DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge great thanks to Ralst for posting this. And to anybody taking the time to read it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Life.

By Kate


Chapter 1

Nikki slowly opened her eyes. At first she couldn't move but then smiled when she realised why. Daylight peered through the curtains and she heard bird's chirping outside. She turned to look at the bedside clock and was surprised at the time. It was 10am. She still wasn't used to lying in this late and at times felt guilty that she could.

She kissed the head that rested on her chest and tried to move her leg, but it was trapped from another wrapped over it. Nikki grinned and her fingertips started to move against the T-shirt that Helen was wearing. She pulled it up, so she could feel the skin beneath.

"Helen?" Nikki whispered. Helen gave a muffled response that wasn't discernable as a reply.

But Nikki persisted.

They lay out of breath, their arms and legs tangled together. As they looked at each other, they started to giggle and then laughed heavily.

"Good lord darling, I swear you're trying to kill me." Nikki said.

Helen combed her fingers through Nikki's hair and smiled at the grey streaks that were evident, against the dark raven colour.

"Oh stop complaining you big baby. It's not possible to finish you off this way. You're incorrigible and insatiable."

"And after all these years, you know I don't need much encouragement. I can't help it, if I wake up to find you asleep practically on top of me. You hog the bed. What else am I supposed to do, just lie there and twiddle my thumbs? Or find creative ways to wake you up?" Nikki asked.

Helen touched Nikki's lips with her finger tips. "Do you think we'll still be able to do this in ten years?" She smiled softly.

Nikki exhaled in thought. "I hope so. A hip or two might go for a burton and we might risk the odd stroke or heart attack. But if we pace ourselves, we should be okay."

Helen laughed. "I thought menopause might have slowed you down, but obviously not."

"Darling, promise me one thing," Nikki said. "The day I can't do this anymore, put me out of my misery and shoot me!"

Nikki untangled herself from Helen and lay on her back, then pulled Helen on top of her.

"Although I will admit, it does take us all night long, to do what we used to do all night. One of the disadvantages of age."

Helen kissed her quickly. "I actually like it that way. I love that it takes us longer nowadays."

"You do?" Nikki smiled and kissed her deeply. "Anyway, I don't exactly recall you slowing after menopause. In fact, I remember many a time being forced at the oddest times and locations to indulge you in some cardiovascular activity. You still do."

"Och!" Helen exclaimed. "Forced? You never put up a fight!"

Nikki laughed and pushed Helen over onto her back, so she could lie beside her. Her hand wandered down Helen's chest and Nikki shifted herself lower, until her head rested on Helen's stomach and she planted kisses all over it. She looked at the faint stretch marks and scar and closed her eyes briefly. They were a sign of their children and Nikki loved them, although Helen couldn't understand their appeal.

She continued to look at Helen's body. It was a little plumper now but still a womanly shape and Nikki found it incredibly sexy. She knew they had both managed to stay in good shape and although Helen was now fifty-six, she certainly didn't look it. As she had grown older, so the younger she appeared. Her blonde hair resisted the onset of greying and her eyes were still as bright, the small lines at their sides adding an element of maturity to them, that Nikki found highly attractive.

Nikki looked up and smiled at her. "You are so gorgeous."

Helen reached down and stroked her hair.

"I adore you," Nikki said softly. "There isn't a part of you I don't love," She smiled mischievously and then quickly kissed the hair between Helen's legs.

"I love here, for so many, many reasons!"

Helen laughed. "You would!"

Nikki kissed the tops of Helen's legs. "I love your legs, because they carry you to me. I used to hate them in Larkhall sometimes, because they would take you away from me."

She kissed them again and moved up Helen's body, kissing it as she did so.

"I love your arms for the way they hold me," Nikki took Helen's arm and kissed it down to her hand. "I love your hands for the way they touch me," She kissed the palm.

"I love here," She kissed Helen's mouth. "For the things you say and I love here," She kissed Helen's forehead. "For your mind."

Nikki's voice grew gentler and softer as she spoke. "But I love here the most," She kissed near Helen's left breast. "Because inside here, is the heart and soul of the woman I love."

Helen stopped stroking Nikki's hair. She looked at her deep brown eyes and swallowed hard.

"Come here." Helen commanded softly and held out her arms. She pulled Nikki tight against her chest and closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply, as she smelled her hair and kissed the top of her head. It took a while for her emotion to subside enough for her to be able to speak.

