DISCLAIMER: All the characters used within this story are the property of Shed Productions. I am using them solely to explore my creative ability.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILRERS: Up to series 5.

It Ain't Me Babe
An Alternative series 5 Karen / Yvonne Tribute
By Richard

Scene 26

"So it's you, Mum. What's brought you here this time." Ritchie sneered to Yvonne, just as, before she and Karen approached him, he had been laughing and joking with the nurse.

"Believe it or not, Ritchie," Karen interrupted seeing Yvonne's confusion. "You have a mother who actually cares about you. Not that you exactly deserve it. I've got a son of my own and I got over the guilt trip a long time ago, of thinking I was an inadequate mum, working all hours, never there for him. Never had time to wipe his nappy, did I...even when he was fourteen years old. You want to be treated like a man, you act like one. You have to face up to yourself, what you should have done but didn't, what you did but shouldn't, what you did right in your life. Go on take a look at yourself and ask yourself if you've got the right to point the finger." Karen finished coldly. It was easy dealing with another mother's son drilling Ritchie right through the eyes with her deliberately phrased words and her unwavering eyes looking into Ritchie's shifty eyes flitting all over the place. You weren't so emotionally involved and you could see things more clearly. Her own son still tried it on and despite all her strong words, he still had the knack of making her feel uneasy and uncomfortable.

Ritchie, for his part lay on his bed, feeling vulnerable, as two strong women were leaning over him from a position of height. He could not look Karen Betts in the eye, the plaything he had screwed without thinking, the nurse figure that had unaccountably saved his life and the strong woman who was now coldly rejecting him. But his mouth was tight shut and far too proud to let the words 'sorry' out of his mouth. That wasn't being an Atkins, the shades of his father still pulled the invisible threads on him. Also a new puppet mistress, the remembered voice of Snowball whispered in his ears at night. Somehow she would never let him go and somehow, he didn't want her to.

"So how are you getting on, Ritchie." A real maternal tenderness infused Yvonne's huskier tone of voice with a real eagerness for Ritchie to be on his feet even though she had put him in the hospital bed. "I really want more than anything else does for you to be on your feet. What ever happened before. There's a future for us."

"Not while Snowball's dead, Mum." Ritchie's cold voice rejected her.

"Looks like you're getting over her pretty well to me, Ritchie. You've got quite a fan club amongst the nurses while you play the martyred wounded hero . Pity that the only sort of person who going to make it with me for the future, has got to be strong and honest. That lets you out, Ritchie. That's not to say I won't help out as Wing Governor.. but on my terms." Karen finished hitting a definite note.

"At some time, Ritchie, you've got to talk and own up." Yvonne finished softly, defeated but not bowed down.

"Visiting time's over." Politely called the nurse, giving them both the release from their duty.

"Come on, Yvonne, let's head for the pub. We've done and said all we can for now."

Without resisting, Yvonne escaped out of the dim artificial light and miles of aisles and into the bright sunlight and the busy streets.

"I want to ask you how do you reckon the best way to finish Fenner, Yvonne." Karen cut to the chase after a swig of her drink straight after they were served. "I mean permanently."

"You mean hire a hitman? I thought you screws did things strictly legit." Yvonne raised her eyebrows quizzically. Karen was showing some unforeseen facets of her personality but this was not just dodging a few rules, unusual for Karen, but throwing the bleeding book out the window.

"Of course not, Yvonne." Karen laughed that attractive laugh of hers. "I mean in all of Fenner's murky squalid career can we find something that we can get the mud will stick and will drive him out the Prison Service, completely, for all time, well away from locking up women for a living, if you don't mind me putting it that way."

Karen finished the last words with a touch of embarrassment, not at the thought of talking about such a matter freely in front of a prisoner but only as she suddenly recalled the abstract idea of being locked up still applied to Yvonne.

Yvonne smiled reassuringly at Karen's transparently open confiding in her and asking her opinion. A silence descended all around except the distant sounds of glasses clinking and barroom talk while Yvonne's expression became contemplative as she searched her vast memory very carefully going right back through the mists of time to when she first came here.

"How well do you get on with Miss Stewart, I mean Helen these days?" Yvonne said very slowly.

"Just fine," Karen said promptly. "We had a good talk and cleared the air. She's living with Nikki Wade these days, though I suppose you know that one."

"What about that time he was running O'Kane's knocking shops and taking a slice of the earnings. Don't suppose living off immoral earnings looks very good in the eyes of the Home Office, Karen, does it? He'll be queuing up down the dole for a good few years after being thrown out of the Prison Service like that" Yvonne finished with a satisfied leer on her face.

"Nice try, Yvonne, but I went through his bank account with a fine tooth comb as he'd been chucking a lot of money around at that time. Everything checked." Karen's initial bright expression lapsed into more sombre mood.

"How do you know he hasn't a second account, Karen? Charlie had a string of accounts all over London to launder the money. Only difference between Charlie and Fenner is that he was honest about being a crook, if you see what I mean." Karen smiled and puffed at another cigarette. Those little turns of phrases of Yvonne's were very endearing and spoke of her straight in the eye way of looking at the world.

"We need more than this, Yvonne.," she said finally. "All Virginia O'Kane's effects went back to the Home Office and God knows where after that. That's outside my field."

"You could ask them like casual, Karen." Yvonne said persuasively and Karen nodded at this. Once pull at a thread in a tangle like this, who knows what comes out.

"Well, as I'm here, I suppose I am to congratulate you in trying to make an honest man like Colin Hedges. He needs a strong woman behind him." Karen said with an artificial edge to it. "He's not so bad as a PO, a bit scared of Fenner but he seems to be going more on the right lines than going on Fenner's pornfests."

"More like a nanny and a rehab councillor." Yvonne snorted with exasperation. "He's a smackhead and, like they say, once a smackhead, always a smackhead."

"Wait a minute, Yvonne, you are really saying that Colin Hedges, one of my officers is bringing heroin, a Class A drug, into an establishment which he is supposed to be employed to preventing just such a thing?" Karen Betts Wing Governor, spoke in very sharp precise tones sweeping a lock of hair back from her face with her hand.

Yvonne was taken aback, used to the loose distinction between prison officer and prisoner which Karen's official tones brought back into sharp relief. She was about to take offence when she saw the fear lurking in her eyes and her feelings turned to understanding and sympathy. Never before in her life had she blabbed information to anyone about anyone she knew. The 'don't grass' ethic went back to when she was at school and teacher never did get to hear what she'd been up to or any of her friends. She spoke those words so casually without thinking when her defences were down and she was at her most open and relaxed. This time she knew she had done the right thing.

"You're afraid, Karen. I can tell that a mile off." Yvonne said softly, reaching out for Karen's hand.

Karen had been staring sightlessly into a nightmare vision only she could see, clutched on tightly to Yvonne's hand and a small smile showed that the blind panic was ebbing. Yvonne could see the sweat on Karen's face and if she was scared, anyone else would be bleeding wetting themselves.

"I'll have to see Colin Hedges first thing tomorrow and he'll be out of the prison service. I'll do it, I'll have to do it. Don't even think of trying to talk me out of this one, Yvonne Atkins," Karen said with her most determined voice and expression. "Though I don't think you'll even try whatever you feel for the guy." she carried on, back to her softer more leisurely tones. "There's reason enough to play the executioner and I hate the idea of doing it but I've got to do it. I'm worried Fenner or anyone knows already and will get in first."

"Don't worry, I'll get over him quick enough. It's becoming a habit." Yvonne said with a chill in her voice. Anyway, Karen's words had lit in an illuminated flash what had been churning round in her mind for a long time. It was the right thing to do. She didn't even think to consider Karen was saving her own neck, as she knew better than that, now.

"Well, Yvonne," Karen said starting to stroke Yvonne's hand gently. "We've time enough for another drink or two. We've done business. Might as well enjoy ourselves now."

Yvonne smiled feeling the warm sunlit dreaminess of the afternoon pour down on them and let things flow while Karen bought in the drinks. She shook her head wondering if what was happening was real. If this is a dream, then right now she wanted to carry on sleeping.

Scene 27

It was not often that Yvonne could let down that mental guard which prompted her to be on the alert at all times for the unexpected and protective of anyone who came under that very real mothering umbrella of hers but now, blissfully, was the time she could let go. With Ritchie put out of her mind then long distance guilty mum could be fade into the background and Yvonne, the human being with her own needs and feelings, could breathe freely. She hadn't known that feeling for a lifetime and the freedom to be suspended purely in the present. She looked directly into the sunlight and into her dreams came a memory of Nikki's hand on her shoulder and her brown eyes mockingly telling her that "if you're desperate for it, find someone the same side of the wire. No one will bat an eyelid. Lot easier and you won't end up down the block."

"You're joking? Turn lezzie? Urrgh I'd sooner shag bleeding Fenner first." She remembered Nikki said that for laughs in that matey style of hers knowing how Yvonne would react. Yes she had said that at the time.

Yvonne blinked her eyes and can that be Karen coming in her direction out of the mists of the past as firm, sometimes hostile Wing Governor to the present as the smiling faced attractive woman approaching her with a couple of glasses of vodka and lemon and offering her one of them? Karen for her part was quite certain in her mind that she had choices in her life and what had appeared to her as choices, her attraction for Fenner and break-up with him, her impulse to duck out of Di's hen night to spend the night with Ritchie was only rerunning the same accident. Life didn't have to be that way and, at that moment, Yvonne stood out in sharp relief in comparison with the grey figures around her that scurried their way in the same rat trap she was stuck in. Even in Larkhall, she had become sharply conscious of Yvonne's movements out of the corner of her eye while the vacant face of Di speaking to her of what she'd read in the magazines sometimes washed over her so that her voice replied automatically without connecting with the brain. Now as she approached the pub table where Yvonne sat sleepily bathing in the sunshine, she was more conscious of her than ever. The sun illuminated strands of her spiky hairstyle into golden and the smile on her face was gentle.

