DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything to do with Bad Girls.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Fallen Angel
By SimoneIsAnAngel


Chapter Eleven

"OH LOOK! AN ALLOSAURUS SKELETON!" Thomas bolted away from Nikki as quickly as a bullet exits a gun, and like a little boy stood beneath the giant stack of animal bones, his jaw dropping in awe at the great feature before him. It was like nothing he had ever seen before and he wanted to take in its every detail, much to his friend's annoyance.

Nikki had been awake all night, unable to allow herself to sleep once she returned to the college dorm. She had tossed and turned, trying to eliminate the memory of Helen from her mind, but it was just impossible. So she had gotten up and spent the remainder of the morning waiting on Thomas in the communal kitchen, playing her evening over and over again in her head until she felt like she was going out of his mind.

The last thing she wanted now was to be trailed around some tedious science exhibit, but a promise was a promise, she couldn't let Thomas down now. She would just have to grin and bear it.

She stood looking bored while Thomas walked circles around the exhibit, his mouth constantly agape.

"What's wrong with you Nik? You haven't said a word since we arrived." Thomas reluctantly dragged himself away from the rather large dinosaur and went to make sure his friend was ok.

"Nothing, I just haven't slept very well, that's all." Nikki was too exhausted to try and think of a better excuse. Thomas would believe in what ever she said anyway.

"Do you want to go home?" Thomas looked at her disappointedly, clearly upset at the prospect of leaving, but for his friend he was more than prepared to go.

"No, I'm not going to waste your day, you've been looking forward to this for forever...I'd never hear the bloody end of it if I dragged you away now." Nikki playfully slapped him and painted on a strained smile, which didn't quite reach her eyes. She knew there was no point in going home. It didn't matter where in the world she went there would be no Helen there.

Right now Helen was all she could think about, and burdening anyone else with her problem now wouldn't make the thoughts of her go away, it would just make it all seem more real.

What she had to do was deal with it in her own time, and hopefully Helen would just become a distant reminder of a pleasant evening.

Anyway, no one would understand. How could she possibly explain falling in love after a few hours, with a prostitute that she didn't even have the guts to sleep with. A prostitute who had ran away from her and taken her money? Not that she gave a damn about the money, if she needed it so badly then she was more than happy for her to have it.

Neither did she care about the mocking that would more than likely ensue, especially from Sean, or the judgemental attitude she would get from the girls.

All she cared about was never getting the chance to make Helen laugh again or see that precious smile spread across her beautiful face.

Or would she?

She wanted to run to that alley where she had first met her and whisk her away from her life of depravation she was clearly barely living through. She could tell by the look in Helen's eyes and the way she spoke that she was hiding something from her, and she had to find out what it was.

It was then she made a conscious decision to go and look for her once he had dropped Thomas back off at Uni'. She had to find her, if it killed her she had to tell Helen how she felt and find out if she felt the same.

Helen had spent her morning in much the same way as Nikki had. She moped around Jim's house, unable to sleep, or eat for the pain that was tugging at her heart.

She lay herself down on the couch and curled herself into a foetal position to once again think about the first person she had ever had any respect for. She wouldn't allow herself to believe it was love; she had never felt it before and couldn't be sure if this was the real thing, and Nikki was a female, did that make her gay? The only thing she was sure of was she was setting herself up for a fall if she let her emotions get the better of her.

Her daydreaming was unexpectedly put on hold as she heard an all too familiar noise.

She jolted her head up as she heard the front door slam shut forcefully.

Jim had been out all night, and this was, she expected, him returning. She had no idea where he had been, and she didn't really care either. It meant she had had a peaceful morning to herself without him leeching all over her, or getting too handy with his fists and mouth when she didn't do exactly what he told her to.

She listened intently to his approaching footsteps and abruptly sat up and straightened herself out. She did dare let him see her lazing about doing nothing.

"You're back. Good." Jim did not look in the slightest bit pleased as he walked towards the table in front of her and lifted the envelope filled with Nikki's money that she had left there for him.

She gulped loudly and her body involuntery stiiffened as he removed the cash and began to count it. Sweat began to descend down her brow, and her heart began palpitating unsteadily as she awaited the fate that was to befall her.

With the mood he was in she had no idea what would come next. She had made him money, but would it be enough to satisfy him and stop a beating? She doubted it, but maybe he would forgive her?

"Not bad. At least you made something. But in future I want to see more than this, got it?" Helen nodded enthusiastically and held her breath until he had sat down away from her. She was in the clear for the first time since she had started working for him, finally pleasing him. But she still had a feeling of butterflies in her stomach at the prospect of having to at least double her "wages" later that evening. So she wasn't totally off the hook quite yet.

Silence filled the room, apart from the odd grumble from Jim as he removed his shoes and jacket to make himself more comfortable.

Helen was terrified to start a conversation in case she infuriated him in some way so she sat quietly, waiting to be spoken to.

He was easily annoyed, and she always seemed to push him over the edge in one-way or another. But she had definitely learnt her lesson where he was concerned and she still had the bruises to prove it.

Once he had settled he let his gaze drop on Helen, and his continual staring was making her feel more than a little awkward. She shifted her feet back and forth, and twiddled her thumbs nervously, waiting on him removing his eyes from her, but he never did. He was too busy thinking.

"You know what. I'm looking at you, and you're not that bloody ugly. So why have you only had one client in the entire time you've been working? I've never had this problem with any of my other girls. So either you aren't trying hard enough, or it's where you're standing." Jim's tone was unemotional as he spoke and Helen kept her head down the whole time.

"So which one is it? Because either way it will have to be sorted" His voice was beginning to change again, and it was scaring her.

"I'm trying I swear, Jim. I don't know why I can't get clients. Maybe it is the location?" Helen ran all her words together, hurriedly trying to defend herself, panic clear in her voice.

"Hmmm, I'll take your word for it. But if I move you, and we still have the same problems you're going to be sorry." Jim stood up and walked towards her, grabbing her by the wrist, unaware of his own strength.

"I'm taking you to meet one of the other girls. You can share her spot for the moment, and maybe pick up some tips along the way."

Helen could feel the pain run up her arm as his grip tightened and didn't have the nerve to pull away or object. She knew he would just seize her tighter in spite.

As usual she had no option but go along with him. But all that was about to change and it would alter her life forever.


Chapter Twelve

After a more than exhausting night and day, the sight of the college dorm in the near distance was a relief to Nikki's eyes.

She was absolutely desperate to drop Thomas off and hot foot it into the city in pursuit of Helen. But as she drew closer to the apartment block steps she knew things weren't going to turn out as planned.

"Hey! Look who it is! Everyone gather round and take a good look, because before you we have a changed woman. That's right folks, not a girl anymore, but a woman." Sean hauled himself away from Trisha and his other friends and raced over the car where an embarrassed looking Nikki and a confused looking Thomas sat in silence watching Sean's approach.

"What's he going on about?" Trisha questioned rhetorically to her friends, who could only shake their heads and shrug their shoulders in just as much bewilderment. They were just as much in the dark as she was.

"Shut it Sean!" Nikki was not in the mood for her friends mind games and the anger that was plastered all over her face was unmistakable to everyone bar Sean, who wasn't planning on stopping his haranguing any time soon.

"Aw, there's no need to be embarrassed man, you should be proud! If I was you I'd be up on the roof announcing it to the world!"

"Announcing what?" Zandra asked in puzzlement as she snuggled into a leather-clad Josh.

Sean turned away from the car for a moment and looked back at his friends sat on the stairs.

"Our friend lost her virginity last night and it was all thanks to me," A look of smugness washed all over his face as he grinned at the taken aback looks around him.

"WHAT!" Thomas nearly choked on the air he was breathing at this sudden revelation, but no one noticed. They were all too busy cheering and the shouts of "wohooooo!" and "Way to go Nikki!" drowned out his own cries.

"She was a virgin? Wow" Josh couldn't believe a college senior could be so sexually inexperienced. After all that was what college was about wasn't it? Partying hard and getting laid as often as was humanly possible. You didn't go to study surely?

"So how does it feel?" Sean laughed, throwing his head back dramatically, overtaken by hysteria.

"Will you get out of the way so I can get out of the bloody car!" Nikki reached for the handle and opened the vehicles door ajar, until it would go no further, only leaving a small gap and definitely not enough room for her to exit. She gave a loud sigh of defeat as Sean carried on and blanked her.

"That bad huh? Oh well never mind mate. I wouldn't worry about it too much just yet; first times are never a good experience. Even when your partner is a "pro'"." His laughter echoed around the quiet grounds once again as he guffawed at his own private joke that only Nikki and he fully understood.

He doubled over, leaning on the car for support as he fought for breath, more rapturous laughter blaring out between each deep inhalation.

The others watched on in bemusement, not sure whether to laugh with him, or at him, but all choose neither, as their gaze drifted to the look of suppressed rage on Nikki's pale face they became transfixed, wondering if and when she would explode.

They didn't have to wait much longer to find out.

Sean had pushed one to many of Nikki's buttons and she wasn't going to sit there and take it any longer.

"I SAID GET OUT OF THE F*CKING WAY!" Nikki, still with her hand on the car door, thrust it open with all her might, knocking an unaware, and now silent Sean to the hard concrete pavement with a thud as the door hit him on the side. The girls gasped loudly as Nikki got out of the car and slammed the door back over so forcefully the car shook slightly. No one had ever seen her act like this before, and it was enough to worry them. Even Josh, who was used to this type of behaviour, felt more than a little intimidated.

"Hey, watch it!" Sean's humour was now well and truly gone and it was replaced with an expression of extreme irritability as he rose to his feet once again and brushed himself off, pain from the fall hurtling around his body and a large bloody graze on his left cheek.

"No, you watch it!" Nikki gave her friend a look of contention as she stopped to stare at him in disgust, before turning away.

"Nik, are you ok?" Trisha made a grab for her friends arm as she stormed past her up the stone steps, ignoring her, and her friends as she made her way into the dorm's hallway bypassing Trisb's question.

As the swing doors rattled back and forth, slowing with every movement and Nikki disappeared out of sight; the gang sat in stunned silence.

Sean walked back to the steps, still taken aback by the recent events, and tried to embrace Trisha in hug, but she pushed him off, a look of repulsion similar to the one Nikki had given him, on her face.

She had all of a sudden seen a different side to him, a new light shed on his personality, and she was no longer impressed by his conduct. There was a time when she would have encouraged him to act like that, egged him on just for the fun of it, but now it didn't seem so funny.

She didn't know if it was her maturing or if it was Sean acting younger, but somehow she felt a distance between them right at that moment and she couldn't put her finger on it.

Nikki threw herself down forcefully onto her bed.

"I WISH I HAD NEVER BLOODY MET HER!" She screamed her words out in frustration, but deep down in her heart she knew she didn't mean it. She was thankful that she had had Helen in her life at all, even if it was for just a few short hours. It had been worth it. But she had to let her frustrations out in some way, the only way she knew how, and that was anger.

From an early age her Father had instilled in her that for a person cry was wrong, and she shouldn't do it, otherwise she would end up being a drunken, over emotional drama queen, just like her Mother. Something for years, that had plagued her with fear, so much so she held every waking emotion inside.

And it had been since then she had found it hard to show any kind of feeling towards other people, even as much as a hug sometimes made her uncomfortable. But somehow with Helen it had been different. She had wanted to hug her, and make her feel better, despite her own inabilities to show sentiment, she put that aside and as she wrapped his arms around her something inside her had snapped. She enjoyed the sensations that had awoken in her, and she wanted to share it again, but only if it was with Helen.

A little tear trickled down her cheek and she didn't make an effort to wipe it away. No one was there to see, or to judge. Only herself, and for once she didn't care, or feel frightened. All she felt was pain, and hurt. She wanted to see her again so badly, and as time drew on it got more and more unlikely it would happen.

"Ok my little blonde employee, this is your new patch" Jim opened a small wooden doorway behind an alley to reveal a small cupboard like room, with a dirty mattress laying in the middle of the floor. There was barely enough room for her, never mind another person.

"This is normally Denny's space, but I don't think she will mind you sharing it with her." Helen was lost for words. It was the most disgusting place she had ever seen, and she had lived on the streets for nearly 3 years. She had never imagined there was a worse place than that.

"It will save you hunting for hotels and the like. You find your client and you can bring them back here. And you wont have far to walk. Such simplicity. I don't know how Denny ever thought of it. Between me and you she's a bit thick." Jim laughed his usual cackle, but was stopped by the sound of an approaching car.

"Don't move." Jim stood in front of Helen as if to hide her and watched to see who was in the car, which had now become stationary beside him.

"I'm looking for Denny, you seen her?" The guy in the car rolled down his window and leaned out to get a better look at Jim.

"Simon! Long time no see!" Jim walked over to the window and shook the mans hand.

"Jim! I almost didn't recognise you. You lost weight!"

"Yeah, well it's the stress of watching these dumb bitches 24/7. They are more hassle than they are bleedin' worth at times." Simon nodded in knowing recognition.

"So what you wanting Denny for?" Jim continued.

"What do you think! What else would I want with a 16 year old hooker" They both laughed heartily, clearly both on the same wavelength.

"Well Denny isn't here just now by the looks of it I'm afraid. But I can offer you one of my other girls if you're desperate…there's the two Julie's, although, double the girls, double the price. Or there's Helen…" Jim was all of a sudden acting rather nicely at the prospect of a wad of cash coming his way.

