A couple of days later, Nikki was tidying the kitchen when the doorbell rang. She went to answer it to find Helen peeking through the letterbox.
"If you're selling anything then you can piss off!" Helen shouted through the letterbox.
"Helen!" Nikki was horrified.
Nikki opened the door to a giggling Yvonne and Karen; they were doubled up in fits of laughter.
"Sorry Nik, that was another one of mine, I'll say this for you Helen, you've got a cracking memory girl!" Yvonne walked in.
"I knew it was you that's why I said it; I knew you would find it funny. Only Nikki seems to think I don't know it's bad to say it to anybody" Helen's face fell and she looked really upset.
"Oh Helen, it doesn't matter. It was only Yvonne and I know you know the difference now" Nikki looked really apologetic.
"It's ok" Helen pouted. Nikki walked forward and tentatively drew her in to a hug.
"I'm sorry" Nikki patted Helen's back.
"Its ok, I forgive you" Helen gave Yvonne and Karen the thumbs up over Nikki's shoulder as she grinned wickedly at them.
Karen and Yvonne gave her the thumbs up and tried not to laugh, it was obvious to them that Helen had Nikki wrapped round her little finger and was using the situation to her advantage. It was a long time since Yvonne had met anyone that devious and silently applauded her, what a great woman!
Trish was standing in the kitchen glaring at Caroline, it was another argument in a long line of arguments and she was getting fed up of it.
"If you can do any better why don't you bloody do it!" Trish banged her mug down on the table.
"I can't do it because I don't have access to her money in the same way you do. If you go about it the way you are we could be here in twenty years time still no better off!" Caroline started pacing.
"It's not my fault that she doesn't keep much money in the joint account, at any one time there is only enough for my own personal use and we used up a fairly big chunk of it last night at the restaurant"
"We need to come up with another way of getting at her money. Maybe we should we should change her will and forge her signature, that way we can bump her off" Caroline laughed.
"That's not even funny! Don't you dare, I don't love her but I wouldn't want to see her dead" Trish was shocked.
"Keep your hair on, I'm not a murderer. Checques! We could forge her signature and have you take the cheques to the bank and withdraw money that way"
"I could do that, but there is ten thousand limit at the bank, any more than that and I would need Nikki"
"So what? Go with Nikki"
"If it was as easy as that then I would have bloody well done it by now" Trish scratched her head, trying to think of a way around it.
"So with ten grand a pop, it's going to take us forever" Caroline wasn't happy, she wanted huge chunks of money all at once.
"That can't be helped. Stop moaning, I'm the one who has to take all the bloody risks"
"You can't blame me for that, and if you had gotten your arse in to gear a few months ago then we would already have had some cash behind us!" Caroline got angry again.
"You know if I didn't know any better I would say all you gave a shit about was the money" Trish narrowed her eyes and looked at Caroline.
"Then you would be right wouldn't you! I'm sick of this and I'm sick of you, I'm not going to spend months pretending I love you just to get my hand on a few paltry thousand when she's got millions hanging about"
"What?" Trish was shocked.
"You heard" Caroline snarled.
"You bitch, you lying bitch! Get out!"
"My pleasure" Caroline went upstairs to collect her things and then was just about to slam the front door behind her when Trish spoke.
"I wonder how Peter will feel when he finds out you've been cheating on him."
"You wouldn't dare" Caroline's voice was low and threatening.
"Oh wouldn't I? Just watch me" Trish smiled in satisfaction when Caroline slammed the door, it hurt like hell that she had liked to her but revenge was sweet.
She walked in to the living room and picked up the phone, she searched for peters number and locating it, dialed the number.
"Hi Peter, its Trish"
"Oh er hi Trish, what can I do for you?" he was puzzled as to why one of Caroline's friends would be calling him.
"I found something out the other day, I didn't want to hurt you so that's why I left it this long but I think you ought to know. I called round to your place and Caroline was there with somebody. It was a woman, she's been cheating on you peter" Trish heard nothing but silence at the other end of the phone.
"Are you sure?" he finally managed to say in a broken voice.
"I'm absolutely sure, I'm sorry"
"Thanks for telling me. I have to go now" he put the phone down without saying goodbye and Trish smiled triumphantly.
All four women were sat giggling in the kitchen when Yvonne's mobile rang. She came off the phone ten minutes later looking thoughtful.
"That was a mate of mine; apparently there is a big corporation in America who wants a new, secure computer system. They are looking for computer programmers and he reckons that we should approach them"
"Really?" Nikki was interested, it had nothing to do with the money, she was excited about the prospect of a challenge but with wanting to be close to Helen it wouldn't be possible.
"Yeah, reckons they will jump at the chance. What do you say?"
"Ordinarily yeah but I have other things to think about"
"Don't worry about Helen; you won't mind me staying here with you if Nikki and Yvonne have to work will you?" Karen smiled over at Helen.
"No of course not" Helen smiled.
"Shall I call them?" Yvonne's hand was poised over her mobile.
"Oh go on then" she figured that if they worked flat out then she wouldn't have to be away from Helen long.
Nikki waited while Yvonne went back on the phone, there were a lot nods and ok's and she waited patiently to see what was going on, she didn't have to wait long as Yvonne put the phone down and smiled.
"They want to see us in three weeks time in New York. We have to create a program as proof of our skills and if they like it then they will take us on"
"In that case I need to pick up all my stuff" Nikki didn't look happy at the prospect of having to face Trish again.
"Why don't I pick it up for you? That way you can take Helen out, she's been stuck in this flat ever since she showed up, she could do with some fresh air" Yvonne looked at Helen.
"I would like to go out, I think I'm feeling a bit braver now" Helen smiled, she was eager to see the outside world was like.
"Ok, tell you what, why don't I take you to see Miss Leigh?"
"That would be nice"
"Right, Karen and I will be off then. I will pick the stuff up for you today and bring it round tomorrow so we can get started"
"Right, thanks Yvonne" Nikki handed her house keys over.
Karen and Yvonne left as Nikki set about getting Helen ready, they giggled as Helen tried different outfits on and they finally settled on one that they both really liked. Nikki went off to get ready and left Helen to attempt to dress herself.
