Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
Justine opened her front door to Gillian. “What brings you here on a Monday?”
“I missed Friday, so I've come to see my favourite girls.”
“Gilly!” Right on cue, Charlotte came running when she heard Gillian's voice.
Justine smiled, “I didn't tell her you were coming for dinner. I left it as a surprise.”
Gill picked Charlotte up and gave her a hug. “Did you miss me?”
“I got you a present.”
“You had time to shop?” Justine asked, clearly surprised.
Gill rolled her eyes, “At the airport, yes.” Gill walked to the kitchen with Charlie in her arms, then deposited the little girl on her seat at the kitchen table. Gill put the gift bag in front of her and Charlotte hastily opened it.
“It's a dolly!” came the exited response to seeing her gift. A Scottish doll in highland dress.
“She sings too.” Gill demonstrated by pressing a little button on the doll's wrist and she burst into the opening verse and chorus of Auld Lang Syne .
Justine sent a look Gill's way that clearly said 'I'm going to kill you,' but Gill simply laughed and handed Justine her gift, a bottle of Eternity. “It's all they had,” Gill joked.
“It's still my favourite. Thank you.” Justine looked to Charlotte who was pressing the button on the doll's wrist for the fifth time. “ Charlotte can you stop pressing the dolly until after dinner? And say thank you to Gillian.”
Charlotte looked at Gillian. She had been engrossed in the doll, who moved as she sang, since Gillian had first pressed her wrist. “Thank you, Gilly.”
“You're welcome, Charlie.” She turned to Justine, “What's for dinner?”
“Hungry are you?”
“Starving, I've been eating healthily all weekend, creating a good impression.” Justine looked dubiously at her. “Honestly, no fizzy juice, no crisps or chocolate and no fast food whatsoever, only balanced meals.”
“We're having chicken Kiev with salad.” Justine paused, “And a special treat of chips, just for you.”
“Mmm, thank you.”
“And we have apple pie and ice-cream for dessert.”
“Isn't your mum the best, Charlotte ?”
The youngster nodded as she fixed her doll's kilt.
Gill looked hopefully at Justine, “Do you have fizzy juice?”
“No, fruit juice or water.”
Gill rolled her eyes as she poured water from the jug on the table into her glass. “At least I'm getting chips, I suppose it's something,” she grumbled, then winked at Charlotte . “How's nursery, you learn any new songs?”
Charlotte nodded, “Sizzling Sausages and Wheels On The Bus.”
“How do they go?”
Justine intervened before her daughter burst into song. “Maybe after dinner,” she said as she put Charlotte 's plate in front of her.
“After dinner it is.”
The room fell silent as the three females started eating dinner. Gill bit into the Kiev and it was heavenly. “Justine, did you make these?”
“You really are a terrific cook, and I don't know how you find the time. You work the same hours as I do and you train almost as often.”
“I've just learned to manage my time, Gill. Kids will do that to you.”
“I suppose, but I'm impressed.”
“Tell me about your weekend?”
“It was eye opening.”
“Tell me more?” Justine encouraged.
“Justine, I was surrounded by the best players in Britain , these women are used to competing on the world stage, it was a bit daunting. Also, because I don't play for Scotland , not only were the English players strangers to me, but I don't really know any of the Scots beyond playing against them in the league.”
“The more of these sessions you attend, all that will come, but tell me how it went?”
“Really well.” Gill smiled, “After the initial meeting up and being introduced to everyone, I simply got on with it and concentrated on the hockey, on the things I know I can do well, like striking a ball at a penalty corner. If there is one single skill that will get me a game for GB, that's it. Their current routine has a terrible average, it's approaching one goal in seven penalty corners. It should be one goal in three. That's the key for me, Justine, I know I can produce.” The passion in Gill's voice left no doubt that she was serious about this.
Justine's eyes lit up with excitement, “You're really going to do this, Gillian. You're going to play for Great Britain .”
“I really want to. I don't care if Scotland never pick me, this is a fantastic opportunity.”
“You hear that, Charlotte ? Gillian is going to play hockey at the Olympics.”
“Can I watch?”
Gill rubbed Charlotte 's mass of red curls, “Course you can.”
Once Charlotte was asleep in bed, after several renditions of Auld Lang Syne , Gill and Justine sat in the living room drinking coffee.
“How are things with Zoe?”
“We aren't together, we had a little fun.” Gill shrugged.
“Does Zoe know that?”
“Yeah, she does, she's a big girl, we got together a couple of times and had some great sex.”
Justine sipped her coffee. “What about Emma?”
Gill gave Justine a warning look. “Emma is with Hilary.”
“You like her, Gill and she likes you.”
“And so did Hilary, but now she is with Emma and I won't do anything to change that.” Gillian's tone had turned very serious.
“If they don't last, would you ask Emma out? Date her properly?”
“I can't answer that, she is with Hilary.” Gill refused to go down this road and Justine was pushing hard.
Not ready to let the matter drop yet, Justine continued, “Are you in love with Emma?”
The two friends stared at each other, they never had secrets, and Justine knew Gill wouldn't lie to her, but she also knew she was on thin ice.
“I don't know , Justine.” Gill was clearly frustrated by the topic. “I'm attracted to her, that much I'm sure of. I enjoy spending time with her and if I'm perfectly honest, I feel something when I see her with Hilary. Justine, I don't even know if I would be capable of having a relationship and Emma isn't a woman who will readily take a risk. The last thing I would want to do is hurt her. I care too much about her to do that.”
Justine gave Gillian a pleading look. “Promise me, if it doesn't work out with Hilary, you will give it a try.”
Gillian shook her head. “Please don't ask me to promise that, Justine.”
“Okay, fair enough, but will you at least give it serious consideration?”
Justine smiled sadly at Gillian, “Because when you look at her, your face lights up.”
“She might never want me, Justine.”
“I think she will.”
“How can you know that?” Gillian's tone was a little sharper than she intended.
“Because when she looks at you, she has the same look.”
“She's with Hilary,” Gill repeated, feeling her throat suddenly thick with emotion.
Justine nodded, “I know.”
Gillian let her head fall back against the sofa. “You're exhausting me woman.”
“That's because you don't deal with your emotions.”
“Yeah? Has Kenny proposed yet?”
Justine's answer was a scatter cushion aimed at Gillian's head and the pair laughed as Gill caught it.
It was a cold wet January evening that greeted the Dunedin players on their return to training after the Christmas break. Gillian pulled a black woolly hat on, making sure to cover her ears, before braving the elements. Outdoor training under floodlights was great, but in January with sleet driving into your face, you wouldn't blame anyone for sitting at home with their feet up sipping a cup of hot cocoa. Pulling on her waterproofs over her training gear, Gill paused and took a deep breath before opening the door and braving the elements.
After a thorough warm up, Gill felt good and more interested in the training until it came to working on the short corner routine.
“Can we keep this moving faster, I'm starting to cool down. We will be pulling muscles soon,” Jane Dodds complained from her crouched position, waiting to stop the ball for Gillian to strike at goal.
Scott took the complaint on board. “Alright people, let's swap to some fast paced drills and get those muscles warmed up again.”
Gill jokingly offered Jane a hand up, which she accepted just for the fun.
“What's Sarah doing here? In uniform too?” Jane remarked.
Gill turned to look at Sarah Mathieson, a traffic cop with Lothian and Borders police force. There were a few wolf whistles as Sarah made her way towards the first team.
“Hey, Sarah. You here to arrest someone?” Cammo joked.
“I'm here to see Gill.” Something in the policewoman's tone caught Gill's attention.
There were a few laughs and jokes. “What did you do, Gillian? Sleep with the Chief of Police's wife?” Cammo joked.
“No, it must be something traffic related.” Jane joked, “You've been caught on speed camera giving head while driving.” A few of the team agreed that was more likely.
“Whatever it was, I didn't do it.” Gill added in jest, but the serious look on Sarah's face told her this was no laughing matter.
“Gill can we walk over to the side of the pitch?”
The business-like tone in their teammates voice stopped all hilarity in its tracks. Everyone was quiet, and watched as Gillian followed Sarah over to the side of the pitch and out of earshot of everyone.
“I wonder what that's all about?” Hilary asked, looking around at her bewildered colleagues.
“No idea, but it seems fairly serious,” Sheila, the team captain remarked.
Sarah guided Gillian away from the sidelines and under the shelter of the building. Gillian was beginning to wonder just what was going on.
“What's this about, Sarah? You're beginning to freak me out.”
“Gill do you know a Justine Hill?”
Gill frowned, wondering why on earth Sarah would want to know that. “Of course I do, we've been best friends since we were twelve years old. Why?”
Sarah swallowed hard. “Gill, she was involved in an accident this afternoon.”
Gillian felt her blood run cold and knew it was fear. She knew her head was shaking from side to side, not wanting to hear anymore, or believe anything Sarah was telling her, but she had to ask. “How serious?”
“She's in a really bad way, Gillian.” There was nothing but compassion in Sarah's eyes.
Gill could feel herself shaking. “What happened? Where is she?” There was panic in her voice now.
“A van left the road this afternoon, it mounted the pavement and hit Justine and a child who we assume was with her.”
“Oh my God, Charlotte!” Gillian staggered and Sarah held onto her.
“The little girl is in the Sick Kids with pelvic injuries, it's serious but not life threatening.”
Gill's hands flew to her face. “Oh, thank God. Where is Justine, I need to go to her? Do her family know?”
“Not yet, Gill, that's why I need to speak to you. I recognised your name in her diary, but it wasn't clear who her relatives are or if there are any in Edinburgh . The only surname the same in the diary is for a Colin Hill with an address in Perth .”
Gill nodded, “Okay, that's Justine's older brother. Her mum is Pauline Brooks, she remarried after the death of Justine's father. She has two sisters.”
“I have the address in Colinton for Pauline Brooks.”
“Can I go, I really want to get to the hospital?” Gill was looking around frantically, not even sure what she was looking for.
“Gill wait, I need her sister's names.”
“Suzanne Wills, lives in St Andrews , an English teacher.” Gill burst into tears. “She's Justine's twin sister.” She wiped at her tears, “She has an older sister, Mandy, I'm sorry, I don't know her address.”
“That's okay, Gillian, she will be in the address book. Listen, I'll get one of the girls to drive you.”
“No, I'll get myself there.”
“Please, you're in no fit state.” She held onto Gill, who obviously just wanted to bolt. Sarah called to an injured player, “Wait here with Gillian and don't let her out of your sight. I'll be back in one minute, Gill, please wait here.”
The team had stood quietly watching the conversation unfold, knowing it was bad without being able to hear it. They waited with baited breath as Sarah jogged over to them.
“Listen, Gillian has had some very bad news and she needs someone to drive her to the Royal Infirmary as she is in no fit state to drive. Her best friend was in a serious accident this afternoon, she's on life support, but Gillian doesn't know that yet. I have to go and inform the family, so Gillian is going to be the first one there.”
Hilary didn't hesitate and offered first, but she was only marginally quicker than almost every other person there with a car. “I'll take her, I know the hospital better than anyone.”
“I want to go with you,” Emma stated.
Hilary nodded, “Alright let's get going before she heads off by herself.”
“Don't worry about any kit being left behind, we'll pick it up for you both, and Gillian.” Sheila said as she watched her teammates hurry over to Gillian.
The remainder of the team watched as their four teammates left.
“Poor, Gillian, that's just awful.” Jane shook her head, “I hope her friend pulls through.”
“She looks so peaceful.” Gill was fighting back tears as she looked at her best friend. The lump in her throat was so painfully hard, she was struggling to swallow.
Emma looked on at the tragic scene with a lump in her own throat, her heart breaking for Gillian. She saw Hilary motion for her and walked over to talk with the orthopaedic doctor.
“I spoke with the Neuro doc, there is no hope. She is on life support to allow the family to say their goodbyes. There is no brain stem activity, the trauma is too severe.”
Emma nodded, “I'll let Gill know.”
“Yes, I'm sure.”
Hilary squeezed Emma's shoulder offering support in this difficult time. She watched her go and didn't envy her. It was never easy delivering this kind of news, but it was especially difficult to inform someone you knew, that they had lost someone.
Emma walked quietly towards her friend, mustering all her composure and compassion. She spoke softly. “Gillian?”
Gill turned to greet her with red-rimmed eyes.
“I've just spoken with Hilary.” The pause already confirmed Gill's worst fears, but Emma needed to tell her. “If you have things to say, you need to tell Justine now.”
Gill sobbed and nodded. She took a deep breath and sat in the seat next to Justine's bed, squeezing her warm hand. “Hey, Justine,” she said quietly. Looking at her friend, it was hard to comprehend that this would be goodbye and she refused to believe that would be the case. “We've been best pals since we were twelve.” Gill smiled at Justine, not seeing the injuries, not wanting to. “Since that first day at high school, you have been the source of so much fun and joy in my life. God, the pranks,” Gill laughed. “Remember the time we went off to represent the school at that Volleyball tournament in Birmingham ? We sneaked out of the bed and breakfast at night and found a pub that would serve us.” Gill stopped and wiped her eyes as Emma listened quietly in the background. “We were sixteen and Mrs. Devlin was so mad at us. Mind you, if you hadn't puked everywhere, we just might have got away with it. Well, I suppose it would have helped if I hadn't tried to get into bed with Helen Todd, but what can I say, she was pretty.”
Gill smiled and looked at Justine, hoping and praying for some kind of response, but there was nothing. Just the continually steady sounds coming from the equipment surrounding her friend. A nurse came in and asked Gill to leave as the family were on their way, but Emma pleaded for two more minutes, which the nurse reluctantly granted.
Gill swallowed hard, her voice breaking. “I love you, Justine, I always have. Ever since that first day in class, it was your dimples that did it.” Gill started to cry. “Don't you worry about Charlotte , I'll make sure she knows all about her mum, how fantastic you are, your terrific sense of humour and your infinite capacity for love.” Gill started to sob and Emma moved forward to comfort her.
“We have to go, Gill, Justine's mum is here.”
Gillian leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Justine's cheek. “I love you, Justine.” Giving her friend's hand a final squeeze Gill then stood up, wiping the tears from her eyes. She wanted to compose herself before seeing Pauline. Walking out of the room and into the corridor, Gill saw Pauline Brooks hurrying towards her, Brian, her second husband by her side.
“Pauline.” That was all Gillian could say. Emma knew Gill was trying to be strong, but she looked utterly shell-shocked.
Pauline Brooks held Gillian by the shoulders, “Don't you worry, Gillian, she's going to be fine.”
Pauline Brooks spoke with such authority and conviction that Gillian almost believed her, but she knew it wasn't true and Pauline was about to find that out for herself. She hugged Pauline and then stood desolate in the hospital corridor.
Emma guided Gillian to a chair, concerned about the emotional state of her friend. “Can I get you anything, Gillian? A tea or coffee?”
Gillian turned her tear-streaked face to Emma, “What happens now?”
Gill sounded so lost and young, Emma wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be okay, but she couldn't. Nothing could change the facts. “Justine will be kept on life support to allow all her family to say their goodbyes, then the doctors will ask for permission to turn off life support.”
“What about her organs?”
“Is she a donor?”
“Yes, definitely. She registered as she has very strong views on organ donation.”
“The family will be informed and the organs will be removed before her life support machine is switched off.”
“I know, but it ensures the organs are healthy.”
“They will already be contacting people won't they?”
Emma nodded, “I'm sure that's the case.”
“Someone is going to get a very kind heart.” Gillian seemed lost in thought as she stared at the wall.
“Are you going to stay here?”
Gillian could hear Justine's mum sobbing and knew the rest of her family would be arriving soon. “No, I was lucky to have my time with her. Now her family need time.”
Hilary dropped Gillian and Emma outside Gillian's flat on the High Street. Gill had hardly said a word on the way home. Emma had thanked Hilary and knew she would see her at work the following day.
“Is there anywhere you want to go? Can I call someone for you?”
Gillian looked at Emma, “Will you come home with me and hold me?”
Emma sat on the sofa with Gill cradled in her arms.
“She looked so peaceful.” Gill said softly.
Emma rubbed her back soothingly, simply listening.
“I wonder when they will turn the machine off? I want to know when it...you know?”
Emma nodded, “I do. I'll check when I go into work in the morning and I'll call you.”
