Writing to Meet You
As she heard the door of the pub opening Yvonne looked up from her vantage point behind the bar ready to greet one of her early customers. The smile of greeting turned into a frown of concern as she saw who was coming through the door.
There was no mistaking who it was .. Nikki Wade, but it was not the Nikki Wade she had known for the past thirty odd years. The woman before her was still a gaunt shadow of her former self.
Nikki smiled at Yvonne as she came in. Yvonne inwardly shook herself into action.
'Hiya love, how are you doing?' she asked, knowing full well that the answer she would receive would be as far from the truth as the claim that Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK.
'I'm fine thanks Yvonne' Nikki answered, knowing that Yvonne wouldn't believe her.
She knew she looked like shit, more importantly she felt like shit and wasn't looking forward to the lecture that she was about to receive from 'her mother'. Yvonne was not her biological mother but she had brought her up since her mother Maggie, Yvonne's best friend, had died.
'Yeah, fine my bleedin' arse! Nikki love, you've got to pull yourself out of this, she's not worth it. Trish didn't deserve you, you're bleedin' well rid of her. She was nothing but a gold digging slag', as always Yvonne voiced her opinions whether they were wanted or not.
'Look Yvonne, I know you're right and I am trying, honestly. I've even started writing again, look' she grinned and held up a by now familiar style hard backed notebook.
Such a book had been in Nikki's possession for as long as Yvonne could remember. She was forever making notes, writing short stories, writing down her dreams and ideas. As it turned out the writing had led to quite a lucrative career for Nikki. A few of her works had been dramatised, a couple on the stage and two for television. Nikki, much as she hated to admit it, was somewhat of a celebrity in her field.
Her career had shuddered to a halt a couple of months ago following the break up of her relationship with Trish Harris, a young actress who had latched herself onto Nikki.
When they'd first started going out together Yvonne had tried to warn Nikki that she was being used. That whilst Trish clearly did have some feelings for Nikki, she was using her for her connections - to get work and to meet influential people with a view to furthering her career. She had even gone so far as to suggest that Trish was attempting to 'sleep her way to the top' and that Nikki was just another rung on her career ladder. This had caused major rows between Nikki and Yvonne and the bad feeling that developed led to Nikki deciding to move to London to live with Trish.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, Yvonne was to be proved right. After just over a year Nikki had outlived her usefulness and Trish had moved onto someone who moved in the right circles and had greater access to more influential people. Nikki had been crushed, she had lived through hell for Trish, attending crappy showbiz parties and events all for Trish she realised later. She felt used, manipulated and worst of all now, lonely.
At the time of their split Nikki felt that she had burned her bridges at home (Yvonne and her daughter Lauren - whom Nikki considered to be her kid sister) and had basically sat brooding in her house in London, not going out unless necessary, not working (she hadn't needed the money) and was slowly letting the life force drain out of her.
What she hadn't reckoned on was Yvonne. Lauren was also working in London at the time and it was she who had informed Yvonne about Nikki's split with Trish, although the papers had done quite a job sensationalising it anyway.
Following the news Yvonne had given Nikki a couple of weeks breathing space, she had hoped that Nikki would feel able to come home but she didn't get in touch.
Realising how Nikki must be feeling (Yvonne's husband Charlie, whom she had loved more than life itself, had done a runner with her arch enemy Rene Williams - it had taken Yvonne a long time to get over that, but she'd had Maggie and the kids to help get her through it), she decided to go and see for herself how Nikki was doing. In fact, truth be known wild horses would not have kept her from going to her at that time and boy was she glad that she did!
When she had arrived at Nikki's house, she couldn't believe that the woman she had known had turned into what she saw. Nikki had lost a great deal of weight she hadn't had a great deal of spare fat as it was but she looked almost skeletal! Her complexion was pallid and she seemed to be getting all nourishment from takeaway food and a vodka bottle. Yvonne had wiped the floor with her. She was not a woman to ignore at the best of times but with her temper on full burn she had managed to get Nikki back on track, to an extent.
There and then she had informed Nikki that she was 'bleedin' well taking her home'. Nikki had tried to argue but Yvonne flashed her a look that told Nikki in no uncertain terms that argument was not a good idea. So meekly she had complied, they had cleaned up the house packed up Nikki's stuff and returned to the pub.
After a week of living at the pub Nikki had decided to rent a flat in the village, it wasn't a long term thing but she was finding it harder and harder to walk around with a permanent smile fixed to her face when her insides were twisted to hell. Yvonne had not liked the decision but Nikki had stood firm, she had told Yvonne that she needed a bit of space and that when everything had settled down she would probably move back into the pub.
Two months had passed and Nikki had made some minor improvement, well very minor if Yvonne was honest, she claimed to be ready to start writing again but Yvonne had seen no real proof of this yet. However, two days ago Nikki had informed Yvonne that she was going away for the weekend, to think.
Here she was now, on her return, looking as haggard as when she had left. Yvonne was hopeful that the evidence of the turnaround was between the covers of the book Nikki was currently holding up like a trophy.
'About bleedin' time an' all! Give us a look then'', she held out her hand.
Nikki eyed her cautiously, she knew what Yvonne was thinking, she didn't believe her. Well she was telling the truth, while she was away Nikki had struck upon an idea for a new story. She'd been thinking a lot about Trish (no surprise there) and had hit upon a character, the whole story had built up around that one character. For the first time in a long while Nikki felt excited about something, she knew she had a long way to go before she could get over this mess but she had something to aim for now. She walked towards the bar..
'Well it's not really much to read at the moment '
'I knew it, you ain't done bugger all 'ave you?' Yvonne stated firmly.
Nikki laughed, Yvonne nearly fell over at the sight.
'Christ stay there while a get a camera' she said taking the piss at Nikki's newly regained sense of humour.
'Oh ha ha, no really it isn't much to read but I'll let you have a look if you will do me a favour?' Nikki waited for Yvonne's response.
As always Yvonne was keen to read her work, Nikki was always underestimating the stuff she put together. What she would call a rough outline was being published and earning trashy novelists' big bucks.
' 'course I will darlin', what is it ?.
'Get me a pint please, landlady' Nikki smirked.
Yvonne grinned, 'coming right up love, drag up a stool' Nikki did as instructed while Yvonne poured them both a drink.
Nikki handed over the book as Yvonne handed over the lager.
No sooner was it in her hands than Yvonne fell silent and soon she was totally engrossed.
Nikki had written a drama based on the everyday comings and goings of a women's prison.
Yvonne laughed at some of the sketchy ideas for sub plots and instantly recognised a few of Trish's apparent traits in the character Shell Dockley (well Nikki had made it very obvious).
Good on her! Yvonne had thought, it showed that Nikki was finally facing up to the fact that she had hooked up with a tart, a fact which Yvonne had tried to avoid mentioning too often since her return.
Nikki watched Yvonne's face as she read, she loved to see the reactions her work had on other people, the laughs the frowns, it made the hard work worthwhile. At the end of the day the fact that she made money out of it was a mere bonus for Nikki, she loved to write and was glad the she had at last managed to pick up her pen again.
When Yvonne finished she looked across at Nikki, a huge grin spread across her face.
'Well, what do you think?' Nikki asked needlessly.
'I think it's the bleedin' dogs wotsits, love that's what I think. Not too sure about this Atkins character though?' she raised an eyebrow.
'Pub landlady banged up for bumping off her ex and his mistress. Nikki love where do you get such friggin' outrageous ideas!' she winked and started to laugh and so did Nikki. Yvonne was laughing about her joke but she was also laughing because she was happy to see that Nikki finally seemed to have stopped spiralling downwards. Hopefully with a little help along the way she would get her life round this corner and move on.
The phone ringing interrupted them.
Yvonne went back into the house area of the pub and answered. Nikki didn't like to listen in - but when faced with a voice like Yvonne's apart from walking outside she had little choice but to listen
'Hiya love, how are you, how's the show doin'?', clearly it was Lauren phoning home. Nikki's mind wandered to Lauren, she was about as close as she would ever get to a sister, their relationship was as strong if not stronger than most siblings shared anyway. Lauren was currently working on the production of a TV show which was a rough mix between the X- Files and Dempsey and Makepiece. Set in London, flash cars, good looking actors and the usual 'will they wont they' love story in fact the original idea for the show had been one of Nikki's stories, but in her view they hadn't used the characters she had given them to their full potential.
Nikki inwardly cringed as she thought of the actor types she'd met in London. She'd had it with that side of things, Trish had seen to that, as far as she was now concerned they were all shallow, two faced, money grabbing bastards.
She heard Yvonne mention her name and turned her attention back to the conversation.
'Look love, I would love to you know that but I can't leave the pub right now. Nikki? Well you could ask her but I don't think (her voice became muffled as she tried to cover what she was saying to Lauren) .. hang on I'll call her, NIKKI!' , Nikki walked around the bar and into the hall where the phone was.
'It's Lauren, she wants to ask you something' she handed the phone to Nikki, Yvonne had a pretty good idea what the response would be.
'Hiya Kiddo' Nikki greeted her and then laughed, presumably at Lauren's amused outrage and professions to being a 'big girl' now.
