DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge great liberties, imagination and "artistic license" have been used in the setting, characters and organisations depicted in this fan fic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Helen's senses were assaulted as they walked along the streets. Smells, colours, and sounds bombarded her brain. She took numerous pictures at Fort Jesus and continued to photograph the architecture, a well as the locals in the curio shops they entered.
The streets were narrow and left no room for any heavy traffic. They walked along eating snacks and surveying the souvenirs. As they continued walking, Nikki suddenly stopped. She backed up to look down a narrow alleyway they had just passed.
"What the hell?" She mumbled and pulled her sunglasses down her nose and narrowed her eyes, trying to get a better view.
"What's up?" Helen came along side and Nikki put her arm across her path to stop her looking into the alley.
"Quick, can you look at that man down there with your telephoto lens?"
Helen quickly lifted her camera. Cautiously she aimed the lens while keeping herself from view.
"It's Jim Fenner." Helen said.
"I thought so too. Are you sure?"
"Can you see who the man is with him?"
"No, they've got their back oh my." The man turned and Helen lowered the camera. "It's the leader of the ambush."
"I knew it! I knew Fenner was up to it. How much film do you have left on that roll? Are you ok? Can you take some pictures?"
Helen nodded and re-aimed the camera and clicked away.
"They're heading this way." She said and ducked back out of the alley. Nikki grabbed her arm and they hurried into a shop.
They observed Fenner and the other man pass by. Nikki waited a few seconds before stepping back out onto the street. She wanted to follow them but wasn't sure if she should involve Helen any further.
"What are we waiting for? Shouldn't we try to follow them?" Helen said.
Nikki smiled at her. "You're my kind of woman. Let's go."
They followed discretely, at a safe distance, keeping an eye on their prey, whilst remaining hidden by the crowds around them. After fifteen minutes, the two men turned into another narrow street and Nikki and Helen ran to catch up, slowing as they approached. Helen held the camera while Nikki cautiously peered round the corner.
"Ok, they are about three quarters of the way down on the left."
Helen stepped into the alley way, pretending to photograph the buildings architecture above her. When she saw a clear shot, she pressed the shutter release and let the auto winder do its job.
"There's another man, Kenyan. He's just given Jim an envelope." Helen gave a running commentary.
"Do you recognise him?" Nikki asked.
"No. Jim's opening it." Helen zoomed in as close as the lens would allow. "Its money, I can see him counting it."
"Can you photograph that?"
"Don't worry, I've got it."
"Ok, let's go. We don't want to push our luck." Nikki pulled Helen away form the street.
"Are you sure?" Helen asked.
"Yes. We should have enough. We have no idea who we could be dealing with. Let's get these developed. If we've got this much proof, I'll hand it over to Steve Anderson at the conference tomorrow. He's an RC big wig. I'm sure he'll be very interested."
Nikki was overjoyed with the clarity of the photos.
"Helen these are fantastic. I think we've got him." Helen looked at them but frowned.
"What's to stop Fenner saying he was being given a donation?" She said.
"That's not how it works, and if he does come up with that as an excuse, I'm sure Steve will be happy to take the donation from him. Anyway, this deserves a celebration. Let's get back to the hotel and freshen up and go out for dinner."
"I hope you like sea food." Nikki opened the door to the taxi for Helen.
"Love it." Helen scooted across the back seat as Nikki got in.
"Good. I found a great place when I was here last time."
They walked onto the gangway to the dhow anchored on the shore. Waiters bustled passed with plates of food and they were shown to a table.
"This is rather spectacular." Helen said as she looked around.
"Wait till you see the sunset. It's very romantic. I had nobody to share it with before." Nikki picked up the menu. Her words sounded of longing and she wondered if Helen noticed.
Helen did notice. She wasn't sure if Nikki meant it was romantic just from an esthetic point of view, or it was a romantic moment to be shared between two people but she suddenly hoped it was the latter.
"What do you recommend?" Helen asked.
"You can't go wrong with any of the seafood. Would you like some wine?"
"That would be lovely."
Helen watched Nikki look at the wine menu. She couldn't tear her own eyes away from Nikki's. The restaurant lighting highlighted their brown colour and added tiny flecks of sparkle.
A waitress approached and Nikki ordered wine and they gave her their order.
"Have you enjoyed today?" Nikki asked.
"It's been fantastic. Thank you for showing me around. Even the bit of detective work was fun." Helen tapped the side of her nose.
"Yeah, that was a stroke of luck. I wonder how often Fenner comes to Mombasa? Anyway, let's forget about him. I've had a lovely day too. It's been great to have a companion who enjoys this kind of stuff as well." Nikki raised her glass and Helen did the same and they toasted each other.
Their plates arrived and Helen stared at hers.
"Take your time. We've got all night. The conference doesn't start till tomorrow afternoon." Nikki laughed.
"What did they do, catch everything in the sea!"
They drank more wine as they talked and ate.
"Look." Nikki motioned with her head. They sat and watched the sunset start. The sky turned a blood red, with bursts of orange.