“Anytime.” Emma continued to hold Gillian, the room devoid of sound and filled only with the soft glow from a lamp in the corner.
Gillian started talking and Emma was happy to hold her and listen. “I remember my first day in high school. There was no one in my class that I knew. I looked around at all the strange faces until I met the eyes of a little blonde with ringlets and dimples. We were instantly drawn to each other. I thought she was cute and I already knew, even at age twelve, that I liked girls. She thought my jokes were funny and liked my sense of humour. Within a week, we were inseparable, which was kind of funny, since Justine is a twin. Can you believe that they went to separate schools because, and I quote, ' We want to be individuals,' That was so Justine.”
Gill was silent for a few moments and Emma wondered if she was finished with her story but, after a sniffle, Gill continued.
“We both loved sports and went to every after school sports activity together and it made perfect sense when we both applied to PE college to become teachers. We both got offers from Moray House, it was a really exciting time, a fantastic time. Then at the end of our third year Justine fell pregnant and that's when our lives began to take on different paths, but we still remained the best of friends.”
Gill started to cry and Emma smoothed her hair offering quiet support. What could she say? Nothing at this point in time could make Gillian feel better. All she could do was be there for her friend offering support, only time could help Gillian now. “What will you do tomorrow?” Emma asked quietly.
Gillian sniffed, “I'll go to visit Charlotte in hospital. If Justine's life support isn't... well, I'll visit her one last time.”
Gillian opened her eyes and found herself alone in her bedroom and for a few seconds she had been free of the nightmare until the weight and intensity of emotion came crashing down upon her. Justine. She looked at her clock and realised it was a little after 8 a.m. Memories from the evening before came flooding back to her, weighing her down, it was too much. She grabbed her mobile and searched her contacts for Maggie McLure.
“Maggie, I won't be in work today.”
“Are you ill?”
Gill fought back the tears that wanted to come. Her throat was sore from the lump that had instantly formed there. “It's Justine.”
“What about Justine?”
Gill sobbed, “She's not going to make it, Maggie.”
Maggie McLure was silent for a few moments as something niggled at the back of her mind and then it came to her . “Oh, Gillian, the accident on London Road , that was Justine and Charlotte?”
“Yes.” Gill began crying.
“Gillian, listen to me. Don't worry about anything, you take all the time you need, I'll talk to the headmaster and Dennis. You know where I am, don't hesitate to call me, or come to see me, whatever you need, Gillian, I'm here for you.”
“Thanks, Maggie. I'll be in touch later.”
“Bye, Gillian.” Maggie McLure sat back in her chair, shocked. Her hand covered her mouth as she took in the full horror of what Gillian had told her. Driving to school that morning the news on the hour had spoken of a terrible accident involving a mother and her four-year-old daughter. Now she knew exactly who that mother was and Gillian had told her that Justine wasn't going to pull through.
Gillian needed to be on the move, she couldn't lie around thinking. Heading to the bathroom, she had a quick shower, her mobile phone never more than an arm's length away, waiting for a call she didn't want to receive. Dressed, Gillian sat in her living room, sipping a cup of tea. She couldn't face food, her appetite, not surprisingly, completely gone. A small part of her was in denial with thoughts of Justine making a miraculous overnight recovery despite what Hilary and Emma had told her. Her phone rang, interrupting her thoughts and she grabbed it, instantly nervous, but needing to hear something. “Hello?”
“Gillian, it's Emma.”
There was a brief pause before the therapist continued, “Gillian, Justine's family have agreed to turn off her life support.”
“Who is with her?”
“Her Mum and stepfather. Her brother and sisters and Kenny.”
Gillian momentarily flashed with anger at the thought of Kenny being with her, but quickly pushed the thought aside, knowing it was unfair. “Well looks like everyone is there.”
“ Not everyone, Gillian, they are waiting on you.”
Gillian was parking in the hospital less than twenty minutes later. As she walked across the car park towards the entrance she felt her anxiety start to peak. Grim faced, she strode purposefully towards the intensive care unit. Emma was waiting for her outside in the corridor.
Emma squeezed her hand, “I'll be here when you come out.”
Gill nodded and made her way inside to see Justine for the very last time. She held her hand and said goodbye, then everyone left and allowed the doctors to get on with the process of harvesting Justine's organs. Gill remained stoic amongst Justine's family, wanting to be strong in their presence. Justine's mum, Pauline, invited her back to the house, but Gillian simply didn't feel up to sitting around with them, waiting for time to pass.
It was Pauline's husband, Brian who spoke quietly to her. “We think late next week for the funeral service, Gillian. I'll call you to let you know as soon as we finalise the details. There will also be an announcement in the Edinburgh Evening News.”
“Thank you, Brian.”
The older man gave her arm a comforting rub before returning to be at Pauline's side. Gillian said her goodbyes then quietly slipped away from the family room. Emma, as she had promised, was waiting outside the Intensive Care Unit.
“Hilary wanted to be here too, but she's in theatre, sawing bones and hammering in nails.” Emma used Gillian's own joke about Hilary being nothing more than a Joiner. It was good enough to bring a small smile to Gill's face. “What do you plan to do now?”
“I'm going to see Charlotte .”
“How is she?”
“Brian said she is heavily sedated, but doing well. She will most likely need surgery again to help with her long term recovery, but the doctors are optimistic that she will regain full mobility in due course.”
Emma nodded, “That's good news.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Can I treat you to a late breakfast?”
Gill shook her head, “Really, Emma, I have no appetite.”
“But it's important for you to eat something. Please, at least have a coffee with me?”
Gill agreed and the two friends went to a cafe on the ground floor concourse of the hospital where Emma talked Gillian into eating half a fruit scone. Gill was quiet as they sat sipping their hot drinks. Emma was the one making conversation.
“Can I pop down and see you after work. Will you be home?”
“I think so. I don't have anywhere else to be.” Gillian's eyes closed against the unexpected wave of pain that shot through her. When she opened them, she found Emma looking at her with concern. “I'll be fine.” Gill's eyes slid to the tabletop, no longer able to look at her pain reflected in Emma's empathetic blue eyes. She idly trailed her fingertips over the tabletop as she stared out into space, deep in thought.
“Gillian.” Emma got no response. “Gillian?” she tapped the back of her companion's hand and Gill looked startled.
“Sorry, I was miles away.”
“I have to get back to work, but I'll see you this evening.”
Gill nodded, “Thanks for being here.”
After visiting Charlotte , Gillian found herself sitting outside the office of Maggie McLure. The Assistant head was somewhere in the school, dealing with whatever business an assistant head dealt with. The secretaries cast sympathetic glances her way, as they went about their daily routine. The Headmaster's door opened and Bart Connolly stopped in his tracks as he saw Gillian sitting on the leather sofa. He walked over and took a seat beside her.
“How are you, Gillian?”
Gillian fought back tears, “I'm okay, Sir.”
The headmaster didn't bother to correct her on the use of the word, sir. “Mrs. McLure told me this morning about your friend, I'm so very sorry, Gillian.”
“Thank you, Sir.” The tears leaked from her eyes as Gill was undone with his kind words and sympathy.
He stood up and returned within seconds, a box of tissues in his hands. “Thank you.” Gill dabbed at her eyes.
Without thought or a care about who was around them Gill and Maggie threw themselves into each other's arms and sobbed for their loss of Justine. The headmaster made a dignified retreat and the school secretaries surreptitiously dabbed at their eyes, affected by the raw display of emotion taking place in front of them. Everyone felt their loss in some private way, but the loss of someone so young and in such tragic circumstances seemed to have an especially galvanising effect on people.
“Justine's gone, Maggie, she's gone.” Gill sobbed harder.
Maggie and Gill went into the office to get some privacy away from the prying eyes of other staff members walking in and out of the building. “It's almost lunchtime, Gillian, I'll have two school dinners sent over.”
“I'm really not hungry, Maggie.” Gill's voice was hoarse from crying.
“I know, but you have to try something, a salad?”
Gill nodded and Maggie picked up her phone to place her order. She put on the kettle that she kept in her office. “How's the little one?”
“She's still sedated, but the doctors say she should regain full mobility. She's looking at more surgeries in the future.”
“Poor little soul.”
Gill knew Maggie was alluding to more than the surgeries. Charlotte no longer had her mum. She watched as Maggie made them both coffee, then placed a cup in front of her. “They hope to have the funeral late next week.”
Maggie nodded, “I'll be there.” The pair sat quietly sipping their coffee until Maggie started to smile and shake her head.
“What is it?”
“I was thinking of the two of you when you came to tell me of your plan to go to PE college. I remember thinking, dear God, how are they going to pull that off?” She took another sip of her coffee, “Then you told me your subject choices, English, Biology, Art and Home Economics and I thought you both had very little chance of getting a place with those subjects. Not only were two of the subjects frowned upon by universities, unless you were specifically planning to be an artist or a chef, but you couldn't cook and Justine couldn't paint. Fortunately, the college saw the potential in both of you at the interview and awarded you both a conditional place. I am, to this day, still baffled as to how the pair of you pulled off a top grade in each of the subjects you couldn't even do the practical in.” Maggie shook her head, genuinely still puzzled.
There was a knock on the door and Maggie opened it, taking a tray from the head of catering, and thanking her for bringing the food across. She put the tray on her desk between them and began to remove the metal covering from the plates and placing a chicken salad in front of Gillian.
“What did you think we were going to do after school?”
Maggie pushed her fork into her beef curry. “It was no secret that the pair of you only stayed on to do your sixth year because you wanted to play hockey for the Scottish under 18's, and Justine wanted to play Volleyball.” Maggie put a forkful of food into her mouth and motioned for Gill to give hers a try. “I bet if you had known you would be selected for the under 21's that year and not the under 18's, you wouldn't have come back to school.”
Gill didn't bother to deny it. “What would I have done instead?”
“I thought the pair of you would have become swimming pool attendants, I mean despite you both protesting that you hated swimming, you both got your Lifeguard qualification that summer. I remember breathing a sigh of relief at the time, knowing the pair of you would be able to do something.”
Gill laughed at the memory, “We had both failed foundation maths, so thought it would be a good idea.”
“I didn't even think it was possible to fail that subject unless you didn't turn up, the pair of you weren't the brightest when it came to the academic side of school.”
“This is true.”
Maggie narrowed her eyes, “I never asked you outright before, but did the pair of you cheat to pass those exams?”
Gill shook her head. “Both of those subjects were right at the end of the exam timetable. We had a full two weeks between the Biology and them, so we practised like mad. While I cooked my main dish and my dessert over and over, with Justine showing me how to perfect the techniques, I showed her exactly what to do for her art painting.”
Maggie still wasn't convinced that they hadn't pulled some kind of scam, but that was the version Gillian wanted to give, so she accepted it.
Whilst chatting with Maggie, Gillian had absent-mindedly managed to eat a fair bit of her salad. Gill put down her knife and fork, feeling full up. The pair of them were silent as the reality of what had happened seeped back into their consciousness.
“I can't believe this has happened, Gill, I just can't believe it.” Maggie shook her head.
“I know.” Gill teared up again, “I've never lost anyone before, Maggie, not like this. I was so young when my Grandparents passed away, I barely remember.”
Maggie looked at her former pupil. At that moment it was like looking at a twelve year old Gillian Rae again. So lost and scared, but this time there was no Justine to be there for her. Gillian didn't have anyone else as close as Justine amongst her friends or family that Maggie was aware of. “What will you do tonight, Gill?”
“Emma is coming over, I saw her at the hospital this morning.”
Maybe Gill did have someone after all.
Gill drove through the mid afternoon traffic with the radio for company. The local news came on as the clock hit the hour mark. Gill absently watched the lights change ahead and got ready to move forward as she listened to the newsreader talk about a robbery that had taken place that morning.
'An Edinburgh woman has died following an accident in the city yesterday. Twenty-six year old, Justine Hill, a teacher at St. Anthony's High School was struck by a van while walking on the pavement yesterday afternoon. Her daughter remains in a stable condition in the city's Royal Hospital For Sick Children. Meanwhile in another accident...'
Gillian pressed the button to switch off the radio. It still didn't feel real. The car behind her beeped impatiently as she missed her cue to move forward. Gill shook her head to clear it and put her car in gear.
Gillian stood in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, dressed entirely in black. She looked outside at the falling snow, there was nothing visible beyond thirty yards, everything became white. Gill went to her wardrobe and selected a long black, military style coat, then removed a black scarf and gloves from a shelf nearby. Walking through to the sitting room, she took a seat on a sofa and took time to reflect on the week that had passed. She hadn't spent a night in her own bed since her failed attempt last Friday. Instead she had gone to see Charlotte everyday, then returned late at night to the hospital and slept in a fold away bed next to the little girl. It was the only place Gillian could find any rest.
Gill's taxi beeped its arrival and she put on her winter coat and gloves, then took the short slippery walk to the cab. The fresh snow crunching beneath her black booted foot, she texted Emma as she entered the cab.
Emma stepped out of her stair and into the taxi as soon as it arrived outside her flat. Taking a seat next to Gillian, she patted her friend with a gloved hand and the pair shared a sad, watery smile. The journey through Edinburgh 's snow lined streets was made in silence, there were no words to be said. Emma offering her support simply by being at Gillian's side.
Gill looked through the steam filled window, catching blurred glimpses of the busy morning traffic. Watching the people go about their daily business. She envied every last one of them, wanting to be doing anything other than attending Justine's funeral to say her final goodbye to her physical form. Emma seemed to sense Gillian's thoughts as she once again rubbed her shoulder. “You will get through this.” The first words spoken between the pair that morning.
“Is this as tough as it gets?” Gillian asked through a pained expression.
“Today will bring an end to the waiting. It's the official goodbye. It will eventually get a little easier, I'm sorry, Gillian, that's all I have for you.”
Gill nodded, and returned to looking out the window.
The church was draughty and cold, but filling up quickly. Relatives, friends and colleagues all making their way into the old building to pay their last respects to Justine. Gill watched from her seat in the second row, right behind Justine's grieving family, as the Minister walked in dignified silence to the pulpit. A hushed silence swept over the congregation and he began the service. Gillian felt like she was on autopilot. She was there in body, but felt a strange detachment to the proceedings. She watched as Justine's coffin was brought to the front of the church, the congregation standing respectfully as it passed them by, pain and sorrow etched on the many faces present.
Gillian felt numb as she went through the sitting, the standing, the singing and finally the personal touch when the minister began to speak about Justine, a young woman he had never met. His words didn't touch Gill. Justine was never a religious person, so these words simply didn't resonate with the person Gill knew. Finally, Justine's older brother Colin got up and made his way to the altar. He stood in front of the mic and took a moment to compose himself. He then began to speak of the younger sister he had known for all of her life. How annoying she could be as a little sister, when she would sneak into his room and pinch the latest CD's from his collection. And how she would hang around when he brought a girlfriend home and not leave them in peace. Finally the congregation began to loosen up a little, and there were some ripples of laughter. He spoke of her terrific sense of humour and her tremendous capacity for love and her care about the people close to her. Again Colin took a moment to compose himself before he continued to talk of the younger sister he had lost. “Justine was an amazing mother to Charlotte . A wonderful daughter and a terrific little sister.” He spoke of the love Justine had recently found with Kenny and finally he spoke of all the lives Justine had touched and the many friends she had made in her short journey through life. “In particular her friendship with Gillian, a friendship that could endure anything, only something like this could have separated them.”
Gillian bowed her head as she tried to choke back the tears and Emma again comforted her.
Finally, the funeral cortege made the short journey to the nearby cemetery for the burial and Justine's final resting-place. The snow was constant, having not let up all morning, and everyone was well wrapped up against the elements. Standing at the graveside, the minister said his final prayer and then family were called forward to take their place and hold one of the six chords attached to the coffin. The act was purely symbolic, as the cords no longer held the actual weight of the coffin, but the lowering of the coffin was real. Gillian stepped forward when her number was called, along with Kenny, Colin, Brian and Justine's sister's husbands.
Gill watched as the cord slipped through her fingers and the coffin containing the body of her friend was lowered into the ground. The wind seemed to whip up and the snow swirled around a little more fiercely as Justine's body settled in the ground.
