Disclaimers: Please see Part 1.
Gone what do you mean gone?
Tess looked around the room. All her belongings have disappeared, Eric, including Nikki. I think it's pretty safe to say she's gone. Heading towards the door Tess pulled the barrier opened and stepped out into the corridor. She can't have gone far, I have to find her. She took off in a jog down the long hallway, calling the blondes name as she went. Intense feelings of confusion, desperation, and near panic rose in her chest as she started her search for Nikki.
Tess, hold on.
The photographer turned at the sound of Eric's voice. What is it doc? We don't have time to stand around here; Nikki is gone and I need to find her.
The man held up his hands. Yes you are right but we will have more luck if we widen the search a little. He walked over to the 'evil bleach blonde nurse troll from hell' who was sitting behind a small desk station opposite the main lift. Jayne, did you see Nicole Morris walk past you not long ago?
The woman frowned. No but I have only just returned from my lunch break why?
Eric sighed. She is missing. Look can you send a call out to every floor of this hospital asking whether anybody has seen her; give a good description and if she has been spotted, where that was and how long ago okay?
Of course Mister Jacobson.
Eric turned back to a fidgeting Tess. There now all we have to do is wait and see.
Tess stared at the man like he had just lost his sanity. Wait are you out of your mind? I am going to look for her right now! She set off on a search of the hospitals third floor, checking every room that she was able before descending the stairs to the lower level. Never before had Tess felt such a desperate need burning inside of her. As she continued the search her mind replayed the moments before she exited the room; anxiously she tied to call to mind their conversation. Tess was so certain Nikki was asleep when she left to see Eric; had that been an act? And why had Nikki just disappeared the way she did when she thought they would handle these turn of events together? Inside Tess knew there was something more; something she was missing.
She carried on her search, stopping as many passers by as she could and questioning them as to whether they had seen a young blonde woman walking past them, wearing cropped jeans, a white tee shirt and obviously using a white cane for the visually impaired. Nobody had seen anything and the photographer didn't know whether that in its self was a good or bad sign. If Nikki hadn't been spotted, where could she be?
Within fifteen minutes, Tess re-entered the hallway to the third floor needing to know whether Eric had heard anything, she hopefully approached Nikki's room. The anticipation that had teetered precariously in her mind shattered as she entered the empty space. Everything was still as she had left it; her own belongings lying scattered upon the unmade bed.
Tess sat down as the Doctor entered the room. Anything? he asked with a look of dejection, knowing that if Tess had found anything, her expression wouldn't have been that of somebody who should have been told yesterday that she had a day to live.
Nothing I don't understand doc. I was only gone twenty minutes at the most, where the hell can she disappear to in that amount of time and why?
Maybe she needed to think Tess, she couldn't have gone far could she!
Biting her lower lip Tess stood up and moved to the window, looking out over the distant farmland. I don't know how far she cold have gone doc, but I wouldn't put anything past her, she is a lot more resourceful than I think you would give her credit for. Turing back around to face the room, Tess looked at the doctor before her eyes moved to the bed again; she frowned.
What is it? Eric asked as he noted the sudden change in expression.
What about it?
It wasn't out before! Tess walked over to the bed and picked up the small object. She looked at it thoughtfully before absentmindedly pressing the redial button. With an air of nervous anticipation, Tess held the small device to her ear.
A female voice answered the line. Good afternoon Express Taxis.
Eyes wide, Tess looked over at Eric in shock. Um hi, did you by any chance just receive a phone call from a young woman booking one of your taxis?
Only seven in the past ten minutes darling, you will have to be a little more specific than that! Replied the board voice.
Tess narrowed her eyes. Fine, you do ask for names I presume?
Good. Did you just pick up a young woman from the London Medical centre? Her name would have been either Nicole, or Miss Morris, or Nikki anything like that.
Not my call darling, hold on a moment.
Tess waited impatiently, pacing the floor and delivering looks that could kill to all the inanimate objects of the room.
There was a fair picked up about three minutes ago.
Yes, a young woman quite a pricey ride, she wanted to go all the way to Derbyshire that is going to cost her a fortune I swear some people have more money than sense
Tess disconnected the phone as nurse Jayne entered the room. Mister Jacobson, I just got a call from reception saying that Miss Morris was spotted leaving the building and getting into a taxi cab a couple of minutes ago.
Eric looked towards Tess.
She is on her way home! Tess stated dejectedly.
The Doctors eyes widened. On her way home, she can't she has just gone through a pretty serious operation, she can't walk out of here I need to check her over and make sure there are not any repercussions to the procedure. He turned back towards nurse Jayne anger evident in his eyes. How in the hell was one of my patients able to walk out of this hospital so freely?
The nurse gulped visibly. I I don't know Mister Jacobson, but I shall investigate this right away.
Eric shook his head. No I intend to handle this personally. He turned to Tess. Miss Alexander, how do you think we should deal with this? Would you be willing to go after her?
Tess shook her head as she picked up her backpack, and placed the phone and pictures back inside. Willing to go after her? Are you kidding, I am already out the door! She slung the bag over her shoulder and exited the room then paused. Is Nikki in any serious trouble health wise doc?
Eric shook his head. The first few moments after I would have considered the most unstable. I really just wanted to give a the once over and make sure she is fine, not just physically, but mentally too.
Tess nodded. I'll call, was all she said.
Right, bye Miss Alexander. Eric watched as Tess disappeared from view, hearing rapidly fading steps as she jogged down the corridor.
Heavy footsteps echoed through the Medical centres car park as Tess fled from the hospital and headed straight for her car; unlocking the vehicle with the remote locking device before she had even reached her destination. She pulled open the drivers door, hurling her backpack onto the back seat and climbed inside, starting the engine with one hand while securing her seat belt with the other. She was out of the car park within ten seconds.
Tess thought logically, considering the most obvious route the taxi driver would take towards the Midlands. She desperately hoped she would be able to catch up with the vehicle and find Nikki before they reached the motorway. Unfortunately, Saturday afternoon traffic in London was at it's peak and navigating the busy, claustrophobic streets with as much speed as possible was near to impossible.
