Hilary Duffy watched as Gillian and Emma exited Gill's car, both full of smiles. They were obviously sharing a laugh about something. The pair went to the boot of the car and Hilary saw Gillian pass Emma's kitbag to her, evidently saying something in the process as it prompted a playful push from the blonde Irish woman. Hilary turned to look at one or two of her teammates who had also witnessed the exchange; noticing a few raised eyebrows. Then she got down to the business of sorting out who was driving their car to today's away match in Dundee.
Two hours later, on a cold, autumn afternoon, Dunedin ladies were doing their pre match warm up. Jogging around the pitch, Gillian felt a foot taller, her legs full of power and pace, and she couldn't wait for the whistle to start the game. As the warm-up increased in intensity, Gill could feel the heat begin to radiate throughout her layers of clothing, warming the muscles ready for action. The closer it got to the game starting, the more spectators began to gather on the sidelines. Gill took a deep breath of the chilly air. It was a terrific afternoon for hockey. Cool and crisp, Gill's favourite weather for playing.
"What's going on with you and Emma?" Hilary asked as she jogged up beside her friend.
Gill turned to look at her as she shook her head. "Nothing, we're friends."
"The two of you looked very cosy as you arrived at the meeting point today."
"Oh, we spent the morning together, Emma helped me with the school hockey as we were short of an umpire."
"And you have been going out together on Wednesday evenings."
Gill shrugged as they began a second lap, "What can I say, I enjoy spending time with her."
"You realise this is like you having a girlfriend without the sex?"
Gill frowned as she watched Hilary sprint away from her, leaving Gill pondering her words. She shook her head, concluding that Hilary was being ridiculous.
With the warm up over and team talk delivered, Gill felt like she was going to have one of those days. Her nerves were tingling; she was really up for today's game. A win would see them move into second place in the league and Gill really wanted it.
With five minutes to go before the start, the first team squad gathered at their bench on the half way line and started stripping off their tracksuits. With the uniforms on and gum shields in place, they heard Scott deliver a few final words of wisdom; then the starting eleven lined up, ready for battle.
Gill took her spot on the left side of the centre line, her stick poised and ready. It felt good in her hands, the weight perfect. With a final twist of her feet in her snug fitting, size seven Astro shoes, Gill waited until the umpire blew the whistle to start the game, then immediately darted towards the centre circle in an attempt to intercept the ball from the oppositions push back.
The game was being played at a ferocious pace, neither team giving any quarter. A hard flat pass out of defence bypassed the Dunedin midfield and found its way onto Gill's stick. Collecting the ball whilst running at full tilt, Gill immediately drove down the right wing. Unfortunately, none of her teammates had yet caught up with her sudden breakaway and, as she attempted to hold the ball up near the corner, she was surrounded by three defenders who, in closing her down, managed to touch the ball onto Gill's foot, giving the opposition a free hit.
The game continued to rage on, with Dundee Wanderers seeing slightly more of the ball, but the chances were even, with neither side converting. But that changed in the fourteenth minute when Hilary Duffy foiled an attack by the Wanderers. Intercepting the ball, Hilary drove out of defence and sent a quick pass towards Emma, who was breaking out fast from left midfield. The pass was inch perfect allowing Emma to take the ball in her stride. She was thirty yards from goal when she played a one two with young Melinda, who immediately pushed the ball back into Emma's path. Emma then drilled the ball, full pace, into the opposition circle where the onrushing Gillian Rae, at full stretch, deflected the ball past the rooted goalkeeper and high into the top right corner of the net. The goalie didn't even have time to move towards the ball as it zipped through the air.
The away crowd cheered loudly in appreciation of the well worked goal and Gillian immediately turned to thank the creators. The quartet were soon mobbed by their teammates offering congratulations.
Gillian was buzzing, seeing a lot of the ball and beginning to run the opposition's defence ragged. She really felt there were more goals in this game for her. As a Wanderer's defender overstretched for a ball, it clipped her stick and spun into the space between her and the goalkeeper. Gillian knew she had the speed to get there first and her legs were already propelling her in that direction. The defender was done for pace and Gill knew she could easily pass her. But instead, the next thing Gill felt was excruciating pain around her left eye. As Gill's hands flew to her face, her stick fell to the turf, closely followed by Gillian herself.
She wasn't exactly sure what had happened and, at that specific moment in time, she was in so much pain she didn't care. She knew she was lying flat on the turf and that her shoes were scrapping along it as she rolled about trying desperately to alleviate the pain. Finally managing to get to her feet, she attempted to pick up her stick, only to find herself staggering about and she would have fallen again if a pair of strong hands on her shoulders hadn't steadied her.
"Stand still and let me have a look, Gillian."
Gill did as Hilary instructed, the seriousness of her tone making Gillian immediately do as she was told.
"Take your hand away from your eye, come on." Hilary gently removed Gill's hand, which was firmly holding the left side of her face. "That's it, let me have a look."
Gill knew lots of people were around her, but she was on her feet and, although in pain, all she wanted to do was continue playing.
"Hmm, the cut below your eye needs stitches, probably the one just above as well."
That statement momentarily brought Gill to her senses. "There are two?"
"Stop being a drama queen and get off the pitch, you're bleeding all over it."
"Some bloody doctor you are," Gill complained.
Hilary slapped Gill heartily on the back and called over to some of the spectators. "Can two of you help Gill from the pitch and someone drive her to Accident and Emergency?"
Gill protested, "You stitch it, then I can keep playing."
Hilary rolled her eyes. "Okay, Gillian, pick up your stick."
Gill stumbled again and, as they made their way off the pitch, Hilary put her arm around her to keep her steady. Making sure Gillian couldn't hear, Hilary whispered to Caroline, the seconds captain, "Tell whoever takes Gill to casualty to keep an eye on her, she has a concussion."
"Don't worry, I'll go with her."
As Gillian was being led slowly to the car park, the hose was brought out to wash down the area of the pitch where she had been standing. Emma Hughes watched as Gill's blood was diluted with the water and pushed towards the side of the pitch. Then she assisted the other players in using their feet, to help scrub away the large stains. Seeing how Gillian stumbled again as she made her way to a waiting car, Emma just hoped her teammate was going to be okay.
Gill sat in the car and looked at her gloved left hand, it was covered in blood. She felt groggy and a little sick, but at least the stinging pain had eased a bit.
Caroline sat in the back seat with her. "The bleeding has almost stopped, Gill, but you're in a hell of a mess."
Hazel Morgan glanced in the rear view mirror at the player she had a big crush on. She wanted to be sitting where Caroline was.
"You okay, Gillian?" Hazel asked.
"I've felt better."
"You've looked better."
Gill attempted to laugh at the joke and instantly regretted it. She laid her head back and took a few deep breaths.
"Keep your eyes open and keep talking to me, Gillian."
"I think I can only open one eye."
Caroline made a face as Gill removed her hand. She nodded, "Yeah, you can only open one."
Gill sat in the busy Accident and Emergency department and glanced down at her white shirt, the front splattered with blood. She could even see blood on her white socks and her Astro trainers. She looked around at the various injuries people were sporting, only to find that everyone seemed to be staring at her. Her eye was throbbing and she realised she must look a sight. The only saving grace was that there were no drunk and disorderly people in casualty yet. It was almost two hours before the doctor, a guy who looked to be in his late twenties, walked into the cubicle where Gillian now sat.
"Hmm, what happened to you?"
"Hockey stick in the face."
He nodded, "Well you'll need stitches for the cuts, but I'm also a little concerned about your cheekbone."
He palpated the wound and Gill winced as the pain increased. "Sorry, I just need to press a bit." He did so and Gill tolerated the pain a little longer. "Good news, cheekbone seems fine. I'll stitch you up, then send you for an x-ray, just as a precaution."
Gill sat in silence as the doctor cleaned her wounds and then began to stitch them. "Only the two stitches needed in the cut at the side, but five in the one on the cheek below the eye."
He stared into her eyes as he held her head, his hands on either side of her jawline. "Your pupils look a bit dilated, are you going to be alone tonight?"
"No, I'll make sure someone is with me."
"Good, I'll have you taken to x-ray. I'm sure the cheekbone is fine, but better to make sure. Assuming there is no fracture, you can go home. Take paracetamol for the pain and make an appointment with your GP for Thursday or Friday to have the stitches removed. Any blackouts, dizziness or sickness, you head straight to the nearest hospital."
"Thanks, Doctor, I will." Gill shook his hand, then waited to be wheeled to x-ray. Twenty minutes later, she was walking back to the busy Accident and Emergency department. Her mood lifting a little when she saw that Emma was now there, waiting with Caroline and Hazel.
"Did we win?"
Emma smiled, "Yes, two nil. It was easier playing against ten players."
"Gillian, it was assault!"
"Oh, I had no idea."
"Well she was sent off for foul play."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay, I suppose."
"I have your bags with me."
"Oh, great, because I have no phone or money to get home."
"I'll drive you home, Gillian," said Hazel. "You can pick your car up from Barnton when you feel up to it."
"Ah, about that, I'm going to need a lift to my parent's house, I don't really want my mum to see me like this, but I'm not allowed to be on my own tonight."
"Oh, that's oka..."
Hazel's attempted offer was cut short by Emma. "I'll stay with you, Gillian." Emma stated. "I only live up the road from you."
"Thank you, Emma."
The drive back to Edinburgh was a quiet affair. Emma shared the back seat with Gillian, talking to her occasionally; making sure she was doing fine, until Hazel dropped the two players off at Gill's flat.
"Thanks, Hazel, I'll take it from here," Emma informed the small brunette who was constantly fawning over Gillian and seemed to be hovering in the flat.
"Okay, I'll see you later, Gill, call me if you need anything
Gill was sitting on her sofa, looking pale and only managed to nod slightly. Emma walked Hazel to the door with a firm hand on her back. "Thanks, Hazel. Goodnight." With the door closed firmly behind Hazel, Emma returned to the sitting room to talk to Gillian. "Is there anything you need?"
"I just want to sleep." Gill replied groggily.
"How about painkillers, do you need some?"
"Not just now," Gill replied as she laid her head down on the arm of the sofa.
Emma looked at her friend, who was still wearing her hockey kit, not having been able to shower and change yet. "Let me give you a hand, Gillian, make you more comfortable." It was a sign of how Gill was feeling that she didn't protest or make any kind of joke out of the statement. Emma bent down to untie Gill's trainers. She removed them, along with her shinguards and socks, before encouraging Gill to put her legs up on to the sofa. Making sure she was comfortable, Emma covered Gill with the blanket that was lying on the back of the sofa. Within minutes Gill was asleep and Emma decided that she would leave her for an hour, then wake her up with something to eat. She plucked a book from the shelf in Gill's sitting room and settled down to read.
Gill awoke in the dark with a throbbing pain around her eye. She touched the base of the bedside lamp to turn it on then sat up, causing even more pain to flood into her left eye. She gingerly touched the area, remembering what had happened, before turning to look at the woman lying in the bed beside her. Gill's fingers itched to reach across and stroke Emma's hair. The Irishwoman looked so relaxed in repose, beautiful. She had looked after Gillian the previous evening, making her a light meal and chatting to her for a little while before finally helping Gill to bed. Even laying out a t-shirt and shorts for her and getting her painkillers to help Gill get a good night's sleep. Emma had then elected to sleep next to Gill, so she would be there if the injured woman needed anything more. Gill tried sitting up again more slowly and, although there was still a dull, throbbing ache, she managed it this time without a repeat of the sharp pain flooding into her swollen eye socket. Looking over again at Emma, Gill noticed the woman had a low top on and couldn't help but peek inside the duvet at the top of a softly tanned breast.
"Are you feeling better, Gillian?"
Gill's eyes flew to Emma's causing the blonde to sit up in alarm. "Are you alright? Do you need anything? Talk to me, Gillian."
"I'm, ah.." Gill cleared her throat and tried again. "I was about to get some painkillers."
"I'll get them, you stay here."
Gill watched as Emma got up and walked to the bathroom. Swallowing hard, Gill sagged back against the pillows with a soft groan.
"Here we go, Gillian." Emma handed her two paracetamol and a glass of water.
"It's a little after six, do you want to try some breakfast?"
Gill worked hard to keep her eyes on Emma's face and not let them drop down to check her out. She noticed that Emma was staring at her injury. "How am I looking?"
A soft smile appeared on the blonde's face. "At the moment? Like you went ten rounds with someone, but I'm sure in a week or so you will be back to your best."
"I'm going to have scars." Gill gently touched the cut below her eye, "What do you think of facial scars, Emma?"
"I think they add character," she replied softly.
Monday morning at school brought nothing but unwanted attention to Gill. Her eye had blackened and was still almost shut. Her registration class were merciless with their taunts and it was impossible to keep order so, after taking the morning register, Gill just let them chat for the next few minutes.
"Really, Miss, that was a hockey stick?"
"Yes." Gill replied in a bored fashion, she had been asked the question so many times.
"I think you were in a punch up at a club, Miss, you look like a right raver to me. Probably stole someone's boyfriend."
There were a few laughs and Gillian found it funny too. Fortunately the bell rang and saved Gill from further scrutiny, but this would go on all day long with class after class of different pupils. "Go on, off with you and pay attention in class."
"Yes, Miss," came the chorus of droned replies.
As Gill made her way to the physical education block for her first class of the day Maggie McLure, the assistant head, intercepted her.
"Oh dear me, would you look at the state of you."
"What happened, disgruntled husband, angry ex?"
Maggie laughed, "I heard, I just had to come and see for myself. You know you look a sight, you will be scaring the kids."
"Hardly, I'm going to be the butt of jokes all day."
"Still, another positive write up for you in the Scotsman this morning."
"I haven't read it."
Maggie wagged her finger at Gillian. "You should. If this form keeps up..." Maggie left the sentence hanging.
"Won't change a thing, Maggie." Gillian quipped.
"We'll see, and in case I didn't already say, you look dreadful." Maggie walked off laughing.
Gillian parked her car on Justine's street.
"Are you sure I will be welcome?"
"Of course, Justine said I could bring a friend along. Besides, I'm meeting her boyfriend formally for the first time, I need an ally."
"Look on the bright side, you get a free meal out of it."
Emma shook her head.
"Seriously, you will enjoy meeting Justine and Charlotte, you know, my family
, and Kenny seems like a nice guy. I've only met him once, but I liked him."
Emma smiled. "Give it over, I made a mistake, but you did look like a family."
"We are in a way, I come here almost every Friday night for dinner with two of my favourite people. There has to be something important on for me to miss it, and then I usually come on Saturday evening instead." Gillian pressed the buzzer for Justine's flat and pushed the door open. She could already hear an excited Charlie one flight up, being held back from running downstairs by her mother. Gill turned to Emma, "There is no better greeting in the entire world that that of an excited four year old."
As they rounded the landing and came into view, Charlotte was already shouting her name. "Gilly! Gilly!"
