Language warning: Not often but yes.
Love and sex warning: This story definitely portrays a loving relationship between two women.
Violence Warning: A little, unless you also count a projectile camera and battered door.
Thanks: I would like to thank first of all Garnet for doing a wonderful job in beta reading this story. To Carolyne, for her constant support throughout, and giving me the kick up the backside to continue writing whether she realised or not. And last but no means least Tammy, for all the invaluable information on horses that she gave me and for naming the two horsey characters.
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was dark, the lights weren’t on, but then again they weren’t really needed. There was a heavy silence in the air, only broken by the disturbance of distant noises. Nikki lay on her bed thinking about what had happened the day before. It was now Sunday evening and she had spent most of the day in her room after stating that she didn’t feel too well. It was just a ruse to be alone; unfortunately her slightly less than truthful comment had a negative result. Her mother had decided that it must have been going out into the cold that had caused her to feel ill. And remarks about how she should not have gone out with Tess had stared once again. She had spent all Saturday evening listening to them, and had then to endure it the next day too.
Nikki rolled onto her stomach, burying her face into a pillow. She’d had negative responses from people before about her blindness and had, over time, developed a defence against the upset it once caused. When she was younger she would get hurt that other children were not forth coming to play with her, and her parents had taken this as a sign to keep her away from the sadness it caused. It was James the butler who had explained to Nikki that the other children just needed a dose of understanding, and he had helped her provide it. After that, she had always been able to charm her way around those who seemed uncomfortable with her. And though she didn’t realise it herself, she had created quite a following of admirers, a fact closely monitored by her mother. Yet as she lay on her bed thinking, she couldn’t understand why she had reacted the way she had towards Tess, and why it hurt her to think that the woman would be uncomfortable around her.
She recognised Lisa’s footsteps, and knew she was about to getting a visit from her younger sister.
The door cautiously opened and the teen poked her head around, not able to see anything she switched on the light. Spotting Nikki lying face down on her bed, she gingerly stepped in, closing the door behind her.
“Hey sis how are you feeling, still a bit under the weather?”
Nikki responded only with a shake of her head.
“You weren’t really feeling ill were you?”
Again Nikki shook her head.
Lisa sighed, “What happened yesterday, with Tess Alexander and mum. You were gone a lot longer than I thought you would have been, you know.” She sat down on the corner of Nikki’s bed, “So did you have fun then…what is she really like?”
Waiting for an answer, Lisa looked around the immaculately presented bedroom. As the saying went ‘there was a place for everything and everything in its place’. Nikki’s bedroom was arranged just so, everything was in a certain place and order so that she could move around the privacy of her own room with comfort and familiarity. Everything had a place, from the lamp by her bed, to her brush on her dressing table.
The teen looked back to her sister, who still had yet to speak, “Did something happen while you were out Nikki?”
The blonde rolled over, facing the ceiling. Lisa could now see the pained expression the older girls eyes held.
“What happened with her Nikki, you have never reacted this way about the parents behaviour before…so I know it had to have been her…what did she do?”
Nikki didn’t want to speak; she didn’t want to tell her sister what had happened. She found herself not wanting to say anything bad about the woman, yet feeling foolish that she had trusted her. And at the same time she didn’t want her sister to think that she had in fact, been irrational in the way she had reacted to Tess’s comment without giving her a chance to explain. So instead she decided it was best to say nothing on the subject.
“So are you going to speak or what?”
Nikki smiled, “Nothing happened, we had a good time. We took her dog to the park and played fetch. Then we went to Jakes Wine Bar in the city and had something to eat.”
Lisa’s eyes bulged, “Jakes Bar…man that place is supposed to be so cool…” She paused, “But if you had such a good time, why do you look like you lost a tenner and found a penny?”
The blonde rolled her eyes, “Look I just wanted some time alone alright, I don’t know what the big deal is anyway…I just want to be left alone.”
Taking her sisters hint, the brunette got up off the bed and walked to the bedroom door. “Fine you want to be alone…be alone.” She walked out and shut the door firmly behind her.
Nikki rolled back onto her stomach and sighed, she had just hurt her sister and knew she would have to apologise. Still she decided to wait until she felt a little more like herself.
Mondays, it was said to be the most hated day of the week. Why? Tess was a little unsure. She herself had always liked Mondays, but maybe that was because she’d always loved her job. For most people it signified the start of a new working week, and if they hated their job, then they would obviously hate the day that meant the end of their relaxing weekend.
Unfortunately on this Monday, Tess was not in the best of moods; in fact she was probably in the worst mood that she had ever recalled. And as she made her way towards the entrance of Snap Shots, she knew she was not going to be flavour of the month.
Still what did she care, the day before she had been just too miserable for words. She had spent the morning watching religious programs. The afternoon watching omnibus editions of soaps that she had never even heard of, and the evening watching lame British comedies, that should have been axed along with the writers, long before. It was clear to say, she had spent the entire day, in front of the TV, doing and eating nothing. Even the dog seemed to be aware of her masters mood and had the good sense to stay away, thankful at least that Tess had fed her on time.
Walking into the building, the photographer saw two appointments already waiting in reception. She carried on walking, straight past Jason who seemed to look a little on the sheepish side. He noticed the cold look she held and decided it was not the right time to tell her that the Mayor had called and cancelled the appointment until Wednesday. She hated cancellations.
Tess shook off her coat as she headed towards the employees lounge. Once inside she slung it on the nearest chair and headed towards the drinks machine, she needed caffeine and she needed it now. As she picked up her cup, Robert walked into the lounge.
