DISCLAIMER: All the characters used within this story are the property of either Shed Productions or the BBC. I am using them solely to explore my creative ability.
FEEDBACK: Kristine

Public stories, Private lives
By Kristine

Part Twelve

When Nikki awoke the next morning, she didn't know where she was. She was lying in a strange bed and she was alone. Then the events of the evening came flooding back. Walking in on Tash and Kirstie, leaving them in bed together and then turning up at Victoria's. Nikki struggled out of bed and looked at the time. It was nearly ten o'clock. The amount of alcohol she'd consumed must have kept her asleep for hours. As she wandered in to the kitchen she saw Victoria sitting at the table eating cereal and reading the paper.

"How did you sleep?" Asked Victoria, not taking her eyes off the article she was reading.

"Like a log," Said Nikki. "Must have been all that drink I had last night."

"There's some Alka-Seltzer near the kettle if you want it. I keep it there so as it's easy to find when I'm half dead." Victoria knew she was failing at making light conversation but she hated awkward silences and didn't really know what she could say to Nikki. Nikki grinned slightly as she made herself a coffee and put some bread in the toaster.

"What are your plans for today?" Asked Victoria, instantly realising what a stupid question this was. Nikki sat down at the table.

"Do you mind if I smoke?" She said. Victoria got up to get an ashtray.

"Not at all. When things are that bad you'll often find me indulging myself." Nikki looked at her.

"I never would have thought of you as a smoker," She said slightly bemused.

"Well," Replied Victoria. "There's a lot you don't know about me." When Nikki had lit up, she said,

"I know I should talk to Tash, find out exactly why this has happened, but that's the last thing I want to do right now. Just the thought of her with anyone else makes me furious! To be honest, all I want to do is go over there and get some stuff to last me over the weekend, give me time to calm down a bit."

"You can stay here as long as you need too."

"Thanks," Said Nikki. "I'll try not to cramp your style for too long though."

"Look, Nikki, this isn't something that's going to be sorted out in a few days. It's going to get hard and it's going to be difficult. All I'm saying is that you can crash here as long as you want too." Nikki didn't know how to respond to this. She was touched at how concerned for her Victoria was. She'd only been working with her for a couple of months but it felt like here was a true friend, someone she could count on.

After Nikki had eaten some toast and put off the inevitable for as long as possible, she walked round to the house she'd shared with Tash for the last two years. Her little gray Forde was parked outside and she patted it fondly as she walked passed. When Nikki let herself in, she encountered the oddest sight so far this weekend. Tash was pacing the living-room, smoking. Tash never smoked. Not in all the time Nikki had spent with her had Tash ever sparked up. Forgetting why she was there, Nikki just stood and stared. But Nikki's sarcasm soon came to the fore.

"Well," She said. "They say things go in threes, I'm just wondering what the third unexpected thing is going to be."

"What are you talking about?" Said Tash taking another long drag.

"First," Said Nikki, her voice dripping with ice. "I come home to find you in bed with another woman, and second, I come home this morning to find you smoking."

"Nikki, I am so, so sorry."

"Really," Said Nikki lighting a cigarette of her own. "Do you know what hurts the most? It's not the fact that you cheated, or even the fact that you've quite clearly been lying to me. The thing that really cuts me in two was seeing just how good you looked together. I don't think I've ever seen you look so peaceful and happy."

"I didn't mean this to happen," Said Tash quietly.

"Yes, you did," Responded Nikki. "You just didn't mean me to find out like that." Tash just looked at her in silence. Nikki was right. Nikki went upstairs and started throwing her clothes in to bags. Tash had followed her and stood in the bedroom doorway watching her.

"Where did you go last night?" She asked.


"Is that where you're going now?"

"Yeah. So, anything important like I win the lottery, you know where I am."

"Nikki, we've got to talk about this." Nikki turned to face her, still holding a handful of bras in her hand.

"Listen, Tash, talking is about the last thing I want to do right now. I'm struggling to even accept that what I saw last night was real, so don't come at me with all this let's talk about it crap because that isn't something I can do. We will talk about everything, because I sure as hell need some answers, but it won't be this weekend and probably not any time soon." After listening to this, Tash went back downstairs because she couldn't face the sight of Nikki removing her possessions from their bedroom. She hadn't wanted it to be like this. Tash had wanted to prepare Nikki slowly for what was coming, not thrust it upon her with absolutely no warning. Nikki came downstairs and put three bags in to her car. When she reappeared, Tash watched her take a couple of bottles of red from the wine rack in the kitchen, bottles they'd bought together. Then Nikki went to the bookcase and took her copies of Romeo and Juliet, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and Sophie's World.

"Will you let me know what you're doing?" Asked Tash timidly.