Gill opened her arms in expectation and frowned as Charlotte stopped in her tracks, staring wide-eyed at Gillian, before turning and running into her mother's waiting arms.
Gill looked from Justine to Emma then back to Charlotte whose face was buried in her mother's neck. "What happened?"
Emma pointed to Gill's eye and Justine nodded as she comforted her daughter.
"Oh great, I now have a face that scares children."
Justine whispered into her daughter's ear and the little girl nodded and slowly turned her head to look at Gillian. She pointed a little finger at Gill's eye; "You got hurt."
Gillian nodded and moved closer to Charlotte, letting her look at her eye. Charlotte gently touched the healing cuts and bruising. Gillian had had her stitches removed that very afternoon, but the cuts were red and very noticeable and there was still a fair amount of bruising, though the colour was fading. "It's getting better."
"Bad lady hit you." Charlotte frowned as she said this and Justine explained that she had told Charlotte what happened.
"Yes, and the umpire punished her, so she won't hit anybody again."
Charlotte pursed her lips giving that some thought before nodding, "Good."
Gill smiled, happy that the situation seemed to be resolved. "Charlotte, I want you to meet my friend Emma."
Emma smiled and waved at Charlotte, before walking towards her and offering her a small, brightly wrapped package. Charlotte's eyes immediately lit up. "I got you a present."
Gill looked from Emma to Justine, "Oh, she's good."
Justine nodded, "No quicker way to a kid's heart."
Emma turned to look at Justine, "I hope it's okay. Gillian said not to bring anything as she was bringing wine, so I thought a little gift for Charlotte would be nice."
"Absolutely, it's very much appreciated. What do you say to Charlotte?" Justine asked her daughter.
"You're most welcome, Charlotte."
Justine caught Gill's eye, but Gillian refused to take the bait, instead moving proceedings along. "Justine, meet Emma Hughes. Emma, this is my oldest and dearest friend, Justine Hill."
The pair shook hands and then the four of them went into the flat where they were introduced to Kenny who was looking after things in the kitchen.
After dinner Kenny and Emma insisted on doing the dishes, so Gillian helped Justine put Charlotte to bed. The little girl was asleep before the second page of her storybook. Gillian looked fondly at her favourite four year old. "She gets more beautiful by the week, Justine."
"Talking of beautiful women, Emma seems really nice."
Gillian gave Justine a warning look; "Just because you are moving towards marriage, don't be pushing me in that direction."
"You have never, in all the time we have been doing this, brought a woman to dinner before."
"We're friends, Justine, nothing more."
"But there could be?"
Gill shook her head. "Emma is the solid, dependable type. She's not looking for a quickie in the back of a car, or in some stranger's bedroom."
"But you're not a stranger to her, you've become friends."
"And that is my second point, I don't sleep with my friends. It ruins the friendship."
"How about not sleeping with her and dating her instead, you practically are already."
"Have you been speaking to Hilary? She was saying almost the same thing last week?" Gillian accused.
"No, but it does mean we are seeing the same thing. Emma is exactly the kind of woman you should settle down with."
"I don't want
to settle down."
Justine was serious for a moment. "Then it's your loss."
Gillian frowned as she watched her friend leave her daughter's bedroom. What was it with people making a statement and then leaving immediately after it for dramatic effect? First Hilary and now Justine. She gave Charlotte a soft kiss on her mass of red curls. "Night little one."
The rest of the evening was a mixture of fun and good conversation. Everyone had a game the following day; Justine and Kenny had volleyball matches and Gillian and Emma had a cup-tie in the afternoon.
"Remember to conserve your energy for your game tomorrow," Gillian joked to her friend as she was leaving knowing full well Kenny was spending the night at Justine's.
Justine's eyes narrowed to slits. "You're skating on thin ice."
Gillian gave Justine her trademark cheeky grin. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
On the short car journey home Emma thanked Gill for a pleasant evening.
"Justine and Kenny are such a lovely couple, and little Charlotte is adorable."
"She was quite taken with you too, and yeah, I like Kenny, I think he will be good for Justine." Gillian had a faraway look in her eyes.
"A penny for them?"
"What? Oh, I was just thinking that things could be very different soon. Justine and Kenny seem so right for each other. I think he could be the one."
Emma nodded, "It's funny how things can change so quickly isn't it? This time last year I never imagined I would be in Edinburgh, starting a whole new chapter in my life."
Gill smiled, Emma really did understand people and human emotion so well, like a gift. "Are you happy with your choice?"
Emma thought for just a moment before answering. "I am. I was full of trepidation when I got the job and knew I would definitely be moving away from home and everyone I know. But I like it here, it's a positive step for me."
Gill parked as close to Emma's flat as she could. It was dark and she wanted to make sure Emma got home safely. "Don't forget, we have Laura's Murder Mystery evening after the match tomorrow. I hope you have your costume ready?"
"I do, and I can't wait to see who you are coming as."
"It's a secret, we're under strict instructions not to tell. The only person who knows is Laura, as she sent out the invites. The only clue is that she said she picked the characters to be as far removed from the actual person as possible."
"Do you think she got yours right?"
"Oh, I hope so." Gill said seriously.
Emma laughed, "I can't wait to see."
"Night, Emma." Gill waited until her friend was inside the building, and saw a light go on in Emma's flat, before pulling out of the back street and driving the short distance home down the Royal Mile.
The following afternoon saw Dunedin ladies cruise to a comfortable win against a team three divisions below them. A nine nil scoreline in hockey was comprehensive enough without being humiliating and Dunedin ladies had done their best to keep it that way. Five goals up at half time, they had withdrawn their top players and left them on the sideline for the second half. After match teas were a quiet affair with all members of the first team heading to Laura's house as soon as the opposition team left.
"Gillian, are you leaving your car?"
Gill looked at Jane Dodds, "Ah, that depends on how everyone is getting to Laura's. Do you need a lift?"
"No actually, I was hoping to offer you one. I live near Laura's house, but don't want to walk alone from my house to hers, I was wondering if you might accompany me?"
Gill looked around the table, wondering what arrangements everyone else was making. Hilary rolled her eyes, "You go with Jane, I'll give Emma a lift to Laura's."
Gill shrugged, "Looks like you have an escort, Jane." Gill smiled, picked up her bag, and followed the austere woman to her car. Sitting comfortably in the cream leather passenger seat, Gillian took in the woman next to her. Jane Dodds was a woman of few words. She didn't believe in waste, which made her perfectly suited to the corporate acquisition job she did. "How's work?"
Jane's face remained passive as she spoke. "Busy, liquidation is a serious business, particularly in the current climate."
"I'm sure." Gill peeked again at Jane, taking in what this woman wore as casual clothing. A pair of designer trousers accompanied by high-heeled court shoes and a cashmere cardigan. An expensive watch sat on her pale wrist, platinum to match her wedding band. Gillian took in her own jeans and long sleeved t-shirt, a pair of converse trainers on her feet. This was casual as far as Gillian was concerned.
Jane parked in her driveway and invited Gillian into her townhouse whilst she dropped off her hockey kit and picked up her outfit for the evening. Gillian followed the woman into her home, immediately taken by its size and neatness. There wasn't a speck of dust anywhere. Jane dropped her kitbag into a utility room then led Gillian upstairs to the main living area.
"Have a seat in the front drawing room and I'll get you a glass of wine."
"Thanks." Gill didn't protest. She simply did as asked and waited for Jane to return.
Putting the glasses of white wine on coasters, Jane sat next to Gillian on a large chesterfield sofa. Gill politely sipped her wine and nodded while Jane attempted to make small talk. It clearly wasn't her forte, but Gillian had to commend her for trying.
"So Paul has had to fly to Texas on short notice to sort out the entire mess."
Gillian recalled meeting the man once, last year. He was a classic looking city lawyer in his navy pinstripe suit and brogues. That's all she could recall.
"I think he is having an affair with his secretary."
Gill coughed as her wine went down the wrong way, she hadn't expected to hear that. Jane never spoke about anything personal. "I'm sorry to hear that." Gill managed to squeak.
Jane waved away Gill's attempt at sympathy. "She will only be the latest in a long line of many. Paul has never been much for fidelity."
"You don't mind?"
"I gave up minding a long time ago. I miss the sex though."
Gill simply nodded as she watched the way Jane ran a well-manicured nail around the tip of her wineglass. The woman looked at Gillian and sighed, "Perhaps we should be going?"
Gill nodded and stood up. Carrying her half empty glass of wine, she followed Jane in the direction of her kitchen. Jane deposited her glass on a black marble worktop and Gillian reached around the slim woman to deposit her glass there as well, effectively trapping her. Jane Dodds immediately stiffened and then gasped as Gillian pushed her hips into the woman's backside and then stood motionless. Jane had a white knuckle grip on her worktop, her breathing quickening as her arousal heightened with the feel of Gillian pressed right up against her. Gillian slowly ran her hands up the front of the cashmere top and captured Jane's small breasts through the thin material, causing the woman to groan with pleasure.
"Is this what you want?" Gill whispered hotly in her ear, as one of her hands moved down towards the waistband of Jane's dress trousers. Jane shivered involuntarily as Gill lowered the zip of her slacks and slid her hand inside the silk underwear. "So wet."
Jane jerked in response to Gill's talented fingers as they skilfully found her clitoris, smearing it with the woman's own juices, making it slippery and hard.
Gill continued to stroke Jane until she came, bent over her kitchen worktop, her head lying next to her fruit bowl. Removing her wet fingers, liberally coated with Jane's juices, Gill slowly moved them towards the panting woman in front of her. Jane's eyes widened as Gill brought her coated fingers to her parted lips. Smearing Jane's lips with her own essence, Gill encouraged the woman to suck on them, while she used her spare hand to undo the button of Jane's trousers. Jane began to suck more voraciously in anticipation of what was to come.
"I'm going to fuck you," Gillian stated, and in one quick movement she yanked down Jane's trousers and panties, then swiftly entered her with the two fingers Jane had just been sucking on. The woman groaned with satisfaction as Gill pumped two then three fingers inside her. Within minutes the normally stoic woman was coming loudly, her groans echoing in the tiled kitchen. Gillian holding her firmly, assisting her to remain upright as her legs turned to rubber.
A few minutes later Gillian was washing her hands in the kitchen sink. "Shall we get going then?"
Jane rose shakily from her kitchen worktop, sated and dazed. Something she would only realise later, after her sex addled brain was finally able to recall exactly what had happened, was that she was still longing for one other thing. A kiss from another woman.
Jane and Gillian were the last guests to arrive at Laura's house, which was less than a five-minute walk from Jane's place.
"Come on, you two, hurry up and get changed, everyone is in the sitting room waiting," Laura chastised as they walked into her home. "The first bedroom upstairs on the right."
Gill watched as Jane put on what could only be described as a tramp's outfit. She knew that would raise a few laughs, as it was such a big change for the normally well-dressed Jane Dodds. Gillian pulled on her own outfit and wished she had made a better selection for her shoes. She glanced down at the stack of footwear, which had been left by her teammates and spotted the perfect pair. A flat soled brown brogue. Gill slipped her stockinged foot into one and it fit perfectly. Pulling her hair into a ponytail, she added the finishing touch, a pair of round-rimmed spectacles, and she was in character. The pair then went downstairs and walked into the room to howls of laughter. It looked like everyone had put a lot of thought into their outfit for the evening. Gill included.
"Where on earth did you get the clothes, Gillian?" Laura asked.
"I drove up to Morningside and went to one of the charity shops. I knew I would find tweed up there."
Gill's character was a wallflower librarian, and she really looked the part. Taking in the rest of the room, she spotted Emma who was in a top hat and tails and Hilary, who was wearing a cocktail dress from the 1920's, her character being the local celebrity singer.
"The shoes are fantastic. They go so well with your outfit."
Everyone looked at the footwear in question, and agreed, well almost everyone.
"Those are mine!" Linda declared, not in the least bit impressed.
"Ah yeah, I found them in the room upstairs, I thought they went well."
"That's not funny, Gillian."
Gill rolled her eyes, "It's only a pair of shoes and, you have to admit, they do go great with the outfit."
"Those are my good shoes!"
"I'm not saying there is anything wrong with them."
There were a few laughs in the room and Laura intervened. "Gill, I think the point Linda is making, is that those are her good shoes for a Saturday night and you now have them on your feet to complete your look as a wallflower librarian."
This caused outright laughter amongst the players, so Gill made a further attempt to pacify Linda. "Don't worry, I will look after them, and they go great with your jeans, it just so happens they have that old fashioned style to them that goes great with older clothes too."
"Shut up, Gill, you're not helping your cause," Hilary remarked.
"You can keep them on, but look after them."
The Murder Mystery evening got underway, with everyone staying in character until it was over. There was a break for food and Gillian made a beeline for the buffet table.
"I see you've worked up quite an appetite."
Gill nodded to Hilary as she bit into another barbecued chicken wing.
"Jane is glowing, I don't think I've ever seen her looking so relaxed
." Hilary didn't look pleased as she made the comment.
Gill shrugged and nodded as she placed more food on her plate. "Jane's okay."
Sometime later, with the Murder finally solved, the evening began to draw to a close and people were starting to head home. Emma decided it was time to leave and was joined by both Hilary and Gillian. Jane asked if Gillian would walk her back home and all four players ended up taking the five-minute walk back to Jane's townhouse.
"Well, goodnight, girls." Jane gave Gillian a longing look, but the younger woman didn't bite, instead giving Jane a quick hug.
"I'll see you at training on Tuesday."
The three remaining players waited until the disappointed looking Jane was safely inside her house and the door closed behind her. "What the hell was that, Gillian?" Hilary asked.
Gill shrugged, "I don't know, her husband is away, maybe she is lonely."
"So she wants you
to stay and keep her company?"
"I don't know."
"What happened earlier?"
"We dropped her car off, she picked up her costume and we walked to Laura's."
"Nonsense, you fucked her didn't you?"
Gill frowned, "Language, Hilary."
"Language my arse. You fucked her earlier, no wonder she had that dazed look and was flirting with you all evening."
"Rubbish." Gill didn't want to have this conversation with Hilary in front of Emma.
"Is there a member of the team you haven't fucked?"
Gill looked at Hilary and Emma became very interested in the answer Gill would provide. There was a brief stand off between the two friends before Gillian replied, "I never kiss and tell." Gill's eyes never left Hilary's.
This answer seemed to deflate the doctor and her eyes lowered for a moment. "I apologise, it's none of my business." Gill watched as Hilary walked off in the direction of the main road. She turned to look at Emma for an answer to what had happened. The Irishwoman simply rolled her eyes and shook her head at Gillian, before setting off after Hilary, leaving Gill standing there, wondering what had happened. She stared at the townhouse, contemplating ringing the doorbell, but she wasn't in the mood after having words with Hilary and, instead set off in the direction of her teammates.
