DISCLAIMER: The characters all belong to Shed; they are not used for profit etc...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Fat Lady Sings
By Rooineck

Part 1

Nikki Wade knelt before Helen Stewart, declaring her love. In her hands lay a velvet cushion, covered with a silver cloth. Helen watched in trepidation as Nikki moved her hand to uncover the cushion, which should have borne a silver rose. So far today it had held a pair of joke teeth, which, already wound up had jumped off the cushion; a bowl of rice pudding from the cafeteria and an origami swan. Each time she had been unable to answer, through laughing too much. Ideally, she wanted to murder the taller woman for putting her off and making her look like an amateur, but she had been assured that the practical jokes were over and that Nikki was taking this seriously.

Just as Nikki came to the climax of her proposal and Helen was drawing breath to make her answer to the declaration of eternal love, Nikki whipped away the cloth with exquisite timing and Helen choked, aghast to see a lurid pink vibrator sitting there in front of her. The beautiful words of acceptance died on her lips and she stood there in silence, transfixed with horror and beetroot red, just staring at Nikki.

"Nicola Wade, will you take this seriously?" The over-plummy tones of Sylvia Hollamby disturbed the music and brought the proceedings to a halt. Nikki was killing herself laughing, those rich dark eyes sparkling mischievously at Helen as she ignored Sylvia and Sean, both rushing towards her shooting looks that would have left a weaker person six feet under. The rest of the cast and crew were laughing fit to bust and as someone finally turned off the CD player all that could be heard were the Julies, standing in the wings, cackling like a pair of witches.

Sean reached Nikki first and made a dive for the vibrator, which was whisked away from him, causing him to almost fall into the orchestra pit.

"Tut tut Sean. Do you think I'd let someone as ham-handed as you handle something so beautiful?" Nikki struggled to speak, still laughing, the crowd egging her on. Suddenly the sharp report of a slap cut the laughter short as Helen finally gave into her anger, but not so much that her carefully cultivated accent slipped.

"I have worked with many people over the years, Miss Wade, but never have I come across anyone quite so unprofessional as you. You'll never work again at this rate." She turned on her heel and stalked off the stage, towards her dressing room, the entire cast and crew staring after her.

Sean recovered himself and walked up to Nikki. They stood there eyeballing each other, nose to nose, neither willing to look away first and appear weaker in front of the other. He spoke so quietly and deliberately that they all had to strain to hear him.

"If you ever pull a stunt like that on one of my productions again, Nikki, I shall make sure that you are blackballed from any reputably opera company in the world. Now, will you go and apologise to Helen?" He looked at her, considering his options and a cruel smile spread slowly across his face. Nikki mentally gulped seeing this – what did the bastard have in mind now?

"And then I think that after lunch we had better rehearse Act One, Scene One." He paused, stage-managing the moment perfectly. "And as Karen isn't here, perhaps Sylvia will be kind enough to step in for her." The leer of triumph on his face was theatrical enough to be that of a baddie in a pantomime. It was only matched by the look of sheer revulsion on Nikki's face as she realised that she was going to have to spend the afternoon in bed with Bodybag, albeit fully clothed.

Knowing she was beaten, she stood as Sean turned and flounced away, victory pouring from his whole posture. The sniggers of the people hanging around the stage at her predicament she could take, she did deserve them, after all, picking on the new girl like that, but even so, making her rehearse the bedroom scenes with Bodybag, that was well below the belt. She was beginning to regret ever having agreed to play Octavian now.

She loved Rosenkavalier – it was one of her favourite operas and one of the reasons why she was a singer in the first place. She could still remember seeing Te Kanawa playing the Marschallin when she was at college in London and wishing that she could play Octavian then and there, but then she had always had a crush on the New Zealand legend.

There was something about Rosenkavalier that appealed to all parts of her psyche – the fact that a woman had to play the hero, Octavian, because the part had been written for a soprano, that Octavian was involved with two women, which certainly appealed to her; the music – passionate and yet so romantic, or the fact that it was a comedy and no one died.

She had jumped at the chance of singing against Helen Stewart, a huge talent who was still quite new to the scene, despite the stories she had heard about her reputation as a prima donna who knew her worth and expected her dues. She was rumoured to be worse than Maria Callas, who had been known to keep royalty waiting.

She sighed and supposed that she would have to go and apologise to keep that pratt Parr off her back. He had a reputation for falling in love with the leading ladies he directed and she had been fearful that he would go after Karen Betts, who was playing the Marschallin in this production, but it now looked like his sights had been set somewhat higher.

She stood at Helen's dressing room door and knocked gently, like a child who could pretend that there was nobody at home. She had the idea of knocking and then running away, playing another prank on the woman, and then thought better of it as she remembered how she was due to spend her afternoon. Bodybag…ugh.

Behind the door she heard the unmistakeable sound of someone crying. 'Oh God, I hope she's not a crier' Nikki thought, having been on the stage with far too many of those in the past. One hint of criticism had held up rehearsals for hours, and God forbid that they got a bad review. She tapped on the door again. Maybe she had gone a little far with the vibrator.

She was just knocking a third time when the door was yanked open and a young dresser rushed past her, nearly knocking her over in the process. Nikki just caught a glimpse of tears pouring down her face and she was gone, into the bowels of the theatre. Standing there, taken by surprise, Nikki was shocked when a cold voice sounded by her shoulder.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"I, um, er…"

"I've said all I have to say to you, and I don't appreciate the way you have behaved today, so I'd rather you leave me alone, unless there's something specific you have to say?"

"I just thought I'd apologise, Helen. I wasn't deliberately targeting you, just joking with the new girl, eh?" Nikki deliberately tried not to get riled – this woman was going to be extremely annoying though, with this attitude. Thank God her part wasn't that large.

"That's what you call it do you? And how about if I'd been some shy little kid from the sticks? You are thoughtless and inconsiderate. Now, if that's all you have to say, leave me alone."

Nikki found herself facing the closed door, her nose thoroughly put out of joint by this rude prima donna. Well, there was no way she was spending any more time than necessary with her. Her mind ticked over. She'd get Stewart, for sure. There was Tosca, in which Stewart was playing the eponymous heroine – there was a lot one could do with Tosca.

Helen Stewart sat fuming in her dressing room. Nicola Wade had made her look like a complete idiot today and that pathetic pratt Parr had just let her get away with it. This was such a shambles. She knew that a full season here would be a bad idea, but her agent had insisted that she needed to be seen in the UK, establish a reputation here by doing a season at Covent Garden, rather than just doing concerts and TV appearances. So now she was stuck here for a month for rehearsals and then a three month season.