“Bad weekend or just a bad day?” Robert asked folding his arms.
“Why.” Tess asked putting the sugar spoon back into the pot.
“Because that was four sugars you just put in the coffee, you only go for the sweet stuff when you’ve had a bad one or you are possibly pre menstrual.”
She turned to face the man, slightly angry at his comment, “When the hell did I become so fucking transparent.”
Robert winced inside, she was really in a mood, “You are not transparent, I am just a good judge of character, and anyways I have known you a while now…I am bound to notice things.”
Tess walked towards the door, “Well for your information it was a bad weekend…now if you will excuse me, I have work to do.”
Robert stepped out of the way and she excited the room, shutting the door behind her.
He realised that Jason obviously hadn’t told her about the Mayors cancellation, ‘Shit…why do I get the feeling, there will be yet another argument as to who is going to tell her about this.’
Safely shut away within the confines of her studio, Tess locked the door behind her and walked into the dark room. She turned on the overhead lights and sat at her desk, deep in thought.
She had never let things bother her like this had. The woman had always been able to keep a tight rein on her emotions, never letting anything upsetting bother her. Really she knew it was fear, she was afraid to feel. She would deceive herself with the notion that it was strength to keep control, yet really she knew it was a weakness. Her mother had stated as such on the day her father died. She refused to cry, refused to even admit that it hurt…but it did. Control, it was an important word in Tess’ vocabulary, and one she constantly tried to assert within herself, even though occasionally it meant shutting others out.
Tess leaned back in her chair and looked over at the photo lying on her desk. It was a picture of Nikki, the first one that she had developed. Although knowing it was wrong, she had purposely left it out of the proof set that she had taken round to the Mayor last Friday. For some reason, she found she was unable to let it go. It seemed strange when she thought about it, but for some reason, she could not part with it. The shot seemed to capture a side of Nikki that seemed to shine with her inner being. Tess felt it was yet another insight into the young woman’s personality, but some how only visible to her. If she was to admit it to herself, it was the side she most wanted to get to know. But now she had ruined it, all because of her stupid insecurities, and guarded persona.
Rubbing her eyes furiously, Tess got up out of her chair. It was pointless dwelling on what had happened, so she had two options. Forget about it, or go explain herself. In any other situation, she would have forgotten about it, but the fact that this had invaded her conscience proved that was not going to happen. So with the easiest option out of play, she was left with the latter, she had to explain herself, and hopefully salvage the friendship before it was too late.
Tess thought back to the hurt expression in Nikki’s eyes as she spoke to her in the car. The realisation that she had caused that pain was just as painful to her as she was sure her cowardly comment was to Nikki.
With the affirmation to speak to Nikki, Tess headed out of her office to find out what time Richard Morris was to come for the viewing.
By afternoon the sun had risen high in the sky, but as usual it had not taken the chill out of the air. Unseen to Nikki, it shone down between a mass of white clouds, warming her fair features. There was always something so comforting about it, she decided. It was the warmth, like a welcome, soothing presence. Whether on a cold day like today or a warm summers day, when the sun was shining she felt peaceful.
Walking at a familiar pace, she made her way to the stables feeling a need to see her two neglected horses. She had not been with them since Saturday morning and had gotten Lisa to look after them while she was in her reclusion. Obviously her sister was none too pleased with this, she knew how to tend to them but didn’t much care for it. There were much more interesting things that she could have been doing.
Tilting her face towards the penetrating warmth, Nikki breathed in the cool air. She remembered Tess’ comment about the colour of her hair and could not help but smile, however it didn’t last long. The comments that she over heard in Jakes Bar surfaced in her mind. Again she scolded herself for letting it bother her, she was angry but she was not sure at whom, herself for allowing this to get to her, or Tess for her ignorance. Was it ignorance? She questioned as she entered the stable doors. Thinking back to the rest of her overheard conversation, she was suddenly unsure. She got the strange feeling that Tess was being ribbed for dating the Mayors daughter. Dating? With a frown of confusion, she made her way over to Thunder, and entered his stall.
Thunder nickered, upon seeing Nikki.
“Hi there baby, and how are you today?” She asked as she picked up his grooming brush. “I am sorry that I haven’t been to see you since Saturday, but I’ve had a few things on my mind.”
Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out half an apple and held it out, smiling when she felt him take it from her hand. “But I am here now and I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon with you and Jenna, how does that sound?”
Thunder nickered again, and Jenna in the stall to the right followed suit. With a contented smile, Nikki started grooming.
Her thoughts wandered once again to Tess. When she had asked her whether she was all right in the bar, she had sounded so genuinely concerned. Why then the contradictions, what had she missed, and why didn’t she give the photographer more of a chance to explain?
Making an inner decision, that she needed to give the woman a chance to do as such, Nikki suddenly felt a little more contented. Still she wasn’t sure when and how she was to do this. Her father was not going into town until Wednesday and she was damned sure he would not take her.
“Sod him,” She whispered, as she realised she was doing exactly what her parents wanted her to do…depend on them.
“I don’t need them to take me anywhere do I boy, I can find another way. Get a taxi, or if I have to, I will bloody well ride you into town.”
Thunder nickered once again shaking his head.
“Well ok then…I will get a cab…how does that sound?”
The black stallion leaned down to started eating some of his food.
Nikki grinned, “Great I knew I could trust your opinion on this boy.”
