DISCLAIMER: All Characters belong to Shed productions.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Love is Blind.
Love is Blind - Epilogue
The grand hall was filled with a vast array of people of all ages and genders. Most were seated, others walked around trying to find where they should be, checking the name tags written on the empty chairs that weren't often used and normally only gathered dust. The entire room reverberated with the noise of hundreds of voices, chattering away excitedly, until a presence on the main stage grabbed their attention and silenced them all into attentive submission.
Nikki Wade and Helen Stewart sat in the front row, side by side, nervously awaiting what was to follow. Less than a year ago neither could have envisioned sitting where they were right now, but fate and love had carried them far and they were now facing a closing chapter in their lives - graduation.
"I'm so nervous, Nikki" Helen frowned and followed it with a smile, to try and mask the butterflies that were circling wildly in her stomach.
"Hey, I thought we agreed; no worrying." Nikki discreetly edged herself closer to her partner and slid her hand tenderly into Helen's until their fingers entwined.
"I know, but it seems so grand, and look at all these people." Both women turned to face behind them, and Helen almost balked at the sight of the never-ending sea of bodies. "I don't think I can do this Nikki," She whispered in hushed tones. The ceremony had already begun, and as more graduates names were called upon to receive their diploma's, the more terrified Helen was getting.
"Yes you can!" Nikki whispered back, giving Helens fingers a quick squeeze of reassurance. "Where's the feisty Helen Stewart that I grew to love, eh?" Nikki raised her eyebrow in question.
"I think I lost her, along with my stomach lining, when I threw up this morning." Helen delivered the sentence with such sincerity that Nikki couldn't stop herself from laughing, and in turn managed to disgruntle a few parents who glared her way between claps.
"Darling, you know we are being called In Alphabetical order, and that you have to go before me, but I will be down here rooting for you, okay?" Helen gave a meek nod of understanding, but she wished Nikki could go up there to the stage with her and hold her hand - the way she used to do when she didn't have her sight. But times had changed and she realised that some things in life she would have to handle herself, without Nikki's aid.
"Helen Stewart," Both women heard the name being called, but Helen didn't move.
"Helen Stewart?" The authoritive voice boomed out again in question,
"Helen, that's you," Nikki nudged Helen in the side until she stood and made her way up that stairs and onto the main platform to be handed her diploma from the Dean, who shook her hand firmly and bid her on her way with a nod.
The whole process only took a matter of minutes, but Helen was relieved to get back to the comfort of her allotted seat.
"You did great, babe," Nikki beamed, planting a sneaky kiss on Helen's flushed cheek as she settled back and began to breath again.
"That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," She chuckled gleefully, knowing she was only saying that now because it was all over.
The girls waited patiently until as the alphabetical list filtered through letters, from S to W, and Nikki's name was the last to be called. Sauntering towards the stage with a confidence that her girlfriend envied, Nikki took her diploma in hand and instead of walking away like the rest she made her way to the podium where the microphone was.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all let me thank you all for attending our graduation ceremony today, and let me congratulate my fellow classmates, and wish them luck for the future, in whatever they endeavour to do." The echoing claps resonated around the hall, and Nikki paused until the applause died down. "I've been asked to give the final speech today, and offer some words of wisdom. I don't know if I can do the latter, but I do have a few things I want to say." She took a few seconds of quiet contemplation while the audience waited in anticipation. "Since I was a child, my parents have had my entire life all mapped out for me. They had ideals and fixed preconceptions of how their only daughter was going to turn out; plans that they have probably devised between themselves before I was even conceived. But sometimes even the best laid plans don't work out the way you want. If you had to ask my mother and father what they thought of me I'm pretty sure the adjective of choice would be disappointment. But none of that matters to me. What matters is that I spread my wings and followed my heart. I did what I wanted to do, and I may have soared a bit too close to the ground at times, but I've always managed to get back up; and I have one person to thank for that. She believed in me at a time when I didn't even believe in myself, and if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be where I am today. I love you Helen." Tears fell freely from Helens eyes as she listened to her girlfriend's heartfelt words that were spoken with such sincerity and passion. "I guess what I'm trying to say is, you can have all the degrees and money in the world but without love you have nothing." The applause echoed the room, and Nikki felt herself blush slightly. She had said none of the things that she had written on flash cards, but she was glad her speech had taken the turn it had. To have said anything else would have been insincere.
With further congratulations and words of thanks, Nikki left the stage and returned to her seat to listen to the Dean's closing speech. She was unsure of how Helen would react to an almost public outing, but she needn't have worried, as her girlfriends tear-stained eyes and beaming smile told her all she needed to know.
After the official part of the ceremony had ended, the hall emptied at a snails pace and the crowd descended out onto the sprawling gravel courtyard. It was time for the traditional photo session for the ex-students and their family and friends. Gathering in smaller groups, where several photographers with cameras ran around clicking away taking picture after picture, the happy graduates posed with their proud parents, some of them with their siblings and some with their friends.
Nikki's family were not going pay any attention to her graduation, let alone attend. She had partly chosen that path herself by quitting her degree at oxford and moving away to London against their wishes. But deep down she knew the main reason her parents wouldn't make the effort to show up was her "chosen" sexuality. They had disowned her and that was it; end of story. Nikki did not spend much time regretting that her family were probably still sitting at home in Kent without a second thought to her wellbeing when she looked around the sea of doting parents with their children. All she had to do was look at Helen to feel proud and to feel like she belonged somewhere.
Helen's father was not attending the ceremony either. But unlike Nikki, she felt sad that she could not have her parents attending the big day. For her it was more than just a graduation - it was a victory. She had made it by finishing her degree, but she had also beaten the odds by coming back out on top after the vicious attack that had almost ruined her life. Something she knew she could not have done without Nikki's help and constant love and support.
"Hey, come here Stewart," Nikki said in a cheerful voice. "We need a picture too... even if it's only going be us in it."
"Sure, Wade, why not?" Helen said equally cheerful; with a happy twinkle in her eyes. Something that had not been there only a year ago.
Straightening their robes and clutching their diploma's proudly both women posed for a photograph that managed to capture and encapsulate the happiness that beamed from each of their smiles. Another major milestone had been reached and they were about to embark onto the next.
Whilst Nikki arranged the payment with the photographer Helen spotted Claire with her family chatting happily away with Trisha.
In that moment Claire sensed she was being watched and looked over at Helen. She waved as a happy grin covered her face and without hesitation she hastily dragged Trish over to where Helen was standing. Embracing her in a bear hug she laughed at her friend.
"Hi, Claire Trish " Helen said smiling widely at her two friends.
