Disclaimer: This is the second part to my original story Snap Shots part 1.
Language warning: Not often but yes.
Love and sex warning: This story definitely portrays a loving relationship between two women.
Violence Warning: Yes definitely more than a projectile camera this time and from about chapter 8 onwards.
Thanks: First of all I would like to thank Garnet for Beta reading this story. Tammy for once again provided me with all the relevant horsey information, and her patience in explaining to me the purpose of a girth!
I would also like to add a special thanks to Monica for her assistance in translating the Italian language in this section… Thanks M. Also to one other person who has helped edit this story, she'll know who she is!
And to everyone for the overwhelming feedback I receivedJ
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikki awoke early Tuesday morning to a strange sound coming from an unknown location in the house. Yawning, she lifted herself from her position of laying half upon a deep sleeping Tess and rubbed tired eyes. Moving her head side to side she loosened a tight kink in her neck before twisting her body around and out of the bed, reaching for her watch as she did so and securing it around her wrist. Once done, the blonde quietly crept out of the bedroom and headed off in the direction of the odd noise, knowing it had to be Leto.
As she descended the steps Nikki fingered her watch activating the audio function and realised it was only half past five in the morning. With a shake of her head the blonde reached the bottom of the stairs and turned in the direction of the now familiar sound; she could hear it coming from the front room.
Pushing the door open slightly Nikki walked cautiously into the room; mindful of the noises that were now beginning to sound more like tortured whimpers. Knowing the golden dog had a tendency to get up during the night and go down to sleep by the fire, whether it was on or not, Nikki walked cautiously over to where she was sure Leto would be lying. The whimpering became louder and Nikki realised Leto was in the middle of a dream, and not a very pleasant one by the sounds of it. Kneeling down she reached out until her searching hand found purchase of soft golden fur. "Hey ‘tow tow' sweetheart come on wake up!" Leto opened her eyes with a start and looked up at Nikki, instantly wagging her tail and climbing into the blondes lap. Nikki smiled and felt around for the dogs' head before leaning down and planting a soft kiss upon the silky fur. "Good girl," she ruffled her hands over the dogs body before lightly tickling her stomach. Leto sighed and stretched out in Nikki's lap, closing her eyes in bliss. The blonde shook her head. "Leto, I swear you are just like Tess!" Adjusting herself to a more comfortable position Nikki mindlessly stroked the dog as her mind wandered back to the appointment with Doctor Jacobson the day before.
Nikki had entered the doctors' office; her arm firmly wrapped around the brunettes. Eric led the way ushering the women to the far corner of the room where two extremely comfortable black leather, three seated couches sat facing each other. As the women sat down the doctor offered them a drink then disappeared into a small side room to put on the kettle.
Tess had looked around the room in awe commenting to Nikki how she thought she was in the wrong profession, and if she had known doctors could live so comfortably she would have attended medical school instead!
She then went on to describe the room to the blonde while Eric was still making their drinks and had stated on how it was very different to his outer office. It wasn't so much the way it was decorated, although that was impeccably tasteful and thought out, it was again the furniture and ornaments that adorned the spacious room. Original paintings ornamented two walls, there stood a large Tiffany lamp in the corner in between the two sofas, and a beautiful Chippendale chair beside the doctors' desk. Even the desk was beautifully made, and the photographer was sure it must have been Edwardian. She leaned over to Nikki with a smirk. "Either the doc is really good, or he has a side job as a criminal mastermind!" Nikki chuckled silently, aware of Eric entering the room.
Eric sat down after handing both women a small cup of tea. Tess had looked down at the cup wondering whether she dare drink out of the delicate china pottery, or set it on a mantelpiece for show. She shrugged and placed it upon a low coffee table between the chairs as she watched Nikki do the same.
"So, Nicole how have you been?"
The blonde shrugged slightly. "Fine. I moved out of home and am now living with Tess in Derbyshire. We have a farm house and I am planning on starting a stud farm in the near future."
"Ah," Eric had looked between the couple noting their close proximity, and the way Nikki's right hand was unconsciously resting on the photographers' thigh. He hadn't realised it at the time, even when Nikki said she was bringing her partner down to London, but it suddenly became obvious to him that Nicole and Tess were partners in every sense of the word. His eyebrows arched in recognition and a slight smile played across his features. I would never have thought it! He mused silently.
Nodding Eric took a drink before placing his cup on the antique table, "And how are your parents?"
The blonde grasped Tess's thigh silently, an unconscious gesture that didn't go unnoticed by the doctor, "Um… they are fine, father's now the Mayor."
"So I heard." He smiled. "I saw your father on the television during the General Elections; he is definitely passionate about his causes isn't he!"
Tess chuckled. "Oh yeah that is something you notice over time, and to think I didn't even vote for him."
Nikki turned to Tess shocked. "You didn't?"
"Um… no, I voted for that other guy Jefferson Daniels I just didn't know who to vote for. Anyhow, I knew I wasted a vote as soon as I heard the guys' speech… anyone who can seem more interested keeping animal blood sports legal is not in my favour."
The doctor shook his head. "Yeah I heard about that; seems it was a good job your father was elected in the locals Nicole."
Nikki nodded quietly, she knew this chat was just a temporary ease for her obvious jitters but it wasn't working, just get on with it, she thought. Nothing short of leaving Eric's office would have calmed her nerves at that point.
Sensing the blonde's obvious discomfort, Jacobson leaned forward in his chair and looked intently at the smaller woman. "Okay Nicole, we all know why we are here, so let's talk shall we?"
Nikki nodded tightly, her hand instantly being captured by Tess's.
"Alright, lets get right on with this." Eric rose from his chair and walked over to a high set of filling cabinets in the opposite corner of the room. Pulling open the top drawer the doctor pulled out a large blue folder containing Nikki's medical history. He flicked through the files briefly before returning to his seat. "Well to refresh our conversation from the year before last. There are many different causes for blindness, through accidents, progressive disorders, other forms of conditions such as diabetes, and of-course from birth. As you are aware I believe your blindness to be linked with a form of damage in your eye to brain connection. I am hoping the problem is within the eye as that is what I anticipate in being able to repair." He placed the folder on the low table and opened it to a particular page. "Certain forms of blindness can be reversed and I have been doing an awful lot of research on the causes of blindness from birth and possible cures."
Tess sucked her bottom lip nervously as she looked towards Nikki, tightening her grip on the blonde's hand.
"Now in order for me to find out whether I will be able to revert the blindness in your eye, I would have to start by going in for an initial examination and general look around."
Nikki licked her lips nervously. "What does that mean?" She really didn't like the sound of that in the slightest.
Eric cleared his throat. "Well basically what I said; I will have to see what the actual problem is first. You see, I have studied the complexities of the eye for quite some years Nicole and am very confident in my abilities to give the gift of sight to those who have been blind their whole lives."
Nikki frowned at the doctors' sudden display of bravado. "You can't always be sure that it is a gift Eric, this isn't something I would consider lightly and you know how long it took me to get to this point. For me personally this is a daunting and potentially life changing step to take."
Tess rubbed her thumb over Nikki's palm reassuringly.
"Oh." The doctor readjusted his position in the chair. "I guess I have spent so much time looking at this from my point of view that I have never stopped to consider how it would affect my patients. Are you saying that you are still undecided in this?"
"I'm intrigued definitely," the blonde replied; "but I would like as much details as you can give me before I make my decision."
"Well then… let us not waste any more time, I will explain every thing to you and you can ask as many questions as you desire… by the end of this meeting I hope to leave you with enough information that will to aid you in your judgment."
