Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
The following Saturday saw Gill and Emma arrive early for the Scottish cup finals. Theirs would be the penultimate game with a starting time of 2 p.m. Followed by the men's final. The final would see the top two teams in the Scottish women's game battle it out for the final piece of silverware. Peffermill was a very busy place, with four finals taking place over the course of the day.
“This is going to be a tough game, Glasgow ladies won the league.”
“I know, but we only lost the league by four points, and in the game they beat us at home, I wasn't exactly on top form, I think we have a good chance.”
“They have eight players in the Scotland team.”
“And we now have four. They are the established team, following years of dominance and we are the up and coming new girls. The amount of Scottish players doesn't count for much, we are a match for them on our day. We just need to get past the nerves, that's where they will have the upper hand. They have been here before several times, this is our first Scottish cup final.”
Emma had to admit that Gillian had hit the nail on the head, she was tense and she could feel it running through her teammates. “Are you nervous, Gillian?”
Gill shook her head, “Not today. I'm excited and I can't wait to get started, but I'm not afraid to win. We are already playing in European competition next year even if we lose. This is about us as a team being ready to challenge the dominance of the top two and we have already split them this year. This is about proving we are serious and that means believing in ourselves.”
Emma nodded, Gill was making a lot of sense.
Gill squeezed her hand, “Play your usual game, you are one of the most consistent performers for Dunedin this season and a big part of why we are doing so well.”
The pair watched part of the men's Rose Bowl final, the competition contested by every team that was knocked out in the first round of the cup. Gradually the Dunedin players gathered in the same spot until it was time to begin their own preparations. Gillian had never seen them all look so serious. The tension was definitely building. In direct contrast the Glasgow players looked relaxed and confident, they knew they were already ahead before the game started.
Walking into the designated changing room, the first thing Gill noticed was all the new tops hanging on pegs. She walked over to number eight, knowing it was hers. “Ooh, these are nice.” Holding the shirt up for perusal, she noticed the front. “We have a sponsor? Since when?”
Fay Williams spoke up, “The owner is a business associate of mine, she was more than happy to sponsor us when I told her we were in the cup final and would be playing in Europe next season.”
“So, she owns this night club?”
“Amongst other places in Edinburgh , yes. This is her latest venture. If all goes well, she may give us money towards our European challenge, but that kind of sponsorship would involve a name change. For today, it's the shirts, with the name of her latest night club on them.”
Sheila threw a bag onto the floor, “That's a debate for another day. There are new socks too, pick a pair from the bag.”
Socks were thrown around as the players checked the foot sizes. “Isn't there a nine?” Hilary asked, as she sifted through the remaining pairs.
Gill was sitting with two pairs in her hands, debating which size to select.
“Give me the bigger ones, Gillian.”
Gill liked her socks a little long, but Hilary needed the bigger size, so she threw a pair and they bounced off the doctor's head.
“Let's hope you're as accurate on the pitch.”
“I'm surprised you didn't feign injury. Do you need a plaster?”
“Five minutes, ladies, then the warm-up begins.”
Gill glanced at Sheila, she was being super efficient and clearly not in the mood for any fooling around from the players. Shrugging she finished getting ready and made her way out to a strip of running track, away from the main pitch.
“Sheila is wound up a bit tight,” Hilary remarked as she stood next to Gillian and stretched her calves.
“We all are, I really want to win this, Gillian.”
Hilary glanced over at Glasgow Ladies. “It's going to be tough. Eight Scottish players and three of them also play for Great Britain .”
Gill nodded, “We can win.”
Dunedin ladies gathered back in their dressing room to strip ready for the game and a few final words of wisdom from Scott.
“Okay girls, this is your moment. A Scottish cup winner's medal is within your grasp. Now you have to ask yourself the question, do you want to walk away a winner or a loser? If you want to be a winner then you go out there and give your all. If anyone comes off the pitch thinking they could have done better, then you will have let yourself and the team down if we lose.” Scott looked around the changing room. “You have the ability to win today, now you need to believe you can win.”
Gill nodded at the strong words from the coach knowing belief would play a big part in the day's proceedings.
The first half turned out to be a disaster for Dunedin . They found themselves two nil down. The penalty corners weren't working, passes were going astray and they were second to every fifty-fifty ball. The large crowd were subdued, hoping for a closer contest. The shouts of encouragement had become sporadic and half-hearted. Scott and Sheila did their best to offer words of encouragement and made a substitution at the start of the second half, swapping in Fay for the teenage striker, Melinda. It wasn't the switch Gill would have made, but it was Sheila and Scott's decision. The strikers were seeing little of the ball and the problem lay with the distribution from the midfield.
Scott added a few final words, “The next goal in this game is absolutely crucial – we must score it.”
Gill knew that going down three nil would effectively be game over, leaving Dunedin with little chance of getting back into the match. She took up a position at the centre of the pitch, ready to take the pass back with Scott's words ringing in her ears.
The opening minutes of the second half saw Dunedin fair a little better. They had yet to manage one shot on target, but they were stringing some passes together. They were also living a little dangerously at the back with Lindy making two vital saves in goal, keeping them in the game.
Dunedin definitely had a little more purpose and belief about themselves and an interception in defence saw Hilary breaking out with the ball. She threaded a perfect pass through the opposition leaving Gillian running full pelt on to the ball. With only the keeper to beat, Gill touched the ball past her.
“Oof!” The air left Gill's lungs as she landed heavily on her back, looking up at the sky, wondering what had hit her. There was chaos all around and the crowd were on their feet. To add insult to injury, a covering defender slammed the ball hard against Gill as she lay prone on the Astroturf, causing further mayhem to break out. The Dunedin players, who had been rushing towards the umpire to complain, suddenly rushed instead towards the defender who had hit the ball at Gill. It had been a cheap shot to smack the ball into a grounded player.
The umpire, rapidly losing control of the situation, blew hard on her whistle, calling her fellow umpire over to assist her in sorting out the unfolding melee. Meanwhile Gill was struggling to catch her breath and the physio had come rushing on to the pitch to attend to her.
“We meet again.”
Gill looked up into the smiling face of Annabel, the physio who had treated her last summer.
“Hi.” Gill wheezed, “I think....winded.”
“Just relax.” Annabel slowly helped Gill to her feet, checking her appendages as she stood.
“My back...hurts.” Gill held the base of it, rubbing away the pain.
Meanwhile, the umpire called over the Glasgow goalkeeper and issued her with a yellow card as the crowd chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” then booed when the card wasn't red. The umpire then called over the defender and issued her with a green card of warning. Sheila protested at the leniency, but the umpire explained that she couldn't be sure how much intent was involved in hitting the ball at Gillian after the whistle had blown.
With no reserve goalkeeper on the bench, Glasgow elected a kicking back, who put on a facemask. They would have to see out the next ten minutes with no goalkeeper and a player down. The umpire then awarded Dunedin a penalty corner as the original offence had taken place outside of the shooting circle. The downside was that Gillian was still off the pitch, and Melinda had come on to take her place. The usual corner routine was changed and Dunedin failed to get a strike on goal, Glasgow hastily clearing the ball out for a push in.