"Hi stranger . What a great speech Nikki did, don't you think?" Claire gushed.
Helen beamed with pride as she replied. "Yes, she is very talented." She did not notice the quick shadow that crossed Trish's face before she smiled politely.
"Hi, Helen," Trish said only with a slight hint of sarcasm. "So what are you two going to do now, when the happy life of the campus is over?"
"Well we've decided to do a bit of travelling see the world while we don't have any commitments to hold us back." Helen replied, still oblivious to Trish's moody appearance. "We're heading off in four days time. There is the ball tonight and then we need to pack and get the last few formalities in order before flying out to San Francisco."
"Wow, that's some start," Claire whistled. "Where are you going after that?"
"We're going to rent a car and drive around a bit in the west coast Seeing Los Angles, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, maybe a short trip down to Mexico Then we're flying to Australia . " Helen's eyes shone with joy at the thought of all the things they were going to see. It hadn't been that long ago that she had resigned herself to a world of darkness, but now she was going to make the most of her sight and take in as many of the wonders of the world as she could. "We're going to stay in Australia and New Zealand for a month. Then we're going to Japan and China for three weeks. Then heading to India travelling along the coastline for another month, then a few weeks on the beach at Bali before going to Kenya and South Africa on safari." She couldn't mask the excitement in her voice as she rhymed off her travel plans.
"How can you afford it?" Trish enquired with a raised eyebrow. "It can't be a cheap trip "
"We've both been working during this last year and we've saved up quite a bit of money." Helen left out the fact she had been left a hefty inheritance from her Mother, which she hadn't touched.
"Are you going to see the rest of Europe as well?" Claire enquired enthusiastically.
"Yes We're flying from South Africa to Egypt where we'll sail to Greece. We're going to spend some time on the different islands there before heading for the southern part of Italy. Then Rome, Venice, Milan, flying to Marseille in France, taking the train to Barcelona in Spain then home." Helen sounded almost disappointed as she thought about the end of their trip. "I start on a fast track scheme for the prison service In January, and Nikki and I are planning to look for a flat in central London to share ah, speak of the devil."
Nikki had finally ended her negotiations with the photographer and had joined her friends.
"Come on, Ms, Stewart, you can't stand here chit chatting all day," she said with a glint of amusement in her eyes. "We have a ball to attend to, and we need to be beautiful tonight."
"Aye, and that's gonna take hours with you . " Helen quickly retorted sending Claire and Trish into fits of laughter.
They continued the easy banter for a while before saying their goodbye's to Claire and Trish and headed for the small apartment they already shared; once as room mates, now as lovers. It had felt like the end of an era when they had started to pack down everything in preparation for leaving, and allowing for other another set of students, who would soon move in in their place.
Helen scooped up the mail from the floor as they entered and brought it with her to the kitchen, quickly skimming through it to see what final bills she would have to deal with. But suddenly something strange caught her eye. What she saw made her blood freeze and all colour drained from her face. She quickly withdrew her eyes from the envelopes postmark and regained her composure. Snatching the envelope out of the bundle of post she stuffed it inside her jeans pocket. Just as she had done that Nikki swept into the kitchen.
"Have you seen the milk and the toast?"
"What?" Helen looked totally bemused at her.
"I said "
"I heard what you said, but why do you want that now?"
"Because I'm hungry ."
"You're hungry?" "But we'll be having dinner in about three hours?"
"Yes, and?" Nikki grinned cheekily.
"Never mind . Just go get ready ." Helen rolled her eyes.
"You trying to get rid of me?"
"Just go, Wade " Helen painted on a false smile and hoped Nikki wouldn't see right through it.
"Ok, ok , love it when you're bossy " Nikki slapped her bum playfully and ducked away before Helen could react.
"Go!" She demanded teasingly.
"Yes, Mam" Nikki saluted and with that she left the kitchen.
Helen could hear her rummage around in the bed room obviously in order to find some clothes. She wanted to wait until she could hear the water running in the bathroom, so she could be absolutely sure that Nikki would not come back into the kitchen.
When she was sure she took out the crumpled envelope with hands that shook lightly. She looked at the handwritten name, her name, on the front and slowly turned it around. She knew what it was, even before opening it. And she knew who it was from. Neither of the facts did anything to calm her, in fact it only enhanced her anxiety and unease. But she could not postpone opening it anymore. With a quick movement of her hand she ripped up the envelope and took out a folded piece of paper. Not much was written on it, but the content was clear. She read it again and again until she knew the words off by heart.
The thoughts swirled through her mind. Memories best forgotten came crushing back with the force of an 18 ton truck. She suddenly began to shake uncontrollable while feeling chilled to the bones. Her teeth clattered and she squeezed her arms closer around her in order to hold on to something solid. She felt like a drowning sailor about to go down under the water. Everything she had built up during the last couple of month had suddenly been shattered. At least that was what she felt right at the moment. Her returning nightmares had only recently subsided, and only then had she been able to feel like a whole human again. She had, albeit reluctantly, accepted the professional help of a psychologist to get past some of her bad memories. It had helped her a lot, but now it all seemed so far away.
Helen had been so far gone into her musings, that she hadn't heard Nikki entering the kitchen.
"It's your turn." A towel wrapped Nikki picked up a banana from the bowl in the middle of the kitchen table and absentmindedly started to eat it.
The voice made Helen jump and she let out a small stifled squeak of surprise.
"Hey, I didn't mean to make you jump," Nikki said apologetic when she noticed how white Helen's complexion was. "You alright?" she questioned anxiously.
"Aye yes " Helen stammered. "I'm fine .I'll just get ready too "
She quickly left the kitchen leaving a bewildered Nikki to muse over what that was all about, but at the moment she did not care.
The warm water from the shower made her feel almost human again. It took away the chilled feeling and made her more comfortable. She quickly dressed in the new evening dress specially bought for the occasion. Once dressed and with her makeup properly applied she felt more like herself, but still the nagging feeling at the back of her mind remained.
"Will I do?" she asked Nikki as she swirled around mischievously upon entering the living room.
Nikki's eyes were almost popping out at the sight of pure beauty in front of her.
"You're very beautiful, darling," she said with awe and could feel how she almost choked up with all the emotions that came to her whenever she had this wonderful woman within close proximity.
"You think I look ok then?" Helen said a little doubtful.
"Yes, definitely," Nikki said with conviction. "you'll be the most beautiful woman in the whole room."
"Thanks, honey you're too good to me " Helen said her voice coloured with emotions.
They quickly gathered their coats, not that they felt like it was necessary, but never the less they brought them along as even the summer weather was known to take a dramatic change at the drop of a hat.
