Helen lay with her head resting on Nikki's chest listening to the rhythmic sound of her breathing. It wouldn't be light for quite a few hours yet but try as she might, she couldn't drift off. Something was troubling her and she wasn't sure what it was. But it made her feel uneasy and she just couldn't get rid of the feeling.
After making love with Nikki for the first time three days ago, they were closer than ever. They'd taken every opportunity to kiss and touch each other, although they were always careful to make sure they were totally alone before they did so. It didn't really bother Nikki who knew about them but Helen was still skittish about it.
But still that funny feeling lingered, and for the life of her she couldn't understand it. She loved Nikki with all her heart and always had. She didn't regret making love to her either, so that wasn't the problem. It suddenly hit her, everything was how she'd always wished it to be, life was almost perfect but reality was waiting around the corner to take it all away. She was married, there was Sean to consider and she didn't know what to do.
She couldn't think straight from where she was. Nikki's soft skin pressed against her own as she moved in her sleep and it was causing Helen to have erotic thoughts again. She gently disentangled herself from Nikki's arms and crept downstairs.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Bill sitting at the table. They exchanged foolish grins, both looking guilty as if they'd been caught doing something they shouldn't. She kissed him lightly on the cheek and then sat down next to him.
"I could have died there," she chuckled and took a deep breath.
"Get your kicks out of sneaking up on sexy old men do you?" He smiled and clicked his false teeth at her.
"If you were sixty years younger granddad, I might just consider giving you a run for your money." Helen joked back but the smile didn't reach her eyes.
"Why waste your time with me sweetheart? You've got a perfectly good woman waiting for you in bed."
Helen almost stopped breathing, "Dunno what you're talking about."
"No need to look so shocked, I know what's going on," he chuckled, "the pair of you had that 'I've just been laid' look at dinner."
Helen's face reddened; "yeah yeah, very funny!," she hoped he was joking.
"I'm not joking," he said putting her in no doubt, "I used to have that look myself years ago, in fact, I'm wearing it now."
"Granddad! You didn't?" Helens's eyes twinkled with amusement.
He grinned, "I did, I gave Betty a bloody good seeing to. And strangely enough, me wheezing away without my oxygen tank seemed to turn her on," he burst out laughing.
"Oh god." Helen covered her face and giggled, "I can't believe you're telling me this."
"There's a story for the grandkids. This old sod got his leg over and thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, I did at the time," the smile faded and it was replaced with a look of sadness.
"You're feeling guilty because of grandma." Helen nodded knowingly.
"You didn't come down the Clyde on a banana boat did you," he winked at her, "I don't regret it but it does feel like I betrayed my Mary, because I'll never love anyone as much as I love her."
"I know just how you feel granddad." Helen got up to pour them both some juice and then sat back down again, "she would understand you know. She's gone and you're still here, she'd understand you need love as much as everyone else."
"I think you could be right lass," he took a swig of juice and then changed the subject, "Your problems aren't quite so cut and dried though are they?"
"No, definitely not," she retrieved Nikki's cigarettes and lit one, handing them over to Bill when he gave her his puppy dog look, "Nikki and I made love for the first time three days ago and I don't regret it one bit. But something feels wrong; it's not supposed to be like this. I can't help thinking that it will all be over before it's even begun." Helen was embarrassed talking about it, but felt a weight lift off her shoulders at the same time, it wasn't nearly as bad as she'd thought telling someone would be.
"Does she feel the same for you?"
"Yes, she told me she does."
"Are you worried because the dream was better than reality?"
"God no." Helen shook her head emphatically, "Being with her is incredible. I just can't find the words to explain how wonderful and incredible it is that she loves me."
"So where is the problem?"
"I can't shake the feeling that something is just waiting to happen and that all this will be taken away from me."
"Sean?" Bill said simply.
Helen thought for a second, "Aye, that's basically what it amounts to."
"I can't tell you what to do Helen, but I know for a fact you should always follow your heart."
"Easy to say but hard to do. I don't want to hurt Sean and I don't want to hurt Nikki either. It's all such a mess, he's going to expect me to go home sooner or later and she's going to want me to stay."
"And what do you want to do?" Bill knew Helen was never very decisive when it came to her own wants and needs. She'd do what she thought was expected of her rather than what she really wanted.
"I don't know, I want to be with Nikki obviously but it's not going to be that easy. I can't forget I'm married, I have to consider Sean. I just don't know what to do."
"Only you can decide that Helen. But you do know that what happened with Nikki will change things with Sean."
"I know it does, but I don't know what Nikki wants, or even if I'm able to give it to her."
"You don't mean that surely?" Bill was slightly shocked, it sounded as if Helen would go back to Sean irregardless.
Helen didn't answer for a moment; she wasn't sure what to say.
"It's just difficult to know what to do. I can't help feeling that I shouldn't have started all this," she sighed and took another sip of her juice.
"So you initiated sex then?"
Helen looked guilty, "Yes I did."
"So you started it and it's up to you to sort it. I love you both with all my heart Helen, but if you hurt her I won't be a very happy man."
"I don't intend to hurt her; but I don't want to hurt Sean either."
"Wake up Helen, your marriage is a sham. I know for a fact that you've been deeply in love with Nikki for most of your life and I think it's about time you realised the type of man he really is." Bill was slightly breathless and grabbed hold of his oxygen mask.
"What do you mean?" Helen immediately felt defensive, "he's the nicest man I've ever known."