Emma kept in step with Gillian as they jogged around the perimeter of the playing fields on a wet Tuesday evening. "She's fine, I had lunch with her today."
"Is she talking to me?"
"Honestly, Gillian, that's something for you and her to sort out."
"But I don't know what I've done wrong." Gill said with more than a hint of frustration.
Emma kept looking straight ahead as they reached a steep incline and she considered what she should or could tell Gillian. They were friends, but it wasn't her place to reveal anything personal about Hilary. "You need to open your eyes, Gillian."
Gill momentarily lost the pace as she thought about that, before quickly speeding up to catch Emma. "What on earth does that mean
? I'm not very good with cryptic, I need to be told straight out."
"Hilary is attracted to you!" Emma whispered harshly, hating herself for having to reveal that information to the hapless Gillian.
Gill stared open mouthed at Emma. Her focus and co-ordination gone, she tripped over her own feet and hit the ground. Emma stopped and stared right back at her, wondering if she had fainted. Gill got to her feet and walked towards her. "Are you sure?" she asked, as she attempted to wipe the mud from her hands onto her tracksuit.
The Irish woman studied Gillian and came to the conclusion that there really was no malice or deceit in her; she genuinely didn't see what was right in front of her eyes. Emma had given some thought to the argument between the pair on Saturday night. Gillian was something of an enigma. If Hilary was correct, she had slept with Jane Dodds before the party and it left Emma wondering if Gill had, at some point, also slept with Hilary. The usually unflappable doctor had clearly been jealous although Gillian seemed totally oblivious to that fact. Emma had spotted the signs even before the events of that evening. When she had caught up with Hilary, the doctor had revealed her feelings to Emma, convinced that Gillian was already aware of them but, clearly, that was not the case, until now, when Emma had let the cat out of the bag and told her. "Gillian, I'm sure."
"I think the world of Hilary, but I've never thought about her that
way. She's my friend and, as I said, I don't sleep with my friends."
Emma wanted to clarify that Gillian had never slept with Hilary, but that wasn't her business. Now she was becoming as confused as Gillian. She had assumed that the young woman flirted with every woman she met and saw them all as a potential conquest. She hadn't realised Gillian was so selective when it came to her choice of bedmate. "I don't know what else to tell you," said Emma. "No one can legislate for the way they feel about someone else. Attraction isn't something we have control over."
When training ended, Gill sought out Hilary as they were leaving the pitch. She wanted to have a quiet word with her and out here, in the open, was often the best place to get privacy in such a big club. "Hey, Hilary."
"Hi, Gill, how are you?" It was the first time they had spoken since Saturday night and Hilary was feeling a little sheepish over her outburst.
"I'm fine, I just wanted to apologise for the other evening."
"You have nothing to apologise for, Gill."
Gillian was struggling, trying to find the right words. The place had become eerily quiet, as the last of the stragglers had made their way off the pitch. The pair were left standing under the floodlights, the sound of the raindrops seeming to count out the seconds as the silence dragged between them. "I ah, I'm sorry I'm such an idiot."
Hilary shook her head, "No, Gillian, you're not an idiot."
"I hadn't realised, you know?" Gill gestured helplessly.
Hilary sighed, "I'm attracted to you, but I don't want to be with you, in fact it irritates the hell out of me that I am."
"Well, you're a shit, a loveable one, but a shit all the same." Hilary softened her words with a grin and a soft punch to Gill's shoulder.
Gill grabbed Hilary and hugged her. Hilary hesitated for a moment, before wholeheartedly returning the embrace. They stood their hugging each other until Gill felt a soft kiss on the top of her head, and she held Hilary all the tighter.
Emma unlocked her bike, watching the two women embracing at the edge of the pitch in the pouring rain. She laughed when she saw Hilary trip Gillian and wrestle her to the ground. Gill really did bring out the playful side in people.
Gill lay on her back on the wet Astroturf, Hilary lying beside her, both breathing heavily after their wrestling. "We would be terrible together, Hill's."
"I know, especially since you can't keep your pants on."
"I've never had a proper girlfriend, I just don't think it's in me." Gill defended herself.
Hilary looked up at the black sky; she couldn't disagree. "It's certainly not in you at the moment."
"We could, you know, if you want to?"
Hilary frowned and looked at Gill. "Are you offering me a sympathy fuck?"
"Trust me, there wouldn't be any sympathy involved." Gill grinned at Hilary, her eyes dancing.
Hilary pounced on Gill, straddling her and pinning her arms to her sides. Gillian struggled, then relaxed, and smiled sexily up at Hilary, causing the doctor to immediately get up off her. "Stop it."
Gillian jumped to her feet. "I'm sorry, Hilary, I just can't seem to help myself."
Hilary shook her head. "And that's the problem, you really can't. I know I could sleep with you right now, but it would mean nothing to you. Tomorrow you would be exactly the same as you are today. You don't have meaningful sex and that's what I want."
"Stop apologising. It's not your fault." It was hard for Hilary to be angry at Gillian. She really hadn't done anything wrong. "You don't have to apologise for not returning my feelings, or for being yourself."
Gill again hugged Hilary, "But you matter to me."
Hilary laughed, despite the strangeness of the situation. "What a pair we are." The floodlights started to dim, casting them both in darkness. Hilary patted Gill on the back, "Come on, let's get out of the rain."
Gillian drove straight home, not bothering to shower at the club, opting instead for a warm bath to ease her aching muscles and chilled bones. Stripping off her damp clothing, she watched as the bath filled with hot water. Sitting on the toilet seat, deep in thought, she wondered how she could have missed something so obvious. Did she want to date Hilary? It wasn't something she had ever considered before now, but the only answer she had for herself was that she could easily have gone to Hilary's bed tonight. That was it. Hilary was absolutely right; she loved women but the problem was that Gillian didn't seem to be capable of loving just one.
Gill turned off the taps and gingerly sank down into the hot water with a sigh. She didn't feel good about herself right at that moment. Hilary's words, not harsh, but true, resonated with her, leaving her feeling a little ashamed of her behaviour on Saturday night. Jane Dodds was a woman who had been looking for sex, so Gill had obliged. She dipped her head under the bathwater, no longer wanting to analyse her behaviour.
The following evening Gill and Emma went out for something to eat, with Gill's head still full of thoughts of Hilary and the weekend.
"Something wrong with your food?"
Gill sighed as she pushed a piece of Balmoral chicken aside. "The food's fine."
"You're very quiet."
"I'm just a little preoccupied with the events of the last few days."
"Do you feel bad about the situation with Hilary?"
"I do, I really like Hilary and I had no idea how she felt about me. All this time she has been watching me do, you know, what I do and I didn't realise it was hurting her." Gill fiddled with her food again, before laying down her fork. "I hadn't considered before now that my behaviour could be hurting anyone."
"What about the women who are married?"
"You mean their husbands?"
"I know what you're saying, but that's their decision to make. They are the ones in a relationship, if they choose to sleep with someone else, that's up to them."
"I couldn't do that."
"I know." Gillian studied Emma more closely. "Is that what happened back in Dublin?"
"Yes, my partner was seeing someone else."
"Really?" Emma asked, sounding a little bitter.
"Genuinely. While I may sleep with people who have a partner, I never chase them. It's something they have decided to do. If it wasn't with me, it would be with someone else. I am sorry that your ex partner made that choice."
Gill studied Emma, wondering what was going on behind the woman's guarded eyes. "Are you angry with the other woman?"
Emma thought about that. "I was angry with both of them."
"You don't like her?"
"She slept with my partner."
Gill nodded, "So you don't approve of what I do?"
"We're friends, Gillian. That's part of who you are, I'm not judging."
"But you wouldn't do it?"
"I wouldn't sleep with a person I knew had a partner and I would be horrified and angry if I was dating someone who turned out to be in a relationship already."
"You're a good person, Emma."
Emma shook her head, "Like I said, I don't judge you, Gillian, these are my choices and values, I don't expect others to have them."
Gill considered what Emma was saying; she had more questions. "You would expect this in a partner?"
"When it comes to relationships I go in for the long haul. I don't date someone unless I genuinely think there is a chance that we could have something meaningful and lasting together. The concept of sleeping with someone simply to have sex is an anathema to me." Emma noticed the blank look on her friend's face, and smiled, "You don't get it."
"I don't get the concept of being with one person forever."
"What about your parents?"
"Yeah, they have been together forever. I'm not saying it can't be, I'm saying..." Gill stopped to give her answer serious consideration and Emma waited patiently. "I don't know what it feels like to be intimate with someone and want them that way." Gill seemed to shock herself with the answer she gave. "Wow, that's interesting."
Emma smiled, "You're just not ready to settle down, or perhaps you haven't met that person that makes you want to give up everything for them. One day, Gillian, you'll fall head over heels and you won't know what's hit you."
Gill laughed, not able to imagine the scenario. "We have a free weekend coming up, I'm going to Auchterarder with Justine and Charlotte. We've rented a beautiful cottage, you're more than welcome to join us?"
"Oh, that sounds lovely, but I'm going back to Dublin for a visit. It will be my first time back since moving here."
"You looking forward to catching up with friends and family?"
Emma nodded, "Yes, I've missed them."
"I hope you have a really nice time."
"Thanks. Gillian, I hope so too." Emma took a final forkful of her food, chewing and swallowing, before continuing. "Now that you seem to be more chatty, what is the stuffing in this chicken, it's wonderful, really spicy.
"Oh, that's haggis with whisky."
Emma looked horrified and Gill laughed. "I swore I would never eat haggis. I've been tricked!"
Gill shrugged, "You can't say it isn't tasty." She gave her trademark cheeky grin and Emma laughed, her distaste at having accidentally eaten haggis gone.
Early November saw the Dunedin ladies travel to Glasgow to face one of their toughest tests of the season. Glasgow ladies weren't just giants of the Scottish scene, they were one of the top teams in Europe, winning a bronze club medal last season, and they boasted no fewer than seven Scottish Internationals. Currently top of the league, it was going to be a tough task for Dunedin to take anything from the game, but they wanted nothing less than a point.
As the team walked through the modern sports centre they heard pop music playing throughout the corridors and changing rooms of the complex. The team stopped on the floor overlooking the Astroturf pitch. It was pouring with rain; a cold wet Glasgow afternoon. You could barely see ten yards either side of the pitch due to the constant drizzle. Gillian was eating a banana, her usual pre match sustenance, as she swore it kept cramp at bay.
Hilary shivered, "It doesn't exactly look inviting, does it?" There were a few mumbles of agreement.
Gillian was nodding her head in time with the music; she loved the rain. She started singing, using her banana as a microphone. "Let's get excited, I'm so excited, I know exactly what I'm gonna do." Laura joined in and the pair were soon dancing unabashedly in the sports centre with their teammates looking on and laughing.
"My ladies, you gotta get in the game." Gillian continued, stirring up her teammates.
Emma shook her head and smiled at her friend, Gillian really was a lot of fun. With the players buoyant and the team talk over, the starting eleven were stripped down to their uniforms and ready for action. Scott had a few final words of wisdom. "This is a big test, any kind of point today would be fantastic. Remember, you are a good unit. They have individuals who can hurt us, but our strength is in our team work." He stopped as his attention was caught by one of two gentlemen walking down the stairs.
"Who's that?" Gill asked.
Camilla 'Cammo' Cameron answered her question. "That's Rob Slater, the Great Britain women's hockey coach."
A few of the players watched the new arrival with interest. Especially Cammo and Laura who were currently in the Scottish squad. They knew he was here to watch the Scottish internationals with one eye on the future GB team for the 2012 Olympic games in London.
"Let's hope some of the opposition freeze with nerves then." Gill added.
Emma burst out laughing and Gill shrugged, "You never know, it might change what they do on the pitch and, hopefully, it will work to our advantage. She looked at Cammo and Laura, "You two play your usual game and keep it tight, we need you to be on top form today."
The pair nodded, knowing it was both an opportunity for them personally and, if Gill was right, for the team as well. "Let's go then, Ladies!" Scott clapped his hands as he shouted encouragement and the Dunedin team made their way to the pitch.
With ten minutes to go, the score was level at two goals each and Dunedin ladies were under intense pressure. The rain hadn't let up all game and everyone was soaked through, but the Glasgow ladies had been as relentless as the rain and Dunedin needed to soak up the pressure for the last remaining minutes.
"Melinda!" Gill shouted to the teenager. "Stand at the top of the opposition D, right in front of the goalkeeper. Try to pick up any ball that we clear out of defence. You're running the entire back line, give it everything you've got. The rest of us are defending deep. Let's hope we can get a breakaway."
The youngster nodded and took up the position Gill had specified. Gill knew it was a big ask, but they needed to have an outlet, no matter how slim a chance it was. Gill herself dropped deeper to assist her team and break up play, trying to disrupt some of the momentum Glasgow had built up in wave after wave of attack as they searched for the winning goal. With only a minute left Glasgow were awarded yet another penalty corner when the ball struck a Dunedin player's foot in the D. Gill stood behind the goal line with the other defenders, her back foot on Hilary's to give her extra purchase to rush out and stop Glasgow getting a shot in on goal.
"Out!" Came the call from Lindy in goal and Gill was off, with a firm push on the back from Hilary to help send her on her way. She saw the Glasgow player trap the ball with her stick. It was perfect and the ball sat motionless on the turf waiting to be struck. But the opposition striker wasn't set. Something in their routine was amiss and the striker had to adjust her feet to get into place. Gill was already there as the striker's stick was raised and, before the opposition player could unleash her swing, Gill had pounced on the ball. Nothing in her mind but sprinting flat out towards the opposition goal. She had five players to beat, but knew exactly where Melinda was. She opened up the face of her stick to chip the ball and sent it soaring through the air, back over the heads of the onrushing defenders. Gill's pace and momentum easily took her past them as they tried to stop and change direction. She watched as Melinda collected the bouncing ball on the right hand side of the goal and then drove along the back line towards the keeper. Gill was screaming for the ball as she tore into the D. Melinda cut the ball back for her and, leaving the goalkeeper stranded, Gill swept the ball into the empty goal with a resounding thud as it hit the backboard.
Gill lay flat out on the turf breathing heavily after her exertions, her mouth wide open, a large grin on her face, screaming, "Yesssssss!" for all she was worth. The first player to congratulate her was Melinda, who literally jumped on top of Gillian in her enthusiasm to celebrate with her teammate. It was only a few seconds before the rest of the team arrived and joined in. The umpire struggled to get the Dunedin team to cut short their celebrations and get the game underway for the final few seconds. Gill was the last player up and received a green card; she couldn't have cared less. It was a small price to pay for the win. No more than a slap on the wrist.
Back in the changing room the mood amongst the Dunedin players was one of jubilation. This was their best win to date and it was sure to make waves throughout Scottish hockey circles. The players peeled off their soaking wet kit and threw it onto the floor creating a big pile of wet clothing.
