DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls is the property of Shed productions, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women...okay disclaimer done.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Family Tree
By Lynne

Chapter One

Nikki put her pen down on her desk, that was the last letter she was going to sign, the last report she was going to read, in fact she had just put down the last piece of council business she was going to consider until next Monday.

What a shit week she'd had. Nikki was head of the local council. As with all councils trouble came and went, but this week!

Tomorrow was Friday but she had managed to book the day off work. She was planning on taking it easy and hanging around the house catching up on all the jobs she'd been promising herself for months that she'd do 'tomorrow'.

God, she could do with a drink. She leant back in her chair, putting her boot-clad feet up on to her desk, had her secretary Sylvia seen it she would probably have a heart attack.

Sylvia didn't like Nikki, the feeling was completely mutual, Sylvia thought Nikki was a jumped up 'outsider', but Nikki knew that almost anyone whose family did not have at least three generations planted in the local cemetery was considered an outsider in the village they lived anyway.

When Nikki had won the seat on the council Sylvia had made it clear that she was not and never would be her choice for council leader. Nikki later discovered that Sylvia's brother-in-law Bob had also been a candidate, hence the animosity. Sylvia hadn't exactly welcomed Nikki with open arms, she became even more withdrawn when she found out that Nikki was a lesbian, Nikki laughed to herself, she'd loved to have seen the old bags face when she'd been told that one 'down the Legion'.

Nikki's thoughts moved to the problem she'd had to face this week. As usual it was related to planning, in particular a new ring road that had been given the go-ahead by the council. It turned out that the planned route for this road (i.e. the cheapest to build) would mean that some old tree would have to be chopped down, simple enough Nikki had thought at the meeting which voted for that route to be 'the one', but what she and the rest of her planning committee had not counted on was the opinion of the villagers.

For some reason this tree was bordering on 'sacred' status. Whilst there was no law which said the council could not chop it down they were facing a bloody battle with the villagers, a battle which had resulted in a bad tempered confrontation earlier in the day. In a moment of weakness on Monday Nikki had agreed to meet a few of the representatives of the 'committee' that had been formed to fight to save the tree.

She had been invited to drive out to the field to meet and discuss the route, the alternatives and basically listen to their views. By today Nikki was not quite so keen on facing them but she wanted them to see that she was prepared to listen to their views.

Although, in reality there was very little that she could do, the plans had already drawn up, to use an alternative route now would cost the council in excess of 25,000. Their budget was tight already and she would not allow herself to be swayed into throwing away that much of the council's resources because of some bloody tree. She went to the meeting prepared to listen, but not prepared to change her mind.

When she had arrived at the site she was surprised to see that a little camp had been set up, she later found out that the campaigners had taken this action just in case the council decided to hack the bloody thing down in the middle of the night.

She'd had to bite her tongue to stop herself laughing out loud when she had heard that, the thought of a load of council workmen donned in army fatigues crawling up to the tree, chain-saws at the ready !!!

Nikki had started to talk reasonably to a couple of the group, they appeared to be putting themselves forward as spokespersons. They hadn't liked what Nikki had to say, she was trying to explain that despite the fact that the tree was part of local history and meant a lot to so many blah blah blah it still did not detract from the fact that to reroute now would cost in excess of 25,000, the council did not have that kind of money to waste and whether they liked it or not the tree would be coming down, she had made the mistake of directing her point to one of the women at the front of the crowd. (Nikki wasn't sure why, there was just something about her that had drawn her attention).

The woman had not taken lightly to this.

'Well I don't like it!' She had hurled at Nikki. 'Just who the fuck do you and your council cronies think you are? You come here and tell us that this will happen and that will happen. It's about time you started to listen to the people who put you where you are.. You outsiders, you come here' The tirade had gone on and on, Nikki wasn't sure if she sounded more aggressive because of the Scottish accent but there was something about the way she was shouting at Nikki that hit a nerve.

Not being the most patient person in the world Nikki waited until the woman paused for breath and told her in no uncertain terms that the decision was final, if the committee were that concerned perhaps they should put their hands in their pockets and find the 25 grand themselves, wishing them luck with their fund raising she turned and stomped back to her car.

The row with the Scot had bothered her, it was the first time in a while that she had been called an outsider. Nikki was 32, she had attended a boarding school that was just outside the village, her parents had divorced when she and her sister were young and they were both sent off to board at the school it was the closest thing to a real home that they had ever known. Neither of their parents had been particularly interested in them, it seemed that their view of parenting was 'where possible employ someone to do the job'.

Both their parents were dead now, Nikki and her sister were, well rich, certainly rich in terms of the average person in the village. After finishing at the boarding school Nikki had gone away to university but returned to set up home in the village after her graduation. Her sister Jackie had not bothered going to university, she was happy doing what most of the locals did, buying a flat getting a 9-5 job and spending most of her spare time drinking, socialising and picking up men.

Nikki and Jackie were like chalk and cheese, always had been, Nikki had always been the more serious of the two, she had worked hard at school and aimed for a good career which she got. Jackie had just had fun! Nikki often found herself telling Jackie off for her outrageous behaviour, but also wondered which of them was the mad one, her working form 8 to, she glanced at her watch 9:45! Or Jackie whom she knew by now would be well on her way to being pissed down at the local rugby club.

To Nikki's knowledge Jackie had never been considered an outsider in the village, she seemed to attract friends like a magnet attracts iron, Nikki found it much more difficult, her main source of entertainment and nights out was Jackie, she was always trying to drag Nikki out with her and her mates.

Nikki's thoughts were interrupted by the telephone ringing. Speak of the devil, it was Jackie.

'Nik, what the fuck are you still doing in work? It's nearly ten o'clock for Christ's sake!' A rather pissed Jackie was shouting down the phone.

'Hi, Jack, I was just getting ready to leave.', Nikki tried to sound convincing.

'Yeah right and there's a great big fat pig flying past the window!' She shouted, judging by the noise in the background she was at the rugby club.

Nikki laughed 'What can I do for you Jacqueline?'

'Well sister dear this time it's what I can do for you. You've got the day off tomorrow haven't you?'

Oh shit, Nikki thought, why did I let that slip? 'Yes, but..'

'No buts Nik, you're coming on a trip with me.'

'A trip, Jackie? I'm not going anywhere, I've got loads of housework'

'Nicola Wade, you are getting old ! Tomorrow we're going on a weekend trip to Cardiff, in case you don't read anything other than the local rag, the Rugby World Cup is being held there and the opening ceremony is tomorrow, we have had this trip booked for months only one of my mates, you know Liz, well she's had to pull out, she needs her deposit back, the only way she can get that is by getting someone to go in her place, we all know that you're loaded and a brilliant laugh when you let your hair down a bit, so...'

'Thanks for the compliment, I think!' Nikki quipped

'Anyway we've all decided that you're coming, haven't we everyone?'

Nikki heard the crowd shouting 'Yeah'

'So you're coming OK?' It was more of a statement than a question.

'Do I have a choice?'

'Of course, the choice is Coach No.1 or Coach No.2. We're meeting outside the Six Bells at 9:30, be there or I'll give Graham your front door key and he'll carry you onto the bus and you will have to travel all the way to Wales sat next to him'.

Graham was Nikki's ultimate nightmare, he thought he was God's gift to women and always tried to chat Nikki up, knowing full well she wasn't interested and why but he was the typical rugby lad who thought that all lesbians were that way because they hadn't had a 'real man' like him.

'I'll be there Jackie, just don't let him near me.' Nikki surrendered.

'Knew you would! See yah tomorrow darling. Oh and bring plenty of cash!' She hung up.

Nikki put the phone down, smiling at the thought of her sister. Jackie always managed to make Nikki smile, she'd also always managed to have Nikki wrapped around her little finger They were lucky that they had such a good relationship, considering the way they'd been brought up, perhaps they unconsciously made up for the blatant lack of love from their parents.

She got up closed the office and went home to pack, though she hadn't seemed that keen when talking to Jackie she was quite excited about this last minute trip, it was just what she needed, the thought of getting away from the village even if just for the weekend was an added bonus.

Nikki was waiting outside the pub at 9:15, she saw Jackie drive into the car park, Jackie parked up, got her bags out of the boot and walked up to Nikki.

'Hey Sis? You OK'

'I'm fine Jackie, how are you?'

'Well I've got a bit of a headache but I'll be fine once I start drinking again!' She laughed Nikki laughed too, she was incorrigible.

Their attention was drawn when they heard cheers and whoops coming from the rest of the crowd. The coaches were driving down the hill towards the pub.

'You're sitting by me for the trip - no cramping my style though, you oldies '

Nikki gave Jackie a sharp dig in the ribs. 'Us oldies can still show you young whipper snappers a thing or too, lets go'.

Jackie led Nikki to the first coach, the other coach pulled up parallel and people started to pile on. Nikki put her bag in the overhead compartment and went to find her seat, as she sat down Jackie handed her her first can, this was going to be a long trip!

As she opened the can Nikki glanced out of the window, she caught a glimpse of the back of a woman who was just getting onto the other coach, black jeans, black leather jacket and light brown hair which hung in a bob, it wasn't anyone Nikki recognised from Jackie's usual crowd, Nikki felt shiver of excitement run through her body, she made a mental note to look out for this woman when they arrived.

As soon as the buses set off, all thoughts of the mystery woman were gone, the party atmosphere was just the tonic Nikki needed, by the time they had reached their destination she was already quite drunk. The group was booked into two different hotels in the city, the plan was that they'd drop their stuff off, get changed and meet up in a particular bar.

After a bit of last minute room juggling, Nikki found herself sharing with Jackie. They dumped their bags off quickly, Jackie was keen to get back out on the beer so Nikki quickly changed in to a pair of black chinos, black boots and dark red T-shirt, topped off with her favourite black denim jacket. Black, she had discovered, was always a good colour to wear when out on the piss with Jackie and her mates as drinks generally ended up flying around the room, as did people!

The group met up in O'Neills, the party was already in full swing in the city, apparently most of the pubs and bars had been full since midday. Most offices had closed for a half-day and people flooded the streets all keen to celebrate the opening of Wales' new stadium.

