The sun rose on a hungover Helen Stewart. The last few days had been a blur, yet no matter how fiercely her head pounded, it did by no means dull the ache in the pit of her stomach. She knew this pain was a permanent reminder of her mistake. She had slept with doctor Thomas Waugh and there was no longer a thing she could do about it.
"Right you lot, Come on, up!" Senior PO Sylvia Hollamby spoke through tight lips as the cell door flung open with a recognisable force. Nikki Wade sighed, long and hard.
"Not coming to breakfast Nikki?" Barbara Hunt asked, peering at her sour looking cellmate still sat on her bunk.
"No, I'm not hungry" She replied coolly, snatching up her book from the bedside table and flicking through the pages idly.
Barbara had noticed Nikki's persistent foul mood and self-distractions that seemed to bother her over the last day or so. She had often though to question the fiery brunette but like most times, she decided otherwise, reminding herself of Nikki's stubborn ways. Once the cell was vacant and all that could be heard was the mumbles of officers and the odd shout of an inmate, Nikki closed her eyes and allowed her brain to function. On Friday of the previous week, three days ago by her memory she had overheard Helen and the new doctor discussing a friendly drink after work. It had taken all of Nikki's stamina to prevent the green eyes of jealousy from surfacing. As far as she was aware, Helen Stewart had eyes only for her and so she remained unaffected by their friendship... until her further discovery only yesterday. Karen Betts, the wing Governor had asked her on passing to deposit some sheets in the pigeon hole outside of Waugh's office.
"Helen knows how much I care about her" She could hear him saying to someone with a smug laugh "Yes, we slept together and I just hope it works for us...I tell you Mark, she's a great woman"
What was she to think? Ok so things hadn't been and never could be perfect between them and at times their relationship had been strained because of circumstances and the little privacy they got. But for months now the strength of their feelings was what pushed them through the restricted days and desolate nights. Helen's determination to have Nikki released through a bright appeal was their only hope, a hope that from the conversation she'd just heard had seemingly crashed and burned.
How could she...?
'Cause you are a lying conniving little bitch, that's why' she thought, anger building slowly as tears pricked the back of her eyes. These weren't the first tears she'd shed upon her discovery. All she had done was wait to be alone and then allow herself to cry. She knew now that Helen couldn't love her enough and so as far as she as concerned this relationship...was over.
Helen wracked her brain as to an excuse for sleeping with the doctor. Yes, she was slightly attracted to him, but it was nothing in comparison to her love for the headstrong lifer.
"Shit," She mumbled walking through the main gates of HMP Larkhall
"Morning Helen" The wing Governor approached her with the warmest of smiles, soon to be replaced with a concerned frown. "Jesus Helen, are you all right? "She glared at the pasty looking figure of Helen Stewart, following her into the office
"Yes" She forced a smile. "I'm fine"
"Are you sure?" Karen placed her hand slowly on to her arm. "Can I help?" She sat in the chair opposite
This was the last thing she needed right now. "Look Karen, I'm ok" She snapped, feeling her tears so near
The wing Governor backed down. "Ok," She got up to leave. "Oh and Dr Waugh called your office three times this morning, he seems keen to see you these days" she grinned but it only served to fuel Helen's bad mood. Clenching her fists under her desk she looked up at Karen
"Thank you, anything else?" She spoke as calmly as her emotions would let her.
"That's all" Karen said softly, leaving the room.
The morning had got off to a terrible start. She knew that the main objective was to speak to Nikki. As much as she wished her mistake could just be forgotten, the least she owed her was the truth, she knew that much. Facing the consequences was a different battle. However, seeing Nikki as planned was put on hold as the governing governor Simon Stubberfield summoned her to his office and order her to meetings all morning.
"Cheer up Nik!" Julie Saunders chirped, nudging the sullen inmate as they stood chatting out in the prison gardens. Nikki rolled her eyes and drew heavily on her cigarette
"Give me one good reason to cheer up in this sodding place?" She spoke casually leaning against the main wall
"We know whatcha mean" the two Julies spoke in perfect unison "But for us?" Julie J asked
"Yeah cheer up for us" Julie S agreed.