Tess sat back quietly as Eric discussed the many different procedures he had devised that he hoped would help give sight to the blind. Their discussion was long and the doctor spoke in quite complex terms about many details, which although she really didn't quiet comprehend, Nikki understood completely. The longer they conversed the more Nikki seemed to warm to the operation doctor Jacobson was suggesting. It was complex, that was for sure, but even Tess found herself gaining confidence in Eric's abilities the longer they spoke and it was quite obvious he himself was extremely convinced in his new methods.
It was almost eight o'clock by the time the meeting was over and as Nikki left the office she was filled with much confidence. In her mind she had already made the decision but had decided to sleep on it and hopefully give her answer to the doctor the next day.
Tess had stated that she had wished they had booked a hotel for the night as they both knew it would be well past ten o'clock by the time they got home. Nikki was aware that it was still light out as they left London, but by the time they had arrived home Tess was navigating the dark, narrow roads of the countryside in almost total darkness.
As predicted, Leto was waiting patiently when they got home and all three females headed straight to bed, Tess allowing the dog to sleep at the bottom of the divan, an act that she and Nikki had taken to since Leto's injury. Sleep came easy for all but Nikki who had lain awake a while longer; processing all the information Eric Jacobson had told them hours before. Gradually she gained confidence in her decision.
Tess rolled over, her right arm reaching out to the empty space by her side. Frowning she opened her eyes, and looked across at the vacant spot by her side. The sheets were cold and she realised that Nikki had obviously been out of bed for a long time. Reaching to her side Tess grabbed the alarm clock off the bedside table, willing her blurry eyes to focus. It was only seven o'clock so Nikki had obviously been up for a while. Stifling a yawn the photographer pulled her long frame from the bed as she reached over to a single chair where she picked up her discarded tee shirt from the seat and pulled it over her nakedness. Exiting the bedroom Tess looked around the landing trying to locate the blonde. She listened to her surrounding carefully, but after hearing nothing she decided to try down stairs.
A gentle heat from the glowing fire drew a searching Tess into the living room. She stepped quietly inside, her eyes instantly searching and locating her missing lover. Nikki lay upon her side in front of the fire, her knees drawn up close to her stomach and Leto resting sleepily by her chest. The tall woman smiled tenderly and approached the sleeping pair. Her smile increased as Leto opened her eyes and looked up at the approaching brunette, waging her tail sleepily.
"Hey sleepy head!" Tess whispered as she knelt down, running her fingers across the golden hound. Leto lifted herself, swiping her tongue over the photographers hand before laying her head back down under Nikki's chin.
Sensing the movement and extra presence Nikki pulled herself from a dreamless sleep. Tess leaned forward and placed a soft kiss upon the blondes' lips as she came around. "Morning sweetheart, what are you doing down here, was I snoring again?" She gazed down at Nikki's slumber flushed cheeks affectionately.
"Hmm," Nikki stretched and lifted to a sitting position. "No I woke up too early." She winced as a sudden pain invaded her neck. "Ugh god, remind me never to fall asleep on the bloody floor I think I've a knotted muscle!" Kneading her neck, Nikki tried to loosen the painful ache.
"Come here." Tess took a hold of Nikki's shoulders and gently turned her around and onto her stomach. Nikki lay down willingly as Tess straddled her hips and applied a gentle massaging pressure to her shoulders.
"Ugh, oh yeah… that feels so good."
A smile. "Good, but don't make a habit of sleeping down here just to get my free massages alright!"
Nikki chuckled as her free hand absently picked at the soft fibres of the rug by the fire. She turned her head to the side closing her eyes against the heat. "Oh but you are so good." She sighed, breathing deeply and relaxing into Tess's manipulative touch. "You know, this is the first time I have ever had a massage."
Tess stopped briefly, and looked down in disbelief. "Really?" She resumed her ministrations, and double her efforts in making sure Nikki was thoroughly satisfied. "Well okay now you have just convinced me to make sure you get this treatment, at least once a week." Skilled hands moved under Nikki's tee shirt and smoothed out the muscles along her back, gliding over soft inviting skin. "But no more sleeping down here, I'll get paranoid!"
The blonde nodded, grunting her agreement as larger hands touched a particularly sore spot on her upper back. Tess's hands stopped wandering and concentrated in that one area, working the muscle in gentle circles. The photographer looked up as a movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. She watched amused as Leto rolled onto her back, legs hanging limply in the air as she lightly slept, seemingly oblivious to all around her.
"What time is it?"
Tess looked over at the clock on the videocassette recorder. "It's twenty past seven, I'll have to go and get ready for work in another twenty minutes."
Feeling slightly disappointed, Nikki reached behind her and stopped the hands that were working her shoulders. She began to turn and Tess lifted slightly allowing the blonde room to roll onto her back until they were face to face. "I was thinking." She stated; eyes directed up in Tess's direction.
"About?" Tess asked, already knowing the answer.
"About yesterday and the operation."
"And?" The brunette asked, not noticing that she was holding her breath in anticipation.
Nikki's hand reached out, finding purchase of barely covered thighs belonging to the woman above her. "And… I have decided to give it a try."
There was a moment of silence as the spoken words settled into both women's minds. To hear herself actually say it caused a flicker of anticipation in the blondes' own chest. She bit her lip nervously and waited for Tess's response.
"Okay," the brunette nodded slowly. "Then you know I will stand by you one hundred percent in this Nik; I will help you with this any way I can."
A small nod; "I know. I don't really want to tell that many people though Tess, maybe just Dad, Lisa, Cinthy, and James. Lisa may tell CJ and I don't think we will be able to keep it a secret from Sam and Janie but apart from that could we keep it as close to our chests as possible in the meantime?"
Tess frowned. "Nik, of course we can. I know how you are feeling about this and don't want to get your hopes up… we will take it one step at a time okay?"
"Yeah." A sigh. "I wish you didn't have to go to work so soon."
Smirking, Tess leaned down, placing an arm either side of the blondes' head. "Want me to stay an extra hour this morning? I really don't have an appointment until eleven; I was only going to help Jason with some inventory this morning anyway."
"Won't he mind?"
"Naw, I can call… I know he wont mind." Tess looked up to find her mobile conveniently placed by the television where it lay plugged into its charger. She reached out, and pulled the phone over. "I'll call him now."
"It's a bit early."
"So! This will get him back for the time he called us at six o'clock in the bloody morning, just to ask me whether I would be in for Kats birthday that wasn't until the next frigging day anyway…why he couldn't wait until I got there was beyond me."
"You still haven't' gotten over that have you."
"Nope!" Tess poked out her tongue in concentration as she dialled her friends' number, grinning evilly as the line started to ring.
"If I could see you now I know you would be wearing your most nefarious smirk!" Nikki said. She reached up and caressed the lips of the woman who was poised only six inches above her finding the indulgent grin. "I knew it."
Tess captured a finger between her teeth; then paused as the line was answered.
"Hello?" Came a quiet voice.
"Good morning sunshine." The photographer said, using Jason's own words to get a rise out of the man.
"Uh huh," she replied with an impish smirk.
"Jesus woman it is half seven in the morning for goodness sake!"
Tess pulled an innocent face as Nikki chuckled silently at Jason's exasperated voice. "And you should be up and about by now young man… Jeez the youth of today, no stamina I tell you."
"Tess, I am two years older than you for crying out loud… now what do you want?"
"Oh testy! And to think I was never this crabby when you called me at six o'clock in the god damned morning."
"Hold on a minute." There was a ruffling of sheets followed by and a quiet muttering. "Okay fine, you are getting me back… now what can I do for you girl?"
"Remember when I said I would help you with inventory this morning?"
"Well I may be an hour or so late."
"What… that is it, you called to tell me that?" There was another exasperated sigh down the phone. "Fine, I wasn't going to start it until ten o'clock anyway."