'Well you'll always be an annoying brat in my eyes. So what are you going to try and talk me into' she looked at Yvonne and grinned.
'Nikki, you won't say no when I tell you, it's too good', came the voice down the line.
'So tell me' Nikki was a bit intrigued.
'Well, the plot we are working on at the moment needs a bit of location shooting in Spain, I rang Mum to offer her the trip but she reckons she can't do it, so Nik I am offering you an all expenses week in Spain', she sounded really excited.
'That's really kind of you but I don't think I'll take you up on it all the same' Nikki said dryly.
'WHAT?! Are you mad? Nikki do you realise what you are saying? Why not?' Lauren was amazed because she would have snapped the offer up straight away.
'Look Lauren, I've met the sort of people who are on those things, God knows Trish dragged me along often enough and if I'm honest I don't think I could handle that again. It's all so false and well, I could do without it right now' she added.
Lauren continued to try to persuade her, 'Nik you wouldn't catch me within a mile of those arseholes Trish used to hang out with. Drugged up wankers most of them, but my crew are clean and they're all really nice, honest, I wouldn't consider inviting you if I didn't think you'd enjoy it'.
'All the same ' Nikki tried to interrupt, but Lauren cut her off.
'Look I'll tell you what, I'm coming home to pick up some stuff I've got stored there this weekend. I'll bring you back here with me, you come to the set, meet the crew and if they can't persuade you then I'll back off. I can't say fairer than that now can I?'
'Well talk about backing someone into a corner! Since when have you been so manipulative?' Nikki asked.
Lauren laughed, 'You have to learn to handle all sorts of prima donnas in this job Nik, how about it then?' she pressed.
Nikki cast a quick glance at Yvonne, if she said no straight away it meant Yvonne keeping on and on at her until she did it anyway, she was not in any mood for that so
'Right, I'll come to the set but I don't promise anything, fair deal?'
Lauren must have agreed they finished up their chat and Nikki handed the phone back to Yvonne to say her goodbyes too.
When Yvonne rejoined her in the bar she had puzzled look on her face.
'I would have put money on you flatly refusing, what's going on?' she was always a shrewd woman, she was sure that Nikki had some kind of hidden agenda and she wanted to know what exactly she was up to.
'Simple, I am planning to write this new piece and as you know it is based on a prison which will undoubtedly include some real low life characters - well, what better place to observe low life's in action than there?' she grinned.
'Oh Nikki love you can't tar everyone with the same brush as Trish, she was a bad 'un alright, but they're not all like that' Yvonne argued.
'Yeah well maybe I'll get to meet a couple of the decent ones, they can give me the ideas for the 'I'm innocent honestly I didn't do it' girls'.
'Nikki that is so callous' Yvonne muttered.
'So? Look I haven't said I'll go yet. I'm only going to meet them' she tried to defend her reasons for going.
'Yeah well don't go stirring up trouble' Yvonne warned.
'Moi?' Nikki added innocently.
Yvonne grinned, 'Oui!'
Three days later Nikki found herself at the studio where Lauren's series was being filmed. She had taken her note book with her and occasionally jotted down notes about things she'd seen or heard.
She had been watching the female lead, what was her name again? She glanced at her notebook Helen Stewart, Nikki seen her work but hadn't met her before. She was quite impressed much as she hated to admit it. Nikki was happy with the way Helen was portraying the character she herself had created. It seemed that the director wasn't, he was trying to get Helen to do stuff that was totally wrong for her character. Nikki wanted to tell him so but didn't she figured it was none of her business now.
Nikki leant against a wall and watched as they finished the last few scenes. After they'd finished, Helen walked towards the area where Nikki was standing, she was just about to walk past when she noticed Nikki holding her book and pen, assuming she wanted an autograph she took the book from Nikki's hand, found a fresh page, reeled off her signature and went to walk off.
Nikki was amazed at this and acted on impulse. 'Excuse me', Helen turned around and smiled, Nikki quickly signed her own name on a fresh piece of paper, ripped it out of the book and handed it to Helen.
Helen's smile faded and she looked at her vaguely, '..er thanks but I didn't want..'
'That makes two of us then, doesn't it' Nikki shot back, she turned and strode off muttering to herself ,'.. of all the conceited, egotistical tarts!', she couldn't help grinning at the way she'd handled that though.
Meanwhile Helen was still stood rooted to the spot looking at Nikki's signature, 'Arrogant bitch!' she thought as she turned and walked in the opposite direction, hoping that was her first and last meeting with the woman, she looked at the name again, Nikki Wade.
For some unknown reason, following her meeting with Helen Stewart, Nikki agreed to go on the trip to Spain.
Nikki watched the first morning of filming, she was not overly impressed and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach. Later in the afternoon a shadow fell over her.
She looked up, the sun was in her eyes, but she could make out the form of Helen Stewart, she groaned inwardly.
'So this is where you writer types hang out eh?' Helen tried to start up a friendly conversation.
'Can I help you?' Nikki was in no mood for chit-chat.
'No, not really, I wanted to apologise for our first meeting, I wasn't being ..' she got cut off
'No, Yes, No..'
'Well which is it?' Nikki pushed.
'Are you always so hard to talk to'.
'Only with people I don't like' Nikki confessed.
'You don't even know me' Helen argued.
'I know enough' Nikki had decided.
'Like what?' she was intrigued.
'You're an actress' Nikki told her.
'And?' Helen probed.
'That's all I need to know, you may all look different but under the skin you're all the same' Nikki fell silent,
Helen was stumped for something to say, she'd never met anyone like this. Usually people were completely the opposite with her, couldn't do enough to get to know her. She'd never had to handle a situation like this before.
'I can see I've wasted my time trying to apologise to you, I'll see you' she turned and started to walk away.
'Not if I see you first', Nikki muttered.
Helen heard it but refused to answer back, she carried on walking, how childish she thought to herself, wondering what Nikki Wade's problem was.
Afterwards when she thought about their conversation Nikki couldn't understand why she'd been so rude. The woman had come to apologise, and well it wasn't really that big a deal. What the hell, she decided, it was done now - there was just something about Helen Stewart that had got to her and made her act that way.
She found that the more she thought about the possible characteristics of the Wing Governor in her story the more pictures of Helen would come into her mind. Helen's body language became the Governors body language, the way she dealt with the director and cast, the way she had handled Nikki's outbursts, all these came into play in the plots she was working on.
Was she creating the part around Helen she wondered? That must be it she thought which was good because she now knew who she wanted to play the part. Much as she hated to admit it Helen would be perfect for it, she didn't have to like the woman to offer her a job did she?
The next morning she told Lauren that she was planning on taking a drive into the mountains - for a bit of inspiration. She said that she would take her mobile with her just in case she needed to get in touch. What she hadn't considered at the time was that being in the mountains would mean that she would be out of range anyway.
The thought occurred to Nikki when she was about half way there. Good she thought and she switched the phone off completely. Now she had the whole day to herself free from interruption and mindless actresses bothering her. Stop it! She thought to herself, but she really couldn't help it.
Back at the hotel, filming had come to an end, it was going on for 9 O clock. Helen was exhausted it felt as though the director was pulling her from pillar to post, she just couldn't bring herself to agree with what he was trying to get her character to do (the plot of this episode centred on the fact that her usual partner had been kidnapped, her character had teamed up with this other officer, Joe, to find him. The trail had led them to Spain - Joe's character was a complete womaniser but good looking, the idea was that her character would fall for his stunning good looks, wit and charm HAH!).
Helen thought she knew her character quite well, well she should shouldn't she? It seemed to her that the woman had more intelligence than to fall for the lines being fed to her by Joe. Today she had spent hours going round and round in circles trying to get this point across to the director who just refused to listen.
Helen saw Lauren walking towards her and smiled. They'd known each other for a while and got on like a house on fire.
'Hiya Lauren, how was your day' Helen sighed.
'Fine thanks, yours? Don't answer that, I can see by your face it was pretty horrendous! We're all heading into the town tonight apparently there's some karaoke bar that everyone wants to try out- they never stop showing off do they? Fancy it? A few drinks might be just what you need'.
'I could really do with a drink but what I would kill for is a long soak in the bath.. if I had one that is. So it looks as though I'll just have to make do with the drink'.
'What? Haven't you got a bath in your room?' Lauren asked.
'Nope, we have a very nice, clearly expensive, shower but no bath unfortunately' she added.
'Well it seems I could have the answer to your dreams. Not only have we got a bath but it's one of those bath/jacuzzi things, it's great. I don't want to put you off coming out with us but you're welcome to use it'.
'Oh Lauren could I? I would forgo a week of drinking for a soak in a bath' she paused 'When you say 'we've' got one, who do you mean?'
'Nikki as in Nikki Wade' Helen grimaced.
'Yeah, do you know her?' Lauren asked.
'We've met' she said her voice sounding very flat.
'She's great isn't she' Lauren smiled.
'Great is not exactly the word I'd be tempted to use' Helen replied honestly.