As they entered the hall they could hear the buzz of hundreds of people speaking animatedly, inside. They soon found themselves chatting with some classmates and drinking the bubbling champagne from the glass flutes that were passed around on silver trays by waiters in Tuxedo's.
The dinner was magnificent with a five course menu and all the best wine to be served with it. It was a grand feast and the following ball had all the traditional dances and rituals before everything was cut loose and the more modern music filled the room to a mass of drunken cheers.
The night was passing in the blink of an eyes, and Nikki and Helen had not had the opportunity to dance with each other as yet, since all of their friends constantly insisted on occupying their attention. Thomas had danced with them both and congratulated them on their outstanding grades. He was staying on at Larkhall for another year to get his PhD, but all three agreed to keep in touch, with Helen promising to send him postcards from her and Nikki's adventures.
When a slow dance finally came on Nikki promptly asked Helen to join her. She held her tight, regardless of the puzzled looks they received from a few small-minded people they didn't know. Nikki inhaled Helen's perfume and sighed contently. She loved the fragrance so uniquely Helen; a mixture of woman and flowery lightness.
"Hey, are you ok? You seem a bit absent minded tonight." She whispered into Helen's ear. The concern was evident in her voice.
"Yeah I'm fine ." Helen was a little curt. And it did not go unnoticed by Nikki.
"Yes, I'm ok " she softened her voice as she knew that Nikki was just concerned about her well-being.
They continued to dance closely in silence. Helen felt the warmth emanate from Nikki's body and relished in the feeling of the arms wrapped so tightly around her. It made her feel infinitely safe and made her able to forget all the bad things that had ever happened to her, and it made her forget about the letter back in their apartment. She relaxed into the embrace and just followed the sway of the gentle rhythm of the soft tones of Savage Garden's "I knew I loved you". They lyrics filled her heart and soul. Nikki was humming along to the song as they danced, making the need for them to be alone more urgent with every step.
Nikki could feel her body react to having Helen so close and to having her olfactory sense almost assaulted with the most tantalizing and tempting fragrance in the world literally right under her nose.
She once again inhaled deeply and could feel how her nipples stiffened beneath the black silk shirt, both as a result of the inhaled sent and as result of Helen brushing against her breast. The longer they danced the more hot Nikki felt. Every time they grazed against each other the need for being alone with Helen increased. She looked at her partner and in one single glance she recognized her own desire in those green-grey eyes where it was mirrored so blatantly obvious. Nikki swallowed hard to keep her composure in order not to ravish Helen right there and then in the middle of the hall.
In silent agreement they left the dance floor, gathered their belongings, said their goodbyes and headed towards the exit. No words were said as they hand in hand walked back to their shared apartment. As soon as the door had closed behind them they started to kiss; gently at first, but soon the passion took over and the kiss deepened, and hands began to roam all over heated bodies. Clothes were discarded piece by piece as they moved towards the bedroom.
Nikki was about to lower herself and Helen on the bed when her foot was caught in Helen's jeans, which she had dropped on the floor previously in the afternoon. She lost her balance and dropped Helen on the bed while cursing. In her effort to untangle herself from the offending jeans, Nikki's eye fell on a piece of paper which had fallen out of the pocket. She recognized the insignia on the envelope. To Helen's horror she picked it up.
"What is this?"
"It's nothing," Helen said a little bit too fast.
"Hey, you don't need to snap like that." Nikki said and furrowed her brows.
"Sorry it's nothing really " Helen continued while hoping Nikki would let it go.
"It doesn't seem like nothing," Nikki was getting a bit suspicious.
"Nikki . " Helen sighed deeply before continuing. "Please don't get upset . It's Sean "
"What has the bastard done this time?" Nikki quickly retorted her blood starting to boil at the mere mention of Sean Parr.
"Don't get angry " Helen said in a pleading voice. "But he has sent me a VO,"
"And so?" The annoyance was evident in Nikki's voice. She could not comprehend what that had to do with Helen.
"And I'm going to visit him " Helen said, her voice fading off.
"You're WHAT?!!!" Nikki's head shot up and she dropped the jeans she had been holding.
"I'm going to see him I need to " Helen said with more determination.
"You can't be serious?" Nikki looked back at Helen with an questioning glance.
"Nikki, I need you to understand ." Helen tried the pleading voice again, but she knew it wasn't working.
"You want to go visit the bastard that put you through months of misery?" Nikki had started to pace the floor. "Are you absolutely out of your fucking mind?"
"I have to I can't explain it I just know I have to I need that closure." Helen replied somewhat irate; she could feel her own temper start to boil. She wanted Nikki to understand her need to do it, even if she did not understand it herself. Yet without Nikki's support she was not sure she go through with it, even though she knew she had to, in order to be totally free from the demons of the past that still haunted her.
"You seriously want me to just bloody sit here taking all this in?" Nikki said, her eyes flaming with anger.
"Please, don't make it any harder " once again Helen tried to talk reason, but as Nikki grew more angry she could feel her own control slip as well.
"Yeah it must be bloody hard being angry at someone you've snogged ." Nikki's voice dripped with sarcasm.
Against all logic Helen's stubborn streak kicked in and she just wanted the conversation to end.
"I'm going to see him and that is final "
"Fine I'm leaving now " Nikki turned on her heal and started to pick up her clothes from the floor. With angry movements she started to pull out clothes from the closets as well and throwing them along side some other stuff in the suitcase that was standing at the end of the bed. "And don't bother coming to the airport, because I'm going on this holiday on my own ."
"What?" Helen couldn't believe her ears.
"You heard! If you go and see him " She couldn't quite bring herself to use Sean's name. "Then we are over Goodbye Helen." The door slammed behind Nikki leaving Helen to rethink her decisions and her future with Nikki Wade.
Nikki freely let the tears trickle down her face without bothering to wipe them away. The cold air blasted across her face, taking her breath away as she strode across the campus grounds. Her long, lean legs carried her to her desired destination on autopilot, as her overactive mind replayed memories that she would sooner forget, but couldn't.
The day had started off so well. With Helen by her side, as both women graduated from University with their degrees, she could not have been happier. The world was now their oyster. There was nothing either could not achieve, and coming through the claustrophobic black tunnel of trials and tribulations, to finally see the light, had proved that. There was still a long road to travel, that much they both knew. But until tonight that street of opportunities had been paved with gold, though now Nikki felt that the precious metal had turned to crap.
