DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe all belong to Shed Productions. The actual arrangement of words herein is mine, however (but, I openly invite the aforementioned corporate entity to steal at will, and gladly surrender all rights to their tender loving care). I'm not worth much (...I mean FINANCIALLY) so suing would be, well, pointless.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Firstly I'd like to say thanks to Julie for beta reading this and putting it up on her sight. Secondly, this is my first fanfic so any feedback - good or bad - would be great. Lastly, enjoy
"Call the doctor she's awake." Sarah called. Helen was only briefly aware of Bet running to the phone as she took the stairs two at a time to Nikki's bedroom. "She's been asking for you." Sarah informed her as she reached her.
"Nikki?" Helen called as she burst through the door.
"Helen?" Nikki said her voice hoarse from lack of use. "Thirsty..."
"I know sweetheart but we have to wait until the doctor gets here to see whether you can drink anything." She replied sitting on the side of her bed and taking her hand. "You've had us all very worried."
"Hot..." Nikki mumbled, she was trying to make coherent sentences but they weren't coming out right.
"You've had a fever, you still have a temperature but you are going to be OK." The small Scot informed her, she felt like she had the biggest grin on her face. "I've missed you so much Nikki. I'm so sorry for what happened, we'll talk about it later."
"Well look who's back in the land of the living." Bet said entering the room. "You've had us all worried sick pet."
"I think she's tired, get some rest Nikki." Helen said stroking Nikki's dark hair.
"Yeah, we'll talk to you later." The older woman said, "The Doctor will be here in a couple of minutes to check you over and make sure you're OK."
With a great deal of effort Nikki nodded before closing her eyes. As she felt Helen move to stand up she gripped her hand tighter hoping that she would understand that she wanted her to stay. She smiled when she heard Helen whisper that she wasn't going anywhere.
The next time Nikki woke Helen was lying, head pillowed on her shoulder, asleep. Nikki smiled briefly and moved to pull her closer. She was stopped from doing so by a sharp pain which shot up her left side, she couldn't stop from crying out at the pain. She was gasping quick breaths through her teeth when Helen sat up, awakened by the cry.
"Nikki? God sweetheart are you OK?" She asked looking at her lover. It was a stupid question really, she could see she wasn't. Scrambling out of bed as fast as she could without causing any movement that would hurt her lover, she rushed out of the room. She returned a couple of minutes later with Winnie, the housekeeper. Although Nikki's breathing had slowed her face was still contorted with pain.
"It hurt's." Nikki gasped looking at them imploringly.
"Take these, they'll ease the pain." Winnie said handing the young woman two tablets and some water.
Half sitting half lying Nikki swallowed the tablets before falling back onto the bad and closing her eyes trying to make the pain go by sheer will power. After a few minutes the pain seemed to get a little better. She eventually opened her eyes to see Winnie and Helen looking at her worriedly.
"I'm OK. The tablets worked - it doesn't hurt as much." She told them smiling reassuringly.
"Well, I have to go but Bet will probably be up as soon as she gets back in. If she needs anything more just give me a call." Winnie said turning to Helen before leaving the room.
"Oh god Nikki. I thought I was going to loose you." Helen sobbed climbing onto the bed and hugging Nikki, she pulled back when she noticed Nikki wasn't responding. "What's up?" Helen asked quietly, scared that she knew the answer.
"We need to talk. I need to know a few things. Since we got together we haven't seemed to get out of bed and we can't go on like that, a relationship is more than sex." Nikki said looking out of the window instead of at Helen.
"I know, I agree."
"Helen, I...need to know that you're not just going through the motions. I need to know that I'm not just a bit of fun until something better comes along." Nikki said, her entire face held a pained expression and it broke Helen's heart. How could she have done this to the person she loved?
"I'm not Nikki. I love you. I have for...ages, I don't know why I didn't tell you before. You were right I was flirting with Dominic but it didn't mean anything All this is my fault and I am so sorry, will you forgive me?" Helen asked holding Nikki close again.
"I'm sorry to and of course I forgive you. I shouldn't have got so jealous and should have given you a chance to explain." Nikki replied eventually putting her arms around Helen and returning the hug.
"I was so scared when Bet rung to say you were missing and when I found you like that..." Helen trailed off as a shiver ran down her back. "What happened Nikki?"
"I can't remember much. I was so angry with you I decided to walk to the waterfall to try and calm down. I must have jumped of the wall and landed badly, I couldn't stand back up." Nikki replied kissing the top of Helen's head.
"I really do love you Nikki. You've made me so happy this last couple of weeks." Helen whispered.
"I love you too." Nikki said pulling her lovers face up for a lingering kiss.
"Bet knows about us." Helen said when they pulled apart.
"What! Oh god, all that we need is for my parents to hear something..."
"Don't worry she won't tell anyone. She said she could tell by how happy we were and how we looked at each other whenever we were in the same room."
"I still better talk to her, just to make sure."
"Oh, I've got something for you." Helen said climbing off the bed and retrieving the notebook she had been writing in for the past couple of days. She handed it to Nikki. "I rewrote your story, I'm pretty sure it's in the right order but you'd better check."
"What...why?" Nikki asked flicking through the pages. She'd expected her story to be well and truly lost - another thing she'd blamed Helen for as she had stormed home.
"Because you put so much work into it, I know how much it means to you and it is a great story." Helen replied running a hand through her lovers hair.
"Thank you." Nikki said smiling.
"Your welcome, I also did some thinking. Nikki, I want to come to America with you. I've thought it through and I'm going to get a job, I've got an interview with that little restaurant in town. I don't know if I'll have enough saved for when we finish school but..."
"Helen, what about your parents? You said not so long ago that you didn't want to go, why do you want to go now?" Nikki asked.
"This has made me realise that I don't want to be without you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"You say that now but what about 6 months after we go to America and you are missing your parents. You'll resent me for forcing you into the decision, I know it." Nikki argued, she knew Helen was angry when she felt her pull away, it was confirmed when she saw her face.
"Why do you always believe I'm so fickle about the way I feel for you?"
"I don't think you're fickle I just don't want anything to get in the way of us and I just know that if we ran away to America you'd regret it and you'd end up hating me." Nikki said pleadingly.
"Why? Why do you think that? I said I wanted to go to America one day..."
"One day! Not in a few months!" Nikki exclaimed. "You also said you would miss your parents to much."
"I'd miss you more than I'd miss them." Helen said looking hurt.
"Don't think I don't want you to come Helen, I do, I just don't want to force you into something you don't want to do...I was actually going to suggest that I stay."
"And what is the difference between me going and you staying? You've been looking forward to getting away from your parents for years, if you stayed you'd hate it!" Helen almost shouted.
"Look Helen..." Nikki looked down at her bed and started massaging her forehead with her hand. "Can we talk about this some other time?"
"Of course, I'm sorry." Helen replied feeling selfish when she saw the pained look on Nikki's face. The woman had just regained consciousness and she was forcing her into an argument.
"It's OK, I'm just not feeling up to it at the moment." Nikki said giving a weak smile.
"I know. Go back to sleep sweetheart, I'll be here when you wake up." Helen ran her hand through Nikki's hair. Nikki obviously found the gesture comforting because she was asleep in less than a minute.
Helen had returned to school the next day, once her parents had heard that Nikki was awake they had said she had no reason to not attend anymore. Nikki had agreed with them saying she didn't want Helen to fall back in her classes because of her, grudgingly she had gone. She also had the job interview after school, if she got the job then she could start saving for their move to America - whatever Nikki said they were going.
At 4:30 Helen came bounding up the stairs to Nikki's bedroom.
"I got it! I got the job." She exclaimed throwing herself into Nikki's arms.
"Congratulations, when do you start?" Nikki asked.
"Next Monday. I work Monday and Friday from 3:30 till 6, Saturday 830 till 6 and Sunday 10 till 4." Helen told her grinning.
"The weekend and two school nights? When am I going to get to see you?" Nikki asked.
"You'll get to see me when I'm not working. We'll still have Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday plus after I finish working on the weekends. It'll just make our time together more special." Helen said diplomatically sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Course, sorry." Nikki said trying to sound enthusiastic.
"So what did the doctor say? Bet said he was calling today."
"He said he's happy with my progress, he says I can go back to school in a couple of days if I continue to improve. I'll be on crutches for a while though. I got a phone call from my coach today, she wasn't happy."
"Well she can't do anything about it can she." Helen replied seeing Nikki looking downcast. "From what I saw you were the best player on that team by miles, she'll be mad to kick you off and when you get better you'll easily regain your captaincy."
"You think so?" Nikki asked looking embarrassed about the praise.
"I know so." Helen stated leaning down to kiss Nikki's lips. It had meant to be a light kiss as they both knew if the wrong person walked in there would be trouble. But after what seemed like hardly any contact between them for days they both got carried away. The kiss became passionate and Helen could not contain a moan when she felt Nikki's hands under her school shirt. She responded by deepening the kiss and moulding her body against her lovers, being careful not to hurt her injured leg.
The noise from the doorway had the effect of a cold bucket of water, Helen sprang away from Nikki as terror ran through them both. She heard Nikki speak before she had chance to look at the intruder and breathed a sigh of relief.
