DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge great thanks to Estraven for initial support and Stormee for going above & beyond on the beta side! Any remaining errors are purely my fault. Also huge thanks to Ralst for posting and anybody taking the time to read it - ta muchly!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Nikki forced herself up from her bunk. She sat on the edge and put her face in her hands, and combed her fingers through her hair. She heard the usual commotion out on the wing. Shouts, laughter. The noise was constant.
'What I wouldn't give for a minute's bloody peace,' she said to herself. Nikki wearily made her way over to the mirror and sighed deeply at the sight.
She'd attempted to put some make up on earlier, but couldn't be bothered and still couldn't be bothered now.
'What's the point?', she thought 'It's not as if anybody's interested any more.'
Nikki turned from the mirror, looking around at the cell. The fading greenish hue of the walls added to its drabness and it seemed smaller, more claustrophobic than usual. The light filtering between the bars in the window was dull, matching the sky and the grey of the building; rain drizzling down the outside brick. She could smell the dank and damp that permeated the walls. Normally she was used to it, along with the cigarette smoke that mixed with the faded smell of perfume and body odour. Nikki was grateful that Barbara was as finicky as herself in personal hygiene matters, yet in such a confined space, the smell really never went away. No matter how much perfume was sprayed, it could never truly mask the plumbing of an open toilet in their cell. Today, the rush of odours assaulting Nikki's senses were stronger than usual.
Nikki didn't have the inclination to read the book that sat on top of the cupboard. Barbara was off somewhere, probably making tea for the PO's. Her empty stomach complained at yet another day of being unfed, subsisting on cigarettes and tea. The food on offer in the canteen was unappetising at the best of times, and it was now more unappealing than ever.
Nikki couldn't stand being imprisoned any longer. The trapped feeling was like being in a straight-jacket, one that was belted tightly to the point of suffocation. She wanted to scream continuously until her throat was raw and bled from the effort. A sign that at least somewhere in her body, a life force was present. Nikki hadn't felt its presence for so long. She shuffled out of the cell and scanned the faces but couldn't see who she was looking for.
Groups of human interaction were scattered about the wing. The usual cliques that had formed, for the sake of protection and supply. Some huddled, speaking in whispers and Nikki knew they would use her appearance on the wing as an opportunity to pass on their contraband. The screws would suddenly divert their attention her way briefly, watching for any possible confrontation she might engage in. Other groups of women laughed raucously, while others sat quietly, sharing photos of their kids and reading their mail to one another.
"Oi, Wade! You -"
"Piss off, Dockley!" Nikki spat the words at her, like a snake spitting its venom, cutting into the sound of Dockley's words.
The shrill sound of the blonde's voice grated on Nikki's nerves, setting set her on edge. She couldn't face a confrontation today. Clenching her fists tightly to push back the anger that bubbled inside her, as it threatened to erupt to the surface.
Nikki paralysed her target momentarily, Dockley's mouth hanging open. Dockley clamped it shut, realising she stood more than a tongue lashing if she continued and turned her attention back to Denny and Shaz.
As Nikki continued past, Denny nodded meekly at her, managing an awkward smile. Her arm was draped lazily around Shaz's skinny shoulders and the spiky little blonde also acknowledged Nikki with a nervous smile.
Nikki felt guilty that her animosity towards Dockley had also been felt by others. At any other time, she would have stopped and engaged in conversation with the two youngsters, shared a joke and a laugh, but not today. Not with Dockley standing there. She'd catch them later, when they were alone.
Nikki stopped at a half open cell door and knocked on it.
"Come in?" came Yvonne's surprised response. As Nikki walked in, Yvonne stated, "You know, you're the only one that does that."
Yvonne was sprawled across the lower bunk reading a magazine. Nikki noticed she was dressed in her trademark tight black leather trousers and a white shirt. As usual, the most prominent part of her make up was the heavy black eyeliner and mascara.
"Does what?" Nikki frowned as she looked at her.
"Bothers to knock on the bloody door. Everybody else just barges in. You're the only one in 'ere with any bleeding manners."
"I respect people's privacy." Nikki smiled.
"Yeah I know. Not likely to be up to much, am I?" Yvonne winked. "Take a pew." She sat up and patted the bed.
Nikki sat beside her, noticed the magazine and smiled. "Gardeners Weekly? Thinking of taking over my patch, Atkins?"
"Nah. Just thought I'd educate myself on all things fauna and flora. See about growing some stuff," Yvonne smiled knowingly.
Nikki knew that if anyone was capable of arranging to get stuff inside, it was Yvonne.
