“I shall see you on Tuesday!” Hannah giggles as she drops me off outside my former college. “Give my love to the rest of the ‘Teen Angels’. Oh- and enjoy your long, loooong weekend!”
“Will do!” I laugh, straightening my short skirt and opaque black tights as I step out of the car and stride into the dining hall of the large building. I breathe a sigh of relief that my work is over for another week- not that I don’t still enjoy it, of course, but it IS hard work, and I’m REALLY looking forward to three free days to spend with my friends… Especially Sarah.
“Hi Nikki!” Sarah squeaks, greeting me with a long kiss before we sit down hand-in-hand.
“Aww,” Katie coos. “Snikki reunited after a whopping five hours apart…”
“Five hours too long as far as I’m concerned,” I say, giving Sarah another long kiss.
“Hey girlies!” Dannii says as she and Lauren sit down at the table. “Sorry I’m late, ‘girl problems’ AGAIN…”
“Seriously, have you not seen anyone about that yet?” Katie asks, making the tall blonde girl sigh.
“I will, I promise,” Dannii moans. “Anyway, Nikki, how was today’s adventure with the SECOND most awesome modelling group in the UK?”
“I shouldn’t need to ask who the first most awesome is, should I?” I reply, making the entire table giggle excitedly.
“Teen Angels for the win!” The five of us all shout simultaneously, drawing confused stares from the nearby diners.
Though in truth, whilst we are the ‘Teen Angels’ in name, in practice… We’re barely any more famous than we were before we signed for Joshua Benedict (or ‘Heavenly Talent’ as he recently renamed his agency). This is, of course, largely due to Sarah, Katie and Lauren’s college work taking priority, as does my PA work for the ‘real’ Angels, but Dannii’s mentioned that her workload has barely increased, and the same can be said about her pay packet… And it’s not like we’re the only official ‘Angel sub-group’ either, with Joshua speaking of adding other groups to the ‘Angel umbrella’- he’s already holding auditions for a girl band, and has ideas to add ‘Angel groups’ from other professions, like nurses and flight attendants.
The biggest advantage of being the ‘Teen Angels’, however, is that the five of us are once again best of friends. Sure, there’s still tension between Sarah and Dannii- there probably always will be- but they can at least stand to be in the same room as each other, and can almost talk to each other as friends. Lauren has a near-permanent smile on her face from everyone being friends again, and the interest generated in the online store by Sarah’s birthday party has sent order rates through the roof, and it’s extremely rare that an item spends more than 2 hours on the store before being snapped up. This, of course, prompted Sarah and Lauren to hike up the price (and their work rate)- and demand still remained at ridiculous levels!
Probably the biggest change, however, has been to Katie. The girl who’d been most vocal about me ‘selling out’ to the Angels is now the one most determined to ingratiate herself with them. Ever since she turned 18 last month she’s tagged along on nights out with any of the Angels who’ll take her (or are too polite to say no) and rarely misses a girls night in with them. This has actually resulted in a cost to her personal life- her previously stellar college grades have slipped slightly, she split from her boyfriend of seven months shortly after turning 18 and she’s nowhere near as close to Dannii as she previously was, probably due to Dannii still being seventeen and clearly green with envy about Katie’s new social life. I can’t help but feel irritated by her sheer hypocrisy, the way she’s doing things she SAVAGED myself and Sarah for doing last year- but the fact remains that Sarah and I did do those things… And I can hardly begrudge Katie for wanting to ‘get a piece of the action’.
After the end of the lunch period, I give Sarah a quick kiss before jumping in a taxi and heading home. I make sure to exit the college using the opposite exit to the one Dannii uses, so as not to fuel Sarah’s lingering paranoia. Even though it’s been a year since my ‘mistake’, it’s clearly nowhere near enough time for Sarah to fully trust me again… Or to propose.
After I found the ring in Sarah’s dresser drawer, my mind’s been a blur. I always knew I’d end up spending the rest of my life with her, but with there now being physical proof, it’s made it a lot more real. I talked the matter over with Jamie- my mentor- at Christmas, and on her advice I bought a ring of my own, a gold ring with a diamond inset on topaz (Sarah’s birthstone), the inside of which is inscribed ‘Sarah Jennifer Phillips, my soulmate, the brightest star in my universe’. I carry the ring with me everywhere I go, but I know that as I’m still seventeen myself, I can’t propose to her, and she can’t propose to me without my parents’ permission. My eighteenth birthday is mere weeks away, but it still feels like forever…
And if my life wasn’t topsy-turvy enough, I get a reminder of the biggest change of all as I step through my front door. However, the sound of my baby sister laughing at the top of her lungs is one of the most welcome sounds of them all. Jennifer Cassandra Thomas was born at 11:34am on the 4th of January 2015, and has quickly become the most precious thing in my life- after Sarah, of course.
“Say hi to your big sister!” Mum says, gently rocking the giggling infant in her arms.
“Hi Jenny!” I coo, leaning down and giving the tiny girl a soft kiss on her forehead, making her giggle even more as she paws at my cascading brown hair.
“Keep your hair out of her face!” Mum chastises, making me blush as I tie my hair back into a lazy ponytail.
“Sorry,” I mutter, still smiling as Jenny keeps giggling in our mother’s arms. A couple of hours later, Sarah returns home, and after giving me a kiss, makes a beeline to the youngest girl in the room.
“Hi there, special goddaughter of mine!” Sarah coos, also giving the giggling baby girl a kiss on the forehead.
“What have you girls got planned for tonight?” Mum asks Sarah and I as we crash down on the sofa together.
“Not much,” Sarah sighs, snuggling into my cuddle. “Just finishing off a little coursework…”
“Just distracting Sarah from her coursework,” I giggle, making Sarah playfully whack me with a cushion!
“Don’t you dare,” mum playfully chastises me. “Sarah, have you heard back from your university applications yet?”
“Not yet,” Sarah sighs. “LCF always get a lot of applications and I know I’m not going to be at the top of the list, plus I don’t want to go to a different uni to Lauren, and she’s not heard back yet either…” I listen intently as Sarah expresses her worries about her future, but there is a twinge of envy as Sarah talks as I know I’ll never have the experience of going to university, studying hard for my degree, graduating… Sure, university isn’t for everyone, and I DO have a well-paid job that I enjoy… And it’s not like I’ve not been living my dream for the last 21 months, but Sarah is embarking on this brand-new adventure with Katie and Lauren, and I can’t help but feel left out… And the only person in whom I can confide is Dannii- someone I’m not even allowed to be alone with.
Sure enough, Sarah and I spend the rest of the evening alternating between watching TV and designing new clothes on her laptop, with me offering me highly unprofessional advice. We climb into bed just after 11pm, but are awoken just over an hour later by the repeated chiming of the new message alert on our phones.
“Ugh,” Sarah moans sleepily. “Who is THAT?”
“Katie,” I sigh, showing Sarah my phone screen, on which is a selfie taken by Katie of the mousey-haired girl in her tiny clubbing dress, surrounded by Jamie, Hannah, Krystie, Becca and Adeola, all of whom are dressed almost identically to (and are as heavily made up as) Katie.
“Meh, good for her,” Sarah shrugs before rolling back over.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say sadly as I switch my phone onto silent for the night.
“Oh- babe,” Sarah sighs, giving me a tight hug. “You’ll get there, I mean, you’re only 4 weeks away from your eighteenth, and Jamie promised to take us both out the first Friday afterward…”
“I know,” I sigh, before smiling and kissing Sarah on the lips. “Get some sleep, beautiful!” Sarah giggles and snuggles into my body, our tired forms quickly falling asleep…
“Do you, Nicola Christine Thomas,” the minister says to me, “take this woman, Sarah Jennifer Phillips, to be your lawful wedded wife?”
“I do,” I whisper, smoothing my pristine white wedding dress as I gaze deep into Sarah’s eyes.
“Great night out!” Katie screams in my ear over the noisy nightclub’s atmosphere. “Come on, let’s dance!” Sarah and I giggle as our wedding dresses transform into tiny black clubbing dresses and we find ourselves grinding the night away on the dancefloor…
I blink myself back to awakeness and sigh as the details of the dream start to fade from my memory.
“Never had THAT one before,” I mumble, before turning back over and falling straight back asleep.
I wake up again a few hours later to discover Sarah already up and dressed in the familiar blouse, skirt and tights of her Saturday job- and the frown on her face tells me that she’s NOT looking forward to it.
“Come on babe, come back to bed…” I moan, gently stroking Sarah’s nylon-covered thigh.
“Yes, as if I’ll get away with a sickie,” my lover sighs. “Saturday before Valentine’s is ALWAYS the busiest day at a perfume store, all the idiot men buying last minute presents for their girlfriends…”
“You make a ton of money from your store now,” I moan. “Surely you could get away with jacking this job in?”
“The store’s hardly stable income, though,” Sarah retorts. “AND I have to split it 50-50 with Lauren…”
“Lauren quit her Saturday job ages ago,” I say.
“Yeah,” Sarah says. “But Lauren doesn’t have a car and an extremely needy and sexy girlfriend to maintain!” I giggle as Sarah leans in to give me a kiss.
“Is that what I am now?” I ask. “’Maintenance’?”
“Just get back to sleep,” Sarah giggles. “I’ll see you at mine tonight. Love you!”
“Love you too!” I say after Sarah as she leaves the house. I lay my head back down and try to get back to sleep, but am unable to relax and eventually get up just under an hour later, dressing in a plain black long-sleeved bodysuit, black tights and denim shorts.
“Good morning, sleepy!” Dad teases as I head into the kitchen to make myself breakfast.
“Morning,” I mumble between mouthfuls of corn flakes. “What time will our lesson be?”
“Whenever you’re ready,” dad shrugs. I take a deep breath and finish my breakfast, before heading upstairs, putting on a light layer of make-up and my most comfortable pair of flats. Once I’ve left the house, dad hands me his car keys and ushers me into the driving seat, whilst he plops himself down on the passenger seat.