"Oh well that's okay then."
Nikki, who had been listening silently suddenly chimed in. "Morning Jason."
Tess grinned. "Nikki says hi."
"I heard? Where is she, what phone are you on?"
The photographer rolled her eyes. "She is right here with me and I am on my mobile… any more questions?"
"Where is right here?" Jason asked suspiciously.
Tess looked down. "Um, beneath me why?"
"WHAT? Tess girl give that phone to the blonde right now!"
With a bemused frown Tess held the phone to Nikki's ear, and the blonde took possession of the small device. "Hi Jase."
"Nikki sweetheart don't tell me that colleague of mine is using the phone while you two are in the middle of…" he cleared his throat, "the wild thing… just because she wants extra desert?"
A sudden blush graced Nikki's cheeks as she laughed out loud. "Oh no nothing like that Jason I assure you!"
Tess smirked at the expression on the blondes face and wondered what Jason was saying to her. If it were the other way round she was sure Nikki would be able to hear what was going on but she was in the dark.
"Shame… well for you not me; last thing I want is images like that at this time of the morning. Not that you would produce bad images sweetheart, you are just darling, but still…I mean it's Tess…Oh… you get me don't you?" He babbled.
"Um yeah!" She rolled her eyes. "Jason I better hand you back to Tess before you permanently wedge that foot of yours forever into your mouth!" She chuckled at the sudden spluttering down the phone, and handed the mobile back to Tess.
"Ah buon giorno Jake, come stai?"
"Bene grazie, e tu?"
"Great. So where has Jason disappeared to?"
"Hmm, I think somebody just cut him down a peg or two…" he laughed, "I took the phone away from him after he started stuttering down the receiver. I think that little one of yours just flummoxed him, not a feat often achieved so I commend her."
Tess arched her brows. "Really?" she asked mysteriously.
"Yeah". The photographer heard the muted sound of the receptionist demanding back the phone. "Tess? Jason vuole indietro il telefono SUBITO!"
"Alright Jake; a presto amico mio."
"A piu tardi Tessa ciao." The phone switched users. "Damn it Tess I hate it when you two start switching languages and I know he only does it to wind me up!"
"Hey don't blame me; Jake did start it!" Tess stated with a mischievous grin.
"Oh in no way do I doubt that… anyway Tess, you tell that Nikki she is on my list!"
"And what list would that be?" She asked amused.
There was a short silence. "I don't know, but when I make one she will be on it."
A silent chuckle; "Sure Jason."
"Damn right!" A long pause; "…oh who am I kidding, I can't even try to be mad at her but you tell Sparky next time I see her there will be trouble… I owe her good!"
Nikki laughed as she said in a raised voice. "Them sound like fighting words Jase my boy."
"Sparky?" Tess asked.
"Yeah the live wire! Okay Tess I've got to go… I will see you later."
"Yeah bye Jason."
Tess disconnected the phone shaking her head. "Damn that guy," she laughed.
"You didn't tell me you could speak Italian." Nikki stated.
"Ah, well you learn something new every day I guess!" Tess leaned further forward until she was inches away from the blonde. "I used to holiday in Italy a lot as a child so picked up the language pretty easily. Of course I did also take a couple of courses, to improve my reading and written language as well." She paused to lick her lips and consciously lowered her voice. "Um… Vorrei tagliare I capelli e fare la messa in piega con il f–hn."
Nikki arched her brows. "Oh sounds sexy, what did you say?"
Tess pursed her lips, tongue in cheek. "Sono rimasto chiuso fuori della mia stanza."
Grinning, Nikki pushed her hands through the brunettes' hair. "Oh come on, Tess what did you just say, you know sound really sexy, I love your accent!"
Jade eyes glittered with mirth. "Well… I just asked you for a cut and blow dry then told you that I had locked myself out of my room!" She chuckled. "They were some of the very first phrases I ever remember learning!"
There was a sudden laugh as Nikki slapped the brunettes behind playfully. "Damn it, Tess you are just so romantic. You could have lied and said you wanted to make mad passionate love to me or something along those lines." She pouted. "I think you just doused my rising libido… so what were you two saying anyway?"
"Nothing much, I told Jake off for speaking in Italian when he knows it makes Jason paranoid. He asked me how you were and told me that we needed to go down to the bar soon… that was it basically."
Nikki nodded. "I thought I heard my name mentioned once or twice. Oh hey did you hear what Jason said?"
Stretching out her long form Tess lay upon the younger woman looking down into hooded blue eyes. "No, I couldn't hear; what was he going on about anyway?"
"He thought you had called him while we were," she made a slight back and forth hand gesture, " ‘Doing the wild thing'" she laughed again, "And wanted seconds, or thirds… so rang him to say you would be in late because of that reason!"
Sniggering. "He does have a good idea though!" Tess stated as her lips moved slowly down until they landed upon the blondes' neck. Gentle lips moved across soft skin with an excruciating tardy speed. "How's your neck ache feeling now?" Tess asked against Nikki's flesh.
"What ache?" she breathed.
A slow smile spread across Tess's lips as she moved up Nikki's chin and towards her lips. The kiss was deep and seductive as the blonde's hands slid up Tess's body and into shoulder length hair, where short fingernails moved along a sensitive scalp.
Tess groaned and pulled away. "Ugh, can I just skive off today?"
"Nope." Nikki smiled as her hand took a different direction and moved back down the photographers' body and up her tee shirt. Her body was telling her to continue with the pleasurable task but her mind refused to stop thinking and as much as she didn't want to, she had to voice a sudden thought that had entered her mind. "Tess."
"Hmm?" she asked, looking up as she noted the serious tone in Nikki's voice.
"I've changed my mind, I don't want to tell anybody about the surgery… is that okay?"
Tess looked down at the blondes' anxious expression. "Um… sure, of course… if that is what you want then you know I am with you whatever you decide Nik. What made you change your mind?"
Nikki sighed as Tess pulled her to a sitting position. She sat up straight; her legs stretched out with the photographer astride her thighs. Long fingers moved under her chin and directed her face to seemingly look straight into inquisitive green eyes. A small hand rested upon Tess's thighs and fiddled with the edge of her shirt. There was really only one main reason why she didn't want anybody to know. The expectancy. She had no doubt that for her father especially, he would be ecstatic, overjoyed and would want her to pursue this as quickly as possible and that was the problem. Nikki had already faced the great possibility that the operation may not work and didn't know how she would handle the disappointment of her family if the procedure were indeed to fail. Was this a selfish decision to make? She was unsure but knew she had to do this for herself and as long as Tess stood by her she knew she could face what lay ahead.
The blonde had been silent for some minutes and Tess ducked her head, looking directly into watery blue eyes. "Nik?"
"If this fails at least I spare them the disappointment… and after everything my father went through with my mother and the operation when I was two, I don't think I could put him through any more stress."
Tess sucked in her bottom lip, looking intently into Nikki's aqua eyes, she studied the difference between the left and right eye. "Won't he be upset that you didn't tell him before hand?"
"I don't think so, he will understand I know he will." The blonde let her head fall to Tess's chest. "What about your mother, do you think she will be upset if we don't tell her until after, it is going to be a pretty big announcement whatever the case!"
Shaking her head Tess kissed the golden locks. "Yeah, and no she won't mind…" She paused, "So… we are going ahead with this?"
Nikki nodded affirmatively. "Yep!"
A wide toothy smile spread across the brunettes' features; leaning forward she kissed Nikki gently. "I love you Nik." Tess whispered softly as she lowered the blonde back down to the floor. "And by the way… Voglio fare pazzamente e appassionatamente l'amore con te"
"I want to make mad passionate love to you."
With a growing smirk Nikki chuckled. "Oh yes I can definitely feel that libido rising again now!"
