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 knew it was a long week for them both. When she returned from the village party on Sunday, she had a group of children in tow who were going to sleep in the tents ready for the Monday morning class. Kanja had taken the truck to pick her up and when the children saw it, as many as possible scrambled in.
When she arrived back, Nikki rushed over and was stunned to see so many children. Helen smiled at her and silently said sorry as she saw the look on Nikki's face. Nikki just shrugged and laughed and helped Helen with some activities with the children before they went to sleep in the tents. It was a very chaste good night between the two of them.
And that was how their week continued. Glances and touches whenever possible. They made a point of sitting outside occasionally with the others, to Karen and Yvonne's disbelief, so that none of the other members of the team grew suspicious of their absence. As soon as it was possible, Nikki would go to Helen.
Physically, they would get as close as possible and the temptation not to stop would be unbearable. It was Nikki that would tear herself away.
"I can't. I won't be able to leave if we do." She stated.
By Thursday the anticipation between them was too much and Nikki avoided Helen all day. What seemed the decent thing to do for the children and the schools reputation, only made what they wanted of each other holy indecent.
At midday Friday, Helen dismissed the children from school. She knew Nikki wouldn't finish her shift till about 8pm, so she accompanied Kanja in the truck as he dropped off as many of the children to their villages. Even then her excitement was tempered. Nikki had told her that she would have to visit George's wife Saturday which meant she would have to leave early. George would probably turn up at about 5am and he would go back with her and Kanja and then return with them.
By 5pm she was back and pacing the school room. She tidied up, hoping that would pass the time. With everything put away, she looked at her watch and it was 5.15pm.
A shower and something to eat she said to herself.
Yvonne was grabbing a bite to eat when Helen entered the dinning room. Grabbing a plate for herself, Helen joined her
"Schools out then?" Yvonne said.
"Yes, the children were very sweet today. Lot's of home made cards and presents and flowers. They're all adorable."
Yvonne put down her knife and fork. "Until I saw Nikki for myself when I came over here, I only had Karen's letters on how she was. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I saw her. She wasn't the Nikki I knew. But just recently she's come back. You've been her salvation Helen."
It was so simply said and Helen hadn't expected it. She felt embarrassed at the compliment. She was well aware of the closeness between them and that Yvonne was rather protective of Nikki.
"How do you feel about going home?"
"Anxious, to be honest. I haven't said so to Nikki though. I don't want her to worry."
"No problem. Mum's the word." Yvonne smiled at her.
Nikki stood in the shower and hurriedly washed away the day. She quickly patted herself dry and rubbed her hair with a towel, combing her fingers through it in an attempt to tame it. Without bothering with any underwear she put on her jeans and a T-shirt, and slipped on her flip flops.
Helen was in her office when she heard the school door close and then a tap on the door and Nikki poked her head round.
As she walked into the room, Helen drew her breath in. The sight of Nikki's wet hair, bare feet and the fact she smelled of apples from the soap, was more than Helen could bear. It didn't help that Nikki chose to sit on the corner of the desk, and made no attempt to embrace her.
"Busy?" Nikki asked.
"No, I was just sorting out some paperwork. How was your day?"
"Long." Nikki drew out the word. "Have you eaten yet?"
"Yes, I did. Have you?"
"Yes, I grabbed something."
"You're early. It's only 7."
"I was instructed by Yvonne to leave and not keep you waiting. Apparently they can cope without me."
Helen got up and stood in front of her. She knew their conversation was banal and unnecessary. Talking was something they could do after. Helen gathered up some of Nikki's T-Shirt in her hand twisting it around her fingers and used it to slowly pull her off the desk.
"I can't." She whispered. She grabbed Nikki's neck and pulled her closer and kissed her mouth, while moving her towards the bedroom door.
Nikki felt for the handle and found it, pushing it open with her heel. They almost stumbled through the doorway. Helen closed it with one hand, while still holding onto Nikki with the other.
When Nikki found herself pushed roughly against the desk, she spun Helen round, grabbed her arms and held them at her side.
"Darling, slow down. We have all night." She looked at Helen and smiled. Helen's face was determined and when she tried to move her arms, Nikki held them in place a moment longer before releasing them.
Helen was breathing heavily and she bit her lip, trying to control herself. Her gaze wandered up Nikki's body to her eyes.
"I want you." She said it breathlessly, reaching up to caress Nikki's neck.
She saw the look on Nikki's face change and felt her shiver. For a moment she wasn't sure what she may have just unleashed in Nikki. The brown eyes now appeared intensely black and whatever Nikki was about to do, Helen was helpless to stop it and she didn't want to do. She surrendered herself. She felt Nikki's warm soft lips kiss her neck and face and mouth. Hands teasingly caressed her body before they started to remove her clothes and she gripped the edge of the desk behind her.
Nikki was being deliberately and achingly slow and it was driving Helen insane. When Nikki stopped touching her momentarily, Helen moaned her displeasure at the interruption but Nikki smothered it, kissing her hard on the mouth.
"Let go of the desk." Nikki whispered.
Helen had forgotten she was hanging on to it. Now she could feel her nails digging into the wood and she hesitated for a moment. She was convinced if she let go, she would sink and drown amidst a sea of relentless sensations.
But she released her grip and was aware of them moving, almost gliding across the floor to the short distance to the bed. When they reached it, Nikki lowered her onto her back.
Helen drowned. Her ecstasy consumed her to the point that she had no sense of where she was and she could hardly recognise herself. All she knew was that Nikki was everywhere. And her body was betraying her as she forced it to hang on. She wanted to feel this way for as long as she wished it. She was aware of trying to grab the wall behind her, then trying to push Nikki away, to stop the inevitable ending that was coming. But she couldn't.
Nikki moved rhythmically against her body, and Helen moved with her. She felt her fingers entwined in hair, gripping ever tighter and a mouth tenderly kissing her neck. Her breath laboured until she was unable to breathe. She felt her muscles tighten and strain. From somewhere in the distance she heard a scream and then recognised it as her own. Helen tried to stifle it, biting on her fist, but couldn't stop it and finally she cried out into the room.
Helen lay breathless and felt Nikki breathing heavily against her. She lifted her head, buried against her shoulder and stared at Nikki's face, touching it with her fingertips.
"Are you ok?" Nikki asked.
Helen nodded. "You're amazing." She said and kissed the lips she brushed her fingers over.
"So are you." Nikki smiled at her.
