Finding Ground
By S.L.

Chapter Five

As Helen neared home much later the traffic was heavy, and after the strain of the day she was tired by the time she had parked her car in the forecourt at the front of the house. She switched off the ignition, and then gave a screech of fright, as her door was yanked open.

"You took your time!" said Nikki Wade irritably.

Her heart hammered in her chest at first sight of her. Helen got out of the car, slammed the door shut, locked it and then turned hostile eyes up to her face. "I've been busy" she swallowed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, a habit Nikki had grown quite fond of. "So why are you here?"

"Oh, I was just passing" Nikki piped sarcastically, her brown eyes gleaming, her face bearing a smile that managed to set Helen's teeth on edge.

"Very amusing" She snapped, although she wasn't really sure why. She put her key into the door and finally turned to face Nikki again. "I'm tired Nikki so I'll say goodnight"

"Not so fast - we have talking to do" Nikki replied imperiously "It won't take long. Ask me in. Or we can have this conversation out on the street. Your choice"

Since Nikki Wade obviously meant what she said, Helen gave in. "Fine" She unlocked the door and pushed her way in "Sorry its a mess. Like I said, I've been busy" She sighed. Why was this woman having such an impact over the way she was feeling? "Can I get you a drink?" she turned and watched the taller woman as she lazily scanned the room.

"Aren't you the least bit curious as to why I bothered coming after you?" Nikki asked, ignoring Helen's question completely. She moved closer but Helen backed away.

"To vent your anger at me for being so badly out of character that night most probably" Helen breathed deeply, becoming more and more annoyed with herself for feeling flustered.

"It does damn all to my ego to be used like a bloody gigolo you know Helen!" Nikki said angrily

"I was drunk, its not a habit of mine to behave the way I did which is why I was so shameless" Helen made a conscious effort to hold Nikki's eyes as she spoke.

"You asked me to make love to you remember!"

"I've never asked anyone to make love to me before. Let alone a woman, and I don't foresee doing it again. Ever." Helen said passionately.

Nikki ran her fingers through her hair, unbelieving. "It was a bad idea me coming here. I should go. Its late"

But Helen felt that desperate need for Nikki to stay, at least just for a while. She didn't want to leave it this way. "Don't you want a drink?" She blurted

"No" Nikki said seriously as she moved closer "All I want is this..." She let out a deep, unsteady breath then pulled Helen close and kissed her mouth.

Helen didn't even attempt to resist. Whatever components made up Nikki Wade's chemical formula they reacted so instantly with her own that her response brought Nikki's arms around her like bands of steel.

"Oh god, Helen" Nikki murmured kissing her with a demand Helen's body welcomed with such an ardour that she trembled in her arms.

"I don't want this," Helen mumbled, barely taking her mouth from Nikki's.

"Why are you still kissing me then?"

Reality kicked in with such a brutal force that Helen toppled sideways as she pulled away roughly. "No!" She gasped, her head still woozy with unwanted arousal.

They stood staring at each other, breath tearing through their chests. "Shit Helen, we've got to talk about this" Nikki gasped, confused at to whether Helen actually wanted her.

"Drink..." Helen shook her head as she walked through to the kitchen "Coffee..." Helen was in desperate need of time to think and recover. She wasn't attracted to Nikki - was she? What was it about her? she thought despairingly. One touch of her hands and she melted like butter. Something she hadn't been prone to with anyone.

"Helen" Nikki said soberly as Helen rejoined her some minutes later "Lets start again"

"Where exactly?"

"Somewhere before I touched you" Their eyes met "As must be painfully obvious, I can't allow myself to do that"

Helen flushed and busied herself with pouring coffee. "I want us to be friends" she said quickly "But that's it Nikki. I'm not gay"

"I never said you were" she replied, drinking her coffee quickly.

"Good" Helen nodded standing up "Maybe its best if you went" she couldn't even look at Nikki. Far too afraid that her feelings would show.

Nikki stood and they looked at each other. "Helen I want to kiss you" she shook her head

Because every one of her hormones was urging her to let her, Helen was well aware. "Unwise"

"Are you always wise?" Nikki asked

"No" she answered unevenly "As you well know..."