Rosenkavalier, Tosca and Otello. Thank God that Wade woman was only in Rosenkavalier. Although that was going to be bad enough, given that Wade was playing the hero and she the heroine. She wasn't homophobic, but something about Rosenkavalier gave her the creeps - having a woman play a boy who in turn has to play a girl in the opera. It was all too confusing.

She wasn't entirely sure that Wade would pull it off, either, although, for a change she was at least taller than Helen and she would certainly make a good-looking young knight. And she could sing. That was a huge problem in opera – the best singers weren't necessarily the best actors, and vice versa. Many a time she had been paired with some awful short, fat, balding man with halitosis who was supposed to be the glamorous hero. At least Nikki would look good in the frock coat and high boots that was her costume.

Part 2

Nikki had gone out to lunch, meeting a mate and her mother. She was still seething over Helen Stewart's attitude, although she knew that she was in the wrong – she just hadn't been able to resist the vibrator – and Helen's face had been a picture. Still, she had squared her conscience by apologising, even if Parr had forced her into it. 'I would have apologised anyway', she thought to herself. She wished Karen had been there – she must remember to tell her tomorrow, when she was scheduled to rehearse with her. Idly she wondered what the dresser had been crying over and then she was at the restaurant, greeting Yvonne and Lauren who were already seated.

"No, just water for me, thanks." Nikki nobly declined another glass of wine, knowing that in an hour and a half she would be in bed with Bodybag, trying to rehearse the first act.

"So, what's this one about then, Nik?" Yvonne asked, stunned that Nikki wasn't drinking more.

"Bit complicated, Yvonne…I play Octavian, a seventeen year old boy having an affair with an older woman, the Marschallin…"

"Bit of a dream role for you there, Nik" Lauren interjected with a broad smile, remembering some of the women who had been associated with her friend. Nikki fixed her with a dark look and continued her recitation of the story, affecting not to have heard her.

"We get interrupted by the Marschallin's cousin, the Baron, and I disguise myself as a serving girl, but he fancies me and tries to get off with me, all the while announcing that he is engaged to be married to Sophie, who's father is rich, ill and a nobleman. According to tradition, he has to get a young knight to present a silver rose to her, the 'Rosenkavalier' – Knight of the Rose, and he asks the Marschallin to recommend someone.

"Watching the Baron flirt with me, the Marschallin recommends me, as Octavian, to be the Rosenkavalier. Then I leg it, and there's a scene with lots of people arguing, the Baron sends two dodgy blokes to make inquiries about me as the serving girl and chooses me to deliver the rose.

"I come back, the Marschallin moans about being forced into a loveless marriage and tells me she's old – she gets up to stop the clocks in the middle of the night to stop time passing, and that sooner or later I am going to leave her for a younger model. That's Act One.

"In Act Two, I go to deliver the rose, Sophie and I are attracted, she's put off by the Baron, he leaves the room, we declare our love and she asks me to get her out of the marriage. The two dodgy geezers are spying on us and tell the Baron, I tell him Sophie won't marry him, there's a duel and the Baron is injured. I leave, Sophie's father threatens to stick her in a convent. I send a message to trick the Baron into meeting me, as a woman.

"In Act Three, the Baron is fooled, but when the police turned up, tipped off my me, the Baron tries to pass me off as Sophie. I've sent for her father, he turns up and denies this and the Baron collapses. He still thinks he has a chance with Sophie, but the Marschallin turns up and disabuses him of that idea. She realises Sophie and I are in love, and sorts it all out. The End"

"Wow, that sounds, um" the other two women looked at each other, lost for words.

"Boring as hell, as it's an opera?" Nikki supplied for them, smiling away. Her mischievous instinct couldn't be suppressed. "So how many complimentary tickets shall I get you then?"

"Just the two, I think Nik. I can't see my Charlie being into something like that, but I've never been to one and I wouldn't mind, just once in my life." Lauren's face told a similar story, although all three women present know it was more to do with Nikki being involved, not for any other reason.

They finished their lunch, laughing and joking, especially as Nikki told them of the jokes she had played on Helen Stewart that morning, and also what she had in store for her to pay her back for being such a bitch.

The afternoon went OK for Nikki, although Bodybag made it as difficult for her as possible and Sean seemed to think she was doing everything wrong, so they had to rehearse the same scene again and again. The rest of the cast had, unbeknownst to Nikki, started a sweepstake on how long it would be before she blew her top.

The chances of that had increased hugely since Jim Fenner, the singer playing the Baron, had turned up, and kept insisting on adding his two penn'worth to every single comment made by Bodybag or Sean and he took every single opportunity to run down Nikki.

Helen had come along to watch and couldn't understand why Nikki Wade was so disliked by Sylvia Hollamby and Jim Fenner, so much so that even she could pick up on the fact that there was tension there. They interacted so badly, Nikki was wooden and Sylvia wouldn't touch her if she could help it. She leaned over to the two Julies, still standing and watching, instead of getting on and preparing the stuff for the tea break.

"What's up with those two? They look like they've each got a telegraph pole shoved…" she paused as the two turned to look at her. For once the refined public school tones had slipped and she had reverted to her normal Scottish accent. "What?"

"Um, nuffink, Miss."

"Yeah, nuffink." They shuffled their feet.

"So what is up with them?" The two paused and looked at each other. How much should they reveal? "Well, Bod…um Mrs 'Ollamby, she don't really like Nikki much, do she Ju?"

"Nah, Ju, she don't." The taller woman echoed her friend. Helen was watching the two of them in gentle bemusement.

"So why don't they like each other then? And what has Jim got against Nikki?" Her plummy tones were back, the voice soft, modulated as she had been taught and there was just a slight burr left, with a tendency to roll her 'r's.

"Well, it's a bit difficult to explain, like. Innit, Ju?"

"It is Ju, it is."

"Just tell me!" Helen managed to hiss though gritted teeth. She was getting very frustrated with them by now; their double act was grating on her nerves, which were 'delicate' according to reports in one national newspaper, after someone at the Opera House had leaked her diva-ish demands to the national press.

"Wade's queer as a coot; Bodybag don't agree wiv that sorta thing, finks it's unnatural; an' Jim's pissed off 'cos she told him she wouldn't sleep wiv 'im if 'e were the last man on Earth." The cockney voice came from behind them and all three women whirled around to face the speaker.