I don't understand what's going on? Tess thought as she spotted the turnoff sign for the motorway and directed the car towards her way home. Come on Nikki you have to be taking the same route as me! Jade eyes scanned the road looking out for any taxis. When one was found she would approach the vehicle and try to get a look inside the cab trying to make out just whom the passenger was; each time she was unsuccessful.
Reaching the last turning before the motorway Tess had a sudden thought that made her pull into a side road and stop the car. The god damned hotel! she proclaimed. We still have our belongings there; surely she would go back there first and retrieve our stuff!
With a growled curse at herself for being so slow Tess pulled back onto the main road, this time heading into London. She hoped to god she wasn't too late, knowing that the time she had wasted heading out of London was heavily stacked against her. Nikki had to have gone back to the hotel Tess reasoned, as she had left one of her favourite books and a change of clothing in their room.
The drive back seemed to take much longer, with the brunette's limited patience dwindling away to nothing. So by the time she reached the Claremont Tess felt ready to physically hurt the next person who stood in her way. Entering the building she dashed past reception and straight towards the stairs, not liking the look of the three adults and four children waiting for the lift to arrive; she was in no mood to deal with the obviously misbehaving little 'rats'!
She started up the stairs, not allowing herself one moment's break as she climbed the steps two at a time all the way to the tenth floor. The landing was empty as Tess strode through the door and out into the corridor, looking in all directions as she headed towards her and Nikki's room breathing heavily. It was a long shot; she did know that but needed to be sure in her mind. Reaching the door, Tess swiped her key-card through the locking device and let herself into the room not even bothering to shut the door as she searched for her lover. Nikki!
There was no reply.
Nik are you here? Please answer me. Still nothing. Tess moved through the large room, walking into the separate, peach and cream bedroom and on into the en-suite bathroom. Nikki was nowhere to be seen. Fuck it.
Tess stormed back into their bedroom and opened the double wardrobe doors. She stood back with a surprised frown they were empty. Looking around the room Tess noticed that everything was gone; not even her own belongings were there. Stunned, she sat down onto the bed with a heavy thud and stared into nothingness. What are you thinking Nikki? Tess drifted back to her last moments with the blonde, replaying their conversation over and over in her head. She felt like she was missing a vital clue to Nikki's sudden departure. Salty tears stung her eyes and she tried desperately to keep them at bay, not wanting to lose her poise and presence of mind. She had to find Nikki, and she had to do it now. The blonde was obviously hurting, distressed and by the sheer fact that she had run out on Tess proved to her that she was if at least, half the cause. Aimlessly looking round the room Tess rose to leave when the bedside phone caught her eye. Her father? Tess pulled the mobile from her bag and hit the mayors' home number on the speed dial waiting as the line started to ring.
Good afternoon this is the Morris residence.
Tess pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at the contraption with a mix of surprise and confusion. She placed the device back against her ear, I thought I'd just rang the wrong number!
Tessa honey, what a surprise!
What the hell are you doing there?
Hyacinth chuckled, Well that is a nice greeting from ones own daughter, 'what the hell are you doing there!' Can you believe I actually came down here for a surprise visit; only you never saw fit to tell me you two were going away for the weekend. Did you know I was coming or something? she joked. Anyway, Richard very kindly said I could stay here until you two wanderers return home.
Tess smirked despite the situation; then her disposition became serious once again. Mum I have a question has Nikki called there at all say in the past ten to fifteen minutes?
No dear she hasn't There was a significant pause. Why what has happened?
What makes you think something has happened?
The brunette sighed. Mum I have no time to explain. Tess got up and walked back out of the room, locking the door behind her and approaching the elevator. She stood by the wall as she waited for the lift to arrive. I'm sorry but I need to get to Nikki. I am on my way home and should be there in about two hours or so, okay?
Tess honey, you know I trust you but you are making me awfully nervous here.
The lift arrived and Tess stepped into the empty compartment hitting a small circulate button indicating the ground floor. I'm sorry mum, I know but this isn't something I can't explain on the phone. I will see you soon okay?
There was a long pause, followed by a sigh. Okay, see you soon; and drive carefully alright!
Okay mum, bye. Tess hung up the phone as she reached the ground floor, stepping out into the foyer it had already been settled. The photographer asked how long ago that had been and she and been told no more than thirty minutes before. She then went on to ask whether it was indeed Nikki who had paid the bill and was told by the auburn haired desk clerk that it was a young, blonde haired woman who had settled the bill before following a tall middle aged man who had been carrying her suitcase, out into the streets.
Tess frowned. She really didn't like the idea of Nikki out with somebody she didn't know, even though she had taken taxis before somehow this was different. Storming back out of the hotel the tall photographer headed to her car and jumped back into the vehicle swiftly. Nikki had at least a half an hour start on her, and she was determined to make that time up.
When Nikki was seven years old she had been invited to her first birthday party by one of her school friends. Being as though it was the first party as such that the very young blonde had ever been invited to, she was obviously very excited about going.
She arrived home that afternoon; her Braille invitation clasped firmly within her small hands as she entered the house with James and went in search of her mother. Nikki was extremely thrilled about the invite, but had to have Rosalind's permission and signature on the reply slip before she could be sure that she would go.
Her other hand enclosed within the butlers larger appendage Nikki called out for her mother as she and James moved through the house. They searched continually until Rosalind was found entertaining a small group of female friends under the pagoda in the centre of the garden. James led Nikki up the winding garden path until they reached the gathering of chatting women.
Mother! Nikki called out excitedly.
Rosalind turned towards her daughter with a scowl.
Diane, the Arch Bishops sister, a tall full figured woman with naturally curly dark hair turned to the small blonde with a smile. Well if it isn't little Nikki how are you dimples?
The blonde blushed thinking it amusing how this woman would call her Nikki. Nobody had ever used it before, but because of her, a very young Lisa had even started using that name. Though only just learning how to speak, it sounding more like 'icky' than Nikki.
Hello Miss Diane, I am happy.
Thank you Rosalind looked at Nikki. Remember your manners Nicole!
The small blonde smiled brightly. I am happy thank you.
Diane beamed at the adorable little girl who she believed looked much younger than her seven years. And what do you have there dimples? Dimples, was Diane's nickname for the blonde as she had once changed Nikki's nappy years before and proclaimed that she had the cutest little dimples on her behind!
