Karen walked confidently onto the wing. No need to let everyone know she was nervous about her upcoming meeting with Nikki. Who knew how Nikki was going to react to the news that Helen had gone. Looking around she saw that Buki Lester and Shaz Wiley were playing pool, Yvonne Atkins, Denny Blood, and the Julies were sat at a table laughing over something with someone she couldn't quite see because they were blocked from view by the stairs. As she walked further round the stairs she recognised the last person as Nikki's cellmate Barbara Hunt. Good that meant Nikki was alone and she wouldn't have to cause suspicion by asking Barbara to leave.
Pausing for a quick breath Karen pushed open the door, walked in and shut it behind her. Looking round the cell she finally spotted Nikki lying on the bottom bunk staring at the wall.
"Nikki? ... Nikki I need to talk to you"
When she didn't answer, Karen walked over to the bunk and sat by her. Touching her shoulder Karen pulled her around to face her. Seeing the intense look in Nikki's eyes Karen stood up quickly, a bit disconcerted. Maybe this wasn't a good idea, after all Nikki was in here because she had killed someone. Remembering how Helen felt about Nikki and assuming that she wouldn't have fallen for someone likely to kill her in her sleep Karen grabbed a chair from the desk and sat down again.
"Nikki I need to talk to you ... "
"So talk" Nikki interrupted she was a bit surprised to see Karen Betts in her cell. She never usually had anything to do with her, and that was fine by Nikki, she much preferred to go to Helen ... well she used to anyway,
"... Its about Helen" Karen stopped waiting for a reaction from Nikki.
Shit Nikki thought does she know about us ... nah she can't ... gotta protect Helen no matter what she's done, Nikki thought. "Miss Stewart? Well sorry Miss Betts but don't you think I'm the last person you should be discussing a screw ... sorry Prison Official ... with."
Good, Karen thought, so she's still trying to protect Helen. "Usually I would agree with you Nikki but these are special circumstances"
"Special?" Nikki replied scornfully.
"Nikki, Helen told me everything"
"Everything?" Nikki repeated.
"Nikki please don't carry on like this" Karen answered her getting a little exasperated.
"Like this? Miss I have no idea what your on about"
"Fine play it that way if you like, but please just listen to me very carefully"
Nikki just stayed there lying on her back staring at the top bunk. Seeing that she wasn't going to say anything more Karen continued.
"Nikki, as I said, Helen told me everything. She told me how much she was in love with you, how it got too strong and she called it off, how she found you in the arms of Caroline Lewis" Nikki closed her eyes at the mention of Caroline's name, that was not a time she was proud of especially when Caroline real crime had been revealed. "How she went out with Thomas Waugh and regretted it, and about this afternoon when she told you about it." Karen concluded looking at Nikki's face which was clouded with misery. "I had no choice Nikki when she told me all this I had to ask her for her resignation"
"What!!" Nikki snapped standing off the bunk
"Nikki calm down"
"Calm down ... calm down. How the hell am I supposed to calm down. I finally did it. I cost the woman I love the career she loves." Telling someone other than Barbara that she was in love with Helen knocked her a bit. What if Karen told someone else.
As if reading her mind Karen said "Don't worry I'm not going to tell anyone. I consider Helen to be a great friend and wouldn't want to hurt her. Which is why I am here"
"What's happened?" Nikki asked while sitting back down a dreadful sense of foreboding coming over her.
"As I said, I had to ask Helen for her resignation. You two have too many enemies in this place. If it ever got out then Helen would loose her job anyway and you would lose any chance you had of getting out on appeal. So as your appeal is in two weeks I asked her to give two weeks notice, that way when you got out you would both be free of this place and could move on ... together."
Nikki just sat there staring at Karen trying desperately to take in all she had said and what it meant for them. "Why do I feel a but coming along"
"But" Karen continued "An hour ago Helen came to me in a right state ..."
"Oh no" Nikki muttered
"... She had just been to see you and was most upset. She handed in her notice like we had discussed, only it was effective immediately ... she left and she's not coming back" Karen let this sink in before continuing. "She really loves you Nikki, I know she made a mistake ... she knows she made a mistake, but in a couple of weeks time you could be out of here and with her. Can you not forgive her?."
By this time Nikki was openly crying in front of Karen. "Yes ... yes I can. I need to speak to her, to tell her that I still love her, to ask her to forgive me" Nikki said standing up and rooting through her belongings.
"I was hoping you would say that so here I bought you this" Nikki turned around and saw that Karen was holding out a phone card to her. "Don't tell anyone, do you realise how many regulations I am breaking even talking to you like this" Karen added worriedly. Nikki took the card and went to walk past Karen so she could go to the phone. "Whoa wait a minute Nikki, sit yourself down again a minute, we still have things to discuss"
After they had both sat again Karen continued. "You have two weeks before your appeal, so you have to promise me that you are going to behave. Now Helen's gone some people are going to see this as their chance to have a go but you have to just let it pass. If you get into any trouble it could mean a couple more days to your sentence or worse case scenario NO APPEAL" Karen stressed "now I have to go and tell the officers about Helen and then I have to tell all the lifers, including you again, so try not to react like you just did to the news otherwise some people are going to start putting two and two together. Okay? ... Okay Nikki?"