The rest of her words were smothered as Nikki's mouth made nonsense of her defences. Helen couldn't help it. She gave in to the strength and barely controlled passion of Nikki's embrace, the heat and desire in her tall and slender body arousing hers in such a way no other man had ever been able to. Then she stopped thinking about other men, or about anything at all as Nikki sat her on the edge of the sofa and knelt between her legs to undo her shirt. With unsteady hands, she freed Helen's breasts to her lips and grazing teeth, stroking her covered thighs with caressing fingers. By unspoken consent they sank to the floor, upsetting the coffee tray with a crash neither of them noticed in their frantic haste to shed clothing, their wild caresses rousing each other to such a state of frenzy their love making was short, but shatteringly sweet, the magic as powerful as before. Helen burst into tears after her moments of realisation, still shaken by the intensity. She had never been so damn confused in her whole entire life.

"Helen what is it?" Nikki asked, taking the teary Scot into her arms. Helen allowed herself the luxury and warmth of her embrace for a few moments before standing with shaky knees, clutching her clothes around her.

"This isn't right..." she mumbled "Nikki you have to go...please" she cried and watched as her face became etched with pain. Through a blur of tears she could make out the taller woman pulling on her jeans and grabbing her t-shirt and jacket at what looked like the speed of light.

"I'm not a fucking toy Helen. I have feelings too!" she hissed, storming out of the room. Helen's sobs became louder as her living room juddered with the force of the slam.

After a long bath in which she forced herself to think about everything that had happened, she dressed in a nightshirt and climbed into bed. Helen couldn't deny it to herself any longer; she was falling in love with Nikki. A woman. Everytime they were together she had that strong, sexual urge, the loss of rational thinking. Alcohol wasn't to blame anymore but love was. She didn't even know that much about the woman who had now made love to her twice. But she felt so strongly towards her, physically and emotionally. There was no way she felt she could eve tell Nikki about these feelings, simply because she knew that she wouldn't be able to endure a relationship with another woman. Her family would disown her, people would humiliate her, and in the end, their relationship would be torn apart by her own fears and doubts. No, that wasn't going to happen and Nikki would never have to know. In the same sense, as hard as it was, friendship was ruled out now also. She'd figured that the less they saw of each other the easier this was to over come. Suddenly cold, she pulled the duvet up, wrapping herself into a cocoon. Her body was tingling with panic; she closed her eyes, crushingly tired, yet sensing an unshakeable wakefulness. Like trying to sleep off a drug, she knew that any attempt to slip out of consciousness was futile, and would only make her feel worse. But there was nothing else she could do - nothing that wouldn't make it worse than it already was. The fizz of panic was going to rule her for many hours, maybe even days, or weeks, or longer. That evening, that hour, her life had changed.

Nikki peered at herself in the bathroom mirror. She was hurting. She couldn't stop the tears from falling. Over and over and over she'd promised herself that she wasn't going to fall in love with Helen Stewart. But she had done and now? now she was mortified with herself, knowing that if she'd managed to keep her feelings and desires inside then things may have been different. Even now, after making love to her twice, Nikki didn't know how Helen felt. She refused to believe that the Scot felt nothing for her. After all, neither of them had been spurred on my alcohol that second time. If she hadn't have bothered turning up to Anna and Jim's engagement none of this would be happening and she wouldn't feel so damn angry or frustrated.

She never wanted to see her face again, but at the same time there was part of her that cared deeply for her, even after everything that had happened. She needed to know. If Helen felt anything for her then she intended to act upon it. All she needed to know was that her worst fear of it meaning nothing to her was just that - a fear.

Larkhall managed to claim most of her time. Helen tried to busy herself with her job and her house. For a while she was like a prisoner of her own home, refusing to go out, refusing to answer her house phone and deliberately switching her mobile off if Nikki called. She felt the need to distance herself. However, amidst her strong desire for Nikki, Helen worried a lot about Anna and her well being. She often wondered if interfering in her best friends' personal life was a good thing. She hardly had her own sorted so what right did she have poking into Anna's? But after a whole week of no phone calls and failure to answer her work or house phone she decided enough was enough. After a few moments ponder, she picked up her bag and coat from her cluttered desk at Larkhall and made for the exit.