That was it, the official part of the ceremony was over. Some people lingered at the graveside, but the majority began to make their way to the nearby hotel for hot food and drink, the cold and snow forcing them inside. Gillian stood rooted to the spot, a look of utter bewilderment on her wet face, salty tears mingling with the wet snow. Emma took her by the arm and gently guided her towards a waiting black car.
The wake was strange, there was an overall sense of relief that permeated the air and the mood was surprisingly upbeat. People chatted and caught up with each other. Gill met and spoke with many faces from her and Justine's past. Old friends from school and college, most of them talking about some memory they had of the pair and the antics they used to get up to. Finally, Gillian was exhausted and feeling like she needed to flee.
“What are your plans for the rest of the evening, Gillian?”
Gill looked around the room as she considered her options of escape before turning her attention back to Emma. “I don't want to be here any longer.”
Emma nodded, sensing that the initial feeling of respite that accompanied the end of a funeral service had worn off for Gillian. “Would you like to go home?”
Gill shook her head, “No, I'm going to go and see Charlotte .”
“I'll come with you.”
“No, no thanks. I just want to be alone for a little while.”
“Are you sure?”
Gill nodded, “Thank you for being here today.”
Emma hugged her friend. “Anytime, Gillian.”
“Hey, you are looking better every day.” Gill kissed Charlotte on the cheek and rubbed her head. She looked at the metal surrounding the little girl's pelvic area. Hilary had told her it was an external fixator used to stabilise the pelvis as Charlotte had an unstable fracture. Hilary had assured her it would heal well, and kids were prone to heal better and more rapidly than adults, particularly with injuries to this area as there was a rich blood supply. She promised Gill, Charlotte had a terrific chance of a full recovery and would go on to live a normal healthy life with full mobility. Gill knew that Charlotte had a few tough weeks ahead of her yet, with physiotherapy and a further operation to remove the external fixator.
The little girl looked sad and lost and Gill would have given anything to be able to change that. She picked up a book that she knew had become a favourite of Charlotte 's and started to read to her. “Paws the puppy looked around and knew he was lost.” Gill continued to read the story of the lost little puppy who hoped to find a new home, the symbolism of the story in terms of Charlotte , not lost on her.
Thinking Charlotte had fallen asleep Gill closed the book and set it aside. Then a little voice spoke from the bed, “Gilly, where's mummy?”
Gill's reaction was instantaneous. Emotion flooded her body and she fought hard to hold back her tears. “She's with the angels, honey.”
Charlotte nodded slowly, then turned her big sad eyes back to Gillian. “Will you take me home, Gilly?”
The simple, honest request was Gillian's undoing. The tears flooded her cheeks and she held Charlotte 's hand. “Not yet, Charlotte ,” she whispered hoarsely, “You need to stay here a little longer and get better.”
“Don't cry, Gilly, I will stay.”
Gill nodded, she had to get out of the room, she couldn't break down in front of the little girl. She gave Charlotte 's hand a squeeze, “I'll be right back, okay?” Charlotte nodded and Gill left the room, getting as far as the outside corridor before she bent down sobbing, only her hand on the wall keeping her on her feet. After a few moments, Gill felt a comforting touch on her back.
“Are you okay?” asked a concerned voice.
Gill shook her head and looked up at the kindly nurse who was comforting her. She felt totally helpless. “What do I say to her? I don't know what to say?”
The older woman rubbed her back and nodded, “It's just an awful situation for you all. Was Charlotte 's mum your sister?”
Gill shook her head as she replied, “Justine was so much more...”
Friday saw Gillian wake in her own bed for the first time in a week. She had been unable to return to Charlotte 's hospital room the previous evening. As Gill lay there staring at the ceiling, she wished she simply hadn't woken up, life was better when she wasn't awake. Pulling the duvet back over her she buried her head into the pillow and wept.
Gillian sat on the sofa in her living room, staring at the wall. Her hockey kit was ready and packed for tomorrow's game. She would usually be sitting having dinner with Justine and Charlotte on a Friday evening, but that was never going to happen again. She had tried watching television, then reading a book, but nothing could shift the tidal wave of emotion that was growing and swirling in the pit of her stomach. Alone in her flat, she felt like the walls were closing in on her, and she needed to escape. She needed to outrun the tidal wave that was about to crash down on her.
She went to her bedroom and took out her running tights and a long-sleeved top from a chest of drawers and put them on. She pulled on socks and running shoes, secured her flat key in the small inside zip pocket of her tights and left the flat with no specific destination in mind. Heading down the High Street, she turned right at the Scottish parliament building and into the dark shadows of Holyrood park. Running around its edges, past the back of the Palace, she outran her demons as best as she could, but as she surfaced from the darkness into the street-lamp lit road the tears started to run down her cheeks. She didn't stop, instead crossing the road onto the side of Arthur's Seat and taking the route up the side of the extinct volcano towards the ruins of St. Mary's Chapel that overlooked the dark, inky loch below.
The tears were streaming down Gill's cheeks as she reached the ruins, the wind stronger and whipping through her hair the higher up she got. She could see the castle and out over the Northside of the city towards Leith and Granton harbour, but everything was a tearstained blur. As Gill reached the grassy slope that would take her back down towards the park, she lost her footing and slipped on the greasy grass that was coated with a layer of moisture from the damp evening. Collapsing into the gorse bush undergrowth that generously covered the hillside. Breathless from her exertions, Gill lay there, hidden from the rest of the world, crying uncontrollably. She sobbed and howled until she was hoarse and emotionally spent. To the passing joggers above she sounded like a wounded animal.
Gill had no idea of how much time had passed before she finally got slowly to her feet. She started walking towards home, ignoring the curious and inquisitive looks of passers by, but instead of taking the High Street, Gill took the back road and cut through, finding herself outside Emma's flat. She rang the buzzer and waited.
“It's me.” Gill barely managed to form the words. The door unlocked and Gill pushed it open, then wearily walked up the first flight of stairs to Emma's flat.
At the first glance of a damp, tear stained Gillian, caked in mud and scratches, Emma took her into her arms and guided her inside.
Gillian sniffed back more tears, “I went running and fell into the prickly gorse on the side of Arthur's Seat.”
Emma continued to caress Gill's damp back, knowing that her friend was grieving. “Come on inside, let's get you cleaned up.”
Gill nodded and wordlessly followed Emma who led her by the hand. “I'm going to get you into a hot shower, clean you up.”
Again Gill nodded, barely noticing the warm air that began to seep into her the second she entered Emma's apartment. She stood in the bathroom allowing Emma to undress her, Gill content to let the Irishwoman take control. She needed someone to take control. She felt numb, not from the cold, but from what she had experienced earlier. The total loss of emotional control had left her drained and shaken.
Once undressed, Emma led Gill under the hot spray. “Is the water temperature okay, Gillian?”
Gill simply nodded and stood under the spray with her head slightly bent, allowing the hot water to flow over her, washing away the dirt, tears and sweat as it went. She didn't flinch or protest when Emma began to massage shampoo into her scalp, instead enjoying the simple pleasure of being taken care of by another human being. As Emma rinsed the shampoo from her hair, Gill finally began to feel a little more human and picked up the soap to finish washing her body. Emma turned off the shower and helped Gill to dry herself, then put a robe on her and gave Gill a towel for her hair, before guiding her towards the living room.
“You have scratches on your face.”
Gill smiled sadly at Emma, “They'll heal.”
Emma nodded, “I'll put the kettle on and make some tea.”
Gillian awoke the following morning in Emma's arms. The Irishwoman snoring softly beside her. For the next little while she lay there and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being held close by another human being. But it wasn't long before the emotional pain and the restlessness returned and the strange sensation of needing to lash out at something. Gill sat up and rested her head and arms on her bent knees, her fingers clenching the sheets as she attempted to make the hurt go away.
A warm hand began to rub soft circles on her back. “Are you sure you are up to playing today?”
Gill nodded, “I need to be active.”
Emma understood, “Would you like some breakfast?”
Gill hesitated, about to say no, but changed her mind. “That would be lovely, thanks.”
Several hours later the teammates were warming up for the game with the rest of the players. All eyes were on Gillian. She was distant and subdued, so different from the bouncy upbeat person they were used to seeing pre-match. Both Scott and Sheila had spoken to Gill, asking if she felt up to playing. She had told them she was and they went with it, but less than five minutes into the game, it was clear that Gill was anything but ready to return to hockey. She was off the pace and her timing was gone. It wasn't a fitness issue, she simply couldn't focus no matter how much she wanted to, and it wasn't long before the opposition picked up on her lack of form.
Dunedin were at home playing the league leaders in a game that, for the first time, they should have had a genuine chance of winning, but only if Gillian could find her feet. After twenty minutes and already a goal down, Dunedin made a swift counter attack up the pitch. Gill played a one-two with Cammo, which left the goalkeeper, stranded and Gill an easy tap in. To the horror of everyone supporting Dunedin , she missed the ball completely. Gill stood with her stick in one hand, using her free hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. The opposition team already in possession of the ball and racing back up the field.
“ Great Britain squad. You're having a laugh.”
Gill turned to look at the opposing player. “What did you say?”
The player sneered, “You couldn't even get a game for our second team, never mind Great Britain .” She jogged away before Gillian could reply.
Scott pulled Gillian off towards the end of the first half and replaced her with Fay. “You okay, Gill?”
“I'm fine, Scott, you can put me back on.”
“Maybe in the second half then.”
Gill nodded as she reached for a padded jacket and tracksuit bottoms to keep her body temperature up. Despite the snow on Thursday, as often happened, it was gone within twenty-four hours. Some of the sports' matches were off due to flooding, but the only problem with a plastic pitch was snow or frost. With the temperatures back above freezing, the hockey games were on, but it was beginning to look like Dunedin could have benefited from a postponement. As the game moved into the second half, Glasgow grabbed a valuable second goal, leaving Dunedin with a mountain to climb. Scott decided to gamble and put Gill back on to try to get a goal.
Gillian tried her heart out, but nothing was going her way. Finally Emma hit a ball hard across the face of goal and Gillian raced to get on the end of it, diving with her stick outstretched to get something on the ball. The speed alone did the work and as Gill's stick contacted the ball, it flew towards the roof of the goal, the keeper rooted to the spot helpless. The ball struck the keeper full on the helmet and bounced high into the air and over the goal. The goalie knew nothing of the save, but it kept the ball out of the net.
The defender who had been mouthing off to Gillian earlier again had something to say. “Picked for GB, what a joke.”
Gillian ignored her, until the defender went for a ball five minutes later with Gill in close proximity. Gill ran flat out and met the ball side on to the onrushing defender wiping the woman out completely. She ended up in a heap of the pitch with Gill standing over her, staring down at her prey.
There was bedlam all around as Gill stood breathing heavily above the wide-eyed woman, who didn't move an inch while Gill stood there, stick clenched tightly in her hands. Both umpires blew hard on their whistles and several players ran towards the incident. Cammo and Sheila Muir reached the two players first and both put their hands on Gill's shoulders, guiding her away from the terrified woman beneath her. Meanwhile the opposition players were helping their teammate back to her feet, while she was muttering something about a psycho. It was the umpire who had the final say, producing a yellow card and sending Gillian to the sin bin for dangerous play.
Gill stood at the halfway line, staring at the pitch without following the action. She had never before lost her temper on a hockey field. When her ten minutes were up, the umpire signalled her back into the action, but Scott immediately substituted her. Dunedin lost the match by three goals to nil.
Back in the changing room Gill stripped off her kit in disgust, before going for a shower. Her teammates watched her go, all of them concerned for her wellbeing. Gillian didn't say a word, she simply showered and then dressed. She knew the loss was her fault, there was nothing to be said. The atmosphere in the changing room was muted. Dunedin had dropped to third place in the league following the day's defeat, but that wasn't the reason for the quiet. Gillian was hurting and she was miserable and everyone in the room could see that. Going through the motions, Gill put her kitbag in the boot of her car then went into the clubhouse for after-match teas. The conversation level in the large room noticeably dropped when she entered and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Gill sat at a table and when she looked around her, heads were dropping, no one could make eye contact with her. Yvonne Reynolds, the club's president, sat next to her, putting a cup of tea and a small plate of food down beside her.
“Just in case you get hungry.”
Gill nodded, “Thanks, Yvonne.”
The older, well-dressed woman simply nodded and rubbed Gill's shoulder, before sitting back and sipping regally on her cup of tea. Gillian sat for less than two minutes, but could be there no longer. All the players had arrived from both teams and the opposition were buoyant after their comprehensive win. Gill couldn't take it any longer and got to her feet and left. Everyone watched her go. The double hinged doors rattling behind her.
“She's taking the misses badly,” came the flippant remark from one of the opposition players.
“Gillian lost her best friend in a road traffic accident last week, she buried her two days ago,” Yvonne Reynolds said to everyone in earshot.
The player immediately bowed her head, feeling embarrassed. “I'm sorry.”
“You weren't to know,” was the simple reply from Yvonne, but it clearly said, 'you do now'.
Hilary turned to Emma. “I'll run you back into town.”
“Thanks, Hilary,” but a lift home was the last thing on Emma's mind.
Emma sat at home that evening. She had gone down to Gill's flat, but the place was in darkness, and she had tried calling her friend's mobile phone several times, but it instantly went to voicemail each time. Finally, as the clock ticked towards midnight, she walked into town, past the playhouse to look in the few bars that Gillian often frequented on weekends. C.C. Blooms was first, so she popped in and had a look around, it wasn't really busy yet, but it soon would be. There was no sign of Gillian, so she walked further down the street to The Planet. She saw Gillian straight away as she looked down the long pub. She was sitting at the bar with a couple of women, one of whom was all over her, but Gillian didn't seem to mind as she openly fondled the woman's breasts. Emma almost turned around and walked back home, but she couldn't. Gillian was vulnerable right now, and she couldn't walk away. As she got closer, it was obvious that Gillian was very drunk, but the situation didn't look right to Emma. The other woman seemed to be eyeing Gill up, but not as a potential conquest, something was off and she trusted her instincts.
Gill looked at Emma and smiled, “Hey you.”
“I've come to take you home.”
“I don't think so, she's with me.” The woman Gill was fondling, stood in front of Gillian, effectively blocking Emma from getting to her.
“Get your hands off my girlfriend!”
The woman got the message and stepped out of the way. Gillian was giggling, “You better stay back, she knows origami.” Gill started laughing at her own joke.
“Shut up, Gillian.” Emma took Gill by the arm and led her from the bar.
“I always knew you wanted me,” Gill slurred. She was staggering and Emma was having to hold her and guide her in the right direction. They had no chance of a taxi at that time, walking would be best.
As they walked towards home, Gill wouldn't stop talking. “You've become my knight in Papier-mâché armour.”
Emma started to laugh a little, almost regretting explaining Occupational Therapy in detail to Gillian. “You know I don't do any of that. Art and design was a small part of my course, but I've chosen to specialise in orthopaedics.”
Gill thought of a very rude joke about Hilary, but kept it to herself, instead she started singing loudly. “Sean, I'd say the best one came from Tupelo , Mississippi . I'll tell you now that grown men cry and Irish girls are pretty.” Gill started giggling again as Emma looked around them, hoping no one was hearing this. “You are you know. You're very pretty.”
“Don't you dare kiss me, Gillian,” Emma warned.
“I can't kiss you, because Hilary will come after me and she has power tools. She'll amputate my fingers.” Gill was giggling again and Emma shook her head at her antics. Gill was going to be suffering a major hangover in the morning.
“Hi, Hilary, can I have a word?”
Hilary looked around, sensing that Gill needed to talk to her in private. It had been three weeks now since the accident and Gill was slowly beginning to find a bit of her old self. “Sure.” She led them back towards the now empty pitch. “How are you doing, Gill?”
“I'm getting by, you know, it's a little bit tough.”
“I'm sure, look, is there something you need? Anything, you just have to ask, you know that, Gill.”
“I know.” Gill took a deep breath, not wanting to have this conversation with Hilary, but knowing she had to be truthful. “I want to thank you for being so patient and understanding.”
Hilary frowned, not sure what Gill was talking about. “About?”
“Well, about Emma spending so much time with me. You haven't complained or said a word. I appreciate that you have been so great about it.”
“Why would you be thanking me, Gill?”
“Emma is your girlfriend, why wouldn't I thank you?”
“Emma isn't my girlfriend.”
“There's no need to split hairs, I thought you would have gone past the dating stage by now.”