"You're right, it is very romantic. I'm glad you didn't have to see it alone this time." Helen leant on the table, and rested her chin on her clasped hands.
Nikki felt a shiver down her spine at Helen's smile. She wanted to reach across the table and take one of Helen's hands and hold it in her own, hoping if she did, it would ease the dull ache in her chest.
Helen saw Nikki clench her fist around her fork. "Are you ok?" She asked.
"Yes, fine. I'm stuffed." There wasn't much left on Nikki's plate and Helen finished hers.
"Fancy walking it off along the beach?"
"If they have a winch to get me out of this chair." Helen said.
Helen listened to the sound of the sea gently lapping against the shore. The moon was high and admiring its own reflection on the water's surface and it appeared to Helen like a search light shinning up from underneath an underwater city.
Other people strolled along the beach, most of them tourists and many of them young couples. Helen watched some of them and recognised the obvious signs of love. She carried her sandals in her hands, feeling the still warm soft sand under her feet, filtering between her toes. She felt a little heady from the wine and extremely relaxed and looked at Nikki walking beside her. She was also barefoot and Helen noticed they were walking instep. For some reason, completely unknown to her, she voiced the question that was going round in her head.
"Have you never been interested in men?"
Nikki stopped abruptly, completely surprised by a question that seemed to have no relevance to the situation.
"Where did that come from?" She couldn't help smile and Helen couldn't believe she'd said it.
"I, you've never," Helen stammered in an effort to explain herself. "I mean, when we've had discussions you've never mentioned about relationships with men. I wondered if you'd ever " She left the question open to Nikki.
"Nope. Not my flavour I'm afraid."
"How can you be sure?" Helen smiled at her.
"Same way you are. If you are?" Nikki handed the question back. She sensed there was more to the off hand remark Helen had initiated and waited for her to answer.
But Helen laughed and put her arm through Nikki's.
"Come on let's go back to the hotel. I know how much you're looking forward to tomorrow. The quicker you get to bed, the quicker tomorrow will come."
Nikki groaned. She had no idea how close Helen had been to saying something else. Are you interested in me was the other thought that had closely followed the first but went unspoken.
They allowed themselves the luxury of a lie in. Helen scribbled a few extra notes when she got back after the walk along the beach. She went over them again as she took her time getting ready. Nikki had suggested a good breakfast before heading to the conference at midday.
As she entered the breakfast room, Nikki was heading towards a table with a plate full of food.
"The sea air certainly does wonders for your appetite. I don't think I've ever seen you eat so much." Helen remarked.
"It's going to be a long day. I need all my strength. Plus I don't want to eat there."
The taxi dropped them outside the hotel holding the conference. It was swarming with security and they showed their passports and ID's. They entered the marble foyer and noticed its ostentatious and luxurious atmosphere. Even more security was present inside.
"God forbid they should ever pick a three star." Nikki mumbled under her breath.
"Nikki!" A man called out and she turned in the direction of the voice. He made his way through, showing his ID and security badge.
"Hi Steve." Nikki held out her hand and he shook it. "Steve this is Helen Stewart, the teacher at the school."
"Ah yes, I've heard all about you and your heroic endeavors with rebels. Pleasure to finally meet you Helen."
Helen shook his hand, amazed that he knew the story that now seemed to her, to have happened so long ago. She had been expecting a much older man, but guessed his age at mid forties. He was tall with sandy hair and didn't seem to be the executive type, which she found a pleasant surprise.
"All set for the fray?" He asked. "Don't worry, it's not that bad, despite what Nikki may have told you. Come with me and let's get your extra security sorted."
"If you have a moment Steve, I have something important to show you." Nikki held up a manila envelope.
With their IDs issued they followed Steve further into the hotel. He stopped at a door and opened it for them and they entered. It was a small conference room, with other Red Cross officials.
"Ok, Nikki. What's in the envelope?" Steve asked.
"Do you know Jim Fenner?" Nikki asked him.
"Yes. Met him a couple of times in fact."
"Is he here?"
Steve saw the look on Nikki's face and he invited them both over to a desk.
Nikki took the photographs out of the envelope and laid them out on the table and explained where they were taken and that they knew one of the men from the ambush, but didn't know the other.
Steve frowned deeply. "You're certain this is the man?" He pointed at the figure and looked at both of them.
"It's definitely him, I can assure you." Helen answered. He started to smile.
"What's going on?" Nikki asked.
"I know of the other man. We've had information, warnings about him possibly organising the theft of supplies. The local authourities have been trying to pin something on him, but he's evaded them every time. I think we now have something we can give them. We appear to have the ability to bait him and Fenner."
"You've suspected Fenner?" Nikki asked.
"No. There was just something about him, when I first met him."
"Jesus, that's what everybody says."
"Thank you both, for this." Steve was sincerely grateful. "Ok. Let me take you down to the main conference room. They'll be a general announcement in about an hour for everybody attending and the press, and I know you'll want a good seat at the front Nikki." Steve put the photos back into the envelope. "I'm going to put these in the hotel safe."