If there was one thing that always made her laugh, even on days like these, it was the Julies. Eccentric, bubbly and optimistic at the best of times.
"You two really make me laugh" She managed a smile despite herself.
That afternoon, Helen's legs turned to jelly as she walked slowly through Gwing. Just as her eyes began to dizzily scan the gatherings of prisoners, PO Gina Rossi leaped out from what seemed like nowhere.
"Alright Miss Stewart?" She smiled. "Heard about you and that dashing Doctor"
The last few words rang through her ears like alarm bells as she spun round to face Gina
"What?" She gasped rather loudly, she was exasperated
"Yeah!" Gina laughed "Must be his prize possession Helen, he hasn't stopped grinning or talking" The young officer raised suggestive eyebrows.
Helen's head was swimming. Her workmates knew about that night, that couldn't mean...
"Helen are you ok?" Gina noted the fear and horror chasing across her face and turned serious for a moment.
"Who else knows?" She asked quietly as another giggle escaped Gina's mouth
"Everyone, wouldn't surprise me if word got out on the wing! what can I say? must be love"
Helen glared in utter despair, turning her back on the interested PO. It would take one glance at Nikki to know if she'd heard already, but it was a moment she had to face as she walked slowly towards Nikki's cell...
There she was, thankfully alone, crouched with her back to the door arranging her beloved books.
"Nikki" Her voice portrayed the unease she felt
As Nikki heard the all too familiar voice she closed her eyes and gripped tightly onto her books for imaginary support. It was Helen and she knew it, but her pain and anger kept her body firmly where it was. She couldn't bring herself to stand, turn or breathe hardly, she couldn't face the woman she loved so dearly, yet felt so much bitterness and resentment towards. All these feelings were proving too hard for her heart to handle, as Helen Spoke again.
"Nikki, I need to talk to you" came her sexy Scottish purr. Helen trembled; This could only mean one thing. Nikki knew the truth already, her ignorance proved it. She closed the door to block out any other voice. Nikki was still crouched on the floor refusing to look up as she moved closer. She Continued to search page after page, appearing unaffected by her lovers presence, yet in reality, Nikki was conscious of every word, breath and step Helen took.
"Shout at me, scream at me, please Nikki, just don't ignore me"
She grunted in disgust
"I'm so sorry for what I've done" Helen continued softly.
The comment outraged Nikki to the point where she couldn't stand anymore as she bolted into a sturdy upright position, trying her hardest to compose her shattering self. "You're sorry?" She spat "You're sorry Helen?"
"Yes" She replied forcefully. "I am sorry, I know I shouldn't have done what I did. I know all of this Nikki but..."
She was cut off sharply at the sound of Nikki's bitter laugh. The two women glared at each other and in place of Nikki's warm, loving, brown-eyed gaze, she found herself compelled by hurt and anger. Those once inviting eyes mirrored hate.
"You amaze me Helen Stewart, do you know that?" Nikki asked, not giving her chance to answer "I should have known you could never have REALLY loved a woman, I should have known you weren't for real the first time we met. I should have realised there and then that you are a selfish, too-faced tart afterall! " Her voice was raised now and it was clear on Helen's expression the damage her words were doing. It was hopeless, the words had spilled out of her mouth in an attempt to release her own anger that simply had no bounds.
"If you would just listen..." Helen said, close to breaking point "I know I don't deserve a second chance..it was all a big mistake, that one night...its done so many things to me" Her lip juddered as she became teary
"And what about what it has done to me MISS?" Nikki hissed
"What can I do to make it right? Tell me Nikki!" Helen begged as a tear crept down her cheek
"Piss off" She scoffed
"Is that what you want?" Helen peered up again.
Inside Nikki was screaming. She wanted nothing more than to hold Helen close to her like old times but the pain overruled her hearts desire
"Yes, now as you once said Miss Stewart" She tried not to cry "Go fall for someone else" her last sentence was said with a distinct cool as she dragged her eyes away from the love of her life to peer out of the cell window. In the next Instance Helen was gone and the realisation of what she'd just finalised took over. She fell to the floor allowing hot, angry tears slide down her face
"Helen-bloody-Stewart" She moaned with her head in her arms.
