It Started with a Kiss
Since that night at the karaoke bar, when Cassie met Roisin, and Helen and Nikki finally got their act together, things have changed. But in nine years, a lot can
Cassie and Roisin were extremely close after the night they met the pair seemed to hit it off instantly. They started a relationship after a few dates and Cassie fell head over heels for Roisin. Sure, Roisin was older than Cassie, and a career woman to boot, but Cassie found that fact even more appealing. Roisin would instigate trips to posh wine bars and intimate meals, whilst Cassie brought out the fun-loving side of Roisin but Roisin still never publicly admitted her sexuality. Their relationship hit a major snag a few months in when Roisin announced that she was, in fact, married. She explained to Cassie that they married too early in life and separated a while before her and Cassie met, but that her husband, Aiden wanted to try things again. Cassie was heartbroken and banished Roisin from her life. She had given up Nikki, and got over her with Roisin's help, and now was once again, left alone. Cassie finished the rest of her degree, bitter and mistrusting of any relationships. Roisin also was heartbroken, and never entirely forgave herself for putting Cassie through so much she loved her dearly, but the lure of a socially acceptable life won out.
It was a few years later that Cassie trained up for the position she wanted in a big city bank. She knew that when the vacancy was advertised for the same bank as Roisin had worked in, that it was a stupid idea to apply. Even then, she couldn't help herself she had grown up so much since university, but a small part of her needed closure with Roisin. Maybe this was her chance to work things out and become friends with the woman she had once given her heart and soul to.
Roisin was still, indeed, working at the very same bank she had five years ago but now she was in quite a senior position. Their first meeting had been slightly awkward, but the pair were both secretly happy when a friendship was rekindled over time. They learned new things about each other Roisin re-affirmed her marriage with Aiden, and had two children by him. He was more the house-husband, and it was Roisin who was the main breadwinner. She admitted to Cassie after a few drinks at a work function that she still fancied women, but was scared to change her way of life. Roisin regretted mentioning this to Cassie, as she spotted an immediate change in Cassie's behaviour after regressing to being hurt over their past relationship, a whole new side of Cassie was reborn. It wasn't the quiet, broken woman with a wall around her heart, but the flirtatious sassy woman who Roisin had first fallen for. This scared Roisin more than she could imagine. Later that year, the inevitable happened Roisin and Cassie decided they had wasted too much time, and started an affair. No one at the bank knew about it, and Roisin had no intention of ending things with Aiden, but Cassie needed Roisin and Roisin needed Cassie.
As Cassie came into her own in her career, she was given more responsibility within the bank, and of course a nice new pay packet. She bought the penthouse flat of her dreams, and on the first night of moving in, her and Roisin made love for the first time since they had rekindled their relationship. There was a naïve level of trust on Roisin's part, as she saw the headstrong Cassie as intelligent and invincible. Cassie convinced Roisin to turn a blind eye when she came up with a plan to 'borrow' some money from the bank. Roisin didn't approve, and begged Cassie to return it. When she didn't, Cassie's invincibility came to an end, and she was brought down. Unfortunately, Roisin was caught in the crossfire for covering up for Cassie, and so the pair were currently residing in HMP Larkhall.
Helen and Nikki gave their relationship a damn good go, and were blissfully happy for the rest of their university life. They rented a house together for six months after they graduated, but kept themselves alive only on daytime jobs and bar work. They found they didn't have time for each other as they were constantly working to pay the bills and the rent. Nikki followed her dream to join the police force, but Helen was not having any success in finding a well-paid job in their town, and became quite down. When Helen was offered an interview for a job back in Scotland, Nikki urged her to take it if only for the sake of Helen's happiness. The two tried to make it work for over a year, but the travelling was tough and their respective jobs got in the way. The pair decided to call it a day and eventually drifted apart.