Yvonne pulled up outside Nikki's house and there appeared to be no sign of Trish's car for which they were grateful. Yvonne put the key in the lock and went straight upstairs to Nikki's office where they set about packing all her stuff up. Trish came in twenty minutes later with her shopping and saw a car parked outside the house; she didn't think anything of it as people who visited the village seemed to park their cars where they liked. Had she known that Yvonne was inside; she would have about turned and made herself scarce for a while.
She threw her bag on the sofa, took the shopping in to the kitchen and then poured herself a glass of wine, she rolled her eyes as there was a knock at the door, she went to open it and immediately stopped wondering who it was when she saw Caroline standing there looking furious.
"How could you do that you bitch!" Caroline was furious, "he is going to file for divorce as soon as he gets back from his trip, you just wrecked my marriage"
"You deserved it! You're a lying cheating slut Caroline"
"Lets just see how you feel when the favour is returned" Caroline's eyes were glinting dangerously.
"You can tell Nikki if you want, see if I care" Trish tried to act calmly, "she wouldn't believe you anyway"
"Only one way to find out then isn't there! Where is she?"
"I don't know where she is" Trish wasn't lying; Nikki hadn't said where she was staying.
"That's ok, I can wait. Wonder how she will feel when she finds out you are only after her money? And that we had an affair? I bet that won't please her" Caroline pushed Trish out of the way and walked in to the living room, she sat down without being asked.
"I told you she isn't here and say what you like but she won't listen to you, she trusts me"
Yvonne and Karen had heard shouting and wondered what was going on; Yvonne thought Nikki might be there for a second until she heard a voice she didn't recognise. They stood out of sight on the landing listening to the conversation. As soon as she had heard what Trish was up to, something snapped inside her and she marched downstairs.
"Well this is bloody cosy" Yvonne barked as Trish jumped ten feet in to the air, Karen stood behind Yvonne with her arms folded.
"I er I didn't know you were here" Trish tried to cover her shock.
"No, by the look on your face I can tell you didn't have a clue. I was here picking some stuff up for Nikki" Yvonne crossed her arms and stood there looking menacing.
"Who the hell are you?" Caroline snapped.
"Not that it's any of your business but I'm a friend of Nikki's. I don't need to ask who you are, I heard every word"
"Its not true Yvonne, I swear its not!" Trish began to whine.
"I wasn't born yesterday so don't even attempt to deny it. You piss off, and you pack your things, I want you out of here" Yvonne pointed at them both.
"This is none of your business so keep your nose out you old cow!" Caroline stood up and then decided maybe she had bitten off more than she could chew when she saw the look Yvonne was giving her.
"Oh is that right?"
"Yeah that's right, I would watch it if I were you. I know people and some of them aren't very nice, if I was you I'd be scared" Caroline tried to act tough.
"Listen darlin' I don't do scared. I know people too and they'd make your bunch of people look like pussycats, so in case you can't take a hint, piss off!" Yvonne took a step toward her and she scuttled out of the front door, slamming it behind her.
"Yvonne, please don't tell Nikki, she doesn't need to know" Trish felt panicked.
"Are you still here?" Yvonne ignored Trish's pleas, "don't let the door hit you on the way out and don't take too long about it" Yvonne gave Trish a disgusted look and she scurried off to pack her things.
Trish had just finished loading her car with the last of her belongings and climbed inside. Trish drove away with tears streaming down her face, she had really messed things up and the worst part about it was that when faced with actually having to lose Nikki, she realised she did love her after all. She only realised what she had when she lost it. There would be no going back now; she knew that, Yvonne would tell Nikki everything.
Helen was ready and waiting for Nikki in the living room when she came out. Nikki was surprised to see Helen sitting there already. Last time Helen had attempted to dress herself it was a comedy of errors, which ended with Helen rolling about on the floor in hysterics because she had gotten her head stuck in the armhole of her t-shirt.
"That was quick"
"Told you I'm a fast learner, you could teach me absolutely anything and I would pick it up just like that" Helen snapped her fingers and smiled.
"I bet you would" Nikki flirted and realised what she was doing so she cleared her throat, "right if you're ready we can go"
"I'm ready and you can take me anywhere" Helen winked at Nikki who was now looking decidedly flushed.
"Ok, we'll take it slowly so you have time to get used to things"
"Yeah dead slow" Helen licked her lips, thankful for the fact that she had remembered all the phrases Yvonne had taught her, it seemed to be having the desired effect on Nikki.
Nikki took hold of Helen's hand and led her downstairs, her legs felt like jelly from having such close contact. On the other hand Helen was only slightly nervous, she had been curious as to what the outside world would be like; she had only ever seen it from the window. She looked at the car curiously; she understood what it was for as Nikki had explained it all but she had yet to experience it. Nikki pressed the remote button on her key and the car bleeped as its lights flashed. Helen ended up in a nearby bush.
"Helen its ok, it was just the alarm" Nikki tried hard not to chuckle. She bent over and helped Helen to her feet, then reached out and straightened her hair for her; it had looked a bit wild after getting tangled in the bush.
"Thanks, what's an alarm?"
"It's something that stops a person from stealing your car"
"Oh right ok" Helen seemed satisfied with that and got in to the car as Nikki held the door open for her.
Nikki got in the car and showed Helen how to put her seatbelt on and then warned her about the noise of the engine. Helen nodded and watched Nikki curiously as she put the car in gear, took the handbrake off and then pulled out. Helen gripped the sides of the seat nervously, she had traveled in a carriage many times but this was totally different, it was much faster for a start. She gazed openmouthed at all the new things she had never seen before, she asked Nikki lots of questions on the way and Nikki answered them as best she could because she wasn't a walking encyclopaedia and Helen's thirst for knowledge was challenging her to the limit. Helen got used to the view from her window after a while, noting that things all looked very much the same after five minutes, and started to inspect the inside of Nikki's car. She reached over to the radio and pushed a button, music blared out and she jumped.
"Don't panic, it's just the radio"
"What's a radio?" Helen looked pale, as Nikki turned the volume down slightly.
"More or less the same thing as a television but with sound only"
"Oh I see" Helen looked happier at this point, "so that awful noise is what you call music?" Helen sniggered.
"Well yeah most people would, I realise it's a bit different from classical music of course"
"Classical music?" Helen was baffled.
"Yes, the type of music you had in your day is the type of music we call classical"
"Right, so what type of music is this?"