"To us," Karen clinked Yvonne's glass without either of them being totally sure of what they were getting at.

"To us?" Yvonne repeated, the words spoken slowly and hanging on the air. Then she smiled and shook her head in wonderment. "At one time, Karen Betts, if you'd ever asked me if we would have ended up even being on the same side, I would have told you that you do bleeding good stand up comedy.." finishing on a gentler version of the familiar spiky abrasive Atkins humour that was now part of the occasional affectionate gentle teasing both of them were now used to from each other.

"But times have changed, haven't they." Karen's soft mellow tones spoke persuasively. She was as certain of herself while suspended in the present.

"Except at night time. You wouldn't know what it's like, Karen, being alone in a single cell, narrow bed and thin sheets how much you unbelievably miss being held by your nearest and dearest next to you." Yvonne sighed reflectively. As she spoke she felt long forgotten heightened feelings that she couldn't for the life of her define except that it felt good and that she felt more alive than she had for weeks. Everything around her faded into the background, the bar chatter, the people passing back and forth except for Karen who seemed blessed by the sun. The usual workaday nightly feelings of emotional loneliness that the Atkins spirit couldn't block off seemed like an account of a stranger she had read in a magazine. As for Colin Hedges, he was part of a chapter in her life that she had folded down the last page on.

"I don't feel much different on the outside. OK, you're locked up and I've got choices you haven't got. I'd be an insensitive cow to you if I whinge on about being a single middle aged career woman who really doesn't like to drag herself down to the local meat market in some club or disco, dressing up, thinking tonight will change my life and I'll get Mr Right. I've done my share of that when I was younger.. and look where I've ended up."

"An attractive good looking woman like you.? You've got everything going for you." Yvonne smiled, wondering how in hell Karen with her looks would have any problems that way. From studying Karen right now, anyone would find her fanciable. She hadn't thought of that before but it was more obvious to her than it had ever been how she found how attractive Karen was.

"Tonight we'll find a dune that's ours
And softly she will speak the stars
Until sun up
It's all from having some one knowing
Just which way your head is blowing
Who's always warm like in the morning
In Coconut Grove"

Karen smiled and blushed at the compliment and, this time, Yvonne leaned forward to take Karen's hand in hers without thinking.

"You've only a month or so in prison, Yvonne. Have you thought where you'll go when you're out." Karen asked Yvonne who was holding her hand.

Yvonne stared sightlessly, trying to take in the idea when every instinct in her said don't bloody count on it till the prison gates shut for the last time with her on the far side and the likes of Fenner had no power over her life.

"I'll miss you not being around..." Karen started to say and the look of real regret and tenderness in her eyes was a moment Yvonne came to relive many times alone in her cell at night. Suddenly there came a jangling unwelcome disturbance when Karen's mobile phone rang loudly.

Sighing with annoyance, Karen picked up the phone and Yvonne heard Karen's barely restrained patience and smiled at the slight embroidery on the truth for Fenner's benefit.

"Yes, Jim, I'm having a quick drink in the hospital canteen while Yvonne Atkins is waiting for a fresh appointment time to see her son..Yes, hospitals have their procedures as well I know from working in one...it's nice to know, Jim, that G Wing is likely to collapse if I'm not there, I really feel valued by you." And Yvonne stuffed her hand against her mouth in case she started giggling and giving the game away. "...and yes, we'll be back in an hour at the most and I'll deal with whatever problem you can't handle."

"We can't keep meeting like this, Karen." Yvonne smiled broadly.

"We bloody well will, Remember, I'm Wing Governor." was Karen's blunt rejoinder. "Now I know the problems Helen had in trying to get some time alone with Nikki... and I was once the innocent gatecrasher." The words came to her lips, spoken very softly, without her conscious thoughts framing her words, but not too softly for Yvonne's sharp ears.

As they both made a move from the pub to the outside world, Karen turned round to look for Yvonne who suddenly put her arms rather stiffly and awkwardly round Karen and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. Nothing that would raise eyebrows in these touchy, touchy, feely, feely days, she thought, suddenly feeling inhibited realising the world around her.

"Thanks for the date....darling." Yvonne spoke and smiled a little awkwardly.

"Anytime, Yvonne....darling." Karen smiled back more easily.

As they both left the pub, and were driven back in a taxi, somehow they both knew that a line had been crossed, dreamily, casually but none the less decisively for all that.

Scene 28

Helen spread out on the old varnished oak table a sequence of blown up black and white photos that she had reprinted of one very permanent reminder of their visit to Larkhall. They were still faintly damp from recent developing. They showed startling split second jumps in time of Fenner face contorted with rage at the point he saw Nikki with the camera. Looked at in the calm light of day, they betrayed him freaking out as Nikki dared to freeze undeniably for all time the real Jim Fenner with all his layers of assumed personality stripped bare. That must have enraged him more than the put downs both had given him over the years.

"Hey, Helen, just look at the new dart board I've made. More interesting than the usual kind." Nikki said, bringing in the usual circular object under her arm. "Da daaaah." And she brandished it for Helen to see who promptly fell about laughing.

Nikki had taken an old dartboard, removed the pattern of metal dividers, neatly inserted a circular shape of Fenner's face taken from the original and blown up to size and reassembled it.

Helen grabbed a set of darts while Nikki pinned it on the shed door.

"Bags I go first Nikki." Helen laughed as she carefully aligned her first dart for trajectory. "One dart, right up Fenner's left nostril and I score a bulls eye."

"You wish." smiled Nikki who, having knocked about a bit had perfected the art of dart throwing.

The dart sailed through the ear but swerved to the left and impaled Fenner's left earlobe.

"Useless, Helen. Watch the expert do it."

And Nikki's dart, with her practised eye and position, sailed gracefully through the air and landed with a perfect bull's eye right in the black hole.

"You don't mind, Hel, having these displays of your worst enemy plastered all round the house," Nikki asked softly, with real concern.

"Got to do something positive with them, Nik." Helen smiled. "If only Larkhall had grown a collection of Venus fly traps, those plants with snares that trap flies and drown them, we would have a perfect theme to add into the commission. Using his image to make fun of him is next best thing, and good therapy... not that the Christopher Biggins demonstration didn't do a lot that way to make a figure of fun of him"

"Hello." Nikki's sharp ears heard a gentle rat tat of the door. "Someone for us."

Eyes blinking at going into the relative darkness of the house, Nikki opened the door to reveal a respectably dressed suited fair haired man of middle age carrying a leather briefcase and with a shy manner.

"My name is John Lambert." He said in a polite educated tone. His very manner spoke of a city gentleman of the old school, in a style older than his age. "I know that I am unknown to both of you but I have indirect links with your past and talking to each other will, I hope, be of benefit to both of us."

Nikki ushered him in, politely to the visitor's chair into which he sank and balanced his briefcase on his knees.

"Are you, Helen Stewart," the stranger asked, guessing correctly, to which Helen nodded assent. "You may well remember my sister Virginia Lambert, or Virginia O' Kane when she married the manager of the first house of ill repute that she came to manage."

Helen's eyes lit up at this and her mind whizzed back to the languid upper class tones and bunches of flowers of the very scheming calculating woman whom she was shocked at the way she exploited a non existent disability to wrap both prisoners and Prison Officers round her elegant little finger. Karen had filled her in on the full story of what had happened to her. Brief memories of her propping her eyelids open while parked on a dark sidestreet tucked discreetly away from the red lit signs and discreet front door.

The rest of John Lambert's story threaded its way in two lines of thought whizzing through her mind of the last traumatic weeks of events whirling round and round in a relentless spiral with Fenner, as if in a dance of death, in a single minded desire to nail him for good. Threaded in with this was Virginia O'Kane's story, of the talented younger sister who was headed for the usual marriage into respectability into the country houses in Esher, suddenly dumping her fiancée and heading to the fascinating city lights of London where she hung round with what their parents said stuffily was the "wrong crowd."

He made no attempt to hold back strong feelings of resentment of his sister as she had grown up in her teens to be the spoiled favourite but deeper below family ties remained that she was his sister no matter how badly she behaved, as it usually was. Years later, she popped back more into his life when she was established with lots of money to flaunt before their admiring parents. They blinded themselves to the dubious source of that money. In her skittish way, she popped up from time to time to drop in on his town house and he made a rule never to part with money to her.

"John darling, lend me a tenner. You know, I'll pay you back like I always do."

He learnt to smile politely and tell her that the first time she visited him with no ulterior purpose, he would trust her more when she went into a tempestuous rage at yet another of his refusals. Time after time, he stonewalled her requests, the only man who could successfully do so.

"Finally, I got a letter from Virginia to say that she had gone to prison. I've got the one letter I ever received from her and I thought I'd show it to you.

..... John, darling, the conditions are so frightful here what with the most priggish stuck up Prison Managers or whatever they call themselves with their little tinpot titles and badges..Miss Betts is one of the worst with her ridiculous rules and regulations and refusing to do the teensiest bit to make life even a half way tolerable for me with this unfortunate disability..I can't move anywhere without being pushed and pulled in and out of bed by those mental defectives like the Two Trudies who used to work for me...isn't there any way you could pull a few strings for me with your respectable job, I'm sure they would listen to you...as for Miss Stewart, she is a humourless prig who is even more of a jobsworth in her uniform than Miss Betts and that is saying something.....my only lifeline around here is that nice Jim Fenner who is such a miracle worker..after being caught out by those jack booted policemen who behaved just like the German Gestapo when they raided my little money earners, I'm totally stony broke with having to beg from this ridiculous spends programme, no Channel 23 behind the counter, so uncivilised you know, unless you can slip me some dosh through the post when that Betts woman isn't looking....This is only till this Thursday when that nice Jim Fenner has got the money starting to roll in again....

Your ever loving sister


"You must understand, Miss Stewart," John Lambert smiling for the first time, "In my sister's eyes, bad is good and good is bad. For her to have been so exceptionally rude and insulting to you both means you were doing the right thing. For her to have showered this Jim Fenner with compliments means that he is as big a criminal as my sister is, bigger as he is put in a position of responsibility."