“Pull out when it’s safe,” dad says, and I start the car’s engine and slowly reverse it off the driveway, joining in the normal flow of traffic past our street when there’s an available gap.
“Stop being so nervous!” Dad admonishes me. “Relax your arms, your driving will be less jerky if your arms aren’t all stiff.”
“Okay,” I whisper, making an effort to relax my arms as dad says. “Obviously I’m going to be nervous during my test, though…”
“What do you mean, ‘obviously’?” Dad laughs. “If you think you’ll fail, then you’re guaranteed to fail. I went into my driving test determined that I was going to pass.”
“You failed your first test,” I remind my father, who laughs heartily.
“Doesn’t mean that you will on Monday!” Dad laughs, making me chuckle as I drive all around West London for two long hours before expertly parking dad’s car back on our driveway.
“I’d give you a driving licence,” dad chuckles, giving me a soft pat on the back as we head back inside.
“Yeah, if only you were my examiner,” I sigh as I collapse back down on my sofa, exhausted from the drive. Even after eleven months of driving experience, I still get tense every time I get behind the wheel of a car. Sarah, Katie and Lauren have all passed their tests (Dannii, unsurprisingly, is content to be chauffeured everywhere) and Sarah even has her own car which she’s driven as far as Milton Keynes by herself, but I get nervous about the thought of a drive to the nearest supermarket with someone else in the car. And I’ve got an exam- my mortal enemy- in two days’ time…
“Hello, future Formula 1 world champ!” Mum teases me as she comes down the stairs with a freshly-changed Jenny in her arms.
“More like ‘future Captain Slow if James May ever leaves Top Gear’,” dad jokes, making me stick my tongue out at him.
“I’m ‘careful’, not ‘slow’,” I retort. “More importantly, I grin, approaching my gurgling baby sister. “Is this little one ready for her first official girls night tonight?”
“One,” mum says firmly. “I’m going to be in the kitchen for the whole night. The first second she starts crying, you hand her back to me. Two, no make-up is to go anywhere near her face. Three, no nail polish is to go on her fingers or toes.”
“That’s fine, she’ll be applying make-up and nail polish herself in a few years, won’t you, Jenny?” I giggle in the face of my sister, who ‘baaaaah’s happily back at me.
“Four!” Mum continues. “No tickling her. Five, always support her head and neck when you’re holding her. Six, if she needs changing, you’re doing it. Seven, she goes to be AT seven. Eight… Just be careful with her, please?”
“Mum!” I laugh. “You’re leaving her in the care of five girls, not five BOYS! We will treat her like she’s the most precious thing in the world- which she of course is!” Mum laughs tiredly at my insistence, before slowly handing Jenny to me, sensing that I’m desperate to hold her, even if just for a little bit. When Sarah arrives home from work, she- after giving me a kiss, of course- immediately makes a beeline for Jenny and gives her a gentle, loving cuddle as well. Before long, Katie, Lauren and Dannii have all arrived, cooed and gushed over my baby sister, and settled down for an evening of girly gossip.
Normally, on a Saturday night, we’d be at Charlotte’s house with the ‘real’ Angels for their girls night in, but the five of us agreed early on that we should have one ‘girls night in’ a month that exclusively for us. This usually ends up being the first Saturday of each month- the ‘official’ reason being that we all enjoy it so much we don’t want to wait, but personally, I reckon we all just want to get it over and done with.
As we gossip- about work, college, boys, The Angels, our fledgling careers- it’s clear that all five of us would rather be somewhere else. Every mention of the Angels brings a wistful look to Katie’s freckled face. Even though she’s only been to two of their ‘girls nights in’, it’s obvious that she’d rather be there- with the ‘real’ celebrities- than here with the friends she so harshly criticised myself and Sarah for ‘abandoning’ last year. Every time I open my mouth to say something, Dannii gazes at me with an uncomfortable longing I’d thought- well, hoped- that she’d long since got over, and that makes Sarah stare at Dannii with a look of pure hatred in eyes that I’d hoped she’d also long since left behind. The only person who actually looks like she’s enjoying herself is Lauren, though I can tell even she feels uncomfortable with the atmosphere in the room.
Fortunately, every time Jenny makes even the tiniest noise, the hearts of everyone in the room melts and we forget all about our worries and our inter-personal issues.
“No offence Nikki,” Katie says as she cradles the infant in her arms, “but your sister may be even cuter than you are!” As Katie gently rocks Jenny in her arms, the other four of us all giggle, but I can tell from the look in Sarah’s eyes that she STRONGLY disapproves of Katie referring to me as ‘cute’.
“I want a cuddle!” Dannii pleads with Katie.
“Who from, me or Jenny?” Katie giggles, making Dannii stick her tongue out at her as she gently take Jenny into her arms.
“So cute!” Dannii squeaks at the giggling infant who paws at Dannii’s long blonde hair. “She’s going to be SO gorgeous when she’s older, she’s going to be a ballerina, a cheerleader, a supermodel…”
“No she isn’t!” Mum shouts from the kitchen, making us all laugh.
“Shall I cancel her sign-up at Krystie’s ballet class then?” I ask, making everyone giggle again.
“Don’t you dare!” Mum says, coming through to the living room and taking Jenny from Dannii’s arms. “It’s 7pm now- you know what that means. Wave bye-bye to your sister and her friends, Jenny!” I can’t help but girlishly giggle as mum makes Jenny’s arm wave at us.
“Bye-bye!” We all coo at the tiny girl as mum carries her upstairs to her cot.
“Aww, I wish I had a baby sister,” Dannii sighs. “Someone who I can do their hair, do their make-up, so all the great big sister things…”
“Shush, you’ll make Sarah jealous of Jenny!” Lauren teases my lover, who sticks her tongue out at the dark-haired girl.
“I’m not a jealous person,” Sarah retorts, making the girls giggle- though my giggle is very much forced. Sarah IS a jealous person, and her jealousy has only got worse since the reunion of the ‘Teen Angels’. Whilst she may be right to be somewhat suspicious of Dannii- hell, even I’M wary of her- Sarah’s shown jealous behaviour toward Katie, Lauren, and even toward Jamie- never mind the fact that she’s 6 years older than me, entirely heterosexual and in a long-term relationship of her own!
As the two of snuggle together in bed later that night- the other Teen Angels having long since returned to their homes- I can feel the tension running through Sarah’s body.
“Babe?” I ask. “Are- are you okay?”
“Mmm,” Sarah lazily moans. “I’m fine. I just- I- ugh, I don’t know, get some sleep, gorgeous.” Sarah rolls over and gives me a quick kiss on the lips, before rolling back over so her back’s to me. We’re both asleep fairly quickly, but are still slumbering when dad bangs on our door just before 9:30am, waking us both up.
“Come on,” dad shouts. “Up, showered, dressed- your grandparents will be here soon!” I moan into Sarah’s back as dad reminds me of what I have ahead of me today.
“Oh stop worrying,” Sarah sighs, unwrapping herself from my arms and padding to the shower. “You’re on good terms with your grandparents now, aren’t you? The Jeremy Kyle aftercare team worked their miracles, after all…”
“Yes, we’re on ‘speaking’ terms,” I reply. “Don’t know about ‘good’ terms…” After showering and dressing in a conservative knee-length, long-sleeved dress and black tights, Sarah and I head downstairs to the living room, collapsing together on the sofa just in time to her our doorbell ring.
“Hi mum! Hi dad!” My father says happily as he opens the front door.
“Hello, Chris!” Grandpa Steven says. “Where’s that beautiful granddaughter of mine?” I smile as my grandfather enters the living room, only for my smile to disappear as the old man walks straight past me without even glancing in my direction.
“Hello, Jenny!” Grandpa Steven coos as he picks the tiny infant out of my mother’s arms and gently cuddles her. “Aren’t you just a little treasure?”
“Hi grandpa, grandma!” I say, briefly drawing the elderly couple’s attention away from my sister.
“Hi Nikki,” Grandma Irene says, before immediately turning her attention back to Jenny. Sensing that I need some attention, Sarah leans her head on my shoulder as we watch my grandparents fuss over the newest member of their family.
“Have you picked godparents yet?” Grandma Irene asks.
“We have, actually,” mum says with a proud smile. “We’re going with my cousin Alan, and with Sarah.”
“Sarah who?” Grandma Irene asks, making my girlfriend cough.
“Hi,” Sarah says, trying to disguise her offence at being so easily forgotten.
“Oh,” Grandma Irene says with clear surprise in her voice. “THAT Sarah.” I grip Sarah’s hand as I feel her bristle- whilst my grandparents have slowly started to accept me for who I am, several of my ‘other choices’ are a taking a bit longer for them to swallow- and my being a lesbian is probably the hardest thing of all for them to accept.
“Well I spend so much of my time here anyway,” Sarah says, allowing herself an evil smirk as my grandparents bristle at the thought. “I’m probably the person closest to Jenny who isn’t blood-related…”
“Are you even old enough?” Grandpa Steven asks.
“I’m eighteen,” Sarah replies. “I’m an adult, and that means I can do all manner of adult things…” Oh, you cheeky girl, I think to myself. “…Like being godparent to a gorgeous little girl!”
“I just always thought that godparents were meant to instil good, wholesome CHRISTIAN values into their godchildren, that’s all…” Grandma Irene muses, and I actually have to squeeze Sarah’s hand to stop her from jumping down the old woman’s throat.
“Sarah’s one of the kindest, smartest people we know,” dad explains. “She was one of the most positive influences in our first daughter’s life, we figured she’d be one of the most positive things in our second daughter’s life.”
“Aww, thanks Chris!” Sarah says, grinning as my grandparents bristle even more.