The sun was low in the late afternoon sky, as Nikki made her way back inside. It was hidden behind a mass of large grey clouds, and with the drop in temperature, she knew more snow was soon on its way. Taking a detour from her usual familiar path, she decided to enter the house by the side entrance, leading into the conservatory.
Her parents were still not back from whatever function they were supposed to be attending today, and with Lisa out with her friends, she was on her own in the house. Smiling at the thought, she pulled open the conservatory door, walking slowly inside and shutting it quietly behind her. In the not so distance, she could hear the clanking of metal, and realised it must be around half past four, as James, regular as clockwork, always cleaned the silver on this day and time. It was one of the many ways she was able to gage the time of day, without the aid of her audio watch.
James turned around at the sound of footsteps entering the dining room, and smiled as Nikki pulled off her woollen hat.
“And how are Thunder and Jenna today Miss Morris?” He asked, in his usual friendly manner.
Nikki smiled, turning in the butlers’ direction, “They are great…not too happy with the weather I don’t think, but a few apples tends to appease their moods a little.”
James finished putting away a large silver teapot, and closed the sideboard door. He turned fully around, leaning against the edge of the rich mahogany wood. “Mr Morris called while you were out in the stables, they are not to return until late this evening, and Miss Lisa called just five minutes ago, she is staying the night round her friends house.”
Nikki sighed, “Great, so what culinary delights do I have for dinner this evening James?”
The greying man smiled and walked towards the smaller woman, placing a hand on her back as they made their way towards the kitchen. “Why your favourite of course. I thought that being as though you would be the only one dining tonight, I would prepare you favourite dish.”
The blonde smiled indulgently, “Spaghetti bolognaise?” she asked hopefully as they entered the large, white and silver catering kitchen.
“What else.” James replied.
Nikki smiled, “You will be eating with me, wont you James?”
The smartly dressed man smiled tenderly at the woman, who had come to mean as much to him as a daughter would. He knew that although Nikki liked the time she was able to spend alone, away from the constant molly coddling she received from her mother, she still preferred not to be by herself, and welcomed his presence, as he did hers.
“It is always my pleasure Miss Morris.” He replied.
Kat stood in the doorway to the employees lounge, looking at Tess who was flaked out over a two-seated sofa. Her head rested on the dark armrest and her long navy trouser covered legs, hung over the other end, swinging idly near the ground.
It was Tuesday, late afternoon, and had been one hell of a day. Stan had called in early that morning, saying he was unable to come in due to a sudden bout of the flu (24 hours Tess was sure!), and what with Carl, the other of the four photographers out on an all day school shoot, Tess and Kat were the only people left to take the sittings.
The blonde walked in lounge and sat on the chair facing the flaked out woman. Tess’s eyes were closed, and in her right hand she held a small slip of paper and mobile phone.
“This may sound cliché…but you look just how I feel” Kat stated, leaning back into the comfortable seat.
Tess opened her eyes and look to her right, taking in the sight of the tired looking woman, “Well if you feel like you may take early retirement, go live on a desert island somewhere, and vow never to return to the rat race ever again…then I know how you feel.”
Kat smiled and closed her eyes, sighing in the quiet of the room, “Uh huh, sounds about right. That was one hell of a day today huh?”
The green-eyed woman blew out a forced breath between pursed lips, “If I ever state that I want children…remind me of this day will you? If I was that way inclined I would consider putting a curse on Stan for leaving me with that booking.”
Kat chuckled, “Hey not all children are ‘Screaming spawns from hell’” Kat said, quoting the exact statement that Tess had used to describe her last sitting to Robert not ten minutes before.
Tess chuckled, “I was talking about the twins I had to put up with, I am sure your kid’s an angel Kathryn.”
The blonde pulled a wary face, “Well he has his moments, but all in all I would have to agree with you”
Tess smirked and looked back towards the ceiling.
Kat looked at the phone in Tess’s hand. “Are you making a call…I can give you some privacy if you want?”
The photographer looked down at her hand and pulled the piece of paper from under the mobile, looking at the number she had scrawled down earlier. It was Richard Morris’s home number, and she was going to call on the pretence of confirming the appointment tomorrow, with the hope that she would get a chance to talk to Nikki.
“Err…well no that is ok, I was going to go back to my office and make the call, I just came in for a coffee.”
The older woman nodded, “Uh huh, but found the appeal of the couch too tempting to pass up.”
Tess shrugged, “Something like that.” She said. ‘Or I was just biding my time before I make the call, putting it off until this nervous feeling in my stomach disappears.’
Drumming her fingers idly on her stomach, she swung her legs round and rose to a standing position, knowing that if she didn’t move her arse soon, she never would. She looked down at the scrawled phone number on the slip of paper and sighed, thinking that she might as well get it over with. So with an anxious look, and death like grip on her phone, Tess headed back to her office.
Kat watched the woman trudge out, wondering what kind of phone call it was that would put such an anxious look on the photographers face.
Lisa lay in the family room across one of the three-seated sofas, her head rested on top of a large cushion, and her feet lay upon her sisters’ lap. They were watching one of the usual early evening quiz shows and trying to out do each other in answering the questions.
Nikki sat slightly to her right side, elbow resting on the arm of the chair and her head held comfortably in her hand. Her other hand lay at the bottom of her sisters legs, where sensitive fingers idly traced the flowery patters at the bottom of Lisa’s trousers.