"Who are you?" Helen asked suspiciously, her voice coming out condescendingly as she looked the newcomer up and down superciliously, taking in the makeup applied with a trowel, the petulant face and the bitter tones.

"I'm Shell Dockley, your understudy" the younger woman bristled back at her. In her turn she arrogantly held Helen's stare, considering the small redhead. They stood staring at each other, like two cats suddenly come across each other on disputed territory. The two Julies shared a worried glance and backed away rapidly, developing a sudden interest in the tea urn.

"You are my understudy?" Helen had completely forgotten the tension between Sylvia and Nikki now and was considering what this new development meant to her. She was aware that her shock at finding this out made her sound snobbish, rude and obnoxious, but she was finding it hard to believe someone as fastidious as Sean Parr would want someone like this in any of his productions.

"Yeah. Got a problem wiv that, 'ave ya?" The challenge was evident and the crew's attention had switched from the antics on the stage, where Sean was bawling out Nikki yet again, to the drama going on in the wings.

"Not as long as you do what you are told and keep out of my way. Now excuse me, I have things to do." With which haughty pronouncement, Helen walked off, back to her dressing room. 'My God, this is becoming more and more like a church hall production by the second.'

She got back to the dressing room to find out that her dresser had bought the wrong mineral water, and after she had been given very specific instructions. She stuck her head out of the door to yell for her just as Nikki stumped past, her face set in a mask of depression and her lip mutinously pushed out. She glared briefly at Helen as she went past towards her own dressing room.

Helen screamed for her dresser and as soon as she arrived, started berating her for buying the wrong stuff. Nikki, sticking her head out of her dressing room at the noise, decided to step in and a full scale row was in progress when Sean rocked up to impose order. He shouted down Nikki, placated Helen and sent out Di Barker, his assistant to rectify the water situation. After he walked off, threatening the poor dresser, Shaz Wiley, with the sack, the two women were left standing in the corridor.

"Wow, you're big Helen, scaring some poor little rabbit on her first job half out of her wits. Does this prove what a star you are or something?" Nikki didn't care that she could be heard by everyone in the building. She had had a shit afternoon and needed to take it out on someone, and Helen was a very easy target.

"I have certain requirements and I made those very clear to her!"

"Helen, she bought half litre bottles instead of 250ml bottles. Hardly a sackable offence, is it? God, people like you make me sick. I know that that's not your real accent Helen, and I know that you started off doing Shaz's job until you were 'discovered'. Don't forget the little people Helen – they are the ones that will keep you where you are now."

"Just what is your problem, Nikki? Had a bad day at work when a joke backfired and now you blame me?"

"No, Helen, I don't blame you for being up your own arse, I just blame everyone else for trying to get up there and you for letting them."

"Well I never…"

"Never what? Expected to have anyone tell you that you are acting like some pathetic spoilt brat? Expected to have anyone tell you to get your head out of your arse?"

"Expected to be treated like this by a professional colleague, I was going to say, but yes, now you come to mention it, I never expected to be told those things."

"Well Helen, I can only say that someone should have told you all this a lot sooner. Because you are a pathetic, spoilt little brat, and a bitch. You have lost the plot, woman."

"And you consider yourself to be just the woman to give it back to me, do you?"

Nikki stood back and looked at Helen consideringly. Liking what she saw very much, a trim body, attractive face and hair just begging to have fingers running through it, she was tempted to reply in the affirmative in spite of the attitude, but then it stopped her. Life was just too short to waste on people like Helen Stewart, whatever the Sean Parr's of this world thought.

"No, I can do much better than someone like you, love. I think you should try Dockley if you are that way inclined and if not Parr. Not that they'll bring you back into real life, but you'd be very well matched. Now, if you'll excuse me, I actually have a real life that I'd like to get to." Nikki walked away, before Helen could think of a retort.

Part 3

Karen Betts joined the cast and rehearsals continued for the next few weeks, from props through to costumes. The rest of the cast watched the tension between Sean, Sylvia, Jim, Helen and Nikki grow. Helen and Sean were continually 'popping off' to lunch, or huddled together while he was giving her 'direction'. Jim was constantly trying to wheedle his way in there and Sylvia wanted to be wherever Jim was, leaving Nikki continually more and more isolated, as the loyalties of the rest of the cast were divided more and more between Nikki and the others.

Karen had tried to hold it together, but her current affair with Jim had forced her friendship with Nikki into the back seat. Fortunately, Nikki had found herself a 'distraction' in the form of Trish Harris, an opera groupie and as a result, the sweepstake had remained unclaimed, after Barbara had won the first sweepstake, betting that Helen would wind Nikki up enough to row in public. Several of the people working on the production who had worked with Nikki before had sensibly named dates actually during the run.

The whole cast and crew were getting annoyed with Helen's demanding behaviour and irritable habits. She treated them all as if they were dirt, constantly insisting that the understudy fill in for her, that the crew run errands for her and just generally making an annoyance of herself, upstaging the other members of the cast.

Nikki hadn't forgotten her plan to get Helen back, and was wining and dining certain members of the crew to make sure that it would go without a hitch on the big night. The plans were in place and the opening night of Tosca was to be the night.

"So, when she throws herself off the battlements at the end, you put the trampoline under her, and just leg it, and see what happens, OK?"

"Nikki, are you sure this is going to work?" Denny, one of the crew, was concerned about her job. Shaz had managed to hold onto her job, but only because Nikki had interceded on her behalf and she had ended up working for Nikki, whose own, much more experienced dresser, Barbara, had been passed over to Helen. Neither Nikki nor Barbara had been overly impressed at the swap, but as they both liked Shaz, and wanted to encourage her to stay with the company, they had decided that this was the best option for all concerned.

"She can only jump off at one point, it's not a big trampoline, she'll be fine. Teach her how to behave to people," came the airy reply.

"If you're sure…"

"Of course I'm sure, Den. There'll be no problem."

Denny didn't dare reveal that Shell had offered her £200 to position the trampoline wrong, as well as threatening to break her legs if she didn't. She knew that it would ultimately come back to Nikki as being the instigator and therefore she would get all of the blame, although knowing Shell, there'd be trouble all round. Now she was cacking herself, not knowing what to do. Should she confide in Nikki, trust her to sort it?


Nikki sighed, she had spent over an hour trying to persuade Denny and her mates that there wasn't going to be a problem.

"Nothing will go wrong, Denny, OK?"