"Let's just get it into bin bags and then throw it into someone's washing machine. Any volunteers?" Sheila asked.
"I'll take the tops," Cammo offered.
"Skirts for me," said Hilary.
"Come on, someone has to take the socks." Sheila looked around, "If I don't get a volunteer, I'll delegate." She waited, but there was no volunteer. "Gillian, you're doing the socks."
"What? Come on, no way."
"Actually, that's not a good idea, the socks are white, they won't be after Gillian washes them." Jane Dodds pointed out.
"Remember how she managed to shrink our last set of shirts." Camilla added.
"I tumble dried them, I don't have anywhere to hang them out." Gill protested.
"I'll take the socks," Emma volunteered.
"But you don't have a car." Sheila pointed out.
"I'll drive the socks," Gillian offered.
"Good grief, is that it over then?" Jane added, about to lose her patience.
Gill looked to Emma and shrugged with a grin, "Yeah. I'm driving Emma home anyway and I'll pick up the socks from her on Tuesday."
Jane picked up her shower gel and shampoo and was walking to the showers when a wet sock hit her on the back of the head. The changing room went quiet as the austere woman turned around with a look of fury on her face. Her eyes met the playful, grinning pair of Gillian Rae's and her look softened. "You are a shit, Gillian," the refined woman stated, all the while standing naked at the entrance to the showers. The place erupted into laughter.
Monday morning brought with it a crisp frost. Gill decided to make an early start to her day, still on a high from Saturday's win. The school car park was relatively quiet when she pulled in just after eight a.m. Gill was the first member of the PE staff to arrive and put the kettle on. Popping a couple of teabags into the teapot, she readied some cups in expectation of the other staff members' arrival. She was sitting, casually sipping her morning cuppa, when Dennis Carter, the head of the PE department, entered the staff room.
"So, will you be playing for England soon?" He asked.
Gill lowered the cup from her mouth, a look of utter confusion on her face. "What?"
Dennis held up one of the morning broadsheets, "Apparently the GB coach wants to include you in the squad and has said, if Scotland don't call you up, England will."
The tea was dribbling down the front of Gill's clean tracksuit as she stared dumbfounded at her boss. She finally noticed the mess she was making when she felt the warmth from the liquid and it brought her to her senses. "Can I see that?"
Dennis nodded slowly as he passed the paper to Gillian.
The first thing she noticed was the headline 'Scotland Player Set To Come In From The Cold...with a little help from England.'
Former Scotland under 21 player, Gillian Rae, has been frozen out of Scottish hockey since the age of eighteen, due to twice breaking curfew whilst on international duty. Since then, Scotland have repeatedly refused calls to cap the player at any level despite her increasingly regular top star performances for Dunedin ladies. No one was available at the Scottish Hockey Union to comment on the situation, but Rob Slater, former England coach and current coach of the Great Britain women's hockey squad, has called the situation a travesty.
"For a player of Gillian Rae's quality to be frozen out of International hockey for a misdemeanour that occurred when she was eighteen years old is bizarre. After watching her at the weekend, I enquired as to why she wasn't a Scottish international. When informed as to the reason she wasn't being picked, I immediately alerted the current England coach and asked him to look into her eligibility. If Scotland don't want her, England will."
When asked what would happen if she wasn't eligible for England, and Scotland continued to refuse to pick her, he said: "At the very least she will be invited to join the Great Britain training squad. We are building towards the London Olympics and we need the best players from England, Scotland and Wales. Gillian Rae is definitely a player of immense talent."
After these quotes from Rob Slater, the pressure will once again be on the Scottish selectors to reconsider their stance, or face the potential embarrassment of having one of Scotland's best assets turning out for England and Great Britain."
Gill was very surprised by the article and, barring a couple of lines it was very positive, although she didn't know what to make of the idea of her turning out for England. She looked to her boss with raised eyebrows, "What would you think of me playing for your country, Dennis?"
He smiled kindly, "I'd be proud to see you pull on an England shirt, but you'd better take a look at this first." He handed her one of the daily tabloids.
A Jolly Old Scandal
Edinburgh PE teacher Gillian Rae is at the centre of a tug of war between the Scottish and English hockey unions. One wants to select her, while the other refuses to because of infractions committed whilst Ms Rae was playing for the Scottish under 21's as an eighteen year old. She has never been selected for any Scottish squad since. So just what did the twenty-five year old teacher get up to? Firstly, she broke curfew twice, but the final straw came when she was caught in flagrante delicto with a member of the Italian ladies under 21 squad.
One thing is for certain; the unmarried teacher will be invited to join the Great Britain squad regardless of who selects her. Ms Rae, a teacher at Castlerock High School, was unavailable for comment.
Gill looked at Dennis, "I've just been outed in a national newspaper."
Dennis Carter nodded, "It won't be long before it's all over the school."
The telephone rang, interrupting their conversation. Gill listened as Dennis spoke on the phone, she knew it was about her.
"That was the headmaster, he'd like to see you in his office."
Dennis looked sympathetically at the young woman. This wasn't going to be pretty. "Come back and see me when he's finished with you."
Gillian made her way over to the Headmaster's office, dreading having to meet with the cantankerous man. She walked into the entrance that housed the secretaries, who looked at her with a mixture of sympathy and curiosity. Just as she was about to knock on the headmaster's door, Maggie McLure's door opened instead and an arm popped out and pulled her inside.
"First assault and now kidnap?" Gillian joked.
"This is no time for jokes, Gillian." Maggie said sternly. "Do you know what's going to happen when you go into his office?"
"I'm assuming I'm going to get a bit of a dressing down."
"He is going to suspend you pending the result of a full enquiry."
"How many lesbian PE teachers do you know?"
Gill frowned, "Loads."
"Exactly, but no one ever mentions it. We all know that there are a good few in our schools, but no one wants to state the obvious. You have brought it right out into the open!"
"It's not like I meant to." Gill defended.
Maggie sighed, genuinely feeling for Gill in this situation. "This is what you do. You will go in there and he will suspend you indefinitely on full pay. There will be a hearing sometime soon, probably within the next two weeks, so you get straight on to your union rep, she's very good. You make no comment to anyone, especially the newspapers. You keep your head down and do not
go to any bars."
Gill looked shell-shocked. "Will I get to come back to work after the enquiry?"
"As long as they don't find anything untoward, yes, you will."
"Like what?" Gill was close to panic.
"Gill, calm down, they need to make sure the female pupils will be safe around you."
"What!" Gill practically screamed.
"Keep it down. I know, but the school have to be seen to be investigating the matter fully."
"I'm a lesbian. Not a paedophile!"
"We all know that."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure, but I'm not the one that's investigating you."
Gill paced in Maggie's office, gesturing with her hands towards the headmaster's room. "Is he homophobic?"
Maggie didn't answer that question. "All it needs is for a disgruntled pupil to say something, Gill."
"There is nothing, Maggie, absolutely nothing
." Gill was close to tears. "My teaching career could be over."
"I'm sure it won't come to that." Maggie hugged the young woman who she had known since she was twelve years old. "You need to be stay strong, Gillian. I will do all I can from this end."
"Now hold your head up high and go see him."
Emma was at the weekly meeting listening intently to her colleagues as they discussed patients with complications who were effectively blocking beds.
She sat watching as Hilary Duffy spoke. So different here from the playful woman she had got to know outside the hospital walls. Straight-framed glasses sat on an elegant nose, adding to Hilary's serious, professional, appearance. Everything about her instilled instant confidence in those around her.
"Moving on, I'd like to have Mrs. McCullough discharged by the end of the week. She should be responding to antibiotics by then, so her post-op infection can be managed by her GP." Hilary turned to the physio, "How is her mobility?"
"She's currently using a walking frame, I expect her to have progressed to walking sticks by Friday."
"Excellent." She turned to Emma, "OT home visit for Wednesday?"
Emma looked up from her notes, "Actually, I'd like to do a discharge home visit instead. The patient is agoraphobic and I don't want to take her home only to bring her back again to repeat the process on Friday. A discharge home visit will cut down on the stress involved for this patient."
Hilary pursed her lips and nodded, impressed, not for the first time, by Emma's thought process and attention to detail. "That's settled then, barring any further complications, the patient is yours to discharge on Friday."
When the meeting ended, Hilary hung back to grab a few words with Emma. "Have you heard from Gillian?"
"No, I've tried calling, but her mobile is switched off. She hasn't replied to any of my texts."
Hilary rubbed her forehead, "Same here. I actually went to her flat after work yesterday and, if she was there, she didn't answer."
"Hopefully she'll turn up for training tonight." Emma suggested.
Hilary shook her head. "I just don't know, it's a hellish situation."
There was no doubt about that, Emma thought. Poor Gillian, being selected for the Great Britain squad, outed in a national newspaper and suspended from work, all in the same day. Life really could be cruel. "How do you think she will be handling all this?"
"Truthfully, I can't imagine what she must be feeling. Perhaps she has gone to Justine's?"
"I hope so. I hate to think of her all alone in her flat."
"Me too. I honestly don't know how she will cope with this. In all the time I've known her she's always been the same upbeat and playful Gillian. I really have no idea how she will react to this."
Emma tried to imagine that too, but came up blank. "I'm also at a loss. It's so unfair, she has done nothing wrong."
"Bloody tabloids!" Hilary cursed, "They don't care whose life they wreck."
"What about her family? Will they support her?"
"I don't know, she doesn't talk about them."
Gillian and Hilary both stood in the room, feeling helpless and frustrated. "I better get going, "I'll see you at training tonight?"
"I'll be there. Later, Emma."
Training that evening was abuzz with talk about Gillian, and Emma didn't think she was wrong in thinking there were women present that she had never seen before. There appeared to be enough women in attendance for six hockey squads, not just the four that Dunedin ladies turned out every Saturday.
"Look at them, here for the show. But it looks like the main attraction will be disappointing them," Sheila remarked to her teammates. "Has anyone seen or heard from Gillian?" There were a few shakes of the head and several 'no's' amongst the first team squad. "What a bloody mess, Gill doesn't deserve this."
Training got underway and an hour later it was obvious Gillian wasn't going to show. Emma had finally had enough and decided to cut her evening short an hour early. "I'm heading off, I'll see you all on Thursday night."
There were no surprised faces. The majority of the first team were feeling the same way and the first hour had been a very subdued affair.
Hilary stopped Emma before she left the pitch. "Are you going to Gillian's?"
"Yes and, if she isn't home, I'm going to Justine's."
"Good. Let me know how you get on."
Twenty minutes later, Emma was standing outside Gillian's door ringing the buzzer, but there was no answer. Getting back on her bike she cycled the short distance down to Justine's flat.
Opening her front door, Justine looked concerned. "Emma, is everything okay with Gill?"
"I don't know, I haven't heard from her, neither has anyone else at the club. I was hoping she was here."
Justine shook her head, "No. She's at her flat."
"But I've just come from there, no one answered. Hilary tried last night too."
"Trust me, she's home."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, it's what she does. She will be in there."
"Have you heard from her?"
"One text on Monday afternoon. It simply said, be in touch soon, don't worry."
"What do you suggest I do?"
Justine looked at Emma as she considered her answer. "If you really want to see her, get inside the main entrance and bang her front door down."
And that's exactly what Emma was doing less than fifteen minutes later. She had waited outside Gillian's stair door until someone was leaving and simply walked in. Now she was banging on Gill's door and shouting through her letterbox.
"I know you're in there, Gillian! Open up. I'm not leaving until I see you."
Bang! Bang! Bang! Ding-dong.
"I'll keep this up all night if I have to." And she did just that for the next ten minutes, ignoring several roars from Gillian's neighbours, until finally the door flew open.
"Come in, you mad Irishwoman!"
Emma was initially surprised and stood staring at Gill.
"Well? Are you coming in?" Gill walked away from the door, but left it open.
Emma scurried after her and found Gill in the sitting room, lying on the sofa watching television. An open pizza box lay next to her, with two full slices and crusts in it. Several empty beer bottles were on the coffee table.
"You weren't at training."
Gill shrugged as she took another drink from her beer. "I didn't feel up to it."
"How are you doing, Gillian?" It seemed an unnecessary question, given the circumstances. A quick glance at Gillian and her surroundings was enough to confirm that the young woman wasn't doing well. Gill continued to stare at the television, her bare feet up on the sofa as she stretched out, her face lacking any kind of telling expression.
She gave Emma a quick glance, "I'm fine."
Emma sighed as she sat on a nearby chair. "There are lots of people worried about you."
Gill didn't look away from the screen. "No need to be."
Emma stood up and went over to switch the television off.
"I was watching that." Gill complained.
She shrugged, "Want a beer? Some pizza?"
"No thank you."
"Have you actually moved from that sofa since yesterday?"
Gill stretched her arms behind her head and looked at the ceiling. "Toilet, kitchen and deliveries."
Emma sighed, "I'm sorry about what's happened, Gillian."
Gill gave a laugh that held no humour. "Shouldn't you be congratulating me on my call up?" She pointed a slightly wonky finger towards Emma, "Though, admittedly, I don't know exactly who will be calling me up yet. England, Wales, maybe even the actual country of my birth, who knows." Gill threw up her hands histrionically in mid air.
Emma decided Gillian was drunker than she had first thought. "I'm going to make coffee."
In the kitchen Emma found several more empty beer bottles littered around the kitchen worktops. She opened the fridge and noticed there were even more full bottles, chilled and waiting for Gillian. Filling the kettle with water, Emma prepared two cups for coffee.
Emma set a cup of strong coffee down next to Gillian.
Gill indicated her bottle of beer, "I'm alright thanks."
"Gillian, you need to stop drinking. Get a shower and some fresh clothes and have a good night's sleep."
"And why would I want to do that? It's not like I can go anywhere. You, on the other hand, need to get to bed. You have work in the morning. Me, I can suit myself and, since I can't go to a bar, I'm sitting around here drinking beer and watching porn." Gill flicked the television back on to do just that. She turned to Emma, "You're welcome to stay or go, it's up to you."
Emma was infuriated with Gillian. She watched as the other woman settled back on the sofa with her beer in hand and watched two women having sex on the telly. "You're being rude, Gillian."
"You're welcome to leave."
Emma was up off the chair before she even thought about what she was doing. She stood over Gillian, "You are wallowing in self pity. There are people who care about you, have been trying to contact you. Yes, what's happened is shitty and you certainly don't deserve it, but you need to get your act together."
Gill got unsteadily to her feet. "Why? What's the point? I get up tomorrow and do what?"
"You can't just sit around drinking beer until you pass out!" Emma was so close Gillian could smell the sweat on her body from her earlier exertions. Her nostrils flared and before Emma knew what was happening, Gillian had captured her mouth and was kissing her hard and deep. Taken completely by surprise, Emma responded without thinking and gave into the kiss; it had been so long since she had been this close to another woman. She felt her back connect with the wall and Gillian's hands were moving under her top, massaging her breasts through her sports bra. When Gillian released her mouth to suck on her neck Emma came back to her senses and pushed Gill away. The back of drunken woman's knees collided with the sofa and she lost her balance and fell, ending up on her ass.