Gill was on the sidelines being treated, valiantly trying to get the air back into her lungs. Scott called to the physio, “Take five minutes with her.”
Annabel smiled at Gill as she worked on her diaphragm, “You never called.”
“You did … such a great … job, I didn't need to … come back.”
“I meant after the night we spent together.”
Gill recalled that evening vividly. Annabel had given her the all clear to resume full training and discharged her. Gillian had then asked her out for a drink. The rest was history and a very memorable evening. “I'm sorry about that.”
Annabel nodded, “You're breathing better now, let me see your back.”
Gill turned to allow the physio access. “It's a bit red, you will probably have a nice bruise.” Annabel instructed Gill to move certain ways as she checked out her mobility. “That's you done, another successful discharge from physio.”
Gill smiled, “Thanks.”
“You have my number, call me.” The invitation was clear.
“I have a girlfriend now.”
“And I have a boyfriend.”
Gill hadn't known that, but it certainly made her feel less of a shit for not calling, she shook her head, “I think my five minutes are up.”
Annabel nodded, “Good luck.”
“We need it.”
She made her way over to Scott and the Dunedin bench. “Swap back in for Fay,” Scott instructed.
“Scott, I think we should keep Melinda and Fay on.”
“We need you back on the pitch, Gillian.”
“Then swap me on for Sheila.”
Scott took a deep breath, taking his captain off would be a very brave decision.
“Scott, she is having a nightmare, just give it ten minutes and see what happens.”
“Alright, but you will have to take over as captain.”
Gill held up the number six and Sheila's attention was soon drawn to the change, the shocked look on her face would have been comical in a different situation. Gill shouted for her to remove her captain's armband and hastily put it around her right bicep, before taking up Sheila's position alongside Camilla in the centre of midfield.
After a period of concerted pressure, Dunedin were awarded a penalty corner. With no kitted out goalkeeper this was a great chance to get back into the match. As Camilla stopped the ball dead for Gillian to shoot, she instead flicked the ball directly into the midriff of the kicking back. She doubled over at the contact and Fay had a simple tap into the goal to pull one back for Dunedin . Gill held her stick up in a simple gesture of apology, but it was all part of the game. If you stood on the line, you knew you were putting your body at risk of being hit by the ball.
A minute later the Glasgow goalkeeper was waved back on to the pitch having spent ten minutes in the sin bin. With the numerical balance restored the game was more evenly matched with both teams cancelling each other out. As the clock ticked down it looked like Dunedin would run out of time.
A final attack saw Melinda hit a hopeful shot that struck the foot of a Glasgow defender giving Dunedin a penalty corner in the dying seconds of the game. As Laura bent low to take the corner, the hooter went signalling the end of time. That meant that this was the final play of the game. When the ball was cleared out the circle, it was over. Laura drove the ball out and Jane Dodds trapped it for Gill to strike, the keeper saved it and the ball rebounded and again hit the foot of a defender. The game was still alive and Dunedin would have another penalty corner. The tension around the pitch was unbearable, but Gill knew she had to stay focussed. The players quickly discussed which corner routine they would attempt to execute and Laura again placed the ball on the back line. It was a clean corner, with the push and the stop executed accurately, that left Gillian with the ball to strike, but the defenders were out fast. Gillian, with nowhere to pass, dribbled past two runners and had a shot on, she faked to hit it and the goalkeeper committed herself. As she went to the turf Gill flicked the ball over her and into the goal. Dunedin , against all the odds, had forced a penalty shoot out.
There were muted celebrations as the players knew the game was far from won. Both teams were in conversation with their coaches, selecting the players who would take the penalty strokes. After a heated discussion the five players were picked. Camilla would be up first followed by Gillian, then Sheila and Laura, leaving the final flick to Emma. As Scott filled out the slip of paper, Sheila had a last minute change of heart. “Wait, put me last and Emma third.”
Gill gave Sheila a questioning look, the captain had been out of sorts, in a rare off game for her.
“I'm the captain, Gill, I need to shoulder this responsibility.”
Gill nodded and all the players gathered at the halfway line. Glasgow ladies would be taking the first penalty. After six penalties, it was three all, no one had missed. The fourth Glasgow penalty taker stepped up and slotted the ball low and hard towards the bottom corner but Lindy was down quickly and produced a fine save, handing the advantage to Dunedin for the first time that afternoon. Laura scored her flick, and the final player from Glasgow scored hers too. It was four each as Sheila walked up to take her flick. If she scored, Dunedin would lift the cup.
The umpire asked Sheila and the goalkeeper if they were ready, then blew her whistle. Sheila flicked the ball straight at the keeper and Gill buried her head in her hands.
“It's a retake, Gillian, the keeper moved off the line before the flick was taken.”
Gill looked up and couldn't believe it. Sheila would get a second chance. This time the captain made no mistake, flicking the ball into the top right corner of the goal. The place went wild and the Dunedin players were screaming and hugging each other. The cup was theirs.
The presentation got underway just minutes later. Glasgow Ladies walked up dejectedly to collect their runners up medals, then Sheila was called forward to lift the cup, quickly followed by the presentation to each Dunedin player of a winner's medal. Gill looked at the heavy bronze object in her hand. A female hockey player stood out from the circular object, and the reverse was inscribed with the event stating it was a winner's medal. Gill kissed it.
The Dunedin changing room was rocking. The jubilant team had returned there to find six bottles of champagne waiting for them, courtesy of their new sponsor.
Emma turned Gill around and began looking at her back. “Let me see you, that goalkeeper almost broke your neck.”
Gill burst out laughing.
“What's so funny? She nearly killed you!”
“Are the Irish always so dramatic?” Gill had a twinkle in her eye as she teased her girlfriend.
Emma had been about to object, but instead smiled, “Only when it matters.”
Gill pulled Emma to her and kissed her full on the lips right there in the middle of the changing room. There was a roar of approval and the pair were soaked with champagne.
“Get a room!”
The pair broke apart and rejoined the celebrations. A bad rendition of 'We Are The Champions' , was followed by chanting of 'Championees, championees. Ole, ole, ole!' Accompanied by lots of jumping up and down.
Three hours later, all the Dunedin players were gathering at the clubhouse for the end of season dinner. The first team was understandably in buoyant mood, some already a little tipsy from over indulging in the champagne. Gill and Emma arrived together and took a seat at one of the tables, joining a few of their teammates.
After the meal, Yvonne Reynolds, the club president, gave a speech about the season. The most successful to date for Dunedin . Gillian was given a special mention as the first ever Dunedin player to be selected to join the Great Britain squad and Yvonne said she was in no doubt that a cap for GB would follow in due course. The four players selected for the upcoming Scottish international were also congratulated, Gillian amongst them. After Yvonne's speech each team captain spoke and awards were made until Sheila, the first team captain, took centre stage.