"Is that her?" Simon nodded towards Helen, who awkwardly looked around her, embarrassed at being vetted like a cow at a cattle market.

"It sure is. She's one of my newest girls, but she's a good'ne. I've 'ad her myself."

Simon pondered it for a moment, looking her up and down to check her out, making sure there were no flaws that would turn him off.

"Ok, bring her over." Simon still didn't look too sure about her, but he was desperate, and she would do for the moment until his regular, Denny, was available again.

"Helen, get your arse over here now!" Jim turned and screamed at her and she joined him reluctantly.

"This is a friend of mine, and he needs some help. So be a good little girl and get in the car." Helen nodded and opened the passenger door to let herself into the car.

"It's been nice seeing you again Simon. Now take care of this one, I don't want to scare her too soon in." Both laughed again at there own jokes.

"I'll bring her back in one piece, I promise. Good doing business with you again." And with that he drove off leaving Jim alone.

Helen could feel her heart pounding in fear. This was it for her, she had her first real client and there was no getting out of it.

She closed her eyes over as Simon drove her to an undisclosed location and she pictured the face of Nikki in her mind. Just the way she had looked as she lay in bed recounting tales of school.

It was Nikki that would get her through this, and she would never get to thank her.


Chapter Thirteen

Nikki felt a depression that she hadn't had since childhood wash over her like a giant tidal wave, and take over her senses. She wanted to lie in her bed forever and never have to face the cruel, harsh reality of the world and life again.

Her life was one big mess, and it always had been. Nothing was ever simple; it was an ongoing nightmare that she just couldn't seem to wake up from.

She couldn't understand why a tosser like Sean could get all the girls, girls she could only ever dream of, and she, Nikki, a sweet, caring loving girl, who wanted only the one girl couldn't even get that.

Was she doing something wrong? Should she act like more of an arsehole to get what she wanted? Would that work? Because if it did work she was more than prepared to give it a try.

"Nikki?" An unfamiliar voice broke Nikki away from her thoughts as she sat upright in bed to await the appearance of whoever was at the door.

"Come in," She shouted reluctantly to her surprise visitor.

And surprise it definitely was.

"Josh?" Nikki looked at the handsome, muscular male before her, and felt a little pang of jealousy engorge her. Josh to her was another Sean Parr, a guy with the same amount of morals as a fruit fly, who saw women as objects rather than humans.

"Can I help you?" Nikki's tone threw Josh slightly. His first impression of her was that she was the joker of the pack, a funny girl who very rarely had a bad word to say to anyone. But from her earlier debacle he knew Nikki had another side, one that made him feel a little awkward.

"I'm really sorry to interrupt you. I hope you don't mind me coming up to see you, I mean we don't really know each other, and it's not like we've spoken, but…Sean told us all the whole story, and I just felt like I needed to see you." Josh stuttered out his words, embarrassed at having thought he could have helped, wishing he maybe hadn't bothered now.

Nikki paused for a moment after Josh had finished speaking, wondering just exactly what had brought this guy up to her room. Did he think he was some kind of advice councillor? Was he up here to congratulate her on being "one of the guys" now after her wild night of supposed passion, that didn't even happen in the first place?

Josh, noticing the look of confused anger on Nikki's face decided he had better elaborate, even though all he wanted was for the ground to open up and swallow him whole.

""No one knows I'm up here. I told Zan I was going to the toilet." He moved apprehensively closer to Nikki's bed, constantly aware of the still violent look in Nikki's eyes.

"Listen man, I know you probably don't like me, but I'm a good guy honest. I'm not like that idiot Sean, if that's what you think. Hell I don't even like the guy; I think he's a bit of an prick to be honest. I just put up with him for Zandra's sake, but I'd love to punch his lights out if truth be told!" Josh looked so sincere and jittery it made Nikki laugh and ease off a bit. Maybe her first impression of this guy had been wrong after all.

"Don't stand there looking so worried, it's ok. I really appreciate you coming up here when you didn't have to. So Sean let his big mouth runaway with him again huh?"

"Yeah, but no one's paying him any attention, honest. You have some great friends down there, they're all being really supportive and ignoring that clown."

"So my name's not mud then?" Nikki looked so relieved it was almost as though she would cry.

"God no. Those guys love you! I wish I had friends like that. You're a lucky girl, I'm… jealous." Josh hung his head in embarrassment.

"You're jealous of me?" Nikki looked happy-shocked.

"A little. I mean, you have so much going for you. Great mates who love you, you're clever enough to get into a good college, you have good career prospects ahead of you because of it. You have more than I could wish for."

Nikki didn't realise it until someone else pointed it out, but she did have it good. Life maybe wasn't so bad after all. But all she needed now was one person to fill the gaping void in her heart. But she was sure she could cope now until Helen was back in her life, if that would even happen.

"Thanks man, you don't know how much that means to me," Nikki patted Josh's shoulder in sincerity.

Your welcome," Josh flashed her a smile that could light a room, now feeling more comfortable to be where he was, his body relaxed.

"Can I ask you something? You don't have to answer if you don't want to, if its too weird, but this "girl" you "met" last night…you know what, never mind," Josh stood up and went to walk away.

"Wait! What were you going to ask?" Nikki called him back in an urgent tone, hoping he would finish the sentence he had started.

Josh stopped and thought for a minute.

"Was she small, with dark hair, sallow skin and tattoo's?" He looked away, turning red.

"No, she was the opposite in fact. Her name was Helen, if that helps?" Nikki was extremely confused at Josh's line of questioning.

"Oh, ok then," he turned to walk away, but again was stopped by Nikki's persistency.

"Can I ask why you wanted to know?"

Josh turned back again and sat himself back down on the bed.

"If I tell you, can you promise not to say anything to anyone else, I don't want anyone else knowing by business. I really need to speak to someone this is eating me alive, and I know I can trust you."

"Of course you can trust me. I won't say a word. Are you ok Josh?" Nikki looked on at her new friend in concern. She had never seen him look so drawn and sad before. He was normally so macho looking whenever he saw him around campus with Zandra.

"Thanks. I don't know where to start really, it's all so complicated. I should probably tell you a bit about me first." Nikki nodded and got herself comfy. She could tell this was going to take a while.

" I live over in Hackney, with my family, which by normal standards is pretty big. There is my Mum, Dad, Grandma, and my five sisters as well as me. Well four sisters now. You see about a year ago, my sister, Daniella, started dating this guy, Jim I think his name was. Well, they were going out for a few weeks, when one day we get home, and there's this note left on the kitchen table from her. She says she leaving to live with Jim, but she can't see us anymore, as it would upset him or something crazy like that. My Mum was going out of her mind with worry, and still is. But no matter how hard we looked for her she was nowhere to be seen, so we though he had moved her out of London and onto another county. Then a few months ago, a guy I know starts harassing me for having a hooker as a sister. He saw my sister standing in some street corner down by Piccadilly Circus, looking for guys." Josh felt a lump appear in his throat. He loved his youngest sister so much, and to think of her selling her body killed him.

"We went down to where he had saw her, but it looks like she has moved on. This bastard wasn't her boyfriend after all, he was her pimp." A little tear fell from his eyes, but he brushed it away quickly before Nikki could see.

"I miss her so much man. She's my baby sister for Christ sake; she shouldn't be out living on the streets doing this! She should be back with her family where she belongs."

Nikki leaned her arm over and gave Josh a much-welcomed hug.

"I'll help you find her," Nikki felt Josh look up at her.

"You mean that?" Josh looked so overwhelmed at her generosity.

"In two conditions."

"What are they?" Josh looked confused.

"One, you start to hang around with me and the others more often, and two, you help me find Helen."


Chapter Fourteen

"Are you ready?" Josh knocked on Nikki's door and peeked his head around, to see his friend looking immaculate in front of the mirror, preening her hair for the 20th time that morning.

"Yeah, just let me grab my car keys." Nikki lifted the set of keys hesitantly. Her nerves were shot to pieces, just thinking of what she may find when they went on their search for the two girls that meant the most to them in the world.

It was now or never.

"Lets go." She shut over the door behind her and walked silently down the corridor next to an equally nervous looking Josh.

"Josh?" if there was anything Nikki needed right now it reassurance. She had to know she was doing the right thing. What if she found Helen and she didn't want anything to do with her? What would she do then? She didn't think she could handle the rejection. It had been bad enough when Helen had ran out on her, but to hear her say the words "You mean nothing to me" would break her heart in two.


"Am I making the right choice here? I mean I've known this girl one night. I know nothing about her; apart from her name, and for all I know she could be straight; or a wife and mother. She ran out on me, why would she do that if she had any kind of feelings for me? I'm being so stupid. Maybe Sean was right." She stopped walking and slumped her back against the fall with a thud.

"Hey, Firstly, Sean is never right. And secondly, maybe she was scared? She's probably never been used to a person being nice to her in return for nothing. Her mind will be all over the place Nik! Go with your instincts. What do you feel in there?" Josh poked Nikki's heart with his index finger.

"I love her, so much. But I'm scared; I've never felt as strongly as this for another person my whole life. I don't understand it Josh, how can I love someone I don't know?" Nikki looked close to tears as her friend rested his hands on her shoulders.

"You love her because it feels right. You're sensitive, more than you give yourself credit for! All I can say is she must be a pretty special girl."

"She is Josh, she really is." Nikki watched Josh nod in recognition as if he fully understood just how he was feeling.

"Well let's go get her!"

"Thanks for a great afternoon Helen. Here, a little something for you." Simon stopped the car at Helen's new spot, where he had picked her up and handed her a £50 bill.

"No, I couldn't. You've already paid Jim." Helen turned away from his cash filled hand and tried to get out of the car.

"Helen, please take it. This is for you, not Jim. Make sure he doesn't take it off of you. You never know when you might need it." Helen turned back and gave him a strange look. What had he meant by that? She couldn't help but feel that he was being genuinely nice, as he had been the whole time they had been having sex.

He had treated her like a lady, and not like the dirty hooker she felt like, and was. She had half expected him to be like Jim, after all, they did seem to be very friendly, but he was different to what she had imagined.

She reached over and took the bill from his hand and returned his smile. He didn't try and snatch it back like Jim had done when she had first met him, nor did he try and keep her in the car. He just sat still while she let herself out and back to her patch.

As she neared the door she could hear him drive off into the distance.

She was once again alone, but not for long.

"Oi, bitch, watcha think you're doin'? This is my place, innit!" A small, dark female walked up to her rather aggressively and crossed her arms sternly, a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth.

"Eh, I'm Helen; I'm one of Jim's girls. He's told me I have to share with you, you are Denny yeah?" Helen could feel herself shaking. This girl looked tough, and she didn't think she could handle her if she started a fight.

Denny stood eyeing her up and down, before she uncrossed her arms and began to back off.

"Yeah, I'm Denny. Nice to meet ya Helen," She extended her hand as a peace offering.

"I'm sorry if I scared ya earlier, but ya gotta be mean in this business, or ya will get arseholes walking all over you. You'll learn in time." Denny blew a large bubble with her gum, let it pop and sucked it back into her mouth.

"Stick with me girl and you'll be just fine, innit"

"So this is where she was when you picked her up?" Josh and Nikki both looked around the deserted alleyway, which Nikki vaguely recognised. It had been dark the last time she was here, and all her attention had been on the beautiful blonde that had captivated and enchanted her.

"This is it, I remember, because the motel we went to is right around the corner.

Josh sat down on the barrel that Helen had become quite attached to on her two days spent there, and sighed in defeat.

"Well, we have been here for over an hour and there is still no sign of her. I bet that bastards moving her around like he is with Daniella."

"Lets just go home. This is hopeless; we were stupid to think we could find them in a city of 8 Million people." Nikki sounded and looked just as dejected as her friend, but unlike Josh she didn't have the energy to be cruising the whole of Central London on a wild goose chase.

"Ok, but promise me you won't ever give up, or let her leave your heart," Josh looked at Nikki with tears in his eyes, much to her shock.

"I wont ever forget her. I promise."

Josh nodded, happy to know Nikki was more than sincere in her answer.

"Lets go home then."

The finished their day out in the same way in started; in silence and in sorrow.

Helen was once again alone, as Denny entertained a client in the small, dark, damp room behind her.

She could hear them, and the noise began to get to her. She couldn't understand how Denny could manage to cut her mind off, and act like she was enjoying it. It was something she couldn't, and never would do. It was all too disturbing to her.

After another round of moans rang out she decided to call it a night, despite having had just one customer. Jim would just have to deal with it she thought, even if it did mean him hitting her. She had had enough for one day, and she wanted to rest.

As she took a slow walk home she remembered back to the stories Nikki had told her, and ran them through her head like a movie. Creating her own pictures and scenarios as she drifted into her own little make believe world for the second time that day. It was her safe place, where she would be happy.

If it only it was for real, she wished to herself. And maybe one day it would?

If only she knew which school Nikki was at. There were so many in London she couldn't possibly search them all. But if she could she would run away to him, because she knew he would protect her from what Jim would do to her when he found out. But she would never know, and after the bad end to their night together there would be no way he would want to find her.

As far as she could see she was trapped for eternity.

Pretty soon she was back home, and to an empty house, much to her joy.

She kicked off her skimpy shoes, and quietly walked into the deserted kitchen, where she planned to make herself something to eat before bed, but something on the dining room table attracted her attention.

It was the envelope in which Sean had placed Nikki's money.