Nikki found them somewhere to sit towards the back of the main conference hall. Helen listened as delegates gave speeches and the press asked questions. She knew Nikki was thoroughly bored. It appeared a tortuous experience for her as Nikki mumbled comments under her breath and snorted at some of the remarks.
"Well, nothing new we didn't already know." Nikki said when it was over.
Steve found them both and escorted them to a press conference. Nikki seemed happy to answer questions about the work at the hospital and Helen gave a few interviews on the school before she was taken to meet some of the UN officials. They appeared very interested in the achievements at the school but Helen didn't shy away from being honest and telling them about the overall conditions and how hard it could be at times but what remarkable people the Kenyans were.
Nikki accompanied Steve to meet another group of UN officials. When they entered the room, Jim Fenner was already there. He came over to them and held out his hand.
"Jim." Steve said it politely and shook his hand.
"Dr Wade." Jim offered his hand to her.
Nikki looked at it briefly before looking straight at him and said nothing. She wondered if she could get away with punching him in the face in full view of everybody in the room, as she thought about what he had been responsible for.
When Jim saw she was not about to shake his hand, he quickly lowered it and hoped no one else in the room had seen the obvious snub.
Just like Helen, Steve was honest and passionate about the role of the Red Cross, and was far more capable of communicating his point. Nikki knew her opinion would have been more brutal, and therefore let him and the others do all the talking.
It was early evening when a break in the proceedings took place. The main conference room had been set up with tables and snacks of various kinds, aswell as drinks including water, juices and wines. The main delegates would eat later, but this was an opportunity for every one to mingle.
Helen entered the room and saw Nikki over by one of the drinks tables and joined her.
"How'd it go?" Nikki asked. She poured some water into a wine glass. "Want some?"
"Yes please. It went ok, I think I said everything I wanted to." Helen took the glass Nikki offered her. "How about you, still hanging in there?" She smiled.
Nikki rolled her eyes and started to walk around the room. Helen watched her as she looked at all the tables. They stopped at one with food laid out on silver trays and Nikki shook her head but didn't take any of it. As Helen viewed what was on offer, she realised why Nikki had eaten the large breakfast she had. These weren't ordinary snacks and she figured the cost would probably have given the school enough supplies for the next three years.
Over the other side of the room was a ripple of laughter and they looked to see a group of people, with one man the obvious centre of their attention.
"Do you know who that is, he looks familiar?" Nikki asked Helen. The hospital usually received British newspapers every now and then with supplies and she was sure that's where she had seen him.
"That's the UK Foreign Secretary."
"Oh right. Wasn't he the minister for interior design or something similar?" Nikki said sarcastically.
"He had a stint as health minister as well as education, before becoming transport minister." Helen said.
"It amazes me how many positions these people hold. How can they possibly know every thing? It would be like me deciding in three months I'm going to teach quantum physics. Anyway, I guess if he was crap at all those, the only option left was to make him Foreign Secretary."
They continued to walk around the room and when they came past the Foreign Secretary's group, one of the people stopped Nikki and spoke to her.
"Dr Wade, I heard the interview you gave earlier about your hospital. I was very impressed by what you said about it." It was a young woman who spoke and she introduced herself as one of the governmental aides.
There was another ripple of polite laughter from the group and the aide interrupted the Foreign Secretary and introduced Nikki.
Helen saw he was a little perplexed at why he thought his aide needed to introduce her and Nikki noticed his expression too. He shifted his glass of wine from his right hand to his left, so he could shake her hand.
"What is the primary purpose of your hospital Dr Wade?" He asked.
"To provide medical care to children and adults with severe malnutrition. We also have an after care program." Nikki resisted the urge to say, we're a hospital in Kenya, what do you think we do? And decided to give him the benefit of her growing doubt about him.
"Ah yes, I believe I've heard of it." His expression didn't fool Nikki and it was obvious he didn't know it at all.
"This is Helen Stewart. She is the school teacher at the Catholic sponsored school. Their generous donations help to fund medical as well as food supplies for the children attending." Nikki introduced Helen and she shook his hand.
"Wonderful, wonderful." He agreed and nodded.
Helen saw Nikki's mouth tighten and also heard the slight sound of boredom in his voice.
A waiter approached the group with a tray of food and wine and everybody helped themselves, except Helen and Nikki.
"You don't want some wine Dr ." He stumbled for her name, but she saved him the embarrassment of forgetting it.
"Not under these circumstances, no." Nikki answered.
"I didn't realise they made wine in Kenya. I actually tried some of it last night. Absolutely bloody awful. Good job they make better beer here." He said and the group politely laughed again.
"I know. They make some of it from papaya. But the climate here is too hot to grow grapes properly. They tend to get fried. But it's potent stuff. Very cheep though, probably no more than a pound a bottle. Unlike the thirty pound one you're enjoying at this moment. Getting through quite a few bottles by the looks of it." Nikki looked around the room at all the tables.
Helen saw the veins in Nikki's neck strain and she knew what was coming. Without knowing it, the Foreign Secretary had just laid himself open.
Nikki turned back to look at him, a steel gaze in her eyes and in as calm a tone as possible, began her attack.