“Where to start?” Sheila waited until the laughter receded. “Well, it's been one hell of a season, ending on a high with our first ever Scottish cup win.” There was more applause. “I want to thank everyone who has been instrumental in our success this season. Scott, our coach and the many other people who have contributed in lots of other ways, from the folks who do our match teas and, especially, to the people who have come out in all weathers to support us. We came second in the league this year, splitting the top two clubs who have been dominating Scottish women's hockey for the last decade. Our obvious goal for next season is to go one better, winning the league and defending the cup that we won today.” There were cheers yet again for the mention of the cup win that afternoon. “Now we come to player of the year and I doubt there has ever been a more obvious winner. Not only was she the driving force behind the teams success, she finished top scorer in the league yet again. Added to that, she has been called up for Scotland after being invited along to the GB training squad. I'm sure you would all agree with me when I say only Gillian could have managed that one. Ladies and gentlemen, the first team player of the year, Gillian Rae!”
Gill walked up to receive her award to raucous applause. Yvonne Reynolds kissed Gill on the cheek and handed her the crystal statue of a hockey player. “Well done, Gillian.”
“Speech! Speech! Speech!”
Gill was notably embarrassed by the attention, but she held her hand up to quieten her noisy friends down. “I'm very honoured to be the recipient of this award. I'd like to join Sheila in saying that it has been a team effort. You guys have been outstanding this year. Here's to more of the same next season.” Gill held her award aloft, before returning to her table and receiving a kiss from Emma.
“Well done, Gillian, you thoroughly deserve it.”
As the evening wore on the alcohol was flowing, particularly amongst the first team. Most of them wouldn't see each other for around ten weeks and Gillian was doing the rounds, making sure to say goodnight to her friends before leaving.
“Hi, Julie, how are you doing?”
Julie beamed her megawatt smile at Gill, “Well done, you!” She hugged her friend. “I'll be back next season, I can't believe I missed out on all of this.”
“You had other things to occupy your time. How is wee Harry?”
“Fantastic, Gill. This is my first night out, but I'm not staying much later. I miss him already.”
“You look fantastic, motherhood suits you.”
“Thanks, I really am enjoying being a mum and Neil has taken to fatherhood, he adores Harry.”
“That's great, Julie, I'm really happy to hear that.” Gill thought back to Julie's husband's behaviour at the couple's barbecue last summer, she was glad to hear he was at least happy to have a child.
“I hear you're settling down, now that is surprising news.”
Gill looked over at Emma who was chatting with a couple of first team players. The Irishwoman was sitting straight in her seat, with one leg crossed over the other, her hands resting casually in her lap. She looked beautiful in her little black dress. Gill turned her attention back to Julie, “I just might be.”
“A lot of changes for both of us since this time last year.”
“Goodness, yes.” Neither of them chose to mention ending up in Gillian's bed after last year's club dinner.
“Well, I'm heading home to my boys, would you like a lift?”
“No thanks, Julie, I don't think Emma's quite ready to go. Will I see you at summer hockey?”
Julie laughed, “Don't tell me you're still going to be playing?”
“Nothing else to do.”
“You're crazy, Gillian, I'll be seeing you soon then.”
An hour later Gill was opening her front door and inviting Emma inside. “What a day,” Gill remarked as she took Emma into her arms.
“It was a great day.”
Gill kissed Emma, taking time to savour her lips, the sweetness of the liqueur Emma had been sipping still lingering on them. Gillian pushed her tongue into Emma's mouth and it was eagerly welcomed and sucked on. Gill had wanted Emma since they had shared a brief kiss in the changing room that afternoon and now she was determined to have her. As she kissed her hotly, Gill massaged Emma's breasts through the material of her sexy black dress, feeling her nipples harden in response to the attention. Emma was squeezing Gill's buttocks hard, pulling the teacher into her, needing more contact.
“God I want you so much,” Gillian whispered hotly as she tore her mouth from Emma's. Dropping to her knees, she swiftly pushed Emma's dress up her thighs and buried her face into the piece of lace covering Emma's crotch. She wasted no time in practically ripping the small piece of material from the Irishwoman's body, before burying her tongue within her folds. Gripping Emma's hips strongly, Gill used her tongue to stroke and lick Emma until she came hard, jerking and sobbing Gill's name as she struggled to keep upright. She slumped back against the wall, Gill's head resting at her stomach, her strong arms helping Emma remain upright.
Gill awoke the following morning with Emma in her arms. She was deeply contented, the previous day having been one of the best she could remember, and now she was with Emma, the Irishwoman's back cradled against Gill's front. Gill placed a soft kiss on her bare shoulder and Emma stirred, “Morning.” She turned to face Gillian, a smile on her lips, lips that Gill couldn't resist kissing.
“Mmm, do you have any plans for today?”
Gill lazily scratched her tummy as she stretched, “I'm going to visit Charlotte after lunch.”
Emma yawned, “How is Paws?”
“Growing.” Gill looked at her, they had both missed the little dog since he had become Charlotte 's pet at Easter. “Do you want to come along?”
“I don't want to intrude...”
Gill placed a finger gently on Emma's lips, “You won't be. Charlotte really likes you and I'm sure Paws will be happy to see you.”
“Then I would love to.”
“You know, my parents almost came over to watch yesterday, I kind of wish they had. I would love for you to meet them sometime.”
“Did they go to see you play when you were in Dublin ?”
“Occasionally. What about your parents?”
Gill laughed, “They have never seen me play.”
Emma sat up, which afforded Gill a great view of her pert breasts, her attention fully diverted there. “Never?” There was no answer, “Gillian? They have never seen you play?”
Gill looked back up at Emma's face. “No, never.”
Gill considered her answer, “It's just not their thing. I never tell them what's going on with hockey.”
Emma frowned, “Don't they ask?”
“I don't understand.”
Gill sat up and gave Emma her full attention. “Do you want to spend the entire day with me?”
Emma wondered where Gillian was going with this. “Okay,” she answered, slightly confused about what might be happening.
“Great, can you be ready to go at eleven o'clock?”
“Look, it will be fine, and the visit will also help you understand things.”
“What should I wear? What should I bring?” Emma asked with a hint of panic.
“Relax, they have no expectations in that regard, you can wear whatever you feel like, they will offer no comment or judgement.”
Emma was more confused than ever with that answer.
At almost eleven thirty, Emma found herself standing outside an ageing townhouse on the east side of Edinburgh . The garden wasn't quite overgrown, but it was untidy, with the grass a little long, and plants and trees growing freely over fences and creeping up the stonework.
Gill looked over at Emma and laughed quietly. The woman had made quite the effort with her clothing, dressed very conservatively in a longish skirt, with a wraparound top, her hair up in a loose fashion. Emma looked great. “You look lovely.”
“Then why are you laughing?”
The door opened and a woman in her sixties stood at the door. “Gillian, how lovely.”
“Come in, your dad is out in his shed, I'll call him in.”
Gill's mum headed off leaving the two young women standing on the doorstep. Gill motioned her head to Emma, “Come on in.”
