DISCLAIMER: All the characters used within this story are the property of Shed Productions. I am using them solely to explore my creative ability.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short piece is a follow on from Scottish Helen's Larkhall University piece which I can't find and also dedicated to a Nottingham professor who was featured in the Daily mail about Celebrity Worship Syndrome and it seemed fitting to INCLUDE him in a piece of the fanfic he most dislikes!! it has expanded to be a fanfic

Larkhall University

By Richard

Part Two

Mark was in the typing room which had been a seminar room till Griffiths took it over to extend his empire. He was waiting around for some typing to get done but needed to make himself comfortable as the new typist Zandra was not of the best.

"You twatting twat of a computer. Why the frigging hell doesn't this computer do what it should be doing."

Ordinarily, Zandra's moods would have got on his nerves but recently, he could take a mellow approach to most things.

"Computer giving you trouble, Zandra. Want a hand" Mark offered helpfully.

"Let me sort the pissing thing out myself," Zandra replied hoping that a renewed dose of glaring, prodding and stressed up behaviour would make it behave. "I'm used to decent computers in my last job, not some crap that no cowboy unit would go through this boring bollocks with trying to fix."

Ten minutes later when Mark's mellowness was beginning to wear thin he came over to Zandra and saw that there was a floppy disc that was half in half out of the slot. Before he could do anything else, she whipped it out and lobbed it half way across the room. Mark went over to pick it up being helpful and when he picked it up, it had "Fenner" written across it.

"Hello, what's this. Let's me have a go with the PC"

Zandra gave up at this point while Mark fiddled round with the PC and got it to work no problem. Intrigued, Mark dipped into the file and his curiosity was aroused to find one document being apparently a brilliantly worded English essay written by no other than "Shell Dockley" the work was way ahead of the miserable crap that had been foisted on him that he had made red inked comments down the margin and graded C+ at most. Furthermore, it wasn't his subject but a piece for Fenner's group. The obvious conclusion came with a blinding flash of lightning and the feeling that "Tricky Dicky" Nixon (i.e., Fenner) was facing his own Watergate. This gave him an enormous feeling of satisfaction.

There was a second document and, lo and behold, was a piece of writing on Celebrity Worship Syndrome that seemed very familiar since the lecture, the drama unfolding and Mark's well read copy of the Daily Mail article. This piece seemed to say, clear as a bell, that Fenner wrote the entire piece for Griffiths benefit and this opened a whole can of works of corruption. Vice President Agnew, the hateful sidekick of Nixon was due to topple too.

At that point Nikki Wade came into the room and she was struck immediately by the grin a mile wide that split his face in two and the little victory dance that he performed in the middle of the room.

"What's happened, Mark. has the revolution broken out, won the lottery, killed bloody Griffiths" Nikki grinned at him.

Immediately Mark tried to straighten his face, and look dignified with a lamentable lack of success and tried to tell Nikki it was an 'internal matter.' As they walked out of the room, Mark clutching the vital evidence, Nikki steered him into a quiet room, her curiosity at fever pitch.

Ten minutes, after vowing it was confidential, the reprinted documents "fell off the back of a photocopier" into Nikki's welcoming and secure hands.

Neither of them at this stage knew how to take things further.

As they came out of the room, a drunken Lucy came staggering up to them after Nikki and Mark had concealed the papers and disc and threw her arms round Nikki's neck.

"Please, please do me a favour, Nikki darling and give me a help with my essay. I'll be killed if I don't hand it in."

"Piss off Lucy." Nikki said shortly. "You had better go on the wagon and do it yourself. If I'm asked to 'help out' with an essay, it means I'm asked to do it. Go and ask your girlfriend Trish to do it, not me."

Unwinding Lucy's arms from her neck, Mark and Nikki walked on down the corridor...

Nikki was excited as she was waiting for her dad to arrive but was also a little bit apprehensive that Helen was with her as well. She had been a bit vague when she was on the phone to him that a "friend might be calling round." She pottered about giving her room a bit of a tidy and conceal the more obvious untidiness while Helen tried to stay out of the way.

Presently, on the appointed hour and minute came the brisk walk up the stairs and in came the familiar sight of Nikki's dad. He was smartly dressed in a check jacket, brown trousers as if he were still in uniform with his military air as part of his clothing. Helen's first thought that his stiffness in manner concealed a softer side struggling to get out. His outward manner always struck Nikki as a throwback to 1950s black and white Ealing war films with stiff upper lip World War Two naval captains.

"I don't know if I ought to take a stranger round for a meal out with what I thought was the two of us." came his first unpromising remark.