"Yeah I'll just act natural"
Karen got up to leave but just before she opened the door Nikki said "Thanks Karen ... Thanks"
Karen just smiled before opening the cell and walking over the wing towards the officers room.
Having seen Karen Betts enter and subsequently leave Nikki's cell, Yvonne prowled over to the cell, her curiosity getting the better of her, she knew something was going on and she wanted to know what. Pushing the door open she saw Nikki sat there staring into space turning a phone card over and over in her fingers.
"What's going on Nikki"
Dropping the phone card to the floor Nikki quickly stood up "Jesus, Yvonne, you know better than to sneak up on someone in here ... your likely to have your block knocked off..."
Yvonne bent down to retrieve the phone card and handed it back to her still waiting for an answer to her question.
"Nothings going on Yvonne I'm just drained you know from the exam and ... my appeal and ... just this place"
"Yeah ... well you wanna watch out people see you getting little visits from Betts now as well as Stewart and there gonna start talking" Nikki had tried not to visible react to Helens name but Yvonne had noticed and now her curiosity was piqued even more, but she decided to leave it. Nikki was a good ally in this place where you needed all the allies you could get so Yvonne wasn't about to push the matter, in stead she left as quietly as she had come, leaving Nikki to continue her contemplation of the phone card.
"I always knew that one couldn't hack it" Jim Fenner sneered after Karen Betts had left after telling them of Helen Steward's resignation.
"Too wet behind the ears" His cohort in arms, Sylvia Hollamby added. "These do-gooders never last long, in my day ..."
"Alright Sylvia" Gina Rossi added "we all know what it was like in your day, we all know that you had to walk to work because they hadn't invented the wheel"
As everyone started laughing, even Jim was sniggering behind his mug of tea, Sylvia stood up and trounced to the door. As she opened it she muttered "well I never"
"I'm sure you haven't" Gina responded but Sylvia was already waddling across the wing. "Right, well I suppose I better go round up the lifers for the governor. Jim you coming?"
"What ... Oh no take Mark I've got some reports to write." He watched Gina and Mark make their way to the gates then sat and stared through the window to the wing, his gaze was drawn to a tall, dark haired lifer. "Well well Ms Wade, your saviour isn't here for you now..." he thought "two weeks till your appeal ... you'll be lucky" His thoughts were interrupted as he saw Maxine Purvis saunter past the officers window and he began to plot how he was going to get everything he wanted.
Nikki didn't know how she had sat through Karen Betts retelling her (and the other lifers) that Helen had left when all she had wanted to do was go to the phone and call Helen. As soon as they were led back onto the wing she made her way to the phone, there was a long queue but if she was lucky she might get to use it before lock down.
The wing was a buzz with gossip as within seconds of the lifers returning everyone knew that Miss Stewart had left. Barbara sat looking over at Nikki in the line for the pay phone, not listening to Shaz and Denny's inane chatter. Nikki didn't look good, she was worn out and if anyone was to look over at her now it would be easy for them to put two and two together and come pretty close to the correct answer, but what could she do. Looking over toward Yvonne she could see her looking from Nikki to herself and knew that she had worked it out.
"We gotta do something Babs, these animals work out what I just did and Nikki won't make it to her appeal"
"I know Yvonne but what?"
"Well we gotta get her off the wing for a start. You go back to your cell and I'll get her"
"Nikki I need a word" Yvonne said as soon as she reached Nikki.
"Not now Yvonne, I'm waiting to use the phone"
"Yes now" Yvonne said insistently
"Look Yvonne this is an important phone call ... I need to make it"
"I know" was all Yvonne said and from the tone Nikki could see that yes Yvonne did know. "Come on Babs is waiting in your cell for us"
Nikki looked at the phone, the girl in front of her was just hanging up. "Yeah ok" she muttered and they both walked off to her cell.
"What was that all about?" Maxie Purvis said as she saw Yvonne lead Nikki away from the phone just as the latter had got to the front of the queue.
"What?" came Al's response.
"Tell ya later for now get outside Wades cell and listen to what's going on" she ordered Al.
Denny having seen Babs, Yvonne and Nikki enter the cell knew something major was going on and that Yvonne wouldn't want to be overheard by just anyone, so made her way over to the table outside of the cell to ward off any wanderers who got too close. She got there at the same time as Al.
Too many years of meeting suspicious people had caused Yvonne to be cautious therefore when they heard a commotion between Denny and that Scottish beef Al right outside Nikki's cell she knew something was up. "Hang on Babs, be right back" and she sauntered over to the door. "Oi mush" she said to Al "get lost".
Seeing that she was outnumbered Al went back to Maxie having learned nothing boy was Maxie gonna be pissed.