Helen, with her degree in psychology and social studies, earned herself a place on the Fast Track Scheme run by the prison service. Over the last two years, she had worked as a PO in Castington Young Offender's Institution in Northumberland, quickly moving to Wing Governor at the nearby HMP Acklington. She was heading to HMP Larkhall to start her newly acquired position as Governor there. She had mixed feelings about entering the job. It was no secret that the vacancy had become available due to Larkhall's last governor, Neil Grayling, being forced to take early retirement. He had been seriously injured in an explosion set off by a homemade bomb, which had destroyed part of the prison and led to the deaths of several inmates. While Helen was not responsible for heading the investigation, she knew her skills in Psychology would come in useful when dealing with the emotional aftermath from the prisoners and officers.
Nikki in the meantime, had become totally disgruntled with the Police Force. She had witnessed countless acts of corruption in the two and a half years she had served for, and wanted out. She had been scanning the internet for ideas as to a different line of work, and had been successful. It didn't matter that it meant a move away from home she really didn't have anything left to wait around for since Helen had moved away two years ago
As Helen pulled into the staff car park, she felt a sense of trepidation. She could see black streams snaking up the outer walls from some of the windows this must have been where the fire had occurred. She had heard stories of prisoners trapped in cells, and yelling from barred windows, but none of it seemed as real until she stepped from the car to witness it for herself.
After going through the necessary security checks, Helen was escorted to her office, where she was greeted by an older man in a smart suit. He introduced himself as a representative from the Home Office, and continued to brief her on the situation to date. He handed her a file.
There was a police report, stating that the fire was in direct result of the explosion; an internal report on a 'Snowball' Merriman; and a coroner's report for the two prisoners who died. Helen held her breath as she flicked to the incident photographs. One was of an elderly woman who had apparently died from a massive head trauma and heavy smoke inhalation she looked too kindly to end up in prison, the most unlikely people end up prison, she reminded herself. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw a picture of a small, charred body. It looked as small as a child's. Paper clipped next to it was a photograph of the small person when she was alive. She was a pretty little thing, with blonde spiked hair and a cheeky glint in her eyes. She couldn't have been more than 20. Such a waste of a young life Helen had to blink back tears.
Seeing her distress, the Home Office man spoke for the first time, "In the coroner's report for Sharon Wiley, it states that they found traces of psilocin and psilocybin in her blood and stomach."
Helen raised her eyebrows; she was into psychology, not physiology.
Seeing her questioning look, he continued, "psychedelic chemicals from magic mushrooms she probably didn't feel a thing at the end."
Helen shook her head - there were obviously many issues to sort out at this prison. She certainly had her work cut out here. Also on her agenda for the first day were such things as to speak to the various Wing Governors, PO's and visit the inmates of G-Wing. Apparently, this was the wing worst affected by the blast. The perpetrator of the bomb had resided on this wing (who was now serving an indefinite sentence in the prison's solitary block), as had the two deceased prisoners. Many of the wing's residents had been in the library when the blast struck, and had been trapped behind a wall of flames until they were cut free from the window by the fire brigade. There were also two prisoners who made a heroic rescue of the previous Governor, and who were the reason why he survived the ordeal. Their photographs were not included, but as an addendum to the report, a PO from G-Wing had requested they be awarded a pardon for their actions. Another thing to sort out.
After the Home Office man had left, Helen resolved to talk to the officers and prisoners of G-Wing first. She massaged her temples as she looked at the huge amount of work that needed to be done. She retrieved a couple of headache tablets from her bag, what a mess she thought despairingly!
With her Police training, Nikki had not found it hard to secure a job as a Prison Officer. She knew she was worth more than that with her degree, but thought that maybe she could work her way up higher from here, and make a difference to the prisoners. In her job in the police, Nikki constantly came across people who were re-offenders they were only out of prison a few months before they were back to their tricks. Maybe working at a prison could give her answers as to why they were not reformed when they left? This prison was a women's institution, but Nikki had far more experience of male offenders out in the field well HMP Larkhall would be no less than a challenge!
Nikki was escorted to H-Wing and given a general tour of the prison. Upon catching the faint smell of smoke, Nikki shuddered she hated fire and did not want to be dealing with the damaged part of the building on a day-to-day basis! Luckily for her, H-Wing was nowhere near where the blast had occurred. Nikki settled into the mundane routine of 'locks, bolts n bars' very quickly. The staff were friendly and accommodating, and the challenge of working with many individual women gave her job some variety.