She moved herself apprehensively towards it and looked at the plain brown paper in sorrow. She lifted it towards her, not to look inside for the money, which she noticed was gone anyway, but for the fact it made her feel closer to the man she had loved and lost.

A tiny tear felt onto it as she held it close to her face and she watched as the wet patch turned darker. After a moment she placed it back on the table, where she had found it, but as she did she noticed something drop to the floor from inside it.

Thinking it was money Jim had missed she bent down to pick it up. But it was no note. She could hardly believe her eyes as she read what it said.

Miss Nicola Wade, South Bank University Campus, Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square North, London, SW1Y 6HP


Chapter Fifteen

Helen looked at the letter that she had not yet been able to pick up, and read the address that sent blood rushing to her head and her heart beating like a drum.

She couldn't believe what she was seeing. Was her fate finally changing? Was it real? It had to be. She reached her hand over and carefully and delicately slid it between her fingers to lift it towards herself; almost terrified it would crumble away in her hands if she were rough with it.

Nothing good ever happened for her, and she was certain that at any minute it would be snatched away from her cruelly, just like everything else in her life of late.

Miss Nicola Wade,

Vanderbilt Building,

40 Washington Square North,



She re-read it for the 2nd time in minutes, determined to memorise it lest something did happen to it. Here she had in her hand her perfect get away clause, but something was holding her back from just taking off. Would Nikki want to see her? What if she didn't help her and she was left to come back here and face the music, and whatever Jim would have planned for her. Death was more than likely what he would inflict upon her.

Before she had time to think it over any more the front door slammed shut and she knew just who it was that was home.

"HELEN!" She snapped around to see him glaring at her like she was the most repulsive thing he had ever seen. She could feel the anger rising in him and she knew what was coming. He removed his well-concealed hand from his pocket and drew it right across her face, leaving an instant red mark on her pale left cheek.

Although she had seen it coming this time it didn't stop the shock from sending waves of terror shooting through her battered body.

"You left work and no one told you to! Can't you see what time it is? Or have you lost the ability to tell time in the last 24 hours? You left Denny all on her own!"

His hand was still free to strike at anytime, but her mouth got the better of her as she tried to recover from the blow that was inflicted upon her.

"Denny works alone all the time without me, I don't think she's in any danger, do you!" Once she had said it she recoiled, but she suddenly realised she wasn't scared any more. She didn't know if it was because she knew Nikki was now within her reach, or if it was because she realised no matter what pain Jim put upon her she still had someone out there that had shown her love and with that she could conquer anything. But from now on she was standing up for herself, bruises or no bruises.

"What did you just bloody say to me?" Jim looked more shocked than angry.

"I said, Denny works alone, she doesn't need me to be her guardian. Didn't you hear me? Or have you lost the ability to listen in the last 24 hours?" She was on a roll and she was loving every minute of it. There was still a little bit of fear tucked away in her, but she was sure it was that fear and its adreneline that was driving her on.

"You disrespectful little bitch!" Now he looked irate as his temples flared with rage. He grabbed her arm and marched her towards the front door, where he opened it and flung her outside onto the damp concrete.

"You can stay out there until your ready to apologise!" He slammed the door back over, obviously fuming at the monster he had created and her sudden feistiness.

She took in a deep breath of air and told herself how silly, but lucky she had been. He could have seriously hurt her in there, but again she wasn't really caring, at least now that she was away from him.

She stood for a moment thinking about her new situation and what she was going to do now. Should she go back to working the streets? Or lose every last bit of dignity she clung onto and go in to Jim and say sorry?

No she smiled to herself. She would never apologise as long as she lived. Why should I, she asked herself? In her eyes she had done no wrong. Standing up for yourself was the right thing to do, wasn't it?

She started to walk away from the house of horror that she despised, but stopped quickly as she felt something rub on her belly.

She ran her hand down to the waist band of her little black skirt and the texture of paper could be felt on the palm of her hand and the tips of her fingers.

She lifted the letter from its hiding place and took one last long hard look at the address. For that was where she was heading. Her mind was made up, not that she needed much persuasion. All she needed now was some courage, and a lot of luck.

She was finally going to find the man of her dreams to see if Nikki could possibly forgive her.

"Oh come on Zandra, that's the 5th dress you've had on in the last minute. You got to like at least one of them surely?" Josh sat on the edge of Zandra's bed, watching and waiting patiently while she tried on numerous different outfits.

"Josh, it needs to be perfect, innit. This is the party of the year and I have to look just right. And anyway, I know Trisha will be immaculate, so I need to make sure I wear something half decent, otherwise I may as well not bleedin' well bother. Ill just be like her frumpy friend all over again, getting sympathy looks from strangers."

Josh rolled his eyes. He couldn't quite understand the mentality of women and their need to constantly impress all around them with their looks. Although he did appreciate it when a woman made an effort. It was what had attracted him to Zan in the first place, that and her sparkling blue eyes that looked like the bottom of the ocean.

"Ok, how does this one look?" He lifted his eyes to see Zandra dressed in a red backless gown.

"WOW!" Josh's jaw nearly hit the floor as he gawped at his girlfriend.

"I think you look amazing Zan. You have definitely been worth the wait."

"Awww, I'm sorry I kept you waiting so long tonight, I know how annoying it must be,"

"I didn't mean just tonight. I've waited all my life to find someone like you and I mean it when I say you were worth waiting for."

She looked into his eyes for a second, and when she saw the genuineness emanating from them she couldn't help but throw herself into his muscular body for an embrace that was to last for what seemed like a lifetime.

No man had ever said something as nice to her and meant it as much as she believed Josh had. All her life she had been the skinny, gawky girl. The girl everyone mocked, or took pity on. Even her own Mother had told her from an early age that she would never have a man love her, not as long as she looked like a stick insect. But now none of her Mothers cruel words mattered, for she had Josh, the love of her life, the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She was going to walk into this party with her head held high, like she was the luckiest woman alive, instead of feeling like a second rate citizen next to her best friend. This time she had Josh on her arm, and she couldn't have been more proud.

She kissed him until her lips were sore and swollen, but still she couldn't find the will power to pull herself away. Not for all the money in the world would she have broken that kiss. She ran her hands through his well-gelled hair while he used his hands to explore her bare back.

"Hey you two, can you put each other down for a moment? We have a party to get to!" Trisha stood in their doorway with Sean's arms wrapped around her waist, where they always seemed to be these days, and Thomas stood beside them, trying to avert his eyes from all the showing of affection that was being displayed all around him. Little pangs of jealousy made him tut in disgust, when deep down the love that his friends had readily embraced was all he craved for.

The woman of his dreams was just a few feet away, but she may as well have been at the other end of the world for all she noticed him. To her Thomas was just a dork, a science geek, who she only seemed to tolerate for the sake of her best friend and the fact he was her brother. The only men she was interested in were the ones who would end up hurting her in the long run.

"We're ready," Zandra coyly brushed her tousled hair down with her hand and straightened out her dress. She turned off the lights and took one last lingering look in the mirror with a smile. She didn't look her dress; instead she looked at the smudged lipstick on her face, a reminder of her recent of kiss with the man of her dreams.

Music blared out around the dorm rooms, whose doors were all open, as a free for all. Kegs of beer on tap and bottles of various spirits and wines were scattered around for people to help themselves to, as was part of the normal dorm party policy. The more alcohol the better the party was everyone's motto, and it was a statement that usually rang true. But with more alcohol came more drunken exploits, one-night stands, and the occasional fight out on campus as the revellers descended home for the night. And tonight would be different.

"Wow, this is better than I imagined!" Trisha openly gawped at the vast amount of bodies, all with glasses in their hands, wandering around enjoying themselves. It looked like the whole university were here with friends.

"Yeah," Zandra followed her friend's gaze and nodded in agreement.

"I've never seen this many people in the one room at the one time!" Thomas looked equally in awe, if not a little scared. He liked peace and quiet, not loud rabbles. But he hated missing out on anything and he didn't want to be the only one in the dark in the morning when the gossip was circulating. He was too used to feeling like an outsider when stories were being shared. This time he was adamant that whatever happened he would be in the thick of it. A decision he would live to thank.

"HEY GUYS OVER HERE!" Nikki waved her hands in the air to attract the attention of her friends, knowing the music was far too loud for them to hear her shouts.

"Look, there's Nikki," Josh let go of Zandra and was the first one to rush over to his new best friend, an innocent act that only seemed to add to Thomas' growing jealous tendencies.

Ever since their swapping of secrets the two had been inseparable when together. A strong bond growing between them as they realised how much they had in common, despite their earlier misconceptions of on another.

"How you hanging in there man?" Josh whispered before the others approached, still overly concerned for his friends well being.

"Not bad Josh, not bad at all. But I think its got something to do with the over consumption of lager." Both gave a laugh, but each knew it was just Nikki's normal jovial coping mechanism of cracking a joke to cover the hurt that lay underneath her thick skin.

A tall, dark haired, tanned female at the other end of the room flicked her hair, and threw a flirtatious look over to where the group was standing, but only one person noticed.

"Trish, I have to go do something, I'll be right back," Sean removed his arms from around his girlfriends waist and licked his lips as he made the approach to what would be his latest conquest.

"Ok hun, but don't be too long ok?!" He ignored her, his mind too busy on his seduction techniques to be caring what she had stated.

"LETS GET DRINKS!" Trisha, now free, and looking slightly lost without her man stuck to her, screamed, throwing her arms in the air, joining in the whoops with her friends.

The group dispersed around the room, leaving Nikki and Thomas alone in the middle of the room, next to a huge black speaker that was literally about to burst with noise.

Each of them had things on there mind, and their faces gave the game away, but neither questioned each other, feeling things were probably better left unsaid, this was a party after all, not a wake.

Nikki held up her empty glass to signify she was going for a top up and wandered into the room that held the lager she was becoming quite partial to as the night drew on.

She held her glass beneath the beer keg's tap and waited on it filling to the top. A multitude of thoughts ran through her mind as she watched the brown liquid trickle slowly to the rim.

This was going to be a long night, and a very eventful one at that, and it was probably for the best that she didn't know what was ahead.

Things were about to get messy, and it would change all her friends' lives forever.

Helen had been sauntering around the city for 3 hours, freezing cold on the winters night, that sent icy chills down the length of her spine. Her attire, which left very little to the imagination, was also not good for retaining heat.

Occasionally she stopped a stranger to ask for directions, but with the high amount of tourists in London she was having very little luck in finding someone who could show her the way to South Bank.

She was almost on the verge of giving up, when she stuck he right hand into the tiny pocket of her skirt that could barely hold a penny never mind her fingers. But a familiar feeling of a texture that certainly wasn't the material of her skirt brushed the tips of her fingers. Paper? But the letter was tucked into her waistband? Then it dawned on her like a light bulb had suddenly gone on in her head. It was the £50 that Simon had given her this morning. She had put the bill there to hide it from Jim and had forgotten all about it.

Little tears glistened in her eyes under the bright lights of Leicester Square. The place where her life, only weeks before had gone downhill. Now things were looking up for her.

She stuck out her hand and hailed a black Hackney taxi, which stopped beside her on the sidewalk. She got in and removed the letter from its safe haven, and handed it to the driver.

"Take me to that address please,"

As the car sped off in pursuit of its destination she sat back and watched the world fly by her. This was it; there was no turning back.


Chapter Sixteen

By 1am the party, which had been dubbed the party of the year, was in full swing. Students from all over campus loitered around the Vanderbilt building, while Nikki stood quietly within someone's dorm room, by the large bay window, watching a group of people zhe recognised from around school. One of whom had clearly had too much to drink, and was now bringing up the vast multitude of alcohol he had consumed onto the grass opposite.

Nikki gave a little chuckle and looked down momentarily at the bottle of Budweiser in her left hand, and sat it down on the bedside table, half full. She knew she had had enough for the one evening, even if her initial plan was to get rolling drunk and drown her sorrows, she now wanted to keep her senses about her. If this party was going to be anything like last years catastrophe then she wanted to be fully sober and on red alert for what the end of the night would bring.

"Nik? Whatcha looking at?" Josh stood directly behind his friend and followed her gaze out of the window and down onto the now empty grass verge.

"Oh nothing really. I was just off in a world of my own," She turned around briefly to make eye contact and give Josh a painted on smile, before turning back to the solace of the world outside.

"You were thinking about Helen, weren't you?"

Nikki laughed and gave a single expulsion of air.

"How'd you get to know me so well so quickly?" She now turned her full attentions to Josh and stared at him intently, awaiting his answer.

"I don't. But I know what its like to miss a loved one. You never for one minute let them leave your mind. There's never a time when I stop wondering about Daniella."

"Who the twating hell is Daniella!" Zandra stood in the doorway with her arms crossed around her, a look of shocked anger on her face at what she had just heard.

"Zan! It's not what you think! Dan.... Well, Daniella is my...," Before he could get a chance to find the right words to say Zandra had stormed off at great speed in tears along the crowded, noisy hallway.

"ZAN! WAIT!" Josh ran towards the door to give chase, but stopped himself and turned back to Nikki.

"What the hell am I going to tell her?" Josh looked panicked and his voice was full of desperation as he ran his hands across his shaved head in frustration.

"Tell her the truth Josh. Don't lie to her, because the truth will come out sooner or later, it always does and it would be better is she hears it from you"

"You're right, but what if she doesn't understand?"