Nikki soon realised that 'The land of song' was a good handle for this country, from the time Nikki walked in to the pub she was amazed by the continuous singing. Whenever the atmosphere dipped someone would start off some old Tom Jones number and the entire bar would start to sing. This continued throughout the day, Nikki was not much of a 'Tom' fan but after hearing Delilah several times she had at least figured out the chorus.

Soon the rugby had finished and the serious drinking had started, by 10 O'clock Nikki was plastered. When the next rendition of Delilah started Nikki was grabbed by a strapping 6 footer, obviously Welsh (his scarlet rugby shirt giving it away a bit!), he dragged her up onto the table where they dueted Delilah in front of a bemused crowd.

The crowd got rowdy and Nikki and her singing partner found themselves jostled, due to the amount of alcohol she had consumed Nikki found it hard to maintain her balance. She felt herself falling but could do nothing to stop herself, on her way down she put her arm out to break her fall, all she did break was the glass of the woman standing to the side of the table. Nikki landed unceremoniously onto the floor, she wasn't hurt and pulled herself up off the floor, she turned to apologise to the woman whose drink she had knocked over.. as she did she came face to face with the woman she had seen getting onto the bus. She was even better looking up close, she looked familiar but Nikki couldn't place her.

'I'm really sorry about that.' She smiled.

'That's alright Councillor.' Came the reply.

Nikki groaned as she recognised the Scottish accent. It was the woman from the tree camp, just her luck.

'Oh no!' Nikki groaned.

'Don't worry ..err?'


'Thanks, don't worry Nikki, I'm not going to start on about that bloody tree either. My gran has driven me mad about the thing since she heard about the plans. That's partly why I'm on this trip, to get away from her nagging me to do something about it! So please don't worry that I'm going to hassle you about it'. '

'Thank Christ for that, I thought I was going to be on the sharp end of your tongue again'

'Well you never know your luck Nikki, I'm Helen by the way, Helen Stewart'.

Is she flirting with me? Nikki thought.

'Nice to meet you Helen, look can I buy you a drink? I seem to have spilt your last one'.

'OK, thanks.'

'Don't move I'll be right back.'

About 15 minutes later Nikki returned, Helen had patiently waited, once she had her drink the two women started talking. Neither of them was very sober and they seemed to hit it off straight away. Some time later Jackie came bounding over

'Nik oh sorry, am I interrupting anything?' She looked at Helen then at Nikki and raised an eyebrow.

'Jackie this is Helen, Helen my annoying brat of a sister Jackie.'

'Hiya Helen pleased to meet you. We're off to a club, came to see if you wanted to come Nik, you too of course Helen, we're going in five minutes.' And she wandered off again.

Nikki looked at Helen, she was enjoying having Helen to herself but thought she should give her the opportunity to go if she wanted to.

'Sorry Helen I seem to have been monopolising you a bit, I'm not really into clubbing but don't let me stop you if you want to go.'

'Actually I'm enjoying myself here, can't imagine how disappearing off to a club might improve my evening, so if you don't mind I'd like to stay and keep you company',

Nikki smiled, this weekend was just getting better and better!

Jackie came back, 'Well?'

'Nah, we're going to give it a miss.' Nikki informed her.

'Okay. Nik since I'm obviously going to be later than you getting back I'll bunk in with someone else, so you've got the room to yourself.' She sauntered off, but not before she gave Nikki a blatant wink.

'Subtle as a brick your sister.' Helen commented.

'Mmm.' Nikki cringed, I'm going to kill her tomorrow she thought as she watched her sister leave the pub.

They had a couple more drinks, both women were having such a brilliant time, neither wanted the evening to end.

'So are we off then?' Helen asked.


'Well in case you hadn't noticed this place is closing which means we have a choice; a club - I think we ruled that out; you to your hotel and me to mine or both to yours since you have the room to yourself!' She copied Jackie exaggerated wink. Nikki started to laugh, that started Helen off and they left the pub barely able to walk due to both the alcohol they had consumed and the hysterical fits of laughter they found themselves in.

They staggered back to Nikki's hotel and managed to badger the night porter into selling them some booze from behind the bar. They got the key to the room and went upstairs.

The next thing Nikki knew was waking up to the sound of the room door opening.

'Morning Nik. Oh shit, sorry!'

Nikki heard the door closing again.

She had her arm over her eyes trying to keep out the light which she knew would make her headache ten times worse. She was still trying to work out why Jackie had said Oh Shit when she felt the bed move and a voice say

'Good morning Councillor, do you make a habit of bringing strange women to your bed?'

Shit Nikki thoughtwhat have I done now?

Chapter Two

Nikki started to panic, shit, think, think, the last thing she remembers was kissing Helen - she starts frantically searching her brain for any other memories but can't find any.

Helen finds Nikki's worried expression quite funny, but not wishing to prolong the agony, she touches Nikki on the arm and says. 'Don't worry Nikki, nothing happened, well apart from you passing out on me and only allowing me about a fifth of the bed all night that is!'

Nikki visibly relaxes. Helen continued teasing. 'I didn't realise my kiss was quite so potent'.

'I'm sorry that I passed out on you Helen, I'm sure your kiss is quite that potent although I can't quite remem..'

Nikki didn't need to try an remember, Helen leant across and planted a kiss firmly on her mouth.

'Mmm yes it is.' Nikki confirmed after they pulled away. 'In fact not only is it quite potent it is very addictive.'

They both smiled as their heads moved closer and closer together.

A few minutes later the telephone rang, they drew apart.

'Three guesses who that is.' Nikki muttered. 'Hello Jackie. Well it wasn't likely to be anyone else ringing now was it?'

Nikki went quiet as she listened to what her sister was telling her.

'Right OK, yeah we'll be there, are you deaf? I said we'll be there didn't I?'

Nikki laughed as she relayed the message to Helen. 'My sister has it in her head that we are nymphomaniacs and intend to spend the whole day in bed. Anyway, she rang to tell us that most of the group are going to the seaside, yes that's what she called it and that if we want to go we have to be ready in one hour. She also told me that she had also pulled someone on the trip, his name is Andy and she fell for him when he did his now what did she call it 'Don..'

'Donald Where's your Troosers routine, by any chance?' Helen finished the sentence.

'How did you know that?'

'I'll give you a clue, Andy, full name Andy Stewart, always taunted at school following the release of that bloody song, so he uses it as his party piece, he is my twin brother Nikki, he's the rugby player of the family and he's the one who persuaded me to come on this trip, said I was getting boring.'

'Well I will make sure I thank him for making you come on the trip and I'll have to put him straight on the 'You're boring comment'' Nikki said. 'Want to go to the seaside Helen?'

'Actually it might be the cure for my hangover, yeah why not?'

Helen pulled back the covers, Nikki couldn't help but stare. She was gorgeous, if only I had not been so pissed last night, she thought.

Helen, as if realising what Nikki was thinking, turned leant onto bed and kissed her a long slow and very passionate kiss.

'That will have to last me til I get you alone again Councillor Wade'.

Talk about frustrating, Nikki's body was on fire! She'd never felt like this with anyone, was Helen playing games?

In fact she wasn't, this wasn't her usual style either, but there was something about Nikki that made Helen feel completely comfortable, not at all self conscious, it was like she'd known her for ever.

Helen showered quickly and dressed while Nikki took her turn to shower.

Helen only had the clothes she'd worn the night before, they were beer stained and smoky, she had to borrowed some of Nikki's. As she put Nikki's T-shirt on she could smell Nikki, her body shivered, an excited sort of shiver, Christ! She thought, if just the scent of her could do that shit this was going to be a long day! Especially if Andy had already got hold of the gossip, he was forever teasing her, she may be a couple of minutes older but he acted like her guardian angel, always had done, and if he'd teamed up with Nikki's sister - heaven help them!

The women went down to breakfast, both completely comfortable with each other and what had happened, knowing full well that everyone else thought they knew what had happened too, they were welcomed by a few knowing glances, who gives a shit? thought Nikki and she held Helen's hand as they walked into the dining room.

The seaside party got on to the bus, it was a 20 minute drive, the weather wasn't too bad it was a bit windy but dry thank God. When they got off, Helen pulled Nikki to one side she asked if she'd like to go for a walk round first, to get rid of some of the crowd. Nikki was delighted by this suggestion, they were holding hands again as they walked off towards the beach.

'We know where you're going!' Jackie & Andy called out .

'Piss off you're just jealous!' Nikki and Helen laughed.

They walked aimlessly for a while, just talking generally, the conversation turned to family.

Nikki told Helen that her parents had divorced early on, and that over the years she had had two wicked stepmothers and several particularly slimy 'uncles'.

She was sent away to school as soon as she was old enough. Her dad had been a barrister in London, he rarely saw her or Jackie and they'd been brought up by a string of nannies.

She and Jackie had only become close since their parents had died and they had left school.

The closest thing to a family she had was whilst at school, the housekeeper who everyone called Nan .

'She was lovely, always looked out for me you know, probably saw how disappointed I'd get when Dad let us down at the last minute, it happened quite a lot. I felt I had to be strong then for Jackie but Nan would search me out, get me on my own and keep on at me until I told her how I was feeling. I really loved her. Apart from Jackie she's the only person I have ever loved I suppose. When I came back to the village I went to the school, but she'd retired, didn't want to go bothering her then.

But she was so sweet and I was so grateful that she'd bothered to care about me. Saying that she was lovely, so long as you did what you were told'.

'Aye I can imagine!' Helen said, more than you know she thought, she had a surprise for Councillor Wade but wouldn't let on yet.

After hearing about her childhood Helen's, heart went out to Nikki, she couldn't imagine not having any family, her life was completely the opposite. She had 2 brothers and a younger sister. Her parents were still happily married, anyone in the family that had a crisis shared it and it became a family crisis - problem shared, talked over beaten down until it wasn't a problem.

She told Nikki that they were having a bit of trouble at the moment. Her Gran was ill, she was the one who had forced Helen to go to the bloody tree meeting, she told me why she thought I should fight to save the thing, she obviously couldn't go herself, she threatened to though!

'Listening to her, I realised she'd suckered me into it, she knew I'd do it for her. I must take you to see her, she may convince you too!'

'Hey didn't think we were going to talk about that!' Nikki complained.