"This unfortunately is hip hop, not everybody's cup of tea and not mine either. You can change it if you want, just press that button there till you find something you like"
"Ok" Helen leant forward and pressed the button a few times until the car was filled with the thudding drum beat of dance music, "now that's music" Helen seemed very taken with it, she tapped her hands on her legs, which made Nikki laugh, it must be an instinct that people had no matter when they were born.
"Not everybody would agree with you but I've heard worse" Nikki smiled and carried on driving, Helen was adapting to modern life remarkably well, she just hoped she managed to keep her there.
Helen amused herself with the radio and the odd glance from the car window, she decided to let Nikki have a rest for the moment, there was so much more she wanted to know but asking her questions every five minutes must be tiring her out. Helen suddenly felt queasy and hot, her mouth began to water and her face paled.
"Stop, I'm going to be sick"
"Oh shit" Nikki pulled up to the kerb and Helen bolted from the car, she leaned over a nearby fence and made noises that a chimpanzee would be proud of.
Nikki stood behind her and held her forehead while rubbing her back as Helen dangled over the fence groaning. Several passersby noticed the two women leaning over a fence and gave them strange looks.
"What's the matter? You never seen anybody puking up before?" Nikki snapped at one particularly rude person who passed them by.
"Shouldn't be allowed in public" the old man said with disgust.
"She can't help it, she's not well" Nikki waited till he walked away and then gave him a two fingered salute.
Helen was still doing her dying swan act as a man in his thirties approached them.
"Is your mate alright love?"
"Yeah she's just not feeling too well thanks" Nikki smiled up at him as Helen made strangled retching noises.
"I got her some water, I noticed she was looking a bit sick" the man smiled and passed a bottle of water to her.
"Thanks mate, that was really nice of you" Nikki grinned at him, "Er are you single?"
"Yes why?" he smiled questioningly at her.
"Well my friend here is single and I thought you two might get on well, here's my number" Nikki handed him a business card with one hand as she steadied Helen with the other, it was too good an opportunity to miss.
"Thanks, I'll give her a few days to get better and then I'll call. See you soon girls" he walked off smiling. He had noticed that the woman hanging over the fence had a cute arse, and from what he had seen of her face, she was a bit of alright.
Helen stood up and wiped her face and took the bottle of water Nikki was holding out to her. She took a few sips and then glared at her.
"I'm losing the contents of my stomach in public and you ask that man to take me out?" Helen couldn't believe it.
"We needed to find you one and well, he was passing by" Nikki shrugged her shoulders.
"What kind of a man accepts the telephone number of a woman that's throwing up?"
"A desperate one?" Nikki giggled and then shut up when she saw Helen looking pissed off.
They got back in to the car and Nikki wound the window down for Helen to get some fresh air. She slouched down in her seat and rested her head against the door and closed her eyes, as she took deep breaths, the motion of the car was still making her feel queasy.
"Don't stick your head too far out Helen, we don't want them thinking this is a cattle truck" Nikki chuckled but once again shut up when Helen gave her an evil look.
It wasn't long before they pulled in to a parking space near to Miss Leigh's shop and they both got out. Helen was feeling a lot better now and the queasiness had disappeared. It was quite busy and Helen felt slightly panicked, she had never seen so many people and had never heard so much noise, her mouth felt dry and her heart pounded.
"Its ok, just hold on to my hand and you will be safe I promise" Nikki smiled down soothingly at her.
"Ok, but don't let go" Helen pleaded with her.
"Never" Nikki squeezed her hand tighter and they walked off at a slow pace towards the book shop.
Nikki pushed the door open and escorted Helen in; it seemed strange to be taking her to the place where she first got the book. She half expected Helen to recognise her surroundings and then dismissed the idea as being stupid, she was in a book and wouldn't have been able to see. She noticed Miss Leigh at the back of the shop and pulled Helen towards her.
"Miss Wade, Helen, how nice to see you both" she said as she had her back to them, Nikki was speechless, how had she known?
"How did you know it was us?"
"I saw you coming up the road dear" her eyes twinkled with amusement when she turned around to face them.
"That would explain it" Nikki laughed, "Miss Leigh, this is Helen. Helen this is Miss Leigh" Nikki introduced them.
"Very pleased to meet you Helen" Miss Leigh held out her hand for Helen to shake, but Helen just stood there staring as if in a trance.
"Helen, shake Miss Leigh's hand" Nikki wondered what was up with her.
"Oh er sorry, pleasure to meet you Miss Leigh" Helen stammered. She gripped Nikki's hand tighter, Helen could hardly get over the shock and her mind was ticking over trying to think of how this could be.
"Miss Wade, why don't I take Helen here in the back room for a cup of tea, I can see things have overwhelmed her a little. You are free to browse if you wish?"
"Yeah ok thanks that would be great" Nikki smiled, she sensed there was some reason for miss Leigh to want to get Helen on her own and she didn't think she would be needed, "is that ok with you Helen?"
"What? Oh yes fine" Helen absentmindedly gripped Nikki's hand and then let it go as she followed Miss Leigh in to the storeroom.
Miss Leigh poured the tea as Helen sat down and looked shell-shocked, she couldn't believe this was happening but then after the way her life had been for the last few days she was sure she would believe anything now. Miss Leigh handed her a cup and then sat down in front of her, her eyes twinkled, and it was a look Helen knew well.
"Isobel...I...what on earth is going on?"
"I always wondered if you would recognise me but up until now this is the first chance I have had to put it to the test; nobody ever brought you here before. I will tell you about it all in good time, how are you dear?"
"I'm fine, a bit overwhelmed but fine, life has been remarkably strange for the last few days" Helen shook her head and took a sip of her tea.
"That's to be expected, how is Nikki treating you?"
"Wonderfully, she makes me feel like I'm some sort of princess. Sometimes I misbehave and she has to tell me off but I do it mostly for fun, I like to see her getting wound up" Helen smiled.
"Ah you haven't changed a single bit, you were always like that back home, you used to drive people mad" Isobel smiled.
"Neither have you really, you look so much like you used to but..." Helen trailed off not knowing what to say.
"Older? Its ok Helen you can say it, I am old, 260 years old to be exact. Time moved on for me while it stood still for you, albeit at a slower rate than for most people. And you don't look a day over 250 if I may say so" she chuckled.
"You always were a charmer. How is this possible though? That's what I don't understand, I know I'm here because I was trapped in the book but why are you here?"