"And people said the same thing about your father. Sean isn't much different to the way your father was when he was much younger, work it out for yourself." He stood up letting her know the conversation was over.
"How do you know?" Helen was puzzled now and didn't want to let it drop, "You can't say something like that and walk away."
"Goodnight Helen." He kissed her on the forehead and left her sitting there wondering what the hell he was talking about.
Nikki sat in the garden shivering, as she smoked her cigarette. It wasn't so much the cold that was making her shiver, but more the fact that she knew something was wrong with Helen. She'd woken up to find the space in bed next to her was empty, and three hours later there was still no sign of her. She'd tried calling her mobile but it was switched off.
Nikki ground out her cigarette on the floor and immediately lit another one. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Jesus Helen." Nikki held on to her chest as her heart raced, "that's twice in three days now."
"Sorry babe." Helen sat down beside her and captured her lips in a passionate kiss.
"Where've you been?" Nikki pulled away from her a little, "I've been worried."
"Just out and about, it's nothing worry about." Helen tried to smile reassuringly.
"You've changed your mind." Nikki said bitterly, "I bloody well knew it."
"Will you shut up for a minute?" Helen glared at her, "I haven't changed my mind. I love you Nikki, how many times do I have to tell you?"
"So why all the secrecy? Why weren't you with me this morning?"
"I needed to get out by myself for a while; I needed to think about things. I need to know where I'm going. I can't make a change this big in my life without thinking of how I'm gonna go ahead with it."
"And that doesn't warrant consulting me?" Nikki took an angry draw of her cigarette and stamped on it.
"This wasn't something you could help me with; I had to figure this out on my own. It doesn't mean that I don't want you, doesn't mean that I don't care. I just needed a wee while on my own." Helen took hold of her hand and kissed it gently.
Helen had made up her mind, she knew what she wanted and she knew it would be hard, but she couldn't just let Nikki slip away. She knew Sean would be upset, but what Bill had said had caused her to think that he may very well be right.
"I was just worried that's all." Nikki calmed down, the thought of losing Helen had been eating away at her.
"There's nothing to worry about baby. I'm with you and I'm staying with you, please trust me," she waited until she nodded, "Why don't we go inside? It's freezing out here and I think we both need warming up." Helen gave her a very sexy smile and Nikki jumped up dragging her into the house.
They collapsed onto the sofa and began to kiss again. Hands wandered and caressed as the kisses deepened. Their breathing became ragged and the need for each other was overwhelming.
"Shit!" Nikki exclaimed as the doorbell went, "whoever it is will get kneecapped."
Helen giggled, "my my, somebody gets grumpy when they're feeling romantic and get interrupted."
"Shut your cakehole Stewart and answer the door." Nikki stuck her tongue out at her again then gave her a quick kiss before she went to answer the door.
Helen's heart sank as she saw Sean standing in front of her.
"Hello Helen. Can we talk please?" he said politely.
"You better come in." Helen sighed, it was all catching up with her and she knew it was now or never.
Sean stood in the living room holding onto a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates. Helen knew it would only be a matter of time before he started on his Oscar winning speech about how sorry he was and how much he loved her. That's when things suddenly started to click into place.
Her father had always been the same, he'd do or say something horrible and then come home clutching gifts in a pathetic attempt to try and make up for it. Helen was having flashbacks now, long forgotten memories from her childhood. Her father getting angry with her for no reason and smacking her across the bottom so hard that it stung for hours afterwards. Then he'd come home with a doll or a teddy bear and expect everything to be ok again.
Sean was no different; he'd say hurtful things and then try to smooth things over with buying presents for her. He'd never harmed her physically, but he did try to control her, and she'd stupidly let him. She looked across to where Nikki was sitting with a worried look on her face. She was the only person she'd ever love with all her heart and in that instant, she knew her decision to leave Sean was the right thing to do.
"Do you mind?" Sean said curtly and jerked his head at the door, leaving Nikki in no doubt that he wanted her out of the way.
"I'll leave you to it." Nikki stood up and Helen followed.
"I'm gonna tell him I'm leaving him." Helen whispered once they were out of earshot.
"Have you thought this through? You have to make a decision based on what you want, not what Sean or I want," they were the exact words she wanted to hear but she also wanted to be sure that Helen was certain.
"I'm sure Nikki, I've thought about nothing else for years. I want to be with you. I have to let Sean go, it's better to make the break now rather than fuck his life up by keeping on living a lie."
"If you're sure." Nikki nodded, "then I'll support you."
"Trust me, I am." Helen gave her a quick kiss on the lips and then went back into the living room.
Sean hovered; it had taken every ounce of self control not to have followed Helen when she left the room with Nikki. He had been just on the verge of doing that when Helen had come back in. Seeing Helen in the same room with Nikki had threatened to push him over the edge. He'd spent the last three days trying to focus on what it was he wanted to say to Helen while desperately trying to forget what he'd seen. But it hadn't been easy.
After leaving the house on that afternoon and dialing Campbell's number, his finger had hovered over the call button. The number danced before his eyes, instant payback for Nikki if he completed the call. But that would have been something Helen would never forgive him for. So he'd cleared the number and climbed into his car. He was glad he had because if the gentle approach didn't work, he had something to bargain with. It gave him the courage he needed.
He handed over the chocolates and flowers, "I've really missed you."