They were watching ‘Blockbusters’ a questions and answer show quiz show for students. Nikki listened to the female presenter, waiting for her to stop chatting and start asking the next question. She shifted in her seat when the contestant chose another letter.
“What ‘H’ was the Roman city, destroyed along with Pompeii when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD”
Lisa scratched her head, “Err…oh god I know this one…damn it, what is it again…awe…we did it in school.”
Nikki shook her head, “It was Herculaneum.”
The teen rolled her eyes, “Nope that was not it.”
“Herculaneum.” Answered one of the contestants
“NOPE” Lisa shouted
“Correct” Answered the host.
Lisa looked around to the TV shocked, “Since when?” She asked
Nikki chuckled, “Since 79 AD.”
The teen folded her arms; about to make her reply when the phone rang, she grabbed the remote control, turning down the volume on the box in order to hear the conversation, thinking it may be somebody for her.
By the sound of the footsteps echoing down the hall, Nikki could tell her mother was heading towards the phone.
Tess sat at her desk chewing on her bottom lip, as she waited a short eternity for her call to be answered.
“Hello Rosalind Morris speaking.”
Tess cringed, remembering the look on the woman’s face last time they had met. “Hello Mrs Morris, this it Tess Alexander. I am ringing to confirm Mr Morris’s appointment for tomorrow.”
“Miss Alexander, how nice to hear from you…”
From the other room both Nikki and Lisa’s ears pricked up at the mention of the photographers’ name.
“Why yes…Mr Morris and myself will both be present to give you our choices tomorrow…one o’clock in the afternoon right?”
Tess nodded, “Err, yes one o’clock.” She didn’t realise they would both be present. “Well I shall look forward to seeing you both tomorrow.” She drummed her fingers upon her desk nervously. “Mrs Morris…I was just wondering whether Nikki was there?”
Rosalind smiled “No I am sorry, she isn’t here at the moment.”
Tess swirled her fingers around the patterned grain on her wooden desk, “Oh OK, well thank you anyway, and I shall see you tomorrow.”
“Yes see you then Miss Alexander…goodbye”
The line went dead.
The green-eyed woman hit the termination button on her phone and placed it down on the desk. She breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a slight reprieve at the fact that Nikki was not home, but at the same time it meant she still had to speak to her…and she had spent ages practising what she was going to say as well.
Glancing at the watch on her wrist, she realised it was almost half past six. Deciding she had spent way too much time at work today, Tess rose from the desk and grabbed her bag, slinging it over her shoulder as she headed towards the door. She was pretty sure Leto would be in need of some company, and a nice long walk around in the woods at the back of the house sounded pretty good too.
Rosalind Morris placed the phone back on its charger and headed into the family room, where she knew her daughters were watching TV. She was not a big fan of the rubbish that seemed to be on the television these days, but at least they were watching an educational program.
Walking into the room, she found her youngest daughter sprawled across the settee with her legs upon her eldest daughters lap.
“Lisa Margaret Anne Morris, sit up like a proper young lady. For goodness sake, what would people think if they saw the way you two were sitting, like a pair of lower class scoundrels.”?
Lisa shuffled up to a sitting position, then swirled her legs around to the floor, sitting like her mother had always instructed them to. Naturally and without thought, Nikki straightened her posture, sitting upright in the chair.
“So who was on the phone mother?” Lisa asked
Rosalind smiled, “It was the photographers, just confirming the appointment for your father and myself tomorrow afternoon.”
Lisa nodded and covertly looked towards Nikki, who was sitting with her head down, listening to the conversation. They had both heard their mother on the phone and knew that Tess had asked to speak to somebody else, and for whatever reason, the woman had chosen to tell her that whoever she wanted was not at home. Both girls were pretty sure Tess had asked for Nikki.
Rosalind folded her hands together, “Well I do believe Abbot should have supper ready shortly, so why don’t the two of you go and wash up. I better go and remind your father about tomorrow’s appointment.”
And with that she left the room.
Lisa and Nikki rose together and headed towards the door. The teen walked up to her sister and put an arm around slim shoulders.
“Do you think that Tess Alexander had asked for you?”
“I think she did.” Lisa supplied.
“I do to.” The blonde answered.
Together they headed out of the family room and towards the stairs, climbing them side-by-side, Lisa’s mind working overtime.
“What happened on Saturday Nikki? Why wont mother let you talk to her, and why do you look so down every time I mention Tess Alexander?”
Nikki sighed, “It is nothing, just a misunderstanding. She said something and I should have given her a chance to explain…but I didn’t…and now she probably thinks I no longer wish to speak to her…and that is so not true.”
“What did she say?”
The blue-eyed woman shrugged once again, “It is not important now…but lets just say I intend to speak to her, and apologise for the way I was…and the way mother acted.”
“You don’t have to apologise for her Nik”
“I have to, Tess is a nice person and I don’t want to lose her friendship.”
Lisa scrunched her nose and grinned, “Uh huh…is that all?”
Nikki frowned, “What do you mean?”
The brunette smiled, “Oh nothing.” And chuckled to herself as they reached the top of the stairs.
Wednesday morning found Tess sitting upon the counter in her kitchen, watching the small TV that sat on top of the fridge. She had been awoken by her usual alarm clock…Leto pinning her to the bed in the hopes of getting a bowl of tea out of her. It was only seven and she had three hours until she wanted to be at work, so she was wondering what to do with her time.
Nibbling on a slice of dry toast, she aimlessly watched the TV, not even completely aware what it was she was watching. It had puppets and was obviously intended for children that was all she was sure of.
