DISCLAIMER: the characters don't belong to me, but to Shed. I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done toying with them, I'll give them back in one piece, I promise *evil laugh* Please don't sue, all I have left in my wallet is a couple of Euro' s. Not worth the hassle.
SEQUEL: the story is going to be part of a series of one off sequels to Someone to Watch Over Me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Haunting Memories III
By Piranha



Parce que c'est toi (A. Red)

Si tu crois un jour qu'je t'laisserai tomber, pour un détail pour une futilité, n'aie pas peur je saurais bien faire la différence

Si tu crains un jour qu'je t'laisserai fâner, la fin de l'été, un mauvais cap à passer
n'aie pas peur personne d'autre n'pourrait, si facilement te remplacer

oh non pas toi, vraiment pas toi , parce que c'est toi le seule à qui je peux dire
qu'avec toi je n'ai plus peur de vieillir

parce que c'est toi, rien que pour ça, parce que j'avoue j'suis pas non plus tentée
d'rester seule dans un monde insensé.

Si tu crois un jour q'tout est à refaire, qu'il faut changer; on était si bien naguère
n'aie pas peur je n'veux pas tout compliquer, pourquoi s'fatiguer

Et commence pas à te cacher pour moi, oh non, je te connais trop bien pour ça
je connais par coeur ton visage, tes désirs, ces endroits de ton corps, qui m'disent encore. Parce que nous c'est fort, parce que c'est toi j'oserais tout affronter et c'est toi à qui j'pourrais pardonner

parce que c'est toi, rien que pour ça, parce que c'est toi j'voudrais un jour un enfant, et non pas parce que c'est le moment. Je veux te voir dedans, j'verrais dans ses yeux tous ces petits défauts, parce que parfait n'est plus mon crénau
parce que c'est toi, parce que c'est toi le seul à qui j'peux dire, qu'avec toi je n'ai plus peur de vieillir, parce que c'est toi

rien que pour ça, parce que j'avoue j'suis pas non plus tentée, d'rester seule dans un monde insensé, parce que c'est toi


erm bear in mind that French isn't my mother tongue though lol

If you believe that one day I'll break up with you, over a small detail, something inconsequential. Don't worry I know the difference

If you're afraid that I'll let you wither away, the end of summer, a clip to pass. Don't worry, you 're not so easily replaced

No, not you, really not you. Because with you I can truly say I'm not afraid of growing old anymore. Just because of you, that's the only reason. Because I admit, I am no longer tempted to stay alone in a crazy world.

If you believe that one day everything needs to be redone, that we have to change, that it was better before. Don't worry, I don't want to complicate matters, why tire yourself

Don't begin to hide yourself from me, I know you too well for that.

I know by heart, your face, your desires, those little places on your body that tell me you want more. Because us, we're too strong, I'm not afraid to confess you something and you're the only one I can always forgive

Because of you, that's the only reason. Because of you, I want to have a baby someday and not just because it's time. I want to see you (in that baby). See in his eyes all your little faults

Because perfection is no longer my desire

No, not you, really not you. Because with you I can truly say I'm not afraid of growing old anymore. Just because it's you, that's the only reason. Because I admit, I am no longer tempted to stay alone in a crazy world. Simply because of you.


Sorry seems to be the hardest word (Elton John).

What have I got to do to make you love me
What have I got to do to make you care
What do I do when lightning strikes me
And I wake to find that you're not there

What do I do to make you want me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I say when it's all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

What do I do to make you love me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I do when lightning strikes me
What have I got to do
What have I got to do
When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Knowing how very fickle the weather could be in May, Nikki decided they all needed to enjoy the extremely warm weather with an impromptu barbeque in the garden. Alice provided the wine and location (desperately wanting to enjoy her garden again after so many years of neglect), while Nikki gladly volunteered as the chef, whipping up a wide variety of dishes in a short time. Drawn in by the mouth watering aromas, they were soon joined by a hungry Trisha and it was unanimously decided she was to be lumbered with the washing up, though Helen took pity on her and offered to help. The soft wind chasing away the immediate heat, bees buzzing around them, they were soon enjoying the food, the wine and each other's company, conversation flowing freely.

