Nikki sat staring at the bottle of vodka on the kitchen table in her apartment. She wondered how her life had suddenly become so complicated. Things had been good when she and Trish first got together. Trish had been loving and attentive but then slowly that all went by the wayside and all they did now was argue. Nikki felt guilty that she no longer loved her; Trish maintained that she loved Nikki even though they fought and she felt it was wrong that she couldn't love her. She had often wondered if Trish was having an affair, she was always off out doing something and the thought had entered her head many times, it was something else she felt guilty for and tried to dismiss the idea. She sighed heavily and placed the bottle back in the cupboard, alcohol wouldn't make her feel better.
The one thing that would make her feel better would be the picture inside the book, she didn't want to cling to something that was never going to be real but she thought she could afford to indulge herself just this once. She opened the book and swore she could smell a woman's perfume, she laughed and shook her head, it was all in her imagination. She began to read the book again and as time went on the smell got stronger, it was a fresh clean smelling perfume quite a lot like the CK1 perfume Nikki herself wore. Nikki could feel the book begin to vibrate even more so than before in her hands and it was beginning to make her wonder what would happen if she continued to sit there with it open. She was disappointed when the book stopped moving abruptly, it was like she had been on the edge of discovering something only to have it snatched away from her.
Nikki sat and logically thought about it, books just did not vibrate on their own. Books did not have pictures that changed all the time and they most certainly didn't wear perfume or feel warm to the touch. Nikki knew the only logical conclusion she could draw from it, was that tiredness was playing tricks on her mind. She stood up and decided it was time for bed, an early night wouldn't kill her and she knew she would feel better in the morning. Without even thinking about it, she picked the book up and took it to bed with her; she felt an unconscious need not to be parted from it. She placed it down on her bedside table while she took a shower and then crawled in to bed when she was done. She picked the book up and opened it at the page where the photo was, the woman was smiling up at her from the bed on which she was sitting. Nikki thought she could detect a look of something in the woman's eye; it was a glint of mischievousness almost. Nikki felt foolish about what she was about to do but she did it anyway.
"I would give anything for you to pop out of that book Helen. I wish you were real" it was the first time Nikki had ever said the woman's name out loud; she kissed the photo goodnight and then closed the book. She placed it back down and turned out the light before snuggling down and falling asleep.
The moon hung in the sky, it was visible through the thin clouds that floated slowly past it, although there was no wind the temperature was a few degrees below freezing. Frost had covered the fields and the moonlight glinted off silvery grass that stretched on as far as the eye could see. The trees were silent, there was no wind to ruffle the small amount of leaves they had left, and everything was deadly still. Caroline lay in Nikki's bed beside a sleeping Trish, she smiled in the darkness. Trish had believed her after all, things were back on track and she would get what she wanted soon enough.
Nikki mumbled and shifted slightly in her sleep as the book began to shudder slightly next to her bed. The vibrations got stronger and stronger. If Nikki had been awake she would probably have been panicked slightly at the funny bluish light which now seemed to shine faintly from between the pages. The book was flung open just as a slight cracking noise echoed around the room; the blue light disappeared just before Nikki shot up in bed.
"Ye gods! Where is ma damn candle?" a voice mumbled before a thud was heard.
Nikki quickly turned the light on and to her astonishment; the woman from the book was now laying on her bedroom floor after falling over Nikki's slippers in the dark.
"Oh my god" Nikki said softly.
"Who in gods name are ye?" the woman spoke in a soft Scottish accent unlike any other that Nikki had ever heard.
"My name is Nikki. Fortunately for you I already know who you are" Nikki sat up, this was surreal and she was having trouble taking it all in.
"This is not my bedchamber, where am I?" Helen looked around the room; she was getting more confused as the seconds ticked by.
"Before I even begin to tell you, would you like a drink?"
"Aye" Helen stood up and picked up the lamp, she was about to follow Nikki when the room was plunged in to darkness as the plug came out of the wall, "yer candle has burnt out" Helen heard Nikki giggling in the darkness.
"Don't worry about it" Nikki flicked the light switch on and Helen jumped.
Helen followed Nikki down the hall and in to the kitchen, she filled the kettle and flicked the switch. She got two mugs from the cupboard and waited for the kettle to boil. Helen was looking around the room wide eyed; it was the strangest place she had ever seen. She walked over to the fridge and opened the door; she peered inside and looked at it in wonder.
"its called a fridge, it keeps your food cold so it doesn't go off too quickly" Nikki wasn't sure what the hell was going on but she had correctly guessed that no matter where Helen was from, she had most definitely never seen a fridge.
Helen just nodded and continued looking around the room, she bent over to peer at the toaster, she didn't have a clue what it was for. She prodded it and nothing happened, she looked in to the top of it and noticed it had slots in it, she wondered what they were for. Nikki had turned her back for a second to pour water in to the mugs, and then she turned round and saw Helen trying to jam a teaspoon in to the toaster.
"Helen no!" Nikki said quickly, she snatched the spoon away from her, "you shouldn't do that, you could electrocute yourself" Nikki said softly, it wasn't Helen's fault; she had never seen a toaster before.
"Electrocute? What does that mean?" she said looking baffled.
"It means..." Nikki pondered for a second, how on earth did you explain these types of things? "It means to die from being shocked by electricity. Mind you though, look at Rod Stewart, he styles his hair like that all the time and it hasn't killed him yet" Nikki smiled at her own joke.
"Rod Stewart? I don't know Rod, most likely a cousin I've never met" Helen smiled.
"No he's not a....never mind" Nikki shook her head and tried not to laugh.
