The red wine was okay. And Helen nibbled on each dish offered, mingled with some friends of Thomas some. But mainly she walked the room or sat down. It was more crowded than she expected really...most people must be here for the same reason I came, Helen thought with a lazy laugh. To eat free food from decent restaurants. She watched men and women chat each other up, the drinks leaving the waiters' trays as soon as they passed by.
Helen joined them in that. If she was going to stay awake during this, she had to have something to put a jolt in her system.
She saw Thomas talking to some other doctor...Helen had met him before. Thomas was like a kid almost, grinning and laughing. He told everyone on how they were engaged. And, unlike with Sean, it wasn't a touchy topic.
It was comfortable. Helen wondered if this meant she was really ready for a commitment. Nikki's words came unbiddened into Helen's mind, about what normal is....husband, 2.4 kids.....
Nikki and I were not normal...but we felt right. Helen felt overheated suddenly, putting it down to too much wine and not enough food.
Thomas smiled over at her and mouthed 'I love you'. Helen smiled back, saying the same thing. But now she was unnerved, the way she was reflecting on her relationship with Nikki unsettled her. She looked at her ring, turning it around on her finger. God, second thoughts...how many times had Helen gone through this? Should I? Do I want to? It seems to change with the day.
Helen laughed to herself. Now *that* isn't normal.....
Nikki read the sign outside of the hotel.
"This isn't a party Angelina, it's a food tasting." Nikki said, regretting this already. Angie's beau, Michael, smiled back at them.
"My pal Andrew is doing this for the tourist bureau so I got in, no charge. Normally, you have to pay a fee to support local restaurants." He grinned. Angelina kissed his cheek.
"That's my boy, always cheap." She cooed. Nikki laughed and followed them inside. A person took her coat and gave her a number for the coat checkout.
Angelina looped her arm through Michael's right arm and through Nikki's left.
"Everyone'll be jealous..I have the two hottest dates." She grinned. Nikki and Michael exchanged amused glances.
"And you cleaned up nice Nik." Angie smiled at her. Nikki looked down at her black slacks and black silk blouse, finished off with her black blazer.
"I look like a fancy undertaker." Nikki grinned. Angie kissed her cheek.
"Trisha will be proud, you actually going out with friends..."
"Yea, well..we'll see how the night goes. First things first though, something to drink."
"Amen to that." Michael added, waving to a waiter. Once they had some libation to ease into the evening, Michael and Angelina began to mingle. Nikki watched them wander off then focused on the rest of the crowd. Tons of different aromas wafted around, causing Nikki's stomach to rumble. When did I eat last? She moved to one of the tables with food-laden plates. And for a spilt second, Nikki thought she saw Helen. But when she looked closer, Helen wasn't there. Nikki swallowed. That was odd...even more odd was the effect it was having on Nikki. Her heart was beating faster and the sounds around her had become muted somehow. Thank God, it's not her....Nikki was afraid if she really saw Helen she might pass out! Nikki munched on a triangle of some black bean tortilla thing...really good actually. Nikki paused again, her eyes growing wide. It is Helen.
Nikki watched her move across the room, looking gorgeous in emerald dress. She stood frozen to the spot as Helen talked to...Thomas, it was Doctor Waugh. They must still be.....Nikki couldn't swallow properly. She snagged a glass of red wine and downed it quick. She had to leave, now. Nikki couldn't handle this. Where the hell was Angie?!
"Just gonna get another glass of wine and go out to the terrace over there. Maybe some fresh air will wake me up some." Helen smiled. Thomas frowned at her.
"Listen, we can go home? I don't mind at all...." He said. She gave him a peck on the cheek.
"No, enjoy yourself. If I don't come back, you'll know I feel asleep out there." She grinned, then walked toward a waiter, asking him for a refill.
"Not this tray, try another." He said quickly, moving on. Helen sighed and looked around, trying in vain to find one with a full tray.