The dry mostly unemotional way in which John Lambert spoke gripped both Helen's and Nikki's attention, firing up in them a totally dormant feeling of exhilaration and joy driven by a feeling that justice that was denied was in their reach. And of course, unlike Virginia O' Kane's time at Larkhall they were together and could pool what they knew and most of all, Karen Betts was on their side this time around.

"There is more to tell," John pressed on, unfastening his briefcase and bringing out a set of bank statements. "I have here left to me as next of kin, the bank statements of my sister's err..brothels." John Lambert said with some distaste. "These all came to me through probate as next of kin, my parents having died recently. Just take a look at the sums of money being paid into the account," and Helen and Nikki looked incredulously at the thousands of money pouring into the account. "Just here, everything stops. That was the point that my sister was taken into custody, brought to court and charged. You can see that, while there is a lot of money held in the account, nothing is moving in or out of the account." spoke John Lambert, necessarily dispassionately, though aware as they were all, of the human degradation that lay at the bottom of the facts and figures.."Yet, just here, every month or so from then on, big sums paid in again at a time that Virginia is in Larkhall, see the date on her letter and nothing paid out. My question is, who was paying in the money and why."

Both Nikki and Helen's feelings had leaped to an indescribable peak of jubilation even while the mathematical trail was followed of Fenner's murky dealings. Who else could it be? Ghosts would come back from his past to haunt him. They knew it but for once, Jim bloody Fenner is blissfully ignorant of this.

"We'd better phone Karen for a start." Nikki said shortly. "We've got unfinished business."

The proposition was short and simple but a trace of fear underlay their feelings at this point in just what they were choosing to let themselves in for.

Scene 9

Karen was reading a recent very special issue of "Gardener's World" and smiling to herself as the Saturday morning sunlight warmed the rather severe, overfunctional flat with glowing colours. It wasn't her choice of magazine as plants had a habit in the past of dying on her but this issue featured a rather glamorously dressed and made up Julie J in a fairly floral blouse set artistically against the scenery of the Larkhall prison greenhouse. Likewise, a photo of a commanding stern leather clad Yvonne Atkins set against a more stark background gave her a sudden warm satisfied feeling inside. The article had made her think fondly of all her friends, close and far away, and dissipated the memory of the darker mood of the night before when she had, unwisely, had an evening in working on her files. Still more were her eyes riveted on the photo of the woman dressed in black. She accepted as natural that she often wondered what Yvonne might be doing, remembering stray scraps of snatched conversation and definite feelings inside of her which she was not scared to own up to even if she was hesitant to put a name to.

It was only when the knocking, loud to begin with increased to the loudness of the Met police on a dawn raid that Karen's concentration was broken and she opened the door. A very excitable Nikki and Helen almost tumbled in and performed an impromptu dance of joy before Karen's serene, "go with the flow" all accepting amusement.

"Hey Karen, we've got some good news, I mean brilliant news." Helen chimed in first, her eyes all alight. "By the way this is Nikki Wade....."

"I think we've met before, Nikki." Karen grinned causing Nikki to collapse with laughter.

"How would you fancy the prospect of helping to finally see the back of Fenner, I mean completely and totally."

Karen couldn't believe her ears but knew of old that Helen was the last person to make extravagant claims but invited them to tell her more and Helen launched into a rapid concise account of what John Lambert had told them and placed the bank statements before Karen's incredulous eyes.

"The lying bastard..." Karen started to say.

"You mean more so than usual, Karen?" Nikki's cool voice broke in sardonically and instinctively and naturally left behind the "Miss Betts" tag of old.

"No, I mean, the dates, look at the dates you two." Karen broke in excitedly. Her mind rapidly took her back to those cotton wool, deluded days when she had lived with Jim Fenner.

"Sorry, Karen," he had said with regret in his eyes. "Rules is rules and I have to go out to the Mason's do tonight. I'd be letting the Order down if I didn't go. I've been with them since I've been a young lad and it's helped me climb up the ladder. Besides, it's a load of crap about us walking around with one trouser leg rolled up and funny handshakes. It's charitable work helping out fellow Masons who've fallen on hard times. You can't say no to that one Karen." His eyes looked at Karen with gentle reproach.

"All right, Jim. I'll take you up on that offer of a slap up meal you promised me. What about tomorrow night?" Karen smiled in that idiotic fawning way that it made her sick to think of.

"And all the time he was hanging round sleazy massage parlours and smiling at and chatting up some cheap tart and raking in the money...and putting on that ever so hurt, 'you don't trust me, Karen' look when I went through his bank accounts.."

"You did what, Karen." Nikki asked in wide eyed admiration of her incredible firmness of resolve. These were aspects of the private Karen Betts she had never seen before, that added a whole new third dimension to the very professional two dimensional suit she had come to grudgingly respect after their very unfortunate first introduction down the block.

"The sly bastard must have had a second account of his own, Karen." came Helen's heartfelt reply to which Karen nodded and replied. "It's just his character for him, a secretive bastard like him."

The rapid conversation slowed to a halt while each one of them cudgelled her brains for the next step forward. They instinctively felt that there was a long way to go before they could nail Jim Fenner.

"Let's put together what we know." Helen said in that slow deliberate tone of hers, thinking aloud. "I know from Yvonne and Lauren that Fenner was definitely in league with Virginia O'Kane in running those brothels. The bank statements have his ugly fingerprints written all over them, stinking of greed and money but they only take us so far in identifying him. They don't definitely identify the payee as him. I've seen him once coming out of a brothel but my evidence is no bloody use as the immediate question I would get asked is why I didn't crucify the bastard personally, as acting Governing Governor instead of resigning. He'd found out about Nikki and I, in case you didn't know, Karen. Thanks to Karen, we know the false alibi he used in order to be able to collect the takings and we know where the money he stashed away will be but we can't get at it. Lauren had told me ages back that O'Kane was working with a 'John Farmer' but that isn't enough."

Karen enjoyed the feeling of Helen's strength alongside her as in the old days and Nikki's presence added to the feeling of being borne upwards on a cushion of good feeling.

"Ain't it good to know that you've got a friend
When people can be so cold
They'll hurt you and desert you
They'll take your soul if you let them
But don't you let them
You've got a friend."

"What about Lauren," Nikki asked. "She seems to be very resourceful from what I saw of her. Would she be able to dig up anything? I know that people move on and the trail has long since gone cold. If we could happen on someone who can definitely put the finger on Fenner, we have him cold..and there's Yvonne, the one person in Larkhall who knows more than me about what's going down."

The three of them agreed on that for the time being and Karen fetched glasses for a drink.

"Never too early or busy for a drink, as you will remember, Karen." Helen said, smiling at Karen, bringing forcibly back to her mind memories of the way things were once and what might have been.

The three of them broke into light chit chat and Helen and Nikki were chatting away about country ways and the day to day trivia. There was an obvious sense of closeness between them that Karen was hyper conscious of, like a happily married couple. It gave Karen a feeling at the back of Karen's mind how she was very much the single career woman without any roots or ties and, right now, she wanted to be tied down to a good relationship.

"What's up, Karen." Nikki asked in her quiet way, seeing the look of sadness cross Karen's face where a second ago she was laughing and happy.

Karen blushed, a very unusual thing to happen to her.

"It's nothing." stumbled Karen, announcing that there was a real something at the back of it. "It's just that I can see you two settled and happy and I wish I had something of what you've got."

"Isn't there anyone special in your life, Karen. Everyone needs someone like that." Helen said softly.

"There might be," Karen said, haltingly. "Though it's difficult. I'm not sure how the other person feels..."

"Who's the lucky guy, Karen? Anyone we know." Nikki's brown eyes expressed all the sympathy in the world, even if, for once, she was wide of the mark. Now the hard defensive shell Nikki wore at Larkhall was no longer needed, she was an open romantic.

"It is someone you know, Nikki," Karen started confidently enough with the easy bit then hesitated a second as she carried on. "but it's a she, Yvonne Atkins." Karen spoke smiling and blushing like a teenage girl speaking aloud her daydreams for the very first time, as indeed it was for her.

"If you're sure of how you feel, Karen," Nikki said, and Karen nodded at that, unbelievably glad for someone else to validate her point of view. "Then knowing that Yvonne is not the one to piss about at anything, love will surely come your way."

"We had to do it at Larkhall on our own on opposite sides of the prison bars with Nikki possibly stuck inside for life." Helen spoke with intensity right into Karen's eyes, "Each of us were Billy no Mates that way, no one to speak to outside of ourselves when we had the chance.."

"Only you and Dominic and Dr Thomas kept butting in at the wrong time." Nikki added with a smile.

"All right, all right. A thousand Hail Mary's, a penance for life, what more can I do?" Karen retorted playfully yet sincerely knowing now how it felt. "But talking to the two of you has helped me more than I can say." Karen replied softly.

"You really are in love with her," Helen said softly to which Karen mouthed and articulated the words on the air

"Yes, I am in love with Yvonne Atkins."

She was lucky, she knew it. She felt that she might not have deserved that second chance of friendship but was grateful more than she could say to have got it. It was just a shame when they left for the train back to Wales that she was left on her own and the stillness and the shows that company had banished crept back again.

"'They, too, are of that tenacious kind,'" quoted Karen that BBC voice in her brain with which she replayed the dream of last night. Perhaps there is a future beyond mere survival, she thought, tucked up in bed and wondering if Yvonne was doing the same.

Scene 30

"That's Mr Fenner or Mr Farmer as he called himself." Rhiannon Dawson whispered to Julie Johnson behind her hand, across the visiting table. She was fearful that the evil brooding black presence of Fenner some distance away might overhear. "When I was, you know, with Damian," stumbled Rhiannon as she did not want to dwell on that period in her past of which she was most ashamed. "I went to one of them places, you know what I mean."

In turn Julie J was reluctant to mention the sort of sauna places which she had spent far too much of her time and kept her away from the children she most loved and especially when in that precious time available, they had to briefly become mother and daughter in the same place, same time.

