Nikki Wade was sitting in her armchair beside a roaring log fire firmly ensconced in a book. She loved to immerse herself in a good story; it let her forget about the real world for a few hours. She had very eclectic tastes when it came to books but her favourites were often the classics. She had recently branched out in to books that were no longer in print and had managed to find some very valuable first editions. Since moving to the small village she now lived in, she had busied herself with sorting out the garden, building up her book collection and renovating her spacious cottage.
She had previously been employed as a computer programmer; she and a close friend had made a fortune when a large corporate company wanted to buy their programme. They sold it to them for 30 million pounds, Nikki took her half which she invested in the stock market and the returns meant that she was even richer now than she had been before. She sometimes missed not having a job but her accumulation of wealth meant that she could afford to find ways of occupying herself. Her peace was soon interrupted when her partner of 3 years came rushing in to the room. Sighing, she put the book down and gave her full attention to her other half.
"What's the matter now Trish?" Nikki said wearily, ever since they had moved in six months ago, Trish always had one problem or another.
"I was in the shower and the water suddenly went cold, honest to god Nikki does nothing work in this bloody place?" Trish was annoyed, she hated the cottage.
"I'll take a look." Nikki stood up and went to check what the problem was, sure enough the boiler had broken down, "boiler is knackered, I'll have to get a plumber in tomorrow."
"And just what do you suggest I do in the meantime?"
"Do what they used to before boilers were invented, boil some water and fill the bath up."
"Oh for god sake! This place should be condemned; it's a heap of shit."
"No its not, it's a lovely house. Its old and it has problems, you've already had a shower and it will be fixed tomorrow so where's the harm?"
"I'm off to a hotel for the night, I can't live in conditions like this." Trish flounced off upstairs to get dressed, Nikki followed her.
"What for? The fire heats the whole house. I'll just bank it up before we go to bed."
"Fine you do that, but I'm going to a hotel." Trish stuffed some things in to an overnight bag and slammed the front door behind her.
Nikki knew exactly what was wrong with Trish, she hadn't expected to move out to the country and live in a modest property, she had expected her to buy a big manor house somewhere. Nikki didn't see the point in living in a house that big when you would never use all the space, there was just the two of them and the cottage was more than big enough for them. Nikki also didn't see the point on spending obscene amounts of money to live in the lap of luxury when you could put your money to better uses. She regularly donated large sums of money to charities, which was something else Trish detested.
Nikki had more money than she would ever be able to spend in a lifetime but that didn't stop Trish from trying. Nikki wanted a quiet life and just lately she hadn't been getting it, no matter how hard she tried Trish was never happy. It ranged from the food they ate to the wine they drank and all the other things in-between. Trish always wanted to buy the most expensive brands she could find, which weren't necessarily always the best. Nikki on the other hand bought things because she liked the taste, which meant that Trish always sulked whenever Nikki went shopping.
Nikki banked the fire up for the night and then climbed the stairs to bed; she snuggled down under the duvet and closed her eyes, blanking out all thoughts of Trish. She wasn't worried; she knew Trish would be back in the morning once her temper had worn off. She felt guilty for thinking about it but she wished things were different, she wished that she had somebody who loved her for who she was, not because of how rich she was. She had always had a suspicion that Trish had been far more interested in the money than anything else. She drifted off to sleep thinking about what it would be like to have somebody by her side that truly loved her.
Nikki was up early the next morning to call the plumber, who promised to come around straightway. After the plumber left, she had eaten her breakfast and was now at a loose end. Trish still hadn't shown up but that was nothing unusual as Trish liked to sleep in past lunchtime, she left her a note and then climbed in to her car. She drove through the winding leafy village, which was always quiet no matter what time of the day or night it was. She drove down the country lane that would eventually get her to the motorway, she had decided on a shopping trip at her favourite bookstore in the nearest town.
The wind whipped Nikki's hair up and the bitingly cold temperature made her teeth chatter, she locked her car and then hurried up the road to the bookshop. She opened the door and the warm air hit her, along with the smell of hundreds of old dusty books. It was a comforting smell, one that Nikki adored and she loved to roam the shelves for hours just looking at the aged volumes.
"Morning Miss Wade." the old lady who owned the bookshop smiled up at her, she looked like the old schoolteacher type. Little wire rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose and she wore a gray skirt and pink twin set. She wore her white hair in a tight bun.
"Morning Miss Leigh. Terrible weather we're having."
"Oh it is dear; the wind goes straight through you. How is Trish?" Miss Leigh had met Trish on a few occasions. She wasn't particularly fond of Trish; she seemed so different to Nikki.
"She's off staying at a hotel; she got in a strop because the boiler broke. You know what she's like." Nikki smiled; she had often talked of Trish and knew that the old lady hadn't taken to her.
"Young people! In my day we didn't have all those luxuries, we had no choice but to get on with things. If there's anything I can help you with then just let me know." Miss Leigh gave Nikki a kindly smile.
"I will, thank you." Nikki smiled and then wandered off, she and Miss Leigh had gotten to know each other quite well since she had discovered the shop a couple of weeks after moving in, they often had long conversations about their favourite authors.