Nikki's face shone with excitement. I've been invited to a party by my best friend Natalie.
Does Natalie go to the same school as you do? Asked Paula, a slender woman wearing a large amount gaudy dress jewellery.
Yes, Natalie is in my class. She is slightly deaf as well as blind and today we were learning how to use sign language to communicate with people who cannot hear too well. I was learning how to do the alphabet on the teachers hand it was fun! Nikki grinned with excitement as she turned to her mothers position Rosalind. Can I go mother? She held the invitation out in front of her. You have to say yes and sign the bottom of this letter.
Rosalind took the invitation from her daughters' hand and read over the request. Would you like to go Nicole?
Oh I would love to go, I have never been to a party before this will be my first can I please
Rosalind nodded. Very well, I shall be in to talk with you later alright?
Nodding, Nikki reached out for a silent James who had been waiting at the foot of the pagoda for the blonde. Taking the tiny appendage James prepared to lead Nikki back towards the house when Rosalind called out to him.
Abbot, would you bring out another jug of ice tea and a selection of fondants.
The butler bowed slightly. Of course, Mrs Morris I shall return presently.
The young blonde had walked back to the house merrily and had gone straight to her playroom. Waiting as patiently as she could for her mother's friends to leave so she would come and sign the letter.
It was three hours later, and while Nikki sat at her small desk reading a new book her father had brought for her, Rosalind entered the room. Holding the small slip of paper the older blonde stood against the door. Nicole, I think it would be wise that you didn't attend this party at your friends house.
Nikki turned to her mother with teary eyes. But why?
I don't believe you are ready for something like that.
Why? Everybody else is going and they are all in my school, why can't I go mother?
Nicole I made my decision, you should have known you would never be allowed to go when you gave me this invitation. I don't want you going to that place when I don't know the people.
Nikki lowered her head wanting to state that if Rosalind had come to pick her up from school once in a while then maybe she would get to know some of the other parents. But you said 'very well'.
Rosalind sighed as she shook her head and tore up the invitation. But I didn't say yes did I? I just didn't want you causing a scene while I was with representative of the women's institute I will never become a part of that society if they think I can't even control my own child!
But you said
Nicole! The woman interrupted. I didn't want to say anything while outside, you would have started whining and I was in no mood for that. The woman re-opened the playroom door. If a person doesn't actually say the words, Nicole then they never meant it, you should know that by now. Sometimes it is better to skirt around the truth rather than speak it and cause an upset. Rosalind walked through the door. Soon you will know that I am right Nicole, everything I do is for your own good.
The older woman left the room leaving the small blonde alone, trying valiantly to hold back her tears.
Peter Lewis looked in his rear view mirror once again at the passenger that was by far 'the' quietist fare that he'd ever taken. He frowned, russet brows wrinkling over hazel eyes as he looked upon her downcast expression. Care to talk about it? He asked.
Nikki shook her head silently.
Come on love, things are never as bad as they first seem. He pushed her gently wanting to see the young woman smile. The cabby was your typical chatty driver who would often spend hours discussing and solving the world's problems with his passengers.
It's nothing important. Nikki lied, biting her thumb and moving her face to the window as if looking out at the masses of traffic on the motorway.
Peter nodded. Well I could make a guess. I would say that by the mixture of sadness, confusion and heartache that a loved one is the cause behind your disposition am I right? The blonde shrugged slightly causing the cabby to smile. I though as much. Sometimes is good to talk about things as they can be aired from a different perspective. Hey I'm a guy too so I do know my own species and how we can be at times maybe if you talk about it you can get over this man?
Nikki pulled herself away from the window. It's not a guy and I don't want to get over her. She is the only person I have ever loved.
Peter absorbed the information then smiled gently. There was this man once, Victorian writer and politician um Benjamin Disraeli who said 'The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end' beautiful words aren't they?
A frown. Thank you for making me feel even worse. Nikki replied despondently.
The driver smiled. But there is a difference you know between first love and a true love.
Nikki moved closer in sudden interest. Really how can you tell then?
Well your first love is somebody who occupies your every thought, you feel you want to be with them for the rest of your life and you think there could never be anybody else for you ever!
Nikki frowned. Then how is that different from a true love?
Ah well you see; a true love is very different because it's fate. Yes you may feel all the same emotions as a first love but not only are they mirrored by your lover, but in some unseen written law of providence almost like a spiritual design, you and your one true love are predestined to be together.
How can you tell the difference?
Peter shrugged. You just can hey I didn't write the laws of nature you know! he paused, So do you want to tell me what happened between you and her?
Lowering her head Nikki sighed. I think I just ruined what we had by once again surrendering to the thoughts and emotions of my past and not giving her the credence she most definitely deserves. I ran out on her, too scared and possessed by my own insecurities again.
This isn't the first time it has happened?
And she knows about your past?
Peter smiled. Then if she loves you, she will understand that and come for you.
It couldn't be that simple. I know I've hurt her I was just too overwhelmed by what had happened that I didn't think and just acted through my own doubts and fears.
If she truly loves you she will come and understand why you acted the way you did you will grow stronger together; you'll learn and she will help you.
Nikki smiled despite herself. How can you be so sure of that mister?
Peter chuckled and looked out the window of the cab as he noticed another motorway sign for Nikki's requested destination. I've been driving a cab for a long time miss; almost twenty years now. During that time I have listened to thousand upon thousands of stories, tales of life, loves and losses it is only natural that one would require a certain outlook on the vital essences of living and being.
You make life sound so easy!
And we as humans in general make life seem so hard. All we have to do is love and accept that which is around us and we will gain the best in what this life has to offer. Peter turned off the motorway and onto the slip road towards Nikki's destination. Life is too short for anything more why waste it with negativity. He looked back into the rear mirror at the young blonde. You know it was Sophocles who once said, 'One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life; that word is love.' Pretty perceptive huh?
It's a very beautiful phrase.
The cabby nodded. Sure is so will you give what I said any thought at all?
Nikki smiled. Yes I will.
Peter smiled back. That is all I ask and you will be pleased to know that my sanctimonious ramblings are free, no charge there! The cabby grinned as Nikki laughed.