'Aah right. You two haven't hit it off I take it? Look Helen, don't worry about Nikki she's great really, she's just had a bad time of it lately. I'm surprised you haven't heard anything about it, she was seeing Trish Harris and Trish, well let's just say Trish decided to move onto bigger but not, in my opinion, better things. Her behaviour has left Nikki somewhat disillusioned about the "showbiz world" and anyone involved in it '.
'You can say that again, she looks at me as if I'm something the cat dragged in' Helen admitted.
'Don't take it too personally, she tends to categorise most actresses in with Trish at the moment I'm afraid. Given time she'll get her head back to normal. You're still welcome to use the room. Nikki has gone off on some all day drive into the mountains anyway. I'll ring her and let her know what's going on, if she has a problem with it I'll sort something out OK?' Helen nodded.
'Who are you sharing with?' Lauren asked and Helen told her.
'Right well I know she's coming to the bar so, how about if I swap rooms with you for the night. I'll be out 'til late and definitely drunk coming in. I'll probably disturb Nikki and whilst I love her to bits she can be a nightmare if you wake her' she laughed.
'That's fine by me but don't you think we should check with her first?' Helen just wanted the bath, she was even prepared to put up with the 'Grumpy' for that!
'OK, I'll ring her on her mobile now and get it sorted. Helen watched as Lauren pulled her own phone out of her pocket and listened as she rang Nikki.
'Hi Nik, it's me, We're all off into town to Bar Mojo, if you want to catch us up we're staying there all night. Oh and I've arranged to loan Helen our bath for a while this evening, she's had Jim Fenner breathing down her neck all day and she can't manage to drown herself in the shower in her room' she looked at Helen and grinned. 'Since I'll be out late I've swapped rooms with her for the night, if that's a problem ring me back, if you don't ring back in time then that's your own fault for never answering the bleedin' phone, see ya !' she clicked her phone off, put it in her pocket and smiled at Helen who still had a concerned look across her face.
'Don't worry she'll be fine about it. She'll understand, she used to work with Fenner. She packed it in in the end - said it was like working with a snake only you could trust the snake more and that his motto was 'My way or the Highway' so she took the Highway. Can't say I blame her either. Right I'm going to get changed, you grab something to eat and I'll leave the key at reception for you. OK?'
Helen felt like she'd been on a roller coaster ride with Lauren at the helm, but she really was too exhausted to argue, she strolled off in the direction of the restaurant.
An hour or so later she felt better for just having eaten and had a few glasses of wine. She took another bottle with her as she left the restaurant and after picking up some stuff from her room went to reception and got the key to Lauren and Nikki's room. The thought of Nikki made her stomach churn, she really could not face seeing her at the moment, she was in no mood for any kind of confrontation and whilst she sympathised with Nikki for having been dumped unceremoniously by Trish Harris, there was no way that that justified the treatment she had received from her herself.
She opened the door to the room and was delighted to discover that it was still empty. She was hoping that Nikki would be late back too and that by that time she would already be fast asleep - thus avoiding the need for any conversation.
She went into the bathroom and was even more delighted when she saw the size of the bath. She ran it, poured herself a drink and when it was ready slowly sunk in up to her neck, it was bliss, she could feel her body start to unwind and her mind slowly drifted. About half an hour later Nikki came home, she was knackered. The room was dark when she came in, she could see the light under the bathroom door and assumed Lauren was in the bath, she called out 'Hi, it's only me' but there was no reply.
She put her purse and phone down on the table, her phone was still switched off. Nikki was so tired she just wanted to go to sleep, she stripped down into her bra and knickers and climbed into the bed.
There was only one bed, a double, Nikki and Lauren hadn't minded-well they'd shared beds so many times over the years they hadn't really thought about it. Who ever had booked the rooms for the crew had under booked and they had been lumbered with the double room, not that they minded because they had better facilities than everyone else.
As Nikki lay there her mind started to work through what she'd done that day, she was pleased with the progress she'd made with her story. She was currently working on a plot where the governor falls for one of the cons, it was a tricky story line to write but it had gripped her imagination, she felt a buzz as she'd tried to jot down as much as she could.. as she continued to think she drifted off to sleep.
Helen woke with a start. She was still in the bath, how long had she been there? She hadn't heard Nikki coming in yet so she jumped out quickly and put on a cropped T-shirt and a pair of Pyjama shorts. She towel dried her hair, switched off the light and walked towards the bed.
Climbing in she was just settling down when her leg brushed against something, imagining all sorts of reptile slithering around the bottom of the bed made her scream.
'AAARGH!!' she jumped put of the bed.
A voice from the bed said.. 'What the fu..?' as she switched the bedside lamp on.
'Nikki!? What are you doing here? When did you get back?' Helen demanded.
'Me? Never mind what am I doing here, what the hell are you doing here? This is my room.'
'I swapped, didn't you get Lauren's message?' Helen asked.
'What message?' Nikki was bewildered.
'She left a message on your mobile asking if it was OK for me to swap with her for tonight, she asked you to ring and let her know if it was a problem'.
'Bloody marvellous' Nikki grumbled, she got up out of bed and walked to the table where she'd left her mobile, Helen watched as she switched it on and listened to the message, as Nikki hung up she looked away, she didn't want her to think she'd been staring, considering her obvious state of undress.
'Ah right, so it was you who was in the bath?' Nikki asked.
'Yeah, look if it's a problem I can get dressed and go back to my room' Helen's statement drew Nikki's attention to what she had on, she felt muscles in the pit of her stomach clench. Oh no way! She was certainly not going down that road again there was no way on earth she was going to let herself going to fall for someone like Helen, she'd been there, done that crashed and burned.
'Well you're here now so we might as well just leave arrangements as they are, besides I'm knackered and don't relish the idea of Lauren barging in at god knows what time. It's up to you, but I'm going back to sleep'.
She climbed into bed rolled on to her side, with her back to Helen.
Helen thought for a moment, she didn't really want to go through the hassle of getting dressed etc. So she climbed into her side of the bed and switched off the light.
Not wanting to get any closer to Nikki than was absolutely necessary she moved her body to the edge of the bed. Nikki misinterpreted this action.
'There's no need to worry Helen, I'm not going to pounce on you. I may be gay but I'm not desperate, besides you 're not my type'.
Helen was annoyed, she switched the light back on.
'What the hell are you going on about now? And what type am I exactly? I'm surprised you have any idea considering you've only said about 20 words to me since we've met - all bad I might add'.
Nikki groaned, why hadn't she kept her mouth shut, she just wanted to sleep! She sat up and turned to face Helen.
'What type are you? Well let me see, good looking actress, straight, probably an easy shag, shallow, two faced, conceited..'
She didn't continue as Helen's resounding slap had silenced her.
Helen got up out of bed and turned to Nikki, 'She did a fucking good job on you didn't she!'.
'Who?' Nikki asked.
'Trish Harris' Helen stated.
'That's none of your bloody business' Nikki started.
'You're making it my bloody business by accusing me of being what she is. Well I'm sorry Nikki, the fact that you chose to shag a cheap tart together with the fact that you could not see that she was only using you is your own fault. It has nothing at all to do with me. So do me a favour will you? Stop taking it out on me, ALRIGHT!' With that Helen picked up her clothes from the chair and started to dress.
Nikki was stunned, Christ what an outburst! What a temper!
But she felt angry too, how dare Helen accuse her of but as she thought about it she realised that she might have been a touch .. unfair? She figured she should at least try to calm the waters a bit.
'Look Helen, there's no need to leave. You're right I probably have been a little unfair..'
'A 'little unfair'' Helen screeched, 'talk about understatements! You have been down right rude, you've called me names, you've criticised me and the most insulting thing you've done to date is link me and my personality with that fucking tart! Well I'm sorry Nikki, in my book that is a lot more than ' a little unfair' don't you think?'
Nikki flopped back onto the bed, she put her forearm over her eyes. She felt like a shit, Helen didn't deserve to be treated that way she knew that but she was just so angry, but it was an anger that she should be directing towards Trish. It was as if talking to Helen was opening up the floodgates that until now had been held tightly shut.
'I'm sorry' she looked across at Helen, 'look don't go. I'm tired and I am an irritable shit at the best of times. My mouth is working ahead of my brain, I shouldn't take my problems out on you and I am sorry if I have insulted you. Please don't go like this' she paused, 'look get back into bed and I promise I wont say another word, okay?'.
Helen didn't want to get back into bed, she wanted to storm off, but at the end of the day what good would that do, it would be easier of they buried the hatchet here and now.
'Right! I'll stay but let's agree to stay out of each other's way from now on okay? I don't think I could stand to be on the receiving end of any more of your insults'.
She took her jeans back off and got into bed, turned her back to Nikki and reached to turn off the light.
' 'night' Nikki said trying to make peace.
'Whatever' Helen mumbled.
Before long they were both fast asleep.
Helen was roused from her sleep by a noise, for a moment she couldn't figure out what it was, then she heard it again. She realised it was Nikki, she was dreaming, about Trish judging by the mumbling coming from her.