"You do realise that what has been spent here on food and drink for this completely ineffectual delegation, could have supplied my hospital and many others across Kenya with enough medical supplies to last a considerable time."
The group now looked uneasy.
"You used to be able to wander along a local high street in Britain on a Saturday, and there'd be plenty of charity tins shaken at you, and people would drop in their 50p and hope it would make a difference to somebody somewhere. Except now nobody's quite sure why they bother when they know crap like this is taking place. People have wised up a bit, wouldn't you say?"
Nikki stepped a little closer and Helen thought how restrained and controlled she looked.
"You'll all sit around here for the next few days, trying to figure out a way to improve things. You'll probably decide that a committee needs to be set up, and you'll need meetings to decide who's going to be on it. All the while, organisations like the Red Cross, the Catholic and Anglican churches and ordinary people around the world will quietly be getting on with doing their best to help in whatever way they can, without having to be told about it and without wasting tax payers money, flying people half way round the world first class to have a chat on the humanitarian crisis while staying in a five star hotel drinking imported wine!
What makes you think as a government, you can possibly help out here when you're totally incapable of doing it on home soil? Call yourself the party of the people? Do me a favor! You're so out of touch it's laughable. Your lot couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery!"
A hush descended on the room, as conversations halted and everybody turned to look.
"But don't worry, they wont show you anything too shocking while you're here. They'll have cleaned up most of it. But believe me, if I had my way, I'd drag your sorry arse out to my hospital and show you what it's really like and what can be achieved with charitable donations by the general public and the church and just how far a thirty pound bottle of wine will go in medical supplies."
The Foreign Secretary's face was red and Nikki saw he was incensed. He went to speak, but she carried on.
"Hang on, I'm almost done. You see," She lowered her voice. "The press pack over there, are just dying to ask questions. Like you I dare say, they just think I'm some over worked doctor with a touch of PMT. And when I leave this room, which will be in about twenty seconds, they'll descend like flies on shit to get a story. But it won't be me they'll come after. It'll be you. And as we know all politicians are masters at diplomacy, it'll be interesting to see just how diplomatic Britain's Foreign Secretary can be with his answers. So just a word of advice. What ever you say, don't say you believe it was a PMT moment. That headline won't go down too well with the feminists back home."
She handed him her glass and without thinking he took it.
Nikki turned to Helen. "I'll go to the hotel lobby and wait for you till you're done." She winked and walked away.
Helen tried to stifle the huge smile she could feel starting to form at the corners of her mouth.
"Excuse me." Helen said and turned to follow Nikki, placing her glass on the nearest table.
Nikki was right. Before she got to the door, the press swarmed over.
"Foreign Secretary, do you have any comment?"
"Secretary, would you consider the offer to visit the doctors hospital?"
Helen caught up with Nikki in the corridor.
"Oops." Nikki said.
Helen laughed. "That was quite a speech."
Nikki stopped. "Argh." She let out her frustration as quietly as she could.
"Better?" Helen asked. "That should provide some interesting news."
"I doubt it. They've got the press on their side. It won't be anything negative. It may get out and some of the tabloids back home might run a version. I can see The Sun headline now Lesbian Doctor Accosts the UK Foreign Secretary and then underneath they'll have a coupon for a free six pack from a Thresher's Wine shop."
"You didn't have to leave if you wanted to stay." Nikki told her.
"I couldn't. The Foreign Secretary did look a little flustered. I had this sudden image in my head of a roasted pig with an apple stuffed in its mouth. It was getting hard not to embarrass him any further by not laughing."
"I didn't realise you could be quite so rebellious against convention."
"Oh, I'm not averse to breaking a few rules." Helen smiled.
"Fancy a cold beer?"
"You need to ask? Lead on" Helen answered.
"Nikki!" They turned to see Steve striding towards them.
"I guess I'm fired." Nikki said to him.
"What? Absolutely not. I was just making sure you weren't thinking of resigning. You're not are you?"
Nikki smiled. "No. We're just going for a beer."
"Sounds like a good idea." Steve looked back reluctantly at the conference room.
"Come with us." Nikki offered.
"Wish I could, but you know how it is." He shrugged and smiled. "That's certainly livened things up though. Anyway, thank you for your input today. Both of you. I hope it's not too long until we meet again. And please, have a beer for me."
He shook their hands and they parted company.
They went back to their hotel, showered and changed and headed for one of the local bars. Inside it was full of people, mostly tourists and the sound of music along with raised voices made it difficult to hear.
"This place is great for Taarab music." Nikki shouted. "Traditional folk."
Helen followed Nikki through the throng of people to the bar. Signaling one of the barmen Nikki managed to order them two beers and they stood drinking. Two people vacated a couple of stools and they claimed them before anyone else could.
As Nikki spoke to hear, Helen leant in closer to be able to hear what she said and then shouted her response back, her mouth almost touching Nikki's ear and neck. Another couple approached the bar and heard their accents and announced they were also from the UK and a four way exchange of shouts took place. The couple told them they were on their second honeymoon twenty years after they had first been to Mombassa. They talked to Helen and Nikki about the changes they had noticed in that time and were amazed when Nikki and Helen explained why they were in Kenya. They all ordered more beers and continued to try and converse at some length.
