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A Delicate Touch

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James was wrapped up as best he could. Scarf, hat, jumper, warm jacket and jeans. This wasn’t the first thing he’d though off when Jean and the others had suggested ice skating as a team building night. He had been somewhat reluctant in the beginning, but with enough nagging from Robbie and Laura, he’d finally given in.
“Oh look, there’s James.” Laura spoke up as she smiled.
“About time.” Robbie added.
James approached Robbie and Laura, noticing the strange look Laura was giving him.
“What?”
“Nothing, it’s just…you’re very…padded.”
“It’s ice out there, I don’t want to hurt myself do I?”
“James, have you never done this before?”
“No.” He grumbled.
“Oh, well this ought to be a good experience then.”
“Falling on my backside doesn’t sound like a good experience to me.”
“You gotta learn sometime man?”
“I take it you know how to ice skate then Sir?”
“Two kids every Christmas time, you bet I do.”
“Wonderful.”
“It won’t be that bad James, I promise.” Laura smiled.
Jean walked in to the complex to see James, Laura and Robbie chatting, giving a curious look at the amount of clothing James was wearing. She made her way over to them, standing closely by James.
“Sorry I’m late everyone, traffic.”
“Not to worry, we haven’t long arrived ourselves.” Laura said.
“Hathaway you look, cozy.”
“Thank you Ma’am.”
“We’re not at the office now Hathaway, it’s Jean tonight.”
“Fair enough.”
“He hasn’t skated before.” Laura stated.
“What…never?” Jean asked, looking up at him.
“No Ma…Jean.”
“Not even as a child?”
“We weren’t really an outing kind of family.”
“Oh dear, well…I’m sure we’ll manage, come on.”

Laura and Robbie were already on the ice, skating side by side, Laura doing a few turns. Jean had gone around the rink twice and stopped by the edge when she saw James still having trouble getting his skates on. She smiled to herself before coming off the ice and over to him.
“Having a little trouble?”
“They’re a little fiddly.”
“Mmmm, perhaps if you didn’t have so many layers on you may manage better.”
“I didn’t want to get cold.”
“Oh come on James, it’s not that bad.”
“I really don’t think this is my type of thing Ma’am, I’m sorry.”
“You can’t say that before you’ve even tried it, now come on, I’ll help you.”
James rolled his eyes, before getting to his feet. He followed Jean as she stepped on to the ice, watching as James held on tightly to the edge as he came out to join her.
“James in order to actually skate, you’re going to have to let go of the edge. Here, give me your hand.”
James looked up as she held out her hand to him, in two minds whether or not to accept the help. When he felt his legs shake as he began to move, he immediately grabbed hold of Jean’s hand, she came to stand in front of his, skating backwards as she held on to both his hands as he began to move his feet.
“There you go, you see…you’re a master already.” She smiled.
James took his eyes off his feet to look up at her, losing his concentration, his legs giving way underneath him, falling backwards. Jean who still had a tight hold of both his hands watched as he fell, feeling her own body falling forward too, unable to stop herself. She let out a yelp as they both landed on the ice, Jean landing on top of James who had his hands on her hips as she looked down at him.

Laura was skating closely to Robbie, hand in hand. Laura turned when she heard Jean’s voice, looking over to see James flat on his back, and Jean hovering over him, the two just staring at one another.
“Robbie look?”
“What’s that love?”
“Over there, James and Jean.” She pointed.
Robbie followed her eye line to see his friends lying on the ice, rolling his eyes.
“I told you this wasn’t his thing love, we shouldn’t have made him come.”
“He needs to get out more, they both do and anyway, just look at them.”
“Oh you’re not still on that are you?”
“There’s something there Robbie.”
“They’re friends, colleagues….that’s all. Quick matchmaking will you. Not everyone can be as happy as us.”
“Oh I know that but…well, it couldn’t hurt them, could it.” She smiled as she began to skate again.
“Whatever you say love.” Robbie smiled before catching up with her.

Jean was trying to keep her breathing steady as she looked down at James who was smiling at her.
“Well, I did say I couldn’t skate…Ma’am.”
“Oh do shut up.” She laughed.
“Maybe we should erm….”
“Oh, of course.”
Jean got to her feet before holding out her hand to help James to his feet, the pair looking at one anther for a few moments.
“I didn’t hurt you did I?” He asked.
“No, no I’m fine.”
“Do you want to carry on or…
“Maybe we should take a break.”
As they made their way over to a bench to remove their skates, James looked up at her.
“I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your evening.”
“Don’t be silly James, at least you tried it, and that’s what matters.”
Silence echoed between them before James spoke again.
“How about I take you to dinner instead.”
“Dinner, you and me?”
“Yeah.”
“As in a date?”
“A…” James thought about her question for a moment before looking back at her and smiling. He leaned in, leaving a chaste kiss to her lips.
“Yes Jean…a date.”
James got to his feet, extending his hand to Jean.
“Shall we.”
“Lead the way James.”
Laura and Robbie were watching from the ice rink, Laura grinning from ear to ear.
“You see…I told you so.”
“Yes love you did, sly buggers the both of them. Come on, one more time around.” He said, taking her hand in his.

-Fin