She'd only been on the motorway for less than an hour before she had been given a ticket for speeding. Driving at near one hundred miles per hour the photographer was signalled down by a motorway patrol vehicle and made to pull into the hard shoulder. Tess fumed as she stopped the Blazer and waited for the officer to dismount and approach she was sure Nikki had to be almost home by now.
Not wanting to cause any arguments and needing to get back on the road as soon as possible, Tess had simply stated that she hadn't been aware that she'd been speeding but apologized to the female officer for doing so. After being given her ticket, Tess glared at officer Foster before climbing back into her car and resuming her journey. By the time Tess reached home over three and a half hours had passed since she'd left London.
Pulling into the driveway of Riverside Farm the tall woman jumped out of the vehicle only just managing to turn off her engine and approached the house rapidly. Opening the front door she was greeting by one ecstatic golden hound that one would think hadn't seen Tess in a long time. Scooping the burly dog into her arms Tess allowed Leto her indulgence as she strode through the house. Nikki!
Kate emerged from the back hallway, coat and boots in hand. Tess could tell she had just been to see to the horses. Tess! What a surprise; we weren't expecting you until possibly tomorrow evening.
Trying hard to smile but failing miserably, Tess lowered Leto to the floor and looked back at Kate. Is Nikki here?
Just then Sam emerged from the back. Nikki? No why no she isn't here, why what's happened? I thought you were in London.
Sighing, Tess leaned against the kitchen cupboard and massaged her aching forehead. We were. Looking back at the two alarmed women Tess tried to smile again but failed. She moved back towards the door. I'm really sorry but I have to go; I will explain to you all later but I need to find Nikki and if she isn't here I know of only one other place she would go.
As she headed back out the door Leto barked repeatedly at her master and Tess looked down in defeat. Okay 'tow tow'. Leto trotted out into the cool air as Kate and Sam followed her to the door. I'm going to take Leto with me I will see you later alright; and thank you for looking after the place and animals while we were gone.
Sam shook her head. No problem, Tess; now you go and find that Nikki of yours.
Nodding the photographer headed back to her car. Kate and Sam watched her drive away. I wonder what that was all about? Kate stated.
Sam watched the green Blazer as it disappeared over the horizon; she shrugged lightly. Who knows! Though secretly she did have an inkling that Tess and Nikki did have an ulterior motive for going down to London this weekend but refused to speculate; she was sure they would all find out eventually.
God damned stupid woman! Tess muttered to herself as she thought of the officer that had caused her to lose so much time during her drive home. She stared down at the speeding ticket on the dashboard and shook her head; this would be her second ticket. The first of such she received while running late on a magazine shoot. Tess would be the first to admit that maybe she did deserve the ticket but she would have much rather received a hundred of such tickets than be possibly on the verge of losing Nikki.
Entering the narrow dirt track that led towards the Mayors home, Tess spotted a large 'For Sale' sign at the entrance and realised Rosalind must have already made steps in putting the property on the market. She wondered whether Richard and Lisa had already made plans on moving to their new house in the city.
Moving carefully along the road, Tess watched as the large house came into view. From the back of the car Leto whined as she recognised the large building and the prospect of who lived there. Never one to pass up the prospect of a good bout of fussing, Leto barked excitedly in her seat.
Shaking her head the brunette pulled onto the gravel driveway and stopped the car; turning round to the hyperactive dog with warning eyes. Calm down Leto if you don't I'll leave you here! The golden hound quieted immediately. Damn right!
Tess nodded in approval as she got out of the car and watched amused as Leto bound over the seats and followed her out through the drivers' door. With a smiled that soon turned to a look of apprehension Tess faced the house and approached the door, knocking on the thick wooden structure three times.
She didn't have to wait long before James appeared. Miss Tess, we have been expecting you.
Tess nodded as she looked down at the golden hound between her legs. Is if okay if she comes in too James, I wouldn't want to leave her outside.
The butler smiled. I don't think Mr Morris would mind in the least. In fact he probably wouldn't mind if Leto wasn't even house trained. As you may have noticed Mrs Morris is selling the house so naturally Mr Morris is getting a little lax about respecting her wishes when it comes to the buildings up keep! Unfortunately I cannot be the same I do have a reputation to uphold you understand, he winked.
Tess smirked as she entered the house, closely followed by Leto who was gingerly looking around her new environment. She walked over to the telephone table and started inspecting the furniture, avidly sniffing all available surface areas.
James watched Leto with interest. She isn't about to cock her leg and he gestured amusingly with his hand.
Tess smiled. No. James don't worry one, she is house trained as you know, and two she is a girl and girls don't cock their legs!
The butler rolled his eyes. Right!
Just then the remaining occupants of the house entered the main hall. First Richard followed by Hyacinth, Lisa and finally CJ, who still walked with a pronounced limp. Tess noted the expression of each face, knowing they all knew something she didn't. Her eyes fell upon her mother as Hyacinth took in her daughters' appearance. Having not seen her for a while, she was shocked by the noticeable wound on the side of her face.
Oh my goodness sweetheart, look at you! The older Alexander rushed forward and encompassed her daughter in a motherly embrace. When you said you were wounded in the incident with that monster from the shopping centre you really did play things down didn't you! She stepped back looking at her daughter and the long scar upon her cheek. First there is Lisa's young man, and now you!
Tess looked down, knowing she had tried to minimize the extent of what had happened that night with Bradley White; she didn't want her mother to know just how dangerous it had been. The brunette wondered whether Hyacinth had found out that CJ was Bradley's brother. Tess knew it wouldn't make any difference to her when she did hear the facts, but things had been complicated enough as it was without making it worse by having to explain just how convoluted and perilous their whole experience had been.
Looking up Tess smiled. It's fading and with a bit of makeup, it's hardly noticeable at all.
Hardly noticeable isn't the point child, you know that. And it isn't just your face it is; Nikki's isn't exactly scar free herself is s Hyacinth quieted abruptly.
Nikki! Tess asked. So she is here Where is she?
Richard stepped forward. Yes Nikki is here but I want some answers first.
Tess shook her head. No you want answers? You will get them later; right now I need to see Nikki.
I want answers now damn it! Richard stated evenly. My daughter arrived at this house in bloody taxi that had brought her all the way from London. She looks like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet states that she wants to be left alone. What is more, I notice the right side of her face is swollen like she has been struck and all she says is that her allergies bothering her she doesn't have allergies for Gods sake! Tess, I love my daughter very much and I know you know what the problem is, so before I tell you where she is I want to know what happened down there.