"Sit down, we need to talk." Helen swallowed, there was never going to be a right time to say what she had to.
"When are you coming home Helen?"
"That's what we need to talk about. I'm not coming home Sean," he went to interrupt but she held up her hand to stop him, "the time we've had apart has made me think. I can't carry on like this any more."
"Carry on like what? We're happy, we always have been."
"No, you were happy, and you failed to notice that I wasn't."
"Right so now you've told me, we'll change things." He smiled thinking it would persuade her.
"Things can't be changed, you'll never change," she took a deep breath, "and I'm tired of trying to be somebody else."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he raised an eyebrow at her.
"It means that for once in my life I want to be who I am, I want to be the real me."
"I still don't understand," he looked nonplussed.
"I'm not your wife Sean; I'm somebody that you can boss about when you feel like. From the clothes I wear, right down to what I eat and drink, you have your say about it all. I can't do anything without you passing comment; the inmates on my wing have more freedom than I do."
"Oh come on Helen, I'm not like that at all."
"Yes you are." Helen stood up and found Nikki's cigarettes, she lit one up and Sean pulled a face, "see what I mean? I light up a cigarette and you pull a face. I'm expected to go to bed at a certain time, get up at a certain time, do everything at a certain bloody time and I'm tired of it Sean."
"You make me out to be some sort of control freak, I only try to help."
"You chose the house we live in, the furniture, the décor and just about everything else. You choose where we go on holiday and when, and every time I try to have a say you ignore me and carry on as you were. You're a control freak just like my father and it's taken me all these years to realise it."
"You make me out to be some sort of monster."
"You're not a monster Sean. But I can't live like this anymore. I'm tired of having my thoughts, feelings and ideas trampled all over like they don't exist. I have spent my entire life doing things for other people, you included, and just this once I'm going to do something for me."
"You or Nikki?" he snarled, "I'm not fucking stupid Helen, I saw the two of you together, I know exactly what's going on."
"I'm sorry you had to find out like that." Helen said quietly.
"You're only sorry you got caught, don't try and pretend you feel any sympathy for me."
Helen did feel sorry for him; she had never meant to hurt him. And the fact that he'd found out the way he had would haunt her for the rest of her days. But she couldn't go back and change it, she needed to make the break and she needed to do it now.
"I am sorry, but it doesn't change things. I can't be married to you anymore."
"Get your things Helen; I've had enough of pissing around."
"I'm not going home Sean." Helen was adamant.
"You can and you will, get your things right this minute. My patience is running out."
"It's over between us, and I know you're hurt and angry but you're going to have to accept it."
"I don't have to accept anything." Sean was just as adamant.
"That's up to you then. I can't keep apologising though, I've told you I'm sorry and I genuinely meant it but there is no future for us."
"You've cheated on me, with a woman I might add and your sister of all bloody people, it's sick! So you'll do as you're told and come home to avoid any embarrassment." He was going red in the face with temper.
"I'm not embarrassed about it." which wasn't entirely true but she wasn't going to tell him that, "I can't help who I fell in love with. I've been in love with her for most of my life and I can't change that. Why make this harder for yourself?" Helen threw her hands up in the air; there was no reasoning with him.
"You don't seem to understand, I'm the one who's been cheated on, that means I'm calling the shots. Get your stuff packed now, we're leaving."
"I told you, I'm not going anywhere." Helen shook her head defiantly.
"You have ten minutes and if you're not ready to leave, there will be consequences."
"Oh this should be good. Why? What are you going to do Sean?" Helen moved towards him and crossed her arms.
"I'll call your father and fill him in on exactly what's been going on. He knows part of the story but he doesn't know all of it, and I for one won't hesitate in telling him."
Sean could see by the look of shock on Helen's face that he'd touched a nerve. He was thankful he hadn't followed his impulse to tell Campbell three days ago.
"Call him and tell him then." Helen called his bluff.
He took his mobile out, "fine, you better warn Nikki though, cos he seems to hate her even more than I do." he chuckled.
"You bastard." Helen spat, he was holding her over a barrel, she either went home with him or ran the risk of Campbell hurting Nikki again.
A lump the size of a tennis ball formed in Helen's throat as she slowly climbed the stairs. What was she going to do? She hated the idea of giving in to Sean but she didn't see that she had much option. She had to talk it through with Nikki, she knew she couldn't keep something that big from her and more importantly, she wanted her to know none of this was through choice.
"Nikki?" Helen knocked softly on the door.
"Don't say it Helen, just don't say it." Nikki slid off her bed and began pacing back and forth in front of the window.
"Listen, we don't have much time." Helen quickly walked towards her and stopped her in her tracks.
"What do you mean?" Nikki was expecting to be told it was over, what was Helen talking about?
She quickly related her conversation with Sean, "And you can imagine what my father would do."
"I'm not a kid anymore though Helen, I'm not scared of him."
"I know that but what if he hurts you? There's no telling how far he'd go."
"Let me worry about that. Do you still want to stay?"
"You know I do, you know I want to be with you. But there's not just us to think of either, there's mum and granddad. Dad is going to go mad if he finds out and they'll be in the firing line as well." Helen said.
"Tell Sean you're not going home and he can tell whoever he wants."
"But that's the bloody problem he will tell everyone."
"And that's what really bothers you isn't it? You don't want everyone knowing you're gay." Nikki snapped and collapsed back onto the bed.