“Gill, hasn't she told you? We haven't been seeing each other since the New Year sprint.”
Gillian stared open mouthed at Hilary. “What?”
“It didn't work out between us, that was one of the reasons we kept things quiet. Less hassle that way if it doesn't work out. We don't have all the team tiptoeing around us.”
“I had no idea.”
Hilary shrugged, “No big deal, it wasn't meant to be. We're friends, but that's it.”
“How could it not work out? She's amazing,” Gill blurted out.
Hilary nodded, “Yes, but she has feelings for someone else.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry, Hilary. I thought she was over her ex.”
Hilary shook her head and wanted to throttle Gillian, but refrained and resorted to a bit of verbal abuse instead. “You can be a right gormless idiot at times, Gill.”
“What? What did I do now?”
Hilary walked off and Gill stared at her departing form wondering what on earth that was all about.
Gill shook her head and walked towards the car park looking for Emma, but the OT had long gone, cycling home on her bike. The final numbers for the Easter trip to the Dublin hockey festival were to be confirmed by the weekend. Gillian had asked Emma if she was going, but she had remained undecided, knowing that her ex girlfriend would be there. Obviously Emma hadn't confided that piece of information to Hilary, or the doctor would have been more aware.
Gill opened her car door and got in. Emma had agreed to accompany her on an errand tomorrow, so that gave her tomorrow evening and Saturday morning to talk the Irishwoman into committing to going to Dublin . She really hoped that Emma would come along.
“Is that Gillian Rae running around the field with a puppy?”
Hilary nodded. She was standing on the edge of the playing fields looking out at Gill and Emma who were indeed playing with a little brown puppy. “It is indeed.”
“Have that pair finally worked something out?”
Hilary looked at Laura MacDonald, “No. Emma thinks Gillian is only after a one night stand and Gillian thinks Emma is still in love with her ex girlfriend.”
Hilary nodded thoughtfully and watched the threesome a little longer. 'Hopelessly in love is more like it.'
“Who the hell owns that yappie little thing?”
Gillian beamed, “I do.”
“You have a dog?”
“I do indeed have a dog.”
Hilary stared in disbelief, “I don't believe you.”
Gill shrugged and continued walking the little chocolate brown Labrador around the grass, pooper scooper in hand, just in case. Hilary walked after her, “You really own this thing?”
Gillian stopped walking, “Paws, be good.” The dog continued to snap at Hilary's training shoes. “He can sense your hostility.”
“Don't be ridiculous, now tell me why you have a dog?”
Gill sighed, “I have a plan. You see, Charlotte is so down and missing her mum. There are two things in the hospital that she adores. A picture of her mother and a book about a lost little puppy looking for a home. This pup is identical to the one in the book. Hilary, meet Paws. I got him for Charlotte , but if she doesn't want him or if Pauline is unable to cope with him, I'm fully prepared to be his full-time owner.”
Hilary gave Gillian a hug. “You surprise me sometimes, Gill, but I should know better.”
“My plan is, that when Charlotte is allowed home from the hospital, I will take Paws to meet her and see how they get along. I'm hoping they become best of friends. If not, well meet my new pet.”
Hilary crouched down to greet the little pup and it instantly started to lick her fingers.
“I told you he sensed your hostility, look, he likes you now.”
“How old is this thing?”
“Paws,” Gill corrected, “Twelve weeks.”
“He's cute. I'm sure Charlotte will love him.”
“Are puppies allowed in the hospital?”
“Of course not! They carry all kinds of diseases.” Hilary was incredulous, “Don't you go doing anything stupid like smuggling that thing into the hospital.”
“I was only thinking I could take him to see Charlotte , give her something to look forward to.” Paws was yapping again, “And stop with the doctor tone, you're upsetting him.”
“What about a picture?” Hilary was more conciliatory, but she doubted the pup was picking up on her vibes.
Gill considered that, “It could work, good suggestion, Hilary.” The dog stopped yapping and Gill gave Hilary a look that clearly said I told you so .
“Thank god you weren't a vet either,” Gill laughed. “I have to go find someone who will watch Paws while we play today. See you in a few minutes.”
Hilary watched as Gillian walked over to some of the spectators who had gathered. She had to admit that if Paws had the same effect on Charlotte that he was having on Gillian, then Gillian was on to a winner with her idea.
“Well played, Gillian.”
“Thanks, Yvonne. It was nice to be back amongst the goals.”
“I have to say, you weren't the star attraction today.” Yvonne looked down at Paws, “He stole the show.”
Gill laughed, “Isn't he cute?”
“Right, girls, we need to finalise the numbers for Dublin . If you commit today, you're paying no matter what.” Sheila's booming voice grabbed everyone's attention. “I'm passing around a sheet, put your name on it and I want a check right now for one hundred pounds.” There were a few groans, “Come on, it's not like we haven't been discussing this since the start of the year. We have nine definite already with deposits paid.” Sheila passed the sheet to Hilary and the players began adding their names to it.
“Gillian you can't pay cash,” Sheila complained.
“I don't have a clue where my chequebook is.”
“You're dodgy, that's why you always use cash,” remarked a heavily pregnant Julie Reid.
“Should you even be here? You look like you are about to drop. You're scaring me. Hilary sit next to Julie, just in case.”
Hilary sighed, “Give me your cash, I'll write a cheque for two hundred, and calm down, Julie is fine.”
Sheila gathered in the sheet and the cheques and ran a finger down the names. “Okay, that's most of the first team going.”
“Well, obviously Julie won't be going. Also Sue.”
“I'm off to the Bahamas .”
“Right, let's see, Melinda isn't coming, she's going home to visit her parents during the Easter break.”
“I won't have been home since Christmas,” said the teenage student.” But I would have loved to be coming along.”
“Maybe next year, Melinda?” Gill added, hoping the student would be remaining with the club.
“I hope so.”
“That leaves Sarah and Emma.”
“I can't get the time off work, Easter is busy for the police.”
“More like won't pass up the overtime,” Laura remarked.
Sarah didn't reply to the thinly veiled accusation, she always worked when there wasn't a league or cup game. Finally, all eyes were on Emma waiting to hear why she wasn't going to Dublin .
“I ah, well I really don't have an excuse. It's more a personal thing.”
“Wouldn't you be visiting home anyway? You can kill two birds with one stone.”
“Eww, Laura, you are such a scientist. Animal cruelty,” Melinda joked.
“Linda kills the rats, not me.”
Linda rolled her eyes, “Don't give me that, most, if not all of you, eat meat and use products tested on animals.” She stared everyone out.
Gill looked to Emma, she knew her friend was uncomfortable with the scrutiny. They had spoken about the Dublin trip and Emma really wanted to go, but she had remained undecided knowing her ex girlfriend would be around all weekend. “Does it absolutely have to be today, Sheila?”
“Sorry, Gill, but it does. I'm booking the flights tomorrow.”
“Come on, Emma, you can be our tour guide.” Laura encouraged.
“Yeah, Emma, you can show us all the good places to go.”
Emma's teammates continued to encourage her into committing to the trip until she finally caved and agreed to go. “Alright, alright. I'll go.”
“Are you sure?” Gillian asked.
Emma nodded, “I really do want to go.”
“Great, a couple of the second team players are coming along too, so we have good numbers.” Everyone looked at Sheila wondering the same thing. “Caroline and Jane will be joining us.”
There were sighs of relief, many of the first team fearing that Valerie Smith was coming along to wreck their fun weekend.
“Well, I need to get Paws home for his dinner.”
There was outright laughter all around. “I never thought I would hear those words out of your mouth on a Saturday night, Gillian Rae,” Yvonne Reynolds remarked.
Gill frowned, “I'm a changed woman and I need to feed my dog.” She looked to Emma, “Do you need a lift?”
“That would be great, Gillian, thanks.”
Most eyes were on the pair as they left with Paws walking alongside them. “Looks like a happy family to me,” Laura remarked.
“Something is in the air, that's for sure,” Sheila added.
“Are you sure you're really up for the trip to Dublin ?” Gill asked as they drove back towards the Royal Mile.
“I really am looking forward to the trip. I know they are always a lot of fun, I'm just not looking forward to being around my ex.”
“Will she definitely be there?”
“You can count on it.”
Gill concentrated on driving for a short bit, but she was desperate to mention Hilary. Finally, she gave in to temptation. “I was chatting with Hilary on Thursday evening. She told me the two of you weren't dating anymore.”
“Oh, yes, it didn't work out for us. We both recognised it was best to stop.”
“It's a shame, she's a great catch.”
Emma looked at Gill, “You didn't think so.”
“Fair point.” Gill decided to change the subject, “You want to come on a walk later with Paws and me?”
Emma smiled, “Would love to.”
“We're going down to the beach tomorrow to chase seagulls,” the invitation was clear.
Emma laughed, “Will you be the one chasing the gulls?”
Gill smiled and looked at Emma, “Probably,” then laughed.
Gillian sat in her car outside the home of Pauline and Brian Brook. She looked at Paws in his plastic dog crate in the back seat, he was quiet, but Gill knew that as soon as she moved out of her seat, he would start yelping with excitement, knowing he was getting out of the crate. Gill was having second thoughts. Charlotte was inside after being discharged from hospital that afternoon, Gillian hoped she hadn't made a mistake with the puppy. The little girl had no idea that Gill had purchased Paws, the hope was that her eyes would light up, it seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago, but now...
Taking a deep breath, Gill got out of the driver's seat and opened the backdoor to let Paws out. The pup was already excited. Gill clipped the lead to his collar, before lowering him to the pavement. “Be good, Paws, you're going to meet Charlotte and you need to be on your best behaviour.” The pup was shaking with excitement, completely oblivious to the importance of the next few minutes.
Gill rubbed her sweaty palms on her jeans as she waited for the door to be opened. “Hi, Pauline.”
“Gillian, good to see you.” The pair hugged as Gill entered the house.
“How's Charlotte ?”
“Ah, she's okay. She, ah, still thinks that she will be going home. She doesn't understand that this is her new home.”
Gill laid a hand on Pauline's shoulder, “She will eventually get it.”
Pauline choked back tears. Eight weeks on and everything was still so fresh. “This must be Paws.” She bent down to greet the pup, “He's gorgeous, Gill.”
“Remember, Pauline, I will keep him if this doesn't work out. There is no pressure here.”
“Oh, I know, Gillian. The therapist says we should build up the relationship slowly, especially at first. Charlotte will get easily tired. Also her hips won't be up to too much play at the moment.”
Gill nodded, “Let's introduce them and see how things go.”
They walked to the sitting room, where Charlotte was resting on the sofa. “ Charlotte , you have a visitor,” Pauline said softly.
The little girl looked up and Gill popped her head around the door. “Gilly.” It was a muted greeting in comparison to the past, but there was a smile.
Gill returned the smile and walked into the room. “I've brought someone to me...”
“Don't get up, Paws will come to you,” Gill cautioned.
“You saved him, Gilly,” Charlotte spoke so earnestly, it brought a lump to Gill's throat.
“Well, he was looking for a new home.”
Charlotte gently patted Paws and the pup licked her fingers. The little girl giggled for the first time in weeks. She looked up at Gillian with hope in her eyes. “Can we keep him?”
Gillian wasn't sure how to answer the question and looked to Pauline for help.
“We need to let you get better before we can think about having Paws over to stay. Until then, Gillian will be taking care of him.”
“You'll bring Paws back, Gilly?”
“Every time I come to visit, Paws will be with me.” Gill looked on as Paws simply laid his head on Charlotte 's lap and let the little girl stroke his fur.
Gill caught Pauline's eye and the older woman motioned towards the kitchen. Gill followed, leaving Charlotte with Paws and Brian. “What's wrong, Pauline?” The older woman looked flustered, Gill hadn't noticed until now.
“She keeps asking for her mum and I don't know what to tell her, Gillian. I tell her mummy has gone to be with the angels, but she still thinks her mum is going to visit soon.”
Gill took Pauline in her arms and held her. “It's going to be really tough for a while, but she will start to ask less and less.”
Pauline started to sob, “That's the part I'm dreading, when she starts to forget Justine.”
Gill hadn't thought about that. Charlotte was only four, she would hardly remember anything of her mum. “We can tell her, Pauline. She will know how wonderful her mother was.” Gill felt the older woman nod against her shoulder.
“Goodness, I'm sorry, Gillian.” Pauline wiped her eyes and blew her nose on a tissue.
“No, don't apologise.”
They separated and sat at the kitchen table. “How have you been holding up? I haven't really had a chance to ask you.” Pauline tucked her tissue into the sleeve of her jumper.
Gill fought back her own tears, “Life is different, Pauline.” The older woman passed the box of tissues to Gill. “Thanks.”
“You two were a big part of each other's lives for so long, you knew her better than anyone.”
Justine squeezed Pauline's hand. “She was the best friend I could ever have. A truly wonderful person.” Gill paused to compose herself. “It's still so unbelievable.”
Pauline nodded, “I know. I keep thinking why? Why did this happen? Had she been a few seconds earlier or later, she would still be here. It's just so random.” There was a hint of frustration in the older woman's voice.
Gillian had been over the same thoughts in her head a hundred times a day, and it never made sense. It was simply a random event, but one that resulted in Justine's untimely death. The decisions and actions of two people colliding and ending in tragedy. Sometimes Gillian felt such anger towards the driver she could barely breathe.
Brian popped his head into the kitchen. “ Charlotte is getting tired,” he said, not unkindly.
Gill nodded, “Time to take Paws home.” She stood up to leave the kitchen.
“It looks really promising, the dog I mean. When Charlotte is strong enough, we'll take him.”
Gill nodded, “You can change your mind at anytime, Pauline.”
They walked through to the sitting room, where Charlotte had fallen asleep, Paws still resting beside her. Gill gently lifted the pup down to the carpet and attached his lead. “At least there is no hassle taking him away this time,” she whispered. “I'll see you both tomorrow.”
Brian nodded, and Pauline walked Gill to the front door. “You don't have to come by every day.”
“I know, but as long as I can make it, I'll be over, if that's alright with you and Brian?”
“Of course, Gillian, no need to ask.”
Gill gave Pauline a quick peck on the cheek, “See you tomorrow.”
Emma watched as Gill silently walked around the park with Paws. The teacher had been quiet, hardly saying two words to her. “Tough day, Gillian?”
“Hmm? Oh, kind of. It was really hard seeing Justine's mum today. More difficult than when we met at the hospital.”
Emma nodded, “How's Charlotte doing?”
“Quiet. She's really quiet.”
They came upon a park bench and Gill sat on it, Emma joined her. “It's just so sad, Emma. Bewildering and sad, I'm still struggling to get my head around it.” Gill lay her head on Emma's shoulder, “Tell me something about you, Emma?”
Emma frowned, momentarily thrown by the change in direction, but quickly understanding that Gill needed to talk about something other then her hurt. “What would you like to know?”
“Tell me about your family?”
“Not much to tell really.”
“Are you close? Do you have brothers and sisters?”
“I have an older brother and a younger sister.”
“What do they do?”
“Well, my brother is an Insurance Broker and my sister is a nun.”
“Really? A Nun?”
“Yes, really. My sister entered the convent when she was eighteen.”
Gill was quiet for a moment. “Wow, a nun, that's … wow.”
Emma laughed lightly. “It was a shock to all the family as well.”
“But your parents are okay with it?”
“They are, after they got over the initial shock, they're very proud of her.”
“What's your sisters name?”
“Is that like a special nun name?”
“Yes, she was Julia.”
“Do you get to see her much?”
“We write often and when I go home, I visit her at the convent.”
“Will you be visiting her at Easter?”
“I hope to.”
Gill nodded, “It's getting late, we better get this little man home.”
Emma looked at Paws who had simply snuggled on top of Gillian's walking boot. “Looks like you might be carrying him home.”
Gill bent down and picked the pup up, “It's been a busy day, poor wee laddie.”
“It's cute when you use Scottish words.”
“Now you're just showing off.”
“Oh, a kin use a loat o' Scottish wurds ye ken, hen.”
Emma pushed Gill on the shoulder. “I have no idea what you just said.”
“I said, I can use a lot of Scottish words you know, girl.”
Emma shook her head, “Sometimes I have no idea what my patients are saying.”
“I wouldn't worry, sometimes I can barely understand the students and I was born here.”