After about an hour, the music stopped and an announcement was made that the Taarab music would start. There were cheers from the audience and it quieted down.
As the musicians began to play, everybody joined in. Many of the locals as well as the tourists who had been regular visitors to the bars and knew the songs, sang along or clapped their hands. Helen noticed Nikki's foot, tapping against the bar of the stool and her hand slapped against her thigh as she held her beer with the other.
The female vocalist made her way around the room, singing and dancing with the crowd and encouraged some of them onto the small dance floor. She even persuaded the couple Helen and Nikki had been talking to and as they made their way, the singer turned back and grabbed Helen's hand and pulled her off the stool, raising her arm in the air. There were cheers from many of the men in the audience and Helen knew something in the lyrics was to do with it. She gave a helpless look back at Nikki who just laughed.
Standing on the dance floor Helen felt very conscientious and looked again at Nikki. She held out her arm and beckoned with her fingers for her to come and join her.
Nikki made her wait a moment. Finishing her beer she placed the glass behind her and slowly stepped off the stool.
Helen stood unable to move, mesmerised as she watched her approach. She held her breath for a moment, then let it out, feeling her chest rise and fall and knew it was from sheer exhilaration. Nikki was wearing a simple white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, and jeans. Her make up was simple and subtle and she looked sensational and Helen didn't know why she hadn't noticed until now, how gorgeous she looked tonight. Maybe it was the lighting, or the way Nikki moved towards her but even that appeared to be in a suspended sate of slow motion. Helen noticed every movement she made. The expression on Nikki's face and in hers eyes, were branded into Helen's brain. She knew without any doubt that it was completely obvious how she was looking at Nikki and this time she didn't care that it showed. She wanted Nikki to see it.
Nikki stood in front of her with the same intense look Helen had seen before. There was no thrusting of hips or exaggerated grunts this time. Just an easy going gyration in time to the music and with each other, looking no different form anybody else on the dance floor, and no different, Helen thought, from any other couple. The idea floated in her mind and she realised how easy it could be. Just one word, one look, one touch and she knew that where they found themselves now, could so easily change into something more. She wondered which one of them would be the one to make that move. And when.
They danced through a couple more songs before going back to the bar.
"Another?" Nikki asked.
"Ok, just one more for the road."
Having lost their seats, they stood and Helen sensed an awkwardness between them. A reluctance from Nikki to be near her and Helen wondered what could be wrong. She drank her beer quickly and Nikki finished hers.
"Ready?" Nikki sounded eager to leave.
They walked back along the streets, passing other bars and restaurants and people still out enjoying the evening.
Nothing was said until they reached the hotel and they were in the courtyard that led to the rooms around it.
"We can do some more sightseeing tomorrow if you like?" Nikki said.
"That would be nice."
"Ok. Meet you for breakfast at 9?"
"Sounds fine." Helen said. Nikki seemed agitated to her.
"Nikki." Helen took a step closer to her. "Thank you for the last couple of days. I've had a really wonderful time." She waited for her response.
"Me too. It's been really great." Nikki's answer was hurried and Helen took another step closer.
"Is everything ok?"
What Helen really wanted to know was why Nikki wasn't taking advantage of the oppourtunity she was giving her to make a move. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a hand clench into a fist and thought Nikki was about to say something.
"Yes, everything's fine." Nikki tried to sound convincing. She wrestled with her urge to say the words on the tip of her tongue.
"Ok. I'll see you in the morning." Helen leant towards her and kissed her on the cheek and embraced her. She didn't see Nikki close her eyes nor the anguished look on her face at Helen's gesture.
Helen watched Nikki walk away towards her room and she knew without doubt something was wrong. Nikki was avoiding her.
It was all Nikki could do to get the key into the door, her hand was shaking so much. She slammed it behind her, and took out her cigarettes. Her hand still shook and when she tried the lighter, it wouldn't light.
"Shit!" She threw it in frustration and at the same moment there was a knock on the door.
"Shit!" She opened it and Helen stood there.
"May I come in?"
Nikki stepped aside and Helen entered.
"What's going on?" Helen asked casually. "What's this all about?"
"I don't know what you mean." Nikki just looked at her.
Helen stepped closer. "You really don't know?"
Taking Nikki's hand Helen placed it over her own heart.
"It's about this." She said softly.
Helen sensed the recognition between them of what was about to happen, and knew without any hesitation, they would let it.
Helen reached her arms up and around Nikki's neck and felt Nikki's hands pull her closer.
The kiss was firm and Helen was aware of Nikki bending her knees to adjust the equality in height. She was also very aware, that it was her maneuvering them towards the bed.
They made love slowly, starring at each other intently and watching each others movements. Not a word was spoken. The only sound was the whirring of the ceiling fan.
Afterwards, Nikki got up and Helen watched her move about the room. She seemed totally uninhibited by her nakedness. Then Nikki bent down, looking for something.
