DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Ralst for posting and anybody taking the time to read it - much appreciated.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Beginnings.
Four weeks after Nikki's release.
"Do you think we have enough to eat?" Helen asked Nikki as they stood in Helen's kitchen, perusing the food.
"Plenty, it's the booze that'll run out first. Don't know about Claire, Rachel and Mel, but my mates can drink the English Channel dry!" Nikki smiled.
"Then we might have a problem, so can those three." Helen laughed.
Nikki moved towards her and pulled Helen into her body.
"Are you happy darling?"
Helen gazed at Nikki's face. "Yes." she said and kissed her.
"We'll take things slowly" hadn't turned out that way. Returning to the club for a couple of drinks, they left shortly after. Trish urged Helen to take Nikki home, both of them aware, that Nikki was overwhelmed with everything that had happened.
When they arrived at Helen's home, they sat talking late into the night. Eventually they went to bed and lay in each other's arms, until Helen made the first tentative move.
She couldn't see the point in waiting. They'd lost so much time and life was too short to waste any more. They made love with a deeper intensity, more so than the night they had previously shared. The confines, trials, set backs and arguments that had plagued them in the past, were no longer there to restrict them any longer.
In these last four weeks they had grown together, filling in the cracks, forming a solid foundation, already partly set in place, that brought freedom and a gentle submission. An ease to their relationship that wasn't possible before.
"Not nervous about tonight? The scrutiny and curiosity of my friends?" Nikki asked.
"A little. I know I met them at the club, but I really didn't get a chance to speak to them before we left."
"Well, there's nothing to be nervous about darling. They're just so eager to meet you and to get to know you. They're a great bunch. I know they'll love you as much as I do."
"I hope so sweetheart. You'll find Rachel and Mel the same and you've already won Claire over."
They heard the doorbell ring.
"I'll get it." Nikki offered.
Helen readied glasses for their guests and heard voices talking in the hallway.
She turned and Nikki entered the kitchen with Trish, who carried a large bunch of flowers while Nikki carried a case of wine.
Trish looked at the table of booze.
"Glad I bought this," she motioned at the wine and smiled. "Have you explained to Helen about the alcohol consumption with the lot that's coming tonight!"
Trish moved over to Helen and embraced her.
"It's lovely to see you again. Thanks for the invite. You have a lovely home." Trish said.
"Thank you. I'm so glad you came." Helen answered.
"Not that I really want to talk shop tonight and I know you both probably have so much to decide on, but I just want to mention this and we can discuss it when you're ready," Trish started.
Nikki handed her a glass of wine.
"Financially, as you know, the club is sound. Our partnership is still ongoing in that respect as far as I'm concerned and I hope you decide to keep it that way Nik.. Financially for you, it makes sense,"
Nikki smiled. Trish always made sure of her financial security.
"I can understand what you said at the club after your release, about coming back there, and the notoriety that your presence might bring from certain quarters. Oddly enough, the filth haven't paid a visit once since " Trish didn't elaborate.
"Anyway, I've been approached by the owner of a wine bar. Financially he's up shit's creek and wants a quick buy out. We can easily take it on. I've checked the books and under proper management, it could be a little gold mine. I think we should do it. You could remain a silent partner in both businesses if you prefer. But I'd welcome your input, ideas, recruiting new staff and so on. Will you think about it? I'm not going to just make this decision without you."
Helen looked at Trish. "How long do you have to finalise?"
"Obviously the quicker the better. He could go elsewhere."
Helen turned her attention to Nikki, arching her eyebrows and waited for a response.
"Looks like I'm outnumbered!" Nikki smiled. "Am I going to have to put up with both of you ganging up on me from now on?" she laughed.
"Seriously," Nikki continued. "I think it sounds brilliant. You know I trust you on stuff like this Trish. Let's do it. For now, I will stay in the background though. I'll help with staff, but I don't think I should be visible at either business."
"Fantastic!" Trish hugged her. "I'll start negotiations on Monday. Right, enough of all that. Who's coming tonight exactly?"