"I just hope you're right, Nik, 'cos it'll be your head on the block if it don't."

"No, Denny, it'll be Stewart's arse on the floor." Nikki gave a wicked grin and then turned to leave Den to it. She paused. "Of course, if all this goes wrong, you know it means I have to make love to Michelle Dockley. Trust me Denny, I can't afford to have this go wrong." She laughed as she rushed off to meet Trisha.

Trisha was well known on the opera groupie circuit, and had been known to get around a fair bit. She wasn't discriminatory and had been known to bed everyone from conductors to baritones, and wasn't picky about which sex they were, although her penchant was for well-known faces who could keep her in the style with which she would like to be accustomed. Nikki was aware of all this and also had no intention of being yet another notch on her bedpost, but she was fun to spend the time with and she did keep Nikki entertained with stories of her contemporaries.

She had certainly helped to keep Nikki's temper under control, more because of the fact that she helped her let off steam and kept her laughing than because of anything else. She had had relationships with, amongst others, Jim Fenner and Sean Parr and, rumour had it, with Karen Betts, although neither would ever confess it to Nikki. She had tried to get the conductor for the current season, Dominic McAllister, another bright new talent, into bed, but had failed, because of his blossoming relationship with Zandra Plackett, one of the chorus members. She had turned to Nikki instead, hoping to claim the scalp of one of the most notoriously private people on the circuit, but had failed, although she still hoped that maybe Nikki would change her mind – she would certainly be easy to fall in love with, although she was the most tempestuous and mercurial woman she had ever met.

The fact that Trisha had gone to bed with Jim was enough to put Nikki off doing the same, no matter how beautiful she was or how drunk Nikki would get, especially in the current atmosphere of the company.

Tonight they were going to the English National Opera and then onto a little brasserie for supper afterwards. Nikki always kept late hours, as did most opera people, rarely going to bed before three in the morning. Tonight though, after the performance, she had a surprise for Trisha.

"I don't want to be too late, tonight, Trish. I've got a full dress rehearsal tomorrow and it takes me ages to get those stupid boots on, and as for that wig…ugh."

"Nikki Wade going to bed early for her art? I never thought I'd have seen the day!"

"It's not that bad Trisha, I'm just sick of Bodybag taking every opportunity to take the piss out of me, let alone Pratt Parr and his faithful follower, Stewart. I mean, it's bad enough trying to make it look convincing that I'd fall in love with her…"

"Oh, come on now Nik, she's pretty gorgeous, I think, and so do half the paying public, especially after those publicity photos she did for Götterdämmerung in Bayreuth. It's going to be very easy to believe that you are in love with her."

"If you'd ever met her you'd know that that would be impossible." She stopped talking as she realised that Trisha, who was facing the door had stopped paying her any attention. In fact, she seemed transfixed by something behind her. She looked over her shoulder to see Helen and Sean making their stately way towards them, acknowledging people as they went. They hadn't yet seen Nikki and Trisha, but it was only a matter of time. Nikki frantically tried to attract the attention of their waiter, so they could get out of there, but he too was watching the procession, led by the maitre'd towards them.

Helen, who was seated facing the room, like Trisha, saw Nikki first and did a quick double-take before deciding to be gracious, as they were in public.

"Nikki, what a delightful surprise." Nikki saw Sean blanch as he realised who she was talking to, and then his jaw dropped as he realised who Nikki's dinner companion was.

"Helen, Sean. This is Trish Harris. Trisha, I'm sure that you don't need an introduction to Helen Stewart and Sean Parr." Trisha leaned over and shook hands with first Helen and then Sean, gushing about what a pleasure it was to finally meet 'the great Helen Stewart'. They were so busy that neither noticed Nikki's smirk of triumph at Sean or Sean's discomfort.

Nikki, to deliberately spite Sean, insisted that they all eat together. The only person who was actually keen on this was Trisha, but there was no gracious way to get out of it, so they accepted.

Conversation was stilted at first, but four opera fanatics can't have a conversation without their separate passions being invoked, and soon they were each putting the case for their favourite composers, arias and operas. The discussion was lively and their own personalities were lost as they got more and more involved.

Nikki finally yawned in the middle of a discussion of Richard Strauss's alleged anti-Semitism that she was having with Helen, and looking around her, she realised that they were the only people left sitting in the restaurant. She glanced at her watch and was disconcerted to realise that the time was already nearly two in the morning. The waiters were probably out back now, drawing lots over who would poison the next pot of coffee.

"Um, Helen, I hate to draw such a delightful evening to a close," she paused – it had been a lovely evening and she couldn't remember when she had last enjoyed herself quite so much. When Helen Stewart forgot who she was and who she wanted to be, she was actually a really nice person. "But, I think we may have overstayed our welcome." She indicated the chairs on the tables surrounding them.

"I didn't realise the time. Sean, we should leave now." Helen stood up, obviously expecting Sean to dance immediate attendance on her. Nikki tried not to smirk, especially as Sean stayed seated. She hadn't exactly been oblivious to the sort of attentions that Trisha had been paying him, although Helen obviously hadn't noticed.

"Uh, just give me a minute, please." He looked pained and Nikki's grin didn't exactly help. "What's up with you?" He snarled at her.

"Just relaxing and having a drink, Sean." She smiled sweetly back at him as she rose from her chair. "I think I'm going your way Helen, would you like a lift?"

"Sean?" Helen's voice was imperious and Sean was obviously torn between appeasing her and hiding the fact of his interest in Trisha.

"I think that Nikki should take you home. I've had a bit much to drink." Nikki knew, by the effort with which he spoke, passing up a chance to dance attendance on Helen, that he was furious.

"I think that was very irresponsible of you, Sean. I hope that you are going to be fine for the rehearsal." Helen turned on her heel in an obviously practiced movement and was off between the tables without waiting for Nikki, obviously expecting her to catch up.

"Well, toodle-pip. I wish I could say that this has been a pleasure, but I'd be lying. See you soon, Trish." Nikki was off, not waiting to be beckoned by Helen, who was waiting at the door of the restaurant.

"Right, the car's this way." She set off but stopped after a dozen steps, realising she couldn't hear Helen's footsteps echoing beside her. "What's wrong?"

"I was waiting for you to fetch the car."

"You have got to be taking the Michael." Nikki stood there, open mouthed at Helen's pronouncement. "It's around the corner and it's a five minute trip around the one-way system to pick you up again. You walk, or you catch a cab. Your choice." She shrugged and turned around, walking off slowly, listening for Helen's decision. After a few moments, she heard the tap-tapping of Helen's heels following her and smiled to herself. Looks like the Madame wasn't quite as tough as she pretended.

