After three strong raps on the door, Nikki peered through the misty glass and caught sight of a figure moving towards it. The door was flung open by Thomas Waugh and she felt that sudden wave of jealousy sweep over her.
They looked at each other.
"So she's with YOU is she?" she snapped resisting the urge to throttle this man who had caused all of this anger in the first place.
"I'm guessing you're Nikki Wade" He spoke calmly "and no she's not with me, she was very upset when she came in though. She'll be back in a minute"
Nikki just turned and began walking away, stopped dead in her tracks as Helen approached
"Go inside" Helen said coldly, refusing to make eye contact.
She did as she was told and waited whilst Helen finished a quiet conversation with Dr Waugh outside of the room before joining her.
They both looked at each other. "Why did you kiss her?" Helen said softly
"Why did you shag him?" Nikki snapped, a perfectly good response
Helen's brow creased in a mixture of anger and frustration. "I've tried my very best to explain how that was a mistake!"
"Do you know what you're doing to me? Do you know what it does to see what I saw back there?" Helen was perched on the edge of her desk.
"Jealous by any chance?" Nikki asked casually
"YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL!" Helen took her by surprise by shouting at the top of her voice
"I have every right to be with who the hell I want Helen!" Nikki stood, their faces dangerously close. "It's you that ruined this fucking relationship not me!" she erupted
"I need to know how you feel, about me" Helen calmed down making sure they didn't loose the eye contact
"What does it matter?" Nikki said through tears "I'm angry and you hurt me"
Helen looked away for a second "Are you and Jo together?"
"What is it to you?" Nikki growled
"EVERYTHING!" Helen shouted again as she wiped her eyes. There was no reply. "Oh for Christ's sake Nikki tell me!"
"I'm not telling you anything" and with one last look she left the office.
That night Helen took a long, invigorating bath. She couldn't believe how effected she was by Nikki's rejection. Nikki Wade. A woman. She didn't realise the extent of her feelings for her until it all crumbled. But even now she couldn't adjust to seeing Nikki kiss another woman, those lips that had been hers for so long. But it was true, she had no defence and had no right to claim Nikki, they weren't together any more. Her rejection, as anticipated as it was, still stung.
"Shit" she mumbled. She had never been in, or caused as much pain in her entire being. That night, she awaited sleep that never came.
"How's everything going?" Nikki asked Yvonne as they sat together at the table come breakfast time.
"Bloody marvellous" Yvonne pulled out a petition. "Just a few more to sign and we're rollin'"
Nikki nodded "Who's going to take it to Betts?"
Yvonne looked deadly serious. "She's too much of a friggin' bitch so we decided on givin' it to Stewart. What d'ya reckon?"
'I'd give it to Stewart' she smiled at her thoughts. There was no doubt about it, she was still in love with Helen, she just couldn't find it in herself to forgive her. "Yeah, ok" Nikki finally spoke "Who's taking it to Helen?"
"You yer slack divvy" Yvonne grinned "You're only her model con aren't ya?"
Nikki wasn't sure whether this was such a great idea. Whenever they spoke their tempers flared.
"Piss off Yvonne you take it"
"Bloody ell' at one point you'd av been gagin' to be up in her office. Jo the bleedin' wonder woman tickled you're tonsils already as she?" she laughed.
"Things change" Nikki forced a smile "Catch you later"
The women were locked up later than usual, which gave Nikki and Barbara time to sort their differences, not to mention torment herself with more thoughts of that luscious Scot. How could she love and hate one woman so much? she wondered. Everytime she thought about their one night of passionate love making when she'd bravely taken it upon herself to escape earlier that year, they were crushed by the thought Of Thomas Waugh. Just the mere thought of him touching her intimately, or at all, made her blood turn to ice. As for Jo, she'd been distant with her ever since the night at the library, which was only to be expected in Nikki's eyes.
"Association" Gina smiled, unlocking the door.
"About bloody time an' all" Nikki sighed, heaving herself from the bed.
They stood freely about the landings and Nikki watched as the Julies showed off a dance routine they'd been practising since lock up
"Bit early innit girls?" Yvonne laughed, "It hasn't been allowed yet"
The two eccentrics carried on anyway, which left Yvonne and Nikki some time to talk. They both stood casually, leaning against the railings at the top of the stairs, discussing the screws they could 'cope with' and the ones they detested.
"Talking of Helen Stewart..." Yvonne nodded behind Nikki with a smile. They turned and watched at she made her way up the stairway, glancing quickly at the two of them, then stopping at the top step to speak to the Julie's.
"Miss Stewart?" they chorused
"Yes Ladies?" she smiled
"We was wonderin'"
Nikki and Yvonne smiled
Helen laughed, "I don't think I like where this...."
In that instance she took too far a step back.