She pulled up outside Anna's some 20 minutes later. Wrapping her coat around her body tighter she sprinted up to the door and knocked. The only movement was from the hyperactive dog next door. Shuddering slightly in the cold she banged louder. "Come on!" She muttered, trying to peer through a gap in the curtain. No one made an attempt to answer the door.
"Anna?" She shouted banging louder on the door. Within seconds it was opened violently by an angry Jim Fenner.

"Are you trying to take the door off it's bloody hinges or what?" He snarled.

Helen stepped forwards "Where's Anna?"

He smiled, his most perverted smile. "Didn't you know love? Anna's gone to her mother's in Devon"

"And why would that be?" Helen asked "You scared her off with your fist Jim?"

The smile was replaced with panic. Fenner turned and poked his head into the living room "Hop it!" He hissed "Go on!" Within a matter of seconds a peroxide blonde made a hasty retreat, fiddling with her blouse. Helen was outraged. Jim wasn't only hitting Anna, he was messing around behind her back too. "Come in" He said, walking through to the living room. Once the door was closed behind her, Jim pushed her hard against the door, knocking the wind from her lungs.

"Now you listen to me you Scottish Slag!" He hissed, his warped face inches from hers, a hot stale breath prevailing her nostrils making her want to be sick. She could tell he was drunk. "Ann's mine d'ya hear? And if I find out you've told anyone about me hitting her I'll..."

"You'll what?" She trembled inwardly, trying to keep up her bravery

"I'll kill you" He slurred, moving at the speed of light to seize her by the elbows.

"Oh please" She said, deliberately trying to sound bored - something she regretted as Jim pulled her towards him with a show of force that took her by surprise. He ground his mouth against hers and, enraged, Helen tried to break free. But one of his boots landed on her foot, and she let out a choked cry of pain as they collapsed on the sofa in a mass of arms and legs. He flattened himself on top of her, one hand cruelly tight in her hair as he smothered her protests with his mouth, the other pushing up her shirt to get at her breasts. Helen shuddered with distaste and with one heave of unknown strength, managed to push his intoxicated body away from her.

"Bastard" she gasped, trying to breathe and run for the door at the same time.

"Where d'ya think you're going Stewart?" He slurred making another clumsy grab for her. She turned and punched him squarely in the eye socket. A ripple of pain throbbed through her knuckles, yet at the same time she smiled, satisfied with the sight of his body, lifeless on the floor.
Running from the house she staggered down the path way and into the car, locking it behind her. It was then, like a young child, she let her tears fall.

Nikki tried to face work with more zest the following week. She buckled down to reshaping her life. In the evenings she would have a meal with friends, with Trish or even on her own and sometimes she went on to the theatre no matter how tired she was. Most times however, she just fell into bed, too exhausted to even mourn her ill fated passion for Helen Stewart. Time and her own determination would hopefully let it pass. But Nikki's fine resolutions failed to damp down the rush of hope every time her phone rang. Or to prevent intense disappointment when her caller was never Helen. Nikki was frustrated, despite her anger. She still longed to touch Helen again, to feel her soft skin, to inhale her aroma, to hear her gorgeous laugh and see her tuck her hair behind her ear. Why couldn't things be simple? Why wouldn't Helen listen to what she had to say? Nikki clenched her fists into tight balls as she thought. She had to see Helen, had to know the truth.

Chapter six

Helen had been trying to get sense out of Anna, who was now sat, rigid on the edge of her seat, fumbling with the glasses on her face, there to prevent the world from the truth. She was still annoyed that Anna had gone off to Devon without letting the people who cared about her know. Yet still she looked upon her friend with growing sympathy in her vulnerable state. "Sweetheart, we're going to have to talk about this sooner or later. You can't live a lie" She said smoothly

"There's nothing to talk about Helen." Anna snapped defensively "I love him and I know he loves me"

"Does he?" She asked carefully, remembering the blonde that had left Anna's house the night he tried it on. Somehow she'd managed to keep in inside. She couldn't tell anyone about Jim Fenner, least of all Anna.