Nikki perused the shelves, ordinarily something would have caught her eye but today she was looking for something entirely different and she hadn't found it. She was happy just to wander as she looked at books that the world had long forgotten. She was broken from her thoughts when Miss Leigh asked her if she would like a cup of tea, she gratefully accepted and sat down opposite the old lady.
"So you haven't found anything that takes your fancy then?"
"No not as yet, all these books are fantastic but I'm in the mood for something different today. I'm trying to find something special."
The old lady took a sip of her tea and looked at Nikki thoughtfully, she had something special in the back room that she kept hidden away from her customers, it had been a long time since she found a person she had wanted to sell it to. She wondered if Nikki would be the right one to buy it, so far nobody else had been right and the book had always been returned but maybe this time it would be perfect.
"After you've had your cup of tea, why don't you go have another look while I go and get something I've been saving from the back room, it might be just what you're looking for."
"That would be great, thank you." Nikki smiled and took another mouthful of her tea.
They had soon finished and Nikki went to examine the shelves again while the old lady disappeared in to the back room. She unlocked an old wooden chest and pushed open the lid, nestled inside amongst tissue paper was a big leather bound book, with gold writing on the cover that read 'Enchanted'. She picked the book up and dusted it off carefully, although it wasn't dusty at all. Knowing Nikki as she did, she thought this might be the perfect answer to all her problems. The book hadn't been of much use to anybody else so far and it wouldn't hurt to try. She carried the book out and placed it on the counter.
"Miss Wade, I have that book for you."
"Coming." Nikki sidled over to the counter and took a look at the book.
She read the title and then opened the cover, it had thick creamy pages and despite its apparent age it was in very good condition. She flipped the pages carefully and scanned the words; it seemed to be a fairytale of some kind.
"This really is a very nice book." Nikki commented as she examined it.
She came to a picture halfway through, even though it was an illustration, it was so lifelike that it resembled an old sepia tinted photograph. It was of a woman with long hair, dressed in an old fashioned dress; she was sitting underneath a tree and smiling. Nikki felt something strange when she looked at the photo and her hands began to tingle, the book shook almost imperceptibly, it was like a tiny vibration. Nikki had an overwhelming need to take this book home with her.
"I would like to buy the book if you're willing to sell it." Nikki felt slightly lightheaded.
"it's a very special book and I'm confident you will take care of it, so I would like you to have it as a gift from me." the old lady smiled, she was growing more certain that she had found the right person for the book and she was willing to give it away.
"I couldn't do that Miss Leigh, this books looks to be expensive."
"To be truthful, the book could be priceless to some but to most it's worthless. I would like you to have it, go on accept it and make an old woman happy."
"I will, thank you very much Miss Leigh, I'm honoured." Nikki smiled and then kissed the old lady on the cheek.
"You're welcome my dear, remember that this is no ordinary book, you'll soon see why. Now you enjoy the book and pop in when you're next in town."
"I will and thank you once again."
Nikki left the shop; she would do something nice for the old lady in return for her kindness but hadn't figured out what yet. She decided to do some more shopping before she went home, not really caring whether Trish was on her own in the house or not. She chose a few pairs of jeans and some t-shirts and bought herself a new sweater, something else Trish wouldn't like, she expected Nikki to be kitted out permanently in Armani. She paid for her clothes and then made her way back to the car. She pulled up outside the cottage and noticed Trish's car was there.
"In the kitchen." Trish didn't sound happy.
"Hello sweetheart." Nikki walked up to Trish and kissed her on the forehead.
"Where the bloody hell have you been?"
"I was out shopping, I left you a note." Nikki's face dropped, her previous good mood was ruined because of the way Trish was acting.
"I know that, I just didn't expect you to be gone for hours."
"I've only been out three hours."
"Forget it, I can't be bothered arguing about it." Trish dismissed the subject, "so what did you buy?"
"I bought some clothes; I did go to get some books but didn't see anything I liked. Miss Leigh gave me a book as a gift though, she really is a wonderful person." Nikki felt her good mood return just thinking about the book, she couldn't wait to read it.
"That old bat? Nutty as a fruitcake that one." Trish sneered.
"No she's not! She's a warm, kind, and generous lady. Can't you ever say anything nice about anybody?" Nikki was annoyed with Trish's behaviour.
"What clothes did you get?" Trish changed the subject.
"I bought some jeans and a few t-shirts, even got myself a new sweater." Nikki took her purchases from the bag to show Trish.
"Levi's? And I don't even recognise the label on that t-shirt. Why didn't you buy designer?" Trish was back with her snobby attitude.
"These are just as good, I don't have to go and spend a fortune on something that is exactly the same quality as these just so you can say oh look, she's wearing Armani." Nikki shook her head and placed the clothes back in the bag.
"But Levi's? Anybody can afford Levi's." Trish was disgusted that Nikki was buying the same clothes as the masses.
"No, not everybody can afford Levi's but so what if other people wear them? You seem to forget Trish that I've never forgotten where I came from. My family was poor when I was growing up and I will never forget what that was like. I don't see the point in spending huge amounts of money on things I don't need when I can put it to better uses."
"But what's the point in having money if you aren't going to spend it? The whole point of being rich is to prove to everybody else that you're better than they are." Trish just couldn't grasp what Nikki was talking about.