(That's Dadspeak that he really wants to but doesn't feel he ought to thought Nikki)

Tears ran down Helen's face at this after a lifetime of rejection and here's another. Her big brown eyes looked so waif like as Nikki explained a bit about Helen's father and how good a friend Helen is to her (which was true as far as it goes).

Nikki's dad was taking it all in, picking up on Nikki's earnestness, statement of the plain facts and that she wasn't trying to wheedling him round. All that impressed him secretly.

"Well, that's a poor show of him, a pretty poor show....! (That's Dad's Ealingspeak thought Nikki for that's bloody disgusting)...."and if I met your dad, I'd have a word or two to say to him" (That's means he really meant it thought Nikki and Helen.)

"Well it won't do me any harm to have two young ladies keeping me escort." (That is sooooo, Dad and he's found his mental way out) "Come on, get weaving"

Helen following Nikki's lead realised that this meant at once, stop faffing with makeup, and they set off in the car to a nice pub restaurant on the edge of town.

"You know I can't stand McDonalds, "Nikki's dad said. (Don't even try thought Nikki). He cut through Nikki's and Helen's normal indecision as to what to eat and fairly soon a traditional three course meal was laid in front of them. Nikki fended off questions as to what career she was going to pursue finding that part of a jigsaw puzzle that she had half the bits for which made her have an attack of the horrors. Student life was what surrounded her here and now and periods of isolation aside, she didn't want to know when the next station was, she wanted to enjoy and prolong the journey as it was.

In a typical Dad type fumbling half hinting fashion, Nikki's dad asked if she and Helen were sort of, you know what...and Nikki politely and delicately explained things asking with evident nervousness if he 'disapproved' of Helen. (Christ that's a bit of Dadspeak from me).

"I don't disapprove of your friend Helen. It's that I'm a little concerned if you are in for a lifetime of temporary relationships". (That means he's worried and mum is giving him stick). "I like your friend Helen, if you must say."

Presently Nikki's dad was reminiscing about the first sight he had of Nikki when she was born with big brown eyes and long lashes and putting his little finger out for her tiny perfectly formed fingers to hold. "Everyone said you'd break all the boy's hearts- funny how it's turned out to be girls. Just give me time, Nikki on this......I know one thing, Helen that you won't ever have a more loyal friend than Nikki. She's always been like that since she was a little girl", he finished on a note of pride with Nikki's smile on his face.

Helen could see the obvious bond between them and Nikki's dad drew her into the conversation with that natural ease that was pure Nikki.

"You're so thin, you work too hard," he said to Nikki. "Well, it goes in the family," was her reply. "you're going to drive home a hundred and fifty miles and out to work next day. Promise you don't overdo things" she said laying a hand on his arm. "Remember, death is nature's way of telling you to slow down."

"Don't worry, I'll manage." was the reply. (That ought to be the Wade family motto, thought Helen)

A part of Nikki wanted to go back ten years to a childhood where, though he was away long hours, he had not really left her and the little details of the family house was a comfort zone and all was cozy. Another rebellious side said that she couldn't go back and she had to move on she knew not where.

When he dropped them off back at the university, a milestone had been passed that Nikki's dad had gently gone through a sea change in his thinking that had whittled away at her defensiveness and his own insecurity that he had buried deep. Helen had had more family feeling in that one afternoon that she had had for years and it showed where her own father had let her down. She began to climb out of the pit of low self esteem which she desperately needed to climb out more than she knew.

It was a mellow end of the day which did not get a chance to soothe itself away. Karen wanted to see Nikki.

"Can I have a private word with you, Nikki. It's really important" Karen came running up to Nikki a bit out of breath.

Nikki raised an eyebrow. Karen was one of those self possessed girls who glided as she walked and always had time to spare and never panicked. Now she could see the agitation in her face.

"Sure, Karen" and Nikki opened the door to a quiet room while Helen exchanged looks with Nikki and moved on elsewhere.

"Did Mark tell you that Fenner had been fiddling Dockley's essays for her and ghost writing for bloody Griffiths?"

"Sure," and Nikki's face was split in two by a huge grin "It gave me the biggest laugh for ages."

"Have you told anyone, Nikki." Karen's voice ascending the stress levels rapidly.