"She loves you man, of course she's gonna understand. Trust me, Zandra doesn't have a mean bone in her body, if anything she will be supportive when she finds out. Now go and catch her, before she sleeps with some college stud in a drunken rage." Josh could tell by Nikki's mischievous smile that she was only kidding, but the idea of losing Zandra, all because of a stupid misunderstanding terrified him to his soul.

"Thanks man, talk to you soon," With that Josh rushed off out of the room in hot pursuit of his girlfriend, bashing right into Trisha on the way past.

"Hey, where's the fire!" Trisha rubbed her arm that had been roughly knocked by his huge bulk, as she watched him ignore her and carry on at speed down the hall.

"What got into him?"

"Woman trouble. But don't ask, it's a long story!"

Trisha rolled her eyes knowingly, understanding fully what she meant. She had been in many a same situation where her man was concerned, and it always seemed to be parties like this one that kick started the rows.

Nikki looked over Trish's head. First to the right of her, then to the left and back again, like he was searching for something or someone.

"No Sean?" Nikki looked mockingly shocked that Sean wasn't at least two steps behind her, as usual.

Trisha shook her head and glanced down at her feet disappointedly.

"I haven't seen him all night. The last time I saw him he said he would be right back, and that was," She looked down at her watch. "Nearly 4 hours ago." She gave a shrug, trying to brush of the fact she was feeling dejected. But Nikki had known her too long to realise how she was really feeling. She had seen the same miserable look on her face too many times and it was always Sean and his antics that were behind it.

"Don't let that tosser spoil your night, he's not worth it," Nikki wrapped her arm comfortingly around her shoulder and yanked her in towards her in a desperate attempt to cheer her up. She was feeling miserable herself, but she couldn't bear to see her friends hurting too.

Their bodies clashed together, and for a brief moment their eyes locked, unaware of anyone else in the room. Nikki watched Trisha's eye's glaze over, and wondered if her instincts where right....was Trisha going to kiss her? Before long she had her answer. The short Blonde reached up nervously, and with her right hand pulled Nikki's face closer to her own. Their lips met softly, but before it could become anything more than friendly, Nikki pulled back.

"Trish...this isnt the right time for..." She stopped speaking as Trisha brashly pulled herself far away and nodded.

They stood in awkward silence for a moment, before Trisha went back to what they were talking about before their "moment".

"Loo Nik,I know you and Sean aren't exactly on speaking terms right now, but he's not a tosser.. He doesn't mean what he says and does half of the time!"

Nikki recoiled away from her, amazed at her sudden jumping to his defence.

"Why the hell do you always defend that asshole Trish? All that guy ever does is upset you, and you just sit there and put up with all the bullshit that he throws at you."

"What!" Trisha was now equally as stunned, as her friend gave her a tongue- lashing. She couldn't believe Nikki had the nerve to speak to her in such a way.

Nikki could see she was not in the slightest bit amused, but as far as she was concerned Trisha was totally deserving of her harsh words. It was about time someone told Trisha "I'm too gullible and spoiled to believe my friends" Harris exactly what she needed to hear. Others for too long had shied away from it, but she had to know the truth, and if she had to be the one to tell her then so be it. She no longer cared if it would effectively ruin the friendship they had built up, it was well past that stage now.

"You heard me! Or did you choose to ignore that as well? Sean is a no good waster, who continually rips the hearts out of anyone who gets close to him, especially you! But you're too blind to see it! Trisha don't you see how much of a low life he is! He's cheated on you more times than I care to remember!" Once she let the last word slip out of her mouth she wished she could suck it back in, but she knew it was too late for that. No more words, or any amount of back tracking could repair the damage she had no doubt caused, and she hated herself for it.

"Sean has never cheated on me!" Trisha managed to scream back through her tears.

"Oh Trish wake up and smell the bloody coffee! Where do you think he's been for the last 4 hours? Down in the library studying? I don't think so, do you?"

"I'm going to find him, and prove to you just how wrong you are" Trisha ran off in the same direction her best friend had gone just minutes before her, determination and frustration bubbling in her like a geyser.

She sniffed back the tears that blinded her view as her legs carried her down the hallway. She told her herself over and over that Nikki's words had been fuelled from spite, but at the back of her mind she knew she would never lie to her, even in jealousy. But at the same time she couldn't allow herself to believe it was true.

"Zandra, wait up! ZANDRA!" Josh was just inches behind her, but she kept running with all her might through the buildings front door and out onto the campus grounds.


"I don't want to hear it Josh! I can't believe a word you say anymore. We're bloody FINISHED! You've lied to me! And what was that all abut earlier, telling me I was the woman you had waited your whole life on, was that all twating lies too?"

"No, I swear it wasn't Zan. I would never lie to you. I respect and love you too much, and there's no way in the world I would ever cheat on you and risk losing everything I have with you."

Zandra slowed down, sat herself down on the stonewall surround and tried to get her breath back and her head around what he was telling her. How could she believe his words were true when she had just heard him tell Nikki of all people that he loved another woman?

"You can't tell me that you love two women at the same time, you either love me, or this Danniella bitch." Thinking her name was bad enough, but saying it out loud made her feel physically sick.

Just when she thought she had found the man she would spend the rest of her life with, it had all fallen apart. She had known it was too good to be true.

"I don't love Danniella the way I love you!"

"So you do love her then?" Her voice cracked as she broke down into sobs. This was too much for her to take. He was actually admitting to having another woman in hi life besides her. She had tried to be strong, but this news pushed her over the edge.

"You're not understanding me!" Josh fought to find the courage to explain, but he was finding it harder than he expected.

"How can I understand when you won't explain to me what's going on!"

You could have heard a pin drop as they sat in silence. The only noise to be heard was the sound of sobs coming from a distraught Zandra.

"Danniella is my sister. That's why I love her." He hung his head, knowing that he had a lot more explaining to do.

"The reason I didn't tell you about her sooner is because she's been missing for nearly a year now, and it's hard for me to talk about. I miss her so much, and I just wish I could find her and protect her from what's happening to her out on the streets. We think she's working as a prostitute," He couldn't say another word, but he didn't need to. Zandra had heard enough.

She held back the remainder of her tears and turned her head to look at her crying boyfriend. She had never seen him once break away from his cool, exterior. But now here he was, breaking his heart, and all because of a secret that for so long had been eating him alive.

"Shh," She wrapped her arms around him, and planted a kiss on his wet cheek.

"It's all gonna be ok," She held him tightly, and for the first time he really believed everything would be ok, for he had his soul mate by his side.

"Dom, have you seen Sean?" Trisha had tired herself out by running in and out of every room she passed, asking the same question over and over in desperate hope someone had seen her boyfriend, but so far she had had no success.

Most people had given her strange looks, others point blank ignored her, and the ones that did answer never gave her the response she was looking for.

"Trish, babe, come and have a drink! You look too sober!" It was true. She was sober. But that was all thanks to Nikki's verbal battering, which had brought her back to earth with a bang, taking away the giddy feeling the alcohol had induced.

"I can't, I have to go find Sean." Her face was a look of anxiety, but no one seemed to notice, or care in the slightest.

"You'll be lucky!" Someone she didn't know who was standing with Dom and his friends added, sending them all into fits of drunken laughter

"Yeah, try Karen Betts' room" The group of guys erupted back into childish giggles and Trisha shot off like a Piston, a rage building in her like a storm ready to do damage.

She knew Karen, but only because of the reputation she had of stealing people's boyfriends. It was common knowledge that by the end of her first year she had slept with half of the guys on campus. But what she didn't know was if Sean was truly stupid enough to get involved with a slut like her.

She got outside of the room she was sure belonged to Karen, but her lack of courage for confrontation held her back from breaking down the door and bursting into the room to see what was on the other side.

Twice she turned away, and twice she turned back, each time and extra rush of emotion pushing her forward.

She placed the palms of her hands against the wooden door, lightly at first and took a deep inhalation of Oxygen as though the extra air would help her through what she was about to do.

She was just about to start putting extra pressure into her hands, when she heard her voice being called from the right.

"Trisha, hi! What you up to?" Thomas bounded towards her as though he couldn't have been happier to see her, a grin on his face like a Cheshire cat.

"Not now Thom!" He was more than used to her rejection of his advances, but this time something about her stern tone of voice disturbed him.

"You ok? You look shaken"

She spun around sharply to face him, anger in her eyes.

"Which part of not now did you not understand! Can't you see i'm not in the mood for company!" She watched his eyes drift away from hers as something over her head caught his attention.

The look of astonishment growing on his face told her what he had seen was not good, so much so she was afraid to turn around and look for herself, but somehow she managed it.

As she turned the 180 degrees, a stunned looking Sean, minus his shirt, greeted her. And behind him an equally naked Karen stood, looking smugly down her nose at Trisha as though it was her that was in the wrong.

Trisha's jaw practically hit the floor, even although this was what she had expected to be confronted with, there had still been a tiny part of her brain that wouldn't allow her to register it.

"Trisha, this isn't how it looks. Karen had a problem with her plumbing and we both got soaked trying to fix it. We didn't have sex, I swear!" The more he protested the guiltier he looked, and the less she believed him. She wasn't even sure she wanted to believe him anymore.

She began to back away, her gaze transfixed on the sight in front of her as she slid further and further away. She wasn't even aware of Thomas' presence any longer.

"Don't leave like this baby! We need to talk this out." Sean dropped the clothing he had been holding in his arms and grabbed a hold of Trisha's wrists, tying in vain to pull her back to him, but the harder her pulled the harder she dug her heels into the carpet, fighting to free herself from his powerful clutches.

"Let go of me!" The harder she squirmed the stronger his grasp became.

"You're hurting me Sean, please." Trisha could feel the tears beginning to descend her face as she felt his fingers dig agonisingly into her bones, and the pain of it shoot up her arms like she were receiving an electric shock.

"You have to listen to me Trisha" Jason again ignored her request to remove his hands and began to tighten his grip, moving them further up his arms as he tied to get a better hold of her and yank her closer.

Trish's body contorted in agony as his hands crushed her, leaving red welts all along her pale skin.

"She said let go!" Thomas grabbed hold of Sean's left arm and tried to remove it from further hurting the woman he loved, but his strength was even too powerful for him to apprehend.

"Don't get involved Thom, or you'll end up getting hurt." Sean threw him a look of warning, and returned his possessed looking eyes to his girlfriend. But Thmoas was in no way ready to give up the fight to protect Trisha from harm, even if he did take Sean's threat seriously, he would rather it was him in danger than her.

"Take your hands off her now!" Thomas threw his fists at Sean's chest, with enough force that sent him flying back into the arms of Karen.

With her arms free, Trisha dived behind a raging Thomas; terrified Sean would make another grab for her once he got back on his feet.

"Did you just hit me?" Sean's eyes flared in anger.

"You deserved it, now back off!" Now that the adrenaline has stopped rushing around his body Thomas was a little apprehensive, and feeling less brave than before.

He moved his hands around his back and let them rest gently in Trisha's hips, trying his best to protect her, but his attention was so focused on her he didn't see Sean's fist fly towards his face.

He stumbled back and paused for a second of recollection before he raised his own arm and retaliated, twice as hard. Sean had really done it this time.

A crowd had begun to gather in a circle around them as the commotion began to heat up. Someone at the front launched into a chorus of "FIGHT!" repeating it over, stirring up the rest of the revellers who joined in on the chanting. The noise brought more people running from their rooms and into the hallway to watch the one time friends rolling around the ground, fists flying, and the thuds of the punches echoed around them.

No one tried to move in and break it up; instead they huddled closer to catch a better glimpse of the action. Only Trisha made an attempt to get amongst them, but things had grown so intense she couldn't get close enough, at least not without getting herself hurt in the cross fire. All she could do was stand and observe two people she cared about try to kill each other, and it was all over her.

She couldn't bear to watch, this was too terrible to comprehend.

Nikki watched as the room she was still stood in began to clear all of a sudden, and she listen curiously to the loud chanting of "Fight!" resonating around the 4 walls. But she didn't follow.

Instead she remained where she was, quite contented, by the window. Her stare was transfixed, as it had been for the last hour. She was desperately attempting to revaluate her life. All around her, her friends were vanishing further and further away from her reach and she had never felt so alone as she did right now. But still she couldn't help but wonder if it was herself that was pushing them away.

Her teary eyes fell from there gaze in the sky, and let them fall back down onto the once empty grass verge, that she had been unconsciously studying, memorising its every delicate detail. But now something was different.

She blinked a few times, closing her eyes and reopening them to make sure what she was seeing wasn't just a figment of her imagination. She pressed her nose against the glass windowpane, and kept it there until the condensation that had built up from her close breathing barred her view.

She was almost certain it was her mind playing tricks on her, but she had to be 100% certain.

She pushed herself away from the glass and sprinted down the hall, which had seen its fair share of action tonight, and hurtled down the buildings steps at record speed.

Helen was outside, and she was walking into the dark distance. She had to reach her before she disappeared.

But would her legs carry her there in enough time?


Chapter Seventeen

As Nikki hurtled herself out onto the campus grounds, fighting for breath due to her over-exertion, she noticed the emptiness and the eerie silence enveloping her. She turned her head in every feasible direction, but Helen was nowhere to be seen.

She took a sharp intake of cold, crisp London, winter air and becan to scream.

"HELEN!" She started to run forward, down the grass verge onto the concrete road that led down into the city.

"HELEN!" She couldn't run any more. She was worn out, and it showed on her face. Her body bent double, and she rested her hands on her knees as she felt like her lungs would collapse at any minute.

