"Mmmmm, Jesus what did I drink last night" Helen moaned as she stretched and yawned, not really expecting an answer, which was why she was so shocked when she got one.
"Well we started off with a couple of beers at the pub, followed by a couple of bottles of wine at the restaurant and there is an empty litre bottle of Vodka down in the lounge that I think was full when we started it last night" Came a voice from the door way.
Helen sharply turned her head towards the doorway (which wasn't such a good idea in hindsight) and stared at the man shouldering the door open with a mug of tea in one hand and a bag of croissants in the other.
"Thomas!!!" and in the instant that Helen recognised the man standing in the doorway to her bedroom it all came flooding back, the riot, the argument with Nikki, telling Nikki it was over, finding Nikki in the arms of Caroline Lewis, going out with Thomas to the dogs and agreeing to go out again last night with him to dinner. "Oh God" Helen moaned again as she fell back onto the pillows and pulled the sheet up over her head, "What have I done" she thought, followed closely by "Nikki's gonna go mad when she finds out"
"Not a morning person then" Thomas said jovially as he put the mug and bag down on the bedside cabinet next to Helen then crouched down beside where her head was. "I've got to go Helen, some work I need to do at the hospital before I go into Larkhall. I'll see you later OK? Drink your tea while its still hot" and with that bit of advice Thomas stood up and left the room, the front door opening and closely shortly thereafter.
"Oh crap, What am I gonna do?" Helen moaned as she got out of bed and made her way to the bathroom for a shower, forgetting all about her mug of Tea.
An hour later and Helen was walking into her office having decided the best thing she could do was be straight with Thomas and let him know that nothing more was going to happen between them. As for Nikki well they weren't together anymore so she didn't owe her any explanations, and maybe if she got to Thomas before he said anything to anyone Nikki might never find out. Well here's hoping anyway. Right first thing to do though was to think how she would let Thomas down and as he was at the Hospital before coming into work she had a while to think about it.
"Jayne can you get Dr Waugh to come to my office as soon as he gets in and bring me a cup of tea, please would you?" Helen said through her telecom to her secretary, clicking off before Jayne could answer.
A few minutes passed before the door opened, but Helen didn't turn around as she continued to stare out of her window so for the second time that morning she was startled by the voice that reached her.
"Couldn't wait to see me huh?"
"Thomas! I thought you were at the the the Hospital?" Helen stammered
"I was going but realised that I had left my briefcase here last night when we left for dinner" he said as he made his way over to her and pulled her to him, kissing her soundly on the lips.
It was a few seconds before Helen got over the shock of seeing Thomas stood there and pulled back. "Sit down Thomas, we uh need to talk"
"Oh no I know that tone of voice. Well let me say it for you Helen, last night was a mistake.... it's not you it's me...... there's someone else.... blah blah blah." Thomas said and seeing from Helen's face that he had hit the nail on the head, made his way over to the door. "I just want to say Helen, I'm not sorry last night happened and if you ever change your mind you know where I am, but are you sure you're really in love with him after all you didn't seem to remember that last night did you?"
"Yes I do love ..." but Thomas had already left. "Well that was easier than I thought it would be" Helen thought as she picked up her tea and took a sip.
After finishing her tea, Helen grabbed her folders and files and made her way to her weekly lifers meeting and a certain dark haired inmate. Just the thought of Nikki made her knees weak and they weren't even together anymore. Would it still be like this in a year times, five years, ten, forever. "I'll just have to learn to live with it" Helen thought to herself determinedly as she opened the door to the room they were using this week and groaned as she saw Di Barker arranging chairs for the group.
"Oh good morning Miss Stewart. Just getting the room ready then I'll bring them along for you"
"Thanks Di" Helen replied waiting for the question she knew was coming.
"Umm, Miss Stewart I don't suppose you've heard from Dominic lately have you? I was just wandering how he was doing?" Di had transferred her feeling for Dominic to Josh a few months back but since Josh was so totally in love with Crystal and unattainable her "feelings" for Dominic had grown strong again.
"No, No Di I haven't heard from Dom in quite a while" Helen said. "Last I heard though he and Sasha were still in Greece"
"Oh. Oh well I'm sure he's having fun and will get in touch again soon." Di said walking over to the door. As she opened the door Thomas Waugh walked past. "Well I better get the girls for you Miss Stewart" Di said distractedly as she watched him walk down the corridor.