Helen strolled down to G-Wing to introduce herself to the women, and to check to see how they were coping with losing close friends. She met the Wing Governor, Karen Betts in the central atrium.
"How are the women coping?" she asked Karen
"As expected," she replied. "The ones who were trapped and those who lost their friends have been worst hit, but that's to be expected. The wing's been in a sedate mood since it happened."
Helen nodded the women probably didn't know how to deal with a situation like this. "Would you mind introducing me to some of those most involved?"
Karen unlocked the main gate to the wing, "sure". She led Helen to meet the three Julies, who were busy working in the canteen. Helen didn't know quite how to react to their somewhat bizarre personalities. Before she could ask Karen if this was a result of the bomb, Karen whispered to her, "They're always like this". Helen smiled the three were obviously trying to make the best of their situation.
The next person Karen took Helen to see was a girl called Denny. Before they entered her cell, Karen stopped Helen, "A-This girl is having a lot of problems at the moment. She lost her mother a few weeks ago. Sharon Wiley, or Shaz was her partner, who was killed in the fire. She's lost everything and we've currently got her on suicide watch."
Karen knocked the door, and slowly entered. Denny was lying on the bed, wearing the same expressionless face she had done since the fire. She knew that under Denny's mask lay a soul in severe turmoil, and her heart went out to her. Her features were gaunt, and her weight had dropped dramatically.
"Hi Denny", Helen said gently.
Prompted by the new voice in the room, Denny turned her head to look at Helen, then returned her gaze to the ceiling. "My name is Helen Stewart, I'm the new governor here. I just wanted to see how people were doing." Still no response.
"A-Denny hasn't spoken since reality hit" Karen informed Helen.
Helen laid her hand on Denny's arm, who flinched at her touch. "Denny, I'm going recommend to Miss Betts here that you speak to someone about what happened, ok? Might make you feel a bit better." Denny shuddered, as if she was trying to control her emotions. A single tear slipped from her eye, and then she turned toward the wall signalling the end of their conversation.
As they made their way through the wing, Karen and Helen spoke to Yvonne Atkins. Helen introduced herself.
Yvonne smiled, "Well, makes a change to have a woman in charge", and then added with a sly look, "You've got your work cut out." At Karen's warning look, Yvonne became serious, "How's Denny doing?"
"Still no change, I'm afraid Yvonne." Karen replied.
Turning her attention to Helen, Yvonne told her, "Y'know, its like the old Denny died in there along with Shaz. She's not been the same since. We're all worried about her."
"How are you dealing with everything Yvonne?" Helen asked her.
Yvonne didn't know whether to take Helen's tone as patronising or just wary of her new ground. "I'm dealing. That's about as good as it's going to get in here at the moment."
As they continued their tour of the wing, Helen asked Karen, "Where are the two heroines I keep hearing about?"
Karen smiled, "They are in an external hospital being treated for their injuries. We thought it was the least we could do seeing as they were so brave." There was a glint in Karen's eye that Helen swore was pride for them.
"Was it you who requested the pardon for them?" Helen asked her warily.
Karen shook her head, "No. I know the system well enough to know that wouldn't be possible. It was Di Grayling who said it in the heat of the moment no pun intended." As if she could see the cogs turning in Helen's mind at the mention of her surname, Karen supplied, "A-She was recently married to Neil Grayling, so was understandably grateful!"
"Well, if you let me know when I can meet them, we'll see what we can do to make their lives a lot easier in here." Helen told her with a smile.
All was quiet on H-Wing. Nikki felt really bored. She had read through the extra training manuals, and flicked through prisoner files. It was association time on the wing so she decided to mingle with the prisoners and have a chat to a few of them. On her way to unlock, she was met by H-Wing's governor, who called her to his office. She sat in the chair opposite the desk wondering if she'd made a huge balls up in her first week, but couldn't think of any.
"How are you settling in Nikki?" he asked her in a friendly tone.