She was sure it was the same for a lot of people. Hospital - even the word sent chills down her spine. They are supposed to be places where one goes to get better; to visit one's loved ones as they battle through the sometimes worse of afflictions known to man, and stand triumphant through the storm. But for Tess it was not so.
She was four years old when she broke her leg while exploring the six-foot high climbing frame in her uncles' garden. The doctors had called her brave because she hadn't even cried but if she were to admit, she was just too frightened to cry. Taken to the hospital cradled in her fathers' arms Tess was whisked into the emergency room before she even knew where she was. There she waited for three hours, on one of the busiest evenings of the year, November the fifth - bonfire night. What she had been witness to there had left permanent scars in her sub-conscious mind.
Sitting frightened in her fathers' lap she had watched horrified as the influx of casualties streamed through the emergency room. Children of all ages crying in agony as their burnt hands overwhelmed them; destroying the wonder they had felt while innocently playing with sparklers in their own gardens. Older children and teenagers, wheeled rapidly past her with severe burns and lacerations upon their faces and other body parts, the result of practical jokes gone wrong. Even the elderly were not immune after having cheap fireworks shoved through their letterboxes that had resulted in explosions and occasional fires in their small homes. At such a young age to see such misery had left her with an intense dislike of hospitals in general.
Then came her fathers' cancer. It had happened so unexpectedly that she was sure she would have plenty of time to be with him. Of course she had been to see him, but evade going again as much as she could thinking there would be more than ample opportunity for her to see him… if only she had known.
Yet now here she sat again in a small recovery room of a London based private hospitals ophthalmology unit, waiting for Nikki to return. They had arrived not long before the blonde was taken away for her pre op check up and although Tess had stated that she wanted to be with Nikki, a need that the smaller woman herself had echoed, the nurse, a tall thin woman with wiry blonde hair and cold blue eyes had firmly stated ‘no'. So Tess was led into the small room where she impatiently waited for the blonde to arrive. Nikki had been nervous their whole journey down to the hospital and Tess really didn't want her to be alone with the ‘evil bleached blonde nurse troll from hell' as she had affectionately named her, for too long.
The day Nikki had made her decision to go through with the operation was the day they had been given the procedure date… the ninth, just four days later. Still it had worked out well. Being a Saturday the women could state that they were going away for the weekend and had left Leto with Sam and Kate who had offered to look after the house and horses while they were gone. Even though it was her request Nikki still felt terrible about keeping her family and friends in the dark, but she just didn't feel that she could handle the pressure of others knowing; especially when she was so nervous herself.
Perched on the corner of the high hospital bed, Tess folded one arm across her stomach as she balanced the others arms elbow upon it and proceeded to fiddle with her bottom lip. She tapped the soft flesh repeatedly, listening to the muted popping sound it made as it re-hit her top lip. Nikki had been gone now for almost twenty minutes and she was beginning to get anxious. What was more, she had yet to even catch a glimpse of Doctor Jacobson and wondered as to his whereabouts; she hoped he was at least in the building and hopefully with Nikki.
With a sigh of exasperation Tess folded her arms and rose from the bed walking over to the window where she looked out onto the scenery below. There was a large car park directly in front of the building, then beyond that a vast expanse of dark yellow fields; crops of some variety Tess mused. Scanning the outer surrounding, Tess wondered whether this would be one of the first sights Nikki would behold. Don't start thinking like that T, remember what Nik said, no expectancies.
With a sigh Tess turned away from the window and started an impatient pace across the private rooms floor. She was on her tenth circuit of the small room when the door opened and Nikki walked quietly in closely followed by the ‘evil bleached blonde nurse troll from hell', The photographer glared at the nurse who saw fit to avert her eyes. Nikki had obviously changed clothes while she was away and was wearing a hospital issued green nightgown. She had brought her own in an over night bag but had left it with Tess when she had been whisked away. After leading Nikki to the bed the nurse quietly stated she was going to find Doctor Jacobson, then left. As soon as the door closed, Tess quickly approached her lover and sat next to her on the bed placing her right arm around the slender waist. "Hey, you okay?"
A small nod; "Yeah. Turns out its just hospital policy; all patients are taken by the nurse for a pre op work over."
She smiled. "You know what I mean, just to change, get the third degree making sure I hadn't eaten for twenty four hours etcetera."
"Well I didn't like her!" Tess stated with a pout.
Nikki's nose crinkled in thought. "She was a little harsh; god forbid she ever works on paediatrics she would frighten those poor children to death."
Tess grimaced. "Eww!"
"So." Nikki fidgeted restlessly upon the bed. "Did you stash my bag?"
"Hmm." Tess got up and walked over to the small cabinet by the bed. "I put your stuff in here." She pulled open the bottom cupboard as Nikki reached over and felt around the storage unit.
"Right." Nikki re-closed the unit and turned to face Tess and the photographer noticed the look of apprehension in the blonde's eyes. She stepped forward and took Nikki within her arms, tucking the golden head under her chin. Nikki sighed. "Eric should be here soon."
"Yes." Tess smoothed her hand down Nikki's arm and took a gentle hold of a small trembling hand. She raised the appendage up to her lips and kissed the shaky fingers one by one. "I'll be here with you for as long as I can." She led Nikki back over to the bed and they sat down together on the firm surface, the blonde still firmly tucked into Tess's right side.
They were both still very tired due to lack of sleep the night before. Tess hadn't been able to finish work until after six o'clock, as she had an impromptu meeting with Andrew at the gallery and needed to visit a shop where she had purchased a small gift for Nikki straight after that. By the time she arrived home the photographer was already tired yet had to face a long journey down to London before she could rest in the hotel room they had booked for the weekend. To the brunette's surprise, Nikki had been almost jovial. It seemed that her nerves up to that point had more or less worn away until she no longer had the energy to be anxious any more.
Driving south in Friday evening traffic was not one of the most relaxing of experiences to say the least. Tess had only just escaped with her sanity after being cut up on the motor way several times and one instance where a mindless driver had suddenly pulled out in front of her from the hard shoulder. Nikki was beginning to think that the stress she had been feeling the last couple of days had now transferred itself onto the photographer.
Tess checked her watch; it was five minutes to ten o'clock and Nikki's operation was scheduled for half past. "Eric should be here, it's five to."
Taking a long shuddering sigh, Nikki pulled away from Tess "Don't leave me until the anaesthetic kicks in Tess, I want you to be with me until I lose consciousness."
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Placing the side of her bent finger under Nikki's chin Tess angled her until they were facing each other. She leaned forwards and brushed her lips over Nikki's gently before pulling back. "And I will be here as soon as you come around okay?"
"Yes… please." Smaller hands reached out claiming Tess in a strong grip and drawing her back into a reassuring kiss. They leaned into each other, desperately taking advantage of the few moments they had left until Nikki heard the unmistakable sounds of approaching footsteps. They pulled away simultaneously.
Eric Jacobson walked into Nikki's room wearing his scrubs. He looked towards the two women sitting casually on the bed with a friendly smile, "Morning Nicole, Miss Alexander… I hear things are all ready to go?"
"I hope so." The blonde replied cautiously.
They all turned towards the door as another nurse entered the room. In front of her she pushed a small silver trolley with a metal bowl and syringe upon the surface. Tess looked down at the long needle of the hypodermic and cringed knowing Nikki was not going to like that. She had once before stated her dislike for needles after Tess had told her about a time she had cut her leg on a rusty nail while working on an outdoor catalogue shoot and had to have a tetanus shot.
Eric looked back towards Nikki. "Nicole this is Mina, she will be giving you your injection."
Nikki held out her hand with a smile and an equally small hand of the slender Asian woman took it. "Hello Nicole."