Gill led Emma to her parents' sitting room. The house had a worn feel to it, tidy, but the sofas and chairs were well used and the paintwork beginning to flake. Many bookshelves surrounded the walls, creaking under the volume of books crammed onto their shelves.
“Have a seat, Emma. This is the home I grew up in.”
Emma sat down just as Gill's parents entered the room. “Hello, Gillian.”
“Hi, Dad. Mum, dad this is my girlfriend, Emma.”
Emma's eyes almost popped out of her head at the casual introduction. She watched Gill's parents, waiting for some kind of reaction.
“That's nice of you to bring a friend, Gillian. Would you girls like some tea?”
Emma nodded, unable to find her voice. Gill answered for her, That would be lovely, thanks, mum.”
“Nice to meet you, Emma.”
Emma looked at Gill's dad and all she could think of was a mad scientist. He wore a frayed shirt with a hunter green tank top sweater over it and a pair of worn brown cords. On his feet were what looked like a pair of comfortable orthopaedic shoes. “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Rae.” It was hard for Emma to take her eyes off the older man's hair. He was bald in the middle and on each side of his head were two fierce clumps of curly grey.
Mrs. Rae returned to the room with a tea tray, which she placed on a coffee table. On it were Wedgwood china cups and saucers in blue and white style, with a matching teapot and jug, they were antiques. Mrs. Rae poured tea for everyone and Gillian handed out the cups and saucers.
“How's life, Gillian?” Her father asked.
“It's good thanks. I've been picked to play hockey for Scotland .”
“Oh, I hadn't realised you still played. Did you, Margaret?” Gill's father asked his wife.
Emma almost choked on her first sip of tea.
“How have you both been?”
“Well, Gillian. We were recently at a science fair in Spain , it was very interesting, and your dad has been working on his latest idea for a biofuel.”
Gill nodded, “Wonderful.”
“We are going to London next month where I will be presenting a paper on the research I did regarding nanoparticles.”
Emma watched as Gill's father picked up a Sunday paper and put on his reading glasses. He then picked up a pen and proceeded to do the crossword. She turned to look at Mrs. Rae, she could see the family resemblance, Gillian had her mum's eyes and nose, but that was where the similarities stopped. Mrs. Rae wore practical trousers and an oversized shirt with a pair of comfortable looking sandals. Her neatly cut short, grey hair and glasses hanging around her neck on a chain completed her look. Emma was finding it hard to imagine Gillian growing up in this environment.
“Do you travel a lot?”
“Yes, dear, usually to attend conferences and exhibits of interest. Since we both retired we still like to keep up with scientific breakthroughs and progress in our specific fields of interest.”
“Ah, here is a terrific, very well constructed clue.” Gillian's dad said to no one in particular. He then proceeded to read it out to everyone. “Fundamental truth college head proclaimed. Nine letters.”
“Oh, that is a classic, Edward. Do you know which homophone should be entered in the grid?”
Gillian's dad nodded, “Yes, PRINCIPLE, spelled as in Fundamental Truth.”
“Yes, its positioning makes the one to use unambiguous.”
Gillian sipped her tea, the entire conversation going over her head, while Emma sat wide-eyed. Ten minutes and not too much conversation later, Gillian and Emma left the Rae's house, both girls wishing them a successful trip to London , but there was no mention of Gillian's upcoming Scotland debut.
“Doesn't that bother you?”
Gill shrugged, “I've never known anything else, that's the way they are. Academics, they love science. Anything else is white noise.”
“They have absolutely no interest in your achievements.”
“They never have. Now if I was interested in science, it would be totally different, but they would be the same people. I would just be able to participate more in their conversation, instead I'm like a little alien. I have no interest in their passions and hobbies and they have no interest in mine. Sometimes I think I was switched at the hospital.”
“Don't even joke, Gillian.”
Gill put her arm out to stop Emma. “Emma, it's fine. Nothing to get upset over.”
In that moment Emma did see a similarity. Gillian had the same temperament as her parents, it was incredibly hard to knock her out of her stride. “You're really fine with it,” Emma said, it wasn't a question.
Gill smiled, “I am.”
Gill froze and didn't turn around, she would know that voice anywhere.
“What on earth are you doing in my hospital?”
Gill turned around and rolled her eyes. “It's not your hospital, it's the NHS, Hilary.”
“That would be Doctor Duffy right now.”
“I'm visiting a patient.”
“It's not visiting hours yet, get out.”
“You can't be serious. I spoke with the nurses, they said it was okay.”
Hilary looked over at the nursing station to see them smiling back at her, she knew Gillian had charmed them into letting her visit. Hilary shook her head, “Maggie is going to be okay, the knee replacement went well.”
“You operated? She will be lucky to walk again!”
The nurses burst out laughing and Hilary gave them a withering look, but it wasn't working. “Get in.” She took Gill's arm and led her into Maggie's room then left the pair alone.
“How are you doing, old woman?”
“You better have brought me something nice, Gillian.”
Gill put Maggie's flowers on a side table and handed her some fruit and a box of Jelly Babies. “Stop complaining, I got you some reading material too.” She handed Maggie a copy of Playgirl magazine, “That's for the lonely nights in here.”
Maggie ignored the magazine, “Give me the Jelly Babies.”
Gill handed the box to Maggie, grinning.
“It's open, you have been eating them,” she accused.
“Just a little, I got hungry.”
Maggie pulled out a Jelly Baby and frowned, she pulled out a few and they were all the same. “You've bitten off all the right legs!”
Gill burst out laughing and Maggie threw the box at her. “That's it, get out.”
Ducking Gillian laughed, “Don't be so dramatic.”
“I hate this, Gill. Stuck here until my new knee is good enough to walk on.”
“You will be out early next week.”
Maggie sighed, “I know, but needing a new knee at my age, it's not good, Gill.”
“Ahh, I know what this is, people get depressed after surgery.”
“Gillian.” Maggie motioned Gill closer with her hand, looking like she had a secret to tell her. Gill leaned her ear towards Maggie and the older woman smacked her on the head.
“You're not helping.”
Gill rubbed her head looking incredulously at Maggie, “You are going to be absolutely fine, you feisty old wench.”
“That's better. I'll be at Peffermill next weekend.”
“Where on earth else would you be?”
“Exactly and don't you let me down, I want a good show.”
“If I get on, I will give it my best.”
“You damn well better get on or there will be hell to pay.”
Gill laughed, Maggie was going to be fine, if a little immobile for a while. Gill cautiously took a seat on the edge of Maggie's bed. “Emma met my parents on Sunday.”
Maggie bit back a laugh, “How did that go?”
“As you might expect. She was quite worked up initially, but then she kind of understood I think.”
“I remember the first time I met them at a parent teacher meeting, I was in shock for a week. I just couldn't get over you being their daughter.”
“I think that's where Emma is at, still trying to get her head around it.”
“What are her parents like?”
“I've no idea, I haven't met them, I've met her sister though, Julia, well now she is Sister Dolores, she's a nun.”
Maggie laughed, “You two are going to be perfect for each other.”
There was a soft knock at the door and Maggie called for them to come in. Emma popped her head inside.