She smiled, still none the wiser, "I'm doing fine sir. Settling in nicely."
"I'll get straight to the point Nikki. H-Wing has been very quiet, what with prisoners moving and finishing sentences."
"How would you feel about transferring to another wing? I know you're only just settling in, but I can see already that maybe you would like more to get your teeth into?" He raised his eyebrows by way of a question.
Nikki was shocked this man seemed to be praising her after just one week on the job!
"As you know, a bomb exploded down in the library a few weeks ago during an open day, and two prisoners were killed in the subsequent fire."
"Yes." She replied.
He put on a face that suggested he was dealing with sensitive material, "Both prisoners were from G-Wing. The whole wing of residents and staff are under a lot of pressure at the moment, and I think your efforts would be greatly rewarded if you could lend extra support there."
Nikki felt pleased with herself at last she had a lot more to get her teeth into, and this was where she thought she could make the difference. "Sure", she said, "I'll do it."
He shook her hand, "I'll take you down to meet Wing Governor Karen Betts, where she'll get you acquainted."
The atmosphere on G-Wing was noticeably more sedate than that of H-Wing. Nikki noticed that the prisoners were all quiet and wary of the new presence on the wing. As Karen took her on the same tour as she had taken Helen on, Nikki noticed a few bruises and cuts on some of the residents the haunted looks they carried in their eyes gave testimony to their ordeal.
Once back in the staff room, Karen made a cup of tea for Nikki and herself, "Barbara used to have this job", Karen commented with an air of melancholy.
"How are the officers coping?" Nikki asked.
"Most are still shocked by the whole affair", she replied, "Although there are still those who see nothing but bad in the women." She was going to continue, but stopped when she saw Sylvia Hollamby walking towards the staff room.
"Blooming Stewart!" Hollamby bustled, agitatedly towards the kettle.
Nikki raised her eyebrows. Karen smiled knowingly.
Ignoring their presence in the room, Hollamby carried on her world-weary spiel, "Expects us to go lightly on the riff raff! As if we should give them a holiday for a bit of smoke!"
Karen broke in before Sylvia showed too much of her true colours, "A-Senior Officer Sylvia Hollamby, Nikki Wade our latest edition to G-Wing."
The pair nodded to each other by way of an acknowledgement.
"I'll leave you two to get acquainted", Karen said, ignoring the dirty look Nikki threw her.
Hollamby obviously didn't mind who her audience was, and carried on regardless, "And as for Denny Blood I don't know why she's getting all this special treatment! Good that those two have finally been spilt up. Act of God that is see, he knows what they were up to was wrong." She bit into a ginger biscuit.
"What they were up to?" Nikki asked, confused.
Hollamby gave her a conspiratorial look, "They were lesbians" She replied in a hushed voice, carefully accentuating every syllable in the word, lesbian.
"Something wrong with that?" Nikki asked, in a slightly defensive tone.
"Turns my stomach that sort!" She replied, still managing to be perfectly ignorant to the situation she was getting herself into, "And those other two the pair everybody's calling heroines. They're that sort as well."
Nikki stood up so that she was towering over the short woman, "Actually, I'm a lesbian as well. I'd prefer it if you weren't so bigoted around me in future." She narrowed her eyes to convey the fact that she was not impressed by this woman at all. God, I need a cigarette, she thought to herself. Hollamby didn't even apologise, not that Nikki really expected one; she just muttered something about 'Stewart employing inverts'.
Nikki sat down wearily. She REALLY could do with a fag! Stuart, huh? Just another sham run by another bloke in a suit! Thinking about it, she hadn't met this Stuart bloke yet mind you, if the staff are on first name terms with him, then maybe he's not part of the oppressive old boys network. Would make a nice change to have a down to earth person in charge of operations
Why is it only 3.15?
After a break and a well-deserved cigarette, Nikki headed back towards G-Wing's PO office. On the way, she was greeted by Karen. "Our two heroes are back from the hospital now Nikki if you want to see them. Although you might have to queue!"
Nikki looked through the barred gates to see a swarm of prisoners round one of the cells on G1. "Still on basic?" she asked Karen.