"So, what brings you over to this neck of the woods?" Yvonne asked.
"Thought I'd check how your meeting went with your young solicitor." Nikki raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Oh yeah," Yvonne tossed the magazine onto the floor. "He was very thorough. Went over my case...in fine detail."
Nikki laughed, "Is he seeing you again?"
"Too bloody right! I thought of some stuff we can cover next time," Yvonne said as she reached for her cigarettes and offered the open pack to Nikki.
"Oh, go on for Christ-sakes! Take one," Yvonne urged and shoved the pack at her.
Nikki took one. "Thanks," she said as Yvonne lit it.
Yvonne waved her hand dismissively as she inhaled on her own cigarette.
"You have some pretty unusual contacts. Use them yourself do you?" Yvonne teased, making Nikki laugh.
"No, had no reason to. Before Trish found someone else, we were still together as far as I was concerned. As much as I missed that side of things, I couldn't. I did all the flings when I was younger. Prefer something more meaningful now."
Yvonne nodded, "Surprised you ain't gone for someone in here. Seen a few of the girls eyeing you up." She exhaled a long stream of smoke, narrowing her eyes.
Nikki shrugged, "No one's really my type. Considering the only other long lifer is Dockley. That woman should be on the Muppet wing. Anybody else is likely to get out way before I do," Nikki said quietly. "No point in getting involved."
"Yeah guess so. Especially if you've fallen for somebody already."
Nikki saw Yvonne's wry smile and tilted her head at the comment.
"How's the appeal coming?" Yvonne asked.
"Must be tough on you both." Yvonne inhaled slowly.
"Both?" Nikki tensed. Her mind raced at the realisation that Yvonne was aware that something was going on, and also possibly knowing who with.
Yvonne started to smile broadly, "Nikki, I wasn't born yesterday. Unlike most of the dumb mutts in 'ere. I can understand what would happen if everybody knew."
Nikki clenched her fist, "Knew what?"
Yvonne tutted, "Nik, this is me. Have a little faith in being able to trust me. Honour amongst thieves an all that. I ain't going to say anything."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Nikki said quickly, trying to dismiss it, but at that moment she saw Helen walk by. Helen stopped, looked in at them both and smiled before she carried on.
Nikki's stomach knotted in a sharp spasm and she gripped the edge of the bunk. Only Nikki would have noticed the strained look in Helen's eyes, in spite of the warm smile Helen had offered to both of them. As Nikki looked at Yvonne, she saw her questioning look.
"And I'm the bleeding Queen of England!" Yvonne stood up to close the gap of the door. "You can't tell me, that you ain't in love with that woman. I've seen the way you look at her, whenever she's about," she folded her arms. "And she looks at you the same way."
Nikki closed her eyes. "Yvonne, you're wrong."
Yvonne sighed deeply. "Okay, let's pretend I'm completely barmy shall we?' she said angrily.
Nikki looked up at her, "There's nothing between us," Nikki murmured. "Not any more."
Yvonne looked shocked and Nikki couldn't tell if it was from her honesty in admitting it, or the fact it was over.
"Shit," Yvonne mumbled and quickly sat down beside her again. "Sorry. I feel like a right twat."
"It's okay," Nikki's hand trembled as she inhaled a long deep ragged breath from the cigarette.
Nikki knew there was no way she could tell Yvonne about the night she escaped. As much as she trusted her, if Yvonne ever found herself in need of ammunition against any of the screws, she didn't want Helen used as the gun to fire it. However, Nikki felt she could trust her with what had happened in their relationship 'inside'.
Nikki had never asked anything of Yvonne, and had basically never asked questions, period. Nikki knew about her background, but had never encroached too far. For one, she didn't want to know the details of the East End mob. They were people you didn't cross. Nikki and Trish had been lucky with the club. It wasn't in anybody's territory, except the bent side of the force.
Nikki was aware that she herself, elicited an element of fear on the wing among the other inmates, as well as respect. Even though it wasn't something she had consciously sought. The screws felt the same fear compounded by her unpredictability. However, she knew Yvonne respected her and didn't fear her. She was no threat to the mobsters' wife and Yvonne trusted her just as equally, as far as it was tenable. Nikki had done something most of them avoided, unless they wanted more hassle than was necessary from the law. She'd killed a policeman, and one less was always welcome as far as Yvonne was concerned.
Nikki stared at Yvonne for a moment.
"I know, I know. If I ever say anything, they're likely to find me dead in the showers," Yvonne smiled at her.