"Yeah Yvonne sorted"
"Good. Get Shaz and sit outside this cell don't move I don't want anymore unwelcome visitors, get it"
"Trouble?" Barbara said as Yvonne walked back in.
"Purvis sent her pitbull to listen outside but Denny sorted it. She said anything or moved even?" Yvonne told Babs pointing to Nikki who was lying on the bottom bunk.
"No .... "
"I'm not deaf you know" Nikki said
"No just bloody stupid" Yvonne responded
Babs stood back as Nikki thundered off the bunk. "What did you say?"
"You heard me. Look at you Nikki, filled with self pity and self loathing over what ... a woman ..." Yvonne seethed adding in an angry whisper "... a screw no less" She was expecting the shove when it came so easily sidestepped it. "You can expect worse from that lot out there when they find out about you and Stewart" Yvonne said indicating over her shoulder to the door. "You've got to pull yourself together Nikki"
Nikki had sat down again and slumped against the table. "Yvonne's right Nikki" Barbara said sitting next to her. "If you carry on like this it's only a matter of time before Maxie Purvis or Fenner work it out."
"Fenner's going to try it on now anyway" Yvonne added
"Two weeks Nikki, then you'll be free of them all but for the next two weeks you have to be careful, you have to act naturally and for God sake you must control your temper"
Nikki looked at Barbara then stood up and faced Yvonne. "Your both right. Two weeks and I can kiss this shit hole goodbye ... hopefully" Nikki added ruefully. "I'm sorry Yvonne , you know for the ..."
"I know it's ok. Now we better get out there and you can show your mug before lock up so no one get suspicious"
"Well except for Purvis" Barbara added.
"You leave Purvis to me" Yvonne said as all three made their way to the door.
It had been a week since Helen had left Larkhall and not one second of it had been spent thinking about anything but the place and a certain prisoner. She had heard from Karen that Nikki hadn't taken the news well but that Yvonne Atkins and Barbara Hunt had been looking out for her. Barbara she could well believe, but Yvonne Atkins ..... well would wonders never cease. Karen had also told her that she had given Nikki a brand new phone card so that she could phone her but so far there had been no call from Nikki and she was beginning to think that the damage she had done could not be fixed, damn but Nikki could be pig-headed sometimes. One more week then Nikki could be out and I'll make her listen to me, Helen thought before going for a long soak in the bath.
It had been a week since Helen had left Larkhall and not one second of it had been spent thinking about anything but her, what she was doing, where she was or who she was with. It was the who that bothered Nikki the most, When she got out of here she could find Helen wherever or whatever Helen was doing, but if she had decided to stay with Thomas in the end then she didn't think she could deal with that. Things had been fairly quiet this past week, not at all what she had been expecting. There had been little digs from Fenner and Bodybag but nothing too wounding. Something big was brewing though, she could feel those two wouldn't let her leave here without a good send off, then again neither would Purvis and her mates, every time the Peckham Boot Gang came out of their cells Yvonne had been at her side. Nikki was glad of the body guarding but just wished someone else was doing the guarding of her body, Yvonne was a nice lady and all but she was no Helen Stewart. She was just going to have to stay in her cell as much as possible over the next week and keep her head down until her appeal and then if they didn't let her out ... well she had a few people that she could take her frustrations out on.
Looking over towards her bedside cabinet she saw the phone card that Karen had given her last week. May as well use it she thought to herself and got up to join the queue for the phone.
Ten minutes later and without being disturbed by Yvonne or Barbara this time she dialled Helens number.
"You've reached Helen Stewart's machine, leave a message after the tone"
"Great I've finally plucked up the courage to ring you and I get the machine, I'll try again later. I .... I love you Helen" Nikki replaced the receiver and walked over to join the others at the pool table.
"Shit!" Helen swore when she replayed the message after getting out of the bath, she had heard the phone ring but had decided there was no way she was going to reach it before the machine cut in so she had left it. Deciding that she wasn't going to leave the house till Nikki rang back she went and got herself a mug of tea and sat in the lounge waiting for the phone to ring.
"Right Al tonight's the night. When I give the nod I want you to start on Buki, make it look convincing and make sure Wade gets caught up in it" Maxie instructed.
"What about Atkins? I want her"
"Leave Atkins for now"
"But I ..." Buki started to protest.
"What Buki?" Al asked menacingly
"Don't worry Buki you'll be well compensated" Maxie told her "Now go wait on the wing for my nod OK?"
Having waited a long twenty minutes listening to the two Julies and there disjointed conversations, Nikki made her way back to the phone. Five minutes later she was again dialling Helens number.
"Nikki?" Helen asked after snatching the phone up on the first ring
"Hi, sorry I missed you before, was in the bath ... um how have you been?"
"I've been .... I've been .... missing you"
"Yeah me too ... um missing you. Nikki I'm so sorry for everything that ...."
"Shhh, it's alright Helen, I know, so am I"
They were both silent for a while then Nikki said
"It's my appeal next week, will you be there?"