"You are lucky it was me, your dad is coming to see you later you better watch he doesn't catch you like that." The older woman told them.
"Don't worry we won't. I'm sorry we just got a bit carried away." Nikki apologised knowing that Bet wouldn't be pleased with them. She didn't mind covering for them but she wouldn't appreciate catching them in a compromising situation.
"Just be careful. Both of you. You know what your parents will do if they even think there is something going on."
"Yes we know." Helen replied grimly.
Anymore conversation was ended by the arrival of Nikki's dad. It was the first time Helen had actually seen him but she immediately felt the tension in the room rise. The first thing she noticed was the air of aristocracy, his clothes, the way he held himself and the way he talked all oozed upper class. The second thing Helen noticed was how much Nikki looked like her father.
"Nicola. I heard you got yourself into a spot of bother." He said in a flawless accent.
"I didn't think you'd noticed." Nikki said grumpily, she obviously didn't appreciate his presence.
Helen felt nervous when his gaze came to rest on her, where she'd moved beside Bet. "Bet and...erm."
"Father this is my friend Helen Stewart." Nikki introduced.
"Ah, yes. I've heard about you Helen, nice to meet you eventually." He said holding out his hand.
"Likewise, sir." Helen mumbled shaking the proffered hand.
"Could you leave us alone for a while please." He asked looking between both of them.
"Of course sir." Bet replied guiding Helen out of the room and closing the door behind her.
Bet led Helen down to the kitchen once again. Since she had become friends with Nikki, Helen had soon come to realise that the only time she was allowed in any of the house apart from the kitchen was when she was accompanied by Nikki. On the few occasions that Nikki was summoned by her parents she was expected to go to the kitchen and wait for her, she had been told this by Winnie who had ushered her there when she had waited for her friend in the corridor.
Helen had noticed that the same was expected of the staff. It had annoyed her and she had told Nikki so, in reply the taller woman had laughed and told Helen not to bother, if she wanted she could wait in her bedroom. After discussing this with a horrified Sarah, Helen had decided it would be easier if she went to the kitchen, apparently if she was found in Nikki's bedroom or the corridor by the owners of the house the staff would get the blame for not explaining the rules.
"Do you want something to eat?" Bet asked drawing Helen from her thoughts.
"No thanks, I'm fine." Helen replied. "Why did we have to leave?"
"He probably thought Nikki was in an awkward mood and didn't want anyone to witness her being disrespectful to him." Bet answered. "The most important things to Miles Wade is his reputation." Helen didn't miss Bet's harsh tones, to most other people their daughter would be the most important thing.
"It's the first time I've actually seen him." Helen stated.
"You don't see him very often unless you're a business associate." Bet said just as Jimmy entered.
"Let me guess you are talking about the master of the house." He said.
"Yep, Helen has just met him for the first time."
"Oh you are honoured. I was working here for 2 years before I actually saw him." Jimmy replied.
"But doesn't he employ you?" Helen asked confused.
"He pays my wage but it was Alf who interviewed and hired me. I'm mostly a chauffeur for Nikki or to their friends when they have them round. Alf is his personal butler and that includes driving. I'm actually quite pleased about that, he makes me nervous." Jimmy answered.
"Oh. He did seem a bit..." Helen stopped searching for a word.
"Arrogant? Up himself? Superior?" Jim asked grinning.
"A bit." Helen replied thinking that Jimmy had summed up Mr Wade perfectly.
"Hang on, if you've met him does that mean he's been to see Nikki?" Jimmy asked as an afterthought.
"Yeah, he's in there now." Bet replied coming into the conversation.
"She won't like that. It must be one of the few times he's been to see her, what do you think it's about?"
"He's probably checking whether she is hurt enough to warrant the money we spent on her." Bet said sniffing hautily. "If he doesn't think she was ill enough he'll call us into his office and put us through the wringer."
"You are kidding!" Helen exclaimed, she couldn't believe he could be that harsh.
"We kid you not. He's done it before." Jimmy replied.
Helen sat there trying to contemplate how cruel Nikki's parents could be when Sarah entered the room.
"It is Mr Wade in with Nikki then?" She asked when she saw Helen.
"Yep, he ordered us out a couple of minutes ago."
"You do think we were right in calling the doctor out don't you?" Sarah asked worried. The fact that Sarah instantly expected that the only reason Nikki's father had gone to see her was to see if it had been worth calling the doctor out for confirmed it for Helen. Mr Wade was a complete uncaring bastard, how could he not love Nikki? And her mother was the same.
"Yes, I do!" Bet stated firmly. "You saw the state she was in. Anyway if he doesn't then I'll take the blame, it was me that said to ring the doctor."
Nothing more was said as Winnie entered the kitchen, all eyes went to her and Helen heard them take a deep breath.
"He's left Nikki's room." She said.
"And?" Sarah prompted.
"Has he asked to see any of us?" Jimmy clarified.
"No, he just went back to his study." Everybody in the kitchen apart from Helen let out a deep breath.
It was only later in bed that Helen realised she had never heard any of the staff call Nikki's father by his real name, it was either 'the master of the house', sir or Mr Wade. When she thought about it Nikki had only ever called him father. How could someone act so superior when he knew that no-one liked him?
It was three days before Nikki came back to school, Bet said it should have been longer but Nikki didn't want to stay in the house. So with crutches and Jimmy dropping her off at the school gates and Helen carrying her bag, Nikki hopped around school.
Their relationship returned to what it had been before the 'Dominic incident' as Nikki liked to call it and they were happy. Nikki's leg slowly got better, and with the help of physio, returned to normal. The only thing that stopped them being deliriously happy was Helen's job.
Nikki didn't like not being able to see Helen every night and had complained about being lonely, in retaliation Helen would remind Nikki that she was doing the job so they could go to America and live the life they wanted. A compromise was reached eventually when Nikki decided that she would hang around the restaurant, Helen didn't like it at first as she thought the owners would think she wasn't working, but they didn't seem to mind. As it was only a small restaurant in a little town there was always spare tables and Nikki would order drinks and when she knew Helen was owed a break she would order a plate of chips for them to share.
It was a Friday night and Helen was ready to leave for the night, she went to meet Nikki at the table she had effectively claimed as hers only to find her gone. Frowning she walked into the kitchen to ask the owners if they knew where she was, Nikki always waited for her, she stopped short when she saw Nikki talking to George - one of the owners.
After five minutes they finished their conversation and Nikki walked over to Helen with a broad smile on her face.
"What was all that about?" Helen asked.
"You know how you told me Katy was leaving?" Nikki asked. Katy was the waitress that Helen worked with, they had the same hours and Katy had taught Helen the ropes when she first started. She had just got a job at a hotel just out of town and Helen had been panicked that she was going to be left alone to cope with the busiest times in the restaurant if they couldn't find someone to replace her.
"Yeah, she leaves next week and they still haven't found a replacement." Helen told her.
"Well now they have."
"Me. I just talked to George and he seemed happy with the arrangement. He said that the amount of time I spent here I probably knew the routine back to front, the only thing he seemed unhappy about was the money they would loose from all the drinks I order." Nikki said grinning.
"You are going to be working at the restaurant?" Helen asked a hard edge to her voice.
"Yeah, I thought you'd be happy." Nikki said, taking Helen's arm to stop her from walking away. "What's up?"
"It's...nothing, just me being stupid I guess."
"I thought we had agreed to tell each other everything. If you don't want me working at the restaurant I'll find a job somewhere else."
"Why do you have to get a job anywhere? You have enough to get to America on the money you have saved from your allowance."
"Yeah but we are going to need as much as we can get, it'll give us a better chance when we set off." Nikki said she noticed Helen look at the floor. "Helen, tell me what's bothering you. I can't do anything about it unless you tell me."
"It's just, I want to put as much to this as you. I don't want to be living off your money and at this rate you are going to have earned twice as much as me." Helen said starting to walk again.
"Helen it's not my money and your money, it's our money. I thought we were planning on pooling all our money and living off it until we can get jobs."
"Yes but most of it will be yours..."
"Most of it will be from my parents. Let's look at it this way, what we earn through our jobs we will call Helen's money, or Nikki's money but the money I've blagged of my parents we will call our money. It hasn't been earned through sweat like the money we'll raise from the restaurant it's just money I haven't spent. Deal?"
"Deal." Helen said smiling.
"So does that mean you don't mind me working at the restaurant?" Nikki asked grinning cheekily, she knew Helen couldn't resist her when she used this grin.
"No, at least we'll get to spend time together again. What are your parents going to think though. The only child of the Wade's and she gets a job in a restaurant, I don't think they'll be to pleased, isn't it below your station?"
"I don't really care what they think. They'll probably say I'm doing it to embarrass them and then offer me more money on top of my allowance if I give up."
"And? Will you take it? If you can earn the same money for doing nothing it does seem silly to carry on working."
"Yeah, but what if I'm not doing it for the money. You see I quite fancy this small, sexy, Scottish waitress who works there."
"Really? Should I be jealous?" Helen said unlocking her front door. While they were talking they had walked all the way to Helen's house. Her parents had told her that they would be back late so she had to make her own tea. As soon as they entered the house Helen grabbed Nikki's hand and dragged her to her bedroom.
"Erm Helen, what if your parents come back early?" Nikki asked as Helen kissed down her neck.