Tess ground her teeth as she looked among the sea of expectant faces, even her own mother held the famous, 'do as you are told' expression that she remembered since childhood, she sighed noticeably. Would it be a breach of confidence to divulge what had happened in London when Nikki had stated that she didn't want anybody told, she thought. Looking to Leto who was staring adoringly up at her master Tess realised that she had no choice but to tell them. Nikki was only nervous about telling her father before the operation and right now Tess would do whatever she could to get Nikki. Fine. Lets sit down. Tess led the way into the living room, as she muttered. You are going to need it when you hear this!
The photographer sat down in a chair that seemed to face the rest of the room and waited as the others all took seats. She looked around spotting the large portrait that she had taken of Nikki and Lisa before Christmas, situated on the wide, protruding chimneybreast on the other side of the room.
When everybody was seated Tess took a look around the sea of anxious expressions and took a deep breath. She had no idea how she was going to explain this and knew it was going to be a great shock to all parties; she just hoped they wouldn't be hurt or angry by the blondes' decision not to tell them. If they were, then she decided she would say it was her suggestion that they keep it quiet for the mean time.
Looking down at her hands Tess began. I am sure you will know the name Eric Jacobson?
Richard stared at the brunette with a look of question, Mister Jacobson the surgeon?
Tess looked up and nodded.
Hyacinth frowned. Who's he if you don't mind me asking?
Still portraying a look of confusion, Richard turned to Hyacinth. Mister Jacobson is or was Nikki's surgeon.
Lisa looked at her father stunned. What do you mean surgeon dad? Why does Nikki have a surgeon; she has never had an operation has she?
Tess felt herself do a mental eye roll. So it looks like Lisa was never told the full story about her mothers' demands I take it, and I would guess Nikki was told not to speak of this. Telling me must have really been a huge weight off her mind. Looking at the mayor Tess noticed the uncomfortable look in his eyes.
Richard looked briefly towards James before continuing. Yes honey, Nikki did have an operation. At the surprised look's coming from Lisa, Hyacinth and CJ, Richard pressed on. What you do know is that Nikki wasn't born completely blind at birth. What you don't know is that she had cancer in her left eye
Hyacinth placed a hand over hear heat. Oh that poor child!
Richard smiled sadly. She had multiple tumours and the only option available was to have her eye removed; I believe if I remember correctly that the procedure is called enuculation. The mayor stood and began pacing the room. Your mother really wasn't too pleased when she discovered that Nikki would have to grow up wearing an eye patch until she was old enough to consider the option of a glass eye. His face twisted in anger. I tried to talk her out of it but it was as though she saw her as less than perfect. Shaking his head Richard closed his eyes to forceful tears. How she could even think such a thing was beyond me We fought constantly then. She wanted Nikki go have a transplant to replace her eye with that of a donor. We even split up over this but I came back thanks to James.
The butler smiled. I had to bring you back sir. I was the only one looking after Miss Nicole at the time as it seemed Mrs Morris was more interested in finding a surgeon that could perform her request. I believe she ignored Miss Nicole as a form of protest to you leaving.
I'm glad you did talk me back; I still can't believe I was stupid enough to leave my daughter in her hands. Richard re-claimed his seat and slumped down in defeat. Mister Jacobson was the man who performed Nicole's operation and gave her a new eye. She was two years old by then.
Tess nodded and waited knowing Richard would soon ask what this present situation had to do with him.
Lisa looked at her father with teary eyes. Dad, if you and mum didn't get along before I was even conceived then how could you have gone back to things being the way they were?
All eyes turned to the Mayor in question. We did what we could for your sisters sake. To be honest, Lisa when your mother said she wanted another child I thought things were on the up. I soon realised she wanted you because she wanted what she considered a 'normal' child
Tess closed her eyes, feeling physical pain at Richards's words. She lowered her head again, rubbing the back of her head roughly. Why is it so wrong to hate? She mused, because god help me I seem to hate this woman more every day.
But she never treated me like she wanted me? Lisa stated tearfully.
That was because you were too daddies little girl! He smiled then before he turned back to Tess with a look of question. Why did you bring up Eric Jacobson anyway, Tess what does he have to do with this?
It was the question she had been dreading and now it had arrived, Tess realised she hadn't even practiced what she intended on saying something she always did when faced with a difficult situation - at least that was what she did when she was younger and thought she was going to get into trouble with her mother!
Licking suddenly dry lips Tess leaned forward in the chair, clasping her hands together. Doctor Jacobson contacted Nikki a while ago concerning further research he had been doing into the possibilities of reversing certain cases of blindness. He thought Nikki would be the perfect candidate for his procedure.
She never said anything! Richard exclaimed as he looked to the other members of the room.
Tess continued. She was very taken aback by this Richard and was so scared about the possible inclinations that she refused to give it another thought. Anyway, recently he called her again wanting to see whether she had changed her mind. We had a long discussion and after much inner debate on Nik's part, she decided just to go down to Eric and talk to him about it.
Richard scratched his stubble chin in disbelief. And?
We had a long talk. The doc outlined the major aspects of his surgery, and by the time the meeting was over I think we were both convinced that it was worth a try.
Looking at the photographer Richard suddenly rose to his feet, anger evident upon his features. He stared down accusingly at Tess. And through all of this neither of you thought to tell your families about this life changing decision? He resumed his pacing, casting many confused glances in Tess's direction. I really don't understand this.
Noticing the pained expression on her daughters face, Hyacinth rose and moved to sit beside her daughter. What happened honey?
She had the operation this morning! Tess answered quietly.
James moved forward and sat beside Hyacinth. This morning? Then how and why did she turn up here the way she did. After any surgery a certain amount of recuperation time is advisable.
Still sitting beside CJ, Lisa looked beseechingly towards Tess. It didn't work then? she asked, already thinking she knew the answer.
That would seem obvious! Richard stated and fell to his seat in defeat.
Hyacinth rubbed her daughters back. She knew her daughter, knew her well enough to know when Tess was bottling up her emotions. What happened honey? she asked coaxingly.