"Helen...!" This time her scream was barely more than a whisper, as the oxygen levels in her lungs remained low.

Tears of frustration poured from her tired eyes as she realised it was her mind playing tricks on her after all. Helen had never been there in the first place, and she had just got her hopes up, only to be let down for the third time that week.

Deep down she had known it was too good to be true, and that there was no way it really could have been her; Helen didn't know where she lived. But in her heart she had wanted to believe it, and for a minute she did. But now all she had in her heart was sadness and agonising pain.

Once the air had returned to her depleted lungs she sat herself down on the grass and stared up into the starry black sky, its darkness stretching for eternity. The moon's light cast a shadow all around her as she gazed up, mesmerised and deep in thought.

"Please God keep her safe," She whispered her words, but the impact they had was great. She knew Helen was in danger on the streets. Any 18 year old who was all alone would be, but that night she had met her she had felt a vulnerability in Helen, and she just hoped someone was watching over and keeping her from harms way, until the day she was able to hold her once again in her arms and protect her for herself.

Helen wandered around in the near darkness, a little fearful of the unknown surroundings. The tall buildings made her feel tiny, their hugeness and unfamiliarity encasing her like a black cloud.

She had taken a wrong turning a second before, and now she had no idea how to get back towards the main entrance where the taxi had dropped her off. She felt safe and comfortable back there where it was well lit, but here in the passageway between two dorm buildings it was cold, dark and extremely frightening.

Suddenly the silence was broken and she swivelled around to see who had shouted her name. She could have sworn her name had been called in the distance, but there was no one around her.

She wanted to scream back that she was there, but she stopped herself. It was all in her imagination she convinced herself, just thw whistling of the wind. No one here knew her, so they couldn't possibly be shouting on her. Even if she wished they would.

She was cold, tired, hungry and lost. She longed for a hot meal, and a cosy bed to curl up in. But most of all she longed to find her way; her way to Nikki and into her comforting arms.

As time ticked by and her hope faded she lay herself down on a nearby wall and curled into a tight ball to try and retain heat. She would spend the night and try searching again in the morning when there was more light. But for now she had to allow herself to sleep.

Her eyes closed over and she began to drift off the minute her head rested on the stone bricked wall. Just before sleep took over she made herself a solemn promise that she would never give up her search for the woman she loved. She had come too far now to go back to Jim.

But maybe she would have no choice. He had told her his eyes were everywhere, and no matter where she went he would be one step behind her, and he meant every word he said.

He knew where she was right now, and he planned to get her back.

"Josh I don't know why you felt the need to hide your past from me. We're a couple and couples should tell each other stuff like that. We shouldn't be afraid of each other's judgment. Nothing could make me think less of you sweetie."

Zandra and Josh had been seated on the wall having a heart to heart for the last 2 hours. Josh had told his girlfriend the full story about his sister Danniella, and all the family problems that had stemmed from her disappearance. While Zandra opened her heart about her days of living at home, and how she always felt unloved and unwanted by her family, especially her Mum, who always treated her like a second class citizen, even now she an adult.

Once both had shared their life stories each felt a huge burden had been lifted from their shoulders, and the loving bond they had together suddenly felt a lot stronger than it ever did.

"I love you Zandra and always will. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Nothing in my life has ever gone right, until I met you and all of a sudden it feels like none of that stuff matters anymore. With you around I feel like my life is complete, and I can achieve anything I put my mind to. I need you Zan, I never want anything to come between us again, no matter how large or small the problem is we have to talk it through the way we did tonight." Josh's words were so heartfelt it almost reduced both of them to tears. When Zandra had first started to date him she imagined him to be the classic good-looking idiot male, but tonight just proved to her how wrong she had been. Josh Mitchell had depths to him that had for too long been unexplored but somehow she had gotten to the bottom of them.

"Come on, let's get you back to the party where it's warmer. You'll catch a cold if you stay out here in that dress any longer!" He clasped her hand in his and entwined their fingers together as they walked side-by-side back to the dorms.

"Hey look!" Zandra stopped abruptly as she spotted someone lying asleep on the wall around the corner from where they had just been sitting.

"What?" Josh followed her gaze and paused along with her.

"Whoa, she must have been really drunk and passed out!" They both stood and stared in awe at a sound asleep Helen.

"Should we help her?" Zandra looked up at her boyfriend hoping he would have the answer.

"We should probably just let her sleep it off." He continued to walk, but Zandra, still holding his hand yanked him back.

"But its freezing out here, you said it yourself, and look, she's wearing less clothes than I am. That tiny little top and skirt are barely covering an inch of skin. She'll die of Pneumonia if we leave her out here all night. Plus its too dangerous with so many drunk guys wandering around campus, anything could happen to her!"

"You're probably right, but if I lift her and she wakes up and punches me in a drunken rage thinking im a pervert." Zandra giggled lovingly.

"I promise I'll explain to her and accept full responsibility." They exchanged smiles before Josh headed towards the sleeping girl whom he didn't recognise, but this didn't bother him. South Bank Campus was a huge place and he didn't know every last person that studied there.

He manoeuvred himself as quietly as was possible and lifted her up gently into his strong arms like she was a baby, trying his best not to wake her. She stirred only slightly at the sudden movement before resting her head against his muscular chest.

"Be careful!" Zandra watched the scene, cringing the whole time in case he accidentally dropped the intoxicated stranger.

"She's as light as a feather Zan. I don't think she's eaten in weeks. I can feel her bones digging into me," He scrunched up his face in disgust, but he couldn't help ut feel shocked at her weightlessness.

"She's got to be under a 100 pounds, at least"

Zandra looked equally as appalled as Josh did at the idea of someone being so thin. She had thought she herself was a little too thin at 115 pounds, but this girls body was just dreadful.

"Do you think she's ill?" Zandra raced behind Josh, her heels making it hard to keep up with his pace as he rushed up the stairs back into the midst of the party.

"Nah, but it explains why she got drunk so quickly," Zandra nodded in agreement, but she had a niggling feeling that something wasn't right with this girl, but she couldn't explain it so therefore she ignored it.

As they reached the top floor the commotion in the hallway halted them.

"What the hell!" The two stood dumbfounded at the sight that met them.

"JOSH! HELP!" Trisha spotted them coming through the swing doors and ran desperately toward them, quickly eyeing the unconscious girl in Josh's arms before returning her attentions to her best friend.

"Zandra, you have to come quickly. Its Sean and Thomas, their killing each other outside Karen's room!"

Zandra turned to look at Josh, who returned her looks of fear.

"You go with Trisha and I'll go find a bed to put this girl into. I'll be right behind you!" Zandra and Trisha ran off to the right while Josh turned to his left and opened the first closed over door he came to.

He gently placed Helen down on the bed and ran back out of the room, switching off the light and closing the door behind him as he went.

It wasn't long before he had caught up with the girls, who were now working themselves into quite a state at the sight of their boyfriend, and brother throwing punches at each other, drenched in blood, their knuckles cut down to the bone.

"HEY! QUIT IT!" Josh elbowed a crowed of guys out of the way and dived in between the two, who were still brawling. He forcefully pulled the breathless pair apart, and held them at arms length away from each other.

"WHAT THE HELLS THIS ALL ABOUT!" Josh shouted at them while they both shamefully looked down at their feet. Neither could answer Josh's question.

"Look at the state you've got the girls in! I think an apology is in order, don't you!" Josh kept his hold on both of them along with a watchful eye to make sure there was no repeat episode of the antics before.

"I'm sorry," Thomas looked at Trisha directly in the eye as best he could through the swelling that was worsening by the minute.

She burst into tears, thankful that he was okay, and gave him a nod to let him know she accepted his apology.

"Your turn!" Josh tugged Sean's arm vehemently to show him he meant business.

"I'm not gonna apologise for something I didn't start!" Sean pulled himself from Josh's grip and walked towards Trisha.

"You pushed me too far. I would never have cheated if you hadn't made me do it. You're a frigid little bitch, and I never want to set eyes on you again!" Sean stormed back into Karen's room, dragging her with him and slammed the door.

Trisha could hardly believe her ears as she watched him disappear. As far as she was concerned she had never been frigid in her life, but at the same time she knew she held back a lot during sex, unable to allow herself to be as adventurous and liberated as Sean wanted her to be. But he had never complained to her about it before, this revelation was news to her.

"Don't listen to him Trish!" Thomas wrapped his bloody hand around her shoulder and pulled her into his battered chest.

The massive crowd had no dispersed back to their rooms to finish off the party leaving just Zandra, Trisha, Josh and Thomas alone in the hall.

Zandra nodded to Josh to tell him to leave with her, giving Thomas and Trisha time to talk, alone.

They snuck off to Zan' room, leaving their friends still hugging each other outside Thomas' room.

"This is the worst night of my life!" Trisha cried freely into Thomas' torn shirt.

"Yeah, well it's not exactly been a fun night for me either,"

Trisha broke away and looked up at his bruised face.

"I'm so sorry Thomas, here I am going on about how I'm feeling when its all my fault you got into this fight in the first place. Look at the state of your face! Is it sore?" She brushed her hand lightly over his cheek and he winced in pain.

"Let me help you get cleaned up," She placed her hand around his wrist as his hand was too badly swollen to touch and led him into his empty bedroom.

He sat himself down on his bed and watched Trisha with enthusiasm as she filled a bowl with boiling water and lifted a clean towel from the cupboard next to the sink.

"I know this is a cliché, but this is gonna hurt," Both smiled awkwardly, but it hurt Thomas so much he had to straighten his face again.

Trisha wet the edge of the towel and gently dabbed around his left eye, which had taken the brunt of Sean's punches.

"Argh, your damned right that's sore!" He screwed his face up into a scowl as she continued to wipe away the crusted blood, moving from his eye, down his cheek and onto the side of his lips.

He was now silent and bearing the agony as their eyes locked, intently staring at each other like it was the first time they had seen one another and in a way it was.

Thomas had never seen Trish think of someone other than herself before without there being something in it for her at the end of her good deed. Tonight it was like her selfish ways had disappeared the minute Sean has broken all ties with her, his hold no longer on her.

He had freed her, and her true personality was shining through.

Trisha could feel it too. For the first time in her life she wanted to help someone who really needed it, rather than allowing someone else to aid because she had too much on her mind, or was too busy to lend a hand.

Thomas was her friend, but she had always seen him as a geeky 2nd year, who only had a social life thanks to her and her friends. If it hadn't been for her he would be in the study hall right now. But tonight he had proved to her he was more than that. He had put all his fears aside for her and jumped to her defence when she needed it most. He had saved her unconditionally. Never for one-minute caring if he was severely hurt, as long as she wasn't.

She halted her hand at his lips and let the towel drop from her hand, their eyes never leaving their longing gaze. She leaned in so close to him she could feel his light breaths on her face.

She was terrified about what she was about to do, but somehow it felt so right, despite the circumstances that had led them here. She lightly brushed her lips against his, scared he would reject her, and scared she would be hurting him. But this time he never flinched once. Instead he returned her kiss, the pain he told himself was worth it.

He had waited for this moment for his entire life, and he was damned sure he wasn't going to mess it up in any way.

Nikki opened her eyes, and once again she was greeted with the night sky before her eyes. Blackness, dotted with perfect twinkling stars.

She had fallen asleep on the grass, and a light mid-morning rainfall had awoken her from her gentle slumber. She stood up, and ran quickly back into her building before she got soaked through to the skin.

The quietness of the top floor dorm amazed her. The party had died down since she had been outside, and she was more than grateful for the silence. All she wanted to do now was slip into her warm bed and forget all about tonight and its events. Tomorrow would be a fresh start for her. The day she would try and regain the life she had before she had met Helen.

As she reached her room she pried open the door and tried to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She slipped of her clothes, leaving on her under garments and slid with ease into bed. But as her body hit the mattress she realised she wasn't alone

Someone else was in her bed.

She jumped up and ran towards the light switch. Her eyes squinted at the sudden brightness, but there was no mistaking what she was seeing this time. There she was, tucked up soundly in her bed.



Chapter Eighteen

Nikki watched transfixed at the figure in her bed and wondered to herself how on earth Helen had got there in the first place. It was like somehow her prayers had been answered and Helen had been magically drawn to her. There was no other way she could explain it, she just didn't see any other possible answer.

There she was, the girl who in one night she had fallen in love with, and had spent weeks searching for, laying on her bed like she had always been there, under her nose the whole time.

Her mid-length, dark blonde hair was scattered all over the pillow, strategically placed, her body lay on its side, above the covers, slightly curved, like she was leaning into an invisible body, crying out to be embraced.

Nikki's mind whirled with thoughts as she tried to figure out what do to. She didn't know whether to cry, scream, walk over to her and hug her, leave her alone to sleep, or run around every dorm room at campus and tell everyone that she was the happiest woman on earth.

After another 5 minutes of deliberation she decided to go to her side and wait on her waking up.

She sat herself down on the side of the bed, which she hadn't long jumped from and turned her body around so that she could see every inch of Helen's form. She watched her eyelids flicker back and forth and tried to remember the beauty that lay beneath them. It had been those very eyes that had drawn Nikki to her in the first place, and she longed to see the bewitching green orbs once again.

Helen's breathing remained rhythmic as she stayed in the deep sleep, that for days she had been deprived of. Jim had made sure she worked all the hours God sent. The longer she worked the more he earned, so her sleep derivation was of no concern to him, as long as he got from her what he wanted, which was a first full of dollars, occasional sex, and most importantly obedience.