Nikki was more and more curious as to Karen's reaction, sure she knew Karen fancied Mark but no more. Karen had to confess to Nikki that she had a personal interest in the matter, saying abruptly they were living together. Nikki picked up Karen's fear that Nikki would be less than sympathetic to the relationship, 'being a lesbian'. Nikki said that that was all right with her that Karen had got the most decent guy around the university and she understood Karen's protectiveness and remember, Karen and her are good friends. Mark had told Nikki the news in a moment of high spirited hilarity and thinking that Nikki would keep quiet and only later had second thoughts. Karen, sussing Mark's unease that night, had gone on an errand to get to Nikki first before Rumour Control started transmitting across the university.

"Believe me, I want two bastards off my back, Fenner and Griffiths. I hadn't thought any more about it till I saw Mark again."

"Can you do me a real favour and sit on this one till Mark takes it up. Nothing personal Nikki but he has more clout than you or I to take it up. And you are well known to be a source of solid information so all those who hate Fenner's guts would love to get their hands on this one - and that might not be the best thing."

"So you and Mark are really serious, Karen."

"We are, Nikki." and a tear came into Karen's eye. "This isn't a casual shag between lecturer and student. This is the big one, Nikki."

"Well, Karen," Nikki said softly with some lightness but a seriousness that Karen took in. "I'm not into weddings, least of all mine, but save me an invitation to yours if it ever comes to pass."

Karen gave Nikki a big hug and promised to let her know when the bomb goes off. She then raced off letting the double swing doors bang back after her.

Late in the afternoon, Yvonne was chairing a council of war, her, Cassie, Denny who had had enough with Fenner's style of "education."

"I have bleeding had it up to here, you guys. I've stuck Fenner's group and if it goes on any more, I'll do time for him. I don't mind working as a 'self governing' commune in getting together our essays and stuff and sorting the reading out. I could just about stand Lucy reeling in with a skinful as she conks out half way through the meeting. If she louses up, that's fine, at least she genuinely messes up. What I cannot stand is that bitch Dockley who is even more useless than Lucy shagging her way to good marks that I sweat buckets to get of honest work. You see Lucy and she does a drama routine when she gets her essay back and gets even more bollocksed than normal next day. You see Dockley's face and she keeps schtum about the mark and is as fake as she can be about the mark. It's that smirk on her face that I want to give a good slapping to. From the way Fenner stares down her cleavage every other second, it's a dead giveaway. We've got to do something."

"What about Nikki," asked Cassie. "Even though her 'power to the people routine' bores the tits off me, she might be the one to see,"

"You mean, she bores you until you want to use her." smiled Yvonne with a withering glare at the self centredness, "I'm not into her politics myself but she isn't afraid to mix it with anyone. I like her myself......OK we go and see her."

Nikki was secretly aghast at being put on the spot when ten minutes later the delegation ran her to earth in the Student's Union bar.

"No Yvonne, I can't fight this one for you, it has to come from yourselves that's all. I'm not in your group and I feel uncomfortable making complaints at second hand. I've no more pull than you, just a bit mouthier."

"What's all that nobbing student revolt stuff you keep mouthing." Cassie asked in frustration.

"No, you have to go yourselves as a delegation to Griffiths, you never know, he might take notice." Nikki replied.

Yvonne was about to tell Nikki contemptuously that it was like asking the bleeding Kray Brothers to turn pacifist when she caught something in Nikki's eye and said yes, they'd better do it on their own.

"And after that one, we are going to get totally bollocksed tonight. It's time to party." And at that point, Nikki slid away as she had other fish to fry.

Nikki was on her way back to her room when she bumped into Shaz and they strolled together along the walkway that zigzagged its way to the student residences. Shaz was not her ideal company till she told her that, funny, Shell wasn't cadging any more help from her to do essays. She only mentioned it in passing as Shell off her back was cause for private celebration. This was something to make a mental note of and tell Karen about.

Lucy and Trish were lying about in a sprawl of clothes dumped anyhow and cheap magazines and empty bottles. Trish had known for some time that her drinking had been escalating but every time she started talking to Lucy, she would throw another drama scene and the point got buried in petty arguments. Recently, Lucy had taken to buying in cans of Tennant's Extra Strength lager and started drinking at breakfast time. Even in her fuddled state, the way she made a big thing of "needing" a can or two to face the day was all wrong. This was something that eventually caused the sluggish "warning bell" to ring. Every time in the past Trish started to straighten up, Lucy would get worse till Trish had a "what the hell" attitude and once she "fell off the wagon" she stayed back again. She loved Lucy but a part of what she was doing was as carer, not lover and why should she be strong all the time. They had a tacit agreement that by lunchtime, both of them could start drinking heavily and that could carry on through the day when they were a fixture at the union bar in the evening till they wobbled their way back home to their shared room. A bit of Trisha reproached herself for "two timing" Nikki in the first place for Lucy. She could remember Nikki's hurt expression while she was having the time of her life with Lucy whose creed was to party, party and party. Things were going sour now. A bit of her saw Nikki in passing looking at her and wondering was this the girl she once loved? Nikki had come through and was headed for academic success while her party spirit made her and Lucy as the outcasts. All of the other students, especially Yvonne looked at her and Lucy with frank contempt. In a similar way so was Shell an outcast, but at least she was a "successful" outcast. All her friends had told her about this mythical student life that was one perpetual party instead of being stuck in some boring office job from 16. Being a student this way meant she didn't have to grow up.