"If anything happens like I crash the car, then yeah, I'll let you know. You'll still see me in work every day." Then Nikki stopped and looked fully at Tash. "Do you know something, everyone who was there last night knew about this. Yvonne definitely knew more about this than I did. Funny how blind a person can be." Then she picked up her stock of Marlboros and walked out to her car.

When Nikki arrived back at Victoria's, she let herself in and left the two bottles of red in the kitchen. Victoria had given her a spare key so that she could come and go as she pleased. Nikki began looking at Victoria's books and Cds and was pleasantly surprised to find that Victoria had similar tastes to her in music and fiction. Victoria returned around two having filled the car at the supermarket. Nikki helped her bring the shopping in from the car and said,

"Jesus, you've bought enough to feed an army."

"Well, the cupboards and the fridge looked very bare this morning." Nikki threw together some sandwiches as Victoria put everything away.

"How did it go?" She asked.

"Well, at least I know she's feeling bloody guilty about it," Said Nikki with a rueful smile. "When I arrived she was chain smoking and Tash hasn't smoked in all the time I've known her." Nikki knew she was avoiding talking about what mattered but she had to do this in order to stay sane.

Meanwhile, Karen was spending the afternoon doing everything possible to make her body feel and look sexy. She wanted to give all she had tonight because she knew that if anything happened between her and Mike, it would be special. As she lay in the bath, carefully varnishing her toenails, she wondered what it would be like to sleep with Mike. Until the truth came out about Jim, she hadn't really thought of Mike as anything more than a colleague whom she liked and respected. But he'd become such a good friend. He was so warm and strong. She shivered luxuriously in the foamy water as she visualized how good he would be. A man like him would have been around the world a few times sexually, and as she thought about his long fingered hands, it was all she could do to keep her mind off the prospect of Mike's body and on the task in hand. Later, as she sat in front of the mirror applying eye liner, she just hoped she would be good enough for him. She'd always been more than good enough for Jim, but look at the long line of scrubbers he'd spent time pleasuring. Mike was in a different class altogether and Karen prayed that she could live up to his expectations.

Part Thirteen

When Karen opened the door to Mike at seven that evening, he just stood and stared at her.

"Have I forgotten to do up my buttons or something?" She asked with a grin.

"No," Mike said sounding a little flustered. "I just don't think I've ever seen you looking anything other than professional."

As they walked down the street, Mike couldn't believe his luck. Here he was, walking towards his favourite restaurant with the most fabulously stunning woman he'd ever seen. He didn't know what the night had in store for either of them, but whatever happened, he would enjoy every minute of it.

Mike was well known at the restaurant where he took Karen, so when they entered, they were immediately shown to a quiet corner. Karen noticed this and said,

"Do you often wine and dine women here then?" Mike laughed.

"Chance would be a fine thing." As they worked their way down their first bottle of wine, Karen began to relax. The alcohol plus Mike's charm was making her feel incredibly sexy. She had felt sexy with Jim, there was no denying that. But it had always been a cheap, seedy kind of sexy. With Mike, Karen felt beautiful and wanted and special. To start with, they shared a platter of mussels, cockles and king prawns, served with a variety of sauces. With this sharing of a single dish, the flirtation moved up a notch. Karen dipped a king prawn in the garlic mayonnaise and leaned forward and popped it in to Mike's mouth. Mike removed a mussel from it's shell and did the same for Karen. All through the honey and mustard glazed chicken and the cointreau and orange sorbet, they talked about books, music, a little about work and most of all they both continued along the enticing road of seduction. Karen knew that she was definitely on her way to getting drunk, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered except how they were both feeling. They got through two bottles of wine and it was definitely a good thing neither of them had to drive. That was the wonderful thing about their little town, everything was usually within walking distance of most people's houses. After Mike had paid the bill, Karen stood up and only then realised just how much alcohol she'd consumed. She waited for her feet to stay firmly on the ground and they walked slowly along the darkening streets hardly speaking. The silence was wonderful. When they were crossing the market square, they sat down on one of the benches. Karen lit a cigarette. She blew a perfect smoke ring up towards the moon. Mike took the cigarette out of her hand and took a drag.

"I didn't think you smoked," Said Karen quietly surprised.

"I don't usually," He replied, giving it back to her. After Karen had flicked her cigarette end across the square, Mike gently put his arm round her.

"Can you see the plough?" He said, looking up at the stars. Karen snuggled up to him.

"That is the most transparent bit of seduction I've ever heard," She said in a sultry tone that made Mike gasp at the effect her nearness was having on him. Mike chuckled softly. When he leaned forward and kissed her, her pulse quickened and every sexual sensation possible surged through her. But she suddenly smiled when she realised that Mike had taken a drag of her cigarette because there is nothing worse than kissing someone who does smoke if you don't. Mike found himself wondering just where Karen had learnt to kiss so luxuriously.