Nikki realised what was happening as a look of terror swept across her face.
The whole landing seemed to fall quiet and everyone held their breath. Nikki wasn't quite sure where her speed came from, or in fact the adrenaline rush as she leaped forward, almost knocking Yvonne flying, dragging Helen back and forcefully into her arms. Every single woman gasped, some had made feeble attempts to prevent the accident, but Nikki had got there. Both pressed firmly together, they breathed heavily at the thought of what could have just happened. Helen's colour had slowly began to return to her cheeks as she looked up into Nikki's eyes, still very shocked and dizzy with adrenaline racing around her veins, they both took into account that this was the first time they'd held on to each other so tightly in a long time.
"Flamin' Nora!" Yvonne gasped, also adjusting her breathing.
"Close call Miss" Shaz gasped with wide eyes, as she peered over Denny's shoulder.
"I'd watch my step if I were you" Nikki spoke gently and quietly, peering down on the shocked woman.
Helen couldn't take her eyes away from her as they darted from the lifer's eyes to her lips and back again. "Thank you Nikki" Helen finally said, very quietly.
"You two gonna stay like that all night or what?" Yvonne teased, eyeing up the tight embrace that had stayed tight for too long now. The two parted violently, both blushing.
Nikki watched as Helen made her way uneasily back down the stairway. Her heart was beating faster by the second and she wasn't so sure that adrenaline was the cause any more.
"Someone turn the temperature up?" Barbara whispered, grinning from ear to ear.
"Button it" She warned, still very aware of the tingling sensation in her stomach.
"Ere' Nik, you just saved er' bloody life!" Denny grinned "You av' to take our petition now!"
Nikki was having trouble keeping focused "I'll take it tomorrow, she'll be shaken up now" she finally spoke, running her fingers through her hair.
"Nikki, she ain't gonna turn it down if you take it now" Yvonne added.
Rolling her eyes she snatched up the petition and began her way now the stairs
"Nikki" Shaz grinned as she turned "Watch your step"
They wing erupted into laughter
"Ha, ha Bloody ha!" she mumbled, continuing her journey.
She hovered outside Helen's office feeling strange. A deep sigh later, she knocked firmly on the door. The patter of her feet were audible and she look very surprised to see Nikki standing there.
Nikki shuffled from one foot to the next uncomfortably "Can I come in?"
To that, Helen opened the door further to let her pass, and in doing so, both took another sharp intake of breath as their breasts brushed faintly against the others for a brief second. It was getting increasingly difficult for both of them.
"I've got a favour to ask" Nikki sighed sitting across from Helen at the desk they'd frequently argued at. "Well, Gwing has a favour to ask"
"What is it?" Helen asked, taking the petition from Nikki's hand and giving her a fleeting look. Nikki watched her scan the pages numerous times.
"What do you think?"
"Why didn't you give this to Karen?"
"Because they thought you'd be nicer" Nikki half smiled "And for some odd reason, they thought the petition coming from me would sway your decision"
Helen chuckled "Some odd reason?" she smiled "That's a new one"
They stood in awkward silence for a few seconds
"So...what do you say?"
"I'll see Karen and Simon and then get back to you"
"Thanks" Nikki turned and was about to make an exit
"Nikki?" Helen called over
"Yeah?" she turned
"Thank you...for what you did for me"
They held a stare for a few seconds
Helen looked at her with mounting frustration at the lack of usage of her name.
"Helen" Nikki smiled as she left the office.
It was the first time in along time that she'd felt this way, the first time in this whole masquerade that Nikki had wanted no more than to run back into Helen Stewart's arms and never, ever let go
"So, what did she say?" Julie S spoke. By this point Nikki was back on the wing and near enough every woman had gathered round to listen.
"She's going to speak to Betts and Stuberfield, then she'll get back to us" she said, stifling a yawn behind her hand.
"Yeah well knowin' that spazzer miss bleedin' Stewart, we won't get our revue will we?" Shell screeched, fluttering over to the hum of conversation with all the grace of an elephant.
"Button it Dockley!" Nikki snapped, feeling tired and irritable, which she put down to her terribly mixed emotions.
"Ooooooh, we can do our dance Jue" Julie J piped with a huge grin.
"No one is promising anything" Barbara interjected "We'll have to wait and see what Miss Stewart says"
People began to chat amongst themselves and Nikki could feel the over all excitement in the air as she made her way back to her cell. Crashing down on her bunk, closing her eyes, that now felt like lead, she fell into a deep and somewhat erotic sleep. It seemed like all those hours she lost during her break up with Helen had come crashing down on her.
"Karen, I promised to give her an answer by today" Helen sighed, whilst sat drinking coffee in the governors office the following morning.
"Yes I know but..."