Not only was this a problem but she was having bank problems. They were all about her having broken hastily contrived overdraft agreements and reminders that in 7 days if something or other wasn't forthcoming, etc., etc......and the letter was thrown across the room to join the heap on the floor.

She supposed that at least they had "drinking problems" only. With their addictive personalities, if they had come in contact with hard drugs, they would do that as well and they would throw themselves further down the drain and that much quicker. The truth is that she didn't like herself, that was why she drank to escape it. And the problem was that she grew up with two cold manipulative partners who had withheld love from her...and alcohol flowed through her family tree from their roots to the farthest twigs. She had worked hard at school and done her A levels to try and win their love which was a forlorn hope. She could write a sociology essay, probably a pretty decent essay about alcoholism as she had been there, done that. Only problem was with the academic books on the subject was exactly because they were academic. They gave you the facts and psychological theories but did not give her the feelings.

There was something blocked about her feelings that was jammed down but had to come out. The fact that she was a lesbian was the least of her problems, ironically, in view of old books twenty years or so back that tried to say that it was.

In one blinding insight she thought, She needs help, If she didn't get help, she would go under. There is a student counselling service and her problem fitted the bill. She would go down and fix an interview with or without Lucy's agreement or co-operation. this was her last chance.

Karen straightened Mark's tie as he was frankly nervous as he was psyched up to take on Griffiths single handed and the enormity of what gave him this curious dissociation of thought that he was watching a film of this rather than be lead actor on whom all the future depended. He had got his plan of action roughed out in his head, would it work?

"You'll be fine, I assure you. Now then lets get going." and Karen wound her arms around him and gave him a long lingering kiss.

Mark set off in his car with Karen driving the last few nerve-wracking miles, dropped Karen a bit away from the campus and parked his car. Would this be the last time he would do this?

Up the flight of stairs and up the lift. He met Nikki in passing and something about the anxiety in his manner made Nikki 'wish him a good day' inconsequentially enough but meaning more and this just steadied his nerves.

"Is it important, your sudden meeting?" said Griffiths tetchily. He was looking forward to a quiet morning and Waddle was at all times a disturbance.

"I think you just might find it important, Mr Griffiths. I've a very serious matter to discuss with you about Mr Fenner." And once he had got over the introduction, he launched into his step by step logical denunciation of Fenner as "gross misconduct" (he liked the phrase)

"And how did this evidence come into your hands, Mr Waddle? Isn't all this rather irregular?"

"And so could be said of the Watergate tapes and you know what happened to Tricky Dicky Fenner? And the way the Washington Post covered the story" Mark said pushing historical analogy for all it was worth.

"Are you suggesting going to the papers over this?" Mr Griffiths said angrily.

"Not.... yet" Mark said taken aback but playing his pauses. He had been full of the literary extended metaphor that he hadn't foreseen what he was actually implying. Still, to his satisfaction, it started to get the Professor rattled.

"No I would not think of that yet any more than reveal that Fenner had ghost-written your celebrity worship syndrome article for you. That would not go down well with the Senate."

At this point Yvonne, Cassie and Denny barged down the door, Yvonne shouting that "we demand you sort out that Fenner bastard,"

"What the hell do you mean. Kindly explain yourselves"

"We are sick and tired that that Shell Dockley is being favoured by Fenner in seminars." And Yvonne launched into a bitter complaint without mentioning the specifics of the faked essays. Cassie propped herself insolently on the filing cabinet while Denny glowered at the Professor as the 'heavy'

Mark couldn't believe his luck. It was as if the interruption was just timed with maximum theatrical effect to turn the screw on Griffiths one decisive extra notch without letting Mark in for trouble. Instead of being shown the door at short notice, the Professor wheedled at them to go. Yvonne, seeing the way the dice were rolling and aware that Mark was in there fighting for the same thing, withdrew their forces without further argument, concealing with difficulty a smirk.