“I heard you were here terrorising the patients.”
“Emma, come in.”
Gill's eyes lit up as Emma stepped inside wearing her OT uniform. She looked hot and Gill decided there and then this was a definite turn on for her. “You look lovely.”
“I was just about to finish, but when Hilary said you were here I thought I would say hello before I head home.” She turned to Maggie, “How are you feeling Mrs. McLure?”
“Oh, Emma, I've told you to call me Maggie,” the older woman admonished, but secretly was impressed with Emma's manners and professionalism. “I'm doing fine.”
“Good, well I'll see you tomorrow morning and, Gillian, I'll call you later?”
Gill couldn't keep the smile from her face as she simply enjoyed seeing Emma in her working environment. Even at the end of the working day the woman was immaculately turned out. “I look forward to it.”
The three women said their goodbyes and Maggie turned her attention back to Gillian. “You really light up when she is around.”
Gill nodded, “Justine told me that once.”
“How's little Charlotte ?”
“I saw her on Sunday, she's running around as good as ever. She loves her dog.”
“She still asking for her mummy?”
Gill sighed sadly., “Not so much anymore.”
“Kids adapt better than adults, Gill.”
“It's a good thing, but it's also sad.”
Maggie rubbed the back of Gill's hand, then gave it a squeeze. “You miss her, it's okay to say that, Gillian.”
“I wish she was here to share all this with me, Maggie. Justine believed I could do it, she was always telling me she was looking forward to seeing me run out for Scotland .”
Maggie pulled Gillian to her for a hug. There was nothing she could say. The door opened and Hilary popped her head in, “Oh for goodness sake, now you're getting into bed with my patients.”
The pair smiled sadly at Hilary and she knew they were sharing a moment, “Five minutes, Gill, and then I need to see Maggie,” the doctor said compassionately.
“No problem, Hilary, thanks.” The door closed and Gill turned her attention back to Maggie, “I'll get a couple of tickets to you for next weekend, Justine's mum, Pauline, is bringing Charlotte along too.”
“I'm looking forward to it, Gill, I'll watch out for them and sit with them.”
Gill hugged the woman who had gone from teacher, to friend and then colleague over the years. She still wore every cap for Gillian. “Hang in there, you will be back on your feet in no time.”
Gill left the hotel where the team had stayed overnight. The bus taking them the short trip to Peffermill, where they would play the friendly against France . Most of the players were relaxed, they had been here before and knew what to expect, but Gillian was the only new player among them and she was named on the team sheet. It was a bright, sunny June day, it would be warm, Gill sat on the bus in her Scotland tracksuit, the top removed, alone with her thoughts.
Gill turned to Camilla Cameron, her Dunedin teammate, normally a woman of few words, but she had played several times for Scotland now.
“It's always like this your first time, then you relax a bit for the friendlies, but not the big games.”
The bus pulled into the car park and the team disembarked, heading for the home changing room. Inside everyone's strip was laid out. Gill saw hers with three simple letters on the back that meant everything to her. RAE
She walked over to her place, taking a moment to admire the dark navy blue and white of Scotland 's colours, before sitting down. The coach waited until they were all settled before drawing everyone's attention to the tactics board. They had been over the plays several times, but he wanted to make sure everyone had them memorised. He spoke again of the danger women in the French squad and how they would contain the threat. He also spoke of their weaknesses and how Scotland would exploit them. He was impassioned and confident, two qualities he hoped to instil in the team.
Gillian felt her mouth dry and was continually sipping water and Lucozade, it wasn't the warm weather that was making her thirsty. The players went out for their warm-up wearing their training shirts and tracksuits. They knew the starting eleven and Gillian wasn't in it. She would be taking a place on the bench when the game started. Gill wasn't disappointed, with the rolling subs rule, it was unlikely you would get your first cap by starting a game, but by coming on part way through for a short while and building from there. The warm-up was taken by the fitness coach, putting the players through their paces, making sure all the important muscle groups were worked. Then they went through the stick drills, getting their eye in. The players then returned to the dressing room to put on their strips and hear some last minute words of wisdom from the coach.
Gill pulled on the tight fitting shirt, stretching it over her torso. She took a brief moment to savour the feeling, taking note of the butterflies in her stomach. Rubbing a hand over her abdomen Gill swallowed and took a deep breath, it was time to focus solely on what she was good at. Playing hockey.
A knock on the changing room door signalled time for the team to walk out on to the pitch. The team manager reminded the players not to leave anything behind that they would need. Gum shields, gloves, shinguards. Gillian made sure her gum shield was in her mouth and her glove was on her left hand, she didn't want to forget anything, but in truth, she would have happily played without them.
The two teams walked out to warm applause. It was a modest crowd for the friendly game, but the nice weather had seen a couple of hundred spectators turn up. The players lined up in the centre of the pitch, facing the crowd, for the National anthems. Gillian hadn't even given a thought to this and found herself towards the end of the Scottish squad listening to the French anthem. When 'Flower of Scotland' started, Gill felt her jaw tense as she struggled to sing the words. She blinked back the unexpected tears of emotion as the final strains of the bagpipes rang out. The starting eleven players removed their tracksuit tops and took up their places on the pitch and Gillian found herself taking a seat in the dugout, catching her breath.
As the first half unfolded, Gill spent most of it warming the bench, with the occasional stint jogging and stretching at the side of the pitch, wearing a bright orange warm up vest over her strip. She watched the action on the pitch, both teams fairly evenly matched, but Scotland having the greater share of possession, although yet to make that advantage count. As the scoreless first half was brought to a close, both teams made their way inside for the half-time team talk.
The situation was strange to Gillian, she was listening to a team talk about tactics and what was going right and what was going wrong in a game of hockey, and yet she felt no part of it. Usually she would be participating fully at half time, but had no point to make or discuss. All she could do was sit and wait for her opportunity.
Ten minutes later the teams were back out on the pitch to start the second half. Scotland enjoyed some early pressure which saw them awarded a string of penalty corners all of which they squandered or France defended well. When Scotland were awarded another corner, Gill twitched with anticipation, certain she would be brought into the fray, but the coach never even looked her way.
There were murmurs in the crowd, especially amongst Gillian's supporters. “What the hell is he playing at? That's seven corners wasted.” Hilary complained.
“Come on, put Gillian on,” Came a rather loud male voice from somewhere behind Hilary. She turned to see Maggie McLure and her husband, who was the owner of the booming voice.
“The idiot wouldn't know talent if it got up and bit him,” Maggie proclaimed, which caused a few laughs around them.
Gill sat back, resigned to remain on the bench and not see any action today. It was disappointing, but something she supposed she would have to get used to. She was now a small cog in a big wheel. Gone was any nervousness, her stomach was settled, breathing smooth and even, all anticipation removed. With only one eye on the game, Gillian found her thoughts drifting towards Emma. She hadn't really seen much of the Irishwoman in the last week because of the time and preparation involved in being part of the Scotland squad. Gill felt more relaxed now than she had at any time in the last week and was looking forward to this whole experience ending. A loud blast on the umpire's whistle brought Gill back to reality as Scotland were awarded yet another penalty corner.