Karen nodded, "We did offer to move them to enhanced, but they wanted to stay together you understand!?"
Nikki shook her head were the other officers that narrow minded that it had to be stated at every opportunity? With a smile she replied, "Yeah, Sylvia filled me in!"
Karen rolled her eyes, knowing exactly what view Sylvia held with regards to lesbians. "I'll leave you to it "
After wasting a bit of time checking through paperwork, Nikki decided to congratulate the two prisoners. Karen had left her a memo, asking her to act as personal officer for them. She had probably guessed Nikki's sexuality and put like with like. Seeing the crowd slowly diminishing, Nikki strolled up to their cell.
She knocked lightly and popped her head round the door. "Hi there, my name's "
"Nikki?" Cassie cried, understandably shocked.
Nikki was speechless. "I . Er Cassie?" It took a couple of seconds for it to register who she was talking to. Cassie's hair was shorter, and there were still noticeable burns covering her forehead and cheek. Nikki shut the door behind her and gave Cassie a wary hug. She looked over Cassie's shoulder to notice Roisin sitting on the lower bunk. Breaking off the hug she said, "Roisin?"
Roisin just nodded with a shocked and ashamed look on her face. She too had burns on her face, but her hair was longer now and managed to cover the majority.
The three women held an uncomfortable silence.
"So " Nikki started, then remembered the reason she had come to see them in the first place, "I hear you two are G-Wing's resident heroes!"
Cassie and Roisin shared a proud look. Then silence resumed.
At that point, the old attitude of 'cut to the chase' shared by Cassie and Nikki set in,
"What are you " Cassie started
" doing in here?" Nikki finished
All three laughed at the absurdity of their situation. They spent the next twenty minutes catching up on the last nine years of each other's lives.
As Nikki left their cell, feeling overwhelmed and positive she was living in an alternate reality ;), she resolved to see this Governor 'Stuart' bloke to fill him in on the situation. Keeping a lid on it would only look suspicious, even if she were deported back to the black hole of boredom that was H-Wing!
Nikki sat in the PO's office. She was nursing a cup of tea, wishing it were somewhat stronger. She had been turning the words over in her mind, but still couldn't pick up the courage to approach the Governor about her friendship with two of the prisoners. She noticed Karen walking towards the office and decided to test the waters with her first.
Karen swung open the door in a mini whirlwind.
"Karen, have you got a minute?" Nikki asked warily, seeing that the other woman was in a rush.
Karen looked around the office, flustered, "Oh, I'm sorry Nikki I'm in a bit of a rush. I'm supposed to meet a friend for lunch. Can it wait?"
Nikki sighed, "Yeah, sure Karen. What are you looking for?"
"My leather gloves."
Nikki shook her head, "Sorry Karen."
Once more, Nikki was left alone in the office. She decided to see if the governor was free to see her. Sooner would be better than later. She had done nothing wrong. Perhaps he wouldn't be too hard on her or the situation. On the way up to the office, Nikki decided to keep it quiet about the fact she'd had a relationship with Cassie. After all, she had no idea how the current governor would react to her sexuality.
When she got to the governor's office, Nikki noticed that the secretary was absent. Nikki checked her watch, probably on lunch, she thought. Nikki knocked gently on the wooden door. A woman's voice from inside called, "Come in".
Nikki opened the door and walked in. The figure turned from looking in the filing cabinet to look who was interrupting her.
Nikki's nervousness spurred her to just open her mouth, "Excuse me, have you got a mome........HELEN?!"
There was a period of about twenty seconds in which the two inhabitants of the room just stared open-mouthed at each other. Nikki decided she was definitely in an alternate universe. Either that, or the world was, in fact, as small as a marble.
Helen motioned for Nikki to sit at her desk, and took the chair behind it. "I suppose this brings up a few questions", Helen started.
Nikki laughed nervously, "I'll say!"
"What're you doing here?" Helen asked, in total awe of the situation.
"I'm a PO on G-Wing." Nikki replied, "I guess the career took off then?" she said, motioning to the large office around her.