“I never spoke to my husband’s parents on a first name basis…” Grandma Irene grumbles, and it’s all I do to stop Sarah from doing a victory dance on the sofa. For the next two uncomfortable hours- when the attention isn’t focussed on Jenny, anyway- Sarah and my grandparents engage in a verbal tug of war, with my grandparents referring to the conservative, Christian way in which they were raised in the 1950s- a way that had no room for transsexualism or homosexuality- and my Sarah constantly reminding them through her actions that it is, in fact, 2015, and everything that was unacceptable to them is more than acceptable nowadays. After they leave, both I and my father breathe a long sigh of relief.
“Sorry if I made that uncomfortable,” Sarah mumbles. “I just- I just don’t like, you know, prejudice…” I cuddle up close to Sarah, knowing that she has enough troubles with her own family- specifically ‘the Dragon’- without my own family making things worse.
“No, THEY’RE the fossils,” dad sighs as he sits back down with Jenny in his arms. “When they grew up nobody thought twice about running people down for being gay- or for being black, a different religion, you name it… I’m going to make sure THIS little one grows up knowing that it’s okay to be whoever you want to be and WHAT ever you want to be.”
“Hear that Jenny?” I tease. “You’re going to be a true 21st century girl!” The three of us giggle as the tiny baby gurgles happily.
“What have you girls got planned for the rest of the day?” Dad asks.
“Off to Sarah’s,” I answer. “She’s got some new stock that needs modelling…”
“As if you DON’T love it!” Sarah laughs, making me giggle and nod in agreement.
“Good,” dad says, handing Jenny to mum. “YOU can drive!” I sigh- and Sarah, of course, giggles- as dad hands me his car keys. After arriving at Sarah’s house following an uneventful drive, I change into a slinky fire-coloured dress that hugs my curves tightly, and even I have to smirk at how I feel much more comfortable standing in front of a camera wearing revealing clothing than I do sat in the driving seat of a car. A tight, dusky pink leotard dress follows, and finally a short, strapless indigo-coloured dress that shows off a LOT of cleavage.
“I have the most awesome girlfriend EVER!” Sarah says, giving me a kiss as she packs away the camera and the dresses I (reluctantly) hand over to her.
“Would I be right in assuming that that last one was Lauren’s design?” I laugh as I pull my ‘normal’ bra and dress back on, but I quickly wince as Sarah stares at me with an accusing eye.
“What makes you say that?” Sarah asks quizzically.
“Oh, um,” I stammer, having been caught off-guard by the tone of Sarah’s voice. “It’s, you know, short, tight, boobs everywhere… That is her style, isn’t it?”
“Well yes, she DID design that one,” Sarah says, roughly shoving the dress into her ‘stock wardrobe’. “Why is THAT so special?”
“Umm, it’s not…” I mumble as Sarah continues to stare at me, before sighing and crashing down onto her sofa.
“Sucks that your test tomorrow clashes with ballet,” Sarah says. “It’s one of Krystie’s special ‘dress down’ days, so everyone’s going in in bright pink leotards- you know, for Valentine’s…”
“Meh, I’ll catch up next week,” I shrug. “Now we’re not going to her evening lessons, I don’t, you know, feel like I have to try as hard…”
“And by ‘not have to try as hard’ you mean ‘enjoy it more’?” Sarah teases, making us both giggle. She’s not wrong- When I started ballet it was just after I started transitioning, and was an exciting adventure into a new, unexplored ‘realm of femininity’, but as I’ve become more and more ‘secure’ in my life as a woman… I find I just don’t NEED it as much, almost as if I don’t need to prove that I’m a woman, I AM a woman. A few months from now, I’ll even be able to apply to have my gender legally changed in the eyes of the law.
“You know me so well,” I laugh, giving Sarah a quick cuddle.
“Well,” Sarah laughs. “We ARE soulmates…” I smile as Sarah’s tension dissipates and we spend the rest of the evening relaxed on the sofa, chatting about ballet, clothes, our respective ‘dragons’ (her stepmother and my grandmother) and my impending test. My nerves regarding my test keep me awake for most of the night, even despite Sarah’s repeated attempts to ‘help me sleep’, and I’m awake long before Sarah’s alarm clock goes off at 7:15.
“Oh god,” I moan, my entire body shaking with nerves.
“Stop panicking!” Sarah says, grabbing my shaking hands. “It’s just a driving test! If I can pass one, you can too!”
“I know, I know,” I whisper as I slowly walk over to Sarah’s dresser to apply my make-up, but my hands are shaking so much I can’t even hold my make-up brush straight.
“Here, let me,” Sarah says, taking the brush from my hands and covering my face in a light layer of make-up. “Heh, you getting flashbacks too?”
“Flashbacks?” I ask, my brain scrambled from my nerves.
“To the first time you sat in this chair,” Sarah says. “We were both fourteen… Heh, hard to believe that was almost four years ago…”
“Best three and a half years of my life,” I say, giving Sarah a kiss with my freshly-made up lips.
“Mine too,” Sarah whispers as I pull on a plain denim skirt and long-sleeved black top. Less than half an hour later, dad arrives at the front door, like an executioner ready to take me to the gallows.
“Are you ready?” Dad asks.
“As I’ll ever be,” I whisper, still shaking slightly from my nerves.
“Stop. Being. So. Nervous.” Dad orders, grabbing my shaking hands for support. “Even if you don’t pass, it’s not the end of the world, just get more experience and have another go!”
“And we’ll always love you regardless of if you pass or not,” Sarah says, giving me a goodbye kiss as I get in dad’s car.
“Pull out into traffic when it’s safe to do so,” the examiner says in his stoic, formal voice, and I dutifully obey, making sure the examiner knows I’m constantly checking my mirrors and taking deliberate care and attention with every single action I take. For the next 30 minutes, I carefully drive around the streets of the West London suburb where I live, gradually getting more and more terrified to the extent that I’m barely able to use the clutch properly, my left leg is trembling so much.
“Okay, and pull in forward into any parking space,” the examiner says as we arrive back at the test centre. Shakily, I pull the car forward into the space, parking it perfectly between the white lines, before applying the handbrake and switching off the engine.
“Okay,” the examiner says. “There are a couple of points.” My heart sinks as the examiner launches into his criticism. “You were slow getting away at traffic lights a couple of times, and you need to check your door mirrors more when slowing down to turn.” A brief pause passes through the car, before the examiner smiles at me.
“But that’s just four minors, there are no majors, so congratulations, Miss Thomas, you’ve passed!” The examiner exclaims, and before I know what’s happening, I find myself giving him a big hug whilst squeaking excitedly as all the tension in my body is replaced with sheer relief.
“Okay, okay,” the examiner laughs, wriggling out of my hug.
“Oh god, sorry,” I say, clasping my hands to my mouth in embarrassment.
“Don’t worry,” the examiner laughs. “Occupational hazard of the job that I get loads of hugs from teenaged girls, I’m probably the only man in London who can go home smelling of perfume and NOT have his wife question him!” I giggle as the examiner takes my provisional licence from me.
“I’ll get your full licence sent out to you this week,” the examiner says with a smile. “Meanwhile, there’s a certificate waiting inside there for you, and I think your dad’s waiting for the good news!” I smile and jump out of the car and quickly stride over to dad, giving him a thumbs-up which makes the middle-aged man run forward and wrap me in a big, tight hug.
“I knew it!” Dad yells happily. “Didn’t I tell you you’d pass?”
“Yes,” I sigh happily as the examiner returns with my certificate that I am indeed legally allowed to drive on the roads of Great Britain.
“Your daughter’s a very talented driver,” the examiner tells my proud dad, with a heavy emphasis on the word ‘daughter’. “She just needs a little more confidence, that’s all!”
“Thanks,” dad says, before taking a photo of me and my certificate using my phone- a photo I quickly post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and send via text message to every single person in my contacts list! Needless to say, the photo gets hundreds of likes within seconds, including from every single person at the ballet class I missed- the class I drive myself to in dad’s car, to be greeted with a hero’s welcome and a long, tight hug from my leotard-clad girlfriend.
“I knew you’d pass!” Sarah squeaks as she bounces up and down in my arms. “I love you so much!”
“I love you too!” I squeak.
“Well done Nikki!” Jamie squeaks, also giving me a quick hug that puts a frown on Sarah’s face. “I’m glad you passed… It’d have been a pain to have driven this home myself!” Much to my surprise, Jamie pulls a black car key out of her dance bag and places it in my hand.
“I- I don’t understand…” I mumble.
“Well,” Jamie says smugly, “now you have a driving licence, you need a car to go with it, right?” Jamie takes the key and points it at a lilac-coloured, brand new Renault Clio with P plates in the windows that’s been parked outside the dance studio.
“Wha- no…” I whisper. “This- this is too much!”
“Then call it a company car you can use in your free time,” Jamie giggles, guiding me to the driver’s seat and fastening my seatbelt- the closeness of which just deepens Sarah’s frown. “We're also counting it as your birthday present! Mr Thomas, Sarah, come on!” Smiling tiredly, dad and Sarah also get in the car as Jamie takes photos of us in it.
“AND we’ll need to have a party to celebrate,” the heavily-pregnant Charlotte teases. “How does tonight at my place sound?”
“Seriously, you don’t have to-“ I plead, but it’s plainly obvious that I’m not going to win this argument.
“I INSIST,” Charlotte says. “You okay driving yourself there for 7 tonight?”
“Um, I guess,” I say, still in shock from the generosity of my friends.
“Great!” Jamie says. “Now come on, show us your driving skills!”
“Is- is this car even insured?” Dad asks, clearly as troubled by the gift as I am shocked by it.
“Completely fully comp in Nikki’s name,” Jamie says. “Which cost more than the car itself! It’s insured for 12 months, taxed for 12 months, we’ve even paid the congestion charge!”
“Well, okay,” dad says, chuckling at the cheer that springs up as I turn the ignition. Steadily- and with dad still offering advice and instruction- I drive the car home, eliciting a gasp of shock from mum as she sees my new car pull up on the driveway.
“Oh my god,” mum- with Jenny in her arms- breathes. “How- how can you even afford this?”
