DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls is the property of Shed productions, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women...okay disclaimer done.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Love Will Find a Way
By Lynne

Chapter One

"Nikki, no don't leave me, please come back, I need to explain it all to you, no, no, don't turn around come back, why won't you listen to me, I need you, I love you" as Helen's sobs echoed around the room, the two people who had been watching this latest outburst turned to each other.

"Are you sure you have no idea who she is talking about?" the doctor asked Alex, "your mother seems so determined not to let this person go. Whatever she is dreaming about seems so real to her it's as though she is unwilling to allow herself to be drawn away from it. I think that if this person does exist then they could be the key to bringing your mother out of this coma, with patients in this near conscious state something as simple as a recognisable voice has been enough to bring them around, I know that you have tried talking to her and I truly believe that your mother is hearing you, but it would seem that the hold this man has over her is keeping her from giving up her search for him and coming back to you".

Alex could not help but resent this man already, she knew nothing about him, but he seemed to be the key to bringing her mother back to her.

The strain of the situation was beginning to take its toll, it had been over a week now since Alex had returned from class to find her mother unconscious in the pool, the police seemed to think that she must have slipped hit her head and fallen into the water, she was not breathing when Alex dragged her out but fortunately Alex had managed to get her breathing pretty quickly and the paramedics had arrived on the scene soon after, but no-one could be sure how long she had been there and until Helen came around the doctors could not be sure whether the lack of oxygen, for however long, had caused any permanent damage.

Alex realised that the doctor had still been talking to her ".. and if there is any way that you can find out who this man is and perhaps contact him he may be willing to help us".

Alex sensed the urgency in the doctor's voice, the longer her mother stayed unconscious the less he liked it. "She has mentioned other things while you were out this morning. I don't know if any of it means anything to you, I got the nurse to write it all down so that we might ask you about it when you came back. Here we go, she mumbled something about Dominic, and Nikki going back to Larkhall, she kept thanking Dominic, any help?".

The name Larkhall sounded familiar to Alex, she told the doctor that she wasn't sure but believed that Larkhall was a prison that her mother had worked in back in England, but that was before she was born. Alex said that she would take a look through a couple of storage boxes Helen kept in the garage, it was all stuff she'd packed up and brought from England when she moved to the states, she didn't actually know what was in them but she thought they may have some papers or diaries from back then.

It suddenly occurred to Alex that she had never asked her mother about the boxes, she'd always known of their existence but her mother had never to her knowledge opened them, but strangely (though Alex had never really thought about it before) would never let them be thrown away during their clean ups. Perhaps (hopefully) the information they needed was in there somewhere.

Chapter Two

Though it was late when Alex arrived home, she wasn't tired, she was on edge and felt she needed to be doing something to help her mother, it was all so frustrating.

She realised that the closest thing to helping right now would probably be to try and track down this man Nikki.

Nikki? No, she still couldn't say that her mother had ever told her about any Ex's called Nikki, she had told her about a few boyfriends she'd had at her university, her disastrous engagement to a man called Sean and the odd few relationships she'd had since moving to the states, but none of the men were called Nikki.

There was nothing for it but to get the boxes from the garage and see if there were any clues there. Though it was late she walked from the kitchen into the connecting garage, switched on the light and started moving the familiar junk around until she could get a firm grip on the two boxes she was looking for. Both were covered in dust accumulated over the years, she lugged them back into the house and dumped them on the floor next to the sofa.

Alex stared at the boxes with a mixture of apprehension and excitement, it seemed strange that she was about to start delving into part of her mothers past that she had no knowledge of. Surely if her mother had wanted to share this part of her life with her she would have by now, they'd always had a very good relationship, they talked about anything and treated each other as equals, valuing each others opinion, not always agreeing but always prepared to listen to each others point of view.

It occurred to Alex that for the first time in her life she was facing a major event on her own, without her mothers support, the thought made her shudder when she thought about how close she had come to being permanently alone, what if she'd arrived home later? She quickly shook this thought from her head, there was no use dwelling on the what-ifs she must be grateful for the fact that she had found her mother in time. Now she needed to find someone else, hoping to God that the boxes held the information she needed she cut the tape sealing the first box and opened it up.

This stuff appeared to be the usual clutter from an average childhood, photo's of Helen as a school girl, teen and at University, there were letters from friends in the UK (some of which Alex recognised, aunt Claire, Joe) and a few 'love' letters from Sean, on reading them Alex could see why her mother had so been unimpressed by him, he seemed pretty weedy and quite frankly dull, a silent prayer of thanks was offered up on both Helen and Alex's behalf that her mother had realised he was not the one for her in plenty of time. The first box was by now completely empty, Alex had had a laugh at some of the photo's of her mother, it was no wonder she kept the box taped up, when she saw some of the clothes her mother had worn Alex came to the conclusion that some of Helen's 'fashion statements' really would have been better left unsaid.

Feeling weary Alex got up and stretched, feeling the bones in her spine creaking as she did, she had to carry on, there was the other box to get through, no point leaving it 'til the morning, there was no time to waste.

Again she carefully opened the box, there was less stuff in this one, but Alex wished she had opened this one first, it seemed she had hit the jackpot.

Chapter Three

The first thing she saw was an old buff file, her mother had written 'Nikki Appeal' on the front, there was a bundle of old newspaper cuttings and a couple of letters, addressed to Barbara Hunt at HMP Larkhall they had all had been 'Returned to Sender' to a Post Office box and remained unopened.

Not wanting to waste any more time Alex opened the file, she wasn't sure what she noticed first but either way she was stunned, inside was the HM Prison file of one Nicola Wade!, the photograph showed a head and shoulders shot of a dark haired woman! not looking too pleased with herself.

The reality of the situation hit home, Nikki was not some ex-boyfriend of her mother but an ex-con, a female ex-con, a 'lesbian cop killer' as the British press had so eloquently put it. Alex had question after question flowing through her head. What the hell had gone on?

The newspaper cuttings related to Nikki Wade's release from prison, looking at the date of the newspapers Alex quickly calculated that this was the year before her mother moved to the US, the appeal date itself rang a bell with her, she couldn't think why but being so tired did not dwell on it, if it had been that important she would have remembered why surely.

Alex read through the appeal file, it contained photocopies of trial transcripts, prison records and some hand written notes, it seems that this Nikki had quite a colourful past. She had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a British police officer, a man who she claimed had been raping her girlfriend and she had stepped in to try to stop him.

When she had finished reading the file Alex found herself feeling a bit of sympathy for Nikki Wade, she considered what she would do if she found herself in the same situation, surely most people react in whatever way necessary to protect those they loved. Thinking about her mother, Alex was sure that she would use any means to protect her regardless of consequence.

The file was littered with Helen's hand-written notes, it seemed her mother become very involved with this appeal, Alex could understand why, Helen had always been a champion of justice and was always prepared to stand up and fight for what she believed was right.

The file contained a couple of addresses, Monica Lyndsey, and Trisha who Helen has underlined was Nikki's 'ex-girlfriend' and business partner, also the address of a club that Nikki and Trisha ran, keeping this information to one side, Alex picked up the unopened letters. All but one had been posted to Barbara Hunt and returned, the odd one was simply addressed to 'Nikki'. Alex wasn't happy about it but felt that by reading some of them she may get a clearer picture of what she was looking for. Leaving the 'Nikki' letter to one side (well she thought, Nikki clearly hadn't had the chance to consider opening this one, it didn't seem right that she should open it first).

She sorted the letters into post-mark order, believing that it might make sense to read them in chronological order. She took a deep breath and opened the first letter.

"Dear Nikki,

What we shared was incredible.

Please understand that I had no choice but to take you back. I'm sorry if you think I let you down, please have faith in me and my actions. We will fight for this appeal and win!

Please talk to me. I love you. H xxx"

All of the letters were of the same basic content, reading between the lines (her mother had not given too much away- Alex thought this might be because the letters might be read by someone else), her mother shared some kind of personal relationship with this woman and then at some point had made a decision which turned Nikki against her. Alex was puzzled, it was not like her mother to act in any way that would let someone else down, she had never known her do anything that might be to someone else's detriment. Putting down the last letter she decided to call it a day, she had got to a point where she felt she had enough information to start looking for Nikki Wade. She needed to rest now, she would think about what to do first thing in the morning, she glanced at her watch 4:35, it was morning! But she needed to sleep, wearily she walked up the stairs to bed, she left the letters on the floor, they weren't going anywhere, she'd deal with them when she got up..

Chapter Four

The next day Alex got up and telephoned the hospital, her mother had had a restless night but was 'comfortable', after she had showered and dressed she made her way to the hospital. She checked on her mother and on her way out she called into see the doctor. She told him that she had found out some information about Nikki (she didn't feel the need to tell him that Nikki was not an ex-boyfriend) she told him she was going to spend the rest of the day making few phone calls.

When she got back to the house she picked up the prison file, from what she had read in the letters and notes her mother had made there was another prison officer who had helped her out during her time at Larkhall, his name was Dominic McAllister, Alex wondered whether he was still at the prison, only one way to find out she thought, she picked up her phone and dialled the operator, she explained that she needed to find a telephone number for the prison, surprisingly it didn't take long for a number to be found and the call was connected, when the phone was finally answered Alex asked if a Dominic McAllister worked there, "Yes, Mr McAllister is the Governor of this prison" came the stern reply, Alex asked to speak to him and was put through to his secretary. After fielding a number of questions she was put through to the man himself..

"Hello, can I help you" came the soft-spoken voice.

"Er yes I hope so, my name is Alexandra Stewart, I believe you knew my mother Helen".

"Good God, that's a name I haven't heard in a good few years, how is Helen?"

"Not too good actually, she's in hospital, she had an accident, that's partly why I'm ringing you.. it's kind of a long story."

Alex briefly explained what had been going on over the last couple of weeks, Dominic listened patiently as Alex told him what she had found out and when she asked him if he could fill in any gaps he told her what he knew.

"Well we are going back a few years but the events you are talking about are still as fresh in my mind as they would be if they had happened yesterday. I'm not sure that I should be the person to tell you this, as Helen hasn't mentioned it to you before, but clearly you need to find Nikki and if anything I can tell you will help then surely I must.

You mentioned Nikki's release, well a few months before her release your mother told me that she was in love with Nikki, I assume that is probably as much a shock to you now as it was to me then. Anyway, it seemed that Nikki matched the feelings your mother had and somehow they had managed to forge a very close relationship, despite your mother being Nikki's jailer.

One night, I never did find out how, Nikki managed to escape from Larkhall, apparently she and Helen had been having a difficult time and Nikki felt so desperate to work things out with your mother that she took the one chance she felt she had and escaped. She turned up at your mothers doorstep demanding to see her, all I know about that night is that whilst they sort out the problems that they had been having, Nikki found out that her request for an appeal had been turned down, she decided there and then that she was not going to go back to prison but that she and your mother should run away together. Helen refused to go and telephoned me, as I already knew about their relationship she asked me to help her to get Nikki back. I think that's why it's still so fresh in my mind, the risks we took to get Nikki back before her absence was noticed was enough to turn me grey overnight!

After a great deal of arguing we got Nikki back into Larkhall, which as it turned out was good for Nikki in one way, as she did get her appeal and was released. It was not, however, so good for Helen and Nikki's relationship, Nikki refused to speak to your mother, from what Helen told me she returned all of her letters unopened. Helen got so depressed that basically she felt she had no choice but to ask for a transfer away from Larkhall, she could not bear to be in the same place as Nikki and be faced with such a harsh and constant rejection.

Your mother moved to another prison, though I kept her up to date with Nikki's appeal, as the date grew nearer she badgered me more and more, but insisted I was not to tell Nikki of her interest. On the day of the appeal I accompanied Nikki to the court and was there when they told her she was free to go.

She looked at me and smiled but I could see no gladness in her eyes and said so to her, she asked me what I thought she should do now, I said the world was her oyster, she shrugged and said what good's an oyster when you've lost the pearl you've spent your life looking for. I think she kind of hoped your mother would have been at the appeal, I was surprised myself that Helen had not shown up, considering the amount of pressure she had put on me for every detail of what was going on. It wasn't until a week or so later that I found out Helen had been seriously hurt in a car crash and had actually been in hospital".