"They won't be, it'll defiantly be after nine." She replied returning to her lovers mouth for a lingering kiss.
"There is always a first time." Nikki said pulling back.
"Then we'll be quick. God I want you so much." Helen said breathlessly, shattering any resilience Nikki had been trying to build.
Summer came and the weather got better, Helen and Nikki spent a lot of time by the waterfall. They usually had a picnic prepared by Bet and Nikki insisted on taking notes to revise off as their exams were fast approaching.
"Come on Helen, the nobel gases, you've got most of them you only need two more." Nikki said trying to get Helen to concentrate on chemistry when the smaller woman only seemed to be interested on one thing - she was currently kissing her way up Nikki's shoulder, aiming for her ear.
"Neon." Helen stated pulling away from Nikki's smooth skin for a second before placing two more quick kisses each one higher than the last.
"Yep." Nikki said trying to ignore the fact that Helen had reached her neck. "One more."
"Argon." Helen said triumphantly. "What's my prize?" She asked seductively.
"You can have the last tuna sandwich." Nikki offered her laugh turning into a groan as Helen reached her goal and started nibbling on her ear.
"I know something I'd rather eat." Helen mumbled.
"No...Helen." Nikki said pulling away. "We are meant to be here to do some revising, keep your hormones under control for another hour and then I'm all yours I promise."
Mumbling under her breath Helen reluctantly agreed. Both Helen and Nikki had agreed that the best plan was to take there exams and then spend the summer working, this would help them save up even more money. They would stay in England long enough to get their results before getting on the plane and going to America. Nikki over the summer would book their flights and they would both leave notes to their parents explaining why they had gone.
Nikki however was still concerned whether Helen had thought it through and realistically knew what they were planning on doing. A couple of times she had made comments that left Nikki in doubt and she was really worried, when Nikki had talked to Helen about it she had dismissed it and proceeded to show Nikki how much she loved her. It hadn't put Nikki's mind at rest.
The summer seemed to pass quickly for both of them and Nikki saw that Helen's excitement increase, but so did her depression about leaving everyone behind. It came to a head for Nikki when she visited the Stewarts for tea, Helen fussed around her parents, she told them she loved them more in that one night than Nikki had heard in the entire time she'd known them. Nikki also heard how Helen had been more loving and considerate of them recently, Helen just smiled but Nikki knew it was because of the guilt her lover was feeling at the thought of leaving.
The day of the results dawned bright and sunny, Nikki met Helen by the school gates as planned and they made their way to the school library as instructed.
"Have you got the tickets?" Helen asked nervously.
"Yeah, Monday 2:54pm. If we set off about noon we should get their no problem." Nikki told her watching her reactions.
"Is Jimmy taking us? Won't he know something is up if we ask him to drop us off at the airport?" Helen's tone was still one of panic.
"No, I've asked if I can use the car. I'll park it in the long term car park and then phone the house from America and tell them where it is. Jimmy will pick it up later." Nikki replied.
"I didn't know you could drive."
"Have been able to for a long time, we have loads of private land and you can drive on that at any age. I learnt to drive when I was about ten and took my test as soon as I got my provisional licence. With a chauffeur there isn't really a point." Nikki was still studying Helen. "Are your nerves for your exam results or for our plan to run away? Helen if you don't want to go I will understand."
"I'll be honest with you Nikki I am nervous about running away, I know it will hurt my mum and dad but I want to be with you and I know they won't understand that if I tell them about us. I can still contact them from America and so it won't be like I've abandoned them, it will just give them distance to come to terms with the fact I'm gay." Helen said, it sounded more like she was trying to convince herself as much as Nikki.
"Ah, Nikki, congratulations!" Nikki's science teacher exclaimed stopping the taller woman from replying to Helen.
"What?" Nikki asked turning to look at the man approaching.
"Your grades, well done. So what are you planning to do next?" He asked.
"Erm, I haven't got my grades yet, we were just on our way." Nikki replied.
"Oh, shit, sorry. Damn, I've just spoiled the surprise haven't I?" He replied looking upset.
"So how did I do? What did I get?" Nikki asked.
"I'm not going to spoil it any further, go and see for yourself. Although I'd avoid your french teacher if I was you." With a smile he disappeared down the corridor.
"C'mon then we'd better get this over with so we can start planning, I have to start packing yet." Helen said pushing Nikki forward.
They entered the library and queued up as instructed, taking the envelopes from the teacher they both retreated into a corner, and looking at the other, tore the envelope open. Closing her eyes briefly Nikki looked at the paper stating her marks, seeing them she let a relieved breath out and hearing Helen do the same she smiled.
"An A, five B's and three C's." Helen said eye's twinkling as she smiled. "Thankyou Nikki. I got an A for Art because of the portrait of you."
Helen held back a laugh as she saw Nikki grimace. Three month's previously Helen had managed to talk Nikki into Posing for her for her art project, Nikki had protested loudly and hadn't stopped fidgeting for the three days she had posed. The picture had been brilliant though and even Nikki had been pleased, Helen somehow managed to capture her lovers personality in the portrait. Sadly Nikki had gone back to complaining when Helen's art teacher had hung the picture in the pride of place on the wall of the art room.
"So what did you get?"
"Five A's, three B's and a C." Nikki replied returning the smile.
"So why did your science teacher tell you to avoid your french teacher?" Helen asked as they hugged each other in celebration.
"I got a C and I was meant to get an A." Nikki replied. "I hated french, I don't know why they made me do it."
"Try transferring schools, they dumped me in whatever subjects they had places in. I thought for a while there that I was going to have to do geography instead of art." Helen replied. "So are your parents going to be pleased?"
"Probably not, I'm sure they will be able to throw one of their friends children's straight A's at me." Nikki replied frowning.
"Well I'm proud of you." Helen said looking at Nikki with eyes that brimmed over with longing.
"Come on, lets get out of here before see my french teacher." Nikki said brushing her hand discreetly over Helen's.
"I promised my parents that I would find a phone and tell them my results." Helen said.
"There is one just down the road, I'll have to go there to ring Jimmy anyway." Nikki said heading out of school.
Helen's parents were naturally over-joyed and told Helen they would go out for a meal that night to celebrate. When Nikki phoned Jimmy he immediately wanted to know how she had done, he congratulated her as did Bet and the rest of the staff but seeing and hearing how Helen's parents had been with her had shown Nikki what she was missing. Even when her parents heard how she had done they would either just say 'well done' or make her feel like she could have done better, even though Helen had been congratulated by everyone for worse grades.
As they entered the kitchen Bet came up to Nikki and pulled her into a hug.
"Well done pet. You deserved good marks, you've done us proud. Now I'm going to cook your favourite meal to celebrate." She said smiling.
"Thanks Bet." Nikki said forcing a smile that didn't fool any of them. "Can I go for a bit of a walk first?"
Bet frowned at Helen as Nikki walked out of the kitchen door without even looking at them, usually if she was going for a walk she would look at Helen to indicate she wanted her company, not doing that indicated she wanted to be alone.
After a couple of seconds quiet debate Helen set off after her lover, she found her sat on a bench at the side of the house, her arms hugging her knees which were pulled against her chest. She was staring off into the distance but her eyes were unseeing.
"Hey, what's wrong sweetheart?" Helen asked sitting on the bench and putting her arm around Nikki.
"Why don't my parents love me?" Nikki asked her voice breaking. "Have I done something wrong? I mean, I can't see any difference in the way I act compared to you so why do your parents love you when my don't?"
"Nikki it's not your fault it's your parents, I don't know why they don't love you but there are a lot of people that do."
"You know I tried so hard to get them to like me, I was the perfect child - always getting the top marks in the class. It never seemed to matter to them, so I turned, I thought any recognition was better than none so I became a rebel. It still didn't matter they just gave up on me and when I brought 'the ultimate embarrassment' on the family they palmed me off onto a professional." Nikki was crying now. "Your parents were so happy about your results, I could hear them on the phone. Mine didn't even know it was today, they didn't even ask me when I was getting them."
Helen pulled Nikki's head to rest on her shoulder and held her while she sobbed. "You can't feel like that Nik, you just have to believe that it is their loss and get on with your life."
"I know, sorry." Nikki sniffed pulling back from Helen's embrace and wiping her eyes on her jumper cuffs.
"Hey it's OK, that's what I'm here for. Anytime." Helen said stroking her hand through the hair on the side of Nikki's head.
"I know, thanks. Can you tell Bet I'll be in in a minute?" Nikki asked. She knew that Helen would take it as being dismissed and give her some time on her own.
Helen stood up but paused before walking off. "Nikki, I love you."
"I know and I love you Helen. I always will, never forget that." Nikki replied, the tone it was spoken in made Helen frown and look at Nikki.
Helen had excepted that Monday was going to change her life, but it wasn't how she thought. She arrived at Nikki's house as planned at 11am. The plan was for Nikki to pack her things in the car they were taking and then drive to pick Helen's stuff up from her house, her parents would be at work so they wouldn't have a problem.
Helen arrived in a good mood, she was ready for a new life. She would be with Nikki, that was all that mattered and she had sworn to herself that she was going to show Nikki the love that her parents never had. She would believe that she was loved.