"He just wanted to frighten me and humiliate me, for some reason. It was the alcohol. Not Jim" She muttered, refusing to look up

"And that's what you want is it?" Helen asked, peering over the brim of her coffee cup.

Anna didn't answer

"Leave him before he does something worse Anna. You know I'm right"

"No!" Her head flew up "I love him and we're going to be married one day. That's final Helen"

She couldn't find an answer or see a way round convincing this woman to leave Jim behind. The tense silence was broken by the shrill sound of Anna's mobile. Both jumped. "He- hello" Anna mumbled. It wasn't Jim, Helen could tell by the way her face muscles relaxed a little. "I'm fine, thanks." Anna managed a weak smile "Honestly"

Their eyes met and Helen smiled.

"I'm with Helen" she smiled again, passing the phone into her hands "Yeah sure you can talk to her"

"Who is it?" Helen whispered, frowning

"Nikki" Anna sighed heavily "I'm going to get another drink for us both. Be back in a minute"

Helen couldn't breathe properly as she peered down at the phone in her hands. She didn't want to talk to Nikki. Gulping hard, she reluctantly put the phone to her ear and fell in line with the breathing down the other end of the phone, not even daring to utter a word. She couldn't. Her larynx had successfully withered with fear.

"I know you can hear me." Nikki finally spoke, sending a shiver of reaction down Helen's spine. She gripped the phone tighter and closed her eyes "This isn't fair on either of us, and if you think…I'm going to figure this out for myself then you're wrong" Nikki sounded deadly serious "We need to talk. I'll come over at around 6pm"

Helen breathed deeply, urging herself to talk but she couldn't.

"Goodbye for now Helen" Nikki sighed, and replaced the receiver. Helen sat there, numb with those feelings she'd been trying to block away. Just hearing her velvet voice made her tremble. Her thoughts made her afraid again but she tried to relax. God. She thought. Here we go

"Looking a bit pasty Helen. Is everything ok?" Anna asked, sitting back at the table.

The rain had managed to squeeze it's way through a heavily overcast sky by the time Nikki had showered, changed, and paced the room thinking of what she was going to say. After a while she realised that pacing wasn't going to do any good, only give her chance to expect the worst. And so she grabbed her coat and jumped into her car, driving through the busy London pile-ups. By the time her car was outside, a nervous bead of sweat clung to her lips. She had no idea what Helen was going to say, or in fact how she was going to act. Pain was still so raw for both of them. This wasn't going to be easy.

The door was opened quite eagerly as Helen stood aside and let Nikki in, but it wasn't until they were in the kitchen that their eyes met for the first time since their last night of passion.

"Hi," Nikki sighed,

"Hi," Helen said nervously, refusing to look her in the eyes for more than a few seconds at a time "Would you like a coffee?" She asked, striding over to the cupboard.

"Ok," Nikki nodded and sat at the kitchen table. She watched every move Helen took. Her hair was neatly tucked behind one ear, and even from the back Nikki thought she was gorgeous. She had to stop it, until they knew where they stood at least. But she couldn't. She'd missed touching her so badly it hurt. As if sensing the fact that she was being watched closely, Helen turned and their eyes met.

She had many feelings sluicing around her insides, Love, resentment, deep confusion. It was hard, being here like this.

"You do know why I'm here tonight don't you?" Nikki asked,

Helen continued busying with drinks "Yes," She replied, staring into the cup, waiting for the kettle to boil "But I haven't got much to say"

Nikki waited in silence until the drinks were made and Helen was sat opposite, before attempting to speak. "Helen…"

"I didn't want this to happen Nikki," Helen interrupted bitterly

"I'm sure you didn't," Nikki smiled mirthlessly, before her eyes hardened "But there's things I need to know"

Helen sat still "I bet you do,"

"Helen, I'm trying to understand you, really I am, but I can't when one minute you want me and the next you don't" Nikki shook her head.

"There's nothing to understand Nikki." Helen lied convincingly "What happened between us I want to forget. It shouldn't have happened" she gulped.