"Well, it appears to be an all girl evening. Husbands are being left behind and told not to wait up apparently. Mandy, Karen, Sarah, Jo and Debbie, Jackie and Teri. Serena and Gill, if they're still together since I spoke to them on Thursday."
"And Helen's friends. Claire, who you already met and Rachel and Mel. And for your information, they're happily married, so don't go getting any ideas!" Nikki wagged her finger at her.
"Chance would be a fine thing." Trish quipped back.
Their guests gradually arrived and as with any party, they all congregated in the kitchen, nibbling the food and helping themselves to drinks.
Jo's girlfriend, Debbie, provided most of the entertainment. Heavily pregnant, she offered everybody the oppourtunity to feel the baby kicking.
Nikki still couldn't get over Debbie's uncanny resemblance to Emma. She remembered the first time Jo introduced Debbie to all of them four years ago. Even her quiet nature seemed to be an echo of the person Emma was.
Nikki felt her stomach and a massive kick.
"Oh my God! What's going on in there? Does that hurt?" she asked and laughed.
"Not really, depends where he's lying. He shifts around a bit. Especially at night." Debbie smiled back.
"He? It's a boy?" Nikki smiled even more, and felt the baby kick again.
"Yep," Jo answered. "We didn't want to know to begin with, but couldn't stand the suspense, so we had to found out."
"How did you go about all this, was it expensive?" Mel asked them interestedly and Jo and Debbie happily explained.
A little later Nikki was talking to Jo and a conversation from years ago resurfaced.
"You've finally met her then?" Jo said. Nikki frowned.
"Your soul mate." Jo added and saw the look of surprise on Nikki's face. "Emma told me years ago, why she let you go." she smiled at her.
Nikki shook her head slowly and smiled as she put her arm around Jo's shoulder. "I wish Em was here." She meant it for all their sakes.
"I know. But she is. She'll always be with us Nik." Jo winked and put her arm around Nikki's waist.
Eventually everybody gravitated towards the living room with their drinks. They sat where they could, some on the arms of the sofa, or on cushions on the floor.
Nikki sat in an armchair in the corner and Helen sat on the floor between her legs.
"Okay?" Nikki asked quietly. She smiled and gently massaged Helen's shoulders
"Yes, it's a wonderful night, I'm enjoying myself." Helen answered and handed Nikki her wine from the coffee table.
Before long the conversation turned to the two people sitting in the corner as their friends set about telling each of them, their past history.
"What is this, character assassination night?" Nikki exclaimed as Mandy finished one story that had Helen in tears from laughing.
"Oh come on, you know what you're like," Mandy laughed. "We spent more time outside the headmaster's office, than we did in class. I lost count of how many times you had your fags confiscated. They could have opened up a bloody tobacconists. Don't worry Helen, I've got more where that one came from. I know things about Nikki and I'm open to bribery. Give me a call and we'll do lunch."
"Helen's not exactly innocent. At Uni, she once took on Sunderland University's Rugby team in a drinking contest." Claire said and Helen shot her a look that could kill.
"Ahh, finally, we're getting to some decent gossip." Nikki rubbed her hands together and looked at Helen expectantly. "Come on, what happened?" she asked and Claire, Mel and Rachel were happy to oblige.
The assassinations continued as the evening wore on.
"I thought you running the London Marathon was always one of the highlights of our year though Nikki." Jackie said.
Helen looked at Nikki in surprise. "You ran the London Marathon?"
"Yep, me and Teri used to do it. None of this lot had the stamina." Nikki joked.
Everybody jeered and laughed.
"We ran quite a few didn't we?" Nikki said to Teri.
"Yeah, it was great fun. We used to have a right ole laugh. Nikki spent most of it eyeing up the other female contenders of course. She purposely made us run for one mile behind, how did you put it?" Teri pondered for a moment. "The most fantastic arse I've ever seen!"
"For Nikki, that's the equivalent of dangling a carrot in front of a donkey," Trish explained to Helen. "If she's being stubborn and won't do something, just bend over."