The sun climbing further down to hide behind the trees, Trisha and Helen went inside, their arms full of dirty crockery while Alice and Nikki stayed outside to enjoy the last of the wine. Looking through the kitchen window as she wiped a plate dry, Helen couldn't help but smile. The last sun rays basking Nikki in an almost golden glow, she watched her lover take a slow drag of her cigarette as she listened intently to Alice's story before bursting into laughter, almost knocking down her glass in the process. A warm feeling of happiness and belonging fell over Helen. <This is how life is meant to be>, she thought, <being with friends, talking, just enjoying the simple things.> Once again she was baffled by the ease between Alice and Nikki, the age difference of forty old years seemed to melt away as soon as they were together. Putting the last plate in the cupboard, she turned to Trisha and asked: "have they always been like this?"

Carefully hanging a towel over the oven rail, Trisha went to stand next to Helen and as they watched them from the kitchen window, she answered: "Nikki and Alice? Like two peas in a pod, aren't they? Yeah, they've always been like that. Once Alice got over her initial shock of living next to a couple of raving dykes, she became a really good friend. She always calls us the daughters she never had, her only child was stillborn you see…. Nikki holds a very special place in her heart though. I guess it's because Nikki reminds her of her late husband with her no nonsense attitude, free spirit and gentle, compassionate nature. From what I understand Alfred always spoke his mind, consequences be damned, even earning him a short holiday down the nick one time. He was a big burly man, but with a heart of gold. He was active in local politics for a while I believe, always ready to kick government against the shins.

I guess Alice and Nikki are kindred spirits, they gravitated naturally towards each other. They shared so many hobbies and interests: they read the same books, they listen to the same music, they love having long discussions on a wide variety of subjects, both vigorously defending their own point of view. Whenever something was bothering Nikki, whenever she had a problem she couldn't talk to me about, she always sought out Alice for advice. She knew she'd find a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on in her. The bottom line is that they need each other, Nikki makes Alice feel young again and Alice ….. well I guess she's the mother figure Nikki always longed for. If anything should ever happen to Alice …," Trisha trailed off, both realising how utterly devastated Nikki would be.

Wanting to keep the mood light and cheery, Trisha turned to Helen and with an amused grin, she said: "I bet you don't know what an accomplished dancer Nikki is, it's not something she likes to brag about. IN fact she finds it embarrassing for some reason. You won't find her on the dance floor in Chix though, she finds modern dancing nothing more than mindless jumping around. I don't mean slow dancing either, I mean anyone can do that, you just holds each other tight and sway around, letting your emotions take over. No, what I mean is ballroom dancing, the waltz, the tango, … I guess it's because of Nikki's upbringing, all those boring and mindless balls she had to attend as a child. Nikki loves it though, she finds it an excellent outlet for her strong emotions. She and Alice used to dance the night away whenever they had the chance. I can't dance if my life depends on it, you see.

Anyway, it's amazing to see, they seem to feel each other naturally. Alice missed dancing so much while Nikki was away. I offered myself up as a volunteer, but she politely declined after a couple of times as I kept trodding on her toes.," Trisha laughed. A pensive look on her face, she continued: "you know, I just thought of the perfect way to end this evening. Hang on." She disappeared into the next room only to return with a portable CD-player a few minutes later. Turning on the garden light as it was almost dark outside, she popped her head outside the window and said: "Nikki, why don't you ask Alice to dance? I know how much she has missed dancing with you, I was a totally unworthy replacement."

Her eyes sparkling brightly, Nikki looked at Alice who just smiled and nodded. Stubbing out her cigarette, Nikki got up. Gallantly giving Alice's hand a kiss, she offered her a hand before walking over to the lawn. With a short nod to Trisha, she took Alice into her arms and waited for the music to start. As 'la java bleu' echoed through the star filled night, they began twirling around with the most amazing grace, anticipating each other's every move, as if they 'd been dancing together all their lives. "How about a tango to end with?" Nikki whispered after a while. When Alice just nodded, a wide grin on her face, Nikki walked to the kitchen and got a pair of scissors out.

Asking Trisha to play a tango, she walked back to Alice who was waiting impatiently. She cut off a thorn less rose and put it in her mouth, making Alice smirk with laughter at the odd side: Nikki in shorts and bikini tops, light slippers on her feet and a rose stuck between her teeth. Soon they were striding down the length of the garden, Nikki occasionally dipping Alice low. As the music faded away, Alice hugged Nikki tight and whispered: "thank you for making an old woman happy, it's been a while since I had so much fun."

"It's my pleasure," Nikki smiled, "and less of the old, you hear? There's plenty of life left in you yet." Not noticing how the spark suddenly disappeared out of Alice's eyes, Nikki offered her an arm as they walked back to Helen and Trisha. Facing Helen, she said: "I guess we'd better head to yours." When Helen nodded, they both said goodbye to Alice and Trisha.