Taking a deep shuddering breath Tess continued. Eric went in and performed his procedure and basically found out what the problem was Nikki has some kind of break down in the brain to eye connection that although he tried to repair just doesn't seem to she shrugged at a loss for words, I don't know stay repaired, mend, whatever the correct terminology is.
So it was un-repairable! Richard stated. And Nicole was upset by this! He lowered his head. What heartache she must have felt; I just wish she would have told me about this before hand.
Tess shook her head. No, Nikki had faced the possibility that this wouldn't work, she knew the score and didn't want to get anybodies hopes up. Well she thought she knew we were both so wrong.
How wrong dear? asked Hyacinth.
Lowering her head as expected tears stung her eyes, the photographer closed jade orbs against the onslaught of emotions trying avidly to overwhelm her. Eric did try and repair the connection but all he could manage was a temporary solution. She looked up, eyes brimming with tears. She could see though for about twenty minutes Nikki had sight in her right eye. A single tear escaped rolling lazily down her cheek. It was amazing.
Richard blinked and stared at the brunette in confusion; he tried to talk but words failed him.
Lisa sat in bewilderment. Nikki could see?
Then how and why did she end up here?
She shrugged. That is what I have to find out. She rose suddenly. Please just tell me where she is; I need to see her now.
My daughter could see? Not making eye contact, Richard stared at the ground in total disbelief. I don't know where she is
But I do. James replied. At Tess's insistent look the butler continued. Before she left she disappeared up stairs and retrieved her guitar from the storage cupboard her mother had placed it in. Whenever she was down and was able to get away she would always escape with her guitar and go down to the stables. If you have ever looked you may have noticed that there is a small loft at the far end with a square hatch that opens out upon a spectacular view of the countryside. My guess is that you will find Nikki sitting at the hatch. There is a small ladder to the left of the stable; it's the only way to get up there.
Tess nodded with a heartfelt look of thanks as she headed out of the room. I have to speak with her; I'll bring her back with me and we can continue this. Without waiting for any answers Tess left the silent room of shocked family members and headed off in search of Nikki.
The closing of the front door brought the remaining members of the Morris household out of their haze of profound shock. Richard shook his head. I I'm utterly speechless!
A new silence settled over the room as Tess's words replayed over and again in stunned minds.
Tess followed the stone path, heart pounding almost excruciatingly within her chest as the large wooden structure came into view. Her mind drifted back to the first time she and Nikki had met in the stable and she suddenly realised just how far they had come together. Tess smiled as she remembered how the blonde had taught her to groom a horse and just how nervous she had felt as their entwined hands moved over Jenna's coat with a physical bond of almost intuitive synchronicity. She had known then, as she felt the heat of Nikki's own palm seep into the back of her hand, that they were destined to share their lives together.
Reaching the opening of the barn Tess moved through the space between the half open door and looked into the vacant space. With the horses gone it had definitely lost its charm and warmth. Suddenly the pricking of musical strings caught her attention and she moved her vision up to the loft at the far end of the stable. To her intense relief she saw Nikki sitting on the ledge of the hatch, her legs obviously dangling over the side as she ran sensitive fingers over the taut strings of the instrument. The sun was setting in the evening sky and the waning light of the sinking golden orb framed the small woman beautifully.
Tess stood silently, taking in the vision and listening to the gentle mix of tunes as they filtered through the air. She wasn't able to recognise any of them but felt more than defined the weighty presence of melancholy in each heartfelt note.
Finally, not being able to take the distance any longer Tess took a step into the stable and slowly moved across the hay-strewn ground until she reached the ladder. With agility she mounted the rungs two at a time until she reached the upper level and stopped just short of standing no less then ten feet away from Nikki. The blonde stopped her playing, fingers resting lightly upon the guitar strings as she listened to Tess's nervous breathing. She hadn't been aware of her approach and had only realised the photographers' presence as she climbed into the loft. Still facing forward she placed the instrument to the far right of her and slid it across the wooden flooring.
Tess took in the sight of Nikki wearing only light trousers and a thin top; she visibly shivered in the cooling night air. Shrugging out of the warmth of her own denim jacket, Tess stepped forward and placed it upon Nikki's shoulders before bending down and kneeling to Nikki's left side. She adjusted the garment making sure it covered the exposed areas of her body before looking upon the blondes lowered features. Tess wanted to speak but her mind refused to offer her the appropriate words.
Nikki stirred and moved to slightly face Tess; the photographer gazing upon the way her golden hair twinkled in the fading rays of the disappearing sun. She quickly glanced out over the horizon and watched as it dipped slowly behind an expanse of lush emerald hills.
Nikki swallowed tightly. Sometimes even the most heartfelt apology doesn't even begin to express how sorry one can be does it?
Lifting her hand to run through the shining hair, Tess paused. No. She completed the journey and strong fingers wound through blonde locks with a gentle worshiping nature. But understanding does hold insight into the reasons why. She released her hand and placed it upon Nikki's back. And I do understand. Nikki, faced with something so literally she paused, trying to find the right words. Mind blowing and life changing as what you had to face I'm not surprised you acted the way you did. You were scared, overwhelmed, and quite obviously shaken from your experience. Tess's hand ran down the blondes arm and settled upon the smaller hand. And the disappointment you must have felt
Nikki shook her head. It wasn't that.
Tess looked at her in question. Explain it to me Nik?
She faltered slightly before speaking. When I asked that you not hate me you didn't exactly say that you didn't
Tess frowned. But
I know it was silly of me but I guess with everything that had happened it brought out my past insecurities and I just for one moment because of how upset you were thought that you did hate me.
Expression twisting in pain; Tess moved forward and engulfed Nikki in a loving embrace. Never I could never hate you. She pressed a soft kiss upon the crown of golden hair. I bet I don't need to even ask where those insecurities originated now do I hmm? How could one woman be so fucking cruel?
Nikki shook her head as she felt the last of her composure dissolve and long held back emotions poured from her. She cried, holding on to Tess as though afraid she may disappear like a fading dream. The brunette held her close; her own vision clouded with sadness as she comforted the blonde within her arms. She turned and looked out over the horizon; watching as the sun made its final decent and an increasing darkness surrounded them. In the sky bright stars twinkled over their heads.