Helen maneuvered Nikki onto her side, to look at her nakedness properly and lazily trailed her hand along a thigh, barely touching the skin. She knew some would view this as a sinful and overindulgent pastime, but she couldn't believe that pleasure such as this, could be a sin. What would be the purpose in being allowed to feel it in the first place?
Nikki propped herself up and watched Helen indulge herself of her.
"You know, if this is how you intend to greet me every time now the kids have gone, I shall end up in intensive care by the end of the week." Nikki reached out and tucked Helen's hair behind her ear.
Helen tore her gaze away from her body. "Don't say things like that." She said softly. "Be serious."
"I want to make love to you all night long. Is that serious enough for you?"
Helen closed her eyes briefly and wondered how the simple things Nikki said and the way she said them, managed to affect her deeply every time. She thought it unreasonable that one person could posses such soulful eyes.
"You're looking rather exalted. Thinking you've done something sinful?" Nikki asked and Helen lowered her eyes.
"Oh my God. That's what you are thinking." Nikki laughed. "Why darling, you've done this before?"
"I know. But." Helen sighed.
"What? You had a very healthy and satisfying sex life with David, that's evident from what you've said about him. And you managed to maintain it for many years. Not many couples do." Nikki said.
"Yes we did. I guess most people have this myth that all Catholics are uptight about sex. It's not necessarily the case."
"Darling, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to explain that, and you need a second opinion, you can count on me to back you up."
Helen slapped her thigh. "What I'm trying to say, is that there's a difference here."
"In what way?"
"I can't quite describe it. Sex with David was wonderful and a man's body is obviously different but," She hesitated, trying to find the right words.
Nikki took one of Helen's hands and clasped it with her own.
"I guess the difference is that with a woman's body, you know it. You know what you're doing to it and there's an added excitement. A man's body you don't, you can only tell by the way they react. Does that make sense?" She hoped it did.
"I can't comment darling. I wouldn't know." Nikki smiled. "I think basically, sex can be a wonderful thing, no matter the gender. It's exhilarating when you rediscover it after being so long without it, and maybe that's why it's exhilarating for you now. You're discovering a new way to explore it."
Helen's hand wandered up to Nikki's chest, and she touched the crucifix.
'I think you're right." She said and she started to smile "You do realise that technically, you're still a virgin in the biblical sense."
Nikki burst out laughing.
"What time will you get back from George's tomorrow?" Helen asked
"Do you want me to come with you?"
"Very much. But it will only be a quick visit. If we both go we'll end up staying and I'll lose you to the village children. I don't want to share you with anyone. I want you all to myself for the next two weeks until you leave."
"Do you now?" Helen pushed Nikki onto her back.
And Nikki kept her promise.
The alarm on her watch woke Nikki up. She fumbled for it on the floor, unable to move properly as Helen lay across her. The back light showed the time as 4am and she rubbed her eyes, knowing she should get up now. As gently as possible, she moved out from underneath Helen, who stirred and then opened her eyes.
"Sorry darling. I have to go." Nikki whispered.
"I know." Helen said sleepily. She watched as Nikki dressed quickly. When she was done, she came back over to the bed.
"I'll see you later. Get some sleep." She bent down and kissed Helen. "I love you."
"Say hi to George and the children for me."
"I will." As Nikki got to the door Helen called her.
"Nikki? I love you." Nikki smiled and blew a kiss and left the room.
Nikki crept through the school room, unlocked the door and stepped outside. The sun was just starting to come up. She closed it behind her, making sure it was locked.
"Good morning Simba."
Nikki jumped. George was sitting against the wall of the school and she hadn't seen him. He smiled at her and stood up.
Nikki tried to sound matter of fact. She had no idea how long he had been there, or even how he knew that's where she would be. Normally when he would just turn up, she would find him sitting outside the dorm block, waiting until she emerged. He had never attempted to enter it. He always waited patiently, like he was on guard.
It was late afternoon and Yvonne was sitting outside the hospital entrance sipping a cup of coffee. A truck horn was blaring and as she looked in the direction of the main gate, she saw its headlights flashing frantically. The guard opened it just in time, as it raced through the opening. She stood up and threw the rest of the coffee from the mug. The truck careered towards her before stopping abruptly. Kanja jumped out of the driver's seat and she saw the gash on his head and the blood on his shirt. He looked wild and terrified. Alarmed she went to the back of the truck. George stood there and then jumped down.
"You fix, you fix now!" He urgently demanded.
Yvonne stood in shock.
"Oh fuck." She murmured. The mug slipped from her fingers and hit the ground breaking in two.
In his arms, George was cradling Nikki's body.
Helen woke up. She reached out her arm and it connected with an empty space where Nikki should be. She rubbed her eyes and sat up. The clock on the wall showed the time as 11.30am. It was the latest she had slept in, in a long time. She smiled when she realised why she was so tired and why her body ached so much. Their lovemaking had been vigorous and relentless, at times carnal and furious, then slow and sensual. The memory of it replayed in her mind and she felt stupidly happy. The reaction in her body was as strong physically, as last night, just at the mere thought about the feel and smell of Nikki's skin, Nikki's touch, Nikki's kiss. It was hard to believe that she had found love and happiness here. And she was also glad of the late hour. Nikki would be back shortly.
Helen got up, took a shower and ate some lunch before sitting back at her desk.
She finished off the report she started last night and heard the blaring of the truck. Nikki she smiled to herself, although it sounded an overly enthusiastic return.
Hurrying, she left the school house. As she looked up the road, she distinctly thought she saw George carrying Nikki into the hospital and momentarily dismissed it as her eyes playing tricks on her. But then her legs took on a life of their own and she was running as fast as she could and caught up with everybody in the entrance.
It was organised pandemonium as they ushered George towards the operating room. The whole medical team surrounded him and Helen couldn't see Nikki at all.
"What's going on?" She asked above the shouts.
Yvonne turned and came over.
"Helen, stay calm." She said. It didn't help.
"Nikki's been shot."
Helen felt dizzy and thought she was going to pass out. She made an attempt to dash after the team, but Yvonne grabbed her.
"Don't." She advised
"How bad?" Helen began to shake.
"Bad." Yvonne looked scared and it was terrifying Helen.
"Yvonne please, you're not helping." She pleaded.
"She's been shot in the leg and," Yvonne tried to calm herself. "And there's a gun shot to the side of her head."
"No." Helen repeated the word over and over. Her legs felt weak and she reached out to Yvonne.
"I want to see her."
"I know, but let the team examine her fully. She's alive but unconscious. They need to stabilise her."
"We'll find out from Kanja and George. I have to go. Stay here and we'll be back with more news."
"Will she be ok?" Yvonne just looked at her and left without answering.