Nikki couldn't help but feel mesmerised by her alluring presence. Even in sleep she was the most enchanting thing she had ever seen in her life. This was just her second time seeing her, but somehow she had become more beautiful, for asleep she was serene looking, the stress that normally dominated her face was gone and a peaceful expression replaced the anxiety.

She slid her back down the bed and turned onto her side, her face just inches from Helen's. She had one hand under her head, and the other sat freely resting on her left leg as she debated with herself whether or not to stroke Helen's soft skin.

Several times she moved her arm towards her, and then quickly retracted it back. She was afraid of waking her, or worse still, scaring her. But she longed to feel her, to touch her. She wanted to memorise what she felt like, having never had the opportunity before Helen was brutally taken away from her. This time she hoped there would be all the time in the world to take in every little detail and quirk of her being.

For a second she let her eyes drift away from Helen's tranquil face and down her body, but the sight wasn't what she was expecting. She recoiled back slightly in shock at the appearance of her stick thin body.

She was wearing the same clothes she had on the night they had met, but the one big difference now was they were literally hanging off of her, were before they had been skintight, clinging to the curves that were all in the right places. Now there was nothing to her to hold them on. She looked skeletal, so much so it was painful for Nikki to look at. Her bones protruded through a thin layer of skin, like they would any minute break through the surface.

She could hardly contain the horror she felt. The sight of Helen's gaunt features made her want to weep in sorrow, sorrow that she couldn't have prevented her from being so under nourished and mistreated.

Again she wanted to wrap her in the protection of her arms, but the fear she would snap her fragile bones in two with her strength stopped her for reaching out to her. Instead she removed herself from the bed as quietly as she could allow.

She softly placed a blanket on top of Helen and watched while she sleepily opened her eyes to stare at the wall that was in her line of vision.

Panic set in to an unprepared Nikki and she backed away from the bed towards the door, trying to sneak out before Helen saw her. She wanted the moment she saw her to be perfect, and this wasn't how she imagined it happening. She hadn't thought out what she would say, or how she should act around her. This was all too much to comprehend, but now her plans were being taken out of her hands.

Helen felt the power of the brightly shining lights on the ceiling burn into her tired eyes as she opened them slowly, blinking back the sleep that before had enraptured her.

Where was she?

The last thing she remembered was being lost on campus, and laying her self down on a damp, cold, stone wall to try and get a little nap, and now here she was in a strange room that she didn't recognise.

Had Jim found her and brought her home to his apartment while she had been unconscious?

No, there was no way he could know where she was, was there?

The white wall held her gaze until her mind fully returned and she jumped up to a sitting position on the hard mattress to scan the room and its surroundings to see if it jogged her memory in any way.

She held the blanket tightly, timidly lifting it all the way to her chin and turned her head around until her gaze landed on a tall dark haired stranger standing staring at her. But this was no stranger. It was Nikki, but how?

She shook her head as though she was seeing things, but no matter how hard she blinked she was still there. This was no dream, it was real, and Nikki was there, in front of her eyes, just like she had wished for.

"Hi" Nikki whispered so she didn't scare her and gave her a wide grin of reassurance that she hoped Helen would return.

"Hi" She whispered back, and returned the smile, much to Nikki's joy. But neither made an attempt to move, they were booth too awestruck.

"Helen, I'm so glad I found you,"

"Nikki, I'm so sorry for stealing your money and running off!"

Both spoke at the speed of lightening and at the same time so that their words jumbled together. They laughed awkwardly at each other and fell silent again.

This was a lot harder than either had imagined. They had both expected to fall into each others arms like they reunited lovers, but this was just plain uncomfortable. Neither had any idea how the other felt about the one night they had shared, and both were too shy too bring it up.

"You look tired," Nikki tried to shove her hands into her pant's pockets, until she realised she was standing in her underwear. She blushed bright red and crossed her hands over her chest instead.

"Oh, yeah, um," Helen pulled at her hair and tried to make it cover her face. She knew she wasn't the prettiest site to look at, but Nikki's words made her feel embarrassed. She had wanted to look stunning when she saw her again for the first time, but there was never any chance of that happening.

"Oh, no I didn't mean it like that! I just meant you must have busy looking for me. Not that I think you were wasting your time searching for me!" Her red cheeks burned brightly like a furnace. She wished the ground would open up and swallow her. Why did she always have to screw everything up with that big mouth of hers? It was always getting her into trouble and no matter how much she backtracked she could never get out the words she truly wanted to say, instead she dug herself in deeper.

Helen stayed quiet, watchfully observing Nikki chastising herself while she searched for something else to say. She really wanted to laugh at her quirky behaviour, but held it in, so not to further embarrass her.

She loved how cute Nikki looked with her crimson cheeks and annoyed expression. She was like a little girl who wasn't getting her own way.

"Nikki, it's ok, I think I know what you meant." She gave her a second smile of reassurance and it gave Nikki the nerve to speak her heart like she had first intended.

She sucked in her chest and went for it before she lost the courage altogether.

"What I meant to say was, you look beautiful" There she had said it. She watched in caution to how Helen would react. Would her time on the streets have mad her wary of men speaking to her in such a way? Would she take offence?

"Thank you," She shyly played with her hair again, tucking it behind her ear... and now it was her turn to become scarlet. No person had ever said that to her before and meant it with such sincerity. She couldn't see how Nikki could perceive her as beautiful, but somehow in her heart she knew she was genuine.

This wasn't going at all well. Time for a subject change, Nikki thought to herself.

"So how exactly did you get here?" She moved edgily towards the bed and once again regained a sitting position at the bottom, near Helen's feet.

"I was just gonna ask you the same thing..."

"So after I found the letter addressed to you in the envelope I got a cab up here. I got lost outside and must have fallen asleep. I don't know how I got up here?" Helen finished off telling Nikki her story, of how she had found her and watched as she curled up on the right hand side of the bed next to her.

"Whoa, sounds like you had yourself a London adventure tonight!" Nikki laughed and Helen joined in. This was just like the first night they had met and spent hours huddled close together on the dingy, brown motel bed.

Helen was amazed at herself for feeling so comfortable. Here she was lying in bed with a near stranger, who was clothed in only a pair of boxer shorts and a bra and the only worry she had was that it would all end like it had before.

She could never cope with having to go back to Jim and the work she hated with all her heart. For the first time in months she was happy, and able to laugh without being beaten for it. This was what life was supposed to be like and she was adamant she wasn't giving it for anything or anyone.

But Jim had other ideas. He was closing in on her, and he was ready to make sure he didn't leave without her. He was taking her home to where she belonged.


Chapter Nineteen

Nikki let her eyes open slowly as her mind suddenly whirled back into awake mode. She thought back to the dream she had just had, where Helen had been laying in her bed. Back where she belonged, with Nikki by her side.

Her heart skipped a beat as she thought back to how real it had all seemed. Nikki was even certain she had been able to smell Helen's scent, and feel her gentle breath brushing over her skin as Helen leaned in closer to listen to her every word.

She shook her head. Her brain was still unable to determine between fiction and reality. Only one thing would confirm it for her. She slowly turned her head, terrified that the little bit of hope she now held...the hope Helen was really there...would be painfully snatched away from her.

There it was, Confirmation.

Blonde hair was scattered neatly over the pillow that she often cuddled into, pretending it was Helen she was holding onto, while they fell asleep together.

She let out a sharp breath, and stopped short of bursting into relieved tears. It hadn't been a dream after all. It had all been as real as she had wished it to be.

Helen began to stir gently, turning her back away from Nikki, so that her face was just inches from her own. Her eyes remained shut tight, but a smile as big as her heart stretched across her face.

She could feel Nikki close to her. Her body was nowhere near hers, but it was almost like she could feel Nikki's skin touching hers. She could smell her fading perfume in the distance, although she was unsure if it was coming from Nikki, or if it had been lingering on the bed sheets. But that didn't matter now. All that mattered to her was that Nikki was there, by her side, where she knew she belonged.

Nikki's breathing was heavy. She could hear it, rhythmically exhaling and inhaling, and she could feel the heat it threw at her bare skin. Her face was near by. It had to be. Was she awake? Was she watching her?

Normally this would have frightened her half to death, to know thatsomeones eyes were scanning her being, but with Nikki she felt comfort in her gaze. It was like she looked right through her into her soul, a dark area that no other person had come close to seeing. But Nikki did. She knew Nikki could see the real Helen Stewart, the one she hid from the rest of the world.

Nikki let her eyes rest on the face that she had fallen in love with from the first moment she had seen it before her.

That smile warmed her heart, and made her insides turn over in excitement. No other woman had made her feel so nervous, but happy at the same time. Helen had something ahe couldn't put her finger on, and it was like magic. Just one small facial gesture from Helen could send her into a chaotic whirl.

She watched her lips uncurl and rest back into their normal relaxed expression. She wondered what it would be like to kiss them? How they would feel against her own, how they would taste.

Her stomach lurched as her mind pictured the event. Se closed her eyes back over and imagined leaning forward to make her mouth meet Helen's.

Before she knew it she felt her body carry her forward. Her head began to fold, closer and closer to Helen with short movements. She paused for one last surge of courage and moved her face upon Helen's.

Their lips locked together, unmoving at first, until they both let what was happening digest. The shyness they had both been bottling up disappeared in a flash and their nerves diminished along with it.

This felt so right. So much so neither could believe it.

Neither of them had what could be deemed the perfect kiss.

Nikki had had a few drunken frat party experiences, none of which had ever left her feeling good. In fact if anything they had knocked her confidence. Girls had only ever stayed for that one kiss, before they slinked off in embarrassment in search of a jock to make them forget about the drunken fumble with the inexperienced 2nd year girl, who had only been the object of their desire for a split second, while they satisfied their perverse curiosity to see what it was like to kiss another woman.

Helen on the other hand had never been kissed with passion. A few bums on the streets had tried, after a night of drowning their sorrows with a bottle of anything with a high percentage of alcohol. And ever since she had started working on the streets she had avoided all lip contact with the handful of clients she had obtained. Kissing just seemed too personal an act, and she tried to distance herself. The more impersonal the less real it all felt.

"Wow!" Nikki pulled back reluctantly and gasped for much need air.

Helen giggled slightly, more out of shyness than anything, but she couldn't help but laugh at how "tingly" she felt. She had come so far in such a short space of time. The part of herself that she had locked away was slowly returning, and it was all down to love.

"I'm sorry if I threw myself at you, I just saw you, and I had to kiss you. Not that I couldn't have stopped myself, I could have, but I didn't want to. Although it's not like im some kind of unstoppable monster, I just,"

"Nikki, Shh!" Helen grabbed the back of Nikki's head and pulled her lips towards her own forcefully. She wanted to finish what they had started, and used the pretense of it being the only way to shut Nikki up from her incessant rambling, a habit which Helen secretly loved. And it was a valid excuse to get that bit closer to her in the future. Right now this was what she planned to do with every free second she had.

She was going nowhere...not of her own free will at least.

Trisha scurried quietly around Thomas' dorm room, picking up the clothes that had been strewn around the floor from their "encounter", which hadn't long ended. She held on tightly to the top of the crisp white sheet which was wrapped around her naked body, to stop it from slipping off as she bent down to search for the items of clothing that had been flung away as quickly as they were ripped off.

"I don't see why you have to leave so soon. Why don't you stay a while longer?" Thomas sounded and looked pathetic as he tried his best at talking her into remaining in bed with him.

"Thom, I can't, you know people will talk if they see me leaving your room, the same night I catch my boyfriend with another woman. It's going to be bad enough to face everyone without the added pressure of this!"

"EX boyfriend!" Thomas over emphasised the first part, causing a harassed Trisha to pause in her search for a missing shoe that was needed to complete the pair.

"What?" she scrunched up her face in confusion. She had only been half listening to him.

"Never mind. Listen; do you want to meet up for breakfast? Or we could even go into town. I could take you shopping!" Thomas lifted his head excitedly from his pillow at what he thought was the best idea he had ever had. How could Trisha resist a shopping spree?

"Thomas I can't think about shopping just now, or eating. They're the last two things on my mind. Ahh, here it is!" She picked up her lost shoe and threw it onto her bare foot, her mind wandering from the conversation.

"Ok" Thomas lost all his enthusiasm and it showed on his face and by the way he spoke. The disappointment was so evident even Trisha noticed. She let out a sigh and sat at the edge of the bed.

"I'm sorry Thom, I know this isn't exactly an ideal way to end our evening, but I have so much to think about right now."

"Like what?"

"Well, there's Sean," Thomas rolled his eyes, much to Trisha's disgust. "And, well, us. I need to get my head around what happened her last night. I don't just go about sleeping with people on a whim, especially when my boyfriend is right next door!"

"EX boyfriend," Thomas looked at her coyly, hoping she would agree, but she skipped past his remark, clearly getting annoyed at his little boy lost act.

"I told you last night that Sean is history, but I need to talk to him before I can figure out where me and you are headed, if anywhere. Again, im sorry, but it's the way it has to be."

She got up from the bed, leaving Thomas wordless beneath the duvet. She took one last sorrowful look at him before letting herself out.