"What is electricity?" Helen held her head to one side.
"Oh I don't believe this er, I will try and explain it as simply as I know how to. It's a form of energy that is used to make things work...hang on a minute" Nikki disappeared and came back with a dictionary, "electricity is a physical phenomenon associated with stationary or moving electrons and protons. There do you understand now?" Nikki wasn't sure she would get it; she didn't even understand the scientific stuff herself. She wished she had paid more attention at school.
"No" came the simple reply.
"Have you ever seen thunder and lighting? Stupid bloody question, you must have"
"Yes I have"
"Well the thunderbolts that you see in the sky, that's what we call electricity. Some bloke called Benjamin Franklin found a way to capture it and that's how we operate things" Nikki tried to be simple with her explanations but it was hard to describe everyday things and processes that you never gave any thought to.
"What are electrons and protons?"
"Bloody good question!" Nikki scratched her head and flipped through the dictionary. "An electron is a particle with a negative charge and a proton is a particle with a positive charge equal to the negative charge of an electron"
"I'm sorry but I still do not understand"
"You're not the only one. Don't worry about it, its not really that important" Nikki breathed a sigh of relief when Helen nodded.
"Where am I?"
"England! Oh the treachery, just wait till my father hears I was kidnapped by the English!" Helen began to pace around the room.
"Whoa slow down! Wherever it is that you come from, things are different now" Nikki looked at the expression on Helen's face, she didn't look pleased at all.
"What year is this?"
"2004! Oh dear god, no" Helen sank on to a chair.
"What's the matter?" Nikki rushed forward to her.
"I was in the year 1780, which is a difference of 224 years" Helen looked shocked.
Nikki turned around and discretely counted on her fingers, as she stuck her tongue out whilst concentrating; maths had never been her strongpoint.
"That's right" Nikki turned back around and smiled, "that was quick"
"What am I doing here?" Helen looked forlorn.
"I cannot answer that. maybe things will become clearer in time" Nikki didn't mean to lie but she didn't think Helen would be able to handle the truth just yet, she obviously had no recollection of what had happened to her.
"I need to go home, I need to see ma mother and father" then a sad look crossed her face, "but after more than 200 hundred years they will no longer be living" Helen began to cry softly and Nikki stood awkwardly not knowing what to do. She patted Helen gently on the shoulder as she sniffled.
Helens sobs subsided a while later and Nikki placed a cup of coffee in front of her, Helen took a mouthful and then pulled a face.
"What is this? Am I supposed to drink this or clean floors with it?" Helen had a sense of humour, Nikki was pleased to note.
"Its coffee, it's a drink we like but I don't suppose you ever had it. When the fuck was coffee brought to the UK?" Nikki thought out loud, "and did they even have it up in Scotland?" she paced up and down, not knowing what to do.
"What is coffee made of?" Helen was back with the questions and it reminded Nikki of children that would not stop asking things.
"It's made from something we call coffee beans, we smash them up and pour water on them. Listen, I'm going on the phone to call a friend, don't move" she went to leave the kitchen but Helen spoke.
"What is a phone?"
"Oh bloody hell! I will tell you later, just don't move"
Nikki rushed through in to the living room and picked up the phone, she rang Yvonne's number and waited for an answer.
"Yvonne! Thank god, do me a favour, come straight to my place now, I need your help"
"Nikki, its 4 in the morning for god sake!" Yvonne sounded pissed off at being woken up.
"Please Yvonne just do it, you aren't going to believe this but Helen showed up"
"Who's Helen? Don't tell me, one of your ex's? Surely to god you can deal with the floosie on you own?" Yvonne was always grumpy when she was woken up.
"No you don't understand. Remember Helen from the book, the one who was cursed?"
"Well she's here. I know it sounds strange but it's the truth" Nikki sounded desperate.
"Alright just calm down, Karen and I will be there as soon as we can, see you soon" Yvonne put the phone down and gave Karen a dig, "we need to get over to Nikki's and quick, I think the poor girl's gone loopy"
"Nikki gone loopy? Loopy how?"
"She's probably pissed out of her mind, I haven't got time to explain now, I'll tell you on the way there" Yvonne got up and started to dress.
Nikki paced her living room as Helen sat on the sofa watching her with curiosity. She kept pointing to things around the room and asking what they were, Nikki could only answer so many of her questions because she couldn't think properly. Words kept echoing in the back of her mind, it was a phrase her mother often used.
Be careful what you wish for, "and boy was she right" Nikki mumbled as she waited anxiously for Yvonne to get there.
Nikki pressed a button on the intercom and the door buzzed, Yvonne pushed it open and hurried to the lift with Karen hot on her heels. They were expecting to find Nikki in a drunken state; they weren't prepared for the sober Nikki that opened the door.
"Thank god you're here and about bloody time too!"
"What's this all about Nik? I thought you'd been drinking but you seem sober enough to me" Yvonne walked in the living room and nearly fell over when she noticed Helen sitting on the sofa with her hands clasped in her lap.
"See! I told you" Nikki said as she stood beside Yvonne.
Helen smiled up at them nervously, and then she began to look at Yvonne's hair curiously. Women in her day did not have short hair.
"I'm most awfully sorry about your hair" Helen smiled sweetly, thinking Yvonne had had some sort of accident.
"Is she takin' the piss?" Yvonne whirled around to face Nikki.
"Give the girl a break, she's never seen anything like it" Nikki tried to placate Yvonne.
"Now you're takin' the piss!" Yvonne couldn't help but smile, Nikki hadn't meant it the way it sounded.