Helen felt exceptionally alone. Hours before she'd been deliriously happy but now was utterly terrified. She paced up and down and tried to sit but couldn't keep still. She heard the team shouting out requests and after many minutes decided she'd rather be involved in the chaos that out of it. She went through the doors. Everybody appeared to be running back and forth with equipment.
She saw Sal first. She had George sitting in a chair and she was supporting his head with one hand, while she dabbed at his cheek with a sterile pad. Sitting next to him was Kanja, holding a large pad to his head and Helen saw the blood on his shirt.
Jean-Paul and Corrine were reclining on chairs while pumping their fists to fill up bags of their own blood.
"Helen!" She turned to see Karen hastily making her way out of the far office.
"Wait here." She instructed. She disappeared into the operating room, and then came back out.
"We've had a stroke of luck. Someone or something is on our side. A Kenyan med vac chopper's on its way. It left the other clinic and was going to stop in here. They'll be about fifteen minutes. We need to get her to Nairobi."
Helen felt she should be relieved, but her concern only heightened. If they couldn't help Nikki here?" Helen stopped herself from thinking about it.
"I can give blood." Helen offered.
"It's ok, we'll have enough." Karen said.
"Do we know what happened?" Helen managed to ask.
"Another ambush, obviously. They must have thought the truck had med supplies. One jeep with three armed men. Kanja said they shot over the top of the truck, so he had no choice but to stop. They ordered all of them out and struck him and started searching. Nikki told them they had nothing. Of course they only found her medical bag, so took that. They also demanded Kanja's watch and saw Nikki's so they handed them over."
Karen talked rapidly and stopped to take a breath. She reached out and put her hand on Helen's shoulder.
"He also saw the gold crucifix Nikki was wearing and demanded that too. She refused to give it to him. He tried to take it and she lashed out at him and he shot her in the leg. He went to take it from her when she was lying on the ground but she kicked out at him and he lost his balance and the gun went off again. George got struck by one of the other men as he went to help her. The second shot was obviously a mistake. They just left in a hurry. They were only about thirty minutes away. The Kenyan army will have a patrol out here in no time and find them."
Helen felt sick and Karen saw the colour drain from her face. Believing she was going to pass out, Karen put her arm around Helen's waist and sat her down.
"Helen? Helen?" She didn't respond. She stared blankly ahead until she was able to speak.
"Why didn't she just let him take it?" It seemed incomprehensible to Helen, for what was now such a small inconsequential token, Nikki's life hung in the balance.
"Helen?" Karen shook her slightly and Helen looked at her.
"There's not much time. Can you get some things together? Your passport, clothes? There's room for two other people on the chopper. Brian's going to monitor Nikki. You need to go too."
"Yes, yes, of course." Helen stood up. "Her father?" She said. "Her father should be told."
"Don't worry we have all his details in Nikki's file. We'll get hold of him. I'll give you Nikki's passport to take with you. Now hurry."
Helen ran from the hospital. Her surroundings became unrecognisable. The colour drained from the sky and the earth lost its red blemish, appearing grey. Her limbs felt heavy and impeded her movements, as though she were running though treacle.
She randomly grabbed clothes, shoving them into a holdall bag and picked up her passport from the desk drawer. As she looked around the room, she saw the bed and images of the night they shared came flooding back. For a moment she couldn't move. She heard the faint drumming sound of an engine and realised she needed to leave. Outside she looked through the heat haze and saw an outline of the helicopter approaching. It thundered overhead and swooped across the top of the hospital, then steadied for its decent.
Sal was waiting for her in the hospital lobby, and they raced through to the ward.
Two army clad paramedics were advancing along the corridor from the back of the hospital, wheeling a stretcher with Yvonne leading the way into the operating room.
Helen waited outside with Sal. Her heart was thumping and her mouth was so dry, she couldn't swallow.
The doors opened and Helen saw Nikki. She was strapped to the stretcher. A blanket covered her, but underneath her right leg appeared hugely swollen from treatment and padding. An oxygen mask covered her mouth and nose and an IV bag as well as a bag of blood was being held by Brian. There was blood on the side of Nikki's face and a large bandage wrap covered her head.
Helen turned quickly, fell to her knees and wretched.
Karen rushed over. "Are you ok? Do you feel faint?"
"No. I'm sorry." Helen said.
"Forget it. Come on, let's get you outside."
Karen and Sal each took an arm and escorted her down the corridor.
Outside the dust was flying as the blades from the helicopter churned up the dirt. A cover protected Nikki as they lifted her up into the body of the aircraft. Karen and Yvonne quickly hugged Helen. Then she saw Kanja and George, standing in the doorway. Kanja was crying uncontrollably and George stood like a statue. Helen saw the dark stain of blood on his robe. She went over and kissed Kanja on the cheek. Standing in front of George she looked up into his eyes. He bent down and pulled her into a crushing embrace.
"Thank-you" She whispered in Swahili.
Shielding her eyes from the dust, Helen ran over to the helicopter and the crew pulled her in and slammed the door closed.
The noise in the helicopter was drowned out in Helen's head as she sat and held Nikki's hand under the blanket. It was the only part of Nikki she could hold. She rubbed it and willed her own body to pass on its strength. Brian and the medics had her hooked up to additional equipment monitoring her heart rate in case she went into cardiac arrest and were constantly fiddling with other tubes as well as her eyelids.
Why? It was the only word that went around and around Helen's brain. It was suffocating her ability to think of anything else. Why is this happening again?
When David was trapped in the wreckage of their car, Helen was unaware that he was conscious. Such was the force of the collision, their car rolled over and she was rendered unconscious. She knew nothing until she woke up in the hospital. It was only later that she learnt David was still alive. He begged the emergency services to get Helen out of the car before attempting to free him. But the only way they could get to her, was to remove him first. They cut away most of the car. The engine was shoved so far into the cabin, it trapped his legs. He was bleeding internally; then he slipped away into unconsciousness and finally death.
Helen was grateful at the time, that she was spared the anguish of being awake and trapped with him, and having to watch him slowly die. But the experience was being visited upon her now and she wondered why? Was it in some way a closure for David? That she wasn't able to comfort him then, but she could comfort Nikki now? Or was it an outright punishment. A retribution of some kind?.
The subsequent arrival three hours later at the Aga Kahn University Hospital was just as dramatic for Helen as the events that precipitated it. Traffic was stopped to allow the helicopter to land as close to the hospital as possible. From there it was a blurred memory of activity for her. She blindly followed Brian and the team of hospital doctors who took over from the med. vac paramedics. Brian talked with one of the doctor's as they walked quickly down a corridor.