Once the door was closed firmly over she let a tear trickle down her face. She was breaking his heart, just the way Sean had broken hers, but she couldn't stop herself. So much had happened in her life in the last 24 hours it's was hard not to feel the way she did. She was confused. Here she was, two men, both of which she had feelings for, and her mind wouldn't let her decide just who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

No matter how much she told herself she would never let Sean back in her life after all his lies and deceit she couldn't help but wonder if he begged her enough would she cave in? They had too much history together to throw it all away because she thought she was falling in love with someone she would be too embarrassed to admit to knowing, never mind dating?

Pretty soon the decision would be taken out of her hands.

Nikki ran her hands softly over Helen's back, gently stoking her hair as it came in contact with her fingers. The room was silent, apart from a few moans, which escaped their engaged lips.

With every feel of Helen's tongue a little part of Nikki got braver. She felt like she was drunk. Her mind didn't feel like her own. It felt like it had been taken over by a sex-starved maniac. Her heart was racing with anticipation as little beads of sweat formed on her forehead.

Her hands wandered further around her back, suddenly meeting Helen's bra catch, giving her idea's above her station, which she knew she would regret. But while her mind was warning her against it her pulsating body was telling her otherwise.

She slid her hands under Helen's top, and fumbled awkwardly with the catch, not noticing Helen's lips had stopped moving, and her body had tensed.

"NO!" She yanked herself away, fighting for breath, giving Nikki the fright of her life. She had gone too far, and she knew it.

"Helen im so sorry, I didn't mean to, I just got carried away, please don't hate me for it." Nikki grabbed her shoulders, and felt thankful that Helen didn't pull away from her yet again.

"It's ok," She looked away embarrassed at her outburst. She didn't understand it herself, so how on earth was she ever going to explain it to Nikki?

They sat in silence as Helen tried to analyse what had just happened. She had been so at ease with Nikki, to the point where she was allowing herself to enjoy what they were doing, but the feel of her caressing her skin, just like those sleazy men who took advantage of her and it was too much to deal with. It brought back the horrible memories of the job she had only just left behind, and she knew it would be a while before she could get over the things that had happened to her.

Maybe she wasn't ready after all?

"Its not you Nikki, honest. Please don't feel like I don't want you, because I do...more than I've wanted anyone my entire life. I'm just so scared of what will happen if I do sleep with you. I've never had a "proper" relationship like this before, and I don't know the difference between sex, and making love." She felt her cheeks burning at having to admit her insecurities. She could only hope she hadn't blown her one chance at love. No other man ever understood it when she screamed no and demanded they stop; instead they just carried on until they got what they paid for.

"Helen, you will know the difference when you're ready, and until then im not going anywhere! You take all the time you need, and you will never have to worry about me pressuring you into anything you don't want to do!" She slid her arms around Helen's waist and watched as she broke down in relief.

All she could do was hold her while she wept. Nikki had opened a door to her feelings and she knew it was all about to come pouring out, the good, the bad and the ugly. But she didn't mind as long as the burdens were removed from her.

"Nikki, don't ever let Jim take me away again!" She sobbed into Nikki's chest painfully.

"Im not letting anyone take you anywhere, I swear!" And she meant it.

"Simon? Hi it's Jim. Did you find her yet? South Bank Uni? WHAT THE BLEEDIN' HELL IS SHE DOING THERE! WHAT DO YOU MEAN CALM DOWN! I AM CALM! I don't want to hear it, just make sure you're free tonight after dark, im going to get her. YES TONIGHT! DON'T ANSWER ME BACK, JUST GET HERE BY 8PM!" Jim slammed down the phone in a rage. She had really crossed the line this time and he was going to make her pay.


Chapter Twenty

Trisha sat in silence, her weary head in her trembling hands, tears staining her skin as they ran down the length of her fingers, onto the white plastic dining room table that she had been seated at since she had hastily removed herself from Thomas' dorm room.

She could hear the distant chirps of the birds on the outside lawn through the occasional sob's, which broke free from her lips as she fought for composure.

Last night had been the worst night of her life so far, and she couldn't take her mind away from it, no matter how hard she tried to fight off the pain it had caused, it was still there, at the forefront of her brain. Her mind flitted back and forth over the events of the last 24 hours, one minute she could see Sean's pleading face, turning to that of frustrated rage, as his arms grabbed out for her, his fingers painfully twisting around her wrists. It was all a distant memory now, but somehow she could still feel the agony of his touch, on her arms, and in her heart. The bruises were visible on both.

How could she still love someone so cruel, so self righteous that they didn't care about hurting another persons feelings, the feelings of someone they were supposed to be in love with.

She pondered her own question for a moment, stretching her brain to find a logical answer, which it wouldn't, couldn't find. She could see no reasoning behind what was panging in her heart, other than love was truly blind.

Her mind quickly wandered off to Thomas, sweet precious Thomas, the caring affectionate geek who would jump off the empire state building at her request, just to make her happy. Thomas, the only guy who showered her with the affection she craved for, but could never return for fear of people's reaction. Thomas, the gentle soul with whom she had just made love to.

It hadn't been the animal sex she was used to with Sean; it had been different in so many ways. It didn't feel forceful for a start; it was tender and loving, with feelings; feelings like she had never felt before.

Her heart was torn in two, ripped apart by love and hate, jealousy and fear, resentment and self-loathing. Never before had she felt so screwed up. She was Trisha Harris! Prom queen, head cheer leader and daddies little princess! Shit like this didn't happen to people like her! She was the most envied, sought after girl in school. Her dad had more money that Rockefeller, but no amount of little green pound notes could be a replacement for her broken heart, or a solution to her problems.

This one she had to figure out alone, with no help from Daddy or anyone else. This was her choice...Sean or Thomas.

In his room less than 5 feet away Thomas was pondering the same questions. His heart shattered in two, he lay in bed, in the same position in which he had held Trisha in his arms, but now they were cold, empty and lonely...just like how he was feeling right at that moment.

Tiny droplets of water fell freely from his mournful eyes onto the bed sheets he clung to in frustration as he thought back to those amazing few hours where he had been able to hold the women he loved, the hours where his most sought after dreams had become reality.

He had felt like the luckiest man alive for that split second where she was his, and only his. There was no Sean to share her with, only themselves in there own little world, where nothing else mattered. But now she was gone, and with her she had taken his last bit of hope.

Deep down he knew she would run back into the arms of Sean the first chance she got, as much as he prayed she would throw herself back through his bedroom door and declare her undying love for him he knew it was never going to happen. He knew Trisha better than she knew herself after years of studying her ever waking move, and he knew she was yet again about to set herself up for a fall.

"Jim! Open the door!" Simon nervously pounded on the front door of his "friend" and former business partner.

He didn't have to wait long. The door flung ajar, bouncing back slightly towards Jim due to the speed and force in which it had been thrown open.

No words left his mouth as he stared at Simon briefly before turning his back to him. No words were needed, Jim knew exactly why he was there. After all, it had been himself that had requested Simon's presence at that specific time.

Thanks to Simon, Jim now knew where Helen was hiding out, and with all the determination in the world he was adamant he was going to find her and bring her home, back to were she should rightfully be, working for him bringing in the pennies.

"So what's the plan of action then?" Simon wrung his hands nervously, uncomfortably fidgeting under Jim's glare. Simon was no push over, he was far front it in fact. No man in his right mind would have messed with him, his huge weighted frame was enough of a visual deterrent, but somehow weasley, slime ball Jim Fenner intimidated him into a shaking, stuttering wreck.

Jim was no ordinary man...he was a low life bully who cared about no other human on earth other than himself, although he tried hard to convince anyone who would listen that he loved the girls that worked with him, and that he treated them with respect, Simon knew different. He had lost count of the amount of times he had been awoken in the early hours of the morning by a phone call from his former business associate pleading for help to hide the body of yet another poor defenceless girl he had beaten the life out of when his temper had gotten the better of him and taken control of his fists.

As much as it killed him to aide Jim in his cover-ups he really had no other option. Fenner knew too much about him...every dodgy deal he done, every client he had conned and every occasion he had cheated on his wife with other women.

Jim could ruin him and he used this little fact to his own advantage. There was no way Simon was risking losing his business, clients, wife and kids, no matter how much he harboured he would have to comply with what ever Jim asked him to do...no matter what that entailed.

"Of course I have a plan! We're going to drive up to that bloody campus and get that bitch back! I've already lost too much money because of her little escapade and I refuse to lose any more! Enough is e-bloody-nough!"

"But what if we can't find her? She may have moved on?"

"Excuse me? What did you just say?" Jim paused in mid pace, his eyes suddenly bulging from the sockets.

Simon swallowed down hard like he had a lump in his throat and he didn't make an attempt to answer the question he was being asked.

"Of course we're going to find her! He slammed his fist forcefully into the solid wooden table beside him, not once flinching at the pain that he was obviously feeling.

"Unless you've been lying and you haven't really seen her down at South Bank at all" He made a grab for Simon's collar, resting his hands forcefully down on his shoulders, getting too close to his neck for comfort.

"No, no, I swear I'm not lying, that's not what I meant by my comment at all, I saw her when I was dropping off my son…." Simon choked over his words as he lost his cool.

"Good! 'Cause if I find out your lying to me... well I don't think I'll need to tell you what'll happen! You can kiss you away your big house and your happy family life for a start!"

Simon nodded so hard it looked like his head would loosen itself from his neck.

"Ok, now that's settled lets get a move on! It's time to get my little Helen back and teach her a lesson she will never forget. No one screws me over and gets away with it!"

He said it and he meant it. She wasn't getting away lightly.

"Hey Josh, can you pass me that book on ancient cooking methods that's sitting on the desk over there?" Zandra didn't lift her eyes once from the pad of paper that she was erratically scribbling on. The only movement that came from her was the occasional crossing and uncrossing of her legs as she tried in vain to get into a comfortable position on the hard mattressed bed.

She sniffed in a few times and lifted her head for the first time in hours.

"Josh, I wish you wouldn't smoke in my room, you know how much I hate it. It stings my eyes and I'm trying to read up on last terms course work for the big exam at the start of the new semester!"

"I'm sorry sweetie, I'll open the window. I really don't know why you're bothering with all that studying though. You're on holiday from school! Have fun!" He sat the requested book on her bed while trying to refrain from getting any more smoke in her eyes.

She gave him an unappreciative glare before returning her head down to her notes.

He ignored her, making no more comment and walked towards the large glass pane next to her bookcase. He unbolted it and threw it wide open, sticking his head as far through it as he possibly could so as not to disturb his girlfriend any further.

As he did he felt the cold blast of fresh December air hit his face, the chills running his body like tiny splinters of glass poking at his skin

The campus was again eerily silent...deserted during the Christmas period, with most of the college's students having gone home for the holidays that morning, after last night's annual festive party.

His smoke mingled with the frosty night air as he exhaled it from his lungs. He watched it intently as he drifted into a calm dream world, until the unexpected noise of a car engine in the near distance, making its way up the narrow winding road towards the college jolted him back.

His eyes drifted away from the swirls of white clouds around him and rested on the red vehicle, tracking its movements until it halted directed below him. His focus grew on the two strangers who were exiting the motor...and one looked strangely familiar. He continued to stare at him, willing his brain to remember who he was, and then it hit him like a bolt of lightning. He had only seen him once in the distance, but he was sure it was him.

"Look Mon, there's your Step-Dad"


Josh squinted his eyes to see the mans face a little bit clearer as he ambled towards the buildings main entrance that was directly below him, with another man, who also seemed vaguely familiar, although he couldn't for the life of him fathom out why.

"Oh well, "He shrugged it off, it would no doubt come back to him in time.

"What, Where?" Zandra screwed her face up in confusion and tried in vain to strategically remover herself from the book strewn bed on which she was studying, trying desperately not to mess up the neatly stacked papers that she had placed in perfect order around her.

"There, look!" He stuck his hand out the semi-opened window and pointed down the ground, while he watched her approach him.

"Josh, there's no one there!" Her confusion quickly turned to anger, and she threw him a look of contention, utterly annoyed at the unnecessary disruption that had wasted her precious study time.

"He was there!… I think." He didn't look so certain, but he hoped he was right; otherwise he was in for a night of getting the cold shoulder from his girlfriend.

"I know I've only seen him once, but I never forget a face. Anyway, look, isn't that his car?"

Zandra peeled her glaring eyes away slowly from Josh and rested them again on the concrete pathway, not so certain that what she was about to see would provide her with evidence to her Step-Dads presence on campus.

In her mind this was just some childish ploy of Josh's to entice her away from the bed, and focus her attentions on something other than her studies, but she couldn't have been more wrong.

"Oh, yeah, so it is." There was no mistaking her Fathers brand new Porsche. She had fallen in love with it the minute she had first laid eyes on it, having taken its every detail to memory, from the wing mirrors to the exhaust pipe.

Suddenly her rage turned to a gut wrenching fear.

Why was he here?

What could possibly bring him all the way from Hampstead to the city at this time of night?

Was there something wrong with her Mum? Or even Thomas?

"Thomas!" She lunged herself away from the window and hurtled towards the bedroom door, without giving it a second thought and without waiting on Josh.

"Zandra! Wait up, slow down! What's the panic? Nothings wrong with Thomas, if that's what you're thinking? His Dad could be up here for any reason. Maybe, maybe he's dropping of some stuff from home? Like some old bits of dinosaur bone?" Zandra shook her head fervently from side to side and continued her descent down the hallway at rapid speed.

"No, I have this really bad feeling Josh. Something doesn't feel right...I have butterflies in the pit of my stomach." Her voice cracked as she tried unsuccessfully tried to suppress the tears that were welling in her crystal blue eyes.