"Ah now that would take some explaining. Are you sure you have time? I don't want to keep Nikki waiting and this is something she must not know"
"I could tell her to go off shopping on her own, she wouldn't mind"
"Ok I will wait here till you get back"
Helen went off to talk to Nikki and she had agreed to go off and do some shopping while Helen was having a chat. Nikki's curiosity was piqued to say the least but she never questioned it, if Helen asked her to go shopping then she would. Nikki's reward for being so nice about it was the gentlest of kisses on the lips that she had ever experienced; it was so soft and featherlike that if she had not seen it happen with her own eyes then she would never have believed it.
"Thank you" Helen had replaced her lips with her thumb, which was now softly caressing Nikki's bottom lip.
"I will be back soon ok?"
"Ok, don't be too long, I'll miss you" Helen felt it was time to place the foundation stone of what she hoped to build with Nikki.
"I'll miss you too. See you later" she gave Helen's shoulder a soft squeeze and then left the shop, Helen went back to Isobel.
She replenished the tea and handed Helen's cup over to her before sitting down and getting comfortable, she knew Helen wouldn't like what she was going to hear but there was no choice, she needed to be told.
"It all started on the afternoon you refused to marry the young gypsy lad. He didn't want to marry you, he was in love with somebody else and that person was me. He was a really nice man but I didn't love him in the way he wanted me to and you know why Helen, I was in love with Sarah the chambermaid"
"I always thought you were but you never said" Helen smiled softly.
"I kept it secret although god only knows why, because I already told you I wasn't attracted to men. I suppose it was the fear of saying it and Sarah finding out, she would never have loved me in that way and I would have lost her friendship. So anyway back to the story, Luca came to me and told me what his mother had done, I asked him if there was any way to reverse the curse and he said that he didn't think so, that his mother wouldn't take it back. I knew he wished to marry me, if marrying him meant you would be free then I would gladly do it, so I went to Luca's mother Liliana and told her that I would marry her son if she set you free. She laughed at me and said she wanted her son to marry somebody important and not a servant girl like me. She said that if I valued your friendship so highly then I could spend eternity proving it. She placed a curse on me and to break that curse I have to make sure that you find somebody to break yours"
"What was your curse?" Helen asked quietly as the shock seeped through her body.
"I was to be the keeper of your book until you were released, which turned out to be more difficult than I ever imagined. I have tried my very best over the years to get you your freedom, but each time we ended up back where we started and you were trapped again. I kept on trying as hard as I could and it wasn't totally a selfless act. I've watched people that I have known and loved die as I lived on and on through the years. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for the world, there have been so many special people in my life and although this curse was a terrible thing, it's also given me some wonderful gifts. But you see Helen, I'm old and I'm tired and I wish to leave all this behind so that I may find some peace. As soon as you gain your freedom then I will gain mine" she smiled wearily.
"Oh Isobel, this is all my fault...I should have agreed to marry Luca. I didn't mean to ruin your life" Helen began to sob, she felt so guilty about what her friend had done for her.
"Now now come on Helen, no tears. You would have done exactly the same for me wouldn't you?"
"You know I would" Helen whispered.
"Then you have nothing to feel guilty about. Liliana was a twisted, bitter, old woman and she sought revenge because she felt she was entitled to. Now, I've had a wonderful life and have been truly blessed to find love a few times, I want you to experience the same thing. I've had my life, a whole 260 years of it and I'm ready to rest now, it was a good life. I want you to be truly happy and I'm afraid that through the years I overlooked the obvious and that's why you hadn't gained your freedom. I should have realised it sooner but sometimes they say you can't see the woods for the trees. You were never attracted to men either were you?"
"No, I should have told you but I was afraid of my father finding out. There always seemed to be somebody lurking about on the estate and they would have taken great pleasure in telling him" Helen wiped her eyes and took a mouthful of tea.
"I know dear, I know. That's why this time, after I finally realised what I should have known all along because I knew you so well, I gave the book to a woman whom I knew would be capable of giving you the love you deserve. Am I right in thinking you would happily return that love?"
"Yes you are. I find myself falling in love with her more so every day. And I think she feels the same way but she hasn't said anything. Sometimes the way she looks at me leaves me thinking she feels more for me than she would admit"
"I thought so too, I watched her looking at you earlier, I'm very confident that she is the one. I didn't tell her though that because she released you from the book that she would be the only one to save you, I'm guessing you know but haven't told her either?"
"yes that's right, I didn't tell her because it would be more fun if she didn't know, I also wanted her to fall in love with me because she wants to, not because she feels she has to"
"My sentiments exactly dear, so our little secret?"
"Yes our little secret" Helen stood up and took Isobel in her arms. They hugged each other for a long time.
"And promise me that you will not tell Nikki about what I've told you, she must not know"
"I promise you, why can't she know?" Helen pulled back to look at her.
"It would put her in a difficult situation; it is a dilemma she does not need. She will be torn between loving you and causing the end of my life. She will want to do the right thing for both of us, those wants will come into conflict with each other and no matter how many times I impress upon her that I'm ready to go, she will still struggle with it. Time is of the essence here my dear; we need to get this resolved quickly if we are all to get what we want"
"I understand, I won't tell her. I just wish there was something I could do, you're my best friend and I don't want you to die, you gave up your whole life for me and there isn't anything I can give you in return" Helen gently stroked her friends face.
"If you have true love and your freedom then that is good enough for me. Please don't feel sorry for me, I don't feel sorry for myself and there is no reason why you should. So, come with me and wash you face before Nikki gets back, we don't want her to know you've been crying. Smile and be happy, you have a wonderful future to look forward to and I want you to enjoy it, that is my last wish" Isobel smiled and kissed Helen softly on the cheek.
"Thank you Isobel, may god bless you for all that you have done for me" Helen pulled Isobel in to another hug.
"I'm sure he will my dear" she smiled and led Helen off to wash her face just as the shop doorbell tinkled announcing Nikki's arrival.
Nikki noticed that on the way home Helen had been quiet, she had asked her twice if she was ok and she replied that she was but Nikki wasn't convinced.
"Are you sure you're ok?" Nikki asked once again.
"I'm fine, really" Helen made an effort to smile; she couldn't stop thinking about Isobel.
"If I upset you by giving the phone number to that man then I'm sorry, I was trying to help"
"I know you were, and you didn't upset me. I must admit I was shocked but really its ok" Helen reached over and squeezed her arm gently as she smiled.