She attempted to follow the doctors into a lift but was barred from entering. Brian gently took her arm and led her away.
"It's ok Helen. They'll take over now." He said it gently, trying to reassure her with his voice. "I'm just going to call Karen. Sit here for a moment. I'll be right back." She watched him leave, escorted by a nurse, who showed him into an office.
It seemed he was gone for hours, but it was no more than ten minutes. The nurse followed him back to Helen.
"Do you want a drink?" He asked, but Helen ignored the question.
"Where have they taken her?"
Brain sat beside her. "They've taken her to surgery." He could tell by Helen's expression she didn't comprehend.
"Er." He hesitated. Just when Helen didn't think it could get any worse, she discovered it could.
"There's a bullet fragment logged just by Nikki's brain. As far as we could tell back at the hospital, it hasn't entered the brain. There was no way we could remove it. The medical equipment here is far superior. And I know the surgeon's reputation. Nikki couldn't be in better hands."
Helen folded her arms across her chest. The uncontrollably shaking was immediate, as though she had walked into a freezer naked. Her teeth were chattering and her whole body shook in convulsions.
Brian grabbed her shoulders forcing her head to her knees. The nurse rushed off and returned with a cup.
"Helen, come on, drink this." Brain helped her to hold it. It was warm and sickeningly sweet tea. The moment it hit her stomach it was like a rush of warmth through her body.
"Better?" He held her wrist as he checked her pulse. Helen nodded.
"Good. You went into shock on us. Not surprising really. It's been very traumatic. Not something friends should ever see happen to one another."
Helen knew Brian, like most of the team, was oblivious to the true nature of their relationship. He wondered at first why neither Karen nor Yvonne accompanied Nikki to the hospital, and assumed Helen was their closest choice due to their commitments.
"Thank you." Helen said it to the nurse as she took the cup from Helen's hand.
"I hate to do this to you, but I've done all I can here. The med vac guys are kindly going too take me back with them, to rejoin their training. Will you be ok? This nurse will look after you." Brian patted Helen's hand. "Once Nikki's out of surgery, and through recovery, you'll probably be able to go up to her room and sit with her."
"How long will she be in surgery?"
"That depends. Hopefully not long. Maybe one or two hours." Brian was trying to fathom if Helen was actually taking in the information.
"Karen said they got hold of Nikki's dad soon after we took off. And they spoke to him again about thirty minutes ago. He's managed to book a flight already. He'll be here tomorrow some time."
"Ok. That's good." Helens eyes appeared vacant.
"Listen, you need to eat, drink and get some sleep." Brian tried a forceful tone.
"I know, I'm sorry Brian. I am listening. It's just all too surreal at the moment."
"They have our contact number here and we'll be ringing regularly. Just ask them to call us, if you need to talk or anything. One of us will be by that phone day and night." He assured her.
The wait was excruciating as Helen sat in the reception area. She chose a seat that allowed her to see the reception desk and along the corridor both ways, as well as all the lifts.
Magazines were on a table, and she picked up one from the top, not bothering to look at its title. It was merely a distraction. She flipped through the pages, over and over, not bothering to read any of the articles and barely looking at the images. Her mind wouldn't allow it.
One of the lift doors opened and Helen saw a very tall doctor, still in scrubs, approach the desk and speak to one of the women there. Helen was pointed out to him and she stood up immediately and made her way to join him.
"I am Doctor Henry Raburu. You are a friend of Nikki Wade?" He held out his hand.
He towered over her and Helen looked up at him. For a split second it seemed an insane thought to have, amidst the situation, but Helen wondered if it was a criterion of the profession, that all doctors' had to be tall.
"Yes, I am. How is she?"
"We removed a fragment of bullet from her head. It had penetrated the skull, but it had not penetrated the brain" He smiled, as though pleased.
"Will she be ok?" Helen was almost afraid to ask.
"We will have to see. At the moment, she is heavily sedated and we will keep her that way. So she will be on a unit to breathe for her. Please don't be too alarmed at that. I am happy with everything. Now it is up to Nikki." He was still smiling.
"When can I see her?"
"This nurse will take you to the room. She should be there already."
"Thank you doctor."
The nurse stopped at a door and pushed it open for Helen, standing back to allow her to enter.
"If you need anything, we are just at the end of the hall." She advised.
"Thank you." Helen stepped into the room. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the lighting. The corridor was bright, but the room was dimly lit.
As her eyes adjusted, the bed came into view and Helen put her hand over her mouth to suppress the gasp.
On one side of the bed, a machine bleeped. Helen saw the cardiac line as it raced and peaked across the screen. On the other side was another machine. The hiss and whoosh of the compression unit, pumped air long a tube that disappeared into Nikki's mouth. Her chest rose and fell in time with the sound. Tubes and lines appeared to be spewing out of her body like tentacles'.
Helen could see very little of Nikki's face as she moved closer. Her head was padded and bandaged and the only exposed parts were her cheeks. Helen leant towards her and kissed one.
She looked round the room and saw two chairs. Picking one up, she set it as close as she could to the bed. Again, the only part of Nikki she could hold was one hand and she kissed the palm then held it against her cheek and slowly the tears came tumbling over her eyelids.
Summoning the anger, Helen released the veiled threat and she knew who it was aimed at.
"Don't you dare take her."
She felt knotted and tense inside. A suppressed anger bubbling under the weight of her worry and fear of what might happen. And still the question, why?
For the rest of the night, Helen sat talking to her. She injected into the conversation "Wake up Nikki" as a gentle command to stimulate a response.
Nurses came and got her whenever Karen or Yvonne called. She hated being away from Nikki for the brief time she was gone. She did her best for their sake, to be strong, but was aware they were ringing for her well being as well as Nikki's.
And in all this time, Helen didn't bother to pray once.
Helen came out of the office after speaking with Yvonne. She could see daylight outside but had no sense of what time of day it was. She saw a clock on the wall and the time showed 3.30pm. She made her way hurriedly towards the lift and saw a water fountain. It sparked some primal need for water and she went over to it.
As she bent her head to it, she heard a man's voice behind her at the reception desk. It had a deep timber resonance to it, a voice of clarity and strength.
"I'm here to see my daughter Nicola Wade. Could you tell me which room she's in please?"
Helen turned and saw him. He was taller than Nikki. Almost ram rod straight. His dark hair was streaked with grey and he had the same mouth. But it wasn't the resemblance that took Helen's breath away. It was what he was wearing.