It suddenly dawned on Alex why the appeal date had been so familiar, her mother had told her all about the crash. Helen had always maintained it was her own fault she was preoccupied (Alex now knew why) and had not been paying attention, she had driven into the path of an oncoming lorry, she was very lucky to have survived, and even more lucky (or so Helen always said) that her unborn child had survived too.

Dominic continued "Helen contacted me and asked me to visit her at the hospital, she looked awful, bandages, wires etc everywhere, but that didn't concern her, all she was interested in was Nikki, how she had got on, whether I knew where she was. I told her that she had been freed, I also - at Helen's demand - tried to find Nikki, I contacted a few of her friends, Monica Lyndsey and Barbara Hunt and of course her ex, Trish I think her name was. Basically the story was that Nikki had been in touch with all of them, they all said how unhappy she seemed, she had asked Trish to advance her some cash and had taken off to travel the world, it seem she took my advice, none of them knew where she had gone and none had any idea when or even if she was going to return or how to contact her. Believe me I left no stone unturned but it was as if she had vanished.

Your mother was inconsolable, I think that if she hadn't had the battle to get fit for your sake she may have given in, but she did get fit again, she tried to contact Nikki every so often, Nikki's friends all had postcards etc from Nikki but they were from all over the world, by the time they were received Nikki had moved on.

When you were born Helen had pretty much given up hope of finding Nikki, she told me that she must give up the search and start to concentrate her attentions on you. That is pretty much the last I heard of Nikki until today, your mother and I kept in touch for a while, but then she got offered the job in the states, I think she thought it was a chance for her to start over, leaving her past behind her and from what you tell me it appears she did just that, well on the surface anyway".

When Dominic had finished Alex asked him if he still had the information on Nikki's friends, Dominic was sure he could find it, but better than that, he offered to help Alex, he had a few friends who may be able to help them. He asked Alex if she would let him look into it and promised he would get back to her. Alex was glad of the offer and after taking her details and wishing Helen well they said their goodbyes.

Chapter Five

Two days later and Helen looked no closer to coming round. Alex was getting desperate, she was sat at home when the phone rang. It was Dominic.

"I have some good news and some bad news, the bad news is that sadly both Monica and Barbara have passed away" Alex sighed, she was hoping they would be able to give her some indication of where Nikki might be living, "however, and please don't ask me where I got this information, Nikki Wade was named as the main beneficiary in both their wills, Monica's executors carried out a trace for Nikki's whereabouts and she was found. Apparently she is now back in England, the club that she and Trish owned turned out to be very successful, they moved onto bigger and better things and now run a chain of more up-market clubs, I have the addresses of them all in front of me, from what I gather Nikki is still very much involved in the business and is in fact running the London one personally. Though apparently her and Trisha's relationship has never gone beyond that of business partners since she came back".

Alex didn't know what to say, she thanked Dominic for the speed with which he had got back to her, and now she had to decide how to go about getting in touch with Nikki. Dominic said that he was prepared to approach her but was not sure that that was the best option, he asked Alex about the possibility that she make the trip herself, perhaps Nikki might be more easily persuaded by her than him as he told her that in the past Nikki thought he had interfered a bit too much with her relationship with Helen, nevertheless he offered to help her if she did come to England.

Alex was not keen to travel, it would mean leaving her mother alone, she said she would speak to the doctor at the hospital and get back to him. The doctor was more or less insistent that she made the trip, as far as he was concerned, the mysterious Nikki was the answer to the problem.

Alex needed no further encouragement, she immediately booked the plane tickets for that day, and rang Dominic, he said he would arrange for her to stay at a hotel near the club and if she wanted him to would meet her at the airport, Alex was grateful to have someone to share the load for a while, she told Dominic her flight number and as quickly as possible packed up and left for the airport (via the hospital just to tell her mother where she was going, whether Helen could hear or not Alex felt better for doing so).

When Alex arrived it was early on a Monday morning in England, she was so tired, as she collected her luggage she heard her name being called over the tannoy and made her way to the information desk. Dominic, a cheery looking man who Alex figured to be in his early 40's, met her there. Once the introductions were made Dominic and Alex walked to his car, he drove her straight to the hotel, they didn't speak much, Alex managed to fall asleep in the car and Dominic could see that she was in need of a rest.

He woke her when they arrived at the hotel and helped her carry her bags and check in, Alex wanted to change and go straight to the club, Dominic said that that would be pointless it would be closed up for a few hours yet so she should go and rest. He insisted she should go and rest once he heard her objections begin.

"I will be back at 6:30 this evening, sleep eat and shower, you will feel better for it and there is nothing you can do until then anyway".

Facing this argument Alex could see that she would not win, and besides she was tired, a sleep sounded so good, she asked reception to make sure that they called her at 3 O'clock, and went to her room where she promptly fell into a deep sleep.

As requested, she was woken at 3 by reception, she got up, unpacked some suitable clothes, took a shower, changed and went in search of food. Having eaten she went back to her room. She wanted to be fully prepared for this meeting (if Nikki was there) she had brought her mothers letters with her, including the 'Nikki' letter, she figured that it might help her to convince Nikki to help if nothing else did.

Dominic rang from his mobile at 6:15 he said to meet him outside to save him parking, she was in the foyer when she recognised his car pull up.

"Hi" she said when she got in.

"Well you certainly look a bit brighter" he said, they chatted generally, about the weather, the traffic, neither really sure what to say, as they neared the club, Dominic asked if she wanted him to go in with her.

Alex thought about it then said that she thought that she should go in alone.

Dominic parked and pointed across the road, "That's the club, good luck and remember Nikki may appear hard on the outside, but she is vulnerable - well she always was as far as Helen was concerned - don't let her bully you", Alex had no intention of leaving the place without Nikki or at least with her agreeing to help, the words of advice merely spurred her on.

Taking a deep breath she got out of the car and headed for the club and hopefully to her first meeting with Nikki Wade.

Chapter Six

The door was locked, Alex pressed the intercom, as she wondered what to say she heard the automatic unlock and pushed the door open. She walked in and carried on up a flight of stairs, coming into what she assumed to be the main room of the club. Looking around it was clear that this was no ordinary run of the mill nightclub, a great deal of time and effort had been spent decorating this place, Alex was suitably impressed.

"Hi George, come on over we've been expecting you", a voice called from the bar area. As Alex neared, she was met by two smiling faces, the smiles faded slightly when it became apparent that she was not 'George'.

The short blonde got Alex's attention by asking who she was and how she had got in, she explained that she had merely buzzed the door, at this point the older woman spoke, "Sara, how many times have I told you to check who you are letting in, that was the point of installing the bloody intercom in the first place". As she spoke Alex realised who she was looking at, despite the well-cut clothes and stylish haircut and a face a little older than the photographs she had seen, this was Nikki Wade.

"Can we help you love?" Nikki asked.

"Well I hope so" replied Alex, "I'm looking for Nikki Wade" she looked at both women pretending not to know who Nikki was, she didn't know why, but her instinct made her hold back a bit.

As Sara tried to answer, Nikki cut in "Why are you looking for her?" Nikki did not recognise this girl, there was something familiar about her but she wanted to try and figure out why she was looking for her before she gave herself away.

As Alex had not got the response she was looking for, she held back "Well that's between me and her isn't it?".

Cocky Yank, Nikki thought, "Well perhaps if you leave a number, when she comes in next we can get her to call you".

Alex felt panic rising up inside her, this was not the time to play games, she was the one in need here, the only thing to do was give Nikki a bit of information to go on.

"Okay, sure" she said, taking the piece of paper, "though she won't know me, she might remember my mother though, I'll write both our names down , and the number of my hotel".

Alex dropped the piece of paper and turned to walk out, Nikki picked up the paper and scanned it, she nearly dropped it when she read Helen Stewart. Helen's daughter?!!

"Wait, please come back" she heard herself say.

Alex turned around, and walked towards the bar, as Nikki looked this time, she realised why Alex looked so familiar, she was so like Helen, so like the Helen that she still saw almost every night in her dreams.

"So you're Helen's daughter?" asked Nikki.

"Yes, and you're Nikki" replied Alex in a voice which sounded a lot more calm than she actually felt.

"Yes I am" replied Nikki, feeling rather foolish for trying to hide the fact, when it was clear that Alex had known all along, "sorry for the cloak and dagger stuff, but you never know who might come calling".

Nikki turned to Sara, "We're going up to my office, deal with George when he arrives". With that she gestured for Alex to follow her and walked towards a door to the side of the bar.

They climbed a further set of stairs in silence, Nikki opened a door that led into a spacious office, there was a sofa and comfy chairs on one side, on the other a desk and computer gadgetry.

"Sit down, can I get you a drink", Alex shook her head and sat down.

"So Helen finally got married and had the children she always wanted eh?" Nikki stated " She always talked about how she wanted a family, how old are you?".

"Almost 18" Alex replied.

"Well she didn't waste much time. Er, after leaving Larkhall" Nikki muttered.

"Actually my mother is not and never has married, she only has the one child, Me" Alex felt she had to defend her mother in her absence.

"So what brings you to me, did Helen send you?" Nikki was being very obstructive, as Dominic had warned, it seemed she well and truly had all barriers up.

"No she doesn't know I'm here", it was true, but the look of disappointment in Nikki's face made Alex say "She's still in the states, actually she's in hospital".

"Oh dear, nothing serious I hope" Nikki said, trying hard to sound unconcerned, when really her whole body was crying out for her to shake this woman to tell her what was wrong with Helen.

"Look, Miss Wade, I have travelled a long way, I had one goal and that was to find you, if you will allow me, I will explain to you fully why I am here and avoid all this polite chitchat".

Nikki stared at her, it had not occurred to her that this woman had travelled so far just to see her, she knew she was a yank but assumed she was here on her holidays like all the rest.

"OK fine" she said, " but you'll have to be quick, I have a lot to do to get the club ready for tonight and please, call me Nikki".

Alex was in no mood for pressure, she had planned what she was going to say and Nikki Wade would damn well sit and listen until she had finished. Making herself comfortable she began.

Chapter Seven

Starting at the beginning, from coming home and finding her mother unconscious in the pool, to Helen's continuous calling for the mysterious Nikki she explained about the files her mother had kept in the garage. Alex told Nikki that she'd had no idea about this episode of her mothers past, Helen had managed (perhaps understandably) to skip this part when telling Alex about her history. Alex explained her surprise at finding out that her mother had fallen in love with as the papers called her "lesbian cop killer", and finally told Nikki about her conversation with Dominic.

"Oh he's still kicking around is he" Nikki said in a gruff manner "He was always after Helen, trying to get between us".

"Actually it was Dominic that found you for me and he is the one who arranged to get me here, considering it has taken less than 3 days between my first contacting him and me seeing you, I think it a little unfair to be criticising him, don't you?"

Nikki blushed and nodded briefly, encouraging Alex to finish her story, when she did she looked at Nikki hoping to get some kind of reassuring look from her, she was disappointed. Nikki's her face giving nothing away.

"So you came all this way because you think I can bring your mother around, is that right?" Alex nodded "Well I'm sorry to disappoint you love but your mother gave up on me a long time ago, she made it clear that she wanted nothing more to do with me when she left Larkhall, I'm hardly likely to be the answer to her prayers now am I".

Anger surged through Alex, from what she'd been told Nikki was the one who gave up on her mother. She felt that Nikki should face the harsh reality as she saw it.

"What did you expect her to do Nikki? From what I gather, after she refused to go on the run with you and took you go back to Larkhall you treated her as if she meant nothing to you, you cut her out of your life, you would not speak to her, write to her, you completely rejected her for doing what she did. Lucky for you she did take you back though wasn't it? I mean how long was it before you were released? It must have been nice being able to travel the world without having to look over your shoulder, have you ever considered that?" Every day Nikki thought to herself, and no it wasn't nice, it was lonely, so bloody lonely, there wasn't a day during those first years that she didn't wish that Helen had wanted to be with her.