“Jamie bought it for me!” I giggle as I bounce out of the car and give my mum (and by extension Jenny) a quick cuddle. “Isn’t it cool?”
“Yeah, good old Jamie,” dad sighs as he climbs out of the car and follows the rest of us into the house.
“Dad…” I ask, worried by the older man’s attitude. “What’s- what’s up?”
“It’s just- ugh, I don’t know,” dad sighs as he slumps into his chair. “It’s just teaching you to drive, helping you pick out your first car… That’s kinda a job I wanted. Ever since your ‘change’… It’s something that I could do for you no matter what gender you are, now even THAT’s been taken away from me…” I sigh sadly as dad spills his guts, before going over and giving him a tight hug.
“You’re growing up too fast,” dad mutters as I release him from the hug. “FAR too fast, now you’re off to parties every night…”
“HARDLY every night,” I laugh. “And it’s not like I’m not drinking alcohol- I can’t, anyway- I’m the designated driver!”
“Yeah, but you’re only a minor for another few weeks,” mum interjects. “Enjoy it while it lasts!” I giggle happily as mum and dad continue to playfully chastise me for the rest of the day, until the time comes for the party. We’ve not been given any costume ‘instructions’ for the party, so Sarah and I pull on long-sleeved mini dresses, Sarah pairing her dress with sheer brown tights whilst I opt for warm ribbed tights. Sarah pulls on a pair of high-heeled ankle booties, whilst I opt for flats- they’re easier to drive in, and I’m 5’ 8” anyway so I don’t really need the extra height (and I can ‘treat’ Sarah to being taller than me for one night only!).
As I pull up to Charlotte’s mansion in my brand-new car, giggling as the odometer ticks over into double digits, I’m surprised by what at first glance appears to be four VERY familiar figures, but on closer examination, turns out to be three even more familiar people…
“Tonight!” Dan- Mary’s husband- bellows in an obnoxious voice. “We celebrate Nikki’s new driving licence, a bunch of women dress up in racing jumpsuits, and we crash remote-control cars all around Charlotte’s house!” I can’t help but giggle at the tall man’s near-perfect Jeremy Clarkson impersonation- especially as he has Stuart (Jamie’s boyfriend) stood next to him dressed as Richard Hammond, and Paul (Dan’s best friend) dressed as James May in a loud shirt and a long grey wig.
“Top Gear?” I ask incredulously. “Seriously?”
“Blame hamster, it was his idea,” Dan/Jeremy says, pointing at Stuart/Richard, who giggles shyly.
“Come on, I’ve got your jumpsuits inside,” ‘Richard’ says.
“Okay, not exactly my idea of party wear, but I’m game!” I laugh as Stuart hands myself and Sarah two silver-coloured racing overalls, which we quickly change into in Charlotte’s cloakroom.
“Blame the boys,” Jamie- wearing a bright red overall with Ferrari decals- says as we enter Charlotte’s ballroom. “They’ve wanted a motor racing or Top Gear-themed party for AGES… I know it’s a bit ‘boyish’, and I AM sorry… I promise you’ll have a 100% girly, feminine day for your eighteenth next month!” I giggle happily as Jamie hands me a glass with ‘designated driver’ printed on the side of it, but I can’t help but feel bad about what dad said earlier- he’s probably worked harder than anyone else teaching me how to drive, he was there for me during my test today, he should be here helping celebrate me passing my test, instead of a bunch of guys I barely know. And for my eighteenth… There’s no way I’m NOT celebrating that without the two people without whom I wouldn’t even be alive.
I keep a grateful smile on my face throughout the party- even when roped into the promised remote-controlled car race (which I lose pretty badly)- before leaving just after 11pm, citing tomorrow’s work as my excuse and college as Sarah’s excuse (though that didn’t stop Katie from sticking around long after we leave. When we arrive back home (still wearing our boiler suits), mum and dad (and, obviously, Jenny) are fast asleep, putting an idea in my head.
“Nngh,” a hungover Sarah moans as my alarm goes off at 6:45am. “Why, Nikki, why?”
“I’m sorry babe,” I say, giving Sarah a kiss on her undoubtedly painful head. “I just… Kinda feel bad about what dad said yesterday. And I DO want to celebrate my pass with him… I’ll be making fresh coffee…”
“Okay,” Sarah says in a tone that is half-giggle and half-sigh. “But you’re doing the cooking!” I giggle as the two of us head downstairs to find mum already awake, breastfeeding my baby sister.
“Stop being so squeamish,” Sarah whispers as I make a conscious effort to not stare at my mother’s breasts. “If anything, your own breasts are even bigger! They're even bigger than MINE...”
“Yes,” I reply, “But they’re still MY MUM’S…” Still, I can’t help but smile happily as I stare down at my expanded chest, before heading over to the kitchen worktop where I quickly get to work.
“Morning, girls,” mum says, confused by our early start.
“Morning, Sandra,” Sarah says. “Breakfast’s on Nikki today!”
“I just want to do something nice for dad,” I say. “Feel a bit bad about leaving you in the lurch last night…”
“You hardly left us in the lurch!” Mum giggles. “God knows, when your father and I were eighteen we were out most nights without any regard for our parents…”
“Still though,” I say. “Dad was obviously upset…”
“He’ll get over it,” mum argues.
“This’ll make it easier,” I giggle, holding up a packet of bacon and two large eggs. Twenty minutes later, I pad upstairs to my parents’ bedroom, where dad is still slumbering. Barely able to suppress my giggles, I crouch down beside him and wake him with a long kiss on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, dad!” I squeak excitedly.
“My birthday’s in October,” dad grumbles as he slowly wakes up.
“Happy father’s day, then!” I say.
“That’s June,” dad moans, before seeing the carefully-prepared breakfast on the tray beside him. “…Thanks, Nikki.”
“I kinda felt bad about yesterday,” I explain. “Don’t want you to feel ‘out of the loop’…”
“Oh for god’s sake,” dad laughs as he tucks in. “It’s every parent’s duty to try to guilt their teenaged kids into behaving, you’re not supposed to actually behave! And the car Jamie bought is MUCH better than anything I could afford, anyway…”
“I just- I just sometimes think I don’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me,” I sigh. “Sometimes I forget how lucky I am- you heard that story about that girl who got kidnapped by her dad just because she was transgendered, right?”
“If you’re not willing to accept and love your children for who or what they are, you don’t deserve to call yourself a parent,” dad says between bites of his breakfast. “Hope you realise that just because you’re turning eighteen in a few weeks, you’re never too old to ask for help from your mum and dad.”
“Thanks,” I say, blinking back tears, before giving dad a big hug as he finishes his breakfast. “I’ve, um, got to get to work…”
“Go on,” dad laughs. “Those models won’t babysit themselves…” I giggle as I head into the shower, before pulling on a clean bran and thong set and dressing in my trademark short black pencil skirt, white blouse and black tights. I pull on a pair of flats for driving, but I also bring along a pair of heels to change into- I’m looking after Hannah today, who’s taller than me when we’re both in stocking feet, and I don’t want to be TOO overshadowed!
“I could get used to this,” Sarah says as she slides into the passenger seat of my car. “Being chauffeured around everywhere by my sexy girlfriend… Now I know how you felt these last few months!” I giggle happily as I drive Sarah to college, making a detour to pick up Hannah & Viks en route so I don’t have to drive on my own at any point. After expertly parking my new car outside the TV studio where my ‘charges’ will be working today, I change into my heels, grab my iPad and lead the two young women to the reception desk.
“Hi,” I say to the young receptionist. “I’m Nikki Thomas, PA for Hannah Dexter and Victoria Brooks?”
“Of course!” The receptionist says. “Please, Miss Thomas, Miss Dexter, Miss Brooks, follow me!” The three of us giggle as we follow the receptionist to the duo’s posh dressing room.
“Italian coffee, pink wafer biscuits and dark chocolate digestives,” the receptionist states. “The TV’s already tuned to ITV2, there’s bottled water in the fridge and plenty of wardrobe space.”
“That looks like everything!” I say happily, ushering Hannah and Viks into the plush room. “I’ll get your dresses out of the car.”
“You mean, you’ll get OUR dresses out of YOUR car!” Hannah giggles, making myself and Viks giggle too. I dutifully fetch the dresses and wait outside the studio for Hannah and Viks to do their thing- today's a make-up review for a lifestyle programme on an obscure satellite TV channel- before carrying their dresses, worn and unworn, back to the car.
"I could get used to working ONE day weeks," Viks giggles as she fastens her seatbelt.
"Oh, rub it in, why don't you?" Hannah moans. "Bad enough that you've got a Valentine's date and I haven't..."
"Only because there isn't a single man in the UK good enough for you!" Viks laughs. "At least you don't have competition any more..." Viks holds her left hand up in an over-dramatic gesture, and in my rear-view mirror, I catch a glance of the glint from her engagement ring.
"Even your brothers have got Valentine's dates," Hannah moans. "And Phil's only 13!"
"In fairness, he and Laura make a REALLY cute couple," Viks says, but all I can concentrate on- apart from my driving, of course- is the ring. After dropping the two women off at their respective homes, I head straight to Dr Williamson’s office for my scheduled appointment- and I have a lot to talk about this week.
"Hi Nikki!" The middle-aged woman says as I enter her office. "Just come from work?"
"Yeah," I sigh, smoothing my pencil skirt as I sit in her chair.
"So," Dr Williamson asks, "how's the week been? Other than yesterday’s excitement, of course!"
"That got around quick!" I giggle.
"Don't forget I keep tabs on your Instagram," Dr Williamson chuckles. "Also the fact that you drove here in a brand-new Clio... Gift from your parents?"
"From Jamie, actually," I say. "That's... Kinda something I wanted to talk about, actually."
"Go on," Dr Williamson says, leaning back in her chair.
"My parents..." I sigh. "I think they're kinda upset that I'm, you know, growing up 'too fast'. I've got this job, rich friends who can buy me a car... I think they feel a little left out."