"Ok then, hop in." Helen stood, aghast, as Nikki unlocked her battered 2CV.

"This is your car?"

"Yes. This is my car. Do you want a lift home or not?"

"I think I may get a taxi."

"Suit yourself. See you." Nikki swung herself into the car, leaned over to unlock the passenger door and started the engine. As she heard a banging on the roof, she turned down the radio, blaring out hard rock and leaned over to open the passenger window.

"Can you walk me back to the restaurant?" Helen asked her coldly.

"Why? It's just around the corner. Take you less than a minute."

"Why are you treating me like this? What have I ever done to you?"

"I'm not treating you any way different than I would treat any of my other friends. I offered you a lift home; this is what's on offer. Take it or leave it."

"Do I have a choice?"

"You could go back to the restaurant and see if Sean's erection has subsided, although he might have left with Trisha by now. She's a pretty fast worker, from what I've heard, so they may have gone already. Or you could forget that you are a star that is fawned over, think of yourself as a real person, get in the car, and let me take you home. Your choice." She sat back and lit a cigarette while she waited for Helen to make up her mind. One, two, three…

"Would you mind taking me home?" Helen's voice was small.

"Not at all. Please get in." Nikki said formally. "Where do you live?"


They drove in silence, the earlier camaraderie of the restaurant forgotten. Nikki had a feeling that Helen wouldn't forget this in a hurry and was anxious to get it over with as soon as possible. It was a shame. When she forgot herself, Helen was fun to be with, intelligent, well read, and thoughtful.

"Thank you," Helen said as they pulled up outside the house, a huge place half hidden behind a high wall and wrought iron gates. "Where are you staying?"

"Not far from here, in digs with Shaz, Zandra and Barbara." Nikki replied laconically.

"Digs?" The disgust in Helen's voice was evident. Even she seemed to hear it and be embarrassed by it. "Would you like to come in for a coffee?" Her voice was gentler, as she seemed to be making amends.

"No thanks, I'd hate to inconvenience you, and besides, I have to be in early tomorrow. Those costume changes are a nightmare."

"At least you don't have to wear corsets," Helen snorted. "I always feel like I can't breathe."

"Directors like costume dramas, allows them to put their leading ladies in daringly low-cut gowns. Now, if you'll excuse me…" Nikki left her sentence hanging. She didn't want to talk to the supercilious, stuck up Stewart anymore tonight. She rather wished she'd left with Trisha. Her company was less demanding, even if she spent most of her time trying to get Nikki into bed.

"Very well. Good night. I'll see you tomorrow." Helen stepped out of the car and Nikki nearly crashed as she drove off, hearing the 'thanks for the lift' tacked on, almost as an afterthought. The woman was nearly human, after all.

Part 4

Helen sat on the daybed that was part of the set for the first act as they waited for Sean to turn up the next morning. She was furious that he had stood her up the previous night, and at Nikki's insinuations that he was somehow involved with Trisha.

She had deliberately turned up late this morning, with the idea of upstaging both him and Nikki, who she was also angry with, because of the way she had treated her last night, only to find that Sean was already two hours late and counting.

Nikki and Karen were lying on the bed, playing Paper, Scissors, Stone; Jim Fenner was striding up and down the stage, faithfully followed by his lapdog, Bodybag and shouting the odds about his contract. The rest of the cast and crew were standing around. Just Michelle Dockley stood apart. She had been staring at Helen for most of the morning, and Helen was growing uncomfortably under her gaze.

"Right, I'm off for lunch. Anyone coming?" Nikki stood up, cutting a dashing figure in her army officer's uniform. Helen couldn't help admiring her professionally, as she could sing like an angel, although she also knew that Nikki wasn't as good as her technically, but she made up for that with the emotion she could project.

Karen and several other members of the cast all started following her into the wings, just as Sean walked in through the auditorium doors.

"Where the fuck do you lot think you're going?" He snarled at the retreating backs as he strode up to the stage.

"Lunch." Nikki's voice drifted to them from backstage.

"Get your arses back in here if you want to keep your jobs. I mean it. Now." He was jackbooting around, and all of them came back onto the stage, Nikki very reluctantly.

"I'm sorry for keeping you waiting, Helen, Jim, Karen." He apologised politely. Helen noticed that he didn't apologise to Nikki, alone of the principals. Nikki obviously did too.

"That's no problem, Sean," she said, graciously accepting his non-apology. "We're all here, awaiting your pleasure. How's Trish?"

The ripple of laughter spreading through the room was checked as Sean glared around them all, and Helen quelled her own instinct to laugh. Nikki Wade was incredibly irreverent, but she certainly inspired something amongst the company as they all seemed to like her.

"I'll 'ave a fiver on today." The first act rehearsal was underway and she turned to see who was whispering behind her. Shell Dockley was talking to one of the Julies, handing over a five-pound note. Julie scribbled a note in a small pad and then furtively tucked the note into her bra.

"What's going on?" She sidled up to Julie after Dockley had vanished.

"Dunno what you mean, miss." Julie started polishing a belt buckle that Nikki would wear in the scenes with Helen later. It was already shined to an almost mirror brightness.

"Oh, I think you do. What's Dockley just put a fiver on?" She purred, deliberately losing some of her polished accent and softening her voice.

"Well," Julie said, looking around and leaning forward confidentially. "There's a bit of a book on how long Nikki Wade will keep her temper for. This is the second one. Barbara won the first one a couple of weeks ago. Today's got the shortest odds because of all the stuff that's likely to go wrong."

"Really? How did she win?"

"She said that Nikki would have a row with Hel…" Julie broke off as she realised who she was talking to.

"Do go on, it sounds fascinating." Helen said grimly.

"Nikki doesn't like pretentious people and the smart money was on the fact that you would wind her up." Nikki's voice came from just behind Helen's shoulder. She sounded coolly amused. "And, of course, they were right. Barbara's always right."

"Nikki!" Julie said startled.

"It's alright, Julie. I knew the day you started it. It's not a problem." She grinned. "I s'pose I'm not allowed to have a bet on myself, am I?" She asked hopefully. "I guess that's a 'no' then," she said as Julie scuttled off.

"Doesn't it bother you?" Helen asked curiously.

"No. I know I've got the devil's own temper. Does it bother you that you were the one to set it off?" She leant back against the wall, the ever-present cigarette in her hand, albeit unlit now.