"We should start to get ready sweetheart. The girls will be here soon to help," Helen said.

Nikki lifted her head. "It would have been easier to have held the party at one of the clubs, darling. Closed it for the night for private use. We could have got caterers in, to save you all the hassle."

"I wanted us to celebrate your sixtieth in our home. With our family and friends around us. It's no hassle." Helen smiled at her and brushed Nikki's hair back from her forehead.

Nikki stretched and kissed Helen's mouth. "Okay. Let's take a shower."

Helen stood in the shower and slapped Nikki's hands away. "Stop it!" She laughed and turned around.

Nikki grinned and squeezed some more soap into her hands and lathered it, before smearing it across Helen's back. Her hands gently massaged the skin, before she moved them round to the front of Helen's body. Her hands then inched their way down.

"What are you doing?" Helen gasped. She looked over her shoulder and Nikki pulled her back against her body and kissed her neck.

"Making sure I haven't missed anything," Nikki softly bit her neck.

"Nicola," Helen warned her. "We have to get ready. Now!"

"God I love it when you're bossy."

"I mean it!" Helen tried to look stern.

"But it's my birthday." Nikki whispered.

They moved hurriedly around each other as they got dressed. Helen picked out Nikki's clothes and Nikki had bought Helen a new dress for the occasion.

As Nikki stood putting on her make up, Helen sat on the bed and watched her. Nikki was dressed apart from her shirt. Her body was still slim and toned. The black trousers fitted snugly and made her appear taller. She was barefoot and would probably stay that way all day. The only time she ever wore shoes was when they left the house. The rest of the time she remained shoeless, even when pottering in the garden.

Nikki applied eye shadow, mascara and blusher and picked up her lipstick. "What are you looking at?" She smiled but didn't look at Helen.

Helen stood up. "Just how utterly gorgeous you are," She walked over to her.

Nikki started to apply the lipstick. "Wait," Helen said softly. She turned Nikki to face her and reached up with her arms and kissed her.

They heard a car pull up on the gravel drive.

"That has to be Sophie. Right on time," Nikki smiled. Helen let her go and handed Nikki her maroon shirt and waistcoat.

Nikki quickly buttoned up her shirt and zipped Helen into her dress, then left the bedroom and went downstairs. As she got to the kitchen, she heard the key in the door.

"Just hang on!" She heard Sophie say on the other side. Nikki knew what was coming and knelt down in anticipation.

As soon as the door opened, something tiny in a pink dress hurtled along the hallway towards her.

"Nannie!" The child shouted as she ran. When she was almost to Nikki she leapt at her and Nikki scooped her up and spun her round.

The child squealed with delight and Nikki kissed her face over and over.

"How's my little princess?" Nikki asked her. "Gosh, look at your pretty dress, Grace. It's lovely."

Grace smiled and hugged her neck. "Party!" Grace shouted.

"Yes, we're having a party."

Grace clapped her hands. "Cake!"

"Yes, darling, we're going to have cake and candles. Are you going to help blow them out?"

Grace nodded enthusiastically.

Sophie entered the house carrying several large bags and behind her was her husband, Rick, carrying even more.

"Are you moving back home?" Nikki asked.

Sophie huffed. "Most of its Grace's stuff for the night and the rest is stuff mum asked us to bring.

"How can this little one warrant so much stuff?" Nikki asked. Sophie kissed Nikki on the cheek and hugged her.

"Happy birthday mum."

"Thank you darling."

"It was easier just to grab everything. She's been hyper all week. Emily let it slip last weekend, there was going to be a party. She woke me and Rick up at three this morning. I went into her room and she'd been through her little wardrobe. Clothes all over the floor. I swear Trish and Liz are going to have to stop babysitting her. She comes back with all these fashion ideas and colour coordination tips. She's only two!" Sophie said exasperated.

Nikki laughed. "You were exactly the same, when Trish and Liz babysat you and your sister. They spoiled you both rotten. You were the only children I knew at 3 years of age that had matching designer outfits from Versace. Anyway, you know Trish and Liz, they love to see Grace and love to spend money on you all."

Rick looked hot and bothered as he put the bags down in the kitchen. "Happy birthday mum," He said as he kissed and hugged Nikki.

Nikki smiled at her six foot four policeman son-in-law and inwardly laughed to herself that their daughter had married one. Even Helen saw the irony in it. He always referred to her and Helen as Mum and had become more like an additional son.