"Come on, this is another chance for us to show off our wing" Helen spoke with enthusiasm, smiling broadly
"Well, what do they want to do?" Karen asked with a curious smile
"Dancing, singing, a fairy tale as far as I'm aware" Helen giggled, almost child like "How do you fancy yourself as Snow White?"
They both laughed
"Oh yeah, and Fenner as my prince?" Karen grimaced.
"Maybe not" Helen sighed "But Karen...what do you think?"
"Ok" Karen smiled after a long pause "But don't you dare include me in any of your wild antics"
"Spoilt sport" Helen smiled.
Nikki was feeling fresh and revitalised when she woke. Splashing her face with freezing cold water she peered at her fresh complexion.
"You look to be fine today" Barbara smiled
"I feel it" she replied, patting her face dry "I think I've caught up on my lost sleep"
"Have you spoken to..."
"Helen? later I will do" Nikki smiled, despite her best efforts. God that woman had an impact.
Barbara's grin broadened and Nikki could tell what she was thinking.
"Helen has nothing to do with my good mood" She frowned
Barbara nodded, unconvinced of course.
"Look, I'm going to see Jo Babs" Nikki sighed and left the cell.
She headed down the busy hall way, stopping outside Jo's single cell. Feeling slightly nervous she peered in to see her sat on the bed, sketching. Without speaking she wandered over and sat beside her. "Didn't realise you had such a talent" She spoke, peering down at Jo's portrait. When all she received was a deathly silence, she realised this was going to be hard and only then did she realise how uncomfortable Helen must have felt. Being on the cold shoulder wasn't the best of places to be.
"Recognition?" She snapped, finally looking up to meet Nikki's questioning gaze
"Look I just wanted to say..."
"Yeah well don't bother"
"Why are you being like this?" Nikki frowned
"Like what?" Jo screeched, throwing her drawing down beside her. "Why didn't you just tell me you didn't like me, instead of leading me on Nikki?!" her eyes narrowed with anger and Nikki's temper soon heated.
"I didn't lead you on" Nikki stood up "If I remember rightly it was you who kissed me!"
"Oh, well sorry" Jo rolled her eyes "I can't remember you pulling away to soon"
The two women stood face to face, close and breathing heavily .For the second time Helen walked in. Both of them turned to the door and Helen realised she'd walked in on a potentially dangerous and severely heated moment. She was nauseated by jealousy.
"Just to let you know, the Christmas Revue is on" and with nothing else she left.
"Shit!" Nikki ran her fingers through her hair. The good mood she was in when she'd woken up was slowly evaporating as she sighed. Again Helen had caught them in a scenario that could easily have been turned on it's head....
"Helen was looking for you" Barbara spoke, refraining to look up from her diary.
"Oh she found me alright!" Nikki snapped "with Jo"
"Nikki" Barbara had to look up as she gasped, "You weren't..."
"No I wasn't!" Nikki shook her head in amazement "What do you think I am?" she was reeling. "Didn't stop her from jumping to her own conclusions though did it?" she paused as Barbara looked at her with raised eyebrows "On second thoughts, why should I give a shit? Why do I have to be so bloody considerate of Helen's feelings?"
Barbara stood and moved towards the cell door, she turned and faced the angry prisoner "Because you love her"
But before Nikki had the chance to respond, the older woman had vanished out of sight.
That evening the girls, Nikki, Yvonne, Barbara, Shaz and Denny all sat round a table discussing their plans for the Christmas panto/revue, that Helen had arranged to take place in three weeks time. Somehow Nikki wasn't up for this anymore, she was too pissed off with the morning event.
"Who pissed on your chips Nik?" Yvonne asked, when she hadn't contributed to this lively chatter. Nikki flashed a venomous look in her direction, which she openly ignored
"C'mon, what d'ya think we should do?"
"Couldn't give a fuck if I'm honest"
Just then, Karen and Helen strolled through the dining hall, earning lots of boo's and hisses, yet just as many wolf whistles. As Karen asked for the attention of the wing, it fell quiet and all eyes were on the two of them.
"Thank you" Karen smiled "Now as you are all now well aware of, we will be holding a Christmas revue in three weeks time" Women chuntered and stirred as Karen continued "I expect model behaviour from all of you or just consider it cancelled" she warned "I'll let Miss Stewart take it from here" she nodded at Helen, stood beside her.
Nikki's eyes fell upon her and stuck.
"We're going to perform a fairytale pantomime" she smiled "Cinderella"
Cheers and laughter erupted along with a random voice calling "Cinder-fucking-rella?"
Helen continued. "I'm in charge of making sure this runs smoothly, but I'd like your help too. Any help with props or any general ideas you might have, I'd like you to come to me at any time" She smiled again. "Thank you" and with that she lead the way out of the dining room, shortly followed by Nikki.