"What are you looking for?" Helen asked.
Helen sat forward, her arms around her knees, her body slightly covered by tangled sheets.
The lighting gave Nikki's naked body a bronzed tone that gleamed from perspiration and her eyes were darkest brown. Her movements were almost athletic and lithe and it dawned on Helen that Nikki looked like a leopard, pacing back and forth, as though trapped and looking to either escape or fight her way out. Helen wasn't sure which. The image was also a familiar one, a ritual habit of Nikki's that she had witnessed before.
Nikki found the lighter and lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. Leaning back against the table, she motioned with her head at the bed.
"What will your God think of this?" She'd chosen to fight.
"What?" Helen frowned. She wasn't sure of the meaning in the question.
"Romans 1: 21-28. Not exactly what the bible preaches is it?"
Helen sat in a state of semi incredulous disbelief. She was tempted to just get up and leave but decided the fight was justified and leapt from the bed.
"What the hell is your problem? Why are you using that to be confrontational over this?" Helen waited for an answer. "Are you saying this meant nothing?"
Nikki looked at her and shrugged dismissively and inhaled on her cigarette again.
The gesture hurt Helen and it surprised her. For a split second she contemplated that it may have not meant anything to Nikki at all. She narrowed her eyes and stared at her for a moment and then came to the realisation.
"You coward." She said softly.
"Fine. Hate me for it." Helen heard the distinct lack of emotion in Nikki's response.
"Bullshit!" Helen spat the word and Nikki's eyes widened at the outburst.
"That's exactly what you're hoping I'll do. Don't play games with me." Pointing at the bed behind her, Helen looked at Nikki. "What just happened here meant as much to you as it did to me."
Nikki shifted uneasily.
"What are you so bloody afraid of? That you might actually feel something? That's a contradiction in terms! You feel too much. You make out that you don't, just to hold yourself together. You're hiding from it all. Shrouding yourself in some kind of cloak. You're like a bloody keep out sign." Helen took a deep calming breath.
"And what about you Helen? What exactly have you been hiding from? Fooling yourself a little, aren't you?" Nikki said softly and looked her straight in the eye.
Helen felt a sudden prick of vulnerability, as though she was exposed. She became aware, that like Nikki, she was also completely naked. She waited for Nikki to say something more, but she didn't. Helen moved nearer to her, but Nikki moved away and sat on the other side of the bed. Helen followed and knelt in front of her.
"What are you afraid off?" She asked gently. There was a long pause and Nikki turned her head up and away and exhaled a long stream of smoke. Without looking at Helen she answered.
"Because it costs too much. There's too much to lose. You've experienced that."
"Yes, but that doesn't mean life has to always be that way."
"I know that in here." Nikki pointed to her head. "But here," She pointed at her heart.
"I've spent years fighting death .we've had this attrition with each other. Every patient that's recovered has been a victory against it, but it's like walking a knife edge. You've seen it. Life is just about surviving out here. It walks hand in hand with death, its part and parcel."
"You're saying you get used to it? I don't believe anybody could get used to that, and I certainly don't believe that of you. You try to become numb to it, but every death affects you." Helen said.
"Yes, they do. But it's easier to face when you're surrounded by it. I don't fear death Helen. I fear not living. I've lost the ability to want to. Everybody that's ever meant anything and given me the greatest happiness has been taken. It's been easier to shut down. I feel safer that way. But you're changing that. Suddenly I have hope."
Helen moved to sit beside her on the bed.
"What happened here," Nikki motioned at the bed. "I wanted so much. And it did mean something. It was wonderful. But I don't know if tomorrow you'll wake up and you're belief in your faith won't allow you to have it and you'll decide it was a mistake, or you'll abandon you're faith because of it. I don't want to be responsible for either. But it's too late now. Your faith is an incredible part of you Helen. But how can you be sure this hasn't satisfied a curiosity, one that you'll regret?"
Helen took hold of Nikki's hands. "This isn't curiosity Nikki. I don't play around with relationships. I loved and was faithful to one person. This doesn't affect my faith. I trust implicitly what I feel. I feel this way, because I'm meant to."
"Helen, these aren't normal circumstances."
"What's normal? Even I don't know any more. Are you implying this is a just a summer fling. Is that all you want or think I wanted? Do you play around in your relationships?" Helen asked calmly. She was almost scared of the answer.
"No I don't. Trish and I were together ten years. I was faithful from day one until she was killed."
Helen hesitated before asking the next question.
"What about Dominique?"
Nikki raised her eyebrows. "You're very observant. I thought we had tried to be discreet."
"You were. I think I stumbled upon something a few months back. At the time I put two and two together and came up with Jean-Paul. It's only recently I realised."
Nikki sighed deeply.
"Dominique was very young, very sweet and charmingly persistent. And she wasn't looking for permanence. But she recognised I was only human and gave me the opportunity to feel it. It was a very brief, physical affair and I'm grateful to her, for waking up that part of me again."
"Are you looking for permanence?"
"It's a nice idea. And like you, I thought I had it once."