"Want a cuppa?" Nikki said to him. "Or a beer?"

He quickly looked at Sophie who was busy sorting out the bags. "Beer, please." He whispered.

"Bit early isn't it?" Sophie said without turning round. Rick looked astonished that she'd heard him.

"It's my birthday and Rick looks like he needs one," Nikki winked at him.

"Nannie!" Grace shouted and squirmed in Nikki's arms.

Helen entered the kitchen and held out her arms and Nikki passed Grace to her.

"My goodness, you look good enough to eat. Like a fluffy pink cake," Helen said and proceeded to playfully bite her tummy as Grace giggled.

"Darling, what on earth is all this?" Helen asked as she looked at the food that Sophie was spreading around the kitchen.

Rick rolled his eyes as he kissed Helen and Sophie moved to hug her.

"Just a few bits you asked for," Sophie said.

"Sweetheart, I asked you to get an extra couple of loaves of bread, for breakfast in the morning, for those staying over," Helen shook her head.

"Well, you can't have enough food for a party," Sophie carried on sorting it out.

"We should never have let Teri baby sit you when you were younger. She's never been one for moderation where food is concerned. Not that it's ever been a problem for her. She's as thin as a stick, whereas poor Jackie constantly had to fight gaining pounds," Nikki said.

The front door started to open again and Emily entered followed by Mandy and Paul, and Jackie and Teri. They all laughed as they made their way to the kitchen.

Emily kissed Nikki and narrowed her eyes as she looked at Nikki, then looked at Helen.

"Happy birthday," Emily said and smiled knowingly.

"What?" Nikki said.

"The pair of you, are glowing." Emily winked before she walked over to kiss Helen.

"Where's Tony?" Nikki called after her.

"He should be here any minute with the mini coach." Emily answered and picked some food off one of the plates Sophie was arranging.

"Hey!" Sophie said.

"Jesus sis, not like anyone's going to miss it. There's half hundred weight of mini quiches here," Emily smiled at her.

Nikki was kissed by all the new arrivals and finally managed to give Rick his beer.

"Okay, anybody want tea or just get straight to the hard stuff?" she asked.

"Hard stuff" was the collective reply.

The idea was brunch that would continue on into the afternoon, then BBQ into the evening. Helen had planned a long day and a marquee and tables were set up in their back garden.

The doorbell rang and Emily went to open it and another crowd of people entered. This time it was Trish and Liz, followed by Jo and Debbie, then Karen, Sarah, Claire, Mel, Rachel and their respective spouses as well as Emily's boyfriend Tony.

It started to get crowded and noisy in the kitchen. Nikki poured out champagne and other drinks as Helen and the girls started to organise the food.

"Dear God! What is that?" Nikki exclaimed and everybody turned to look in the direction of the doorway.


Chapter 2

A tall, slim young man stood before them. His arms were folded across his slightly hairy chest and the only clothing he wore, were a pair of boxer shorts. His mop of dark hair was wavy and unkempt and his face needed shaving.

"That sweetheart," Helen said to Nikki. "Is our son."

Grace spotted him and ran over to him. "Max!" He picked her up.

"It is? Are you sure darling?" Nikki frowned and Max walked over to her.

"Happy birthday mum," He smiled at her and his brown eyes twinkled at her making fun of him.

"Can we assume that somewhere there is a bag of laundry and possibly Gabby is still in your room?" Nikki asked.

Max smiled. "Gabby will be here later, she's driving down from Uni."

"What time did you arrive?" Helen asked him.

"About two this morning. I tried to be quiet when I came in."

"Do you no longer posses a comb?" Nikki said as she ruffled his hair. "Has water touched your body recently?"

Max laughed and Helen caught her breath for a moment. His facial expression and eyes were so like Nikki's when she laughed.

"I'll go and do that now," he said and handed Grace to Nikki.

Everybody ended up in the garden. They sat around on the large patio and Nikki kept them supplied with drinks while Helen, Sophie and Emily organised the food out in the marquee.

Nikki walked into the kitchen and heard peals of laughter. She stood and closed her eyes briefly and her heart jumped for a moment. All three of them had the same laugh and the girls resembled Helen in so many ways, it always astonished her. She never tired of seeing them this way and she felt her emotion rise as she saw them now.

