If ever there was a time Claire wished she could turn off the scientist part of her brain, it was now. Standing in front of Jamie while the tour guide-cum-celebrant waffled on about the history of marriage, her cheeks flushed crimson. She tried to convince herself it was from icy wind whirling around the courtyard; the voice inside her head had other ideas. “Adreneline; the hormone that makes blood vessels dilate, resulting in blushing when close to the object of one’s affection” it recited. Wiping sweaty palms on her legs, her internal monologue continued: “norepinephrine makes the heart race and head spin - classic symptoms of lust.” Claire cringed, wishing she could supress her body’s response to Jamie. In truth she had just as much control over what time the sun rose each day.
The faux-wedding ceremony concluded and Jamie leaned in for their kiss; short and perfunctory Claire told herself, despite wishing it was anything but. His lips brushed hers; light as a feather and warm as melted candle wax, it made Claire’s heart beat with the ferocity of an eagle’s wings at full flight. Logic - usually her dear friend - decided to take a back seat and she pressed closer, deepening their kiss. Jamie’s strong grip on her arm only dragged her into the moment further and Claire had just touched her tongue to his when she remembered where she was.
Claire pulled back, dazed; had that really just happened? Peaking at Jamie from under her lashes, she was met with a look of complete tenderness as he smiled at her, bright blue eyes full of awe. They were still holding hands when the heckling started.
“Ewww - teachers snogging!”
“Get a room!”
Laugher followed, the kids egging each other on and becoming more over-the-top with their jeering. Claire screwed her eyes closed in mortification; struggling to understand how she’d allowed herself to kiss a colleague, with a girlfriend in front of an entire group of students. Instead of panicking she responded the way she always did when a situation threatened to get out of control; squaring her shoulders Claire switched to “Dr Beauchamp” mode. Confident, no-nonsense and absolutely not intimidated by a group of rowdy teenagers. She began by putting two fingers to her lips and whistling; the loud and piercing sound had everyone’s attention immediately.
“Two lines in front of me, right now! We’re due for lunch in ten minutes, anyone not behaving appropriately will be going hungry. Am I making myself clear?”
The students jumped into formation faster than pipers in the Edinburgh Tattoo; the yelling quickly replaced with a subdued chorus of ‘sorry Dr Beauchamp’. Had she not still been embarrased from their kiss, Claire would have found it amusing that such was the effect of her teacher-persona that Jamie had also joined one of the lines; dutifully marching towards the cafe with the kids.
Lunch was at the rather unimaginatively named Gretna Love Cafe. Lace-covered tables adorned with vases of bluebells, scones with tea their specialty; it was the kind of place only grandmothers would find appealing. Based on the meagre budget Fort William High School had provided, it was unfortunately the best Claire could organise for twenty-five hungry students. The kids spread out across the dozen or so tables; a small one in the corner set aside for the two teachers. Not yet ready for more one-on-one conversation with Jamie, Claire busied herself at the counter co-ordinating everyone’s orders and chatting to the owner about the weather.
“The food willna be too much longer lass, then ye can get back to yer fella”
Claire laughed nervously.
“I’m ah…there’s no one here for me. I’m just playing chaperone today”
“Are ye sure? That handsome redhead hasna taken his eyes off ye since ye walked in”
Claire turned around to see Jamie looking anxiously in her direction. Their gazes meeting, his worried expression morphed into a lopsided grin. He gave a little wave and Claire’s heart squeezed at the sight.
“Well lassie, if he isna yer fella now, he will be verra soon…”
The older lady winked knowingly and Claire blushed, bighting back a smile. Whatever it was between her and Jamie, she’d never felt anything like it and girlfriend or not, she resolved to clear the air so she knew where they stood. If he proceeded to tell her about some amazing soon-to-be fiancée Claire just hoped her disappointment wouldn’t be too evident.
Returning to the table, she found her Scot red-faced and mopping up a puddle of milk.
“Och, tis nothing. One of the kids was larking about and knocked over the jug”
“Here, let me help you”
Grabbing some napkins, Claire assisted with the clean-up. Wiping down the table, their hands brushed together, her skin tingling from the contact.
“Claire, can I speak to ye…about before? Ye seem different, have I done something to offend ye?”
“God no! I wanted to speak to you too actually”
Heart beating out of her chest, Claire drew confidence from the understanding look on Jamie’s face.
“I’m sure when you woke up this morning the last thing you’d imagined was winding up kissing me…”
The sports teacher reddened and began playing with a packet of sugar. Claire thought this a little odd but put it down to the unusual situation they now found themselves in.
“Well it isna what usually happens on a school excursion…”
“Yes…Look I know it was just for a bit of fun but I wanted to apologise in case you felt perhaps I’d stepped over the line?”
Jamie dropped the sugar and gripped Claire’s fingers.
“Not at all and there’s no need for ye to be sorry. Would…would ye prefer to just pretend it never happened?”
“Would you? Because the last thing I want to do it make it difficult to work together. Or worse yet if you think I’d been disrespectful to your girlfriend”
“Whatever do ye mean? I dinna…”
Jamie’s attempt to interject was thwarted by Claire, who babbled and spoke over him, worried that if she stopped, how much she felt for her Scot would be written all over her face. Blushing fiercely she explained how she’d overheard Jamie telling Laogharie about his girlfriend and how she never wanted to be the cause of upset for him, even if their kiss hadn’t meant anything. It took Jamie’s large hands splaying across her face to snap her out of the rant. Eyes widening at his boldness, he drew back.
“Sorry I didna mean to be so forward but I need to explain a couple of things. I think ye’ve got the wrong idea”
Jamie’s eyes were full of hope and Claire drunk in the site of him, goosebumps breaking out as his fingertips brushed across her knuckles.
“The thing is, I dinna have a girlfriend…Not yet anyway”