"Hi." Helen called entering the kitchen by the side door. "Is Nikki in her room?" She asked Bet, she was brought up short by the sad look on the older woman's face. "Bet what's wrong?"
"It's Nikki...Helen...she's gone. She asked me to give you this." She handed Helen an envelope.
"Gone? But..." Helen couldn't finish she had tears in her eyes.
"She told me all about it but said she couldn't take you with her as you'd regret it. She said the letter will explain it all. I'm sorry Helen."
"When?" Helen whispered. "When did she leave?"
"She set off at eight this morning. Why don't you go to her room and read that in private, I'll make sure no-one disturbs you, take your time."
Helen walked numbly to Nikki's bedroom, she couldn't believe this was happening. Why had Nikki still not taken her commitment seriously? Why had she not spoken to her about her fears? If Helen was honest she knew her lover had tried to but she had always avoided the topic. Why didn't that stop her from feeling detrayed?
Closing the door to give her some privacy Helen sat on the edge of Nikki's bed and slowly opened the envelope. In it was a cheque and one piece of paper:
I know at this moment you'll be feeling upset and angry but please give me a chance to explain. I really wanted to start my new life with you and I hated deceiving you but I could tell everytime I looked at you that in your heart you were not ready to leave. You just saw this as a way of holding on to me.
Your parents love you, they really do, and I couldn't bring myself to separate you from them. If you'd have come with me you'd have missed them like crazy and blamed me for splitting you up, you said you wouldn't but I know that three months down the line it would have been different.
I love you Helen, I always will and I know I'm going to miss you so much it will be a physical pain but I will be back for you. This is not an end unless you want it to be, when I'm settled and I think you will be ready I'll come back. Until then, my body may not be yours but my heart will be.
I read a line in a book once that seems to sum up this moment so well - if you love someone let them go, if they come back to you that love was meant to be. Hopefully we will come back together.
Your half of the money we saved is in the cheque. Please don't be upset.
My love is with you always,
Helen red the letter again and again before falling back on the bed, curling herself into a ball and crying. She didn't know how long she had been there but she felt arms pull her into a hug. Praying that the letter had just been some cruel joke and that she would find Nikki holding her Helen pulled back. New tears came when she saw Bet.
"Why? Why would she do this to me? I thought she loved me, or was I just another notch on her bed post?" Helen sobbed.
"Now you know that's unfair, Nikki wouldn't use anyone. You have a lot here and she didn't want you to miss out on all the opportunities you could have by dragging you to a new life you didn't want. She thought you'd miss your life here." Bet told her stroking her hair.
"And do you believe that?"
"I believe that the only thing that Nikki had here was you and that you have so much more. You like your life here and Nikki never did. I also believe that she did this because she loves you so much."
"I don't know what I'm going to do without her, she was a big part of the life I loved here."
"You'll get on with your life like we all will, it won't be the same in this house without her. I know that she will be back though."
Helen nodded, "Thanks Bet."
"No problem love. I'll leave you now, come down to the kitchen when your ready."
As she led in her bed that night Helen wondered what Nikki would be doing, whether she was thinking of her. She turned over to look at the stars out of the window, as she thought about her lover she felt something grip her heart and realised that the feeling of love she used to hold for Nikki was slowly being replaced by loneliness. A tear slid down her cheek as she felt the cold beside her where someone's body had once led.
12 years later:
28 year old Nikki Wade sat in her executive office in Hollywood's rich district and stared at the file in front of her. Since it had arrived by fax one hour earlier she hadn't been able to do anything but look at the file and remember.
Since leaving England twelve years earlier Nikki had become very successful, she was often hailed as the 'female Richard Branson'. She made a joke about it when asked in interviews - usually asking why he wasn't known as the 'male Nikki Wade' but the truth was she was happy with the title.
When she arrived in America - in San Francisco - she found work in a gay club. It paid well and Nikki was happy, she felt for the first time that she belonged somewhere. She saved a bit of her wage per week planning to put a deposit on a house so that they would have somewhere stable to live when Helen came over. Nikki ached for Helen, it was a constant pain, especially when she was alone at night. But she still believed that it would work out, when Nikki was secure she would contact Helen again and they would be together. While working at the club she'd had plenty of offers and on some of the most lonely nights she had even considered taking up a few, but then she would think of the woman she loved.
Six month's after moving she wrote to Helen, it was a long letter. It explained how she felt, how lonely she was and asked for forgiveness again, lastly it gave her address and begged her to get in touch. Nikki waited two weeks before writing again and then she wrote every week, when she still didn't get a reply she rang Bet.
Nikki had kept in constant contact with Bet since the day she left, mostly by letter. She had asked the older woman not to mention Helen, for fear that her defences would crumble and she would be on the next plane back to England. Sometimes she felt that Bet was on the edge of saying something about her lover but would decide against it.
Nikki could still remember how she felt when she heard Bet telling her that Helen no longer lived in the village. It was eight months after she had run away, and not being able to cope with no contact with Helen she had phoned the older woman. Bet had explained that since she left Helen had become withdrawn, she had wrapped herself in a cocoon, she spent all the time when she wasn't at college in her room and she hadn't made any friends. Her parents tried everything, even sending her back to her psychologist, but nothing worked. Eventually they moved, hoping that a change of scenery would help. The only person that Helen talked to was Bet but when they left she didn't leave a forwarding address and she had never heard from Helen again. That had been three months ago.
Nikki had cried herself to sleep that night and when she was propositioned the next day at the club she decided she didn't have anything to loose and accepted the offer. The next month had been a dangerous time in Nikki's life, she spent the time when she wasn't at work getting drunk and sleeping around, she had known she was out of control but whenever she tried to stop she would feel a soul deep emptiness and that would drive her right back to drink.
She had eventually been saved by her boss. Caroline was blonde and gorgeous, she had no shortage of admirers and was only a couple of years older than Nikki but she managed the club for the owners who seemed only interested in the money that it brought in. She was English and had moved over to San Francisco three years earlier in a bid to be accepted for who she was. When Nikki heard Caroline's story she had started to idolise the woman, she was everything Nikki wanted to be.
On seeing Nikki slow decline Caroline had called her into the office, Nikki was expecting to be sacked so had put on an air of indifference. On entering the office Caroline had gestured to a chair in front of the desk she was sat at.
"Nikki, what's wrong?" Caroline had asked, Nikki knew she hadn't been eating or sleeping properly which meant she more than likely looked like shit.
"Nothing." Nikki had insisted slightly thrown by the question.
"I'm not stupid, over this last month you have turned from one of the most lively and valued employees into a shell that only turns up, does her job and disappears before anyone can even say a word to you."
"I've just got things on my mind OK?" Nikki said. She felt her eyes filling up with tears as she was forced to think about the thing she had been avoiding for what seemed like an age.
"You know I'm here whenever you need to talk." Caroline persisted. She wasn't surprised when Nikki started crying, she knelt in front of the younger woman's chair and hugged her while she sobbed. After a while Nikki pulled back and dried her eyes.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me." Nikki said running a hand through her hair.
"C'mon." Caroline said picking up her coat and a bottle of wine and motioning Nikki through the door.
"Why? Where are we going?"
"Well, you look like you haven't eaten in a while and I don't think you should be alone in this state. So how about you come back to my place and we can have a chat over a meal?" Caroline asked smiling.
"I don't know. I don't..."
"No strings attached. I just don't want to loose one of the biggest attractions in my club."
"You have got to have noticed all those women throwing themselves at you! Most of them only come so they can drool over you over the bar."
Nikki blinked a couple of times much to Caroline's amusement. "Intelligent and modest, is there anything you don't have?" She asked as they walked out to her car.
This was the first of many dinners Nikki shared with Caroline, she was sympathetic and never pushed her although it became clear to Nikki that Caroline was attracted to her. Nikki cleaned up her act and after a month they became lovers. It was not the all consuming love she felt for Helen but Nikki felt secure and cared for and although she regularly thought of her lost love she was happy.
Nikki's happiness lasted for nearly 2 years, she had been promoted and had learnt a lot about running a club. She was still happy in her relationship with Caroline and things seemed to be going well. That was until she got home from the club one morning to find a message for her from Sarah, she phoned straight away although she knew it would be late at night in England. When Caroline came home a couple of hours later it was to find Nikki sat on the bed unmoving. It took awhile to get the information out of her but she eventually found out that Bet had died and Nikki was flying back to England the next day.
Nikki's stay in England was as awkward as she expected it to be, her parents tried to make her feel guilty for running away whenever she saw them but they never once asked her what she was doing or how she was coping. It was good to see all the staff again and while she was there she found herself trying to locate Helen. At the funeral she was asked to attend the reading of the will which would mean she had to stay on a couple of extra days, in this time she travelled to London where one of the leads on Helen led her but it turned into a dead end when one of Helen's old work mates informed her that she had 'just disappeared'. Apparently she had not turned up for work one day and when a friend went to check the house all her clothes were still there but Helen wasn't, most of her work-mates described her as 'a weird loner' so they didn't think it strange. Nikki attended the will hearing to find Bet had left her some money and then travelled back to San Francisco.