“Right, Gillian, you're on for Alison.”
Gill looked at the coach, blinking her surprise.
“You call the routine and show us all how it's done.”
Gill nodded and quickly shed the orange vest she was wearing. As she jogged the short distance to the halfway line, she was handed Alison's number to hold up, indicating the player was being replaced. The Scottish captain was already calling Alison and indicating she was leaving the field of play, it was like some well oiled machine had sprung to life as Alison ran towards Gillian and took the number from her hand. Gillian really didn't have time to think about what was happening. She ran towards the players involved in the penalty corner routine and they quickly huddled together and Gill called the set piece, one of her favourites. It was the play that came to mind as she had watched the penalty corners fail.
The umpire hurried Scotland up as they took a few extra seconds to set up the routine. As Gillian walked away from the striker position there were a few murmurs going around.
“What is she doing?” Maggie asked Hilary.
Hilary smiled, “Just wait and see.”
As the whistle went Gillian immediately sprinted to the opposite side of the shooting circle. The ball was played out hard to the stopper, who turned her body and fired the ball off target, wide towards the back post where the onrushing Gillian met it full on and slammed it hard against the backboards. The crowd cheered loudly and the players celebrated on the pitch.
“Now that's what you call making an impact,” Hilary declared as she slapped Emma on the back.
As Gill made her way back towards the halfway line she pumped her fist, showing off a well-defined bicep in her sleeveless top. A random female in the crowd squealed, “She is so hot!” and her friends agreed.
Emma turned to Hilary and blinked her surprise to which Hilary burst out laughing. “She is looking rather buff these days.”
Emma nodded, “She put on a little weight earlier in the year, after she went on the pill, she converted it to muscle.”
Hilary frowned, “Gillian is using the contraceptive pill?”
Emma nodded, “Yes, after she went to the first GB training session, they arranged for her to attend the Edinburgh University sports science department. She has been seeing a doctor, dietician and a sports psychologist. She is using the pill so she can control when she has her period, they don't want her menstruating on the day of a big game.”
“Makes sense.” Hilary smiled, “Our girl really has hit the big time.”
Emma agreed, “That she has.”
At the final whistle Gill shook hands with the opposition players and received the congratulations of her teammates and the coaching staff, but her eyes were scanning the crowd, looking for familiar faces. When she spotted her little band of supporters, she made her way into the crowd.
“Well played, Gillian.”
“Well done, Gill.”
She graciously thanked the strangers for their warm wishes as she continued on her way. The applause and cheers leaving no doubt that her friends were pleased.
“Brilliant, Gill. Just brilliant. What an entrance, you scored with your first touch of the ball.”
“Thanks, Hill's. I thought I wasn't going to get on.” Gill turned to hug Emma and received a soft peck on the lips.
“Well done, Gillian.” Emma smiled warmly at her girlfriend.
Gill scooped Charlotte up into her arms and hugged her. She couldn't stop the tears from flowing down her cheeks.
“Are you hurt, Gilly?”
Gill nodded as she wiped the tears from her eyes, trying to be brave in front of the little girl, “Just a little bit.”
Charlotte became very serious and her eyes narrowed, “Did a bad lady hit you again?”
Gill bit her bottom lip and tried not to laugh, instead she hugged Charlotte and told her she loved her.
“I love you too, Gilly.”
Gill passed Charlotte back to her grandmother and immediately turned and buried her face in Emma's shoulder. Gill shook as she sobbed her heart out, soaking Emma's neck and shoulder as the OT held her in a comforting embrace. Gill's friends stood around the pair, blocking them from view, offering them as much privacy from prying eyes as was possible. Gill was sobbing for the loss of Justine and for what she had achieved in her absence, and wishing Justine were there to share it with her.
Gillian watched as Therese walked towards her, a seductive smile on her face. She stood and sipped her water, waiting for the French woman to arrive.
“Gillian, it has been a long time.”
The accented English was almost Gill's undoing, anything that came out of the woman's mouth sounded sexy. Gill nodded and raised her glass, “Therese.”
“You know, Gillian, you were cute eight years ago, but now you are a beautiful woman.”
“And your English has improved a lot.”
“As I remember, language was no barrier the last time we met.”
Gill nodded, recalling their passionate encounter a few years back. “Very true.”
Therese stroked Gillian's bare arm. “I am in room 312, I will be waiting...” Therese paused before leaning towards Gill's ear, “Naked.”
That last breathy word caused an involuntary shiver to run through Gill's body and raise goosebumps on her arms. She watched as Therese sashayed sexily out of the reception room doors, before releasing a long breath.
“That is one seductive woman.”
Gill turned to see one of her Scotland teammates, Janet, standing next to her.
“It would almost be worth missing eight years of international hockey for a night in the sack with her.”
“I had no idea that would be the outcome at the time.”
“The weekend is over, Gillian, you are free to do as you please, I think the only thing that's out at this stage is wrecking your hotel room.” Janet smiled at her, “Have fun, I know I would.”
Gillian swallowed and nodded her head, “Thanks.”
“One thing, Gillian...Don't be late for breakfast, it's the last thing we do together as a team before leaving.”
“Okay, I'll see you then.”
Gill placed her drink on the bar and headed towards the elevators. Once inside her room she stripped out of her dress and removed her make-up. She then pulled on a T-shirt and her tracksuit and called Emma.
“Can you meet me at my flat in ten minutes?”
“Gillian? Is everything alright?”
“Yes, I just need to see you. Please.”
“I'll see you soon.”
Gill pressed the off button on her mobile phone and put it into her pocket before searching for some socks and her training shoes. Grabbing her keys, she left her room and walked the short distance down to her flat.
Entering her flat, Gill immediately knew that Emma was already inside. The faint glow of candlelight coming from the open gap of her bedroom door was the giveaway. Gill gently pushed the door open and saw Emma reclined naked on her bed. At Gill's raised eyebrow Emma replied, “I was closer than you.”
Gill stood rooted to the spot as she watched Emma rise from the bed and walk towards her. The sight was mesmerising. “You were brilliant today,” Emma husked, while slowly lowering the zip of Gillian's tracksuit top.
Gill swallowed hard, “Thank you.” She felt her tracksuit top sliding off her shoulders, then Emma was undoing the drawstring cord at the waistband of her bottoms. Gill was entranced, fully captivated by this slow seduction. Emma knelt down in front of Gillian and removed her training shoes, then slowly pulled her bottoms down her tanned legs, kissing a bare thigh as the flesh was revealed. She felt Gillian involuntarily shiver, and a sly smile played on her lips as she ran her hands up Gillian's thighs and kneaded her buttocks, they were firm and powerful, well defined. Emma knew Gillian had a great body, but she had never been more appreciative of it than that afternoon as she had the rare opportunity to truly watch Gillian play.