'Ok sorry, anyway she's not well, Mum wants her to move in with us, it's pretty crowded and she's digging her heels in. Stubborn old bird.'

'Must be where you get it from.' Nikki said and dug Helen in the ribs.

'Cheeky bugger!' She retorted whilst smacking Nikki on the backside, she continued about her gran. 'She's using the lack of space at our house as an excuse for not coming to stay with us. Which is why I find myself looking for a flat, the way I see it she can't argue if there's a spare room'.

'I see you've got it all planned, found anywhere yet?'

'A few seem ok, but my Dad insists on coming with me to check them out, he just stands there ripping the shit out of them all, look at that, look at this, I'll have no daughter of mine living her (Helen mocks his Scottish brogue), but I'm still looking.'

An idea comes in to Nikki's mind, should she offer, why not? They get on, she could do with the company, she has spare rooms?

'This might sound presumptuous, but what the hell, lately I've been toying with the idea of getting a housemate, would you consider my place? I don't know if you know my house but I've got a couple of spare rooms you're welcome to have a look around'.

'I do know where you live and thanks, but judging by the rents on the shitholes I've seen I'm not sure I could afford something like that'.

'Oh right. What could you afford?', Helen told her honestly what she was able to pay. 'That sounds fine to me'.

'What! You'd get much more if you wanted to rent out a room at your house Nikki'.

'Well yes that might be true, but I might not get on with them as well as I get on with you, it's not as though I need the money Helen, surely you've heard the rumours about me, I'm loaded!' Nikki laughed, she knew all the villagers thought she was a millionaire!

'Are you?' Helen got serious.

Nikki thought about her answer. 'Well actually, yes I am, but not through my hard work. My dad was one of a very long line of only son barristers, I was the disappointment daughter, but I still got to inherit half of the 'family fortune'. So I guess you could say that I'm loaded. If you really had to'.

Helen felt a little uncomfortable, 'If I were to do this I'd insist on paying my way'.

'Of course I wouldn't expect anything else'; Nikki could see the stubborn pride coming out again. 'Anyway you don't know if you like the place yet, and your dad hasn't seen it', at her last joke she ran ahead, avoiding the playful punch Helen had thrown in her direction.

'Oh Ha bloody Ha!' Helen laughed and ran after her.

They wandered into the amusement arcades, Nikki saw Jackie and a man she assumed to be Andy, he was as gorgeous as his sister in a different sort of way (not really Nikki's area of expertise) and she could see why Jackie had honed in on him, they were playing some shoot 'em up video game. Helen went over to talk to them.

Nikki wandered off to change some money. She started ploughing 2p pieces into the 'Tuppeny Waterfalls', by the time Helen had caught her up again she was totally hooked. Determined to use up her money to get the machine to slide all the 2p's off the end into her cash box.

Helen laughed at the determination on her face 'Anyone would think you'd never done this before Nik.'

'Well anyone would be right.' She countered.

'You're kidding right?' Helen couldn't honestly believe that Nikki had reached , what thirty? She guessed and never been to a seaside amusement arcade.

'Nope, remember my dad was a barrister, my mum well, she barely knew my name, and the school jaunts we had were like skiing in Austria, I honestly have never done this before, it's brill!'

Helen wanted to wrap her arms around Nikki so much at that moment. 'You think that's brill eh? Well to coin a phrase 'You ain't seen nothing yet, come on!' she dragged her across the road to the fun fair, they spent the next couple of hours charging from one ride to the next, Nikki had not had this much fun in well she had never had this much fun.

Helen was enjoying herself too, it was great seeing the look on Nikki's face every time she tried something new.

They got to the Ghost Train ride, Helen couldn't stop laughing at Nikki's refusal to ride it

'You can't possibly be scared! Look there's a kid getting on and he must be all of 6!'

'And why does that mean I can't be scared?' Nikki asked with mock seriousness.

'Nikki how old are you?'

'Old enough not to have to answer that question!'

'Oh come on , please!'

How could she say no when Helen looked at her like that? 'Oh bloody hell, come on then!'

They got into the car and it jerked forward, Nikki sat stony faced as they entered the first dark tunnel, her mood lightened when she felt Helen's hand reached for hers. 'Thank you Nikki'.

'You're welcome.' She said.

Nikki felt Helen's breath close to the side of her face, she turned her head looking for her, she could barely see her face, but she could feel her breathing, it got closer, their lips met, Nikki was oblivious to the prerecorded shrieks and ghosts popping out at them at every turn, she could feel her pulse racing round her body, as their kiss deepened they were thrust into the sunlight, the ride was over, Nikki had a feeling that something a lot more exciting than these fun fair rides had just begun.

They were greeted by cheers from the group who had been waiting for a turn at the front of the Ghost Train. Jackie and Andy were at the front, Nikki made eye contact with Andy he smiled a very genuine smile, he could see that for the first time in God knows how long his sister had met someone who had the ability to make her very happy. Jackie who had done exactly the same thing with Helen mirrored this thought. She looked at Andy, things were looking up!

Nikki and Helen spent the rest of the afternoon walking and talking, they learnt a lot about each other, about past relationships, both had been out with men and both had soon come to realise that, basically it wasn't for them. Helen told Nikki about her family's reaction. Her parents she said, had been quite supportive, she didn't think they believed her at first but after she'd brought a couple of girls home it eventually became accepted. No major dramas.

'My Gran knows all about it too, but she still thinks I'll get over it and settle down with ' a nice boy from the village.' She laughed at the thought.

Nikki admitted that she had never told her parents, not that she thought they would be interested anyway. She had opened up to Nan at school, she was amazed by the way the old woman had talked to her about it.

'She didn't seem shocked, more importantly for me at the time, she didn't turn me away. She just listened patiently. I was very confused, I didn't know what I was feeling, whether it was right or wrong, she just told me that in time I would know what was right and what was wrong, my heart would tell me and she was right'.

They got back to Helen's hotel, Jackie had spoken with Nikki before hand, she had asked if Helen wanted to swap rooms. Nikki was a bit unsure as to how to broach the subject, Jackie could tell, but not one for being backward in coming forward herself, she went up to Helen to ask. Nikki watched her going she was inwardly cringing, it was as though she was sending her sister to say 'my sister fancies you!'

She saw Helen look over, she smiled and then Helen nodded, Nikki let out her breath.

Jackie and Helen returned. 'Right Nik, you get off here with Helen, go and get her stuff, I'll go and get mine. If you get a cab over to our hotel keep it there and I will use it for a ride back, ok?'

'Fine by me.' Nikki grinned.

Jackie walked back over to Andy, Nikki noticed him put a possessive arm around her shoulder - it seemed it wasn't just Nikki who was going to be having a new room mate!

About an hour later they got back to Nikki (and now Helen) 's room, if they rushed they would be in time to eat at the hotel before having to get changed for a night on the town.

The arrangements were set, everyone was meeting at the same bar and they were all going clubbing. Jackie had insisted, Nikki was quite looking forward to it and told Helen so at dinner.

'Yeah me too! Haven't had been to a club for ages.'

They got changed and found that they had a bit of time to kill.

'Fancy a drink?' Nikki asked.

'Yeah sure.'

Nikki turned to walk out of the room.

'Where do you think you're going?' Helen asked.

'I thought we were getting a drink.' Nikki replied, rather confused.

Helen reached under Nikki's bed, she pulled out the various bottles and cans that Nikki has insisted buying from the hotel bar the night before. 'Don't you remember buying all this yesterday? It took bloody ages to get this lot in here without smashing it all, particularly as you couldn't walk straight!'

'Me! I don't recall you being able to do much unaided.' Nikki laughed as she flopped onto her bed. 'Right so what'll we have first?'

The wine was opened first and they started drinking it. Then a little competition got under way, who could mix the most revolting tasting cocktail. Once mixed it had to be split in two and downed in one.

It wasn't long before the alcohol started to take effect, Nikki and Helen were having a whale of a time, neither could remember having had a day this good, the light banter turned into a bit of light flirting, it didn't take long before the flirting got a bit more serious.

Nikki couldn't recall exactly what it was that she had said about their day to Helen, but whatever it was Helen thought it was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her. She had been sitting on the floor with her back against the bed, Nikki was lying on the bed behind her.

She got up and turned around. 'Has anyone ever told you how special you are Nik?' She stared straight into Nikki's eyes.

'Err no..well yes.. err no.' Nikki was embarrassed, she wasn't used to receiving compliments.

With that Helen leaned into towards Nikki and kissed her, she wanted to let her know exactly how special she was. Nikki returned the kiss with all the pent up feeling that she had been carrying around. She had been wanting this all day, had wanted to hold Helen to feel her body next to her own and oh how she had looked forward to kissing her again, her hands started to trace their way down Helen's arms. Helen also found herself lost in the kiss, she placed her hand under Nikki's chin, trailing them down to caress her neck.

Very soon the heat that had built up between them was fierce, neither women had felt such intense pleasure from a simple kiss before, the excitement built up so quickly it was almost painful.

They couldn't hold back any longer and they started to remove each other's clothes, Nikki pulled Helen onto the bed next to her, their hands continued their explorations, each touch getting them more and more excited. Nikki pulled back a little when it became clear that this was not going to end at a simple kiss

'You're sure about this?' She asked.

'Absolutely.' Helen replied without hesitation.

Needing no further encouragement, Nikki bent her head and started to kiss Helen's neck moving lower kissing and licking her way over Helen's naked body. The sensations coursing through Helen's body were so intense, she started to stroke Nikki's skin gently, she dragged her nails up Nikki's spine causing Nikki's whole body to tingle, at the same time Nikki's kisses and caresses were bringing Helen closer and closer to the edge.

The shrill of the phone next to the bed almost gave them both a heart attack.

'Fucking hell!' Nikki cursed.

Helen could hardly breath, she had been so caught up in what she was feeling that to be suddenly wrenched out of that feeling took her breath away.

'HELLO!' Nikki shouted down the phone. 'Oh for fucks sake!' She turned to Helen. 'It's Jackie, 'WHAT! Oh sorry Helen, it's Jackie AND Andy, they want to know where we are and when we are going to join the party'.