Thinking back to her conversation with Rosalind Morris yesterday, Tess idly wondered where Nikki was. With her horses maybe or out with her sister somewhere? A fleeting thought in her mind wondered whether the blonde was actually there when she called, but she dismissed the notion as soon as it entered her mind.
The kettle boiled then clicked off, and Tess jumped down from the work surface, pouring the hot water into her cup and Leto’s bowl. The golden dog, running excitedly round her legs with impatience. After topping the bowl up with enough cold water to cool the hot tea, she placed it on the floor, and watched amused as the hound dove in, almost inhaling the beverage before it even had a chance to hit her taste buds.
Shaking her head, she jumped back onto the counter and picked up her coffee, wrapping her hands around the warmth. It was cold, even though she had put on the heating; she knew it took a while for these old houses to warm up. Besides she was only wearing grey shorts and a red tank top, not exactly winter woollies now.
Taking a drink, Tess revelled in the heat making its way through her body, luxuriating in its welcoming warmth. There was no doubt that it was going to be another cold day, and it was only getting colder. She was glad her car was in a garage, as it meant she would not have to waste time, waiting for the iced up windows to clear and engine to warm up.
Once again her thoughts returned to Nikki, they seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. Ever since she had first met the woman, she found her thoughts would turn to her at the most unexpected of times. Wondering what she was doing, how she was feeling, and often after hearing an amusing comment, thinking of how it would have make the small blonde laugh as well.
It was strange, she had not know the woman that long, yet she had made such an impact on to her consciousness, in such a small amount of time. It was so much so, that the though of not being able to re-new her friendship with the blonde, was becoming a painful concept.
Pursing her lips, Tess jumped down from the counter and made her way to the stairs, intent on having a shower. Why sit there waiting to warm up when she could just as easily jump into the hot stream of water and heat up in no time at all.
Jason sat at his desk, chewing on his thumb as he scanned the appointment books. He had just finished doing a bit of a reshuffle, and hoped Tess would not be too annoyed at why he’d had to change her booking to an earlier time. Luckily the customers had been happy with the change.
Scratching the tip of his nose, he scrolled through the day’s appointments.
“Stop picking that before your head caves in.”
Jason jumped and looked up, surprised to see Tess standing by his side.
“Good god woman, are you trying to give me a heart attack. Besides I was not picking my nose, I was just scratching it.”
Tess rubbed her chin, nodding her head with faux sincerity, “Of course you were.”
Jason folded his arms with a sulky expression on his face. “You are late this morning, sleep in?”
Sitting down on the edge of Jason’s desk, Tess folded her arms as well, “Well considering I don’t have any appointments until twelve o’clock, I though I would do a bit of cleaning at home, I still have two hours before the sitting anyway.”
Tess watched the man shuffle nervously in his seat; she arched an eyebrow and looked at him expectantly “OK…what is going on?”
The man smiled. “Well the Mayor rang this morning…he wanted to change his appointment today.”
“Tell me you are joking Jason…now.”
The secretary shook his head, “Afraid not…but he only wanted to bring it forward an hour…twelve instead of one o’clock. So I managed to push your twelve o’clock sitting to eleven…in other words, your sitting today is in one hour not two.”
Tess rose from the edge of Jason’s desk, “Why is it…that man has everybody running around after him huh? Why didn’t you just say that it could not be done?”
“I did…at first…knowing how much you hate to be messed around. Then he said he would have to cancel it for today, and knowing that he’d done that once already, I checked with your sitting to see whether it would be OK, and it was. In his defence though, he did seem very apologetic about having to switch times.”
“Oh I am sure he was”
Jason shrugged, “Well I don’t know what you are so gripey about girl…this means you get an extra hour on your half day today. You can go take pictures of the mud or piles of stones, or whatever it is you artistic types do when you have private time.”
“Jason did anybody ever tell you, that you have a unique eloquence with your words?”
The young man smirked, “Tess, did anybody ever tell you sarcasm does not become you?”
The tall woman grinned and headed towards her studio, “Sure…many times, but you wouldn’t want me any other way right?”
Jason didn’t answer.
“I take that as a NO then.”
Jason turned to give his retort, but she was gone.
Lisa stood at her bedroom window watching the black Bentley move down the driveway. A grin formed on her face as the official car disappeared out of view.
“NIKKI?” she shouted.
She waited for a few moments but heard nothing.
She moved towards her door, “Nikki, are you there?”
A few seconds later the blonde appeared in Lisa doorway, “I heard you the first time Lisa, I was not in the stables you know. Though I think Thunder and Jenna, might have actually heard you shout my name like that!”
Lisa grinned, “Oh ha de ha, so you told me to tell you when the parents left…and they have.”
“Right.” Nikki walked back out of her sister bedroom, Lisa right behind her.
“Hey are you going to tell me what is going on?”
Nikki shrugged, “I have something to do. If mum and dad get back before I do, which is more than likely, just tell them I have gone out, but you do not know where…ok?”
Lisa nodded, “Sure. Are you going to see Tess Alexander?”
The blonde disappeared into her bedroom, grabbing her black padded jacket, gloves and woolly hat. “Yeah.”
The teen smiled, “Well good luck sis.”
Nikki sighed as she pulled the zipper up on her jacket, “Thanks.” She picked up her cane, and bag walking back out her bedroom door towards the stairs, “Now I just hope I can get a cab that will get me to the studio, after mum and dad have left.”