Nikki threw her head back and laughed.
"Ah, but let's be honest here. I think it only fair that Helen know the truth. There wasn't actually much running taking place, was there?" Jackie added.
Helen looked at Nikki. "Fess up then."
"Come on, be fair! We did always jog the first mile," Nikki sipped her wine. "It was after that, we used to get the flask of brandy out. After a few swigs you don't notice the pain from the blisters anymore. Mind you, on that first one it was eight hours before we finally stumbled across the finish line. This lot had buggered off to the pub. After that we honed our skills. We discovered brandy, rum and vodka mixed was a better antidote to pain."
"Did you just run it for fun?" Helen asked.
"The main reason was to raise money," Teri answered. "We raised quite a bit every time. We'd donate it to Great Ormond Street, Aids Research and organisations for Domestic Violence. Nikki and Trish also donated from their club."
Helen smiled softly at Nikki.
"Nice to give something back." Nikki shrugged dismissively, feeling embarrassed.
More drinks were consumed and Nikki continued to gently stroke Helen's shoulders and neck as she sat at her feet.
There was a lull in the conversation for a moment and it was Jackie that started on a completely different line of discussion.
"How have you felt as Helen's friends, about her relationship with Nikki?" Jackie asked and motioned with her glass at Claire, Mel and Rachel.
Nikki shot her a look and Jackie typically dismissed it with a smile and wave of her glass.
Claire took a deep breath before answering first.
"We've all known Helen a long time. I admit, when she first told me, I was surprised. I mean, I'd only ever know her date men. And then she announced she was getting married and I thought that was it, she was happy to settle down. Then Helen told me she broke off the engagement. We met to talk about it, and she told me she'd met someone else, but it was complicated. A few drinks later,"
Claire smiled at Helen.
"and she told me about Nikki. The surprise of it being another woman, paled compared to the fact that Nikki was a prisoner under Helen's charge and also, no offence Nikki, a convicted killer."
Claire paused for a moment.
"I became worried about Helen's mental faculties. My concern then became why, what was it that had drawn Helen to this woman? At first, reading Nikki's case file I was shocked. It was portrayed as a brutal attack on her part, but as I began to investigate, so it became obvious that much of the evidence against Nikki was misleading and some of it missing, in her favour. I have to say, that your solicitor was way out of his depth. Then I met Nikki and began to understand what Helen had seen. I knew Helen was struggling with it all and I wanted to help as a friend. But I genuinely believed that we could appeal the original conviction and when I found more evidence against Gossard with regards to a previous rape against a colleague, I knew we had the best chance that Nikki was ever likely to get."
Claire sipped her wine.
"I know something went wrong leading up to the appeal. I was busy and only saw Helen briefly during that time. She seemed miserable and wouldn't tell me. I still don't know what happened, but as I sit here now, I can see she is blissfully happy once more. And at the end of the day, her happiness should be the only thing that matters."
Rachel spoke next.
"As Claire said, we've known her since university. Claire's had more contact recently with her than both Mel and me and when we heard about the wedding, we thought the same. Next thing we knew, it was off. Then three weeks ago, Helen contacted us both and we meet for lunch. I think for Helen, that was probably a difficult conversation, but she was extremely honest. After all, she could have said nothing and let us find out as time went by."
She smiled at Helen.
"I had the same reaction. I was shocked. Not just that she had fallen in love with another woman, but also the nature of how they met. It was more curiosity for my reason in coming tonight. I guess I'm typical of most, in my assumptions of what I assume of gay people. There's a certain image, but as I'm sitting here, I'm surrounded by gorgeous women, internally and well as externally; it kind of throws off ones perception of what you'd expect. I don't know Nikki; I can say that what she did perhaps could have been handled differently, so that a life wasn't lost, but then I'm in no position to judge that. I can't imagine what that must have been like, for either of you, in that moment."
Rachel looked at both Nikki and Trish.