Helen turned to look at her, her face was wet with tears. Helen felt her heart lurch, clearly the whole Trish thing affected Nikki a lot more than she let on to the outside world. Wanting to help, to comfort her she reached out and took Nikki into her arms. Nikki pulled her closer, she didn't wake but she continued to cry, Helen whispered words of comfort, encouraging Nikki to let go of the feelings she had locked inside her. After a while Nikki seemed to settle, soon she had stopped crying and once again was sleeping soundly. Helen, not wanting Nikki to wake finding her with her arms wrapped around her moved back across to her side of the bed and went back to sleep.
A couple of hours later Nikki woke, she couldn't move her leg, feeling uncomfortable and disorientated she switched on the bedside lamp. She discovered the reason for her sudden paralysis. Helen was fast asleep but had one of her legs on top of Nikki's. Nikki grinned, she slowly eased her leg out from underneath and got up to go to the loo. Helen mumbled and shifted once again making herself even more comfortable, taking up more of the bed in the process.
Nikki felt different, she didn't know why, but she felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, she went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror, she was surprised at what she saw. Clearly she had been crying, she couldn't remember.. could she? Did Helen..? Nah. She must have been dreaming. Well whatever happened she certainly felt better for it, she felt revitalised, and a lot more like her old happy go lucky self.
When she came out of the bathroom Nikki stopped and looked at the woman lying in the bed. She knew she'd been such a bitch to her and it really was not like her to be so awful to complete strangers, but there was something about Helen that got under her skin, why had she reacted like that she wondered.
Looking at her now, Nikki knew why, she was attracted to her. Well she was gorgeous, but the feelings frightened her. She was not going to let herself fall for Helen, the fact that she was an actress was bad enough but she was also straight and that was a factor that would undoubtedly throw even more complications into the equation.
Nikki didn't feel like going back to sleep yet, (which was a good job since Helen was currently managing to take up most of the bed) she walked across to the table. Helen had left her bag on top of it and poking out of the top was her script for the show.
Taking it out of the bag and picking up her pen Nikki walked out onto the balcony she sat down and started to read.
Christ! It was awful, how Helen could bring herself to do some of this stuff. The dialogue was a load of crap, it seemed to Nikki that they were using Helen's character as a bit of totty to brighten the day of the new partner, that was not the way the character had been created. Nikki had made her a tough, no nonsense sort of woman, who did have a soft feminine side but only showed it when she wanted to, the way this piece was written Nikki was surprised that Helen had to film anything outside the bedroom.
She couldn't help herself, she started to draw lines through huge chunks of Helen's dialogue. And once she had finished doing that she started to fill in the gaps she had created a while later she sat back, her back ached after being set in the same position for so long but she felt elated, she had managed to create something really good, she knew that, she wondered whether Helen would have the bottle to use her stuff.
She knew that she was permitted to change some parts of the script if she felt it necessary, but Nikki knew that Jim Fenner hated anyone trying to change anything. So she wrote Helen a message at the top of the page, it read.
'Remember You are the star of the show, it's easier to replace Fenner than it is to replace you If you think the changes will work use them. Don't let him talk you out if it.
Sorry about.. well you know what..
She walked back into the bedroom, Helen had moved (again) and there was now room for her to get back into bed. She put the script back into Helen's bag and climbed back into bed.
The next time she woke Helen had gone. Nikki felt disappointed, she immediately tried to shake that feeling off, she didn't want to start thinking that way about Helen, in fact she didn't want to think that way about anyone ever again.
Helen had left a brief note.
'Thanks for the use of the room. Maybe I'll see you around.
Short and to the point! Well Nikki thought, I don't suppose I deserve anything more.
She got up, showered and dressed and wandered down in search of breakfast, there was a note for at reception from Lauren.
We're filming down at the beach all day, if you fancy it join us.
Nikki was quite keen to watch today, she wanted to see how Helen reacted to the changes in the script, the way that she handled Jim Fenner and his reaction to her alterations.
Now more than ever she was sure that Helen would be perfect for the Wing Governor part she had created, she was excited and that was something she had not felt for a while, she hoped that the excitement was due to the story and not to the potential Wing Governor.
She finished her breakfast, nipped back to her room to don suitable beach attire and headed out.
When she got to the beach she saw Lauren and wandered over.
'Hey how's it going?' she asked her.
'Don't ask! Helen and Jim have been arguing all morning, Helen has come up with some really good stuff for this scene but he's not having any of it, so she's refusing to do anything. He's gone ballistic, but at the end of the day he's stuck and he knows it. She's over there' she pointed to Helen who was sunbathing, ' waiting for his decision'.
Nikki grinned and told Lauren that she'd go and have a chat with her, for a bit of moral support, not because she wanted to see her or anything she thought to herself.
'Good morning, sleep well?' she asked Helen as she neared.
'Very well thanks' she replied with a smile.
'You should have you took up so much of the bed that I had to get up and do some work' she teased.
'I noticed' Helen smiled at her.
Nikki's heart flipped, still battling to suppress the feelings rushing around her body she continued, 'So how did he take it?'
'I'm surprised you didn't hear him from the hotel!' she laughed, 'I'm trying to act cool at the moment. My body is screaming at me to give into him, he's so over powering, but I'm more stubborn than he thinks I am'
'Glad to hear it'
'Thanks by the way, you're changes were brilliant. It's like you got inside my head well you know the characters head, how do you do that?' she asked, genuinely interested.
'Well if I'm honest I had a bit of a headstart' Nikki told her.
'What do you mean?'
'Well I created you, I mean her' Nikki admitted.
Helen sat up, this action drew Nikki's attention to her body, she felt herself gasp. Dragging her eyes backup to Helens she was met by a quizzical stare...clearly Helen had said something but she'd missed it.
'Sorry?' she said. Helen grinned, she was well aware of the effect she was having on Nikki and in a way was glad, after all Nikki had made her feel uncomfortable often enough this week and it was nice to have the boot on the other foot for a while.
'You mean this is your story?' she was surprised.
'Yep' Nikki admitted.
'So why aren't you working on it now?'
'Simple, Jim Fenner. They brought him in before production started and I walked out. I told them I didn't want my name linked with his. I don't like his work and I don't like the way he operates. He is a manipulative bastard. I've seen the damage he can do, not just to the work but some of the actresses. He uses his position in a way that I don't agree with'.
'I know exactly what you mean, he tried it on with me when I got taken on'
Nikki looked surprised.
'No need to look so shocked Nikki, some people do see some attractive qualities in me you know'.
Oh do I! Nikki thought.
'Anyway I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't interested and that if he didn't keep his slimy paws to himself then I would make a complaint against him, he hasn't bothered me since. So what are you working on now?'
Nikki thought about her answer, she didn't want to give much away at this stage.
'I've got on or two irons in the fire'.
'Well if you've got a part that can take me away from all this' she gestured towards Fenner, 'believe me when I say you wont have to ask me twice' she had been joking and didn't realise the plans that Nikki had in her mind.
Nikki grinned, 'You never know you're luck'.
Their conversation was cut short by Jim Fenner.
'Nikki' he nodded an acknowledgement of her presence.
'I would say good to see you Jim, but frankly it's not, see you Helen. And remember what I told you' she looked at Helen then back at Jim.
Helen had to push her nails into the palms of her hands to stop herself from laughing.
'Will do and Nikki, thanks' she added.
'No problem' Nikki called back over her shoulder.
'So Jim, what news do you have for me?'
'I agree to implement your changes, now lets go!' he was mega pissed off, he would get the bitch for this. No one made Jim Fenner look weak and got away with it.
As she walked ahead of him he eyed up her figure, a thought occurred to him, he ran his tongue across his lips, he knew exactly how she was going to pay for this.
The rest of the week went by quickly, Nikki managed to avoid having much contact with the crew, she used the free time working on her own stuff. She had really been gripped by this new story, she was amazed that a task that seemed so difficult just a few weeks ago was now comparative child's play. Ideas for plots just kept coming into her head, no sooner had she got one jotted down than another arrived, she found that the advantage of setting her story inside a prison was the array of characters available to her. From the straight-laced prison officers to the real scum bag cons. She could not wait to get home and start putting her ideas together in some presentable format. She knew that this story was going to be snapped up, her work was popular and she was constantly badgered for new stuff.
One thing she was going to make sure of was that she'd have more power to decide who does what in this one. Having seen the fiasco that had been created in the series that Lauren and Helen were involved in she was not going to have this one go the same way.
She had pretty much avoided Helen too, a conscious effort on her part, whilst she and Helen were on slightly better terms than when they'd first met, Nikki did not want to get to know her any better than that. If she was honest it was because she could imagine herself falling for Helen, and that was definitely something she wanted to avoid. She wasn't rude if Helen spoke to her, but she was always cool, never encouraging long conversations, always finding some excuse to disappear.
She knew that she still wanted Helen to head her cast, but that job was quite a way off yet. She had made discreet enquiries regarding Helen's contract, it turned out that she only had a few more months to run and had an option to leave the show then. Nikki figured the timing couldn't be better, in a couple of months the stuff she was working on should be ready to go and it seemed Helen would be open to offers around that time too, though her comments earlier in the week seemed to suggest she would leave tomorrow if she could.