"I've got a better life than I had financial wise Trish but I will never ever forget my roots, nor would I want to. I don't want to be better than anybody else; I'm just a normal person who happens to have money. Just because I'm rich doesn't mean I have to behave as if I'm something special"
"I'm wasting my breath on you, I'm going out." Trish picked up her handbag and car keys and left the house before Nikki had a chance to say anything. What Nikki didn't realise is that Trish had another girlfriend elsewhere. She had been right when she thought that Trish only wanted her money.
Nikki sighed and shook her head in despair. She didn't know how much longer she could put up with Trish's attitude; it was beginning to get her down. All Nikki really wanted was somebody to love, somebody who genuinely returned that love instead of pretending to. She walked in to the kitchen and made a start on dinner, she wanted to get that out of the way before she settled down to read her new book.
Nikki settled down in front of the fire and picked up her new book, she had been eager to read it ever since she had placed her hands on it for the first time. She opened the book to the first page and intended to read but she found herself flipping through the pages to look at the picture again. She located it and looked astonished when the photograph now showed the woman sitting on a window seat smiling up at her. Nikki could have sworn this was the right page but she must have been mistaken. She flipped through the book trying to find more pictures but there weren't any. She blamed it on her overactive imagination and then looked back at the picture.
She became mesmerised by the woman's eyes, she was really very beautiful and Nikki wondered if she had been a real person or whether she had been crafted from the author's imagination. Nikki's hands began to tingle once again and the book vibrated ever so slightly. She didn't even notice she was too busy staring at the picture. She heard a noise and suddenly looked up. She realised that it was a clap of thunder that had startled her; she also noticed that it was now dark out. She glanced at the clock and saw that she had been staring at the picture for over three hours, she couldn't believe it, it had only seemed like a matter of minutes.
She put the book down reluctantly, she hadn't read any of it yet but she needed to eat. Trish still wasn't back and Nikki didn't really care, she could do without her at the moment. She cooked a meal for herself and then afterwards settled back down with the book. Trish had called to say she was staying with a friend for the night, which left Nikki feeling relieved that she would get some peace. She began to read and found herself immersed in the tale of a young woman who had a curse placed upon her by a gypsy when she had refused to marry the gypsy's son. She had condemned her to life lived within a book until she found true love.
Nikki was fascinated with the story; she supposed that the picture of the woman was the one who was cursed. Nikki didn't think she was going to be trapped in the book for long because she was truly beautiful and surely the curse would soon be lifted? She couldn't put the book down and stayed up all night in the armchair by the side of the fire. When at last she came to the end, she was puzzled by it, it was a strange ending. It told of how the young woman had been periodically released from the book but had always been forced back in when it was apparent she hadn't found true love. Nikki didn't think much of the ending, she expected that the woman would have been freed and would have lived happily ever after.
The book had a funny effect on her; it seemed to have an energy coming from it that she couldn't describe. She didn't want to be parted from the book for some reason and took it up to bed with her. She placed it on her bedside table and slipped beneath the duvet as the birds began to sing outside her window.
She woke up later that afternoon and immediately looked towards the book, it was still sitting there. She picked it up and placed it on the pillow next to her, she automatically opened it at the page where the photograph was, the photograph had changed and Nikki knew she wasn't imagining it. She had spent long enough the previous evening gazing at it and now the picture was showing the woman laying on a bed smiling at her. Nikki should have felt creeped out by it but she wasn't, it intrigued her more than anything else.
She showered and dressed and then took the book downstairs, there was no sign of Trish but Nikki barely noticed she was only interested in the book. She made herself something to eat and then opened the book to look at the picture again, sure enough the picture had changed and the woman was out in the garden standing by a tree smiling at her.
There was something captivating about her smile, it was as if she knew something Nikki didn't and she was drawn to her. Nikki felt herself longing to be able to crawl in to the picture and talk to her, to be able to touch her, to feel her warmth. Nikki laughed and closed the book, it was just a story and the picture wasn't real. She felt stupid for feeling the way she did, she could feel herself getting steadily more attracted to the woman as time went by. She forced herself to put the book on a shelf, she had done nothing but stare at it the entire time she had owned it and felt like she needed to get out of the house and do something.
She changed in to her gardening clothes and began to do a bit of weeding, it was freezing outside but she welcomed the fresh air. She pottered about the garden till it began to get dark and then she went inside to shower. She had just stepped out of the shower when Trish came stomping up the stairs.
"In the bathroom." Nikki rolled her eyes at the thought of Trish being back.
"Boiler's fixed then?"
"You know it is, I told you it was yesterday."
"Thanks for calling me by the way, great to know you worry about me." Trish said sarcastically.
"You told me you were with a friend and that you would be home today; you didn't specify when so I knew I'd see you when I'd see you."
"You still could have called me." Trish was now sulking.
"And what happens when I do? You shout down the phone at me because you think I'm checking up on you and that I don't trust you. I just can't win with you." Nikki threw the towel down and began to get dressed.
"Lets not argue, I've missed you." Trish suddenly changed and became attentive.
"Have you now, well that's alright then!" it was Nikki's turn to be sarcastic.
"Yes I have." Trish replied, not catching on to the sarcastic nature of Nikki's previous comment. She walked over to her and ran her hand along the length of Nikki's stomach.