"I can only hope that if I'd been in that situation, I would have had someone act as bravely as Nikki did, in doing whatever they could to save me. And sitting here now, I am in no doubt that Helen has met someone who makes her happy and will protect her just as equally. That much about you Nikki, is very obvious."
Rachel smiled warmly at her. Mel was the last one to speak.
"I have to say ditto to all of the above," she smiled then continued. "I'm a criminal profiler. Some of my work involves interviewing suspects and relies on body language, in the most minute detail. I've been observing you both this evening. Helen exhibits all the obvious signs of being extremely relaxed and happy. As does Nikki. With an added element. You haven't taken your eyes off Helen all evening and even when you're not looking directly at her, engaged in something else, in essence you're still looking for her. I don't think I have to explain what that means. I wish you both, much continued happiness." Mel smiled and raised her glass at them both.
"Here, Here!" Jackie said and everybody else raised their glasses to toast them.
"What about you Helen, what was your reaction at finding yourself attracted to Nikki?" Jackie asked.
"Jacks, come on." Nikki frowned at her. She'd let one question go, but thought this question uncalled for and unfair to Helen and jumped to Helen's defence.
Helen rubbed her hand against Nikki's leg to reassure her.
"It's a fair question." Helen answered. "I've worked among women for the majority of my career and never felt any attraction. I once told Nikki I wasn't interested in women in that way and never had any inclination that I ever would be. It may seem odd for me to say this now but I'm still not interested in women, per se, in that way. My attraction was to one woman only. We all know Nikki's impetuous nature."
She turned to smile at her, before turning back to everybody.
"Nikki's prison record wasn't good. But I believed that treating her and the other women, like actual human beings, was the best course of action. I took it upon myself to be Nikki's reformer. Some incidents occurred between us that led me to believe that my actions towards her in that respect, were giving her the wrong impression as to my real intent. Or, that's what I told myself and believed in the beginning. As time went on and her guard began to drop, I saw a different woman altogether. Intelligent, articulate, outspoken, thought provoking, challenging, vulnerable."
Helen sipped more of her wine.
"She began to get to me, bothered me, like an itch I couldn't scratch. She became my confidant, not only on prison matters but personal ones too. And I began to realise that a shift had taken place in our relationship. Something was changing and it was me. I tried to rationalise it, then tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away. I looked back and realised that I sought her out whenever possible. Whether I was just passing her cell, I couldn't resist the urge to stop and talk to her. It got to the point that I knew it was beyond simple attraction. My feelings for her went far deeper than that and I was shocked. I think the foundation of my shock was why now? Why had I never had feelings like this before? And I realised that marrying Sean would be the worse thing I could do for both him and me. Not long after ending that, I did the next best thing; I resigned. Not that that stopped me. It wasn't long before I was back in another capacity, no longer Nikki's gaoler, and set about again pursuing our relationship.
It was exhilarating, thrilling, torture, stressful, exhausting, frustrating."
Helen placed her wine on the coffee table.
"My aim was to take on the task of raising an appeal, a possibility to get her out. It became my main focus. It was tough, having to leave her every time, but that's what drove me even harder. I knew it was just as bad for Nikki. There was no where we could really be alone for long to talk, not just about the appeal, but about us. Being so physically close, but not having any real closeness. Then the night we spent together only increased my feelings even more; I knew I couldn't function properly under those circumstances "
"Whoa, whoa!" Mandy exclaimed. "Back up. Did you just say the night we spent together?" Mandy looked at Helen in surprise.
The wine was helping Helen to relax and she suddenly felt horrified at her slip. Everybody now looked at her.
Nikki felt Helen's shoulders stiffen under her hands and she immediately jumped to her defence again.
"It's not how it sounds," Nikki began but Helen interrupted her.
"Nikki, don't," Helen said softly as she turned to look at her. "There's no need to come to my rescue any more. Larkhall's over."
Nikki looked at her and Helen nodded. "Go ahead. Tell them what happened."
Nikki took a deep breath and all eyes were on her. "It's a long story, but an oppourtunity presented itself. One night I got out. I escaped."