An hour later and Helen drew the lifers meeting to a close. It had been a remarkably easy session. Probably because Nikki hadn't shown up so she hadn't had to contend with her brooding in the corner while speaking to the others about their sentence plans. Only trouble was she really needed to talk to Nikki so would have to seek her out and the only place Nikki would be on a beautiful day like today would be the garden.
Making her way out she saw Nikki weeding around the outside of the shed. She stopped and just watched while Nikki pulled out the weeds and threw them onto a pile in the wheelbarrow beside her.
"Hello Miss Stewart" Nikki suddenly said grimly without turning around. "What do you want?"
So she was still angry with her Helen thought, for shipping out Caroline Lewis no doubt. "You weren't at the Lifers meeting"
"Didn't feel like it" Nikki shrugged, standing up and facing the women who still had her heart. "No big deal, there's always next week."
"I need to talk to you about your degree and your appeal"
"So talk" Nikki said rudely
"Nikki, you will speak to me with respect no matter how upset you are with me. Now come to my office in an hour please." and with that Helen turned around and strode off to her office, stopping only at the edge of the garden to tell a PO to bring Nikki Wade to her office in an hours time.
An hour later a repentant Nikki Wade was shown into Helen's office by Officer Hollamby.
"I'll buzz down when I'm finished with her Sylvia" Helen said from her desk. Sylvia Hollamby just grunted as she waddled out of the office.
As soon as the door was closed Nikki started "Look Helen I'm sorry about earlier, It's just with my exam tomorrow I'm nervous as hell to be honest, I was never any good at exams at school and I really doubt that has changed over the years....."
"It's alright Nikki" Helen interrupted "I wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind earlier either" Guilt can do that to you Helen thought to herself. "So tomorrow's the big day then, good luck I'm sure you'll sail through it. Just remember you know it all and you will have plenty of time to answer the questions so don't rush too much through it...... oh and read each question twice so ...." Helen stopped as she heard Nikki chuckle. "What's so funny"
"You sound just like a teacher Helen, maybe that's what you should have been."
"Are you saying I'm not very good at being a Prison Service Professional?" Helen said indignantly
"Oh no that's not what .." this time it was Nikki's turn to stop as she heard a chuckle coming from Helen.
After a stunned silence from both of them they burst out laughing. They were laughing so hard they didn't hear the door open. "Wow it must have been some joke, you two look like your about to burst at the seams." Karen Betts said from the doorway.
"Karen!! you scared me" Helen said patting her heart as both her and Nikki turned to look at the newcomer.
"Sorry Helen, was just coming to see you about something but if your busy" Karen said looking from one to the other.
"No no I'm not busy ... just um telling Nikki a joke to relax her ... you know for her exam tomorrow" Helen babbled
"Is that tomorrow, well Good Luck Nikki. Not that you'll need it, the gardens are looking great."
"Thanks Miss Betts" Nikki said politely
After an awkward silence where all three looked at each other Nikki said "Well if that's all Miss Stewart I really should be revising"
"What .... oh yes, yes that's all if you wait outside I'll get someone to come and get you. Good luck for tomorrow."
"Thanks" and with that Nikki went out into the outer office and sat in a chair while Karen closed the door on her.
Karen stood patiently waiting while Helen rang down to G wing to get a PO to retrieve Nikki then looked to Karen waiting for her to say whatever it was she wanted to say.
"You've done wonders with her you know, when I think back to what she was like when I first arrived ... you should be really proud" Karen stated, she had long suspected something more than just a inmate / officer relationship between the two but having generally liked both Helen and Nikki was willing to let it pass as long as it didn't become obvious to others. And anyhow Helen seemed to be getting along marvellously with that new doctor so she must have been mistaken. So much for female intuition. And if all went well tonight might be the night she found out.
"I am, but it's not all because of me, she just needed a push in the right direction. So what can I do for you?"
"Thought you might like to come out for a drink tonight, you can tell me all about your date with Dr Waugh last night" Karen laughed as she opened the door to leave.