"Why were you so cold this morning?" Nikki spoke behind her as they both walked down the corridor. Helen spun round
"You saw me and Jo and jumped the gun" she paused "Clammed up on me"
They stood and looked at each other and Nikki could tell Helen was debating whether to say anything at all. Finally, she did. "I know now..." Helen paused peering to the left and right of them "Come inside, I'm not talking out here" and with that she sauntered into the office, closing the door behind Nikki.
They stood again in awkward silence for a few seconds, Helen opening her mouth to talk and then shutting it again.
"You were saying?" Nikki asked
"You don't love me anymore do you?"
The question knocked all of the wind out of her as she stood, searching in her own mind, for something to say. Of course she loved her, but her head wouldn't let her say the words.
"I'll take that as a no" Helen sighed when Nikki didn't respond "Just get out Nikki" she turned away.
"Fine" Nikki hissed and left her in the office alone.
The next few days passed slowly, as they usually did when Nikki was having a rough time. For Helen, it had been just as tough. Her lifers meetings were strained, as were any other confrontations where Nikki was concerned. Inside, she was desperate to give Nikki the apology she deserved. But, like Nikki was refusing to admit she still loved her, Helen was refusing to admit her jealousy and so the pressure mounted.
"Miss Stewart" The Julies chorused as Helen made her way onto the landing, bag in hand.
"Wait until I'm safe" she joked, climbing the stairs "what is it?"
"We're dying to know who's playing what in Cinderella" Julie S whined
"You're about to find out" she raised her eyebrows and the bag she was holding. Yvonne called for the attention of the wing as they all gathered round to listen.
Helen smiled and dipped her hand in the bag "The fairy godmother is....Yvonne Atkins"
Everyone in earshot roared with laughter, including Nikki, at the thought of the hard nut with a wand. Yvonne blushed and turned away.
"The ugly sisters are....Sharon Wiley...Julie Johnston...and....Karen Betts"
Helen laughed along with the inmates.
"Cool!" Shaz grinned.
Helen continued "The wicked stepmother is...Denny Blood" she smiled over at Denny
"Prince charming..." her stomach did a lazy somersault "Nikki Wade" Nikki looked up and met Helen's gaze.
"Lets hope Fenner's bleedin' Cinderella!" Yvonne laughed.
"Cinderella is..." Helen's face drained of colour "...Me?"
The wing went up in laughter as the two locked in another stare. Nikki was furious. How the hell had that happened?
"Karen, you're supposed to move left when Shaz says 'it's you'" Helen giggled, perching against a prop. This was one of the first script rehearsals and she absolutely loved it.
"Helen, do I see you up here?" Karen demanded angrily as she stood across the stage from Shaz and Julie J.
She just laughed and sat back to watch the wing governor squirm with embarrassment. Everyone had been busy. Shell practising her version of Whitney Houston's 'I will always love you', Barbara and Julie S had been labelled costume designers and so they were more than busy and in all, everyone seemed to be enjoying their tasks, that was except Nikki who sat crouched up against a wall, reading her lines with growing irritation. Seeking out Helen as she looked up, Nikki motioned her over as soon as their eyes met. Helen excused herself from the presence of other inmates and approached her.
"Did you do this?" Nikki whispered through gritted teeth.
"What would that be?" Helen sighed, refusing to make eye contact "What else have I done wrong?"
With her last comment, Nikki felt a faint pang of pain across her chest, it was guilt and some how it managed to stall her.
When she didn't answer Helen's head snapped round and she fixed Nikki with an annoyed glare.
"Are you going to finish what you were saying or not?" Her Scottish tones were even clearer when she was pissed off.
"Why am I prince charming and you Cinderella?"
"Don't ask me" Helen said seriously
"Did you do this deliberate?"
Helen glared up at her "Don't flatter yourself!"
"I'm asking you a straight question Helen!" Nikki protested, grabbing her arm.
"And you've got your straight answer" she hissed, pulling her arm free and storming off.
Rehearsals continued to go to plan and now it was time for Nikki's scene with Helen. The one they'd both been secretly dreading for their own reasons. It was a first attempt and Helen didn't like the thought of practising a scene like this one with her ex lover who now hated her guts.
"Oh Cinderella" Nikki said flatly, without looking up from her sheet. They were stood at opposite ends of the stage and everyone seemed to stop and watch.
"Bleedin' ell Wade, you'll av to do better than that!" Shell laughed, watching this scene.
"Stupid tart, shut it" Nikki shouted.
"Oh Nikki grow up!" Helen snapped "We haven't got all day"
Nikki looked up at Helen who was stood wearing that mask of annoyance. She cleared her throat and began to walk slowly towards her.
"Oh Cinderella" as they looked into each others eyes Nikki found embarrassment fading and something suspiciously like desire accumulating deep inside her.