"That was then Nikki. What about now?"
"Do I want to go through the rest of my life alone? No I don't. I want to share it with someone, to have that feeling that anything is possible when you have someone special in your life that makes it feel complete. As corny as that sounds."
Nikki stood up and went over to the desk and put out the cigarette in the ashtray. Helen sat on the bed.
"What do you want Helen?"
Helen looked down at the floor. "A few months back I would have said to just succeed as a teacher over here." She half laughed.
Nikki made her way back over to the bed. "But now?"
"You." It was barely audible and Helen didn't look up when she said it.
"I tried to be prepared for what I might face over here. But not you. I was never prepared for you. You've been my biggest challenge. I don't know why, but I lose all self control around you. I've given up trying to resist it." Helen said.
It wasn't the answer Nikki was expecting and she closed her eyes briefly and swallowed hard to dislodge the lump in her throat. She sat next to Helen again and pulled her into her arms.
"Do you know what you're getting yourself into? Are you absolutely sure this is the life you want? What about your family, your friends?"
"Nikki, you need to trust me that I know what I'm doing. Believe me I've had enough time to consider it. I want to be with you and whatever that may entail for both of us. But what do you want?" Helen asked.
Nikki had wrestled with the words she had wanted to say earlier. Now she finally said them.
"I'm totally in love with you and there's nothing I can do about it."
Helen felt the sting of tears forming in her eyes. She pulled Nikki's face towards her and kissed her gently to begin with. From there, the need for each other quickly escalated.
And this time, they weren't silent.
"It's going to be really strange with you not here for a few weeks." Karen remarked.
She was sitting with Yvonne and Helen in the dinning room.
"I bet the children will miss you?"
"I hope so, but I think they are looking forward to some time off. It should help to make them more eager to come back. It's hard to believe only another one and half weeks left of school." Helen said.
Nikki entered the room and came over. "Anybody like a coffee top up?" She looked at the empty cups.
Karen and Yvonne both shook their heads, but Helen handed Nikki her mug.
"I suppose you're eager to see your family?" Karen continued.
"Yes, yes I am." Helen smiled.
Yvonne saw Helen look quickly in Nikki's direction and was sure Helen sounded reluctant that she was due to leave.
Placing a mug in front of Helen, Nikki sat down and saw Yvonne look from her to Helen.
"I just had a call from Steve Anderson." Nikki deliberately sipped her coffee slowly while the others waited.
"And?" Karen said impatiently.
"Because of the evidence we gathered in Mombasa, Steve contacted the police and they had Fenner followed. They caught him red handed with the other two guys last Wednesday, when we were flying back here. They've all been arrested and masses of medical supplies have been recovered."
"Bloody excellent. Serves that bastard right!" Yvonne said.
They sat talking for a while longer, before Nikki said she had to get ready to leave on a visit with Sal.
"Helen, come over later?" Karen suggested.
"Of course. I'll sort out some lessons for tomorrow and see you then." Helen rose from her chair and she and Nikki left together.
Karen and Yvonne sat quietly for a moment, although Yvonne knew there was something on Karen's mind.
"Have you noticed something different about Nikki in the last few days? I don't think I've ever seen her this way. She looks happy." Karen said it as though she found the idea unthinkable.
"Yes you have. Think about it."
Karen looked at Yvonne puzzled then frowned in thought. "Trish." She mumbled.
"Oh my God, you're saying she's met someone?" She was surprised by her own conclusion. Yvonne just nodded.
"Who?" Karen asked.
Yvonne looked at her and rolled her eyes.
"Well I know for a bleeding fact it ain't me and I'm pretty sure it ain't you! Jean-Paul, Brian and Ian obviously ain't Nikki's type. None of the others fit the bill, which only leaves one person Nikki has been spending time with."
Yvonne looked at Karen expectantly, but she was still frowning. Finally the penny seemed to drop.
"Helen!?" Karen said it rather loudly and quickly looked round at an empty room to see if anyone had heard. "Are you sure?"
"But when, how long do you think?"
"Pretty recent I'd say. I'd bet money something kicked off in Mombasa last week. Although I reckon Nikki's been feeling this way for a while."
"How can you be sure something happened in Mombasa?"
"Didn't you notice when Nikki gave Helen a cup of coffee just now? Helen didn't say thank you."
"Helen's manners are impeccable, but when people become intimate sometimes there's no need for thanks."
"Jesus Yvonne, you don't miss a thing. I hadn't twigged at all. If that's the case, they're being very discreet. Should we say anything to Nik?"
"No, let them have this time together. When she's ready she'll let us know. At the moment I think she's protecting Helen."
"From us, why?"
"Not just us. There's a lot going on here. This is a whole new relationship for them both and especially Helen."
"Shouldn't we say something to Karen and Yvonne?" Helen asked Nikki. They were in the school office. "They're you're closet friends and mine I feel too now."
"They already know."
"They do. Have we been that obvious?"
"Not overly, but if I know Yvonne, she's figured it out already. She's like Sherlock Holmes. She doesn't miss much."
"Why haven't they said anything?"