"Well hello there stranger. What brings you in here when you have a free bar over at the graduation ball?" Trisha Harris flashed her best flirtatious smile which Nikki didn't return and chose to ignore. She did however briefly wonder if what she was about to ask was a bad idea. Trisha had had a thing for her from day one, and the last thing Nikki now wanted was to give her false hope - but what choice did she have? This was her only feasible option and Trisha seeing it as more was the risk she had to take to get a bed for the night.
"Can I stay with you tonight?" She dumped her bag on the bar to ease the weight from her aching shoulder.
"Sure but why? Where's Helen?" Confusion tainted Trisha's face as she searched the inebriated crowd behind Nikki, looking for the small Scot, who didn't appear to be with her.
"At home, hopefully rethinking her decisions." Nikki snapped truculently. "Can I take this stuff upstairs?" She nodded at her large black holdall that contained the majority of her clothes and belongings and lugged it back onto her left shoulder with a strained grunt.
"The front door's open. Give me 20 minutes and I'll join you. I just need to shut this place first. Then you can tell me what all this is about." Curiosity piqued Trisha's interest and a bubble of excited hope swelled in her chest.
"Bring a bottle with you I don't care what, as long as it gets me blind drunk." Nikki didn't wait on a reaction as she stomped moodily through the crowd of younger students who had already gone well past the recommended daily limit of alcohol.
Nikki was sitting on Trisha's sofa sipping on a can of Carling she had found in the fridge when Trisha appeared in the living room with a weighty set of keys in her hand. Nikki didn't even bother to look up, and instead kept her eyes focused intently on the piece of abstract art hanging at an angle over the fireplace.
"So? Are you going to tell me what's going on, or do I have to guess?" Trisha kicked of her shoes and sat down in the single chair, rubbing her aching bare feet. It had been a long shift at the bar which had physically drained her, and now her ex-employee was draining her mentally, by giving her the silent treatment. "ok, If your going to play the silent game I'll make up my own story. You and Helen have split up, because Helen isn't really a lesbian at all, and has been cheating on you with a hunky rugby player who has everything you don't have; brains and balls." Trisha smirked at her own pitiful joke, but Nikki didn't see the funny side.
"You're not far wrong." She snorted sardonically, with one eyebrow raised.
"What? Helen's been cheating on you?" Trisha couldn't believe what she was hearing and her jaw-dangling, gob-smacked expression, under different circumstances, would have been amusing. She couldn't quite comprehend the idea of Helen being a cheater. She had been friends with the young Scot for 3 years and she had never put her down as someone to be unfaithful - Helen was loyal to a fault.
"She may as well have done, but, no, she didn't cheat, that I know about. She is still a lying, two-faced tart." Nikki slammed her empty beer can down on the table. "Did you bring a bottle?" She asked venomously as she gave Trisha a look that said "You better have!"
"There's a bottle of Bacardi in the kitchen cupboard " Trisha responded obediently knowing from first hand experience what Nikki Wade's temper could be like when she was fired up.
"Bacardi? You work in a fully stocked bar and all you can offer me is piss water?" Nikki snapped as she made her way to get the bottle anyway. The truth was she didn't mind Rum in the slightest, but right now she felt like she had the right to bitch about what ever she liked.
Coming back with the full bottle and one shot glass, she threw herself back onto the couch and sunk lazily into its plush cushions to start on her mission to get absolutely wasted.
40 minutes and several downed shots passed before Nikki spoke again; fuelled by the alcohol pumping around her veins.
"How could she do this to me?" She slurred, aiming her rhetorical question at no one In particular. Self-pity took over the anger for a second as she felt particularly hard done by.
"Do what to you?" Trisha lifted her wineglass and moved herself over to the couch to be nearer her friend. "What has Helen done that's so bad?" The tall blonde asked with a pseudo upper class English accent as she let her hand graze over Nikki's thigh, rubbing downwards to the knee with a gentle stroke. She was well aware of what she was doing and why, even if Nikki seemed drunkenly oblivious.
"It's what she hasn't bloody done! I told her right from the start; always be honest with me - but it seems like Ms Stewart has a very short memory in more than one way." Nikki topped up her shot glass and threw the contents down the back of her throat with speed, despite the burning sensation it caused as it travelled the length of her oesophagus. "She got a Visiting order from that bastard, who we spent months in court trying to convict. 10 weeks of blood, sweat and tears to get him behind bars where he belongs, and should be fucking rotting. But now it appears that Helen has had a change of heart and wants to go support him." Nikki spat the last words out with bitter vehemence.
"That's terrible," Trisha offered up in support, but really she wasn't listening to a word Nikki was saying. She was too busy running her eyes the length of her object of desire's body; from head to toe. What Helen Stewart had, or had not done was the furthest thing from her mind right now. But seducing Nikki; now that was another matter entirely. "You would be much better off without her, Nik you need a woman, and Helen is still a girl. You need someone you can trust like me." Edging closer, Trisha curled her body into the contours of Nikki's. She quickly got rid of her half-empty glass by placing it on the table and with her left hand free she decided to run it through Nikki's hair. "We would be so good together, Nik deep down you know I'm right. Helen can't give you what I can." Nikki didn't know if it was the Rum, or if it was Trisha's slender fingers stroking down from her zip to a place they should never have been, but a heat soared in her body that didn't feel right.
"What?" Nikki shot her head around and was met with a set of eyes that were sending out a message she could not decipher. And before she could get a chance to do so, Trisha had straddled her lap and was edging in for a kiss; a kiss which both would later live to regret.
Helen sat on the edge of the bed she normally shared with her partner and stared in hypnotic astonishment at the door which Nikki had slammed shut and that was still vibrating from the forceful collision.
"Shit!" Helen cupped her face in her hands and rocked herself gently. "What the hell have I done!" She berated herself as she tried to suppress the compulsion to run after her girlfriend and explain everything that Nikki hadn't given her a chance to before she stormed out. But stubbornness held her back.
It was a typical case of the angel and the devil on her shoulder. Half of her acknowledged she had done wrong by hiding the visiting order from her partner when she should have been seeking Nikki's advice and approval; but In the same instance she felt wronged and unsupported by the reaction she got.
Nikki may have been her "other half". But at the end of the day she was her own person, who made her own decisions and mistakes; and if she wanted to see what Sean had to say then who was Nikki to object? Or did Nikki perhaps have a point? Helen didn't know what to think.
She wanted desperately to talk to Sean and perhaps finally get some closure that would allow her to bury her demons and put the past to rest. But was it all worth it to lose Nikki from her life? She didn't know the answer to that either.
All she did know was that she was faced with a choice she didn't want to make; Nikki or Sean.