Back in San Francisco things started to get worse, Caroline didn't like the fact that she had taken an extra week off. Nikki told her she was asked to attend the will hearing but the blonde had somehow found out that Nikki had used the time to look for Helen. They had a huge argument that consisted of Nikki accusing Caroline of checking up on her, Caroline telling Nikki she resented having to 'live in the shadow of Helen Bloody Stewart', Nikki blaming Caroline for not trusting her and eventually Caroline accusing Nikki of using her. After a lot more shouting Nikki walked out. The next morning when they had calmed down they decided to finish their relationship.
After this Nikki decided she should make a clean break. After a lot of thinking she decided she wanted to set up her own club. She had enough money thanks to Bet's inheritance and the money she had still been saving to buy a house for her and Helen and she had the experience thanks to dating Caroline. Nikki remembered one of the one night stands she'd had before her relationship with Caroline saying the best place to open a club was Hollywood as all the clubbers were rich and didn't mind paying lots for a good night. So Nikki packed her bags and moved to Hollywood, in hindsight she would see that it was the best decision she ever made, at first she hated all the bright lights, people and noise. Eventually she bought an old warehouse and converted it into an upper class club, she had lots of ideas about what she wanted and in her opinion the results were brilliant, now it was just up to the public.
Nikki's original plan was for it to be a gay club but she eventually decided to open it as a mixed club and have gay nights once a week as this wouldn't be excluding any customers. The opening night went with a bang and the following nights were almost always a sell out. No-one was as surprised as Nikki though when about a month after the opening night John Armstrong, William Fraiser and Trisha Clarke - three members of the current Hollywood brat-pack, showed up at the club. Nikki who was in her office didn't know about it until Sue, the head bar-person radioed up to tell her. Nikki arrived in the bar to see the three stars nearly getting mobbed, their own bodyguards and the bouncers from the door were currently attempting to hold back the crowds. After a moments thought Nikki shouted the celebrities behind the bar and then led them into the staff corridor, their bodyguards followed them.
After apologising Nikki had introduced herself as the owner to the obvious surprise of the guests. They said they had heard good things about her night-club and asked if there was anywhere private where they could enjoy themselves. Nikki showed them to a back function room and they spent the night dancing and getting completely drunk. They left in the early hours of the morning paying bills that ran to a thousand, giving a very healthy tip and taking Nikki's card.
Through the night Nikki had been sure Trisha was flirting with her but had assumed she was imagining it, all the tabloids had her in a long term relationship with Kit Scott another Hollywood heartthrob. Her questions had been answered the next Friday when Trisha, John and William had returned along with five other movie stars a few bit actors and some people Nikki vaguely recognised as members of a boy band. They paid for the function room to be opened again but the first Nikki knew about it was when a tipsy Trisha knocked on her office door. After fending off an attempted kiss from the amorous film star Nikki made a quick escape claiming she would have to great Trisha's companions. She spent most of the night avoiding Trisha and her advances and was eventually glad when they left after another expensive night which they all enjoyed.
It was during this time, when Nikki knew she had enough money, she hired an English private investigator to find Helen.
Trisha returned to the club every weekend, with a vast array of friends from movie and music. The word got out that Nikki's club must be something special if it was attracting such distinguished customers and as a result there was never a quiet night. Nikki used the profits to extend the club and add an exclusive VIP area and hire more bouncer on the door to keep the paparazzi away. After the first three weeks Nikki noticed that she was attracting the attention of the media, she would go shopping and notice someone following her, if she was alone in a cafe or at the gym people would approach her and ask probing questions. It came to a head when the new VIP area opened and most of Hollywood's elite attended the party - entering through the designated door was like walking down the red carpet to the Oscars ceremony. The next day Nikki had been in the paper, along with a story about the history of the club.
Nikki's bank balance soared and she became famous for associating with the famous. She usually had her picture in the tabloids at least once a week and was asked on a lot of talk shows, especially following the tabloid frenzy when it was discovered she was gay, but Nikki avoided the limelight as much as possible.
Trisha still plied her with attention and one day when they had both been attending a party and were both drunk Nikki gave in. Despite the circumstances the relationship continued behind closed doors as Trisha was worried about what coming out would do to her career.
When the private investigator contacted Nikki it was with a lot less information than she expected considering what she was paying him. It basically told her that 5 months after Nikki left Helen and her family moved to London. Nearly one year after that Mr and Mrs Stewart died in a car crash, Helen being an only child inherited everything but in her grief squandered most of it. She sold her parents business and house and was left with just the money. She rented a room in a house and got a job but her work-mates described her as a loner that never seemed to be interested in her work or socialising. As the months went on she started to get more withdrawn and started acting strange, it was confirmed later that she developed a drug dependency. Four moths after the strange behaviour started Helen didn't turn up for work, when her room was searched later, it was found that she had taken all her money but none of her possessions. After that all the PI could drag up was two hospital visits and a string of drug convictions by the police, the most recent had resulted in a two year suspended sentence. However the PI had tried to locate Helen without success. Nikki filed the information away wondering what had happened to her old friend and lover.
The years that passed saw Nikki quietly content but when she was approached by John Armstrong and William Fraiser with a business proposition she knew she wanted a new challenge. Their plan was to open a string of restaurants around America, they would be upper-class burger bars with props from various movies in them. Armstrong and Fraiser's names would draw people to eat there as well as the fact that their celebrity friends would make appearances. All that they needed was another partner who they both trusted to invest money and look after the day to day running of the franchise.
After reviewing the ideas and doing her own research Nikki agreed to the proposition, she would basically run the restaurant while Armstrong and Fraiser were sleeping partners. She'd have to get their permission to any changes but apart from that she could do whatever she wanted.
With Nikki's creative influence and the famous names attached to it the restaurant was a success, it drove Nikki into the limelight even more though. She featured in a newspaper review of successful business women, ranked as the highest placed woman in a magazine on top entrepreneurs, appeared in countless programs and newspapers in England and for the first time she entered onto the millionaires list, all this at only 26. Life couldn't get much better.
The last two years had seen Nikki move, she bought a private house in Hollywood Hills. It had a high wall around the boarder and a high tech security system, it was too big for her with six luxury bedrooms and two swimming pools but it was the only one she had seen that she really liked. John and William had also insisted that she moved into an office so she could oversee the running of the club and restaurant at the same time, with the two situated down the street from each other Nikki saw this as an unnecessary expense but didn't argue much.
In fact the only thing that went wrong was the end of her relationship with Trisha. With Trisha travelling all over the world filming movies and Nikki spending lots of time on her businesses, not to mention travelling America checking on the franchises, they didn't spend much time together. On the occasions when Trisha wasn't on location she expected Nikki to rearrange her schedule to suit her, it caused a lot of arguments and it was agreed that they should split. Nikki was not as upset at the break as she should have been, towards the end Trisha had started to get more serious than Nikki liked, she cared for Trisha but felt there was something missing.
That had been proved this morning when the fax had arrived on her desk, she picked it up again and read the small cover note:
Dear Ms. Wade,
Six years ago you contracted my agency for some research into the where abouts of a Ms. Helen Stewart. Recently some information has come into light that may prove of some interest to you.
The following pages had information of five court appearances: one count of burglary, one count of ABH and wounding and three counts of drug offences. It also informed Nikki that Helen had been arrested again for another drug offence and violence, it didn't give the details but said that as it was a Friday the case would not take place until the Monday. It also told Nikki that if Helen didn't have someone to bail her and prove that she was seeking help for her drug addiction then she was likely to go to prison.
Apparently the investigation agency had approached the duty solicitor Helen had been given for her last offences for information on her when Nikki had employed them. The same solicitor had been given Helen's recent case and in desperation had approached the agency asking if they would contact with the person that had been interested in Helen and ask for their help.
If she set off today she could arrive in England the day before Helen's case and meet the solicitor. The question was did she want to open all the old wounds? Helen had been a huge part of her life, she had loved the woman, maybe still did but with all the papers and magazines Nikki had been in Helen could have contacted her at any time. The fact remained that she hadn't so probably didn't want anything to do with Nikki again and she should respect that. Her conscience was getting involved though, reminding her that if she didn't help Helen would be sent to prison. If she had developed a drug habit then she wouldn't have been thinking rationally, maybe that was why she hadn't contacted Nikki. Prison was not going to help her to get over her problems and from what she had read Helen needed help.
The argument continued in Nikki's head until she finally came to a decision. Picking up the phone she made arrangements.
Nikki arrived in England at around 7 o'clock the next morning, she'd hardly had any sleep on the plane but she didn't have any time to complain as her schedule was packed. As she walked through the arrivals lounge camera's flashed as paparazzi spotted her, no doubt the news that Nikki Wade was making a surprise return to England would be on the newspapers editors desk before dinner. Which meant her house in England would be surrounded by photographers all trying to find out why she was making the unexpected visit.
She had already contacted her housekeeper so her house would be ready for her visit, she would have time to unload her luggage, have some food and clean up before she had to meet Helen's solicitor. After she would have to check on the restaurants English franchise, William and John had not been pleased about her last minute trip but had accepted her compromise to inspect the new restaurant. It had only opened a year ago and with it being abroad it was hard to judge whether it was keeping up to standard, this unexpected visit would either placate or aggravate the partners and would keep the manager on his toes.