Lisa bit her lip as she watched Nikki go down the stairs; she crossed her fingers for her sister. She hoped so too.
Tess’s eleven o’clock sitting had gone well. She was taking the shots of a young couple that had wanted engagement photos, and had enjoyed working with the humours couple. As she escorted them back to the waiting room, she noticed Richard and Rosalind Morris enter the building. A tall blonde haired man was also with them, and it was he who opened the door for them to enter. She noticed he was wearing a smart black suit and cap and realised he must have been the driver of the illegally parked Bentley at the front of the studio. She could see it clear as day through the double, clear glass doors, and felt a fleeting hope that a traffic warden would happen upon it and give them a ticket.
Grinning at the sly thought, she waved goodbye to the couple and walked over to greet the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress.
“Mr and Mrs Morris…how nice to see you again.” She gushed, while grating her teeth on the inside.
Richard Morris held out his hand first, “Miss Alexander, thank you so much for agreeing to bring this forward an hour.” He said, taking her hand.
Tess grinned, ‘agreeing?’ She looked over at Jason, only to find him drooling over the tall, smartly dressed blonde. Making a mental note to have a few words with the man, she turned to Rosalind who stood by her husband quietly.
“Mrs Morris?” She said.
Rosalind held out her hand, and Tess took it, shaking lightly before both women pulled away, a little too quickly.
“Well if you would both follow me, I have the shots ready for you to go through. Would either of you like a drink?” Tess asked as she led them into the viewing room.
“Tea would be nice.” Richard answered.
“I wont be a moment.” Tess responded and disappeared back out of the room. She jogged up to Jason who was making a beeline for the chauffer.
“Jase…” she shouted
The sandy haired man jumped, and looked in Tess’s direction.
“Tea…now…thank you.” She said, and made her way back to the viewing room.
Jason sighed and turned towards the kitchen. “I’ll give that girl bloody tea.” He moaned, and took a fleeting look at the blonde Adonis, before he disappeared from view.
Tess sat in her chair, wondering how she had managed to keep her cool during the most annoying hour and a half of her life. Rosalind Morris had gone through each shot one by one, pointing out every nuance she though ruined the picture, a hair out of place here, a hand in the wrong position there. Luckily she had managed to pick a family shot that she agreed look ‘acceptable’ and now all they had left were the shots of Nikki and Lisa to look through.
“If you don’t mind me saying Miss Alexander, you took some beautiful shots of the girls.” Richard Morris said. He pulled up a particular one of Nikki that had caught his eye. “This one here is outstanding. It is as though you have managed to catch something in her that I have never been seen before. Quite remarkable…”
Tess smiled, “Yes she is a very beautiful woman Mr Morris.” She noticed Rosalind flinch in the corner of her eye, and decided to amend her statement.
“Two beautiful daughters in fact, it was a pleasure capturing that.”
Richard smiled proud of his offspring. “Well thank you Miss Alexander, I must agree of course.” He joked.
The rest of the sitting took another ten minutes, with the Mayor choosing his favourite shots of Nikki and Lisa. And by the time the session was over, both women seemed glad to get out of there, a fact completely unknown by Richard Morris.
As the three made their way back out into the waiting room, Tess was the first to spot Jason looking a little too friendly with the Mayor’s chauffer. She cleared her throat as they all entered the front foyer.
“Well Mr and Mrs Morris.” She said with a little extra volume to make sure Jason was back in place. “I will get on with your order, and will personally call you when everything is ready for you to view. As for your Christmas cards, I shall get them done first and delivered to you by tomorrow evening.”
Richard Morris clapped his hands together, “Wonderful, that is just wonderful. Thank you so much Miss Alexander, and I shall look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening with the finished results.”
The Chauffer, to which Jason had discovered was called Dennis, stood and opened the door for the couple. He smiled at them both as they headed out to the Bentley, and then winked at Jason before leaving the building himself.
Tess’s mouth dropped, “Have you forgotten that you are almost a married man?”
Jason grinned, “Nothing wrong with a bit of harmless flirting.”
“Uh huh…I…” Tess’s reply was halted as Kat’s appointment came through the door. It was a young couple, arriving to view their pictures. Tess smiled at them both, “Ah the future Mr and Mrs Lloyd…nice to see you again.”
They smiled shyly, and Tess thought how much a match this couple made, they both seemed to be afraid of their own shadow.
Jason looked over to the pair, “Please sit down a moment…we will be with you shortly.”
As the young man and woman made their way to the row of chairs, Jason looked desperately towards the tall woman, “Hey!” she looked at him and he motioned her to move closer.
“What is it?”
Jason frowned, “Kat isn’t in yet, she is running late this morning, can you do the viewing…I don’t know how long she will be. She called me while you were in with your last appointment and asked me to ask you to cover for her.”
Tess rolled her eyes, “Yeah, yeah that’s fine.” She looked up at the young man and woman, “Mr Lloyd, Miss Miller…follow me please.”
The couple got up and followed Tess as she led them towards the viewing room.
This viewing had gone a lot smoother than her last and had only taken Tess twenty minutes. The photographer emerged back into the waiting room, a smiling couple by her side within half an hour. After a quiet thank you the future Mr and Mrs Lloyd left the building.
“Well that went easy!” Tess commented.
“Please tell me you didn’t scare that poor couple into buying all their pictures just for the extra commission.”
Tess folded her arms, “Hey that commission stays Kat’s, and no I didn’t scare them I was a perfect gentleman…if you even know what that means?”