"You could have just asked me to stop." Gill remarked, as she struggled to get up.
Emma was breathing heavily, her chest heaving from a mixture of passion and anger. She had been so turned on for a few moments, but now she was angry at Gillian for her actions and at herself for her initial response and for not pushing her away sooner. "You need to sober up and grow up. Right now you are in a difficult situation, but you still have a life. You have done nothing wrong and should be reinstated as a teacher. On top of that you have now been recognised as one of the best players in the country. Not just Scotland, but the entire UK. Do you know what I think, Gillian?"
Gill said nothing, she simply sat where she had landed after Emma's push.
"You don't want
it. This self destructive behaviour, I think it's some part of you making sure you never realise your full potential." And with those words rattling in Gillian's ears, Emma left.
Thursday evening training was crowded, but a little less congested than Tuesday night. Emma watched the car park, looking for the familiar silver car, but there was still no sign of it. She hated to think of Gillian still lying around in her flat, drinking herself into a stupor. She had spoken to Hilary on Wednesday morning, deliberately omitting the part where Gillian had kissed her. She wasn't sure what the doctor would think of that and still wasn't sure what to make of it herself. Gillian had been drunk, and she was always picking up women. But she was stuck at home and Emma had been there. She probably would have kissed any woman who crossed her doorstep that evening and that's what made Emma so angry about Gillian's actions. She walked over and joined her teammates. Tonight was going to be all about match tactics and, if Gillian wasn't going to be playing at the weekend, they would need to utilise every minute of the two hours available to them.
"Look, here's Gillian," said Sheila.
Emma looked towards the far side of the pitch and sure enough, there was Gillian walking towards them. A slow ripple went around the pitch as word quickly spread that Gill was here and then, quite spontaneously, members of the first team started to clap. Within seconds the sporadic clapping became applause as all the women present joined in. Gillian seemed to hesitate for a moment, caught unaware by the turn of events. She looked around at the faces present and a shy smile broke out on her face. She looked almost bashful, a trait Emma never imagined she would ever witness in Gillian Rae. As the applause died down, Sheila Muir took the time to say a few words.
"Ladies, I'm sure you will all join me in offering our congratulations to Gillian, the first member of Dunedin ladies to be called up for the Great Britain squad. Well done, Gill."
The cheers and applause rang out again, along with a few good-natured boos and jeers at the prospect of a Scottish woman turning out for England. Hilary took a moment to speak to her friend. "Good to see you, Gill and congratulations." The pair hugged, "Don't worry, you will soon be yesterday's news."
"Thanks, I hope so."
Hilary patted Gill on the back. "This will be over soon."
Gill caught Emma's eye, the other woman nodding then looking away. Gill was drunk on Tuesday evening, but she remembered everything that had happened and she felt like a shit for treating Emma the way she had.
Training went well, it was a little difficult for Gill, but something she knew she had to do and get out of the way. Tuesday would be easier now, and Saturday's game would take care of itself. Life would go on, especially in a hockey sense; it was its own animal. People were replaced, people moved on or got injured; it was always changing. Work however, was a whole different matter and Gillian was dreading her hearing in a week's time.
"Hi, can I come in?"
Emma stood at her door, looking at the woman on the other side. She hadn't spoken a word to Gillian at training that evening and had cycled home immediately after it finished. She stood aside, allowing Gill into her flat.
"Can I get you something, a tea or coffee?"
"No thanks, I don't want to keep you."
"Have a seat."
Gill did as instructed, sitting opposite Emma. "I came here to apologise for my behaviour the other night."
"All of it really, but in particular, I want to apologise for kissing you. That was out of order. I'm sorry."
Emma nodded. "Apology accepted."
"Thanks. Your friendship means a lot to me, I don't want to ruin it with my stupid, impulsive behaviour."
"You haven't. You are under a lot of pressure and you were drunk; which is not an excuse, but it did contribute to your actions the other night."
"Thanks for being so understanding."
Emma had questions and now seemed as good a time as any to ask, "What do your parents say about everything that has happened?"
Gill smiled, "Nothing."
"I don't understand, aren't you close?"
"It's not about that, they love me, but they don't understand me."
"Your sexuality?" Emma clarified.
Gill sighed, normally she hated this kind of conversation, but Emma deserved an explanation, especially after the other night. "Let me try and explain it better. My dad is seventy-one and my mum is sixty-four. They didn't intend on having a twenty-five year old daughter at the age they are now. My mum was thirty-nine when she had me. I was a late baby and unexpected. Anytime I was troublesome, my mum would say, 'Gillian was a late baby'
. That was their explanation for everything. It was the same when I told them I liked girls. 'Oh, Gillian was a late baby.'
They both retired before I left high school, they are more like grandparents."
Emma nodded, beginning to get a picture of Gill's family life. "What about your sister?"
"Oh, I didn't realise you had more then one."
"I have two older sisters and an older brother. I only really know Margaret. Kevin and Miriam emigrated years ago. She's in Australia and he's in Canada."
Gill nodded, "Kevin has three boys and Miriam has two girls and a boy. I hardly know any of them. I've met them all, but they have been gone so long. My brother's oldest is almost eighteen. All the kids have Australian and Canadian accents. Generally speaking, we're not a close family. My sister Margaret is the closest to me, but I'm not going to burden her with this, she's a busy woman."
"So, who do you have?"
"Justine, you, Hilary, Maggie McLure, my assistant head who taught me when I was twelve. I have people I can turn to. The thing is, right now, I mostly want to be alone, to just keep my head down."
"I can understand that."
There was a short silence between them, before Gill spoke. "I better get going, I have an early appointment with the gym tomorrow morning."
Emma smiled, delighted to hear that Gillian was putting her time to good use and focussing on her fitness instead of wallowing in self pity and drinking beer. "I'll see you Saturday."
"Well, well. Look who's turned up." Justine opened her arms and Gillian stepped willingly into her embrace. "How are you doing?" she asked, planting a soft kiss on the top of Gillian's head.
"I'm okay. I went to training last night and I've stopped drinking beer."
"How many days?"
"Three days of drinking beer and lying on your sofa, not too bad."
"I watched porn too."
"I'm surprised it was only three days, then."
Gillian's eyes were closed as she enjoyed the simple pleasure of being hugged. She needed this.
"Come on, let's go to the living room, I wasn't sure if you would be coming tonight, but I saved you some dinner."
"Thanks, Justine, you're the best." Gill sat on the sofa, aware that something, or rather someone was missing. "Where's Charlotte?"
"She's staying overnight with my mum, I have a game in Aberdeen tomorrow."
Gill nodded, "What position are you in the league?"
"Stay here, I'll bring your dinner through."
Gillian ate what was her first proper meal of the week, mushroom risotto with a side salad and garlic bread. The two friends were virtually silent whilst Gillian devoured the food. "Thanks, Justine, that was amazing."
"You need to eat better, Gill."
"I know." Gill patted her full stomach as she relaxed on the sofa, Justine sitting next to her.
"Only you could manage to turn the most spectacular news into a complete disaster."
"It's not like I had any say in it. I never imagined that choices I made when I was eighteen would come back to haunt me seven years later."
"You will be back at work soon." It was a statement, not a question.
"I hope so, but we both know that all it takes is for one student to say something, it doesn't matter that it isn't true,"
"That won't happen."
"The thing is, Justine, even when I'm reinstated, this will always be hanging over me. If I say or do something a student doesn't like, they could create a false allegation against me. I'm wide open to blackmail and don't think there aren't kids who wouldn't do it."
"I know, Gillian." Justine was sympathetic to her friend's situation. Teaching school children would never be quite the same for Gill again. "But what can you do? The only other option is to leave and work in adult education."
Gill nodded and yawned, suddenly feeling tired.
"Don't forget, Gill, you have positive news here as well. You have been selected to join the Great Britain training squad. You need to seize this opportunity with both hands. There will be no one prouder than me when you walk out on that pitch to represent Great Britain at the next Olympics."
"Thanks, Justine." The pair shared a smile.
"It's a fantastic opportunity you have been handed, don't lose sight of that. I know you are going through a torrid time at the moment, but you deserve this call up. Promise me you will make the most of it. Even for one shot at the Olympics." Justine pleaded.
Gill was silent, Justine's words making her think back to Tuesday night. "Emma accused me of deliberately messing up my chances of international hockey."
Justine's lips pursed. "Do you think she is right?"
Gillian fiddled with her belt buckle, flicking the end of the leather. "I think a part of me has enjoyed the status of being good enough to play for Scotland, but not being picked."
Justine stilled Gillian's hand, forcing her to look right into Justine's face, "Emma is a smart woman. You have a choice to make, Gill. Your bluff is being called. Are you ready to step up and play with the big girls, or will you waste this opportunity?"
Gill smiled ruefully, "You know me too well."
"Seems like I'm not the only one. The choice is yours, Gillian. You have the skill, that's not in question, but do you have the dedication and the discipline required to make it?"
"I kissed her."
Justine frowned, momentarily confused by the sudden change in the conversation. "I need you to clarify exactly who you kissed."
"Emma for goodness sake, I kissed Emma."
"And what happened?"
"She pushed me onto my backside."
"Sensible woman." Gill didn't answer causing Justine to wonder about her feelings. "You like her."
"Of course I do, we're friends."
"No, I mean you are attracted to her."
"Justine, I'm attracted to lots
of women, but don't worry, I haven't ruined the friendship. I apologised for my behaviour and we're fine."
Justine was exasperated with her friend. "Why don't you ask Emma on a date? Try and do things properly, take it slowly."
"What would that involve?"
"Cinema, a meal, a walk along the beach."
"We do all that."
"That's my point, you could be dating."
"Justine, did you not hear me? She pushed me away."
"That's because you probably just kissed her out the blue."
Gill sighed, "I was drunk, I kissed and groped her."
Justine rolled her eyes, "Not all women want that."
"I know, but it's what I want."
"Do you want to be with Emma?" Justine was losing all patience with her friend.
"I want to sleep with her, but she's not that type of woman."
"You're a lost cause, Gillian."
Justine changed the subject, "Have you got a date set for your hearing?"
"It will be fine," she said reassuringly. "You've done nothing wrong."
"I know, but I can't help but worry."
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Gill spoke again. "This is a bit of a wake up call you know. I think I need to be a bit more responsible. More mature."
Justine looked fondly at her friend. "Don't you go changing too much, Gillian, I love you the way you are."
Gillian laid her head on Justine's shoulder. "Oh thank goodness." They both laughed. "What's the movie for this evening, darling?"
"The Boat That Rocked, honey."
Gillian showed more interest. "Oh, is it porn?"
Justine hit Gill with a cushion from the sofa. "It's about sixties' pirate radio. You have a one track mind."
"Speaking of, how are things with Kenny?"
"Do you love him?"
"I like him."
"I know that," Gillian said impatiently. "Do you like
him more than you did, say two months ago?"
"Do you love
"That's such a big word."
"Come on, Justine." Gillian chided, "I'm assuming you haven't declared your love to Kenny, but you can tell me. I can keep a secret."
Justine thought about it and Gillian only had to look at her face to know the answer.
"You should tell him."
"I will not!" Justine was indignant.
"Has he told you he loves you?"
"This is so exciting, but I think you are right. Don't tell him until he tells you."
"I am not now, nor will I ever take romantic advice from you, Gillian Rae."
"Why? You try to give me advice all the time." Gill complained.
"Speaking of which, if you want a chance with Emma, you need to be patient. Not try to jump her bones at any opportunity."
"See what I mean? You are always giving me advice."
"Yeah, but when it comes to romance, I'm the only one of us who has any experience. You haven't got a romantic bone in your body."
"Everything you do is geared towards sex."
Gillian looked blankly at Justine, wondering what her point was.
"Let's watch the movie, there is no hope for you, Gillian."
Less than an hour into the movie, Gillian was sound asleep, her head resting in Justine's lap. The blonde's fingers softly smoothing Gillian's hair. Justine knew that Gillian was a woman with a lot on her plate at the moment. Her fingers gently traced the two healing scars around Gill's left eye. She thought back to the evening she had first met Emma, just a few days after the injury, when Gill had brought her to dinner. Justine knew they could be good together, but she wasn't sure that Gillian could ever get her act together enough to prove to the Irishwoman that she was capable of having a serious relationship.
"Mmm, that's nice, don't stop."
Justine laughed softly. "You know, if you would take the time to get to know a woman better, she might just do stuff like this for you."
"Sshh, you're spoiling the moment. Can you keep doing it without talking?"
Justine pinched Gill in the ribs, causing her to yelp. She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "How long was I out?"
"About an hour."
Gill saw the credits rolling, indicating the end of the film. "Was it any good?"
"It was decent enough."
Gill stretched, "Sorry for falling asleep on you. I better get going, you have an early start tomorrow."
"Okay, Gill, promise you will call me on Thursday as soon as you are finished at the hearing."
"It's going to be fine."
"I hope so." Gill hugged Justine and they said goodnight. As she walked towards her car she briefly considered driving up to Edinburgh's pink triangle instead of home. But then the words of Maggie McLure rang in her ears and she thought better of it. Taking the short drive home, Gillian was restless, she checked the clock, it was ten minutes to eleven. Instead of parking at her flat Gill drove up to the junction and took the small road that led in behind the Royal Mile. She wasn't sure if Emma would be awake, but she wanted to see her. As she pulled into the nearest available parking space Gill looked up and saw a light on in the flat, but something else also caught her eye. She recognised the car to her left; it belonged to Hilary Duffy. There was no way Gill could visit Emma now and she wanted to get out of there before either of them saw her. Driving the couple of hundred yards back down the road Gill parked her car and turned off the engine, but she couldn't bring herself to exit the vehicle. Instead she sat there staring at the back of a nearby hotel. Closing her eyes, Gill tried not to imagine Emma and Hilary together. Were they dating? Maybe they were just friends, sharing a meal. They certainly knew each other well, working in the same place and then playing for the same team. Gill knew they sometimes had lunch together. Had they started seeing each other?
Gill jumped as a face was pressed up against her side window.
"Do you need a push?"
Gill shook her head and attempted a smile. She waited until the guy walked away and rejoined his friends before she exited her car and walked to her flat. Once inside, Gill sat on the sofa trying to get a handle on how she felt. Again she resisted the urge to jump back into her car and drive to the gay bars; she needed to keep her head down for a while. Gill contemplated calling someone she knew who would be a willing bedmate for the night, but realised her heart wasn't really in it. Finally, defeated and out of options, Gill went to bed and attempted to sleep.
Gillian finished applying the final touches to her light make-up, then debated whether to wear her hair up or down. 'Down, up. No down, definitely down.'