Helen grabbed the phone 'Jackie? Hi ,yes it's me, look please don't take this the wrong way but err we are having a private party and will be grateful if you will' she paused and looked over to Nikki, Nikki mouthed -Fuck Off and Leave Us Alone-'.. be able to manage without us' she grinned at Nikki, Nikki mouthed -Very polite- 'ok we'll see you there Bye!'

She hung up.

'We have to be outside to catch the bus at 10:30 tomorrow morning, okay.' She paused and looked mischievously across at Nikki.

'Sorry, I should have asked, did you want to meet them tonight? I mean we could still go..' She started to laugh at the disappointed look that crossed Nikki's face.

Nikki groaned realising Helen was winding her up, ' You're gonna pay for that Miss Stewart'

'Oh really Councillor Wade?'

'Yep.' She took Helen back into her arms. 'Now where was I?' She spent the next few hours showing Helen exactly where she wanted to be that night and exactly what she wanted to be doing, much to their delight!

The following morning Helen woke first, she glanced at the clock, it was nine o'clock, she hadn't slept this late in ages, not surprising really when she considered the amount of sleep she'd had!

She touched Nikki on he shoulder, Nikki's eyes opened immediately.

She smiled. 'Good morning gorgeous.' She pulled Helen into her embrace.

'If you keep giving me compliments like that we will never get out of this bed!'

'Are you complaining?'

'Not in the least, but unless we intend walking home we'd better get up soon'.

Nikki glanced at the clock and she became instantly depressed. 'I don't want to go home, I want to stay here with you'.

'Mmm I know what you mean' Helen said.

They started kissing again.

'Nik, we really do have to get out of bed now!' It was ten to ten and Nikki and Helen had made love, again.

'I know, I just don't want this weekend to end, what if it's like a fairy tale, you know Cinderella or something? I get you on the bus and we drive into the village and you turn into a pumpkin'.

Nikki was out of the bed and into the bathroom before the pillow Helen threw had chance to hit her.

'You're soooo funny Nicola'

'Oi! You know I hate being called that.' Nikki called from the bathroom.

'Yes I do NICOLA and until you apologise for calling me a pumpkin I will continue to use it'.

'Okay, Okay I'm sorry', Nikki came out of the room on her knees hands clasped together, 'Pleeease forgive me' she said in a childlike pleading voice.

Helen laughed 'You're mad!'

'Yep, but lovable' Nikki said, as she realised what she'd said she stopped and looked at Helen.

'Very lovable' Helen confirmed.

They were both a bit subdued on the trip back, both had similar thoughts about the weekend.

It was amazing, but was it so good because they were away from home?

Did Nikki/Helen want to see Helen/Nikki again?

They both started to speak

'You go first' Helen said.

'I was going to ask if you wanted to come and see my house, you know see if you'd like to live there. I wouldn't expect you to share rooms or anything', she felt awkward saying that but didn't want Helen to think she wasn't serious about her earlier offer.

Helen was relieved, not at the offer of her own room, but that Nikki still wanted to see her. She was sure that any room in Nikki's house would be 100 times better than any she had seen.

'I'd love to' she replied.

'Great, how about I pick you up and we go for lunch then I'll take you home and we can sort stuff out from there?'

'I've got a better idea, how about you come to my house for lunch, there's always plenty on a Sunday and we can go from there?'

'Okay, if you're sure it won't be any bother'

'Nikki, if I thought it would be a problem I wouldn't ask', she wrote down the address and told Nikki to come any time after 1.

They were much happier for the rest of the trip and sat talking like long lost friends until the bus pulled into the pub car park.

Once they'd got off and got their bags they had to say their good byes.

'I'm going to miss you' Nikki said.

'I'll be seeing you again in..' Helen looked at her watch ' an hour or so'.

Nikki pulled her into her arms, 'So, doesn't mean I won't miss you' she kissed Helen lightly on the mouth.

'I'll see you later' they kissed again. Nikki walked off to her car, Helen watched her go, waved as she drove out of the car park, the dull ache in the pit of her stomach as she watched Nikki's car disappear confirmed her suspicions, there's no doubt about it Stewart she thought to herself, you're hooked!

Nikki couldn't decide what to wear, shit this shouldn't be that difficult she thought. Jeans? No too casual, skirt ? Nah! She settled on a pair of tailored grey trousers and a pale pink shirt. Not too smart not too casual. Just the job. After checking herself in the mirror for the four hundredth time she gave the house a quick glance over, it was never a mess and her cleaner had been in over the weekend it looked great.

Happily singing to herself she got into her car for the short drive to Helen's parents cottage.

As she got out of the car Helen opened the front door. She walked up the path to meet Nikki at the gate.

'Hi' Helen greeted her with a kiss.

'Hi yourself, you sure this is no bother' Nikki asked.

'Ach Nikki, don't be daft I told you, there's always plenty. Come on in'.

On her way down Helen advised Nikki to ignore her dad, he was like a quiz master with anyone she brought home, she also warned Nikki that he had a strong opinion about this business over the new road so to try and avoid the subject, no worries there Nikki thought inwardly she groaned until now she'd managed to put that out of her head, she had now reminded of what was to come next week.

Nikki received a warm welcome from Helen's family, her dad was a bit frosty at first but Nikki was not overly perturbed as Helen had warned her he might be. Lunch went well, Nikki was enjoying herself immensely, she wasn't used to such family gatherings and as she sat listening to the familiar banter and in-jokes she came to realise what she had missed.

Nikki helped Helen to wash the dishes, her dad liked her even more then as that was usually his job (one which he hated, but not as much as he hated cooking!). When they had finished Nikki asked Helen if she wanted to take a look at the house, she agreed and they went to Helen's room so that she could pick up her bag coat etc. Once inside the room, Nikki grabbed Helen by the wrist, she pulled her close and kissed her.

She pulled away and said 'Thank you'

'What for?' Helen asked.

'For inviting me here, it was a great lunch' Nikki replied.

'It wasn't anything special' Helen stated simply.

'It was to me' came Nikki's reply.

They hugged, neither wanted to let the other go. They knew that tonight was going to be a nightmare, they had not known each other long but they knew that the separation was going to hurt.

Nikki had an idea. As Helen walked across the room to pick up her stuff.

'Umm, Helen..'

'Yes Nikki?' Helen joked, the use of her name had sounded so formal.

'How about you pack a bit of extra stuff, you know in case you like the feel of the place that much you.. well you want to stay?'

'Are you sure?' she asked.

Remembering Helen's answer to that question earlier in the day, she quipped, 'Helen, if I thought it would be a problem I wouldn't ask'

Helen grinned, she'd also recognised the response.

They said their goodbyes to Helen's family and got into Nikki's car. Helen sank into the leather seat, ' Nice car' she said.

'Thank you, one of my little treats, thought I'd use the money my father left me to make my life a little shall we say easier'

Helen laughed, 'I think he owes you a bit more than a car Nik'.

'Oh don't worry Helen, he's bought me a lot more than this, you should see the house!'

Helen didn't have to wait long to see what she meant. Nikki's house was the absolute height of luxury, whilst all the furniture was clearly very expensive it was comfortable. Nikki had every electrical gadget one could get, the most modern ones available too Helen guessed. She was speechless.

'Well what do you think?' Nikki said after giving her the guided tour.

'It's lovely Nikki' Helen replied.

'I wasn't fishing for compliments Helen, I meant what do you think about moving in?'

Helen was worried, the modest amount she could afford to pay Nikki was in no way going to match what Nikki could get by renting out a room, she told her as much.

'I don't want anyone else here, I want you'.

Helen heard the sincerity in her voice,

'You know my feelings about the money Helen, if you insist on paying me anything it will be what we agreed on the weekend, no arguments OK?'

'You're sure?'

'Do you really want me to answer that?' Nikki asked with a smile on her face.

Helen grinned, she knew the answer she would get so she simply said 'No, and in answer to your question I would love to live here. How about we say a months trial, that way if you find you don't like it or I don't then we just call it quits?'

'Fine by me', Nikki said.

She walked across to Helen, and gave her a kiss, she knew that she would never tire of kissing this woman.

'So which room do you want?'

Helen raised an eyebrow 'Which room do you want me to have?'

Nikki pretended to consider the answer, 'Well the one at the front has a nice view but gets a bit cold, the one next to it is too small, judging by the size of the wardrobes you had at home' she joked, so there's a choice of two.

'Two?' Helen said feigning innocence' but you only have three spare rooms Nicola'

'I am well aware of that Helen'.

'Right well I'll move in to the one next to yours then'. She squealed as Nikki grabbed her.

'You most certainly will not, you can move your stuff into there if you like, but I hope you wont want to sleep in there, you won't will you?' she suddenly got very serious, her self confidence had dipped.

'Only when you start snoring' Helen said.

'I don't snore!' Nikki pouted

'Oh! Who told you that? You should hear yourself!' Helen teased


Helen giggled, 'Had you going there though didn't I'.

'I'll get you back, don't you worry, want a drink to celebrate Roomie?'

'Oh I can think of a much better way to celebrate than that!' with a twinkle in her eye that told Nikki exactly what Helen had in mind, she took Nikki's hand and lead her up into Nikki's no, their bedroom.

Neither woman had really thought further than that point, they had both conveniently managed to push the fact that they were on opposing sides in the battle that was currently raging in the village.

Was it going to be a problem?

Only Monday would tell.

Chapter Three

The following morning Nikki woke early, Helen was still fast asleep next to her, she took the time to let her mind wander, she still could not believe it, such a dramatic change had occurred in a matter of days but it felt so right. Nikki's entire body felt warm, for the first time in a very long while she felt truly happy, ready to take on the world and it was all thanks to the woman lying next to her.

Helen stirred, she opened her eyes to find Nikki staring at her.

'Good morning' she smiled and kissed Nikki briefly, 'Have you been awake very long? You're looking very serious. What's up, are you having second thoughts? ' Helen asked.

'Not at all' Nikki stated firmly, she couldn't take her eye off Helen's mouth 'I was just thinking about how quickly my life has changed, for the better I might add'. She brought her head down to kiss the lips she'd just been admiring.

Helen moaned as they broke the kiss, she stretched, 'Do we have to go to work today?' it was the last thing she wanted to do. '

'fraid so' Nikki replied, she was not looking forward to facing the numerous letters that she knew would be waiting for her when she got into the office, at a guess most of them would be about the new road.