"Don't start all that, you know that's not true." Helen sat down beside her, "I'm scared Nikki. What are we going to do?"
"You've no need to be scared, I'm with you. And we'll figure something out, but you can't go back to him," she put her arms around Helen; she felt an overwhelming need to protect her.
Sean suddenly appeared in the doorway.
"I won't tell you again Helen, get your things!" Sean shouted, "And get your hands off my wife. I've got your father's number ready, I just have to press the button," he waved the phone at them.
Helen stood up, "I'm sorry Nikki, I have no choice," tears formed in her eyes.
"You do have a choice; we can get through this together. He can't hurt us," she tried desperately not to cry in front of Sean.
"I'm trying to do the right thing for everyone." Helen began gathering her things as Sean smirked.
Nikki was exasperated, "there are other ways to deal with this Helen, think about it."
"I have, I can't see any other way out." Helen's tears were falling faster now.
"I've given you the option Helen, I'm asking you to stay and I'll support you, know that." Nikki swallowed several times, speaking was becoming hard, "but if you walk out now, there's no going back."
Helen knew what Nikki was saying, but it still hurt like hell, "It's because I love you so much that I have to do this."
"Say goodbye Helen." Sean took her by the arm and dragged her from the room, not giving her the chance.
Stella staggered into the hallway with several large and heavy bags of shopping whilst Bill followed behind and then closed the door. She noticed the suitcases in the hall and her heart sank, not now, not when life was finally improving after all these years.
"Nikki? Helen?" she shouted up the stairs and jumped when Nikki tapped her on the shoulder.
"You screeched?" Nikki tried to smile but all she could manage was a look of pain.
"Don't think you're leaving Nikki, I want answers." Stella gave the shopping to Nikki and pushed her towards the kitchen as Bill followed.
"I've got a new job." Nikki said as she put the shopping down on the table, "I won't be going far."
"Pull the other one Nik, I'm your mother, I know when you're lying." Stella's eyes bored right into her.
"What's he done?" Bill correctly guessed that with Helen's absence and the look on Nikki's face, something had gone drastically wrong.
"Eh?" Stella remarked as she look from Nikki to Bill.
"Nikki I know, Helen told me." Bill placed a hand on her arm.
"She told you?" a wave of love suddenly washed over her making her stomach ache with loss, Helen wasn't ashamed of her after all, "She's gone, Sean came and gave her an ultimatum."
"Will someone tell me what's going on?" Stella flipped the kettle on.
"Helen and I were together mum. She told me she was in love with me and it took me a while to realise I feel the same way. We er we slept together a few days ago, and Sean saw us," Nikki sighed and sat down, "she was going to leave him, and he told her that if she did, he'd tell her father all about it. She wanted to keep all of us safe, so she went back to him."
"The little weasel!" Bill put his oxygen mask back on, "If I was thirty years younger, I'd sort him out." he said breathlessly.
"He did what?" Stella stopped making the coffee and put the cup down.
"I'd better tell you from the beginning." Nikki said as Stella sat next to Bill.
When Nikki had finished telling them what had happened, Stella marched over to the telephone and angrily dialed Helen's number.
"And don't think you're leaving Nikki," she wagged a finger at her, "you ran off once before and I'm not letting you do it again. We're a family and we'll sort it."
The phone rang several times and Sean picked up, "Hello?"
"Can I speak to Helen please?" she tried to sound calm.
"Ah hello Stella, I'm afraid you can't at the moment, she's a bit busy."
"I don't give a damn, put her on the phone right this minute." it had been a long time since Stella had spoken to anyone like that.
There was a shuffling and clicking noise and seconds later, Helen was on the line.
"Helen, you can't let Sean control you like this, so get your arse back home and we'll talk it through." Stella said bluntly.
"I can't, I've made my decision."
"You mean that decision was made for you."
"Yes, but there's nothing I can do to..." Helen's voice was suddenly gone and was replaced by the dial tone.
Helen turned around and glared at Sean. He shrugged his shoulders and took the phone from her and placed it back in its cradle. He slumped back down in front of the TV and began to channel surf.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Helen's voice was dangerously calm.
"I don't want you discussing my private life with your mother. I knew Nikki would go whinging to her," he pulled a face.
"Sod you Sean. You may have a hold over me right now, but I won't let you control my life anymore," she began to shake with anger.
"Get used to it Helen, I can't trust you. If you go behaving like a child, I'll treat you like one. From now on, you'll do as I tell you."
"I don't think so." Helen picked up the phone again.
Sean stood up and ripped the phone line from the wall, "Don't make this any harder than it has to be Helen," he smirked at her and went back to watching the TV.
She went upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom. She slid down the wall and hugged her knees as she sobbed her heart out. Nikki was so near and yet so far away, she needed her more than ever. She'd had the courage to stand up to Sean, so why didn't she have the courage to stand up to her father?
She stood up and splashed cold water on her face. Maybe now was the time to do it, she'd seen the way Sean behaved and she didn't want to end up like Stella. She didn't want to have to look back on her life in fifty years time and regret a wasted a life, a life without Nikki. She took a deep breath and steadied her nerves, two hours with Sean had been bad enough, and she wasn't going to waste any more time.
She crept down the stairs as quietly as she could and took hold of the door handle. She knew it creaked and she would have to do it carefully. She pulled the handle all the way down but the door wouldn't budge, it was locked. She turned around, Sean was behind her.