"So long as you're sure"
Helen came through to the living room after having a quick shower; she had needed time to think about things. She found it difficult to keep it all to herself, she really needed to talk about it but she had promised Isobel she wouldn't. She flipped the television on hoping it would take her mind off things but it didn't really help much. She knew that Nikki sensed something was wrong and decided to put her mind at rest without actually telling her what was going on. She stood up and went in to the kitchen to find Nikki rifling through the freezer.
"Oh hiya, you ok?"
"I'm fine" Helen bravely stood in front of Nikki and put her arms around her, Nikki pulled her closer, "and now that I'm getting a hug from you I'm feeling even better. Don't worry about me, today was a bit much for me to take in all at once that's all"
"I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have taken you out yet"
"It had to happen sometime and besides you did the right thing. So what happens if this man calls then?"
"If he calls then we arrange for you to go on a date. You won't have to go on your own though, I wouldn't feel safe letting you out of my sight just yet. We can drag Karen and Yvonne along with us just to keep an eye on him" Nikki just hoped he wouldn't get too close to Helen or she would feel like strangling him.
"I don't have to go out with him" Nikki was the only one she wanted to be spending time with.
"Technically you do because if you ever want to be free then meeting men will help" Nikki nearly choked on her words, this was getting harder.
"Look Nikki....." Helen was going to tell Nikki the truth about her being the only one to set her free but the doorbell rang.
"Probably Yvonne, we'll get back to this later" she smiled and without thinking kissed Helen on the forehead.
She opened the door to Yvonne and Karen and helped them in with all the equipment, after a couple of trips back down to the car, Nikki's living room now resembled NASA control. Yvonne was waiting for the right time to tell Nikki about what had happened and waited until Helen was having a conversation with Karen.
"Nik, there's something I need to tell you"
"What's the matter?"
"You're not going to believe this but...." Yvonne told Nikki about all that had happened and she didn't say a thing, she just nodded in all the right places.
"Doesn't surprise me in the least" Nikki said when Yvonne had finished.
"Best thing to do is look forward love, why not take the plunge and tell Helen how you feel?"
"Wouldn't do me any good Yvonne, she needs to find somebody to love before she ends up back in the book"
"You never know, that person could be you. It wouldn't hurt to try; after all you both get on so well"
"I'm not what she needs Yvonne, I only wish I was. Its better left alone" Nikki didn't want to say anything, she wasn't sure if Helen flirting with her was a sign of anything deeper than fun.
"Alright love" Yvonne patted Nikki on the arm; she wasn't going to force the issue. Even if she thought that Nikki and Helen would be good for each other.
After Yvonne and Karen left, Nikki and Helen had dinner and then settled down in front of the TV together. Nikki was surprised when Helen lay down and put her head in her lap, she gently stroked her hair and wished that she could tell Helen how she felt. Helen could sense there was something wrong with Nikki; she had been quiet ever since Yvonne had left. She shifted slightly and looked straight up at Nikki.
"Is everything ok?"
"Yeah everything is fine" Nikki smiled and stroked Helen's forehead.
"Go on tell me, what's happened to make you so quiet?" Helen wasn't convinced Nikki was telling her the truth.
"I found out tonight that Trish was cheating on me and that she was only after my money. It doesn't surprise me, I often wondered about it. Anyway needless to say, it saved me having to end it because Yvonne caught her in the act and kicked her out" Nikki had told Helen all about Trish previously.
"Does that mean she is gone for good?"
"Yeah, she's gone for good" Nikki smiled and turned her attention back to the TV.
Helen was pleased, she knew that Nikki was going to end it with Trish at some point but now that she was gone, she was a lot happier. It would make things easier where Nikki was concerned; the biggest complication had just disappeared. It gave Helen the encouragement she needed to carry on with her plans. As the night wore on, Helen became drowsy and fell asleep; Nikki lifted her gently to take her to bed.
"Nikki, can I sleep with you tonight?" Helen said sleepily.
"Course you can, lets get you undressed and in to bed" Nikki felt Helen bury her head in her neck and her arms tighten around her. It felt so right and her heart ached knowing that soon, either Helen would disappear or she would end up in somebody else's arms.
She placed Helen carefully on the bed and helped her undress, as soon as she was wearing her pyjamas; Nikki pulled the duvet over her and got undressed herself. She lay down and felt Helen move close to her, it wasn't long before she was asleep but Nikki couldn't sleep there was far too much swirling around her head.
She had always known deep down that Trish was after her money but she had loved her once and had always hoped that Trish would come to love her in time. What really bothered her was the betrayal, she could handle most things but cheating wasn't one of them. Nikki had never cheated on anybody in her life and she didn't much like how it felt. There was no sadness, it was more a feeling of anger that she had let it go on for so long, she felt like she had left herself wide open to be taken advantage of.
After thinking about it for a while, Nikki felt it was time to let it go before it really started to get a grip of her. She put it down to experience and vowed to forget about it, Trish wasn't worth agonising over. She felt relief wash over her, she found she could breathe again now that she was out of a relationship that she tried so hard to keep alive but in the end didn't really want.
Then she began to think about Helen, did all the flirting mean anything? Did she realise she was doing it? Was the kiss earlier on that day friendly or something more? Could Helen ever love her? These were all questions Nikki had no answer to and the more she thought about it the more her heart ached. She tried not to think about it any further and closed her eyes, willing her brain to sleep.
Helen woke up next morning and climbed out of bed being careful not to disturb Nikki who looked to be in a deep and peaceful sleep. She made herself a drink of tea and turned on the television. She was sat watching the news when Nikki's mobile rang. She was in a bit of a quandary as to whether she should answer it, she knew what to do as Nikki had shown her how to work the phone and she had even had a few practice conversations with Yvonne and Karen but she was still feeling nervous. She got up and decided to answer it; she didn't want Nikki to be disturbed.
"Hello" she said hesitantly.
"Oh er hello. I'm sorry I think I may have the wrong number, I was trying to call Nikki Wade"
"You have the right number, this is Nikki's phone" Helen was pleased with herself; she was doing ok so far.
"If you don't mind me asking who are you?" said the woman on the other end.
"My name is Helen; I'm a friend of Nikki's"
"Is Nikki there at all?"
"She is sleeping at the moment, may I take a message?"
"Could you just hold on a second?"
"Of course" Helen waited for a few seconds before the woman was back.