The final day of the shoot didn't arrive soon enough for Nikki, she was itching to get home and start work properly. She was very glad she had come on this trip, it had been just what she had needed to get her back on track, she told Lauren so that night.
'Thanks for bringing me, it really has been good for me you know'
'No problem though you don't seem to have had much of a holiday. I don't think I've seen you with your head out of that book for more than ten minutes!' Lauren joked.
'Well when you're on a roll my head seems to have been taken over. It's weird you know the characters are just falling onto the page. I can mentally picture each and every one of them. I even have ideas of who to cast for a couple' she admitted.
'Really, who?' Lauren asked, she loved gossip.
'Well I'm not sure I should tell you'
Lauren slapped her on the arm, 'Don't you dare do that, you can't lead me up to it like that and then refuse to tell me'
'OK, how about I give you a clue' Nikki grinned.
'Oh Nikki stop being such a tease, come on spill the beans'
Nikki looked across to the bar. Helen was stood there talking to one of the other regular cast members, Lauren followed her gaze.
'Helen? You're kidding me?' she turned back to Nikki, 'You two have done nothing but bicker since you met and now you're thinking of offering her a job. Do you think she'll be interested?'
A voice from behind Lauren interrupted them, 'This sounds interesting. Mind if I join you ladies?' Helen asked.
Lauren was flummoxed, she didn't know what to say. She looked to Nikki for help but none was forthcoming. Nikki stood up, 'I was just going to get a drink' her mouth was suddenly dry but that had nothing to do with thirst. Helen looked stunning, the week in the sun had turned her skin a beautiful shade and the overwhelming affect she was having on Nikki was almost painful.
'Would either of you like me to get you one?' they both nodded. Nikki took their orders and walked to the bar.
'You know' Helen started, ' if I didn't know any better I would be sure that she doesn't like me. Have I done something I'm not aware of do you think' she asked.
'No, I'm sure you're imagining it, she likes you' Lauren tried to sound convincing, 'besides if she didn't like you she wouldn't be thinking of..' she stopped, realising that she had almost let the cat out of the bag already.
'Thinking of what?' Helen persisted.
Lauren was stuck between a rock and a hard place, should she tell? Well really it wasn't that big a deal was it?
'Look if I tell you, you must promise that you won't say a word' she looked at Helen, wanting reassurance.
'I swear' Helen made the figure of a cross, shoulder to shoulder, head to heart.
'Well this story she is working on, she is thinking of you for one of the lead roles. Oh swear you won't say anything, she'll go mad. She wants to ask you herself when it's all sorted'
Helen felt a tremor of excitement go through her, any actress would be thrilled to be asked to be involved in one of Nikki's productions, but she was also keen because it would mean she could leave the show she was in now. Her contract was due for renewal soon, and she had not yet had any decent offers, well nothing that had taken her fancy anyway. She'd started to worry that she may have to stay on and she didn't want to work with Jim Fenner any longer than she had to.
She was already looking forward to working with Nikki a thought that surprised her, probably because they hadn't got on since day one.
As Nikki came back to the table Lauren flashed a warning glance at Helen, she needn't have worried, Helen gave nothing away. Nikki managed to keep the conversation to a non-controversial basis she found it quite easy as she enjoyed talking with Helen and Lauren. Listening to Helen talk made her realise how unfair she had been to her when they'd first met. She was nothing at all like Trish. She was actually very nice, very intelligent and having seen her working during the week, very talented. Nikki stopped short when she realised where her thoughts were leading and she started to panic again, she suddenly felt very hot, she had to get out of the bar.
She made a quick excuse and headed off for the toilets.
'See what I mean' Helen said to Lauren, 'as soon as I start talking to her she can't wait to get away'. Lauren had been surprised at Nikki's behaviour she wondered what was wrong with her. She told Helen that she was going to check to see if she was okay.
She followed Nikki into the loo's.
When she walked in Nikki was leaning over the sink, splashing water on her face.
'Nik, are you okay hon? You disappeared so quickly. What's wrong?' she was worried.
'I'm okay it just got a bit hot for me in there' Nikki explained.
'But Nik it's an air-conditioned bar, you can't ' Lauren tried to argue.
'I was HOT ALRIGHT!' Nikki started to raise her voice, she quickly realised she was over reacting and tried to apologise, 'sorry Kiddo, I'm just having a few problems, you know with all the stuff with Trish '
Lauren was even more confused and wanted to know more. 'What's Trish got to do with anything? You were with me and Helen..' as she said it an idea drifted into her head.
'Aah so that's it!' she said.
'So what's what?' Nikki asked.
'It's Helen isn't it? You're interested and it frightens you' Lauren accused.
'I'm not interested', she tried to argue, Lauren laughed.
'Yeah right! Nik it's written all over your face and besides, you know you've never been able to lie to me' Lauren laughed again.
'Stop laughing, it's not funny' Nikki slumped against the wall and ran her hands through her hair. 'I can't go through all that again Lauren, what happened with Trish it's been so hard to get over. I don't think I could ever trust anyone again. Yes, okay, I admit I am attracted to Helen but I'm telling you now I won't do anything but fight against how she makes me feel' she paused 'besides she's straight and that is a whole can of worms I don't intend to open up, it's too messy'.
'What makes you say that?' Lauren asked.
'I had a relationship with a straight woman once, she tried to make it work but ', Lauren interrupted.
'No I mean, what makes you think that Helen is straight?' she asked.
'I just assumed, I mean she's never done or said anything to make me think differently' Nikki admitted.
'Well it's not like you've given her chance to do or say much of anything, since you've met you've done your best to be as difficult as possible. She's of the opinion that you don't like her so she's hardly likely to confide in you about anything personal is she is? She told me a while ago, but it's one of the 'best-kept secrets in showbiz'. Obviously it wouldn't do the show much good if she came out, she has quite a male following you know and if we're honest she's probably keeping that show going on her own, without her it would be complete crap, instead of quite crap' she laughed. 'She's definitely not straight though' she said and added for Nikki's benefit 'and she's single'.
Nikki was still trying to digest what Lauren was telling her, Christ! That just makes the situation worse doesn't it? She was so glad they were heading home tomorrow, all she had to do was get through tonight. She wasn't happy to hear that Helen thought she didn't like her though, she seemed nice enough and she did like her, but she was not willing to think of her as future girlfriend material.
'Come on, she's going to think we've done a runner' Lauren broke the silence 'and Nikki please try to be a bit nicer, being a bitch doesn't suit you'. She turned and walked out of the toilets, a wide grin on her face. She was looking forward to speaking to Yvonne, this was a good sign, okay so Nikki was fighting it but she still admitted being interested. The more she thought about it the more she thought that Helen might be too, if Nikki ever stopped being rude to her that was, perhaps with a little help she and Yvonne could sort this one out.
Nikki was not was not as keen to return to their table, she knew that she would regret admitting anything to Lauren, she was bound to start pushing them together, she never listened to Nikki and could never keep anything to herself.
'Everything okay?' Helen asked, Nikki looked at her she looked truly concerned.
'Yeah I'm fine, got a bit hot and needed a bit of air. It's probably because I've had too much sun, I'm used to British weather don't forget and I've over done it a bit this week', she smiled.
'Well I'm glad you feel better, do you two want another drink?' they all had another and were soon talking amicably again.
As the evening progressed Nikki relaxed, she made an effort to be her normal self. Well it didn't really take a great deal of effort and she wanted to be herself because she didn't want Helen to leave Spain only knowing the completely rude obnoxious cow she'd been when they'd first met. Even though she wasn't interested in having a relationship with her she was still very interested in her playing the Governor in her new production.
The end of the night came all too soon and as they left the bar they were all a bit 'merry' but all happy and for their own reasons.
Helen was glad that the week was over, that she had finally got Jim Fenner to listen to her and happy that she had stopped arguing with Nikki.
Nikki was happy because she had made so much progress with her new project and that she had finally managed to stop arguing with Helen.
Lauren was happy to see that Nikki had finally managed to drag herself up from wherever she had spent the last few months. She was looking forward to getting together with her mother and planning their next move to aid her recovery. Helen and Nikki appeared to have made peace, that helped their cause no end.
They shared the lift up to their rooms Nikki and Lauren stepped out first, Lauren turned around and hugged Helen and kissed her cheek saying her farewells, when they parted all eyes turned to Nikki. What? she thought, oh right.. realising she was supposed to do the same now that they were all friends.
She walked forward and gave Helen a hug she pulled back and turned to kiss her cheek but as she did Helen tried to do the same and their lips brushed lightly. Nikki felt flames shoot through her body, Helen was flustered by the reaction coming from her own body. Wow! They mumbled a quick goodnight, Nikki could feel the heat rising to her cheeks as the lift doors closed, as she turned she looked at Lauren who had seen it all, 'don't say a word' she warned.