"No." She lifted her chin under Nikki's searching gaze. Where did this woman ever get off?

"That's all right then. I'm off to lunch." She turned to go out through the auditorium.

"Like that?" Nikki was wearing a uniform, the long coat stretched across her broad shoulders and showing off her figure as it tapered to her waist. Her legs were clad in very tight trousers and the highly polished boots topped the lot off. She looked very androgynous, very gorgeous and if she was a man, Helen knew that she would fancy her.

"What's wrong with this?" She spread her arms and looked down at herself. "Maybe a bit formal, but it'll do."

"You're mad. Monika will kill you if you get anything down that."

"Don't get your knickers in such a twist. Live a little. Monica'll be ok, and besides, I'll be careful. Ciao." She was gone, leaving Helen vaguely uncomfortable. It definitely disturbed her to see Nikki dressed like that.

Part 5

The music reached a crescendo as Helen pleaded with Nikki to help her get out of marriage to the Baron. Nikki raised herself from her position on her knees at Helen's feet until she was standing with Helen in her arms, staring into her eyes. Their faces gradually drew closer and closer together until their lips were almost touching. Finally, after what seemed like ages, Nikki leaned in until…

"Cut the music," shouted Sean, striding out onto the stage and pulling Helen and Nikki roughly apart. Helen stood there, staring bemusedly at Nikki.

"What?" Nikki stood looking angrily at him.

"You can't lean in as if you are about to kiss her there, it muffles your voices. Besides, I'm sure she doesn't want your foul breath in her face; I saw you eating garlic last night." Sean taunted. "There's going to be no kiss in this production."

"That's pants, Sean. I already kiss Karen, and everyone expects the hero to kiss the heroine."

"This is my production and we'll do it the way I want it done." He glared at her.

"Actually, I think Nikki's right." Helen said. Both of them stopped their argument and stared at her. "Well, the hero and heroine are supposed to kiss, aren't they? It makes artistic sense."

"Are you sure?" Sean questioned her.

"Of course." She saw Nikki grinning at her. "But we don't need to practice it now." Nikki's face fell.

"Right, I want you to take it back to the presentation of the rose." He walked off the stage. "And go."

Nikki knelt down again, and they repeated their words and actions again, once more building up to the kiss. This time, Nikki kept more distance between them, still staring into Helen's eyes and just for a moment, Helen almost believed that Octavian was proposing to her, Sophie, himself. She was in love with the handsome young officer before her and wanted him to take her away from the awful union offered to her. She leaned into him, closer, smelling his skin, wanting to be held by him.

Seconds late, she was in his arms, and was seeking out his lips with her own. She only came to herself when Sean pulled them apart again and they heard the applause from the rest of the cast. For a few seconds she was dazed, until her eyes met Nikki's again and a blush suffused her entire being as she realised that she'd been kissing Nikki passionately, wanting to make love to her, as Octavian.

"Excuse me." She strode slowly off, still dreadfully embarrassed, but determined not to show it. Nikki was looking at her, not laughing, as she expected, but thoughtfully. She didn't even seem to be listening to Sean berate her. She knew that she'd never got so much under the skin of the role as that and cast one more glance over her shoulder as she stepped around the flies. Nikki was still standing there, watching her, being tugged at by Barbara to vacate the stage for the next scene.

"Would you like to go out for dinner tonight?" Nikki was waiting for her just inside the stage door.

"No, thank you." She didn't even look at Nikki, having remembered that the woman didn't like her and was constantly trying to bring her down a peg or two.

"Please?" Nikki stepped in towards her. Surprised at how gently Nikki had spoken, she looked at her.

"No." Her tone was firm. "I have a prior engagement." She could feel the heat of Nikki's body, very much as she had on stage earlier. The feeling had been equally as intense as they had rehearsed the final scenes together. She wanted nothing more to do with Nikki Wade today.

"Helen…" She was interrupted as Sean rushed up to Helen, kissing her on the cheek and congratulating her on her 'wonderful, superlative performance'. He turned his back to Nikki and deliberately ignored her.

"Bye, Nikki" Helen called over her shoulder at the scowling Nikki. Sean's goodnight was conspicuous by its absence.

"Trisha couldn't make it tonight, then?" Nikki called after Sean, pleased to see him stop for a second, although he didn't condescend to turn back. "No, I s'pose not. She's out with me." Intent as she was on winding Sean up, she was surprised to see that Helen's step faltered.

She too had been shaken by the chemistry that had been between them during the rehearsals, and by the kiss that they had shared. She had thrown herself into the rehearsal, but she had maintained her own identity. When Helen had leaned in, she hadn't been able to resist kissing her, at first to teach her a lesson, but she could have sworn that Helen had responded. She had cursed Sean for interrupting, but remembering the way she had felt, it had probably been a good thing.

"Hello darling. Where are we off to tonight?" Trisha imposed herself on Nikki's thoughts. Suddenly repulsed by her over-familiarity and her over-ripe body, Nikki realised that she didn't want to spend an evening with the opera bimbo, but with an intelligent conversationalist. With Helen.

"Um, I need an early night tonight. It's been a fucker of a day and I could just do with a long hot bath, a glass of wine and an early night."

"That sounds divine to me, let's go." Trisha tucked her arm into Nikki's and started to walk off until she was halted by Nikki's failure to move.

"Alone, Trisha."

"Oh." She dropped Nikki's arm. "So where does that leave us then?"

"There isn't really an 'us', is there Trisha? We're just mates, that's all."

"Have you met somebody else?" As Trisha started to raise her voice, Nikki grabbed her arm and steered her away from people.

"No, I just want to be alone tonight. Call it artistic temperament, call it me being a selfish bitch, hell, call it being dumped, if you like, but I want the evening to myself."

"If you are trying to dump me, you haven't heard the last of this, Nikki," Trisha said furiously.

"I can't dump you when we aren't an item. We've been out for drinks and dinner a few times, that's all. You're great company, but how many times do I have to tell you you're not my type?" Nikki explained once again, patiently, despite the impatience she felt to be somewhere else, anywhere else but here.

"I think you just play with people, you know." Trisha considered Nikki for a few moments. "Or maybe you're just a frigid bitch, afraid of a real woman."

"Trisha, I'm not in the mood for this," Nikki said warningly.

"Don't piss on me, you'll regret it." She stalked off, head held high and tossing her blonde mane.