Jason scowled, “Look be nice or I may forget to tell you something kind of important.
Tess held up her hands, “Oh, and what is that then?”
The man grinned, “Oh ok…since you look so cute when you are intrigued.”
Tess growled, and advanced on the man.”
“Just kidding, gosh no need to be so touchy.”
“Jason if you don’t tell me…”
“Alright, alright…you had a visitor, arrived just as you disappeared with Mr and Mrs docile. Cute blonde, blue eyes, went by the name of Nikki” Jason watched amazed as the tall woman blanched.
“Who is Nikki?” Kat asked, as she entered main reception looking harried, her coat hanging off one shoulder as she closed the front doors.
“What did she say…where did she go?” Tess asked nervously
Jason pushed a hand through is hair, “Well I kind of got the feeling that she wanted to speak to you alone, so…I escorted her to your office.”
“You left her there alone!” Tess asked incredulously already moving towards the door.
“She knew I could not leave front desk for long, and Kat was still on her way here, she said she would be fine, that she had a book in her bag to keep her occupied until…you…were…free...and…anyway.” Jason turned to look at Kat, “Why am I continuing to speak when she has already left the room.”
Tess stood at the entrance to her studio; a nervous fluttering besieged her stomach. Placing her hand on the knob she took a deep breath and pushed open the door, ready to face the woman she had not seen since Saturday evening.
Tentatively she walked into the spacious studio, shutting the door behind her. The quiet of the room seemed almost ghostly as she scanned the area looking for the blonde. Her eyes moved over to an ornate antique looking sofa, which was actually a prop of hers, and she spotted Nikki tucked into one of its corners. Her shoes were off, feet tucked under short legs, and her head resting back and to the side. Her eyes were closed and it was instantly obvious to Tess that that young woman was out for the count.
With an affectionate smile, she moved towards the sleeping figure, taking in the gentle sight. Blonde eyelashes rested against pale cheeks, and soft pink lips were slightly parted as Nikki took deep, somnolent breaths.
In her lap lay a medium size book, open on a particular page. Tess looked down at the page and ran her fingers over the curious bumps. She had never felt Braille before, and as her fingers passed over the indentations, she wondered how on earth Nikki was able to make either head or tail of these seemingly random bumps. A new respect swelled inside of her at the thought of all that the blonde had to over come, and more importantly how she had managed to make it to the studio on her own. Obviously it was possible, she realised, but the fact that she had taken the step, struck an unknown emotional cord deep within her.
Kneeling, Tess leaned back on her heals, taking in the vision still sleeping peacefully before her. She felt a sudden urge to push away the few stray locks that had fallen into Nikki’s eyes, not that it would have bothered the blonde, but unbeknownst to Tess, it was just an unconscious urge to make physical contact.
Deciding that Nikki wouldn’t really be too thrilled to learn that she had slept through her return Tess wondered how to wake her up. Feeling a little self conscious about waking her in this way, she pushed herself to her feet and walked back to the door. With more noise than she would usually make, she opened the door and coughed loudly before closing it with a little extra vigour.
Nikki jumped upon hearing the sound of coughing, the book in her lap fell to the floor with a clump, and she immediately bent forward to pick up the fallen object, flustered and a little confused.
“Hi!” Tess said.
Nikki pushed herself back to her feet; tucking the book under her arm, she smiled sheepishly.
Tess looked at the woman, and wondered whether she had made the right move in the way she had woken her up. Every bone in her body had been pushing her to wake the blonde up in some very different way indeed.
“How are you?” She asked, wondering whether she sounded as lame to Nikki as she did to herself.
Nikki smiled self-consciously, “Ok I guess, obviously a little tired…”
The tall woman grinned.
“How are you Tess?”
Tess walked towards Nikki, not stopping until she was directly in front of her, “Been better.” She answered truthfully.
Nikki nodded, so Tess continued.
“Look Nik, I am just going to come right out and say this…” she paused briefly “What I said the other day, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded…honestly I didn’t. I am sorry for how I behaved, somebody made an assumption about you and I kind of reacted the wrong way, it was not meant to sound the way it did. I am so sorry that I hurt you.”
Nikki moved until she felt her legs against the chair, and sat back down. “No I am sorry for the way I reacted without giving you a chance to explain…I guess we were both a little wrong in how we behaved.”
Tess nodded, “Well in that case…I will accept your apology, as long as you will accept mine…deal?”
The blue-eyed woman grinned, “I do believe you have a deal there Miss Tess!”
“I’m glad” Tess replied sincerely
Nikki fiddled with the corner of her book, a certain thought running through her head. It was a thought that had been running through her head for the past few days. She moved her head up towards Tess, “So…what assumption was made against me that got you kind of angry?”
Tess looked down at the floor, suddenly finding the dull tiles very interesting. “Ah well…it doesn’t really matter now, it was something that they should not have assumed…and were very wrong in doing so.”
“Oh” Nikki responded, slightly disappointed with the reply.
Tess moved forward and sat beside Nikki. “It is in the past now…if we keep talking about it, I will feel the need to apologise again, and me down on my knees is not a pretty sight…trust me.”
Nikki laughed, “Oh shame, and here I was thinking I could milk you being down on your knees for all it was worth.”
That earned the blonde an arched brow, “Really, you think I should continue my grovelling?”
“No, you accepted my apology so I accepted yours…that was the deal remember.”
“Uh huh…well in that case, I truly hope I never have to get down on my knees before you then.”
