Public stories, Private lives
Friday came round again soon enough. Karen had gone twice more to the pub at lunch time with Mike. It was beginning to become a habit with both of them. Jim had kept a relatively low profile, if that was possible. but there was one person who was silently tearing herself in two. Tash knew she was going to hurt Nikki, even though this was the last thing she wanted to do. It was completely unavoidable, and some time soon, it would have to be done. But there was a part of Tash that was secretly excited about the prospect of seeing Kirstie on Friday. All the feelings of what they'd shared in their university days made her tingle with expectation.
On Friday evening, Nikki asked Tash what her plans were for the evening. Tash couldn't look Nikki in the eye.
"I've had a hell of a week. Do you mind if I just have a long soak in the bath and veg in front of the TV?"
"A hell of a week is usually why I go to the pub, but yeah, sure. You don't mind if I go though?"
"No, not at all," Said Tash, eager to get Nikki out of the house as soon as possible. Kirstie was definitely coming round and Tash wanted Nikki to be well out of the way by then. Later as Tash was lay in a hot scented bath, Nikki came in to say goodbye. She leaned over and gave Tash a kiss.
"Maybe I should stay and join you," She said with a clear invitation in her gaze. Tash laughed to cover her fear that Nikki really would stay.
"Go on, have a good time."
"I'll try not to wake you up if I get in late," Nikki said as she left Tash to her thoughts.
A little later when Nikki walked in through the door of the Printer's Press, she saw that Mike and Karen were already there and had been joined by Yvonne, Denny, Shaz and Danny.
"A little depleted, aren't we?" Said Nikki as she sat down next to Yvonne.
"Alex has taken Zandra out for dinner and Cassie was going on about some date with some Irish bird." Nikki laughed.
"So Alex is getting serious about Zandra, then?"
"I doubt if it'll come to anything. But you know what Alex is like, always gets in way too deep and then gets his fingers burnt." Nikki leant a little closer to Yvonne and discretely gestured at Mike and Karen who seemed to be in a world of their own.
"They're getting on well, aren't they?" Yvonne grinned.
"Best thing if you ask me. It'll do Karen good and it'll definitely rub Fenner's nose in it. Anyway, Where's Tash tonight?"
"Says she's knackered," Said Nikki as she took a mouthful of wine. "I left her soaking in a long hot bath, was almost tempted to join her." Yvonne was quietly wondering if Tash really was as knackered as she'd made out.
It was coming up to a quarter to nine and Tash was trying to relax herself by listening to some soft music. But this was impossible. She was waiting for Kirstie to arrive and at the same time praying Nikki wouldn't break her habit and come home early. But when the doorbell finally rang, her mouth went dry. As she opened the door, they just stared at each other. They made small talk as Tash poured them both a glass of wine and sat next to Kirstie on the sofa.
"Nice place," Commented Kirstie. After a tense silence Tash said,
"this is weird. You being here." Kirstie smiled.
"I know. Getting ready to come here this evening, that was one of the oddest feelings I've had in a long time. Very Déjà vu."
"This isn't just about resurrecting what we had at college, you know."
"Oh I know that," Said Kirstie. "If all you wanted was some random affair with someone you went out with at college, you wouldn't be so afraid of hurting Nikki." She knows me far too well, thought Tash. Then she put her glass down and turned to look Kirstie straight in the eye.
"I don't want to talk about Nikki," She said, staring right in to Kirstie's soul. "I want to talk about us, what we want from this and what we're going to do about it." This threw Kirstie for a minute till she remembered just how outright Tash could be.
"I want to feel as good as you made me feel all those years ago," She said to Tash in a very soft voice. Tash grinned.
"Kirstie Collins," She said in mock amazement. "If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were offering me a clear invitation."
"Oh would you now?" Said Kirstie, going along with Tash's flirtation. "And how does that thought make you feel?" Tash audibly gasped, clearly aroused by Kirstie's tempting gaze. They stared at each other for minutes, not saying a word. But when Tash gently leaned forward and kissed her, Kirstie knew that this was where she wanted to be, it felt like coming home.
In the pub, Nikki was drinking more than she usually did. Yvonne had noted this and was keeping a careful eye on Nikki. The more she drank, the quieter Nikki became. Later, when Victoria, Jasmine and Nick Jordan arrived, Victoria sat down next to Nikki and looked at her.
"You okay?" She said, a little concerned.
"Yeah," Said Nikki, draining her glass. "Everything's bloody wonderful." Victoria looked unconvinced.
"Where's Tash?" Asked Victoria and then immediately regretted it.
"Just what I'm beginning to wonder," Said Nikki. "She said she was knackered and wanted to stay in. She found a similar excuse last week as well."
"You don't believe her, do you?" Asked Victoria gently.
"Not really, no."
"There's something going on with her, something I don't know about. She's not been able to look me in the eye for a fortnight now and she won't talk to me. Not about the important things anyway." Having heard the quiet gossip that was floating around the office about Tash and the Personnel manager, Kirstie, Victoria didn't like the sound of this.
"Have you tried to talk to her?" She asked.