"What the hell do you think you are playing at, Trisha!" With a sudden sobering moment of clarity hitting her senses, Nikki jumped free of the unwelcome kiss leaving Trisha sprawled awkwardly across the couch. "There is only one woman who gets to kiss me like that, and that's Helen. The quicker you get that through that thick skull of yours the better. I'm not interested, Trish. I wasn't before I got with Helen, and I'm certainly not interested now." Nikki shook her head, and with wobbling legs she stood to go and fumbled whilst pick up her bag. "I should leave."
"No, stay, please. I made a mistake, Nik, and I apologise. I thought you wanted me and I didn't think a little sex between two consenting single adults would be such a problem. I feel like such an idiot now." Trisha hung her head in shame, unable to meet the intimidating glare that Nikki was sending her way.
"And so you bloody should. Helen is supposed to be your friend. How the hell do you think she would feel if I told her about what just happened here? Eh?" Nikki shouted a little louder than was necessary but she felt like she needed to raise her voice to get her point across to Trisha, who was clearly trying to get what she couldn't have; and that was Nikki.
"Please don't tell her, Nikki, I'm begging you. I already thought I had lost her once after the attack; and I don't want to lose her for good this time. She'd hate me if she found out I tried it on with you." Trisha pleaded, and prayed to herself that Nikki wouldn't say anything, despite her threat. Helen Stewart meant the world to her, despite the jealousy she secretly harboured. Helen had everything she could ever wish for, including Nikki Wade, but she didn't love her any less for it and never really intended to come in the way of the couple.
"Yes, she would, and I have a good mind to march round there and tell her. But considering what's been happening tonight already I don't think that's a very good idea. You're bloody lucky, Trish any other time and "
"Yes, I know, and I said I was sorry; what more can I do?"
"Well, for a start you can promise me that if I stay there will be no more antics like what just happened." Nikki gestured towards the sofa.
"There won't be." Trisha proclaimed sincerely. "I promise you."
"Fine." Nikki finally said after a slight pause, where the silence between them was thick. "I'll be out of your hair by lunchtime. My flight leaves at 5pm." Nikki walked to the entrance of the spare bedroom as soberly as she could muster with her hollow legs.
"Your flight? Isn't Helen still going with you?" Trisha asked meekly, knowing fine well the question could rub Nikki up the wrong way. It was none of her business, but yet she was unable to help herself from enquiring anyway.
"That all depends on what she chooses " Nikki shrugged sadly as she closed over the door quietly; hoping with all her heart that Helen would do the right thing.
Helen stared up at the ominous Victorian building that seemed to cast a black shadow over everything in its midst and wondered what the hell she was doing there in the first place. All night she had lain in bed awake, tossing and turning while her mind played over the nights events in a loop, while she tried to figure out what to do. And with each hour that passed her mind changed several times, back and forth between the options she had. One minute she was going to Larkhall high security prison, the next she was going to the airport to apologise to her girlfriend. In the end she went with what her brain was telling her to do and tried her best to ignore the niggling hesitation in her heart.
Now, as a result, she found herself standing by a barbed wire gate queuing with Wife's, mothers, husbands and children, waiting to visit their loved ones who were locked up inside. But she was here for a very different reason. She wasn't here on a regular bi-monthly visit to see someone she missed, and unlike the others there was no excitement buzzing inside her; only trepidation and fear.
The grey clouds and the ravens circling overhead did nothing to ease the eerie apprehension that was washing over her. But it wasn't the building itself that bothered her; it was what awaited her inside its thick stone walls that made her quiver with dread.
Perhaps Nikki had been right; maybe visiting Sean Parr was a bad idea after all. What could Sean possibly have to say that would be of any benefit or consolation to her? She had moved on with her life since the attack, hadn't she? She had Nikki - even if she wasn't sure if that "had" was present or past tense - and she had several interesting prospects awaiting her that before she could only have dreamed of. Reliving the past or being confronted with it again had never been her intention, she wanted to leave it exactly where it belonged. But when that visiting order had arrived out of the blue in the mail she had to admit that the gesture had not only disturbed her, but had also left her feeling somewhat intrigued. What did Sean want, other than to offer an apology, which she wasn't even sure she could bear to hear or even accept. However what she did want to hear was an explanation as to why Sean had attacked her in the way he did. She wanted answers and she wanted closure; and why couldn't Nikki see that.
The hostile reaction from her partner had been expected to some extent. That's why Helen had felt the need to conceal the letter initially. She had wanted time to digest the information herself and make up her own mind before she confronted her partner with it; for Nikki had been known to go off the deep end for even the littlest of things. Nikki had a fiery temper at the best of times; especially when she felt she was being lied to or kept in the dark. But even knowing that didn't stop Helen from feeling shot down and unsupported when Nikki reacted the way she did. A fight Helen had been expecting, but a break up; that was a shock to her system. Nikki didn't have to like or approve of the idea of her setting out on this quest for a conclusion, but to end their relationship; that she couldn't understand. Nikki had promised to stand by her through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. But it seemed like Nikki had decided to bail out on her when she needed her the most. As a result Helen felt alone in a dark world where she didn't belong; more alone and cut off than she had been when she literally couldn't see a thing.
A lone prison officer strolled across the grounds and made his way to the heavy wooden gate, which seemed to open automatically at an eerily slow rate to allow the growing crowd inside. Helen wanted to run in the opposite direction as fast as her legs would carry her, but where would she run too? Back into Nikki's arms? The memory of the warmth and comfort of her girlfriends embrace nearly brought tears to her eyes, and made her wonder if she would ever again be enveloped in one of the hugs she delighted in, and that made her problems disappear.
Taking a deep sigh she pushed open the two-way door and prepared herself as best she could for what she was about to do. There was no turning back now - it was time to come face to face with her demons; in the shape of Sean Parr.
Helen watched the prison officers go about their daily routine; intricately checking bags and belongings, where drugs, weapons and other items of danger could be stored or concealed. They quickly confiscated anything that was deemed inappropriate for an inmate to receive, and placed the offending items inside a row of steel lockers for safe keeping; despite the ensuing protests from visitors.
The visitors , treated almost like convicts themselves, were herded like cattle into the adjacent room, which was filled with small tables, strategically placed in rows, and separated with a narrow gridded aisles. The walls were a drab beige colour injected with vomit-green skirting boards and the floor was a boring, and extremely depressing grey concrete. However, that was not what made Helen cautious. It was the fact that she was about to face the demon of her past in the shape of Sean Parr.