"That makes no difference, she didn't want anything to do with me, even when I was released she wasn't there, my appeal was so well publicised she could not have missed it, but she didn't come that , I got the message loud and clear" Nikki shouted back.

" She tried to come Nikki" Alex said quietly, she briefly explained to Nikki the circumstances of Helen's crash and that by the time she was well enough to make any steps to try to find her, Nikki was long gone. That she tried for a long time to get in touch with her to no avail.

Nikki felt as though someone had reached in and squeezed her heart, could it be true? For all these years she had felt abandoned, felt that Helen had used her then cast her aside when the pressure became too much, God if only she'd known.

She turned to Alex, "I'm sorry, but I really don't think I'm the help you need, if Helen had wanted to get in touch she would have herself by now, you told me yourself, it took you less than 3 days to find me, I'm sorry I do hope that she gets well soon, and if she's as strong willed now as she was when I knew her, there is nothing that will stop her getting back on her feet". With a polite smile she stood up, indicating she wanted this conversation to end.

Alex could not stand this "You selfish bitch!" she shouted "How can you be so patronising, I have no idea what it is about you that made my mother fall in love with you, but whatever it is it is keeping her from coming back to me, and you have the nerve to just sit there and tell me how hard done by you were . From what I gather she was the one making the sacrifices, taking all of the risks, you just kept on pushing, pressuring her and when she said no to your suggestion of running away you rejected her, don't ever try to put the blame on her. She nearly killed herself trying to get to you when you were released and the thanks she got, You took off ! Ran away! Left her to face a life without you, you knew deep down how much she cared about you.

You are to blame Nikki, you, answer me this, did you ever have the courage to go and look for her, No! At the first chance you got you ran, imagine if my mother had run Nikki ? What if she had not had the courage to face her feelings for you, to acknowledge them? Where would you be then? Still in prison no doubt.

I will be going home tomorrow, this (she threw some paper down onto the table),is a ticket I bought for you, foolishly believing that if you had truly loved my mother then you would be only too willing to help, I know my mother and I know that if the tables were turned she would be at your side, the choice is yours, you can stay here and live out your sad and lonely life, or take the chance and stand up and fight for what you want, what you've always wanted, she's waiting for you Nikki, but this time you have to go and get her, is she worth it?".

With tears streaming down her face Alex turned around and left.

Nikki ran her hand down her face, this was all so much to take in, but she was right wasn't she? If Helen had wanted her she could have found her, thinking about Alex's words it struck Nikki that she had a point, if Nikki had loved Helen that much wouldn't she have gone after her. Nikki grimaced, thinking back to the way she was, back in those days nah, she was too stubborn/ arrogant, wouldn't show her vulnerable side not to anyone if Helen wanted her she had to come and get her she wasn't going to go grovelling, but she wondered now if perhaps she should have, so much time had been wasted.

She picked up the ticket from the table, underneath she noticed another envelope, it was addressed to her and was in Helen's handwriting.

Did she really want to open her heart to this woman again, Yeah as if you've ever let her go she though to herself. Curiosity getting the better of her, she picked up the letter and ripped open the envelope.

Chapter Eight

Dear Nikki

I'm not sure which is my greatest regret, the feelings and decisions I am about to acknowledge or the fact that I know you will never get to read them and that I have lost you forever.

These past few months have been both the happiest and saddest of my life. I realise now that if I have to live without you I can only do so by closing this chapter of my life for good. It is over a year since your release, I have searched for you, God knows how I have searched for you, but you seem determined to stay out of my reach.

I have made the decision to take a job I've been offered in America, I see it as my chance to start again, I leave tonight, I am packed and ready to go. I do want to go but in my heart I know that part of me wants to stay here, just in case you come looking for me. Knowing how stubborn you are, I know that it is not likely to happen. I want to take time to explain everything to you in this letter, because I know I will never get the chance to do so in person. And I know I will never feel settled and able to move on until I can clear my head of these feelings.

When I first saw you something inside me clicked into place, until I met you I did not realise I was missing anything in my life. I had a good job, I was engaged and thought I was happy I had high hopes for the future. You changed all that, you found a side of me that I had managed to keep hidden, even from myself, feelings came from me which felt so deep and so right they scared me and no matter how I tried to control them I couldn't. You know how long I battled to avoid acknowledging the deep love I felt for you but I couldn't deny it for long, something that felt that right could not be ignored. I was and am still so in love with you Nikki, not you the woman, you the prisoner just you the person, being with you made me feel whole, it's as if you are a part of me I cry every time I think about what I have lost, I try not to think about it now but it is so hard.

I think back to the times we spent together, we were in the worst possible situation and yet we shared so much joy. I remember talking to you about whether people had soul mates, I was sceptical then but now I know they exist, each of us has soul mate when we are born and I believe that we all travel through life looking for that one person. The lucky ones meet up at the right time and place. Others, like us meet up at the worst possible times and I imagine some never meet up at all they simply move on to their next life continuing their search until the time place and person all click into place.

For some reason, even though our time and place were wrong I felt that click, it was like the final piece of my life jigsaw you made me feel whole, like I could take on anything. I thought you felt that too, it seems I was wrong. If I had been right surely we would found the strength and courage to work through this and stayed together.

I'm drifting off the point a bit now. What I am saying Nikki, is you were the one thing in my life that felt right from the start, regardless of the situation we were in at the time and I tried hard to make you understand that and though you still probably don't believe it, everything I did, I did so that we could be together - I was about as successful at that as I was at being Wing Governor eh?

I accept now that this lifetime is not the one that we will spend together. I searched for, met and then lost my soul mate Nikki. I only hope that I find you in my next life and that the time and place will be right.

I have to move on with my life now, I have a new daughter, [you may wonder how I managed that (apart from the obvious!) and though I don't regret the fact that I have her, I regret the circumstances, it happened when I was at my lowest and facing your rejection every day at Larkhall - I went out with an old college friend and got very, very drunk, I suppose I tried to prove to myself - like you said "that I could still pull the boys" and I did, but it was a hollow victory, yes I could still pull, but I no longer wanted to]. Alex needs a mother not some empty shell that is spending her life looking for something that is long gone.

When we were at Larkhall I knew what I wanted, you I was prepared to give up my career and wait for you, but you wouldn't make the same effort, you wanted immediate results and couldn't understand that going on the run was so wrong, the fact the you didn't want me hurts so much and I know it is a feeling that will never go away. I will always love you Nikki, no one will ever take your place in my heart, it will be kept just for you, until we meet again.

Too much time has been spent waiting for you, I guess my faith in you was misplaced. I must now concentrate on Alex, I owe her that much, the love I had planned to share with you will lavished on her, she is the one thing that has kept me going these last few months, I am just so sorry that I will never get to share her or the rest of my life with you and that I never really got the chance to say good bye.

I will never forget you, and will strive to meet you in my next life

I know that we will be together one day, Love always Helen XXX Nikki could feel the tears falling down her face, how could she have been so stupid, why couldn't she have seen things from Helen's perspective. Helen thought that she'd thrown the love that she'd offered her back in her face, she'd abandoned Helen at a time when she needed her most, why hadn't she been stronger, fought harder for what she wanted.

Well she had a second chance now, come hell or high water one thing was certain she was going to get Helen back. And make up for all of the hurt she had caused.

She grabbed the phone, within 10 minutes her arrangements were made, she had left Sara in charge of the club, told Trisha where she was going and why, Trisha had wished her luck, she had long ago realised how deep Nikki's feelings were for Helen, she had tried to convince her to get in touch with her, but Nikki had always claimed she was too busy, or that there was no point, she was glad that her friend had finally realised that she could not fight the inevitable. All that remained for Nikki to do was to go and pack, back at her flat Nikki packed a large suit case, she hoped that she would be away for quite some time, she was not going to make the mistake of losing Helen again, this though she didn't realise it, she was not actually planning to come back, she had nothing here, but out there...she smiled as she closed her front door and ran to the waiting taxi.

Chapter Nine

The following morning Alex again met Dominic, this time for a ride to the airport.

"I'm sorry things didn't work out for you Alex. Your mother is something special, I can't believe that after all this time Nikki is still so stubborn that she can't see what she's giving up. She must be mad!".

Alex agreed it was all so frustrating, she was so angry with Nikki Wade, how could she not want to help? Whatever had happened in the past was not important, if she'd had any feelings for Helen surely she would have at least offered to try to help. Alex was not asking her to come and rekindle the relationship for God's sake, definitely not! Her mother didn't need that selfish, arrogant bitch trying to take over her life again.

Alex said her farewells to Dominic and gave her thanks for his help, promising to keep him informed of Helen's progress.

Feeling very deflated she slowly boarded the plane and was shown to her seat. She glanced at the person already sat in the seat next to hers, she couldn't believe it, there sat Nikki, looking up at her sheepishly, she was holding the letter Helen had written all those years ago, Alex had not realised she had left it at the club, having little choice, she sat down next to Nikki.

"Hello Alex. Look I know you must think I'm a complete shit" as always Nikki got straight to the point.

"Well, actually, yes that does in some small way start to sum up my feelings for you at the moment. Does that make a difference to you wanting to be here?" Alex stated bluntly.

"Not in the slightest" came Nikki's confident reply, "you're right, to be honest I could think of a whole lot of things, to describe my behaviour, none of them pleasant. I want to apologise to you about yesterday, sorry seems such a pathetic word for what I want to say - I was so insensitive, the only feeble excuse I have is that I was shocked by your sudden appearance, I've spent so long trying to suppress the longing to see Helen again not daring to even hope that I might, that my first instinct was denial, not accepting what you were telling me. I suppose it was a vain attempt to protect myself, when really I had no right to do that, particularly when you came to ask for my help.

Once again my infamous knack of speaking first and thinking later let me down. I'm hoping that it's not too late, that you will give me a second chance, I would like us to try and start again. Maybe we could take some time now to clear the air, talk things through, I know that you probably think I don't deserve the chance to come with you now, but please I am begging you to let me because from the bottom of my heart Alex, I am still so in love with your mother that if you stop me from seeing her now I don't think I could get myself through losing her again" Nikki's voice broke, the emotion she felt being so clearly portrayed in what she had said.

Alex looked straight into Nikki's eyes, there was no mistaking the sincerity in what she was saying "If you hurt her.." Alex started to say.

"I wont! I swear! I've spent the last 18 years thinking that I would never see her again, worse, that she never wanted to see me again. I have a hope now, a small one, that she might want me back in her life again, even if it's just as a friend. If I can just see her, talk to her.. I know that I have no right to make demands or even expect her to want me in her life again after all this time, I gave up that right when I left, but right now I just want to be there to help her to get well and maybe to help you, to share the burden if you'll let me.

Whatever happens after she has recovered is up to her. I won't put pressure on her for anything, and I swear to you now that if she decides that she wants no more to do with me then I will respect that choice and will leave and you wont hear from me again.

(praying that this wouldn't be the case Nikki was nevertheless sincere)

It is probably hard for you to believe but my life has been in limbo since I last saw Helen, yeah sure I've travelled the world, I've been successful as far as my business is concerned but it all meant so little when I had no one to share it with. I never let anyone get close to me after Helen, a few women have tried but they all gave up on me eventually, I suppose I was always too distant and I know I was always too critical, none of the women who wanted me could compare to Helen. I didn't always consciously make a comparison and I did have my share of fun along the way, but I knew none of them mattered enough to me, I was just passing time, I could never love them enough as I was still too much in love with her. I've been so lonely Alex".

After a slight pause in the conversation.. Nikki sighed and said,

"I did consider contacting her you know, when I got out, " Alex looked surprised " but as I hadn't heard a word from her since she left Larkhall and she didn't show up at my appeal, I took that as a message from her to me that what we had was over, that she was no longer interested in sharing her life with me".

Talking more to herself than Alex, Nikki continued "I should have known better should have trusted her, I knew that was not Helen's style to just give up and leave, but I was hurting too, she'd forced me go back to that shit hole instead of running away with me. I resented that for so long, at the time I saw running as my one and only chance of happiness with her.