"Anyway, I'm sure that Mr Farmer came round, chatting to the ..boss, asking how the trade was going and something about shipping in some Estonian women as the punters liked them. Then I saw him slip a big wad of cash from the nightsafe and slip out the door. He wasn't a punter himself, none of the other girls mentioned anything as they were all gossiping.when the bitch in charge was elsewhere."

"You would swear to it, Rhiannon. Only this is dead important."

"Dead sure, mum. I remember him coming up to me eyeing up my boobs, putting his finger under my chin and telling me he was 'going to keep a special eye on me'...just like he told me when he called me in for a private interview that time I was here."

"The rotten..." Julie J was about to explode when Rhiannon Dawson put her hand over Julie Johnson's mouth just in time.

"Keep quiet, Mum or else he'll overhear. You don't want to spoil things. And I'll swear on oath anything I've said. I'm eighteen now and I can handle it. Trust me, Mum. And tell Yvonne of this."

And Julie J looked into the steadfast eyes of her daughter, so confident, so mature that tears welled up in her eyes that she was proud to see her grow up so fast from the little baby she could still picture her being.

"You've got you're A level results, through, Rhiannon darling."

Rhiannon nodded and smiled. She'd promised mum and Auntie Ju that she would get through college and she had worked harder than she knew she could. She wanted so much to repay them for what she'd done wrong.....

Karen made her way carefully into the room where Grayling had his monthly meetings of Wing Governors. By being fairly punctual, she managed to secure a seat at the long rectangular polished mahogany table fairly well away from Grayling, who, true to form, was at the head of the table. There were a few 'brown nosers' amongst the Wing Governors who were positioned close to him, eagerly listening to every word he said and chorused his more inane conclusions. She smiled cynically to herself that long ago, she and her fellow rebels were on the back row at school discreetly whispering to each other while the teacher's back was changed. Nothing much changes, only the uniform.

"What did you hear at the management meeting today, Miss Betts," Sylvia, the most overtly nosy of them all used to say and Karen had to help herself to a couple of Hedex tablets with water and when they took effect, she extracted the moments of real importance from the mass of noisy outpourings.

"...and Area has made it a number one priority to ensure that all Wing Governors have action plans in place for bereavement strategies for dealing with instances amongst prisoners that occur from time to time. There is a special Home Office directive which all prisons have to have in place....Can one of you volunteer to take forward responsibility for collating records on the action plan and report to me personally."

Don't look my way, Grayling, Karen smiled and studiously avoided his eye. I can be paid to be bored to death by you. Just let me be in charge of G Wing and keep out of it.

The image jumped into her mind of G wing after the fire. In the most charred part of the blaze, the side door, burnt to a cinder that had powdered into dust when the firemen's axe had tapped it, was Shaz Wiley lying on her face and her clothes badly scorched. Karen had had to hold onto her stomach when she saw it herself and when she had told Denny the news, she had burst into tears and sobbing and clung on to her for ages so it seemed, gently patting her shoulder as if she were a child of hers. She thought that a bit of 'bereavement strategy' would help for her as well were she able to use such bureaucratic unfeeling words at a moment of crisis like that.

Karen mentally detached herself further from the meeting remembering Helen Stewart's last words to her after Karen, to her total shame admitting to destroying the sexual assault report she had compiled on Fenner, the same man who had repaid her loyalty by promptly doing the same to her later on.

"The bastard" Karen mouthed her thoughts talking aloud.

"You have something to say, Karen." Grayling said affronted that she had interrupted the flow of his report on his pet subject while some of the other Wing Governors looked round in disapproval.

"Oh nothing, nothing, carry on Neil." Karen apologised. For what did it matter?

Karen's mind was attuned to that Scottish voice and understanding eyes who forgave even that and possessed that rare forward thinking mind that had always impressed her.

"Never you mind, Karen. There's bound to be a copy of this in Grayling's files. What I don't expect you to do is to go for Grayling on my account and nail Fenner on that. He would say, quite rightly from his position, that it isn't your place to do so. What you can do is to blackmail the bastard to stay clear of Fenner, to let us tip him to the hangman's drop, so to speak, and keep out of the way. It all depends on timing. Do you think you're up for that, Karen?"

And Karen nodded to herself and pursed her lips with that look of determination that said that her will would move mountains along with the rest of the sisterhood that Fenner feared and hated so much. Oh yes, she was up for it to scare the shit out of that ventriloquist's dummy at the end of the table, speaking words that she could not hear. And most of all she would thirst for and gleefully share the collective revenge against Jim bloody Fenner.

Scene 31

"So, after all these years, you've become Bett's hanger on, Sylvia." Fenner glared at Sylvia. "Never mind the old times, you don't mind pissing on your old mates, sod any idea of loyalty,

Ever since the demonstration and Fenner resigning from the union, the coolness that had been developing between Sylvia and Fenner broke out into an open rupture of relations between the two of them. There were similarities between them up to a point and chance had propelled Fenner in one direction and Sylvia in the opposite direction. The bonds between them were bound to snap dramatically.

"I didn't ask you to resign from the POA, Jim." Sylvia replied, retaliating on the one issue that she felt strongly about. Never mind how those hothead militants might be taking over the union, you stood by it through thick and thin. "And you were all ready to dump your mates and creep your way into being Wing Governor under Lynfords Security. Lynfords would have thrown us to the wolves one by one and you wouldn't have lifted a finger to help us and it's bad enough when Joe Public doesn't care how we slave, day in, day out. I wasn't there when the prisoners had their little party but for once they did us a favour. Even if it meant Wade and Stewart back here for the day. At least Karen Betts had the guts to stand up to them from the beginning, not like some people."

Fenner was taken aback by the strength of Sylvia's outburst. It was unlike her to be as articulate as she was rather than trot out the same clichés. He snarled and skulked off to the Social Club to see if any of the young POs wanted a few words of his wisdom. He felt safest amongst the lads anyway. They understood him better than anyone.

Sylvia had a pang of conscience at seeing such an old one time friend turn nasty but whatever happened now, her job was safe. She had to hand it to Karen that she was very clever in seeing off the privatisers and making her feel that she had some minor part to play. She was always prickly in the past as anyone who made fun of her slow wittedness got her back up, making her feel stupid. That was why she had hated Wade and Atkins, the chief troublemakers but even troublemakers had their use as at the Christopher Biggins. Besides, she had stuck to the monumental discovery that if you didn't bluster and attempt to bully, people actually responded to it. All those years ago, she did want to be kind hearted until a load of pisstakers got her back up and she vowed never ever to show any signs of softness and sympathy. It was like she had walked along the same constrained trail on straight lines, never knowing or wanting to find alternatives until the hole in the fence and she just walked through and she saw horizons she hadn't dreamed of.

That night, Yvonne laid her head on her pillow after the usual shouting between prisoners out of the cell windows had died down and she was soon asleep. However, she was borne up as if by a magic carpet ride and she could see and feel as much as if she were awake...

She could remember being with Charlie when she heard him down in the hall on his mobile phone striding around as he talked.

"Yeah, I'll come out and we'll do the biz like we agreed to. Eeevie was looking forward to a night in with me, you know what it is, some men can't keep their hands off you and some can't." At that moment, she felt a pang of disappointment as she had a healthy sex drive that Charlie had always been turned on by although of late he was tired. She liked them to come on hard and rough, it was what she was used to......

""Come here gorgeous." Charlie had said to her, reviving the fire that there was between them when they were in the Larkhall prison, private visitor's room care of Fenner. "I love you, Eevie, you know that. I'm made for you." His soothing voice reassured her as her heart sank within her to see him about to go.

"They say love conquers all, don't they, eh." Charlie had said in his most meaningful romantic way, looking sad to see Yvonne remain behind bars. In her dream she looked down at herself and Charlie like actors in a play she was watching.

Yvonne could remember seeing Renee Williams first day on the wing and turning to Babs and explaining quietly.

"It was her old man fixing it to bump my Charlie off...It was Renee Williams husband I took out a contract to kill."

Yvonne then twisted around and the internal movie camera clicked clicked on through the ancient projector while she was in the back stalls with some fella she'd had a blind date. This time, she watched the film closely.

"In your dreams. He wouldn't touch you with a bargepole." The woman on the screen said to Renee Williams with all the smiling hardness she was capable of.

"No, you're right," the woman with the snake like eyes said laughing in her eyes. "It wasn't a bargepole he used. Kind of unusual I remember. That nasty little scar he's got just over it. Couple of inches lower and he wouldn't have had one to shag me with."

The woman on the screen did a brilliant job of trying to hold it together and look unaffected by it all but she followed her as she walked past Renee to her room. Only she remembered the bitter tears she shed that night that she had been betrayed and the glass of wine she threw in anger at the photo of Charlie when she realised she'd been set up from the beginning.

She'd had a couple of shags since but only as she was bleeding desperate, more so than she ever thought she could feel in her life.

Tears started forming in her eyes as she turned and twisted, unable to break free of the darkness that surrounded her. She was held as if by invisible spider's webs and couldn't move.

Why did she attract all the bastards, she thought bitterly. Could it be because she put on this tough sexy bitch image, the clothes, the look when she couldn't be sexually hard all the time, she wanted something softer.

"The chair's hard
Your voice is hard
The money's hard
The living's hard
Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on
Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on
Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on"
Give me, give me"

All of a sudden, the door opened a fraction letting in golden rays through the crack and she found herself drifting closer to it. Wider and wider it opened until the crack became a rectangle driving away the darkness. Her arms and legs mysteriously became free and she could move. The light was dazzling and she blinked her eyes until she could adjust to the light.

Suddenly, quite close, the vision of Karen Betts appeared and an enormous feeling of relief poured over her like the light did. Karen was dressed in her favourite tailored black suit and white blouse. Her blond hair blew back slightly in the wind and that little smile at the corner of her mouth awakened the same feelings in her that she saw always had when she someone that she fancied.