"Just try and stop me"
"Good ... good. Look there's a queue for the phone I'm gonna have to go, but I'll phone again next week OK?"
"Yes you had better. Nikki?"
"I love you"
"I love you too" and with that Nikki put the phone down.
Having seen Nikki put the phone down with a sappy look on her face Maxie decided now was the time, she wouldn't be expecting anything. Looking over at Al she gave a slight nod to her head and sat back to watch the action.
Yvonne had also see Nikki finish her call and had seen Purvis order Al to start what ever it was they had planned. "So this is it" she thought "Do your worst".
"Barbara get Nikki back in your cell NOW!" and without questioning her Barbara rushed over to Nikki to propel her towards their cell. "Denny, Shaz get outside Nikki's cell and make sure no one gets in" she said looking meaningfully at the both of them.
"But ...." Shaz started to protest.
"Come on babe no time for questions" and Denny dragged her over towards the cell
"Julies Keep an eye out I'm off to pay a little visit to Purvis"
Seeing Nikki walk over towards her cell after Maxie had given her the nod, Al picked up her chair and threw it in the direction Nikki was walking, while shouting at Buki about her cheating at the cards they were playing. The chair landed just in front of Nikki and she spun around to see where it came from, just in time to get a charging Al and Buki in her midriff. Pushing them off her she stood up just in time to see Barbara coming towards her but it was too late Buki and Al were still fighting and were including her in the mess. Trying to get away from them again, she pushed them away and they both fell to the floor in a tangle just as she was grabbed from behind by a smiling Jim Fenner who had conveniently only seen her shoving Buki and Al.
"You just couldn't behave yourself could you Wade? Right it's down the block for you," he smirked "and you two" he added to Buki and Al who were being helped up by Mark and Gina.
Barbara, Denny and Shaz watched as Nikki was dragged past them towards the solitary wing by Fenner who could barely conceal his delight.
"Damn" Yvonne thought seeing what was happening at the end of the wing. Looking over towards Purvis she saw her smiling at the commotion going on. "You'll wait Purvis" and with that she walked over towards a worrying Barbara and two Julies and a forlorn Denny and Shaz.
Pacing up and down the tiny cell, Nikki got even more frustrated. What the hell had happened. On minute she was talking to Helen the next she was being dragged down here by that shit Fenner. Banging on the door she shouted "Let me out of here... I didn't do anything" kicking the door for good measure she added "bastards".
"Oi, we'll have non of that Wade" Fenner shouted through the door "You've really done it this time, you can kiss goodbye to that appeal of yours next week" getting angry himself that Nikki wasn't responding to is taunts he added "Helen's going to need some comforting in this hour of need, maybe I'll visit her this evening"
"You bastard you stay away from her" Nikki hissed through the door so only Fenner could hear it. "If you touch her I'll kill you" she added.
Fenner gulped she sounded like she really meant it, he was just about to respond when he saw Karen walking down the corridor "Ma'am" he sneered instead and walked past her back towards the wing.
"Stand back from the door" Karen said before unlocking the bolt. Opening the cell Karen entered a bit cautiously, Nikki was sat on the edge of the bed.
"It wasn't me Miss Betts, I swear, I was just walking back to my cell from speaking to Helen on the phone when a chair was thrown in front of me and those two idiots started fighting. I was trying to get away."
"I know, since this happened yesterday I have had visits from Barbara Hunt, the two Julies, even Denny and Shaz and, most surprisingly, Yvonne Atkins. All of them told me that you weren't involved, which I knew anyway, but I had to go by procedure which meant talking to the PO's on duty yesterday. All of them told me the same as your friends ... well all except one"
"Wouldn't be Fenner by any chance would it" Nikki asked, feeling a little overwhelmed by what Karen had just said.
"Yeah ... well lets get you back to the wing"
Two minutes later Nikki was back on the wing and surrounded by her friends.
"Thanks guys, Miss Betts told me what you all did. Thanks."
A furious Jim Fenner stormed into Maxie's cell.
"What the hell was that yesterday? You said you were going to sort Wade out?"
"And I will Mr Fenner, you got to have patients, these things take time, planning and equipment ... I need you to get me something and in return I'll give you what you want"
"Oh yeah" Fenner advanced towards her.
"Yes Mr Fenner, Nikki Wade won't be leaving here next week." Maxie said sidestepping Fenner's wandering hands. "Now if you'll excuse me I have some laundry to do"
"Wait" Fenner barked at a departing Maxie "What was the equipment you need?"
"Oh a knife Mr Fenner ... I need a knife" and with that Maxie walked out of her cell leaving behind a grinning Fenner.
"Wade won't know what's hit her" he thought as he left the cell.
It was the night before her appeal and Nikki decided to phone Helen for the last time, hopefully, from prison. The queue for the phone was shorter than normal but the girl on the phone had a brand new card and was determined to use it. Consequently Nikki only had ten minutes before lock up by the time she got to use it.