"Yeah. Things worked out ok for me. But I'm sure I only got this position because I'm more qualified than most to deal with the emotional impact of the bomb."
Nikki nodded, still amazed at seeing Helen after all these years.
The two just stared at each other until the shrill ring of the phone on Helen's desk broke their comfortable silence. "Excuse me", she told Nikki apologetically. Helen was pleased when Nikki didn't leave the office while she took the call, glad that they had kept some of their ease from their relationship.
Nikki looked around the office. It was certainly impressive she was proud of Helen getting this far in her career.
" Yes ok, can I get back to you? Thanks" Helen ended the call quickly and apologised again to Nikki.
Nikki smiled she was still the Helen she knew all those years ago. "I can see you're busy Helen, would you like me to come back later?"
"Would you? Oh I'm sorry Nikki, I'd love to chat about everything but it's been totally manic today!"
Nikki nodded, and smiled, "Sure Helen."
As Nikki stood up to leave, Helen asked, "Oh, what did you want to see me about?"
A look of recognition crossed Nikki's face as the shock of seeing Helen had made her forget what she had come for in the first place. "Oh, it can wait", Nikki replied reassuringly. "Now it's you I'm dealing with, I don't think the subject will be a problem."
Just as Nikki reached the door, Helen called, "How about a catch-up drink later?"
Nikki nodded, "Yeah sure, I'm free. You'll have to recommend somewhere though, I'm new to the area!"
Helen gave a small laugh, "Me too, remember!" On discovering they only lived a short distance from each other, it was decided that Nikki would go to Helen's and they would have a few drinks there
Nikki arrived at Helen's with a bottle of red wine. It was a Chilean - the same wine they used to drink when they were together. Nikki hoped Helen still liked it. Helen opened the door with a big grin, and gratefully accepted Nikki's offering. As Nikki followed Helen through to the kitchen, she noted the array of cardboard boxes that littered each room.
"Excuse the mess", Helen told her, "Haven't really unpacked properly yet."
"The décor is very similar to mine actually!" Nikki laughed.
Reaching for the wine glasses, Helen said, "I unpacked these though!"
They sat on the sofa, and a silence descended on the pair. Helen had so much she wanted to ask Nikki about the last six years, but found herself speechless. Nikki was here, in her home after all this time. She was once again lost in Nikki's deep eyes. Her thoughts were broken by Nikki calling her name. She quickly snapped out of her gaze.
"You ok, Helen?" Nikki asked, with a concerned look on her face.
Helen nodded, bringing herself back to reality, "Just weird meeting up after all this time."
Nikki certainly knew how she felt. "Listen, Helen, before we start catching up, can I quickly get something off my chest?"
Helen was slightly confused, but agreed.
"Its why I came to see you today." She said, seriously.
"Oh, right. Sure." Helen replied.
Nikki took a deep breath. "Did you hear about a heroic rescue involving two prisoners from G-Wing and the ex-Number One?"
"Yes, I keep meaning to speak to them, but they're still in hospital."
Nikki shook her head, "No, they're not, I spoke to them earlier today."
Helen raised her eyebrows, urging Nikki to continue.
"I was wondering if the names Roisin Connor and Cassie Tyler ring a bell?"
Helen closed her eyes for a second, trying to figure where she knew them from. Suddenly the names and faces clicked together. "You're kidding."
"Shit!" Helen exclaimed.
"What do we do?" asked Nikki.
"What we do," Helen started, "is have a big bevy load and sort it out in the morning!"
Nikki couldn't believe Helen's reaction. Usually, she would have stressed herself out about it, and wanted it sorted there and then! Still, she didn't complain, just raised her glass to meet Helen's.
"To the good old days, and to new beginnings." Helen toasted.
"And to the world being as small as a marble!" Nikki added.
After the first glass of wine, their conversation flowed like they had never been apart. Nikki regaled some tales of the Police Force and the corruption she had witnessed, and Helen told her of her time as a PO and what Nikki might expect. "God!" exclaimed Nikki, after being told a particularly hairy tail involving a prisoner stabbing a PO with a broken bottle, "and I thought the police force was bad!"