"No. Usually, if Tash has got something she needs to say, she just says it. It's weird, I've known her for ages and lived with her for two years, and this is the first time she's hidden something from me."
Kirstie lay with her head on Tash's shoulder. Their furious and frantic lovemaking had left them both exhausted. They lay amidst the tangled sheets, their bodies glistening as if they'd just run a marathon.
"You certainly haven't lost your touch," Said Kirstie softly. Tash laughed huskily.
"Well, being the one who tort you everything you know about giving another woman the best time in the world, I'm pleased to say you haven't lost yours either."
"I can't believe I'm really here," Said Kirstie trying to keep the tears from her voice. Tash reached up and gently wiped them away with a finger.
"Hey, neither can I. You've brought back everything I didn't know was missing from my life." Soon after, they both fell in to that deep, satisfied sleep that only good loving can bring.
It was getting near closing time and Nikki rose unsteadily to go to the bar. Yvonne put a gentle restraining hand on her arm.
"I think you've probably had enough, don't you?" Nikki turned to her.
"What's happening, Yvonne?" This simple question almost brought tears to Yvonne's eyes. She had an enormous liking for the tall, dark-haired woman and she hated to see her hurting like this.
"I don't know, sweetheart," She said. "But I think you need to find out." Nikki looked at Yvonne suddenly serious.
"Yeah, maybe you're right." As she quickly though somewhat unsteadily got up and moved towards the door, there was a glint of anger in her eyes that had definitely been fuelled by alcohol.
"Nikki, don't," Said Victoria. Then she turned to Yvonne.
"Can't you stop her?" Yvonne looked grim.
"No, no-one will be able to stop Nikki from doing anything in that state." The gathering at the table watched as Nikki purposefully made her way out of the door.
"Shit!" Said Denny. "Tash has been spending far too much time with that new one, Kirstie." She had managed to sum up what they were all now thinking.
"Oh dear," Said Mike. "I think there'll be tears before bedtime tonight." As they all began to gather their things together and walk home, Mike put a hand on Karen's arm.
"Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?" Karen smiled.
"Yes, that would be lovely."
As Nikki pounded the pavement, she figured how astounding it was that she'd not seen something sooner. Also, she was beginning to realise that every one of them sat around that table knew more of the situation than she did. She hated that because they were all her friends, her work colleagues. When she arrived at her driveway, she saw a strange car parked behind her own and Tash's. It was a small, red BMW.
"Flash bitch!" Nikki muttered, as hers was only a little grey Forde. There was no sign of life coming from the house and as Nikki silently let herself in, she wondered where Tash was. When she took a glance in to the front room, she saw two wine glasses on the coffee table in the center and a soft, slushy CD was still playing on the stereo. Nikki quietly walked up the stairs and opened hers and Tash's bedroom door. On the bed, barely covered by the sheet, Tash and Kirstie still lay sleeping, entangled in each other's arms. Up to this point, Nikki had been burning with anger. Tash had been hiding something or probably someone from her. But when she saw how peaceful they looked together, her anger evaporated. It was this sight, and it's all too clear meaning, that told her she'd lost Tash for good.
"Very fetching I must say," she said, now stone cold sober. Tash and Kirstie sprang apart.
"Nikki!" Tash exclaimed, her voice still full of sleep but clearly registering the shock she was feeling. Kirstie was stunned. She just lay there for a moment, staring at Nikki. Then she remembered that she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing and hurriedly pulled the sheet over both of them. Nikki laughed mirthlessly.
"Oh, don't worry darling, neither of you has anything I haven't seen before."
"Nikki, wait," Tash called as Nikki moved to the bedroom door.
"Give it a rest," Nikki said bitterly. "I'm not in the mood for explanations and more lies and I'm too drunk to be rational. I'll be back tomorrow."
"Nikki, where are you going?" Nikki turned back to face her.
"Somewhere I might be appreciated," She said as she stormed out. A moment later, they heard the front door slam.
Victoria had only been in about ten minutes when her doorbell rang. When she went down to open the door, she saw a sobbing Nikki on the doorstep.
"I'm sorry," Nikki said, trying to control her crying. "Can I come in?"
"Of course," Said Victoria leading her in to the lounge. In between broken sobs, Nikki told her what had happened. Victoria was furious but attempted not to show it. Nikki needed support right now, not more anger.
"I knew something wasn't right," Said Nikki. "but I really didn't think she could do that to me." After making Nikki a very strong cup of coffee, Victoria asked,
"Do you want to stay here? I've got a spare room." Nikki smiled at her gratefully.
"Do you mind? I might just kick the shit out of both of them if I go back tonight." Nikki took a sip of her coffee and shuddered. "Jesus! How strong is this?" Victoria smiled.
"I'm trying to sober you up a little."
"Sleep will probably do a better job," Said Nikki. Victoria showed her to her spare room and as soon as Nikki's head touched the pillow, she was out cold. Victoria stood and looked at her for a moment. She knew that the only reason Nikki was able to sleep was the amount of alcohol she'd consumed earlier. Tomorrow would be an entirely different story altogether.
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