Ok here we go again. This is as far as I have written at the moment so the next instalment might be a little slower. Enjoy! Please R+R. :)
"We've got a table reserved for seven people at eight o'clock, its in the name of Stewart." Nikki informed the smartly dressed waiter at the classy London restaurant, "The rest of our party will be joining us shortly."
"Good evening mesdames. This way please." he directed them to a beautifully laid table near one of the large windows looking onto the well kept street. Just moments after they had taken their seats, the first two of their guests arrived.
"Claire, Imogen, its great to see you." Nikki's ex-solicitor and her long-term girlfriend greeted the couple warmly then sat down.
"Congratulations you two. A year today! Its incredible." Claire said. Today's dinner was a celebration of one year since both Nikki's release and the start of Nikki and Helen's official relationship. Some of their friends, Claire included, had suspicions that Nikki and Helen had been seeing each other before Nikki's release but chose not to ask questions. "Who else is coming tonight?" asked Claire. It was going to be a slightly strange group of people, but all people who were very important to Nikki and Helen.
"It's us two, you two, Trish, and our friends Barbara and Henry. Its going to be a great evening." Helen said, beaming.
"Yes," confirmed Nikki, "But I do feel a little sorry for Henry, surrounded by all us women for the whole evening." she added with a cheeky smile
"Sweetheart he took a job working in a womens prison. I'm sure he can cope with it." Helen replied with a laugh, "ah, the very man we were talking about." she added as Henry and Barbara were shown to the table.
"It's wonderful to see you." Nikki said, as her and Helen both stood up to greet the vicar and his wife with a kiss on the cheek. "You've met Claire and Imogen haven't you?"
"Yes, of course, it's lovely to see you again." Barbara smiled, offering the other patrons of the restaurant absolutely no clue that she had spent time in prison for manslaughter.
Thirty minutes later the party at the table were chatting away loudly, discussing current events and politics, which were always topics of conversation among the well-educated group of friends. Trish rushed into the restaurant looking rather flustered and apologizing profusely for her tardiness. She sat down next to Imogen and immediately ordered a drink from a passing waiter. "I'm so sorry. Kay called me from the club, Jade didn't turn up, again, and Frankie is still off sick so I needed to sort out somebody to be on the door. God Nikki, sometimes I envy you for not having to worry about this sort of stuff anymore." Trish babbled. Nikki grinned, shaking her head knowingly.
"Of course Nikki, I'd completely forgotten. How is the bookshop plan going?" Henry asked.
"It's going wonderfully thanks. We've finally exchanged on the premises and the people started fitting the place out with shelves and stuff last Monday. It's starting to look quite good actually." Nikki explained, a huge grin on her face like a child at Christmas, as she talked about her new project. Helen saw the happiness in Nikki's expression and couldn't stop herself from smiling. She was so incredibly proud of Nikki and the fact that she had decided to realise her dream.
"Well you'd better give us a proper tour then." Trish demanded with a laugh. She still wasn't quite used to the new post-Larkhall Nikki and she sometimes struggled to know what to say to her. In reality, even when they had been together, Nikki and Trish's conversations had mainly been about the club. Neither of them had noticed until after Nikki's release, that they actually did not have a lot in common aside from Chix. Yet they still remained important parts of each other's lives, and Nikki still helped out in the club from time to time. Trish and Helen got on quite well and they had both got over any initial jealousy about Nikki, Helen had made a big effort to get on well with the woman that Nikki risked her freedom for.
"So Nikki, tell us, have you got a name for your shop yet?" asked Claire.
"Good question Claire. I can't believe I haven't already asked that." Helen said, looking toward Nikki.
"Well," Nikki blushed a little and glanced sideways at Helen, "I was thinking about calling it Sophie's World." Helen beamed with happiness. Barbara smiled too, she knew that the copy of that book that Helen had given Nikki had been Nikki's most prized possession in prison.
"After the book?" Imogen asked. Nikki nodded.
Claire looked at Helen a little suspiciously and Helen replied with a cheeky grin and then leant over to whisper in Nikki's ear, "I love you." Nikki kissed her partner on the cheek.
"So, when I eventually get around to finishing off my book, will you have a go at selling it?" Barbara asked, trying to divert the subject away from the more unscrupulous part of Nikki and Helen's relationship.
"Of course Barbara! It will have its own display." Nikki said, "Oh and by the way, I've thought up a name for your book."
"Ok, what is it?" asked Barbara, suspiciously.
"Babs behind bars!" announced Nikki, looking very proud of herself. Helen, Nikki, Barbara and Henry burst into laughter. They then had to explain Barbara's prison nickname to the rest of the party.
After a certain amount of alcohol had been consumed the conversation moved to funny stories about one another. This was mainly Claire and Helen talking about their embarrassing university days, or Nikki and Barbara talking about some of the more light-hearted things that happened in prison under the officers' radar. Claire recounted a crazy, alcohol fueled evening that ended up with her and Helen falling into a canal while trying to cartwheel over a lock. In return, Nikki divulged some of the secret ways that inmates had of having a good time. While at Larkhall, Helen had always known that the prisoners got up to things that they shouldn't have, but she had been unaware of quite the extent of their cunning and arrangements. Luckily, despite how much Helen, Nikki and Barbara had all suffered in Larkhall, they were now able to look back light-heartedly. They had all moved on and but their previous hardship behind them, but Larkhall had had a huge effect on all of them and could never be completely forgotten.