The soft moonlight peeking through the half closed blinds the only illumination in the room, a soft breeze chasing away the heat of the day, Nikki laid on the soft, big bed, Helen half curled around her, her head tucked just beneath Nikki's shoulder. A contented smile on her face, she softly stroked Helen's hair. "Tell me about your father," she whispered into the dark.

The wine she had earlier, the gentle caress and the soft rhythmic beating of Nikki's heart slowly lulling her to sleep, Helen lazily opened her eyes. Turning away slightly to look Nikki in the eye, she slurred, her accent thicker with drowsiness: "okay. On one condition though, you tell me about your family too." Feeling Nikki stiffen beneath her, Helen thought for a moment that she had pushed too far too soon, but then Nikki relaxed again, whispering 'deal' almost inaudibly. Putting her head back on Nikki's shoulder, she was pleasantly surprised when Nikki resumed her stroking almost immediately.

Lazily tracing Nikki's arm and neck with a finger, Helen said: "I adored my father as a wee kid, I thought he could walk over water. To me he was Cary Grant, James Bond and Santa Claus all rolled into one. He was my god, we were inseparable. My mom used to call me his shadow as I followed him around everywhere. He took me on long walks on the heather, telling me all about the birds and plants. He taught me how to ride a bike, always kissing my skimmed knees better. He once drove eighty miles simply because I wanted a chocolate brown Labrador for my birthday. He was my everything. I don't mean to say that I wasn't close to my mom, I was, … but my dad and I , that was something special.

Then suddenly he changed overnight; he didn't have time for me any more, he no longer read me a bedtime story or chased away the ghosts hiding in my room. Now I realise that he was too busy taking care of my mom and figuring how to pay the hospital bills, but as a kid I didn't understand his sudden transformation at all. I kept following him around, begging him to take me fishing or to read me a story, but he never did. After a while I just gave up and turned to my mom. She always had time for me, no matter how sick she was. When she was too tired to turn the pages of a book, she simply invited me to crawl into bed with her and made a story up, usually about little princesses with a guardian angel, way up in the sky, to take care of them. She was saying goodbye to me and I never even realised.

She died holding my hand, quietly and without a fuss, I simply felt her grip on my fingers lessen. When it was over, I turned to my dad, tears running down my face, but he looked frozen. I so desperately wanted him to hold me, to tell me everything would be alright, but he didn't. He didn't even move, he just stared blankly in front of him like he couldn't believe what had just happened. I ran, desperate to get away. I was so mad, mad at my mom for leaving me behind, mad at my dad for his seemingly indifference, even mad at God for taking my mom instead of my dad.

The next couple of days passed in a blur, all I remember is the two of us staying out of each other's way, both needing time alone to cope with our loss. During the funeral my dad just stood there, rigid and unemotional, not even shedding a single tear while I sobbed my eyes out. I know that everyone reacts differently, that he mourned my mom in his own way, but at the time I thought he had never loved my mom at all, that her death didn't touch him at all so I started resenting him, even blamed him for her death during one of our fights. I regretted it as soon as I had said it, but it was too late to take it back or say that I was sorry. He looked so hurt, he didn't say anything, he just looked at me and then left the room.

The little bond we had left, deteriorated even further after that. He did his best to reach out to me, but I was still too ashamed about my outburst and simply ignored him. After a while he simply gave up and that infuriated me even more. Even though I had been the one to push him away, I was mad at him for giving up on me. I felt like I was losing a parent all over again. We grew apart even more, some sort of cold animosity settled between us. I disapproved of his rigid stance and conservative outlook on life, he disapproved of the life choices I made. Though he was right sometimes, I was far too stubborn to admit it.

I left the house as soon as I could, being accepted to uni was like a godsend to me. I left and never looked back. Though we call ever so often and I go up to Scotland occasionally to visit him, we fall into the same pattern every single time: he starts critising some of the choices I've made and I get mad and storm off, swearing that it was the very last time I went to see him. I love my dad and deep down I know that he loves me, that he wants the best for me, but we just can't seem to talk to each other. I'd like so much if we could have the closeness we had when I was a child, but … the distance between us is just too big. I realise that I'm partly to blame for that, but I don't know how to change it.

The reason why I'm so reluctant to tell him about us is because I know he'll disapprove, just like he has disapproved of pretty much everything else I've done with my life. Only this time I don't think I could bear his cold, harsh judgement and criticism. You're too important to me. He's the only family member I have left, I want him to share in my, in our happiness, but if he doesn't then I know I'll lose him forever because I'll always choose you."