"It's to be expected," Dr Williamson advises. "You've been dependent on them for so long, the more independence you gain, the more of an adjustment they'll need to make. Your life is YOUR life, and you're not a child anymore."
"Well, technically..." I mutter.
"You know what I mean," Dr Williamson chuckles. "Yes, obviously don't go out of your way to antagonise them, don't do anything drastic like move out. Having met your parents many times I know how much they'll always love and support you, but they need to know that you are your own person."
"Alright," I say. "I- I also kinda want to talk about Sarah..."
"Are you two still okay?" Dr Williamson asks.
"We're fine," I say, before sighing. "Well, we could be better... It's like Sarah's jealous of EVERYONE I have contact with nowadays, not just Dannii."
"Have you spoken to her about this?" Dr Williamson asks me.
"I daren't," I sigh. "If I ask, she'll accuse me of seeing someone else... I can't do anything that might cause me to lose her, but I don't want to be constantly walking on eggshells..."
"Do you still intend to propose to her on your birthday?" Dr Williamson asks.
"If not sooner," I answer. "I can't imagine my life without her. She IS my life... I know my parents adore her too, but that just brings me back to problem number one, if I do get engaged to Sarah, I run the risk of alienating my parents further..." I bare my soul to my counsellor for the next hour, not accomplishing anything or gaining any practical help, but feeling refreshed nonetheless having talked over my problems. I drive myself home, arriving just after 3:30pm to find mum sat on the sofa, my baby sister asleep in her arms.
"Be quiet," mum cautions me. "Just got her settled."
"Okay," I whisper. "Hi beautiful baby sister!" I mime a kiss a few inches above Jenny's forehead, smiling involuntarily at the sight of her cute, sleeping face.
"Is Sarah still sleeping at her own house tonight?" Mum asks.
"Yeah," I reply. "She and Lauren have a lot of work to catch up on, don't want any 'distractions', heh. Actually... I'm glad that I've got you and dad to myself for one night."
"Really?" Mum giggles. "Normally when you and Sarah are separated for more than 24 hours you're practically clawing at the door, begging to be let out to go and meet her!"
"More like 8 hours," I giggle. "But... There's something I need to talk to you and dad about. Something important."
"Well, okay," mum says. "Your dad should be back just after 6pm, can it wait until then?"
"Sure," I say, turning my attention to Facebook as mum gently rocks the still-sleeping Jenny in her arms. Sure enough, when I sign into messenger, Sarah and Lauren have set their statuses to 'do not disturb', and so has Katie- probably to catch up on all the coursework she's fallen behind on thanks to her excessive partying. Dannii's the only 'Teen Angel' online, but rather than start a conversation with her, I close down the app- with Sarah's paranoid running hot, the last thing I need is for her to find messages between myself and Dannii on my iPad.
My father returns just over 3 hours later, and with Jenny asleep in her crib, and immediately turns his attention to me.
"What's this 'big issue' you need to talk to us about, then?" Dad asks. I take a deep breath, before pulling my ring box out of my handbag, where it's lived for the past month.
"This," I whisper, showing my parents the ring.
"Nikki," mum whispers. "It's beautiful... Do- do you plan to give this to Sarah?" Shaking with nervous emotion, I nod my head.
"You know you can't propose until you're eighteen, right?" Dad asks, stunned by the existence of the ring.
"Not without your permission," I whisper.
"Obviously, once you're eighteen, you can make your own decisions," dad says. "But until then... You shouldn't rush into a decision like this."
"What rush?" I ask. "I've loved Sarah for three years, you and mum were engaged after you'd been going out for 2 years!"
"We were also 21," mum says. "I know it seems trivial, but it's a long time in your life, between 18 and 21."
"You guys LOVE Sarah," I plead. "You made her Jenny's godmother..."
"We do love her," dad says. "I've said it before and I'll say it again, as far as we're concerned, we've got three daughters, not just two. But... I need to be sure that this is what you want, what you need. Sarah's your first girlfriend-"
"-And my last," I say, interrupting dad.
"All we want is for you not to rush into something you might regret later," mum says. "If we could pick a wife for you... It would be Sarah." I nod, knowing that I've lost the argument- but that in less than a month's time, the argument will be trivial anyway.
"Has- has Sarah asked you for permission to propose to me?" I ask.
"No," dad says bluntly. "If she had... We would tell you."
"Would you have given permission?" I ask.
"No," dad says in the same blunt voice. "For the same reasons we just told you. But... If the two of you DO get engaged on your eighteenth... We'll be happy for you."
"Your father's actually had a dream about walking you down the aisle on your wedding day," mum teases.
"Sandra!" Dad chastises, playfully rolling his eyes.
"Oh really?" I tease. "What did my dress look like?"
"White and big," dad sighs. "It was a wedding dress, what do you expect me to say it looked like?"
"Was I beautiful?" I ask.
"Of course you were," dad laughs. "You ALWAYS are."
"...And was I marrying Sarah?" I ask. This time, dad hesitates, turning his gaze to the floor.
"The dream didn't get that far," dad mumbles. "On a personal note, I hope that dream doesn't come true for a very long time. You're growing up MUCH too fast."
"But I AM growing up," I say. "Hell, I'm basically already grown up. And you don't really need me, not now you've got Jenny..." As I say this, both parents rise from their seats and sit either side of me, holding me in a long, loving embrace.
"Of COURSE we'll always need you!" Mum says between tears. "You're our firstborn, you're the best thing that's ever happened to us!" Immediately as mum finishes her sentence, the sounds of Jenny gurgling comes over the baby monitor.
"JOINT best thing," dad laughs. After watching TV for the rest of the night- and chatting to Sarah on Facebook whenever I get the chance- I repaint my nails my favourite fuchsia colour, before changing into my soft, smooth nightie and climbing into bed. Without Sarah in it, it's lonely and cold, and even though I know I'll see her tomorrow... Being separated from her for ANY length of time is more than I can bear. I look at the ring in the drawer of my nightstand, and sigh sadly before I fall asleep.
"Don't be nervous," dad advises as he leads me up the aisle of the church, my hand resting in the crook of his arm. "This is the happiest day of your life, remember?" I look up at the altar, where my bride is waiting, and all of a sudden, a wave of clarity washes over me.
"This is a dream," I say to myself. Dad- and the rest of the people in the church- freeze in place as I sprint toward the altar and lift the veil of my bride...
I wake up with a start, alone in my bed, and groan as the dream starts to fade from my memory. I strain my thoughts, desperately trying to remember any detail of the face underneath the veil, but nothing comes to mind. I groan and collapse back onto my pillow, for the first time ever praying that when I fall asleep, I'm NOT praying of the church I find myself in virtually every night...
My alarm clock wakes me at 8:30am, and I pull on a plain white bodysuit, a slouchy lilac hoodie, black tights and a black denim skirt before heading downstairs to breakfast. Even though it's a free day for me today, I have in mind something I want to do, something I've wanted to do for a while, so after I finish my corn flakes, I head outside and walk to the nearest tube station, my nervousness at driving making me eschew my new car in favour of public transport- and besides, I have unused credit on my Oyster Card.
I giggle a bit from the flashback as I enter my old college, quickly finding my way to the IT suite where I spot a familiar brown-haired girl sighing frustratedly at her screen.
"Boo?" I ask, making the girl gasp with shock.
"God's sake, Nikki!" Katie exclaims as I take a seat next to her. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I was in the mood for some nostalgia," I laugh. "Besides, you've put on Facebook that you've been struggling, figured I could offer some seriously non-expert help?" Katie smiles sadly at my offer- she, like I, obviously remembers one of the catalysts of our recent falling out being my refusal to ask for HER help with my college work.
"I'd like that," Katie giggles, showing me some of the photos that she's in the process of editing.
"How was ballet last night?" I ask as I experiment with some of the filters in Katie's software.
"Pretty good," Katie says. "Can't believe you and Sarah dropped your regular classes, you were getting so good at it too..."
"It's not really something I want to do beyond 'hobby' level," I explain.
"Yeah, but Sarah loves it, doesn't she?" Katie asks. "Didn't she used to be a gymnast? Thought ballet would be right up her alley..."
"Think she wants to focus on her college work," I say. "Same reason she's not been doing much work for Joshua, like you and Lauren."
"Well, apart from the hosiery shoot I have next Wednesday," Katie says, making us both giggle loudly. "Don't tell Dannii, she'll go apeshit!"
"My lips are sealed," I laugh.
"I really can't thank you enough," Katie sighs happily. "For properly introducing me to the Angels... For everything I said last year, I can tell I'm going to be apologising FOREVER."
"You really don't need to," I say. "Me and Sarah WERE in the wrong... Should've known who our REAL friends are."
"Teen Angels forever!" Katie giggles, before a sudden wave of realisation washes over her face. "...You're kinda worried that I'm doing the same thing, aren't you? Out every Friday night..."
"I'm not THAT big a hypocrite," I laugh. "I'm not going to begrudge you going out on the town now that you're eighteen, and I'm CERTAINLY not going to begrudge you hanging out with the Angels. Just... God, I'm going to sound like my mum here..."
"Don't worry, I've heard it from my own mum enough," Katie says. "'Don't let your college work suffer, don't get a big head...' You know, she REALLY disapproves of us being friends? Of course, I'm eighteen, I can be friends with whoever I want..."
"I thought she always liked me?" I complain.
"She DID," Katie says. "Now she's worried that I'm somehow corrupting my little brothers..."
"That's silly," I say. "Aren't your brothers 13 and 11? They're old enough to think for themselves, surely?"
"Yeah, but Lee's got that form of autism," Katie says. "He IS pretty impressionable, mum's actually taken steps to avoid him finding out 'the truth' about you in case he wants to, you know, be 'like you'..."
"You're either 'like me' or you're not," I say, deeply offended by Katie's news. "And I assume you mean transgendered rather than homosexual?"