Although he had a dark jacket hanging over his arm, his outfit was recognisable the world over. The black short sleeved shirt highlighted the whiteness of the dog collar.
She walked over to him. "Reverend Wade?"
He turned and looked at her. "I'm Helen Stewart. I can show you to Nikki's room."
"Please Helen, its Douglas." Nikki's father attempted to smile and held out his hand and Helen shook it. He picked up a holdall bag at his feet.
"Karen explained that I would find you here. How is she?" He asked as he followed Helen into the lift. She pushed the button for the floor and did her best not to sound upset.
"She's had a comfortable night. You may be alarmed when you see her, she has several machines." keeping her alive but Helen couldn't say it. "To be honest, at the moment it's up to Nikki."
Douglas looked at her and it was obvious she hadn't slept. He nodded his understanding. "I see, thank you for your honesty."
"I'm sorry that you've had to come all this way, to see her like this. You must be very worried."
"Yes, the phone call was a shock. I was lucky to get a flight so soon. I don't know what I would have done if I had had to wait."
They arrived at the room and Helen opened the door. She stood back and Douglas entered. He set down the bag and his jacket on a chair and walked over to the bed. He stood there, looking at Nikki for several moments, before bending to kiss her cheek. He straightened up and continued to watch her, and when Helen saw his shoulders start to shake, she quietly left the room, so he could have some privacy with his daughter.
Helen found a chair out in the corridor and sat down resting her head in her hands. She felt exhausted but couldn't sleep. Fear was keeping her awake. The fear that if she allowed herself to sleep she would lose Nikki. If Nikki was too die, as David had, that she would miss it. And she didn't want too. She wanted the chance to say goodbye. To be with Nikki when she left her.
She had no idea how long she had been sitting there, when Douglas spoke.
"Helen? Are you ok?"
She looked up at him and saw the redness around his eyes.
"My dear, you look exhausted. Have you slept at all?" He asked.
"No, but it doesn't matter. I couldn't sleep if my life depended upon it."
"Well, Nikki's might. Come on back into the room and sit."
He helped her up, putting his arm around her shoulder. He made her sit in one of the chairs in the room and placed another next to it.
"May I ask, are you a very close friend of Nikki's?"
From his tone and expression Helen knew he was trying to ask about the nature of their relationship.
"Yes, I am. Nikki and I." She became emotional and was unable to continue.
"I'm sorry to be so guarded in asking. I didn't like to assume in case I was wrong. I met Trish a few times many years ago. That was such a tragedy."
"That's ok, I understand." She wiped some stray tears from her cheek.
"Have you known her long?" Helen told him about her time at the school.
"This must be very shocking for you. Can you tell me what happened, if it's not too upsetting? Karen tried to explain, but I must admit I wasn't really listening after a while."
She told him what she knew of the incident. When she explained about the crucifix, she could barely speak.
"I gave it to her. We'd had something similar happen some months before, and I wanted to feel that she would be protected. I never imagined." Helen put her hand over her mouth but couldn't stop the sob that escaped.
Douglas reached out and patted her hand. She composed herself and carried on until she explained everything that happened after.
"It would seem Nikki is surrounded by people who care about her deeply. I am grateful to everybody for what they did." Douglas said.
He asked more about the hospital and the school and Helen found herself telling him all about it. He was so easy to talk to and it took a while for Helen to realise how he gently encouraged her to talk.
"It certainly seems an extraordinary but rewarding experience."
"Yes these last seven months have been. It's certainly changed my life."
"What was your life like before?" Douglas tilted his head to one side, looking slightly intrigued as he asked.
Before she knew it, Helen told him everything. He sat quietly, gently asking questions, weeding out of her about her family, David, the accident and her faith.
A nurse entered the room and checked on Nikki, renewing an empty IV bag. She smiled at them both before she left.
"When was the last time you ate something?" Douglas asked. Helen couldn't remember and shook her head.
"They must have a cafeteria here. Let me go and ask and bring us something to eat."
"I can go, you should stay here with Nikki."
Douglas looked at her and wasn't convinced she had the energy to make the trip.
"You stay Helen. I'll be fine knowing you're with her."
"I have some money." Helen offered and went to fetch her bag.
"That's alright. I managed to change some money at Heathrow. I'll be right back." He gave her a reassuring smile and left the room.
Helen felt enormously relieved that he was here and they could support each other through it, although she knew Douglas so far, had been the more supportive. She stood by the bed and looked at Nikki.
"Your dad's a lovely man. Why didn't you ever mention what he was sweetheart? What drove you to be so distant from him?" She stroked Nikki's face and kissed her cheek, giving her another reminder.
"Come on Nikki, wake up."
Helen tried to eat the snack Douglas gave her, but her stomach was so knotted that after a few bites, she began to feel sick. The coffee went down easier and it made her feel better.
Helen asked Douglas about his parish. He told her it was in a small village called Aldbury in Hertfordshire and he and his late wife moved there with their son just before Nikki was born. He had remained ever since.
"The idyllic English village, one of those chocolate box ones." He smiled.
"Obviously things have changed since then, but there is still that community feel about it. I've been very lucky to have been given the support of the village all these years and can only hope I have provided them with just the same."
"What was Nikki like as a child?"
"Passionate." Douglas said without hesitation. "But in a quiet way if you know what I mean. It was all in there, behind the eyes. She was studious and very caring and thoughtful. Not so much in the things she said, but the things she did. Didn't like injustice, even as a small child. She was very observant, listening carefully to things. She is very much like Claudine, my late wife. Daniel was too."
His faced showed deep pride as he spoke of his children and she noticed that he gave no credit to himself for their personality. To Helen it was so obvious in the short time she had known him, who Nikki took after.
"Nikki said her mother was French."
"Yes. We met at Oxford University. I was studying philosophy and theology and she was studying English literature. We both attended the same bible group. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I have to say, it was love at first sight. Then as I got to know her, so I knew my heart was lost. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to ask if she would accompany me to a concert. I managed to get tickets back then to a young pop heart throb. Cliff Richard."
"Anyway, I must have made an impression. Apparently she had been wondering how long it would take me to ask. From then on, I never looked back. She was incredibly supportive and took on the mantle of being a future vicar's wife. And she was an incredible mother. I have no idea what she saw in me."
His smile faded slightly and Helen saw a shadow of sadness cloud his face and thought what a loss it must have been to him and his children.
As far as Helen was concerned, it wasn't difficult to see why Claudine had fallen for him. Estimating his age, based on Nikki's and her brother being older, Helen figured him to be about seventy. But he certainly didn't look it. He was still a striking man, and in his early twenties would have cut a handsome and dashing figure. But it was his gentle, calming spirit that would have captured any young woman's heart.