I told her on the night of my escape that we would be nearly bloody 50 when I got out if I waited for justice and that she wouldn't wait for me that long. I was convinced that was true, my last girlfriend had dumped me after a couple of years inside and not only had I been with her for over 9 years and it was because of her in a way that I was in there. I couldn't believe that Helen would just put her love life on hold, waiting until I was released.

I know I was so wrong on the first count, justice set me free a lot sooner than I thought, I don't know about the second". She looked at Alex, asking the silent question.

Alex thought about the unasked question, just what should she tell this woman about her mothers life? The truth would most likely encourage Nikki to think that Helen still had some feelings for her. Did she want to give this woman any such hope, did she trust her? Nikki hadn't really shown her worth to Alex, but, Alex wondered.. Do I have any right to interfere? She knew the answer was no, but she felt she still wanted to protect her mother.

Keeping it simple she told Nikki a little about Helen's life since she'd emigrated, not giving Nikki too much hope but not crushing the small hope that she did have. It seemed fair.

"She hasn't dated many men. She comes up with comments like, 'she's too busy at work or at home'. The men that have persisted have either been 'too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too old, too young, too boring'. She goes out quite often and has a lot of friends, but I suppose you could say her personal life sounds a bit like yours, no deep meaningful relationships, a bit of fun - that's it.

She's never, to my knowledge anyway, dated any women", Nikki was a little taken aback by Alex's frankness. "You know, it never seemed odd to me that it was always just the two of us, she always made everything seem so. normal, I can't believe that I've managed to grow up not knowing anything about this whole situation".

"Well from what I gather" Nikki gestured to Helen's letter " Helen decided to well and truly leave the past behind her, she made a firm decision that the two of you were going to start afresh in the States, she would not allow herself to live in the past, carrying around some vain hope that someday I would return. She said she owed you that, she loved you very much and had decided that she would channel her attention to you. You're very lucky".

"I know" was all Alex could say, she knew it was true, her mother had always been there for her, sure she pushed Alex sometimes, encouraging her never to lose out on any opportunity It was all making sense to Alex now, the reason that Helen insisted she took every opportunity that came her way, Helen's regrets about what she had lost made her push Alex to strive for success. What a woman!

Whilst Alex started thinking of her childhood and all of the things she remembered her mother doing for her Nikki's mind raced on, could what Alex said mean that Helen did still have feelings for her? 'Forget it Wade' she thought to herself, 'Helen's not going to simply welcome you with open arms, the long lost love etc'. She would have to do some serious grovelling when she saw her. Helen deserved to see that Nikki accepted their split was all because of her mistakes, her insecurity and that she was so sorry for all of the pain she had caused.

They continued to sit in silence for a while, Nikki looked out at the sky, her thoughts continued to wander. She couldn't believe she was sat here next to Helen Stewart's daughter! That sometime in the next 24 hours she was actually going to see Helen again after all this time. Her throat felt so tight, tears sprang to her eyes again, she didn't want to cry - it felt so strange, before meeting Alex yesterday she hadn't cried in years, a skill she'd picked up at Larkhall, 'never show weakness - keep those barriers well firmly in place and you'll be fine'.

It suddenly occurred to Nikki that she had not really thought about the fact that Helen was unconscious and could be for an indefinite period, both she and Alex were assuming that Nikki would be the key to bringing Helen around, but what if the Doctor was wrong, oh God, she started to panic, what if things were more serious than they thought, that her injuries had caused long term damage that she might even die. No!

She jumped, she hadn't realised she had drifted off to sleep, she shook the negative thoughts from her head, Helen would recover and she would be there to help every step of the way, this was one battle she wasn't going to lose, She was bloody well determined that she would make up for all of those times that she should have been there to help and support Helen but wasn't.

As the food was brought around Nikki waved it away, she felt as though any food she tried to swallow would get stuck in her throat, deciding instead to rest she set her chair back, closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, she was only woken by the seat belt sign pinging, she looked at her watch and then at Alex, "sorry I must have been great company" she grinned.

"Its ok, I haven't been awake for long myself, had a bit of a long week!" replied Alex.

After leaving the airport they decided to go straight back to the house, they would call the doctor from there and follow his instructions as to when to visit.

Chapter Ten

When Nikki walked into Helen's house she gazed around, though she hadn't really imagined what their home might be like, she was not surprised by what she saw.

The whole place felt so familiar, comfort was definitely the dominant theme, tasteful and clearly not cheap but not the ostentatious crap that Nikki had seen in some of the American houses she got to see on British T.V. This was obviously a real 'lived in', family home. Nikki couldn't remember the last place she'd walked into and felt at home straight away, she loved this house immediately, but don't get too comfortable, she reminded herself that this may only be a temporary stay, she didn't know whether Helen would be glad to see her or not.

"It's a lot tidier than normal" Alex said, "It's funny, she's always nagging me to clean up around the place when she's here, but when she wasn't I couldn't stop, I was like a thing possessed!".

Nikki smiled, as she glanced around further she noticed a couple of photographs on a side table.

She looked at Alex "Do you mind?" she gestured to the photos.

"Sure help yourself, want a drink?" Alex replied as she walked through to the kitchen.

"Yeah, that'd be great" Nikki called back.

She walked over to the photo's, this would be the first time she'd seen Helen in over 18 years, she still had pictures fixed in her mind, but the natural passage of time tended to erode them into a fuzzy image. Slowly Nikki picked up the first, it was of Helen and Alex aged around 10, they looked so happy.

Looking more closely at Helen made Nikki's stomach flip over, she looked incredible, the American sun had certainly enhanced the already beautiful skin colour she'd had, her hair seemed fairer than Nikki remembered, not dyed, just a little sun bleached. The face, 'God how I've missed that face' she thought, she traced her thumb down the side of Helen's face stopping to touch the full and oh so kissable lips.. Nikki's thoughts were disturbed by Alex's return.

"She looks great". Was all she could think to say.

"Mm, that was when we were on vacation, she always makes sure we go away together during the holidays, just to get away from the hassles of work I think".

"What does she do now?". Nikki asked.

Alex explained that Helen had been involved in setting up an organisation that worked along side the Government/prison authorities to improve the life of women lifers. Nikki was amazed that Helen was still doing work of a similar vein to the time when she was at Larkhall. Alex explained that Helen had a less hands on job now. She was more involved in picking the staff who became responsible for the small groups of inmates at the various high security prisons, "she has shied away from too much one on one contact herself, preferring to leave that to her 'hand picked disciples'" Alex laughed.

"She does tend to delve very deeply into the backgrounds of everyone she takes on. Making sure they are just right for the job she has in mind for them. She says she met some right scummy types in her past and wanted to make sure that none of her team were like that, she is a pretty good judge of character too". Realising that she had paid a back handed compliment to Nikki, Alex smiled. A flicker of hope passed through Nikki, perhaps she hadn't turned Alex completely against her after all, she was still going to have to tread carefully though, and she was fully prepared to do that, for Helen.

Alex went off to ring the hospital, when she came back she told Nikki that the doctor said it would probably be best for them to come in the morning, to rest after their journey as it might be a while before Helen wakes up even with Nikki's help.

Alex felt she should warn Nikki that the doctor was expecting her to be a man, well they all were at first weren't they. This didn't seem to bother Nikki, she had faced so many raised eyebrows related to her own sexuality over the years that nothing surprised her. Even now that it was more widely acceptable and the laws much more flexible regarding marriage, adoption etc she still faced the odd surprised look then a long stare and occasionally a cheap wisecrack .

Nikki could see that Alex still had a lot of questions to ask about her and Helen. She felt that Alex was owed some kind of explanation and whilst it was really up to Helen to tell Alex her side of things, Nikki decided that now might be a good time to clear up some of the confusion. Obviously she was talking from her own point of view, but hey she was there and she was one of the two people who knew exactly, where, why and how things had got to the point that they did. So she offered the girl the chance, by asking her if she wanted to ask her anything.

Alex seemed prepared for this.

"How about you start at the beginning and see where we go from there?"

So Nikki told Alex about Helen coming to the prison, how Helen had been full of good intentions when she took up the post, telling Nikki that she wanted to help the inmates, to improve their conditions but that she needed help.

At the time Nikki was considered to be a bit of a rebellious maverick by the other staff, she was still going out with Trish at the time and truly believed that she didn't deserve to be locked up, she had resented everything about the place.

Most of the staff treated the prisoners like vermin, "it's amazing you know, all sorts of people from all walks of life end up there, some justifiably so of course, but not all and yet they are all bundled under one label, not many screws see past that. Helen was different from the start", Nikki told Alex how Helen managed to chip away at her tough exterior, "it was as though she had singled me out and made it her mission to turn my attitude around she saw a human being underneath all the bravado and 'lesbian cop killer' label. She took the time to get to know me and treated me like a real person. It's amazing how something as simple as taking the time and trouble to listen to a persons point of view, particularly in a place like that can make such a difference. Believe me the way I was going before she started it was a sure thing that I would have been in for a lot longer than the original sentence. I was a nightmare! The other screws took pleasure in making our 'stay' as uncomfortable as possible, not Helen she was the opposite she got on well with us all and I think they resented her for that.

Because she started to get on with most of the prisoners, she would stick up for them if she felt they were being treated badly, she began to face hostility form her colleagues for some reason she started to talk to me about it. We became friends, it was nice to have a friend in there you know, I shared my problems with her, I had never opened up to anyone like that before, for example she was there for me when Trisha decided to dump me for someone else and Helen seeing the trust I had shown started to share hers with me.

I suppose the problems started when I, almost immediately if I'm honest, realised that I was attracted to her, I wanted more than just friendship. She was engaged at the time and though she thought she was happy and insisted that she was, I could sense that she wasn't, and me being me I told her so.

She actually got her fiancÈ to come to the prison a few times, he seemed ok, Mr Average, not overly exciting though. I told her that too! (Nikki laughed). Anyway, I kept pressuring her, talking to her about us, the way I felt and the way I believed she felt too. There was something there, you know. Whenever we met you could feel it, she wouldn't and obviously couldn't admit that she felt anything for me for so long. Then out of the blue she called off her engagement with Sean, I saw that as a sign, and I took advantage of it. I know that sounds callous but I have never felt that strongly for anyone ever before and had nothing to lose and, if it worked, everything to gain.

Anyway, we spent more and more time together, I tried to kiss her a couple of times - she went mad! Storming off as soon as I did, but like me, she could not fight the feelings that were growing.

Eventually, the pressure became too much. I realised later that I was pushing too fast too soon, it was all so new to her, a homosexual relationship was so shunned then, and it was forbidden obviously between an officer and a con! She made every effort to avoid admitting she felt anything for me apart from friendship, but I still kept badgering her. I cringe now when I think of the position I put her in, ultimately the pressure she was facing from her colleagues and the pressure I was putting her under made her resign her post as Wing Governor.

She came to see me to tell me that she was leaving, she'd resigned, and I was devastated. I begged her to stay but it was too late, she kissed me, finally admitting, to us both I suppose, that she wanted to be with me just as much as I wanted to be with her, but it felt like as she was giving with the one hand as she was taking away with the other, her parting words to me were "shit happens", how right she was.

It didn't take long for me to get back my rebellious, don't give a shit attitude. Once again I'd lost all that meant anything to me, or so I thought. To my amazement she started to write to me, vague, one-lined postcards at first, they didn't mean much to anyone snooping through the mail, but to me they held out such hope.

Even more amazing, she arranged to visit me, you can imagine the stir that caused can't you, it must have taken some nerve for her to come back to Larkhall to visit one of the inmates. I was elated! When I saw her come in I just wanted to grab her and kiss her but I couldn't, or rather we couldn't as she told me that she felt the same.

We talked, it was just so good to see her, I had become such a miserable grumpy bitch when she left, how anyone could bear to be in the same room as me I'll never know, but having that visit got me back on track, it gave that little bit of hope that I needed. I resumed the studies that Helen had started me off on and I tried to keep out of trouble, which was difficult, as my mouth generally leads from the front - err as you know.

Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I was sat in the prison library when this hand appeared and grabbed my book from me, I was all ready for a punch up but when I turned around, there was Helen stood grinning like a Cheshire cat! She had managed to join a Home Office project dealing with women lifers! I was amazed, thrilled, it meant I was going to see more of her than ever before, we were like school kids giggling and holding hands. It was one of the best days of my life, certainly the best news I'd had in ages.

Well from that point our relationship just grew, we snatched whatever time we could to be together, God we nearly got caught in some compromising states - but you probably don't want to hear about that",

(Nikki's mind wandered back to one particular day, they were semi-naked and heard Fenner, a particularly nasty piece of work who was eager to get Helen kicked out of the service, nearing the art room that they were in, quickly trying to rearrange their clothes Nikki had refused to give Helen her bra back, not having time to argue Helen had to dress without it, it meant that she had to leave her jacket on all day, a hot summer day! Nikki kept the bra as a souvenir! Much to Helen's discomfort and mock disgust)

sorry where was I " Nikki continued, "oh yeah. Well as time progressed Helen started to nag me to sort out my appeal, I was keen as I now felt I had a reason to fight for release, her. She worked hard gathering what information she could, but then we hit trouble or rather I caused trouble.

I'd overheard a couple of the screws talking, one of them was Dominic, it seems he'd been out with Helen for a few drinks and was going round Helen's house that night. I went mental, I was so jealous, Helen wasn't in work that day so I couldn't speak to her about it, I was so frustrated, I had all sorts of pictures going through my head, I never actually stopped to think about it, to realise that she loved me and wouldn't cheat on me., I wasn't as confident as I liked to make out.

I decided to ring her at home, well when I did he answered, that was it for me, I slammed the phone down. There and then I decided she was cheating on me, seeing him behind my back, well why wouldn't she? A quick kiss and cuddle every now and then with me was nothing compared to nights of 'extreme pleasure' with 'Dishy Dominic'. I spent the entire night, cursing her, him. I was raging.

What I didn't know was that she had spent the remainder of her evening talking to him about me, eventually admitting to him that she was in love with me, he did try it on with her at the start of the evening though - that's why she had to tell him. She swore him to secrecy and he left.

The next day she came to see me. I said some terrible things to her. I didn't give her chance to explain anything, I just decided that what I believed was right, that was so awful of me, I just threw all the feelings she had shared with me back in her face and called her a few unsavoury names. She was furious and hurt and by the time we parted company she made it clear that she wanted no more to do with me.

When she left she must have seen Dominic, because when he saw the state she was in he decided to come and see me. I gave him a load of verbal abuse too, before he had a chance to say anything. When I had finished he told me what Helen had told him, he also said that he would not have treated her that way given the chance, the whole conversation made me realise how wrong I had been. I tried to find Helen, when I did she made it quite clear that I had blown it.

I didn't know what to do, I tried ringing her .. she wouldn't answer, she'd see me at work but refused to talk about us .. Eventually I took the one chance I had chance and planned an escape, just for the one night, to see her and sort everything out. It worked too, I actually got to her house.

Well you can imagine what she was like when I turned up on her doorstep in the middle of the night. She started shouting at me but all I could think of was making things right. I had that one opportunity and I took it. Erm.. let's just say we made up, things seemed to be getting back on track.

That was until I mentioned my hopes for my appeal, Helen had to tell me that my request for an appeal had been turned down. That was it for me, I refused to go back to Larkhall, I wanted us to go on the run because all I could see was the next ten years stretching out in front of us, with me locked up in there and Helen out here, I honestly did not believe she would wait for me and I knew that I would not be able to stop myself from agonising over what she was doing and who she was with when I couldn't see her. It was a very blinkered view, but unfortunately that's all I was capable of at the time. I'm not the type to get a lucky break, if anything it's always been the opposite. I didn't want to sit and wait leaving my future to the whim of a judge, but Helen had so much faith in the system, that things would go my way.

She got in touch with Dominic and between them they more or less forced me to go back, threatening to turn me in anyway if I didn't. I felt that she had betrayed me, firstly because she said she would turn me in and secondly because she didn't want to run away with me. The fact that Dominic got involved only added to my resentment. After that, to my shame, I refused to see her, I returned all of her letters without reading them and eventually she gave up trying to get through to me and resigned form Larkhall. That was the last I heard of her.

You know what there is to know about the rest".

Alex looked up for the first time she felt sympathy for Nikki, the woman looked so sad, it was as if she had finally come to realise just how responsible she was for the time they had lost. Sure she had felt that loss over the years, but now she knew Helen's side of things it had become clear that a bit more effort on Nikki's part could have changed their lives for the better.

Not wanting to make Nikki feel any worse than she clearly did already. Alex suggested they call it a day, they had an early start tomorrow and the sooner they got to bed the sooner tomorrow would come.

Nikki smiled, grateful that Alex had not passed comments about her frank admissions. Nikki admired that, she knew that if it had been her at eighteen she would not have been nearly so restrained, she liked Alex, hardly surprising really as she reminded her a lot of Helen, the way she sat and listened, didn't judge and let Nikki give her side of things. Helen should be very proud of this girl she thought. I'm such a fool, I've missed so much.

They said their good nights and headed off to their rooms, Nikki decided to take a shower before going to bed, as the jets of water hit her they stung her skin but it felt good, she felt truly alive for the first time in so long. Two days ago Nikki could never have imagined that she would be where she was right now.

Helen Stewart seemed to have this knack of turning her world upside down.. not that she was complaining, far from it.

Full of fear and anticipation she got into bed and as she drifted off to sleep, Helen filled her thoughts, tomorrow, she was going to see her tomorrow..

Chapter Eleven

The next morning Nikki woke early, she felt sick, not physically sick as such, more the excited sickly feeling she remembered getting on Christmas morning as a child [a time when her life had been so much happier and less complicated].

As she lay back against her pillows her thoughts turned to Helen, she still could not believe that she was going to see her today. She had been wondering exactly what she was going to do when she did see her., how should she act? how do these things go she thought to herself. Only one way to find out she supposed, she pulled back the sheets, got up out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Alex was already up making breakfast when Nikki went downstairs.

'Hi Nikk.i'

'Morning Alex, how did you sleep?'

'About as well as you judging by the black circles under your eyes'.

Nikki shrugged 'I just couldn't get my head to switch off, I wanted to be doing something productive, to help, you know?'

'Yeah, I've felt exactly the same since all this started, I suppose that's why I was so determined find you, it felt like I was making a difference'.

They both had a light breakfast and as soon as they could, set off for the hospital.

As they drove Nikki glanced around, she hadn't paid much attention to the surrounding neighbourhood yesterday, she assumed, judging by the house that it would be in a pretty affluent area, and she was right, it seemed Helen had been very successful at her chosen career, and she thoroughly deserves it Nikki thought. She'd always known Helen would make a success of her life, with or without her.

They arrived at the hospital, Alex led Nikki to the doctor's office and his receptionist asked them to take a seat while she informed him of their arrival. There was already a man sat waiting in reception and Alex sat between him and Nikki. When the doctor came out he greeted Alex and went to shake the hand of the man sat next to her.

' And you must be the mysterious Nikki' he said smiling 'I'm sure glad to meet you'.

The man looked up, rather confused as the doctor started shaking his hand.

Amused at this Nikki stood up, she was a couple of inches taller than the doctor, she looked down at him and said.. 'Actually I am Nikki, Nikki Wade pleased to meet you Doctor'.

The doctor was flustered, he hadn't expected but that means Trying to hide his embarrassment at his clearly incorrect assumption he stammered 'err hello.. er Miss Wade? I'm sorry about that, I just assumed'

'That's no problem Doctor, please don't worry about it'. Nikki said trying to calm him down, she thought he was going to faint!

'Please, come into my office' he said.

Once he had regained his composure the doctor, took charge of the situation, he motioned for Nikki and Alex to sit down, he explained that whilst Helen's condition had not deteriorated, neither had it improved any significant amount. He was greatly concerned about the dreams she was having, they were becoming more and more frequent.

'That is where I believe you may be able to help us Miss Wade, I don't know how familiar you are with this kind of situation?' Nikki explained that she had no experience at all ' well we like to take things easy when dealing with patients in this condition, what I am trying to say is that we would like you to try and encourage Helen out of her coma by simply talking to her, we aren't sure whether or not she can hear you but most patients who have had similar experiences do claim to have heard the voices of those around them whilst unconscious. Like I said I would like you both to just to talk to Helen and to each other whilst with her, we don't want you calling her, telling her to wake up until she shows signs of coming round naturally herself, that might be too abrupt and may not help her recovery in the long run. 'Any questions?'

Both women were satisfied with the explanation they had received and were keen to get going, the sooner they got started the sooner, hopefully they would have Helen back.

The doctor led them down the corridor and stopped outside room No. 254, 'Here we are and please remember to take it nice and easy, whilst time is of the essence we don't want to rush things too much'.

Alex opened the door and walked in, her body obscured Nikki's view of the bed and of Helen as she bent down to kiss her. 'Hi Mom, I'm back, I brought Nikki with me'.

Nikki took a deep breath, this is it, hold yourself together now Wade, she needs you to be strong.

As Alex stepped back, Nikki's heart lurched.

Helen lay motionless on the bed, she had lost weight and her skin was almost grey, she looked well bloody awful, was the only way Nikki could describe it. She had a very nasty bruise at the side of her temple which travelled round to the edge of her left eye, clearly that had been some shiner a couple of days ago, {a bit like the one Nikki had given Shell Dockley after one of her taunts about Helen, Nikki recalled}. Though she looked bad, the mere sight of her was enough to make Nikki think her heart was doing cartwheels inside her chest.

Alex turned to Nikki, beckoning her over.

Nikki couldn't move, her legs felt rigid, glued to the spot and she felt that if she tried to move them at that moment she would just fall over, her mouth had gone completely dry, she wasn't prepared for this, she wanted to get out, run

'Nikki, come and say hi'. Alex said, it was more of an order than a request, but it did the trick, jarring Nikki out of her trance like state.

Nikki managed to gain some of her composure, forcing her legs to move in synch. she got to the bed, she picked up Helen's hand, it felt a lot warmer than she expected, 'Hi Helen, you look..' she looked at Alex for inspiration, Alex merely raised an eyebrow '..great! Alex here told me you'd managed to get yourself into a spot of bother and I've come to help you to get better'.

What do I say Nikki thought?, it doesn't matter her brain told her, just keep talking. She rambled on for a few minutes and was glad when Alex came and stood next to the bed and started talking to her.

'How shall we do this?' Nikki asked. 'Want to take turns staying with her?'

'I don't mind, what say we both stay for a bit, talk to each other as well as to Helen, that way at least the conversation wont be so one sided and may last a bit longer'

'We'll take turns having the odd break and see how we go'.

The two women spent the next few hours chatting about all sorts of things, Alex told Nikki about her school, her friends and Nikki found herself opening up and talking to Alex about her travels abroad, about the club and the various people she met there. They talked about music, Alex was quite surprised at how clued up Nikki was on the music scene etc and told her so.

'It's my job to stay one step ahead of punters like you, no good my club banging out records that were last weeks thing, people will start going elsewhere the only way to do it is to keep up with the times'.

'Nikki!' Helen's voice pierced the room

Both heads turned in unison, but Helen was not awake, Alex had seen this before.

'Nikki, wait come back'

This time Nikki was there to see for herself the anguish and pain running through Helen, body and soul. She looked over at Alex who in turn was looking expectantly back at Nikki.

Nikki needn't have worried about not knowing what to do, her natural protective instinct took over, she rushed to be at Helen's side, she picked up her hand, moving her head closer, she kissed it.

'I'm here darling it's ok, I wont go anywhere. I'm here waiting for you'. The instant reaction from Helen was amazing, her whole body seemed to relax, Nikki stroked her hand and continued to reassure Helen for a few minutes until it became clear that she had settled back down.

This pattern continued for the next few days, the women would take it in turns to sit and talk to Helen, or take a break. Her outbursts were becoming less frequent and the doctor said that this was very encouraging, but warned there may still be a way to go yet.

On the fourth day both Alex and Nikki were not in a very good frame of mind, they were both exhausted, neither was sleeping properly, they spent most of the day at the hospital and the time they did spend away from it was spent worrying about Helen.