After two rings Helens machine picked up. "Hi darling, just ringing to remind you that it's my appeal tomorrow, as if you could have forgotten. I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. I ... I don't think it would be worth me getting out if you weren't there, I mean ... God I hate these machines. I'll see you tomorrow babe. I love you" Nikki walked over towards the table where all her friends were.
"Did you get through" Barbara inquired
"Oh ... well maybe she was in the bathroom" Barbara said although everyone around the table thought it sounded lame.
"Yeah" Nikki muttered. "Think I'm gonna go to bed, big day tomorrow"
"Yeah night Nikki sleep well" Yvonne said watching Nikki saunter over the wing towards her cell. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Al McKenzie get up and run towards Nikki something glinting in her hand. Without thinking she dashed over to Nikki just as Al reached her and plunged the knife towards Nikki's back.
Karen Betts made her way onto the wing. It was Nikki's last night and she wanted to wish her good luck for tomorrow. She was just walking through the gate when she saw Yvonne Atkins racing across the wing towards Al McKenzie who was closing in on Nikki with what looked like a knife in her hand. Before Karen could summon the PO standing by the pool table with another inmate Al had brought the knife down and plunged it into Yvonne who had reached Nikki before the knife had. Rushing over to them Karen expertly disarmed Al and assessed Yvonne's wound, turning to look for help she saw that Nikki had Al pushed up against the wall with an arm at her throat, and a waddling Sylvia was coming through the gate from the officers lounge.
"Get McKenzie down the block NOW" she shouted at Sylvia.
"Here miss" Julie J said passing her the towel she had retrieved from her cell.
"Thanks" pressing the towel to Yvonne's shoulder she said to the arriving PO's "get these people into their cells and get me the MO"
Over the next couple of minutes everyone was hustled into their cells and Thomas Waugh arrived to look at Yvonne and take her down to the infirmary.
Half an hour later Karen unlocked Nikki's cell, Barbara looked up from the table where she was writing in her diary and Nikki jumped up from the bunk.
"How is she miss?" Nikki asked before Karen could say anything.
"Sore but fine, it was just a flesh wound, don't worry"
"Thank God" Barbara muttered "Whatever possessed her and where did she get the knife from?"
"Precisely what I want to know. Are you up for some questions Nikki only we won't have time in the morning before you leave and I really do need to sort this mess out as quickly as possible"
"Yeah sure, I didn't really see anything though"
"None the less I need to know what you did see, could you come to my office so we don't disturb Barbara" and with a nod from Nikki they both left for Karen's office.
Helen sat staring at the answer phone listening to Nikki message replay over and over. How could she forget that tomorrow was the day they had been waiting for, for such a long time. Reaching over she replayed the message once more. The tears started flowing again as she heard Nikki tell her if it wasn't for her it wouldn't be worth getting out. "Oh God, what have I done now" she said staring down at the letter she had received that morning from the doctors. Pregnant!. Looks like she was going to pay for her night with Thomas for the rest of her life. Pregnant. How was Nikki going to react. Angrily, that's how. Just another let down in a long line of let downs. Stifling the tears behind her hand she made a decision. She wasn't going to go tomorrow. If she did Nikki would notice something was wrong and get it out of her and she couldn't stand to see the look of revulsion in her face.
However even though her world wash crashing down around her ears, Helen couldn't help but feel a bubble of happiness well up inside. A baby. She was going to have a baby. She was gaining one loved one but at the expense of another.
Oh well she couldn't tell Nikki but she could and had to tell Thomas that he was going to be a dad. Biting the bullet Helen got up and got her bag and keys and headed for the door.
Thirty minutes later and she was sat outside Thomas's house in her car. Going over one last time what she was going to say. Taking a deep breath she got out and walked over to knock on the door. From inside she could hear laughter and had to knock on the door again before she could hear someone coming along the hall towards the front door. When the door opened she was surprised to see Di Barker on the other side.
"Miss Stewart" Di said a little shocked. They both stood there staring at each other until another voice floated down the hall.
"Who is it Di?" Helen heard Thomas say before he came out of the lounge and walked towards the front door. "Helen?"
"Hi Thomas, I need to talk to you, can I come in?"
"Yeah sure." Thomas said beckoning Helen in and as he passed Di. " Di why don't you go and make some tea"
"Yeah sure" Di muttered making her way into the kitchen.
"So you and Di huh?" Helen asked
"Yeah" Thomas said and his face softened as he looked in the direction of the kitchen "She's really nice, you know ... not at all what I expected. So ..."
"So ... listen I have to tell you something ... it's very important."
"What is it Helen, your making me a little nervous"
"OK, this is going to be easier if I just say it so here goes ... I'm pregnant"
Well that had gone well Helen thought as she let herself into her house later that evening. Thomas had been stunned at first but then had taken it into his stride. It had been decided that as Helen was having the baby then Thomas would support her in any way he could and would always be a part of their lives. When Di had entered with the teas, against Helen's protestations he had told her and she had also been understanding and knowing that Helen and Thomas had needed to talk without interruption had left them to it urging Thomas to ring her when he was finished. Which had quite surprised Helen who had always thought of Di as a bit scatty and dippy. After she had left Helen had told Thomas about Nikki and how everything was so messed up.