"Urgh" Helen moaned "Don't mention booze, I did something foolish last night because of it" Helen responded only noticing that Nikki was still sat in the outer office waiting to be taken back, only now she wasn't the smiling happy Nikki of a few minutes ago. No, now she had a face like thunder. "Oh God here we go again" Helen thought as Nikki left with an out of breath Sylvia Hollamby who had just arrived.
Storming into her cell a couple of minutes later Nikki would have taken the door off its hinges as she slammed it closed if she could have instead she had to settle for thrashing the bedding about on the top bunk. Unfortunately the top bunk belonged to Barbara Hunt and when she entered the cell a couple of minutes later she was not particularly amused.
"Having fun wrecking my bed?" Barbara said sarcastically "What has got into you Nikki?"
"Helen bloody Stewart" Nikki replied shortly
"Oh no not again. What's happened now?"
"She's seeing that new doctor that's what's happened now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes I heard Miss Betts say she wanted all the details from Helen's date and then ...."
"And then Helen said she had done something foolish the night before. I know she said it was over and all after the riots, but I really thought that if I behaved myself, got myself through my degree and my appeal that she would come back to me and we could live the life we had been planning before I stuffed it up" Nikki said forlornly slumping into her chair at the desk. "Now I find out she seeing that new doctor. I guess it really is over. Oh Barbara what am I going to do?"
Answering Nikki's first statement Barbara replied "Well maybe she meant that the something foolish was going out with Dr Waugh in the first place" Seeing Nikki's spirits lift a little Barbara continued. "And I'll tell you what your going to do now, the only thing you can do. Your going to start revising for this exam of yours tomorrow so that you pass it, then your going to concentrate on your appeal and getting out of here, and only then, when you are out and free of Larkhall are you going to think about Helen and getting her back into your life. It's not going to be easy but then when has your life ever been" Barbara finished in jest.
"Hey!!" Nikki said "Watch it. Your right of course. My degree and appeal are what are important now. Thanks Barbara" Barbara walked out of the cell as she saw Nikki pick up her books and start revising.
"....... And when I woke up this morning and he was there at my bedroom door I was totally shocked, I mean I like Thomas I like him a lot. In a lot of ways he's the perfect gentleman and everything I would want in a man .... but that's the trouble, Karen"
"What's the trouble Helen?" Karen asked wanting Helen to continue, not really understanding. Thomas was perfect in every way according to Helen so what was holding her back.
"The trouble is Karen ..... I don't want a man, I want a woman and not just any woman either." Seeing Karen looking a bit taken aback and worried Helen hurried on "Oh don't worry Karen it's not you ..." now if it was possible Karen looked even more put out so Helen said reassuringly "it's not that your not a really nice woman Karen or unattractive it's just that .... just that" Helen stopped looked away from Karen to the floor then looked back up at Karen and said resolutely "... Its Nikki Wade, Karen. I'm in love with Nikki Wade. There I've said it. I've finally said it. I'm in love with Nikki Wade" And with that declaration all the tension flowed out of Helen and she slumped back against the cushions of the sofa. It was a while before Helen realised that Karen hadn't said anything and when it dawned on her she looked over to where Karen sat with a look of dismay on her face.
"Karen?... Karen say something ... anything"
"What can I say Helen" Karen said reaching for a cigarette. "In the space of a couple of minutes you've told me that you've slept with Thomas Waugh, but that it was a mistake as you are in love with someone else ... a woman. And if that wasn't enough the woman just happens to be Nikki Wade ... a a a woman in both our care ... a woman in prison for murder" Karen added with scorn "I mean... I mean I've long suspected that you had more than an officer / prisoner relationship but but but I never thought it went that far. God, when I think of all the times you've had ago about Jim Fenner abusing the women's trust, when all the time you and Wade ...I think I need another drink"
Helen waited until Karen had got herself a liberally poured glass of whiskey and sat back down, this time on a chair opposite from her. "What are you going to do Karen?" Helen asked nervously.
Swallowing the drink in one then looking Helen in the eye Karen answered "I'm going to get a cab home and sleep on this, then tomorrow you can come to my office and I'll let you know"
"No buts Helen. That's what's going to happen. OK..... OK Helen" Karen said forcefully.
The twenty minutes they waited for the cab were the quietest of Helens whole life and when she had seen Karen out to the cab and locked up she made her way up the stairs to her bed. Sleep proved fruitless as she worried over what Karen was going to do in the morning.