Back in her office, Helen too dissolved into tears. She had lost her one true love, all down to one careless mistake with Thomas Waugh. She had no idea what she was supposed to do now, but she had to get a grasp of herself. She didn't leave her office until the swelling had gone from underneath her eyes.
She didn't leave Larkhall til late. It was partly down to organising lifers meetings, but the rest of the evening she spent daydreaming about her conversation with Nikki. Often she thought about trying to get through to her again but knew there was no hope. Making her way to her car she sighed, long and hard
"Helen," Came the gentle voice behind her. Turning quickly she caught her breath in her throat at the sight of Dr Waugh. She grew angry with him and he could tell. Understandably she'd rejected very call to her office that day.
"Just stay away from me"
He pulled on her arm as she attempted to get into her car. "I deserve to know what the hell has changed so quickly Helen" They looked at each other properly and her eyes glazed over.
"You had no right telling people about...us" Her voice was eerily quiet
"I thought you were happy. We were happy! It wasn't a secret was it?"
"The prisoners know!" She snapped dragging her arm free
"I'm sorry Helen I.."
"Don't" She cried as she shut her car door.
If only she had told him about Nikki. That thought pained her even more; she couldn't hurt him as well...could she?
Nikki hadn't gone as far as the dining room all day as she played her conversation-or rather, argument-with Helen earlier that day over and over in her mind. Picturing her beautiful ace stricken with pain was brutal, but it was all she could think about. However, there was no way she could back down from these emotions. Helen had ruined the relationship and she was still struggling to get to grips with it all. As she lay on her bunk she closed her eyes and was engulfed by darkness as yet again tears as yet again tears of anguish slid down her cheeks.
"Nikki, do you want to talk about it?" came the small voice from the bunk below.
She said nothing in fear of sounding as upset as she actually was. 'Thank god it's dark' she thought wiping away the evidence of unhappiness.
"Is it Helen?" Barbara asked again.
Nikki had previously confided in Barbara as the oldest, wisest woman on the wing. Barbara had always remained faithful and played the part of knowing nothing of this illicit affair, yet behind cell doors she had helped Nikki through the hard times.
Nikki felt humiliated as she kept her mouth firmly shut.
"Oh stop holding the barriers so high and let me help you!" Barbara shouted "I know you, and you're pissed off"
As ever she finally relented, telling her cellmate everything, from their blossoming beginning through to this tempestuous end. It had taken time but finally Wade had opened up and she had to admit feeling a sense of escapism, knowing she didn't have bottle it up anymore.
"Do you love her?" Barbara knew it was a painful question but she needed reassurance
"Oh bloody hell Babs, you're supposed to help not make it hard" Nikki's voice echoed around the cell, sounding screechy.
Barbara looked at her with raised eyebrows
"You know I love her" She lit a cigarette and watched the end glow in the darkness "I just can't forgive her"
"Well, have you heard what she's got to say?"
Nikki laughed sarcastically "She cheated on me, shagged the doctor, what else is there to know?"
"Stop being stubborn Nikki!" Barbara scolded "Everyone makes mistakes"
Nikki grew angry "That's bollocks Babs and you know it. She is a tart who cant decide whether she wants a man or a bloody woman!"
Rather than fire the situation more, Barbara left the subject for the night. They needed their sleep.
Helen hadn't slept. All she could think about was this situation and the mess she had caused. Today was the lifers meeting and she had no idea how Nikki was going to behave. It didn't, however, come as any surprise when the two didn't swap so much as a glance over the hour period. Any attempt of conversation on Helen's behalf was either ignored or answered politely with a 'yes miss' 'no miss'. This battle of wills continued for days afterwards. All she wanted to was talk to Nikki but she had continuously made a special effort to leave the room as soon as possible .On the other side of the argument, Thomas was constantly trying to probe answers from Helen. The thought of him made her feel dirty and cheap. He deserved answers, she knew that, but couldn't face him. For Now Nikki was her obstacle for the time being. Eventually she took all her courage and approached her a second time as she was about to leave one of the strained meetings
"Nikki," she spoke confidently as the lifer turned and fixed her with a hard stare. She started again, "Nikki ,can I have a word?"