"If you're going to get out, you'll need these." Sean waved the door keys at her, "unfortunately for you, I'm not in a giving mood."
"Grow up Sean." Helen pushed past him and went into the kitchen to try the back door.
"You won't get out that way either, they're both locked."
"You can't watch me twenty four seven."
"Let me worry about that. And right now, you're not going anywhere." He took a beer from the fridge and left her standing in the kitchen, with fresh tears rolling down her face.
Nikki's long legs just managed to keep up with Stella as she marched up Helen's driveway. Nikki had never seen her mother this way before, it was like she'd finally gotten in touch with her anger after all those years of bottling it up. Nikki grinned despite the seriousness of the situation, when she thought of what a fright Campbell would get if he ever set eyes on his wife again because the mood she was in, she'd kill him.
As soon as Stella had heard the line go dead, she'd thrown the phone down and picked up her coat. She could only guess at what Sean was up to and she didn't like it. There was no way she was going to allow a man to control her daughter just as she had been. If Helen chose to stay with Sean then she knew they'd all have to accept it, but she wanted to make sure it was what she wanted first.
Stella balled her hand into a fist and hammered on the front door, "open this door right now, I'm not in the mood for fucking about!"
Nikki's eyes widened, her mother wasn't usually one for swearing either, "calm down mum."
"I've had years of being calm Nikki and it's gotten me nowhere. I'm tired of people walking all over me and mine," she lifted her arm to bang on the door again when it swung open.
"Stella, what a surprise." Sean looked down his nose at them. He made no move to open the door any further.
"I want to see my daughter, and I'm warning you that if you try to stop me, you'll be sorry." Stella spoke to him through clenched teeth.
Sean was undecided, should he let her in and hope Helen would keep her mouth shut or should he send her away? He quickly made his mind up and was on the edge of telling Stella that Helen wasn't feeling well when she took him by surprise and pushed him to one side before striding into the hall.
"Excuse me, do you mind? What gives you the right to come barging in here?" Sean exploded.
"Helen? Helen, where are you?" Stella ignored Sean and began climbing the stairs.
"Don't even dare think about it." Nikki snarled at Sean as he attempted to grab hold of Stella as they were halfway up the stairs.
"Why don't you just keep your fucking mouth shut?" Sean spat.
"How about you just keep your fucking mouth shut? I don't like bullies and I especially don't like bullies who threaten the people I love. Trust me, you'd be wise to remember that," she pushed past him roughly.
She followed her mother and headed straight for Helen's room, she took a deep breath as they knocked and pushed the door open. Helen was sitting on the bed with her legs drawn up and head resting on her knees. The look on her face was enough to break Stella's heart there and then. She recognised the look well; it was the same one she'd worn from time to time over the years.
No words were spoken as Stella immediately crossed the room to sit beside Helen. She threw her arms around her and rocked her gently as she sobbed on her shoulder. A few seconds later they both felt arms encircling them and Stella looked up to see Nikki holding them both with tears in her eyes.
Nikki never seen Helen looking quite so lost before and a feeling of protectiveness flooded through her body along with an overwhelming anger directed at Sean. She had no idea what he'd done or said to Helen but whatever it was, was sufficiently bad enough to have knocked the stuffing out of her.
"What's he done to you baby?" Nikki's voice was soothing as she stroked Helen's back.
"Oh god Nikki, I've missed you." Helen's words were choked with sobs. They hadn't been apart all that long but such a lot had happened and it felt like a lifetime.
Sean stood in the doorway, his anger threatening to boil over. What did Nikki have that he didn't? She couldn't possibly satisfy Helen the way he could. She couldn't possibly be of any use to Helen at all; she needed a man for everything as far as he was concerned. He could now see why Campbell hated them all so much, they stuck together and didn't give a damn about anyone else.
Stella's eyes turned toward Sean, "If I find out you've hurt my daughter in any way then you better run because I won't hesitate to wring your bloody neck," her eyes narrowed.
"This is ridiculous." Sean snorted, "she's perfectly fine, just look at her. Stop poking your nose in where it isn't wanted."
"I'm looking at her Sean and she doesn't look perfectly fine to me. I'm taking her home with me, there's no way she's staying here with you." Nikki straightened up and glared at him, "and while we're at it, would you like me to call Campbell for you? Then you can have a cosy chat and blame it all on me, he'll like that. But I'm telling you now, you better warn him that if he's coming after me, I'll be ready." Nikki's eyes flickered angrily, "and this time, I'm more than a match for him."
Sean stood looking at her with his arms folded; "oh how very dashing of you, super-dyke to the rescue," he rolled his eyes.
"Don't push me, I'm this far away from showing you exactly how pissed off I am," she held her thumb and forefinger a small distance apart, "and if I find out you've done anything to hurt Helen, you'll be next on my list," she growled.
Sean stayed silent. He needed time to think.
"Got nothing to say for yourself Sean?" Helen angrily wiped her tears away, having Nikki there gave her the strength she needed, "maybe you can only control one woman at a time, maybe three women is too much for you? Go on then, tell them how you've been trying to keep me here. Locking all the doors to make sure I can't leave. Making me promise to give up my job so you know where I am at all times. Ripping the phone line out of the wall and smashing my mobile to pieces when you found me crying in the kitchen."
"I'm warning you Helen," he snapped.
