I know you have been in Edinburgh a couple of months now, but I'm always looking to go to the cinema, or sometimes the theatre, or out for a meal. So if you are ever looking for someone to go out with, give me a call."
"I really would love to go to the cinema, I haven't been in ages."
"Great! I'm glad we got all that sorted out."
The pair laughed at the misunderstanding and went to the bar to get another drink.