"Thank God for that," Nikki said under her breath, as she walked off to catch the Tube.

Part 6

The opening night went with a bang and they received a standing ovation. Nikki had never felt this exhilarated before and wasn't sure if it was the kisses she and Helen had shared on the stage, or just the adulation of the crowd. Helen too looked dazed, but that could be the electricity in the air backstage. She had stood in the wings, waiting to come on looking pale and wan, obviously stricken with stage fright, and had grabbed Nikki's hand and squeezed it when Nikki had wished her luck, but then she had stepped onto the stage and commanded it immediately. It had been a pleasure to sing with her tonight, with a talent that immense.

She hugged Helen to her as the safety curtain came down, the cheers still ringing in her ears. She stooped and picked up a rose from the dozens that had been thrown on the stage. Sean was making his way towards them as she gave it to Helen, on one knee, parodying her gift in the opera.

"A rose between two thorns…" She said as Sean reached them.

"Darling, that was amazing…had me in tears…" He hugged her and Nikki wasn't the only one to notice the way his hands moved over her back. "Well done people," he said as he put her down. "Let's get out of here. I've booked a table at the Ivy for dinner."

Backstage, Nikki knocked on Helen's door. She could hear murmuring voices inside, Helen and Barbara. Helen must be tired; her imperious 'come' betrayed her origins.

"I just came to say well done and thanks," she said, sticking her head around the door and preparing to back out again.

"Come in, Nikki," Helen purred at her softly. "I thought you were pretty great tonight yourself."

"I think you stole the show, actually," Nikki demurred.

"You two were both marvellous," Barbara interjected. "I think you have an amazing chemistry."

They both sat there, silent after the frantic activity of the last few hours, watching Barbara as she bustled around, Helen taking off her heavy stage makeup, enjoying the peaceful hiatus before the rush of people that would come in a few minutes. Nikki realised it was the first time they hadn't been surrounded with people since their first kiss, three weeks ago in the first dress rehearsal. She had spent most of those last three weeks trying to get rid of Trisha and thinking about Helen, especially as each kiss in their subsequent rehearsals had seemed to get deeper and more passionate.

"Barbara, can you just nip out and get a few more bottles of fizz? I have a feeling that the ravening hordes are going to descend on us in a few minutes."

"So, are you ready for the other performances?" Nikki asked, feeling the need to break the silence as Helen disappeared behind a screen in the corner. There was no way she could ask her what she really wanted to know: 'do you feel it too?'

"There's still a week to go for Otello, and two for Tosca, and we're going to need all the time we can get for Tosca. Shell Dockley keeps trying to persuade me that I'm coming down with something. I think she yearns for the spotlight. If she knew how hard it was, she wouldn't be interested, trust me."

"Strange that someone so, so…" Nikki was stuck for an adjective.

"Common?" Suggested Helen archly.

"I was going to say grungy, actually," Nikki replied, continuing, "could have the voice of an angel. It just doesn't match her face."

"Nikki, could you just give me a hand for a minute please?"

"Sure. What would you like?" Nikki looked briefly at the good luck messages stuck around the mirror, noting that they were all from family and friends. A pile carelessly placed to one side of the dressing table was from stars of the classical world, Carreras, Rattle, Felicity Lotte, Colin Davis.

"I'd just like you to unzip this dress for me, please."

"Um, maybe you should ask Barbara." Nikki flinched at the idea of going around the screen.

"Please, it weighs a ton, and I need to get it off." Reluctantly, Nikki walked around the screen and helped Helen unzip her dress. "Don't go, I need a hand with the corset as well please." Nikki gulped as Helen started to undress in front of her and quickly span around to face the wall.

"Please, Nikki. Don't tell me you've never watched a woman get undressed before?" Helen mocked as Nikki felt herself go red. "Turn around, you need to undo the lacing."

She watched herself undo the laces with shaking hands. Helen's pale shoulders, lightly sprinkled with freckles, were under her hands and she longed to touch them. She helped Helen pull apart the corset and then raised her hands to touch those soft shoulders.

"Helen, please, I can't praise that performance enough. We make a fantastic team." Sean crashed in on their peace, along with Dominic, Jim, his ever-present shadow, Bodybag and Karen.

Nikki edged herself out of the room, passing Barbara on the way, accepting congratulations from Karen and Dom while everyone else was busy with Helen. She wanted to talk to Helen again, as they had talked in the restaurant; no airs, no graces, just two people sharing a conversation about something they both cared passionately about. She had dreamed of taking Helen back to her home, a cottage in Stamford, the honey coloured stone glowing in the evening sunlight and the sharp tang of wood smoke in the evening air, sitting and drinking wine, talking, sitting listening to music and talking some more.

She had dreamt of a lot more than that, loathe though she was to admit the truth even to herself. She had fantasised about taking Helen to her bed, kissing her, touching her, stroking her body, making love to her. The passion that had been in their kisses was more than just her imagination, surely?

She reached her dressing room, interrupting the party that Shaz was having with her champagne and half the crew. She didn't mind that in the slightest, knowing that there could have been no performance without them, but she did just ache for the peace and tranquillity of Helen's dressing room. Shooing out the crew, she quickly took off her own makeup and divested herself of her costume, dressing for dinner.

She didn't really fancy it tonight, the whole opening night shebang, waiting for the reviews and the endless hangers on trying to get a piece of them all. She made faces at herself in the mirror, trying to cheer herself up.

"Nik, the car's here." Shaz was knocking on the door.

"OK, just coming." She was tempted not to go; after all, it wasn't like she'd be missed. All of Sean and the rest of the sycophants would be so far up Helen's arse all evening, they wouldn't know or care if she wasn't there. They'd probably be relieved she thought, squaring her shoulders and unwilling to give them the satisfaction.

Helen would probably love it, though – all that attention being lavished on her. It was like a drug to the smaller woman. Autograph hunters, press, agents, and all the other misfits that couldn't get real jobs would be surrounding her like flies around shit.

Well, she would go, be dignified and leave early. After all, they had to go through all this for another four days before they got an evening off. Correction, before she got an evening off. And even then, that's all it would be. She had recording contracts to fulfil on her days off. She almost felt sorry for Helen, who had a punishing schedule for the next three months, singing on stage nearly every day. She wondered why she had agreed to it as she put the finishing touches to her lipstick and ran her fingers through her hair before going out to face the public.