It was long moments later when Nikki pulled back; she faced Tess wiping the excess tears from her eyes. I really do love you.
Smiling a sudden thought came to Tess and she pushed her hand into the inner pocket of the jacket Nikki still had upon her shoulders. She pulled out the gift she had purchased for Nikki the day before. I have something for you.
Feeling a twinge of excitement and curiosity Nikki smiled. What?
This. Tess opened the small square box and placed the tiny object inside upon Nikki's outstretched palm. I saw it and immediately wanted you to have it.
With perceptive fingers Nikki examined the object, It's a ring!
Tess smiled. It's an antique Poesy ring, medieval in fact it's very old ancient
Sensitive fingers lifted the small circular piece of jewellery and moved around the circumference. What's a Poesy ring?
Tess smiled in excitement. Well back in medieval times brave knights would give their ladies tokens of love during the time of courtship. These rings were small gold bands engraved with tender heart felt messages of devotion. I saw this ring in a back-street antique shop a few days ago and I wanted so much for you to have it. She looked down upon the ring. Can you feel the inscription? It is a little faded in parts obviously but it's still clear in what it says.
Nikki did as requested and nodded her head. What does it say?
Pour Tous Jours.
Latin what does it mean because I would be right in thinking you know this wouldn't I?
Tess grinned. It means 'for all days' or basically forever.
It's beautiful! said Nikki, feeling her eyes once again sting with tears.
Taking the ring the brunette took Nikki's hand. Do you accept?
Accept what? She asked with equal parts of nervousness and excitement.
My pledge to love you for all days my commitment to you forever.
Wiping her eyes, the blonde's lip trembled as she fought to keep her composure. Of course I accept. She smiled cheerfully as Tess pushed the circular band onto her ring finger. I wish I had something to give you.
You give me more than you could ever imagine. Tess kissed Nikki's hand. But how about a promise?
Just promise me that from now on whenever you feel upset, overwhelmed or insecure about anything, you tell me. Tess smirked. And I can get down on my knees and profess my love to you over and over until you understand that nothing is going to change my feelings for you got it?
Nikki laughed. Yes I've got it.
At those words Tess moved forwards and captured Nikki in a kiss of complete love, a seal of their bond and commitment. They deepened the kiss as the brunette moved forward laying the smaller woman upon the wooden rafters and covering her with her own length; both luxuriating in the presence and touch of the other.
Endless moments later Tess pulled away much to the disappointment of her lover. I hate tell you this but we have to get back inside. Not just because we have our entire family waiting in there but because it's so damn dark out here now I can hardly see a thing!
Sighing the blonde lifted to a sitting position as Tess moved off her. Okay I suppose we better get back and face the music huh?
Sucking on her lip nervously, Tess looked towards Nikki. Um I kind of had to fill them in on what had happened a little; Nik they wouldn't' tell me where you were until I surrendered some answers. I'm sorry.
Nikki shrugged. Hey that's okay; I should have guessed I know my dad after all! She rose to her feet and after gaining her bearings began to approach the ladder.
Tess managed to grasp a hold of her arm. Nik, you may have to help me I can't really see a whole lot up here.
Smiling. Of course I will Tess. Hey you be my guide in the light and I can be yours in the darkness deal?
With a small smile Tess nodded. Deal.
Together they made their way back to the house and entered through the side patio door leading into the conservatory. Tess followed Nikki as she made her way through the large home until eventually arriving in the drawing room where all five family members were still waiting anxiously. Tess watched as a row of nervous faces glanced at them both curiously and seemed to relax as they noted their close proximity and firmly entwined hands. Leto wagged her tail frantically as the spotted the blonde but CJ kept a secure hold upon her as she sat in his lap.
Richard arose as Nikki walked into the centre of the room. Nicole sweetheart?
Nikki smiled sadly towards her father and released Nikki's hand. Hi dad I'm I'm sorry.
The Mayor shook his head. Nothing to be sorry about honey I'm just glad you are alright. Moving forward he took Nikki into his arms and hugged her intensely.
Tess smiled and looked down at her mother. Hyacinth winked with a smile and exchanged looks between her daughter and Nikki's hand lying visibly upon Richards shoulder. She wiggled her own ring finger and raised her eyebrows in expectance. Tess smiled and nodded, then chuckled silently as her mother clasped her hand together in excitement and looked towards James who was shaking his head at the pair. Rolling her own eyes the photographer looked to Lisa and CJ who were smiling with equally toothy grins. Tess smirked and looked back to father and daughter knowing that finally everything was going to turn out just fine.
The air was still, calm and peaceful. The sky above was a rich expanse of hazy blue broken by nothing more than the odd soaring bird as it swirled lazily in the atmosphere. High overhead the sun shone blindingly in the sky releasing warm waves of incredible heat over the opulent land below.
Tess sat back into the far corner of a small rowing boat; slumped against the side. Her hands entwined behind her head as jade eyes rested closed under dark, silver framed sunglasses. She breathed in deeply, taking in a lungful of warm air with a content smile, even with the uncomfortable beads of sweat rolling down her languid body. Feeling a sudden tickle, she opened her eyes and looked down to her exposed stomach where a small fly had landed upon the soft skin. Absently she flicked it away then rested her hand upon her white crop top that complimented devastatingly high cut, denim shorts.
Looking across the boat she smirked almost nefariously. Come on put some welly into it; why have you stopped?
Nikki scowled at the amused woman. Oh well excuse me miss high and mighty but how am I supposed to row a bloody boat when I have no idea where I am going and apart from that we are on a circular lake for crying out loud!
Tess pursed her lips holding back a chuckle. Hey I told you I would say when we reached the bank, then all you had to do is use on ore to turn around like I showed you and carry on rowing!
How are you supposed to know where we are going when you have your eyes closed huh?
I wasn't Tess paused, knowing she had been caught. Nikki knew her far too well it seemed! Oh okay you got me! She giggled suddenly causing Nikki to frown in amusement. What?
Shaking her head. You giggling I've never heard you do that before just exactly how much of that wine have you been drinking?
Tess picked up the empty bottle and grimaced. Um hold on. She looked around for the other bottle and lifted it up to the sunlight. How many glasses did you have?
Come on surely more than one!
Nikki shook her head. Nope, she grinned, I'm driving!