Everybody in the room gasped. Nikki saw Trish's eyes widen and realised she had figured out the reason for the phone call and request of money.
Nikki continued. "We'd had this awful row and I wanted to fix things. Talk it over. I couldn't get to Helen in there, firstly because she didn't want to know and secondly there was never any time or privacy."
Helen placed her hand over Nikki's on her shoulder.
"So, I made it to Helen's. I desperately needed to see her. I didn't think I could survive any more if I didn't."
Helen turned to look at her once more.
"We spent the night together." Nikki said quietly and smiled at her and knew Helen was remembering what had taken place.
As Nikki looked up she was aware that everybody also knew. They all smiled in soft recognition of what it must have meant to both of them. Mandy's eyes filled with tears.
The whole room hung with suspended silence at the story. It was Claire that sliced through it.
"Oh my God Helen!" Claire exclaimed. "You didn't think to tell me this at the time?"
Helen saw the look of shock on Claire's face. "Claire, I'm sorry. I know I should have told you, it was ethically wrong of me "
Claire interrupted her. "What are you on about, ethical wrong? I don't give a sod about that. I can't believe you never told me, because that's got to be the most romantic thing I've ever heard! Nikki risked escape just to see you!"
Now everybody laughed and agreed. Jackie was the next one to comment.
"As romantic as it obviously was, it would seem that you ended back in prison. No thought of running?"
Nikki looked at her and smiled. Jackie knew her well.
"Fortunately one of us was thinking straight. And it wasn't me. That was my solution. That we'd both go on the run. Then I decided that it would be better if I went first and Helen would follow." Nikki squeezed Helen's hand.
"But Helen did the right thing, the only thing that was right that night. She took me back. It would have been no life together, no different to what little life we had already. I was being extremely selfish in expecting her to agree to it. I can only imagine how I must have terrified her when I suggested it."
Nikki mouthed "I'm sorry" and only Helen saw it.
"The plot thickens," Jackie said. "You know, in all my years as a Professor of English Lit, I have to say that your story is one of the most romantic of its kind."
Nikki sipped from her wine. "That's not the half of it. After getting me back inside without being caught, Helen proceeded to dump me." Nikki smiled mischievously at Helen and then laughed, as did everybody else.
It was only Jackie that just smiled at Nikki's attempt to make a joke of something that smacked of being true.
Helen saw Jackie looking at her.
"Nikki's not joking," Helen said and the room once again descended into silence. "I did exactly that. I put an end to it."
As Helen looked around the room, the expressions she saw were all asking why?
"There'd been an incident that same night at the prison. One of the male officers had been attacked and was being held hostage in one of the cells by a female inmate. She'd stabbed him with a glass. I was under no doubt that both he and the prisoner were engaged in some kind of consensual relationship. But that didn't excuse his abuse of position. I realised that I was doing the same thing,"
Helen felt Nikki squeeze her shoulders.
"Professionally, I had lost my judgement and allowed personal feelings to collide with it. It wasn't who I was, professionally, and I didn't like the loss of control. I told Nikki it was over."
Helen looked at her once more. "She accused me of being a coward, of wanting an easy life."
Nikki looked at her. "Darling, I "
"No, it's okay," Helen assured her. "She was right. I was being a coward and I did want an easy life. It was easier to walk away, than face what I felt. In essence we were both locked up. The difference being that Nikki had a massive steel door keeping her there. At least I could leave, but I felt just as caged as she did."
For Helen, everybody in the room faded into the background. There was only one person she was talking to. She reached up and touched Nikki's face.
"It was the sheer force of how I felt. The sheer ferocity of it. It was totally overwhelming. Uncontrollable. I'd never felt anything like it. I couldn't handle it. I didn't recognise myself anymore. Everything I thought I knew about myself, no longer seemed to exist. I felt my life crashing down around me, everything I'd been able to control, was slipping away. I was terrified. I wanted her, but I didn't want the consequences that would come from having her."