"What on earth happened?" Karen was shocked to say the least.
"I er I don't know" Nikki blushed, she had a feeling she did know what had happened, "I was looking at the picture and said I wished she was real, then I er kissed her goodnight" she had given in and told the truth when she saw Karen and Yvonne looking at her, it only made her blush a deeper shade of red. She felt uncomfortable that Helen was listening as well.
"Then what happened?" Karen tried to keep a straight face, Nikki's face was a picture.
"I went to sleep, next thing I know she was clattering around my bedroom"
"My name is Helen, pleased to make your acquaintance" Helen piped up from the sofa.
"Likewise darlin'" Yvonne smiled back.
"Sorry I do not quite understand" Helen smiled questioningly.
"She doesn't understand you Yvonne; she isn't used to the way we speak. She has come from 1780 after all" Nikki dropped the information casually in to the conversation.
"1780? Bloody hell Nik! I'm sorry but this is just weird, are you sure you ain't on anything?"
"No I'm not! And besides, you can see her as well, just look at her dress" Nikki pointed to Helen's clothing, "does that look like it just fell off the catwalk?"
"No your right, hardly one of Donna Karan's finest is it?" Yvonne walked up to Helen and studied her closely.
"Excuse me but it is rude to stare" Helen looked pissed off.
"Sorry darlin'" Yvonne backed off a little.
"Are you both from the same clan?" Helen asked as she pointed at Karen and Yvonne, noticing that they were both blonde.
"No we're partners" Karen smiled.
"Er lovers, girlfriends or whatever you wish to call it" Karen couldn't think of another word to describe it, "We are lesbians"
"Oh I see. I have heard of that word before, we prefer to call them sexual deviants. It does not bother me, I have a friend who is a secret deviant" Helen smiled at them.
"I've been called some things but never a deviant" Yvonne was amused.
"Helen, are you feeling tired?" Nikki asked quickly, she needed to get Helen out of the way so that she could talk to Karen and Yvonne.
"Yes I am a little weary"
"Of course you must be, follow me and I will show you to your bedchamber" Nikki tried to speak in a way that Helen would understand.
"Bedchamber?" Yvonne snorted.
"Shut up, it's all she understands" Nikki glared at Yvonne and motioned for Helen to follow her.
She led her up the hallway and to the spare room; she opened the door and showed Helen inside.
"This is where you will sleep"
"thank you, its most....charming" Helen tried to find the right word, it was in fact the strangest looking bedroom besides Nikki's that she had ever seen but she didn't want to appear impolite.
"I will get some clothes for you to sleep in, I wont be long" Nikki left and picked up a t-shirt and some shorts for Helen to wear, and then went back to the spare room, "these are for you" she handed them over.
"Thank you" Helen looked at the garments, what on earth were you supposed to do with them?
"Can you manage?"
"I need some help to undress, I have never mastered taking off my own corset"
"Oh er oh ok then" Nikki began to help Helen undress and she couldn't keep her hands from shaking.
She removed the dress and then the corset and had to struggle for breath, Helen was a breathtakingly beautiful woman and Nikki tried to avert her eyes from her perfect figure. Seeing Helen standing there in only her underwear, even though it was old fashioned and didn't show much, was doing funny things to her.
"You er will need to remove your undergarments"
"Could you help me?" Helen had always had servants to dress and undress her and was unaccustomed to having to do it alone.
Nikki helped her off with the rest of her clothes and nearly had a cardiac arrest there and then on the carpet as Helen stood in front of her completely naked.
"Now we need to put these on" she helped Helen on with the shorts and t-shirt and stood back to admire how gorgeous she looked in just a simple t-shirt. Nikki had a random thought about taking her shopping and getting her some proper clothes.
"Thank you, you may go now" Helen smiled and Nikki realised she was being dismissed, she didn't take offence though, things worked differently where Helen was from.
"Right goodnight then"
Nikki closed the door and then walked back down the hallway to talk to Karen and Yvonne. She was sweating slightly, if she had to witness Helen in the nude many more times then she seriously would drop dead from the strain. "Mind you" she thought, "I'd die happy"
"I got you some coffee, thought you could do with it" Yvonne pointed to a cup on the table.
"Thanks. What a night" Nikki rubbed her forehead and took a mouthful of coffee.
"What are you going to do?" Karen passed a cigarette to Nikki and then lit it for her.
"I don't know this is like those weird stories they have on telly at night. I'm not sure I even believe all this is real. But if it is then I'm going to have to look after her, all her family are dead and she doesn't have anybody else. Me and my big gob! I'm going to have to teach her everything"
"Everything?" Yvonne raised her eyebrow and smiled.
"Yvonne!" Nikki blushed bright red again.
"Well you did say you wanted a woman you couldn't have and now she's here..." Karen winked and trailed off.
"Yeah right! Excuse me I know you're from 1780 but I really do like you, would you mind awfully being my lesbian lover?" Nikki said sarcastically whilst smiling.
"That's very forward of you" an amused voice sounded from behind her. Nikki whipped round and nearly gave herself whiplash.
"Helen! I thought you were sleeping?"
Karen and Yvonne exchanged amused glances; they had also noticed that Helen had quite a sense of humour.
"I tried to sleep but I am feeling restless. I am very confused about where I am and why I am here"
"Sit down. I will get you a drink" Nikki stood up.
"Thank you but not coffee, it is disgusting" Helen smiled.
"Right, something slightly different then" Nikki smiled and went off to get her a drink, she was back a couple of minutes later, "try this" she handed Helen a can of coke.
"Thank you" Helen took a sip and her eyes went wide, "it is....what is the word?"