The balence of scales shifted decisively towards Mark and the power was in his hands. The ghost-writing was something technically Griffiths couldn't be touched on but condoning outright essay fiddling was a different matter. Fenner was the sacrificial lamb- he had to go. As for Griffiths then a new co-operative, obsequious 'doppleganger' Griffiths would take over and stop giving him a hard time and the old obnoxious Griffiths would disappear for good.

With a totally enormous feeling of relief on a total high, Mark left the room, seeing the gathering crowd of Yvonne, Cassie, Nikki and Denny and his enormous smile told them everything. They repressed the curiosity to ask Mark to 'tell them all'- they would find out in good course.

Walking down the steps, he saw Karen whose instincts of the outcome were spot on and they went forward to the Union bar to get happily pissed. At least Karen would not drink as she would drive - Mark was the one with the right to celebrate, and have a skinful.

Helen was on the payphone summoning up the courage to phone her father to talk to him to make him act like a human being following the day out with Nikki and her dad. Face to face is what she would have preferred but gut instinct told her to act while the resolution was forged. Unknown to her Nikki had come into the room behind her but stayed quiet and Helen was unaware of her presence.

Taking a deep breath, she pressed the buttons that called out his name.

"Hello, is that the Reverend Stewart there....yes it is important, it is her daughter Helen and she doesn't phone for trivialities........"

A gap ensued while Helen's mind was working overtime.

"Yes, father, I know it's not the best time but since when is a good time to talk to you, all your parishioners you'll serve with the Will of God but not me.......... I think you'll find it is perfectly fair and after seventeen years of emotional neglect perhaps you should find time......... no this is not your elder and better who must be obeyed, I've heard you talk at me but never to me.........you do know what I mean, it's the case that you keep blanking me off.....................anyway I wanted to phone you to ask if you would come out to the university for the day, a locum could be arranged if you really wanted to..........I know that your parishioners need you but the reality is that you need the parishioners to need you so you can't get away......"

Helen smiled a bit though her hand was still shaking but she hadn't found that her arguments were beaten down into surrender and, worse still, she would be made to feel guilty and unworthy of being his precious daughter. The balance of power was shifting though too bad she couldn't see his face and vice versa. Part of this reaching out was to do just this.

"You got me into trouble last time I shot over to look after you when it wasn't really necessary.....yes I know I should be responsible for my actions but not when I have two sets of responsibilities that pull different directions, you should know that one..................the other day I was made to feel part of a family for the first time, not my own but by Nikki Wade and her dad...........yes she is a lesbian and my girlfriend but we told him all this...........no he isn't some modern minded heathen, he's a Naval Captain, as traditional as you get and having problems with dealing with Nikki's sexuality but he accepts her as she is.......if a total stranger can get to accept me and show me acceptance why can't my own father..........no it's not your religious convictions, they just give you an excuse to dig your heels in and be selfish..........yes you did hear that word...........after all you are I want to be loved by you as your daughter but I can't plead and beg for it and it cannot be on your terms only like everything else is......your problem is that you won't listen to you and your heart......I want to be accepted by you but if you won't come then I accept that too but you must understand that you have to accept my needs to....you have to....... well I'm sorry to end like this, I'll have to go as the pips are running out. Love you despite who you are and sooner or later you have to accept me as I am ........"

Helen put the phone down feeling she had gone through a wringer but felt a new sense of defining herself even though her hand was still shaking.

Only then was Helen conscious of Nikki who put her hand on her sleeve.

"Looks like I won't see your father, Helen, after all" Nikki said lightly.

"Don't worry, Nik. You have already met him just now."

The crowd of students in the foyer were exceptionally quiet and hung over. A bunch of them had gone straight from when the news broke about Fenner's sacking straight down to the Union bar and the evening had gone straight down the line of loud music, a crowd gathering round a number of tables while an increasing pile of glasses accumulated and the trail for the next round was getting more and more wobbly. Mark Waddle had joined the crowd and had revealed a new side of him for the amount of lager her could put away.

Presently, the mood got mellower. this was not some mindless drunk to say "hello oblivion" but a just celebration of something special. Mark was sat back in a comfy chair while Karen sat on the chair arm, gently stroking his hair, possessive in a nice loving way. Helen had surprised them all by joining the crowd and being perkier and much more extrovert and filled in effortlessly. Even Nikki, not the most sociable of characters, was "mucking in," Cassie was talking at top speed and the rate of "nobbings" was higher than usual. that is, till she saw through the crowded room an older dark haired woman who was an adult student just recently transferred in from another college whose eye she caught. She was called "Rosheen" as far as they could make out. They promptly disappeared into a discreet corner and everyone wondered how long that one would last. Yvonne was the life and soul of the party, cracking jokes that made everyone fall about laughing. They had sort of taken over the place as everyone else sort of faded into the background and disappeared. It was the sort of night that had "the night is young" feeling......till the next day.