Back at home she made her way passed the blinking answer machine thinking about what had happened over the passed couple of hours. If only it was going to be that simple to tell Nikki, she thought, but knew it never would be. Thomas had urged her to go to Nikki's appeal tomorrow and to tell her about the baby. But Helen knew Nikki would just push her away once more and she couldn't face that, not again. Anyhow she had better get an early night, tomorrow was going to be a long day - a long day of worrying.
"Di, your working tomorrow aren't you?" Thomas asked after he and Di had finished watching a film.
"Yes, I'm on escort duty tomorrow. Taking Nikki Wade to court for her appeal. She got a good chance as well. Why?"
"I want you to do something for me"
"Oh yeah, What would that be?" Di asked suggestively
Grinning Thomas leaned forward and whispered into her ear "I want you to let slip about Helen being pregnant to Nikki Wade" and pulled away with a big grin on his face.
"Why" Di asked confused
"Because I know Helen and she'll need a push in the right direction to get this particular job done"
"Oh I see" Di said not really seeing "Ok"
"Great ... now where were we ..." Thomas mocked leered as he advanced on Di.
Next morning Di walked into Nikki cell determined to do as Thomas asked, but at the right time.
"Ready Nikki?" she asked cheerfully
Dressed in the same suit as she had entered the prison wearing four years earlier Nikki turned. "Yeah as ready as I'll ever be I guess". Turning to Barbara they both smiled at each other. "Come here you" she said to her and they both embraced.
"I'm going to miss you Nikki" Barbara said with a tearful voice.
"I'll miss you too. Keep in touch" And with a kiss to the smaller woman's brow Nikki left the cell. She came face to face with Denny and Shaz. "Look after each other you two"
Seeing Yvonne coming up to her with Karen, having just been let out of the infirmary Nikki added "and look after Yvonne she not as young as she used to be"
As Denny and Shaz started to snicker Yvonne said rather indignantly "Oi Watch it Wade" and not being able to keep a grin off her face added "now come 'ere and hug your white knight"
"Thanks Yvonne. How is the shoulder?"
"Sore ... but not sore enough to stop me ..." and her eyes trailed of to a pissed of looking Maxie Purvis.
Seeing the direction her stare was going Nikki advised "Just be careful when you do. However, if I'm back here tonight she's mine"
"Then I guess it's a good job for me you won't be back 'ere tonight then 'cos I don't want to fight you for her"
"Yeah ... you'd lose every time" Nikki joked
"Oh really. Get away with ya I got a reputation to protect. Good luck Nikki, see ya on the flipside"
As she walked away Nikki was nearly thrown to the ground as the two Julies launched themselves at her.
"... ya Nikki"
"I'll miss you to Julies" Nikki said on a sob.
"'Ere Wade you don't reckon you'll get out do you" Maxie jeered from the other side of the wing, her cronies laughing.
Looking at Yvonne's whose face had turned to stone she turned to Maxie and in unison with Yvonne shouted back "Piss off Purvis" Everyone who was in listening burst out laughing and Maxie trounced off back into her cell.
"Come on Nikki, it's time to go" Karen Betts said from beside her. Letting go of the Julies Nikki walked over to the gate, turned and with a brave smile said to all her friends "Don't let the buggers get you down"
Hand cuffed on one side by Di Barker and on the other by Karen Betts, Nikki sat in the car waiting for the traffic lights to change when Di piped up.
"Saw Helen Stewart last night" having seen she had got both her companions attention she carried on. "She's looking really well. She came round to Thomas's last night as we were having dinner" Feeling Nikki tense at the mention of Thomas, Di stuttered to a stop having lost track of what she was going to say.
Karen had also felt Nikki tense so asked Di "You and Thomas seeing each other are you Di?"
"Yeah, yeah we are" Di answered and Nikki visibly relaxed "Anyhow she's pregnant" she blurted and Nikki's head nearly snapped off it turned so fast to look first at Di and then at Karen.
In keeping with the conversation but looking Nikki straight in the eye Karen said "I didn't know that ... I think we should talk about something else don't you Di?"
Having accomplished what Thomas had asked of her Di agreed. The rest of the journey to the court house was completed in silence, although Nikki's feeling were roaring around in her head screaming at her to do something, but what could she do.
Sat on the bunk in the cell under the court house where she had been led to after the first session all Nikki could think about was what Di had said in the car this morning. Helen was pregnant with Thomas's child. If anyone had asked her what had happened in court that morning she quite possibly would have replied that Helen was pregnant with Thomas's child because that is all she had thought about all morning. She hadn't heard anything that had been said and Karen had had to kick her in the shins to get her to stand up when the judge entered the court. Thank God she hadn't had to take the stand. She had noticed one thing though, Helen wasn't there. The gate to the cell opened and Karen walked in.