"Trish, I'm not in the mood ok?"
"You're never in the bloody mood!" Trish snapped.
"Can you blame me?" Nikki shot back, the telephone rang and she picked it up. "Hello... Yvonne! How was your trip? Actually not a thing and yes I would love to...ok then see you soon, bye." Nikki put the phone down and turned around to an angry looking Trish.
"Don't tell me you're going out?" it wasn't really a question, more of a warning.
"I am actually, shouldn't bother you too much though because it's not like we've spent a lot of time together lately is it?" Nikki walked over to the wardrobe and began to get changed.
"This isn't fair! I want you to stay home."
"Well tough, I'm going out. I haven't seen Yvonne for 6 months and I've missed her." Nikki threw her suit on and marched in to the bathroom, she squirted some perfume on and then went downstairs to wait for Yvonne.
Trish followed her every move and kept on at her to stay home but Nikki was determined to go out. She ignored Trish's pleas as she moved around the house collecting her things. Ten minutes of Trish whining was starting to get on Nikki's nerves and she was glad she was going out soon because there would have been an almighty row if she hadn't. Yvonne turned up a short while later and Nikki breathed a sigh of relief.
"That will be Yvonne, I'm going now."
"Yeah whatever." Trish threw herself down on the couch.
"If you're going to be like that then bollocks to you!" Nikki slammed the front door so hard that it made Trish's teeth rattle.
"You'll regret that Nikki." Trish spoke through clenched teeth.
Nikki hugged Yvonne at the front door; it was so good to see her again after all this time. They hopped in to the car and were driven to London, it took them about an hour to get to the west end and by the time they got there Nikki had forgotten all about Trish, she was intent on having a good time. They walked in to the nearest nightclub and ordered their drinks and then sat down.
"So Yvonne, how have you been? Traveling suits you." Nikki smiled as she took a sip of her drink.
"I've been great thanks Nik; I must admit traveling does suit me. Good job we got rich with that programme or I would never have been able to do it." Yvonne smiled.
"So did you meet anyone while you were gallivanting?"
"Actually yeah I did."
"So what's he like?" Nikki was interested; in all the time she had known Yvonne she had only ever dated a few people.
"She's very nice."
"She?" Nikki nearly fell off her chair.
"Yeah it's a woman; don't look like at me like that, you were always telling me I didn't know what I was missing."
"Yeah but Jesus, you and a woman!" Nikki was gob smacked.
"I know you think it's totally out of character for me and you'd be right ordinarily but just wait till you see her. She's beautiful."
"When do I get to meet her then?"
"Any second now, she's just walked in the door."
Nikki turned around and glanced across the room. A woman with shoulder length blonde hair was coming towards them. Nikki felt her tongue hanging out, she was as Yvonne had described her, beautiful. She felt a pair of warm eyes meet hers and the woman smiled as she held out her hand, Nikki felt her temperature rise, it had been a long time since she had met a woman this good looking. She swallowed and then held out her hand to make contact with the hand that was being offered to her.
Yvonne disappeared to the bathroom and Nikki was left alone with Yvonne's new partner. After having talked to her for a while, Nikki liked her immensely. The first stirrings of attraction had disappeared as Nikki realised that not only was she Yvonne's best friend and shouldn't be looking at her girlfriend like that but also that on closer inspection she wasn't really her type anyway. Nikki picked up her cigarettes and offered one to the woman sitting opposite her, who accepted it with a smile.
"So tell me Karen, how did you meet Yvonne?"
"I met her in Australia; I was visiting my brother over there and met her in a nightclub. We discovered we were from the same area and got talking, we realised we liked each other and that was it really. Nearly four months now and we've never looked back." Karen smiled and took a drag of her cigarette.
"Were you in to women before?"
"No this is the first time; I'm currently getting divorced from my bastard of a husband. Jim is his name although I always thought Satan suited him better!" Karen chuckled.
"You've got a good woman in Yvonne. She might seem like a bit of a tough nut but deep down she is a big softie."
"It took me a little while to figure that out but I know what you mean. You just have to know which buttons to press." Karen winked at her.
"Too much information there I think Karen!" Nikki giggled as Yvonne came walking towards them.
"What are you two giggling about?" Yvonne regarded them suspiciously.
"Oh nothing much, Karen was just telling me about her husband Satan." Nikki smiled.
"Already had the pleasure of meeting him, I got the impression he didn't like me much." Yvonne smiled and kissed Karen on the cheek.
"Really? Whatever gave you that idea?" Karen leaned closer to her and smiled.
"Could be when he shouted at me, thanks for stealing my wife you wife stealing dyke! Yeah think that was it." Yvonne giggled.
"Yeah that's Jim for you; he always was a silver tongued cavalier!" Karen pulled a face and took a sip of her drink.
Trish sat on the couch waiting for a phone call, she was getting fed up. Caroline had promised to call her and she still hadn't done so. Trish was just about to pick the phone up to call her instead, when it rang.
"Hello darling it's me."
"Caroline! About time you called, I was missing you."
"Sorry, I had to get Peter out of the way first; you know what a pain men can be."
"Are you ever going to tell him about us?"
"I will one day but at the moment it's complicated."
"How is it complicated? You don't want to be married to him anymore why prolong the agony?" Trish started to cry.