She was nervous, she knew that. She only became hesitant and uncertain when she was nervous. Removing her robe, Gill put on a grey fitted trouser suit over a crisp white blouse. Finally she selected a pair of black high-heeled laced brogues, which added a good four inches to her height. Gill took a final look in the full-length mirror that stood in the corner of her bedroom, before putting her bag over her shoulder and picking up her car keys.
It was a cold November morning, the scattered autumn leaves tipped with a crisp white frost, as Gill turned into the tree lined driveway of Castlerock high school. The grounds were eerily quiet despite there being almost a thousand students and staff inside the various buildings. Gill parked in her usual spot near the PE block, forgetting she would have a longer walk through the concourse to reach the offices. Her heels echoed ominously on the concrete as she walked towards the room where she would meet her union rep before the actual hearing would take place. She became aware of a few faces looking out of windows and suddenly there were more as word quickly spread through classrooms that she was in the school. Gill wanted to disappear, but remembered Maggie's words to hold her head up, she had done nothing wrong.
The meeting room door was open and inside sat Alison Bertram, the woman who was representing her. "Hi, Alison."
"Morning, Gillian," Alison smiled warmly at her. "Come in and have a seat."
Alison put her hand on top of Gill's, "Relax and take a deep breath." She added reassuringly.
Gill nodded, "Thanks, but I'm nervous."
"Don't be, as I said on the phone yesterday, I really don't foresee any problems. Unless something unexpected comes up today, everything indicates that you will be reinstated on Monday."
Gill wanted desperately to believe the grey haired woman with the warm brown eyes, "I wish I shared your confidence."
Alison smiled. "Have you checked out the pupil's online forum? Or the social networking sites that they use?"
"To be honest I didn't want to, kids can be very cruel."
"Yes, they can."
"I was scared of what I might find."
"Well I don't blame you for thinking that way, but it's my job to do that and trust me, you won't be disappointed with what I found."
Gill looked surprised. "Really?"
Alison nodded, "Firstly, your form class 4N, they set up a petition of support. It has over fifteen hundred signatures."
"But we have less than a thousand pupils at the school."
"I know. Not only that, but there were various messages of support ranging from the usual, 'Miss. Rae is a great teacher', to some rather more insightful and interesting ones." Alison handed a print out to Gillian, "Look at the highlighted ones."
The first was a short story from a student that Gill knew well. The girl was a constant pain in Gill's backside and she dreaded seeing what had been written. But she was pleasantly surprised and heartened to find a very supportive story where the girl explained that Gillian had made her sit out on more than one class as she was dressed inappropriately. The girl went on to describe how her cleavage and buttocks had partially been on display.
Another message simply stated, "There are a few pervy teachers at this school Miss Rae isnae one of them." Gill almost laughed at that one and Alison shared her mirth.
"There are many like that, Gill. There has been a terrific show of support from both staff and students. Although I think the English department might want to look at ways to improve spelling and vocabulary," Alison joked, making reference to the students use of Net language.
"I'm deeply flattered. I had no idea."
"Now, we are going in there confidently. You leave the talking to me, it's what I'm here for. If there is anything you need to clarify, I'll turn to you and discuss it with you first. It's going to be fine, Gillian. The school simply wants to cover its back."
Gill nodded and Alison patted her reassuringly on the arm. "Let's go."
Gill watched as her union representative swung into action and was never more grateful for the support. Not only did Gill have no case to answer, it seemed that Alison was intent on putting the school on the back foot.
"Do you have a code of conduct in place to deal with homophobic discrimination?" She asked Mr. Connolly, the headmaster.
Gill watched as the normally confident, brash man squirmed in his seat.
"Ahem. No, we don't."
"I assume you have one to deal with racial discrimination and sexual harassment?"
His cocky smile was back, "Yes."
"You see, Mr. Connolly, the reality is that Ms. Rae is now highly likely to suffer from homophobic discrimination. It will most certainly come from students. She will be walking in the school grounds and words will be shouted at her making reference to her sexuality. The words will be negative and hurtful. Added to this, there will be members on your staff who are homophobic and this in turn will affect the way they relate to Ms. Rae. I am strongly recommending that you legislate for this."
Mr. Connolly again looked flustered. "I'm sure the majority of Ms. Rae's colleagues will offer their support," he protested.
"I don't doubt that. Ms. Rae is an extremely popular member of staff with both her colleagues and students. However, she will
now encounter homophobia."
The headmaster looked to his assistant head, Maggie McLure. If he was looking for support, it wasn't forthcoming. Maggie simply remained passive, leaving him to deal with the decision he had to make. "We'll look into putting a new code of conduct in place."
Alison nodded, "That would be prudent, otherwise you could be leaving yourself and the school wide open to a financial loss at any future tribunal that may arise as a direct result of this matter."
That statement from Alison seemed to jolt Mr. Connolly into action. "We will look into it as a matter of urgency."
"Wonderful. Now we have to look at the issue of space. The female changing rooms in the PE block have now become an issue in a way they would not have been before. As you can see from the details I have provided you with, Ms. Rae never enters the female changing area without giving prior warning to the students. She waits until they are dressed. If the need arises for her to enter the changing rooms, she warns the girls beforehand. As you can see this has happened on two occasions. Once when two fourteen-year-old girls started fighting in the changing room, and on another occasion when a student suffered an epileptic fit. Ms. Rae's conduct in regard to the female changing area has been exemplary and this will continue to be the case."
"I don't doubt it."
"Good, so when can she return to work?"
"I think Monday, if that is acceptable with Ms. Rae."
Alison turned to look at Gillian for affirmation and Gill nodded. "Monday it is."
With the proceedings concluded, Gill stood in the reception area in a daze. Alison had been amazing, tackling issues Gill would have simply accepted as a result of being outed. She couldn't thank the woman enough for her help.
"I was simply doing my job, Gillian, and that's what you were doing too. Now you can continue to do your job and hopefully, with the assistance of your head teachers, that path will once again run smoothly for you."
Gill smiled, "Thanks so much, Alison." She shook the older woman's hand again. "No disrespect, but I hope I don't have to see you again."
Alison laughed at the relieved younger woman. "Me too, Gillian."
Gill left the office area and made her way to the PE block. Classes were in and she knew she would be afforded a little privacy. She was hoping to catch the head of the PE department, her boss Dennis Carter. The place was empty and the staffroom was locked. Gill could hear the sounds of a class emanating from the main sports hall. The shrill blast of a whistle followed by the squeak of rubber-soled shoes on wood. Gill felt a thrill run through her at the prospect of returning on Monday, she simply loved the building. The noises and smells that it housed. It was her life. The classes were ending early to allow the students fifteen minutes to change and be ready for their next class. Gill didn't want to be suddenly surrounded by students, so she used her key to open the female staff changing room and went inside. Leaning back against the closed door, Gill felt herself sink to the floor with utter relief, delighted that her ordeal was over. She was there a short while, listening to everything that was going on outside. The pupils leaving the PE block and the bell going to indicate the official end of the lesson. Gill smiled, simply delighted to be feeling that sense of familiarity once again. Suddenly the door was being pushed open and Gillian quickly got to her feet to allow access to one of her colleagues, but she was instead confronted by an unfamiliar face.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't realise there was anyone in here." The English accent was distinctly Geordie.
"I'm Gillian Rae, PE teacher and you are?" Gill offered her hand to the blue eyed blonde, she could have been Annie Lennox' daughter.
The nervous looking young woman shook Gillian's hand. "Zoe Miller, PE student, I've been on placement here for two weeks. I finish at Christmas break."
Gill shook the hand offered. With everything that had happened, she had forgotten that the department was getting a PE student for six weeks. "Nice to meet you, Zoe, I'm one of the staff here. I'll be back on Monday, so I'll be seeing a lot more of you. Are you enjoying the experience?"
"Oh totally, it's great and because the department has been a member of staff down, I've been getting a lot of classes on my own." Zoe suddenly looked panicked, realising what she was saying.
Gill smiled, "Don't worry, me coming back won't change that. What year are you in?"
"My final year at Moray House, all going well, I qualify in June."
"I'm looking forward to working with you. I'll see you Monday."
Zoe Miller watched Gillian Rae walk from the changing room, not taking her eyes off her until she turned towards the staffroom.
Gillian turned up to training on Thursday evening with a spring in her step and a weight lifted from her shoulders. She warmed up and started her jog around the perimeter of the playing fields. It was very dark in the areas where the floodlights didn't reach and initially difficult to recognise the other players around her.
"Well, how did it go?"
"Very well, I start back at work on Monday."
"That's great news, Gill."
"Yeah, it is." They slowed down as they approached the plastic pitch and Gill looked over at the car park. Emma and Hilary were standing next to the doctor's car, chatting and laughing. Gill stopped jogging and stretched her warming muscles some more. The last thing she wanted was an injury that could be avoided.
"Those two look cosy," Sheila remarked as she stretched her quadriceps.
Gillian continued to watch as Hilary and Emma walked towards them. Gill ignored Sheila's remark, "You want to hit together?"
If Sheila was surprised by the sudden change in conversation she didn't show it, simply nodding and following Gill onto the Astroturf pitch.
Word soon spread that Gillian was starting back at work on Monday and many people offered their best wishes and congratulations. Emma had given Gillian a warm hug, genuinely delighted for her friend.
"You must be so relieved, Gillian."
"I am, thanks, Emma."
Emma looked at her with genuine affection, "You should never have been put through all that in the first place, but justice has prevailed."
Gill nodded. "I can't wait to get back to work."
Hilary joined the pair as training was ending and the players were making their way from the pitch, most chatting about the weekend game and the arrangements. "Will you be needing a lift, Emma?" Gill asked, she had been giving Emma a lift to every game, but wanted to be sure that it was still required.
Emma glanced briefly towards Hilary before answering. "Yes, that would be great, Gill. Thanks." She looked to both women, "I better get going, it's supposed to rain, so I want to get home before it starts."
They watched as Emma jogged over to the parking lot and unchained her bike.
"Are you seeing Emma?"
Hilary initially looked surprised by Gill's question, but quickly regained her composure."Yes, we're dating." She frowned, "How did you know?"
Gill shrugged, "Just little things."
"We are trying to keep it quiet."
"It won't be for long, Sheila remarked that the two of you looked cosy earlier."
"It is difficult to keep a secret around here."
"Isn't that the truth." Gill paused, "Listen, if you want to give Emma a lift on Saturday, it's fine by me."
No, it's okay, you keep your arrangement."
"Are you sure? It's just that, if you're going to be with her anyway, you may as well give her a lift."
"I won't be, we haven't. You know. Not yet."
"I see, well, if the situation changes, just say." Gill refused to think about the pang she had felt in the pit of her stomach when Hilary confirmed her suspicions.
"Will do, see you Saturday, Gill."
"Thanks for helping out again, I really appreciate it," Gill remarked to Emma on a bitterly cold December morning.
"No problem, Gillian. I enjoy umpiring for the kids. It's good to see the raw enthusiasm they have for the game."
Gill laughed, "I know what you mean, I just wish I could get them to stop blindly chasing the ball. It's difficult to get them to stick to their positions."
"Even so, they are a good little bunch of players, I haven't seen them lose yet."
They both listened as the sounds of the fourth year team came spilling out of the changing room. The girls were singing and laughing, it was like a scene from St. Trinians. Gill shook her head. "It really does make it worthwhile putting in the hours after school and the early start on a Saturday morning."
"I hope they have all remembered their sweatshirts, it's a cold one."
Gill glanced out at the worsening weather conditions, the wind was picking up. These were the sort of days that had adults think back on school hockey as a game that you were always cold in and frequently got your shins rapped. "I'll put them through a good warm-up, get the blood flowing before they get on the pitch." Gill rubbed her own hands together at the thought of venturing outside. "I think we're going to suffer more than they are." Gill banged the changing room doors. "Come on, you lot, let's get started." She added, "Make sure you are wrapped up warm."
After an extensive warm-up Gill called the players together for a quick chat. "Okay, girls, you know they are a skilled bunch. They gave us our toughest test last year."
"They are dirty, Miss!"
"Don't worry, I'll make sure they don't get away with any nasty stuff."
"Their teacher calls the fouls wrong as well. Last year she was a right bitch."
"Language," Gill cautioned.
"Forget all that, you are the better team, go out and show them that. Now have a team huddle and give up a big shout."
The girls did as Gill instructed and soon the match got underway. As expected there were a few meaty challenges and the clashing of sticks resounded and echoed in the trees surrounding the pitch. Gillian umpired the first half and she did it in such a way that the game flowed without descending into chaos. Too many stops and starts and the girls lost interest, but letting too many fouls go made them more aggressive. It was a balance Gill had learned to achieve over the last three years. It was scoreless at half time.
"Miss, they are cheating!"
"I know it's a tough game, but you are doing great."
"That teacher, Miss, she is as bad as them."
Gill looked over at the older woman, she knew her from being a schoolgirl and playing hockey against her teams. She used to say the exact same thing as her girls were now. "Try and stay focussed, you can win this game."
Gill got the girls ready for the second half with a few words of wisdom and they were underway again. Castlerock had come close on a couple of occasions, but the match remained goalless. With five minutes to go the opposition were awarded a corner by their teacher. Gillian stood at the half way line where five of her team waited for the penalty corner to be taken, shouting words of encouragement to their defensive teammates. Gill watched as the opposition teacher ordered the corner retaken once, then a second time, as the defenders were breaking too early. Gill couldn't believe what she was seeing. The woman was actually about to try and cheat them out of the game. After a warning to the defence, the corner was taken for the third time and teacher immediately blew her whistle and awarded a penalty flick, claiming that Castlerock had broken the back line early for the third successive time.
Gill found herself sprinting towards the woman, unable to idly stand by and watch the spectacle being played out before her. It was one thing for her girls to be beaten fairly, but to be cheated out of the game by a biased teacher was totally unacceptable to her. "Can I have a word with you?"
The tall slim woman with the short dark curly hair looked at Gill dismissively. "After the game."
"No. Right now."
"Make it quick."
"You are cheating."
"I think you will find that the rules state that, if the defenders break the back line too early, I am perfectly within my rights to award a penalty stroke after the third infringement."
"I agree with the rules, the problem is, they only broke the back line once."
"You may not remember me, but I played against your school team several years ago and you pulled the exact same stunt. Is this really how you want your girls to win a game of hockey?"
"I have awarded a penalty stroke and that's what will be taken."
"Then I shall instruct my girls to leave the field." The hushed words were becoming heated.
"You can't do that!"
"I won't have them cheated."
The woman sneered, "Is that what you will do if a decision goes against you when you play for Great Britain?"
Gill hesitated for a moment, should she let this happen? The girls would learn a valuable lesson. "Are you going to change your mind and award a penalty corner instead of a flick?"
"No. It's a flick."