Karen seemed to float closer and closer to her and, nonchalantly, slipped off her suit jacket and dropped it on the ground. In that one casual gesture, she slid off her uniform and the woman inside her was in full view of Yvonne's admiring eyes. She looked unashamedly at the shape of her breasts and, yes, Karen was worth looking at. She seemed to float her way into Yvonne's outstretched arms and their lips met, softly at first till their mouths opened for each other. Yvonne clung onto Karen thanking God she was there and were away from the past horrors. Then she relaxed and her fingers lightly slid over her for the sheer physical pleasure and, in turn, she could feel Karen pressing herself against her.

Yvonne opened her eyes to find herself flat on her back in the most magical place of her life. Her naked skin was stretched out the length of her on soft golden sand which stretched for miles on either side while little white fluffy clouds gently sailed their way across the intense blue sky. The sound of the surf broke gently on the shore and reached out to bathe and bless Yvonne's right ankle. She felt the presence of naked skin next to her and Karen's brilliant blue eyes, the same colour as the sky, smiled down her and her tousled blond hair was waving in the wind. The touch and taste of each other was exquisite pleasure, far better than the fleeting memory of watching the silver screen when that other woman and Charlie had done the same a million years back in the past.

"Come on, Yvonne." Karen's perfumed breath spoke against her ear. "Let's go into that bedroom over there. It's perfectly safe."

And as Karen held her hand and they entered the door, Yvonne rolled over in bed and, once again, the sunlight shone through the thin curtains and she was aware to her deep disgust of the thin sheets of Larkhall. Only on this time, they seemed to be wrapped round her in a tangle.

"It seemed so good in the movies," Yvonne muttered to herself disconsolately. "A couple of bleeding learner driver lesbians, like Karen and I. Karen better know what she's bloody doing 'cos I'm not sure I do."

She hardly noticed the name she had quietly adopted. As Nikki said, she wasn't the woman to piss around.

Scene 32

Denny came bouncing up to look up Yvonne as soon as she came out of her cell door looking a bit fragile.

"You're all right, man?" Denny looked at her in some concern. While Denny might be a bit slow on the uptake in a lot of ways, she was a pretty good judge of Yvonne's feelings.

"Better than I look, Denny. I've had a lot on my mind but I've sort of worked it all out last night. I'm just bleeding knackered, that's all." Yvonne replied with a broad smile and her eyes were alight even if she winced a bit from the bright lights.

"As long as you're away from that Hedges creep. I was dead worried about you, man."

"You can take it from me," Yvonne smiled to herself as much as to Denny "that there is no way I'm going to get involved with anyone like Hedges again. That part of my life is history."

"You're getting out in a couple of weeks, ain't you, Yvonne. You're not going to leave me behind same way as Hedges." Denny asked anxiously. "Though I wouldn't want you to get locked up in this shit hole just because I am."

Denny's expression on her face moved Yvonne incredibly so. That warm maternal side of her, the first key to breaking free of her own emotional chains reacted to the fears of a daughter, fearful of separation from her mother, when she is not ready to face the world on her own. What choked her voice more was Denny's incredible generosity of spirit that would let her go free from Larkhall for her own needs. It was the combinations of feelings together which was the best side of Larkhall, the side that forced everything into the open that might have been left unsaid in the outside world.

"You're looking cheerful today, Jim Fenner." Karen spoke drily as that glowering face made the usual sour jibe.

"I'll look cheerful enough when another firm come along and take over this place and I'm Wing Governor and you're serving groceries at Tesco's. It's only a matter of time you know, that Area fix this up. Let's face it, Karen Betts, you're only the temporary caretaker for my job, just keeping my seat warm."

A feeling of rage unleashed went off like a firebomb inside of Karen. This guy was the creep that had laced her drinks at that conference years ago and she ended up getting into bed with him. He has a few surprises waiting in store for him. Her lips parted and she was ready to speak when a vision came into her mind of that elderly Russian gentleman dressed in a three piece suit.

...."Not yet, not yet, Karen. This is not the time..I said do not give Jim Fenner any warning of the blow you are going to inflict on him. Don't do it, Karen."

Fenner was in a bad mood as he had woken up with a hangover and even the sight of Karen made him want to needle her as part of a constant harassment campaign. He had done it for Stewart and now Betts was next in line, the best he could come up with right now. With a feeling of smug satisfaction, he saw an expression of blind anger in Karen's eyes. Then a very weird thing happened. Her eyes immediately went out of focus, staring into the distance and her lips parted. Her right hand that held the pen ready to sign the checklist Fenner had given to her was frozen rigid.

"Karen?" Fenner asked, genuinely puzzled. Wing Governors looking as if they were seeing visions were totally weird and from having once lived with Karen, this was totally new. Anything out of character always worried him as that made that person less predictable.

The vision faded before her eyes and Fenner's unwelcome face came back into focus.

"That's fine, Jim." Karen attempted a brief unconvincing smile that briefly twisted her unresponsive facial muscles. "Now if you don't mind, I've got work to catch up on."

"Hey, Yvonne, we've got some news to tell you." Julie Johnson whispered discreetly to Yvonne while they were queuing up for breakfast.

"Later, my cell," Yvonne spoke out of the corner of her mouth. Julie Johnson was not the person to waste her time on some fifth rate gossip, Yvonne told herself, and not with that smile of satisfaction on her face.

Later on, Yvonne was sitting on her bed reading a magazine and still wondering if it was on this bed that her world changed around last night. If it's envelope stuffing time later today, she'll be bleeding struggling to see the labels to lick. Julie J's discreet knock at the door aroused her sleeping wits into full alert.

"Can you remember my Rhiannon coming to visit me the other day?" Julie J led off with a smile. "Well, it seems that O'Kane was getting more than a helping hand to run them while she was here. Fenner. He was getting a rake off for looking after them. My Rhiannon saw him when she was working there once. She'll testify in any court you'll name."

The bald simple recitation of the facts was like a light being switched on inside Yvonne's mind. This was the moment she was looking for to get rid of the bastard, the same chance that had misfired in Helen Stewart's time had come around a second time. They must not make the tiniest mistake. A touch of fear lay at the bottom of the enormous drive to action that told Julie J to 'keep schtum' and Yvonne propelled herself rapidly out the door to Karen's office while no one was looking.

"Yvonne. Nice to see you." Karen smiled widely at her. She was wearing that very same tailored black suit and blouse that she saw in her dream and made Yvonne's heart beat doubletime. Still this is business.

"We've got it, Karen." Yvonne started excitedly, a huge grin from ear to ear. "I mean the goods on Fenner." Yvonne added in terms that Karen didn't quite understand but must be hugely important bloody marvellous news.

"I mean, that Julie J's daughter Rhiannon can positively state that she was working at one of O'Kane's saunas and that she saw Fenner go in and collect the takings. She will speak up in any court you name and we can get the bastard sacked."

Karen half rose from her desk and stood frozen in space and time. A huge feeling of absolute exhilaration burst inside her and flowed over her and the biggest smile of satisfaction lit up her face. Instinctively she crossed the space forwards or sideways, she couldn't remember how, to dodge past her desk that separated her from Yvonne and gave her the biggest hug she had given any human being for..was it so long. She had played a waiting game she and others had played while the deadly chess game of bluff and counter bluff that had inched its way so slowly and taken it out of her. Now Yvonne moved the queen a decisive one pace forward. They were ready to take out the Bishop of Grayling along a clear open diagonal path as someone who must be neutralised first. After that with their other pieces now in position, it was checkmate for Fenner. The matter was one so geometrically pure.

Karen broke away from Yvonne, planted a delicate kiss on her lips totally unselfconsciously and grabbed for her mobile. She was not going through Larkhall switchboard.

"Keep a lookout, Yvonne." Karen asked Yvonne who thought how times had changed that a prisoner was on guard duty for the Wing Governor against the likes of Fenner, the Principal Officer.

"Is that Helen? Karen Betts here" and Helen heard her voice vibrant with excitement for the first time in her life.

"We've got a witness who will testify that that bastard Fenner was running the O'Kane brothels. Julie J's daughter. She'll stand up in any court you name."

"Go get him, Karen. First get Grayling off your back using my sexual harassment report and then get Fenner sacked. You're doing it for all of us. And any help you need, we're a phone call away. And good luck, Karen."

Helen's own tones spoken with restrained passion willed her own strength down the phone line to Karen that Helen knew she would need. Then she ran off to tell a sleeping Nikki. Just as well someone answers the phone early in the morning.

"I'm going after Grayling first, then Fenner. Keep your eyes open, you and the others and...wish me good luck." Karen finished with a smile that betrayed her slight nervousness in what stood to be the most momentous day in her life.

"For you, Karen, anything." Yvonne's eyes spoke with all the tenderness that she now felt so free to express.

Scene 33

Karen strode down the two metal staircases back onto the ground floor, her heels clicking and then her tunnel vision took her in an undeviating straight line all the way to Grayling's room.

"Miss Betts," called out Ken from a place out of sight from her side vision but she told him "Later, please, I'm busy." Ken strolled away, shaking his head. Some people were impatient and acted as if time were money, now he, he could talk all day.

She pushed open the door without ceremony to see Grayling seated at his laptop which was perched on his imposing mahogany desk, much bigger and grander than her own cheap teak effort.

"Now this is a surprise," Grayling said with his false smile. "Do take a seat."

"I'm not going to beat about the bush, Neil," Karen started somewhat breathily which she paused to fight down. She needed to hit him calmly, surely and not miss.

"I've got totally substantiated information that Jim Fenner has been guilty of gross misconduct and I intend proceedings to insist on his resignation from Larkhall with immediate effect, and I mean today. The charge I shall put to him is of corruptly accepting substantial sums from a chain of brothels and saunas which were run by Virginia O'Kane a one-time prisoner whom he was personal officer for. I have all the evidence I need to make this one stick. If he does not agree to this, then I demand an immediate investigation by Area while he is suspended from all official duties."