"Yeah," Katie says, before chuckling. "You know, this is gonna sound weird, but I never really think of you and Sarah as gay, I dunno if it's because you- well, you..."
"Yeah, point taken," I say.
"It'd be really cool, though," Katie continues, "to, you know, go to a wedding with two brides. Isn't this your fourth Valentine's coming up?"
"It is," I say with a smile. "And that wedding... It might be sooner than you think." I reach into my bag to show Katie the ring I'd bought Sarah, and the freckled girl gasps loudly, drawing the attention of nearby students and forcing me to quickly dump the ring back in my bag in case they think I'm proposing to Katie!
"That. Was. GORGEOUS," Katie whispers. "How much did it cost you?"
"The Angels work me hard but pay me well," I say. "And it's not like I've got anything better to spend my money on, heh. And I really, really love her... You can't tell her about this."
"Are- are you going to propose on your eighteenth?" Katie asks.
"That is the plan," I say. "I know for a fact Sarah has a ring for me, too." Katie gasps again, and starts bouncing up and down in her chair with excitement.
"This is unreal!" Katie squeaks. "Please tell me I can be a bridesmaid..."
"I'm not even engaged yet!" I complain. "I was kinda, you know, hoping for advice..."
"From a girl who's single on Valentine's Day?" Katie scoffs. "Okay, two words: ASK. HER."
"Massive help, thanks," I sarcastically reply, making Katie giggle happily.
"I think Sarah and Lauren will be at lunch now," Katie laughs. "Come on. Try not to propose over your sandwich!" I stick my tongue out at Katie as we head to the cafeteria, where we find Sarah and Lauren already sat and eating. Sarah's face lights up as she sees me sit down, but her delight turns to confusion as she sees me arrive with Katie.
"Have you been here a while?" Sarah asks accusingly.
"Yeah, thought I'd help Katie, whether she likes it or not!" I giggle, but Sarah's stern stare quickly ends my laughter.
"You could've texted me..." Sarah says, before shaking her head and returning to her food.
"O-kay," Katie says. "Lauren, planning on spending Valentine's in Michael's pants again?"
"For what little time he'll be wearing pants, yep!" Lauren replying with a cheeky grin on her face. "It's our third Valentine's together, we've been steadily less and less clothed each time!"
"Oh my god, that's so cool!" Katie exclaims. "So you're high school sweethearts, like Nikki and Sarah?"
"Yeah, except only HALF as cute!" Lauren says, making Sarah force out a frustrated chuckle. "Shouldn't need to explain WHICH half..." I open my mouth to talk, but am quickly interrupted by the arrival of the last member of our group.
"Hi girlies!" Dannii squeaks, giving all four of us- including an EXTREMELY reluctant-looking Sarah- hugs, before sitting down next to Lauren. "Talking about the big V-day on Saturday?"
"Of course!" I reply, but I can see that Dannii's mere presence is causing Sarah's rage to almost boil over.
"And, of course, our 'date' the day before?" Dannii giggles, making Sarah's face turn red even though she knows the 'date' Dannii's referring to is just a modelling job.
After lunch, I head home, giving Sarah a kiss as I depart, but the kiss she gives me in return doesn't feel NEARLY as loving as usual. After catching up on my emails at home (and writing a checklist for tomorrow's work with Hannah) I drive the short distance to Sarah's house in the busy London traffic, where my lover is already home and waiting for me- though the look on her face fills me with dread as I step through her front door.
"Are you fucking Dannii?" Sarah asks me, making me stutter with surprise.
"Wh-what?" I ask.
"It's a simple enough question," Sarah says. "Are you fucking Dannii? Yes or no?"
"No, of course not!" I say, stunned by Sarah's sudden hostility. "You know Dannii was taking the piss when she said 'date'..."
"So Katie then?" Sarah asks.
"I- I was only helping her with her work," I plead. "Besides, she doesn't even LIKE girls..."
"But you wish she did?" Sarah asks, the hatred in her eyes bringing tears to mine.
"Where is this even coming from?" I ask.
"It's coming from the fact that you were within 100 feet of me earlier today and didn't even bother to say hi!" Sarah spits.
"But- but Katie and I are friends..." I plead. "I just wanted to do something nice..."
"And we're SUPPOSED to be lovers," Sarah snarls. "Just- just get out, okay? I don't even want to LOOK at you right now..."
"Sarah, please..." I plead, openly weeping.
"GO!" Sarah snaps, her own eyes full of tears. With my whole body shaking, I head back out to my car and slowly, carefully drive home, where I run straight up to my room- not even bothering to say hi to mum or Jenny- and bury my face in my pillow, crying my eyes out.
"Nikki?" Mum asks softly as she slowly opens my bedroom door. "Are you okay?" I sigh, drying my eyes on my pillow case before accepting a long, tight hug from mum as she sits down on the edge of my bed.
"Sarah and I have had a falling out..." I sigh.
"About what?" Mum asks.
"It's not important," I sigh, shaking my head. "Sarah- she's just so paranoid lately, I don't know what to do..."
"Is this because you kissed that other girl that one time?" Mum asks, and I nod.
"I know, it was a stupid thing to do," I sigh. "But it was this time last year... I think Sarah just hates Valentine's Day, heh."
"Regardless, I know she doesn't hate YOU," mum says, tightening her hug. "Give her a day or two, I know she'll calm down."
"Okay," I sigh, before a crying sound from the baby monitor in mum's hand makes us both giggle.
"A mother's work is never done," mum laughs. "Just remember that I have time for BOTH my daughters when they need me."
"I will," I sigh as mum exits the room, leaving me to collapse back on my bed, my tears stopped but my heart still aching from Sarah's accusations. I understand why she might have some suspicions... But to outright accuse me of cheating... Surely she knows how much I worship the ground she walks on?
I spend most of the rest of the day in my room, playing on my iPad, browsing the internet and generally wasting time before heading to bed. Without Sarah in them... Evenings just aren't fun. But I have confidence that mum's right- Sarah just needs time, needs space. This will be the second night in a row we've slept apart, and aside from Sarah's holiday six months ago, I can't remember the last time we were separated for that long.
Thankfully, my sleep is dreamless, so when my alarm wakes me at 7:30, I'm refreshed and relaxed, and after a long shower, I apply a full face of make-up, retouch my nails and pull on a fresh bra and thong before pulling on my trusty pencil mini skirt, blouse and tights ready for the day ahead. Before I climb in my car, ready to go to work, I send a quick text message to Sarah.
'I'm really sorry for hurting you. I love you loads. Please text me when you get the chance. GLF xxx' I toss my phone back in my bag, knowing that I'm going against mum's advice by contacting Sarah so soon, but she doesn't understand just how much I NEED her...
"Hey Nikki!" Hannah squeaks as she gets in the back seat of my car.
"You know, the front passenger seat IS free," I laugh as I pull out onto the road in front of Hannah's posh London flat.
"And it will remain that way," Hannah says in a fake posh accent, before bursting down in giggles. "I'm sorry, Nikki, I really am- guess I'm just used to being chauffeured around everywhere by, you know, 'official' drivers, either in the Angelmobile or a limo... Guess I forgot that I'm being driven around by an 'equal' today, heh."
"Cool," I laugh, prompting a concerned frown from Hannah.
"Nikki..." The tall, blonde woman says. "Are you okay?"
"Just-" I sigh. "Just a falling out with Sarah, that's all..."
"Oh no," Hannah says with genuine concern. "About what?"
"It's like I can't even be in the same room as another woman without her getting jealous," I say.
"Ugh, the green-eyed monster," Hannah sighs. "I've dated a couple of boys who were like that. Well, that and thinking that because they're a BOY they have the right to order me around..."
"For the sake of fairness, some girls can be like that too," I laugh. "Though not Sarah..."
"Nikki," Hannah says softly. "I see the way she looks at you. She ADORES you in a way that's really, really rare. Have you spoken to her since the fight?"
"I texted her," I mumble.
"She'll text back," Hannah says confidently. "Now eyes on the road!"
"Yes ma'am!" I giggle. A few hours later, with my PA work completed and Hannah dropped back off at her flat, I start to head home, but instead change my mind and head to Sarah's home, letting myself in with my key. With her mother at work until the late evening but Sarah due back soon, I head up to her bedroom and change into the pink satin bra & thong set Sarah had bought me for Christmas. I was planning on saving this for Valentine's night, but I need something special NOW, and it's not like I don't have other sexy lingerie I can wear.
After barely stuffing my breasts into the bra (which was obviously designed for 'show' as opposed to comfort), I head down to the kitchen and quickly locate a bottle of chocolate sauce.
Forty-five minutes later, Sarah comes through her front door, and lets out a surprised grunt as she sees my shoes sitting in the hallway.
"Nikki?" Sarah asks, before gasping with shock as she sees me kneeling in front of her, in just my bra and thong, with the words 'I'm sorry' written across my cleavage in chocolate sauce and a sad, puppy-dog expression on my face.
"You- you-" Sarah stutters, before bursting out into fits of laughter. "You are AMAZING."
"I'm also covered in chocolate that I need 'help' clearing up," I say, making Sarah giggle harder, before getting down on her stockinged knees in front of me.
"I'll lick off the apostrophe," Sarah says, delicately licking the sauce off of my chest.
"Really?" I say. "Chocolate sauce all over my tits and you go for my collarbone?" Smiling evilly, Sarah reaches around my back and in one swift motion, unhooks my bra, letting my breasts hang free.
Fifteen minutes later, after the sauce has been 'cleaned' from my chest and I've pulled my normal clothes back on, I relax on Sarah's sofa in the arms of the woman I love more than anything else.
"I really, truly am sorry," I whisper.
"Nothing to be sorry for," Sarah sighs. "I acted like a monster, a selfish bitch..."
"You are NONE of those things," I say, cuddling Sarah closer to me.
"And you're not a cheat," Sarah sighs. "Doesn't stop my brain from putting 2 and 2 together and making a billion..."