Things came to a head after one of Helen's more prolonged outbursts. Alex was really upset, it had taken ages for them to calm Helen down but finally she had succumbed and quietened down.

Alex looked accusingly at Nikki. 'This is all your fault you know' she hissed.

'How the hell do you work that one out? Up until last week I hadn't heard of your mother for over 18 years, I didn't push her into the bloody pool did I!'

'That's not what I mean and you know it!' Alex's voice got higher

'So tell me Alex, come on spit it out, just how do you figure all this to be my fault?'

Up until this point Nikki had tried to keep her cool, but she could only take so much pushing.

'Well if you'd trusted her in the first place instead of acting like some spoilt brat she wouldn't be calling out for you now would she?'

'No and if I had you wouldn't be here either, perhaps that's a bigger reason for me to regret what I did!' Nikki glared at Alex, and Alex matched the venomous look she was getting.

From the bed a voice said 'Will you two please stop arguing?' H

elen and Alex broke their stare, they turned to the bed and there lay Helen, she was frowning her eyes were still closed, but evidentially she was beginning to come round.


'Helen', both women headed for the bed, Alex got there first, 'Mom are you ok?'

Helen's eyes flickered and fixed onto Alex's face, 'Alex.. where am I , I had the strangest dream, I dreamt you were standing there arguing with' she looked over Alex's shoulder 'Nikki?'

Nikki was stood there, a smile the size of the Grand Canyon spreading across her face.

'Hello Helen' was all she could think to say.

Alex pressed the buzzer at the side of the bed and within seconds the room was full of hospital personnel, they ushered Nikki and Alex out of the room, promising that they would be allowed to return once the doctor had given Helen a thorough examination and all clear.

Outside the room they stood silent, neither wanting to be the first to apologise but..

'Look Alex I'm sorry about what I said in there, I think it was all getting a bit too much for us, can we try and forget it, put it down to tiredness and hormones?'

Alex smiled, relieved that Nikki was so understanding, of course Alex didn't really blame her, she'd just needed to let rip and Nikki was an obvious and easy target at the time.

'Sure, I'm sorry too, I was way out of order, I have no business judging you, you did what you thought was right at the time, lets hope now that we've got Mom back we can sort everything out and try to get our lives back on track eh?'

'Yeah' replied Nikki, trying to sound confident, but she wasn't as clear about what 'on track' meant to her now, she was sure she didn't want her old life back, but her future was in the hands of the woman who at the moment was lying rather bewildered in the bed of room 254.

What would that future be.?

Chapter Twelve

Twenty minutes after Nikki and Alex had been shown into the visitor's reception they were joined there by the doctor. He led them into his office and closed the door behind him, this was not a good sign Nikki thought, he's got bad news! In fact she could not have been further from the truth.

Once they were all seated the doctor started to brief them on the results of Helen's initial examination.

'I have good news ladies, very good news, from the tests that we have been able to carry out it appears that Miss Stewart has suffered no long term effects from her accident. Whilst that is obviously very encouraging we must bear in mind that her body has received a very big shock and we anticipate some ill effects as a result, but these may only be minor and very short term. What that basically means is that she is a going to be feeling a little shaky for the next few days, but with plenty of rest and a little time to build her strength back up, I can see no reason why she should not make a full and speedy recovery'.

Nikki let out a long sigh, she had not realised she had been holding her breath, she wasn't sure what she felt - joy, ecstasy, relief and perhaps still fear as she still had no idea how Helen would react to seeing her again.

The doctor continued talking. 'She is obviously anxious to see you he directed his statement to Alex, but I wanted to make it clear to you both given the circumstances,' he turned his attention to Nikki, 'that she is not to face any undue stress, she has been through quite a lot over the last few weeks and I want her to be able to feel as relaxed and rested as possible. We would like to keep her in hospital for a few days, she objected when we told her this, she says she feels fine - this suggests that she will not make a 'good patient' and I fear that she will try to do too much too soon if we were to let her home. I have tried to insist that she be kept in, but she can of course sign herself out at any time, I hoped that the two of you might be able to persuade her that it would be for the best if she followed my advice'.

Alex and Nikki nodded, they had both seen what Helen had been through over the last few days and whether she realised it or not she was going to need some time to recover.

They told the doctor that they would do their best to persuade Helen, and that they would make the necessary arrangements to have Helen taken care of when he finally gave the go-ahead for her to be allowed home.

They were both keen to see her, the doctor said that would be ok, but again issued his warning about not putting any undue stress on Helen at the moment, Alex shot Nikki a look, a look Nikki recognised as a warning but she needn't have bothered, Nikki had already promised that she would not pressure Helen into anything, she planned to avoid any mention of their past relationship (much as she wanted to) unless Helen brought it up first, this was going to be at Helen's pace or not at all. She wanted to reassure Alex and as they walked towards the room she spoke,

'Alex, I promised you on the plane that I would not put pressure on Helen, I meant it then and I mean it now. I will do all I can to help you both, I will stick around for as long as you both want me too. Please trust me'.

She stopped and touched Alex on the arm, Alex looked up,

'I hope you mean that Nikki'.

'I do, with all my heart'.

They arrived at the door, Alex took the lead and walked in.

Helen was propped up in the bed, she looked a lot better than she had the first day Nikki had seen her, her hair had been brushed and she had changed her clothes. Nikki felt a quiver surge through her body, she was amazed that just looking at this woman could have such a profound effect on her body, she mentally shook her head, she must not think like this now. Helen must not feel that Nikki is here as an ex and possibly future lover, she is here as a friend, a good friend and one who is here to help her back onto her feet, nothing more.

Helen looked up and smiled at her, Nikki's resistance was nearly shattered at the first hurdle.

'Alex' Helen said, she held out her arms and Alex was soon in her embrace.

'Oh Mom, I've been so worried'

'Ssh, it's over now, I'm fine, I'm sorry you had to go through this on your own darling'.

'Well Nikki has kind of been here for a while too.. ' Alex started to say, she pulled back allowing Helen to see Nikki standing beside me.

'Hiya Nikki' Helen spoke quietly, she looked up and her eyes locked with Nikki's , memories came flooding back to them both, that phrase used to mean so much, Nikki's heart was pounding. She couldn't break the stare, her mouth was dry,

'Hello Helen, how are you feeling?'

'Confused, very confused' Helen began ' would one of you care to tell me exactly what's been going on?' she asked.

They began to explain the events of the last few days to Helen, Nikki left it to Alex to explain the story and she gave a very comprehensive account of the events that led to Helen waking up. Nikki did however feel that Alex had made it sound as though at first she hadn't wanted to get involved, that she ended up doing it because of some kind of guilt at having not been there for Helen in the past.. Nikki wanted to shout, no I'm here because I love you and I want a chance to show you how much, I want be with you, to love you for the rest of my life.

She looked over at Alex, she knew exactly what she was saying, she also knew that Nikki would keep quiet because she had promised. Alex was not acting out of malice but for her own peace of mind she was making sure that her mother would be the one to decide whether they had a future or not, sure she liked Nikki and did believe that Nikki loved her mother but she wanted to be sure about how her mother felt before encouraging or discouraging anything. One thing was for sure Helen's decision would not be based on Nikki's sudden declaration of undying love, if Nikki wanted this to work she would make it work, but she wasn't going to let her rush it.

The women continued to talk about what had been going on, Helen felt a bit of an outsider, clearly Nikki and her daughter had spent quite a bit of time together and shared a lot (what had Nikki told Alex? - oh God! She hadn't really thought about how her daughter felt about her past relationship with Nikki). When Nikki left to get them all a drink Helen broached the subject.

'Alex I'm sorry if all this', she waved a hand in the direction Nikki had taken 'has come as a bit of a surprise to you'

'Mom, don't worry, it was a bit of a shock at first .. but hey the past is the past. Anyway, Nikki told me a bit about what happened, you can't help who you fall in love with Mom, things are different now and being a lesbian well, it's not really that much of a taboo these days is it? I suppose I was surprised at first but I think the doctor was more surprised than I was when I turned up with Nikki, you should have seen his face' she laughed, and Helen did too she felt a little more relaxed but still a little uncomfortable with her daughter calling her a lesbian, well she was wasn't she? Nikki walked back in.

'So, what's the joke?' she asked

'Alex was just telling me about the doctors reaction to finding out that the person I was calling for wasn't the man sat next to her in reception', they all laughed again.

Nikki looked at Helen, God she was still so beautiful, time had hardly changed her appearance, she looked older obviously, don't we all Nikki thought, but oh Helen! Nikki quickly took a drink, this next week was going to be tough, trying to keep thoughts of her and Helen together out of her head .. what a nightmare, especially if she looks at me like she did earlier.


Nikki realised that Helen had asked her a question 'Sorry?'

'I asked what you'd been up to, what are you doing now?'

Nikki answered the question as if she was at an interview, she gave them a brief run down of her travels and how she had come back to England, she told Helen about both Barbara and Monica's death, a look of sadness passed over Helen's face, 'I'm sorry to hear that Nikki'.

'Yeah it was sad but also nice for them in a way, they both kind of wanted it, they had lost the people they had loved most and in a way were just waiting to be with them'. Realising the subject was heading too close to the, 'losing someone close' topic Alex looked over to Nikki.

Nikki had already thought the conversation was getting was a bit too close to the subject she was trying to avoid moved on.

'After Monica died I realised that I should perhaps settle down and get my life in order, I had been travelling for long enough, Trish had run the business single handedly up until then and I figured that I should start to pull my weight a bit, so that's what I did, we're still partners and quite successful'.

'They're more than successful, you should see the place Nikki runs Mom' Alex said.

'I'd like that' Helen replied 'Perhaps we'll take our vacation in London next year eh Alex?'.

Judging by the way Nikki had been talking about her job Helen had assumed that her visit was only going to be a short one, she was clearly needed back in England and intended to return there to 'Trish as soon as possible. She wondered, was her relationship with Trish really just a business relationship, Helen felt the jealousy building up inside her anyway. She sighed, in her head she had been hoping that perhaps Nikki might want to stay with her, that she still felt the same, that didn't appear to be the case. Helen was surprised at how deflated that knowledge made her feel. She didn't want to show her feelings to Nikki - she didn't want her to think she had to stay or that she owed Helen anything.

The Nikki that Helen had known back then would not have been backward on coming forward, if she has something to say about the matter she would tell Helen straight, she always had in the past hadn't she, up 'til now she had made it pretty clear that she only intend to hang around until Helen had recovered. The way she was acting and the things she was saying gave Helen little hope that the feelings that still ran so deeply through her were not reciprocated by Nikki.

As the days passed, Helen's strength gradually returned, Nikki found the situation getting harder and harder to deal with, there was clearly a distant atmosphere between them, Nikki wasn't sure how Helen felt and vice versa, but both were assuming that whatever they had had in the past was long gone. They'd always be friends but that it seems would be it.

Chapter Thirteen

After 4 days spent under hospital observation the doctor agreed that Helen could go home, Alex and Nikki had assured him that one of them would be there to look after Helen and that for a while yet she would not be left alone. He seemed happy with this, it was clear to him that both these women loved Miss Stewart and there would be plenty of TLC coming from both of them.

Nikki and Alex worked hard to get the house ready for Helen's return, they laughed when they surveyed their handiwork, 'do you think we went a bit overboard?' Nikki chuckled.. Every room was filled with cut flowers, '

Nah, she loves flowers, hates gardening though but loves the flowers, funny isn't it?' Alex said.

'Yeah' Nikki replied, her thoughts were more along the lines of, if she'd let me I'd tend her garden and give her cut flowers for the rest of her life.

Helen arrived home and was stunned at the house, 'thank you both, it's beautiful and it's so good to be home'. She hugged them both, as Helen wrapped her arms around Nikki, they could hardly breathe, they both seemed to be holding each other longer than was really necessary, it felt so good .. if only, they thought in unison.

Alex coughed, Christ Nikki thought this is worse than being in bloody Larkhall, since Helen had come around Nikki could count the minutes they had spent together alone on one hand. Alex still seemed reluctant to leave her alone with Helen, perhaps she's right though Nikki thought, having the girl in the room was like having a cold shower!