"I can't forget it"

"I can," Helen peered at her "I'm not a lesbian"

"Is that all you care about?" She spat "Being labelled a dyke? What about my feelings, what I want? It did happen. You can't change that!" She banged her fist on the table, staring at Helen angrily.

Helen tried to stay calm and refrain from crying "I'm sorry it happened" she sighed, "I'm sorry Nikki but there's just no way. It was my fault. I should never have asked you to make love to me that night" Helen couldn't look up this time.

Nikki's eyes narrowed in sudden malevolence "So you're telling me you feel nothing for me Helen?"

"Beyond friendship," She looked up, her tears blurring her vision "No"

They sat in silence and Helen just wanted her to go now. It was hard lying, but she felt she owed them both that.

Nikki stood "Well I'm glad you got what you fucking wanted!" She hissed, "I'm in love with you, and I wish to god that I wasn't Helen. In love with a little tart that can't make her mind up whether she wants a man or a woman. Wow" Tears fell down Nikki's cheek as she spoke. She had meant to be brutal in order to hurt Helen, and she had succeeded. A hard slap to her face proved that.

"Get out!" Helen shouted, tears down her own cheeks.. Nikki reached for her, pulling her into her own arms, their lips touching in an angry teary kiss.

"Get out!" Helen repeated, turning blindly towards the door and dragging it open

"Don't worry. I'm gone!" Nikki spat, pushing past her and out into the night.

Nikki strode up the road to her car, long legs scissoring in her dark slacks. People had no choice but to move out of her way. She wagged her head like a crazy. Sniffing fiercely, she wiped the heel of her hand across her cheek. She sang loudly in her head to drown out the voices telling her she'd fucked up again. That she had been ridiculous to think that Helen would warm to her invitation of love. Never get involved with a straight woman, she'd told herself over and over before. But she had got involved and she was angry for falling in love.


The word wedged in her heart like a splinter. Back at the house she could feel the blazing surge of frustration swimming in her veins as she gripped the kitchen unit so tight, her knuckles drained of colour. In a blur of tears and heavy anger she cleared the work surface on to the floor with a satisfying crash. Right then she needed to hit something and with a wall in her sight she launched with all her might, slamming her fist against the hard surface before falling to the floor in pain both emotional and physical.

Helen wiped her face clear of tears, trying to block out the emotion she was feeling. She turned up the radio in the kitchen in desperate attempt to rid her thoughts of ever meeting Nikki. She felt sick with guilt for lying; yet at the same time, she had to lie for her own selfish benefit. The tears wouldn't stop and the thoughts weren't about to disappear. Feeling too weak to fight, she surrendered to her overwhelming emotions. She needed a friend right now. She needed someone to hold her and tell her everything was going to be fine.

"Nikki, is that you?" a shaky, drunken slur whispered through the letterbox later that night. She shivered involuntary

"Yeah Anna, it's me" She finally said. It had been a while since Nikki had felt this desperate. She needed company and Anna was the first person to spring to mind. She hadn't seen or heard from her friend in a long time. But being as caught up in her feelings as she had been, No one else had entered her mind for long enough.

The door opened quickly and she was pulled inside. It was the first time Nikki had seen the nasty marks across Anna's face. "What the hell happened?" She gasped

"Don't ask. Don't…just…Nikki come in, you look like you could do with a drink although it'll take you a while to catch up with me" Anna slurred, pulling the taller woman into the living room.

Nikki shrugged off her coat and dropped her keys. For a few moments she peered around Anna's living room, dimly lit, stuffy and untidier than usual. Nikki knew something was wrong. Anna never let her house go untidy…

"Vodka ok?" Anna broke her observations.

Nikki turned and looked at her, so fragile in the dim light. "Thanks" she smiled, slumping down on the sofa next to her. "Now are you going to tell me where Jim is?"

"It's been a while Nik, can't we just forget about our lives and caring, and enjoy a drink?"

With a sigh of resolution, Nikki downed her vodka in one. With a lopsided grin, Anna filled their glasses again. This continued for some time as they sat amidst comfortable conversation. But it seemed the more intoxicated she became, the more Nikki thought of Helen.