"They'll understand why we haven't and they'll give us time. And I want us to have this time, for us. For you. To get used to as normal a life as possible out here. Mombasa was very . self indulgent those last couple of days." Nikki grinned.
Helen knew what she meant. They had spent it sightseeing, not just of Mombasa during the day, but of each other at night. Arriving back at the hospital, they had been very restricted by their surroundings.
"Come here." Helen said. Nikki moved closer and Helen kissed her.
"Remember what we said." Nikki reminded her.
"I know. When will you and Sal be back?"
"I want to give you something before you leave." Helen took Nikki's hand and led her to the bedroom.
"Helen? I don't have time." Nikki said.
"What? Oh." Helen shook her head and laughed. "That's not what I had in mind."
"Oh." Nikki blushed. "It isn't?" She looked disappointed.
Helen playfully slapped her arm. She went over to the desk and opened the drawer and took out a small pouch.
"I want you to wear this. Will you, for me?" Helen took out a crucifix necklace.
"Helen, I " Before Nikki could finish Helen interrupted her.
"I know how you feel, but please, I'd feel happier knowing you have it, while you're out and about. I know it seems silly, but humour me?"
Nikki smiled and took it. "OK, but nothing is going to happen Helen. Fenner's banged up. How many of these do you have?"
She handed it back to Helen, so she could put it around her neck.
"Happy?" Nikki asked.
"Yes, thank you."
Nikki kissed her. She glanced at the bed and Helen saw her do it.
"I have to go." Nikki closed her eyes to extinguish the image she just had.
"Yes, out with you." Helen pushed her towards the door.
With a quick kiss Nikki left. "I'll see you Friday."
"Be careful." Helen called after her.
When Nikki arrived back Friday afternoon, Helen was still in school. Although eager to see her, she decided to wait until the children left. She headed into the hospital and found Yvonne and Karen in the office.
"How's it been?" Nikki asked.
"Fine. No problems. We discharged three of the kids. They had recovered really well, so we sent them home." Karen replied.
Yvonne looked up quickly from some paperwork, and then looked again at Nikki. Her gaze was directed at her chest.
Nikki looked down at herself and saw the crucifix. As she looked at Yvonne, she found her smiling back. Nikki went over to the door and closed it.
"I have something to tell you both."
"About you and Helen? We know." Karen said nonchalantly, without looking at Nikki as she shuffled through some papers.
"Ok, that's over with. I'll get cleaned up." Nikki said.
"Hang on stud. Sit down and tell us properly." Karen ordered.
"You already seem to know."
"Only because Miss bloody Marple here, figured it out." Karen pointed at Yvonne. "Seriously though, I don't think I've seen you look so happy and well. I'm happy for you."
Karen sat down and Nikki sat in the chair next to her.
"Is it the real deal?" Yvonne asked. "Or do we need to be concerned for someone's behalf?"
"Mine or Helen's?" Nikki asked.
"Don't get me wrong and no disrespect to Helen. She's fantastic. But is she sure about this? Not just a case of loneliness and opportunity? I can identify with that. They've been times I've felt like shagging the hind legs off a donkey since I've been here."
Nikki could always count on Yvonne to be direct, if not blunt.
"If it was, she would have had the choice of three male doctors."
Yvonne smiled. "Well, then. It's about bloody time."
"How are you both going to cope when she leaves in a couple of weeks? I mean, she will be coming back?" Karen asked.
"Yes. I haven't frightened her off completely. She wants to see her family and tell them."
"Holy shit." Yvonne said.
"I know, I was considering taking some time and going with her for some support. But she said she'll be fine. She knows her family, so knows what's best."
"You're both being incredibly discreet. How are you managing it." Nikki and Yvonne both looked at Karen.
"What?" She smiled. "Nikki, my room is right next to yours and I haven't heard anything, suggesting you have a visitor, or you have been out visiting yourself."
"That's because we're not managing it."
Nikki saw the duel look of amazement on both Karen's and Yvonne's face. She continued to explain.
"We got back late last Wednesday. Helen had school in the morning. The kids arrive early. Everyday. I was on call last weekend. School again this week. I've been away again. And Helen has promised the children she will spend this weekend at one of the villages, so they can have an end of school party, before they break up next Friday."
"Why didn't you say something? We could have got Paula or one of the others to cover for you." Karen said.
"That's not the point. Helen is the school teacher here. That holds some obligation and responsibility to the children, the school, and to St John's. We don't want the kids right now to see Helen sneaking out of our quarters, or even worse, me sneaking out of the school room. We'll have two whole weeks after the kids break up and before Helen flies home."
"But what about when Helen returns? You're both going to live like monks all week until the weekends, and when you're not on visits?" Karen looked exasperated.
"We'll figure something out, but we decided for now, this is the best way until schools out. We'll still have time together. We don't need to be constantly horizontal."
Nikki knew she was half fooling herself. Every moment away from Helen was torture and she constantly ached to be with her. Her body was aroused by just the thought of her and seeing her and being so close only made the arousal worse. She had no idea how they were both coping and put it down to exceptional will power.
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