Part 7

She was put in the first car by Sean, filled with junior members of the cast. It was a deliberate slight on his part, as traditionally, the two main stars were supposed to enter the restaurant together. She didn't actually care, somehow, though. His petty politics were beyond her tonight and she got meekly into the car. She heard a few protests, but did up her seatbelt anyway and was whisked off through the streets of London.

She received applause at the restaurant, and was stopped by people on her way to the table until she eventually found herself seated, champagne in hand. People still kept coming up to her and congratulated her and the table gradually filled up as more and more of the company arrived. Suddenly an abrupt hush fell and she saw Helen, being escorted by Sean, at the door.

Then the tumult began, people standing to applaud Helen as she wound her stately way towards them, being stopped and congratulated at every step. The woman was positively glowing under the attention, basking in it, like a cat in the sun. It took her twenty minutes to be seated, Sean dogging her every step.

The menu had been pre-ordered and the food was placed in front of them. Nikki found that she wasn't very hungry, a first for her. After a successful performance, she had always found herself to be ravenous, and, for some reason, horny as hell. Now she just sat back quietly, picking occasionally at her plate, more usually smoking and drinking, watching the people at her table and the comings and goings of others in the restaurant. Bodybag kept berating her for smoking so much, telling her that she would ruin her voice, if she hadn't already. She ignored her.

Then, it was time for the second editions of the papers. Di Barker rushed in, her arms full of broadsheets which she scattered over the table. Sean was diving into the pile, pulling out one, then another, his head down, entirely focussed on what was going to be said about his revival of Strauss's comedy.

"'Rarely have I ever seen an Octavian I have believed in more, nor a Sophie who believed in him so much'" Karen quoted. Nikki flashed her an appreciative smile. No one else was likely to read out any rave reviews for her.

"'This revival is a masterclass in how the right cast, the right conductor and the right director can weave something new from that which is already familiar'" Sean read. "Helen Stewart is surely the new Callas and the world must now be at her feet. Her performance brought integrity and vitality to the story…One almost wanted to go around stopping the clocks for Karen Betts' Marschallin, just so she didn't feel any older and…' That's it folks, we have a success on our hands," he shouted out to the room at large.

The celebration began in earnest as Sean stood up to toast them all, even forcing himself to acknowledge Nikki now that they were in public. Now that dinner was over, people began to swop seats, although Nikki couldn't be bothered. As long as she was away from Bodybag, and Jim and Sean never came near her, she didn't mind who she sat next to, although there was no chance that they would, as they were flanking Helen and looking like they had been stuck there with glue.

"You look like you'd rather be anywhere but here." She jumped as she heard a soft Scottish accent at her shoulder.

"What happened to the plums?" She had only heard Helen lose her over-elocuted accent when she was tired or angry, and at this moment, she appeared to be neither. Her eyes were sparkling and her lips were spread in a smile as she looked at Nikki.

"You look dressed to kill tonight," Nikki commented, taking in the long black dress, cut deeply at the front and plunging at the back, leaving Helen's delicately rounded arms bare.

"What, this old thing?" Helen said mockingly.

"That old thing was gracing the window in Gucci this morning, if I'm not mistaken." Nikki said dryly.

"Well, a girl's got to have a little fun now and again, hasn't she? I haven't been shopping for ages." Helen pouted.

"Are you flirting with me?" Asked Nikki. She ran a finger down Helen's bare arm.

"No, of course not," came the vehement denial. She noticed the goose bumps springing up over Helen's arm and shoulders.

"You know," Nikki said, lighting a cigarette and blowing smoke at Helen. "I rather think you are."

"I don't have to sit here and listen to this!"

"No, you don't," Nikki agreed. "But you're not moving."

"Why don't you like me?"

"I never said I didn't like you. I don't like your attitude." Nikki clarified. "You act like the world owes you a living. When you forget about being Helen Stewart, superstar, you're actually quite nice. Shame we don't see that more often."

"So what do you like?" Helen leaned in towards Nikki, so that she could see down the front of Helen's dress and smell her perfume.

"Red haired sopranos who kiss like they mean it."

"Now you're flirting with me." Helen leaned back.

"Yes, I am." She agreed. Helen still wasn't moving away from her, but Sean looked like he was making his way over to them.


"Because I like you, when you are being you. Looks like we have company, and three's a crowd, so, if you'll excuse me…" She stood up as Sean reached them.

"Are you all right?" He asked, glaring at Nikki.

"Actually, I've got a bit of a headache and Nikki said that she'd take me home." Gathering up her cigarettes and finishing her champagne, Nikki choked.

"It's alright, I'll take you home." Sean said desperately, giving Nikki a look that could easily have placed her six feet under, had she not been used to receiving such looks.

"No, you've got to stay, look after everyone else and make sure that the press are satisfied. I'll be fine with Nikki."

"If you're sure…" he said slowly. He hugged her as she stood up and Nikki could swear that she heard him saying 'don't trust the dyke'.

"Come on, Nikki." Helen led the way out of the restaurant, Nikki following in her footsteps.

"Where are we going?" She asked, as they got outside.

"I don't know. Everything's closed now. We could go to my place?" Nikki stared at her. "Where's your car? What?"

"First, I don't have my car, and I've been drinking. Second, why do you want me to go back to your place?"

"Why do you think?" Aware of the paparazzi and onlookers outside the restaurant, Nikki bustled her into a cab.

"Helen, this isn't a game, you know."

"What do you mean?"

"Just how drunk are you?"

"I haven't had a drink for hours. I'm just high. It's been a fantastic night." She gave Nikki a sideways look. "We could go back to Covent Garden and get your costume?"

"Is that what this is all about? You fancy me, but only if you can maintain the fantasy that I'm a bloke will you sleep with me?" She couldn't believe it. She leaned forward and tapped on the partition glass. "Can you stop here please?" She threw a twenty at the cabbie as she got out. "The lady's going to Hampstead. She'll give you the address."

"Nikki!" Ignoring Helen, she turned around and started walking in the opposite direction.

"Nikki!" Suddenly Helen was behind her, grabbing her shoulder. She turned, and was engulfed in a hug. A pair of heels clapped her on the back of the head and she realised that Helen had run after her in bare feet.

"It's not like that, and you know it." She drew Nikki's face down to hers and captured her lips in a kiss.

"I don't like being played with, Helen," she said as she came up for air. "I like you for you, and if you can't pay me the same compliment, then I'm outa here."

"I'm not playing. Come back with me and I'll show you."

Nikki waved down another cab.

Part 8

Return to Bad Girls Fiction

Return to Main Page