“Because I never want to do or say anything that will hurt you ever again.” As the words left Tess’s mouth, she realised just how true the statement was. She smiled as a soft blush worked its way over Nikki’s cheeks and a crown of blonde hair came into view, as Nikki moved her face out of view.
Placing two fingers under Nikki’s chin, she lifted her head until she could once again look into Nikki’s clear blue eyes.
“Why that isn’t a blush I see is it…it cannot be?”
Nikki laughed lightly and tried to move away but she was caught in a strong grasp. The blush deepened further.
“Oh more…I like that…looks very cute.”
Green eyes watched blue move sightlessly around until they stopped, stock still, seemingly looking straight into startled green. Tess stopped breathing, a bolt of awareness shooting through her, so strong that it vibrated within her heart.
Nikki sensed the change in Tess and wondered what the woman was thinking. She wanted to speak, but dared not break the fragile spell that had woven its self around them, she did not understand it, but felt powerless to pull away.
Tess’s eyes searched the heart shaped face, taking in every line, freckle and barley visible changes in skin tone. The soft skin beneath her fingers glided gently over her tips, and she suddenly realised she was stroking the tender area.
Blinking rapidly, as if to break the unexpected trance, she pulled back ashamed of her behaviour. Moving away, she rose to her feet, and took a step away from the quiet woman.
“Err, um…” She took another step away, desperately trying to think of something to say. “So how did you get here?” Oh that was a good one Tess, she scolded.
Nikki shook her head, confused at what had just happened. “Oh…well, I err booked a taxi…to get here for when my parents viewing had finished, so was my mother was her usual fastidious self?”
Tess smiled, “She was kind of fussy yeah.”
The blonde smiled, “You are so polite.” She chuckled, “I know how she is…wants everything her way, and will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.”
The smile left Tess’s face, “It must be hard for you being there, I don’t mean that in any kind of disrespect to you or your family, it is just that…well she does seem like the kind of woman to fight for what she wants and believes.” She stated
Nikki shook her head, “No it is more a case of fighting for what she thinks is most acceptable and socially correct.”
Tess nodded in understanding, “I take it they do not know you are here today?”
“No…as far as I am concerned, they were not there when I made the decision to go out.” She shrugged, “I am big enough and ugly enough to make my own decisions…sooner or later they are going to have to accept that.”
“Uh huh…well how about making another decision today?”
The blonde pursed her lips, “And what may that be?”
Tess sat next to the woman, “Come out with Leto and I this weekend, we are taking a trip…though don’t tell Leto yet or she will not shut up about it until I leave the house with her.”
Nikki laughed, “Where are you going?” She asked.
Tess shook her head, “Ah ha, that would be telling…it will be a surprise…do you want to go?”
Nikki pulled a face; appearing to be considering the offer, “Err…well as long as you feed me, I think it sounds like a great idea.”
Tess smiled, “It’s a deal.”
Jason and Kat sat in the employees lounge, heads close together in deep conversation. Their muted whispers sounded through the room, and as Robert and Stan entered the area, they pulled away innocently.
Robert looked over at his companion with a frown, and then looked at the two possible conspirators.
“Ok…so what is going on here?”
Jason shook his head, and Kat shrugged as they all turned to the sound of footsteps moving towards them.
Tess appeared at the doorway, her arm closely held by a small blonde. All eyes looked at the two women full of question.
“Everyone this is Nikki…Nikki this is every one. Jason, whom you have already met, Kat, and Stan they are photographers like me. There is also Carl, but he is out today, and last but not least Robert, the big bad boss.”
Nikki smiled to a series of hi there, and hellos.
“Well guys if you will excuse us…sorry we cannot stay and chat, but Nikki has a taxi that should be here any minute, so we have to go.”
After a few quick goodbyes, they left the doorway, heading for main reception.
Jason looked towards Kat with a raised eyebrow, “So what do you think?” He whispered.
Kat winked, “Definitely worth keeping an eye on.” She answered.
Robert walked up to the two conspirators, “What is worth keeping an eye on?”
Kat shook her head, “We will let you know when we have more proof.”
Robert placed his hands on his hips, shaking his head, “Why do I get the feeling Tess is not going to be pleased with you two?”
Two wide eyed, innocent faces looked at each other in faux surprise.
As the women made it to reception, Tess was slightly disappointed to see that Nikki’s taxi was already waiting for her. With the blondes arm still held securely around her own, she guided her out onto Main Street.
“Well I guess I will see you on Saturday then yes?”
Nikki nodded as the tall woman opened the door for her, “Even though you are not going to tell me where we are going…yes you will…and thank you, I look forward to it very much.”
“No thank you.” Tess said, “Believe me, it will be nice to have more than the dogs company for a change. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot seem to grasp doggie language.”
That earned the brunette a laugh, “Well I am glad I can be of service to you. So what time?”
Tess thought about it quickly as Nikki got into the car, “I will let you know when I bring your fathers cards around tomorrow…that ok? It is just that I am not completely sure yet.”
“That is fine, I shall see you then…goodbye Tess.”
“Bye Nikki.” She replied and shut the door.
Standing on the curb, she watched as the vehicle drove silently away disappearing around a corner, a happy smile never leaving her face.
From inside the main reception, Jason, Kat, Stan and Robert all stood at the window watching the scene with interest.
“So what do you think?” Kat questioned the rest of the gang.
“Definitely worth keeping an eye on.” Robert stated, a little uneasy about what his employees were implying.
End of part 3
continued in part 4 .