Mina then nodded towards Tess with a smile of acknowledgement. Tess nodded back, her green eyes only straying from her lover long enough to acknowledge the other woman's presence.
"Right…" Eric folded his hand together, "…since I have already explained everything to you Nicole, I do believe we are all ready to go… yes?"
The blonde nodded quietly as she shuffled herself back and onto the bed; laying down with her head upon the small pillow, her hand never letting go of Tess's. She waited as Eric spoke quietly to Tess, telling her she could stay with Nikki until the anaesthetic took effect and then the blonde would be wheeled out into surgery. Nikki had to smile as the needle slid into her arm; she knew the photographer would have done whatever it had taken to make sure she was with Nikki until she slipped from consciousness.
Tess leaned down and kissed Nikki's forehead softly, she spoke in muted whispers loud enough for only the blonde to hear. "You'll be just fine Nikki, I'll be waiting for you… I love you so much… see you soon." She kissed her once again.
Nikki smiled as she drifted. "See you soon," she whispered as her eyes closed and she slipped into unconsciousness.
Tess sat in the corridor leaning against a tall drinks machine. She checked her watch for the seventh time that hour and realised Nikki had been in the operating room for over three hours already. She sighed as her head fell back to the tall illuminated machine and closed her eyes, not knowing how much longer she could take the agony of waiting for the unknown.
Suddenly the double doors at the top of the hospital corridor swung open and Tess spotted Doctor Jacobson stride out into the main hall way. The doctor looked around before his eyes spotted a small plastic chair and his body fell into the uncomfortable seat.
Pushing herself away from the drinks dispenser Tess made her way over to the surgeon with anxiousness. "Doc?"
The man looked up; his face ashen; sweat still thick around his brow. "Miss Alexander."
"How is Nikki's, how did things go?"
The man sighed and Tess noticed the look of complete despondence upon his face. She frowned and waited the agonizing long seconds until the man spoke again.
"I did every thing I could."
"The procedure was just too delicate… I thought I could do it… I never anticipated that happening… and by then it was just too late."
Feeling her heart rate accelerate Tess took a hold of the mans shoulder. "What are you saying, Eric?"
"It was an accident… there was just too much blood… I couldn't stop it, I'm so sorry." He lowered his head in shame.
Feeling the breath leave her body, Tess grabbed a hold of the man and pulled him to his feet. "DOC! What the hell are you trying to say… where is Nikki?"
"She didn't make it."
"Didn't make it?" Suddenly every nerve in her body throbbed with mounting shots of piercing pain.
"NO!" The word echoed throughout the hospital corridor, causing several passers by to jump and look over at the pair with surprise. Eric smiled at the visitors then turned his attention back to the brunette.
"Miss Alexander… Tess?" He placed his hand on the photographers arm.
Blinking, Tess pulled her head away from the drinks machine bewildered. She looked around trying to gain her bearings. "Doc?"
"Yes." Eric looked down at Tess, still sitting confused in the plastic chair by the drinks machine. "I think you fell asleep."
"No shit!" Rubbing her eyes the photographer pushed herself to her feet. It was just a dream… just a dream damn it, she looked down at the surgeon. "How's Nikki." The mans face suddenly fell and Tess was transported back to that dream, a shudder of fear racked her frame. "Doc?"
"We should sit down."
"No!" Tess stated forcefully still shaken by her dream that was definitely more like a nightmare. "Tell me… is she alright?"
He frowned. "Nikki?"
A severe nod
"Oh god yes she is fine… please we need to talk."
Still sensing the despondent tone in Eric's voice, Tess did as asked and took a seat next to the doctor. She looked deep into his eyes. "What?"
Eric's brow creased in what Tess could only describe as disappointment. "Things were a little unexpected in there."
Not needing word games or beating around the bush, Tess's jade eyes drilled into the greying man. "Just tell me."
"In layman's terms."
Eric smiled despite the situation. "I found the problem but it is something I could or would have never imagined, and or for that matter ever seen before." He scratched the back of his neck in thought before continuing. "There was a form of degrading that I have never seen before in all my years research into the causes of blindness."
"I don't understand."
Taking a deep breath. "The problem… which caused Nikki to lose her site before she was even born… it was a form of break down, a decay that had left the eye to brain connections completely useless. I did my best to try and rectify the damage."
"But it didn't work." It wasn't a question.
The man shook his head. "No, not like I would think. I did try to restore the connection so to speak but instantly it started to degrade, almost like it was never meant to be." He said in wonder while rubbing his forehead, eyes wide with confusion.
Sighing Tess fell back against the back of the chair. However much they had prepared themselves for this outcome, the thought of the operation not working was more than disappointing to Tess and deep down she knew it would be to Nikki as well. "Has she come around yet?"
Shaking his head. "No, but soon."
"I want to tell her."
"I think that would be best…" he paused, "…and what are you going to say about her present condition?"
Frowning, Tess looked at the man in confusion. "What present condition?"
Suddenly Eric realised he obviously hadn't explained himself very well. "Tess… the degradation… I did repair the cause but it is degrading, it hasn't degraded yet."
"You mean…" she left the sentence hanging.
"At the moment she can see." He raised his hand, as the brunette was about to speak. "But it isn't going to last forever."
Eyes wide Tess rose to her feet completely stunned. As much as she had been waiting to hear that Nikki could see… she suddenly felt like the ‘Sword of Damocles' was hanging over their heads. "How long?"
Eric rose beside the brunette. "One minute, one hour…" he shrugged despondently. "No more than a day at the very most."
An unexpected bang echoed through the corridor causing Tess and the doctor to jump. Looking up they observed two orderly's emerged through the double doors of the operating room pushing a still sleeping Nikki out into the hallway and on into her room. Tess watched until they disappeared into Nikki's recovery room.
Eric stared at the silent woman. "You go in. There is a red button hanging down by the side of the bed, if you need me just push the buzzer. I understand that you need to be alone with her." He looked up as the orderly's exited the room leaving it empty.
Tess turned back at Eric with watery Jade eyes. She nodded mutely as she moved away and headed back towards Nikki's room.
White blinds that had once adorned the top of the window were now pulled down, casting the room in a dull shadow. Tess entered the area quietly, her eyes searching and instantly finding the still sleeping blonde lying prone upon the bed. She studied the small form, taking in the large white patch covering Nikki's right eye and bandage that was wrapped around her head keeping the medical lint in place.
Stepping forward Tess looked upon the woman whose pale face was still visible in the gloomy room. She frowned in thought. "How am I going to tell you this?" she whispered painfully; it seemed so unfair. Placing her backpack at the bottom of the bed Tess moved to Nikki's side and sat beside the sleeping blonde. She didn't have to wait too long before she noticed the small fingers twitching signalling Nikki's return to consciousness.
The first sensation Nikki experienced was that of soft warm lips against her own. She breathed in deeply, recognising Tess's aroma, a mixture of the photographers' favourite perfume and the unique scent that belonged to Tess alone. Sighing as their lips parted she smiled slightly and whispered. "More."
Tess gazed down at the blonde lovingly as she allowed Nikki one more kiss. Nipping at the bottom lip with her own lips before she pulled away. "Afternoon."
"Hmm." Still not fully coherent Nikki sighed feeling totally relaxed.
Sifting her fingers through the golden hair Tess allowed the blonde a few minutes of time to gradually regain her bearings. "Hey Nik sweetheart how are you feeling?" She leaned forward kissing the smooth forehead.
A quiet whisper; "Tess?"
"What time is it?"
The brunette smirked at the question. "It's almost two o'clock why?"
"Just wondering." Slowly her foggy mind started clearing and shifting into gear. "Two o'clock… It still kind of feels like ten… so does that mean I have already been into surgery… where is Eric… what's this?" She pulled at the bandage wrapped around her head.