Josh still felt she was being somewhat irrational, but let it go to curb an ensuing argument if he continued to contradict how she was feeling. And anyway, he had to admit, it was pretty rare for her to be wrong where sibling intuition was concerned. She and Thomas were practically inseparable these days, as much as they pretended to hate each others guts, with their constant bickering and incessant bitching and nit-picking of one another, it was clear to their close circle of friends that the brother and sister had a bond that was eternally unbreakable.

"Thom?" As they both approached his dorm room, Zandra began to call out his name. Quietly at first, but getting louder each time he didn't answer as the terror in her worsened.

"THOMAS!" She pounded her fists into the heavy pine door, and while it shook slightly it didn't budge and nor was it opened, much to her frustration.

"Thom, please…. Answer the door if you're in there!" Her tone became gentler as she calmed slightly...he brain registering that maybe, just maybe she had been wrong after all. Slightly embarrassed now at the idea of being such a drama queen, she sunk her head in resignation. Then she heard something that made her stomach lurch and her embarrassment disappear.

"Zan..." His voice was a faint whisper, but she heard it as clear as day. Even Josh looked shocked.

"Thomas, hold on, we're coming!" Josh forced Zandra out of the doorway and began to kick with all his might, ignoring the soaring pains, his leg struck out repeatedly, almost rhythmically, until the lock began to weaken and the door burst open with almighty force, swinging back on him quickly and almost hurtling him out of the way.

"Oh, my, God" Zandra clasped her hands across her agape mouth, visibly disturbed at the sight of her brother lying on the floor by his bedside, covered only by a flimsy run of the mill college supplied bed sheet, and a bottle of empty pills in his limp, lifeless hand. This was worse than she had first anticipated.

"Zandra, help me, I don't want to die" It took him all the strength left in his already weak body to talk, but he knew he had to. He had to survive. He had to fight.

"I only wanted to sleep, this was an accident!" His words were slurred and almost intelligible, but she understood every syllable.

"Don't talk, helps on its way" She tried to keep herself as calm and composed as she could handle as she lifted the phones receiver and for the first time in her life dialled a number she wished she never had to use. 999.

He needed an ambulance, and he needed it now.

Tears poured from his half closed eyes. He knew he had been stupid, and the shame was alone enough to kill him. Why did he have to go down this road! A spur of the moment bad decision had plunged him into his worst nightmare, which he was now regretting.

"Josh! Get Nikki!" He did exactly what she asked. He ran off, leaving Zandra alone to cope solely

She watched helplessly as her step-brother lay in front of her, slipping in and out of consciousness as he battled the dreaded grim reaper. His life was ebbing away before her very eyes and there was nothing she could do.

She kneeled down beside him and wrapped his cold lifeless body in her arms.

"Please stay with me." She begged over and over again, praying to God he would hear her.

"Help's on the way!"

She hoped she was right, for if he was to make it, time was of the essence.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Across campus in the Vanderbilt building, another door was being chapped.

Trisha had spent the majority of her day and night deep in thought, desperately trying to make the right decisions for everyone who had become trapped in web of deceit she was stuck in the middle of.

As she stood there, waiting patiently for the door to open she thought about running away and listening to the niggling voice in her head that was telling her she was doing the wrong thing once again. But her feet remained rooted to the ground. She was going no where, because this was where she wanted to be...wasn't it?

"Trish?" An astounded Sean appeared in the doorway and she quickly snapped out of her reverie.

"Sean." She gave him a half-smile, afraid to give away too much of herself just yet, for fear of rejection and the mortification that would come with it.

"What are you doing here? I thought you hated my guts? If you're here to give me a lecture on fidelity then forget it, okay. I don't want to hear it. I've made my bed, and I'm lying in it...with Karen."

"I'm not here to argue Sean. I only wanted to talk. I've not been able to get you out of my head all day. Maybe you were right? I didn't pay you enough attention. It was no wonder you went off with...her." She couldn't bring herself to say his mistress' name; it was all still too painful and fresh.

"I'm here to tell you I forgive you. It dawned on me earlier that you didn't really mean to do what you did. I know you only did it to get me to sit up and take notice of you, and it worked. I realise a relationship take a lot of effort, and I need to give you my all, 100%."

Sean shook his head and tried his hardest not to laugh, but the smirk on his face was enough.

"Pathetic!" He laughed inwardly.

He had been right all along...she was the pushover he had always known she was. Daddies little princess was still as gullible as she was when they had first started to date.

He would be a fool not to take her back-he would get away with murder with her as his girlfriend and that was just the way he liked it.

He pushed the door wide open and let it go free.

"Come on it baby, we have a lot of catching up to do." He smirked and grabbed her seductively into his arms.

He wasn't about to change for some dumb blonde that he didn't care about, but if she wanted to believe that he would then so be it.

What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her...or would it?


Nikki and Helen sat snuggled up together, in the one scabby armchair that she possessed and they gazed longingly into each others eyes.

Their relationship was less than 2 days old, but yet it already felt so comfortable, like they had spent an eternity together.

"Mmm, this is amazing, isn't it?" Nikki pulled Helen tightly into her arms, with a huge grin on her face, she felt like the luckiest woman alive. Here she had the woman of her dreams right by her side, and as far as she was concerned things simply couldn't get much better than this.

Helen's long blonde hair tickled at Nikki's face as she rested her weary head on her chest, but Nikki couldn't bear to tear her hands away from Helen's waist to swipe away the strands that were in her way.

"I know. I'd be happy to stay here forever, safe by your side." Helen's last comment made Nikki sit up and tighten her grip on her.

"You're still scared that guys going to come looking for you, aren't you?" Nikki looked down to gage her reaction, and although Helen only gave a small shrug, Nikki knew she was right.

Sadness and anger welled up in her. What horrendous things had that bastard done to her? To induce a fear so bad, that Helen felt terrified to leave her side. This was no man, this was a monster.

"Sweetheart, as long as I'm here nothing bad is going to happen to you. I promise you of that." Helen nodded; trying to reassure Nikki that she believed her words, but a sinking gut instinct told her this wouldn't be the case.

She knew Jim well enough to know what he was capable of. He had tried to put the fear of God into her from day one, and it had worked. By telling her what would happen to her if she ran, he had made her scared for her own life, and the life of the one she loved…Nikki..

"If you run I'll hunt you down like the dog that you are, and I'll bring you back to were you belong....dead or alive!"

His words echoed around in her mind and she felt a shiver go up her back, like someone had walked over her grave.

She shook away her feelings of dread and returned her attentions to Nikki, who was now off in a world of her own.

She was about to start up conversation when the bedroom door burst open, startling her.

"Nikki!" Josh burst into the room dramatically, bending double to catch the breath he had lost in his sprit across campus.

"Hey Josh, where's the fire?" Nikki flashed his usual lop-sided smile, but concern was still evident on her face.

"No fire..." he stopped for a sharp intake of oxygen.

"It's Thomas! You need to come quickly!"

He wiped the sweat away from his eyes and prepared to be on his way again. He was half way out of the room when Nikki stopped him.

"Whoa, slow down there Joe 90! What's wrong with him? Is he hurt?"

Josh shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. We broke into his dorm and we found him laying on the floor...he's taken a load of pills."

"What?" Nikki scrunched up her face in confusion. This didn't make any sense. She had seen her friend only the night before, and he had seemed perfectly happy as far as she could tell. Apart from the fight he had had with Sean. But that wouldn't be a reason for him pulling a stunt like this, would it?

What had happened in the last 24 hours to make him want to kill himself? It just didn't calculate somehow. This she would have to see with her own eyes to believe.

"Helen stay here darlin', I'm going to check on Thomas and ill be right back...okay?"

"But..." Before Helen could say any more Nikki had made a mad dash after her friend, who was already sprinting down the corridor towards the stairway.

Helen stood in the empty doorway for a moment, staring into the deserted hallway then closed over the door. The room was so quiet with only her in it. She listened to the piercing ticking of the manual alarm clock sitting by Nikki's bedside, and the buzzing of the electricity seemed to intensify 10 fold. Every noise that normally couldn't be heard seemed now to be extremely loud.

Nikki had only been gone a matter of seconds, but already Helen felt vulnerably lost and lonely. She didn't want to be in this strange room alone. Being by herself brought back too many bad memories. Mostly of the horrors she had been subjected to in the last few weeks of her sad life.

She knew how crazy her reactions were and that she shouldn't been acting like a clingy sheep dog, following her new girlfriend around every waking minute of the day, but her confidence was at its lowest and only with Nikki did she feel completely safe from harm.

She tried to shake away all her negative thoughts and come up with a few positives. Nikki wasn't that far away, and she wouldn't been gone for long, she had promised her so. But still as much as she tried to look on the bright side of things the fears kept returning.

"If I leave now I can get to her" She thought to herself and ran towards the door and into the hall.

It looked like a maze, with its numerous entwining corridors and doorways, but it was either carry on and find Thomas' dorm, or return to Nikki's room-alone. She knew which option she preferred.

She walked, and walked some more, along the deserted 1st floor and in desperation she felt like giving up and admitting defeat...until she heard a set of footsteps approaching from behind her.

She spun around immediately, to be greeted by a smiling young guy whom she didn't recognise.

"Hey," He winked and stopped less than a foot in front of her.

"Oh, hi, "She tugged at her hair uncomfortably, hoping and praying for him to keep walking, but he didn't.

"Are you looking for someone? You look a little lost out here on your own."

"Well, yeah, I am, actually," She tugged at her hair again, this time feeling shyer than anything.

"Do you know where Thomas..." She thought for a moment. What was his surname? She was sure Nikki had mentioned, but no matter how hard she tried to summons it from memory she just couldn't place it.

"I don't know his second name..." She blushed red, feeling slightly foolish.

"But he has a sister, Zandra, his friend is Nikki Wade." She knew it was a lost cause. The University was massive, with 10's of thousands of students. It was crazy to think this stranger would possibly know who she was talking about.

"Ah, yeah, you mean Thomas Waugh, right? Sure I know him, he's in my biology class...brainy big bastard!"

"Great! Am I on the right floor?" She couldn't believe her luck...maybe things were beginning to look up for her, and about time too she deliberated.

"Aw, doll, you're not even in the right building. Thomas is over in the opposite block, in the Rockefeller dorms. If you head out of the main doors it's the tall set of apartment's right in front of you." He pointed her towards the elevator and began to walk away, looking her body over, from head to toe as he went.

She had known it was too good to be true. She must have been crazy to think luck was finally on her side...it never had been and never would be.

"Oh well!" She though, it's now or never. There was no time to stand about worrying about it....she would have to go outside sooner or later, and as much as it filled her with dread it had to be done.

Most people would be away home for the holidays anyway she tried to reassure herself, so she wouldn't have to panic about bumping into anyone....

By the time Nikki and Josh arrived at Thomas' room the paramedics were already there, loading his limp body onto a well used gurney.

"Oh, Jesus, look at him!" Nikki could hardly believe what she was witnessing...her friend laying before her, with an oxygen mask clamped to his face and a drip in his arm. Shock stopped her from breaking down, but for Zandra, holding it together was not an option.

She held on tightly to her brother's lifeless hand as he was led quickly down the stairs and into the back of the waiting ambulance at the front door.

The three friends huddled closely into one another, the cool winter air wafting around then as they watched the scene unfold, like a bad film.

Josh held his girlfriend tightly in his arms as she sobbed delicately into his shoulder. She was terrified of watching her sibling looking so frail and helpless, but at the same time couldn't bear to tear her eyes away for fear he would fade away if she did.

"Which one of you wants to travel with the patient?" Zandra jumped forward immediately, her hand still clasped in Josh's, she pulled him with her, needing the comfort of his loving touch...she let go reluctantly.

She stepped into the vehicle, turning around to make sure her friends hadn't disappeared in the last millisecond. Her face was a picture of anxiety, that both Nikki and Josh instantly picked up on. This situation was alien to her, so much so she didn't think she had the confidence to do it alone.

"You go ahead, I'll be right behind you. Nikki can follow in the car to the hospital, if that's ok that is?" He turned to his friend, not wanting to assume that Nikki would be available to drive him.

"Of course it is," Nikki wanted to be there for her friend...but what about Helen. She had told her she wouldnt be gone long. and she was bound to worry. "I'll just drop Josh off and get back" She thought to herself.

"Great, let's go then."

As the ambulance sped off at great speed the two ran to Nikki's 10 year old, second hand, clapped out Ford.

"I still can't believe this is happening..." Nikki drove the motor off in autopilot as her mind wandered off to her ailing best friend in the white vehicle in front.

It all seemed like a big mystery. Like a secret everyone knew except herself. She was desperate for answers, but was unsure anyone could provide them.

"How did you find him? Did he call Zandra for help?"

She listened intently as Josh recounted the whole story, from start to finish, starting from the unsettling sighting of Simon Stubberfield.

"So, let me get this straight. You saw Zan's Step-Dad from the window, and you both thought he was heading off to Thomas' room?"

"Yeah, well he was heading in that direction" Josh didn't seem phased, but if anything Nikki was more confused than before.

After a minute of thinking it over she asked a question that was about to set the cat amongst the pigeons.

"Okay...so where is he now then, if he didn't go to see either Zandra or Thomas?" Josh thought about what Nikki was implying but couldn't give an answer. His eyes bulged out of his head as the realisation finally sunk in.

"Hmm, that's strange..."

"Yes, very strange."

Part 21

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