Helen noticed her standing there and the look on her face and walked over to her. She stroked Nikki's cheek and smiled.

"God, they are so like you," Nikki said quietly. "Do you need any help?"

"No, we're fine. You carry on." Helen went back to the counter and Nikki stood watching them all.

Sophie was Helen to a tee. Principled and compassionate, strong willed and controlled. She had taken to the nursing profession like a duck to water. She had met Rick when he was bought in to the A&E dept after being hurt trying to stop a pub brawl while on duty.

Emily's nature mirrored Nikki. She was quick witted and impetuous, although able to control it better than Nikki, when she was the same age. Emily had a head for business and after gaining her degree, took over running the three clubs and two wine bars that Nikki and Trish had acquired years before. Her boyfriend Tony, a little older than her, had been hired by Nikki and Trish to help run the business and he and Emily were a formidable partnership.

As Nikki looked out to the garden, she saw Max standing with his girlfriend Gabby. He was a good looking young man, spoke gently and was quietly passionate with a deep seated emotion. His sense of justice was strong and she knew his chosen career as a lawyer would suit him.

Nikki walked out of the kitchen and onto the patio and looked around at all the people gathered. More had arrived as the afternoon wore on. Not only were their old friends there, but their families were, too. Their friend's children and grandchildren. Mandy and Paul, now grandparents themselves. Jackie and Teri, still as much in love with each other as ever. Trish and Liz, about to celebrate twenty-two years together. They didn't have children, but Sophie, Emily and Max were the closest they'd ever come. Jo and Debbie, Claire and Peter, Mel, Rachel, Karen and Sarah; all now with grown children.

Then came the friends they made, when their own kids started school. At first some had seemed weary of Nikki and Helen's relationship, but once they got to know them, nothing else seemed to matter. Even when they discovered about Nikki's time in jail. They welcomed their children's friends into their home, were active members at the schools they attended. PTA meetings, organising fund raisers, partaking in school sports days. It had been a full life.

As Nikki stood there now, she realised there must be a least a hundred people in their garden. They had bought the house before the girls first birthday. A large detached home, with a massive garden, large enough for them to play and for Nikki to potter around in. They purchased it with Nikki's income from the club and lived comfortably on the continuing proceeds.

Nikki had stepped back from being in the front line of the business with Trish. She stayed in the background, but other things became more important after she was released. Along with Monica, they had set up several other halfway houses for women newly released from prison. And when Monica passed away, five years ago, it became Nikki's main focus. She spent her own money funding the program as well as raising more.

As well as gaining her PhD in English Literature, Nikki was also a trained counsellor which enabled her to help many of the women. Over the years, she had had many offers to write her story, but refused every one. Aware of the consequences of her actions, she never felt it right to make money from what had happened.

Helen was also a big help to the program, but also worked privately over the years. She was a certified psychologist and worked with patients in private sessions.

Nikki smiled contentedly as she looked around then went to get herself a drink.

It was a beautiful warm evening and everybody feasted well. They were all seated at the tables in the marquee. Groups chatting happily with laughter ringing out.

As Nikki talked to Mandy sitting beside her, she heard a glass being tapped and turned to see Helen was standing.

"Everyone, can I have your attention please!" Helen called out. Everybody hushed their conversations. "I'd like to thank you all for coming today, to celebrate a very special person's birthday. If you would join me in raising your glasses in a toast…."

Helen turned to look at Nikki. "Happy Birthday sweetheart," Helen said it quietly and winked at her. "To Nikki, happy birthday!"

Everybody stood up and toasted her. Nikki smiled and blushed.

"Speech!" Jackie called out. Nikki shook her head, but the request was repeated until Nikki was forced to stand up.

"And for God's sake speak up. Some of us are deaf old sods nowadays!" Jackie shouted and everybody laughed.

"Well," Nikki cleared her throat and took a deep breath. "First I'd like to thank you all for coming, too. It means a lot to have you all here. I feel very blessed. I know I'm luckier than most to have had the opportunities I've had. To have known the people I've known. It's very humbling. There are some no longer with us, who are deeply missed."

She smiled fondly and her heart filled with deep affection as she thought of Monica, Barbara and Henry. They had effectively been the only grandparents Sophie, Emily and Max had ever known.