Stella stood up, "and I'm warning you," she pointed a finger at him, "I have been married to a bastard for long enough to recognise another bastard when I see one and there is no way I'm going to allow you to ruin my daughter's life the same way her father ruined mine. I'm well aware you must be feeling bad, but that's no excuse for behaving like an animal."
"You've got no idea how I'm feeling. You think I enjoyed finding my wife being fucked in the shower by her so called sister?" he started pacing, "you think I enjoyed listening to her telling that bloody dyke where she wanted to be touched?"
"That's enough Sean!" Helen snapped, "I never meant for you to find out this way, but it's happened and there's nothing I can do to change it. I'm not apologising for being in love with Nikki, I fell in love with her long before I ever met you. I don't love you Sean, I haven't for a long time and I can't carry on being somebody I'm not. It's about time I started being the real me, and the real me is gay and in love with Nikki."
She began grabbing items of clothing from wardrobes and drawers. Sean watched as she threw them into a suitcase like a woman possessed. He itched to knock Nikki's teeth down her throat, she was stealing his wife once again and nobody seemed to care. Helen disappeared into the bathroom and came back clutching various items before throwing them on top of her clothes and zipping the case up.
"I'm sorry but it's over. Take care of yourself." Helen said quietly without looking at him.
He made a move to stop her but thought better of it when Nikki stood in front of him and shook her head menacingly. As they left the room, he collapsed against the door frame and slid to the floor in an attempt to control the urge to hurt someone. He took a few deep breaths and clenched his shaking hands, and as he did so, he calmed down slightly. He may be down but he wasn't beaten, he still had one card up his sleeve and he prayed to god it would work.
Later on that evening after Stella had cooked dinner, they were all seated in front of the television, each nursing their own thoughts. Conversation had been kept to a minimum, since it was obvious Helen didn't feel like talking. Nikki was worried about her. Not for the first time she wondered if Helen was regretting her decision to leave Sean despite all that she had said.
Every time she'd approached Helen, she'd moved away and made an excuse that there was something she needed to do. She'd disappear for ten minutes and then come back as if nothing had happened. It was beginning to get to Nikki; she couldn't understand why Helen was being so unresponsive. But then it made her feel guilty, she was being selfish in wanting Helen to respond to her when she so obviously needed time and space.
"Anyone fancy a coffee?" Helen asked as she suddenly jumped up.
"I'd love one sweetheart." Bill grinned at her, "I'm drier than a nun's ," he was cut off when Stella coughed and gave him a mock stern look, "well anyway, I'm dry," he giggled.
Helen's face broke into a smile for the first time since she'd returned home. She took a few steps and turned around as she held her hand out to Nikki, "don't just sit on your arse Wade, come and give me a hand."
Nikki's heart leapt as she took hold of Helen's hand and followed her into the kitchen. Helen flipped the kettle on and then wrapped Nikki's arms around her.
"You can stop panicking now," she murmured into Nikki's neck.
"I wasn't panicking." Nikki lied.
"Aye you were. You thought I'd changed my mind about us being together. You're the one I want to be with, always." Helen snuggled further in, "I don't regret a single thing Nik, only that I wish we'd gotten together a hell of a lot sooner. It's just been a hard day that's all and I needed time to try and sort it all out in my head," secretly she had been worried about Campbell, she didn't know what he was going to do when he found out, but thought it best not to mention it, they had all been stressed out enough for one day.
"How did you know I was panicking?" She didn't think Helen was ready to talk about her ordeal with Sean just yet and so steered clear of it.
"I've gotten very good at reading your mind lately."
"What am I thinking now?"
"It's not something I should repeat, and you'll have to wait till bedtime baby." Helen chuckled.
"Wrong smart arse, that was my second thought." Nikki blushed as Helen grinned at her, "I was just thinking how much I love you and how amazing you are," she said as she gently stroked her hair.
"I love you too, more than you'll ever know." Helen whispered back as she became emotional.
"Trust me baby, I know exactly how much." Nikki replied as she pulled Helen closer and pressed their lips together in a soft loving kiss.
A cough came from the doorway, it was Stella.
"Sorry to interrupt you darlings, but your granddad will start a riot if his coffee and hobnobs are much longer," her eyes twinkled as she smiled at them. A lot of people would have hated the situation, but she was happy to see them together at last. She'd had an idea all along that they were made for each other.
"Oi granddad! Have a bit of patience will you?" Helen shouted through to him, "I'm trying to snog my bird in here and you're moaning about your biccies," she giggled.
He chuckled before replying, "For god sake will you just throw the biscuits in here and then you can go back to getting your leg over. And keep the noise down, or you'll have the neighbours thinking we're having a gangbang."
"Your mind is in the gutter granddad." Nikki smiled at him as she handed the coffee and biscuits to him.
"I know, that's exactly where I left it," he then grinned cheekily, "and if you're going to do it on the kitchen table be careful, one of the legs is dodgy."
"How did that happen?" Nikki asked innocently before seeing an evil grin spread across his face, "no don't tell me, I don't wanna know what you've been doing on that table."
"All I'll say is twice and boy was it good," he rubbed his hands together and winked at her.
"I'm not listening, you dirty old man," she chuckled, "Bloody hell it's a wonder he can still breathe," she said to nobody in particular as she made her way back to Helen.
Campbell stood watching the house as the vapour from his breath circled his head in the cold night air. He rubbed his hands together to keep them warm as thoughts ticked over in his brain. He'd lost his patience; he'd had Sean whinging on the phone to him for a full two hours, telling him that he'd lost Helen once again. He'd eventually managed to pacify him and had breathed a sigh of relief when he'd put the phone down.