Mark Waddle came in to do his lecture looking pretty fragile but so was everyone else in that group. There was an unspoken agreement to "cover" any fluffed explanation by Mark and at the end, he smiled wanly at them and thanked them for all their help. And this wasn't taken just to be the seminar. There was an unspoken collective will to go home, do something quiet and crash out early and hopefully the brain would be half way functioning the next day....

"You're giving me the bloody sack." Fenner glared at Griffiths and looked as if he was about to hit him.

"It was a unanimous decision by the Senate that due to your unprofessional behaviour........"

"I'll give you unprofessional behaviour. you wanted your nice little jobs done for you, for me to be Mr Fixit with the Daily Mail and for all the work you were too lazy to do yourself .'It would further your career' you said, not get me ended up booted out on my arse. You're as big a villain as anyone "

"Not in the eyes of the Senate. They trust me implicitly."

"So your lily white reputation must be protected, that's all that matters. Well sod you, I'm leaving now. I'm not working my notice" and Fenner threw a sheaf of papers in the air which scattered in all directions. The door banged behind him.

Pretty soon there was the signs of bumping and thumping that came from his room and Fenner took a suitcase full of his most essential books with him.

Griffiths sat at his desk a long while after the noise from Fenner's exit had died down. It had all been a nasty experience. He was scared for the fact that he came close to breaking the eleventh and only commandment he ever believed in "thy shalt not be found out". Going to the Senate meeting gave him moments of fear that he was walking on thin ice and any moment it was going to give way from under his feet. There was a row of hard faced examiners who were asking too many probing questions though he managed to smooth his way from out of the situation. He was established as long as there wasn't a major scandal. The only way out was to throw out expendable baggage, Fenner, whose behaviour made him much more vulnerable. Besides, fighting down an unaccustomed twinge of conscience, he had a Mission, to Make the University free from Left Wing Subversion. Better a lesser person like Fenner should go rather than himself. He poured himself a glass of whisky and in five minutes the whole unpleasant episode was swept away from his mind. He would give Fenner a glowing reference- or as far as it was safe to do so. He would have to be a bit more discreet in his "ghost writing" for a bit and keep an eye open for a replacement Fenner. He knew there would be another Fenner to come along, equally self seeking and unscrupulous- it was only a matter of time.

"Going for a holiday, Mr Fenner, sir" called out Yvonne mockingly at the head of a gathering crowd of students outside the Arts block as Rumour Control had, unfailingly, caused word to fly round the students in the arts block at lunchtime break. Rather than disperse to go to the cafeteria or back to their rooms, they bunched up on the flight of steps outside.

"Yeah, Fenner, no more nobbing lousy marks for work I worked hard for." Cassie's voice called out after Fenner's retreating form.

Out of the crowd came Neil Grayling who was in a total panic as his hero was departing and who else was there around to give him the inspiration and vision to carry on. He wanted to grow up to be just like Fenner. He asked after Fenner's address but he had already gone.

It was nearly the end of term and Yvonne wasn't feeling in the best of moods. She had been going out with a first year called Dominic but things had not been going too well, He seemed far too overawed with her. She was the tough one in the relationship and called the shots while he was as meek as a lamb and went along with anything she suggested. This wasn't her style as she had grown up in a family where her dad ruled the roost and had the "gift of the gab". That was something she liked in her men and Dominic didn't match up. It wasn't easy settling in in Larkhall because, while her dad was loaded, she was conscious that her Cockney accent stood out from the middle class accents that were around her. Sometimes it was as if she spoke a different language from them though, being a natural strong character, that sense of being different was kept well hidden. She envied Nikki though she liked her well enough. Nikki had the regulation posh accent and though she wasn't much of a "mixer" seemed to have that natural ability to slot in to any situation and had that force of personality to lead others. She never forgot that lecture where Nikki took Griffiths to the bloody cleaners with that knowledge that wasn't overawed by him. She made him look dead stupid and, if she was honest with herself, didn't think she could have done that herself. Helen was a real eye opener that day for someone so quiet to get that together.

Yes well, she'd got another date that night, someone like Charlie who seemed more dangerous and exciting. He talked like someone out of an old gangster movie or like that Dirty Den out of Eastenders. She could tame him like no one else. Nice to be given a lift by someone in a flash car for a change.