"Actually it would be best if I didn't speak to Miss Wade. I'm trying to send her a package and it's a surprise, so could you give me the address and that way she won't know"
"Yes I can do that" Helen read the address from a letter that was sat by the phone.
"Thank you very much Helen, oh and you will remember not to tell her won't you?"
"Absolutely, I won't say a word"
"Thank you and you've been very helpful"
"Not at all, my pleasure"
"bye then" the woman put the phone down and Helen smiled, she was very proud that she had managed to answer the phone all by herself without once getting nervous or tongue tied.
Trish sat in her hotel room smiling, she had actually wanted to try and arrange to see Nikki and explain things to her, because she knew Yvonne would already have put the boot in but this had worked out much better. She had long suspected Nikki had a place somewhere that she didn't know about and thanks to Helen she had just found out exactly where it was.
A few days later Helen was sitting on the phone talking to Yvonne, Nikki had gone out to get some wine and a takeaway. Helen wasn't sure how to go about seducing Nikki, she had thought about it but didn't even know where to start, so she turned to Yvonne for help.
"Yvonne I need your help with something. I really like Nikki and I'm wondering how to go about letting her know. I kissed her the other day but she hasn't mentioned it. Do you think she likes me?"
"Helen darlin' I know she likes you. Hang on a minute though, are you trying to tell me you're gay?"
"Gay?" Helen wasn't aware of the term.
"Yeah, a lesbian"
"Oh yes, I am. I really like her, I think she's beautiful"
"But she gave that bloke her number so he could take you out, why didn't you tell her?"
"If I tell you, will you promise to keep it a secret?"
"Yeah go on"
Helen explained how Nikki was the only one who was able to release her. She also explained to Yvonne why she hadn't told Nikki.
"Right darlin' I understand now. Bit sneaky of you, I like it!" Yvonne chuckled, "here's what you have to do...."
Helen sat and listened, she blushed as Yvonne spoke, she wasn't sure if she could do it.
"Do you think that will work?" Helen asked, she was unsure.
"Yeah darlin' you just have to remember to be blatant with it otherwise Nikki won't get the message. Remember what I said to you and it should be fine"
"My pleasure love, I hope it goes well for you. Call me later on and let me know how it went"
"I will thanks again. bye" Helen put the phone down and smiled, "only one way to find out if it will work!" she thought as she rushed off to get ready.
Nikki pulled up in her car and made her way up to the apartment trying to juggle a takeaway and a couple of bottles of wine whilst trying to fish in her pocket for her house keys. She was just about to put the key in the lock when Helen opened the door for her.
"Sorry I would have opened it sooner but I was in the bath" Helen took the wine from her and carried it through to the kitchen; she had been waiting at the front door for Nikki to get home for the past fifteen minutes.
"No problem, I can dish the food out while you go and get dressed" Nikki got some plates from the cupboard and a couple of glasses for the wine.
"I'm standing here naked but for a towel and you want me to get dressed? Honest to god Wade you're getting old" Helen giggled over at her, from the look on Nikki's face; she knew it was having an effect on her.
"Oh yeah?" Nikki ran forward and quickly grabbed the edge of the towel Helen was wearing and yanked it off leaving her stood there completely starkers.
"Just you wait Nikki!" Helen smiled wickedly at her giving her a full view of her pert breasts before slowly bending over to pick up the towel, giving Nikki a full view of her backside in the process.
"Don't wave your arse about like that Helen, I'm going to eat in a minute" Nikki stuck her tongue out at her; she tried to keep it jokey as her hormones raced out of control.
"Cheeky sod, what's wrong with my arse?" Helen pouted playfully.
"Truthfully? Not a damn thing. Want an expert opinion?" Nikki advanced towards her with a leering smile and wiggled her fingers, she couldn't help but flirt. Helen squealed with laughter and ran off.
"She keeps waving her arse at me like that and one of these days I'm going to expire, still at least I would have a smile on my face" Nikki thought and laughed to herself. She was in a playful mood but realised if she wasn't careful, she could accidentally let slip to Helen how she felt about her.
Helen was back five minutes later, dressed in shorts and t-shirt. Her hair was brushed back and it glistened in the light. They both sat down to eat and Helen thought about what Yvonne had told her she should do, after what had happened a few minutes ago, she didn't feel embarrassed about it anymore. Helens movements during dinner were very deliberate, her movements were seductive and slow, you could cut the sexual tension in the kitchen with a knife. Nikki was getting increasingly warm.
"I was thinking about what I should wear tomorrow night, should I wear my dress or the black pants?"
"Whichever you feel would suit you best, I think you would look nice in both" Nikki smiled and carried on eating.
"Would you help me to choose something after dinner?"
"Sure" Nikki didn't trust herself to say any more than that.
After they finished eating, Helen dragged Nikki off to her bedroom and took some clothes from the wardrobe, she tried the black pants on first and declared that she didn't think they were suitable. Nikki silently agreed, Helen had fantastic legs and thought she should show them off. Helen picked up the dress; it was simple but elegant in black silky material. It had spaghetti straps and wasn't the type of dress you could wear a bra with, for which Helen was thankful. She got undressed and stood there in her underwear; she could tell Nikki was trying not to look. She took her bra off and stood in front of Nikki, deliberately taking her time in picking the dress up. Nikki was practically drooling and she felt flushed.
Helen lifted the dress over her head, giving Nikki an unhindered view of her breasts and slid it down the length of her body.
"Nikki could you zip me up please?"
"Yeah sure" Nikki stood up and zipped the dress up, noticing that it was a very snug fit and it clung to Helen's body in all the right places.
"What do you think?" Helen asked as she looked in the mirror, she knew full well what Nikki thought.
"It's very nice" Nikki stammered.
"Only very nice?"
"You look beautiful" Nikki said quietly.
"I'm not quite happy about my undercrackers though"
"Undercrackers!" Nikki choked with laughter; Helen had been speaking to Yvonne again.
"Yeah, they ruin the line of the dress, I think I should take them off" Helen reached under her dress and slid her underwear down her legs as Nikki sat transfixed.
"I hadn't noticed" Nikki felt like passing out any second.
"That's better, draws attention to my jubblies now instead of my arse" Helen was satisfied with the dress.
"You've been talking to Yvonne today haven't you?"
"You're starting to sound like her, I wish she would stop teaching you all these words" Nikki giggled.