"Fizzy? Bubbly?" Yvonne chipped in.
"Strange" Helen commented but seemed happy enough to drink it. She burped loudly and stifled a giggle after politely excusing herself.
"If you really want to know why you're here then I will tell you but it won't be an easy thing for you to have to hear" Nikki looked serious.
"Please tell me"
Nikki explained the situation as Helen sat and looked at her incredulously. She sat silently for a few minutes afterwards, Nikki watched as a tear ran down Helen's cheek. she wanted nothing more than to pull her in to her arms and make it all better but she wasn't sure how Helen would react so thought it safer not to. Helen got up abruptly from the table and muttered something about being tired. Nikki figured it was best to let her go; she needed to think about things on her own.
"She'll come round Nikki, she needs time. Its not often people find themselves catapulted in to the future after being cursed. Even just the thought of it seems impossible" Karen tried to reassure Nikki.
"I know, I just want to help her but there isn't really anything I can do. I'm going to go back to the bookshop; I'm going to talk to the woman who gave me this book to see if she knows anything. I need to get to the bottom of all this so I can figure out if there is anything I can do"
"We can stay here in case Helen needs anything. It wouldn't be safe leaving her on her own" Yvonne stood up to carry her cup in to the kitchen.
"Thanks. Why don't you two take my bed and I can kip on the couch. I won't be getting much sleep anyway" Nikki looked at her watch to see it was 5:30am already.
"Are you sure?"
"Course I'm sure Karen, see you two later and thanks for coming over" Nikki smiled and stood up. As Karen and Yvonne went to bed Nikki made her way to the sofa.
She settled back and tried to sleep but sleep would not come so easily. If she could find some way of getting Helen back home then she would gladly do it, she didn't belong in the 21st century. It was strange but Nikki already cared about Helen so much that she would do anything she could to make her happy even if that meant sending her back home. Miss Leigh might hold the key to this whole mess and Nikki was intent on getting as much information as she could.
Trish turned over in bed and felt the empty cold space next to her; she panicked for a second until she heard Caroline enter the bedroom. She came in carrying a cup of coffee and a plate of toast.
"There you go, breakfast in bed" Caroline handed the cup over.
"Mmm thank you sweetheart" Trish kissed her on the cheek. She had already forgotten about Caroline's affair.
"So what are we doing today then?"
"I thought we would spend most of the day in bed, and then around dinnertime we could go to that lovely new restaurant that opened up in town last week. Courtesy of Nikki of course" Trish picked up a credit card that Nikki had given her and waved it in the air.
"Then after that, who knows? All depends on what you are in the mood for" Trish leered at Caroline.
"Oh I think you know what I'm in the mood for" Caroline leaned forward and kissed Trish and everything else was momentarily forgotten.
Nikki locked her car and made her way over to the bookshop, she had to know if Miss Leigh knew anything about the book whatsoever. She had left the apartment that morning with Karen and Yvonne trying to find some breakfast for Helen. It was comical watching Helen screwing her face up at the mention of certain items. Nikki took a deep breath and pushed the door of the shop open and stepped inside.
"Helen! Put that fork down!" Karen shouted at Helen who was currently prodding the television with it.
"What does this do?"
"I told you, if you don't sit down and eat then I won't tell you" Karen placed her hands on her hips sternly as if she was telling a naughty child off.
"I do not like it, I cannot eat it" Helen sulked.
"You either come and eat it now or I will tell Nikki and she won't be happy that you are being naughty" Karen glared at Yvonne who was sniggering, "what are you laughing at?"
"You! She must be thirty if she's a day and you're telling her off like a five year old" Yvonne stifled further giggles.
"That's because she is acting like a bloody five year old. If you're so bloody clever then you get her to eat her breakfast!" Karen stomped off to the kitchen.
"Right, how hard can this be?" Yvonne thought, "take no notice of Karen, she can be a bit bossy at times. How about you come and eat your breakfast and afterwards I will show you something special?"
"Something special? Can I see it now?" Helen's face lit up, she was all for learning about new things.
"No, you have to eat first. Will you sit down and eat?"
"If I must" Helen followed Yvonne through to the kitchen and began to eat her soggy cornflakes whilst pulling a face, "this is horrible, can I have something else?"
"No you can't" Karen stood with her arms folded.
"Can I have some coke?"
"I am thirsty"
"You can't have coke, too much of it is bad for you" Karen wouldn't be swayed.
"I want some coke" Helen pouted.
"Give her some coke Karen, she is old enough to make up her own mind" Yvonne tried not to smile at Karen who looked harassed.
"That is right, I am 30 years old and I want some coke" Helen smiled, she realised Yvonne would make a good ally.
Nikki stood uncomfortably in the shop while she waited for Miss Leigh to return from an errand she was currently running. She wandered up and down the shelves idly looking at the books but her mind wasn't on it. In truth she felt nervous, how on earth did you tell somebody that you had just met someone who had popped out from a book? From previous comments about the book, she felt sure that Miss Leigh would already know. She heard the door open and breathed out slowly when she noticed Miss Leigh walk in. She approached the counter as her legs shook like jelly.
"Miss Wade! How lovely to see you"
"Nice to see you too Miss Leigh. I wondered if it would be possible to take up half an hour of your time, I need to talk to you"
"I see it's happened already" she smiled, "come through in to the back room while I make you some tea"
Nikki followed her in, she obviously did know something and why the hell hadn't she said anything before?
"Why didn't you say anything before?" Nikki started in.
"If I had, would you have accepted the book?"
"No I don't think I would have" Nikki admitted.