She wondered how so much tragedy could befall one person, and yet they still managed to find a way through it. She felt her anger rise again, has it had done last night.
"I noticed they have an all faiths prayer room down stairs." Douglas said. "I was thinking of going. Would you like to come too, for a short while?"
Helen stiffened slightly at the suggestion and Douglas noticed.
"What it is Helen?" He inquired.
She looked at him before answering. "How have you coped with so much and yet still believe?"
Douglas sat back as he saw the conflict in her face. It surprised him at first and he wondered why he hadn't seen it before. It should have been so obvious to him.
He leant forward and took her hands in his own. "What you're experiencing, many others have gone through before you. Call it a crisis of faith if you like. You're asking why aren't you, why is this happening again?"
Helen felt herself begin to tremble.
"Perfectly understandable under the circumstances. After all, did you deserve what happened to David and your baby? Do you deserve what's happened to Nikki?"
She closed her eyes.
"Of course not. Neither do I and neither does she. But it happens to many, many people. Of all the tragedies that befall us, none can be worse than the loss of a child. No parent should ever know that agony. We should never have to share in the anguish that He suffered at the loss of His own."
Helen listened to his voice and a part of her wanted him to stop.
"You feel it's some kind of punishment, a test, a lesson He's teaching you. That He's abandoned you." Douglas stated and she opened her eyes.
"When David was killed, what gave you strength?"
Douglas just smiled at her. "That's who you tuned to. But what gave you the strength to endure it?"
Helen looked at him and she already knew the answer.
"My love for David."
"My love for Nikki."
"And where does that ability to love come from?"
"No matter the outcome, you will always have that love. You know He's not testing you. You know that's not what He's about Helen, you know He would never do that." Helen nodded. Huge tears rolled down her cheeks and Douglas pulled her to him.
"He's here with us right now. He's been there from the start. A tiny coincidence that an army helicopter just happened to be in the vicinity on that very day?"
Helen managed a half smile.
"I know exactly how you are feeling. I felt the same myself." Helen pulled back to look at him.
"Oh yes. After the loss of my wife and then my son, I asked the same. What was God telling me, what lesson was He showing me. You would have thought in my position I would have known. I had no answers, because I was looking too deeply at the questions. God wasn't testing me. I was testing Him. I was so blinded by my grief and anger that I lost sight that the most important thing was my love for my family. By the time I realised, I had lost my daughter too."
"In what way?" Helen asked. Douglas released her and went over to the bed.
"When Claudine was first diagnosed, she didn't want to tell the children. But I thought they were old enough to be aware, Danny was sixteen and Nikki eleven. I realised looking back, that maybe Nikki was too young to comprehend in some respects. I'd said that we must pray and hope that she would be well. Nikki took it literally. She totally believed that God would answer her prayers and save her mother, and of course, with the treatments, she recovered and was cancer free for two years."
Douglas took Nikki's hand.
"Then it came back, but this time it also went to her liver. Within three months she was gone and Nikki was devastated. I think in a way, she felt responsible, that she hadn't done enough in God's eyes. Then Danny was killed a year later. She was very close to him and I found his loss very hard and in essence Nikki lost me too. I think she looked upon God as no longer infallible in her eyes and in a way, I disappointed her, that I was still able to believe in Him. I think she felt terribly let down."
As he continued speaking, it became obvious to Helen that he was talking directly to Nikki. The regret, guilt and love he felt for her was so evident in his voice.
"I should have been more aware of what she was going through. Her own personal struggles, about herself. I never knew if she felt she couldn't tell me about it, because she thought I would find it abhorrent, or that she didn't want to worry me with her own feelings. It has never bothered me, only in that she never was able to talk to me about it. I don't care. All that matters, all that should ever matter above anything else is that she's my daughter."
He bent down and kissed Nikki's cheek.
Helen didn't think she could take any more emotion. Tears once again fell unbidden from her eyes and she clenched her fists in an attempt to stop them.
"Douglas, did you still want to go to the prayer room?" Helen said when she was finally able to speak. He turned and looked at her.
"Yes, I'd like that very much."
They weren't absent for too long. Helen felt renewed spiritually and knew she owed it to Douglas. She had stumbled slightly, and she was grateful that someone was there to offer a helping hand in finding her way back.
When they got back to the room, Doctor Raburu and a nurse were checking on Nikki.
"This is Nikki's father. This is Dr Raburu." Helen offered the introduction.
The two men shook hands.
"How is she?" Douglas asked.
"Very stable. I am pleased with everything so far." He smiled back.
"Thank you doctor, for all that you have done."
He completed his examination and left.
They sat for several more hours, talking out loud and including Nikki in the conversation, asking her questions to stimulate a response.
When Helen realised she couldn't remember when she had last showered, she thought she should do something about it.
She went to the nurse's station at the end of the corridor and asked if there was somewhere she could freshen up. The nurse smiled at her and led her to a bathroom with a shower cubicle.
"Don't worry, take your time, at this late hour, we won't have any patients wishing to use it."
"Thank you so much." Helen felt grateful. She retrieved her holdall with her clothes from the room and went back to the bathroom.
She stood, leaning against the wall with her arms and let the hot water pound against her body. The heat revived her tired muscles but she still wasn't able to relax enough knowing she was away from Nikki.
Helen remembered what Douglas said about her and everything about Nikki now fell into place. Then she thought about what Nikki said to her that night in the hotel in Mombasa "And what about you Helen? What exactly are you hiding from?" All this time Helen realised, Nikki had been observing and listening, and knew Helen better than she knew herself.
"Helen, why don't you try and sleep, we can take it in turns." Douglas suggested.
"I don't think I could."
"Wait a moment." He left the room and returned with another blanket.
"Here, just sit in the chair and put this around you." Helen could see it was no use protesting and did as he asked.
"Just relax a little." He smiled at her and took a chair back over to the bed. He sat and opened a bible.
"Maybe this will make her wake up." He waved it at Helen. "She's likely to tell me to shut up."
He smiled and Helen laughed. She sat back in the chair and listened to his voice and was totally entranced. He read with such belief and conviction Helen didn't think she had heard scripture spoken so beautifully. She closed her eyes and after a while she was lulled into the sleep she so desperately needed.
Helen was lying on the ground, her eyes closed. She breathed in deeply, feeling the sun on her face and it warmed her checks and eyelids. She reached out and felt the earth beneath her fingers, gritty, dusty earth.