Helen Stewart sat in court not listening to what was going on, her head was pounding and her hands trembling. It was nearly two days since her last fix and she wished the magistrates would just send her to prison where at least she'd be able to score. One of the two solicitors were droning on about her criminal past and how she was a drug addict that would benefit from the sharp shock of life behind bars. Helen zoned out, not listening or paying attention to anything he said. She was going to prison, she knew it but in her present state she wasn't bothered.
Helen was brought back to the court room by the solicitor sitting down and her solicitor standing, she wiped the cold sweat off her forehead with her shirt sleeve. Her solicitor went on admitting to all the crimes she'd done in the past and saying she should go to prison - who's side was he on? He droned on and Helen smirked when he asked the magistrates to give her a second chance, she sat up straight as he went on.
"All I ask is for the case to be put back three weeks and for you to grant my client bail." By this time everyone in the room was staring at the duty solicitor surprised, including Helen. "I have with me Miss Nicola Wade, I'm sure you've heard of her - she is an upstanding member of the community and an old friend of Miss Stewarts. She is willing to pay whatever bail the court thinks fit, stand as guarantor for Miss Stewart and pay for her to attend rehabilitation. This is surely a better option than sending my client to prison and has more chance of helping her."
People were muttering now but Helen was not interested, her eyes were searching to public gallery. Off to her left, at the front, her eyes locked with the expressive brown eyes that still sometimes haunted her dreams and she felt paralysed.
Helen was only vaguely aware of the magistrates asking questions and her solicitor answering them as she was still held by Nikki's stare.
"Where would Miss Stewart go until a place in a rehabilitation clinic is found?" The magistrates chair asked.
"Miss Wade plans to take her to stay in her London home, we will submit the address on paper but do not want it read out because of the press attention Miss Wade attracts." The solicitor answered.
"What about Miss Wade's business, surely she can not be expected to stay for the entire three weeks and if she does not that would be a breach of bail conditions."
"Miss Wade has employees which she has entrusted with her businesses I can assure you that she intends to stay and help Miss Stewart through this turbulent time."
"And what about the press attention? Wouldn't this have an adverse effect on Miss Stewarts rehabilitation?"
"Miss Wade has a perimeter wall around the property she will be taking Miss Stewart to which has a hi-tech security system and guards to stop the press. Also the rehabilitation clinics she is looking into are all used to dealing with celebrities so they have privacy documents which forbids them talking to the press."
Helen was still staring at Nikki when the magistrates announced they were taking time to deliberate. When the magistrates left, Nikki headed towards Helen. Nikki and Helen stared at one another, silently taking in the sight of the other. When Nikki had first seen Helen she had been surprised, she looked drawn and tired. She had lost a lot of weight and her skin was pale, it was easy to tell she was feeling the effects of a drug habit as she was covered in a sheen of sweat and her hands trembled. Helen clothes were also dirty and had holes in them, her hair was greasy and tangled and she had bags under her eyes. To Nikki though she still looked gorgeous, the full mouth that she loved was still the same.
Helen was also taking stock of Nikki, she was obviously still sporty as even though she was dressed firm muscles and a enviably flat stomach still showed through. Her skin was tanned which added to her exotic look, her soulful eyes were still the same - they still mirrored her emotions.
Helen was the first one to break her paralysis. "Hiya Nikki." Was all she could think to say.
"Hello Helen, it's good to see you again." Nikki replied.
"Right..." Helen said cynically.
"No really it is."
"So are you saying that if I wasn't in this mess you'd still be here?"
"No, I'd have been to see you a lot sooner..."
"What do you mean?" Helen asked, any answer was stopped by the magistrates returning.
"Miss Stewart, we have thought of every argument. It is certain that you must be punished for your crimes but it is also obvious that you need help. Due to this fact we are granting bail as requested, this case will reconvene in three weeks and if drastic improvement is not shown then a custodial sentence will be placed. However, if this court is satisfied that you have reformed and are unlikely to re-offend then we will consider other means of punishment. Bail is set at £600."
This time when Nikki came over it was to speak to Helen's solicitor, he instructed her that she would have to go with the clerk of court to pay the bail fee and sign as guarantor, before leading Helen into a side room to run her through the legal implications of the magistrates decision. A couple of minutes later the clerk stuck his head around the door.
"We have just been warned that the press have got word of this, they are all waiting outside. Nikki's gone out to her car and is waiting for you but you are going to have to be quick. It's the black sports car." He told Helen before disappearing again.
"Right, I'll let you go then Helen. Don't waste this chance though, it will be your last." Her solicitor warned before pushing her towards the door.
When she left the room she was met by one of the clerks who showed her to the back door, she was then quickly led to an impressive black sports car. The door was held open for her and in a daze she sat in the passengers seat and fastened her seat belt, before she knew what was happening Nikki was driving through London. An uncomfortable hush descended on the car, Nikki leant forward to turn the radio on while Helen gazed out of the window. After switching through a couple of radio stations trying to find something good Nikki switched the radio off and looked towards Helen.
"So how are you Helen? Feeling any better?" Nikki asked turning her gaze back to the road.
"What the Hell is happening here?" Helen asked angrily, totally ignoring Nikki's question.
"I'm here to help you, I have a place booked in Clouds for you for the day after tomorrow, that's the soonest I could get. It's meant to be good though so I'm sure it'll be worth it, the doctors sai..."
"I don't want your help Nikki and I'm not taking your handouts." Helen stated through gritted teeth.
"You don't have much choice Helen, your only other option is prison."
Helen was prevented from replying when Nikki told her to crouch down. She realised why when they turned into a driveway - as Nikki took out a plastic security card hundreds of lights flashed. They carried on until the big gates that had been blocking their way slid back and Nikki drove through. When they were a safe distance Helen slid back up her seat and turned to look out of the back window to see that there was at least 20 photographers camping out in front of Nikki's house.
They fell silent again as Nikki pulled up. Helen looked up at the building noting that it wasn't as big as the one Nikki's parents owned but as she entered she saw that it must have cost her a lot. It was modern, spacious without being impersonal, and had more rooms than Nikki could have wanted for herself, it also had every modern convenience anyone could want.
Helen stood awkwardly at the door while Nikki walked in, pegging up her coat and throwing her keys onto a table. Looking at Helen she frowned obviously debating something.
"What happened Helen?" She asked after a while. "What happened to all those dreams you used to have? I remember you telling me you wanted to be a news reader, you said it with so much conviction that I believed you..." Nikki trailed off, not knowing what more she could say.
"It wasn't that easy...I was so happy and then everything came crashing down around me. You left...one minute I thought I was going with the person I loved to start a new life, then I found out you'd gone without me because YOU thought it was best. I...I found it hard to get over that, stayed in my room most of the time and didn't make any new friends, mum and dad tried sending me to a shrink again but when that didn't work they decided we should move." By this time Helen was crying but she still went on. "I tried to hate you but I couldn't and I always hoped that you'd come back for me. Then my parents were involved in a car crash, for the longest time I said that they'd left me just like you but I knew they were never coming back. I tried to do the sensible thing...like my parents would have wanted. I got a job and worked, but inside I felt like I was dying, I was just...numb. One night I got offered some drug, I didn't even know what it was but I accepted. For the first time in ages nothing mattered, I felt like I could do anything and I liked it. But then it wore off and I was back to my depressed self, so I took some more and when that wore off I went back for some more, until I couldn't stand my life when I wasn't high or stoned. It got to the point when I didn't know what was my normal life, I couldn't tell the difference between reality and imagination and I didn't care. I only went to work so I would have money for my next hit, then I got to know one of the dealers and he took a shine to me, I started sleeping with him so I could get free stuff. I stayed over at his squat with him for one night and...I never went back..." Helen was sobbing uncontrollably by now and Nikki couldn't stand it anymore she stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. Helen cried for a couple of minutes as Nikki rubbed her back and tried to comfort her.
Nikki was caught by surprise when Helen pulled back and in the same movement brought her lips forward and kissed her. Her mind only registered what was happening when she felt the hot press of Helen's lips against her own. She responded as she felt her head swimming with a combinations of sensations and emotions she hadn't felt since the last time they had kissed. In that moment Nikki knew she was still in love with Helen, she had cared for Trisha and Caroline but it had been nothing compared to the all consuming intensity of what she felt while with Helen.
The feeling of trembling hands struggling with her shirt buttons brought Nikki back to reality with a thud. What was she doing? Helen had been blaming her for wrecking her life a few minutes ago why would she want her now? Hoping that Helen would say that she loved her Nikki pulled away.
"Helen, what are you doing?" Nikki asked breathlessly.
"Isn't this what you want? How else am I meant to pay you back for everything you are doing for me?"
"You thought you'd have to pay me back with sex? Helen I'm doing this because we were friends as well as lovers, if I can help I owe you that much."
"Owe me? If you are doing this through guilt than forget it." Helen shouted angrily. "You weren't that special Nikki, I got over you a long time ago."
"I'm not going to argue with you. Whether you like it or not you need help and I am going to help you."
Saying nothing Helen glared at Nikki who stood firm and glared back. After a couple of minutes Helen broke eye contact and stared crying again. As Nikki stepped forward to hold her Helen moved away.
"I-I feel so lost...I don't know who I am anymore. Look at everything you've achieved compared to me, I don't know what happened...but I hate who I am."