"Your hardly one to talk, you haven't told Nikki yet either."
"That's different, you know if I tell her then things will wrong. I need to wait until I can safely get my hands on most of her money and then when I do that I'm out of here."
"I know, I'm sorry. It's just difficult at the moment, you know? I'm stuck with peter and I don't want to be, I wish I was with you."
"I wish you were too."
The conversation lasted for the best part of two hours until Trish heard a noise outside and correctly guessed that Nikki must be home. She quickly said goodbye to Caroline and slammed the phone down, she lay on the couch and pretended to be asleep. Nikki stumbled through the door dragging Karen and Yvonne with her. She invited them round because Yvonne had only ever seen the outside of the cottage. Nikki had asked them to stay for a few days and Yvonne and Karen were only too happy to accept. She came in to the living room and noticed Trish was sleeping.
"Still got her hanging around then?" Yvonne said none too quietly, she had never liked Trish.
"Shh you'll wake her up and my ears are sore enough." Nikki giggled.
"If I catch her shouting at you again, I'll kick her teeth in." Yvonne put her arm around Nikki.
"Aww thanks pal, not often a friend offers to kick your partners teeth in, I'm truly touched." Nikki gave Yvonne a hug and a kiss on the cheek as they both giggled like kids.
"Nikki, what time is it?" Trish tried to sound groggy; she had heard every word and wasn't best pleased.
"About half past two, shouldn't you be in bed?" Nikki's smile vanished.
"I was waiting up for you." Trish stood up.
"You needn't have bothered. You might as well go to bed, it's late." Nikki didn't want Trish hanging about, she always managed to insult Yvonne and Nikki didn't have the strength for another argument.
"Oh ok then babe, will you be up soon?"
"Yeah." Nikki then moved away as Trish tried to kiss her, she turned around to talk to Yvonne.
"Right so this is the living room, kitchen is through here." Nikki led them through leaving Trish standing on her own fuming.
"Lady Muck ain't happy." Yvonne slurred as she collapsed on to a kitchen chair.
"When is she ever?" Nikki muttered as she threw a bag of fish and chips on the table, she rummaged around in a drawer for some forks and passed them over.
"How long have you two been together?" Karen piped up as she started to eat.
"Three years and its three years too bloody long." Nikki sighed as she sat down.
"What you doing with her anyway Nik?" Yvonne put her fork down while she looked at Nikki.
"It was good for a while, I loved her and I thought she felt the same but just lately things have been strained and I realise I no longer feel the same way about her. I will have to talk to her; things are going from bad to worse."
"You could do so much better Nik, you two were never really suited." Yvonne spoke quietly so Trish wouldn't overhear.
"I know that now, pity I didn't find out sooner."
"You'll find somebody sooner or later love." Yvonne smiled.
"Problem is, the person I wish I could have doesn't exist." Nikki smiled sadly.
"That's what I thought till I met Yvonne. Thing is Nikki, you just have to wait till the right person comes along." Karen smiled sympathetically.
"That's not what I meant; I meant the woman I want literally doesn't exist. Hang on while I show you." Nikki stood up and didn't see the puzzled looks on the two women's faces as she left the room.
"What's she going on about?" Karen asked through a mouthful of chips.
"Search me, Nikki has always been a bit hard to understand when she's pissed." Yvonne shrugged her shoulders and carried on eating.
Nikki picked the book up off the shelf and it vibrated gently in her hands, it was almost as if it knew she was touching it, it felt like a stupid idea but Nikki believed it. She carried it through to the kitchen and placed it on the table in front of Karen and Yvonne. She flipped forward to the photograph and the woman in the picture was sitting on a sofa smiling, it was a close up shot and Nikki gasped as she saw the woman's face in fine detail. Whenever she had seen her before she was always some distance away but now she was closer, Nikki could see how beautiful she really was.
"That's the woman I want and like I told you, she literally doesn't exist." Nikki sat down again as Karen and Yvonne looked at the picture. She would never have said anything if she hadn't been drunk, Nikki was always one to hide her feelings unless she had a drink inside her.
"I'll say one thing for her Nikki, she's got beautiful eyes. It's a pity she doesn't exist because that's one gorgeous woman." Yvonne could see the attraction right away.
"She's right, that's one hell of a woman. What's this book about anyway?" Karen carried on looking at the picture as she spoke.
Nikki explained what the story was about and both women sat and listened quietly as she told them about the woman and the curse that had been placed upon her. Nikki felt quite sad about it now, she knew the woman wasn't real and that it was only a story but even so she longed to set her free. She mentally shook herself for being so soppy; it wasn't normally like her to get a crush on somebody who was unattainable. She had the normal crushes as a teenager but had quickly learnt as she grew up that you were only ever in love with their image and not the real person themselves, it was impossible to love somebody you would never get to know. The logical, sensible part of her believed that this was so, but her heart kept telling her otherwise.
"That's pretty sad." Yvonne said, Nikki noticed she had gone quiet.
"Yeah it is sad. What's wrong with you babe?" Karen asked concerned.
"Oh don't mind me, I'm pissed and I'm getting soft in my old age." Yvonne smiled and carried on eating.