She suddenly felt chilled to her bones as she entered along with the other visitors and instantly she regretted her decision to have accepted the Visiting Order from Sean. She was feeling more and more apprehensive about what she was about to do with each passing second and her discomfort wasn't about to end any time soon. She stopped at a table and was about to sit, when all of a sudden the panic rose within her body. Her pulse went up, her palms grew sweaty and her breath came in short, quick gasps. She had a sense of deja vu, the stone walls reminding her of the dark pathway amongst the trees, where this nightmare had all began. But before she could think about it any more, a shadow fell over her as a familiar person sat down in front of her.
"Helen, you came." Sean sat at his allotted table, wearing the standard prison issue jogging suit in rain cloud grey, brightened only by an aluminous orange vest. But Helen didn't notice any of that, for she couldn't see past the eerie grin that was spread across Sean's face.
Helen swallowed and with a huge effort she calmed herself enough to speak without inflections.
"Yes, I did." Helen stood prostrate with no emotion showing on her face, but inside she trembled uncontrollably with trepidation, that she prayed was not obvious to him. She refused to give the satisfaction of knowing he terrified her.
"If you're planning on staying love, then I suggest you take a seat," A smug prison officer nodded to the plastic chair beside her.
Helen stared at the chair before finally taking the seat slowly, having the feeling that she was a little too close to Sean for comfort. She would rather have remained standing where she was in case she had to make a mad dash for the exit. But with a certain amount of cautiousness she sat down and finally took a closer look at the man who had almost ruined her life. He was still a very handsome man with a boyish look, but he had lost weight and though his eyes were bright and clear, the dark circles below them, the shaggy blonde hair and the greyish shade of his face made him look ill. The clothes were creased and gave him a shabby appearance. He was like a tramp, and a far cry from the guy Helen once knew. But that was not what caught Helen's attention, or what frightened her beyond everything else.
It was the look in his eyes. Even if it was like a veil was covering the true expression, Helen could sense the madness lurking behind the calm exterior, but was unable to fully recognize it. He stared so intensely at her, like he sucked out every little detail of her being, and that unnerved her to the core. Even the smile of genuine happiness that curled at his lips seemed to have a sinister meaning behind it.
"I'm glad you came . Helen, I'm so sorry . I didn't mean to hurt you .. please forgive me " Sean pleaded and looked at her with an apologetic expression on his face, but it didn't quite reach his eyes, that squinted perplexingly in her direction.
"Sean ." Helen started not really knowing what to say, but she continued slowly. "I don't know if I can forgive you. What you did to me " Helen felt tears threaten to erupt in her eyes but she held onto them with the last remaining piece of strength she had. "I should never have come here, it was a bad idea." She went to stand but Sean interjected.
"No, you are here now, aren't you?" Sean said a little too hastily. "But I knew you would anyway " his voice was calm, but was trembling slightly with a dangerous edge to it. "You never could keep away from me."
"What?" Helen said in sudden astonishment. "What are you talking about?"
"I knew you would never leave me." Sean drawled on pretending not to hear Helen's question.
"You never could leave me alone, could you? We're good together, Helen we always were Oh, yes, it was so good with you i knew you wanted me just as much as I wanted you . " Sean's sentences were clipped and to Helen, incoherent.
"What on Earth are you talking about?" Helen was now totally confused by Sean's ramblings.
"That's why I had to punish you for chasing after Thomas. You were acting like a slut with my best friend and he had the nerve to steal you away from me " Sean had a vacant look in his eyes, and it made Helen anxious as he seemingly stared through her, like an animal waiting to devour it's prey.
"Sean, listen, Thomas didn't steal me from you. Nothing happened between us, and I was certainly never yours in the first place had something happened between Thomas and I." Helen tried to reason with Sean, but he didn't seem to listen to her at all. Instead he just seemed to get more agitated. It frightened Helen, but she couldn't back away from him because of the other tables and people sitting at them. Quickly looking around she tried to grab the attention of the prison guard who had told her to sit, but he was too occupied, watching a couple kissing passionately at the other end of the room.
"I had to punish you, Helen . I had to make you understand that you're mine ." Sean suddenly looked directly into Helen eyes, and at that moment Helen saw the same madness she had seen at the night of the attack. Like a tidal wave had hit her directly in the solar plexus, she felt fear grip her heart and instinctively she stood abruptly. Every fibre in her body screamed to her to run away, and the faster the better. She wanted to run to the only person she knew could make everything good again; Nikki. Helen was about to turn around and move as Sean suddenly grabbed her arm.
"Let go, Sean it hurts " She whimpered as his iron grip bored into her flesh, burning to the touch like he was twisting her skin.
"I tell you, Helen I'm never letting you go never ." He hissed just before he was grabbed by two guards and dragged away to where he belonged - incarcerated in a cell where he would rot.
Nikki had woken up with a hangover the size of Grand Canyon, but a lot of coffee and the blissful absence of Trish had soon made her feel much better. With painful clarity she remembered everything about the previous night, how she had arrived at the bar asking Trish for a room for the night and how she had gotten totally drunk, having drowned her sorrows in an entire bottle of Rum. She also remembered something she would rather have forgotten completely. The all too obvious attempt from Trish to get her into bed, and it was not for sleeping. Nikki remembered how she had pushed Trish away, but the fact remained that she, Nikki Wade, has kissed another woman; a woman other than the one she loved more than anything else in the world. She despised herself for allowing it to happen, but some things just happened and there was no point in cutting herself up over it. What was done was done and no amount of fretting would make it go away.
After getting ready to leave she had called a taxi which were supposed to take her to the airport. It had started to rain and Nikki felt herself shudder slightly as the coldness started to chill her to the bone. She was standing outside on the pavement, puffing away with short erratic movements on a Marlboro Light, whilst musing over things. There was a lot of unanswered questions that she needed resolved, sooner rather than later. But she was uncertain where to begin. Not much of what had happened in the last 24 hours made sense anymore.
At the same time yesterday everything had been good and a bright future had been hers to have. But in the blink of an eye everything had changed dramatically. She was for one, alone, feeling totally miserable and sorry for herself. Yet something made her think outside the box of Nikki Wade values and ideals, since wallowing in self pity would do her or her situation no good. Not everything was what it seemed to be. The thoughts whirled around in her head as she tried to make some order out of the chaos.
She suddenly realized that she may have been a little to fast judging Helen's handling of that visiting order. She furrowed her brow as she tried focus on the events. Putting herself in her partners shoes she envisioned just how she would have coped and handled the same situation, and as she did she realised it probably wouldn't have been that different to Helen's handlings; especially not with a partner like herself. As self-realisation hit her like a ton of bricks she cursed herself for being so stupid.