Gill nodded, her girls could learn a valuable lesson about cheats today, but that would mean they would also feel like she had let them down and there was no way Gillian was about to do that. She gave three long blasts on her whistle and everyone looked at her. "Games over girls, that's time." She knew she had done the right thing. It was a so called friendly, nothing was a stake.
Gill walked back towards the changing rooms with Emma and they watched as the girls complained about the game and joked with each other. Some of the girls were already waiting at the door as Gill walked up.
"I wonder if Emma is Miss Rae's girlfriend?" This question was followed by a few giggles, as the girls were unaware of Gill's presence.
"No, Miss Hughes is not my girlfriend."
There were few screams. "Oh my God, Miss, you scared me to death."
Gill opened the main door to the PE block. "Miss Hughes is someone who has been kind enough, on occasion, to give up her free time on a cold Saturday morning when we have needed an extra umpire to cover our games. Please refrain from gossiping about her."
"She is nice looking though, Miss." There were quite a few nodded agreements to this statement.
Gill rolled her eyes, "Get showered and changed, you lot and stop gossiping."
"I was just saying, Miss. You're single, is she?"
Gill sighed, "Correct me if I'm wrong, Michelle, wasn't it just last week that you were trying to set me up with your auntie?"
"She thinks you're hot, Miss."
Oh, dear God. Gill shook her head, hoping that this fascination with her love life would blow over soon. "I'll be knocking on the door in fifteen minutes so hurry up, I have a game this afternoon."
Twenty minutes later Gill and Emma watched on with amusement as the girls filtered out of the changing rooms, complaining about the various lumps and bumps they had acquired that morning.
"See you on Monday, girls."
"Bye, Miss, have a good game. Bye, Miss Hughes. Thanks for helping out."
Those comments were echoed by most of the third and fourth year girls as they bustled out into the cold December morning, they were a noisy bunch.
Gill looked to Emma smiling and shaking her head. "Are you hungry?"
"I'll pop the kettle on and I have some pastries. We have an hour before we need to be at the Maybury, so we can relax for a few minutes."
Emma took a seat in the staff room as Gillian prepared the cups for tea. "Have you had any news about the international hockey?"
Gill nodded as she dunked the teabags into the hot water. "I meet up with the GB squad the second weekend in January."
"Are you nervous?"
"A little, but I won't admit that to anyone else. I haven't even played a full international for Scotland and here I am jumping straight in at the deep end with the best players in Britain."
"From what I've seen, you are one of the best in Britain." Emma reassured her friend.
"I'm not placating you, Gillian, you deserve the call up."
Gill nodded, "It's going to be a little daunting, no matter what."
"Still no word from the Scottish selectors?"
"Not a thing. I actually think they are trying everything to prevent my GB call up."
Gill finished chewing her mouthful of croissant and took a sip of tea before answering. "In the last three seasons I have had not one drugs test. Since the newspaper article I've had two. They claim the tests are random, but I don't think that's a coincidence."
Emma was thoughtful, "I don't think so either, but what if there was another reason?"
Gill frowned, "Like what?"
"Perhaps the Scottish selectors want to be absolutely sure before picking you."
"I love your optimistic outlook, you are definitely a glass half full kind of girl. Hilary is lucky to have you." Gill hadn't been expecting those additional words to come out of her mouth, but they had and now they were out in the open. The two women stared at each other, both seemingly unsure of how to continue.
Emma nodded thoughtfully as she blew on her hot tea. "Thanks."
Gill cleared her throat. "I know we have been doing a lot together, but if you need to free up some time, it's fine with me."
"Don't you dare, Gillian."
Gill frowned, "What did I do?"
"Do you think that because I am dating, I am going to stop being your friend?"
Gill was tongue tied, taken aback by the anger in the normally placid Emma's voice. "I'm sorry, I know that's not the type of person you are."
"Do you want to stop being friends?"
"What? No! No, I don't. I'm sorry, I was being silly."
"I tell you this, Gillian Rae, we're friends. I enjoy our friendship and if you think that I would drop you as a friend because I met someone, then you don't know me at all."
Gillian all but pouted at being told off by Emma. The pair were quiet for a few moments, both reflecting on the conversation, before Gillian finally spoke. "I think, in these few short months, I've gotten to know you pretty well. I value our friendship and my life is certainly richer with you in it."
Emma was stunned by Gillian's heartfelt words. "My goodness, for someone who has a reputation for being a shallow joker, you can be quite profound. There is a lot more depth to you that you keep hidden from others. You, my friend, are well worth getting to know."
Gillian was embarrassed by the praise Emma bestowed upon her and mumbled a thanks as she took another sip of tea.
"The pupils think you're fantastic you know. They were singing your praises after the game today."
"There was no way I was gong to stand idly by and watch them being cheated."
"The teacher I was umpiring with said it was about time someone called her on the cheating."
"Emma, the game was practically over, it was an easy decision to end it there."
Emma shook her head at Gillian who was always reluctant to accept a compliment or praise. She seemed more comfortable when she was being criticised. She was a modest woman.
"We better get going. It's the last game before Christmas and no doubt I will have to pee in a cup again at the end of it," Gill joked.
"Look on the bright side. You always need the loo at the end of a game anyway."
"Every cloud has a silver lining."
The pair laughed as they headed out to Gillian's car.
Gill let herself relax as she felt the water cascade over her. The pupils had left for the Christmas holidays and there would be no school for three weeks. Gill had slept a little late that morning and decided to postpone washing her hair until after classes had finished. She was looking forward to the staff party. Grabbing a disposable razor from the packet on the shelf in the staffroom shower, Gill shaved under her arms. As she rinsed off she heard the door open and assumed Zoe, the PE student, had come into the changing room. "If you need the shower, I'll only be a minute," Gill called out.
"No rush, Gillian," came the reply from Zoe, her Geordie accent thick and instantly recognisable.
Gill smiled, she was going to miss the younger woman; they had got along great in the last four weeks. Gillian knew Zoe was going to make a terrific teacher after she qualified in June. She was already more than capable of handling all aspects of the lesson, including the difficult kids who often made a teacher's life miserable. Suddenly Gill felt a whoosh of cold air upon her body as the shower curtain was moved aside. She blinked her eyes open to see Zoe standing before her, naked.
"May I join you?"
Gill smiled, "You do know that it would be thought very wrong for me to be intimate with a placement student?"
Zoe nodded, "That's why I waited until after the bell. I officially ceased to be your teaching student over ten minutes ago." The Geordie grinned at Gill.
"I could also point out that it would be frowned upon for two teachers to be found having sex together on school property."
"And yet it goes on all the time," Zoe replied, as she took a bold step and entered Gill's personal space. They were almost touching, both standing fully naked in the shower. Gill took the final step and kissed Zoe, pulling the younger woman towards her beneath the hot spray. Gill thrust her hands into Zoe's short blonde hair, she couldn't deny her attraction to the younger woman, but now she could finally act upon it. They had been flirting privately for weeks, building to this.
Zoe moaned as Gill captured her ear between her teeth and sucked on her lobe. "I've been wanting you since that morning I first saw you in this very changing room." Zoe husked. "You looked sexy as hell in your trouser suit. I watched you walk away until you turned the corner. Oh."
Gill captured Zoe's nipple with her mouth and sucked on it, causing her to stop talking. The nipple instantly hardened in her mouth. Gill held both breasts in her hands, moving her mouth from one nipple to the other, spurred on by the sounds Zoe was making. Feeling the trainee teacher's legs tremble, Gill knew that she was really close to coming. She thrust her hand between Zoe's legs and that was all the student needed to tip her over the edge. Gill held her close, making sure she didn't slip to the floor of the shower cubicle.
"God, that's what four weeks of foreplay does to me." Zoe laughed lazily as she waited for her body to recover from the orgasm. Then before Gill had time to register what was happening, Zoe reversed the situation and pushed the teacher against the wall. Kneeling between Gill's parted legs Zoe buried her face in the patch of short trimmed brown hair and easily found the already engorged clitoris.
Gill groaned as she grabbed the back of Zoe's head and pushed her hips forward to meet the young woman's tongue. Gill reached blindly behind her with her free hand, searching for the shower unit to help her stay upright.
Her arm straining, fist clenched around the pole of the shower, Gill felt her legs tremble with the oncoming orgasm and the effort it took to remain upright. Then she was coming, hard, her hips jerking as Zoe continued to lave her clitoris with her tongue. Finally, Gill sank slowly to the floor, spent from her exertions. Breathing heavily she looked at the shorthaired blonde. "This is a great shower." She held her hand out for Zoe to assist her back to her feet. "This isn't over, but for now we better rinse off and join the rest of the staff before we are missed." Gill kissed Zoe again, then left the shower to dry off and get changed.
Gillian stood in her underwear drying her hair, while trying to wrestle Zoe off her. "Stop it, we have only got five minutes." Gill watched in the mirror as Zoe towel dried her hair before applying gel to it. "I wish my hair was done that quickly. I like the style you have." Gill sprayed a heat protective formula on her locks, before straightening her hair.
"Have you considered having your hair shorter?"
"Many times and looking at how quickly you styled yours, I'm once again tempted."
Zoe smiled, "I really like your hair though, even when it's not straightened it's soft and shiny looking. It's a really good cut you have, it works well when you simply blow dry it with your fingers and it has that ruffled look to it."
"Maybe we missed our calling, we should have gone into hairdressing."
"Somehow I don't see it." Zoe laughed.
Gill pulled on a pair of dark bootcut jeans and a fitted light denim shirt. She eased her feet into a pair of tan boots and then put on her Navy reefer jacket, a winter favourite. She turned to look at Zoe, who was dressed in a very alluring way. Tight skinny jeans, with black calf length boots over them and a tight fitting red t-shirt that showed off her breasts perfectly. She completed the outfit by putting on a short leather bomber jacket and tied a thin scarf around her neck. "Come on, you can put your kitbag in the boot of my car, I'll give you a lift later."
"I can't wait until later." Zoe patted Gill's ass as she said it.
Zoe looked so good that Gill was tempted to skip the afternoon's festivities. "I have to show face at this end of term Christmas party. They usually head into town afterwards and hit a few bars on George street, the place will be full of teachers from all over the city." Gill explained as she shouldered her kitbag.
Five minutes later they were standing in the main staffroom, which was packed full of Castlerock teachers, eating Christmas mince pies and helping themselves to various foods and drink. Gillian saw the headmaster walking her way and plastered a smile on her face for him.
"Gillian. How are you?"
"I'm well, headmaster and you?"
"Excellent, Gillian, and as I keep telling you, in this setting, you can call me Bart."
Gill nodded, she had been trying to think of more and more ingenious ways to try and avoid using the man's first name, but she was finally running out of ideas. "Bart, this is Zoe Miller, a fourth year PE student from Moray House who has been on placement with us for the last six weeks."
Bartholomew Connolly held out his hand, "Lovely to meet you, dear." He turned again to Gill, "How wonderful of you to invite Zoe along to our Christmas do."
Gillian noticed Maggie McLure throwing daggers her way from behind the headmaster's back, but she refused to acknowledge her. "Well, Bart, Zoe has been a fantastic student and you never know, if we ever need a new staff member, an application from Zoe would be a bonus for Castlerock, she's going to make a great teacher."
The headmaster looked at Gillian like a proud father, "I like your thinking. Networking is key. I hear you will be off training with the Great Britain hockey squad before the start of next term?"
"That's right, Sir, ah, Bart. I'm very much looking forward to the experience." Gill replied to the man who had been acting like a father to her ever since Alison Bertram had spoken to him at the hearing.
"We're all very proud, Gillian. Have a lovely Christmas holiday."
"You too, Sir."
The man nodded and moved on to another member of staff. Gillian turned to look at Zoe and shrugged. "This is how he's been ever since I was reinstated."
Zoe nodded, "Thanks for the kind words."
"They were the truth, Zoe, you are going to make a great teacher." Gillian excused herself and headed for the toilet. On the way there she passed Maggie McLure, the assistant head.
"Ouch!" She felt a sharp kick in the shin and turned to look at the culprit. "What the hell was that for?"
"You might be able to pull the wool over the head's eyes, but I know you are screwing the student!" Maggie whispered harshly. "He has just been over here telling me how fabulous you are and always thinking about the school."
"I am thinking about the school, Zoe is going to make a great teacher," Gill hissed through her pain.
"And you still haven't sorted out the problem with Hannah Myles, she is giving you those puppy dog eyes from across the room again."
"What more can I do? I show no interest in her. I talk to her politely when we pass in the corridor, I don't know what else to do. One night, Maggie, that's all it was."
"Well you obviously awoke something in her, she's left her fiancÚ."
"In that case, I've done them both a favour. If she's a lesbian it's better she found that out before she married the guy."
Maggie shook her head. "Unbelievable."
Gillian smiled that cute little smile. "You know it's true."
"Don't you dare make me laugh. You were trouble when I met you thirteen years ago and you're trouble now."
"I'll hook Hannah up with someone, a blind date, and the student ceased to be our student as of twelve thirty today. I was, until that time, completely professional."
Maggie laughed, "God, Gillian you'll have me going prematurely grey with your antics."
"I'll pay for your next hair appointment."
"I'll hold you to that." Maggie cautioned.
"And stop assaulting me, you will make your dodgy knee worse and I will have to tell Bart
that you were the cause of me missing GB training."
Maggie's eyes went wide. "Bart? I don't even get to call him Bart. Unbelievable!"
"Merry Christmas, Maggie."
The pair of them laughed, "Have a great holiday, Gillian."
Two hours later found Gillian and Zoe standing amongst thirty other members of staff in a large bar on George Street. As Gill looked around the room, which was previously a bank, she noticed staff from other schools there as well. The place was full of teachers with a smattering of office workers. Gill looked around at the Christmas decorations, then spotted a face staring at her from across the room. Valerie Smith, her nemesis. If looks could kill, Gillian would be a goner. Gill smiled and raised her glass in the woman's direction. It was Christmas, the season of goodwill, after all.
"Not a fan I take it?"
Gill turned to look at Zoe who had a glint in her eye. "That woman hates me."
"I can tell."
"We play hockey at the same club, I was the driving force behind her being dropped to the seconds."
"Obviously, she isn't taking it well."
"Would you believe that even if she was still in the first team, she would be giving me the exact same look?"
Gill laughed. "I wasn't being malicious, it was the right decision. I guess it's something that will come to us all. When it's my turn I just hope I make the decision before it is made for me."
"You think you will officially retire rather than fade out?"
Gill pursed her lips. "I hope to bow out gracefully."
"I'm sure you will."
Gill slowly ran her eyes over Zoe's body, then up to meet her eyes. "You want to get out of here?"
"I thought you would never ask."
Gillian arrived at Musselburgh racecourse for the second day of events. She had run in the heats of the New Year sprint twenty-four hours earlier and made the semi-finals. The open event operated a handicap system and Gill knew that if she could qualify from her semi-final, while still keeping a little something in reserve, she would have a chance in the final.