"Yes?" Helen replied, trying hard to stay calm.
Nikki's mouth curled into a slight smile as she entwined her own fingers with Helen's "We've danced all night, under this beautiful moon"
Everyone laughed, including Nikki and Helen. Well...her lines were corny. As they looked at each other again and she felt Helen gently squeeze her hands for reassurance, she found herself back on track, and they moved closer still.
"I've loved every second" Helen said enthusiastically.
"I think it's time.." Nikki paused, for the first time it was on a personal level "...For me to kiss you"
Helen wrapped her arms nervously around her neck, pulling their bodies closer, and as their lips inched slowly closer to their target, both closed their eyes. The imaginary clock chimed twelve bringing them both back to reality and they parted violently.
"Wow" Denny gasped with a grin of approval "You almost looked...madly in love wiv each other!"
Over the following days, everything seemed to slot into its place as they all worked to make Cinderella look truly magical. Shell pranced around; continuously raising the rooftops with 'I will always love you', while the Julies went round with a permanent smile and a lousy dance routine. Nikki, like usual, sat against the wall drawing heavily on a cigarette, holding back fits of laughter at the sight of Yvonne being fitted for her part as the fairy godmother.
"I ain't wearin' no bleedin' ball gown!" She scolded as Barbara took her measurements, she too finding it hard not to laugh.
"Oh Yvonne, it's only one night and its for the number one and he guests. It is Christmas almost"
"Barbara, I don't care if it's the friggin' queen who's askin', I aint wearin' no princess dress" As she spoke she caught Nikki laughing in the corner "And you can stop laughin' an all!" Yvonne had to smile "You aven't moved all day"
"I'm waiting for Christmas" Nikki laughed
Helen walked over to Yvonne and handed her, her wand with a giggle
"No way!" she cowered away from the glittering wand "Miss Stewart watcha fink' I am?"
Helen raised her eye brows with a smile "Don't worry, you look fine"
Yvonne ignored the comment and nodded over to Nikki "Tell lazy arse to get practicin'"
Helen turned "If you aren't busy Nikki you can help with the painting"
Hearing Helen's request she sighed and followed without another word.
"Up 2...3..4" Yvonne teased, receiving a friendly poke in the ribs.
"Piss off Princess" she smiled, picking up a paintbrush.
The afternoon set in quickly. Nikki was actually beginning to enjoy the feel of the silky bristles along the walls. Suddenly realising the lack of commotion surrounding her, she turned. Helen was crouched at the their side of the stage painting, and by the looks of things, hadn't noticed they were alone either. She stole the few moments to look at her, the way she carefully painted every part with perfection, the way those beautiful eyes followed each contour on the wall, her lips, so soft and lush as they pouted slightly. Her heart melted. Helen Stewart was amazing and she knew she couldn't pretend she wasn't totally in love with her. Yes, her infidelity those months ago had hurt her and, still now she felt sadness about it all, to know that a part of her couldn't ever trust her again. But could she really let herself pretend that when she closes her eyes at night, Helen never entered her thought or dreams? and if she ever did will this appeal, could her life be lived without her in it? She dragged her eyes away with a sigh and continued painting.
"Oh, everyone's gone" Helen finally spoke with surprise.
"Well done Miss" Nikki smiled, never taking her eyes from the painting.
"Call me Miss again and I'll throttle you" Helen said half seriously "and I can do without the smart comments as well"
Nikki turned to see her stood at the other side of the stage, hands on her hips, holding her true authoritative stance.
"Yeah, right" she laughed effortlessly.
"Pass me your paintbrush, you can go back to your cell"
Nikki ignored her with a smirk spread across her face as she continued her strokes against the wall.
"Give me the brush"
Nikki was aware of her hand, now hovering over her shoulder. "No" she replied casually, forwarding a quick glance in her direction.
Helen pulled her round to face her properly and they stood in silence.
Trying to hide a laugh, Helen spoke again. "You'll do as I say"
"Will I?" Nikki raised her eyebrows and grew paranoid when Helen was giggling, whilst looking at her nose. "What's so funny?"
"You've got paint on the end of your nose" Wiping it away with slight embarrassment, she jabbed her own paintbrush in Helen's face, beginning to laugh herself. However, the Scot didn't find it amusing as she snatched the brush out of Nikki's hand with a force.
"That wasn't funny"
"I was painting with that" Nikki whined, peering down at Helen's frustrated features.
"Well you aren't anymore" Helen snapped, wiping her face which caused the paint to streak as it went. Nikki laughed harder as Helen turned to walk away.
"Helen.." Nikki said through laughter. Of all the things that made Nikki fall in love with Helen Stewart in the first place, the way she managed to look even more damn sexy when she was angry, was the main.
"Piss off back to your cell" Helen said fiercely, reaching for a cloth.