By the time Karen had got home she had got over most of her shock and come up with a solution to how she was going to resolve this little matter.
Nikki too was having a sleepless night, but for once it wasn't because she was thinking about Helen.. No she had taken Barbara's advice and decided to concentrate on her exam for the following day. She had always hated exams, but she was hoping that with all her knowledge in gardening and what she had learned first hand and in practice would see her through it. Hearing Barbara sigh once more when she turned over she once again apologised to her and decided to stay in that position till morning, even if it killed her, so as not to disturb Barbara again. Closing her eyes Nikki finally fell asleep.
Six thirty the following morning and Nikki was once again awake. Swinging her legs off her bunk she padded over to the desk and pick up her course work folder and began to read through her work one last time. A frustrating hour later and she threw the folder across the room.
"Whaaaa what" came the startled voice from the top bunk. "What was that?" Barbara asked focusing her eyes on Nikki.
"Nothing Barbara, sorry I woke you ... again. Arrgh it's just that I have been sat here for the last hour and nothing has gone in. I just kept reading the same paragraph over and over and bloody over again. Shit!! Why the hell was I bothering, if I don't know it now I'm never going to know it" Nikki said disparagingly walking over to get her cigarettes.
"Nikki, relax everything is going to be all right. Trust me, you'll sail through this exam. Or is it more than just the exam?"
"No... Yes ... No ...It's just ... its Helen. What if"
"No we discussed this yesterday your not going to think about Helen till this exam is over" Barbara interrupted
"Easier said than done Barbara"
"Well try. Now the screws will be along soon to unlock. Why don't you lie down and relax till they do, it'll do you no good to go into that exam wound up tighter than a spring"
Nikki made her way back over to her bunk "Yes Mum" she muttered sarcastically narrowly missing Barbara's pillow as she swung it at her.
"Don't be cheeky"
Karen was making herself a cup of coffee when her secretary arrived.
"Morning Miss Betts"
"Morning Susan. Coffee?"
"Susan, Helen Stewart will be coming to see me some time today can you ring her secretary and arrange a time for this morning, it's really important so if you have to rearrange anything that will be fine"
"Sure Miss Betts, I'll do it right away Jayne's in already"
"Fine. I'll be in my office for twenty minutes then I've got an officers meeting on G wing." and with that Karen Walked into her office.
"Right, up you get you two, breakfast time soon" Sylvia bellowed into Barbara and Nikki's cell although she could see that they were already up and dressed ready for the day. "Your exam today isn't it Wade? Well I'll be taking you along after breakfast so be ready smartish" she said and then totally uncharacteristically added "Good luck"
Nikki and Barbara just sat there stunned as Bodybag walked away to open up the next cell.
"Well will wonders never cease?" Barbara asked after a while. "She actually sounded sincere"
"Yeah ... must be a wind up. Maybe Bodybag was abducted by aliens last night, in which case they can keep her" and with that they both laughingly made their way to breakfast.
After a sleepless night Helen made her way into her office. She had been told by Jayne that she had an appointment with Karen Betts at 10.30am and she was not looking forward to it. She had felt for sure that she was doing the right thing in telling Karen last night. She was sure she could entrust her secret to Karen. How wrong could she have been? CHAPTER SIX
At 10.30am she made her way along to Karen's office and as Susan wasn't there she knocked on the door and entered when she heard Karen say "Come"
"Karen ... look I just"
"No Helen, don't say anything OK" Karen said "While I don't condone what you have done I can understand how it is. You can't help who you fall in love with can you?"
"Trust me when I say Karen I tried really hard not to fall on love with Nikki but it would have been like asking the stars not to come out at night."
"Be that as it may I don't think you can really and truly expect to stay working at Larkhall now can you?" Karen said and Helen felt the bottom drop out of her world. Karen was going to tell the powers that be about her and Nikki. She would be fired for sure and Nikki ... well she could forget all about her appeal.
"Karen please..." but she stopped when Karen held up her hand
"This is what I propose. Nikki's appeal is two weeks Monday isn't it?" Seeing Helen nod Karen continued "So what your going to do is hand in your notice so that your last working day is the Friday before hand and if all goes well you and Nikki will be together for the rest of your lives Monday onwards. This is the only way Helen, you can't stay in the prison service it would be too difficult for both of you, you both have enemies in here and if they were to find out ... do you understand Helen?"