The pair laughed as they made their way back towards the High Street.
“Are you sure about this, Gillian? I usually walk down to the station to get the airport bus.”
“Relax, Emma. This bus goes all the way to the airport it just takes a little longer.”
“I wish I had known this sooner, it comes right up the Royal Mile, but I feel like we will be thrown off for fare dodging.”
“Would you relax, it's a flat fare, doesn't matter if we go one stop or ninety stops, it's still £1.20.” Gill laughed, “There is one drawback.”
“I knew it, what?”
“You are stuck with me for over an hour instead of thirty minutes.”
“So we are taking the scenic route?”
“I don't mind that, I will get to see some of the city I haven't had a chance to look at yet.”
“I'm really looking forward to seeing Dublin , I've never been before.”
“I think you will like it.” Emma sounded a little subdued, unlike Gillian who was feeling excited at the prospect.
“Are you really dreading seeing your ex?” Gill sat slouched on the bus seat she was sharing with Emma, but the Irishwoman's posture, as always, remained perfect.
“Hey, can I come up to the hospital and have lunch with you next week?”
The sudden switch in conversation momentarily confused Emma, but she was becoming used to Gill's flighty tendencies. “Sure, are you going there for a specific reason?”
Gill smiled, “Yes, to see you in uniform.”
Laughing Emma answered, “It's nothing too flattering.”
Gill shrugged, “What about Tuesday?”
“Should be fine, my lunch hour starts at 12.30. I'll meet you in the main cafeteria.”
They arrived early for their flight, as instructed by Sheila. The captain didn't want any last minute hiccups at the airport.
“There's Sheila, she looks flustered,” Emma remarked.
“Where have you two been?”
“We're early.” Gill protested.
“But we're early.”
Emma put her hand on Sheila's shoulder. “Relax, everyone has arrived on time. I've taken this flight a few times now, I'll help you out.”
“Oh, thanks, Emma. I'm just a bit stressed.”
Emma smiled and looked for the Ryanair check-in desk. “Let's get in line, it's busy so we may as well get this part over with.”
With the luggage checked in and boarding passes in hand, the team headed up the escalator, towards security. Everyone took a tray and put their hand luggage in it, followed by their jacket, shoes, belt, loose coins and jewellery.
Gill popped her tray on the conveyor belt for scanning, then walked through the electronic gate, which bleeped.
There was laughter from her teammates at Gill's look of bewilderment.
“Excuse me, could you stand to the side and put your arms out.”
Gill looked at the serious woman, it wasn't a question or request, it was an order. Doing as asked, Gill stood waiting to be searched. The security woman stood directly in front of Gill and stared intimidatingly into her face. She tried not to giggle as she peered over the woman's head, topping her by a good four inches. All her teammates cheering didn't help, especially when the search began. Gill's eyes almost popped out of her head when her chest was quickly but firmly criss-crossed, and the bottom of her breasts cupped. The security woman slid her hands down the outside of Gill's arms, then back up the inside, before sliding them to her shoulder blades, bringing their bodies together. The woman then slid her hands down Gill's back, briefly skimming over her buttocks before dropping to her knees. There were howls of laughter from her teammates, as the security woman's head was right in front of Gill's crotch. The woman used both hands to frisk Gill's right leg from the ankle up, then she literally cupped her crotch, which made Gill shriek, before the guard slid her hands down the other leg. The woman then calmly stood up, looked at Gill and grinned. “That's you done. Have a safe journey.”
Gill then looked around thinking the entire episode had been a joke, surely no one was frisked in such an intimate manner, but it was real. Lost for words Gill walked over to her teammates. “Did you see that? I was molested!”
Hilary could barely speak, she had found the entire display so funny. “You should have seen your face when she palmed your breasts. Then you shrieked like a little girl when she cupped your groin.”
“Hilary, how can that be allowed? I should complain. I've just been felt up!”
“Come on, Gill, let's get to the bar,” Laura suggested, trying to keep a straight face.
“That woman is nutty!” Gill pointed back towards the security area.
“Come on, let's just get out of here before she decides to do all of us,” Sheila cautioned, which had the rest of the team gathering their belongings and walking briskly towards the bar.
The team gathered in one of the small bars and waited for their flight to be called. They were in good spirits, looking forward to the weekend ahead. “Linda, you're very quiet, is everything alright?” Emma asked the highly-strung scientist.
“I'll be fine once we land in Dublin .”
“Not too fond of flying?”
“No, I hate it.”
Gill placed a double vodka and coke in front of the petrified woman, “There, that will help.”
“Don't get her too drunk, Gill, or she won't be allowed on the flight,” Sheila warned.
“She'll be fine, she's only had four drinks.”
Linda grabbed Gill by the wrist, “I want to sit between you and Hilary.”
Gill looked at the white knuckled grip Linda had on her and nodded, “No problem.” She rubbed Linda's hand and the woman eased her grip. “It will be fine, Linda, we will look after you.”
Almost an hour later Linda was sitting on the plane between Gillian and Hilary, her lap belt firmly in place and a tight grip on their hands. The speaker system crackled to life and the pilot spoke for the first time. “Laydeezs and Gentlemen, get ready for zee pick off.”
Linda looked frantically from Gillian to Hilary, “Oh, dear God, did he just say pick off?”
“No, no, it was take off, wasn't it, Hilary?”
“Yes, it was definitely take off.”
They watched as Linda turned chalk white, and Hilary attempted to get the attention of a stewardess. “Excuse me, can we have a sick bag please?”
The stewardess replied in heavily accented English, “No, no sick bags. If she sick, you pay three hundred euro.” Then promptly walked off.
“Bloody hell, how rude.” Hilary was unimpressed.
Emma handed over a paper bag from her rucksack. “When they say budget airline, they really mean it.”
“You're not kidding.” Hilary took the bag and handed it to Linda, not sure whether she was going to need to breathe into it, or throw up in it.
Fifty minutes later they touched down in Dublin , or as the pilot had called it, 'Dub'. Linda got off the plane on wobbly legs, delighted to be back on terra firma. “They should rename them Shaky jets,” the pale woman complained.
“Come on, let's collect our bags and get to the hotel, and no more alcohol for you, Linda, or you will be hung over tomorrow.”
“I'm going to bed.”
“Good idea,” Hilary agreed.
A forty-five minute minibus ride later and the team arrived at 'Jury's Inn ', their accommodation for the next three nights.
“Okay, everyone has their keycard, meet back down here at 7.30 p.m, for a buffet reception for all the teams.”
Gill got into the elevator and made her way to the third floor and her room.
“Why has almost everyone got a double room to themselves?”
Gill smiled at Emma, “They might get some company and, trust me, some will already have someone flying over from Scotland to join them.”
“I doubt it.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Have you never been on tour before?”
Gill smiled, “I'll see you downstairs in a little while, I'm going to freshen up.”
“Why do you have one?”
“A double room?” Gill asked. Emma nodded. “Maybe for the same reason that you do.” They held eye contact for a few seconds, before Gill smiled and opened her room door.
The reception was very busy, with seven teams taking part in the tournament. One from Scotland , two from England and four Irish teams, that meant six games in two days. It was a heavy schedule. They stood around chatting, drinking free wine and eating sandwiches, while the teams were introduced and the captains picked up the itinerary for the next two days.
“Hello, Emma, I thought I might see you here.”
Gill turned to see a tall, dark haired, Irishwoman greeting her friend and she just knew that this was Emma's ex.
“Orla, it's nice to see you. How are you?”
“I'm well, how's Scotland ?”
“I'm enjoying it.”
“Good.” The woman held eye contact with Emma, smiling.
“Orla, these are my teammates, Gillian Rae and Hilary Duffy.”
“Gillian, Hilary, this is Orla Ryan.”
Orla shook their hands with a firm grip. “So you're Gillian Rae, I heard you were going to grace us with your presence. It's not often we get to play against one of the best in Great Britain .”
“I only train with the squad. I don't have any caps.”
“Modest too,” Orla remarked as she gave Gillian a quick once over.
“It's only a matter of time, I'm sure the next match GB play, you will gain your first cap, Gillian.”
Orla watched the exchange between the pair with interest. “We play on Sunday, I'm really looking forward to it.” She turned to Emma, “I'll see you around, I've missed you,” then walked off to join her friends.
“Orla Ryan, my ex.”
Gill nodded, “She seems nice.”
“She can be very charming.” Emma watched as Orla blended back into the crowd, “I'll be back in a few minutes, I see someone I know.”
Hilary and Gill watched Emma walk towards another group of players. Hilary then turned to Gillian, “Well that was interesting.”
“I can certainly see the attraction.”
“You don't think she is attractive?”
“Oh, there's no doubt about that, I was more interested in what wasn't being said.”
Gill agreed, “I have a feeling she wants Emma back.”
“I do too.”
Gill groaned inside, that was all she needed, Emma running back to Ireland to rekindle her relationship with Orla, and did she have to be so damn good looking?
“Wakey, wakey.” Gill stood outside Emma's hotel room door waiting for the occupant to make an appearance. “Well, can I come in?”
Emma stood aside, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
“I thought you were a morning person?”
“Normally I am, but not when I don't get a good night's sleep.”
“Bed too soft, too hard?” Gill sat on it to check.
“No, it was more to do with the bed in the other room banging off the wall for most of the night.”
Gill smiled impishly, “Who's in there?” she motioned her head to the wall.
“Going by what I heard last night it's, Oh God and Jesus Christ.” Emma sat on the end of the bed, her mind still in disarray.
“Be right back.”
She watched as Gill left her room and heard her knock on the next door. “It's Gillian.”
The door opened and Karen Crawford stood on the other side. Gill couldn't help but think it was always the quiet ones. You barely noticed the woman most of the time. “Morning, Gill.”
Karen attempted to pull her robe closed and pat down her bed hair. “Ah, well enough, you know, a strange bed takes a bit of getting used to.”
Gill nodded, “Do you have any tape?”
“Oh, I don't think so, but I'll pop some through to you if I find it. Are you next door?” The woman had the good grace to blush.
“No, Emma's in 221, I'm in 220.”
“Okay, if not I'll see you at breakfast.”
“Okay, see you.” Gill walked back to Emma's room, the Irish woman was getting ready to shower.
“You won't believe who it is,” Gill whispered.
Emma's eyes widened, “No way.”
“Bed hair and everything.”
“It's always the quiet ones.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Emma started to giggle, “I'm not going to be able to look at her the same way again after what I heard last night.”
“I doubt she will be looking in your direction anyway, she knows we are onto her.”
“I need to shower.”
“Okay, are you going to visit your sister today?”
“I want to come along.”
“Again, why?” Emma was suspicious.
“It's the nun thing, it's really intriguing.”
“Gillian, they are just people.”
“Well that's easy for you to say, your sister is one and you have grown up with this stuff.”
Emma rolled her eyes, “What exactly are you expecting?”
“I've never met a nun, or seen a convent.”
“Gillian, my sister isn't in a convent, she lives in a house with other sisters.” Gill looked so disappointed Emma took pity on her. “Look, tomorrow morning, they sell flowers across the road at Christ Church Cathedral, you can come over with me.”
“Really? Aww, thanks, Emma.”
“Now go, I have to shower, I'll see you at breakfast.”
Gill sat next to Hilary at one of the breakfast tables. “Six games in two days, we're not going to get to see very much of Dublin .”
“Haven't you been before?”
“No, but you obviously have.”
“Twice actually. Once for a wedding and another time for a woman.”
“Do tell, Hilary.”
“Not much to tell, the wedding ended in divorce three years later and the woman lasted less than four months.”
“You're just full of the joys of spring.” Gillian picked some fruit from the bowl on the table.
“Tsk, tsk, just because Emma's girlfriend is on the scene, no need to be moody.”
“I stand corrected.”
Gill changed the subject, “What did you do last night?”
“Went to bed alone.”
“Seems to be a common theme these days.”
“Exactly how long have you gone without sex?”
“Yes, this year.”
“No, I mean, all of this year.”
Hilary stared disbelievingly at Gill, “No way.”
“Really, not since Zoe, the night of the New Year's sprint.”
“Well, I suppose a lot has happened since then.”
Gill nodded and watched as Karen Crawford walked into the room. “Someone has been busy though.” She motioned towards Karen.
Hilary frowned, “Karen?”
“Yes, according to Emma, who is not one for gossip, headboard banging off the wall all night. She didn't get much sleep and obviously neither did Karen.”
Hilary watched as Karen made her way to the long tables full of breakfast foods. “Is she walking funny?”
“Like she just got off a horse.”
“Who was she with?”
Hilary looked around the room. “That guy in the corner, he looks familiar.”
“Oh, the one watching Karen, you mean? Yeah he does.”
Laura joined them at the table. “I see Karen has brought Mike Mitchell over.”
“Is that the guy in the corner?”
“Yes, he plays rugby for Dunedin .”
“That's why he looks familiar. What other news do you have?”
“Hilary, you are the worst for gossip,” Gillian protested.
The doctor shrugged, “It's a big part of hospital life.” She turned back to Laura, “You were saying?”
“Minibus leaves in fifteen minutes, ladies!” Sheila's commanding voice interrupted the chat. “Don't be late.”
The Dunedin players returned to the hotel late in the afternoon weary from their exertions, but having triumphed in all three games they had played.
“Damn my legs ache.” Hilary complained.
“My feet hurt.”
“It's my back.”
“I want a hot bath and a nap.”
“You're all turning into old women,” Gill proclaimed.
“Listen to super fit.”
“Actually joking apart, you are, Gill, fitter, what's going on?” Hilary asked.
Gill shrugged, “I have this fitness programme to follow from the GB coach, and there are nutrition guidelines too.”
“Ooooh. Get you.”
“Stop it.” Gill laughed, “I'm taking this seriously, if I want to play, I have to put in the extra work.”
“I think it's brilliant, Gill,” Hilary said genuinely.
“Anyway, what are the plans for this evening?” Gillian asked, changing the subject.
“We're booked in at a restaurant called Thunder Road , it's in Temple Bar, after that you can suit yourselves, but remember we have three more games tomorrow.”
“You're doing a great job as organiser, Sheila,” Laura remarked.
“Thanks, meet in reception at 7.00 p.m, we are booked for 7.30 p.m.”
“I won't be able to make the meal, I'm going to see my parents and then I'm meeting up with friends, but I'll see you all tomorrow morning, if not before.”
“Okay, Emma, have a nice time.” The sentiment was echoed by all of the team before they started to disperse, making their way to their rooms.
Gill's mood immediately soured, thinking that Emma could be meeting Orla Ryan later that evening. The woman had been around them all day and, although she was nice enough, Gill had taken a dislike to her because she obviously wanted Emma back. “See you later, Emma.”
“Come on, Gill, we are going to a gay bar.”
“I've sworn off them.”
“Don't be such a prude, we are on tour.”
“Aww, Hilary, you don't need me to go.”
“Come on, I'm feeling horny.”
That statement caught Gill's interest. “ You are going to have a one night stand?”
“This I must see. Okay, I'm in.”
Everyone stood on the street looking around.
“What's the problem?”
“I have no idea where the nearest gay bar is.”
Gill rolled her eyes and looked around. “Ask that woman over there.”
“She's not gay.”
“She doesn't have to be.” Gill took matters into her own hands and walked over to the well-dressed woman. “Excuse me.”
“Can you tell me where the nearest gay bar is?”
“What kind of night are you looking for?”
“Busy, a bit of dancing, that kind of thing.”
“You'll want The George then. Okay, let's see. Turn right, walk to the end of the street, Trinity college will be on your right, walk up Dame Street and you will come to the centre store and a traffic crossing. Cross over and walk straight on to George Street , the George is on your right.”
Gill tried to retain the instructions in her head, but knew she would struggle. “You wouldn't happen to be interested in coming along to the bar with us?” Gill looked the woman over, tallish, blonde, great figure. Hilary would definitely go for her.
“Are you hitting on me?”
“Kind of, but not for me. The group behind us, see the tall woman, curvy figure, lots of dark hair?” Gill waited as the woman looked at Hilary. “She's looking for company and you are just her type.”
The woman pursed her lips then nodded, “I'll walk with you.”
“Great, I'm Gillian.”
“Naimh De Rossa.”
“Oh, is that Italian?”