Not really knowing what to say, but realising that words weren't important right now, Nikki simply held Helen even closer, softly caressing her back, silently letting Helen know she was there for her. After a while she began telling her own story, divulging details and secrets she hadn't told anyone else before, not even Alice. As she finished, she said: "I'd like to tell you I've gotten over it a long time ago, but I haven't and I don't think I ever will. The fact that I don't like to talk about my parents, even though it's been twenty odd years, just proves that. I don't think there's ever a good time for parental rejection, but somehow it's even worse during adolescence.

You're still trying to find your own way in life and build up your own personality, using all sorts of role models. Usually your parents are primary role models, people you look up to. I realised pretty early on however, even before they threw me out of the house, that I never wanted to be like my parents. I know that every kid says that at one point, but I really meant it. I despised everything they stood for: they were cold and detached, dishonest, out for material gain, superficial, only interested in appearances while it's what's inside that counts. They laughed in your face while they stabbed you in the back.

When they rejected me that final time, it hurt immensely – they were my parents after all, they were supposed to love me no matter what – but I was used to it. I was so used to being independent and taking care of myself, that I just did it. In a way I suppose I wanted to get back at them, I wanted to prove to them that I could make it on my own, that I didn't need them, their influence of their little mind games. That determination got me through. Every time I was down, every time I thought I wouldn't make it, I just thought of the smirk on my brother's face as my parents threw me out of the house.

To me, family isn't my mom and dad, but my gran and aunts in France. When I didn't go spend the summer holiday with them, they got suspicious and called my parents. At first my parents gave them all sorts of excuses, but in the end, when they couldn't come up with a plausible explanation for my prolonged absence, they had to come clean. My aunts immediately came looking for me. I hadn't dared contact them, afraid they'd reject me as well. My aunts finally tracked me down and begged me to come back to France with them, to let them take care of me. By that time though I was working full time and had found myself a new girlfriend…. You know how it goes, I didn't want to leave her behind.

I did keep in contact with them though, calling them ever so often and spending my holidays at my gran's. We should go visit them. I've called my gran several times since my release, but it's not the same, is it? I want my gran to meet you, I want her to meet the woman who's made me happier than I've ever been. You'll like my gran, she's a bit eccentric but fun. Now's the best time to go too. As long as the builders are busy with the warehouse renovations, there's not a lot we can do here anyway. So what do you say? Fancy going to the South of France for a couple of days?"

"To meet you family?" Helen said. "I'd love to."

"Great," Nikki smiled, "I'll give my gran a call first thing in the morning, she'll be so pleased."

Sitting on the upper deck of the ferry, the wind blowing through her hair as she stared at the horizon, Nikki felt a warm feeling of contentment descend on her. She was going home again. She couldn't wait to see her family, catch up with them and see how much the toddlers had grown. Maybe there were even some new ones? Seeing the French coastline appear in the distance, she felt her excitement grow and looked over to Helen sitting beside her. At least she looked a little better, she wasn't so green around the gills anymore. Noticing how tightly Helen still held on to the arms of the deckchair, Nikki put her hand over Helen's and gave it a comforting squeeze. "Not long to go now, we'll disembark soon," she said reassuringly.

Her stomach still doing acrobatic somersaults, Helen could only nod. Though she felt better since Nikki suggested they'd sit outside in the fresh air, Helen still felt queasy. The sea wasn't even that rough, but still… every time a wave crashed against the ferry, she felt the bile rise. She couldn't get on land fast enough, she definitely didn't have sea legs. Maybe they could take the Eurostar back? Desperately holding on to Nikki's hand as the swaggered back to the car, she was eternally grateful when Nikki suggested: "maybe I should drive? You're obviously still not feeling too well and I know the route by heart, I've driven it a thousand times before. Besides, you're not really used to driving on the right side of the road."

Handing Nikki the car keys, she watched Nikki fold her lengthy frame behind the wheel of her Peugeot before getting in herself. Making herself comfortable, lowering the seat a bit, she asked yawning widely: "do you mind if I close my eyes for a bit? I'm still not feeling a 100 %."

"No, go right ahead," Nikki said, starting up the car and driving down the ferry bridge. "We've got a pretty long drive ahead of us anyway, you rest for a bit. I'll just listen to some music." Knowing she'd never receive any of the English channels anyway, Nikki put one of her French CD's in. Tapping her fingers on the steering wheel to the rhythm of the music, Nikki drove on to the freeway. Helen asleep within minutes, softly snoring as she turned to face Nikki, Nikki watched France slowly come to life as the sun set.