The three women sat talking until it got very late, so late that it became very early. They shuffled off upstairs behind Nikki and she showed them to the spare room. They bid Nikki goodnight and collapsed in to bed, quickly slipping in to a peaceful alcohol induced sleep. Nikki had no desire to lie beside Trish and took herself off back downstairs; she placed the book on her chest and cuddled it to her. She knew it was daft but she could almost feel warmth coming from the book as it gently hummed against her body. She held it tight and drifted of dreaming about what it would be like if she could crawl in to the book and meet the woman she was so captivated by.
Nikki woke up as she heard a clattering noise in the kitchen; she looked at the clock and saw it was near lunch time. She groaned as she stood up, her head was pounding and she felt dizzy. She entered the kitchen to find Trish slamming things around in a temper.
"What's up with you?" Nikki didn't really care but asked anyway.
"You didn't come up to bed last night, you promised me you would." Trish was in fact glad Nikki hadn't gone to bed because she didn't want to be anywhere near her but had to keep up the pretense.
"Yeah I know I crashed out on the couch. Sorry." Nikki rummaged in the fridge for some orange juice. She poured some in to a glass and then chucked a couple of shots of vodka in after it.
"For god sake, didn't you have enough last night?" Trish snapped as she watched her.
"A hair of the dog always helps, it's either that or I will feel like death warmed up all day. Stop nagging me anyway, if I want someone to bitch at me I'll call my mother." Nikki downed the orange juice and pulled a face, she hoped she could keep it down.
"Don't get funny with me, I was only saying."
"Well just don't say anything!" Nikki left the kitchen and went upstairs to take a shower.
She spent quite a while in the shower and then afterwards she got dressed and felt human once more. Realising she now felt hungry she went off to the kitchen get something to eat. When she walked in Karen and Yvonne were there looking a bit worse for wear.
"Morning." Nikki said cheerfully.
"Oh here she is, the poster child for chirpiness." Yvonne groaned and put her head on the table.
"Here get some of that down you and have something to eat. Then go take a shower and you'll be as right as rain in no time." Nikki banged the vodka and the orange juice in front of them.
They gulped it down as quickly as they could while Nikki started on some food. She threw some bacon and eggs in to a pan and before long they were eating. They were chatting quietly when Trish appeared in the doorway, she mumbled something about going shopping and Nikki nodded her head.
"Oh Nikki, I need some money." Trish smiled a sickly sweet smile, "only I'm going in to London and I won't have enough." Nikki took some money from her pocket and handed it over to her, it was worth it just to have her leave them alone, she did nothing but nag her these days.
"Pity you couldn't have gone shopping in Mexico." Nikki said sarcastically under her breath.
"What was that darling?"
"I said, that's all I have, there you go."
"Oh right, well see you later then babe." Trish waved at her and then left the house.
"Thank god for that." Nikki breathed a sigh of relief.
Trish pulled up outside Caroline's house, she knew Peter would be at work and therefore it would be safe. She knocked on the door and waited for an answer, the door opened to reveal a young woman, who didn't look to be much more than twenty years old, standing there in a dressing gown.
"How can I help you?" she said smiling.
"Er is Caroline there please?" Trish was taken aback; her mind was reeling at seeing the young woman answer the door like that.
"Yeah just a sec. Caroline, sweetheart, somebody to see you." the young woman walked off and Trish caught sight of her kissing Caroline as she made her way to the door.
"Trish! What are you doing here?" Caroline looked desperately uncomfortable.
"Don't talk to me, I'm not blind." Trish about turned and stormed off down the path.
"Wait Trish, please darling listen to me. She means nothing to me, I swear. It was a moment of weakness on my part because I miss you so much."
"If I believed that then I'm a bigger idiot than you already take me for. You told me last night that you wanted to be with me, and all the time you're shacked up with her. For god sake Caroline, you're almost old enough to be her mother!"
"Trish don't do this, it was a mistake."
"Too right it was a mistake; I should never have trusted you. How could you spend two hours on the phone to me, telling me that you had to wait until peter had gone to bed so that you could call? I bet you had to wait until she was asleep." Trish laughed bitterly when she saw the look on Caroline's face, the look said it all, she was right.
"Go on then, go running back to Nikki. I'm sure she will welcome you with open arms." Caroline snarled.
"I don't give a shit about Nikki, I did however give a shit about you and look what you did to me." Trish tried not to cry but was failing miserably.
"Oh for god sake get over it! It was a mistake!" Caroline's expression was one of disgust.
"And that's supposed to make it all better is it?"
"What more can I say? It was a moment of madness on my part, I was pissed and she came on to me, I missed you and it just happened."
"You know how much I love you, how could you do this to me?" Trish sobbed.
"Babe, please let's talk about this." Caroline took a step closer to Trish.
"No! Don't touch me, I'm not interested anymore. You lied to me and I won't stand for it." Trish turned around and walked to her car.
"Wait! Don't go, not like this." Caroline walked after her.
"Just leave me alone!" Trish slammed the car door and sped off with tears streaming down her face. Caroline stood staring down the road, long after Trish had disappeared.
Nikki felt like getting out of the house and getting some fresh air, she asked if Yvonne and Karen would like to go for a walk. Karen jumped up to join her but Yvonne shook her head and buried it under a cushion where she lay on the couch.