"Nikki what are you playing at?"
"You have to at least look like you give a damn about what happened otherwise they are going to think you that your not repentant for what you did and send you straight back to Larkhall. Now I know it was a shock about Helen but you can't do anything about it if you are back in Larkhall tonight. Get a grip"
"Is she here?"
Sighing Karen responded "No"
"Will you phone her, tell her that I know and say that I still want her to be here?"
"No ..." holding up a hand when she could see Nikki start protesting. "...I'll phone her and ask her to come in but I'm not telling her that you know, that's something you'll have to do ... tonight when you see her" Karen added meaningfully.
"Thanks Miss Betts"
"You'll be going back in soon so I'll go now and phone her"
When Karen got back a few minutes later it was to tell Nikki that Helen hadn't answered her phone but that she had left a message on her answer machine. Thanking Karen for her help they made their way back into the court room.
Helen hadn't answered her phone because she had been sat at the back of the court room trying not to bring too much attention to herself. She hadn't been able to stay at home, not knowing that if Nikki didn't get her appeal then this could be the last time in a long time that she could see her. So she had arrived early and snuck into the court room so that she was sat in the furthest most corner with an indirect view of Nikki. She had spent the entire morning not listening to the proceedings but staring at Nikki who seemed to be off in another world of her own. What was she doing? this was the most important day of her life and she wasn't even listening to what was going on. Maybe Karen would say something to her during the break. If she didn't buck up after though Helen would have to make herself noticed, maybe then she would remember that this was an appeal that she was supposed to be interested in.
When court returned Nikki took more interest in what was going on. She listened to all the evidence that was presented for and against her release, given Trish a small smile of encouragement when she had taken the stand and looked the lead judge in the eye when he had said that they would now adjourn to consider their response. After spending another two hours in the cells below the court house she was being congratulated by Di and Karen on her release. The judges having decided to lower her conviction to manslaughter and therefore having served four years she had served her sentence. After Karen and Di had departed she turned around to find Trish behind her.
"Well done babe, lets get out of here"
"Yeah, yeah lets go" taking one final look around the court room as it was emptying she thought she saw Helen leaving but put it down to wishful thinking.
"We thought we would go back to the club" Trish was saying "We have champagne waiting on ice"
"Yeah sure" Nikki said and followed Trish to a waiting cab.
Helen had stood in the shadows watching as Trish had led Nikki to a cab and driven off. She had just stepped out when she heard someone calling her name.
Turning around she saw that it was Karen. "Hi Karen"
"I just phoned you again to tell you the good news. Guess I didn't have to, you were there all along?"
"Yes, right at the back. It was a good result"
"Yes it was. So what are you doing here then with me and not in that cab with Nikki?"
"It's got even more complicated since we last talked Karen" Helen said evasively
"I know Helen"
Helen looked at Karen when she said this. "You do?"
Karen nodded "And what's more so does Nikki"
"But how? ... Di Barker"
"How did Nikki take it?"
"That's something your going to have to ask her don't you think. Anyway I have to get back to the madhouse, make sure Atkins hasn't killed Purvis" Seeing Helen's confusion Karen added "That's something else you can ask Nikki about" and she walked off to the curb where Di was standing by the car. Helen smiled over at Di and waved before walking off to where her car was parked.
Nikki was sat at the bar drinking a flute of champagne. It was going straight to her head but she supposed that was the whole point of champagne especially as she wasn't used to drinking alcohol these days. Trish sat beside her and there was a brunette hanging off her arm who Nikki had been introduced to but couldn't remember her name. All around her there were people she hadn't thought she would ever see again and wasn't particularly worried about that fact. Truth be told it was all a bit overwhelming and she didn't want to be here. Sensing something was wrong Trish leaned over
"Come up to the office for a minute Nikki" and grabbing her by her hand led her through a door marked private.
When they reached there Trish began again. "So what's wrong and don't tell me nothing I know you too well remember"
Knowing she spoke the truth Nikki decided to be truthful. "I'm in love ... with Helen Stewart"
Nikki smiled, so Trish remembered her, "The ex-Governor" she clarified. Nikki spent the next few minutes pouring her heart out to Trish.
"Well what are you waiting for then. Your out now go after her" Trish said when Nikki had finished.
"and she doesn't know that I know she's pregnant"
"How do you feel about it"
"Helen's the only one I could see myself having children with" Nikki replied
"Hang on then who told you?" Trish asked confusedly and slightly miffed at Nikki's last statement.
"Di Barker let it slip"
"How did she know?" Trish asked still confused
"Don't know. But it must be true otherwise why didn't Helen come today"
"I did" Both Trish and Nikki whirled towards the door when they heard the sultry Scottish tones coming from Helen who was stood at the door, "Hope you don't mind, they told me downstairs that I could find you up here"
Nikki and Helen's eyes had locked the minute that Nikki had looked over towards the door. Trish looked from one to the other. "No ... no we don't mind. I better get back downstairs ... see you later Nikki" and kissing Nikki on the cheek Trish left the room. Nikki and Helen didn't even notice her go they had just stood there looking at each other.