Helen's voice started to crack.
"I believed I could walk away and I tried to. Believed that I was doing the right thing for both of us. Even believed that getting into another relationship could eradicate what I felt for you. I was fooling myself of course. I realised I couldn't leave you. I never really did."
A tear slid down Nikki's cheek and Helen wiped it away.
Helen wasn't used to expressing her feelings so openly, but she didn't care. It didn't matter that a room full of people, some she barely knew, heard it. There was only one person that mattered to her right now.
Nikki also knew it was an extremely emotional outpouring for Helen. Swallowing hard she tried to dislodge the lump in her throat, but it wouldn't go away. She trembled and couldn't move. She wanted to say something, but knew if she did, she would break down completely.
"It's okay," Helen whispered. "I know. I love you too."
That was all it took for Nikki to fall apart. Helen reacted quickly and turned to kneel before her and pulled her into her arms, so that Nikki's face was buried in her shoulder, hidden from everybody's view.
Mandy let out a small sob and it was Jackie who typically broke the emotional ice that everybody was held captive by.
"Well if anybody can top that, as the most wonderful admission of love, speak up now. If not, let's all have another drink to celebrate it!"
The laughter was louder than the comment deserved; a relief amongst them all, that somebody had set them free from an emotional rollercoaster. Jackie stood up and motioned at everybody that they should leave and they all went en masse to the kitchen for more drinks, talking and laughing, leaving Nikki and Helen alone.
"Its okay sweetheart," Helen said softly as Nikki sobbed against her. "Shush, I'm right here."
Nikki drew back to look at her.
"If I live a thousand years, I will never forget this moment. You have no idea what it means for me to be here with you. Just how much I love you. I never thought this would happen. I meant what I said on the steps outside the courthouse. You saved my life Helen. If it hadn't worked and I'd have gone back, I couldn't have lived anymore. I'd have ended it."
"Nikki!" Helen softly exclaimed.
"It's true. Knowing you were never going to be there anymore. No hope of ever seeing you. I would have gone insane. It's all that kept me going. Just seeing you was enough to give me the strength to make it through each day. Even hearing the screws say they'd seen you or spoken to you, just knowing you were there somewhere, was enough,"
Nikki words spewed out in an emotional torrent.
"When the judge said I was free to go, Christ! You would have thought I'd have been happy, but there was still no sense of freedom, because you weren't there. Then you turned up at the club and I thought maybe there was still hope. But then you just left and I still didn't know how I was going to cope without you. Oddly enough we have Trish to thank. She told me to go after you,"
Nikki half laughed and wiped her face.
"I couldn't get out of the club fast enough. I saw that taxi pulling away and I thought, that's it then, I'd lost you for good."
She closed her eyes tightly, trying to extinguish the still raw memory of an image of hope leaving her.
"Then you spoke and I turned to see you there, but I still wasn't sure. And then you said those things and I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. Each morning I slowly open my eyes, convinced I'm going to find myself back in that sodding cell and that this has all been a dream. That I'll never see you. That you've left."
"Shush." Helen murmured.
"I can't believe that everyday since my release, I wake up beside you. Every night I fall asleep in your arms. That I'm able to see you, touch you, hold you, make love to you. And that for the rest of my life, I'll love you with everything I have. Because I know I can't live without you."
Helen couldn't speak. She realised beyond any doubt, how much Nikki loved her and she felt appalled at her own behaviour. The times she tried to walk away, and the effect it continually had on Nikki's fragile emotional state. She tried to stem the overwhelming surge of emotion, but wasn't able to and found herself crying as hard as Nikki.
"Nikki, I love you. And I'm never going to leave you again, I promise you sweetheart. I'm never going to leave you." She pulled Nikki back into her arms and kissed her face over and over. "I'm never going to leave you."
Nikki sought out her mouth and kissed her deeply and Helen responded, both of them affirming a need for each other that they would never get over.
With Nikki's words in her head, Helen believed everybody had just missed something wonderful.
The most incredible admission of love, she had ever heard.
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