This time she didn't resist when Nikki pulled her into her arms. Not knowing whether Helen was so emotional as a result of withdrawing from the drugs or whether it was their reunion, Nikki guided her into one of the spare bedrooms and after helping her off with her overcoat laid her down.
"How am I going to pay you back if not with sex?" Helen asked in a tiny voice as Nikki pulled the cover over her.
"We'll think of something." Nikki replied, kissing Helen on the forehead before standing up to leave.
"Nikki, will you stay with me please? Just to hold me nothing else." Helen pleaded.
Slipping off her shoes Nikki climbed in beside Helen, who immediately wrapped herself around the taller woman. They fell asleep facing one another with Helen's head resting against Nikki's shoulder.
Helen's mind slowly drifted into consciousness, it registered the soft bed under her, the warm sheets covering her and the feminine body pressed against hers. Confused she opened her eyes, her memories came rushing back as she found herself staring into Nikki's sleeping face. Seeing Nikki asleep made Helen's heart constricted, sleep seemed to rob Nikki of the expressions that were always present when she was awake, it made her looks so young and reminded Helen of the girl she had loved.
She tentatively reached out and stroked her fingers down Nikki's face, god how she had loved this woman. The problem was that remembering the love that she felt also made her remember the abandoned feelings, she had tried to hate Nikki but she couldn't and that made her feel weak. The tender smile that had been present on Helen's face turned into an angry sneer as all these emotions went through her. Making sure Nikki was still sleeping she slipped out of the bed and went over to the big wardrobe that dominated one wall of the bedroom, pulling the door open Helen flicked through the clothes that were stored in there and pulled out a pair of trousers and a shirt. Changing into the clothes she then pulled out a big holdall that was on the floor of the wardrobe unzipped it and threw a few of the other clothes into it.
Helen then headed for a desk and searched the drawers finding nothing of value there she headed out of the room. After checking two rooms Helen arrived in what was obviously the master bedroom. Smiling she went to the dressing table, pulled out each door in turn and emptied the content onto the bed. Her smile broadened a notch when she noticed Nikki's jewellery box, not even stopping to check what was inside she stuffed it into the holdall. She ransacked the room but eventually only took a few expensive looking ornaments before heading downstairs.
Once downstairs Helen went into the kitchen for some food, she hadn't had a decent meal for ages. She eventually settled for a sandwich as waiting for anything to cook would add to the chances of Nikki walking up, but as she was looking through the drawers for plates and a knife she came across some bone china plates, cut crystal glasses and silver cutlery. She added them to the content of the holdall along with some food and then left the house.
Three hours later Nikki woke up, she felt unaccountably happy, it took her a while to remember why - she had Helen back. She was still smiling when she rolled over to put her arm around Helen, she sat up frowning when it hit the mattress. The frown turned into wide eyed shock when she noticed the wardrobe door was wide open and the old clothes she stored in this room scattered around the floor.
Nikki quickly jumped out of the bed and went to check the rest of the house, after listing what was missing from upstairs and down Nikki sat at the kitchen table with her head in her hands trying to work out what to do next. Calling the police would only get Helen into more trouble and no matter what the small Scot had done to her she didn't want that. Making her mind up Nikki picked up the phone and called in a favour from an old friend.
Forty five minutes later there was a knock on the door, Nikki who had taken the time to get dressed, rushed over and opened the door. Standing on the doorstep was Yvonne Atkins, looking very collected in a designer suit and smoking a cigarette. Next to Yvonne was her daughter Lauren, it often astounded Nikki how alike Lauren was to Yvonne, from her witty sense of humour to the fact she was dressed from head to foot in designer leather.
"This Helen better be something special. If I'd tried to help someone and they'd robbed me the only reason I'd be looking for them is so I could measure them for concrete boots." Yvonne said walking past Nikki.
"Are you going to help me or not?" Nikki asked already knowing the answer.
She had first been introduced to the Atkins three years ago in the form of Lauren, all that Nikki had known was that the family had to be well off because of the influence this nineteen year old had. It had been Trisha that had explained that the young woman's parents were influential gangsters in London. From then on Nikki had been wary around Lauren, but whatever she had been told Nikki found that she liked the leather-clad brunette.
Lauren came to the club three nights in a row and each time made a beeline for Nikki. They had long conversations, laced with innuendo on Lauren's part, but Nikki kept it innocent. In one of these conversations Nikki learnt that Lauren was gay but her parents would not like the fact.
On the last night Nikki noticed that Lauren had disappeared, she thought it strange as she usually hung around till closing time to ask Nikki to come to a party after. After debating with herself, she set off to look for the younger woman. As she exited the club through the back door she spotted Lauren. She was pressed up against the side wall of the club by a man. As she got closer she noticed that Lauren was bleeding from a cut above her right eye, her cheek was bruised and she was crying.
Picking up a plank of wood that was propped next to the bin Nikki ran over. The man just laughed when she told him to get away from Lauren, asked if she was 'the pervert that owned this dive' and told Nikki that Lauren was to pretty to be a dyke so he was going to convert her. The man was obviously high or drunk so Nikki warned him again, he let go of Lauren and rounded on her. She waited until he had made a move towards her before swinging the plank which made a solid connection with his arm. The scream he let out at the impact alerted the bouncers who came out to see what was up, when they saw what had happened they held him down. Nikki left to call the police until Lauren begged her not to, even when Nikki tried to convince her it was for the best Lauren told her that she didn't want all of the attention and that her family would sort it.
It had taken hours to calm Lauren down but when she felt able to leave for her hotel she thanked Nikki and said if she ever needed anything to contact her. She had been surprised when she read the paper a week later to see a picture of the potential rapist saying that he was in hospital after being beat up by a gang of youths. The next day her suspicions had been reinforced when she received a phone call from Yvonne Atkins thanking her again for what she had done and warning her against going to the police with her suspicions. When Nikki had told her that she didn't intend to Yvonne's only response had been to call Nikki 'her kind of girl' before hanging up.
A month after that Lauren had turned up outside Nikki's office door looking a lot happier than last time they had met. Nikki had jumped up and hugged her before she noticed the smartly dressed, older couple behind her. Lauren had introduced them as her parents, it had been a shock to learn that two well known English gangsters were stood in her club. As she shook their hands they had invited her to dinner at the villa they were staying at and, to nervous to refuse, Nikki had accepted.
Despite everything Nikki had enjoyed herself, Charlie and Yvonne had been nice and Lauren was great company. They had enforced their gratitude for saving Lauren and said they 'owed her one'. Since then they had been regular visitors to Hollywood and had always called to see Nikki.
Their Mafia connections always made Nikki cautious to ask them for favours and for three years she had not asked them for anything. The involvement of drugs, dealers and gangs made this their territory and if she was going to find Helen she needed their help.
"'Course were going to help you love." Yvonne replied bringing Nikki out of her musings. "We've already been in contact with some people, after a bit of 'persuading' they told us that someone matching Helen's description lives in a squat near Piccadilly with someone called Scott. We know where it is, we are just stopping to pick you up before we head there."
They climbed into the car and for the first time Nikki noticed a second car filled with muscular men - obviously Charlie's lackeys.
"Yvonne, I'm only bothered about a necklace, an old pocket watch and Helen, they can keep the rest. I don't want any trouble and if we can help it I don't want anyone harmed." Nikki told the older woman.
"This is your call but we should teach them that they can't go around stealing to pay off their drug habit." Yvonne replied.
"They can learn that through you scaring them. Can't we do this my way?"
"Like I said it's your call." Yvonne clearly wasn't happy but she didn't say anymore.
The car stopped on a side street, one look showed that this was the poor part of the district. Most of the houses on the street had windows boarded up and the doors kicked in, a man was led on the street unconscious but people stepped over him and went about their business like it was an everyday occurrence and over-made women in short skirts stood on a street corner smiling at the men who went past.
Most of them looked over as the two cars pulled up but then went back to what they were doing, either because they recognised Yvonne or because there was only one reason someone brought along four mean looking men and no-one wanted to get in the middle.
Nikki followed Yvonne as she walked down a dark back alley, the smell put her off straight away but she was even more disturbed to find she had to step over used syringes and the occasional condom. They all stopped at one of the graffiti filled doors and Yvonne indicated to one of the men who swiftly dealt with the door. Two of the men entered first with Nikki shortly behind them, as she entered Nikki quickly scanned the area for any danger, satisfied that there was none she took in her surroundings.
The squat that Helen had been living in was a derelict house that through disrepair looked like it was about to fall down. On the floor, led on blankets and the occasional mattress, were at least 20 people, all but two looked stoned. The same man that kicked the door down picked up one of the coherent men and pinned him up against the wall.
"Sorry to gate crash your party but we are looking for someone, she goes by the name of Helen Stewart and we have it on good authority that she is here." Yvonne said walking up to the man.
"She's over there." He replied pointing to the back of the room.
Nikki picked her way to the back of the room glad when she finally spotted Helen led on one of the mattresses with her eyes closed. Nikki quickly checked her pulse, relieved when she found it, beating quickly but still there. Spotting the holdall by the side of the bed Nikki found it empty apart from the food and clothes, Yvonne noticed this and turned her attention back to her victim.
"Where's the stuff that she brought?"