"Yes. Yes Karen I understand, thank you. You could have gone to area with this and I ...."
"Helen!!" Karen smiled "Now what kind of friend would I be if I did that eh? I'll admit I was shocked at first but when I started to think about things, I realised how perfect you were for each other"
"Oh Karen we are but I've buggered everything up. Even before Thomas."
"Why what did you do?"
"It got too strong, we couldn't control ... I couldn't control it anymore so I broke it off with her. I was such a fool"
"Well then you better make the most of the next two weeks and sort it out. Just for Gods sake be careful will you. If it becomes public knowledge about you two her appeal is over. In fact maybe you should stay away from her till she's out"
"That's just it though I never could"
"Leave it with me Helen I'll see what I can do. It might take a while though and it might not happen at all so don't get your hopes up"
"Thanks Karen" Helen stood up and made her way to the door.
"Yes?" Helen said turning around from the door.
"That crack about you being as bad as Jim Fenner, I didn't mean it"
"No you were right. I'm everything I ever accused Jim of being"
"No Helen your not, so don't even start thinking about it. I was wrong to say it and I apologise."
With a grateful smile Helen left and Karen got on with the reports she needed to do.
It was two thirty and as Nikki made her way onto the wing she was assaulted by cries of "Well how did it go" as Barbara, the two Julies, Shaz and Yvonne all converged on her.
"It didn't go well" Nikki said despondently, not looking at any of them
All five looked at each other and it was silently decided that Barbara should be the spokesperson. "Oh, Oh well Nikki it's ..."
"It went bloody brilliantly" Nikki beamed to all her friends. "You should see all your faces, I really had you going uh?" Nikki was suddenly swamped in hugs and congratulations and shouts of "yes you had us going", until they were interrupted by the dulcet tones of Gina Rossi.
"Alright, break it up ladies association is over, haven't you all got jobs to be doing? Come on hop to it girls. Nikki we saved you some lunch if you want it."
"Yeah sure" Nikki said and followed Gina to the canteen.
Twenty minutes later and Nikki was out in the garden doing what she did best. With trowel in hand she moved along the borders turning the soil over ready for planting some bulbs. She had been steadily working her way along the edge for ten minutes when she felt the hairs on the bag of her neck stand up and that someone was watching her. Glancing up she saw that it was Helen.
"Hi Helen" she said cheerfully, God it was good to see her.
"Nikki" Helen said in her little girl lost voice and Nikki thought she could see tears in her eyes. All she wanted to do was put her arms around Helen and get her tell her what was wrong, instead she made her way to the shed door and with a little incline of her head beckoned Helen to follow her. Looking around to see if anyone would see her walking in Helen followed closing the door after her.
Nikki couldn't resist, she had to touch her, but knowing the current state of their relationship she made do with putting a hand on her shoulder. "Come on Helen, tell me what's wrong. You know I hate to see you like this."
Helen didn't know where to start but she knew that if she was ever going to make it work with Nikki she couldn't lie to her, the guilt she was feeling already had grown since the day before, it would consume her before too long. So consequently she just blurted it out. "I slept with Thomas Waugh!"
"You what?" Nikki said pulling her hand away and walking to the other side of the shed she stood with her back to Helen. How could she do this. The two faced tart. She didn't realise she had said anything until she heard Helen say "Yes, yes I am a two faced tart, I am so so sorry Nikki."
"Well at least you know you can pull the boys still don't you" Nikki said scornfully "You must be soooo happy" And with that Nikki went to push past Helen to get as far away from her as she could.
"No, no Nikki you will not walk away from me. Yes I slept with Thomas but it's not like you think"
"Not like I think? So what is it I think Helen? why don't you enlighten me"
"It was a mistake Nikki, a huge mistake and I am so sorry that it happened. And I will live with that and ... and ... and why the hell am I explaining it to you?." suddenly getting angry herself Helen said "You make me so mad sometimes do you know that. We're not even together anymore and I feel guilty for getting on with my life, what the hell is that all about?"