Nikki stood silent
"It's about your appeal" Helen was desperate to get the woman she loved alone. Taking deep breaths she felt the tears begin to form
"Yes miss" Nikki finally spoke, with a touch of sarcasm
"Thank you, come by my office in 20 minutes if you will"
Deep inside, Nikki was hoping that Helen was going to come up with a perfect excuse for sleeping with Dr Waugh, enabling her to allow forgiveness. Realistically she knew her thinking was far too wishful.
"Take a seat Nikki" Helen spoke quietly as the stubborn woman entered the room like an activated missile.
Helen stared into the stony expression "And don't be so formal"
Nikki laughed bitterly as their eyes met again "My appeal miss?"
'You're not going to back down are you' Helen thought over and over as they looked at each other.
"Claire, your lawyer would like to see you in a few days to discuss procedures" she searched for any sign of love in Nikki's eyes
"I don't want to appeal"
Nikki's words had the similar affect as a football to her stomach as she stared at the dark-haired lifer in disbelief. "Don't do this Nikki! You have every chance of getting out"
"For what?" Nikki screeched, "There's no one out there for me"
"Just give me a chance..before this happened you were dying to be released. Look you may not feel the same way about me anymore Nikki, but this is a big opportunity for you"
"I've nothing to get out for Helen" Nikki snapped
Helen's face softened "Can't you see I love you?" She whispered as tears threatened to rain down her cheeks "You know how sorry I am!"
"I'm not here to discuss us, so if that's all miss I'd like to go" Nikki's eyes bared no emotion, and it was then she realised just how unforgiving the situation was. The relationship was gone.
"Ok, you can go" her voice was reduced to a shivering whisper and with those words Nikki was out of her office and making her way back to Gwing, tears streaming down her own cheeks.
"Cheer up Wade!" Jim Fenner snarled as she potted the final red ball on the pool table. Eyes watched from every corner as he tried his very best to intimidate her. She laughed faintly, rolling her eyes as the built officer stood over her.
"What's up? Your little miss Stewart blown you out?" He piped sarcastically. He had always hated the pair of them, Nikki for her pride and Helen for her power. Nikki stood straight as inmates began to scatter. Association was nearly up.
"Why don't you piss off Fenner?"
They were eye level now.
"You know Nikki, I should give that woman what she's really missing. Catch my drift?" He whispered.
"Sometimes I can't work out whether its that cheap aftershave you wear that I can smell..." she leaned closer to him "Or that bullshit thats forever running from that sewer you dare call a gob!"
Satisfied, she watched as he moved quickly along. It actually surprised her how strongly comments like that still managed to aggravate her, to say she wasn't with Helen anymore.
The days to follow were hard for Helen. Feeling emotionally and physically drained she took a few days off work. As she pulled up at her house after a long, relaxing stroll, her mobile phone rang causing her to jump.
"Helen it's me" 'me' was definitely Dr Waugh "Please talk to me...I deserve to know why the hell you are being like this"
There was an awkward silence as Helen looked into the distance "Ok" she sighed "Come over"
"Tea? Coffee?" She half smiled, watching Dr Waugh get a little more comfortable. What was she supposed to say to him? 'By the way I'm gay, but my beautiful girlfriend laid into me on our last encounter and effectively shattered all of our dreams of ever being together on the outside? Sorry for hurting you?'
All of a sudden her ache of guilt returned forcefully, almost knocking her over. She fumbled blindly for a seat across from him as she handed over his drink.
"Helen, I didn't come here to drink tea. We need to talk" he moved forward on his seat, looking her deep in the eyes..just like he had done when they...
"I know" she sighed "I..." It was so hard to make things right as the thoughts of what had happened came back and she began to cry.
Eventually Helen explained her relationship with Nikki Wade, her feelings, her thoughts, her utter devastation, fully expecting Thomas to stand up and walk out, leaving her to work out her feelings and more importantly, her sexuality. She knew it's all she deserved but instead he took her by surprise and comforted her as she sobbed, trying to accept it himself.