Without a second thought, Nikki spun her round and into her powerful arms, locking them into a tight embrace. She began pressing, light tantalising kisses at the corners of Helen's mouth, but the contact they had both missed for so long ignited heat which rose in them so quickly, Nikki was soon kissing her with hunger which showed beyond all doubt how much she wanted her. As she was the first to start the kiss, she was the first to put an end to it, regardless of the fact that she wanted to stay and continue. Besides they could get caught.
"Good night Helen" She mumbled before exciting the room.
Helen opened her eyes wondering whether she'd been dreaming. Caressing her tingling lips with shaky fingertips she struggled to find steady ground.
That night Helen couldn't sleep. Nikki's actions had severely stunned her. Never the less it was by far the most intense kiss they'd ever shared given their surroundings, and she didn't regret a second of it. Closing her eyes and smiling slightly she fell into a comfortable, dreamy sleep.
As the days passed, Helen was desperate for a few minutes alone with Nikki to discuss what had happened, but the time just never came. Always rushed off her feet with meetings or preparation for the revue, which was due to explode onto the stage in 3 days time, she was just far too busy.
As she sat down to give her feet the rest they craved for the only five minutes of the day she had spare, Helen sighed, long and hard. The moments of tranquility were snatched from her as her office phone rang loud and clear.
"Hi Helen, It's Claire"
She relaxed with a smile, knowing she didn't have to act any special way with her friend from all those years ago. "Hi Claire"
"Could you have Nikki Wade handy anytime soon?"
Helen's stomach did those lazy somersaults as she sat bolt right up in her chair. "Soon? how soon?"
"Good" Claire laughed "It's about her appeal date"
Helen's face drained of colour.
"It's been brought forward" Claire finished and Helen smiled again.
"Really?" she tried not to sound too enthusiastic.
"Yes, I'll be over soon"
Once the phone was dead Helen called upon Gina Rossi
"Could you bring me Nikki Wade?"
She had hoped to catch Nikki for a quick word before Claire arrived, but, as fate had it, Claire arrived first, followed shortly by an out of breath Nikki.
"Sorry!" she gasped with a smile once the door was closed behind her "I've been working in the potting shed"
In this weather? Helen thought. "It's ok, sit down Nikki" Helen caught her eyes and held a loving stare for a few seconds.
As the three women sat down to talk, Helen watched Nikki carefully, becoming more and more paranoid, in thinking that kiss was a mistake from Nikki's point of view. Her court date had been moved to the day after the Christmas revue and there was no disguising the shock on either of their faces.
"Four days?" Nikki gasped, her head suddenly beginning to spin with possibilities.
"There isn't a problem is there?" Claire asked with a smile.
"God no!" Nikki laughed "I'm just shocked"
"You have no time to be shocked Nikki, you have a high chance of release"
Nikki passed looks between Claire and Helen, and as she did she could see the happiness Helen was feeling. But then she thought about the chance of her having to stay here. She'd realised Helen was the woman she'd always want, and although they had issues to sort out between them, she loved her with all her heart and simply couldn't bare having to let some other man pursue her on the outside. With that Nikki's face turned from one of delight, to one of sorrow.
Helen refused to hold back her concern. "Nikki? what is it?"
"I'm just...scared" she sighed, forcing back tears "What if, this is my home?...what if...I don't get out?"
Helen placed a hand on her arm and rubbed it affectionately "You will get out of here"
Their eyes met and they both smiled.
Claire, sensing some illicit connection, interrupted "I best get going" she stood and smiled "I'll be in touch in a few days"
"Thanks Claire" Nikki smiled "thanks a lot"
Both of them headed to the door, Claire leaving slightly in front.
"Nikki" Helen said quietly "We need to talk"
"Do we?" she half smiled "about what?"
Helen raised her eyebrows "You know what"
They both smiled.
"Did it...I mean did I...did you..." Helen stammered looking for the right words.
Nikki touched her hand discreetly as they stood together. "I'll never forgive you" she said seriously "But I can't help but love every part of you Helen, and I'd kiss you again if I wasn't so afraid of someone ____"
"Are you ready Nikki?" Gina Rossi interrupted.
They looked at each other again before Nikki followed the young officer back to the wing.
Helen wanted to kill Gina Rossi for walking in on such a potentially passionate moment.
"Bloody Larkhall!" she barked, slamming her office door
The Christmas revue soon approached and Nikki stood, dressing in a dark tuxedo, ready to spring into the role of prince charming. Her head offered mixed thoughts and her heart offered mixed emotions. Outside on the stage she could hear Shell singing I will always love you to Simon Stuberfield and his many friends in high places. Everyone else was now dressing and she could almost smell the excitement in the air. In a days time she could be leaving Larkhall for good. What made her even happier was the prospect of spending her life with Helen. At one point after her affair with Thomas Waugh these thoughts wouldn't even enter her head. But, she's learned to come to terms with it gradually, her experience with Jo and Helen's near accident had both shaken her and allowed her to look at things properly. Even more so, that kiss had made her realise what she was missing and, unavoidably, how much love she had for her.