"Oh that's right rub my nose in it why don't you. I've lost you, I've got the message now there's no need to tell me again. You know what Helen why bother finishing with him I should imagine he's what you've always wanted. The perfect man to marry, have kids with , take home to see mom and dad. Better to be married to a man and be miserable for the rest of your life than to be known as the girlfriend of a cop killing dyke isn't it ...."
"Ooooh Sod you Nikki" and with that Helen trounced out of the shed and made her way across the gardens to the doorway that led to her office. Nikki slammed the door to the shed shut and slumped down onto a bag of compost, the tears started to fall and it was a long time till they stopped.
Helen stormed into her office fuming. Pacing up and down her office she felt the anger boiling up inside her. Her anger with Nikki for reacting that way, Her anger with Thomas for being there when she didn't need him but most of all her anger with herself for being so stupid. Why in God's name had she felt the need to tell Nikki, then again why the hell had she slept with Thomas in the first place. Why hadn't she left it to Karen as had been agreed just that morning. Anyway you looked at it, it was her own fault, she couldn't really blame Nikki for any of it, she had brought it all on herself. "Shit, this is so shit" she said to herself and then chuckled to herself with the irony of the situation. "Shit happens". How true those words she had once said to Nikki were.
Sitting at her desk she picked up her resignation letter that she had written after her meeting with Karen that morning. She had yet to hand it in, in the hopes that something would change Karen's mind. However after her last encounter with Nikki she knew that even if Karen did change her mind she had to leave. Staying here with Nikki hating her, as she must do, would be too difficult for both of them. If she was her then Nikki may blow her top and blow all chances of her appeal before she even got to the court room. So that was that. Screwing up her resignation she began writing a new one, virtually the same with the exception of the leaving date now being today rather than in two weeks time. Signing her name at the bottom she rang through to Karen's office to see if she had a spare few minutes. An hour later after telling Karen it was for the best if she went now, urging her to look out for Nikki for her and keep in touch, she was walking out of Larkhall's main gate with her few belongings in a cardboard box.
Karen sat in her office after Helen had left staring at the letter in her hand. She hadn't been able to get a reason from Helen why she was leaving straight away but she'd bet her house that it had something to do with Nikki Wade, especially after Helen had asked her to look out for Nikki. Saying her name Helen's voice had gone so quiet and sad and the look in her eye had nearly made Karen cry herself. Oh well she better get things rolling. First things first she had to let area know that they were a governing governor short and then she would have to tell G wing and the lifers. Maybe she would tell Nikki on her own, the last thing she needed was for Nikki to react and blow everything. If she could get through the next two weeks and get out on her appeal then she could go after Helen, but she wouldn't get out if her relationship with Helen was discovered. Why did everything have to be so complicated lately Karen thought yearning for the time when she was just a lowly PO with no responsibility, then she remembered the look on Jim's face when she found out she had been promoted to governor over him and smiled. She'd put up with crap ten times worse just to see that expression again.
Nikki had made her way back to her cell quietly and almost undetected. Almost but not quite, as Barbara followed her in, she should have known she wouldn't be able to hide from her. Lying on her bunk she turned to the wall and just stared at it.
"Nikki? Nikki what's wrong?"
"It's over this time Barbara, there's no going back now"
"What do you mean? Why?"
"She's sleeping with him, there an item. It's over"
"Oh Nikki" Barbara put a consoling hand on Nikki's back. Her voice had been so wretched, she couldn't respond. Nikki wouldn't want any advice anyway. Seeing that she wanted to be alone Barbara gave her one last pat on the back and left the room, pulling the door closed behind her.
"What's wrong with Nikki" Yvonne asked as soon as Barbara rejoined them outside. They had all seen Nikki come back but decided Barbara was the best one to approach her.
"yeah is ..." Julie J started
"She alright?" Julie S finished
"No ... She's far from alright. She's had some bad news" Barbara replied diplomatically. No one else knew about Helen and she was determined to keep it that way.
"Oh no, Not about ..."
"Her appeal , we hope?" again the Julies spoke.
Smiling a little at their disjointed questioning Barbara said "No not about her appeal"
"Nah" Yvonne said mockingly "She 'eard she was gonna 'ave to share a cell with you two"
"Innit" Denny added and everyone around the table started to laugh.
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