"It's ok," He held he to his chest "That is a bit of a bombshell"
"I know, and I am so sorry, for hurting you, for not telling you...Tom, please tell me what I am to do!...I...love Nikki"
He wiped her eyes. "You can't work miracles, she will still love you, no matter how much she pretends otherwise. But she's obviously hurt deeply and you have to understand that" he half laughed "Helen...I'm lost for words"
It was a miserable morning, much like Nikki's mood. She had suffered another sleepless night thinking about Helen's pleading. Barbara had tried again to bring her to her senses, yet again she was given the cold shoulder. On days like this, the potting shed was Nikki's salvation, a place where she could unwind and think properly without the hassle of screws or the emotional strain of seeing Helen.
By lunchtime she was ready to eat and even more ready for rest, that was until she spotted Helen in the far corner of the dining hall talking to that doctor. She stood as a wave of jealousy swept over her whole body, feeling deeply jealous and only moments away from throttling him.
"Look good together don't they?" Shell Dockley spoke quietly behind her. That was the last thing she wanted to hear as she ignored the comment and walked briskly away obviously paying no attention to anyone else in the room, or caring where she was going. She made a hard collision with another woman.
"Watch where you're bloody going!" she yelled, not realising the intensity of her voice. The whole area fell deathly quiet and every head turned to watch
"You watch where you're bloody going!" the other woman barked, obviously not intimidated. It was then Nikki noticed this woman, new to Gwing, almost as tall with shoulder length, silky brunette hair and dazzling blue eyes. There was no denying it, she liked what she saw. Feeling the stirrings of attraction deep inside her gut, the two women glared at each other regardless.
Glancing quickly at Helen and then back at this new woman she turned on her heel and stormed back through the dining room entrance.
Dinner was the last thing on her mind now.
Nikki rested her eyes in association that night, listening to the banter, good and bad, that echoed through the grubby walls. Yvonne, the Julies and Barbara had all tried to get her out of her cell but failed miserably. Truth had it, Nikki just wasn't ready. It wasn't the tears tonight, they weren't here yet. It was the battles of emotions flowing around her body. Helen, Thomas, the thin line between love and hate, and that new woman, oh how attractive she was...
"Nikki, can I have a word?" a voice cut in .As she cautiously opened one eye, Karen Betts stood, her face a mask of worry.
"Yeah, whatever" she mumbled pulling herself into an upright position and finding herself sat next to the new governor.
"Is everything ok?" Karen paused, as Nikki looked at her blankly "I mean you haven't been yourself of late have you?"
"I'm fine" she lied convincingly
"Well, why don't you join the others out there, everyone seems in somewhat of a festive mood"
Nikki sighed, her own emotional state had cut her off from the real world, she was cocooned since her break up with Helen, so much so that she'd practically lost track of time. Now Christmas was around the corner. What was Christmas in this place?
"I'll stay and rot thanks" she said as she sprawled back out
"Miss Stewart seems to think you're isolating yourself and that you need the company" she spoke softly
This man handling, fuss and general baby talk was getting on her tits, couldn't they see she wasn't interested?
"Yeah, well she would" she snapped, lighting a cig.
"Nikki!" Karen snapped "I don't know what the hell has gotten into you but you best clean your act up-fast if you want to get out of here" she sighed and stood up "Miss Stewart will be down to collect you for your meeting with Claire tomorrow morning" and with one last look of concern she turned on her heel and left Nikki alone.
During the meeting with her solicitor Claire the next morning, she had been successfully persuaded into continuing with her appeal, no thanks to Helen. All she could do was watch the lifer as she sat politely. She didn't dare say a word, she could tell from the fire in Nikki's eyes she wasn't in the mood. Regardless of Helen being in the room throughout the hour she made it clear that she was only going ahead with it to escape the "emotional head cases." To that, Claire nodded, suitably impressed and Helen shared no more than a cold glance as she was escorted back to the wing.
"You always in such a mood?" a voice trailed in through the doorway, ridding Nikki of her peace once again. 'Here we go' she though as she dragged her eyes away from her book.
All that left her mouth was a gasp of air as she looked into the eyes of the new woman, now stood smiling as she leaned against the door frame.
"Always" she said, finally finding her voice.
"Can I sit?" the woman moved across the room allowing a better view of her beautiful features.