"And there were some I know, not as lucky to have had the support I've been given, was given, in all these years…"

Nikki stopped again for a moment, as familiar faces flashed into her mind. She remembered Rachel Hicks, Zandra Plackett and especially Yvonne Atkins. Still after all these years they had remained with her, along with so many from that period. Nikki closed her eyes, and swallowed down the lump in her throat. She felt fingers grasp her own and opened her eyes.

Helen looked at her and squeezed her hand, aware of the guilt Nikki still felt at her freedom and for those that didn't make it.

"I owe practically everybody here, huge thanks for their friendships, for the good times we have all shared over the years, but I have been truly blessed in one area, and that's my family. I have the most amazing children who have given me the greatest pleasures in my life. Who have at times, worried me stupid when they were sick when they were little, to waiting up for them to come home as they got older…."

Nikki smiled at them and heard everyone's ripple of understanding laughter. "They have brought so much joy and love to my life that it's hard to even describe what that feels like. I'm so very proud of them and their achievements…which leads me to one other person, without whom…."

Nikki took a deep breath and gripped the edge of the table, as Helen held her other hand.

"A long time ago, this person came into my life and saved it. And she's continued to do so ever since. She provided hope back then, when I didn't have any. She believed in me, and fought for me. God knows why. But she hung in there and kept me going. She's continued to believe in me and support me. She's given me peace. She's given me three beautiful children. She's given me more love than I've ever known. She is my rock and without her I couldn't survive. And I love her more than I can ever say."

Nikki pulled Helen to stand up with her and kissed the hand she held.

Helen flung her arms around Nikki's neck. "You're amazing. You break my heart everytime you say stuff like this," Helen whispered.

Nikki laughed softly then turned to their friends. "Folks, there is still a mountain of BBQ and booze, so get stuck in. We're going to move some tables and then the dancing can start!"


Chapter 3

Nikki sat talking to Trish and Liz later in the evening and Helen walked over to her.

"Sorry to interrupt, but I was promised a dance by this woman and I'm here to see she fulfils it." Helen smiled at them all and held out her hand to Nikki.

"Duty calls and she's the boss," Nikki said to Trish and Liz, and stood up as she took Helen's hand.

A slow song started to play and they slowly moved together, holding each other close.

"Don't suppose I can squeeze your arse in front of our guests?" Nikki whispered hopefully.

"You did enough of that this morning." Helen said.

Nikki laughed and pulled Helen tighter into her body. After a while Nikki became aware of something tugging at her trousers and she looked down and so did Helen, to see Grace staring up at them.

"Looks like somebody wants to dance." Nikki said. She bent down and picked up Grace and they held her between them.

It didn't take much for Grace to fall asleep against Nikki's shoulder.

"She's worn out," Helen said.

"I know, she's hasn't stopped since she got here. I'll take her up to bed." Nikki kissed Helen's lips and carried Grace inside.

Nikki gently removed Grace's dress and put her into her pyjamas. Grace started to cry, but Nikki gently stroked her head as she laid her into her cot.

"Shush," she said quietly.

Grace settled down and Nikki switched on the baby monitor. She leant in and kissed her granddaughter and stood watching her for a while.

She quietly crept out of the bedroom and made her way downstairs. At the bottom of the hallway, she stopped to look at one of the family photos that hung on the wall. Despite the digital age, Nikki still preferred to have photos of Helen and the children displayed around the home. There were more in the study and she wandered in and started to look at all of them. Many were of the kids when they were younger. Taken on holidays, sports days, at home. Some of their teenage years. Sophie's wedding day. Many Nikki had taken with just Helen and the children and there were some of her with them, too. Then she stood in front of her favourite picture.

Nikki had developed it as a black and white picture and had it blown up. It was taken when the girls were sixteen and Max was thirteen. Nikki had set the timer so she could be in the shot. She chuckled as she recalled saying something that made the children and her fall about with laughter. It had captured their hilarity but Helen was the only one not laughing. She looked like a deer caught in headlights at the comment Nikki had made at the time. It was a priceless moment, captured for eternity, not just as an image, but also in Nikki's heart.

"Here you are."

Nikki turned to see Helen standing in the doorway.

"What are you doing?" Helen smiled as she moved towards her.

"Just remembering. I'm so lucky. I can't believe it sometimes. It's overwhelming. I wouldn't have all this without you," Nikki said and pulled Helen to her body and kissed her deeply.

Helen drew back and walked over to a small bureau and took out a large manila envelope. Attached to it was a smaller one.