Then she stopped dead in her tracks. At first Helen thought she must be dreaming...but she kept watching, like in a trance. And it was her, it was Nikki.
She watched as Nikki talked to some Italian woman...how they seemed close and Helen wondered if this was Nikki's girlfriend. They make a lovely pair, that's what Helen wanted to think. But all she could seem to do was focus on how beautiful Nikki looked. And then she realized how bad this could be. What if Thomas saw her here? Should I go and talk to her?
"But I am having a good time Nik! What's going on?" Angelina insisted, trying to figure out Nikki's sudden mood switch.
Nikki sighed. " I don't want to get into it Angie...."
Angelina studied her then narrowed her eyes.
"It's a woman isn't it?"
Nikki looked startled. Is it that obvious? Nikki wondered to herself. She tried to cover.
"No, not a woman...why do you say that?" Nikki questioned, looking at her watch.
"Just a guess. Is some chick trying to hook up with you? If so, I'll take care of her."
Nikki shook her head and groaned.
"No, I'm just going to go okay?" She said, looking back up at Angelina. But Angie wasn't looking at Nikki. Nikki followed her gaze.
And she saw Helen. Helen saw her.
Angie tapped her shoulder, shaking Nikki out of her stupor.
"Is that her?" She asked accusingly. Nikki blinked and smiled nervously.
"No, I told you it wasn't anybody here Angie."
Angelina crossed her arms. "Well, that lady is checking you out...Too bad Trish isn't here, she'd set her straight."
That made Nikki laugh, as much for the pun as the nerves. Helen is straight...as an arrow it seems. Nikki looked back and saw that Helen was still watching her. Fine..I can be big about this. I can talk to the woman who just forgot all about me. I am not the Nikki Wade that Helen knew anymore.
"I'll stay then." Nikki annouced, keeping another glass of wine with her. She'd need the help. Angelina watched Nikki walk off, confused. Her boss could be a real strange woman sometimes.
Helen watched in anticipation and slight fear as she saw Nikki coming closer to her. She felt her pulse quicken, she licked her lips...the rest of the room fell away. Nikki was in front of her, giving her that familiar half-smile. Helen was surprised at how good it felt to see her again. To look into those eyes again....
"Hiya." Nikki said quietly. She was shaking...it wasn't visible but she was. Helen seemed calm, really calm. Helen smiled at her. It was so warm.
"Hey." Helen replied. Neither one of them knew what to say or do. It was awkward....but wonderful at the same time.
"She's very pretty." Helen finally said, nodding her head toward Angelina. Nikki's smile widened.
"Just my bartender, not my date...she's with that guy there." Nikki motioned toward Michael. Helen wanted to know if that meant Nikki was single....but you shouldn't want to know that, Helen warned herself.
"And you are with Thomas Waugh right?" Nikki asked, knowing the answer but wanting to make sure...just in case. 'Just in case' what? You're not available...and definitley not to Helen, Nikki cautioned internally.
Helen smiled but somehow didn't feel too pleased as she did it.
"Yes..yes I am." She answered, then motioned to a waiter. Her tray was empty as well. Helen shrugged.
"Guess I'm not meant to have another." She smiled. Nikki handed her her glass.
"Here, enjoy." Nikki smiled. Helen waved it away.
"I'll not resort to taking others drinks." Helen grinned. Nikki gently grabbed Helen's hand, opening it and placing the glass in it.
That simple contact brought every thought the both of them were trying to avoid to the forefront. Their past and their love, their one night together, the kisses they shared, the tears shed, the loss, the pain. It all flooded back to them.
And it left them with a mixture of ancient heartache and hidden concupiscence.
And the question of what now.....
/it's a narrow margin just room enough for regret in the inch and a half between hey how ya been? and can i kiss you yet? so we talk like nervous neighbors over a tall fence true love but for lack of providence/
End Of Part Two
Part Three is here- Pro.3