Barbara saw her grinning face. "You're all excited about winning your appeal aren't you?"
Nikki turned "I'm trying so hard not to get my hopes up Babs" she sighed "But the thought of being with Helen for good....its...."
"You don't need to explain yourself to me Nikki. I just can't believe you ever questioned your feelings" Barbara beamed.
"Oi Nik, your on!" a small grumpy voice whispered from behind a curtain "Hurry your arse"
Nikki could just make out Yvonne, peering at her, obviously embarrassed about her "princess dress".
"Let me see..." Nikki started with a small laugh.
"Piss off Wade" Yvonne blushed, pushing her on to the stage.
She was blinded by lights and began to feel increasingly uncomfortable, aware of what seemed like a thousand eyes watching her face. However, when Helen stepped onto the stage, wearing a huge gown and a beautiful smile, she forgot about anyone else or indeed, what anyone else thought.
Helen was also taken aback by the grace and elegance with which Nikki walked. Feeling her heart flutter as they moved together, their lines flowed from their tongues, earning a rapturous applause from the audience.
By the time the curtain was down on Cinderella, the two Julies had leapt onto the stage and started up their much anticipated dance routine. Helen had other plans. Not wasting much time she sneakily grabbed Nikki's hand and hitched her dress up with the other, dashing for the exit.
"Helen, where the bloody hell are we going?" Nikki whispered sharply into her ear. She'd never seen Helen as keen in their whole time together, as they ran down an eerily quiet and desolate corridor, they stopped outside her office and a cheeky grin picked up on Helen's face.
"I wasn't in the mood for pantomimes and stupid dancing"
Nikki laughed at her but didn't get chance to respond as the fiery Scot dragged her into the office and shut the door. The paused for breath but it took seconds rather than minutes before they were in each others arms.
"Nikki, I've missed you"
She responded with kisses and Helen exulted in the desire she could feel vibrating through Nikki's body as she pulled her hard against her. Their kisses grew wilder, open-mouthed, tongues caressing as Nikki's hands sought breasts, which rose taut with invitation in response.
"I love you" Nikki murmured.
Their eyes locked in the dim light of the office, as slowly Nikki hitched the dress high in the air. The relentless, controlled caresses kindled slow fire along every nerve until Helen was in such an unashamed state of arousal, that Nikki abandoned the control, her hands and mouth so demanding they took Helen to the dizzying heights of response.
Their passion was somewhat short lived as the office door flew open with such a force, causing them to part so quickly it caused a head rush.
"Thomas!" They said in unison.
Nikki grunted in disgust.
He looked shocked "Ssorry" he stuttered, trying to sound sincere "Look I think you should know that Karen Betts and Jim Fenner are looking for you everywhere, Jim's hell bent on catching you towboat it"
"Bloody marvellous" Nikki cried, throwing her hands up in the air "Now what?" she looked at Helen and Thomas for an answer.
On hearing footsteps Helen pushed Nikki behind the door and grabbed hold of Thomas. "Play along" she whispered.
As the door opened she kissed him and Nikki could see through the hole in the door. Even though she knew it was Helen's way of diverting attention, her jealousy was going wild. She stopped breathing Jim and Karen entered the room.
"Jesus Helen!" Karen gasped.
"Thomas Waugh?" Jim spat.
"Ever heard of knocking?" she said casually, feeling far from it.
Fenner peered around the room "Something your looking for?" Thomas interrupted.
"No" a seedy smile played Fenner's lips.
"Sorry Helen" Karen sighed "Jim lets go" and with that, the door slammed behind him.
They all stood in awkward silence and Nikki didn't know how to feel about this man. He'd just saved their skin, yet he'd slept with Helen previously. It was like finally addressing the problem as they all looked at each other.
"Well...I best get back" Nikki finally said "Court in the morning"
"Ok" Helen smiled faintly.
With her eyes, Nikki dared Thomas to touch her whilst she was gone before leaving them and heading back up to her cell.
"I'm glad you're back on track" Thomas smiled as she perched on her desk.
"Thomas, don't" she looked at him "It's hard enough having you both in the same room"
He looked at her "Helen..."
"I've got to go" she moved "I'm in court tomorrow" she sighed "Goodnight Tom" and with a brief look, she left the room.
Back in her cell Nikki sprawled over her bunk staring at her suit, folded up and ready to wear for her date with destiny. She didn't want to and couldn't sleep as she thought about Helen, about leaving Barbara and her true friends behind. Not to mention the possibility of loosing her bottle and the hopes and dreams they had had for so long, blown to the wind.