In contrast, Nikki was going to a folk club meeting and this time for the first time she was going to play. It was funny that in a meeting anywhere, she was not scared to speak her mind and, in effect was on stage, but with a guitar in her hand in public, was really scared. It was one thing in the privacy in her room which was more intimate she could pour out her thoughts to herself. It was another thing to be out on stage, however tiny it was. Helen and Karen were with her to give her a bit of support.

They went into a small room and after an age it seemed of drinks being bought in to increase the bar takings. First singer on was an adult student called Roisin Connor. Nikki stood at the side watching her for a bit and studied her style. She had a repertoire of traditional Irish songs which carried a power and authenticity of its own which gripped the hearts of the folk minded crowd and made Nikki nervous to match herself against her. Roisin really could sing with a power that made Nikki think her voice was lacking that vital quality in comparison. Roisin seemed like a real professional and Nikki felt an amateur in comparison. How could she follow that act. Most surprisingly from what she knew of Cassie, Cassie was in the front row looking adoringly on. Nikki thought ironically of the times in the first year that she had been on the same floor as Cassie telling her to shut that bloody racket from the large sound system, she could take the choice of the sound system being physically disconnected or Cassie.

"Come on, Nikki, you do a bit of rehearsal in a side room. Me and Helen will be your audience." Karen smiled warmly at her and it was nice to have an old friend be there for her. Helen's eyes were telling her, you could do it, Nikki.

What made Nikki nervous was that her repertoire seemed to straggle over several decades from '60s folk right up to more recent artists in no particular sequence. In a quiet room she felt fine but she was nervous that her stuff was too introspective and sad- no obvious opening numbers.

"Why don't you start off with Tracy Chapman's 'Talking about a Revolution', Nikki. It seems so you and is a strong song."

"Thanks, Karen. I'd forgotten that one. you don't think I sound right, her being a black singer."

"Just do it your way, Nikki. It's the only way you know how."

Nikki played the song for them feeling the power of the song, even in muted form, take her out of herself and thought, Karen's right. She was ready to take the stage.

Nikki got to the small stage just as Roisin finished her last song and Roisin smiled warmly at her.

"Don't worry, Nikki, I've set up the audience just ready for you, you'll be fine."

Nikki felt a flood of gratitude at Roisin's kindness to her that for a second, made it difficult to go on but she transformed it into the confidence that she needed and announced her set with a little joke that 'it was her first time, don't make it painful for her'.

Then she launched in and the power of her guitar and the voice that the words called from her launched her into the song with a fierce emotion that carried her into it and the audience with her. She had made it.

From then on it was a joy as everything she had played in the quiet of her own room poured forth from her. Even Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" that she had played for Karen hit home. Even sad songs that she played were something transformed when played from stage. Her guitar work was something she realised, well she wasn't that bad. Just occasionally her heart was in her mouth when she fluffed the odd note though truth to tell, no one realised it apart from her. The words of the songs poured from her memory as they should be and another of her fears was laid to rest. She could make up her own words in lecture theatres but to remember someone else's words was a different matter.

From the audience, Karen was marvelling to herself that Nikki was so transformed. The way she moved slightly with her guitar as she played was proof to her that Nikki had hit her stride Even the beer drinkers at the back who didn't want to listen to the words but use it as background music while they talked were at a minimum. Karen had no problem of listening to Nikki as she should be listened to and was interested that a side of Nikki she knew of but nobody outside her and Helen did, was for all to hear.

Nikki drew her set to a close and was staggered to be asked to play "Talking about a Revolution" again which she sang her heart out on. Then bashful and shy, she came off stage with a total emotional and adrenaline high. Everyone spilled outside of the room as the temperature was building up and, with a pint of lager to refresh herself, she relaxed chattering to her friends.

Presently a sleek car drew up outside and Yvonne came out dolled up to the nines followed by a guy that looked like bad actor in a B movie. In one second, Nikki disliked him intensely as a lowlife.

"Guess what, Charlie Atkins has asked me to marry him." Yvonne said showing off her ring.

"You're making the biggest mistake of your life, Yvonne." she said turning to her friends.

It was the last day of term. from early on, a stream of parent's cars came to load up their son's and daughters belongings, often with great difficulty, cramming in suitcases and plastic bags. Nikki's dad had phoned to say that he would be delayed but gave a time late on when he would come. Helen was one of the few with her own car to take herself back as her father had taught her 'independence'- she was not hurrying the work as she did not have much of a home to go to. Nikki had got her cases packed in good time and had time to dream.

She lay outside on the grass with white clouds drifting overhead against a blue sky and underneath the shelter of the trees. Her thoughts took her away from the here and now to remember a video she had watched when she was younger, first when she could watch cheap entertainment......