"Do what you like" she replied as sarcastically as she could, trying hard to keep up her defences
"I'm Jo by the way" the woman smiled as she perched on the bed, ignoring the sarcasm in her voice and returning a warm smile
"Nikki" she answered, still looking down at her book
"So Nikki, why the sad face?"
"Are you always so nosey?" Nikki turned and fixed her with an angry stare
"Always" Jo mimicked with a playful smile and a sweet laugh "Problem with that?"
She found herself laughing for the first time in ages. "Big problem yeah!" she joked this time
It had been the first time she'd felt happy since Helen. Maybe she could move on after all...
Helen had been jumpy all afternoon but Nikki hadn't been off her mind. Nikki was going to appeal and she hoped they could sort out their feuds, yet as the weeks passed on, the chances grew slimmer and slimmer.
Her phone rang and she flinched
"HHHelen Stewart" she stuttered, regaining her composure
"Helen, It's Karen I'd like to see you at lunch"
"Yes, we have some new lifers for your meetings"
"Ok, thanks Karen" she sighed leaning back in her chair.
"Nikki" Yvonne's voice trailed down the corridor behind her. Nikki spun just as the woman approached "Fancy a game of poker?"
"Nah, I'll pass" she smiled
"You gonna tell us what the bloody ell's up wiv' ya?" Recently you've ad' a face like a busted arsehole" her eyes glinted in the light as she looked at Nikki with suspicion
Nikki shrugged "My appeal...I guess"
"Could av' fooled me"
Yvonne laughed and watched as the taller woman smiled and headed off towards the library.
Much to her surprise, and strangely to her delight, Jo was say alone with her head buried in a novel.
"Hi there" she cleared her throat and sat down beside her
"Hi Nikki," Jo smiled "Better mood I see"
"Didn't think you read" she nodded in the direction of her book, now open on the table.
"Don't know much about me do you?"
"Unfortunately not" Nikki hadn't realised how flirtatious she could be since....
Thinking of Helen made her heart ache
"Are you ok?" Jo placed her hand over Nikki's and they looked at each other
"Yeah, I'm fine" she forced a smile and Helen out of her mind.
Jo stood and picked up her book. "Maybe we can....see each other later?" she looked down at Nikki questioningly
"Love to" Nikki grinned "I'll see you"
"See you then Nikki" Jo smiled again and left the library.
She couldn't hide the smile if she tried.
The inmates poured into the lifers meeting that afternoon as Helen handed round a questionnaire sheet.
"Hello ladies" she smiled bravely "I'd like you to fill in this sheet if you would" her breath caught in her throat as her fingers made contact with Nikki's as she handed her one. Both looked up, as a surge of hidden electricity flowed between the two of them.
"What's it for?" Shell asked bluntly, snapping the pair of them out of this trance like state.
"Excuse me?" she asked, flustered
"What's if for?" Shell repeated
"I want to know your views on the prison services" Helen smiled slightly at this dopey bleached blonde.
"You sayin' you care miss?"
"Of course!" Helen nodded
"Yeah," she spat "The name's Shell not spazzer right?" she rolled her eyes as few inmates stifled laughs. Helen threw her a warning glance as she sat in her chair.
"Before we go any further, I'd like to introduce you all to the new lifers" Helen looked down at the sheet and frowned
"This is Becky..." the red haired teenager smiled nervously
"That's strange" Helen looked up "Karen told me to expect..."
"Sorry I'm late" came a voice from the doorway. Everyone turned and Nikki was yet again surprised to see a flustered Jo leaning-as she did-against the door frame.
"Never mind" Helen smiled "This is Jo everyone"
Jo caught sight of Nikki and smiled "Hi Nikki"
Helen's head shot up faster than she'd have cared to see and she found herself bristling at the exchange of smiles between the two women
"Sit here" Nikki laughed and patted the vacated seat beside her, obviously, Jo bolted over.
Helen found her jealousy unbearable as she watched them both. Every other care or thought flew out of the window as her legs shook violently and she found it hard to speak. 'Are they together?' she wondered. The thought nauseated her.