Lauren had to bite her lip to stop herself saying anything and they walked in silence to their room. Back in the lift Helen had put her fingers to her lips they were still tingling, never before had she felt such an instant reaction, she hadn't really thought of Nikki in that way she was attractive of course, but as they had been at loggerheads all week any attraction that might have been there had not become apparent. If anything she'd felt on edge every time Nikki had been near her, waiting for some snide comment or accusation. But if she was honest Nikki had seemed to ease off a bit, until this evening they had not actually had a conversation that lasted more than a few minutes. She didn't know what to make of what had just happened, it was an accident but .she couldn't help replaying it over and over in her head.
The following day they all headed home. Nikki didn't have much chance to talk with Helen during the trip, at the airport they were to part company. Nikki was heading home and the others were heading back to London. She walked across to Lauren to say her goodbyes and once they were done she bent to pick up her luggage, a voice from behind her caught her off guard.
'Running off without saying goodbye Nikki?' Helen asked.
'No..I was..er no of course not .. I ..was' she stammered and then realised that Helen was laughing.
'It was supposed to be a joke. I just came over to say good bye and to thank you for the help with Jim' she added.
'Oh right. Well, um good bye to you too, it was nice meeting you and anything I can do to help improve that crap he's creating is absolutely my pleasure. Listen, feel free to call me if you come up with any problems like that again, I can't say for sure that I'll be able to help but, well .. Lauren knows where to get in touch with me' she added, she wasn't really sure why she'd done that. She had been keen to break contact hadn't she? And now here she was encouraging her to phone her.
'Thanks that's very kind of you, I'm hoping I won't have to put up with him for much longer anyway'
'Really? Do you have something else lined up already?' Nikki asked, she was panicking now she didn't want Helen signing up for anything yet. She wanted the chance to offer her a part in her production but she didn't want to go into detail about it with her yet.
'Well, I have heard about a couple of possibilities, no concrete offers yet though' she added.
'Look, Helen, I know that this will seem a bit cheeky, particularly considering the fact that I haven't been exactly friendly towards you this past week, but could I ask you not to sign anything just yet? I can't say too much yet as I don't have any details myself but this thing I've been working on, well I might have a part that you may be interested in. I have a few details to sort out now that I'm back in the UK which is why I can't say anything for definite now, but I wouldn't mention it if I wasn't sure it would work' she realised she was rambling a bit.
'Well..' Helen started, she had to make this look good, she didn't want Nikki to know the possible offer she'd been referring to was the part Nikki had been talking about anyway, 'judging by what you did with my script this week I'd be mad to rush into anything else. I'll hold off signing anything, but can you keep me up to date on progress? You know if you think it looks like a no go I'd appreciate it if you could let me know ASAP' she asked.
'No problem. I'm hoping to have firm details over the next month, you've got a couple of months to run on your contract yet anyway haven't you?' she looked at Helen realising that she'd just let on that she'd been making her own enquiries, Helen looked surprised.
'Yes that's right'
'Well my advice is don't sign up for anything new and definitely don't sign up for a contract renewal on this pile of crap' she grinned. 'No offence to you or Lauren but there's only one direction that this show is heading and if I can I will make sure that you both jump ship before it sinks. Right I'd better go, I'll be in touch' they all said goodbyes.
Back at the pub Yvonne was waiting for Nikki's return. She'd already had a call from Lauren giving her brief details. They agreed that the best way to handle Nikki was to let her think she was in control of things. Whatever happened things seemed to be improving, Yvonne knew that she was still struggling with what Trish had done and that she would need time, but a bit of encouragement and reassurance at the right time could work wonders.
Nikki came in.
'Hiya, how are you?' she kissed Yvonne and handed her the presents she'd brought her.
'All the better for seeing you love. The sun seems to have worked wonders, you look great. Well a bleedin' sight better than you did last week anyway. You had me worried you know, thought I was going to have to resort to slapping a bit of sense into you' she grinned.
'Sorry to disappoint you, I know your penchant for physical violence' Nikki joked.
'Less of your bleedin' lip madam, so come on tell me what you've been up to' she asked.
'Have you heard from Lauren yet?' Nikki asked.
Yvonne avoided looking at her, but Nikki already knew they'd talked, 'Yeah she rang to say that they'd got back'
'Yeah, she mentioned that some woman was staying at the house tonight, what was her name?'
'Yvonne you're such a bad liar. You know damn well what her name is, I'm sure Lauren has enjoyed telling you all about it. Now I will tell you just as I told her, Helen - the woman staying with Lauren, is very attractive, friendly and I'm sure would make an excellent girlfriend, but and I emphasise the but, I am not ready for any kind of relationship right now, particularly with an actress. I have asked Lauren and I am asking you, please don't try and set me up or anything like that, I know you mean well, but I'm just not ready, okay?'
'Fine by me darlin', you can take it from me - I won't get involved' Yvonne said. The way she figured it was that if she argued with Nikki, then Nikki would just dig her heels in further, she knew how to handle Nikki and subtlety was the order of the day.. for now.
Things soon settled back to normal.
Nikki was like a whirlwind around the place, she had really got her teeth into this new project she was forever disappearing for meetings to discuss scripts, plots financing. The initial reactions she'd got were all good, she had the backing she needed and was getting there with scripts etc. Casting was due to start soon. She had a few ideas for some of the roles and was currently arranging auditions, she hadn't had chance to get in touch with Helen directly yet, but through Lauren had told her that things were going well.
The past week had been the most busy, she felt as though she hadn't stopped, she was planning on taking a time out for the whole weekend, maybe spending a bit of time with Yvonne, she hadn't seen a great deal of her since she'd got back (not just back from Spain, but back from the Hell that Trish had dumped her into).
She rang Yvonne to tell her what her plans were.
'That's made my bleedin' week love. It means I'll have both my girls' here then coz Lauren's coming home for the weekend too. She reckons that bastard Fenner has been such a prick all week that she needs to get away before she does something she'd regret. Personally I'd have given the bastard what for ages ago, he's a slime bag of the highest order, the sooner they get rid of him the better. Lauren says he's been ripping into Helen big time, she walked off set yesterday, she's threatening to jack it all in before her contract runs out, reckons she'd be better off being sued for breach of contract than put up with any more of his bleedin' nonsense.
'Well I am hoping to set up a meeting with her over the next few weeks, I have a part to offer her myself' Nikki told Yvonne.
'Really? Christ Nikki, well get off yer arse and ask her coz she's desperate for a way out. You could be the answer to her prayers' the emphasis that Yvonne put on her words seemed to suggest that she was not just talking about Helen's career dreams, but Nikki was not going to encourage her, she had managed to put all thoughts of Helen Stewart out of her mind apart of course from her becoming the Governor.
'I will, I will, I don't fancy the idea of her being around Jim Fenner either, I trust him about as far as I could throw him. Which, I should add, is not as far as I would like to be able to throw him', she laughed.
They made arrangements for Nikki to come round that night, Yvonne was cooking them all a meal, Nikki was looking really forward to it as they hadn't been together like that since before she moved away.
She took her time to get ready, she had a long soak in the bath, soothing away all the stresses of the past few weeks. She was happy for the first time in ages - she realised how lucky she was to have a family like hers. There was no way she would have recovered without them, she shivered as she remembered some of the darker thoughts that had crossed her mind in the first few days after Trish had left. Shaking the memories from her mind she got out of the bath and dressed.
Donning a pair of black jeans, black vest and a crimson silk shirt she headed off towards the pub. She could hear Yvonne laughing and joking as she walked in through the door.
She smiled, it always felt so good to be home.
'Only me!' she put on a pathetic attempt at a Harry Enfield voice. She wished she hadn't when she walked into the lounge to see Yvonne and Lauren laughing and joking with Helen Stewart.
'Oh hi!' she said, surprise evident on her face.
'Hiya Nikki. I hardly recognised you then, you sounded too happy?' she joked.
'Mmm, full of surprises aren't I' she retorted.
'Absolutely' Helen managed to reply before she started to laugh.
Nikki grimaced, she hated being the butt of any ones jokes but she managed to laugh off her embarrassment.
'So to what do we owe this honour' she directed her question to Lauren, 'had a hard week dear?'
Lauren cast her a don't laugh it's not funny look, 'Something like that, we decided that if we didn't get at least this far from Fenner we'd probably end up either killing him or topping ourselves'. A shadow fell across Nikki's mind as she was reminded of her earlier thoughts about suicide, she shook herself free of them again and started to speak.
'I can't say I'm surprised, I'm amazed that you've managed this long. I think I'd have felt the need to do him an injury if that trip to Spain had lasted any longer. How the man continually manages to get work is beyond me' she admitted.
Yvonne cut in, 'Well not wanting to name-drop or anything (for a change!) but I've heard it on good authority that he has quite a lot of people who owe him. I'm not sure why or how but he's got something big on some very influential people. It's buying him time, it won't last forever believe me and if he knows what's good for him he won't push his luck, he might find himself wearing a nice pair of concrete boots for his next swimming lesson. Oh and by the way ladies, grubs up', Nikki looked at Yvonne, she was so matter of fact, there she was chatting away about the possibility of Jim Fenner being murdered and then she switches back to 'oh and your dinner's ready' in the same breath, the woman was unique!