"The important thing is that I love you," I say. "The ONLY important thing is that I love you, and I always will..."
"I'll always love you too," Sarah sighs. "How was work?"
"Same old, same old," I say. "Seems like I only work with Hannah or Viks nowadays, Mary and Charlotte are busy being mums or mums-to-be, Jamie and Krystie are doing auditions for that new band..."
"I'll try not to be too jealous of them," Sarah snorts.
"At least I've got some actual modelling work tomorrow for the first time in ages..." I muse, before feeling Sarah tense up in my arms. "I- I'm sorry..."
"Oh, don't be," Sarah giggles. "If anything I'm envious of the work, heh." The two of us remain on the sofa for the rest of the evening- Sarah catching up on design work for college and me watching her- before the two of us change into our nightdresses and head to bed, me taking the time to remove the polish from my finger- and toenails ahead of tomorrow's job. Neither of us are particularly in the mood for sex- especially following Sarah's earlier 'snack', so we quickly fall asleep in each other's arms.
Sarah's alarm clock wakes us both at 7:30am, and despite what Sarah said yesterday, I can sense her tension as we both dress for the day ahead- Sarah in her typical college attire of a skirt, a top and black tights, and me in a short, patterned dress and lighter coloured tights.
"Wish Dannii happy birthday for me," Sarah says, giving me a kiss as she drops me off at the photo studio where I'll be spending most of the day.
"Umm, her birthday's in June, isn't it?" I ask.
"Yeah," Sarah sighs. "But today IS Friday the 13th... Unlucky for some..." I can't help but feel upset as Sarah drives away with an almost terrified expression on her face, and anxious as I head into the studio to find that my colleague for the day is already there, waiting for me.
"Hey girlie!" Dannii says, greeting me with a hug. "Ready for a day being a super-sexy swimwear model?"
"Modelling one-piece swimsuits for school uniform catalogues?" I laugh. "REAL sexy, yeah..."
"It's not the swimsuit that's sexy," Dannii teases as we head into our changing room for the day, our swimsuits waiting for us on a rack inside the front door. My body starts to shake as I watch Dannii strip from her skirt and top, whilst she watches me strip off my dress with equal interest.
"They look almost real," Dannii says as I remove my bra and grab the first swimsuit from my rack.
"They ARE real," I say as I stretch the swimsuit over the special flesh-coloured thong I bought for modelling jobs such as this one.
"Yeah, but, you know..." Dannii argues as she removes her own underwear, standing before me completely naked. I avert my eyes as I finish adjusting my swimsuit, before stepping out into the studio for my first 'date with the camera'. I actually start to enjoy myself once I'm in front of the camera, though what I'm enjoying most is being away from Dannii's company, as I discover when I head back to the changing room to meet Dannii merging from it in her dark purple swimsuit.
"As I was saying," the tall girl says, "you wouldn't be able to tell that they weren't, you know, 'not natural'."
"That's because they ARE natural," I retort. "Made of the same stuff as yours." I head into the changing room without saying another word, exchanging my black swimsuit for a dark grey one. Dannii and I take turns in front of the camera, thankfully never being in the studio or the changing room at the same time as each other, but every time we pass each other, I can't help but feel her gaze lingering on my body. I'd hoped she'd got over her 'desire' from last year, but as we change back into our street clothes at the end of the shoot, I can tell that I'm sorely mistaken.
"You know," Dannii says smugly, "if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be here right now, modelling."
"It was Jamie who got me this job," I reply stoically, not wanting to give Dannii a reason to argue further.
"Jamie didn't get me MY job," Dannii says, her voice even more smug than before.
"Fair enough," I reply, grabbing my handbag and preparing to leave, only to be stopped by the still half-naked Dannii blocking my way.
"We've been through this already," I say firmly. "I love Sarah, Nobody else."
"As I was saying," Dannii says with a look of pure lust in her eyes. "Jamie didn't get me my job. I did. And I ALWAYS get what I want."
"Not this time," I reply. "Not EVER."
"After I forgave you for the way you treated me last year?" Dannii asks. "After the way you treated Katie and Lauren... I forgive and all you can do is walk out on me?"
"I'm glad you're my friend," I say, my heart beating faster, but through panic rather than lust. "But that's all we can ever be. WE'VE. BEEN. THROUGH. THIS."
"Yeah, you told me last year that nothing could ever happen between us," Dannii says. "And I told YOU that I'd never stop loving you. It doesn't even have to be an 'open' relationship. All I ask is one time, right here, right now... Sarah doesn't even have to know..."
"But I'D know," I say. "Never. Not in a million years."
"Are you really telling me that Sarah's better looking than ME?" Dannii asks incredulously.
"She's better looking than EVERYONE," I reply, but Dannii can only snort in response.
"Let me put it to you this way then," Dannii says angrily. "Either you and I have sex right now, or I text Sarah and tell her that we DID. And then you won't have EITHER of us!"
"You psychotic bitch," I hiss at the tall girl, who shrugs off my insult like it was nothing.
"Phone's in my hand, Nikki," Dannii says, waving the smartphone in front of me.
"You'd be happy having sext with me even though you knew it was because you threatened me?" I ask.
"Just. Once," Dannii says. "Believe me, I'll make you forget all about Sarah..."
"I. LOVE. HER!" I shout, my anger boiling at Dannii's smug attitude.
"Hey Sarah," Dannii says whilst typing into her phone. "Thought you might like to know that your girlfriend just spent the last 15 minutes with her face buried in my crotch. XXX Dannii." Last chance to agree or I'll send it...
"You really are mentally unstable," I say.
"I've waited twelve months for an opportunity like this," Dannii says. "You are NOT ruining it for me. My finger's over the send button..."
"Delete. The. Text," I order, making Dannii sigh.
"You know the only way that'll happen," Dannii says, slowly lowering her thong with her free hand. "So how about for the next ten minutes, you forget all about that ugly bitch, and let me show-" Before I can control myself, my right hand flies up and slaps Dannii HARD across her cheek. The two of us stand there in shock for a brief, silent second, before Dannii presses the 'send' button on her text message, pulls her clothes back on and storms out the changing room door.
"Wait- Dannii- wait-" I stutter, running after the tall girl as she storms out the door. "I'm sorry!" I beg and plead with Dannii as she jumps into her waiting taxi, but she remains silent as she drives away, leaving me hyperventilating at the side of the road. I don't know what possessed me when I slapped Dannii. Some might argue that she had it coming, but violence is NEVER the solution... And my momentary madness may have cost me my relationship with Sarah, the most important thing in the world to me. I reach into my handbag and grab my phone, typing in the speed-dial for Sarah with fingers that won't stop shaking, but when the phone rings, it goes to voicemail.
"Sarah, please call me!" I plead into the phone. "She's a liar, she's a psychopath, please call me!" I break down in floods of tears as I hang up the phone, barely composing myself before getting on the Tube and heading straight to Sarah's house. When I arrive, I'm surprised to see her car in the driveway, meaning she's already home from college despite it barely being 1pm.
"Sarah?" I ask in a scared voice as I open her front door and look into her emotionless face.
"Is it true?" Sarah whispers in a terrified, heartbroken voice.
"Of course not," I reply, tears forming in my eyes. "She threatened me, said if I didn't sleep with her-" Much to my surprise, Sarah walks toward me and wraps me in a long, tight hug, letting me cry onto her shoulder as she weeps into mine.
"I believe you," Sarah says. "And I love you, I always will. Girl love forever!"
"Girl love forever," I repeat in a confused voice as Sarah holds her hand up to me in the same way we've done for years. "You- you believe me?"
"Of course," Sarah says, clearly struggling to control her emotions.
"But- but what you said on Wednesday..." I argue, making Sarah smile sadly.
"Wednesday was a learning experience," Sarah explains. "What I said then, what I did... I don't ever want to be that way again. I realise now that I'm paranoid."
"You have every reason to be paranoid," I whisper.
"But not about you," Sarah whispers, giving me another kiss. "If you say nothing happened between you and Dannii... Then I can believe you, I can CHOOSE to believe you. I've already asked mum to refer me to a counsellor."
"A counse- Why, exactly?" I ask incredulously.
"Because I need help," Sarah says, talking to me in a way she hasn't done for a very long time. "Every time I saw you with another girl, even if you were just talking, doing nothing, my mind would be filled with these images, of you leaving me for her, creeping around behind my back, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shift those images from my mind and they- literally- drove me mad. Wednesday... It was just the breaking point. Of course you were only there to surprise Katie, she's been your friend longer than anyone except me, she's my friend too... I need to stop being so mental."
"You are NOT mental," I say, hugging Sarah tightly.
"I am," Sarah sighs. "But I can choose not to be. I WANT not to be."
"I love you so much," I whisper. Before too long, Beverly returns home and confirms everything Sarah said- about her need to see a counsellor and her paranoia threatening to take over her life. We spend the rest of the day talking about the future, helping Sarah 'get better', about our special Valentine's date we have planned for tomorrow, about the inevitable photo messages we'll get from Katie on her night out with the Angels... But at no point does the topic of Dannii come up, nor does the topic of marriage, or even the acknowledgement of the existence of either of our engagement rings.
As the two of us climb into bed, we both have wide, happy grins on our faces, grins that only widen as we embrace each other. Neither of us have sex on the mind, yet neither of us wants to let the other go, even as we wake up on the morning of Valentine's Day itself. Only the bleep of a new text message on our phones persuades us to unwrap ourselves from each other's arms.
"Katie?" I ask as Sarah checks her phone.
"Yes," Sarah sighs. "But not for the reason you might think. I... May have sent a copy of Dannii's text message to her and Lauren. The two of them want to meet us for coffee this afternoon after work."
"Ugh," I sigh. "Gonna have some explaining to do then..."