Quickly her self pity drained away and in its place, a nasty shameful guilt rose up In her stomach in the form of acidic bile. She had been a stubborn fool and she knew it, but until now she hadn't wanted to admit it; not even to herself. The bottom line was she had overstepped the mark and like normal, her shout first, think later attitude had sent her into a rage, and as a result, very possibly could have lost her the best thing that had ever happened in her life; Helen Stewart.
With that dreadful thought she hauled herself and her luggage into the taxi which had just arrived to pick her up.
"Where to, love?" the aging taxi driver questioned.
"Larkhall Prison," came the curt reply from Nikki with the exclusion of any courteous pleasantries.
"You don't exactly look like you're going to prison?" he said as he pulled the taxi out in the heavy London traffic, which didn't seem to faze him.
"I'm not " Nikki said trying not to be too harsh. "I just need to pick up a friend."
"A jailbreak?" the taxi driver said with a glint in his eye. "Sounds exciting,"
"Not exactly," Nikki exhaled slowly. She was in no mood for light conversation, but she tried not to be rude to the old man, who she knew was only kidding around. After all it was not his fault that she had gotten herself into this mess.
"So, what then?" he asked in his cheery cockney accent, unaware that his passenger was a ticking time bomb of grumpy vitriol.
"I'm picking up a friend who was well visiting someone inside " Nikki had difficult not to let her rage over Sean Parr show in her voice as the words coming out of her mouth clipped and curt. But it was hard and the more she was reminded of the terrible misdeed he had committed towards Helen. It could still make her blood boil to think about it, even if he had been convicted and served time in jail.
"Ahh, I see " the taxi driver said and continued still oblivious to the fact that Nikki was not in a chatty mood. "So what's the suitcases for?"
Nikki had to mentally get a grip of herself before exploding in one of her infamous rages.
"We're supposed to go on holiday," she said gloomily and then turned to look out of the window.
The old man must finally seemed to get the hint and kept quiet for the remains of the trip.
"Ok, love here we are," he said. "That'll be £21.60 "
"Just wait here, I'll be right back, " Nikki said and got out of the taxi leaving her bags behind.
"All right "
Nikki walked up to the front gate and was stopped by the guard. She made an inquiry on the visiting hour and was told that it was soon to end. Ignoring the stare from the guard she stepped out on the pavement and lit a cigarette. It still rained, but she ignored the increasing amount of water running down her neck. Ten minutes had passed when the taxi driver shouted to her:
"Ehh, love you wanna move on?"
Nikki walked back to the taxi, her patience close to zero.
"Listen, I'm paying, so just keep it tight, ok?" she hissed with more vehemence than she meant to.
"Ok, it's your money, darlin' ." The taxi driver shrugged and sat back in a rare moment of relaxation to listen to the radio.
It had finally stopped raining, for the time being and small beams of sun had penetrated the grey sky as Nikki walked back up to the prison gate, where people had started to appear in dribs and drabs. She impatiently and expectantly waited for Helen to come out amongst the crowd, but so far she hadn't. Nikki wanted to apologize and to make amends, hell, she was even prepared to get down on her hands and knees to beg forgiveness if it came to it. Helen was all she cared about and she was not inclined to loose her now. She waited and waited watching the people get out and disappear in all directions, but no Helen. She waited for ten more minutes after the last person had left, but still there was absolutely no sign of the small Scot. It had started to pour down again and Nikki felt drenched to the bare skin as her clothes clung heavily to her. She desperately looked at her watch, which without doubt told her that she would miss the flight if she didn't get moving, and quickly.
Casting one last sad glance at the grey prison gate she turned and ran for shelter in the taxi. She ordered the driver to take her to Heathrow, even if she knew it would be a fortune with the already huge sum the taximeter had accumulated whilst waiting in front of the prison, without result.
Caught in a traffic jam Nikki felt certain that she would miss the flight as well as missing Helen. Nothing could possible go any more wrong, and it didn't help her already gloomy mood. But somehow she didn't even care, because without Helen nothing had any meaning for her anymore.
The traffic loosened and she arrived at the airport just in time for the last check-in. Without much enthusiasm she hurried upstairs to the security control, which took ages. Standing in line she couldn't stop thinking about Helen. She wondered where she was and what she was doing, since she obviously was not at the prison. The thoughts kept muddling up in her brain. She was so occupied with thinking about Helen that she didn't even notice the security control until it started to beep as she went through.
After the search revealed her sunglasses to be the offending object she was allowed to continue through the passport control and finally she could head for the gate, where the last calls for boarding where made. As one of the last passengers to board Nikki quickly got to her seat, only to find it already occupied by another woman. Nikki could feel her temper emerge and with an icy voice she said:
"Excuse me, you're in my ."
She stopped abruptly as the woman turned her face towards to her.
After Sean had been dragged away by the two guards Helen had ran out of the visiting room almost blinded by hot tears streaming down over her cheeks. She fumbled with her red leather jacket and hastily shot through the prison gate shivering and seriously shaken by Sean's mad grab for her. The look in his eyes had scared her and his crazy ramblings only added to her perception of him as being a total psychopath. But it also made her doubt her own sanity and reasons for accepting the visiting order in the first place. How could she had been so stupid, as to think it would bring her peace? It was certainly not peace at mind she was feeling right now. If anything it was sheer terror. A deep pitch black darkness threatened to swallow her up, if she would give in to the horrors that were coming back to her as she faced Sean.
The only light she could think of in all this misery was Nikki, and not even she was there to make it all better. She had walked out last night, with the threat never to return, when Helen had needed her most. It was shit! But shit happens. Helen had to admit that, but this was beyond what was reasonable. She hiccupped as the sobs wracked her petite body, making her feel totally lost.
After a long, dazed walk by the side of the pavement, somehow Helen had managed to hail a taxi to bring her back to the flat she had shared with Nikki, in the feeble hope that Nikki would have come back and would be sitting on the sofa, full of remorse. After all they were supposed to go on vacation together. But the rational part of Helen knew that Nikki would not be there, even as her heart and soul prayed that in some miraculous way Nikki would have changed her mind.
She went tentatively into the dark apartment, like a guest in her own home, not knowing for sure how to act or react. As expected and feared it was completely empty. No Nikki. Helen sighed deeply and went into the bedroom to get her suitcases, which were already packed and ready. The idea of going on vacation on her own was not all that tempting; especially not considering how much they had both looked forward to it. She looked forlornly at the two big suitcases as tears started to build in her eyes again. They only served to bring back the reality that she was now alone.
With an angry movement she dried the tears away with the back of her hand. She had worked bloody hard to save the money for this trip and to be able to go anyway, so she would be damned if she was going to miss it- Nikki or no Nikki.
After the attack she had made a promise to herself, that from that moment on she would make all her dreams come true, fulfil every wish, reach every goal and never have another regret. Life was too short and you never knew what was around the corner waiting to change your entire world.