They trooped into the dining room where they settled down to enjoy yet another of Yvonne's culinary delights. During dinner Nikki's new production was brought up. She briefed them on the basic plot and a few of the characters, they all said loved the idea and asked question after question.
'So what's it going to be called' Lauren asked.
'We've knocked round a couple of titles but my favourite is.. 'Bad Girls', what do you think?'
She asked the group.
'Brilliant, yep I can definitely see that one working' Lauren said.
'Sounds good to me too' said Helen.
'A bleedin' inspired choice love' Yvonne agreed.
'Right' Nikki took charge of the conversation, 'I know that we shouldn't discuss business over dinner but you two are doing my head in. I feel as though you are hanging on my every word about this bloody piece. So for the record, and I apologise for keeping you waiting this long Lauren I have a job ready and waiting for you if you decide you can tear yourself away from the lovely Mr Fenner..'
'I accept' Lauren said before Nikki could say any more.
'You don't even know the terms yet' Nikki laughed.
'I don't give a rats arse, I'd do it for peanuts if it meant working with you again and not having to work with that bastard' she added.
'Right, so that's you sorted, which leads me to you Helen' their eyes met. Nikki's heart turned over in her chest, that was a reaction that she was going to have to try and control she thought to herself.
'I have a script ready for you to take a look at. I haven't got it with me because I didn't know you'd be here, but I can pop back to the flat and get it after dinner if you'd like to see it tonight. You don't have to accept but if you say yes the part is yours no audition required' she smiled.
Helen was delighted, she hadn't dared pin her hopes on what Nikki had said at the airport but she knew that she'd spent the last month waiting for her to get in touch. Her relationship with Fenner had deteriorated badly and whilst the shows ratings were still good she knew that she couldn't last much longer, she really was at the end of her tether, this job offer from Nikki was a lifeline she was intending to grab with both hands.
'I can't thank you enough' she told Nikki.
'Hey, you haven't even read it yet' Nikki put in.
'I don't need to read it to know how good it is. Just listening to your enthusiasm tells me how good it will be, but to set your mind at rest I would love to see the script after we've helped Yvonne clear up' she smiled at Yvonne who returned the look with one of genuine appreciation.
It took a lot to win Yvonne over but she'd taken a liking to Helen straight away, Lauren had been right, these two were perfect for each other. Nikki needed a bit of a nudge and Helen seemed wary, with a bit of effort on her part and they'd be sorted. Well no time like the present to set the ball rolling.
'Tell you what love, why don't you two nip off to the flat. Helen here can have a read in peace and you can talk your business through in private, me an' Lauren will clean up here and catch up on each others gossip' she made eye contact with Lauren letting her know that this was no time to disagree.
'Yeah fine, Mum's right you two go and sort that out, we'll clean up here'
Nikki felt a little uncomfortable at the thought of Helen and her being alone together, but this was business, surely she'd be able to maintain her composure.
'Well if you're sure' she looked at Nikki and at Yvonne, needing the all clear from both of them.
'Yeah, that's fine by me' Nikki told her.
'Listen love' Yvonne said, 'You'll do well to remember that I never say anything I don't mean, and it's always pointless to try and argue with me, am I right ladies?'
'Too bloody right' Nikki mumbled and added under her breath a few other descriptions, the word dictator seemed to come out louder than she'd expected and she grinned at Yvonne.
'Watch it you cheeky bleeder! You're still not too old for a clip round the ear you know!' she joked.
Nikki and Yvonne exchanged a bit of minor banter, each threatening the other with all sorts. Helen watched in amazement, she could not believe that the Nikki she had met in Spain was the same one she was watching now. Lauren had said that she was not her normal self but the woman in front of her appeared to have had a personality transplant, for the better she concluded.
'Want to go now then?' Nikki interrupted her train of thought. She blushed, glad that Nikki was not a mind reader at the moment, she hoped that what she'd been thinking about Nikki was not too apparent.
'Yep, lead on', she got up and moved to follow Nikki out of the room.
'Take your time' Yvonne called knowing full well that Nikki would understand what she was getting at.
Nikki paused she wanted to tell them once again to mind their own bloody business but knew that if she did it might draw Helen's attention to what they were up to, so she said nothing and walked on.
As they walked to Nikki's flat an uncomfortable silence seemed to descend on them. They both felt awkward and felt the need to say something and started at the same time.
'It seems odd..'
'Helen I wanted to..'
'Sorry go on' Nikki said.
'I was just going to say it seems odd to be on my own with you without us arguing' she laughed.
'I was just going to apologise for that. I hope you didn't take my behaviour too personally, I had been having a hard time and I reacted badly to anything related to Trish including you which I realise was unfair' she added.
'Lauren did try to reassure me that you weren't having a go at me personally, she said you weren't being yourself and having seen you again tonight I know that she was right. You're actually quite nice when you let people see the real you'.
They had arrived at Nikki's and she led Helen into the lounge.
'Thank you, you're quite nice too. I don't fancy coming up against that temper of yours again though' she laughed and they both relaxed a little more.
'Right, before we start would you like a drink, I've got a couple of bottles of wine knocking around somewhere, take a seat I'll be back in a sec. A few minutes later she was back, carrying a tray with the wine, glasses and a ream of paper that Helen assumed was the script.
Nikki poured the drinks handed one to Helen, drank some of out her own and picked up the script becoming suddenly serious.
'I hope that you will like it. I think you will be excellent for the role of Governor. There's a script and a rough plan for the first episode. I won't say anymore and will leave the decision up to you'.
Helen took the script and immediately started to read. Nikki watched her as she became engrossed in it, that was a good sign and she didn't look too bored - also a good sign, but apart from that her facial expressions gave very little away. Nikki could hear the clock ticking, the noise seemed to get louder and louder until she couldn't stand it, she went to put on some music.
Helen looked up when the music started, she made eye contact with Nikki and smiled.. talented and excellent taste in music too she thought to herself but she didn't say anything and immediately went back to reading. Nikki was becoming increasingly anxious, Christ she was taking ages, but she need not have worried. When she finished Helen put the script down and reached for her drink.
She didn't speak straight away it made Nikki wanted to rush over and shake her and say 'Well?' in her face but held back.
Helen looked up again, she looked extremely serious.
'Didn't you like it?' Nikki asked.
'Like it? It's brilliant, I am speechless which anyone who knows me will tell you is very very rare. Nikki you have to let me take this part, it's a dream come true' she gushed.
Nikki let out a sigh of relief, her plans were all based around Helen taking on the role and now everything was ready to fall into place.
'It's yours. And I am delighted to be the first one to congratulate you' she topped up their drinks and started to discuss terms etc. Nikki only had a rough idea of what they would be offering Helen, but she soon realised that that was not Helen's major concern.
'What about the plans for her relationship with the female inmate? Will that be a problem for you personally?' she asked.
'I don't see why it should be, why do you ask?' she replied.
'Well Lauren mentioned that you ..'
'That I'm gay?' Helen asked.
'Well yes, but my concern is more about the fact that you have chosen to keep that quiet, if this plot goes the way it does then things might be suggested ..?' she didn't really know what she was trying to say but hoped Helen was getting the gist.
'Nikki, I'm not ashamed of what or who I am, my private life is just that, private. The reason that my sexuality is not public knowledge is basically because no one has ever asked me whether I was gay or not, if they had I would have told the truth. The producers of the show I'm in now suggested that I be discreet basically because of the potential "sex symbol" status of my character. That hasn't been a problem for me because I've just come out of a fairly long relationship and I'm not seeing anyone now, but I'd never have denied what I was if anyone had asked and the same goes for now. So I don't see what difference the story line has to that - if that's what you were asking?'.
'Uh, yeah, I suppose that was it' she felt a bit stupid for mentioning it now.
'Good so that's sorted then' she took another drink.
They carried on talking and one way or another conversation came round to Nikki and Trish.
'So have you spoken with her since?' Helen asked.
'No I don't think I could, still hurts too much.' She admitted.
'If it's any help I've been through a similar thing myself, only I've had a bit longer to get over it . But you do though.' She added.
'Do what?' Nikki asked.
'You get over it, it hurts a bit less as time passes, but you do have to help it along you know'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, you can let yourself kind of get dragged down into how it makes you feel can't you. You lose the person that you once were and become cocooned in your own safe little world. That's fine for the short term you're healing and that's important, but you have to make sure that you are able to break out of that I don't think you've managed to do that yet, do you?'
'Perhaps I'm still healing' she argued.
'Perhaps, but perhaps it's easier to lock yourself, your true self, away in the hope that no one will become interested in you and vice versa. Kind of like you did with me I suppose'.
'I didn't do anything with you' Nikki denied.
Helen was not having any of it. 'Oh come off it Nikki. If that's the case, you tell me straight to my face, now that you are not attracted to me in the slightest, that you never have been which I might add I would find disappointing- and deny that you've been fighting what you feel to avoid having to give in to it and face the world again'.
They fell silent, Helen was surprised at her bluntness, it was more alcohol talking than anything else she'd probably regret it tomorrow, but it was done now.
Nikki was stunned. Christ! Was she that transparent.