Gill's breathing quickened as she felt Emma slowly slide her panties down her legs. She closed her eyes and gently bit her bottom lip as she felt Emma's breath whisper onto her thighs, then Emma kissed Gill between her legs and she almost jumped at the tender touch. She opened her eyes and looked down, finding Emma staring up at her, then watched as Emma slowly stood, licking Gill's stomach as she neared her breasts. Emma then took her time to lave Gill's nipples before standing to her full height, bringing her eyes almost level with Gill's. “I want you to fuck me.” The harshly whispered request combined with the unexpected expletive was Gill's undoing. She lifted Emma from the floor and walked over towards the bed, but turned at the last moment and deposited Emma on her dresser.
Emma shrieked at the unexpected display of raw power from Gillian, thrilled and excited by this side of her lover. No sooner was she sitting on top of the chest of drawers than Gillian's mouth took hers in a passionate kiss. Her tongue entering Emma's mouth, caressing and duelling with her, while Gill's hands squeezed and played with her breasts, pinching her hard nipples, before taking one in her mouth and enjoying it to its fullest, while Emma's hands grabbed Gillian's hair, pulling her closer.
Gillian wanted to devour all of Emma, such was her want for this woman. She dropped to her knees and buried her face between Emma's legs, which she put over her shoulders. Gill sucked and licked at Emma's clit, occasionally entering her with her tongue. Emma was in heaven, one hand behind her to steady herself, the other in Gill's hair, encouraging her. Emma could feel herself getting closer, the orgasm imminent, Gill could feel it too and began to ease back, taking the edge off. Emma opened her eyes and looked down at Gillian, wondering why she was stopping, the predatory look in her lover's eyes sending a renewed jolt of arousal coursing through her veins. As Gill slowly stood from her kneeling position Emma caught the first sight of the dildo protruding from her groin, she had no idea when Gill had attached it.
Both women were breathing hard in anticipation of what was to come, Gill's eyes questioning and at Emma's nod, she slowly entered her lover. With a guttural sigh, Emma accepted all that Gill had to offer. Gently rolling her hips, Gill allowed Emma to get used to the size of the phallus before starting a slow deep penetration. As Gillian's momentum started to build, Emma met her thrust for thrust, enjoying the guilty pleasure of watching Gillian in the full length mirror behind them, her buttocks clenching, muscles standing out in sharp definition as she worked her magic. As Gill increased the pace of her thrusts, Emma wrapped her legs tightly around Gill's waist. The teacher then lifted her lover from the dresser and pressed her against the cold wall, Emma gasped as her back touched its surface, then groaned as Gill continue to thrust into her. Their bodies sticking together as the heat and sweat built up. Gill again moved them, sitting on the edge of the bed, she lay back and watched as Emma picked up her rhythm and worked her hips until she came hard, collapsing, spent and sweat soaked on top of Gillian.
Gill jogged back up to hotel in morning after spending an amazing night with Emma. Exiting the lift, she found the team manager and one of the selectors standing outside her door squabbling.
“I knew she wouldn't be in there.”
The team manager looked towards Gillian and cleared her throat. Gill frowned as she approached them, “Is there a problem?”
“Where have you been?” The tone was accusatory from Marjory McLean.
Gill indicated her clothing, “Jogging. I'm not late for breakfast am I?”
“Ah, no, there are still twenty minutes until we meet for breakfast.” Helen Meadows, the team manager, had the good grace to look embarrassed.
The pair were about to walk away, but Gill stopped them, “Tell me, are you knocking on the doors of all the players, or is it just mine?”
Helen bowed her head, while Marjory struggled to find words. “We just wanted to make sure you didn't miss breakfast.”
At that moment Janet Wilkes walked past the three women, still in her clothes from the evening before. She smiled and went into her room.
Gill shook her head and opened the door to her own room.
Twenty minutes later Gill arrived on time for breakfast, only to find that she was amongst the first to get there, many of the players not joining her until a good ten minutes later. She ate breakfast, making casual conversation, passing the time until she could politely take her leave. On her way out of the hotel the team manager stopped her.
“Hi, Helen, what can I do for you?”
“About earlier, I wanted to apologise.”
“For spying on me?”
“It wasn't my idea, honestly. The truth is I'm delighted you are in the squad, but Marjory, well she has had it in for you ever since you were a schoolgirl.”
Gill shrugged, “I'll just have to live with it.”
“Maybe not, the annual general meeting is approaching, let's just say Marjory may not be getting the votes required to continue in her current position.”
Gill sighed softly, feeling indifferent to the news. It was all politics and a part of her had had her fill of it this year. She just wanted to play the game. “Thanks for taking the time to speak to me, Helen.” Gill turned to leave.
“For the record, you should have been in the squad a long time ago.”
Gill shrugged, she wasn't bitter. “I'm getting my chance now, I intend to make the most of it.”
Helen nodded, “Bye, Gillian, I'll see you at the next squad meeting.”
“Looking forward to it.” And she was. She simply loved playing hockey.
Gillian walked home with her kitbag slung over her shoulder, feeling slightly weary. A part of her was still miffed at being treated like a recalcitrant eighteen year old. She put her key in the lock and opened the door, dropping her bags on the floor in the living room and heading straight to the bedroom, stopping at the sight of Emma sound asleep in her bed. Gill wasn't sure if she would still be there, but the sight of Emma raised her spirits immensely. She stripped off her clothing and joined her lover, spooning her and dropping a soft kiss on her shoulder. “I love you.” Emma stirred and turned into Gillian's waiting arms.
Gill parked her car in the school car park, it was a bright, sunny mid August morning, the first day of the new academic year.
Gill turned to see Carla Tonner walking towards her, sporting her new senior school tie. “Good morning, Carla.”
“I just wanted to say, you were brilliant playing for Scotland and thanks again for getting us all the tickets.”
“You're welcome, Carla and thanks for coming along to support me.”
“What are you doing in school so early?”
“I'm a senior now, Miss, so I'm taking things seriously, I want to be a PE teacher, just like you.”
Gill laughed, “I don't know what's more disturbing, the fact that you have chosen to stay on at school, or the fact that I have influenced your choices.”
Carla laughed, “It's all good, Miss, oh and by the way … you and Miss Hughes look cute together.”
“Run along now, Carla.” Gill refused to acknowledge the truth of her student's words as she watched Carla Tonner walk away laughing.
“See you later, Miss.”
Gill shook her head and walked towards the PE block but, when she saw the figure standing outside waiting on her, she stopped dead in her tracks, the blood draining from her face. She had dreaded this day ever happening. She watched as the man walked hesitantly towards her.
“Hello, Gillian, it's been a long time.”
Gill took a deep breath, attempting to calm down, she felt so angry, how dare he turn up now. “What do you want, Richard?”
“We need to talk.”
“I have my registration class in twenty minutes.”
“It won't take long.”
Clearly Richard wasn't going to be put off and Gill closed her eyes briefly as she made a decision. “Follow me.” Gill went into the PE department and said a quick hello to Dennis before leading Richard to one of the equipment rooms, where they were certain not to be disturbed. “Make this quick.”
And Richard did, “I want to see Charlotte .”