"Don't panic, I know I'm not supposed to use them but they're funny all the same" Helen smiled and took the dress off but didn't make a move to get dressed.
"Was that all you needed me for?"
"There could be many more things I need you for if you stick around long enough" Helen said seductively.
"Is that the phone ringing?" Nikki tried to think of a way out of there.
"No. Don't tell me you're shy Nikki" Helen walked over to her and sat astride her legs.
"Oh good god!" Nikki thought while trying to remember to breathe.
"So what's your verdict, better in or out of the dress?" Helen raised an eyebrow and smiled.
"I'm sure that's the phone"
"I'm sure its not" Helen leaned forward but before she had a chance to kiss Nikki, the phone began to ring.
"See I told you the phone was ringing" Nikki lifted Helen off her lap and fled from the room.
"Shit, bugger, bollocks!" Helen exlaimed, Yvonne had taught her how to swear as well as a whole host of other things. She got dressed again and followed Nikki in to the living room; she was on the phone arguing with somebody.
"I don't want bloody double glazing, my windows are fine...I'm shouting because you won't be told politely that I don't need your services" Nikki said loudly before Helen snatched the phone from Nikki and spoke in to it.
"Hello, excuse me what's your name?.....ah Dave, well listen Dave, at this very moment in time I am trying to seduce a friend of mine, the very person you have just been speaking to...after having wild passionate sex with her tonight, I will make a point of canvassing the neighbourhood in the morning to see if anybody heard us, and if they have then I will be sure to call you back and ask you to come and double glaze the windows. Does that sound like a deal?"
Nikki had her head in her hands and was desperately trying not to laugh.
"That's none of your bloody business pal, but no matter who's underwear is hanging from the chandeliers, I'm damn sure it won't be yours....you haven't got the right equipment love...too bad you'll never know....haven't you got a girlfriend anyway?....she cant be that good if your on the phone to me wanting to glaze my windows.....you my love are what's known as a Barclays Banker...as much fun as this is, you better get off the phone before you have to dial somebody else's number with fingers you haven't got!" Helen put the phone down and found Nikki on her knees on the floor.
"Are you ok?" Helen asked concerned, Nikki was shaking.
"Fine" Nikki struggled to speak, Helen noticed she was laughing.
"What's a Barclays Banker?" Helen asked seriously, the howls from Nikki got louder.
"Ask...Yvonne...I can't breathe" Nikki continued to giggle, there was no stopping her. Helen picked up the phone and continued to watch her.
"Hiya Yvonne...oh that well it sort of went ok, tell you tomorrow...that noise? Oh its Nikki, she's laughing for some reason. I called you because I wanted to know what a Barclays Banker was and Nikki can't tell me because she can't breathe apparently" Helen held on to the phone as Nikki made strangled whooping noises and rolled about on the floor.
Nikki glanced at her watch for the second time in less than five minutes. She was sitting on the sofa waiting for Helen, Karen and Yvonne to get ready and was getting impatient. It was going to be a difficult enough night as it was without hanging around and prolonging the agony. She stood up and marched towards Helen's bedroom with the intention of hurrying them along. She banged on the door none too gently.
"Are you lot ready yet?"
"Jesus Nik! You're banging on the door like a soddin' bailiff!" Yvonne's dulcet tones floated through the door.
"Are you decent?" Nikki smiled.
"NO" all three women chorused.
"Well tough, I'm coming in anyway!" Nikki opened the door to find them all standing there in their underwear; it didn't look like they had made any attempt at getting ready at all.
"Is she always this impatient?" Karen grinned as she spoke to Yvonne.
"Yeah but she also came in here to have a peek at us all in our skivvies" Yvonne chuckled as Nikki stood with her hands on her hips.
"I didn't! I'm just trying to ascertain if you lot will be ready before the next bloody millennium. You haven't even started yet!"
"Perfection takes time Nik" Helen flashed Nikki a dazzling smile.
"Not in your case love, you're already perfect" Nikki blushed when she realised she had said it out loud, "just bloody hurry up will you!" she said gruffly and then closed the door. "Stupid!" she thought to herself as she went to pour herself a drink to calm her nerves.
The three women grinned at each other, as they set about getting ready. They had big plans for Nikki tonight; Helen was finally going to tell her how she felt. Karen retrieved a bag from the wardrobe and threw it to Helen.
"There you go, put those on and she won't be able to resist you" Karen winked at her.
"Bloody hell!" Helen exclaimed as she opened the bag and took out a set of lacy underwear, "are you trying to kill her?" she grinned.
"Thought it would really set her hormones racing, it gets Yvonne going when I buy them" Karen smiled knowingly at Yvonne.
"That's right; tell the whole world about our love life!" Yvonne smiled and shook her head at Karen.
Yvonne set about doing Helen's hair while Karen got dressed. And then they swapped as Karen did Helen's makeup. Twenty minutes later Helen was ready and she looked absolutely stunning. She looked in the mirror and gasped when she saw her reflection, she almost didn't believe how beautiful she looked.
"I can't believe it, you two have worked wonders"
"Nah, we just highlighted what was already there love" Yvonne squeezed her shoulder gently. "Come on, we better get going before Nikki has a hissy fit!"
They all trooped out in to the living room and Nikki's jaw dropped when she saw Helen standing there. Her eyes traveled up legs that were clad in black tights, all the way up until she was looking directly in to Helen's eyes. She didn't let herself think about what she was about to do, she walked up to Helen until they were standing only inches apart.
"You look absolutely beautiful, I'll never forget how wonderful you look tonight" she whispered.
"Thank you" Helen was overwhelmed; she could see the love shining in Nikki's eyes before it quickly disappeared. Nikki leant down and placed a gentle kiss on Helen's lips.
"Come on then, lets get going" Nikki marched off and Helen followed her, feeling very much more confident about telling Nikki that she was in love with her, than she had half an hour ago.
The nightclub was already packed out even though it was only early and they had to struggle to find a way to the bar. The lights bounced off the walls as the beat of the music vibrated below their feet. There was something hypnotic about it all, it made you want to grab the one you loved and get lost in the music. The air was stifling, the heat was bordering on tropical but not a single person on the dance floor seemed to be bothered by it. Helen was once again feeling slightly panicked by it all as Nikki knew she would be so she kept a tight hold of her hand and steered her through the crowd. As soon as they reached the bar, Helen calmed down a little and didn't feel quite so hemmed in. Nikki shouted above the music as she ordered the drinks and kept a watchful eye on Helen, she was getting glances from men as well as women and Nikki glared at them. Willing them to get the message that she was unavailable although Nikki knew that to be a lie.