"You must be getting old Yvonne, I remember when you could take hangovers standing on your head." Nikki giggled as Yvonne moved the cushion and glared at her.
"OI! Can't you see I'm trying to die in peace? And behave yourself with my woman." a grin broke through and Yvonne winked at her.
"I can't handle the woman I've already got. Ready to go Karen?" Nikki smiled.
"Yep, I'm all yours." she winked at Nikki and waited for Yvonne to say something.
"I'm not even going to respond to that sweetheart, I'm too ill." Yvonne mumbled.
"Oh my poor baby, as soon as I get back, I'll pamper you. See you later." Karen leaned over to kiss Yvonne and then left the house with Nikki.
Yvonne went upstairs soon after they left; she was still knackered and hung over from the night before and decided a lay down would do her the power of good. She was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Trish came home soon after to find the house was empty, she was glad of the fact anyway because she didn't much feel like having to face anybody at that particular point in time. Her heart ached as she thought of how Caroline had betrayed her, it didn't once enter her head that Nikki would feel the same if she found out about her affair. She sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine, her mobile rang and seeing it was Caroline she answered it.
"What do you want?"
"Listen, I did something I'm not proud of, it was a mistake and I never meant for it to happen. You know I love you." Caroline whined on the other end of the phone.
"How could it have happened if you love me?"
"It happened because I was hurting. It hurts that you are with Nikki, it hurts that I can't have you with me. If I could turn the clock back I would because believe me, I regret it." Caroline hoped Trish was buying it.
"How do you think I feel? Not only are you married but you go and cheat on me with somebody practically half your age!"
"I didn't think about how you would feel because I've been to wrapped up in myself. I've been so selfish and I know it was wrong. Please don't throw away all we have because I made a mistake. I need you Trish, please."
"I'm not sure, how can I trust you again after this?"
"It won't be easy but I promise I will do everything I can to make it up to you. Just give me a second chance to prove how much I love you." Caroline sensed she was getting somewhere.
"I'll give you one more chance, but if you do it again then its over, I mean it."
"I understand and I wouldn't blame you. Everything will be fine, I promise. I love you Trish."
"I love you too."
"Can we see each other?"
"Yeah but I'm not sure when, Nikki is hanging about with a couple of her friends." Trish looked thoughtful, she tried to think of a way to get out of the house.
"Please come tonight, we need to talk."
"I'll see what I can do; I'll call you later ok?"
"Ok, talk to you later then darling, love you."
"Bye Caroline, love you too." Trish put the phone on the table and then stood up, she refilled her glass with wine and then jumped and looked guilty when Yvonne came walking in to the room.
"Alright." Yvonne said quietly, she couldn't stand talking to Trish at the best of times.
"Hi, I er didn't realise you were here, thought the house was empty."
"Feeling a bit sick so I went for a lay down while Nikki and Karen went out." Yvonne studied Trish closely. Something was going on, Trish looked jumpy.
"Oh right, well I'll make a start on dinner, once you've eaten you'll feel better. Anything you fancy?" Trish smiled as she went to the fridge.
"Anything will be fine." Yvonne knew for certain something was wrong at this point, Trish was never nice to her, she could smell a rat.
"Ok then, I'll make Nikki's favourite. Lasagne ok with you?"
"Yeah fine." Yvonne picked up her cigarettes and headed for the front door, she needed some fresh air.
Yvonne was smoking on the front step when she noticed Nikki and Karen walking up the lane giggling. She smiled when she saw her partner and best friend getting on so well, and she wished that Nikki had somebody special like she did. She wouldn't mention Trish to Nikki, after all what could she say? But she would keep a close watch on Trish, because something was going on if she wasn't mistaken and there was no way she would let her break Nikki's heart. Nikki followed Karen up the path and smiled at Yvonne.
"Ah the dead have risen, you're looking almost human again." Nikki winked at Yvonne.
"You cheeky git! Lady Muck is cooking your favourite by the way." Yvonne remarked casually.
"Oh Christ, I wonder what she's done? She only ever cooks for me when she's done something or is after something."
"Search me, lets get inside its bloody freezing." Yvonne entered the house after Nikki and Karen and shut the door behind her. What had Trish done indeed?
The atmosphere at dinner was strained, Trish was quiet and Nikki didn't make much of an effort to talk to her. She had spoken to Yvonne and Karen once or twice but they all felt uncomfortable and stayed silent. Trish was quietly thinking of ways to get out of the house without Nikki suspecting anything was going on when she hit upon the perfect idea.
"What have you got planned for tonight?" Trish toyed with her food and glanced over at Nikki.
"We fancied watching that film on telly tonight, none of us has seen it yet." Nikki took a mouthful of her orange juice and then picked her plate up; she placed it in the dishwasher and sat back down.
"Sounds good." Trish smiled sweetly, Nikki wondered what was going on, Trish hated watching films.
After everybody was done eating, Nikki helped Trish to tidy the kitchen while Karen and Yvonne settled in the living room. Trish put the dishwasher on and then leaned back on the counter to watch Nikki as she wiped the table.
"How much longer are they going to be here?"
"I don't know why?" Nikki stopped what she was doing and looked up.
"You and I never get to spend any time alone these days, I know its sounds selfish but I want you all to myself."