She heard the voice call her name and recognised it immediately. She opened her eyes and sat up. Squinting against the sun, she watched as the figure in the distance came into view.
Nikki was walking towards her, smiling and waving. "Helen!" She called out again.
Helen just sat there, waiting for her to get closer. "She's so gorgeous." Helen said to herself and sighed as she continued to watch her approach.
Then Helen spotted a darker shape just behind Nikki. She couldn't tell what it was but it had the sense of menace about it. As she looked harder the shape became clearer and her fear rose.
"Simba!" She exclaimed to herself.
The male lion was walking slowly, a magnificent mane of hair around his huge head, which rippled in the slight breeze. His massive feet were deliberate in their movements and puffs of dust rose as he walked. For a moment Helen forgot her fear and was mesmerized by his beauty.
Then she saw his movements change. His shoulders hunched and his body lowered, his head perfectly still as his eyes fixed a head of him. He was getting ready for the hunt, stalking his prey. And his prey was Nikki.
Helen tried to stand up, but she couldn't move. She tried to shout, but even though her mouth opened, no sound came out. She tried again, becoming more frantic as she realised Nikki had no idea what was coming up behind her.
Now the lion's face changed. His lips curled back showing off massive teeth and he broke into a run.
"Nikki!" She heard the scream in her head, but still no sound. Over and over she cried out her name, desperately trying to move her paralyzed body. There was nothing she could do as she watched the lion accelerate. And still Nikki was unaware of the danger.
Then ever so gracefully the lion launched himself into the air. His jaw opened wider and his claws extended.
"Nikki!" She screamed her name long and hard and this time there was sound, but it came too late. Helen watched in terror as the lion bore down and obliterated Nikki from view.
Helen woke with a jolt, gripping the chair, her heart pounding. It took her a moment to realise where she was.
She felt someone gently shaking her shoulder and looked up to see who was standing over her. As she looked at his face, she was horrified.
Douglas looked at her and tears were streaming down his face.
Yvonne and Karen were in the office when there was a tap on the door.
"Hiya." Helen stood in the doorway.
"Oh my God. What are you doing here? We weren't expecting you till next week?" Karen said.
"Somebody was getting impatient to return." Helen informed them.
Nikki appeared behind her. She limped into the room, using a walking stick as support.
Karen rushed at Nikki. She hugged her but was unable to speak at first. Wiping tears from her face she kissed Nikki on the cheek.
"It's so good to see you." Then they both laughed and Karen moved to embrace Helen.
Nikki looked over at Yvonne. She appeared completely unable to move.
Yvonne rose slowly from her chair and gripped the desk. Since Nikki's recovery, they had spoken on the phone but finally seeing her now bought a tidal wave of emotion. Six years ago she had witnessed the death of her friend Trish in front of her eyes and the same thing had almost happened to Nikki. Her face crumpled and she broke down completely.
Nikki hobbled over and put her arm around her shoulder and Yvonne collapsed into her body.
Helen and Karen quietly left the office.
Lifting her head from Nikki's shoulder, Yvonne's smokey voice cracked as she mustered the ability to speak.
"Don't ever do that again." She demanded.
"I won't. I promise." Nikki smiled at her. "This is becoming a habit of mine. You're the second woman to have cried themselves to pieces on my shoulder. Helen had the same reaction. And she said the same thing. There something you need to tell me?"
Yvonne rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Don't knock it till you've tried it." Nikki told her.
"Oh bugger off! You're obviously frigging better."
Helen and Karen were sitting outside.
"So, how's she been, truthfully?" Karen asked.
"Truthfully?" Helen shook her head in disbelief. "Incredible. I can't believe it. It seems too strong a word to use, but I can't think of another. It's a miracle."
Karen rubbed her arm as tears welled in Helen's eyes. "How was it back home? Did you see your family?"
"Yes." Helen wiped her eyes. She saw Karen was reluctant to ask how it went.
"They need time. My mum was confused and couldn't understand. My dad reacted a little better. I'm not sure what Nikki said to him and she wouldn't tell me, but they disappeared down the local pub. Always a good ploy with my dad. He tried to be a little more open to the idea."
One of the first people Helen visited, before her own family, was Sister Michael. They sat and talked for a long time. She appeared understanding but not disappointed and it surprised Helen. It was a reaction she was expecting from everybody. Sister Michael provided her with guidance and as Helen was leaving she spoke of what had been on Helen's mind.
"You seemed surprised that I wasn't shocked?"
Helen went to speak but Sister Michael held up her hand.
"I've known you many years my dear and watched you grow into adulthood. You're a wonderful, good, caring and honest person Helen. You're honesty is what I admire most. I'm not here to judge. But I will always be here as a friend and someone you can always come to. Never forget that. And I'm so very glad you want to continue with the school."
"Are you both serious about coming back here?" Karen asked.
"Oh yes. Nikki was dying to get back and I want to carry on with the school, as long as they are happy to let me. I was fully prepared for them to extricate me as far away from it as possible. But I have an ally in Sister Michael. Basically I think any possibility teaching again at St John's would compromise the school and I wouldn't do that to them anyway. Another year here and new local teachers should be ready to take over. The hospital in Nairobi was very interested in Nikki. So that could be a possibility in the future if she wanted to pursue it. We'll take things slowly, one day at a time until then."
Karen frowned. "What's wrong Karen?" Helen asked her.
"I don't know, it seems you've had to sacrifice a part of yourself for the sake of others. Aren't you a little angry at that?"
"No. I look at what I've gained." Helen smiled at her. "Does it mean I have to give up my faith? No. I know we live in a very accepting world, but there is still a sanctity and sacredness about my faith that I respect and therefore it would be hypocritical of me to think it wouldn't matter. To some, and in all good conscious, I know myself, I have crossed a line. I must respect that some people may not be so accepting."
Karen smiled at her. "You know, Nikki is very lucky to have met you."
"I happen to think it's the other way around. What about you, are you going to stay?" Helen asked her.
"Funny you should ask, Yvonne and I were just talking about it last night. We'll both probably stay another year. I'm taking some leave in a couple of months to go home and see Tom and other family. It's been a year since I was last there. Yvonne said that Lauren is going to come over not long after that, so she'll meet her in Nairobi and they are planning a safari trip. Basically the pair of us are ok financially. Always pays to have a good divorce lawyer." She winked.
"By the way, we met up with Tom and Lauren. He's well and working hard on his medical studies." Helen continued to tell Karen about their meeting with him.
"I think we shall be celebrating tonight. Yvonne's still got some scotch left." Karen said.