Walking into the room and over to Nikki Helen stood in front of her. Placing a palm on Nikki's cheek Helen said. "Nikki ... Nikki I am so sorry"
"No Helen its okay, I ..."
"No let me finish. I'm sorry I broke it off, it was too much and so strong that I couldn't live with you always being within reach but never being able to do anything about it. All that running around, being cautious, always on the look out for someone who could ruin us, I couldn't cope with that anymore."
"Shh Helen it's alright"
"No it not Nikki"
Reaching up and holding Helen's head in her hands Nikki said. "Yes it is Helen ... you were right to call it off. It was the wrong place at the wrong time"
"Yes it was but I don't regret a single thing about it ... apart from hurting you."
"But ... But now that your out, we're both free. Nikki I love you" seeing Nikki start to smile "I always have since the first minute I saw you coming down those stairs and challenging me. I was always seeking you out, going down onto the wing even though I didn't need to. When you first kissed me I was so ecstatic but then my mind started working and I pulled away not because I didn't want to but because I did want to ... so much, I wanted you so much that day. But I was scared so I fell back into the routine of being a Prison Official and that's when I first started really hurting you I know and over the next 18 months it seemed like I couldn't do anything but fall deeper in love with you and hurt you more. And then there was Thomas"
Nikki who had been listening in awe to everything Helen had said interrupted her. "No! No Helen. It doesn't matter. Thomas doesn't matter. I know that it wouldn't have happened if we had been together or if I had been out. So no there was nothing wrong with what happened especially ..." Nikki trailed off and looked at Helen's stomach, placing a soft hand just above the belt of Helen's trousers "Was Di Barker right?" Looking into Helen's eyes. "Are you ?"
"Pregnant?" a beautiful smile spread across Helen's face, everything was going to be alright. "Yes, yes I am"
"Wow!! your going to be a mother Helen ... a parent" Nikki said in awe.
"So are you ... I hope"
Looking into Helen's eyes and seeing the love so obviously there Nikki nodded her head just a little but it was enough for Helen and she reached up and pulled Nikki's head down to hers. Just before her lips touched Nikki's she heard Nikki whisper to her "I love you Helen Stewart" and she replied "I love you too Nikki Wade" and then the gap was closed between them.
An hour later a very happy and dishevelled Nikki and Helen made their way out of the office and down to the party. Seeing them Trish smiled to herself, "thank God" she thought to herself. "She deserves the best" and raising her glass of champagne she shouted to all the guests assembled in front of her.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. Nikki Wade!"
Nikki turned to Trish and raised her hand in thanks, then looking at Helen said "I love you and I would understand that you would want to celebrate my freedom but please can we get out of here. I haven't been among this many people in years and it's a bit overwhelming"
Raising up Helen kissed Nikki and said "Ok lets go home" and leading Nikki out of the club they went to start the rest of their lives ..... together.
It was little Evie's three year birthday and Nikki watched her chase around the garden with Toby, Thomas and Di's two year old. Helen was in the kitchen having a cup of tea with Thomas and Di, who had become good friends over the years and had married shortly after Nikki was released. Life was good. Since getting out of Larkhall nearly four years ago, Helen and herself had been inseparable, they hadn't spent one night apart, even the nights when Nikki had been banished to he sofa after an argument, she always woke up with Helen in her arms. Life was perfect and now it was going to get even better. Feeling a pair of arms wrap around her from behind she said. "Hey gorgeous. Di and Thomas gone?"
"Hi sweetheart, yeah they'll be back in a couple of hours. You feeling alright now?" Helen said looking at Evie and Toby
"Yeah, was this morning sickness lark as bad for you as it has been for me?"
"Nah was worse. Och no need to hit me" she said after Nikki had swatted her arm. "It'll be alright in a couple of months. You'll do great"
"Have I told you lately that I love you?" Nikki said pulling Helen towards her.
"Isn't that a song?" Helen joked then added seriously. "Yes you have and I love you too."
"Good. Now you look after the kiddies I have go prepare lunch. The Julies, Denny, Shaz, Barbara and Yvonne will be here soon, oh and Karen and Trish, and we have a lot to celebrate."
"We sure do" Helen muttered watching Nikki dart into the house. Life was perfect and in 7 months there would be another addition to their love story, and she couldn't wait. After leaving the club all those years ago Helen had taken Nikki home and they hadn't left for a week, and only then to go to the shops for more supplies. As time went by life had gradually become normal and on the day after Evie was born Helen and Nikki had made the commitment to each other in front of all their friends. Now it was three years later and they were so happy. Larkhall was a distant memory and that was the way it was to stay. Hearing the squeals of delight emanating from the kitchen Helen sighed as she got up. "Oh well peace is shattered" she thought and picking up Evie and Toby went to join the one she loved.
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