A quick glance at her watch assured her that she got plenty of time for catching the plane. Pulling the two suitcases down the stairs with an effort she tried to forget about Sean, his threats and the disastrous visit at the prison. She should never have gone there in the first place. Nikki had been right; it had done her no good to see Sean again. In fact it had only made it all a lot worse. No, she should have listened to Nikki in the first place. But now it might be far too late to rectify that. Nikki was gone, and Helen had absolutely no idea where to.
A taxi came around the corner and Helen quickly stuck her hand out, got herself and her luggage into the back, and took a deep breath as it pulled out into the traffic.
Helen sat silently on the backseat musing over her life. She looked down at her hand and noticed the ring Nikki had given her when they had been together for eight months. Helen couldn't quite find the logic behind that, but accepted the ring with joy and thankfulness. To her it symbolised more than just Nikki's love. It was a token of the victory over the difficult odds she had had as well as it was a proof of how much Nikki cared about her. The intertwining bands of red and white gold symbolised how their life was so closely connected; two halves making a whole.
Helen turned the ring around her finger, caressing it gently. Even if Nikki had walked out on her the previous night, she still loved her more than anything else in the world. She had made a huge mistake keeping the visiting order a secret, but she could not change that now. All she could do was wish that things were different.
The taxi arrived at the airport and Helen got out, struggling to get her suitcases on to one of the trolleys. She pushed the trolley up to the check in counter where she handed in her ticket and passport.
The woman behind the counter looked at the ticket, tapped something into the computer, checked the passport and tapped something else into the computer. Then she looked at Helen.
"Are you travelling alone?"
What does it bloody look like? Helen thought with annoyance, but she only said:
"Yes, I am " She tried to answer courteously.
"Ok please put your suitcase one at the time onto the conveyor belt "
Helen did as she was asked and watched the woman attach labels to her luggage before it vanished out of sight, back on the transport bands. Silently she prayed that it would end up the same place as herself.
"Have a pleasant flight," the woman said as she handed the ticket and passport back to Helen, who just mumbled an almost inaudible "Thank you" back before she hurried to the escalator. Waiting in line for the security check managed to annoy Helen, even if she knew it would be for the best to have herself and her hand luggage searched thoroughly.
Not in the mood for tax free shopping Helen went directly to the gate and waited impatiently for the boarding to start. She could not stop thinking of Nikki. Helen didn't know if she had really expected Nikki to be at the airport considering their disagreement, but something inside her kept hoping that the woman she loved would turn up so they could take off together. Even if she didn't really believe in it, Helen somehow felt sure that they would see each other again soon enough.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this British Airways flight BA809 to San Francisco. We will start boarding in a few moments. Please have your boarding card and passport ready. Passengers flying on business class and passengers seated on row 10-15, please come forward."
Helen stood from the chair where she had been seated and went up to the entrance, unconsciously looking around for Nikki's tall, black haired frame. But she was nowhere to be seen. Resigned Helen handed in her ticket and got the small slip back. She walked to the flight convinced that Nikki wasn't coming. Once again she felt like crying, but held back the tears.
On board the plane she found her seat and slumped down in it resigned to the fact that she was going on her own. Rummaging around in the seat pocket in front of her she finally found a magazine and began to flip through the colourful pages, trying not to fall into despair. A task she was so focused on when she heard someone speaking to her from afar. She thought she recognised the voice, but shrugged it off as a feeble result of an overactive imagination.
But something made her look up anyway. And in doing so, she stared directly into the eyes of the woman who haunted every second of her life.
Both women stared into the eyes of the last person they had expected to see, not knowing what to say or do. Nikki felt paralyzed and unable to speak, her eyes wide in astonishment and disbelief. Helen looked exactly the same. She looked like fish with breathing difficulties, as her mouth opened and closed.
For a short moment Nikki felt like passing out but before she could do that the stewardess came and asked her to take a seat as the plane was about to take off. Nikki just slumped down on the vacant seat next to Helen. They both busied themselves with fastening the seat belts, thus avoiding either to speak or to look at each other.
Nothing but the roar of the engines where heard in the cabin which suited them perfectly as none of them knew what to say or even where to begin. Each of them were musing over how the fate has brought them back together, at least in a physical sense, as they were seated awfully close next to each other.
Even with the noise from the plane, the awkward silence between them was prominent. It was going to be a long flight if they where not speaking to each other. But what could they say? Have they not said all that there was to say? Or could things be forgiven and left in the past? Could they possible pick up things where they had left them and could they continue like nothing had happened?
It meant swallowing some pride on both sides, but were they prepared for that? Or was their love so deep that it could overcome any of the obstacles there had been between them?
However, who was to break the silence? They were both musing over their complex situation, but casting side wards glances to each other now and then quickly averting the eyes when they made contact. They were inevitably drawn towards each other, but had difficulties expressing it, not knowing for sure how they other one would react. But something had to be said and done, if not the flight to San Francisco was going to be unendurable.
"What are you doing here?"
"How did you get here?"
They finally spoke to each other, but at the same.
"You go first."
"No, you first"
"I will "
They stared at each other for a split second before a liberating laugh broke the awkwardness. This was what was usually their strength; the ability to laugh together. And now here they were laughing away the shadows hanging over their heads. They looked at each other with amusement and saw the old love shine through all the darkness in their minds.
"I'm sorry, Helen," Nikki bent her head, looking forlorn. "I shouldn't have gotten so angry. It's just my temper. Sometimes I speak before thinking " Her voice trailed off. She wanted to say so much more to Helen, but words eluded her.
"I'm sorry too, Nikki." Helen looked at her partner feeling the tears sting in her eyes. "I should have told you about the VO." She took a pregnant pause. "Nikki, I've been so stupid."
"I know what you're saying ."
"No, let me say this ." Helen held up her hand to silence Nikki. She swallowed the lump in her throat before continuing. "I thought it would help me to see Sean and I thought it would give me some answers. But it didn't in the way I had hoped for. It almost cost me what means the most to me, you ."
Nikki looked at Helen with adoration and said:
"I thought I had lost you ."
"You'll never lose me, Nikki I love you ."
"I love you too, Helen " Nikki's chin quivered as she fought with her emotions and threatened tears.
Helen tenderly brushed her fingers across Nikki's cheek with a smile and lifted the complimentary bottle of Champagne from the side of her chair, pouring two glasses, handing one to Nikki.
"Too the future " She clinked their glasses together and leant In for a sweet, loving kiss that would seal their fate
This was the start of their life together a life that would last an eternity.
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