"Who's house is nearest?" asked Karen, as she couldn't take the unbearable tension of being in a public place any longer.

"Yours," Said Mike fully understanding her. Karen didn't really remember how they ended up outside her house, except that they stopped under every street lamp to carry on what had begun on the market square bench. When Karen found her key, she had some difficulty getting it in to the lock because her hands were trembling with pure lust. As soon as the front door shut behind them, they were back on each other as if nothing in the world was going to deter either of them from what they wanted. Clothes were discarded as they mounted the stairs, both of them to aroused to say more than the odd completely unintelligible sentence. When they were finally entwined on Karen's four-poster, hands and mouths began creating feelings of pure ecstasy in their recipients. In turn they took each other to the edge, but when, together, they finally came down from a shuddering feeling of exultation which left them both reeling, they just lay close, almost not able to believe this had happened.

"You are fantastic, do you know that?" Mike said softly.

"You're not so bad yourself," Mumbled Karen. Eventually, their glistening bodies cooled and Karen reached for the duvet and pulled it over them. Mike was slowly drifting between sleeping and waking but he didn't know if Karen would prefer him to stay or go.

"I should go," He said slightly regretfully.

"You don't have to," Said Karen, wrapping her arms and legs round him. "I'd like you to stay, but that's up to you." She had a smile in her voice, obviously knowing that he wasn't about to refuse. Mike put his arms round her and slowly they drifted off in to a long satisfied sleep.

Victoria's evening hadn't been nearly as successful as Mike and Karen's. Nikki cooked them a curry which Victoria could tell had certainly come from Tash's teaching. Victoria ate incredibly slowly and Nikki realised that this was the first time she'd eaten a meal with Victoria.

"Not too hot for you, is it?" Asked Nikki. Victoria smiled to cover her awkwardness.

"No, it's fine. I always take ages over a meal." After they'd shared the washing up, they sat in front of the TV to watch a movie Nikki had picked up earlier. Nikki became so enthralled that she didn't notice Victoria slip away. She just kept her eyes glued to the screen, unaware of anything else.

In the bathroom, Victoria splashed her face with cold water and cleaned her teeth. Then she stared at her pale face in the mirror. Just how long would she be able to keep her guilty secret whilst she was living under the same roof as Nikki. She was so scared that the tears began to roll down her cheeks. She couldn't go on like this, she just couldn't. When she returned to the lounge, she took one of Nikki's cigarettes and lit it. Taking a deep drag, she blew smoke towards the extremely thin movie star on the TV. Nikki turned to look at her.

"Are you okay?" She asked.

"I'd love to know how she manages to stay so thin," Said Victoria wistfully.

"You have absolutely nothing to worry about on that score," Nikki tried to reassure her. But this wasn't enough for Victoria. She couldn't begin to give up what she did, until she could believe what Nikki had said to be true and right now, that didn't seem to be possible.

Part Fourteen

At around four AM on Sunday morning, Victoria woke. She didn't know what had disturbed her sleep. A car outside, a drunken shout, she wasn't sure. Then she sniffed, the tantalizing aroma of cigarette smoke reached her nostrils. Then Victoria remembered that her bedroom window was on the same side as the balcony of her lounge. Nikki must be out there.

She got up and slipped on a dressing-gown. Nikki was clearly miles away, probably with thoughts of Tash, because she didn't hear Victoria approach. At the slight touch on her arm, Nikki whirled round, startled.

"Jesus!" Exclaimed Nikki.

"Weren't thinking of jumping, were you?" Victoria wasn't really serious but there was something in Nikki's face that told her she wasn't far wrong.

"No, not seriously anyway. Sorry, did I wake you?"

"I think it was your cigarette smoke that did, but don't worry. Do you want a coffee, it's freezing out here." As they went inside, Nikki reflected that Victoria must have a lot more about her than she'd first thought.

As Victoria stood by the kettle waiting for it to boil, Nikki sat at the table and put her head in her hands. Nikki was crying silently but her shaking shoulders betrayed her. Victoria went over and started gently rubbing Nikki's back. Nikki turned and clung to Victoria. Nothing needed to be said. After a while, Nikki mumbled,

"I'm sorry."

"You've got nothing to be sorry for," Said Victoria gently.

"I just wish I knew why she had to do it," Said Nikki in despair. "I mean why? Why now? Why Kirstie? Why, when everything seemed to be going brilliantly did Kirstie have to step in and arse it up. If she hadn't come here, Tash would never have done that to me."

"You don't know that," Said Victoria.