"Exactly, that's why I never said anything. Let me just make the tea and I will explain everything"
Miss Leigh wandered off and Nikki was left alone with her thoughts, if she could finally find out what was going on then she may have all the answers she needed, answers to questions that Helen had either asked or was going to ask. She sat playing with her shoelaces until Miss Leigh was back.
"I can sense you have a lot of questions dear, so once I've told you all about the book then you can ask as many as you like" she smiled kindly.
"Thank you" Nikki smiled and waited.
"The book has been in my family for a long time, my father had it before me and his father before him. I come from a long line of bookshop owners and I can usually learn a lot about a person from the type of books that they read. Which is why I thought that you may be the perfect person to give it to. You see the story in the book was true as you will already know; the poor girl was indeed cursed by a gypsy and ever since then has been trapped in a book. The last time she was let out was nearly ten years ago, he seemed to be a lovely young man and I thought he would be the just the one to help except he wasn't and the book was returned, just like it has been returned so many times since. Since then I have waited to find the right person and I thought you would be perfect" Miss Leigh smiled.
"She seems to have no memory of anything though; she was upset when I told her"
"Yes that's right, all that has gone before will not remain in her memory. She will remember everything about her life up until the point the curse took effect but after that then she will remember nothing. She will obviously find things strange, as would we all if we were in that situation"
"Is there anything I can do to send her back to her own time and place? She misses her parents and she doesn't belong here"
"No unfortunately there isn't. Time moves on, it is unstoppable. Whilst she is in the book she remains the same, she does not age or change in any way, time stands still for her, while it changes everywhere else. There is no way to send her back. Till she finds true love, then she is stuck in that book. If she succeeds then the best she can hope for is exactly where she is right now, 2004"
"So basically I have to find somebody who loves her enough to break the curse?"
"Yes but that love must also be returned otherwise the curse can't be broken. If the love is pure and she returns it then she will gain her freedom"
"I better get on the phone and find her a dating agency" Nikki laughed softly.
"She may not have to look very far" if she wasn't mistaken then Nikki already cared deeply for Helen, she had a good feeling about this.
Nikki's phone rang and she apologised to Miss Leigh and answered it. It was Karen, she spoke to her for a few minutes and then put the phone down smiling.
"That was my friend Karen; she wants to know how long I will be. At this very moment in time, Helen is driving her up the wall. She won't eat her breakfast, I'm told the kitchen is now covered in cornflakes and she won't stop asking questions"
"Oh dear!" Miss Leigh giggled, "It's to be expected of course, she is in a strange place and a strange time, she is bound to act up"
"Yeah but she's a grown woman"
"We all act strangely when we feel a loss of control. My advice to you would be to teach her things, teach her about the modern world so that she understands. If she gains her freedom then that knowledge will be very useful"
"This is going to be difficult, bit like when they tried to take Tarzan out of the jungle" Nikki shook her head and smiled.
"You'll cope, as soon as she starts to learn she will calm down"
"I hope you're right, I can't deal with tantrums. I have another question, how long is she released from the book for? What sort of a timeframe are we working with here?"
"That is something I cannot tell you, sometimes it's a few days, sometimes a month or more" Miss Leigh was telling the truth, the time frame was always different. Usually it was because of how well Helen was getting on with the person who had released her. But she didn't disclose this to Nikki because she may have questioned her further on something which she wished to keep quiet, something Nikki had obviously forgotten.
"Ok thank you. Right, I think that was all I needed to know. If have any further questions may I call you?"
"Of course you may. And I'm sorry I didn't tell you but the thoughts of poor Helen having to spend eternity in a book has always saddened me and I thought that you may be the one person who could help her"
"Don't apologise, the thought makes me sad too which is why I'm determined to help her as much as I can. Well I better be going and thank you"
"Not at all Miss Wade, I'm glad I could be of help to you. Take care and I hope everything goes well"
"You too. If not I will make sure I bring the book back to you"
"I hope you won't have to"
"So do I. goodbye" Nikki smiled and left the shop.
Miss Leigh finished off the rest of her tea and smiled. The one thing she hadn't told Nikki was that if she was the one to release Helen from the book then she would be the only one to set her free. Helen would not be permitted to find love elsewhere, that was one of the conditions of the curse, and it was all in the book. Nikki hadn't remembered and she hadn't reminded her. Miss Leigh wanted things to fall in to place naturally without them having to be forced and she would bet any money she had on Nikki being the perfect one for Helen. She just had a good feeling about it. She stood up and walked back through to the shop, it was time for her to get back to work.
Nikki walked back to the car and breathed a sigh of relief, at least she knew more about the situation now and she could answer any questions Helen might ask. Although she was dreading having to answer them. She indicated and turned left instead of turning right, she would need more things if Helen was going to be around for a while. She could hardly take her home, Trish would go mental. After she had picked her things up then she would go back to the flat and give Karen and Yvonne a break. She pulled up outside the house, without noticing the car parked a short way up the lane, she put her key in the door and disappeared inside.
"Trish?" Nikki shouted around the house.
"Shit! It's Nikki. Quick hide" Trish whispered to Caroline. They had been too busy making love to notice that Nikki had opened the front door.
"Trish?" Nikki shouted up the stairs.
"Be right there!" Trish tried to sound normal, she pushed her hair back and put a dressing gown on.
Nikki walked out in to the kitchen and got some orange juice from the fridge; she poured a glass and waited. She heard Trish coming down the stairs and waited for round two of the argument they had the previous night.
"Nikki, what are you doing back?"