Nikki took off the zip-up grey hooded top she wore and draped it over the back of the sofa as she laughed at another tale of prisoners trying to get one up on the hapless officers. She wore a white vest top, and Helen paused to notice how toned Nikki's arms had become.
"You been working out?" she asked, the wine loosening the mechanism that might have otherwise prevented her from making that comment.
Nikki looked at her upper arms and grinned, "Throwing lumps of criminals into police vans!"
"Well, then I'm sure you'll stay in shape at Larkhall!" Helen's gaze followed down to Nikki's forearm, and she noticed a huge scar running from the back of her forearm, to diagonally snake round to the front. She set her wine glass down on the table, and gently took Nikki's arm in her hand.
"What's this?" she asked quietly, running her finger over the scar line. She looked up at Nikki with a hurt expression on her face. The last time she had seen a scar on Nikki's arm it had been self-inflicted and over her.
Nikki read Helen's expression immediately, "Oh, Helen! It's not what you think!" Nikki shook her head with a smile, "I also had a run-in with a broken bottle. Just lucky it was only my arm!"
Helen breathed a sigh of relief.
Nikki made light of the situation to ease the heavy mood, "I stop doing it myself, and then I get some idiot slicing me up at work!" There was another pause, where Nikki took in the still-pained expression in Helen's eyes. They looked exactly the same as when Helen had discovered Nikki's original scars.
This time it was Helen who broke away first and retrieved her wine glass, taking a rather large gulp. She topped both of their glasses up with the rest of the wine. Making a physical break from the tense mood, Helen decided to get another bottle of wine from the kitchen.
"Where's your back door Helen?" Nikki called from the living room.
"Through here, why?" Helen asked, the added, "Oh. Let me guess!"
As if on cue, Nikki walked through the kitchen door with a pack of Marlboro Lights, "Some habits die hard Helen."
Helen indicated to the bottle of wine she pulled from the cupboard, which was identical to the one Nikki had brought, "Indeed!"
Helen followed Nikki out and they chatted whilst Nikki smoked her cigarette. Helen grabbed a couple of drags, and at Nikki's questioning look she commented, "Old times!"
Their conversation flowed along with the wine. As they reached the halfway point of their second bottle, the subject of relationships came up. It turned out that Nikki hadn't actually dated since her and Helen split up she had pulled a few women but her relationships never got off the ground. Helen admitted she had had two very short relationships, each of just a few weeks.
Nikki was curious as to what affect their own relationship had on Helen's future ones, "Male or female?"
Helen smiled, "You'll be impressed one of each!"
Nikki feigned hurt, "Why a man? I seem to remember you telling me once that you would never need a man in your bed ever again!"
Helen laughed at Nikki's reminder, but then became serious. "I couldn't make a clean break after you and me." She looked down into her wine. "Being with a woman would have reminded me too much of you, and it hurt not being near you." She thought her leaning motion was due to the alcohol, but then realised she was being drawn into a clumsy hug by Nikki.
The two stayed snuggled together for a while, until Helen dozed off to sleep. Noticing her even breathing, Nikki gently stroked Helen's cheek to wake her, "Helen, wake up, you need to go to bed."
Helen looked up at Nikki, her eyes still clouded with sleep, "oh, right, yeah." She stood up, still a little clumsy with alcohol. Nikki went to find her mobile.
"Whatcha doin?" Helen asked, sleepily.
"Finding my phone to ring a taxi", She called back.
Helen took the phone off her, "Sod it Nikki, stay here the night."
Nikki looked at her, and wondered if it was such a good idea. Then gave in to the thought of sleep, and nodded. "You got a blanket?"
"If you wanna go through the boxes!" Helen answered, "I got a double bed, we may as well share."
Nikki stood hesitantly in Helen's bedroom, while Helen found her a t-shirt to sleep in. "Which side is mine?" she asked.
"The usual", Helen said as she turned away from Nikki to strip off. She felt silly doing it actually, but felt they had probably become close enough for one night.
Nikki slid into the right hand side of the bed, and waited for Helen to join her. They both suddenly felt really awake, and aware of the other's presence. They lay facing each other in comfortable silence.