"It's gone, we bought stuff with it."
"Look I don't care about most of it I only want the necklace with the red and blue stones and the old pocket watch. You can keep the rest." Nikki said from her position crouched next to Helen.
The man just shrugged and smiled smugly, the smile was soon wiped off his face when Yvonne nodded to her henchman. Nikki winced as the dealer was punched with enough force to make his head bounce back off the wall.
"We can do this the hard way or the easy way, it's up to you." Yvonne told him.
"OK, OK. The watch is in my pocket but we gave the necklace away to another dealer." He replied reaching up to hold his nose.
"Which dealer?" Yvonne says fishing the watch out of his pocket.
"The one that hangs around the flats in Euston, French guy with dreadlocks."
"If it wasn't for her you'd be in deep shit." Yvonne said pointing to Nikki. "She want's to keep this non-violent, but cross me again and I won't be nearly this nice." She finished patting his cheek.
Taking this as a sign to leave Nikki slid her arms under Helen's legs and shoulders and picked her up.
"Hey, she is mine, she owes me thousands you can't take her like that." The man protested as Nikki walked past him.
"You got your payment from what she stole." Yvonne replied as one of her men relieved Nikki of her burden.
"Nikki you go home with Helen, Lauren will go with you. I'll visit this dealer." Yvonne said as they reached the cars which surprisingly were untouched.
"Buy it back Yvonne, it's not this guys fault." Nikki said handing Yvonne a wad of money that had been locked in a safe during Helen's stealing spree. She then headed for the car that Helen had been put into and climbed in.
By the time Yvonne returned Nikki and Lauren had managed to put Helen into bed and were now sat in the living room chatting. Yvonne walked into the house with a big grin on her face dangling the necklace from her finger.
"He handed it over without a problem." She said handing it to Nikki along with the pocket watch and the wad of money.
"How much did he want for it?" Nikki asked looking at the wad.
"A grand, he wanted two until one of my men asked if he could break his fingers. Come on love, we'd better get back. If you need anymore help Nik you know where to find us." With this Yvonne left.
"I hope she's worth all this Nikki." Lauren said standing and facing Nikki.
"She is Lauren, that isn't the real Helen." Nikki replied.
"Well she's a lucky woman, if she doesn't appreciate that send her to me." Lauren squeezed Nikki's arm before following her mother out of the house.
It was nearly sixteen hours later when Helen woke, she quickly realised that she was back in Nikki's spare bedroom, which if her memories were correct she shouldn't be. Sitting up she noticed an overweight man sat on a chair next to the door watching her and Nikki sat in a chair next to the bed, she was asleep with her head resting on the mattress next to the pillow. Helen moved to the edge of the bed and stood up.
"You can't leave this room." The man spoke for the first time. He was obviously some kind of bodyguard or bouncer of Nikki's that had been put there to watch her, he looked out of shape to be either but then Helen realised that she wouldn't win in a fight against him so he was effective.
"You can't keep me here, only the police can imprison someone legally and you are not the police." Helen pointed out.
"It's Nikki's orders." He said shrugging.
They were both distracted from the conversation when Nikki sat up disturbed from her sleep by the conversation.
"Helen, your awake. How are you feeling?" She asked with a broad grin.
"I'm better than I was yesterday." Helen replied sounding annoyed.
"Well, why don't you have a shower and then come down to the kitchen. We are due at Clouds in four hours so we can have some breakfast before we set off." Nikki said standing up and stretching.
Helen was confused by Nikki's good mood, she was acting like nothing had happened. Knowing how bad the other woman's temper used to be Helen had expected her to hit the roof and had used an annoyed tone to build her own defences, which it seemed were not needed. Not wanting to question her good fortune Helen left the room and headed for the bathroom. Just as she was about to start stripping there was a knock on the door and Nikki came in to give her a towel and some clothes before leaving without saying a word.
Helen showered and dressed quickly, she had to tuck the sleeves and trouser legs up so they fit but they were clean. She left the bathroom with wet hair and almost walked into the man that had been watching her in the bedroom.
"I know Nikki is famous, I've only been with her for two days and I've already attracted a stalker." Helen said sarcastically as she walked past him.
"Well if you hadn't robbed Nikki then maybe she'd trust you and we wouldn't have to follow you. If I were her I'd have cut my losses and left you not be spending a thousand a day to rehabilitate you but for some reason Nikki seems to think you're worth it." He replied walking behind her.
Helen frowned but didn't answer, they had reached the living room and could hear voices from what Helen assumed was the kitchen. Taking a deep breath she entered. Nikki was sat at a big table eating and talking to a woman who was in the middle of cooking a meal, on Nikki's right was another man, who Nikki had introduced as Will, he was also in the middle of a full English breakfast. The woman, who Nikki called Elizabeth, indicated for Helen to sit and put a plate full of food down for her to eat.
"Sorry about the state of the plate and cutlery but our best set has been stolen." Elizabeth said glaring at her, not being able to meet the glare Helen looked at the floor.
"Elizabeth." Nikki warned.
"I'm sorry but I don't think I can eat anything, I'm not hungry."
"You have to eat something Helen. Your body will need all the energy it can get, the next few days aren't going to be easy." Nikki looked at her with pleading eyes until Helen picked up the fork. "I'm going for a shower." With this Nikki left the room leaving Helen with three people that obviously didn't like her.
An uncomfortable silence descended on the room as Helen ate her breakfast. "Look I know you all hate me and I know what I did was wrong but I just want to say that I'm sorry." Helen eventually said.
"So you should be. Nikki is a nice person all she was trying to do was help you..." Elizabeth started.
"She isn't trying to help she is trying to ease her guilt. You don't know why she's doing it or anything about me so you don't have the right to judge." Helen shouted before storming out of the room, this time Will followed.
She stormed into the living room before stopping and looking around angrily, she didn't want to do anything that would anger Nikki so she stood awkwardly in the middle of the room. As if sensing her uneasiness Will switched on the television, accepting the gesture Helen sat down to wait for Nikki.
Nikki returned 20 minutes later dressed in a dark suit and black shirt that brought out the darkness in her eyes. Helen heart skipped a beat as she came to sit next to her, even after all these years she could still effect Helen.
"C'mon." Nikki said breaking Helen out of her thoughts.
She took Helen's hand and pulled her of the sofa, then gently pushed her towards a door in the back of the room. For the first time Helen noticed that as well as the front and kitchen door two more doors stood at the back of the room. Nikki was pushing Helen towards the one on the right.
"Where are we going?"
"Relax this is just my study." Nikki replied grinning.
"What's behind the other door?"
"That's my gym."
"You have a home gym?"
"I guess you can get whatever you want with the amount of money you have."
"Not everything." Nikki said looking at Helen with a sad look in her eyes.
They entered Nikki's study and she indicated for Helen to take a seat while she searched through some papers in her drawers. Eventually finding what she wanted Nikki pulled a few sheets of paper out and passed them to Helen.
"What are these?" Helen asked suspiciously.
"Just some papers you need to sign to be accepted to Clouds. Put this address down for your address." Nikki told her.
"Who says I want to go..."
"Well if you don't tell me now. I'll call the authorities and they can take you straight to prison. It'll save me a lot of time, money and effort." Nikki said getting angry for the first time.
"I'm sorry. It's just..." Helen paused and looked at the floor ashamed at her behaviour.
"Look Helen whatever it is you can tell me."
"I'm scared. Look how I was when I went without drugs for two day, and I know it's going to get a hell of a lot worse than that. Plus the fact if I do get through this...then what? I have no job, no money and no home, what am I going to do?" Helen's bottom lip quivered as she spoke.
"You don't think I'll just pay for you to go through detox then just abandon you, do you? Like I've said before we'll figure it out, I've actually got an idea I want to run by you after you've been through the rehabilitation program. And as for getting through it - I believe you can do it." Nikki said confidently squeezing Helen's shoulder.
Helen started quietly filling in the forms, minutes passed until she looked up again. Making sure the forms were completed Nikki put them in a briefcase then told Helen they should set off.
"I'm sorry about stealing from you Nikki." Helen said while they were in the car travelling to the clinic.
"I doesn't matter, they were only possessions."
"Why did you want to get only those two pieces of jewellery back?"
"They were Bet's, she left me those and some money in her will, they are the only physical things that I have to remind me of her."
"How do you know Yvonne? She is one of the biggest gangsters in England, not really someone I'd associate with you."
"I know her through her daughter, she came over to the club when she was on holiday a while ago."
"So why did you pick Clouds for me to go to?"
"It's known for being good without having all the celebrity egos like the Priory. I also have it on good authority that they have art and music therapy for you to do when you are well enough and I thought you might like the art." Nikki said surprised at how easily Helen could switch subjects.
"I don't draw anymore. Haven't done for years."
"You should do, you were really good."
"I will if you'll pose for me again." Helen said grinning for the first time since Nikki had bailed her from court.
"You drive a hard bargain." Nikki said smiling back.
They settled into a comfortable silence until they arrived at the clinic as they parked up Helen took a deep breath. When Nikki looked across she looked as if she was going to bolt or be sick.
"You'll be OK Helen, I'm here for you." Nikki reassured squeezing Helen's hand.
They left the car and headed for the clinic and the appointment they were both dreading.