"This place," Nikki exhaled deeply. "Her position. My sentence. It just got too much. You know what it's like in here. Everybody knows everything. For a phone card or a Mars bar, I could get Fenner's exact dick measurement."
"That wouldn't be difficult, just ask Dockley," Yvonne muttered. Nikki chuckled.
"You know what Helen's like. She's doing her best to help all of us in here, but like you said, most of them are too stupid to know it. She's in a position of trust and I think she believed she overstepped the mark with me. Like she was taking advantage. She doesn't see us as being equal. It can't be that way in here. I'm a con. She's on the other side."
Nikki stood up and walked over to the barred window. She inhaled on the cigarette, blowing the smoke out between the bars.
"But if your appeal is successful, she'll come 'round, right?" Yvonne asked.
Nikki shrugged without turning around, "I honestly don't know. If it goes tits up, then I could be in for the long haul. I wouldn't expect her to wait for me. That's not fair. She could have a better life."
Nikki half laughed to herself. The screws were right, 'unpredictable' summed her up and she'd proven that fact to Helen. All of Helen's hard work at trying to convince them that Nikki was worth the time and energy, and what did she do? Nikki had nearly blown it all that night she'd escaped. Nikki had backed Helen, unreasonably, into a corner. She had demanded that Helen do something that went against everything she believed in. Helen was within the system they were both fighting and coupled with her innate moral code, it meant there was only one way this could end as far as Helen was concerned. That was the right way. Fighting the legal system, legally. No matter how long it took. Not by going on the run. Yet Nikki hadn't trusted her. Worse still, she had shattered the trust Helen had in her that they would fight this together.
Nikki leaned back against the windowed wall and sighed deeply. She never thought it possible to feel physical pain that manifested from a sense of loss. Her body ached constantly, especially her chest. There was emptiness there now, a gaping black void. After Helen had brought her back to Larkhall and had ended their relationship that night, Nikki's body had started to shut down. It was only the autonomic nervous system, spurred by her brain in its need to survive, that kept it functioning on its basic level. It was like a slow death; decaying gradually from the inside out.
The night Nikki returned to Larkhall, she had smoked her whole week's ration of cigarettes. Even Barbara hadn't complained at the smoky fog that hung in the room, or the chill from the open window in an attempt to clear it. Barbara had sat patiently as she watched Nikki pace back and forth, offering words of motherly support to stem the downward spiral she could see her cell mate taking.
The mornings had been the worse for the first couple of weeks. As soon as Nikki had opened her eyes, she had stumbled from her bunk to the toilet in the corner and had thrown up. She had tried to be quiet, but Barbara had begun to wake at the same time and would assist, rubbing Nikki's back, wiping the sweat from her face, getting her some water. A week into it and Barbara had tried to make a joke. That was it possible in their brief night together Helen had managed to get Nikki pregnant, hence the continual bouts of 'morning sickness'. They had started to laugh before the notion hit Nikki, she had promptly fallen apart. Barbara had sat on the floor with her and had held Nikki in her arms, as Nikki had sobbed her heart out.
Nikki had resisted Barbara's suggestion to see the prison doctor about getting some sleeping pills. As much as she didn't like prescription drugs, she didn't trust herself. Not that she felt a coward in not being able to take an overdose and end the suffering. She was worried that she wouldn't take enough, that someone would discover her, save her before it was too late. The idea of waking up and finding herself back in the reality of a living hell was more terrifying than the idea of ending it. She now understood Monica's attempt. What was the point any more, if the only thing you loved more than anything was gone?
"You okay?" Yvonne asked, finally breaking through into Nikki's thoughts.
Nikki nodded slowly, already knowing that Yvonne would sense she was lying.
"How do you cope?" Yvonne asked.
Nikki snorted, "Grow another thick skin. Don't think about the past or the future too much. Basically, don't cope. Just go with the flow. One day at a time." She finished the cigarette, crushing it into the ashtray on the cupboard by the bunk.
"What about you, how do you survive this shit hole?" Nikki asked back.
Yvonne started to smile, "You know me, I like to mix it up a bit. Keep everybody on their toes."
They both heard Hollamby out on the wing, barking out orders to somebody.
"Especially that one," Yvonne thumbed, "I love winding her up."
Nikki smiled, "Yeah. She reminds me of a solitary light, shinning out across a vast empty desert. Sometimes bright, but ultimately fucking useless."
Yvonne roared with laughter. Which brought the object of their discussion to investigate.
"What's going on in here? Why's this door closed?" Sylvia asked sourly.