"How are you feeling, Gill?"
"Not bad, but I have to get my strategy right if I'm to qualify."
Justine agreed, "It will be tricky, especially with athletes starting behind you."
"If I finish too quickly, I won't win. I need to qualify, but hold a little something back."
Justine nodded, knowing that if Gill qualified too quickly then, under the handicap system, she would lose valuable metres in the final to her opponents. "You nervous?"
"No, not really, but if I make the final, it will be a different story." Gill continued to gently stretch her muscles as she chatted with Justine, little Charlotte copying her movements. Gill pretended to lean on the child's shoulder for balance as she stretched her quadriceps. Charlotte mimicked Gill's movement, taking her job as warm-up partner very seriously, with Justine holding her daughter's hand for added balance.
"There are a few familiar faces upstairs."
"Emma and Hilary. Laura and her boyfriend are here too. Maggie McLure and her husband. A few others I recognise, but I'm not sure of their names."
"It's nice to have support."
"They are all saying they're only here to see you have to buy a drink when you win."
Gill laughed, it was typical of her friends. She sat on the floor and continued to stretch.
"Are Emma and Hilary together?"
Gill remained indifferent as she replied, "Yeah, they are."
"You never mentioned it."
Gill shrugged, "Nothing to say. I'm sure they will be happy together."
Justine shook her head, not wanting to push the issue. "Fifteen minutes until you go out onto the race course."
"Thanks, Justine." Gill increased the intensity of her warm up as Justine and Charlotte looked on.
When it was time, Justine imparted some words of wisdom. "Remember, your best chance of winning the main event is if you can keep something in reserve."
"What do you want to say to Gillian, Charlotte?"
"Good luck, Gilly!"
They waved to Gill, then headed up into the stands to watch the semi-final from there.
A short while later Gillian trudged upstairs to meet with her friends, who were gathered in one of the main bars. She rolled her eyes as a few eyebrows were raised her way. "I know, don't say it."
"You almost blew it, Gillian," Laura complained. "What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking
, oh no, I can't finish first, so I slowed up as I approached the line. That's when three runners flew past me and I almost ended up out of the final."
"It was perfect, Gillian." Justine defended.
"It was lucky." Gillian stated shaking her head.
"You're in the final and you have a fifteen metre start. That sounds good to me," Emma added, offering her encouragement.
Gill nodded, deep in thought. She had a chance, but she was starting from lane one. She would be the athlete closest to the crowd. It could have gone a lot worse and although there was an element of luck involved, she had to be happy with the outcome.
"Gill, it's 110 metres, but you are only going to be running 95 metres. What's your current time for a 100 metres?" Hilary asked.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I was hand timed at twelve and a half seconds." She looked to Justine, "When was that?"
"When we were fourteen."
Hilary was incredulous. "You have no idea how quickly you can run a hundred metres since high school!"
"I just know I'm quite quick."
There was laughter all around at Hilary's disbelief.
"That's the Gillian we all know and love." Maggie said fondly. "I hasten to add, it was Justine who timed her and if you saw some of the other times she had down for other students, I wouldn't put too much faith in the accuracy of it."
"Yeah, another girl ran under eleven seconds and she finished after me." This caused Justine and Gillian to fall into a fit of giggles.
"Wait how did? Oh, I don't even want to know." Hilary gave up on trying to work out what had gone wrong and how Justine could time two people in the same race. "You two are crazy when you get together."
"I had six years of this." There were looks of mock sympathy thrown Maggie's way, but everyone knew the older woman was proud of her two former pupils.
A tall, shorthaired blonde walked hesitantly towards them and waited until she had Gill's attention. She gave a wave and walked over to her. This interaction was watched by a few interested parties. "Zoe! What brings you here?"
The PE student smiled, delighted she had received a positive reception from Gillian. "I was home in Newcastle for Christmas, but by today I was bored. I remembered you talking about the New Year sprint, so I thought I would drive back today and come along to cheer you on."
"It's great to see you." Gill smiled, she had been watching Hilary and Emma together for the last two hours and Zoe would make a welcome distraction. Gill gave the younger woman a quick hug. "You're just in time, unfortunately I have to rush off, but these are my friends." Gill gestured to the people around her. "Justine, would you do the honours?"
"Like you would be any good at introductions anyway." Justine joked.
Everyone was in high spirits, enjoying the holiday and the chance to have a day out with friends, but Gillian had a job to do and it was soon time for her to start preparing for the main event. She left to go downstairs with the well wishes of everyone ringing in her ears.
Hilary shouted to her just as she was about to go out of earshot. "Gillian! No pressure, but I have one hundred pounds on you to win."
Gill sat on the bench in front of her locker. The smell of Deep Heat and Ralgex assaulted her nasal passages as some athletes liberally coated their muscles with the creams and sprays. She took her time, slowly removing her training shoes and replacing them with a pair of running spikes. They were racing on grass, but the spikes remained the best choice of footwear. She waited to be called.
Up in the stands Gill's friends waited on her to appear. The air had chilled noticeably since the semi-final heats and everyone was doing their best to keep warm. They watched as Gill walked out with the other seven sprinters, all men. As she took her place at the back of lane one, the sprinters were asked to start getting ready. Gill was wearing layers of clothing and as she removed her tracksuit, it became apparent that she was keeping on her running tights and the tight long sleeved insulated top she wore under her vest.
"Do you think the extra layer will hamper Gill's chances?" Maggie asked Justine.
"No, if anything I think it's a smart move. They are all stripped and ready to go, but they all have to wait to be introduced. It's much colder now than it was earlier."
There were various patrons around them who were discussing the upcoming sprint and referring to Gill like some prize filly about to run the Derby. This caused laughter amongst her friends.
"Do you know the female sprinter?"
Justine turned to look at a middle-aged man in a tweed suit covered by a Barbour jacket. He had a deerstalker hat on his head.
"Yes, I know Gillian very well."
"Then perhaps I might glean some first hand information from you?"
"My friends say she can't win, but I have a gut feeling about her."
"Go with your gut."
"You're not letting your heart rule your head?" He questioned.
"Gillian has been training hard for this, she is also a smart woman, hasn't ran flat out yet. She has more to give for the final."
"If I told you that you have convinced me to put five thousand pounds on your friend to win, would that change your mind?"
"It certainly is a lot of money, but I believe Gillian has an excellent chance. Also, you don't look like a fool to me, I suspect you can afford to lose the five thousand, but you're not wanting to throw it away."
"I see your friend isn't the only smart woman around here."
Justine smiled. "I've known Gillian since she was twelve years old. She is very focussed on winning this event."
"Then that's good enough for me. Thank you for your expertise."
Justine watched as the man made his way to the betting area to place his bet. With Gillian's odds at 8-1, he stood to make a handsome profit if she won. The racecourse tannoy burst to life announcing the start of the main event, and the announcer began introducing the athletes who would contest this year's final.
"In lane number one, starting with a handicap of fifteen metres, we have Gillian Rae from Edinburgh." There was a good cheer went up, Gill was a local girl and the only female, but by far the loudest cheer came from the area where her friends were. They shouted their support loudly.
Gill walked forward and waved to the crowd as she was introduced. She kept her legs moving as she waited for the rest of the field to go through the same process until, finally, the athletes were called to their starting positions. Gill's odds had her seeded to finish fifth, but her heart was set on first place. That very heart was now pounding as she stepped up to her mark. She steadied herself and began to focus on controlling her breathing. Closing her eyes, Gill attempted to block out all external stimuli in an effort to relax a little. With a final deep exhale, she opened her eyes and looked straight down the course, focussing on the distance to the finishing line. Gill was now in the zone, like some switch had been flicked, the noise around her started to fade as her concentration narrowed and intensified.
The starter called for the athletes to take their marks and Gill got into position. Then they were set. There was a pause and the starting gun fired. They were off. Gill had no interest in any other athlete on the course. This was about running flat out to the line in under twelve seconds.
From the stands, Emma watched as Gill got a good start, but it wasn't a flyer. At half way she was in third place, closing in on the two athletes in front of her, but four of the athletes who started behind Gill were rapidly closing her down. Everyone was shouting and cheering on their favourite and Emma hoped that Gill could do it. She was moving past the runners in front, her form was good and she looked relaxed, but the favourite was coming through the field like a train.
With twenty yards to go Gill was in front and the finish was in sight. Her eyes were wide open, her legs and arms pumping. She felt powerful and she knew she was close.
Everyone in her party was screaming for Gill.
As Gill crossed the line, so did the favourite, a professional sprinter from Glasgow, closely followed by the rest of the field. Gill looked around wondering what had happened, she had seen him pass her, but had no idea if it was before the line or after, but he looked confident with his arms in the air.
Gill started shaking hands with the other runners, all of them breathing heavily from their exertions. "Well run."
"Hell of a close finish."
Gill lifted her head to look at the professional athlete. "Did you win?"
He nodded, "I think I just pipped you."
They shook hands and he walked off. Gill hung her head as she leaned on the white rail that surrounded the racecourse. She was full of disappointment having come so close.
The stands were abuzz with speculation about the outcome. No one was certain who the winner was. Hilary turned to Emma, "Damn, I think she lost."
Emma wasn't so sure, "I don't know, the guy was finishing faster, so it might be that he looked like he won, but maybe the race ended a stride too quickly for him."
The announcement came that it was a photo finish and everyone had to wait for the result. Less than a minute later it was finally announced ... Gillian had won!! The photograph displayed on the large screens confirming that it was her chest that had broken the tape first.
Laura was first to react, "Gill's tits have just won the New Year sprint."
"A fine pair they are," added Justine and everyone saw the humour of it.
After the result was confirmed everything was a blur for Gill. She was led over to the waiting press and television interviewers, for photographs and a few words about the race. As the finish was replayed to her she was asked to comment on what she thought. Even with the cameras on her she spotted what she knew all her friends would, her breasts broke the tape first. She would never live this down. After the interviews and photographs, Gill was led to the podium for the ceremony where she was presented with a tall, intricately carved, glass trophy and a check for four thousand pounds. She was the first female winner of the race since its inception in 1870.
Gill showered and then joined her friends back in the warmth of the bar. Justine greeted her first. "Gill, have you heard? There's going to be a steward's enquiry."
"Yeah, someone has complained that you had an unfair advantage because your bra was padded."
There were howls of laughter all around the place and Gill joined them, in between accepting the congratulations of many people in the place. Shortly after her arrival a waiter appeared with a magnum of champagne. "Courtesy of the gentleman at the bar. He said to inform you, he will keep them coming your way all night for you and your friends to enjoy." Gill raised her eyebrows, genuinely taken aback by the man's generosity. The waiter added, "He said your friend talked him into placing five thousand pounds on you to win."
"Wow." Gill looked across to the bar as the waiter began to pour champagne into glasses. Taking the first glass, Gill saluted her benefactor, who raised his glass and smiled.
"Gilly! You were really good."
Gill stooped and picked Charlotte up. "Thanks, Charlotte, where would you like to go for the Easter holidays, my treat?"
"I can choose?" Charlotte's eyes lit up.
Gill nodded, "Anywhere you like."
Charlotte raised a little finger to her lips as she gave the question some serious thought. "I want to go to Disneyland."
Justine's eyes went wide and Maggie McLure stifled a laugh behind her hand.
"We can go to Disneyland Paris," Gill deftly avoided Florida, knowing it would cost even more than the money she just won.
"Can Emma come too?" Charlotte asked innocently.
"Ah, I think Emma has to go home for Easter." Gill looked over to the Irishwoman who was smiling at Charlotte. Hilary on the other hand didn't look overly impressed.
Gill kissed Charlotte on the cheek, "We're going to Eurodisney," she said enthusiastically.
Charlotte giggled as Gill spun her around in her arms, then started squealing. "Stop, Gilly. Stop!"
Gill put Charlotte down and was aware of Justine staring at her. "What?" she mouthed quietly.
Justine said into her ear, "Are you out of your mind?"
"No, I'm treating us all to a holiday."
"Gill, that will be all your winnings." Justine protested.
Gillian shrugged, "I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend them, than on a holiday with you and Charlotte. Besides, if things keep going the way they are with Kenny, I might not get many more opportunities."
"No, Gill, that won't happen. We will always be your family."
Gill smiled, "Please let me do this?" Gill watched as Justine struggled to answer. So she asked again. "Please, Justine, it's what I really want."
Justine hugged her and kissed her cheek and Gill knew she had a yes.
With everyone holding a glass of champagne, they raised a toast to Gill's breasts and the evening's celebrations got underway.
"What a night that was," Gill declared as she sat on her small sofa with Zoe sitting next to her. She looked across at the large sofa, which currently had Emma and Hilary asleep on it, one at each end. The sitting room table was littered with pizza boxes, the reason Hilary and Emma had yet to make it home. The pair had shared a taxi with Gill and Zoe, but decided they wanted to get pizza from the place outside Gill's flat. That ended up with them joining Gill and Zoe and now they had fallen asleep.
"Look at the pair of them, they're shattered. They work hard at the hospital and don't get as many holidays as we do."
"I think the champagne has a lot to do with their current state," Zoe added.
Gill laughed softly, "I've never seen either of them so drunk." She turned to look at Zoe, "You could stay tonight, I'm not looking for a relationship, Zoe, but we could have some fun."
"No strings attached, I'm up for that." She looked over to their guests, "Shall we wake them?"
Gill debated what she should do. "They look so peaceful, let's just cover them with a blanket." Gill stood up and removed a blanket that was draped over the back of the sofa and covered the sleeping pair. She turned and held her hand out to Zoe, "Shall we?"
Emma woke up with a headache. Opening one eye, she knew she was in Gill's sitting room, with Hilary asleep beside her. She was aware of a rhythmic banging sound and briefly thought it was her head before realising the noise was coming from Gill's bedroom. Emma leaned her head back against the arm of the sofa as she heard Zoe screaming Gillian's name.
Meanwhile Zoe lay exhausted in the tangled bed sheets. She turned her head to look at Gill only to notice her bed partner seemed a little preoccupied.
"I don't care whose benefit that was for, it was bloody fantastic."
The protest died on Gill's lips as she looked at Zoe. "I'm sorry."
"No need for sorry, Gill. I know this isn't going anywhere but I'm happy to come along for the ride, so to speak."
Gill smiled, "Want to go again?"
Zoe laughed, "Give me another few minutes then we can start again."
"You want something to drink?"
"Any kind of juice would be great."
Gill padded naked to the kitchen and removed a carton of fresh orange juice from the fridge. Grabbing two glasses from a shelf above, Gill turned to find Emma staring straight at her through the open sitting room door. The pair were motionless for a few moments, Gill standing rooted to the spot, orange juice and glasses in hand. Finally, Gill simply nodded her head before returning to the bedroom, her appetite for sex gone.