Grayling's face was a picture of horror and dismay as Karen's calm level precisely enunciated voice paralysed his reasoning processes for the first time in his life.

"You, are not implicated in this matter, Neil as they date from the time Helen Stewart was acting Governor and before you came to Larkhall Prison..."

"So Helen Stewart was culpable of neglect. It seems that you implicate her..." Neil Grayling's reply came back from his pursed lips and angry expression. The two things that stuck out were that he wasn't involved and his arch enemy, Helen Stewart was.

"Helen Stewart had started her own investigations which, unfortunately, she was unable to complete. Poor Helen had to struggle with a climate of opinion that labelled her as being prejudiced against Jim Fenner." She left out of it that Karen herself had been drawn into this as to be total honest to a slippery snake like Grayling is a big mistake.

"What Helen did leave behind was a detailed report alleging that Fenner had sexually assaulted her. I know, repeat know, that you have a copy of it which you have deliberately withheld. This is unprofessional behaviour which could put you in the dock, so to speak." Karen finished with an icy smile as she produced her ace from the bottom of her pack.

"Sheer conjecture." blustered Grayling but not without betraying to Karen's sharp eyes his doubts from the way his eyes swivelled round the room, anything but look her in the eyes.

"Oh well, I just wonder if all this will get out to the press. Helen, I know from seeing a lot of her recently, is well connected to the press as is Nikki Wade who I've got to know...as you can see for yourself in this Gardener's World magazine. Here you are," Karen added in her most casual relaxed fashion possible. Now she was stuck into the battle, she was cool as ice and twice as deadly for it. "And while we are at it, just look at these pictures of Fenner," and here Karen produced Helen's blown up pictures of Fenner the day Christopher Biggins made his very well remembered visit to Larkhall. "Makes a good centrefold spread to write an article round and Helen Stewart, aside from myself, knows this pile of corruption for what it is, has the guts to say her mind and can't be bought off or conned. Only this time, it isn't me as a pin up as you threatened me once but your one time boyfriend, Jim bloody Fenner."

As Karen reached the conclusion of her speech, sheer hatred of the man boiled to the surface and her icy, deadly words drip dripped like spots of water hitting a red hot metal plate. The back of her mind went back to the day when she stood before Grayling as supplicant for justice after Jim Fenner had raped her and the feelings of impotent rage after the event when she realised that he'd double crossed her. This time, she was dictating terms, and she, and the visions of avenging sisterhood that she summoned up, cracked Grayling's nerve.

"What is it you are wanting, Karen." Grayling's shaking voice finally replied.

"That Fenner is called in immediately and that his resignation letter is written out on the spot and that you do not collude in any way in protecting him from the long overdue justice that awaits him. In return, you are safe from me. Only..don't double cross me, Grayling. It isn't safe."

"Oughtn't he be entitled to union representation." stammered Grayling, clutching at the one straw.

"He resigned from the POA. His choice." Karen replied with a smile that split her face from ear to ear.

Scene 34

Yvonne was casually waiting on the landing with her awareness radar at acute functioning level. She had blown the cobwebs out of her mind and her eyes were on full alert. She had quietly followed Karen down the staircase and saw her make like an arrow in flight straight to Grayling's lair, brushing aside Ken. She had never seen her move with so much determination and purpose.

"You cooking up any more schemes, Atkins," Fenner taunted. "You with your witches coven around her, you, Blood, Hunt. Any more scams you're going to operate?" Fenner taunted.

"Oooh, Mr Fenner sir. Nothing could be further from my mind. I'm just going to enjoy this fag while things are quiet." Yvonne smiled, blowing a column of smoke into the air.

"Just watch it. You're stuffing envelopes this afternoon so don't be late." Fenner growled back.

"Mr Fenner," Ken approached him nervously. "Boss wants to see you in his office now. Says it's important."

"What's he want?" Fenner said irritably.

"Search me," Yvonne replied coolly, hands spread out, keeping everything bottled up and praying to God that things pan out all right. The bleeding Godsquad had always got on her tits, but after conversations with Babs a refreshing change from Crystal's Bible bashing, for once in her life, inside her mind, she prayed to God, hoping he would be an understanding sort of guy, especially with her track record. From then on, there was no sign of life.

"Oh Karen You here as well. I thought that Neil wanted to have a word with me, not you." Fenner said with clear annoyance.

"Sit down, Jim Fenner." Karen spoke evenly, paused and took a deep breath. She was on a roll now after neutralising Grayling.

"There is a pen and paper in front of you. I am insisting, as Wing Governor, that you write out your letter of resignation from the prison service with immediate effect."

"What," Fenner looked around uncomprehending, expecting Grayling to intervene. "you're making some kind of joke, Karen."

Karen's deadly smile was uncompromising and the first feeling of fear were stirring in him.

"No joke, Jim Fenner. Let's see. There is incontrovertible evidence that over a period of time, you have been engaged in the running of a number of brothels and saunas. I have Virginia O'Kane's bank statements and CCTV cameras at the bank would make very interesting watching. I have a witness who will testify against you, the list which Helen Stewart kindly gave me- that were formerly operated solely by Virginia O'Kane. The same Virginia O'Kane whose personal officer you were. I have all the proofs I need to finish your career in the Prison Service on the one charge that I can get to stick as opposed to the string of charges, which you have twisted and wriggled your way out of. This was the same time, Jim Fenner, when you told me a pack of lies about having to go out for your Mason's meetings instead of hanging round squalid sauna bars." Karen's voice rose at the end to a pitch of anger and her eyes burnt into him.

"To get to the point, you have two ways of going, immediate resignation or if you choose not to go quietly, then you will be immediately suspended pending a full investigation. I have Neil's backing on this. Am I joking now, Jim Fenner?" Karen finished on a mocking note.

Fenner's face was a picture while this was going on. Anger and fear boiled up inside him in equal measure and the clock on the wall, normally inaudible, ticked away while events hung in the balance. He looked out of the corner of his eye at Grayling but his eyes were looking into his desk. So the shit stabbing bastard didn't want to know, thought Fenner bitterly.

"You bitch. I'll swing for you.." Fenner started, rising out of his seat.

"So, care to add a charge of assault against me, Jim Fenner, from the man who said that he 'loved me despite everything.' Anyway, your signed statement if you please." Karen ended firmly, looking upwards at him, straight in the eye as he was standing at his full menacing height. The natural man in all his dark boiling anger towered impotently over both Karen and Grayling, stripped of all guises.

"The reign of Sauron is ended." Said Gandalf. "The Ringbearer has fulfilled his quest." And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of a shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous, it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent : for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed, and then a hush fell"

Fenner looked around him. He was caught like a rat in a trap so he snatched the pen out of Karen's hand, scribbled a quick note, signed and dated it and stormed out of the office.

"Thanks for your co-operation, Neil." Karen dryly said after checking the note carefully. "I'd better ensure there's no kicking off on the wing. If there are any problems. I'll make sure to call you."

"Please do, Karen" Grayling replied, his face ashen white clearly visible in the light of the sun which streamed through the window.

Yvonne saw Fenner burst into the landing and one look at his face made her heart jump a mile inside herself. 'Karen's pulled it off.' She thought but she bit her tongue back as not much notice was paid to him. Fenner's face was sweaty and his eyes glared at the prisoners, threatening unspoken violence to anyone who crossed his path while a part of him simply refused to accept reality. He took one look at Atkins's mocking smile and knew that she knew, the bitch.

Minutes later, there was bumping and bashing going on from the locker room and he emerged glowering with two bags

"I'm going, you bitches. This is the last you see of Jim Fenner. From now on, you can all rot in hell."

A succession of yells and cheers rang round G wing as Fenner stumbled out, papers falling out of a half zipped suitcase.

"Quiet please everyone." Karen called out. "Let him go quietly, for my sake." she added which was really breaking rules for her. Normally she was an impersonal upholder of rules where personal grace and favour had no place. This time, a time of all times, she made an exception.

"Just let him go and get out of Larkhall." Yvonne's quiet tones carried through the air.

Fenner slung his cases into the car, slung his keys in the gatehouse while Ken called out.

"Going early, Mr Fenner?"

All the reply was a revved up engine, a screech of tyres and a cloud of oily poisonous exhaust smoke that gradually faded into the air as now the source of all corruption at Larkhall would do the same.

Scene 35

Once Karen was sure that Fenner was well and truly out of Larkhall, she climbed halfway up the metal staircase up to the 2s and looked down on the crowd. The hubbub had died down and everyone went quiet as Karen prepared to speak.

"I thought I ought to tell you officially that Mr Fenner has tendered his resignation today and won't be coming back. The reason for the resignation, I am sorry to say I can't go into.."

"Hey, Miss, I thought you 'd give us the gossip. You know what's going on." Julie called out, doing her best to wheedle the truth out of Karen.

"All I can tell you is that it would be hypocritical of me to wish him well in his future career, whatever that might be so I won't." Karen finished, smiling broadly. "That's all I can really say at this minute." And Karen danced lightly away to go back to her office to grab her phone and call Helen back.

"Is that Nikki there? Karen here again." Karen's happy but slightly weary tone came over with a little less sharpness than was usual. "He's gone. The bastard is finally out of Larkhall...." and at that point, Karen's tiredness started to blur her thinking as Nikki's excited tones could be heard the length of their cottage.

"Everything went fine then," Nikki asked, becoming aware of how tired Karen was sounding.

"Yeah, great, great." Karen replied, wondering what to do now that the object of so much of her waking thoughts was now removed. "Sorry if I'm starting to ramble. I would never have done it without you and Helen and Yvonne and so many others.."

"We'll meet up for a drink to celebrate. Meanwhile, Karen, get some rest and have a drink on me and Helen." Nikki finished on a solicitous note. "You sound done in."

Karen put the phone down. No way could she even attempt to do some work. The only thought she had was to tell Yvonne the news and she dragged herself up the two metal staircases and tapped quietly on Yvonne's cell door. She had both a mental and physical kickback from her adrenaline rush of a few hours ago.