She didn't want to bring the subject up, particularly here, but she knew that sooner or later they would have to talk about it and she didn't want their differences hanging over them, she would rather they be out in the open.

'Helen, you know that now were back we are going to have to deal with this ring-road problem. I don't want it to be a problem between us. You know my standpoint and I know yours. I can't say that I understand what all the fuss is about because I don't, but I respect your view and realise that no matter what I say your view won't change.

I want us to make sure at the outset, that this problem is a council/villagers problem, it is not a Helen/Nikki problem. I know that your position on the Committee is directly opposite mine on the council but please, can we agree not to let it come between us?'

'Sounds sensible to me' Helen replied, 'although I would like to try to explain to you why it is so important.

I accept that you as a council don't want to spend any more money than you have budgeted for, but the Committee have decided that they are going to try and raise the extra finance needed for a re-route, I have a feeling you might get a call today about giving the Committee a bit of time to do some fundraising. I don't want this to be an issue between us either, I hope it won't be'.

Nikki looked her in the eyes 'This really means a lot to you doesn't it?'

'It's not from my own personal viewpoint, but yes I am determined to do what I can to get the road re-routed. I told you on the weekend that my Gran had persuaded me to go along on her behalf, she's really very ill, she pretends that she's fine but we all know that's not the case. Anyway she told me why it meant so much to her and that if I didn't fight it she would 'bloody well go up there herself' and I don't doubt for a minute that she would.

She's always known the right buttons to press to get me to do stuff for her, this time she got me hook, line and sinker. So I'm doing this for her, because she asked me too, it's as simple as that'.

'You must love her a lot' Nikki said, already knowing the answer.

'She is a remarkable woman, she has always had so much love to give. She has given so generously and for her to ask me for this one thing, well frankly, I won't rest until I've accomplished it' Helen stated simply.

'You'll like her. I imagine my folks are already planning to move her in now that I'm out of the way, I'd like you to come and meet her, perhaps she can persuade you to join the fight too', Helen's comment was half joke/half serious.

Nikki took it seriously, 'Helen, my hands are tied, even if I wanted to re-route the road, we have voted to give this plan the go-ahead, we haven't the money..'

'I know, sorry, I just want you to see first hand how much it means to people Nik'

Nikki could still not fathom why one particular place could mean so much to so many, perhaps as Helen said, her Gran could explain it to her, she would like to be able to understand, it didn't detract from the fact that the decision had been made, but for her own peace of mind she would like to know.

The women got up and got ready for work.

As Nikki walked towards her office reception she could hear Sylvia talking, 'Of course Bobby, she won't budge you know, yes I did hear about her new girlfriend, that should be interesting when the Committee comes in to petition the council!' she could hear Sylvia laughing. Bitch! Nikki thought when she realised that Sylvia was talking about her and Helen.

Bobby? Nikki wondered, could it possibly be Bob - the brother in law, but old Sylv didn't sound like she was talking to her brother in law, more like her lover? Surely not?

Nikki continued to listen (well she thought, the old bag stands listening at my door often enough), 'yes, I did enjoy it. No we must be careful, he'll be away again next weekend, we will have to wait 'til then, not sure if I can wait that long though!', she giggled, Nikki grimaced, the thought of Sylvia having sex was enough to make her want to chuck. She heard Sylvia say 'and I love you too' and took that as her cue to walk into the reception.

'Morning Sylv, any newsOh sorry didn't realise you were on the phone, is it for me?' She asked innocently.

Sylvia hung up, '..err,. no it was an um, er wrong number'

'Oh good, at least I get chance to sit down before the harassment starts, and tea going?', Nikki was well aware that it grated on Sylvia's nerves when she asked her to make tea, serves her right Nikki thought, she chuckled to herself as she watched Sylvia stomp off towards the kitchen.

As Nikki had anticipated her desk had a stack of letters, all relating to the same subject!

Having read them all, Nikki was beginning to see why emotions were running so high, it seems that the tree was and always had been a meeting point for every Tom Dick & Harriet, romantic tales were told, childhood memories etc. These were all well and good Nikki thought, but none of the letters suggested a suitable alternative.

This was going to be a nightmare there was not going to be an easy solution, unless the Committee could raise the funds to pay for the alternative the tree was coming down, whether they liked it or not. Nikki's mind sprang back to the last time she had said that, a picture of Helen came into her mind and she started to feel warm and tingly, muscles in her body started to jump. She sat and daydreamed for quite a while, as her thoughts became more erotic she shook herself out of them and tried to get her mind back on her job.

A while later Sylvia put a call through to her, it was 'Miss Stewart' Sylvia had informed her.

'Hey sexy!' Nikki called down the phone.

'Do you always answer your phone like that?' Helen's humoured voice was crackly obviously on her mobile.

'Only when I know that there is a gorgeous woman on the other end of the line' she replied.

'And how often is that exactly?' Helen was intrigued and pretended to sound jealous.

Nikki pretended to ponder the question ' Mmm, today? Just the once, so far!'

'Very funny, How's your day?'

'The usual, I'm the Wicked Witch of the West! Yours?' Nikki asked

Helen was a crisis counsellor, her job involved a lot of travelling around the district, visiting a lot of the centres set up to help those in need, she also counselled at local schools.

'Not too bad, about to leave for my last appointment, then I'm going to call in at Mum's and pick up some stuff, get the third degree off my Dad, you know, how much am I paying etc, not sure he'll believe me though' she answered.

'Well if he thinks I'm undercharging tell him your making up for it by sleeping with the landlady!'


'Only joking. I don't recall much 'sleeping' going on anyway'

'I can see that the tone of this conversation is slipping, I've gotta go, I'll see you later, what time will you be home?' Nikki told her around 8:30. 'What? You most certainly will not, I will have dinner ready by 7, be there!' with that they said their goodbyes and hung up.

Sylvia had been listening intently at the door, so she'd moved her in eh? She'd have to pass that bit of gossip on too.

Nikki spent the rest of the day in good humour. In fact the rest of the week went quite well.

The two women had quickly settled into a routine, they were enjoying each others company immensely. On the following Thursday Helen rang Nikki at work.

'Hiya, Mum said I'm to bring you over to meet my Gran tonight - If you'd like to that is'

Helen's mother had spent the last few days moving the old woman from her house to theirs, she had finally settled her in and her Gran was quite keen to meet Nikki, or so Helen had informed her.

Nikki tried to sound enthusiastic, she was looking forward to meeting her but wasn't looking forward to the lecture she was going to get about the bloody ring road. Even the words were starting to get her down. 'OK, where do you want me to meet you?'

'Well I'll drive over to you, then we both drive to Mums?'

'Yep, OK what time?', they made their arrangements and got back to work.

Helen was on time, she breezed through reception, Sylvia looked down her nose at her, it was the first time Helen had been to Nikki's office but she had been warned what to expect. Nikki had told her not to take any nonsense, and she didn't.

She returned Sylvia's glare with one of her own and was quickly shown into Nikki's office. Nikki was still hard at work, piles of papers covered her desk, she looked up and smiled, she looked tired. 'Hi!'

'Hi yourself. I've come to take you away from all this'

'Ah my hero, just let me finish this and I'll be right with you, have a seat' she gestured to the leather sofa which stretched along one wall.

Helen ignored the gesture and sat on the corner of Nikki's desk at her left elbow, the skirt she was wearing rode up over her knees. Her closeness had an instant effect on Nikki's body, she could feel goose bumps start to creep up her arms, when Helen touched her hair she jumped and dropped her pen

'Sorry!' Helen said, but secretly she was thrilled at the effect she was clearly having on Nikki's concentration, she gave Nikki her pen back, their hands touched briefly. Again Nikki marvelled at the way that the simplest touch managed to set her pulse racing.

'Thanks, it's ok' she said trying to sound calm.

She signed the last letter, stood up and placed her hands either side of Helen, she leaned down and said 'hello' again, this time it was much more romantic, more sensual and had it not been for Sylvia's interruption might have got very interesting.

Nikki looked across at Sylvia standing in the doorway, 'Can I help you?' she asked.

'I just wanted to take the rest of the letters'

Nikki held them out to her, Sylvia eyed them both up and down and tutted as she left the office.

Nikki and Helen exchanged glances and started to laugh.

'God, I know you said she was bad, but How on earth do you put up with that, she's so bloody rude I'd have sent her packing by now' Helen said firmly.

'I've no doubt you would, remind me never to get on your wrong side'.

Helen wrapped her arms around Nikki's neck, 'You couldn't, you're too nice'

All week they had been paying compliments to each other, but never more serious that I like this about you or that about you. Nikki especially, found it hard to put how she felt into words. In truth she was madly in love with Helen already, but she didn't want to scare her off by being too 'In your face' about how she felt.

Helen continued to speak, 'but if you do start to annoy me ' she slid her hands down to Nikki's throat and gently applied pressure '.. I know how to take care of myself' she raised her eyebrows in mock threat, then she laughed,

Nikki was getting more turned on by the minute. 'Ready to go?' Nikki asked, she had to put a damper on her feelings (and Helen's) as she couldn't face walking into Helen's mothers late after having just made love in her office!

'I suppose so. I'm looking forward to this' Helen stood up, taking Nikki's hand.

'Yeah me too' Nikki said, hoping she sounded convincing.

They drove their own cars to Helen's parents cottage, teaming up as they got to the gate, Helen took Nikki's hand again and said 'I've got a surprise for you'.

Nikki was intrigued, 'You're full of surprises, what is it?'

'Ah, you'll have to wait and see'.

She opened the front door and they were greeted in the hallway by Helen's mum. She kissed Helen on the cheek and then to Nikki's surprise greeted her the same way. Nikki blushed, she wasn't used to such open displays of affection.

'She's waiting for you upstairs, she heard you pull up'.

'Nikki's legs felt like lead as she walked up the stairs, she could do without another lecture tonight, all she gets in work are people phoning, moaning'

Helen opened the door to her old bedroom, Nikki could not see the woman propped up in the bed, Helen turned to her and said 'Nikki this is my Gran'

'Nan this is..'