"I came to pick up some things"
"Oh so you aren't staying?" Trish tried to look down about it.
"No I'm not staying. I really think that you and I need time apart" Nikki chickened out of what she really wanted to say, which was that she thought it was about time that she and Trish went their separate ways.
"Oh" was all Trish could say, she could feel her meal ticket slipping further and further away and silently cursed herself for not pretending hard enough, "I respect that but I really think we can work our problems out. You know I love you Nikki even though we don't get on so well at times" she felt she had to say something to try and protect her interests.
"I'm just going to get some things, then I'll be off" Nikki didn't comment on what Trish had said, not wanting to tell the truth but not wanting to give her false hope either. She still had a niggling feeling deep down that all Trish loved was the cash but she felt guilty for thinking it.
"Er Nikki! Why don't I get some things for you?" Trish didn't want her to go upstairs, there were clothes all over the floor, the bed hadn't been made and Caroline was still up there.
"You don't know what I want" Nikki looked at her, something was going on.
"Just offering to help that's all" Trish was resigned to the fact that Nikki was going up there, she began to sweat slightly.
Nikki walked upstairs wondering what or even who she would find. She opened the bedroom door half expecting to find somebody in bed but there was nobody. Trish came bounding up the stairs and breathed a sigh of relief when she noticed that everything was tidy. Caroline must have quickly done it. Nikki threw some more clothes in to a bag and went in to the bathroom to collect a few more things. She went to leave the bedroom to get her laptop from the spare room that she used as an office when Trish stopped her.
"What did you want? I can go and get it for you while you finish packing" Trish didn't want Nikki in the spare room, that could be the only place Caroline was hiding.
"My laptop and modem" Nikki was sure something was amiss, Trish was jumpy.
"Right, be back in a tick" Trish rushed off to the spare room, but there was no sign of Caroline. She picked up the laptop and modem and took it back to Nikki.
"Thanks" Nikki placed them in the bag then hoisted it on to her shoulder.
"Take care, I hope you come back soon" Trish leaned in to kiss her but Nikki pulled away.
"Yeah take care" Nikki walked out of the room and down to her car, something had happened but the truth was that she didn't really care anymore.
Trish heard Nikki drive away and went in search of Caroline, she couldn't find her anywhere.
"Caroline? Where are you?"
"In here" a voice sounded from the bedroom.
"There you are!" Trish found Caroline crawling from underneath the bed, and they both spent the next ten minutes giggling about how she had been hiding from Nikki.
Nikki was on her way back home when she remembered she had forgotten to pick up any clothes for Helen. The poor girl had nothing to wear and her clothes wouldn't fit, so she drove to a nearby shopping centre and went mad with her credit card. A couple of hours later she was done and looked at her watch, Karen would go mental; she said she would be home soon. She took the clothes back to the car and made the short journey to her flat. Nikki put the key in the door of her flat and let herself in, things were strangely quiet. It worried her because according to Karen, Helen was acting like a toddler.
"Hello?" she called as she walked through the living room.
"In the kitchen Nik" Yvonne called out.
Nikki walked in and found the three of them sitting there watching her as she came in. Helen sat there looking freshly washed and ridiculous in clothes that were far too big for her.
"Hiya" Nikki said to all three women as she sat down.
"Alright Nik? How's it goin' me old china?" Helen said in the worst cockney accent Nikki had ever heard.
"Yvonne you didn't!" Nikki nearly choked.
"I just took the liberty of teaching her some of the lingo" Yvonne smiled.
"Yeah except now she sounds like an extra from Eastenders. What else have you been teaching her?"
"Yvonne has been teaching me about what's what. I know how to make toast, use the microwave and how the telly works. It's not hard when you get going" Helen smiled as she spoke in her soft Scottish accent. Yvonne had spent a lot of time explaining things to her.
Nikki was gob smacked, Helen didn't sound any differently to any of them now, the old fashioned way of speaking had disappeared, Yvonne had been really busy.
"Oh really? What's this I hear about you chucking your cornflakes about the kitchen?"
"Chucking?" it was a word Helen didn't know yet.
"Yeah, it means throwing things about"
"Oh that, well to be honest they were minging"
"Minging! Oh bloody hell Yvonne! You've got her sounding like you" Nikki shook her head in dismay.
"I had pizza for my breakfast instead" Helen stood up and hitched Nikki's jeans up.
"Where are you going?" Nikki looked at her questioningly.
"I'm going for a wazz" Helen smiled and left the kitchen.
"Yvonne!" Nikki exclaimed.
"What?" Yvonne looked innocent.
"If I have to put up with her telling me she is going for a wazz every time she needs to pee then there will be trouble!"
"I did warn her Nikki, but you know what she's like. She lets Helen get away with far too much" Karen shrugged and lit a cigarette, she passed one to Nikki.
"I can see where this is leading, Karen and I look like the bad guys while you look like her best mate" Nikki was none too pleased.
"Oh behave, she's a grown woman, we aren't talking about a bloody five year old here. You two seem intent on treating her like a baby; I'm just bringing her in to the 21st century. She'll learn that it's just a bit of fun" Yvonne shrugged her shoulders and seemed unconcerned.
"She better had otherwise I know where to find you Atkins!" Nikki could finally see the funny side and they both laughed, Karen still wasn't convinced.
"Can I have pizza for dinner?"
"No you can't, you had it for breakfast"
"Awww please Nikki!" Helen begged.
"No. We'll find something else" Nikki raised her eyebrows as Helen walked off in to the living room.
"See! I told you Yvonne" Karen shook her head.
"How many more times? She's a grown woman, stop picking on her!" Yvonne glared at them both.