"I'd stay away from er' if I were you Jo, right lezzer that one" Shell laughed
"Piss off Dockley" Nikki sighed and Jo smiled again
"Oh," Dockley groaned, noticing the exchange "Don't tell me you fancy er'" She grimaced
Helen wasn't about to wait for a reply
"That's enough Shell, lets get on" she spoke with a bearly audible quiver in her voice and at that moment she was locked in a stare with Nikki, her expression blank. Helen searched in vain for some emotion and realised there just wasn't any. breaking the stare and clearing her throat she moved on. As the room emptied she grasped Nikki's arm, spinning her round. She had no idea what she was going to say
They stared at each other but it was no use all thoughts had vanished and all that escaped her mouth was air. Both sets of eyes filled with tears and Nikki knew she had to get out, quick!
"Someone else? Are you sure?" Thomas spoke over the rowdy pub lot.
"I think so" Helen sighed, draining her glass of it's contents "Either that or this new woman fancies the likes of her"
"That doesn't mean anything"
Helen just stared at the floor
"Helen..." He placed his arm around her
"She's not in love with me anymore Tom"
"I'm not convinced" he sighed, squeezing her shoulder "She's hurt yes, but that doesn't mean she's fallen out of love with you"
"You don't see the cold looks she gives me" she sighed "Filled with so much..."
"It's ok, it's just going to take time" he smiled. He wanted this woman for himself, but Helen was a wonderful woman and if Nikki Wade made her happy then he'd try and help wherever he could.
"And while your at it, I think it's best if you give those meetings up for a while, don't you?"
Nikki was surprised to see someone else take the lifers meetings over the next few days. She knew full well that although they weren't together anymore, she loved to watch Helen in all her beauty, when she wasn't looking. The way she tucked her hair behind her ears, or she smiled, or when her eyes danced with mischief. BUT she had also began to enjoy the likes of Jo's company and it seemed they were spending more and more time together.
"What is it Nik?" Jo asked quietly as she stared into space. She touched her arm and rubbed it affectionately
"Nothing" she came to earth with a bump and managed a smile
Jo grinned. "I hope you don't mind me saying this" her mouth was close to Nikki's ear now, so close the hot breath could be felt against her hair.
"Go on" she smiled
"But you are the most beautiful woman I know"
They both blushed and Nikki had to turn away. She didn't know what to say, what could she say? And for the first time she was uncomfortable.
"I...best go" Jo gave her arm a squeeze, realising she wasn't going to say anything "I'll see you tonight I hope?"
She nodded. Unsure of just what she was feeling.
She turned to see Barbara stood in the doorway of the potting shed with a frown across her worn face.
"Oh, hi Barbara" she smiled "You going to stand there all day?"
As she turned to continue with her pansies she heard the door slam shut. Barbara spoke again.
"Have you spoken to Helen yet? properly I mean"
Nikki stabbed at the soil fiercely at the mention of Helen's name. "I've got nothing to say to her" her voice was a low grumble
"Nikki!" Barbara screeched, causing her to flinch "You both look so depressed and to be honest it's pathetic. She risked the career she loves to be with you and now look! One mistake and it's all gone. Are you going to stand for that? Don't you want to save this relationship?"
The closed her eyes tightly to restrict her tear flow. The potting shed was the place she'd ran to like a little kid when Jo had told her she was beautiful. She didn't want this, it was hard enough. She knew however that the old woman was right and like she did when she wanted to keep her defences up, she shouted.
"Who the bloody hell are you? a pissing agony aunt?" she spat "Can't you stop talking about her. She's got that arse of a doctor to warm her up at night now"
Barbara didn't move, she just shook her head
"I think you're wrong" her eyes widened "She loves you"
"Yeah? that woman doesn't know the meaning of the word" Nikki barked
"Oh give up!" Barbara shouted "I know you want to be with Helen, so do yourself and Jo a favour and stop messing around with false feelings and admit it's Helen Stewart you think about"
Nikki couldn't believe what she was hearing
"Why don't you piss of and mind your own business?" and with that she stormed out of the potting shed
The next few days passed slowly. Nikki had spent most of her time in the library with an overkeen Jo, anything to avoid further confrontation with Barbara. Helen had noticed Nikki and Jo's growing fondness, the way Jo touched her arm for too long, or looked for that deeper connection in her eyes, but somehow she'd mastered the skill of keeping her tears at bay.