She stood in front of Nikki again and handed her the small envelope.

"There was a night, around 26 years ago, you mentioned about us going here. It wasn't the greatest of plans at that time, but I've never forgotten it. Happy Birthday, sweetheart."

Nikki frowned and opened it. She stared at the airline tickets and then noticed the destination. San Francisco.

"How…how is this possible?" Nikki stammered. "Am I travelling under an alias? My conviction won't allow me to the US."

Helen smiled and handed her the large brown envelope. "It's possible now."

Nikki gently tore open the flap and slowly pulled out the document inside. She saw the official letterhead of the Home Office and tried to comprehend the wording.

"This piece of paper," Helen stood beside her. "Means you are no longer restricted to travel. I have your new passport. Apart from the government's involvement there is only one person who can officially issue this. That person is our head of state; the Monarch."

Helen pointed at the official stamp and signature at the bottom. "This means, sweetheart, you have been fully Pardoned."

Nikki's hand started to shake and she looked at Helen, confused. "Why?"

"Because I wanted the home office to admit and recognise that your sentencing and then manslaughter charge should be dropped. That it was a miscarriage of justice. That the woman I love is not the killer they painted her to be back then."

"How long have you worked on this?" Nikki closed her eyes. Knowing Helen as she did, she believed she already knew the answer.

"Since the day of your release and I brought you home," Helen admitted. "I wasn't going to just let it go. It wasn't enough. I wanted to make them understand that what you did back then, what you always do, is out of love for those you care about more than anything. That the mother of my children, our children, wasn't the same person they saw fit to send to prison. They don't know you like I do. So I made them understand who you are. I arranged meetings; showed them video's of you with our children, gave them evidence of your business, the charitable donations and voluntary work. The Halfway House project. Everything you've given back to the society, that didn't once stop or think to ask about the person you are."

Helen's voice started to break and she cleared her throat.

"Don't ask me how I did, but I got my hands on Gossard's police employment file. Endless reports of disciplinary action, that never came to anything. Constant abusive behaviour to fellow colleagues, male as well as female. Beating of suspects. He worked vice for a while. Rape charges from prostitutes who he used as informants. It was unbelievable. What you did paled to the crimes that man committed in the name of justice. They tried to sweep him under the carpet. But I found him. With that report the Home Office crumbled."

Nikki looked at her. "I never knew. I didn't have clue you were doing this," Her tears fell onto her cheeks. "I had you and the kids and that's all that's ever mattered to me."

Helen wiped away Nikki's tears. "I said it before and I'll say it again. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I haven't regretted a single moment in all these years. Our life together has meant more to me than I can ever say, too, sweetheart. And I'm not ashamed of what brought us together. But a wrong needed to be made right."

"You don't give up do you?" Nikki tried to smile as her lip trembled.

"No, not where you're concerned, I don't."

"I don't deserve you," Nikki said and started to sob.

Helen pulled Nikki into her arms and held her until she could speak, and when Helen did so, she could only whisper the words through her own tears.

"Don't say that," Helen said softly. "Our life is what it is, because of you. The children are the people they are because of you. The love you surround us with, protect us with. We're the lucky ones. You told me once, a long time ago, that you couldn't live without me. I've come to understand and know the same feeling. You are so much a part of me, that I feel you breathe, I feel your heartbeat. Being away from you hurts. The day you came into my life, was the day I came alive. I love you, will love you till the end and even beyond it."

Nikki's body shook and she clung to Helen. They stood and held each other, unable to let go. Eventually Nikki moved her head to Helen's neck and kissed it. From there, her mouth found its way to Helen's lips and she kissed her with such a deep passion, that Helen moaned.

"Does everybody know about this?" Nikki still had the document in her hand.

"They didn't until a few minutes ago. I told them when you came in to put Grace to bed. They asked what I'd got you for your birthday," Helen smiled. "I think I made everybody feel a little inadequate at what they'd got you."

Nikki laughed through her tears.

"They're all waiting eagerly to see what your reaction is." Helen stepped back and held out her hand.

Nikki took it and squeezed it.

They walked slowly back out to the garden and into the marquee. Everybody stood up and started to clap. Then started to cheer.

Nikki waved the document in the air with one hand and with her other she lifted her and Helen's arm up in triumph.

The roar from their family and friends meant that only Helen heard Nikki tell her she loved her, before she kissed her.

The End

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