"Hey…" Tess reached out and stopped the hand. "That is there for a reason you know… yes you have been into the operating room and Eric is probably getting out of his scrubs as we speak. If you need him I can just press the buzzer and he will come… do you need him?
She shook her head. "Tess?"
The photographer knew what was coming next; she took a deep breath. "Yeah Nik?" Tess sucked in her bottom lip, biting on the malleable flesh. The crease in Nikki's brow and sudden air of nervous expectancy left little doubt in her mind.
Nikki smoothed her fingers over the bandage. "What… did it… has it worked?"
Taking a deep shuddering breath the photographer ran her hand over Nikki's cheek, taking the small hand that was still upon the bandage and entwined their fingers together. What should she say? Tess knew that whatever the case, the consideration of whether Nikki should know the truth was not her decision to make even though she wanted to protect her from as much heartache as possible. Nikki had a right to know the result of her operation and make her own decisions with that information.
"Tess?" Nikki pushed herself to a slight sitting position as Tess readjusted her seating on the bed and repositioned the pillow behind Nikki's back. She sat by the side of Nikki's outstretched legs.
Ignoring the nervous fluttering in her chest Tess closed her eyes tight, for god's sake T, just tell her… she is waiting here. After another deep breath, Tess re-opened her eyes and looked at her golden haired lover. "Nik…" she stroked her free hand over Nikki's cheek. "Eric… the… operation didn't go as expected."
Nikki frowned. It was so very obvious that Tess was trying hard to explain something to her that she obviously found very difficult. The longer Tess stuttered over her words the uneasier the blonde became. "Didn't go as expected… Tess what does that mean… didn't it work?" The hitched tone didn't go unnoticed by the brunette.
Eyebrows drawn together Tess felt her lower lip tremble. "Eric… he called it degradation; a form of break down with the eye to brain connection that renders permanent repairs impossible because the cells just begin to break down again. I can't really explain it properly Nik, I am no surgeon here; Eric would be better for all the technical information."
Nodding quietly Nikki took a deep breath. She had tried to prepare herself for this, for the high possibility that the operation may not work, but however much she tried not to get her hopes up Nikki began to feel the first twinges of disappointment. "We had anticipated this… I…"
"Not this…" Tess interrupted.
Taking yet another deep breath of courage, the brunette stared intently at the blonde. "Nikki, the doc did try and reverse the problem… he… he tried to um… re-establish the connection…"
"No… no buts, he did manage to do it Nik."
Confused Nikki gripped the larger hand wrapped around her own. "Tess I don't understand."
"Nik… he… Eric did manage to temporarily repair the connection."
"Temporary… Tess what do you mean?"
Why does this feel so hard? "Temporary Nik, temporary vision."
The words sank slowly into Nikki's mind as realisation set in. "Temporary vision?" Said in a whisper disbelief.
"Yes. He said he had never witnessed anything like this before. The connection was repaired, but already it is beginning to break down." Tess kissed the slender fingers wrapped around her own, "Nikki. If it hasn't already broken down yet… you can still see."
Biting her lip, Nikki felt her eye sting with tears as tingling chills spanned the length of her body. "But it isn't going to last is it!"
"No." The words were spoken barely above a whisper.
"Eric said one second, a minute, but no more than a day."
I can see? The words reverberated in her mind like a proclamation, over and over again as though she were herself trying to believe what she had just been told. Releasing Tess's hand, she fingered the white bandage covering her right eye as a single tear fell from her left. "Tess… what do I do?"
Tess leaned forward and kissed the tear from her cheek. "What do you want to do Nik?"
"I… I don't know. I don't know whether I can do this, Tess this is like the only chance I have." She drew a shuddering breath and smoothed soft fingertips over her suddenly aching forehead.
Tess looked at the anguish displayed on Nikki's features and wondered whether she had made the right decision in telling her. She had no doubt that Nikki had a right to know, but it was obviously causing her distress and the longer she waited the less chance she had of taking advantage of this once in a life time experience.
Nikki reached out for Tess, her searching hand finding the photographers knee. Tess looked down at the appendage and took possession of the small limb. She rubbed her thumb over the back of Nikki's hand. "What do you want to do?"
"I'm scared Tess."
"Nikki I can't even begin to understand what this must feel like for you sweetheart, but I know that you will make the right decision. It's only natural for you to be scared but I will always be here for you." Leaning forward Tess placed her head upon Nikki's and looked into the one exposed eye.
"Help me take it off?"
Feeling the very breath leave her lungs Tess pulled away slack jawed. "Are… are you sure?
"No… yes… I don't know Tess. All I do know is that if I don't take this chance I will never have another opportunity will I? How many others get the chance I have?"
Licking dry lips Tess felt her breathing labour. Jade eyes moved over golden locks, a crisp white bandage; small pert nose and down to full pink lips. Trembling hands rose to either side of Nikki's head. "Okay… ready?"
A soft murmur; "Yes"
"Are you sure, you are sure?"
Willing shaky hands not to freeze on her Tess moved her fingertips around the bandage until she located the end of the wrappings. Nikki waited patiently as Tess pulled at the micro-pour medical tape holding the bandage firmly in place. With a slight tear the sticky strip pealed away from the dressing instantly loosening the firm binding.
Her entire body throbbing with anticipation, Nikki held onto Tess's forearms as the photographer began pulling the dressing from her, twirling the wrapping around her head. She felt the binding loosen and the padded covering upon her eye begin to slacken its pressure.
The room was dull, silent except for the sound of nervous breathing coming from both women. In the distance Nikki heard the sound of muted voices moving away from her room.
As Tess began to reach the bottom layer Nikki lowered her head and let go of the brunettes' arms. With trembling hands she reached up and covered the patch covering her right eye as the last of the bandage fell from her head and Tess slipped it through her hands. It fell unwanted between them, landing upon Nikki's lap.
With her head still lowered Nikki held onto the medical lint covering her eye, chest tight, and breath held in anticipation. Tess's hands dropped to her lap as she started at Nikki's lowered head. "Nik?"
"What if it's too late?"
"Only one way to find out." Swallowing hard the brunette took Nikki's free hand in a strong reassuring grasp, hiding the fear that was almost painfully constricting her chest.
Squeezing blue eyes tightly together, Nikki cautiously removed the hand away from her face, the soft covering staying in her grasp as she did so. The moment they moved away her senses were assaulted with a sudden shift in shading, a move from blackness to shrouded grey. Her breath hitched with shock and her body trembled harder. "Tess?"
"Yeah sweetheart." Leaning forward Tess placed her forehead upon Nikki's lowered head. She twisted slightly and kissed the golden locks, moving her lips further down the crown of Nikki's head and towards her forehead. Heart hammering so loudly within her chest that she was sure the blonde could hear, Tess cupped Nikki's cheeks and gently lifted her head.
Feeling the pressure but unable to open her eyes, Nikki raised her head and felt Tess's lips cover her own. Blue eyes firmly shut, their kiss started soft and gentle but soon increased in passion, lips parting and searching tongues meeting each other in desperate loving caresses. Taking one hand away Tess let it fall upon Nikki's leg where she caressed the soft skin beneath the hospitals allocated gown. Slowly she decreased the pressure until she had pulled away from the inviting lips of her lover and stared upon enclosed eyes. "Nikki… look at me."
"I'm scared Tess."
"I know sweetheart." She looked at Nikki's face, noticing the obvious swelling around the right eye.
Stomach racing with raging butterflies; Nikki loosened the lids and slowly opened her eyes.