"Why?" Sarah asks with a smile. "You. Didn't. Do. Anything." I giggle and give Sarah a kiss as we both get up, apply a light layer of make-up to each other and dress for the day- Sarah in her usual work uniform, me in a plain denim skirt, tight red jumper and black tights. Obviously I'll be changing for tonight's 'activities', but for the day, whilst I'm by myself, all I want to be is comfortable.
Sarah drops me at my home before heading off to work- Katie and Lauren also have Saturday jobs, meaning that the only 'Teen Angel' I have free to hang out with is Dannii- and that's obviously NOT an option. Jamie is busy all day with her boyfriend, as are Krystie, Mary and Viks, I don't really know Charlotte or the other girls that well and my parents (and Jenny) are out all day, meaning the only option I have for someone to talk to is the same girl I spent most of the working week with.
"Hi Nikki!" Hannah squeaks down the phone to me. "What's up?"
"Virtually nothing," I laugh. "Hence why I called... You free to get a coffee?"
"Ah, I was going to hang out with Charlotte and Dannii," Hannah grimaces, making me shiver at the mention of Dannii's name. "You're free to join us until Sarah gets off work, though."
"Not a good idea," I say. "Dannii and me... There's... Been kind of an 'incident'."
"Oh no," Hannah says. "What did she do?" I can't help but chuckle as Hannah immediately- and correctly- assumes that the incident is entirely Dannii's fault.
"Came onto me after the shoot yesterday," I say bluntly, making Hannah gasp. "I may... I may have slapped her..."
"Was- was she being forceful?" Hannah asked, clearly shocked by the news.
"Not physically," I say. "Emotionally, yes... She actually sent a text to Sarah telling her that we HAD had sex."
"That- that's just evil," Hannah whispers. "I mean, I knew she was- I knew she was- but THAT!?"
"PLEASE don't tell her I told you when you see her," I ask.
"Of course not," Hannah replies. "Are- are you and Sarah okay? You said you were falling out..."
"We're fine," I say with a smile. "Better than fine, in fact."
"Good!" Hannah squeaks. "The cutest couple in our group is NOT breaking up over something like that!"
"Not for a long time," I say, before correcting myself. "Not EVER."
"Good!" Hannah squeaks again. "I got to go now, got to pick up Charlotte and the harlot! Enjoy your V-Day!"
"Will do," I say with a smile as Hannah ends the call. I spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon catching up on prep work for next week- mostly accompanying Hannah on shoots, yet again- before heading out at 5pm to pick up Sarah from work.
"Hey, beautiful," Sarah says, giving me a kiss as she slides into the passenger seat of my car.
"Hey, gorgeous," I say with a smile. "So what's the plan, we'll meet Katie and Lauren and then head back to yours for our Valentine's meal?"
"Ugh, I hate Valentine's Day," Sarah sighs, catching me by surprise.
"Uh, sorry?" I ask.
"Oh, don't get me wrong," Sarah says, smiling warmly at me. "It's not you... It's not really me either, heh. I just don't get why there's one day a year when we should celebrate our love... We should do that 365 days a year. What the hell's so special about February 14th, other than it's exactly half-way between Christmas and Easter?" I can't help but giggle at Sarah's bluntness.
"You DO have a point," I say.
"AND our last two Valentines have sucked," Sarah says. "Last year I was physically ill, this year I'm mentally ill-"
"You are NOT mentally ill!" I interrupt.
"-And Dannii threatened to screw up our relationship two years in a row," Sarah finishes. "So yeah, the week ending February 14th: Not good memories for me. Not like, say, October 22nd."
"Our anniversary," I giggle.
"Or March 9th- the first time we had sex," Sarah continues. "Or ESPECIALLY May 16th!"
"Best day of my life so far," I whisper.
"And of mine," Sarah says, leaning in to give me a kiss on my cheek. "So how about, instead of changing into fancy dresses and cooking expensive food that'll probably not get eaten, we instead just head home, watch Netflix together on the sofa and spend the rest of the evening in each other's arms?"
"That sounds PERFECT," I say. "Okay, it's what we do most nights... But it's STILL perfect."
"Hehe," Sarah giggles. "I love you so much... Have you tuned the radio yet in this thing?"
"Nah, don't like listening to music whilst I'm driving, kinda distracts me," I say.
"More than discussing our plans for the night?" Sarah teases. "Hang on, let me find Capital..."
'Close your eyes,' the radio suddenly blares. 'Give me your hand, darling... Can you feel my heart beating?'
"Do you understand...?” Sarah sings along.
"Do you feel the same?" I join in.
"Am I only dreaming," we both sing in time with the music. "Or is this burning, an eternal flame..."
"From now on, that's OUR song," Sarah says after the song finishes and moves onto a different tune.
"Absolutely," I say. Before the next song has the chance to end, we pull up outside our usual coffee shop, heading inside to find Katie and Lauren already present. Lauren's wearing a winter coat over one of her fancy dresses- clearly on her way to a Valentine's date with her boyfriend- whilst Katie, who's newly single, is dressed similarly to me.
"Hey girlies," I say, greeting both girls with hugs.
"Sarah's already explained that the message was a lie," Katie says. "I can't believe I ever trusted that girl..."
"I can't believe I've been friends with her for six and a half years," Lauren moans. "I mean, yes, I knew she had a hard time taking no for an answer, but this..."
"How long has she- you know- about you?" Katie asks.
"At least a year," I moan, sitting down as Sarah buys us drinks. "Maybe longer. She forced a kiss on me this time last year, I made it clear I wasn't interested, she obviously didn't listen..."
"That is SO her," Lauren sighs. I go to respond, before being interrupted by a voice I'd hoped not to hear again for a long time.
"Hey girlies!" Dannii squeaks, giving Katie and Lauren hugs. "Quick coffee before we-" Dannii freezes when she looks up and sees me sat next to Katie, with Sarah on her way back from the counter with our drinks.
"Hey Dannii, you lying bitch," Sarah calmly says as she sits down between me and Lauren. Dannii's bottom lip begins to quiver as she realises just how deep a hole she's dug for herself with her actions.
"Just- just how could you, Dannii?" Katie asks with a look of sheer disgust in her eyes.
"She slapped me!" Dannii pleads, pointing directly at my face.
"If it was me I'd have decked you," Katie snarls, bringing tears to Dannii's eyes.
"Lauren, please, tell them!" Dannii squeals, drawing attention from the other patrons.
"Tell them what, exactly?" Lauren asks. "'This isn't really you', 'you had a moment of madness'? I thought I knew you, Dannii."
"You DO know me!" Dannii blubs. "We've been friends forever!"
"You need help," Sarah says stoically. "Fortunately, my mum's a psychiatrist, she's more than capable of giving you an initial assessment." This statement catches not only Dannii, but myself, Katie and Lauren by surprise.
"Wh- what?" I ask.
"Dannii," Sarah sighs, standing up to face the tall girl. "What you did was EVIL. It was despicable and selfish... And clearly not the actions of a right-thinking person. But I can forgive you."
"Wh-wh-why?" Dannii stammers.
"Because we're friends," Sarah says. "At least... We used to be. But I'd like to think that we can be friends again, someday soon." Sarah holds out her hand, making me shake my head in disbelief.
"Sa-Sarah..." I whisper.
"Life's too short to hold a grudge," Sarah says. "So I choose not to." Dannii hesitantly take's Sarah’s hand and shakes it, a smile of relief creeping across her face.
"I... I can forgive you too," I say, standing up and also shaking Dannii's hand. "I- I'm sorry for the last thing I did to you with this hand..." Much to my relief, Dannii giggles before sitting down next to Lauren.
"Apology accepted," Dannii whispers, her voice full of emotion. "I- I'm sorry, I don't know-"
"Apology accepted," Sarah whispers. "Like I said... It'll be a while before I see you as a friend again. But I'm willing to try if you are. Here's my mum's number- she's expecting your call sometimes next week."
"Thanks," Dannii says, taking the scrap of paper from Sarah's fingers.
"Okay," Lauren announces. "Now that THAT'S done, you'll have to excuse me, as I have a hot date with a hot man that will hopefully turn into an EXTRA hot night!"
"High school sweethearts," Katie sighs after the short, curvy girl as she leaves. "Am I right, Snikki?"
"Doesn't matter where you meet, as long as you never let them go," Sarah says, leaning into my cuddle.
"There's a guy out there for you," I say. "For BOTH of you. Unless, you know, you'd rather..."
"Oh, no no no," Katie says defensively. "I'm strictly BOYS ONLY!"
"Me too," Dannii says, grinning across at Katie's forgiving face. "Unless, of course, it was the right girl..."
"I know that feeling all too well," Sarah sighs.
"We'd better get going too," Katie says. "Charlotte's invited us over to keep her and Hannah company... And yes, I will go home and finish off some coursework at the end of the night, MUM!"
"Hehe," I giggle as Katie playfully sticks her tongue out at me.
"And I don't want to keep you from your Valentine's date," Dannii sighs. "Sorry for ruining it two years in a row... And I WILL call your mum, I promise."
"I'll see you round," Sarah says, giving Dannii an awkward hug as the tall girl departs with Katie.
"Well, it's hardly the happiest of endings, but I guess it'll do," I sigh.
"Nah, it's a perfectly happy ending," Sarah laughs as we head back to my car. "Know why?"
"Because we're together?" I say, making Sarah giggle and give me a long, deep kiss.
"Spot on," Sarah whispers. "My perfect soulmate." I smile and kiss Sarah one more time before driving home through the crowded London streets. Our relationship has faced its toughest test yet, and passed with flying colours. Never have I been more certain that Sarah and I are destined to be together until the end of time... And a mere seventeen days from now, once I turn eighteen, I'll be able to take the first step to making that official.
"Sarah Phillips," I mouth to myself out of view of my lover. "Will you marry me?"
Sure, we'll both still be teenagers, we'll both still be living with our parents and neither of us will be mega-rich, but like the radio in my car sings as we drive home- 'All You Need Is Love'- and that is all I need.
"Seventeen days," I whisper to myself as we head back home.
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