'We've met haven't we Nikki'

Nikki felt her heart hit the pit of her stomach, she looked at Helen's face then over her shoulder, it couldn't be!

'Surprise!' Helen said simply.

'But she'sYou're.. oh my God! Nan!' Nikki had never been so glad to see anyone, she rushed over to the bed and took the old woman into her arms. Tears pricked at her eyes as she felt the familiar warmth that she had known when growing up.

She pulled back, it was her alright, she had lost weight, she had lost a lot of weight, as Helen had said she was clearly very ill.

'I can't believe you kept this quiet' she directed her comment at Helen.

'Well Nan asked me too, she wanted to see your face when you found out as much as I did!'

Nikki couldn't believe it, she just sat there grinning.

Helen went to make a cup of tea for them all, she felt as though she was intruding, she wanted Nikki to have the chance to talk to Nan without an audience.

By the time she got back they were both happily chatting. Nan turned the conversation round to ' the dreaded subject', wily old bird Nikki thought, she lulls me into a false sense of security then wham! Right between the eyes both barrels.

Nan explained to Nikki why the old tree had meant so much to her personally, it was a typical family history story, she'd met Helen's Grandad during the war (there was an army camp just outside the village then) and the site of the tree was where he had proposed. Given it's location it had become a meeting place for most people at the time and as time has gone on each generation had used it.

'You see Nikki, it's not the tree, it's what it represents. I used to walk past it when my Joe was posted away and it made me feel close to him, I'm sure you'll find that everyone has some tale or other to tell. It was such a central feature of village life that it represents cherished memories for so many people here'.

Nikki was touched by the story Nan had told her, and like Helen would have fallen hook, line and sinker and campaigned to re-route, but it was like she said, the decision to re-route was not hers to make. As it turned out this point was going to be the cause of their first row.

A couple of hours later they took their leave and headed off home.

Once inside the front door Nikki took Helen in her arms. 'Thank you, again, you really don't know how much that means to me'

'Oh I think I do, besides I knew that if anyone would change your mind she would'

'What do you mean change my mind?'

'About cutting down that tree of course'.

'Helen whether I change my mind or not is irrelevant, unless your Committee raises the money that tree will be coming down'.

'Nikki you are the leader of the council, if you wanted to change those plans you could'.

'Exactly, if I as Council Leader wanted to! But for the reasons that I have explained to you on numerous occasions I do not want and will not change those plans. If you were to ask me on a personal level then yes I would, but my ..'

'Yes I Know' Helen's voice was getting higher 'You're bloody hands are tied, change the record for Christ's sake..', she stormed off into the spare room and slammed the door.

Nikki swore under her breath, she knew that this confrontation had been inevitable but it didn't lessen the blow. She hated the fact that her job was interfering with her private life, but what could she do, she had a duty to do her job to the best of her ability, that did not mean that she could allow people or events in her personal life to interfere with the decisions she made at work no matter how much they meant to her, that was a fact plain and simple whether Helen liked it or not.

As angry at Helen's response as Helen had been at hers she went into her own room and slammed her door just as hard!

Both women had a restless night, it was their first night apart since the night they'd met in Cardiff, they had so quickly got used to each other that the loss they felt when alone was immeasurable.

Nikki was first up, she showered ad dressed and went downstairs, she could not hear Helen moving around. She didn't want another row so she decided to go straight to work without seeing her so she left a note.

Dear Helen

I'm sorry that last night ended as it did, I missed you.

I wish you could understand that I can't allow my personal life affect the decisions of the Council, I hope you know that if it wasn't for my job I would probably be out there helping you.

We agreed not to let this come between us, please try and see it from my side, I was elected to do a job Helen, that responsibility means that I have to stand firm on this, I hope you understand.

I will speak to you later.

Nik XX

When Helen read the note she felt guilty, she knew that Nikki could not do much about the situation, she had helped in a way by granting them a few weeks to raise the money before work got under way.

What she hadn't told Nikki was that all week she'd been getting snide comments from Bob Hollamby, Sylvia's brother in law, he kept on making little digs about Nikki, that she could change the plans if she wanted, can't Helen persuade her surely she could get Nikki to change her mind if she thought anything of Helen , if he was Leader etc

It was Bob Hollamby who getting Helen down, not Nikki she shouldn't take it out on her, she decided to ring her at work.

'Hi, it's me'.

'Hi Helen'.

'I missed you too Nik'

Nikki's stomach was churning 'I'm sorry we argued. I didn't mean to get at you, everything is just getting to me at the moment, can we forget about last night?' she needed to know that they were OK.

'I'm sorry too, I'm a bit jumpy myself, we kind of expected that this might cause a few glitches didn't we? Well I for one hope that's it'.

She wanted to change the subject 'Apart from the row I had a great time last night. Thank you again for my surprise, I' Nikki was about to say I love You, she paused, she'd never told anyone that, well not in the way she meant it to Helen, she panicked when Helen spoke.

'You what?' Helen was sure Nikki was going to tell her she loved her, her heart raced

'I.. I .I'll see you later. OK' Nikki chickened out.

Helen felt deflated, 'Yeah OK, see yah' she rang off.

Nikki put the phone down, bloody coward Wade, she thought to herself, her mind was taken away from Helen by Sylvia who came in and managed to spend the rest of the day annoying the shit out of her.

Life back at home soon settled down again, the relaxed and happy atmosphere returned, still the ring road was a problem hovering over their heads, but that would be coming to an end on Friday. Friday was the deadline for the Committee, they had to have raised or show the Council that they could raise the extra money in order for the plans to be redrawn.

Helen spent much of the week attending various meetings, Nikki used the free time to visit Nan, they had soon made up for the lost time and once again Nikki found herself confiding in the old woman.

She told her about her feelings for Helen, her worries about the ring road row coming between them. As always the old woman had words of advice, the advice seemed obvious when spoken.

'Nikki, if you love her as much as you say you do then this won't be a problem.

Now lets get something clear, Helen has taken this project on for me, she knows, as I do that I'm dying.' Nikki started to argue. 'Now Nikki, I trained as a nurse you know, it's time to face facts. We all have to go some time. The thing is with Helen is that she thinks that by doing this for me it will make a difference.

She's doing it to make me happy but she doesn't realise that she already makes me happy, I think the way she sees it she is throwing herself heart and soul into this because she can't do anything to stop this (she tapped her chest indicating her illness), do you see what I mean?

She loves you Nikki. Any fool can see how you two feel about each other. Don't you think it's time you both stopped fighting and admit how you feel. She wont hurt you Nikki, you've got to allow her close, keeping her at a distance won't make it any better, trust her.' She patted Nikki on the hand and laughed.

'I know she thinks that I expect her to pick up with some boy from the village. I don't, I couldn't be happier when she told me about you, that you'd found each other. I know that you will be so happy together.' Her parting shot was a warning.

'This tree holds a lot of good memories for a lot of people around here, don't let it be the one thing that splits you up.'

The conversation turned to less serious matters and Nikki spent the rest of the evening reminiscing with Nan, when she went home she made love with Helen, she wanted to show her how much she loved her, she still could not quite bring herself to say the words, but surely Helen knew anyway?

Friday arrived, Nikki had an idea that the Committee hadn't been successful, she didn't want to ask Helen at home that morning so she asked Helen to call in at her office before the meeting, she did.

After Sylvia had shut the door Nikki spoke.

'How's it going?'

'Crap, but thanks for asking.' Helen sounded a little insincere.

'I'm sorry to hear that.' Nikki tried to put things on a better footing.

'Yeah right.' Helen muttered.

'Oh don't start all this again.' Nikki said in desperation.

'It's so easy for you isn't it? Decision made - Full Stop! Well you don't have to face the likes of Bob bloody Hollamby insinuating that I should be able to coax my 'Girlfriend' into changing her mind and in a way he's right you know Nik, if someone means that much to you then surelyIt makes our relationship seem really pathetic and I'm sick of getting stick about it'.

'Helen you know how I feel about you, about this whole mess..'

'No Nikki, No I don't, I know what you feel about your job! I know the responsibility you feel you have to your colleagues! but No, I don't know how you feel about me.' Once she had started there was no stopping her, ' I know how you feel about my body and sleeping with me but that's it. I'll be honest, I had hoped that in time you'd come to love me, that you'd do this for me, because you know how much this means to me, to my family because you're in love with me, but how could I expect you to, you've never.'

Nikki cut her dead, Helen's insinuations had hurt her deeply. 'Never what Helen? Never had a family? No I haven't and perhaps that does make me different, it's hardly my fault that my parents decided not to love me is it?

But don't you dare try to insinuate that I don't know how to love.' She paused trying to keep herself under control, as her tears threatened to fall, she said simply. 'If you honestly think, given all that has happened between us over the last month, that I don't love you then I think you should leave.'

The moment Helen had let the words pass her lips she regretted what she'd said, she was angry but Nikki didn't deserve that. She saw the look of hurt that crossed Nikki's face, she felt her chest tighten, she tried to apologise.

'Nik, I..I'm sorry I..'

'I said GET OUT!!!' Nikki had lost it completely, she felt empty inside, Helen didn't think that she loved her! If she didn't realise it now she was never going to, did it really take something as simple as Nikki saying the words.

Helen touched Nikki on the arm, trying to get her to look at her, Nikki spun away from her, she refused to look at her, this left Helen little choice but to leave the office.

Sylvia had once again been standing at the door, as Helen walked out of the reception she walked to her desk and picked up the phone. Nikki had seen her at the door and stormed into reception.

'Sylvia, if I see you listening at my door once more you will be sacked, do you understand?'

'I.. wasn't .. I didn't'

'Don't fucking patronise me, I said DO YOU UNDERSTAND?' Nikki was shouting now.

Sylvia had never seen her like this. 'I.. yes I'm sorry'.

Nikki didn't hear the comment, she walked back into her office and slammed the door shut. She sat at her desk, put her head in her hands and wept.

She couldn't believe what had just happened. She had trusted Helen with her heart, the way she felt about what she had just done made Nikki think that Helen might as well have ripped it out of her chest and stamped all over it. She got up quickly, ran into the toilet and threw up.

The meeting was scheduled for 3 o'clock. The last place Nikki wanted to be at that moment was in front of a crowd particularly one which had Helen at the front. As she walked into the Committee room she could see Helen but refused to let herself look directly at her.