Suddenly - she was bombarded with a multitude of shapes and colours which although were dulled in the shrouded room, to her seemed vibrant and full of life. Blinking rapidly, her blue eye searched and found the figure sitting directly in front of her.
"Nik?" Tess whispered as the blonde focused on her features. A thrill of unknown anticipation ran through her entire frame.
Carefully Nikki reached out, her fingers gliding over Tess's chin as a small smile edged the corners of her mouth. "Tess."
The photographer sat transfixed; her own vision focussed solely on the blonde. She felt her heart jump within her chest as Nikki spoke.
"Eyes like spring time…" she whispered her own orbs filling with salty tears that she desperately willed stop, not wanting to cloud her vision for fear of not knowing how long this precious gift would last.
Mesmerized, Tess's hand reached up and covered the smaller one upon her face; she smiled through her own tears. "You can see me." Even to Tess's own ears she didn't know whether her words were a question or statement of fact. She gazed directly into Nikki's eye and notice how the blue orb was fixed openly upon her face.
"I can see you." Nodding, the blonde kept her eye trained upon the dark woman. She moved her temporary vision over every nuance of her lovers face, as if memorising every line, angle, and sporadically placed freckle. Fingers tracing the raised scar upon the side of her face; "Hurt?"
Tess shook her head. "Nothing hurts with you by my side." She smiled as the blonde wiped away tears flowing freely down her cheeks. "How do you feel Nikki?"
She thought carefully. "Scared… elated… overwhelmed. I know there is so much I feel I want to do but I don't want to waste a single moment of this… of you." Nikki brushed her fingers through dark locks. "I don't know visual beauty Tess, but you look magnificent."
She stared at Tess for what to both women felt like long minutes, neither of them able to tear away from the fragile connection that passed between them. Caressing Tess's face her vision followed every movement of her hand. "I can see you!" she said in wonder, "and you are wonderful, more wonderful and beautiful than I could have ever imagined." She looked around the room before turning back to Tess. "So your tee shirt… that is the blue one?"
Tess pulled at her top. "Yep this is blue!"
"Show me some more colours?"
Tess grinned excitedly. "Okay well this here," she prodded the bed spread. "That's white. And that wooden cabinet is brown… kind of like a lighter version of my hair yes?" Tess lifted her leg exposing her training shoes. "These are also white, but that emblem on the side… that is the colour red. And what you are wearing… that is green…"
"Like your eyes!" Nikki interrupted.
"Yes like my eyes, and your eyes would be like my tee shirt, only lighter… like the sky on a hazy summers day." Tess looked around the average sized room. "You see that poster on the side wall?"
Tess frowned. "Is it too dull in here?"
Nikki shook her head. "No it's fine I can tell the difference; it's just that I can't understand all of that stuff upon its surface."
Tess looked at the blonde strangely then realised that Nikki had never seen letters before. "Ah well, they would be words." She smiled. "It is the back ground I am more interested in showing you… that is the colour yellow!"
"Like the sun!" Nikki grinned. "What does that poster say?"
Chuckling. "It says ‘please turn off the tap after use'… I guess some patients must leave it running." She pointed to the sink situated under the poster.
Nikki sighed. "Colours are really beautiful Tess!"
"So are you." The brunette smiled thoughtfully. "Let me show you more." Tess rose from the bed reluctantly. "How is your eye feeling do you feel any sensitivity towards light?" Not knowing herself how much time the blonde had, Tess wanted Nikki to experience as much as possible.
Holding out her hand Nikki studied the dainty limb, turning it back and forth as she began to take in the sight of her own form. "I did feel some sensitivity but it is quickly fading." She looked up at the tall figure of Tess standing by the bed, her hand outstretched in silent invitation. "I don't want to stop looking at you Tess, I'm so afraid that this vision is going to fade at any moment." She took the offered hand and rose from the bed.
"Then let us not waste one moment." With the hand firmly encased around her own Tess led Nikki to the foot of the bed where her bag still lay in the corner, and sat her down. Nikki looked around the room in wonder as Tess picked up her bag and routed through it's contents looking for a particular item that she had placed in the carrier before they left for London. "Do you think you could take a little extra light? I think you will need it to see this!" She looked towards the switch on the wall. "Can I?"
Nikki stared at Tess in fascination. "Go ahead."
With a nod and a smile the photographer flipped the switch, instantly illuminating the room with a brilliant white. Nikki's eye stung and she flinched, lowering her head away from the overwhelming brightness.
"Damn I'm sorry Nikki I'll…"
"No Tess." Nikki held out her hand. "Wait." Blinking, the blonde grimaced as she allowed her eye to get used to the increased glow of the room.
Tess approached the bed and knelt down in front of the smaller woman. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah… just getting used to this. Does it always feel so bright… hurt so much when you put on a light like that?"
"Sometimes it can. For everybody at times, especially if you have been in the dark for a while… you know like in the middle of the night, when I put the light on and tend to moan about the brightness."
"Oh yes," she said as she remembered several occasions when the photographer had indeed grumbled about putting lights on during the night. Slowly her eye became accustomed to the brightness and Nikki looked back up at Tess, a smile instantly gracing her features as she gazed upon Tess's face taking in the site of the tall woman nervously sucking on her bottom lip. "Smile for me?" At the request a natural smile spread over Tess's lips and Nikki felt her heart throb with intensity in her chest.
"I have something I want to show you." Still kneeling in front of Nikki, Tess pulled her backpack from the bed and took out a certain object. "I brought this down with me… I usually keep it on my desk in the dark room but I… just in case you couldn't wait, I mean… I hoped that maybe…" she shrugged at a loss for words.
With an inquisitive frown Nikki looked down at the rectangle shaped silver object Tess held in her hands. "What is it?"
Tess grinned. "Remember on Christmas day when I set the timer on one of my cameras and we all posed for that group photo?"
A small nod
"Well this is the shot." Kneeling directly in front of Nikki Tess smiled at Nikki's sudden look of excitement as she turned the photograph around for the blonde to look at. One blue eye turned down to the family shot, as Tess began pointing at the individuals. "You see that man right there?"
"That is your father."
Nikki looked wide-eyed at Tess before moving her vision back to the shot. "My father!" A small finger moved over the image of the handsome man.
"And that girl sitting by his side… that's Lisa."
"Lisa." A smile graced Nikki's lips as she studied the young brunette.
Tess moved on. "Okay… that man next to Lisa and the woman beside him… that is James and my mother!"
Still smiling the blonde laughed slightly as the stared at the four happy faces sitting together. These are the people that I love! She looked back at Tess her eyes once again filling with tears.
"Please don't cry… at least not just yet." Tess smirked. "Look at the two figures standing behind the sofa." Nikki did as bade. "That's you and I."
Feeling a heightened sense of inquisitiveness, Nikki looked at the woman standing by Tess's side in the photo. "That… that's me?" She stared hard at the picture, taking in the blonde haired young woman standing within the protective embrace of the taller woman's arms, "That's me?" This feels so peculiar…do I always look like that?
The brunette had to chuckle at the expression on Nikki's face, "Yes, that's you. The woman I fell in love with… the woman I adore more than life, or dare I say photography its self!"
It was Nikki's turn to chuckle as she pulled her sight away from its perusal of the figures in the photograph, "I love you too… so much." She stared at Tess, once again unable to pull her vision away from her lover. "You know what else I would have liked to see?"
With a smirk Tess pulled a small hand full of photographs from her bag. She held the first one out. "That is Thunder." She watched Nikki looked down at the horse with a smile. "This is Jenna with Jasper." Nikki took the picture and gazed at mother and son. "This is Shannon." She handed the picture to Nikki and waited several seconds before handing her the final shot. "And this little bag of muscle is Leto."