"Well, she sure as hell wouldn't have done it right under my bloody nose. Tash isn't like that. Well, she wasn't before that little tart came on the scene."

"I don't really know what I can say," Said Victoria feeling utterly useless. Nikki gave her a quick squeeze and moved away.

"It's okay. There's nothing anyone can say. I just wish I didn't have to walk in to work on Monday and have to see the two of them together."

"If it'll help, we can swap for a little while, meaning you could follow up all the stories that involve being out of the office."

"Thanks, I think that'd be a good idea because right now I don't think I could trust myself to be around Kirstie Collins and not rip her bloody head off."

Around six hours later, Karen drifted slowly back in to consciousness. She didn't know what time it was, but she knew she hadn't slept this long in ages. She stretched luxuriously and realised that she'd been lying with her head on Mike's chest. She looked in to his face. He was smiling at her.

"I was watching you sleep," He said softly.

"I haven't slept this late in a long time," Said Karen, still drugged by sleep.

"Ah," Said Mike in utter satisfaction. "so I must have done something right, then."

"Absolutely," Said Karen, casually running a hand along his torso. The touch of her hand running along his skin was almost too much for Mike.

"Anyone would think you're trying to lead me astray," He said to cover up the effect Karen's wandering hands were having on him.

"Judging by how wonderful you were last night," Said Karen, "I think you were led astray years ago." Mike chuckled as Karen stretched up to kiss him. Neither of them could believe how turned on they were by the slightest touch, the slightest caress.

"Jesus!" Said Karen after a while. "You're too bloody good for me, you are."

"I'd say the feeling's fairly mutual," responded Mike. The explosive feelings they created in each other were enough to make both of them wonder where they'd been before this. Karen knew that never in a million years could Jim have made her feel so erotically beautiful as she did with Mike. Later, after Mike had left (saying he'd promised to visit his daughter), and Karen had showered, she stood in front of the full length mirror and looked at her body. Was she really that sexually attractive? She ran her hands over her breasts and down to her waist. What was it about her body that made men want to give her so much pleasure. She just didn't know. She knew she was good-looking for a woman in her mid-thirties. She went to the gym once a week and could never have been said to be out of shape, but what was it that seemed to give her that extra special magnetism. Jim had lusted after her because he wanted anything in a skirt and she'd certainly caught Nick Jordan and definitely Alex Adams looking at her as if they'd like very much to see what was underneath the professional suits she always wore. Even Cassie and Nikki, when she'd first met them, had both looked her up and down with open interest. But why Mike? She'd always looked at him with interest. Even when she'd been completely blinded by Jim's charms she had observed Mike's good points. But why, in an office full of single, attractive women, had he only ever looked at her. Her musing was disturbed by the phone ringing.

"Hello," Karen realised she sounded husky from too much sex and more than her usual sleep.

"Did I wake you up?" Asked Yvonne in surprise. Karen yawned and Yvonne could clearly hear the grin in her voice.

"No, not at all. I've been awake for hours."

"Go on," Said Yvonne. Karen couldn't resist telling her.

"Mike took me out for dinner last night."

"Oh, really!" Came Yvonne's all knowing drawl. And?"

"And, I haven't had such a good night in ages," Said Karen smugly.

"That good, was it?" Asked Yvonne, smiling.

"Bloody marvelous," Said Karen completely truthfully.

"Good. It's about time you rubbed Fenner's nose in it."

"Yeah, well, this should. Do you know something," Said Karen, wondering quite why she was telling Yvonne all this. "I don't think I've ever had a man like him." Yvonne laughed. It was wonderful to hear Karen so happy again. Her complete humiliation about the Fenner incident, had taken away too much of Karen's sparkle, because even though Karen had been the one to finally finish it, everyone else in the office had known exactly what or more appropriately who Fenner had been up too.

"Well, you certainly sound happier for it," Said Yvonne. "If you ever kick him out of bed, point him in my direction."

"No chance," replied Karen good naturedly. Though Karen did wonder just how Jim and the others were going to take this new slice of gossip.

"You're not the only ones creating scandal," Said Yvonne turning serious. "Nikki caught Tash in bed with Kirstie on Friday night."

"Oh, no!" Said Karen, genuinely saddened for Nikki. "How's she doing?"

"She's staying with Victoria," Said Yvonne, who'd had a call from Nikki on Saturday.

"That has to be the one reason why relationships at work aren't a good idea," Said Karen, clearly aware of her own situation.

"I know," Said Yvonne. "I just hope Tash and Kirstie have the sense to keep out of the way for a while." All in all, Karen reflected later, the week or probably the weeks ahead weren't going to be starved of topics of lunchtime conversation.

Part 15

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