"Good, 'cos we smuggled in some more." Helen grinned.
"How was it back home?" Yvonne asked Nikki.
"Both of you."
"It went better than I thought. Her mum was shocked. Her dad a little better. Helen was quite remarkable. I think she had prepared herself, but I was glad I was there for support anyway."
They were sitting in the office, talking and dealing with the interruptions from the rest of the team, who heard of their return and came in to see her. They were pleased that she was back amongst them and Nikki was overwhelmed by the response.
"We saw Lauren."
"Oh thanks Nik for making the effort. How is she?"
"Fine. Loving Uni and looking forward to coming out here."
"Did you see Diane?"
"Yes, we popped in to her office to say thanks for arranging all our flights back to the UK. She was a real trooper." Nikki smiled as she remembered them meeting again after so long.
Helen was with her, when they walked into the Estate Agents. When Diane saw her, she shrieked and hurled herself at Nikki, laughing and crying at the same time before she took them back to her office.
"Are you ok, are you sure? Are you in any pain? Do you want a more comfortable chair?" She went on for several more moments like a mother fussing over her, before Nikki convinced her she was fine.
"Oh it's so lovely to see you. Mum and dad will be so excited. They love getting your letters. We all do. They'll be so happy to see you Nikki."
Diane knew how worried they were about Nikki after Trish's death. Even while dealing with their own terribly loss, it was compounded by the belief that they weren't sure at the time, Nikki would survive it herself.
"I can't wait to see them either." Nikki told her.
When they got up to leave, Diane escorted them out. Just as Helen walked out onto the high street, Diane grabbed Nikki's arm and pulled her back.
"Trish would approve," Diane winked. "She's a babe."
"By the way," Yvonne said. "The Kenyan army caught those guys. There was a gun battle, allegedly. None of them survived." Yvonne looked quietly pleased.
Kanja was beside himself when Nikki crept up behind him, as he worked on one of the jeep engines. One of the other drivers met the plane and like Karen and Yvonne, he wasn't expecting to see her until the following week.
Helen was anxious to see the children again. It was six weeks since the shooting and in another week the summer break would be over.
When Douglas woke her that morning in the hospital and she saw his face, she thought Nikki was dead. His tears turned out to be those of joy that Nikki had woken up. Within two weeks Nikki announced she was discharging herself and they were on their way back to the UK.
They spent a few days with Douglas and Helen was glad to see a new bridge was being built between the two of them and the distance was starting to close.
When they started their travels to visit Helen's family, they were alone together staying at a hotel. Helen discovered that despite Nikki's injuries, she was physically fit and more than capable of sex. The first time they made love, Helen was overwhelmed with emotion. It had only been recently as she looked at her lying in that hospital bed, that Helen thought she would never hold Nikki again.
Nikki borrowed the keys to one of the jeeps and handed them to Helen. She decided they should go for a short drive, out of the compound and she wanted Helen to feel comfortable with the fact that what happened was never going to again.
They didn't drive too far. Nikki got Helen to stop at a small rise in the landscape and they got out and went and sat on top of the hill, looking out at the view.
Helen snuggled into Nikki's body, pulling Nikki's arms around her shoulders and smiled as Nikki kissed the top of her head. They sat silently for a while.
"What exactly did you talk to my dad about?" Helen asked.
"His daughter of course," Helen shoved Nikki playfully. "I promised him I would never hurt you. And if I did, what one man couldn't achieve, he could finish the job and I would gladly provide him with the gun."
Helen laughed and looked at her, but she didn't see the usual humour in the brown eyes.
"You're serious?" Helen stated.
"Totally." Nikki kissed her.
"Well, I have no worries there. My dad wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Never underestimate what a father is willing to do for his daughter." Helen knew there was a prophetic meaning in Nikki's statement.
"It's going to be very emotional when you see George. For both of you." Helen said.
For all the emotion that they had gone through the last few weeks, Nikki seemed to take much of it in her stride, her self control allowing her to remain strong for both of them. But Helen knew George would be different. He was as strong as Nikki and his stoicism would be her undoing. He was the man who had held her, carried her and basically kept her alive until they got to the hospital compound.
"I know. We'll go out there tomorrow. Although I have a sneaky feeling he'll turn up. It wouldn't surprise me if he finds out by tonight."
The sun was starting to lower itself towards the horizon and they sat watching it.
"When did you know?" Helen asked.
"Know what?" Nikki frowned.
"How you felt about me?"
"Hmm. Lets see. Probably when you climbed up onto the hospital bed that time, to apply pressure to the young boy's leg."
"But I'd just arrived?" Helen said disbelieving.
"I know. But you certainly peaked my interest. You didn't run from a potentially fatal outcome. You were prepared to do anything to save his life. And then of course, the ambush. Again, you did the same thing. That was a very courageous thing to do."
Nikki leant towards her and kissed her lips again. "So, when did you know?"
Helen saw the look on Nikki's face and knew she really didn't have to tell her. Nikki had been aware of Helen's feelings for her, before Helen knew herself.
"I think it just crept up on me. Lots of things, that gradually fell into place. And then the trip to George's village. That was probably the defining moment."
"Has it all been worth it?"
Helen knew it was a complex question. There were a myriad of incidents in their lives that had lead them both to this moment.
"Yes." Helen didn't hesitate in answering. She knew if they could turn back the clock and things could have been different for others in their lives. But that was now the past.
"Many things have changed for you though." Nikki looked at her.
"Yes, they have, but I believe it's been for a reason. I've been given a chance to feel this way again. Something I didn't think would ever happen and that was because I felt guilty in wanting it, after David. I was living a half life. But you knew that. We both were. If God did have a plan, then I think it was to save me from myself. I believe He saved us both."
Helen touched Nikki's cheek with her hand. "Are you happy?"
"Yes. Completely and utterly."
The sun was touching the horizon, sinking into the earth. The shimmer in the distance made it look like a vast ocean and Helen could almost imagine the sound of it hissing, like a hot pan immersed into cold water.
"What is it about this place that gets you right here?" Helen touched her heart with her hand. She said it quietly, in awe as she watched the spectacle before her.
"This," Nikki swept her arm across the landscape. "To some people probably appears to be the most Godforsaken place on earth. It's barren and brutal. It's about just surviving and existing. But as primitive and as basic as it is, in one respect, it's the closet to God one could hope to be. And in trying to understand Him. Don't you think?"
Helen looked at her, astounded. The last piece of the puzzle that was Nikki fell into place and she now understood her completely. And without any doubt what so ever, Helen knew why she was here and why she loved her.
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