The blonde laughed at the picture of the golden hound staring directly into the camera, her head bent to the side and a certain persons' stripy item of clothing hanging out of her mouth. "And I take it that would be one of my socks!"
Laughing the brunette nodded. "How did you guess that I wonder?" She smiled. "So… does that solve the other things you would have like to have seen because that really is the end of these pictures I'm afraid."
"Do you take pictures of everything?"
Tess smirked. "Hey I am a photographer that's what I do. I wish I remembered to bring the ones of the house and the bridge over the stream…" she shrugged. "Can't remember everything I suppose!"
Sliding from the bed Nikki slipped onto Tess's knees and placed her arms around the photographers' neck with a smile. "What would the nurse say if she came in here and found us like this?"
"Would you really care?"
Shaking her head Nikki laughed. "No… I just need to be close to you." She ran her hand down Tess's chest and over her left breast where she stopped and grasped the mound with a gentle pressure, then watched as Tess's eyes closed in pleasure. Leaning forward she sealed her lips with Tess's and instigated a hot, penetrating kiss, her eye wide open as she took in the close proximity of her lover, not wanting to waste a single moment. Already she could sense her vision dimming and gradually as their ardent exploration continued, Nikki's vision of Tess began to get unfocussed and shadowy.
Thoroughly into the extensive kiss Tess was only pulled out of their passionate embrace when she felt hot moisture upon her cheeks. Moving away from a reluctant Nikki, Tess looked upon the blonde as Nikki lowered her teary eyes. "Look at me." Nikki shook her head. "Why Nik… please?"
Placing her finger under the small woman's chin Tess lifted the tear stained cheeks up to eye level. Straight away she notice the unfocussed gaze. "Nikki?" Her heart jumped in panic as the blonde closed her eyes, forcing more tears to leak from their ducts. "No!"
Lip trembling, the blonde took an erratic breath. "It's going Tess… already it's going."
"So soon?" Jade eyes clouded with tears. "No… that isn't fair." Oh please god not yet!
"All I can see is dull outlines of objects in the room… and you."
Cupping the blondes face in both hands. "It can't happen so soon, there is so much more I wanted you to see… damn it this is not fair." She choked back an emotional sob of grief. Nikki lowered her head but Tess captured it again. "No, don't stop looking at me Nikki… please." She was desperate to not let the last vision her lover was ever going to see to be the ground beneath them and held on to Nikki's jaw in a firm but gentle grip.
Holding onto the hands upon her cheeks Nikki smiled despite herself. "I can still see you Tess… in here," She placed one hand over her heart; "And in here." Moving the hand higher, she tapped her forehead. "I will always have a vision of you in here."
"How can you feel so calm about this?" As if on cue both women rose to their feet and Nikki backed up against the bed where she sat down upon the soft surface. Tess looked at Nikki with imploring jade eyes. "How?"
She held on tight to her emotions knowing Tess was having a harder time dealing with this than she herself was; after all she had tried very hard to keep an open mind. "Because I came here trying not to get my hopes up." The blonde trembled as her vision surrendered to total darkness and she re-entered her own familiar world. In a strange way a sudden sense of normalcy filled her mind and relaxed her senses.
"But to have it and then for it to go just like that…" she snapped her fingers for emphasis; "Nikki?" Tess's shouted in frustration.
The blonde jumped. "What, Tess what can I do?" Her voice was high and broken as the emotions that she had tried to keep inside, rose to the surface. "It just wasn't meant to be… I have to accept that… please don't hate me," she pleaded, sobs wracking her small frame revealing her underlying disappointment.
Tess froze at the words, arms falling limply to her sides. "Hate you? Nikki I…" Rushing forward the photographer took the blonde in her arms and held her tight. "I'm sorry, I'm not angry at you just the situation… god I am so sorry Nik." Tess closed her eyes unable to keep a hold upon her own feelings any longer… she cried silently.
For long minutes the women held each other, each drawing strength from the others presence. It was when Tess heard Nikki's breathing deepen and even out that she eventually let go releasing the small frame and laying her down upon the bed gently. She looked down at the exhaustion on Nikki's face and sighed, smoothing unruly golden locks away from her eyes. Leaning forward she kissed Nikki softly upon pink lips before backing up and heading out of the room, turning off the light as she went. With the blonde now resting Tess decided it was time to go and see Eric.
As the door shut the sole occupant of the room sat up slowly. Swinging her legs down onto the floor Nikki sat despondently in thought; She never said she didn't hate me.
Staring at the reflection in the bathroom mirror, Tess gazed at her red-rimmed eyes. Looking down to the sink against her stomach she turned on the silver tap, filling her cupped hands with freezing water and splashing it upon her face, again and again. After the fifth splash of water she looked back at her reflection. The puffiness around her eyes, had decreases slightly, but it was still exceedingly obvious that she had been crying. To hell with it!
Drying her hands on a paper towel Tess left the bathroom and headed to Eric's office.
She knocked quietly on the door and after hearing a loud ‘come', she entered the room finding the aging doctor sitting at his desk, diligently working on his notebook computer. He looked up noticing Tess's expression and obvious sadness straight away. "Miss Alexander… are you alright?"
Tess sat down quietly.
"I was beginning to wonder about you two. You had been gone for almost forty minutes without any word yet I didn't want to just barge in unless there was an emergency. How is Nicole?"
"She could see doc!"
Eric blinked in surprise.
"For about twenty minutes she could see… then it just started to fade until… nothing."
Sighing, the man rubbed the back of his neck. "How is she?"
"How do you think she is?"
Nodding, Eric rose from his chair and walked around into the centre of the room. "I would have never predicted this. If I had known for one moment that was problem I would have never gone through with the procedure. It was just something I had never seen before… such a strange and unique phenomenon." He sat beside Tess. "How are you?"
"Angry, upset, it all seems so unfair doc. Her face when I showed her a picture of the family, it was so full of loving intrigue." Tess's head fell to her hands. "I just don't know how this will affect her in the long run."
"Maybe it won't? Nikki is a very level headed young woman Miss Alexander…"
"Tess… I think only time will tell."
"God I hate this." The photographer sighed and stood back up to start her customary pacing of the room. "No offence doc but I really wish you had never come to Nikki with this."
Eric lowered his head. " If I am honest I am I am beginning to thing that too. I feel like I have let her down."
Tess stopped her marching at stared at the doctor. "You never let her down; don't think that… I know Nikki wouldn't consider that for a second. When it comes down to it, maybe it was like Nikki said and it just wasn't meant to be."
Nodding, Eric rose beside Tess. "Maybe… listen I have to go and give Nikki a check up… see how she is doing… do you want to sit with her?"
With an assertive nod the brunette followed the Eric Jacobson out of his office and on towards Nikki's room.
Tess opened the door quietly and snuck into the room, closely followed by Eric. Neither of them wanting to cause Nikki any undue alarm, Tess spoke quietly; "Nik sweetheart are you awake?" she whispered. The room was still fairly dull and as her eyes adjusted to the gloominess she frowned staring at the empty bed.
"Maybe she went to the bathroom?" Eric stated.
"Hmm yeah…" Tess paused as she spotted Nikki's nightgown discarded on the floor. "What the?" Stooping, she picked up the garment with a frown and as an after thought, opened the cupboard containing Nikki's belongings. It was bare. "It's empty!"
"Empty?" Eric looked over Tess's shoulder; "You mean her things are gone?"
Panic rose within her chest; "Yes!"
Looking around frantically, Tess surveyed the room. All of Nikki's possessions were gone and the set of clothes that had lain neatly folded upon the top of a side table were missing too. All that was left was her bag, lying upon the bed with the small pile of pictures and her mobile phone.
The colour drained from Tess's face. "She's gone!"
End of chapter 14, to be concluded in chapter 15