Yvonne took one glance at the tired but happy face in front of her and swept some magazines off the bed as Karen literally dropped on Yvonne's bed and she half lay slightly aslant her head resting against the corner.

"Tired darling," Yvonne asked Karen softly.

"Extremely tired but very happy." Karen mumbled fuzzily. "And all the happier for seeing you."

"If you let me take your heart
I will prove to you
We will never be apart
If I'm part of you
Look into these eyes
Tell me what you see
Don't you realise
What you see is me
Tell me what you see."

Karen felt conscious that the suit jacket was constricting her and getting in her way. Casually, she slipped it off her and draped it on Yvonne's bed and extended her arms out to Yvonne. Before Yvonne's eyes, the same shapely figure in a figure forming white blouse was moving towards her except that this was real, she pinched herself. Their lips met in a sleepy but passionate kiss while their arms went round each other for a nice luxuriant hug. It is as good as in the movies, Yvonne thought in rising desire.

"When you get out, Yvonne in, say 7 days, have you thought where you might be living." Karen said softly, "Why don't you come over to my place sometime." Karen said smiling, her fingertips brushing the side of Yvonne's cheek. "I know that Lauren will be demanding your attention but.."

"Sounds good enough for me, Karen." Yvonne smiled.

"And you had better be ready to make love all night. I'm insatiable- if I can figure out what to do." Karen's slightly husky tones wrapped themselves around Yvonne.

"That's no problem, Karen. I don't know what to do either." Yvonne grinned sleepily as she kissed her gently on the lips

"If I had my way." yawned Karen. "I'd sleep here the night with you..but since it wouldn't look good Sylvia serving us a cup of tea in bed together..."

"...it would bleeding wake her up in the morning.." Yvonne yawned as she spoke.

"I'd better get back to my flat, have a shower and get pissed.." Karen semi decisively.

"But I'll be doing your farewell to Larkhall Prison and lie most unashamedly about wishing the best for your future whatever it may be..."

"When we know that our life will be together." finished Yvonne.

"So till then." Karen finished and she unbuttoned Yvonne's blouse and ran her fingers down her body and gave her a last passionate snog before slipping her jacket on blowing her a farewell kiss and assuming the outward persona of Wing Governor.

Karen seemed to float in to work with a smile on her face, past the doorman and into G Wing where the Julies smiled and waved at her.

"Hey it's Miss Betts. How you're doing?"

"Just fine, just fine. Best day of her life."

She felt a little embarrassed being treated as some kind of celebrity. She had always prided herself in being conscientious and doing a good days work and also that she might help others where she could without being boastful about it. She had been brought up not to show off and that was written deeply into her psyche as if it were part of her name. She didn't want to be ungracious and, despite herself, waved more theatrically than was her style.

The Julies watching her saw the warm smile on her face and could tell at a glance, the incredible change from the constrained harassed Karen Betts and this new very expressive woman overflowing with good feeling. Yvonne, watching from the sidelines, simply thought, that's my woman out there and she deserves all the applause out there.

Smiling, Karen walked jauntily into the PO's room to do her usual weekly meeting.

"Right, as you all know, Jim Fenner handed in his resignation yesterday with immediate effect...." Karen started when Di cut in.

"Resigned?" Di spoke, staring at Karen with her questioning vacant eyes. "That's not like Jim. True, he's had his ups and downs and he used to make a lot of sexist remarks, mainly cos he'd been hitting the bottle. I've spoken to him a lot recently and he seemed in as good spirits as he'd ever been. He'll be a great loss to the wing, as solid as the structure of Larkhall itself and great for getting the younger inexperienced lads to find their feet."

"Quite," Karen's glacial smile seemed to come from the Arctic wastelands where the freezing winds blew across the frozen core of Greenland. Di of course knew nothing of all this. "Jim explained that he left for personal reasons and asked that it not become the source of gossip in the Social Club. Wherever he's gone, of course we wish him well." Karen reached for a tepid cup of black coffee and took a swig as a feeling of nausea was rising up from her stomach. Still, if it took this outrageous lie to bury the dead and chase away the mourners from the unmarked grave, so be it.

"This means that with a Principal Officer down, I'm acting you up, Sylvia, to take Jim Fenner's place. I'll be calling for a national advert for a permanent transfer but for some strange reasons, willing transferees are hard to come by. Can't think why." Karen finished, flicking her hair back. "Of course, your present duties will be reallocated."

"Yes, Ma'am." Sylvia beamed, touched at Karen's mark of faith in her.

Di looked in greater puzzlement. Surely Sylv would have said, over my dead body and launched into a vitriolic attack about victimisation and never giving him a chance. She couldn't make head nor tail of this.

Karen went on to the rest of the meeting, a feeling of joy in her heart. That brooding black presence out of the corner of her eye had been guaranteed to make some surly comment designed to undermine her. Even when he said nothing, deep down it nagged at her like a constant dull toothache which she had got used to take and suffer. The feeling of the tooth, cleanly extracted leaving no pain was a pleasure she never thought she would enjoy.

The day had come at last and her belongings had been packed into three plastic bags bursting at the seams. Now she would tread that same path that Nikki and Crystal had trodden, the lucky ones who had lived to see the back of this place. How would Denny get on, what about the Julies and their kids, she thought to herself. I won't be part of that anymore, she thought as a slight panic overcome her as any middle aged woman with a widespread series of roles in life would feel deprived of a large chunk of them, even in a shithole like Larkhall which she had cursed more times than the fags she'd smoked here. Now it would start to become history.

"You'll be all right, Denny?" she asked the other woman who was helping her pack her bags. "You'll be able to run this place OK."

"It'll be a piece of piss, man." Denny assured her. "With Fenner gone and Miss Betts running the show, everything will be fine. Any newcomer that starts any trouble, either side of the bars, either us lot or Miss Betts will sort out. Only you come and see me on visiting days." Denny looked expectantly.

Yvonne nodded. Then she coughed and broached a delicate subject that she wanted her advice on.

"Sure man if you think I can help."

"I know you can, Denny. It's like this...."

Yvonne opened the door and was bewildered to see G Wing crowded and the prisoners line the 2s and the 3s and that there were more people in G Wing than she ever thought were there. Even the POs were less stony faced than she expected though Karen had primed them of the behaviour expected of her.

"Go, Yvonne, go Yvonne." The chants reverberated down the wing and the blue plastic mugs were beaten in a rhythm. Yvonne's eyes were filled with tears. She knew she was top dog but not that she was bleeding famous. Each step seemed to be ceremonial and she passed the smiling faces that patted her on her shoulders and a mental camera in her eye was recording everything in the most emotional moment of her life. A far grander entrance than the PO who tried to bundle her out of that white wagon with all the others.

A right at the end, her dearest friends were waiting near the first set of prison gates. In turn, the Julies gave her a big hug.

"Stay safe, Yvonne. We'll be all right from now on. Thanks to you and the others."

"The others." Julie Johnson echoed.

"You look after yourself, man. And don't get yourself hitched to some bastard of a man. One is enough" Denny said smiling.

"Chance will be a fine thing." Yvonne smiled knowingly.

Last in line was Karen Betts in full Wing Governor demeanour.

"Yvonne Atkins. This is one time you're getting out the legal way, not over the wall or out of a toilet window. In a way we'll be sorry to see you go but Larkhall's loss will be your gain. Whatever you do in life, you'll do fine." Karen said with a straight face and just the right smile. And she came forward and shook her hand heartily in just the same way she had seen Nikki off

You bloody crafty woman, Karen Betts. This is the most bleeding unusual way to touch you these days. Bloody good performance.

"I understand your taxi is waiting for you, Yvonne." Karen smiled. You know, Karen as you've arranged it.

And Yvonne walked out into the mists of the future seeing a kaleidoscope of familiar faces, even a smiling Bodybag which has to be a bleeding miracle. I'm glad that there is one bastard not there to wish me farewell or I'd have spat in his face. Still never mind.

A PO helped her with her bags into the taxi which drove her away into the future. The prison walls diminished in size till she turned the corner, on her way to a country pub with Nikki, Helen and Karen.

Scene 36

Yvonne clutched her plastic bags to herself as the taxi wended its way through the built up traffic around Larkhall. She seemed to be in a vacuum, that she had been sucked up outside her world up on high and was not sure where she would descend. Of course, it was a country pub but such places belonged to the pre Larkhall Yvonne Atkins, not this other woman who had changed so much.

"...The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there..."

She had entered Larkhall as a happily married woman and mother of two children. Now both male Atkins were dead and she had a female lover. She is going to take things from the here and now, not to turn back the clock as the clock has broken down.

Soon the taxi turned into country lanes and the green fields and hedges flashed by until the taxi turned off to the country pub, set back from the road. The taxi drew up close to the pub and stopped with a scrunch of gravel.

She took her bags from the car and stared all around her. The wide open space and the stillness frightened her a little. What was she frigging well supposed to do now?

"Yvonne," called a well educated familiar voice from the mid past. "Nice to see you."

With a sigh of relief, Yvonne saw the tall slim woman approach her with a broad smile, Nikki Wade. Thank God for one familiar face. Yet this was a different Nikki with dark, slightly curly shoulder length hair, glowing eyes, suntanned, the picture of health.

"What's with the health kick, Nikki. You look great." Yvonne asked admiringly.

"A year or so of country living away from the shithouse, the place not the people or at least some of them." Nikki replied in her old familiar, 'call a spade a spade' way. That hadn't changed anyway.

"Yvonne, great to see you. Welcome to the party." Helen's Scottish accent made her feel welcome. This glowing creature was a million miles away from the white faced tired out woman who she could remember staking out O'Kane's brothels all that time ago...the same thing that they'd just run Fenner out of the Prison Service for. The sliding sense of time confused her.

"Now tell us the inside story, every last detail of how you and Karen saw off that bastard. We're dying to hear."

"Isn't Karen here yet," Yvonne asked, a touch disappointed.