"Nothing, Miss. Just having a laugh," Yvonne smiled at her.
"More like mischief going on if you ask me!" Sylvia straightened up, her lips puckering in annoyance.
"You know, Miss, that's a very good impression of a chickens arse. How d'you get your lips to do that?" Yvonne squinted as she asked, looking hard at Hollamby's mouth.
Nikki bit back her laugh as Sylvia bristled at the insult.
"Watch it, Atkins! Any more of your " Hollamby hesitated over using the word 'lip'. "You'll go on report!"
Yvonne rolled her eyes at Nikki.
"Haven't you got anything better to do, Wade, than stand around wasting time with Atkins?" Sylvia spat.
"Dunno Miss, haven't checked my diary this morning," Nikki retorted.
"Okay, that's enough from you two comedian's. I've got better things to do than waste my time talking to you," Sylvia turned and huffed her way out of the cell.
"Lovely to see you, Miss! Pop by any time! Doors always open!" Yvonne called out.
They stood for a moment and giggled like schoolgirls.
Yvonne walked over to the cupboard and picked up the pack of cigarettes. She grabbed Nikki's hand and slammed it into her palm.
"What the ?" Nikki said.
"Take 'em," Yvonne encouraged.
Nikki frowned, "What's the catch?"
"There ain't one. You helped me out with my...needs. It's the least I can do. Besides, plenty more where they came from."
"Thanks," Nikki said softly. "I'd better go. Any longer in here and people will think I've recruited you to the other side."
"Yeah, sod off. Can't have you ruining my rep," Yvonne smiled at her.
Nikki walked towards the door.
"Hey, Nik," Nikki turned to face Yvonne. "This door's always open to you. Any time you want a chat, I'm always 'ere."
Nikki nodded, "Okay, thanks." She appreciated the genuine offer of support and was grateful for the small comfort it afford her in this place. At any other time, Nikki wouldn't have needed it, and she probably wouldn't take advantage of it anyway. She would just stick her head down as usual and get through it like she always did. Alone.
"See you later yeah? Game of cards? Pool? Spot the dickhead?" Yvonne said.
Nikki laughed, waved her hand, then left the cell.
Yvonne's smile faded as she sat on her bunk. She'd just witnessed a con and a friend in desperate trouble. She knew that the mixture of heartache, longing, despair, didn't bode well. When you felt like that, prison became a dangerous and lonely place.
As Nikki had stood in her cell, Yvonne had taken a long hard look at her. She'd seen the darkness under Nikki's eyes, the paleness of her skin, her slumped shoulders, her shirt and jeans hanging loosely on her body. She had noticed the weight loss, the gaunt look to her face. Yvonne thought Nikki had looked like someone on the brink, standing on the edge of a crumbling precipice and praying that it would give way.
She had been tempted to reach out and touch Nikki's shoulder in a show of unity, understanding, compassion, but had resisted the urge. Yvonne knew Nikki would have rejected the offer. Not because she wanted to, but because she couldn't accept it. The last vestige of Nikki's strength, currently holding her together, would have fallen away. There could be nothing worse for an inmate, than to show their vulnerability; show any sign of weakness. The moment Nikki did, Dockley would have a field day.
More worrisome for Yvonne, was the realisation that Nikki was caving in to the system. She was being beaten down, tamed by it, and not just because of Stewart. Yvonne admired the tall, dark-haired con. Her quick wit and intelligence was well masked behind her bolshie, mouthy attitude, that invariably landed her in trouble. Nikki was as much of a curiosity to the inmates as she was to the screws. She belonged to no particular group, clique or gang; they instead gave her a width berth or approached with trepidation.
Despite her reputation, Yvonne was more than aware of Nikki's protective nature. Her interaction with those closest to her, was in stark contrast to how she was viewed by the prison staff. Nikki shone when she had a cause. She was a strong individual, one who could be counted on, one who would watch your back, yet that defiant light of hers was fading. Yvonne thought that if someone as strong as Nikki went down, how long it would be before she found herself succumbing to the same fate.
Yvonne couldn't let that happen. She decided she needed to keep an eye on Nikki, or there were two ways it could end. If Nikki's obvious despair plummeted further, she could either go quietly, or go out in a blaze of glory. Yvonne wasn't sure which it would be, but if a worthy cause turned up, either scenario would be a possibility.
Yvonne had no way of predicting that such a cause would soon arise. A cause that would lead not only to a riot, but a near catastrophic situation for Nikki.
Either way, Yvonne pondered, she would be there.
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