"I've told you before, we would spend time together if you didn't go off in a sulk every five minutes when something doesn't go your own way." Nikki carried on wiping the table, she really didn't want to get in to a fight now.
"I knew it would be my fault, this bloody house is the cause of all our problems and your so called friends aren't making it any easier." Trish snapped.
"Keep your voice down, they'll hear you! There is nothing wrong with this house and as for my friends, I will invite who I want, when I want and its got sod all to do with you." Nikki hissed.
"Sometimes I think you care more about your pals than you do about me. I'm getting sick and tired of having to play second fiddle to your friends Nikki."
"Oh that's a classic! I hardly have any friends anymore and it's because of you that I lost touch with all of them. You single-handedly alienated every one of them and I stuck with you so don't tell me that I didn't bloody care." Nikki threw the dishcloth across the room and it landed in the sink.
"Didn't? Using past tense now are we?" Trish's voice rose several octaves, "well you know what? Have your friends all to yourself, I'm going to a hotel till you make up your mind what you want."
"How about you stay here and I go? To be honest Trish at the moment I don't even want to be anywhere near you. So you stay here and I will pack my bags!" Nikki stormed out of the kitchen and bounded up the stairs.
Karen raised her eyebrow at Yvonne when they heard raised voices. Yvonne shrugged in response.
"Wonder what's wrong now?" Karen whispered.
"Probably another reason for Trish to get on her high horse. She's always the same, I swear one of these days I'm going to slap her one."
"Why does Nikki stay with her?"
"Nikki has a heart of gold, she doesn't like upsetting anybody, and she takes the blame for things that aren't even her fault. But just lately it all appears to be getting on top of her and I'm pleased to see she is fighting back. She doesn't love Trish anymore, she said so herself last night, and even though she knows she has to talk to her she will keep putting it off until she absolutely has to because she doesn't want to upset Trish. It doesn't matter that Trish is the one with the problem; Nikki will continue to let her get away with it till it becomes so bad that she can't take anymore. She's always been the same."
"Sounds like Nikki needs a place to stay tonight."
"Nah she'll be ok, she's got a flat in London. I'm the only one that knows about it so don't say anything, Trish doesn't need to know."
"I think we should get packing then."
"Yeah you're right; we'll give it five minutes and then get our stuff together.
Nikki was stuffing clothes in to a suitcase while Trish moaned on and on at her. Nikki felt her temperature reach boiling point but she bit her tongue. Even though Karen and Yvonne would know they were arguing, she restrained herself from letting rip at Trish. When her packing was done, she looked around for the book; it had been sitting on her bedside table where she had placed it earlier that morning before showering. It was now missing.
"Where's my book?"
"What book? And why are you asking about a book at a time like this?"
"Just answer my question, where is the damn book?" Nikki's heart was pounding; she needed to know where the book was.
"Where did you leave it?"
"On the bedside table, I haven't moved it so where is it?"
"I don't know and to be honest I don't really care." Trish waved her hand at Nikki as a gesture of dismissing the subject.
"Have you moved it? If I find you've touched my book then I'm not going to be happy."
"If you must know, I threw it away." Trish replied nonchalantly.
"YOU WHAT?" Nikki exploded.
"I threw it away; you've done nothing but bury your head in the damn thing since you got it."
"How would you know? You're never fucking here! I want my book and I want it now, where is it?"
"In the dustbin."
Nikki flew past her and downstairs, she ran outside in the garden. It was raining and the temperature had dropped sharply, she picked up the lid of the bin and launched it down the garden in a fit of temper. She rifled through the bags looking for the book, she found it resting in between two bin bags and thankfully it wasn't damaged in any way. She put it under her shirt to stop it getting wet and clung on to it. Her heart rate began to slow down and felt relief wash over her as she now had the book back safely in her arms. Trish had definitely gone too far this time; she marched back upstairs and placed the book carefully in her suitcase.
"Found it then?" Trish said sarcastically.
"Yeah no thanks to you, you really can be a spiteful bitch at times. I hope you enjoy your own company, because it's all you'll have for the foreseeable." Nikki stormed out of the bedroom and slammed the door behind her.
"Oh really Nikki? I don't think so somehow." Trish smiled and lay back on the bed. Ok it hadn't gone entirely to plan but now she had the house to herself and decided things might actually be better this way. She wasn't worried about the almost constant fighting with Nikki, she knew she could wrap her round her little finger if she wanted to and she didn't think it would present any problems for what she had planned.
Nikki came crashing down the stairs to find Karen and Yvonne standing there with their things.
"I'm really sorry about this you two, I never meant for this to happen." Nikki looked crestfallen.
"Don't worry about it darlin' Karen and I don't mind at all. You off to you know where?"
"Yeah, I figured it's the only place I can go where she won't find me."
"Come on then, we'll follow you and make sure you're settled and then we'll leave you to it." Yvonne picked up her bag and opened the front door.
"You don't have to really, I'll be fine." Nikki protested.
"I know but it won't hurt just to make sure." Yvonne pushed Nikki through the front door and then slammed it behind her.
Trish heard the door slam and immediately picked up the phone.
"Caroline sweetheart, you won't believe this....." Trish smiled as she heard Nikki and Yvonne's cars driving away. Things hadn't turned out quite so badly after all.
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