After about two hours, she totally forgot about the sleeping Helen beside her and began to sing along loudly (and badly out of key): "….Je vous regardais tendrement. J'aurais bien voulu vous parler, mais le courage m'a manqué. J'aurais voulu vous emmener, faire quelques pas à mes côtés. Sans pour cela imaginer, imaginer un tas de choses, des choses que je n'ose vous dire, Madame. Et pourtant, je pense à vous bien souvent. Souvent je pense à vous, Madame. Souvent je vous revois, Madame. Je suis heureux, j'ai des idées et peut-être demain, vous me prendrez la main. Souvent je pense à vous Madame. Souvent, je vous revois Madame. Ne me dîtes pas de m'en aller, je pourrais en souffrir et peut-être en mourir….."

Startled Helen woke up , who wouldn't when a bunch of horny street cats were being tortured right beside you. Blinking a couple of times, she drowsily asked: "where are we?"

"Oops, I didn't wake you, did I?" Nikki asked, blushing furiously.

"Don't worry about it," Helen laughed, sitting up a bit straighter. "Just don't sing again, I don't think my eardrums can take it."

"I promise," Nikki said, holding out her hand in an oath gesture. "Anyway, we're making good progress, we should get there around noon. We left Paris behind us an hour ago. Have you ever been there, to Paris?"

"No," Helen replied sadly, "I've always wanted to though. This may sound a bit weird, but I've always wanted to visit Père Lachaise, walk between the rows and rows of tombs of famous people, put some flowers on Jim Morrisson's grave… That's not the only thing I want to see though, Paris offers so many possibilities: art, shopping … La Tour Eiffel, Montmartre, Place des Tuileries, the Louvre, …."

"Yes, that's true, Paris has it all. It's beautiful and romantic city. I'll take you one day if you want? Show you all the secret, hidden spots," Nikki suggested with a smile.

"Yes, I'd like that," Helen replied, making Nikki's heart beat faster as she did that tongue thing again. "How come you know Paris so well, did you and Trisha go often?"

"No, not really, we landed on Charles de Gaulle once, but that was just to change planes so it doesn't really count. We never visited Paris, at first we didn't really have the money and then later, when Chix took off, we never had the time. No, my gran is a real 'Parisienne', she came from Paris originally. She moved down south when she married my grandfather during the war. She has taken me to Paris a couple of times. She wanted to show me the real Paris, where she grew up, not just the tourist places," Nikki answered.

In a way Helen was relieved to hear that, she wanted them to carve out their own memories, not simply repeat the fun and romantic things Nikki had done with Trisha before. She realised that it was silly and even a bit irrational to be jealous and afraid of Nikki's past, she knew Nikki had led a full life before she came into the picture, but she couldn't help the way she felt. Though she considered Trisha to be a very good friend, she was still envious that the other woman had occupied Nikki's heart for so long. She didn't doubt Nikki's love and though it was obvious Trisha still loved Nikki, she had graciously stepped aside, but still…. Trisha would always own a little part of Nikki's heart Helen couldn't touch. Wanting to chase away her irrational jealousy, she began asking Nikki about her family, the rest of the journey listening to Nikki's funny anecdotes about the summers spent at her gran's.

Large vineyards having dominated the breathtaking scenery for the past hour, Nikki' said "we're here" as she turned right on a small dirt road bordered by huge oak trees, stopping right in front of a small, but cosy land house. "It's beautiful Nikki," Helen said, taking in the house and the surrounding land.

"Yeah, it's not much, but it has character and atmosphere. It's been in the family for generations. My granddad had to do some serious renovations though, the house was pretty derelict when he inherited it from his uncle. He tried to restore it in the original state as much as possible: old oak beams, original fireplace, old tiles, … You'll see better once we're inside. He did it all himself as money was tight for a while, but I think he did a mighty fine job," Nikki smiled as she got their luggage out of the trunk. "Come on, let's go in, I'm starving."

Just then the door flung open and an old woman came out, wrapping her arms around Nikki's neck. Tears of happiness running down her cheeks, she started speaking rapid French, rattling off something totally incomprehensible to Helen. Nikki dropped the bags to the floor and hugged her gran tight, answering all her gran's questions in almost fluent French. When they finally let go of each other, Nikki said: "mamie, je veux te présenter la femme qui m'a sauvée quand j'étais en taule. Elle m'a redonné ma joie de vie et captivé mon Coeur simplement par sourire. Elle est vraiment l'amour de ma vie, Helen. Helen, I want you to meet my gran Julie."