"Don't worry, Yvonne. Karen's on her way. She'd just phoned me on her mobile to say she was held up at work but she won't be long."

"Sooo, Yvonne. 'Turn lezzie,' you said to me once. You would 'sooner shag bleeding Fenner." Nikki said with a teasing smile.

Nikki had never seen Yvonne blush before in her life or even imagining her doing so and even more be stuck for words but both events happened. It was like a planet suddenly shooting away from its orbit round the sun which it had circled for millions of years.

"I'm glad for you, Yvonne. If I imagine Karen Betts away from her Wing Governor's uniform, I'm sure she's the woman for you."

"That's bloody easy for me to imagine right now," joked Yvonne nervously. After all, what's the big deal talking about Karen in front of Helen and Nikki?

Helen had bought in the drinks and laid them outside on the trestle table.

"Cheers." Helen called out, being the first to clink her glass against Yvonne's "And to yours and Karen's future."

The ice was broken and Yvonne launched into the story of Fenner's downfall as far as she had seen it. The wine had gone to her head giving her a delicious feeling of relaxation and the chatting helped the time pass. Yvonne was aware of the scrunching of gravel nearby and looked up to see Karen's sporty green car park near them. She opened the door and Yvonne's eyes opened wide.

This was a new Karen that she had not seen before. This Karen had magically transformed herself with a very slinky low cut white top and smart black trousers and looked as if she had been in a beauty parlour. Helen and Nikki were taken aback but not in the same way.

"Well, I had to dress up for my girlfriend." was Karen's very reasonable explanation. "Sorry I'm a bit late."

They moved their drinks to a private alcove of the pub where there would be no disturbances. Helen ordered a bottle of Champagne to celebrate and Helen edged the cork off which popped off with a loud bang and hit the low ceiling. They held open wineglasses to catch the champagne as it bubbled out of the bottle.

"Our treat for settling unfinished business." Helen explained.

Karen in her matter of fact way ran through her version of the story to admiration of the others. All of them had strengths in their way and knew how much it took for Karen to settle accounts with Fenner for once and for all, never so more dangerous as when cornered.

"And now for the future." Nikki said. "Are you two planning on living together? You ought to, you know. You look good together. Anyone can tell."

Karen and Yvonne, sitting next to each other smiled inwardly to themselves and each other. Now that it came to it, with both women freed from themselves and everything that might drag them down, it seemed the right thing to do. And it felt good for another couple to keep reminding them.

"I'm terrible, first thing in the morning," Yvonne smiled at Karen.

"So's Nikki," chimed in Helen smiling at Nikki who nodded reluctantly.

"I would never have done it without your help, Yvonne, Helen, Nikki.." Karen said, feeling real humility at her place as one cog in the whole clockwork machinery that achieved what seemed the impossible.

"....Julie J and her daughter, Rhiannon," Yvonne added

" Virginia O'Kane's brother" Helen said.

"Sylvia Hollamby.." Karen concluded.

"What, Old Bodybag," Nikki asked incredulously.

"Even her, Nikki. She's a changed woman. You wouldn't believe her. She's acting Principal Officer in place of Fenner and, who knows, if she shapes up, she'll get the job permanently. All it took was for her to get away from Fenner's evil influence."

The day ambled dreamily on while the four of them reminisced and talked of many things. Fairly soon, it became clearer to Helen that Yvonne and Karen were getting restless if the hand holding and sideways looks were anything to go by.

"We'd better let the newlyweds go their own way. They've got a lot of catching up to do if you remember our first night of freedom." Helen whispered to Nikki who nodded assent.

"We'd better be going on our way, you two. We've got a long drive back to Wales." Helen said, trying not to make it too obvious but miserably failing to Karen's smiling eye.

"We'd better get going ourselves, Yvonne." Karen said with as much as a casual air as she could manufacture.

Soon, Yvonne found herself as the passenger in Karen's sports car and it was as well as she was sitting as one look at her made her feel weak at the knees. Despite Karen's cool, her own heart was thumping to see the woman she had wanted for so long there, next to her and with the night before them.

Scene 37

Yvonne looked around them and she was surprised to see the sun was low down on the horizon. Surely they hadn't been sitting and drinking at the pub that long as she hadn't noticed time passing. Her sense of time had been built on Larkhall routines and today had dissolved those boundaries away.

"Nearly home, darling," Karen whispered.

Soon, Karen pulled up at an ultra new block of flats. She leant out of the window and flashed the identifying badge that operated the electronic gates to the built in garage under the flats. For a second, Yvonne shivered at the sounds of the gates descending after them as it brought up past associations she was trying to forget.

"Don't worry, love. We've got the key to let us out." Karen reassured her.

In a matter of minutes, they had climbed the set of steps at the front of the flat and into the living room. Karen clicked on the sidelights which shone patches of light leaving dark shadows.

"Nice place you've got here." Yvonne said in a matter of fact way and, then turning round to see Karen, her last act of cool flickered out that night for good.

Karen floated her way up to Yvonne and her arms went round Yvonne's shoulders as their lips met for a passionate kiss. Karen's light fingers ran their way round Yvonne's silk blouse as Yvonne's fingers found their way to touch Karen's soft gentle skin. Their tongues met each other and each of them could feel the other's bodies eagerly press against the other. Their individual flickering doubts as they drove in the car dissolved away.

"What do we do next?" Yvonne breathed in Karen's ear. Karen, looking more nonchalant than she felt unbuttoned Yvonne's blouse from top to bottom, fumbling as the buttons were the wrong way round and gazed in astonishment at Yvonne's near perfectly shaped body. Karen carefully removed her own top and Yvonne's eyes gazed in wonder at Karen's suntanned body. The inevitable fate of age and childbirth had dealt kindly with them both.

"Love is real
Real is love
Love is wanting to be loved.
Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved
Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
We can be
Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needing to be loved."

"Do you want a drink first," Yvonne asked.

"Screw the drink, Yvonne. I want you now," Karen's breathy whisper took command.

It was only a matter of moments that what was left of their clothes were dropped on the floor where they fell and they were free to lie on Karen's bed feeling and tasting every inch of each other's bodies. While Yvonne slid down the length of the bed and her tongue started gently licking Karen's right nipple making her groan with pleasure, a flashback conversation floated into her head.

"...Denny, believe it or not, your man hungry, man eating Yvonne Atkins has fallen in love...with another woman."

Denny's expression was priceless, of wonder, disbelief and looked closely at Yvonne. Surely that other woman wasn't her? She's her mother for God's sake.

"I mean Karen Betts, you soft git. You don't suppose I meant you."

Denny took another few minutes to register earth shifting on its foundations and then her face split apart in a wide grin.

"Cool, wicked. That's brilliant...but why are you telling me, man?" Denny's puzzled look returned to her face.

"Because I haven't a bleeding clue to do first night I'm out and we start shagging. I want to, like pick up on a few tips. Not practical demonstration, like." Yvonne hastily reassured Denny, "but just verbals."

"That's a piece of piss. You listen to me and she'll think you're the best shag that walked this earth. Apart from me." Denny finished smugly......

With that in mind, Yvonne moved further down Karen's body, crossing fingers that Karen wouldn't freak right out. No chance, judging by the way Karen's legs parted and the pressure of her hands, the movement of her body and the way Karen lay gasping with pleasure to recover her breath.

"How in hell did you learn to make love like that, Yvonne. You're sure you've never done this before." Karen looked questioningly and admiringly into Yvonne's eyes.

Yvonne felt a bit foolish to admit that she had been asking Denny for a crash course on how to be an even half way decent lesbian lover so she told nearly the truth when she described her first erotic dream of Karen.

"We were on this endless beach with the sun shining down on us with our legs in the surf and we were making love, Karen. That was the first proper time I felt like that for you, I mean properly and not just romantic hand holding stuff."

Karen arched her eyebrow and her fingertips gently brushed Yvonne's lips.

"I've had the same dream, Yvonne. Just before we had that first date. You know at the pub, the first time. I was looking at you as the sun shining down on you and I had this very erotic mental picture of you naked. "

Yvonne's sharp memory recalled that day and had that 'Dawn's awakening' look on her face.

"You mean that when you said 'You would turn lesbian like a shot if all it took was a pill.' you were planning to get me into bed even then, Karen? And I thought you were after my daughter Lauren, not me."

"That's right, Yvonne. Now we've done enough talking, I'm still Wing Governor and I want to show you what my dream was really like. I want to make love to you all night long." Karen whispered hungrily.

And Yvonne lay on her back while Karen kissed and caressed Yvonne and gradually slid her way down Yvonne's body in a way instinct told Karen was right and Yvonne felt a rising desire from Karen's subtle touches and a feeling of total certainty in her.

Many hours later, the cold wind blew down the total darkness, past the block of flats where Karen lived which opened onto a pattern of bleak modern roads. The flats were all in darkness except the tiny pinprick of light in Karen's front window. Inside, that low gentle light smiled sideways kindly on the undulating shapes of the two women on Karen's bed. Yvonne looked upwards as Karen flicked her hair out of her eyes and she saw the look of total ecstasy and freedom on Karen's face as her fingers traced a pattern down the damp skin on Karen's back

Of all that had happened in both their turbulent lives, they had both found their freedom in themselves and in each other.

The End


Where do I begin on this piece? I'd like to thank Kristine who has been incredibly kind hearted and supportive and of this fic and had a hand behind the scenes on plotlines where I was unsure. Also, with Henny, they thought up the whole songfic idea which has inspired so much good work that I feel proud to be part of, really proud. I must thank Wonko, angel face, spikez99, linda's sexy and katty kit for their kindness.

Looking around further it seems that there are a host of artists, who I grew up whose music and words I have loved, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, John Lennon , James Taylor all from a period in the past but I'm glad I picked up on newer artists to 'carry the flame.' Jewel I'm glad I have featured and I would have picked up on Tori Amos if I could have and other music 'out there' that I have not heard of. The books I have picked out are merely using a different medium.

And so on to the joint fic with Kristine and to keep up with other great ficwriters..

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