Helen saw Nikki come in, her stomach was churning, the muscles in her chest were contracting, please look at me she thought, glare at me, anything but Nikki would not and did not.

The meeting went ahead, Nikki was the Chair and asked the spokesman for the Committee to step forward, fortunately for Nikki it was not Helen, it was she discovered, Bob Hollamby. He looked ready for a fight, but Nikki was having none of it. Down to business straight away she started.

'Well Mr Hollamby, the Council gave you two weeks to come up with the extra funding or suitable alternative proposals. We have reached the deadline, so?' She looked at him ' Do you have anything to tell me?'

Bob had received a phone call from Sylvia telling him all about the row she had overheard, he was going to use it if he needed to.

'Well I'm afraid that in the short time available we have not been able to raise sufficient funds, we still have hope of some offers but are awaiting a further response, the Committee were hoping that the Council would perhaps consider extending our deadline?'

Nikki wasn't having any of it, she had anticipated this request, 'I'm afraid that is quite impossible, you were given a deadline, any future hold ups will cost the Council even further, unless you can come up with something a little more concrete than the hope of offers then I'm afraid the planned route will go ahead'.

Nikki was not quite so prepared for Bob's next comments. 'I'm amazed that you have the cheek to sit there and make decisions which are contrary to the wishes of this whole village, even your bloody girlfriend supports us, don't her wishes mean anything to you talk about betrayal'.

Helen had never seen such an angry look on Nikki's face, as she glanced at Helen she prepared to answer. She could feel the hairs prick up on the back of her neck. Nikki was raw, her emotions were in turmoil, to have that little shit of a man try to rub her nose in it, she felt the bile rise up to her throat as she tried to speak.

'Well Bobby' (Bob instantly recognised the pet name Sylvia used - Oh shit he thought!) ' I wasn't aware that I should be using my private life as a means of deciding the outcomes of council votes, clearly you feel the need to bring our private lives out into the open it's only fair that both our lives are brought into the public eye don't you think? May I? (Oh christ he thought, she knows, he looked across at Sylvia the smirk that had been plastered across her face was slowly sliding away!) Or perhaps you would care to retract your last statement?' She was seething, her voice sounded shallow, she didn't want to give him the chance to apologise, she wanted him to suffer the way he had made her suffer.

Helen couldn't bear to see Nikki like this, she was clearly hurting so much. Helen was also furious with Bob Hollamby, she wanted to kill that little bastard for bringing 'them' into this, particularly here. She wasn't aware of the other 'silent' conversation going on between Nikki and Bob. To her amazement she heard Bob apologise.

Nikki suddenly felt hot, the room seemed to be closing in on her, she couldn't breathe, she asked if the Council could call a recess, seeing the colour that her face had turned her colleagues were in no mind to argue.

Nikki ran to her office and threw up again, so this is what love does to you she thought.

Her telephone rang, Sylvia informed her that it was Helen on the line, she told Sylvia to tell her she was busy, Sylvia tried to argue, 'Sylvia, I won't tell you again, now I'm sure you've spoken with Bobby and you are well aware of what I threatened to do, I swear to God if you let anyone and I mean anyone disturb me now I will be on the phone to your loving hubby, GOT IT!' she slammed the phone down.

She needed time to think this had all blown out of proportion, all because of a fucking tree. Why did life have to be so complicated? She knew why Helen wanted to save the bloody thing of course she did, but things had moved in from there. Helen had taken the trust she had given her and thrown it back in her face questioned her love for her, just thinking about it made Nikki's neck muscles tighten, she was sick again.

She had to think of a way to sort this out, the first problem was that bloody tree, a thought occurred to her. She picked up the phone and telephoned her bank.

Twenty minutes later her plans were set, she walked into the office of the Council Finance Manager.

'John , I'm going home, do you think you could finish the meeting off for me?' She asked.

John looked up, she looked like shit. 'Of course Nik, you go home forget about this mess.' As he spoke his phone rang, he held up his hand gesturing for her to wait Nikki waited for him to finish.

'You're not going to believe this, that was the bank, they've received instructions to inform us that someone has offered to pay for the re-route' he looked shocked.

'Who?' Nikki asked.

'Wouldn't say but they said the funding was available immediately, do you want to go and tell them?' He gestured towards the Committee room.

'Nah, I'll leave that up to you, I'm off', as Nikki turned and walked out of the door she smiled briefly, now she needed to see Nan.

When John Sumner had announced to the Committee that Nikki had gone home Helen was worried, as soon as she could she planned to get off home to make sure she was OK. Her plans didn't quite work out that way however, as soon as John made the announcement about the funding being available the Committee started celebrating. Helen was in no mood to celebrate, but she got dragged along anyway, silently resolving to leave the celebrations at the earliest possible opportunity, she couldn't bear to spend any more time with Bob Hollamby than was necessary, she was aware that if he spoke to her now she was likely to do him some damage.

On her way home Nikki called at Helen's mothers. She was given her usual welcome. Helen's mum noticed that she didn't look well, it was all Nikki could do to keep her tears in check. She asked if she could pop up to see Nan, she was told it would be fine, so she did.

The old woman was looking even more frail than the last time she had seen her. She looked up when she saw Nikki coming through the door. Nikki tried to smile, but found that she couldn't, the tears that she'd kept in check started to fall, Nan just opened her arms and held Nikki until she stopped crying.

'I'm sorry, I just didn't know where else to go.' Nikki sobbed.

'Don't be silly, you know you can always come to me, now what is it that's caused all this?'

Nikki told her everything, her words coming in broken sobs.

'Nikki love, she knows that you love her. She was just angry, you mustn't let this come between you'.

Nikki started to talk again, she told Nan that she felt that things with Helen had moved too fast and that they needed space, so they could both be sure that they knew what they wanted, she had decided to go away for a while.

'It sounds to me that your mind is made up, it's no good me trying to change your mind is it love?'

Nikki shook her head, she had already booked her tickets, she was going home to pack, she felt she had to see Nan before she went, for one thing she wanted to tell her that regardless of what Helen thought she did understand why the village were so keen to keep the tree, she also confided in Nan that it was she who was going to pay for the re-route but she swore her to secrecy, ' the worst thing about it is that..(she was trying not to cry again).. that place holds so many good memories for people, but all that it will ever remind me of is how I met and lost the most important thing in my life'.

'Now Nikki you mustn't talk like that, things will be fine, you'll see, have you ever known me be wrong? You have your break, take the time to think, I seem to remember telling you once before, in time you will know what is right, your heart will tell you. Promise me one thing? Nikki nodded. 'Promise me that when it tells you, you will listen to it, don't fight it. Nikki ?'

'I promise.' She looked at her watch 'I'd better go.' She stood up.

Nan held her hand tightly. 'Promise me one more thing?' She was taking full advantage, 'You'll come back when she needs you? And look after her for me?', a lump rose to Nikki's throat, tears sprang to her eyes, she understood what Nan was saying.

Nikki nodded, she bent down and hugged Nan, it was as if they both knew that this would be the last hug. Neither wanted to dwell on their parting, Nikki briefly kissed her and left.

She went home packed, wrote Helen a letter and left the village.

Chapter Four

The house was in darkness when Helen arrived home, she should be feeling happy, they'd got what they wanted hadn't they?

She was more worried about her and Nikki, she thought Nikki might be in bed, but then noticed that her car wasn't in the drive.

She walked into the house and called out Nikki's name, no reply came. She wandered into the kitchen and switched on the light. She noticed it immediately, an envelope propped up against the bowl in the centre of the kitchen table.

Feelings of dread flowed through her body, her hands shook as she opened the envelope.

Dear Helen,

I know that I have taken the cowards way out but I couldn't face seeing you tonight.

John told me that someone had come forward with the money to pay for the re-route and whether you believe me or not I am truly pleased.

I have decided that it would be best if I go away for a while. I think we both need space I don't want our relationship to end, but I want us both to have the chance to work out how we feel, to make sure we both want the same thing. We seem to have been on a roller coaster ride for the last few weeks, if we are to have any future together I think we need to take a time out and decide what future, if any, we do have.

I thought I knew what I wanted, I thought you did too, I also thought that I had shown you how much I love you, it seems all I have done is shown you how much I love making love with you, I didn't realise the two things were so distinct. Had I known then I would have told you I loved you every day.

I love you Helen with all of my heart, but I know that sometimes loving someone is not enough, I learnt that lesson a long time ago.

I hope that you can forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye, but I don't think my heart could take it.

I will be in touch, please stay at the house, it helps to know that you are there.

With love Nikki XX

Helen read the note over and over again. What had she done?

She couldn't believe that Nikki had just up and left. She ran upstairs to Nikki's wardrobe, it confirmed what Nikki had said in her letter. Clasping the letter tightly to her chest she curled up onto the bed and wept.

She woke the next morning, she had no idea how long she had been asleep. The letter was lying next to her on the bed, where Nikki should be. Helen felt hollow inside. Dragging herself from the bed she walked into the bathroom, she put the shower on full blast but even the sting of the water on her body could not shake the numb feeling from her body.

She got dressed and drove to her parents, she walked into the house, her mum and dad were out so she wandered up to her old room. Nan was fast asleep, Helen did not want to wake her so she just sat quietly, her mind wandered, to Nikki. She smiled at the thought of their meeting and their trip to Cardiff, how could something so good turn so sour so quickly? Nan brought her thoughts to the present.

'Helen? Are you alright love?' She looked worried.

Helen looked up, her lip quivering, 'She's left me Nan.'

'Oh sweetheart, come here.' Again Nan opened her arms, when were these kids ever going to learn? She thought to herself, for the second time in two days she tried to reassure the woman in front of her of the other's love for her.

'You two need your heads banging together.' Nan muttered, 'I told Nikki the same thing yesterday'.

'She was here? When?' Helen sat bolt upright.

'She came here before she left' Nan said.

'What did she say, did she tell you why?' Helen needed to know.

Nan nodded, ' She told me. Helen, you knew she loved you, what on earth possessed you to say ..'

'I was angry, that bloody business with the tree, everyone was suggesting that she couldn't love me because if she did she would do something to help, but she didn't'

'She couldn't change the Council's decision, you know that'

'I know it was just so .. frustrating, I wanted people to see that she did love me, does that make sense?'