“No, it's Irish. The English translation would be Eve Ross.”
“Lovely, I like the Irish form. Come on, I'll introduce you to the girls.” They walked across the road to the waiting team members.
“Everyone, this is Naimh and she has kindly agreed to walk with us to The George.”
“Hi, Naimh.” The players chorused.
Gillian made the introductions, deliberately leaving Hilary until last. “Naimh, this is Doctor Hilary Duffy, orthopaedic surgeon.”
“A pleasure.” Naimh shook Hilary's hand, immediately rendering the doctor speechless, a very rare happening and Gillian knew she was hooked.
The bar was big and busy. Taking up two floors, it was more of a nightclub. The crowd was mixed and varied, a little something for everyone. With her teammates starting to settle in for a night of clubbing, Gill took herself and her bottled water for a wander through the place. Catching sight of a familiar face through the throng of patrons, Gill stopped in her tracks. Staring back at her was Orla Ryan and both looked equally interested to see the other. Gill watched as the taller woman made her way towards her.
“Orla.” Both women were fighting to make themselves heard above the music.
“Are you here alone?”
Gill leaned in closer, “No, I'm here with some of my team.”
“Is Emma with you?”
Gill had been thinking Emma was with Orla, so the question was an unexpected one. “No, she went to see her parents tonight.”
Orla looked disappointed and Gill didn't miss it, but Gill was pleased Emma wasn't with the good-looking woman.
“How are you enjoying Dublin ?”
“I haven't had a chance to see much of the city, which is a shame, but I've been impressed with what I have seen, lots of pretty women.”
“The Scots aren't too shabby in that department either,” Orla stated, then took a drink of her beer.
Gillian wondered if Orla was flirting with her. “Well that's certainly been my impression too over the years.”
“If what I've been hearing is true, you've certainly sampled your fair share.”
Gill looked at Orla with surprise, someone had obviously been talking. “Too many women, too little time.”
“I hear you.”
Gill suddenly felt like she was being eyed up as dinner, but it was an interesting turn of events and she was happy to play along. There was no doubting Orla Ryan's beauty, which meant it wouldn't be difficult for her to attract the ladies.
“I really like your shirt.” Orla's finger trailed over Gill's collarbone, “I like the way you dress.”
“You're not too shabby yourself.”
Orla laughed as Gill clearly amused her. “I like to let my hair down a little on the weekends, it makes a pleasant change from the starched white shirts and fitted business suits, and the heels are a killer, but they make me more intimidating.”
“What is it you do?”
“Oh, did Emma not say? I'm a criminal lawyer.”
“You get the bad guys off.”
“Sometimes, although some of them are actually innocent, surprisingly enough.”
“But where is the fun in that?” Gill knew what criminal lawyers enjoyed most, she had known enough of them over the years through summer hockey.
Orla's eyes narrowed and she inclined her head. “Winning an impossible case is the ultimate high.”
“You mean getting a guilty man to be declared innocent.” It wasn't a question.
“They are the toughest cases to win.”
“And he walks free to re-offend.”
“That's not my concern. I practice the law to the best of my ability, and do my utmost for my client.”
“Commendable.” Gill remarked, sarcastically.
“I think so.”
Gill was beginning to wonder how Emma and Orla could ever have worked as a couple.
“You're a teacher?” Gill nodded at Orla's question. “I heard about your little scandal, that was a tough break.”
“It was certainly unexpected. You don't think a night of passion as an eighteen-year old is going to come back to haunt you almost eight years later.”
“So, you're twenty-six?”
“Yes, a few weeks ago.”
“Still a baby.”
Gill definitely didn't appreciate that comment, but she smiled politely and let it pass. “Well, it's getting late, I think I'm going to head back to the hotel.”
“So soon? That's a pity, but perhaps you would like some company?”
“I'm going to pass, I have a busy day tomorrow.”
Orla simply stared straight at Gillian with a small smile on her full lips, but Gill didn't cave in. “I'll see you at the game tomorrow.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Gill lay awake in her hotel room, going over her conversation with Orla. She simply couldn't get her head round Emma's attraction to the woman, beyond the physical. It didn't make sense, she just couldn't see them together, and yet they had been, for more than three years. Sleep was finally taking Gill when a knock at the door disturbed her. Opening the door, she found Emma standing on the other side wearing only a vest top and pyjama bottoms. “Is everything alright?”
“They're at it again and I really need to get some sleep.” Emma sounded exasperated.
Gill stepped aside and invited her in. “You can bunk in with me.”
“Oh, thank you.” Emma headed straight for Gill's bed and got in with a big sigh.
Gill smiled and slipped under the sheets next to her, the pair easily sharing the large double bed. “Night, Emma.”
“Night, Gillian,” came the mumbled reply.
Gill was more at ease now that Emma was next to her, and felt herself drifting off to sleep, but not before a noise came from the room next door.
Gill tried not to laugh. “Sorry, Emma, but that's Hilary and Naimh.”
“Who on earth is Naimh?”
“A woman we met tonight, she and Hilary have obviously hit it off.”
Emma lay back on the pillow and pretended to cry. “I am never going to get any rest this weekend.”
“Why are you all dressed up?” Emma took in Gill's smart black trousers, crisp white shirt with black buttons and teal v-neck jumper.
“We're going to meet nuns.”
Emma held back a laugh, “They won't mind what you wear.”
“I thought I should make the effort.”
Emma smiled, “You look nice.”
They took the elevator down to reception. “What's your sister like?”
“Wait five minutes and you can find out for yourself.”
They walked out of the hotel and across the road towards the cathedral. Gill saw some women standing outside selling flowers and Emma stopped to chat with them. They seemed to know each other. Gill watched as Emma hugged one of them. “Gillian, come and meet my sister.”
Gill was puzzled as she stepped forward. “Julia meet Gillian. Gillian, this is Julia, now Sister Dolores.”
Gill was momentarily speechless, but shook Sister Dolores' hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you.”
“And you, Gillian, I've heard so much about you. I was so sorry to hear of the passing of your friend, such a tragedy.”
Gill felt a lump instantly form in her throat, “Thank you.”
Sister Dolores hugged her and Gill wiped at the tears that leaked from her eyes. “I'm sorry, that was so unexpected.”
“No need to apologise, Gillian, grieving is a natural process.”
Gill nodded, “Yes.”
“Come and meet the other sisters.” Sister Dolores led Gill by the hand over to where the women were standing selling flowers. “Sisters, this is Gillian, a friend of Emma's over from Scotland for the weekend. Can you keep her company while I catch up with Emma?”
“Of course, come on and tell us all about yourself, Gillian.”
Gill smiled at the kind faces. The women of various ages were all dressed in sensible clothing, the only thing indicating their true identity was the large cross each of them wore around their necks. “I hope I'm not speaking out of turn, ladies, but I was expecting you to be wearing habits.”
The women laughed, “Oh, that was so last century, Gillian, we are moving with the times. Sister Mary Louise has an iPod and Sister Dolores has a mobile phone.”
“Well you ladies are all very well turned out.”
“Oh, such a charmer you are, Gillian.”
Gill was in love with these women, they were sweet and charming, and the accents, she was in heaven. They lifted her spirits as she laughed along with them, telling stories about school and hockey.
Emma and Sister Dolores glanced over to the group as yet more peels of laughter rang out from under the archway.
“She has them eating out of the palm of her hand.” Sister Dolores remarked.
“Gillian has a lot of charm.”
“You like her.” It wasn't a question.
“We're friends, good friends.”
“But you have feelings for her, I can tell from your letters.”
Emma sighed, “Gillian likes to play the field in more ways than one.”
“I see.” Sister Dolores glanced back over at Gillian, watching her conversing with her sisters.
“Tell me what you will be doing in the coming months?”
Sister Dolores smiled, turning her attention back to Emma, “I'm going to Uganda in July.”
“You see more of the world than anyone I know, Julia,” Emma remarked. Her sister's original name rolling easily off her tongue, as it always did when they were alone.
“I love my work. This time I will work in an orphanage, teaching English and God's word.”
“Please be careful, you hear such stories of horror.”
“Have faith, Emma.” A calm steady gaze accompanied the words.
Emma and Julia returned to the main group who were still swapping stories amid lots of laughter. “Gillian, will you walk with me a little?”
Gill was surprised by the request from Sister Dolores, but readily agreed. Dolores linked arms with her and they strolled a little down the walkway. “This is very cosy,” Gill remarked, her words hiding a rare moment of loss of control. A feeling almost anathema to Gill around another woman.
Sister Dolores patted Gill's hand, “Will you look after Emma for me? Keep her away from Orla Ryan, that woman is no good for her.”
Gill nodded, “I'll do my best.” She totally agreed with Sister Dolores after meeting Orla in the pub last night.
“Thank you. Emma tells me you have an eye for the ladies.”
“Ah, I suppose so, speaking of which, Sister Marie Louise is very cute.”
Sister Dolores stopped walking and turned to look at Gillian before glancing towards Sister Marie Louise. “You're very observant.”
“Her eyes follow you everywhere.”
Sister Dolores nodded once, slowly, “As do yours with Emma.”
“She's very pretty and smart, just like her sister.”
“Emma said you were very charming.” Sister Dolores added, looking coy and Gill simply smiled her quirky grin. “We should be getting back, but I hope to see you again sometime, Gillian.”
“I look forward to it.”
They said their goodbyes and Gill and Emma headed back to the hotel to get ready for their first match of the day. “Are you telling me they are all celibate?”
Emma wouldn't make eye contact with Gillian. “They have all taken vows of celibacy.”
“Ahh, that's not the same thing.”
“Gillian, they are nuns, behave.”
“Trust me, I know when I'm being eyed up and a couple of those nuns were definitely giving me the eye.”
“You're imagining things.”
“Uhuh, what about your sister?”
“Don't even go there, Gillian,” Emma warned.
“Sister Mary Louise? They make a cute couple.”
Emma ignored Gillian all the way back to the hotel room.
The team were a little early for the start of the game and stood around waiting for everyone else to turn up. Hilary rolled a ball towards Gillian. “Come on, Rae, show us your fancy skills.”
Gill smiled, “What about some keepy uppy?”
“Oh, like we do some fancy stick work and everyone votes the winner?”
“Yeah, you up for it?”
“Can the ball bounce on the ground?”
“So long as it's under control and part of the skill, yup.”
Hilary nodded, “Let's get it on.”
Gill easily used the edge of her stick to flick the ball, one handed, into the air. She bounced the ball on the flat face of her stick before adding her second hand to the stick. She then bounced the ball on the very top of the stick handle before casually passing the ball to Hilary. “Come on, two gloves, do your best.”
The rest of the team stood on the side, encouraging their teammates to outdo each other. Hilary finally threw in the towel when Gill really turned it on. She knew there was no one better at performing tricks with a hockey stick than Gillian. The other teams had started to arrive and wandered over to see what was going on and they were treated to an audacious display from Gillian. The ball never touched the ground for several minutes as Gill used every part of her stick and body to keep it in mid air. Gill finally ending the fun by smacking the ball, in mid air, from the halfway line towards one of the goals, which it missed by inches. Not one move she had performed would be legal on a hockey pitch, but it was fun to do.
The game eventually got underway and Dunedin romped to yet another victory. The talk amongst the Dunedin players was that Gillian was better than ever and the goals were flying in from all angles. She seemed to have gained a whole new focus and discipline towards the game in the last few weeks.
With one game remaining, a win or draw would see Dunedin win the tournament, it was against Orla Ryan's team, who knew a win for them would seal the tournament in their favour. Dunedin was up against Dublin Ladies as well as a very partisan crowd, for the final match of the weekend.
“Okay, who is still fit? We need to get eleven players on the park, so whoever thinks they can last hands up?” Only seven hands went up, including Gillian and Emma's. “You seven are starting,” Sheila declared. “The rest of us will rotate amongst ourselves to keep eleven players on the pitch. Gill, you organise all the corners since you are involved in every one. Let's go out with a victory and a hundred percent record.”
The seven healthy players and four walking wounded took to the pitch to face the opposition. It wasn't the most dynamic game ever, the pace was a little slower as there were no fresh legs left after six full matches. With the game littered with mistakes due to fatigue, Gill simply capitalised on the errors and got a hat trick. It was enough to see Dunedin win 3-2 and take the title. With the hockey over, it was time to hit the showers and get ready for the presentation dinner that evening.
Walking from the pitch and shaking hands with the opposition, Gillian was startled to find herself being asked for her autograph by some of the junior members of the Dublin hockey club. It was a novel experience to say the least and the cause of much teasing for Gill for the remainder of the weekend.
The meal was pleasant and, after the food was finished, the after dinner presentations began. Sheila picked up the tournament trophy and Gill picked up the award for the top goal scorer. Both announcements were greeted with generous applause. With the tournament officially closed, all that was left was a night of fun. With no games in the morning, Gill danced a little and drank a little, then watched as Naimh De Rossa arrived shortly before midnight.
“Oh, Hilary, two nights of passion in a row?” she teased her friend.
“We seem to have hit it off, so we made arrangements for a repeat performance.”
Naimh arrived at the table. “Hello, Gillian, good to see you again.”
“You too, Naimh.”
Hilary stood up, “Well, I'll see you all tomorrow morning.”
“Night you two.” Gill watched them go, the room starting to empty a little as people either went to bed for rest, or paired off. She looked across the dance floor and saw Emma chatting with Orla Ryan. She considered her options. She could leave them to it and head up to bed, or she could do what she'd rather do and interrupt which had the added advantage of fulfilling the promise she'd made that morning to Emma's sister. Gill chose the latter.
“Would you like to dance?” Orla didn't look happy too be interrupted, but Gill apologised and smiled. Emma agreed and they took to the dance floor, a slow track was playing and Gill began to lead Emma effortlessly around the floor.
“Is this a waltz?”
“Kind of, I've modified it a little.”
“I know you can dance, but I didn't realise you knew how to dance.”
“It's part of the school curriculum. We have to keep things current to keep the kids interested in exercise and, right now, dance is the thing. All kinds of dance from contemporary to this.”
“Who teaches you?”
Gill smiled, “We bring specialists into the school, often on Friday afternoons, when the students have gone. They teach the teachers.”
They were silent for a few moments, as Gill led them around the floor. Then she asked the question she had been desperate to ask for so long. “Do you still love her?”
Emma shook her head, “I love what we had together, but she broke my heart. I could never trust her again. She slept with my best friend, I lost them both because of that.”
“She wants you back?”
“She wants you to move back to Dublin ?”
Gill looked into her eyes, “If she wanted you, she should have come after you. That's what I would have done.” And with that, Gill leaned in and gently kissed Emma on the lips, then the music ended and she walked away.
Slightly dazed, Emma watched her go, then turned back to Orla who had been looking on with interest. “Looks like I'm too late.”
“It wouldn't have mattered if it was now or a few months ago, we can't turn back the clock.”
Orla nodded, “You're moving on and she is a lucky woman.”
Emma looked back over at Gillian, who smiled softly. She wished it were true.
Gill took the lift up to her room, she was tired and finally feeling the effects of the long weekend. She wondered what would happen between Emma and Orla. Despite Emma's words, Gill knew that it must be difficult for Emma having to see Orla again this weekend. Gill stood outside the door to her room and yawned, she had been woolgathering. Removing the keycard from her bag she put it into the slot.
“I wonder which room will be quieter tonight?”
Gill turned to see Emma standing behind her. She gave the question some consideration, “That's a tough one, Karen should be worn out by now, but you never know. On the other hand, Hilary and Naimh, are definitely going to be busy.” Gill smiled, “We could flip a coin?”
She watched Emma walk towards her and knew instantly that something was different. The kiss, when it came, was gentle. There was no haste, just a slow meeting of mouths. Gill deepened the kiss and, much to her delight, Emma went with it. They stood kissing in the corridor outside Gill's room for several minutes until, when they stopped, Gill searched Emma's face, a question on her lips. “Would you like to come in?”
Emma swallowed and nodded. Gill, normally well co-ordinated, fumbled slightly with the card lock, but soon had the door open.