"This is weird." Nikki commented.
"Why?" Helen asked.
"Feels like we should be hugging or something like that." Nikki knew it sounded silly as soon as the words left her lips.
"C'mere" Helen said quietly. The two lay, still facing each other with an arm draped over each other. As they continued their conversation, Nikki began to draw lazy circles on Helen's back with her fingertips. She only realised she was doing it when Helen started doing the same thing. Their conversation drew to close as they concentrated on the sensations the other's simple touch was creating. Nikki moved her hand up to stroke the back of Helen's neck. She was so gentle that she barely caught the tips of the small hairs there thus heightening all sensation in Helen's body. Helen shivered.
"You ok?" Nikki whispered.
Helen said nothing, just nodded. Her eyes wide, and shining in the light of a streetlight somewhere outside. Nikki continued to trail her fingers over Helen's back. The only sound was their quiet breathing. Every touch from Helen sent small shivers down Nikki's spine but she managed to hide them. Both knew they were treading on dangerous ground. Nikki reached an exposed bit of flesh at the bottom of Helen's t-shirt, and stroked the across the ridges at the base of her spine. Helen once again shivered, and pulled Nikki so that she was half lying on top of her. The sexual tension could be cut with a knife.
Eyes shining, and noses barely an inch apart, Nikki asked Helen, "Is this to see who breaks first?" Helen again said nothing. Her eyes were staring at Nikki with such intensity, it was like they were one person, yet they had not even kissed. Nikki dipped her head, but instead of kissing Helen, she merely grazed her cheek with her own. Helen nuzzled Nikki's nose in an Eskimo style kiss. Nikki trailed the slightest touch of the tips of her lips across Helen's cheekbone, to where she planted the tiniest of kisses just below Helen's earlobe. Both were shivering and hardly breathing. They continued the nuzzling and occasionally gave each other the odd kiss, but both avoided the other's lips. It was like their newfound professional integrity was intact just as long as they didn't cross the line to kiss.
Nikki kissed the very corner of Helen's mouth, hardly covering any of her lips, then pulled back to see Helen's reaction. Helen's eyes just glimmered back at her. At a snail's pace, Nikki lowered her mouth to Helen's and planted a whispery soft kiss there. It was a chaste kiss. Lips on lips. Nikki smiled at Helen, "I guess you won."
She remained poised over Helen, each afraid that if they moved, the spell would be broken. Nikki's heart was hammering in her chest, as she whispered, "but I guess it's the taking part that counts". Nikki didn't know whether to move or not, so she just said, "Round two?" She intended to recreate the slow pace from before, but Helen pulled her head down for a passionate kiss.
Their lips crashed together, and Helen's tongue forced its entry into Nikki's mouth. Hands were everywhere, stroking, grabbing pinching. They just exploded into a frenzy to see who could turn the other on more. Nikki's hand slid up Helen's t-shirt to caress a nipple, Helen hissed in response. She trailed her hand back down to Helen's thighs and gently stroked up and down the insides, whilst flicking her tongue in a trail across Helen's stomach. Helen's skin turned to goose pimples in the wake of Nikki's tongue.
Deciding it was a bit one-sided, Helen rolled them over so that she pinned Nikki down. She massaged Nikki's breasts and took pleasure in her sharp intake of breath. "You're really sensitive", Helen commented breathlessly. "So are you" Nikki breathed in response, as she cupped Helen's arse, and brought her centre to rub against her thigh. Helen bucked at the welcome pressure, and forced her own thigh between Nikki's legs. Nikki tangled her fingers in Helen's hair and they kissed passionately and forcefully. Using this opportunity, Nikki flipped Helen back over so that she was once more on top of her. She kissed down Helen's throat, and tickled her hand down Helen's torso. She was satisfied when she remembered a particularly sensitive place by Helen's ribs, which caused Helen to yelp as she tickled it. Nikki's hand reached Helen's pyjama bottoms, and toyed with the waistband, "D'you think we should lose these?"
"Nikki, I think we should probably stop."