“I've grown up since we were at college, I should never have walked away.”
“But you did! Charlotte lost her mother seven months ago, she has never known her father and now you want to be in her life? Have you even considered the impact this will have on that little girl? As usual this is all about you!” Gillian was so angry with him, she could barely contain herself. Richard was a selfish bastard. In college all the girls fancied him, but he had chosen Justine and who could blame him, she was beautiful, but when Justine fell pregnant, he walked away when she refused to have an abortion and now here he was, wanting to know Charlotte .
“I think about her all the time. I just want to see her.”
“Are you planning to go for custody? Are you ready to bring her up?”
“She deserves to know who her father is!”
“No, Richard, she deserved a father, but instead, she got you.”
Richard slumped down onto a nearby bench, Gillian's words feeling like a physical blow. “I don't know what to do, you tell me what to do?”
Gill shook her head and sat next to him. “I'm assuming you're here because you feel Charlotte might need you?”
He nodded, “I feel terrible about the loss of Justine and all I can think about is Charlotte and what she will do now.”
Gillian wasn't without sympathy, but there was no way she was letting this stranger waltz into Charlotte 's life. “Well, Charlotte certainly is the most important person in all of this. You can't lose sight of that. Justine was a terrific mother, Charlotte always came first. Now Charlotte is being brought up by Justine's mum and her husband Brian. She needs stability in her life, Richard, now more than ever.”
“How well do you know Charlotte ?”
Gillian smiled, “Really well.”
“Tell me about her?”
Gillian was hesitant at first, but he was Charlotte 's father and she knew Justine would tell him, so that's what she did. “She is very much like Justine, not in looks, it's her nature. She is warm and patient and loving. Very bright.”
Richard smiled, “Do you have a picture?”
Gillian made a quick decision and removed her mobile phone from her bag. She located the picture of Charlotte taken when she got herself covered in oil last summer and showed it to Richard.
“She looks adorable.”
“She is, she had just attempted to fix the chain on her bike, she is very independent like that.”
“Just like her mum.”
“Yeah,” Gill had a lump in her throat.
“Look, Gillian, I don't want to cause trouble, I'm not sure exactly why I'm here, I just felt I needed to do something .”
Gill could understand that. “What if I send you updates, a picture every once in a while, that kind of thing?”
“And if she should ever ask for me?”
Gill nodded, “We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Justine spoke to me about that very situation if it were to arise sometime in the future and it all depended on you wanting to know Charlotte .”
“I do, honestly, Gill.”
“In that case, if and when Charlotte asks, she will be told about you and if she wants to meet you, then I'll let you know.”
“Thanks, Gillian and if there is anything she needs, or Justine's mum, money, anything, don't hesitate to contact me.”
“Justine made sure that in the event of her death Charlotte would be very well provided for. There is plenty of money to send Charlotte to a good school and put her through University if she wishes.”
“I would have expected nothing less of Justine, I was crazy to let her go, but I was young and immature.”
Gillian couldn't disagree with any of that, “You were crazy to let her go.”
Richard handed Gill a business card with all his details. “My email address is on there, perhaps you could send an up to date picture?”
Richard nodded, then stood from the bench and held out his hand to Gillian. She shook it, “Thanks. Gillian. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
As he turned to go, Gill had to ask, “Richard? You won't do anything stupid will you?”
“As you said, Gill, Charlotte comes first, I want what's best for her and from what you have told me, that's already happening. The last thing she needs is more disruption in her life.”
Even though she didn't think he deserved it, Gill found herself thanking Richard. After all, if he really wanted to, he could pursue custody through the courts. He was Charlotte 's father and that would put the family through hell. Gill slumped back down onto the bench Richard had just vacated, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. She had often wondered when Richard would mature or develop a conscience and make contact and now he had. She briefly wondered what the future held for little Charlotte, and decided to talk to Pauline about her and Brian officially adopting Charlotte, that way, they would be responsible for her upbringing without the threat of Richard changing his mind hanging over them all.
Gill glanced at her watch, she was late for registration. She quickly got to her feet and jogged to the classroom where thirty boisterous fourteen year olds awaited her arrival. Life went on no matter what and Gillian was still learning how to roll with the punches. Emma by her side had made that a lot less difficult than it might otherwise have been.
“You're late, Miss.”
The sharp reply died on Gill's lips as she entered the classroom. “Yes I am, now take your seat and let's see who isn't here.”
Ten minutes later, Gill watched the students leave and head for their first lesson of the day. She sat in her chair just a moment as she let the sounds of the school fill her senses, a smile playing across her lips. And so it began again. The new academic year and a new hockey season and Gill was looking forward to both, but this time, Gill wouldn't be doing it alone.
Emma stood next to Gillian as she laid flowers on Justine's grave. It was a bitter cold January afternoon, darkness beginning to descend. “Justine would be so happy to see us together.” Emma was silent, simply allowing Gillian to talk and process her emotions. “She told me shortly before her death that we would be good together. I asked her why and she said that my face lit up whenever you were around. I then asked her why she thought you would be interested in me and she said you had the same reaction. Your face lit up when I was around.”
Emma took Gillian's gloved hand in her own. “Justine was a very astute young woman.”
Gill sniffed back her tears. “I really miss her.”
Gillian lay her head on Emma's shoulder and cried quietly for a few minutes, before returning to Justine's grave and sharing a few personal words with her friend. She didn't verbalise them, they were only for Justine's ears, she could almost physically hear Justine say 'I told you so.'
Gillian thought about how she was coming to terms with her grief one year on. Some days she was philosophical and then she would unexpectedly feel a fresh wave of pain that almost brought her to her knees. She recalled going to court when the case was to be heard regarding the accident and how she had watched the driver crying in the dock and her anger towards him had dissipated. Going to court had actually been a positive move in the healing process; she was able to let go of her anger towards the driver from that day last November. Gill sighed and raised her face towards the heavens, it was still difficult to make sense of any of it.
The women walked slowly back towards the cemetery gates, welcoming the shelter from the cold as they got into Gill's car. “You know, Pauline was right.”
“ Charlotte barely remembers her mum.”
“It's to be expected, she was only four years old.”
“I know, but it's such a shame that she won't really know how amazing her mum was.”
“She has you and Pauline to remind her of that.”
Gill smiled sadly, “I know but...”
Emma nodded, “It's not quite the same.”
The Irishwoman drove them home to their new house, a two bedroom flat in the old town. Emma had fallen in love with the area as much as Gill had and they now shared the house with a new flatmate, though she was far from housetrained. Swap, Emma thought it was a crazy name for a dog, but Gillian had said she was the reverse of everything Paws was, a female golden lab who was messy and quiet. Emma couldn't disagree with that, the little dog also had an attitude problem, but they both loved the contrary little thing.
As Emma parked the car in their private space below their flat, Gill turned to look at her, a soft smile playing on her lips.
“What's going on in that head of yours?”
“I love you very much, Emma Hughes.”
Emma melted at hearing the heartfelt words, “And I love you, Gillian Rae.”
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