Once inside the door Gill flicked the lamp switch, illuminating the room with a soft glow. Emma sat on the edge of the bed, knees together, her back ramrod straight. Gill walked towards her and bending slowly, captured her lips and continued to lean forward until Emma was lying back on the bed, Gill's arms splayed either side of her, holding her weight off Emma. The Irishwoman began to unbutton Gill's shirt until it fell open, displaying her firm breasts, which were held in place by a black lace bra. Gill trembled as Emma ran her fingertips over her taut abdomen, before unbuttoning her trousers and pushing them over her buttocks. Gill moved onto the bed, kicking off her shoes and slipping her trousers from her legs as she went. Emma turned to face Gill, searching for her lips and allowing Gill to slowly unzip the back of her dress, all the way down to the base of her spine. Gill's fingers itched to touch Emma everywhere.
“I've been wanting to do this for so long,” Gill confessed, as she slipped Emma's dress from her shoulders, then assisted Emma to remove it fully, before slipping her own shirt off. “So beautiful.” Gill took a moment to look at Emma as she sat in her underwear, before reaching behind and unclasping her bra. Emma's full breasts were revealed as Gillian removed the garment. Gill sucked one of Emma's nipples into her mouth, swirling her tongue around the erect tissue, while Emma removed Gill's bra. Gill continued to use her tongue on Emma's nipples as she sat up and pulled Emma into her lap. The blonde now straddling Gill and pulling her closer to her breasts, her fingers running through Gill's silky brown locks, as Gill's hands grasped Emma's buttocks, pulling her nearer to Gill, who pushed her hips forward and continued to grind her pelvis against the blonde's centre. Emma got to her knees encouraging Gill to do the same and they removed the last vestiges of material between them. Kneading Gill's breasts firmly, Emma kissed her hard before pushing Gill back onto the bed. She kissed and licked Gill's neck before moving down to take one of Gill's breasts into her mouth, sucking the nipple hard between her tongue and the roof of her mouth, encouraged by Gill's hand pressing her mouth harder against her breast. Emma trailed kisses down Gill's abdomen before nudging her thighs apart and licking the insides of them. Gill's stomach quivered with anticipation as she watched Emma move her head between her thighs and bury her tongue into Gill's centre. Gill sighed and watched with rapt fascination as Emma's head bobbed up and down as she thrust her tongue in and out of Gill. Emma then laved Gill's clit with her tongue, swirling it over the erect tissue until Gill's legs started to tremble.
Gill tried desperately not to come too soon, but the thought of Emma's lips pleasuring her was her undoing. Emma didn't stop and Gill came a second time before she had nothing more to offer. Emma made her way back up Gill's sweat soaked body and kissed her lazily, offering her a taste of her own fruits. Moments later Gill pushed Emma onto her back and swiftly entered her with two fingers. Emma cried out in pleasure, as Gill thrust into her again and again, before her mouth joined her fingers and Emma went over the edge with Gillian's name on her lips. They held each other close, kissing and touching until their desire reignited. Their bodies meshed so tightly together it was hard to tell where one started and the other ended as they stroked each other to orgasm, Gill arriving mere seconds before Emma. The night of passion continued, sometimes desperate, sometimes gentle, with cries of pleasure and tears of release, both women exercising their demons as they bonded. Gill had never felt so connected to another human being. Emma's self-controlled, reserved nature shattered, to be replaced with reckless abandon as she let herself go, surrendering and taking in equal measure. Finally spent, the pair fell asleep in each other's arms.
Emma woke before Gill and enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching her unguarded. The faint laughter lines on her face, the healing scars around her left eye, she memorised them. When Gill awoke an hour later, Emma was gone.
Gill packed and then made her way down for breakfast. It was the quietest everyone had been that weekend, a combination of fatigue and some hangovers. She caught sight of Hilary saying goodbye to Naimh and briefly wondered what would happen between the two women. She kept looking for Emma, but the OT didn't make an appearance until it was time to leave for the airport. Gillian caught her eye and smiled, but Emma looked sad and Gill wondered what could possibly be wrong after the night they had just shared together.
After checking in at the airport, the general mood of the team picked up a little and the jokes about the weekend started to fly. The inevitable one being who did and didn't get laid, there was a lot of speculation about that, which then turned to Gillian.
“Gill, have you just gone on tour and not gotten laid? That must be a first,” Laura remarked.
There were murmurs of disbelief and Gill didn't rise to the bait, she simply shrugged. Hilary looked at Gillian, she had clearly heard Gillian the night before, and was about to say just that, but Gill gave her a warning look, which in turn had Hilary sending a questioning look Gill's way.
Back at Edinburgh airport the team walked through to baggage collection and there was time for one final bit of hilarity. “Quick form a circle around Gillian, we have to protect her from crazed fans and autograph hunters.”
Laura's joke raised the final laugh of the weekend and brought it to a close. The team began to go their separate ways and Gill and Emma found themselves sharing a quiet, strained return journey on the 35 bus. Every time she looked Emma's way the Irishwoman was staring out the window, offering nothing more than pleasantries. Gillian was wishing the journey to be over, desperate to be home and out of this atmosphere. She couldn't understand what had gone so dreadfully wrong since the best night of her life. When the bus finally got to Emma's stop the pair said their goodbyes, and Gill stayed on for one more stop. She felt absolutely rotten.
Gillian drove out to Pauline and Brian's house with the intention of both visiting Charlotte and collecting Paws. She had missed the little dog, especially since she had arrived home yesterday from Dublin . The pup would have raised her spirits, helping to take the edge off the misery she had been feeling since Sunday morning. Emma hadn't been in touch and Gill had made the decision not to go to their pre-arranged lunch date. She got the feeling Emma didn't want to see her right now, especially not at work.
Gill was delighted to see Charlotte on her feet and walking around with less pain and more movement, she was really doing great, just as Hilary promised. Paws was ever present by her side, it was almost like the pup sensed Charlotte was healing. The pair were made for each other.
“I brought you a little something back from my trip.”
Charlotte smiled and waited patiently for her gift, her eyes instantly lighting up at the first sight of her new doll in traditional Irish dress. Charlotte easily located the little button on the doll's wrist, knowing exactly what would happen when she pressed it and she wasn't disappointed when the doll burst into a rendition of 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling'. Gill looked to Pauline, who was clearly bemused, and shrugged, “Sorry, but I know she loves these singing dolls and they seem to sell them at the airports, I couldn't resist.”
Pauline watched on as Charlotte pressed the button again and giggled as the doll moved her head and sang. Pauline would have given anything to hear Charlotte laugh again just a few weeks ago and now Gillian had provided another source, Pauline was grateful. “Gill, can I have a word?”
Gill nodded and knew they were heading for the kitchen.
“It's about Paws.”
“No problem, Pauline, I'm here to collect him, there was never any pressure on you to keep him, it's fine.”
“Gill, I wanted to ask if you would leave him here with Charlotte ?”
“Oh, I see.”
“These last few days, with Paws around, I've seen a change in her, he is definitely helping her mood and now that she has a bit more mobility, the dog is almost doing the work for us of encouraging her to come on short walks. We'd love to keep him, Gill, and I think it would break Charlotte 's heart to have to part with him now.”
Gill smiled, despite her pang of loss, “That was always the hope, Pauline, I'm delighted it's worked out. I'll drop off all his toys and bring in his travelcot.”
Pauline hugged Gillian and kissed her cheek, “The dog was a fantastic idea.”
“I'll go talk to Charlotte .”
Gill looked at the little girl as she played with her puppy. “ Charlotte , you know I'm very busy with hockey and school and I'm not home very much?” Charlotte nodded, looking intently at Gillian. “Well I feel that I'm not able to look after Paws properly and I wonder if you could help me?”
“Could I leave Paws here with you, and you look after him?”
The little girl's eyes went wide as she nodded enthusiastically. “I will look after him the best, Gilly!”
Gill rubbed Charlotte 's mop of red curls, “I know you will.”
Gill said her goodbyes to Paws, he wasn't her dog any longer, and promised to be back the following day with all his toys and goodies. It was with a heavy heart that she left Pauline's home and decided to head straight to training, a run might improve her mood.
Gill jogged around the perimeter of the large playing fields. It was a pleasant spring evening and all she could think about was Emma and why the woman wouldn't talk to her. In fact, she could barely look at Gill and Gill could not work out how a fantastic night had turned into such a disaster. After her first lap, Gill was joined by Sarah Mathieson. She rarely got a chance to talk alone with the tall brooding policewoman who was usually all work and no play.
“How are things, Gillian?”
Gill knew this was Sarah's way of asking after her following the death of Justine. Sarah had been the one to break the news to her, that also meant Sarah was working the case. “I'm doing okay, thanks. You putting in some extra training?”
“I often do, keeps me fit for the job and the hockey. We have a gym back at the station, but it's not so easy to go for a run. This is ideal.”
These two women were fit, easily holding a conversation as they completed another lap, Gill's second of the evening. “Sarah, you will be in court when Justine's case is heard?”
“That's right, Gill, I was first on the scene.”
“Tell me about him? What's his name? Where does he live?”
Sarah put her arm on Gill's shoulder and effectively stopped them both jogging. She shook her head, “You don't want to do this, Gillian.”
“But I can't stop thinking about how he feels, what is he like, does he even care?” The frustration in her voice was evident.
Sarah debated answering Gillian. She pursed her lips as she contemplated what, if anything, she could tell Gill. “He's twenty-one, he was driving his works van in difficult road conditions.”
“Was he speeding?” Gill needed to know.
Sarah shook her head, “Technically no, he hit black ice and lost control. A combination of inexperience and youth.”
Gill took a shaky breath and closed her eyes. “I want to go to court when the case is heard.”
“Gill, you don't want to put yourself through that,” Sarah cautioned.
Gill looked meaningfully at her teammate, “I need to go. Please, will you tell me when it is?”
Sarah nodded, “I'll tell you, Gillian.”
Gill swallowed hard, “Thank you.” Gill was about to jog away when Sarah stopped her.
Gill turned to look at the policewoman, suddenly dreading what she might say, but needing to hear it.
“There was one eye witness report that will interest you.”
“Go on.” Gill encouraged.
“A man who was walking towards Justine and Charlotte said that Justine's final act was to pull Charlotte into her arms and cradle her from the full impact.”
“She saved Charlotte 's life?”
Gill nodded as tears glistened in her eyes. Sarah simply put an arm around her shoulder and walked them both back towards the clubhouse.
Training got underway a short time later and though the season was almost over, there was still a lot for Dunedin to play for. Sheila gave a talk as the first team gathered around. “Remember, ladies, we are one game away from being at cup final Saturday. We need an extra big effort this coming game, it will be a tough match, but we can win it.” Dunedin were drawn to play the team they were level on points with in the semi-final. A win would almost certainly assure them of a place in European competition for the first time in their history, as it was most likely the other semi-final would be won by the team currently top of the league. That meant that they were already going to be in Europe next year. The stakes were high and increased the tension amongst the Dunedin players as they ventured into new territory. They had to hold their nerve and not freeze on Saturday. “We are joint second in the league, but with only one game left, top spot is out of our reach, but we can come second. Ladies, this has been a monumental season of firsts for our hockey club, now let's focus and get to the finishing line. We want a trophy.” Sheila really could be inspiring when she put her mind to it, she had practically rendered Scott redundant this season, in truth, the club was moving beyond his abilities as a coach.
Training was upbeat, especially after Sheila's team talk, but Gillian's hopes of a talk with Emma were dashed when immediately after training Emma left to cycle home. Gill watched her go, wondering how she was going to be able to fix whatever was wrong. Suddenly she felt a strong hand grip her arm and found herself being led to a quiet corner of the pitch.
“It was Emma,” Hilary accused.
Gill stared at Hilary.
“In Dublin , the person in your room on Sunday night was Emma.”
Gill nodded, “I don't want to talk about it.”
“What the hell did you go and do, Gillian? You were friends, everything was going well, now she won't even look at you.”
“I know, and I wish I could work out why.”
“Isn't it obvious? You slept with her, you've done the deed and now you have discarded her like yesterday's news.”
“Then what's going on?”
“I want to be with her!”
Hilary looked at Gillian, seeing the truth in her declaration.
“I spent the best night of my life with Emma and now she won't talk to me. Did you ever stop to think that this isn't my fault? I don't know what to do, because she won't talk to me.”
“I feel like she used me, Hilary.”
“I'm not going to laugh, but coming from you, that statement is hilarious.”
“I know, but she spent all weekend being chased by her ex girlfriend and then she slept with me. She knew I wouldn't refuse and I think that's all she wanted.”
“You need to speak to her, even if it's just to find out that she doesn't want anything else. At least that way, you will know where you stand with her.”
“I can't believe that she would walk away, Hilary, it was...amazing.”
Hilary hugged Gill, she realised that for all Gill's experience with women, she was emotionally inexperienced, not used to exposing her feelings, as she simply hadn't found anyone to invest them in until now. “Welcome to the real world, Gillian, they don't always love you back.”
“You shit,” Gill mumbled.
Gill drove home and contemplated going to Emma's flat, but her heart just wasn't in it. Her next thought was Justine's, that's what she would always do in a situation like this, but her friend was gone. Gill sat in her car, parked outside her flat and realised at that point in time there was no one she could turn to, not anyone close enough. Emma had become that, but Emma was the source of her current dilemma. Gill felt like everything was coming apart at the seams, and realised Emma had played a big part in preventing that happening until now. With Emma currently out of the picture, Gill was feeling like she was sinking without an arm to grasp on to.
Maggie McLure caught sight of Gillian as she walked towards the PE block. The young woman didn't seem herself and Dennis Carter, the head of the PE department, had spoken to Maggie about her. Suddenly there was a shout of 'Dyke!' and two fourth year boys came hurtling around the corner towards her.
“You two!” They stopped dead in their tracks, “Go and sit outside my office and wait for me. Now!” The boys scurried off, shame faced.
Maggie watched as Gill entered the PE block, she hadn't even turned around when the boys had shouted. Entering the building, she saw Gill in the staff room through the glass window, making a cup of tea. She knocked on the door.
Gill waved, “Hi, Maggie, come in. You want some tea?”
“Sure, milk no sugar.”
“You not teaching?”
“I have a rare free period.”
Maggie took a seat in the staff room and eyed Gill cautiously. “Gillian, didn't you hear those fourth year boys just a minute ago?”
Gill looked up from her task, “Oh, the dyke remark? I tend to just ignore it.”
“So it happens often?”
Gill shrugged, “Often enough, I expected it after the newspaper article, it's no big deal. I hardly even notice it now.”
“So I see. Listen, Gillian, I want you to tell me when this is happening.”
Gill shook her head, “Maggie, I don't want to make a big thing out of it. If we do, I think it will get worse, as it is, it's tapering off.” She handed Maggie her cup of tea and they took a seat.
“Well, I'm suspending those two regardless. I caught them in the act, I can't let it go.”
Maggie looked at Gill, she was definitely down in the dumps. “What's wrong, Gillian? You don't seem like yourself.”
Gill sighed, “I miss Justine, lots. I also miss Paws.”
“Well I understand you missing Justine, but who on earth is Paws?”
Gill managed a small smile. “A little puppy I got for Charlotte . An adorable chocolate Lab. I had him for a few weeks, looked after him and took him to visit Charlotte almost everyday. I left him with Charlotte for the Easter weekend and when I went to pick him up Pauline begged me not to, as he had transformed Charlotte , so I left him there and now I'm lonely as hell.”
“Get another one,” Maggie suggested.
“Maybe.” Gill's vague reply indicating her reluctance.
“How was Dublin ?”
“It doesn't sound great.” Maggie's voice conveyed her concern.
“It was great up until I slept with Emma.”
“Oh, Gillian, for goodness sake.”
Gill shook her head, “It's not what you think. I've fallen hard for her, Maggie and since we slept together, which was no one sided thing, she has been avoiding me. Before that we were practically inseparable. I miss her. She hasn't called me, or popped down to visit. At training we hardly speak to each other. She is making her own way to hockey games when I usually give her a lift. I don't know what is going on.”
Maggie listened with a sympathetic ear, “Have you called her?”
“Offered her a lift, tried to speak to her at training?”
“Okay, I see where this is going.”
“Gillian, if you really want this woman, and I think that you do, you need to put yourself out there. Visit her, take her flowers, talk to her. Whatever it takes, you have to give it a try.”
“I don't know, Maggie, she was hurt before, I think she is afraid to take a chance on me.”