"Earth to Miss Stewart" Karen waved her hands in front of Helen's dangerous gaze bringing her back to reality.
"Sorry" she smiled nervously "I didn't see you"
"Or hear me" Karen chuckled "Good to see you back at Larkhall"
They exchanged smiles again and Helen watched as the governor walked along the corridor greeting prisoners and officers as she went.
It was yet another lonely night in Nikki's cell. She was alone as Barbara was on last tea duty and yet again her mind rolled back to Helen. With a deep exasperating sigh she tried to relax.
She smiled to herself at the sound of Helen's Scottish tones and only opened her eyes when she heard her name repeated more harshly a second time. With her eyes wide, she caught sight of Helen stood by the side of her bed. How long had she been there?
"Please, call me..." she gave up knowing all too well that Nikki was going to keep up this formality between them "I've come to collect the questionnaire I gave you, have you filled it in?"
Looking into Helen's eyes as she spoke, Nikki felt a mixture of burning love and blinding hatred but there was just no way she could bring down these barriers. She pulled out the documents and flung them into her hands.
"How are you?" Helen finally asked
"Oh you know me miss, plodding along" she paused, sarcasm oozing from each word "How's things?"
"You and Waugh"
Helen could see the anger and jealousy raging in her eyes and to that, her own anger escalated
"Stop being so bloody ridiculous Nikki!"
"Fallen madly in love with him yet, he hot just there for the shag?" Nikki spat "It'd make a bloody first"
Helen glared at her, not quite believing what she was hearing. "You know EXACTLY how it is Nikki!" Her tone was cool as they held a fiery stare. Finally she strode towards the door
"You know who I'm in love with" she said quietly
"Besides yourself?" Nikki said, again sarcastically.
Helen shook her head and slammed the door behind her.
"Ere' Nik" Yvonne called her over to sit with the others
"We was finkin'"
"Yeah finkin'" the Julies said, one after the other.
"With it being Christmas so soon, that we ask Stubberfield, well not us but you know what I mean, to do a Christmas Revue"
"A panto!" Julie J echoed "What d'ya fink?"
"We'd ava right laugh"
"Yeah, barrel of fun" Nikki said, rolling her eyes
"Oh come on Nikki, Lighten up will ya man?" Denny Added "It'll be a laugh"
They all stared at her
"In or out?" Yvonne looked hopeful
"Ok, ok I'm in" she laughed "I'm off to the library so someone better start getting a petition sorted"
Nikki and Yvonne exchanged smiles.
In the library Jo was sat reading, like always they were alone.
"All right Jo?" Nikki sat beside her and smiled "Haven't seen you all day"
"I get around" Jo laughed jokingly and as they looked into each others eyes, the atmosphere became charged
"Look, Nik..." Jo turned to face her and Nikki tensed as she intertwined her fingers with her own. Their eyes met again and without another word their faces inched slowly closer.
Inside Nikki's heart thudded against her chest and alarm bells rang, loud and clear. She was confused, not knowing whether this was what she wanted. Her emotions were all over but before she knew it she was drawn into a passionate kiss. In her mind as she closed her eyes and allowed the soft textures of Jo's tongue gently play with her own she imagined Helen and was surprised at her sudden overwhelming desire to be with her right now.
The door of the library opened and Helen caught them as they parted. Jo looked away, suitably embarrassed, unaware of the damage she'd just caused and Helen and Nikki's eyes locked. There was no mistaking the sheer pain in Helen's expression and not quite knowing why, Nikki felt too guilty for words.
"I...need...a word with you Nikki" Helen forced back the tears. "I'll come back when you aren't....as busy" and with that and a fleeting look at Jo she turned and left the library.
"She looked pissed off" Jo said quietly reaching for Nikki's hand
Tensing by the second, Nikki turned to look at her. "Jo" she sighed "I'll see you tomorrow" and with those words she jumped from her seat and exited the library, heading straight for Helen's office, but at the same time, desperately unsure why.
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