He didn't want Sean's problems; he was a spineless fool as far as Campbell was concerned. The way his daughter had embarked on a relationship with a woman was bad enough and the fact that it was with Nikki Wade only made it worse. Sean's moaning had only served to irritate him further and now he'd lost his patience totally.
They all got on his nerves, he no longer had any use for them, and he'd never had much love for them either. Helen had once held a special place in his heart, but not for long, not once he'd realised she was exactly like her mother and she hadn't been good enough for him either. As for Stella and Nikki, they were part of an old problem, one which he finally hoped to get rid of.
He fiddled nervously with the few items in his pockets as the muscles in his hand twitched. He had to go through with it if he was ever going to get what he wanted. He squared his shoulders and told himself he could do it. All that remained now was to wait until the lights went out
Campbell sweated and breathed heavily as he hauled himself over the garden fence. He'd once been a fairly fit man, but these days even just a trip to the bathroom left him out of breath. He'd lost none of his strength though, as both Nikki and Stella had found out to their disadvantage. He huffed and puffed as he lowered himself quietly to the ground and crept towards the house.
He took a quick look and was relieved to still find the house in darkness. He could hear his own heart beating loudly in his ears and felt foolish when he thought everyone else must be able to hear it too. He took the can of lighter fluid from his pocket and placed it on the kitchen window ledge, along with his lighter. His hands shook as he retrieved his keys from his pocket and quietly tried to find the right one. Locating the back door key, he slid it silently into the lock
"Oi Stewart!" Nikki prodded Helen awake.
"What?" Helen shot her an evil look, and pulled the covers back over her head.
"There's a scary sounding bird on the phone for you, apparently it's urgent," she held the phone out to Helen and poked her again when she didn't respond.
"Poke me once more and I'll boot you up the arse," she took the phone and glared at Nikki playfully and giggled.
"With that sort of attitude you won't get poked anywhere." Nikki replied laughing.
"We'll see about that." Helen said as she ran her hand over the curve of Nikki's backside, "Helen Stewart here when did this start?..ok I'll be right there, make sure nobody enters the wing until I've assessed the situation," she said in her best wing governor tones.
"Problem?" Nikki asked as Helen passed the phone back to her.
"No not really, I deal with riots all the time." Helen stuck her tongue between her teeth and smiled.
"You're a sarcastic bint Stewart." Nikki rolled her eyes, "how serious is it?"
"Well it's serious enough for the wing to be on lockdown and for all my officers to go running for the hills," she said as she hastily started to dress.
Nikki sat up straight, "will you have to go onto the wing?"
"At some point yes, but don't worry, my officers will go in there before I do. They'll be the ones wearing riot gear."
"Oh that's just great, they've got riot gear and what have you got?"
"The ability to send as many prisoners down the block as I like while simultaneously taking their privileges away."
"I'm sure they'll shit themselves." Nikki's eyebrows almost touched her hairline.
"Trust me, if you threaten them with solitary and a loss of privileges, they'll quieten down pretty damn quickly."
"If anyone touches you, I'll murder them with my bare hands." Nikki was desperately worried.
Helen sat down on the bed beside her, "Sweetheart, I'll be just fine. I'm trained to handle these sorts of situations and I won't be in any danger, you have my word on that."
"Like I said, just be careful." Nikki pulled her into a bone crushing hug.
"I will be." Helen stroked the side of her face, "I've got too much to lose if I make a bad decision."
"Like your job for one." Nikki chuckled as she tried to lighten the mood, Helen didn't need to be stressed out before she even got there.
"I was thinking more of us baby. Trust me, I'll be back home before you know it," she gave her a kiss and then stood up to finish off getting dressed.
"You better had be, I've got plans for your body." Nikki wiggled her eyebrows and caught the look of sheer lust on Helen's face as she slipped her shoes on.
Campbell waited for what seemed like hours until the light upstairs finally went off. When it did he breathed a sigh of relief, he knew he didn't have much longer to wait. Twenty minutes later when he figured they'd be asleep again, he crept closer to the house and pulled the keys from his pocket. He fumbled with them as his hands shook and they clattered loudly onto the paving stones at his feet.
"Shit!" he whispered harshly and waited for any movements or lights coming on, but nothing happened.
When he finally thought it was safe, he picked up his key and slid it into the lock once more. It clicked and he held his breath as he pushed the door open ever so slowly. He was soon making his way through the dark kitchen and into the gloomy hall. He paused at the foot of the stairs and took the lighter fluid from his pocket. He then placed his foot on the bottom stair and began to climb, as his heart continued to hammer loudly in his chest.
He decided halfway up the stairs was far enough and he pressed down on the container of fluid while moving down the stairs backwards and waving his arm back and forth in a swinging motion as he made sure the carpet was adequately soaked. He then sprayed the area at the foot of the stairs and by the front door, making sure that escape was impossible.
"What the hell are you up to?" a shout came from above him and he jumped out of his skin.
He looked up to see Bill standing at the top of the stairs.
"Say goodbye." Campbell said with a cruel look on his face as he flipped open his lighter and held it close to the carpet.