"Enchantée" they both said, shaking each other's hand and giving each other a quick once over. Helen couldn't get over how much Nikki and her gran looked alike. Just watching them interact with each other, observing their body language was telling her heaps. They were obviously very at ease with each other, unknowingly touching each other all the time and gesticulating wildly to get their point across. You could clearly see they loved each other, it was evident in their eyes, their smiles and in the way they told each other so much without uttering a single word. Looking at the both of them in profile, she noticed how much they resembled each other. They really were two peas in a pod. Sure, their noses where different and they didn't have the same eye colour, but otherwise Nikki was almost a carbon copy of Julie. She had a privileged view of how Nikki would look like in fifty years time.

"You'd better come in," gran said, switching to English. Leading them into the house, she continued: "you must both be hungry after such a long journey. Why don't you go freshen up? I prepared Nikki's old room for you both, up in the attic. Don't take too long though, lunch will be ready soon. I've made your favourite Nikki, coq au vin. Anyway, you've picked the perfect time for a visit. The whole family is coming down later, we're holding a birthday party in the garden. Nikki's aunt turned 60 today." Shewing them up the stairs, gran returned to the kitchen.

The party in full wing, Helen sat beside one of Nikki's nieces, completely lost in thought. Thinking back to earlier that afternoon, she couldn't help but smile. Nikki talking to her family, laughing and joking as they told funny stories and anecdotes, Nikki holding her youngest niece, a baby of just a few months old, cooing at the baby with a tender smile on her face, smiling brightly as the baby grabbed her finger and held on tight. Nikki seemed to have that effect on children, they were inexplicably drawn to her.

Even now Nikki was walking around with a toddler on her hip. The little girl had taken an immediate shine to Nikki, following her around everywhere. As the little girl couldn't keep up with Nikki's longer strides and kept falling over, Nikki had simply picked her up and was now intently listening to the little girl's nonsensical babbling. When the little girl finally drifted off to sleep, sucking her thumb in her mouth, Nikki handed her back to her mother and went to take up her place beside Helen.

She was only sitting two minutes when a young boy yanked on her shirt and shyly asked her if she wanted to play some footie with them. Throwing Helen an apologetic look, she allowed herself to be dragged off, clapping the boy on the back with laughter as he told her something funny. Mesmerised by Nikki's remarkable ease around children, Helen realised that it would always be like this when they had children of their own. Now matter how busy or tired she was, Nikki would always make time for them, listen to them and help them with their problems and worries, no matter how insignificant they were.

"She'd make a great mother, wouldn't she?" gran asked, sitting down beside Helen, interrupting her thoughts.

"Yes, she would," Helen smiled as she watched Nikki's enthusiasm for scoring a goal.

"Have you thought about babies, having children of your own?" gran queried curiously, thinking Helen had a decidedly broody look on her face moments earlier.

"I'd love to have children one day," Helen replied honestly. "I haven't really talked about it with Nikki yet though…. We haven't been together that long, we're still in the faze of getting to know each other properly. Besides, we're in the middle of starting up a new business, so now is not really the right time. I don't really know how Nikki feels about children. I mean I know she 's great with them, but I don't know if she wants to have children of her own….", Helen trailed off, looking at gran expectantly.

Gran just shrugged and said: "when she was younger, a teenager really, Nikki always said that although she loved children, she never saw herself having any of her own. She was far too afraid she'd turn out to be like her mother Yvette. Though I tried to convince her she wasn't like my daughter at all, quite the contrary in fact, she adamantly refused to change her opinion. I guess the pain was still too fresh. A lot of years have passed since and though my daughter's betrayal probably still hurts her deeply, I think Nikki now realises that she isn't like her mother at all. Nikki has a lot of love to give and with the right partner, someone like you, someone who'll love her unconditionally, she'll make an excellent mother one day. I don't think you'll a lot of trouble convincing her to give it a go." Patting Helen on the shoulder, she left her to contemplate the advice.

Taking a sip of wine as she thought it over, she was startled when two arms slid around her and Nikki suddenly whispered into her ear: "do you want to dance?" Nodding she grabbed Nikki's hand and together they went to the little improvised dance floor on the lawn where several of Nikki family members were already swaying to the music. Holding each other tight, they danced, letting their emotions take over. As another song came on, Nikki whispered: "I know that I promised I wouldn't sing anymore, but this song is special. It's how I feel about you."