"Try not to worry Nikki" Barbara spoke from the bed below.
"How can I not worry Barbara?" she sighed "I don't think I could face coming back here"
"You aren't coming back" Barbara said whole heartedly "Now get some rest and think positive" she spoke so calmly "Everything will be ok"
A tear rolled down Nikki's cheek at the sound of these soothing words. The real fear took over. Barbara Hunt had been like her mother, offering words of comfort and wisdom and she knew it was going to be hard leaving her in this shit-hole on the chance of her release.
"Up you get Nikki, big day today" Gina smiled opening the cell door.
Barbara and Nikki looked at each other and smiled with tears in their eyes. "Best of luck"
"Thank you" Nikki whispered as they embraced and hugged tightly.
With one last teary glance she made her way down the wing, her legs like jelly.
"Oi Mush!" came a familiar voice from behind. Nikki stopped and turned, only to feel Yvonne throw her arms around her neck. "Good luck and don't you dare look back"
"Thanks Yvonne but..."
"Not buts or I'll be kickin' yours so piss off and don't come back"
They both laughed and Nikki hugged her again.
After a few briefer goodbyes she was joined outside Gwing by a smiling Karen Betts and a nervous looking Helen Stewart.
"You ready Nikki?"
She was too busy staring at Helen to have heard.
"Nikki? are you ready?"
"Sorry...yes I think so" she replied shakily.
"Lets go then" Karen walked in front.
"Calm down Sweetheart" Helen whispered touching her back faintly. Their eyes met passionately as they got into the car.
In the lifeless courtroom, Nikki felt violently sick as she sat at the front of the court next to her lawyer Claire. Her eyes quickly scanned the room until finally her eyes locked with Helen's and they both smiled but Nikki could see how uncomfortable she was as she fidgeted in her seat.
"Could Nicola Wade please take to the stand?"
She almost passed out with mounting anticipation as she listened to the sour faced judge's rant on. After well over an hour, cringing at her thoughts, time was up. Sweat had begun to form on her brow as she closed her eyes, sinking into a world of darkness.
"And so the jury have spoken..."
Her eyes flew open as she tried to focus on the judge in front of her. "Nicola Wade, you are free to go"
Squeals and roars of happiness erupted on Nikki's half of the courtroom but she couldn't breathe let alone think straight. Had she dreamt it? was she really a free woman?
Eventually she stumbled from the stand with tears down her cheeks.
"You did it!!" Claire hugged her "You bloody did it!!"
"Claire thank you, thank you so much" she whispered still unbelieving "I can't get my head round this!"
"Well start believing it Nikki" Karen smiled shaking her hand "You've got a lot of potential, congratulations"
Helen approached, trying to conceal her happiness and tears "Well done Nikki" she grinned, trying to stay professional.
At that moment of time all Nikki wanted was Helen, to hold and kiss her and cry with her over this whole ordeal, but still they had space between them and still their needs had to be on hold. "Thank you Miss Stewart"
Outside the air was so fresh and cool, this was the real outside world, the one she'd be in for the rest of her life. No more screws, junkies, slops for dinner or authority, no more sneaking around.
"Well, I best get back to Larkhall" Karen smiled patting Nikki's arm "All the best Nikki" she smiled and caught Helen's eye as she moved beside Karen.
"Yeah....um...I best go too" she smiled and raised her eyebrows "Congratulations"
Nikki stood, still numb with shock as she looked around at the trees and the ground, the cars and the birds. Once Karen had gone, her eyes took on a life of their own and dizzily scanned the parking spaces.
Where was Helen?
"Looking for someone?" came the soft Scottish voice behind her.
Nikki smiled and dropped her bag pulling her into her arms, holding her close. "I can't believe this is happening, please tell me I'm not dreaming?"
Helen leant up and kissed her softly "Is that real enough for you?"
Nikki laughed and Helen stroked her cheek "I'll never let you down again Nikki, I love you" she said seriously.
Slowly the space between them shrank to nothing again. In all the time they had spent together, Nikki had never felt her body pressed so tightly up against Helen's. They had hugged before, but never with a connection like this. Her mind raced with bewildered, upsetting joy. Nikki folded her arms around her, her eyes clamping shut, losing herself in the smell and the feel and the Helenness of Helen, sensing weightlessness of vanished loneliness as Helen's body merged with her own, linking them in an understanding, more profound than anything they ever achieved with words or eye contact. Having almost forgotten where she was, Nikki opened her eyes with a force of purity and surprise. She blinked, confused as if waking up to bright sunshine, unsure of how or when she fell asleep.
Something had changed in the passing minutes
The past was the past and the future looked a whole lot brighter.....
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