'How ..?' she started.
'I told you I've been there. I had to figure it all out for myself though. It's obvious to me and probably to you too that there's some kind of attraction between us, whether it comes to the surface is perhaps a discussion best left to another day. I know that you aren't ready to embark on any kind of relationship yet, and frankly, with you being this close off the rebound I wouldn't want it either. The point I'm trying to make is this Nikki, don't let what has happened spoil the rest of your life, not every one is like Trish, deep down you know that's true, you just need to take a step back and think it through. When you do be sure to let me know, deal?'
Nikki was amazed, it was as if Helen had reached inside her head, taken hold of her thoughts and was slowly picking her way through them one by one.
'I don't know what to say' she began.
Helen interrupted her again, 'There isn't really that much to say is there? Unless of course you want to deny it all?'
'No, I..you're right, I'm just a bit shocked to hear my thoughts coming out of your mouth. Does it make me seem like a coward' she wanted to know what Helen thought of her behaviour.
'Not a coward, not yet anyway. It made you seem like a first class bitch when I first met you. Should I take it as a compliment that you reacted so badly to me?' she laughed.
Nikki thought about that and grinned, 'I suppose it was a compliment, in a very back handed way'.
'Look, I don't want you to be afraid of me Nikki, I'm not going to pounce on you and I'm not going to try and win you over. At the moment I will be happy to be your friend, I like you and I think you like me', she looked up and Nikki nodded. The feeling of disappointment that had started to creep through her body on hearing Helen's words confused her, surely that was all she wanted too, just to be friends?
'Well shall we agree to leave it at that then, for now at least?' she didn't wait for an answer, 'Besides, if we are going to be working together I don't want people thinking I had to sleep with you to get the part, they might think I'd become desperate' she laughed.
'For work or sex?' Nikki quipped and they both started to laugh, the deep conversation was past and they moved on.
They had a couple more drinks and talked on and on, neither could really recall what they'd talked about but since laying their cards on the table they had both managed to relax completely and actually found that they were enjoying themselves immensely.
On their way back to the pub, Nikki thought she'd better warn Helen about Yvonne and Lauren's potential match making scheme.
' Oh, I know all about that, Lauren has been nagging me to come here for weeks, but I wasn't sure how you'd react. I didn't want you thinking I was chasing you about the job, but after the week I'd had I would have taken the gamble on being on the receiving end of one of your temper tantrums rather than being anywhere near Jim Fenner, the man makes my skin crawl'.
'What temper tantrums?' Nikki stopped and put her hands on her hips, feigning shock.
'You know bloody well what I mean' Helen smirked and walked on.
Nikki laughed, as she jogged to catch up with Helen she couldn't imagine throwing a temper tantrum at her again.
They walked into the pub, Yvonne was behind the bar.
Nikki grinned, 'Yep, all agreed, drinks on me I think'.
Yvonne turned to Helen, ' Bleedin' 'ell love, you'll have to come 'ere more often, that's the first time she's offered to buy drinks in 'ere for months!'
Helen laughed and exchanged a look with Nikki that didn't go unnoticed by Yvonne.
So they've made their peace now have they? Perhaps it's time to start working on Nikki she thought.
The weekend soon came to an end, both Lauren and Helen felt more refreshed going back home, they hadn't done a great deal but that was what they'd planned. They'd managed to unwind enough to feel ready to go back and take on Jim Fenner.
Nikki had spent most of the weekend at the pub too she was ready to get back to work, she had plenty to set in motion now that she was sure that Helen would be coming aboard. She was glad that she and Helen had spent that time together on the first night, it cleared the air and allowed their relationship to develop, they had become friends, she hoped that they would be able to continue that over the next few months, she did not allow herself to think beyond that.
She met up with them in the pub and hugs were exchanged all round.
When it came to Helen and Nikki there was less awkwardness than in the past.
'Take care of yourself and don't let the bastard get you down. Here I want you to take this' she handed Helen a piece of paper.
'What is it? Not another autograph is it' she laughed.
'It's my phone number, you know in case you need a friend?' she felt a little embarrassed but glad that she'd done it none the less. Helen had made it clear that it was down to her to make the next move, this was the first tentative step.
'Thanks Nikki, this means a lot' she leant over and kissed Nikki on the cheek.
She turned to Yvonne, and they hugged, Helen whispered 'Look after her for me' and as she pulled back she winked. Yvonne smiled this woman was just the tonic that Nikki needed, she was sorry to see her go.
As they waved them off Nikki felt a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach, a dull kind of ache, she tried to shrug it off but couldn't. Was she missing her already! The feeling stayed with her for the next few days, it wasn't exactly painful but she just didn't feel right.
She'd tried her best to dig in and work it helped take her mind off it. She was succeeding today and was deep in thought about a particular plot spot when the phone interrupted her.
Shit! She usually put the machine on when she was working, clearly she'd forgotten.
'Hello!' she didn't sound amused.
'Hiya Nikki. Sorry have I caught you at a bad moment?' she instantly recognised the soft Scottish accent.
'Helen! No of course not. I wasn't doing anything important. How are you?' she asked, well it was only a little white lie!
'Crap! I've had a real bugger of a day, and well I needed someone to talk to, I hope you don't mind, I feel like a bit of a ' she sounded close to tears.
'Don't be daft Helen. I would hardly have given you my number if I didn't want you to ring now would I? So come on, tell me all about it', she stood up taking the phone with her the into the kitchen, she poured herself a large drink and walked back into the lounge, plonking herself on the sofa, it sounded like this was going to be a long one.
Helen talked through what had been happening in her part of the world, Nikki sat, listened and sympathised in all the right places. She leant back and closed her eyes, just listening to the sound of her voice was making her feel warm all over and she realised that the achy feeling she'd had for the last few days had disappeared.
The conversation became less serious once Helen had stopped talking about work. They exchanged more lighthearted moments and general chat, bitching about stars in the news etc, before long Helen said.
'Christ! We've been on the phone for over an hour. Are you sure I'm not keeping you from something?'
Nikki glanced at her watch, 'Nope, I'm happy where I am thank you and it just goes to show how much fun we've been having because this is the first time I've looked at my watch since you phoned. It's been nice, you know?'
'I do! Trouble is it could get addictive' she joked.
'Do you see me complaining' Nikki returned.
'Am I what?' she laughed.
'Oh Nikki, stop it. You would tell me to piss off if I was bothering you wouldn't you?' she sounded too serious for Nikki's liking.
'Helen, have you ever known me mince my words? Have I ever not told my thoughts?' Shit she'd opened up a channel for Helen there she realised, she didn't want to get all serious now.
Helen noticed the opportunity but didn't feel like pursuing it, she didn't want to row and up til now they'd been doing OK.
'I have to be honest when I say that no, you have never held back from making it absolutely clear how much I was annoying you' she said bluntly.
'Well there you go then, there is no problem and if you want to ring me or want me to ring you tomorrow then that will be fine too, ok?' she sounded light hearted but felt her hopes rise that they could do this again soon.
'Can't do it tomorrow sorry, I'm going out' she sounded suddenly depressed.
Nikki felt a slight twist at her heart, 'Somewhere nice I hope?'
'No not really, some promotion do for the show it's all such a bloody drag. I only agree go to one in three and my turn has come around again. It's all such false crap, everyone being nice and polite when really they are all trying to stab each other in the back. I just think of it as a game I spend most of my time trying to figure out who detests me, who hates me and who just doesn't like me' she laughed dryly.
'Surely they're not all that bad?' Nikki asked.
'You'd be surprised, as soon as you start to become successful if I may be so modest!- the knives start to appear. You're OK when you're a nobody. My name is a bit more familiar to people now, most of them I've never met but all of whom have an opinion about me, mostly bad' she added.
'Well they've obviously not met you then. Trish used to love sorry' she added not wanting to go on about her.
'No it's OK, go on' Helen said, grinding her teeth slightly.
'Well I was going to say that Trish loved all that stuff, she used to try and drag me along. I used to spend most of my time drinking at the bar! She probably didn't even notice that they weren't being genuine, either that or she was too insignificant to get noticed!'
'Probably' Helen added, ' sorry should I not say that? I don't even know the woman'
'No you're probably right, but let's not end our conversation discussing her' Nikki asked.
'Oh, are we ending?' Helen teased.
'Well I thought..'
'I was JOKING!'
'Oh right, hard to tell down the phone line!'
'Right then, I will leave you to it now, don't cheer too loud OK'
'Would I? I will wait at least until I've hung up' Nikki laughed.
'Take care of yourself Nikki, I'll speak to you soon' she promised.
'You too and I meant what I said, ring whenever OK?'
'OK, bye then'
'You hang up then'
'OK, bye' there was a pause and they both laughed.
'On the count of 3?' Nikki suggested.
'OK, bye then'
'Bye bye. One two- three' they hung up.
Nikki went to get another drink, she was stopped by the phone ringing.
'I just wanted to say I'll miss speaking to you tomorrow' Helen said quickly 'Night Nikki'
'Me too. Good night Helen' she was grinning as she put the phone down.
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