"Yvonne's right, we're being a bit hard on her, I mean she's come all this way and she wants to learn new things and here we are treating her like a kid" Nikki started to feel guilty.
"She was a grownup where she came from Nikki but there is so much to learn here, she needs to know right from wrong in this day and age and that means not eating pizza at every meal" Karen started to laugh, "I sound just like my mother! I have been treating her like a child haven't I?"
"Yes!" both Nikki and Yvonne chorused.
"To be fair though, she's been acting a bit like one, I can understand how she feels though, I think I would be a bit petulant with people if I suddenly found myself two hundred years in the future" Nikki smiled over at Karen.
"True, right Yvonne and I are off because she has worn us out. We'll leave you with Kevin the teenager, phone us if you can't cope" Karen giggled.
"Very funny! Thanks girls, see you later"
Nikki showed them to the door and turned around to go back to the living room, Helen was awfully quiet, what was she getting up to now? She walked in to the living room to find Helen channel surfing, which was an annoying habit of Yvonne's that she seemed to have picked up rather quickly.
"What?" Helen didn't look up.
"I'm sorry; you can have pizza for dinner if you want it"
"Don't want it anymore" Helen appeared to be sulking.
"Helen Stewart! Are you sulking?" Nikki tried hard not to smile.
"Yes you are"
"Yes you are"
"Alright then yes I am sulking. You'd sulk too if everybody kept treating you like a child" Helen turned the TV off and put the remote down. Nikki sat beside her and noticed a couple of tears trickle from Helen's eyes.
"I'm sorry, it's just that there is so much for you to learn and we've been going about teaching you the wrong way. You aren't a child and you shouldn't be treated like one just because you aren't familiar with things here. I really am sorry"
"Its ok, I know I've been acting like a pain in the arse" Helen smiled slightly.
"Yvonne has a lot to answer for!" Nikki smiled at Helen.
"I heard you talking, I know I have to learn the proper words for things but I'm trying. I haven't been here long and it's a lot to learn"
"I know and I'm sorry for being hard on you, it's not your fault, Yvonne shouldn't be teaching you bad habits. You're a fast learner though, you don't speak that much differently from us now" Nikki hadn't been gone more than 6 hours and already Helen had come on in leaps and bounds amazingly fast.
"I have a very retentive memory. I've listened to the way you all speak and it's not hard to pick up. I've still got a lot to learn though, will you teach me?"
"Of course I will, I see you have the TV, toaster and microwave off to a fine art so we can progress from there. You're looking a bit tired, we can have something to drink and then you can have a nap if you want to"
"When I go for my nap, will you come with me? I'm still trying to get used to being in a strange place and I'm feeling scared, I don't want to be on my own"
"Of course I will" Nikki smiled and patted Helen on the hand.
She went off to get some drinks and was glad for the privacy; even just the thoughts of sharing the same bed with Helen set her hormones racing. Which she then felt guilty for, Helen needed her help and all she could think of was how beautiful she was and how much she wanted to hold her in her arms. At some point she would also need to talk to Helen and explain the situation to her but at the moment she thought she had enough to deal with and didn't want to overload her. She wanted Helen to relax for the next few days and take it easy before they even broached the subject again but knowing the amount of questions Helen asked then she had a feeling it would be a whole lot sooner.
Nikki lay in bed listening to Helen's deep soft breathing as she slept soundly. Nikki had tried to sleep and although she was tired, sleep still eluded her. She was having difficulty trying not to think too much about how much she liked Helen. Her hormones were once again causing her problems and she cursed them, trying not to get too close to Helen was easier said than done. Helen's arm had been resting across her waist for the past hour and she tingled where it lay, as she wondered what it would be like to have the rest of Helen against her. She thought about how she would go about getting Helen out to meet somebody, dating agencies didn't seem the best way to go and she didn't have many male friends who weren't already attached to somebody. She figured nightclubs and pubs were probably the best way to go, even though it would feel strange trying to find a man for Helen. The thought made her heart ache, she wanted to be with Helen herself but that didn't look likely. Nikki still had not remembered that Helen's only chance of freedom was with her and if she had then she would have been slightly more hopeful than at present.
She continued to think in silence for a while longer until she felt Helen stir beside her. She closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep; she didn't want Helen to see the mixed emotions that were welling up inside her. Helen opened her eyes sleepily and moved closer to Nikki, she liked the feeling of warmth and safety that she got from being close to her. She raised herself up on one elbow but didn't remove her arm from Nikki's waist.
"Nikki" she whispered.
"Yeah?" Nikki knew it was no use pretending.
"For helping me. If it wasn't for you then I would feel totally lost"
"My pleasure" Nikki smiled slightly.
"I can't ever go home can I?"
"No that won't be possible, I'm sorry but if had been possible then I would have done everything I could to get you back home" Nikki tried to answer Helen as softly as she could, the question had taken her a little by surprise.
"I can't stay here with you either can I?" Helen looked down at her sadly.
"That depends. Remember I told you about the curse and everything?"
"Well if we can find you somebody to love then you will be able to stay. We can be friends and you can come and visit me whenever you like"
"It won't be the same as being here with you though" Helen spoke quietly.
"I know this is hard for you, but no matter what happens I will be there for you to help you as much as I can" Nikki had to bite back on her tears, she didn't want to cry in front of Helen, who looked close to tears herself.
"Thank you" Helen said once again.