It ignited with a whoosh and flames shot off in all directions, he could feel the heat on his hands and face and rapidly backed away. A quick inspection of his hand told him that he'd burnt himself and he was fairly certain his face would be in a similar state. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, it was supposed to the perfect plan and already things were going wrong.
He cursed Bill as he squirted more fluid on the flames and then ran out of the house leaving a trail of fire behind him to make doubly sure that all exits were blocked. He ran off into the night, heart pumping painfully and with excitement coursing through his veins.
Helen tapped the steering wheel impatiently waiting for the lights to change. She'd realised on the way to the prison that she'd forgotten to pick up her ID tag, and would get nowhere without it. The prison had been recently fitted out with electronic locking and she would need her card to gain access to different locations. It was bloody annoying, why couldn't they just use keys like anywhere else?
She had actually been all for it at the time, realising that inmates could easily make copies of keys whereas it would be near impossible to escape with electronic locks. Unless of course her officers were as careless with their tags as she was. She was always so distracted that she forgot to pick it up and tonight was no exception.
Her heart stopped as she turned into the street and saw fire engines with their lights going full tilt parked in front of the house. Her mouth when dry and her chest ached reminding her that she needed to breathe. She screeched to a halt and jumped out of the car, before rushing towards the house in a blind panic.
"I'm going to have to ask you to stay well back, it's not safe," a young fireman put his arm out and stopped her from going any further.
"That's my house, my family are inside," she screamed.
"Please Miss, I know it's a very worrying time for you but you need to step back, we've got it all under control," he pushed her back towards her car as the tears streamed down her face.
He could plainly see she was distressed and he needed to report her presence. The fireman walked away but kept an eye on her as he located his commanding officer and filled him in on the situation. He nodded and patted him on the back before he made his way over to where Helen was standing looking panic stricken.
"Excuse me Miss?"
"Stewart." Helen replied automatically.
"Can you tell me how many family members are in the house at this time?"
"Three, my mother, my grandfather and my sister, well my girlfriend." Helen corrected herself, she couldn't think straight.
"So there are four people in the house?" he looked confused.
"No just three," she replied.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm perfectly bloody sure! Now get in there and find them!" she shouted frantically.
"We're doing all we can, I've got my men trying to gain access to the upper floor while we battle the blaze from below. Please try not to worry and stay well back. We'll keep you informed of all that's happening," he had reassured her as much as he could and patted her arm before rejoining the operation.
Helen's heart constricted, her entire world was in that house and she couldn't bear the thought of losing them. She couldn't imagine not ever seeing them smile or laugh again. She loved them all dearly and she hadn't had the time to tell them, now it might be too late and the pain in her heart was excruciating.
"Nikki," she said softly, "oh god Nikki."
Fresh tears streamed down her face, she wished she'd told Nikki how much she loved her before she'd left. But she'd been in such a hurry to get to work and there hadn't been time. Her heart felt like it was being ripped in two, she couldn't live without Nikki, she couldn't breathe without her.
Ambulances arrived and crews clambered out with trolleys and equipment as Helen stood and wept. The street was full of neighbours who stood talking quietly to each other as they watched what was going on. But Helen noticed nothing; her eyes were fixed on the fiery mess that was her home. She saw firemen up a ladder smashing windows to gain access and she held her breath as they disappeared inside wearing breathing apparatus as smoke poured out.
They reappeared several minutes later with somebody strapped to a board. Helen couldn't make out who it was and her heart constricted painfully as they didn't seem to be moving much. The casualty was slowly lowered down the ladder and the ambulance crews rushed forward. A sob caught in Helen's throat when she recognised Stella being lifted onto a trolley.
"Mum!" she rushed forward, "is she ok?" she asked the ambulance crew.
"Helen." Stella croaked, "Oh thank god you're safe," she coughed painfully.
"I was on my way to work, I should have been here. Oh Jesus, where's Nikki and granddad?" Helen took hold of her hand as fresh tears spilled out.
"Sorry love but you're gonna have to talk to her later, we need to get her to hospital," the paramedic spoke kindly to her, "I wouldn't worry too much, we'll get some oxygen into her and get her sorted."
As soon as Stella was out of sight she turned her attention back to the house and began to pray that Nikki and Bill would be rescued soon. She was so deep in thought that when she felt a tap on her shoulder, she jumped violently.
"Good god, what happened?" Sean squinted against the bright lights of the emergency vehicles.
"What are you doing here?" Helen was surprised to see him.
"Was that your mother they just loaded into the ambulance?" he didn't seem to have heard the question.
"Yeah." Helen had already forgotten about him and had turned her attention back to the house.
She looked just in time to see somebody else being lifted out. She could see that it was Bill, and she breathed another sigh of relief knowing that he had been found but that left Nikki still trapped in the house.
She rushed towards him as he was wheeled towards an ambulance but the paramedic waved her away, Bill didn't seem to be conscious. Her stomach clenched painfully as she watched his lifeless body disappear into the back of the ambulance. The pain was indescribable; she'd never known anything like it.
"Miss Stewart, I'm afraid we couldn't find anyone else inside the house," the fireman said apologetically, "My men have looked as far as be the fire will allow, and there just isn't anyone there. I'm sorry but now it's a case of putting out the flames and then beginning the investigation into how it started."
"She's got to be in there, please keep looking." Helen begged, "Please don't let her die."
"I'm sorry, there's nothing else we can do," he walked away leaving Helen standing there with Sean hovering by her side. It didn't make a difference though, she still felt desperately alone.
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