As Axelle Red began to sing, Nikki whispered the translation in Helen's ear: "… because of you, I want to have a baby someday and not just because it's time. I want to see you (in that baby). See in his eyes all your little faults. Because perfection is no longer my desire. No, not you, really not you. Because with you I can truly say I'm not afraid of growing old anymore. Just because it's you, that's the only reason. Because I admit, I am no longer tempted to stay alone in a crazy world. Simply because of you."

Tears brimming in her eyes, Helen said "I love you too Nikki, so much" before kissing her passionately, not even noticing the knowing smiles and happy looks on the faces of Nikki's family. As they finally came up for air, some uncles began to jeer and whistle in jest, making them both bright red. "Come on, let's take a walk," Nikki said, grabbing Helen's hand. "I want to show you my favourite hide out when I was younger, we'll have some more privacy there." In total silence Nikki led them to a little stream surrounded by trees and bushes. Sitting down beneath a huge oak tree, Nikki admitted: "I used to come here every time things got too much. I don't know …. The streaming water, watching those tiny ripples and torrents, it seems to have a calming effect on me, it chased all my worries away. Sitting here, surrounded by trees and birds, fish making their way downstream, I realised how tiny and insignificant my problems were compared to the strength and beauty of nature."

They laid down together on the soft grass, enjoying being in each other's arms. After a while, Helen turned and laying half on top of Nikki, looking her straight in the eye, she asked: "did you mean it? About having a baby with me I mean?"

"Yes," Nikki answered sincerely, "not right away of course, but someday… yes, I'd love to have a miniature version of you. I can't wait to hold our baby in my arms, a little girl with green eyes or a little boy with a mischievous grin. How about you?"

"I want that too," Helen smiled," though I want them to be exactly like you: brown eyes, slightly curly hair and a very stubborn streak." Giving Nikki a sweet kiss, she laid her head back on Nikki's shoulder, listening to Nikki's strong heartbeat, totally at peace with herself. After a while she said: "being here with your family has made me realise that I can't put it off any longer, I want to tell my dad, as soon as possible. Fancy a trip to Scotland when we get back?"

"You're the most stubborn, infuriating man I've ever met," Helen shouted angrily before storming out of the room. Grabbing a coat from the rack in the hallway, she slammed the front door shut, leaving Nikki and Bill Stewart gaping at each other. "Aren't you going after her?" Bill asked after a while, still trying to get his head around what his daughter had just said. His daughter, a lesbian, in love with an ex-inmate.

"No," Nikki sighed heavily, sitting back down on the couch. "She needs to be alone right now, cool off for a bit while. She'll come back when she's ready. I wouldn't be able to get through to her now anyhow. Besides, she took my coat by mistake and I don't particularly fancy traipsing after her in this weather." After spending a week in sunny France, the cold and wet weather up in Scotland was quite an anticlimax for Nikki. Then she continued: "anyway, it gives us a chance to speak freely…. Tell me, what do you have against me? You don't know me at all, why am I not good enough for your daughter?"

"You've got to be kidding me, as if you don't know that," Bill guffawed. Pouring himself a whiskey, he felt he'd need it, he continued: "one, you're a woman. Two, you're an ex-prisoner. That's not how I saw my daughter settling down."

"Yes, I am a woman, how very observant of you Bill," Nikki answered somewhat sarcastically. "Nothing much I can do about that, well …. There is I suppose, but I don't particularly fancy exploring that option. Yes, it's true, I've been in prison, I killed a man. Do you think I'm proud of that? I took a man's life, I played God for a moment and I have to life with that every single day. Don't you think that I regret it, that I don't have nightmares about it?"

"In the eyes of God, you're a murderer," Bill said spitefully.

"In the eyes of the law I'm not a murderer, but a killer. My sentence was reduced to manslaughter, which makes a really big difference," Nikki said. "I didn't kill him premeditated."

"Semantics," Bill argued, taking a big gulp of his whisky.

Undeterred Nikki continued: "even in the eyes of God, I didn't murder Gossard. I know the Bible's sixth commandment states <thou shalt not kill>, but it also states <you shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour>, <thou shalt not commit adultery> and <thou shalt not covet your neighbour's house>, all things Gossard and some of his colleagues were guilty of that faithfull night or during my trial. Not that it excuses my behaviour, but still…

Theologically you know as well as I do that the original Hebrew bible unambiguously stated 'murder' in the sixth commandment, kill is a mistranslation. Jews hold "you shall not kill' to be a flawed interpretation for there are circumstances in which one is required to kill, such as in self defence. Both Catholic and Protestant interpretation agree with that; though life is considered to be holy, it is legitimate to use force –even lethal force- against the threats of an aggressor who can't be stopped any other way. That's what I did.