"I also found out why you can't remember anything. Every time you go back in the book your memory is wiped out and the only things you remember are the things that happened before the curst took effect"
"That explains why I can't remember a damn thing, one minute I was just about to get ready for bed and then next, I'm in your bedroom"
"Yeah that was quite a jump, no wonder you were feeling confused" Nikki smiled in the semi-darkness.
"How long will I be able to stay?"
"That I don't know, according to Miss Leigh, the time always varies and there is no set rule"
"Oh" Helen looked down, "if I have to go back, it means I won't remember you, or Karen or Yvonne. It seems so unfair" Helen looked as if she might cry and Nikki held her gently, as she rubbed her back in a comforting gesture.
"I know this hard, would you like to read the book? It might help you understand it all better"
"Yes, I would like to"
Nikki leaned over and rummaged in her bedside table; she pulled the book out and gave it to Helen. Helen looked at it nervously and ran her hands over the cover.
"So this is where I've been stuck for over 200 hundred years" Helen couldn't quite believe it even though she could see it for herself.
"Why don't I find us something for dinner while you read the book?"
"Ok and to make things easier, I don't mind having something other than pizza" Helen smiled mischievously.
"I'm glad you said that, I have the perfect thing in mind" Nikki jumped up and left the room as Helen followed.
Two hours later, Helen was almost finished reading the book and Nikki was setting the table for dinner. She had called a Chinese takeaway, she didn't much feel like cooking and with Helen hanging around it could be potentially fatal having her in the kitchen. The doorbell rang and she went to answer it, she paid the man his money and then went through to the kitchen to sort out the food. Helen came in five minutes later, just before Nikki was going to call her.
"What are you looking so happy about?" it was a change to see Helen smiling; the look of sadness had gone.
"Oh I'm just feeling happier because I know what's going on now. I shudder to think about who released me from the book in the past though" Helen pulled a face and shivered.
"Well if its any consolation, apparently the last person who released you from the book was supposed to be a very nice young man" Nikki smiled.
"Oh yes and how do you know that?"
"Miss Leigh told me when I went to see her"
"What else did she tell you?"
"Basically what I've already told you. She wasn't really able to tell me anything that I didn't already know. At the time when you showed up I was panicking and had forgotten everything but now that the shock has worn off I remember"
"Do you?" Helen winked at her.
"Yeah, what are you getting at?"
"Oh nothing" Helen smiled sweetly and sat down. She had read the book and she knew Nikki hadn't remembered that she would be the one Helen had to fall in love with to be free and she didn't tell her, it would be more fun if she didn't know.
Nikki dished the food up and sat talking animatedly to Helen about various things. Helen kept smiling at her as if she knew something, and Nikki couldn't figure out what was going on. Helen was feeling very pleased with herself, she wasn't blind, she noticed the way Nikki looked at her and the feeling was mutual only Nikki wasn't aware of it. When she had mentioned her friend the previous day, she said she was a deviant but she had neglected to mention that she was too, which is exactly why she had refused to marry the gypsy's son. Helen had a good feeling about all of this; she didn't think it would be so hard to fall in love with Nikki if her feelings at the moment were anything to go by. She may not be clued up on the 21st century but she wasn't stupid by any stretch of the imagination.
"Nikki, what's this?" Helen held a prawn cracker up.
"That's a prawn cracker" Nikki broke a bit off the prawn cracker and placed it in Helen's mouth'
"Oh er oh ith it supothed to do that?" Helen tried to talk around the prawn cracker which was now stuck to her tongue as it melted.
"Yep" Nikki smiled.
"That's even better than coke!" Helen's eyes were wide as she tried all the different type of food Nikki had ordered.
Nikki had tried to teach her how to use chopsticks but she couldn't get the hang of it and they both giggled as Helen's noodles went everywhere. Nikki noticed that Helen possessed a deep dirty belly laugh; it wasn't what she had expected of the daughter of a Laird and was finding it very endearing. After they had finished eating, Nikki suggested they watch some TV, Yvonne had already explained how televisions worked so hopefully Helen wouldn't have any questions.
"What are we watching?"
"You choose Helen, anything that interests you"
Helen flipped through the channels until she found a programme that had just started. It was a drama about a woman's prison and Helen seemed very interested.
"Who's that?" she asked five minutes in to the show.
"That's the wing governor" Nikki pointed out.
"And who is that?"
"That's her ex girlfriend"
Helen nodded and carried on watching the TV, she was almost on the edge of her seat as her eyes followed the characters about as they moved on screen. There were certain bits she didn't understand, mostly due to the modern language barrier but it didn't detract from the enjoyment at all.
"That's the prison doctor; he is the wing governor's boyfriend"
"Does she not love her girlfriend anymore?"
"I think she does but won't admit it"
"Oh that's sad" Helen looked genuinely sad as she spoke, "would you look at that! Trollop!" Helen shouted at the screen as Nikki crumpled up in to fits of laughter.
"I take it you didn't agree with her kissing the doctor then?" Nikki giggled.
"No absolutely not! Just look at him, what a wimp. She would be far better off with her girlfriend. In my day you would get dragged behind a cart for being a hussy" Helen folded her arms.
"Listen to you! In your day, that makes you sound ancient" Nikki laughed again.
"Well I am in a way, even though I'm only thirty, I'm still 254 years old. I look good for my age" Helen grinned.
"You've got quite a sense of humour!"
"Oh that's not all I've got" Helen winked at her, and Nikki was left in no doubt that she was being flirted with.
"Would you like a drink?" Nikki cleared her throat; she didn't quite know what to make of Helen at this point.
"Yes please" Helen smiled as Nikki left the room, "let the games begin" Helen said softly, she was plotting something and Nikki wouldn't know what hit her.
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