"It was 1958 when the pupils of Rydell High school were living in Anytown USA in the Golden Age of Rock and Roll and life was multicoloured, fast and free. Down the square the leather jacketed hoods (with hearts of gold) were thinking about the chance of scoring with this years chicks and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) was fancying his chances with Sandy Ollsen (Olivia Newton John) with the immortal love song he sang

"Summer fling
Don't mean a thing
But uuuhhh
those summer nights"

finishing in cheesy harmonies in close up focus.

There was a promising bit when Sandy was promised "a night out with the girls" but to Nikki, that was a bit of a let down.

The dialogue was none too hot later when she was informed by one of the thunderbirds that "chicks are only good for one thing". As she was growing up, the ultra thin Sandy (Olivia Newton John) was supposed to be the star of the show but neither the "goody two shoes" nor the "rock chick" version did much for Nikki. The outfits of matching pink jackets did not inspire her too much though Nikki's eyes gazed more at the cinema screen at the character of Rizzo, tough but tender with short dark hair and big brown eyes. A bit of her connected with lines like

"but to cry in front of you
is the worst thing I could do"

sung in a torchy style even though Rizzo was a minorish character.

Nikki fell about laughing when the Head of the School exhorted the boys to go out into the world "like Jo DiMaggio and Vice President Nixon, Rydell High forever"

The graduation carnival was the pits with cavorting teenagers in some musical danced about in a fairground where "all the gang are together, forever together" and as for Sandy and John singing "you're the one that I want" on a cakewalk ride, well forget it."

Together forever like her and Helen, Mark and Karen, Cassie and Roisin, Yvonne and Charlie and Lucy and Trish (struggling to clean up off drink).....that wasn't in the film. "We go together sho wop de wop, etc"

Nikki was musing till the thought struck her.

It is time to turn off the video- it does not fit reality.

it is time to turn off the video, it does not fit reality.



Right, now I shall write my version of events.

Her uncle Chris told her that Grease was a cheesy early 1970's so called nostalgic look at events that never were as part of a softening of the brains when the late '60s counter culture went a bit sour and a new generation could be caught up on junk culture. Gary Glitter was as equally a valid recreation of the same era with ripped off fifties themes and an overblown stage act hawked round and round concert halls till the sleazy side of him came to the surface and he was convicted twenty years too late for lives of young girls he had ruined.

Right, back to the present with eyes open walking back to the halls of residence.

The smoothly humming student machine was running down like a clock as student after student took their way home. Already, instead of the busy hum of people, a deathly hush took its place. The university was there but where are the people? Nikki had a foretaste when she would leave university and it chilled her emotionally to the bone.

She saw off friends of hers and casual acquaintances, looking awkward in the presence of their parents. It was different for Karen as she was living in Mark's flat, at least she had a semblance of permanence.

Hardest of all was Helen going back to her fathers under instruction to be home by a certain time which Helen went along with to keep the peace. They had got a flat together for next term, away from Crystal's bible bashing ways and that was a positive. But four weeks apart was going to seem an eternity. They had each other's mobile phone numbers though that was going to be a trial to phone on that slim lifeline and hear the voice without seeing the face. Nikki was going to see if Helen could come over in the holidays but one and a half set of parents weren't easy to negotiate with.

Helen came out to see her with her big brown eyes looking straight into Nikki.

"You will phone me the moment I get home, if you can call it one."

"You have my promise, Helen darling"

And with that she laid the biggest kiss on her for all to see. There was a moment in life to wonder if you are embarrassing anyone but this was not the time. They held onto each other and went their separate ways-till the next time.

Nikki like all of them had to face the change temporarily into another person, the daughter at home instead of Nikki. Home was comfortable enough but she couldn't go as she pleased or make her own decision. Each time she went back and forth the harder she got till she knew in the end she couldn't go home.

No "Grease isn't the word" but her own strengths and the love of another is the word.

It was time to go, now.


Credits of this piece are

1. Badgirls plus the MB without which I could not have thought of writing this piece.
2. MBers too numerous to mention in general who have encouraged me to be myself
3. Scottish Helen who encouraged me to get into fanfic and to whom I owe the blueprint of this story
4. Kristine who has consistently offered encouragement to persevere with this work-likewise girl from mars for her support.
5. Anyone else I have overlooked for being there.
6. The daily Mail, the Professor Griffiths who inspired this story, "Kissing Jessica Stein" for the "creative ripoff" of a scene and Grease so that I could radically deconstruct it.

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