I tried to stop Gossard, I tried to get him off Trisha, I really did. He was trying to rape her, she was already turning blue so I hit him as hard as I could, forgetting I still had a shard in my hand. I tried to save him, but it was too late. I didn't mean to kill him, I just wanted him to stop. I'm not proud of what I did, there's not a single day that goes by that I don't think about what I could have done differently, but I really believe that I saved Trisha's life that night. If the same thing were to happen to Helen, I'd do the same thing again. Helen's safety means everything to me, even if it means losing my freedom all over again," Nikki pleaded passionately.

Bill was impressed, not only because Nikki had used theological arguments against him, but also because she had dared go into him. None of the others Helen had introduced him to had ever dared speak to him. Awed he asked: "you love her that much?"

"Yes," Nikki simply said, "she's my world."

Pouring Nikki a glass of his expensive whisky, something he otherwise never did, he said thoughtfully: "Though it'll get some taking used to, I must admit that I like you Nikki. I can't say that I'm happy about the two of you being together, it's not really how I saw Helen's future, but I'll get used to it. In fact you're much better than the spineless gits Helen brought home before. At least you've got spunk, you're not afraid to speak your mind. You'll always stand by her, defend her with your life if necessary and Helen needs someone strong beside her. She could never settle for a doormat, she'd grow tired of him within a week, she'd dominate him and simply lose interest after a while. In the end all I want for her is to be happy and I think she'll be happy with you. Like I said, it'll take me a while to get my head wrapped around the idea of you two, but I guess I can see why she chose you. Anyway, I'd rather gain a daughter than lose the one I already have." Then he added dejectedly: "if I haven't already that is."

Unbeknownst to Nikki and Bill, Helen chose that time to come back in. The long walk on the heather had done her the world of good, it had given her enough time to clear her thoughts and forget about her initial anger. She was amazed to see Nikki drink her father's best whisky and was just about to push the slightly ajar door further open when Nikki asked: "tell me something Bill… When Helen's mother became ill and you distanced yourself from Helen, you did that on purpose, didn't you? You wanted Helen and her mother to spend the last few months together so Helen would have fond memories of her mother and you wife could say goodbye to her?"

"How …. How did you know that?" Bill asked, totally flabbergasted at being found out after such a long time.

"Simple," Nikki answered, "I would have done the same."

"Yes, when Rose and I found out that she was terminally ill and that she only had a couple of months left, I distanced myself from Helen," Bill said. "I wanted her to spend those last months with her mother, I wanted her to make memories, I wanted her to remember how beautiful and loving her mother was. I always thought we could pick up where we left off later…. But by the time I got my act together, it was already too late. I had lost Helen forever."

Pushing the door open, Helen said: "no, you haven't dad." Crying she hugged her dad and whispered: "I love you dad, I always have. I'm so sorry …. I never knew…. We've most so much time. I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too lass," Bill said. "Maybe we can make a fresh start? The three of us?"

Still hugging Bill tight, Helen whispered: "yeah, I'd like that. Thanks dad, not only for accepting Nikki, but also for giving me that time with mom." Helen wanted to say more, but then Nikki's cell phone began to ring. Letting go of her dad, she reached into Nikki's coat pocket and said: "hello?"


"Oh hi Trisha, no it's Helen."

"At last, I've been trying to reach you for hours."

"Sorry about that, I went walking in the hills and I know reception is pretty bad out there."

"Listen, you need to come home immediately."

"Now? Why?"

"It's Alice."

First French song: Madame by Claude Barzotti.

I tenderly looked at you, I really would have liked to talk to you, but I didn't have enough courage. I really would have wanted to take you away somewhere to walk beside me for a while. Without imagining, without imagining a lot of things, things I'd never dare tell you, madam. But still I think of you a lot. I often think of you, madam. I often see you again, madam. I'm happy, I have ideas and perhaps tomorrow, you'll take my hand. I think of you often, madam. I often see you again, madam. Don't tell me to go, it would pain me (to hear that), it could even kill me.

Nikki in French to her gran.

Gran, I want you to meet the woman who saved me when I was in prison. She has given me my joy for life back, she has captured my heart simply by smiling. She really is the love of my life.

The End

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