That night Helen insisted that she was taking them all out to dinner, she waved away objections that she was not up to it etc, and gave them in her most officious voice orders to get ready as it was all arranged. Both Nikki and Alex knew better than to argue with Helen when she was this determined so they agreed and got ready to go.

Alex drove them to what Nikki discovered was Helen's favourite restaurant, Helen had been looking forward to this all day, she had got a nurse to bring her the phone and had the table booked before the girls arrived to pick her up. She'd wanted to thank them for all that they had done, plus she could do with some decent food! The hospital cuisine left much to be desired and Alex's culinary skills were not much better, she had no idea what Nikki was like in the kitchen. She thought a night out would be nice and do them all good.

After they had finished eating Alex excused herself from the table, Nikki and Helen sat looking at each other, Nikki couldn't help smiling,

'What?' Helen asked.

'Nothing' came Nikki's reply, but she still had a great big grin across her face.

'Nikki, I know you better than that, come on?'

' I was just thinking, I've never shared a meal with you, until the hospital I'd never seen you eat, this is kind if like our first date.. er sorry I didn't mean to sound..'.

'..No, it's fine I know what you mean, it is nice to be able to sit with you without having to dash off somewhere to a meeting or to have to whisper!'

'Yeah, although I never imagined we would be accompanied on our first date by your 17 year old daughter'.

Helen took this statement the wrong way and automatically went on the defensive, 'I'm not going to apologise for that Nikki, if you'd hung around long enough or returned some of my letters perhaps it might have happened a bit sooner' she snapped.

Nikki was stunned by this ' I didn't mean it like that Helen, I like Alex and see no reason for you to apologise for anything, in fact I should be the one to'

Her next comments were cut short by Alex's return.

Shit! Nikki thought, are we ever going to get to talk this through without being interrupted.

Helen felt as frustrated as Nikki, for the first time since her return she saw the old Nikki, the one with the fighting spirit, the one she fell in love with, the one who hadwanted her.

They finished their meal and headed home, Alex sensed the tension and felt a little guilty, she could see that they were trying to talk things through when she'd arrived back at the table, clearly her mother felt up to dealing with it now and Nikki had kept to her word and not pressured Helen, Alex made a decision, trying to help.

'I think I'll go back to school tomorrow Mom, I mean Nikki is here in the day time to look after you and I should really try and catch up on the work I've missed'.

'Are you sure darling, afterall you've had a tough time too, perhaps you need a couple of days off..'

Please say no, Nikki thought, let us have some time together.

'No I'm fine Mom - honest, I'll go back tomorrow, perhaps you and Nikki could spend the day shopping or something, if you're feeling up to it'.

Helen looked at Nikki, did she want to?

Nikki immediately said 'yeah that would be great, I didn't really pack for this warmer weather and I could do with a few things, if you don't mind?' She directed the question to Helen.

'I'd like that' was the response, but the smile that came with it set Nikki's insides on fire.

Later in bed she started thinking about tomorrow, she would be spending the whole day with Helen, alone! It was going to be tough, would she be able to hold back without Alex there. She would have to try, Helen had shown no sign that she wanted anything more than her friendship and until she saw anything different Nikki would not tell her how she really felt.

The next day was bright and warm, Nikki dressed in the khaki shorts and a white vest that she had brought with her, she hadn't really considered the weather over here when she had packed which meant she hadn't brought any really smart summer clothes, it made her feel a bit under dressed when she saw the kind of stuff Helen was wearing.

She walked downstairs she could hear someone moving around in the kitchen, she knew it must be Helen as she had heard the front door being closed when she got out of the shower, she assumed that had been Alex leaving for school.

When she walked into the kitchen her heart skipped a beat, Helen was stood making breakfast, she had a pair of pale blue cotton shorts on a white vest and a white silk shirt on over the top it accentuated the colour of her skin, her hair hung loosely and Nikki was so tempted to touch it, as Helen turned to her and smiled the thought went from her head, she wanted to more than touch. Phew! This was going to be a tough day.

'Hiya Nikki'

I wish she'd stop saying that, Nikki thought. 'Morning Helen, how are you feeling'

'I feel good thanks ', don't I know it Nikki thought - stop it Wade! 'ready for a spot of shopping?' she asked.

'Yeah that'd be great, if you're sure you feel up to it' Nikki replied

'I'm sure, I thought that maybe we might have a swim later, cool off a bit when we get back'

'That would be lovely, remind me to add a swimming cozzie to my shopping list though'.

'Yeah well, if you forget you could always go skinny dipping!' Helen laughed.

A searing heat shot through Nikki's body at the thought of it, Helen too was quite surprised at the effect that the image she had so casually thrown up had on her body. Quickly she changed the subject, do you want a coffee before we go. Nikki nodded, they had their coffee and set off.

They wandered around the shops, Helen showed Nikki some of the more 'interesting sights', they walked to the marina for lunch, the morning had been very pleasant, the mood light and neither women wanted to spoil it by bringing up the past.

After lunch they resumed their shopping expedition Nikki tried on various outfits, some of which made Helen feel a bit 'hot under the collar', she knew was still very much attracted to Nikki, who was she kidding, she was still madly in love with the woman and she was having as hard a battle as Nikki to keep those emotions in check.

They were in the swim wear section of one store and, taking the initiative Helen held up and empty hanger, 'you'd look good in this one' she laughed, 'Only if you wear one the same' Nikki replied. From that point they seemed to relax even more, a lot of playful banter went on and if they were honest a little light flirting, both testing the water to see how the other would react, the signs were good.

Things came to a head for Nikki when they bumped into a rather good-looking bloke coming out of one of the department stores.

'Helen' he called, as she turned she was swept up into a big hug and kissed soundly on the lips, Helen was obviously stunned and a little embarrassed at this public show of affection, particularly in front of Nikki, jealousy surged through Nikki, she wanted to punch him and tell him to get his hands off her, but she knew she had no right to, watching Helen it was clear that his attention was not really wanted, Helen pulled away and introduced him as 'Pete' and Nikki was polite but short.

Helen noticed the look in her eyes, similar to the one she had when she thought Helen had a thing for Dominic, Helen finally realised what that look meant, Nikki was jealous, that could only mean that she did still have feelings for her, encouraged by this and wanting to find out more she quickly said her goodbyes to Pete and suggested they head home. She explained to Nikki that she had been out with 'Pete' a few times but that whilst he was clearly very interested she most definitely was not. Nikki smiled.

Back at the house they decided that they were going to have that swim. Nikki had decided that now was a good time to come clean, little did she realise that Helen had the same idea, they were both deep in thought as to how to bring it up as they went upstairs to change, at her bedroom door Helen turned to Nikki, 'Nikki' she said, but she had no need for words, she saw the look in Nikki's eyes and Nikki saw them in hers, their bodies seemed drawn together and they moved closer and closer, never breaking the eye contact, Nikki bent her head slowly towards Helen, 'You're sure?' she whispered, Helen moved forward and covered Nikki's lips with her own, breaking the contact slightly, 'I'm very sure' she whispered back and kissed Nikki again.

The kiss seemed to last forever, they held each other so tightly, both so afraid to let go, afraid of what might happen, that the spell might be broken.

Helen's hand caressed the small of Nikki's back, such a simple thing but it sent shivers up and down Nikki's spine, she needed to feel Helen's skin on hers, with her eyes closed and still kissing Helen she moved her fingers to undo the buttons on Helen's shirt, when it was finally undone Nikki moved to kiss Helen's neck below her ear, Helen groaned, Nikki moved her lips back to Helen's, the movement caused the shirt to slip to the floor. Nikki's hand moved to the side of Helen's neck, lightly her fingertips traced a path down, moving slowly onto her shoulders, so smooth and suddenly Nikki's hand stopped. Helen froze, Nikki was not sure what she felt at her finger tips and opened her eyes.

What had earlier been hidden by Helen's shirt was very apparent, Helen had a very deep scar along her right shoulder, Nikki gasped and she looked at Helen for an explanation.

'You now see why I could never stop thinking about you, every time I saw this I thought about the day you were set free. My shoulder took most of the impact of the crash' she stated simply.

Realising that this scar represented the reason that Helen had not been at her appeal, Nikki's hands dropped to her side, she felt so ashamed. At the time she had damned Helen for not wanting to see her, when all along Helen had been battling to recover form this, she reached to touch Helen's arm, but didn't have the nerve, she was disgusted with herself, with her lack of courage at the time, and lack of trust in this woman, she looked away, not bearing to let Helen see the shame she felt reflected in her eyes.

It was some moments later that she realised Helen had left the room and her parting words slowly sunk in..

Helen had seen the look of disgust that crossed Nikki's face and took that to mean disgust at the sight of her body ..'I'm sorry that you can't bear to touch me Nikki.'

Shit, she thinks that I thought ..! ' oh God..Helen No, come back it's not what you think!'

But it was too late, by the time Nikki got outside Helen had already driven off. Nikki hit the wall. Fuck! She had no idea where Helen might go. What should she do now?

Chapter Fourteen

It was nearly two hours later when Nikki heard the front door open, she jumped up from the chair

'Helen?' she ran to the door, but it was Alex coming in from school.

'Nikki? What's wrong? Where's Mom? Nikki what have you done?'.

Nikki bowed her head, she slowly explained to Alex what had happened, ' and she drove off, honestly Alex, what she thought could not have been further from the truth, what am I going to do?'

'You're going to find her and tell her Nikki, tell her everything'.

'But I don't know where she is..'

'You leave that to me, come on I have a good idea where to look'.

Nikki needed no further encouragement, Alex started the car the car stereo came on, Alex groaned, her mother was always playing these bloody 90's love songs CD's in her car.

Nikki also groaned inwardly she tried to avoid listening to love songs as she always managed to apply them to her own life, her heart nearly stopped when she heard the opening bars of the next track.

'I hate this song'

'Mom hates this song'

They spoke at the same time, Nikki looked at Alex, 'It always makes her cry',

'Mmm me too' said Nikki 'it was in the charts around the time that we broke up', she felt like she was being choked, as they sat and listened to Macy Gray singing 'I Try' Alex finally understood why this particular song made her mother cry (and Nikki too).

[Authors note: might be a good idea to listen to the lyrics too - then you might see what I mean]

After a short drive Alex pulled into a car park near to the beach, Helen's car was there too, she turned off the engine and spoke to Nikki, 'Look Nikki, I know that really none of this is my business but I think the two of you owe it to each other to talk this through, she's out there right now thinking you don't want her, she's had to live with that for the past 18 years too. Nikki, if you want her go and tell her, be honest, that's all she's waiting for, I think that's all she's ever been waiting for. If you want her, now is your chance it may be your last chance, don't lose it, go and get her Nikki'.

Nikki swallowed, she knew Alex was right, she knew that this time she had to be honest with Helen, she owed her that.

Mentally preparing what she was going to say, she got out of the car Alex pointed to the end of the beach. There was a small outcrop of rocks, and there sat looking out to the ocean was Helen. Nikki smiled as Alex mouthed Good Luck! she then started the engine and left Nikki standing alone in the car park.

Right Wade, she thought to herself, don't blow it this time!

Head down , with the determination that she would not lose Helen again, she started walking towards Helen.

Chapter Fifteen

Helen was lost in her own thoughts, as she sat staring out at the ocean she struggled to get her head around what had just happened.

It was all so awful, the look of disgust that she'd seen on Nikki's face when she saw her scarred body. It was all so unfair she thought, Nikki comes back into my life, first she acts as though she doesn't have feelings for me any more -apart from wanting to be there for me as 'my friend'! - and continually talks to me about her partner Trish and her plans for when she gets home. Then out of the blue she makes a move to kiss me (the memory of that kiss made Helen shiver) and after all that, when she sees my body! It's not as if I've never had that reaction before, Helen thought, it's happened with a few of the people I've allowed to get that close, but I never considered that Nikki might react that way. Oh God, (she buries her face in her hands and starts crying) I'm going to lose her! I don't think I can get through this again.