Snorting - the photographer shook her head. Well in that case I've had just over a bottle. She placed the remaining half full bottle back in the hamper and sat forward, shuffling herself closer towards Nikki. So how are you liking 'driving'?
I'm having a lot of fun thank you how is Leto?
Tess turned her vision towards the golden dog lying under Nikki's seat. Oh she is just peachy. The brunette examined the dog. You know her fur has grown back so well that you would never have guessed she had been injured at all. Mr Fletcher really did to an excellent job.
Nikki smiled sadly. Leto knows she is still a little cautious around people she doesn't know and it's so upsetting.
I know but she is getting better. Looking up Tess took Nikki's left hand and kissed the ring on her finger. At least the responsible parties are paying for all they have done huh?
Head directly facing Tess the blonde nodded. Tess, do you think my mum feels sorry at all. You know for what she did, Bradley and Leto, and well everything?
I would like to think yes Tess stated firmly. That would be the only way she can truly come to see just how miserable she has made things and truly appreciate how unpleasant life inside is going to be for her. And when she finally gets her court date, I hope she realizes the consequences of all the wrong she has done.
The sound of clanking metal and shouting voices echoed around the large building. Coarse swearwords and the occasional threat bounced off the confines of the large prison followed by laughter and bellowing from voices of authority.
Rosalind sat alone in the confines of her shared room. The other occupants had all left for lunch but she wasn't feeling very hungry so had opted not to leave their cell. Of course the fact that she loathed to step out of the small room also helped to encourage her decision somewhat; not that inside the cell was any better. Sitting upright on her lower bunk the ex-mayoress looked across at the other set of beds. Claire Saunders, a heavyset woman who was serving a two-year sentence for repeated shoplifting offences, and Victoria Robertson, a Scottish woman who had been caught with a large quantity of class one drugs during a random check at the airport, usually occupied the bunk.
Rosalind found both women infuriating but even they were better company than the woman she had been made to share a bunk with. Her name was Spider, so named because of the large tattoo of a web covering the complete surface area of her back. Spider had taken a warped liking to the older woman and had for some unknown reason to Rosa, decided to focus a lot of her attentions upon her. There was no doubt Spider terrified her, but at least Rosalind found she was more likely to be protected from the other 'scum' as she though it while under Spiders control and control was the operative word. Rosa did everything the much larger woman ordered, whether it be doing her laundry, cleaning her cupboard or changing her bed sheets.
The door to the cell slowly creaked open and Spider walked in carrying a tray of tasteless prison food. She placed it down upon the bed beside Rosa. Can't have you passing out on us now; got to eat aint-cha.
I'm not hungry. The older woman replied.
Spider narrowed her eyes. Eat it. And Rosalind did as ordered. Spider nodded. Now that is better, see it's like I told you when you first came here, do exactly what I say when I say it and things will be fine.
Rosalind nodded as she ate the tasteless offerings.
Good. Now then Spider stepped closer and kneeled down until they were eye level with each other. I have heard a few rumours around here about how a certain ex-mayoress has put her house onto the market and may soon be coming into a large amount of money.
Rosa looked up suddenly. How did you ?
Spider rolled her dark eyes. You think we are sectioned from the outside world in here so much that we have no idea what is going on. Damn woman we do have newspapers and shit you know. Anyway this is the thing I heard a few of the gals talking on how they want to squeeze you for some cash, maybe get you to bring in some gear.
Rosalind looked at the woman in horror. Whatever happens, it's not like I would be able to get any of the money while I'm in here is it. How am I supposed to do that?
The fact that you are connected to money is more appealing to them Rosy. Anyway I don't think your current services for me are enough to protect you from what these women have in mind!
Rosalind felt a shiver of fear run through her spine. What would be enough? she asked almost dreading the answer.
Spider smiled almost nefariously as she caressed the older woman's cheek. Well you see you do have something that I am definitely finding quite attractive if you know what I mean. Watching Rosa's expression, Spider let her hand drift lower and travel between the valley of her breasts. We all get lonely in here don't we? What's wrong with turning to each other for a little comfort hmm?
The ex-mayoress swallowed hard in absolute horror as realisation of what this woman had in mind sunk in. What did I do to deserve this? She thought.
Nikki smiled as she caressed Tess's hand lovingly. I hope that she does see the error in her actions.
Me too. Tess leaned forward and placed gentle kisses upon Nikki's lips that opened up in silent invitation. As their embrace grew in intensity, Tess pulled Nikki off her seat and the blonde wrapped her legs around the firm waist revelling in their close proximity and intimate embrace.
Tess was the first to pull away. I've had an idea!
Nikki groaned, feeling an aching need flow through her body. And you have to tell me now?
Tess smirked. Let's go on Holiday; we still have that fifty grand. Lets go somewhere neither of us have ever been before.
Oh yeah. Making love on the beach, making love the sea, on the sea front, under an exotic moon
It seems to me Miss Morris that you are thinking with parts other than that of your brain.
Nikki laughed. Well you can't just get me going then stroll off on a whole new road you know!
Tess smiled sheepishly. I know but I suddenly had the idea and needed to share it with you. She let her hand trail down the smaller woman's back until she cupped a firm behind, pulling them into a closer contact and slowly ground into her. Nikki moaned as her head fell to the woman's shoulder. So what do you think? asked Tess.
About the holiday?
Tess smirked as she slipped off her own seat and carefully placed Nikki onto the empty floor space of the small rowing boat, mindful of its precarious rocking motion. Something nice and relaxing, she said opening Nikki's short blouse and trailing kisses down her chest. Hot, luxurious and wet?
Oh yeah! Nikki replied with a smile. Wet.
Tess looked up. How about the Gaza Strip?
Laughter bubbled up from the blonde's chest. A bit too adventurous for me. Why don't you just continue with what you were doing and leave everything else to me?
One sculpted eyebrow arched over darkening jade eyes. I can definitely do that. Tess replied lovingly.
And as the ancient sun shone hazily in the midmorning sky, soft lips connected and a seal of love was established that would last 'for all days'.
Well that's it again folks. I've had a few requests for a part three and I have ideas for a one off story; so if you want to see Tess and Nikki on vacation and maybe find out the fate of Rosalind and the rest of the gang just say the word email@example.com
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