“Well, I can't say I blame her, but you need to convince her otherwise.” Maggie made sure Gill was hearing her, “But if you mess her around, I will kick your arse, hard.”
Gill laughed for the first time in days. “I believe you would.”
“Call her, Gillian and talk to her.”
Maggie finished her tea and left to go and deal with the fourth year boys waiting outside her office, leaving Gillian sitting alone in the staff room, contemplating the advice Maggie had given her. She hoped she was right in thinking Emma was avoiding her because Gillian wasn't someone she was prepared to take a chance on and, when it got right down to it, who could blame Emma for feeling that way. There was still the option that Emma really had simply used Gillian for a night of passion and ordinarily Gill would have no problem with that, except this time, Gill wanted more. A situation she had never found herself in after sleeping with a woman.
Gill thought back to Saturday, a busy day at Peffermill, where all the semi-finals had taken place. There had been many opportunities for them to talk to each other, but neither of them had taken the first step. The team had been buoyant after winning their closely contested match, a game that, had Gillian and Emma been fully focussed on, they might well have won a little more comfortably.
Gill reached up to a shelf on the back wall and removed a copy of the yellow pages. Searching the listings she found a flower shop that promised delivery that same day. She called and ordered a spring bouquet with the simple message. 'Can we talk?' G xx She hoped it would be enough to set the wheels in motion.
Hilary Duffy strode along the hospital corridor towards the nurses' station of the orthopaedic ward, her prey firmly in her sights. Murray , the staff nurse had pissed her off once too often and she was ready to give him hell. Her momentum was interrupted by a beautiful spray of brightly coloured flowers in the arms of Emma Hughes. “Are those from a patient?”
Emma turned to see Hilary standing there, and her cheeks turned a lovely shade of pink. Not immediately finding her voice, Hilary plucked the card from the bouquet and read it.
“Impressive, I didn't think she had it in her.” Hilary handed the card back to Emma, “What are you going to do?”
“I don't know.”
Hilary looked around, making sure that no one could overhear their conversation. “Gillian thinks that you used her.”
Emma looked horrified, “I would never do that.”
“Then you have to explain to her what's going on. She's a smart and talented young woman, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, she is a complete novice. She feels terrible, but you don't look much better yourself.”
“It was my fault, I initiated the whole thing. Gillian never pushed.”
“She never does.”
They both shared a smile at the truth of that statement. “She's still grieving, I should never have taken advantage.”
“I'm not the one you need to be talking to.”
“I know.” She knew it was Gillian who needed to hear those words.
“I hate to see the two of you like this. Gill wants to chat, I think you should take her up on that offer. You're both miserable.”
“I'll text her.”
“Good.” Hilary's attention was returned to her reason for being at the nurses' station, “ Murray ? Murray ! Wait up.”
Emma watched as the staff nurse scurried down the corridor with Hilary Duffy striding after him. Her day finished, she returned to the OT department and removed her mobile phone from her locker. She sent a short text to Gillian. 7 p.m tonight at mine? The reply arrived less than a minute later. See you then xx
Gill was delighted to receive a text from Emma, at least it meant they would talk. It was a start. She continued her attempt at making dinner, which admittedly wasn't going well, but how difficult could it be to boil pasta and add a ready made sauce from a tub? Her nutrition sheet had said pasta was a good idea several times a week, but at this rate, she would be walking up to her local Italian restaurant to get it. She really needed to learn to cook.
Two hours later, with a belly that still felt full, Gill suspected this was due to the pasta being undercooked, it had been very chewy, Gill took the short walk up to Emma's flat.
Pressing the buzzer, Gill waited to be let in. Walking up the stairs, Emma was, as usual, waiting at her open door.
“Come on in, have you eaten?”
“I had some pasta disaster.” Emma looked quizzically at Gill. “Long story, I can't cook.”
“Thank you for the flowers by the way, they are lovely.”
Gill looked around, but didn't see her flowers anywhere.
“Unfortunately, I couldn't cycle home with them, so they are being admired in the OT department.”
“Oh, I hadn't thought of that.” Gill smiled and shrugged and the act instantly reminded Emma as to why she was so drawn to this woman.
“Have a seat.” Why did everything suddenly feel so formal? Their easy familiarity had been removed with one night of passion, replaced by a clumsy awkwardness that was alien to both of them. Emma falling back on politeness and manners and Gill looking like a teenager waiting outside the headmaster's office.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“I'm fine, thanks.”
“What about some music?”
Gill frowned, “Emma, can we just talk?”
“Of course, yes.”
“I'm sorry.” They both apologised at the same time, another clumsy moment.
“Why are you sorry, Gillian?”
“Well, obviously we shouldn't have slept together, so I'm sorry for that.”
“I'm the one who is sorry. I shouldn't have taken advantage of you like that.”
Gill was surprised, she had hoped that Emma hadn't used her, but it seemed her worst fears were confirmed.
“You are grieving and I had no right to give in to my desires. I should have shown more restraint.”
Gill was crestfallen. “I see.” Gill had no words, and Emma was suddenly alarmed that the situation was worse, not better.
“I don't think this is helping.”
“I'm sorry, Gill, I'm finding it hard to just pick up where we left off as friends. I promised myself I would never sleep with you, but I gave in to the temptation. I should have been stronger. I know it's easy for you to pick back up with people, but I can't.”
“Then why did you sleep with me?”
Emma shook her head, “I was home, around my ex girlfriend, I was lonely and you were there. I thought I could be like you for once.”
“You used me,” Gill accused.
“No one has ever used you, Gillian. You have always gotten what you wanted. You have made it clear on several occasions that you wanted to sleep with me. We both got what we wanted.”
“Not this time. Maybe you did, but I certainly didn't.”
Emma was confused, “What do you mean?”
“I didn't get you, I didn't want a one time thing.”
“Gillian, you're grieving. You don't know what you want right now.”
“Yes, I am grieving and I don't know how long it will last, but I'm not confused and my feelings aren't mixed up because of it. I fell for you before I lost Justine. She knew it before I did and if she was here she would tell you the exact same thing.”
Emma shook her head, “I've been hurt in the past, I can't go through that again.”
Gillian moved closer to Emma, taking her hand. “I know you have been hurt, but I won't hurt you.”
Emma looked sadly at Gillian, “You don't know that, you sleep around and you can't commit.”
Gill was frustrated, wondering how she could convey her depth of feeling to Emma. “But now I've found someone I want to be with. As for sleeping around, I promise you I won't. I can be faithful.”
Emma frowned, she looked torn and Gillian knew she had to convince her. “Tell me you don't want to be with me. Tell me you don't want to see where this can go and I will walk away. I'm asking you to take a leap of faith and I understand that you are scared, but I know we can make it work.”
“How can you know, Gillian? How can you be sure? You have never had a proper relationship.”
Gillian decided it was time she told Emma the whole truth. “Because for years I was in love with Justine. Right up until our third year in college. It took me that long to realise she would never be able to return my feelings. Until then, I kept hoping she would somehow see the light, but it wasn't to be, Justine was born straight.” Gill smiled at that, “I haven't had a girlfriend in all these years because I know what it feels like to find that special someone. A person who can make you light up when they walk into a room. A person whose smile can transform your day. I feel all that again when I'm with you.”
Emma sat on her sofa staring at Gillian. She had been rendered speechless.
“Say something, please” Gill felt raw and exposed.
“I, ah. Sunday night was amazing, Gillian and it scared me. You scare me.”
Gill decided to risk all and leaned in to kiss Emma. “Please don't push me away,” she whispered. Emma didn't, she welcomed the contact. The pair quickly became lost in each other, picking up where they left off in Dublin , but it was Gillian who called a halt to proceedings. Smiling at Emma, she tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind the Irishwoman's ear. “I'll see you at training tomorrow and perhaps we could go out for a bite to eat on Wednesday evening?”
Emma appreciated Gill's ability to refrain from jumping back into bed with her, though on a more basic level, she knew she would have been hard pressed to say no. “Dinner would be great. I'll see you tomorrow.” Emma walked Gillian to the front door where they shared another lingering kiss.
“I'll see you tomorrow, goodnight, Emma.”
Gillian watched as the last of the pupils left the PE block at break-time. She glanced at her watch and decided she had time for a quick drink and a bite to eat and that the best place to get both quickly was the main staffroom. Walking through the school grounds, Gill took her phone out of her tracksuit pocket, checking just in case she had a message from Emma, she smiled at the thought.
“Is that your girlfriend calling you, Miss?”
Gill smiled at the young boy and kept walking. It wasn't as though he was wrong. As her phone sprang to life, it went into overdrive, there were several messages stopping Gill in her tracks and for one moment the blood in her veins turned to ice. Something had happened. Holding her breath, she opened the first message, but a call was coming through at the same time, overriding the process. Gill hit the answer button.
“Gill, it's Laura.”
“Oh, hi, is everything okay?”
“I'm guessing you haven't checked the Scottish hockey website this morning.”
“Why would I?”
“Eh, because you have been named in the latest squad.”
“The upcoming friendly against France .”
Gill was trying to get her head around what Laura was telling her. “Are you saying I've been called up for Scotland ?”
“That's exactly what I'm saying, we're going to be teammates, Karen and Camilla are in the squad too.”
Gillian was silent and Laura thought she had been disconnected. “Gill, you there?”
“What? Yes, sorry, I'm just well, stunned, I never thought it would happen.” Gillian was suddenly suspicious, “Laura if this is a wind-up I swear...”
Gill could hear Laura groan on the other end of the line, “Go find a computer and take a look, oh and by the way...Congratulations, Gill, it's a about time.”
Gillian stood in the school grounds, her hand covering her mouth and a bewildered look upon her face.
“Miss, are you okay?”
Gill blinked to see Carla Tonner standing in front of her, a concerned look on her face. “What? Yes, I'm fine, Carla, thanks.”
“Have you just got bad news, Miss?”
Gill shook her head and smiled, “Actually, it's good news. I've been called up to play for Scotland .”
“Not being funny, Miss, but it's about bloody time them prudes got their fingers out.”
Gill looked at Carla, a reprimand on her lips, but instead she burst out laughing, “I couldn't have put it better myself.”
“Congratulations, Miss, I'm going to come and watch.”
Gill nodded, “Thanks, Carla, I'll see you at the game tomorrow morning.” Gill changed direction and jogged to the IT department in search of a computer. She burst through the doors like a bat out of hell.
“Where's the fire?”
“Sorry, Mark, but I need to check something on the Internet straight away.”
Mark Johnson invited Gill over to the computer he was sitting at, “Anything I can help with?”
“Can you get me the website for Scottish hockey?”
Mark nodded and put in a search, quickly bringing up the homepage. “Click on National Teams,” Gill instructed.
Mark did as requested and watched as another menu appeared. Gill looked at it, “Select seniors.” There under latest news was the senior women's squad for the upcoming friendly against France . Gill ran her finger down the list until she came to her name. Rae, Gillian. Dunedin Ladies.
“That's you, Gill,” Mark declared with surprise in his voice.
Gill smiled as she looked at the technician, “I've finally been selected for Scotland .”
Walking back to the PE department to take her final class of the day, Gill had a smile on her face and her snack was forgotten as she started to welcome the students into the PE block. The lesson flew by and Gill was soon heading off in search of lunch before making her way to staff in-service.
“I hear congratulations are in order, Gillian.”
“Hi, Maggie, who told you?”
“I checked the website.”
Maggie smiled, “While you might not bother, Dennis and I always do with each new squad that's named. We knew this day would come.”
Gill nodded, “I won't believe it's really happening until I'm running around on the pitch.”
“Well, I can't blame you for being sceptical, but you have been named in the squad, it's a start.”
“I know, but after everything that's happened, I don't want to get carried away.”
“No harm in keeping your feet on the ground, Gillian. You keep your head down and behave yourself, the rest will take care of itself.”
“I have every intention of doing just that.” Maggie gave Gill a look she couldn't decipher. “What? What's that look for?”
Smiling, the older woman shook her head, “I believe you have finally grown up.”
“You know what I mean, I think you're finally ready to realise your full potential. Make the most of it, Gillian, this opportunity is only going to present itself once.”
Gill nodded contemplatively, “I know.”
“Don't mess it up.”
“Stop being so serious, you're scaring me.”
“There is no shame in being nervous.”
“I'm not nervous,” Gill protested.
“Of course you're not.” Maggie simply looked at Gillian.
“Okay, I'm a little nervous, but don't you dare tell a soul.”
Gill shook her head, “I'm too dubious, I won't allow myself to be excited, Maggie. I could be called up for countless squads, but never actually be capped. Like I say, until I'm running around that pitch in a Scotland strip, I'm remaining sceptical.”
“I'll be there to watch you when it happens.”
Gillian took the stairs two at a time, such was her haste to see Emma. As usual, the Irishwoman was waiting at her front door. “Hi.” Gill kissed Emma on the lips, before entering her flat.
Closing the front door, Emma walked after her. “Congratulations, Gillian, you deserve it.” She pulled Gill into a warm embrace. “How do you feel?”
Inhaling Emma's scent, Gill sighed, “Great.” She began kissing her neck, before capturing Emma's lips.
“Mmm, I meant how do you feel about the call-up?”
“Excited, cautious, horny .” She began manoeuvring Emma towards the sofa, emphasising her point.
“Gillian, we have a game tomorrow,” Emma protested.
“A game that means nothing, whether we win, lose or draw. We are finishing second regardless of the result.” Gill pulled her own t-shirt over her head and Emma began to waver.
“Have you never had sex the night before a game?” Gill whispered hotly in Emma's ear, before unbuttoning her shirt.
Emma was breathing heavily now and her reply betrayed her arousal. “Yes, Orla really liked to let her hair down on a Friday night.”
That stopped Gill in her tracks, she stood there in her jeans and bra, Emma's shirt open revealing her underwear. “So sex before a game was the norm for you?”
“Listen, if you don't want to, I understand.”
Emma's response was to pull Gillian to her and kiss her passionately. Gill responded in kind and the pair tumbled on to the sofa, hastily removing each other's jeans and shoes. The sex was quick and exciting, both women stroking the other to orgasm as they kissed passionately. They lay spent in each other's arms, breathing heavily. “Now that's what I call a quickie. Wooh”
Emma laughed and kissed Gill's chest, noticing the redness mixed with the tan. “You've been on a sunbed.”
“Most Fridays, yes.”
She noticed for the first time, the neatness of Gillian's eyebrows and she ran a hand down Gill's calf. “And you've been waxed.”
Gill laughed lightly, “Guilty.”
Emma took a moment to really look at Gillian. “You have had your bikini line waxed.” She looked at the strip of neatly trimmed brown hair between Gill's legs, still glistening from their heated encounter.
Gill shrugged, “I like to keep it neat, as do you.”
“I think you're a little vain, Gillian,” Emma teased.
“And I think you're a little anal, with your neatly ironed clothes and your perfect posture.”
“You seem to like it.”
Gill laughed aloud at the unexpected reply, she had thought Emma would protest. Leaning closer to Emma she captured her gaze, “I definitely do.” Then she softly kissed her.
The following afternoon, Gill and Emma arrived together for the final league game of the season. Their quick encounter had turned into a night of passion, as they had moved from the sofa to the bedroom. They entered the home dressing room to applause and Gill momentarily wondered if word had somehow gotten out that they were together, then she realised the applause was for her Scotland call-up.
“Well done, Gill, it's about time,” Hilary said.
“Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?” Everyone looked at Laura, wondering where she was going with the question. “Gill was banned from all Scotland squads after getting into a pair of French knickers, and now her first cap is going to be against France .”
“Yeah, Gill, this time you better skip the ooh la la , if you want to be getting more caps,” Sheila cautioned.
Emma was quiet as she listened to the conversation, taking a seat in the corner.
“That's all behind me.”
Laura laughed, “Yeah right, Gill. I reckon she will be looking for a repeat performance if she is there.”
It was Hilary who noticed the strange atmosphere in the changing room and kicked Laura to get her to shut up. The defender stared at Hilary and the doctor motioned her eyes towards Emma. Laura's face immediately conveyed her understanding and she stopped talking. It wasn't a subtle exchange and hardly anyone in the dressing room missed it. There were smiles everywhere until finally, Hilary decided to release the tension. “So, what did you two get up to last night?” As Gill and Emma exchanged a look the changing room burst into laughter.
To Be Continued
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