"What is it?" Anna whispered, forcing her to look up at her "Tell me what you're thinking about, please?"

She contemplated, but in her given mood, Nikki relented and told Anna about her love for Helen.

"Helen?" Anna gasped, "You're in love with Helen?"

"Yes" She nodded trying to focus

"She's straight Nikki"

"Is she?" They stared at each other and Nikki couldn't work out Anna's facial expression.

"YES!" Anna shouted taking her by surprise "You don't love her Nik, it's a phase, it's…"

"What?" she breathed, shaking her head "Anna I know how I feel…"

"No, you don't" Anna shook her head, passing her another drink "You want a woman who can love you, who could accept you, who…"

"And Helen can it's just…"

"No!" Anna said incredulously, a look of sadness sweeping over her features. Nikki was baffled, even in her state of drunkenness; she knew Anna was acting oddly. "Helen and you...well Nikki...it isn't right" Anna whispered, moving closer "Don't you see Nik, the equation is wrong…"

"Is it?" She whispered, gasping at the warm feel of Anna's hand on her thigh

"Yes," She said moving closer "I can love you Nikki"

Nikki's head was swimming but as Anna's face inched closer to hers all she could see was danger and all she could think about was the woman she really loved. "No Anna," Nikki said sternly, sitting upright. She felt woozy and knew she ought to have passed out by now. Why hadn't she?

"Nikki, we both need love and I know we can give it to each other"

Before she had time to say another word, Anna pulled her into a kiss. She could feel her defences begin to waver as a hot, wet tongue slipped into hr mouth. Anna was a beautiful woman and although she didn't feel anything for her, she just didn't have the will power to pull away from this show of affection. She needed to feel whole again. Helen had gutted her and Anna was offering passion, something she craved. At that moment, as the kiss deepened Nikki abandoned rational thinking.

It was the shadow of a figure that distracted Nikki some seconds later as she pulled away and looked up at the doorway. Helen stood, hands hanging limp by her side. Her eyes flickered from Anna to Nikki, bearing no emotion.

"Helen!" Both said in unison.

She said nothing as a tear crept down her cheek. But as Nikki went to stand, she turned and fled the house.

Again Nikki could feel her heart's raging torment. She was angry with herself for kissing Anna, guilty for allowing herself to be spurred on by alcohol, yet at the same time, lost as to what she should do next. There was no point running, Helen wouldn't stop. There was no point in phoning because Helen wouldn't answer. Running her fingers through her hair, Nikki turned and peered at Anna. "We shouldn't have done that"

"Oh Nikki, don't be like that...I want - " Anna slurred, toppling sideways.

"Look, Anna...can I sleep on your couch?"

Again she was in a position that did nothing in her favour, she had none to blame but herself and she knew that it was going to be even harder to explain to Helen. She felt empty as she lay on the sofa, Too afraid to sleep, too angry to cry and too ashamed of that kiss.

Helen walked. Her legs wouldn't stop and her brain was working overtime. The last few images she could recall were harrowing. Her best friend and the woman she was fighting feelings for…in a passionate clinch. The thought turned her stomach as she staggered into a desolate park and sat on the nearest bench. Anna was straight wasn't she? Thoughts fuzzed her brain as she tried to stop this strength of jealousy coursing through her body. She shook her head and a tear crept down her nose. It was no use. She couldn't handle these feelings she had for Nikki, yet at the same time she didn't want to see or hear of anyone else touching her. It had made her feel violently sick, deeply jealous, yet at the same time hurt. Nikki had hours earlier told Helen she loved her and then gone and found solace in the arms of her best friend. Something wasn't right. She stared at the stars as gaps began to open in her jealous rage. Exposing self-pity so deep it felt like a physical sensation. In the pit of her stomach, she felt nausea of abandonment -a body hollowing sadness- an invading vacuum of pure misery. Never before this moment in her life had she been unhappy. She'd never felt like this.

Hurrying to her feet, Helen ran back along the road and to her car, desperate to get home to her bed...

Part 7

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