'Not really, but I can tell you that she does'

'She told you?'

Helen looked so desperate. Nan made a decision, it meant breaking a promise but in this case she felt justified.

'Helen who do you think offered the money for the re-route?'

'Well I don't know, there was speculation yesterday but' as the realisation of what her Gran was saying dawned on Helen she looked up. 'She didn't?'

'Yes, love, she did', until then Helen hadn't thought she could feel any worse, she was wrong.

'Oh God Nan what have I done? What if she doesn't come back, if she decides she's better off without me?' she started to cry again.

'She won't, she's too bright to give up something this good, besides she loves you too much, she's just scared to admit it and trust you, it's hardly surprising Helen. She tried so hard to make her parents love her, every knock back she took so personally, it eat away at her until finally she gave up trying. Don't let her give up love. She's got plenty of love to give, all you need to do is gain her trust' Nan lay back into the bed, she was exhausted, the slightest effort was wearing her out lately.

'She'll be back love, you just be waiting for her'.

Helen stood up, feeling a little better but still not convinced she kissed her Gran goodbye.

'Thank you' she whispered. '

It's my pleasure. Promise me something?' Nan was making sure everything would be settled 'When she comes back you'll look after her?'

'I promise' with that Helen left the old woman in peace.

A couple of days passed, Helen was like a ghost walking around the place, Andy and Jackie had invited her out in an attempt to cheer her up, they went to the rugby club, rather than drinking and having fun Helen was drinking and getting more depressed.

She felt her hackles rise when she heard Bob Hollamby's self-congratulatory tone rising above all the voices.

Andy and Jackie tried to distract her but she was intent on listening to what he had to say.

'Bloody dyke, she had no right to be on the council anyway, she's not from round here, she's never fitted in. She couldn't give a toss about anyone or anything around here, particularly her 'girlfriend', probably just having a bit of fun, can't blame her, that Helen Stewart's a bit of a looker isn't she?' He laughed.

'Hopefully she'll stay away from here now and we'll get some local people on the Council', realisation dawned on Helen, that's what all this was about, to get his fucking seat on the Council. He saw this campaign as a way to get Nikki ousted to make way for him, he didn't give a shit about the campaign itself.

She could feel the anger building up inside her the more he said the closer she got to exploding, Andy could see what was about to happen, he made a grab for Helen but he wasn't quick enough.

Helen stormed up to Hollamby's table.

'You fucking bastard! How dare you talk about her like that. What gives you the right to criticise someone for having the guts to stick to their principles. She cares more about what goes on around here than you do!'

'Don't talk such bollocks woman. She was looking out for herself all along, she was never going to give in. Lucky for us that we raised the money ourselves, right lads?' he looked around the table for support, no-one was speaking up, they didn't want to be on the receiving end of Helen's temper!

'Is that right, well congratulations Bob, how exactly did you raise that money Hmmm? Who did you tap for the cash? One of your golf club cronies was it?, Well?' She slammed her hand on the table, demanding an answer that she knew full well that he didn't one.

'You know damn well we don't know who coughed up, didn't want to brag about it did he', he replied.

Helen leaned in towards him, her face so close to his, he felt threatened, 'He Bob? Are you so sure it's a he? Well, let me tell you this you slimy pathetic little shit. Nikki Wade put up that money, yes Councillor Nikki Wade, the outsider! because she does understand the feeling of this fucking village, she stood by her principles but she followed her heart too. Something I'm not sure you'd even understand' She straightened, looked down at him once more and said, 'Enjoy your drink' and poured it into his lap, feeling relieved at finally being able to set things straight Helen walked out of the Club and headed home.

When she got back she could see the answering machine flashing, she rushed over and pressed the play button.

She heard Nikki's voice, her heart flipped in her chest.

'Hi, it's me, I'm sorry I haven't been in touch before, I hope you are OK. I'm..(there was a pause)..I'm OK. Sorry I missed you, I'll ring again soon'.

Helen swore, bloody typical! All week she'd had it in her head what she'd say to Nikki when she rang, asking, no begging her to come home, to start again. She wanted to tell her that she loved her, that she missed her. She couldn't take much more of this.

Helen stayed up late hoping that Nikki might ring back, eventually she gave up and went to bed. She was woken by the phone ringing, according to the clock it was 2:36, hoping it might be Nikki she rang and picked it up.


'No love it's memum'

'Mum..what's up .. oh no! no!' Helen could hear her mother crying, her heart lurched she leaned her back against the wall to steady herself her legs threatened to give way underneath her.

'I'm sorry darling .. your Gran passed away, I didn't want to ring you because you're on your own. Will you be OK over there on your own?'.

'I'll be alright. Do you want me to come over mum?' Helen asked.

'No sweetheart, there's nothing to be done here, you come over in the morning OK?'

Helen's throat felt so tight, the tears pricked at her eyes 'OK' her voice was dry, hardly any noise came out when she spoke.

As Helen slid to the floor she felt her world slowly falling apart the tears she'd held back slowly started to fall, her mind went to Nikki, she needed her now, more than ever.

The funeral was planned for Thursday, the family pulled together everyone supporting each other, Jackie was doing her best to help both Andy and Helen. She hadn't heard from Nikki, she had tried to find out where she was but to no avail.

Helen was wandering round like a zombie, Jackie's heart went out to her, she wished she could do or say something but Helen's grief was twofold as far as she was concerned she had lost both Nan and Nikki.

On Wednesday Jackie's phone was ringing when she walked in the front door.


'Hi Jack, it's me' Nikki sounded as low as Helen.

'Nik, where the fuck have you been?' Jackie was fuming, Nikki had sounded so casual, if only she knew.

'I'm in Spain, I needed a bit of time'

'Never mind that crap. Nik, listen to me I've got some bad news, there's no way to break this to you gently'

A sense of fear crept through Nikki's body, 'Helen..?'

'No Helen's fine, well no she's not fine but. It's Nan Nik, she died on Mondaythe funeral is tomorrow afternoon' she was met by silence, 'Nik?'

'I'm here.'

Jackie could hear the emotion in Nikki's voice. 'Nik you've got to get back here, Helen's in a bad way, she needs you Nik,'

Nikki didn't need to be told who Jackie was talking about. 'Jackie she doesn't.'

'Nikki don't fucking argue with me!' Jackie started shouting, ' Helen is slowly falling apart, we're all worried that she won't make it through tomorrow. If you love her Nikki you'll be here!' She was so angry she slammed the phone down.

As she hung up Nikki was shaking too. She had tears falling down her face, shit why hadn't she phoned home before now?

She ran back to her hotel, she had to get back to the UK, tonight. As always Nikki was amazed how quickly arrangements could be made if you said 'I don't care how much it costs', she arrived back in the UK at 4 o clock in the morning, she got her car from the car park and drove straight home.

It was just getting light as she pulled in to the drive, Helen's car was there.

She let herself in the front door, there was no sound, Helen was presumably still in bed.

She walked up the stairs slowly, she opened the door to the room Helen had her stuff in, she wasn't in there, she walked on to her room. She quietly opened the door, Helen was curled up in the middle of the bed, she had her arms wrapped around one of the pillows, by the look on her face she'd been crying.

Nikki slowly walked over to the bed, she bent down and gently touched Helen on the shoulder, Helen was instantly awake.

'Nikki!..Where? How?' Helen sat bolt upright.

All the feelings she'd locked up inside her seemed to rush into her head, for some reason she didn't know why, she lashed out, smacking Nikki hard across the face.

'What was that'

All the frustration at not being able to see Nikki and the grief she felt seemed to come to a head, as she tried to hit her again Nikki instinctively caught her hand, as Helen struggled Nikki held her tight, eventually Helen stopped struggling, Nikki could feel her body shaking. Between her sobs she could hear Helen rambling..'you.. leftmm.me' and then 'she..left ..mme'. I couldn't bear it'.

'Ssh it's ok, I'm sorry I wasn't here for you Helen, I'm so sorry' Nikki held her close until she had no tears left.

Helen looked up 'Where have you been?' she could see that Nikki had a bit of a suntan.

'I was making myself miserable in Spain. Helen, I'm sorry I left, it was stupid of me to run away like that'

'No I was the stupid one I should never have said what I did. Can you forgive me?', she looked at Nikki desperately needing reassurance.

Nikki smiled. 'How about we accept that we were both wrong?' she suggested, Helen nodded.

'Before we say anything more, there's one thing I want to say. One thing that I promised I would say', Helen was too emotionally drained to argue.

Nikki took her hand and looked her directly in the eyes, 'Helen I love you. I am in love with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, if you'll have me?', Nikki felt the relief at finally saying the words wash all over her body. She had wanted to say that for so long now.

Helen had bowed her head, Nikki placed her hand under her chin and pulled her head up, she was crying.

'Hey, it's not that bad a confession is it?' Nikki tried to lighten the mood a bit.

Helen smiled ' No. It's wonderful, it.. I.. Oh Nikki I've missed you, I love you too' she wrapped her arms around Nikki and held her tightly, both felt the tension flow from their bodies.

They pulled apart, their smiles faded as they brought their heads together, the kiss conveyed the strong emotions that they were both feeling, it wasn't a passionate kiss, it was a kiss that conveyed the depth of love each of them felt for the other, one that reassured them both.

Nikki climbed into the bed next to Helen and for a long time they lay there holding each other, each lost in their own thoughts.

Nikki spoke first, ' I think she knew it was going to happen you know'.

Helen raised herself onto one elbow, ' What makes you say that?'

'Well I went to see her the day I left, she made me promise that I'd come back when you needed me, that I'd look after you', she turned to Helen.

'She made me promise to look after you too! ' Helen looked straight into Nikki's dark eyes, 'and I will, I love you Nikki' the sincerity she felt shone through.

Nikki could feel her heart pounding, those words meant so much, 'I love you so much Helen. That's a promise'.

She turned to Helen and kissed her again, they locked their bodies together. As the events of the past week finally caught up with them and they drifted into a restful sleep, they both felt secure in the knowledge that despite the hard day ahead of them, together they would get through it, and that their love would keep them together forever.

The End

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