They stayed by the bar waiting for the man, whom they now knew to be called Sean. It wasn't long before he came towards them through the crowd, grinning like an idiot. Nikki wondered why on earth she had chosen him because quite honestly he looked like a prat. His dark floppy hair fell forward on to his forehead and he kept brushing it away in what he thought was a casual manner. He was dressed in a checked shirt and corduroy trousers and Nikki thought all he was missing was a flat cap and cardigan.
"No wonder Nikki is gay, she has got bloody awful taste in blokes" Yvonne said in to Karen's ear.
"Yvonne!" Karen giggled, "and besides, I'm sure he isn't that bad" Karen said, although she didn't believe it.
"Yeah right" Yvonne had made her feelings known and left it at that.
"Hi, I'm Sean" he held out his hand to Helen.
"Hello, I'm Helen" she smiled stiffly back; she didn't think much of him either.
"Actually I wouldn't have recognised your face, it was your arse I recognised first" he giggled thinking he was funny.
"Twat" Nikki said none too quietly.
"Sorry?" Sean peered up at her.
"Would you like a drink?" Nikki said innocently.
"Yes I would love one. Pimms please" he grinned.
"Tarts drink" Nikki thought as she leaned over the bar to order his drink.
"So what do you do for a living Sean?" Karen tried to start a conversation.
"I'm a gardener, splendid job I must say. I've always felt an affinity with plants"
"Probably because you closely resemble one" Nikki spoke loudly enough for Helen to hear, who desperately tried not to laugh.
"I could spend hours talking to them, actually helps them grow you know!" Sean waved his hands about as he spoke.
"Ah he must be the guy who invented bonsai trees, always wondered why they never got very big and now I know, he bores them to death before they get a chance to grow" Nikki spoke in to Helen's ear and she nearly choked on her drink.
They were still standing at the bar twenty minutes later and were all being bored to death as Sean rambled on about his garden. He was droning on and on and they all felt as if they were fast losing the will to live when an unwelcome distraction but a distraction nonetheless shut him up. A man had come over to the bar and forcibly knocked in to Helen, almost pushing her over, he didn't apologise and Nikki felt her hackles rise. She was just about to open her mouth when Sean got there first.
"Manure is excellent stuff, you really must buy some......excuse me! Chaps do not go around knocking in to ladies without apologising!"
"Are you talking to me?" the man was over six feet tall, with a shaved head and a menacing disposition. He watched as Sean nodded, "mind your own sodding business" he went to turn away but Sean very stupidly grabbed his arm.
"Now listen here..." Sean trailed off as the man turned around to face him.
"Swallow a bag of marbles did ya? You posh git! Get your hand off my arm you great big nancy, before I rip it off" the man growled at Sean and he let go. Nikki was just about to speak once again when Helen interrupted her this time.
"Oi baldy!" Helen said as Nikki cringed. She pushed Sean out of the way and stood next to Helen in case the guy got violent.
"You better hadn't be talking to me" the man looked seriously hacked off.
"I am talking to you as it happens. I'm well aware you were intending to apologise to me, but didn't get the chance so I'm waiting" Helen folded her arms and glared at him.
"You must be joking sweetheart" he laughed loudly.
"We really wouldn't want your mother weeping over you in a hospital bed now would we? So either you say sorry or I will be forced to kick you in the nuts so hard that they get lodged in your bloody nostrils!" Helen shot him a singularly evil look.
"I apologise for knocking in to you, it won't happen again" He saw that Helen was deadly serious and noted the pissed off looks of the other women with her. No way was he getting involved in a fight with a group of females! He quickly scurried off, Helen looked pleased.
"How does she do it?" Nikki looked dazed.
"Nice one Helen!" Yvonne patted her on the back. Nikki shook her head and downed the rest of her drink; Helen was tougher than she looked!
"He's hardly a two can Van Damme is he?" Helen said as she pointed to Sean, who was looking a bit pale even in the semi-darkness. Nikki spluttered and tried to hide a smile.
"Er Helen would be you so good as, I mean would you..."
"Oh for god sake! Helen will you dance with him?" Nikki couldn't get over how tongue tied he was.
"Do I have to?" Helen looked sulky.
"Well no you don't really have to but it would be polite wouldn't it?"
"Oh alright" Helen rolled her eyes and dragged Sean off on to the dance floor, with a confidence she didn't really feel.
Nikki watched as Sean wrapped his arms around Helen as a slow song came on, she kept a close eye on his hands. She wanted Helen to find a man so that she could be free but she didn't like it one little bit, and she liked Sean even less. Yvonne could see how hard it was for Nikki just by looking at her but she wasn't concerned, she knew exactly where Helen's affections lay and she knew she wasn't attracted to Sean in the slightest; Nikki had no need to worry. Sean's hands began to travel further down Helen's body and Nikki felt like thumping him there and then, she watched as Helen took his hands and moved them back to her waist, she smiled on seeing that Helen really could take her of herself. Sean pulled Helen closer and Nikki was miffed that she made no attempt to put any distance between them. Thoughts popped in to her head and she started to sweat as she envisioned the dopey sod proposing. She imagined Helen in a wedding dress and had to bite down on her lip knowing that she wouldn't be the one she was marrying. The final straw came when she looked away momentarily to take a sip of her drink and then looked back to see Sean's lips firmly clamped around Helen's.
"I can't bloody well watch this!" Nikki stormed off to the toilets, as Yvonne watched her go.
Helen had pushed Sean away from her and slapped him across the face; he held his hand up to his cheek.
"What was that for?" he moaned.
"That was for kissing me when I didn't ask you to!" Helen left him standing there as she made her way across to where Yvonne and Karen stood.
"Karen go and see if Nikki's alright, I'll keep an eye on lover boy" Karen nodded and then went after Nikki.
"We've got a problem love; Nikki saw Sean kissing you but stormed off before you pushed him away"
"Oh no, that's all I need. I didn't want to kiss him Yvonne, he just forced himself on me before I had chance to move!"
"I know love, Karen has gone to talk to Nikki, it will be ok"
"I hope so" Helen looked distraught; the last thing she wanted was to lose Nikki.
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