Nikki saw Helen put her head in her hands, she felt her heart sink lower in her chest, she couldn't stand to see Helen this way, she wanted to run and take her in her arms, to comfort and reassure her, but this time she knew that would not be enough, she had to make Helen understand everything, as she neared the rocks her mind was racing, a mixture of thoughts danced around inside of her head don't blow it this time, this really is your last chance, don't hold back, be honest tell her everything, she deserves it.

Nikki's voice broke the silence


Helen turns briefly, 'Hiya Nikki..' Helen's eyes were red and her face wet with tears, as she glanced at Nikki the hurt and pain that she was feeling was clearly visible, a fierce pain shot through Nikki's heart, like a knife slicing through it.

I've done this to her she thought, she doesn't deserve me, this remembering Alex's parting words, 'she's waiting for you', Nikki spoke.

'I think we need to talk..'

Helen's dejected voice interrupted her. 'Do we Nikki, is there really any more left to say?'.

Nikki would not be deterred, she continued. 'Well I can't speak for you Helen but there is plenty I have to say, plenty that I need to say.

I've held back from talking to you about 'us' since you got out of hospital because I didn't want you to feel forced into facing a situation that you weren't ready to talk about. I realised that pressurising you was one of my biggest mistakes in the past.

I promised Alex and I swore to myself that I would not do that to you again. But now I think the time for holding back is gone, I want to be honest with you, I want to tell you how I feel, I want to know how you feel and I truly hope that one way or another, by the time we've both finished talking we will both be sure where we stand, whether we have any kind of future together..

The decision has to be yours though Helen, if you want to end it here and now then you have to say so, if you tell me to go I will and I promise I will respect your decision and will not argue' (much! she thought).

Nikki could not believe that she'd actually offered Helen the option of turning her away but she knew deep down that she had to give Helen the opportunity to decide this time.

The pause as Helen sat considering Nikki's words was almost too much to bear.

So, she thought, Nikki had been keeping her true feelings to herself this past week, could it be that the old Nikki was still there, the one with the passion who had fought for her love, who had wanted her and still wants her? Was it worth the risk? Answer to the first she asked herself, I hope so, answer to the second, definitely.

'I don't want to bring anything to an end right now Nikki apart from the pain that I am feeling, perhaps talking will, as you say, let us both know where we stand.

I agree with you, the time has come for us both to say what we feel and have been feeling. I'm sick of trying to hold everything in, to be honest I don't think I can keep this to myself any longer'.

Nikki sat down on the only space left on the rock that Helen had perched herself on. She found herself directly behind Helen, careful not to touch her Nikki put a leg either side of Helen feet flat on the floor knees bent up. Helen leaned back so that she was almost resting on Nikki, but still it seemed neither of them could relax quite enough to give in to their feelings.

Nikki was encouraged by the fact that Helen had not moved away from her, she rested her arms on casually on her knees and started to speak.

'Do you mind if I speak first? I have so much I want to say to you about the past and I think that you deserve to hear my feelings for you and about us back then too. After all, I got to read about how you felt at the time in your letter and I want to make sure that there is no doubt in your mind about what was going on in my head at the time, I want you to know everything Helen.'

'OK you speak first, but I know'

'No wait, please Helen, I have had these words going round in my head for so long. Please let me tell you'.

'Go ahead, I'm listening'. Nikki saw Helen's brief nod, this was all the encouragement Nikki needed. It was time for her to talk to Helen now, no more avoiding it, she had nearly blown it by not being open about her feelings this week, she would not risk losing Helen by keeping her feelings in any longer. She stared to speak..

'Before I talk about any of the past I want you to know that whatever you thought you saw in my eyes back at the house you were wrong.

When I saw the scars on your body Helen it made me realise how badly I had let you down in the past, at the time of your accident, when you couldn't come to see me I let myself believe that you didn't care about any more, I didn't stop to wonder if something was wrong with you.

I wasn't disgusted by what I saw Helen, I was disgusted by the fact that you had had to recover from this', she touched Helen's shoulder lightly, 'without me, with the knowledge that I had given up on you and left, left you believing that I didn't love you anymore.

The look of disgust you saw was directed towards myself Helen, disgust at my behaviour not at your looks. You are the most attractive woman I have ever and will ever know, perhaps I am biased, but I know that your beauty comes from inside and that is a fact that will never change. Physical scars like this could never change the way I feel about you Helen or the person that you are.

No-one has ever had the effect on my body that you have, believe me the years have not altered that, I have been barely able to keep my hands off you this past week, my legs turn to jelly every time I see you, they always have and always will, my heart pounds so loudly in my head when I am near you that it makes me wonder how no-one else seems to hear it, '

Helen smiled at this, the fears she had were slowly dissolving and she found herself relaxing and slowly leaning back, eventually her back coming to rest against Nikki's chest.

Nikki's mouth faltered as she felt Helen lean back, her concentration was lost. The closeness of Helen's body was having a profound effect on her own Oh God! This was going to be torture, rough justice she wondered? Surely she'd already had more than her share of that, but she was determined to continue.

She placed her hands and arms on top of Helen's and fighting the urge to let her body do the talking, which right now would be oh so easy, with a determination she hadn't known she was capable of, she began to speak again.

'I know that what happened in the past is long gone but I want us to be able to face the future knowing exactly what we were feeling and thinking at the time. I know now that the way I handled the situation was wrong, but given the circumstances I was in at the time, I would not have accepted any reason for me going back to Larkhall following my escape no matter how logical.

I honestly believed that, the way my luck had run up to that point, I was facing at least another 10 years banged up. Being in there Helen, it makes you go mad, you lose all sense of reality, I was so sure that you wouldn't and couldn't be expected to wait for me.

I'd look at you, see the way others looked at you and think to myself, how many times can you turn down offers from people who wanted you too? People who had something more than a quick grope in some bloody prison room to offer you, with you knowing full well that you couldn't be with me for another decade, I thought that that was too much to ask of you.

The thought of losing you terrified me but I couldn't face the responsibility of you wasting your life waiting for me for God knows how long, it would have been no life for you, no life for anyone, besides which, if I'm honest, I didn't think I was worth that kind of sacrifice.

I saw the escape as my only chance of a life with you. I know now that that was not the case, but it was never a foregone conclusion. You used to talk to me as if my release was definitely going to happen and for a while it was nice to immerse myself in that feeling Helen to have hope and to dream it kept me going, but deep down I never really thought it would happen.

But you, you always seemed so sure, you had such faith, in me, in us and in the bloody British legal system, I didn't have that.

Maybe it was because I had experienced too much bad luck and injustice to be able to look to the positive side of anything. You always hear the bad luck stories inside, you don't hear of the girls who had the lucky breaks, the good judges, the clever barristers, all you get are the bad luck I was hard done by stories. You can't help but base your opinions on what you see.

There isn't really much more I can say about that, I have no excuses, I did act in a childish way by refusing to talk to you and returning your letters afterwards, but I was deeply hurt by the fact that you did not want to take the risk with me. As far as I was concerned, once I was back inside I was there for the duration, I didn't see us having any future which is why I continued to avoid any contact with you.

You moved away then. I don't blame you for that either, I treated you badly, even though I felt justified at the time, I couldn't expect you to put up with that kind of treatment for ever and to be honest, I was so pig-headed that I doubt if I would have ever succumbed to the pressure you tried to put me under to talk to you. I was convinced that you were better off without me in your life anyway. It nearly killed me not having you around any more but I was glad that you were finally free to get on with our life.

When I found out that the CCRC had taken on my case and my appeal went ahead I did have a small glimmer of hope that you might get back in touch.

I know now that you were involved, but your involvement was so shrouded in secrecy that I never got inkling. On the day of my appeal I was almost certain that you'd show up, that if you felt as strongly as I did you wouldn't be able to keep away, it was only when Dominic told me I was free to go and asked what I was going to do that it really hit me, that you weren't coming back, that I had lost you and that it was my own fault.

That was it for me, I saw no reason to hang around. So I took off. That is my greatest regret Helen, that I didn't have the guts to find you and make you tell me to my face that we were through, if I had perhaps we would have spent the last 18 years together. We could have brought Alex up together, I would have been so...'

Nikki broke down, she couldn't continue. Helen turned her hands upwards so that they held Nikki's she pulled Nikki closer, giving her the reassurance she needed.

'I love you Helen, I have never stopped loving you and whilst there is breath in my body I will always love you, I don't want to lose you again', with that last comment she fell silent.

It was Helen's turn to speak.

'Nikki, you know what my thoughts were at the time when I was at my lowest.

You know that despite all that had happened, my accident, everything, I still loved you and wanted to be with you and I'm sure that you know that I am still as deeply in love with you now' Nikki's hands started to stroke the lower part of Helen's arms, 'but, if we are to move forward I agree that we should both clear the air.

Like I said you already know what I felt at the time, but I have to be honest too, these last eighteen years have changed my view about a lot of the things that happened. I have been involved in the prison service for a long time now, when I knew you at Larkhall I was new to the system, idealistic I suppose. Well let me assure you Nikki, much of the idealism that I had then has fallen by the wayside.

To be honest with you, if I'd known then what I know now I might have even agreed to run away with you. I have seen some real tragedies Nikki, I know we have lost a lot but I have seen much worse. Lives torn apart on the whim of some mad old fool who has no idea of life in the real world. That's partly why I avoid getting close to any of the prisoners my group deals with now. I got to the point where found I could no longer reassure them, it would mean having to lie to them, I don't have the faith that justice will always prevail any more. You didn't ever have that, you were probably right to think that way.

You're right about the Helen Stewart that you knew back then though. I was so sure that you would get out on appeal, I never anticipated that I would have to wait for you to finish your sentence.

I would have though, believe me. Well you know that I would have because I have waited for you until now'

Nikki's heart leapt at this frank admission, what was she saying?

'So. If we are now deciding to put the past behind us I would like to shoulder some of the responsibility that you have been carrying round, you were not the only one on the wrong Nikki, I know that you are sorry for what happened, but I am so sorry too' , one of Helen's tears landed on Nikki's arm.

'I don't want our lives to be ruled by the if-onlys, I don't want to lose you again Nikki, I want us to be together..for ever'.

Nikki pulled her so close, she kissed the back of Helen's neck, there was no more need for words, they were where they should be, together. Helen turned to face Nikki.

'You're sure that this is what you want'.

'It's what I've always wanted'

To give Helen the most definite answer she could Nikki pulled her towards her, taking Helen's weight on her own, she stared to kiss her, gently, small kisses on her lips, her face, her neck, she threaded her fingers through her hair. Her hands moved to touch, to explore. Helen could not prevent her hands from moving onto Nikki's body, she didn't want to stop them, so much time had been wasted, she lost herself in that kiss, all the doubt and fear she had carried around for so long was gone.

Helen's impatient hands found their way to the edge of Nikki's vest, the touch of her fingers as they moved to caress her breasts caused Nikki to catch her breath, small electric like sensations coursed through her body. She was amazed at how quickly she was getting turned on by Helen's touch.

Her hand moved over Helen's stomach, down to the waistband of her shorts. As Helen felt the button unfasten her mind snapped back to reality. Her pulse was racing, she was breathless, she had forgotten just how good being this close to Nikki and oh it felt so good, but not here.. with some regret Helen broke the kiss


'Mmm?' Nikki moved her attention to Helen's ear.

'If you keep touching like that I am going to have to make love to you on this rock and whilst I know that would be very nice for us it would probably be in breach of quite a number of public decency offences as well as being a bit uncomfortable'

Nikki laughed, she was well aware of the sensations that Helen's touch had been having on her own body, she had not really considered the strong effect her own might have been having on Helen's.

Helen stood up and pulled her onto her feet, wrapping her arms around her neck 'I love you Nikki Wade'.

'and I am so in love with you Helen Stewart' they confirmed their feelings with another kiss.

'Let's go home'.

Home, Nikki now knew exactly where that was and the thought made her heart leap.

Hand in hand they walked back across the beach, both still facing an uncertain future, but with the knowledge that come what may, that future would be spent together.

The End

Return to Bad Girls Fiction

Return to Main Page